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text 2017-03-27 18:46
Reading progress update: I've read 60%.
The Queen's Man - Sharon Kay Penman

Still plodding along on this one. It's definitely interesting, and I want to see how it's resolved, but I find myself drifting away from it towards other readings. One thing I've noticed is that I'm having a hard time staying within the time period it's set in; and that's saying something, considering I used to teach Medieval lit. Somehow, I keep forgetting it's set in the 12th century; the author does describe settings well, talks a bit about the etymology of French vs Saxon names, etc.... Still, there's a very modern feel to the book that keeps wanting to trick my mind into a later time period.

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text 2017-03-20 20:28
Reading progress update: I've read 50%.
The Queen's Man - Sharon Kay Penman

I really thought I'd be going faster with this one, but I got sidetracked by a couple of other reads. Still enjoying it, though!

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review 2017-03-15 22:36
Planetfall
Planetfall - Emma Newman

It's really difficult to talk about this book without being spoilery, so forgive me if it seems like I'm dancing around things and being cryptic.

 

Things I loved about this book: Almost everything honestly. Specifically though, the voice. Ren is a compelling unreliable narrator. I really appreciated what an excellent job Newman did with conveying what it's like to live with an anxiety disorder. Also, while Ren clearly has a Secret, I wasn't frustrated by the allusions to a bigger untold story like I often am in narratives like this. Ren's POV was so convincing I felt comfortable that the story continued to just hint at whatever happened in the past, because I felt like Ren herself was avoiding thinking about it. I was continually compelled and convinced by Ren's internal struggles.

 

This is a masterfully written book, and it is also a terribly personal book. This isn't a large sweeping drama. There's very little action. The bulk of the story takes place in a matter of days. It skips through time. It's a psychodrama. And in the end it's all about one woman. This was all a big plus for me because of the execution, but it could be a turn-off for people wanting something less meditative and more action packed.

 

Also: the science. I loved that this was a hard sci-fi book, filled with interesting speculative science and alien worlds, and it wasn't weighed down in jargon and complex explainers/exposition. The science is simply woven into the story, and makes perfect sense as you read. It isn't the focus of the story, but it is an important part. I didn't realize just how much I was craving a true hard sci-fi story that has such a personal focus until I was reading this book.

 

Be warned, there is something about this book you may really hate, and that's the ending. When I finished the book I was a bit taken aback, but after sitting with it for a couple days I actually rather like the ending. It feels right to me. However, I am in the extreme minority. Most people (both in my book club and in reading reviews) really strongly dislike the end. So you are warned. I think it is a matter of taste.

 

If you're looking for a deeply personal, meditative, character study: try this book. If you want to read a hard sci-fi that reads more like a psychodrama: try this book. If you love unreliable narrators, or really enjoyed Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer: try this book. If you want a sweeping space opera, an action packed sci-fi filled with a kick-ass heroine, or a book with a more traditional structure and ending: skip this book.

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review 2017-03-03 14:04
Call in the Night ★★☆☆☆
Call in the Night - Susan Howatch

A sensible Manhattan schoolteacher is drawn overseas by a panicked call from her sister. On arrival, the sister seems to have vanished, and our heroine tries to unravel the mystery, although she takes plenty of time to sightsee around Paris and enjoy plenty of cocktails and dinners with the charming stranger that had last been in her sister’s company. The tension ratchets up when she discovers that everyone is lying to her, and she realizes that she has fallen so deeply in love with the charming stranger over the course of 3 days that she doesn’t even consider 

calling the police when she literally digs up the body of his ex-fiance out of his garden

(spoiler show)

.   It’s not badly written, and as stupid as the insta-love is and as puzzling as all the characters’ motivations are, I was sort of enjoying it until the last couple of chapters, in which the mystery is revealed much like a Scooby Doo cartoon, where everyone shows up and offers long monologues explaining everything. Then everybody lives happily ever after, except the murdered and the murderer.

 

Read for the 2017 Romance Bingo. I had intended to use this for the Gothic Romance square, because the author is a writer of gothics and the cover art (I own the version below) certainly looked gothic, but this story was missing most of the key elements of gothic literature. The applicable squares are:
Insta-love: The heroine and her mysterious stranger are madly in love within 3 days, despite the concern of missing sisters and dead bodies turning up
Love is Murder: crimes of passion galore

 

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review 2017-03-03 13:52
Heroes Are My Weakness ★★★☆☆
Heroes Are My Weakness[HEROES ARE MY WEAKNESS 11D][UNABRIDGED][Compact Disc] - SusanElizabethPhillips

A really cute story about a quirky ventriloquist whose puppets provide ongoing commentary to everything she does, but are at least mercifully silent during sex. It’s got a brooding, complicated hero, a couple of easily guessable mysteries, and a Happily Ever After, which I don’t consider a spoiler since this is a conventional romance.

I mean really, the love interest is never a sociopathic murderer in these kinds of books, and you can certainly never trust an aging woman who dresses garishly and has a heavy hand with the makeup.

(spoiler show)

 

What dragged this down from 4 stars to 3 stars was the eye-rollingly awful use of pop psychology, where characters who suffer extreme psychological trauma 

are instantly cured when they can finally be coerced into talking about it.

(spoiler show)

And our quirky heroine knowing full well that only a trained psychologist should be attempting therapy, but since there isn’t one around, well, the couple of human psychology classes she took in drama school will do. No consideration that she might do more harm than good. Also, this story should have wrapped up a few chapters earlier, but it gets unnecessarily dragged out because our two lovers are incapable of having an adult conversation about their feelings for one another.

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my library via Overdrive, with an excellent performance by Erin Bennett.

 

Read for the 2017 Romance Bingo. It could fit any of these squares:

Headless woman: beheaded by the cover artist

Guy/Girl Next Door: they spent a summer living in the same house as stepsiblings, and are neighbors in the current timeline

Rogue: The MC believes her love interest is

a sociopath who played cruel tricks on her and has even attempted murder

(spoiler show)

Second Chances: Also third and fourth chances

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