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review 2018-02-09 22:36
Dangerous - Shannon Hale

This was great. The setup is diverse science-geek kids become a Power-Rangers-style team of superheroes with mysterious alien-derived powers. Then it goes somewhere different.


Some cool things it included:

-caring parents that remain present and supportive
-kids with goals/girls w/ STEM goals they're pursuing
-decent representation across genders, races, abilities, nationalities & economic statuses
-everyone has a nuanced backstory
-it's not just another 'yay team' clone

-MC is homeschooled (but not a genius), multi-lingual & multi-racial, lost her hand at birth, designs her own prosthetics


There was a dizzying whirlwind of plot, and I think this could have been split into a duology given the amount of twists and developments. I inhaled it almost in a single sitting. Really entertaining and a lot of fresh takes on tropes while still checking all the boxes for thriller/SF/superhero story. So different than Hale's fairytale retellings, but just as excellent.

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review 2018-02-06 18:25
Second Book in Lady Sherlock Series A Downgrade
A Conspiracy in Belgravia (The Lady Sherlock Series) - Sherry Thomas

Wow. I really enjoyed the first book and the second one was a disappointment compared to that. I think Thomas tried to bite off more than could be reasonably followed in this book. Maybe some of it could have been pushed to a third book. Having Charlotte Holmes and Mrs. Watson taking on cases, having Charlotte solving ciphers for Lord Bancroft, and the follow-up to Moriarty and the half-brother we heard about in the last book all thrown together didn't make for an engaging read. Don't even get me started on Inspector Treadles and his nonsense about women. The man goes around ticked that the brilliant Sherlock Holmes is Charlotte Holmes. And then is even more unhappy when his wife admits she wishes she could run her father's business. 

After the events in book #1, Charlotte and Mrs. Watson are still doing their detective business as Sherlock Holmes. However, things become awkward when Lord Ingram's wife comes asking for help in finding her first love. There's a lot of hand-waving away why Charlotte agrees to work on this case, but ultimately that case leads to a larger mystery that I didn't think was put together very well.

Charlotte is still quite good at deducting. But you do read a lot about what she eats, her tea, and how hungry she is at all times. Why Thomas switched Holmes addiction to Charlotte being an over-eater or glutton (I honestly don't know what she is doing with this) is baffling to me. She could have her addicted to something else and or just not at all. Since you already set up that Sherlock Holmes is not real, and that Charlotte's sister Olivia is going to write stories about the man, who cares that you try to mirror every little thing in those stories. 

I can't really get a handle on the other characters. Mrs. Watson barely felt in this one. We do have her teaching Charlotte about self defense which I liked. 

Olivia Holmes is in and out of this one. She's not really integral to the plot, but having her get romantic notions about someone that may be in danger made me just sigh. I am guessing based no how this book ends, he will pop up in the third book. 

Lord Ingram and Charlotte...I don't know. Due to the events in this book one wonders what will happen next. I actually liked the idea of Charlotte getting married to Lord Bancroft (have fun reading about what happens next). At least it would have moved the book to a different place than I think most readers would have expected.

The writing didn't grab me like in the first one and the flow was not good. The only parts I found interesting where getting Charlotte's and Mrs. Watson's POV. I would recommend Thomas cut down on the back and forths to Inspector Treadles in the next one. She could have left him out entirely and nothing would have been missed since he ends up just being a minor player in this. I think we only see him since he will have a larger role in book #3. 

The ending felt vaguely unsatisfactory since you have a lot of revelations that didn't quite make sense to me at all. I even re-read some of the sections again and just gave up. I think books like these have to leave clues that readers can pick up on as well. Otherwise it's not really fun to read. You just have the author throwing out twists. 

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text 2018-02-05 14:06
Reading progress update: I've read 120 out of 336 pages.
A Conspiracy in Belgravia (The Lady Sherlock Series) - Sherry Thomas

Wow. I am not liking this at all. I am bored to tears and this is just a mess of storytelling right now. It keeps jumping around and you can barely even understand what's going on with one character before it jumps to another. And why is Thomas so obsessed with spelling out everything Charlotte is eating at all times? It's taking me out of the story. Frankly I wish she had stuck with Holmes being addicted to drugs.

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text 2018-01-31 14:06
not for me
A Conspiracy of Whispers - Ada Harper A Conspiracy of Whispers - Ada Harper

Out of the things Olivia owned her favorite things were the three lonely bar stools at the Glitch. Even more than her cat she had named Plan B. Olivia didn’t let anyone in arm’s reach of her let alone scenting range. Olivia was taking a military job inside the Syndicat. She asked her closest friend Yoshi-who was the bartender at the Glitch- if he would watch B and she should be gone about two weeks yoshi said he would. Yoshi ws too smart, too perceptive, too kind to make it in the Simdicate corps races. But it was these same traits that made the Glitch the safest dive in the Cauldron quarters. The Glitch had a repetition   for being safe and discreet. Olivia’s mother had always told her to tell the truth until she couldn’t. Olivia had waster her first lie on Yoshi. Olivia was an unregistered caricae. Olivia had been a late bloomer and that had been her salvation. All Syndicate kids underwent the disposition screen when they turned thirteen. Newly identified Altus got pulled for vocational training leaning toward military and labor positions. While also being enrolled in the donor registry. It was kids screened as Caricae who disappeared. The enrichment program was intended to provide government support to caricae citizens, mature their sensitive nature, prevent targeting and abuse by systematically housing Caricaes in comfortable shiny white compounds. The  Caricaes participate in the ministry’s Plenty Futures maternity program. The majority of the population are unable to produce except Caricaes. Everyone’s health was guaranteed by the program and then the resulting children were assigned to families across the Syndicate. This made for  survival of the  genetic pool. Then at fourteen Olivia got her period but it wasn’t what she wanted so her mother said it didn’t happen. Then her mother set her down and told her how her new life would be. Whisper pay was good but irregular. The greatest risk of detection of being a Caricae who didn’t enroll as a proper citizen  was their skin. But But Caricae had stronger distinct pheromone. So cloaking layers helped. Fastidious hygiene helped also. A paranoid sense of personal space was another helper. Olivia had all three honed. Also there were pills that could dampen the skin scent.and the effects of others’ pheromones. But if you know where to go anything was for sale. Medical treatment was something Olivia had learned to go without. Animals was the only physical affection Olivia could afford. It took one day to get to the edge of the Syndicate. The secretive Syn hadn't opened the borders with the Empire for decades. Only government workers got authorization to cross. This was olivia’s first time on a foreign contract. Olivia told the training motto she appreciated that she had been cleared for higher clearance contracts which meant more money.  Olivia wasn’t sure why Wallace had signed to give her this mission. It was more dangerous moving through the Empire and hiding her identity. Galen was a hardened military leader but he hid his soft heart.

I just couldn’t really get into this book. I think I may have accidentally chose it. It’s not the book it’s me. I just couldn’t connect with the story, plot, or characters. So i am not going to rate this if I can help it as it wouldn’t be fair.

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review 2018-01-22 00:00
A Conspiracy of Ravens
A Conspiracy of Ravens - Terrence P. McCauley Over the years, a plethora of very fine novelists from Robert Ludlum to jack Higgins to Tom Clancy to Clive Kusler to Eric Van Lustabader to Gayle Lynds etc. etc. have made the spy thriller genre largely a paint-by-numbers playground. For the majority of these thrillers, readers know what to expect and what they expect is mostly action. Lots of action in series with recurring characters. Often these are interchangeable characters fighting terrorists with a variety of motives and modus operendi including exotic diseases and weapons, a hefty body count, and international consequences for whatever schemes the foes to humanity, liberty, democracy, or religious freedom have concocted. Quite often, the heroes are not only battling the evil-doers of the world but their own supposedly righteous superiors or other government agencies as well.

Still, the field is irresistibly magnetic for generation after generation of new writers, and Terrence McCauley is among the relative newcomers who know how to paint those numbers with exactly what thriller readers hope for. He’s done it twice before with the previous James Hicks novels, Sympathy for the Devil and A Murder of Crows. His main man, James Hicks, is now “Dean” of the clandestine intelligence organization known as The University. (Anyone think of Clancy’s “The Campus” here?) The University is so clandestine, the CIA didn’t know about it for decades and isn’t happy to learn about it now. So Hicks has to appease Charles “Carl” Demerest, head of Clandestine Services at the CIA. Hicks simultaneously keeps operational secrets from the agency while occasionally asking them for backup.

The only reason Demerest doesn’t declare war on the University is because they’re the prime weapon against The Vanguard, a shadowy and deadly organization comprised of weapons dealers, drug runners, and money launderers who want to up the stakes by instigating international wars. Before these schemes get off the ground, they hit with deadly efficiency the University’s home base, wipe out their field operatives, and engage in open warfare in New York, Washing D.C., Berlin, and China. Hicks is in their gun-sights as well.

A Conspiracy of Ravens is solid action that is the proverbial page-turner. It demonstrates a thorough knowledge of the uses of surveillance technology that is completely believable as the behemoths of international espionage clash all over the globe with an ever-growing body count. As usual, the story is so fast-moving, what is lost is much character depth. We get many insights into the likes and loves of James Hicks and some of his surviving team members, especially Roger, a more than versatile club owner. On the other hand, we keep hearing Hicks is in love with Mossad sniper Tali Sadden, but we see so little of her, she is the most shadowy, one-dimensional character in the book.

A Conspiracy of Ravens should please any fan of this genre, and fortunately it’s very enjoyable as a stand-alone story. I must admit McCauley was able to impress me in some passages, surprise me in others, especially in the final acts. It’s clear this isn’t the final saga in the series as we’re witnessing an ongoing war between the University and The Vanguard. Blofeld and S.P.E.C.T.R.E., move over. You just don’t cut it anymore.

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Jan. 22, 2018:
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