Friday, December 2, 2016

REVIEW | Zeus, Athena, and Hera - The Olympians Comic Series by George O'Connor

The Olympians Series: Zeus, Athena and Hera (Vols 1,2 and 3) by George O'Connor
Publication Year: 2010, 2011
Genre: Middle-Grade, Graphic Novel, Mythology
Series: The Olympians
Awards: None
Format: Hardcover (from Library)
Narrator: NA


WHY?:  I'm a Greek mythology nerd, hard core yo.  

SYNOPSIS: Each volume is a pretty straight-up presentation of the main myths surrounding each of the featured deities.  For example with Zeus, it's mostly about how he became King of the Gods (overthrew his dad and the rest of the Titans), with Hera it's mostly about Heracles (Hercules if you're Roman). 

These are the first three volumes in this series of graphic novels featuring Greek Mythology.  The intended audience, by the writing and the content emphasized, is middle grade but that didn't stop me from enjoying them.  

One of my very favorite books when I was a kid was D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Mythology and these comics reminded me of that beloved volume very much.  The format is of course different though D'Aulaires also included a lot of art and was very visual.  A lot of the mythology presented is very similar and it is kept mostly PG - considering the way the Greek Gods carried on that is quite a feat.

To be honest, I mildly enjoyed the first volume Zeus but wasn't wowed or too impressed.  The visuals are great and O'Connors imagining of how the Gods and Goddesses look is a lot of fun to discover.  The myth telling is relatively bland and not terribly unique, at least that's how it appeared at first in Zeus.  

It wasn't until the volume on Hera when I really developed some special appreciation for O'Connor's vision and where this series sets itself apart from classics like D'Aulaires.  First of all, O'Connor forthrightly takes on the inherent sexism in the myths.  As he points out in his really awesome notes sections that he includes at the end of each volume, most of what was written and passed down is the men's story told by the men.  Case in point is the depiction of Hera which is problematic at best.  Hera has always been portrayed as a petty, insanely jealous and generally unpleasant harpy of wife. A harridan. She does do some really cruel and petty things BUT the fact of the matter is that Zeus is a TERRIBLE husband.  He is constantly cheating on her and in fact ate his first queen (Metis - mother of Athena).  O'Connor deliberately interprets many of the myths surrounding Hera in a different and fairer way, using some scraps of evidence and stories that suggest that the Queen of the Gods was not historically seen in such a purely negative light.  His take on things is very cool and depicts Hera, the Goddess of Marriage and Childbirth, as she is meant to be, I think.  He also fixes some other more modern biases like drawing Andromeda, an Ethiopian princess, as African.  

Along with his explanatory notes and informal footnotes at the end of the volumes, which are a very cool addition, he also does some fun things to connect the volumes. For example in Athena he has a panel or two that shows a conversation between Zeus and Metis in the foreground and Demeter and Hera walking by in the background seeming to whisper to each other.  In Hera, we see this same scene but with the focus reversed - we hear what Hera and Demeter were whispering about.  Cool!

FINAL VERDICT:  I think this would make a nice introduction to Greek Mythology for a kid, especially a kid who loved the Percy Jackson series and is curious about the base myths that those books play with.  It was also fun for me as an adult Greek Mythology nerd and I especially appreciated the more feminist slant of the tales while maintaining the myth's integrity. Overall for these first three volumes: 3.5 out of 5 stars.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

REVIEW | Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott

Publication Year: 2014
Genre: Non-fiction, History
Series: NA 
Awards: None
Format: Audio (from Library)
Narrator: Karen White

WHY?:  Just look at that title! How could I not read it?

SYNOPSIS: A non-fiction account of the American Civil War through the lens of four women who played surprising and dangerous roles in the war, two for the Union and two for the Confederacy.  

I don't particularly enjoy non-fictional accounts of war.  The books I've tried to read in the past have seemed to be a litany of battle strategies and names and frankly that bores me to tears.  What I am interested in is the human story and that is exactly what Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy provides.  It personalizes the war by focusing on the experiences of these four very different and remarkable women and illuminating how their stories were interwoven with the events of the war.  The women are:
  • Emma Edmonds aka Frank Thompson: Emma was a Canadian/Michigan woman who even before the war impersonated a man, Frank Thompson, as a response to an abusive father and an unwanted engagement.  When the war started, she enrolled as a Union soldier and was eventually recruited as a spy.  
  • Rose Greenhow: Rose was a Washington society matron who sympathized with the South once war broke out and ended up using her connections to become a notorious spy for the confederacy. She even ends up serving as an ambassador to England and France, on behalf of the Confederacy, once her treachery is known and she is banished from the North.
  • Belle Boyd:  Belle was a teenage girl living in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia who was vain and attention seeking and this led her to become a brave and eventually famous spy for the confederacy.
  • Elizabeth Van Lew: Was a wealthy spinster lady and member of a prominent Richmond, VA family (My home town!). She was an ardent abolitionist and created an underground Union spy ring in the Capitol of the confederacy.
Emma Edmonds aka Frank Thompson

Each of these women's stories were so incredibly remarkable that it was hard at times to remember that this was non-fiction.  Emma Edmonds, who was living as a man, at one point is required to dress as a woman in order to infiltrate enemy territory so she was a woman, dressed as a man, dressed as a woman.  She manages to stay undetected as a woman for most of the war.  
Belle Boyd

Belle Boyd takes a dangerous midnight ride through enemy lines to deliver a message to confederate command and frequently outsmarts federal pickets using code words and deception.

Rose Greenhow and her daughter went to prison with her
Rose managed to evade suspicion for quite a while and when she was finally taken to jail, held her own in arguing her case with the judge and Army General trying her.



Elizabeth was probably my favorite, though her story is the least flashy.  She believed so strongly in what was right that she took incredible risks forming a wide net of contacts sympathetic to the Union cause right in the heart of the Confederacy.  She housed escaping Union prisoners in the top floor of her house but despite numerous searches she is never caught during the war.  After the war ends and it is clear where her loyalties lay, she is shunned in society and ends up dying destitute and reviled.  It's very sad.  

Abbott does a really good job balancing all of their stories and also keeping up with the events in the war, putting everything in context.  It's smart that she stays focused essentially on Virginia - all four women live and act in and around this area - and it helps the book from getting bogged down with too many stats and battles.  It's well paced and well constructed.  

I listened to the audio which was very good and I highly recommend.  Karen White did a great job giving each of the women a unique voice.

FINAL VERDICT:  Narrative non-fictions at its finest which will appeal to people who usually enjoy reading fiction about wars but not non-fiction.  4 out of 5 stars.

Other Opinions are Available: Smart Bitches, Trashy Books | New Republic*

* The New Republic article is a little bit review but is also calling out a review in The Washington Post where the reviewer called the writing in the book "akin to a women's magazine" and not in a complimentary manner.  Grrr.... Snotty, Sexist and all around craptastic.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday | Bookish Holiday Gift Guide for ...

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme for bloggers who like books and lists. It's awesome and is graciously hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

It's been forever since I've done a TTT! This week's topic is kind of a fun one and not one they've done before or at least recently. It's to put together a Holiday Gift Guide for X, like so:
Holiday Gift Guide freebie (ten books to buy the YA lover in your life, 10 books to buy for your dad, etc.)

I love the idea of recommending books around a theme but had exactly zero ideas except for really generic categories like people who love mysteries or nature lovers.  I also feel like I'd done all those before.

So what does one do when one has no ideas? Plagiarize!  (Just kidding - never plagiarize!) My favorite book podcast is one that Book Riot produces called Get Booked.  It's a write in recommendation show - anybody can write in and ask for a recommendation to fulfill whatever niche or not so niche reading craving they are having.  The two hosts are WONDERFUL and way more widely and diversely read than I and I have added SO many books to my TBR because of them.  However, I thought it would be fun to tackle some of the requests they get myself! Here Goes:  (P.S. I don't mean to infringe on copyright or be a grabby thief so if anyone thinks this is either of those things let me know and I will take the post down!)

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1)QUEST: Someone who likes re-tellings of fairy tales, classic stories etc... (from Episode 1).

ANSWER: Rapunzel's Revenge and Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale, Art by Nathan Hale.  
These are middle grade graphic novel re-tellings of the Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk tales set in a magical American wild west.  I adored them.  The art is great and the twists on the tales are great.  Also Shannon Hale is almost a specialist in re-telling old stories so really you can't go wrong with anything by her! The Goose Girl is another favorite by her.

2) QUEST: For someone who loves essay collections, especially smart and snarky ones. (Episode 5)

ANSWER:  Stiff by Mary Roach 

My answer to this question all week long and twice on Sunday will be Stiff by Mary Roach.  It changed how I felt about non-fiction and is still the best, most interesting and funniest science related book I've ever read.  It probably doesn't really count as an essay collection but each chapter is on a different topic related to cadavers and the book does not really progress like a narrative so I'm counting it. Honorable Mention (because this was supposed be a book good on audio as well): A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.

3) QUEST:  Personal finance book for just getting started twenty-something. (Episode 44)


First of all I really second the hosts' rec of The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. The book and his process really make sense.  But I also love Suze Orman and my friend, who is much more savvy with his finances than I, got me this book 10 or so years ago and it was a godsend in educating me on a lot of the basics of personal finance.  Her advice is also very sensible, straightforward and realistic.

4) QUEST:  For someone who likes portal fantasy where there is a magical world hidden within our recognizable everyday world. (Episode 16)

ANSWER: A Corner of White (Colors of Madeleine #1) by Jaclyn Moriarity

I am probably just not down with the young folks but I'd never heard a peep about this book until I picked it up.  The book takes place in two alternate realities/worlds - one our normal one and one where colors are like storms and can be dangerous.  The two worlds used to be open to one another but all the ways were closed until a girl in our everyday world and a boy in the magical world start an accidental correspondence through cracks in the barrier.  It's thoughtful, a little melancholy but really delightful.

5) QUEST:  For someone who likes books with a mysterious element but which aren't a traditional mystery (Tana French is mentioned - so character studies with mysterious elements is how I'm reading this). (Episode 17)

ANSWER:  Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart or Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg

Both of these books have a mystery at their heart but are also very heavy on the character development and the mysteries are very personal.  

6) QUEST: Book for an Arthurian Legend lover. (Episode 39)

ANSWER: The Winter King (The Arthur Books) by Bernard Cornwell 

I could go SO many directions with this because I am an Arthurian legend junky (and co-sign the hosts' recommendation of the Mary Stewart series).  This trilogy by Bernard Cornwell is a little unique in that it grounds the Arthurian legend story in history and tells the story from the perspective of one of Arthur's spearmen (i.e. no one you've ever heard of).  Cornwell does a fantastic job with it! 

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Six is all I have time for this week so I'll turn it over to you!  Do you have any great book ideas for these particular reading needs?  Definitely check out the Get Booked Podcast if you haven't already - they have so many great recommendations!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saturday in the Garden | The Luxury to be Lazy

OUTSIDE

The garden is well and truly dead now and looks pathetic.  I want to leave most of the dead stuff standing over the winter (for insects) but it really does look depressing.  I did make some progress - dumping pots and squeezing them in the over-stuffed garage for the winter.  Nothing like waiting until the very last minute.

Meanwhile, as I work, this is Jasper's favorite thing to do:

If you can't tell what he is doing, he is lovingly finding just the right stick to gnaw on and then gnawing so sweetly and contentedly.  So cute, though hopefully he doesn't grow a tree in his stomach.  What?  That's what my mom told me would happen whenever I ate inappropriate things - is it not true?

One of my goals this weekend is to re-pot and re-organize my houseplants as well.  One thing I got done today was combining all the succulents.


GAK

After being exceedingly lazy the last two days (it was a major holiday here in the U.S, and I, thankfully, have a job that provides this time off), I got the gumption up to do All The Things today.  I walked the dogs down to the grocery store, and got ingredients for a beet salad that I made to take to a gathering tonight.  I made some homemade dog biscuits, did some brisk house-cleaning and worked on the yard a bit.  I also swung by the local indie bookstore and took advantage of some small business Saturday deals.  


I got a couple of gadgets in the mail as well that I am SUPER DUPER excited about.  One is an Amazon Echo which makes me feel like I am living on a Star Trek ship, if only it would make me tea (Earl Gray, Hot).  I am still learning all that it can do and will post about it more later, probably.  I also got one of these:
Any idea what the disc on my bedside table is?  It's a light alarm clock!  Basically it gradually gets lighter over the 30 minutes before your wake up time so you theoretically wake up gradually as if with the sunrise and then are fully awake when it reaches its brightest.  I struggle with getting up in the morning, even when I get a good nights sleep.  I want to try and get better because I'd like to add some more exercise to my morning routine (I walk the dogs but that's mild exercise at best).  It doesn't work for everyone but I have hope.  Do any of you, dear readers, use one of these?  How do you like it?

WATCHING, READING and BLOGGING

Watching 

After all the discussion about Anne of Green Gables last week, I got a yearning to watch the beloved 1980s mini-series (still procrastinating Arrow).  I own both Anne of GG and its follow up Anne of Avonlea on videocassette (yes I still have a VCR) and it never fails to inspire and bring a smile to my face.  Anne is such an interesting character because she's in danger of being a Mary Sue (as Diana says in the mini-series when Anne is fretting about performing a poem "Anne Shirley, you've never failed at anything" with a wistful affection tinged with jealousy).  She is saved from this by honestly being SO annoying, lol.  I mean you love her but she really is irritating - the way she treats Gilbert, the way she prattles on, the way she says cutting things without even realizing it.  She's also so self-absorbed - she is pretty clueless about her bosom friend's feelings and aspirations.  I'm getting a kick about how she is constantly rejecting Gilbert because he doesn't match up with her imagined romantic ideal.  Meanwhile, every female reader of these books/watcher of this mini-series thinks Gilbert is absolutely the ideal man. Out of all the fictional men I've ever met I think he's probably my favorite.  Silly Anne.  She really is so unfair to him on so many levels.

Reading 

Finished Since the Last Time I Posted

  • Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger: I loved the Parasol Protectorate series so I enjoyed this YA offering in the same world by Ms. Carriger!
  • The Fold by Peter Clines:  A really fun blend of sci-fi, mystery and suspense-thriller.  
  • Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns:  Despite being published in 1984 this book has the air of being a classic.  It is kind of a presentation of an eventful year in the life of a family in small town Georgia in the early years of the 20th century.  
  • The Olympians: Athena and Hera by George O'Connor: A middle-grade graphic novel series that tells the most prominent myths surrounding each of the Greek deities. 

Currently Reading:

  • A Plain Death (Appleseed Creek #1) by Amanda Flower:  An Amish mystery/romance by an author that appears to be quite popular.  Set in small town Ohio.  
  • The Old Fox Deceiv'd (Richard Jury #2) by Martha Grimes:  The second in this classic British mystery series.  Centers around interestingly name British pubs.
  • H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald: A non-fiction book, primarily memoir, about the authors training of a Goshawk for falconry in an effort to heal after her father's sudden death.

Added to the TBR:

This is a list of books that I have added to my Goodreads TBR list this week.  It helps to burn the books I want to read a little more firmly into my mind, maybe get them on some other folks TBRs and gives me a chance to recognize a lot of the awesome bloggers that add stuff to my TBR!
Blogging

On the BLOG LAST WEEK:

WEDNESDAY: REVIEW | The Fold by Peter Clines


Have a Great Week!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

REVIEW | The Fold by Peter Clines

The Fold by Peter Clines
Publication Year: 2015
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: NA :(
Awards: None
Format: Audio (from Audible.com)
Narrator: Ray Porter

WHY?:  This book was recommended everywhere and while I absorbed all of those recs and developed a firm idea that it would be a book I would like, I managed not to have any idea what it was about.  I was pretty sure it took place in space.  It does not.

SYNOPSIS:  It does not take place in Space but in San Diego, and in the present day.  Mike is a high school teacher in a small town in Maine but he has a secret.  He's a super genius (180+ I.Q. and an idetic memory).  An old friend of his who works for a top secret DOD Research Agency (DARPA) has been trying to recruit him for years but Mike has refused.  Until now.  One of the Agency funded projects has created a way to instantly move great distances through space - step from California to New York to the moon in a few steps and under 30 seconds.  His friend senses that there is something wrong on the project however and he knows Mike is the only person who can get up to speed fast and be able to catalog every detail.  Mike investigates reluctantly at first but he quickly gets sucked in to the mystery which turns out to be more fantastical than anyone could have imagined.

THOUGHTS:
Just as everyone promised this was such a fun and quick read!  I inhaled it and pretty quickly got sucked in by the mystery and fast moving plot.  It is an enjoyable and well-done blend of genres and tones.  There's a little bit of science fiction, a little bit of suspense thriller and finally a nice healthy dose of mystery.  It also manages to be very funny, with a lot of witty dialogue while simultaneously projecting a feeling of menace. Way to go book!

This really wasn't a character book for me - the characters are all fine and great but they are not very deeply developed.  They are developed just enough to carry the plot and make the reader care and that works great for this book.

It's hard to say too much more about specific happenings in the plot because I do think it is a book that is best approached knowing as little as possible.  There are some interesting ethical questions that arise throughout the course of the book and Clines chooses to bring them up but not really explore them very deeply.  While it would have been interesting to do so, I think it was a good call because the book already has a lot going on and getting too mired in moral debates would have slowed things down.

The most fascinating thing about the book for me was all the details about what it would be like to have an eidetic (aka photographic) memory.  I've always wanted to have this kind of memory, so I could remember all that happens in all the best books I've read for example.  There seemed nothing but upside.  However, the book does a good job exhibiting why it wouldn't always be great.  It would be hard to turn your brain off and every unpleasant, traumatic thing that happened or that you had seen in your life would be burned into your brain.  One bonus though?  Watching a favorite movie simply by closing your eyes:).

If I have any complaints it is about the last quarter or so of the book. It gets very exciting but also maybe goes a little too far.  The book works so well I think because it is steeped in the recognizable and the believable so that the more fantastical ending didn't quite mesh with the rest of the book.  Also, I was hoping for something a little more clever and creative. Instead, once the mystery is revealed it goes exactly where you expect it will go and I would have liked to be surprised.

I listened to the audio book so my final comment is about the narrator who has a great voice for Mike and all the other male characters.  Unfortunately, his voicing of the female characters was not good and sounded very false.  I got used to it pretty quick and was able to overlook it but if that's a thing that will bother you too much, be cautious about picking up the audio.

FINAL VERDICT:  A fast paced and totally enjoyable Sci-fi mystery thriller that projects equal amounts humor and menace.  I would totally read any follow up novels featuring protagonist Mike in his new job!  3.5 out of 5 stars!

Other Opinions Are Available: SFF World | The Bibliosanctum | Fantasy Book Critic

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Saturday in the Garden | Anne of Green Gables Everywhere


OUTSIDE

The gorgeous Fall we've been lucky to have has finally run its course with a very cold day today (though temps later this week look to be back in reasonable range).  At the office, our wildlife management folks (the staff that actually manage the public land for hunting and wildlife watching) have taken advantage of the mild Autumn to do some prescribed burning on the prairies.  They fired up the prairie around the office this week and I'm excited to see what it will look like next spring.  Fire usually stimulates the flowering plants so it should be gorgeous.  Right now it just looks like scorched earth!


WATCHING, READING and BLOGGING

Watching 

I've gotten a little more than halfway through season 4 of Arrow and now am procrastinating watching the rest😊.  I'm ridiculous.  I've enjoyed the season so much and don't want to see everything blow up into melodrama so I'm adopting a stance of avoidance. Very mature. Anyway, instead I've been watching Fixer Upper, the HGTV show about a couple in Waco, TX that renovates and decorates homes.  They're soothing and help me stick to my financial goals.

Also, in future watching, there are apparently two new productions of Anne and Green Gables coming out/in the works?  One is airing on Thanksgiving on PBS here in the U.S. The other is a joint production by Netflix and the CBC.  I so love the Megan Follows version and all the casting in that mini-series that it is going to be very hard to accept anything different but I will try to be open-minded.  But Martin Sheen as Mathew? No. Honestly I think Richard Farnsworth may be the hardest casting to beat.  What about you?  Have you seen the PBS version(it has apparently aired before)?  Who do you think it will be hardest to cast?

Reading 

Finished Since the Last Time I Posted

  • Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott: A non-fiction book focused on the American Civil War, in particular 4 women who played important and unsung roles. 
  • Saga, Vol. 4 by Brian Vaughn and Fiona Staples: This graphic novel series continues to be awesome.

Currently Reading:

  • Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger: I loved the Parasol Protectorate series so I am enjoying this YA offering in the same world by Ms. Carriger!
  • The Fold by Peter Clines:  So far it's a really fun blend of sci-fi, mystery and suspense-thriller. I'm actually almost done with this one. 

Added to the TBR:

This is a list of books that I have added to my Goodreads TBR list this week.  It helps to burn the books I want to read a little more firmly into my mind, maybe get them on some other folks TBRs and gives me a chance to recognize a lot of the awesome bloggers that add stuff to my TBR!

  • A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet:  Danya from A Fine Print mentioned this book in a comment as one of her favorite debuts of the year.  Fantasy-Romance and based on Greek Mythology! 

Blogging

On the BLOG LAST WEEK:

THURSDAY: Review | Sawbones by Melissa Lenhardt



Golden Retriever or Giant House Cat? #whereamisupposedtosleep
Have a Great Week!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

REVIEW | Sawbones by Melissa Lenhardt

Sawbones by Melissa Lenhardt
Publication Year: 2016 (March)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Western
Series: Laura Elliston #1
Awards: None
Format: E-book 
Narrator: NA

WHY?:  So many reasons, it will be hard to be succinct.  First Mogsy at The Bibliosanctum recommended it and it is a truth of life that you should always trust Mogsy.  Second, I love westerns/stories set in frontier era U.S.A.  Thirdly, I love the trope in westerns of fancy-east-coast-lady-heads-west.  Fourthly, I love stories about women pioneering and not just on the frontier but pushing the bounds of what society thinks is acceptable. Fifthly, I love strong character development and a strong plot with a good romance B plot.  I'll stop there:0).  

SYNOPSIS: Catherine Bennett is a rare female physician in New York during the late 1800s when one of her patient's wives accuses her of killing her husband.  Catherine has done no such thing but she has engaged in some legally sketchy activity and she has no way of defending herself.  Her only choice is to flee west under an assumed name, Laura Elliston, and hope she'll be forgotten about.  She finds herself at a military outpost trying to convince the men of the fort that she can be their doctor, ignore the hatred of the wives and other respectable females at the camp and hide that she is a fugitive wanted for murder even while the murder she is accused of is making a splash in the headlines.  So, you know, easy peasy.  

THOUGHTS: 
You know those books that you stumble upon, that by blurb or recommendation, seem like they should be your new bestest book friend?  These are the books that are the scariest to jump into because what if...what IF... it is not all you imagined it could be?  The crushing disappointment ain't pretty.  So, I am so relieved and glad to say that this book did not do me wrong.  It delighted and horrified and gave me characters I dream about.  

So there are a couple things that need to be mentioned up front to prepare any readers.  First, this is the beginning of a series of indeterminate length (though on the author's page it appears it will be a trilogy with both books 2 and 3 coming out in 2017).  Full resolution will not be had at the end of the book.  Second, this book is not for the faint of heart.  Really terrible things happen.  This book manages to pull off two very different tones - one romantic, funny, inspiring and almost light-hearted and the other so so dark.  It is clear why it aims for this dichotomy as it is Lenhardt's stated homage to Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove.  It is not done with the virtuosity of McMurtry but it is not done shabbily and this is what elevates the book for me above just a pleasant read.  But BEWARE while it does not linger too long and is not the most explicit I've read, if violence, especially against women, is a trigger for you, you will want to avoid the book.

Sawbones does have one thing which puts it above Lonesome Dove - its protagonist is a woman and it features a number of other well developed and interesting female characters and not just for the men they are associated with.  The protagonist Dr. Laura Elliston (aka Catherine Bennett) feels like a completely real person and not necessarily one that would be easy to like or get along with.  She's admirable, interesting, smart, compassionate towards the sick and injured but she's also a little thoughtlessly reckless, judgmental, prickly, arrogant and argumentative.  I adored her more and more as the book went on.  Lenhardt did a fantastic job fleshing out her character with little things, like the way she glances frequently at her love interest to see how he responds to things she says in company, the way she responds to the bad things that happen to her - she is a believably strong woman who is dealing with a horrific trauma. 

I also love how we are given a diversity of women as well, each interesting in their own way - Harriet MacKenzie proper, priggish, a little bitter but also fair minded and strong, Mrs. Strong not conventionally pretty but with a handsome husband through an arranged marriage, she fades into the background but she is not unaware of things and is very keen and makes herself useful.

Oh yeah and there is a nice and funny beta hero as well:).  The romance in the book is slowly developed and really lovely.

The story as a whole is also well paced and Lenhardt does a great job keeping the tension up.  Laura has so many obstacles in her way - the trauma of the terrible thing that happens to her, hiding from authorities, having feelings for a man she can't stay with, constantly fighting to gain people's respect.  I found it always engaging  even when there wasn't much happening (which isn't often) and it surprised me more than once.

FINAL VERDICT:  A new Western with amazing female characters, and a well-paced plot that will swing you between delight and horror.  I loved it!  4 out of 5 Stars.


Other Opinions are Available:  The Bibliosanctum | Cover2CoverMom | The Misadventures of Super-Librarian