Thursday, April 25, 2019

Kris Waldherr's The Lost History of Dreams

...he had the sense of viewing a man's life reduced to words. Black ink on white paper. Sentence after sentence. The grey minutia of daily routine flashed with occasional color...

This Gothic historical novel was a nearly perfect read: it held a snaky plot and thorny characters nestled in compelling narrative and deeply resonant themes. All love stories are ghost stories, we'll read more than once in this book, but this novel is more than a love story, more than a ghost story.

The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr
Touchstone, 2019
Review copy provided by publisher
Historical Fiction challenge

At the center of the novel is an imagining of the life of a Byron-like literary genius (and in those parts, I was reminded of Possession) touched with the unabashed, insistent naming of the woman behind such a figure. But surrounding that outward story is tortured emotions stretched taut to the point of madness (I was reminded of Sarah Waters and the way she writes about grief, ghosts, and getting even) and deft, quiet moments of revelation that hummed in the heart.

I love Gothic novels for the wild, expansive emotion of them (I consider them as having the emotional equivalent of someone using their outdoor voice inside, and I say this as someone who is a proud outside voice-r) and Waldherr doesn't disappoint. The characters and settings are intense and vivid and could be pulled out of a Gothic keyword grab bag -- a post-mortem photographer, a grieving spinster, a mausoleum of glass, a casket in a barn -- and they satisfy that Gothic craving and settle into their appointed role -- while still rebelling against expectations. This book fairly bristles with the unsaid, the sorrows unnamed and unseen, and the narrative explodes where the characters can't. Every time I thought I had ah-ha'd my way behind the curtain, Waldherr surprised me once more -- and it was delightful.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Weekend reads, or I bet I'll be cleaning

Two short reads on the docket for the weekend as I actually plan to do a great deal of cleaning. This coming week my brother, niblings, and mother will be visiting so needless to say, I'll be desperate to get things in order.

I don't know about you all, but the handful of truly gorgeous days have meant we've been outside and not spring cleaning, and whoo, does the house reflect that!

What are you reading this weekend?

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Wordless Wednesday, April 10

Rainy and chilly. Perfect for reading. My Wordless Wednesday features Kris Waldherr's new novel, The Lost History of Dreams. It's delicious. I can't wait to squee when I'm finished.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Alyssa Cole's A Prince on Paper

Love was for brave fools and Johan was entirely too clever and too cowardly to succumb to it.

Take one international playboy and one wallflower determined to change the story people tell of her and you get this wickedly charming romance.

A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole
Avon, 2019
Digital ARC provided by publisher

This was my second Cole book, but the first contemporary romance of hers I've read. As with the first book of hers I read, An Extraordinary Union, I was immediately smitten.

This is technically the third book in her Reluctant Royals series so I was a tiiiiiiny bit lost at the start when the characters from the earlier books were crowding for reader reunion time. But enough backstory is provided that I wasn't lost when it came to Nya and Johan, and their super cute, super sexy romance won me over immediately.

I loved this modern take on the romancing royalty trope -- I haven't read any modern royal romances, actually so I didn't know what to expect -- and now Cole has set the high water mark all other authors will need to reach. Sorry not sorry!

Our heroine Nya is used to being a wallflower, finding love through phone app games and watching her friends find their happily ever afters. Our hero Johan is used to being notorious even though his behavior hides more altruistic drives. A flight to a wedding throws them together and, well, things get good.

This great piece from Love in Panels explains why Cole's books are so particularly exciting and delightful for me. I love reading romances featuring heroines of color, penned by a woman of color, because there's no othering or exoticizing of marginalized people. While Cole's heroines touch on racism -- usually a note of apprehension by her heroines on meeting the white relatives of their beaux -- the heroine's identity is never part of the conflict between our lovers.

At this point, Cole is an automatic buy for me (I'm pretty much averaging at least one Cole romance a month now and I'm loving that) and I can't wait for what else she's got coming. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Caitlin Starling's The Luminous Dead

Words flashed up on her cracked screen.


Gyre choked down the faint, nascent sound that threatened to leak from her throat.

The words on her screen disappeared, and were replaced with:


I won this book via GoodReads' First Reads and I really had no idea what it was about; but I loved the title and the cover so dove right in. What I landed in was a creepy, claustrophobic thriller pitting/partnering two damaged people in a place determined to kill them.

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
Harper Voyager, 2019
Review copy from publisher

Starling doesn't waste time plunging us (literally) into her world, an alien place where mining dominates but some kind of alien known as Tunnelers make it dangerous. Cavers identify lodes -- if they survive the Tunnelers -- and a good caver can make lucrative money surviving one or two expeditions. Surviving being the operative word.

Gyre is desperate to leave her home planet to find her mother, who abandoned her as a child; she risked everything to land this mysterious, dangerous, highly paid job. Quickly, we see things are not as expected, but even Gyre doesn't know what is standard. The novel devolves into a mire of paranoia and barely contained panic, infectious and so very, very fun to read.

There are alien monsters, possibly unreliable narrators, horrifying realities or maybe terrifying delusions. It's impossible to tell what's real and what isn't, and I loved every moment.

Bonus is that Starling's world isn't white and straight!

A super fun debut!