Thursday, August 22, 2019

Review: Lord of Darkness

Lord of Darkness Lord of Darkness by Elizabeth Hoyt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Maiden Lane series reading continues and with this one....

It's 18th Century Batman.

No, really.

Past books have included the "Ghost of St. Giles," a legend, yes; but also a real person, masked. In this book, the fake Ghost of St. Giles is, well, Batman. A rich man, with an exercise routine to keep fit, a mansion, a faithful manservant, a secret entrance and a bat cave (OK a basement type thing connected to his house.)

Honestly, once I realized this I didn't pay much heed to anything else. The anything else is Batman, er, Godric St. John is rich and has a tragic backstory. His beloved wife died; then he married a young woman for reasons (she was pregnant and needed a husband and well reasons that make sense in the books); but she lost the baby and has been living at his country house with some of his relatives.

Except now his wife, Margaret, has come to town, with those relatives (basically stepmother and half-sisters he's estranged from).

Complications: she blames the Ghost of St. Giles for the death of her beloved (aka the baby daddy who got her pregnant and then died.)

So she hates his secret identity! Oh, spoiler: the ghost didn't kill the beloved, and the mystery here is about who did, and why. It's connected to the rich folks of London who take advantage of the poor - a theme in a few of these books, in one way or another. Sometimes it's the evil gin; sometimes it's prostitution, sometimes it's sweat shops.

And to make it spicy, Margaret wants a baby something fierce so has decided she'll seduce her husband.

I was so-so with some prior ones, but this one more than made up for it.








View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Review: See What I Have Done

See What I Have Done See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've read a couple of the Lizzie Borden nonfiction books; so I wanted to read this historical fiction about the case.

Turns out, I read this when it originally came out and somehow forgot I had! See what happens without Goodreads.

What really worked: the atmosphere. The feeling of three grown women trapped in a small house. Not "trapped" in the sense of "someone has locked you in somewhere," but, rather, trapped in the sense that for that time period, they had little or no options in life and all where tied to each other, tied to that house.

For Lizzie -- in her early thirties, and, for her time, something strange and other: an unmarried woman, a -- gasp -- spinster. Not a wife, not the "homemaker" in charge of the house, yes, a daughter, but an older daughter. No real options for work or education.

For her stepmother: yes, in charge of the house, yes, married, but with no children of her own and stepdaughters who called her "Mrs. Borden." Tensions around money. What power did she have, or not have? And what role did she have, with no children to take care of, no job, just a house to run, a house she shared with three adult women: Lizzie, her older sister Emma, and the maid, Bridget/Maggie.

For Maggie: an Irish immigrant, with literally no power, the servant in the house who does all the grunt work but where else can she go? What are her other options? Heck, they won't even call her by her own name. Instead, it's the name of a previous maid.

So I think this captured a world where grown women are sharing a common space and have neither the words nor the options to navigate that space.

Anyway. Murder.

Spoilers would be telling Schmidt addressed that, because it's why you're going to read the book, right? So yeah. Not doing it.








View all my reviews

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Review: The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another fun romp of an adventure, set in 18th century Europe. A sequel to The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (go, read it, it's amazing.)

Felicity is the younger Montague sibling, serious and studious, with dreams of becoming a doctor. All you need to know about the first book is Felicity and her older brother basically ran away from home and set out for themselves. Felicity's reasons were basically that she wanted to pursue an education, rather than being a lady and getting married and becoming a wife.

What pushes Felicity in this book is her ambition: and her ambition leads her on a series of adventures, with other equally strong young women. This is a book about choices; about friendship; and adventure. And yes there are petticoats and piracy.

If I had to explain the plot simply (which is a bit tough), Felicity decides to go to Germany to see a childhood frenemy because the frenemy is marrying Felicity's doctor-hero, and Felicity believes that somehow she can get a job with the doctor that will help Felicity become a doctor. Things don't work out as she expected, anticipated, or wanted.

Things I liked included the adventure, the friendships, old friends showing up, unexpected twists and turns, and that romance was not a big thing because Felicity is asexual.

Things I liked less, but understand how and why it was in the book: Felicity is very much a "I'm not like other girls" girl, and -- without spoilers -- she does get called on it; and it also does make sense why she thinks that way, and why she has to think that way, to survive the society she is in and follow the dreams she has.

Last thing: listened on audio and it was great. And I wish there were more books.







View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Review: Between the Lines

Between the Lines Between the Lines by Nikki Grimes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A companion to Bronx Masquerade and I have to admit, I don't remember if I read Bronx Masquerade. So, this passes the "stand alone" test.

i listened to the audio, which used multiple narrators for the multiple teens telling their stories. What they have in common? The same high school English teacher, writing poetry and getting ready for a poetry slam.

I enjoy these types of books: different people telling the story, with their different perspectives. There's always one you identify with a bit more than others, one you learn more from than others.

I'll say this is less about poetry and more about connection, communication, and connections -- letting people in. It's about learning about oneself and about people you think you know, but don't.

The two who stuck with me the most: Genesis, a foster child, whose future is uncertain (or, rather, certain: she's by herself and about to age out of the foster system). Marcel, whose family was fractured when his father was arrested on a trumped up charge.






View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Review: Thief of Shadows

Thief of Shadows Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OK, so in book 1, we had 18th century murder mystery and the intro to the 18th century London slums and our nobles/every day folks. Book 2, had the love triangle and pushing against an arranged marriage and touched a bit on the problematic sources of money for nobles: the "oh we don't actually work" with the "ugh, but what you do for work to get money is so unseemly." Book 3, was the pirate king who is the reformed kind of bad guy.

And now, book 4! Here is another romantic mix up (he's the virginal school teacher who runs the orphanage and only wears black! She's the rich and titled widow who likes pretty things!) with a side note that he's secretly one of the ghosts of St. Giles who help the poor and desperate.

This one more than made up for some of my "eh" feelings for other books. Probably because I liked the tension between the two because of class and money, and how those things were overcome because of shared interests and passions. Is he really a stick in the mud? Is she really flighty? Wearing black doesn't make him a no fun puritan and enjoying clothes doesn't make her uninterested in serious things!

(Actually I would love more backstory on Winter's family, because of the puritanish names, the dedication to helping the poor despite the risks and lack of resources, etc.)





View all my reviews

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Review: The Trial of Lizzie Borden

The Trial of Lizzie Borden The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Did anyone with the name Lizzie grow up and not have the "Lizzie Borden" rhyme chanted at them?

It's made me endlessly fascinated by the Borden murders. (For the record: I adore the Christina Ricci movie & TV series with Ricci as Lizzie.)

In the late 19th century, Andrew and Abigail Borden were found murdered in their home. Both had been killed by multiple blows from an ax; the scientific evidence said that Mrs. Borden was dead for about two hours before Mr. Borden. Only Lizzie, in her early thirties, and a twenty something maid were at home when the murders took place. Lizzie was arrested, tried, and found not guilty.

And I'll say from the start: No, I'm not convinced she did it.

It's amazing both how much we know and how little we know. And how much the science of the 19th century is relied on.

As per the title, this book relies heavily on the trial transcripts. It's a fascinating, deep look at the trial and how both sides played on the views people held back then, of what women were supposed to be like or what they were supposed to do or not do. Did Lizzie react the right way to the murder of her father and stepmother? Was her alibi suspect because it was a bad alibi, or because folks couldn't believe how a spinster spent her days?

Recommended; and yes, one day I'd like to go to the house were the murders took place.









View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Review: The Clockmaker's Daughter

The Clockmaker's Daughter The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Kate Morton.

In the past: 1860s, and a group of artists spend a summer at magical house. It ends in a robbery and murder.

In the present: an archivist finds an old sketch book and a photograph and finds herself drawn to the house it depicts. She is also about to be married, but uncertain about what it is she does or doesn't want from life.

Birdie, the clockmaker's daughter, was part of that group of artists and her ghost tells her story and the stories of others who come to the house. At times, it's a school for girls with a lonely young girl; a place for artists, where a damaged World War I veteran goes to research and to hide away; a refuge for a family who have left the dangers of London during the Blitz.

And now the present, with Elodie, and her discovery that she has links to the house.

All these stories weave together and it's just wonderful and tragic and hopeful and beautiful. And I both want to read all of Morton's books at once, and also delay it, so that I'll always have some left to discover.








View all my reviews

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Review: Scandalous Desires

Scandalous Desires Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pirates!

So, in book 1, for reasons, Silence (the youngest sister of the main character) went to beg the local crime boss, I mean pirate because it is the mid 18th century, to do something for her husband.

The pirate was handsome so I knew of course somehow they'd end up together.

This is that book.

I have to say, part of me was "ugh" because of his earlier treatment and manipulation of her. How was he redeemed? Well, partly because he's a self made man in a time when there are little options for someone born into poverty, with all that involves. Partly because his manipulation was to the wider world: he made it appear as if he'd slept with her, but did not, and said to her: if your family and husband love you, they'll believe you when we say we didn't have sex.

Guess what? They don't believe her.

So, yeah, he's pretty much redeemed, but I'm a bit torn on how this series is treating women who are sex workers. Many are shown as being pushed into it, because of poverty, because of the men in their life, because they are children without choices. But, even then, there is so much dismissive talk of the women who are free with their favors and sell themselves -- maybe a future book will take that type of woman as a main character and I'll see a more nuanced view.








View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Review: Sugar Pine Trail

Sugar Pine Trail Sugar Pine Trail by RaeAnne Thayne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, I skipped book 6 because my library doesn't have it.

She's a librarian who for reasons, is renting the second story apartment to a handsome pilot playboy.

This was the first time there wasn't any real sickness or accidents involved; or any secret parents/children.

I like that she presents at first as drab enough that he's met her a number of times and doesn't remember her.

I like that it's not so much as she's drab as for many reasons, her life has been on hold for years, mainly caring for sick parents. The death of both her elderly parents has left her alone, but it's also freeing her to pursue her own desires, her own wish list.

What brings this couple together? Well, I guess there is sickness and accidents. Two young boys are in need of a temporary foster home: father died in military, mother is sick, and for reasons, librarian Julia is the only possible one who can take them in. But, as an only child, she has limited experience with kids and pilot Jamie, who is from a large family, steps in to help and save the day. I loved the two boys, because they are portrayed very real. Which means, sometimes they are as annoying as heck.

Characters from earlier books appear, sometimes wed, sometimes with kids, so the "happy ever after" happens -- but it doesn't happen at the end of the book. I'd call most of the endings as "happy for now," in that the two folks are together and yes, it's love, but it's not engaged/married/pregnant.







View all my reviews

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Review: Snowfall on Haven Point

Snowfall on Haven Point Snowfall on Haven Point by RaeAnne Thayne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, Andie works from home, some sort of website design.

Marshall Bailey is the Sheriff in the next town over and he's been in a recent accident so is stuck at home and doesn't want help.

But! Andie is besties with Marshall's sister, Wyn, so she's going to bring him food and comfort.

So. What I like about this series: people are introduced in earlier books, but because a whole community is created, it's never clear who the stars of the next book will be. Here, Andie is friends with Wyn, from an earlier book, and in that book we learned that Andie's first husband, a police officer, died in the line of duty and his partner, under the guise of "helping," stalked and then raped her, so she left town and was kind of in hiding and then Wyn, her boyfriend, and her brother -- Marshall -- were all involved when the rapist found her and attacked her again.

So, yes, Andie has a tragic backstory, but it's not the point -- it's part of who she is, yes, but, like Wyn's story, it's treated well.

This book continues the trend of folks in Haven Point having something health related going on -- here, it's Marshall's broken leg from a car accident.

BUT I also realized there is something else going on in many of these books! Secret parents/children! In one earlier book, the heroine was a secret love child who was brought into her father's family after her mother died. In another, someone learned that their emotionally abusive dad wasn't their dad after all. And someone else was the father of two kids and he suspected he wasn't the father of the younger boy, but darn it, he loved that kid and it was his son, gosh darn it.

Here, it turns out Marshall has a secret son! And again, I didn't realize until this book that secret/hidden family members were a recurring thing.

What else? Christmas solves so many problems. You have no idea. The next book isn't available from my public library, so I'll be skipping ahead in the series.




View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Review: Notorious Pleasures

Notorious Pleasures Notorious Pleasures by Elizabeth Hoyt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Both folks are titled here, and it's pretty much an arranged marriage but then she falls for his rake of a brother instead.

I have to say, this is the book that made the series just 3 stars for me.

So, triangle: heroine, fiance, hero who is fiance's brother. And there is some interesting stuff going on, in terms of the fiance having a mistress and double standards and also some family drama because of his hate for his brother.

But, at one point the fiance reacts violently about something and while he is forgiven in the book, I just can't with that type of violence. Both that it happens, who shrugs it off, and who forgives and why.

I also disliked the heroine's brother, who goes from "arranged marriage but I want you to be happy" to "marry who I say or else" and he's not supposed to be a bad guy.

There's also an interesting side story about gin: both the damage it's doing to the working poor but also how things like making gin support the fancy lives of the rich and I'm curious as to how this plays out as the series goes on.

There's something about this series so I continue!






View all my reviews

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Review: Shelter in Place

Shelter in Place Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Only Nora could pull off a romantic suspense book against the backdrop of a mass shooting.

Why it works: it's set over several years. So this isn't romance after a trauma; it's about folks who survived something, how that shapes them, and then how as healed adults they come together.

It's no spoiler to say one of the folks behind the mass shooting survives, and plots their revenge, viewing themselves as the victim. This was a strong point of the story, in that their identity is known by the reader fairly early on so that the reader isn't guessing who the killer is. But, for me it was also a weak part because I really disliked the person and spending so much time with them was just ugh.

Things I like about Nora's books in general are here, also: the main characters are strong characters with backstories that make sense, they are independent, and they have sexual pasts and aren't shamed for it.









View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Review: Wicked Intentions

Wicked Intentions Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Historical Romance, mid 18th century, centered around the slums of London, specifically St. Giles.

She's the widow running the orphanage her family started; he's the noble looking for the person who murdered his mistress.

Future books are around their family and friends, and one thing I really liked about this book was the intersection between the workers and the nobles.





View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Review: A Big Mooncake for Little Star

A Big Mooncake for Little Star A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another beautifully illustrated book. I want to frame each page.

Mama makes a mooncake and hangs it in the sky; she tells Little Star not to touch it until Mama says.

That night, Little Star can't help herself. She gets up and nibbles just a little -- so little hardly anyone will notice.

And the next night she nibbles a little more.... and then a little more...

And so we see the reason behind the phases of the moon. It's Little Star nibbling away each night!

And when Mama sees what she has done and the mooncake is no more.... they create a new one.

Now, of course, I want to eat a mooncake.






View all my reviews
Share on Tumblr

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails