Linda78

The Golem and the Jinni (Audiobook)

The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel - Helene Wecker, George Guidall

They say there are no new stories and only seven basic plots, and that is certainly true. Trying to find new ways to retell stories and spin those plots has been the tasks of authors and storytellers since the moment right after the very first story was ever told, and every once in a rare while an author comes along who can bring something truly fresh to the scene. This is such a book. 

 

It's been a long time since I've been this impressed by a book. Maybe it helps that I'm not especially familiar with golems or jinnis, though the mythology used here is on point with what I do know of them. The magic comes in putting these mystical creatures in turn-of-the century Big Apple and putting them both in positions that require them to examine and test their very natures. The supporting cast is equally as fascinating, from Ice Cream Selah, Maryam Faddoul, Arbeely, Rabbi Meyer and Michael Levy, to name a few. They're all trying to figure out life, figure out their place in it - even when they think they know what that place should be - and watching as the author weaves their various storylines together like the Fates at their loom. 

 

This was enrapturing, made even more so because I couldn't figure out where the story was going or how it would all be resolved. For every thread I managed to tie together, there were several others that I couldn't see how they connected. And I really didn't want to. I was happy to just sit back and allow the story to unfold in its own time, and it didn't disappoint.

 

The narrator, George Guidall, does a wonderful job capturing the many characters and bringing their cultures and neighborhoods to life. 

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings #2)

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy - Mackenzi Lee

While I enjoyed The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, I found it uneven in the way it handled both the historical and fantasy aspects of the story. It felt like neither one really got their fair share of the story, and both suffered as a result. So I was hesitant to give this one a try and probably would've passed it up if one of my groups hadn't chosen it for the book of the month.

 

This was a little slow to start, and Felicity drove me up the wall at first with her selfishness and single-mindedness. Ambition is all well and good, but when it comes hand in hand with stepping over anyone who gets in your way, I can't really back that person up. Thankfully, Felicity does a lot of growing up over the course of the book and it was fun to watch. 

 

I also really appreciated that this book examined all aspects of feminism and femininity, and didn't just focus on the "women can do men's work" aspect of it, because what is men's work anyway? It's a ludicrous concept. But so often in literature and media, girls or women who exhibit more "manly" traits - being good at fighting/killing, being aggressive, etc - are applauded, while women who are traditionally feminine are not. Just look at the different receptions that Arya and Sansa Stark get. This book shows that there's more than one way for women to be independent, strong and self-assured. With Felicity, Johanna and Sim, we get three such women as they go out into the world and figure out how to make their own way in it. It does get a little head-bashy at times, but this is still such an important message that girls need to learn and hear (there's no wrong way to be a woman), that I didn't mind it too much when it got a little preachy.

 

Also, Felicity is ace/aro and I identified so much with her on that aspect of herself. Because really, kissing? Ew. In addition to her is Sim, an African Muslim lesbian/bisexual (we don't really know; it doesn't really matter), and some cameos by Monty and Percy, so there's lots of LGBT+ rep in this book. 

 

I'm confused about who the girl in the cover is supposed to be though. Felicity has red hair, Sim is black, and Johanna doesn't come in until about a third of the way through, though the hair color's a match. But the story is told from Felicity's POV. *shrugs* It's a cool cover. :D

 

I thought the historical aspects were much better handled here than in the first book, and were given much better detail and attention. The fantasy elements too were better handled and integrated into the story, though it takes awhile for them to show up. 

I was still bemused about some of it though, in particular that Johanna doesn't bat an eye at learning that dragons are real. It makes sense for Felicity to take it in stride, given the previous book, but Johanna didn't know magic and alchemy and such were real until that moment. How about some doubt, at least? "I'll believe it when I see it" maybe. Something.

(show spoiler)

Johanna and Felicity both display some uncomfortable (but appropriate for the time) colonialist attitudes at points that I wanted to shake them for. 

Rites of Winter (Inheritance #6)

Rites of Winter - Amelia Faulkner

This is the first book in a new "season" and it shows. (I didn't steal that line from Elena! She just got to her review first.) ;)

 

It was nice to pick up more or less where the previous book ended, and to see Laurence and Quentin start to work on some of their issues. Quentin especially is messed up from the events of the previous book, but Laurence has his own hangups he needs to work out too. I really would've liked to see more emphasis made on their emotional and psychological trauma, but that was mostly skimmed over in favor of focusing on their sex life. Which is also important because of what Quentin was forced to remember in the last book, and I don't want to discount that. I'm happy none of that caused a backslide. 

 

But look, I don't like D/s at all and this is getting very close to bordering on that and has been steadily going in that direction for awhile. I also have no idea what's supposed to be so sexy about mesh shirts. To me, they look like an overenthusiastic cat attacked someone's wardrobe. So none of this was working for me, and for it being such an important part of their relationship development it left me cold. Add onto that Laurence wondering when the hell he became so submissive and the theory I've been working with since the end of the second book, and this all gets unfortunately cringe-worthy. I could be totally off with my theory, but there is no way for me to know that at this point. All that combined means their sex scenes are the equivalent of dumping me into the Arctic Ocean.

 

The plot itself is well done and paced, and it was good to see more of Otherworld and see the various ways that fantasy and magic blend together in this world. I did think there was a little too much focus on the action at times, when it would've been nicer to see the emotional tolls some more. I'm not really sure what to make of Basil or Jon at this point, since they're not given much dimension. They're interesting though and I'm looking forward to seeing what they bring to the mix in the future.

 

There were a few missing words in this one, and one chapter's formatting was just wonky - but readable. I also don't remember Laurence being so excessive with the "baby" endearments in past books. I'm not one to quibble over that word like others are, but even I wanted to cast it into the fires of Mt. Doom after the third or fourth chapter.

Mr. Lincoln: The Life of Abraham Lincoln (Audiobook)

Mr. Lincoln: The Life of Abraham Lincoln - NOT A BOOK

Forgive me, Lincoln, for I have sinned. I attempted to listen to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and it was so bad. To atone, I have listened to this wonderful lecture series by Lincoln historian Allen C. Guezlo to learn actual real things about your life. ... I don't know how to close out a confession properly, so I'll just say, dude, you rocked.

 

This is a twelve-part lecture series, each lecture around 35 minutes, that details the life of Abraham Lincoln from his birth in Kentucky to his assassination by John Wilkes Booth. He was a truly fascinating man, who loved his country, believed in moral rights and human rights, and always tried to live within the law. Guezlo presents his lectures in clear and concise detail and while he clearly has great admiration for President Lincoln, he is impartial and gives the facts as they are.

 

This is a great summary of the life and achievements of a remarkable man.

The Heiress Effect (The Brothers Sinister #2)

The Heiress Effect - Courtney Milan

This is easily my favorite to date. Jane, Emily and Free are forces to reckon with, and Oliver learns how to stand up for himself, and Anjan was a surprising delight of a character. I think it'll be hard to top this one. :D

 

I don't recall if we've met Jane Fairfield before now, but from the instant she appears on page, she commands your full attention. She's a plus-size woman with a plus-size dowry, and she's lacking many of the social graces that refined women are expected to have. She's got terrible taste in clothes, and she speaks her mind in the most refreshing way possible. Well, refreshing for the reader. The poor subjects of her attentions will hardly find it so refreshing. But she's one of those people you find it hard to hate - unless you're asshole, like Bradenton. She does some of it by design, since she's actively trying to not get married and knows the best way to put off any man is tell him exactly what you think of him. And it works.

 

Until she meets Oliver. I was instantly intrigued with Oliver and his parents when I read The Duchess War, and have been trying to figure out who would make a good match for him since. Jane fits the bill, but not in the way youI would have expected. So far, Ms. Milan has been doing a fantastic job of finding love interests who challenge each other in the ways they most need to be challenged, and she doesn't have to resort to tired old tropes to do (or finds wonderful ways of poking fun at that tropes when she does use them). Oliver had it hard at Eton and Cambridge, the bastard and unrecognized son of a duke, and he learned how to compromise parts of himself in order to fit in, whereas Jane goes out of her way to stand out. Watching them circle around each other, and learning to trust in each other, was pure delightful. Ms. Milan even had me worried this might end on a cliffhanger. (It doesn't.)

 

Then there's Jane's sister Emily, who suffers from seizures, and their idiotic uncle Titus who really does think he's doing the best he can for her but ye gads this is why women need to be able to direct their own lives, y'all! Emily meets Anjan, an Indian immigrant who is studying law and struggling to fit in with a society that looks down on him just for the color of his skin. I thought the racism that he encounters was delicately handled, and it's shown that even those who are well-meaning can still be insensitive. They're more of a subplot here, but Ms. Milan makes takes scene they have together shine and milks them for everything she can.

 

On top of all this, but linked intricately to everything these characters are struggling with and learning, is Oliver's sister Free, who is determined to get into Cambridge despite her sex, and who is as resourceful as she is willful. 

 

However, add on Sebastian and Violet and this did start to feel a little overstuffed in the back half. I'm guessing Sebastian's book will be next, but setting it up here didn't really do this story much justice and detracted from the central themes. It did serve a purpose for the Jane/Oliver storyline though.

 

And now I have to nitpick: Jane is not slim. The cover model is. And she's once again dressed like she's going to prom. I'm sure the publisher was picking stock photos from a catalogue rather than paying the money for their own photo shoots, but they couldn't find one plus-sized model? Not one? Really? That's depressing.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Audiobook) (DNF @ 57%)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Audio) - Seth Grahame-Smith, Scott Holst

I'm throwing in the towel. I can't take this anymore. I wanted something stupid funny for Halloween. Unfortunately, this is taking itself way too seriously to be funny, and I'm losing too many brain cells trying to find something to appreciate.

 

And the idea that "as long as slavery exists, so will vampires" as if one has anything to do with the other is ludicrous. 

 

And the narrator doesn't even sound like Lincoln! (Otherwise, he does the best he can with what he's given.)

SPOILER ALERT!

Dark Economy

Dark Economy - M.J. Keedwell

This was the book that would never end. I should have DNF at 50% like I planned to, but I thought that adjusting (and lowering) my expectations would suffice. And it did get better for awhile. But then it started dragging again and I had to skim the last 5% or so to get through this because I wanted it finished tonight.

 

Maybe it was reading this while also listening to What Angels Fear, since they're roughly in the same time period (this one takes place 17 years after Angels) and they both feature amateur sleuths who pursue murders that will ultimately never see true justice done for them, but I found this book lacking. Where Angels had a protag who was interesting, versatile and charismatic, Dark Economy's MC is kind of an obnoxious git. Where Angels has an intriguing mystery within the mystery - French spies in wartime England - Dark Economy has privileged boys who couldn't wait for their allowances to buy things. 

 

You've got Cadell Meredith, the obnoxious git, whose constant back-patting made my hand itch to smack him. He's supposed to be a conscientious, top-rate medical student but he's barely in class. He decided to take it upon himself to solve the murder of a man whose body he stole from the graveyard because he obviously couldn't go to the cops with the info. He also clearly didn't know what he's doing, though he did a decent job of faking it, and I was scratching my head what he planned to do with any of the information he was digging up. Even an anonymous letter to the copper who's supposedly dogging his every step yet missing 95% of his antics wouldn't do much good since Cadell messed with most of the evidence he found. Then again, who needs evidence in Ye Olden Tymes? He kept running into one dead-end after another only to find out that it's exactly who you thought it was right from the start.

 

Then there's the "love interest," or shall I say love interests. He lusted after every other guy he came into contact with and even got a mutual hand job from one of them, but it's the copper who he really wanted. Why? I have no clue, actually. Their first interaction, Breton had broken into his home, cooked him dinner (why? IDK!) and interrogated him, threatened him, was an overall jerk and then manhandled him against the wall. I guess it was sexy manhandling??? And from this encounter on, Cadell's supposedly in lust with the guy but since he was lusting after every other guy, it was hard to see why Breton was so special. They did finally get some real interaction after the 50% mark, but most of that was so nonsensical I couldn't buy into it. They didn't actually get together until 98%.

 

The author did well in portraying what it must have been like being a medical student at a time when grave-robbing, even for medical purposes, could get you sent to the gallows, and there's a good sense of atmosphere for the time period. Unfortunately, that atmosphere was often lost by Cadell's inner-thoughts, which made him come across more like a modern-age brat than a mature medical student of the early 1800s.

What Angels Fear (Sebastian St. Cyr #1) (Audiobook)

What Angels Fear - C.S. Harris

It's 1811, England's at war with France and the Regency is about to begin. When a young actress is found murdered in the Lady's Temple, the evidence points to the Duke of Hendon's heir, Sebastian, who goes rogue to prove his innocence. Inspector Lovejoy is determined to catch St. Cyr and bring him to justice, while Lord Jarvis makes his plans for the future of the kingdom.

 

This is a decent first installment. There wasn't a whole lot innovative about it, but it did capture the sense of the early 1800s very well and explained the political climate of England at the time. Many of the twists are predictable, and have been done to death before. There's a little too much repetition as everyone has to exclaim their shock at the heinousness of the actress's death, and there's even the damsel-in-distress rescue at the end. Sebastian has some unusual abilities that had be rolling my eyes on occasion (man can literally hear through walls and has excellent night vision to boot). His investigation gets a little heisty at points, with all his disguises. He's a literal man of mystery. 

 

I'm not sure at all how that ending was supposed to prove Sebastian innocent, but it all worked out for everyone involved so what's the harm in a little rug-sweeping-under?

 

I'll probably try the next one, since my library has the whole series (though not in audio), because this does show promise and I'm interested to see what kinds of investigations Sebastian is going to get involved in next. 

 

This is narrated by Davina Porter, who also narrates the Outlander books, and she's perfect as always. 

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban - Malala Yousafzai

I knew very little about Pakistan outside of news clips before reading this book, and I knew even less about Malala. She's a passionate young woman who loves her family, her country and Islam, and she's dedicated her life to seeing that every child receives an education. Coming from a country where over five million children never receive an education and where girls are encouraged to leave their educations unfinished, and where the Taliban target schools for bombings and shootings, she came to appreciate the importance of education early in her life. She was able to go to the school her father ran, but even that was not always easy after the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley, but she didn't back down and neither did her father. 

 

The writing flows here, whether she's talking about her classmates, her life at home, Pushtan customs or about growing up in the Swat Valley. Her detailing of the various events in Pakistan history, from its founding after being broken off from India to its current state of affairs, is concise and enlightening without getting bogged down. It's clear that her early years of writing and orating has made her confident in speaking her mind and she chronicles the events of her life openly and frankly. 

 

Most of the book takes place before the shooting that changed her life, with the last third or so talking about the shooting and the events afterward, including how it came about that she was removed from Pakistan and her recovery to date. She is an incredibly lucky young woman to have survived, and many people were responsible for that, and she continues to campaign for education for all children. 

 

She truly is an inspiration. 

Halloween Is Murder

Halloween is Murder - Josh Lanyon

Another half-baked short story by JL. Sometimes her short stories are really beautiful, spectacular displays of prose. But most of the time they're this: not fully-formed, more of an outline than a story, with characters you barely have time to get to know before the story is over. Add on the paranormal elements of actual real vampires and vampire hunters  and this just becomes a head-scratcher. There is also zero romance here. A hint of a love story, but that's it. The action is non-existent too, despite this being about vampires and vampire hunters. And there's a really big issue left unresolved at the end too.

Barry seriously didn't think it necessary to tell his client that her brother is out for her fortune? Um...he'll probably try to kill her next. Geez.

(show spoiler)

 

I was also really thrown by the fact this takes place in the world of Adrien English (and therefore Holmes & Moriarity, All's Fair, Art of Murder and just about every other series she's done her little crossover/tie-ins with). Um...what? That makes no sense. And just makes The Hell You Say look like a missed opportunity. Not the best tie-in she's come up with, in my opinion.

 

Still, it's JL, so the writing is still good and has a mild, throwback sort of humor (this is based in the 50s/60s) one expects from a Lanyon story. Just wish it had been longer, like the world and characters really deserved. 

A Kiss for Midwinter (The Brothers Sinister #1.5)

A Kiss For Midwinter - Courtney Milan

This is the first dud in this series for me. It just never really seemed to gel with me and I even contemplated not finishing it but it was short enough that I powered through. The ending is a bit better than the beginning, which was very repetitive. A good ten pages could have been shaved off this without missing anything - or better yet, those pages could have been used to better development this relationship.

 

Jonas is a nice enough bloke, in his blunt, socially-inept way. But he's still following around a woman with no interest in him, who he falls for in literally a second. And she hates him, but of course that's only because of how he makes her feel and blah blah blah. I just didn't feel the chemistry, and the relationship development felt by-the-numbers. I guess expecting Ms. Milan to write an historical Christmas novella while also avoiding trope pitfalls was asking too much. 

 

I did like Lydia's father, and felt for Jonas's situation with his father. I would have liked to see more of them.

Beowulf (Audiobook)

Beowulf - R.K. Gordon, Unknown, Robertson Dean

The only thing I knew about Beowulf was the three-episode arc on Xena that dealt with the legend in their own special Xena way. Then there was that weird episode of Star Trek: Voyager, which pretty describes every episode of that show, but it's the one where the doctor is Beowulf. So I've been meaning to read the original - or as close to the original as we can get - for years now.

 

The prose is lush and descriptive with a minimal use of words, and Robertson Dean did a great job performing the piece. It was bit hard to follow though at times, since there a lot of unfamiliar names and many of the words don't mean the same thing they mean nowadays, if we use them at all. I'm definitely going to have to read this with my own eyeballs one day. I'm sure I'll get more out of it when I do.

Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera #1) (Audiobook)

Furies of Calderon - Jim Butcher

DNF @ 20%

 

Bored now.

 

This reads more like Brandon Sanderson and Michael Sullivan teamed up to write the most basic, convoluted "epic" fantasy of all time rather - and failing - than anything Jim Butcher would write. I love the Dresden Files, but this was boring. The characters are boring - they're either super good or super evil. The twists are boring - a big one is revealed in the third chapter, only a couple of scenes after so-and-so was killed. We jump around from one POV character to another, get to see a scene they're in and move on to another. Nothing's really explained, especially all this fury nonsense (aka Pokemon) which is the crux of the magical whatits in this world. There's no reason to care about these characters or what is happening to them or what's going on in this world.

 

Kate Reading is a decent narrator but she reads slow. Speeding this up to 1.20x helped, but not enough to make up for the lack of world-building and character development.

Acts of Faith (Cost of Repairs #4)

Acts of Faith - A.M. Arthur

 

When the seven-year old is the most mature person in the room, you've got problems.

 

Massive problems.

 

Mostly irrational, overprotective, miscommunication-because-your-head's-stuck-up-your-butt drama llama problems. 

 

My GOD! I wanted to smack Rey so many times. Sam isn't spared either. He gets some stern finger-wagging. 

 

And how do you not look in the car!

(show spoiler)

 

Add in the hilariously distracting typos (talk drink of water, mandolins in kitchen cupboards) and the Reign/Sam and Samuel/Rey naming device on the POV switches, and this was one annoying read.

 

I don't care enough about David to read his story, and I'm not feeling compelled to go back and read #3 with Gavin and whats-his-name, because if the grown men can't even act their age I have no hopes the teen boys will be any better. So this is it for me and this series. And probably this author.

 

3 stars because Faith was adorable.

Restless Spirits (Spirits #1) (Audiobook)

Restless Spirits - Jordan L. Hawk, Greg Tremblay

My review of the book is here and not much has changed. I did like the relationship development between Henry and Vincent better this time around. Not sure why, but it did. I still can't believe how idiotic and naive Henry was at times, and the fact he and Vincent never figured out the real-life human threat until the end - geez, it was so obvious! And I'm not just saying that because I read it before; I'd actually completely forgotten this part of the plot. So please, guys, don't quit your day job and become detectives. You would suck at it.

 

I decided to reread this since I barely remembered much about it and I'm planning to read the other two in the series soonish. Since this was just released on audio, I figured now was the time for a reread. This is also the first audiobook by Greg Tremblay I listened to. He did a decent job. I wasn't blown away by his narration, but I wasn't annoyed either. His range for voices seems limited, but I was mostly able to keep track of who was speaking when. He was easy to listen to and spoke at a speed that didn't require me to speed up the playback very much.

The Governess Affair (The Brothers Sinister #0.5)

The Governess Affair - Courtney Milan

Oh, what fun!

 

It was a joy to see how Hugh and Serena first met and fell in love. Knowing already from The Duchess War that they'd end up HEA did help me when reading some of the things Hugh did to try to thwart Serena's attempts to disgrace Duke Clermont. If I had read this first, I might not have been so quickly forgiving. But then Hugh's such a giant goober and a softie that I might have forgiven him just as quickly anyway, lol.

 

Their interactions had a very Beatrice/Benedict vibe to them, and for once I didn't mind the insta-love at all. They were both evenly matched (well, Hugh might have been a little outmatched) and they both needed something from the other that they didn't even know they needed. 

 

There's also a short little scene of Robert and Marshall meeting at Eton at the very end. It doesn't really add anything that we don't already know, but it was nice to see "live" as it were.

Currently reading

Dangerous Spirits
Jordan L. Hawk
Jane Eyre (Centaur Classics) [The 100 greatest novels of all time - #17]
Charlotte Brontë
A Dance with Dragons
George R.R. Martin
Progress: 49 %