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review 2018-03-15 03:50
Rediscovering a Classic
A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

I read A Tale of Two Cities in high school and remembered only a few major characters, the setting, and of course, the knitting. Rereading it after decades of immersion in more recent fiction, I was intrigued by things I never questioned or noticed as a high school junior.


The omniscient narrator sometimes has a cinematic perspective. The opening chapters are remarkably like the opening scenes of a movie, especially where the poor people of Paris drink the spilled red wine.


The awareness of privacy and interiority was to some extent still new. Dickens digresses in a fascinating observation of the individual minds and lives within each home, behind each window, each unknowable to the others. In the Pulitzer prize winning The Transformation of Virginia, 1740 -1790, historian Rhys Isaac connected the rise of literacy and solitary reading with this new sense of privacy, a new phenomenon in a largely public society where most people (other than the wealthy) shared sleeping spaces, even in taverns when traveling, and the wealthy were surrounded by servants. The book is set in the late 18th century when the sense of individual self and individual rights arose, and this of course, is part of the plot. So was that rumination on all those unique, unknowable souls really a digression? Yes and no. With private reflection and self-awareness come questions such as Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton ask themselves about their lives. Questions revolutionaries may also have asked themselves, before they lost their self-awareness to the Terror.


Dickens’ linguistic virtuosity is enjoyable in the same way as hearing a great singer hit a note and sustain it or seeing a dancer spin an impossible series of turns. No one told him not to use –ly adverbs. I found three in one sentence, but that line worked. Semicolons were more like pauses for air than the kind of punctuation we now use. His shift from third person omniscient point of view, past tense, into first person plural, present tense, for one suspenseful scene was unexpected yet effective, moving the reader’s consciousness directly into the shared tension and hope of a group of desperate travelers. He wrote at a time when authors were less constrained by an expected word count than they are now, and he clearly luxuriated in language and in scenes that fully develop a setting, character, or relationship. The plot would move along without his humorous and detailed portrait of Tellson’s Bank, but the pleasure in reading the book would be diminished. The plot would move without the full length of the scenes revealing the lives of the French poor and aristocracy who oppress them, but the emotional impact would be less.


Making no attempt to be impartial, Dickens the social reformer is fully present in the narrative.

Most characters are three-dimensional and complex, but the French aristocrats have few traits, serving as representatives of their caste. Of the major characters, Lucie is the most limited, seen through the eyes of men who idolize her—other characters and the author. (I confess I tired of her expressive forehead.) She struck me as an idealized Domestic Female, set in contrast to Madame Defarge and the Vengeance.


Sydney Carton is the most layered and interesting character. He's witty as he spars with the lawyer he works with, Mr. Stryver, but melodramatic with Lucie, and both aspects of his personality are believable. I also liked Miss Pross, though I’m undecided how I feel about her scene with Madame Defarge. It’s satisfying, but I’m not sure it’s plausible. It’s one part of the story that I completely forgot in the decades since I last read it.


If you also read this in high school and don’t remember much except the first and last lines and three or four characters, you may be impressed with it a second time around.


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review 2018-02-22 23:00
City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
City of Miracles (The Divine Cities) - Robert Jackson Bennett

STOP right here!  If you haven’t read the first two books in Robert Jackson Bennett’s The Divine Cities series yet, add them to the top of your list!  You don’t know what you’re missing!  City of Miracles just won’t read the same without having read the City of Stairs and City of Blades.


Shara Komayd is a legend, one who has received a vast number of death threats.  As a former covert agent and then the Prime Minister, Shara battled gods and enemies, wreaking great changes in the world.  Shara cleaned house at Parliament before she herself was given the boot.  During her heyday, Shara had a lot of help from her friends!  One of the most memorable of those is Sigrud je Harkvaldsson, a great brute of a man (think Viking).  Shara rescued Sigrud from prison and he worked with her and protected her every step of the way.  Then there is General Mulaghesh who shined so brightly in those battles.  She is brilliant, damaged and IMHO, a great hero in her own right.  I love these characters and I’m invested!     


In City of Blades, hell hath no fury like Sigrud je Harkvaldsson!  Still haunted by the death of a loved one and the revenge he took thereafter, Sigrud has lived in hiding now for 13 years.  He’s moved from job to job, keeping a low profile.  (Well…as low a profile as he can manage, you know…being Viking-like and all!)  Ever-faithful to his comrade-in-arms Shara Komayd, he knows that one day she will clear his name and summon him to her side once again.  Yet when he finally has news of Shara, it’s only to learn that she has been assassinated, and even though he is a wanted man, he knows it’s time to come out of hiding.  He must find out who killed Shara and take revenge.  He also finds himself thinking of her adopted daughter, Tatyana Komayd, wondering what will become of her.  He has only seen her once in her life but she’s the one thing he has left of his closest friend.   


Vengeance is the name of the game when it comes to Sigrud but he is still so likeable.  His revenge always seems to be for all the right reasons and this man could star in his own action movie.  He also oozes a heart of gold for those he loves.  His uncanny lack of aging is a mystery to him and us.  During his investigations, Sigrud discovers the fact that Shara still harbored some secrets at the end of her life leaving him with more questions than answers.  Look out, he’s about to open a whole new can of worms about the Divine!   


RJB chose to shift the focus to another character in each book which was a great tool and kept the series very interesting.  I’m not sure which he thought would turn out to be the most popular character but I know who mine is.  General Mulaghesh took the prize hands down in City of Blades.  This is a very well-rounded series, full of mystery, suspense, action and just plain good storytelling! 


Robert Jackson Bennett has become one of my favorite authors with his amazing The Divine Cities series.  I am really curious to check out some of his earlier books and I highly recommend you read this series!


I want to thank the publisher (Crown Publishing) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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review 2018-02-20 16:07
Speculative Dystopian Fiction
Fall of the Cities: Planting the Orchard - Vance Huxley

** spoiler alert ** Good speculative dystopian fiction contemplating the of sudden loss of oil and its impact on the world.
At first, reading it, I thought it was back in the first Gulf War when the guys were in Iraq/Kuwait and the oil wells had been set on fire, and burned forever, but as I read further into the story, I realized that no, this is in the future and terrorists have attacked wells the world over. The result is that society as we know it basically comes to a halt and as expected, the majority of people panic and go crazy. The ones with more evil in their hearts use the unrest and chaos as an excuse to loot, rape, kill and destroy with no one really maintaining order. The are a minority of sane people left (or that is the way it seems) who choose still to act like civilized humans and only kill if need be in self defense, and not because they enjoy it. Harry Miller, ex- soldier, becomes their leader, though not by his choice. Everyone in their group looks up to him, though, for strength, courage and wisdom, to decide what should courses of action should be, responses to threats, and eventually how to react to the deaths of those they have grown fond of. With a lesser leader and one given easily to anger, the group could have easily spiraled out of control, wanting revenge on others but Harry keeps a steady course, though at times it got difficult. It would be difficult to live in the circumstances the group had to-- shortages in basics, constant onslaught of violence and continually living in that "flight or fight" mode, and not having any hope anything will change anytime soon. It was good to see them in the end get some relief, but I don't think the end was a happy one. The government ended up monitoring everyone in a way that even a tally of how many cans of beans, rolls of toilet paper, bars of soap, etc. you used in a given month, because money was useless and everyone got vouchers for basics, like rations. So they basically had to trade peace for security. In my mind, with all that invasion of privacy, that was the lesser of two evils. It didn't make me like the book less, I just felt sad for the characters of the story. I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the author... thank you!
Read for twogalsandabook.com

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review 2018-02-09 00:21
In the Cities Book 1
In the Dark (The Cities Below) - Jen Colly

I waffled back and forth on my feelings about this one. I went into it expecting a romance and while there is a couple who fall in love, it's more romance light. There's a kiss here and there, and some trust issues that can be expected considering the circumstances, but it's not an all-consuming love story. Nevertheless, the more I read, the more interested I became. This first book does a great job of introducing the reader to the world of The Cities Below. We also get a bit of intrigue and action as tension builds between the vampires and demons. We do get a bit of a cliffy on that front, and even though the romance lover in me was a little disappointed, the paranormal/fantasy lover truly enjoyed this tale of complete vampire cities beneath our feet. 

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review 2018-01-22 12:58
The Irresistible Liar
An Unnatural Vice (Sins of the Cities) - KJ Charles

Now that's more like it!

I admit the first book from the series An Unseen Attraction was not my favorite of K.J Charles' . 
But I loved that one. 

Nathaniel had me interested in him from the very first time he appeared. And Justin- he's the type of character that I know if I met in real life, I 'd fall head over hills for him. 

I loved the angst, their dialogues, their arguing and love making/ although I am not sure love- making is strong enough to describe their super hot and angry sex/ .
I liked how despite how totally different their values were, they found their way towards each other, and at the same time stayed true to what they are. 

I am already looking forward to the last book of the series and I really need to know more about my other favorite character of the series.

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