January 20, 2021

Abbreviations #118: My Calamity Jane, The Lives of Saints + Unlocked

I'm glad I managed to read My Calamity Jane, the latest and last novel in the Jane series written by the Lady Janies (Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows) before 2020 ended. Much like its predecessors, this novel is the "real" tale of a famous Jane. In this case, readers will be following the adventures of Calamity Jane, who works together with Frank Butler and, later, Annie Oakley, in a traveling show and also as garou (werewolf) hunter. Yes, you read that right, this here tale has garou in it and our trio are part of a group of werewolf hunters! I didn't know much more than that when I went into this one, so I'm not going to add more details to my description. I honestly didn't think I would enjoy a tale set in the Wild West so much, but this was a lot of fun to read! It does help that it's filled with the usual touch of the fantastical (in a fun way), hilarious hijinks (I definitely laughed out loud a few times) and plenty of pop culture references (specifically ones from musicals). I also liked the feminist undertones in both Annie and Jane's perspectives, as well as seeing how they depicted sensitive elements like guns and race (especially considering the time period). If you've enjoyed either or both of the previous Jane books, you'll most likely have a good time with this one as well. While My Calamity Jane isn't my favorite of the series (that honor still goes to My Plain Jane), it's certainly a very strong addition to it.

My Calamity Jane (The Lady Janies #3) was published on June 2, 2020 by Harper Teen.
Previous Books in the Series: My Lady Jane, My Plain Jane

I preordered The Lives of Saints because 1) it's a lovely book and 2) Macky and I agreed we needed it for our collection since we're both Grishaverse fans. But I'd put off reading it... at least, until I heard that Ben Barnes (!) and Lauren Fortgang would be narrating the audiobook. I finally ended up reading the physical book and listening to the audiobook on a whim one day in December, and I'm so glad I did that because I feel like it enhanced my personal reading experience. The Lives of Saints (referred to as Istorii Sankt’ya in the series) is exactly what it professes to be - a book about the saints, though specifically about these extraordinary men and women in the Grishaverse that have been referenced in the other books. These short tales are written by Leigh Bardugo, accompanied by illustrations from Daniel J. Zollinger, and the physical book is a stunner. But the narration, which alternates between Barnes and Fortgang, was equally wonderful, as these two definitely have a gift for drawing readers in with their voices. Truthfully, reading this collection reminded me of similar books I read as a child featuring Catholic saints but mixed with the overall vibe of a fairytale... and it worked so well for me as a reader.  It was a real treat to dip back into the world of the Grishaverse in a new, unexpected way, and I'm glad I got to do it before 2020 ended!

The Lives of Saints was published on October 6, 2020 by Imprint.
The audiobook was released on December 8, 2020 by Macmillan Audio.
I received an audiobook review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

It's going to be no surprise to anyone who reads this blog that Unlocked would garner a mini-review after its release, as I'm a big fan of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series. I've waxed poetic many times on many online platforms about how enjoyable, creative and smart these novels are, and this new novella + world guide just further cements these sentiments. I hadn't originally been planning to read through the entirety of the guides to the series that were included, from character profiles down to world details, but I'm glad I did. It provided an overview of the important details of the series (including some fun and unexpected commentary from a few characters I adore), and reminded me just how much whimsy and thought Shannon Messenger has put into the creation of this series. In particular, I wanted to shoutout a section in this one that gave me way too many feels (hint: it involves journal illustrations) while I perused it! But apart from the fun, detailed information we get about the book series, readers will also be treated to a novella. And this definitely didn't disappoint! The novella does answer questions many of us had at the end of Legacy, but also introduces new questions and problems that our favorite cast of characters will be forced to confront in the novel (or novels) to come. But it also provides a vehicle for Messenger to transition from having a singular POV to having two POVs and, let me tell you, it was chaotic but wonderful to be able to be inside the other person's head for a change. (I'm admittedly biased, but I have no shame in admitting that). It was a really good novella, though that ending, as always, left me on tenterhooks and eagerly anticipating the next book in the series. Unlocked is certainly something that long-time fans of this series are going to want to add to their collection!

Unlocked (Keeper of the Lost Cities #8.5) was published on November 17, 2020 by Aladdin.


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