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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, August 29, 2013

Elantra stories! I read and reread them and rejoice in their being.

Cast in Sorrow  (The Chronicles of Elantra #9) by Michelle Sagara

Returning to the Chronicles of Elantra and life with Private Kaylin Neya is a privilege and a joy. As I was reading this it once more occurred to me that our writers are the Bards of yesteryear, opening our eyes, enabling us to see through their eyes  into the worlds they create. To be able to see what Sagara sees, look through her eyes into the world of Elantra and of Kaylin is fantastic and a reader's delight. Thank you.

In Cast in Sorrow we continue on from Cast in Peril with Kaylin (as Lord Kaylin, a Barrani appointed title from past deeds) well and truly into The West Marches. Things are not going well, Kaylin has an unasked for duty to perform as a Lord and her healing gift keeps wanting to overpower all. Healing the Green is an imperative. She is of course accompanied by her small dragon which is both a complication and maybe a blessing, or not!

Kaylin meets a water elemental, a sheet of falling water shaped as a Tha'alani in an unexpected place. 
Along the way we learn a little more of Severn. A deep character with hidden reserves and a story yet untold.
Cast in Sorrow is in part the Barrani Hawk Teela's story and also  a treatise  about the Barrani, on nature vs nurture and environment. We come to know more about these almost immortals, their drives and challenges. The idea of the word and living words or true words is important to the Barrani as it brings them into being a and defines their ongoing positions through daunting challenges. Indeed we have seen that such words are important to all Elantra under different circumstances and guises. As the story unfolds, the darker side of Teela, the aching side is shown and we sympathize and acknowledge her at a more intimate level. Those Barrani words Kaylin keeps seeing or being given charge of, at one level, seem to represent or be an analogy for the challenges of life, on how people grow and develop. Once again Kaylin and the words on her skin are the centre part of the story, it's mystery and resolution. Not forgetting her daring, her many wonderful, messy character, her many foibles, her scrappiness, her resolution and her love.

A NetGalley ARC

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Vibrant and treacherous!

The Lotus Palace (The Lotus Palace #1) by Jeannie Lin

An earthquake! Could anything be less propitious in the pleasure area, The Pingkang li during the Tang Dynasty of 847 AD.
Well yes! A dead courtesan, Huilan, one of the Four Beauties of the Pingkang li, another body dragged from the river, a nobleman's son playing the fool, and a young servant probably too observant for her own good caught in the middle of happenings beyond her control. Add to that the suspicious new police constable Wu, and things become tense and uncertain. And so the tragedy begins!
Yue-Ying, who was sold as a child to a procurer and forced into prostitution sees her current role as a servant to the beautiful courtesan of The Lotus Palace, Mingyu , also one of the Four Beauties, as a position of safety and freedom.  So different from her previous one! She is fully aware of how quickly she could sink back into the morass of that existence.          
Yue-Ying's face is stained by a large birthmark that gives her no pretensions to beauty. However, the foolish Bai Huang, reputed to be a wastrel, sees in her quite poise something unusual, something that sets her apart.
The Lotus Palace and the Pingkang li are the backdrop to murder and treachery, to fear and revenge. It's also the setting for a love, like so many others in this quarter, seems doomed to failure.
As Lin says in her forward, 'The Pingkang li, with its dual persona of sensual decadence and refinement became the place for me to explore the many roles that women took on in society, to investigate a murder most foul and to find true love. '
Around every corner is a new surprise. A novel that hums with the life force of its characters and ancient colourful places, bringing to life to the China of old.
A most rewarding read. I had to force myself back to the now!

A NetGalley ARC

Monday, August 26, 2013

Absolutely riveting!

Blind Justice (William Monk Series #19) by Anne Perry

Having been given an ARC of  Blind Justice I decided to read as many of the William Monk Series as I could before this one. To say that I became entangled and embroiled in them to the point of distraction is no understatement. William Monk and Hester's journey along with their friends from Sir Oliver to Scruff and others is precious, a journey in growth of the characters involved and in insightful moments of reflection on life, integrity, justice, freedom and love.  The series is  well worth the reading time. Whether you start at #1 or #19,  without a doubt you will want to devour the series.

In Blind Justice Hester takes up the cause of her employees at her clinic for sick and injured prostitutes. Her employee's father has been defrauded by the church he belongs to and is now in serious debt. This seemingly worthwhile cause has repercussions that stretch back to Jericho Phillips and for Oliver Rathbone, the presiding judge and keeper of criminal evidence and child pornography left by his father-in-law that stretches into the very upper echelons of society. This double-wedged sword of guilt is used and rebounds in a way of far reaching tragedy. Just prior to this I realized that although the fraud case may have ended the complexity of the situation had so much more to reveal. After all at this stage I was not even half way through the book.
A startling and complicated novel, well told. A seemingly simple look at the legal system of the time, that explores integrity, justice, the concepts of right and wrong including those areas of grey we all have trouble grasping. A gripping, highly original novel with Perry as always continuing via her characters in questioning, probing and exposing what it is to be human.

A NetGalley ARC

So let's talk about the 'elephant in the room.' The revelations that came to light in mid 2012 about Perry's abhorrent actions as a child some fifty or sixty years ago certainly reveal evil at work. But as one reflects upon her writings and the quite tightly woven ethical questions that her characters battle with, their searching for understanding and meaning in life, the roots of their  integrity, their battles against evil, their ideals of love and freedom,  I don't think I draw too long a bow to say that such searchings have come at a cost that Anne Perry (at least in her writings) truly understands. Dare I say that compassion accompanies her characters and that that compassion and forgiveness comes from a heart knowledge. In 'Blind Justice' (location 2418) Harriet explains to Scruff, 'Sometimes there is a kind of grace where you get forgiven without paying. You don't really deserve it, so you truly need to make yourself worthy afterwards by being grateful and making an effort to change.' 
I know others disagree but I do believe in redemption and with that in mind hope that this has truly occurred for Perry. Only she and God know.

William Monk Series

Face of a Stranger #1
In which we meet Monk, Evans, Rathbone and Hester
Monk has lost his memory and 
Inflamed by refusal to stay the trial of an innocent man, Monk resigns as a lawman and turns to private investigation.

A Dangerous Morning #2

Defend and Betray #3
A tortuous case of murder, incest and child pornography sodomy.
 Monk regains more of his memory as he is called to investigate the reasons for murder.

A Breach of Promise #9
In which Rathbone is called to defend a promising architect, Hester and Monk become involved in the mystery of the whereabouts of two young girls 18 or so years after their disappearance and Monk comes to realize what Hester means to him.

The Twisted Root #10
Despair and murder once again raises its ugly head with an unexpectedly twisted ending.

The Shifting Tide #14
Monk takes a job that has him deep into the dark secrets of life on the River Thames, encounters with the River police and the crossing of this case's path with Hester's clinic for street women. A dark and disturbing episode for Monk, Hester and Oliver.
So many noble and likeable characters in this episode, Scruff the river brat urchin, Durban the noble river policeman, Sutton the rat catcher, Crow the medico type person...

Dark Assassin #15
Monk is now part of the Thames River Police. Scruff reappears, as do Sutton and Crow.
Can Monk live up to the expectations that he inherits from Durban.
Murder is once more afoot, as is the potential for catastrophe. The sewer system is being built under London, too quickly without proper research about the many underground  streams that crisscross the areas being dug, and the possibility of large methane gas buildups. Two people have appeared to commit suicide, or was it murder?

Execution Dock #16
Child pornography and sodomy, evil doings, are the centre of this story. Durban's cases have opened up a hornet's nest. Graft and corruption stretches to high places. Oliver is unwittingly involved and the truth will be hard and harsh. Scruff is centre stage and our hearts go out to him.

Acceptable Loss #17
The spectre of child pornography and who is behind it becomes even murkier--and closer to home. Arthur Ballanger is arrested, Oliver has to defend his father-in-law and that opens up a maelstrom of guilt, hurt and betrayal. What is acceptable loss?
I can't help but wonder how much of Perry's writing reflects her own terrible secret that has recently come to light. Certainly Hester, Monk and Oliver's discussions and personal reflections about acceptance and love, honour and integrity. Unfortunately Margaret turns out not to be the person we thought we knew. That is disappointing. She had so much promise and has become more banal and unforgiving than earlier stories would have led us to believe.
A terrible novel really but gripping in the ongoing stories that are centre around these three characters.

This has it all--a fascinating gem of a read!

Sometimes a Rogue (The Lost Lords #5) by Mary Jo Putney

A dastardly  kidnapping, a daring rescue alongsidetalks of love and the differences between honour and justice. The relationship between Lady Sarah Clarke-Townsend and Rob Carmichael, the Bow Street runner certainly starts with a jolt. Other nefarious deeds are waiting in the wings with the Irish fighters as central. Harrowing rides across Ireland is just the beginning.
The level of conversation between the Sarah and Rob is quite fascinating and not what one is used to in the usual regency romance. Intrigue and high adventure dog their every step, accompanied by family skeletons and family reconciliations.
Little hints concerning the stories of other of the Lost Lords has left me determined to explore the rest of this series.
I love the fact that Sarah in many respects steps outside of the bounds of acceptable behaviour, or even knowledge for women, given the times she lives in, yet the doing of, makes her a stronger, creditable and fully believable person.
Altogether enjoyable and well worth the read.

A NetGalley ARC

I read with interest that one reviewer was of the opinion that MJ's earlier books were better than these later treats. If that is so I really must track them down to compare.
Mary Jo Putney's Lost Lord Bundle: Loving a Lost Lord, Never Less Than A Lady, Nowhere Near Respectable, & No Longer a Gentleman [Kindle Edition]
I am about to read these

The Rake, originally The Rake and the Reformer (1989)
(The second book in the Davenport Family series)
I really enjoyed this. Loved Putney's comments about how Reggie came into being.
'Of all the books I've written this one is the closest to my heart.'
According to Putney, Reggie was an obnoxious jerk and drunk with, towards the end of the novel, flashes of humour. She started to wonder who he might be.

The Bargain
A cool marriage contract to a dying officer injured at Waterloo seems like the answer to Lady Jocelyn's dilemma. David Lancaster sees a deathbed marriage as the answer to his worries about his sister's future. Surprises are definitely in store.
(We meet Richard Dalton prior to his story in The Diabolical Baron)

I loved reading the Putney's 'after notes.' In fact that is a requisite before I choose the next tale. It seems to Putney's delight, her side characters develop their own strengths, intriguing her as an author, wanting to explore their off stage stories and bring them to print.   Watching these characters narratives develop seem to me to be part of the pleasure of reading Putney's novels. Certainly it is becoming so for me.  Ian Kinlock appears in three other of Putney's novels. 
In that vain I had to read her Lost Lord's Bundle, enjoying them immensely.

The Diabolical Baron to come 
(Richard Dalton's story. First book Putney published)

more Putney
Petals in the Storm or The Controversial Countess
Duke of Candover's Story

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Ah! Mac 'n Cheese! The very words conjure up for North Americans of all ages security and warm memories. The comfort food of generations, Mac n' Cheese is a symbol of our childhood, our college years, our camping trips, endless summers and cosy  winter evenings. It can be a mother's quick answer to the hungry hoards, a singleton's food grab en route to other occasions. It's food that we treasure. Be it a celebration or a pick-me-up, mac 'n cheese sustains us on all occasions. 
As Erin and Alison, restaurant owners and authors of this gem of a cookbook say in the forward, 'people of all ages and backgrounds have deep connections to our food.'
This is a treasure of a cookbook with amazing recipes, tried and true from the Homeroom Restaurant in Oakland, California. The subtitle may read 50 Simple Recipes, however these 'simple' offerings cover an amazing array of variations on the theme.  
Right from the forward I was interested (well actually from the title I was a fan) and then from the basic cheese sauce recipe, the types of cheeses to use, to the add-in ingredients, I was hooked. From Jalapeño Popper Mac to Smoky Bacon to International variations on the theme these recipes are all winners to savour and enjoy.
The recipe are clearly set out and easily followed, each suggesting the type of cheese to be used. This is serious business, the cheese selection that is best for the recipe. No just using Monterey Jack! Cheese type is pivotal!
The 'pièce de résistance' is the suggested wine and beer pairings.These add gravitas to an already superlative offering.
A cookbook well worth adding to your shelf. I'm ecstatic that its been added to mine!

A NetGalley ARC

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

the magic of this seemingly dark story grows upon you

Mirabella, known to her less than loving family as Mira, may be a wallflower but she is no shrinking violet.  She is intelligent, compassionate and not at all in the usual mode. Mira lives her life in the shadow of her cousin Bella, also called Mirabella. The poor dependent relation. And therein lies the twist of fate.
A bartered bride given over to pay a gambling debt, a family deception exchanging daughter for niece of same name, and a young woman's path opening up before her, a path of magic overlaid by a healthy dose of logic.
Dark moors, towers on the edge of cliffs, murders and mystery in the depths of Cornwall.     

Mira's first view of the castle she is to live in is dark and foreboding,
'out upon this spit of inhospitable rock there arose a forbidding tower, a stark and ominous edifice right out of a gothic novel, Nicholas's tower.'
Heathcliffe lives on in the guise of Nicholas, Mira's fiance, whispered to have murdered his fiancé and two other young woman. 
As she comes to know Nicholas, Mira is not so convinced. A magical moment had seized her when she waltzed with Lord Nicholas, 'As he guided her carefully between the other dancers, who were nothing more than softly coloured wraiths fluttering on the edges of her perception.' 
In trying to prove his innocence she puts herself squarely in the path of danger.
 Watson's turn of phrase is quite as captivating as the developing relationship between Nicholas and Mira and the more I reflected upon Once Upon a Wallflower, the more I realized how much I enjoyed it. As Nicholas tries to point out to Mira, there's magic in the small and large things!

A NetGalley ARC

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Love released!

Ah! The tangled webs woven by others and left for our various proponents to unravel.
I may have been disappointed in the first offering in this series, but I absolutely enjoyed this next offering. I smiled through the entire reading.
Hester comes alive as never before and Tiberious (Tye) is a quixotic joy of a man torn between duty and love.

Fiona is the beguiling scrap of innocence that lines are drawn around with her Scottish family trying to protect her and her English Marquis grandfather trying to take her for his own reasons. Tiberious his son is charged with her delivery. Thus the meeting of Hester and Tiberious. There are wonderful asides and moments throughout this novel that take it from merely pleasant to greatly enjoyable.
And I have to say I love the description of the wool sock in all it's abandonment. It gets to me every time and if you want to know more then you'll have to read this latest Burrowes creation.
By the way, Aunt Ariadne is a joy!

A NetGalley ARC

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A welcome addition to improving marital relationships

Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making? by  Linda Dillow and Dr. Juli Slattery

I was intrigued by this title. Indeed tackling this topic seems long overdue.   The last book I remember reading on this was The Total Woman by Marabel Morgan that encouraged things like the famous scene of greeting your husband at the door in Saran Wrap (plastic food wrap). I was hoping for something less banal and more respecting of partnering in marriage. Passion Pursuit is a far cry from such earlier books.  I was actually looking for the Christian answer to 50 Shades of Grey. Passion Pursuit is not this. It is something more. A chance for Christian women to ponder passion and sexual intimacy in their marriage. Passion Pursuit opens the door for exploring the gift God has given us.    
As the authors say, 'Sexual intimacy is a delicate and discreet subject that must be approached with candour yet sensitivity.' I feel 'intimacy' is a key word. The authors are encouraging a search beyond sexual actions, beyond the 'saran wrap' to sexual intimacy and all that those two words together imply.
One thing I really appreciated before the book began was the word of caution,  
'Passion Pursuit is not for every woman. The principles we will be exploring throughout this study apply to relatively healthy marriages...you may need additional support...' And a website is given for additional resources.
This signalled the sense of responsibility and the integrity that proved to be throughout the book.
The authors invite you to partake in a ten week thoughtful and prayerful pursuit and study of intimacy and passion. A journey well worth it.

A NetGalley ARC