River of Ink
Cooper’s River of Ink is an exquisite offering whose words sing in the blood. This is a tale of ancient Sri Lanka, a tale of conquest, change and forbidden love.
It is the story of Asanka, royal poet to King Parakrama. When an invading army takes over the kingdom, Asanka is commissioned by the new ruler, Kalinga Magha, to translate the epic poem of Shishupal from the Sanskrit into the local Tamil language, so that it might be available to all. In an act of rebellion towards a capricious ruler, Asanka slips allusions into his crafting, hinting at Magha being like Shishupal, another ruthless ruler.
Now, ancient Sri Lanka is not my usual forte for historical fiction, but Cooper does seem to have done an admirable amount of research. The characters are well drawn out. I will admit, there were times when Asanka got on my nerves with his timidity. However, he is a poet, a writer, not a warrior; the type of person whose gentle and empathic nature would be singularly affected by brutality and violence.
River of Ink is Cooper’s debut novel, a marvelous offering from a brilliant young author. I look forward to future works from him.
January 26th 2016
Marked In Flesh: A Novel of the Others
Fourth and most recent in Bishop’s The Others series, Marked in Flesh continues to follow Meg Corbyn, cassandra sangue for the Lakeside Courtyard. She and the other females of the human pack have discovered more to aid the other people caring for the rescued blood prophets. Part of this is the realization that if drawing keeps Hope, a cassandra sangue living with the Sweetwater pack, from needing to draw blood to reveal prophecy, then perhaps there are other ways best suited to different girls. One big thing that seems to help is the use of oracle cards, and Meg is working with a deck composed of cards from several different oracle decks in the hopes of finding an ideal deck for the blood prophets to use.
The HFL are turning ever more lethal. An audacious plan is launched to “get rid of the terra indigene.” Across Thaisia, enclaves of Wolves are being slaughtered. The humans think they’ve won. Little do they know, humanity is now being watched and judged by terra indigene old as time itself. They are Namid’s teeth and claws, and they are angry. Meg and the human pack at the Lakeside Courtyard may be all that speaks to mercy for the humans living on Thaisia.
Meg continues to be a frail yet strong young woman, who is a beloved confusion for the Lakeside Courtyard. We get to see more of Hope and of Joe and Jackson’s territories. The Intuit communities around Thaisia still work with, and honor, the terra indigene, knowing that it is only by their sufferance that humans are allowed on this continent at all. As things heat up even more for Meg and the others, I still cannot help but see the parallels between the HFL and Trump’s America. Rampant hatred and blatant dismissal of fact are a growing infection. Things finally come to a head on Thaisia. The festering boil is lanced by the teeth and claws of Namid, draining out the infection. An open, raw wound is left behind, one that must be watched and carefully tended lest the infection returns.
As always, this series had solid writing. I’m so invested in this book family, and now I must wait for the next one!!! Many threads were tied off in this novel, and I’m eager to see where the next book will go. Highly recommended.
The Shadow’s Curse
The Shadow’s Curse, by Amy McCulloch, is the second in a set of two. Silly me was not paying proper attention to this fact, which led to a bit of confusion at first. However, the author did an admirable job of recapping necessary bits so things quickly fell together.
This story follows Raim, (still) working to rid himself of his curse, and Wadi, his love, who is with Raim’s nemesis Khareh. What’s so sad is Khareh was once his close friend. It’s an interesting insight into how people change and what can shatter a friendship. Khareh, though, isn’t everything he seems. The darkest of people have a spark of light, just as the brightest have a hint of shadow. Raim, Wadi, and Khareh are on a collision course with surprising results.
Despite having missed out on the previous book (I’ve ordered it), I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I found it to be an engaging read. It was fast-paced and there were never boring lulls. Occasionally, things did seem to slip a bit to a more simplistic bent, but nothing that really detracted from the story.
I found the world-building particularly interesting. I like seeing the various perspectives, traditions, and cultures of the other worlds I visit while reading. I think the people who do this well must have a touch of the anthropologist in them somewhere.
The cover is beautifully done! I try not to judge a book yea or nay based on its cover, but an attractive cover is a piece of art! All said, if you enjoy well-crafted fantasy, you are sure to enjoy McCulloch’s Shadow’s Curse, and its predecessor, Oathbreaker’s Shadow.
Béla’s Letters, by Jeff Ingber, is a hauntingly beautiful tour through history, leading us through the lives of one family via the precious artifact of letters, one of the historian’s best friends. They are stitched together with narrative from Béla’s point of view, the author’s conjecture for it was written after Béla’s passing. This was a very personal book for the author, for it is his gift honoring family. He is the son of Béla Ingber.
Spanning eight decades, we follow Béla through seemingly carefree times as an youth, through the terrible killing time that was the Holocaust, through the aftermath and an arrival to America, where his fledgling family can finally put down roots again. Decades drift by, separating him from those terrible times. Children turn adult, granting grandchildren in turn. Siblings and close friends succumb to the inevitable march of time.
There is nostalgia for a childhood long gone, for the past of one’s youngest years almost always seems a better time than the present, right? There is profound sadness and unmitigated fear at the horror of one of humanity’s darkest moments, when an entire people felt the twinned weights of hatred and abandonment descend upon them. A time of slaughter, claiming millions of lives. There is hope in the aftermath, and worry as well, as shattered lives and broken families begin the long, slow mending process. Scattered throughout the book are pictures of Béla and other family and friends.
That’s so hard for me to comprehend, the sheer numbers involved. I was reminded of my visits to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, of the pictures magnified to cover entire walls, making truth hard to deny, of the near suffocating weight of fear and sadness still clinging to recovered artifacts, filling the rooms that held them — piles of shoes, piles of clothes, a railcar, most horrific of all, a clear pillar filled with expended zyklon-B cannisters.
Books like Béla’s Letters, like The Diary of Anne Frank, Schindler’s List, Irena’s Children, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, they call to us to never forget. They honor the past with remembrance. They are our collective Othala, the bitter part of our inheritance, the inheritance of us all, for the children of those who suffered, those who fought, those who stood by, those who actively took part. None of us must ever forget.
I have seen reviews of this book in other places that criticize the length, saying it should be cut down. At 500 plus pages, it is a long novel. However, I strongly disagree that it is too long. For a book following decades of a person’s life, which were hardly decades that were boring, a book of this length is warranted. I was never once concerned with ‘how long it was’. No, I found it to be a deeply engrossing read that flowed quick and easy.
Highly recommended. Perfect for those who enjoy historical fiction, especially regarding World War II. I am loathe to say ‘’if you like books about the Holocaust’, because, frankly, I would think something quite wrong with you if you liked them. However, to say ‘if books about the Holocaust fascinate you’ you’ll enjoy this book.
Murder and the Making of English CSI
Burney & Pemberton’s Murder and the Making of English CSI looks at the birth and development of crime scene investigating through the lens of a single socio-cultural point: England. This field of study, in its broadest sense, has fascinated me for nearly three decades. Were it not for a medical malady stealing my sight, I would have continued pursuing a career in forensic anthropology. Needless to say, I loved the book.
Broken into several chapters, it focuses on the growth of CSI within the confines of that most heinous of crimes, where the skills are most critical: homicide. For simplicity’s sake, the authors note that the initials of “CSI” are used, even at times when it might be anachronistic because there was no cohesive discipline as such at the time. At no point did I find this to be confusing.
The first chapter looks at the origins of scene investigation in general, particularly within Hans Gross’ 1893 Crime Scene Investigation: A Practical Handbook. I found it intriguing that even this far back, Gross recognized and emphasized the utmost value of trace evidence. Also looked at were the contributions of Edmond Locard, he of the transference principle, to this burgeoning discipline. I love that one of his inspirations was Conan Doyle’s immortal Sherlock Holmes!
The second chapter takes a look at what crime scene processing, or the lack thereof, was like in context of England. Discussed are Howard Vincent’s Police Code and Manual of Criminal Law, first published in 1881, and Alfred Swaine Taylor’s Principles and Practices of Medical Jurisprudence, first published in 1865. Early English focus was on body evidence rather than trace evidence. It wasn’t until the early- to mid-20th century that Gross’ handbook was translated and the principles implemented.
Chapter Three focuses on a hallmark case of English CSI growth, that being the 1924 murder of Emily Kaye. The fourth chapter looks at how this particular case was sensationalized and became fodder for new storytelling, from detective magazine puzzles to news stories to screen portrayal.
Chapter Five covers how the transition of body- to trace-oriented evidence progressed and meshed within English criminalistics and how these first waves of detectives were taught to process for trace. Subsequent chapters look at forensic pathology and at Rillington place, where several bodies were found, making it a good example of synergy between body and trace evidence.
I really enjoyed this book and the history discussed. If you have a more than casual interest in forensics, this is a must-have for your personal library. Why a “more than casual,” you might ask? This book is college-textbook worthy. If one isn’t used to that, it may come across as dense writing. Prospective readers should also be prepared for the graphic crime scene photos scattered throughout. Highly recommended.
Ghosts from Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal
Yates’ and Gilbert’s Ghosts from Our Past is a collaboration of love from two young physicists-in-training. The book is organized into three broad parts.
“Our Stories” focuses on the authors’ histories and how they became interested in the paranormal, their meeting and subsequent friendship, and how they came to write the book.
“Our Research” takes a look at ghost accounts through history, from the earliest known accounts from Mesopotamia and the biblical story of the Witch of Endor through to Greco-Roman accounts, medieval accounts, and early modern accounts. The spiritualist era is covered in greater detail, followed by a brief look at the present. Historical paranormal groups and investigators are looked at, along with the history of spirit classification and the classification system they use. My favorite part was the scientific section, which brought into play theoretical physics and quantum mechanics.
“Our Methods” covered practical aspects of ghost hunting, from the tools of the trade (with a new section on PKE meters, proton packs, and ghost traps) to choosing a location and carrying out the investigation, including debriefing and evaluating evidence. They make sure to stress the importance of researching the property first, so you have an idea of the history of both the land and the building, which may give clues as to any hauntings. Also looked at are things to rule out, such as animals or the possibility of a hoax. The history of several famous hauntings are recounted in brief for your reading pleasure. While their passion for ghost hunting and the paranormal is clear, they are scientists first and foremost and are not quick to believe until they rule out more mundane possibilities.
Okay, I loved this book. I loved the in-text banter between them and the overall cheekiness of it. There’s actually a good deal of pretty nifty historical information as well as practical information for the fledgling ghost hunter.
Highly recommended if you like ghosty stuff, or love Ghostbusters.