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review 2019-10-16 23:51
Alyson Hale DELIVERS!
Rocked Senseless - Alyson Hale

Alyson Hale provides steam and a besties-to-lovers romance set to a crazy, wild ride that exists in the rockstar life. Logan was so easy to fall in love with that it makes you question why Madison didn't catch it from the start, but the ride of reaching romance and their HEA delivers laughs, smiles and more than enough heat for warming up your sheets! Five large, golden, beaming stars!

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review 2019-10-16 23:28
The Moonstone / Wilkie Collins
The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone, a yellow diamond looted from an Indian temple and believed to bring bad luck to its owner, is bequeathed to Rachel Verinder on her eighteenth birthday. That very night the priceless stone is stolen again and when Sergeant Cuff is brought in to investigate the crime, he soon realizes that no one in Rachel’s household is above suspicion. Hailed by T. S. Eliot as ‘the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels’, The Moonstone is a marvellously taut and intricate tale of mystery, in which facts and memory can prove treacherous and not everyone is as they first appear.

 

 

I read this book to fill the Gothic square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

Well, finally, I have managed to read this Wilkie Collins classic, and I’m glad that I did. It is remarkable for the way it got detective fiction started. I could certainly see the roots of the genre in it and it reminded me strongly of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four. Sergeant Cuff, with his eye for detail and absorption in rose cultivation, seems like a clear predecessor of Sherlock Holmes, with his predilection for violin playing and smelly chemistry experiments. Both novels result from treasures stolen from the Indian subcontinent and Indian people appear in England in both cases to retrieve the ill-gotten valuables. Also appreciated was one of the earliest crime scene re-enactments in literature.

The Moonstone doesn’t rush it’s way to the finish line. Instead, it meanders and circles a bit, as the literature of the time period does. I thought that Collins must have had great fun writing the first two narrators--both Gabriel Betteredge and Drusilla Clack are entertaining for their eccentricities. Both have placed their faith in a particular book: Gabriel relies on Robinson Crusoe, while Drusilla trusts more to the Bible, or rather interpretations thereof by her favourite religious people. Each of them regards people who don’t pay attention to their book as heathens. Probably most of us have encountered a Drusilla at some point or may even count them as family members--we hope we see them before they see us, allowing us time to hide or flee!

Collins certainly reveals his excellent understanding of people with his characters. I found his depiction of Godfrey Ablewhite especially interesting, as it related to Collins’ own personal life. Godfrey proposes to Miss Rachel Verinder, but seems to be rather easily made to back away from their engagement, though it makes his father apoplectic. We learn later that he has been keeping a woman in grand style and had he succeeded in marrying Rachel, this woman would have been sure to ruin his reputation! Perhaps this is why Collins maintained two households without ever marrying either woman--they could tolerate being equal, but his marrying one would have automatically made the unmarried woman into the Other Woman, with the concomitant social censure.

Collins certainly set a pattern in literature with valuable gems being the centre pieces of mysterious goings on. I think even of modern urban fantasy such as Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews with it’s pillaged Indian crown, featuring a beautiful stone, which is used for nefarious purposes and eventually returned to India where it belongs, with the knowledge that nothing good comes from stealing from other cultures.

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review 2019-10-15 22:45
Sorcery of Thorns / Margaret Rogerson
Sorcery of Thorns - Margaret Rogerson

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

 

I was really looking forward to this second YA novel from Rogerson, having fallen hard for her first book, An Enchantment of Ravens. Perhaps I was expecting too much, because I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much.

There were obviously romantic aspects to both books and I knew early on in each which couple was destined to wind up together. However, I thought that Rogerson managed the relationship’s development with more skill in the first book. In this one, Elisabeth and Nathaniel get set up much more obviously, detracting from the romantic suspense, at least for me.

However, there were definitely elements that I loved: the Great Libraries, the sentient Grimoires, the secret passages that Elisabeth has rediscovered, her aspirations to become a Warden of the Library. Undoubtedly there were some Harry Potter elements to the story, what with all the evil adults that Elisabeth (and eventually Nathaniel) must defeat so that the Library can remain true to its purpose.

This is listed currently as a stand-alone book. But with this ending, a delightfully ambiguous final page, there is definitely a possibility of a second volume. I will be interested to see what this author produces next!

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review 2019-10-15 22:25
A Mind to Murder / P.D. James
A Mind to Murder - P.D. James

When the administrative head of the Steen Psychiatric Clinic is found dead with a chisel in her heart, Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. Dalgliesh must analyze the deep-seated anxieties and thwarted desires of patients and staff alike to determine which of their unresolved conflicts resulted in murder.

 

Very reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s work. P.D. James really does demonstrate the same mystery writing skills that Christie did. She lays out the crime and all the various suspects and then sets Dalgleish and Martin among them to sort things out. Two police cats amongst the psychiatric pigeons. Just like Poirot, Dalgleish is able to see through the clutter to the heart of things. Unlike Poirot, he is able to do so without being annoyingly self-satisfied.

Perhaps because I just recently read Christie’s They Do It with Mirrors, set in a juvenile reform school, this novel seemed similar. In fact, they were written within a few years of each other and share the institutional settings and “closed room” aspects to the stories. James throws plenty of details of the psychiatric setting at the reader, using them as distractions from the usual motivations for murder.

As I said when I reviewed the first Dalgleish novel, I see this detective as one of the sources of one of my favourite policemen, Armand Gamache, Louise Penny’s main character. Which reminds me, I need to track down the next book in that series too.

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review 2019-10-15 06:10
Childfree by Choice
Childfree By Choice - Amy Blackstone

It's always a little bit harder for me to discuss non-fiction books I've listened to on audio; My audio comprehension is still not a match to my reading comprehension and I'm not quite as able to recall the details as well.  

 

Even so, this book was eye opening for me.  MT and I are child free by choice, and I've definitely experienced the bog-standard lines:  you'll change your mind and it's different when it's yours and it's not too late, as well as the arguments for more exciting holidays and built-in old-age care. (All of which are fallacies: I almost never change my mind about anything, I'd feel no different if 'it' was my own, and at 49, which is the last time the 'not too late' argument was used, it's categorically too late, if not medically, then rationally. And while I'm willing to concede that some holidays might be more fun, there's no guarantee that anyone's children won't stick them in an old-age home when the time comes.  Harsh, but true.)

 

But I've never experienced the vitriolic rhetoric aimed at us as a group; an upside to having always avoided the Editorial/Opinion section of the news, I guess.  Wow.  People need to worry less about what everyone else is doing and look inward; if these pundits have time to turn themselves inside out about other people's life choices, they have too much free time on their hands and not enough perspective on actual, real world issues.

 

As I was listening to this book and thinking "how have I missed all this nonsense, and who do I thank for that?" it started to niggle at me that, actually, I might have been on the receiving end of some of the blowback to choosing child free, I've just never acknowledged it as such.  Not from a professional standpoint; frankly, I think my bosses were all too happy I'd not be taking maternity leave to be fussed about my rebellion against my (apparent) civic duty.  But personally, socially ... that becomes trickier.  Have I lost friends after they had kids?  Certainly.  MT and I used to have a much more jam-packed social calendar, until friends started spawning and we lost touch with more and more of them.  But I can't say with any certainty that it's because we chose not to have kids; the toll newborns take on couples, then the non-stop demands of toddlers, could explain a lot of it.  The medical issues that have necessarily slowed both MT and I down certainly are to blame for some of it too.  But I can't be sure our choice not to have kids isn't at play either.  Both my best friends have kids, and I never lost touch with either of them - in fact I was a huge part of first 10 years of one of the kids' lives, until I moved down under.

 

Anyway, the takeaway here is that the book has left me with things to chew on, and it certainly opened my eyes to societal reactions to those who choose to not procreate.  So in that sense, the book was an outstanding success.  It was, however, a dry read; very much structured like a dissertation that's been fleshed out for publication.  I think the narrator of the audio helps overcome that a little, though it's still by no means a riveting read.  MT overheard it when I was listening while gardening, and he though I was listening to the news.

 

I was also constantly jarred by her use of fertility; no question she's using it exactly the way it should be used, but to me fertility has always meant the ability to procreate, while in this book she uses it to refer to actual birthing of children, ie the fertility rates dropped during the global economic crisis to her means people stopped having children during the GFC.  I kept thinking 'what does the GFC have to do with ability to conceive?'.  That's my shortcoming though, not the author's.

 

All in all it was a very worthwhile read for me.  Depending on one's level of engagement in this issue, individual results may vary.  I will end this with saying it's a good book for anyone - with children or without - interested in the values and reactions society places on people when it comes to planning the future of their families.

 

 

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