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Tag Archives: four stars

I Capture the Castle

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i capture the castle

I loved this book but kind of in the way you love your grandmother, sometimes her ideas and the things she says really aren’t things that people say anymore, you’re a little embarrassed buy this but you can still see the value. This book was originally published in 1948 and reading you’re not the least bit surprised. The book is written as 17 year old Casandra’s journal, I’ve always been a fan for this style of writing. If you want me to love a book just make it sound like I’m reading someone’s journal. I wonder what that says about me? Oh well…

Abuse is handled as a very normal, even expected thing. “Oh father -do you think that’s what has been the matter with you – that you stopped getting violent? Has repressing your temper somehow repressed your talent?” (299) Her father, James Mortmain, wrote one successful novel and then the neighbor caught him brandishing a cake knife at his wife, even though its frequently stated that James wouldn’t have really hurt her. He was just upset, but the cake knife incident landed him three months in jail.  Once he is released from jail, James takes a 40 year lease on a crumbling castle in the country, moves his family there, and never writes again.  I’m not really sure his temper ever really does go away, just the physical abuse. James spends his days in the gatehouse and people are never to disturb him or question him in any way. If they try they are either glared at or spoken to very sharply, even if it’s his wife.

Casandra is an endearing protagonist. Even though their family is dirt poor Casandra never seems bitter about it, unlike her sister. Casandra always’ tries to make the best out of a situation even if she doesn’t completely know what, if anything, she should do.

A lot of reviews I read for this book all said it was written for 15 year old girls, which quite frankly kind of pissed me off. This is a coming of age story written from the perspective of a 17 year old girl, many coming of age stories with male protagonist are viewed as books everyone should read. The male reviewers frequently stated that they now had to do something to “prove” their masculinity, because of course reading a book with by a woman about a young woman is so completely threatening to your (from what I could tell) cis, heterosexual, masculinity. These reviews just reinforced that we have a society that views males as the default.

I really wasn’t in the mood to read a coming of age story, I read the first few pages and then decided that I would read it later. Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t get the characters out of my head, I still can’t. I ended up needing to finish the book, not wanting to. There were times when I kept wondering what kept drawing me back in and the best answer I can come up with is Dodie Smith is a brilliant writer. All of the characters were fleshed out and had a distinct voice. If you’re comfortable with your sexuality and want to read an incredibly well written and timeless book, grab this one.

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

Yes

Trigger Warning:

Abuse

Final Rating:

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

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)

The Cold Dish

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the cold dish

 

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson is the first book in a series, that introduces us to Walt Longmire, a sheriff in Absaroka County, Wyoming. The first paragraph grabs you and drags you into Walt’s world of local drunks and small town politics. You’re introduced to a cast of characters that are equally fleshed out, from the woman, Dorothy, who runs the café near the sheriff’s department to Henry Standing Bear, a Cheyanne Indian and Walt’s best friend. You aren’t just reading about Wyoming you’re there; you can see the mountains and smell the fresh air and maybe just that faint hint of animal manure (you are in rural Wyoming).

The book series has the writing and the characters to entice readers who prefer vastly different types of books. My father and I (who up until this point have never read the same book and enjoyed it) have been devouring this series as fast as we can.  My father is a fan of westerns and grew up watching The Lone Ranger; this book does have a white law man and Indian friend, just without the 1950’s racist undertones (Tonto being played by a white guy). Calling it 1950’s racism is actually a bit unfair, in the new Lone Ranger movie Tonto is still played by a white guy.

Walt and Henry each bring their own strengths to the story, and while there is some mystic Native American stuff, it’s more focused on Walt’s perception of it. Henry, thank god, is not a magical Indian. Having served in Vietnam, Walt doesn’t have the taste for unnecessary violence and frequently forgets his gun when he takes it off. Even though Walt isn’t a fan of violence, you are never given the impression that he is not a rough and tumble kind of guy. Walt is the kind of man that will always give you the chance to stand down, not because he can’t fight, but because he’s seen the damage violence can cause and would rather not be the cause.

I have always pretty much hated any sort of western and only started to read the series because I saw the first season of the show Longmire, which is based on the books. The books I love are the ones with witty dialogue and consistent characters; this book has both those things in spades. One sentence you’ll be reading some sad, horrible, or otherwise dark discovery and the next one will have you laugh out loud.  Henry and Walt have the easy camaraderie of two people who have known each other for decades and their conversations are one of my favorite things in the book, its where most of the great one-liners are.

Who wouldn’t I recommend this book to? My grandmother. I know, I know, “But I thought this book was good for all sorts of readers?” You’re right I did say that and that is true, unless you don’t like women who swear. My grandmother doesn’t even like it when people say damn, not alone when people say fuck and not just once, but multiple times. The woman in question, Deputy Victoria Morretti, is a direct and clever transplant from Philadelphia. She’s one of my favorite characters, I love her for all the reasons my grandmother wouldn’t. Morretti isn’t concerned with bringing culture and class to the wilderness, she was a tough cop in Philadelphia and she’s a tough cop in Absaroka County. She isn’t trying to be one of the guys and won’t take shit from anyone who is foolish enough to give it to her.

 

Normally I would be wearier of reading a book written by a white man that includes a cast of characters, of a historically marginalized race but Mr. Johnson by all accounts has done his homework. Henry Standing Bear is based on a real life friend of Johnson’s, a Mr. Marcus Red Thunder. Johnson lives in Wyoming and his ranch abuts to both a Crow and a Cheyenne reservation, where he has many friends. I always breathe a sigh of relief when a person who writes about Native Americans has actually met them.

Since this book is a mystery book, I won’t go too far into the plot. The story starts with the discovery of a dead body by a local farmer. The phone call about the body is where I knew this story wasn’t going to be boring, the man who discovered the body asked Walt if while he was on his way over he could grab some beer. Walt is a caregiver, as soon as you enter his county you’re his responsibility. This isn’t in a macho, “I know what the best thing for you way”, it’s the “do you have a place to sleep, if not I have a spare bed” kind of way.  Knowing this and small towns, the idea that someone would ask the sheriff to bring them beer isn’t too far off the beaten path

The mystery takes you through the county and introduces you to the area, all its beauty, and the quirks that go with being in the middle of nowhere.   This book is an entertaining read while providing insight into the people and the land of Wyoming.

 

Trigger Warnings:

  • Sexual assault
  • Rape
  • Suicide

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

No

Final Rating:

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