February 2nd, 2011


Book 12: Street Magic (Black London 01) by Caitlin Kittredge

Book 12: Street Magic (Black London 01).
Author: Caitlin Kittredge, 2009.
Genre: Urban Fantasy.
Other Details: Paperback. 335 pages.

When she was 16, Pete Caldecott witnessed the apparent death of punk rocker Jack Winter during a ritual as he attempted to raise an ancient spirit. Twelve years later, she is now DI Caldecott and has has followed in her late father's footsteps at Scotland Yard. Her latest case involves a missing child and when she follows up on a tip she discovers that the informant is Jack, who is alive and a heroin addict. As further children disappear, Pete forces Jack into detox and he joins Pete's quest to find them. In the process he reintroduces her to a world of magic that she had tried to convince herself didn't exist as well as the parallel realm within London called 'the Black' .

This is a fairly standard slice of gritty urban fantasy though I found it extremely flawed, not for the story as such, but for the weakness of its London setting and aspects of characterisation. The author attempts to use UK English and seems to think the way to accomplish this is by embarking on an effing and blinding fest; so that it seems that Jack and Pete can't utter a single sentence without the use of very strong language. They also shout at each other all the time. In general, it is a very shouty novel.

It is really obvious that it is written by an American, who probably briefly visited London and managed to write down a few names of tube stations and neighbourhoods, but who fails to convey any real sense of the vibrancy or richness of the city and its diverse population. The police procedural aspects are also extremely weak and aspects of daily life as well as the language proved constantly jarring and distracting for me as a Brit.

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It was noticeable that as Kittredge entered the final part of the book that she dropped a lot of the 'slang' and got on with telling the story. I did buy the first two books in this series together and a quick glance at the second indicates that she has toned down the language and the shouting. I also found an interview on-line where she said she wished she could go back and revise the first book's slang and so I am willing to cut her some slack as she obviously realised that her writing in this book wasn't convincing to her UK readers.
Book Smooch

3-5 for 2011

5 / 50 books. 10% done!

#3 was Ghost Singer by Anna Lee Walters

From Barnes and Noble: Human ears, strung like beads on a cord; scalps with hair and ears still intact; infant bones in a medicine bundle; corpses, whole, in a cardboard box. These artifacts in an obscure corner of the Smithsonian cause Indian ghosts to haunt, torment, and murder researchers—even as they themselves are tormented by the items in the museum's collection. Only the sacred rituals of Indian medicine men can make it safe to be around these dangerous artifacts. 
My thoughts: Another one read for a class, and another one for said class that I was meh about. I like Native American fiction, and I read my share of it This is not one of the better books in that genre. Despite the fact that the author herself is Native (Otoe and Pawnee), this book relied on a lot of stereotypes about both Native and white people. While it does a nice job setting up the issues of repatriation and the ethics of collecting artifacts of cultures that are still extant, in the end I just didn't care. It was...not predictable, but also not surprising. And I didn't like any of the characters. She shifts back and forth between types of writing, from very formal to attempts at "rez English," and she doesn't do either of them successfully. None of her characters sound or feel like any of the Native people I know, and the anthropologist in me hated the way she painted all the archaeologists, historians, and other academics as bumbling yet evil people. I read this for an epistemology class, and I really think the professor would have done better to choose something by Leslie Silko or Win Blevins or Sherman Alexie. If you're looking for Native American fiction, skip this one and go to one of those authors instead.

#4 was Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence by Gregory Cajete

From  Barnes and Noble: A Tewa Indian from Santa Clara Pueblo, Cajete (education and cultural studies, U. of New Mexico) introduces readers to the Indigenous view of reality. He delves into storytelling; the philosophy of native science; community ecology; plants, food, medicine, and gardening; animals; a sense of place; astronomy; and how the approach can help the world.

My thoughts: Another one for my epistemology class. I generally liked this book, and really liked the first half. Cajete does a wonderful job of explaining the worldview that he feels most indigenous people around the world, and particularly the indigenous people of North America, hold in common. He is careful not to universalize or essentialize indigenous or Native people -- at least in the first 5 chapters. He goes a little off the rails with "all Indians" type statements in the second half of the book, which is something of a manifesto for why the Western world needs to adopt a worldview closer to what he calls Native science. Those interested in Native American culture will find this fascinating. I fear, though, that I will walk into my local New Age shop and find a copy of this on the shelf next to Lynn Andrews and the other ersatz Native spirituality texts. While Cajete is fairly scathing in his indictment of people who appropriate Native cultures in this way, I can definitely see where this book would appeal to the less culturally aware of the neo-shamanism crowd. 

#5 was Secrets of the Tudor Court: The Pleasure Palace by Kate Emerson

From Barnes and Noble: Beautiful. Seductive. Innocent. Jane Popyncourt was brought to the court as a child to be ward of the king and a companion to his daughters -- the princesses Margaret and Mary. With no money of her own, Jane could not hope for a powerful marriage, or perhaps even marriage at all. But as she grows into a lovely young woman, she still receives flattering attention from the virile young men flocking to serve the handsome new king, Henry VIII, who has recently married Catherine of Aragon. Then a dashing French prisoner of war, cousin to the king of France, is brought to London, and Jane finds she cannot help giving some of her heart -- and more -- to a man she can never marry. But the Tudor court is filled with dangers as well as seductions, and there are mysteries surrounding Jane's birth that have made her deadly enemies. Can she cultivate her beauty and her amorous wiles to guide her along a perilous path and bring her at last to happiness?
Basing her gripping tale on the life of the real Jane Popyncourt, gifted author Kate Emerson brings the Tudor monarchs, their family, and their courtiers to brilliant life in this vibrant new novel.

My thoughts: As I said about the other book in this series, Between Two Queens, this is total brain candy. It's very well written and gripping, but it's candy. However, given that I've spent the last four years immersed in Tudor-themed historical fiction, it was nice to finally meet a heroine I had not met before. I am now kind of fascinated with Jane Popyncourt and will probably look her up. The mystery at the center of the book is not really resolved satisfactorily, but I think that is because Emerson attempts to take as few historical liberties as possible, and the mystery was not really solved in Jane's time in a particularly dramatic way. I am curious to dig into it more. This is a fun series for Tudorphiles, and it's also nice to read some fiction that is set more at the beginning of the Henry VIII's reign. This is a nice one to read alongside Philippa Gregory's The Constant Princess. Don't pay full price for it -- Bookmooch it, library it, or get it in the discount bin -- but definitely worth your time. 

Jazzy Looking Around the Corner

January Reads

1.  Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury  This is the book that was mentioned in Take Four where they were planning on making a film of the book.  This is about an autistic boy who finds his childhood friend who is dating one of the most popular boys in school at the beginning of the book.  Ella, has won the lead in the school play where she runs into Holden, who is autistic and her best friend when she was younger.  This book shows the struggle that his parents go through in dealing with his autism.  Ella’s family also experiences struggles as her mother is trying to keep her husband at home and her dad is trying to hold onto his struggling baseball career.
2.  Cocktails for Three by Madeline Wickham This is about three women who get together once a month for cocktails at London’s trendiest bar.  The three women are best friends though each of them carries a secret which comes out in the book.  Roxanne is currently dating a married man with children and at the beginning of the book her two friends do not know the identity of the man though it is later revealed in the book.  Her two friends are surprised when they discover who Roxanne’s lover is.  She is starting to regret not having her own children since her married lover won’t leave his wife and children for her especially with her friend Maggie expecting her first child.  Maggie is married and living out in the country plus she is the editor of Londoner magazine which all three women work for.   The book starts out with her last day of work before she goes on maternity leave and she has a tough decision to make whether or not to return to work.  Her decision is revealed at the end of the book though it doesn’t come too much as a surprise to the readers.  Candice has the reputation of being the good girl who is trusting of everyone though she does hold a dark secret from her past which she comes face to face with when she runs into a person from her past.  
3.  Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes  This book is about self-centered Lisa Edwards who is expecting to be sent to New York instead she is sent to Dublin in order to launch a new magazine, Colleen.  At first she sees the assignment to Dublin as a punishment since it is in the middle of nowhere however as she gets to know the area and the people she changes her perception.  She is hiding the fact from her coworkers that she is married and is divorcing her husband until later on when her estranged husband shows up.  They split up on the issue of children.  She thought that she had wanted them as an accessory until she learns the truth of motherhood.  She gets her husband to change his mind about having children when she wants them and he still wants them.  This is a good book for the childfree since she does not change her mind about having children by the end of the book.  Ashling Kennedy Colleen’s assistant editor is going through relationship issues of her own since she had broken up with her long time boyfriend since he wasn’t interested in marriage.  She is envious of her friend Clodagh Kelly who is a married stay at home mother of two children.  However Clodagh is envious of her friend Ashling where she is interested in having an affair in order to bring back the spice in her life.  In the book we do find out more about Ashling’s and Clodagh’s past relationship with Clodagh’s husband.
4.  Everyone’s Guide to Demons and Spiritual Warfare by Ron Phillips This book is a study guide to help the Christian to be able to discover the demons of the world and how to combat them.  The author has some interesting theories about what demons are and what type of damage they can cause that you would never think about.  Some of the issues that he states are caused by demonic influence is more complicated than they are being caused by the devil.
5.  South of Broad by Pat Conroy  This book is written from the experience of Leo King and the group of friends that he meets the summer before his senior year.  This group of friends come from varying backgrounds such as from an old Southern family to a couple of backwoods orphans.  The two of them stay friends for over twenty years when they travel to San Francisco to bring back one of their own who is suffering from AIDS.  Hurricane Hugo comes at the end of the book and the author has different reactions to the oncoming storm.  In the beginning of the book, Leo finds out the truth about his parent’s love affair and his mother’s past as a nun.  At the end of the book Leo finds out the truth behind his brother Steve’s suicide.
6.  Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells Siddalee Walker enlists her mother’s help with a play that she is writing.  Her mother and her friends are wild and eccentric in their own way in a time when the only options that a woman had in the south was to marry and have babies.  During this time Siddalee learns more about who her mother was.  She also learns the truth about what happened during one of her mother’s more violent episodes instead of just getting her point of view of the incident.  
7.  Restless Hearts by Marta Perry
8.  Washington’s Lady by Nancy Moser This book tells the history of George Washington from the viewpoint of his wife, Martha.   It describes the struggles that women went through during this time in American history.  She also describes the struggles that the couple went through with the couple not having their own children.