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!