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review 2018-03-21 06:18
The Fast and the Furriest (Second Chance Cat Mystery, #5)
The Fast and the Furriest - Sofie Ryan

There was something about this book; I enjoyed it more than the last one, even though Ryan used more than a couple tried and true tropes.  Somehow she just made it work.


Sarah's friend and employee Mac, he of the simmering romantic tension and secret past, has just had his past come to visit.  When her dead body is found, Mac is, of course, the prime suspect.  Sarah's grandmother's friends kick in to gear to help dig Mac out of being rail-roaded for a crime he didn't commit.


As I said, tropes galore.  But Ryan makes subtle choices that perhaps make the story work: the seniors that investigate are actually licensed private detectives (or at least, one of them is, and the rest are legitimately working with him) and they always cooperate with law enforcement.  That's not to say there aren't a few moments where belief must be suspended (the final scene comes to mind), but for the most part, this isn't some insane slapstick caper.


I've been head down in a lot of historical fiction and popular science lately, and this was a nice, light break that offered a well plotted mystery to boot.  Just what I needed.

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review 2018-03-19 10:04
Miss Silver Comes to Stay (Miss Silver mysteries, #15 or 16)
Miss Silver Comes to Stay - Patricia Wentworth

This was my second Miss Silver mystery; the first one I read was the first in the series, and frankly, it left me dubious about reading the rest, but I found this and one other on the bottom shelf at a local used book store and threw caution to the wind. 


My brief googling has this book at either 15 or 16 in the series, and it shows.  It was so much better!  90% less sappy puppy romance, 100% better plotting and characterisations.  And the writing... the writing felt fresh and a little edgy, in that way that third person POV does when it's done correctly.  An occasional and very subtle breaking of the fourth wall added to that feeling that I was reading a very accomplished writer's work.


I've heard that Wentworth was rather fond of using wills in her story lines, and this one doesn't disprove the rumour, but ... no, I'm not going to go further - I'm not sure it doesn't skirt the boundaries of spoiler-ville.


The mystery plotting... masterful.  I was sucked into the story thoroughly; totally hooked and I missed it all, until it was so late in the game that it made no difference.  I like Miss Silver; she's Miss Marple without the pretence of fluffiness and helplessness, so losing to her didn't bother me in the least.  I only wish she'd stop coughing all the time.  Someone ought to give that woman a cough drop.


I hope the other Miss Silver book I grabbed at the same time is as good, and I'll definitely be taking the time to look at the series' books again, though I might completely break rank with my life long habits and skip the first few books.  Now I know how good she can be, I'd rather not suffer through Wentworth's growing pains if I can avoid it.


This book is the perfect fit for the Kill Your Darlings game's COD: Arsenical Toothpaste.  It is a mystery, and it's main character is a woman over the age of 55.  There should be bonus points for the knitting.  ;-)

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review 2018-03-17 09:32
One Corpse Too Many (Brother Cadfael, #2)
One Corpse Too Many - Ellis Peters

I had doubts starting this one, because it starts off slow.  Really slow.  Like, omg, this book is never, ever going to end.  This was largely due to the history dump Peters gives the reader in the beginning; the boring-to-me kind of history about battles and wars and political shenanigans.  


Then the dead body is found in the pile, and Cadfael gets his new assistant and stuff starts happening.  Midway through I was loving this story; "cat and mouse" comes to mind, but it's really much more "cat vs cat" because Cadfael is up against a man as clever as he is and there's no mouse in this plot.  The almost-the-end/climax-but-not was magnificent; the machinations were making me positively giddy, and yet the mystery itself continued.  Once Cadfael figured out who the murderer was, I admit I felt a bit knuckle-headed because the possibility never even entered my mind.  I can only tell myself I was entirely too caught up it the sub-plot of cat-n-cat and wasn't paying attention. 


That's what I'm telling myself anyway.


These are excellent mysteries for anyone who wants something more serious than a cozy, but doesn't want hard-core thrillers or crime stories.  Enjoying history is a plus, but not necessary save for the first few chapters.  There are 20 books in this series and if each of them are this meaty, I'll be reading them for years to come, because they aren't the kind I can binge read.  Yay!


This book works for the Kill Your Darlings game's COD: Stabbed with a sword.  Primarily, it takes place during the middle ages, but it also is set in the midst of a civil war and the text is chock full of the word "sword".

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review 2018-03-15 17:52
Victoria & Abdul / Shrabani Basu
Victoria And Abdul: The True Story Of The Queens' Closest Confidant - Shrabani Basu

The tall, handsome Abdul Karim was just twenty-four years old when he arrived in England from Agra to wait at tables during Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. An assistant clerk at Agra Central Jail, he suddenly found himself a personal attendant to the Empress of India herself. Within a year, he was established as a powerful figure at court, becoming the queen's teacher, or Munshi, and instructing her in Urdu and Indian affairs. Devastated by the death of John Brown, her Scottish gillie, the queen had at last found his replacement. But her intense and controversial relationship with the Munshi led to a near-revolt in the royal household. Victoria & Abdul examines how a young Indian Muslim came to play a central role at the heart of the Empire, and his influence over the queen at a time when independence movements in the sub-continent were growing in force. Yet, at its heart, it is a tender love story between an ordinary Indian and his elderly queen, a relationship that survived the best attempts to destroy it.


I saw the film based on this book last year and really enjoyed it, but I had to wonder how much the screenwriters had fiddled with the facts to make a more engaging film. When I saw that this year’s PopSugar challenge included a category called “Book made into a movie that you’ve already seen,” I immediately knew which book I would be reading.

I was grateful for the author’s footnotes and references—she certainly did her research. I think we all feel we “know” about Queen Victoria, but I found I really only had a general impression of the woman. I had no idea until seeing the film that she had Indian people serving in her household or that she had become close friends with one of them.

In many ways, this is a story of a lonely woman who finds a friend and a new interest in life. I would agree with the author, that Her Maj was a romantic at heart and the exoticness of India (in comparison to Britain) was what drew her to Abdul Karim and his culture. I was impressed by her devotion to the study of Urdu and her proficiency in that language at the end of her life—she got a late start, but made excellent headway on a language that was far different than others she was used to.

As Abdul became one of her favourites, it was inevitable that he would become the target of people who were jealous. The Queen believed much of the rivalry to be a result of racism, and I would have to agree with her assessment. If Abdul had been a white man (like John Brown), there would still have been resentment, but not the volcanic rage that seemed to permeate the Royal Household regarding this Indian man. It must have been a very lonely life for Abdul, as well, with the other Indians begrudging him his relationship with the Queen, not to mention the hatred of the Caucasian members of staff.

Regarding the film versus the book, I think the film stayed pretty true to the facts. There were a few events that were left out (you can’t include everything) and a few things where the order of events may have been slightly changed, but it remained very true to the feel of the book. Overall, I would say that I enjoyed the film more.

An interesting window into the life of an intriguing woman.

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review 2018-03-15 09:46
Burn Bright (Alpha & Omega, #5)
Burn Bright - Patricia Briggs

I love this series; I love it even more than the Mercy Thompson series.  I think it's because I find Charles far more interesting than Adam.  


Burn Bright ticked all the right boxes for me too; its entire setting was in Aspen Creek, which was a nice change from the previous books, where they were always somewhere new, with a new cast of supporting characters each time.  In Burn Bright, we get more information about the Marrok's pack, and a smidgen more insight into Bran (some of it I'm not sure I like knowing - tiny bit of ick).  I also enjoyed the small mysteries to solve along the way that aded up to the big plot point - I felt like it kept the pace fast without feeling ridiculous.  


Each of the books in this series and the Mercy Thompson series all work together, each one contributing to one of many over-arching plots she's got developing in this universe.  It makes it impossible to be able to recommend reading this series out of order, or honestly, without reading the Mercy Thompson series as well.  The latter isn't strictly necessary, but it'll definitely enhance the reading experience.


This book works for the Kill Your Darling games COD card:  Killing Curse.  Witches, magic and curses are all significant parts of the book and the series.

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