10 Apr 2014

New Release and Review: “Memento Mori” by Katy O’Dowd

1 Comment Book Reviews

21795048“Memento Mori” by Katy O’Dowd is an excellent, inspired and unusual Victorian period piece about the Lamb family and about O’Murtagh, a female assassin in London in the 1850s. It is a playful portrayal of organised crime in London in those days, and in the novel the crime comes in many forms and shapes: pick pocketing, prostitution, smuggling, extortion, murder and deceit.
Told in two main narratives, the book follows not only the Lamb family after the father’s ominous death, but it also follows the fate of a 5 year old girl from the 1830s onwards. She is presented with a memento mori from her mother by a stranger and survives as orphan on petty crime and trickery.
The plotlines are brilliantly interwoven and all is told in wonderfully authentic style. The book is playful and entertaining, yet historically accurate, authentic and convincing.
O’Murtagh is a great character with her coldness and ambiguous feelings, and many other players in this gem of a book are equally fascinating and colourful: An Abbess, the Lamb brothers and some of O’Murtagh’s lovers and victims. 
The rivalry, plotting and scheming mostly play out with some unexpected twists and surprises, while some plot parts are more obvious and deliberately put in place for us to enjoy watching as they unfold for the characters in the story. There are also some mechanical inventions and a clever raven that add to the magic of the book. 
The memento mori theme from the well chosen title is beautifully put in all the right places to add an element of sentiment and nostalgia into the story.
All comes together in a great ending for this hugely enjoyable and accomplished piece of art. Very well done.

Take tea with the Victorian Mafia – organized crime has never been so civilized

Revenge is a dish best served cold. At the Lamb residence, it is also served on fine bone china.

The untimely demise of Thaddeus Lamb leaves his son Riley in charge of the vast Lamb empire, which imports tea, picks pockets, extorts, and keeps men warm on cold winter’s nights. And so the Lambs grieve for their father in the best way they know how… Retribution.

Hired by the new head of the Fox Family, a position recently vacated by another untimely demise, the assassin O’Murtagh is tasked with the utter destruction of all the Lamb Family’s business associates. They learn the hard way that there is no better hit man than a beautiful woman with tricks and weapons up her finely coiffed sleeves.

Treachery and deceit abound in the streets of London, and no one is safe. Honestly, it’s enough to make anyone drink. Would you care for one lump or two?

eBook Buy Links  5311518

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Memento-Mori-Katy-ODowd-ebook/dp/B00JG3NQ4O

Amazon Smart Url: http://bookShow.me/B00JG3NQ4O


Author bio:

Katy is an arts and entertainment journalist and has worked for Time Out, Associated Newspapers and Comic Relief and her articles have appeared in The Times (London), Metro (London) and many other arts and entertainment publications, paper and online.

Alongside writing with her Dad under the pen-name Derry O’Dowd, whose first book ‘The Scarlet Ribbon’ was chosen to launch the History Press Ireland’s fiction line, she writes under her own name. ‘The Lady Astronomer’, a YA Steampunk tale was released by Untold Press in 2012.

Katy reviews for the Historical Novels Review and the British Fantasy Society.

Link to my previous feature on Katy

and my feature on her joint project with her father

Connect with Katy: [Webpage][Twitter][Goodreads]


Katy blogs at www.katyodowd.com

Twitter: @katyod

Facebook: www.facebook.com/katy.odowd

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5311518.Katy_O_Dowd




Snip. The jewelled secateurs caught the soft light thrown by the candles. Snip. Dark orange on green. Snip. Tiny white blossoms fell to the stone floor. Snip, snip.

Carmine Fox took an orange in her gloved hand and turned it over, this way and that, examining the pitted skin and running a finger along the bumps and grooves in the fruit.

In an alcove, the huge Brass Lady statue gleamed, her beautiful features painted buttery gold, eyes looking blindly at nothing at all.

Carmine’s dress swept the floor, not a mourning dress as you might expect, having lost her father, but rather dove grey and lavender picked out with black trim along the panel, cuffs, hem, and bustle. Her hair, long and coiled, was the color of Grip’s wings, as were her eyes. The muted tones of her dress made her sallow, or maybe it was just the lack of light.

Years of water and living things within the man-made lake had given the huge cathedral style glass ceiling and everything beneath a greenish hue and made the walls bleed rust.

She looked up from her study of the orange and threw it across the room, faster than the eye could see.

The woman standing in the shadows caught the orange, her arm shooting up to stop the fruit, as it nestled in her palm.

“Oh, brava.”

O’Murtagh stood silently before Carmine Fox who walked toward her, the secateurs dangling lazily from her hand.

“Quiet little thing, aren’t you?”

Fox peered at her intently, taking in the pale face and brown eyes framed with a veil of auburn hair.

“Well, quiet suits my needs. Feel free to eat the orange, which will be sweet and ripe. Ah, but how could such a thing grow here you wonder?” She paused. “It didn’t, of course, there is a vast orangery in the house, but I like to be here to prune, the setting eases my mind.”

O’Murtagh made no move to peel the fruit; instead she put it in one of the many pockets of her skirts.

Carmine Fox shrugged. “No matter. When you come to eat the orange, you will find it as I say. But now, we have other matters to discuss.”

She walked back to the table where the plants stood and put the secateurs down.

“You have come highly recommended.” Her heel tapped on the black and white tiled floor. “I have been told of your merits, misdeeds, and probably know more about you than your own mother, whom I believe has been dead a long time. But that doesn’t interest me, your skills do.”

O’Murtagh nodded imperceptibly.

“This is not a pretty tale, but then I suppose these things never are.” Fox sighed and smiled, pacing the room, warming to her tale and the task ahead.

“Tell me, O’Murtagh. Do you believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?” Fox waved her hand airily. “We are not here to talk about the philosophy of doddery old men falling asleep and drooling into their beards. I mean vengeance, retribution. Honor, even if it is only the kind to be found among thieves.”

Fox stopped pacing, abruptly, and O’Murtagh could feel the heightened tension in the room under the still water.

“There is no need for you to know everything, but know this,” Carmine resumed talking and walking, “I am not sorry that my father is dead. Vile man. He made my mother’s life a misery. Drove her to her death. I had this statue of her made. You know, I talk to her as I prune.” She gazed fondly at the Brass Lady.

“But he didn’t do this alone. No. Rather he was fuelled by his once great friend turned great enemy. Interesting that they should have died in the same week, is it not? Thaddeus Lamb and my father climbed the tree to the gold at the top, from ragged boys to prosperous men, branch by branch to the prize at the end. Suffice to say there was a falling out and my father the Fox did everything in his power to bring the traitor Lamb down.”

Carmine went to the Brass Lady, and standing on tiptoe, ran her hand down the statue’s cold cheek.

“My mother would have hated to see this. Hated to see what he made me. But my father not only left me his riches, he left me his hatred. After my mother died, all I heard of was how he was going to get his revenge. Now that he is no longer here, it is up to me to see this thing through. You do understand, don’t you?”

“I do.”

O’Murtagh’s voice was so quiet that Carmine Fox wasn’t sure she had heard her in the first place.

“I suppose you do, why would you be in your line of work otherwise?”

The assassin kept her brown gaze on the woman who had hired her, but held her tongue.

“Very well. Your job then, is to take the family down. Not directly, but by hitting them where they will hurt the most. Trade routes, business associates, and so on. My father left a diary full of any information you should need. I shall release the names of four people to you when the time is right. None of this shall be traced back to me, and if you should fail, I will make your life one long misery.”

“I have no doubt.”

“Good. So,” Carmine Fox rubbed her hands together, almost gleefully, “Thaddeus Lamb, the Head of the Family is out of our way. I have been told that other factions are gathering like vultures over the rotting corpse of what remains and that the Lambs–when they are able to act–will find other matters to occupy their time. Such as a nasty little turf war. At which point we shall have progressed to a point where we will be able to muzzle them entirely.”

She laughed, and O’Murtagh, seasoned as she was, felt the small hairs on her arms raise and her skin became as pitted as that of the orange in her pocket.

Fox pirouetted, her skirts spreading out and then settling.

“None of it shall ever be traced back to me,” she delighted in her glee, before quietening. “Then I can get straight to the heart of things.”

O’Murtagh’s place was not to ask. She was being paid handsomely and had more time than she cared for to do these jobs. Nor was she squeamish, her body-count was impressive. Though she stopped short at children, babies, and pregnant women.

“Now, my dear.” Fox clapped her hands together. “Time for tea. Would you care to accompany me back to the house?”

02 Dec 2013

Carol Bodensteiner: “Growing Up Country”

Comments Off on Carol Bodensteiner: “Growing Up Country” Book Reviews


“Growing Up Country: Memoirs of an Iowa Farm Girl” by Carol Bodensteiner is a truly wonderful memoir, a selection of short stories about her time at a chicken and cow farm in Iowa in the 1950s. The way Bodensteiner tells the story we often experience the world with her eyes as a child, which lends the book a charming as well as a nostalgic touch. This type of blending reflective adult perspective with the reminiscing of how the author felt as a girl, made the read particularly palatable to me.

I was also transported back to my own childhood in Germany with these tales – her father was of German origin and some of the traditions of Bodensteiner’s family were still the same in the 1970s in Germany.
But even without a personal connection to farm life and the sentiment of the changing times, the book is of historical value as it recounts in great detail farm life of those times, farming habits and traditions, house chores, animal rearing, fairs and other aspects of rural life, the understanding and experience of which is lost with the way society and farming culture has moved on. Bodensteiner did a great job at preserving this knowledge and creating a further record of the experience. She also reflects on her memoir beautifully in that regard in the epilogue, demonstrating further that this is not just a write up of her diaries as a girl but a thought-through collection of digested memories that allow us a peak into her life and the past but with a balanced dose of nostalgia that so often is overdone in memoirs


Interview with Carol Bodensteiner


Tell us a little about yourself as writer and a person.

I am curious about everything and can be intensely interested in anything for short periods of time. So my career in the public relations business was a perfect fit, matching my personality and giving me endless reasons to write. I’m also highly attuned to sensory details, another trait that comes in handy for writing.

What made you become a writer? Have you always written?

I’ve written throughout my career. The first 30 years as a business writer during my career in marketing. I took up creative writing about 15 years ago. The transition has invigorated me. Business writing places a premium on getting to the point as efficiently as possible. Creative writing can meander around a single point for pages. Yet both styles benefit from writing clearly and with purpose.

When did you decide to write these stories?

The stories in my memoir were an unplanned outcome of my desire to write stories about my parents’ lives. The more I wrote about them, the more I remembered my own stories. The feedback I got from workshop leaders nudged me toward writing about myself and including my family as part of those stories.

Tell us a little about the history of the book. How long did it take you to write and publish?

It all started because my mother wanted me to write our family stories. She was so persistent I finally gave in. I was back and forth between projects for about 10 years getting it all together. Once the stories were written, the decision to publish independently brought the project to completion within six months.

Would you say there is a message in the book beyond the historical interest? Do you find it is well received and picked up by the reviewers?

The main message is that our everyday stories matter. They’re the fabric of our lives and our society. I didn’t realize this before the book got into readers’ hands. But, reviewers and average readers tell me that reading my stories is like reading their own life stories. Reading my everyday stories makes them value their own lives more.

How did you decide what to include in the book and what to keep private?

Since my childhood was a happy one, there wasn’t a lot to hide. I tried to include stories that give a well rounded look at life on a family farm in the 1950s.

Who would play the characters in a film?

I’m not much of a movie person, so I’ll have to leave that to central casting!

What is your life like? What do you do for pleasure and work when you are not writing?

I live on a small acreage where I particularly enjoy introducing children to the prairie I planted. Their sense of wonder and adventure in the prairie is so joyful. I also enjoy traveling. Seeing new places, meeting new people, inspires me.

Who are your literary influences? What are your favourite books/ films/ albums?

I grew up on the adventures of Nancy Drew, then found a whole new level of adventure with Jack London. I experienced the power of words to make me feel heat and depression when I read Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Haven Kimmel inspired my memoir with her stories in A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana. Current authors I love: Sue Monk Kidd, Jim Fergus, Charles Frazier, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Diana Gabaldon, and Phillipa Gregory.

What are your views on independent publishing?

Indie publishing offers tremendous opportunities for writers if they’re willing to make the effort to produce a professional product and do the work of marketing. Indie publishing requires a lot more from the author, but the trade offs of control and income make it worthwhile for me.

Can you recommend any indie books/ authors?

Since indie publishing my memoir, I’ve read across a wide range of genres and met a host of fascinating indie authors, so I could go on a long time. Among my favorites: A.D. Trosper (fantasy); Mary Gottschalk and Susan Weidener (memoir). In the historical fiction arena, Paulette Mahurin, M.K. Tod, David Lawlor, Lee Fullbright, and now you, Christoph. I’m meeting new favorites every day!

What would your friends tell us if we asked for your best and your oddest qualities?

I had no idea, so I asked. Here’s what they said.

Best: She’s a good listener with a zest for learning/sharing.

Oddest: She has the ability to make odd actions seem normal, e.g. making pumpkin pie out of squash and rereading each book chosen for book club twice.

What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?

Finally, an easy question! Animal: Siamese cats. Colour: spring green. Outdoor activity: walking in the woods.

What would you take to a remote island?

An umbrella. Protection from the wind, rain, and sun. And a little privacy for whatever I may feel the need of privacy for. 😉

Who would you like to invite for dinner and why?

Bill & Hillary Clinton. They are so smart, have had so many interesting experiences, and are so human. I’m sure we’d have fun.

What are you writing at the moment and where would we find out about your next projects?

My first novel – WWI-era historical fiction – will be published in 2014. After writing my memoir set in the 1950s, it’s been fun to take another step back in time. Here’s a little peek into the novel:

Go Away Home

is the story of a young woman’s quest for independence and the right to decide her own future during the early 20th Century, a time of social change and the Great War.  

I’m active on several social media sites. Come visit and “Like,” “Follow,” or just chat.

Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl

is available in paperback and ebook forms from

Amazon &

Barnes & Noble  

Website/blog http://www.carolbodensteiner.com

Tweet @CABodensteiner

LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=14449814&trk=tab_pro

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/CarolBodensteinerAuthor

What else would you like us to know about you and your books?

I appreciate every person who reads my stories, and I really like to hear from readers. I respond to every single person who writes.

I’ve had essays included in anthologies –


Tending Your Inner Garden 

series of seasonal books and the

My Gutsy Story Anthology

Writing those shorter pieces fed my need to see projects completed during the much longer process of writing the WW1-era novel – Go Away Home – I expect to publish in 2014.

Carol Bodensteiner – Bio

Carol Bodensteiner is the author of Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl. She finds inspiration in the places, people, culture and history of the Midwest. She blogs about writing, her prairie, gardening, and whatever in life interests her at the moment. Her essays have been published in several anthologies. Her debut novel, historical fiction set during World War I, will be published in 2014.





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