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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

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Love down-under: wartime Darwin in the 40's

Flight of the Jabiru by Elizabeth Haran


Super briefly, this is the story of Lara Penrose sentenced to the far north of Australia on a trumped up charge by the English courts in 1941. She is to serve as a school teacher on a remote settlement near the mouth of the Mary River 
I was a tad conflicted about this novel. Haran has certainly done her research about the Top End and Darwin during the Japanese raids in WW2. Her word paintings of the astounding scenery and areas around the billabongs are brilliant, the crocodile threat is all too scary, and the 'stolen generation' representations are well crafted. Everything that is Australian in the Top End gets a mentiokn. Even 'transportation to the colonies' raises its head--which was over by now, so the whole legal pressure brought to bear on Lara Penrose, a feisty English miss and elementary school teacher, was obviously a powerful whitewash by those in a position to do so.
I know that derogatory terms were used for the Japanese and Aboriginals during this historical time--indeed in many instances until the end of the eighties and nineties, and sadly within some groups, today. As this is written in 2015, I would have liked a way through to not using offensive terms. I know Darwin was really a rough pioneer town. (If you want any more visual images, you probably can't go past Nicole Kidman in the movie 'Australia.' ) So certainly applause for the vividness of the era and the area. The beer drinking Aussies, the g'days and the casualness. Look, it all gets a mention including attitudes towards women, childbirth, education, aboriginals, conservation, and as noted earlier, stolen children.
Pick an issue, it's buried here somewhere.
So much happened to Lara that I was exhausted by the end. That trek she does is bizarre and yet we accept it because of her desperateness. No-one in their right mind would do it--which Lara obviously wasn't. I wanted to see how things would end, but oh my goodness, talk about a saga of happenings. Is this a story of reality gone wrong, reality beyond belief, or a drawn out yarn? I'm still out on this but will continue reading Haran's work.
Add to this an interesting love triangle and wow!
Certainly for pure storyline it's a 5. However I still have too many questions.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Friday, February 26, 2016

... outback life and love in the early 1900's

Staircase to the Moon by Elizabeth Haran 


Once again, reading Elizabeth Haran's works, I feel like I've entered an Australian travelogue mixed in with Mary Grant Bruce's 'Billabong' series for adults.
The story is interesting, the Australian 'cinderella' seamstress being dictated to by the men of her family (successful tailors) out of a misguided love, organizing her life and her marriage to their advantage. All in an unknowing misogynistic way. Emily Scott rebels and runs off from Perth to the far north of Western Australia to a cattle station out from Broome.
Of course there's the wonderful women of the family, the gorgeous son, World War 1, 'drought and flooding rains.' (referencing My Country by Dorothea MacKellar).
You meet all the characters that one expects from the outback. The mysterious bad tempered chinaman on the voyage up to Broome is interesting, if unlikeable.
I can't help it, I keep looking for Nicole Kidman to step off the set!
I didn't know that during World War 1 the Australian government commandeered the larger boats and thereby the livelihoods of the coastal transport seaman. I can understand why that might have happened but the loss of livelihood and access to remote places increasing the isolation of those north western areas must have been hard.
Staircase to the Moon is a natural phenomena that occurs along the northwestern coast when the full moon reflects off the tidal mud flats once a month from March to October. The book's title is quite a lovely nuanced choice. 
Romance and adventure in the Australian outback in the early nineteen hundreds. What's not to like.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

... luck and pugnaciousness!

Linda, As in the Linda Murder: A Backstrom Novel (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Original) by Leif Gw Persson (Author), Neil Smith (Translator)


What's Detective Superintendent Evert Bäckström to do when the call comes in about a murder of one of their own and he's the only one on duty--albeit in as 'an out of the way position' as his superiors in the National Murder Squad have devised? Work the system of course!
Police cadet Linda Wallin is found dead, raped in brutal circumstances with no clear motive or suspect.
Always able to play the bureaucratic game,  the completely egotistical, vain and avaricious Bäckström puts together a team and heads for the countryside, on the Violent Crime Unit's kronor. Along with his washing and a man sized thirst. His goldfish is another story.
As he bumbles from one thought to another, circumstances and the shrewdness of some members of his team, intervene to a satisfying conclusion. Other agencies bump up against his team as the growing storm of public opinion take the case to a position of prominence.
Bureaucratic faux pas envelope the case and don't make the going any easier. 
The translation is tight and flows well thanks to Neil Smith. A difficult task that can make or break the enjoyment of a novel.

A NetGalley ARC

*** 1/2

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sparkling with wit, humour and romance!

How to Wed a Warrior (Broadswords and Ballrooms #2) by Christy English   

Reasons to stay in London!
1. Sure it's not the Highlands     
2. It's never likely to be the Highlands 
3. Amongst those bloody English-- is one Prudence Whittaker.
Robert Waters and his brother Alexander were sent from the Highlands to London by their English mother to ensure that their wild, reckless sister Mary Elizabeth find a husband. All Robert wants to do is have her settled and hie back to his beloved highlands.
His sister, Mary Elizabeth is an unstoppable force of nature, a whirlwind of lightness and impulsiveness amongst the young misses of the ton. With a big heart, she is unexpected and constantly being led astray by her rash inclinations. Drawing a Claymore in Hyde Park might seem unremarkable to Mary Elizabeth, but to the 'hoity footy' high steppers of the ton it's tantamount to social demise.  She needs lessons in expected behaviour and she needs them now. Else Robert might never be able to flee back to his beloved Highlands.
Widowed Prudence Whittaker (really Lady Prudence Farthington) seems like the answer to his problem. Prudence is a woman of secrets, hiding out in plain sight as a 'companion'. This intelligent Englishwoman just might prove to stay Robert from his course to quit London as soon as possible. Indeed his plans to flee just might wither and die.
I really enjoyed 'How to Wed a Warrior', more so than 'How to Seduce a Scot'. Prudence is a wonderfully strong and resilient heroine who can give as good as she gets. Robert Waters is a delightful highlander rogue with a keen heart and a discerning eye. Mary Elizabeth, as in the previous novel, is pure gold, a treasure. 
I look forward to her story.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

An ornithologist's guide to women of the Ton.

To Catch a Rake (The Rake's Handbook) by Sally Orr


A difficult read because I didn't like the premise--a rake, George Drexel (who seems anything but) has written a field guide to women that's damning in it's rating of women and in the majority of women's fascination by it. Unfortunately, when Meta's sister's fiancé decided that Lily is mentioned in the book he jilts her. Lily decides she doesn't want him back. Sensible girl! Who knows what he's capable of if he's going to believe that drivel, and be so influenced by his mother. Lucky escape! 
Widowed Meta, the main female protagonists was doing all she could to turn things around. George Drexel however is another story, and Meta finds there's more to him than she first thought.
The thing is that George is a talented engineer and the best parts of the novel are his enthusiasm for things mechanical and the descriptions of the Thames tunnel being drilled. That part, I really enjoyed, and his kindness towards Meta's younger brother Fitzy who wants to be an artist.
I wasn't as engaged as I wanted to be.


A NetGalley ARC

**

... dreaming of a hero!


Returning from a disappointing meeting with a publisher Cecelia Harcourt is knocked over by a carriage and falls unconscious. Lieutenant Adam Hunt, recently discharged from the army,  lends her his assistance. The problem is that Cecelia has lost her memory and she views Adam as the hero from her novel. (It's Adam's brother, the Duke of Claringdon who is the hero and who is pulling strings that Adam doesn't want him to.)
Cecelia unwittingly takes on the identity of the lead woman in her novel, and gives herself a name that the Hunt's don't recognize as part of the ton. In the interests of Cecilia's healing, under the doctor's advice the family buy into her story, which leads to a whole new set of problems and mysteries.
A fast paced, fun novella. Suspend reality (like Cecelia does) and this is an endearing read.

A NetGalley ARC

***




Marriage and feuding clans!


Highland spitfire (Highland Weddings) by Mary Wine


When Ailis Robertson is forced into marriage to the son of the clan's bitter enemies, Bhaic MacPherson by the Kings's Regent her despair knows no bounds. Not that Bhiac is any happier. In fact his treatment of her, dumping her at his castle, ignoring her and in that non acknowledgement of Ailis's place as the Lady of the Castle, sowing the seeds for further hurt and unhappiness.
I enjoyed reading Highland Spitfire, although the storyline was a tad predictable. All those feuding Scots and the hated English conquerors making them dance to their tunes. An indisputable historical fact that has been working so well for the historical romance genre.
Plenty of scope for intrigue, unforgiving causes, enmity...and love!
The reluctant wife who wins over the castles staff ...and eventually its Laird is a tried and true theme but here it works.
I look forward to brother Marcus's story.

A NetGalley ARC

***




Monday, February 1, 2016

... a wife made to order--or not!

To Catch a Lady: A Hunt Club Novel by Pamela Labud    



Ashton Blakely, the Duke of Summerton, decides to forestall his aunt's importuning, hold a ball and take to wife the young woman who meets his list of the 'ideal' wife.
Gagh! Really, Ashton (Ash) Blakely is an idiot!
Caroline Hawkins chaperones her young sister to the ball with the hopes that she will make an exceptional match. Caroline has her own life plotted out--marriage is not part of it.
But then the two meet and it's fireworks in more ways than one.
Caroline has a lot to put up with in terms of Ash's immaturity. I know, I know he was emotionally damaged as a child--and it shows!
Really this read like a penny dreadful, and yet for some reason I had to see how it ended. So obviously something drew me in. For that reason alone I upped my star rating from 2 to 3.

A NetGalley ARC

***

... a soul scorching winner!