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Search tags: challenges-2016
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review 2016-04-28 17:22
Suffer the Little Children (The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez Book 5) - Ann Swinfen

I have enjoyed all of this series—some books more than others, but every one has its own charms. This one was a particular pleasure. Kit is installed as an assistant physician at St. Thomas's Hospital, the second great facility caring for the poor in late 16th-century England, and in charge of the maternity ward. Abandoned, abused, and unwanted children are everywhere in this novel—the most compelling a group of young urchins who beg for food outside the playhouse where Kit's friend Simon makes his living as an actor. A young playwright named Will (with an unpronounceable last name—guess who?) has just joined the theater, and there are amusing references to his plays. But the central story line involves the approaching death of Sir Francis Walsingham, the potential threats to his secret service as a result, a kidnapped child, and, of course, a plot against the throne. It's all fast-paced and riveting and sets Kit up for the next journey, to Muscovy, which I loved even more.

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review 2016-01-25 02:27
The Invention of Wings: A Novel - Sue Monk Kidd

A beautifully written, emotionally compelling story of slavery in the early 19th-century United States, told from the contrasting perspectives of Sarah Grimké, a Charleston planter's daughter, and Hetty (Handful), the slave given to Sarah by her parents as a maid to mark Sarah's 11th birthday. With her younger sister Angelina, Sarah traveled the path from pampered society darling to become an abolitionist, a voice for racial equality, and a feminist before any of these things was fashionable. As the suthor notes, in the 1830s the Grimké sisters were the most famous—and the most infamous—women in the country, regularly assailed in both the relatively liberal North and their own home city.

 

The book does a great job of tackling the complex and difficult subject of slavery, revealing the violence and brutality inherent in the system without turning those on either side into caricatures. Descriptions are rich and often beautiful. If there is a problem, it lies in the character of Sarah. Perhaps it is the nature of crusaders to value principles over people, but I kept wishing that Sarah would understand that, even though her life was restricted because she was born a girl, her race and status gave her power to help the individual slaves within her parents' household—something she too often overlooked in pursuit of some grand but ultimately ineffective gesture. She did not have to choose; that she so often chose principle I found frustrating. Some of the events in Handful's life also seemed contrived, as the story went on, to ensure that she wound up in the right place at the right time to take part in or observe a particular moment in history rather than because it made sense for someone who had suffered as she had to behave in that way.

 

But on the whole, I was glad to learn so much more about the Grimké sisters, who until now had been not much more than names to me, and I think this is a book well worth reading.

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review 2016-01-20 16:52
The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins

The first—and in some ways still the best—detective novel written in English, The Moonstone uses shifting first-person points of view, each one distinct, to trace the tangled history of a jewel of great price. Unlike much nineteenth-century literature, this is an rapidly moving, compelling tale, distinguished in particular by its strong female characters. From lovelorn Rosanna to determined Rachel, the women foil Sergeant Cuff, the original who later gave rise to Sherlock Holmes, until this twisty, subtle mystery finds its eventual resolution.

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review 2016-01-08 22:57
Bartholomew Fair (The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez) (Volume 4) - Ann Swinfen

Book 4 of a wonderful series. Every bit worthy of its predecessors. Kit is back in London and dealing with the consequences of book 3—many of them unpleasant—but handles them with the usual aplomb. I can't say more without giving away spoilers.

 

FULL DISCLOSURE: I became friends with the author around book 6, but that was because I liked her writing, so the reviews are my honest opinion, even so.

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