Books I Read Vol 51

Jun 16, 2018 | Books I Read

 

Ahhh, so glad to be back from a short hiatus in BIRs. Let’s see, what have I been up to?

 

Lake Silence

Author: Anne Bishop

Series: The Others #6

Tags: shifters, elementals, humans are the real monsters, MURDER

Format: audiobook

Rating: yay!

 

Hooray!

 

I am NOT bitter about starting a new story line unrelated to the previous five books, leaving behind many beloved characters, a newly minted, hard-won relationship, and the most original part of the story (the blood prophets).

REALLY I’m not.

 

I’ve had some time to grieve the end of that storyline ever since I finished Etched in Bone. Now that I’ve had to wait so bloody long for this book, I’ve totally (mostly) forgiven Bishop, and now I’m just happy to be part of this world again.

Yay!

 

It’s got pretty much the same premise, with just less interesting characters. Humans are trying to hoodwink the Elders, and a few well meaning humans are trying to stop the bad guys from pissing the elders off. It’s got a distinctly post apocalyptic feel since it was right after the period where the Others and Elders wiped out every person associated with the Humans First and Last Movement. Towns are now a half the size they used to be or completely wiped out, and now people are trying to make up for the loss.

 

The Humans First and Last Movement is super Nazi-ish. Rising up from jealousy of the more affluent, ruling class of Others, they created a covert society that eventually tried to take over cities and eradicate the Others. They pressured businesses and families into joining, and wore little pins to signify their membership.

Then the Others decided they were detrimental to nature, and killed all the HFL members.

The good ol’ You Genocide Us? We’ll Genocide Y’all Right Back routine.

 

A gruesome end to the HFL movement, but perhaps better than electing an HFL sympathizing president with nuclear codes, right?

Wait a minute. Which is the post apocalyptic world again?

 

Anyway, not much of this comes up, since it’s all over with. Fun things happen in this book such as:

  • More crow shifters! (I love the Crows!)
  • Warming up a human eye in the microwave
  • Playing board games with apex predators
  • More in depth look at the Intuit population
  • New romance!
  • A straight-shootin’ begrudging sherrif
  • Comeuppancaganza!

 

I’m excited for the next book. WHY WHYYYYY do books like this exist?! They are as engaging and almost as easy to read as it takes to watch TV episode, but it takes a YEAR for the next one to come out! ARGH!

 

Previous book reviews:

Written in Red

Murder of Crows

Marked in Flesh

Vision in Silver

Etched in Bone

 

 

 Hello Stranger

Author: Lisa Kleypas

Series: The Ravenels #4

Tags: Regency Romance, commoners, spy, retired police officer, lady doctor, surprise relation, surprise inheritance, surprise rich

Format: audiobook

Rating:  yay!

 

Ahh, here we are again.

A person can mosey into a Kleypas novel like a duchess on her daily garden walk. Everything is pleasant, cheerful, pretty, sweet. Nothing jumps out at you, and the path very predictably leads you to exactly where you wanted to be.

 

Two side characters that are almost too common to have their own book fall in love with each other. Because: reasons. She’s London’s first lady doctor. He is the equivalent of an FBI agent? Or spy? Hard to tell. Intrigue! And other stuff.

If I wasn’t so familiar with Kleypas, I would be disappointed that the woman clawed her way through medical school as the first lady doctor, and works night and day treating patients who look down on her, the woman who has to work ten times as hard to be taken seriously, and still is usually discounted, ultimately has a personality of a silly, vulnerable, giggling girl.

“Ooh he’s so manly, he makes me feel like a woman,” and other such nonsense.

But I do know Kleypas, so it only made sense.

 

I am, however, calling bullshit on the usual nonsense of not knowing what her own arousal feels like. “Something tingling down there” my ass.

That may be passably believable in sheltered ladies and heiresses, but the woman is a doctor for gods-sake

I think that regency often exists to highlight the innocence of first love, first feelings, first encounter. Kleypas especially earns her schekels by peddling the innocence myth. But why make a doctor character if you aren’t going to change the narrative at all?

Oh yeah, because it’s a romance novel.

 

Our hero was kinda cute with his Irish accent. I always like to hear the accents on the audiobooks, even if they aren’t true to life.

Something killed the love a little bit, though. Lady Doctor mentioned something about how malnutrition would stunt some street urchin child’s growth, and the Hero was like, “yeah, prison food [that I grew up eating] is even worse.”

This man, who grew up in a prison, eating probably gruel with hardly any nutrition, is for some reason the Romance Hero standard of 6’2″, when he should be around 5’4″.

 

In fact, now that I think of it, I know A LOT of heroes who grew up in strained circumstances who are unaccountably large, sometimes even by romance novel standards, even, the shortest probably being around 6′ and the tallest probably 6’8″.

Were they given growth hormones?! What is on the streets of London, I ask you, that causes this spurt of gangly street urchins?! Were their parents giants?!?

“Interestingly enough, the discovery of a synthetic version of the Human Growth Hormone, or HBH, was discovered when an intrepid scientist noticed that males born on the most derelict streets of London or while their mothers were interned in Old Bailey prison grew up to be extremely tall, successful, angsty, cerulean eyed men. Upon further testing, it was found that a particular odoriferous sludge found by the Thames activated unprecedented height, muscle mass and high cheekbones.”

 

I say again, why no love towards the short guys? I know there are certain expectations, but I do have some love for a good, short man. To be honest, I pictured our spy/officer/Irish hero at a healthy 5’8″ with one of those lean bodies.

A Lady in the Smoke: A Victorian Mystery

Author: Karen Odden

Series: N/A

Tags: Victorian, mystery, squeaky clean, broomstick boyfriend, trial, train wreck

Format: e-book

Rating: meh.

 

This month’s podcast book! Listen to Getting Lit S2EP04 here.

You should listen to the podcast!

 

This book really solidified for me the definition of a character trope I’d like to call Broomstick Boyfriend.

Most commonly found in children’s chapter books, YA, or Christian, the Broomstick Boyfriend is more of a placeholder for the man you will marry than anything else.

The mental image I get when I think about characters like Paul is a teenage girl dancing around the room with her broom, pretending it is her future husband. That broom has the same (or more?) personality as the male opposite in this novel.

Broomstick Boyfriend is the modern prince charming. He relies almost entirely on his good looks and eyes sparkling with laughter. His only character traits are coincidentally every trait the protagonist wrote down in her diary, under the line “My Perfect Husband Will Be…” The sumation of his soul is her own relationship aspirations.

Broomstick has no character. He is unfailingly kind, patient, righteous, gentle, extremely mild mannered. He doesn’t push sexuality at all. His interest is almost platonic, even fatherly. He is often gone for many chapters. The less he is around, the less he can show his ugly, human attributes.

On the Scale of Assholes, Broomstick Boyfriend is around a 1 or 0. If he is an asshole, he was not written intentionally so.

 

I had my place in my heart for Broomstick Boyfriends growing up, much like how you have a place in your heart for that horse or dog that you will cuddle and take care of. Then I reached middle school and I realized that the boys around me were nothing like my Broomstick Boyfriend. They don’t talk, act, think, or do anything like the romantic opposites in chapter books.

I mean would girls actually read books if the male protagonists played mean tricks, smelled heavily of boy sweat and Axe Body Spray, and made fart noises?

I think not.

What do you do when even the fictional modern world disappoints you?

Go back farther in time, I guess.

Enter Mr. Darcy into my life. How would I have ever survived high school without Jane Austen?

 

For more on broomstick boyfriends, Victorian mysteries, and other fun, check out the latest podcast on the same book: Getting Lit S2EP04 A Lady in the Smoke.

 

Emma

Author: Jane Austen

Series: N/A

Tags: Classics, Greatest English Novel in the World, OMGILOVEHERSOMUCH, Girl crush on a 230-something dead woman, real Regency

Format: book/ebook/audiobook

Rating: a childish gurgle of excited glee.

 

Ohhhhhhhhh Emma.

This was the book for my serious book club. It was an Educational experience for some, having never read (or wanted to read) Jane Austen in their life. And it was Fan Girl Austen Club for others (guess which one I was).

A good chunk of the book club meeting was me chattering enthusiastically about themes while the other book club members’s eyes glazed over with detachment.

#SorryNotSorry. You all knew what you were getting into.

 

I tried to find my thesis that I wrote on Emma senior year by sifting through all my old devices and cloud storages. Found 60 short stories of Batman Fanfiction, 800 digital versions of comics related to Batman, a bunch of shitty Fiction Writing Workshop stories, but my thesis? Noooooo….

Luckily I have a big old binder of it in my parent’s house.

(I think).

 

Every time I reread an Austen novel, I focus on a different theme. This time I focused on Mr. Woodhouse.

 

As awful as Emma is as a character, when I think of the book, the first thing I think of is how this seemingly selfish and arrogant woman is so kind and caring towards her father.

I think of the time when the snow begins to fall, Emma and Knightly look at each other and immediately jump into action as a super couple to jointly take care of the panicking Mr. Woodhouse.

I think of how Mr. Knightly puts together a Mr. Woodhouse Playroom, with books and a warm fire and fun things to look at, so Emma can go on a picnic without worry.

How Mr. Knightly is perfect for Emma for that reason. He gets it. He speaks the same love language as her.

 

Emma is an ironic character. With her wit, care, selfishness, selflessness, classist tendencies, arrogance, cheerfulness, liveliness, it’s hard to like her, and it’s hard to hate her. She is just stuffed with personality. It makes me want to pull her apart, see what makes her tick.

 

The key to understanding Emma, I think, is Mr. Woodhouse.

If you start the book knowing, as you do by the end of it, the truths that

  1. Emma has given up the idea of marriage and any society outside her small country town in order to take care of her father,
  2. Emma loves her father dearly, and hates to even think a word against him,
  3. Emma’s natural personality of a lively disposition and keen mind makes her ill suited for a retired country life with no one around her as her equal,

you will find that it is an entirely different book.

The severe tension between those three truths leads to some very repressed anger. She is ill suited for her life. She has no way of changing it. Her father is to blame. She loves her father, who has some mental deficiencies, through no fault of his own. She cannot be resentful towards what her father can’t help.

 

In fact, Emma complains about everything EXCEPT her father.

The first half of the book at least is devoted to Emma rebelling against the norms she was supposed to accept without question.

Why do we need to be nice to Miss Bates?

Why do we care about class, but never talk about it?

Why does she need to get married?

Having never been challenged, she brings the challenge to herself by pushing the labels of acceptable conduct. Her pushing leads to everything from charming foibles (her declaration of never needing to marry) to the humbling of her character (yes, we do need to be nice to Miss Bates).

But she learns. How lovely that she questions, experiments, and learns from her mistakes. How much better that is than just blindly following the guidance of others, like Harriet.

 

It’s particularly interesting that she gets so frustrated with Miss Bates when her father is so similar. There are a lot of parallels between the people she doesn’t like and her own life.There seems to be some hidden insecurities within the reasoning for who she likes and doesn’t like.

Using Mr. Woodhouse as a key, I separated each character into parallel or competing personality traits to get a better idea of each. Each trait seems to have its opposite:

Ailing (or perceived ailing) / Healthy

Partial (or warm) / Objective

Sociable (chatty, amiable) / Laconic (ill tempered)

Taken Care Of / Caretaker

Steadfast / Changeable

Artless / Calculated (sly)

Rich (high station) / Poor (low station)

I’ve been having a lot of fun comparing and contrasting the characters with their traits. Austen is very intentional on matching characters up according to how they complement each other, not just in romantic relationships but friendships and caregiving relationships as well (there is a reason why Mr. Woodhouse and Mrs. Weston get along so well).

Austen never sets up people that are exactly the same, either. The part that most reminds me of this is when in Sense and Sensibility, Col. Brandon and Eleanor totally recognize the other person is a good person, and share a “too bad we are in love with these idiots” moment. Those two would never be put together because they are too alike. Col. Brandon needs liveliness, and Eleanor needs, goofiness, I guess? Edward is a bit of a derp.

In a graph, you can see how couples complement each other in different ways.

 

ARGH! I’m spending too much time on this. I would LOVE to dig deeper into this book a million ways, but alas, I have work and stuff.

If I were to write another thesis (don’t tempt me), I would take what I’ve started here, and use the book’s language to create a list of character traits (for instance: “lively disposition”), then break down why it matters and what we should take from it.

Can I get a sabbatical for this?

 

On the Radar

 

Currently Reading:

Hot and Badgered and The Mane Event by Shelly Laurenston

Kill or Be Kilt by Victoria Roberts

The Deed and The Chase by Lynsay Sands

Blood Shadows and Blood Roses by Lindsay J. Pryor

The Scot Beds His Wife by Kerrigan Byrne

Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

 

Recently Bought:

100 Insects of Arkansas and the Midsouth by Norman and Cheryl Lavers

Unbound by Cara McKenna

 

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