Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Review: Echo 8

Three lives. Two worlds. One chance to save them all.

As a parapsychologist working for Seattle Psi, Tess has devoted her life to studying psychic phenomena. But when doppelgangers begin appearing from a parallel world that's been struck by an asteroid, nothing in her training will help her survive what's to come.

After dislocating to Seattle Psi from the other Earth, Jake is confined by a special task force for study. But when he drains life energy from Tess, almost killing her, it causes a ripple effect across two worlds — and creates a bond neither of them expected.

Ross is an FBI agent ordered to protect Tess while she studies Jake. His assignment is not random — he and Tess have a history, and a connection the Bureau hopes to use to its own advantage. By the time Ross realizes his mission could be compromised, it's already too late — he'll have to choose between his love for Tess and his duty to protect the people of his own Earth.

This one is more like GHOST PLANET then THE OPHELIA PROPHECY, even down to the paranormal component. Largely I spent the book confused by anything not directly related to the character emotional relationships with each other.

Basically this was much "harder" scifi then I'm accustomed to in my scifi romances. Words, theories and suppositions were all tossed around as if I should understand the underlying concepts.  I love parallel world stories.  Just look at my love for A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU by Claudia Gray or UNRAVELING by Elizabeth Norris.  But what I love more is some sort of understanding of how the parallel world works.

So let's instead focus on what I did enjoy. Tess is interesting in that she's obviously smart; we're told as much, but she proves it more than once in her analysis and comprehension.  She catches on quickly to what the circumstances surrounding Jake represent.  She's also a victim of her own brilliance in terms of her and Ross' relationship.  Social cues mean little to her so she takes everything on face value.  Ross made a snarky comment about something she believes in, so obviously he thinks everything she does is ridiculous.  Even as she recognizes the skepticism others have she holds him higher.

Ross meanwhile is very much "Listen to what I mean, not what I say" sort of person.  More than Tess we "hear" his regrets in how he has handled their first meeting and how they get along thereafter.  But he doesn't understand what she's looking into and he doesn't know how to get around that.  So he waits and he pokes about trying to find a way to get her to understand.

Jake is antagonistic, somewhat petty and wholly over his head.  I never quite understood Tess' attraction to him, and I'd argue she never felt romantically towards him.  Still we can thank him for Tess and Ross, since Ross' jealousy towards him prompt him to act.The change in their relationship is a shock, since it just sort of happens, but from his point of view made sense. 

Fisher does address the inconsistency on Tess' end, as to that point she spent much of the book worried over what her research could mean and how Ross kept getting in the way (or rather the group Ross represented), then any lust she felt towards him.  Given that their first time together is rather...extraordinary and opens up a host of new things for Tess to investigate, I was rather glad there wasn't a whole lot of time spent on regret.

The "Echoes" like Jake represent a link that, as anyone who is versed in any sort of paranormal books that involve the government can attest to, offers quite the juicy prize.  "You can travel across dimensions you say hmmm?" is the gist of at least one government official's commentary as he twirls his imaginary mustache.  Rule number one in dimension hopping never trust the government. Yours or the one on the other side.

In the end this wasn't enough for me to whole-heartedly enjoy.  The mechanics of it didn't interest me as much as they should have and Jake's grating presence wore thin on my patience.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Post ALAMW 2015: 5 Books to Be Excited About

ALA Midwinter is, by in large, a much more relaxed conference then Book Expo America (I spoke more about this last year).  I can't say anything towards the Annual Conference (which is larger and has a huge literacy signing open to the public), but for me ALAMW is really the perfect sort of conference.

I've already gone into (briefly, more to come) the We Need Diverse Book Panel (Part 1), and I'll speak as to several other author panels I sat in on at the Pop Top Stage (which was possibly my favorite part of the conference).  But I wanted to get y'all geared up for some exciting books coming our way.

You can see a complete list of the books I got at the conference here on GoodReads. Where possible I linked to a digital galley you could request, all other links lead back to GoodReads. 

"Here in the Just City you will become your best selves. You will learn and grow and strive to be excellent."
Created as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future—all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer's daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge,  ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome—and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her.

Meanwhile, Apollo—stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does—has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of the children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human.

Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives—the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself—to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect.
Whyso Interested?  Let's start with the fact Athena (Pallas Athene) is a time traveling goddess and I think from there you can extrapolate why I'm so excited.  Also I think I'm going to like Ethel and Simmea.  I really do.

Welcome to Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions, the premier trainer of minions for Evil Overlords everywhere. No student is prouder to be at Dr. Critchlore’s than Runt Higgins, a twelve-year-old werewolf. (At least he thinks he’s twelve. He was abandoned at the school as a baby, so he can’t say for sure.) Runt loves everything about Dr. Critchlore’s. He loves his classes—like History of Henchmen and Introduction to Explosives. He loves his friends—like Darthin the gargoyle and Syke the tree nymph. And he loves his foster family, who took him in when his wolf pack couldn’t.

But not everyone loves Dr. Critchlore’s as much as Runt. After a series of disasters, each worse than the next, it’s clear that someone is trying to shut the school down. It’s up to Runt, who knows the place better than anybody, to figure out who’s behind the attacks . . . and to save his home, and Dr. Critchlore himself, from total destruction

Whyso Interested? SCHOOL FOR MINIONS.  Aside from the obvious awesome that is, who could say NO? I'd go to that school in a HEARTBEAT.

Goodreads // Netgalley
In the wake of the deadly devastation of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story—and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace, rescued from the ocean after torturous days adrift with her dying friend Libby, knows that the Persephone wasn’t sunk by a rogue wave as survivors Senator Wells and his son, Grey, are claiming—it was attacked.

To ensure her safety from the obviously dangerous and very power­ful Wells family, Libby’s father helps newly orphaned Frances assume Libby’s identity. After years of careful plotting, she’s ready to expose the truth and set her revenge plans into motion—even if it means taking down the boy she’d once been in love with: Grey Wells himself.

Whyso Interested?...yeah so I ran into a door while reading this...I greatly enjoyed Ryan's "Forest of Hands and Teeth" books (and short stories), and revenge is always intriguing to me. There's always more then one side to every story and I have to wonder what the truth is exactly because its never as cut and dry as it seems.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I'm allergic to the world.I don't leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He's tall, lean and wearing all black--black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can't predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It's almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Whyso Interested? In the normal course of things I'm not sure I would have glanced twice at this as its not in my normal genres of choice.  However during the "We Need Diverse Books" panel at ALA Midwinter, the author spoke so engagingly about it that I decided I would read the book.

Goodreads // Edelweiss
Eleven-year-old Nell Warne arrives on her aunt's doorstep lugging a heavy sack of sorrows. If her Aunt Kate rejects her, it's the miserable Home for the Friendless.

Luckily, canny Nell makes herself indispensable to Aunt Kate...and not just by helping out with household chores. For Aunt Kate is the first-ever female detective employed by the legendary Pinkerton Detective Agency. And Nell has a knack for the kind of close listening and bold action that made Pinkerton detectives famous in Civil War-era America. With huge, nation-changing events simmering in the background, Nell uses skills new and old to uncover truths about her past and solve mysteries in the present.

Based on the extraordinary true story of Kate Warne, this fast-paced adventure recounts feats of daring and dan
ger...including saving the life of Abraham Lincoln!

Whyso Interested? HOW COULD I NOT BE?  This sounds fabulous!  Also anything to do with the Pinkerton Detective Agency from back in the day is of interest to me. 

Did you find new stuff to read and check out?  Did you hear about a book I didn't? Share your thoughts!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Book Review: Greta and the Glass Kingdom

Once upon a dark time…

Greta the human bounty hunter never quite fit into the shadowed, icy world of Mylena. Yet she's managed to defeat the demon Agramon and win the love of the darkly intense Goblin King, Isaac. Now Isaac wants her to rule by his side—a human queen. And the very announcement is enough to incite rebellion…

To make matters worse, defeating Agramon left Greta tainted with a dark magick. Its unclean power threatens to destroy her and everything she loves. With the Goblin King's life and the very peace of Mylena at stake, Greta must find a cure and fast.

Her only hope lies with the strange, elusive faeries in the Glass Kingdom…if she can get there before the evil within her destroys everything.

I don't know how I feel about this!  I'm serious.  Everything felt so...sudden.  At least everything after the party scene.  Greta goes on a adventure. Things go badly.  Isaac comes for her. Things go even worse.  Greta keeps traveling and things get even worse.  There is literally NO GOOD things that happen.  Every step Greta takes is one step further into misery and despair.  

And I just couldn't understand why.

This is a pretty standard length book by today's YA fantasy standards. And while the first book wasn't puppies and rainbows bright and cheery, there were bright moments.  I honestly started dreading when something evenly remotely happy was happening because I knew it would lead to endless pages of unhappiness.  

Meanwhile everything I liked about the first book, namely Isaac and Greta's interactions, disappeared.  After the party we don't get an honest to goodness Isaac and Greta scene until the last 10%.  And even that last bit I'm not sure was earned or justified.  The method by which we got Isaac back was nothing less then a TRUE LOVE CONQUERS ALL THINGS (including logic) device.  And it felt that way.

And so we're clear this book perpetuates why I dislike Fairies/the Fair Folk in general.  

You may be wondering why I gave this three stars when I had so much to be unhappy with (up to and including I think there's a third book I had no idea about?), but in truth I kept reading. This book kept me reading despite my anger, despite my complaints and I can't fault Jacobs for accelerating the plot.  Happy Greta and Happy Isaac wouldn't have worked half as well as a second book, especially as there are still a LOT of unanswered questions.

Like just how bad are things in the world of Mylena that Isaac is covering up to Greta about?  Or why in the holy hell can't Greta find one freaking friend who doesn't have ulterior motives?  JUST ONE. That's all I'm asking for here.

As for the ending...:sigh: Portal fantasies are, by in large, groused about for good reasons.  Whether it be by science or magic that sends out main character to a land of Not Their Own, portal fantasies need for the reader to buy into the conceit of how it happened.  Since in the first book Greta is already in Mylena, and we only have her recounting of how she ended up there as to the "how it happened", not such an issue. Similarly we could discount Agramon and his minions threatening to throw her into a portal somewhere since they're bad guys. Rule #1 as a bad guy is to lie or obfuscate the truth.

In this book we get a first hand dealio with the portal transport and its rushed. The whole last chapter is rushed.  For spoiler reasons please highlight to read why:
[spoiler] They wind up back in "our world"--they being all those Lost Boys, Greta and Isaac--thanks to, you guessed it the bad guys. Okay great wonderful.  Instead of ending the book there, with them confused and dazed Jacobs hand waves it all until we get to where they're all headed to see Greta's parents for help.

I'm sorry what?

We're told how confused Isaac--the only truly new to our world person in the group--is. We're told how they scavenged and hid and worked out what to do. We're told how they came up with a somewhat plan to see Greta's parents and go from there.  This is all stuff I would have liked to see.  It would have made a good way to start the next book and a solid way to have readers want to come back for more.  

Reading about Greta's half-angst about how the boyfriend/husband/partner she has (Isaac) isn't who her parents (that she hasn't seen for almost half a dozen years) would have wanted for her is not what I'm interested in reading about. Greta's earlier angst were good reasons for her to worry about her relationship (namely humans are hated in Mylena so making her their QUEEN suddenly wasn't going to improve matters). Greta's angst that her parents may disapprove is not a good reason.
[end spoiler]

In the end this book kept me reading, but I grew more irritated as I went on.  This was a 2.5 star read for me--basically I only enjoyed it half as much as I expected to--so its rounded up.  Here's hoping Book 3 resolves some of my issues.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

PR Special Edition: Ellizabeth Bear Interview

Poisoned Rationality Special  Edition

Welcome to another Poisoned Rationality Special Edition!  Today we  welcome Elizabeth Bear, author of the wonderful Eternal Skies trilogy, New Amsterdam series and of course the Promethean Age novels.  Her newest book, Karen Memory, is a steampunk western yarn with Jack the Ripper at its center.  She's answering some Q's from inquiring minds.
“You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I'm one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It's French, so Beatrice tells me.”

Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, beggin sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions.  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.
Welcome Elizabeth to Poisoned Rationality! Thank you so much for joining us today :)
I’m thrilled to be here! Hello!
If you had to distill KAREN MEMORY down to three important moments what do you think they would be?
Oh, man, that’s hard. But I feel like it has to be meetings. There’s the moment when Karen meets Priya and Merry Lee, which sets her on her road toward taking on the biggest injustice in her small world. And there’s the moment when she meets the Marshall and his posseman, which provides her with allies and important information. And then there’s the moment when she meets her greatest enemy and discovers the true measure of her courage and resolve.
What type of help does a working girl need with steam powered science afoot?
Anybody she can get! From a burly doorman to a granite­jawed Madam; from an ex­slave lawman to a resourceful escapee from the sex­slave trade. A one­armed engineer, a steel­fisted lady of the evening, or a deaf white cat. Karen ain’t picky, as long as she feels she can trust you.  
If you happen to have access to an airship, or know how to sling a shooting iron, that might come in handy...
Why this time period and place?
It honestly had a lot to do with where I came to the ideas for the book from. There was a real Seattle
madam named Mother Damnable, for example. She’s not my Madame Damnable—and Rapid City isn’t Seattle—but there’s definitely inspiration there. The girls at the Hôtel Mon Cherie grew out of a period photograph of the ladies of a similar ‘parlor house,’ also located in Seattle. And I have a long­standing love for those sorts of buried cities, raised by fill around the ground floors of the buildings already standing. It seems to have happened to most coastal cities once upon a time—Boston has neighborhoods like that as well.
Was there anything you wanted to include in this book that you couldn't (for whatever reason)?
I would have liked a little more cryptozoology than we got. In Karen’s world, the various so­called Creatures of the Lumberwoods—the critters from legendry and tall tales, such as the squonk, the hodag, the splintercat, the hoopsnake, the jackalope, the chupacabra, the glawackus, Champ, the sasquatch, the wendigo—they’re all real. I think they have Pacific tree octopuses too, even though those are a modern invention, because I love them.
I’m a sucker for all that stuff. Especially squonks, which are a legendary bird that can never be captured alive because if you put it into a sack it weeps so copiously that it dissolves into a puddle of its own tears and seeps away. I’d have loved to do more with all of that. I just didn't have room, without it turning into a distraction. Discipline is the hardest thing.
Without spoiling the ending, what do you think Karen would like to do the most if money (and ability) were no object?
Oh gosh. She’d take the love of her life and travel the world. Pony trekking in Mongolia. She’d go up to Anchorage and see it for herself. Sri Lanka. Shanghai. Hawaii. Australia, Antarctica, Chile. The whole Pacific rim. Maybe even someplace really exotic, like Boston or New York!

Thank you Elizabeth!!


 About the Author

Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. This, coupled with a childhood tendency to read the dictionary for fun, led her inevitably to penury, intransigence, the mispronunciation of common English words, and the writing of speculative fiction.

She lives in Massachusetts with a Giant Ridiculous Dog. Her partner, acclaimed fantasy author Scott Lynch, lives in Wisconsin.

Author Links:
The More You Know Links:
Fantasy Review Barn: Karen Memory Review (4 Stars)
SFF World: Karen Memory Review

Monday, February 2, 2015

Post ALAMW 2015: We Need Diverse Books Panel Part 1

Rather then try and be eloquent I'm going to go ahead and paste their Mission Statement from their website:
We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality.

We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process.

In order to accomplish our mission, we reach out to individuals and groups involved in many levels of children’s publishing—including (but not limited to) agents, publishers, authors, distributors, booksellers, librarians, educators, parents, and students.

(*)We subscribe to a broad definition of disability, which includes but is not limited to physical, sensory, cognitive, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, chronic conditions, and mental illnesses (this may also include addiction). Furthermore, we subscribe to a social model of disability, which presents disability as created by barriers in the social environment, due to lack of equal access, stereotyping, and other forms of marginalization. 
So basically they support children's literature being more.

Hi we're here to be awesome
At ALA Midwinter 2015, held in Chicago IL, the We Need Diverse Books movement took to the stage as the inaugural panel for the "Pop Top Stage" (a stage set up specifically for authors and industry members to have an open forum of discussion).  The Panel included 8 authors of diverse debuts as well as moderator Danielle Paige (author of the Dorothy Must Die series).

I'll have a separate post about their respective books later, but here's our panel:
The panel itself centered around 5(ish) questions from Danielle to each panelist, a few questions from the audience and then of course the signing to end all signings.  This post will cover the first two questions (as they were the most detailed) in what will likely be a 3 part series.

I have to the best of my ability kept the gist of what each panelist said, or directly quoted where I could.  I couldn't write as fast as they talked and there was a lot of overlapping responses at times.  If you attended the panel please feel free to point out the misquotes/representations and I'll make corrections.  Any books mentioned in this article can be found on my We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) shelf on Goodreads for further information.

Question 1: What book was your mirror book? (Mirror book as being defined as the book by which the panelist first could see themselves, their culture, their heritage or their identity)
Danielle Paige: There wasn't a lot of options growing up, but she then found Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Sona Charaipotra: At 19, Sona attended Ameena Meer's signing for Bombay Talkie at Rutgers.

I.W. Gregorio: In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord.  She was flabbergasted by a character having her last name.

Fonda Lee: She read a lot of dwarves and wizards, books by Asimov, books not condusive to diversity really.  Katherine Paterson's Sign of the Chrysanthemum was her first.  However Alison Goodman's Eon and Eona kicked off her love of YA again

Miranda Paul: In college she read Pay It Forward (which features an interracial couple) and remembers being shocked that in the Hollywood adaptation they completely white-washed the cast for no discernible reason.

Adam Silvera: Hadn't read a solid LGBT book until Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, though David Levithan's Two Boys Kissing gave him a better understanding of the history he had been missing out on (he swears he didn't say it just because David Levithan was in the audience...)

Sabaa Tahir: Seven Daughters, Seven Sons in fourth grade. She must have read it 20 times in about ten years.

Nicole Yoon: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, she found it beautiful and she could see herself on the page.

Francesca Zappia: Her library wasn't very big, but at the same time as a white middle class girl finding a "mirror" book would have been easy.

Question 2: What was your first window book? (Window book being defined as the book which the panelist first had their view opened about a culture, heritage, or identity not necessarily their own)
Danielle Paige: Stole the book Like Water for Chocolate from her mom's nightstand as a young teen.  Everyone emphasized that is not a teen book, but she was a precocious reader.

I.W. Gregorio: In her school, her town, being "gay" was considered uncool, it was used by everyone derogatorily, however after reading Magic's Pawn by Mercedes Lackey
Fonda Lee: Alison Goodman's Eon and Eona kicked off her love of YA again
Miranda Paul: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, and she hopes it never goes out of print or popularity.

Adam Silvera: Stellaluna taught him about empathy.

Sabaa Tahir: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry gave her sense of what was happening in the larger world and that she wasn't alone.

Nicole Yoon: God of Small Things, though the movie Harold and Kumar was her entire college experience and The Little Prince is her absolute favorite (its important to Everything,Everything too).

Francesca Zappia: House of the Scorpion, it wasn't about them being in Mexico.  The culture was just part of the story.  It was an adventure story first and foremost. 
I.W. Gregorio also brought up the fact that there is diversity within diversity, its not the same case to case.  For instance while In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson's main character had her last name the book did not reflect Gregorio's experiences. 

As for myself, my "mirror" book as a child was Girl With the Silver Eyes - it was the first book to show me that being weird and bookish didn't mean I wouldn't find others who understood (I still think Katie would have made my best friend ever).  And as an adult, Darker Still was a mirror book because the main character also suffered from selective mutism--something I struggled with a lot as a child and continue to struggle with today.

My "window" book was Searching for Shona when I was about 8, about two girls who trade places on the eve of the British evacuation of their children during World War II.  Had no idea that sort of thing happened and it fascinated me.

Do you have a window and/or mirror book? Tell us in the comments! Then come back tomorrow as I'll have the next part of the panel up discussing where the future is going and if the authors encountered any obstacles during their publication routes!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review: The Secrets of Sir Richard Kentworthy

Sir Richard Kenworthy has less than a month to find a bride. He knows he can't be too picky, but when he sees Iris Smythe-Smith hiding behind her cello at her family's infamous musicale, he thinks he might have struck gold. She's the type of girl you don't notice until the second—or third—look, but there's something about her, something simmering under the surface, and he knows she's the one.

Iris Smythe–Smith is used to being underestimated. With her pale hair and quiet, sly wit she tends to blend into the background, and she likes it that way. So when Richard Kenworthy demands an introduction, she is suspicious. He flirts, he charms, he gives every impression of a man falling in love, but she can't quite believe it's all true. When his proposal of marriage turns into a compromising position that forces the issue, she can't help thinking that he's hiding something . . . even as her heart tells her to say yes.

I have, from the very first book in the Smythe-Smith actually from the very first Bridgerton Saga novel I read (of which this is a companion series to that Saga, the events often tangling with those 8 novels in many ways) loved the idea of the Smythe-Smith family.  My own family being somewhat large and sprawling I can very well understand how it feels to be labelled "One of many" or to be generalized as "Oh one of those kids".  

Its sometimes a blessing - how often do casual acquaintances remember individual kids they see maybe once a year?  You'd be surprised what you can get away with saying and then the next year they don't remember it was you.  And then its sometimes a curse - when you don't really "excel" at anything, your accomplishments tend to get lumped in or overshadowed by others easily.  This is rather the problem I've had with the last book (The Sum Of All His Kisses), for the life of me until I re-read my review I had forgotten what it was about.  Math?  Kissing = Math?  Or something? (Its um not quite about that)

So I had HOPES for this book.  Big HOPES.  Dramatic historical romance heroine HOPES (of which there's always italics and breathy sighs and emphasis given).  And in case you missed it the first time HIGH HIGH HOPES.

Some of those hopes were fulfilled.  Many of them in ways that angered me so very very much.

Look THE DUKE AND I is my very favorite Bridgerton novel and THE DEVIL IN WINTER by Lisa Kleypas is one of my very favorite historical romances of all time, so I'm used to grumpy, grouchy, passionate heroes who marry the heroines for their convenient reasons. I'm used to them compromising said lady to get it done (though in DEVIL that isn't quite the way it happens).  Hell I'm even used to the Heel Turns their personalities often take as they realize/deny their love for said heroine.

So trust me when I say I never wanted to murder a hero more then I did when Richard decided to contend for the Jackass Hero of the Year award.  

For those familiar with THE DUKE AND I you may see shades of that occurring here.  Iris, like Daphne, believes her marriage--despite starting as a confusing mix of quickness and deceit--could be something more.  She sees/feels something in Richard that makes her think there is more then just the surface.  But Iris, like Daphne, doesn't understand the WHOLE truth because Richard (like Simon) had what he felt was a very good reason to treat his awfully.

Here's the thing, Simon did what he did because he had a certain level of proof that made what he wanted to avoid logical (given his emotional issues tied up with it).  And he didn't set out to marry Daphne--that happened because of circumstance and he told her, point blank, what he wanted to avoid (she just chose to ignore it) even if he didn't tell her the why of it.  Richard does no such thing.  He courts, compromises and then marries, Iris under the assumption of "love" and "passion".  He acts, and says, things of a charming persuasive and even sexual nature to Iris during the day and then at night won't even LOOK at her.

Iris meanwhile has spent much of her life in the shadows of her other relatives, not a stunning beauty nor extroverted person by nature Iris believed what many women who read romances dream of happening--gorgeous, attractive, highly wanted Richard saw in her something more then what was on the surface.  He understood her, understood how to help her and show her new experiences.  Imagine how it would feel if night after night, week after week, the man you thought saw your real self rejected you.  Not because of anything you did, but you'd believe it was something you did because what else could it be?  

And when he finally deigns to tell you WHY, why he manipulated you and forced your hand and played with your emotions the way he did, you can't do anything about it.  

More than anything else I wanted Iris to leave Richard and never look back.  I wanted her to show him what happens when you manipulate and scheme and deliberately ruin another's life for what you believe to be "good reasons".  If not for the fact this was a romance he didn't plan to fall in love with Iris, so what was his plan?  to continually treat her shabbily, never telling her anything and expecting her to be okay with it?  He was so worried about one scandal and one person's feelings that he never stopped to think he was doing something JUST AS BAD.  

Oh he plead remorse and seemed unhappy and regretful, but if not for the romance deus ex machina at the end nothing would have changed.

And that pisses me off like you have no idea.  

In the end this got 2 stars because Iris, and her family, are as always endearing and entertaining.  And really that only deserves half a star, but I can't do 1.5 stars...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review: The Diabolical Miss Hyde

In an electric-powered Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll is a crime scene investigator, hunting killers with inventive new technological gadgets. Now, a new killer is splattering London with blood, drugging beautiful women and slicing off their limbs. Catching "the Chopper" could make Eliza's career—or get her burned. Because Eliza has a dark secret. A seductive second self, set free by her father's forbidden magical elixir: wild, impulsive Lizzie Hyde.

When the Royal Society sends their enforcer, the mercurial Captain Lafayette, to prove she's a sorceress, Eliza must resist the elixir with all her power. But as the Chopper case draws her into London's luminous, magical underworld, Eliza will need all the help she can get. Even if it means getting close to Lafayette, who harbors an evil curse of his own.

Even if it means risking everything and setting vengeful Lizzie free . . .

Firstly...I've never read nor seen Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  About the closest I've gotten is the BBC mini-series starring James Nesbitt (Jekyll) and I don't remember that beyond thinking "gosh this is bloody" (I saw it before I saw Dexter.  Or Game of Thrones).  So I went into this book with really only a bare hint of knowledge for the original.  Given what I enjoyed most about this book was Lizzie, let's all just assume I'll never read the source material and move on.

In my initial thoughts on the book I remember noting how...uneasy I felt.  If you look at the cover that's obviously Lizzie portrayed there, its Lizzie the title refers to and its Lizzie who seems to be fun.  And she is.  Oh how she is.  Carr did a bit of a trick and had all of Lizzie's portions told in first person--further illustrating this is Lizzie's story, while Eliza's are in third person.  It makes for some confusing moments, especially in the latter half as Lizzie comes out to play more often and Eliza begins to have more stressful problems.

Lizzie is wild, she's reckless and brash and can take care of herself most of the time.  She knows low people and is fiercely protective of only one person in this world--Eliza.  She notions herself Eliza's big sister, her watchman and vengeful aide.  Eliza isn't weak, but she fears doing things that need doing.  She fears becoming like her father--a mad man who loses control and goes feral.  She garbs herself in dull clothes and prim manners to be taken seriously, but its Lizzie who helps her.  Whispering in her ear, taunting her at times or reprimanding her.  Warning her and cajoling her.  

Carr doesn't spare much in terms of grim realities of murder or of the time period.  Yes there's steam powered industry and yes the world developed differently, but its not too far out from what Victorian England was like in terms of social stratification or the dark underbelly. New toys, same tricks.  Interestingly for me was that though Eliza dwelt moreso in the darker side of the world and saw its the gruesome ends those in it met with, it was Lizzie who was constantly chiding her to think first.  Then again despite all signs otherwise its Lizzie who trusts first and Eliza who's paranoid.

I guessed at the killer (and the reasoning) fairly quickly, though I was quite shocked at how it all came together.  It would have been sad had the killer not been so damned creepy.  Character had ISSUES as a person.  

What made me uneasy was a certain part that's a spoiler so I'll be vague here--Eliza is the dominant personality, she uses a brew to keep Lizzie at bay for the most part.  That said Lizzie has her own ideas on life and from what I gathered she lived a rather more...robust social life then Eliza.  However, despite the superficial differences that occur from one to the other, they share a body.  The scene in question made me uncomfortable since it felt like something Lizzie should have at least consulted Eliza with.  The consequences would have affected them both.

Which on that train of thought, if Eliza got pregnant what would happen to the child as she switched from Eliza to Lizzie?  Or what if Lizzie got pregnant?  While they share a body it appeared as if there was certain superficial differences....though how far does that extend.  Different fingerprints?  Genetically would they register the same?  There's a character with extraordinary sense of smell--does Lizzie smell different from Eliza?  The same?  Similar but with a hint of something more?

These are the kind of questions that plagued me the further into the book I read and both girls feared being caught out (for different reasons)  Eliza has some amazing do-dads, is experimental and always trying new things (she kind of reminds me of Murdoch from "Murdoch Mysteries" actually), though the level of science (or more importantly how its stifled) would get in the way.

Then there's the matter of the ending.  I'm not entirely sure how to take Eliza's reaction.  The confusing mixture of emotions she exhibits (and Lizzie vaguely mentions) left me kind of cold.  I need more, equation does not compute, before I can really understand my jumble of feelings towards the book.  However Lizzie is wonderful and Carr has an engaging voice (though it did feel over long) with her characters all feeling different and layered.  I cautiously recommend with the caveat your mileage will vary I suspect.