Having lost his job as a web developer due to the recession, Clay Jannon finds a new job as the night clerk in the titular bookstore, belonging to the mysterious Mr. Penumbra. Not that he sells all that many books. As well as the normal shelves, with its somewhat eclectic selection of novels and non fiction, there is what Clay calls the “wayback” section of the store, huge shelves of unique volumes, not to be found in any search engine, a sort of strange lending library for the odd individuals who show up with a laminated cards, returning a volume and fetching another at random intervals. Clay is asked to keep a log, describing the appearance of each of the customers and the state of mind each new customer was in when they come to swap a book.
Clay starts using his web developer skills to make a 3D-model of the store and the “wayback” section on his computer, trying to see if there’s any pattern, rhyme or reason to the strange regulars and their lending patterns. He also works on trying to lure new customers to the store, using all the tools available to him in social media to advertise its location. Once he meets Kat, a young lady working at Google, his plans to map the mysterious patterns of Mr. Penumbra’s store really take off, and soon he and his friends are involved in a mysterious quest involving a global conspiracy, a secret organisation, code breaking, data visualisation on a massive scale and possibly the secret to eternal life.
In the city state of Camorr, a small group known as the Gentlemen Bastards work and plot and scheme to lure the valuables from gullible nobles. Their cons are always elaborate and intricate, and done in such a way that their victims are too embarrassed to tell anyone about it. Yet most of their peers in the criminal underworld of Camorr believe the Bastards to be petty thieves and pickpockets, nothing remarkable, but loyal and dependable in a fight.
Unfortunately for Locke Lamora, the leader of the little band, and his friends, their current victims start being suspicious of some of the stories they are told, and soon, the head of the secret police is preparing to finally catch the legendary bandit. As if that wasn’t bad enough, someone else has discovered that Locke and his Gentlemen are much more successful criminals than they let on, and use this information to force Locke to help with an attempted power play against the current crime lord of Camorr, Capa Barsavi.
In an alternate Civil War America where magic not only exists, but is changing the world. Warlocks train as elite enforcers for the government, and there are all manner of glorious new inventions helped along by magic. Miss Emily Edwards is a witch living in rural Sierra Nevada, trying to compete against the shiny promises of mail order patent magics. Her adopted father, who taught her everything she knows, is now blind, and they’re facing starvation and possibly worse unless Emily comes up with something clever soon. In her desperation, she casts a love spell on the most prosperous settler in town, but it backfires badly, and when she finds herself with a magical stone embedded in her hand, she’s forced to leave town quickly before she’s driven out.
Reluctantly accepting the aid of the pompous and and condescending college-trained New York warlock Dreadnought Stanton (who was sent to Emily’s little town for unknown reasons), Emily finds herself pursued by several different factions of warlocks, all wanting the magical artifact she carries. They travel from San Francisco across the country, with their straits becoming more and more dire and their enemies more ruthless the closer they get to New York.
This is the third and final book in the Fire and Thorns trilogy, and as such, it’s not where you want to start reading the series. The first book, The Girl of Fire and Thorns is the place to begin. This review will inevitably contain spoilers for the previous two books in the series, and will also, in part, be my review of the series as a whole.
The Bitter Kingdom starts where The Crown of Embers ended, with young queen regent Elisa’s kingdom on the brink of civil war, and her Captain of the Guard (and the man she’d finally admitted that she loved and decided to marry) taken hostage by soldiers from neighbouring Invierno, who want the Godstone in her belly and are using Hector as bait to get her to follow them into their country. Accompanied by only a former freedom fighter/assassin, her lady in waiting and a failed Invierno sorcerer, Elisa needs to catch up with the soldiers, rescue Hector, figure out what is actually going on with the Invierno sorcerers, and find a way to defeat the rebellious nobles who are trying to destabilise her country and usurp her throne.
Hazel and Jack are best friends and live just down the street from one another. Until recently, they didn’t go to the same school, but after Hazel’s dad moved away, she had to change schools and now she’s in the classroom across the hall from Jack. Hazel doesn’t really fit in at school. None of the other kids were adopted from India and look completely different from their mum and dad. She only really feels like she completely belongs when she’s with Jack, and when he’s off playing with the other boys, she feels desperately alone.
Of course, there are worse things than your dad leaving your mum and you to manage by yourselves or your friend occasionally playing with others. Your mum could still be there, listless and uncaring, empty-seeming and no longer noticing much of anything, like Jack’s mum. Maybe that’s why he changes completely one day – becoming mean and distant the day after he had an accident in the school yard, when something seemed to pierce him in the eye? Suddenly he just wants to play with the boys, and ignores Hazel completely. Then he disappears. His parents say he’s off taking care of his elderly aunt Bernice, but Hazel’s known Jack her entire life – he doesn’t have an aunt Bernice. One of the other boys mentions having seen Jack going into the woods, with a tall, icily beautiful, fur-clad woman, like the White Witch of Narnia. But witches aren’t real, are they? Hazel knows that she needs to rescue her best friend, even if it means going off into terrible danger.
Title: Frozen In Time Author: Mitchell Zuckoff Source: from publisher for review Rating: Fun Fact: The Greenland coastline is longer than the distance around the equator. Review Summary: Another awesome example of narrative non-fiction from Zuckoff, packed with adventure, drama, and a personal touch that makes the reader feel like the know the people involved.
During WWII, planes routinely used Greenland as a staging point to get from the US to Europe. From this story, it seems as though planes almost as routinely ended up crashing due to the wind and poor visibility! In Frozen In Time, a B-17 participating in a search and rescue mission crash lands with all men on board miraculously surviving the crash. A Gruman Duck amphibious plane which is part of a daring rescue mission crashes as well and since none of the men on board survived, the plane is never retrieved. Frozen In Time tells both the story of the many daring rescue attempts necessary to retrieve the men aboard the B-17 and the modern day story of the hunt for the lost Duck.
Global Frequency is an international, independent organisation founded by the mysterious and secretive Miranda Zero. It’s made up from 1001 agents all over the world and deals with occurrences and situations too big, strange or dangerous to be handled by conventional means, such as eco-terrorism, mass hysteria, or secret government cyborgs out of control. The agents range from law enforcement representatives, both active and retired, professors, scientists, tech savvy teenagers, intelligence operatives and just generally experts in some field or other. Every single member can be called on in a crisis, connected in a world wide nexus, controlled by the enigmatic Aleph, who sits at the centre of the organisation and co-ordinates everything.
Rating: Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet – 4 stars Fifth Grave Past the Light – 4.5 stars
At the beginning of Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet, a few months have passed since the end of book three, and Charley isn’t doing all that well. She’s not really left her apartment, which is now stuffed full of boxes full of random useless stuff she’s purchased from late night shopping channels. Her best friend/next door neighbour/overqualified personal assistant Cookie has cancelled all her credit cards, and insists on ganging up on her, along with her uncle Bob, and her sister Gemma. They claim that she’s suffering a mild case of PTSD (they’re right) and they insist that she leave the apartment, and start getting her life back in order. When a desperate young woman shows up on her doorstep claiming someone is trying to kill her, but everyone around her just thinks she’s insane, Charley decides that enough is enough, and promises to help. She’s decides that the best way out of her financial difficulties is serving Reyes with a hefty bill, since she technically performed the job he hired her to do. Now she just has to find him.
In Fifth Grave Past the Light, Cookie and Charley discover that they have a new neighbour, and it’s the drop dead gorgeous Reyes Farrow himself. Charley is hoping to prove to her uncle Bob that Reyes is not the arsonist who’s been burning down old buildings all over Albuquerque, but it does seem suspicious that all the same buildings are ones that Reyes at some point lived in, growing up. She’s made peace with her father, whose bar, previously mostly a cop hangout, is now a super popular lunching spot for women of all ages. Charley’s apartment is slowly filling up with young dead women, all of them blond and killed gruesomely, clearly by the same serial killer. Despite Charley’s Reaper powers, she’s unable to get any of them to communicate with her, they’re too traumatised, even after death. When it seems like Charley’s sister Gemma may be the serial killer’s next intended victim, it becomes crucial that she discover the killer’s identity as soon as possible.
Following on from the events of Batman R.I.P, Final Crisis, Batman and Robin and The Return of Bruce Wayne, this trade paperback collects a lot of stories setting up the new and international Batman Incorporated. Bruce Wayne has gone public as the financier of Batman. He wants to make sure that anywhere there is crime, there will be a Batman, or someone closely linked to him. Batman and his associates travel the globe to recruit new members for their organisation, while fighting the emerging crime syndicate known as Leviathan.
I’m going to start with a confession. I didn’t use to like Superman much. I thought he was a goody two-shoes, a bit wet, and just not as interesting as Batman, or as cool as Wonder Woman, the other two big superheroes of the DC Universe. My husband always told me I was wrong, and while I like the 1978 film with Christopher Reeve, I was just never convinced that he was worth my while. Grant Morrison changed my mind about that. In his twelve issue mini-series, which did rather better than Frank Millar’s spectacular train-wreck All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder (for one thing, it got completed), Morrison tells an utterly compelling story, showing why Superman is one of the ultimate superheroes, and why, while he might not be as cool and gritty as Bruce Wayne, Kal El is a much more admirable character.
Warning! There will be certain spoilers for the new film Man of Steel in this review. If you haven’t seen it (do yourself a favour, and just don’t – it’s NOT a Superman story, and it’s a long, boring and just really rather depressing film), you may want to avoid this review. You can go read All-Star Superman instead. It’s amazing and captures exactly who Superman is and why he is so great.