The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 7-14-24

The belly is not a trap. I say again, the belly – at least the Tuna belly – is not a trap. The George belly, however, most definitely IS a trap. In fact, the whole entirety of the George is a trap as George easily gets over-excited and turns pointy-side out in all directions at the drop of a hat. A hat which George would probably eat if it were a real hat instead of a metaphorical topper.

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Sparkle Time Giveaway Hop (ENDS TOMORROW!!!)
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book PLUS EVENT-WIDE AMAZON/PAYPAL PRIZE in the Early Summer Giveaway Event (ENDS TOMORROW TOOOOOO!!!)
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Christmas in July Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the SUMMER 2024 Seasons of Books Giveaway Hop

Blog Recap:

A- #BookReview: The Mummy of Mayfair by Jeri Westerson
Grade A #BookReview: Penric and the Bandit by Lois McMaster Bujold
A- #BookReview: This Great Hemisphere by Mateo Askaripour
B #BookReview: Daughters of Olympus by Hannah M. Lynn
A+ #BookReview: The Price of Redemption by Shawn Carpenter
Stacking the Shelves (609)

Coming This Week:

Earthlight by J. Michael Straczynski (#AudioBookReview)
Sip Sip Hooray Giveaway Hop
Late Summer Event Amazon/PayPal Giveaway!
Murder at the White Palace by Allison Montclair (#BookReview)
Yoke of Stars by R.B. Lemberg (#BookReview)

Stacking the Shelves (609)

This week’s stack is short. Like really, REALLY short. Summer just isn’t a big time for new books. Two of the books in this stack won’t be published until 2025 – in the winter.

The two with the prettiest covers this week are also two of the creepiest – A Harvest of Hearts and Out of the Drowning Deep. OTOH, Dead in the Frame is the book I’m most anticipating as the Pentecost and Parker series is ALWAYS a treat!

For Review:
Dead in the Frame (Pentecost and Parker #5) by Stephen Spotswood
A Harvest of Hearts by Andrea Eames
Out of the Drowning Deep by A.C. Wise
Stone (Sentinel Security #7) by Anna Hackett

Purchased from Amazon/Audible/Etc.:
Hex Sells (Babylon Boy #2) by T.A. Moore


If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page

Please link your STS post in the linky below:

A+ #BookReview: The Price of Redemption by Shawn Carpenter

A+ #BookReview: The Price of Redemption by Shawn CarpenterThe Price of Redemption (Tides of Magic, #1) by Shawn Carpenter
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: adventure, fantasy, historical fantasy
Series: Tides of Magic #1
Pages: 368
Published by Saga Press on July 9, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

A debut female-led swashbuckling fantasy following powerful sorceress and sea captain Marquese Enid d’Tancreville as she is forced on the run where she meets a vast cast of characters perfect for fans of Patrick O’Brian’s beloved Master and Commander series.

Despite her powerful magic, Marquese Enid d’Tancreville must flee her homeland to escape death at the hands of the Theocratic Revolution. When a Theocratic warship overtakes the ship bringing her to safety, Enid is spared capture by the timely intervention of the Albion frigate Alarum , under the command of Lt. Rue Nath.

The strange circumstances make for an odd alliance, and Enid finds herself replacing Alarum ’s recently slain sea mage. Now an officer under Nath’s command, Enid is thrust into a strange maritime world full of confusing customs, duties, and language. Worse she soon discovers the threat of the revolution is not confined to shore.

My Review:

When it comes to fictional settings, the Napoleonic Wars are a gift that just keeps on giving. Admittedly, that giving is in the context of the thing about adventures being terrible stuff that happened to someone either long ago, far away, or both. In the case of The Price of Redemption, very much of both.

Because the war between the Ardainne and Albion is absolutely a rehash of the Napoleonic Wars, with Ardainne serving at the post-Revolutionary French complete with their own version of a revolution, and Albion, naturally, sailing in for the Brits holding the line to protect their status quo.

Which is when this particular take on that old conflict gets fascinating, fantastic and utterly magical. Because Ardainne’s Theocratic Revolution throws a religious crusade on top of the class warfare, and marries fanatics straight out of the Spanish Inquisition to Madame Defarge cackling at the feet of Madame Guillotine.

The equivalent of the sans culottes in this world’s Revolution hate and kill mages every bit as much and often as they do aristos – made much simpler for VERY bloody meanings of the world simple – by the fact that so many of the aristos ARE mages who have been using their magical power to increase their political and socio-economic power for centuries.

Ardainne, just like France, was ripe for some kind of plucking. Our story begins with Marquese Enid d’Tancreville, running before the wind and away from the Theocrats (just call them Rats because EVERYONE does) now in charge of the Revolution, on an Albion merchant ship that is outmanned and outgunned but nevertheless rescued in the nick of time by Captain Rue Nath and his outclassed frigate, the Alarum.

Once the smoke clears, Nath is victorious but in need of a replacement Magister – meaning Ship’s Mage – as his previous ‘Spells’ died in the recent skirmish. Enid needs a better protected way to Albion, so that she can offer her services to people who are at least doing something about the filth that has taken over her beloved homeland.

Nath and Enid strike a win-win bargain – she’ll become his temporary new Magister, he’ll convey her and her worldly goods to the place where she intended to go, and in the meantime the Alarum will at least be able to fight if another Rat ship finds them on the open sea.

And thereby, as that very old saying goes, hangs an absolutely marvelous tale of wooden ships, iron men and women, deeds of derring-do and dastardly betrayals from within.

Escape Rating A+: The Napoleonic Wars absolutely are the gift that keeps on giving, at least in the fictional sense. You’ve even seen and or read plenty of stories that used it as a base – even if some of those stories hide the base pretty well.

But one of the most respected AND popular ‘spin offs’ from this particular war is the Aubrey and Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian that begins with Master and Commander, where Jack Aubrey is in the exact same position as Rue Nath – he’s the commander of a ship, called ‘Captain’ by courtesy while in command, but whose true rank is Lieutenant. The journey of the first book in both series is for the ‘Captain’ by courtesy title to make ‘Post’ – to be commissioned as a Captain by rank and clamber onto first rung of the ladder to the Admiralty.

Both the Honor Harrington series by David Weber and the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik used Aubrey and Maturin as their jumping off points, taking their inspiration from the Napoleonic wars into SF (Weber) and fantasy (Novik, but with dragons).

One of the things that the Aubrey and Maturin series did extremely well, that is absolutely a part of The Price of Redemption, is the way that the story takes the reader through the perspective of a previously (land)lubberly point of view character – Enid here and Maturin in the original series – and uses their instruction by beautifully descriptive but still fascinating details to draw the reader into the arcane mysteries of the sea.

The story, the part that keeps the reader frantically turning pages, is, on the one hand, the story of the plucky underdog – in this case Albion – fighting the mighty empire of Ardainne. On the other hand, it’s a very intimate story about one man’s fight to protect his crew, his career, and his country against all comers – particularly the forces arrayed against them all. And on the third hand, possibly the one on the rudder steering this ship, the story of a woman desperate to find a new place in the world – one from which she can strike a blow at her own enemies, find a new perspective on what she left behind that brought her and her country to this terrible pass, and a help create a future that she can live on, and with, and into.

It’s marvelous and riveting and a compulsive page-turner every single league of its way. That this story is not over yet, that there are two more books on the horizon for this cast and crew, is the absolute best news any reader could possibly receive.

#BookReview: Daughters of Olympus by Hannah M. Lynn

#BookReview: Daughters of Olympus by Hannah M. LynnDaughters of Olympus by Hannah M. Lynn
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: fantasy, mythology, retellings
Pages: 336
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on July 9, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

A daughter pulled between two worlds and a mother willing destroy both to protect her...
Gods and men wage their petty wars, but it is the women of spring who will have the last word...
Demeter did not always live in fear. Once, the goddess of spring loved the world and the humans who inhabited it. After a devastating assault, though, she becomes a shell of herself. Her only solace is her daughter, Persephone.
A balm to her mother's pain, Persephone grows among wildflowers, never leaving the sanctuary Demeter built for them. But she aches to explore the mortal world--to gain her own experiences. Naïve but determined, she secretly builds a life of her own under her mother's watchful gaze. But as she does so, she catches the eye of Hades, and is kidnapped...
Forced into a role she never wanted, Persephone learns that power suits her. In the land of the living, though, Demeter is willing to destroy the humans she once held dear--anything to protect her family. A mother who has lost everything and a daughter with more to gain than she ever realized, their story will irrevocably shape the world.

My Review:

Whether gods make men in their own image, or the other way around, either way it’s NOT a compliment. But it does explain a whole damn lot about the behavior of Zeus and his Olympians.

This is not a pretty story. It’s a reminder that the versions of Greek mythology we all read in school were sanitized to the max and absolutely written from a male perspective. That’s pretty much the only reason I can think of for the cavalier treatment of Zeus’ utter lack of faithfulness to his wife. Not to mention how many of the females who bore his demi-god and demi-goddess offspring said “NO” and ran as far and as fast as they could – even if that wasn’t enough.

So it’s not a stretch to believe that Zeus raped his sister Demeter to create Persephone. It’s all too typical of his behavior. Also utterly infuriating.

Which made Daughters of Olympus a fascinating rage read, because it made me look at something that was a familiar and even beloved part of my childhood reading in an entirely new and retrospectively furious way.

Escape Rating B: I ended up with mixed feelings about this book. At first, I was all in with Demeter’s point-of-view of the way things worked in her world – or rather, the way they mostly didn’t and she always ended up suffering at the hands of her brothers and fellow Olympians. Particularly Zeus. ESPECIALLY Zeus.

To the point where she spends centuries hiding away from her brother, her fellow Olympians, and the whole damn world. As much as I wanted her to stand up and take charge of at least her own fate and destiny – that’s not the way the myths go.

It’s only when the story switches to Persephone and after she is kidnapped by Hades at that, that we start seeing something different emerge – even as Persephone rails against Hades and the fate her father Zeus’ bargains have condemned her to.

What makes this retelling of Greek mythology work is that we see the old familiar stories from the perspective of characters who don’t have their own voices in the versions we originally learned. However, this is a feminine perspective and not a feminist one – regardless of which one the reader might prefer.

Meaning that Demeter and Persephone may be the predominant voices of this retelling, but their agency is still significantly limited. They can run, they can hide, but they can’t overpower – at least not until Demeter takes the reins of her own power to enact a different but still traditional feminine aspect – that of the protective, and if necessary avenging – mother.

So, if you’re looking for a retelling of familiar stories from a different perspective – but not expecting a different ending, Daughters of Olympus has an interesting tale to tell – particularly after Demeter finally breaks through her isolation to find her daughter and Persephone picks up the reins of the power that Hades is willing to give her.

Just don’t expect the story to end differently than we already know that it does. In that respect it’s similar to Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel, in that a traditional story is told from the perspective of an often overshadowed female character, but the outcomes are not and cannot be changed.

Dammit.

A- #BookReview: This Great Hemisphere by Mateo Askaripour

A- #BookReview: This Great Hemisphere by Mateo AskaripourThis Great Hemisphere by Mateo Askaripour
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: dystopian, science fiction, speculative fiction, political thriller
Pages: 432
Published by Dutton Books on July 9, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

From the award-winning and bestselling author of Black Buck : A speculative novel about a young woman—invisible by birth and relegated to second-class citizenship—who sets off on a mission to find her older brother, whom she had presumed dead but who is now the primary suspect in a high-profile political murder.
Despite the odds, Sweetmint, a young invisible woman, has done everything right her entire life—school, university, and now a highly sought-after apprenticeship with one of the Northwestern Hemisphere’s premier inventors, a non-invisible man belonging to the dominant population who is as eccentric as he is enigmatic. But the world she has fought so hard to build after the disappearance of her older brother comes crashing down when authorities claim that not only is he well and alive, he’s also the main suspect in the murder of the Chief Executive of the Northwestern Hemisphere. 
A manhunt ensues, and Sweetmint, armed with courage, intellect, and unwavering love for her brother, sets off on a mission to find him before it’s too late. With five days until the hemisphere’s big election, Sweetmint must dodge a relentless law officer who’s determined to maintain order and an ambitious politician with sights set on becoming the next Chief Executive by any means necessary.
With the awe-inspiring defiance of The Power and the ever-shifting machinations of House of Cards , This Great Hemisphere is a novel that brilliantly illustrates the degree to which reality can be shaped by non-truths and vicious manipulations, while shining a light on our ability to surprise ourselves when we stop giving in to the narratives others have written for us.

My Review:

Shakespeare said it best, but the Bard said an awful lot of things very, very well, which is why we keep quoting him. In The Merchant of Venice (Act 1, Scene 3), there’s a famous proverb that says that, “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.” It’s something the reader is forced to reckon with in This Great Hemisphere – even if the characters for the most part don’t have the education to recognize the phenomenon.

They’re not supposed to. That’s part of the story. In fact, a more accurate paraphrase of that quote as it applies to This Great Hemisphere would be that “the devil can WRITE Scripture for his purpose.” because that is exactly what has happened during the five centuries between our now and the future experienced by Sweetmint and her people.

As Sweetmint discovers over the course of this story, there’s another quote that applies even more, from a part of the Bible that the powers-that-be of the Northwestern Hemisphere have undoubtedly excised as part of their thoroughgoing revision of Scripture to suit their purposes. It’s the one from Ecclesiastes (1:9) that goes: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Or as it was put more succinctly in Battlestar Galactica, “This has all happened before. All of this will happen again.”

But Sweetmint and her friends do not know any of this when her story begins. It may have all happened before – in fact it has all happened before – but it hasn’t happened before TO HER and her perspective is what carries the story from hope and compliance to desperation, rebellion and tragedy. And maybe, just maybe, back to hope – or at least a brief approximation thereof.

But what is it that has happened before? Sweetmint’s story – or the story that takes place around her and through her, is just the kind of metaphor that science fiction does well when it takes an issue that is real and present – and generally terrible – and shifts it in time and space, alters just a few of the parameters – and forces the reader to see an obscured truth for what it really is.

This Great Hemisphere is set on Earth, five centuries into a future where a portion of the human population is born invisible. Because humans are gonna human, and governments always need a common enemy to class as less than human to keep everyone else in line, invisibles have been cast as a threat and dehumanized in every way possible. They are denied higher education, voting rights, land ownership, good jobs, good housing, etc., etc., etc. Denied all of those things by law and forced to live in remote villages so that the dominant population can never really know them so that they can be more easily demonized.

Sweetmint is supposed to be a “model Invisible” and has earned a place as an intern – not a servant, but an actual intern – with one of the men responsible for the creation of this system. He’s using her for the next step in his “great plan”.

But we see this broken society through Sweetmint’s eyes as the scales are removed from them. She learns that nothing she believes bears much of any resemblance to any objective truth and that the system is rotten from within – always has been and intends to always be so.

What makes the story so compelling is that even as we watch it unravel, we’re still riveted by her attempts to force a new way through. That even though it may be hopeless in the long run, there can be a reprieve in the short run – and possibly more. And we’re there for her and for it – even if the specific future she hoped for is not.

Escape Rating A-: I obviously had a lot of thoughts about this as I was reading it, and I have more. It’s that kind of book.

It does absolutely fly by. The author has done an excellent job of creating a world that is firmly rooted in the history we know and yet manages to shine a light on it from a different corner. Using invisibility as a metaphor for race allows the reader to be firmly grounded in our own historical perspective and yet provides a vector by which anyone can imagine themselves as Sweetmint because there are circumstances in which anyone can be rendered invisible.

I’m all over the map on what I thought and felt about this book, and it’s making writing it up all kinds of difficult. On the one hand, as I said, it’s compelling to read. On a second hand, I felt like the social issues part was a bit heavy-handed – but at the same time, I recognize that my own background makes me more familiar with some of the issues – albeit from a slightly different angle, and as someone whose read a lot of history the repetitive patterns are not exactly news.

From the point of view of someone who reads a lot of science fiction, this very much fits into the spec fic, SFnal tradition of exploring an all too real past and present issue by setting it in either a time or place away from the here and now. Something that even the original Star Trek series did both well and badly – sometimes at the same time – and there’s an episode that’s particularly on point in this regard, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.

In other words, in yet another attempt to make a long story short and probably fail at it again, This Great Hemisphere is a compelling story, both because of Sweetmint’s originally naive perspective and because the actual political machinations going and increasing enmeshment in the consequences of them – sometimes intentionally but often not. And the ending – oh that was a stunner in a way that just capped off the whole thing while still leaving just a glimmer of possibility – if not necessarily a good one – for the world in which it happens.

Grade A #BookReview: Penric and the Bandit by Lois McMaster Bujold

Grade A #BookReview: Penric and the Bandit by Lois McMaster BujoldPenric and the Bandit (Penric and Desdemona #13) by Lois McMaster Bujold
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Series: Penric and Desdemona #13
Pages: 123
Published by Spectrum Literary Agency on July 1, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

When Rozakajin, road-weary bandit and army deserter, spots a hapless blond young man in a country inn with an intriguing treasure map, he thinks he’s scouted an easy and lucrative victim. Attaching himself to odd traveler Penric seems simple enough, but when Roz’s old enemies catch up from behind, his plans take a turn for the much worse. When Pen’s claim that I never travel alone proves true in ways Roz never imagined, his world becomes more frightening still—but also much wider than he’d ever dared to dream.

My Review: 

Learned Divine Penric kin Jurald of Vilnoc is ALWAYS the single most dangerous person in the room in any situation because of his magic, his demon Desdemona, and the favor of his god, the Lord Bastard – and has been since the very first novella in this series, Penric’s Demon. He’s certainly more than a match for the lone bandit that has attached himself to Penric – if he needs to be.

Pen hasn’t decided whether or not he needs to be, so he’s dragging Roz along on his personal project to find a forgotten saint’s even more forgotten sanctuary in hopes of finding some precious treasure. To Pen, a scholar and translator among his many other avocations, long-lost documents IS a precious treasure.

Roz is hoping for something a bit more tangible and he’s willing to go along with the man he thinks is a gullible fool in order to get it.

But it’s all a bit of a test – not that there isn’t the possibility of some real treasure of both kinds.

Roz is on the run from the gang he’s been on the with since they all escaped from one kind of slavery after another. Pen thinks Roz might be on the pilgrimage road – even if Roz himself isn’t aware of that yet – and might be willing to take that road all the way from service through supplication, gratitude, divination and atonement, all the way to redemption – and a fresh start in his previously VERY hard-knock life.

At least Pen can hope. And minister – in his own way – to the wavering bandit. After all, bandits are one of the many ‘professions’ that are served by the Lord Bastard, avatar of chaos and the master of all disasters out of season – including thievery.

So Pen is on this little vacation – at least it was supposed to be a vacation – in search of lost documents. In Roz, he’s found a soul that might be willing to saved – at least from itself and its own bad decision.

However, back to the opening that Pen is always the single most dangerous person in the room. Roz is being chased by his six former ‘colleagues’, who have not given up banditry in the slightest and want revenge on Roz for stealing all their mules.

For Penric and Desdemona, six to two odds aren’t bad at all. They’re not even bad if Roz goes back to his former gang and the odds are seven to two. But six to three is even better. At least until the odds swell to include the gang that Roz’ former gang attached themselves to.

Thirty to three is a bit much even for Penric. Unless, of course, the favor of the Lord Bastard ensures that the odds – no matter what they are – turn in Penric’s favor.

Escape Rating A: After the previous entry in this series, the rather cozy and close to home Demon Daughter, the adventure of Penric and the Bandit is very much just that – an adventure story.

It’s a fun adventure because of the way that the bandit Roz thinks he’s taking advantage of the young and foolish seeming Penric, while Penric is really taking Roz’ measure in more ways than just the obvious.

Each of them believes they are ‘gulling’ the other – and only one of them is right. Or two, if you count Penric’s resident demon Desdemona.

But underneath the wild goose chase that bears all the fruit Penric could have desired, there’s also a story about redemption, about making another choice and stepping on a different path. The fascinating thing about Roz’ hesitant steps towards a different future is that the story never blames or moralizes about the choices he made in the past. Not that he didn’t commit crimes, but that he did the best he could with the lack of options he started with.

This is the story of a man who has never had any choices does when he finally has the chance to make a choice – and where that leads him. Penric has the patience to wait out that decision-making process – whether or not he is certain that his god is likely to force the circumstances a bit – as he often does – or not.

So this is an adventure. And it’s a story that takes one character – not through the famous stages of grief – but rather through the lesser known stages of a somewhat different sort of redemption that leads, not necessarily to any particular belief – but to a better life.

Along with a mad dash to take down a whole horde of bandits who really, really deserve it.

This novella series is always a lot of fun – with a fascinating lesson hidden inside each story. Like that proverbial box of chocolates. I’ve read them all, loved (and reviewed!) every single one, and always leave each story eager for the next – whenever it may appear.

A- #BookReview: The Mummy of Mayfair by Jeri Westerson

A- #BookReview: The Mummy of Mayfair by Jeri WestersonThe Mummy of Mayfair (An Irregular Detective Mystery #2) by Jeri Westerson
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, mystery
Series: Irregular Detective #2
Pages: 224
Published by Severn House on July 2, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

Private investigators Timothy Badger and Benjamin Watson take on another unusual and baffling case in Victorian London when a mummy unwrapping party takes a chilling turn.London, 1895. Although their last high profile case was a huge success, private detectives Tim Badger and Benjamin Watson know they can't afford to turn down any work, despite financial assistance from their mentor, Sherlock Holmes.So when the eminent Doctor Enock Sawyer of St Bart's Hospital asks Badger if the duo will provide security for a mummy unwrapping party he is hosting, Badger doesn't hesitate to take the job. After all, how hard can guarding the doctor's bizarre Egyptian artefacts be? But with Doctor Sawyer running late for his own party, the 'genuine' ancient sarcophagus of Runihura Saa is unravelled to reveal the remains of . . . Doctor Sawyer! Suddenly, the pair are drawn into a new case that's stranger and twister than they could ever have imagined.

My Review:

The “irregularity” of the Irregular Detective series is in the person of one of its protagonists, Timothy Badger of the Badger and Watson Detecting Agency. Once upon a time, Badger was one of the “invisible” children who operated as Sherlock Holmes’ eyes and ears on the streets of Victorian London. In other words, Tim Badger was one of Holmes’ Baker Street Irregulars.

But when Badger aged out – or grew up – out of the Irregulars, he still needed to make his living. Which is where his partner, jack-of-all-trades Benjamin Watson comes into the picture. Both from the “wrong side of the tracks” in the East End, without a shilling between them, they set up as private detectives in the mode of Badger’s former ‘Guv’, the Great Detective himself.

As seen in the first entry in this series, The Isolated Séance, after five years of struggle to keep body and soul together, Sherlock Holmes himself gave these ‘apprentices’ a bit of a leg up. Their perseverance was rewarded with rooms in Soho – several steps up the economic ladder from their previous lodgings and office – and a seemingly magical refilling box of money for expenses.

They’re doing well for themselves. It’s a lot of hard work and shoe leather – but their successes seem to outnumber their failures. They have as much work as they can handle – and even their own chronicler in the person of newspaper reporter Ellsie Littleton.

Which leads to this second sensational case, The Mummy of Mayfair. A moniker that seems ripped, not from the headlines, but from the titles of the penny dreadful fiction that Badger loves to read. Watson prefers the newspapers and scientific journals.

After all, someone in this partnership needs to keep their feet on the ground, especially with a case that has so much potential to ascend – or perhaps that’s descend – into flights of fantasy and mythology.

It begins with a mummy unwrapping party. An all too common event among the upper crust in the 1890s. It was the heyday of ‘Egyptomania’, with all of the implications of madness the word mania implies.

Badger and Watson were hired by Dr. Enoch Sawyer to provide security for his mummy unwrapping party. A party that takes an even more macabre turn when the mummy is finally unwrapped to reveal that it’s not the mummy of Runihura Saa. It’s the much more recent mummy of Dr. Enoch Sawyer – their client – who is clearly not going to be able to pay them for the job they are about to do on his behalf.

And the game is afoot!

Escape Rating A-: First, I loved this every bit as much as the first book in this series, The Isolated Séance. Second, I need to kick myself for not figuring out that the series title is a pun until now. I sorta/kinda thought the cases were “irregular” and they are that – from a séance in the first book to a mummy in the second. But it’s the DETECTIVES – or at least one of them – that are irregular. As in, the Baker Street Irregulars. 🤦🏻

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, what makes this case so much fun is the way that it blends the real with the fictional.

Mummy unwrapping parties were a very real thing in the 1890s – as shown in the painting below by artist Paul Dominique Philippoteaux circa 1890. The scene may seem macabre to 21st century readers, but such parties were all the rage in 1895, when The Mummy of Mayfair takes place.

Rage also being an important factor – at least in this particular case – as the ‘mania’ led people to strange rivalries and illegal behaviors – as humans are wont to do in the throes of a craze, fad, or mania. It still happens now, and humans haven’t changed all that much in just a bit over a century.

As much as the insanity of this particular mania turns out to be the impetus for the actions of the characters, what is making the series work are the characters and the way they manage to fit into – and take off from – the canon of Sherlock Holmes and ITS well-known and loved protagonists.

The best detectives, whether amateur or professional, are outsiders. It’s nearly impossible for humans to set aside their preconceived notions and biases in regards to people they know. A fact which very nearly sends the entire case on a wild goose chase, as one of the possible suspects is one of Badger’s former colleagues in the Irregulars.

But the triumvirate necessary to fill all of the roles that in the original canon were filled by just two changes the structure of the investigation even as it challenges the reader to see Holmes’ Victorian age from a considerably less lofty perspective.

Timothy Badger grew up in the East End, living by his wits and the nimbleness of his fingers. His accent clearly marks him as being of a “lower class” to the toffs among whom he now finds himself – and he has to grow into his role without giving up who he essentially is.

Benjamin Watson is a black man in a white world. The first thing that anyone sees when they meet him is the color of his skin. He has the intelligence and the drive to have been anything within his reach, but his reach in the late Victorian era is circumscribed by his race.

Miss Ellsie Moira Littleton is a woman in a man’s world. Much like Charlotte Sloane in the Regency-set Wrexford and Sloane series, Ellsie has been forced by circumstances to be self-supporting, and is on the outside of the society to which she was born. As an intelligent, educated, woman who needs to make her own way, she is also an outsider but with an entirely different perspective on the society of which she was once a member.

From its sensational beginning, the case is a deeply puzzling mess. Badger and Watson’s preconceived notions about their clients and their former associates, as well as their lack of knowledge of the precise ways the rich spend their time and money and protect their positions frequently send them haring off in the wrong directions – and we follow them eagerly even as they frequently caution each other.

As I’ve said frequently within these pages, I’m a sucker for Sherlock Holmes pastiches, and that’s why I initially started this series. Now I’m hooked! I’m really looking forward to the next book in this series, The Misplaced Physician, where we’ll finally get to meet Sherlock Holmes’ Watson, as Badger and his Watson will be on the case of rescuing him! It’s a good thing that investigative reporter Ellsie Littleton will be on hand to record the adventure, as the original Watson may be too embarrassed – or too injured – to write it up himself.

We’ll certainly see, hopefully this time next year!

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 7-7-24

As many Reading Reality regulars may already be aware, on Wednesday, July 3, 2024, our beloved Lucifer T. Cat left us to climb the Rainbow Bridge. My post from Wednesday, Bitter to Receive, celebrates a bit of his life with us and pours out the smallest measure of my grief – but I still feel as if I’m on the verge of tears most of the time.

The remaining members of the clowder, Hecate (now eldest as well as grumpiest), George, Luna and Tuna, all circled around and sniffed his carrier after we came home without him, but seem to be settling into their new normal. Their humans are still utterly unsettled.

I’ve been reading ahead a lot these last couple of days, as well as re-reading a whole bunch of comfort reads. It’s one of the ways that I deal with things. Galen’s been playing a good but kind of creepy game, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden, and now I’m playing it too. It’s a game about dealing with ghosts, and isn’t that a bit on-target right now – at least for this household?

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Sparkle Time Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book PLUS EVENT-WIDE AMAZON/PAYPAL PRIZE in the Early Summer Giveaway Event
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Christmas in July Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the SUMMER 2024 Seasons of Books Giveaway Hop

Blog Recap:

Sparkle Time Giveaway Hop
B+ #BookReview: Better Living Through Algorithms by Naomi Kritzer
A- #BookReview: Guard the East Flank by M.L. Buchman
Bitter to Receive
#GuestPost: July 4th 2024
Christmas in July Giveaway Hop
Stacking the Shelves (608)

Coming This Week:

The Mummy of Mayfair by Jeri Westerson (#BookReview)
Penric and the Bandit by Lois McMaster Bujold (#BookReview)
This Great Hemisphere by Mateo Askaripour (#BookReview)
Daughters of Olympus by Hannah M. Lynn (#BookReview)
The Price of Redemption by Shawn Carpenter (#BookReview)

Stacking the Shelves (608)

Occasionally, Amazon’s attempts to match something-a-likes to whatever you’re searching for gets a bit, well, odd. The first entries for a search for Lightfall by Ed Crocker, I searched for “Lightfall Crocker” figuring that would be enough. The top entry for that search is a The Betty Crocker Cookbook. I get the “Crocker” part but can’t figure out where the “Lightfall” comes in.

Mr. Crocker’s not-a-cookbook aside, the prettiest covers in this week’s stack are The Bones Beneath My Skin and Remember When, and, as usual, they’re both pretty but not pretty the same at all. The books I’m most intrigued by are Earthlight and When Women Ran Fifth Avenue – of course for entirely different reasons.

Galen is particularly curious about The Elements of Marie Curie. I heard the author, Dava Sobel, speak at the ALA Conference last weekend, so I was interested, but when I told him about the book he was REALLY intrigued.

And the two books I’m most definitely looking forward to – and one of those immediately – are Penric and the Bandit and Shoestring Theory. I adore the Penric and Desdemona series, and Shoestring Theory, well, there’s a cat.

For Review:
Before We Forget Kindness (Before the Coffee Gets Cold #5) by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
The Bones Beneath My Skin by TJ Klune
Earthlight by J. Michael Straczynski (audio)
The Elements of Marie Curie by Dava Sobel
Jackpot Summer by Elyssa Friedland
Lightfall (Everlands #1) by Ed Crocker
Remember When: Clarissa’s Story (Ravenswood #4) by Mary Balogh
Shoestring Theory by Mariana Costa
Trajectory by Cambria Gordon
When Women Ran Fifth Avenue by Julie Satow
Wooing the Witch Queen (Queens of Villainy #1) by Stephanie Burgis

Purchased from Amazon/Audible/Etc.:
Penric and the Bandit (Penric and Desdemona #13) by Lois McMaster Bujold


If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page

Please link your STS post in the linky below:

Christmas in July Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Christmas in July Giveaway Hop, hosted by Review Wire Media!

There’s a saying about cats, that they want to be in when they’re out, out when they’re in, and vice versa, AND simultaneously. Humans are like that about the weather.

When it’s cold we want it to be hot. When it’s hot we want it to be cool. And sorta/kinda both, which is how Christmas in July came about. The weather is warm, the nostalgia about the holiday is cool – and the Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments for the year arrive around July 25.

Christmas in July is far, far, FAR from a serious event, but ANY excuse to give and receive presents is a good one. So, what sort of tchotchkes would you like to receive in your Xmas in July stocking? Answer in the rafflecopter for your chance at a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book to put inside that stocking!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more seasonal, or at least seasonal-ish prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter