Thursday, May 30, 2013

Espresso yourself

The world must be ending. I've now managed to update 3 days in a row.

Finally finished Cleo Coyle's new Coffeehouse Mystery, A Brew to a Kill. (As I understand it, Cleo Coyle is a pen name, and the same author also writes the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries as Alice Kimberly. However, give a few plot elements that crop up in a few books, I'm alsmost wondering if there isn't some ghostwriting going on as well. We'll come back to that.)

The series takes place in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. Claire Cosi runs The Village Blend on behalf of her octogenarian ex-mother-in-law, Madame Dreyfus Allegro Dubois. Her ex-husband, Matteo, travels the world buying coffee beans for the business. They have a daughter named Joy, who's currently in culinary school in Paris. As the series has progressed, so has Claire's relationship with Mike, the Homicide detective who now runs the OD squad for NYPD. And Joy has been dating Franco, one of Mike's subordinates. Matteo, on the other hand is now married to a wealthy socialite. (Mind you, it's an open marriage, but hey...)

The current book starts with a hit and run accident outside the blend following a meeting between Claire, Matteo, Madame, and Lilly Beth Tanga. Lilly Beth, a woman of Philippians decent who is consulting on healthier options  for the Blend's new food truck, gets struck by a white van following a confrontation with the Kupcake Kween's food truck. The Kupcake Kween food truck is run by a business rival, and blasts the names of cupcakes sold in a bad French accent to the tune of "Ma Vie in Rose".

On top of this, Matteo's new Brazilian bean shipment seems to have picked up a few surprises, namely a new form of Brazilian crack-cocaine the dealer wants him to distribute.

Over the course of the rest of the story, we get our usual blend of red herrings as to who was behind both the first hit and run as well as the second (at a food truck reception), plus a conclusion that features the series' hallmark, Claire finding out at least one mystery by becoming a woman in jeopardy at the hands of the bad guy.

Oh yes. Much as I love this series and the recipes both in the book and at her website, I honestly feel the NYPD homicide squad should just covertly tail Claire whenever a murder happens anywhere near the Blend, since she'll inevitably get kidnapped, assaulted, etc by the bad guy.

Also, one of the traits that leads me to believe that a few books are getting ghost written here or at least edited is the occasional brief mention of the supernatural in a few books in the series. In the first book, she reads coffee grounds. That's never shown up again. Occasionally, we get a mildly prophetic dream that half the time only tangentially relates to the plot.

The series as a whole makes for a nice afternoon read, even if it does require a visit to whatever local coffeehouse is nearby.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Banananana Surprise anyone?

Since my last post concerned Phantom of the Opera, I thought I'd cover one of my favorite worlds, specifically a book within that world that's a literary parody of Phantom.

For those who have never delved into the happy world of Discworld, Terry Pratchett created a wonderfully satiric medieval lite world that reads like Monty Python playing Dungeons and Dragons. There are several characters he follows around, depending on the volume, but one, Maskerade, somehow manages to bring several characters together into one big grand guignol of comedy.

We start with Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax trying to meet as witches, only to find they really need a third. ("Three witches are a coven. Two witches are an argument.") Nanny tries to recruit Agnes Nitt (AKA Perdita X. Dream) to the coven, only to find that Agnes has left for Ankh-Morpork to sing in the Opera.

Of course, Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax find an excuse to go to Ankh-Morpork, mainly due to missing royalties on Nanny Ogg's cookbook, which she wrote under the pseudonym, The Lancre Witch. Given Granny Weatherwax feels she's more deserving of that title, she has a few ideas of her own in mind by the time the arrive in Ankh-Morpork. (As a side note, Granny ends up playing cards with Death to save a baby. This is one of Death's many cameos in this book. Given Death is an inveterate scene stealer...)

Anyway, Perdita is singing in the chorus, although what she's REALLY doing is a Debbie Reynolds in Singin' in the Rain. Which is to say Perdita is singing the lead over the horribly vocally untalented Christina. Christina got the lead due to beauty and her ability to faint at appropriate times.

By the end of this, we have 2 Phantoms running around (3 if you count the anthropomorphic cat Greebo, who poses as the Phantom briefly), the whole of Pseudopolis Yard investigating, 3 witches, Death, Death-of-Rats, the librarian from Unseen University on organ, and a plot that gets so convoluted that it matches any opera in terms of scope and silliness.

As much as I love all of Discworld, even the ones that are more commentary than funny, this one ranks as my all time favorite. Although if you've never read any of it, the series starts with Rincewind in The Colour of Magic.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Common sense doesn't apply to sopranos

Last night, NetFlix showed me the 25 Anniversary Phantom of the Opera LIVE at Albert Hall. Which, while I really enjoyed watching my favorite musical, the story Andrew Lloyd Weber portrays is not quite Gaston Leroux's source material as it could be. Not that any adaption really is, since most modern retellings focus on the romance rather than the tragedy.

See, Erik, aka the Phantom, is not a happy or particularly sane man, and Christine Daae isn't exactly the brightest crayon in the box. Her lover Raoul is impulsive and quite irrational in his steps.

They're the heart of the story, yes, but so much more is going on around them. (Leroux was a mystery writer, so it should come as no great surprise that much of the novel focuses on Erik's crimes.) Like the missing money, disappearing sopranos, people getting hung...

Maybe it would help to start at the very beginning. Christine is a budding Soprano stuck in the chorus until the Diva Carlotta is ill. Christine, who as far as any one knows sings like a rusty hinge, steps up and wows the crowd of patrons. (It should be noted here that Carlotta is not exactly the world's nicest Prima Donna. Leroux takes a paragraph or two to explain how Carlotta is quite heartless, using men to rise from singing at bawdy houses to singing Marguerite in Faust.) New managers take over the opera (Armand and Fermin), and find out that not only are the previous managers happy to go, but they've inherited quite a greedy ghost. Who demands salary payments and the leaving of Box 5 at every opening performance that he might enjoy the show. They talk to Madame Giry, who serves as the ghost's personal valet when he's seated in Box 5, who tells them that the ghost is a good tipper, and the reasons she serves him is a note he left promising her daughter, Meg (a dancer in the corps de ballet), the chance to marry nobility.

Well, being business men, of course they don't listen.

In the meantime, Christine (who's rather like 19th century white trash), has caught the eye of her childhood friend, the Vicomte de Chagny. Raoul is young and impulsive, and won't listen to his older brother, Comte Philippe de Chagny. Philippe encourages Raoul not to get involved with Christine. (Hell, later on, when Raoul follows Christine to her father's grave, the ghost tells him not to get involved.)


The new managers fire Mme. Giry, thinking she's the reason behind the extortion. They also sell Box 5. And give Christine a minor role, sticking Carlotta in the lead. Let's see... the Phantom is heard talking directly into the ears of the folks in Box 5, revealing the infidelity of the wife of the patron. Carlotta croaks like a frog in the middle of an aria, and the chandelier drops, landing on the head of the woman hired to replace Mme. Giry.

Raoul and Christine start a "pretend" engagement (Christine says they can never be married), and shows him some of the secrets of the upper floors of the Opera. (Which are some of the most interesting tidbits of the book. People living in the opera, the characters therein...). She avoids the sublevels of the opera, not telling Raoul until later that those are Erik's domain.

As they bond and fall more in love, Christine finally reveals her knowledge of the Phantom. The voice in her room teaching her to sing using the methodology employed by her father the violinist, the voice that claims to be the Angel of Music. Of falling into a mirror, crossing a lake 4 sublevels down to the Phantom's house... ripping off his mask to find a skull looking back at her. (Yes, Erik is horribly disfigured.) Finding his opera, a retelling of Don Juan, who lives in hell rather than being taken there by a statue he invited to dinner.

They work out a plan to elope and escape after a performance of Faust.

When Faust begins, we find out that the Ghost has demanded quite a lump sum of cash from the managers and demanded also that Christine sing Marguerite.

The cash, safety pinned to Fermin, vanishes. Christine vanishes in the middle of the opera. Raoul goes notes. It's at this point the narrative goes first person, drawn from the diary of The Persian, one of the eccentrics living in and around the Opera. Seems The Persian knew Erik back in the day, and more or less has been caretaking/keeping an eye on Erik for quite some time. He tells of of Erik's time in the Rosy Hours of Mazendaran. Which isn't in great detail, beyond Erik teaching a sultaness of how to use a noose and Punjab Lasso.

The Persian and Raoul decide not to attempt the lake to get to Erik's house, since the "Sea Monster" might be there. They instead find the back door to Erik's house (after running in to The Ratcatcher and The Fireman [who gets a footnote saying something to the effect that he has a story of his own that never gets told] ) and fall into Erik's torture chamber.

Erik's torture chamber is an octagonal room made of mirrors. Raoul and the Persian spend what seems like a few days in the torture chamber (which more or less simulated being trapped in an iron forest until the prisoners hang themselves), listening to Erik begging, cajoling, and threatening Christine to marry him. He gives her a choice between two statues, one which will flood the gunpowder and one that will blow up the Opera and a few surrounding blocks of Paris.

She chooses marriage and floods the torture chamber which sat on top of the gunpowder.

At the end of The Persian's narrative, we find out that Erik ended up realasing Christine after she kissed his naked face without revulsion, letting her go to her one true love, Raoul. He dies a few weeks later of a broken heart.

The book ends with Leroux telling us the reason he wrote the book is because of a skeleton wearing a wedding ring found in the basements of a renovating Opera. Not a victim of the Revolution, Leroux believes the skeleton to be Erik, who should be buried with full honors.

Like I said, not exactly romantic, unless your idea of romance involves having your stalker threaten to blow up a city block because you won't love him.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dragons and guardians and elves and bards... OH MY!

So, since I said I'd start writing a weekly survey/synopsis entry on here, I figured I'd start with another favorite shared world series by an author I've reviewed before. Now, I was thinking about reviewing the NYC of the Coffeehouse Mysteries by Cleo Coyle  (mainly because I'm halfway through book 11, A Brew to a Kill) or catching everyone up on Southern Vampires (aka Sookie Stackhouse) by Charlaine Harris or Destroyermen by Taylor anderson (both of which have a new book out or getting ready to come out.) Instead, I got to thinking about Bedlam's Bard and the very interesting shared world it inhabits.

As a story behind this, many many years ago, I worked at a Dayton, OH, pizza chain named Cassano's. It remains one of the few good things in Dayton. (Ok, there are 3 really good chains down there. Milano's and anothe M which just brain farted out of my mind.) (And seriously, should you ever wind up in the cesspit that is Dayton, go to Cassano's. best pizza EVAR!) One of my drivers was also a fantasy nut, and as such got me involved with a few authors I'd either read a book by (Lois McMasters Bujold) or introduced me to series outside of the ones I had read (Mercedes Lackey). In this case, it took me a while to track down some of the books in question due to being out of print and assorted other drama...


My first introduction to the "Elves on the Road" world (at least that what Wikipedia calls it... I don't think it ever had a real name) was Burning Water, the first Diana Tregarde mystery. It was...interesting Very slow, but really interesting. It dug deep into Pre Conquista Mexican theology and some rather dumb photographer trying to complete the ritual rites of Tezcatlipoca (AKA Burning Water) in order to bring him back. Luckily, Diana Tregarde, Romance novelist and witch with Guardian powers gets involved, mainly because the wife of said photographer (and likely sacrifice) happens to be a friend of hers.

The next book, Children of the Night, was set in the late 60's early 70's (guessing on time frame based on references within the story) and involved bad vampires working with soul eating Japanese spirits. It too, was kind of drawn out. And gave Diane a vampire boyfriend about 7 years before Buffy the Vampire Slayer and 10ish before Twilight. 

It's the third book, however, that seems  to have caused the most issues, and sadly, it's the best in the series. Jinx High follows the child of one of Diana's paranormal investigator friends who's involved with a psycho girl. When Diana gets involved,  we find out the psycho in question is a body switching witch who's modus operandi is to have a daughter, then switch bodies with her. And had been doing this for quite some time.

There are also two short stories ("Satanic, Versus..." and "Nightside") collected in the anthology Werehunter. I'm pretty sure both are available to read on her website. The former has one of my favorite joke incantations in it, and references an old RPG: Bureau 13. For those who never played, it has a class called Kitchen Witch. The kitchen witch has the ability to take old grimoires and convert them with modern ingredients. Including replacing some obscure/rare/extinct ingredient  with... Twinkies. She also wrote a novella for the collection Trio of Sorcery called "Arcanum 101".

Then there was the absolutely wonderful Bedlam's Bard series. The first two (Knight of Ghosts and Shadows and Summoned to Tourney) were later published as a single volume and co-written by Ellen Guon. The next four volumes were cowritten with Rosemary Edgehill and sort of retcon a few major developments from the first two. The first two books revolve around Eric, a bard with a flute; Beth, a guitarist with a band; and Kory, an elf. At the end of the first book and continuing through the second, they're a triad. When the thirst books starts, Kory and Beth move Underhill and the idea of them being a triad for several years is swept away. Which is sad, but ot does allow for the redemption of the sort of antagonist from Book 1 who ends up dating Eric. Eric also winds up moving to NYC and into the same apartment building Diana Tregarde lived in. he also meets Hosea, a bard with a Banjo. And more Guardians. And more Elves.

By far, Mad Maudlin is my favorite in the last 4 volumes. One of the plotlines running around has to do with a mythology created by homeless kids involving a demon named Bloody Mary who both protects and harms children on the streets. Not long after reading it, I found an article on the street children of Miami and a similar mythology that has evolved among them. I personally get sucked into folklore, and finding an evolving one is a quick way to grab my interest.

The last series in this Modern Elf world is the SERRAted Edge series. Which is almost a shared world in and of itself, since none of the book really follow the same characters the rest did. (Most of these were co-written with Mark Shepherd, one with Larry Dixon, and two with Holly Lisle.) It concerns itself with elves who race Elven Steeds disguised as race cars. (Although they have made progress making racing cars with non-ferrous materials. Since we all know iron and elves get along about as well as Superman and Kryptonite.) One should not that the young mage Tannim gets a lot of face time in this series. Which is good, since he makes a cameo in Jinx High and Spirits White as Lightning.

According to Wiki, there's a historical elf series set earlier in the timeline of this world, but I've not read them.

But, if you've read Valdemar or enjoy Urban Fantasy, you could do a lot worse than these series.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

As the caissons go rolling along....

I'll be the first to admit my picture appears on the Things that are not Steampunk page. I love the visuals in Steampunk art, but the fiction is usually so tech heavy as to be distracting.

But there are exceptions to every rule, and sometimes the narrative doesn't get bogged down in fanciful alternate history. Such is the case with Doktor Glass, by Thomas Brennan.

Set in Victorian Liverpool, we meet Inspector Langdon as he finds a faceless body at the base of the soon to be inaugurated Span, a rail and road bridge traversing the Atlantic between Liverpool and New York City.  The faceless body is covered in tattoos of Boer Irregular mercenaries, leading to speculation that the man was part of a South African Dutch plot to destroy the Queen, the Span, or both.

However, the corpse also has two square burn marks on the side of his neck.

What follows is a convoluted story involving the class warfare between upper crust English and lower class twits trapped in what amount to Hoovervilles along the side of the span; widows wanting pensions for husbands killed in the sinking of the caissons of the span, hopeful emigres trying to get steerage trips to America once the rail starts running...

Into this, thanks to a medium trying to help Inspector Langston get past the grief of losing his wife, we find out that the burn marks they keep finding on corpses' necks is due to the Jar Boys, who've created a device that captures a soul as it exits the body of a dying person. These newfangled canopic jars have the added bonus of giving folks who touch the poles on top of the jar a brief glimpse of the soul's life.

And of course, the mysterious Doktor Glass, who seems to be intent on taking out his competitors in the soul trade, who also has Langston's wife's soul in a jar.

The only really issue I had with the narrative was figuring out Doktor Glass's identity well before Langston did, even if the motive remain veiled until near the very end. There are, however, several other mysteries surround supporting characters (most of which revolve around "Who works for whom?") which keep interest high, and of course some exposition on the building of the Span itself, which brought be back to an Art History class that dealt with a lot of Architecture. Because the Span itself is a magnitudes greater version of the famed Brooklyn Bridge, stories of the sinking of the caissons in "the pond" are very similar to the horrors of sinking them in the Hudson so many years ago. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

So wait, the clans got involved with dragons?

Since I'm really not updating this blog as much as I'd like, and I'm not reading with the alacrity I used to read with, and there are so many other blogs doing similar to this one...

Trying to take notes from Bob over at Candy-Coated Razor Blades and posting occasional updates that aren't about a specific book, but maybe a synopsis of an ongoing series, a survey of books from a specific genre or world...stuff like that. Particularly given how many of the series I'm reading are getting ready to release new books soon-ish, it would be helpful to the 5 of you, out there alone in the dark looking at this, to have a ready log of what came before, so I'm not having to explain a world to you before talking about the newest book

Any rate, with that in mind, and the fact I'm about 30 pages from the end of the book I'm reading right now, I thought I'd spend some time talking about some of my first real introductions to the fantasy genre, Role Playing Games tie in novels.

To be fair, most of these get a really bad rap. Mind you, most of the time, it is a deserved reputation... But some of it is fairly entertaining and only held back by the fact it has a game logo on the cover.

I think I started with Troy Denning's Prism Pentad, set in Dungeons and Dragons' Dark Sun setting. Also known as "Let's make the Hobbits cannibals and everyone lives in a desert!" The five book series covers the freeing of the City State of Tyr, the origins of the dragon that comes and eats folks as tribute, and what actually happened on Athas that caused the desolation of the planet. It wasn't exactly happy reading. It also gets points taken off for introducing psionic powers to D&D, which basically increased the math exponentially.

Then there were the loosely related Ravenloft novels. Ravenloft was a gothic-horror setting tied into Strahd the vampire. The novels here were generally tied to one or two dominions within the Demiplane of Dread, and usually involved one or more Darklord, ruling over that geographical area. Some of them were quite good, like Christie Golden's Dance of the Dead. That one involved a theatre troupe on a boat facing down an evil boat captain in the island of Souragne. So, basically, the main character learns to control zombies with magical dancing. It sounds silly, but it worked well. There were others, though, like Mordenheim, which were more or less retellings of the source material. (In this case, Shelley's Frankenstein.) One thing that should be pointed out about the Ravenloft novels, however, is that they attracted a lot of talent before they became big names in the genres they write in. Like Tanya Huff, Laurell K. Hamilton, and P. N. Elrod.

And the grandaddy of all D&D literature, Dragonlance. Which I still love the hell out of, even if the Chronicles are an unholy mix of Mormonism and Lord of the Rings. And that series is still going strong. Just stick with Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis and you'll be fine. Some of the stuff they didn't write together or separately delves off into silliness.

And of course, as much as I wish we could, I can't talk about D&D without mentioning the damned Forgotten Realms. I enjoyed the Avatar Trilogy by  Richard Awlinson, but hated the two sequels. (The first 3 concerned all the Gods of Faerun being kicked out of their realms and forced to live among their subjects. The followups concerned folks who ended up becoming Gods to replace dead gods. And they got progressively dumber.) And I'm seemingly alone in my hatred of R. A. Salvatore and his Dark Elves, monks, and frozen waste series.

Moving on then, we reach White Wolf's World of Darkness fiction. Which, again, is kind of a grab bag, usually continuations of short fictions published in anthologies accompanying ever game's release. Or interrelated stories set in late Medieval (for the release of Vampire: the Dark Ages) and the modern age. Or the Clan Novels (13 novels and an anthology. Each novel centered on a specific clan. Some were really good. Others, like Tremere, were horrible. Thankfully, they released 4 Omnibus editions that more or less assembled the plot lines in chronological order.) and the Tribe Novels (14 novellas centered around the Werewolf tribes, printed in two novella editions.) All of which lead up to the end of the shared Universe. Gehenna: the Final Night (Vampire) was well written, The Last Battle (Werewolf) was probably the best, because Judgement Day (Mage) was like ending a plotline in an outhouse. (Seriously. It had nothing to do with much established metaplot, well loved characters, or anything to do with Mage at all. Instead, we got people fusing 3 souls into one body and then being judged. The actual supplement they released to end the line would have made a MUCH better ending.)

Which brings us to the last shared world I wanted to discuss, Shadowrun. SR was very interesting in setting, mixing high fantasy and cyberpunk. Other than the system's reliance on d6...(First time I played, I had one roll that involved rolling 10d6. (10 six sided dice, for those not up on terminology.)

I found a used copy of a book called Crossroads by Steve Kenson at a local gaming store. And I got sucked in, buying the other two stories revolving around the main character (Ragnarock and The Burning Time) because I liked the story. Basically, Tommy Talon was an Arcane Mage in the setting who also happened to be gay. (Let's face it, finding gay characters in any RPG is a rarity. One who survives 3 novels, has a dead lover who figures prominently into the plot, and kicks ass in pretty much unheard of.)

I'll also tell a story of Mr. Kenson here. At the time I read the trilogy, I called a friend of mine who informed me that Steve;s husband was a New Age/Pagan/Witch author of some renown, Christopher Penczak. I read some of his stuff as well, and still highly recommend two of his books to friends. (One on Gay Spirituality, and one on city life.) Anyway, it seems the majority of my circle of friends knew of Mr. Penczak before they knew of Mr. Kenson. Seems I was the odd man out in that situation.

Anyway, a review of Doktor Glass should go up this weekend, and I'll see about doing another survey/synopsis post later next week.

And before I forget, since my friend Robert over at This is who I AM always acknowledges his followers as they sign up, I'd like to recognize Bob from Candy-coated Razor Blades, Lady Justice at Justice Is Served, and Chris from Renrields. Go read em. They all have interesting things to say.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Dig deep

So, when last we heard from Facilitator Joseph, he was running around as an indigenous Coyote God. Now, in what was the modern era when the book was written, he works in San Francisco.

We last saw literature Specialist Lewis at New World One just prior to the Spanish arrival in Central and South America. He's in Los Angeles.

And when last we saw Mendoza, she was WAY back in time.

And since this is an even book in the Company Series, we're back to Joseph for The Graveyard Game by Kage Baker.

Basically, we cover one whole hell of a lot of time in this one, from the mid 1990's to 2289ish. We follow Joseph and Lewis as they try to figure out what happened to Mendoza, who more or less dropped off the face of the planet. (Lewis was there in the last book when Mendoza jumped forward in time [theoretically impossible], and is now trying to figure out where the botanist ended up, since her current assignemnt is merely a number.

We go through the second American Civil War, the complete veganization of the UK (and later on the newly reconciled USA), suborbital travel and antigravity cars....

We find out about different factions within the Immortals (including the Plaguebringers, the founder believed to be Budu, the Enforcer who found Joseph back in the neolithic era.)  We learn that Edward Alton-Fairfax is indeed almost the same man as Nicholas Harpoole. (Basiclaly, the two men Mendoza loved. The former was shot by the Yanks, the latter was burned as a heretic.) We learn that one Immortal in particular (who really doesn't like "Monkeys" set Edward up to take a fall. We learn of a group of humans who know about the Immortals and who have been chasing Lewis for quite some time.

Oh yes, and conspiracy theories abound about 2355, the Year The Silence Descends. (I'm sure my fellow Whovians will giggle about that. Sadly, The Silence here refers to the year that all communication from the future stops. Not Aliens trying to end the universe.) Really, it's interesting, since there are more than a few places where I keep thinking Moffat co-wrote some of this book.

All very interesting, as we dig through graveyards both literal and figurative, learning secrets here and there. Like what happens to retired cyborgs. And the fate of Budu, last seen under arrest in Sky Coyote. What we don't know at the end is where Mendoza is, and what will happen in 74 years from the end of this novel.

I'm amused at how hooked into this series I am, particularly since The Garden of Iden took me so long to get through. Now, I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next and what happened to Mendoza after her trip WAY WAY back.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Darn it, Bob....

Bob, over at Candy Coated Razor Blades, posted about psycho old biddies the other day, and closed it out with Louise Fletcher's scenery chewing in Flowers in the Attic.

Which of course, inspired me to rewatch the horrible horrible movie again, and then look up the entire Dollenganger saga by VC Andrews. (Although technically, I'm pretty sure some of the later books were done by her ghostwriter.)

Because, seriously, that cookie is made of WIN!

Anyway, I last read most of the series in 8th grade. (I never did finish the prequel, Garden of Shadows. Of course, after 5 books of this crap, I was done by the end.)

For those who have never endured Ms. Andrews (or Andrew Neiderman, the estate's ghostwriter), the series starts with Cathy and her siblings moving to her grandparents' estate following the death of her father and the catastrophic financial crisis this entails for her poor mother. 

Problem being that A) Grandmother doesn't like children, and B) Grandfather won't give Momma money if she had kids. This necessitates locking 4 young children in a small room with access to the attic. For several years. Because Mom eventually forgets about them. But Grandmother doesn't. Oh no. Grandmother is like Pepperidge Farm. She remembers. And heaven forbid the little devil spawn do anything Grandmother doesn't like. And she doesn't like a lot of things. At one point, Grandmother starves the children because Cathy won't cut her hair. Then she drugs Cathy and puts tar in her hair to make her cut it. This allows for my first exposure to watersports in fiction as her older brother Chris tries uric acid as a tar removal system. 

Speaking of Chris, as brother and sister enter puberty, guess which brother and sister start exploring sexual desire together? Oh yes, incest. And the worst part? They keep sleeping together for the rest of the series. 

Anyway, to make a very long story short, they escape after the youngest brother dies from arsenic poisoning in the cookies Grandmother brings them to eat. All of which leads to 4 more books of Chris and Cathy alternately loving and hating each other, trying to ruin their mother's life, being locked in a basment with said mother while the building burns, one of Cathy's children getting crushed by a large building during a ballet version of Sampson and Delilah... It's trashy, gothic, and hard to put down. And particularly as a teen, quite exciting.

Any rate, a real review should go up this weekend, as I'm about done with the book I'm reading.