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review 2018-12-05 17:35
The Scarlet Plague - Gordon Grant,Jack London


That was a depressing little story.


According to Jack London, the end of civilization comes in 2013 on the a wave of a plague no one catches in time.


The story is told by a survivor 60 years later, in California, where the survivors grouped up into tribes from Santa Rosa to San Francisco, with some scattered farther south if my geography is correct without looking at a map.  (my geography and spatial locations is horrible, so don't quote me on that LOL)  


I lived in the area for a time, so a lot of the place names were familiar.  Places I've been to, some I lived in or right next to.  I'm trying to picture Niles with no people, Hayward as farmland, and no Fremont.  Palo Alto as a small community, and the San Joaquin valley now full of horses.  Carmel as an after thought. 


None of the sprawl that connects most of the cities and towns in the area between Oakland San Jose.

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review 2018-11-30 21:03
Fun romp
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Emmuska Orczy

Very easy and fast read. It would have been the type of book I would have adored as a kid in that liminal space where high reading skills put you beyond children's books but maturity does not really afford you adult reads. So yeah, classic adventures for the win.


The devise of telling the story from the third limited of a character other than the Scarlet Pimpernel allows for a show of his BAMF qualities that would have sounded boastful otherwise, so that's another good bit.


Most of my gripe comes from the ever moronic woman (I'll leave the political and racial alone this time). We are constantly told she's the cleverest woman in Europe, but either that's a huge fail of informed quality, or the author was taking the mickey on it by drawing a contrast of what the world says of a characters intelligence vs what happens behind curtains of a person's life. Still, the fact that she's absolutely useless and most times an obstacle, continued to bother me. I thought the story would redeem her when she decides to go to France, that we would be shown her being resourceful and clever and see her save the day right alongside the Pimpernel. Hell, for a bit there I was prepared to be blown out of my mind by a turn of the XX century female author writing a woman saving the hero. Alas, no dice.


The other bit that is a bit weak (beyond several un-reveals, duh), is the constant over explaining. Orczy does an excellent job of showing the pieces so that you can puzzle it out. It is a pity she wastes pages and belittle her readers intelligence by spelling it all out yet again in expository dialogues and what not.


Anyway, if you are not nit-picking like I've been, it is good entertainment.


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text 2018-11-23 09:06
24 Festive Tasks: Veterans' Day/Armistice Day, Task #3
The Complete Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
The Complete Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle,Paul Hogarth
The Annotated Sherlock Holmes Volume 1 and 2 - William S. Baring-Gould, Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection - Arthur Conan Doyle,Stephen Fry
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
The Speckled Band - Arthur Conan Doyle
A Study in Scarlet / The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle
The Hound of the Baskervilles - Illustrated - Arthur Conan Doyle
A Study in Scarlet - Joseph Bell, Arthur Conan Doyle

Task 3:  Tell us: What author’s books would you consider yourself a veteran of (i.e., by which author have you read particularly many books – or maybe even all of them)?


I'm a completist and a re-reader-ist so there are a few authors I could use for this task, but really there can be only one.  And he's Scottish, so the possibly obscure movie/TV reference works.


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Sherlock Holmes.  The former one of only two authors I'd go out of my way for the chance to have dinner with (assuming death is not an obstacle) and the latter my numero uno literary hero.


I have read the entire Sherlock Holmes canon multiple times and as you can see above, I own several editions of both the complete works and individual titles.  I'm pretty sure they're just the beginning too, because if I thought it was hard to pass by additional editions of Jane Austen's works (I have at least 2 of all her works, 3 of some, and I think I'm up to 4 P&P editions) it's downright impossible for me to pass by a good Sherlock Holmes - especially an older edition.


Even though I've read all the stories at least 4 times, there is a lot I learn every time - things I've forgotten or overlooked, or simply 'get' because of new life experiences.  This makes me hesitant to go toe-to-toe with anyone over most of the stories themselves, but I definitely consider myself enough of a 'veteran' to wade into any conversation about Holmes and Watson as characters with confidence.


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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-10-30 16:47
Review: Scarlet (Scarlet #1) by A.C. Gaughen


Will Scarlet is good at two things: stealing from the rich and keeping secrets - skills that are in high demand in Robin Hood's band of thieves, who protect the people of Nottingham from the evil sheriff. Scarlet's biggest secret of all is one only Robin and his men know...that she is posing as a thief; that the slip of a boy who is fast with sharp knives is really a girl.

The terrible events in her past that led Scarlet to hide her real identity are in danger of being exposed when the thief taker Lord Gisbourne arrives in town to rid Nottingham of the Hood and his men once and for all. As Gisbourne closes in and puts innocent lives at risk, Scarlet must decide how much the people of Nottingham mean to her, especially John Little, a flirtatious fellow outlaw, and Robin, whose quick smiles have the rare power to unsettle her. There is real honor among these thieves and so much more - making this a fight worth dying for.



Like the description says, Scarlet is an imaginative take on the Robin Hood legend, telling things from the point-of-view of a young girl posing as a boy in their band of thieves. And like all thieves, Scarlet is fleeing her past, a past filled with secrets that should they come to light, could destroy both Robin's group and Nottinghamshire as well.


What's Good: From the outset there's lots of showing not telling, slipping in teasers about Scarlet's past and her own innate goodness, and yes- her crush on a certain bandit leader. Throughout the story we're given cookie crumbs about Scar as the story progresses- maintaining the mystery and intrigue of her character. Gaughen does a good job of making you feel the different characters' own desperation of their situation at times, and firmly establishes Scarlet's motivations and perspective on things.


What's Bad: Scar's MarySue escapades: she's sure with a knife, got an eye for fat merchants when no else does (the boys can't even tell who to rob properly without her around), skillz enough to tell when a baby's turned in the womb, always knows how to break in and out a prison or a castle, etc. No explanation of how she acquired all these skills though- other than constantly repeating that she's been a thief... for all of three years. Yet Robin's as a seasoned war veteran with over ten years experience can't seem to plan half as well as this girl half his age.


The moments of suspense built up in the story crash like a lead balloon. At different points some of their friends and other locals are imprisoned, yet breaking them out is treated like another day's work. "Bob's imprisoned in the castle, you say? No problem; we'll break him out, oh... Tuesday after lunch? Guys? Tuesday it is, then!" And since they've been so good at it for so long, what's the point of even locking people up around here?


Neither Scar, her friend Much or anyone else should know anything about gunpowder; they don't even have guns yet, let alone actually calling it gunpowder. If anyone would have the faintest idea about it, it would be Robin from serving in the Crusades, and he really doesn't. And they certainly wouldn't come by it from scraping it off a cave wall- it's a chemical compound that has to be properly mixed.


Sir Guy of Gisbourne is a cheesy, two-dimensional villain who has nothing to do other than be a raving psychopath. Despite the reasons given for his presence he's only there because he's part of the legend, and that's it. He also wields a claymore- a two-handed Scottish sword- so well he has Robin on the ropes even after Gisbourne's been stabbed twice in his sword arm. If that ain't enough, how about the fact that at this point in history claymores won't even be invented for another fifty years or so. Gunpowder without guns and swords that don't exist- an excellent job of research by the author. And this being a YA novel is no excuse; if anything she should've worked harder to get things right since teens reading this wouldn't know much more than generalities.


Being a YA novel in this post-Twilight age, there's a love triangle dumped into the story. And like most love triangles that serve no real purpose not only is it forced, once Scarlet's true identity is revealed it's also pointless since you know how it's going to turn out.


The finale is rushed, convoluted, completely over the top and ridiculously bloody with a body count like something out of Game of Thrones. Also it's the only part where any real tension is generated but it gets lost in all the gratuitous, almost comical violence.


What's Left: Lots of flavor and a decent feel for the times- Nottinghamshire is a dirty, hardscrabble place in the wake of the sheriff's tyranny over the populace. Many of the lesser characters help to round things out, showing the desperation and sense of hope Robin and the group gives them.


Scarlet is a fun read overall, like a fresh twist on an old story often is. But it falls prey to too many cliché's and some laziness. But there's room left open for sequels, so here's to hoping for some tighter storytelling.

3/5 stars
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review 2018-10-24 15:38
#57 - Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (re-read)
Scarlet - Marissa Meyer

Another re-read as part of my Lunar Chronicles reread (I am trying to read all books before the end of the year). I already posted about this book when I first read it in 2015, you can find here my opinion on the first 3 books in the series.


I liked it beter than the first time I read it though. Again, this world is really one of my favourite and I am falling in love with it all over again. I totally recommend it.



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