Monday, August 28, 2017

Mondays Need a Good Book: WOLF BY WOLF

Wolf by Wolf (Wolf by Wolf, #1)Blood for Blood (Wolf By Wolf, #2)

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

 I love alternate history. I especially love it when the alternate history makes the perfect world for the story the author wants to tell--sometimes they tend towards a textbook-like rambling about battles and inventions with an incidental story.

This one is heart-breaking and inspiring. I loved the themes of identity, discovery, the aftermath of tragedy, and whether hope is possible in the face of evil. And here's a two-for-one--I liked the sequel, BLOOD FOR BLOOD, even more (the motorcycle racing in the first book isn't really my scene, and I thought the character development in the sequel was phenomenal).

THE VERDICT: Even if you guess the twists, you'll be thrilled to be on the ride.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Caught My Fancy Friday: Solar Eclipse

Image result for solar eclipse 

Monday was the solar eclipse, and it felt like everyone I knew hopped in their car to drive to Wyoming or Nebraska to be in the path of totality. In my town in Colorado, we were at 94% totality . . . and it mostly felt like a cloudy day for an hour or so. I peered at the eclipse through solar glasses, and it was cool, and then I ran errands at SuperTarget.

But! I know folks who left home at 4 am to see it. A photographer I know experimented with lenses and exposures for months before the eclipse to capture the best images possible. Friends pulled kids out of school, took the day off work, found divey hotels in the middle of nowhere, and camped in stranger's fields (with permission). One writing buddy had in-laws who flew from England to see it.

They all cared a lot more than me.

Part of it is that I usually have to be talked into having a good time, but also, I just wasn't that into it. I've been thinking about how eclipse-interest-levels apply in so many areas of life--books, movies, cuisines, hobbies, activities. I love having friends excited about things I'm indifferent to, because it keeps life interesting. And that's the fun of writing different characters, for me--I love diving into heads that are completely unlike mine.

Maybe I'll write an eclipse into my next manuscript, just to see how my characters react to it.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Mondays Need a Good Book: STRANGE THE DREAMER

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.

I loved everything about this book. The characters, particularly Lazlo, are so endearing and complex and GOOD (as in good people, not well-drawn characters). I love rooting for people worth rooting for. The world is absolutely amazing. The story is fascinating and unexpected. I did foresee the two main twists at the end, but I enjoyed the journey to them nonetheless. This had all the wonder and delight of an excellent fantasy.

And Laini Taylor's writing. WOW. Every word she writes is lush--perfectly chosen and immersive.

In all honesty, hold your horses! I thought this was a standalone, and I'm not sure I can wait until the sequel comes out. I'm dying to read it. But if you're more patient than I (not hard), grab it. It's everything I love about fantasy.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Mondays Need a Good Book: BLOOD ROSE REBELLION

Blood Rose Rebellion (Blood Rose Rebellion, #1) 

THE BLURB: Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

THE SCOOP: I adored two things about this book. One was how the author created a magic system and wove it into Victorian British life--so creative and interesting, with a great voice that reminded me of Georgette Heyer's tone (I have NO HIGHER PRAISE).  I also adored the Hungarian setting. It gave dimension to the plot and helped the story take unexpected turns that felt in keeping with the place.

THE VERDICT: Read it fast, fast, fast, before the sequel comes out! Look at all that gold.35386010

Friday, August 11, 2017

Caught My Fancy Friday: Maurice Utrillo's NOTRE DAME

I fell in love with this painting of Notre Dame by Maurice Utrillo. I'd like it in my house. I'd like to be in Paris. The end.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Mondays Need a Good Book: FIRST CLASS MURDER

First Class Murder (Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries, #3) 

THE BLURB:Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are taking a holiday through Europe on the world-famous Orient Express. From the moment the girls step aboard, it's clear that each of their fellow first-class passengers has something to hide. Even more intriguing: rumour has it that there is a spy in their midst.

Then, during dinner, there is a bloodcurdling scream from inside one of the cabins. When the door is broken down, a passenger is found murdered, her stunning ruby necklace gone. But the killer is nowhere to be seen - almost as if they had vanished into thin air.

Daisy and Hazel are faced with their first ever locked-room mystery - and with competition from several other sleuths, who are just as determined to crack the case as they are.

THE SCOOP: I was late discovering this BEYOND CHARMING set of mysteries. An alpha British girl and a quiet girl from Hong Kong form a detective club at their boarding school and solve murders.

This one charmed the socks off me. It takes place on the Orient Express--and the author says it's an homage to Murder on the Orient Express, one of her favorite mysteries--and mine. It's middle grade, which is about the level of gore Agatha Christie used, and about my own comfort level. 

THE VERDICT: A delightful series! My 11-year-old son was desperate to read the others after reading this one.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Caught My Fancy Friday: Aveiro, Portugal's Blue Tile

A few years ago, I tagged along with my baby sister while she gave a paper at an academic conference in Aveiro, Portugal (at a university where students wore robes like Harry Potter!). We learned that Aveiro is called the Venice of Portugal, and I took a cruise on its canals--twice.

Spoiler alert: the canal is short and ends in a salt production facility.

But I really loved the town. Since the buildings are exposed to so much humidity and salt water, many of them are covered in blue tiles. I adore the combo of practicality and drop-dead gorgeousness. Behold!
 Even the inside of its train station used these blue tiles. I love it.

These are the types of details I love writers to include in their fantasy worlds. Not just the products of an amazing imagination, but with a dash of practicality thrown in. That's probably the mom in me! But I think the inhabitants of fantasy worlds probably need to consider humidity and sea air when building their ocean-side cities, too.