Tuesday, August 30, 2022

"Bowdrie" by Louis L'Amour

 is a collection of short stories about Texas Ranger Chick Bowdrie.  He's a sensible, intelligent, quick-witted Ranger who spends these eight short stories hunting down killers, thieves, and other bad guys in an calm and quiet way.  Several of the stories also have a surprise partway through where you think you know what mystery or crime Bowdrie is trying to solve, but then the narrative shifts and you discover he's after somebody else.  Which was pretty nifty.

You may remember that I absolutely loved L'Amour's book Borden Chantry because it was a western murder mystery.  My friend Eva recommended I try out these short stories because I liked that so much, and I'm really glad she did!  In fact, I just ordered a copy of L'Amour's novel Bowdrie's Law because I need more.  

Of the eight stories here, my favorites were "Too Tough to Brand," "The Killer from the Pecos," and "Bowdrie Follows a Cold Trail," but not one of these stories was a dud, and I will happily reread this collection in the future.

Particularly Good Bits:

The ways of dishonest men were never as clever as they assumed, and the solving of a crime was usually just a painstaking job of establishing motives and putting together odds and ends of information ("A Job for a Ranger," p. 28)

It was early afternoon, but the town was already up and sinning when Chick Bowdrie left his roan at the Almagre livery stable ("The Killer from the Pecos," p. 127).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for western violence and a smattering of traditional cuss words.

This has been my 43rd book read from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

"From These Dark Depths" by Vanessa Rasanen

Let me preface this review by saying that the middle section of a trilogy is nearly always my least-favorite part.  I will almost always love parts 1 and 3 of a trilogy, and part 2 will make me gnash my teeth.  The Two Towers?  My least-favorite LOTR section, both book and movie.  The Empire Strikes Back?  My least-favorite original Star Wars movie.  And so on.  I really like the recent trend toward duologies instead of trilogies because then we don't have that pesky middle section where I spend the whole thing knowing that I'm not going to have the resolution I desire.  I spend most middle sections of trilogies just patiently getting things over with so that I can get on to the good stuff in part three.

From These Dark Depths is no exception to that.  Vanessa Rasanen warned readers it would end with a cliffhanger, so I was prepared for that.  Which actually means I simply had "cliffhanger ahead' hanging over my head the whole time I read the book.  Which is probably why I didn't read it very quickly or sink very deeply into it.

It's a good adventure, much like the first book, On These Black Sands.  Some very nice action sequences, and lots of good character development.  Way more angsty prevaricating about "should I love this person or not" than I am usually a fan of, though.  When the author labeled this a "romantasy," she wasn't kidding, and the truth is... I am really not this book's audience.  I don't read much romance OR much fantasy.  And that's probably why I liked it okay, and I can appreciate the world-building and other writing elements for the craftsmanship, but it just wasn't a book I loved.

Particularly Good Bits:

When he woke up, she would disappear, but the feelings wouldn't.  He'd be left with this yearning to be near her and to know her, to care for her, and to live life beside her.  A yearning for something that could never be, could never work (p. 26).

She frowned.  How dare her thoughts be so logical when all she wanted to do was sulk? (p. 180).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16.  Definitely not something I would be comfortable letting a young teen read.  There's a more-detailed-than-I-prefer love scene, plus quite a few instances of dialog with innuendo, and also instances of characters lusting after other characters.  There's also a nasty keelhauling scene that involves torture, and the sirens eat people alive.  Sometimes bit by bit.  And there's a fair bit of bad language.

This has been the 42nd book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

"Rose Petals and Snowflakes" by Kendra E. Ardnek

In retrospect, it kind of surprises me that I haven't read any Jane Austen + fairy tale retellings before.  The whole concept works so well!  Rose Petals and Snowflakes melds Austen's Sense and Sensibility with "Snow White and Rose Red," and it is completely charming.  I gobbled this up in two days!  And now I'm handing it off to my kids, all of whom love fantasy books, and all of whom are familiar with Sense and Sensibility, so I know they'll appreciate it fully.

Princess sisters Elinrose and Snowmari have a problem: their father, the king, is dying, and their older half-brother is lost in an enchanted forest.  Well, maybe not so much lost in as captured by, since the forest is semi-sentient and ruled by a powerful and mean enchantress.  Elinrose, being a sensible and capable sort of person, heads off to find and rescue their brother.  In the process, she meets a charming young man named Earnest and a talking bear called Bear.  And she gets her brother back, plus a new sister-in-law that no one quite knows how to react to.  And then, things get complicated.

Yes, more complicated than having to rescue your half-brother from an enchanted forest.  Like waking up in a cottage with your mother, sister, and niece without knowing how you got there, befriending fairies and talking bears, and your sister falling in love with a fickle wood spirit named Willow.  

I absolutely loved how elements from Sense and Sensibility got woven together in this, recognizable but not always used in exactly the same ways.  Like, if you're familiar with S&S, you know who Lucy Steele is and how absolutely infuriating and sickening she is.  The version of her in this has a legit reason beyond her control for certain secrets involving her past, and she's not conniving or horrible, and I completely loved that change.  

I can't wait to dive into the next Austen Fairy Tale book, Crown and Cinder, and book three (Emmazel) should be coming out in a few weeks, so I'll definitely be buying that as well!

Particularly Good Bits:

If she would never love again, then she would love with every beat of her heart while she could (p. 87).

     Snowmari gave the best smile she had the energy for.  "You need to stop chasing problems that aren't yours to solve."
     "I do.  You're right.  The resolve didn't leave Elinrose's voice.  "But I am never going to stop fighting the battles that are mine, and I suspect that I should have taken this one up weeks ago and saved you a great deal of pain" (p. 146).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some mild fantasy violence.  No bad language, no smut, no gore.  I'm handing this to my ten-year-old, who has been eagerly awaiting her chance at it.

This is a contribution to the Austen in August celebration hosted all month by Roof Beam Reader.  It's also 41st book I've read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

"Hamlet" (Manga Classics) by William Shakespeare (original story), Crystal S. Chan (story adaptation), and Julien Choy (art)

There are two options to read this play in the Manga Classics series.  One is to read it in the original language, and the other is to read it in a more modern adaptation.  I chose the original language edition, so that's what I'm reviewing here.

This book is breathtaking.  The art is just gorgeous -- crisp and moody, atmospheric and alluring.  And the story is "staged" very nicely, suiting the actions to the words in ways that made the story come to life.  

Like the other Manga Classics I've read this summer, I handed this off to my kids when I was done with it.  All three of them have read the Usborne graphic novel of Hamlet, so they knew the basics of the story already, and who the characters were.  My 14-yr-old son and 12-yr-old daughter both read this whole manga, and they did ask me a lot of questions about archaic words, but they did not have trouble understanding the story.  My 12-yr-old daughter read part of it and decided it was too creepy and weird, so she stopped reading.  I agree with her that the Ghost is quite creepy -- he's supposed to be, but I understand why she would object.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for containing the original curse words, accusations of marital infidelity, and violence.  It's not filled with gore, but the deaths at the end do involve some blood spatter.  Which is black and white, and cartoony, but still might not be acceptable for some readers.

This is the 40th book I've read from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Austen in August -- Guest Post and Giveaway!!!

Oh my goodness, I don't know how posting about this has slipped through my fingers so often.  I'm guest posting this month at Roof Beam Reader in celebration of Austen in August!  My first post is up right here; it's a collection of my favorite Austen(ish) Books.  

(All pictures are mine from my Instagram account.)

And, as part of the fun, I'm hosting a giveaway over there.  What am I giving away?  A $20 gift card to Northanger Soapworks!  Yes.  It's true.  AND the giveaway ends at midnight Pacific Time TOMORROW, Wednesday, August 17.  So you NEED to get over there and enter!  Because, I don't know if you know this, but I am obsessed with Northanger Soapworks and her amazing candles and soaps.  I even repped for her several times on Instagram over the past couple of years.  

I've got one more guest post lined up for this event, but I won't tell you what it is yet.  I can only say that the party host said no one had ever contributed a post like it in the ten years the event has been going on... 

Monday, August 15, 2022

Cover Reveal for "A Flash of Magic" by Allison Tebo

Good morning, friends!  It's my pleasure to share the cover of Allison Tebo's latest with you this morning.

You may know Tebo as the author of The Goblin and the Dancer, which is her most publication.  But A Flash of Magic is actually part of her Tales of Ambia series, which started with The Reluctant Godfather a few years ago.  The Tales of Ambia are quirky fairy tale retellings with lots of loveable, somewhat oddball characters.  Whereas the first three books in the series were novellas, A Flash of Magic is a collection of eight short stories.  Here's the official blurb:

Ambia’s most reluctant godfather is back. A Flash Of Magic is a magical and rambunctious compilation featuring eight stories with eight irresistible characters navigating their way through the oddities and the wonders of fairy tales. 

The Tales of Ambia series continues with this charming collection of short stories and novelettes offering a deeper look into a magical land like no other. 

Whether it’s an intimate look at Ella’s wedding day, a hilarious glimpse of Burndee’s holiday baking, or an explosive first meeting between a prince and his fairy, there is adventure for everyone in A Flash Of Magic.

Sounds enchanting, doesn't it?

And now... here's the cover!

Isn't it elegant?  I love how cheerful and sweet it looks -- just like Allison's rom-com-esque writing :-)

You can preorder A Flash of Magic here on Amazon!  It'll be released September 16.

If you want to know more about Allison Tebo and her books, visit her website!  Or you can follow her on Instagram @AllisonTeboAuthor.

Finally, if you're on Goodreads, here's the book page there, where you can mark it as "want to read."

Sunday, August 14, 2022

"What Katy Did Next" by Susan Coolidge

The third Katy book just might be my favorite.  Seeing Katy being as kind and intelligent and capable as ever, but now more mature and less prone to get into scrapes -- that was absolutely a delight.

Now about twenty, Katy Carr helps out a family friend by taking care if her daughter for several weeks.  The daughter becomes very fond of Katy, so when the mother decides to go to Europe for a year, she asks Katy to come along.  Not as a nanny for the daughter, but only as a friend.

Katy has a series of small adventures in London, Paris, Rome, and Venice.  She meets up with her vain and haughty cousin a few too many times, falls in love without realizing it, and helps comfort and nurse her friend's daughter through a long illness.  It's a charming and gentle journey for readers, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  If you're looking for a vicarious vacation in Europe, this one has my vote!

Particularly Good Bits:

...each day as it dawns upon us is like an unread story, full of possible interest and adventure, to be made ours as soon as we have cut the pages and begun to read (p. 13).

It was quite unlike a Christmas Eve at home, but altogether delightful; and as Katy sat next morning on the sand, after the service in the English church, to finish her home letter, and felt the sun warm on her cheek, and the perfumed air blow past as softly as in June, she had to remind herself that Christmas is not necessarily synonymous with snow and winter, but means the great central heat and warmth, the advent of Him who came to lighten the whole earth (p. 116).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  Sweet and wholesome and good!

This has been my 48th book read for my third Classics Club list and my 39th from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfClub2022.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Announcing the TENTH Annual Tolkien Blog Party

Ten years.  Don't they go by in a blink.

TEN YEARS!  I can't believe I've been hosting this blog party for that long.  Wow.  A whole decade!  That sounds so exciting, doesn't it?

You are hereby invited to attend the tenth annual Tolkien Blog Party right here at The Edge of the Precipice.  From September 18 to 24, we will be feasting and playing and singing and dancing... or, at least, celebrating however it strikes our fancy.

I'll provide a tag to fill out, a couple of games, and the ever-popular giveaway.  You'll provide... whatever you want to!  Top ten lists?  Book or movie reviews?  Your own fan art?  Games?  Musings on a favorite character?  Anything Tolkien-related you can think of and want to share!

If you'd be so kind, please share one or more of these buttons on your own blog, wherever you put such things.  Invite your friends!  Let's make this year's party the best one yet!

There's no official sign-up roster, but if you want to comment on this post to express your excitement, or to bounce around ideas for something to share that you want some feedback on, go right ahead!

Any questions?  Ask those in the comments too!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

"Laertes" by Carly Stevens

This book.  Oh, this book!  Where do I even start?

Laertes retells Hamlet from the point of view of an often-overlooked character from the play, Ophelia's brother and Polonius's son, Laertes.  He's only onstage for the beginning and the end of the play, and many people kind of forget about him, except as that guy who has the sword fight with Hamlet at the end.  But I have long felt that Laertes is a key character in the play, especially the way he serves as a foil for Hamlet.  He and Hamlet both lose their fathers to murder, but while Hamlet shies away from revenge and its implications for as long as he can, Laertes embraces it pretty much instantly.  They're like a photo and its negative, one cerebral and fond of reasoning and thinking, and the other a hot-blooded man of action.

And yet, most productions of Hamlet that I've seen have treated Laertes as almost an afterthought, seeming to handing the role to some random dude who looks okay with a sword and can remember his lines.  Only twice have I seen Laertes played to my satisfaction, once by Liev Schreiber in the 2000 film and once by Benjamin Reed onstage in 2018.  And I have seen twenty different productions of the play, which makes that a pretty poor record for presenting this pivotal character in a way that really makes full use of his potential.

All of which means that I got really, really excited when I learned that someone was writing a Hamlet retelling that focused on Laertes.  In fact, I signed up to be a beta reader for this book earlier this year because I wanted to help and encourage Carly Stevens bring it to life in any way I could.  And, I admit, I wanted to beta-read it to see if it was going to live up to my expectations.

It did.

And the finished book is even better.

I was super excited when my copy arrived on release day, since pre-ordered books have a habit of not showing up at my house as soon as I would like them to.  But this one did!  And I immediately began reading it... but slowly.  I savored this book like a square of fine dark chocolate or a really excellent coffee -- enjoying it a nibble or a sip at a time, with plenty of opportunity to enjoy the rich flavor and nuances.

Laertes is set in the 1920s, with a "Dark Academia" aesthetic.  Laertes Belleforest is a Danish expat student in Paris, rooming with two friends in a little apartment above an apothecary shop and enjoying the intellectual and artistic stimulation of the City of Lights.  But when King Hamlet dies suddenly back home in Denmark, Laertes must return home in the middle of the semester to attend the funeral because he and his family are members of the Danish court.  By the time he gets there, the king's brother Claudius has married the widowed Queen Gertrude and gotten himself chosen king, rather than Prince Hamlet. 

Laertes and his sister Ophelia grew up with Hamlet.  While Laertes and Hamlet are more frenemies than friends, they still have the kind of instinctive fondness for each other that people have for someone they've known all their lives.  It's a fondness based on familiarity rather than actual friendship, but that's enough to get Laertes concerned about Hamlet when the young prince starts behaving as if he's mad.  Especially since said prince has been courting Laertes's sister Ophelia for a while now.

If you know Hamlet, you know how this will go.  Madness and murder entangle everyone before the story ends, and almost none of the principal characters survive to the end.  One of the things I liked best about this retelling is that it gave Laertes friends.  He's very alone in Hamlet, and while Hamlet gets to die in the arms of his friend Horatio at the end of the play, Laertes dies alone and friendless.  But in this retelling, Laertes has two dear friends, Henri and Julien, to support and comfort him, and one of them is even there to hold him in his final moments, letting Laertes mirror Hamlet more exactly in death here than he does in the play.

As always, it's the characters that make me love a story, and Laertes himself is such a real-feeling bundle of contradictions, worries, fears, and desires that I can't help wanting to hug him and make everything okay.  And Hamlet here is a complicated, aloof, needy, bold, self-assured, uncertain chap, not quite as likable as I would have written him, but certainly a valid representation of Shakespeare's character.  Ophelia is a wonderful mix of intelligence, fragility, and hope, and I might have loved her more here than I generally do in the play, to be honest.  The original characters of Henri, Julien, and Josephine were all nicely fleshed out, though Josephine less so than the boys.  I might feel that way because I don't like Josephine very well, though, mostly because she makes some very destructive decisions.

Particularly Good Bits:

It was a greeting card type of care--warm from afar, sending me best wishes (p. 11).

She reminded me of Hamlet then, a mind so active that boredom settled like a butterfly any time there was little stimulation (p. 64). 

Her sugared words caught me, but only because I was ready to be caught (p. 120).

The poison of deep grief is as potent as anything bottled (p. 176).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 for intermittent dropping of F bombs just for shock effect by one character, and for an on-page love scene that isn't super detailed, but still gave me the urge to skim ahead until it was over.  It's pretty easy to see coming and just skip on through.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Go West, Young(ish) Woman! Go West!

This week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt from That Artsy Reader Girl is "Books Set In a Place I’d Love to Visit," and can be about real or fictional places.  I'm choosing to focus on all books set in the Old West because I would LOVE to take a time-travel trip back to the Old West and experience it for myself, at least for a little while.  I'd probably want to return to a world of antibiotics and clean drinking water after a while, rather than live there forever, but a visit to any of these books?  Yes, please!

So, here are my ten favorite novels set in the Old West.  All titles are linked to my reviews, unless I haven't reviewed that book yet.  Yes, one selection is a trilogy, but it didn't seem fair to have only one of the books here, or have the books take up three slots, so I put them all together.

1. Shane by Jack Schaefer -- A lone gunman befriends a struggling family and saves a town, but at great cost.

2. Borden Chantry by Louis L'Amour -- An amateur lawman solves a series of killings to protect his town.

3. The Knights of Tin and Lead trilogy by Emily Hayse (These War-Torn Hands, The Beautiful Ones, In the Glorious Fields) -- The King Arthur legend retold as gently magical westerns.

4. The Light of Western Stars by Zane Grey -- A woman goes west and figures out who she really is inside while experiencing a series of adventures and meeting a variety of interesting characters.

5. True Grit by Charles Portis -- A teenage girl insists on accompanying a U. S. Marshal on the quest to bring her father's murderer to justice.

6. The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley -- A dashing aristocrat fights injustice and tyranny from behind two different disguises.

7. Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson -- Sixteen women go west to claim their own homesteads, start businesses, and/or get married.

8. Hondo by Louis L'Amour -- A Cavalry scout physically saves a family on a remote homestead, and they save him emotionally.

9. The Virginian by Owen Wister -- A frontier school teacher tries really hard not to fall in love with a nameless hero who saves her from a series of mishaps and disasters and calamities.

10. A Sidekick's Tale by Elisabeth Grace Foley -- A young woman tries to save her family's ranch by entering into a marriage of convenience, but comic mishaps keep derailing her plans.