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review 2018-09-07 18:41
Bloody Jack / L.A. Meyer
Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy - L.A. Meyer

Life as a ship's boy aboard HMS Dolphin is a dream come true for Jacky Faber. Gone are the days of scavenging for food and fighting for survival on the streets of eighteenth-century London. Instead, Jacky is becoming a skilled and respected sailor as the crew pursues pirates on the high seas.

There's only one problem: Jacky is a girl. And she will have to use every bit of her spirit, wit, and courage to keep the crew from discovering her secret. This could be the adventure of her life--if only she doesn't get caught. . .

 

 

”It's easier bein' a boy, 'cause when someone needs somethin' done like holdin' a horse, they'll always pick a boy 'cause they think the dumbest boy will be better at it than the brightest girl, which is stupid, but there you are.”

I liked this book a fair bit, but there were a couple of ways in which it disappointed me. As the quote above illustrates, there is a bit of commentary on the role of women during this time period. The basic plot is quite liberating for Jacky—she impersonates a boy and gets herself a job. She’s a sharp enough observer (trained by her time on the streets of London) to figure out how to pull it off without getting caught right away.

However, Jacky spends more time than necessary, in my opinion, bawling and dripping snot. Because apparently that’s what girls do. I don’t know about you, but my mother was the reserved one of my parents. You could make my dad cry fairly easily, but Mom was the Iron Lady. I remember that she gave me hell for crying too much at her mother’s funeral! She believed in crying in private, on your own, not in public for all the neighbours to see.

The writing style, though somehow strangely appropriate for this tale, didn’t really thrill me. Perhaps that’s because I am far older than the intended demographic for this series. I found it a decent book and a relatively quick read, but I sincerely doubt that I’ll be pursuing the series any further.

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text 2018-09-05 18:10
Reading progress update: I've read 108 out of 278 pages.
Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy - L.A. Meyer

 

Aw, now we know how she came to be called Bloody Jack!

 

 

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review 2018-09-04 19:07
Voyager / Diana Gabaldon
Voyager - Diana Gabaldon

Claire Randall discovers that Jamie Fraser survived the Battle of Culloden and must choose between returning to him or staying in the life she has made for herself in her own time.

 

Well thank goodness that Voyager is now in my rear-view mirror! Not that it’s a terrible book, just it’s not the right book for me, especially right now when I’m looking forward to diving into my fall reading list. But my hold was fulfilled at the public library sooner than I anticipated and then I found there were 25 people waiting patiently behind me in line for it, so there would be no renewal allowed. Le Sigh!

I’m interested in the basic plot of the story, but Gabaldon bludgeons the reader with detail. I persist in thinking that a more ruthless editor would improve these books by orders of magnitude. Apparently this is an argument that the author has heard before, as Jamie & Major John Grey have a discussion about the length of books when Jamie is in the prison which Grey is overseeing. They are discussing Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded, by Samuel Richardson which is another kitten-squisher of a book and they come to the conclusion that some books just need more details to capture a life. Obviously, I don’t agree, but it’s a valid argument in some cases.

And of course I can’t review Gabaldon without my ritual bird-rant. This time around, it’s about a pelican, caught by the Chinese character and used to bring in fish. This method of using a bird to do the fishing is a real thing, done in China, but with cormorants. I’m unaware if pelicans have ever been trained in this way, but I suppose it is possible. There are certainly lots of cormorant species at sea that could have been chosen for the book. I’m not sure which species of pelican is referred to here, but I assume it’s a Brown Pelican (and Gabaldon, with her poor bird track record, thankfully doesn’t specify species). I suspect that she chose the pelican over the cormorant because it is a larger bird, providing some protection for its new master.

Having just recently finished Dr. No, by Ian Fleming, also set in Jamaica, I was struck by the shared details between the two books. Descriptions of mangroves and of the guano industry, for instance. Fleming references the bird guano industry, Gabaldon specifies bat guano. I assume that there are insectivorous bats in the Caribbean and caves large enough to house them and collect guano? I definitely know that Fleming’s bird colonies are dead accurate. ***I just found a reference to Jamaica bat guano on Amazon, of all places.  So Caribbean bat guano is a thing.***

One thing that I did appreciate in this volume was the lovely portrayal of middle-aged lovers. Jamie & Claire have still got it going on. I also thought that their hesitance when they are first reunited was right on the money—a 20 year gap is almost like starting over with a new person, after all.

I’m pleased to report that it looks like at least a year will pass before I will pick up the next book in this series. Hopefully, I’ll be feeling less time pressure at that point and can read at a more leisurely pace, which would dampen my resentment of all the unnecessary padding in these books.

Book number 293 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

 

This was the cover of the version that I read, and I have to say that I love it!  That lichen covered rock, reminiscent of something in a stone henge, with Claire and Jamie on either side of it.

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text 2018-08-31 19:15
Reading progress update: I've read 334 out of 870 pages.
Voyager - Diana Gabaldon

 

I am disappointed to report no birds in this volume thus far.

 

The positive:  its a great depiction of middle-aged lovers.

 

Summary of the first third of the book?  Claire, Brianna, and Roger do a lot of research, while pretty much everyone Jaime meets in Scotland wants to sleep with him.  All right, that's a BIT of an exaggeration, but really.  *rolls eyes*

 

And I'm having the same problem that I always do with Gabaldon's work, I read along fine for a while, but when I set the book down, its really hard to pick it back up.

 

I have seven more days until its due.....

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review 2018-08-30 16:07
Silent in the Grave / Deanna Raybourn
Silent in the Grave - Deanna Raybourn

"LET THE WICKED BE ASHAMED, AND LET THEM BE SILENT IN THE GRAVE."
These ominous words, slashed from the pages of a book of Psalms, are the last threat that the darling of London society, Sir Edward Grey, receives from his killer. Before he can show them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent he has retained for his protection, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests.

 

Prepared to accept that Edward's death was due to a long-standing physical infirmity, Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers the damning paper for herself, and realizes the truth.

 

Determined to bring her husband's murderer to justice, Julia engages the enigmatic Brisbane to help her investigate Edward's demise. Dismissing his warnings that the investigation will be difficult, if not impossible, Julia presses forward, following a trail of clues that lead her to even more unpleasant truths, and ever closer to a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.

 

I read this book to fill the Romantic Suspense square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card. It was also my choice as pre-read, before the beginning of September.

And what a good choice it was! I am so disappointed that Deanna Raybourn didn’t make it to our writers’ conference a couple of weekends ago. It seems that I am going to enjoy her Lady Julia Grey series every bit as much as her Veronica Speedwell series. I’ve only read 3 of her books, so it would seem that I have plenty of pleasurable reading hours ahead of me.

This book has perhaps the best opening lines that I’ve read in a long time: "To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor." Those two sentences set the tone for the book, as Julia reluctantly comes to the conclusion that her husband Edward was murdered and that something should be done about it.

It’s a thick volume and the pace is leisurely. However, I found myself eating toast for dinner one evening in lieu of setting it down and actually cooking. It definitely reminded me of both Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart for tone, although I think the mystery portion of the novel was superior to those gothic romances. Romance is an element of Raybourn’s writing, but the mystery is the main concern. When I finally set the book down to go to bed, I was about 90% through it and had two suspects for the murderer, but I was quite prepared to find that I was entirely wrong. The final reveal showed that I had been on the right track and had been skillfully guided there by the author. It all made sense and Raybourn provided really good red herring clues that kept me from being sure in my choice.

Now my only complaint is that my public library doesn’t have the second book in this series. That is only a half-hearted complaint, as it gives me an excuse to visit my favourite used book store in the near future.

 

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