Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Glass Magician, by Charlie N. Holmberg. 47 North, 2014

This is the second book in Holmberg’s trilogy about Ceony Twill, an apprentice magician. Set three months after the events in ‘The Paper Magician’, we find Ceony falling more in love with her teacher, Magician Emery Thane, feelings which she thinks he doesn’t reciprocate. We also find Grath Cobalt, partner to the evil Lira who Ceony froze, set on getting the secret of how she did the freeze out of Ceony so he can reverse it, and he’s willing to kill her family and friends to get it. Meanwhile, an Excisioner – a blood magician- is targeting magicians, seeking to increase his powers.

This book took a departure from ‘Paper Magician’ in that the first novel is told all from Ceony’s point of view, while ‘Glass Magician’ also shows Thane’s POV in one instance. ‘Glass Magician’ also has Ceony in a constant fret over how Thane feels about her- she manages to convince herself through much of the novel that she is.. unworthy.. somehow. While I realize she’s a teenager experiencing her first love, it seems odd in a person who is pretty darn resourceful and brave. I also found it annoying that she felt the entire problem with the two renegades was entirely her fault, and that only she should be at risk fixing it. This feeling leads her to rush into situations that lead to her needing rescue, rather than her solving things. In fact, it seemed like every female in this story ended up needing rescue. Ultimately she solves one of the problems on her own- in brilliant fashion- but the first part of the book made me feel like giving up on her.

Once again, it’s the author’s creation of a new kind of magic that impressed me the most. In the first book, it was how many ways paper could be enchanted even though it didn’t seem like a strong material. In this book, it’s glass that’s used in ways I’d never thought of. Of course I’ll read the third one- and hope that Ceony settles down some.

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something, Amazon will give me a few cents. This did not influence my review.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dorothy Parker Drank Here, by Ellen Meister. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015

Norah Wolfe has a long standing obsession with has-been author Ted Shriver. When her mother gave her a copy of one of his books when she was 13, his words touched her so deeply she almost couldn’t finish the book. So when the TV show Norah works for gets canceled, she says she can get Shriver on the show, even though they’ve never met. This would be a big deal because many years ago, at the height of his fame, Shriver was accused of plagiarism. He never explained, and vanished from sight.

Shriver is staying at the Algonquin Hotel, home of the famous Algonquin Round Table during the 1920s. There is another guest at the hotel, too, one that while famous goes unnoticed by most. This is Dorothy Parker, in phantom form. She has chosen to stay in the hotel rather than passing on through the white light, and is desperately lonely. She wants to make a deal with Shriver, too.

Shriver, for his part, doesn’t give a damn about either woman. He’s dying of a brain tumor, feels that’s best for the world, and just wants to be left alone in his hotel room with his Vicodin and booze.

There is a great deal of running around; of deals made and deals broken with an ex-wife, an ex-best friend, the ex-best friend’s wife, the sister of the deceased hotel manager, and more. Most everyone is at cross purposes and it’s a miracle anything gets accomplished. It does, though, even though it doesn’t work out the way anyone envisioned. It’s a fun little book, and Meister seems to have Parker’s voice down pat. While most of the plot revolves around Shriver and Norah, Parker is really the star of the book. Which is as it should be. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something, Amazon will give me a few cents. This in no way influenced my review. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Siege Winter, by Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman. William Morrow, 2015

 In 1180 AD, an abbot lays dying. He has a story to tell before he goes, though, and calls a young scribe to take dictation. His story takes place in the early 1140s in an England torn apart by the war for the throne between Empress Matilda and King Stephen.

Stolen from her family while gathering fuel in the fenlands, an 11 year old, red haired girl is found by an archer, Gwil:  she has been raped, is nearly dead and is without any memory. He nurses her to health, names her ‘Penda’, disguises her as a boy, and teaches her to shoot both long and cross bows- to great success.

Meanwhile, Lady Maud, possessor of Kenniford castle, is married at knifepoint to a monstrous man who is in it for the money. He rapes her, while his none too stable mistress is installed upstairs in Maud’s castle. His men take over the castle; eating, drinking, and making free with the women. When the Empress Matilda shows up on their doorstep, Maud immediately makes her welcome. It makes no difference to her husband’s men; they’ll all fight for whoever pays them best. Meanwhile, Gwil and Penda have been hired into the Empress’s small force. There is a siege, along with battles, plotting, discoveries of secrets, and a second plot running in parallel with the siege. There isn’t a dull moment. The plotting is well done, especially the way the two plots finally merge. Things are described in a realistic manner- nothing is sugar coated here!

There are several strong women in this book: the Empress, Lady Maud, Penda, and Maud’s serving woman. These women do not wait for a handsome knight to ride in and save them- although it’s certainly nice when one does. They take charge. They are self-sufficient, as women would have had to have been in an era when the men could be gone for months or years. This historical fiction is a far cry from much of what was written in the past, when the women existed to be rescued. I’m so happy that this kind of historical is being written now. Sad that this is the last we’ll ever seek from Ariana Franklin, but based on this book I hope her daughter is inspired to continue writing as she has finished up her mother’s story very, very well. A new ‘Mistress of the Art of Death’ book from her would be excellent! 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something, Amazon will give me a few cents. This did not influence my review in any way.