Books, Recountings

recountings: not-quite-georgette heyer and i’m a plant killer now

Now, you know I like Georgette Heyer. And I like everyone else who likes Georgette Heyer. And I especially like authors who like Georgette Heyer. And most of all, I like authors who write books inspired by Georgette Heyer. 

So – here I find a book – and I demand from the all the world to know: how did I not find this before?!!! 

THE WEAVER TAKES A WIFE

by SHERI COBB SOUTH

LET’S BE REAL … 

It wasn’t perfect. But most things in life aren’t. My azaleas, for instance, are slightly wilting. Is it because I placed them in the sun too much? Probably. Is it because I haven’t wooed them with Mozart? Most likely. I’m not perfect. They aren’t perfect. This book isn’t perfect. It doesn’t quite reach Georgette Heyer’s glorious heights – but there’s so. much. to. love. Anyway. 

(And She wasn’t perfect either. I’m listening to Sprig Muslin at the moment – it’s my ‘room cleaning’ book. I have many books for many different occasions. My ‘I’m sitting on the loo’ book is about the Romonovs and lemme tell you Peter the Great was WILD. But I digress … Sprig Muslin? Not my favourite. Possibly because of the narrator. Possibly because I’ve read negative reviews about it. Possibly because I’m not approaching it like C.S Lewis told me to – with an open mind.) 

Other things that aren’t so perfect:

  • the heroine’s father is basically selling her off for money to pay off his debts. So. Ew.
  • while there is character development with the heroine – she does a complete 180, but I wish it had been … slightly slower. Some things require time. For instance: your entire world view changing.
  • MY AZALEAS ARE BASICALLY DEAD OKAY?!!
I mean so is the other plant. oh my gosh. i’ve killed TWO PLANTS THIS IS BAD THIS IS VERY VERY BAD

Mr. Brundy. Mr. Brundy is the bomb.

I’m going to be straight up and honest with you: I’ve vast plans about marrying Mr. Brundy. Yes. They are a little inhibited by the tragic fact that he’s fictional … and also fictionally married [dang it] but true love always finds a way. Just like Mr. Brundy. And his heart. 

He takes one look at the heroine and BAM! Cupid’s dart doesn’t just strike him. Oh no! It bloomin’ well drops a nuke on his poor little heart pumping organ. Think Paris and Helen but with less … bloodshed, immorality, Greek gods, and arrows-in-heels happening. 

[As a side note … there’s this BBC adaption of Troy and I loathe Paris. He’s just so bleh and ugh and argh and *smash face on desk*-esque … if you know what I mean.] 

He – Mr Brundy, not Paris. Yuck and BOOO! – looks at his beloved and locks on her with all the focus of one of those dinosaurs from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. You know – the killing ones: where you’d put a lasor on the target and pull the trigger and the dinosaur would just. Hunt. It. Down. 

He does that. But in a less dinosaur-y fashion. 

It’s a TAD unrealistic but … for this book? I’ll take it.

Mr. Brundy is an illegitimate orphan who’s worked his way up from the workhouses. He’s now one of the richest men in England. He’s honest and hardworking. He also can’t pronounce his ‘h’s. 

“Mr. Brundy,” she said with a nod, making the most perfunctory of curtsies to her father’s guest. 
He made no move to take her hand, but merely bowed and responded in kind. “Lady ‘elen.” 
“My name is Helen, Mr. Brundy,” she said coldly. 
“Very well- ‘elen,” said Mr. Brundy, surprised and gratified at being given permission, and on such short acquaintance, to dispense with the use of her courtesy title.” 


THE CHARACTERS AREN’T ALL DUMB (!)

I was worried. I’m not going to lie. At one point, I was cringing. You couldn’t tell. It was 2:00am and my kindle light was on low but my gosh, I was worried and cringing and inwardly mildly screaming. (Picture Darth Vader with his ‘NOOOO’ but he’s a disappointed but resigned mother hen looking at her son. She knows he’s not all there but she’s so invested in his life that she can’t help cringe and he’s hopping in slow motion and she’s all: nooooo, Kevin.]

But FEAR NOT … there’s a character with his head metaphorically on his shoulders and he Gets Help! so it’s okay.

[There are mild spoilers for the book. I’m sorry. I should have warned you.]

ONE WORD SUMMARY: 

Adorable.  

Pinch-its-cheeks-adorable. I adore it. You’ll adore it. Sometimes it’s a little too simplistic, but I was reading it at 2:00 am, so some of my impressions may be a leeetlle askew. (Also I wrote the majority of this review at a similar time on a different night. It’s when I do my best work. You probably can’t tell. HAHAHAHAHA.)

If you’re familiar with any of Georgette Heyer’s books – you’ll be familiar with some aspects of this storyline. You’ll forgive this book because this is such a wonderful take on a woman realising that it’s not all about appearances, and a man who learns to dance for his wife and ARGGHHH BE STILL MY BEATING HEART!!

kindle / goodreads

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Books, Recountings

recountings: batman does community service

I’m a big Batman fan – have been from the moment I peeked over my brother’s shoulder and saw Batman: The Animated Series for the first time. So a book about Batman? This should have been right up my alley. (My Crime Alley I’M SORRY, BRUCE!)

I should give you a head’s up, shouldn’t I? This post is going to go into FULL geek out mode and there’s going to be spoilers for the book. If comics and superheroes and disgruntled readers aren’t your cup of tea – perhaps you should skip this post. If they are: hello and welcome …

Batman: Nightwalker

by Marie Lu

THE PROBLEMATIC AND IMPROBABLE PREMISE

  • You are eighteen years old.
  • You’ve just come into your trust fund.
  • You are a billionaire.
  • You crash your car in order to catch a criminal, accidentally disrupting a police chase
  • You are sentenced to community service in an insane asylum that houses the criminally insane. For example serial killers and rapists and your friendly neighbourhood murderous nut-jobs
I KNEW Gotham’s justice system was broken
  • while there, you become drawn to Madeleine, a girl your age with a ‘canopy of eyelashes’ who has hair which ‘spills over her shoulders like a river of midnight’
  • who, coincidently, IS ACCUSED OF MURDERING THREE PEOPLE IN COLD BLOOD
*record screech* Yes. I know. I have many thoughts about this too.

THE LOVE INTEREST – BRUCE, OL’CHUM, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Listen. Batman has made some questionable decisions in the love department. (*cough* Talia Al Ghul *cough cough*) Remember that episode in B:TAS where he married that literal plant lady?* At least he had an excuse for it – Poison Ivy had pollen’d him.**

Maybe the author was trying to continue this trend. But Catwoman exists (and that book in the DC Icons series doesn’t, okay?) and I have some objections to Madeleine …

a) she is described farrrr too much: entire paragraphs are dedicated to her, her hair, her eyelashes, her eyes, her face, her personality etc etc.

… her hair spilling behind her like a dark ocean.

page 117

b) remember that scene from Sherlock – the one where he’s deduces ‘your sister has a drinking problem and you’ve got PTSD and enjoy crumpets with raspberry jam for breakfast’? Madeleine does this. But about Bruce’s emotions. Through prison glass. Based on a handful of interactions.

This leads me to conclude that Bruce must have a VERY expressive face. Which is probably why he covers it with a cowl. OHMYWORD THIS IS WHY HE BECOMES BATMAN!!

‘FO SURE

c) She tells a disguised Bruce that she knows who he is because of his gait. (Does he walk like a sideways crab? Is he from the Ministry of Silly Walks?)

I HAVE QUESTIONS!

d) She’s written as so goshdarn cool and aloof. (Bruce is impressed with her because she doesn’t look at her interrogators. She stares straight ahead. I should do the same. Maybe I’ll blink once in a while. It’ll blow his mind.)

There’s more, but it’s all far too much. Far. Too. Much. Is she a Mary-Sue? Hmmm. She isn’t quite a cardboard cut out complete with glorious hair – it’s simply that I strongly object to her. And her hair. She quotes Sherlock Holmes to a future Batman. IS NOTHING SACRED?!!

BRIEF PAUSE FOR A FOOD ANALOGY

It’s like some cookies I once made. I thought to myself – you know what I like? Cookies. You know what makes them really good? Sugar and chocolate. *lightbulb moment* If I pour A TON OF SUGAR AND CHOCOLATE INTO THE MIX IT WILL MAKE THEM THE BEST COOKIES EVER.

They looked terrible, and tasted worse.

Madeleine is the cookie. Sugar and chocolate are the coolness factors. A blue whale’s worth of weight has been poured in. It doesn’t work. You can have too much of a good thing. In fact, you can have so much of it that it needs to be binned and you need to find a new recipe.

In fact, you need to actually use one.

I didn’t, and yes, I do have regrets.

BRUCE WAYNE – BATMAN IN TRAINING

I didn’t mind the Bruce Wayne in the book too much. I could see slight influences of the Animated Series creeping in. But these were drowned out by two undeniable truths:

  1. He falls in love with Madeleine.
  2. He is too well-adjusted

Listen, Batman – for better or worse – is always unless DC actually let him BE HAPPY FOR ONCE ultimately going to be that boy sitting beside the bodies of his dead parents. Lost. Alone. Hurting.

There wasn’t much of that in the book. It tries. But it felt a little clunky. As if it didn’t quite fit. Which is odd for a book about Batman. Most of the angst is about … something else. Or rather, someone else. Bruce has nightmares ‘haunted by shadows or dark halls or a girl with long black hair‘ and he does bond with Madeleine over having dead parents.

so really it’s almost canon

But I wasn’t sold on the idea that this Bruce Wayne was going to don a cowl and fight crime dressed as a bat, full of harnessed rage and never – ever – seeking therapy.

THE REST

  • I liked Bruce’s gym. It was VR and seemed really quite awesome.
  • The technology in the story was rather spiffing.
  • Alfred was in the story. Harvey Dent was given more character development.
  • Hanging out in Gotham was quite nice
  • The writing was good. (Even for the hair. It was very picturesque. I just didn’t understand why it was featured so prominently. Was it magical – like Rapunzul’s?)

Her long black hair hung straight and shining over her shoulders, glinting blue underneath the slivers of light slicing the floors and walls.

PAGE 180

TO SUM UP …

I guess we all have an idea of how our fictional heroes should be portrayed in our heads. What I might think is authentically Batman, others might think is terrible and wrong. And vice versa. And that’s okay.

I don’t usually venture too far into the world of YA genre, so perhaps my views are already slightly skewed. Perhaps Madeleine is the way all YA heroines are written. Either way … this book wasn’t for me. I enjoyed a few parts of it, and was terribly frustrated with the rest.

goodreads // amazon

… you know what I have enjoyed though? Batman GIFS. There’s a veritable multitude!

Happy Reading!

*Batman: The Animated Series, Season 4, Episode 22 ‘Chemistry’

** YES, THIS IS A TERM I’VE JUST MADE UP. NO, I HAVE NO REGRETS.

Books, Recountings

i have been reading disturbing things

*** warning: my recountings are of books with quite horrific subject matter. If you have a delicate stomach perhaps don’t read ***

So I’m sure you have many pressing questions for me (WHERE DID YOU GO AGAIN? DID YOU GET BITTEN BY A RADIOACTIVE CATERPILLAR? CAN YOU SPELL YET? WHY DO YOU DISLIKE CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM?) that you probably spending a large portion of your days simply agonizing over.

Also – why on earth did you shill out for a laptop and then … not use it? (Ah, yes. My good life decisions. I make so many of them.)

I’ve been reading, living, and finding out that Mt. Royal isn’t actually where I thought it was. (How can a mole hill mountain move? you ask. I DON’T KNOW EITHER.)

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THE OPIUM WARS:

THE ADDICTION OF ONE EMPIRE AND THE CORRUPTION OF ANOTHER

[aka wut teh british empire was pretty rubbish huh]

Iopiumwars‘m not sure how much I knew about the Opium Wars before I cracked open this book. But what I found here was awful – if I get the details right …

  •  we were buying a heck of a lot of tea from China
  • China weren’t buying a lot of things from us
  • basically, this was kind of uneconomical and so instead of … doing better market research, for instance, we forced them not to ban our opium from India [The ‘Just Say No’ slogan ran more in the ‘Say Yes Right Now’ direction]
  • and destroyed the Summer Palace
  • and the British Drug Lords were horrible
  • Lots and lots of egos on both sides were involved
  • and a horrifying number of people in China were addicted to opium (I believe the book mentions that at one point 90% of the Chinese army were addicted)
  • and lots of time was spent in trying to work out how the British officials could bow to the Chinese high ups without actually bowing to them.
  • and the Emperor only heard what his advisors thought he’d like to hear. Which wasn’t the best thing when trying to run a war. And led to quite a few bad decisions.

It’s fascinating stuff – the book is well researched and contains excerpts from documents on both sides. It’s also rather depressing and made me take sidelong glances at my cup of tea.

Also, depressing subjects seem to be a common theme in my latest factual reads. Yay.

THE GLADIATOR:

THE SECRET HISTORY OF ROME’S WARRIOR SLAVES

[aka … that’s just not right]

thegladiatorI wrote an extensive review after finishing this book [Actually, it was a page BUT THE WRITING WAS SMALL] and then I found out that Dan Carlin of Hardcore History had released a podcast on the same sort of subject ‘Painfotainment’ … which I haven’t listened to fully yet – but my point is (YOU HAVE ONE?) that this book affected me and I didn’t like it and I decided that I was quite right in loathing some of the Roman Emperors. Seriously. They were jerks.

My problem with this book didn’t lie in the actual history it was recounting – history, is after all, history. You can get mad at it and rave at it but you can’t change it. No, my issues lie in one of the chapters – the crowning chapter of the entire book – in which it describes how a slave is raped and then commits suicide to avoid the games. And this is fictional. To use the story medium as an illustration for how life was back then. A sort of ‘How We Lived and How It Stank’.

Cool. But no. When I read history, I want to read history. When I want to read historical fiction, I pick up a book of historical fiction.

History is bad in plenty of places; give me the facts but by golly, don’t wallow in it. I don’t want to read fictional gratuitous violence in my history book.

And, yes, I did get upset about that chapter, and yes, you’d be right in thinking me absolutely off my rocker for picking up this next book – but there is a difference – one was fiction, and this one? This one is horrible, brutal reality.

THE RAPE OF NANKING

by Iris Chang

nanking.jpgIn December 1937, the Japanese army invaded the ancient city of Nanking, systematically raping, torturing, and murdering more than 300,000 Chinese civilians.

This book tells the story from three perspectives: of the Japanese soldiers who performed it, of the Chinese civilians who endured it, and of a group of Europeans and Americans who refused to abandon the city and were able to create a safety zone that saved many.

This was an awful read. I don’t believe in avoiding the worst points of the world’s history; you can’t understand humankind if you glance at their achievements and virtues. Darkness shows how bright the light can be. But at the same time … what horrors people have done and are capable of …

I think it’s when you look at your fellow man and think of them as less – less than human. Less than nothing. When you forget your humanity, or forget theirs, and then well, you can do anything to them, can’t you? Most of us will think nothing of squishing a bug and there’s nothing wrong with stamping on dirt, is there?

It’s hard reading. I had to put the book down for a while, just for a break. But I finished it and I was glad I did.

Ultranationalists denied that the Rape happened, and for a long time, this atrocity against humanity was a mere lukewarm line or two in Japanese history books. But this book puts the truth out there. It’s terrible and it’s horrid and it’s brutal and awful. But it shouldn’t be ignored or forgotten.

As the Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel warned years ago, to forget a holocaust is to kill twice

The more I learn about history, the more I realise that the answer of humanity does not – nay, cannot – lie within ourselves.

Also, my next factual book after I finish The Candy Machine: How Cocaine Took Over The World is going to be about fish.

Just for a break.

Recountings

recountings: bachelors anonymous

Look, it wasn’t a Blandings or Jeeves novel and it wasn’t hysterically funny, but it was written by Wodehouse. And a ‘it was alright’ Wodehouse is still wonderfully written with wit and wumour.

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(Sorry. I was trying to keep the ‘w”s going.)

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BACHELORS ANONYMOUS

by P. G. Wodehouse

So. There’s this bloke, Ivor Llewellyn. He has a problem. He’s just become a bachelor for the sixth time.

Yes. You’ve read that right – he’s been in the blissful wedded state no less than five times.

The fault lies in his small talk. He’s terrible at it. When out at dinner with a female, he finds himself proposing over coffee:

“Coffee’s the danger spot. There is a pause in the conversation.”

… “It’s put me off coffee for life”

His lawyer, Mr. Trout – a member of Bachelors Anonymous (inspired by Alcoholics Anonymous), belatedly follows Llewellyn to London. Llewellyn who is frantically dodging the clutches of the actress, Vera Dalrymple. Of whom this can be said:

‘Tell me,” she went on, as the door closed behind them, “what do you think of that gifted artiste? Off the record. Just between you and me.”

It was a question which Joe was well prepared to answer. He did so with the minimum of hesitation.

“Let’s say that I think it possible her mother may love her.”

(The way Wodehouse writes … ah! It makes me laugh. You’re reading along nicely and then all of a sudden BOOM! a hilarious turn of phrase and you’re choking with laughter.)

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Joe Pickering, bodyguard-of-Llewellyn’s-bachelor-state, and Sally Finch, heir-to-a-fortune-if-she-doesn’t-smoke, are attempting to fall in love, but are consistently foiled by hijinks; fate attempts to throw them together, Mr. Trout tries to wrench them apart – for Joe’s own good, of course.

“Like so many young men,” said Mr Trout, “you have allowed yourself to be ensnared by a pretty face, never asking yourself if the person you are hoping to marry is capable of making out your income tax return and can be relied on to shovel snow while you are curled up beside the fire with a novel of suspense.”

… is that the criteria for being a good wife nowadays?

Oh.

Oh dear.

I shovelled snow once. But tax returns?

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There is a chase scene, done in a Wodehousian fashion …

“Follow that car!”

The driver was a stout man with a walrus moustache, not that that matters, who when given instructions like them to be quite clear, with no margin for error. He said:

“What car?”

… and an astounding change of heart by Mr. Trout, confirmed bachelor of countless years.

Mr Llewellyn was staring dumbly, as Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott might have stared when the mirror cracked from side to side and the curse had come upon her. Indeed, if the Lady of Shalott had entered at this moment, he would have slapped her on the back and told her he knew just how she felt.

In short, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. In the rush of work and life, holidays and visitors from England, it’s been a while since I’ve sat down with an honest to goodness book, and I’d forgotten how much I love reading.

And I do.

I really, really do.

Bertie Wooster

Books, Recountings

recountings: ten thousand thorns

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TEN THOUSAND THORNS 

by Suzannah Rowntree

Princess Morning Light meditates in a hidden temple surrounded by ten thousand thorns. Guardian of a long-lost sword skill, the princess is destined to wake after a hundred years to return justice to the world.

Or so legend says.

As the Vastly Martial Emperor extends his brutal domination, rebel leader Clouded Sky flees the capital for the safety of his martial sect at Wudang Mountain. Meanwhile, a renegade martial artist seeks a hero to awaken Morning Light. As bounty hunters and imperial guards close in, Clouded Sky must determine who he can trust – and who may be planning to betray him.

An action-packed retelling of Sleeping Beauty in the style of a Chinese martial arts epic!

Ah, I really enjoyed this one.

THE WRITING

The writing is clear and crisp, and it truly draws you in; almost as if you are watching a movie – seeing the shadows, hearing the clash of weapons, and watching the cast interact.

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Some of the descriptions were quite perfect:

‘she moved as lightly as a dandelion seed blowing on the wind’

THE CAST

The characters are delightful, Iron Maiden in particular. Sometimes heroines can really get on my nerves (you know what I mean … ‘I AM A STRONG, POWERFUL WOMAN WHO CAN FIGHT BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE. I ALSO HAVE AS MUCH CHARACTER AS A CARDBOARD CUTOUT. NO! LESS!) but thankfully, such was not the case in this book.

What really was nice, was the way that Rowntree wrote her – skilled, but not flaunting it. Feminine, but more than capable of handling herself in a fight. The balance was right, and so I was really able to enjoy reading about her.

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Everyone was saying Very Wise And Poetic Sayings, which gives me life goals because I would very much like to drift around and say things like ‘truly, one happiness scatters a thousand sorrows’ (…and then crack out some ‘Awkward-Octopus-Strikes-Thrice-And-Falls’ martial arts move, afterwards, of course.)

THE PLOT

At first, I was a little overwhelmed (gee, doesn’t that make me like a swooning heroine!) with the amount of names, details etc there were – but that could be because my brain has the retention skills of a colander.

But once I caught the gist of the story and memorised names and who was who and what was what … it was clear sailing.

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There were some PLOT TWIST! moments that I enjoyed, and I found the way that the fairy tale was retold to be unique and quite clever.

TO SUM UP …

Altogether, I found this story to be an action filled martial arts adventure, garnished with the perfect touch of swashbuckling charm.

And also, my word, it felt like Rowntree had throughly researched the setting for her book – so hats off and kudos to her for that.

amazon // goodreads

DISCLAIMER: I received this book free of charge in return for an honest review. I would have happily written a review in return for a dragon, but I wasn’t offered any.