Monday, December 31, 2018

Review: Regina

Regina Regina by Clare Darcy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful classic Regency with all the elements that make this genre enjoyable. It had been sitting on my TBR shelf for far too long, and when I finally picked it up it was exactly what I wanted. Clare Darcy is a true heiress to Georgette Heyer and should be read by all Regency fans.

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Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway

The Death of Mrs. Westaway The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was good, but sometimes I found the heroine's decisions bordered on TSTL. Yes, she was desperate, but allowing herself to be housed in a room with barred windows and a bolt on the outside of the door seemed beyond what a reasonable person would do.

However, she was plucky and the story had enough twists and turns to keep me reading.

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Review: Half Past

Half Past Half Past by Victoria Helen Stone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An intriguing story about how we define our lives, and family, and the secrets that can change anything. Hannah is middle-aged and has never felt she truly fits in anywhere. It takes a trip to California to search her family's history to help her understand more about herself.

Thoughtful, disturbing, and more women's fiction than any other category. It was a good, worthwhile story with a conclusion I found satisfying.

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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Review: Past Tense

Past Tense Past Tense by Lee Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was vintage Reacher, with complicated interwoven storylines, sociopathic villains, a surprising MacGuffin, and lots of "I'm a big killing machine and you really don't want to mess with me" interactions between Jack Reacher and all sorts of ne'er-do-wells.

If you've never read the books, this would be a weird place to start. It requires a certain suspension of disbelief. But if you're a fan, you'll enjoy the ride.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Review: Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates

Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates by Eric Jay Dolin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You can never have too many pirate books (in my opinion), and this one is a valuable addition to my library. It's thoroughly researched and emphasizes piratical activity in North America, highlighting the close relationship (at-times) between government, commerce and pirates. Recommended.

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Monday, December 17, 2018

Review: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I stayed up way past my bedtime last night finishing Bad Blood by John Carryrou, a fascinating page-turner about the failed Theranous blood testing company. I remember when that start-up was in all the news, thinking that it sounded too good to be true.

It was.

Carreyrou, an investigative journalist with the Wall Street Journal lays it out like a murder mystery unfolding, how the charismatic founder Elizabeth Holmes sold her vision to her staff, to investors, to venture capitalists and Washington insiders, all of whom seemed to suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) as this shiny tech unicorn made its appearance.

If you want to read a book that will keep you engrossed and applauding the valuable work of investigative journalism, I highly recommend this one be on your reading list. Even if you're not involved in tech or finance you'll appreciate the story and the writing.

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Friday, December 14, 2018

Review: Someone to Trust

Someone to Trust Someone to Trust by Mary Balogh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading Mary Balogh is like taking a master class in characterization and dialogue, with the added bonus of a great Regency love story.

Elizabeth Overfield has been part of the Westcott saga since she first befriended Anna Snow in Someone to Love. We knew some things about Elizabeth's troubled marriage, but now the widow has her own story, and it's with a younger man. No one expects it to work out, least of all Elizabeth and Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges.

But some Christmas spirit and machinations by the Westcott clan move Colin and Elizabeth toward an unexpected-by-all romance. Sometimes in Balogh's works, it's the minor characters who shine and who you should watch--I'm rooting for Matilda to break out of her spinster mold in a future novel.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Some #MondayMotivation, pirate style

Jensen looked at him with interest. “A new pet?”

“My cabin boy,” St. Armand purred. “What else he is remains to be seen. But that will have to wait. Do you have information for me?”

Jensen sobered. “I do, but I don’t know if you want to take this one on, Matt. There’s risk.”

“Merciful heavens, a day without risk is like a day without coffee. And speaking of that, if you have some to trade I could make room in my hold.”

As they turned to go below St. Armand looked over his shoulder.

“Your orders, Woodruff, are to assist Green with anything he needs.”

Simple enough, and the crews of the two ships appeared to be on good terms. It looked unlikely that he would use his axe today. He could see the benefit of it on a vessel where it could hack through rope, wood, or men, though he shuddered at the last thought. Killing sailors because they stood between the crew of the Prodigal Son and coffee was not the excitement he wanted.

--What the Parrot Saw 

I'm with Oliver Woodruff and Captain St. Armand on this one. While I like tea in the afternoon and evening, coffee is most definitely my beverage of choice in the morning! I completely understand why the crew of the Prodigal Son might attack anyone coming between them and their coffee.

If you want to read more about Oliver Woodruff and his fraught relationship with Captain St. Armand, check out What the Parrot Saw, available for pre-order now!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Review: Dear Mrs. Bird

Dear Mrs. Bird Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A lovely and warm story of a young woman "keeping calm and carrying on" in London during the Blitz. Emmeline longs to be a Serious Journalist (she capitalizes--a lot), maybe even a war correspondent, but her first job at a real newspaper is working with an "agony aunt", a dragon of a woman who terrifies all around her and dispenses advice that's...well, it's not very helpful.

Emmeline also works shifts at the Fire Brigade, answering the phones as the crews rush out during the nightly bombing raids that target London.

This is a charming and moving debut novel about The Greatest Generation, which included those on the home front doing dangerous and vital work while struggling with rationing and nightly air raids. It's also about the value of friendship, and having an understanding listener when life hands you lemons.

I enjoyed it very much and hope to see more from this author in the future.

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Review: Lethal White

Lethal White Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wonderfully plotted, engrossing, with a cast of characters that, as is so often the case with Galbraith's writing, seem to step right off the page. The mystery kept me turning pages late into the day and had me guessing right up until the end.

We also get to see more development in the relationship--work based, but edging toward more--between Strike and Robin. It's a slow build and that adds to the satisfaction. I know Galbraith isn't a speedy writer, but these Strike mysteries are worth the wait and I look forward to another in the future.

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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Review: Seeing Miss Heartstone

Seeing Miss Heartstone Seeing Miss Heartstone by Nichole Van
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love being delighted by a new-to-me Regency author. Seeing Miss Heartstone shows that the Regency romance is alive and well, and doesn't depend on out-there plots or protagonists to be a satisfying read.

It starts with what appears to be a conventional marriage of convenience trope, but then takes off in a new direction as an epistolary novel with characters who are flawed, yet perfect for each other.

I enjoyed it immensely and will look for more from this author.

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Friday, November 16, 2018

Review: Frolicking Bears, Wet Vultures, and Other Oddities: A New York City Journalist in Nineteenth-Century Florida

Frolicking Bears, Wet Vultures, and Other Oddities: A New York City Journalist in Nineteenth-Century Florida Frolicking Bears, Wet Vultures, and Other Oddities: A New York City Journalist in Nineteenth-Century Florida by Jerald T. Milanich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A glimpse into a land of flowers that no longer exists, where fish and wildlife thrived and tourists would steam upriver on the St. Johns randomly killing alligators as they passed by. One could say it's the price of progress and development, but I enjoyed this look at where we came from.

One point in the book that's been made somewhat better by progress is mosquito control, and when we talk about the good old days in Florida it's also important to remember those were the days of Yellow Fever and malaria, so some things have improved and it's no wonder that the man credited with inventing air conditioning is honored with Florida's official statue in the nation's capitol.

I do recommend this collection to those who wish to know more about Florida's history in the Reconstruction era, and how the strides made by the federal occupation army and the free enslaved people were rolled back by corruption and racism.

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Monday, November 12, 2018

"Where do you get your ideas?" Part Deux

They kept walking and after a while the tension in Julia’s head eased and she could enjoy more of the sight of a Florida she hadn’t seen, the busy autumn world of returning northern birds and squabbling natives, staking their claims to the insects and nesting areas of the pinewoods. Washburn walked through the woods with confidence, but kept his rifle cradled in front of him. When she came up beside him, she saw his eyes were moving over the terrain, scanning it for danger. The trail was wider here and they could walk abreast rather than with Julia trailing behind.

--Smuggler's Bride 

Autumn is my favorite season for hiking in the Florida woods and I set out yesterday for an afternoon trek through San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, one of the last stands of mature forest in the state. If you've only visited Orlando or South Florida, this is a sight to see if you've ever wondered about "the other Florida."

Hiking is a good opportunity to think and clear my head, and I don't listen to podcasts or anything but birdsong as I trek along the trail. As I came through a stand of longleaf pine on the Yellow Trail I saw a white tailed deer, some lacy wildflowers, and I had a plot breakthrough for Book #9 (Working Title: Nicholas' Book). Three breakthroughs, actually, in quick succession.

For about two seconds I bemoaned my lack of notepad and pen and then it struck me: I had a computer in my pocket that makes phone calls. It also has a voice memo function! So I pulled out my iPhone and made my notes, then uploaded them to my Dropbox account for that book.

Truly, we live in amazing times. We can still enjoy a chunk of Florida that looks the same as it did when my characters trekked through it in the 1840s, and have access to 21st century tech that keeps me writing. What a time to be alive!

This is also a timely reminder that Smuggler's Bride is at Smashwords, 20% off through the end of the month!

Review: The Duke's Wager

The Duke's Wager The Duke's Wager by Edith Layton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel has long been one of my favorite Regencies and I re-read it at least once a year. The hero is unforgettable, the antagonist is wonderfully satisfying and the heroine is a woman doing her best to survive with nothing. The writing sings and the secondary characters stand out.

Ms. Layton was taken from us far too soon, but her novels are worth tracking down and reading not just for the pleasure of it, but for what amounts to a little master class in writing Regency romance. I highly recommend her work, but especially The Duke's Wager.

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Review: The Real Deal

The Real Deal The Real Deal by Lauren Blakely
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Snappy dialogue, fun characters, family dynamics and the fake boyfriend trope add up to a perfect weekend or beach read. The action is hot and the story satisfies, and sometimes that's exactly what you're looking for.

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Review: Last Night with the Earl

Last Night with the Earl Last Night with the Earl by Kelly Bowen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I very much enjoyed this tale of bullying, an artist who paints boudoir portraits, and a wounded war veteran dealing with his return home. Bowen is now on my auto-buy list as I catch up on her backlist, and I'm finding her stories satisfying. I especially liked the resolution of issues with secondary characters in this novel, the appearance of characters from other series' Bowen's written, and hope to see more of these characters advance to their own stories in the future.

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Monday, November 05, 2018

Review: Archangel's Prophecy

Archangel's Prophecy Archangel's Prophecy by Nalini Singh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are a couple things an author can do to keep a long running series fresh. One is to introduce new and interesting characters, and Nalini Singh does that very well with both her Psy-Changeling and her Guild Hunter books.

The other is to raise the stakes on your protagonists. Archangel's Prophecy will leave some readers dissatisfied but only in the sense that they'll be anxious for the next installment, and that's a good thing. Keeping the tension ramped up helps with a series about near-immortal archangels, vampires, and the mortals who love them.

There are some world building details that niggle at me--if there's no organized Western religion as we know it, would these civilizations have developed so closely parallel to our own? And, what happened to the Native Americans? Were they never a part of this world?

But, 11 novels and some short stories/novellas in, the details don't keep me from enjoying the tale. I would recommend, as is usually the case with series of this length, that readers begin at the beginning with Angel's Blood.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Road Trip!

Today for the first time in months I opened the file for Book #9, [working title] FLORIDA GOLD. I'm 8K into the story and I surprised myself's pretty good. Huh.

Since WHAT THE PARROT SAW is now in early production stages I can get back to what I was working on before. However, one of the notes I have is to take a field trip to the coast to Faver-Dykes State Park and the Bulow Plantation Ruins. Now that the weather's cooled off and the mosquitoes have calmed down that kind of hiking around in the woods is a lot more attractive. Plus, I now have a Florida State Parks Annual Pass, so it's a win all around!
San Felasco Hammock State Park

Faver-Dykes is undergoing renovation until December so I have time to plan my road trip. Maybe I'll take a couple days and stay with friends on the coast. One of the things I love about my job, as it says in my bio, is taking a day off, putting the top down on the convertible, driving to the beach, and calling it research.

But this time it's for reals, even if there are still mojitos involved at the end of the day.[g]

Payne's Prairie State Park

Monday, October 29, 2018

Gator Country

More shots rang out, going wide of where Rand stood. He stuck his head around the tree and the smoke from [redacted] gun was enough to give Rand something to sight on, and get off a shot of his own before he ducked back. The muzzle flash compromised his night vision and he waited a moment before looking back around, in time to see a silhouette at the river edge—and a darker silhouette moving swiftly through the water.
“Get away from the river, there’s a gator coming after you!”
“You can’t fool me that way, Wash—”
A piercing shriek split the night, followed by a large splash.


This was a Sunday where I needed to get away from the 24-hour news and social media cycle of tragedy and politics. I headed out to my favorite city walking trail at Sweetwater Wetlands Park, where nature and the city meet through reclaimed wetlands. It was a perfect day for a trek and I was rolling along, enjoying the wildflowers and egrets, ibis, ducks and cranes in abundance.

As I came around a bend I saw a couple stopped on the path and didn't think anything of it until I moved beyond them, said "Whoa!" and came to a dead stop. Not more than 12 feet in front of me was a massive bull gator, sitting a few feet from the path, just sunning himself and enjoying the sunshine, as alligators do.

You can see in this picture how close he is to the path. The young man in the couple said, "He's just sitting there. I don't think he'll bother us if we walk past."

"I didn't grow up in Florida and live to be this old by second guessing gators," I said. "We don't know what's going through his tiny reptilian brain. He might be thinking, 'Nice day!' or he might be thinking 'Lunch!' but I do know one thing--gators can move much more quickly than you think they can."

I told them I was doubling back to the loop cut-through. They said they'd wait a while and see if the alligator moves on, and I said, "If I hear screams I'll know you cleared the path for me."

I doubled back and didn't hear screams, so I'm guessing it ended well all around. But this is a good reminder of a couple things: 1. A prudent hiker cedes right of way to the predators and 2. If you want to read more about our Florida wildlife, get Smuggler's Bride, 20% off and on sale now through the end of November at Smashwords!

Review: Dark Tide Rising

Dark Tide Rising Dark Tide Rising by Anne Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this latest entry in the William Monk mysteries because of its focus on the men of the River Police. They're an interesting group, but one of them may have betrayed his comrades and Monk needs to figure out who the traitor is while focusing on their solving a kidnapping and murder.

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Always a weener!

Regular readers of this blog may recall that Diva #Dachshund Dodi was entered in the Halloweener Derby last year, an annual fundraiser sponsored by Climb for Cancer Foundation.

Her performance was memorable. We practiced for weeks, racing up and down the hall at the squeak of her favorite ball. She was in top form, fighting trim. Comes the day of the race Dodi is weight matched against another doxie, I'm at the finish line with treats and toys to lure her, the announcer says "Go!" and they're off like a shot.

One dachshund, anyway.

Dodi sits on her furry little butt and looks around. People are yelling and laughing and I'm at the finish line calling, "C'mon, Dodi! Treats!" and she just sits there enjoying the view.

I must admit, it was mortifying. But I was willing to try again. We signed up for the race, began our training regimen (cue "Rocky" theme...) and I knew this year she'd bring home the gold. A year older, a year more mature, this was Dodi's time to shine.

We get to the races and people remembered her. They came up to me and said, "Maybe this year your pup will run." Not win, mind you, run.

But I tuned out the naysayers. Our race comes up, I pass Dodi off to the handlers, I go down to the finish line, the announcer says, "On your mark, get set....GO!" and they're off like a shot.

One dachshund, anyway.

Dodi gets up and starts walking out the gate at the back, ambling along the way her handler came in. I'm down at the finish line calling, "C'mon, Dodi! Treats! Treats!" and she completely ignores me because clearly, she has better things to do than run on command.

But I refuse to be mortified! My pup has a mind of her own! She marches to her own beat! She's a true dachshund.

She enjoyed her puppy ice cream, we visited with the other doxies and dogs and afterward stopped at a dog-friendly big box store. The convertible top was down on a glorious warm autumn afternoon and she rocked her doggy car seat, the one that raises her up so she can see all the action.

All in all, it was a day well spent. And, after all, it was for charity (and she got ice cream) so no one's complaining.

But as we say all too often in Gator Country...."Wait 'til next year!"

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Smuggler's Bride Persimmon Cake

"Possum hangin’ in the tree, Raccoon on the ground; Raccoon say, you stingy rat,Shake them ’simmons down!”
Julia paused in her singing and frowned down at the spoon stirring through the cake batter. “Possum hanging in the tree?” Where had that come from? “Goodness, I’m becoming countrified!”
She chuckled, looking out the kitchen window at the activity in the yard. Rand was doing the morning chores in preparation for their trip to the Iveys’ farm. For a moment she watched him as she stirred, indulging herself in a fantasy that theirs was a normal marriage, two people on the Florida frontier, making a new life together.
But it was as much a fantasy as singing raccoons.

If it's autumn in North Central Florida, it's persimmon time! They're starting to come into our farmers market, a little late this year because of our extra hot summer, but I snagged a few. These are still at the ripe but firm stage and may not make it to the cakes. I also like them sliced up over my breakfast cereal. However, the season is long enough that at some point there will be cake! 

In the meantime, here's my latest version of Julia's Persimmon Cake Recipe. I'm constantly tweaking it so observant readers of this blog may see slight variations from one year to another. All are tasty and easy, because that's the only baking I do. Enjoy!

Oh, and if you want to know more about why Julia's fretting over her marriage, read Smuggler's Bride, available in ebook and print from your favorite vendor.

Smuggler's Bride Persimmon Cake

Preheat oven to 325F

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup margarine or butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice

1 cup persimmon pulp--approx. four or five very ripe Florida persimmons

½ cup chopped pecans (optional)

To get persimmon pulp: Take squishily ripe persimmons, cut in half, scoop pulp out.  Remove pithy seed area, pulse a few times in food processor.

1. Stir together dry ingredients in large bowl

          2. Cream sugar and margarine, add eggs and pulp, blend well

          3. Fold into dry ingredients (don’t overmix), add nuts if desired

          3. Pour mixture into standard loaf pan (grease and flour pan, if not nonstick model), bake one hour and 15 minutes (your oven may vary.)  Let cool on rack ten minutes, remove from pan. Freezes well.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Review: Starless

Starless Starless by Jacqueline Carey
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

A lush, gender-bending retelling of the classic Hero's Journey in a fantasy world full of gods and gifts. Khai is a young warrior, honed for a life of service as a Shadow, paired at birth to the Princess Zariya as her protector. Khai's training begins in infancy and it isn't until puberty that the young Shadow learns the truth--she was born female, but raised as an "honorary boy".

It changes everything, and nothing. Even though there's never been a girl Shadow, Khai is ready to take on her/his responsibilities and learns that an evil presence created by the gods may destroy everything, including his/her beloved princess.

Carey has brought us lesbian heroines before in her Santa Olivia novels, and a bi-heroine in the acclaimed Kushiel series. This time she delves deep into classic high fantasy with a warrior and his/her love, a quest, and a band of brothers and sisters brought together to fulfill a prophecy. Excellently done with outstanding world building and a welcome diverse addition to the fantasy realm.

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Review: Saga, Vol. 9

Saga, Vol. 9 Saga, Vol. 9 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I've said it before, but it bears repeating: If you're not reading Saga, Vol. 9, you're not reading the finest graphic novel being published now. And the graphic novel format is perfect for this tale. The combination of art and text couldn't be duplicated in a standard novel, not the way it works here.

Start with Volume 1. Read SAGA. Be blown away.

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Review: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was fun to re-read this classic by two masters of fantasy. I'm looking forward to seeing the new series on Amazon Prime, but I'll also be intrigued to see how the cast and story is updated. For example, this book had many tongue-in-cheek references to the movie The Omen, and would likely shoot right over the heads of some modern viewers.

But it was still a fun read, and highly recommended.

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Monday, October 08, 2018

Review: Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I pulled this off the library "Sizzler" (Hot titles) shelf on a whim because I'd seen it on the bestseller lists for a long time, and because my son-in-law is from Shaker Heights.

It was an engrossing read. So many of the characters struck me as people I might have known, their lives and behavior all too familiar, and yet the story unfolded in a fashion that kept me turning pages late into the night. To me, this is the hardest type of novel to write well. A story of largely ordinary people who each have lives worthy of deeper exploration.

I understand now what the buzz is about and I'll check out more books by Ms. Ng.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Review: The Governess Game

The Governess Game The Governess Game by Tessa Dare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Review: Circe

Circe Circe by Madeline Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I was a youngster, one of my favorite books was D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. I still have my copy.

That's simply my way of saying that reading a re-telling of a classic tale from my youth is not only a pleasure, but to see the myth turned around to be woman empowered and turned away from the male POV is a very special pleasure indeed.

What we know of the witch Circe comes from the classic myth told by men, repeated in The Odyssey by Homer and passed down for generations from Odysseus' perspective. Now we get to hear the other story, the story of a powerful woman born of the gods who has to navigate her way through a world of petty Olympian personalities and mortals with limited ideas of what a woman can be. I found CIRCE to be engrossing, powerfully told, beautifully written and wonderful tale of a girl who doesn't fit in, so she makes her own place. I highly recommend it.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Review: Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History

Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History by Steven J. Zipperstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was all too timely as we see a new rise of anti-Semitism around the world and what it means for Jews in the United Kingdom, the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and especially in the former Soviet Republics.

We all grew up knowing of the Kishinev Pogrom. It's still remembered during memorial services, and for some of my family from the Bessarabia region of Rumania/Russia/Moldavia it was part of our personal history. Zipperstein digs deep into the research, separating fact from myth to the best of his ability based on surviving material. Because the pogrom occurred in the early 20th c., technology in the form of telegraph lines, steamships, trains, and the modern press moved the story forward in a fashion that would have been impossible 100 or even 50 years earlier.

The hate that led to the murders in Kishinev lives on, particularly in the scurrilous writings of the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It laid the groundwork for the big lies of the Nazi era and the Stalinist regime, and continues to fuel hatred today. This is an important work of history, well worth reading so that we never forget how quickly hate can make events spiral out of control.

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Review: Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We've been asking for more diverse SF & Fantasy and Naomi Novik has brought us a fabulous tale with three strong women protagonists, set in a fantasy Russia that's far different than the traditional European settings of earlier fantasies.

Miryem is a Jewish moneylender's daughter, but when her gentle father can't collect on the money owed him she sets out to force the people in her village to pay her, in produce and chickens if not in silver. However, she becomes so successful that she gains a reputation for spinning silver into gold...and that attracts the eye of the otherworldly Staryk, who crave gold.

Wanda is the peasant girl with an abusive father and a hardscrabble life who goes to work for Miryem's family to pay her family's debts, and finds it may hold the key to her own survival and that of her brothers.

Irina is a duke's daughter with the blood of the fey Staryk in her veins, but no expectations of a HEA. However, when presented with a ring of Staryk silver, Irina's life begins to take on new shape as her fey blood calls to her across the lines dividing the Staryk kingdom from the human one.

The three women will come together because of silver and magic, and a winter that never ends, in this spin on the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, demon lovers, and the all-too-real history of Jews and pogroms in Eastern Europe. One of the best fantasy novels I've read this year, and I look forward to more of this award-winning author's work.

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Review: Portrait Of A Spy

Portrait Of A Spy Portrait Of A Spy by Daniel Silva
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A painfully moving tale of people trying to do the right thing, especially to help women who are held back by government and religious authorities. The Gabriel Allon tales are truly ripped from the headlines and catching up on them is a glimpse into recent historical events. I'm still enjoying them immensely, but sometimes they're so wrenching that I can't read them too close together. It will be a while before I'm ready for #12.

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Review: Lord Braybrook's Penniless Bride

Lord Braybrook's Penniless Bride Lord Braybrook's Penniless Bride by Elizabeth Rolls
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I liked the story and I enjoyed the characters, but I could barely read it because of the constant back-and-forth switching of POV. Within the same scene we'd jump from head to head and it made the narrative confusing and unnecessarily distracting. This is a shame, because I've enjoyed other Regency romances by Ms. Rolls and I don't recall them having this issue, or perhaps not to this degree. I'll continue to read her work and hope this was a one-off.

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Review: A Study in Honor

A Study in Honor A Study in Honor by Claire O'Dell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In an all too real, all too dystopian near future, there are still people on whom you can rely, people who have your back. People like Dr. Janet Watson and Sara Holmes.

Watson is a war veteran, scarred and damaged, unable to practice surgery with only one arm and a malfunctioning, ill-fitting bionic replacement for the arm destroyed in battle. Holmes is....Holmes. Enigmatic, elegant, owner of an outstanding DC property, in need of a roommate. And that's the beginning of the adventure as these amazing women team up to solve a mystery with broad implications.

"Holmes and Watson" is one of the most enduring tropes of the last 150 years and O'Dell has put a fresh spin on it with characters who are so very different from the traditional canon, yet bring the sensibilities we've come to cherish in these partners in crime-solving. The mystery is engrossing, the action is non-stop, and I look forward to reading more of these tales.

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Review: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun read that explores many of our classic horror villains and tropes, but upends them by making the monsters women who cooperate rather than tear things up. Goss has delved deep into literature of the macabre to bring forward characters like Mary Jekyll and her half-sister Diana Hyde (who may be my new role model) Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein and so on. However, it was especially delightful in this novel to figure out early on who the woman head of the secret society of mad scientists was. The clues were there, and...








since I'm one of the few people I know who actually read and enjoyed H. Rider Haggard, I knew it was She Who Must Be Obeyed! Great fun to see Ayesha again.

The best part of these books is how girls are getting it done. No man swoops in to save them, they figure things out and take care of it. I'm looking forward to reading more Adventures of the Athena Club!

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Happy Birthday to the Star-Spangled Banner!

“You underestimate the will of the American people, Doctor.” He poked his finger in the air for emphasis. “When you push us, we push back. Hard. John Bull cannot bully America into surrendering now any more than you could forty years ago. Have you already forgotten the lesson of Fort McHenry?”
He rummaged in his desk and pulled out a tattered newspaper, much folded and creased.
“My mother sent this to me with the letters, a newspaper from home. A Mr. Key wrote a poem about the battle, titled ‘The Defence of Fort McHenry.’ Look here—‘the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ That’s America, Charley! I won’t ask you to drink to an American victory, but you won’t mind if I have a tot?”
David poured himself some rum while humming a tune. She listened, her head cocked to the side.
“I know that tune—I heard it in the inn where I waited to board the Lady Jane. It is ‘To Anacreon in Heaven,’ is it not? I recall the people who attempted to navigate its melody often failed miserably.”
“Maybe it’s a song best attempted while drinking for the full effect. But I’m told it is now popular in Baltimore with lyrics based on Mr. Key’s poem—‘And the rockets’ red glare…’”
Charley snickered as his voice strained through the notes. “That tune will never catch on, Captain. Certainly not the way you sing! Best you stick to sailing your ship.”

--Sea Change

Charley's wrong, of course. The poem and song became a part of the American nation. Today it is still our much loved (if difficult to sing) national anthem celebrating the land of the free and the home of the brave! Happy birthday, Star-Spangled Banner!

Monday, September 03, 2018

Happy #LaborDay!

“You may have noticed I am wearing one of your shirts this morning.”
“Oh yeah,” Rand murmured. He’d noticed. Looked like she had two puppies in a sack in there, tusslin’ when she moved.
“The reason I am wearing your clothes is because the laundry needs to be done and you have not done it.”
That statement took him out of his contemplation of how much fun it would be to undo the rest of the buttons on his shirt and give those pups some air.
“I said, you have not done the laundry, Washburn.” Julia turned back to the grate to squat down and flip the cakes.
“Yeah, well, that’s your job. You’re the wife.”
She turned her head and looked up at him with raised brows. “Is that what you thought? That because that magistrate pronounced a few words over us I would take over all the domestic chores? Who did your laundry before you had a wife?”
Rand shifted and ran his free hand through his hair. “I did my laundry. But I didn’t like it!”
“No one likes it. Here is what I propose… I will continue with the chores I have been doing, the cooking and tending the garden and keeping the cabin neat. I will even do the mending. But you will do the laundry. After all,” she said dryly, “it’s not like you have a lot of acreage to plow out there.”
“No, but I do have to hunt and fish to keep food on the table. I can’t be spendin’ all day doin’ women’s work!”
“If it is women’s work, it is not work this woman ever did. At the estate where I lived there were laundresses who did the cleaning for the entire household. I can cook better than you can, but it seems to me that if you have experience doing laundry, then you can continue to do a better job than I would. Not to mention that if I am spending all my time doing laundry, then I won’t have time to make the pork pie I was planning for dinner. With persimmon cake for dessert.”
There was something wrong with this logic, Rand knew it, but he couldn’t come up with a good argument. It became even harder to think about it when Julia waltzed past him into the house carrying a plate and leaving behind an aroma of griddle cakes, syrup, and woman.

--Smuggler's Bride

Happy Labor Day to all the hard working American women and men who keep the laundry clean, the fish caught, and the persimmon cake on the table. This is your day to be recognized, and for all of us to be aware of how much we depend on the labor of others. Thank you!

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Review: Regency Christmas Gifts: Three Stories

Regency Christmas Gifts: Three Stories Regency Christmas Gifts: Three Stories by Carla Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful break from summer's heat, with Kelly's trademark stories of rather ordinary people being extraordinary human beings. They're not only doing well, they're doing good, what's called tikkun olam--"repairing the world" among those of us who don't celebrate Christmas, but still enjoy a solid, weepy love story.

Each of these tales has its own charm as lives are made better and love discovered during the holiday season. I miss the old Regency Christmas collections that used to come out each year, but it's nice to know some of the best authors in the genre continue to release their holiday best.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018


“If I climbed I could gather more gourds, and some fruit also.”
He looked at her sternly.
“There will be no climbing.”
Daphne stopped smiling and straightened her sore back, because she had been thinking about this all day.
“I am not sure I should have to always do what you tell me to do, or not to do, Dr. Murray. I know you are a natural philosopher and learned, but in America they let men vote equally, the stupid ones as well as the clever. Not that I am stupid, I am just not as learned as you are. While we are here on this island, just the two of us, we should be voting as equals, don’t you think?”
He looked at her in astonishment, setting down the gourd.
“I am amazed, Miss Farnham, that a properly brought-up Englishwoman would take the riff-raff in America as her model for appropriate behavior. No, this is not a situation calling for some anarchic form of democracy. Your vote is not equal to mine."


Be like Daphne! Get out there today and exercise your right to vote! When you're done, you can read all about Daphne Farnham and grumpy Doctor Murray in the Aspen Gold winning historical, Castaway Dreams, available in ebook and print again!   #FloridaPrimary #IVoted

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Happy #NationalDogDay!

The pups were in the scullery and Mattie sat amidst them on the floor as they frolicked about her looking like animated snowballs. Their mother watched them closely, but Daphne came over and hummed to her, scratching her behind her ear, and the dog relaxed. Coquette’s coloring was more varied than Pompom’s, as she sported dark tan ears, a pattern carried over onto some of the pups.
Most of them left Mattie to mock-fight among themselves, but one, the smallest of the litter, ran at Mattie, pounced on her gown, then jumped off. He hunkered down on his chest with his bottom in the air, tail wagging as he yipped in joyful play.
Mattie scooped the little clown up and covered him in kisses as he squirmed in her hands and tried to lick and bite at her chin. She looked up at them then, her blue eyes wide over the dog’s head.
“Oh look, Papa! Look, Miss Burke! It is our puppy!”
Lydia leaned over and said in St. Armand’s ear, “I am not going to tell her she can’t have that puppy.”

--The Pirate's Secret Baby 

Today is #NationalDogDay, though diva dachshund Dodi would assure me that every day in our
house is Dog Day. She came to us nearly three years ago as a pup from Doxie Tales Rescue, but like most owners of dogs, I believe she rescued us more than we rescued her. She keeps me moving, guards my domicile, listens patiently when I read aloud to her, cuddles and watches football with my husband, and gives us unlimited love every day.

I hope all the good boys and girls currently with rescue organizations or shelters find their forever homes, and that all of them have a wonderful life.

If you'd like to read more about Mattie and her pup, or Daphne's bichon Pompom, check out award-winners Castaway Dreams and The Pirate's Secret Baby, and look for grown-up Mattie's story, What the Parrot Saw, in 2019.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Review: A Compromised Lady

A Compromised Lady A Compromised Lady by Elizabeth Rolls
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this novel very much. A young woman with a damaged past overcomes great obstacles to find her HEA. The hero is solid, dependable, my favorite kind.

What kept me from giving it five stars though was the abrupt POV shifts within a scene. There were even secondary characters whose POV would pop up in the middle of a scene. That kind of writing interrupts the flow of my reading, and I would have enjoyed this story even more if POV was consistent.

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Friday, August 24, 2018

1814--The Burning of the White House

The next afternoon Captain Fletcher told Mr. Bryant to muster the crew and Charley joined them, standing apart from the ranks of seamen.
When they were all assembled, he looked out over the assortment of Yankee privateers and their British doctor and said, “Men, I have news from home.”
He waited for the murmurs to die down.
“I received correspondence on St. Martin that I wish to share with you. Last August, while we were at sea fighting for the rights of sailors and free Americans, the British burned our nation’s capital, Washington City.”
Now the mutters from the men were angry as they shifted their feet and looked at one another. The Americans had burned York in Canada, and Great Britain might be justified in saying it’s tit for tat to burn the Americans’ capital, but Charley just scratched her ear and wisely refrained from pointing that out.
Plus, Captain Fletcher was still speaking.
“But take heart, men, just as your countrymen did! America cannot be frightened into submission!” He waved a paper. “I have here the account of the battle of Baltimore and the glorious defense of Fort McHenry! The nation still stands strong, boys, and will never bow to tyrants! A cheer for the United States of America, and an extra ration of rum tonight for its gallant heroes!”
The men threw their hats into the air while cheering, “Huzzah for the United States!”
Charley slipped quietly back to sick bay, leaving the Americans to their celebration, and wondering again what would become of a British surgeon held on an American vessel during wartime.


Today's the anniversary of the capture and burning of the new US capital of Washington, District of Columbia. This is when First Lady Dolley Madison famously saved the iconic portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.

If you'd like to know more about this pivotal period in American history, or learn what happened to a captured British surgeon, you can enjoy Sea Change for 25% off until the end of the month at Smashwords with discount code BV79D.

Review: A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder (A Countess of Harleigh Mystery, #1)

A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder (A Countess of Harleigh Mystery, #1)A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Delightful debut novel set amongst the upper class of Victorian England. A widowed countess lands in the middle of a mystery and discovers a talent for deduction. I look forward to more “Countess of Harleigh” mysteries.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Review: A Princess in Theory

A Princess in Theory A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fabulous Cinderella story where the prince—really, he’s a prince—has to work hard for his HEA. It was a delightful story full of smile out loud lines and snappy writing. I’m looking forward to more stories of Reluctant Royals and their woes.

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Review: In Debt to the Earl

In Debt to the Earl In Debt to the Earl by Elizabeth Rolls
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very satisfying Regency, with many of the elements one seeks in these stories: Visits to Vauxhall, a society prizing manners over morality, Captain Sharps and gambling dens, and women who have to make tough life choices in a world dominated by men.

Elizabeth Rolls is writing the kind of Regency romance we don't see often enough these days.

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Thursday, August 09, 2018

Happy #BookLoversDay!

He returned with his copy of Captain Johnson and arranged himself on her bed while Lydia took the chair. She didn’t want to admit it to the two pirates, but she also was
captivated by the tales of long ago miscreants and their adventures.
“As you know, Mattie, Edward Teach, or Blackbeard, was a commodore of pirates, commanding other captains beneath him. He was not a good man at all, but he was a very successful pirate, so successful that the governor of Virginia Colony offered a huge bounty on his head—one hundred pounds!”
Mattie’s eyes grew large as her father gave her an edited version of Blackbeard’s life, but even so she was frowning at the end.
“‘Here was an end of that courageous brute, who might have passed in the world for a hero had he been employed in a good cause; his destruction…was entirely owing to the conduct and bravery of Lieutenant Maynard and his men.’”
“Blackbeard did not treat his crew well, Papa. You are the better captain. I am glad Lieutenant Maynard stopped him.”

Pirate tales and book lovers have gone together since forever, getting a boost from A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, written by Captain Charles Johnson in 1724, still enjoyed today.  

You can celebrate #BookLoversDay by curling up with your own pirate tale, be it A General History or Treasure Island or Captain Blood...or perhaps a more modern offering with romance and adventure? After all, as Mattie learned in The Pirate's Secret Baby, you're never too young or too old to enjoy a good swashbuckling tale.