Tag Archives: supernatural

Beastly Bones

Ritter_BeastlyBones_jkt_COMP.indd

Title:  Beastly Bones (Jackaby 2)
Author:  William Ritter
Publisher:  Algonquin
Publication Date:  2015
ISBN:  978-1-61620-354-2

Book Summary:
Abigail Rook is settling in nicely as Jackaby’s assistant; granted, it is like being an assistant to a brilliant, but a bit mad, detective.  Life in New Fiddleham, New England is full of supernatural events, including some shape-shifters who disguise themselves as adorable kittens.  When their owner is murdered, Jackaby quickly wonders if this an isolated incident.  Soon after, Jackaby and Abigail are called to assist Policeman Charlie Cane on a strange case of missing dinosaur bones in nearby Gad’s Valley, and Jackaby is certain there is a link.

Abigail throws herself whole-heartedly into the case, as her father is a famous dinosaur expert, and she has followed his digs closely.  Her knowledge though is quickly called into question by Lewis Lamb, another dinosaur hunter who is egotistical and opinionated.  He and his former associate, Owen Horner, have a difference of opinion on dig procedures, bone identification, and just about everything else.  To complicate matters even more, Hugo Brisbee, the owner of the land where the bones are found, wants a piece of the action as well.

When the bones go missing, there is an uproar; however, their reappearance is even more confusing.  Mix in a very nosy reporter, a cunning and avid hunter, and Charlie Cane, who has secrets himself, and Abigail fears she is unprepared for what might happen.  When Jackaby confirms the identity of the bones themselves, Abigail knows that this adventure will be like nothing ever seen before in the paleontology field.

Book Commentary:
I thoroughly enjoyed the first Jackaby book and was very excited for the second installment.  As I previously noted, the stories feel like a Sherlock Holmes meets Doctor Who; however, there was a bit of a Harry Potter creature element in this second story.  I will admit that I found the story a little slow to start; there were a lot of seemingly unrelated characters and events.  I think the author made the reader feel a bit like Abigail by wondering how everything fit together.  Then, the reader hits a point not quite halfway through the novel, when the author sinks in his hook.  I speed through the rest of story with anticipation and rapture.

Abigail is an extremely likable character and I enjoyed how we got a bit more of her backstory.  I liked the references to her parents and hope that future books will provide even more depth.  We also see a bit of a budding, though unconventional, relationship building between Abigail and Charlie.  I am curious to see how that might work out.  Jackaby is once again an enigmatic character; a bit of his own history is revealed as well, but the reader really isn’t sure how much to believe.

The teaser in the final chapter hints of future adventures for Abigail and Jackaby and a quest to understand the history of another important character.  I look forward to what the author has in store for us!

Who might like this book:
Although a “young adult” book, I really feel that all ages will enjoy it.  I think this is a great story to engage reluctant middle school readers as well; there is just enough gore, suspense, and quirkiness that will keep any reader engaged.

Changeless

Changeless

Title:  Changeless (Parasol Protectorate 2)
Author:   Gail Carriger
Publisher:  Orbit
Publication Date:  2010
ISBN:  978-0-316-40177-7

Book Summary:
Alexia Maccon, now the Lady Woolsey, finds adjusting to married life a bit more challenging than a normal newlywed.  In addition to the usual cohabiting issues (and the fact that her husband is a werewolf), Alexia has also taken on the role of muhjah, the preternatural member of Queen Victoria’s Shadow Council.  Along with a werewolf and vampire representative, Alexia advises the Queen on concerns and happenings in the supernatural community.  Supernaturals’ innate mistrust of “curse-breakers,” as Alexia’s kind is referred to, is heightened when a mysterious outbreak of normalcy affects part of London’s supernatural communities.  Werewolves and vampires who have lived thousands of years are understandably alarmed and frightened by their inability to turn from a human state into their supernatural identity.  Fear of disease, injury, and old age that are common among humans create a near panic among the supernatural community.

Alexia is NOT to blame for this epidemic but is determined to find its cause.  If this weren’t enough, Alexia’s husband has run off to Scotland to deal with this own problems.  As a former member of the Kingair pack, he feels it is his responsibility to deal with the Alpha-less group.  His secret departure and Alexia’s investigations into the supernaturals lead her to Scotland.  With her trusty parasol, she is accompanied by her maid Angelique and inventor Madame Lefoux.  Unfortunately, nothing is ever simple for Alexia.  Her best friend, Ivy Hisselpenny, has just announced her engagement but seems to have fallen for someone else, and Alexia’s mother has dropped off her sister Felicity to stay with Alexia for a while; so they also join in the adventure.

With an adventurous trip on a dirigible, a temperamental aethographic transmitter, and way too many extended family members, Alexia must find her wayward husband and bring order back to the supernatural community.

Book Commentary:
As I enjoyed the first book Soulless, I was looking forward to Changeless and it did not disappoint.  I enjoyed the humor of dealing with extended family members and generational dynamics.  The story develops the relationship between Lord and Lady Maccon but some of the secondary characters play a more predominant role.  Carriger does a nice job at bringing in new characters while still maintaining the depth of the original cast.  This book does contain more of the steampunk elements, especially with regards to communication. While I don’t feel that it detracted from the story but it was definitely more noticeable than in the first book.  I feel connected enough to the characters to keep up with the next in the series.

Who might like this book:
If you enjoyed Soulless, I recommend continuing with the series.  A word of warning that the book ends with a bit of a cliff-hanger; book 3 – Blameless – is waiting on my nightstand!

Silence for the Dead

Silence for the Dead

Title:  Silence for the Dead
Author:  Simone St. James
Publisher:  Penguin
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN:  978-0-451-41948-4

Book Summary:
After her mother runs away and her brother is assumed dead in the Great War, Kitty Weeks finds that living with her abusive and violent father unbearable.  She sneaks out in the middle of the day and finds work at a local factory.  Always looking over her shoulder, she slowly builds a life for herself.  When she overhears her roommate talking about a job for a nurse at Portis House, a remote and distant place desperate for nurses to aid in the care of a handful of soldiers, Kitty quickly applies.  She has no nursing experience, but is able to fake an application using her roommate’s job experience and a forge a letter of recommendation from her roommate’s boss.  The Matron at Portis House quickly sees through Kitty’s lie but allows her to stay on temporarily because of their extreme need of help.

Portis House is located on a small island, connected to the mainland by a narrow bridge that often is ice-covered because of the wind and water and fog.  Previously owned by the Gersbach family, the house had been refurbished into a hospital when the family mysteriously up and disappeared.  The hospital was able to get a very good price for the property and the location and isolation provided a solitary and quiet environment for soldiers returning from the war with mental and emotional distress.  The work is hard and the hospital is hopelessly understaffed, but there is a faint undercurrent of something sinister hiding in the shadows.  There are only about 20 patients, including the mysterious Patient Sixteen, but many suffer from emotional pain and are haunted by nightmares.  When Kitty works her first night shift, she hears haunting words seeping through the walls and she senses a ghostly presense.

When the doctors come to visit and evaluate the patients, it becomes evident that there is little effort being made for the patients to get well enough to return home.  With the help of war hero Jack Yates, whose presence at the hospital is a big mystery, Kitty searches for the secret evil that is haunting the house and the inability of the patients to get well.  When a fierce storm cuts off access to the island and patients begin to show signs of an influenza epidemic, the race to find the source of the haunting takes on a new intensity.  Kitty and Jack must not only fight for their sanity but also their lives.

Book Commentary:
This is the fourth book I have ready by Simone St. James and I really enjoy her style.  There is a bit of mystery, a bit of history, a bit of romance, and a bit of the supernatural.  I love the gothic, atmospheric feel of her books; they are exciting and engaging without being scary or horrific.  I have way too active an imagination for horror stories; St. James’ stories create a mood that makes the reader want to keep turning the pages without needing to hide under the covers!

Kitty and Jack are a little different than some of the protagonists in her other books; I really felt that their pain and suffering created a very believable plot and the reader becomes vested in their success. Her setting for this story was truly something from times past.  St. James spent more time in this novel describing the setting and creating the imagery so that the reader could visualize where everything was.  This was essential to the plot development but I didn’t feel that the added exposition slowed the story pacing down in any way.

Who might like this book:
I think fans of true gothic romances like Wuthering Heights or Rebecca will enjoy Silence for the Dead.  When favorite authors of mine like C.S. Harris, Deanna Raybourn, and Anna Lee Huber make comments on a book, I usually trust that it will be a good read!

St. James has three other books out – The Haunting of Maddy Clare, An Inquiry into Love and Death, and The Other Side of Midnight.  Her fifth book Lost Among the Living will be released on April 5, 2016.

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate Novel 1)

Title: Soulless (A Parasol Protectorate Novel)
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: 2009
ISBN: 978-0-316-40241-5

Book Summary:
Alexia Tarabotti is having a difficult day. At a “dangerously close to spinster” age, Alexia finds private balls to be tedious and boring. All she wanted to do was escape the debutante games and find a quiet moment in the library with a cup of tea and treacle tart. Not only is the household staff put out by her order, but she finds that she must also share the library with a vampire. The vampire, unfortunately, is new and is not knowledgeable about Alexia’s preternatural state; he attacks her and she is forced to defend herself with her parasol and kill the vampire. As if that weren’t enough, Alpha werewolf Lord Maccon is also on the scene and her treacle tart is crushed.

Victorian London has become a very dangerous place. Although werewolves and vampires have lived in a wary state of harmony and the BUR (Bureau of Unnatural Registry) has worked with Queen Victoria’s blessing to maintain calm and civility, people like Alexia are still viewed with concern and caution. Alexia has no soul; when she touches a vampire or werewolf, she render them completely and normally human. However, vampires are disappearing and new ones are appearing at an alarming rate; the BUR and Buckingham Palace want to know if Alexia is involved. In order to save her reputation and also to damage it, Alexia forms an uneasy alliance with Lord Maccon and vampire hive queen Countess Nadasdy to find out the truth.

Book Commentary:
The cover of the book promised werewolves, vampires, parasols, and tea; an intriguing combination that grabbed my attention. Soulless is a fun adventure with a great deal of humor; I spent much of my time reading the book laughing and wishing for a cup of tea. The humor does a great job at parodying romantic vampire and steampunk literature in a light-hearted, non-criticizing way. I really liked this approach because it made the story very entertaining.

I am usually not a big fan of steampunk fiction; often it seems too contrived but Soulless does a great job at presenting a feasible explanation for werewolves and vampires in Victorian England and a realistic concern as to why they need to be monitored. There were steampunk elements throughout the story but I felt that they took a secondary role to the story itself.

Lord Maccon and Alexia are both multi-dimensional characters who have to deal with realistic problems and concerns in a rather supernatural environment. I was engaged in their interaction and although I could see what the outcome would be, the process of getting there was unpredictable. The series contains five books and I look forward to meeting up with these characters again and following their story.

Who might like this book:
This book is a light-hearted read; perfect for waiting in carpool or sitting at the beach. The story goes beyond the “fluff” level by creating a world that explains the how and why of the supernatural elements. I really enjoyed it. I plan to share it with my teenage daughter and I think she too will appreciate the humor and scenario that is created. A small word of warning for parents of teen readers: current teen fiction contains a lot of sex. This story is mildly suggestive and there are allusions to sex. In the grand scheme, it is mild but just wanted to mention it.