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review 2017-11-18 10:21
The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson

 

So my reasons for DNFing this book the first time were valid; it was not just because of my reading mood or some other factor. This time I wasn't even enjoying the book at all. The first time reading it, I liked the first several chapters and then it started to get boring.

This time, everything was boring and annoying. I DO like Maureen Johnson, but this book does not do it for me. The relationship between Avery and Mel does not feel authentic or even written well at all, whether this is own voices or not. Not only that, their romance and Nina's romance with Steve felt so sudden and on the verge of being instalove.

Not one of the three girls were likeable. Nina was pretty mean about how she thought of other girls, especially her roommate. The girls called people by mean nick names like "Strange so and so" and thought badly of them. There was even a joke about someone they know being a retard. Nina wished her roommate had been taken to a mental hospital. When she first meets Steve, all she cares about is that he's hot. She calls him "crunchy" as in a hippie sort of way, but since he was hot, she could over look that.

I know the word "problematic" is being used a lot in the book community and sometimes I think it gets thrown around all willy nilly, but this book did strike me as problematic in ways. If I were more elegant in explaining how I feel, I could probably go on about the small little things that bugged me.

So to sum up in a not so elegant way, what bugged me: Girl hate (girls hating other girls), unrealistic relationships, instalove, cliche, super cheesy, mean girls, mean/cruel terms being used about other people, Nina's superficial thoughts about Steve, Nina's mean thoughts about her roommate (yes, I know her roommate was unusual, but still...)

Maybe the story gets better? Maybe the characters grow? I don't think I will ever know, because I can't force myself past the first 115 pages for a third time.

*I DNF'd this book a while ago, but wanted to give it another chance, because I enjoyed Maureen Johnson's 13 Little Blue Envelopes duology and hoped I would like this the second time around.*

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review 2017-11-17 15:18
Shroud of Dishonour
Shroud of Dishonour - Maureen Ash

A Templar Knight Mystery

 

Lincoln, May, 1202

 

It was not the third but the fifth book in this series which came my way - I am working serendipitously here with second-hand paperbacks - and this one opens with an unusual and mysterious Prologue: two Knights Templar outside a brothel in the suburbs of Acre (in Outremer, the Holy Land), one reluctant to enter, the other determined to go in and do his business – which is not, as it happens, what you might expect.

 

It is a story that would be all too easy to spoil by inadvertently blurting out "spoilers"; suffice it to say that what happens there, then, is intimately connected with the death a few months later in Lincoln of two prostitutes, and an attack on a third who manages to defend herself with a sharp little knife she carries on her belt (wise girl). (Though no doubt in modern Britain she would be charged with assault and being in possession of a deadly weapon.)

 

Why prostitutes? wonders our hero, Sir Bascot de Marins. Because they are easy victims, peculiarly vulnerable and defenceless? Yet the killer seems to be targeting the Templars rather than prostitutes as a group: he makes each murder look as though it had been committed by a member of the Order.

 

Or is the killer in fact a member of the Order?

 

Bascot, who first came to Lincoln (with Gianni, a starving street-kid he had picked on his travels, tagging along) in order to recuperate after eight years as a captive – a slave – in the Middle East, has now rejoined the Order and is due to sail for Portugal, where the Templars are committed to aiding the Portuguese in their fight against the Moors. But of course he is roped in to assist in the investigation and driven by his hatred of cold-blooded murder of the innocent and defenceless he does so with his usual quiet modesty.

 

But will he go to Portugal when all this is sorted out? Will the next Templar Knight Mystery be set there, among the olives and the orange trees? Or will this be the last of these books? You have to read to the very end to find out – and to find out who has been going around killing working girls, and why.

 

I love this series set in my second favourite period (the 12th and early 13th centuries), in this case during the reign of King John, son of Henry II (though the King himself does not appear in this story). 

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review 2017-11-17 15:01
The Alehouse Murders
The Alehouse Murders - Maureen Ash

The first of the Templar Knight Mysteries

 

Lincoln, AD 1200

 

No one had been told why the Templar was in Lincoln. Gerard Camville had said in passing that de Marins had been on crusade in the Holy Land with the now-dead King Richard back in '91, and had been captured by the Saracens during a skirmish near Acre at the end of that year. After eight long years of captivity he had recently escaped. It was obvious that he had been tortured during his incarceration, for he wore a leather patch over the eye-socket of his missing right eye and walked with a pronounced limp. When, early one morning, he came into the hall to break his fast after attending Mass in the castle chapel, all eyes had turned his way but, although polite, he had said nothing of his past and seemed disinclined to talk about it. [...]

As he began to recover his health, he had taken to practising his combative skills in the yard, first with a blunted sword against the wooden stake erected for the purpose, and finally with Ernulf in mock battle using both sword and shield. While he seemed to have regained his former weight, his prowess with a sword was hampered by the lameness of his leg and the blindness of one eye. For all that, he still made a formidable opponent for Ernulf, who needed all the tricks he had learned in his many years as a soldier to keep pace with the Templar.

 

The scene is Lincoln Castle one year early in the reign of bad King John – though no one here seems particularly against him, or to remember his brother Richard the Lionheart with any affection. They do look back on the days of Richard and John's father, Henry II, and his queen, Eleanor, as "the good old days", but that is normal, as is one very bright old lady being scornful about Eleanor's "Courts of Love".

 

It is high summer. The Sheriff of Lincoln, Gerard Camville, is out hawking by the river with his wife, Lady Nicolaa de la Haye, and their attendants, when urgent news arrives: four people have been found dead in a local alehouse. It is Nicolaa who goes to sort out the problem. She is the chatelaine of the castle, her father's heir, and tends to run things her way, with the compliance of her husband, who just wants to be left in peace to enjoy his knightly pursuits.

 

The man Nicolaa calls upon to investigate the murders, Sir Bascot de Marins, is one of the most interesting sleuths I have come across in years of reading such books. He is a Templar Knight on a kind of extended sick leave after spending eight years as a captive and slave in the Middle East and finally escaping to Cyprus. He is unsure whether he wishes to remain with the Order and his superiors show great (to me surprising) sympathy. D'Arderon, the officer in charge of the Lincoln Preceptory, has introduced him to Lady Nicolaa, and he has been given a room in the castle which he shares with a mute Sicilian street-kid he fed at some point on his travels and who has followed him like a dog ever since.

 

As you watch this man, wounded in body and soul, deal with these murders, with those around him, high and low, and with his own personal problems, I am sure that you, like me, will be thinking about getting hold of the second (and third!) books in the series while you are still only half-way through this one.

Unpretentious and excellent.

 

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review 2017-11-15 04:24
Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson & Lauren Myracle

 

"The Jubilee Express" by Maureen Johnson - 3/5 Stars
I liked the story, thought it was cute-ish, but did not like how the main character stereotyped cheerleaders. It was another one of those "I'm not like those girls" type of thing. I really hate when people do that. Just because someone is pretty, wears make up and likes to be perky and do cheers, doesn't make them a bad person or make them less than you. That goes for any person/group who is different from you. Don't be so quick to judge. It was also annoying how the author basically said all cheerleaders are named Amber and Madison. Of course, I know nothing about cheerleaders, so...

I was really cringing throughout the story, because I was expecting her to cheat on her boyfriend; the story just gave that vibe.

Luckily there was no cheating

(spoiler show)

.

I liked Stuart as a character. He seemed genuinely like a good person.

The whole thing with the Christmas village was different.

I like the writing style and think it would be fun to expand it to a full length novel and really expand on the character developments, and have it not be so instalove.

---

"A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle" by John Green - 1/5 stars.
Did John Green really write this? It was horrible and gross. Are boys really like that about cheerleaders? Anyways, it just made me feel a little disgusted how the girls are being treated/are viewed because they happen to be cheerleaders. Also saying "that's so gay"... ugh, and it was used more than once. I also did not appreciate the dig at Lindsay Lohan. Sure the likelihood, Lindsay will ever read this is slim, but it's a pretty crappy thing to do. She's still a person and the story basically called her a slut. "Legs always open." So John Green lost a little of my respect.

---

"The Patron Saint of Pigs" by Lauren Myracle - 2.5/5 stars.
The main character was really painful to read. I mean, I guess she learned her lesson in the end, at least I hope so. I didn't really care much for it, but I did like the ending somewhat with everyone coming together.

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review 2017-11-13 16:49
Death of a Squire
Death of a Squire - Maureen Ash

Back again - after a long break! - with some of the books I've been reading. And, yes, I'm still into the medieval period ...

 

(The second Templar Knight Mystery) Lincoln, autumn, 1200 AD

 

'He's nowt but a lad,' said Talli. 'Looks to be no more than fifteen or sixteen. And from the way he's been trussed, he didn't string himself up there. Why would anyone bring a youngster like that out here and hang him?'

'I don't know and I don't care,' Fulcher replied. 'I'm going to forget I ever saw him and if you two have any sense in your addled pates you'll do the same.'

Laden with their booty, the three men made haste down the track towards the stream that had been the destination of the deer thay had killed. In its water the poachers would place their steps until they were well away from the scene of their crime so that any dogs used to track them would lose their telltale scent and the smell of the deer's blood. Above them a slight breeze rattled the dry branches of the oak and the body swayed slightly, then moved a little more as the first of the crows landed on the bright thatch of hair that topped the corpse's head. Twisted under the noose, caught by the violence of the tightening rope, was the boy's cap, the colourful peacock's feather that had once jauntily adorned it now hanging crushed and bedraggled. As the crows began their feast, it was loosened and fluttered slowly to the ground.

 

This is the second book in the series and I haven't read the first, but that wasn't a problem. You are soon put in the picture. An ex-Templar, Sir Bascot de Marins, is living at Lincoln Castle. He had already solved one murder for the castellan, Lady Nicolaa, (the first book) and now when another nysterious death occurs she turns to him again.

 

A young man, a squire, has been hanged deep in the forest. He was trussed up, so it cannot have been suicide. Nicolaa's husband, the Sheriff, a rather stupid man interested only in hunting who leaves all his more boring duties to her, wants to blame it on poachers or outlaws, easy scapegoats, but the boy's dagger and fine clothing were not stolen, so Nicolaa and de Marins think that unlikely.

 

It turns out that the squire, Hubert de Tornay, was an unpleasant boy. No one could stand him and no one is sorry he is dead. There are many potential suspects. What worries Nicolaa, though, is that the boy had apparently been claiming to know details of a conspiracy against the king. In the year 1200, "Bad King John" was still new to the throne and many felt that the king should really be John's nephew Arthur, a boy who lived in France. What was worse, King John himself was on his way to Lincoln to meet there with King William of Scotland. The murderer had to be found before King John's arrival for John was a suspicious and vindictive man.

 

The squire was also a notorious woman-chaser, so there are girls involved. He had had a rendez-vous in the forest with a village girl that night. But he had been seen riding into the forest with a woman from the city up behind him on the horse. Or had he? Were the villagers lying?

 

De Matins questions a charcoal burner and his sons who live in that part of the forest. The next day they are brutally murdered. Then his servant, Gianni, disappears – kidnapped. Gianni was a starving street-kid de Marins had picked on his travels, and had now grown very fond of. Was the kidnapper also the murderer of the squire and the charcoal-burner's family?

 

It is exciting and well-written, and seems historically accurate. I am certainly going to read the first book in the series, The Alehouse Murders, as soon as I can get hold of a copy. I also want to know what will happen in the third book. At the end of this one, de Marins is faced with a difficult choice: to return to the Order of the Templars and full obedience, or to renounce all his ties with them and cease to call himself a Templar. What will he do?

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