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REVIEW:  Ghost Train to New Orleans by Mur Lafferty

REVIEW: Ghost Train to New Orleans by Mur Lafferty

Ghost Train to New Orleans (The Shambling Guides) by Mur Lafferty

Dear Ms. Lafferty,

 

I’ll admit it, I almost didn’t pick Ghost Train to New Orleans up.  I found it on BookBub and figured “well, why not.”  I needed something a little different and New Orleans is one of my most favorite cities in the entire world (beignets and Jackson Square, two of the most wonderful things in the universe).  To say that I was pleasantly surprised is putting it mildly.  To say that I was thrilled and, immediately upon finishing the book, ran to Amazon to find your backlist, would be more appropriate.  Even though this is the second book in a series, it can easily be read as a standalone, though knowledge of the events in book one (The Shambling Guide to New York City) can definitely add a bit more flavor to the reading experience.

 

Zoe Norris is a mere mortal thrust into the world of coterie – otherwise known as paranormals, AKA:  Things What Go Bump in the Night.  This isn’t something she takes lightly at all, especially not as an editor of the up and coming coterie travel guides put out by the low-budget, but very friendly, Underground Publishing.  As one might imagine, things are a touch tense between coterie (made up of everything from werewolves and water sprites to zombies and old gods) and human beings, though they’re kept in check by Public Works.  What, you didn’t think the water and sewer departments ONLY handled water, sewers and trash, right?  And poor Zoe is the lone mortal in an office filled with things that would happily have her for a snack.  Or a chew toy.  Or something to bounce off of a wall.  They’re kept in check only by the senior editor, her boss.  Oh, and Zoe’s sparkling personality, too.

 

After the success of the New York guide, Zoe’s tasked with taking her band of merry psychopaths on a brand new train (the aptly named Ghost Train, so titled because of its intangibility to the human eye) down to the haunted-ish city of New Orleans, also voted the place most loved by coterie in the United States.  I mean, come on, what paranormal being WOULDN’T love a city where they can pretty much walk freely among the masses with no one being the wiser?  The only thing considered weird in New Orleans are the pasty faced tourists wearing Bermuda shorts and sandals with black knee socks.  Not only does Zoe have to ride herd on her coworkers, but her zombie-bitten, coterie-unfriendly Public Works boyfriend decides to come along as well.

 

What could go POSSIBLY wrong with this obviously Brady Bunch-esque picture, right?

 

Let’s just say that everything goes predictably to hell in a prettily decorated basket, one with a bright red bow.  And it does so in all the best possible ways.  While occasionally Keystone Cops-ish in nature, Zoe’s discoveries about herself, the world around her, and what she –thinks- she knows are highly entertaining and laugh out loud funny.  Of course, there are plenty of moments where the hair on my arms stood up and I wanted to turn all the lights in the house on and ensure I had a priest on speed dial.  The characterizations are delicious and the creepy other-ness of some of the characters is absolutely fabulous.  It’s refreshing to see paranormal characters who don’t necessarily subscribe to what we consider normal human behavior.  Too many times I’ve seen centuries-old characters who act and react like the average, modern-day mortal.  It’s refreshing to see some who are so outright alien that they raise hackles and trigger the lizard brain responses in the reader.

 

There really wasn’t anything I didn’t absolutely love about the book.  The descriptions of New Orleans made me want to get on a train (though AMTRAK is nowhere NEAR as cool as the Ghost Train) and head down there.  The story made me miss Mardi Gras something fierce.  I wanted to hang out and have some drinks with most of the characters and go with them to closed krewe parties.  I laughed, I cheered – I didn’t cry, really – but I thoroughly and completely enjoyed this book and look forward to the next one.  A-

 

Mary Kate

 

 

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REVIEW:  Tempered by Karina Cooper

REVIEW: Tempered by Karina Cooper

Tempered: Book Four of The St. Croix Chronicles  Karina Cooper

Dear Ms. Cooper,

 

Once again I find myself writing to thank you for a compelling, if difficult to read story.  While relatively new to your writing – I stumbled on the second in the historical St. Croix Chronicles series by accident – I’m not a stranger to the love of a good, hard story.  No pun intended, of course.  You didn’t disappoint in the least with this fourth book in the series.

 

The end of the last book found our intrepid heroine in a carriage, bound for who knows where, with her erstwhile, if mostly absentee, guardian, Mr. Oliver Ashmore.  In this, we find our heroine fighting for her life once again (as if she hasn’t done that often enough) – though this time, it’s from a different foe.  Under Ashmore’s direction, Cherry St. Croix has no choice but to dry out and give up her opium addiction, far away from her beloved London streets.  It is, as anyone might imagine, a long and difficult road that unleashes the demons she’s tried to keep buried for so long.

 

Her convalescence isn’t without its upsides, however.  For the first time in quite a long time, she gets a chance to be free of those selfsame London’s streets, in a place where she is cared for – as much as someone in the throes of detox can be.  During her confinement, she’s reunited with her beloved friend, Maddy Ruth, and discovers that there certainly are things worse than what her father, and her past, have put her through.  Barely recovered, she must face demons of wholly different stripe, including the specter of her deceased mother and grandfather, as well as rediscovering that things aren’t always what they seem.

 

As I was reading, in the back of my mind I kept thinking of the title should have a subheading:  Cherry St. Croix Learns Alchemy – and Other Things She Never Wanted to Know.  I’m a fan of Jim Butcher.  I’m a fan of other writers who like to put their main characters through the wringer.  Yet I’ve never quite come across an author who thoroughly desiccates their characters with quite as much glee as you do – nor one who makes me feel just about every single thing the heroine does.  As Cherry was overcoming her addiction(s), I felt physically sick at times just reading about what she was going through.  It was raw and surprisingly real, for fiction.  I think some readers may have a bit of an issue with this – things aren’t sugar-coated, they aren’t couched in polite language.  You put it all out there, warts and all, for everyone to see.

 

But one thing I just love about your books is the way the reader can watch each painful step of Cherry’s growth and maturation process.  She’s been broken down and broken, many times, and yet she keeps coming back stronger than before.  Each word seems to be a handhold she’s grabbing to haul herself up out of the hellhole she called life before.  Each new skill she learns is something she needs – something the story needs.  There’s nothing gratuitous, nothing extra.

 

This book felt a bit like a transition novel.  We have the Cherry of before, as strong as she was, she was injured and, for the most part, at the end of being truly alive in so many ways.  And by the end of this book, there felt like a new hope, a new chapter in Cherry’s life that’s just beginning.  Of course, as with any book, there were a few things that I didn’t care too much for – though most of them were personal quibbles rather than any true issue with the work.  There were times when the story felt a little too convoluted, even for a paranormal historical romance.  And there were times when it felt less like a paranormal and more like a Regency gone bad – though some folks might like that kind of thing.  There were, however, just enough twists and turns to keep me reading and keep me wanting more.

 

I look forward with great anticipation to the next book in the series and again thank you for writing such wonderful, viscerally satisfying stories.  B

 

Mary Kate

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