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Category Archives: Book Reviews

Manor of Secrets

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manor of secrets

The Manor of Secrets more like the manor of inconsistent characters and spoiled heiresses. I can see where Longshore was trying to go with this but it was poorly executed. I spent most of the book rolling my eyes and waiting for it to be over.

I think we were supposed to like the main character, Lady Charlotte, but I had a hard time considering I wanted to smack her for most of it. She is completely unaware of the position of power she has and how the affects how she is treated by her staff. She “makes friends” with one of the kitchen girls, Janie but regularly asks her to take risks that could cause her to lose her job. Charlotte who has spent her whole life ignoring the staff suddenly decided that they she should venture downstairs and turn the whole social dynamic on its head. Of course she’s not doing this to better the lives of her staff, nope she’s doing it because she wants adventure.

The book claims that the Manor is full of secrets but it really has one that you can figure out fairly early on. The pace and the lack of mystery make the story drag. On top of that characters change depending on what Longshore wants to happen in the story. It was beyond frustrating to see a character stand up for themselves on one page and on the next cower and cry.

The book has a very campy feel to it. And there’s a poorly written tacky love triangle. We all know how much I love, love triangles…. So not only is there a love triangle but it’s written with an attempt to be dramatic and just comes off as ridiculous.

SPOILER

No one no matter how awful they seem are actually awful. By the end of the book any and all transgressions are forgiven and everyone is BFF’s. *gag*

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

Yes

Trigger Warnings:

No known

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)

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Tarnished

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tarnished

Tarnished by Karnina Cooper is a steampunk, mystery, paranormal book staring Cherry St. Croix. Cherry is a high society outcast who instead of going to parties would rather spend her time preforming experiments. She is an orphan and unfortunately has not come into her inheritance yet and must work as a bounty hunter to make up for what her allowance doesn’t cover.

Something Cherry’s allowance doesn’t cover is her opium addiction. Cooper, at least in this novel, doesn’t portray this as a bad thing, it’s hard to tell if this is because the book from Cherry’s point of view. Cherry’s addiction doesn’t seem to be terribly awful, she is never really afraid of going through withdrawal. She also is using the drug, like many addicts do, to self-medicate. Cherry has terrible nightmares and the only way she can get a good night sleep is drugged.

Cooper set up in this book the drama for a love triangle in the next books of the series. Cherry gets to choose between the Earl, Cornelius Kerrigan Compton, who is in good standing with society, and Micajah Hawke, who is part of the literal underbelly of London. I loved the idea of London being split, high society is up on stilts in the London sky to get away from the smog and the rest of the people are still on the ground. This means flying gondolas! It’s a great take on steampunk London.

This could be an incredible series as long as Copper doesn’t exchange fast paced mysteries for drawn out angst over which man to choose.

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

Yes

Triggers:

Child molestation

Child abuse

Abuse

Drug use

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)

A Dark Dividing

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a dark dividing

 

A Dark Dividing by is Sarah Rayne is a gothic mystery spanning over 80 years.  It has a multiple POV, which jumps back and forth though time. The book introduces us to Henry, a down on his luck reporter to do an in depth article on a photographer, Simone Anderson. Henry’s article isn’t on her photography though but on her twin sister and mysterious mother.

The most interesting character was Charlotte, if the whole book had been about her I would have loved it. None of the people are really the main characters, its Mortmain House, an old workhouse and orphanage. All of the characters end up here at one point or another.  The scenes in Mortmain house are supposed to be most suspenseful and scariest but they just didn’t quite cut it.

It starts out strong but about halfway through I was just waiting for it to end. The last 50 or so pages drew me back in. There is supposed to be some horror in the story but when it appears it’s pretty mild. I’m disappointed I didn’t like this book more. It had great potential but it really couldn’t hold my attention.  This was the first book I’ve ever read by Sarah Rayne so I think I’ll give her another chance.

 

Trigger Warnings:

Slurs

Child Molestation

Rape

Sexual Assault

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

Yes

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)

 

 

 

 

After Dark

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after dark

 

 

After Dark by Jayne Castle is advertised as a romance, fantasy, mystery book.  I love fantasy books but this one was the pits. The main character Lydia is trying to put her life back together after a bad experience in an alien tomb. She lost her job at the university and is now a private contractor working to help people find artifacts for their private collections.

This claims to be the first book in the series but if that’s the case the world building sucked. It took me about half the book to find out that the humans were the alien species on the planet.  From what I could gather that humans journeyed (maybe on a spaceship?) to the planet, Harmony, through what was referred to as a curtain.  Humans carved out a place on the planet and while they were doing that the curtain closed and they were forever separated from Earth. If someone has read this series and knows if any of this is even close to understanding the world please let me know. Even though this book was awful I may just read the next the book to see if I understood the world even a little bit.

The story starts with Lydia and her first client Emmett discovering a dead body. The body turns out to be Lydia’s friend Chester.  Thus starting the kind of crappy, really not well thought out mystery or romance.

Emmett is super rich and he’s handsome to boot! But even though he wants for nothing he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. That’s right ladies if you need help painting your wall and Emmett shows up in a nice suit he’ll just grab a paintbrush and start helping! He also just decides to fix things in Lydia’s life without her asking (ex. Lock on building). But there is one problem… HE IS A GHOST HUNTER AND LYDIA HATES THOSE! Lydia spends a lot of time saying she hates them and making assumptions about them and then Emmett gets annoyed. Does Lydia figure out that she should stop doing this? Nope, which is super weird considering before her incident she was a well published academic.

Emmett also suffers from the condition that most male leads in romance novels have, that he keeps secrets from Lydia. If you think that sounds kind of dumb, you don’t understand, he knows what’s going on. Since he knows what’s going on he continually tries to explain to Lydia that she’s not safe and he needs to fire her. Why? BECAUSE HE KNOWS WHATS GOING ON! Lydia is just going to get hurt and even though he repeatedly says that he knows she’s not fragile he keeps trying to decide whats best for her.

The repetitive nature of Castel’s writing frequently made me groan. Miss what someone said because you were too busy rolling your eyes? Don’t worry it’ll probably be mentioned again in the next page and a half or so.

Also why do people who write books that take place in the future do weird things to what they call marriage? In this book you could have one marriage for no kids and another for if you were having kids. But if you wanted to have kids and you were in a no kid marriage you had to dissolve your first one and get remarried. THIS DOESN’T MAKE SENSE! Why would a society do that? Why? This is just Castle trying to show how “weird” and “different” the future is without really putting any effort into it. It’s just lazy. This reminded me a lot of J.D Robb (Nora Roberts) In Death series, if you like those books then this series is for you.

Trigger Warnings:

No known

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

Yes

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)

Kindness Goes Unpunished

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Kindness-Goes-Unpunished

 

 

Kindness Goes Unpunished by Craig Johnson is the third book in his Longmire series.  Walt accompanies Henry to Philadelphia, where Henry is giving a lecture Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  Walt’s reason’s for going aren’t entirely to support Henry and keep him company, Walt’s daughter Cady lives there.  The first few pages will make anyone who has ever had to deal with children laugh out loud. Walt is trying to read a fairy tale to a room of children and it’s not going well, “My daddy hides his medicine whenever anybody knocks on our door…He says he doesn’t have a prescription…He smokes his medicine.” (p. 3) Shortly after Walt and Henry arrive in Philadelphia Cady is attacked and barely survives.

A good portion of this book is spent on Walt and Henry’s love for Cady. You can feel their raw pain and confusion about what to do. And though this is a vital part of the story and could have easily be dragged out to the point of losing its potency, Johnson doesn’t do that.

The setting of this series is as important as the people, Wyoming almost feels like another character. This book doesn’t take place in Wyoming though, it takes place in Philadelphia. I wasn’t sure if Johnson would be able to hold onto the magic if he moved Walt to a city. I don’t know why I was worried. Walt’s not some country bumpkin, he’s traveled the world but I still didn’t expect him to do as well as he did. Walt being in city doesn’t change him, he still wears his cowboy hat and boots, so he stands out a bit more than back home.

We also are introduced to Moretti’s family. It’s easy to see where she gets her no nonsense attitude.

Spoiler time: It comes out in the book that Cady is in an abusive relationship and while I hate that she is in one, I love the way Johnson wrote it. Cady is described as a strong, independent, intelligent, and well-loved woman.  Normally when we are introduced to a woman in an abusive relationship these women are the exact opposite of Cady, and are so desperate for love that they’ll take whatever they can get even if it leaves bruises. Those women are only one part of victims of domestic violence and women like Cady are often seen as too smart to “get themselves” into a situation like that but that’s not reality. All women from all walks of life are venerable to an abusive relationship. Johnson doesn’t condemn Cady for this though we and by default, Walt, are directed to take our anger for this out on her abuser (which is where it belongs.)

 

Trigger Warnings:

Animal Death

Abuse

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

No

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)

Not a Drop to Drink

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not a drop to drink

 

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis is about a dystopian future where water has become worth killing for.  The beginning of the book introduces us to Lynn and her mother, Lauren.  People always ask why I love young adult fiction and this is why. We have a female protagonist in a dire situation and she can take care of herself.  Lynn never knew her father and it’s just been her and her mother defending their pond. The pond is a clean source of water and one of the only consistent ones in the area. Lynn’s family has owned the land for generations and she and her mother are determined to defend it at all costs.

The beginning of the book reminds me a lot of The Road by Cormac McCarthy but less bleak. Just like the two main characters in The Road Lynn and Lauren have gone from house to house to grab whatever goods they can use.  There’s not a lot of action going on and we are introduced to the world that has formed with water becoming scarce. Lynn learned to shoot as soon as she was big enough to hold a gun, she and her mother take turns sitting on the roof sniping anyone that gets too close. When they’re not sitting on the roof they’re gathering water or food to store for the winter. Luckily for Lynn her mother was a big fan of National Geographic and understands the basics of living off the grid.

Like most young adult novels there is a little bit of romance but thankfully not the creepy stalker kind. Lynn does meet at young man but he’s not verbally abusive or manipulative. It’s a sad statement of our media that I find it refreshing that when a girl meets a boy he doesn’t treat her like crap and she doesn’t become a different person for him. The romance in this book also has the traditional roles reversed, Lynn can hunt and defend herself but Eli grew up in the city and doesn’t know the first thing about how to survive.

This book poses the interesting question what would you do if one day no more water came out of your faucets.  Reading how hard Lynn and Lauren work just to survive makes me eternally grateful for our modern day conveniences.

 

Trigger Warnings:

Rape

Sexual Assault

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

Yes

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)

Death Without Company

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death without company

 

Death Without Company by Craig Johnson is the second book in the Longmire series.  This mystery starts when a local woman, Mari Baroja, dies at Durant Home for Assisted Living. This is also where Lucian, Walt’s mentor and former sheriff, lives. Lucian insists that Baroja’s death wasn’t the caused by old age and demands an investigation be opened. Walt, being the current sherif, is forced to figure out if Lucian is right or if Baroja died of natural causes. Walt is forced to unravel his mentor’s old secrets and those of Baroja, but don’t worry he still does it with his dry wit.

A nice addition to this story is Walt’s new dog, Dog. It’s a perfectly fitting name for Walt to give an animal; it fits better than Fido ever would. We were introduced to Dog in the first book, The Cold Dish¸ but Dog belonged to Vonnie Hayes. In the end of the last book after Vonnie committed suicide, Dog just shows up at Walt’s door and won’t leave.  They grieve for Vonnie together, in a way that no one else can.

The interplay between Walt and the other characters is what makes this series work.  A lone cop trying to solve a crime wouldn’t work in this world and thank god for that. Walt doesn’t get to pull stupid stunts and then we’re told how brave and wonderful he is.  When Walt does something stupid everyone that sees him tells how they feel about his recent antics. Henry, his best friend, and Moretti, one of his deputy’s, are fleshed out more but they keep their distinct voices.

If you have any problems with graphic abuse and sexual assault do not read this book. I repeat do not read this book. These acts are horrific and Johnson describes them in a way that makes you fully feel their weight.

I was nervous that the second book wouldn’t pull me in as strongly as the first one but I shouldn’t have.

Trigger Warnings:

Abuse

Sexual assault (graphic)

Rape (graphic)

Domestic Violence

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

No

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)