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OKAY LET'S TALK ABOUT THE DAISY DALRYMPLE SERIES. Seriously, I love this series, I'm excited, are you excited? GET EXCITED.

So the first thing I want to say is that the Daisy Dalrymple series is somewhat misnamed, as Daisy's not the only protagonist (though I LOVE HER and she is perfect). She shares the series with her eventual husband Alec Fletcher. I'd call that a spoiler, but, uh, well, they get engaged in book five (of twenty-two) and you can pretty much see it coming from the end of the first book so, they get married. That's a thing that happens. It's a large part of why I like the series so far: we get to see Daisy and Alec's relationship develop, we get to see them interacting and falling in love and (more importantly, at least to me) staying in love. Also we get to see them fight crime. That's fun.

So, the Daisy Dalrymple series is a cozy mystery series set in 1920s Britain (I think the first one is set in 1923), starring the eponymous Daisy, a writer and the daughter of a viscount with an uncanny knack for having people tell her all sorts of random things, and her eventual husband Alec Fletcher, a Detective Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard. He's middle class and ten years older than Daisy, he thinks this is a big deal, literally no one else (except his and Daisy's mothers) thinks it is, it's all good. Alec also has a daughter from his first wife, Belinda, and she is such a joy?? She's a realistic well-behaved nine-year-old and I love her. Sadly we don't get to meet her until book four and she doesn't often have a lot of screen time in the books. But she is a darling and she's well worth the wait.

Anyway, the period details seem accurate to me, I love Daisy and Alec and Belinda, and the other members of the recurring cast are a great deal of fun. Now let's dive into the actual books.

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So, in conclusion, this is a bunch of cute cozy mysteries with an ongoing relationship that I love and BELINDA. I love it. The writing can be stilted sometimes and the plot is occasionally outright stolen from various Agatha Christie novels but I don't even care, I love Daisy so much. Recommended.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/395728.html. Please comment over there if possible.
You've probably heard of this book. I certainly had, which is why I picked it up when I saw the audiobook on our shelves. It came out in 2010 and became fairly famous fairly fast, so of course I didn't get around to reading (well, "reading") it until this year.

It's certainly very compelling. The book traces the first "immortal" line of human cells, cells that just keep dividing and dividing, back to their origin in the cervix of a poor black woman named Henrietta Lacks. I'm not much of a science reader, but The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks isn't just about the science behind the HeLa cells; it's also, and perhaps primarily, about Henrietta Lacks and her family, especially her daughter Deborah. It's far more a history text than it is a science one, and when it is a science text, it's a very pop science approach. It's very understandable, but as a result it doesn't go into much depth as to the scientific applications of the HeLa cells. If you're looking for a scientific study of the cell line, this is not that book.

Instead, it's more of a family history. Skloot begins with her own discovery of Henrietta Lacks' identity in a college science class. She then interweaves the story of her own attempt to contact the Lacks family with Henrietta's story, from her first diagnosis to her death, and then with the story of the cells and the story of the Lacks family after Henrietta's death. Henrietta's cells spawned a multimillion dollar industry, but her family could never afford health insurance. Skloot is very clear about the irony. There's also a thread about the development of informed consent, and another about Henrietta's daughter Deborah Lacks, who never learned about her mother. Skloot centers her story on Deborah's journey of discovery along with Skloot herself as they learn about Henrietta's life and afterlife.

It's a great book. I would definitely recommend it to everyone: for Deborah's story, for the story of medical injustices, and for Henrietta herself, who deserves to be remembered.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/395498.html. Please comment over there if possible.

In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson

I feel I should begin this review by saying that I'm very fond of Erik Larson's books. He's very smart, a very engaging writer, and generally chooses very good topics for his books. I've enjoyed reading all but two of them, and I think if I gave Thunderstruck a second chance (ie, didn't expect it to be just like Devil in the White City, which if you haven't read it GO READ IT NOW I will wait) I would enjoy it more.

Unfortunately, this is the other book I didn't enjoy.

In the Garden of Beasts is the story of America's second ambassador to Nazi Germany, William Dodd, and his daughter Martha Dodd, and their time in Berlin during the 1930s and the unfolding of the Third Reich. Which sounds a great deal more exciting than the book actually is. Dodd is a rather dull protagonist, and Martha is... well, she's in her early twenties but she behaves more like a teenager, excited and unquestioning. I enjoyed her sections more than Dodd's, but in the end I didn't like either one of them all that much.

This is not to say the book is without merit. Larson, as I've said, is a very engaging writer, and he has a genuine gift for evoking the feeling and experience of a time. The chapters focusing on that rather than on Dodd or Martha are eerie, and well worth reading. I think this book's major flaw is its protagonists. In all other respects, it shines.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/395136.html. Please comment over there if possible.

State of the Me

This was kind of a rough week, and not really for any particular reason? Well, my mom's dog is sick; he has a tumor on his bladder, and right now no one's really sure which way it'll go, so there's that anxiety. And it's just been a rough week, really. The weekend was nice, though. I basically slept through it, though I did go out today to have tea with a high school friend.

How're you, internet? Better than me, I hope.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/394831.html. Please comment over there if possible.

Signal Boost

Hey friends!

My adoptive older sibling JT needs a little help getting to the first paycheck at his new job. I'm low on money myself, alas, but maybe some of you have five bucks to spare? He's a good person and he's got his shit together, he just needs a leg up. Help him out if you can, please. I vouch for everything he says.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/394663.html. Please comment over there if possible.

Ophelia, Lisa Klein

Ophelia is one of those books that flips a classic, in this case Hamlet, and shows someone else's point of view, in this case... well, obviously Ophelia. It's... an interesting take? At least? It sounds to me kinda like Klein read those scholarly ideas that Ophelia was pregnant when she died and ran with them. But I am ahead of myself.

Ophelia begins with our titular heroine remembering her childhood as a motherless girl tagging along with the boys while her father schemes to get ahead. Eventually he succeeds in his ambitions and places Ophelia as a lady-in-waiting to the queen. Ophelia then lives through the horrible events of Hamlet, with some additions: in Klein's version she first has sex with and then marries Hamlet, and views his eventual descent into single-minded revenge with horror. She feels conflicted over her loyalty to Hamlet as her husband, her father as her father, and her queen as her employer, and eventually sides with herself, feigning first madness and then her death in order to escape.

After her "death," she flees to a convent, where she gives birth to Hamlet's child. Eventually Horatio turns up and tells her the story of the rest of the play, whereupon she has a decision to make. Does she bring her son-- Hamlet's legitimate son, and thus heir to Denmark-- back to his kingdom and challenge Fortinbras, or does she remain where she is?

I don't know how I feel about this book. On the one hand, it's quite well-written and well thought out. I really felt for Ophelia, trapped between conflicting loyalties, and I felt that Klein managed to capture the soul of Hamlet-the-play and translate it fairly well to Ophelia. However, I also had some serious trouble figuring out when the heck it was supposed to be set, despite being given dates at the beginning of each section, and some of Ophelia's actions felt very "modern values in Renaissance times." So, meh. It was reasonably entertaining, and if you're a Shakespeare nerd you will either love it or hate it (just look at the reviews on Goodreads). Pick it up if it sounds interesting, but if it doesn't hold your attention, ditch it. It's of very even quality: it doesn't get better.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/394424.html. Please comment over there if possible.

Aug. 25th, 2016

This is not your daily review, merely an observation, but one I felt you should all hear.

James Swanson has a bizarre obsession with the phrase "brain matter."

That is all.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/394005.html. Please comment over there if possible.

A Pair of Children's Books

That Is Not a Good Idea, Mo Willems

Okay, you guys remember Jon Klassen? He of the weird and semicreepy and murderous and utterly hysterical children's books? (He has a new one out, incidentally; We Found a Hat, which is considerably more heartwarming and less murderous.) Right, well, That Is Not a Good Idea is along those lines. An extremely hungry fox meets a plump, tasty goose in a silent film-esque narration and proceeds to entice her to his home and to a boiling pot. All of this is watched by several goslings, who comment on the proceedings. There's a twist, naturally; since I compared this to Klassen, I think you can guess what it is. We've used this book in storytime a few times and the kids just die laughing at the end. I did a bit too. Definitely recommended.



The Escape of Oney Judge, Emily Arnold McCully

Round about the time of that "George Washington's Birthday Cake" fiasco, one of my coworkers handed me this book and said, "Did you hear about that children's book? Yeah, this does it better." And damn if she wasn't right. Oney Judge is a slave in the Washington household, chosen to attend Martha Washington as her personal slave in New York when George is elected president. There Oney meets free black people, and finds out that when Martha Washington dies, she will be sent to live with a Washington granddaughter instead of freed. Oney is not down with this and runs. The book details her escape and her subsequent life, including multiple attempts to return her to the Washingtons. I really liked it; it's well-written, appropriately horrifying without being too much for kids, and extremely sympathetic to Oney (as well it should be). It also casts the Washingtons in a decidedly poor light, good for kids who may be taught that they were godlike in history class. I think my favorite (well, "favorite") part is the bit where the Washingtons wonder why Oney ran: she was well treated, wasn't she? Like a daughter to them.

Very well done.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/393819.html. Please comment over there if possible.
Much like Elizabethan faeries, the English Regency and magic is kryptonite to me. I see the book, I must read the book. Must. There is no choice. So fortunately for me, Sorcery and Cecelia is very good; somewhat surprising, perhaps, when you know its origin story. It began as a letter game between Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, in which two authors write to each other in character. Most of those games peter out. This one continued through an entire plotline and became a book.

Our correspondents are cousins Katherine Talgarth and Cecelia Rushton, aka Kate and Cecy. Kate has been taken, with her sister Georgiana, to London for their first Season. Cecy was supposed to go, but has been kept at home after The Incident With The Goat, which sadly remains a noodle incident. However, life soon begins to get interesting, as Kate springs a magical trap meant for Thomas, Marquis of Schofield, and Cecy befriends a strikingly attractive young lady named Dorothea-- magically attractive, perhaps?

Cecy and Kate continue to write to each other through hazards magical (someone repeatedly tries to kill them both, Thomas needs a hand with an enchanted chocolate pot, Cecy's brother Oliver vanishes in sinister circumstances), unmagical (Kate's sister begins gambling, Cecy catches someone spying on Dorothea, both of them deal with various social mishaps), and romantic (the spy proves unexpectedly attractive and emotionally constipated, Thomas needs a convenient engagement). Plus, Thomas's mother, Lady Sylvia Schofield, is my favorite fictional matron since Lady Elizabeth Wendall in Magic and Malice (about which more later). The book is light, frothy fun, with a plot not too silly and characters delightful. Definitely recommended.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/393521.html. Please comment over there if possible.

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