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review 2018-11-18 11:59
Noirvember Reading: Heart's Desire - Boystown 11 by Marshall Thornton
Boystown 11: Heart's Desire - Marshall Thornton

Boystown: SVU edition

 

This one hits hard. Not so much because of the crimes being investigated, but because the Boystown series takes the reader back to 1980‘s gay Chicago – and that means, back to the advent of the AIDS crisis. A time of confusion and fear and so, so many people lost. I know that some people of my generation and younger think it‘s time to let the AIDS-stories rest, to give us queer stories with happier outcomes. I can only partly agree with that. Yes, we deserve happy stories with happy endings. But for many, the pain of the 1980‘s and 1990‘s is still fresh. And their stories deserve to be told, too.

 

Anyway, to the book: Grumpy PI Nick Nowak is even a bit more grumpy than usual; the last installment ended with him being shot and he‘s still recovering from a busted shoulder blade. Which also impairs his sex life. But he can‘t grumble like he‘d like to, because he still has to care about his best friend Ross, who‘s slowly dying of AIDS, and about Mrs. Harker, his late lover‘s mother, who‘s slowly dying of cancer. Although he should be resting, Nick takes a case helping a bipolar woman who‘s convinced she had witnessed a murder. No evidence of said murder can be found and Nick his hired by the woman‘s sister to either prove or disprove her claim. At the same time, Nick has to deal with a law suit concerning his ward Terry, a teenager who‘s supposed to testify against his abusive former deacon. The church wants to cover the abuse, and Nick wants to prevent that.

 

The murder mystery is pretty much only background to show how events in Nick‘s life enfold. And look at Nick: He‘s all grown-up now! Past grief, present fear and anger, but also his commitment to his relationship with Joseph, have changed him a lot. But at the core he stays the gruff guy with a big heart, a rock for his circle of friends and found family, someone people can rely on, although he probably doesn‘t see himself that way.

 

In my review for the last installment, I have complained about too little Joseph and Ross. Both get considerable more on-page time here, and it‘s for the better. Joseph‘s allowed to show his sweet, helpful character again, and his psychological knowledge and good-people-skills come in handy in Nick‘s latest employment. Spending more time with Ross is bittersweet: it‘s painful to watch him slowly fade away. On the other hand his interactions with Nick are just so lovely to read. Those two just click naturally.

 

Although the subject matter is rather grim, Thornton has given Nick enough sense of irony and sarcasm to put a smile onto the readers face every once in a while. This won‘t be the last we see of Nick Nowak. There are some tearful Goodbyes to come, but I hope there will also be some happiness in Nick‘s life.

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review 2018-11-16 19:40
24 Festive Tasks: Doors 3, 21 and 24 - Books for Melbourne Cup Day, Kwanzaa and Epiphany
Field of Thirteen - Dick Francis
The Guards - Ken Bruen,Gerry O'Brien
The Clock Strikes Twelve - Diana Bishop,Patricia Wentworth


Dick Francis: Field of Thirteen

I've owned this collection of short stories since forever and decided our Melbourne Cup Day book task was the perfect occation so pull it out and finally read it.  Candidly, I'm not sure why Dick Francis didn't write more short stories: both his style of writing and his plot construction lent themselves perfectly to the short form, and I tend to view even some of his novels as short story constructs extended to novel length rather than books conceived as novels in the first place (even though they probably were).  Be that as it may, this is a very enjoyable collection featuring some of Francis's best writing, set in the world of racehorse breeding (and stealing and betting), and against the great race events of Britain and the U.S., from the Grand National, Ascot, Sandown Park, the Marlborough Racing Club Gallops, Cheltenham and Stratford to the Kentucky Derby, plus the odd imaginary racetrack (unfortunately, not also the Melbourne Cup).  Not all of the mysteries involve a death, and not all the deaths that occur are caused intentionally -- word to the wise, however, steeplechase racing is a hazardous sport for humans and horses alike, and Francis makes no bones about this particular fact.

 


Ken Bruen: The Guards
(Narrator: Gerry O'Brien)

Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor series has been on my radar ever since I watched the first episode of its TV adapatation, starring Iain Glen.  The Guards provides as gut-punch an opener as is conceivable to the series; we see how and why Taylor is dismissed from the Gardaí Síochána, and though the motif of the loner detective who struggles not only at socializing but also with a range of other things, most notably including full-blown alcoholism, is a veritable staple in today's detective fiction, I can think of few other series where particularly the protagonist's addiction is explored this forthrightly (well, OK, Harry Hole comes to mind).  Taylor is -- literally -- not afraid to pull punches, but he is fiercly loyal to those to whom he feels loyalty is due ... and ready to take his loyalty all the way if necessary.  I've never been to County Galway, where the series is set, and I can't shake the feeling that I'd get even more out of it if I had, but even so, this is one series I'm glad to have finally added to those that I'm now following (and I'm not exactly sad I have a bunch of installments to catch up on first).  Gerry O'Brien's narration, too, did a stellar job in transporting the book's tone and atmosphere.

 

I listened to this for the Kwanzaa square (a book with a black cover). 

 


Patricia Wentworth: The Clock Strikes Twelve
(Narrator: Diana Bishop)

This came with high praise from both Tigus and Moonlight, so I knew I had a lot to look forward to -- and I was certainly not disappointed!  This is a New Year's Eve story and the "family patriarch publicly announces 'I know someone here has betrayed family interests and you've got until midnight to come forward and confess your sins'" classic mystery plot variant ... seriously, someone should have told those Golden Age family patriarchs not to do this sort of thing because it'll invariably get them killed.  Anyway, Wentworth had comfortably settled into her formula by the time she wrote this book, and I agree with Moonlight -- this is now my new favorite entry in the series, too.  Though written strictly to Wentworth's formula (cozy rural setting with bickering family [or village population], lovers to (re)bond, a reasonable but not impenetrable amount of red herrings, a perhaps not entirely unexpected villain, and an investigation by thoroughly compentent police inspectors who are, nevertheless, easily "bested" by Miss Silver), the characters and their various conflicts are finely and credibly drawn and jump off the page as real people ... and Miss Silver, as always, is a sheer delight.  Well done, Maudie!  And Patricia -- and Diana (Bishop), whose reading of the Miss Silver books I've thoroughly come to enjoy.

 

I'm counting this book towards the "Epiphany" square of "24 Festive Tasks" (a book with the word "twelve" in the title).

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review 2018-11-16 18:30
THE BOOK OF ETTA by Meg Elison
The Book of Etta (The Road to Nowhere 2) - Meg Elison

 

THE BOOK OF ETTA (THE ROAD TO NOWHERE #2) is a heavy piece of dark, post-apocalyptic fiction.

 

This story picks up about 100 years after THE BOOK OF THE UNNAMED MIDWIFE. The Unnamed created the city of Nowhere and now they have developed their own way of life. Since the plague that started everything, women are scarce and children even more so. As such, Nowhere honors women and to keep the human race going, women there have created hives-a group of men/lovers who help that woman with chores and who also provide regular loving- with the hopes of childbirth as the result. According to the elders of Nowhere, this is the chief role of women now. Period. 

 

Here, we meet Etta, who feels constrained in Nowhere. Etta has no time for hives or for childbirth, and she wants no part of it. She goes out as a raider instead-looking for goods from the old world which can be made useful again. On her travels, she binds herself up to pass for a man and calls herself Eddie. There are more reasons for that other than the plain fact that it's safer to travel as a man, but I'll let you discover those reasons on your own. As Eddie, he comes across several towns, all with their own ways of doing things, (the world building here is impressive), and then he comes across the town of STL. (I see other reviews calling it Estiel, but I listened to the audio and I just assumed it was STL, so I'm sticking with that.) In STL reigns a man called "The Lion." What he has going on in HIS city is a travesty and an injustice-one that Eddie cannot let stand. Will he be successful in putting an end to the practices of The Lion? Will he survive? Will humankind survive? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

I didn't enjoy this book quite as much as the first, but I think that's because it took me a little time to get used to the voices of Etta/Eddie. Once I did, though, I settled down and let the story wash over me. As I said above the world-building here is so interesting, each town having their own beliefs about women and children and how to keep the humanity going, it provided a lot to think about. Also, it was sad to see what happened to America in the wake of the plague-how many things had been forgotten, the uses for implements lost to history, and of course, what happened to personal freedoms and choices. It's hard for women to live in this world right now, just imagine how hard it would be in a world with no medicines, no birth control, no choices at all for women in general. These were the aspects of this world that interested me the most.

 

As a note of caution to potential readers-there are all kinds of unpleasant happenings in this book. None of it surprised or shocked me, avid horror reader that I am, but it might shock some. Rapes, pedophiles, genital mutilation, child abuse and other things are part of the post plague world and if those things really get to you, you might want to take a pass.

 

That said, I recommend this book if you enjoyed the first in the trilogy. No, it's not the same as THE UNNAMED, and no, it's not even the same world as the first book because things have changed so much, but Etta and Eddie have a lot to say and I, for one, was happy to listen. I'm intrigued and excited for the last book,  THE BOOK OF FLORA, which I've already requested from NetGalley.

 

*I bought this audiobook with my hard earned cash and my opinion is my own.*

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review 2018-11-15 21:52
Maude March on the Run (Maude March #2) by Audrey Couloumbis
Maude March on the Run! - Audrey Couloumbis

The papers call Maude notorious. But 12-year-old Sallie knows her big sister didn't do the things the stories say . . . not on purpose anyway. In fact, she and Maude have made a fresh start and are trying to live on the up-and-up. But just when the girls are settling into their new life, Maude is arrested—and before you can say "jailbreak," the orphaned sisters are back on the run! In the sequel to the critically acclaimed The Misadventures of Maude March, Newbery Honor winner Audrey Couloumbis once again takes on a dizzingly fast, delightfully rowdy, and altogether heartwarming ride through the old west—proving that half the fun of any journey is the getting there.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

The saga of the March girls continues! Maude is now sixteen while little sister Sallie is twelve. They're still technically in hiding, and keeping their true identities on the DL proves to be a continuous struggle. Maude started insisting on taking back her womanly way of dressing while tomboy Sallie prefers to keep on with the menswear look they've been rocking. Maude potentially blowing their cover stresses Sallie out but she tries to keep her calm by keeping her nose buried in her beloved dime store novels (though now she reads them from a different perspective, having now lived the "novel" life herself).

 

My heart went out to him. I'd learned there was more to being a hero than the glory parts. The glory parts wore a little tarnish if you looked real close. It didn't make the hero any less of one.

 

To make matters even more complicated, local outlaw the Black Hankie Bandit has recently been apprehended and brought to trial in the girls' new town of residence. All the lawmen suddenly in the area has the March girls sweating a bit! At one point, Maude IS recognized at the diner where she works. She's arrested but Sallie and friends bust her out, forcing the sisters back on the run yet again. 

 

 

Speaking of these adventures, this book includes a much more detailed map of the March sisters' travels than the last book offered. While I found the first book's actual adventure elements more entertaining than in this sequel, I feel this sequel offers more humor and as readers we get deeper into the emotional bond between Maude and Sallie. But seriously though, there are some really great one liners in this one:

 

Re: a gunfight: "The earlobe is a surprisingly messy place to get shot."

 

"Reputations are easier to pick up than put down."

 

"Things happen in this world that cannot be properly understood unless you were there in the midst of them."

 

"If the story won't make you cry, the spelling will."(Maude)

 

 

The feminist undertones are slightly stronger in Maude March on the Run than its predecessor. The novel as a whole spotlights Maude wanting to be her own boss while Sallie pushes to get the same level of respect as the boys around her. She points out how people only use the term "you girls" when someone wants to silence the girls' opinions or objections. Certainly important themes young female readers will benefit from experiencing! Hopefully these stories, historical fiction though they may be, will serve as a source of empowerment for the young female audience they draw in. 

 

Plus, super cute telegram style dedication at the start of the book -- I've never seen anyone else do this before!

 

 

 

My review for Bk 1: Misadventures of Maude March

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text 2018-11-15 20:57
Heart's Desire - Reading progress update: I've read 58%.
Boystown 11: Heart's Desire - Marshall Thornton

Something's really bugging me here: Nick's got shot in the shoulder in the last installment. His shoulderblade is still healing, so he's carrying his right arm in a sling. And he's driving all around Chicago like that, with only his left arm free. I mean, that could actually work with an automatic? Never driven an automatic in my life. Never seen one from the inside, come to think of it. But it still seems rather unsafe.

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