Catherynne M. Valente – The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There – (Feiwel and Friends, New York, 2012)
September, the little girl from Nebraska, returns to her much-longed-for Fairyland, where surprisingly, things have not returned to their wondrous “normal” after the vanquishing of the evil Marquess. Instead, a new threat has arisen, and to combat it, September must descend below the topside of the world and try to right the land of shadows. As in the first novel, the cast of Fairy characters is spectacular, the worlds are vividly imagined, and the prose is absolutely delectable – but I felt the ending was a tad rushed and tidy. I’m expecting things are not what they seem and the third book will throw a wrench in the neatness of it all….
Lady Cop Makes Trouble – Amy Stewart (2016, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, New York)
If you remember me burbling with excitement over the first book in this series, Girl Waits With Gun, then it probably won’t come as any surprise that I liked Lady Cop Makes Troubleeven more. This fictionalized story of the unconventional Constance Kopp, who in real life was one of the first female police officers in the United States, picks up where the first novel leaves off, with the newly-deputized Constance doing her best to help keep Bergen County safe from unsavoury elements (when she’s not looking after her quirky family, that is). All hell breaks loose when Constance makes a mistake while keeping custody of a high-profile criminal and she knows she must take drastic action or risk losing her job and harming the livelihood of her boss, Sheriff Heath. This book is less constrained by real events as the first book was, which may or may not matter to readers (it didn’t, to me – storytelling is storytelling and this is a fine example of what you can do with the spark of historical fact if you totally run with it). Careful, detailed character development and moments of poignant emotion and humour make this a real gem.
Gwendy’s Button Box – Stephen King and Richard Chizmar – 2017 Cemetery Dance Publications, Maryland
Packed into this compact novella is a coming-of-age story about fate, destiny, and choice – themes Stephen King has explored in the past with similar sensitivity and outrageous aplomb (usually both at once). When twelve-year-old Gwendy meets a stranger who gives her an astonishing gift, her life – and the lives of others around her – change in irrecoverable ways. Going through adolescence is difficult enough…but then there’s the button box to contend with. This entertaining read is familiar territory for King fans: alternately humorous, nostalgic, and suspenseful. I’m not sure which parts Richard Chizmar worked on, but I’m intrigued enough to check out some of his short story collections. (His latest as of this post is called A Long December).
“Book Review August and Possibly Part of September” doesn’t really have a zippy ring, but here goes…. I should note that all of the books I’m going to post about over the next few weeks have been read in the past year and a half, and there is quite a eclectic jumble of genres, audiences, etc.. If you’ve been following Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll already know that my reading tastes are pretty wide-ranging. I hope there will be something here that will pique your interest!
The 2016 Long Lunch/Quick Reads Anthology – Edited by Lisa Murphy-Lamb, Paul DiStefano, and Doug Neilson (2016, Loft on Eighth Calgary)
This collection of twelve stories and poems from both established and new Calgary writers is a delicious treat (pun intended!), a showcase of talent born out of the Loft 112 Creative Hive, a local writer’s group. Put on your walking shoes and explore the city of Calgary, from the hidden spaces of the Calgary Stampede and the end of childhood, to a park bench by the cancer clinic, a suddenly crowded lane in a swimming pool, and the foot of a graffiti-scrawled underpass downtown. It’s all a bit gritty, unsettling, and heart-wrenching – you’ll see. Standouts (for me): Doug Neilson’s devastating “Hymenoptera,” “At This Confluence,” the eloquent, elegant series of poems by Jessica Magonet, and poet Diane Guichon’s urban snapshots, “Sidewalk Litanies.”
Kerry Greenwood – Murder on the Ballarat Train (2007, Poisoned Pen Press, Arizona)
When a fellow passenger is murdered and nearly everyone else is poisoned while on a train voyage, Phryne Fisher doesn’t hesitate to take on the case with her usual smarts, skill, and style. In between tracking down suspects, Phryne manages to seduce a member of the local rowing club and attempts to suss out the mysterious appearance of a traumatized, amnesiac young girl – who may or may not be connected to the murder on the train. With this, the third installment in the series, Greenwood shows more polish than the first two books, as Phryne and her supporting cast become a bit less caricature and take on fuller lives. An entertaining, quick read!
Eoin Colfer – Plugged (2011, The Overlook Press, New York)
This over-the-top, darkly comedic and (at times) savagely raunchy novel from Eoin Colfer (yes, that’s the same guy that wrote the famous YA series, Artemis Fowl) is not for everyone. If you can stomach it, however, it’s pretty fun and entertaining, even while you’re shaking your head in disbelief. After his girlfriend is murdered, Daniel McEvoy, an Irish ex-military officer turned bouncer in a rundown New Jersey nightclub finds himself embroiled in a deadly plot involving plenty of drugs, dead bodies, weird sexual exploits…and hair transplants. It’s as bizarre and unhinged as it sounds. The voice of McEvoy is the best part of the book – first person narratives don’t always work, but this is a character who can be as self-deprecating, witty, and hilarious as he is tortured and complex. I enjoyed that. There is a sequel, Screwed, but I’m in no hurry to read it…too much of this kind of crazy could prove hard on the brain (and the digestive tract).
James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge – Zoo (2012, Little, Brown and Company, New York)
All of the animals on the planet Earth have suddenly and inexplicably turned into bloodthirsty monsters out for human flesh in this fast, furrious (see what I did there?), and frequently gratuitously gory read from James Patterson. This is actually the first Patterson book I’ve read (he has about a trillion titles so I don’t know how I managed to miss him so far) and I admit, I chose it because the plotline reminded me of something Michael Crichton would have come up with. The story is largely formulaic, which I anticipated: we have our wisecracking, slightly irritating (first person) narrator-hero, Jackson Oz, a young biologist possessing a simultaneous lack of credibility and insight no one else seems to possess…that is, until he rescues beautiful ecologist Chloe Tousignant in Africa and the two band together to try to warn mankind. When things go very, very sideways, it’s up to Oz to try to save the world. The conclusion might be disappointing to some, but offers an interesting commentary on our high-tech society. Zoo is an easy, quick read and reasonably entertaining, as long as your expectations are not too high.
There is, of course, a television show based on this book, and no, I haven’t had a chance to watch any episodes yet. (If you have and you enjoy it – or if you can’t stand it! – let me know in the comments).