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review 2018-09-02 14:10
The Last Hours - Minette Walters 
The Last Hours - Minette Walters

The first outbreaks of the Black Death in Dorset. There is crime and secrets and lies, but this is counterbalanced by great kindness and cooperation and thought. You wouldn't think it could be a hopeful kind of book, but even as the plague strikes so swiftly with such high mortality, it does free up all the wealth and power that was gathered into so few hands.

 

Now I just have to wait for the story to be continued.

 

It's situations like this that make me reluctant to start a series until it's all written

 

Library copy

 

Edited to add, 9/2/18:  I often give authors of fiction about plagues a hard time for giving their imagined diseases an easy transmission, an incredibly high mortality rate, and a very brief latency: these three ratios all being very high means an infection will burn out in a population too quickly to spread. Even the worst plagues in naive populations don't score high on all three. They also tend to avoid people getting ill and recovering, which some portion of the population usually does. Most fiction wrlters avoid the importance of hygiene and sanitation and supportive care: they have everyone dying from the primary disease directly rather than address indirect mortality. I've encountered more than a few books that use 99.99% in order to decrease the surplus population. I mention this because I can only think of two writers who don't cheat that way: Connie Willis and now Minette Walters. If you want realistic plagues, these are the women to read.

 

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review 2018-07-16 02:19
Book 2 in the Re-Read
Fever Season - Barbara Hambly

I am re-reading this series this summer.  Fever Season is the second volume of the January Mysteries.    In New Orleans, many people have fled the city because of the epidemic.  January hasn’t, though he might wish he had. 

 

                Hambly’s series succeeds because she mixes history in with a smidge of gothic and compelling characters that confronted racial issues, not only in adjusting to how the Americans have changed New Orleans, but also with an institution that denies Ben his ability to practice medicine and forces him to earn money with his skills as musicians.

 

                In this book as well, we are introduced to Rose, a mixed-race woman, who struggles to be a science teacher to those mixed-race girls who are destined to be concubines to the rich white men who control New Orleans society, much the same way Ben’s youngest sister is, as was his mother.

 

                Livia, Ben’s mother, is perhaps one of the greatest things about this series.  She was a field hand until she, and her two children, were sold and her new master freed her.  She became his concubine, and this former master paid for Ben’s education and is the father of Dominque.  Livia’s determination to ensure her family’s survival has alienated her eldest daughter, who has established herself in the free black community as a voodoo priestess.  But Livia is a fascinating character because she knows and works the structure that is forced on her.  She is far more aware of what is at stake than Ben is in many cases, and she appears unfeeling, uncaring, and driven only by money.  But one wonders.

 

                To review the plot of the novel would be to offer a major spoiler, but the plot does involve Ben trying to discover what has happened to a missing young escaped slave as well as who is trying to destroy his reputation.   The fictional plot is interwoven with real history and New Orleans lore in a realistic and compelling way.

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review 2018-06-28 18:42
A book of its time
A Child's Anti-Slavery Book Containing a Few Words about American Slave Children and Stories of Slave-Life. - Various

So this book was published pre-American Civil War, and is designed to show white children why slavery is wrong.  Therefore, it mentions God quite a bit.  There are some true stories related for children as well.

 

Part of the Summer Read

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review 2018-06-21 01:47
The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1) (Audiobook) - DNF 17%.
The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson

Technically, this is competently written, and the narrators do a decent job with their parts once I sped up the playback to 1.25 times normal speed. But... 

 

I was bored a lot of the time. It got interesting for awhile. I like Kaladan and Shallan, but they don't make up for the clunky world-building or the overall awkward tone of the writing. This reads like an opus to fanfic much of the time, and it's cringe-worthy fanfic at that.

 

And the whole lighteyes/darkeyes thing just feels weird. Like the author wanted to include something about racism, but didn't want to start up a sh*tstorm by doing it badly, so decided that eye color made a good alternative. Maybe he heard about Jane Elliot's blue eyes experiment and figured it was a good stand in. It's not though.

 

If this were only 200 or 300 pages, I might feel compelled to power through to the end, but there are another 800+ pages to this thing, so my patience has run dry. 

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review 2018-06-13 04:06
Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) (Audiobook)
Drums of Autumn - Geraldine James,Diana Gabaldon

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.

(spoiler show)

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.

(spoiler show)

 

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.

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