Monday, September 18, 2017

Review: Seven Stones to Stand or Fall

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

[disclaimer--I'm in the acknowledgements for assistance with the story Virgins in this collection]

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall will be enjoyed by Outlander fans who like the broader story, tales about the secondary characters--Ian Murray, Lord John Grey, Lord John's family, Roger Mackenzie's family and more. Lord John in particular has his own side collection now of mysteries he solves in his travels in the British Army, and I find those stories especially enjoyable. John's a good detective.

Most of these have been reprinted in other collections, but it's a pleasure to have them all together to be enjoyed again.

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Review: A Conspiracy in Belgravia

A Conspiracy in Belgravia A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I believe what I'm enjoying most about his series is its focus on the restraints on women's lives in the 19th c., particularly married women, women of the middle classes, unwed women living at home, and women without their own resources. In addition to all that, there's an intriguing mystery to solve, fun cryptography, and almost obscene descriptions of pastries.

Charlotte Holmes is a fallen woman who investigates mysteries both criminal and domestic. She does this through an elaborate ruse involving her fictitious brother, "Sherlock Holmes", aided by her companion, Mrs. Watson and various other individuals, supportive or otherwise.

We see some characters from the first novel return, there's an intriguing marriage proposal ideally suited to Charlotte, and a set-up for the next mystery. I look forward to seeing more in this series and encourage readers to start with the first Lady Sherlock novel, A Study in Scarlet Women.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Review: Blood Enemies

Blood Enemies Blood Enemies by Susan R. Matthews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Andrej Koscuisko is living a life of practicing surgery and making reparations for his work as Fleet Medical Officer for the Jurisdiction. But when he leaves his safe haven to help his former staff he finds himself in the middle of a terrorist genocidal war. Worst of all, his skills as the most qualified Ship's Inquisitor--torturer for the Jurisdiction--will be brought back into use, and it could cost him his sanity and the lives of his loved ones.

This latest installment in the Under Jurisdiction series wraps up a number of storylines from earlier novels, and gives some resolution to characters like Andrej. It's unflinching in its exploration of Andrej's need to inflict pain, the monster inside him he's worked so hard to overcome, but Matthews delivers a solid story. Many readers couldn't get past An Exchange of Hostages, the first book exploring Andrej's in the Fleet, but for fans of the series it's a satisfying conclusion to Andrej's role.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: The Wicked City

The Wicked City The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an interesting book but I'm ambivalent about reading more in this universe. There are loose ends, characters who walk on-and-off scene and some great historical detail. Part of the problem may be my coming to it in a roundabout way, having read Cocoa Beach first.

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Post-#Irma Update

The storm passed over us in the pre-dawn hours. We hunkered down (Dodi the dachshund too) in an interior room with all of our "Go!" supplies and flashlights but we were extremely fortunate. We're still getting gusts and I fear our trees are weakened from all the water and wind, but if nothing falls on the house we should get through this without trauma.

I cannot say enough about the crew at @FloridaStorms who have been broadcasting non-stop since this all began. They're based at, the multi-media operation at my alma mater, the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. I'm a former radio news director and station owner and I know how difficult and how vital radio is at a time like this. The mainstream media is who I trust in an emergency.

This is also the time when you are glad you have a strong and capable state and local government. And NOAA. And FEMA. And all the blessed first responders. One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.: "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society."

My taxes helped buy me security and peace of mind and I don't begrudge a penny of them.

In addition, it's important to know your neighbors and to support one another. We've been texting, checking on one another, offering support and electricity for those without power. Thank you, neighbors for being there for one another.

We'll get through this together. We're Floridians and we may seem crazy to the rest of the world, but we pull together in a crisis. That's #FloridaStrong!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Review: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a novel for everyone who loves novels, who understands the empowering nature of words to change lives, and for everyone who likes a good dirty story.

Nikki is a young Englishwoman of Punjabi descent, pressured by her family to do the expected thing--go to law school, marry a nice Punjabi boy (preferably one chosen by her parents), but she's living the western life in London and loving it. Searching for some extra cash and a little resume building, Nikki offers to teach a writing class, but what she finds is something very unexpected. The women--all widows--want to tell stories, and the stories they want to tell are erotic. As Nikki and the widows tell their tales they also share their personal lives, and the more they become involved with storytelling, the more Nikki learns there's an undercurrent of danger within the tight-knit community that will put her at risk.

I loved how stories helped the women learn, grow, resolve issues and come together. It appealed to me as a reader, and as a writer. This was a debut novel and I look forward to more from Ms. Jaswal's storytelling career.

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Hurricane Prep

“What should I do to prepare for the storm, Doctor?”
He still watched her, and his eyes changed. He didn't smile at her—she could not imagine that happening. Instead, his look was, if not approving, at least less censorious.
“A very good question, Miss Farnham.” He straightened up from his labors, wiped his hands on a cloth and then covered the bowl with it.
“The Magpie is a sound ship, and the captain and crew are experienced. But if I were you, I would pack a valise. It should be a bag you yourself can carry. In it, only put those things that are absolutely necessary, or those things you would preserve at all costs.”
“One bag?” Daphne stared at him. “But…but it is impossible. I could not pack everything necessary to me into one bag!”
He cocked one of those accusatory eyebrows at her. “Impossible? That is too bad. Let me tell you what will happen if the worst occurs and we have to abandon the ship: you will grab the first thing at hand and cling to it. It might be a book, it might be a scarf, it might be one of those shoes you are wearing now that will soon be unfashionable and unwearable. It will not be those items most important to you, I can guarantee it.”
--Castaway Dreams 

Hurricane Irma is out in the Atlantic, and Florida is under a state of emergency. Normally, I'd be writing on a weekday morning, but instead I headed to the store an hour ago to get last minute supplies. Early in hurricane season I stocked up on batteries, water and canned food. I already had lanterns, a weather radio, a power inverter for the car for recharging electronics, a tarp for the roof, and a large cooler chest. Oh, and a fully charged ereader that works in the dark.

This isn't my first rodeo, or my first hurricane. I've lived in Florida almost all my life, and I know when to hunker down and, I hope, when to bug out.

So today I stocked up on dog food, propane for the gas grill, more water, and bags of ice for my big freezer. I was glad I went early because almost all the water and most of the ice was already gone from the grocery store. Ideally they'll restock before the weekend when the storm's expected to hit (unless it veers off.)

I also have a "go bag", as Dr. Murray recommends. Everyone should have a go bag and a list of what else you would bring with you if you had to suddenly leave--the dog's crate, meds, family photo albums, important papers--the essentials.

I'm not too worried. North Central Florida is where people evacuate to rather than from, but we get our share of high winds, torrential rains and potential sewer flooding and power outages. It's just best to be prepared.

On that note, I'll have at least one other task before the weekend: I want to be certain I've got enough coffee ground for my French press. Last time we lost power in a storm, I realized I hadn't ground the coffee beans to get me through the crisis with my sanity intact. This time, I'll be prepared!

Monday, September 04, 2017

Review: Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Florida's a land of smugglers, land speculators, gamblers, desperadoes and settlers. It was at the beginning, it is now, and it was certainly the case during the Jazz Age. Until a devastating hurricane and the crash of the stock market slowed its fevered growth, Florida was the destination for re-inventing yourself.

Cocoa Beach has all of that, and more. It's a real page turner, full of secrets and hidden identities and characters who are not what they seem. The setting was also part of the story, the heat and humidity and insects part of the age before air conditioning and mosquito control make the peninsula habitable.

I'm going to look for more books by Ms. Williams, and if they're as good as Cocoa Beach, I'll add her to my list of authors to look for.

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Review: The Talisman Ring

The Talisman Ring The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A delightful re-read of a Georgette Heyer classic, with some true laugh out loud scenes.

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