Review of Marilla of Green Gables, by Sarah McCoy

I won a copy of Sarah McCoy‘s Marilla of Green Gables through Goodreads. I then took it to book club with me and the group chose it as our November book.

Description:
Plucky and ambitious, Marilla Cuthbert is thirteen years old when her world is turned upside down. Her beloved mother has dies in childbirth, and Marilla suddenly must bear the responsibilities of a farm wife: cooking, sewing, keeping house, and overseeing the day-to-day life of Green Gables with her brother, Matthew and father, Hugh.

In Avonlea—a small, tight-knit farming town on a remote island—life holds few options for farm girls. Her one connection to the wider world is Aunt Elizabeth “Izzy” Johnson, her mother’s sister, who managed to escape from Avonlea to the bustling city of St. Catharines. An opinionated spinster, Aunt Izzy’s talent as a seamstress has allowed her to build a thriving business and make her own way in the world.

Emboldened by her aunt, Marilla dares to venture beyond the safety of Green Gables and discovers new friends and new opportunities. Joining the Ladies Aid Society, she raises funds for an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity in nearby Nova Scotia that secretly serves as a way station for runaway slaves from America. Her budding romance with John Blythe, the charming son of a neighbor, offers her a possibility of future happiness—Marilla is in no rush to trade one farm life for another. She soon finds herself caught up in the dangerous work of politics, and abolition—jeopardizing all she cherishes, including her bond with her dearest John Blythe. Now Marilla must face a reckoning between her dreams of making a difference in the wider world and the small-town reality of life at Green Gables.

Review:
I devoured this, but had a mixed reaction to it. I loved Anne of Green Gables when I read it as a teen. It would be difficult for this book to compare. I admit that up front. Having said that, I think that if I hadn’t been invested in Mathew and Marilla from their association to Anne, I’d have been bored to tears by this book. As it was, I appreciated the stellar writing and thought McCoy gave Marilla an unexpected history, but never truly lost myself in it.

Mathew and Marilla are quite characters. That’s established canon. They feel deeply, but express little. And essentially that’s where this fell down for me. This book follows 40 or so years of Marilla’s life and we finish the book not really knowing anything more about her than when we started. She’s emotionally stunted and unwilling to go after what she wants. Does she do something heroic once in her life? Sure, but mostly that’s just arranging for someone else to do all the work. I suppose I had hoped for a bit more than 300 pages of Marilla’s stoic navel gazing.

I rated it highly though, because disappointed in it or not, it’s beautifully written.

Review of Best Served Cold, by Joe Abercrombie

I borrowed an audio copy of Joe Abercrombie‘s Best Served Cold from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
Springtime in Styria. And that means war.

There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. While armies march, heads roll and cities burn, behind the scenes bankers and priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king.

War may be hell, but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso’s employ, it’s a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular – a shade too popular for her employers’ taste. Betrayed, thrown down a mountain and left for dead, Murcatto’s reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.

Her allies include Styria’s least reliable drunkard, Styria’s most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers and a Barbarian who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that’s all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started…

Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

Review:
I wasn’t thrilled with this, but I seriously suspect it’s just a style thing. The characters were pleasantly grey, some leaning more towards black even. The writing was good and the narrator (Michael Page) did a great job. I even liked how the author explored the pointlessness of revenge and randomness of death. Plus, that women had agency in the book. I see this far too rarely in fantasy. (I still think of this as fantasy, though there are almost no actual fantasy elements. That’s probably on me.)

However, I got bored with it. It’s a violent book (which I don’t have a problem with in general), but there were just so many descriptions of battles, fights, deaths, etc that it became a blur of sameness. Do I care that one person was drown and another stabbed? No, it’s all just another bloody death. And I’d say 2/3 of the book is just this.

Plus, I found the whole thing painfully predictable on the whole. You know from the very beginning no one is going to come to a good end. (And I don’t even consider that a spoiler, it’s so obvious). Yes, there was a character reveal or two I didn’t see coming. But in terms of plot, very easy to guess.

All in all, I finished this with a shrug and a “Meh.”

Review of Aliens, Smith and Jones (The Primrose Files #1), by Blaine D. Arden

I received a copy of Blaine D. Arden‘s Aliens, Smith and Jones through Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
Working for a secret organisation specialising in alien cover-ups, Connor Smith is no stranger to the abnormal or dangerous. His love life on the other hand… not so exciting. Until he reluctantly agrees to a blind date and meets the perfect bloke, Jason.

Things are finally falling into place for Connor, so of course that’s when he attracts an alien stalker.

Noah Jones, ex-alien, has been stranded on Earth and forced to live as a human since 1648. Alone and detached from the world around him, Noah has spent centuries observing and recording humankind. In all that time, he’s only experienced a connection with a human once… until he finds Connor.

Even knowing Connor is in a relationship, Noah can’t ignore their potential bond, or stay away.

While dealing with missing alien artefacts, a dangerous and shadowy group of collectors, and the ever-present Noah, Connor finds his orderly life crumbling around him. At least he still has the perfect boyfriend…

When Noah goes missing, Connor is forced to face the feelings growing between them and the mounting evidence that Jason isn’t who he says he is…

Review:
I suppose this was ok. It was just painfully predictable, with basic, unexciting writing. The characters were cute, but one of the main characters spent half the book in a relationship with someone else and I barely felt any spark between him and the second main character. Further, there was just too much assuming and non-communicating going on. In fact, a lot of the book is predicated on it and it didn’t make any sense to me. All in all, I found the whole thing uninspiring, even if not quite bad.