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Search tags: 4th-of-July
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review 2019-09-05 23:46
Discount Armageddon / Seanan McGuire
Discount Armageddon - Seanan McGuire

Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night...

The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity—and humanity from them.

Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right?

It would be, if it weren't for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family's old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed.

To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone's spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city...

 

I read this book to fill the Cryptozoologist square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

Hail! Cake and cheese for all sapient rodents!

I still love this silly little series and the Aeslin mice. Verity Price may not be the world’s sharpest detective and Domenic De Luca may not be the most desireable romantic partner for her, but the mice fix everything with their charming presence throughout the book.

My memory is obviously not what it used to be, because I had completely forgotten the book’s opening, in which the mice feature prominently. Somehow, I didn’t think they appeared until Verity’s adventures in the Big Apple. I also had forgotten the significance of cake and cheese even in this very first book. Once again, I thought that the emphasis on these two foodstuffs came in later books. They were probably overshadowed in my memory by the whole take-out chicken scene! Showing that it does pay to re-read your favourites.

I still enjoy this series, featuring a manic family of ardent cryptozoologists and their crazy adventures, featuring any mythical beastie that you can think of and some which the author must have made up (like the Aeslin mice). I love the snark, the cute, and the smart. Each book is a lovely little vacation from reality.

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review 2019-08-04 21:37
A Scandal in Battersea / Mercedes Lackey
A Scandal in Battersea - Mercedes Lackey

The twelfth novel in Mercedes Lackey's magical Elemental Masters series reimagines Sherlock Holmes in a richly-detailed alternate 20th-century England

Christmas is a very special time of year. It is special for Psychic Nan Killian and Medium Sarah Lyon-White and their ward Suki, who are determined to celebrate it properly. It is special for their friends, Doctor John Watson, and his wife Mary, both Elemental Masters, who have found great delight in the season seeing it through young Suki’s eyes. 

It is also special to others...for very different reasons.

For Christmas Eve is also hallowed to dark forces, powers older than mankind, powers that come awake on this, the Longest Night. Powers best left alone. Powers that could shake the foundations of London and beyond.

It begins slowly. Women disappearing in the dark of night, women only missed by those of their own kind. The whispers only begin when they start to reappear—because when they do, they are no longer sane. And when Nan and Sarah and the Watsons are called on to examine these victims, they discover that it was no ordinary horror of the streets that drove them mad.

But then, the shadows reach for other victims—girls of good, even exalted families, who vanish from concerts, lectures, and evening balls. And it will take the combined forces of Magic, Psychic Powers, and the worlds greatest detective to stop the darkness before it can conquer all

 

***2019 The Summer of Sherlock*** 

Well, I called A Study in Sable a weird tribute to Sherlock Holmes. This book is even weirder. Not only does it continue to represent John & Mary Watson as magical practitioners, it joins them, Nan & Sarah, and Sherlock Holmes himself to battle eldritch horrors out of H.P. Lovecraft! 

The mash-up doesn’t work for me, but it may work for folks who are more into Lovecraft than Mr. Holmes. Both books, to my way of thinking, are far outside of the detective’s wheelhouse and his presence really isn’t appropriate.

The evil magician who starts the whole situation going isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and the tentacle monster has pretty banal requests of him. Said evil magician is so pitiful at covering his tracks that it’s amazing that he wasn’t apprehended almost immediately!

If you are a dyed-in-the-wool Mercedes Lackey fan, you will probably enjoy this. To my way of thinking, Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraft fans are better off avoiding it. What it may accomplish is sending inexperienced readers to Doyle and Lovecraft if they fancy this novel and haven’t read those two authors.

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review 2019-08-04 21:33
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter / Theodora Goss
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter - Theodora Goss

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.
 

 

***The Summer of Sherlock 2019*** 

I’m giving this book 4 stars simply because it combined so many of the Victorian things that often get written about (plus one I’d never heard of before). Obviously, from my Summer reading list, I’ve read a LOT of fiction involving Sherlock Holmes. He is very attractive to modern writers (and I’ve got some ideas why).

But this book throws in so many things! Firstly The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Tales of Terror. Then add The Island of Doctor MoreauFrankenstein, with a little bit of Draculathrown in for good measure. And there is the irresistible lure of Jack the Ripper! Plus I must now track down Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story Rappaccini's Daughter, to learn more about the poisonous Beatrice.

So much fiction right now is based on Victorian London--it really holds appeal for the modern writer & reader. I wonder if it’s because we live in a time of uneasy change, just like the Victorian era. The industrial revolution was in full swing, just as we are seemingly immersed in the Internet age. The traditional role of women was being challenged just as the Me Too movement has shaken things up in our society. There were more & more people who actually wanted to help those less fortunate rather than maintain their low status, just as we are starting to realize that more & more people are wanting to come to more prosperous countries to start new lives. I think that these similarities draw us to updated Victorian tales. For me, it is especially the feminizing of popular Victorian literature that appeals. Inserting more independent women or women striving for independence.

Perhaps there is also some nostalgia for the times before DNA and forensics, back to when police had to have their wits about them in order to solve crimes. Our tendency to idealize the Good Old Days, which I don’t have to point out weren’t so good for everybody--particularly anyone who was not a wealthy white man. 

Still, I enjoyed this combination of so many literary works and I can certainly see it’s roots in the author’s dissertation. I’ll be interested to read the next book to see where she takes these characters that she has forged into the Athena Club (which is an excellent name, by the way).

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review 2019-08-04 21:31
In an Absent Dream / Seanan McGuire
In an Absent Dream - Seanan McGuire

This fourth entry and prequel tells the story of Lundy, a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she's found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

 

It’s been a long time since I read Lewis Carroll’s Alice and I’m still gradually working my way through C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. Both are good portal fantasy in their way, but I’m truly loving the Wayward Children series. I’m also appreciating that there are some echoes ofMiss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children in the form of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. 

I’m particularly fond of this volume of Wayward Children, as McGuire explores the nature of the societies that we live in. What is fairness? Do you have to choose between friends and family? Should you have to? What are the unspoken assumptions that govern our lives?

This tale makes particularly good use of the poem Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti. McGuire has skillfully woven many details from that lovely work into her own tale. “There is no friend like a sister” states the poem and Lundy, separated from her sister by a magical doorway, must decide whether to stay with her friend Moon beyond the magic door or to live with her sister in what we would call reality. 

I identified with Lundy in several ways--being more interested in books than in classmates, being unhappy with being treated second-class to boys, and being anxious to move away from home and live life on my own terms. Lundy finds the Goblin Market world, where if one doesn’t deal fairly with others, the consequences show up on the body. Everyone in this world believes in the fairness of the deal, rather in the same way that our system of capitalism “believes” in the fairness of the “free market.” Lundy’s father eventually points out to her that the Goblin Market may not be a fair as she assumed as a young child.

A very short, sweet book, well worth the reader’s time. I hope it will become as classic as Alice, Narnia and Oz.

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review 2019-08-04 21:27
His Last Bow / Arthur Conan Doyle
His Last Bow - Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes's fearless chronicler Dr Watson once again opens his notebooks to bring to light eight further tales of some of the strangest and most fascinating cases to come before the enquiring mind of London's most famous detective.

These mysteries involve the disappearance of secret plans as well as of a lady of noble standing; the curious circumstances of Wisteria Lodge and of the Devil's Foot; as well as the story His Last Bow, the last outing of Holmes and Watson on the eve of the First World War.

 

I believe that I have now read all of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Plus I have read a lot of fiction that uses his great detective as a character--largely novels. I am truly impressed with Doyle’s skill--he manages to give such detail and delight in the short story format. We come away from his fiction feeling like we know all about Mr. Holmes and like John Watson would be our friend if we ran into him. No wonder people show up at their iconic address in London, as if expecting the famous duo to still be there.

In this collection, we get a better sense of Mycroft Holmes and his importance to the government. One wonders what he would think of Boris Johnson and Brexit. No doubt both brothers would have opinions on the matter! Whether they would share those opinions is another question.

I’m glad to have read the entire Holmes canon and now I think I may turn my attention to a biography of Arthur Conan Doyle and some of his other fiction. 

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