Saturday, December 13, 2014

Steampunk Phantom: "Of Metal and Wishes" by Sarah Fine

A co-worker at the library where I work ( Emily!) gave me a heads up about this when it was published, as a new take on the Phantom of the Opera story so...of course it had to be mine! I fell in love with the alternately dreamy/ nightmare-y world and the haunting love story the author, Ms. Fine, has created. 16 year old Wen lives with her father above his clinic based in a horrifying slaughter house. After her mother's death, she is forced to leave their lovely home on a hill, her beautiful dresses sewed and embroidered by her beloved mother and accompany her father to the rooms they now share. Now she sews tiny, neat stitches in the torn flesh of workers caught in the killing machinery.
No matter how hard her father and the slaughterhouse workers work, the bosses and under bosses call all the shots. Food and clothes are all bought from the company store and there never seems a way to save or much hope for the workers of a life beyond the daily grind.
Many of these people pray to a ghost. There is an altar where they leave gifts and wishes. Some he seems to grant. Wen scoffs at these superstitions. Then, when there is a shortage of workers, some outsiders are brought in to work on the floor, these are the Noor. They are disparaged and looked down on, not as good as the Itanyai, Wen's people, and yet there is something about them. They walk unbowed, unlike the weary workers they are joining and their leader seems to be a tall, copper haired boy with jade green eyes. They had a reputation as warriors. Wen is intrigued but when something happens to embarrass her in the cafeteria in front of the workers, she makes a wish to the ghost, herself, and then is afraid it might have come true.
The treatment of the workers by the bosses and the Noor by everyone is like an alternate version of Orwell's 1984. It's a truly frightening vision and you'll keep your fingers crossed for Wen but I don't want to spoil the secrets of what goes on behind the hellish walls of the slaughter house, or of Wen's discoveries. Or of someone observing from the sidelines.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Blood and Roses: "Those Rosy Hours At Mazandaran" by Marion Grace Woolley

From Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera: The Persian narrates Erik's time in Iran during the Rosy Hours:
"No one knows better than he how to throw the Punjab lasso, for he is the king of stranglers even as he is the prince of conjurors. When he had finished making the little sultana laugh, at the time of the "rosy hours of Mazandaran," she herself used to ask him to amuse her by giving her a thrill. It was then that he introduced the sport of the Punjab lasso.
 He had lived in India and acquired an incredible skill in the art of strangulation. He would make them lock him into a courtyard to which they brought a warrior--usually, a man condemned to death-- armed with a long pike and broadsword. Erik had only his lasso; and it was always just when the warrior thought that he was going to fell Erik with a tremendous blow that we heard the lasso whistle through the air. With a turn of the wrist, Erik tightened the noose round his adversary's neck and, in this fashion, dragged him before the little sultana and her women, who sat looking from a window and applauding. The little sultana herself learned to wield the Punjab lasso and killed several of her women and even of the friends who visited her. But I prefer to drop this terrible subject of the rosy hours of Mazandaran. "
Taking this snippet of information, dark and descriptive as it is, and turning it into a full length life story of the little Sultana, or, in this case Shahzadi, and her relationship with Erik, or Eirik as he becomes known to her, is quite a daunting task and Ms. Woolley wholly succeeds in bringing this mysterious world of the Phantom's past to vivid, magical life.
The author pulls us into this world, the mid 1800s world of life and culture under the Shah and his harem and the infighting that goes on among the wives to be chosen as his favorite, and the life of the Shah's first and favorite daughter, Afsar (which means Crown), who at 10 years of age, as the story begins, is beautiful and already feared, because, as she says, "They understood me for what I was, Death disguised as Grace".
One morning she is called to her father who has her listen to tales of an incredible circus told by a traveling fur trader. In particular, he spoke of a man, a magician so skilled he could make his voice travel and could sing like the angels, and yet he was so ugly, he had to wear a mask. The Shah promises to bring the circus to Mazandaran for her birthday. When, eventually, the circus does make its way there, Afsar will find her life irrevocably changed by her meeting with the masked conjuror, who, is there any doubt? is, of course, the future Opera Ghost. Here, at 19, he has already traveled the world and acquired a variety of skills through his travels... some of them deadly.
 If you are a fan of the Phantom you will see where some of that baggage he's hauled around with him came from. Don't miss this fascinating trip into his past and that of a minor character in Leroux's classic who finally has her starring role.
(This title will be released Feb. 14, 2015. Thank you to NetGalley for the DRC!)

And a song that has nothing to do with the book but has an apt title and a fitting mood:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sounds of Silence: "In the After" by Demitria Lunetta


Amy is a normal, happy teen. She might sometimes gripe about her parents, her mother, a government workaholic, and her dad, who's into green living. She enjoys school and her friends and then, one Saturday afternoon... the world as she knew it had ended. What was Before is over. She has to learn to live in the After. And, In the After, by Demitria Lunetta, is a wild, different, post apocalyptic look at life on earth, an earth taken over by fast, make that super fast, ravenous alien monsters, with incredible hearing that can find you and rip you apart if you just breathe too loudly.
That Saturday, Amy was home alone, while her parents were out. They are probably dead, now. Like everyone else she knows. It started with the TV broadcasts ... aliens had landed and were destroying anyone and anything alive. Then TV was gone, so was radio, after a while. She hunkers down with her books and what food they have on hand. Three weeks pass. She is safe because her mother had to protect the government secrets she brought home and had installed an electric fence which keeps Them away. She also had a gun, which her father had made sure she knew how to use, despite his reservations about having it in the house.
Needing to restock her provisions, Amy makes her way beyond the protection of the electric fence after dark. The creatures seem to disappear at night.  She learns, on that first trip, what to do and what not to. Like wearing shoes. Even the sound of a sneaker on pavement can draw Their attention.
She begins to make trips to a supermarket to restock her shelves. It is on one of these trips that she finds Baby, a little girl, maybe 3 or 4 years old who has managed to survive, despite being wounded.  At first, Amy isn't sure what to do with her, and thinks if the little girl makes a sound, she'll throw her to the wolves... or, in this case, to THEM.  She decides to take her home with her and Amy's connection to Baby becomes the heart of this gripping, disturbing look at a future where you do what you can to survive and don't know quite who to trust anymore.
I loved Amy and Baby! They are wonderfully realized characters and you fear for them in this frightening world. I won't give away any more of the plot because it is a terrific, unputdownable , surprising and twisty story and if you enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction (or any fiction!), then don't miss this one!




















Simon and Garfunkle's "Sounds of Silence" from Ms.Lunetta's "In the After" Playlist...and the miracle of Youtube
 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Staying Afloat: "Girl Underwater" by Claire Kells

A plane crashes into a lake in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. 19 year old Avery Delacourte is one of the only survivors, surviving she feels, only because she happens to be sitting next to Colin Shea, one of her college swim team teammates. Someone who let the team down when he left suddenly before an important meet. Three little boys also survive with Avery and Colin's help. Can they get out of the plane to safety? What awaits them once they manage to escape? Claire Kells' Girl Underwater is a riveting, breathtaking debut you won't want to put down until you know what happens next. As is the Recommender's policy... we give nothing away! You will have to snag a copy  and be drawn into the action as you find out what happened during and after the plane crash and how it affected those survivors. And... you may just fall in love with Colin on the way. Highly recommended! Thanks to Edelweiss for the DRC!
 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Come Fly With Me: "Unaccompanied Minor" by Hollis Gillespie

The Recommender is on a roll! I love being surprised by books that I know nothing about before starting them. I stay away from other reviews and synopsis-es so nothing influences my reading, and from the very first sentence...Hollis Gillespie's "Unaccompanied Minor" had my attention and my heart! I ADORED April Mae Manning, one of the best and most resourceful 15 year old narrators you will ever come across.  She comes from an airline industry family which included her flight attendant mother and grandmother to her late airplane mechanic grandfather and pilot father and she knows her stuff when it comes to what makes a plane stay up...or come down.
Her Mom and not so nice step-dad, Ash (also a pilot),  who officially adopted April when she was 5, are now divorced and HE is the custodial parent. Thusly...April spends a good deal of time in the air, flying from coast to coast between parents. Her companion on many of these flights is another unaccompanied minor flying back and forth between parents, Malcolm, and his emotional support dog, Captain Beefheart.
I won't give away any more details because April's story is far too wonderful and gripping and smart and so, so funny and... I swear you will be able to keep a plane in the air, or take one down if you had to, after reading "Unaccompanied Minor" (and. also...I may have a slight crush on Officer Ned!)!
I wasn't familiar with Ms. Gillespie before this book, but I am now a super fan of her writing and plan to read her other hilariously titled works... plus, I saw on Amazon, and it's on my wishlist, there WILL be a sequel to "Unaccompanied"!!! Personally, I can't wait!


Saturday, October 18, 2014

"The Outsmarting of Criminals" by Steven Rigolosi


There are few books that can surprise the Recommender, so, recently, while working at the library and checking items in... a book crossed the desk that caused me to take a second look. The cover is one of the best covers ever, take a look to the left. Is that not one of the BEST covers you've ever seen? It is Gorey-esque and yet, unique, and when you read the book it contains you will see just from where the design emanated!
Miss Felicity Prim, as the book begins, is an attractive woman of a certain age who has spent many years as the office manager for a well respected physician in New York City. A handsome one, at that. And, a widower. After Miss Prim survives a mugging, which is a life changing event for her, she decides to leave the city, though she loves it, and buy a home in the country much to the sadness of said physician and the office staff who all adored her and depended on her skills. Miss Prim is an aficionado of mysteries and crime fiction and after having read a great many and been able to second guess many of the lead characters, she decides a career in the field of criminal outsmarting would be perfect for her in new place of residence. She buys the quaint and lovely "Rose Cottage" in picturesque Greenfield, Connecticut. And immediately comes upon a murder mystery... in her own new home!
Does Miss Prim become a Criminal Outsmarter? Will there be handsome men in her future? Can home baked cinnamon buns win her new friends and influence people? These are just a few  questions that will be answered in one of the most delightfully arch and funny  and just perfectly written books that just begs to be reread and quoted aloud! I never heard of Mr. Rigolosi before but I am a new fan and though I am not big on sequels or series... I don't think anyone who reads The Outsmarting of Criminals can ever have enough of Miss Felicity Prim! And, in case you were wondering, the cover is by the extremely talented J. E. Larson. Highly, highly recommended!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Whispers in the Dark: "The Voices" by F.R. Tallis

The Voices by F.R. Tallis is a very, very creepy ghost story and maybe one you'll want to read in daylight. It haunted me for days after I read it so be prepared! It begins in 1974, and Christopher Norton, an electronic musician and scorer of film soundtracks and his beautiful, former model wife, Laura, who is pregnant, contemplate a move into an old estate in a desirable suburb of London.  As they wander around taking things in, Chris hears a gasp, and sees his wife staring out over the overgrown garden. She has seen something, but brushes it off. She has always wanted to live in a house like this, she claims, and it is the perfect place for a home recording studio and to bring up their future child.
Or is it?
Mr. Tallis creates a feeling of unease and menace that permeates Chris and Laura's lives. Chris, once famous for his avant-garde music, has now been struggling to get needed commissions from film companies, while his friend, Simon's career has grown over the years. Jealous, he longs for inspiration, that comes, one evening, in the form of static at the end of a tape he's making. Static, that gives way to voices. Is he inadvertently picking up odd radio frequencies... or, are they something else? The Recommender gives nothing away! If you are looking for an unusual and did I already say creepy? yes, creepy! ghost story, than check out the Voices, and keep that light on!