The Resurrectionist of Caligo by Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga

With a murderer on the loose, it’s up to an enlightened bodysnatcher and a rebellious princess to save the city, in this wonderfully inventive Victorian-tinged fantasy noir.

“Man of Science” Roger Weathersby scrapes out a risky living digging up corpses for medical schools. When he’s framed for the murder of one of his cadavers, he’s forced to trust in the superstitions he’s always rejected: his former friend, princess Sibylla, offers to commute Roger’s execution in a blood magic ritual which will bind him to her forever. With little choice, he finds himself indentured to Sibylla and propelled into an investigation. There’s a murderer loose in the city of Caligo, and the duo must navigate science and sorcery, palace intrigue and dank boneyards to catch the butcher before the killings tear their whole country apart. (taken from Amazon)

The Resurrectionist of Caligo is a rollicking fantasy filled with a little bit of blood and a whole lot of adventure and intrigue. The book (which has Victorian mystery vibes) follows, Roger, a wanna-be surgeon who earns a little extra on the side by virtue of his willingness to liberate a cadaver or two from the local cemetery- all for the sake of science, of course. Unfortunately for Roger (but fortunately for the reader), he picks the wrong cadaver and finds himself accused of murdering, not just one, but several women. Things are looking grim for Roger, but he is saved from the noose by his childhood sweetheart, who binds him to her in a magical ritual, proof that “things can always get worse”.

Sibylla, Roger’s childhood crush, also happens to be royalty. In The Resurrectionist of Caligo, royal blood is proven by the magic that all royalty possesses. I love the magic in this book! It is so very different. I am used to magic that can blast open doors or make someone float. Sibylla’s magic is slightly less…flashy. She has ink that flows from under her fingertips, useful when one needs to write a letter, but an author needs to be creative for magic such as that to work. The authors managed it beautifully. Sibylla does the only thing she can to save her childhood friend from hanging for a crime (she is pretty sure) he didn’t commit. Together, Sibylla and Roger need to figure out who the killer is- before they strike again.

The Resurrectionist of Caligo has a smaller cast of characters, and each person is important. Sibylla is clever, but also a bit naive. To be fair, she hasn’t had a lot of life experience. Her storyline provides the fine details that flesh out the broader plotline, giving little hints to a larger mystery. I found the intrigue and the family sniping interesting, but it was Roger who stole the show in my opinion.

Roger is a down-on-his-luck guy just doing the best he can with what he has. He is a good guy whose morality is a little fluid. His kindness shows in his small ways, such as his relationship with Ghostofmary (who I adore, by the way). His sole hope is to become a licensed doctor, but that requires an education that he can’t afford. He swipes corpses to pay his bills and finagle his way into lectures from surgeons. The knowledge he has provides the broad strokes to the story. His medical expertise, as it were, adds an extra level of fun to an already ghoulishly entertaining tale.

Sibylla and Roger actually share very few pages. Instead, most of their interactions come through misunderstood letters and convoluted messages from third parties. It was truly delightful to see the characters’ frustrations and anger over things that were completely misinterpreted. Add in angry magic-ink bees, and it becomes a singularly entertaining way to develop character relationships.

The Resurrectionist of Caligo is a brilliant must-read for fans of books the include grimy, smog-filled streets, shady doings, and ridiculously fun characters.


Originally published in Grimdark Magazine.

About the blogger:

Jodie is the creator of the Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub blog. She either lives in Florida with her husband and sons, or in a fantasy book-she’ll never tell which. When she’s not reading, Jodie balances her time between homeschooling her hooligans, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and lamenting her inability to pronounce “lozenge”. Find her online at http://www.wittyandsarcasticbookclub.home.blog or https://www.twitter.com/WS_BOOKCLUB.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat- Books Set In or Around Water (that I actually like)

I’ve never been a big fan of books that take place in or around water. Books such as Treasure Island, or even The Voyage of the Dawn Treader have never appealed to me. It’s just not my thing. So when I read a book with a watery setting that I actually really enjoy, it sticks with me. Here are a few boatish books that I’ve really liked.

The Bone Ships by RJ Barker (The Tide Child Book One)

A brilliantly imagined saga of honor, glory, and warfare, The Bone Ships is the epic launch of a new series from British Fantasy Award winner, RJ Barker.

*British Fantasy Award for Best Fantasy Novel, winner
 
Two nations at war. One prize beyond compare.
 
For generations, the Hundred Isles have built their ships from the bones of ancient dragons to fight an endless war.
 
The dragons disappeared, but the battles for supremacy persisted.
 
Now the first dragon in centuries has been spotted in far-off waters, and both sides see a chance to shift the balance of power in their favor. Because whoever catches it will win not only glory but the war. (taken from Amazon)

I think my concern with books involving ships is that they will feel small. The opposite is the case with this series. The setting allows for a greater view and understanding of author RJ Barker’s world, which is magnificently developed. Plus, the characters are awesome.

Review of The Bone Ships (The Tide Child Book One)

Review of Call of the Bone Ships (The Tide Child Book Two)

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

As the daughter of a time traveler, Nix has spent sixteen years sweeping across the globe and through the centuries aboard her father’s ship. Modern-day New York City, nineteenth-century Hawaii, other lands seen only in myth and legend—Nix has been to them all.
But when her father gambles with her very existence, it all may be about to end. Rae Carson meets Outlander in this epic debut fantasy.
If there is a map, Nix’s father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place and any time. But now that he’s uncovered the one map he’s always sought—1868 Honolulu, the year before Nix’s mother died in childbirth—Nix’s life, her entire existence, is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix’s future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who’s been part of their crew for two years. (taken from Amazon)

It’s been a while since I’ve read The Girl From Everywhere, but I remember being impressed by the writing. At what point do you let go of a past sorrow to embrace a present happiness? The choices that Nix has to make encompass themes of family, loss, grief, and acceptance. Oh, and the settings are both familiar and mysterious. It’s quite the balancing act between adventure and the heavier storyline, but author Heidi Heilig managed it beautifully.

The One Kingdom (The Swans’ War Book One) by Sean Russell

The cataclysm began more than a century earlier, when the King of Ayr died before naming an heir to the throne, and damned his realm to chaos. The cold-blooded conspiracies of the Renne and the Wills—each family desirous of the prize of rule—would sunder the one kingdom, and spawn generations of hatred and discord.
Now Toren Renne, leader of his great and troubled house, dreams of peace—a valiant desire that has spawned hostility among his kinsmen, and vicious internal plots against his life. In the opposing domain, Elise Wills’s desire for freedom is to be crushed, as an unwanted marriage to an ambitious and sinister lord looms large. As always, these machinations of nobles are affecting the everyday lives of the common folk—and feeding a bonfire of animosity that has now trapped an unsuspecting young Valeman Tam and two fortune-hunting friends from the North in its high, killing flames.
But the closer Toren comes to achieving his great goal of uniting two enemy houses, the more treachery flowers. Nobles and mystics alike conspire to keep the realm divided, knowing that only in times of strife can their power grow.
And perhaps the source of an unending misery lies before an old king’s passing, beyond the scope of history, somewhere lost in a fog of myth and magic roiling about an ancient enchanter named Wyrr—who bequeathed to his children terrible gifts that would poison their lives…and their deaths. It is a cursed past and malevolent sorcery that truly hold the land, its people, and its would-be rulers bound. And before the already savaged kingdom can become one again, all Ayr will drown in a sea of blood. (taken from Amazon)

A decent chunk of this epic fantasy involves travel on a mysterious river (yep, it’s a river that’s mysterious. It’s a thing, I promise). The things found both in and along the river tugged on my imagination, painting a vivid picture of a unique and creative world. The mythology behind the enchanter Wyrr is flat-out amazing. The Swans’ War is one of my favorite fantasy trilogies, despite (or maybe because of) the water-travel.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

A murder on the high seas. A remarkable detective duo. A demon who may or may not exist.
It’s 1634, and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Traveling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent. Among the other guests is Sara Wessel, a noblewoman with a secret.
But no sooner is their ship out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A strange symbol appears on the sail. A dead leper stalks the decks. Livestock dies in the night.
And then the passengers hear a terrible voice, whispering to them in the darkness, promising three unholy miracles, followed by a slaughter. First an impossible pursuit. Second an impossible theft. And third an impossible murder.
Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes?
With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent and Sara can solve a mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board. (taken from Amazon)

At this point, I’m pretty sure Stuart Turton could write a novel about cardboard boxes and I would love it. His writing is outstanding and the mystery of The Devil and the Dark Water kept me riveted from beginning to end.

Review of The Devil and the Dark Water

The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire Book One) by Andrea Stewart

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people. (taken from Amazon)

I would have to admit that I am sort of cheating on this one, except that this is my post and my rules. So there. Jovis’ storyline, in particular, has a lot to do with ships and such whatnot and he was my favorite character, so it counts. Right? Either way, I’m looking forward to the next part in this interesting series.

Review of The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire Book One)

What about you? How do you feel about books that involve boats or water travel? What are some books that fit the bill that I should read?

The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers

Paris, 1925: To enter the Secret Circus is to enter a world of wonder—a world where women weave illusions of magnificent beasts, carousels take you back in time, and trapeze artists float across the sky. Bound to her family’s circus, it’s the only world Cecile Cabot knows until she meets a charismatic young painter and embarks on a passionate affair that could cost her everything.

Virginia, 2004: Lara Barnes is on top of the world until her fiancé disappears on their wedding day. When her desperate search for answers unexpectedly leads to her great-grandmother’s journals, Lara is swept into a story of a dark circus and ill-fated love.

Soon secrets about Lara’s family history begin to come to light, revealing a curse that has been claiming payment from the women in her family for generations. A curse that might be tied to her fiancé’s mysterious disappearance. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on March twenty third.

The Ladies of the Secret Circus is told from a few points of view: there’s Lara, a woman whose fiancé has gone missing; and Ben, the officer who is leading the search for him. There is another character whose story is told through journal entries, but I’m not going to say much about that for fear of spoiling things. The book starts with a simple premise and the beginning of many a mystery novel- until you realize that Lara and her family have magical abilities, and that there may or may not be a curse involved. Thus begins a story that is both delightful and a wee bit creepy. The Ladies of the Secret Circus is part mystery, part supernatural showdown, and wholly entertaining.

Author Constance Sayers did some things very, very well. Both Lara and Ben are likeable characters, who are easy to root for. I didn’t give a lick about Lara’s fiancé since he goes missing before being developed at all, but she was such a nice person that I was truly hoping for a happy ending. Ben is a no-nonsense detective who is in way over his head, but keeps plugging along anyway. I liked that stick-to-itness. I did find some of their reactions a little odd: for example, they accepted some revelations a lot more easily than I would have expected. Ben accepted the supernatural aspect relatively quickly and Lara seemed a lot more chill about having a killer after her than most people would be (I’m assuming; I’m happy to say that I have no experience in that situation).

The switch-off from mystery to a more supernatural book was a teensy bit abrupt, but the sheer creativity of the supernatural aspect was gripping. The Secret Circus turned out to be rather macabre, with an eerie bent to it that I loved. The history of the circus was enthralling and unlike anything I’ve read before. As much as I enjoyed Lara and Ben, the story of the circus itself was by far my favorite part of the entire book.

I did have a minor gripe: the order of the story seemed a little off from time to time, and some things were sort of left dangling. For example, Lara found out that someone was after her, but not much attention was paid to that until much later in the book, with her being more interested in the provenance of a family painting. There were other occurrences that were a big deal for about half a chapter, but then were left largely alone. It could be a little confusing at times. That’s a small complaint, though, and it’s really the only one I have.

The Ladies of the Secret Circus is fast-paced and a ton of fun. I recommend it to anyone who likes a little bit of a mysterious flair to their urban fantasy.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: 2020 Adult Fiction Edition

I have been looking forward to writing this post! This has been a particularly excellent year for adult fiction and there are so many amazing books that would make for great gifts. So, without further ado, here goes!

The Last Smile in Sunder City and Dead Man in a Ditch by Luke Arnold

Holy wow, these books are fantastic! Take a gritty noir and smash it up into a brilliant fantasy world and you’ll get the general feel of these books. Luke Arnold’s author voice is incredibly entertaining and these are books I know I’ll read more than once. These would be great gifts for readers who are already big fantasy fans and want a new twist on the genre. You can find my original reviews for these books here: The Last Smile in Sunder City and Dead Man in a Ditch.

The Ventifact Colossus by Dorian Hart

I loved this book so much! This is fantasy at its finest. There’s a quest, a wonderful cast of characters, and a vast world with its own histories and secrets to be discovered. What really made this book stand out among the many great books I’ve read this year is its hopeful tone. The stakes are high, and no one is immune from loss, heartbreak, or injury, but the characters don’t give up. Add in an engrossing story, and you’ve got a fantasy that everyone will enjoy. You can find my original review here.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

After reading and loving The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle a few years ago, I was incredibly excited to read Stuart Turton’s next book. It did not disappoint. Rather, it drew me into a astonishing mystery full of twists and more than a few surprises. After reading this book, I’m ready to pre-buy any book this author writes in the future. This would be an excellent gift for pretty much anyone. You can find my review here.

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn by Tyler Whitesides

This book was a blast from start to finish. Ardor Benn is an irrepressible rogue, in the vein of Kvothe (from The Kingkiller Chronicles) or Kaz Brekker (of Six of Crows fame). While there is much more to it, this book is a complicated heist at heart. Plus, there are dragons! This is an excellent addition to the fantasy genre, so of course it belongs on this list. Find my original review here.

The Rome of Fall by Chad Alan Gibbs

This book had me waxing nostalgic. Anyone who grew up during the 90’s will love this funny and heartwarming book. I loved the characters (I’m pretty sure I knew one of them in high school) and the ending was fantastic. Pull out your old mix tapes, pull on your flannel shirt, and grab a copy of this book for yourself while you’re getting one for a friend. My original review can be found here.

So, there you have it. Have you read (or gifted) any of these books? What are some that are on your to-give list?  You can find these great books, and more at Bookshop.org, which supports indie bookstores instead of Amazon. That’s pretty nifty. I’ll also get a little kickback at no extra cost to you, if you use my link (above).

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey


Ivy Gamble was born without magic and never wanted it.

Ivy Gamble is perfectly happy with her life – or at least, she’s perfectly fine.

She doesn’t in any way wish she was like Tabitha, her estranged, gifted twin sister.

Ivy Gamble is a liar.

When a gruesome murder is discovered at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, where her estranged twin sister teaches Theoretical Magic, reluctant detective Ivy Gamble is pulled into the world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister―without losing herself. (taken from Amazon)

Ivy Gamble is the ordinary twin. She grew up dealing with her mother’s slow decline in health, while her twin was off at a school for mages. Tabitha-the magic twin-seemed to have all the skill, while Ivy was just an average teen. Fast forward to adulthood: the two estranged twins have followed very different paths. Tabitha teaches at a mage school. And Ivy? She has just been hired to solve a mystery there.

This book has several oblique references to Harry Potter. There is a Chosen One (the italics and capitalization are necessary), an incredibly unique take on a pensieve, and prophecies. The similarities were just noticeable enough for me to appreciate them, but far from actually defining the story at all.

In fact, the book itself is much more mature and goes in directions I would never have expected. Here is the part where I issue a heads up: abortion is one of the themes of this book. While not the main plotline by any means, it is brought up multiple times. This book is most definitely intended for adults, despite the Potter-esque odds and ends.

The characters in Magic for Liars are well-developed and incredibly nuanced. Every action made perfect sense for each character, not because the characters were one dimensional, but because the author knew them so well. I felt like I could sit down and have conversations with any of them. Ivy’s internal dialogue was fascinating because it felt like she began to discover who she was while I was also learning the same things about her. She was a lost person struggling to figure herself out.

The mystery itself was tantalizing and complex enough that I didn’t expect how it all panned out at all. Honestly, though, the mystery ended up not being the important part of the book. It all begins and ends with relationships. The important themes in this books are love, loss, self-discovery and acceptance.

The ending both satisfied and upset me (I can feel both emotions at the same time: I’m complicated like that). It ended on a sad note, but the hopeful kind of sad. Magic for Liars is much more complex and thought-provoking than any “school for magic” book has the right to be.

Ostensibly about a very normal P.I. trying to solve a murder in a backdrop that is far from normal, this book manages to be much more than just a mystery. It will not be for everyone, but if you want a good introspective book with a dash of magic, then I suggest picking this one up.

Why is Sherlock Holmes So Popular? It’s Elementary

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Every once in a while, a book character comes along and changes things. Not just for one reader (although that is also a huge accomplishment), but for society in general. This character moves from the page to everyday culture. This is what has happened with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
Phrases like, “The game is afoot,” and “no s***, Sherlock” are ubiquitous. Almost everyone at least knows who Sherlock Holmes is. Now, the question is: why? Sherlock himself is actually a very unlikable character. He’s too smart for his own good, is constantly making everyone else look less-than-competent, and is less demonstrative of his feelings than others often are. So, what makes this unlikable character so darn likable?

I think a good chunk of his charm is the way he was written. Arthur Conan Doyle was fantastic at bringing his characters to life. He could also craft a mystery like no other. Even though some of the conclusions Holmes comes to border on the impossible, Doyle makes the reader want to suspend disbelief. We like thinking that there is someone out there who can solve the difficult problems and can bring the bad guy to justice. Of course, it does bear mentioning that literary Holmes did not, in fact, solve every case. That only serves to make him an even more interesting character. Contemporary mysteries almost always end with “good” prevailing. Seeing know-it-all Holmes be wrong every once in a while only serves to make him a more three-dimensional character.

Whatever the reason, Doyle’s famous detective has given birth to many books, movies, plays, and TV shows that all aim to do one thing: show their love of Sherlock Holmes. There are books that are at least partially inspired by Holmes, such as Jackaby by William Ritter and A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro; books that include their own versions of the actual characters, such at the Young Sherlock Holmes series by Andy Lane and Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (although, I would never have thought of Mycroft in the way he’s written); and of course, more TV and movie adaptations than you can shake a stick at. Basil Rathbone’s version, and the incredible BBC TV show happen to by my favorites on screen.

At any rate, I’ve noticed something rather odd: it seems that more people are enjoying the things based on Sherlock Holmes than reading the original itself. Honestly, though, I think it’s important to read the original Conan Doyle stories. Aside from the fact that they are fantastic, they will bring a deeper appreciation to the other versions that we all enjoy. If, like me, you have a love of the one and only Sherlock Holmes, I’ve listed a few new takes on the famous detective below. However, if you haven’t read the original Sherlock Holmes, I implore you to give them a go.

– A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Thodora Goss (I haven’t read this one yet)
-The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes edited by John Joseph Adams
Moriarty by Anthony Horrowitz
Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Jackaby by William Ritter
– Young Sherlock Holmes by Andy Lane
Sherlock Holmes- The Improbable Prisoner by Stuart Douglas

Which ones have I missed that I need to read?

Westside Saints by W.M Akers- ARC Review

Westside Saints - W.M. Akers - Hardcover

Return to a twisted version of Jazz Age New York in this follow up to the critically acclaimed fantasy Westside, as relentless sleuth Gilda Carr’s pursuit of tiny mysteries drags her into a case that will rewrite everything she knows about her past.

Six months ago, the ruined Westside of Manhattan erupted into civil war, and private detective Gilda Carr nearly died to save her city. In 1922, winter has hit hard, and the desolate Lower West is frozen solid. Like the other lost souls who wander these overgrown streets, Gilda is weary, cold, and desperate for hope. She finds a mystery instead.

Hired by a family of eccentric street preachers to recover a lost saint’s finger, Gilda is tempted by their promise of “electric resurrection,” when the Westside’s countless dead will return to life. To a detective this cynical, faith is a weakness, and she is fighting the urge to believe in miracles when her long dead mother, Mary Fall, walks through the parlor door.

Stricken with amnesia, Mary remembers nothing of her daughter or her death, but that doesn’t stop her from being as infuriatingly pushy as Gilda herself. As her mother threatens to drive her insane, Gilda keeps their relationship a secret so that they can work together to investigate what brought Mary back to life. The search will force Gilda to reckon with the nature of death, family, and the uncomfortable fact that her mother was not just a saint, but a human being. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

I read this book without having read the first one in the series. I was able to follow the story-line without any problems, but I’m sure I would have appreciated it more if I’d read the first book.

I put off writing this review for way too long because I wasn’t sure how to put all my thoughts into words. I’m still having that issue, but I think this review is just going to be a weird one. That works, because the book is best described as “weird.” I like a little weird, so that is in no way an insult.

This book was a bit of a downer for me, to be honest. I found myself picturing the entire thing in varying shades of gray (even the things that were specifically described by color). I went into the book expecting light and funny, which wasn’t quite what I got. Gilda, the detective, was an intriguing character. I think I missed some character development in the first book, because she didn’t seem to grow all that much in this one. Her cynicism definitely got on my nerves from time to time.

There was some quippy dialogue which I appreciated. I love a good quip. Or a bad quip. Pretty much any quip. It wasn’t quite enough to pull me out of the oppressive atmosphere of the book, but it did garner an appreciative nod from me.

There were some bits that felt a little choppy to me. It’s a very strong possibility that it was intentionally written that way, and I just didn’t get it. Sometimes an author and the reader just don’t jive. It’s abundantly clear that this author is very talented, I just couldn’t connect.

I think I can chalk this book up to “wrong book for right now, right book for another time.” I’ll probably reread this at some point in the future, when a little bit of a hopeless vibe isn’t going to mess with my happy.

Would I recommend this book? I honestly don’t know.