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review 2018-01-20 19:35
The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter
The Kneebone Boy - Ellen Potter

The three Hardscrabble children, Otto, Lucia, and Max, live in the town of Little Trunks. For most of their lives they've been the "weird" children that everyone whispers about and no one wants to be friends with. Otto, the eldest Hardscrabble kid, began wearing a scarf on a daily basis after their mother disappeared. He also hasn't spoken a word aloud since then - instead, he invented a personal sign language that only Lucia knows fluently, Max can puzzle out, and their father can't hardly understand.

Lucia, the middle child, acts confident but is actually very lonely. Otto is her best and closest friend. Max, the youngest, is the most outgoing of the Hardscrabble children, but even his best efforts aren't enough to overcome the family's reputation and earn him a non-Hardscrabble friend. He's the most observant of the children, always carefully noting everything going on around him and thinking through what it all means.

The kids' father, Casper, paints deposed royalty. When he's suddenly called out to paint another portrait, he sends the children to stay with his cousin Angela in London. Unfortunately, Angela turns out to actually be on vacation elsewhere. The children really don't want to go back to Little Trunks, so they decide to go visit their Great-Aunt Haddie, who they've never met before. And so begins their adventure.

I had been wanting to read this for ages, almost entirely because I loved the cover artwork. I'm easily drawn in by illustrated covers. I knew very little about the story but assumed that it would have at least a few fantasy elements. This assumption was supported by the Goodreads users who tagged it as "Fantasy" and Potter's own writing, which kept hinting that fantastical things would happen. At the very least, there was supposed to be a ghost.

I'll just get this out of the way right now: I don't consider this to be a fantasy novel, and my expectation that it was probably hurt my opinion of the overall story. It's really more of a mixture of mystery and adventure.

The kids' desire to avoid going back to Little Trunks resulted in them accidentally investigating the mystery of their mother's disappearance. The way Potter wrote about Otto's quirks as being defense mechanisms was very intriguing and part of what kept me reading, even though the book's pacing and efforts at foreshadowing annoyed me. I also felt for Lucia, who both protected and depended upon Otto, and was grateful for Max, whose observations and deductions kept the story from lurching to a standstill.

The pacing, as I said, really didn't work for me. I was also a bit impatient with Potter's choice of narrator. The book was written as though it was a story being told by one of the Hardscrabble kids. The narrator never revealed their name, but various clues made it clear who it was. It was never clear to me why the author did things this way, and there were a few moments when I was distracted by thoughts of how surprisingly good this child seemed to be at guessing adults' ages. I don't know about you, but when I was as young as the Hardscrabble kids, my knowledge of adult ages was limited to "as old as my parents," "probably younger than my parents," and various levels of "pretty old."

It didn't take me too long to decide that I wasn't going to love this book, but, as the pieces of the Hardscrabble children's past started to come together, I did at least want to know how things would turn out. My first impression of the ending was that it was okay, but a bit dissatisfying. As I thought about it some more, however, I began to get angry.

First, what is up with stories in which parents

lie to and essentially betray their children for years and who are then forgiven by their children after a few minutes of explanations and apologies? Casper let his kids think that their mother had abandoned them, or had maybe even been killed. Heck, what about the rumors that Otto had killed his own mother? By not telling the truth, Casper let those flourish. I wouldn't have blamed a single one of the Hardscrabble kids for crying and screaming at him, or refusing to talk to him ever again.

Second, the way Potter wrote about mental illness was crap. Casper told his children that he'd taken their mother to multiple places to try to get her some help "but she was miserable at all of them. They pumped her body full of medication." (272) So she was miserable at all these places, but supposedly not miserable while held captive in a castle-turned-mental-hospital, kept from her children, who even Casper admitted she probably still loved even if she didn't know who they were? And then there was Potter's way of writing about medication. There was no mention of side-effects or issues with finding the correct dosage. Instead, Potter made it seem like it was the very act of trying to medicate Tessa that was bad. So what did Casper do instead? He took her to a place where no apparent effort was made to treat Tessa at all.

(spoiler show)


The Kneebone Boy had some good points. I liked the Hardscrabble children, and I thought the castle Haddie was staying at was pretty cool, even though the people who built it were awful. However, it took way too long for the book's focus to become apparent, and the more I think about the ending the more awful it feels.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-01-17 01:14
Jefferson Blythe, Esquire by Josh Lanyon
Jefferson Blythe, Esquire - Josh Lanyon

A little weak on mystery, I think. George didn't impress me either. 3.75 stars, all courtesy of Jefferson, whom I liked quite a bit.

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review 2018-01-17 00:49
The Courtship of Julian St. Albans (Consulting Magic #1) by Amy Crook
The Courtship of Julian St. Albans - Amy Crook

I hope the author forgives me for my speculations, but I am just sharing my personal impression of the book.

It seems to me the story was started some time ago, like a decade or two. When the author came back to it, tho, she did with gusto and somehow propelled the time period from regency or maybe even early 20th century to 2013 without a single glance back. All that I like had ended with Chapter 12. Chapter 13 welcomed us with a very sudden and very vicious addiction to cell phones, texts, voicemail and turning the damn thing on and off. Energy bars, credit cards, modern technology and modern jargon (started with "dunno") is suddenly all over the place. 

Everyone is high on caffeine and sugar, hence, I assume, all the giggling, chuckling, laughing, smiling and so on (thesaurus was thoroughly exploited in this story). MC did a 180 and turned into a complete gigglepuss by 60%.

Then, there is all that food and clothes. The author is like a vice, she latches onto a subject and can't let go even after a new shiny pops up :( 

Consort/Master dynamics, inappropriate and overused crude dirty jokes appeared to be all wrong to me. Maybe I am overly PC, but I cringed most of the time when Julian stepped in to discuss his responsibilities as a consort. Why is he even male? O.o Alex's "mounds" got pretty old and overused pretty fast; several characters managed to come off as sexist as**oles.

I started the book looking forward to a mystery. I got over my disappointment on that matter very early in the book and decided to enjoy fantasy of manners, magic and The Courtship instead. Chapter 13 (yes, I know, I already mentioned it), disappointed me again. The Courtship stopped. The old charm disappeared. Modern world and modern jargon with multiple new inane characters, whose names mostly start with J, took over. 

Means of communication: first it was just a messenger or an occasional phone call, then it was cell-cell-cell, and t-h-e-n, because Alex/Julian relationship is not cheesy enough, we got Horace, The Messenger bird, who carried Alex's and Julian's letters in his chest where its heart supposed to be. 

I did enjoy bits of a story, finding the courtship and magic fascinating, too bad it was given up for clothes, food, drinks and endless empty banter. Is ever a revised, well edited version comes out, I will give it a second chance. For now I can only give it one star.

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review 2018-01-16 21:53
I ADORED this book. It was slow, sweet, and so very much in the vein of a Victorian romance.

A Most Unusual Wedding (The Mage and the Leathersmith #1)A Most Unusual Wedding by Nancy M. Griffis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I ADORED this book. It was slow, sweet, and so very much in the vein of a Victorian romance.

I first met Lord Leo Harris and Master Leathersmith Gerald Smithson in the .5 intro novella called A Most Unusual Courtship.... and I was smitten with them. The love continues in the first full novel by Nancy M. Griffis about these two wonderful men.

Leo and Gerald are getting marries... in less than three weeks! But Gerald really is a trouble magnet and Leo... well, Leo manages to find himself embroiled in a race to cure a magical plague sweeping through London.

Gerald's best friend, Harry, the sailing mage arrives in town for the wedding. There's Leo's nasty bastard of a prejudiced uncle, Mark Harris, who looks down his nose at Gerald and is determined to see that his heir 'comes to his senses' and doesn't marry below his station. Daniel, Gerald's beloved Grandad, is more than meets the eye, and somehow, once again, Gerald has come to the attention of someone of the 'wrong' sort. Gerald has a stalker who can circumvent wards and is apparently a mage.

So Leo must contend with best friends, stalkers and a plague to rival the Black Death - oh my! He has his work cut out for them. And then.... dun dun dun (cue dramatic music) Gerald becomes the latest one to catch the Plague. Time is running out for Leo,

Here's the book blurb:

Adventure brought unlikely lovers Lord Leonard “Leo” Harris and Master Leathersmith Gerald Smithson together. Now it threatens to tear them apart. Three weeks before their wedding, a plague strikes Victorian London—the worst to engulf the city in five hundred years. The symptoms are eerily reminiscent of the Black Death with boils, a horrific death, and immunity to magical cures. As one of the most powerful mages in the country, Leo searches for a cure and the person behind the scourge all while Gerald must finalize wedding plans and try to thwart a persistent—and unwanted—“admirer.” It’s a race against time as Gerald shows symptoms, and Leo must fight a powerful Dark Mage to get the cure before he loses the love of his life, possibly at the cost of his own soul thanks to this plague being driven by the dark.

Will Leo solve the mystery of the plague in time to cure Gerald? What secret is Grandad Daniel hiding? Who is the mysterious mage stalking Gerald? Will Uncle Mark ever NOT be a bastard? And what going on with Harry?

Read the book to find out!

PS... I just found out today that the sequel comes out in February. HUZZAH!!!

View all my reviews

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review 2018-01-15 00:47
Fighting Instinct (L'Ange #2) by Mary Calmes
Fighting Instinct - Mary Calmes

A  very quick read. Cut out headache-inducing bickering and meaningless dialog and the story shrinks from 224 pages to about 124. Cut out rivers of blood and gun-waving, and you get it down to about 70 in no time. Then tune out the descriptions of posh surroundings and you are looking at mere 60. Pull out and burn the bush that the author beats around instead of moving the story forward and you can get maybe 40 pages of the actualstory
I am not going to review that story, just want to mention that yet another creature went through pain and suffering and was almost destroyed emotionally and physically so we could read about Arman and his guns.

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