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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

Saturday, February 28, 2015

an interesting addition to the milieu

Dauntless (Valiant Hearts Book #1) byDina L. Sleiman 

Death came quickly when King John, enraged and battling recalcitrant barons, outlawed all who opposed him.
Lady Merry Ellison's family was no exception. All were slaughtered outright on her family holdings. All except Lady Merry and the children. An unusual young woman at 15 who could shoot and tumble. She trained and honed the survivors into a group known as 'The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest.' 
Timothy Grey had ties to Merry. As a neighbour and ninth child to the Baron of Greyham they were destined to marry. That past and promise is now gone, collapsed after the killing of the Ellison's and all their dependants.
Now two years later, Merry and her group unknowingly steal a fortune in King John's taxes. Retribution is at hand, John is furious and the 'ghosts' must move camp, closer to an area of forest where Timothy is serving the Baron of Wyndeshire. Tasked with apprehending the ghosts Timothy captures a likely lad in the forest--and it looks like all Merry's well thought out plans are at risk.
The Robin Hood milieu is given a new and interesting twist. I enjoy reading how writers take that theme and give it different legs. Take for example the Hunter of Sherwood series by Toby Venables, and one of my all time favourites, The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley. 
Here, Robin Hood is referenced by Merry as Robyn of the Hode. Certain aspects of this story show thoughtful reflection--a strong female character, the changing of the relationships between what were children and now are becoming marriageable young men and women, the reign of King John and his estrangement from the Pope with the resulting effect on his people, the divine right of Kings, the place of women in medieval society. Christian themes are woven into the storyline. Given that religion is the epicentre of people's lives in these times this is appropriate. 
Certainly an interesting story.

A NetGalley ARC

...solving Bluestocking blues!

The Captain's Bluestocking Mistress (Dukes of War #2) by Erica Ridley 

Really, what a lot of fun! And the ending...surprising! As is Jane Downing, much to Captain Xavier Grey's delight, or amazed puzzlement. And oh that grey demon cat, Egui, the creature that belongs to Jane's brother! An interesting addition that makes for some hilarious and wryly entertaining scenes.
A woman of single minded determination is our Jane. She has decided to take a lover for a short time, well whilst her brother is away, to experience life, before continuing into the long and stretching road of spinsterhood. Jane considers herself a shadowy figure, hidden amongst all. 'Janeisia' she calls what happens. (Very clever!) Take any function! No-one ever remembers meeting her, she is reintroduced all the time and then ignored. People's eyes slide across her, never seeing her. So when Jane decides that enough is enough, and that she will be mistress of her own destiny, to have memories as she treads the spinsterhood path, particularly memories of intimate relations between a man and a woman, she choses Xavier.
Xavier is suffering from the horrors of war, from his particular demons, and had hitherto been drifting in a no man's nightmare land of pain and memory, and regretful self loathing.
Watch out Xavier! You are to be challenged in more ways than one!
Suspend reality and enjoy. I did!

A NetGalley ARC

Vivid and mesmerizing!

Of Silk and Steam (London Steampunk #5) by Bec McMaster 

Steaming steampunk romance along with a healthy dose of intrigue, the call of justice and dangerous politics! Politically, events are converging and coming to head. The Prince Consort is as dangerous as ever, alliance lines are being drawn between Whitechaple, the humanists and those blue bloods who are seeking change. Lady Aramina, Mina, has been cool and detached, playing a deep game, her  
devotion and friendship to the Queen, her involvement in sedition a deep and closely guarded secret.
Now, she is faced with the problem of Leo Barrons, the heir to her enemy, the man who assassinated her father. Revenge is seductive, but then so is Barrons. A darkly devastating steampunk romance that grasps you from the first page. This is a world where the costs of love is high, where danger thrums at every turn and there's a kingdom to lose. Love is dangerously alluring, thrilling. Mina is afraid of losing her self and her freedom. Trust? Now trust is entirely a different, fearfully wonderful, matter!
The storyline is tightly woven, gripping and immediately immerses you in the time and place. All is alive and real.
A ripping great yarn that held me enthralled and then sent me scurrying to read previous titles in the series. Which I've now done.! Wow! 
I don't think any of the drama was lost by entering the series at this late date. What I gained was a wonderful backlist of books to read that I launched into immediately. It was fascinating to see the referred nuances of the characters that come together in Of Silk and Steam as individuals in their own story. I am now contemplating rereading them all I enjoyed them so much. I have a favourite new author with a whole slew of wonderful new characters to fixate on. Excellent!

A NetGalley ARC

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


A Sinful Deception: A Breconridge Brothers Novel (The Breconridge Brothers #2) by Isabella Bradford

Miss Serena Carew has secrets. An heiress, with a exotic background, having been born in India. Even when we first meet her she is an enigma, aloof and gorgeous. Life swirls around her but seemingly doesn't touch her. Lord Geoffrey Fitzroy, the second son of the Duke of Breconridge sees an intriguing challenge. And that air of mystery pulls them both towards each other. A magnetic force or something stronger? Kismet?
At times, Serena and Geoffrey's conversation appears somewhat stilted and contrived. It doesn't flow. Possibly Serena having something to hide is reflected in her speech. After all constant worry overlays her life.
There is a touch of Romeo and Juliet, in that Serena's grandfather doesn't approve of those upstart Breconridges, descended as they are from the iligitimate son of a king's mistress.
Certainly the ending had me on tender hooks. I really enjoyed the viewpoint of an outsider, a somewhat scandalous figure (only in what had befallen her), breaking into the closely guarded circles of the ton.

A NetGalley ARC

...secrets and scoundrels!

Highland Guard (Murray Family #20) by Hannah Howell

With a dead husband and a cruel and truculent kinsman laying claim  to her lands, Lady Annys MacQueen calls on the one person who might help. Sir Harcourt Murray. Five years ago Harcourt agreed to Sir David's plan to beget an heir on David's wife to ensure the entail.
Five years is a long time but neither Annys or Harcourt had forgotten the passion that lay between them.
But now is now and it looks like warfare is not far off. The passion is put aside, or is it?
I must admit I 'kenned' what was coming half way through, but still an enjoyable tale although a weaker cousin when compared to the rest of Howell's series.

A NetGalley ARC

...mysterious 'til the end!

The Connicle Curse (A Colin Pendragon Mystery) by Gregory Harris 

Voodoo, a wealthy financier dead in a most heinous fashion. A wife teetering constantly on the edge of madness. Are the neighbours involved or not? Certainly a conundrum that will take all of Colin Pendragon's powers of investigative thought and action to unravel.
Ethan Pruitt is as always mixed up in the trail and Scotland Yard's Inspector Varcoe is not far behind. 
It seems that this case is so convoluted that two just might form an uneasy alliance, the detective and Scotland Yard's finest.
A tightly woven plot with the culprit hidden right until the very end.

A NetGalley ARC

Monday, February 23, 2015

...masterful, mysterious!

Dreaming Spies: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #13 by Laurie R. King 

Mary Russelll and Sherlock Holmes are once again caught up in a whirlwind of mystery and intrigue. This time the puzzle stretches to the very pinnacle of Japanese Society.
Enroute by steamer to Califonia, via Bombay and southern Japan they encounter a young Japanese woman who agrees to explain to the Russell-Holmes and fellow guests the customs of Japan. Mary and Holmes take private language lessons as well.
The story stretches from the high seas, to the Emperor's court to the Bodleian library. Intriguing, made even more so by Mary and Holmes sojourn through parts of Japan. Certainly the Japanese landscape descriptions leap off the page, colourful and intense.
A story rich with hidden depths and hinted at underlying deceptions. Take nothing at face value.
Like a complex origami sculpture new layers are revealed by the unfolding of each piece.
The inclusion of haiku lines at the beginning of each chapter draws the mind deeper into the puzzle.
The relationship of Holmes and Russell is intriguing. A rich, tightly woven adventure that continues the tradition of this uncompromising yet very human duo. Brilliant word play just adds another level of enjoyment

A NetGalley ARC

...sinister plots, magic and alternate history!

Mantle of Malice (The Tudor Enigma #3) by April Taylor 

Once more Luke Ballard, Privy Inquirer to Henry IX and a Dominus Elemancer, battles the powers of the Custodes Tenebris, magical forces of evil seeking to control England. Even as Queen Madeline is being crowned dark forces kidnap baby Arthur, the Prince of Wales and future king.
Those same dark powers seek to isolate Luke and cut off the support of his friends and associates.
Rob and Alys are dragged away to the tower. Master Dufay and the dowager Queen Anne's powers, both elemancers, seem disrupted.
Luke is blindsided by the lovely Blanche Gilbert, to the dismay of his friends. All Luke's normal caution seems to have deserted him where Blanche is concerned. A rift seems likely between him and his household and Queen Anne's maid Mistress Paige.
Luke catches the eye of powerful people, Dudley, Northumberland and Cramer.
His investigations stall, are thwarted and derailed. He comes under attack and is wounded.
Relationships are renewed and relationships are damaged. His past intrudes on the present. Luke battles on groping through the mist of misdirection and attack.
Another excellent addition to the alternative historical intrigue, the Tudor Enigma series.

A NetGalley ARC

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Intriguing space opera!

Into the Maelstrom (Citizen Book 2) by David Drake and John Lambshead 

War is on the horizon for the Cutter Stream colonies and Allen Allenson is the right man in the right place at the right time. 
If war is going to happen it might as well be more than a debacle.
The writing contains the same wry understatement that is so indicative of Drake, filled with outrageous characters who know how to get the job done, led by a mindful yet reluctant leader. Allenson doesn't want war but if war it is then do it right! Allenson collects a colorful (in more ways than one) array of personnel, mostly misfits with some dedicated professionals, along with the not so wonderful experienced bully of a colonel, Renald Buller, who on occasions just might be right, and as one of the few who has actual combat experience, has to be 'handled'.
Another wonderful space opera exhibiting humour, sardonic comments on wars, politics and human folly, peppered with Allenson's occasional moments of reflection on the flora and fauna and the startling geographical aspects of the areas he's fighting in, (recalling RCN 's Lt. Leary's interests). Along the way we are treated to Allenson's truisms of war like, 'if the enemy has only three different choices of reaction to your plans, you may expect it to take the fourth, the one not for seen in the original orders.'
And then there's the secret discovery in the Hinterlands by a research team of the now enemy, the Brasillian Navy. The discovery of a potential new fuel compound that may revolutionize space crafts, travel and more.  Hints begin to surface and interested parties come into focus.
A pleasure to read.

A NetGalley ARC

Monday, February 9, 2015


Seeker by Arwen Elys Day

Ok at first I admit I thought, 'Ho Hum, whipswords that reform themselves to be daggers or even claymores and disrupters that unmake.' Then I was caught up in the melee of the harsh lives of the trainees, in their ambitions. No time to think, just act. It's all cold and calculated, lightening directed chaos, programmed survival. It's about trying to stay alive even if your practice partner is your father. It's about attaining the goal. Quin Kincaid has been training since she was eight years old to be a Seeker.
A Seeker, a guardian of truth and justice. All that Quin has dreamed of. When the dream turns to ashes one can choose to retreat or advance, to go with the status quo or to turn aside. You may try to escape, but can you? 
Three young people training to be Seekers; Quin, John and Shinobu. What theses three choose is core to all. As the action continues our understandings mutate. We are cognizant of families vying for power, families regrouping to strike again, of justice becoming muddied by greed, where avarice, ambition and revenge can lead.
Secrets are many and deep. Secrets that gradually unfold. The greatest just maybe the secret of the athame, it's purpose and use, or misuse. 
When the action shifts to Hong Kong in the 'here and now' I found that completely believable. I could see the action being played out in the parkland behind Victoria Peak and along Victoria Harbour, under the bridges, down crowded lanes and alleyways. That's when the story came alive for me. I didn't really become 'hooked' until about here. That being said, once hooked I found myself wanting more.
And then there's the Dreads! Young Dread, Maud, must also choose. A character of interest. Indeed, I'd go as far as to say that there's a touch (just a touch, not a comparison!) of Mazalan about her. Obviously she's more than first observed. In fact Maud fascinated me right from the beginning. Way more than our trainee seekers.
Betrayal--of love, of secrets, of oaths, of sacred trusts are central. 
And really (as others have said), enough already with the Hunger Games and Game of Thrones comparisons! This is a very different work. 

A NetGalley ARC

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

...a praiseworthy smorgasbord!

The Very Best of Kate Elliott  by Kate Elliott

I have loved Kate Elliot (Alis Rassmussen) from her Jaran novels through the Crown of Stars and onwards.
I really enjoyed the collection's introduction and end essays. They are heartfelt, thought provoking and interesting. Elliott's discussion about her whys, wherefores, influences and how's of writing is fascinating. We are given a glimpse into the major factors that informed her writings.
This excellent collection showcases her considerable talent.
Set in the various worlds that form Elliott's novels, we are invited into those worlds via strong female characters caught in a variety of dilemmas, exploring their challenges alongside them. Very rewarding!

A NetGalley ARC

Monday, February 2, 2015

Attraction plus!

Jaguar Pride (Heart of the Jaguar Book 4) by Terry Spear 

JAG team investigators Huntley Anderson and Melissa Overton are two dedicated special forces jaguar shifter agents tracking an
elusive poacher of big cats who's been slipping past agents with astute regularity. This time they mean to get him. Unfortunately it seems that this time Jackson has captured a mated pair of shifter jaguars. Not only that, Huntley and Melissa find themselves suddenly having to bone up on their non existent parenting skills when their investigations come to include the couple's shifter cubs.

It's not just the shifter cubs that bring them together though, the attraction between Huntley and Melissa is undeniable. 'Smoking hot' might be more apt.  Between that, searching for the poacher, and looking after the cubs, Huntley and Melissa have their hands full.
The dialogue between Melissa and Huntley can be stilted. I liked them as characters but at times their conversation and inner reflections feel flat. They deserved to be so much more. Spear's writing here just doesn't match the depth and flow that I really enjoy in her wolf series.
I do like the clever title. 'Pride' in more ways than one! 
Despite my reservations I still had to read on to see how all was resolved.

A NetGalley ARC

Amazing and heart wrenching!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Make no mistake I was choked up with tears by the end. A story of tragedy, horror, bravery and love. Of two sisters who end up fighting the Nazi occupation of France in very different ways. Isabelle, with her devil-may-care attitude hiding her desperate need for love flings herself into the adventure, for France, freedom and for women. Vianne is thrust into her role. The epitome of the French housewife we follow her as she she endures the absence of her husband, the knowledge that he's been interred as a prisoner of war, the fight for food and survival as the war continues. The forced interment of her best friend and Jewish neighbour Rachel, the fear of the enforced billeting of Nazi officers in her home, all are fraught with anguish and danger. Quietly the wheel of life turns and she is forced to make heroic efforts to protect her family, and in the end, others.
Hannah's use of language, the ability to write so provocatively, to allow us into the thoughts and minds of these two very different sisters is powerful. We live the hardships, the fear and the moments of joy from inside. We become them for a brief moment. Two women illuminating this time from a woman's perspective. Beyond this is the story of how both the 1st and 2nd World Wars affected families down through the generations. Of their father who went to war and came back broken, unable to declare his love. The effect this in turn had on his daughters and how that drove each in different ways.
'We remain' sums much up--the final catch cry that says too little and covers an eternity for all who are devastated by the harrowing the effects that war produces. Yes we see the ugliness and horror of these times. Mostly though we see that the human spirit despite its flaws can be a beautiful, heart breaking thing. Bravo Kristin Hannah!

A NetGalley ARC

...never a dull moment!

Earls Just Want to Have Fun (Covent Garden Cubs Book 1) by Shana Galen 

From the ending of Viscount of Vice I knew we had not seen the last of that scourge of the criminal underworld Satin. Marlowe has been running with his band since forever, forever when she was someone else, barely a whisper in her thoughts and a far remembered name, the fantasy name Elizabeth.
Earls might want to have fun but Maxwell, Lord Dane, when affecting a certain ennui and ripe for a change, was not expecting to be saddled with one of his investigator brother Brook's cases. He forgot the old saying about being beware of what you ask for. A missing child, a savage underworld leader, a wildcat young female thief who prefers men's clothing and bound up 'bubbies' threaten to give him more than he can handle.
Marlowe exists in a dangerous world of theft and worse. When grabbed off the streets by Brook, bundled into Dane's carriage and taken to a ton household, Marlowe is hurled into an unreal world she cannot fathom, and yet this world prompts slivers of past memories that intrude as far off dreams, as dismissed fantasies. She knows this world is not for the likes of her, or is it? 
This is not quite Pygmalion but certainly there are those elements. A thoroughly enjoyable read.