Showing posts from March, 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.

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…

Review--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 a…

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 dar…

Review--Dreaming Spies

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.


Review--Mistress Firebrand

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, a…

Review--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 …

Review--Sisters of Shiloh

Sisters 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 lear…

Review--A Bride for One Night: Talmud Tales

A Bride for One Night: Talmud Tales by Ruth Calderon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Calderon, a scholar and MK (Member of Knesset, the Israeli parliament), brings a fresh look to classic tales from the Talmud. This translated volume focuses especially on women and the roles they played--seductress, wife, sister, scholar and more.

Calderon's volume is thought-provoking and enlightening. It helps readers of all religious backgrounds gain a deeper understanding of how the Talmud covered every aspect of Jewish life and why the learning and knowledge continues to shape Judaism today.

I look forward to more of Calderon's writing being translated into English for a broader audience.

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Review--Half The World (Shattered Sea #2)

Half the World by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an outstanding fantasy* novel that had me turning pages late into the night. It's a continuation of the story of Father Yarvi, the prince turned adviser/minister to a ruling house in a Viking-like society of sea raiders, warriors and merchants. Yarvi plays a long game that moves many pieces on the board, including two young misfits who long to be warriors.

The novel is full of world-building and warcraft, politics and battles, but at its center is a love story of two people who complement each other in ways they never could have anticipated. It was wonderfully romantic.

There's also a kick-ass granny who'll make you re-evaluate everything you thought about old ladies and the usefulness of women past their childbearing years in a pre-industrial society.

I'm anxious now to read the next novel in the Shattered Sea, and recommend this series to readers who want a rousing good time, and writers who want to see…