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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Girl in White Pajamas by Chris Birdy

The Girl in White Pajamas by Chris Birdy sounded like an interesting tale.  In some ways it was, but overall, I wasn't impressed.

What a convoluted and dysfunctional family!  I found it hard to sympathize much with any of them.  

After the murder of his step-brother, Bogie McGruder returns to Boston for the funeral.  Not that Bogie liked Bud or that he cares for his stepmother at all, but Bogie does have a sense of family, no matter how unpleasant.  

He meets his own three-year-old daughter for the first time and is captivated by her.  The girl's mother and his former lover is in danger, and despite the woman's having kept the secret of his daughter from him, Bogie is on the case.  

NetGalley/Publish Green

Mystery/Crime.  2013.  Print version:  426 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 1481871986

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Naked Once More by Elizabeth Peters

At one time, I really enjoyed Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series featuring the spirited, adventurous Amelia, and as the series continued, her expanding family.  The series is light and funny, an Egyptologist's cozy.

When Naked Once More was offered by NetGalley featuring Jaqueline Kirby, a former librarian turned Romance Writer, I decided to give it a try.  I'm so glad I did!  I found this novel much more textured than the Peabody series.  Not simply a different sub-genre, but a novel with less black and white and many more shades of grey.

Jacqueline Kirby has been chosen to write the sequel to a book by Kathleen Darcy, who wrote Naked on the Ice, a book that sold millions and gained her many devoted fans among both readers and writers.  (Thus the title Naked Once More).  The book has become a cult classic.  Fervent fans were devastated when Kathleen disappeared into the Appalachian wilderness and her body never recovered.

What happened to Kathleen?  Did she commit suicide, and if so why?  The questions again surface when, after seven years, Darcy is declared legally dead, and the publishing world is able to pursue a sequel.

I really liked Jacqueline Kirby, an audacious character who also has an instinctive insight, and I liked her even better as the novel advanced.  Kirby is a performer, a wit,  an egotist, but one who understands herself and her own flaws.  Not that she doesn't justify her flaws or dismiss them as suits her....

As Jacqueline (call her Jacqueline, Jake, or Kirby--never Jackie) was a staunch fan of Kathleen Darcy's work, she is already deeply familiar with the novel and many details of Kathleen's life, but her research takes her much deeper.  And makes her more and more curious.

I found the novel involving,  amusing, and highly entertaining!  Barbara Mertz writes nonfiction under her own name and mysteries under the pseudonyms of Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels.  The novel was originally published in 1990, but doesn't feel dated.

NetGalley/Grand Central Publishing.

Mystery.  1990; 2013.  Print version:  368 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 0061999407

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Jaran by Kate Elliott


I first read Kate Elliott in her Crossroads trilogy.  I was an immediate fan.

I feel the same way about Jaran and will be looking for the next in this series.  Jaran was first published in 2002 and has just been republished this summer.  I'm pleased to note that this series is available, and I won't have to wait for the next to be published.

It is science fiction in that it involves a distant future and has an alien race that has become a benevolent overseer of the human race and their planets.  However, once the novel really begins, the science fiction and tech elements pretty much disappear.

Kate Elliott excels at world building and even more so at populating the worlds she builds.  In this case, we find Tess Soerensen departing a spaceship on a planet that has been interdicted from technology and the awareness of planetary travel in order to preserve the life style of those natives who live there.  A group of the alien Chapalii race have secretly disembarked, and Tess follows, hoping to discover their purpose.

 Elliot is a skilled storyteller who creates living, breathing individuals; even the secondary characters are well-rounded with depth and personality.  

After writing the above, I did a little research and ended up at Elliott's web site.  She writes about the way she creates characters here.  Anyone who is interested in characterization could learn from Elliott's method. (Now I know why I become so involved with her books).

NetGalley/Open Road Integrated Media

Science Fiction/Fantasy.  Originally published 2002; republication Aug. 2013. 
 Print version:  557 pages.

The Last Priestess by Elizabeth Baxter

The Last Priestess:  The Songmaker #1 

Maegwin is a Sho La priestess who returns from a retreat to find her temple on fire and her sister priestesses being burned alive.  She kills the son of Lord Hounsey before being taken prisoner.  Sentenced to death...well, here it gets interesting.  Maegwin survives her hanging with a little help from the dark side of her goddess and swears vengeance on those responsible for the deaths of her sisters.

The kingdom is set for civil war.  The Songmaker and his mages are gathering a rebel contingent.  The king and his mages, especially Rovann, the king's First Mage prepare to defend the kingdom from chaos. 


Fantasy.  2013.  Print version:  214 pages.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Nordic Noir Times Two

Light in a Dark House by Jan Costin Wagner and translated by Anthea Bell is the third in a series featuring Finnish detective Kimmo Joenta.  

A woman, unidentified, has been lying in a coma for some time, and then is murdered by someone who wept as she died.   With her murder, the effort to discover who the woman was becomes more important, and detective Kimmo Joenta is puzzled and distressed by the case.

Kimmo's lover has also disappeared from his life.  Larissa was already a sort of on again, off again inhabitant of Kimmo's house, but this time an occurrence at a party preceded her leaving, and she is gone longer than ever before.  Kimmo yearns for her return, although nothing about their relationship is exactly normal.  Larissa is a prostitute, and when she does come to stay with Kimmo, she turns the light off and waits in the dark.  She is the light in the dark house for Kimmo.

The case of the murdered woman occupies the detective while Larissa is gone, and when the detectives finally determine who the woman is, they must go back to an incident that took place 25 years ago, using a photograph they find in the home of a man who has recently been murdered.

A psychological crime novel in which the murderer has recorded his thoughts; although we have no name, we have his point of view from his diary.

NetGalley/Random House, UK

Crime/Police Procedural.  Aug. 31, 2013 (Eng. trans.).  Print version:  336 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 1846556538

Killer's Art (originally published as The Dying Dandy) is by Mari Jungstedt, Swedish journalist and crime novelist; translator:  Tiina Nunnally.

Egon Wallin, a respected art dealer, has made plans to leave his wife and has sold his art gallery without telling anyone.  Instead, he ends up hanged from the city wall in Old Town, Visby, Gotland.  

(Strange Bird which I read recently is also set on the Swedish island of Gotland.)

Then  The Dying Dandy, a famous painting by Nils Dardel,  is stolen from a museum in Stockholm and something connected with the first crime is left behind.

Once again, we have the point of view of the murderer who remains unknown.  The prologue, although from an omniscient narrator, relates the the decision to commit his crimes.  The narrator moves from the murderer, to the  victims, to the Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas, to journalist Johan Berg...and back again.

Nils Dardel, The Dying Dandy, 1918, © Nils von Dardel/BUS 2011. Photographer: Terje Östling.

Lots of interesting information about Swedish artists, particularly Nils Dardel, and plenty of discussion about The Dying Dandy.

ARC from Meryl Zegarek Public Relations, Inc./Stockholm Text

Police Procedural/Mystery.  Oct. 15, 2013.  320 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 918717345X

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Shadow Tracer by Meg Gardiner

The Shadow Tracer          

Skip tracer Sarah Keller is experienced and efficient at locating individuals seeking to hide from the law, and she is adept at serving subpoenas.   The techniques she employs in her job (and many that she has learned along the way as she pursues those attempting to stay off the grid) are crucial to her ability to protect her daughter Zoe.

For five years, Sarah has been living off grid in order to protect Zoe, who is actually her sister Bethany's daughter.  When Beth is murdered shortly after Zoe's birth, Sarah has to remain untraceable to protect Zoe from the group that murdered her birth mother.

But a combination of circumstances leads to the destruction of Sarah's carefully composed life  when, after a school bus accident, a microchip is discovered that identifies Zoe.  Now Sarah must abandon everything and go on the run using every technique she has had in reserve for such an occasion.

The rest of the novel is pretty much the chase, Sarah's attempts to stay ahead of the group that would kill her and take Zoe.  While the chase and the villains are implausible, the tension remains high.

Interesting that there are so many strong female characters; Gardiner seems to have an affinity for strong women.  Usually the important female characters are far outnumbered by males--not so in this novel.  The courage and commitment of Sarah, Danisha, and Theresa provide an interesting element. The male protagonist almost feels like a concession.  There are plenty of male bad guys, but only one strong good guy.

Action-packed and fast-paced.  The information about how to stay off-grid when our society provides so much information so willingly and the government is intent on finding out even more--that was the best part of the novel.  The idea of the plot was great, but all the action of the chase was more in line of a film and lost realism.  Didn't stop me from turning the pages, though.

An ARC from Jamie McDonald and U.S. Penguin Group

Thriller/Suspense.  2013.  368 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 9780525953227

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan

A Dangerous Fiction

The widow of a distinguished author, Jo Donovan feels required to protect his life story from prospective biographers who might damage his reputation.  As the owner of a literary agency, she attempts to make the best deals possible for her clients.

When confronted by an author who is angry and disappointed about an unread manuscript, a collision course is set for all facets of Jo's life.  A stalker, a biographer that wants access to all information in her husband's life, and financial threats to her clients and agency--Jo finds herself besieged on all fronts.  And then one of her favorite and best-selling authors is murdered.  

NetGalley/Penguin Group/Viking

Mystery.  2013.  Print version:  336 pages.
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670026500

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Raven Flight by Juliet Marillier

Raven Flight: A Shadowfell Novel  is the second in this YA fantasy trilogy.  I read the first one last summer and enjoyed it.  

In the first book, Neryn has a canny gift that endangers her life; Keldec, the sinister king of Alban, destroys or uses any of his subjects who have a hint of magic, so Neryn is on the run.

Neryn journeys to Shadowfell, a place the offers safety among the rebels who oppose the king.  She is accompanied on her journey by some of the Goodfolk and a human named Flint.

Raven Flight begins after Neryn's arrival at Shadowfell.  Her journey revealed that her canny gift was even more than she realized;  Neryn is a Caller.  Her role in the efforts to overthrow Keldec will be crucial, and she must master her gift in order to be of use.

In the refuge of Shadowfell, Neryn recovers from the ill effects of her long journey and begins building her strength for another journey that will send her to the 4 quarters of the compass to learn from the Guardians more about how to handle her gift.

Accompanied by Tali, the strong and canny female warrior, and longing for Flint, Neryn sets out to find the Hag, Guardian of the Western Isles.  The pace is relatively slow, and although there are several action scenes, much of the journey deals with the developing friendship between the two women who have such different personalities.

Raven Flight should please YA fantasy fans.  Neryn is a quietly brave and determined protagonist with a strong moral and ethical sense that keeps her from abusing her gift.

NetGalley/Random House Children's

Fantasy/YA.  July 9, 2013.  Print version: 416 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 0375869557

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

Her Royal Spyness is a pun and a spoof, and this cozy mystery is quite an amusing romp involving distant relations to the throne--who have little money but certain obligations.

Book Description:  From the Agatha Award-winning author of the Molly Murphy and Constable Evan Evans mysteries!

Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, 34th in line for the throne, is flat broke. She?s bolted Scotland, her greedy brother, and her fish-faced betrothed for London. The place where she?ll experience freedom, learn life lessons aplenty, do a bit of spying for HRH?oh, and find a dead Frenchman in her tub. Now her new job is to clear her long family name.

Silly and fun, if you are looking for a light-hearted mystery with a likable protagonist, this series has it on offer.  I've read one book of the Molly Murphy series and one of the Constable Evans series.  While I generally like a more complex and darker mystery, every once in a while a good cozy makes an enjoyable read.

NetGalley/Penguin Group

Historical Mystery/Cozy.  2008.  Print version:  336 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 0425222527

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs

Bones of the Lost  -- This is number 16 of the Temperance Brennan novels by Reichs.  A Net Galley ARC, the novel is slated to be released Aug. 27.

Book Description:
Tempe has a young victim of a hit and run on her table; who was she and why was she run down and left to die?  Daughter Katy (who enlisted after her boyfriend's death) is in Afghanistan.  Pete, her ex, is about to remarry and needs the finalization of divorce papers.  Ryan, where the heck is Ryan?  He won't respond to emails.  The nephew one of Pete's friends is accused of killing to innocent victims in Afghanistan, and Temperance must fly there to supervise the exhumation and determine if the villagers were shot in the back.  A Desert Storm hero is accused of smuggling illegal artifacts from Peru--mummified dogs buried with the ancient dead; Temperance needs to determine whether or not all the bones are canine.  I'm not sure if I've covered all the story lines  but any others are peripheral to these and form a strange web of connections.

All of Reichs' novels read quickly, but as is the case with many long running series, the quality from book to book seems to vary.  This one has so many subplots which, although connected, disperse the intensity and interest.


Mystery.  Aug. 27.  Print version:  336 pages.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

In the Mail

 These ARCs have arrived in the mail in the last few weeks.

Two nonfiction books that I've ordered
after reading Lavender Garden and Betrayal in Burgundy.

Book Description:  

Nancy Wake is one of the true heroines of World War II. Born in New Zealand, she was living in Marseille and was married to Frenchman Henri Fiocca when the Germans invaded. Nancy immediately became active in the Resistance movement, smuggling messages and food to underground groups in Southern France and helping refugees flee to Spain. By 1943 she was on the Gestapo most-wanted list. Their nickname for her, due to her elusiveness, was the "White Mouse." It was time for Nancy to leave France. After six escape attempts Nancy reached Britain—where she promptly became one of the 39 women to join the British Special Operations Executive. Parachuted back into France, she became the virtual leader of a 7,000-strong branch of the Maquis. This book tells the extraordinary story of this exceptional woman.

Book Description:

In 1942, Leo Marks left his father's famous bookshop, 84 Charing Cross Road, and went off to fight the war. He was twenty-two. Soon recognized as a cryptographer of genius, he became head of communications at the Special Operations Executive (SOE), where he revolutionized the codemaking techniques of the Allies and trained some of the most famous agents dropped into occupied Europe, including "the White Rabbit" and Violette Szabo. As a top codemaker, Marks had a unique perspective on one of the most fascinating and, until now, little-known aspects of the Second World War. 

Notice my highlights? 

Oh, so many books to read!
I've got a bunch on my Kindle as well.
Where to begin?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Fatal Likeness by Lynn Shepherd

A Fatal Likeness is the second historical detective/mystery novel by Shepherd.  The Solitary House introduced Charles Maddox and his famous great-uncle Maddox, a legendary detective/thief taker, whose reputation meant he was consulted by the wealthy and connected of London.

As I mentioned in my review of The Solitary House, the style and atmosphere of the novel is quite Victorian/Dickensian,  and the style is  still evident in A Fatal Likeness, but perhaps a little less so.

In The Solitary House, Great-uncle Maddox has been stricken with an Alzheimer-like dementia.  Evidently, some improvement has occurred since then, but when a note is delivered from a client, the old man's condition worsens dramatically.

Charles decides to visit the client who turns out to be an ill and aging Mary Shelley, represented by her son and daughter-in-law.

Intrigued and uneasy, Charles learns that his Great-uncle Maddox had worked a case for the William Godwin, Mary's father, some 30 years previously.  Going through his great-uncle's casebook leaves Charles wondering about many things, including missing pages and what the Shelley's really want to accomplish with the investigation.

Charles is more likable in this novel, but the main interest in A Fatal Likeness is the web-like plot developing around Shelley, Mary Shelley, and Clair Claremont.  Great-uncle Maddox's involvement in the earlier case will be somewhat unraveled as Charles pursues the current case.

Much of the plot is based on incidents and letters, etc. concerning the convoluted relationships of Percy, Mary, Clair, and Byron in real life and are easily documented.  With artistic license, Shepherd fills in the gaps and elaborates on possibilities, but much of the information is factual.

What a strange, intelligent, creative group of individuals managed to whirl themselves together in a motley conglomeration of relationships.  Entanglements are like a labyrinth of dark corners and dead ends.  Cruelties intended and inadvertent, jealousies, and egos abound.

NetGalley/Random House, Delacourt.

Historical Fiction/Mystery.  Aug. 20, 2013.  Print Version:  384 pages.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Ambitious Card

The Ambitious Card engaged me from the beginning, and I think Eli Marks makes an interesting protagonist.  Eli and his Uncle Harry  are magicians who also operate a magic shop in Minneapolis.

Eli is often called upon as "debunker"--although he prefers the term " skeptic" when he exposes psychics claiming supernatural abilities.  It isn't that Eli doesn't believe in the possibility of the supernatural, but he has yet to discover a genuine case and dislikes frauds who use illusions and gimmicks to deceive or dupe.  As long as the individual does not assert that he or she can really read minds or speak to the dead, Eli is fine with it.

When called upon to debunk a psychic on television show, Eli exposes the methods the psychic uses to perform his act.  When the psychic is found murdered, the Ambitious Card Eli used in his performance is dramatically displayed on the body, and Eli becomes a suspect.  And then another psychic is murdered....

This series shows promise; both Eli and his Uncle Harry are engaging characters and there should be a number of possible plot lines using magicians.  Although there are a lot of murders, the novel is more of a cozy mystery:  centered on the small community surrounding the magic shop, an assortment of neighbors and friends, and lacking in gore.

NetGalley/Henery Press.

Mystery.  Aug. 2013.  Print version:  288 pages.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Listening for Lucca by Suzanne LaFleur

Listening for Lucca is a touching novel about family and sibling relationships for Middle School or older.

Opening sentence:  "I'm obsessed with abandoned things."  

Thirteen-year-old Sienna has a collection of things left-behind or forgotten; she rescues them when she finds them:  a stuffed lamb left on a park bench, a hair clip, things of no value, things that simply need rescuing.  

Sienna's family has just moved to Maine.  Her parents hope that the move will be good for all of them, but especially for Lucca who doesn't speak.  No one knows why Lucca , now nearly four-years-old, suddenly went silent.  He doesn't seem unhappy, he is definitely loved, he has tested normal on intelligence and physical tests, but he doesn't speak at all.  

The old house by the sea that becomes their new home is familiar to Sienna from her dreams.  Her parents chose the house because it looked the way Sienna had described her dream house;  Sienna realizes that is the same house, not just a house that is similar, and she feels a presence in the house.

Family and friendship and a young girl with a good heart and a strange ability to see ghosts.   What influences exist between past and present?

NetGalley/Random House Children's/Wendy Lamb Books

Paranormal/Historical/Young Reader.  Aug. 6, 2013.  Print version:  240 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 0385742991

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

More by T.M. Franklin

More is a YA novel with a supernatural element.  When Ava was a child, she imagined that she had magical powers, but her efforts at magic were mostly in vain.  In fact, there is only one incident that still puzzles her, and she can explain that one away with ease.

Now in college,  and feeling quite the normal student, Ava is doing well in all of her subjects, except physics.  Her professor recommends Caleb as a tutor.  Caleb, relaxed and laid back, is a good teacher, and the two get along well, developing a sense of trust and friendship.

Ava's sleep has been disturbed for some time.  Her nightmares are about a man with one blue eye and one green eye chasing her, and when the man in her dreams actually does turn up in a threatening manner, Caleb is suddenly there to protect her.

Ava is about to learn that there is, indeed, more to her, just as she imagined as a child.  Her world will be turned upside down, and she will have to find the strength to deal with the changes that result.

A nice paranormal romance with likable characters and unexpected villains.  This is the first book in a trilogy.  I wouldn't mind at all having a copy of the next book:  The Guardians.

NetGalley/ The Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House

Paranormal.  2012.  Print version:  238 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 1612131239

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dragonflies by Andy Straka

Dragonflies has some interesting possibilities involving  micro-drones that can be flown by computer and are so small they can easily navigate within buildings and be docked on a light fixture (for example).  A perfect addition to a spy's arsenal.  The tiny drones could be used by law enforcement, by those engaging in industrial espionage, by governments, or by terrorists.  Certainly gives rise to more ethical and moral questions concerning technology and its uses.

In the novel, a rather mysterious agency (is it really a private investigative agency, or something more?) has been hired to catch a college rapist.  Sort of.  Actually, the young man's father has hired the agency, but  he wants his son stopped before is caught and the media get the story.  He does not want his son prosecuted; his only concern is bad publicity.

 Raina Sanchez and Tye Palmer are ex-military, but are barely developed and seem more like silhouettes than real people.  

Are there two government agencies in play here?  At least one other agency is interested in the drones and in Raina, who pilots them, but both agencies are vague.  Same is true of Nathan Kurn  (the father of the rapist) and his power and influence.

An interesting concept, plenty of action in a short space; however, it is another one of those books that seem to have been chopped into 3 (or more) parts to enable a series.  The book skims the surface in characterization, theme, and plot-- more a novella than a book.  I didn't realize that this was a "to be continued" read and was unhappy to find a cliffhanger, not a resolution.

Overall, I rate this one a miss.  

OK--I just read that this has been optioned for a television series, which explains why it was so short and ends in a cliffhanger.  Still, I don't want to read episodes of a television series under the guise of a book.

NetGalley/LLW Media

Science Fiction/Thriller.  2013.  Print version:  144 pages.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Two WWII and SOE

Once again, synchronicity.  I enjoy reading about WWII, and two of my recent reads have been about the British SOE, the Special Operations Executive, that was created "to conduct espionage, sabotage, and reconnaissance in occupied Europe...and to aid local resistance movements."  (from Wikepedia)   

Both novels take place in France and are frame stories, the war narrative contained within modern day stories that bracket the war years.

I read The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley first.  The story begins in 1998 in the Cote d'Azur when Emilie de la Martinieries' mother dies, and she inherits the estate.  A chance meeting with the Englishman whose English grandmother had sheltered at the estate during the war arrives in the local village.

Pursuing the connection leads to the discovery of details about young Constance Carruthers,  whose command of French and knowledge of the country, leads to her selection as an SOE operative in Paris during the Nazi occupation.  When the Resistance group she was to be part of is arrested shortly before her arrival, Constance finds herself resorting to her last possibility...and joins the household of a wealthy family that is engaged in resistance activity even as they entertain the Nazi elite.  

The good:  As I began researching the SOE, it became clear that the author had done some extensive research.  She details information about the F Section;  the fact that women agents were commissioned into FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry), which helped shield the actual activity of members as almost no one was aware of the SOE and its purpose;  Wanbourough Manor where the initial training of F section operatives took place;  Beaulieu Manor - the agents "finishing school"; the Prosper network:  and Colonel Maurice Buckmaster, the leader of the French Section of SOE.

Not so good:  the frame story was predictable and the characters were thin.  The cover is attractive, but doesn't match the time period.  The title doesn't have any connection other than the fact that Constance's code name was Lavender.  Even the war story about Constance had a sense of lacking something; however, almost everything Riley mentions concerning the SOE seems accurate.  That alone was worth it.

NetGalley/Atria Books

Historical Novel.  2013.  Print version 416 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 1476703558

Betrayal in Burgundy by Howard Shaw was, in that neatly coincidental way, the next book I read that featured the SOE.  It is also, by far the better book if you are looking for characters, plot, and realism.

The frame:  An old woman and her son visit a cemetery in Burgundy.  They look at the markers for the airmen who were shot down.  She asks if he notices the difference in the stone for James Chalmers. The frame is very brief at beginning and end.  The heart of the story lies within the rest of the book, as the woman tells the story of crew and pilot and the part they played in the war.

Jamie Chalmers is twenty-three, and an RAF bomber pilot    Shot down over France, he is the only one of his crew to survive and is lucky enough to be rescued by a group that has helped other airmen in his position.  He grieves for his crew and for the woman he has left behind in England who must think him dead.  After a lengthy recovery, Jamie agrees to aid in a group who want to do whatever they can to throw a wrench in the Nazi occupying forces.

Along with another Brit, an SOE wireless operator who evaded capture,  Jamie works with the small group of Frenchmen who are not formally associated with any Resistance group, but who feel the need to make a difference.  

From the scenes in Britain where the young RAF pilots fly by night over Germany, no return trip guaranteed, to the scenes in Burgundy where the courageous stand up and risk their lives in a different kind of war, Howard Shaw brings history to life in an absorbing and believable tale of all those men and women who were willing to risk everything to stop Germany.


How dangerous was the life of an RAF airman?

'The Air Ministry was able to compile the following figures up to 31 May 1947:
Killed in action or died while prisoners of war 47,268
Killed in flying or ground accidents 8,195
Killed in ground-battle action 37
Total fatal casualties to aircrew 55,500

Prisoners of war, including many wounded 9,838
Wounded in aircraft which returned from operations 4,200
Wounded in flying or ground accidents in U. K. 4,203
Total wounded, other than prisoners of war 8,403
Total aircrew casualties 73,741'

from RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War

Taking an example of 100 airmen:

55 killed on operations or died as result of wounds
3 injured (in varying levels of severity) on operations or active service
13 taken prisoner of war (some injured)
2 shot down and evaded capture
27 survived a tour of operations.

from RAF Bomber Command 1939-1945

Historical Novel.  June 27, 2013.  Print version:  368 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 1780884885

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Blackmoore: A Proper Romance by Julianne Donaldson


Book Description:  At eighteen, Kate Worthington knows she should be getting serious about marriage, but her restless heart won’t let her settle down. To escape her mother’s meddlesome influence, she dreams of traveling with her spinster aunt to exotic India. But when the opportunity arises, Kate finds herself making a bargain with her mother: she will be allowed to go only if she spends a season at the family’s wealthy estate, Blackmoore, where she must secure—and reject—three marriage proposals.
Enlisting the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield, Kate sets out to collect her proposals so she can be on her way. But Henry’s decision to help threatens to destroy both of their dreams in ways they could never imagine.

A light regency romance that reads quickly.  I enjoyed it-- a puff pastry, mostly air, but sweet.

NetGalley/Shadow Mountain Publishing

Regency.   Sept. 10, 2013.  Print version:  320 pages.

Etymology and Excuses

The following discovered on an etymological search amused me:

I AM very glad to welcome back Dr Wordsmith, our regular linguistic physician at our language clinics. If you have any problems with the English language, bring them to Dr Wordsmith's surgery, and I am sure he will suggest a solution, or send you away with a flea in your ear, depending on his mood at the time. All yours, Doc!

Dear Dr Wordsmith, It had never occurred to me before, but it's a curious expression, "To send someone away with a flea in their ear." What does it mean? How did it get to mean what it means?

Dr Wordsmith writes: After many years foraging in the linguistic jungle, I have come to the 
conclusion that of all the time-wasting activities available to man, speculating about the origin of proverbial phrases is the most wasteful. Every time I hear phrases such as "Not by a long chalk", "A bit of how's your father" or "All my eye and Betty Martin", my heart sinks because I know that some bright-eyed little fellow is going to stick his head out of the grass like a rabbit demanding to be shot, and ask if I know the origin. Well, I could put on a knowledgeable air and say that it probably comes from the fact that when we give someone a box on the ear, it leaves his ear ringing, which sounds as if he has got a flea in his ear. But I don't.

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Does this mean you don't know?

Dr Wordsmith writes: And don't care...

Now after reading the above, I realized that I'd never even heard the phrase, "All my eye and Betty Martin." If you are interested and don't require a definitive answer, The Language Log expounds on the origin of the phrase which means that something is "all (or what) nonsense." I intend to incorporate it next time I hear something preposterous. Which won't take long.

By the way, I was unfamiliar with "A bit of how's your father" as well and just researched it; ahem... if you know the phrase "a bit of slap and tickle" then you've got it. Euphemisms! At which point, I can now say, "All my eye and Betty Martin!"

I've been busy working on my eccentric figures.  And reading, of course, but not finishing the review drafts that are in progress.  

 This one isn't finished yet.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

I'm in the Mood for a Little Cabin Decoration

Well, I am back to the clay, 
working on my eccentric figures
 in the same obsessive manner
 that I've been gardening and reading.  

I've been working on two
 of the four neglected heads,
 attaching one to an old escutcheon
 and one to a wooden tool for stitching leather.

  Almost done!

I can spend all day (and do) 
with these little oddities-- 
shaping, drying, carving, sanding, painting, and sealing,
 in my air conditioned studio.  

Much more comfortable than 
weeding, watering, mowing, etc. 
until dripping with sweat
 then resting, and then back to the weeding.  

I spent ten days at the cabin
 and have been home since Sat.
 playing with clay and found objects. 

 Of course, I need to go back to the country
 and continue my weed and read activities,
 but I want to finish a couple of sculpts
 to hang on the cabin walls. 

I ordered this angel from Carla's Etsy Shop,
Indian Dollar Works.  
I've been wanting one of Carla's  pieces for a long time, 
and needing some whimsy for the cabin
 finally pushed me to purchase one instead of just admiring...

And Carla included this little charmer
as a travel companion.
 What a grand bit of lagniappe!

When I finish "Are We There Yet" boy,
and maybe another Eccentric,
I'll be ready to garden again.

I have a stack of ARCs that have arrived
in the mail, a long que of TBR
books from NetGalley, and seven
reviews to do.

Life is good!
(Well, except for the reviews,
which are much less fun.)

Monday, July 08, 2013

Frame 232 by Wil Mara

Frame 232 has such a great premise and deals with one of the greatest conspiracy theories ever.  

Remember the Babushka Lady seen on the Zapruder film that unexpectedly captured President Kennedy's assassination?  The novel centers on who the Babushka Lady was, what she captured with her movie camera (was there a second shooter?), and what might have happened to her.

And not only to her, but to her daughter, who in the novel, inherits the film.  

Unfortunately, the novel moved into a preachy tone with a lapsed Christian billionaire taking over the best part of the story.  Jason Hammond, one of those almost perfect characters, takes the reins and pretty much loses the race for a successful novel.  

Jason is still grieving the deaths of his parents and sisters and has turned away from the religion that meant everything to him.  That is his flaw.  I suppose the only one.

 Never mind that his parents died in a plane crash over ten years ago, poor Jason's life has been fatally damaged.  Never mind that he is rich beyond belief, handsome, charming, and involved in all kinds of adventures, Jason just can't recover. 

 Get over it.

What a great idea.  What a shame that it turned into something else entirely.  Oh, there is plenty of adventure, but it is kind of cheesy, and the characters are never really developed.  Jason and Sheila and bad guy stay cardboard with bad dialogue.  

A great opportunity wasted, but it does reactivate interest and curiosity about the JFK assassination, who the Babushka Lady was, and why she never came forward.

Oh, remember, this is just my opinion.  Most reviewers really liked the novel.

NetGalley/Tyndale House.

Adventure/Christian.  July 1, 2013.  Print version:  448 pages.

The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta

Set in Vienna in 1948, shortly after the war has ended, The Crooked Maid  begins with Anna  Beer, a married woman in her 40's who left Vienna nine years previously, and Robert Seidel, an eighteen-year-old prep school student who spent the war years in Switzerland, meeting on a train carrying each of them home to a Vienna that neither has seen for years.

A story filled with ghosts of the past, current confusions in the aftermath of war, and strange, but compelling characters.  Anna searches for her husband.  Robert tries to determine what actually happened involving his father's death.  

Dark and intense.

NetGalley/Bloomsbury, USA

Literary/Mystery/Historical.  Aug. 6, 2013.  Print version: 448 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 160819809X

Saturday, July 06, 2013

A Cold White Sun by Vicki Delany

A Cold White Sun is Canadian author Vicki Delany's latest in her Constable Molly Smith series.  When high school English teacher Cathy Lindsay is murdered while out walking her dog on the first day of spring break, the Trafalgar police are hard-pressed to discover a reason.  Wife, mother, teacher, Cathy seems to have no enemies, and Detective Sergeant John Winters wonders whether it is a case of mistaken identity or a random shooting.

Winters and Molly Smith investigate possible motives, fearing that if it were a random shooting or mistaken identity there might be more to come.

There are a few side stories concerning Molly's love life and Winters' wife and her art gallery.

A neat little mystery.

NetGalley/Poisoned Pen Press
Mystery.  Aug. 6, 2013.  Print version:  220 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 1464201609

Friday, July 05, 2013

The Summer Man

The Summer Man is a horror story. At a party in early June, Amanda Young has a kind of waking nightmare:  She sees a young girl she knows being murdered.  Her best friend tries to help her realize that it isn't a psychic vision, just the weed she's been smoking.  Unfortunately....

The town hierarchy would like to downplay the murders (because the murderer not only kills the girl, but then goes home and kills his wife and himself); Port Isley depends on its summer people, the tourists who are a major part of the town's economy, best not frighten them unnecessarily.  

Amanda's precognition doesn't end after the first awful vision, and the behavior of both townies and summer people  becomes more extreme.  Murder, suicide, violence, gratuitous sex--people aren't themselves.

I liked that the protagonists spread over three generations and the mystery of the strange behavior and magnified feelings that enveloped the town.  

I didn't like the excessive bad language.  It isn't really necessary to say f--- so often, is it?  It doesn't offend me in moderation, but when it becomes so extensive that you almost feel obliged to count the number of times it occurs on a page, then perhaps it is time to tone it down. 

 It does offend me to present intelligent teenagers as unable to communicate without a swear word and/or sexual reference in every sentence.  Language devolves and the ability to express genuine thought suffers.  Devon and Eric, particularly, become (or are to begin with) caricatures because of their language.  While most young people do have an impressive vocabulary in this regard, it doesn't mean they are all so dull as to speak in profane text, IM shorthand exclusively.  

Although the story keeps you interested, the multiple strange happenings and violence go on and on, making the reader aware of the length of the book.  Too much in the middle here, and it loses some effect.  The conclusion was certainly not what I expected and didn't seem to fit all that had preceded it.

I liked the premise; Bob and Amanda (John, not so much; large role, but vague character); the supernatural mystery; but there are quite a few drawbacks, at least for me.

NetGalley/Amazon Publ.

Supernatural/Mystery.  May 2013.  Print version:  488 pages.