Saturday, March 28, 2015

Welcome springtime!


I know the frozen north celebrates spring with the appearance of the first robin. For me, spring's little heralds are the hummingbirds. Two weeks ago I mixed some nectar and filled the feeding tubes. Then a week later, I cleaned out the untouched nectar and filled the tubes again. Today my patience was rewarded. When I was reading while lounging on the chaise on my porch I saw five hummingbirds come by to suck down nectar.

They're most active for the next two or three months, but I'll see a few all summer, and then come late September they'll head off for warmer climes. In the meantime though, welcome back little guys, it's good to have you buzzing by.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Writer's Life

I was at a funeral today for an acquaintance, much beloved in the community. We weren't close, but I had a great deal of regard for him and wanted to pay my respects. I realized about mid-way through the service that when it was the church-service part and not the eulogies I was taking mental notes. I'd never been to a funeral for this particular Christian denomination, so it was a new experience.

 

That's the writer's life. No matter what comes along, when it's a new experience, part of you is taking notes, in case you ever wanted to write about it in a book.

 

So now when you hear someone asking an author, "Where do you get your ideas?", you've got a partial answer. Funerals, ziplining, a ride on the New York subway, planting a spring garden, these are all grist for the writer's mill. When you see an author staring off into space and looking profound, they're writing something in their head.

 

Now you know.

Original post: DarleneMarshall.booklikes.com/post/1135005/the-writer-s-life

Review--Who Buries the Dead (Sebastian St. Cyr #10)

Who Buries the Dead (Sebastian St. Cyr #10)Who Buries the Dead by C.S. Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am so happy that this fine Regency mystery series continues to produce first rate reading. One of the great fears suffered by dedicated readers is that a beloved series will run out of steam. We've seen it happen before. Sadly, it's all too common.

But fans of Sebastian St. Cyr, Hero, and all the wonderful secondary characters can rest easy. Who Buries The Dead is an excellent continuation into the story of Viscount Devlin's unpleasant hobby, investigating strange murders and related mysteries. Sebastian's life is complicated now by the addition of a wife and son, "hostages to fortune". He can't hurl himself headlong into danger without thinking of them as well, and that can hamper his detecting methods.

Nonetheless, it's a cracking good story with lots of twists and turns and surprises. I recommend readers start with the first book and read them in order to get the full flavor of the series and an appreciation for C.S. Harris's writing.


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Monday, March 23, 2015

Celebrating National Puppy Day

It's #NationalPuppyDay to promote the rescue and adoption of pups needing a good home. We're looking into bringing another doxie into our life this autumn, but in the meantime, here's a puppy snippet from The Pirate's Secret Baby in honor of the day:

Mattie was making crooning noises to the little pup as her father talked to her, “And we will bring one of your old shifts, Mattie, and rub it all over Coquette, then put it in the puppy’s bed at our house. It will calm him and he’ll sleep better at night, because it will smell like his mother, but also like you.”
“You have owned puppies, Captain?” Lydia asked.
“I had a terrier once. Samson.”
He turned back to the dog, poking a finger under its chin and the pup jumped and fell over in delight at the new toy.
“What will you call him, Mattie?”
“See the brown patch around his eye, Papa? He looks like a pirate dog. I will call him…” she thought about it, then grinned.
“Jolly Roger! Or just Jolly because he is such a jolly little darling.”
“An excellent name for this ferocious creature, Marauding Mattie.”

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Review--Dreaming Spies

Dreaming Spies (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #13)Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I confess, I nearly gave up on Mary and Sherlock after the last couple of books. I felt the series was losing its edge and it was time to move on. However, like so many others, I'd been intrigued by references to the adventure in Japan. We finally get that story in Dreaming Spies, and it was worth the wait.

Mary and Sherlock are traveling back to England from the East in the early '20s and encounter a young woman on their ship with a particular skill-set. She embroils them in a mystery, and when their ship docks in Japan Mary and her intrepid detective husband find themselves being tested to see if they're capable of taking on a delicate task for a Japanese VIP--Japan's most important VIP, actually.

As one reader said, "You had me at ninjas." The mystery is well crafted with an intriguing mcguffin, one learns a great deal about the Bodleian Library, and the glimpse into pre-WWII Japan is fascinating.

It's not the best of the Russell and Holmes novels, but it was worth an evening's read.


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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Review--Mistress Firebrand

Mistress Firebrand (Renegades of the American Revolution)Mistress Firebrand by Donna Thorland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another excellent historical in the "Renegades of the American Revolution" series. Thorland brings the founding of the American nation to life with detail and attention to setting, and characters who are complex and prepared to risk all for freedom, honor and love.

What I especially enjoyed about Mistress Firebrand, even more than the passionate love story between the hero and heroine, was the relationship between women. Jennifer Leighton and her aunt, the Divine Fanny, live together in New York City where acclaimed Frances has settled following a scandal in England. Jennifer and Frances are both pragmatic women, women who understand that to make it in the theater world one has to be prepared to be considered little more than a prostitute. They're willing to use whatever means available and necessary to advance themselves.

British intelligence agent Severin Devere wants General John Burgoyne focused on the war, and not on young actresses like Jennifer. But his attempts to deflect Jennifer from the general's attention end up sparking something between Severin and Jennifer, a spark that threatens to turn into a conflagration that could destroy both of them.

Lushly written, evocative, and far, far more interesting than the dry stories of battles and speeches taught in history class, Thorland's American Revolution novels are sure to captivate readers who like their historical romance with some meat on the bones, rather than light and fluffy fare.


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Monday, March 09, 2015

Review--The Rosie Effect (Don Tillman #2)

The Rosie Effect (Don Tillman #2)The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Although the book contained laugh out loud moments, I couldn't help feeling disappointed by the novel as a whole. If you haven't read The Rosie Project, it's unlikely you're reading The Rosie Effect, so I'll assume you've read it. In TRP we met Don Tillman, a brilliant scientist who is likely somewhere on the Asperger's Scale, and has a life that's carefully managed and controlled. Then he meets Rosie, and that's all upended. It was charming, quirky and romantic.

Now Rosie's pregnant, Don and Rosie are in NYC, and the whole story's gone too contrived. Don gets himself into situations that are magically resolved by kindly, understanding cops and government functionaries...go ahead, take a moment to parse that...and what's more, Don becomes somewhat of a fantasy figure himself, able to solve all his friends' problems.

The book left me with a disjointed feeling of reading a novel that purports to be a contemporary but is too over the top to not think of it as fantasy.


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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Review--Sisters of Shiloh

Sisters of ShilohSisters of Shiloh by Kathy Hepinstall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All wars are brutal, but for Americans, the Civil War was the conflict that tested our nation like no other conflict has. It's a time of struggle and devastation whose aftershocks are still felt today, and the issues that led to the war are part of the fabric of our nation.

Siblings Kathy and Becky Hepinstall have joined together as a writing team to tell one small story in the greater conflict, a tale of two sisters, Libby and Josephine, who disguise themselves and leave their Virginia home to join the Confederate forces as cousins Thomas and Joseph.

For Libby, it's all about revenge for the death of her soldier husband Arden. She's vowed to kill 21 Union soldiers, one for each year of Arden's life. For Josephine, it's all about Libby. She wants to protect her sister even as she sees the obsession for revenge grow and change Libby into a person she doesn't recognize.

The two young women quickly learn war is hell, but the friendship of comrades-in-arms is like no other. The men of the Stonewall Brigade take care of one another through illness, starvation, battle and boredom. For Josephine, one friendship in particular threatens to unmask her, while for Libby the visions of her dead husband urging her on threaten her very sanity.

Sisters of Shiloh will be enjoyed by readers who like novels such as Cold Mountain, books about the ordinary people who went to war and how it changes them. It shows Civil War life in all its brutality, but there's an underlying poignancy reflecting the small acts that keep men--and women--human even in the midst of horror.

(Disclaimer--I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)


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