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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Friday, September 26, 2014

Finishing School series by Gail Carriger


Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger

Mechanicals and mayhem!

Faceless Mechanicals, valves that help travel the aether, dubious finishing schools, vampires and werewolves are all part of this Victorian steam punk spy-in-training romp. Sophronia has been sent to finishing school to try to cure her bad habits including climbing and taking things apart to see how they work. Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is somewhat more than she expected and certainly her "to be" decorous education takes unexpected twists and turns.
A sometimes farcical caper that introduces some excellent characters and exciting possibilities. There is of course the 'mean girl' and a host of others. The sense of mystery is heightened by the fact that the school is a dirigible or several dirigibles, always moving. Entrancing! "What Ho and away!"

A NetGalley ARC


Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #2) by Gail Carriger 

...the captivation continues!

The world of Sophronia at Miss Geraldine's unconventional school for would be spies and assassins continues to delight. Sorophina is  shunned by her friends, sought after by Felix Mersey, Viscount of Golborne, becomes involved in nefarious plots and does some mighty stunning plotting of her own.
Leader of the sooties (coal stokers in the school's engine room,) Soap, is once more present as is the young inventor, 10 year old Vieve Lefoux who badly wants to go to Bunson and Lacroix's Boys' Polytechnique, the evil geniuses training school.
Did I mention Bumpersnoot, Sophronia's mechanical dog / Italian handbag is again part of the picture. What a hoot! 
The occasional Sophronia reflection, 'many gentlemen were unable to cope with abundant chatter, which is why they so often married it,' is pure delight.
What with kidnapping attempts, lessons about dĂ©colletage, handsome young lords, plots pitting rival powerful factions against each other, including the Flyaymen and Picklemen and the supernatural shadow court to Queen Victoria,  Sophronia is fully engaged. 
All seems to revolve around the possibility of 'vampires floating through the aetherosphere.' Danger lurks as a constant under-thrum throughout the entire goings on. 
As her friend Lady Sidheag Kingair once said to Sophronia, "Life's always more interesting when I chum about with you."
The "What Ho-ing" never falters! 

A NetGalley ARC

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The art of kissing!

The Prince Who Loved Me (The Oxenburg Princes #1) by Karen Hawkins 

The Cinderella archetype takes a slightly different twist in this regency romp. All the players  are turned about. The father is not dead, although somewhat lax in his attention to his eldest daughter, except where she can help him with his business pursuits. Bronwyn Murdoch looks after much of her father's business. She wants to do that. Her father is a muddle headed inventor. The description of Bronwyn seen through Prince Alexsey Vitaly Grigory Romanovin eyes is quite adorable. One is drawn to her immediately. Step mama might be careless of Bronwyn's desire to play a backseat to her sisters, but she does embrace her stepdaughter. The two stepsisters are likeable and there is love and camaraderie amongst the three. Sure, Prince Alexsey is charming, more of a careless cad rather than a ravishing rake, out for a tumble with what he assumes is a intriguing local maid. (How come those lower down the societal chain are assumed to be up for sexual encounters at the first glance from an upperclass scion?). The Prince being Romany adds an additional frisson of the exotic. (I must admit I flashed back to some of the early Barbara Cartland's at that disclosure). 

The godmother appears as the prince's tartar of a grandmother. His Tata, (I like the play on words here), the Grand Duchess Natasha Nikolaevna. The Grand Duchess is determined that her grandson will marry. Both Bronwyn and Alexsey were very likeable. The plot is dotted with witty little musings, particularly on the part of Bronwyn. Throughout, the lead into each chapter is preceded by quotes from Bronwyn's favourite story of the moment, The Black Duke, a highly questionable romance with a somewhat incompetent heroine. Mostly her book just stirs Bronwyn's interest in kissing.  Something Alexsey is quite willing to help her with. Indeed, Bronwyn finds that this can be quite delicious.
The plot rattles along at a goodly pace, although there are things happening off stage that one catches hints of but they never quite come into focus until the end. Bronwyn going about her seduction attempts is extremely amusing and the three methods she uses are ridiculously charming and loveable for both us and the prince. Who knew rosemary could be so effective! 
I was going to give the story three stars but then reflected and realized that Bronwyn deserves at least four. She is a treasure of a character. I really enjoyed her.
As an aside, I love the relationship between her two deerhounds and the Duchess's lapdog Papilion who has the heart of a warrior.

A NetGalley ARC

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Solid!

Bones Never Lie: A Novel (Temperance Brennan #17) by Kathy Reichs


In the early days I like others could hardly wait to get my hands on each new Temperance Brennan novel. Then, I just stopped bothering. This is my first Kathy Reichs in ages.
It was ok but not so gripping that my page turning barely kept up with my reading.
Brennan is confronted with her nemesis, the one that got away. I sussed on the killer's identity well before the end, with a few 'how could that be's.' All was pointing that way.
Still, the pace of the novel never let up. Brennan's introspection is telling and overall the story was interesting if slightly predictable in places. I loved the inclusion of her mother's help. 
p.s. I'm glad I don't live in Brennan's head.

A NetGalley ARC

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

not for me, but might be for you...

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry 



Ok, by the end of the first chapter I was ready to toss it in. It wasn't that there were too many lead characters, their adjectival names or the situation they found themselves in, it just wasn't the level of 'farcical' I expected. Now, The "Importance of Being Ernest," that is farcical. I felt like I was reading a version of a "Lemony Snicket" novel for slightly older persons without quite the same witty repartee. I enjoyed "The Amaranth Enchantment" (not a farce) but the a Scandalous Sisterhood just wasn't doing it for me. Not to be put off, I read a few of the rave reviews on other sites and decided to persevere. Still not my cup of tea and really, I suspect the YA reading audience for this is fairly narrow. However, it's obvious that many did enjoy it, so read some more reviews and go from there.

A NetGalley ARC

Friday, September 19, 2014

Just loved it!

Being Audrey Hepburn: A Novel by Mitchell Kriegman 

Dreams and truth are all mixed up and threaded throughout with magic Audrey Hepburn moments, shaded over with Givenchy, Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci, and others.
As our fab lead Lisbeth Anne Wachowicz from New Jersey says, 'Here's the big secret, Audrey Hepburn is the cure for everything.' How many times have I hummed 'moon river' and then flashed back to that hair, those glasses and that little black dress. (Hands up those of us who have a little 'go to' black dress in their wardrobe!)     
Lisbeth always adored, indeed lived, Audrey Hepburn. She works at a diner with her lifelong friend Jess, a budding fashion designer who also works for the MET.
That's how come Lisbeth gets to see that little black dress that Audrey H. wore in Breakfast at Tiffany's. And that's the beginning, where it all unfolds. Lisbeth's journey takes us into the world of the badly behaved rich and famous, into dark secrets and fair weather friends, finding out where one's heart lies and choosing your path. Along the way there's some romantic interest. 
A cracker of a read! I was smitten by the character of Lisbeth. I loved the way in which Kriegman melded the ideas of fashion and design. My fingers itched to feel the fabrics. In fact I'm sure I can. His descriptions made me sense the uniqueness of these designs. They vibrated, they came alive. I adored the interesting touches Jess added, the makeovers that produce 'new look' creations. I must admit that for just a few seconds I flashed back to Molly Ringwald and 'Pretty in Pink' from the aspect of Andie's creativeness. 'Being Audrey' is so much more, and so much more in the now!
The jaded lives of the rich and famous come in for a drubbing. The crush and whirl and mindlessness of it all is highlighted.
Lisbeth, or rather her alter ego Lisbeth Dulac, her 'nom de plume' emerges as a strong character, from a dysfunctional family. Who isn't? Some just more so than others and Lisbeth's is definitely more so. Lisbeth's creation of a fashion blog recalled for me Tavi Gevinson who began her fashion blog at a much younger age. The whole thing of becoming a leader in a field and being noticed via the medium of blogging.
I loved Lisbeth's nan. A woman of class, ethereal yet no nonsense, a woman unshockable. A woman it seems from another world.
But best of all as I have more than intimated, I loved the world that author Kriegman has created. A world that morphs out of the much loved Audrey into ours, revolving around an iconic film moment and actress that espouses dreams fulfilled and hope.

A NetGalley ARC

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A delicious read!

The Kidnapped Bride (Redcakes #4) by Heather Hiestand 


A Victorian romance with a difference! Scotsman Dougal Alexander, younger son to the Baron  of Alix, spends his time as a private detective, occasionally assisting the police with their enquiries. 'He was not interested in the church, law or soldiering ... He was good at solving problems and finding things.' Dougal puts me in mind of another investigator of these times I love, Barnaby Adair from Stephanie Lauren's Cynster series.
Dougal has been hired by Lord Judah Shield to find his sister the Lady Elizabeth Shield. She  disappeared without a trace over a year ago. Dougal has tracked Lady Elizabeth to the stews of Edinburg and the flat of one Manfred Cross, a jewel thief. The problem is that Cross has been apprehended and is now in Newgate. There is no sign of Lady Elizabeth, or was there? The Marquiss of Hatbrook, Elizabeth's older brother reminds Dougal of someone he's recently met. It's the blue eyes that are familiar. So it's back to Edinburgh and a renewed effort.
An exceedingly determined young woman, white slave trading and love found! All are intertwined into a diverting story.
Only seven chapters but a delightful read!

A NetGalley ARC

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

an Encore performance!


Blood on the Water: A William Monk Novel #20 by Anne Perry      

Wow! I was spellbound to the very end, and swimming in the dark along with most of the cast until then too!    
When our story opens Monk and Orme are one minute enjoying skimming along the Thames, the next they are thrust into disaster as a pleasure boat explodes, leaving in its wake the dead and drowning. An horrific scene that I could barely take in, along with Monk and Orme and others on the river that night.
200 people are dead. The whys and wherefores are mired in political bungling and intrigue alongside heightened public tensions and rage.  The River police inquiry is taken over by the Metropolitan police. Political or convenience?
A scapegoat has been found! Guilty or innocent? Someone has to pay.
The posturing in the courtroom reaches new heights.
Hester, Scruff and Rathbone? All are players, and a delightful new urchin Worm makes a brief appearance. I do hope he stays!
So we left with resolution but a bit of a cliffhanger on at least one personal relationship.
Once more the River Thames and it's denizens come to life.
Thought provoking, intense and enthralling!

A NetGalley ARC

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mayhem and marriage!

The Lady's Disgrace (Marriage Mart Mayhem #3) ) by Callie Hutton         

A reasonably strait forward story with a couple of twists adding some interest.
The title is an annoyingly accurate reflection of the insular minds of the time.  
A beautiful young woman Lady Abigail Lacey is jilted. Well, actually her fiancé elopes with someone else. Scandalous indeed!
Said woman is thoroughly besieged and besmirched by the gossip mill and any hopes of making a good marriage are reduced to zilch, zero, nil. Only the cads, bounders and fortune hunters are showing any interest. Locking oneself away for a indeterminable time has more appeal.
Fortuitously a long time childhood friend, the now Rector Joseph Fox is in London and calls on the family. 
The Duke of Manchester sees a way through his sister's dilemma and proposes that as a solution to her problem Joseph marry her. Eons ago he had been Abigail's childhood crush.
Certainly there's still a strong attraction between the two. But, there is some confusion about the way Abigail thinks their marriage might work.
'To be or not to be, that is the question!' even as their bedroom antics definitely take a turn for the better. I do like Joseph. A sensitive man who looks to his wife's care and a way through their marriage with determination and gentleness.
The plot thickens when a jealous other attempts to take matters into their own hands.
True love does conquers all. An enjoyable read.

A NetGalley ARC

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sweetly done!

Talk Sweetly to Me (The Brothers Sinister #5) by Courtney Milan    



A lovely novel with a whimsically clever title that manages to discus women's rights, racism, inter-racial relations and the recognition of love.
Rose is a charming, clever and strong woman.
Stephen Shaunassey is a man with a reputation who finds himself pierced by Rose's intellect and comeliness. A pleasing novella!

A NetGalley ARC

...my true love gave to me!


A Winter Wedding (Marriage Mart #3) by  Amanda Forester 

International plots abound! Traitors are sought! Perilous times are nigh! Napoleon's spy master is lurking. Yet the marriage game continues and Penelope Rose is in the thick of both games. Her 'nom de plume', Madame X is called into more matchmaking for the ton, including the Duke of Marchford. 
Until now no task has been too difficult. As companion to Antonia Lockton the Dowager Duchess of Marchford, Pen also assists the duchess's grandson the Duke of Marchford in his work as a spy for crown and country.
This time Marchford wants her help in both capacities, to become his bride and avoid the avid interest of the flocking debutantes and to assist him with a plot that sets the crown and London itself in peril. Pen wants more than Marchford is prepared to offer on the personal level, yet she thrills to the chase with both. And then there's Marchford's attitude towards Christmas! But a wooing he will go, and those 'days of Christmas' certainly bring surprises.
Their story is rife with intrigue, thwarted romance, humour and dark and deadly doings.
A welcome read!

A NetGalley ARC