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review 2019-11-05 01:56
The King of the Castle - Victoria Holt
The King of the Castle - Victoria Holt

This is what I was expecting The Black Pearl to be more like: a young orphaned penniless English woman accepts a job doing [art restoration] at a castle with a dark and dangerous lord of the manor and a changeable and undisciplined child. There are horseback rides and formal dinners and quaint local customs and a difficult man intrigued by a staunch and somewhat contrary, not especially pretty woman, who is never flirtatious or coy and isn't at all shy about telling him when he's doing things wrong. There is danger, and careful nursing at home, a valuable inheritance, and at least a couple of other single men who might be attracted as well, but are much more charming.


I loved it for so perfectly being what I expected. But boy, did I find the presumption of inherent class to be repugnant. There are actual peasants. It isn't clear exactly when this is set sometime after trains but before rural electrification or antibiotics. Surprisingly few deaths in childbirth, but lots of orphans.


Fun stuff. Especially the horrible sexism that's all about carving out a place for one exceptional woman. Gah. I'm ready to fight on the barricades and eat the rich. Interestingly there's a strong parallel between the story of the brave noble ancestor hiding out from the mob with a kind servant and the stories Southerners like to tell about the aristocratic ancestor's brave struggles during and after the civil war.


Used for Relics and Curiosities in honor of the secret messages that reveal clues to the long-lost emeralds. I guess valuable jewels aren't as crass as regular money.


Library copy

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review 2019-10-27 17:33
Up and down the Scratchy Mountains - Laurel Snyder, Greg Call
Up and down the Scratchy Mountains - Laurel Snyder,Greg Call

Fairy tales must be hard to write: so few people ever manage to produce a good one. There are many retellings, of course, particularly popular in YA, but few new ones. Snyder does an excellent job of getting the tone right: close enough to respect the conventions, but with enough of modern sensibility to avoid sounding fake. So sure, there's some magical transportation to keep things moving, but a realistic evaluation of the boredom and discomfort of travel.

There's some mystery, some menace, inflexible tradition, and motherless kids setting off for adventure. There is some silliness, but the children are taken seriously for their concerns and needs and desires.

Charming and a little corny, but never smarmy. Not too scary for preschoolers, but better for the 5 and ups.

The art is charming, but not accurate to the text, so it doesn't enhance the experience. I don't expect video adaptations to be exactly like the source material, but I do feel like the illustrations shouldn't be at odds with text in a picture book. Nothing huge, it's just clear that the artist wasn't working from the final text.

Library copy

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text 2019-09-10 15:51
Kindle Freebie Kid Book Round Up.
Yara's Tawari Tree - Yosef Lapid,Joanna Pasek
A Horse Story: Sami and Thomas meet Pascal - James McDonald
The Elf Who Couldn't Read - Sonica Ellis
Serafina Soars - Alma Hammond
Aqua Dog - Lisa Van de Wielen,Alison Mutton
Goodnight Portland - Morgan Guillaume

The best is Yara's Tawari Tree - which is  wonderful book about the importance of nature.


Serafina Soars  is also quite good, in particular with the ending bit that relates history.  Nice artwork.


Aqua Dog and the Elf Who Couldn't Read are both good, if a bit heavy on the lesson side.  The elf story also stresses the importance of learning.


Goodnight Portland is a fun parody with beautiful illustrations.


A Horse Story - the art isn't going to be for everyone, but I loved the fact that the author noted the amount of work that goes in caring for a horse.

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text 2019-09-02 04:08
Thank you, Mike Finn
Slow Horses: Slough House, Book 1 - Seán Barrett,Isis Audio Books,Mick Herron

At least, I think it was Mike Finn who led me to this book.


I thoroughly enjoyed it --even though I had to really pay attention to what was going and therefore could not multi-task --but that's okay because there really wasn't much that I wanted to get done today. I am definitely going to add more titles to my wish list.

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text 2019-06-29 18:16
DNF at page 28 (out of 372)
If Wishes Were Horses - Curtiss Ann Matlock

I won a signed copy of this at least 15 years ago. It sat on my shelves because it's a Western romance, and those generally aren't my thing.


But it definitely has a cover that's more than 50% yellow, so I was going to give it a go for Square 13. Only 28 pages in, I've decided I'd rather just put it on my "donate or sell" pile and move on to another yellow book, probably Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee.


I initially thought this was contemporary-set, but some of the attitudes about race had me doing a bit of googling, and it looks like it might be set in the 1950s. The heroine is 6 months pregnant and has recently learned her husband died suddenly in another woman's bed. I just put up with 28 pages of her grieving, remembering his blond hair, green eyes, and sheepish smile every time he came home to beg her not to be mad at him because he screwed yet another woman.


"It had all been so complicated between them, something she could never put into words and something most people could never begin to understand. Roy had loved her, and knowing this had held Etta to him. His attentions to other women had had nothing to do with his love of her. She had made a vow to be his wife, until death do them part, and she hadn't been able to step over that vow. She had not been able to turn her back on him, because she had come to understand him so well, and to know his need of her went as deep and thorough as blood, and that he most assuredly would have gone crazy and died had she left him." (21)


Well, he made a vow too, and repeatedly broke it.


Roy's not the book's hero, obviously - I'm pretty sure the funeral procession just passed the actual hero - and the hero might be the sort of guy who makes the heroine realize how much time and emotional labor she wasted putting up with Roy's crap for years. But I don't have the patience to wait for Etta to come to this epiphany, if she even does.

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