Her Every Wish (CBR10 #28)

Her Every Wish (The Worth Saga) by [Milan, Courtney]

For my next review and #CBR10Bingo square, let’s stay on brand, shall we? This morning I woke up unconscionably early and decided I had time for a novella before I had to deal with the day: so off to my bingo list and the award-winning novella by Courtney Milan, Her Every Wish.

Her Every Wish won the 2017 RITA for Romance Novella. The RITA awards are given by the Romance Writers of America, aims to promote excellence in the genre by recognizing outstanding published romance novels and novellas (there is a separate award, The Golden Heart, for unpublished work). It is a wide field, up to 2,000 romance novels are entered in the competition into one of over a dozen categories (that number fluctuates year to year). There are two rounds of judging and the winners are announced each year at the RWA conference in July.

As beloved as she is, it is hard for me to believe that this was her first win and her second nomination, but Romancelandia is a wide and busy place and whether it affects things or not, Milan self-publishes. For those wondering, she was nominated a third time this year for her novella “The Pursuit of…” in Hamilton’s Battalion, a collection sitting on my digital shelf, and her first nomination was in 2014 for The Countess Conspiracy. I’ve not read the book which precedes this one, Once Upon a Marquess, as it was a bit of a disappointment to others and this series is still early in the writing stage, and set to be seven novels long. I had decided to wait it out until there was more of the series to read (although Emmalita’s review of After the Wedding got me to purchase that book and this one). In broad strokes Milan is endeavoring to continue her feminist romance mission but adding even more to the expected tropes of historic romances set in England. Milan is an author on a mission to stop the whitewashing of history and include people of color and a variety of sexual identities into her work.

This novella focuses on Daisy and Crash. Daisy is the daughter of a failed grocer, her mother is in ill health, and financial security is a memory. The local parish announces a Christmas charity bequest to help young people start a trade; she sees it as her last chance to get her wish of security for herself and her mother. Her only problem – the grants are intended for men, but it didn’t say so explicitly so she’s attempting to bluff her way into a future. It all goes as roughly a one might expect for 1860s London and her former beau, Crash, steps in the help her succeed as best he can. Crash comes with his own baggage – his family line is filled with slaves, whores, and sailors, he has no idea his true heritage, and the world would not let him forget it, but he has been raised to do his best to keep going. He is determined to help Daisy keep going for her own sake.

In its short 100 pages Milan packs her novella with plot and characters, but also with the robust themes of learning how to accept someone as they are, for who they are, and finding value in yourself, of being worthy of your own wishes. It was an uplifting, jam-packed Milan novella in the style of some of my favorites, without the drawbacks of some of her missteps in the past. I am not at all surprised, and a bit glad, to know that this won last year.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read, where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and raise money for the American Cancer Society in the name of a fallen friend.

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Romancing the Werewolf (CBR10 #5)

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In some ways my CBR history is the history of my reading Gail Carriger books. The third book I ever reviewed for Cannonball was Carriger’s Soulless book. Heck it and the next three books in the Parasol Protectorate series make four of my first 10 reviews. Carriger showed back up in my reading in CBR6 as I started her Finishing School books (a prequel series) which spread out over Cannonballs 7 & 8. I am a big Carriger fan; I enjoy her online presence, and find the tempo of her writing fun and soothing. When last year I saw that her second novella in this universe was going to focus on the love story of two of my favorite supporting characters from the Parasol Protectorate books, Professor Lyall and Biffy, I pre-ordered it to read at the end of CBR9. Of course, it ended up in the beginning of CBR10 instead because that’s just how I roll.

While this is a perfectly serviceable romance novella and an interesting piece of Carriger’s Steampunk Universe I made a mistake. In the Note on Chronology Carriger tells us readers that her Supernatural Society novellas can be read in any order, and that this book takes place chronologically after the events of Imprudence (in 1895), and ties romantically to events in Timeless. I focused on the Timeless portion of that sentence but I should have paid closer heed to the Imprudence part as I have read a sum total of zero of the Custard Protocol books which follow the Soulless books in chronological order.  I should have just gone and spoiled myself so the setup made more sense.

That said, this novella still has all the things I love about Carriger’s writing: her brand of humor, werewolves, vampires, fancy dress and hats, intrigue, and a quick little mystery to solve, and a peak into an alternate Victorian England. It also is a sweet romance between two characters who have been separated for a long time and aren’t sure what they are to each other anymore. Any time spent with Biffy and Lyall is time well spent. I wish there was a little more ahem, romance, in this novella, but I’ll take what I can get.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (with a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.

The Hangman (CBR9 #18)

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A moment of fair warning: I did not enjoy this Gamache short story very much. However, I have come to find out that it was written for a good cause, and I feel a bit of an asshat for not enjoying it. Louise Penny wrote the book for an initiative put on by ABC Life Literacy Canada, which aims to increase life literacy skills. The Good Reads program specifically aims to have inexpensive and short books anyone learning English or English speakers learning to read later in life. For more information, Louise Penny has you covered.

So this book wasn’t for me, and if I had done a little more research I would have known that before diving in, but I have an Armand Gamache problem, so I probably would have read this anyway. I love him. I’m also a completest. C’est la vie.

This novella sees Gamache and Beauvoir back in Three Pines following the events of Bury Your Dead. There’s been a man found hanging from a tree. The man was a guest at the Gilbert’s Inn and in quick order the medical examiner and Gamache agree that this man did not commit suicide, but was instead murdered. Gamache and Beauvoir gather the evidence to determine who killed this man, and why.

While I was reading, I had the distinct impression that this story was not fully formed. It was, it has all the requisite pieces and plot points, but it felt underdone to use a baking metaphor. It makes sense looking back as to why this would be, but I have to say I prefer my Gamache books to be a fully cooked and prepared banquet.

On to book number 7, A Trick of the Light. Soonish.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. 

Kindred Spirits (CBR8 #21)

I am the World Book Day Book Fairy.

I thought I ordered one copy of the book; I actually received closer to 4 dozen from the book depository. I am not the only person this happened to, as the internet has let me know, and somehow I think it was on purpose, that we were led to believe we were getting one, and got so many more so that we would have the opportunity to send the book further out into the world. I had a blast mailing the book to Cannonball friends and foisting piles of books on my local friends who have taken them off further into the world including school libraries (crystalclear for the win!).

The joyful spirit of World Book Day was matched in Kindred Spirits and Elena’s hunt for the line experience for The Force Awakens. Elena is all about Star Wars and this short story focuses on the few days and few new faces Elena encounters along the way. While the line isn’t anything like what Elena expected based on the prequels or the original releases (what have you done to us online preordering?).

The book is very much a meditation on what our particular pop culture preferences. Elena’s love of Star Wars is shared with her family, but not her friends so she is out on her own for the line. Gabe and Troy are the others in line, and each brings their own particular fan experiences. Maybe my favorite part of the novella was the discussion between Elena and Gabe about girls and nerd culture, and with the mainstreaming of nerd culture if it really exists anymore.

Not my favorite Rowell work, but certainly enjoyable for the Rainbow fans out there.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

The Map (CBR8 #9)

Last year I was delighted with Jackaby by William Ritter. It had just the right mix of historical fiction, fantasy, and whodunit to be right up my alley. It’s got a bit of Sherlock mixed with a little Doctor Eleven for a male protagonist and a female protagonist who is smart, wily, and sarcastic in equal measure – and a great example of female agency in print. I immediately added the second book, Beastly Bones, on my to read list for 2016 as well as this fun little novella The Map.

The action of The Map is centered on one day – Abigail Rook’s birthday. She dares to hope that her employer Jackaby, detective of the supernatural, won’t make a fuss. She is let down. The pair are off for parts unknown using magical party crackers to teleport in time and space (I told you, a smidge timey wimey) using a cryptic map that may lead to a forgotten treasure.  Jackaby is going to give Abigail the present of adventure, just as soon as she comes around to it.

In some ways this short story felt much more akin to a television script than it did a novella, and that isn’t really a detraction. You probably need to have read the first book in order to appreciate this one, for while certain characters don’t appear on page, they are referenced. The same goes for some of the action. This one also doesn’t give us any new character development, and may not be the best place to meet these characters as this is VERY plot driven, but if you are already into the world of Jackaby it is currently FREE on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble for download.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. 

The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains (CBR7 #92)

Confession time: I listened to this book solely because I decided that I would not be finishing The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood for the Go Fug Yourself book club over on Goodreads. I spent two weeks actively avoiding listening to it on my commute to work, and on a three hour road trip to Philadelphia where I didn’t have a radio in the loaner car from work. I needed a palate cleanser, and I needed a moody atmospheric listen to go along with Halloween. Neil Gaiman sounded like a perfect idea.

And thanks to the fantastic review of Cannonball’s own Renton last year I had this on my to read list, and had downloaded it from Audible a few months ago when I saw it  Gaiman is in usual form here – he is playing with words, slowly releasing meaning in gradual layers. What I hadn’t remembered from Renton’s review was that part of it charm was in the artwork. To quote him “The most effective sections of the book have the text bleed into the artwork, as the story passes from paragraph to comic strip to full-page painting in one fluid movement.” Now, in listening to the Gaiman narrate the work I didn’t feel like I as missing it because as was also done in M is for Magic, the stories are interwoven with music to help create tension. That may have been what kept my rating down to a three and not up to a four like Renton’s.

So what was this novella all about anyway? Gaiman is at work with myths and lore again. We follow the tale of two men on a quest to the titular cave for gold, but it’s also rumination on what we do for love and greed. And also what we’re willing to sacrifice. A good read for anytime of the year, but definitely one suited to the fall and the shortening days.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. 

The Blue Girl (CBR7 #1)

The Blue Girl (Murder Squad, #2.5)

The Blue Girl is a short story, story 2.5 of The Murder Squad series. The Murder Squad books include Alex Grecian’s other books, The Yard which I read for Cannonball Read 4, and The Black Country which I read for Cannonball Read 6. There is a third full length book, The Devil’s Workshop which I’m planning to read later this year. The series focuses around the Murder Squad unit of Scotland Yard in the late 1880s as modern detective work and autopsy are starting to become standard.

Now that I’ve placed you in the proper context, The Blue Girl has us follow a day of investigation by one Mr. Colin Pringle, a blue bottle of the force whom we meet back in The Yard, as he discovers the identity of a girl found floating in the canal, her skin a delicate shade of blue. After initial investigations by Dr. Kingsley, and a push from the doctor’s daughter, Pringle is off on the hunt with nothing but a book of wedding superstitions.

The ending didn’t really woo me, although I admit I didn’t completely call it either, and that alone is really enough to keep me from rating this above three stars, but I would definitely suggest The Blue Girl to someone who is looking to get taste for Alex Grecian’s writing style and the general world of his other books. You don’t need to know anything about the other stories or the main characters, two of whom don’t appear in this one at all. A crisp short story, you really can’t go wrong with it.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.