75 in ’13: His Captive

I will flex my fantabulous barbarian kilted shoulder muscles for you, m'lady.

I will flex my fantabulous barbarian kilted shoulder muscles for you, m’lady.

 

For the sixty-fifth book in the challenge, I read His Captive by Diana Cosby, the first in the MacGruder Brothers series. (MACGRUBER!!! *EXPLOSION*)

Close, but not quite.

Close, but not quite.

Firstly, there needs to be serious editing. Grammatical, typographic…the works.

Secondly, the book repeats itself…repeatedly. There’s the classic chapter recap, the “I just had an epiphany and just to make sure you don’t get lost, I’ll repeat the entire thing every time I refer to it for the next six pages,” the “PLOT TWIST!” and the “DID YOU SEE THE PLOT TWIST?” recap and the “BUT DID YOU *GET* THE PLOT TWIST?!” recap and the subsequent “I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT PLOT TWIST WHICH I WILL EXPLAIN AGAIN IN GREAT DETAIL!” recaps that follow. There is the repetition of feelings as an explanation for mundane events, as filler between dialogue, as commentary between words, and explicit feelings!bombs to explain body language rather than the other way around.

Thirdly, by the time the actual sexy bits came around, I’d had my fill of sliding and laving and hardening and moistening and straining and tightening and submitting. 

Fourthly, if your characters are going to use archaic language, make it fit the time period, make it consistent, and support it by formalizing the narrative somewhat. Otherwise it’s like re-enacting Shakespeare in a school play, which can be entertaining if that’s what you’re after. I don’t think this was what the author was after.

All this said, I think Cosby has potential. She makes rookie mistakes, but experience, time, more books, a good editor and helpful beta readers could really go a long way into polishing her work into something that really shines.

I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars.

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75 in ’13: The Grave Gourmet

It's a pun, get it? I mean, not exactly a pun. She's not grave. The situation is grave, because someone dies, but it's funny because they eat...well...UGH NEVERMIND.

It’s a pun, get it? I mean, not exactly a pun. She’s not grave. The situation is grave, because someone dies, but it’s funny because they eat…well…UGH NEVERMIND.

 

For the sixty-fourth book (getting close to the end!) in the challenge, I read The Grave Gourmet by Alexander Campion, the first in the Capucine Culinary Mystery series.

It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t really click with me. There were some cultural differences that gave me trouble (despite speaking some French, I’m fairly ignorant of the culture and a lot of references and explanations went straight over my head), and I didn’t relate to Capucine very much. It was probably more realistic of a detective story than the ones I’m accustomed to reading, but that doesn’t necessarily make it more entertaining (real life generally isn’t as exciting).

There is also a lot of sexism coming from every direction and every person, and that sucked. To be fair, I’m sure that a woman in a traditionally masculine job is going to encounter a LOT of sexism, both the grossly overt and the subtler, “benevolent” kind, but it was hard to deal with coming from every single character. Thing is, it’s possible that Campion made it so obvious in an effort to show exactly how institutionalized and oppressive sexism and strict gender roles are, such that even the main character has thoroughly internalized it, as much as she struggles with it coming from other people. His male characters are borderline cardboard cut-outs composed entirely of toxic masculinity, and the other woman amongst Capucine’s new crew is pretty much a dude with boobs, so…it could be a way to bring attention to the tropes. Or Campion could just be oblivious to the whole thing and unironically trying to portray a feminist as a woman whose strategy to be taken seriously by The Men is going braless when asking for a job transfer. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t’ think I can.

The whole book left a bad taste in my mouth; even if there wasn’t the sexism, there were other things that I don’t even want to dig through to detail for you. Furthermore, I had high hopes for the culinary side of these adventures, but so far that has been limited to stuff her husband Alexandre (…you put yourself in the book?!) feeds her or takes her to eat in restaurants. That’s okay, but not what I expected either. I gave the book 3 out of 5 stars.

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75 in ’13: Hallow’en Party

2 SPOOPY 4 U.

2 SPOOPY 4 U.

For the sixty-third book in the challenge, I read Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie, the thirty-sixth book in the Hercule Poirot series (according to GoodReads, anyway).

This is a short story, and Hastings is off gallivanting elsewhere, so we see things first from Ariadne Oliver’s point of view, though not in first person. She happens to be visiting someone when something awful happens, and she sends for Poirot to get to the bottom of things. Ariadne may not have Poirot’s mind, but she’s no slouch when it comes to little gray cells; she’s a famous author, after all, and she too understands the many reasons why a person might do something horrible to another. She also has a good nose for recognizing when something isn’t right; that is, the situation is more complicated than it seems, or when something is distinctly not an accident, or when something needs more scrutiny, though she can’t always articulate why she thinks so.

Because we follow Poirot around as he makes his inquiries, we see more of his thought process than usual, and I actually wished to have someone else between Poirot and myself. It was a bit too real of a characterization to see him at a loss, to be uncertain which direction to pursue, to understand that his stillness and his bluster can exist in the same soul. While it is lovely that Christie rounds out Poirot more than she has in the past, I wasn’t expecting it at all.

Still, it’s a decent story and while at first I was like:

pumpkinmandance1

pumpkinmandance2

pumpkinmandance3

pumpkinmandance4

 

by the end I was like:

2spooky

Well, sorta.

(This was definitely not an excuse to use the dancing pumpkin man .gifs some other month than October. Mm-mm. Nope.)

Oh yeah, I gave the story 3 out of 5 stars.

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75 in ’13: A Fatal Grace

I want to live here. I've said it before, but it only becomes more true with each book.

I want to live here. I’ve said it before, but it only becomes more true with each book.

 

For the sixty-second book in the challenge, I read A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny, the second book in the Armand Gamache series.

This entire review could just be me making a series of dolphin noises, varying only in intensity and duration of squeals; that is how much I enjoy this series. It starts more slowly than the previous book, enveloping us in the town of Three Pines and the daily lives of its inhabitants. Everything proceeds mostly as usual, until someone unpleasant moves into their close-knit little town and starts making waves.

We also learn more about Gamache himself, his family and his history with La Sûreté, which is just as curious as the murder investigation. There is something dark in his past, and the animosity hinted at in the previous book becomes slightly more clear.

I’ll just leave you with the comment I posted to my GoodReads review right after finishing this book: “AUGH. WAITWAITWAIT. WHAT ABOUT AGENT N? WHAT IS AGENT L. DOING? WHAT IS GOING ON?! AUGH! NEXT BOOK, IMMEDIATELY!” Naturally, I purchased the next one as soon as I could.

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

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75 in ’13: Assassins in Love

I just cannot take him seriously at all with that face.

I just cannot take him seriously at all with that face.

 

For the sixty-first book in the challenge, I read Assassins in Love by Kris DeLake, the first book in the Assassins Guild series.

I had a hard time getting into this one at first, and though the style was easy to read, it felt a little aimless in parts. That said, it was nice to see characters behave like adults who can function in society without being huge jerks to everybody all the time, as a way to demonstrate how badass they are. In this case, their excellence as assassins is separate from their personalities; or rather, they are both excellent at their jobs and their personalities allow them to differ in their tactics, but successfully in each instance. 

There’s a lot of paranoia inherent in being an assassin, which is all the complication needed for a relationship without constant one-up-man-ship. Yes, both of them are obsessive stalkers. I think that’s why they’re good assassins and not great with the interpersonal relationships with regular people.

I dug the world, too, and that’s a huge deal for me. If the world doesn’t click, it rarely matters how good the characters are. Minimum of weirdly purple prose in the sex scenes. Did not enjoy the trumped-up cat-fighting, though. Boo to that.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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A few things

Oh! Hey! I should probably clarify a few things for new readers of this blog.  Have a handy-dandy list! Everybody likes lists.

1. This started out as a knitting blog. HAHA! There WILL be knitting content eventually, once I transfer a few things over from the old computer.

sorry

2. I got a new computer! It is shiny and fast and mine, and I don’t have to fight take turns now, so more possibility of browsing Tumblr catching up on writing!

excitedduck

3. 75 in ’13 was the name of the challenge I set for myself last year. Last year! I’m really behind on my reviews, and I have another challenge for this year which I’m diligently working on. Once I’m finished with 2013 (hopefully this month?), I’ll start on this year. I promise that I haven’t already read 60 books this year. I mean, I could have, but not while knitting, writing, remaining at all hygienic, and parenting two small kids. I am not that amazing.

shakeshead

4. I moved! That was hard. Things are different. I’m adjusting. We’re all adjusting. It’s a process. Things are slower than usual.

facecouch

5. I’m spending a lot of time this month writing some shorter pieces, hopefully for publication, and that is slowing things down as well. I’ll let you know things when I know things.

yourewelcome

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75 in ’13: Warrior

Any likeness to Indiana Jones is strictly accidental and not at all legally pursuable.

Any likeness to Indiana Jones is strictly accidental and not at all legally pursuable.

 

For the sixtieth book in the challenge, I read Warrior by Zoë Archer, book one in The Blades of the Rose series.

Every chapter felt like a new episode of a TV show. There was a lot of unnecessary explanation, everyone used everyone else’s names all the time when there were more than two people in the conversation, and the exposition on feelings…there was so much of it. Every action was punctuated by an explanation of its emotional significance, which of course was pretty much the same emotional significance weighing down the previous eleven actions, and by the third or fourth action in the chapter I was pretty tired of reading about how much they wanted to bone each other RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW BUT OH WHAT IF MY LOVE IS WOUNDED I WOULD DIE.

That said, I really did like the characters. Usually the Manly Man has a really hard time accepting that Strong Woman is capable enough to take care of herself in ANY situation, and that’s the only spark of energy between them, and it’s patronizing and belittling and benevolent sexism all the way. This was slightly different. Manly Man adored that she was competent, but very realistically still worried that she would get hurt because things happen, and when he tried to coddle her a little she fought back, and eventually he stopped trying. That’s not to say that he wasn’t a product of a very sexist society and didn’t have some expectations to work on, but he recognized that the way England treated its women did not work for him at all.  (The whole spiel on English women being a foreign species was unnecessarily critical. Like, how dare they do everything they can to thrive in this bullshit patriarchical society that infantilizes, victimizes and then penalizes them for doing anything except looking pretty, shutting up and having babies. So fucking sorry you can’t figure out how to not talk about bodily functions or swear words for five fucking minutes; try living like that. Bet those women got more than a raised eyebrow when they slipped up. /rant) His fears about her safety were not because she was a precious lady who needed protecting, but because she was His Person and he’d be lost if she died. And yet, he didn’t stop her from fighting. He didn’t get in her way when she chose a dangerous profession. It’s a step in the right direction.

I did have a problem with the idea that the Educated White People came to remote areas to help save the Good-Natured But Child-Like Natives from their own magical artifacts. That doesn’t sit well with me. It was tempered in this novel, especially by the way that most of the Educated White People had no idea what they were doing most of the time, or how to work the artifacts, and that some of the Educated White People were Educated Westernized POC toward the end. The nadaam festival felt problematic to me, that they could just change the rules and then win because they’re awesome; it felt like they beat the native peoples at their own games by cheating. The one bad guy in the nadaam WAS cheating, and the structure of the competition meant that he beat out other competitors for them, but…yeah. Not cool. I like that they went back, though, to fulfill their vow. You can’t just run off with a tribe’s most prized possession once you’ve won guardianship of it. That’s just rude. God knows the English wouldn’t tolerate rudeness.

Benedryl Itchyscratch feeling all the emotions in that silently aggressive swallow of tea.

 

I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars. (I don’t necessarily regret buying it, but I did read parts of it out loud to Mr. Cranky-Face before gesturing angrily at the e-reader. Unfortunately, no cathartic book-throwing is possible when it’s an e-book.) (Oh, and it gets really close to having sex-magic artifacts and by that point I was just ajkld;jfl;jajklsjas;asjkl;sjkl;ajlk;.)

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