Friday, May 22, 2015

Gate of Angels

Cover image for The Gate of Angels by Penelope Fitzgerald, 167 pages

This short novel tells the story of Cambridge physics professor Fred Fairly, who unexpectedly wakes up in bed next to poor nursing student Daisy Saunders after a serendipitous bicycle accident knocks them both unconscious.  Fred's fellowship at the College of St Angelicus requires celibacy.  Daisy's past holds secrets that, in 1912, might make her unmarriageable.  As developments in atomic theory seem to suggest, however, there may be forces that are unobservable, which can overcome any resistance.

Fitzgerald moves the story along briskly, giving tastes of scholarly eccentricity, faculty politics, ghost stories, and mystery without letting them dominate the novel.  Some might find this endearing, others exasperating.  This is the kind of novel where the end comes suddenly, though it does not feel hurried.  Not a great book, but enjoyable enough.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Shadow Scale

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
596 Pages

The sequel to Seraphina has the main character traveling throughout the land trying to enlist other like her who are half dragon, half human or ityasaari.  However her efforts are being stymied by Jannoula, another half-breed who is able to control the minds of the ityasaari.  Seraphina must find a way to defeat Jannoula and save her Uncle Orma from being brainwiped. 

A satisfying sequel but you aren't sure it is going to wrap up until the last 50 pages.

Forgotten Girls

The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel
312 Pages

 "The body of an unidentified woman was discovered in a local forest. A large, unique scar on one side of her face should have made the identification easy, but nobody has reported her missing. As the new commander of the Missing Persons Department, Louise risks involving the media by releasing a photo of the victim, hoping to find someone who knew her. Louise's gamble pays off: an older woman phones to say that she recognizes the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago. Lisemette, like the other children in the institution, was abandoned by her family and branded a "forgotten girl." But Louise soon discovers something more disturbing: Lisemette had a twin, and both girls were issued death certificates more than thirty years ago. Aided by her friend journalist Camilla Lind, Louise finds that the investigation takes a surprising and unsettling turn when it brings her closer to her childhood home. And as she uncovers more crimes that were committed--and hidden--in the forest, she is forced to confront a terrible link to her own past that has been carefully concealed. "

This book felt flat to me and I didn't really engage with the main character.  The plot line was interesting albeit readily apparent as to who the culprit is in the end.

Voyage of the Basilik

Voyageof the Basilisk by Marie Brennan
348 Pages

"Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella's in ways both professional and personal. Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella's life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons."

This is the third book of the Lady Trent series and Brennan has create a world that is like between 19th Century England with dragons.  Interspersed in the book are some illustrations drawn by Brennan as well.  Overall a very imaginative series.

Mademoiselle Chanel

Mademoiselle Chanel by C. W. Gortner
406 Pages

A historical fiction account of Coco Chanel's life  is interesting and I found myself looking up the characters as they were mentioned to find out what happened to them in life.  Sure to be popular with readers of historical fiction and francophiles.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Silex Scintillans

Silex Scintillans, or Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations by Henry Vaughan, from Poetry and Selected Prose of Henry Vaughan, 164 pages

One of the greatest of the Metaphysical poets of 17th century Britain, Vaughan was little known during his lifetime.  The first volume of Silex Scintillans - "The Sparkling Flint" - was followed years later by a second after a nearly fatal illness led to a renewed interest in life and religion.  This shows - while the first volume is fine poetry, the second has an added energy and depth that elevates it to the rank of classic.

Both volumes are solidly grounded in Scripture, with Vaughan making more use of explicit Biblical subjects and models than his Metaphysical peers.  The second volume is also deeply personal, with an interesting combination of reflectiveness and urgency.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tiger Shrimp Tango

Tiger Shrimp Tango by Tim Dorsey, 306 pages

Cover image for Florida has become plagued with an epidemic of scam artists, and only one man can set things right in The Sunshine State... Serge Storms. Aided by his perpetually addled sidekick and noir private eye Mahoney, Serge must stop the scam artists and save the girl all while being tracked by the same assassin that killed the woman he loved two years before.

Another successful book by Dorsey, especially for the wide array of scams thought up. I was also glad to see that Serge still hadn't forgotten about the death of a certain character two books ago. Its also good to see Coleman continuing to become more than just extra weight, even figuring out one Serge's murder methods without it having to be explained.