January 30, 2008

Baltimore Blues and Charm City by Laura Lippman















Baltimore Blues
was an Ellen Emerson White recommendation I am extremely glad I followed up on. I got it for Christmas and saved it for the work trip to Florida I took last week. I ended up spending seven hours sitting in airports so it was a good thing I had such an engrossing read with me. Although the result was an instant and urgent need to find a bookstore in Orlando (a shockingly difficult task, more on that later) to get my hands on the sequels. Eventually I managed to do this and I've been on a Laura Lippman binge ever since. I'll be reviewing the whole series as I finish them, so I figured I'd combine a couple titles here and there.

Baltimore Blues introduces the reader to Tess Monaghan, former newspaper reporter turned odd-job girl. Tess is a native Baltimorean and the city itself is without a doubt a main character in these novels. Lippman's love for and knowledge of Baltimore saturates every line--a real treat for readers who love ambiance and a real insider look into a city or region. Unemployed Tess is a creature of habit, filling up her time rowing on the Patapsco, eating breakfast at Jimmy's, mooching off her Aunt Kitty, and avoiding dinner with her disapproving, disappointed parents. Danger disrupts Tess' routine when she agrees to unofficially investigate a good friend's fiancee. A simple bout of snooping leads to a full-blown murder case and Tess soon finds herself fighting to clear her friend's name and watch her own back at the same time.

Charm City picks up a few months after the events of Baltimore Blues. Tess is still living above her Aunt Kitty's bookshop, and the endearing musician/bookseller Crow seems to have worn down some of Tess' reservations about a possible relationship. She's even relented enough to accept a job as an apprentice investigator for the curmudgeonly lawyer/rowing instructor Tyner. But this unusually "normal" period doesn't last long, as the editors of the Beacon-Light hire Tess to investigate a case of a reporter undermining the system, publishing a controversial article that was never meant to run. In no time, the subject of the article turns up dead. An apparent suicide. Tess follows the trail through the ranks of the newspaper, convinced the suicide was, in fact, murder. Several secondary characters get some great fleshing out in this second volume, notably Tess' best friend (and crack reporter) Whitney and the always awesome Crow. I am now completely hooked on this series and thrilled to find there are, count them, seven more to go and a brand new installment coming out in March. Bring on the fun.

January 29, 2008

The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar, Illustrated by Emmanuel Guibert

This charming, madcap Victorian romp was originally published in 1997 and has just recently been translated into English and reissued by First Second. The French pairing, Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert, have infused their girl-meets-mummy love story with equal amounts whimsy and longing. Lillian Bowell is the daughter of renowned Egyptologist Professor Bowell. During one of her father's many absences, Lillian befriends one of her father's many mummies, Imhotep IV. Lillian soon feels safe with the debonair mummy and Imhotep finds the lovely lady reminds him of his long-dead wife who was not mummified and therefore will not be around to enjoy eternity with her spouse. Together these two unlikely confidantes spend a day out on the town, strolling through the streets and parks of 19th century London.

Mayhem ensues when Imhotep gets into a drunken pub brawl and Lillian is forced to drug the police who come to investigate the matter. Unfortunately, the sedative turns out to be poison and Lillian is put on trial for murder. Both fathers attempt to come to the rescue of their besotted children, but the British justice system will not be perverted and the two lovers must find a way out on their own. Always zany, at times hilarious, this original tale rushes headlong toward a satisfying, if slightly cringe-worthy conclusion. The text is enchantingly abrupt and fast-paced, and the accompanying artwork is utterly beguiling. Highly recommended. The Professor's Daughter is a 2007 Cybils Finalist.

Links
Excerpt from the Book
Bookshelves of Doom Review
Fuse #8 Review
Writing and Ruminating Review
AmoXcalli Review

January 22, 2008

Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer

Another great Meg Cabot recommendation. Last time she led me to the funny and quirky novels in verse of Sonya Sones. Now I find myself completely immersed in Liza Palmer's second novel, laughing out loud, wiping tears from my eyes, as DH stares at me warily and scoots a bit closer to the far side of the bed. The title, cover, and marketing indicate your standard chick lit fare. But I found Seeing Me Naked to be a distinct cut above the rest.

Elisabeth Page is a pastry chef at the most exclusive restaurant in L.A. She chose the culinary arts as a way of escaping the overpowering influence of her father--a double Pulitzer prize winning Norman Mailor/Truman Capote/Ernest Hemingway composite. Elisabeth and her big brother Rascal (full name: Raskolnikov. Yeah.) have spent the majority of their privileged lives trying to get out from under dad's shadow. As a favor, Elisabeth donates a set of baking lessons at an auction for one of her mother's charities. Enter Daniel Sullivan: newly transplanted from Kansas assistant basketball coach at UCLA. Daniel bids on the lessons after Elisabeth rather snobbishly questions what a guy like him would do with baking lessons. And, just like that, we have a recipe for conflict. Elisabeth and Daniel have nothing in common and, after the first lesson, Daniel seems quite keen never to set foot in a kitchen again. But. He doesn't know who her father is. He's kind and funny and oh so far away from the cutthroat, upper crust, grin and bear it world Elisabeth has been living in. Plus (if she can manage to quash her knee jerk overeducated patrician reactions, aka Big If) he just might help take her mind off Will Houghton--her war correspondent boyfriend who she sees once every two years for one night at the most. A host of interesting and funny side characters fill Elisabeth's life and keep the story interesting.

This book is a treat from cover to cover. The characters are complex and carefully rendered. There is no black and white in the intricate web of family relationships they navigate. Difficult, messy, and painful as they are, Palmer shows how such relationships shape us, how influenced we are by our roots, and how, despite all this, we are still capable of becoming more than the sum of our parts and of allowing more people into our hearts than we thought they could hold. I look forward to checking out Palmer's first novel.

January 21, 2008

The Mage's Daughter by Lynn Kurland

I had forgotten how into the first book in the Nine Kingdoms series I was until I got five pages into this second volume and instantly remembered. Oh, right. This story totally rocks. The first volume, Star of the Morning, ends in utter chaos. Nothing is resolved, everyone's in peril, and I remember closing the book in disbelief at the audacity of ending a book in such a way when the sequel would not be out for another year. I wasn't too upset, of course, because the book had been so dang enjoyable. I even wrote an email to Ms. Kurland asking if she had sat back and basked in evil glee after typing the last word. She responded and commiserated with me. She, too, was in utter despair after ending it that way and had to spend some good time recuperating before she could continue. That made me feel somewhat better.

Fortunately, The Mage's Daughter picks up right where its predecessor left off. The chapters alternate between Morgan of Melksham's story as she struggles to survive after destroying the Sword of Angesand and fleeing the Archmage of Neroche, and Miach of Neroche's story as he struggles to keep the realm intact and find Morgan at the same time. Morgan and Miach are both such sympathetic characters. You desperately want them to work out their differences and accept who they are because they deserve a measure of happiness after all they've been through. That and the fact that you want them to join their awesome forces to defeat the perfidious Lothar and figure out just what kind of ubercrap is creeping out of Bain's Well. I enjoyed this book so much I unconsciously dragged it out, savoring every chapter. It's terrifically entertaining and I love Lynn Kurland's writing style. Highly recommended to anyone who loves a good adventure. But make sure you grab Star of the Morning first!

Links:
Genre Go Round Review
Fresh Fiction Review

January 18, 2008

Don't Kill Off the Hot Guy

The gals over at 3 Evil Cousins managed to snag the fantabulous Libba Bray long enough to ask her 13 Evil Questions. It's a great interview and you should go read it. My favorite Libba answer:

Evil Cousins: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Libba: Don't kill off the hot guy. :-)

Angiegirl: Why, Libba, why?!?!

January 15, 2008

2008 Books That Must Be Mine













January
Leftovers by Laura Wiess
Her first novel Such a Pretty Girl was so tight and harrowing, I'm eager to see what her sophomore effort holds.

What I Was by Meg Rosoff
After How I Live Now and Just In Case, I will read anything she writes. Just anything.

February
Grimspace by Ann Aguirre
This looks like the beginning of a fun, new urban fantasy series. Of which I am always up for.

March
A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
The Editor recommended this one very highly. A retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale. So awesome.

April
Rogue by Rachel Vincent
Second in Vincent's Werecats Series. DH handed me Stray and I think I'm going to like the second volume even more.

Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle
Magic and suitors and London, oh my!

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
Sequel to the most splendiferous Wicked Lovely. Creepy, gorgeous, perilous goodness.

May
The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner
Now, I have not actually read I, Coriander. But Meg Rosoff said to run out and buy this one and, besides, I love French Revolution historical fiction.

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
Because she's just so funny. And her characters have fun, too.

June
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
First sci-fi, adult outing for vampires-are-people-too Meyer. It could be so good. I hope it is, I hope it is, I hope it is...

From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris
The 8th (goodness gracious) Sookie Stackhouse book. Sookie's world is so familiar by now, it's always fun entering it again.

What Happens Here by Tara Altebrando
I quite liked The Pursuit of Happiness. It was simple and heartfelt and I liked how the characters learned and stretched themselves. I look forward to Altebrando's next story.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Another Gaiman/Mckean pairing. I loved The Wolves in the Walls and Coraline. Bring on The Graveyard Book.

July
The President's Daughter Trilogy reissues by Ellen Emerson White
The wonderful Feiwel and Friends is reissuing these gems decades after they were originally published. For anyone who loved their sequel that came out this year, Long May She Reign, these three are Must Reads.

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs
Favorite urban fantasy find of last year. Cry Wolf is the first in a spin-off of the Mercy Thompson series (if you haven't read them do it now). I read the initial short story "Alpha and Omega" and it was scrumdiddleiumptious.

August
Sleepless by Terri Clark
The main characters is a teen psychic who is being stalked in her dreams by a killer. Oh, I am So There.

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
If you don't know who Stephenie Meyer is, you've been sleeping under a rock for the past three years. The fourth and final volume in the Twilight series. I can't imagine how, but somehow she's gotta wrap it all up.

September

Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier
Sequel to last year's Wildwood Dancing. This one follows Jena's younger sister Paula, aka The Scholar. There's medieval Turkey, dusty tomes, mysterious pirates, what else can you ask for?

November
Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier
I'm even more stoked about this Marillier because it is a Sevenwaters book (she says in hushed tones). After eight years, she's returning to the world of Daughter of the Forest. Definitely the most highly anticipated book on this list. Seriously, November cannot come fast enough.

No Publication Date Yet But Slated for this Year
Chalice by Robin McKinley
New McKinley. 'Nuff said.

Fortune and Fate by Sharon Shinn
A completely unexpected and utterly welcome fifth installment in the Twelve Houses saga.

Paper Towns by John Green
I know nothing about it. I don't need to. New John Green. Woot!

Other Great Lists
Chasing Ray
Bookshelves of Doom
The Ya Ya Yas
Fuse #8
Jen Robinson
Little Willow

January 2, 2008

Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

Wow. So this series just keeps getting more and more intense. And in such unexpected ways. I love it when an author has the ability (and the guts) to slip in a real shocker without compromising her characters or the story as a whole. In a series, that's particularly hard to do without making it seem like a gratuitous plot twist inserted merely to keep the series going. Patricia Briggs has a 7-book deal for her Mercy Thompson series and book three has shown that not only does she know exactly what she's doing, but that we can trust her. To keep her characters and her world consistent. To take them down the right paths and introduce them to the right people...or werewolves and vampires in this case.

Mercy lives in a world where werewolves, vampires, and the fae exist side by side with humans. The first book, Moon Called, focuses on the werewolves. The second, Blood Bound, centers on the vampires, including Mercy's quirky Scooby Doo loving friend Stefan. In this third installment, coyote shape shifter and VW mechanic Mercy Thompson is called in to help the fae solve a series of murders on the local fae reservation. Soon after, her friend Zee is arrested for the murder and, just like that, Mercy's in the thick of it, determined to clear Zee's name no matter what. Add to that the increasingly imperative choice she must make between the two werewolves in her life: Adam Hauptman (the Alpha of the local pack who's already claimed her as his mate) and Dr. Samuel Cornick (the wolf she fell in love with at 16). In what is becoming classic Briggs style, Iron Kissed combines an intriguing mystery with a streak of compelling romance, interspersed with glimpses of your worst nightmares. The combination is the height of entertainment. And what holds it all together is Mercy herself. The girl doesn't know the meaning of the words back down. I absolutely love these books.

Links:
Avid Book Reader Review
Darque Reviews
Fantasy & Sci-Fi Book Review