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review 2018-12-10 05:51
Days Without End (Audiobook)
Days Without End - Sebastian Barry,Aidan A. Kelly

Narration: 5 stars

Story: 3.5 stars

Final rating: 4 stars

 

It was my week for strange stories. This isn't even a story in the traditional sense. This reads more like a rambling memoir but with language so intimate and lush that I could easily forget that I was only really getting broad brushstrokes for the bulk of the story. This is mostly a summation of a young man's life as he figures out some hard-won truths.

 

Told from the POV of Thomas McNulty, an Irish immigrant, as we follow him and his friend turned lover John Cole across America in the mid-1800s. Survivors of the famine, they come to America with nothing, practically starved to death, and start to figure out how to survive from one day to the next, whether that's playacting as girls in a stage show or joining the Army to fight in the Indian Wars and eventually the Civil War.

 

This book doesn't shy away from the harsh reality of this time period in American history, nor does it give us safely and comfortably progressive-minded MCs to filter that reality through. Thomas and John Cole might not be outright hateful of anyone but they don't stop to ask why they're being given the orders they're given nor do they spend much time if any contemplating the morality of the slaughter of the First Peoples. Not at first. As Thomas notes at one point, no soldier fully understands the war he fights in; he only knows his one part in it. 

 

I was most interested in Thomas's and John's non-Army days, while they were living together and eventually with their adopted daughter Winona, a Sioux orphan, but those parts were sparse safe harbors in between all the violence and war of those times. The ending, such as it was, is more open-ended than anything else. 

I would have preferred a reunion between Thomas, John and Winona instead of just Thomas looking forward to it.

(spoiler show)

 

The narration by Aiden Kelly was truly amazing. He captures Thomas's bewildered voice perfectly and truly makes this oddly mesmerizing story come to life. 

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review 2018-12-10 04:58
One Night in Boukos
One Night in Boukos - Corinne Demas

This is an odd one. I guess this is historical AU, since it's set in an alternate world, but doesn't have any fantasy elements. The world-building is sprinkled throughout, and is largely accomplished by the culture clash of the Sashian embassy staying in the Pueschaian town of Boukos to open trade routes between the two countries, so it comes across more naturally than the info-dumping one might come across in other AU novels.

 

During a party, the ambassador to Zash goes missing but this isn't noticed until the following morning. His personal secretary Bedar and Bedar's friend Marzana, the captain of the guard, go on a discreet manhunt through Boukous as they try to follow the crumbs of the ambassador's trail after his disappearance. To complicate matters further, the city is preparing for the annual festival to honor their god of debauchery, Psobos, a most un-Sashian ritual. Along the way, they meet a couple of citizens of the town and slowly fall in love over the course of a most unusual night.

 

This is a charming little tale. I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked it for my Prime loan, and that just added to the charm. Despite the urgency of Bedar and Marzana's mission, this story unfolds at a leisurely pace. There's a spattering of humor, a little action, but mostly it's just two men out of their depths as they navigate an unknown city full of people they don't understand only to discover they're not so different after all.

 

I thought I had the endgame figured out at one point, but I was only right about part of it. Chereia and Pheres were a great supporting cast and just as fully fleshed out as Marzana and Bedar. The m/f and m/m couples get equal page time to develop and are respectfully handled in the difficulties that faced both pairings. That makes one a little less satisfying than the other, but certainly still an HFN. (To be clear, this isn't Romance and there's no on-page sex.)

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review 2018-10-12 05:02
Halloween Is Murder
Halloween is Murder - Josh Lanyon

Another half-baked short story by JL. Sometimes her short stories are really beautiful, spectacular displays of prose. But most of the time they're this: not fully-formed, more of an outline than a story, with characters you barely have time to get to know before the story is over. Add on the paranormal elements of actual real vampires and vampire hunters  and this just becomes a head-scratcher. There is also zero romance here. A hint of a love story, but that's it. The action is non-existent too, despite this being about vampires and vampire hunters. And there's a really big issue left unresolved at the end too.

Barry seriously didn't think it necessary to tell his client that her brother is out for her fortune? Um...he'll probably try to kill her next. Geez.

(spoiler show)

 

I was also really thrown by the fact this takes place in the world of Adrien English (and therefore Holmes & Moriarity, All's Fair, Art of Murder and just about every other series she's done her little crossover/tie-ins with). Um...what? That makes no sense. And just makes The Hell You Say look like a missed opportunity. Not the best tie-in she's come up with, in my opinion.

 

Still, it's JL, so the writing is still good and has a mild, throwback sort of humor (this is based in the 50s/60s) one expects from a Lanyon story. Just wish it had been longer, like the world and characters really deserved. 

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review 2018-09-22 22:16
A Death at the Dionysus Club (Lynes & Mathey #2)
A Death at the Dionysus Club - Amy Griswold,Melissa Scott

This is a solid sequel to Death by Silver. There is still no steam here, and while there is some focus on Julian and Ned's relationship, this is first and foremost a mystery. Anyone looking for romance and smex will need to either look elsewhere or adequately adjust their expectations before diving into this. 

 

The mystery here had several layers to it and took awhile to untangle them all. The suspects were many, and the motivations just as numerous. It was fun following along as Ned and Julian tried to figure out what was going on, and learning more about how the magic in this world works. There's old magic, or non-conforming, now considered uncouth. And there's the new magic, or conforming magic, that's been designed to be more humane (no need for animal parts or blood, for instance). Of course, the two systems don't clash well at all, and when a particularly nasty bit of non-conforming magic starts to kill off men, it leaves Ned, Julian and Hatton in a bind on how to handle it, much less even figure out how it works and who is working it.

 

Complicating matters further, it seems that the culprit is part of the Dionysus Club, and Julian and Ned have every bit as much of an interest in keeping connections to the club and its membership away from the police investigation. They could face jail time or hanging themselves in their private inclinations become publicly known. This is not a world progressively-minded people or "as long as you're happy" platitudes, and these men have to be very careful who they trust with the truth, and even those who might know and support them - or at least be willing to turn a blind eye - aren't reckless enough to come out and say it.

 

We get to meet one of Miss Frost's friends, and more of Julian's crowd from his wilder days. Miss Barton is a hoot, and Julian didn't exactly have the best taste in men in his youth to say the least, lol. And then there's Challice, who I couldn't help feeling sorry for. 

 

This is a tightly-written book, with smart characters who are actually good at their jobs (so many books that claim their characters are the best in their fields are actually filled with rampaging idiots) and who know how to communicate with each other when they discover things the other needs to know. Fancy that! They're not as good as communicating when it comes to their relationship, but Ned and Julian find ways to do that as well, no matter how uncomfortable it might make them. 

 

This could have used another pass through by an editor, since there was some unnecessary repetition and a lot of missing words. A less misleading title wouldn't have gone amiss either.

There never is a death actually at the Dionysus Club, but I guess "Deaths of Dionysus Club Members" doesn't have the same ring to it.

(spoiler show)

But those are my only quibbles.

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review 2018-09-09 18:23
Steam Train, Dream Train - Sherri Duskey Rinker,Tom Lichtenheld

The dream train pulls into the station and the cars begin to fill up. Polar bears pack the ice cream, elephants fill tanks with paint, and turtles load race cars. One by one animals load the cars until the train leaves the station. 

 

A great read-aloud for kindergarteners and later a great addition to book boxes. 

Lexile: AD720L

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