Monday, February 27, 2012

Another Winner from Susanna Kearsley


Susanna Kearsley
April 2012

Susanna Kearsley quickly became a favorite author after I read The Winter Sea. In fact it was one of the first books I blogged about back in May 2011. I immediately started a search for her backlist titles and found that they are not so easy to get! Thanks to Sourcebooks, Mariana is now available (4/1/12). I have to thank Sourcebooks and for an advance reading copy of Mariana. The book will be available in both trade paperback and eBook format.

Julia Beckett first saw the house called Greywethers as a child and was drawn back to it several more times. She had a feeling that it was “her house”. After receiving a substantial legacy, she runs across the house again and buys it on an impulse. Very quickly she finds friends and becomes part of village life. Her vicar brother lives nearby and there are two very attractive men who are her neighbors. From her very first day of residence she finds herself moving back and forth between Restoration England and the present, becoming Mariana, a young woman of the time. Once again, Kearsley has woven a magical story with elements of time travel and reincarnation. The characters are as always, well drawn and fleshed out. I particularly like they way they are all supportive of Julia, open-minded and not inclined to think she has gone mad. Kearsley's writing is very reminiscent of Daphne DuMaurier and Victoria Holt, both favorites from my teenage years.

Mariana's story is not a happy one and Julia soon realizes that she must "live" through Mariana's life to bring peace to Mariana's spirit and her own. This is a very romantic story with a satisfying ending, one that I recommend to those who love historical fiction.

Rating- 5 Stars

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What the heck is STEAMPUNK??

I have fallen in love with the Steampunk genre, but have completely failed in attempting to explain just what it is. Until today, when I ran across this description of Steampunk on the audible website by Mark Hodder, author of the Burton and Swinburne Series. I have not yet jumped into this series, but will be doing so in short order.

“What is steampunk? This is a question that can be, and is, hotly debated. Some will tell you that it's a quirky celebration of a time when upper lips were stiff, chins were square, backs were straight, corsets were tight, moustaches were gigantic, and good manners were still de rigueur. Others will tell you that, with a disturbing lack of self-awareness, it eulogizes the notion of imperialism while conveniently overlooking all the iniquities that go with it. The counter argument insists that the exact opposite is true; steampunk knowingly toys with the trappings of empire while slyly commenting on its evils.

Perhaps we can clarify matters by asking, instead, "When and where is steampunk?" The obvious answer is in an alternate version of 19th century England. However, you don't have to look far before you'll find steampunk in the Wild West, steampunk on other planets, steampunk in the future, steampunk at comic conventions, and steampunk walking down the aisle in your local supermarket.

Just when you think you might have grasped it, steampunk reveals itself to be something more than you thought. You shouldn't be surprised. After all, how can you expect to pin down a genre/fashion/attitude that references the steam powered technology of the late 1800s yet employs the airships of the 1930s as its primary icon? Bit of a mishmash, ain't it? Therein is the joy. Steampunk gleefully borrows the flavours of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, and Jules Verne, and mixes 'em up with whatever it damned well pleases.

In these cynical know-it-all but can't-solve-it-at-all times, what better tincture than steampunk? It may not be a miraculous cure-all but it is, at least, unashamedly fun and wonderfully stylish. It also dresses for dinner and tips its hat at you when it passes by.

Delve in and enjoy! Tally ho!” - Mark Hodder

Some of my favorite steampunk reads so far have been The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger; Phoenix Rising (A Ministry of Peculiar Occurences Novel) by Pip Ballentine and Tee Morris; The Newbury and Hobbes Investigations by George Mann. I reviewed The Immorality Engine (3rd in the series) on the blog Nov.5, 2011.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Graveyard Queen

Amanda Stevens
April 2011

I can't quite remember how I ran across The Restorer, as scary books aren't usually my cup of tea. I was glad to have found it however and recently re-read it in preparation for the next two books in the series coming out March-April. Even though I don't like getting scared much I am always ready for a good ghost story.

Amelia Gray, a young woman in her twenties, has been able to see ghosts since she was a child. The ability was passed down to her from her father and he has passed on some unbreakable rules. Never let a ghost know she can see them, never stray far from hallowed ground and never form a relationship with a "haunted man". The reason for this is: if they know she can see them, they will latch on and drain her energy and her very life. Draining a living person is how ghosts maintain a hold on the living world. Despite this Amelia has become a cemetery restorer known as The Graveyard Queen after the blog that she writes. Her father's rules have produced a secretive, repressed woman who has few friends and no confidants. By the end of The Restorer, Amelia has violated all the rules and life will never be the same.

Set in Charleston SC, Amelia is restoring a long neglected historic cemetery on the campus of fictional Emerson College. When the body of a brutalized co-ed is found in the cemetery she is called in by John Devlin, a detective on the Charleston Police Force. The attraction between the two is immediate. One problem though, Devlin is trailed by the ghost of his dead wife and daughter. Amelia knows she needs to stay away but more bodies are turning up, some of which are years old. A serial killer is using the cemetery as his playing field.

Amanda Stevens has wonderful descriptive powers. One can almost feel the heat and humidity of Charleston. She builds a claustrophobic atmosphere throughout the book and adds in lore from the "gullah" low country culture. There are all sorts of references to burial iconography and tradition that I found fascinating. I had figured out the perpetrator, but not how or why. That's the real corker!! In fact, after this second reading I will raise my rating from 4 to 5. Highly recommended!!!

Rating- 5 Tombstones

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fun and Games in the Country House

G. M Malliet
Midnight Ink Books

I have always been a fan of the traditional English mystery so G. M. Malliet's Death of a Cozy Writer (winner of the 2008 Agatha Award) has been on my TBR pile for quite a while. I found it to be most enjoyable, quite funny at times, and a very satisfying mystery. I think I discovered Agatha Christie at about the age of ten, and read them ALL, the good, the bad and the somewhat indifferent. 

Death of a Cozy Writer is formed as a traditional English Country House mystery, with limited suspects and a poisonous atmosphere. Sir Adrian Beauclerk-Fiske is a mega best-selling mystery writer who has been churning out books for years featuring a quirky, elderly female detective (Miss Marple, anyone?). He is also a malevolent old spider whose chief amusement in life is setting his four children against each other in the inheritance sweepstakes. Depending on his whim, one or another is on top at any given time. The children are: Ruthven, the eldest, a successful, philandering publishing magnate; George, a self-absorbed, very stupid and somewhat shady art gallery owner; Albert, alcoholic mediocre actor whose career is tottering; and Susan, overweight cookbook author with some very odd new age ideas. The only two of the children who are even remotely fond of each other are Albert and Susan, but the four siblings are united in their loathing of Sir Adrian. When they are all invited to meet their father's prospective bride the cat is truly among the pigeons. First, Ruthven is murdered and then Sir Adrian. DCI St. Just of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary and his Sergeant Fear must solve the case before someone else is murdered. 

The mystery itself is a very intricate puzzler. I certainly didn't figure it out until the end. I also thought the characters were particularly well drawn, from Mrs. Romano, the housekeeper who seems to be the only person Sir Adrian can get along with, to Ruthven's shallow wife and Sir Adrian's former wife Chloe. The only reason that I didn't rate Death of a Cozy Writer higher than 3 stars is St. Just himself. He is the least distinctive character. He doesn't even appear until about the mid-point, and by the end, I still didn't have a handle on what sort of person he is. I don't expect a Poirot type but I would like to know more about him and how he ticks. The solution of the crimes seemed a bit rushed as well. All in all, Death of a Cozy Writer was a quick, enjoyable read and I do plan to continue with the series.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sorry I've been away.........

Life sometimes gets pretty challenging and things fall by the wayside. This has been one of those periods and the blog has been the casualty. Now that I once again have some time and things have settled down, I plan to do a lot more blogging. It isn't that I haven't been reading-- life never gets so challenging that I give up reading!! At least not yet. My first review of 2012 is Third Grave Dead Ahead, # 3 of the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones.


Darynda Jones
Macmillan Audio, Lorelei King narr.
January 2012

Darynda Jones once again had me alternating between laughter and nail-biting with Third Grave Dead Ahead, #3 in the Charley Davidson series. Charley is not only a dogged and inspired P.I., but also The Grim Reaper. As The Grim Reaper she helps spirits who can't seem to "pass over" usually because of some unfinished business.

As usual, Third Grave Dead Ahead combines working on a case for the living in tandem with her more supernatural concerns. She is approached by a husband who wants to hire her to find his missing wife but she refuses his money and works on the case on her own. She can tell he knows more than he is saying and thinks he is responsible. Besides that, Reyes (Son of Satan, Charley's lifetime guardian, love interest and drop-dead gorgeous) is seriously angry with her. In book # 2 she bound his incorporeal form to his corporeal one and Reyes doesn't like that one bit. Never mind that she had good reasons even though she doesn't know how she did it or how to undo it!

In the course of the book, we have as Cookie says, Charley taking up insommnia as a hobby, prison break-outs, introductions to biker gangs and an almost fatal run-in with a figure from Reyes' past. We get to meet Mistress Marigold at last and find out why Owen Vaughn tried to run over Charley in his father's SUV while they were in high school. The characters in the books are wonderfully realized and one of the major attractions. I can't say that I was too happy with Reyes in this book and Charley's father manages to betray her again. I really wonder if there is some sort of supernatural influence on him, or if he is just a jerk.

I highly recommend this audio version of Third Grave Dead Ahead. Lorelei King is a fabulous narrator, the perfect voice for Charley and the extended cast of characters.

Rating-  5 Stars and Scythes