Well, hi there, stranger. Long time, no see. I’ve been working hard on my life and my fiction writing and have neglected you shamefully.
I’d been debating about whether to continue the Irreverent Book Blog. After all, there are lots of people out there giving their opinions on books. What’s decided me is the same thing that started this in the first place. I wanted to share a book and author I love with you.
Through an eddy in the space-time continuum, the original blog entry where I introduced you to a friend of mine is now no more. Because of quantum, or some similar thing. However, with the recent release of her newest work, I feel the time-line is back on track, and so I will go forward from here, just as if there had always been a Romulan daughter of Tasha Yar flying around in a Warbird somewhere.
I have already talked to you in brief about my friend Emma Jameson. However, what you may not know is aside from Rosemary O’Malley, Emma is my oldest friend. We are closer than any two people who rarely see one another and communicate via the internet probably should be. We are no strangers to this separation, and have been writing from Florida to Tennessee since snail mail was the only method of so doing. I can promise that this blog would not exist without her, nor, probably would I. It is extremely rare that a childhood friendship can stand up to separation, distance, and all the changes adulthood brings. I’m very grateful for my friend.
As one of her oldest fans, and staunchest supporters, one might considered me biased in the case of her work. So, as always, a little more background for you.
Prior to my friend writing one, I had never heard of a cozy mystery. “Cozy” is not what I expect out of my fiction, as you all may have guessed by my choices to share with you. What in the hell was a cozy mystery, and why was my insanely talented friend writing them? The best definition I’ve heard also explains the reason. Cozies, apparently, are more “character driven”—another phrase I’d had no occasion to use prior to starting this blog—than other kinds of mysteries. OK, then, that made sense. No matter what name she is writing under, Emma’s work is always character-driven. When I say that, I mean very simply that she creates people. People you want to know, people with flaws and hearts and souls. So obviously, that’s where she needed to be.
I touched on the “Lord and Lady Hetheridge” Series of books in a prior “review and a half” that included Emma’s work. The most recent release, Something Blue, continues the story beautifully.
According to the author: Something Blue is:
Anthony Hetheridge, ninth baron of Wellegrave and chief superintendent for New Scotland Yard, will marry Kate Wakefield in three weeks. It’s inevitable-the invitations are out, the flowers are ordered, the cake is chosen. But murder waits for no man, and no wedding.
In London’s prestigious West End, a disgraced CEO has been murdered at Hotel Nonpareil, an exclusive destination. No one, it seems, liked Michael Martin Hughes. Not his estranged wife, Thora, or his defiant son, Griffin. Not Hotel Nonpareil’s manager, its head of security, or perhaps even the other two women in Hughes’s life: his future bride, Arianna, or his secret girlfriend, Riley. Still more ominously, before Hughes died, he incurred the wrath of a potentially more unforgiving foe: Sir Duncan Godington, longtime nemesis of both CS Hetheridge and DS Deepal “Paul” Bhar.
For the first time, CS Hetheridge, Kate and Bhar find themselves under tremendous pressure to uncover the killer in the shortest time frame ever. Has Scotland Yard, not to mention Downing Street, lost confidence in Hetheridge? Will the murder conviction rest on hard forensic evidence, a mountain of circumstantial details, or an impulsive theft? Find out by returning to the world of ICE BLUE and BLUE MURDER in SOMETHING BLUE, the third mystery featuring Lord Hetheridge, Kate Wakefield and Paul Bhar.
Once again, Emma gives us the people we’ve grown to love, and those we may come to dislike intensely. It is helpful to have read the other books in the series to truly enjoy Something Blue, but the story stands on its own, and is extremely entertaining.
Particularly interesting to an American like myself is the pervasive nature of the class structure in Great Britain. While obviously, snobbery is also rampant in the U. S., the general consensus is that it’s not a good thing. If we didn’t feel that way, we’d probably still be “The Colonies”. British snobbery is practically praiseworthy, and we feel every bit of it throughout this book. As Kate and Paul experience more of the class prejudice that is peculiar to their home country, I find myself pierced by it, as if it were happening to me.
All the elements of a good mystery are also present, and we learn more about the lives of the characters who do indeed drive this series. With twists in plot and subplot, the work keeps the reader moving and interested through-out. Staying up late to finish a book is pretty cliché to readers, but at 43, it is certainly more difficult to do than at 23. Nevertheless, I couldn’t put this one down, even as my Kindle was slipping from my hands. As one who often scorns romance, I even enjoyed those bits, especially because Kate and Tony can’t help but take their work home with them, which makes these scenes feel authentic.
Enjoy Something Blue! On the Imaqulotta Scale, I rate it as Heavenly!
Well, as you folks know, real life has been kicking my butt, and not in the fun spank-y way. I lost and gained a dog and a treadmill. The new dog has his issues and the new treadmill’s in a box. I’m way behind on a project, and I am working on a piece of my own for possible publication. There are fun AND spankings in it, thank goodness. I’ve been panting to share a book with y’all however, and I decided to let some other things wait while I got started on doing just that.
I imagine there are people my age who married out of high school, got one job they’ve kept and advanced in until now, and have lived perfectly “normal” vanilla lives. I doubt there are many these days, but it’s possible such lives still exist. I would not be one of them. Mental illness leads to unusual choices, which in turn lead to places the brave dare not go. I don’t actually recall making any choices in my 20s, I just followed the boys to wherever they were going. This pattern has actually continued in my life until I turned 40. There’s something about 40 that makes you stop and reevaluate, no matter how messed up your head happens to be. It’s pretty much the halfway mark, and if you aren’t where you’d like to be, you start thinking about how to get there. If you’re ill, you start wondering if where you’d like to be is even where you really thought it was.
The point, I guess, is that I have a lot of experiences to share, and not all of them are sunshine and roses. I’ve looked under a lot of rocks for my happiness, and was amazed to discover through therapy that I never lost it to begin with. I am honest with you folks, because the reasons I may feel a certain way about a certain book are colored by my experiences. Hence this sharing, sometimes over-sharing. If you’ve lived a different life, you might not feel the same.
The book I want to share with you is a M/M erotic thriller, which is a genre I’d never even imagined prior to the indie revolution. It is one particularly designed for me, it seems. This one in particular involves the BSDM community. So a little more sharing may be necessary here.
I was involved in this lifestyle a good many years ago now. However, the person to whom I gave my trust was not well with his own choices, and did not have the slightest idea how responsible people do these things. It was a great surprise to me to learn of safe-words, and limits discussed, and contracts that either party could break. I was making scary choices for some man, as usual, and I’m very lucky I did not get more than my pride hurt. I have since learned that people can make other choices that will make both of them happy.
And so, Power Exchange, by AJ Rose. I seem to recall I read a mention or review of this by my dear friend T. Baggins, and put it on my list of books to check out when I had money to buy books. Life is often on a paycheck to paycheck basis around here, so I didn’t get back to it for a while. Since zombies have eaten my brain, it’s hard to remember exactly what I read that put it on my list, but when I investigated, this blurb seemed to have been written with me specifically in mind.
“From the moment Detective Gavin DeGrassi steps into the world of BDSM to solve the brutal slaying of Dom George Kaiser, his course is not his own. Mesmerized by the context in which the victim lived and the images seared into his soul, Gavin has to find a way to navigate these unknown waters. With his personal life in upheaval due to a marital split, and his professional life uncertain with the assignment of a new partner, Gavin needs all the help he can get understanding the case.
Enter Ben Haverson, a psychologist and a well known Dom. With Ben’s help as a consultant on the case and attention to Gavin himself, Gavin delves deeper than he ever thought he would into the world of restraints and paddles. Forced to take a closer look at himself, his true nature, and his innermost desires, Gavin has a choice: keep the fear of submitting at bay, or dive in and solve the case with the knowledge he gains? When another victim is discovered, Gavin’s choice is made for him, and he’s pulled headlong into the deepest, most emotional journey of his life.
Unfortunately for him and Ben, a killer has noticed, has taken stock, and has set his sights on the D/s pair. Can Gavin outwit him, or will his first exchange of power be his last?”
Could I ask for anything more?! Police procedure, BSDM, AND a sexually motivated signature killer?! Not to mention some particularly erotic erotica? Although I’d had a recent bad experience with a book that I shared with you in a past review, I trust my friend T. not to steer me wrong. And I am so glad that I do.
Power Exchange is very simply amazing. From character creation to pacing, this one is hitting on all cylinders. There’s romance, an excellent coming out sub-plot, a smidge of family drama, and some beautifully described bondage that seems to fit perfectly within my own limits. Creating a mental picture for the reader does not require over-writing, and this is a concept that Rose has proven perfectly here. Dialogue is another place where a writer may shine or fall flat, and Power Exchange succeeds in capturing unstilted real life. I guess that’s the bottom line. Everything you read, whether it meshes with your experience or is wildly outside of it, comes across as entirely authentic. That’s what they say authors must do, isn’t it? Write the truth. There’s a lot of truth in Power Exchange.
On the Imaqulotta Scale, I rate this book as Heavenly.
As longtime readers have probably noticed, zombies and zombie killers have recently eaten my brain, my homework, and pretty much my waking life. Prior to this, however, another paranormal creature ruled my heart. From my first viewing of Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter, which scared the life out of me at 6, they’ve been MY monster. I told a boy on the bus when I was 9 that I was going to be the “bride of a vampire” when I grew up. My fifth grade report, complete with custom made black cover, was about vampires. I carried a copy of The Vampire Lestat in my purse my entire sophomore and junior years. I saw The Lost Boys over 100 times in theaters. From folklore to fiction, I have studied our fanged friends pretty extensively. I suppose it’s hardly surprising that I grew to be a spooky kid, and an adult whose wardrobe contains entirely too much black. As IF such a thing was possible!
Thanks to a certain book trilogy, many people think vampires are passé, a joke. I would not be one of them. I vaguely remember the uproar when Anne Rice had her vampires able to see themselves in mirrors, despite the fact that this is mostly a Hollywood affectation that I don’t recall reading in any folklore I have researched. Mess with what people “know” about vampires, which was mostly established by the late great Bela Lugosi in 1931, at your peril. Fans will lambast you endlessly. Internet humorists will create sarcastic memes about you. Of course, as I have said in the past, I am sure this troubles the authors of such works not at all. Legends deserve reinvention from time to time.
The novel I want to share with you today is the first publication of a friend of mine, Nicholai Conliff. Although our face to face meetings have been few, Nicholai’s name popping up on any social network we’ve shared has always been a reason to smile. Whether it was a blog post or merely a status update, his words always had a certain precision I enjoyed. So, of course, when he told me he’d finished his debut novel, I was thrilled, and lucky to be among its first readers. I enjoyed Unburied, and I’ll enjoy sharing it with you.
According to the author: “74-year-old Ashley Miller, a former child soldier of the German army in World War II, spends what should have been his old age in peaceful isolation: he keeps his lawn up to neighborhood standards, listens to records, sticks to his diet, longs for the faces that have left his life . . . and hasn’t aged a day since 1942.
Part historical, part literary horror, UNBURIED oscillates between past and present to form a cohesive dual narrative dismissing the tropes of paranormal genre fiction.”
Unburied reveals itself skillfully, in teasing glimpses. The historical elements are an integral part of the story, but are very immediate to the reader. This is not a typical modern vampire story, although elements of folklore are used that the casual fan might not even recognize. Epic in scope, the piece manages to be character driven. This is a moody, atmospheric, densely packed book, full of feeling. It’s not for the faint of heart. Unburied is unpredictable, because it departs from what we’ve come to expect from horror. It shies from nothing, but Conliff has not come to the table to be crass. There’s a word we don’t hear very often lately—dread. That’s just what is invoked here.
On the Imaqulotta Scale, I rate this book to be Heavenly.
For a young reader, the Book Fair is an event to be anticipated all year. In my young heart, it was third in line of most important events of the year: Trip to Disney World, County Fair, Book Fair. When I was 8 or so, I discovered a book at my school’s Fair called True Haunted Houses and Ghosts. I am sure if I were to find it again today, it would be simply amusing, but at the time it scared the ever-loving crap out of me. I can remember one of the illustrations to this very day. A peasant father with his sobbing daughter’s hands in one of his, and an axe in the other to cut them off with. I can no longer remember the story, or WHY Papa wanted to cut off his daughter’s hands, but her look of terror, tear streaked face and long blonde braids stick in my mind. Did I mention I had long blonde braids? I was so terrified of this book that I would try to hide it from myself so that I wouldn’t read it. But I always went back to it.
I like to be scared, and after years of being a horror fan, my fear threshold, at least in the literary medium is pretty high. Take me to the movies, and I will jump and scream at every silly trick, but scaring me in a book is difficult. Grossing me out is tough to do as well.
I was privileged to be introduced to an author, Jack Wallen, who has managed both, by my friend Emma Jameson. The book I am going to share with you is called Hell’s Muse. As you might imagine, it’s the very definition of an irreverent work.
According to the author’s blurb: “In the beginning was the Word – and the Word was a lie.
A struggling writer dives into the dark pits of madness to create his most perfect work – a parallel of his own life, only twisted into a malignant hatred. When the written word opens a gateway to Hell, every truth the writer believes is challenged, every lie made truth.
As a trail of death and sorrow spills from the words, the writer is drawn into an unholy abyss to become Hell’s Muse.”
The story is in several layers, a novel within a novel. The characters come at you in snapshots, mostly because this dark carnival ride moves extremely quickly. The story flies. Jack’s writing at times has the hectic frivolity of an old EC Comic, at times the darkly sensual attention to detail we might have seen in Clive Barker’s early work. And, he’s not afraid to gross you out. As the layers of reality within the work begin to melt into each other, the reader will question everything, and I assure you, this is wise. By the end of the novel, I didn’t quite know what to believe. I will not spoiler you, but I will say everything will make a kind of sense when you get there.
Before I rate this work, I will give the caveat I sometimes do that this is not a work for the faint of heart. Additionally, I’ll include the weak of stomach. It’s odd to give a book so hellish a Heavenly rating. I guess the little girl who loved to be scared is still weighing in.
Dragons. Humans have a love-hate relationship with these fantasy creatures. My first tutor on the subject of dragons was C. S. Lewis, whose depiction of dragonish attributes in Voyage of the Dawn Treader assumed children of his time would know that dragons were greedy and hoarded gold. I had not known this previously, so my education obviously had been lacking. My later reading of The Hobbit confirmed this general idea. However, my ideas were being tainted by the glorious telepathic dragons of Anne McCaffery in her Dragonriders of Pern Series. The amazing dragons of Ms. McCaffery were a far cry from the greedy, evil creatures that bold knights would slay. Sir Terry modified my ideas about dragons still further, for on the Discworld, dragons are endangered creatures, as tame as pets. The point is that I am open-minded on the subject of dragons.
Tara West is a member of the Eclective, and I thoroughly enjoyed her stories in their Haunted Collection and Apocalypse Collection. So I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review one of her novel length works, Curse of the Ice Dragon.
According to the author’s blurb, this is what we are expecting from Curse of the Ice Dragon : “Born with mark of the Mighty Hunter, Markus has the skill and strength to feed his people, but not to confront his own tyrannical father. Shamed by his cowardice, Markus releases his frustration on the forest creatures.
The village prophet warns that Markus’s reckless ways will bring down The Hunter’s Curse, and for every animal Markus kills, his loved ones will suffer the same fate. When the warnings go unheeded, the Sky Goddess unleashes her ice dragon. Now Markus must flee the dragon without killing it or his beloved brother will die.
Markus’s flight takes him to the lands of the mysterious Ice People. There, the beautiful maiden Ura helps Markus learn the compassion and courage he needs to face the wrath of the Goddess, but the final confrontation will not be without price, as Markus must choose between the life of his brother and the fate of the girl he loves.”
Curse of the Ice Dragon is a relatively unambiguous title, so my open-mindedness notwithstanding, I had a preconceived idea about the ice dragon in this book. However, without spoiling anything, I can tell you that the dragon is not what she appears, which is a reflection of this entire work. Expect the unexpected!
Markus is a sympathetic, although not thoroughly likeable, character in the beginning of the novel, but his growth throughout made me proud of him by the end. The Sky Goddess is treated as a positive force in the beginning but is she really? Each character we meet is not what he or she might appear, and proves this by the end of the book.
The pacing, description and characterizations here are first rate. Ms. West creates a plausible world, and an engaging story. As the beginning of a series, the piece wraps up its own story but builds interest for the next book. I’m grateful to have been given the chance to share this work with you. On the Imaqulotta Scale, I would rate Curse of the Ice Dragon as Heavenly.
Since we last met, I’ve been reading for my own pleasure. This is not to say the books I am requested to review, or chose to review are not a pleasure. Most often they are. I think it’s the pressure of a deadline. Obviously, I don’t often allow myself to be pressured, as you’ll note by my sporadic entries. Still, I want to share with you as often as I can. So my little vacation was enjoyable and carefree. Since I haven’t yet begun the next book I intend to share with you, I’m going to borrow from my childhood to give you:
What I Read On My Christmas Vacation
1. Death of a Kingdom(The Norothian Cycle), by M. Edward McNally- As I have shared with you my feelings about the first book in this series, The Sable City, I will merely say that this volume continues the tradition of excellence. Again, the characters are what make this book. If you enjoyed The Sable City, you’ll enjoy this one even more!
2. The Eclective: The Apocalypse Collection- I’ve introduced you all to the Eclective, and these stories are up to the standards of the previous collection I discussed with you. Even thought the world did not end, you’ll enjoy these visions of what might have been, or might yet be.
3. Driving Me Nuts, by PJ Jones- I envy the ability of authors to share the trauma of mental illness with humor and heart. Anytime I contemplate writing about my illness, I imagine some terrible melodrama. Jones is a virtuoso of comedy, but this novel is very different from the author’s other works. Although comedy is definitely a major component here, the work is very true to life and the realities of working through issues and coming out the other side. This was a moving read.
4. “A Face in the Crowd”, by Stephen King and Stewart O’Nan- One of the nicest things about the e-book revolution is the capacity to buy a single story. Although many people predicted the short story’s death a very short time ago, the form seems to be reviving with the ability to send these babies out all on their own. Amusingly, the man who is often criticized for his wordiness has never stopped turning out these self-contained bursts of story like a well-tipped bartender pouring tequila shots. “A Face in the Crowd” reads like a classic Twilight Zone episode, and is just plain spooky fun.
5. “In the Tall Grass”, by Stephen King- This is a longer story that does not go where anyone could be expecting. Again, the King of “overwriting” is perfectly capable of creating credible characters with brevity. THIS STORY IS DISTURBING. Think of the King stories that have unsettled you the most, then prepare for him to kick it up a notch.
6. Dodger, by Terry Pratchett- A Dickensian historical fantasy only seems to be a departure for Sir Terry. His work in Discworld has been filled with much of this flavor, and those of us who read his work on a regular basis will benefit from knowledge we’ve gained there. Dodger is a unique, intriguing novel, which combines actual historical figures with literary creations of the time, and Pratchett’s own amazing characters to take readers to a London they’ve heard about, but never really got to know. Mystery, comedy, romance, and a bit with a dog. What more could I ask?
In the New Year, I hope to give you more regular reviews, and some extra fun that I haven’t quite dreamed up yet! I look forward to taking Imaqulotta’s Irreverent Book Blog to the next level.
I always think I don’t enjoy fantasy as well as some other irreverent works. It may be from a youthful attempt to read The Lord of the Rings, which gave me an impression of the genre as stuffy and serious. However, when I look at my reading habits, I observe that there are some fantasies I enjoy very well. Humorous series such as The Xanth novels by Piers Anthony and The Myth Adventures of Robert Aspirin, the poignant urban fantasy of Charles De Lint, and of course, my beloved Terry Pratchett. So perhaps, it’s simply the stuffiness I don’t care for!
Last month, I shared with you the work of a talented group of individuals called The Eclective. Although I had known Ms. Emma Jameson for years, I was unfamiliar with the other authors included in The Haunted Collection. Having very much enjoyed “Empty Vessel”, I was pleased to hear from Mr. M. Edward McNally, with a suggestion that I read one of his full length novels for review. Always hungry for good books, I agreed.
The Sable City, according to Amazon, is “The desperate search for the exiled heir of her Trade House leads Matilda Lanai across a war-torn continent and to the gates of the Sable City, where centuries ago dark magic almost destroyed the world. Along with a sinister sorceress, a broken-hearted samurai, and a miscreant mercenary long on charm but lousy with a crossbow, Tilda must brave the demon-infested ruins. Only then can she find John Deskata, who may not want to be found at all.”
Such a short description can hardly do this densely populated novel justice. I doubt that I can either, but I do intend to try. This is, indeed, very serious fantasy, although McNally slips in quite a bit of heart and humor. The author creates characters as well as anyone I have ever read, and I may have mentioned how important that is to me. One of the reasons we accept a world that is mostly unfamiliar to us is that the people we meet we get to know fairly well, and they are people, for the most part, to whom the reader can relate. McNally says The Sable City is “basically a character piece about Tilda Lanai, trying to hold down a job, help out her friends, and survive the day-to-day.” Matilda Lanai is a descendant of a long line of kick-ass fantasy women, but is hardly a caricature. By the end of the book she feels more like an old friend. We don’t know anyone so well as Tilda, but all of the characters we meet are fully realized, and realistic. It’s why the fantasy works so well, because totally believable characters are there to believe the totally unbelievable events. I met people I loved, and people I hated, just as we do in life, and was gratified when many of the adventurers became friends.
The mythical city of Vod’ Adia is a character in and of itself, a mysterious place cut off from its world except for one month every 99 years. It is fabled to be a place of fabulous wealth, and incredible danger. I will tell you that the adventurers reach the Sable City, but I won’t spoil what happens to them there. I will say that after about a chapter of this work, I heaved a sigh of total contentment, and settled in for the epic journey. The best part is that there is more to discover. I look greatly forward to reading #2 Death of a Kingdom, #3 The Wind from Miilark, and #4 Devil Town. The series is called The Norothian Cycle. On the Imaqulotta Scale, I consider The Sable City to be completely Heavenly!