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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

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Dreams of swords and honor!

Paladin by Sally Slater



Great new female hero. Slater's writing reminds me a tad of Sarah J. Maas with a dash of Tamora Pierce.
A tried and true theme with a difference. Young woman (of noble birth) wants to be a Paladin, lives for sword fighting, and definitely doesn't want to be married off to decorate someone's holdings and birth the required heirs.
Disguising herself as a boy, Sam (Samatha) heads off to paladin headquarters to try her luck.
(I've got to say that all that breast binding and then hiding how the the 'call of nature' impacts differently for women would wear me out, let alone holding my own in sword fighting against a hulking successful Paladin. How did she get away with it? Privacy would not be the first thing on the travelling Paladins' minds).
She succeeds. An unforeseen circumstance--her co-trainee Braeden is a half demon. Her trainer, her hero from her past, Paladin Tristan Lyons, First of the Sword.
Training, fighting demons, following the High Commander's bidding, and the continued battle to disguise her gender do take a toll, as does entering the enclave of a rival organization, The Uriel. It is feared that they seek to oust the Paladins. Sam  and her team find more than they'd bargained for. Frighteningly more! The Paladin are in trouble!
Well written, Sam's story exercises such a pull that you soon find yourself deep into the action and just snarl at having to face the day's busyness. A feisty young woman who won't settle for any less than she feels driven to do. Translate that drive to today's young women and here's a message for all to follow their dream. They can come true!

A NetGalley ARC

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Impact your body, positively!

Just prior to obtaining this book I watched JJ on a TV show waxing lyrical about the dangers of sugar and it's impact on the body. She's very dynamic and very committed to her message, that's for sure. 
I was sold on the theory and this very timely book gave me the practical steps to guide me through the maze of sugar surprises out there.
Recommended for all who need to confront the sugar blues!

A NetGalley ARC

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Great characters, exciting storyline!

Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham 

What to do when you discover you have a guardian angel, are descended from Solomon and  that your family is responsible for guarding a jar that has to do with jinns, ancient curses and immortality?
Mind you all this information comes slowly. The reader is as puzzled about things as Scarlett.
Scarlett (as investigator) has taken on a case from nine year old Gemma Archer, who's worried about her brother Oliver. Gemma is right. He's turned weird, very weird, dangerously weird. 'Uh oh,, I thought,  'here come the werewolves!' But no! This plot is so much more. Possibly shades of the Librarians!
Scarlett is an interesting mixture of a street wise, cynical, young muslim mid-teen who is definitely not taking the traditional path. She has become a detective, spurred on by her father's mysterious death, seemingly poisoned. Her sister Reem is a more conservative young Muslim woman and is studying medicine, also spurred on by their parents death. Their mother died just after their father, from cancer. Each young woman has taken a different path. Together, they are the healer and the warrior.
I was fascinated at the way Latham has woven the young women's background faith into the story telling. Gently done, no alarmist issues just young American people caught up in their family inheritance from the far past, living their lives to the best of their abilities, taking the hard knocks in their stride. I loved the way Scarlett and Reem try to say morning prayers together despite their differences, family as one. I loved the ironic humour that pops up now and again à la the best of the gumshoe detective novels. Exciting and believable, this is  urban fantasy working well!

A NetGalley ARC

Piquant romantic read!

The Lady Hellion (Wicked Deceptions #3) by Joanna Shupe  

This has it all!  
Intrigue, spying, murdered young women from brothels, tormented Dukes, feisty women and scorching romance!
I really enjoyed the story line; the determination of Lady Sophie; the struggle for Damien Beecham, Viscount Quint, to understand that he was entitled to happiness. His gritted determination to not let himself even feel, let alone love, because he couldn't bear to punish the woman he loved, and to have her saddled to man with a mind that was losing its reason.
I applauded Sophie for her spirited commitment to change, to love and life and mostly to Quint.
An excellent read!

A NetGalley ARC

Friday, May 22, 2015

Intriguing!

Uprooted by Naomi Novik  



Having enjoyed some of the Tremeraire books I jumped at the chance to read this YA novel complete with dragons.
Ok so it's not very dragony but there is a dragon, albeit he's distant, focused and very out of sync with his latest virgin sacrifice. Oh, did I mention that every 10 years he takes, well is given really, a virgin from a local village.
Really the Dragon, Sarkan, is here to guard against the dreaded Wood that sends out all sorts of monsters to kill, overrun villages, create new monstrosities and turn humans into such aspects. (Of course there's a back story here!)
All very DARK, sort of like the things that come out of the Pelgairs in Mercedes Lackey's novels, only with a central malevolent force behind it all.
Well our heroine, Agnieszka, is unlike the other girls. She indeed marches to the beat of her own drum, is not beautiful and tends to well, really, she's always downright messy.
But as Sarkan knows, Agnieszka is more than the plain, strange girl...and as a person of the village near to the Wood comprehends the full horrors, and more as the story develops.
When Agnieszka gets dragged off to the Royal Court things definitely get more interesting, if not down right frighteningly and dangerously grim!

A NetGalley ARC

The sad fate of unruly and rebellious young Misses in Regency England!

A School for Unusual Girls: A Stranje House Novel by Kathleen Baldwin 




Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam, 'Georgie', is made of stern stuff, a brave heart and a thirst for scientific investigation and invention. Given that her latest experiment (for a very good cause) burnt down her father's stables, the family decided that she needed stern discipline. Georgie finds herself. Carted off to Stranje House operated by the stern headmistress Emma Stranje, by her unforgiving parents, Georgie is abandoned to her fate. 
In her attempt to escape she overhears the dashing Lord Sebastian Wyatt talking about the need for the invisible ink she was attempting to recreate. What's this! All of Georgie's conceptions are turned on their head and she finds herself caught up in the pre-Napoleonic escape from Elba world of espionage!
Now her talents are put to the test as is her ability to believe in herself and to face the idea that she might be loveable.
The challenge of Georgie and her character, along with the mystery of the other girls at this very unusual school quickly drew me in. I cheered their actions and hissed with disdain over Miss Seraphina Wyndham, a dark and destructive force. Pure sugar coated venom!

A NetGalley ARC

Friday, May 15, 2015

...betrayal and bravery!

A Highland Knight to Remember (Highland Dynasty Book 3) by Amy Jarecki


Sir Sean MacDougal, a King's enforcer, has known Gyllis Campbell since she was a child. He and her brother Duncan, Sean's best friend, played together at a younger age. Meeting Gyllis again as a grown woman at the Beltane celebrations Sean comes to see her her as a beautiful and alluring woman.
However, just as their relationship is ripening, tragedy strikes. Sean is called home to his father's funeral, and to take up his role as chieftan of his clan. 
Gyllis, unaware of the reasons for Sean's sudden departure, disappointed and heart sore, leaves for home. En route she is struck down by an illness that leaves her future uncertain and the possiblity of being unable to walk again. Gyllis is sent into her brother John's care at the cloisters of Ardchattan Priory, close to Dunolie Castle. Sean learns of her plight and is able to visit her and soon come to understand his feelings for this bonny lass.
Sean has further problems. Someone has been stealing cattle from his land, the clan's ledgers show mysteriously missing funds, and outlaws are abroad.
What with dealing with these problems and coming to understand his feelings for Gyllis, Sean is pushed from all sides. A further menace lying in wait threatens. When Sean disappears it's only Gyllis who knows in her heart where he might be. Weak as she is she courageously effects an exhausting search for him.
Their love must win through huge obstacles, including betrayal and captivity, and Gyllis' brother Duncan's very strong objections.
Another enjoyable Amy Jarecki novel set in the 15th century Scottish highlands.

A NetGalley ARC

Friday, May 8, 2015

'here be dragons--with a difference'

Rogue (The Talon Saga Book 2) by Julie Kagawa 

Having received an ARC for Rogue, I raced through 'Talon' first to put myself squarely in the picture. What a great series! Kagawa has taken a different slant on dragons from other writers. The clever play on the St. George legend, establishing a group dedicated to dragon eradication from that myth, is symbolically awesome. In Talon we were introduced to the major players, Ember and Dante (love the fire associated names) the Talon hatchlings in training, Garrett Xavier Sebastian the Order of St  George soldier and Riley (Cobalt) the rogue dragon. In 'Talon' Garrett saves Ember from the Talon assassin, Lilith. In doing so he has become a traitor to the Order of St. George and will be executed. Here, the tables are turned. Ember is determined to save Garrett. She must convince Riley to help extract Garrett from the secret St George compound deep in the desert...or else she will go alone!
Ember is gutsy, loyal and determined.
I am fascinated that Ember as human is attracted to Garrett, but her dragon side is called to Riley. How will that play out? There is definitely an intriguing attraction at work here and I am looking forward to the resolution, whatever it maybe.
'Rogue' gives us more of the back story to the rogue dragon, Cobalt (Riley and his motivations. In doing so the machinations of the Talon organization is beginning to be  revealed to us.
Dante is digging himself further into the organizational structure of Talon, always in the mistaken belief he can save Ember from herself and Talon will allow her to be redeemed.
Questions have arisen around the sureness of racial enmity and the fundamental beliefs of Talon and the Order of St George, and now the inconsistencies, possibly hinting at collusion at high levels?
The action is fast and furious. A further instalment of unmitigated emotion and excitement!

A NetGalley ARC

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Explosive foray into the early, heady days of Singapore!

Captain Hawk (Hawk's Legacy Series Book 1) by SJ Garland

Mad dogs and Englishman go out in the noon day sun!
Ah! Cricket, in Singapore, I can't even contemplate it. Even the thought of the heat makes me feel faint. Apparently cricket is part of the expat life in Singapore at the time of Sir Stamford Raffles and the First Resident, William Farquhar. Singapore in 1823 was the new trading frontier on the Malay Peninsula--a clearing house for rare spices, silks and porcelains from China. A place where the quest for riches vies with the unruliness of fortune seekers, trade ships and their crews, the Chinese secret organizations, and the Dutch threat.  
Nathaniel Hawk has come to Singapore at his fathers request, only to find him gone, out testing a new ship. His father, Captain Sebastian Hawk, a renowned captain for the East India company is due back soon.
Only Captain Hawk doesn't return! From a handful of survivors it's determined that his ship was sunk by a rumoured 'ghost' ship, a will-o'-the-wisp, all black and terrible, hard to see against the twilight seas, with multiple and terrible guns that wreak havoc on its unsuspecting prey. It seems Captain Hawk has joined the litany of other victims.
Then there's the mad Dutch captain, Collaart who wants Nate's head at any cost, and First Resident Farquhar seems just the man to hand Nate over, especially when trade is being threatened.
So how much does cricket have to do with sailing ships, trade in the East Indies and this book. Perhaps it's the code, perhaps it's the not giving up, of playing the game out. Or perhaps for the English, it's a touch of home. I like the following explanation  Charlotte Carstairs asks her fathers headman, 'Why do all trading metaphors come from cricket?" Bingham replies, "I imagine because it's we Brits are great at both.'
Put together the steamy, seamy sides of Singapore, the quarrels at the very top of society, questions about the safety of trade ships that could make and break fortunes, and the deteriorating personal relations that develop between Nate and his friends and there's plenty of grist for an explosive story. Add to the mix the charming and headstrong Charlotte Carstairs who will do anything to ensure her father's trading house succeeds, rather than unravel into bankruptcy and poverty; include the lure of opium, and the threat of cholera, and the recipe for mystery and intrigue deepens. 
Nathaniel is a reluctant hero, of strong opinions and loyalties, an able fighter and seaman, who has turned his back on the sea. He only wants to hie back to England but finds himself thwarted by fate at every turn.
I enjoyed Garland's 'Markinch ' series immensely, and if this first book of the Hawk Legacy series is anything to go by, then this latest series will certainly live up to the same high standard previously set by Garland.

ARC from author

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

...the blue stocking's scandal!

The Unlikely Lady (Playful Brides #3) by Valerie Bowman 



Of course Jane Lowndes's story was going to be a delight, filled as it is with oddly wry humour and delicious moments. I have loved Jane for ages. Right from the 'get go' Jane, and Lucy's cousin Garrett Upton, have traded insults and outrageous comments. Jane is a wonderful character. Lucy Hunt is still making up stories and creating situations but her energies have faded somewhat, well lie in wait, in this episode. Jane has no trouble taking centre stage and creating her own havoc--ok, with a little help from the irrepressible Lucy orchestrating some surprises in the background, not to mention Cassandra. Upton and Jane continue to exchange barbed, and not so barbed, repartee when they meet at the house party given by Lucy prior to Cassandra's wedding. But when events take a different turn Upton is startled to find this challenging 'blue stocking' is so much more than he thought. Indeed, Jane's spectacles or the lack of them, opens up new vistas to both he and Jane. She is completely thrown by Garrett and her own unlooked for responses to him. Add into the mix Garrett's dead friend's widow, Mrs Langford, with her particular agenda and all the ingredients are present for a fast paced, amusing, regency romp. 

 A NetGalley ARC

Saturday, May 2, 2015

...it's always the sensible ones!


The Scoundrel and the Debutante (The Cabot Sisters #3) by Julia London 

Who would have thought it. Prudence was the sensible one! But oh, she so wanted one little adventure before she went off to a life doomed to spinsterhood--all because of the scandal of her sisters.   
An innocent decision to visit her best friend in the country turns to something else when Pru encounters the fascinating American, Roan Matheson. The lure of a life with adventure certainly appeals!
Roan is chasing his madcap sister who is following her own adventures.
Together Pru and Roan's antics and passion cut a sizzling and often hilarious swathe through the English countryside. Roan trying so hard to be the gentleman and Pru determining to go into spinsterhood having loved well and lost. 
I must admit that I was quite annoyed with Grace and Honor, her two elder sisters and their lack of understanding about where their actions had placed Pru.
I was also all out of charity with Roan's sister Aurora who really had no for thought but for herself in dealing with Pru.
I quite enjoyed this Cabot sisters' story although the final stages with Aurora really annoyed me.

A NetGalley ARC

...deception and hurt!


The Harlot Countess (Wicked Deceptions #2) by Joanna Shupe

Rotter! Cad! I don't know who I was angrier at in the opening scenes--the bounder, the trusted friend, or the unsympathetic virulent females of the ton.    
Maggie has suffered, been attacked and she is the one who has fingers pointed at her, not the bounder who caused the problem.
And then her so called more-than-friend turned his back on her? Well, shame on him and on the rest of the hyaena pack masquerading as the ton!
Ten years later Maggie is back in London, using her reputation as the 'Irish harlot' to ensure her freedom, harbouring a heady secret life as the painter and salacious cartoonist Lemarc and quietly working to improve the lot of prostitutes.
Simon Barrett, Earl of Winchester has never stopped wanting Maggie. He turned his back on her once. He does not intend to do so again. Certainly they have the occasional very steamy and heady interaction, drawn as they are to each other.
Unfortunately all does not go swimmingly and Simon has much ground to cover--ground made rockier by his continued failure to fully understand and appreciate Maggie's position.
For some reason I felt the ending sort of petered out. Sure there was excitement and skulduggery but that just didn't quite cinch it for me.

A NetGalley ARC