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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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Goose Girl reimagined!



                           

Dickerson continues to take a well known fairy story and reimagine it to life in a new way. This time Grimm's tale of the Goose Girl is reborn. Lady Magdalen is to marry Steffan, the Duke of Wolfberg. This marriage will help lift her province out of poverty. En route she is forced by her maid and maid's father to exchange places. Agnes her maid will now marry the Duke. However at the Duke's castle, the wicked Lord has seen to it that his son Alexander will take Steffan's place. Men are sent to kill Steffan. Fortunately that plot fails.
Steffan and Magdalen have to find a way to regain their respective proper places and come to a mutual understanding of what love and worthiness truly is. I liked Magdalen, but Steffan left me somewhat unmoved. He certainly has more growing to do than Magdalen.
Theirs is not a straightforward path. However both Magdalene and Steffan have right, faith and endurance on their side. And after all this is a 'fairy story'.
I must say that Magdalene has far more compassion for Agnes, the maid who betrayed her, than I would have.
At times I found the going a little strained. I understand the perspective underlying Dickerson's faith based writings and applaud her for it. I sometimes felt that there was an over inclusion of Magdalen and Steffan's references to scripture and the God's will, leading to a somewhat stilted reading process that interfered with the flow of the storyline. What had all the hallmarks of being a nuanced literary endeavour just didn't eventuate to its full potential. 
Dickerson's works do however continue to break new grounds in the realms of Christian fiction specifically, and fiction more generally, and that's very promising. 

A NetGalley ARC

*** 1/2

Unusual!



                             

I thought about the word 'charming', but that's not quite right. Sorrow Marchand is not charming, she's spirited and insightful and attuned to others. Her world is not 'charming.' It is however forthright, kind and true. We really don't see much of Sorrow's interaction with the ton. What we do see is her interaction with her very unusual family--one that is certainly far from any family her fiancé, the Honorable Bertram Carlyle, has envisioned. We do see is the growth of Bertram and Sorrow's relationship into one of true understanding and appreciation, and for Bertram the coming into being his own man. Until now he's been at the beck and call of his domineering father, Lord Newton. The early arrival of Bertram's father does put Sorrow through her paces. He's a very overbearing man who's completely thrown by the menagerie that comprises Sorrow's family. There's a lot to unpack in this interesting novella about love and worth and acceptance. Again I come back to the word unusual! 

A NetGalley ARC

****

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Diabolical events unfold!

Legion (The Talon Saga #4) by Julie Kagawa


                           

Dragon twins Dante and Ember are each seeking freedom in their own ways. 
But shall the truth set them free?
Unfortunately each has a different truth and a different moral compass as to what they are willing to do for that freedom.
The wrym leader is a fright. Her plans far reaching and devastating.
A fight is looming between Talon and the order of st George, yet are they not both pawns in the games the Elder Wrym,  CEO of the Talon is playing? Dante is now the Elder's right-hand man. But 'the weight of her gaze [is] suffocating.' The Elder truly is terrifying.
Dante never feels as important as Ember and once again he's proved right. There is one piece of the Elder's plan missing. The Elder gives Dante an order,  ' “Ember Hill must be retrieved." '
But even Dante does not know the depths of the Elder's play. A move that will ratchet the situation up to a whole new threat level.
The renegades and St George cohorts are under threat.
The legion of mindless dragons, pawns in the Elder's plans are waiting in the wings, to be deployed in an all out strike against Talon's enemies.
Unexpected turns, betrayal and loss, dog the pages 
Soldier Garrett seems to be so much more--difficult I know. The accommodations that Riley makes are staggering given their initial measure of each other.
Riley is a softie underneath all that hardness, again a dragon searching for his own truth.  Ember is so much part of these two that it hurts.
The renegades find an unexpected ally. However the future of all is dimmed as this powerful phase of events unfolds.
Another triumphant addition to the series, with more twists and turns than imagined.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Marriage and more in the wild Highlands!

Hard-Hearted Highlander (Highland Grooms #3) by Julia London. 


Bernadette Holly has taken up the life as a governess after her scandalous elopement became salacious gossip for polite society. Her charge is Avaline is the daughter of an English Baron, Baron Kent. Kent is determined to marry his daughter off to Rabbie Mackenzie. The Baron wants access to the sea for trading from the dispossessed lands of Killeaven he's bought from the crown that surround the Mackenzie stronghold of Belhaire. Marriage with the Mackenzie will give him that. In a world post Culloden and the Jacobite uprising, 1750 Scotland leaves little choice for anyone. 'Scotland [was] drowning under the weight of taxes and excises.' Rabbie will marry the Sassenach for his family and their survival. 
Rabbie's heart has been broken from the day he found out his one true love Seona, was missing after the English had taken their revenge. Seona had never returned. 
Avaline is a flighty, set upon young girl with a head full of dreams and an unwillingness to face reality. But given her situation why should she? She is being married off to bring about her father's plans. Perhaps her fantasy world, her drifting through things kept her sane.
You can't help but be dismayed at treatment of women as property. Both Bernadette and Avaline are badly treated by their fathers. What happened to Bernadette when she was dragged away from her husband and her marriage annulled was truly wicked.
Of course Rabbie and Bernadette rub each other up the wrong way from the very beginning. Bernadette is trying to protect Avaline, to show her she can make choices. Avaline has other ideas. Her fear of her father doesn't help.
There were real moments of tenderness in this story between Bernadette and her nemesis Rabbie Mackenzie. Indeed, I surprised myself by my near tearful response when Rabbie comes to understand Bernadette and her story.
I did enjoy this look at two haunted people who find each other.

A NetGalley ARC

****


Startling, gut wrenching and wonderful vivid!

Beartown: A Novel by Fredrik Backman

*****



So enjoyable!


                             

The action literally hums! Not a dull moment! Gorgeous, ' enfant terrible', pirate spy and enticing lady spy masquerading as a lady's maid are unknowingly in search of the same things.
Half French, Danielle LaCrosse, has been placed by the home office secret services into the household of Viscount Rafferty Cavendish, to watch his brother Cade Cavendish.
Having lost her father at thirteen, and with her mother gravely ill, Danielle is determined to bring the villain responsible for her family's pain, Lafayette Baptiste, to justice. That conveniently coincided with the wishes of General Mark Grimaldi, head of an elite unit of English spies.
Equally Cade is determined to track down the enemy who nearly killed his brother, Baptiste!
State secrets, vengeance and love go hand in hand in this high powered, free flowing addition to Bowman's Playful Brides series. 
Danielle is a delight. Sure in all things to do with her trade, a lonely focused figure, part urchin, part seductress, totally unsure about friendships and love.
Cade is a perfect foil, the rakish, piratical, devil may care veneer, masking the pain of his past.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Tragedy, betrayal and love!



                                

Lady Claire Cavensham believed the rumours ... that she was 'cursed'. After all she had survived a tragic accident when her beloved parents had been swept away to their doom. Her first tue love had died just before their wedding. Subsequently Claire had become engaged for a third time. Now she was about to withdraw from a fourth. Yes, the curse she laboured under was well and truly alive!
Lord Alexander Pembroke blamed his best friend Lord Paul for his sister Alice's death. His determined  vengeful pursuit of the destruction of his former friend was alive, virulent and focused. And Lady Clair was now being dragged into this vortex of swirling antagonism.
When Alex saw a chance to destroy Lord Paul he took it. That destruction lay via Lady Claire . Little did he know that the pawn he was about to use could well-nigh end up destroying him.
The portrait of Alex in pursuit of vengeance is masterful. Claire is a tragic figure who courageously fights her memories and moves slowly and excruciatingly forward. Her grief is palpable and the methods she takes to confront her fears and guilt are admirable.
I did like the character of Charles the footman. His loyalty to Claire is a touching segue.
I was never sure about Alex's best friend Lord Somerton. Perhaps I'll like him more in the future as there are hints of something brewing here. He always seemed a bit wooden to me, although his advice to Alex was sound--even though Alex ignored it.
I was not entirely satisfied by the way the story slid into final resolution. It's complex plot devolved too quickly. However, as I mostly enjoyed the love tangle Alex had tied himself and Claire into by his early Machiavellian manoeuvres, I was well satisfied.  

A NetGalley ARC

****

House party games!


An amusing romance with all the right ingredients. Lord Robert Gresham is an acknowledged leader of the ton. Handsome, laconic and intrigued rather too much by the attractive Flora Jennings. 
The opening scenes of the Lord Robert acquiring a small, seemingly thoughtful dog is amusing. In fact Plato the dog is a magnificent foil and comic, all knowing, little sage--a delightful muse who becomes a center piece in the story.
Robert did not expect Flora to be a guest at the house party! After all as he had discloses to Plato earlier, he was 'not thinking about her!' And now here she is. He'd accepted an invitation to a house party to be out of her orbit.
As the novel progresses the Duke comes a long way from the man about town to the man mad about Flora. Flora is very different from the normal run of debutants, intelligent and articulate without too many clues about the rules governing society. Flora has no inclination to be taken for granted, but then neither does she want to be ignored. In fact the relationship between Robert and Flora becomes almost a quest to see who will blink first. Thank goodness for Plato!
A worthwhile regency romp with some very pleasing characters, including of course the regency Yoda dog, Plato!

A NetGalley ARC

****

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Absorbing start to a French detective series!

   

                                         


Chief Inspector Arthur Gambrelli, of the Metropolitan Police finds himself enmeshed in a murder outside of his jurisdiction. Ordered to investigate, he heads to an island off the coast of France near Toulon, and in the summer heat! Gambrelli is not pleased! Murdered is the attractive young mistress of a senior prosecutor in the Ministry of Justice, Jean Michel Bertrand. Bertrand is the prime suspect, hence the politics. Gambrelli is a wonderful character. Taciturn and talented--all hidden behind a no nonsense exterior, and Yes! I am seeing Gérard Depardieu! (I love Gambrelli's soliloquies and discussions with his dog, Odin.)
Shackled by internal politics, and the occasional incompetent officer, Gambrelli nevertheless brings the case to a shattering conclusion. Set in 1934 France, this was an intriguing introduction to a new French detective series.
The exploration of who Gambrelli is was cleverly interwoven. There are hints of an interesting past, previous cases that have caught the public awareness, a respected professional reputation behind the gruff exterior, and that maybe Gambrelli has married beyond his social strata. Oh, and he doesn't like elevators!

A NetGalley ARC

****

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Charm, mystery and danger!



                             

Unfaltering continuation of The Runaway Desires series. I must admit to guessing some of the storyline before things developed but that was fine.
This is the story of Tempest Holderin's plantation manager and close friend Edward Cary.
Edward returns to England after twenty years absence. A mystery surrounds him and his leaving England, and now that mystery will be revealed.
Half French, Charlotte Blakemore, the widowed Duchess of Langerton finds herself the focus of her stepson's anger and sworn enemy. He vows to seize back what his father has bequeathed to her. Charlotte flees the estate and finds herself without funds, alone in the middle of the countryside. Edward appears on the scene enroute to Gloucestershire, takes pity on Charlotte and rescues her. Needing a place of safety, Charlotte joins him on his journey. Of course that leads to some very interesting situations. Especially as each has there own set of secrets, which to some degree trip over each other and add a certain piquancy to the mix.
I liked both the man Cary portrays and the woman Charlotte presents.
Other Runaway Desires are referenced or make their appearance including the Tempest and Andrew Corrvans, and Sarah and Lord St. John Sutcliffe.
All's well that ends well, despite the anguished beginnings for both leads.
They found do indeed find l'amour after handwringing episodes of fate and fortune.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Brilliant, allusive and riveting!

The Shadow Land: A Novel by Elizabeth Kostova



                             

Vividly descriptive narrative flows across the pages of Kostava's work at once both musical and poetical. The opening pages draw you in. A veneer of haunting melody continues to engage. 
Alexandra Boyd has come to Bulgaria as a form of penance and a hope for renewal after her beloved brother Jack's death. Bulgaria was the place he'd always wanted to visit. A place from their childhood dreams and games.
An accidental meeting at a taxi ramp in Sofia leads Alexandra to a riveting chase and search across Bulgaria, all the time dogged by her personal loss, whilst uncovering the story of the people she seeks.  Finding an funeral urn misplaced with her luggage, shockingly affects Alexandra coming alongside as it does the memory of her own loss. This fuels the impetus for her decision to find the urn's owners. The quest  becomes paramount to all else.
This quest has Alexandra on a journey crisscrossing not only the geographical Bulgaria, but the memories of the past under communist rule and the fate of the urn's occupant, Stoyan Lazarov, a talented musician, and that of his family.
Through Stoyan's eyes in the past and his family in the present we see the enforced labor camps under Communist rule and their inhumane overseeing. We see the indomitable human spirit struggle for life when circumstances become too much for the body and soul to hold. The dark days of Stoyan's experiences are lightened by the memory methods he develops to engage a different reality, a separating from the concrete, and the awesome discipline of being somewhere other in the midst of hardship as he fights for survival.
The past is set against the present as Alexandra's journey encounters its own dangers--and joys. Alexandra 'could hear music, where there was no music.' A novel of hope!


A NetGalley ARC

*****

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Tender and true--in the end!


                               

Not quite a rags to riches story, in fact almost the opposite. When two young people in a Scottish border town discover the distinct disadvantage to having a lack of knowledge about the local laws and customs, their lives change unequivocally. 
Inveterate gambler Anthony Fairfax is trying to gain enough money to pay his vowels to a London gambling house. A gentlemanly sense of duty to a damsel in distress and the looming certainty of danger to his person has him falsely declaring their marital state within the hearing of others.
A young woman, Charlotte Devon, daughter of an infamous London courtesan is seeking her lordly unknown father. Desperation has called for desperate measures.
As these two discover each other (well thrown together by chance and mischance really) and each realizes their own self worth, a charming love story unfolds.
Love reforms this gallant rogue and holds him to a steady path. Two people with telling backgrounds find the secret to overcoming their pasts.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A love story with a difference.



                                

It seems Alexander Savage, the Duke of Blackshire, is being stalked by someone who is seeking to make an end to him. For starters his carriage accident was no accident.
Miss Elizabeth Lacey, Beth, one of those he'd dubbed the Wilting Wallflowers some years ago is his grandmother's companion.
The Duke appears to be a confirmed rake. His sexual prowess is talked about by women in hushed tones, he's highhandedness and downright rude, and his a scars add another layer of mystery. He is a man who carries secret burdens, including the truth about his rakish ways. Having been badly burnt as a child his body carries the evidence and his heart carries the memory of the night that dashed his childhood into smithereens.
Alex loves his grandmother dearly and wants to protect her. He needs Beth's assistance. Beth wrings three wishes from him for the Dowager's pleasure. Here Beth has totally misjudged Alex's devotion to his grandmother. Not knowing his fears she sees his desire to send his grandmother out of harms way as dismissive.
Beth just can't seem to stop wanting to rescue situations and when her gaze turns to the dreadful Duke it seems that he's in need of rescuing too. But who will rescue her!
This is a light hearted read. Beth and Alex are two unique personalities, quite different characters from the norm. 

A NetGalley ARC

***1/2

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Witty, hilarious and understated. A love story with a difference!



                                

The major part of this novel takes place in the raw Scottish Highlands of 1812. Graeme, Viscount Maxton, is struggling to keep his crofters and land together. His young brothers decide to take things in hand, by kidnapping the sister of their new neighbour, the Duke of Lattimer, and coincidentally, the deadly enemy of their clan chief, the Duke of Dunncraigh. A clan chief Graeme constantly bumps up against, a man he doesn't like or trust. A bully of a man who doesn't care for his clan as is his responsibility.
Meanwhile in London, Lady Marjorie Forrester's attempts to take her place in society are not going so well. In fact she's failing dismally. So why not hive off from her house in Mayfair and surprise her brother at his coming wedding in the Highlands?
At first I thought, 'Where is this plot going?' By the end I was smiling at the daft situations that arose with those three brothers and laughing at the repartee between Graeme and Ree.
A heart warming story, with the added spice of dangerous foes, improbable secondary characters, the two leading characters with a decided sense of the ridiculous strongly attracted to each other, and three young men who just need to be handled in the right way.  
A really enjoyable read!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Masterful!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Murder and treason!

Murder in a Cornish Alehouse: An Elizabethan Spy Thriller (A Mistress Jaffrey Mystery) by Kathy Lynn Emerson



                              

Mistress Rosamund Jaffrey is such a strong character, sometimes perhaps too strong. Husband Rob balances her nicely. It's June 1584 and Rosamunds stepfather Sir Walter Pendenni is dead, possibly murdered.  His links to Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's spymaster, and Rosamund's concern about the wardship of her half-brother send Rosamund back into Cornwall, to Priory House, to act as an agent for Walsingham and to act on her brother's behalf. Her mother is part of Rosamund's fears. The old hurts and conflict between the two are ever present and vitriolic. Alongside these worries is the more personal one. Rosamund is always wondering if Rob will sail off in search of adventure, leaving her behind. Cornish pirates, smugglers and treason are a tantalizing threat hovering on the periphery. All is a giant puzzle! 'What other secrets did Priory House hide?' 
Investigations begin and bodies keep piling up

A NetGalley ARC

***

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

finding true love!



                                

Lady Louise Vivers, the Earl of Worthington's sister, is wonderful. Intelligent, opinionated and compassionate, and wanting true love like her siblings. A woman who knows her own mind. And her mind is set on her brother's friend, Gideon, the Duke of Rothwell. Their first sighting of each other is galloping down Hyde Park in the early morning mists. Louise accompanied by a massive dog seemingly straight out of the Hound of Baskervilles. (Ok, I'm mixing up my timelines for the sake of an adequate descriptor!)
On inheriting his title, Gideon has found his estates in disarray with scandal nipping at his heels, and is doing all he can to bring things around. That's not all, his father has acted strangely just before his death, running up debts and setting up a mistress.  Unfathomable behaviour that has Gideon appalled and yet his mother seems strangely detached and forgiving. 
He's determined that marrying a rich heiress is not going to be his way. He loves Louise but is unable to share his shame. Louise wants someone who will share all with her, who will let her into their life.
I must admit that I found Gideon somewhat stubborn and obtuse, stymied by his pride. Louise really has a struggle with how to respond to his lack of full communication. However all comes good.
As always I found Quinn's author's note illuminating with regards to to the situation Gideon found himself in and the practices of the times.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Hidden desires!



                              

Ivy Breckenridge is a woman with secrets. When she and Sebastian Westgate, Duke of Clare, or rather, the Duke of Desire, so named by Ivy and her friends, meet at a house party something zings. (Really, these house parties seem to be designed, in novels at least, to be hot beds of gossip and extra martial, or not so extra marital, intrigue.)
I really liked West and Ivy. Ivy on the outside is a blue stocking who holds her feelings in check, for good reason as we painfully discover. West is attracted to Ivy and even more so as he comes to appreciate, not only her hidden beauty, but her intelligence and devotion to her charity work. Ivy and West both have to come to terms with their past before they can move forward. Ivy gives in to her feelings for the Duke of Desire and in true 'carpe diem' fashion seizes the moment, more than once with West, like a thirsty woman crying for water. West finds himself experiencing feelings that he'd not known possible, but will Ivy believe him?
A very steamy continuation of the  'The Untouchables' series.

A NetGalley ARC

***1/2

Awesome resume on the camping trip!

Gone Camping: A Novel in Verse by Tamera Will Wissinger and Matthew Cordell (Illustrator)


                              

Complete with meter and in rhyme.
Stupendous! Ok, I wriggly giggly loved this! Such fun! So clever!
Took me back to my childhood. Us kids and the car packed the night before and then up and out by an early 2am morning!  Rolled from our beds into snugly places in the car. Dad always wanted to miss the traffic. 
Did I mention how much I really liked this book? 
The illustrations are lively, humouress and easily associated with.
A fun, fun  book!

So free ...
and easy to read.
A big, big hit with me
How could it not be?

This book is a treat in more than one way.
The variety of poetic aspects is a real winner. Adding amusement and vigour.
An entertaining look at the camping experience, great for kids and the kid within.
I'm rushing out to buy it for all my families with kids that go camping. And that's quite a few!
A winner!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

a mad dash through the highlands!




                             

A young Gypsy healer finds herself on horse back racing through forests, dodging trees and bullets and the English after helping a Scot she finds wounded by a musket ball in the leg on the battlefield.
Akira Ayres prides herself on her healing abilities. She knows that the Scot, Geordie is more than he seems, just by his manner and actions, and occasional mumbling so when he's feverish.
She contracts to help him to safety. Unfortunately they are pursued by an English Captain who sees the capturing of Geordie as a stepping stone to his own advancement.
Geordie, the Duke of Gordon cannot be allowed to be captured, else all will be forfeit. He has gone into battle in disguise without followers. Fighting against his English sovereign is treasonous. I really found Geordie's stance reckless, given his responsibilities towards his people.
Akira and Geordie's mad dash to safety is heightened by their growing attraction for each other.
Akira is proud of her abilities and independence, even if it comes at a price. Geordie is bound by his status and the Queen's decree to form an alliance within the confines of his social class. This seems like a relationship doomed to be less than satisfactory, at least for Akira. I found Geordie insensitive to Akira's dilemma given the few choices she has.
Not as satisfying as some previous Jarecki novels, but I still look forward to the next in this new series. 

A NetGalley ARC 

*** 1/2