Another book for the Hugo reading list, in this case one which crops up on the new Best YA novel list, so I'm probably not the target audience for this one... I feel a bit miserly giving In Other Lands 3 stars rather than 4, since it's not the worst thing I've ever read and it kept me turning the pages to the end, but there were also some things that annoyed me. Those made my decision for me, as another book that was enjoyable enough but I know I'll never read it again.
Our main protagonist (Elliot) gets taken on a school trip supposedly to a field in Devon, with said school trip actually being a sneaky recruitment tool to weed out those children who can see the existence of another land beyond England. Elliot is one of those and, since he doesn't really have much to keep him with his distant and borderline alcoholic father and lack of friends due to his acerbic personality, he decides to take up the offer to cross over.
Once there, Elliot makes friends with someone who is a similar outsider - in this case, a female elf warrior called Serene - and also reluctantly forms a bit of a relationship with the camp's goldenour boy, Luke Sunborn. Jokes about the elf way of doing things, which basically takes Victorian gender roles and turns them on their head, get significantly over-used while Elliot discovers all about the world he's now living in and his friends do stuff he's not interested in.
Anyway, despite promising all sorts of interesting stuff about harpies and mermaids and trolls, what In Other Lands is really about is teenage relationships of all kinds and its attendant angst. Which was a real shame, in my opinion, because there was so much here that all got subsumed to serve those relationships and, at the end of it all, Elliot is just a little self-absorbed arse whose behaviour gets rewarded anyway, whether good or bad. There are no consequences for him and he gets the prize at the end of the book anyway, even though he hasn't really changed (and more annoyingly, while he also thinks he has). Could have been so much better.
A ticking-clock thriller set in Vermont. Rufus has one night to prove that his privileged half-sister didn't kill her boyfriend before the cops get involved. April has clearly been set-up and the drug 'White Rabbit' is Rufus' best lead. With time so short he's unable to turn down any help, even if that help is coming from his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian.
Roehrig brings a noir sensibility to 'White Rabbit' that carries what would have been a sanitized thriller into an entertaining read. That noir sensibility includes some pretty fucked up ideas about relationships, and interacting with people in general. That's part of the genre, even if your world-weary detective is a teen with a bad case of the why-mes.
As I mentioned in my review for Outlander, I started this series with the fourth book by accident. I was just out of high school, my mom was having health issues and I was the one who was driving her around to her various appointments and spending a lot of time in waiting rooms. So when I saw this book sitting on the new releases shelf in the bookstore, the only thing I cared about what that it looked interesting and it was thick. It would give me hours and hours and hours of reading time. So I got it, started reading, and got to around a quarter of the way through when I realized this was part of an ongoing series. I kept reading though and enjoyed it. It provided exactly what I needed at the time and even got me to go back and read the first three books.
Now, twenty plus years later ... this got annoying. It starts off really slow and rambling. All the books in this series ramble, but it gets worse the longer the series goes on. The first three books at least have obvious plots right off the bat. This one takes over 500 pages to get around to it's main conflict, and up till then it's basically just the four main characters doing stuff. I still really enjoy Claire and Jamie's relationship, but I couldn't give two figs about Briana and Roger's courtship, especially when Roger gets all caveman about it.
I was never a fan of Briana, but wow. For someone so smart, she can be really stupid. Roger's kind of a jerk but he's tolerable. Neither one is prepared for 18th century living, despite both of them being history majors. They not only lie to each other about crucial things, but they make one reckless decision after another. How in the world they survived is beyond me.
Actually, the main conflict isn't exactly what I would call contrived. Considering what Bree's been through and that she just barely met her father, her decisions make sense, even if they're illogical. Given what Lizzy thinks she knows, and what she tells Ian and Jamie, their actions also make sense. What doesn't make sense is
Claire not telling Jamie what Briana told her. She could've done that and kept Bonnet's name out of it.
Also, if you're looking for someone, a physical description usually helps.
Also, both Claire and Briana went by different last names when they went through the stones, so it makes zero sense they wouldn't consider Roger doing the same.
Also, Jamie would've killed Roger based on the info Lizzy told him. But of course he couldn't because the reader - and Bree - wouldn't be able to forgive him if he had.
The Big Misunderstanding required these characters who are usually extremely good with communication to be really bad at it.
And it's just a little ridiculous that these characters are all encountering the same villain no matter where they are in the world.
But once I got through all that nonsense and the characters all started to act like their intelligent, rational selves again, it got way better. The last third of the book is definitely the strongest.
Not enough Lord John though.
I hate that he sleeps with one of the slaves. It's not on page, but it's implied. I guess I can have a smidgeon of consolation that John wouldn't have forced himself on anyone unwilling, and he's a pretty perceptive fellow, so he could probably tell if someone was just pretending to be willing. But still. Don't sleep with slaves, John.
Edit: Oh, and I forgot to mention the narration. Davina Porter does her usual stellar job, but she doesn't even attempt an American accent for Briana. I guess she's the UK's answer to Kevin Costner. ;) But since I'd rather listen to a pleasant British accent than a terrible American (much less Bostonian) one, I wasn't bothered by it too much.
Yes, I am one of those readers who picks up stuff when it's on sale and then doesn't get around to reading it till later, so while I'd previously read and enjoyed other books by KJ Charles (though I see I've only reviewed one of them here, which I need to rectify), A Seditious Affair has been sitting on my ebook reader for a while before I got to it this week. Don't be put off by the fact that it's the middle book of a series because, while knowing the other character's stories would probably fill in some finer points, you don't actually need to know the other players to enjoy this story.
The basic premise is that it's almost the end of the Regency period and the current government is lurching from crisis to crisis, not helped by brutally putting down any kind of opposition - this is the time of the Peterloo massacre, a time when radical thinkers of all varieties were putting out publications by the ton. You don't have to know the history of the period to enjoy A Seditious Affair but it does add a little extra to the story if you do, for example when Cato Street gets a mention, you might know its significance.
One of those radical thinkers, a self-avowed atheist called Silas Mason, is one of our protagonists here and a year before the book starts had let himself be talked into a regular engagement with a man looking for something in particular. Our other protagonist, Dominic Frey, is far more well-heeled than Mason and works for the Home Office - his day job is hunting down seditionists, while at night (or at least on Wednesday nights) he enjoys being verbally humiliated and then sexed up by a man whose name he doesn't know.
Naturally, while they've managed to remain ignorant of each others' identities for a year, the wheels fall off that particular wagon as their worlds collide explosively. Both are subsequently left to figure out how to make sure Mason doesn't end up with a prison sentence (if he's lucky) for sedition and Frey doesn't have to sacrifice his principles, against a backdrop of growing feelings between them and the ongoing fact that they are committing illegal acts together on a weekly basis. This is definitely one of those scenarios where I was left wondering how the author was going to sort it all out!
Anyway, everything gets resolved (even though there's always a feeling that it might not be a permanent reprieve) and in the meantime there's a lot of hot sex. I don't think I've read anything by KJ Charles I haven't at least enjoyed and, while I'm not convinced I like any of the supporting characters in this book sufficiently to read their own exploits, I may yet be convinced to change my mind...