And Blue Skies from Pain – Stina Leicht

Astounding and near-perfect.

Stars: Four and a half of five.

Review format: Comment plus links.
Summary:  It’s November of 1977: The punk rock movement is a year old and the brutal thirty-year war referred to as “The Troubles” is escalating.
According to Irish tradition, the month of November is a time for remembrance of the dead. Liam Kelly, in particular, wishes it were otherwise. Born a Catholic in Londonderry/Derry, Northern Ireland, Liam, a former wheelman for the Provisional IRA, is only half mortal. His father is Bran, a púca—a shape-shifting ghostlike creature—and a member of the ancient Fíanna.
Liam must dodge both the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who want him for the car bombing that killed Constable Haddock, and the Provisional IRA, who want him for the deaths of Éamon Walsh and several others found ripped apart in a burned down farmhouse in Armagh. Fortunately for Liam, both the Ulster Constabulary and the Provisional IRA think he’s dead.
On the other hand, the Militis Dei—a group of Roman Catholic priest-assassins, whose sole purpose is to dispose of fallen angels and demons found living on this earth—is very aware that Liam is alive, and very aware of his preternatural parentage. With the help of his unlikely ally Father Murray—a Militis Dei operative who has known Liam since childhood—he must convince the Church that he and his fey brethren aren’t demonic in origin, and aren’t allied with The Fallen.
The clash between The Fallen and The Fey intensifies against the backdrop of the Irish/English conflicts in And Blue Skies from Pain, Stina Leicht’s follow up to her critically acclaimed debut, Of Blood and Honey.  (from the publisher’s website)
Provenance: Baen Online Store… 
Date Read: June 2012 

I recently purchased and read two books by Stina Leicht, and they are awesome. The first book is Of Blood and Honey and its sequel is And Blue Skies from Pain. These books follow a young man in early-seventies Northern Ireland whose life is complicated by:

  • poverty
  • imprisonment
  • only able to get a job with IRA fronted cab company
  • tendency to shape-shift in stressful situations
  • political girlfriend
  • near-illiteracy
  • absent father – was he Protestant? Black? Indian? Not… English?! No, just Fae.

These two books are the best books I’ve read in quite a while. Makes it difficult to find a next book worth reading. Go read Red’s review of these books for more persuasive details of their excellence.

For me, these two books both evoke many of the same feelings that Jo Walton’s wonderful Among Others did. Since she just brought home a Nebula award for her novel, this is a very positive comparison.

Links and others’ reviews

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Carousel Tides – Sharon Lee

Enjoyed my visit to Archer Beach.

Stars: Four out of five.

Review format: Note plus links.
Summary: Kate Archer left home years ago, swearing that she would die before she returned to Maine. As plans go, it was a pretty good one — simple and straightforward.
Not quite fast enough, though.
Before she can quite manage the dying part, Kate gets notice that her grandmother is missing, leaving the carousel that is the family business untended.
And in Archers Beach, that means ‘way more trouble than just a foreclosure.. 
(quoted from publisher site)
Provenance: purchased from baen after enjoying free sample chapters.

Good book, go read it.  I would love to read more by this author and especially in this world with these characters.

Very good evocation of small resort-town Maine, and the difficulties of an unwanted family heritage. I would love to read the backstory of Kate’s life as a programmer… was magic at all a part of her life ‘out there’?

Oh yes, and one more thing. I found this cover off-putting: owned the book for a year before reading it. The cover you see here looks very… hmm… wispy-ethereal-gothic – and I don’t like all that swooning.  But in fact the book is quite gritty and down-to-earth. So, don’t pre-judge the book by this cover. 🙂

Linkage, some Spoilage below

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Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami (DNF)

Norwegian Wood is beautifully written – a recollection by a man about the woman he loved and lost. I was trying to read it on a plane – during a business trip – and it was requiring too many brain-cells to process.

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Pack of Lies – Laura Anne Gilman

Pack of Lies - Laura Anne GilmanJoin the Puppy Pack.

Stars: Three and a half of five.

Review format: Brief note.
Summary: Sequel to an earlier book Hard Magic, Pack of Lies follows Bonita (Bonnie) Torres in her extrasensory sleuthing along with co-workers in PUPI. PUPI stands for Private Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations.   They look into crimes involving Talented humans or fatae (fae). 
From goodreads: My name is Bonita Torres, and eight months ago I was an unemployed college graduate without a plan. Now I’m an investigator with the Private Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations team of New York. Pretty awesome, right?
The Cosa Nostradamus, the magical community, isn’t quick to give up its secrets, though. Not even to fellow members. Not even when it’s in their best interests. So we’ve been busting our tails, perfecting our forensic skills, working to gain acceptance. The team’s tight… but we have our quirks, too. And our Big Dog, Benjamin Venec…well, he’s a special case, all right.
But we can’t give up. We’re needed, especially when a case comes along that threatens to pit human against fatae. But one wrong move could cost us everything we’ve worked for…. 
Provenance: Borrowed the e-book from my local library and read it on my iPhone.
Date Read: Early May 2012. 

Well, hello again blogging world. I thought that this book was interesting enough to warrant breaking the long blog silence… because it’s the first I’ve read by this author, and I did enjoy it. I’ll want to look for others by her.

As a second book (I’m guessing it’s going to be a series) – there were many references to what’d happened before in the founding of this pack of ‘puppies’.  In this case, the extra backstory made me a little slower to build momentum in reading. But eventually I got pulled in by the investigation, and by the likable descriptions of the young investigators.

The plot engine was based on an attack on a ki-rin’s companion and immediate retaliation by the ki-rin… ki-rin being a Japanese magic creature similar to a unicorn in that it has one horn and pairs with a ‘pure’ human.

Sparks (both romantically figurative and paranormal) start to fly between Bonnie and her boss Ben Venec. That was nicely described and helped to round out the story beyond just the who-and-why-dunnit murder mystery.

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