Review – The Descent

The Descent by Alma KatsuThe Descent is the third book in The Taker trilogy. If you haven’t read The Taker and The Reckoning yet, you need to fix that in 2014. This trilogy is certainly one of the more interesting ones to come along. There are some great characters and plot lines that keep you guessing — even after you read the ending first, like I do.

Lanore McIlvrae, Lanny as she’s known, spent years living in fear of Adair, the man who made her immortal. Their relationship, while heated and insanely passionate, is not a stable one by any means. The things these two have done to each other — both mentally and physically — are horrific, and yet, they can’t seem to escape each other. Beyond the immortal bond the two share, there’s something else that keeps them returning to each other even after all the hurt they’ve caused.

After Lanny’s current partner, Luke, dies of cancer, she begins having nightmares about her former lover, and one could say, the great love of her life, Jonathan. Believing the nightmares are more than just guilt induced dreams, Lanny goes looking for the only man she knows who can help her — Adair. She knows he possesses the power to alleviate her nightmares and find answers to her questions. Unfortunately, she’s not sure how well she’ll be received, especially coming on business concerning Jonathan. While Lanny and Adair’s relationship has changed significantly over the intervening years, Jonathan is very much a sore spot between the two. There are things in life that are constant and Jonathan is that one thing for Lanny and Adair.

When Lanny finds Adair, she finds a changed man. He’s living on a deserted island in the Mediterranean and is a much calmer person but she knows there’s still much to fear from Adair and the power he can yield. She comes to an understanding of her feelings for him but knows she must still help Jonathan if possible and that’s when things get complicated.

My dilemma — how do I tell readers about this book when it’s the third in a series and I don’t want to give anything away? Instead, I’m going to talk about a larger theme in the series — love. I’m not one for love stories, especially ones that get wrapped up all nice and neat in the end. But, I liked that love had such a large and messy role in this story, and let’s not forget the mess the mere thought of the word brought to Lanny, Adair, and Jonathan and the catastrophe that is their relationship. Don’t get me wrong, for a long time I didn’t like Adair at all. He’s cruel, hateful, and isn’t much for honor or respect. Jonathan, while Lanny can’t help but love him, isn’t exactly a loveable person either leaving a trail of heartbroken women in his path. In fact, Lanny, while she obviously loves the idea of love, gets burned so many times it would be easier for her to just walk away from everyone. Maybe her willingness to keep believing that love can work is what makes her likable after all.

It’s always difficult to come to the end of a series especially one that was so good. Alma Katsu gave her characters immortality, beat them up and teased them with death, and in the end, threw in love and let everything fall to the ground in a gigantic messy heap of humanity. At certain points, you won’t like any of the characters — who can all be crazy, manipulative, sad, and demented — but you’re rewarded with a tale that’s full of the supernatural. What’s the good news about this series coming to an end? New readers get to read from start to finish getting wrapped up in Lanny’s strange and enticing world without being left to wonder what will happen next. For me, there’s a satisfaction in finally getting the chance to see what becomes of Lanny, Adair, and Jonathan.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

The Descent

By Alma Katsu

Gallery Books

ISBN: 9781451651829

Thoughts on The Love Artist

The Love Artist by Jane AlisonThe Love Artist by Jane Alison was assigned for an online class I took in the fall of 2013 called Plagues, Witches, and War. The first few weeks of class were spent reading articles and chosen chapters so I was excited to get to the books that were going to be discussed as part of dialogue sessions with the authors. However, I was slightly apprehensive about this book. While I like antiquity, I don’t always like reading about antiquity. Something gets lost in translation for me and I somehow end up being disappointed, so I went in a bit skeptical about whether or not I would enjoy a story about the Roman poet, Ovid.

When I’m wrong, I’m wrong.

I fell in love with this story. It was a bit slow for me to get into. Obviously, I needed to let a few thoughts go before I was able to get lost in it. Once lost, I was sold — even about the magical realism that doesn’t always work but works so very well in the context of this story. I prefer when magical realism is subtle and rolled into believable traits and actions of the characters and that’s what happened.

Basic premise. Ovid, a Roman poet, travels to the Black Sea, and while there, he meets a woman. He becomes obsessed — almost possessed by his obsession — and feeling so inspired by her and their relationship that he brings her back to Rome with him. Xenia, a woman like no other, with no need or want to become a woman of Rome, practices her arts as if she never left her isolated island home. A witch? Maybe. A healer? Also. But what she is a mystery and she remains that way, especially to Ovid who in the thralls of his latest work, becomes even more entangled in a web he can’t get out of.

The Love Artist is not a fast moving story. As a reader, you spend a strange amount of time navigating Ovid’s ego which grows only larger with thoughts of immortality,  knowing he’ll be read far into a future he can’t imagine. The love part of the story isn’t love either. Is there admiration? Some. Is there manipulation? A whole lot, actually. There’s jealousy and raw emotion. Deceit. While the action is very little, it’s not what moves the story. The emotions of the characters push it forward to a conclusion.

One of the interesting things about this book being part of the class was having the opportunity to hear the author talk about the book and her inspiration. What seemed to interest her most was the fact that there is no record of why Ovid was banished from Rome by Augustus. She makes an attempt at filling in the details with this story and her interpretation as to why it might have happened. It’s an interesting thought for a story catalyst. I, personally, liked that she didn’t go so far as to fill in the blanks about why he was banished. I liked that sense of mystery surrounding the ending. It fit so well with the mystery that was Xenia, the mystery that was the future, and the mystery that was their life together.

So, final my thought is this: while I wasn’t initially sold on the story, I was sold by the end and the by the way Alison wove a mystery around a historical figure.

The Love Artist by Jane Alison

Picador

ISBN: 9781429962193

Those Mountains of Madness

I read H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness (my review), and while it was interesting, it left me wanting. I didn’t love it, but I wanted to. I was sad it didn’t happen that way. This was a story I should love, or at least, that’s what I thought.

Then came along Tales to Terrify which was featuring the story. Audio books aren’t my thing but why not give it a go. It’s three podcasts and I could stop listening at anytime. Since I was already familiar with the story, it should work out fine.

Can I tell you how happy I am that I gave it a try! I *happy dance* was so happy and totally creeped out. It was everything I wanted from this story which I didn’t get from my reading experience.

I came to love the words used by Lovecraft: ‘purposeful malignancy,’ ‘morbid survival,’ ‘from nightmarish antiquity,’ and ‘cosmic octopi.’

Part one of the story is all about the staging of the expedition. Generally, I enjoyed this part of the book in both reading and listening forms. For some reason I can’t understand, I liked the lists of needed materials for the expedition. Part two was lost on me while reading but not listening. It’s an exploration of the dead city of a once thriving civilization that inhabited Earth long before humans. Shoggoths of the sea with accidental intelligence, cthulhu spawn — seriously, let those words sink in and you’ll be checking under the couch for monsters too. As part three begins, and it comes to a close, it’s pure dread mixed with remorse and a hint of foreboding — all in the name of science.

If you listen, you’ll be rewarded by the wonderfully creepy voice of Bob Nuefeld. Actually, his voice isn’t creepy at all but the perfect choice for this tale. He reads Lovecraft’s words with an incredible voice that warbles in all the right places. Also, in part two, there’s a great discussion of horror works that is absolutely worth listening to.

Go listen. Then hide from the shoggoths.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Let me tell you about a place

The Black Fire ConcertoA post-apocalyptic place unlike the world we know. Where people eat the flesh of ghouls under the misguided belief it will prolong their lives. Where magic, light and dark, exist. Where machines are a thing of the past but knowledge of their misuse has shaped the sad state of the present. A place where humans hide not wanting to live out a half-dead fate if bitten by a ghoul. A place ruined by storms that scorched the land and transformed its people. A place where music can shape destiny. A place of creatures shaped by magic. A place full of fantastical landscapes. A place to instill wonder and fear.

This is the world of The Black Fire Concerto.

Erzelle is 12 years-old and a captive on a riverboat called the Red Empress. Imprisoned when she came aboard with her parents — musicians invited to play for guests  —- Erzelle waits, knowing she will one day meet the same horrible death. While she waits for that day to come, she plays her harp while guests feast on the flesh of ghouls. When a new guest, a fellow musician named Olyssa, befriends Erzelle, her life changes forever. Once they escape the Red Empress, Erzelle accompanies Olyssa on her journey to find her sister. Along the way, Olyssa teaches her new music — music fueled by magic that can tame ghouls and kill their enemies. Music that will forever change, not only Erzelle, but their world.

I listened to the first part of this book when it was featured on Tales to Terrify. It was wonderfully creepy and I had a picture of this world in my head so when the book arrived I was anxious to get started. The world of Erzelle and Olyssa held true and I found myself rushing through this story full of ghouls, flesh eaters, magically driven harvesters of the dead, and creatures in hiding from a terror that will bring on a long and sad death.

One thing I wanted more of, well, was more of the story. At less than 200 pages, The Black Fire Concerto packs a lot into it’s few pages. I was satisfied by the end but I wanted more. It was just that good and I was so sucked into the story by this point that when the end snuck up on me, I wasn’t ready for it. That’s a good thing.

If you’re the type of person that likes to hoard creepy books for October, this is one more. I should caution though, reading this book during lunch will probably make you want to stop eating. Descriptions of stretched sinew and joints popping aren’t conducive to eating. Just a warning.

Thanks to the author, Mike Allen, who sent me a copy of this book for review.

If you’re interested, some other thoughts on The Black Fire Concerto:

Little Red Reviewer

Lynn’s Book Blog

Lynn also asked Mike a few questions too.

Review – Advent

AdventGavin Stokes is an awkward teenager. In fact, he’s always been awkward. He talks to people who aren’t there, see things that aren’t there, and has parents that want him to pretend everything that happens to him, doesn’t. When the opportunity comes to visit his aunt in the country, the only person he ever thought understood him, he jumps at the chance. One strange things after another happens to him and he starts to think that maybe he isn’t so awkward after all and there are a lot of things in this world that can’t be explained.

I don’t know what to make of this book. On one hand, I really liked it. On an entirely different hand, I didn’t really think much of it. Sadly, I’m having trouble pinpointing why this is so. Here’s the thing, the story has a bit of a time slip thing going on. So, when you’re not in the present watching a teenager make a total mess of things, you’re back in the 1500s with a magician who is also making a mess of things. I liked both stories. Each had their strong points. It was when the stories merged that I had trouble. Here’s the thing — the two timelines fit well together, character and plot wise. But I didn’t really care for them meshing. Does that make sense? Ignore me if it doesn’t, I won’t be offended.

One of the reasons I put this book on my list was because I knew it had a few Arthurian legend references and as we all know, (I’ve repeated it often enough) I’ll read anything that has Arthurian elements. That aspect of this book kept me reading and I liked the rather subtle way in which it was introduced. Although, I didn’t like when Gavin’s name went from Gavin to Gawain. It annoys me when characters change names halfway through a book. It was necessary and certainly made sense within the context of the story but it just doesn’t work me. I’m all for people (re: characters) finding themselves but, again, annoying for me. You may love it. Again, ignore me if needed.

The good thing and why this book is worth a try. It’s a book about magic! The magic follows traditional rules, there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m just pointing it out. And I liked that it was dark and sinister, the way I think magic should be. The way the magic is tangled throughout the centuries is great too. The estate, Pendura, in Cornwall that Gavin retreats to where his aunt is living, is an interesting place as well. It’s almost suspended in time and home to creatures that are only known to exist in the imagination.

Advent is the first book in a trilogy, and according to the author’s website, the second book, Anarchy, it will be out in September in the US. After writing this review, I think I might have talked myself into looking at the second book after all.

Advent

By James Treadwell

Emily Bestler Books/ATRIA

ISBN: 9781451661668

Review – Silent on the Moor

Silent on the MoorI started this series with book five, I think. It was a few years ago so I’m fuzzy on details but I remember enjoying it immensely even though I knew very little of the characters. Based on that one book, I decided the series was worth a look and started at the beginning, like one should when they read a series. This is book two in the Lady Julia Grey series following Silent in the Grave, and if you happen to like your historical fiction tied up with a bit of romance, try these books.

Lady Julia Grey, once more far away from Nicholas Brisbane, takes off with her sister to his home in the country to get re-acquainted, and more. Things of course, aren’t what they seem at Brisbane’s Yorkshire home, Grimsgrave. The estate, old and moldy, is falling down and the once proud family that used to own it is more than strange. Julia, after snooping around, manages to get herself involved in a family mystery and let’s face it, sometimes things are better left unsaid. From there, everything goes downhill.

Can I just tell you how much I like Brisbane? He’s moody, slightly unpredictable, and well, hot and lovable. Yes, there’s a reason Julia becomes all unladylike in his presence. I don’t usually go for these sorts of things in books but I think I found my guilty pleasure and I don’t care. I want to read more of these and I will. Bring on book three, library!

Silent on the Moor

By Deanna Raybourn

Mira

ISBN: 9780778326144

Review – Circle of Shadows: A Westerman/Crowther Mystery

Circle of ShadowsLately, everything I want to read is a series and a suspense filled historical mystery at that. I want that back story, the intimacy between characters, rich historical details, and a strange murder to be solved of course. Luckily for me, I found all those characteristics in Robertson’s Circle of Shadows.

Harriet Westerman is home at Caveley with her family attempting to forget the sorrowful events of the past few months. Hurtful rumors have plagued Harriet and she’s done her best to pretend none of it has bothered her but it has. All she wants now is quiet but when a letter arrives from her sister, Rachel, the quiet home life Harriet longed for evaporates. Rachel’s husband, Daniel Clode, has been accused of murder and Rachel needs her help. Harriet calls for her close friend, Gabriel Crowther, who is just as bothered and dismayed by the news as Harriet. Crowther, a reclusive anatomist and Harriet’s partner in several investigations, accompanies her to Germany and the Duchy of Maulberg, a strange little court that prides itself on its opulence but is a place they will need every observance of etiquette to remain safe.

While traveling to Germany, Harriet and Crowther look over the facts of the case and find it all too strange to believe. Daniel had been found with the body of Lady Martesen, a favorite of the Duke of Maulberg, completely incoherent and bleeding from a cut on his wrist. The theory of the local district investigator is that Daniel felt remorse after killing Lady Martesen and tried to take his own life. A theory Harriet and Crowther adamantly don’t believe. Daniel remembers nothing of the evening; especially not the murder or how he even came to be in the room with the dead woman. Crowther, a man all too familiar with the details of murder from his anatomy work, knows that the woman wasn’t killed by Daniel because she was in fact drowned — a pronouncement that throws the entire investigation into upheaval on their arrival.

After their arrival in Maulberg, Harriet and Crowther, and their traveling companions, are quickly schooled in the court etiquette which is rather more complex than what they’re used to in England. It will take every bit of decorum not to be thrown in jail with Daniel in the eccentric court where asking questions seems to be a nonstarter.

Making the case even more dangerous is the appearance of a man Harriet hoped never to see again alive — Manzerotti — the man who ordered the death of her beloved husband. Manzerotti is a spy caught up in the same case as Harriet and Crowther although no one but Manzerotti knows the details and he isn’t sharing.

The dynamic between Harriet and Crowther is what makes this series for me. Harriet is an outspoken woman who has no trouble saying what’s on her mind and acting on impulse — an unusual trait for a woman of the 18th Century. Crowther, on the other hand, would prefer to be alone with a corpse shunning pretty much everyone but Harriet. Their relationship is odd but makes the cases they get involved in so much more interesting for their personalities. The appearance of Manzerotti shakes Harriet’s rather stable emotions in this case, and while Crowther isn’t the most effusive of men, he is when it comes to protecting and helping Harriet, or at least keeping weapons out of her sight when Manzerotti enters a room.

I’ve read previous books in the Westerman/Crowther series and if you have as well, you’ll be happy to know this one lives up to the others. While the setting is interesting, it’s also slightly creepy, the way a murder setting should be. If you’re a fan of Robertson and the Westerman/Crowther series, this one is a good addition and one to be read.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

Circle of Shadows: A Westerman/Crowther Mystery

By Imogen Robertson

Pamela Dorman Books/Viking

ISBN: 9780670026289