You can download a sample or purchase any of the various formats of Ready Player One by clicking here.
A new Cari Hunter novel? What mayhem will engulf her characters this time? The answer: Truly terrible things, as well as truly lovely things, abound in the mystery-thriller No Good Reason. “She hurt” are the opening words, and this is a bodily hurt. The plot takes off immediately as a captive woman makes her bloody escape and then — Well, this is not a romance, dear reader, so brace yourself.
After visiting America for her last two books, Desolation Point and Tumbledown, Hunter returns to the land of hot tea and the bacon butty in her latest novel. Our heroines are Detective Sanne Jensen and Dr. Meg Fielding, best mates forever and sometimes something more. Their relationship is undefinable and complicated, but not in a hot mess of drama way. Rather, they share unspoken depths, comfortably silly moments, rock-solid friendship, and an intimacy that will make your heart ache just a wee bit.
Sanne and Meg’s relationship may be a muddle, but goodness knows they’ll need to hold tight to each other. Truly nasty things await them as Sanne is the first on the scene when hikers discover a barely-alive woman in the North Peak district of Derbyshire. The mystery of the woman’s identity, who tortured her, where she was held captive and why, play out as Sanne and Meg struggle with the emotional and physical tolls of each twisty discovery.
Hunter is a paramedic when not authoring, so she knows her medical scenes and masterfully writes hurt/comfort. The people Meg and Sanne work along-side actually seem to live real lives and not just exist as secondary characters to prop up the plot. While I foresaw some turns in the case before the Derbyshire police, how everyone reacts to those developments seems much more important. And folks, many moments of cheer, shared laughter, and good eats sneak in around the angst and action.
I felt so much for the people in this book, which may be the highest compliment I can give the author. Damn you, Cari Hunter, you made me care.
Now go write the sequel.
Disclaimer: This reviewer once ate American diner food with the author at a Lesfic event, and also received British sweets through the mail from her. However, she wouldn’t write a review of this book if it was shite.
According to The Chronicles of Alsea website, I am of the Scholar Caste (secular): “scholars are thought of as arrogant, not to mention out of touch with real life” and “Secular scholars run the schools and universities, research laboratories, and other institutions dedicated to learning.” I don’t need a Buzzfeed quiz to see myself, and no doubt other readers of The Caphenon will identify with the Warrior, Builder, Producer, Merchant, or Crafter castes. After reading the first book in Fletcher DeLancey’s trilogy, I wandered around like a shekking fool, unable to let go of the magnificent new world and universe she created.
The Caphenon is a sci-fi story about Protectorate Fleet Captain Ekatya Serrado, her crew, and anthropologist Lhyn Rivers crash landing on Alsea, and their interactions with an alien society. Or it’s the story of Lancer Andira Tal and her Chief Guardian, Colonial Corozen Micah, and their first encounter with the Gaian aliens and a universe beyond their own world. Or it’s the story of Lancer Tal helping Ekatya and Lhyn recognize they are more than lovers, but also “tyrees,” or life bond-mates with a psychological and physical connection that for Alseans is also empathic. Or it’s the story of a technologically inferior race that happens to be the only known empaths in the Universe, who must find a way to defend Alsea against the relentlessly murderous Voloth, a race dedicated to wiping life off other worlds with their machines of destruction.
The Caphenon is all these stories wrapped up in an exciting plot that will satisfy both space opera fans and lesfic readers. The world-building is incredibly comprehensive (I’m still cursing in Alsean, which feels very satisfying in scholar-caste meetings on Earth). The author uses the first-contact obstacle of needing to interpret alien languages to explain details of politics, technology, family, and religion. I particularly enjoyed the “sex education” talk – while the Alseans are females and males, they can temporarily change their sex so either can produce or carry children. They rather pity the “gender-locked” Gaians. Alsean neck ridges are rather sexy, too. I hope the next two books show more sexy neck ridges (and other ridges), please.
The implications of Alseans’ empathic abilities fascinated me the most and provide a central theme in the novel. Since most Alseans can read each other’s emotions if they are not “fronting,” or blocking their emotions, they maintain strict cultural mores regarding physical touch and individual privacy. A simple hug becomes a “warmron” that after the “Rite of Ascension” at around age twenty is forbidden even between family members. Needless to say, Gaians’ people-hugging shocks Alseans no end. Gaians’ empathic blindness shocks them even more, making the supposedly “more advanced” aliens seem like children in Alseans’ eyes. Also, those poor Gaians lack face ridges, giving them an “embryonic” look that made me self-consciously cover my own face. My perspective of who the true aliens were in this novel kept changing, which was thought-provoking as both Gaians and Alseans showed their fully-complex selves.
Like I said, being of the Scholar caste means I tend to analyze all these magnificent societal details. But this novel also brings out the emotion. I squealed in happiness following the love story, and wept at the physical and psychological cost of war. I lost hanticks of sleep because I could not stop reading, and was aching for some hot shannel to drink.
I am so grateful for trilogies, because that means more Alsean novels and more reading happiness. Now please excuse me while I go swoon over the delicious relations between Lancer Tal, Captain Serrado, and Lhyn Rivers one more time.
You can download a sample or purchase The Caphenon by clicking here.
My buddy, Andy, has been telling me how much she loves the work of Robert McCammon for a few years now. I never really cared to give him a try. Shapeshifter spys, post-apocalyptic tales, and ghost stories haven’t really been my preference over the past few years so I’ve not paid much attention to poor Andy’s suggestions of Mr. McCammon’s work. Well, that changed a week ago when we were looking for something to discuss on the next Cocktail Hour podcast. I told Andy she could pick the book we would read and discuss. I have to be honest and tell you that I subtly tried to talk her into picking something else but she stuck to her guns and I resigned myself to slogging through a long-ass boring book. I was just thankful that I had Audible credits available. How wrong I was. How very, very wrong. Before I go further, here’s the blurb:
On the eve of D-Day, a British secret agent with unique powers goes behind Nazi lines Michael Gallatin is a British spy with a peculiar talent: the ability to transform himself into a wolf. Although his work in North Africa helped the Allies win the continent in the early days of World War II, he quit the service when a German spy shot his lover in her bed. Now, three years later, the army asks him to end his retirement and parachute into occupied Paris. A mysterious German plan called the Iron Fist threatens the D-Day invasion, and the Nazi in charge is the spy who betrayed Michael’s lover. The werewolf goes to France for king and country, hoping for a chance at bloody vengeance.
It just didn’t sound like something I’d want to read. But regardless of my apprehension, it grabbed me and didn’t let me go. I hated to hit the pause button to go to work, pick up my child, or go to sleep. I dreamed about wolves and nazis and thought about what was going to happen next and kept modifying my predictions about what Iron Fist was. I dropped a tear at one point when one character discovered that he lost his family to Allied bombing. My stomach roiled during the descriptions of some of the “entertainment” on display for some upper echelon Nazis and friends. But mostly I cheered when the bad guys got what they had coming to them. There were lots of bad guys so there were lots of ass kickings to go around.
Probably the weakest part of the book, for me, was the wolf-shifter part. It was very interesting and I enjoyed it, to be sure, but there was just so much going on during the WWII portion of the book that I hated to have to wait to find what happened next! I guess calling Michael’s younger years weak is unfair, maybe it’s the slow part. The book wasn’t perfect; there were some words and phrases that were over-used and Michael was mostly the perfect man – I mean he even performed oral sex without being asked! I was ready for the book to end when it did but not because I just couldn’t take any more – the story was over and everything was wrapped up and I was ready to wish them all well and move on.
I’ve already purchased Swan Song. A massive “thank you” to Andy for picking such a good book for us to read. I’ll probably not doubt you again. Maybe. Probably not. You can download a sample or purchase a copy of The Wolf’s Hour by clicking here.
There are books I want to savour, to relish and appreciate and others are a quick thrill, a sudden satisfaction. Kate Worsley’s She Rises (released by Bloomsbury in 2013) is most definitely the former. Searching online, you will find a lot of reviews on this work and they range from the markedly impressed to the opposite extreme. Many, unfortunately, contain significant spoilers and will ruin the discovery that awaits you in this notable story. Some reviewers have held the author’s pedigree and mentor in mind and appear to have measured her against Sarah Waters. Other readers have been perturbed by the violence contained within the stories of Luke and Louise, questioning its purpose in their tales. I found She Rises to be exceptional in its ability to place me in the setting and to keep me enthralled and curious by the world I am invited to inhabit alongside these two teens.
Ms. Worsley swings us between the two main characters’ tales using crisply descriptive language to imbed us in their time and circumstances. While her writing is visual and lush, each scene is created with efficient skill and she succeeds in building a world and time period in my mind with words I instinctively understand, even as some sound foreign to my inner ear. Each alternating chapter provides us with one of the two storylines that eventually intersect and Ms. Worsley succeeds in using even the chapter lengths to contribute to the pace, dynamism and urgency of her story. Technically, this book is one of the better crafted stories I’ve read this year and the quality of editing is evident in its apparent disappearance. The pace swells and drops, bringing us closer and closer to the story’s’ climax – which some readers report to have found startling.
Luke awakens on board a boat, injured, disoriented and with a growing awareness that he is the victim of a press gang. He begins a desperate journey of survival, trust and resignation, all while intent upon returning to his love. Louise, a dairy maid is provided an opportunity to escape farm life, minimize her mother’s impact and to discover the fate of her brother. She too must learn to navigate a new set of societal rules and expectations as she pins her future to that of her new employer. While Luke appears desperate to return to someone he has been forcibly separated from, Lou is looking forward, cutting her ties to home and anticipating new relationships and experiences. Luke has a secret he must protect at all costs, and in the underbelly of the warship this proves more challenging than the new skills he must acquire, or the men he must guard against. He is disappearing into his new role and we become increasingly aware of the toll this change demands upon him. Louise’s decision to closely align herself with her mistress Rebecca is simultaneously naive and cutthroat in its purpose, and will have implications and consequences that unfurl throughout the book. We accompany both of these characters via their first person recountings of events, their fears and remembrances, learning about the harshness of life on board naval vessels and the pettiness found in city households.
Strong supporting characters are rich and deep, creating a detailed backdrop against which we come to better understand Lou and Luke. The author succeeds in keeping the personalities realistic and appropriate. Townhouse employees Billy Price, Hannah Shepherd, sailors Gilles De Clare and Nick Stavenger among others, make the stories all the more believable and we are not nudged out by flat, cliched characters.
Identity, abandonment, captivity, sacrifice, and manipulation are unveiled and examined from both Luke and Lou’s perspectives. Each is abandoned and cut others lose, give up long held identities, and discover ways in which to make their new world their own. Luke and Louise occupy and must operate in a world vividly different to ours. Their reality is harsher, less forgiving yet logical, potentially startling for the 21st century reader. Be prepared to see a rough, sometimes violent world that demands much from these teens. Captivity, abuse, and illness are experienced and take their toll on characters and readers alike.
If you are looking for a quick read, a light romance or thrilling adventure, then She Rises should be set aside, assigned to your TBR pile. It is, however, an ideal book for a buddy read or group discussion. You will find much to debate in this moving story, imbued with challenging issues that are just as relevant today as they were in the eighteenth century. Its conclusion is certain to lead to much thought and interesting conversations, and I, personally, found it frustratingly maddening while simultaneously satisfying. This is a debut novel of note that has me looking forward to the author’s future novels with much anticipation.
You can download a sample or purchase She Rises by clicking here.