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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

Monday, July 16, 2018

Exciting and fearful times!

The King's Witch (Frances Gorges Trilogy #3) by Tracy Borman  


                           

The cut and thrust of politics and religion during Tudor times and on into the early 1600's reign of King James of Scotland, leaves the gap between trust and mistrust frighteningly narrow.  The removal of women healers as witches from villages and elsewhere during this time was harrowing. Purges throughout history in the name of religion, powered by fanatics have dogged humanity. The King's Witch touches on the dichotomy between James 1's personal life and his actions towards the general populace, spurred on by his fears of witchcraft and papists. A well researched, historical novel that pulls the reader instantly into the action.
The story of Lady Frances Gorges, daughter to the Marchioness of Northampton and Sir Thomas Gorges, a talented healer taken by her outrageous dukely uncle to the new court of James I, after Elizabeth 1's death is harrowing. It thrusts the reader immediately into the dangers of that world. James issues proclamations against healers, spurred on by the insidious Privy Seal, Lord Cecil.
With Frances, I cringed with fear as she tried to negotiate the rocky ,dangerous shores of a decadent court. Papists who'd once reached accommodation with Elizabeth were back to the days of Queen Mary. James' fear of witchcraft and Catholicism cuts a swathe through his subjects.
Frances becomes fearful for her life and the lives of her loved ones as plots are hatched. And then there's the young courtier who befriended her, Tom Wintour. A man she comes to admire. A man who has his own beliefs and follows them.
Borman's  descriptive prose drew me into the dangers of the time, and into the grist of Frances' life, as dangerous subterfuges make her safety even more uncertain.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Sunday, July 15, 2018

As always--Riveting!

The Privilege of Peace (Peacekeeper #3, Confederation #8) 
by Tanya Huff


                          

Plastic data sheets, rogue Silsviss, the presence of the much disliked and inept commander General Morris, Warden Torin , Craig and the rest of the Strike team have their hands full with new developments that bring up old challenges. Devious plans are being hatched by the Humans First fanatics. The finding of data sheets similar to the plastic from before has everyone including the elder race, the H'san on edge. 
After Warden Torin's  Strike Team's last mission, where information about the H'san and their ancient, deeply hidden weapons cache, Torin's trust of them has devolved even further. 
"The H’san were the Eldest of the Elder Races. They sang to the dawn. They loved cheese. For most of the Confederation, that was enough." But not for Torin!
Presit of course becomes involved and with all theses free wheeling, loose cannons the stakes just became higher.
I love the interplay between Torin and the rest of her crew, the way she reads a situation, and her easy acceptance of those who are different. Her understanding of the different races is shrewd and most often compassionate, except where fools abound.
Another great ex Gunnery Sergeant, now Warden Torin happening!

A NetGalley ARC

****

Friday, July 6, 2018

Aladdin refocused!

The Orphan's Wish (Hagenheim #8) by Melanie Dickerson  


                           

An interesting take on Aladdin joins Melanie Dickerson's insightful series of traditional folk and fairytale retellings, set in the German dukedom of Hagenheim. The vision Dickerson brings to these works is so original. I am always in awe of the prism through which the stories are told  and the wellspring of creativity Dickerson seems to flawlessly draw upon. That said, for all its interesting perspective, I didn't warm to Aladdin's story in the same way that I have to others. The tale of a young boy rescued by a monk from an Oliver Twist type start to life in Palestine, who journeys to an orphanage in Hagenheim and then to L√ľneburg. A tale of love, courage and friendship.
Growing up with the Duke of Wilhelm’s daughter Kirstyn, Aladdin and she become inseparable. As he becomes older Aladdin realizes he must leave to make his fortune in order to be deemed worthy of Kirstyn. A deeper challenge for Aladdin is his self image, his needing to redeem himself. Even though he is successful, he continues to see himself through the eyes of Mustapha, his old thief mentor, his "Faigin."
Aladdin "needed to prove he wasn’t just a poor, unlovable thief. A rat, Mustapha had called him. Those memories brought him so much shame. "
Back in Hagenheim, all is not as it should be, and when Kirstyn is kidnapped, all that Aladdin loves is threatened.
A rewarding read despite my misgivings.

A NetGalley ARC

***

The shadowed duke!

Tempting the Laird (Highland Grooms #5) by Julia London



What a great read! I loved the character of Catriona Mackenzie, aka Cat. Her passion for her cause, her humor, her way of disarming a situation. The brooding yet resigned duke, Hamlin Graham, Duke of Montrose, who the neighborhood is convinced murdered his wife. His ward Eula is such a poppet. It was charming the way Eula insisted on calling him Montrose and each time he would patiently correct her. As when Eula was tying the Duke's silk neckcloth, 
' “You look very fine, Montrose,” [Eula] said, eyeing him closely. “Your grace,” he reminded her. “Your grace Montrose,” she returned with a pert smile.'
To be applauded and noted is that Cat is older than most leading ladies, in her early thirties, and, 'For whatever reason, fate had not seen fit to lead her to drink from the trough of marital bliss, and now, frankly, it was too late.' So Cat turned her energies elsewhere.
As I said before Cat is stout hearted and particularly passionate about those she's set out to help. Cat and her Aunt Zelda have sustained Kishorn Abbey as a safe place in the Highlands for abused and discarded women. When her aunt dies, the English authorities want to seize the abbey (the Culloden retributions continuing). Cat is in Edinborough visiting her uncle and trying to fight that decree.
In the midst of all this happens the troubled Montrose. Our Cat is ripe for falling in love. Montrose is a brooding man with a tender heart, and Cat is drawn to him like a moth to flame.
Their dance is lively, with lightening flashes and despairing shadows when trouble comes calling.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Modesitt's "Recluse" continues to dazzle!

Outcasts of Order  (The Saga of Recluse #20) by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.          



The story of Beltur, a black order Mage with healing powers, and the companion of his heart, the healer Jessyla continues. Their path is hazadous. As always the on going balance between chaos (white magic) and order (black magic) is reflected throughout the situations that Beltur finds himself in. (The humble yet noble hero, who will make the hard decisions when faced with them, is a recurring theme in Modesitt's works and Beltur is no exception).
Is Beltur being guided by the ways of the universe of Recluse, the natural laws surrounding chaos and order as it were, or are random happenings encouraging non random outcomes? (I am always fascinated that somewhere writings that expound on order and chaos or principles and understandings of the universe appears for the main protagonist to ponder on, which we in turn are privy to. For Beltur such a work is the book, Considerations on the Nature of Man).Beltur has become a challenge to those in power, not by any threatening actions on his part, but just by being. Beltur works for the city as a Patrol Mage--very effectively, and always with compassion. But the fact that he and the smith Jorhan, are producing cupridium blades and everyday objects by Beltur infusing order/chaos patterns into them, might have something to do with the disquiet of those in charge. It may just be a simple matter of tariffs and economics--other people's, or possibly because another Mage further up in the city"s hierarchy has his eyes on the healer Jessyla. Or perhaps all three. To maintain his freedom it seems Beltur must leave Elparta. The decision is not easy but other's choices leave Beltur very little alternative.
This is Modesitt's twentieth  novel in the Recluse series (and yes like others, I read them from the very beginning when "The Magic of Recluse" burst upon the Fantasy/Sci fi world stage). His writings continue to dazzle me, even as I greet them like well known and loved friends, interesting companions on my decades old fantasy reading journey, continually and satisfyingly familiar, yet injecting some new aspect and situation into my understandings of Recluse the place.
This new novel  and the formidable characters capture me. Echoes of previous Recluse novels ring faintly through the pages. I know this place! The philosophies embedded in the writing are thought provoking. I am always left satisfied yet wanting more of this fascinating world and the characters Modesitt creates.
Another absorbing read!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

the Rich canvas of Tim Winton!

The Shepherd's Hut: A Novel by Tim Winton



Winton's opening instantly raises the tension. Justifiably angst ridden teenage Jaxi is heading for safety. His flight into the Australian outback 'bush' is grueling and I for one am amazed that he can even contemplate it, beginning as he does on foot. No one in their right mind heads into the Australian Outback as precipitously as Jaxie does! Carrying a gun, a few supplies, binoculars and water, all that he's able to scramble together, Jaxie heads out from Monkton in Western Australia north to Magnet to find his cousin and girlfriend Lee. His only friend. The only one who gets him.
Jaxie worked with his father Sid Clackton, aka Cap, the local butcher, a vicious alcoholic who has abused his wife and son all of Jaxie's life. When his mother dies with cancer, Jaxie is chained to his circumstances not through love as he had been, but through despair.
The thing is Jaxie arrives home to find Cap's body under the car, killed by the engine when a makeshift winch failed. Jaxie flees because he reckons people are going to say it was no accident, that he, Jaxie had killed Cap. Given that his father had just a few hours prior beaten the crap out of him, and that the only cop in town was Cap's friend, and as mean as his father to boot, Jaxie takes off.
Typical Winton reading! Hard, fast, and pithy with colloquialisms flying. As always his prose and descriptive writing is absolutely brilliant. If you've ever stepped though the Australian bush you'll recognize the landscape. If you haven't, imagining is made possible by a few words,
        "I dug right into them scraggly trees. Stepping careful through the million sticks
         and strips of bark in the shadows because getting snakebit wasn’t gunna be any
          help."
I keep reading and am truly amazed by Winton's descriptions of the Outback, word pictures that bring to mind Fred William's paintings. Oh my! Just for this alone I'd give this book  five stars. Let alone the story matter. This is a giant of a novel, unbridled and raw. I love it! And the small things, like Jaxie's binoculars, can be turning points.
Themes of violence, relationships, love, masculinity, and redemption are all heightened by the staccato delivery. Layer upon layer is pulled back as Jaxie's story unfolds and enriches in his meeting with Fintan MacGinnis, an Irish priest hermit type character in the middle of nowhere, all set against the brilliant light of the Western Australian landscape. An unapologetic view of life's harshness and relationships. I was fixated!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Friday, June 15, 2018

Truths and untruths!

The Duke of Lies  (The Untouchables #9) by Darcy Burke


                            

The return of a dead husband after six years is a hard thing, especially as the man who disappeared was not pleasant. The man who returns is the complete opposite. What happened to Rufus Beaumont, Duke of Blackburn, in those intervening years to change him so?
Verity has to somehow take this on board without risking her son, or Rufus' displeasure. Although on the surface that appears to be a thing of the past.
Verity finds herself in a difficult place. How to trust that the monster who left her will not be hidden somewhere inside this new aspect of Rufus. What is the true face of the man she called husband?
Plots, plans and dark deeds are afoot. Rufus has to use all his ingenuity to prove himself to Verity and his son. But will he be exposed? And will Verity accept him when the truth comes out?

A NetGalley ARC

****