Technical difficulties…not all my image files are showing for some reason. I’m working on it (well, I’m trying to get my hosting company to work on it). Some people see all of them, most people seem to be seeing some of them — but which ones vary from person to person (can’t find a connection between image problems and browser or OS). If it seems like I should have a picture somewhere, there probably should be one. Sorry!
She’d been out of prison now almost ten months, had been clean for half a year, but she hardly felt free.
She was thirty-six years old and she had just worked herself into a sweat cleaning a toilet in a diner.
Bad as prison had been, the walls that had kept her in her cell and in the yard had never screamed hopelessness as loud as the barred window in this tiny bathroom.
Letty Dobesh is an ex-con (repeatedly), a (sometimes) recovering addict, a thief, and (biologically) a mom — she wants to reunite with her son, she wants to be a mother — but she doesn’t know how. She does know how to make a mess of her life, ruin her health, get high and steal anything she wants to.
The three novellas collected here give us glimpses in to some of her professional highs — and we see bits of her lows, too.
Her life seemed to be defined by moments like these.
Moments of pure self-hatred.
And this was just one more in a long, long line.
These are fast reads — you get sucked in to Letty’s world, her way of looking at things and you root for her to get away whatever she’s trying to get away with. There’s a story about her trying to save a life, another with her first attempt at becoming an art thief, and then a story about her getting in over her head by working with some criminals who are far more willing to use brawn and guns than Letty’s ever been. Each of these feel different — Letty’s the same, but the settings and the way that Crouch tells the stories vary enough to keep things very fresh.
The other characters that fill these pages (or those that flit across a line or two) are interesting enough to fulfill whatever narrative duty they have to, but these are all about Letty. If you like reading about her, you’ll like this book. If you aren’t interested by her at all after 10 pages or so, you’d better skip the rest.
It wasn’t the first or the second or even the third time she’d had a firearm pointed at her. But she never got used to that gaping black hole. Couldn’t take her eyes off of it. If [spoiler] chose to pull the trigger in this moment, it was the last thing she’d ever see.
This book is being released to coincide with the debut of TNT Network’s series based on these novellas, starring Michelle Dockery, in her attempt to avoid being typecast. I tried not to, but I kept seeing Dockery saying some of these lines. It was easier to avoid thinking of her in the first novella; but in the second it was almost impossible not to — especially when not-Lady-Mary is talking with Johnny. I must say, my mental-Dockery did a great job — those lines are perfect for her (it’s a shame, really, the second novella is the only one not being mined for season 1 of the show). There are supplemental materials included with these novellas discussing the novellas and how elements of them will be used in the show. Those were interesting enough, but I really couldn’t care that much.
I don’t care how the TV show does (easier to say before I watch a second of it), but I’ll gladly read more novellas/novels about Letty. Actually, maybe novella length is best for her kind of story, something about the compressed timeline works well for the high-stakes energy that these are filled with.
Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.
by Faith Hunter
Series: Soulwood, #2eARC, 352 pg.
Read: October 13 – 15, 2016
Weeks after the events of Blood of the Earth, newly-minted PsyLED agent Nell Ingram comes back from the training center, “Spook School,” ready to dive into her new role. It seems she comes back just in time for a case that’s right up her alley — strange and magical things are up, and seem to be tied to land. Something big, something powerful and something no one’s really seen before — which sounds a lot like Nell. So instead of doing the grunt work, the Probie work, she’s in the front of this investigation.
The presence of Brother Ephriam in the Soulwood she lives is also still around and doing something that also seems to be involving the tree on her former Church’s compound. She needs to address this, she knows, but the threats to the general public and local wildlife take priority. She also seems reticent to deal with this problem and confront the actions that led to his presence in the wood, so she’s glad for the distraction posed by her job.
For all the regulations and devices that PsyLED brings to the investigation of magical goings-on, I appreciate how often those things fail to do anything to solve the problem. They’re helpful in guiding the agents, in informing their actions, decisions and conclusions — but it’s not the be all and end all. Throughout the novel, there’s this interesting intermingling of magic and technology that’s done in a way I’ve not really seen before (although, I think it’s what Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant wants, but he’s a long way from getting it).
Nell’s continued obsession with foods that cannot be found at a Farmer’s Market and her growing familiarity with pop culture (particularly movies) continue to be fun — they ground the character as well as provide much-needed comic relief.
I think Nell could be the best new character I’ve read this year. She’s not your typical kick-ass heroine, nor is she the (possibly more) typical damaged-yet-kick-ass heroine. She’s a strong woman, determined, and stubborn. Her strength doesn’t come from her magic powers, her job, or anything else. She’s always been strong, but the circumstances of her life have slowly revealed to both herself and those around her, just how strong she is (from what I gather, the stubbornness and determination have been evident all her life). Which is not to say she’s all strength — she’s a nurturer (not just of her plants), she’s caring, and she’s nowhere near invulnerable (physically or emotionally). She’s also pretty clever and as her education moves beyond the solely autodidactic, we’ll see that demonstrated more and more.
While this series (at least so far) is ultimately about Nell, the characters she’s surrounded by shouldn’t be ignored. In Blood of the Earth, Nell’s embraced by her PsyLED team as part of a family, an intact and nurturing alternative to her blood-relatives. It almost seemed like an idealized replacement, but the events of this novel make it clear that it’s nowhere near ideal. Several members of the team are effected by the events here in ways that will not be able to be glossed over — both as a result of their work on the case and from arcs that carry over from the Jane Yellowrock series. The latter, I found particularly satisfying, while the former intrigue me and I’m eager to see how they play out.
We can’t forget Nell’s literal dysfunctional family, either. However strange and foreign they may seem to us (odd that these humans seem less familiar than the nonhumans in the books), the efforts on their part to restore and repair their relationships with Nell — while she does the same — are encouraging and heartwarming. Her brother, in particular, is fast becoming a favorite. Their new openness to the culture around them and the . . . lack of overt hostility and aggression to the magic and magical beings in Nell’s life is great to see, while they retain much of their religious/cultic faith. I hope there are a few bumps along the path, just to make it more realistic, however.
I almost forgot to talk about Hunter’s writing — it’s as great as ever. I think her use of magic — particularly large-scale workings — in these two books works better than it does in the Yellowrock books. Her characters, settings, dialogue, and other writerly demonstrations make this world rich and real. She’s among the best and most consistent in the UF field these days and I’m eager to get my hands on whatever she’s got coming out next.
I left Blood of the Earth wondering how Hunter could make this into a series –and I’m still wondering how this works long-term, there are only so many things you can do to the earth/plants/trees in an area, right? Can Nell function hundreds of miles (or more) from Soulwood? Is she much use in a skirmish between rival Vampire clans or the like? Sure, she was able to do some damage to the creatures in the first book, but at what cost? While I don’t see how it’d work for a full novel (this is where Hunter proves me wrong), it’d good to see Nell acting in a more supportive role on the team — getting coffee, filing reports, etc. — while the weres take down some monsters, or something. I do see how these books function as a series when it comes to the characters, however — it’s just how to keep the stories/cases interesting that I don’t see long-term, but I’m looking forward to Hunter educating me.
Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Roc via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this. And would’ve received it from Let’s Talk! Promotions, too, if I hadn’t already downloaded it. So I guess I should thank them, too.
Faith Hunter answers questions from the Beast Claws, her Street Team. These questions are directed towards two of the members of Unit 18, Occam and Tandy.
|Q – Occam, what are your intentions towards our Nell?|
|Q – Occam, how do you feel about working with a unique being like Nell?|
|Occam, You seem to have developed a good rapport with Nell. Is it her kind of magic that draws you to her or just her unique personality you find intriguing and irresistible?|
|Q – Tandy, if you could move to Nell’s woods Do you think you would find yourself drawn to Nell, or is just the woods that call you?|
|Q – Tandy, so if it’s Nell’s nature that is drawing you, what kind of dynamic (if any) would develop between you and Mud (the character)?|
Welcome to our Book Tour stop for Curse on the Land. Along with this blurb about the book and author I’ve got a pretty unusual Q & A with the author, Faith Hunter, coming up in an hour or so. She’ll be answering some questions directed towards two of the characters in the novel. And then a little later this morning, I’ll post my 2¢ about the book (assuming I get them finished — I’m running a little late today).
Book Title: Curse on the Land by Faith Hunter
Release date: November 1, 2016
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Length: 352 pages
Before Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she had no one to rely on, finding strength only in her arcane connection to the dark woods around her. But now she has friends in the newly formed PsyLED team to keep her grounded — even if being part of the agency responsible for policing paranormals comes with dangers of its own…
After training at the PsyLED academy, Nell returns home to her woods to find the land feeling sick and restless. And that sickness is spreading. With the help of her team, under the leadership of agent Rick LaFleur, Nell tries to determine the cause. But nothing can prepare them for the evil that awaits: an entity that feeds on death itself. And it wants more….
Faith Hunter, fantasy writer, was born in Louisiana and raised all over the south. She writes three Urban Fantasy series: the Skinwalker series, featuring Jane Yellowrock, a Cherokee skinwalker who hunts rogue vampires. The Soulwood series, featuring earth magic user Nell Ingram. And the Rogue Mage novels, a dark, urban, post-apocalyptic, fantasy series featuring Thorn St. Croix, a stone mage. (There is a role playing game based on the series, ROGUE MAGE.)
Under the pen name Gwen Hunter, she writes action-adventure, mysteries, and thrillers. As Faith and Gwen, she has 30+ books in print in 29 countries.
Hunter writes full-time, tries to keep house, and is a workaholic with a passion for travel, jewelry making, white-water kayaking, and writing. She and her husband love to RV, traveling with their rescued Pomeranians to whitewater rivers all over the Southeast.
There is a tour-wide giveaway for 5 copies of CURSE ON THE LAND, 2 sets of the Soulwood novels (BLOOD OF THE EARTH & CURSE ON THE LAND), and a $25 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Giveaway runs October 17th to November 12th. If you’d like to share, the Rafflecopter code is below.
My thanks to Let’s Talk! Promotions for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.
by Martine Leavitt
Hardcover, 181 pg.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 2015
Read: August 1 – 2, 2016
I realized the doctor was leaving the room, and I was talking out loud to nobody. And that’s why they want to put people on medication.
Calvin is a high school senior on the verge of graduation and a bright future. If only he had the ability to focus. He reaches a breaking point and has a schizophrenic episode, resulting in his hospitalization. His family and doctors seem supportive and caring, and at least one classmate stops by to visit, too, his life-long friend Susie.
Me: . . .You’re you’re part of it.
Susie: Part of what?
Me: Part of what’s happening to me. Didn’t you ever think about, you know, that you’re named Susie, and you’re friends with a
guy named Calvin?
Susie: I always thought my parents didn’t put much imagination into my name–
Me: I was born on the same day that Bill Watterson published his very last comic strip?
Susie: You’ve mentioned that.
Me: My gramps gave me a stuffed tiger called Hobbes I’m hyperactive and pathologically imaginative? And then, even more amazing, a girl lives two doors down and her name is Susie! Maybe once you create an idea and millions of people are loving that idea, when you get brilliance and love all mixed up like that, it makes something that has to go somewhere. It impacts reality, like a meteorite hitting Earth. Bang! I think the universe just couldn’t let Calvin go.
Okay, that’s not necessarily the conclusion that most people would arrive at given the evidence (Suzie, for example, doesn’t buy it) — but there’s something to his logic.
Calvin decides that if Watterson’s creation is what led to his problems, Watterson can fix him. To prove his devotion, he sets out on a pilgrimage that could be fatal, and Susie tags along to try to keep him safe. Hobbes tags along to . . . well, do Hobbes-like things.
This is a story about friendship, young love, the hazards of high school for the psychologically fragile, and about how a psychological diagnosis doesn’t have to determine your life and future. Leavitt writes with a lean, crisp prose that keeps things moving — even while treading emotionally rich territory.
A frequently very funny book, but I felt guilty laughing at this poor, sick kid. It was largely predictable, but satisfying nonetheless. I liked Calvin, Susie and their relationship. A sweet and imaginative tribute to Watterson and his creation.
If you’d asked, I’d have sworn I posted this back in August. I just knew I had. But I just found a half-completed draft in my draft folder and I can’t seem to find it on the blog. Ugh. I’m a horrible person.
by Dustin Renwick
Kindle Edition, 154 pg.
Fleetwing Books, 2016
Read: August 8, 2016
This book is a look at the Nineteenth-Century poet J. P. Irvine — a little bit of a biography, a little sampler of his poems — and then Renwick explores some of what contributed to his disappearance from the cultural consciousness.
That’s a lot for 154 pages to pull off, but Renwick does it.
J. P. Irvine hailed from Illinois, and while he didn’t serve during the Civil War, some of his brothers did — in the same regiment featured in Huelskamp’s Friends of the Wigwam, so I felt like I already knew them. After the war, he bounced around from job to job working in newspapers, as a clerk in Washington D. C. and writing poetry throughout. He was widely published in papers throughout the country, had one collection published (to mostly positive reviews), and even read at a Presidential event.
Yet who’s heard of him? No one. Not even our author until he very accidentally ran into his book.
I’m not the biggest poetry fan in the world, but I know what I like — some of the poems printed here were pretty good, some did nothing for me. But I can see why Irving had a measure of success.
I thought this was a good short read — thought-provoking, interesting and made me think about Nineteenth Century poetry more than I had since my American Literature II class. I’d recommend this for someone needing a different type of read.
Disclaimer: This was provided to me in exchange for my honest take on the the book. My thanks for the book and apologies for the tardiness, Mr. Renwick
by Diana Strenka
Kindle Edition, 199 pg.
Read: October 6 – 7, 2016
Edward Teach had a rough childhood dominated by a harsh, abusive, taskmaster of a father. He eventually grows to manhood, marries and takes over the family estate — as soon as he can, he takes his wife and daughter to the New World and the freshly established colonies.
The focus of this story turns to his daughter, Margaret — and she has a rough crossing of the Atlantic, and doesn’t take to the New World too well. It’s a dramatic time for British settlers — battles with the natives and others disrupt the lives of the Teaches in dramatic fashion, death, injury, and loss of home and income. Margaret’s world is turned upside down several times, the last time when her father starts going to sea for months at a time, only turning up unexpectedly.
She eventually learns that he’s the pirate Blackbeard (not really a spoiler folks, look at the title) and goes to sea with him for a while. Almost none of this part of the novel works — and when it ends, it’s almost a relief.
There’s a plotline about Margaret and her efforts to help free slaves that’s sentimentally nice, but doesn’t seem to ring true and doesn’t really go anywhere.
I have no idea how close any of this novel comes to matching historical data, it has a ring of authenticity augmented by imagination, but I can’t be sure.
Everything almost worked — almost — but I can’t think of anything that actually did. There’s an earnestness to the text that will draw you in and make you root for the author, but that’s really the best I can say.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion. Sorry.