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The Mermaid by Christina Henry

Christina Henry continues her series of fairytale-inspired retellings with The Mermaid, the grown-up version of The Little Mermaid for cynical adults.

Title: The Mermaid
Author: Christina Henry
Publish Date: June 19th, 2018 by Berkley
Genre: Historical fantasy
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionOnce there was a mermaid who longed to know of more than her ocean home and her people. One day a fisherman trapped her in his net but couldn’t bear to keep her. But his eyes were lonely and caught her more surely than the net, and so she evoked a magic that allowed her to walk upon the shore. The mermaid, Amelia, became his wife, and they lived on a cliff above the ocean for ever so many years, until one day the fisherman rowed out to sea and did not return.

P. T. Barnum was looking for marvelous attractions for his American Museum, and he’d heard a rumor of a mermaid who lived on a cliff by the sea. He wanted to make his fortune, and an attraction like Amelia was just the ticket.

Amelia agreed to play the mermaid for Barnum, and she believes she can leave any time she likes. But Barnum has never given up a money-making scheme in his life, and he’s determined to hold on to his mermaid.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

The Mermaid is a grittier, and probably more accurate, tale of the famous P.T. Barnum than The Greatest Showman, though he isn’t the main protagonist. The central character is Amelia, a mermaid whose curiosity drove her to land. The first part of her life on land is somewhat idyllic. But the later part is full of heartache.

I am absolutely in love with Henry’s retellings of Alice in Wonderland (Alice and The Red Queen). So I expected a lot from The Mermaid. But, while it was a good story and a great audio performance, the story wasn’t quite as dazzling for me. Amelia, the mermaid, gets screwed over by men, and is even somewhat complicit in her own screwing over, though she finds her own strength in the end. I think it’s just not quite as novel a story as Alice — a woman getting screwed over by men is an all-too-familiar story these days.

In Alice, I also enjoyed seeing all the elements of the original story that Henry reinterpreted in her grittier version. That part was missing in The Mermaid, though not through any fault of Henry’s. I haven’t read the original H.C. Anderson version of The Little Mermaid, so if there were reinterpretations, I wasn’t aware of them. But I suspect there aren’t as many quirky characters and images as in Carroll’s tale.

Despite those subjective observations, there is nothing bad about the book. The story is well-written and interesting. The characters are believable and sympathetic. I’d recommend it to fans of The Greatest Showman who want a better taste of what P.T. Barnum was really like.

Little by Edward Carey

A mix of very quirky characters and a superbly innocent voice make Little an intriguing look at a famous, yet little-known, historical figure.

Title: Little
Author: Edward Carey
Publish Date: October 23rd, 2018 by Riverhead Books
Genre: Historical fiction
Narrator: Jayne Entwistle
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionThe wry, macabre, unforgettable tale of an ambitious orphan in Revolutionary Paris, befriended by royalty and radicals, who transforms herself into the legendary Madame Tussaud.

In 1761, a tiny, odd-looking girl named Marie is born in a village in Switzerland. After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to an eccentric wax sculptor and whisked off to the seamy streets of Paris, where they meet a domineering widow and her quiet, pale son. Together, they convert an abandoned monkey house into an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation. As word of her artistic talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors a princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth. But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and . . . at the wax museum, heads are what they do.

In the tradition of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Edward Carey’s Little is a darkly endearing cavalcade of a novel–a story of art, class, determination, and how we hold on to what we love.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

A while ago, Agent Annie suggested I might like the book Little, a fictional-yet-apparently-accurate-in-facts history of Madame Tussaud, of wax museum fame. Her recommendation was spot on. Little, particularly the audio version, is spectacular!

We meet Marie, who will eventually become Madame Tussaud, as a small child in Switzerland whose family is struggling after her father sustains a serious injury in the military. After her father’s death, her mother becomes housekeeper to a professor and then dies, leaving Marie to be buffeted on the winds of fate for the majority of her remaining life.

There are a couple of things I find fascinating about how this story is written. First, the tone of the story is so quirky-gothic. It feels similar to, though weightier than, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Addams Family, or the card game Gloom. Every character has some eccentric, quirky feature, such as the professor who is in love with bones, the Paris historian who never takes off his shoes, Marie’s childhood friend who comes to believe he is a dresser’s dummy, or the street urchin who behaves like the stray dogs who raised him. The eccentricities of each character are fascinating and the quirky tone of the story is very compelling, assuming quirky and dark is your thing. From a historical perspective, this tone also does a great job of characterizing the experience of the common citizen caught up in the craziness of the French Revolution.

Second, Marie’s voice, which we first hear as a child, retains that same child-like, innocent quality for the whole book. Not only her “voice,” as in a writing style, but also her literal voice, provided by narrator Jayne Entwistle, is absolutely perfect for the character and tone of the book. Particularly toward the end of the book, the reader witnesses Marie mature into an adult in terms of her actions and decisions, but her “voice” continues to be that of an innocent child, caught up in the machinations of fate, war, and people who have more power than she does.

This is a book I will listen to again, probably more than once. There is a lot to digest in terms of history and the way the writing style is both fun and yet layered to communicate the dynamics of power and absurdity of war and politics. It’s a brilliant piece of work, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Lipstick Voodoo by Kristi Charish

Kincaid Strange is back.  She’s made a deal with the devil (or is he?) and her best friend is a zombie.  How could things get any “Stranger?”

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Title:  Lipstick Voodoo
Author:  Kristi Charish
Series:  Kincaid Strange #2
Publish Date:  January 8, 2019, by Penguin Random House
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
NarratorSusannah Jones
Source:  Author provided ARC/audiobook purchased

Publisher’s Description: Kincaid Strange, not your average voodoo practitioner, is back in the freshly imagined and hugely entertaining second installment of Kristi Charish’s urban fantasy series.

Kincaid Strange cannot catch a break. After dealing with a spate of paranormal murders, there’s barely time to recuperate—let alone sleep in—before there’s a new problem in Kincaid’s world of paranormal activity. When her roommate, Nathan Cade—the ghost of a grunge-rocker with a pathological lack of self-control—comes home bound to a dead body, it’s up to Kincaid to figure out how to free him, ideally before her new mentor, Gideon, a powerful sorcerer’s ghost, discovers that Nate is trapped in the body he’d coveted for himself.

When Aaron, a Seattle cop on the afterlife beat—and Kincaid’s ex—calls her in to help out with a cold case, she takes the chance to mend fences with the police department. The problem: they want to interview Nate’s ghost, which she can’t produce. Then people from Nate’s past start showing up dead, and what’s killing them doesn’t seem to be human. And the way it’s killing them is especially brutal.

Nate’s hiding something, but he’s Kincaid’s friend and she wants to help him. But she also wants to stay alive…

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In other words …SPOILERS. *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says…

The reason I butted heads with most women?  There is only so much I’m able to feed into the circle of bullshit. I think it is disruptive, not for Sarah and Lee—I figure they’re more like me in that regard—but for the ones who rely on group validation. Those kinds of friendships require an awful lot of bullshit, and people don’t like other people pointing out their bullshit, especially when that person ends up being me.

This is a book with zombies, ghosts, and a whole lot of Otherside. There is no graphic gore, no sex, and a conclusion to the book that is satisfying. It was a good ending—not “happy,” but a good, satisfying ending.

I love Kristi Charish’s writing. She first caught me with Kincaid Strange and then encouraged me with Adventures of Owl series. Now, I’m back into Kincaid’s world. I am not hard to please as a reader. If I’m entertained and the writing took me on a ride, then I’m happy. I’m over the moon with this book. I forgot how much I missed Kincaid and Nathan.

What a mess they have found themselves. Nathan is bound in a body making him an accidental zombie. The body was supposed to go to a centuries-old sorcerer’s ghost so he could make himself a zombie. Crap. Tick off a sorcerer and Kincaid might as well write off her right to life.

That’s just the beginning. Yes, that’s right. Just the beginning. Kincaid is out of work because of the police captain’s penchant for non-believing. He is making it his personal goal to wreak havoc on Kincaid’s life because he believes she is fake.

So, lets count it off. 1. Kincaid is in debt with a seriously deranged and evil sorcerer’s ghost. 2. Said ghost is gonna want his debt paid whether it be by her life or whatever he deems. 3. She hasn’t told said ghost that her best friend “accidentally” inhabits the body that was supposed to go to said ghost, which may or may not cause him a gigantic psychopathic break which could result in everybody getting dead. 4. Kincaid has to pay the bills, so she takes on a cold case on the possible promise of a job in the future. 5. The cold case is really quite hot. Oh crap. Kincaid has a LOT on her plate.

I loved this book. It kept me in suspense with no guessing how things would turn out. The situation Kincaid was in just kept getting messier and messier until all of a sudden it became clear. Charish’s narration from Kincaid’s point of view was great. I felt like I was sitting right there with Kincaid as she went through the ups and downs. The race was a close one. Too close to call but this book was a blockbuster for sure. 5 stars all day and all night. Good book – you won’t be disappointed.

Oh, and head’s up:  Voodoo Shanghai, Kincaid Strange #3, will be out next year, same time, same station.  Can’t wait!!

Invested Ivana says…

Lipstick Voodo is as much of an enjoyably wild ride as it’s predecessor! The mystery is so well-crafted in both of the books, and the characters are relatable and likable. The sorcerer’s character defied expectations by being more rational and likable than I expected after the first book–which makes me wonder if he’s putting on an act. I guess we’ll see in future books.

The first scene in the book, which depicts an ordinary job for zombie-whisperer Kincaid Strange, is very well written and touching. It gives the reader a good sense of Kincaid’s relationship with the dead as well as what her typical work is like. This contrasts wildly with the extraordinary experiences that serve as the main plot of the book.

The Kincaid Strange series is an excellent example of urban fantasy at its finest, and I can’t wait to see what further adventures await.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

…you might try The Adventures of Owl by Kristi Charish or Eric Carter series by Stephen Blackmoore.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

 

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Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire

After twelve books, or sooner, many series start losing steam or going off in bizarre directions that make readers lose interest. But while reading the latest October Daye tale, I kept thinking that, even though the major plot event was superficially the same as in a previous book, McGuire has a way of building tale upon tale so that every installment is new, fresh, exciting, and leaves me sad the next book is a year away.

Title: Night and Silence
Author: Seanan McGuire
Series: October Daye
Publish Date: September 4th, 2018, by DAW
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionThings are not okay.

In the aftermath of Amandine’s latest betrayal, October “Toby” Daye’s fragile self-made family is on the verge of coming apart at the seams. Jazz can’t sleep, Sylvester doesn’t want to see her, and worst of all, Tybalt has withdrawn from her entirely, retreating into the Court of Cats as he tries to recover from his abduction. Toby is floundering, unable to help the people she loves most heal. She needs a distraction. She needs a quest.

What she doesn’t need is the abduction of her estranged human daughter, Gillian. What she doesn’t need is to be accused of kidnapping her own child by her ex-boyfriend and his new wife, who seems to be harboring secrets of her own. There’s no question of whether she’ll take the case. The only question is whether she’s emotionally prepared to survive it.

Signs of Faerie’s involvement are everywhere, and it’s going to take all Toby’s nerve and all her allies to get her through this web of old secrets, older hatreds, and new deceits. If she can’t find Gillian before time runs out, her own child will pay the price. One question remains:

Who in Faerie remembered Gillian existed? And what do they stand to gain? No matter how this ends, Toby’s life will never be the same.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

The best series in book, television, movie, or game form are more than just a string of individual adventures. Each installment builds on the previous one, expanding the world, deepening our understanding of and investment in it, and dealing with the consequences of our characters’ previous actions.

The October Day series is one of the best examples of this type of series. Each book brings us new characters (without ignoring the characters we already know and love), reveals more history, and uncovers more secrets. It’s like the “fog of war” in a video game, but instead of revealing the map, it’s revealing history—history that is connected to actions, characters, and events in previous books.

I kept returning to that thought as I read Night and Silence—at how amazing it is that McGuire keeps calling on what we know of the history of October’s world and experience to inform what happens in each book. And how it never feels old or stale to me. It feels like a natural progression.

Occasionally, a seemingly-random piece of new information is introduced, such as Gillian’s step-mother’s history. But it fits so well into the world that you wonder just how random it is, or if the author planned for it all along. Those are the big surprises that can throw the plot into completely new directions and open up a whole new “can of worms” and the potential for new stories.

I’m very excited by the potential future stories made possible by the end of Night and Silence. We’ll get to see a whole new side of October and invest in a completely new character. I also feel like we’re witnessing the emergence of a “new generation” (in a manner of speaking) of influential persons in Faerie that might be leading toward major societal changes.

Or I could be projecting my own hopes for our world onto October’s.

In any case, Night and Silence is yet another fabulous installment in the October Daye series that pulls on history and consequence to keep me interested and invested. 5 stars.

Other recommendations…

The October Daye series is certainly in the top tier of urban fantasy, along with the Dresden Files, the Iron Druid Chronicles, the Mercy Thompson series, the Otherworld series, the Hollows series, and the Novels of the Others. If you haven’t read any of these series, I’d suggest you do so at the first opportunity.

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