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Kushiel's Justice - Jacqueline Carey

Why yes, I am rattling through these at a rate of knots because they're good escapist reading, thanks for asking. In this one, our protagonist enters a political marriage but comes around to face his true feelings eventually, with potentially disastrous consequences for the state. I'm not entirely joyful about the convenient death of the not-quite-right bride, but at least she gets a proper revenge (hence the justice of the title) that involves a lot of agony and travail, so it's a step beyond the usual 'oh, look, we will just kill off this character to facilitate the other plot line'. There's a level of emotional engagement and depth that's allowed to develop, if that makes sense, and the incident is given a genuine trauma treatment rather than sort-off passed over. In other areas, the book has dark magic, shape-shifting, Fearful Prophecy, and all sorts of other good juicy plot device things. So there we are.

Bringing up a boy - Eli H. Newberger

A corrective, as it were, to Redefining Girly. Newberger explores the various ways in which parents can shape a boy's sense of self and confidence, his competence with engaging with his emotions, and discourage violence as an acceptable behaviour pattern. There are all sorts of interesting things here about how one can parent to encourage positive moral behaviours and discourage negative ones, some of which were new, some of which seemed common sense, some of which redefined the points made in Redefining Girly. The scope of the investigation was wider, so the material about the teens and onwards felt rather remote; the American context (e.g. younger driving age, higher drinking age, expectation of driving license much earlier, gun-owning cultures, etc.) also meant that the chapters on later development felt rather difficult to apply to a UK context. But another interesting read on the importance of facilitating boys to be OK with emotions and the range of behaviours open to them rather than limiting definitions of what masculinity looks like to certain fixed pathways, and how adults can facilitate that.

Catilina's Riddle - Steven Saylor

Another one of those Roman murder mystery series. I own the first few in the series and actually re-read them over Christmas (after rescuing them from my parents' house at long last), having not read them since I was a teenager. I enjoyed them more this time around - when I was a teenager I found Lindsey Davis' Falco style much easier to get into, while I think I've grown into Saylor. (It probably wouldn't have taken long, but Saylor is much more traditional gumshoe and less humour than Davis.) As is inevitable for anyone associated with Cicero, Gordianius the Finder and his family end up playing a bit part in the great Catilinarian conspiracy, at the same time as they try to work out who is trying to sabotage their farm. There are, of course, massive stretches of probability, but that's not why we read this sort of thing. I enjoyed it, and suspect I've found myself another seam of book-crack to keep me busy.
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