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

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21795048-memento-mori

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]

Links:

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

Contact:

katy@pictureandword.com

Excerpt

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?”

19 Aug 2013

“The Lady Astronomer” by Katy O’Dowd

4 Comments Book Reviews

TLAsm

Lucretia’s quiet life as an astronomer and hat-maker is quickly turned on its head by her brother. He is commanded by the king to build the grandest telescope in the land. Unfortunately for Lucretia, she is introduced to his majesty as her brother’s assistant. Her nights spent on rooftops gazing at the stars are replaced by adventure and danger. In a race to build the Forty-foot telescope on time for the king, her misfortunes take their toll. When Lucretia finds herself held hostage at the Clockwork Court, the innocent country girl doesn’t know who to trust. The lady astronomer finds court life to be more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. Even if her brothers manage to build the telescope on time, she might not live to earn her freedom.
With the help of her brothers, Freddie and Al, and her constant companions Leibniz the Lemur and Orion the Eagle Owl, Lucretia embarks on a journey that could change her life forever. Can she find the strength inside to balance her new life and overcome the obstacles threatening her destiny? Only the stars will tell.

“The Lady Astronomer” by Katy O’Dowd is a quirky and very entertaining story that reads in parts as a regular historical novels and in parts like a fantasy tale.
Set in exciting Georgian times of geographical and technological discoveries it carries the spirit of the “no dream impossible” of those times.
Equipped with highly intelligent and helpful animals the heroine Lucretia tries to accomplish her mission to assist her brother.
Lucretia is an interesting character herself, with many more bows to her string. She is based very loosely on a real lady astronomer.
The writing is engaging, the pace just right and the story line charming and beautifully over the 
top. The portrayal of British society and Royalty feels authentic but never dry.
This is a fascinating and compelling read.

KOD_bw

Hi Katy

Hi Christoph! Thank you so much for having me over.

Your novel is called a steam-punk novel. Can you explain the term for the rest of us?

Aha! Most tricky question to answer succinctly, ever! Instead I’ll cite this – “Steampunk is a creative social movement that draws inspiration from Victorian and pre-war history in an anachronistic mix of science fiction, modern values and a sense of fun.” The opening comes from an experiment in which Steampunks all over the world were asked to explain what it is in one sentence. I think it does it quite admirably.

How did the idea for the novel come to you?

I’d love to say, oooh in a dream, or in a bolt from the blue, or something really creative. No, I was reading a book of my husband’s called The Age of Wonder and the Herschel family were mentioned in it, and something there really caught my imagination – Lucretia in The Lady Astronomer is based loosely on Caroline Herschel.

How did you come to writing in the first place? Was it always going to be Historical Fiction for you or did you have other genres in mind, too?

I started off many moons ago in radio, then print journalism, then onto copy writing. So I’ve written for a while now. After the birth of my second son, I decided it was high time to start on novel writing. As for what I write, well I love Historical Fiction, but I reckon I’ll give a few things a whirl.

How did you choose the characters for the story?

As I said above, Lucretia and her brothers are based on real people. From there the surrounding cast came quite naturally. I wanted to give Lucretia some strong support too, in the form of her trusty side-kicks Leibniz the lemur and Orion the European eagle owl.

The animals in the story are highly intelligent. Were you ever tempted during the writing to go overboard and let them speak and be completely like humans?

I think that would have been a lot of fun – but no.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Ah. Orion the owl. Because I love owls. But I also love lemurs. Damn, this is tough!

What was the most fascinating aspect in the research and the writing for you?

I worked with an astronomer and that was brilliant.

Did you have any say in the cover art and who was that process?

Yes – the wonderful artist Jennie Gyllblad created it. In a series of emails, I described what I’d like and she magically turned my garbled warbling into the cover art.

Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?

Completely planned. I’d be a hyperventilating mess if I didn’t plan everything.

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?

Losing yourself in another world entirely. The worst is the waiting to see if anyone actually wants what you’ve written.

How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?

Oh! That’s so tricky isn’t it? I try to set aside time for marketing, usually in the evenings after a day’s work.

What do you do when you don’t write?

My boys are at school, so I write during school hours.

Which are your favourite books and authors?

Too many to mention! Neal Stephenson: The Diamond Age; Nick Cave: And the Ass Saw the Angel; Stephen King: Different Seasons; Jilly Cooper: Riders – I could go on.

What would you take to an isolated island?

Books. And chocolate. And a big comfy bed. And possibly my cats. And dog. Hmmm.

A few facts:

I wrote The Lady Astronomer for my eldest son – he was jealous that I had used my younger son’s name in something else I was writing.

I work with an Astronomer on books that require his expert knowledge – the idea for The Lady Astronomer came to me while reading another book that he recommended I read.

The Lady Astronomer is inspired by the life of Caroline Herschel (1750-1848). She suffered from both Smallpox and Typhus, was a milliner, soprano, her brother William’s Assistant – he discovered Uranus, then known as George’s Star for the King who funded the build of the ‘Great Forty-Foot’ telescope – and most importantly, perhaps, became the first woman in recorded history to discover a comet. Not to mention the first woman in the UK to receive a working wage, from the King if you don’t mind.

Publisher:

The Lady Astronomer was published by Untold Press www.untoldpress.com on 26th September 2012. It is available as an eBook and Paperback.

Where to buy:

You can purchase The Lady Astronomer on Amazon USA

http://www.amazon.com/The-Lady-Astronomer-ebook/dp/B009HIIKS0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350384152&sr=8-1&keywords=the+lady+astronomer

and Amazon UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Lady-Astronomer-ebook/dp/B009HIIKS0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350384405&sr=8-1

and all other Amazon online stores.

Amazon smart url –if you click it takes you to the store for your country! http://bookShow.me/B009HIIKS0

Now in Print for 12.99 at [Createspace][Amazon][Barnes & Noble][The Book Depository]

Reviews:

“This is a tall tale well-told, full of imagineering and eccentricity.” The British Fantasy Society

“Touching on the welcome terrain of Neil Gaiman’s ‘Stardust’, Katy O’Dowd concocts a canny fusion of alchemy, fantasy and steampunk, rolled up within an adventure story – one that’s aimed as much at those of us aged forty as our kids in their teens.” Andrez Bergen, One Hundred Years of Vicissitude

“A delightful read, The Lady Astronomer transports the reader into the life of Lucretia The Astronomer and rekindles memories of the fairytales our parents read to us when we were children.” Jenny Thomson, Hell To Pay

“An engaging introduction to the wonders of Steampunk for tweens and young adults, certain to dazzle the imagination.” Lunar Haven Reviews and Designs

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.

She reviews for the Historical Novels Review and the British Fantasy Society, is a commissioning editor at Pendragon Press and is co-editor of the Nasty Snips II Project for that press.

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.

 

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