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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-12-14 07:55
November 2017 — A Wrap-Up!

I know, I know. It has been forever since I last posted. So, I combined my wrap-up post with an infographic to atone for my er blogging sins.

 

 

For all that they are “novellas”, these books have way too much happening in them! I read and loved the first one (Read my ravings here). This one, I found to be okayish. Maybe it was the attitude of Binti’s family towards her that I didn’t like. Or, maybe it was the plot device, “something that happened a long long time ago is disregarded by everyone to such a degree that its origins are completely lost”. I just don’t buy it. For instance, look at the words that have now become obsolete. They might not be used today but that doesn’t mean they have been erased from the record.

 

I didn’t completely hate it though because it was saved by the ending. It was a cliffhanger where an important character is killed off. Don’t you just love that feeling you get when you don’t know what might happen in the next book? I sure do!

 

 

Someone somewhere (I forget who and where now) described this book as Jane Austen in Dragon world. Of course, I just HAD to read it and duh, I ended up liking it.  I mean, I liked the part about:

putting out a gentle claw

I also liked that the dragon stayed true to their natures yet maintained Austen-tatious sensibilities as a son promised his dying father, his still unestablished siblings would:

take the greater shares when we eat you.

I found myself chuckling when a parson made untoward advances to a maiden of quality. It put me in mind of Mr. Collins. She responded in the right manner:

I am sensible of the honor you do me…

And then I shuddered when the full implications of what had just happened hit me. The maiden’s scales colored when the parson crowded her. She didn’t feel anything for him, yet her honor had been compromised: she had been raped!

 

I rooted for my favorite character: Sebeth, a female dragon who had suffered the same fate when she was kidnapped. She didn’t let a thing like that stop her from falling in love, earning a living, becoming a clerk, and secretly following an outlawed branch of religion.

There was the usual gender discrimination, females with a less than useful dowry, proud males who fell for them, manners and sensibilities, scary rich disapproving mothers in law, and females with backbone who gave no inch.

 

No wonder I loved it!

 

 

If I have to come to expect anything from Wilde’s works, it is laugh-out-loud funny prose that bites:

I guess the laws of Nature are not going to be suspended for the British aristocracy.

This one didn’t disappoint on that account! A ghost who wouldn’t accept its defeat and an American family that refused to be haunted made up the plot:

(said to the ghost) My father will be only too happy to give you a free passage, and though there is a heavy duty on spirots of every kind, there will be no difficulty about the Custom House, as the officers are all Democrats.

It is amazing that Wilde knew exactly the right length of the story and when it should end. If this is what I have to look forward to, I can’t wait to read The Picture of Dorian Gray!

 

Now for the promised infographic: During our trip, we stayed at a hotel for a few days. It was amazing to indulge ourselves in all the hot showers we wanted after we returned to the hotel every night. And, it felt decadent to not have to do anything but sink into the fluffy pillows and let the housekeeping staff take care of the rest. But, we also learned a few things; things that might have helped us save a few bucks had we known about them before.

 

And then, I thought, why not compile them and make them into an infographic? If nothing else, it might help you guys when you go on vacation. So, here goes…

 

 

Originally published at midureads.wordpress.com on December 14, 2017.

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review 2017-12-12 16:24
Hercule Poirot's Christmas / Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot's Christmas: A Hercule Poirot Mystery - Agatha Christie

Motives for Murder: A fortune in uncut diamonds, hidden by an eccentric old man - A woman's love, too freely given - A business empire built on ruthlessness. Each of them may have been a motive for the brutal slaying of wealthy old Simeon Lee. Coupled with Lee's family, each member of which hated him and wished to see him dead, they present Hercule Poirot with a baffling challenge--one which the astute detective solves only through his uncanny ability to see "the little things."

 

What does one get M. Poirot for Christmas? A bloody good murder, that’s what!

I love watching the skillful set-up in Agatha Christie’s books—the details that she lovingly points out to us, designed to lead our thinking astray! An excellent red herring meant I was looking the wrong direction when M. Poirot did his big reveal. I was so sure that I had spotted the killer that I didn’t pay attention to anyone else! (Christie – 7, Wanda – 2 so far in my reading of her oeuvre).

The murder victim is deliciously hate-able, the potential murderers are suitably complex people, the motives abound, as does the blood. As Poirot points out, when we are being forced to visit family that we might not normally & there is pressure for a certain type of behaviour, murder becomes a real possibility! So don’t lean on your family members too hard this Christmas—give them and yourself a bit of breathing room and avoid family bloodshed.

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review 2017-12-11 22:36
Deadly Sting / Jennifer Estep
Deadly Sting - Jennifer Estep

Most people shy away from blood, but for an assassin like me— Gin Blanco, aka the Spider—it’s just part of the job. Still, it would be nice to get a night off, especially when I’m attending the biggest gala event of the summer at Briartop, Ashland’s fanciest art museum. But it’s just not meant to be. For this exhibition of my late nemesis’s priceless possessions is not only the place to be seen, but the place to be robbed and taken hostage at gunpoint as well. No sooner did I get my champagne than a bunch of the unluckiest thieves ever burst into the museum and started looting the place.

Unlucky why? Because I brought along a couple of knives in addition to my killer dress. Add these to my Ice and Stone magic, and nothing makes me happier than showing the bad guys why red really is my color.

 

I couldn’t resist another installment of Elemental Assassin—I need a regular supply of urban fantasy if I’m to be happy these days!

Estep continues to provide action-filled plots, consistent with the world of Ashland that she has created for our reading pleasure. Nevertheless, it’s the action between Gin and Owen that rivets the attention in book 8, as we wonder if these two star-crossed lovers will find their way back together again.

This time around, we see Gin doing the patient Griselda routine, while Owen tries to sort himself out. She’s not happy about it, particularly as it seems that Owen and his sister Eva seem to continually need her assistance to get out or stay out of the clutches of Ashland’s underworld. Owen is willing to accept the assistance, but not necessarily Gin.

Gin actually gets some self-reflection time in this book—time to realize that she does make very pragmatic, unromantic decisions mostly and that this may be hard for those closest to her to live with. But she certainly proves that she is a strong, independent woman—Owen may be “needing some space,” but she continues to run her restaurant, take courses, spend time with her friends, and defend herself from all the opportunistic villains who want to take her down!

With her sister Bria and her pals, Jo-Jo and Sophia Deveraux and Roslyn Phillips, we are definitely getting into Bechdel test territory. Certainly they do discuss the men in their lives, but plenty more besides that. That’s what I like to see—a woman realistically surrounded by supportive women friends who are there to listen, support, and help when they can! More of this, please, Ms. Estep.

P.S. All the Southern cooking got to me--I ended up making Cornmeal Cheese muffins half way through the book so that I could concentrate on reading again!

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review 2017-12-11 22:33
Magic's Promise / Mercedes Lackey
Magic's Promise - Mercedes Lackey

The wild magic is taking its toll on the land, and even Vanyel, the most powerful Herald-Mage to ever walk the world, is almost at the end of his strength. But when his Companion, Yfandes, receives a call for help from neighboring Lineas, both Herald-Mage and Companion are drawn into a holocaust of dark magic that could be the end of them both.

 

How wonderful to have a more mature and thoughtful Vanyel to narrate the second volume of this series. Not there is no angst, but it is dealt with in a much more adult way.

A depleted & exhausted Vanyel returns from the battle front, only to discover that his family insist on his presence at home—not the most restful place for the young man. His father is having difficulty accepting Vanyel’s sexual orientation and his mother frankly refuses to believe him, proceeding to push any and every attractive young woman at him. If that wasn’t enough, he has to deal with his former master-at-arms and the local priest, both of whom made his younger life miserable.

However, Vanyel is now a hero, his exploits sung about by the bards, and he & his companion, Yfandes, are called to rescue another young man & Companion during their visit. Demonstrating his magic, skill, bravery, and good judgement, Vanyel is able to start the healing journey for his family relationships.

Book number 268 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

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review 2017-12-11 22:32
Widow's Web / Jennifer Estep
Widow's Web - Jennifer Estep

Once an assassin, always an assassin. So much for being plain old Gin Blanco. With every lowlife in Ashland gunning for me, I don’t need another problem, but a new one has come to town.

Salina might seem like a sweet Southern belle, but she’s really a dangerous enemy whose water elemental magic can go head-to-head with my own Ice and Stone power. Salina also has an intimate history with my lover, Owen Grayson, and now that she’s back in town, she thinks he’s hers for the taking.

Salina’s playing a mysterious game that involves a shady local casino owner with a surprising connection to Owen. But they call me the Spider for a reason. I’m going to untangle her deadly scheme, even if it leaves my love affair hanging by a thread.

 

It really struck me as I was reading this volume of the Elemental Assassin series (number 7, if you’re counting) that Jennifer Estep is really working her way through all the relationship issues that a woman can have. The first couple of books revolve around being fixated on the wrong person—the one you’ve got chemistry with, but not necessarily shared values. The relationship that’s doomed from the start, but you’re still inexplicably drawn to (that would be detective Donovan Caine).

Then Gin meets Owen Grayson, someone she’s got things in common with—this is the stage where she’s found someone who could be compatible, but she’s not sure he’ll accept all of her, even the ruthless parts. They do the “do we really trust each other” dance for a couple of books, before seeming to settle into a pretty solid relationship.

The last book tested Gin’s commitment—bringing Donovan back into her life, seemingly anxious to reconcile. She passes on Mr. Caine, realizing that they still have polar opposite values and that it couldn’t possibly work. This book, its Owen’s turn, as his former fianceé Salina returns to Ashland, determined to get him back.

Things that I have complained about in earlier books—repetition, mostly—isn’t present in this installment. Estep seems to have either matured as a writer or found a much more stringent editor who doesn’t put up with it. As a result, the books are much more entertaining and my irritation quotient is dramatically reduced.

A nice little urban fantasy hit to keep my addiction alive!

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