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review 2018-04-24 06:39
the Awkward Squad
The Awkward Squad - Sam Gordon,Sophie Hénaff

I can't remember where I heard about this book (best bet is here on BL) but it was described as a new mystery series similar to the old tv show Leverage*.  The premise of the show was a group of misfits coming together to right the wrongs big business perpetrated against the people.  The Awkward Squad's misfits are police officers unfit for regular duty but can't be fired, banded together and stuffed away in a remote location with the ostensible task of investigating cold cases.  I loved Leverage, so bought this directly after it came out.

 

It's not quite Leverage - the misfits here aren't conmen, toughs or savants; these misfits are all broken by their jobs in one way or another, but it's close enough.  For a first novel, I thought the story was excellent and well plotted too, although with definite room for improvement.  It was written well enough that I only had vague suspicions about the solution, but not done so well that the author was able to lead me down the blind alley she'd constructed.  The characters were the kind you cheer on, even if some of them aren't always likeable.

 

I didn't know when I bought the book that it was originally published in France a few years ago, under the name Poulets grillés.  This leaves me with a lingering suspicion that it might have been an even better book in the original French.  Not that the translation is bad - as far as I can tell it's flawless - but some of the marketing I've seen raves about the book humor. I can see how it's meant to be amusing, and one scene was definitely shooting for hilarity, but either something was lost in translation or it's a cultural difference of what defines funny.  

 

Either way, I didn't like it less because I suspect I'm missing something, I just wonder if, had those 2.5 years of French lessons stuck at all, and I were able to read it in the original, I'd have liked it even more.  Ce n'est pas grave, if Hēnaff writes another one, I'll happily be on board for reading it (in translation). 

 

* - Has also been compared to Jussi Adler-Olsen’s tales about Copenhagen’s equally marginal Department Q.  I cannot comment on how accurate this is, as I've not read Adler-Olsen.  Yet?

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review 2018-04-23 06:39
A Tale of Two Kitties (Magical Cats, #9)
A Tale of Two Kitties - Sofie Kelly

A solid mystery in a solid series.  Nothing spectacular but a setting and characters you can  lose yourself in and amongst for a quick read when you're looking for a light mystery that's rife with strong friendships and small town charm.

 

The mystery plotting is solid, or maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention; in retrospect I should have seen straight away what went over my head while I was reading.  

 

Oddly, though I (of course) really like the cats, Owen and Hercules, I find myself more enchanted by their everyday cat antics (Owen's love for Fred the Funky Chicken catnip treats and his hatred of Barry Manilow music, for example), than any of their magical feats.  I don't think cats need the supernatural leg up to make them the stars, although I do wish Kelly would delve more into their origins and what's going on at Wisteria Hill.

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text 2018-04-22 20:05
Women Writers Bingo / Project: Tracking Post

 

Read:

A - Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley, Mystery Mile, Look to the Lady, Police at the Funeral, Sweet Danger, Death of a Ghost, Flowers for the Judge, The Case of the Late Pig, Dancers in Mourning, The Fashion in Shrouds, Traitor's Purse, and The Tiger in the Smoke (all new); The Man With the Sack (revisited on audio);

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Half of a Yellow Sun (new)

B - Anne Brontë: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (revisited on audio)

C - Helen Czerski: Storm in a Teacup (new);

Agatha Christie: The Moving Finger, One, Two, Buckle my Shoe, and Murder Is Easy (all revisited on audio), Crooked House (revisited on audio and DVD) and Destination Unknown (new)

D - Margaret Drabble: The Red Queen (new)

E -

F -

G - Elizabeth George: For the Sake of Elena and Playing for the Ashes (both revisited on audio)

H - Radclyffe Hall: The Well of Loneliness (new);

Mavis Doriel Hay: Death on the Cherwell (new)

I -

J - P.D. James: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories (new), Original Sin and Death of an Expert Witness (all revisited on audio)

K -

L -

M - Val McDermid: The Distant Echo (new);

Ngaio Marsh: Death in a White Tie, Off With His Head (aka Death of a Fool), Clutch of Constables, Death at the Dolphin (aka Killer Dolphin), and Hand in Glove (all revisited on audio)

N -

O - Emmuska Orczy: The Old Man in the Corner (new)

P - Anne Perry: A Dangerous Mourning and The Whitechapel Conspiracy (both new)

Q -

R - J.K. Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith): The Cuckoo's Calling, The Silkworm, and Career of Evil (all new);

J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (all audio)

S - Dennis McCarthy & June Schlueter: "A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels" by George North -- A Newly Uncovered Manuscript Source for Shakespeare's Plays (new);

Dorothy L. Sayers: Unnatural Death (revisited on audio)

T - Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar and The Franchise Affair (both new);

Amy Tan: The Chinese Siamese Cat (new)

U -

V -

W - Ethel Lina White: The Lady Vanishes (aka The Wheel Spins) and The Spiral Staircase (aka Some Must Watch) (both new)

X -

Y -

Z - Juli Zeh: Schilf (English title: Dark Matter) and Unterleuten (both new)

 

Free / center square:

 

On the card, I am only tracking new reads, not rereads.

 

Read, to date in 2018:

Books by female authors: 50

- new: 27

- rereads: 23

 

Books by male authors: 19

- new: 18

- rereads: 1

 

Books by F & M mixed teams / anthologies: 1

- new: 1

- rereads:

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review 2018-04-20 15:07
The Good Women of China / Xinran
The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices - Xinran

When Deng Xiaoping’s efforts to “open up” China took root in the late 1980s, Xinran recognized an invaluable opportunity. As an employee for the state radio system, she had long wanted to help improve the lives of Chinese women. But when she was given clearance to host a radio call-in show, she barely anticipated the enthusiasm it would quickly generate. Operating within the constraints imposed by government censors, “Words on the Night Breeze” sparked a tremendous outpouring, and the hours of tape on her answering machines were soon filled every night. Whether angry or muted, posing questions or simply relating experiences, these anonymous women bore witness to decades of civil strife, and of halting attempts at self-understanding in a painfully restrictive society. In this collection, by turns heartrending and inspiring, Xinran brings us the stories that affected her most, and offers a graphically detailed, altogether unprecedented work of oral history.

 

This is a heartbreaking book which I would never have picked up except I was looking for an X author for my Women Authors A-Z reading challenge this year. I never know how to rate books like these because it’s important to know about the situations in countries other than our own, but I always feel helpless and angry when I know that women are having such frightful difficulties.

I have to bear in mind that this book was published in 2002 originally, the author having moving from China to England in order to be free to do such a thing. A lot can and probably has changed in 16 years, plus many of the stories related in this book are from earlier years yet.

The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) seems to have disrupted relations between men and women and the nature of family relationships to an extreme. Survival was top of mind for everyone and each did what they had to. Xinran reveals the painful stories told to her by Chinese women—of having children horribly injured, daughters gang raped, husbands treating them like servants (or livestock), work denied, promotions skipped over, you name it.

As China seems to be heading into another iteration of their authoritarian regime, there will undoubtedly be more issues for women. I hope there is still someone like Xinran to listen to women’s voices and to articulate what they are able to (Xinran herself had to walk a fine line so as not to offend the Communist Party).

In the era of the Me Too and Time’s Up campaigns here in North America, we have to hope that our sisters on other continents are able to achieve some gains as well.

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review 2018-04-20 01:12
CAST TWO SHADOWS: THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION IN THE SOUTH by Ann Rinaldi
Cast Two Shadows: The American Revolution in the South - Ann Rinaldi

Cast Two Shadows: The American Revolution in the South

Ann Rinaldi

Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 1st 2004 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published October 1st 1998)
ISBN: 0152050779 (ISBN13: 9780152050771) 

 

I was browsing the shelves when I found this book. Usually, an author sticks with the big events of the American Revolution, but Rinaldi sets this book in the south.  Caroline, the main character, is 14 years old and sees how the war has separated her family's loyalty, as well as how it has affected her friends. The British have taken over her family's plantation; her father is thrown in jail for supporting the patriots; the brother is fighting for the British. She sees some horrors on both sides and learns some secrets about herself as well. At some points, the reading is a little dry. Overall, a good book, though, YA readers who like historical fiction.

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