Friday, February 20, 2015

Don't let the cover of this one fool you!

Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle.
The cover illustration would lead one to think that this is a light airy fun story, but it's not. Vivian Apple lives in a future where a corporate religion has taken over America.  The country is split between Believers and Non-Believers (encompassing all other religions as well as atheists). The Church of America was founded by Beaton Frick, based on the bible, but he wrote his own "updated" version called The Book of Frick told to him when Jesus came to him driving a powder blue convertible. The book opens with Vivian coming home to find that her parents, Believers, have been Raptured. All that's left of them are two holes in the roof of their home. Vivian goes to live with her atheist grandparents, but when the country descends into chaos following the disappearance of a few thousand Believers she decides to seek out the truth behind the Church of America.  Fast-paced and dark, with strongly drawn characters, this is a must-read! 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

Image result for in the shadow of blackbirdsThis novel by Cat Winters takes place during two simultaneously occurring tragic events: World War I and the Spanish influenza epidemic. With death surrounding everyone, spiritualism, spirit photography, and seances have become incredibly popular in the United States and Europe. Mary Shelley Black has been sent to live with her aunt after the death of her mother and the arrest and imprisonment of her father who is a pacifist and anti-draft activist.  After the death of her childhood friend and recent love interest Stephen, who enlisted in the army at age 17 and was sent to fight in France, Mary, in her grief, steps out into a thunderstorm and is hit by lightening and dies briefly. Hovering over her body, she is compelled to return to life, but something has changed in her. Never a believer in spirits, she finds she suddenly can communicate with Stephen, who is suffering and believes he is being attacked and tortured by blackbirds. What follows is a desperate search for the truth of what happened to Stephen which includes delving into seances and spirit photography to solve the mystery.
This book can best be described as an historical mystery/fantasy.  Plenty of atmospheric description of seances, and the society which believed in the ability to contact dead spirits, as well as the horror of the influenza epidemic. The terror felt by ordinary people is palpable and descriptions of those who died of the flu that year are not for those with weak stomachs!   Highly recommended!

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

This one is really a mix of genres: lots of historical detail and facts about women's suffrage that I never learned in history classes with some elements of fantasy and horror thrown in.  Olivia feels strongly about women's rights and has attended rallies and demonstrations in support of this cause. Her father, however, strongly believes that women should never be educated, should always be married and should stay in the home cooking and cleaning. So strongly that when hypnotist Henri Reverie comes to town to entertain he hires him to "cure" Olivia of her unfeminine dreams of being more than a housewife and mother.  But he does not realize that Henri does not feel the same way as he does about women. Henri, a male feminist,  proceeds to hypnotize Olivia and instructs her to "see the world as it really is".  With this gift she begins to see "monsters" in what used to be normal average people. What ensues is a battle between Olivia, her father, and uppercrust society's anti-suffragette group, and a budding love story between Olivia and Henri.  
Winters' writing is crisp and flows really well, keeping the story exciting. It's a page-turner for sure!