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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, July 31, 2013

Riveting and passionate with intrigue and malice at every turn!

In Defence of the Queen Queen (Susanna Horenbout & John Parker #3) by Michelle Diener 

The morass of intrigue and treason that surrounds John Parker and Susanna Horenbout in King Henry's court continues. This couple is just one step away from being annihilated  by either powerful enemies, jealous courtiers, French spies or their own King.
Rumour is thatThe Frenchman is back to settle a score. Parker knew that Jean had no score to settle with him. 'The only reason a professional assassin came back kill, without payment, was because it was personal. And that meant that he'd come back for Susanna.'
But that was just the beginning. Accused by Wolsley of being a traitor, caught between a King and his Queen,  locked up in the Tower, Susanna is soon fighting for her life. With  the indominatable Parker at her side and friends and enemies changing sides the tension ratchets up as the story plays out.
The shadow of Wolsley as ever dominates, a malicious spider at the centre of this web of power and shifting alliances, of kings and crowns and inheritances. Another fantastic historical thriller in this series. 

A NetGalley ARC

Just as good third or fourth time around!

Jaran (The Novels of the Jaran #1) by Kate Elliot

Ok! I have this and the rest of the Jaran series packed away in storage from the early 90's when I first discovered Kate Elliot. A longtime fan and interested (from the 70's) in reading as much as  possible by female sci fi and fantasy writers, the chance to reread Jaran, to revisit a favourite, was just to good to be true.
Once again I really enjoyed Jaran. I love the characters of Terese Soerensen and Ilyakoria Bahktiian.
In many ways it is a young woman's search for her true self, after a painful relationship, that only increases her feelings of insecurity. Her search undertaken amongst compassionate strangers. 
Despite her position in society as the heir to her brother's dukedom, Tess a is a young woman plagued with self doubts which hide her true courage and determination. A courage and singlemindedness that flourishes within this challenging culture, so different to her own.     
A story of far flung empires, of alien domination, of resistance and intrigue, of finding love and meaning and an understanding of community and belonging, against all odds, in unexpected places. The story still zings even after so many years!

A NetGalley ARC

De-Frosting now! Awesome as always!

Midnight Frost (Mythos Academy) by Jennifer Estep

Ok!  So I ' m coming down from my latest Mythos Academy episode.
Full of surprises as always. I just love the way Gwen rescues and sticks up for the weak and the besieged. This time we have Gryphons. Yeah!
The question of Logan is of course at the forefront of mine and Gwen's mind.
Gwen uncovers secrets about her family and her father in particular. She is having flashes of the battle from Crimson Frost, and flashes of goddess encounters.
Nickodemeaus is poisoned unto death. Racing against time to find a healing plant, Gwen and her friends walk deliberately into a Reaper's trap set in a place within the high mountain of the Rockies outside of Denver, in the garden of the goddess Eir. 
Evil again shows up in the form of Vivian and Agrona.
If there's one complaint I have is that I felt I'd finished before I'd started and once again I'm wanting more of the courage and determination, and wisdom, that is all such a part of this Gypsy Girl, Gwen.
Left as usual wanting more!

A NetGalley ARC

I'm no decent gentleman!

Well the story certainly starts with a rush when the misplaced confidence of our heroine, Lady Philipa, leaves her and the reader in the middle of scenes of debauchery , leaping (well being hoisted over)walls and attacked by ruffians. Lord Ambrose Severin (our indecent gentleman) is the anguished, guilt ridden hero and Lady Philipa Latham is a headstrong, young miss, whose parents feel that she must marry, soon. Given her spurning of a previous suitor this is becoming all the more important. Of course, the fact that her parents are seemingly embroiled in extra marital affairs does colour all her actions. Mind you her mother's unbelievable actions lead to Phillipa's entangled and possibly devastating position.  

Unfortunately, the story for me did not live up to all it's early promise.
That being said, I would still recommend it as a continuation of the series and catching up with the lives of those characters that you've met in the past.
I must admit I want to go back to the beginning of the series.

A NetGalley ARC

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

'Like all of them she was fighting to live' (Caragh's thoughts as she is suffering from starvation)

To Sin with a Viking (Forbidden Viking) by Michelle Willingham

The tragic life of the Irish during drought and famine is brought to life in this historical romance set in 875 AD. The relations between Vikings and Irish is based on historical fact and interestingly portrayed
Viking Styr is seeking to inject new life into his relationship with wife Elena. He and his men sail to Ireland.

After a long and tiring voyage they land at a cove removed from Dub Lihn. The  reality of the drought conditions in this embattled part of Eire is not what they'd envisaged.
Styr is captured by a young woman, Eleanor and his men are taken by the Caragh's brother and the story follows the finding of Elena and Stry's men, and the doomed love that grows between Styr and Caragh.
Willingham says that in this historical romance she is exploring the idea of arranged marriages that don't work despite the willingness of the couple to make it succeed. And then what happens if they meet their soul mate. I think she has successfully fulfilled her aim with this novel.
A more than enjoyable read!
I look forward to more in this series!

A NetGalley ARC

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wow! An excellent read!

45 Pounds (More or Less) by Kelly Barson

So what do you do about a mother whose half your size and is always wanting to mother and daughter Weight Watchers with you?
From the opening scene of Ann being besieged by her mother to buy an orange polka dot bikini as a weight loss 'incentive' I was hooked. 
The further into this excellent YA novel the more  I was drawn into the dislocatedness of Ann's life-- her overweight life, her friendships and her negative self image.
The image of Ann trying to fit into a dress in the trendy shop is at once heartfelt and heart rendering with an overlay of humour.
The sad, sad episodes of trying to fit in, to be accepted. Battling the demon of seemingly  overweightedness  are telling. And of course the family life issues surrounding all of this.   
One of the most poignant moments is when Ann hears her little sister Libby telling her dolls that they couldn't have cakes as they would get fat.  Modelling disorders and food issues it seems is passing on down through the family.
 Dealing with the sensitive issue of being over weight, the despair and embarrassment of being unable to fit into friendship groups, into those funky, trendy clothes, of being on the outer circle, of feeling worthless--this novel tackles the issues raised with insightfulness, humour and hope. School libraries should definitely stock this!

A NetGalley ARC

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

a colourful, taut Tudor mystery, captivating from beginning to end!

The Tudor Conspiracy: A Novel (The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles) by C. W. Gortner

The Tudor court of Queen Mary springs to life in this new novel by Gortner. Descriptions of courtly life, the surrounding city of London, the conspiracies, the danger of being close to the throne, all dance off the page with realistic imagery. People and their actions come alive. The personalities of Mary and Elizabeth, the tightrope of life and death that accompanies these powerful women, the murky underbelly of courtly intrigue, are fearfully rendered and brought to life through the eyes of Brendan Prescott via Gortner's pen.   
When thrones are at stake all men are suspect and power can shift in a flash. Combatants jockey for positions and plots and counter plots swirl around the English court like sparks taking to dry tinder.      
It's 1544 and William Cecil brings news that the Princess Elizabeth is in danger from a plot hatched by the spanish advisor Simon Renard. He seeks to have Elizabeth eliminated as heir to the throne, protecting the interests of any child Mary and Philip of Spain might have, and ultimately those of the Hapsburg Empire. Cecil convinces Brendan Prescott that 'The Spanish ambassador Simon Renard had sowed fear in the queen regarding Elizabeth's ultimate loyalty to her,  using the princess's faith' as the key to her downfall. Prescott is to insinuate himself into Mary's court to foil Renard's machinations. 
Imprisoned Robert Dudley is once again in the thick of things and could bring about Elizabeth's downfall. Prescott must protect the princess at all costs. But Prescott has his own secrets to protect.
 An exciting Elizabethan thriller with just the right blend of truth and imagination. A virtuoso performance!

A NetGalley ARC

fascinating read!

Havana Queen by James Bruno

'Cuba stands shoulder-to-shoulder with North Korea as the two remaining states in the world still clinging to orthodox communist ideology'. As Colonel Marciel says, 'With those who refuse to see change coming the Cold War lives on here;' and so the spy novel has found a place to live on--Cuba!      
Agents and counter agents vie for supremacy. The FBI and CIA has trouble letting the right hand know what the left hands doing. Fidel Castro's star is  waning. But others are ready to step into his place. Riots are spreading and the Cuban people are disaffected.
Three sleeper agents are murdered at the same time, in the same way, with different guns using 9 millimetre bullets. What is the connection?
Complex plots spanning three continents spring into action.
FBI Agent Nick Castillo is in the middle of it all. Whatever 'all' is. Outcomes and goals are unclear and the headwaters murky.
'Who was wiping out Cuban agents. And why?'
Havana Queen brings that tautness we know and love in novels set during the Cold War times in Europe.   Viva la Havana Queen!

A NetGalley ARC

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Well written., suspenseful and compulsive reading!

Autumn (Dog Days) by Sierra Dean

So how do you react when you see your dead father standing behind you in the mirror of a gross rest room at a gas station? Out in the middle of nowhere enroute to Texas and her paternal grandmother? You scream!  
Lou (Eloise) is moving away from all she knows to a future that hardly seems stellar. This weird moment is all she needs to cap a move that she hates. Talk about 'horror movie right there on your TV' type realities.
Secrets surround the town of her father's birth and bizarre happenings stretching from the cursed past will become part of Lou's present.
Missing young men and coyotes are just part of a story that reaches back through generations. Lou's family, the Whittaker's being just one, intertwined with the Reynolds and the Wyatt's. Did I mention that Lou is attracted to Cooper Reynolds and being pursued by the attractive slightly threatening Archer Wyatt?
A suspenseful cliff hanger ending. I can't wait for the next novel!

A NetGalley ARC

Friday, July 12, 2013

Love undone!

Letter from a Rake (Destiny Romance) by Sasha Cottman

Millicent Ashton wanted to go home where she understood the people and the climate. Where she thrilled to the sounds, sights and smells.
For the plumper than usual, not quite  debutante, recently returned from India to the bosom of the ton, things are not going smoothly. In fact decidedly badly.

I do wonder about the nose jewel. After all there were unspoken rules about dress and decorum in Regency times. A young unmarried woman from India may not be the one to flout them. However with the unkindness Millie experiences, the non wearing of the nose ring would have been a trifling drawback.
Enter Alexander Radley, Marquess of Brooke, and brother to her newly found friend, Lucy. 
My it was a nice change to have the  manly swain smitten first. Usually it's the other way around. Kudos to the author for this diverting twist that starts a train of wryly misunderstood happenstances.
Nothing about the path to true love for these two is smooth. Indeed, it's decidedly rocky! Communiques go astray, events are misinterpreted, and love has a jolly hard time finding its way!

An amusing and pleasant read 

A NetGalley ARC

Monday, July 8, 2013

Stubborn, honourable and fallible--that Crispin, endearing and true!

It's London 1836. Trudging home in the dank mist of a moonlit night Crispin Guest attempts to rescue a man he witnesses falling into the Thames. The man's death turns from an apparent suicide to murder. Once again The Tracker turns his keen eye towards solving the mystery. Friends from the past appear, Lancaster is abroad, Geoffrey Chaucer is involved and power struggles swirl as a special council is appointed by Parliament to investigate King Richard's expenditure.
Once again a relic is involved. This time it is 'The Spear of Longinus, the Holy Lance; the spear that pierced the side of our Lord...on the cross.' It was believed to make the user invincible.  As the Lord Abbot Nicolas says to Crispin, 'You have come to me...asking about this relic and that, ..Haven't you ever pondered why the Almighty has graced you with their care?'
And surely this is a question for us to ponder about Crispin beyond the measure of this tale. 
Another exciting, reflective tale of this knight turned investigator, always on the edge of poverty, and his endearing sidekick Jack. And of those friends who surround him in The Shambles, ever offering assistance and care.
A great read and as always I am enamoured of Crispin and have already preordered the next novel, Shadow of the Alchemist: A Medieval Noir.
As Crispin and Jack develop as characters it is a pleasure to follow their lives and their relations.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

...from the frying pan into the proverbial fire!

So I received Forsaken By Others as a NetGalley ARC. As the first four novels (The Jess Haines Bundle) were available for a reasonable price I decided to purchase them to read first. By the way, just gotta love those covers!
I am glad I did. Read the bundle first that is. If I hadn't, I would have definitely purchased them later to catch up with the back story.
Vampires are part of the groups called Others in this post world 9/11 world.
Rules of behaviour for turning humans are strict. When they get broken all suffer
Shiarra Waynest is a PI turned vampire hunter, well turned hunter of those who would enslave others.
White hats are those who hate and hunt mages, vampires who sparkle, were beings, elves etc.There is seemingly no end of descriptive types of Others
The Were's included Shia's boyfriend Chaz but that's in an the earlier episodes.
Caught in an ancient battle between two master vampires, Max Carlyle and Alec Royce Shia is in danger of loosing her humanity. She is infected with lycanthropy and we live with her through her fears of being turned into an Other. Shia's distress over the possible loss of her humanity and the attitudes of her various family members are heartfelt and thought provoking analogies to other dilemmas of our human communities.
Something is definitely going on in Shia's body, but what we don't know what.
Oh, and did I mention the Magic Belt that gives her super fighting powers?

As Shia's story progresses in this 5th book Shia and Sara Hollaway (her partner and girlfriend of the mage, Arnold) are sent to by Royce to LA for safety--into the arms of a couple of crazy vampire masters, zombies, and, Oh Yes, let's not forget the necromancer magi. Known White Hats are in evidence and that has other complications. Plots within plots emerge and trouble is constantly on the horizon as all jostle for supremacy. 
As Shia so succinctly put it they, 'were in the middle of what was about to become a war zone with nowhere to hide and no way to escape.'
A 'must read' series of books and I am certainly staying tuned for the next episode.

A NetGalley ARC

Monday, July 1, 2013

another Burrowes winner!

Beckman (Lonely Lords) by Grace Burrowes

Beckman Haddonfield, Earl of Bellefonte,  is to put an estate of his grandmother's to rights. His farewell to his dying father is a poignant moment that brought forth if not a tear, a deep heartfelt sigh. 
He is a man with a past, and a future to be determined.
A curious menagerie of persons inhabit his grandmother's property, Three Springs. There's Sara, Polly and Allie. All artistic, with Allie seemingly a child prodigy. (Burrowes makes some interesting comments on child prodigies in these times in her notes.)

Then there's the  mysterious Gabriel North who reads French and dresses in the best labels, even if they are all well worn.
As Beck labours alongside this complex group of people he's found, all with dark secrets, but somehow becoming almost a family, he reflects on his companions, 'Here...he was not amongst strangers. He was with the same people day and night, he was becoming familiar with them...He was, in short, growing attached.' 
Beck's soliloquies  are rather wonderful, thoughtful,  and show a character of depth and feeling. I am falling in love with his gentleness of spirit. He wanted what  tormented North solved 'because it plagued North's soul.' Just a wonderful reading moment that stopped me in my tracks as I contemplated this increasingly sensitive character that Burrowes has created.
It does seem to me that as Burrowes writes this series, each story is amplified by and draws strength from the previous book. Her main characters portray more fully developed personas, from Darius whom I didn't much like, to now Beckman, who is far more thoughtfully rounded. Scarred from his past he is a quietly compelling character. He is very much a considerate listening soul. He is the Prodigal returned, and renewed.
Ah Yes! the story is at once complicated, simple and I loved it!

A NetGalley ARC