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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 30, 2016

Stormy advent!

A Kiss at Christmastide: A Regency Novella by Christina McKnight


An engaging Christmas novella that deserved to be a full novel.
I enjoyed Lady Pippa Godfrey (and the erstwhile rake Lucas Hartfeld, the Earl of Maddox).
Nothing like a dark and stormy night to set the atmosphere, impassable roads, an unwilling suitor who has to take shelter at the scorned friend's house, a sensitive misunderstood young woman betrayed by her best friend during their come out, and a dark and painful secret exposed at Christmas time to give a storyline some gravitas. 
Mind you maybe Pippa should have put Lucas in the stable with the animals ( echoes of a past story) but there were plenty of rooms at the inn, err country manor, and Lucas was persuasive in his wrathful anger at the elements and then being halted by a snip of a miss. Unfortunately, the rake in Lucas gave nary a thought for the reputation of said young miss.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Determination and desires!



The opening scenes with Lady Rose Thornton discovering a wild, strangely attired Irishman in her garden, claiming to be of all things, an Earl, is quite delicious, setting up for all sorts of interpretations and actions that follow. It seems the supposed Earl has been set upon and robbed. Unfortunately the Earl of Ashton, Iain Donovan is not only looking disreputable, he has no evidence of who he is. Iain's servants have deserted him, apparently to find work. (And given the state of Ireland and the potato famine--who wouldn't take any opportunity offered). At this time England is feeling the pressure of waves of Irish either coming across with their families or by themselves, looking to earn money to send home to their starving kin. The plot is further complicated by Rose being unable to walk due to an illness. Rose's servants don't take kindly to Iain. I like the disapproving reactions and suspicions of the supercilious footman Calvert. Unbeknown to Rose, Iain has been invited to England by Rose's grandmother to find a wife--a wealthy wife to try to restore his lands and help his people. To do that he'll need help. He and Rose make a bargain to help each other. Rose wants to walk again and take her place in society. Iain needs lessons in how to be a gentleman. There is a mystery surrounding why Iain's mother has had little to do with him, neglecting his upbringing and education as a gentleman. All this leaves Iain with a determination to do the right thing, fuelled by his insecurities and doubts, and need to bring relief to his people.
A NetGalley ARC

****

... an unlikely pairing!

The Young Blood (No Better Angels #4) by Erin Satie


I must admit to really enjoying Young Blood. The interplay between the two leads is fraught and delightful.  This has it all. Mystery, romance, a somewhat OCD heroine and a rake who's so much more. Sabine Banchory must control all, in doing so she controls her unhappy life and marriage to a weakling cad. Alfred Lamb, the Earl of Kingston is a rake. He loves and leaves. Yet the unattainable Sabine holds an attraction for him, perhaps the challenge, perhaps something else. Sabine is having nothing to do with him. Years of husband Godfrey has made her immune. I enjoyed the byplay between during the day long games challenge. Godfrey is definitely a 'loose fish.'
But when murder disrupts things events move at a startling pace. Sabine and Alfie find themselves in situations they'd not thought possible.
I now have to find the other novels in the series to catchup.
The title is interesting and as events move along becomes more and more fitting.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Treachery and love!

Highland Chieftain (Murray Family #21) by Hannah Howell

I liked the skeleton of this story. Sir Callum MacMillan is injured and fleeing from men determined to kill him.
Unconscious and foundering on the shoreline with a broken leg he is rescued by young woman, Bethoc Matheson, who hides him in her secret cave retreat. A retreat necessary because she is frequently beaten by father.
Bethoc's father is a dark and fearsome person who brings home young boys he 'finds' to help run the farm. Bethoc has a houseful of young boys, 'brothers' she cares for and a baby sister.
As Bethoc's mother was dying she pleaded with Bec to always keep her baby sister with her. The reason why is later an important revelation.
It appears that Bethoc has strange special abilities that fit with who her real father turns out to be--one of the Murrays.
For me the mystery surrounding Bethoc and her special facilities just didn't quite cut it, but I went with it.
I definitely didn't like that Callum sexually entraps Bethoc. His attitude, 'you saved my life and I'll sweet talk you into giving up your virginity because I just can't control myself' is unworthy. 'I owe you nothing!' Hardly the act of one raised to protect the weak. A serious lack of integrity here on Callum's part.
In the end everything works out, but really, I thought that Callum seducing Bethoc was low. However we apparently need to forgive Callum because of his background and lack of knowledge about what love is.
A secondary story develops where women are being accused of murdering their menfolk, imprisoned by a dastardly sherif, then tried and hung. Their lands go to a mysterious  buyer.
In the end there were more parts of the plot I enjoyed than I didn't, including the way Bethoc's 'brothers' care for her. Those relationships are tried and true and supportive.

A NetGalley ARC

***

Friday, September 23, 2016

Triads and trying times!

Mysteries beyond the Orient Express! Enthralling!

The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford. 


Set in 1928, the story opens later years with Agatha Christie, now a grandmother, being visited by a young man. He has with him a photograph of Agatha and two other women. One is his mother. He wants to know more about them, and in doing so, find out more about himself. He is convinced there is a mystery surrounding them that affects him. Agatha shares their story.
Meshing together fact and fiction Ashford has crafted a wonderful story depicting a painful part of Agatha Christie's life. This rather haunting and beautifully wrought story deals with the time after Agatha's  mysterious disappearance and subsequent painful divorce from her husband Archie.
Agatha travels to Bagdad via the Orient Express. It is on this trip that she meets two woman who will become important friends. Katherine is an archaeologist on her way to a dig in Ur. Nancy is a young woman, confused because of her lover's treatment. She is on her way to spend time with her cousin in Bagdad.
Ashford brings to life Agatha's journey, the exoticness of the sights and smells of the bazaars, the desert and the dig at Ur. The interplay between the three women is fascinating.
On this trip a very real life drama unfolds before Agatha's eyes, that transcends the fiction of her novels. 
I love the voice of Hercules Poroit  occasionally popping into Agatha's head. Directing her. He is like her inner self pointing the way.
A fascinating look into the life and legend that was Agatha Christie told compellingly in the first person cleverly blending fact and fiction. 

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A culinary journey!



Obviously Naomi Pomeroy has led a life dedicated to food and cooking.
A cook's cook if you will.
This is not just a simple cookbook, it's an explanation of the balance of ingredients that bring forth the best in each other. In this way it's fantastic. This was the part I enjoyed the most.
Her narrative of her journey into all things culinary is amazing. Her story is an inspiration. The idea of meal 'happenings' where the first eight to answer are invited, where people jostle for a coveted entree into the dinner prepared for that night is crazy wonderful. It's like crowd sourcing and flash happenings all rolled into one. Exciting times!
I found the explanations of recipes throughout the book balanced and well presented. I will also admit to the fact that I do not devote the time to dishes that Pomeroy does and that's where I might hesitate. There are however recipes that I found exciting and lavish in their simplicity.
For those who are through and through foodies this is a book to enjoy and savour.
For those like me who mostly exist on the quick grilled something and salad, this is a book to add to the shelves and dabble in from time to time as the moment takes.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Monday, September 12, 2016

Murder and might!

Santorini Caesars: A Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis Mystery 

(Andreas Kaldis #8) by Jeffrey Singer



A young demonstrator racing for sanctuary at the university grounds of Athens is chased by police in balaclavas and gunned down steps from safety. There is an uproar!
Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis is called in to investigate. What was needless police brutality appears to be something very different.  Given more credence when it's discovered that this is the child of a Brigadier. Kaldis' investigations lead to intrigue and planning at the very highest level, with possible international connections. The new government is not acting as it'd promised. Contemplation of a military coup is on the cards. Kaldis reflects, 'Maybe his grandfather was right. If politicians are involved, there’s no hope for change. They’re all alike.'
Alerted to a hush hush military conference on the island of Santorini, Kaldis' team races there ahead of the attendees to set intelligence gathering equipment in place. What they learn there does little to calm their fears. But how is this related to the murder? That is the puzzle!
One of his team members, Petro, becomes entranced by the vivacious daughter of a local restauranteur, Sappho. Their story makes for a lively sideline.
Kaldis' reflections and explanations of Greece's internal political workings and relations with its neighbours are informative.
The descriptions of the island of Santorini and the delights of the food make me want to catch the next plane to Greece. 
Alleviated by moments of family comings and goings, the action continues right to the end.
An intriguing read!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Spell binding! Elegant!


The superlatives reviewers have lavished on this novel are well deserved. This is an enthralling, all consuming  window into life in Moscow from the pre 1920's through to the 1950's, from Stalin and the Bolsheviks through to Nikita Khrushchev.   
We view the microcosm of what's happening in Russian history through the eyes of the man 'in the bubble' Count Alexander Rostov, who in 1922 was confined for life to the Metropol Hotel, across from the Kremlin, by a Bolshevik tribunal.
Mentored by his godfather and guardian, the Grand Duke Demidov, Alexander recalls the Grand Duke's words, 'if a man does not  master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.' These words mark the way Alex moves forward.
How the sophisticated, urbane Count Alex handles his incarceration is wonderfully told. His acquaintances are like a panoply of stars spread out beneath Alex's new sky, the ceiling of the Metropol.
His meeting with, and continued relationship with the fascinating child Nina, the harsh realities of the changes in the  politburo, the advancement of small minded individuals like the inept waiter the Bishop, contrasted to the kindliness of some of the more urbane true believers. 
Of the many friends Alex makes amongst hotel staff four stand out; Andrey, the maître d’ of the Boyarsky Restaurant, Emile the chief, Vasily the concierge and Marina the hotel seamstress.
His world, in one fell swoop narrowed, is in reality enlarged through the people he becomes acquainted with. There are his friends from the past. The angst of his writer friend Mishka, an expert on Chekov. And not to be disregarded a new friend, the actress Anna Urbanova.
There's Nina the young girl who grows into a fervent young woman, typical of her generation committed to the communist ideals. Her fanatical absorption with change for the common good that at times prove disastrous reflecting the broad sweep of political, social and economic change that forgot to involve the people and it's way replaced one tyranny with another.
A startling set of circumstances give him Sofia, the child he was to mind for a month, the daughter he unexpectedly acquires. She brings light and meaning to his life.
Abram the handyman he encounters on the roof and from whom he learns the secrets of coffee and the miracle of the bees. A wonderful interlude that helps Alex retain his equilibrium.
And the others, Osip Ivanovich Glebnikov, a former colonel of the red army, a Party man who comes to Alex to be educated in understanding the privileged classes of those countries Russia wants to enter into economic and political discussions with. England, France and America...and how they view the world.  The American psyche needed to be understood. For over fifteen years they read literature, discussed and watched films together. Their run down on Casablanca is superb.
A life lived within the confines of the hotel that Alex somehow ironically lived to the full, discovering new emotional truths, new revelations.Layers within layers are revealed within the story like the Russian nesting dolls Alex at one time unwraps, layers of meaning and revelation that are just as painstakingly and beautifully crafted.
This novel is pure poetry, gift wrapped in vivid and taut prose.
An amazing read!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fascinating!



A story in three parts sprung from the desert sands. Beaulieu refers to this as the little book that could. The way the three parts blend from one to the next is curiously masterful.
Çeda, known in the pits of the desert city of Sharakhai as White Wolf, finds herself pitted against an ehrekh, a creature sprung from the whims of the God of chaos.
When Brama Junayd'ava steals Çeda's purse she rectifies the situation, yet Osman takes her to task for toying with Brama. He points out to her that her ego is involved and as a pit fighter that can't happen. 
The ehrekh Rümayesh draws Çeda in, to steal her dreams, the window to her soul, Çeda knows fear, and knows that she must find a way to destroy Rümayesh. Çeda cannot allow Rümayesh entree. The emotional battle to lead Rümayesh away from her deepest thoughts and secrets, to avoid enslavement is intense.
Unfortunately in the melee, Brama becomes involved, joined to Rümayesh. Çeda must try to separate the two. In doing so she further endangers her very being. 
This little book certainly can.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Soup up your life!


Accompanied by wonderfully, colorful and artistic photography that draws you in and makes you itch to start cooking these soups really feel like they can take you away to a healthy magical place.
There's more to the many 'chicken soup' stories than meets the eye and in Clean Soups we are reminded of the nourishment that is there for the taking, the road to health.      
Katz talks of watching her mother and grandmother make soups, 
'creating culinary wonders in a flame-enamelled Le Creuset pot. The soups they made were magic. I have always felt better after having a cup or bowl, and I knew instinctively that soup had the power to heal.'
Well I know I love my Le Creuset pots, (so that statement won me over right away) and if your like me and am enamoured of all things soup, then this book should become a favourite on your shelf. Soups do harken back to that childhood place of comfort and well being.
There's several basic stocks, including one to help with your body's immunity. 
From there the sky's the limit.
I was drawn to the Mulligatawny (one of hubby's fav's) and as I adore all pumpkin soups I am looking forward to the cooler weather and testing these out. Mind you tomato soup is as as ever a must-have standby. In our home tomato soup was the equivalent of chicken soup.
I must admit that I always find Ten Speed Press publications interesting and somewhat different, and Clean Soups is another winner.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Friday, September 9, 2016

Touchstones and touch--destiny awakened!

When the castle you call home is attacked by roving, landless knights, you either squeal and hide, or pick up a weapon and fight. Calista Thorne chooses to defend  Blackbriar Keep. She shoots Torch, the commander of the marauding group with a cross bow. Torch however is no common landless knight. He is the son of the slain rightful king. He is seeking to take back the throne. Blackfriars Keep is the beginning. Now Torch is ill and Callista must nurse him back to health in order to keep her father alive. Calista's mother informs Calista that she and her father have been experimenting with kingsbane. No wonder Torch is not healing. Calista is forced to fight for her enemy's life and her father's.
Torch needs to marry Calista. He has foreseen that she is part of his destiny.  As the healing process happens, as they share close quarters, they are drawn to each other. Theirs is a passion with an underlying harmony rarely seen.
When the false King responds to Blackfriars being captured, Calista and Torch are once more fighting for their lives, and now their joined destiny. Their quest goes beyond the here and now to things drawn on from the past.
I'm looking forward to the continuing story.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Looking for a new life!



The Fishing Fleet! Fascinatingly ironic! This is the term used by the local English for the women who came to India looking for husbands from the marriageable men employed by the East India Company. A not very complimentary description but historically young women did leave England in droves to far flung places where the Empire was present, gambling on opportunities they might never have had at home.
One such young woman is Wilhelmina Adams who has accompanied her sister Emma.
Seth Mayhew is on the same ship. He's an explorer, or as he terms it, a finder. Amongst his finds has been orchids from South America. But now he is searching for his missing sister, last heard from near the Tibetan border where a massacre occurred.
Seth is not here to find a wife or fall in love with Mina whom he refers to as,
'His little officer quelling insubordination and giving orders. And always on his side.'
Indeed it was Mina's attempts to calm the Venture girls as they made landfall that he first noticed.
Mina notices Seth but she has contracted to marry Thomas Grant, just as her sister Emma has come out to marry Colin Rivers. Colin however seems to have gone up country and not returned.
So between disappearing sisters, reluctant bridegrooms-to-be and disappearing fiancés, the forbidden attraction that Mina and Seth feel for each other flares into life. But it is not to be.
A fascinating story with interesting characters and situations and the elusive presence of orchids that were a coveted object by the very wealthy at this time.

 A NetGalley ARC

****

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Complex mystery in dangerous times



A gripping and edgy story of intelligence gathering right under the noses of elite of the Third Reich. Born in Britain, half-German actress and movie star Clara Vine, is a British contact in the dangerous days of pre war Berlin of 1937, gathering relevant information on the movements and interests of the major German players. The names mentioned, the circles Clara has access to are the who's who of the upper echelons in the Nazi party.
Two incidences appear to cross each other, the murder of a young woman at one of Hitler's Bride Schools where young women train to be wives of SS personnel, and the gathering of information about the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe developments in aeronautics, in particular cameras being used on planes.
Clara realizes she knows the murdered woman from the past, Anna Hansen. Her death is hushed up. Clara's friend Mary, an American journalist, has just returned from the war in Spain and been allowed to re-enter Germany, despite being previously expelled. Clara turns Mary's attention towards the murdered woman.
Clara is about to star in a movie alongside a famous German pilot. This opens up possibilities for Clara to gather further information. Her handler at the British Embassy has warned her to lie low. Her name has been mentioned in Gestapo circles.
Two men claim Clara's attention, the mysterious Ralph Sommers and Arno Strauss, a top German test pilot.
Aa a movie star Clara attends events and parties, alongside British supporters of fascism and Hitler in particular. Making their appearance are Diana and Unity Mitford, Edward, now the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson.
These days, as the British parliament and people were undecided about Hitler, as Lord Halifax continued to court Germany, were dangerous times for Britain. The sense of all of this, the power of the Gestapo, the winning over of children in the Hitler Youth Movement, the treatment of the Jewish population, the rise of power of fascism and extremism , the excesses of Hitler's elite senior personnel such as the Goebbels are seamlessly woven into the story; stark reminders of the horrors that would intensify as the thirties come to a close.
An excellent read. Thynne's research is to be commended.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Kawana is a gem! A great addition to the Duke's sons stories!

Pure intense Perry!



A drowned man is washed up along the Thames. Why has Custom Officer McNab called in Commander Monk of the Thames River Police to investigate? A man who is an escaped prisoner is under McNab's jurisdiction. The dislike of McNab for Monk is palpable, as is the supercilious attention McNab gives to Monk. Already my hackles are raised. This is the man who instigated action in which Orme was killed. Of course the Thames River cohorts are suspicious. As am I!
Monk's past rises to haunt his coming days along with the advent of some American vessel owners who recall him from San Francisco.
McNab looms like a malevolent spectre, it seems he knows things about Monk's past and is using Monk's ignorance to advantage. MacNab's feeling for Monk is 'more than professional rivalry, more than personal dislike. It was hate, deep and poisonous hate.'
The link between the river pirates and McNab is gaining weight, but why is McNab so set on going after Monk?
McNab is driving Monk to the point of ruin. Monk is being tried for the murder of one of MacNab's men in connection with another escaped prisoner.
Beata York, friend of Oliver Rathbone, and widow of the High Court Judge who so pursued Monk, joins Hester in her search for something that will point to Monk's innocence.
An American woman, Miriam, hides a past that has bearing on Monk.
The twists ramp up the intrigue and I couldn't read fast enough to see what the resolution would be.
Wow, such a satisfying ending!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Enthralling! Revenge and love--the dual of emotions!

The Rebel Heir (Spare Heirs #2) by Elizabeth Michels



Elizabeth Michels talks about the creation of Lady Evangeline Green in her after notes.
I find it quite wonderful that a character speaks to an author in the creative process in the way Michels describes:

'Evie was only supposed to be the beautiful and overly perfect sister in the background of (desperately seeking Suzanna), but there was something about her strained efforts at perfection that spoke to me.
I knew then that I had to write her story'.

I realized that I was glad to have read Evangeline's story
The character of Evie is startling. The secret behind her perfection is both sad and heartfelt.
The depths of her mother's ambition thoroughly obnoxious. A lesser daughter would have crumbled. Evie stands on the brink of allowing that to happen.
Michels demonstrates the entrapped Evie to perfection, her feeling of helplessness, her feelings of blame, and her efforts to transcend the creature she has been bullied into becoming. Her final release from her imprisonment and self-blame is priceless.
Ash, or Lord Crosby, is really Lord Ash Claughbane, whose family became penniless and destitute when their father gambled away everything. Ash made a promise of revenge to his dying mother. A promise he intends to keep. For seven years he has been a con artist, living off his charm and hoaxing folks into giving funds towards his false investment schemes. The latest, a steam engine.
Ash and Evie meet in the darkened library during a ball. Evie catches him ransacking the owner's desk. From there the story evolves with various twists and turns as Ash and Evie are unwisely drawn to each other. Made even more poignant when Ash realizes the object of his revenge is her family. As he struggles between his desire for retribution and his growing feelings for Evie we are drawn even deeper into this Spare Heir's story.
A small aside. I loved Michels use of the term 'mate' that Ash uses with the 'spares'. Unusual I think in historical romances but a great inclusion. I do so appreciate the use of that term, particularly coming from Ash in addressing his fellow 'spares.'
A well rounded excellent addition to the Spare Heirs series.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Fabulous!



Wow! This has everything. Feisty mysterious heroine, powerful easy on the eyes warlord, fighting companions
Cat (Catalia Fista) has secrets of her own. Gods are becoming involved with her destiny--bloodthirsty and brutal as it seems to be.
Cat is a mystery. She is 'from the north of Fisa. Where magic is might.' Escaping an unforgiving and brutal childhood where siblings are raised to fight for what is there's to prove their strength and cunning.  Brother is turned against sister. All for the lure of absolute power. Acting as a soothsayer in a circus she avoids drawing attention to herself. Cat has fought to escape her heritage but it looks like it's coming to claim her.
Cat is of the magi. Holding and using magic is part of her very being.
Yet with Griffin--a warlord from the south, she is finding something more.
I'm hooked! I am having serious difficulties waiting for the next in the series. Bring it on, soon!

A NetGalley ARC

*****