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review 2018-06-25 00:16
A Distant Mirror by Barbara W. Tuchman (audiobook)
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century - Barbara W. Tuchman,Nadia May

Well, that was a long haul, but I don't regret the journey.

 

This is basically an overview of France, England, and other parts of Europe in the 14th century as it follows the ancestors and life of Enguerrand VI de Coucy. It's not exactly a biography, but it uses de Coucy's life to provide human interest and a way to structure Tuchman's history of the 14th century. Enguerrand de Coucy was an important man in France and married the king of England's daughter, so he moved in powerful circles.

 

I was worried that I might have made a mistake in choosing the audio for this but Nadia May is a great narrator and although lots and lots of information was thrown at me, I feel like I got something out of it. Audio still might not be the best way to go but even in print this book would have been long. As it should be, since it covers an entire century. It's like writing a history of the 20th century, but with more interpretation and fewer primary sources.

 

Anyway, some of the things that I got out of it were a better understanding of the different religious movements from that era and the general religious environment, a better understanding of chivalric romances, a better understanding or mediaeval attitudes, and lots of stuff about war at the time. I'm not sure how much of it will stick with me, but a reread eventually wouldn't be out of the question. There was certainly a lot of information to try to absorb, and some of it was a bit dry but overall it was quite interesting.

 

The 14th century was also the time of the schism of the two popes, so that part was entertaining. Tuchman starts into the 15th century and some of the changes that came about then but maintains her focus by contrasting it with the 14th century. This book was written 40 years ago but it seems to have aged fairly well.

 

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review 2018-06-24 22:03
The Mistake (Off-Campus) (Volume 2) - El... The Mistake (Off-Campus) (Volume 2) - Elle Kennedy

This definitely does not pack the punch of The Deal, but is told in the same breezy, quick, engaging and frankly realistic style (speaking of the banter/conversation here). I also don't think it has the humor. I don't love comparing within series, I don't think it's fair. I just did it though, and I'll stand by that.

 

Frankly, I like these two characters backstories and conflicts far better than I like the predecessors because it felt more fresh, and in a lot of ways they weren't fixated like the way the characters in the prior novel. It features another sweet and open hero who basically just wants love.

 

So, why deduct a star-ish you ask? Grace. I thought she was realistic in a college freshman, kind of insecure way, but she flipped so quickly in her assertiveness,  it was annoying. And in the final conflict at the tail end of the book, I cannot be convinced that her behavior was sensitive or in any regard in character for her. I didn't get a great sense of her. She was shy and wasn't, she was sensitive but wasn't. 

 

That said, I enjoy this series more than nearly any NA, and it is tops for hockey. In some respects, I liked the pacing of this book better-and it shows another college couple getting to their happy ending in a very different way with a very different start. (And my eyes do get wet at one point, man, what the hell is happening to me)

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review 2018-06-24 20:56
Sad Cypress
Sad Cypress - Agatha Christie

The court. Faces. Rows and rows of faces! One particular face with a big black moustache and shrewd eyes. Hercule Poirot, his head a little on one side, his eyes thoughtful, was watching her.

   She thought: He’s trying to see just exactly why I did it… He’s trying to get inside my head to see what I thought – what I felt…

   Felt…? A little blur – a slight sense of shock… Roddy’s face – his dear, dear face with its long nose, its sensitive mouth… Roddy! Always Roddy – always, ever since she could remember… since those days at Hunterbury amongst the raspberries and up in the warren and down by the brook. Roddy – Roddy – Roddy… 

   Other faces! Nurse O’Brien, her mouth slightly open, her freckled fresh face thrust forward. Nurse Hopkins looking smug – smug and implacable. Peter Lord’s face – Peter Lord – so kind, so sensible, so – so comforting! But looking now – what was it – lost? Yes – lost! Minding – minding all this frightfully! While she herself, the star performer, didn’t mind at all!

   Here she was, quite calm and cold, standing in the dock, accused of murder.

In my reading of Christie's novels, this is one of the best opening scenes. 

 

And what is more, I thought this was one of the best Poirot novels of the canon, together with Five Little Pigs, which is quite similar in structure. 

There is a little more to Sad Cypress than meets the eye at first, and it doesn't read like the usual formulaic Christie novel. 

 

For a start, the character of Elinor, the MC, is not your happy-go-lucky bright young thing. We meet her as the accused, who hesitates when asked whether she pleads guilty or not guilty. 

From there on, we step back in time to see the story unfold from the start but even then, Elinor, is riddled with doubts and cares. Christie does a marvellous job describing a woman being close to a breakdown throughout the story leading up to the arrest. 

 

By that time, of course we still don't know what happens and whether her state of mind is caused by her guilt over plotting a murder. We won't know this until the end. 

This is another aspect I liked. This book keeps up its suspense until the end - and even then there are elements which remain ... a mystery. 

 

Yes, the murder is resolved, but much of the book is based on the character of the individuals involved in the plot - and one person's reading of a character may put forth a completely different interpretation of the ending than another reader's. 

 

I, for one, tended to find the ending unsettling - in both the ways of what happened to the villain and what happened to the victim. I don't know if Dame Agatha had intended this to be a happy ending, but I can't quite see it that way. 

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review 2018-06-24 19:45
Reeve of Veils (Inheritance #4)
Reeve of Veils (Inheritance) (Volume 4) - Amelia Faulkner

Hmmm, not sure what to make of this one. 

 

First, this goes back to Knight of Flames timeline and gives us Freddy's POV, so there's a lot that's repeated. Pretty much the first and last quarter of the book, in fact, and I ended up skimming the bulk of those parts, looking only for new details. About the only new thing we learn during those parts is that Freddy's a bigger jerk than I originally thought he was. We get confirmation of his powers, which are more extensive than hinted at prior to this.

 

As for the new stuff in the middle, well... Freddy's a jerk and I prefer not to read POVs of jerks. Mikey's somewhat better, but he's been a victim for so long that he (and Freddy) actually deludes himself into believing he's left that behind even as he willingly becomes Freddy's literal plaything. Which brings me to the second thing.

 

Second, there's just no way to see Freddy and Mikey's relationship as anything other than D/s, which is a dynamic I don't enjoy. Just because Freddy thinks he's doing good by Mikey and Mikey's getting out of the ghetto doesn't erase that. Freddy might want to see themselves as equals for whatever reasons he needs to, but they're really not.

 

Plus, Freddy's just not that good of a guy. He's not a complete bastard, but he's barely one sidestep away from Kane - and even that's only until he succeeds in his plan to off dear old daddy, which I assume is the next book, and then he will be exactly like Kane. Morals and ethics mean nothing to this guy. Or to Mikey. So I guess they are perfect for each other in that respect, but they're certainly not a couple I'm rooting for or care about, and the insta-love here is just completely unbelievable given that Freddy's practically a sociopath.

 

Ok, I give Freddy credit for not violating Mikey's sexual consent. But since he violates consent in every single other respect with everyone around him, that credit doesn't get him very far. It gets him a crumb. A crumb mashed into dust.

 

The good news is you don't actually have to read this book. The last two books made it perfectly plain that Freddy's manipulating Laurence and how, and that he's trying to line up Quentin to kill their dad. So this book ends at pretty much the same point as the previous book, just with a bit more info than we had before. 

 

Two more little nitpicks:

 

Mikey's a drug dealer and a high school dropout who's never been outside San Diego. He's not going to measure distances by kilometers. This same thing happened with Laurence in the last book. We use feet and miles in the USA. There are various conversion charts and calculators available online. This sort of error shouldn't happen, and it pulled me out of the story both times.

 

And lastly, mailbox flags work the exact opposite of how they're used here. When you have outgoing mail, you raise the flag. When the mailman comes, he lowers the flag and leaves the incoming mail. If the flag is up, that means the mail hasn't been delivered yet, not that it has been.

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review 2018-06-24 16:45
Review: “The Flesh Cartel #14: Independence Day (The Flesh Cartel Season 4: Liberation)” (The Flesh Cartel, #14) by Rachel Haimowitz & Heidi Belleau
The Flesh Cartel #14: Independence Day (The Flesh Cartel Season 4: Liberation) - Heidi Belleau,Rachel Haimowitz

 

~ 4 stars ~

 

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