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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

****