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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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Murder and treason!

Murder in a Cornish Alehouse: An Elizabethan Spy Thriller (A Mistress Jaffrey Mystery) by Kathy Lynn Emerson



                              

Mistress Rosamund Jaffrey is such a strong character, sometimes perhaps too strong. Husband Rob balances her nicely. It's June 1584 and Rosamunds stepfather Sir Walter Pendenni is dead, possibly murdered.  His links to Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's spymaster, and Rosamund's concern about the wardship of her half-brother send Rosamund back into Cornwall, to Priory House, to act as an agent for Walsingham and to act on her brother's behalf. Her mother is part of Rosamund's fears. The old hurts and conflict between the two are ever present and vitriolic. Alongside these worries is the more personal one. Rosamund is always wondering if Rob will sail off in search of adventure, leaving her behind. Cornish pirates, smugglers and treason are a tantalizing threat hovering on the periphery. All is a giant puzzle! 'What other secrets did Priory House hide?' 
Investigations begin and bodies keep piling up

A NetGalley ARC

***

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

finding true love!



                                

Lady Louise Vivers, the Earl of Worthington's sister, is wonderful. Intelligent, opinionated and compassionate, and wanting true love like her siblings. A woman who knows her own mind. And her mind is set on her brother's friend, Gideon, the Duke of Rothwell. Their first sighting of each other is galloping down Hyde Park in the early morning mists. Louise accompanied by a massive dog seemingly straight out of the Hound of Baskervilles. (Ok, I'm mixing up my timelines for the sake of an adequate descriptor!)
On inheriting his title, Gideon has found his estates in disarray with scandal nipping at his heels, and is doing all he can to bring things around. That's not all, his father has acted strangely just before his death, running up debts and setting up a mistress.  Unfathomable behaviour that has Gideon appalled and yet his mother seems strangely detached and forgiving. 
He's determined that marrying a rich heiress is not going to be his way. He loves Louise but is unable to share his shame. Louise wants someone who will share all with her, who will let her into their life.
I must admit that I found Gideon somewhat stubborn and obtuse, stymied by his pride. Louise really has a struggle with how to respond to his lack of full communication. However all comes good.
As always I found Quinn's author's note illuminating with regards to to the situation Gideon found himself in and the practices of the times.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Hidden desires!



                              

Ivy Breckenridge is a woman with secrets. When she and Sebastian Westgate, Duke of Clare, or rather, the Duke of Desire, so named by Ivy and her friends, meet at a house party something zings. (Really, these house parties seem to be designed, in novels at least, to be hot beds of gossip and extra martial, or not so extra marital, intrigue.)
I really liked West and Ivy. Ivy on the outside is a blue stocking who holds her feelings in check, for good reason as we painfully discover. West is attracted to Ivy and even more so as he comes to appreciate, not only her hidden beauty, but her intelligence and devotion to her charity work. Ivy and West both have to come to terms with their past before they can move forward. Ivy gives in to her feelings for the Duke of Desire and in true 'carpe diem' fashion seizes the moment, more than once with West, like a thirsty woman crying for water. West finds himself experiencing feelings that he'd not known possible, but will Ivy believe him?
A very steamy continuation of the  'The Untouchables' series.

A NetGalley ARC

***1/2

Awesome resume on the camping trip!

Gone Camping: A Novel in Verse by Tamera Will Wissinger and Matthew Cordell (Illustrator)


                              

Complete with meter and in rhyme.
Stupendous! Ok, I wriggly giggly loved this! Such fun! So clever!
Took me back to my childhood. Us kids and the car packed the night before and then up and out by an early 2am morning!  Rolled from our beds into snugly places in the car. Dad always wanted to miss the traffic. 
Did I mention how much I really liked this book? 
The illustrations are lively, humouress and easily associated with.
A fun, fun  book!

So free ...
and easy to read.
A big, big hit with me
How could it not be?

This book is a treat in more than one way.
The variety of poetic aspects is a real winner. Adding amusement and vigour.
An entertaining look at the camping experience, great for kids and the kid within.
I'm rushing out to buy it for all my families with kids that go camping. And that's quite a few!
A winner!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

a mad dash through the highlands!




                             

A young Gypsy healer finds herself on horse back racing through forests, dodging trees and bullets and the English after helping a Scot she finds wounded by a musket ball in the leg on the battlefield.
Akira Ayres prides herself on her healing abilities. She knows that the Scot, Geordie is more than he seems, just by his manner and actions, and occasional mumbling so when he's feverish.
She contracts to help him to safety. Unfortunately they are pursued by an English Captain who sees the capturing of Geordie as a stepping stone to his own advancement.
Geordie, the Duke of Gordon cannot be allowed to be captured, else all will be forfeit. He has gone into battle in disguise without followers. Fighting against his English sovereign is treasonous. I really found Geordie's stance reckless, given his responsibilities towards his people.
Akira and Geordie's mad dash to safety is heightened by their growing attraction for each other.
Akira is proud of her abilities and independence, even if it comes at a price. Geordie is bound by his status and the Queen's decree to form an alliance within the confines of his social class. This seems like a relationship doomed to be less than satisfactory, at least for Akira. I found Geordie insensitive to Akira's dilemma given the few choices she has.
Not as satisfying as some previous Jarecki novels, but I still look forward to the next in this new series. 

A NetGalley ARC 

*** 1/2

Friday, March 24, 2017

Absorbed from go to whoa!



                               

A powerful story woven around the Akha people, a Chinese ethnic minority, their culture and customs, the developing market of rare teas, and the adoption of children from China by Americans.
The story of Li-yan's life as a girl, her ambitions always surrounded by the religious and cultural mores of her Yunnan village is amazing. When she falls pregnant she gives birth in secret and leaves her child at an orphanage, wrapped in a blanket with only a tea cake from the secret female family tea grove. From there the story of her daughter Haley continues. However we constantly come back to Li-Yan's journey...and tea.
Haley is adopted by a Californian couple and her story here is filled with coincidences that verge on the mystical, especially as she pursues her chosen career.
I was engrossed in all that happened to Li-Yan and those of her village. Tea is a central motif, othe cross roads that brings things to a head, opens up new challenges, endangers family secrets, and brings birth mother and daughter together.
An amazing and engrossing story that gives light to a little known people, and life to a story that will endure.
One of my best reads for 2017 thus far.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Darkness in Victorian times



                                 

An engaging mystery and romance set smack in the middle of the Drury Lane theatre district of London in Victorian times.
There's treachery, mystery and fear. Young children, the 'pantomime children', discarded when too old or when the season is over and who are lured into darker employment in London or taken to Paris are at the heart of the matter.
Miss Gillian Young is a talented seamstress whose father, a hitherto respected inspector in the police force, has recently been killed in a mysterious 'accident'. Gillian is left with nothing but puzzles, and fear. What happened to her father? It seems he is being accused of corruption and more. Few of the constabulary turns out for his funeral. Gillian is determined to find out the truth, despite the menacing warnings she has to let things be.
Gillian has inherited a property outside London. There she meets the handsome Viscount Thomas Lockwood who owns property adjacent to her's. They are attracted to one and other. Gillian also becomes acquainted with a young policeman who is the son of a colleague of her father's.
But threats and disquieting happenstances are closing in upon Gillian. Who can be trusted? Who are the villains? Why are the police searching her properties?
Gillian's ambitions as a costume designer is fascinating. When she is given the opportunity to be the principal designer for the theatre production of Cinderella she employs young people from a home for pantomime children her mother supported, The Cause.
The back story of the pantomime children, their exploitation and unknown futures lends this story strength. Child trafficking has never died and this story hides these dark secrets in its background. With strong Christian underpinnings, Boyd's end note and research about the pantomime children and their inclusion in this novel takes the story to a different level and is to be commended.

A NetGalley ARC

****

A pleasing novella.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

'In Tibet souls were tried, and souls were tormented, but always soulsendured.'

Skeleton God (Inspector Shan #9) by Eliot Pattison



                                  


Having not read any of Inspector Shan Tao Yun's exploits before I found myself fascinated with the hints about his past and fall from grace. There is much for me to catchup on, yet the lack of background did not detract from my understanding of trouble in Shan's past and how that placed him in the now.
Here he is a constable in an isolated Tibetan town of Yangkar in Lhadrung County. Shan is confronted with two bodies found in an ancient Tibetan tomb on the Plain of Ghosts.
The story stretches from the ancient past, to the not so ancient past to the now. The People’s Liberation Army and the Hammer of Freedom Brigade's actions in this area have had long tentacles, and those tentacles still have a stranglehold on the area.
That story is set against the background of the army's roundup of 'feral' (undocumented) Tibetans, the destruction and seizure of Buddhist temples and their goods, the separation of families and their 'reeducation', and the demon ghosts and gods roaming the area.
The exploration by Shan of ancient Tibetan artifacts, and his fascination with the Tibetan way of life, the gods, the scared places are all included in this fascinating murder mystery set in an equally as fascinating part of the world. The history of Tibet and the results for that country by China's invasion in the 1950's is brought into sharp focus.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Misdeeds indeed!

A Lady's Code of Misconduct (Rules for the Reckless #5) by Meredith Duran



                                 

Handsomely wrought story that pleases from finish to end. Jane Mason, an heiress, has been virtually held captive by her uncle and his family. Now she has come of age and her uncle intends to marry her to his despicable cousin Archibald and take control of her fortune.
Crispin Burke intends to be Prime Minister and how he gets there will be through cold manipulation and a will of iron. 
Jane's uncle and Crispin have been partners in this endeavour, intent on forcing a bill through parliament that will enhance Crispin 's reputation and bring monetary gain for those behind the scheme.
The coming together of these two is a a story of opportunity that turns into something more.
It's Jane who takes the massive step that Crispin has opened up to her. Crispin just didn't foresee the road she would take and his involvement. An attempt on his life leaves Crispin with a loss of memory, a situation Jane takes advantage of--and then she's faced with the consequences.
As Jane reflects when informed about Burke being all but dead, Burke was 'a villain, an amoral rogue [although] his vitality had all but filled a room. Had it only been turned toward good, he might have done so much. But he’d been wicked.'
A romance with an intriguing amount of danger, emotional angst and redemption.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

To marry--or not!



                              

Death and intrigue in high places.

Murder on the Serpentine (A Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Novel #32) by Anne Perry




In this novel Pitt finds himself undertaking a mission for Queen Victoria. One that could have grave consequences for the Prince of Wales and the future of the monarchy. 
We meet some interesting new characters along with old friends.
A boating accident on the Serpentine, 'a decorative stretch of water that curved across the middle of Hyde Park.' In the dead of night of a trusted and favoured courtier of the Queen's--Sir John Halberd drowns. This leads to Pitt being called before the highest figure in the land. His task, to discreetly continue the inquiries Halberd had undertaken for the Queen and to discover the truth behind the boating 'accident.' It seems embroiled in the affair is Delia Kendrick, a former mistress of the Prince of Wales and now wife to one of his closet friends. 
For me a huge part of the intrigue of this novel lies in the emotional and psychological struggle that Pitt has to come to terms with. We see him wrestle with his conscience and ideals as he fully assumes the mantle of Commander of Special Branch. Trying to formulate the ways between honourable behaviour and necessity for the good of all. A very rocky path.
Victor Narraway and Vespasia are out of the country. Normally Pitt would consult Victor when the action moves into the upper stratosphere of high society. Now Pitt has to rely on his own resources and Victor's notebooks.
Looming on the horizon is the possibility of a second Boer War. Murder, suicide and gun running are in the mix.
Charlotte cannot enter so readily into Pitt's cases--these are now concerned with State secrets and anarchy. She does however do what she can.
I find her inclusion into the Lady's Club and murmurs of the suffragette movement interesting. Ah, if that came to pass that could open up a whole lot of possibilities, even conflicts for Pitt and Charlotte. But I digress!
Another fascinating addition to the Pitt collection.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Rakes' progress, part 1.



Enjoyable characters and story. Benedict Mercer, The Duke of Griffin will go to great lengths to protect his twin sisters from the consequences of a stupid and damaging wager he and his dukely friends (The Rakes of St. James) had participated in years ago.
Part of those lengths is to hire a chaperone, Miss Esmeralda Swift. That was his first battle with Esmeralda and those battles would continue. (Both Griffin and Esmerelda are stubborn). Esmeralda has her own secrets and burdens including her beloved half sister Josephine. There's a dog of great consequence included--Napoleon of course!
The thing is that the Duke has strong feelings about the right behaviour due to those in his service, even if he has a great deal of difficulty mastering that as far as the delectable Miss Swift is concerned. Esmeralda definitely is not indifferent to the wretched man, but he is a Duke and she is only a lowly employee. 
In between chasing down rumours, keeping his sisters safe, his attraction for Esmerelda and running the gauntlet of a London season, the Duke has much to occupy him. And of course there's his friends and fellow dukely rakes, Rust Rathburne, the Duke of Rathburne (Rath), and Sloane Knox, the Duke of Hawksthorn (Hawk).
Esmeralda's background story seems to fizzle somewhat, although it does give her the right entree. Still maybe more will come of it in future developments of the other St James Rakes' progresses. Griffin's twin sisters Vera and Sara could be more fully developed. They certainly have heaps of potential.
Josephine however, is a treasure! I loved her! The antics she and her dog get up to are both heart warming and heart breaking.
Then there's the broad sheet publication, 'Miss Honora Truth's Weekly Scandal Sheet'. I am sure that will continue to play a part.
A lot of unanswered questions that may never be resolved in this delightful Regency romance.

A NetGalley ARC

***

Angel of Death!

Cursed Command (Angel in the Whirlwind #3) by Christopher G. Nuttall
       
                                 

Another rewarding adventure with Kat Falcone and crew as they are ordered to investigate the outer reaches of space for the Commonwealth, seeking out allies and partners in the war against the Theocracy. (The Theocracy has some of the earmarks of the Masadans in the Honor Harrington novels. They are implacable enemies of Kat. She has bested them in all encounters.) This time Kat's former executive officer has been granted his own command. William McElney is to captain his own heavy cruiser, the HMS Uncanny. The cruiser has been dogged by the deaths of two former captains. It is commonly referred to as HMS Unlucky--not a glowing recommendation. Captain McElney is faced with command of a cruiser where the crew are undisciplined, both the crew and the ship are physically and mentally unready for action, and with some crew discontent verging on mutiny. All this as McElney sets forth with Kat and HMS Lightning to the Jorlem Sector, a sector rife with piracy and possible Theocracy intrusion. Kat as usual is an unpredictable counter on the battle chessboard. Not as forceful a novel as previous contributions, although the character of McElney and his place in things, his viewpoint as someone who's come up through the ranks and is not from the elite echelons of the Commonwealth, more than makes up for that. This for me is where the full interest lies of this story--how to break through the circle of power and attitudes of entitlement of the Commonwealth's inner circles that extend to the command structures of the armed forces. This continuing saga of Kat and her people places all in readiness for the next episode in Nuttall's exciting interplanetary space opera.
A NetGalley ARC

****

Monday, March 6, 2017

Absolutely Brilliant!


   





I must admit to being enthralled by Venables' Guy of Gisburne novels. He's taken the legend of Robin Hood and turned it on its head. At every step! So what is the truth? I've read so many versions and watched so many movies. In fact Prince of Thieves was screening just as I was reading this. But these--the Guy of Gisburne novels are my far and away favourites.
We have legend and tradition and the need for heroes--but heroes can be used in different ways. As King Richard says to Guy, "I could make use of Hood. Use his legend to bolster my own. And I shall. But I am a practical man. That legend will be easier to control when he’s dead.” 
Guy replies, "Legends prosper best when their hero is absent." Cutting both ways--the legend of Richard and that of Hood. So Guy is charged with killing Hood and his leaders. How cunning is the plot that Richard has a mind to set in motion. A masterful stroke by Venables! Machiavellian indeed!
Guy forms a team from those we've met before to hunt the Hood of this series--not the legendary Hood we know, but the vicious, cunning and cruel man he really is. Lady Mélisande, Asif ibn Salah, a resentful and angry Galfrid, and even Tancred are part of that select group.
The elements of Robin Hood are all here--Marion, the Prioress, the loyal followers--but all so different from the popular legend. Hood's trusted companions are so much less than what we love, and so much more vicious. That belief that sees Hood as the man of the people, the Christlike saviour is reduced to a despicable reality here. Hood is a man with his own dark purposes.
For Guy, vengeance will take a different form. At one point Hood says, 'when I die, that is when I am truly born.' At that moment, the true revenge that Guy has in mind is given voice.
At the last Guy decides that, 'the best possible revenge upon Hood—[is] not for him to be lost to posterity, but to become its servant, and an agent for all the good things that he never once believed.' But the story to this moment is paved with hardship, is emotional harrowing and so engaging.
A wonderful novel that brings to the close a thoughtful and fascinating series I have thoroughly enjoyed.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Totally fascinating!

Pilgrimage to Murder: A Medieval Mystery set in 14th Century London (A Brother Athelstan Medieval Mystery #17) by Paul Doherty


1381, 'The Great Revolt' is over, the rebels crushed. The rebellion has been put down but the aftermath is a horrendous sea of treachery, uncertainty and fear. The Upright Men, the Reapers, the Earthworm Men dead and scattered.
'The scaffolds .... heavy with cadavers, the lumbering execution carts and corpse barrows a common sight. The quartered remains of traitors, all tarred and bloodied, decorated a forest of stakes on every available gateway, but the revolt was definitely over.'
Doherty is just so fantastic with his descriptions. I am constantly in awe of his use of language. The images he produces are vivid and colorful and stay with you.
Brother Athelstan, Dominican friar and parish priest of St Erconwald’s in Southwark, is to lead his parish council on a pilgrimage to St Thomas a Becket’s shrine in Canterbury 'to give thanks for the wellbeing of [his] congregation after the Great Revolt.’  As the story continues a host of others, seemingly more political than not, join the party. Included are a Spanish friar ordered to do penance, members of John of Gaunt's Secret Chancery, a doctor and his family, and others collected as the time draws near.
Not quite Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, but if you look closely just as complicated and becoming more so as a string of assassinations begin to dot the landscape. The garrotted corpses bear the message ‘Lord Azrael greets you’. A further puzzle for our dedicated friar to pursue. Indeed Athelstan himself finds his beloved one-eyed tomcat Bonaventure with the grisly 'corpse of a magpie, a garrotte string wrapped around its throat' accompanied by that message.
This particular murderer arouses Althestan's anger on more than one occasion.
The deciphering of the cause of these murders is as usual a wonderfully wrought masterpiece of deduction and sleuthing on the part of our beloved astute Dominican priest.
As Doughtery points out in a his Author's Note, 'Sir John Cranston and Brother Athelstan will have their hands full in resolving the murderous mayhem which became a hallmark of their time.' That mayhem is so obvious throughout Doherty's rich depiction of the times.
I look forward to more from the Friar and his companions.

A NetGalley ARC

*****