KANA COLD: Case of the Shinigumi by KC Hunter is a prequel to an urban fantasy series in which parapsychologist Kana and her sidekick AJ finally get a real case of unambiguous supernatural menace, targeting a young child. While the menace feels like a Exorcist knockoff (anything that has a child floating above her bed, possessed by supernatural forces…) but Kana’s a distinctive urban fantasy protagonist: no powers and a past that doesn’t revolve around magic, having given up a shining academic career for parapsychology. While the emphasis on her being a tough girl (pool playing, bar-fighting, drives a muscle car) didn’t work for me, on the other hand it does make her stand out from most of the UF leads I’ve seen. I liked it enough I may buy one of the books eventually.
THREE SHOTS TO THE WIND: A Sea Glass Saloon Mystery by my friend Sherry Harris has Chloe Jackson — whose first adventure I reviewed here — unnerved when an anonymous someone puts on a big romantic campaign to impress her. Then it turns out the ex-fiancee from Chicago she broke up with is in the area, determined to win her back … oh, and now he’s been murdered.
I’m not normally keen on cozies but there was a lot I liked about this one. It’s set where I used to live, which is cool; Chloe’s slow realization her ex wasn’t the man she thought he was; and that the local cop insists on treating Chloe like just another civilian rather than a colleague or an adversary. So even though I figured out the murderer almost instantly, I enjoyed this.
Seanan McGuire’s ANGEL OF THE OVERPASS, however, was a big disappointment, seeing as I enjoyed both Sparrow Hill Road and The Girl in the Green Silk Dress. Apparently in McGuire’s InCryptid series (which I hadn’t realized was in the same world) someone destroyed the crossroads of the ghost roads Rose Marshall, the Phantom Prom Date, travels on. That means Bobby Cross, Rose’s murderer, no longer has the crossroads to protect him so she can finally finish him once and for all.
That’s a strong set-up for a book but this wanders away from it and never regains momentum. Rose hangs out with friends and provides endless infodumps about the ghost roads and those who dwell on it. And while I like Rose’s voice, even allowing for seventy years of afterlife I can’t buy her using words like “colonialist.” Possibly the problem is that McGuire planned the second book as the finish, because resurrecting old works often doesn’t work out well (case in point).
I had a lot more fun with India Holton’s THE WISTERIA SOCIETY OF LADY SCOUNDRELS, a Victorian fantasy about a group of female rogues who steal, attempt to assassinate each other, and operate out of magical flying houses. The protagonist is Cecilia, a Wisteria apprentice frustrated by the society’s persistent refusal to give her full membership. On top of which she has to deal with a handsome assassin assigned to eliminate her and her deranged misogynist father’s plans to crush the Society and all its uppity women. Lightweight but fun.
Switching to nonfiction — THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOME ECONOMICS: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live by Danielle Drellinger looks at how home ec began in the 1800s (though not under that exact name) as a way to educate women about cooking, nutrition, sewing and similar topics. The goal was not only healthier, happier families but to educated women for careers; this, however, mutated into the classes of my childhood, intended to train high school girls for their inevitable future as wives and mommies; home economics professionals being career women themselves, they were quite shocked when called out on what their field has become. Drellinger shows how both black and white activists sought to educate the women of their races (though rarely in tandem) with WW I, the Depression and WW II making topics such as nutritious meals, home canning and preserves, and victory gardens of national importance. The concluding chapters argue the field (now known by some bland name such as community sciences) still has relevance enough it should be mandatory for both sexes. Overall, an interesting study.
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