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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, June 26, 2014

A great finish!

Shaman Rises (The Walker Papers #9) by C.E. Murphy

The sound of Gary's voice, a little shaky reaches out to Joanne Walker (Siobhan Grainne MacNamarra Walkingstick) across the miles from Seattle,
"It's Annie, Jo. It's my wife.  She's alive."
The last words of Book 8, Mountain Echoes, resound across time and space and you just know something huge is about to go down.    

And it does!
Armageddon in Seattle? One shudders.
Who would have imagined the twists the Walker papers would encounter, that the story would end where it all began, and the pathway that Joanne Walker and her friends would travel,  as we delved into the pages of that very first book.
A truly amazing journey, where gods, shamans, spirit animals and ordinary humans battle the darkness and destruction. Some surprising revelations, some heartfelt losses.
Joanne in her white leather hero coat, her wry sense of humour, the love of her life, her car Petite and the other love of her life, her man, the luscious stalwart Captain Morrison, along with other wonderful friends prepare for a final showdown with the Master.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

...follow your star!

The Hatmaker's Heart: A Novel by Carla Stewart

A lovely story, gently told. Nellie March and her stammer, her dedication and her enjoyment of her craft grabbed me from the beginning. Her determination to follow her heart and dare to dream is inspiring. Her joy, her trials and tribulations as a hat designer, a milliner, sweeps us from New York to London and back to New York, from 1922-1923. This is a charming, and at times hard look at those competitive days of haute couture (as they are today), and the life and excitement surrounding the marriage of the Queen mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. The forays into speakeasies, cloche hats and flappers.  I can see and touch those exquisite hats that Nell crafts. The bead work and colours come alive. 
Then there's the hidden family secrets alongside the giddiness of those young things in high society. All is fascinating; as is a look at the life of employees behind the scenes, and the relentlessness of entering and the high fashion stakes. The fickleness, the desperation of the business is an undercurrent rippling in the background. Despite all, destiny calls.
Uplifting and heartfelt.

A NetGalley ARC

Friday, June 20, 2014

...pickle lovers rejoice!

Asian Pickles: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Cured, and Fermented Preserves from Korea, Japan, China, India, and Beyond by Karen Solomon

I have collected several books that give recipes for Asian pickles.
Apart from the varieties of kim chi that I adore, one of my favourite pickles has always been Chinese lemon and lime pickles. I use the lemon pickle with a very tasty Charmaine Solomon   (who is my major go to resource and is listed in the bibliography) Sri Lankan Beef Smoore recipe. I have made those pickles and given them away as presents to people who appreciate such things, including my butcher who is constantly experimenting.

Karen Solomon's recipe is slightly different to the one I have used and I am interested in how it will turn out and how I like this different approach from the one I normally use. How will it taste? Roll on enough time for the steeping process.
What I like about this book is Solomon's commitment to using 'all the pots and pans in your cupboard', and no obscure ingredients if possible. In the rare case that this happens she has provided an online source.

If you look at her other works you see that she has published single books on pickles of all the areas listed in this offering. Certainly the photographs used in these past single issues have also been used in this latest book. It would seem this is a compilation of those other 4 books. I can't judge if there is new content added.

The list of pickles is exhaustive. Certainly a book for the aficionado or the rank beginner, or like me the in between.
A great addition to the kitchen! and a great little present for like minded friends.

A NetGalley ARC

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

...well played Diana Quincy!

Engaging the Earl (Accidental Peers #4) by Diana Quincy  

Edward Stanhope, a second son, a talented musician, having been refused Kat's hand in marriage, determines to join the army, make his fortune and return home to marry his true love. 
Kitty (Kat), Lady Katherine Granville, 16 years old, knowing whom and what she wants, tries to persuade Edward to flee to Gretna Green.
Honestly, I wasn't sure here whether to applaud her here or see her a a spoilt young lady determined to have her way.
Edward, honourable and focused goes to war instead. Kat, seething with anger and hurt remains behind to become the toast of the ton.    
Six years pass and just as Kitty or rather it seems now Kat, has deigned to marry Laurie, Viscount Lawrence Sinclair, 'Sin' to his friends, Rand returns!
Now a decorated war hero, a survivor of Talavera, and having been given an earldom by the King, Kat first sights the man she has never forgotten on the occassion of her engagement to Sinclair.
Rand has not returned alone but with a Spanish woman, Elena, the Maid of Malagon, who is to receive a commendation of valour from the Prince Regent.
Rand is suffering from what was called Nostalgia (apparently this term was used still during the American Civil War and in the 1st and 2nd world war). It appears to be what we might call, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Quincy has cleverly used this condition to open up the storyline and add more complexity to the interaction between Kitty and Rand. It is a hook that invites responses.
Rand is not the only one to suffer from Nostalgia. Quincy's references to it, to the doctors who are studying it, adds an historical and emotional depth to the novel, recalling those terrible battles of the times, such as the Battle of Talavera, (Peninsular wars in Spain, July 27-27, 1809 with the British troops under the command of Wellesley).
I loved the character of Elena. Known as the Amazon! She is forthright and strong. Due to her extraordinary feats, and having been acknowledged by one of the highest in the ranks of British society, she is able to stand outside the norm and be accepted by the ton. It's her exotic difference that is both condemned and applauded. So ironic! And she seems to be laughing at the ton and their games, even as she engages in them.
Elena does remind me of the character of Sharpe's true love, Teresa Moreno, (of Bernard Cornwall books and the TV series fame). Be still my beating heart!
What shall become of the wondrous Amazon Elena and her latest paramour? 
The more I reflect on this novel, the more I am caught up in the complexity behind the storyline, given the various happenings that feed into it. Laurie is another unknown quality who hides his own story methinks.  And I haven't even mentioned the canine companion, Vera.
'Engaging the Earl' is a cleverly simple title. Playing with it in the context of what happens throughout the novel, watching the interplay, the dance between Rand and Kat, it is delightfully subtle on a number of levels. 
I must admit that there are some ends that I wanted tied up. But as I have said they're other stories, that might bear fruit or might forever be happening off stage.
For this novel, love does find a way!

A NetGalley ARC

Saturday, June 7, 2014

...worth the read!_________3 1/2 stars

Nihal of the Land of the Wind (Chronicles of the Overworld, 1) by Licia Troisi 

This novel shows flashes of brilliance leavened with somewhat flat prose, as one reviewer has already said.
Perhaps it's the translation. The rhythm of reading, of the language flow, seems to move in cycles from riveting and focused to uncertain and unengaging.   
Many incidences in the novel are fascinating such as Nihal's  trial to be judged as worthy to learn magic. Even so that event seems to be a thinly veiled ecological appreciation of the expanse and joining of all things of creation. However, this meditative quality that Nihal experiences is strongly portrayed.
Juxtaposed against this is the picture of lands after being conquered by the tyrant. Lands bellowing smoke and strange things, noise and loud music bursting from taverns. No space for silence, peace and the healing of the green spaces. I kept thing of Blake's poetry and his rail against the pervasive effects of the Industrial Revolution, 'those dark satanic mills.'
Despite this I enjoyed the major characters. The story of Nihal and her trials to become a knight, Sennar and his magic, and Ido who wants Nihal to channel the energy of her anger in her fighting, to become 'a genuine individual who would be good to herself and the Overworld.'
Despite some of the challenges with the flow of the writing, overall I really appreciated the storyline and the developing character of Nihal as she faces her own fears and ghosts from the past, as she begins to mature. I look forward to the next episode.

A NetGalley ARC

...delightful eccentricity lives on!

Twelfth Night (A Lady Julia Mystery #6.5) by Deanna Raybourn

It's Christmas time and a baby has been left in the stables at Bellmont Abbey. Lady Julia is determined to solve the mystery. Julia's family is together for the annual Twelfth Night Revels performance and annual event for the villagers of Blessingstoke Hamlet. Julia's siblings and spouses are all there. Some glowering, some frenetic, others resigned. As always everything is in an uproar. We are treated to the usual eccentricity from her family, and hints of dark evilness from Brisbane's. Benedick's children play a part in solving the mystery of the abandoned baby and a further mystery of the poisoned oysters.  Oh those children! So knowing! I loved it when they talked about Aunt Hermia's home for reformed prostitutes. Perdita is a quaint, intelligently serious child. As Brisbane said, she is a perfectly exceptional child, probably like Julia when Julia was of that age. We meet Quentin Harkness, from A Spear of Summer Grass, as a child. And of course there is our's and Julia's love, the dark and mysterious Brisbane, whose gorgeousness is humourlessly dwelt upon at the beginning of this story. Brisbane is off doing his own sleuthing.
This novella, as ever captures our attention through Raeburn's whimsically and witty writing. 
A lively short story that also serves as an introduction to times to come. Julia hints to this at the very end. Hurrah! New events and happenings are waiting in the wings. 

A NetGalley ARC

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

...murder takes a hand!

Cherringham - Mystery at the Manor: A Cosy Crime Series (Cherringham ENG)  by
Matthew Costello and Neil Richards 

Sarah and Jack are back on the trail. An elderly man dies in a house fire at a manor near the village. This time an old friend of Sarah's enlist the aid of Sarah and her 'yank' detective friend to investigate the death of her patient. The despicable heirs are definitely on the suspect list. The trail however leads to strange places. Another sleepy village mystery that only takes a commute to read. The storyline and characters never faltered. I am hooked!

(copy kindly provided by the publisher for an honest review)

The saga continues

The Sea of Time (Chronicles of the Kencyrath) by P.C. Hodgell 

I could hardly wait to read the latest episode in the Chronicles of the Kencyrath.
I have loved this series from the beginning, when I fell across the first novel of the  Godstalker Chronicles, Godstalk.  

I notice that the dedication in Hodgell's latest novel is in memory of Diana Wynne Jones, another of my favourite writers. I love seeing where my interests and an author's converge.
Once more in The Sea of Time, Jame, that is Jamethiel Priest's Bane--sister of Torisen Black Lord, is being tested as a senior cadet. Jame has been sent to the Southern Host at Kothifir. It is here her brother was captured and tortured. Once more the hazing continues. With cadets from senior years playing dangerous games. Journeys and wars are only part of the story. Deserts are crossed and under the earth pathways traversed. Time plays tricks and as always the gods are once more enmeshed.. As always, confusing the situation, as they play out their  godliness in strange ways. 
Jame learns more of her brother's life, his capture and torture, as do we in the shadow of the area he was captured. Past and present intertwine as the story breaks into our consciousness. Kings are under threat. The Changes are becoming more frequent. Anything can happen. The confrontation between the Kencyr's god, the Three-faced God and Perimal Darklings, with the Kencyr's being wielded as a weapon is real. Jame has many roles to play. Characters from previous novels are met.
As others have recommended, one should begin the series from the beginning to understand the now.

A NetGalley ARC