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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

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

'I know everything that happens in these mountains!' so said theMountain King at their first meeting

Heart of the Dragon Realm is a love story. Not just any love story, it is about sensitivity and love, guided by freedom. It is the story of Princess Kimri and the Mountain King, Tathan.  Kimri is given in marriage by her brother King Dereth to King Tathan, of the kingdom of Helmsmont, said to be protected by a Dragon. Her bride price is one hundred swords and ten thousand arrows. Swords that are necessary as part of the war effort against Kenasgate. Kimri 'is frankly amazed that she is considered worthy of such a price,' but as she says, 'it's one thing for the Mountain King to offer that price, but entirely another for her brother to accept it! '

However things don't go to plan. As Kimri often infers trouble comes to like her like a lodestone. Her escort party has barely left before they are attacked by Prince Herrol of Kenasgate looking to take Kimri captive. That opens up a whole new can of worms.
Kimri is a feisty heroine princess who doesn't fit the mould.
The story has a background feel of Beauty and the Beast, not that Tathan is a beast but he is different. But then, so is Kimri.
A read well worth taking the time over!
A NetGalley ARC

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

'...we're Fangborn...Vampires...who clean blood and heal.'

Seven Kinds of Hell (A Fangborn Novel) by Dana Cameron

Zoe was cataloguing a collector's box of objects for the museum she worked for when she was called to her mother's hospital bedside. Who knew that absent mindedly pocketing the cheap tourist pottery figurine from the box would bring more than the museum authorities down upon her head. 
Having been on the run from with her mother from her father's family her mother's death gives Zoe more questions than answers. Old loves and valued friends are in turn endangered and dangerous.
Zoe does discover that she is not going mad but part of a select group of beings called the Fangborn.

Against her inclinations, driven by fear for those she loves, confused by what is happening around her, Zoe is drawn into a maelstrom of action and emotion, of violence and kidnapping. Pandora's box is truly opened.
As an aside, I found the archaeological detailing quite interesting and a great platform for Zoe's story.

A NetGalley ARC

...arson and old lace, or rather, explosive steampunk deeds!

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

Three young women, all assistants for men of modernity in the Victorian era. All different--the yin to each other's yan.
My interest was certainly piqued from opening scene with Cora Bell who likes explosions!

Then fetching her boss Lord White from an opium den was an interesting Sherlock Holmes type touch. Nellie is an assistant to an  illusionist. Michiko ia a samurai trained assistant to a overbearing weapons expert, trying to steer the warrior's path.
A footman forces his attentions on Nellie, Cora comes to her assistance and then enroute via a stem engine they come across an unconscious Michikol, and a decapitated body.
And this is only the opening scenes. The encore is so much more in this steampunk, action  adventure. Enjoyable!

A NetGalley ARC

...nordic noir at its best!

Nights of Awe by Harri Nykanen

I am continuing my love affair with mystery writers of the far north. I have to say  I thoroughly enjoy the Scandinavian or Nordic Noir mystery genre! The dark side is always just under the surface. A frisson that burns through and creates that indefinable tempo that one comes to recognize and appreciate--demand even. From the personification of  Mankell's Wallender, to Stieg Larsson's  Blomkvist and Salander,  James Thompson's Karri Varra and now, for me, Harri Nykanen 's Kafla.
I loved this story of detective Ari Kafla struggling with a murder investigation that flows from train deaths to drug hits, with a touch of terrorism and Mossad as a side dish.

Jewish detective Ari Kafla finds tentacles stretching back into his family, into his synagogue relations, even ambassadorial connections, all confronting him with choices of family and  faith, his loyalty to all and duty as a detective.
Kafla's inner struggles strengthen the story. An excellent read.

Friday, May 24, 2013

'A young woman concealing a pistol a loaded pistol about her person. 'Whatever is the world coming to, I wonder!'

...thus exclaims Lord Gordon in The Battling Bluestocking by Amanda Scott, to his sister-in-law Jessica, after she foils a highway robbery attempt.
A lady spinster too quick to lose her temper with a certain inflexibility in thinking.  She is always right!  When Jessica Sutton-Drew meets the handsome and wealthy  magistrate Sir Brian Gregory this becomes evident.              
Her shooting of a highwayman is a key turning point. This nexus opens up the many twists and turns to come in both Jessica's relationships and perceptions, and in the actions of others. These subplots strengthen the storyline.
Because of Jessica's Aunt Susan's interest in social issues we are treated to a range of conditions and laws of the time from  mining to slavery. 
I must say that the emotions stirred  by Sir Brian's distancing himself from Jessica were palpable. I was quite cross with him!
All in all, we are treated to an appealing story that reveals a wealth of fascinating information about the intricacies of the laws and politics of Regency times. All of which appear well researched. 

A NetGalley ARC

1666 and all that!

A Murder at Rosamund's Gate (Lucy Campion Mysteries) by Susanna Calkins

Murder most foul wraps it arms around servant girl Lucy , her family and her 'family' at her master's house. Lucy 's master is a magistrate. 
Two young women have been found murdered. The situations of their deaths appear to link them. 
Then Lucy's best friend and fellow servant Bessie is found murdered. 
Lucy's brother Will, Bessie's sweet heart is taken to Newgate to be tried. Lucy knows that Will is innocent. But what of the master's son Adam. He hides many secrets and on top of that Lucy spies him at the murder site stealthily pocketing something. But there are others who are linked to all three women.
With the Great Plague and The Great Fire of London as the backdrop, this is a fascinating story of murder told against the everyday life of the times. And of one young woman's struggle in extraordinary times under extraordinary circumstances.

A NetGalley ARC

'this was an ending beyond death'

The Narrowing Path by David J. Normoyle.                                           

There were four ascor families. After this atrocity there were only three. Family Bellanger had committed mass suicide. One of the cornerstones of the society was gone. 
Amidst the bodies, however one scrawny baby survived. This is his story--Bowe Bellanger, at his time of initiation towards Death or Survival.     
With the betting odds against,  him Bowe steps out into the testing of the Green Path, to fight for the reward of staying alive during the Infernam, a time of unbearable heat, when the few the chosen go to the Refuge to await the turning of the sun. Failure means being left outside, condemned to a n horrific death. Only a handful are Chosen.    
Bowe questions the Green Path. Is it just 'a glorified game in which boys are encouraged to kill each other?'
The Guardians were elected to mind all of Arcandis society-- the wealthy and the poor. The Green Path should've ensured that only the best sons became ascor.  What had gone wrong?
In questioning, Bowe questions the ascor way of life,  asking if worth can only be measured and forged through the path? Is survival of the fittest the only way? What is harmony? What is power? The  questions themselves are powerful  and as Bowe debates internally the reader is drawn into the debate. Bowe unwittingly becomes an agent of change. A spotlight on the Arcandis way of life.
An interesting and thought provoking read. Can't wait for the rest of the series. A recommended YA novel.                    

A NetGalley ARC

Sunday, May 19, 2013

...1913 class consciousness and the rich and powerful

Summerset Abbey by T.J. Brown

With the death of their father, Rowena, Victoria and Prudence (who has been brought up with them as a sister) are taken by their uncle and aunt to Summererset Abbey. Prudence however is treated as a lady's maid much to the discomfort of Rowena and the horror of Victoria.  In one fell swoop life changed for all three.     
Their story held my interest. I felt puzzlement and some scorn for Rowena's way of dealing with the situation, and admiration for Victoria's misguided attempts.
This is really Prudence's story and one cannot help but feel angry for her at the injustices she experiences.
Unfortunately, the  ending seemed somewhat rushed after the thoughtful building up and introduction to all the key players. Indeed I was left me wondering just what sort of life Prudence  by way of the author had been rushed into.  I must admit that I'm left feeling a little short changed.  The quickness of Prudence's decision  (which probably adds to the drama in the rest of the series) took the story from 4 stars to 3.  And yes  I will have to read the rest of the series as it's 1913 and I'm sure all the political and social actions of the times will have consequences for the lives and situations of the various characters, and to the  series' final outcomes.

A NetGalley ARC

Saturday, May 18, 2013

...a wicked duchess, a god fearing princess and a would be hero

Fairest beauty by Melanie Dickerson   
 A different take on Snow White. Gabe is the impulsive spare heir who hies off to rescue his brother's betrothed, Sophie, whom all thought was dead.  Of course Gabe, (who is himself betrothed), and Sophie fall in love reluctantly  during the rescue process. The seven dwarves are seven woodsmen.
Romance is involved, doing God's will is central. Foolishness turns to perseverance with a neat little twist at the end.

A NetGalley ARC

...reluctant rescuee!

A Rogue's Rescue by Donna Lea Simpson
With the opening paragraph I felt I was watching a David Attenborough documentary. I swear I heard Attenborough 's dulcet tones coming through as a voice over marking the rituals of the ton in full swing, to wit,                    
 'Ingram stalked the crowded ballroom, his presence at the edge making the others nervous, like prey at a water hole that raise their heads and sniff the air to catch the scent of the black panther, rustling through the underbrush.'
Enter Viscount Ingram, a man careless of society. Present is Ariadne Lambert, a wealthy and somewhat irregular spinster. Plots and counter plots are hatched to expose a scoundrel lurking within the bosom of the ton. Ariadne has taken up the challenge to reveal this out and out bounder. Unknowingly Ingram keeps trying to save her from her folly. An amusing shorter novel just right for a leisurely read.

A NetGalley ARC

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I'll mark the play...For us, and for our tragedy (Hamlet Act III Scene II)

The Ophelia Cut (Dismas Hardy #14) by John Lescroart

A tightly knit group of friends are linked by past deeds.
All are ex-policemen. Some are connected relationally some professionally, some in business.

Indeed the relationships and connections weave like a macramé pattern.
I keep seeing the whole thing playing out in a gritty black noir crime movie with Maltese Falcon overtones—a, touch of Sam Spade, and / or possibly Paul Newman's Frank Galvin character somewhere in centre place.
It kept me on the edge of my seat and in the end I'm still not sure who dunnit!
Characters are believable with gritty undertones of long friendships.
The ending persuaded me to pause, reflect anew, and entertain thoughts that I hadn't considered, which maybe spot on, and on the other hand, far from the mark!
A jolly good and captivating read!

A NetGalley ARC

Tangled in bath--deception, dissuasion and despair

The Bath Quadrille (Bath Trilogy series) by Amanda Scott 

So a regency romp with a bit of mystery thrown in for good measure.
I must say that by the end of the first chapter I was ready to throw up my hands in despair and walk away from our heroine Sybilla. She can be appealing but mostly she's stubborn and annoying. If I'd been Lord Ramsbury (Ned) I would have walked away long ago. Mind you he's no 'walk in the park' either.

Might I say that Sybilla's whole family's cracked. Sybilla's brother Brandon's bear escapades only went from bad to worse. I wanted to buy him his colors or whatever it is they used to do with self-centred arrogant brats like him.
Fathers obviously gave difficulties and are selfish and self-centred on both sides of Ned and Sybilla's family. This in part contributes to the personas of Sybilla and Ned and the behaviours of their respective family members.
I liked the character of Sydney Saint-Denis, Sybilla's 'cicisbei', from the start--mysterious gentleman that he is, with a seemingly languid cover, but able to move quickly if needed. Charming and interesting, for me, he stole a good chunk of the limelight. As he appears again in another Bath Trilogy novel, The Bath Charade (The Bath Trilogy), I'm quite delighted and look forward to seeing who he is.
Then there's the catching of the mysterious letter writer asking for monies. This person's identity had wandered across my thoughts which I had dismissed as too far fetched. That intuit proved to be correct.
The story is mostly inhabited by likeable characters who display more depth as situations develop. Wisps of Georgette Heyer float around the plot line but didn't quite solidify with the same certitude.

A NetGalley ARC

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Is Red the new black?

Well! It doesn't show the blood and gore!
Deadly Sting (Elemental Assassin) by Jennifer Estep is my first foray into the Elemental Assassin series.    Was I starting behind the eight ball? Should I have read some of the preceding titles? Happily, this was not necessary! I quickly fell into stepwith the various characters and their connections to each other.
At the beginning Gin muses, 'as an assassin, I'd learned a long time ago not to invest too much money in clothes that were only going to end up with bloodstains on them'.
Just as well because this night was no exception. Plenty of action, throats cut and blood flowing, amidst tantalizing plot twists and turns.
A fabulous function, a gorgeous new gown and a heist of giant proportions, all the ingredients for an occasion extravonaire!
An amusing read indeed! ...and I can go back and read more of the how's and who's to date without worrying too much about starting with the 8th book in the series.

A NetGalley ARC

'Africa...the very word conjured a spell for me.'

...so mused Delilah, and the working of the spell is mighty. (...and can I just say that this novel cast a spell over me).
As Tusker says to Delilah, 'you’ve already got a taste for Africa, child. You won't be satisfied with anything less.'

A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn   

Kenya in the 20's -- the romance, the struggle, the survival, the dark and decadent sides--all viewed through the monocle of the elite…and those few committed to the of all.
Escaping Parisian society's gossip and scandal over the suicide of her late husband, followed by her husband's family demanding the return of the family jewels, Delilah agrees to being bundled off to Africa by her mother, Mossy, and Mossy's 'court of gentleman.'
Throughout, Delilah treats us to interesting soliloquies and delivers some delightfully pertinent lines. I am quite enamored by her. To an encroaching stranger who would sit at her table se remarked, 'I can smell a wife a mile away...and you have the stink of one all over you.'
A lingering sadness strengthened by the joy of occasions intermingle in Delilah.
This is an independent woman of the 1920's finding her place.
The story won me from the first paragraph and held me close until the last. An excellent read!

A NetGalley ARC

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bother. A bit of a disappointment!

Hero of my Heart by Megan Frampton

Drugged and auctioned off at an inn to meet a half-brother’s money problems! Thus the opening scene frames the story from which all else follows. Vicar’s daughter meets rake under exceptional circumstances.

Mary's life has just been overturned by the death of her father and foul play by her half-brother. Enter an opium addicted Marquis, Alasdair, who thinks to redeem himself by saving the drugged damsel. I think your imagination can supply the rest.

The story is liberally punctuated by love scenes ranging across the countryside at various points along their circuitous, often uncomfortable journey. Traveling by horse, on foot and for a brief moment by gig, to London. More substance connecting the sexual interludes would have been welcomed.

Mary has character and so does the Marquis, the plot has promise but neither really lived up to their full potential. Still it is a story that speaks of love and redemption and that may be quite enough.

A NetGalley ARC