Petticoats and Poison – Just Another Day at Finishing School

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Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School Series #1) by Gail Carriger

Sophronia’s knack for mechanics and a tendency toward mischief are hardly desirable qualities for a Victorian lady, but they do make her an ideal recruit for Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

When the 14-year-old girl arrives, she quickly discovers her school is unlike any other. Classes taught by werewolves and vampires are merely the beginning. Along with music and dance, Sophronia is schooled in the arts of espionage and intrigue – hardly subjects her mother would approve of, but ones she takes to with passion!

However, Sophronia quickly discovers school isn’t all fun and games and soon finds herself immersed in a mystery whilst pursued by flywaymen and shady characters intent on attacking the Academy. Armed with her mechanimal, Bumbersnoot, and a group of steadfast friends, Sophronia sets out to uncover the truth and, hopefully, put a little polish on her finish before returning home for the holidays!

Etiquette & Espionage is a delightful story, and Gail Carriger does a terrific job with her young adult debut. Filled with humor and witty dialogue, the story easily entertains and keeps the reader turning the page. Carriger’s penchant for creative character names is in full force with offerings such as Temminick, Mrs. Barnaclegoose and Dimity Ann Plumleigh-Teignmott, and she delightfully weaves in a few familiar faces (albeit younger!) from her wildly popular Parasol Protectorate series.

If you’re a fan of Carriger’s earlier books, you won’t want to miss the newest addition to her colorful universe. And if, somehow, you’ve never heard of steampunk’s comedic genius, this book is a great introduction to a world turned topsy-turvy by treacle tarts, flamboyant vampires, empowered women and flying dirigibles!

Blood Oath’s Nathaniel Cade is a far cry from your Twilight vampire

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Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth

Nathaniel Cade is no ordinary vampire. Called to service by President Andrew Jackson in the late 1800s, Cade has been protecting the Oval Office from supernatural threats ever since.

When rising political hot shot,Zach Barrows, is assigned as the vampire agent’s new handler, the two are thrown into a plot to stop Dr. Johann Konrad (also known as Baron von Frankenstein – yes, that Frankenstein) from creating an army of unstoppable monsters. But as they race against the clock, they discover the monster army is only the beginning. A far more sinister government plot is afoot – one that involves officials at the highest levels – and their target is the President of the United States.

With the vampire craze well underway – Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, etc. – it’s no surprise to find a vampire employed by the U.S. goverment. Farnsworth’s book is enjoyable enough, although the plot could use a bit more fleshing out every now and then. And, his love scene read like a teenaged-boy’s fantasy.

Other than that, though, Blood Oath was solid and entertaining.

Cold Vengeance serves up hot chase across the globe

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Cold Vengeance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

In Cold Vengeance, FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast sets aside his badge in order to pursue a personal vendetta against the man he believes is responsible for his wife’s murder. But it’s during his own brush with death Pendergast uncovers a startling secret: Helen is still alive.

This revelation sparks the agent’s perilous journey to discover the truth behind his wife’s orchestrated disappearance. From the Scottish Highlands to the steamy streets of New Orleans and finally back New York City, Pendergast’s search pits him against an ancient group determined to stop him from discovering the truth – no matter what the cost.

Cold Vengeance is, perhaps, the most personal story thus far in the Pendergast series. Although readers have been given glimpses of his humanity in earlier stories, this particular tale showcases the agent’s humanity as he desperately seeks answers regarding the loss and possible existence of his wife.

Set across the globe, the story takes many twists and turns as Pendergast unravels the mystery and, in the end, the reader is left with more questions than answers; however unsettling this may be, it perfectly sets the stage for the next novel in the series.

Extraction packs quite a creepy punch

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Extraction by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

For most children, the idea of a Tooth Fairy is a pleasant one, but in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the reality is much darker than any children’s tale. For instead of leaving their tooth under a pillow, children must deposit their tooth in a small bowl on the porch of a recluse’s mansion lest the old man Dufour come after what’s rightfully his.

For years, young Aloysius Pendergast has always viewed this ritual with scorn and derision, and he’s horrified when his younger brother, Diogenes, adamantly insists on honoring the superstitious tradition. Determined to teach his brother a lesson, Aloysius retrieves his brother’s offering and discards it.

But when Diogenes disappears the next day, Aloysius begins to wonder if the legends might be true…

Set between Cold Vengeance and Two Graves, this creepy, little gem of a story provides valuable insight into the relationship between FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast and his brother, Diogenes. Although Diogenes didn’t become unhinged until later in life, it’s easy to discern how Aloysius’s actions unwittingly helped shape the monster Diogenes would eventually become.

As always, René Auberjonois’ narration was excellent. The dulcet tones of Pendergast seem to come effortlessly to him, and I cannot imagine listening to anyone else bring our favorite Special Agent to life. It’s always a treat to listen to him slip between the characters and the narrator, and oftentimes, I forget I’m listening to only one person read the story.

Set at 30 pages, the original short is a quick read. If you choose to listen to it as an audiobook, the story clocks in at a mere 67 minutes – easily finished within one or two day’s commute.

If, like me, you haven’t finished Cold Vengeance yet, take heart: this story can be read without fear of spoilers!