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review 2015-12-31 16:31
#CBR7 Book 156: The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean
The Rogue Not Taken - Sarah MacLean

Lady Sophie Talbot is the youngest daughter of a coal miner who it's rumoured won his Earldom in a card game with the Prince Rengent. Sophie was quite happy growing up in a little village in Cumbria, dreaming of marrying the baker's boy and one day running her own bookshop. Moving to London and becoming part of the ton was never her dream, and unlike her sisters, who seem to clamber to outdo each other with regards to being seen and being scandalous, she'd rather stay in the background and read. While she hates that the gossip papers have dubbed them all "the soiled S's" (all their names start with S) and the way they speculate about how her eldest sister landed a duke, she's also fiercely loyal to her family and when she finds her ducal brother-in-law in a compromising situation with a woman most certainly not her pregnant sister, she loses her temper and shoves him in a fish pond. In front of everyone in polite society. Lady Sophie, the quiet one, just caused the biggest scandal of the season.

 

Wanting to get away as quickly as possible, she tries to persuade the scoundrelly Marquess of Eversley, popularly known as "King" to let her ride along in his carriage back to the city. She believes she may be able to blackmail him, as she caught him climbing out a window and holds his boot hostage, but he just abandons it and her, rushing away. Desperate to be gone, Sophie instead bribes his footman into giving her his livery and stows away on his carriage, only to realise far too late that it's not going back to London, it's going north. Eversley has recieved news that his father may be at death's door and cannot resist a final chance to tell his father he is never getting married and fathering heirs. 

 

Strangely, despite being in ill-fitting livery, barely anyone but King actually recognises that Sophie isn't a boy, despite the fact that she's still wearing silk slippers (the footman's boots didn't fit). He's convinced she's trying to snare herself a husband by being caught in a compromising position with him, but she denies this vehemently and does her best to get far away from him as quickly as possible. Using undeniable cleverness to best Eversley, she manages to get coach fare north, she's decided to go back to her home village of Mossband to realise her dreams, never to return to the capital. But the coach is stopped by highwaymen, Sophie throws herself in front of a pistol shot to rescue a young urchin, and despite telling himself repeatedly that he wants nothing to do with Sophie Talbot, King has to go searching for a doctor so he's not left with a dead earl's daughter on his hands.

 

Sophie and King (the reveal of his real name is excellent) pretty much loathe each other at first sight. He believes her to be a title-hunting social climber, she thinks he embodies all the things she hates most about the aristocracy. He can seduce soon to be married women and escape half-dressed out a window without anyone raising so much as an eyebrow while she was publically shunned for trying to defend her sister's honour. He's rich, handsome, arrogant and keeps saying exactly the wrong thing, sometimes directly insulting Sophie, but much of the time doing so without even meaning to. They both keep trying to remind themselves how annoying they find the other person, as they are clearly extremely attracted to one another.

 

In many ways, this book reminded me of A Week to Be Wicked, probably my favourite Tessa Dare novels, and one of my favourite romances ever. There's a road trip element, there is a lot of spirited banter, the couple have sizzling chemistry and they keep having mishap after mishap, while stuck on the road together. Both the heroes are uncomfortable travelling in small, dark, enclosed coaches. Both the heroines are highly intelligent, bookish, overlooked by everone and clearly super awesome. This book has daddy issues, gunshot wounds, occasional plot moppets (who were mostly sweet rather than annoying), assumed names, a pretend engagement, some pretty sexy times in both a carriage and a hedge maze, allusions to Greek mythology and hero, who while incredibly skilled at putting his foot in his mouth, eventually fully acknowledges what a first class idiot he's been and grovels very satisfyingly. He's not wrong about Sophie being far too good for him, but he shows signs of improvement towards the end and he's certainly not selfish in the bedroom department, which is an definite plus in a romance hero.

 

At least until I re-read One Good Earl Deserves a Lover, this is totally my new favourite Sarah Maclean and Sophie is certainly one of my favourite heroines. I do have niggles about the plot (King could have been slightly less insulting all the time, the conflict with his father could have been very easily solved if they actually just had a CONVERSATION), but they are not enough to ruin the happy glow of such a fun romance. After the most recent Milan was a let-down, I'm glad that I got to end the year on such a high note, making this the book that completed my triple Cannonball.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/12/cbr7-book-156-rogue-not-taken-by-sarah.html
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review 2015-12-31 15:40
#CBR7 Book 155: Girl Genius, vol 1: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Crank by Phil & Kaja Foglio
Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank[ AGATHA HETERODYNE AND THE BEETLEBURG CLANK ] by Foglio, Phil (Author) Oct-01-10[ Paperback ] - Phil Foglio

Agatha Clay (although I'm going to assume that this is an assumed name, since she has another one in the TITLE of the book) is one of those diligent students, who no matter how much she wants to suceed just can't seem to. She's almost constantly late, she can't really seem to make her inventions work and she's a laughing stock at the Transylvania Polygnostic University. To make matters work, during a weird electrical incident in town, she's robbed and her precious locket, with the only pictures she has of her parents is stolen. A locket pretty much anyone in authority over her is appalled is missing.

 

When the clearly powerful Baron Wulfenbach arrives at the University to inspect their progress, it turns out the headmaster, Beetle, may have been conducting unlicenced experiments and there's somewhat of a change in power. Agatha is expelled from the university and explains everything about her bad day to her guardians, who announce that they need to pack everything and leave town as soon as possible when they hear the news that Wulfenbach is in town, and Agatha's lost her locket. Her uncle, who left to go adventuring and has been gone for eleven years was very clear on the fact that she should never take it off. Likely because it acts as some sort of dampener of Agatha's inherent "spark", which only the greatest of scientists seem to have. Wulfenbach's son and heir suspect she may be more than she appears.

 

Girl Genius is a Steampunk YA adventure series, that can be read online, but a few years back, I picked up the first volume mainly on the strong recommendation of Patrick Rothfuss. I then put it on my shelf and promptly forgot about it, but needed a twelfth comic to complete my last reading challenge this year, and it seemed like a good time to finally read it. It's difficult to ascertain much about the characters from the short volume I just read, but I'm sure it can't hurt for young women to have a scientifically minded young heroine to cheer for, even if she does seem to have been given clumsiness and tardiness as her chief characteristics so far. I'm not entirly sure yet whether Wulfenbach is an antagonist or potential ally and I suppose his son could be a love interest of some sort. At least he seems clever, which is a good quality to aim for in a partner.

 

As the first volume barely starts the story, with some of the plot and action being quite confusing, it wasn't exactly the best reading experience I've had this year, but the comic has potential and I like that I can make up my mind about whether I like more or not by reading it for free online, and then buy the volumes afterwards if I decide I want to support the authors. At least I got another book knocked off my already scarily big TBR shelf.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/12/cbr7-book-155-girl-genius-vol-1-agatha.html
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review 2015-12-31 13:40
#CBR7 Book 154: Sex Criminals, vol 1: One Weird Trick" by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Sex Criminals, Volume 1 - Chip Zdarsky,Matt Fraction

What did I just read? This comic certainly is completely different from anything I've experienced before. So the first time Suzie masturbates and orgasms, it literally makes time freeze. She's not sure if it's like that for everyone and having no one to ask, and limited resources to figure things out, she's a bit lost. Then she meets Jon at a party and is surprised to discover that it's exactly the same for him. They've always believed themselves to be alone, and now, when they've found each other, they become a bit addicted to exploring the range of their "powers".

The library where Suzie works is being closed down by the bank and Jon suggests that they use their unusual ability to stop time and rob banks. Just small amounts every time, slowly getting enough to save the library. Suzie's reluctant at first, but sadness and desperation to save her beloved library makes her change her mind. Only, Suzie and Jon aren't the only ones with unusual power, their activities have been noticed and there are people close on their tail.

While the book starts on a quite depressing beat, with Suzie explaining how her father was killed and her childhood wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs, most of the comic is actually very funny. Filthy and NSFW and probably not for kids, but laugh out loud funny and creative, with a rather unique concept and very likable characters. Volume 1 collects the first five issues, where we are introduced to Suzie and Jon and learn how they both came to discover their strange superpowers. Being a huge fan and frequenter of libraries and a passionate book lover, I can't really fault Jon's plan of robbing banks to prevent the closure of one. And his job at the bank does indeed seem pretty sucky, even if I don't exactly agree with some of his coping strategies.

Issue 5 ends at a pretty dramatic point and I'm very eager to get the next volume and see what happens next. My husband and everyone else who's recommended this comic were absolutely correct. Matt Fraction's writing is hilarious and Chip Zdarsky's art fits perfectly. I will be reading more of this in the coming year.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/12/cbr7-book-154-sex-criminals-vol-1-one.html
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review 2015-12-31 12:05
#CBR7 Book 153: Daredevil: Born Again by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
Daredevil Legends, Vol. 2: Born Again - Frank Miller,David Mazzucchelli

Like so many others, I was a huge fan of the first season of the Netflix series Daredevil. I decided that the time had come to look at some source material.  

 

In what could easily become season three of the series, Karen Page, Matt Murdock's former legal secretary and ex-girlfriend is down on her luck in Mexico. After a failed porn career, she's now a heroin junkie and she sells Matt's secret identity as Daredevil for her next fix. The name falls into criminal mastermind Kingpin's hands and over the course of six months, he sets out to completely destroy Murdock's life. His rent and utility bills turn out not to have been paid for months, his girlfriend Glori breaks up with him because he never has time for her anymore, he's accused of criminal misconduct and faces a grand jury trial. While the diligent efforts of his best friend Foggy keep him out of prison, he loses the right to practise law. As more and more things go horribly wrong, the more Matt's paranoia plays up and his mind slowly unravels. When Glori moves in with Foggy after her apartment's been trashed (Matt doesn't know that part), he's convinced even his best friend and his girl are against him. Only when his home is blown up, does he figure out that Kingpin's behind everything. All this - the first issue, guys.

 

Matt vows revenge, but is in a pretty bad state. He tries to kill Kingpin and fails miserably. He ends up in the East River, left for dead, framed for even more crimes he didn't commit. Matt, however, is tough and doesn't die. There is no corpse found, and Kingpin starts to worry. Afraid for her life because she's now hunted by Kingpin's assassins and feeling dreadful about betraying Matt, Karen laboriously makes her way back to New York City. Foggy and Glori grow closer, worried about the whereabouts, sanity and safety of Matt. Reporter Ben Urich works to clear Murdock's name and is nearly scared silent by the terrible reach of the Kingpin. Once again, the crime lord overplays his hand and loses control of the situation.

 

There is so much plot and action packed into the seven issues collected in Born Again, so much darkness, grimness, violence and pain. Frank Miller returned for a guest run in the middle of the standard Daredevil run, took all the toys out of the metaphorical toy box and didn't so much put them back where they were when he started, as blow up the entire box and leave the toys scattered and broken all over the place. I don't envy whomever was left to follow his limited guest run. It's not exactly easy comfort reading, but it's undeniably very good and there's no wonder this is one of the definitive Daredevil stories. Frank Miller was a heck of a writer before he went completely cray cray. I really wish his frequent misogyny hadn't reared its ugly head with the treatment of Karen Page. Not really surprised, because I've read Miller comics before, but I wish the character hadn't been degraded to the degree she is. Matt's current squeeze, who dumps him at the start of the story seems to move on to Foggy real quick as well, which I'm sure Miller just feels is illustrative of the fickleness of women. 

 

Published in the late 1980s, the art by David Mazzucchelli (who also worked with Miller on the seminal Batman: Year One), isn't entirely to my taste and the colouring especially is quite dated. Having fallen so completely for Charlie Cox' portrayal of Matt Murdock in the Netflix series, I just couldn't reconcile myself with Matt being ginger here. 

 

I'd love to see some of this play out in the TV show's later seasons (although there would have to be some changes, considering choices they've already made). The action packed climax would be especially interesting and opens for the intriguing possibility of cross-over with the cinematic universe that would be spectacular. Alas, I doubt that bit'll ever happen.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/12/cbr7-book-153-daredevil-born-again-by.html
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review 2015-12-31 11:23
#CBR7 Book 152: Longbourn by Jo Baker
Longbourn - Jo Baker

Quick question - can you give me the name of a single servant in Pride and Prejudice? Despite having read the book multiple times and having just finished the audio version of the book, I certainly couldn't do it. Jo Baker has taken the classic novel and imagined what the lives of the invisible people behind the scenes, so to speak. The very essential people who wash the mud out of Lizzie's petticoats after she's been walking the countryside, who help the Bennett sisters do their hair, make the beds, empty the chamber pots, sweep the floors, cook the food, tend the horses, open the doors, run errands no matter the state of the weather, carry messages back and forth and make life so much easier for the main cast of Pride and Prejudice

 

There's the housekeeper, Mrs. Hill; her husband, the butler; the maids Sarah and Mary (who because the middle daughter of the family is also a Mary is forever called Polly instead). There's also the mysterious and newly hired footman, James. Their lives' work is to make things as comfortable and effortless for the family they serve, but they have hopes and dreams and pasts of their own. Sarah, orphaned at an early age and taken into the household after a stay in the poor house, especially dreams of travelling and seeing the country, not content to be a servant her entire life. She's suspicious of James, the ruffian who showed up from nowhere and was suddenly hired on as a footman. All the other servants seem to adore him, and Mrs. Hill dotes on him, but Sarah's sure he's lying about his past and is determined to figure out what he's hiding. Both James and Mrs. Hill are concerned when Sarah seems to form an attachment with one of Mr. Bingley's handsome and exotically dark-skinned footmen.

 

The servants, like everyone else, hope the elder Bennett sisters will make good matches, and worry when Lizzie spurns Mr. Collins, who after all will be their new master at some point in the future. They all think it would have been easier if he married a Bennett daughter, but can see he should have set his sights on Miss Mary, who was a much more suitable match for him.

 

While the Bennett women and all their acquaintances seem charmed by the dashing Mr. Wickham, the servants are not so easily fooled by his looks and easy charm. They recognise a predator when they see one and when he shows a very worrying interest in little Polly, James forgets all his hard-earned instincts to keep his head down and steps in to protect her. Wickham shows just how dangerous he can be and causes great upheaval in the household. Both Sarah and Mrs. Hill are shattered by the aftermath.

 

The book is divided into three parts, and the third part is the one that's the most removed from the main plot of the source novel. In this part we discover more of Mrs. Hill's past, her connection to James the footman and why he wished to keep his past hidden from everyone. It offered a perspective on the Regency period you certainly don't see in the romance novels, not just because it concerns the lives of the working classes, but because it's easy to forget when reading about balls and dresses and courting that the Napoleonic wars were also raging at the time. While so many romances are populated by officers back AFTER the Napoleonic wars, with varying degrees of PTSD, they rarely show any of the realities of the actual fighting, and certainly not what it would have been like for the foot soldiers. Longbourn, however, doesn't shy away from such unpleasantness.

 

This book is a very interesting take on what I think of as "literary fan fiction". I really liked the different interpretations of the already known characters from the beloved novel, as well as a fascinating look at all those servants who get completely forgotten about, but were oh so necessary for the wheels of society to turn. At first, I was worried I'd find the book boring, but I pretty much raced through it, just as invested in the lower born protagonists that I was reading about Lizzie and her sisters finding love. 

 

I'm not entirely sure I liked some of the choices Baker made in the book, however, and wish that Mrs. Hill's past could have been handled differently. I did like that Baker continued the story past the pages of the original, with glimpses of Lizzie's life as Mrs. Darcy and showed what life might be like for a maid at Pemberley. I can't really fault Sarah for the choices she eventually made, although I doubt I would have chosen the same if I were in her situation. There have been several very favourable Cannonball reviews of this in the past, I'm glad I finally got round to reading it.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/12/cbr7-book-152-longbourn-by-jo-baker.html
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