Author Archives: Zarah Robinson

Review of The Affair of the Mysterious Letter, by Alexis Hall

Book cover of The Affair of the Mysterious Letter

I pre-ordered a copy of Alexis Hall‘s The Affair of the Mysterious Letter.

Description from Goodreads:

Upon returning to the city of Khelathra-Ven after five years fighting a war in another universe, Captain John Wyndham finds himself looking for somewhere to live, and expediency forces him to take lodgings at 221b Martyrs Walk. His new housemate is Ms. Shaharazad Haas, a consulting sorceress of mercurial temperament and dark reputation.

When Ms. Haas is enlisted to solve a case of blackmail against one of her former lovers, Miss Eirene Viola, Captain Wyndham finds himself drawn into a mystery that leads him from the salons of the literary set to the drowned back-alleys of Ven and even to a prison cell in lost Carcosa. Along the way he is beset by criminals, menaced by pirates, molested by vampires, almost devoured by mad gods, and called upon to punch a shark. 

But the further the companions go in pursuit of the elusive blackmailer, the more impossible the case appears. Then again, in Khelathra-Ven reality is flexible, and the impossible is Ms. Haas’ stock-in-trade. 

Review:

This book came to me challenged. It simply had so much to live up to. Alexis Hall is one of my favorite authors. But more importantly, several years ago I came across a snippet they’d written that has haunted me ever since. I don’t remember if it was a piece of their then WIP or a standalone scene that had just come to them. But either way, it stuck with me and I’VE WANTED THAT STORY ever since. When I read the synopsis for The Affair of the Mysterious Letter, I desperately hoped this was the story that scrap of writing fit into. And if my memory of that scene serves, I think it is.

The challenge for The Affair of the Mysterious Letter, of course, is how can reality possibly stand up to something imagine by another (however vaguely) for years? In some ways it accomplishes this task admirably, in others it was me who posed an impediment to my own enjoyment.

John is everything I could want in a puritanic Watson- esque hero. Ms. Haas is everything I could hope for in a cryptic, sorcerous Holmes. Hall’s writing is crisp as ever, the story engaging, and (as so many others have said) the story is marvelously queer. However, I struggled with the frequent breaks in the narrative in which John attempted discourse with the reader (especially in the beginning) and the Lovecraftian world full of reality bending gods was at times hard to pin down. (On a side note, I kept waiting for Piccadilly and Co. to make a cameo. I really hope there wasn’t one that I missed. LOL)

All in all, however, once I’d gotten used to the pace, I truly enjoyed this book. Everything about John Wyndham is lovable and 100% hope I sensed a future romance in the works for him. I ship him and [deleted to avoid spoiler] hard core. I don’t know if Hall plans more books in this series. But I’d look forward to reading them if there are more.

Review of The Whimsicals, by Mr. Bohemian

I won a copy of The Whimsicals, by Mr. Bohemian. I think it was through Goodreads, but I’m not 100% certain. It’s been sitting on my self for a while, waiting for me to feel inspired to read a series of short plays (Christian ones, at that).

Description:

Strap on your angel wings and resize your halo, this bus is set for Heaven or bust! A congregation of comedy and curiosity to cackle and confuse mortals and immortals. No angels were harmed in the making of this production. No demons were flattered in the making of this production.

Angel Incorporated

Your guardian angel is tracking your reward points. Do you have enough for a miracle? The angels of Angelix watch over mortals from their computer. From there they may provide their assigned mortal with what they need, but not often what they want. Is managing mankind not your nine to five? The demons of Daemonix are always accepting applications. 

The Guilty Gardener

Calling the case of The Children of The Garden versus Sylmalice. The prosecution states that Angel Sylmalice trailed the girl Eve into biting the tree of treachery. The defense argues that ever since “the exeunt” of Lucifer, angels have been actively prejudice to demons. Therefore, Angel Sylmalice is innocent by reason of “authenticity”, with mental collapse triggered by systematic social suppression. Angel 12 is on the case.

Kitty Kloud 9

You are now kruising on Kitty Kloud 9: Where Pets Get Picky! While on the show, angel parents possess the chance to chat with their pets. Are your dog and kitty kaught in a furball? Is the bird barbarically flicking the fish again? Step lightly with Angel 9 and Mr. Kitty, as they tiptoe through tantrums and bring peace to petkind.

Review:

Soooo, this is a thing I’ve now read. I can’t say it resonated with me, and not because of the religious content. (I think it works fine for the irreligious too). I just thought the whole thing was trying way too hard to be claver and witty. Especially in The Guilty Gardner, where they excoriate relativism by expounding on the difference between nothing and no thing, for example. (And that’s if I actually followed all the banter-like quibs correctly. And Kitty Kloud 9, where everything is written with Ks instead of Cs, even though it’s a PLAY and how would the audience know the difference?It just felt gimmicky.

Review of The Perfect Mother, by Aimee Molloy

I initially won a paperback copy of Aimee Molloy‘s The Perfect Mother through Goodreads. However, in order to get it read, I chose to borrow an audio copy of it from the library for a road trip.

Description:

They call themselves the May Mothers—a collection of new moms who gave birth in the same month. Twice a week, with strollers in tow, they get together in Prospect Park, seeking refuge from the isolation of new motherhood; sharing the fears, joys, and anxieties of their new child-centered lives.

When the group’s members agree to meet for drinks at a hip local bar, they have in mind a casual evening of fun, a brief break from their daily routine. But on this sultry Fourth of July night during the hottest summer in Brooklyn’s history, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is abducted from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but the May Mothers insisted that everything would be fine. Now Midas is missing, the police are asking disturbing questions, and Winnie’s very private life has become fodder for a ravenous media.

Though none of the other members in the group are close to the reserved Winnie, three of them will go to increasingly risky lengths to help her find her son. And as the police bungle the investigation and the media begin to scrutinize the mothers in the days that follow, damaging secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are formed and fractured.

Review:

Honestly, this is a hard one for me to review. There are certain kinds of books that I just don’t particularly enjoy, and this is one of them. Of course, I didn’t realize that until I’d gotten into the book, and that left me with the choice to DNF or muscle through it. I chose to finish it. Being objective, the writing is perfectly readable and (as I had the audio-book) the narration by Cristin Milioti is very good as well. But 9.5 hours of new mother anxiety nearly broke me.

I’ll grant that any woman who has had children in the last decade or so will recognize the pressure to be perfect, the mommy competition, the stress and anxiety caused by parenting an infant in the world of social media, etc. (I imagine every generation has some version of this). But any positive feeling engendered by relating to this aspect of the characters was eclipsed by the fact that the mothers (and one father) of this book were basically neurotic. Yes, parenting a newborn is hard. Yes, the characters of this book are subjected to additional stressors. But 300+ pages of “OMG, my Baaaaby!” felt like about an eternity to me. I hated them all by the end.

I suppose the best I can say is that if you like this sort of book, the sort where women agonize over being women, then read this. For me, I’m just glad to be finished.