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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, March 31, 2013

dirigibles, absinthe drinkers and dens of inequity

A Conspiracy of Alchemists (The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1) by Leisel Schwarz 


Enter into the heady steampunk world of Victorian England and Paris--absinthe drinkers, dens of inequity, and alchemists' accruements. Add to this the faerie world of shadow and light and the Victorian era take on an altogether different hue.
The pivotal character is Aviatrix Elle, pilot of a 40 ' dirigible,
When meeting a client, Mr. Marsh, an occultist, in an opium den (absinthe cafe) a diamond bracelet attaches itself to her arm. This is the age of reason and for Elle, electromancy can be explained by science but occultism is a different to- be- avoided realm.
Attacks in Paris, a foiled kidnapped attempt, and dramatic getaway from a Paris field is followed by other troubles back in England. Her father is kidnapped, the plot is afoot, and occultism comes to the fore.
                                        A lively read!

                                        A Netgalley ARC

finding your own story!

The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman


‘Year of the Fire Horse’ persons demonstrate the worst features of horses—their temper, stubbornness and selfishness. Jade moon is born under the sign of the Fire Horse. Her personality apparently aligns with her zodiac sign. Jade Moon’s story is told in a strong voice chronicling the arrival of a Chinese young woman’s journey and life to San Francisco in the early 1920’s.
Conditions at Angel Island, San Francisco’s Chinatown, the influence of the tongs, prostitution and slavery, and gambling are part of this engrossing story.
The fight that ordinary people faced in the extraordinary situation of being an immigrant, particularly Chinese, in the 1920's is insightful.
This is a novel of hope for a girl who was a challenge to herself, and to those around her, and how the astrological aspects that she was burdened with became her greatest virtues.
‘I hope you will find your own story’ Nushi says to Jade Moon as she leaves her village in China.
The story brings with it an underlying commentary on the historically place of women within the Chinese family, historical US Immigration policies and the treatment of aliens and social attitudes towards those who are different.
An excellent read.

A NetGalley ARC

…definitely pearls!

by Max Lucado

A wonderful Lenten meditation that expounds with classic Lucado dichotomy-- complexity wrapped in deceptive simplicity. A treat of forty days’ reflections upon Christ’s journey towards Calvary and beyond.
This is personal. As Lucado says, ‘We’ve all walked the street of Jerusalem in the shadows’.
Each day is followed by a short, enlightening prayer.
Amongst the gems of thought that struck me were:
· the reflection on the materials and design of the cross
· a brief consideration of the symbol of thorns
· the relationship between mother and child for Mary and Jesus at this time
A thought provoking and gracious addition to my devotionals.
A great gift at any time for teenagers up.
A treasure to share with the whole family.

A Netgalley ARC

Monday, March 11, 2013

Gut wrenching!!

Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield

Essentially a story of mothers and daughters caught up in the web of wartime political decisions—the ‘relocation’ camps for Japanese American citizens post Pearl Harbor. Decisions that resulted in human suffering and injustice. The consequences for internees were lost amidst the panic of officials, and blanketed by reactionary national fears and bureaucratic purpose. These decisions had far flung implications and encompassed deep personal tragedies for the people involved. Manzanar was one of ten Internment camps where Japanese American citizens were unconstitutionally incarcerated. Told through the eyes of a Japanese American daughter Lucy, and in tandem with her daughter Patty, this is a gut wrenching and powerful story of generations of unhappiness. The main characters wash up against the sea of others, each islands of pain. Abuse of power reaches out its tendrils and seizes those who are vulnerable. Humanity is under duress in unspeakable conditions that at this time was repeated across many continents. The novel comes out of dark days; dark story blots on landscape of history.

I was searching for the hope and redemption. It comes but with a cost. One quite striking moment of light is where Lucy’s self-contained mother shows concern towards an older woman in the toilet block. An unspeakable vignette. Later Lucy’s relationship with Garvey highlights the theme of people being trapped by their circumstances. For me tension thrums from every page. The odd pieces of taxidermy amongst Lucy’s things take on new meaning and significance in the later part of the novel. Reworked bodies with no life, sculptured into being. Life saved into death.

A thought provoking work.

A Netgalley ARC

Je t'aime Aimée!!

That Aimée! I love everything about her. She lives in an antiquated Parisian apartment and has a perchance for vintage fashion labels. I adore her fashion descriptions. Like her vintage black Chanel jacket, a signature affectation. If I can't have Paris at the very least I would like Aimée’s vintage clothing. She chooses the wrong men, the right friends, and her wardrobe is always one that I'm envious of. Her love affairs fail, her personal life is a mess, she fights with and uses the police, she is determined and shrewd, a loyal friend and a great character.
When Saj and Aimée run down a mysterious man, Aimée has fears of Serb or Russian gangs being involved. Was the unknown Serb’s death really a result of the accident or something more sinister? On the trail of a undiscovered painting of Lenin by Modigliani, bodies once more litter her investigative path. Meanwhile Renee has departed for Silicon Valley and glory where ambition and greed collide. Now Aimée is enmeshed in a dangerous case with only Saj to help.
Aimée Leduc has brilliant and creative investigative strengths, but at heart is a lonely waif continually turning towards the whispered mystery of the mother who abandoned her. Aimée’s mother is a ghost on her psyche's horizon...
Aimée chases dangerous shadows and thugs around the dark places of Paris in high heeled boots, along cobblestoned alleyways, through dubious ivy trailing courtyards and climbs over broken down walls or zips around narrow Parisian streets n her trusty Vesper. Other times she might rely on her taxi karma to escape a tricky situation.
Aimée Leduc is a woman of dark secrets, capable of a honed single mindedness, and a survivor of tragic circumstances.
Her internal dialogue is always wonderful—wry, dramatic and revealing.
The Aimée Leduc Companion [Kindle Edition] (also published by Soho) is a great background to the previous novels. I love the maps in it and drag out my Paris maps for greater comparison being a bit of a map junkie. It was free at the time. It may still be.
I adore Cara Black’s Leduc novels and welcome this latest window into the life of Aimée

A Netgalley ARC

Monday, March 4, 2013

...a fabulous foray into the fantastic!

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Ok, so the day after reading Throne of Glass, or rather the morning after (because I stayed up all night to see how it would pan out), I went online and purchased the rest in the Assassins’ series.
Celaena Sardothien is full of spunk, hard headed and soft hearted.
‘Was she finally to be hanged?’ Celaena wonders at the beginning of the story.
The adventure goes on from here. Celaena’s story is enthralling and one feels an instant infinity for her.
An enchanting and gratifying read.

A NetGalley ARC

…’the dream was carried in the mouth of a great jungle cat.’

The Golden Leopard by Lynn Kerstan

A tale of theft, assassins, romance and skullduggery; a sweeping narrative that takes us from India to England, and then from the London to the English moors.
The story opens with Lord Hugo Duran being tortured in Alanabad, a small state in India.
A statue, The Star of Firmament, The Heart of Alanabad has been stolen by an Englishman.
Duran is English and a suspect. He manages to escape death, but at a price.
A deadly, locked bracelet is placed on Duran’s wrist. If he doesn’t succeed in finding and returning the sacred object within a year, he will die.
Duran and Lady Jessica Arville, a private antiques dealer, search for the Golden Leopard.
Escorted by assassins they race against time to find the leopard, a potent symbol of people of Alanabad’s beliefs. Cultures, politics and greed clash.
Duran and Jessie have a history, a history that inexplicably reopens, drawn as they are to each other against their cooler selves.
Can they find the leopard?
Will the assassins kill Duran?
Can Duran's wrist be released from the fatal bracelet and its poison?
Will Jessica be able to solve the mystery and tame her own heart?
An intriguing read set at the time Regency England.
A NetGalley ARC

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Blast it, men rode astride all the time.

Surprising Lord Jack by Sally MacKenzie

Excellent! Here’s a further treat for those of us who are Regency Romance aficionados. ‘Surprising Lord Jack,’ is from Sally MacKenzie’s ‘Duchess of Love’ trilogy. Once again Venus, the Duchess of Greycliffe, attempts her matchmaking skills out on her sons. This time the chosen one, or rather, hounded progeny is Lord Jack Valentine, her third son.
A racy, endearing novel with rather more twists in the story line than I’d expected.
Jack, our rattled rake, is not all he appears on the surface.                  
Frances Hadley, our feisty heroine falls from one scrape into another.
The opening scene of the book with Francis’ internal dialogue is a delight, which includes her, ‘Blast it, men rode astride all the time’, complaint.
Disguised as a stripling, she flees an unpleasant situation brought about by her aunt.
Lord Jack is fleeing a determined debutante, one of many, compliments of hi mother, the Duchess.
Their destinies collide at a local inn.
And then there is the mongrel dog who called to mind Ulysses in ‘Arabella’ by Georgette Heyer.
Shakespeare doesn't develop in quite the same humorous way but he is amusing and he too plays his part!
I do so like the character of the Duke of Greycliffe, Jack’s father, and his understated ability to take control of a situation if he wants to.
Entertaining, although a tad predictable, it’s well worth the hour or so it takes to read. And you will smile!

A Netgalley ARC

Sally MacKenzie website

Georgette Heyer novels expolored

‘Mama says you are dangerous’…

…so declares the scheming young thing to confirmed rake Lord Deben on the darkened terrace.

Burrows’ opening salvo has Henrietta Gibson rescuing Lord Deben from a determined debutante’s attempt to entrap him into marriage. A hidden witness, Henrietta turns the young woman’s story into one of a ‘slight’ mishap easily misunderstood. Marriage for Lord Deben is averted. Henrietta’s charitable act towards the notorious rake makes her a target for the disgruntled pair and she teeters on the brink social disaster.
Twenty-two and experiencing the London social scene, Henrietta is a likeable character.
Lord Deben is charming and misunderstood.
Never Trust a Rake by Annie Burrows is a fascinating Regency romp with which to while away an afternoon.

A NetGalley ARC

... intrigue and mystery, lightly held and darkly embraced

The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

Intrigue, persecution and mystery swirls inextricably around the life Joanna Stafford.
Prophesied over at 17, she has become a woman of secrets, of her own and of others.
She swings between penitence, fear, anger, love and hate.
Having taken up the life of a Dominican novice to find peace from her foretold destiny, all comes crashing down, along with the great religious orders at the time of the Reformation in England, under the reign of Henry VIII.
Nothing is stable. All is in flux, Joanna, her world and the fortunes of those known to her.
Seemingly at the apex of action, Joanna finds herself caught up amidst the indomitable will of Henry, religious fanaticism and a changing world order. Joanna is a pawn in the grand and frightening game of thrones, of kingdoms and world shattering religious transformations
At the mercy of powerful factions, Joanna‘s discernment as to who is enemy and who is friend is always in doubt.
Foreseen as an agent for change by the prophetess Sister Elizabeth Barton, Joanna to be named by a third seer. At that time she is supposedly to be a voice of action against Henry; Joanna is seemingly tossed from one situation to another by the fates and those who would use her. Finally she is forced by the actions of others to meet the third seer, one Master, Nostredame.
Joanna is torn between love, duty and fate. She is the loadstone drawing factions into action. She is inextricably drawn down a dangerous path not of her choosing.
Joanna’s story is a powerful reflection of horrendous times. She is a multi-faceted gem shining throughout the book. Brimming with humanity, her loves and fears become yours.
Well written this is an exciting story that I stayed up reading ‘til the wee hours of the morning.

A Netgalley ARC

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Don’t miss this! An excellent YA addition!

Princess Avenger by Bernadette Rowley

Alicia, a princess set on vengeance.
Army Captain Vard Anton, a captain set on guarding her
A kingly father, weak and indecisive
A husband chosen—older, coldly lecherous and totally selfish
A lover killed!

An erstwhile friend besotted rejected and foresworn, unresponsive to her pain and thoughts.
Thrown in prison by her father.
Rescued by her Captain guard.
In love, confused beset on all sides.

Bring on the next episode!

A Netgalley ARC

…of kings and crowns and ambitions colliding.

Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick

The tale of Brunin and Hawise is set at the time of Henry II's battle for the English throne. Here are lords, mercenary and hereditary, gambling and winning yet losing to a master manipulator, Henry himself.
A story of times when marriages were bargaining chips, and women but pawns on the chess board of the grand game of ownership. Chadwick's sense of the medieval period is a dramatic and emotional backdrop to a story painted vibrantly with words such that the actions of all players ring powerfully true.
Land and inheritance is the crux around which the story swirls. This is a pageant, alive with strong, believable characters--Brunin who is misunderstood, judged and found wanting by many, and Hawise, who is gloriously wild and free, whose personality leaps from the page. Then there’s Marion who is damaged and brittle, and who deceives herself so badly. Even the vignette of Beckett is instantaneously vivid.
Battles and personality confrontations make Shadows and Strongholds a palpable read of dark and dangerous times, lightened by love, and colorfully presented by a masterful pen. Bravo!
As a note, my perceptions of the historical political landscape at this time have been more informed by watching the series', She-Wolves: England's Early Queens with Dr. Helen Castor, and Monarchy with David Starkey.

A Netgalley ARC