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”

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”

Some Girls Bite—Vampires Come Out of the Coffin and Into the Limelight

Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill book cover
Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill

Some Girls Bite, by Chloe Neill, is told from the first-person perspective of Merit, a newly minted vampire. Having been attacked by a rogue vampire and nearly killed, she was saved and changed by Master vampire Ethan Sullivan and now has to contend with a new and unexpected life.

1—Merit

Merit is having a hard time adjusting to her new life as a vampire—she was unimpressed when they came out to the public and shared their existence. Merit doesn’t want to be a vampire, which surprises Ethan Sullivan. She doesn’t want to be attracted to Ethan, who also doesn’t want to be attracted to her, but is. Merit doesn’t want to be kicked out of school, or to have to dress in formal black attire the entire time, or…the list goes on. And to top it off, the day she’s to swear allegiance to Ethan and Cadogan House is coming up fast—and Merit doesn’t know if she’s going to give her oath or become an outcast Rogue for the rest of her very, very long life. Continue reading “Some Girls Bite—Vampires Come Out of the Coffin and Into the Limelight”

Kitty and the Midnight Hour—Werewolves on the Radio

Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn book cover
Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

Kitty and the Midnight Hour, by Carrie Vaughn, is about the titular Kitty Norville, a werewolf who works in radio. She accidentally turns her music show into a talk radio show for the supernatural and it throws her life into chaos.

1—Pack Politics

There’s a lot of politicking going on that Kitty isn’t initially aware of, but it soon threatens her life. The first threat comes in the form of an assassin, whom Kitty talks out of killing her, while staying on the air of course. The next threats come from within the pack. And finally, there’s a werewolf serial killer on the loose, and since Kitty’s alphas won’t do anything about it, she teams up with the aforementioned assassin to stalk the serial killer out herself. Continue reading “Kitty and the Midnight Hour—Werewolves on the Radio”

The 5th Gender—Love and Death Among the Stars

The 5th Gender by G. L. Carriger book cover
The 5th Gender by G. L. Carriger

The 5th Gender, by G. L. Carriger (the pen name Gail Carriger writes under when she does spicy stuff), is a wonderful romance-cozy-mystery-scifi story. The lavender Galoi alien Tristol Zyga and the human security officer Detective Drey Hastion are just starting their courtship when a Galoi spaceship contacts the space station with an odd request—the Galoi, who have no word for murder, have a non-accidental death on board and need of a detective. It’s up to Detective Hastion and Tris—who, as an exile, no longer exists to his people—to find out what happened.

Also, for those of delicate sensibilities, there’s a lot of sex in this book, fully described, male on male.

1—Wonderful Worldbuilding

We get alternating points of view from Tris and Drey, and each’s observations on the other and and how they interact with the people and space station around them forms the basis of some excellent worldbuilding. I love Tris’s take on human customs and idioms. And Drey is always willing to answer Tris’s questions and explain things, as well as ask questions of his own. Between the two of them, we learn a lot about Galoi and humans both. In particular, the Galoi’s five genders and anatomy were interesting to learn about. Continue reading “The 5th Gender—Love and Death Among the Stars”

No Country for Old Gnomes—Unexpected Friends

No Country for Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne book cover
No Country for Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne

No Country for Old Gnomes, by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne, is continuing the Tales of Pell from the first book, Kill the Farmboy. In this book, we follow another group of not-exactly adventurers, this time on a quest to save the Skyr and the gnomes that are being blown up.

1—A New Set of Heroes

It takes a while to gather our heroes and set up the story, but between the puns, the umlauts, and the firebombs, it’s never dull. We begin with Onni and Offi, twin gnome brothers who couldn’t be more different, as their home comes under attack by smelly halflings. We shortly thereafter meet Kirsi, a young gnome woman who’s spent her life hiding the fact that she’s a bristle witch who can only curse people—not very gnomeric. They start out just wanting to get to a refugee shelter alive. Continue reading “No Country for Old Gnomes—Unexpected Friends”