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text 2020-02-18 20:12
Reading progress update: I've read 13%. I've been waiting for this...
Light Of Impossible Stars - Gareth L. Powell

... I like the way Gareth Powell writes and I admire the breadth of topics he writes about.


This is the third book of the Embers Of War trilogy, that I've read as they were published.


Embers of War



Fleet of Knives





I had "Light Of Impossible Stars" on pre-order so I could read it as soon as it became available. I've put all reading challenges to one side so I can give this my attention. It's epic SF at its best: fast-paced, credible and still surprising. I've only just started and already I'm immersed in it.

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text 2020-02-11 09:49
Reading progress update: I've read 73%.- Part three is unexpected
Longbourn - Jo Baker,Emma Fielding

I'm two chapters in to part three. It's unexpected and deeply pleasing. We leave the "Pride and Prejudice" timeline and go back in to the past lives of the servants: Mrs Hill's early service at Longbourne and James service in the war in Spain and Portugal. 


The writing is vivid and intimate and full of things Jane Austen would have known little or nothing of.


This book is standing on its own feet now and doing it well.

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text 2020-02-07 12:55
Reading progress update: I've read 64%. - this is much more powerful than I had expected.
Longbourn - Jo Baker,Emma Fielding

I've just reached the grief-bringing, rage-inducing end of volume two of "Longbourn"


This book is so much more powerful than I had expected it to be. At first I was fascinated at how well it immersed me in the daily life of a house in the English countryside in the early nineteenth century.


Then, I was interested in the different lights cast on the characters from "Pride And Prejudice" and how the below-stairs story not only followed its timeline but echoed its issues and choices.


But soon, I became deeply engaged in the relationship between Sarah, the housemaid and James, the newly engaged groom/footman with scars on his back.


The storytelling is strong and subtle, packed not with action but a deep understanding of the flow of everyday life and the ways in which we swim through it.


Wickham remains, for Sarah and James as much as for the Bennets and the Darcys, a source of pain and shame and unrepentant malevolence. He comes alive in this portrayal. He's not a monster. He's just someone who hates himself and everyone around him and vents that hate in small acts or malice hidden beneath a veneer of charm that is an expression of his contempt.


As I finish Part Two, with damage done and pain still to come, I'm surprised to find that, while I feel for Sarah and James, some of my rage comes simply from how the society they live in works. At one point Wickham says to James. "You can't do that to me. There are rules". And there were. Brutal rules that allowed flogging, birching and hanging. Rules that kept discipline in the Army that, in turn, kept the working people in their place. I knew this already but Jo Baker made me feel it. 


So, given that this is fiction and that the action takes place two hundred years ago, why the rage? I think it's because I see us heading back there. I see the people who ruled my country for their own benefit for generations until we took power from them after World War Two, waking up to the idea that they could do it again. That they could live wealthy lives and use force to protect their privilege and we would just accept that there need to be rules and that honest people have nothing to fear from them.


This isn't where I expected a revisiting of Jane Austen to take my imagination and emotions but I suspect it was always part of Jo Baker's intent.



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review 2020-02-06 12:45
"Royal Flush – Her Royal Spyness #3 by Rhys Bowen
Royal Flush - Rhys Bowen,Katherine Kellgren

This series keeps getting better and better. Rhys Bowen manages to keep the tone light and humour flowing while still delivering an interesting murder mystery with a surprisingly high body count, folding in credible historical details and developing the main character and the ensemble cast around her.

Rescued from the potential embarrassment she caused for herself when she tried to expand her Coronets Cleaning Service into a Coronets Escort Service, which she thought could supply girls of good quality (herself) as dinner companions for businessmen travelling alone, Georgie is despatched by Scotland Yard back to her home in Scotland, Castle Rannoch, to act as eyes and ears in the Royal shooting party at nearby Balmoral so that she can assess what seem to be attempts on the lives of the members of the royal family.

This gives us a wonderful opportunity to see Georgie in her home environment, hiking the glens, riding every morning, climbing the crags like a mountain goat.
We also get a chance to be intimate with the Royals (Georgie's cousins), laugh at American house guests (including the much disliked Wallace Simpson) and their unreasonable needs, bump up against Special Branch in a very "Thirty-Nine Steps" sort of way and encounter a dashing young Italian Count riding his motorcycle too fast, a charismatic female aviator and a team of bright young things trying to break the speed record with a boat on the nearby Loch.

I like the way Rhys Bowen refuses to see even the supporting characters as one dimensional, always finding ways to make them more human and therefore more interesting. In this instalment, we see Fig, her sister-in-law, in a more sympathetic light making the best of her marriage to a nice, harmless but hapless man in a cold castle away in the wilds of Scotland; we get a better view of Georgie's mother's way of life, living off her charisma and the wealth of the men it attracts and always seeing herself as the leading lady in her own drama; we see Belinda becoming more and more like Georgie's mother and loving every moment of it.

This fun read was delivered with consummate skill by Katherine Kellgran. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample of her performance.




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review 2020-02-02 19:25
"Fender Lizards" by Joe R. Lansdale - don't miss this one
Fender Lizards - Joe R. Lansdale,Kasey Lansdale

A story about being poor, angry but not yet broken that manages to be honest, empathetic and hopeful without being patronising or too-soft-focus-to-be-true.



"Fender Lizards" was my first Joe Lansdale novel which, I'm glad to say, means I have a new author to devour in the coming months.


Joe Lansdale packed a lot in to the 232 pages of this novel: what it's like being poor enough to be living in a trailer in East Texas with your whole family; how to handle living your life angry, what family really means, how to take joy in being strong and swift, the limitations of solving your problems by taking a piece of 2x4 upside someone's head and how to take on a Carnival roller derby team called the Karnie Killers.


"Fender Lizards" is about Dot Sherman, a seventeen-year-old girl, who lives with her mother, grandmother and baby brother in a trailer in East Texas, works six-hour shifts at the "Dairy Bob" as a "Fender Lizard" (a waitress on roller skates serving food to folks in their cars) and who is kinda sorta thinking about taking her GED ( Good Enough Diploma).

Dot recounts her story directly to the reader and she doesn't hold back any on her thoughts or her feelings. She's angry and sassy but too honest with herself to blame other people for her problems. She does what's in front of her and she speaks her mind. I found myself believing in her, liking her and wishing her well.


Dot isn't a Disney character and this isn't a Hallmark movie. Dot isn't averse to a little violence, especially when confronting her sister's abusive boyfriend. She finds it hard to trust men, which show how well she learns from experience, and she won't take crap from anyone, especially her turned-up-out-of-the-blue-never-heard-of-him-before uncle or her went-out-for-cigarettes-and-never-came-back dad.


This is a remarkably cliché-free book that feels real if allow for a little luck, a little optimism and a lot of spirit from Dot and the people around her.


It's filled with humour, most of it from the dialogue but some of it from the slightly bizarre situations (there's a Court scene that could only happen in East Texas. The pace works and there are some wonderful action pieces with the roller derby towards the end of the book.


There's no happily-ever-after ending where everything's tied up with a neat bow but the ending is believable, hopeful and left me with a smile on my face.


The audiobook is narrated by Kasey Lansdale, Joe Lansdale's daughter. I think she did a great job and I recommend listening to the audiobook version.

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