The Affair of the Mysterious Letter—Mysterious and Weird, As it Should Be

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall book cover
The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter, by Alexis Hall, is a mashup and mixup of Sherlock Holmes fiction and Weird fiction. The reserved expatriate ex-solider John Wyndham takes rooms with the profligate sorceress Shaharazad Haas. Shortly thereafter, one of Ms. Haas’s former lovers comes to her demanding Shaharazad find out who’s blackmailing her.

1—The Mystery

Told in the first person as the reminiscences of John Wyndham, this is the tale of his and Shaharazad’s first adventures together. Miss Eirene Viola comes to Shaharazad believing it to be she who’s sending Eirene notes threatening to expose her past to her fiancé, Miss Cora Beck, thus ending their engagement. When convinced Shharazad has nothing to do with it, Eirene plies her former lover to help. Mostly out of boredom, Shaharazad agrees. Thus does John find himself dragged all over the city of Khelathra-Ven and beyond. Continue reading “The Affair of the Mysterious Letter—Mysterious and Weird, As it Should Be”

The Prince and the Dressmaker—Sweet and Beautiful

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang book cover
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang, is a graphic novel about Prince Sebastian and his dressmaker, a girl named Frances. Together they take the Paris fashion world by storm, with Sebastian secretly going out as Lady Crystallia in the dresses Frances designs. But Sebastian’s secret life is beginning to wear on both Sebastian and Frances, who has her own dreams of becoming a famous designer.

1—A New Job

Frances fulfills a a difficult order for a difficult client attending a ball held for the prince. Frances designs a stunning dress—as in, it stuns the girl’s mother and all of polite society—and gets reamed by her employer for it. But someone at the ball loved the dress and send sends their trusted servant to hire Frances, which she accepts, not knowing who’s hiring her only that it’s got to be better than working for her old boss. Introductions are not what Frances expects, what with her new client covering their face. But due to a bit of clumsiness, Frances’s new employer is revealed to be Prince Sebastian. Frances accepts Sebastian for who he is and and he encourages her art. The two quickly become friends. Continue reading “The Prince and the Dressmaker—Sweet and Beautiful”

Dracula—the Book—A Slow Start but Worth the Effort

Dracula, by Bram Stoker, is a gothic horror novel from 1897, told in epistolary format—that is, as a series of journals, telegrams, letters, and newspaper clippings, etc. It’s the tale of those cursed to have a vampire come after them. It starts with the journal of Jonathan Harker, sent by his employer to the wilds of Eastern Europe to help Count Dracula with legal matters in purchasing property in London, England. Things go spectacularly wrong from there.

(Watch Overly Sarcastic Productions’s summary and commentary on Dracula, it’s great.)

1—Coincidence Upon Coincidence

The first coincidence is that Dracula’s ship crashes into the beach of the town where Jonathan’s fiancé Mina is staying, along with her friend Lucy. The next coincidence is that all Lucy’s would-be fiancés are friends. The chosen fiancé Arthur Holmwood asks Dr. John Seward (I know, Jonathan and John, but it’s not too hard to keep them separate) to look in on a sick Lucy. Seward, not being a medical doctor himself, calls on his old mentor. Seward just happens to have been the favorite student of doctor and metaphysisist Professor Abraham van Helsing, who just so happens to have the knowledge of—and an open enough mind to believe in—vampires. And the initial property Dracula bought, the dilapidated Carfax Abbey, just happens to be behind the sanitarium Seward runs. Also, Seward just happens to take a special interest in a zoophagous patient, Renfield, who just happens to have a connection to Dracula. And all this in the first third of the book. Continue reading “Dracula—the Book—A Slow Start but Worth the Effort”

More Podcasts for Writers

I’m about a quarter of the way through Dracula (the original book by Bram Stoker)—it’s longer than I remembered—and hope to review that next week or the week after. So in the meantime, here’s some more podcasts for writers.

1—I Should Be Writing

I Should Be Writing, a podcast by Mur Lafferty for beginning writers. It consists of Mur’s observations, interviews with other authors, and her own journey as a writer. It’s a clean podcast—no swearing—and only the backlist from episode 264 onward (at time of this writing) is available for free. If you want to go further back than that, you need to subscribe to Mur’s Patreon. But it’s a long running podcast, up to 414 episodes (again, as of this writing), so there’s a lot to sink your teeth into. Continue reading “More Podcasts for Writers”

Reticence—Percy In Love

Reticence by Gail Carriger book cover
Reticence by Gail Carriger

Reticence is the last in the Custard Protocol series by Gail Carriger. A supernatural Steampunk romantic romp about the world, told with all the wit and humor characteristic of Ms. Carriger’s works. The Spotted Custard has hired a lady doctor, in light of all the scuffles the crew gets into, and in light of its lady captain’s delicate condition. Said doctor, a young woman named Arsenic, immediately catches the attention of Percy, the airship’s navigator and resident curmudgeon. Of course, before Percy can figure out how to flirt, the ship is immediately off on another adventure.

1—Adventure!

Percy hates adventure and yet, as a member of the crew of the Spotted Custard, finds himself frequently a party to them. First there’s captain and friend Rue’s wedding to inventor and engineer—and Percy’s intellectual rival—Quesnel. Then off to Egypt to visit Rue’s mother and paw (her other father, Lord Akeldama, walked her down the aisle but due to various complicated reason, Rue’s two other parents couldn’t be there in person), where Rue’s mother has an assignment for them—find out what’s up with the fox-shifters in Japan. So off to the floating Paper City of Edo it is. Continue reading “Reticence—Percy In Love”

Dead Until Dark—The Dead, the Undead, and a Serial Killer

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris book cover
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris, is a paranormal cozy mystery romance. It’s told from the first-person perspective of Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress and mind reader in the little southern town of Bon Temps, and her first encounter with a vampire—who she falls in love with. Of course, said vampire is a suspect in some local murders, as is Sookie’s brother.

1—Sookie

Sookie thinks of her mind reading ability as a disability. It makes it difficult to interact normally with people, difficult to concentrate on anything much more than just keeping other people out of her head. She’s careful not to invade people’s privacy, especially her boss Sam’s. She likes her job as a waitress at Merlotte’s and doesn’t want to have to give it up. So when Bill comes in and she can’t read his mind, Sookie immediately takes to him. Continue reading “Dead Until Dark—The Dead, the Undead, and a Serial Killer”

Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium—Echoes of the Tomb and Caves of Ice

Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium by Sandy Mitchell book cover
Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium by Sandy Mitchell

Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium is an omnibus volume containing the first three Ciaphas Cain books, as well as three short stories. They’re by Sandy Mitchell. Part of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, this is a lighter take on the series that coined the term “Grimdark” —note that it’s still pretty damned bleak, but as these are the private memoirs of the titular Ciaphus Cain, we know at least he survives.

1—Echoes of the Tomb

This is the short story wherein Ciaphas first encounters the necrons. The tech-priests have discovered some archeotech on a deserted, dead planet that somehow has some breathable atmosphere. They shortly discover a strange machine that isn’t as dead as it should be. It’s a creepy little story, and everyone but Cain dies. It also ends rather abruptly, but I’m willing to forgive that in a short story. Continue reading “Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium—Echoes of the Tomb and Caves of Ice”

The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited!—The Adventures Continue

The Adventure Zone-Murder on the Rockport Limited! by Clint McElroy, Griffen McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, and Carey Pietsch book cover
The Adventure Zone-Murder on the Rockport Limited! by Clint McElroy, Griffen McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, and Carey Pietsch

The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited! is a graphic novel by Clint McElroy, Griffen McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, and artist Carey Pietsch, based on the Dungeons and Dragons podcast The Adventure Zone by the McElroy boys. It continues the adventures of Magnus, Merle, and Taako from the first graphic novel adaptation, Here There Be Gerblins.

1—The Continuing Plot

In this outing, we find out the mission of the Bureau of Balance. But before the boys can settle into their new life, they’re called on for a new mission, to the city of Rockport where a BoB agent had found an artifact but was killed before he could return it to the Bureau. So Magnus, Merle, and Taako are tasked with getting to the train the dead BoB agent had hidden the artifact on and getting it before anyone else discovers its existence. Of course, things don’t go as planned, and the boys end up on the train, with a small cast of suspects and (later) some monsters to deal with. Continue reading “The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited!—The Adventures Continue”