Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review 2012 #1 - Mary Robinette Kowal's Glamour in Glass

Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal
Published by: Tor
Publication Date: April 10th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Jane and Vincent have become quite the powerful couple. Working side by side they have elevated Vincent's art, their art, to a new level. Even if the newspapers don't really give Jane any credit. He is the toast of London, the Prince Regent throwing a dinner in honor of the magnificent grotto they have created for his New Years festivities. Yet part of Jane is sad. Being a woman, she is viewed as women of the time are, not as the equal her husband does. She is easily pushed aside after dinner when the men sit and talk and the women retire. Jane has no desire to retire! She wants to be next to Vincent discussing magic and politics and all the things that matter in the world, not shut up in some parlor till the men deign to come to them!

Soon though Vincent receives an invitation from his mentor, M. Chastain, to visit him in Belgium and to look over the school he has created. Vincent and Jane treat this as the honeymoon they never really had time for. To be surrounded by others able to work their craft and to perhaps learn more than she was able to teach herself is a dream come true to Jane. Though the journey there is no without peril. Troops are rallying for Napoleon, it is rumored that he shall escape Alba and make an attempt on reclaiming his throne.

Soon Jane and Vincent stumble upon and idea that would take his Sphere Obscurcie, which makes a person invisible, if in a fixed location, and make it portable, with glass. This discovery could mean defeat or victory at the hands of the French. A discovery the French and the newly escaped Napoleon would gladly kill for. Though a hitch has been thrown into Jane's world. She has discovered she has a condition that will not allow her to work glamours. Will Vincent still love her if they are no loner able to work side by side and she where to become a more traditional wife? As she quickly sees, Vincent is already keeping secrets from her and not confiding as much as he used to, now that she is no longer with him at all times. Yet, when Vincent is threatened, Jane might be the only one able to save him.

I adored this book. I was bereft when it ended. Never in a very very long time it seems have I been so enamoured of the world a book has created. The first book I quite enjoyed, it was quite enjoyable, but it didn't prepare me for the awesomeness of the second. I here refer to the original origin of awesome, like one million hot dogs as Eddie Izzard would say. The mix of magic and the Regency world was what captured me initially. Yet here, Mary Robinette Kowal has taken it further. She has added in a level of French history that I am always drawn to, ie, the despotic wacko, Napoleon. How could you not love magic and deceit and Napoleonic spies? Napoleon and his hundred days, sigh. It is literally in my blood to be drawn to his time period. My great great great however many greats need to be there, grandfather was a high muckety-muck for Napoleon, François Joseph Lefebvre, the Duc de Danzig. Family legend always had it that he had actually abandoned Napoleon during the hundred days, turns out, that wasn't quite the case... but, well, would you like to say you rallied to him? At least his portrait is still at Versailles...

Back to the book. Not only is there this wonderful and believable magic system that Mary Robinette Kowal has created, but Jane is so perfect. She is not of her time. Vincent sees this and loves this in her. They are a modern couple who defy the expectations and mores of the time they live in. The deepness of their love is so romantic, but what's more romantic? The fact that Jane is clever, smart, and, in the end, not a damsel in distress, but the one who saves the day and her husband. If more books would just have kick ass females that where modelled on Jane. Clever, analytical and above all, successful in their endeavours. By not falling prey to stereotypical tropes, by magnificent world building and by creating a couple that truly love each other and depend on each other, Mary Robinette Kowal's series is quickly becoming not just a wonderful and unique series, but an author to watch and to wait for with baited breath.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book review - Alan Bradley's Speaking from Among the Bones

Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley
ARC Provided by the Publisher
Published by: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: January 29th, 2013
Format: Kindle, 400 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Bishop's Lacey is in a state of excitement. As Easter draws near there is an excavation underway at St. Tancred's. Five hundred years ago their patron Saint died and was buried in the church at Bishop's Lacey. It was rumored that he was buried with The Heart of Lucifer, a diamond as big as a turkey egg that had healing powers and was the centerpiece of a staff made from holy wood. But only a few people know of this legend, and they obviously wanted to find it prior to the official excavation, because once the exhumation begins, it is obvious that someone has been there before. The most obvious sign of disruption being the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church's organist of the luscious locks who has been missing for some weeks.

Of course it had to be Flavia who found Mr. Collicutt... she had stumbled upon the tunnel that the nefarious gang was using to access the tomb... and the thought of long undisturbed bones was too much of a temptation to the precocious poisoner. But the discovery of the body brings many people to the scene. Besides the cops there's Adam Sowerby, who as a Flora-archaeologist, is on hand to see if there are any viable seeds buried with St. Tancred... but he also happens to dabble in PI work, knows Flavia's father from long ago, and is so mysterious, he might, just might, be an agent for the Queen. Many close scrapes and a few startling revelations later, including an effigy weeping blood, leads to the biggest surprise of Flavia's life. Her mother Harriet has been found.

While this book was, I am sure, just as wonderful as the previous volumes, the murder, the mysteries, the daring escapes, the thugs, the diamond, all of it top hole, but all of it vanish into a dim memory buried deep in the fog, like the mist taking over the sinking churchyard at St. Tancred's when you read that last line: "Your mother has been found." The rest of the book just whooshed out of my head at this stunning revelation. Harriet has been found! My mind started working overtime, is it possible she is still alive, or is she dead... could her estate be settled, can Buckshaw be saved? All these what ifs pushed everything else out of the way. The sheer torture of having to wait to find out the answers is a burden that I don't know if I can bear, but bear it I must.

The working title for the fifth volume of Flavia's adventures was Seeds of Antiquity, and I rather wish that this had remained the title. The books duel yet connected themes of family/heredity and history seem interconnected with the word antiquity, whereas bones, though they have a story to tell, are far less romantic. The knowledge that Flavia is accumulating with regard to her mother and her own place within Buckshaw makes her more a part of the family then Feely and Daffy would like. Flavia is her mother reborn, no matter what any sibling has tried to convince her of in the past. What we are comes from our parents, the madness or genius that is inherited, much as the burden of Buckshaw is inherited. To be able to embrace all that we are while also loosing it, with the imminent sale of the house, shows who we truly are. But how sad for Flavia, to be coming into all this knowledge while also learning that she will loose her connection to this past.

The past though can live again, and it is through Adam Sowerby the Flora-archaeologist that the most interesting aspects of history live. Sure there is the history of the town and St. Tancred, the history of Buckshaw and Harriet, but all this is dry history, it was alive, it is no more. That history is gone. What Adam Sowerby does is bring history to life. By going to ancient burial sites he examines the remains, because most people throw flowers into graves. He then takes these seeds and tries to revitalize them. To bring back seeds long gone, plants that are no longer part of this time and place. To be able to breath life into something long dead. It is a bit like playing god. But it's the closest thing we have to time travel. We can't go into the past, but here is a very small part of the past that might be brought back to us. A bit of magic in a world of murder.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Tuesday Tomorrow

Speaking from Among the Bones (Flavia De Luce Book 5) by Alan Bradley
Published by: Delacorte
Publication Date: January 29th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Eleven-year-old amateur detective and ardent chemist Flavia de Luce is used to digging up clues, whether they’re found among the potions in her laboratory or between the pages of her insufferable sisters’ diaries. What she is not accustomed to is digging up bodies. Upon the five-hundredth anniversary of St. Tancred’s death, the English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey is busily preparing to open its patron saint’s tomb. Nobody is more excited to peek inside the crypt than Flavia, yet what she finds will halt the proceedings dead in their tracks: the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist, his face grotesquely and inexplicably masked. Who held a vendetta against Mr. Collicutt, and why would they hide him in such a sacred resting place? The irrepressible Flavia decides to find out. And what she unearths will prove there’s never such thing as an open-and-shut case."

Another great entry in the Flavia lexicon that left me desperate for the next book. Come on Alan, write faster!

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah Maclean
Published by: Avon
Publication Date: January 29th, 2013
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Lady Philippa Marbury is . . . odd

The brilliant, bespectacled daughter of a double marquess cares more for books than balls, for science than the season, and for laboratories than love. She's looking forward to marrying her simple fiancé and living out her days quietly with her dogs and her scientific experiments. But before that, Pippa has two weeks to experience all the rest—fourteen days to research the exciting parts of life. It's not much time, and to do it right she needs a guide familiar with London's darker corners.
She needs . . . a Scoundrel

She needs Cross, the clever, controlled partner in London's most exclusive gaming hell, with a carefully crafted reputation for wickedness. But reputations often hide the darkest secrets, and when the unconventional Pippa boldly propositions him, seeking science without emotion, she threatens all he works to protect. He is tempted to give Pippa precisely what she wants . . . but the scoundrel is
more than he seems, and it will take every ounce of his willpower to resist giving the lady more than she ever imagined."

I have been hearing nothing bit praise for this book all around the blogesphere, so why not check it out? I know I will.

Dangerous Gifts by Gaie Sebold
Published by: Solaris
Publication Date: January 29th, 2013
Format: Paperback, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Babylon Steel, former avatar of the goddess of sex and war, currently owner of the Scarlet Lantern, the best brothel on Scalentine, city of portals, has been offered a job; as bodyguard to Enthemmerlee, the latest candidate for the Council of Incandress; and as spy for the Diplomatic Section, the barely-acknowledged government of Scalentine.

She doesn’t want it. Incandress is on the verge of civil war. Enthemmerlee represents the hopes or fears of a large portion of its population and is a prime target for assassination. And on Scalentine racial tensions and economic stresses are boiling up, with Babylon’s lover, Chief Bitternut, trying to keep the lid on.

But circumstances conspire to send her to Incandress. There, what with attempting to turn Enthemmerlee’s useless household guard into a disciplined fighting force, dodging the Moral Statutes, the unwilling presence of a very annoyed member of the Diplomatic Section and the need to keep both herself and her client alive, things become rather too interesting. And that’s before Babylon realises that the situation is far worse than she thought, and is driven to a choice that will have far-reaching consequences..."

Recently I have been intrigued and think I will read the first in this Babylon Steel series, this being the second...

Fair Game (Alpha and Omega Book 3) by Patricia Briggs
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: January 29th, 2013
Format: Paperback, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"It is said that opposites attract. And in the case of werewolves Anna Latham and Charles Cornick, they mate. The son—and enforcer—of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles is a dominant Alpha. While Anna, an Omega, has the rare ability to calm others of her kind.

When the FBI requests the pack’s help on a local serial-killer case, Charles and Anna are sent to Boston to join the investigation. It soon becomes clear that someone is targeting the preternatural. And now Anna and Charles have put themselves right in the killer’s sights…"

If you haven't read this book yet, now's your chance, nice new paperback... also, if you haven't read this, why am I still talking to you, Patricia Briggs is awesome.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Book Review 2012 #2 - Laini Taylor's Days of Blood and Starlight

Days of Blood and Starlight, Daughter of Smoke and Bone Book 2 by Laini Taylor
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: November 6th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 528 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

"Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war. This is not that world."

Karou's homeland has been destroyed. The man she loved in another life, in another body, destroyed it because of her death. Akiva never thought, never even dared to hope that he would one day be with her again. His destruction of her people has sealed his fate and his chance at happiness. A happiness he never expected is lost yet again to him by his own hands. The monsters have all been destroyed by the Seraphim. There are only a few holdouts of Chimera hidden here and there in Eretz, and the Seraphim are flushing them out.

Yet there is hope... Karou. Her name literally means hope. Little did she realize that in spending two lives in the company of Brimstone she has been able to learn the art of resurrection, the secret to the Chimera's ability to thwart the enemy. Of course helping the Chimera means she must ally herself with the man who was her intended, Thiago. Oh, and he is the one who happened to have her executed the first time around. Going by the theory the enemy of my enemy is my friend, she agrees to be Thiago's resurrectionist, in the hope that this will save her people by creating a rebel band of Chimera.

But will a band of rebels be able to thwart the might of the empire? Or is it in Akiva and Karou's old dream of creating a new world that a future for Eretz might be found? Either way, the Seraphim and the Chimera must come together, must be willing to see past the war that has consumed their lives, or in the case of the Chimera, multiple lives, and look to what comes next.

For some time now I have had several friends who where verging on the insistence level of drug pushers to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I mean, every single time I talked to or emailed them, it would end with, "by the way... have you read it yet?" The day the second book came out the amount of texts I got might have been able to crash my data plan. Needless to say, as soon as I had the time I agreed I would finally read it. After the harsh semester of school I had I spent quite literally all of December sick and under a blanket somewhere. Now the "best" part about being sick is that you are literally incapable of doing anything other than lounging... which means reading! Ah December... I might not have been able to speak without hacking up a lung, but you passed in a haze of crisp fonts and snowy white pages. I devoured Daughter of Smoke and Bone quite quickly. I was intrigued by the world. There where things I loved, and there where things I raised my eyebrows at, angels, really? But I was sold enough to need to pick up the next volume immediately... or in this case, send someone forth to get me said volume because you aren't allowed to drive a car when on a codeine based cough syrup.

What the first book hadn't prepared me for was the awesomeness of the second book. By reading blurbs and snatches of reviews the second book seemed to veer very much into the war of otherworldy creatures category with Karou playing Frankenstein... which seemed, well, I'll say it, I thought it would be lame. I thought taking Karou out of this wonderful little world she lived in in Prague with her lovely diminutive if occasionally violent friend Zuzana was a mistake. No more sketchbooks and art school and evil exes. It was rewriting everything the first book was and giving us a map of another world. Side note, I usually love books with maps of other worlds, I just wasn't expecting this series to go that way. I think that's why I loved Days of Blood and Starlight, it went where I didn't think it would go and brought me along for an amazing ride, thankfully I didn't have to be in a beat up truck in Morocco for real.

Yet it is the believability of the world building that has made the narrative work. Laini has created a beautiful and brutal world, but it has humor in it. The surest way to get complicity is to make someone laugh. Zuzana was my entry into this world of monsters. She was so funny and her connection to Karou made a character who might not be completely relatable, I mean Karou is a monster resurrected into the body of a blue haired teenager with amazing drawing skills, real and likable. Their quippy emails and how Monty Python is used to bring levity yet also hint at the truths behind the words made me love this book all the more. Add in magic, a trio of mismatched angels, a mysterious island and some very wicked Guerilla tactics,  and I am not only beyond excited for the next installment, I want it now!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review 2012 #3 - Bill Willingham's Peter and Max

Peter and Max: A Fables Novel by Bill Willingham
Published by: Vertigo
Publication Date: November 6th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 400 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Peter and Max lived an idyllic life, traveling the countryside of their mythic world as wandering minstrels. Their little caravan with their talking mule wandered from town to town, playing at festivals and giving the Pipers a rather glorious life. The highlight of the year was when they arrived at their good friend Squire Peep's house and had a glorious party before continuing on together to the towns local festival. Though this year is different. Max is growing into a young man and his sullen moods have started to surface, whereas young Peter keeps thinking of Squire Peep's daughter Bo.

That night their world will change forever. It's not just that Peter and Max's father gives the family's one item of value, the flute Frost, to Peter, when Max is the oldest, it's that the rumor's of a great invading army come to pass. The Peep's estate is seized and everyone is locked away. The heads of the two families devise a plan. They will escape through the haunted and dangerous woods and make for Hamlin, a fortified town nearby that has to have withstood the forces of their Adversary.

Breaking into two parties, they go forth into the gloom, little knowing that it is not the advancing army that is their true threat, but that Max is. Overlooked by his family, his rightful inheritance taken away, the dark forest awakens something even darken within him. If he has anything to say about it, the people whom he entered the forest with won't make it out alive. Hundreds of years later and in a different world, similar to theirs, Peter and Max's final confrontation will happen.

Fairy Tales are the stories told to make us behave as children. To make us learn that not doing as you're told and going into the woods at night are the most dangerous things in the world. Because the woods are where the nightmares live. As we grow older, this fear lessens, but underneath the knowledge we have gained with age and wisdom, there is still that underlying fear. The woods is dangerous. Peter and Max bring these childhood fears back to life. Don't venture into the woods, not because there's witches and creatures to prey on you, but because Max is there. A man driven insane by his desire for what he believes is his right. Living his life between indolence and sheer rage, he haunts to woods in his quest to find Peter. This book is like Silence of the Lambs goes feudal. A sibling rivalry of fire and ice that will leave as many people dead in it's wake as possible.

Max is the kind of sociopathic antihero you just can't get enough of. This is a killer, who at the height of his power, has witches and other powerful creatures scared. His love of gaudy clothes combined with his desire for servitude, make crossing his path one very dangerous prospect. And into this man is weaved the basis for the Piped Piper of Hamlin. What kind of sick and twisted person, when they don't get what they want, would steal all your children? Max is the answer. Max legitimizes and makes sense of a rather odd Fairy Tale. He is the Brothers Grimm's very own Hannibal Lecter.

There is one thing though that needs to be addressed, how this fits into the Fables Oeuvre. For those who don't know (which you should by now given that my ninth best read of last year was in this series), Fables is a comic series created by Bill Willingham about storybook characters being real and living in seclusion without the rest of the world knowing. They were forced out of their homelands and into our world. Parts of our world mimic parts of theirs, the Hamlin of Peter and Max's world is similar to ours, and our world's reverence of Max entertains him to no end.

Your main question at this point is probably, will I understand this book without following the series. Simply, yes. They explain enough that you get the Fables "Universe" but it isn't essential to the plot. There are a few jokes you won't get here or there, but overall the Fables world doesn't drive the story. Which leads me to an important question. Why even make this a Fables novel? It would have been perfectly fine, perhaps even better, standing on it's own. Strip it down of any previously needed knowledge and then expand it. Because really, this book could have held my attention even longer, which is rare, usually I'm the one bemoaning the lack of editors in this day and age. This was just an amazing book, which makes me realize one important thing... if Bill Willingham can write this good, why is he wasting his time on a hit or miss comic series when he could be writing novels, novels that could rival some of the best fantasy writers out there? Really, that's the only thing that made me sad about this, knowing that Willingham is this awesome and usually performing below his abilities... well, that and the fact that I hated the one drawing in the book that was in the 20s I think... it looked like Leialoha was imitating Leyendecker, when all his drawings previously had a very Arthur Rackham, traditional storybook vibe... pick a style and stick to it, duh.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review 2012 #4 - Paul Magrs' The Ninnies

The Ninnies by Paul Magrs
Book Provided by Obverse Books
Published by: Obverse Books
Publication Date: April 30th, 2012
Format: Kindle, 172 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy
One day Alan's Dad disappears. Everyone, even his Mom, believes Alan's Dad has done a runner. The family's reduced circumstances with a new baby on the way would make anyone do a bunk. Alan knows it isn't true. He saw his dad taken. They where tall with scorched looking skin and drove a black limousine. Then there was the sound of their feet, krunch, krunch, krunch, and their high pitched laugh, hee hee hee. These creatures where the very stuff of nightmares. But why would they want Alan's Dad? He's just a window cleaner, nothing much. More importantly, what are they?

Soon there are more disappearances in town. The police aren't taking an interest, but Alan knows it's the same creatures. In the flat above Alan's are two oldsters, a brother and sister, who, despite their advancing years, are quite sprightly, and noisy, and are driving Alan's mom insane with their disco music. When Alan finally gets to know Bunty and Marlton, he finds out that they have had dealings with these creatures and they know what they are, they are Ninnies.

No one quite knows what a Ninny is or what a Ninny wants. They are scary, shadowy creatures. They might be from space, or a different dimension, or straight out of our nightmares. They could explain the unexplainable, they might be the fairies and trolls of legend, they could be the spacemen people claim to see, they could be all of this and none of this, but disappearances are the first sign that they have arrived. The second sign is mutilation of animals. This soon occurs at the Bonnitime Zoo which is run by Twitsy Nesbit, a friend of Bunty and Marlton's. The final sign is people being addicted to some savory treat... very soon there is a new brand of crisps on the mark, Krispies, with strange names like "Zebra and Artichoke." Alan finds out about the crisps from his classmate Amy who works at her families store. Alan quickly becomes addicted. Even once he knows they are from the evil creatures that took his Dad, he can't stop himself. The Ninnies meanwhile can't leave Alan and his friends alone. Tapping on windows late and night, their menacing hee hee hee's coming out of the shadows. Something will have to be done about them... after one more bag of Krispies.

This book quite literally blew me away. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. The title and the cover led me to think that this would be a silly little story about some mischievous creatures called The Ninnies that would be on the younger side of YA... don't ask me to explain why my brain thought this, it just did. My brain was not prepared to be blown. I think that's the best kind of book, the one that sneaks up on you and just wows you. This book was like Roald Dahl at his best, Neil Gaiman at his darkest and wittiest, or what you always wanted the Sarah Jane Adventures to be, but never quite where. Ghoulish, macabre and suspenseful, I loved it. It kept my up to the wee hours every night hoping not to hear a ghoulish hee hee hee coming from outside my bedroom door.

The mystery of the Ninnies combined with their side business in Krispies, which was run out of an old red brick Victorian Factory, made me feel like I was reading the dark cousin of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It's like the Oompa Loompa's had taken over the factory and started to kill and eat the small children. Hence it isn't odd that the book felt reminiscent of Gaiman, with his proclivities to kill families and children. Yet, despite these literary correlations, this book was all Paul Magrs. His wit and humor remained intact. You could tell this was the writer of the Brenda and Effie books with the eccentric cast of characters, the loving way he portrays the elderly and his love of pick and mix shops, yet, he stepped it up a notch. More humor, more horror, more suspense. The fact that Alan, once learning the truth of his food addiction and being unable to give it up, left you with a slight nauseous feeling while you where also finding it funny that he's hiding crisp packets about his person so that no one knows his "dark secret."

The Ninnies I think has quickly become my favorite of Magrs works. It brought back that feeling of horrible delight I had upon first reading Roald Dahl's Matilda in sixth grade. He also was able to maintain the suspense by only giving us a little bit at a time, like a single crisp instead of an entire packet to wolf down like Alan. If there was a down side it was that I felt the story should have been self contained and not open to a sequel. Sometimes a stand alone is what's needed and I don't know if the horrible suspense Paul has created will be able to carry though a second volume... but that again, I am willing to be surprised.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tuesday Tomorrow

Villa Triste by Lucretia Grindle
Published by: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: January 22nd, 2013
Format: Paperback, 640 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Florence, 1943. Two sisters, Isabella and Caterina Cammaccio, find themselves surrounded by terror and death; and with Italy trapped under the heel of a brutal Nazi occupation, bands of Partisans rise up.

Soon Isabella and Caterina will test their wits and deepest beliefs as never before. As the winter grinds on, they will be forced to make the most important decisions of their lives. Their choices will reverberate for decades.

In the present day, Alessandro Pallioti, a senior policeman agrees to oversee a murder investigation, after it emerges the victim was once a Partisan hero. When the case begins to unravel, Pallioti finds himself working to uncover a crime lost in the twilight of war, the consequences of which are as deadly today as they were over sixty years ago."

Past and present come together in a mystery that goes back to Italy during WWII, yes please!

Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth
Published by: Ecco
Publication Date: January 22nd, 2013
Format: Paperback, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The sequel to Jennifer Worth's New York Times bestselling memoir and the basis for the PBS series Call the Midwife
When twenty-two-year-old Jennifer Worth, from a comfortable middle-class upbringing, went to work as a midwife in the direst section of postwar London, she not only delivered hundreds of babies and touched many lives, she also became the neighborhood's most vivid chronicler. Woven into the ongoing tales of her life in the East End are the true stories of the people Worth met who grew up in the dreaded workhouse, a Dickensian institution that limped on into the middle of the twentieth century.

Orphaned brother and sister Peggy and Frank lived in the workhouse until Frank got free and returned to rescue his sister. Bubbly Jane's spirit was broken by the cruelty of the workhouse master until she found kindness and romance years later at Nonnatus House. Mr. Collett, a Boer War veteran, lost his family in the two world wars and died in the workhouse.

Though these are stories of unimaginable hardship, what shines through each is the resilience of the
human spirit and the strength, courage, and humor of people determined to build a future for themselves against the odds. This is an enduring work of literary nonfiction, at once a warmhearted coming-of-age story and a startling look at people's lives in the poorest section of postwar London."

When Call the Midwife started airing in England, all Jenny Worth's books shot straight into the bestsellers lists. Thankfully PBS is smart enough to release them stateside, so we don't have to order them from overseas. This is the second in Worth's three books, the third will be coming out in March and I just recently picked up the first.

Ever After by Kim Harrison
Published by: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: January 22nd, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The ever-after, the demonic realm that parallels our own, is shrinking, and if it disappears, so does all magic. It's up to witch-turned-daywalking-demon Rachel Morgan to fix the ever-after before the fragile balance between magic users and humans falls apart.

Of course, there's also the small fact that Rachel is the one who caused the ley line to rip in the first place, and her life is forfeit unless she can fix it. Not to mention the most powerful demon in the ever-after—the soul-eater Ku'Sox Sha-Ku'ru—has vowed to destroy her, and has kidnapped her friend and her goddaughter as leverage. If Rachel doesn't give herself up, they will die.

Forced by circumstance, Rachel teams up with elven tycoon Trent Kalamack—a partnership fraught with dangers of the heart as well as betrayal of the soul—to return to the ever-after and rescue those she loves. One world teeters on the brink of interspecies war, the other on the brink of its very demise—and it's up to Rachel to keep them both from being destroyed."

Urban Fantasy fans get ready for some more Kim Harrison!

Fables Volume 18: Cubs in Toyland by Bill Willingham
Published by: Vertigo
Publication Date: January 22nd, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 192 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"For years, Snow White and Bigby Wolf's cubs have grown up knowing that one of them was destined for a much greater, more grave role amongst the Fables community. But no one knew how soon it would come.

When Snow and Bigby's cub Therese receives a Christmas gift from an unknown admirer, this red plastic boat magically takes her on a journey to a desolate place known as Toyland. Will Therese be their savior? Or their destroyer? FABLES VOL. 18: CUBS IN TOYLAND is the latest epic from New York Times best-selling author Bill Willingham's hit series FABLES, as the Bigby Wolf cubs learn that adventures in the land of misfit toys is much less fun than it sounds.

Also collected here are all the backup stories that feature Bufkin's exploits in the land of Oz, beautifully painted by Shaw McManus (CINDERELLA: FROM FABLETOWN WITH LOVE)."

Oh, seeing as I'm almost all caught up with Fables back issues, a new one is just what The Doctor ordered (and you know there's only one doctor I could mean...)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Review 2012 #5 - Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's The Long Earth

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Published by: Harper
Publication Date: June 19th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Everything changed on "Step Day." One day there was one Earth. Overcrowded and dying slowly. Then innumerable Earths opened up just a step away. Pure, untouched, Earth as it once was or could have been, yet completely uninhabited, save for animals and insects. Each Earth different and another step away. All because of a simple device whose instructions where placed online. A machine powered by a potato, that could lead you to these infinite worlds, only one after the other in sequence though. Yet there was Joshua. Joshua didn't need a stepper. He was a natural. Unbeknownst to him, so was his mother. At the time of his birth, Joshua's mother accidentally stepped and Joshua was born and left for a moment on an Earth all his own. That was when he first became aware of the silence.

On Step Day Joshua inadvertently became a hero because due to his natural stepping ability, he was able to go from one Earth to the next without having the debilitating nausea that most people experienced. That night he rescued countless children from Earth 1 and brought them back to Datum Earth, or so they would come to be known as. Joshua became something of a folk hero then, because he was more comfortable out exploring the Long Earth as it came to be called, than back in the Home on Allied Drive.

Yet in a world that was changing so fast, taxes and policing having new definitions, with people abandoning their lives, with precious metals becoming worthless, with iron becoming precious because of it's inability to be taken on a step, one corporation stands tall. The Black Corporation. They summon Joshua to their headquarters for a special mission. Lobsang is a reincarnated Tibetan motorcycle repairman who now resides as an AI in a computer. Yet he is definitely human, in that he proved it in a court of law. Lobsang wants Joshua to take him to the end of the Long Earth. They will journey to worlds end in a flying dirigible.

Lobsang has theories about what he will find and Joshua is his fail safe. Joshua can bring him back if anything where to go wrong. Also, Joshua won't get sick on the journey. The two of them set forth, jumping from world to world in the blink of an eye. The way they travel, watching movies at night and eating fine cuisine, makes Joshua a little jaded, and even wish for the way he used to travel. Yet, in all his travels he has never seen the mysterious creatures that are known as Trolls and Elves till now. Soon he realizes that there is more to the Long Earth than anyone could have ever imagined. And that's what scares people the most back on Datum Earth.

This book had two very good reasons for going straight to the top of my "to be read" pile, well, actually three, in that I've been waiting for it to come out for a year... The first reason is my undying love of Terry Pratchett. He is just the most amazing writer out there able to combine hard truths with laugh out loud humor. The second reason is that a fair amount of this book takes place in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin! Ok, so, it's not really a weird coincidence that it takes place in Madison, seeing as Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter used last years North American Discworld Convention that was here in Madison as a research trip and therefore thought setting a good chunk of the book in Madison was handy. At the convention they had a panel where the two of them discussed basically the structure of how the "Long Earth" works, so I had some foreknowledge as to how stepping worked. The idea fascinated me. It's not really an original hypothesis, versions of this theory have existed, even in Philip Pullman's Dark Materials books, we have worlds upon worlds stacked on top of each other only a slim knife's cut away. But here the lack of humanity is intriguing. Also the idea that all the Earths are what could have been possible had something happened differently is fascinating.

At times though, the book does get bogged down in the science of the hows, whys and wherefores. As the authors said, this first book in the series, is more just an introduction to the concept of the Long Earth. A travelogue wherein we familiarize ourselves with how things work. This of course brought to mind the writing style of Douglas Adams, with his Hitchhiker's Trilogy. If you think about those books, nothing much happens, yet you are travelling with these people through space. I think this book owes a lot to Adams, Doctor Who, and Mark Twain. The airship after all is named the Mark Twain, and it very much reminded me of a movie I watched once which I believe was a dramatization of Tom Sawyer Abroad,  a novel by Mark Twain featuring Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in a parody of a Jules Verne-esque adventure story. I distinctly remember the hot air balloon knocking the nose off of the sphinx. So, I can see the validity of people who claimed that this book was thin on plot. Though everything else made up for that loose, and, really, it's the first book, we have to see where it's going.

What really intrigued me though was all the things that would fall under the category of "that's so Pratchett." How the "other" creatures they encounter would account for an actual basis in mythology of Trolls and Elves. The "iron" that the fae feared being the only metal unable to step. His love of the word susurrus. His humor, dear lord, his dead on humor. It was subtler than in some of his other books, but still, to have the AI Lobsang, who I kept picturing as Jude Law from AI, constantly being unclear in his loyalties yet encouraging movie night wherein they would watch 2001. Or where he would say how he had originally created his appearance and demeanor based on the replicants from Bladerunner. To have Lobsang not just have these overtones, but then have Lobsang himself with a nudge and a wink then reference them himself was priceless. I particularly liked when he started to take on his "British Butler" persona, seeing as if there is a true flaw in the book, it's that the authors being British using turns of phrase that Americans would never use, so therefore the Butler kind of made up the language gap. I really think that David from Prometheus has a thing or three to learn from Lobsang.

In the end, I will say that this is yet another series of Terry Pratchett's that I will eagerly await the next book. Even if my heart will forever remain in Discworld, I was happy to say that I really enjoyed this book, far far more than his other stand alone, Nation, but that is another story all together, not just the "book" by my dislike of that book... he should have so stopped before the afterword... ok, I said I wasn't going to get into it, so I won't. Pratchett is wonderful, Baxter worked well with him, but again, like Gaiman and Good Omens, I think it's Pratchett's voice that comes out the clearest.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Review 2012 #6 - George Mann's The Affinity Bridge

The Affinity Bridge by George Mann
Published by: Tor
Publication Date: July 1st, 2008
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

In our world, Queen Victoria would have died at the turn of 1901, but in November of that year Victoria lives still via machines, past her time on this earth, in this world. Preserved as ruler. Sir Maurice Newbury works as an "investigator for the crown" for this indomitable woman who plans to outwit death, by any means necessary, should further measures need to be taken. While he works at the British Museum as an expert on ancient societies and the occult, it is his dabbling in the occult that Victoria calls upon from time to time, making his Museum job more a cover than anything. Or as Newbury and his clever assistant, Victoria Hobbes, would say, the museum is there between the interesting adventures.

Queen Victoria has several mysterious situations at present that need Newbury's expertise. There is a plague of revenants, zombie like corpses attacking people in the fog, a string of deaths in Whitechapel that are linked to a mysterious glowing policeman, but most importantly, a crashed airship that had a minor royal on board and among the lists of the dead, well they where all dead except the pilot who was missing. While Newbury longs to find a satisfying conclusion to the murders in Whitechapel and help Scotland Yard and his copper friend Sir Charles Bainbridge, Victoria has insisted that the crash of The Lady Armitage comes before everything else.

Going to the company that made The Lady Armitage, Chapman and Villiers, they discover that the company has been expanding beyond their regular line of airships to encompass Automatons. Villiers is a scientist who left France under a cloud because of his unorthodox experimentations, but Newbury can not help marvelling at the work shown to them. They have created simulated life. A simulated life that coincidentally may be responsible for the disastrous air crash, no matter Chapman and Villiers's denials.

The closer Victoria and Newbury get to the answers, the more in danger they are. Maurice needs help from "The Fixer" on more than one occasion to keep him alive at all. Add the ubiquitous presence of the unnerving automatons everywhere and then throw in a dash of an insane asylum and laudanum addiction and you can see it's going to be a miracle if they can solve the cases and keep themselves alive. Now just a quick rest for tea and off into the foggy fray they go!

I distinctly remember the day I picked up this book. I was in Saint Louis on the way to my best friend's wedding in Arkansas. We had stopped for two nights in Saint Louis because my friend Matt's family is there and it was a very nice half way point. Upon planning a trip to any town I research the bookstores in advance. I was very excited to go to Left Bank Books, which I had heard so much about. But being in a literary town I have high standards. Sadly, the bookstore left me wanting... yet... there, below a window in the basement I found this book. I had been wanting to buy it, there was more than a little cover lust and I loved the handling of the type, especially how George Mann's name was framed, also, I've always loved the name Hobbes since Calvin and Hobbes. So the bookstore itself was a bust, yet the find made me joyous. I had even greater joy later upon learning that George was going to be at last years Teslacon. I was going for Gail Carriger, but I met two more authors there that I now consider friends, George was one of them.

The Affinity Bridge spoke to me on so many levels. One being the sheer Britishness of it. Just count the times they have tea and you will start to feel the call of Queen and Country... is that a stiff upper lip developing? Also, I adore people who, while working covertly, also have a cool day job; British Museum, hello! I'd take that any day! Though it was the pacing that drew me in more than anything. Some Steampunk books have a flaw of constant action with a quick tea break. This break neck speed doesn't always appeal to my Victorian sensibilities, or even my British sensibilities. You would not see The Avengers rushing about. Sure, they had an action packed punch up when needed, but they took the time for the crime to unwind, sure, in their case many people died, but the leisurely pace from one clue to the next with taking lots of time for tea and strolling arm and arm to the crime gives the book a nice lazy Sunday afternoon vibe. Action packed, yet relaxing and inviting.

I also liked the automatons. Given how they play out, there are many Doctor Who Cybermen references that could be bandied about. In particular the fact that the Chapman and Villiers plant is located in Battersea and they used the Battersea Power Station made famous by Pink Floyd for the conversion facility in the David Tennant two-parter, Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel. Yet, George makes them far scarier than I have even felt the Cybermen where. With their fluidity of motion and their mirrored eyes, I would be more likely to compare them to Steampunk Cylons. Needless to say, they freaked me out, and once we find the reason for their malfunctioning, they go into the truly terrifying category. Well done George, you have succeeded in giving me robot nightmares that Doctor Who has failed to do since I was a little girl playing in my grandfather's gravel pit.

Finally there is the Blue Policeman. He caught me at page whatever he first appeared on and George cleverly kept him off stage for awhile, but not too long, pushing me forward to find out what the frak was going on. Side note, I view frak is perfectly acceptable in this review because of the automatons similarities to cylons, end note. I also loved that, most likely, it was a mystery in a mystery. Always keep us guessing George and you'll always keep me reading, though maybe edit that fight scene on the train a little but thanks for downplaying the "zombie card". Can't wait for the next one, Egyptian overtones I hope judging by the title, The Osiris Ritual!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Book Review 2012 #7 - Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris' Phoenix Rising

Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
Published by: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: April 26th, 2011
Format: Paperback, 416 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Agent Eliza Braun lives for field work. Agent Wellington Books lives for his archives. Both working within The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, a secret agency within Queen Victoria's government, they never have had much time for each other. Eliza was always off on some dangerous mission, hopefully involving dynamite, while Books had his files and artifacts and tea, deep within the bowels of  "Miggins Antiquities." That all changed when one day, Books was Eliza's mission. He had been kidnapped by the enemy and whisked away to a secret base in Antarctica. Eliza arrived guns a blazing and rescued Books, returning the two of them to jolly old England. Only, she didn't follow directions, per se.  Doctor Sound had ordered Wellington to be decommissioned, in the most final way possible, in case he had let any secrets be spilled. Yet Eliza knew that Wellington hadn't been compromised, deep in her bones.

Her penance for such belief in Wellington? Being demoted from field agent to assist him in the archives. Both of them view this as the worst kind of hell imaginable. Wellington doesn't like interlopers in "his" archives. Early morning hours and the complete tedium of filing isn't what Eliza thinks of as a good time either. Though the archives do hold some interest for her... deep within the darkest reaches there are unsolved cases. One of those cases involves her ex partner, Harry. They had been investigating a series of gruesome murders together when Doctor Sound told them to abandon the case. Yet the files indicate that Harry kept working the case secretly, until his disappearance and subsequent reappearance in Bedlam.

Eliza will not let this rest. Slowly she convinces Books that it's in their best interest to continue Harry's investigation. She'll investigate it with or without him, so Books might as well come along. Soon there's buildings blowing up, high speed carriage chases, fights during the opera and secret societies. Working side by side, Books and Braun have to learn to trust each other and believe in their new partner. Yet for Eliza, relying on an agent, untrained in field ops, while being deep undercover could be the riskiest decision she ever made. For Books, leaving the archives was his riskiest decision.

I think I have quite probably found my new favorite series. The mystery, the chemistry, the humor are all perfectly balanced to create one of the best reads out there, Steampunk or otherwise. The polar opposites of toffy, British to the bone, Books and trigger happy, dynamite loving New Zealander Braun can easily go down as one of the best pairings since Mrs. Peel and Steed, Maddy and David, Sam and Diane, Castle and Beckett. They just fuel each other to new levels of ingenuity and snarky, witty banter. They are the chemical equivalent of dynamite, a comparison I know full well Eliza would love. There's a part of me that spent the entire book just hoping they'd get together, and another part of me just loving this long tease... I trust in the writers that everything will be worth my wait and the payoff will be sublime.

Almost a Victorian version of The Avengers, I find that with the artifact nature of many of the investigations, that the book can be favorably compared to one of my favorite series, Warehouse 13. I would not be surprised if at any moment HG Wells popped up and asked for a little help from Books and Braun, creating the best fan fic mash-up of the Victorian Era. Everything about the book just worked. The mystery changes directions many times throughout the lengthy story, yet I enjoyed every minute of the ride and the denouement brought everything back together. The Steampunk elements fit in the story and never once felt out of place or forced, which is a hard thing to do with techno babble. Just wonderful worldbuilding on the parts of Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris.

The authors where even able to take a trope that I've come to hate and make it fresh. The Hellfire Club. Anything Victorian or Regency, or really, any time they can in anything slightly period or historical in a British setting, or British Coloney, the Hellfire Club will rear it's head. Heck, they even did it in The Avengers. Yet the Phoenix Society, while having the debauchery of said predecessor, goes beyond just the wanton lust of what came before. They have a secondary agenda too, yet that isn't what made it work. What made the society work was that the way the authors set up the weekend of loose morals was by creating the perfect British Country House weekend and then skewing it. Like a very dark Gosford Park. Personally, I adore mysteries in a Country House setting. Therefore by adding this level of aristocratic sheen and typical behaviour over the atypical club, I never once was raising my fist going, "Damn you Francis Dashwood and your Monks! Damn you to a real, not intentional hell. Devils poking you... oh wait, you'd probably like that."

Also, as is my way, sometimes when reading a book I totally see one actor in my head immediately. Obviously, the agent Bruce Campbell, would be played by Bruce Campbell, that isn't up for negotiation. For Books I was trying to think of someone stuffy, but who could kick ass and be menacing when need be. The obvious choice is Alexis Denisof as Wesley Wyndam-Pryce from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and later Angel. Can't you just picture his stammering and lecturing of Eliza? I sure can!

Here is "Books" in lecture mode, disgruntled lecture mode, hence the tie being loose, when he has had one too many problems with Eliza. Once again trying to explain the taxonomy of the filing and how work starts not near lunch or in the afternoon but in the morning.

Yet, he can totally bring the "dapper" for a night out at the opera to enjoy some Macbeth or to infiltrate a Country House Party that has nefarious undertones.

For Eliza, I wanted someone young and plucky, who looks like they are a little cherubic, until they pull a gun on you. While she is The Doctor's next companion, it was Jenna Louise Coleman's performance in the Titanic miniseries by Julian Fellowes that shows she has Eliza's competence, quick wit and sharp tongue.

Also, she can bring the glam, but that reinforced corset might need some adjustments...

Moste Importante Steampunkery:
While there are many great Steampunk inventions in the book, many designed by Books himself, the prize has to go the Mad McTighe's coin-operated Combobula Bar. Lord McTighe was a gallant nutter who disliked women having to be bar maids because "women shouldna be pawed by drunk patrons!" So he invented the Combobula Bar where you can listen to "Onward Christian Soldiers" while waiting for the machine to mix and serve you drink. Yet what makes this shiny brass-and-wooden bar stand out is that it can somehow sense a bar fight and close in on itself, protecting the machinery, but, more importantly, the booze.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin
Published by: Delacorte
Publication Date: January 15th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In the spirit of Loving Frank and The Paris Wife, acclaimed novelist Melanie Benjamin pulls back the curtain on the marriage of one of America’s most extraordinary couples: Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.

Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.

Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century—from the late twenties to the mid-sixties—and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator’s Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure."

Always been fascinated by Lindbergh... and this was before I found out he went to the same college I did and lived a block from where I live now!

Standing in Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin
Published by: Reagan Arthur Books
Publication Date: January 15th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"John Rebus returns to investigate the disappearances of three women from the same road over ten years.

For the last decade, Nina Hazlitt has been ready to hear the worst about her daughter's disappearance. But with no sightings, no body, and no suspect, the police investigation ground to a halt long ago, and Nina's pleas to the cold case department have led her nowhere.

Until she meets the newest member of the team: former Detective John Rebus.

Rebus has never shied away from lost causes - one of the many ways he managed to antagonize his bosses when he was on the force. Now he's back as a retired civilian, reviewing abandoned files. Necessary work, but it's not exactly scratching the itch he feels to be in the heart of the action.

Two more women have gone missing from the same road where Sally Hazlitt was last seen. Unlike his skeptical colleagues, Rebus can sense a connection - but pursuing it leads him into the crosshairs of adversaries both old and new.

Rebus may have missed the thrill of the hunt, but he's up against a powerful enemy who's got even less to lose.

On the twentieth anniversary of Ian Rankin's first American publication comes a novel bursting with the vitality and suspense that made its author one of crime fiction's most dazzling stars. STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN'S GRAVE is the triumphant return of John Rebus, and a riveting story of sin, redemption, and revenge."

Look ma, Rebus is back! She's really excited I'm sure (no truly, when she was first reading the books she had me get maps of Scotland for her so she could see the lay of the land). Also, her love of Ian Rankin was made stronger by his appearing as a character in Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street Series.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Review 2012 #8 - Paul Magrs' Hell's Bells

Hell's Belles (Brenda and Effie Book 4) by Paul Magrs
Book Provided by Headline Publishing
Published by: Headline Publishing
Publication Date: 2009
Format: Paperback, 448 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
Whitby is abuzz. The approach to Halloween usually means the town is deep in preparations for the annual Goth Weekend. But this year brings even more excitement. Whitby is to be the location for the remake of Get Thee Inside Me, Satan, which will film it's climax at the ruined abbey on Halloween night. The movie that was filmed in the sixties and has been wiped off the face of the earth because of the curse that lives within the film. Death and destruction have followed in this films wake. Yet one day at the local thrift store, Penny, Robert's new assistant up at the Hotel Mirramar, finds a copy of the film on DVD. How is this possible? This film should not exist in any form. Penny can't help herself. The coincidence is too much and she buys the film. She needs to see the original, see if it's true that the film holds pure evil, see if it's true that the star, Karla Sorenson, hasn't aged a day as she readies to film the remake, see if she, Penny, can survive watching it with her sanity intact.

Meanwhile, Brenda has been off gallivanting with her husband Frank, but she is returning for Goth Weekend. Her B and B will be filled to the rafters. Though she knows in her water that the filming in Whitby is bad news when she confirms that Karla Sorenson is there. Brenda was there, in the creepy quarry in Wales, all those years ago when the original film released evil into the world. And Karla remembers her. With mysterious arrivals in town and evil afoot, the film's curse looks as if it could bring all of Whitby to hell. Unless Brenda and Effie with their posse can bring a stop to Karla and her enrapturing ways as well as the mysterious Brethren.

Their is something primal about horror films. Everyone remembers their first real horror film that brought nightmares for years to come. That might still give you nightmares! The mere mention of the film brings chills to this day. For me it was The Legend of Hell House. Britain dominated the making of low budget B grade horror films in the sixties and seventies, Hammer Films being the most prolific and well known. While The Legend of Hell House wasn't a Hammer production, it had all the hallmarks of British cinema at the height of horror; a few "name" stars with Roddy McDowell and Michael Gough, a house steeped in evil where no one makes it out alive, and implied psychological horror versus too much on-screen gore.

I can still remember the morning I first watched the film. It was August the second, 1996 or 1997. Our house had just been tpeed, with over 167 rolls of toilet paper. It was a grey day, where it feels like it's constantly twilight or dawn out, you just can't tell; wet and humid, where your clothes stick to you no matter what you do. We spent hours and hours cleaning. When we cleaned up as much as we could, I was so exhausted I just came in the house and sat on the couch and turned on AMC. The Legend of Hell House was just starting. I have never been the biggest fan of scary movies, but that day I stayed my hand on the remote. I was a fan of Roddy McDowell and Gayle Hunnicutt, who I loved on Dallas was also in it. I don't know if it was just the exhaustion or the subject matter, but this movie freaked me out beyond belief. Weird possessions, mysterious deaths, nothing really scary, just the feeling of the whole. The movie come through my mental barriers and has forever haunted me.

Therefore, a film, albeit imaginary, but of the same school, thought to be actually possessed by the devil doesn't seem that far fetched to me as I think back to that fateful day in August. Paul was able to use his story to tap into my preexisting fears to create a delicious and scary read. While I was curled up in a comfy chair on a hot August day, I was also on that lumpy couch with my clothes plastered to me watching The Legend of Hell House for the first time. While I've enjoyed and loved Paul's writing in the previous Brenda and Effie books, I had never felt so connected with his writing as I was with Hells Belles. You could feel his love of this tacky genre and it made the book shine. He created something magical and luckily I was just drawn into the pages of a book, not into a quarry in Wales in the sixties.

Everything else was just icing on the cake. The introduction of new characters, from Penny Danby (that last name is so going to be important), the run away housewife Goth, to Michael, the mysterious Irish lad, to Karla the unaging vamp and the thrift store ladies who have other things in mind than "saving the kiddies." The final reveal of Mrs. Claus's secret, which has been building up and hinted at for quite some time, to the return of someone instrumental to Brenda's past. All of this is just extra wonderfulness on top of this horror movie framework. Next please!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review 2012 #9 - Bill Willingham's 1001 Nights of Snowfall

Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham
Published by: Vertigo
Publication Date: November 6th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 144 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy
(different edition than one reviewed)

The adversary has run the Fables out of their homelands. Snow White is one of the refugees. She has helped establish a colony on the island of Manhattan as a safe haven. Hoping to form a unified front, Snow is sent to negotiate with the Arabian Fables. Yet the appearance of a women as envoy offends the Fables she has been sent to treaty with. She is able to save her life by acting as Scheherazade, and filling the nights with stories of the Homelands the Fables hope to one day return to.

Snow dwells much on her own shadowed past, from Snow's earliest days in her marriage with Prince Charming, and what really happened to those dwarves, her fleeing with her sister Rose and how their kindness brought back a diabolical witch, who would eventually become one of their greatest allies, Frau Totenkinder. Snow's eventual husband, Bigby, The Big Bad Wolf, also makes a few appearances. From foxes using guerrilla tactics and pies to thwart the enemy, to how the happiness of the Frog Prince was forever shattered by the Adversary, Snow beguiles away the nights and saves her life for one more day. Eventually she returns home, alive, but still without a true alliance, that will take a few hundred years more to get right.

For years people have been telling me to read the series of Fables comics by Bill Willingham. Me, being a contrarian, kind of ignored this, despite the fact that their essence of retelling and twisting of old fairy tales is right up my ally. I finally broke down and have since been devouring them at a most prodigious rate. They are very hit or miss for me. The overall worldbuilding I find fascinating, as I do the conceit of storybook characters living amongst us. Most of my gripes revolve around the art and sometimes the narrative not quite coming together right.

Also there is all this backstory, this history that exists, what with the character being basically immortal, that we have yet to see. That's where this volume comes in. Not only does it start to flesh out the world and show the connections or first meetings of many of the characters, it helps explain so much of what has been going on in the comics. This history was always there for the writers, but until now we where ignorant of it. The fact that Frau Totenkinder is really the witch with a certain house made of candy, whose hunger for children had more to do with her magic and her desire to appear young, then in thinking that children where delicious snacks. Also, the first seeds of Snow White and Prince charming falling out of love are all here.

But the story that really made this collection work for me was that of Ambrose, The Frog Prince. He has always been a melancholy little character as a janitor, known by the nickname Flycatcher. Back in the homelands he had his happily ever after, even if he still had a nervous disposition to occasionally revert to amphibian form... which leads to a tragic turn of events when the Adversary arrives... poor Flycatcher.

Yet what drew me to this volume more than anything else is the art. Instead of having the regular mundane drawings reminiscent of Prince Valiant, or the like, they had many artists and let them have free reign. The emotion and depth to which theses works of art, because they are works of art, add to and enhance the story makes me want to beg Willingham to do this for every issue. James Jean's work, whose covers have always stood out, looked amazing complimenting Flaycatcher's tale. Tara McPherson and Esao Andrews also deserve special shout outs as well, even if Tara's drawings of people with heart shaped holes in them freak me out a little! Going from this back to the normal run of the mill issues is like the biggest let down in the world. You see the heights to which they are able to reach, only to have them go back to the same old same old... sigh, it breaks my heart.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Book Review 2012 #10 - Marissa Meyer's Cinder

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles Book 1) by Marissa Meyer
Published by: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: January 3rd, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Cinder is the only source of income for her family. Her adoptive father died and she is left with a step-mother who hates her and two step-sisters. Worst of all is that being a cyborg, she is not just a second class citizen in her home, but is viewed as a second class citizen by all the residents of New Beijing. Yet she is lucky in that her deformities are easy to conceal with clothes and her job of a mechanic means that she can wear gloves to hide her hands, the most obvious sign of what she is. Yet one day everything changes. Prince Kai comes to her stall in the market to ask her to repair his robot. All the world is in love with Kai, yet Cinder feels an instant connection. She can't wait to go home and tell her sister Peony and her best friend Iko, who is a robot. That night though, Peony contracts the plague. The scourge of the world that could wipe out humanity. Cinder's step-mother blames Cinder and volunteers her for medical research. Not to save Peony, but to destroy Cinder.

Yet Cinder is surprisingly resilient to the plague. She might be a hope for a cure. Also, there's the added benefit that she must be constantly at the palace for the research, and if she gets to see more of Kai, that is all right by her. Yet the political machinery she is being drawn into is dangerous. The Lunars, people from the moon whom the earth greatly distrusts, want to form a marriage alliance with Kai. In return the Lunars will give the world a cure for the plague. It is what the world needs more than anything, an end to the suffering. But can two people falling in love put aside their dreams and do what must be done for the world?

I am a sucker for retellings of fairy tales. After all, fairy tales are the building blocks of what stories are. The adversity, the handsome prince, the happily ever after... though sometimes not in the darkest of tales. Cinderella was never one of my favorites. My mother would probably site the fact that when the mice appeared the first time I saw the movie I started crying uncontrollably and had to be removed from the theatre. In all fairness, I don't remember this and remember more the Jungle Book tantrum of my brother that made me never know the ending for over ten years. That all said, there are really two kinds of retellings, those that just flesh out the story more but keep it similar in feel to the original, or those who throw everything out the window and go for something fresh and new. Cinder threw everything out the window. We have strange beings from the moon, we have cyborgs, we have a post apocalyptic world that has the feeling of Bladerunner and Firefly. We have a princess that is very un-princess like. We have the start of a series that looks very promising and then pissed me off greatly by ending on a cliffhanger. The fact that it pissed me off shows that I was invested enough in the characters that I didn't want to book to end.

The world building is fabulous. There's political intrigue, new space age mechanics, new terminology, yet never are you overwhelmed by this. Everything flows naturally from the strong and vibrant characters of Kai and Cinder. You feel their pain and joy. The fact that I almost lost it and started crying when something happened to Iko, who is a robot mind you, that just goes to show that every character, human and otherwise is suffused with this wonderful life. Never once was I pulled out of the world that was made and now I wait, rather petulantly, for the next installment. The ball that is the end of Cinderella really is a launching platform for the rest of the epic story to come for Cinder. Sometimes when the fairy tale says "happily ever after" it is really just the beginning.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Tuesday Tomorrow

Ashenden by Elizabeth Wilhide
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: January 8th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Perfect for fans of Downton Abbey, a beautifully atmospheric novel about an English country house and the people who inhabit it, upstairs and downstairs, over the course of 240 years.

“The house contains time. Its walls hold stories. Births and deaths, comings and goings, people and events passing through. For now, however, it lies suspended in a kind of emptiness, as if it has fallen asleep or someone has put it under a spell. This silence won’t last: can’t last. Something will have to be done.”

When brother and sister Charlie and Ros discover that they have inherited their aunt’s much-loved house, they must decide if they should sell it. Moving back in time, in an interwoven narrative spanning two and a half centuries, we meet those who have built the house, lived in it and loved it, worked in it, and those who would subvert it to their own ends, including the original architect as he directs the building of the house, the big Victorian family who happily live there for forty years, the maid who thinks her problems will be solved if she steals a small bibelot, the soldiers who are billeted there during World War I, the speculator who holds a treasure hunt there during the Roaring Twenties, the young couple who restores it during the 1950s, and the house’s final owner. A novel about people, architecture, and living history, Ashenden is an evocative portrait of a house that becomes a character as compelling as the people who inhabit it."

Apparently, all you have to say is Downton Abbey to get me interested in a book!

The Painted Girls  by Cathy Marie Buchanan
Published by: Riverhead
Publication Date: January 8th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A heartrending, gripping novel about two sisters in Belle Époque Paris.

1878 Paris. Following their father’s sudden death, the van Goethem sisters find their lives upended. Without his wages, and with the small amount their laundress mother earns disappearing into the absinthe bottle, eviction from their lodgings seems imminent. With few options for work, Marie is dispatched to the Paris Opéra, where for a scant seventeen francs a week, she will be trained to enter the famous ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work as an extra in a stage adaptation of Émile Zola’s naturalist masterpiece L’Assommoir.

Marie throws herself into dance and is soon modeling in the studio of Edgar Degas, where her image will forever be immortalized as Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. There she meets a wealthy male patron of the ballet, but might the assistance he offers come with strings attached? Meanwhile Antoinette, derailed by her love for the dangerous Émile Abadie, must choose between honest labor and the more profitable avenues open to a young woman of the Parisian demimonde.

Set at a moment of profound artistic, cultural, and societal change, The Painted Girls is a tale of two remarkable sisters rendered uniquely vulnerable to the darker impulses of “civilized society.” In the end, each will come to realize that her salvation, if not survival, lies with the other. "

Well, first there's the art, then there's the Belle Époque... so I think I'm fully sold on this.

The Bughouse Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini
Published by: Forge
Publication Date: January 8th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In The Bughouse Affair, this first of a new series of lighthearted historical mysteries set in 1890s San Francisco, former Pinkerton operative Sabina Carpenter and her detective partner, ex-Secret Service agent John Quincannon, undertake what initially appear to be two unrelated investigations.

Sabina’s case involves the hunt for a ruthless lady “dip” who uses fiendish means to relieve her victims of their valuables at Chutes Amusement Park and other crowded places. Quincannon, meanwhile, is after a slippery housebreaker who targets the homes of wealthy residents, following a trail that leads him from the infamous Barbary Coast to an oyster pirate’s lair to a Tenderloin parlor house known as the Fiddle Dee Dee.

The two cases eventually connect in surprising fashion, but not before two murders and assorted other felonies complicate matters even further. And not before the two sleuths are hindered, assisted, and exasperated by the bughouse Sherlock Holmes.

Fans of Marcia’s Muller’s bestselling Sharon McCone novels and Bill Pronzini’s Nameless Detective series will applaud this and future exploits from the annals of Carpenter and Quincannon, Professional Detective Services."

I am a sucker for anything set in San Francisco, no, truly I am! Add in the fact it's a period piece AND has a former Pinkerton operative, and I can't wait to read this new book!

Paper Valentine by Breanna Yovanoff
Published by: Razorbill
Publication Date: January 8th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

Paper Valentine is a hauntingly poetic tale of love and death by the New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement and The Space Between."

Personally, this one is all about the cover lust. Look at that cut paper look... wish they hadn't added a photo, takes away from the graphic awesomeness.

Chu's Day by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex
Published by: HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 8th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 32 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Chu is a little panda with a big sneeze.

When Chu sneezes, bad things happen.

Will Chu sneeze today?"

Seeing as this is Neil Gaiman, it's an automatic buy. But I'm excited by the cover, which looks like those old Golden Books, and knowing Neil, it's subversive in some way, so I'm very excited about that. Plus, who doesn't love pandas?

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Year in Review

So last year I did this end of year/beginning of the year tally to see what I've read, and also, what I remember and it turned out to be a ton of fun, so therefore, new tradition! As Terry Pratchett has said, twice equals tradition. Because the true strength of a book is not the impression right after you read it, but the impression that remains. You might think that a book you read yesterday was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but a month, or even a week later, you can remember nothing. So, without further ado, my 116... reads of 2012, and yes, that means I did reach my reading goal and beat last years total of 114 books! Yeah for sticking to at least one New Year's resolution! Sure it meant reading more than eighteen books in December, but I was game.

Also, stay attuned to this site, because for the rest of January I'll be counting down my best reads of 2012! That's right, you will get to read about the cream of the crop, the best of the best. The ones you can skip ahead and read and avoid all the really bad reads of the past year... because you can't have awesome books without a few bad ones, at least in my experience.

1) Something Borrowed, Brenda and Effie Book 2 by Paul Magrs: Loved that it expanded on Brenda's past and while I loved the more episodic nature of the first book, this style shift made room for a longer running series with more overall arcs.

2) Death Comes to Pemberly by PD James: So bad! I was hoping for some Wickham death, and what did I get? A live Wickham and hundreds of pages of Regency rural procedural law, snore.

3) The Adventures of TinTin Volume Two by Herge: So far, I'm not really seeing the appeal of TinTin... and why does a "kid" have a gun to thwart all these people who want to kill him? And why do they want to kill him? Just weird all around.

4) Cinder, Lunar Chronicles Book 1 by Marissa Meyer: Cinderella meets Firefly! I think I'm in love! Though boo for a cliffhanger I have to wait a year to get resolution to. Also, I have a feeling each book will be a cliffhanger till the forth and final book, so a few years of this to come. Also I got to meet Marissa this year and she's really nice.

5) Sweet Revenge, A Lady Arianna Regency Mystery Book 1 by Andrea Penrose: I thought it was a fun little Regency romp with yet another broody, drug riddled man to reform. Not sure I liked the interruption of the story with modern day chocolate recipes, but it's a current fad and they're easy to skip over. Will totally be picking up the second book.

6) The Girl Who Played with Fire, Millennium Book 2  by Stieg Larsson: Still not getting why these where such a hit. Plus, the only reason to read them is for Lisbeth, and she was MIA for, oh, the entire book, which ended on a cliffhanger I might add!

7) Shades of Milk and Honey, Glamourist Histories Book 1 by Mary Robinette Kowal: Jane Austen with magic! But so much more. I adore the world that Mary Robinette Kowal has created and how she has devised and explained her world's magic. I have high hopes for this series.

8) And Only to Deceive, Lady Emily Book 1 by Tasha Alexander: Since I was finally going to meet Tasha (yeah, Tasha is awesome), I figured I'd better get to work and read at least one of her books. I really enjoyed how much antiquities played into the story and I really really really wanted her husband to not be dead.

9) A Poisoned Season, Lady Emily Book 2 by Tasha Alexander: Tasha does a French themed version of Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone.

10) Bunny and Biscuits, A Very Dorrington Valentine's Day by Lauren Willig: Fabulous, and it felt like it was written just for me. Side note, I won the naming competition for this, and then name did influence a few things in the story, so yeah, it was like it was written for me! BEST VALENTINE'S GIFT EVER!

11) Timeless, The Parasol Protectorate Book 5 by Gail Carriger: Great ending to the series. So happy that Gail didn't drag it out and flog it like a dead horse. Also, love that it was in Egypt and that Prudence is like the cutest little monster in the world.

12) A Storm of Swords, A Song of Ice and Fire Book 3 by George R R Martin: Easily my favorite book in the series, aside from the random Lesbianism. Also Joffrey dies!

13) Silent in the Grave, Lady Julia Book 1 by Deanna Raybourn: Another Victorian series with another widow heroine? Please no.

14) Fables Volume 1: Legends in Exhile by Bill Willingham: Everyone's been telling me to read these Graphic Novels about Fairy Tales in the real world for years... kind of a shaky start.

15) Tintin in the Land of the Soviets by Herge: Ok, not as over the top evil Soviets as Eloise in Moscow, but still, easy to forget how scared we where of them for so long, even in the comics!

16) The Sandman Volume 5: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman: OK, am I just missing the boat here? I mean EVERYONE is always going on about how awesome The Sandman books are and I have yet to even slightly like them, and in most cases am freaked out or disturbed by them.

17) Fair Game, Alpha and Omega Book 3 by Patricia Briggs: While no Mercy Thompson this year (sigh) at least Briggs delivered a strong story set in the same world, and firstly, really gripping serial killer story, secondly, the last few pages, man, that's going to throw this universe into turmoil. I can't wait!

18) Chi's Sweet Home Volume 8 by Kanata Konami: Whenever I'm in need of a kitty fix, this is where I go. Meow.

19) Soulless the Manga Volume 1 by Gail Carriger: Great manga adaptation of Gail's first Parasol Protectorate book, also great recap if you're starting to get a little fuzzy on the details.

20) A Feast of Crows, A Song of Ice and Fire Book 4 by George R R Martin: Ok, so better than I remembered, because, well, mainly I was just pissed last time that I only got half a book.

21) Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie: The thing I find interesting about Christie is that you are always in the moment with the book, totally loving it and following all the twists and turns, but a short while later, you've totally forgotten it, so you can re-read it at leisure.

22) Coraline by Neil Gaiman: Re-read for school (I know, sometimes homework is so awesome). Also, the book throws into stark relief how bad the movie was, story wise. You just don't mess with the perfection of a Neil Gaiman story (at least a Neil Gaiman story that is perfect, like this one is.)

23) Fables Volume 2: Animal Farm by Bill Willingham: Getting better, though I could do without the headless pig... just saying...

24) A Dance with Dragons, A Song of Ice and Fire Book 5 by George R R Martin: Five years and this is what I get!?! You're dead to me GRRM, hear that? No resolutions, just more mysteries and you are so never finishing this. So therefore, you are dead to me. 

25) Glamour in Glass, Glamourists Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal: Awesome! Just the way Mary Robinette Kowal has continued to build her world and also create not just the most romantic couple out there, but a loving couple that works together and takes care of each other. Also, the heroine kicks some serious ass. The French history and all that is just an extra awesome bonus.

26) A Bride's Story Volume 3 by Kaoru Mori: The problem I have with this series is that quite literally all the characters look the same, and therefore I get horribly confused. So the story may be awesome... it just requires a more dedicated person than me. I mainly by them for the hilarious afterwards now.

27) The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim: Hated it. Oh, everyone's life is so hard at this magical villa that makes everything perfect in the gorgeous Italian seaside. Poo on you all.

28) Fables Volume 3: Storybook Love by Bill Willingham: Snow White hooking up with The Big Bad Wolf... interesting, not sure if I by it.

29) Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed: I still don't get why this book was so popular. It was a quick read, but if I wanted to read about a woman who cheated on her husband, did heroin and had an abortion and then ended up eating her own mothers ashes... I wouldn't have picked up a book about HIKING! Bait and switch and eww. Also, changing her last name to Strayed... seems a bit too, "I'm a precious artiste" for me.

30) Start and Run a Graphic Design Business by Michael Huggins: Mildly boring but mostly helpful guide to working as a freelance graphic designer, and yes, I read it for school, how did you guess?

31) Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Dirk Gently Book 1 by Douglas Adams: Amazing how little I remember of this book, which I picked up as a re-read after my interest in Dirk was rekindled by the amazing new tv series. Thanks for cancelling that stupid BBC.

32) Dead Reckoning, Sookie Stackhouse Book 11 by Charlaine Harris: Obligatory re-read of the previous Sookie book to prepare for the new one... fairies are up to something... some other things happen... Eric is engaged, right? See, at this point, it doesn't really matter.

33) Deadlocked, Sookie Stackhouse Book 12 by Charlaine Harris: I like the clearing of the decks mentality of this one. All unnecessary supes and characters dead or gone. Come on happy ending with Sam! Also, so happy that there's only one more book, sometimes a series just needs to end.

34) Introducing Aunt Dimity Paranormal Detective: The First Two Books in the Beloved Series by Nancy Atherton: The first book was so blah I couldn't understand why people liked it, but the second was far more entertaining and kind of like British Gothic mystery light in Cornwall with some Du Maurier overtones. Don't know if I'll read more though, especially if the rest star the protagonist of the first dull as dishwater book.

35) Fables Volume 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers by Bill Willingham: Wooden soldiers that are just as creepy as Pinocchio... at least his creepy level in this series I should say.

36) Princess Academy by Shannon Hale: Loved the re-read to prepare for the sequel, which I still have to get around to reading. I love when a book is just as good or better than second time around.

37) The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose: So, so stupid. Firstly, the title is impossible to say, secondly, just totally invalidate everything your book set out to do in the last page and give us no ending. Oh, and don't forget the steamy shower sex scene, with the hero... with just the memories of sandalwood and jasmine. That's right, time for some sexy masturbation with memories of your past life love. Eww.

38) Some Girlfriends Can by Stephanie Burgus: Boring and stupid story about a girl whose boyfriend's ex is a Greek goddess and how this makes said girlfriend feel inadequate. Lesson, just don't date anyone still into their ex, especially if they where a goddess. Ok, note taken.

39) The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones: Was so excited when this took a supernatural bent, but then it went on too long. Would have been a great novella or short story, look to Shirley Jackson and editing.

40) Seriously, Just Go To Sleep by Adam Mansbach: Not funny. The "cleaned up" version of Mansbach's hilarious book was just dull.

41) A Discovery of Witches, All Souls Trilogy Book 1 by Deborah Harkness: I really liked the beginning of this book with a kick ass independent heroine into books and rowing, then she became all damsel in distress and it was like an adult version of Twilight... so, things to love and hate about it. 

42) The Sandman Volume 6: Fables and Reflections by Neil Gaiman: Again, still not digging The Sandman.

43) Fables Volume 5: The Mean Seasons by Bill Willingham: Bigby's back!

44) Fables Volume 6: Homelands by Bill Willingham: The Fables' homelands are a little more interesting to me than their new community in our world.

45) Fables Volume 7: Arabian Nights (and Days) by Bill Willingham: Blah. Could have been interesting but came off kind of racist.

46) Fables Volume 8: Wolves by Bill Willingham: Bigby's dad, while not really a nice guy, is awesome, mainly because his dad is the North Wind!

47) Phoenix Rising, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Book 1 by Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris: So so awesome. New series to love. I just love the hero's book nerdiness that covers his past of hard military training and a harsh life with no love, couple with the feisty heroine, perfect combo, hope the writer's play out their relationship right...

48) Tales from the Archives Collection 1, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences by Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris: Mixed bag, several very awesome. Wish there was an appendix for all these extra agents.

49) Tales from the Archives Collection 2, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences by Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris: More of the same.

50) Tales from the Archives, Sins of the Father, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences by Tee Morris: Wellington's father is not nice, end of story.

51) Tales from the Archives Collection 3, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences by Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris: More mixed bag.

52) Tales from the Archives, A Swan in Siam, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences by PJ Schnyder: All I remember is I didn't like this one.

53) Tales from the Archives, Women of the Empire, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences by JR Blackwell: Really stupid one which is all about vibrator jokes... lame.

54) Tales from the Archives, The Emperor's Fist, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences by JR Murdock: Was this the one with the monkey? Sometimes reading a lot of short stories in succession isn't the best because you forget things.

55) Marine Biology by Gail Carriger: Such a cute story about a young gay werewolf finding his place in the world. Extra love because it's in the same "world" as Gail's series!

56) Ender's Game, Ender's Saga Book 1 by Orson Scott Card: Hated! Racist, hate spewing doggerel with Scott Card's own homophobic feelings exuding from the pages. It was hard to even finish it. Also, boring.

57) Jack of Fables Volume 1: The (Nearly) Great Escape by Bill Willingham: Why does Jack get a spin off? He's such a boring character. Also, I'm sorry, but I don't think Jack and the Beanstalk could ever get a Lord of the Rings like following... just saying.

58) The Janus Affair, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Book 2 by Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris: Totally let me down. High hopes, but if they are coming stateside, I don't think I will like it...

59) Everyone's Reading Bastard by Nick Hornby: Stupid and pointless short story about a jackass and how his ex exploits him in the media. Also ended very abruptly.

60) Tales from the Archives, The Wrong Camera, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences by Catherine Ford: I kind of want a camera that can show the future... only kind of mind you.

61) The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter: So good I forgive Terry for blowing up my home town. Also, I can't wait to see where this goes, as this was kind of an introduction to the world Terry and Stephen have created.

62) A Midsummer Tights Dream, The Misadventures of Tallulah Casey Book 2 by Louise Rennison: Gaw. I need to stop. I thought these would be good, but they're falling prey to the same faults of Rennison's first series only faster. Also, again, only a few weeks for the story... she needs to write more mature and longer material. Make it substantive!

63) The Arctic Marauder by Jacques Tardi: Ok, I read this because of his shout out in his other series where he was obviously pissed that no one bought this. I get why no one bought it, it's a boring story about an iceberg that is really a ship, the end, nothing else happens.

64) Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham: So amazing! I have always thought that the failings of the Fables comics was in the traditional and boring handling of the interior artwork. Here other artists where given free reign and it is a work of art. Words and images in perfect synch. LOVE.

65) Shadow of the Night, All Souls Trilogy Book 2 by Deborah Harkness: Unlike most people, I liked this more than the first. I enjoyed the history and was interested, though I could have done with a few less icky sex scenes.

66) Fables Volume 9: Sons of Empire by Bill Willingham: Um... don't really remember this one, was the war starting?

67) Conjugal Rites, Brenda and Effie Book 3 by Paul Magrs: Frank is back for Brenda, and it doesn't go how anyone expected, making it all the more fun!

68) Jack of Fables Volume 2: Jack of Hearts by Bill Willingham: Vegas, Gary and his disappearing/reappearing mustache using lady luck, who is real and not figurative. So don't cheat at slots, because fables get mad at you.

69) Fables Volume 10: The Good Prince by Bill Willingham: About the Frog Prince, Ambrose, who is one of the more interesting characters in these comics.

70) The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heide: Ok, if my kid started shrinking I would take him to the hospital, not ignore him.

71) Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides: So well written, but just all the different varieties of stories and how sometimes each section was wrapped up too fast ended up turning me off the book. Dare I say it might have worked as different volumes or as a longer book?

72) Warehouse 13 Graphic Novel by Ben Rabb: Horrid. Everyone out of character and not looking anything like the actors. One of the, if not the worst graphic novel from tv series I've ever read. That's including all the bad Dr Who and Kevin Smith stuff I've read.

73) Boneshaker, Clockwork Century Book 1 by Cherie Priest: Ok... not that I had a fear of zombies before, but I think I might now. Amazing worldbuilding, and totally claustrophobic.

74) The Guild: Knights of Good by Felicia Day: More fun! Don't know why they didn't include the Fawkes one-shot though.

75) Hell's Belles, Brenda and Effie Book 4 by Paul Magrs: Horror films with curses plus Brenda and Effie equals their best book yet!

76) Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell: Funny and cute and really not as dull or full of death as the miniseries made it appear.

77) My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell: So long and boring, I didn't need a treatise on every member of Lady Ludlow's staff or a couple hundred pages on the French Revolution. Pick one and stick with it. And pick the Revolution, because the servants are dull as dirt, Julian Fellowes you aren't.

78) Tales from the Archives, A Trick of Strong Immagination, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences by Alyson Grauer: Write a rip off of The Night Circus only 1000 times worse, why not, I'll never read it again.

79) Chi's Sweet Home Volume 8 by Kanata Konami: Kitty!

80) Mr. Harrison's Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell: Wow, Mr. Harrison is full of himself and really annoying. So far improved for the miniseries, which I find shocking.

81) Glitches, Lunar Chronicles Prequel by Marissa Meyer: Backstory on Cinder! So interesting seeing her first interactions with her "evil step-mother". Oh, can't wait for the next book!

82) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: Awesome. Also, re-reading, you can see so much foreshadowing about Marco and Celia's fate that I'm shocked I didn't see it the first time.

83) The Affinity Bridge, Newbury and Hobbes Book 1 by George Mann: Didn't expect to love it so much, but I did. Also I never ever want robots or cyborgs or any kind of automaton ever, thank you. 

84) The Bride That Time Forgot, Brenda and Effie Book 5 by Paul Magrs: Brenda goes B.C. in a very camp way. Not my favorite, but still a ton of fun.

85) 666 Charing Cross Road by Paul Magrs: I'm all for Helene Hanff parodies, but this sometimes dragged a bit. Like it was going to be more books and instead all these ideas where shoved in one. Also, apparently high fatalities...

86) The Angel's Kiss: A Melody Malone Mystery by Justin Richards: A book that is like reading River Song's mind. A MUST for all Dr Who fans!

87) The Ninnies by Paul Magrs: Evil Roald Dahl! LOVE IT!

88) The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens: Arctic expedition actually made interesting through creating a love interest and paranormal aspects.

89) Dodger by Terry Pratchett: Terry Pratchett perfectly re-creating Dickens's world with a very artful Dodger at it's center. Pure Dickens and pure Pratchett combined together wonderfully. I hope he writes more.

90) Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach: Mary Roach, despite at the end declaring herself a believer, seems skeptical and hostile to many people she meets, especially Allison Dubois, who the show Medium is based on. Also, you will NEVER get the images from the ectoplasm chapter out of your head. NEVER!

91) Speaking From Among the Bones, Flavia De Luce Book 5 by Alan Bradley: Another great Flavia installment, which was nicely twisty and turny and had a doozey of an ending.

92) Etiquette and Espionage, Finishing School Book 1 by Gail Carriger: Wanted to love it, ended up hating it. Just too cliched and... just not what I was expecting. Juvenile and blah.

93) Where's My Cow by Terry Pratchett: Because Sam Vimes teaching his son an Ankh Morpork version of "Where's My Cow" is awesome. Buggerit.

94) Tales from the Archives, The Cross of Columba, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences by Doc Coleman: Awesome Loch Ness monster story, made all the better because I read it with a kitty asleep on my lap.

95) The Warden, The Chronicles of Barset Book 1 by Anthony Trollope: Dull... not as dull as I thought it might be, but church minutiae is dull. Funny the cracks against Dickens that Trollope makes.

96) The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott: Boring tale of girl finding true love despite thinking she was a penniless orphan... I liked the tv movie better.

97) The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman: So cool how not only it's dark and bleak, but if you look carefully, there are so many awesome words starting with each letter in each section. Look for some shrunken heads and dead penguins!

98) Kaoru Mori: Anything and Something by Kaoru Mori: So odd. Many of the items where so random and oddly assembled, that I couldn't get any entertainment out of it.

99) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Book 1 by Douglas Adams: One of THE books that got me really into reading. Re-read it for book club and I can see that I don't think I'd recommend anyone to read it later than their teens, it loses something if it's not already a part of you.

100) A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: I finally read something fully Dickens! And it was dull.

101) How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You by Matthew Inman: Bobcats alone are worth the price of this book. Everything else is just awesome extras. MUST OWN for people who are the servants of cats.

102) Silent in the Sanctuary, Lady Julia Book 2 by Deana Raybourn: Ok, I was really digging the Christmas vibe but the fact that the ending played out exactly as I had guessed AND ripped off Agatha Christie pissed me off.

103) Tales from the Archives, In the Spirit of Christmas, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences by Tee Morris: A Christmas Carol parody! YES! I needed this after my first reading of A Christmas Carol and being bored to tears.

104) Jack of Fables Volume 3: The Bad Prince by Bill Willingham: Umm... I know I just read this, but it's just more of Jack being Jack... they where in the Grand Canyon right? Oh wait, this had the funny sword in the stone stuck through him!

105) Daughter of Smoke and Book, Daughter of Smoke and Book Book 1 by Laini Taylor: Really wanted to fully love it, came close, and did make me desperate for the sequel. Also, I want to be surrounded by friendly monsters.

106)  Fables Volume 11: War and Pieces by Bill Willingham: Finally, once we have the war we won't have to deal with it anymore right?

107) Jack of Fables Volume 4: Americana by Bill Willingham: Not what I was expecting, which was Jack in the olde thyme US, not a fable "homeland", so boo for that.

108) Jack of Fables Volume 5: Turning Pages by Bill Willingham: Wow, they are now having war over in this one too... war war war, too much war.

109) Tales from the Archives, Curtain Call, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences by Shaun Farrell: Horrid, creepy and ick. Avoid.

110) Doctor Who: Devil in the Smoke by Justin Richards: Dr Who Victorian style, I love it! Also, Strax, last seen in A Good Man Goes to War, best comic relief ever!

111) Jack of Fables Volume 6: The Big Book of War by Bill Willingham: War again, sigh.

112) Fables Volume 12: The Dark Ages by Bill Willingham: War over... and now it's repercussions of war, sigh, new story line please.

113) Soulless Manga Volume 2 by Gail Carriger: Just as great as the first manga, but not my favorite, mainly because this is my favorite book and it just couldn't do it 100% justice. It's close...

114) Days of Blood and Starlight, Daughter of Smoke and Book Book 1 by Laini Taylor: I could not put this down!

115) Peter and Max by Bill Willingham: Just an amazing book set in the Fables world, but you don't need to have read those comics to get this awesomeness in your life. So amazing and gripping, like Fairy Tale serial killers!

116) A Friendly Game of Murder by JJ Murphy: The newest Algonquin Road Table book didn't fail to delight. What I loved about this was it was basically a locked room mystery in a locked room mystery all set on New Year's Eve with Arthur Conan Doyle as the guest start!

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