Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Orphan Mother, by Robert Hicks. Grand Central Publishing, 2016

Set in the summer of 1867, the story follows Mariah Reddick, freed slave and town midwife, in her quest to find out who killed her son Theopolis. Theopolis is a cobbler with dreams of entering the politics of Reconstruction era Franklin Tennessee. Killed at a political rally before he could even take the stage and speak, he is accused of having killed a white grocer. Needless to say, the government team sent to investigate is only interested in finding out who killed the white man. Helping her is George Tole, a freeborn black from New York, who is new to town and has a big secret to keep. Also on Mariah’s side is Carrie McGavock, her former owner and a historical figure. Mariah and Carrie are still negotiating a new relationship; Mariah was Carrie’s personal slave when they were children and went with Carrie when she married. They have always been close; as close as it can be when one person owns the other and holds the power of life and death over them.

The story is told from the points of view of Tole and Mariah as they look for answers. Tole’s quest is not the same as Mariah’s, though, as we learn near the end, although ultimately their aim is the same. These are complex characters; the whites around them may see them as just their occupation- the midwife, the cobbler- but they are far, far more than that. There is a lot going on beneath the surface most whites see. I should note that this is not a blacks vs. whites story; it’s just how it was in the South during Reconstruction. There is good and bad in all in this book.

This is not an easy book to read; there is a lot of human ugliness laid bare. But it was a can’t-put-it-down book for me. Very moving and tense.

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything- from Amazon, they will give me a few cents. 

I received this book free from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a fair review. 

Neither of these things influenced my review.  

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Mercy of the Tide, by Keith Rosson. Meerkat Press, 2017

Dave Dobbs, Nick Hayslip, Sam Finster, and Trina Finster live in the tiny ocean-side Oregon town of Riptide in 1983. The four of them are connected by recent deaths in a two car collision; in that collision, June, who was Dobb’s wife of decades, and Melissa, mother of Sam and Trina and also the adulterous girlfriend of Hayslip, were killed. Each chapter tells the evolving story- and the past- from a different characters point of view. Sam is a senior in high school; his little sister Trina is 9 years old, deaf, and dealing with the death of her mother by concentrating on the news of worsening relations between Russia and the USA and worrying about nuclear annihilation. Dobbs is the head of the police department; Hayslip is one of his officers. Dobbs is dealing with his loss in a pretty normal way; Hayslip is losing it rapidly- in part because no one knew about his relationship with Melissa and he doesn’t want it getting out. Meanwhile, birds are being found torn apart, and Trina has found a human skeleton in the park.

The book is billed as horror, but it’s also an alternate history thriller. You’re given a few clues about the difference in the timeline fairly early on, but you don’t get to find out how different it is until the end. The horror, it seems (and there is a little bit of supernatural horror), is only a lead up to the thriller part. Mainly it’s a story about how different people deal with loss- no two people deal with loss in the same way- and it’s done very well.

Despite the horror element, this book is character driven. The main players are well drawn and deep. I loved young Sam, who paired regular teen punk rocker angst with taking a lot of responsibility on after his mother’s death. I felt so sorry for Sam and Trina’s father, trying to keep the family from falling apart after his wife’s death. While all the characters are flawed, they are all good people, just trying to get through life, even when (especially when) life throws some really weird shit at them. It’s sort of Stephen King meets Ray Bradbury.

The ending was… odd. I’m not sure if this is the start of a series or if that was, indeed, the rather abrupt end. It’s dramatic and stunning, either way. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything- Amazon will give me a few cents. 

I received this book free from the LIbrary Thing Early Reviewers program. 

Neither of these things affected my review.  

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Masked City, by Genevieve Cogman. ROC, 2016

In the second outing of Librarian Irene and her friends in an alternate Victorian London, her apprentice, Kai, (who is a dragon -in human form most of the time), gets kidnapped by a member of the Fae. Irene takes it upon herself to rescue him alone, leaving behind her allies. This involves a visit to Kai’s uncle, a very strong dragon who radiates power so strongly Irene can barely stand up in his presence; a train that is a sentient being who has been enslaved; a Venice that is always in Carnival; and racing against a strict time limit- the Fae who has captured Kai intends to auction him off at midnight. The world is so deep in the chaos realms that dragons, beings of order, cannot function there.

There is nonstop action, many disguises, lots of running, and constant danger. It is a can’t-put-it-down book. I love Irene; she’s smart and talented but not a Mary Sue at all. She needs help sometimes, and is lucky to have some equally smart allies. She uses the Language a lot in this story, which makes me worry a bit. The Language seems to be such a powerful tool that I swear it should make her able to do pretty much anything, which would make it hard to believe that she could be really damaged. I think of it as Superman syndrome – as a little kid I had trouble getting involved in those comics because I knew not much could hurt him, so he was in no real peril. I’m glad there are some limits on the use of the Language, to maintain the tension!

I can’t wait for the next installment in this series! 

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