Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Middle Sister's November Reads

Okay, so I am teensy bit late in posting November's book reviews. I won't bore you with the details, but all readers will understand when I say that sometimes, life gets in the way. But life didn't interrupt the reading, because reading is life.

Yarned and Dangerous by Sadie Hartwell See my previous review of this charming mystery, a nice beginning to a series I hope will continue. The setting was well fleshed out, the character growth was at a believable pace, and the supporting characters were interesting and characters I'd like to learn more about. I hope the author increases her descriptions of the setting and people, however; the upstate New York setting is a gorgeous locale. And may I dare ask for a map? I dearly love a mystery with a map.

Death Comes to Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd I try not to completely pan a book, but, my word, this book was pretty awful. The series (which is several titles long by this entry) no doubt started as a way to cash in on the popularity of Jane Austen and Downton Abbey. But I do not believe the author has ever actually read Jane Austen or any other book written in the Regency era (when her book is set) or watched Downton Abbey, because her characters are totally unbelievable for that time period. Gentleman did not wink at ladies (at least not society ladies). Ladies never winked at all. Valets did not petulantly tell their masters that the master had woken them up. No man would complement another man by comparing him to a woman (location 165 on my Kindle). No one would say to Mrs. Fairfax's face, while in society, that her husband drank too much (although they would whisper about it behind their fans). Silly, perhaps, but these and many other inappropriate actions and language create a discordant element a mile wide. Many of the readers this book is aimed at have inhaled every second of these popular historical novels and television shows, many times over. A good editor was sorely needed, even if just to make sure that vocabulary was correct; 'bridled' means to be angry, which Mrs. Chingford most definitely was not when she was speaking with Lucy's father; preened would have been a better word. I know, I know, most readers of the cosy genre are not historians, and they are not looking for accuracy. But in today's world, when people believe tweets are factual news, cursive writing is no longer taught, and the idea of having to memorize basic information is deemed pointless, I am horrified that people might read this and think it accurately portrays a certain time and place. Mystery-wise, the story was okay and the identity of the murderer a nice surprise, but I nearly gave up getting to the end because of my disgust with all the inaccuracies I had to wade through to get to the end (and get to the end I had to, as I was reviewing this for NetGalley). It might have been better had this been proffered as a steampunk mystery and not a cosy.

The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by Ulysses S. Grant My nineteenth-century literature book club decided to take on a biography from that period (after 7 years, we're searching hard to find new authors and seem to be unwilling to read ones we've read before). One member decided to read this, and the rest thought it sounded so interesting we all hopped onto her choice. I am glad I did. Although it is long (two volumes), it's very interesting. Grant's writing style is very crisp and clean, almost modern in its unfussiness. His critical assessment of confederate officers was surprising; he'd known many at West Point long before the war, and he painstakingly calls each by name honorable, well-prepared, good soldiers, and other complimentary terms despite their being collectively named the enemy. Refreshing in today's world, that recognition that someone you might disagree with is not an evil villain, but just a person with a different opinion. But I advise anyone who reads this to do so with a map of Civil War battlefields at the ready; I was constantly metaphorically kicking myself that I couldn't track troop movements while reading this late at night, in bed. Civil War buffs, this is a must read.

The Year Without a Purchase by Scott Dannemiller Another NetGalley preview. Having read a few books on de-cluttering the past few years, I thought this would be a related approach to the question of how to simplify or live mindfully that might be interesting. There was no description that the publisher is a Christian publisher, and I hope that is made clear on the book covers. Anyone just searching for a book to help de-clutter and simplify might be put off by the heavy Christian element to the decision by Mr. and Mrs.Dannemiller to go an entire year without buying anything but necessities. What some would find inspiring text would be a definite off-putting factor to another. The comedy schtick routine got a bit thick and much sometimes and i wish an editor had toned some of it down. However, given the success of faith-based weight loss programs, a faith-based approach to lessening consumerism and living more mindfully may be equally successful. Certainly we could all do with much less than we have, no matter why we choose to do so.