Natural Disasters & the Shadow of Night Winner
Thank you everyone who entered my giveaway for the Deborah Harkness ARC. Catherine Thomas was our winner. Congratulations. You should have an email from me asking for your address. There will be more giveaways. I think I’m going to try to have one a month so I hope you’ll all keep checking back.
My year of 100 books is going pretty well. I’m currently reading what will hopefully be #31. I’m a little behind, but I blame that on the play I’m working on. We’re performing this weekend and next weekend. Then I should have some more free time.
The three books I have to talk about today don’t have a whole lot in common.
#25 Royal Streetby Suzanne Johnson
I picked this up because urban fantasy in peri-Katrina New Orleans sounded awesome. It ended up being… ok. Drusilla Jaco is a Warden, something like a supernatural cop. She has a gift with potions and plants, which means she can get the job done, but she’s not quick or showy. No problem for the most part. She works with her mentor, a much more powerful combat mage. They live in New Orleans and work together to keep other mages in line, and keep the supernatural out of the public eye. Then Hurricane Katrina comes rolling through.
DJ, as she prefers to be known, evacuates while her mentor, Gerald, stays behind to try to hold the barriers closed. (I will say, DJ’s evacuation route made me smile since it went through my hometown of Tuscaloosa.) Gerald makes it through the actual storm, but a few days later he stops responding to DJ’s communications. She heads back into the city, using her powers to slip past the National Guard blockades. DJ is lucky. Her house survived the water and the looting. However, the barriers between the modern world and Old Orleans, the world of the spirits did not.
DJ arrived home to a pissed off pirate in her library. She may have banished him once, but it wasn’t personal. However, he’s taking it very personally. She is saved by the abrupt arrival of her new and unwanted partner Alex. Alex has been assigned to help her hold New Orleans together and search for Gerald. He seems to think that a) she can’t take care of herself, b)he should have free access to her home and her investigation, and c) Gerald may have been up to something horrible. The worst part is, she’s not sure he’s wrong.
Ok, so I thought Johnson did a great job of talking about New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. There are some awesome characters like the ghost of Louis Armstrong. But I had some problems. First of all, the pirate, Jean Lafitte; he’s not a nice man, but there’s still some sort of sexual charge there. At various times he tries to kill or assault her. Why is he still on the table as a potential romantic interest?
Next, DJ is very interested in Alex. But she’s also interested in his cousin who is conveniently around and just damaged enough from his time in Iraq to have some bad boy charm. I’m not sure why the romantic angle got so complicated. It really didn’t need to be. DJ’s personal history is complicated enough, her love life could do with a little clarity and ease. The other big problem I had was DJ herself. It’s not that I didn’t find her likeable or sympathetic. I just didn’t find her that memorable. She sort of existed in a very interesting setting, but was not that interesting herself. I may pick up the next book in the series, but I’m not going to be bugging my rep to get it early.
#26 The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
I looked at this book on the shelf for weeks before I finally decided to pick it up on audio. My boyfriend picked it up and then set it down as “too British.” I then thought to myself, ‘Self, you love the British. You’re an anglophile. And it has a secret supernatural organization that fights evil. And it’s got a chess analogy. Go for it.’ I’m very glad I listened to myself because I loved the book.
The basic premise is this: A young woman wakes up in a park in central London. There is a letter in her pocket and on the ground are several dead people all wearing latex gloves. She has had the ever-loving snot kicked out of her. The letter starts off, “The body you are wearing used to be mine.” Well then. She reads on.
Her name, she discovers is Myfanwy Thomas, she has powers, and she holds to position of Rook in an organization called the Checquy. The Checquy is an organization that defends Britain against the supernatural. They are powerful, secret, and not very forgiving of mistakes. Myfanwy has no memory of her previous life, a large purple binder containing letters and vital information left to her by the previous tenant of the body, and fairly convincing proof that someone inside the organization wants her dead. She has two days to put her brand new life into some kind of order and get to work saving the world for Queen and country.
The book is part supernatural thriller and part comedy. The new Myfanwy Thomas is acerbic and very aware of the absurdity of her own existence. The old Myfanwy Thomas was a bit of a mouse. She had amazing powers that she was too afraid to use. The current Myfanwy is willing to use anything to preserve her shiny new life. There is enough humor in the story to keep it from becoming absurd, but enough real tension to keep the reader interested. It definitely seems like something that might be a series and I would very much like to read the next book!
#27 Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
This is another book club book. The story is based on events that occurred in the village of Eyam during the plague of 1666. When plague is found in the village the rector convinces the villagers to seal themselves off from the rest of the world to prevent the further spread of the plague. During the year that the village is cut off the survivors go through wonders and horrors.
The protagonist is Anna Frith. She is the widow of a miner and works as a housemaid for the rector and his wife. In the time before plague comes to the village Anna is very much like any other young mother in the village. She is lucky enough to have a kind husband who leaves her with two sons, a cottage, and a small herd of sheep when he dies in a mining accident. The most unusual thing about her is that the rector’s wife has taught her to read. She and Mrs. Mompellion form a very close friendship during the year the village is quarantined.
The year of the plague tests the villagers to their utmost. As more and more people become sick various waves of hysteria sweep through. There are witch hunts that result in the death of the village’s only healers. Some people turn to flagellation while others turn to the occult for their answers. Anna and Mrs. Mompellion attempt to take up the mantle of healers and research in the rector’s library for medicines that might help.
Anna blossoms into a mature, intelligent woman during the year of hardship. Her faith and her resolve are tested and found strong. I really enjoyed this book. Although, there is a turn at the end that I didn’t see coming. Overall, I was satisfied with where Anna ends up, although I was very surprised by how she got there. Is that vague enough? I do recommend the book. We had a very lively conversation about it in book club. I especially liked it because my very first term paper was on the bubonic plague. So, that was kind of fun for me. I