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European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss

The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series by Theodora Goss has quickly become one of my favorites, particularly in audio. In fact, when I finished the second book, the third was still two months away from publication! But I wasn’t ready to leave Goss’s world, and I struggled to settle on another book. Eventually, I went back to the Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan because 1) it is also a Victorian-era tale about the power of women, and 2) it is also narrated by Kate Reading, who is a phenomenal voice performer. But as I write this review, I am counting the days until October 1 when the third book in the series, The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl, is available.

Title: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman
Author: Theodora Goss
Series: Book 02, The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club
Publish Date: July 10, 2018, Simon & Schuester
Genre: Historical fantasy, historical mystery
Narrator: Kate Reading
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionMary Jekyll’s life has been peaceful since she helped Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve the Whitechapel Murders. Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein, and Mary’s sister Diana Hyde have settled into the Jekyll household in London, and although they sometimes quarrel, the members of the Athena Club get along as well as any five young women with very different personalities. At least they can always rely on Mrs. Poole.

But when Mary receives a telegram that Lucinda Van Helsing has been kidnapped, the Athena Club must travel to the Austro-Hungarian Empire to rescue yet another young woman who has been subjected to horrific experimentation. Where is Lucinda, and what has Professor Van Helsing been doing to his daughter? Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, and Justine reach her in time?

Racing against the clock to save Lucinda from certain doom, the Athena Club embarks on a madcap journey across Europe. From Paris to Vienna to Budapest, Mary and her friends must make new allies, face old enemies, and finally confront the fearsome, secretive Alchemical Society. It’s time for these monstrous gentlewomen to overcome the past and create their own destinies.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

In this second installment of adventures, we again see the ladies of the Athena Club come together to save a young woman from the mad “scientific” designs of her father. Only this time, they have to travel to distant lands to do it. Along the way, they put themselves at risk not only to save the girl but to make greater strides in preventing further abuse in the name of science.

The elements I appreciated about the first book in the series are still here—the way this family of women supports one another and the way they are sacrificing to protect others. As a fan of fantasy, literature, history, and culture, I adore all those elements that Goss brings into the story as well—riding the Orient Express, traveling with a Victorian circus, exploring foreign and exotic lands. I am particularly enamored of the coffeehouse in Budapest. I fear I would be as greedy as Diana in that environment, wanting to sample all its flavorful offerings.

The repetition of specific phrases or story elements persists, but I feel it happens less often. It doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story.

Again, I struggle to find new ways to say how much I love this book. I’m already heavily invested in the characters and their world and am finding the wait for the next book, as I’m sure I will find the wait between books three and four, to be excruciating.

Books in this series

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

Imagine the TV show Penny Dreadful, with all of the characters from classic sci-fi and mystery literature, including The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. However, instead of horror, picture it as a late-Victorian-era mystery series with a strong dose of girl power. What you get is the Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series by Theodora Goss. Let me introduce you to the first book in the series.

Title: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter
Author: Theodora Goss
Series: Book 01, The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club
Publish Date: June 20, 2017, Simon & Schuester
Genre: Historical fantasy, historical mystery
Narrator: Kate Reading
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ deaths, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

I find it hardest to review those books I enjoy the most, and so I’m struggling to review this one. I simply love it. I love that all these women come together to form a family. I love that they each have a distinct personality and that they all are so accepting of one another without being too timid about calling one another out. I love how they are all working toward common goals, each in the way that bests uses their talents. I know some of this won’t make sense until you read the book, but the example this book sets for being part of a family, blood-related or not, is a big part of its charm.

Another part I love is how these women are trying to prevent anyone else from being subject to the abuses they have endured. Most of the women in the story have been somehow “created” by their scientifically-minded fathers or keepers. Their primary goal is to prevent other girls from being experimented on or created the way they were. This mirrors much of the activist work we see in women’s groups today, where victims of abuse speak out to prevent others from having to experience the same. I imagine it’s a comment by the author about one of the best qualities we see in women who support each other: We are strong, we survive, and we work hard to protect others.

Being a huge fan of audiobooks, I listened to this book. The narrator, Kate Reading, is amazing. She also narrated the Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan, which I adore. Reading has a large catalog of titles familiar to me, including books by Judy Blume, Jim Butcher, Patricia Cornwell, Sara Donati, Robert Jordan, Sophie Kinsella, Stephanie Meyer, Anne Rice, Brandon Sanderson, V.E. Schwab, and Lauren Willig. She has quickly become one of my favorite narrators, and I will be listening to more of her narration in the future for sure.

However, audiobook listeners may want to download a sample of the ebook or peek at a print book at the bookstore, because the book uses an unusual writing convention, and without the text cues, it may take a bit for the listener to catch on. Essentially, the protagonists of the book, the ladies of the Athena Club, are the ones actually writing the book about their adventures. A character named Catherine is the novelist, and the others insert commentary from time to time. As a result, the book uses both third-person limited and first-person POVs at different points in the story. While it breaks normal convention, it’s done well and is really fun, providing much of the humor in the book.

The only complaint I have, and it’s a minor one, is that bits of the story or even exact phrases are occasionally repeated. Either one of the characters will use the exact phrase they used a few lines ago, or a bit of story will be repeated a couple of times in different places, maybe in the novel text and then the “commentary” text, or maybe in two different places in the story. Those repetitions could be tightened up.

Despite that small complaint, I am in love with this series, particularly in audio. I can’t wait for more adventures with the ladies of the Athena Club.

The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille

From the legendary #1 New York Times bestselling author of Plum Island and Night Fall, Nelson DeMille’s blistering new novel features an exciting new character—US Army combat veteran Daniel “Mac” MacCormick, now a charter boat captain, who is about to set sail on his most dangerous cruise.

Title: The Cuban Affair
Author: Nelson DeMille
Series: Mac MacCormick, 01
Publish Date: September 19, 2019 by Simon & Schuster
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Source: Library

Publisher’s DescriptionDaniel Graham MacCormick—Mac for short—seems to have a pretty good life. At age thirty-five, he’s living in Key West, owner of a forty-two-foot charter fishing boat, The Maine. Mac served five years in the Army as an infantry officer with two tours in Afghanistan. He returned with the Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, scars that don’t tan, and a boat with a big bank loan. Truth be told, Mac’s finances are more than a little shaky.

One day, Mac is sitting in the famous Green Parrot Bar in Key West, contemplating his life, and waiting for Carlos, a hotshot Miami lawyer heavily involved with anti-Castro groups. Carlos wants to hire Mac and The Maine for a ten-day fishing tournament to Cuba at the standard rate, but Mac suspects there is more to this and turns it down. The price then goes up to two million dollars, and Mac agrees to hear the deal, and meet Carlos’s clients—a beautiful Cuban-American woman named Sara Ortega, and a mysterious older Cuban exile, Eduardo Valazquez.

What Mac learns is that there is sixty million American dollars hidden in Cuba by Sara’s grandfather when he fled Castro’s revolution. With the “Cuban Thaw” underway between Havana and Washington, Carlos, Eduardo, and Sara know it’s only a matter of time before someone finds the stash—by accident or on purpose. And Mac knows if he accepts this job, he’ll walk away rich…or not at all.

Brilliantly written, with his signature humor, fascinating authenticity from his research trip to Cuba, and heart-pounding pace, Nelson DeMille is a true master of the genre.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

With the introduction of “Mac” (DeMille’s new main character), I am looking forward to reading more about him. Mac’s personality, which includes the gallows humor of many military veterans, made me laugh out loud, particularly the things he didn’t say, but just thought. I enjoyed the caper that he and Jack, his first mate, went on. DeMille has done a wonderful job introducing the lackadaisical life of a tourist boat captain in Key West, but also the more serious life of the citizens of Cuba. It’s obvious DeMille has done his research, and I am not inclined to sign up for a “goodwill” trip anytime soon.

I also thought the character, Mr. Neville, was particularly tongue-in-cheek and spoke to DeMille’s own ability to poke fun at himself and authors in general. You will enjoy reading about Mr. Neville, a fellow tourist to Cuba, who is researching for a book he is writing. I had to grin though, because there was still a “hot” wife for the fictional, oafish author.

I give this book 4 stars and it will be a great beach read this summer or for a lazy afternoon by the fire this winter.

Other recommendations…

If you liked this book, you might enjoy anything by Carl Hiassen. My favorites have been Double Whammy, Skin Tight, and Native Tongue.

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