Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review--The Suitor

The Suitor (The Survivors' Club, #1.5)The Suitor by Mary Balogh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been reading a lot of angsty erotic romance lately and this was the perfect break. Light and sweet, like a fresh watermelon sorbet.

The Suitor is a short story that's a set up for The Arrangement, Balogh's upcoming release. We met Viscount Darliegh in The Proposal, a blind veteran of the Peninsula War, recovering with other wounded souls at a friend's estate. Now a nubile young woman is being thrust in Darliegh's direction as a marriage prospect, and she wants nothing to do with him as she loves another.

It's a gentle story of a redemptive love, and it reminded me of so many classic Regency love stories. No pirates, dukes who are spies, rakes or rogues, just nice people finding each other and courting within the confines of The Season. I liked it, and look forward to the next book.


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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Review--The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't care who wrote it, I really enjoyed this mystery by "Robert Galbraith" and I look forward to more Cormoran Strike adventures. The whodunit kept me guessing up until the end, the characters were vivid and memorable, and the writing was excellent. The only reason I gave it four instead of five stars was the abrupt POV shifts in the middle of scenes. I know that's becoming far more common these days, but it's still something that annoys me as a reader.


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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review--A Dangerous Fiction

A Dangerous Fiction: A MysteryA Dangerous Fiction: A Mystery by Barbara Rogan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's cliched to say "I couldn't put it down!", but that's how I felt about A Dangerous Fiction. Rogan brings an insider's keen view, pulling the reader into the New York publishing milieu with all of its jealousies, intrigue, excitement and larger-than-life personalities. At the heart of the story is a woman's need to uncover the truths about her own life, even as she's the target of malevolent foes she can't identify. Danger, suspense, romance and the deep bonds of friendship--A Dangerous Fiction has it all.

(Disclaimer--I received an advance review copy of this novel from the publisher)


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Monday, July 22, 2013

Tu B'Av Sameach!



“Apparently Miss Kahn wasn’t quite as phlegmatic on the idea of
arranged marriage as I was. When her parents told her what they
planned, she immediately dashed off a vitriolic letter, informing me
that it is a new century, and she lives not in the ghetto in Europe, but in
a country founded on principles of freedom. She added she had no
intention of marrying, how did she put it? ‘A swarthy Spanish pirate of
low ways and poor prospects.'"
--Captain Sinister's Lady


To translate the post title into English, "Happy 15th Day of the Month of Av!" Why is this day different from all other days? It's the day specifically marking romance and love in the Jewish calendar.

Tu B'Av (15th of Av) is a minor festival that's grown in prominence in recent decades, largely because enterprising folks in Israel found a way to monetize it. It's now celebrated much the way Valentine's Day is celebrated in other societies, but the festival dates back--waaaaaay back--to Temple times in Judea, around the beginning of the Common Era.  There are a number of customs associated with Tu B'Av, but one of the sweetest is having all the unmarried women don white dresses and dance as a group in front of the young men. The sweet part is the girls exchanged dresses first, so the poor ones would wear the fine dresses of the rich girls and vice versa so no one would be embarrassed.

You can read more about Tu B'Av's origins and customs here. No matter what your background, it's always nice to have a special day for love, so take a moment tonight to kiss your sweetie, gaze up at the full moon, and remember romance.



Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review--Sanditon

Sanditon: A NovelSanditon: A Novel by Jane Austen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. The first 11 chapters are from Jane Austen's own hand, her final, unfinished novel. The remainder was penned by "Another Lady" in 1975, the author Marie Dobbs/Anne Telscombe. Miss Dobbs finishes the novel based on Austen's bones of the beginning, and appears to hold the mantra, "What would Jane Write?" in her mind while finishing Sanditon.

Sanditon will be enjoyed by fans of Georgette Heyer, as well as Austen fans. There's a quietly manipulative hero, a heroine of backbone and intelligence, and enough oddball characters in the tiny seaside village of Sanditon to be instantly recognizable by fans of both authors. It's a classic Regency romp, and I recommend it.


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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review--Discount Armageddon

Discount Armageddon (InCryptid, #1)Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have become such a Seanan McGuire fangirl! Her newest urban fantasy series clinched it for me when I laughed out loud at the Aeslin mice. Best secondary characters ever!

Discount Armageddon combines dance moves, monsters, zoology (sort of) and romance on the mean and grimy streets of New York as it follows Verity Price through her life as a cryptozoologist, part of an unusual family of humans dedicated to studying the things that go bump in the night.

I look forward to further adventures of the Price's and their interesting acquaintances, and would recommend this series to anyone who thinks the whole paranormal urban fantasy thing's been done to death and there's nothing fresh to say.


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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Review--The Double Cross

The Double Cross (Spanish Brand, #1)The Double Cross by Carla Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My only complaint about Carla Kelly novels is sometimes her heroines are so perky and full of goodness that I just want to punch them. Of course, when I factor in what horrific lives so many of these women have before they meet the hero, I get ashamed of myself and just enjoy the read.

Paloma Vega is a classic Kelly heroine, but the setting for this tale is the Spanish Southwest in the 18th c., an unusual setting for a historical, but familiar ground to Ms. Kelly. Her first novel was set in Spanish America, and she returns to the New Mexico/Texas area with this tale of plucky Paloma and Marco Mondragon, a government brand inspector who keeps track of cattle, landowner records, and by default ends up acting as a quasi-lawman/magistrate on the frontier.  Widower Marco wants a dog to warm his bed at night but ends up with Paloma (and a dog) and learns how to open up again and take a chance on love.

All snarky comments aside, one of the things Ms. Kelly does best is show ordinary people living lives of extraordinary grace, and that's a treat. I also enjoy how she shows widows and widowers finding love again, much as real people do.

I look forward to more Spanish Brand stories in the future.


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Sunday, July 07, 2013

Review--The Guns of August

The Guns of AugustThe Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI (2014), this Pulitzer Prize winning history deserves a re-read. Tuchman's writing grips the reader as a world marches, seemingly inexorably, to madness and war.

World War I may seem like ancient history to some, but its echoes still resonate in the Balkan conflicts, in the European economic woes, and in the violence in countries in the Middle East carved out of the carcass of the Ottoman Empire.  Anyone interested in current conflicts would benefit from learning how the world went up in flames at the beginning of the 20th century.





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Thursday, July 04, 2013

Independence Day


      Charley didn’t know anything about guns, but the sailors and Mr. Silas Stuart, the mate, seemed impressed with the speed of the “Cannies” at their stations. Naturally, they placed bets on whether the next shot would hit the barrel floating off the starboard bow.
      “They’re fast, but accuracy counts,” Stuart said. “Now, if you want to see real accuracy, watch the Americans. ‘Cousin Jonathan’ is so skinflint about outfitting ships I suspect the cost of each ball that doesn’t hit its mark is deducted from the sailors’ pay!”
      “Those Yankees will never be able to stand against our big Navy guns,” the cook said with a grin.

--Sea Change

The cook aboard the Lady Jane was wrong.   The United States Navy was able to stand against the Royal Navy's guns in war, not once, but twice within 40 years.  Each time, the young nation proved itself a force to be reckoned with.

We celebrate our hard-won independence today as John Adams said we should: "It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore."

Have a safe and patriotic Fourth of July!


Monday, July 01, 2013

Canada Day

“England’s a big place all right, but not as big as it would like to be.
Couple a years back they was all fired up over there ’bout Canada
rebellin’ and the U.S. givin’ them an assist. There was English ships
burned on the border lakes, and it looked like war all over again.”
--Smuggler's Bride

Whew!  Glad we could avoid further hostilities with England and our friendly neighbor to the north. Happy Canada Day, and here's another apology for that whole burning York incident. Things just kinda got out of hand during the War of 1812.