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Monday, February 24, 2014

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by Vaughn Entwistle

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall is another Sherlock Holmes derivative, but instead of focusing on Sherlock himself, Entwistle features Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde as his protagonists and paranormal investigators.  Hard to resist!

Of course, I enjoyed The Revenant of Thraxton Hall and can add it to a long list of take-offs on Sherlock Holmes --with the added amusement of Oscar Wilde and his one-liners.  

Both of these men were, in real life, fascinating characters with a wide circle of friends that were also something of literary oddballs.  

When Doyle killed Holmes in The Final Problem, his reading public was outraged and circulation of The Strand where his stories were serialized fell drastically.  Whether or not Doyle was tired of Sherlock Holmes, whether or not the stories are great literature, really does not matter.  Holmes seized the public's interest then and now.

The story takes place shortly after The Final Problem was published, and his reading public is justifiably (or not) very angry.  Hope Thraxton, an attractive young medium, foresees her own murder and asks Conan Doyle for help.  At first, he turns her down, but his curiosity won't allow him to forget her request.  Eventually, he and Wilde agree to attend a meeting of The Society for Psychical Research in the remote manor house of the medium.

I could nitpick, there are plenty of areas for a little nitpicking, but the truth is that I was and am perfectly willing to let them go because I enjoyed the book.  Oscar Wilde is my favorite character, and it would be difficult to exaggerate the man, his eccentricities, or his wit.

Speaking of intriguing oddballs, I love this biographical information on Vaughn Entwistle.  I'm certainly looking forward to more from the Paranormal Casebooks!

Read in Dec., 2013

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Historical Mystery/Paranormal.  March 25, 2014.  Print version:  336 pages.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

This and That

I've been reading The Seventh Child by Erik Valeur (winner of the 2012 Glass Key Award given by the members of the Crime Writers of Scandinavia for best Nordic Thriller) for days now.  It is an unusual, slowly paced, with multiple characters and gradually developed backgrounds, and it is very long.  I'm about 70% through the novel now, and things are beginning to come together.

   I'm not sure how I feel about the novel, it is not a page-turner or a thriller (in my view), and the jumping from character to character often seems abrupt.  The names and nick-names can also confuse.  Yet I've continued reading a little at a time each day without the desire to abandon it.  

Of course, it isn't the only book in progress, I'm also reading Sorrow Bound by David Mark.  This is the third in the Detective Sergeant Aector (Hector) McAvoy series, but the first I've read.  The characters are well-developed, and the mystery twists between two plot-lines. A dark police procedural, but engrossing.  

Some of the comments from the editor are still in the manuscript, and I find this intriguing.  She (the editor) reminds the author of small details--for instance, the use of a similar name in a previous novel.  An interesting example of close reading, not the literary criticism kind that analyzes a passage, but the noting of small details that can make a reader stop for a moment and consider the accuracy, similarity, or contradiction involved.  These intrusions in the manuscript are few, but I've enjoyed them.

Often in reading a novel, I'll have to skip back to see if the question that has occurred to me is a slip in the editing or whether I've just somehow failed to notice a detail earlier.  Name similarities often stand out to me as do repetitive phrases.  These details don't necessarily harm the story, and sometimes repeated phrases or motifs add to the novel.  Sometimes, however, I wish an editor had caught an annoying repetition of phrase.

Other novels in progress, but perhaps hopelessly stalled:  Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen, Paths of Courage by Mike Woodhams, What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin, and The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher.

Two other books that I'm also dipping into in between the above novels:  What's Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton, an essay-like book from blog posts Walton wrote for, and Signed, Sealed, and Delivered by Nina Sankovich.  The formatting on Signed is quite awful, but the chapters have interesting information about letters and letter-writers, some famous, some quite ordinary.  Two books that are easy to pick up and to put down, satisfied,  if I only have a few minutes to read.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Witchfall: The Tudor Witch Trilogyl by Victoria Lamb

Witchfall continues the series begun with Witchstruck, which I reviewed in August.

Meg Lytton, a young witch in service to Princess Elizabeth, has not only her mistress to worry about, but the additional threats of the Spanish Inquisition and her old enemy Marcus Dent.

When the fanatical Queen Mary calls Elizabeth back to court, the danger increases as Mary's false pregnancy goes on and on.  When the ruse is finally ended, and it is obvious that there will be no birth, Elizabeth is once again removed from court.

The power of the Inquisition has grown along with Mary's persecution of Protestants.  Suspecting Elizabeth as a secret Protestant, the Jesuits hope to expose her, guilty or not. 

This is a fine YA novel with lots of historical detail.  Meg is secretly betrothed to Alejandro de Castillo, who tries to protect both Meg and the outcast Princess Elizabeth, but whose efforts to protect them puts him in danger, as well.

John Dee, that fascinating polymath who studied both science and magic, makes an appearance along with his young apprentice.  Dee has always fascinated me, both in history and in fiction, and provides additional interest to the novel.

Another entertaining adventure that manages to combine fact and fiction in an engaging way.

NetGalley/Harlequin Teen

Historical/YA.  March 2014.  Print version:  336 pages.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dryad-Born by Jeff Wheeler

Dryad-Born  is book two in Wheeler's Mirrowen trilogy, continuing the adventures of Tyrus, Annon, Paedrin, and Hettie in their struggles against the Arch-Rike and the plague that has devastated the kingdom for generations.

Annon, the young Druidech, remains the least interesting of the characters, despite the importance of his role.  Even his adventures have a sense of distance about them.

Hettie and Paedrin's personalities are more volatile, more passionate, and their relationship is complicated by their very different cultural backgrounds.  In Fireblood, these two were the most engaging characters, and they continue to add spice to the story.

Several new minor characters were added toward the conclusion of Fireblood, but Dryad-Born introduces several more.  It is the introduction of Phae, however, that prompts a new and appealing angle to the plot.  Phae and her capture by the Quiet Kishion add an intriguing and crucial element to the story.  

As in Fireblood, the story jumps from one set of characters to another, but Phae's story becomes the most engrossing.  She is the key to saving the kingdoms from the plague and if the Arch-Rike can't control her, he will destroy her.

This second volume in Wheeler's trilogy improves and advances the plot line.  Some episodes drag a bit, and the writing feels less stilted, but lacks a consistent flow.

While Wheeler doesn't make my list of  "favorite fantasy authors" with Robin Hobb, Kate Elliot, Patrick Rothfuss, George R.R. Martin, or Tolkein in the high fantasy series category or Megan Whalen Turner and Sarah J. Maas in YA high fantasy,  he has written an entertaining series.

Wheeler spins a complicated and multi-faceted fantasy with likable, ambiguous, and villainous characters at odds with one another.  There is plenty of adventure to be had in this trilogy, and I look forward to the next and final installment.


Fantasy.  2014.  Print version:  463 pages.
When I was trying to think of my favorite authors in fantasy, I found myself bogged down in the sub-genres.  I stuck to high/epic fantasy series, because that is where these two novels belong.  However, there are so many sub-genres that I enjoy and didn't mention those or their authors.
Do you have favorite authors of high fantasy series? What are your favorite sub-genres of fantasy?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Missing You by Harlan Coben

Missing You

Detective Kat Donovan is persuaded to put her profile on an online-dating site.  As she clicks through possible matches, she sees a familiar face.  The name is not that of the man she first fell in love with, but the face convinces Kat that is the same man.  From this very coincidental event, the entire plot will develop, involving missing men and women and an adaptable villain who has moved from a low-level early career to something more profitable and deadly.

What I liked:  the actual mystery was suspenseful.

 What I didn't like: The romance. How sweet that Kat's first look into online dating comes up with her first love's picture, and the fact that she has never loved again, and that he dumped her and disappeared, and that she still loves him eighteen years later.  Neither the back-story or the current story involving the romance appealed at all.  The other secondary plot line about Kat's father also left me cold.  

I was expecting a mystery or thriller with this novel, and it was there, but only after suffering through two tedious secondary story lines.  This was my first Harlan Coben novel,  but it didn't leave me wanting more.  

NetGalley/Penguin Group

Mystery.  March 18, 2014.  Print version:  400 pages.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I have several books in progress--some of which have been in progress for at least a month. I've considered adding them to the DNF pile, but continue to wait until the time I've read all the books in the TBR pile that look interesting.

I finished Farthing by Jo Walton which left me with a stunned feeling.  Like Dominion, Farthing is an alternate history with the premise that Britain negotiated a peace with Hitler.  
The books are very different despite the similar premise.  I actually like Farthing better, but I'm not quite ready to dive into Ha'Penny, described as a companion book to Farthing.  I need to allow Farthing to settle a bit.  Sometimes the abuse of power can be a bit too much, even in an alternate history.

Lots of reviews to write.  Nothing new there.  

I've been busy cleaning out the attic and trying to rescue my studio from absolute chaos.  It is really difficult to do anything creative in the disaster that room has become.  The attic opens from the studio and the area is very small, but I've used it to stash anything I didn't want to deal with at the moment.  Trying to go through and empty as much as possible so I can fill it up again.  Endless cycle.

Around Christmas I started making hearts stuffed with lavender and flaxseed, then added more before Valentine's Day.  Because they are small and made with scraps of fabric and yarn, I've just continued making them in a kind of meditative way.

My clay figures, half a dozen or more, have been sitting around for months now, but when I finally get the studio back in some kind of order, I'll need to work on finishing them.

-------------Cool Stuff-----------------

Ekaterina Panikanova makes collages using old books.

Bibliomaton (Jeffrey Maib) makes wonderful automata from books. 
 Check him out on Etsy.

Fireblood by Jeff Wheeler

Fireblood is the first in a fantasy trilogy, Whispers from Mirrowen.  

Every generation, a plague devastates the land leaving abandoned homesteads and fewer people.  Tyrus of Kenatos has spent most of his adult life trying to find the cause of the plague, and hopefully, a cure.

The book begins with a sort of prologue that covers Tyrus and a coterie of specially chosen members that enter the Scourgelands in an attempt to discover the source of the plague.  Disaster.  Only Tyrus and a Druidech survive, and she has sacrificed her sanity to save them.

The book then moves to the present and begins introducing a host of characters who will move the plot forward.  This portion is rather slow, but the characters and their backgrounds are revealed and the essential world-building takes place.  Not only the characters, but the diverse races, customs, and political situations are woven around the details of the various characters.  A great deal of information is still lacking, but gradually more and more background is divulged and connections begin to form.

The book does not exactly flow; it has a definite episodic feel.  The writing is not particularly noteworthy and often feels choppy, but occasionally rises above that.  The characters are established, but only slowly begin to really develop.

That said, I did enjoy this adventure and followed up with Dryad-Born, the next in the series since it was also available through NetGalley.  Dryad-Born allows most of the characters to gain some depth and introduces a few more.  The relationships also evolve in the sequel.

Jeff Wheeler is also the author of The Legend of  Muirwood trilogy.


Fantasy.  2013.  Print length:  440 pages.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Reader, I Love Them

Have you been searching for a gift for yourself, dear reader?
The perfect pillow to support your book as you read, 
to bolster your back, 
or just to make you smile in a literary way?

 Storiarts   creates ways to appreciate
 your favorite books
 even if the book is closed and shelved.

Pride and Prejudice gloves

And there are plenty more books from which to choose.

I'm leaning towards the pillows.
Which would you choose?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

In Retrospect by Ellen Larson

In Retrospect       

After reading Ellen Larson's mystery The Hatch and Brood of Time, I saw that she also writes science fiction.  Checked NetGalley to see if they offered anything else by Larson and found In Retrospect.

Merit Rafi is the only Forensic Retrospector left after the Oku/Rasakan war.  An Oku patriot, Merit fought in the war, and even after defeat, continued with the Resistance.  Captured with the small band of remaining Resistance fighters, Merit faces execution, but at the last minute, the Rasakans realize she is a Retrospector.

Merit is "rehabilitated," but continues to hate the Rasakans who want the Oku technology of time-travel.  Merit, the only Retrospector left, is of tremendous value to them.

 General Zane, the commander of Oku forces, surrendered to the Rasakans and negotiated a peace.  When he is murdered, the Rasakan authorities summon Merit to perform a Forensic Retrospection to discover his murderer.  Merit resists.  She blames Zane for the destruction of the Oku, and would have gladly killed him herself, but faced with the threat of retaliation on her family, Merit is forced to comply.

Like her "rehabilitation," however, her agreement to travel back in time and discover who killed General Zane has caveats.  Her agreement is superficial, and Merit continues an internal debate of whether or not she will actually perform the Retrospection.

Frequent flash-backs develop the characters.  We learn of Merit's childhood and youth, are introduced to characters like the Prioress, Lena, and Eric, get a glimpse of Oku society before the war, and follow Merit in her devotion to the Oku cause.  

This is a novel about individuals, motives, and relationships, about trust and betrayal.  The characters drive the novel, and the time-travel element, while crucial, does not dominate. Of course, the twist is evident after you've read the whole novel, but you have to get there step by step.  

I often read time-travel novels, and I've mentioned before that this is a difficult plot to pull off.  Most novels with the time-travel proposition fail to make me believe.  Sometimes the attempts to explain how time-travel works and its possible effects--only create more holes in the theory.  Larson keeps the details to a minimum and makes it work!


NetGalley/Five Star

Science Fiction/Mystery.  2013.  Print length:  268 pages.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Long Knives by Charles Rosenberg

Long Knives           

A combination of  mystery, legal issues, and ivory tower academia's tenure politics, Long Knives features Jenna James, former member of a high-powered law firm and current law professor up for tenure at UCLA.

Jenna is happy with her move from Marbury Marfan's prestigious firm to her current role as law professor at UCLA.  She's a popular and successful teacher--her life is less stressful, but still busy.  She has a boyfriend, but isn't sure about the depth of their relationship.

Until a student dies in her office, Jenna has been looking forward to becoming tenured faculty.  When it turns out that Primo Giordano's death was a result of a poison introduced by the coffee Jenna offered him and and the treasure map Primo brought with him disappears, Jenna becomes a person of interest and then a suspect.   

Jenna turns to old friends Oscar Quesana and Robert Tarza for help when she becomes a target in the murder investigation and has a law suit filed against her for stealing the treasure map.  

Is Jenna simply a suspect or is she a target?  Was the coffee intended for Primo or Jenna?

Jenna and old friends and associates Oscar and Robert are determined to solve the mystery and prevent Jenna's shot at tenure from going awry.

Long Knives held my interest from first to last.  While I think the reason for trying to pin the murder on Jenna is a bit far-fetched, part of me is well aware that people have been ruined or killed for even more fatuous reasons.  The news and social media publicize bizarre reasons for murder and revenge every day.

I'm interested in reading Death on a High FloorRosenberg's first novel that introduces Jenna, Oscar, and Robert.

Rosenberg is a former editor of the Harvard Law Review and currently practices in a small firm in the LA area.   Another author tidbit:   "Charles B. ("Chuck") Rosenberg has been the credited legal script consultant to three prime time television shows: L.A. Law, The Practice and Boston Legal, as well as the TV show The Paper Chase (Showtime)."

Read in January, 2014

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Legal Thriller.  March 1, 2014.  Print version:  502 pages.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Cautionary Tales

I mentioned The Wave by Todd Strasser and The Children's Story by James Clavell the other day when reviewing Dominion.  

The Children's Story is short enough to be read in one sitting 0f about 15 minutes.  One short sitting.  The skill with which the "teacher" manipulates the children could last a lifetime if nothing was done to counteract the teachings.  And it is done so gently.  

The premise is that the U.S. has lost a war with a nameless enemy.  The country has been occupied, and the education system is a prime target for peaceful cooperation.

Below is the beginning of the story.

The Children's Story by James Clavell
The teacher was afraid.
And the children were afraid. All except Johnny. He watched the classroom door with hate. He felt the hatred deep within his stomach. It gave him strength.
It was two minutes to nine.
You can read the rest online here.   Or order a copy to keep.

To summarize:  At 9:00, new teacher arrives; she is beautiful and kind.  The old teacher is dismissed.  

By 9:23, the children, even Johnny, have been essentially re-educated.  Not only in this classroom, but in all the classrooms across the country, quickly and painlessly....

What is the moral?  We are all subject to various forms of propaganda and brainwashing.  It can be done through fear and punishment, but it can also be done through patient, gentle manipulation and rewards, especially with children who are separated from their parents.  Without threats or stern authoritarianism, the beautiful teacher dismantles one belief system and makes room for another.  The children are primed, and without input from their parents, will gradually accept all of the new mindset eagerly.

Thinking that we are immune to such manipulation is foolish.  Even if individuals don't succumb (through either the carrot or the stick methods), they are tempted--especially as more and more people accept the situation.

Separating children from their parents and treating them kindly and "logically" is a smooth first step.  

The Wave, however, begins as an experiment in a California high school.  When discussing the rise of fascism in Germany that culminated in the Holocaust, many students couldn't understand how/why the general German population went along with it.  They were adamant that they would never have participated in such behavior and would have protested.

The teacher then initiates an experiment to show the power of peer pressure, forming an organization called The Wave.  The Wave has a membership card, a symbol, a salute; the members feel special.  They recruit others.  However, in the process, individuals who voice opposition are viewed as a threat....

Both stories are excellent examples of how manipulation, propaganda, the feeling of being special by belonging to a particular group, and peer pressure can have tremendous influence and power.  

Following a leader, any leader, without question can have catastrophic results.  The idea can be extrapolated to illustrate what can happen to certain sports teams, or cheer leading squads, or religious groups, or any organization with a strong or charismatic leader.  

Two cautionary tales worth examining.  

Friday, February 07, 2014

The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian

The Mangle Street Murders        

March Middleton is an engaging young woman with an independent turn of mind.  After her father's death she travels to London to live with a guardian who says he owes a debt to her father.

Sidney Grice, the guardian, is a much older man and a feted personal detective.  He is small of stature, has a bad leg, and a glass eye that tends to pop out when he becomes excited.  Grice values money and his reputation; he is irascible, arrogant, and supercilious.  Although he mentions March's mother and a debt owed to her father, these are secrets that are evidently to be kept for another installment.

It surprises me that March is so incurious about the relationship Grice had with her family, but she quietly accepts Grice's unwillingness to give further explanation.

When a beautiful woman approaches Grice in an attempt to persuade him to prove the innocence of her son-in-law in her daughter's murder, Grice turns her down because she cannot afford his fees.  March is sympathetic and intercedes, offering to pay the fee herself.

Grice expects payment; March wants justice.  The pattern for their relationship is established, and since she is paying the fee,  March insists on participating in the investigation.

As the investigation proceeds, Grice is of the opinion that the man is guilty, and March is just as adamant that the man is innocent.

The trial results in a guilty verdict, but in some ways this is only the beginning.  

There is a cameo appearance by Arthur Conan Doyle in his role as a doctor, which fits right in as Grice is a play on Sherlock Holmes.  Not that March functions in the role of Watson, she challenges Grice and certainly has none of Watson's hero worship for Holmes.  Grice is much too concerned with reputation and financial reward, but like Homes, he does appreciate an intellectual puzzle.  He simply doesn't want to engage without remuneration.  

Inspector Pound is no Lestrade, and he does make a fine third to the disagreeing duo of Grice and March.  I also liked Harriet Fitzgerald, who has a small role as something of a bluestocking.  I hope she figures larger in the next adventure.

Kasasian provides some funny moments and some vivid details of life in areas far from the middle- and upper-classes of London. There is also an interesting allusion to the urban legend of Springheel Jack.  

At times, I found March too naive and Grice too acerbic and patronizing.  Nevertheless, The Mangle Street Murders shows great promise as a new series.  The Gower St. Detectives series has a lot going for it!

NetGalley/Pegasus Books

Historical Mystery.  Feb.  2014.  Print version:  291 pages.


Thursday, February 06, 2014

In the Blood by Lisa Unger

In the Blood is one of those books that many will say that they couldn't put down.  Not me.  I had to put it down because the tension became so great and caused enough anxiety that I needed to get away from it.  Only briefly, however, because I was so hooked by Unger's writing. 

Evil is a debated concept.  I believe evil does exist; if not in an individual, then in the actual behavior.  I mean, was Hitler evil?  Whether or not he was, the holocaust was evil in both the magnitude and horror of the number of deaths and in each individual death.

Can a child be evil?  Again, whether or not you believe an individual to be evil or mentally ill, behavior can be evil.  Remember The Bad Seed, anyone?  Briefly:  Cute kid, heartless killer. 

 What if the cute kid has an IQ of around 180?  Now that is scary.  

While the opening scene in Lisa Unger's novel is certainly frightening, it was not until the introduction of Luke, a disturbed eleven-year-old boy, that my trepidation began to mount. 

Unger's writing is crisp and the psychological aspects are riveting.  Lots of suspense, but fortunately, no real gore.  Goes to show that a psychological thriller does not have to depend on graphic violence or bizarre murders to produce a plot that keeps the reader with bated breath about the outcome.

The twists are subtly hinted at, but even as you pick up on them, you can't always determine how they fit, and you don't have a clear picture of all of the complex possibilities until close to the end of the novel.   I couldn't help but think of Hitchcock's ability to ratchet up suspense and uncertainty in his films.

This is my first book by Unger, but I intend to try another one soon.  If her other books are as well-written as this one, I've been missing some excellent suspense.  


Psychological Thriller.  Jan., 2014. Print version:  353 pages.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Hatch and Brood of Time by Ellen Larson

Originally published in 1999, The Hatch and Brood of Time is the first in Larson's series featuring Natalie Joday.  It is being republished this February which is why it was a NetGalley offering.

I was once again attracted to a title from Shakespeare, but not so much by the drippy blood cover.  I like the original cover better.

Despite the new cover, I did enjoy this mystery.  Natalie Joday is an interesting protagonist, and the plot kept me involved.

Lots of suspects and some complicated relationships.  I look forward to catching up with this series.

Read in January.

NetGalley/Poisoned Pen Press

Mystery.  Feb. 2014.  Print version:  250 pages

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun

Black Moon 

  How long can a person survive without sleep?  Studies show that lack of sleep reduces cognitive function, affects memory, and can cause hallucinations.   In normal circumstances, the individual will simply give in to sleep eventually.  

Fatal Familial Insominia, however, results in death.

The rare human genetic disorder Fatal Familial Insomnia causes extended sleeplessness and is fatal after about six to 30 months, according to Scientific American magazine. However, it says the condition is misnamed because death results from multiple organ failure rather than sleep deprivation.

Black Moon posits an unusual plague that results in sleeplessness, an insomnia that affects the planet.   One area might experience the problem, while other areas continue to dismiss the possibility...but ultimately,  more than 99% of the world's population loses the ability to sleep.

For some reason, a very few individuals appear to be immune.  Matt Biggs is one of these, and he does everything he can to save his wife as she slides into dementia.  When she runs away, Matt sets out on a journey to find her, but the world of sleepless people is a dangerous one.  In their delirium, the sleepless who find a sleeper will murder without thought or mercy, and Matt must locate safe places to sleep if he wants to remain alive.

But there are other stories as well included as well:  Chase, Felicia, and Lila.  

A strange but fascinating novel.  

Read in September; review scheduled for February.

NetGalley/Crown Publishing/Hogarth

Dystopian.  March 4, 2014.  Print version:  288 pages. 

Monday, February 03, 2014

Dominion by C.J. Sansom


Notice the slight touch of red on the armband.  A British Bobby with that armband?  What a terrifying image.  

How strange that in all of the reading I've done over the years about WWII, both in fact and fiction, I've never considered what would have happened if Germany had won the war; if Britain, like France, had surrendered; if the U.S. had remained neutral.  The first pages of Dominion made me consider the possibility, and it appalled me.        

Sansom's alternate history presents a chilling picture.  What if Halifax, not Churchill, had succeeded Chamberlain?  It could so easily have happened; Churchill had many opponents and Halifax had many supporters.  The horrors of WWI were not that far behind the British and support of appeasement was still strong.  

Given what Great Britain suffered in WWI (only about 20 years behind them when another war threatened), one can understand that many were reluctant to take on Hitler's Germany.  It is fortunate that Churchill, despite his flaws and political adversaries, became Prime Minister and was able to build a war cabinet to meet the threat.

In Sansom's alternate version of events, Halifax does, albeit somewhat reluctantly, become Prime Minister, and after the disastrous defeat of the Allies in Norway and the fall of France (the U.S. was still neutral at the time), accepts Hitler's offer of peace.  Great Britain is subsequently occupied.  Lord Beaverbrook becomes Prime Minister in this version of events, and Sansom's alternate Great Britain becomes more and more fascist.   

Part of me protests at the British acceptance of this situation, but I suppose it is like the frog and boiling water metaphor...even big changes, if they are gradual enough, are likely to be tolerated.  It happened in Germany.  I suppose it could happen anywhere.  (i.e. The Wave by Todd Strausser and The Children's Story by James Clavell illustrate how easily this conversion can be managed; oh, and Milgram's experiments).

There is a Resistance, however, that operates much as the French Resistance did in real life.  David Fitzgerald is called on to get his University friend Frank out of the country.  Frank is a scientist and has learned something that the Gestapo wants.  David's spying and the attempt to rescue Frank put the entire cell in danger.  And David has a secret of his own.

I won't go into anymore of the plot, but I will add that this book was a kind of eye-opener. Germany's defeat has always seemed inevitable to me, an accomplished fact that I did not question; my imagination didn't take me any further.  Dominion envisions an alternate rendering of events that makes the blood run cold.  It is considering this possibility that makes the book so good.

Sansom takes real individuals like Beaverbrook and Oswald Mosely and many others and imagines their participation in his alternative government, adding verisimilitude to the premise.  His Biographical Note is full of excellent information about the social and political period from the 1930's to the 1950's.  He also includes his own Historical Note of his own opinions.  

For anyone with an interest in WWII, Dominion offers much to ponder.  I will be thinking about this novel for some time to come.


Alternate History.  Jan. 2014.  Print version:  640 pages.  

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Cold Mourning by Brenda Chapman

Cold Mourning is the first in a new series featuring Kala Stonechild and Jacques Rouleau.  The novel is set in Ottawa, and Chapman joins Louise Penny, Vicki Delany, and Inger Ashe Wolfe as my favorite Canadian mystery writers.  

Although Chapman has also written other mysteries, Cold Mourning is the first in a new series.  Native American Kala Stonechild joins the Ottawa Police Department with a past that she carries with her even as she tries to leave it behind.  Detective Jacque Rouleau also has a past, a more recent one, from which he is recovering.

Stonechild, the newest member of Rouleau's team, has only recently arrived in Ottawa and is staying at the YMCA/YWCA.  As a Native American and a woman, Stonechild has her work cut out for her; there are prejudices to overcome.  Rouleau's acceptance goes a long way.

When wealthy, influential businessman Tom Underwood goes missing and is later found murdered, Rouleau's team begins a thorough investigation with plenty of suspects.

An exceptional mystery, Cold Mourning kept me guessing.  Some suspects are unlikable, some are detestable, and a few are sympathetic; a variety of possible motives and no decisive evidence.  Yes, I had suspicions about the actual killer, but I suspected almost everyone at some point! points for me there.  By the time I was certain, it was only because Kala Stonechild unexpectedly uncovered the information.  I knew when she did.

I most certainly look forward to more from Brenda Chapman, Kala Stonechild, and Jacques Rouleau.

Read in Sept.; review scheduled for February.


Mystery/Police Procedural.  March 1, 2014.  

Saturday, February 01, 2014

The Kindred of Darkness by Barbara Hambly

The Kindred of Darkness

The latest in the James Asher series, featuring James and Lydia Asher.  James an Oxford Don and former (?) British spy found himself aiding a vampire in the first novel of this series.  His help was not willingly given, but rather the lesser of two evils.  

The vampires in the series prefer to keep a low profile, and when necessary, eliminate fellow vampires who threaten to expose them.

In order:  

Those Who Hunt the Night
Traveling with the Dead
Blood Maidens
Magistrates of Hell
The Kindred of Darkness

Lydia and James waited a long time for the arrival of their daughter Miranda.  Both parents and servants adore the child, and as everyone knows, the worst thing that can happen to parents is that harm befalls their child/children.  

When Grippen, the head vampire of London, kidnaps Miranda, Lydia is devastated;  she immediately sends for James, who has been attending a conference in Rome.  She also sends for Don Simon Ysidro, who manages to arrive before James.

Holding Miranda hostage, Grippen orders Lydia to find out who is challenging Grippen's power.  
When James returns home, he joins Lydia and Don Simon in trying to discover who is killing vampires and to  (somehow) determine where Grippen is holding Miranda.

Read as a NetGalley ARC, I immediately ordered the first in the series (Those Who Hunt the Night) and reviewed it here.  Then the second in the series (Traveling with the Dead), reviewed here.  

I've scheduled this review for February, and by then, I may have ordered and read Blood Maidens.
update:  Jan.  9;  I did read Blood Maidens, and in addition to not caring for the title, I didn't think the book was nearly as good as the first two in the series.  Will at some point read Magistrates of Hell and be caught up with the series.

Read in Nov., 2013

NetGalley/Severn House

Supernatural/Fantasy.  March 1, 2014.  Print version:  256 pages.