I decided to review the #COYER book club reads together in one post. These are our April 2022 picks – History month.The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
Narrator: Morag Sims
Series: Feminine Pursuits #1
Published by HarperAudio on July 14, 2020
Genres: Historical, Romance
Length: 8 hours 27 minutes
I’m really glad this book was selected for book club! As of late, I have not been a big historical reader, but this one was unique in that it’s a lesbian romance AND it’s centered on feminine careers in a man’s world (even more so than today). My one disappointment? It’s a series (trilogy so far) and I really need to read them all now (LOL – not really a bad thing!).
As Lucy Muchelney watches her ex-lover’s sham of a wedding, she wishes herself anywhere else. It isn’t until she finds a letter from the countess of Moth, looking for someone to translate a groundbreaking French astronomy text, that she knows where to go. Showing up at the countess’ London home, she hoped to find a challenge, not a woman who takes her breath away.
Catherine St Day looks forward to a quiet widowhood once her late husband’s scientific legacy is fulfilled. She expected to hand off the translation and wash her hands of the project - instead, she is intrigued by the young woman who turns up at her door, begging to be allowed to do the work, and she agrees to let Lucy stay. But as Catherine finds herself longing for Lucy, everything she believes about herself and her life is tested.
While Lucy spends her days interpreting the complicated French text, she spends her nights falling in love with the alluring Catherine. But sabotage and old wounds threaten to sever the threads that bind them. Can Lucy and Catherine find the strength to stay together, or are they doomed to be star-crossed lovers?
The characters are just super fantastic! Lucy is a scientist (astrologer) who worked with her father, doing most his calculations as he got older but was never credited. I loved the way she spoke – she knew how to be polite, but also strong and she knew how to use disguised verbal daggers. And then there’s Catherine, the slightly older (~10 years) widow with money and freedom, but a painful history with M/F romance. She’s never considered a F/F romance until Lucy shows up at her door, determined to translate a significant scientific work from French to English. Their romance is fantastic – there’s an element of Lucy guiding Catherine, which is just perfectly done. And I loved the layers of jealousy, practicality, etc. that come into play.
Their career efforts are equally great. I loved watching them basically give the patriarchy a giant FU and blaze their own path. I loved the way the learned about themselves as artist and scientist – while also learning about others who have trodden their own, equally challenging paths. There were a couple unexpected and fabulous twists. And I’m very excited to see where these career efforts will lead in future books – as I *think* that’s where the series will go.
I listened to The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, narrated by Morag Sims. Her narration was really great – especially when she had to introduce different class and area accents. This is the first time in a long while I’ve listened at less than 2x… I listened at 1.75. So not a huge difference and not because her performance was in any way lacking. I just needed to slow down a tiny bit for the accents, I think. I will continue to listen for sure.
Beastly Bones by William Ritter
Narrator: Nicola Barber
Series: Jackaby #2
Published by Recorded Books on September 25, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Mystery, Young Adult
Length: 7 hours 5 minutes
I've found very little about private detective R. F. Jackaby to be standard in the time I've known him. Working as his assistant tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality . . .
In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, R. F. Jackaby, are called upon to investigate the supernatural. First, members of a particularly vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens. A day later, their owner is found murdered, with a single mysterious puncture wound to her neck. Then, in nearby Gad's Valley, dinosaur bones from a recent dig go missing, and an unidentifiable beast attacks animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Policeman Charlie Cane, exiled from New Fiddleham to the valley, calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.
I am really glad this was selected for book club again this year. I had enjoyed the first book enough (when we read it for book club last year) that I was happy to keep reading the series, but not so much that I was likely to pick it up and finish the series on my own. In my first review I even said “Although I enjoyed this well enough, it’s not something I probably would have picked up on my own and I doubt I’ll continue the series.” And I was surprised to find that I enjoyed this more than the first book!
My chief criticism of the first book was that “I think it’s just a bit silly/ridiculous for me.” Okay, well Beastly Bones toned that down a bit. it’s still on the silly/ridiculous side. But not excessively so. I found that it no longer clouded the positives I saw in Jackaby and I liked him so much more in this book. And I always liked Abigail Rook – that perhaps increased as we get to see her in her element – both as a detective and an unofficial paleontologist. And the secondary characters were enjoyable too.
My second criticism of the first book was that I solved the mystery pretty much instantly. Which made Jackaby’s inability to solve it frustrating. That was not the case this time. While the clues were there, I missed them completely. So the mystery was a lot more satisfying this time. And there was a lot of excitement at the end (as was true in the first book, but for me this was more so).
My final criticism was that the first book felt like it was trying to being steampunk-ish, which I don’t tend to love. But that was not the case this time and I really had forgotten that was even a problem the first time around.
All in all, an improvement on the first book for sure! Will I commit to finishing the series now? Probably not – just because I have so many series that I’m already committed to that I enjoy a bit more. But I also wouldn’t hesitate to continue for book club.
I do agree with my initial assessment that Nicola Barber is an excellent narrator and delivers the voices very well. I would definitely choose to continue this series in audio
Wow you read them both and have written the reviews too. I like some historicals, mysteries especially but wasn’t interested in either of these. *shrugs*