Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Captain Tuttle”

Captain Tuttle’s CBR4 Review #52 – Wine of Violence: A Medieval Mystery by Priscilla Royal

To begin with, the author provides an introduction with some information about the religious order that Tyndal Priory (the fictional location of the story) was based on (the Order of Fontevraud, which is where Eleanor of Aquitaine ended up). The order was woman-positive, and the Prioress was over both the nuns and the monks. Royal has certainly done her research, and it shows. I’m kind of a medieval nut (studied medieval art history in college, and started taking masters’ courses in medieval history, but never finished the grad degree), so this story was right up my alley.

It’s 1270 in England, at Tyndal Priory (with monks and nuns running a hospital).  The new prioress Eleanor is young, and her arrival causes some resentment in the priory because she got the job through her family’s political connections.  She was needed because the old prioress died, peacefully and in the company of her sisters. Brother Rupert was there too, he and the prioress were best friends. Just as she is about to die, she reaches out to Rupert, her confessor, to tell him something important. He didn’t hear, and she died without letting anyone know that she had wrongly accused someone.

When Eleanor arrives, she not only has to deal with cranky nuns and monks, but the brutal murder of Brother Rupert. Was he killed by a random killer, or because someone thought he had information that needed to be kept secret? Eleanor investigates, with the help of a new monk, Thomas. Thomas has an interesting past, and has some attitude issues.

The characters were interesting and well-written, and the story gives an in-depth look into the cloistered lives of the nuns and monks. I would recommend this book to anyone. Apparently it’s a series, and I will definitely be investigating (hee) the rest of them.

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Captain Tuttle’s CBR4 Review #51 – The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

I tell people I love Oscar Wilde, but I had never really read anything beyond The Importance of Being Earnest. Until now. Wow. Dorian’s a naughty boy.

An artist, Basil Hallward, paints Dorian’s portrait. He’s so beautiful, Basil is enraptured.  Basil’s a good guy, who has some pretty bad friends. One such friend is Lord Henry Wotton, who becomes friends with Dorian, and shows him the ropes of degenerate high society. Dorian falls in love with an actress because of her skills.  They become engaged, he brings Basil and Wotton to see her act, and she totally throws it. She did it because she was leaving the stage and didn’t care. So of course he falls out of love with her, breaks the engagement, and leads her to kill herself. It’s a black mark on his soul. When he looks at the painting, he sees that it’s kind of sneering at him. He realizes that the painting takes all of his sin, so he can still appear to be a beautiful angel.

Dorian takes complete advantage of this, getting into all sorts of mischief, and developing quite a nasty reputation (well-deserved). A lot of the debauchery takes place “off camera (page?),” but there’s enough said about it that we can figure out what he’s done. He has also ruined a few people, and is well known down in the seedy parts of town.

There’s murder, mayhem, revenge, and all kinds of nasty bits. I can’t believe it took me this long to read Dorian Gray. If you’ve been waiting, get to it.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 post #50 – Searching for Captain Wentworth by Jane Odiwe

Someone please save me from myself. I can’t stop reading these Austen-adjacent, fan-fic books. Some are better than others, but none come even close to the original. Anyway, this one has a bit of a twist. Our heroine, Sophie Elliot, is a modern gal who just caught her boyfriend cheating, and who has a sucky job. She really wants to be a writer. So her dad loans her money and her aunt loans her a flat in Bath so she can write her Austenesque novel.

Of course the flat is in a building that was next door to where Jane and family lived when they were in Bath. Of course her downstairs neighbor is cute and cool. Of course she picks up a glove, steps through a gate, and goes back in time, into the body of her ancestress (who is presumably the model for Anne Eliot of Persuasion) to meet the actual Jane Austen. Ok, forget that last “of course.” The whole time-travel aspect of this book is very silly.

Sophie meets the Austens, but her family doesn’t approve because her dad is Mr. Eliot, and thinks she’s friending-down, so to speak. Sophie goes back and forth between now and then, and the time tables between visits gets awfully jumbled. It’s not the best-written book, but I still managed to get through it.

I wouldn’t necessarily say it was bad, but I also wouldn’t recommend it, even if you’re an Austenania addict like me.

Captain Tuttle #CBR4 post #49 – My Dear Charlotte by Hazel Holt

I had never heard of this author before, but apparently she’s a prolific mystery novelist, writing under this name as well as Barbara Pym. The story is somewhat Austen-adjacent, but not in the way you would expect. In this book, the main characters are Elinor and Charlotte Cowper. The story unfolds mainly through letters to Charlotte (hence the name), but inserted in the letters are actual excerpts of letters Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra.  It’s fairly easy to figure out what language is Austen’s, although the author does try her best.

So the story is a cozy mystery, set in Lyme (one of Austen’s favorite places). There’s a wealthy family, and the matriarch dies under mysterious circumstances. Was it a heart attack, or was it poison?  And if it was poison, whodunnit and why?  She was pretty nasty, so no one’s really broken up about it.

Some of the main suspects are her husband, a couple of relatives who stand to benefit from her death, and a few others. Elinor tells Charlotte about everything that’s going on, from the dances to the murder investigation.  The epistolary nature of the book sets it a little bit apart from other mysteries I’ve read, but also limits the narrative, since we’re stuck in first person.

This is a perfectly fine story, especially if you like the Regency stuff, and/or if you like cozy mysteries. It took me a while to figure out who did it, but once it popped out, it was pretty obvious. It was a quick read, and (as you know I like) a nice distraction from the usual bullish*t of my life.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 post #39 (oopsie, I missed this # earlier) – Henry Tilney’s Diary by Amanda Grange

Amanda Grange has written a few of these (I believe I’ve already reviewed Captain Wentworth’s Diary and Mr. Darcy’s Diary, both of which I enjoyed).  I tried this one next because Henry Tilney is one of my favorite Austen characters, he’s smart and funny, unlike some of the other more serious Austen heroes.

We start with Henry at home from school, years before the action in Northanger Abbey. His mother is still alive, and his elder brother isn’t quite as jerky or jaded.  Both of those things change pretty quickly. We also get to see Henry’s relationship with his sister Eleanor, and their love for gothic novels. General Tilney comes off even worse than he does in the original.

Another great part of the backstory is how we meet Eleanor’s beau, he of the papers left behind at the Abbey that so set off Catherine Morland’s imagination. It’s a sweet part of the story that we don’t get in Austen’s book. I’d almost like to see Eleanor Tilney’s diary, to learn more about that story.

So, Henry goes to Bath with the family and meets the lovely Catherine. He has spent his life searching for his heroine, and believes he has found her. Then dad gets involved, and we get to see how Henry deals with him (pretty manly, in my opinion).

This is yet another Austen-adjacent fun book. I’m pretty glad there are plenty of people out there writing these books. Some of them are even worth reading.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #48 – A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin

Ok, Book 5 and the most recent one.  No one seems to know when Book 6 (The Winds of Winter, ooh, ominous) is coming.  Everyone’s still scattered to the four winds: Jon Snow’s still in charge at the wall, but some people aren’t happy about that; Bran Stark (one of Ned’s younger ones, the one that was paralyzed by Jamie Lannister) is North of the Wall, being led by some creature (and I have theories about who that may be); the horrible Boltons are in the north-Winterfelly areas, being horrible (poor Jayne Poole); Theon Greyjoy has been through quite a bit, most of it deserved; Davos is alive and still working for Stannis; people want to go looking for little Rickon Stark (the baby) who may be hiding on an island somewhere; Cersei’s still in King’s Landing, paying penance for (some of) her bad deeds; Jamie’s working his redemption arc in the Riverlands; Tyrion’s back in the west with a potential Targaryen; Arya’s still in Braavos, learning to be faceless; Daenerys is having trouble with slaves, dragons, and a Dornish prince.

I’m sure there’s more, but I keep losing track. According to Wikipedia, this book is told from the point of view of 18 people. For comparison’s sake, the first book was told from the point of view of eight.

We’re left off with a number of cliffhangers, so we’re now stuck for as long as it takes. And from what I’m told, it might take a while. Martin’s teased us with a couple of chapters, just to keep us on tenterhooks. And there we shall remain.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #47 – A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

Book 4 – the War of the Kings is pretty much over, since pretty much all the “kings” are dead. Stannis is still alive, but he’s gone North to help out Jon Snow, the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.  He’s made it back from north of the Wall, without most of his troops, who were decimated by the White Walkers (who aren’t very nice).

Our main characters are scattered all over Westeros and the East, everyone running away from or after pretty much everyone else. Most people want to kill the other ones, even some of the ones that are already dead (after a fashion). This is the book where I started to really lose track of everyone – not only because everyone was so scattered, but because Martin keeps adding more and more characters. He may have deleted some (I won’t say killed, see above), but it’s not a case of 1-out, 1-in here. In fact, some thought to be long dead may be alive, and may be making their way back to Westeros.

See? It hardly makes sense, and yet it’s still freaking compelling storytelling.

 

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #46 – A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

Oh lordy, these books just keep getting longer and more complicated. I know there are lists of the whos and the whats in the back of each book, but even that runs into dozens of pages and there’s really no way to keep track. I have no idea how Martin does it. Or if he does it.

The war of the kings is still going on, although there aren’t as many kings as there were at the start. The civil war is destroying the whole country, but none of the “kings” seems to give a crap. Mance Rayder is in the North, and “the king beyond the wall,” so I guess that’s one more king. Oh, and Daenerys is trying to work her way back to Westeros and claim her crown. Seriously, what’s so special about this place that everyone wants to rule it?

Jamie Lannister was a captive of the Starks, and Catelyn strikes a deal to trade him for her daughters. That doesn’t sit well with her son Rob, as well as a bunch of other people. Regardless, Jamie heads toward King’s Landing in the custody of Brienne of Tarth. He’s not great company, but as they travel, they come to grudgingly respect each other. And there’s so much more. There’s the Brotherhood Without Banners, which gets interesting later. There’s Harrenhal, which is awful. Oh, and there’s the Red Wedding.

This book marked a massive turning point in the series. It was already clear that Martin has no mercy – not for women, children, or noble people. I was so pissed when it ended, for a number of reasons. But, of course, there was the next book.

 

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #45 – A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

Oh yes, the kings, they do clash. Not just Robert’s son Joffrey (don’t get me started) and Ned Stark’s son Rob. Oh no.  There are Robert’s brothers: Stannis, the rigid, conservative, weirdo who rules some islands or something; and Renly, whose claim to the throne makes no sense at all. Oh, and then there’s Balon Greyjoy, some random who rules some other islands.  His son Theon was raised (hostaged?) by Ned Stark after Ned and Robert squished Balon’s rebellion.

And let’s not forget Daenerys Targaryen, recently widowed and the mother of three baby dragons (just go with it). And the guys at the wall in the North (the last thing beyond civilization and whatever scary things are up there) head over the wall to deal with the scary wildlings and whatnot.

After Ned is murdered, his elder daughter (Sansa) is pretty much trapped with the Lannisters, and his younger daughter Arya escaped with the help of a Night’s Watch man and pretending to be a boy. Ned’s widow Catelyn gets involved in the war, and trying to work some diplomacy between all the putative kings. That doesn’t work out, and she ends up on the run with Brienne, a really big chick.  Theon Greyjoy turns against the Starks and takes Winterfell, mostly because his sister is more a man than he is.

Anyway, when this book ends, Stannis tries to take King’s Landing, but is outsmarted by Tyrion Lannister and most of his army (navy) is wiped out (again, Tyrion kicks ass, and is totally shit on by everyone but Jamie and kinda Sansa). Daenerys wanders the desert and then burns the shit out of Quarth, Jon Snow goes undercover, and I’m sure there’s a bunch more stuff.  I think I’m going to have to re-read all of these before the next book comes out.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #44 – A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Oh boy, where to start?  This epic saga is epic and sagacious (yeah, I know, just humour me).  We’ve got the Starks in the North, with Ned and the gang being all kinds of noble and cool, including his bastard (his?) John Snow.  Ned’s friends with the king of all the lands, fatass Robert, who’s married to a not-nice lady named Cersei, who’s fucking her twin Jaime. All of the king’s kids are actually Jaime’s, but no one seems to notice or care that they look nothing like him.

Ned gets dragged to work for the king, and brings his daughters with him for some ridiculous reason. Ned’s not stupid, but he’s so freaking honest and noble that it makes him do so very many stupid things. His elder daughter is a vapid tween who cares for nothing but boys and clothes (and is betrothed to the heir apparent, little bitch Joffrey); his other daughter is a total badass who knows which end of a sword to stick people with. Oh, and I almost forgot Tyrion Lannister. What was I thinking? One of the best characters across literature, not just this genre stuff.  I also almost forgot about the Targaryens, brother and sister who may or may not be heir to the throne of Westeros. She gets basically sold to a barbarian by her nasty brother (seems like a lot of the royals in this series are a bunch of loonies). Long horse rides and dragons may be involved.

There is no way to encompass everything that happens in this book (and the subsequent books) – no. freaking. way. That’s why it’s taking Martin so long to write these bastards. One thing that I like, that I’m sure makes his job easier, is that each chapter is written from a different character’s point of view.  I think he could work on a character, figure out his/her through-line, and write a good chunk of the book without having to worry about continuity. At least that’s how I’d approach it.

Anyway, this book ends with Ned’s beheading; civil war; stuff at the wall up North (long story, scary stuff up north, maybe the end of civilization, all kinds of crap); dragons being born; things in the Aerie; and with Ned’s son being declared “King in the North.” I’m just glad that I found this series way after the first 5 books had been published, because I needed to dive right into the next one.

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