Linda78

Tinsel Fish (Tyack & Frayne #2) (Audiobook)

Tinsel Fish - Harper Fox

I seem to be having trouble connecting with this series, and I honestly don't know if it's the length of the stories or if it's the narrator. 

 

This is really too short to go in-depth with the material or the characters, and things and other characters keep getting introduced, on top of the mystery of sorts that Lee and Gideon are working on. I did love Gideon's mom, and it was nice to see Gideon going out on a limb relationship-wise, planning time off from his job when he knows that Lee will be home from his own job. 

 

I didn't understand why Lee, a psychic, didn't believe in spirits off the bat. His job is going out, documenting monsters and such, and reading energies and people's minds and other random mojo to find things and people. But spirits? That's crazy talk! Atheism in paranormal settings just doesn't make a lot of sense to me. He doesn't have to be religious or anything, but he does have use basic common sense. It reminded me of those idiots in that godawful The Boys on the Mountain, going out to investigate a haunted house but none of them believe in ghosts. *headdesk* Thankfully, Lee does prove to be smarter than that lot. Not that that would've been a hard thing to do.

 

Tim Gilbert is a great narrator, and he's easy to follow, but he's got this gravelly, gruff voice that just doesn't really seem to fit. Well, that's not quite right. It fits Gideon perfectly, but everything else? Not so much. He is able to clear his voice up for Lee, but the variation in his voices for the various characters shows a limited range. And I still feel like he should be reading something much more serious, like one of those classic Russian authors with names I can't pronounce. :D

 

There is promise here, and I've loved nearly everything else I've read by Ms. Fox, so I'm going to try the next one eventually, but I I'll be reading it. This'll be it for me with the audiobooks. 

Color of Grace (Cost of Repairs #2)

Color of Grace  - A.M. Arthur

Warning: Grumpy review ahead.

 

Don't let my rating or review sway you from reading the book. Most of the issues I had with it are of the personal taste variety. And one thing at the very end that ticked me off. ... Two things. ... Maybe three things, lol.

 

The writing is strong, and Barrett and Schuyler (pronounced Skylar) are interesting characters who despite their various flaws and hangups might just be perfect for each other. I didn't completely feel the love connection between them, since half of their "relationship development" that took place seemed to happen in the bedroom. But when we did get actual relationship development, it was pretty well done.

 

Since it's been so long since I read the first book in this series - and the primary thing I remember about it was that ridiculous drama-ridden fourth act - I didn't recall if I had issues with Schuyler or not. I know there was a reason I initially decided to skip this one, but lord help me if I can remember it now, lol.

 

I should have listened to my former self.

 

For the most part, I really liked Barrett and Schuyler, and there was certainly enough there in their backgrounds that could have made a truly compelling story, but most of what we get is a watered down contemporary romance that doesn't distinguish itself from the mainstream m/m genre. Barrett had the most interesting background, so of course we only get snatches of it. Schuyler's backstory is... well...

 

Ok, so Schuyler's cousin, Matty, drowned in the lake when they were teens. Schuyler was there when it happened. He drinks himself into oblivion every year on the anniversary, blaming himself for what happened. For 85% of the book, that's all we know about it. Then we find out a couple of Matty's friends were also there. And then it just gets stupid because

despite every indication that Danny is seriously unstable, Schuyler decides to just drive down to the lake when Danny leaves a note on his car requesting a meeting with him there. Without telling anyone where he's going. Or who he's going to meet.

 

So he drives down there like a buffoon and confronts Danny, who is upset that Schuyler still exists. And then we find out what really happened that fateful night: Danny started bullying Schuyler for being gay, taunting him to kiss Danny's girlfriend - why the girlfriend was all for this idea, who knows; she's incidental to the story and never appears on page except as a blurry fuzzy afterthought on this backstory - all because ... wait for it ... Danny's also gay, but in the closet and hates himself for it. So of course he HAS to bully Schuyler for also being gay. And of COURSE his teen self has to attack teen Schuyler for being around and TEMPTING him and making him feel his horrible gay feelings. And of COURSE Matty ends up in the lake during this fight and no one notices until it's too late and Matty was too drunk to get himself out of the lake on his own.

 

And that's how Matty died. And that's why Schuyler blames himself. Because showing up when Matty asked him to come and having Danny bully him clearly makes it his fault. (Guilt isn't logical, I know that, but still. Put the blame where it belongs.)

 

But that's not all! Danny isn't torn up about accidentally knocking his friend into the lake and killing him. NO! He's been tormented all these years by his gay feelings. That's what keeps him up at night. That's why he's so maladjusted. That's why he's a walking blowhole.

 

So naturally, since he's got this horrible crush on Schuyler he's got to call present-day Schuyler down to the lake, then ask him why he was always around back them - um, because Matty was his cousin????? - and attacks him again!

 

And then - AND THEN - after all this goes down and Schuyler's released from the hospital and Danny's locked up, Schuyler finally sits down to tell his aunt Dixie, Matt's mom, what actually happened that night 15 years ago. AND WE DON'T GET DIXIE'S REACTION! We just go from him saying "There's something I need to tell you" to jumping six weeks ahead to the epilogue so Schuyler can get a fracking tattoo to memorialize Matty. You know, that's sweet and all, though why he'd want angel wings made out of water to remember how his cousin died is beyond me. You know what I wanted to know though: What did Dixie say or do when she found out? It's only her son that she lost, right? Her one and only child. So who cares what she thinks about all this. (We also don't get Barrett's reaction but his really doesn't matter here.)

 

AND THEN Schuyler doesn't even press charges. And neither does Dixie apparently, so the only thing that happens to Danny is he has to go to therapy for a few months and do some community service. Oh, and he's getting a divorce. Oh, and Danny's therapist thinks it would be a really good idea for Schuyler to go and see Danny again so Danny can get closure. ... HE NEARLY BEAT A MAN TO DEATH BUT HE DESERVES CLOSURE.

 

 

And of COURSE Schuyler is an absolute saint about all of this. Why should he be angry about nearly dying? Or all those years he was bullied as a teen? And all those years he was scared into silence about that night Matty drowned because Danny threatened him?

Thank God we didn't get a scene of him actually going to see Danny again, so there's that.

(show spoiler)

 

So anyway, all that aside this was a decent read. Except that 20% in the middle of the book that had practically three or four sex scenes in a row. I ended up skipping most of that. I did like the one toward the end though, before all the stupid happened.

 

I might be rating this too highly, lol. But I didn't hate all of it, and most of it was decent, and some of it was even nice and sweet. So 2.5 stars it is.

 

P.S. You can't open both eyes wide when one of them is swollen shut.

Reading progress update: I've read 49%.

A Dance with Dragons - George R.R. Martin

My "Ramsay Bolton needs to die in a fire" checklist:

 

1) Cut out your tongue, grind it up and eat it, so you are literally swallowing your own tongue.

2) Roll around in some acid. Go on. It'll be fun!

3) And then impale yourself on a spike through your nads and let them fall off from festering puss.

4) Then skin your ding-a-ling and watch it shrivel.

5) Then, and only then, die in a fire. Preferably of the wildfire variety.

5a) Take dear old daddy with you.

 

In happier but no less disturbing news: Lord Manderly + pies = OTP. I see what you did there, you diabolical, culinary genius. ;)

 

David Copperfield (Audiobook) (DNF @ 48)

David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

Whelp, that's 0-2 for me and Charles Dickens. I was going to try to power through this - I had 8 more days on the audiobook loan from my library - but every time I thought about listening to this for another 8 days, it was like those dolly zoom shots. I just can't. This is so boring! The first quarter or so was decent, and I thought it was going to go somewhere, like maybe Davie wasn't all that he seemed or something. And I thought for sure something was up with Steerforth, but nope! Davie finds refuge with his aunt and the story grinds to a halt and never recovers. It's just chapter after chapter after chapter of Davie meeting a friend and talking to them, Davie meeting another friend and talking to them, Davie corresponding with friends and then meeting them again and talking to them. Talk, talk, talk, blah, blah, blah. So, I'm done y'all. I'm going to spend the next 8 days doing something that's actually interesting. Like watching paint dry. Or watching grass grow. Or listening to Ben Stein read the dictionary.

 

2 stars because the writing here was a vast improvement over the self-indulgent A Tale of Two Cities. But this turned out to be a different kind of self-indulgence, just dressed up in pretty prose. Simon Vance does a great job with the narration, but even he can't make these characters interesting.

Dared and Confused

Dared and Confused - Adara O’Hare

This was sometimes weird, mostly sweet friends-to-lovers short story.

 

The sweet: Jackson has never been attracted to or interested in anyone, male or female, until his best friend Chet kisses him on a dare during a truth and dare game. And suddenly it's fireworks and Jackson realizes there are things about himself he didn't know that he didn't know. Watching him trying to sort out his confusion and figuring out he's gray-ace was a treat.

 

Chet was super patient and supportive, and he's clearly been in love with Jackson for years but never said anything so as not to pressure him. There was lots of good tension leading up to the sex scene, which thankfully wasn't too long. Still, I was starting to lose interest by the time it finished.

 

Jackson's mom was a pure delight, y'all. She was like Christmas in July. :D

 

The weird: Why would Jackson's dad be so opposed to him wanting to be a veterinarian? You need those on ranches. Just find someone else to run the ranch, geez.

 

I also didn't care much for the hyper-sexualized truth and dare game at the beginning. There is such a thing as being *too* close to your friends, lol. I did like how it was used later though; it was a nice little callback.

 

Oh, then there's the Texas-speak that's all over this book like burrs in a billy goat's hide. Darn tootin! :P You can either read it or it'll drive you up the wall, lol.

Daughter of Sand and Stone (DNF @ 25%)

Daughter of Sand and Stone - Libbie Hawker

This is not what I was expecting. Instead of focusing on historical facts about Zenobia, a little known Palmyrene empress who stood up against Rome and took back Egypt before her defeat, this is a fictionalized account of what her life might have been like. Granted, there is more myth than facts about Zenobia, and what facts exist are scant at best, so putting together any story of length would require a lot of guesswork. 

 

I never heard of Zenobia, and I was interested at first. Hawker clearly is familiar with the time and place in which this history takes place and describes it all with vivid detail. But things quickly started to drag it down.

 

I'm not usually one to quibble about POV and verb tense because certain stories and characters just work better in 1st person vs 3rd person, or present tense vs past tense. However, writing an historical fiction in present tense felt awkward, especially when paired with the 3rd person omniscient. Present tense works best with 1st person POV, which gives the story an immediacy and intimacy. The 3rd person took away the intimacy, even though we're told what the characters are thinking and feeling, and the slow pacing took away the immediacy, so it felt like the tense was constantly fighting with the story being told. Add in the random head-hopping and there was too much disparity for the story to flow.  

 

I soon found myself wishing that the story would cut through all the theorizing and get to the point. So I jumped to the author's notes at the end where she details the research she did and why she made certain narrative choices, and that was all I really needed. :D

In Kelly's Corner - DNF @ 6%

In Kelly's Corner - Roxie Rivera

You have a stalker who is calling you and hanging up without saying anything, and leaving you pics of his dick. Do you call the cops? Not if you're Bea. Do you at least get some nanny cams installed in your home, car, office, bike, wherever this stalker has left pics for you so you can catch him on camera, especially since you're supposedly a tech genius with tons of money? Nope! That would be ridiculous!

 

You have a stalker who broke into your locked home and left you a present. Do you NOW call the cops? Nope! What are they going to do? At least she ran out of there instead of snooping, so she's got at least a smidgeon of sense.

 

Bro, if a woman has full use of both her legs, is conscious and can understand human speech, you don't pick her up and manhandle her over the security rail. You ask her politely to go backstage and escort her there. But she's your dead best friend's hot little sister who you're denying yourself a relationship with for stupid reasons even though she's into you (probably also for stupid reasons) so why pass up an opportunity to feel her up even though she's there asking for protection from her stalker. I guess this is the part where us woman folk are supposed to swoon and drool all over Kelly's big muscular arms. I rolled my eyes and deleted the book from my Kindle.

 

These people are dumb.

 

Add the juvenile writing and the constant info-dumping, and there's nothing here to inspire me to read further.

SPOILER ALERT!

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life (Audiobook)

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Warning:

Death and grief

(show spoiler)

 

I loved Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and was worried that nothing else would measure up to it. 

 

As with that book, this one is centered around a young high school boy trying to figure out life while detailing in his relationships with those around him. Here, we have Salvador, his gay dad Vicente and his best friends Sam, who is more of a sister to him, and Fito, who is also gay. Sam's and Fito's lives are not as easy as Salvie's but he has his own issues to. His grandmother is sick again, and he's feeling an anger that he can't place where it came from. The ghost of his mother is always there, nearby, and his unknown bio dad is a big question mark. As Salvie, Sam and Fito go through their last year of high school, they face trials, joys and life-changing events. 

 

I didn't really click with the narrator. He did a great job but for some reason his voice just never sounded like what I thought Salvie's voice should sound like. Then Saenz started tugging at the heart strings as first Sam, then Fito, then Salvie and Vicente experienced significant losses in their lives. All the characters are great, flaws and all, and Vicente is a terrific father. But Mima. Mima got me.

 

I lost my nana at the beginning of the year, a few weeks after New Year's. She had been sick a long time and waiting for death, but that didn't make it any easier when we got the call late one night to hurry and come before it was too late to say our goodbyes. I wasn't as close to her as Salvie is to Mima. My nana only spoke Spanish and I only speak English, so we couldn't talk without a translator. But I never needed a translator to know how much she loved me. She had God in her heart, and she loved her family with all her heart. If I was sick or not feeling well when we were visiting, she'd whip up some lemon tea with her special blend of spices and I'd feel better. She made the best tamales and her house and yard always smelled like guavas. Ten months have passed and I still sometimes forget she's not just a couple hours down the highway, and this'll be the first Christmas where we don't all gather at her house, sing carols and eat tamales until we can't move. 

(show spoiler)

 

I saw my nana in Mima, and myself and all my cousins in Salvie, and the special bond that they shared. It's no surprise those were my favorite parts of the book, and that pulled this up from a 3-star to a 4-star read for me.

Lane's (Life According to Maps #3)

Lane's - Nash Summers

This was a fun little conclusion to this trilogy. I got a hoot out of Benji and Perry's hate-like relationship, they really stole the show. Stacie was only on page for two sentences, thank god. Maps was back into oblivious, OTT mode. Not that he really got out of it in the previous book but he seemed to be making up for lost time.

 

Since this is a short story, there's a lot of jumping from one plot point to another, which keeps things moving but also made it feel like I was missing things. 

 

My idea of Maps's parents as he drives off to college:

 

Diamonds (Life According to Maps #2)

Diamonds - Nash Summers

Cute!

 

Maps is less obnoxious here, though still adorkably oblivious and overly dramatic, and I only had to endure Stacie for one scene. Perry was a fun addition to the cast. Those little adjustments made this work much better for me. Though I did want to smack Maps a few times for ignoring Lane and not letting him explain thing. The "neighbor" thing was pretty bad on Lane's part, I do admit. 

 

Already reading the next one. :D

Maps (Life According to Maps #1)

Maps - Nash Summers

Looks like I'm the odd one out again. I liked this but...

 

Maps reads like an 8-year old jack up on speed. I couldn't relate to him at all and the story is from his POV. Stacie might not be a child of the corn, but she is seriously demented. That is not a normal five-year old. Lane is a pretty nice, all-around boy-next-door. Benji is cool. And Maps's mom is a saint. I swear, if I came home to half the things this woman has to live with her son doing, I would need psychotherapy and vast amounts of pills to stay sane. 

 

The humor just didn't click for me, and this is heavy on humor. It's also way too short to really develop the characters, and this is a story that's been written hundreds of times already by now, so it doesn't add anything new. I did like the gift of the maps. That was super sweet. 

 

I do have the next two from Prime loan, so I'm going to give the next one a try.

Anger Is a Gift

Anger Is a Gift - Mark Oshiro

Warnings: Institutionalized racism, racism, policy brutality, police shootings, death 

 

I'm going to steal this line from Elena, because it perfectly sums up how I feel about this book:

"The more potential a book shows the less I’m inclined to be generous when it doesn’t live up to it." 

Not that this book didn't always live up to its potential. I think it met that potential and messed it in equal measure.

 

I've followed Mark Does Stuff off and on over the years, and discovered a lot of great shows and books I otherwise wouldn't have tried because of him. I often find his commentary interesting, insightful and funny. I don't always agree with him and the conclusions he makes, but he always explains those conclusions in ways I can understand and respect.

 

Still, I was hesitant to read this book. I was concerned that knowing so much about the author might impact the way I read this book, and I did keep picking out things he'd mentioned about himself or his life experiences being reflected in the characters and the plot, which was distracting to say the least. More than that though, given some of the things I've disagreed with him about over the years, I was worried this wouldn't be for me. And perhaps, in the end, it isn't. So I went into this with certain expectations I wouldn't have had if there was just any other author, and I honestly can't say how much of that influenced my reading.

 

There was a lot here to like, and a lot to not like. After thinking over this review for the last few days (more like a week-and-half as I'm editing this review yet again), I'm still not sure how to write one. So I'm doing a list!

 

 

Some positives:

~Moss's relationship with his mother Wanda was pretty great. Wanda supported her son, and she realized that by trying to protect him he was doubting himself.

~Likewise Javier and his mother have a pretty tight relationship too. I wish there would've been more focus on Javier's mom, given what happens, but she's kind of forgotten.

~Moss's love for his city and his community. He takes pride in being from Oakland, and it's presented in a positive light. Knowing Mark lived there for years, I can imagine he walked the same streets and road the same trains. He really brings the city alive.

~Moss and Javier's friendship was sweet and cute. I adored them and how they just sort of clicked. It was easy to see why Moss would have such deep affection for him over so short a time.

~Moss's ways of coping with his anxiety and how he remembers his father were well done also. As someone with anxiety, I could sympathize with Moss's spiraling self-doubts. The rolodex of memories he keeps of his father shows that had a great relationship, and it was clear how much his father's absence still effects him. 

~The action sequences were very well-written and felt like something you'd see in the movies. Or on the news. =/ The action just exploded off the page and was a big part of why I felt the second half was more solidly written than the first half. These are the parts that flowed the best for me.

~There's no closure. There can't be. 

 

Some negatives:

~The dialogue was often exposition-heavy and felt more like I was being continually hit over the head with an anvil as the world of West Oakland High was being established. Maybe that was by design, but I thought it would've been more effective if more subtly handled. Show, don't tell.

~On that same note, there's also a lot of info-dumping. Moss is walking through his neighborhood early in the story, thinking about who lives where and what they're like, but we don't meet most of these people. By the time we do eventually meet some of them, I'd forgotten everything that was info-dumped about them.

~The same thing happens when we first meet Moss's school friends. Each one is introduced with two or three facts about them, and that's pretty much all the development most of them get. I also had trouble getting a sense of their personalities since they all talked and acted the same. 

~White people jokes are racist jokes too.

~The treatment of Esperanza was abysmal. Moss gets angry at her because she doesn't 100% immediately understand his personal life experience. He doesn't have to make any effort to understand her life, but she's just supposed to magically understand his life and when she doesn't she's a bad friend. The resolution with this character was total fubar. Moss was a jerk towards her for most of the book. (Other reviewers have gone into detail about this.)

~The metal detectors: They don't work that way. I even did some research after that scene because it pulled me out of the book so much. The info that the vice principal gives them later somewhat explains it but it's never explained how a broke, inner-city school could afford any of this stuff, much less how the police could afford it in these days of budget cuts. Even at bargain basement discount prices, military equipment isn't cheap.

~The info the vice principal gives them was never mentioned again, even when Moss had that reporter's attention. 

 

We all know race relations suck in this country, and we've all seen the various stories about police shootings and brutality, and campus cops manhandling students. It's also been disclosed that the military have experimented on our own citizens, so the idea of something like this happening in a school isn't entirely implausible. In a near-dystopian future, this could be all too real. We also have a long history in this country of the police and military coming in to break up peaceful protests with excessive force. Situations like the ones described in this book do happen, and this book doesn't pull any punches. This is an important discussion, and there needs to be more books that focus on these issues. I just feel this story could have been told with more nuance and less hammering. Instead, we get a book were all the good guys are super good, and all the bad guys are super bad. And white. Because ALL white people are the enemy, doncha know. (No, they're not.)

 

I'm still not sure how to rate this. I want to give it four stars for the spotlight it shines on some serious issues and because some of the writing was really solid. The execution of its message often fell into the two-star range though, but splitting it for a three-star rating doesn't seem right either, so I'm leaving this unrated.

Merlin in the Library (The Agency #2)

Merlin in the Library - Ada Maria Soto

This is an adorable little follow up to His Quiet Agent and a much appreciated insight into Martin's POV. Martin's still banged up from his ordeal and still had a long road to full recovery, but he's got Arthur, he's learning to take care of himself, and he's well enough to get back to the library for story hour with the kids. 

 

I wanted it to be about a hundred pages longer. :D *crossing fingers for another full-length book with these two*  

Once Upon a Haunted Moor (Tyack & Frayne #1) (Audiobook)

Once Upon A Haunted Moor - Harper Fox

Well, that was definitely a short story. A little too short. There was next to no time to really get to see Gideon and Leander form any kind of connection before they're falling into bed together *yawn* and just as I was settling into the story and the mystery, they were over. 

 

And there may or may not be an actual monster on the moor. Since Leander is psychic, I don't know how far into paranormal/fantasy this series might go. 

 

I did like Gideon and Lee, and at least they're not already moving in together by the end of this, so hopefully that means actual relationship development is coming. Given the author, I expect nothing less. Isolde was a precious little pooch who's perfect just the way she is. :D

 

I'm not sure about Tim Gilbert as a narrator. He narrates well and clearly, but there were a couple of instances during the climax when it was difficult to tell who was talking, the protag or the bad guy, which was not really a time I wanted to be confused. His timbre of voice also sounds like he should be reading something much more serious, lol.

A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock #1) (Audiobook)

A Study in Scarlet Women  (Lady Sherlock Series, Book 1) - Sherry Thomas

After the train wreck that BBC's Sherlock has become, and since RDJ's too busy being Tony Stark to return to the role, there hasn't been much in the way of good Sherlock adaptations lately. Elementary is actually a lot better than I thought it'd be, but it's still only something I watch when there's nothing else to watch.

 

I was hoping that this reimagining of the Holmes-verse would fill the void. Unfortunately, when you get a gender-swapped Sherlock Holmes - here named Charolette Holmes - you get a protag who is into froo-froo fashion, closely monitors the size of her double chin, and has a love interest despite having no interest in love or marriage. But she doesn't mind the idea of being some guy's mistress some day, as long as it's the right guy. Because girls need love interests, dontcha know! *sigh*

 

We also get a big long familial drama llama to give Charolette an origin story which gets her out the trappings of marriage

by becoming a big ho. *gasp* Or the Victorian England version of a big ho. Which means she gets one married guy to boink her once. She figures that way, she can blackmail her dad into living up to his promise to see her educated or she'll tell everyone about said boinking. Unfortunately, that cat got out of the bag before she could put her nefarious scheme to good use. And now she's sloppy seconds with loose morals that no one respectable will be seen dead with. ... Unless they are dead and she's solving their murder.

(show spoiler)

She couldn't just have one of those cool, forward-thinking dads who realizes his daughter's not suited for marriage. Nope, no education for his inquisitive genius. That'd be too simple.

 

So it's not until a good half of the book passes before we even get to the new Watson (who's pretty cool but not a doctor, or even a midwife or a healer) and the duo start to get down to the business of solving small little mysteries.

 

Meantime, Inspector Treadles is corresponding with who he thinks is Sherlock via his friend Lord Ingraham to get help solving a case. "I sure wish A.C. Doyle had written a story from the POV of Lestrade," said nobody ever, but we get that here anyway. Treadles is a nice bloke and all, and very sharp, doing much of the legwork himself and getting the job done just fine with just a couple of letters from Sherlock. He doesn't even meet Charolette face to face until the second half of the book.

And then Charolette has to go through this whole ruse of pretending Sherlock is sick in the room next door and hearing everything they say, because she's smart enough to know no man will listen to her on her own. Of course, there's only so long this ruse can last before it's discovered, so I'm glad the story ends with Treadles in the know.

(show spoiler)

 

Livia, Charlotte's sister, is sweet enough but not too prominent a character in this first book.

She will fill the role of chronicler, though, and she'll rewrite the real mysteries into fictionalized versions of them, so that this becomes the original A Study in Scarlet.

(show spoiler)

All the interconnections of the various lords and ladies and high society is pretty bland. And the killer

gets away scot free. Which really is fine with me, considering the killer did society a huge, huge favor, but still! There was no confrontation with the killer. Charlotte gets a note from the killer that explains everything. The end!

(show spoiler)

 

This story read more like bad Jane Austen fanfic than like a Sherlock Holmes mystery, and that expectation clash meant it took me awhile to get on board with what the story was doing and with the large cast of regular characters and the POV switches. I'm hoping that now that the ridiculous origin story is out of the way, the next book might see some improvement and a better focus on the mystery aspect. I'm not necessarily in a rush to get to the next one though.

 

Kate Reading did a good job with her performance. She's clear and concise, does a reasonable job varying the voices enough for all the characters and gives the story a sense of life. No complaints there.

The Duchess War (Brother's Sinister #1)

The Duchess War - Courtney Milan

An historical M/F where the woman isn't a meek little mouse and the man isn't an alphabrute and they're both sophisticated and evenly matched? What is this magic??? There was a point at around 80% where I thought the author was going into Big Misunderstanding territory to drum up (even more) drama, but like every other instance of "tired trope" that nearly came before that, Ms. Milan managed to sidestep it and let her adult characters be adults. Amazing, isn't it?

 

I really enjoyed Minnie's and Robert's interactions. They start out rivals, since he's spreading around seditious flyers that she's blamed for distributing, and they're each determined to keep their secrets. Robert, being a duke, isn't really in danger if his secret is let out, but Minnie's secrets and fears run deep and could really do serious damage to her.

 

Robert's maybe a little too perfect at times. Sure, he fumbles in his flirtations and machinations because he's a clueless duke for all that he's considered "woke" for his time period. He has no practical understanding or application of what it means to be working class or anything less than what he is. He may be progressive, but he can only see things through the eyes and privilege of a duke. I'd also expect a guy with his background to have at least a few hangups that manifest themselves negatively - he really should be the jealous type but he isn't, for instance - but I'm willing to overlook that since it worked thematically for the characters and their different but complementary issues and strengths. And I didn't have to put up with an alphabrute, which is always a win. 

 

I especially liked that there wasn't any insta-love. They like each other. They really, really like each other. But they don't confuse that with love and they have to work towards that like any other couple.

 

The supporting characters were all fully fleshed out, and there's even a subplot with Robert's mother that's quite well done. Lydia's a great bestie, and I'm going to assume she ends up with one of the Brother Sinisters - who are actually comprised of Robert, his half-brother and a cousin. Sebastian was an unholy terror and hilarious, and Oliver was as sweet as can be. 

 

I'm eager to read the rest of the series, and thankfully my library has them all. Yay! If they're as well-written as this one, they'll be fun and interesting reads.

Currently reading

A Death at the Dionysus Club
Amy Griswold, Melissa Scott
A Dance with Dragons
George R.R. Martin
Progress: 49 %