July 31, 2008

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Trailer



Oh my creepy...I can't wait.

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Finding Silent in the Grave turned out to be one of those beautiful, stumbling across the perfect book to fit your mood moments. Here I am, staring down the barrel of this pregnancy, willing the last few days to pass faster, and this absolutely delightful Victorian mystery proves just the thing to take my mind off the all-too-slowly ticking clock. Even better, it's the first in a series with the second one already out and the third due to hit shelves in March.

Silent in the Grave starts out with one of the best opening lines I've read in ages.
To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.
Ha! Honestly, who wouldn't want to continue reading after that? Does she care? Does she not care? Is she as calm and composed as she sounds? And just who is this Nicholas Brisbane and why is he significant? You have to find out. Each question is answered, but slowly and carefully, spread across the rest of the novel. After her husband's untimely collapse, Lady Julia Grey finds herself a young and surprisingly wealthy widow. Having suffered from a heart condition his entire life, his sudden demise was not altogether unexpected. That's why, when confronted with an unusual and mysterious private investigator's claim that her late husband employed him to find out who was threatening to kill him, Julia dismisses the notion as preposterous and sends Mr. Nicholas Brisbane on his way. Nearly a year later she (naturally) comes across a clue leading her to believe dear Edward was, in fact, murdered. Managing to track down Brisbane, she apologizes and convinces him to reopen the case. Intrigue and mayhem ensue and it's all just perfectly delicious.

I so enjoyed Julia and her measured narration, her bizarrely large but loving family, and her cautiously fresh observations on the world and the people around her. It is as though her husband's death removes a film from her eyes, and she is unnerved to realize she hardly recognizes where she is and who she has become. One of my favorite lines is Julia reflecting on her oldest and most pompous brother who is scandalized to hear she intends to manage her inheritance herself.
He had nothing to call his own except dead men's shoes, and I think the highly Oedipal flavor of his existence sometimes proved too much for him.
As you can tell, I was completely taken with the characters and Deanna Raybourn's well-paced writing style, both of which made for an incredibly absorbing, enjoyable read. I'll be picking up the sequel ASAP. Recommended for fans of Laurie R. King's Mary Russell books.

Links
Bookshelves of Doom Review
Material Witness Review
Reading Adventures Review
Reading Matters Review
Scaling Mount TBR Review

July 29, 2008

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

With the release of Cry Wolf (the first in a new series), Patricia Briggs fans can now look forward to two Briggs books coming out per year. A Mercy Thompson in the winter and an Alpha and Omega in the summer. So. Very. Awesome. After inhaling the original "Alpha and Omega" short story in On the Prowl last year, I could hardly wait to follow Anna and Charles's story in full-length book form and now, having finished it, I can honestly say it was a treat.

Picking up immediately after the events of "Alpha and Omega," Anna finds herself and her few belongings bundled up and on her way to Montana with a wounded Charles and his father, the enigmatic Bran, otherwise known as the Marrok, aka leader of the entire werewolf population of North America. Nervous and unsure of just what she's gotten herself into, Anna suddenly finds herself living at Charles's house, attending werewolf funerals, and embroiled in the same kind of wolf politics she was assiduously kept out of during her time with the Chicago pack. Unsurprisingly, it's one step forward, two steps back for Anna as she attempts to settle into her new life and decide whether or not she even wants to carve out a place for herself with Charles--a still waters run deep sort of man who is reserved, doesn't like crowds, but is also the Marrok's chief assassin.

Anna is a very different breed of heroine from Mercy. After being changed, she was never given the chance to get her bearings and accept her new life. The cool thing about being an Omega (something she is only just beginning to figure out about herself) is she has all of the protective instincts of an Alpha, without any of the violence. This makes her strong and able to influence the mood of every wolf around her. The lame thing is that without those violent instincts, she can be taken advantage of and manipulated to a rather spectacular degree. I liked that this first book didn't rush things. There is plenty of ground left to cover as far as Anna's untapped abilities go and whether or not she and Charles will be able to bridge the still vast gulf between them. I loved the extra time we got to spend with Bran--one of the most interesting characters in this world. I'm looking forward to more on his background and his mate. Because, even though she's heinous, I feel particularly sorry for Leah. It's no kind of life she's got right now and I find myself harboring a little hope for her and her Marrok.

Lastly, Cry Wolf just happens to include a sneak peak of the first chapter of Bone Crossed--the fourth Mercy Thompson book. Did I skip to the back and read it first before delving into Cry Wolf? Maybe...

Links
AvidBookReader Review & Interview
Ciaralira Review
Darque Review
Dear Author Review
Kicks and Giggles Review
The Book Smugglers Review

July 18, 2008

Poltergeist by Kat Richardson

This book actually creeped me out. In a genuinely nervous, peering into dark corners kind of way. I haven't run across a ghost story that did that in quite awhile, and last night after putting The Squirt to bed and curling up in my rocker to read, I found myself glancing repeatedly at my watch, wondering when DH would be home to keep me company. The cover doesn't help. Harper looks much more sinister (almost possessed) than she did on the cover of Greywalker. So kudos to Kat Richardson. Poltergeist is not only a solid follow-up, but different enough in tone from its predecessor that it held my interest throughout and I felt compelled to keep turning the pages.

This time around Harper is hired by a local psychology professor to investigate the unexpected happenings in an experiment he's running on psychokinesis, involving a group of participants' ability to "create" their own poltergeist. Little does the skeptical Professor Gantner know how qualified this particular PI is for the job. The further she investigates, however, the more convinced Harper is that the group of misfits has, in fact, created a real ghost. And, when Dr. Gantner's assistant Mark is suddenly murdered in a decidedly unusual fashion, Harper immediately sets out on the trail of the ghost and the individual controlling it.

The bulk of this second Greywalker novel is taken up with Harper's day-to-day investigations as she gets to know the various participants in the poltergeist experiment and works alongside Detective Solis who's in charge of the murder case. Her friend, the quirky Quinton, enters the mix as well, helping Harper with the technological aspects of the case and providing an unflappable sounding board when she's at a loss as to how to proceed. Add in a couple of harrowing visits to the necromantic vampire Carlos, and I had to shake the apprehension off my shoulders more than once. I continue to like Harper for her ever matter-of-fact approach to the darker aspects of the job and for the way she looks out for the few friends she has, almost in spite of her natural reserve and strong inclination toward isolation. The third Greywalker novel, Underground, comes out in just a couple weeks and I'm hoping it will include more interaction between Harper and her friends and perhaps some additional information on her past. I just know there's stuff she's not telling us...

Links
Darque Review
LesleyW's Book Nook Review
Love Vampires Review

July 10, 2008

Greywalker by Kat Richardson

Once again, the cover struck me first. She looked interesting to me. Like she knew things. And I liked the slanted city she leaned up against, looking like a character in its own right. I love it when a particularly city or a particular building is a main character in a story. The whole thing is that much richer for it. The good news is I wasn't wrong. Harper Blaine does, in fact, know things. Things she'd rather not know, as it turns out, but know things she does. And the Seattle of Greywalker is a dark, wet, teeming character, and you can tell Kat Richardson knows her way around the place and loves it for all its dark, wet, teemingness.

Harper Blaine is a P.I. who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and winds up dead. For two minutes. After she comes to in the hospital things are....different. Suddenly she sees shadows and outlines of figures who aren't there. At least not on this plane. And just like that, she's forced to accept a whole new worldview. One in which the creatures of nightmare and fairy tale drift along beside the living. They exist in an alternate plane known as the Grey and Harper is a greywalker, a mortal who can cross planes. What that ultimately means is up to Harper to find out. Fortunately, she has a few good friends to help her figure things out, including a witch, a ghost, a couple of vampires, and one extremely tall auctioneer with silver hair.

In case this description sounds like the last urban fantasy you read, let me dispel that thought. Greywalker reads like Raymond Chandler meets Charlaine Harris' Harper Connelly mysteries. The emphasis is on the noir, hardboiled private investigator about town. At first, the paranormal events are almost an afterthought. They come to play a much larger role as they begin to alter Harper's life, but the mystical never overshadows the gritty, real feel of the book. It was a nice surprise, different from what I was expecting, and I enjoyed getting to know Harper and how refreshingly adult she was about things--her job, her relationships. Not always trying to prove her worth to anyone and everyone who crosses her path. I look forward to following this series as it develops.

July 7, 2008

What I Was by Meg Rosoff

I've been holding on to this one because you have to be ready to sink into a Meg Rosoff book. None of this wishy-washy, "Oh, that might be nice to pick up tonight." You've got to be all in. Ready to let her work her magic. Interestingly, What I Was was first released in Britain as a YA title, then later in the U.S. by Viking Adult. Not sure why the switch but, as is the case with both her previous novels, I think What I Was will appeal equally to adults and young adults. I, naturally, couldn't put it down.

The narrator of this brief, haunting tale remains nameless for the majority of the book. All we know is the year is 1962, the place is England, and the main character is a young man who, having been expelled from two previous boarding schools, is being rather unceremoniously dropped off on the doorstep of his third. Unremarkable in almost every way, the only striking thing about him appears to be his supreme disdain for, well, most everything, a sort of monumental apathy he seems to have absorbed over sixteen years of uninspiring schools, uncaring teachers, and uninvolved parents.

The entire story is told by our narrator as he looks back on his life from the self-declared "impossible age" of 100. This device lends the boy of 16's narrative a certain degree of clarity and wisdom it would otherwise have lacked being told in the present tense. For instance the scene where his father drops him off:
"It's time you sorted yourself out," he said. "You're nearly a man." But a less true description could scarcely have been uttered. I was barely managing to get by as a boy.
Lines like these combine the hindsight of the adult with the aching uncertainty that is adolescence, the almost certain knowledge that one is going about the whole thing "wrong," without an inkling of what "right" should or would look like. So much of this novel is taken up by the notion of how we perceive things (particularly in our youth) and how those perceptions can be so real, they utterly subsume reality as it may be or as others may see it. And how those perceptions change us, marking our lives permanently. I don't want to go into any more detail than this, but suffice it to say our young man meets someone who changes his life, in both healthy and unhealthy ways, I would say. And, though neither of their lives end up as they thought they would, the change is what matters. As he puts it:
"It was love, of course, though I didn't know it then [...] At last I extinguished the lamp, though according to my watch it was still early. And then, divided from the night by nothing more than four flimsy walls and an idea of a friend, I fell asleep."
It's a quiet, beautiful, strange book and I loved it.

Links
Curled Up With a Good Book Review
Los Angeles Times Review
Monsters and Critics Review
The Bookbag Review
Times Online Review