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review 2018-04-23 05:22
Psychological thriller which puts sexual assault and harassment at the center, and keeps you gripped all the way through; an unassuming title but a great twist
The Girl I Used to Be - Mary Torjussen

This is a psychological thriller that is hard to put to down, and despite the unassuming title, this novel goes from being a story about a seemingly innocuous meeting with a prospective client for estate agent Gemma to a full-blown harassment and sexual assault case. Gemma is the breadwinner of her family, with her husband being at home with their three-year old son, and while she is trying hard to deal with the mounting stress of running a company, she’s constantly dealing with the anxiety of an incident in her past. Suddenly she is very much alone in a world where she is being harassed by private messages and letters, and she is finding herself lying and wondering who she is becoming.
It’s so hard to review this without revealing a major amount about the plot but this had me quickly turning the pages because author Mary Torjussen has crafted the perfect thriller whereby she has weaved a story from the character’s past into one in the present day, and while I was reading I felt Gemma’s anxiety - and fear - all the way through. It really was compulsive reading.
I will also personally disclose that the initiating incident that Gemma experiences, the one that she feels she must run from, and the one that is the cause of so much tragedy (revealed in part 2), is something that I personally went through myself. I only wish this sort of thing didn’t actually have to be something that becomes the basis of both adult and YA fiction, but (yes, this is my trigger warning), sexual assault happens, and will continue to be a part of fictional and non-fictional works. As women start to fight back by talking about it, as now it is very much a topic of our time (there’s a line in the book acknowledging that once upon a time, it wasn’t talked about so easily), it has become different when we read about it too.
This is actually the second book released this year that I have read with this similar sexual assault issue.
The book is thoroughly engaging to read and I liked the ‘two parts’ that it was separated into, with the massive twist. I don’t know what I’d change it to, but for some reason I have an issue with the title, although I understand the concept of how we look back at what we ‘used to be’, feeling like we have changed so much, or looking at what we were back then, but I want something else to grab people by. This book is so good and too clever for people to miss.

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text SPOILER ALERT! 2018-04-22 22:38
Reading progress update: I've read 318 out of 518 pages.
Sophie's World - Paulette Møller,Jostein Gaarder

 

I'm over 50% done with this book and I'm surprised with the twist. Sophie and the others are characters in a story read by Hilde. It reminds of the twist with The Lego Movie.

(spoiler show)
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review 2018-04-22 21:49
A nostalgic re-read after 45 years
Plague Ship / Voodoo Planet (Ace Double, D-345) - Andre Norton

Rating: 3.5* of five

Why not more stars, as this is a sentimental favorite? Because I'm rereading it at closer-to-70-than-4o instead of closer-to-10-than-20. It's dated, of course, but it's still a thumping good read for its wonderful interconnectedness to the other parts of Norton's universe: the Forerunners, the Salariki (a catlike people from Planet Sargol), the gems so bewitchingly described...after all, gems are perfect high-value low-bulk trade goods...the horrible, misery-sowing religious professionals, the Patrol, the finny rockets.

As I'm rereading at a time in life where I've had more and vastly enriching experiences translating ideas from page to screen, or at least trying to, I kept looking for the modern technology to slot into the story. It was surprisingly easy to do. Also surprisingly easy was gaying it up. When the <I>Agatha Christie's Marple</i> adapters showed the way to tart up a fairly drab story, by today's TV standards, was to chuck a gay subplot into it, I was galvanized. Heck fire, most of it was already there already! Like with Dame Agatha's stuff, Grand Master Norton's practically has footnotes saying "re-interpret this passage, 21st century storyteller" and wowee toledo does the Solar Queen (heh) have the goods.

The cover of the edition I'm posting is the one I had as a youth. The Kindle Megapack is more convenient, of course, but I still sigh wistfully at the laughable cover art from an era when we hadn't even been to the Moon yet.

Had I been consulted, I'd've told Reed Hastings' people to skip rebooting <I>Lost in Space</i> (which was a dog in 1966 and is a prettier dog in 2018) and instead *make* an episodic entertainment of the Solar Queen chronicles. Someone should...all the elements are there. The youthful, handsome protagonist Dane leaving school, joining the crew he bonds with, growing as a man and as a trader with lurches forward and swattings backward.

I don't know if modern (under-45) readers would have the patience to mentally update the old tech (space ships with mag-tape computers?!) but I'd say this series is a decent place to test the tepidarium of Papaw's stories.

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review 2018-04-22 20:45
A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Time Quintet, #3) by Madeleine L'Engle
A Swiftly Tilting Planet - Madeleine L'Engle

The further I progress into this series, the further downhill it goes. I had so many issues with this book. Not a single thing I read made it redeemable in the least. I know this is a beloved series for many people and if you really like this book, that's great. I'm authentically happy you enjoy this book. However, I found so many problems with it that I just can't overlook them.

 

Let's start off with Meg. Her only purpose in this book was to be "Calvin's wife" and "pregnant." That's it. Whilst her parents were off being cool scientists, her father being the president's new best friend, her brothers off to medical school and law school, all she was doing was... well, she kythe with Charles Wallace whilst he was off trying to save the planet from nuclear devastation... and that's pretty much it. Meg did absolutely nothing throughout the whole book except complain that she missed her husband and ask her brothers for help because she can't be bothered to open a book.

 

In fact, that was one of the biggest problems I had with this book. The women were only there to be plot devices for the men. The women were only there to be beautiful, to be desired after, to "take care" of the men, to fall for abusive men, to marry abusive men, to get pregnant by the abusive men. Even when it was shown that these men were clearly abusive, one of these abusive men even killed a puppy, these women found them "alluring." Are you bloody kidding me? Who sees a puppy killer and then go "mmm, yeah, I want that in my bed"? No one in their right mind, that's who! Oh, and don't get me started on Mortmain! He was truly the lowest of the low! He beat on his partner, then sexually harassed his partner's daughter, then went to strike that young girl's grandmother only to hit her brother instead to where he fell down the stairs and ended up with brain damage... only for the mother of these kids to marry and get pregnant from this man because it made their lives easier to have a man in the house!!! What!? After all that, you're going to still stay with this man!? He should be in jail!

 

Also, let's add that once this boy is out of the hospital, they call him stupid and put him in an insane asylum because "no one" wants him to hurt this brand new baby. This other guy, named Paddy, wanted to lock him up because he just didn't like dealing with someone with brain damage. I know... these people are horrible. The issue of mental health is handle so poorly. This boy, Chuck, had a sister, Beezie, and she kept telling him to stop acting and pretending about his condition... Hello!!! He fell down a flight of stairs! He fractured his skull! He is suffering from brain damage! He can't control that! How are you going to tell him to stop pretending!? Moron. Oh, and that guy, Paddy? Yeah, after he helps put her brother away in the insane asylum, she goes and marries the guy, have a bunch of kids with him... but it's okay because she doesn't fall in love with him or the kids she gives birth to... WHERE'S THE LOGIC IN THAT!? 

 

The women in this book only serve to further the plot for the men. And it's so infuriating.

 

And you think the bullshit ends there. Oh no. As if the sexism and ableism isn't enough, let's add racism, too! The depiction of Native Americans is troubling. They are called the People of the Wind and it is said within the text that they are peace-loving people. But the moment two white guys enter the picture, these "peace-loving people" want to fight "like savages." (And, yes, the white guys call the Native Americans "savages." I cringed, too.) It was the white guy with blond hair and blue eyes (because anyone with blue eyes is a pure, loving soul) who brought peace among the "peace-loving" nation. Not only are there moments that play into the "white savior" trope, there's "white worshiping" too. How their "legend" talks of someone with white skin and blue eyes will come to save the Native Americans in their time of need. I just... I can't. 

 

And the last thing I want to mention was how dull everything in this book is. We follow Charles Wallace and his role is to go Within the many white dudes in this story to try and influence them to change the threat of nuclear war in the present. Aside from the first guy we go into, everything else just kinda happens... without Charles Wallace doing anything. In fact, he does pretty much nothing throughout the story besides travelling with the unicorn, Gaudior (which is still more than what Meg is doing but I digress). Charles Wallace was mostly there to let things happen to him. Not to mention he never put a stop to the abusive talk that went on (Charles, how are you going to hear someone say "he kept him from dying, and that may not have been a kindness" only because he now has to live with brain damage, and not question it in the slightest?) but did question it when it came to his own intelligence. Because, remember, all the men are intelligent in this book. Only the women are stupid.

 

Ugh, I hate this book. There's nothing that happened in this book that I find the least enjoyable. Where the other two books had some interesting concepts when it comes to the sci-fi elements, this one reuses the one good thing that was made in book two. Kything. Everything else? Boring. We were travelling through time on a unicorn, and I was bored and infuriated throughout the entire journey. It's such a shame.

 

I only have two more books in the series left to read. I really hope they improve with its storytelling and themes. Otherwise, I'm going to find this quite a struggle to get through.

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review 2018-04-22 11:00
Murder Takes the High Road by Josh Lanyon

From award-winning male/male author Josh Lanyon: a librarian finds himself in a plot right out of one of his favorite mystery novels.

Librarian Carter Matheson is determined to enjoy himself on a Scottish bus tour for fans of mystery author Dame Vanessa Rayburn. Sure, his ex, Trevor, will also be on the trip with his new boyfriend, leaving Carter to share a room with a stranger, but he can’t pass up a chance to meet his favorite author.

Carter’s roommate turns out to be John Knight, a figure as mysterious as any character from Vanessa’s books. His strange affect and nighttime wanderings make Carter suspicious. When a fellow traveler’s death sparks rumors of foul play, Carter is left wondering if there’s anyone on the tour he can trust.

Drawn into the intrigue, Carter searches for answers, trying to fend off his growing attraction toward John. As the unexplained tragedies continue, the whole tour must face the fact that there may be a murderer in their midst—but who?

 

~

 

Review

 

Length – 60k
Cover – Perfect!
POV – 1st person, one character
Would I read it again – Yes!
Genre – LGBT, Murder Mystery, Crime, Romance, Adventure
Triggers – historical murder, contemporary murder, brief violence


** COPY RECEIVED THROUGH NETGALLEY **
Reviewed for Divine Magazine


This is my first book by Josh Lanyon, only because I'm constantly prioritizing my review books over those I've bought for myself. I'll be bumping those books up on my priority list, after this.

Now, just an FYI – I've watched every episode of Midsomer Murders, CSI: Vegas, Murder She Wrote, Columbo, Vera, everything Agatha Christie. I've read every Sherlock Holmes, historical mysteries by Elizabeth Peters. I've watched more true crime shows than I can count. I generally – about 85% of the time – get it right. Be forewarned, that I went into this hoping it would be a mystery and it was. I still figured out who the killer was before the halfway mark, but I hadn't quite figured out all of the who or the why. And I can say that I was thoroughly impressed by how it was all put together, how it was laid out, when it all came together, and the final big reveal. It was a brilliantly done mystery, by someone who lives them every day vicariously through TV and books.

~

The main character, who provides the POV, is Carter – and he's everything I could have wanted in a main character. He's a librarian, so has a vast wealth of knowledge on multiple subjects; he's a murder mystery buff, who loves the books that the tour follows, so knows what signs to look for; he's smart, instinctive, and just logical enough to second guess the more ludicrous ideas, the question everything, even himself, and to provide all the snarky I could want in a disillusioned romantic.

I love that the recent break up of Carter and Trevor wasn't just glossed over, but was a pivotal used throughout the book, adding distractions, an extra air of mystery, and another suspect that he kept a naturally close eye on. I also love how it played into Carter's mindset – he was instantly doubtful of his feelings and thoughts, because he'd just discovered that he'd been wrong about Trevor for years.

The rest of the cast were brilliantly written, and not shoved to the side as some secondary characters can be. They all had their part to play. From the manipulative and myster-buffs Rose and Sally, to the enigmatic Ben and his mother, Yvonne, the constantly-disappearing and mysterious John. There were the secretive foursome of teachers who knew each other before the tour, Trevor and his new boyfriend, secret-keeper Alison who was the tour guide, and the understated pairing of Nedda and her husband Wally, and finally the assistant Elizabeth. All of whom could easily have been in on the plan.

The vast array of characters made for interesting reading, a lot of speculation, and a lot of innocent innocuous goings on that might not mean anything at the time, but couldn't be important later. Which is exactly what you want in a mystery; lots of suspects, lots of potential clues, and lots of intrigue.

I love that the tour bus of people – Tours to Die For – were recommended to sit with a different person for each meal, despite having a stable room mate. It meant that Carter could get to know everyone independently, without it feeling forced or too coincidental. I also love that they were all massive fans of the fictional author, Vanessa, which meant they often discussed her, her history, and her works, which allows us readers to get a deeper feel for the person who had brought them all together. I loved the amount of detail that was put into Vanessa's character and how it wove the plot together.

Being Scottish – half Edinburgh area and half Glasgow area, and a regularly holiday-goer to Argyll and Bute – I was worried that I'd read this book and be bogged down by the horrible inaccuracies that are so often made. I've read books written by non-Scottish people that focus far too heavily on the stereotypical, even going so far as to write the accent, which becomes tedious, especially when done wrong. This one didn't even make me stop to consider the acurateness – everything was recognisable, relatable, understandable and as far from stereotypical as possible. The author really did their research (as explained at the end, by a real life tour of Scotland) and made it possible to feel like we, the reader, were taking the tour along with the characters. There was a perfect amount of attention to detail, description, and scenery that made it possible to follow the dips and flows of even the briefest tourist stop. It was an added benefit that the author chose to show it all from an American tourists POV, accounting for the strange and unknown, the unpronounceable or non-understandable, without making it sound or feel stereotypical or insulting.

I'm not going to say too much about the plot, because there's a lot I can't say without ruining it for anyone about to read it. And you all should. It's great fun, with suspense and intrigue all throughout, a dash of romance, drama and mystery laced in between. The romance is a slow-burn, but also insta-love in some ways. I loved how it was done – slowly easing from strangers to acquaintances, then moving Carter and his beau through circumstances that bring them closer and closer. Despite how short the actual time is between strangers to lovers, the progression feels natural and Carter is smart enough to question it, his beau is smart enough to question whether it's just a rebound. It's natural and relatable.

What I can say is that I loved Carter from the get-go. He was brilliantly sceptical and curious. I liked that he used his librarian resources and instinct, logical reasoning, and didn't become the stereotypical busybody shoving his way into everyone's business, while trying to solve a crime all by himself. He was basically dragged into the position of crime-solver, reluctantly, so, and did it because his curiosity wouldn't let go, which was great. I loved that people naturally gravitated towards him, because everyone knew his motive for being on the trip from the first day, and he was a source of safety and security to the others, in a sea of strangers they couldn't trust.

It was also really nice to see that the cast weren't your stereotypical 20-something stud-boys. These were real men, with all characters 40+. Carter mentions that he's forty and probably the youngest of the tour, but you never really know the actual ages of everyone else involved, but it's suggested that they at least 60+, especially when the possibility of one of them dying naturally while on the tour is presented. At times, I often forgot that fact, because they were all spritely and well written characters, not your typical cranky old men or women with zimmers. These were realistic men and women in their later years, who were just like anyone else's mum or dad, gran or grandad.

~

This was a roller coaster of classic murder mystery who-dun-it. Full of twists, turns, and misdirects, it can stand up there with some of the best in the genre. I can't wait to read more.

~

Favourite Quote

There were a lot of great one-liners in this book, which made it even more enjoyable.

““Was that or was it not a sinister look?” I whispered to John.
“I can't tell. She always looks that way to me. If she had fangs, she'd have bared them at you. That I can confirm.”

“He broke off as the sound of a gong reverberated from below. “What the hell was that?”
“The dinner gong, you barbarian.”
“The dinner gong? That sounded like we just declared war.”

Source: www.carinapress.com/shop/books/9781459293595_murder-takes-the-high-road.html
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