Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Madness of Angels (Urban Fantasy)

I find the idea of urban magic appealing. It takes what I consider a ho-hum genre, fantasy, and makes it fresh. Part of the fascination is being enticed to look at my everyday world differently. If there were such a thing as magic, where would it be? How would it work?

In A Madness of Angels, Catherine Webb, who uses the pseudonym Kate Griffin for her adult books, takes the reader into the world of urban magic. The story takes place in modern day London. After being dead for two years, Matthew Swift finds himself emerging from a phone line in his old house. He is still himself, a sorcerer, but he is also a we, the electric blue angels, “creatures of left-over life, creatures of surplus feelings whispered into electric energy” in the phone lines. Matthew discovers that almost all of his former colleagues have been murdered. He, as both an I and as a we, sets out to revenge his death, which he attributes to his former mentor. He also sets out to find out who resurrected him.

A Madness of Angels is Kate Griffin’s first adult novel and the first book in the Matthew Swift Series. I had read and loved Stray Souls, the first book in a new Kate Griffin series that is based on the Matthew Swift series. I wanted to know the backstory behind Matthew Swift. From that perspective, I was disappointed. A Madness of Angels is not nearly as fun as Stray Souls. But, as a first adult book from a young adult novelist, the more serious tone makes sense. I enjoyed the description of the magic. Matthew Swift is an interesting character. I am also very curious to know how, or if, Madness of Angels evolved into Stray Souls. I’m at least up for one more book in this four book series.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Way West (Pulitzer Winning Novel)

Again he felt greatness, smallness and greatness both among such wild riches. And, seeing the (wagon) train winding behind him, he thought with pride of it, of the onwardness of its people, of their stubborn, unthought-out yondering. 
The Way West by A. B. Gutherie helps bring the time of the Oregon Trail to life. This 1950 Pulitzer winning novel follows a wagon trail from Independence Missouri to Oregon. It gives the readers glimpses of what this experience must have been like for these pioneers: the hardships, the dangers, the beauty, and, yes, the conflicts.

I was especially touched by how women endured the trail. They left their homes, where they had a certain amount of security, for a life of hardship. Not only did they have to do most of the chores that they had done in Missouri, without the “conveniences” of a house, but they also had to help with the wagons. Many of them were pregnant. A wandering child could easily meet with death. In one poignant scene, Gutherie describes the worn hands of a woman who had once done fine needlework.

I sometimes forget how hard won this Atlantic to Pacific coast United States is. I often think of the military, but I seldom think of all the pioneers. This book helped me to feel grateful for their sacrifices.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Women of Genre Reading Challenge

Cue the confetti throwing trolls. I completed the Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge!! This year’s challenge was relatively easy: read twelve books by women authors whose stories I had never read before. The books had to be from one of the genres represented on the Worlds Without End website: science fiction, fantasy and horror. The challenge gave me an opportunity to sample some Young Adult books. I was also surprised to find that I actually like some horror stories.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Stray Souls (Urban Fiction)

“The spirits of the city are missing and it’s not natural and it’s not evolution and it’s not right…” 
A Shaman-in-Training tasked to save the City. An Apprentice Druid with psychosomatic allergies. An Obsessive Compulsive Vampire. The High-priestess of The Friendlies. A Banshee with a penchant for modern art. A Giant, Flesh-Ripping Doggie. A Goblin who is the Second Greatest Shaman Ever.

Stray Souls by Kate Griffin is a fun, fun twist on the Urban Fantasy novel. Griffin mixes together quirky characters, support group principles and customs, a compelling assignment, and a healthy dose of fantasy to create a novel that made me laugh a lot.

Sharon Lu’s mantra is “I am beautiful. I am wonderful. I have a secret. The secret is…” Part of the secret is that she occasionally walks through walls. She takes the initiative and, with the help of Facebook, starts a support group called Magicals Anonymous. Think church basement and good snacks. Her leadership skills bring her to the attention of the mysterious Midnight Mayor. He recognizes that she is a burgeoning shaman and gives her the task of saving the City. It turns out that someone is stealing the souls of places in the city. A large, supernatural dog is ripping people to shreds. And, Greydawn is missing. She is the presence that accompanies people in the early morning and lets them know that they are not alone in the City. The Midnight Mayor connects Sharon with a teacher, a great shaman who has some major issues. Sharon also finds her spirit guide, who sounds a lot like a game show announcer. Sharon, along with her newly found tribe, work together to “Save the City.”

While Stray Souls is a fun romp, it is also a well crafted novel. Despite being supernatural, the characters are likeable and believable. Griffin is spot on when she describes the feeling of being alone at 4:30 in the morning, the time when Greydawn is present. To me that is soul stuff, something deeper than I would expect from a fantasy novel. Sharon’s upbeat, take charge manner reminds me of the personality that so many of us have adapted at times, particularly those of us who have dealt with the public on a regular basis. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.