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Aoife

Witty Little Knitter

I read fantasy, crime, true crime, lgbt-romance and books written by my favourite comedians. List not necessarily complete.
Sometimes I write for Bibliodaze

Currently reading

Pilgrim of Death
Felicity Pulman
The Iron Ship
K.M. McKinley
Progress: 9 %
Krieg und Frieden
Leo Tolstoy, Michael Grusemann
Progress: 579/1024 pages
Stephen and Matilda
Jim Bradbury
Progress: 52/262 pages

Review: Uprooted

Uprooted - Naomi Novik

Short version:

Long version at Bibliodaze

State of the Reading Challenges II

Last Post

 

Around the World in Books

 



The only country that has been added since the last time is France where I, d'Artagnan, and the majority of The Duke of Andelot are set. For fantastical countries Uprooted is set in Polnya (yes. Seriously. Bordering on Rossia. Couldn't Novik have set it in actual Poland so that I could have added another country? *pouts*)

 

With books Through Time

 

11th century 18th century 19th century

~Crusades

(~1700)

(1783-1787)

(1789+)

1810s


20th century 21st century

1907

 

1910s

1920s

1950s

contemporary

 

(it was impossible to find a program that makes pretty timelines that can easily be exported as picture...)

Review: Lessons for Suspicious Minds

Lessons for Suspicious Minds - Charlie Cochrane

I struggle to find words to describe this story that aren't 'cute' or 'sweet'. Not in an exaggerated diabetes-inducing way that involved the main-couple telling each other how much they love the other every five pages, simply in the sense of 'this is a sweet story about good, nice and (mostly) happy people'. The case did require a bit of suspension of disbelief but not too much (especially as it is basically a cozy where I don't require as much adherence to reality as in 'serious' crime-novels') .

The characters and their relations with each other are where the book really shines. You can easily feel how much Jonty, Orlando and Jonty's family care about each other and everybody also seems like a really nice person you'd love to meet.

 

However, I would very much recommend to read this series in order. Having jumped right in the middle I have now been spoiled for several events that happened in the previous books. Not the solutions to any cases but events happening in the development of the personal relationship between the two. Not major things and no exact details but I'd definitely preferred to have learned about them a different way.

 

I did think the narration overused the phrase 'his lover' a bit (as in 'Jonty looked at his lover'/'Orlando went over to his lover'). I am a big fan of just calling people by their names or simply using pronouns (and yes, if just two men are in the room and it says 'Jonty looked at him' I am mentally capable of decoding that him refers to Orlando and not Jonty...) If it had been done just occasionally and to stress it for some reason I'd have been fine with it but here it threw me off.

I am also not sure about how much like sea-battles as metaphor for sex but it was at least a fascinating experience.

 

ARC provided by NetGalley

Ramblings

Lessons for Suspicious Minds - Charlie Cochrane

Recently I had a short discussion with Murder by Death on the annoyingness of the mothers of the amateur-sleuths in so many cozy-mysteries. They lack any respect for their children's privacy, meddle and seem to be stuck on an eternal loop of 'and when will you make babies???'. And by 'they' I do mean just about any mom-character in the cozies I read (and I've read many) so far. They're also never just a bit annoying, usually I want to yell at them after about one paragraph. Or, alternately, tell the child that it's probably better for their mental well-being if they stay away. (However if they ever get around to yelling at the moms it ends with a lot of tears 'BUT I ONLY CARE ABOUT YOU!!1!!! And by the way WHEN WILL YOU MAKE BABIES???' and the kid has to apologize...)

And this isn't just badly written cozies. There are series I love (Carola Dunn's Lady Daisy-mysteries or Lanyon's Adrien English-series) that have mums with the same annoying traits.

For that reasons I'm doubly happy that the Cambridge Fellows series has an awesome and likeable mum...but it also made me wonder:

 

Where the hell is this 'cozy-mothers have to be terrible' thing coming from?

As said: it really isn't something that happens occasionally. If a mother has screen time in any cozy there's an 98% chance that she is horrible. Why? Is there a secret agreement between cozy writers? Are they all mind-controlled? Often cozies draw a lot of inspiration from the golden-age crime novels but the big names there are Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers and neither Miss Marple nor Hercule Poirot ever have to deal with their mothers. Lord Peter does but his is again pretty laid-back and really can't be the template for those horrible caricatures...

Reading progress update: I've read 60%.

Lessons for Suspicious Minds - Charlie Cochrane
I would never have married a fool, certainly. Which explains, Dr. Coppersmith, the lack of a wedding ring on my finger. Too many men are idiots.

I love the humour in this book. Also: the sleuth's mum isn't an overprotective meddling fury but a lovable woman who enjoys some sleuthing herself.

Reading progress update: I've read 100%.

Uprooted - Naomi Novik

 

This book was amazing. Review to come.

Review: The Duke of Andelot

The Duke of Andelot (School of Gallantry) - Delilah Marvelle, Jenn LeBlanc

Long before becoming the flamboyant courtesan known to men as Madame de Maitenon, Thérèse Angelique Bouchard, dreamed of becoming an actress capable of commanding not only the stage but all of Paris. Until she meets an extraordinary aristocratic gentleman who sweeps her into his arms and the danger of his life, while offering her the sort of wealth she never imagined. What starts off as a seductive alliance, ends in her giving him the one thing she, as a mere bourgeoisie, cannot afford to give: her love.

After the murder of his older brothers, Gérard Antoine Tolbert, becomes the last heir to the powerful dukedom of Andelot, leaving him to fight for not only his life, but the allegiance he holds for the crown. During the final rise of the French Revolution that whispers of the violent change about to shake the entire country, Gérard meets an aspiring actress who entices him into wanting more out of not only himself but life. In trying to protect her from their overly passionate alliance and those that want him dead, he must decide what matters most: his life or his heart.

 

 

Sadly, as this was an e-book I couldn't do this to the book even though I really, really wanted to for it was absolutely horrible.

I was immediately drawn to it when I heard it took some inspiration from The Scarlet Pimpernel, a book I really liked but The Duke of Andelot doesn't even come close to being that enjoyable.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a story about a French noblemen who rescues other noblemen from the clutches of the French Revolution. It was also written by a baroness so it is not the most balanced look at a time in which a lot of commoners killed a lot of noblemen. Still, it has some sympathy for the common people and also admits that not all nobles necessarily always acted...noble towards  the lower classes. Compared with the portrayal of nobles and commoners in The Duke of Andelot, it reads like The Communist Manifesto. 

 

With very few exceptions the nobles are all good people and charitable. They always help the poor, pet fluffy kittens and the sun is shining out of their arse...

The exceptions are:

  • Gérard's father. But then he was nicer once but then evil lowlife commoners killed his wife and now he's a broken man and also hates those evil lowlife commoners
  • The random duke who engineered the French Revolution. Yeah, you read that right. The people didn't just start this revolution on their own. He bought all the grain, so the people would revolt, kill all the nobles (except him), then quietly sit down again and let him be king. I am not making this up. How did he think this would work? How did the author think this would work? Probably not at all which is why the Duke is mentioned only twice and the second time is to inform us that he was murdered.
  • The Marquis de Sade. Yeah. He's in the book.

    Don't ask me about that plotline. Let's just say that this man certainly enjoyed pain but certainly not the pain of being in a character in this idiotic book.

 

The commoners meanwhile just don't understand that all nobles are just the bestest people ever and just keep on killing them in gruesome ways. Stupid people. Never let them have any power, they need better people to keep them from doing something silly. 

 

The exception is of course our heroine. Despite being one of 11 children of a butcher she has a proper education for some really contrived reason and is also really sympathetic towards the poor misunderstood nobles. However poor Thérèse has a problem: nobody appreciates her inner values, nobody sees past her stunning beauty and her large boobs

 

 

All men leave her presents like food in the hope that one day she will give them something in return. (Do I have to remind you that we're talking about (pre)revolutionary France here? People had lots of food to spare). Yes only in the hope because Thérèse never would be that kind of woman.

Well until she meets Gérard who can offer a lot more than a few chickens: pearls, diamonds, money in general and a job at the theatre (she wants to be an actress). All that exchange for a bit of sex is quite a good deal so she agrees under the condition that he won't get her pregnant (she wants him to pull out in time). He agrees and remembers that for about 10 minutes...then he's too distracted by her big boobs, unearthly beauty and virginal sex-goddess skills to do that. She is obviously pissed and wants to leave. So he shows his charming side:

"You belong to me now, Thérèse. Me. Because you said yes to me. Do you remember? You said Yes. And in saying yes to me, you are no longer allowed to say no."

Isn't he a romantic?

For some reason that is not Thérèse's reaction. Instead they mope about each other for the rest of the book, more poor nobles get killed by evil commoners, people get tortured for months without any lasting psychological consequences, Thérèse's cycle is so irregular that she can't tell for four months if she's pregnant (also: after hating the idea of herself getting pregnant she's suddenly all about 'BUT WHEN WILL THERE BE BABIES???' when it comes to other women...because breeding is all we're good for) and probably more idiotic things that I have already blocked out again because all you can do after reading this book is consuming massive amounts of brain-bleach.

Review: My Little Pony: Friends Forever Volume 3

My Little Pony: Friends Forever Volume 3 - Christina Rice, Tony Fleecs

The tales of friendship and fun continue!

Granny visits an apple convention and is dismayed to see the Flim Flam brothers are up to their old tricks.

Fluttershy gets an unexpected visit from the most aggressive guy around, Iron Will!

Rainbow Dash is overjoyed when Wonderbolt Spitfire invites her to a special training camp.

And, Pinkie Pie meets her match… in the form of delicious, irresistible snacks called PheNOMNOMenons!

 

 

This collection is a very mixed bag. I enjoyed Pinkie Pies story most, less because of the story itself (which is cute but nothing overly special) but because of all the visual jokes that were in it. They really had me giggling madly because they were so silly but also so great. Fluttershy's story was fun as well but then Fluttershy is my favourite and I love everything she's in.

On the other hand I don't care that much about Rainbow Dash or Granny Smith so as the supporting characters in both stories were also some I feel mostly indifferent about (the Flim Flam brothers and Spitfire) I really wasn't overwhelmed by those.

Still a fun read overall.

 

 

Review-Copy provided by NetGalley

Reading progress update: I've read 27%.

The Duke of Andelot (School of Gallantry) - Delilah Marvelle, Jenn LeBlanc
His expression stilted. "You belong to me now, Thérèse. Me. Because you said yes to me. Do you remember? You said Yes. And in saying yes to me, you are no longer allowed to say no."

 

 

Filmkritik: Mara und der Feuerbringer

 

Die vierzehnjährige Mara möchte eigentlich nur ein normaler Teenager sein. Doch düstere Visionen vom Weltuntergang suchen sie immer wieder heim. Bald schon wird klar, dass das Mädchen wirklich eine "Seherin" ist und Ragnarök, die Götterdämmerung, bevor steht. Zusammen mit Dr. Reinhold Weissinger, einem Universitätsprofessor für germanische Mythologie, macht sie sich daran, die Welt zu retten. Dabei gerät sie immer tiefer in einen mysteriösen Sog von Ereignissen um einen Feuerbringer, die das Abenteuer ihres Lebens versprechen.

 

Schon lange war ich nicht mehr so gespannt auf einen Film wie auf Mara und der Feuerbringer. Schließlich liebe ich die Bücher heiß und innig weil sie es schaffen so viele Dinge richtig zu machen, die andre Jugend(fantasy)-Romane ab und an ein bisschen vermasseln. Zum Beispiel haben wir statt der Aussage 'alle Erwachsenen sind nutzlos' die Aussage 'Wenn du vor einem riesigem Problem stehst und deine Eltern dabei, aus welchen Gründen auch immer, keine Hilfe sind: versuche einen anderen Erwachsenen zu finden'. Der Hauptcharakter ist ein Teenager, der sich tatsächlich wie ein Teenager verhält, es ist einfach saukomisch und die nerdigen Anspielungen die übers Buch verteilt sind wurden von jemandem geschrieben, der tatsächlich und unzweifellos selber ein Nerd ist und nicht irgendwo mal gelesen hat, dass es in Herr der Ringe um einen Ring geht und dieses Wissen jetzt meint anwenden zu müssen.

Die Erwartungen an den Film waren also dementsprechend hoch.

Aber sie wurden definitiv nicht enttäuscht. Im Gegenteil.

Ich kenne mich, ich habe die Angewohnheit bei Buchverfilmungen jedes 'das war aber nicht so wie im Buch' zu Tode zu analysieren und mich zu fragen warum das jetzt geändert worden ist und ob das wirklich nötig war. Bei den (wirklich wenigen) Änderungen in Mara war die Antwort jedesmal 'Ich verstehe warum und ja es war wirklich notwendig weil das so wirklich nicht auf der Leinwand funktioniert hätte.'

 

Sehr gut war auch die Idee an manchen Stellen ein Voice-Over mit Maras Gedanken einzufügen. Viel vom Humor der Büchern steckt nämlich in Maras Gedanken und ohne die hätte einfach was gefehlt. Gleichzeitig ist es nicht mit einem ständigen Voice-Over überfrachtet oder man hat das Gefühl, dass einem damit der Film erklärt werden soll. Es trägt einfach zum wunderbaren Humor des Films bei (der im übrigen sowohl bei der Zielgruppe als auch bei den Eltern der Zielgruppe, die selbige evtl. ins Kino begleitet ankommt).

Alles in allem ist Mara und der Feuerbringer ganz großes, deutsches Fantasy-Kino das man sich nicht entgehen lassen sollte.

 

Reading progress update: I've read 19%.

The Duke of Andelot (School of Gallantry) - Delilah Marvelle, Jenn LeBlanc

It's one of those books again:

It is set in France, the main-characters are all French but occasionally they use French phrases mid-dialogue. I assume these are moments where they feel especially French or something.

And it's not stuff like 'Bonjour' which I still would be able to get despite the fact that at school I had English, Latin and Russian but no French. Not that I think it makes sense to have stuff like Bonjour in an English book set in France (I get the convention to leave Madame/Mr/Frau untranslated because it would sound really odd if you did but there is no reason to keep other words for which there is a perfectly valid translation) but at least those are phrases that have no reason to be kept untranslated but that I also understand. No, here we have stuff like 'Ma biche' and 'Merde a la puissance treize' which I had to run through Google Translate to get ('My doe' and 'shit to the power of 13' which at least is a nice curse to remember...and no I did not need Google Translate for 'merde', I know that much French) which is far more work than I am willing to put in a book that has been merde so far anyway.

Our heroine has a terrible life you know. Because she's just that beautiful. And her tits are huge. Which is horrible because all men are care about are her looks. Nobody cares that she also has a proper education.

As one of 11 children of a peasant-family.

Growing up in pre-revolutionary France.

Yeah.

But don't worry. She's not perfect. She has flaws.

She had horrible habits that included using her acting skills to get what she wanted, biting her nails and falling asleep in her corset

See? She's basically a mess. Nobody wants a woman with these major flaws.

 

Meanwhile our hero has a tragic past. He was severely bullied by his older brothers. Which included tying him up somewhere outside and leaving him there for days...which he apparently survived without starving, developing pneumonia and his parents never wondered where he was. 

But now his brothers are dead and he has to avenge them because he loved them just that much

 

I am only at the 19% mark and I didn't even get round to mentioning the massive WTF-just-happened-I-am-dying-from-second-hand-embarrassment-sex-scene.

Cheap Books!

Blood Sisters - Melanie Clegg Minette - Melanie Clegg The Secret Diary of a Princess: a novel of Marie Antoinette - Melanie Clegg Before the Storm - Melanie Clegg From Whitechapel - Melanie Clegg

Melanie Clegg is offering all her books for 99 cent/99 p for all of April! I only read From Whitechapel so far (because I have an unhealthy obsession with Victorian serial killers) and enjoyed it so much that I decided to grab all the others (minus Minette which I already own but haven't read yet because my tbr-pile is out of control), so if you like historical novels and Jack the Ripper: grab it. Or The Secret Diary of a Princess if you want to read about Marie Antoinette. Or Blood Sisters/Before The Storm for the French revolution in general. Or Minette if for the English Civil War. 

Or get more than one. Or all of them.

Anyway:

Cheap Books!

Review: Memoirs of Monsieur D'Artagnan

Memoirs of Monsieur D'Artagnan, Now for the First Time Translated Into English - Gatien Courtilz de Sandras

Disclaimer: this book is only for very massive The Three Musketeers -geeks. I am not talking about 'I enjoyed the book and [(the movie with Michael York/Charlie Sheen)/Dogtanion and the three Muskehounds was a really nice show]'. I am talking about  'I have read the book and the sequels (possibly more than once), have spent an unreasonable amount of time hunting down and watching obscure movie-adaptation of it (including the one with David Hasselhoff let us not speak of this ever), once bought a bottle of wine just because it was called 'The White Musketeer' and still have the wrapper of that d'Artagnan chocolate-bar'-level geekery. 

(Obviously I would never do any of these things. I have a friend who does. Yep. She's also writing this review. Really. I am not a weird person at all. *tries to smile reassuringly*

SEE! Nobody can prove anything. Nobody!)

 

Anyway...back to the book. It is not particularly...thrilling. About 2/3 of it is "d'Artagnan gets into trouble because he couldn't keep his pants on but gets quickly out of it again because he is just that awesome". No seriously...this guy has more romantic adventures than all the Musketeers in all the various adaptations put together.

And yes, this includes BBC!Aramis

 

(I should clarify: 2/3 of the edition I was reading: a German translation where the translator pointed out in the afterword that he heavily edited/shortened it and that he considered the sexy adventures much more interesting than the description of battles and of political stuff (which Sandras got mostly wrong anyway apparently))

 

The rest is mostly about work he does for Cardinal Mazarin (and whining about how much of a penny-pincher he is) and the occasional trouble he got in for reasons other than 'could not keep his pants on' (those are rare...very rare).

There is no actual red line in the book. With the exception of Mazarin there are almost no recurring characters, people appear for a few pages (if they're female d'Artagnan sleeps with them, if they're male they get angry at him for sleeping with their wives) and are never seen or even mentioned again.

For a Musketeer-geek it's still interesting to see where Dumas got his inspiration from. Though if you expect this book to be a less polished version of The Three Musketeers you will also be disappointed. In the first quarter there is some stuff that will be familiar: the very beginning is quite similar to TTM, including the scene with Rochefort (who has a different name here), Athos, Porthos and Aramis are mentioned (though only two or three times), a character that was very likely the inspiration for Constance appears and so does Milady but that's it. Not much swashbuckling adventures, no secret letters that have to be delivered...so without a strong interest for Dumas (or perhaps the time-period this was written) you will probably be bored very quickly. But if you're enough of a nerd this is just the book for you at least my friend says so.

Review: Learning Curve

Learning Curve - Kaje Harper

The soapbox was huge in this book. It wasn't that I disagreed with the stuff the characters said while getting on soapboxes but it was just done in a very inelegant way. In the previous books we learned that Tony gets on quite well with the principal of the school he works in and that the principal also has no problems with Tony being openly gay. But at the beginning of this book he is away and we get a deputy principal of the 'I am not homophobic but' variety (which at least is a nice change of the religious 'you will burn in hell'-homophobes that fall out of these books every time you turn the page). This deputy manages to call in a meeting with some parents who question Tony's ability to lead the school's gay-straight-alliance/the necessity of such a club in the first place.

By the time that meeting takes place the actual principal is back again so there is no actual worry of any negative consequences for Tony or the alliance but we still get a long speech about the need for one and the need for a non-straight teacher for it. And by speech I mean 'random pupils and a few parents in favour of it say a couple of sentences each about why it is necessary' (but if you cut out the dialogue-tags it would make a very nice speech...or a leaflet about the necessity of such a group). They talk about closeted kids that were helped in coming out, about how the group helps pupils that are bullied for being gay, about why it is important that they don't need their parent's permission to join, etc. And all these things are true and important but the whole scene is just inserted so sloppily in the flow of the book. I don't know any of the kids that told their stories in that scene, they never appeared before (except perhaps as a mention in a side-clause) so I'm not really moved by these stories. I mean I am moved by the fact that there are still parents out their who won't accept their children if they're gay but that's not a new fact that this book only just told me. The series did have instances were it went 'homophobia is bad, also here are the consequences of homophobia for actual people you have gotten to know and care about' but this isn't one of them. This is 'here's a leaflet about how bad homophobia is with 'Kate said' and 'Tom said' inserted in random places.
And I'm still torn how to feel about this because as said, these are still sad and true facts, and I am very glad that m/m-romances discuss the topic...but this one didn't do it very well.

 

Now the book in general was...OK. A bit better than OK but not great either. I still enjoy the characters, Ben (and especially Anna) were less annoying than in the previous one but I simply might not be made for this sort of domestic fluff with My Little Pony-themed birthday-parties and discussions on who fetches the kids from school. I mean I am grateful that Kaje Harper doesn't go down the idiotic-missunderstanding-as-source-of -conflict route. On the downside that means she takes the let's-add-more-angst one and I swear I never thought I'd ever consider more angst as a downside because I love angst a lot. Harper also deserves lots of kudos for acknowledging that even with supportive surroundings some things simply take some time to process and some scars will always remain. The characters have realistic reactions to traumatic events in their lives. It's just that a lot of traumatic events are beginning to pile up and while taking each single one alone the reactions are realistic but I'd expect something else from a single person who has to deal with all this stuff...
Perhaps this series has just run it's course for me. I'm not sure if there will be another book (it doesn't exactly leave open questions but a few directions in which it still can go) but if there will be I'm not sure if I'll buy it.

Free book alert!

Secrets in the Shadows (Leroy's Sins, #1) - T.L. Haddix
After surviving a traumatic attack as a teenager, as well as a disastrous first marriage, Lauren Taylor Grant is content with her life. So what if she gets lonely from time to time? With a healthy, beautiful daughter, and a successful coffee shop-cafe, the divorced single mother convinces herself she doesn’t have time for love. When she gets her first glimpse at her parents’ handsome new neighbor, though, she starts reconsidering her stance. Once Charlie Clark begins breaking through her defensive walls, Lauren finds him hard to resist.

Just as Lauren is learning to let go of the past and embrace the future, her personal demons rear their ugly heads in the guise of a vandal hell-bent on destroying Lauren’s happiness. When another local businesswoman is brutally murdered, the investigation into the crime reveals an unexpected connection to Lauren’s past. The message is clear--the past has come calling, and it’s out for blood.

Note for Readers: This book does deal with the issues of incest and sexual abuse, more with the effects on the victims than the abuse itself. Reader Discretion Advised.

amazon.com & amazon.de

(For some reasons not on uk...even though it was about half an hour ago...)

 

I haven't read it but had it on my 'maybe'-list for a while and today a friend wrote a very favourable review of it and when I went to check out the Kindle-sample for it I noticed it was free.  

Reading progress update: I've read 9%.

The Iron Ship - K.M. McKinley

I really really don't want to jinx it because I had a somewhat bad run with review-copies but so far I am veeeery intrigued by this. The world-building just manages the right balance between infodumps and giving no info at all and leaving the reader completely clueless and the characters are all quite interesting (I just hope for a few more female ones).