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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, January 15, 2017

'Kimchi is very personal and it's all about your particular preferences'

'Kimchi is very personal and it's all about your particular preferences'
A great comment by Vongerichten that goes to the heart of things.
Whilst many readers of Korean heritage noted that Kimchi Chronicles is not sufficiently pure enough for them (some have likened it to the BigMac approach to Korean foods), as a European, trying to discover how to make some of the tasty Korean dishes I have so enjoyed both in Korea and in North American Korean restaurants this is a reasonable cookbook addition to my collection, particularly the Kimchi chapter.
Mind you with the addition of cheese, Coca Cola and other ingredients, including Mexican, some of the recipes are really more fusion Korean. I liked Vongerichten explanation for these inclusions that some of these ingredients found their way into Korean pantries during the Korean War from American GI rations. (p. 62), although some of these ingredients are not personal preferences.
The list of staples at the beginning gives clarity and understanding to searching for ingredients.
Ok, I freely admit to going to my fav. Korean store to buy fresh Kimchi rather than making my own--but here's my chance!
The explanation about the Banchan dishes (side dishes) I found excellent. These are the parts of a Korean meal that make it so enjoyable.
There are several recipes I found dint overtax my abilities.Though I must say as a fan of Bloody Mary's, the Kimchi Mary is a definite temptation.
(By the way, I have been meaning to review this for a couple of years. This is one of those where I lost my draft review and ... Well time fled by! What more can I say!)
A colourful addition to the kitchen shelves.

A NetGalley ARC

***




Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Grief and vengeance--not so strange bedfellows.


1st in a new series with strong possibilities. 
The central characters are vigorous although switching between happenings is occasionally disjointed.
Bereaved Vivienne Beaumont has a heart of gold, is virtuous and has the looks to slay armies.
Max Sinclair (Sin), bastard son of a lord, has attitude, great sorrow, a vengeful heart and the ability to slay armies.
Max is one of three owners of the Underground, a notorious gaming club for the wealthy in London's darker side.
Max and Vivienne meet in an out of the way London churchyard where Max is viewing the grave of one of his enemies. Max's mother was brutally killed and abused when he was a young boy. Max is actively seeking the perpetrators to take his revenge. Vivienne is contemplating what charitable works of her mother's she will continue to support, including the nuns who tend the gardens here. Vivienne thinks that Max's dog Ransom is a wolf and frightens her.
Vivienne's time of mourning for her mother has come to an end. Her mother died a small time after marrying Lord Ellis Downing, Earl of Huntley, who is encouraging Vivienne to take up her life again. What with Vivienne's mother's marriage and then sudden illness, Vivienne knows little about her stepfather. 
Vivienne decides that Max should be her charitable cause. Now why Vivienne thinks she must reform Max is where things get hazy for me. Still it is one way of them coming together. Of course the reformation goes two ways--not at all in the way Vivienne expected. Who knew this greaving young woman could throw of the shackles of respectability so quickly--but perhaps it's the greaving factor.
Then there's the shadowy stepfather!
The other owners of the club have problems barely hinted.  Yet those hints set up the future direction of the Bastards of London stories.
The Den of Iniquity delves into tried and tested theme of innocence meets sinful rake with some interesting results.

A NetGalley ARC

***

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Murder and intrigue in high places!

A Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell #2) by Deanna Raybourn 



                            


Lady Veronica Speedwell (lepidopterist and adventurer) and Stoker (‘the Honourable Revelstoke Templeton-Vane, third son of the sixth Viscount Templeton-Vane’) a natural historian, are drawn into the hunt for a murderer at the request of one who 'cannot be named.'
Its 1887 London and a bohemian artist who moves in semi exalted circles has had her throat slashed. Her lover Lord Miles Ramsforth was declared guilty and is to hang--all too quickly it seems. At least that's what Lady Sunbridge, who tasks Lady Veronica to find the truth, believes. As Veronica and Stoker delve further into the matter they see behind the veil into the decadent sensual antics of some of the the upper class in an underground grotto within the grounds of Ramsforth's estate. The motive for Artemisia's murder eludes them. Something must give, and soon. Otherwise Miles will die.
The beauty of the relationship between Veronica and Stoker is a gift. As is their interaction and care for each other on many levels. Their anticipation of each others needs, their understanding of each other gives a depth to the investigation itself. They hover somewhere between caring and sensitive friends attune to each other in a myriad of ways, all highlighted by a suppressed sexual attraction. That frisson makes the relationship even more interesting.
Both have unhealed hurts that neither are able to set aside.
The side charters are worthy of note. There's 
Sir Hugo Montgomerie, head of Scotland Yard’s Special Branch, and Veronica's bête noir; and the older Lady Wellingtonia Beauclerk otherwise known as Wellie.
A smashing good read!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Monday, January 9, 2017

Compelling, sensitive and provocative.

The Ripper's Shadow: A Victorian Mystery (Victorian Mysteries #1) by Laura Joh Rowland




First up I need to declare that I am a huge fan of Laura Joh Rowland. I have read all of her Sano Ichiro Novel's and loved them. But this work is a far departure from those detective novels set in feudal Japan. Yet it contains the distinctive Rowland stamp of complex mystery and chilling intrigue.
The thing about Rowland is that she approaches a topic slightly out of left field. I was wondering how she was going to write another 'yawn' Jack the Ripper novel about prostitutes being gutted in the Whitechapel area of the East End in 1888.
Well there's no yawn about Rowland's Ripper's Shadow; rather we are treated to an intelligent, thoughtful and completely unique look at events through the eyes of a lonely spinster photographer. Not only that, but it seems it is the spinster's risqué boudoir photographs of the victims might be the key that links the murders.
Rowland draws together a group of unlikely conspirators bent on finding the Ripper. Sarah Bain because she feels guilty that her photographs appear to have led the Ripper to his victims.
Sara does all she can to protect the women. Along the way she gathers up other characters who come to assist her--Lord Hugh Staunton, whose partner preferences are of the male variety--a dangerous thing in Victorian England, Mick a rather wonderful street urchin, the  Lepskys, a Russian Jewish couple who understand death and persecution, and Catherine, a young and beautiful actress, one of the women Sara photographed.
The brilliant depiction of the wider community endeavouring  to band together to find the killer in the face of what they see as police ineptness, the palpable fear that spurs on mobs to rioting, and the dankness and stench of the alleyways and sewers such as where Mick lives are real.
As the story progresses we delve more deeply into the psyche of the main characters. Sarah has her own demons--a father who was killed in riots for which she blames herself, a lack of confidence, a fear of the police and serious bouts of anger. Catherine too has damaging secrets. 
As things progress the group realize that there is not one but two Rippers. Sarah becomes a target for the police and her friends are dragged into the limelight. The tensions that develop are exquisitely wrought. Sarah will react constantly surprises herself and us. This in turn ensures that you are never quite sure what will happen, but that something shocking will follow as Sara and her friends race towards a climax seemingly set in motion by a few titillating photographs.

A NetGalley ARC

*****


Saturday, January 7, 2017

A curse, an heretical manuscript and mysterious disappearances!

                                

An eerily haunting opening had me wondering for a while if I was venturing into a medieval horror novel. I wasn't! The prelude fittingly sets the scene for what is to come. 
It's February, 1577. As winter still encloses Northern England and Scotland, Ursula Blanchard is sent on another mission by Sir William Cecil for the Crown. Her quest is two fold--to deliver missives to James Douglas, Earl of Morton, at Holyrood in Edinburgh concerning Queen Mary and conspiracies surrounding her; and to purchase an illuminated book, heretical in nature for Queen Eliazabeth's magician, Doctor Dee. The relic is at Stonemoor House, an unofficial convent in the wilds of Yorkshire. Ursula is also tasked to delve into the disappearance of two men who went missing when undertaking the same requests. One of the men is her beloved friend Christopher  Spelton.
Accompanying Ursula is her manservant Roger Brockley, his wife Dale, Ursula's tirewoman, and Gladys Morgan, a Welshwoman and herbalist.
The story takes us to the wintery slopes of Yorkshire and the moors, into a lonely manor house serving as an Abbey, inhabited by a group of Catholic women who practice their papist beliefs during Elizabeth's reign. As Cecil explains to Ursula, 'It isn’t illegal to be Catholic ... as long as there is no attempt at making converts.' Sir Francis Walsingham, who is fanatically anti-catholic has hitherto left the ladies alone, but he is aware of their practices and sees them as a means to rooting out Spanish papists come to England to cause dissent and disruption to the political landscape and to threaten the throne itself. 
Ursula and her party find themselves stranded at Stonemoor House as the weather sets in surrounded by a group of pious women where trouble brews just below the surface. Abbess Philippa Gould appears to be an intelligent open minded woman, however her sister Bella is disturbed by the book she categories as 'evil'. She is very forth right about wanting it destroyed.
This journey has Ursula confronting some truths about herself and her needs that she has hitherto ignored.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Thursday, January 5, 2017

... silk doesn't maketh the man!

A Rustle of Silk: A new forensic mystery series set in Stuart England (A Gabriel Taverner Mystery #1) by Alys Clare
                               

An exciting new protagonist for solving murders and mysteries set in early Stuart England times of the 17th century! Dr Gabriel Taverner is a navy surgeon now turned doctor who hails from Devon. He is endeavouring to set up practice back near his childhood neighbourhood.
The people we meet are fascinating. These are not surface figures. That these characters have a depth that will add to this and future stories is obvious from the get go. Black Carlotta, a wise woman and healer, midwife Judyth Penwarden, the coroner Theophilus Davey, and the local vicar Jonathan Carew are my special likes.
A man has killed himself and the coroner Theophilus, fetches Gabriel to assist him. Something about the  unknown dead man troubles Gabriel, but it's only sometime later that it becomes apparent that Gabriel was right to be troubled.
The dead man is his brother-in-law Jeromy Palfrey married to his sister Celia. And this is where everything turns on its tail and we find that Jeromy was a shallow supercilious man, agent for a wealthy silk merchant, one Nicolaus Quinlie. Although he supplies silk to the highest in the land, Quinlie is a vicious man of devious character and very few morals, up to his neck in all sorts of underhanded deals. Jeromy it seems was in thrall to Quinlie and complicit in some of Quinlie's more dubious dealings.
The tale goes on with believable intertwining coincidences, stretching from Plymouth to Venice and back, before coming to its quite complex conclusion, with some threads tied up tightly and more than a few left somewhat tantalizingly hanging.  Relationships are forged with a nice easy touch by Clare. I definitely want to read more about this erstwhile, forward thinking doctor, Gabriel Taverner and his friends.

A NetGalley ARC

****


Explosive action and romance!

      
                            

Talk about clash of the titans!  This second in the Kingmaker Chronicles has it all. Greek gods and goddesses, a love story that keeps on giving, and monsters out of legends.
Cat (Catalia Fisa), warrior and Kingmaker, is still fleeing from her destiny and as usual just ends up tumbling towards it at breakneck speed, despite her avowed reluctance (but then that seems to be Cat--she falls from one situation into another within the blink of an eyelid.) She's still fleeing from her mother and determined to stay with Griffin--after all she bound herself to him magically. Still being confronted magically by her mother and hurt every time--physically and emotionally.
What with crossing the Ice Plains, confronting a Chaos Wizard, obtaining doubtful god given gifts (be careful what you wish for!), facing off various trials in a monstrous labrynth, and facing the Hydra! The tension just keeps escalating
!

But when Cat and Griffin hatch a plot to overcome the neighbouring king, the action shifts up to a whole new and explosive pitch!
And I haven't even mentioned the way Cat and Griffin's relationship keeps growing, despite Cat's many misgivings. Her deep passion for Griffin is splendid.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Definitely some lively parts!

                                 
                               

As a young girl, English Margot Armstrong romanticized marriage. She falls in love at a glance with Scottish chieftain, Arran McKenzie and heads off to the highlands for her dream HEA, only to discover that life is far different in the raw highlands to the English society she'd inhabited and grew up in.
Fortunately Margot takes well to her wifely duties in the marriage bed. Outside of that she's like a fish out of water. Misunderstandings lead to Margot leaving her husband--to return three years later after being persuaded by her father that her husband Arran is a traitor and her father will be involved. Only Margot has the power to clear her family's name. Margot's father is a despicable villain of the first water.
I found the beginning slow, and for some reason, the end seemed too hurried.
The Wild Scott, Arran just seemed not quite as I imagined him.
Don't be mistaken, I liked both main characters but Margot was hampered from the start by her tantrums and the character flaws she'd  been imbued with.  They are both Interesting characters that needed more time to develop. Whilst the survival scenes are important, I found  they dragged on a tad.
Still for all this, an enjoyable read.

A NetGalley ARC

***1/2

Untimely and strange deaths!




Another complex sixteenth century murder mystery with alchemist Bianca Goddard at the forefront.
A pregnant woman flings herself from a church steeple, a wealthy widow suddenly becomes contorted and unable to control her limbs. The church at St. Verdast seems to have a malignant miasma surrounding it.
Bianca's husband John has moved up in the world and needs to reside in London near St. Verdast John's friend, silversmith Boisvert who is to marry Odile, the wealthy widow of a prominent London goldsmith. When Odile dies at her wedding feast Boisvert is accused of poisoning her and Bianca and John race against time to find evidence of Boisvert's innocence.
Bianca moves her alchemy equipment with some trepidation, but is never truly comfortable, frightened that the various smells and odours will lead to discovery by a less than forgiving population. 
However very little time passes before Bianca is caught up in a web of untimely deaths presenting possessed type symptoms, possible poisonings and a war between the bakery guilds, not to mention the goldsmith guild.
Who knew the meaning for the childhood rhyme of 'Goosey, goosey, gander'? That rhyme forms an interesting part of the intrigue.
Another excellent Goddard mystery with the 'wraith' of the Thames the Rat Man lurking as always. He needs Bianca back in her previous lodgings.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Death comes calling.




                            
Apart from the opening horrific images I really enjoyed this. The gory descriptions of butchered women threaded throughout are not for the faint of heart.
Tormand appears to being pursued by a maddened killer trying to indite Tormand for the murders being committed. The fact that he wakes next to a horrifically butchered former lover doesn't argue well for him being held responsible.
Morainn Ross is a wonderful heroine. Sir Tormand Murray is the bad boy who has played the cavalier lover for so long he seems to have reached the satiation point of unmeaningful liaisons. When he sees Morainn he is seized by the Murray blessing of finding his soul mate--not that he can even acknowledge that. He's an unbeliever until it slams him in the face. Even then he's a bit slow on the uptake.
The tension builds nicely and there are a few mysteries that are solved along the way apart from the identity of the true murderer. Having the blame shifted to Morainn and Tormand is a dastardly touch of misdirection and evil is truly present.
The new rather dishy cover brings it into line with the others of the series.

A NetGalley ARC

Mass Market Paperback (Dec. 2016)

****

Witty, charming with a wicked hilarity!

Lord Sebastian's Secret (The Duke's Sons #3) by Jane Ashford



I have to say I really loved Sebastian Gresham's story. Tender yet troubled!
For many reasons Sebastian reminded me of Freddy Standen in Georgette Heyer's 'Cotillion.'
Whilst Sebastian's strengths are different to Freddy's, he nevertheless makes his fiancée Lady Georgina Stane feel protected. As Georgina says, 'he always knows what to do.' And that's exactly how Kitty Charing felt about Freddy. Sure it's reversed somewhat. Sebastian is good looking, dashing, and more at home on a horse than in discussion with his peers over some obscure point. Where Freddy was up to the latest rig and knew to a nicety how to steer a course through the social pitfalls that yawned for the unwary.
Sebastian is acutely aware that he is not as clever as his siblings. He looks at the written word and all he sees is a string of letters running together in no recognizable pattern. So Sebastian covers up his heartfelt flaw, his dreaded shortcoming via a series of logistically manoeuvres that really show his innate cleverness. His memory it seems is prodigious. 
Sebastian travels down to Georgina's home (Stane Castle) to meet her parents prior to their wedding. His family--the Duke and Duchess of Langford and his brothers and their wives will join them.
A panicked Georgina realizes that her family might not be quite what Sebastian and his family are used to--especially as her mother breeds pugs (a flowing carpet of them), her father is enamoured with all things to do with reincarnation at the moment, a Hindu scholar is in residence, her hoyden sisters' actions make for some telling times, and their governess has apparently taken reincarnation to heart in her own particular way! Oh, and let's not forget Sebastian's sterling valet and confident William Sykes, an aspiring playwright. One dreads to even contemplate what the future might hold for the whole Gresham family and when Sykes' pen comes home to roost. And what will happen to sister Hilde when she is loosed on the ton, or maybe I should rephrase that and say what will happen to the ton? And Robert is obviously twitchy about something. I see more fun and games ahead.
I do love Sebastian's introduction to Stane Castle where 'the pugs flowed over like a school of fish to surround him and began to scratch and slaver at his riding boots.' Hilarious!
A charming, amusing and heartfelt story with tender and delicate moments.

A NetGalley ARC

*****