Changeless (#2) by Gail Carriger

Published: 1st April 2010Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Orbit
Pages: 374
Format: Paperback
Genre: Steampunk/Paranormal
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Alexia Maccon, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears; leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. So even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can. She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it.

  The delightful Alexia is back, now married and now in charge of an entire wolf pack. I was glad to see Carriger hasn’t lost any of her charm and wit in her writing as this story is just as fabulous as the first.

The relationship between Alexia and Connall moves past the frustrated acquaintances and into frustrated newlyweds which feels natural and fitting. I love how both Alexia and Connall can love each other but be infuriated by one another, more so Connall than Alexia, though now that she is living with the pack there are a few more things to frustrate her. This story also brings to light some more of Carriger’s werewolf mythology and we see more intricately how the pack operates. We are introduced to new names and faces but the familiar faces remain and the pack becomes an extension of the main characters.

I loved the mystery Carriger has presented because it’s a fascinating exploration of how this society operates and how much the supernatural citizens contribute and rely on the existing structures. The mystery is only one of many things revealed and unravelled in this book. We gain a better understanding of Alexia’s preternatural abilities and a better look at Lord Maccon’s own supernatural and family history. I liked the pace Carriger has taken for this story because it is a decent time frame and also one that is chaotic, dangerous and filled with the wit and humour, not to mention the incredible inventions and contraptions, I’ve come to love and expect from her. One thing she does well is have multiple plots running that raise their head at various times as the need occurs. It also plays into the natural feeling of the story and the realism, if one can call it that, of this world. It is believable and the pacing and events reflect that.

There is an excellent hook at the end which raises all the questions and sparks a lot of intrigue, Carriger knows how to get you leaping into the next book. Even though I fell deeply in love with this series from the start, the more I learn and is uncovered as I read the more I adore it. I am fascinated by Carriger’s creativity, but more so I love how complicated yet simple and well-functioning this society is. This alternate reality, steam punk world sounds marvellous and it is a joy to read about a new interpretation of the werewolves/vampire myth as well as a new history of our own time.

You can purchase Changless via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Soulless (#1) by Gail Carriger

Published: 1st October 2009(print)/26 September 2017 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Orbit/Hachette Audio
Pages: 357/10 hrs and 48 mins
Narrator: Emily Gray
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Steampunk/Paranormal
★   ★   ★    ★  ★ – 5 Stars

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. 

First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire–and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

I have so much love for this book, this world, this series, and Alexia herself. The story introduces us to preternatural woman Alexia Tarabotti. She has no soul which is information she can’t really share with anyone and when she touches someone who is of a supernatural persuasion she cancels out their abilities. This comes in handy when you live in a society with vampires and werewolves. I love her. She is sarcastic, she is polite and proper to the point of hilarity, and being soulless she certainly brings a lot of fun and frustration to those around her.

Soulless is our first introduction to Alexia and it is a fantastic introduction. It is also a brilliant way to introduce us to this Victorian world where vampires and werewolves exist in everyday society and are just as respectable as the next person. Please, please, please I beg you do not let the fact that there are vampires and werewolves in this deter you. It is not your Twilight, Anne Rice, or Vampire Academy vampires, or really any other vampire you’d be thinking of I promise you. This book and series has been described as a cross between Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse and I wholeheartedly agree. It is a steampunk, Victorian era, alternate reality where everything is the same, Victoria is Queen but instead there are werewolves and vampires which have been assimilated into society. There are rules, societal etiquette to consider, and they are highly civilised and these supernatural creatures are accepted into society no problem and society has evolved around them to accommodate.

The tone of the blurb is a great indication of the tone of the book. One thing I adored was Carriger’s use of language. It’s not so fanciful that it is hard to understand but her use of language is elegant, with wonderful humour without making it seem silly. There are dirigibles and glassicals and all many wonderful Victorian era inventions, phrases, customs, but there is a fantastic steampunk/paranormal/mystery part as well. This is the ideal way to introduce the world and society protocols because things have gone slightly haywire and in trying to work out the mystery behind it, you get told the history and standards of the modern world these characters live in.

The pure joy of this is not even these supernatural creatures, it is Carriger’s storytelling ability and her way with words and dialogue. There is mystery and danger and Alexia’s prowess at weaving through the chaos in her upper class manner is wonderful. The issue of societal rules and manners are half the fun as even as these dangerous and dastardly things happen social niceties must be observed. The absolute best way to experience this I my opinion is as an audio. I adored how Gray annunciates and it is quite fantastic to hear all the fancy words and the accents and inflections she uses are divine. If audios aren’t your thing though, the book is fantastic on its own because the story is captivating and the language and the dialogue Carriger uses only enhances this great narrative which is as delightful and hilarious as high society is allowed to be.

You can purchase Soulless via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Every Time He Dies by Tara East

Published: 5th November 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Self-Published
Pages: 477
Format: ebook
Genre: Paranormal/Crime
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Daphne Lawrence is haunted. Two years ago, her fiancé died in a terrible accident, her mother passed away from cancer and she stopped speaking to her father. As an embalmer, Daff is used to the company of dead people, but she isn’t used to them talking back. In fact, Daff isn’t used to anything that could be considered woo-woo including, but not limited to: psychics, crystal, meditation, tarot cards, vision quests and coincidences. Too bad that’s everything she’s experiencing.

Daff is forced to confront her own long ignored grief when she discovers a haunted watch buried in the sand at Golden Beach. The problem is, her ghost has no memory of his former life or how he died.

As Daff seeks to discover the spectre’s identity, dangerous truths and hidden secrets are revealed. Soon, she finds herself in the middle of an on-going homicide investigation led by Detective Sergeant Jon Lawrence, her father. A story about grief, time and identity, Every Time He Dies will leave you wondering whether our dearly beloveds ever really depart.

Note: I received a copy of this book for review

East has created a captivating and engaging story that brings together humour, love, family, and a little bit of the unknown. Told from dual perspectives we get to see Daphne’s life and the perspective of her estranged father, Detective Lawrence, on the cusp of his retirement from the force with an ongoing battle against old adversaries. Daphne on the other hand, is still coming to terms with, and in a way running from, her own grief after her fiancé Tom dies.

The structure of the story is done incredibly well because East leads us into the story providing detailed yet simple backgrounds about characters and situations, but then also throws us into the unexpected and uses these new situations to slowly pull out further detail making a well-rounded and beautifully complicated story.

I loved how we are introduced to this new phenomenon of Daphne’s and her realisation she can see a ghost. That first encounter was wonderful and the ideal draw card to get you intrigued into the supernatural aspect of this story and with a realism and humour that stays through the whole narrative. East’s descriptions are vivid and I could picture every scene as if it were playing out in front of me. From the start I fell comfortably into this narrative and it felt believable, even with the supernatural elements East anchors it in reality and possibility with a touch of the unknown but ever possible.

The characters are complicated and have deep personal issues and worries but East balances it perfectly and while there are ongoing references and emotional moments, it never felt over the top or overly dramatic. The emotions of these characters comes and goes at natural intervals, often with realistic and believable prompts and it is a great example how the death of a loved one never really leaves you no matter how much time has passed.

The dialogue is natural which was a huge plus for me. There is emotion and frustration, cheek and humour but it felt like conversations people actually had. The voices were great too because they are distinct and each character became their own person. One thing that impressed me was that East captures the detective voice so well without being stereotypical and cleverly manages to shift it between policeman and father and still make it feel like the same person. I believed Lawrence to be an aging cop, on the brink of retirement, still wanting to do his job but also able to see how much things have changed in his time on the force.

I liked Daff as a character too. She was grieving but trying to push the pain down, and East shows us the hurt is still there but she also wants to move on with her life. Even Liam who didn’t remember his own name or who had no memory of his life was a character of depth. I fell in love with him almost immediately and he and Daphne make a great pair. His personality shone through and his interactions with Daphne were some of my favourite parts of the story.

I loved this story from start to finish; East grabs your attention straight away with one storyline but then manages to pull you in further and hooks you with two others. It is most definitely a story about love and family, but it’s also about ghosts and the mystical and a fascinating police procedural with bikies and murder which becomes wonderfully and complicatedly intertwined as these things often do.

You can purchase Every Time He Dies via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Wordery | Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Published: 1st December 2001 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 David R. Godine Publisher
Pages: 138
Format: Paperback
Genre: Classic/Paranormal Gothic
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

What real reader does not yearn, somewhere in the recesses of his or her heart, for a really literate, first-class thriller–one that chills the body, but warms the soul with plot, perception, and language at once astute and vivid? In other words, a ghost story written by Jane Austen?

Alas, we cannot give you Austen, but Susan Hill’s remarkable Woman In Black comes as close as our era can provide. Set on the obligatory English moor, on an isolated causeway, the story has as its hero Arthur Kipps, an up-and-coming young solicitor who has come north from London to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. The routine formalities he anticipates give way to a tumble of events and secrets more sinister and terrifying than any nightmare: the rocking chair in the deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and most dreadfully–and for Kipps most tragically–The Woman In Black.

I read this expecting to be unnerved and unsettled but it didn’t quite reach that point. Overall it was enjoyable, but I found it a bit boring and slow at times. I understood the haunting, creepy nature but it didn’t grab me like it probably should. For the most part it was an ok story and I was curious about it, but that was as far as I got.

Reflecting the stories of centuries past this isn’t a horror story to frighten you, it’s meant to put you ill at ease with stories of ghosts and a mysterious woman lurking in graveyards. Small towns on moors with constant fog with secrets and unwilling to trust strangers.

You have to wait for the story to kick off and once that happens the plot unfolds properly and you get a few explanations and events that keep you intrigued. One thing I wasn’t expecting was how much the ending affected me. After reading about Kipps and his life, his experience with this old house and what he finds there I was anticipating the ending, but when it came to read about it I was quite moved. It’s that I remember most from this book, for that I give Hill credit for her writing. It burrows in when you think you aren’t paying attention and then turns your emotions on you in unexpected ways.

This is a relatively short book and it was better than the film, though both tell the story well. I think I missed that ending from the film which to me made this book all the better.

You can purchase The Woman in Black via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson | Dymocks | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon | Audible

The Name of the Star (#1) by Maureen Johnson

Published: 29th September 2011
Goodreads badgePublisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 372
Format: Book
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Jack the Ripper is back, and he’s coming for Rory next….

Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school just as a series of brutal murders mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper killing spree of more than a century ago has broken out across the city. The police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man believed to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him – the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target…unless she can tap her previously unknown abilities to turn the tables.

Upon finishing this book I was experiencing a myriad of emotions and feelings that the first draft of this review was, for the majority, unhelpful gushing and exuberant praise. I was on a high of delight and amazement at what I had just read. Nothing wrong with that, but rather unhelpful for a review.

I cannot ignore though that a full 330 words were devoted entirely to going on about just how wonderful this book was. I experienced so many feelings and emotions throughout this book, especially during the final chapters, that I was on the edge of my seat and unsure where it could possibly lead, excited and impatient and nervous of what was going to happen.

I have been a long time fan of Johnson through her guest vlogging, her books, and following her hilarity on Twitter, but only recently have I been able to snag a copy of her Shades of London series which I have been dying to read for years. And can I just say I am so glad I finally got to read this because it is the greatest book ever! It is such a Maureen Johnson book as well. Her personality and own quirkiness shine off the pages and through her characters.

I strongly recommend you read this book, it really is all kinds of amazing. It’s a Jack the Ripper story like no other and it sucks you in and holds you while it simultaneously messes with your mind and makes you amazed and wide-eyed at the cleverness of it all.

The story follows Rory, a girl from southern USA who is sent to boarding school in London. She soon becomes embroiled in a series of murders eerily similar to that of Jack the Ripper. From there it becomes a story about murder and mystery, with a unique and clever paranormal element as well. Johnson’s writing is light and funny but also manages to be delightfully creepy in all the best ways.

The characters are unique and have their own stories to tell. I liked Rory’s charm in that she was a bit odd but she was who she was and wasn’t ashamed. I loved the differences between the UK and the US and the cultural clashes that are evident. I also loved that the story was slowly revealed. I revelled in the shocks, the surprises, and the delights. I made so many gasps and various other noises while I read this I’m sure people nearby were looking at me weird.

Other characters like Jerome and Stephen are wonderful. Jerome, in particular, is all kinds of adorable and while it took some time to warm to Rory, I loved Jerome immediately. I liked each character’s quirky nature and that they brought their own strengths to any situation. There is a wonderful sense of UK boarding school culture as well as a nice look at the streets of London through the eyes of a newcomer as well as its citizens. You get a taste of the culture and the mystery the old city has to offer and it is easy to fall under the spell through Rory and her own fascination.

When you read this book I suggest you keep the second in the series nearby because the moment you finish that last page you will want to dive into the next book right away. It is a wonderful story and it is a ghost story like no other.

You can purchase The Name of the Star via the following

Wordery | Book Depository | Fishpond

Dymocks | Amazon USA | Author Website

Barnes and Noble | Readings | Amazon Aust

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