Wednesday, April 15, 2015

River Marked

This is the 6th in the "Mercy Thompson" series by Patricia Briggs, and I have posted on all the previous books (Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, Bone Crossed, and Silver Borne) if you want to get a better description of characters. The series continues to hold up. Getting cold feet about the big wedding, Mercy convinces Adam to jump the gun and have a small private wedding. However, she has underestimated the deviousness of both her mother and Adam's daughter, who plan a surprise wedding instead with everyone in attendance. Off they go on a glamping honeymoon to the Columbia River gorge towing a plush trailer loaned to them by the faeries--uh oh. Everyone knows you don't EVER want to be indebted to the fae. Turns out there is a river monster in the vicinity devouring humans and Mercy will be the only one who can possibly defeat it--or she might die. Mercy comes face to face with other Native American Walkers and possibly her father--the real Coyote. All the Native American gods (Wolf, Thunderbird, etc.) are willing to sacrifice themselves to the beast if Mercy will agree to cut out its heart while it lies in a stupor from having devoured them. It's a dicey proposition, but the only one with any chance of success. This is NOT the honeymoon Mercy and Adam had planned on.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hounded

Another intriguing new series discovered...the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. Atticus O'Sullivan--a take off on his original Irish name, Siodhachan  Ó Suileabháin, is the last living Druid. He lives as a 21-year-old book and tea store owner in Tempe, Arizona. And he is 21--centuries, that is. He has spent over 700 of those years perfecting a set of magic charms that allow him to do everything from breathing underwater to resisting the magic of other creatures--fae, gods, demons, etc. And he wields a magical sword, Fragarach, stolen in battle long ago, that is desperately wanted in a vicious takeover bid of the magical worlds. He has learned to communicate with his Irish Wolfhound, Oberon, who is his best friend, aside from the aged Irish woman around the block for whom he mows the lawn. All gods (from Jesus to Thor) get equal cred in this lively and entertaining tale. In this book, a particularly annoyed Celtic god has finally tracked Atticus down and is sending all manner of supernatural thugs to kill him. But Atticus has allies--werewolves, witches, vampires and even the god of the dead, Morrigan--who have all taken refuge in this part of the world that is as far as possible from the politics of Old World squabbles. Well worth the time if you are a fan of supernatural tales.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Last Guardian

I seldom write reviews for the audio books I listen to when I go on the road, but this book by Eoin Colfer, the 8th in the Artemis Fowl series, was so hugely entertaining that I had to make an exception. This is due largely to the outstanding work of Nathaniel Parker as the reader. He does not just read the book, but becomes each character--and there are many--giving each one a unique voice and cadence and manner of speech delivery. He is Mulch the dwarf, Opal the megalomaniacal pixie, dogs possessed by Berserker spirits, Foley the centaur, as well as all the standard characters: Artemis, Holly Short, bodyguard Butler.
Artemis' arch nemesis, Opal Koboi, has masterminded her escape from Atlantis and is now well on her way to the destruction of the human world. She has already freed ancient faerie warriors from their entombment and their spirits have inhabited the bodies of any living creatures they can find--rabbits, dogs, Artemis' brothers, and Butler's sister Juliet--and are now in thrall to the evil Opal. How do an unarmed Artemis, Butler and Holly stand a chance to stop her? Artemis finds he is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for his friends. I love this series for a bit of totally over-the-top entertainment, but am not sure I will ever read another book if the alternative is hearing Nathaniel Parker read them instead.

Beloved

Not sure what I am left with after reading this multi-award winning classic by Toni Morrison. Her writing and characters are compelling...painfully so, oftentimes.
     Sethe, an escaped slave living outside Cincinnati in post-Civil War Ohio, is at the center of the story. Having been the slave of a somewhat more benevolent pair of owners, the Garners, she has actually been allowed to "marry" her partner, Halle, and keep her children with her on the farm--unusual in slave holding country where women were often "bred" to produce new slaves for sale. When Mr. Garner dies, Mrs. Garner brings her brother-in-law, Schoolteacher, to run the farm, Sweet Home, and life takes a decidedly downhill turn with his much more cruel and all too common practices for slave management. As a result, the slaves at Sweet Home for the first time begin to plan for escape. Sethe ends up sending her 3 oldest children, 2 boys and an infant girl, on ahead with plans to run with husband Halle a day later. But before that can happen, 6-months-pregnant Sethe is raped and beaten senseless by Schoolteacher's "pupils" while he "records" the events on paper, and Halle, who is trapped in an observer's position in the barn's loft, loses his mind. Sethe does not know what has become of Sethe until years later.
      Sethe escapes to Cincinnati and finds Halle's mother, who the Garners allowed to go free after Halle worked to "buy" her from them. Sethe has delivered her newborn with the help of fugitive white girl named Denver while on the road to Cincinnati and so names the baby after her. Sethe is re-united with her children and beginning her physical recovery when Schoolteacher shows up with the sheriff to take her and her children back to Sweet Home. In desperation, she grabs her children, runs to the tool shed and tries to kill them--to "keep them safe." She only succeeds with the older baby girl and is then taken to jail as Schoolteacher now realizes she is broken beyond repair or utility.
      When Sethe gets out of jail, she buys a headstone, through bartering sex, for her murdered daughter, but can only "afford" to have the word "Beloved" chiseled into it. The house now becomes haunted with a spiteful ghost that everyone believes to belong to the murdered girl. Mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, who had achieved fame in the local community for her lay preaching, takes to her bed and dies. The community shuns Sethe, and Denver has become so fearful that she never leaves the house. The ghost drives the two sons to run away when they are only 13 and they are never heard from again. Sethe gets work as a cook at a local restaurant to support herself and Denver.
    Enter Paul D., apparently the only other slave to survive and escape Sweet Home. He has always loved Sethe and seems to banish the ghost from the house with his arrival. But within a short time, a young black woman appears on their doorstep and is taken in. She says her name is Beloved. Denver is the first to recognize her sister and Paul D. begins to have suspicions, but is eventually driven from the house, both by the supernatural manipulations of Beloved, and by finding out from someone about Sethe's murder of her daughter.
    Life at this point spins out of control with Beloved and Sethe in a guilt-induced cycle of decline--Sethe fading away physically and psychologically, while Beloved grows ever larger and more demanding and unpredictable. Denver now fears Beloved's murderous intentions more than her mother's and goes out into the community to seek help. The women in town come to exorcise the haunting presence, Sethe is stopped from a disastrous murder of her white benefactor, and Paul D. re-enters the picture to care for Sethe.
    I do not usually write such detailed story lines and not sure why I did here, except in an attempt to understand better what this book was about. The immediate impact is a renewed and expanded understanding of the destruction--short- and long-term--wrought by the institution of slavery. The former slaves in this book have lost their sense of self-identity, a loss even greater than losing family members or never being allowed to have a family. Escaping to freedom is only the initial step on a long road to recovery. I did totally understand the horror and despair that drove Sethe to murder and attempted murder. Having been allowed to be a mother, unlike many slave women, Sethe was driven to protect her children from the evil perpetrated on black slaves by many white owners (mostly men presumably).  What I don't understand is the unforgiving and annihilating character of Beloved.
   

Monday, April 6, 2015

Poison

I have been unable to find a home page for author Sara Poole although the publisher has a page for her. This is a well written historical novel set in 1492 as Rodrigo Borgia is pulling the strings to try and obtain the Papacy. Francesca Giordano has just murdered a man in order to take his place as the Borgia family's official poisoner. She is still young--in her late teens--but has been at the side of her widowed father, the former poisoner for the Borgias, and learned his herb craft and more. To explain, the poisoner's job is technically to keep the family safe from efforts to kill them through poisoning, which was apparently a popular means of getting rid of one's enemies. But she has also just seen her father die from a brutal beating and feels that patriarch Rodrigo Borgia has acted insufficiently to find the killer or killers. Only if she is in a position of power can she assure her own future and possibly find those responsible. So she kills the Spaniard that Borgia has hired to replace her father and presents herself to Borgia as the replacement. Her audacity and competence, which could have as easily gotten her executed, apparently strikes a cord with Rodrigo and she is now official.
Little does she realize what Borgia had had her father working on before he died. When Francesco attempts to track down her father's final diaries, she is led to the Jewish ghetto of Rome, where the exiles from the Inquisition in Spain are overcrowding an already intolerable situation of filth, starvation and disease. The people she meets there become real to her as she learns that the current Pope plans to sign a similar edict evicting them not only from Rome, but from all Christian lands. It would mean certain death for thousands. If Borgia became Pope, however, the Jews would be spared--if only because he needs the money of wealthy Jewish merchants to buy his way into office once Innocent is dead.
This book is noteworthy for its more sympathetic portrayals of Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia. I have now ordered the HBO series, The Borgias, from Netflix to see how they portray this infamous family. Excellent creation of time, place, characters and political intrigues. If you weren't put off the Catholic church before, this may change your mind. Corruption does not begin to describe the machinations of cardinals and pope. I am keen to read the two subsequent novels in the series.

Natural Causes

This is the first in the Detective Inspector McLean series of crime novels by author James Oswald. His previous genre specialties were comic books, fantasy and science fiction, so perhaps it is not surprising that there is an element of the supernatural is this police procedural. Not quite sure what led me to this author, but I had also recently dipped into another crime novel series (Inspector Rebus) by a Scottish author, and they have both been grim and somewhat grisly--giving the Scandinavians a run for their money on that score.
McLean has just recently been promoted from sargeant to inspector, but that does not mean he can avoid dealing with an odious and incompetent superior--Chief Inspector Daguid. When McLean happens upon an active crime scene while visiting his grandmother's house, he can't help but check in to see what's going on, and Daguid immediately yells at him for interfering and then gives him tasks to do. The body has been found in an elegant old house, long abandoned, and now slated for conversion to luxury apartments. The developer has found a horribly mutilated and mummified body in the basement, apparently a young girl who was the victim of a macabre ritual involving removal of her organs. Only McLean seems to notice the strange lines drawn around the perimeter of the room. A series of wealthy men begin to die in similarly grisly fashion--cut open with organs removed. The perpetrators seem to be random killers--a homeless immigrant, a secretary at a bank, a train engineer. It all makes no sense. Unless of course you realize that a demon is at work, now freed from the circle of containment that held him in the dead girl's body.
On a more worldly plane, McLean's grandmother--the woman who raised him after his parents died in an airplane crash when he was 4 years old--has been in a coma for 18 months following a massive stroke; she has just now passed away, leaving McLean suddenly a rich man.
In addition to the tragedy of his parents, the love of McLean's life died  10 years ago in an accident and he has withdrawn from any possibility of romantic involvements--until now. Two women are suddenly in his life, one who is a work colleague of sorts (SOC photographer) and one whose daughter becomes the next potential victim of an aged killer desperate to save his own soul and life.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Silver Borne

This is the 5th of Patricia Briggs' "Mercy Thompson" series and they continue to be, IMHO, high caliber fantasy with well-thought out and complex characters, intriguing plot lines, and believable alternative realities. Several story lines weave through this installment. Mercy was loaned a magical book detailing history of the Fae, and is now being hunted for it; whether or not she returns the book to a fae who wants to use it for evil purposes, she is likely to die. The pack is continuing to struggle with acceptance of Mercy as their pack leader's mate, and some members of the pack are, in fact, scheming to bring Adam down. Samuel, meanwhile, has lost his will to live and tried to drown himself. Mercy is trying to keep him out of the Marrok's sightlines until she can bring him to his senses--hopefully before his wolf takes over in a bad way and goes on a killing spree that will end in his certain death. Because Mercy is in the middle of all these events, those near and dear to her are all affected. To get more information on these characters, check out previous posts (Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, Bone Crossed, and Frost Burned) or start at the beginning and read this wonderful series of books.