Coates’ novel, likely the first in a new urban fantasy series, introduces Sgt. Hallie Michaels. Hallie has seen ghosts ever since she died for seven minutes following an insurgent attack in Afganistan. Now she has returned home to South Dakota on a ten-day leave to attend the funeral of her younger sister Dell. But Hallie quickly becomes convinced that Dell’s death, considered by many to be suicide, was actually murder. She finds an unlikely ally in local deputy Boyd Davies, whose life-long precognitive dreams predispose him to believing in Hallie’s ghosts. They quickly zero in on Dell’s former employer Uku-Weber, a weather research firm whose new technology seems to rely on forces more arcane than meteorological science. It becomes obvious that Dell knew more about the truth than was healthy and Hallie and Boyd must find a way to take down the dangerous, magic-using Martin Weber before his body count rises.
Hallie—a brash, profanity-prone, emotionally damaged, but appealing character—and Boyd, equally emotionally damaged in his own way but much more the Boy-Scout type—make an engaging pair. Some slight awkwardness in writing style does not much detract from the characters, interesting plot, and well-drawn setting.
The always-impressive Bear enchants with this new fantasy set in an Asian-inspired land. Young Temur wakes up on the battlefield having been left for dead. He is the grandson of the Great Khagan and has been supporting his half-brother’s bid for rulership—but they were defeated in a series of terrible battles against the usurper Qori Buqa. He joins a caravan of refugees fleeing toward the mountains known as the Range of Ghosts and finds himself adopted into another tribe and paired off with the lovely young woman Edene. But his enemies are still hunting him and when Edene is stolen by an army of undead ghosts sent against him, Temur must rescue her. Along the way, he crosses paths with Samarkar, a former princess of the Rasan people and now a newly-minted wizard; and Hrahima, a tiger-woman at odds with her god and her people. The three have similar goals—and similar enemies. Qori Buqa has joined forces with al-Sepehr, a necromantic sorcerer from the Uthman Caliphate seeking to restore his sect’s prominence—and al-Sepehr’s blood magic threatens to bring back the dark days of the Carrion King.
The vivid world-building and unusual, multi-cultural setting and sympathetic, realistic characters are a delight. The parallels to the real-world cultures of the Mongols, Tatars, Chinese, and others are obvious, but each imagined culture nevertheless has a richness that never feels derivative. A great fantasy for those who may be tired of the same old Medieval Europe-inspired fantasies so prevalent on the shelves.
Monette’s second short story collection (after The Bone Key,2007) is lyrical and evocative. Where the earlier collection was tightly focused around the experiences of one character (Kyle Murchison Booth, who also makes an appearance in one story here), Somewhere Beneath Those Waves is far-reaching and diverse. Monette’s protagonists face magic and despair, hope and everyday life with equally compelling results. Stand-outs in the collection include the title story, in which a selkie and a human woman both find themselves trapped on land; Katabasis: Seraphic Trains, in which a naïve young woman uses a magical gift to save a man who does not deserve her love; and Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland, about the perils of loving the fairy queen. Highly recommended.
All his life, Joe Spork has been caught between the legacy of his grandfather Daniel, a brilliant and honest clockmaker, and his father Mathew, a vivacious and larger-than-life criminal mastermind who ruled London's underground world. As a child, Joe ran wild in Mathew’s world as Crown Prince of Crime, learning the hidden ways of the gangster. But after his father’s death and his mother’s retreat into a convent, Joe took up Daniel’s legacy, becoming a clockmaker and running the store he inherited from his grandfather. When an old friend of Joe’s brings him a client with a fabulous piece of antique clockwork needing repair, Joe’s quiet life is disrupted with explosive consequences. The clockwork device is no toy, it seems, but is actually part of a weapon of mass destruction developed by a French genius a generation before but never deployed—until Joe repaired it and turned it on unknowingly. Now Joe is caught between shadowy governement agents, a strange group of cultists calling themselves the Ruskinites, an old enemy from Britain’s past, and a now-elderly former spy named Edie Banister, all of whom want control of the device—the Angelmaker. And Joe must embrace parts of himself he’d thought long in his past if he’s going to not only survive, but save the world in the bargain.
This impressive, intriguing, and complex novel is impossible to categorize. Part steampunk romp, part espionage thriller, part gangster adventure, with dollops of romance and philosophy dropped in for good measure, the only thing one can call this novel for sure is great fun. You might not know quite what you’re reading, but you’re going to love it all the same. Muscular prose, endless inventiveness, and truly engaging characters put the icing on this particular cake.
Jacob Portman always thought that his grandfather was embellishing tales about the time he spent in a Wales orphanage during WWII in order to frighten him; the photographs he showed him of children with strange characteristics could not possibly be real. But when Jacob's grandfather is murdered and Jacob swears he sees a horrible monster lurking nearby, he decides to investigate his grandfather's past in the hopes of discovering the eery circumstances of his death.
When he travels to the orphanage on a remote island, what he finds is not only peculiar, but supernatural: a house full of children with exceptional talents who live in a time loop, experiences a single day in time over and over. When the protection of their loop is threatened by the same monsters that killed Jacob's grandfather, he must decide whether to stay and help his new found family or go back to his own time.
This is a wonderfully unique story intermingled with real photographs. They perfectly illustrate the Gothic characters and setting. Don't miss out on this adventurous fantasy meets family saga.
Keith Richards, a musician and bibliophile who was greatly inspired by the Chicago Blues, recounts with an impressive candor and humor his journey with one of the most important rock’n’roll bands of all times, the Rolling Stones. The focus is not on each of the band’s albums or how every song came about, but it centers on the Richards’ childhood poverty, struggle with heroin addiction, and marriages to actress Anita Pallenberg and later, model Patty Hansen--whom many believe saved his life. The often turbulent, brotherly relationship between the band members is fascinating. The book also contains many photographs, and even the Richards' famous recipe for Bangers and Mash. It also provides an interesting perspective on how the music industry as a whole has evolved, from the days of single vinyl records up to to mega stadium concerts.
Richards’ lengthy memoir is sure to please even those who are not big rock’n’roll fans, from 18 to 80. Even if your primary genre is fiction, you will enjoy Richards’s frank and insightful, conversational narrative.
The Gilly women work in salt. Owners of Salt Creek Farm, the women undertake backbreaking labor to harvest salt from their marsh. And every December Eve, it is their duty to throw a small packet of salt into the celebratory bonfire to predict the future of their tiny Cape Code community of Prospect. Because of this long tradition and because the salt is believed to have mysterious qualities, the Gilly women are feared rather than loved—necessary for the town’s well-being, but outside its community all the same. Claire Gilly has always longed for more, ever since childhood. She rejected the salt and rejected her family and, after a disastrous accident that left her sister Jo scarred by fire, Claire married Whit Turner, a scion of the wealthiest family in town, leaving the salt marsh for good. But the salt wasn’t done with her, it seems. Long-buried family secrets come to the fore when teenaged Dee ends up pregnant by Claire’s husband and Claire’s first true love, now a priest, returns to town.
Whimsical and dark by turns, The Gilly Salt Sisters is not quite as strong as Baker’s debut, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County. However, the characters are nuanced and the atmosphere and setting are evocative and sharply drawn. There is much to enjoy here.
India Morgan Philips, Imp to her friends, is insane. And she knows it. The diagnosis of schizophrenia came as no surprise to her; both her mother and grandmother suffered from similar disorders, both ending their lives as suicides. An artistic, troubled young woman, Imp tries to control her disorder with medication and therapy, but those only go so far. Her obessions—or intrusive thoughts, as her therapist wishes her to call them—sometimes get the better of her. This is the case when she meets Eva Canning, a woman who so strongly evokes a painting called “The Drowning Girl” which Imp had seen as a child that she throws Imp into a fever of artistic madness, compelling her to draw Eva’s face over and over and repeatedly scrawl the words to Lewis Carroll’s “The Lobster Quadrille” over everything at hand. But who is Eva? A hitchhiker? A mermaid? A werewolf? The charimatic priestess of a doomed cult? In Imp’s fevered brain, Eva is all of these things and none of them. And so, in a desperate attempt to find her way through the labyrinth schizophrenia has made of her own past, Imp sets down her story—or stories, as her memory plays tricks on her—in a complex, layered, and utterly compelling narrative.
Haunting and magical, The Drowning Girl questions our understanding of reality. Kiernan’s Imp knows, in a way most of us do not, that she is an unreliable narrator in the story of her own life. What in our life and memory is true and factual, and what is a compelling or comforting fantasy we tell ourselves to cover over the truth? The Drowning Girl does not provide easy answers to these most fundamental questions.
One of the perks of being a librarian is seeing all the new books come in before they go out to the shelves. In the past, we've occasionally picked some new, yet-to-be-shelved titles to feature here and let our readers in on the fun. We haven't done a post like that in too long, so here are some picks from our newest new book cart!
Boudinot, Ryan. Blueprints of the Afterlife
Blueprints of the Afterlife is a tour de force--part George Saunders, part Philip K. Dick--delivering bracing intelligence about who we are, why we're here, and what Ted Williams has to look forward to when he's defrosted. (From the back cover.)
Levine, Sara. Treasure Island!!!
When a college graduate with a history of hapless jobs (ice cream scooper; gift wrapper; laziest ever part-time clerk at The Pet Library) reads Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island, she is dumbstruck by the timid design of her own life...our heroine embarks on a domestic adventure more frightening than anything she'd planned. (From the inside flap.)
Sjon. From the Mouth of the Whale
Jonas Palmason, a poet and self-taught healer, has been condemned to exile for heretical conduct, having fallen foul of the local magistrate. Banished to a remote island, Jonas recalls his exorcism of a walking corpse on the remote Snjafjoll coast, the frenzied massacre of innocent Basque whalers at the hands of local villagers and the deaths of three of his children. ...a magical evocation of an enlightened mind and a vanished age. (From the back cover)
Castor, Helen. She-Wolves: the women who ruled England before Elizabeth
Between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries three [more] exceptional women -- Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, and Margaret of Anjou -- discovered how much was possible if presumptions of male rule were not confronted so explicitly -- and just how quickly they might be vilified as "she-wolves" for their pains. The stories of these women, told here in vivid detail, expose the paradox that female heirs to the Tudor throne had no choice but to negotiate. (From the inside flap)
Deardorff, David and Kathryn Wadsworth. What's Wrong with My Vegetable Garden?
What's Wrong with My Vegetable Garden? teaches you how to keep your vegetables healthy, so they're less susceptible to attack, and when problems do occur, it shows you how to recognize the problem and find the right organic solution. (From the back cover)
Zuiker, Anthony E. Mr. CSI: how a Vegas dreamer made a killing in Hollywood, one body at a time
In 1990, Anthony Zuiker was just another Hollywood wannabe...But twenty years later, Zuiker stands as the mastermind behind the most popular television show in history, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its spin-offs.... How he got there...is the narrative lifeblood of Mr. CSI, only, like the show, there's a catch.... (from the inside flap)
Private investigator Ray Lovell thought he’d left his Gypsy roots far behind him. His father left the travelling life long ago to “live in bricks” with Ray’s gorgie—non-Gypsy—mother and Ray himself has never lived on the road. His main connection to that life was childhood trips to visit his father’s family in their trailers. But he finds himself pulled back into the often tangled webs of Gypsy family when Leon Wood, a Gypsy man, hires him to locate his missing daughter. No one but a Gypsy would get far, Leon insists, and Ray reluctantly takes the case. Rose Wood—Rose Janko at the time of her disappearance—has been missing for seven years and Ray doesn’t think he’ll get too far. But when he interviews the seemingly cursed Janko family—not only did Rose vanish, but the males of the family are plagued by an always-fatal degenerative disease of mysterious origins—Ray soon finds that nothing is as it seems and that it’s finally time for the Janko family secrets to come to light. When Ray lands in the hospital, poisoned near-fatally and partially paralyzed, his drive to see this case through to the end intensifies.
Narrated alternately by Ray Lovell, a flawed but driven man; and young JJ, a Gypsy boy trying hard to understand his place in both the Janko clan and the greater world, The Invisible Ones is both a compelling mystery and also a fascinating glimpse into an unfamiliar culture and lifestyle. Between this and her debut novel, The Tenderness of Wolves, it is obvious that Stef Penney is an author to watch.