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.








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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.








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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.







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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.






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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.)





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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.









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