Introducing Kids’ Corner!

Welcome to Kids’ Corner, where we will feature exclusive book reviews written by children. This is a space we’ve designed specifically to encourage children to read more books! Reading is a skill which hones critical thinking, empathy, and a variety of social requirements. Reading from a young age helps to foster these vital skills keenly. When children read books they choose for themselves and are interested in, it contributes to a sense of empowerment, accomplishment, and helps to create lifelong readers, as well as improving vocabulary, developing empathy, and teaching valuable life lessons. We are excited to work with young readers in this project and are eager to help a new generation get started on the path to becoming lifelong readers!

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A Roman Death

511jtbjspil-_sx327_bo1204203200_A Roman Death by Joan O’Hagan

I read it as an: ARC

Source: Discovering Diamonds / Helen Hollick

Length: 256 pp

Publisher: Black Quill Press

Year: 2017 (2nd edition; originally pubbed in 1988)

In Joan O’Hagan’s novel A Roman Death, set just prior to Julius Caesar’s assassination, two families become embroiled in a feud that has the potential to bring both to ruin. The young daughter of the wealthy plebian Quintus Fufidius is betrothed to Lucius Scaurus, the son of the all-but-bankrupt patrician Marcus Scaurus. At first, it would seem a good match, for the young Fufidia is besotted with Lucius, and her dowry would bring his family out of debt and back into good standing among the Roman nobility. However, evidence soon reaches Cinna, Fufidia’s uncle, brother of her mother Helvia, that Lucius is a coward in battle and sexually submissive to men, both of which are viewed as horrific acts at the time. Cinna, who is both an officer and an accomplished poet, writes a poem and contrives to have Lucius read it aloud at a public poetry reading held by Eucharis, a freed slave and long time mistress of Fufidius. Lucius takes his revenge for the humiliation against Fufidius’ son, who vows to himself to tell no one but to seek his own revenge. After a pre-wedding feast for Lucius and Fufidia, Lucius drops dead of aconite poisoning. Helvia, who had never hidden her hatred for Lucius, is charged with his murder and brought to trial. She is defended by her kinsman Cicero, who naturally gets her off the hook with his logic and rhetoric. More plot twists and revelations occur after the trial concludes, though, wringing out the drama – and the reader – a little bit further.

This novel was, I confess, really hard to get through. I don’t normally mind slow pacing and I usually love complex political intrigue. However, this one was plodding and fairly pedantic. The actual mystery wasn’t terribly mysterious, though a couple of the revelations at the end were mildly surprising. The characters were all excellent, though, if mostly unsympathetic. The historical detail was also impressive and delightful. The latter part of the plot did flow more swiftly, with the trial and various machinations of the families being the most interesting, if you can make it that far. Based on the plot, I would give it 2 stars, but on the historical details it would get 4. I suppose that balances out to 3 stars in my world.

Eventually you will be able to read this review on Discovering Diamonds.

Lock In

51wy8fspwcl-_sx304_bo1204203200_Lock In by John Scalzi

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrator: Wil Wheaton

Source: my own collection

Length: 9:57:00

Publisher: Audible Studios

Year: 2014

FUN! So far, John Scalzi is 100% for me. I know he has a shitload of books and I haven’t read nearly all of them, but all the ones I have read have been a kick in the pants. Lock In is no different. Well, I think it IS a little different from his other works in terms of style, but a) you know what I mean, and b) I could be wrong since I haven’t read the entirety of Scalzi’s canon. This one had a slightly darker feel than the others I’ve read, but it was an excellent story and covered a variety of social issues in an interesting manner.

In the near-future, a flu-like pandemic called Haden’s Syndrome decimates the global population. In the first wave, billions die. In the second wave, some of them get sick again with meningitis. Some recover. Some die. Some are locked in, fully conscious but unable to move or speak or do anything at all with their bodies. Eventually, scientists collaborate to create a neural net that connect to personal transports, robot-like devices affectionately known as “threeps.” Chris Shane has been locked in since he was a toddler. His father is a billionaire ex-NBA player-turned-real-estate-baron and so he was able to help fund a lot of Haden’s research. As a result, Chris is one of the most famous people in the world, after the First Lady Margaret Haden, for whom the disease was named. Chris is an FBI agent and is assigned to work with FBI veteran Leslie Vann on a murder that looks like it might be Haden-related. As they investigate, it becomes apparent that someone is using “integrators,” people who survived the meningitis phase of Haden’s without being locked in and can allow locked in people to use their bodies, to commit crimes. Chris and Vann get drawn into a highly organized and complex corporate and political scheme.

This wasn’t ALL that much sci-fi, it just happened to have android-like creations into which Haden’s patients can link in so they can walk around and interact with other people who are not locked in. It’s at heart a police procedural, but I wasn’t bored with it as I am with many others. I felt that the overall ideas addressed some interesting concepts of social equality and justice, to which sci-fi is imminently well suited to discuss. There are questions of whether Haden’s are disabled or not, if they are deserving of special accommodations or not (if they have a threep), and the development of their own unique culture. As I was reading, it actually put me in mind of Deaf culture, and then I saw that many others had also considered this aspect as well. Not sure if Scalzi did that on purpose or not, but it was interesting.

I also really liked that Scalzi didn’t make much note of race in this story. It wasn’t until quite far into the book that I realized Chris is black, and it didn’t make a difference one way or the other. I love that Vann is a woman in charge and she makes no apologies for her heavy drinking and promiscuity.

The characters were all well developed and complex. Chris, as well as every other Haden we encountered, very much had his own personality and there was no hint of “robot” to him. They are people and not robots and that is a big element in the story.

The only thing I didn’t really like is that there were a few story holes, bits that were hinted at and never explained, or overtly said would be explained and then never were. For example, we never learned why Vann and Det. Trinh hate each other. Maybe it wasn’t terribly relevant to the story, but it would have been nice to know, especially since Vann said she would tell Chris why one day. If it is just because of a stereotype – federal agent and local law enforcement officer hate each other – then maybe leave it it, because that’s kind of overdone and boring if it serves no real purpose.

I listened to this on audiobook, narrated by Wil Wheaton. He is one of my favorite narrators and, as with the other books he’s narrated, he did a fabulous job on this one. The audiobook also included the novella “Unlocked” at the end, which was excellent (though not narrated by Wheaton). The novella explained a LOT of things that weren’t necessarily explained by the overarching narrative of the novel. The novella apparently wasn’t included in the print version of the book, so I included a link to it here, from Tor.com: https://www.tor.com/2014/05/13/unlocked-an-oral-history-of-hadens-syndrome-john-scalzi/

Overall, I loved it (though maybe not as much as Redshirts or Agent to the Stars) and am looking forward to reading another Scalzi novel.

Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and BoneChildren of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

I read it as a: hardback

Source: my own collection

Length: 525 pp

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co

Year: 2018

Zelie is a maji, a class of people who could wield magic, before it had been taken away from them by the despotic king, Saran. Her brother Tzain has no magic but is unswervingly loyal to Zelie and her desire to overthrow Saran and restore magic to the kingdom of Orisha. Along with them on their journey is Amari, the runaway princess and younger daughter of Saran. They are all hunted by Inan, Saran’s son and heir, who has a dark secret of his own.

On its surface, Children of Blood and Bone is an epic fantasy about a young woman who goes on a quest to restore magic to her people, interwoven richly with West African mythology. Under the surface, it is a story of racial violence and oppression, gender violence, and political corruption. It is highly relevant social commentary couched as fantasy.

Throughout the novel, characters’ worldviews are challenged and changed based on their experiences. Many things in the story are horrific. There is rape and torture and callous degradation of living beings for entertainment and because others simply don’t see them as human. Some characters have kind hearts but fail to do much to help because they never thought about it. Others have good intentions but are led astray by conflicting or confused desires. Some of the strongest points are when Inan realizes that Zelie is afraid all the time because of things that his father has caused to happen to her, and that he never would have thought of her as a human being, let alone a good person, if he hadn’t had to spend time with her.

The world-building in the novel is lovely and rich. Drawing from African mythology, Adeyemi is able to create a world that is complex and beautiful and which may also feel very unique to readers who are unfamiliar with anything other than Western European mythology. I liked that the geography was based on actual places in Nigeria but for me, I don’t know that it necessarily added anything to the story. I’m entirely unfamiliar with Nigerian geography so it wouldn’t have mattered to me one way or another, but maybe it added a layer of meaning to readers who are more familiar with the region.

One thing I felt was a major problem is that the main characters – Zelie, Amari, and Tzain – had such similar voices that they were all but interchangeable. Each chapter was told from their own first person POV. Multiple 1st person POV is not my favorite way to narrate a book, and this was no exception. The chapters were titled with the character who was speaking, but even so, it sometimes took a minute to figure out who was speaking because the characters each needed to have stronger, more well defined personalities of their own. It seemed odd to me that these characters lacked a well defined personality since they each held such wildly different roles, but when they were speaking, there really was little to differentiate them, which was disappointing. Maybe more development will come in the next book, now that the world-building has been more or less established.

I am looking forward to the next book, especially after the way this one ended. I think everyone is pretty fucked. It should raise some very interesting and complicated questions in book two. I do still wish fantasy authors could write a self-contained, standalone novel, though. I get tired of series. Can no one write just one story anymore?

 

Star Trek: DS9: Ascendance

25111017Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Ascendance by David R. George III

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my own collective

Length: 351 pp

Publisher: Pocket Books

Year: 2016

This definitely wasn’t my favorite Trek novel. It took forever to grab my attention. I found this to be generally a meandering, hodgepodge example of a book that was a struggle to pay attention to. What should have taken me maybe three days to read took me closer to three weeks, literally. I found myself procrastinating, doing housework, writing other things, to avoid reading this book. At one point, I even did yard work, which I loathe. Possibly it would have been better on audiobook, but for whatever reason, Star Trek seems not to do full length audiobooks on any but the most recent books, which is disappointing for those of us who enjoy a good audiobook. Just saying. Dear Star Trek/Simon and Schuster: If you want a narrator for Star Trek books, I am available. Just not for this one. This one was not my favorite. I have a list of older ones I’d love to read for you, though. Feel free to contact me. 🙂

There was a lot of action in the first part of the book, then not so much. It was like two entirely different narratives crammed into one. I think it would have been better served as two separate books. Both narratives could have been fleshed out better that way. I felt there were quite a few unanswered questions, or spots that just could have been addressed more thoroughly if it had been given its own book. And the whole thing with Vic Fontaine just felt tacked on. What was even the point of that at all, other than VF is a popular character? Just delete the program already.

A quirk DRG3 has is that he recaps stuff that we literally just read. Like a couple pages previously. It’s annoying. It is understandable when referencing events that happened in previous books, but I find it intrusive to have a reminder from just a few pages back.

There’s some really good discussion about religion, which I did enjoy. I think it has always been a strength of DS9 that religion was a focal point in so many story lines, and that it shows how religion can impact politics in so many ways. Sci-fi is so well suited to discuss social topics like this in a meaningful way because it provides distance to examine what can be sensitive issues with something approaching logic and critical thought. It was probably the most interesting part of the book.

HOWEVER. Ro Laren finds religion? No. That was so out of character. A couple sentences thrown in saying she had thought about it a bit does not make a convincing argument in favor of her conversion, especially after a lifetime of being an unbeliever. If it had been explained better, maybe I could buy it. People do have conversion experiences. But the way Ro’s was handled was, to me, unsatisfying and unbelievable. Asking questions and wondering and doubting is one thing, and believers and skeptics alike can do it. But it didn’t seem like that was the case. It seemed that Ro had become a believer, or was very soon going to become one, and it just doesn’t really fit with her in a way that I can see. On the flip side, her super religious first officer, Cenn Deska, lost his faith based on the same evidence that was making Ro have questions in the other direction. He had to face evidence and ask some hard questions and he had a difficult time dealing with it, but if he is a logical being, he will find a way to reconcile the evidence with his belief, if he still wants to be religious. Plenty of people manage to be religious as well as scientific. It gives me cognitive dissonance, so I’m atheist, but you do you and I know plenty of people who have no problem reconciling the two. Deska will probably manage it. Or he’ll sink into a pit of despair and blow himself out an airlock. Whatever.

It was good to see Taran’atar, who is an interesting character anyway. I kind of have to give a side eye to the way the Ascendants were taken care of. Kind of similar to how David Mack took care of the Borg a little bit, isn’t it? I mean, yay for not killing everything all the time forever! And it was interesting that THAT’S where that wormhole planet came from! But absorbing/changing big threats has been done now. I do like that it was Taran’atar who figured out how to do it without destroying everything forever, though. That was pretty shiny.

Also, this totally isn’t DRG3’s fault, but the font in this book was fucking tiny. I thought it was just me being an old, but I got another recent Trek mass market paperback off my shelf to compare and nope. The font in that one was noticeably larger and easier to read. What, they couldn’t add 30 pages and use a bigger font? It made an already fairly tedious reading experience that much less enjoyable.

Overall, though I didn’t hate this book, I didn’t love it, either. I’m disappointed – I had been so looking forward to reading some Star Trek, now that I had time to do so, and I was just underwhelmed. I really miss the old days of the numbered, stand-alone Trek novels, actually. The writing seemed tighter and didn’t involve a floppity billion interwoven crossover novels that you have to read all of them or you have no fucking clue what’s going on. If I go a long time between reading the relaunch novels, as I do now because of various and sundry adult reasons, I feel like I almost have to reread all of them to keep things straight, and it’s not because I’m old. It’s because they are convoluted now.

 

The Girl in the Tower

51wy6en8tdl-_sx327_bo1204203200_The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrator: Kathleen Gati

Source: my own collection

Length: 13:02:00

Publisher: Random House Audio

Year: 2017

The second book in Arden’s Winternight Trilogy picks up right where The Bear and the Nightingale left off. Vasya is fleeing her home village, where her father is now dead and the villagers, at the urging of the nasty priest Constantine, are calling her a witch. Vasya plans to go to Moscow to her older sister Olga. On the way, though, Vasya discovers groups of bandits raiding and burning villages, stealing children, murdering the folk who live there, and is determined to put a stop to it. She dresses as a young noble boy and begins harrying the bandits and recovering children as she can. Eventually, she encounters her brother, Sasha,  who is out with their cousin Dmitrii, also hunting the bandits. Although Sasha is horrified that his sister is dressing as a boy, they have to maintain her ruse because Dmitrii is fooled and charmed by the boy he thinks Vasya is, and it would cause him to lose face to admit he had been fooled, as well as ruin Vasya’s reputation. As they continue the hunt, they are joined unexpectedly by another, unknown young nobleman, Kasyan, who offers his aid in hunting the bandits because he claims his own lands have also been raided by them as well.

In time, Vasya and the men return to Moscow where her sister Olga is brought into the secret of her sister’s traipsing across the country as a boy. Olga is furious and only with great reluctance goes along with continuing the ruse, for she understands the political ramifications, but eventually, of course, Vasya is found out. She is called witch and thrown in the women’s tower, as sure a prison for her as any dungeon cell, and is bound for a convent when she learns the truth about one of the noblemen and his plans. Vasya has to find a way to help save her family and the rest of Moscow before an evil demon can take over as Grand Prince of Moscow.

There are few things I didn’t love about this book. It’s pretty unique for the second book of a trilogy not to be mostly fluff and filler, but this one was outstanding. It had a solid plot, tons of character development, and action all the way through. Paired with Arden’s ability to craft gorgeous atmosphere and intriguing characters, this is a masterful work in its own right.

I love the lyrical style of Arden’s writing. I listened to this on audiobook, which I mostly do while driving, so I didn’t get a chance to bookmark any spots. I wish I could have done so because there were dozens of times that I thought to myself, “That’s a beautiful line” or “What a cool word” and would have included some quotes in my review. But alas. In general, though, the writing added a sense of surrealness that heightened the magic in the story.

Vasya’s development throughout was strong. She started out as a girl, but not a child, and by the end had grown into a young woman. She had some hard lessons to learn in this novel, and being who she is, she had to learn them all the hardest way she possibly could. Everything that happened to her has served a purpose, and will help hone her into a strong woman that is able to face the challenges that will come in the final book of the trilogy.

The focus on gender roles throughout the novel is empowering. I love a good feminist fantasy! Vasya throws traditional roles out the window when she refuses to marry or to go to a convent, which were the only two options available to a girl of her social status at that time. She further tromps on them when she dresses as a boy and goes gallivanting around the country all by herself. Well, she has Solovey, her sentient magical horse, as her companion, but most people she knows wouldn’t count that. Her freedom when she is passing as a boy serves to underscore the stifling life that highborn women have to endure once she gets to Moscow and sees how her sister lives her entire life in the women’s tower, never leaving or going outside except to go to church. There is also the accusation of “witch” that follows Vasya from her village to Moscow, which is traditionally given to women. Sasha said as much near the end whe he told her that men call some women witches because they have no other name for them. In a way, Vasya is a witch because she can, indeed, see the nature and house spirits that many others cannot, and she can speak to horses, and she is fearless and bold. She is a role model for brave girls, not meek and timid ones, and so a witch she must be. All girls should have a role model like Vasya.

Also, all girls should have a horse like Solovey.

I cannot wait until the third book comes out! I’m preordering the audiobook as soon as I get my credit for the month from Audible.

 

Bringing Up Bebe

51yzwwbhthl-_sx324_bo1204203200_Bringing Up Bebe (now with Bebe Day By Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting) by Pamela Druckerman

I read it as a: paperback

Source: library/ my own collection

Length: 434 pp

Publisher: Penguin

Year: 2014

This is a book I read because I heard about it on one of the Book Riot podcasts I listen to and I just thought it sounded interesting. I normally don’t care about parenting books or anything, so my dendrites and synapses must have been connecting in a weird way that day, because I immediately was intrigued and placed a hold on it at my library.

It turns out, this is a book I wish had been available when I had a newborn, or before she was born, when I was still pregnant. Maybe I like it so much because a lot of it is stuff I already do, or did when my kid was a baby, and so I feel validated. I don’t know. But I did learn some awesome new things as well, so I don’t think that’s all of it. Whatever it was, I really appreciated this book and wish it had been written when I was still the parent of a newborn.

I don’t adhere to the idea that there is one right way to raise a child, but I really, really do think that some things should be universal. For example, treat your children like they have a brain in their head and can understand you, even when they are tiny babies. Listen to them, but do not cede any of your authority to them or allow them to make the decisions. You are the parent; you make the decisions.  Set strict limits, but give a shit ton of freedom within those limits. Teach them how to act, which includes how to sleep, how to eat, and how to dress for public. Let them be bored and learn how to entertain themselves. Hearing no isn’t going to damage them. Children who don’t know how to deal with frustration are going to have a hard time in life, as are children who are always given what they want or who have parents who think they are here to be their children’s friends. Snacking is bad for everyone, but a small, healthy afternoon snack is fine for younger children. Tips like this are the foundation of Druckerman’s observations of middle class French parenting, and I fucking dig it.

One thing Druckerman saw French parents teach their children was how to wait and how to entertain themselves. This starts from infancy, when parents don’t rush to the crib the second bebe makes a peep. I often feel like such a weirdo when I actually expect my kid to behave, or teach her that we don’t do XYZ behavior no matter what her friends are doing, or that it’s not going to kill her to be bored or wait for a minute because I’m busy right now and I’m not put on this planet to entertain her. I am horrified (and annoyed) when other parents assume I will drop what I’m doing just because she demands something. Nope. If she’s not bleeding or otherwise damaged, she can wait until I am finished with my task, when I can give her my full attention. I feel that is better anyway, when I CAN give her my full attention and not be distracted by whatever it was I had left undone. Besides, delayed gratification is something everyone needs to learn, as is self-entertainment. This book covers a variety of ways in which French parents teach their children how to do this.

Since eating and enjoying one’s food is a big part of French culture, it makes sense that it is also a big part of the way they raise their children, too. In general, according to Druckerman, you will not see the French letting their kids run feral in restaurants or not making them eat healthy meals at appropriate times. Snacking is also generally frowned upon for all but young children, which is awesome and something I think everyone needs to get behind. It’s not necessary constantly to poke food down one’s pie hole. Perhaps if children weren’t snacking so much, they would actually be hungry at meal times and eat.

Yes, a lot of what was covered in the book was common sense, but a) a lot of parenting books are and b) I think it’s important to remember that the author was a first time mother when she was initially thinking about it and writing it. Her own mother, who presumably is the person she would have turned to for a variety of child rearing tips, was on a different continent, across an ocean, and probably had, at the very least, a five hour time difference. I don’t imagine it would have been too easy for her just to ring up her mom and ask for help like I could have, or others who had their mothers closer by and able to help out more. A lot of common sense child rearing things aren’t common sense at first to sleep deprived new parents. When you do finally figure it out, it comes as a revelation. Give Druckerman a break. Besides, she made it work for her. She got a book deal out of it, at any rate, so good for her. The haters, I’m guessing, didn’t. Or maybe they feel defensive about their own parenting? Maybe their kids didn’t sleep through the night at 3 months old, refuse to try new food, and don’t know how to wait for things nicely.

I also found it interesting that a lot of comments on Amazon and Goodreads were negative because of the focus on mothers regaining their figures within three months postpartum. But why is that a bad thing? Why should it be unexpected, too, in a culture where looks have traditionally been valued? No one is dragging a woman to her doctor and forcing her to undergo perineal retraining sessions, or whatever it was, so I am assuming there is at least some willingness on her part to do a lot of work to get her body back. I guess I’m not sure why this is a surprise to some people, or why it seems offensive to them. If you don’t want perineal retraining, then don’t get it. No one is making you, nor are they making you lose your pregnancy weight, just like no one made you gain 75 lbs while pregnant in the first place. The social pressure appears to be a part of the framework of French society and it is something people are used to and expect, just like in America you are used to and expect that you can get 24-hour drive through fast food. The French generally seem to have a healthier relationship to food than Americans do, and are more willing to make healthy lifestyle changes (as opposed to fad dieting) to attain a nice looking body, but god forbid anyone point that out.

Ultimately, I loved this book so much that I bought my own copy after I returned my library copy. The one I bought myself includes Druckerman’s follow-up, Bebe Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting, but I haven’t read that all the way yet. I’ll update my review once I have done.

The Viper Amulet

51h73vic5yl-_sx331_bo1204203200_The Viper Amulet by Martha Marks

I read it as an: ARC

Source: Helen Hollick via  Discovering Diamonds

Length: 404 pp

Publisher: Martha’s Art

Year: 2017

I definitely recommend this novel. I also feel it needs trigger warnings for rape and child harm. If it has a theme, it is all suffering, all the time, because it is rare that there is a time when at least one of the characters isn’t in some kind of pain. That isn’t preventing me from highly anticipating the final installment of the series, though!

The second novel in Marks’s early Roman Empire trilogy takes up very shortly after the end of the first. Theodosia Varro has escaped Rome along with Alexander, Stefan, and Lycos, her former slaves. They eventually land on the island of Euboea, off the eastern coast of Greece. Stefan and Alexander had previously befriended a farmer there, while Theodosia had still been in prison in the previous book, and it was to his farm that they fled. Alexander had also gone searching for his wife, who he learned had died some years previously, but he was able to use rubies that Theodosia had given him to secure a letter of manumission for his son Nikolaos. He brings the boy back with him to the farm, where Stefan has married the farmer’s daughter, and they are starting to make a grand life for themselves. Alexander takes Theodosia, who had given him a new baby son, Doros, and Nikolaos, to the city of Eretria to start a new life for his family. As the years pass, Alexander builds a large shipping business, becoming a respected member of Eretrian society. However, Nikolaos’s rage towards Theodosia and Doros for replacing his own dead mother cause familial rifts that will have devastating repercussions.

Overall, this was another excellent novel by Marks. It picked up almost immediately after the end of the previous, which is appealing. This novel covers a lot more time than the previous, which took place over a handful of years. The Viper Amulet covers close to 15 years. The sense of time is handled well, with children being born and growing but not with jarring gaps or jumps ahead in time. The characters each develop in their own ways, but in others they may take a step back. It was interesting to see how Theodosia reacted to life as a Greek woman, which was more limited than that of a Roman woman.

My favorite character was Myrene, Theodosia’s slave. She had an awful time in so many ways, but she was the strongest woman in the book and deserves all the credit for most of the good things that happened because of sheer force of will. Yes, things happened for Theodosia, but often because she played on her family’s name, not really any other reason. Myrene is the lady who gets stuff done, often while pregnant, just post-delivery, or just after any number of tragedies and traumas. She is a woman to be reckoned with and respected.

My only real quibble was with Nikolaos. Some animosity towards Theodosia and Doros when he was a child would have been understandable, at least if he had bonded with Alexander once he had been freed from his own slavery. However, it was never really made apparent that such a deep bond had occurred. If father/son bonding took place, it must have happened off the page. Then as Nikolaos aged, he should have outgrown his animosity. Possibly Alexander could have had an adult conversation with him rather than just commanding him to knock it off. If Alexander had decided to disown him in favor of Doros, for example, that would have given Nikolaos an understandable motive for his anger. The rage and hatred he harbors toward Theodosia and Doros is the catalyst for several plot points, so it is necessary, but the way it manifested – basically out of thin air and with no real explanation – got kind of old after a while.

Eventually you will be able to read this review on Discovering Diamonds.

 

Trenton Makes

Trenton Makes by Tadzio Koelb

I read it as an: ARC

Source: my own collection/review source

Length: pp/time

Publisher: Doubleday

Year: 2018

Thoughts: A woman in post-WWII Trenton, NJ, accidentally kills her abusive husband, disposes of his body, and takes his identity. She can do this because he was apparently pretty small and she had worked in a factory during the war making wire rope and was strapping like Rosie the Riveter. She took on his identity as Abe Kunstler, moved to another part of town, went through a string of various odd jobs, and eventually is able to get work at another factory, making wire rope as he had done during the war. Abe has it pretty good until he decides that in order for his ruse to be complete, he needs a wife and child. He meets Inez, an alcoholic taxi dancer, and woos her away from her job at her dance hall. They marry and start to build a life together.  In time, Abe takes steps to start a family. After one on-the-page attempt to get Inez pregnant, the narrative then jumps ahead about 25 years to 1971. Trying for a family apparently worked, because Abe has a son, Art, who has possibly figured out Abe’s secret. Now Abe is determined to hold together everything he has struggled so hard to create.

Spoilers below cut.Read More »

The Kill Fee

51kb9sptu2l-_sx324_bo1204203200_The Kill Fee  by Fiona Veitch Smith

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 330 pp

Publisher: Lion FIction

Year: 2016

Thoughts: The second instalment of the Poppy Denby series finds our intrepid heroine chasing down a killer who is after a stolen Faberge egg. The egg may contain a document containing information about the monarchs and other ruling members of European society, enough to destabilize every government and draw the continent back into war again. Key to finding the egg are members from a Russian noble family who were thought to have been murdered years ago. Poppy and her colleagues are trying to track down the egg and missing Russian nobility before the killer strikes again, this time at one of Poppy’s inner circle.

This book was as tautly written as the first in the series. The action was fast paced and the plot was complex without being unbelievable. The characters, including the secondary ones, were interesting and fun in their various ways. I enjoyed getting to know more about Poppy and Rollo. Rollo is my favorite, I believe, next to Poppy herself. I do enjoy a strong lady Bright Young Thing. However, not gonna lie. I just – can’t – care about the Russian stuff. It wasn’t anything the author did that I felt was badly handled or anything. I just don’t care about and have never been interested in Russian stuff, current politics excepted. Don’t know why, just not my jam. So this took me forever to read because I wasn’t all that invested in the actual plot, though it was well written.

I am, however, excited to read the next in the series, which I started today.