Book Reviews

a catch up post from June

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first started listening to this book (I had the audiobook, so I missed out on the inside illustrations, apparently), I thought that I wouldn’t like it very much. Berry starts off with a list of characters, then a list of characters that don’t make an appearance in the book. I thought that was absurd and a little bit of a boring way to introduce backstory.

Absurd was the right way to go. This whole book is delightfully absurd in the best way. Seven student’s at a ladies finishing school are startled when their headmistress and her brother are killed right in front of them. Instead of doing the sensible thing and calling the police, they decide to hide the murder so that they can live free in the school.

What follows is a wonderful farce of a comedy/murder mystery that reminded me of Arsnic and Old Lace and The Trouble with Harry.

Berry makes it easy to keep all of the girls straight, especially in the beginning, by giving each of the girls an epithet, “Smooth Kitty”, “Pocked Louise”, etc. I thought I would get tired of this quickly once I got to know the girls a bit better. Not so. It became such a part of the book that it was startling the few times that Berry did not use the epithets.

I loved the interactions with all of the girls. This was such a refreshing book of female friendship. Even when there was conflict in the relations (because let’s face it, hiding a couple of bodies and discovering a murderer is a stressful business), it didn’t turn into the vicious cat fighting that Hollywood has trained us to see. I loved that all the girls got their chance to shine, even Dull Martha.

My one quibble with the book is the ending wrapped up everything in a nice neat little bow, with little to no real consequences for all the hijinks that the girls got up to. While it fit in with the tone of the book, it did make me feel a little bit of plot whiplash. It was a bit of a minor thing, but it did prevent me from giving this a full five stars.

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have an interesting relationship with The Dresden Files. There are times when I have really, really hated Harry Dresden (or perhaps it was the author bias slipping in). There are times when I have really, really liked Dresden.

Fortunately, this was a book where I really liked Dresden. I think it was a nice return to the type of Dresden story that I love, with extremely high stakes and an emphasis on the world beyond Chicago. Plus we got to meet (or meet again) a whole host of fantastic characters that participate in the Unseelie Accords. I really liked that the stakes were both personal and political and world-wide. Much better than the previous book, which tried to return to an earlier, lighthearted(ish) storytelling.

Butcher seemed to finally get the idea that the readers want a bit more of the planning involved in the hijinks of the story, rather than inflating the stakes artificially and then pulling out previously planned rabbit from the hat. We still jumped straight into the execution of the plan, but at least he kept flashing back to the planning stages, which was really interesting.

Too bad it was only for that one plan. I wanted to reach into the book and shake Dresden for never telling his grandfather that Thomas was his other grandson. I realize that Butcher did it for dramatic tension, and to leave that revelation till the end of the book. However, the in-book reasons that Dresden kept not telling him were either increasingly ludicrous or repetitious. I’m not sure which is worse.

And now we get to the reasons I knocked off two stars. I’m one of the lucky ones that started reading this series only a couple of years ago. I can’t imagine waiting seven years and then getting half a book. Yes, there was a climax to the book. Yes, there was a beginning, middle, and end. But it felt like we, as readers, were being forced to accept a subplot as the main plot of the book. Yes saving Thomas is important. But it pales in comparison to the very large plot events that are happening around it. And we get no resolution for that. At least the next book is coming out soon. I’d really be screaming if it was another seven years before the next book.

The Archer at Dawn by Swati Teerdhala

The Archer at Dawn by Swati Teerdhala

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Swati Teerdhala continues to amaze me in this sequel to The Tiger at Midnight. I loved the strong female lead and the boy who falls in love with her as she is and refuses to change her.

This romance is carried through this new installment, as Esha and Kunal are both have to contend with the outside world intruding into their romance. In the last book, they mostly only dealt with each other. But in this one, all their previous associations are tested along with their relationship. And those aspects were tested one by one.

Some parts of this novel were a bit frustrating, because a lot of the problems could be solved with just a bit of open communication. But I also understood the reasoning behind Kunal’s silence, and Esha’s was presented as a simple blind spot. It made me a little frustrated when she didn’t then correct her behavior, but I also understood trying to separate the aspect of you that’s a leader and the aspect that’s in love with one of your subordinates. Kunal seems to be wanting more than he really has earned the trust for. Yet he also made good points that were ignored by the other rebels.

This was an excellent set up for an inevitable clash. I loved that I could both see it coming and was satisfied when it happened.

There were a couple of aspects that I could see coming almost from the first time a character was introduced. So the impact of the revelation was diminished somewhat by that. But then there was another revelation that I didn’t see coming, and that was much more satisfying.

This is definitely an excellent sequel to an excellent book, and I can’t wait for the conclusion!

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