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review 2019-10-30 23:04
Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo


I honestly must be one of the very few people who has yet to read Alexandra Christo's debut To Kill a Kingdom (though I plan to rectify that shortly) so I wasn't 100% sure what I would be getting going into this book. Sometimes that's a good thing though - it can be better not to have any expectations because they usually get dashed, more often than not...

I was really happy to get an advanced copy through Reader's First so thanks to them and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read it a little early (I also got the stunning Fairyloot edition which which just so pretty I can't help but sit and admire it!)

So, I didn't really know too much about the story of Into the Crooked Place so it was a wonderful little surprise when I got the book through the post. I have heard a lot of people make comparisons between this book and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and also Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody but because I haven't read these two books I didn't have any preconceptions so I was able to enjoy this book on its own merits without any kind of baggage.

I'm not going to go too much into the story (I think it is better enjoyed going in with little to no knowledge - it's that kind of book) but I will say that I am always up for a book about magical hi-jinks. I also love books that contain heists - they are always fun to me and this one definitely entertained. I am very much looking forward to seeing how the plot develops in the next book.

There are four main characters in this book (Tavia, Wesley, Karam, and Saxony) plus a couple of additional POV's which did sometimes make it a little bit confusing at times. However, each had a distinctive voice and it was necessary to get the characters motivations. I tend to prefer books with a singular POV but multiple viewpoints does work for me on occasion and this one did for the most part.

There wasn't a great deal of time to get to know the characters but I liked what development we did get. Wesley and Tavia were my favourites; especially Wesley - he is such a contradiction and for most of the book I couldn't work out if he was going to turn out to be the bad guy or not (and I'm not telling you one way or the other!) His one-time friendship with Tavia and how it has disintegrated since he became a crime boss was very interesting and I found myself desperate for their chapters.

I only really started to enjoy Saxony as a character towards the end of the book when she got a little bit more interesting (suffice it to say, I am really looking forward to seeing her story in the next book). She was probably the weakest character for me at the start even though her story has perhaps the most potential generally. Karam started off pretty intriguing (I love kickass warrior girls) but her story was probably the most stagnant overall and she seemed to just be there as a prop for Saxony. I do think as a character she has many ways her story could go though and I am hopeful she gets a bit more page-time in the follow-up novel.

The plot was pretty exciting and moved at breakneck speeds (sometimes a little too fast - you didn't always get the chance to breathe chapter to chapter). I think the world-building was fairly decent but I did get a little bit lost at times due to the speed in which the characters moved through each place visited.

The bad guy was suitably malevolent and there were a few twists and turns (though I did guess one particular twist pretty early on and felt it was telegraphed throughout the story).

I am definitely eager for the second book (though it will be a bit of a wait I would imagine as there is no release date, cover, or even title as of yet). A pretty solid offering and I am definitely sold on most of the characters and the plot and can't wait to see how they all develop!

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review 2019-09-29 23:09
Nice for the cats.
Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany - Jane Mount

It is an interesting book, a nice read to drip in and out of. The artwork is pretty good. I love the inclusion of local bookstores that are not as famous was a good touch.

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review 2019-09-19 14:31
The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis


I finished this book a couple of days ago but I needed some time to mull it over, to put my thoughts into order, and give The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis the kind of review it merits.


So what did I think of this book? I was conflicted but overall I loved it. Now, you might be asking yourself why I loved it if it also brought out conflicting emotions in me? That is a good question with many different answers but the most simple is that it was an incredibly difficult book to read; the subject matter (sex trafficking, prostitution, and sexual exploitation) was a heavy one and I wasn’t sure how this would work in a young adult novel. Whether it would be given the depth and nuance that the subject matter warrants. Even while reading, I was pretty tense wondering how the story would resolve.


Suffice it to say, it wasn’t necessarily an enjoyable read. However, it was a very important one and I’m glad I persevered. Despite the heavy topic, the were moments of levity and the inter-personal relationships between the characters were wonderful. I almost can’t believe this book is author Charlotte Nicole Davis’ debut – the writing is almost flawless and the story very engaging.


But, I’m getting ahead of myself. This story begins with a character, Clementine, one of the titular ‘Good Luck Girls’ of the title, preparing for her induction into the ranks, her ‘Lucky Night’ where her virginity is sold off to the highest bidder. At sixteen years old, it is now her time and the book opens with the preparation for this. She will soon be joining her elder sister, entertaining ‘brags’ (marks or clients), forced into a life of prostitution that there is no escape from.


This is a very clever narrative choice: you as the reader are sucked in right away. The nerves that Clementine feels, the growing sickness when you realize what is going to transpire hooks you in right away. When the dread manifests fully, and the absolute worst happens you feel the same sense of panic and fear that Clementine feels, you almost feel that it is you that is getting the life choked out of you when her client takes a vicious and violent turn. When she overcomes her aggressive ‘brag’, you feel nothing but relief, until you realize that Clementine has accidentally killed her client. You don’t feel bad for him, you just know Clementine will be the one who pays the ultimate price.


The novel then switches over to Aster point of view, Clementine’s older sister who has always been her protector, and stays there for the rest of the novel. Aster has been living the life of a ‘sundown girl’ for over a year now. She is angry, so very angry, at the helplessness of their situation. She would do anything, anything at all, to spare Clem from this fate but has, thus far, been powerless to help her.


When Aster discovers what has happened, she knows they have to try and make a run for it. There is no way in which Clem would make it out of the situation alive. Made difficult by the tattoos each girl adorns (which are infused by a certain magic that prevents them from removing or covering them up for any great length of time, thereby rendering them unable to escape their bondage), the two girls are forced to call upon two of Clem’s closest friends Tansy and Mallow (who have yet to become sundown girls), and one of Aster’s greatest enemies Violet (a fellow sundown girl who has always been the favourite: spoiled and entitled) to engineer their escape.


Somehow, beyond all expectations, the five girls do manage to break free of their house but they are soon embroiled in a deadly chase, pursued by raveners from their house (men able to torture them with powers and break their minds) and family members of the deceased patron who are seeking revenge. They meet both friends and foes during their travels, on a search to find the mythical Lady Ghost who legend states can remove their markings. A chance encounter with a young rangeman named Zee might be their salvation, or perhaps their downfall…


Well, this book certain packs a helluva punch! Gut-wrenching is the only word I can find to describe it. Gut-wrenching and heart-breaking at the same time. My heart bled for these young women: Aster, Clementine, Tansy, Mallow, and Violet. All of them had been through so much hurt. I honestly don’t know how they were able to pick themselves up and endure. Aster, in particular, really stood out. She was so fierce and protective of her sister (and later the rest of the girls). She was a wonderful character and I think it was a very good choice to follow her POV.


I loved the diversity of the main characters. Aster, Clem and Mallow are all POC as are many of the supporting characters. It makes their story even more meaningful.


There is little to no romance in this book (which I think is a necessary choice given the subject matter). If I held any criticism it is that the character of Zee felt a tad extraneous (and Clem’s connection with him felt a little bit forced) but that was only a very minor thing. I loved everything else: Aster’s strength, Violet’s resilience, Tansy and Mallow’s unquestioning support and Clementine’s goodness. These characters were all wonderful and will stick with me.


The ending did feel a little abrupt but I am glad to find out there will be at least one other novel (maybe more? I’m not sure). This story deserves to be told and I can’t wait to see how it develops. Aster and Violet are the ones whose story was most left hanging and I am eager to see more of these girls and their overcoming of their hardships.

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text 2019-01-14 08:27
Voici! or, Mischief Managed.

From atop a ladder, just after I finished putting the last of MT's books up.


The view from ground level.  Not as invisible as I thought it would be, but not unpleasingly overpowering at all either.  Very happy with the result, if also a tad depressed about how little shelf space this actually freed up for me.  


I swear the books expand to fill the space without any help from me.

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text 2019-01-13 03:22
Notes from a desperate bibliophile: the 2019 edition

Yesterday, I posted a teaser photo of a project I'd tackled:



Like any self-respecting bibliophile, I lie awake at night (ok, mornings) and contemplate how I can manipulate time and space to create more room for books.  Several weeks ago, as I lie contemplating, and imagining someday turning my room into a library (were we to ever renovate), I noticed the space above my wardrobes:




I'm thinking to myself: that's a lot of wasted space ... I could pile books up there, but that would look messy.  And desperate; maybe a tiny bit hoarder-ish.  But if I put shelves up there...


So I started looking around, and found nothing that wasn't cheap particleboard/MDF, and it wasn't actually cheap.  Nor anything that would look right.  Then I started imagining what "right" would look like, and I realised it didn't have to be complicated.  Sturdy, yes, but otherwise, the simpler the better.


I am a crap carpenter, but I can do simple.  Especially if I can get cut to measure lumber.  A quick bit of searching and I found a place 10 minutes away that would cut anything except plywood for free.  (The big box hardware store - a store I hate on principle - only does it in certain locations, though they don't tell you which ones, and charge you for each cut.)


I measured, then sketched out what I wanted/needed, and headed to the lumber/timber store.  An incredibly nice, patient staff member helped me out, showing me the pine posts I'd planned to use.  He got called away just long enough for me to spot the Cypress posts they had in stock, and when he returned saw me admiring them. He made the off-hand comment that they were much cheaper than the pine, which was pressure treated; something I'd wanted to avoid.  Then he helped me decide how to do the tops and fronts without using plywood, pick out all the wood, and then he cut it all to size for me.  Total cost for all the wood, some L-brackets and a packet of self-drilling screws (best. invention. ever):  less than $250AU (about$180US).


MT was on the sidelines due to a painful rheumatism flare-up, which he was not happy about, but while I was out running around the lumber-yard, he was using the time wisely.  He pulled all his books off the top of the bookcase they'd been piled on precariously, in preparation for their new home. 



He refused to take a picture of what they'd looked like before on the grounds that he wasn't sure he couldn't be charged with reckless endangerment after the fact.  But to give you an idea: he had 151 books piled on top of an extended IKEA Billy Bookcase (the wide one).


I got home and sealed it all up with a clear acrylic; cypress has to be sealed but the grain was too beautiful to hide.  At the same time, MT painted the top boards black - they were untreated pine and soooo did not match the cypress.  Not even in a funky, eclectic, non-matchy way.



That was all yesterday.  This morning, I marked everything up and stared putting it all together:




There are two sizes:  25cm (~10 inches) and 50cm (~20 inches).  There's a hardwood cross-bar in the front of each one to act as a back-stop for the books that sit in front.  16 screws hold each unit together.  Since they're sitting on wardrobes that are a bit over 3 meters (just over 12 feet) high, I did not stress the finishing touches, like covering the screws.


The hardest part was getting them up on top of the 'robes - they're HEAVY.  But once we did:


They fit just as I'd hoped they would, and now give us three tiers of space for the books we want to keep, but likely won't need to access more than a couple of times a year, if that.


We're in the process of combing through the library for the books to add, but here's what it looks like so far.  



I'll post a final picture once all the books are up there (we had to take a break; it's like the stairmaster from hell hauling the books up the ladder). 

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