Posts Tagged contemporary fantasy

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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The Beginners – Rebecca Wolff

Hm.

Stars: Three and three quarters out of five.

Review format: Brief review plus links.
Summary: The chilling, hypnotically beautiful story of a girl whose coming of age is darkened by the secret history of her small New England town. A meticulous and pitch-perfect fever dream of adolescence, reminiscent of Shirley Jackson remixed by Mary Gaitskill.” -Jonathan Lethem, author of The Fortress of Solitude and Chronic City
Theo and Raquel Motherwell are the only newcomers to the sleepy town of Wick in fifteen-year-old Ginger Pritt’s memory. Hampered by a lingering innocence while her best friend, Cherry, grows more and more embroiled with boys, Ginger is instantly attracted to the worldliness and sophistication of this dashing couple. 
But the Motherwells may be more than they seem. As Ginger’s keen imagination takes up the seductive mystery of their past, she also draws closer to her town’s darker history-back to the days of the Salem witch trials-and every new bit of information she thinks she understands leads only to more questions. Who-or what-exactly, are the Motherwells? And what is it they want with her? 
Both a lyrical coming-of-age story and a spine-tingling tale of ghostly menace, The Beginners introduces Rebecca Wolff as an exciting new talent in fiction. (quoted from my library’s description)
Provenance: eBook borrowed from the local library.

The Beginners – Rebecca Wolff:  Reminds me a lot of Jo Walton’s Among Others… and that is a major compliment.

A touch of stephen king, definitely also the lottery

The writing is fabulous.

Opening is great – morbid musings on death make you think something dreadful is pending, and perhaps that someone dreadful is narrating, but then surprise it’s a fifteen-year-old girl pondering deep topics while working at a diner.

Hints of something awful yet-to-com, but nothing overwrought. Fabulously creepy description of ‘the new people’s’ tiny underfurnished house.

Drowned towns.

Voice of narrator – old beyond her years but completely believable.

Linkage, Spoilage, and many Quibbles below

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Lamb – Christopher Moore

The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.

Stars: Four and a half of five.

Review format: One-liner following this header.
Lamb – Christopher Moore. Summary: The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years – except Biff. Ever since the day when he came upon six-year-old Joshua of Nazareth resurrecting lizards in the village square, Levi bar Alphaeus, called “Biff,” had the distinction of being the Messiah’s best bud. That’s why the angel Raziel has resurrected Biff from the dust of Jerusalem and brought him to America to write a new gospel, one that tells the real, untold story. Meanwhile, Raziel will order pizza, watch the WWF on TV, and aspire to become Spider-Man. Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons, and hot babes – whose considerable charms fall to Biff to sample, since Josh is forbidden the pleasures of the flesh. (There are worse things than having a best friend who is chaste and a chick magnet!) And, of course, there is danger at every turn, since a young man struggling to understand his godhood, who is incapable of violence or telling anything less than the truth, is certain to piss some people off. Luckily, Biff is a whiz at lying and cheating – which helps get his divine pal and him out of more than one jam. And while Josh’s great deeds and mission of peace will ultimately change the world, Biff is no slouch himself, blessing humanity with enduring contributions of his own, like sarcasm and cafe latte. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Savior’s pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny. But there’s no one who loves Josh more – except maybe “Maggie,” Mary of Magdala – and Biff isn’t about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight. (from the book jacket)

Hilarious and creative, and surprisingly not undevout.  One of the better Moore books.

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Other reviews   (added by me, not generated)

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