Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Short and Sweet Review: A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch

As all readers know, it’s no fun when you come to the end of a good series and feel adrift in your lifeboat of literature, searching for the next thing to read. So I’m throwing out a lifeline with A Beautiful Blue Death, the first in the Charles Lenox mystery series by Charles Finch.

Set in Victorian England, Charles is a gentleman of the upper class with Parliamentary aspirations who has discovered he has a real talent as a detective. With time and means to pursue this talent he’s already earned a reputation among his peers-and Scotland Yard-for both good and bad outcomes. But he knows his way is the way of the future so, invited or not, he doesn’t stop until the crime is solved.

In this case, the crime is the mysterious poisoning of a housemaid in the home of one of London’s most powerful political players. The suspects are many, as are potential motives. But Lenox persists, with the help of his friend, Dr. Thomas McConnell, and in spite of personal danger and a second murder. 

His neighbor and lifelong friend, Lady Jane, is a frequent companion with a great interest in Charles’ activities and well-being. Readers will wonder if something deeper is developing between these two and it very well may be.

Along the way readers are treated to a fun education in Victorian England. If you are a history buff as well as a lover of a good mystery, this one’s a page turner. And the good news is, once you turn the last page, there are nine more books to go.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Short and Sweet Review: Rescuing the Earl by Lana Williams

This is the third installment of Lana William’s Seven Curses of London series and in my opinion she just gets better and better with each new installment. So far we’ve met wounded warrior Nathaniel Hawke and reclusive scholar Oliver, Viscount Frost. Both were men whose spirits were deeply injured but who found happiness with strong women willing to fight for their love.

In Rescuing the Earl we follow Nathaniel’s older brother, Tristan Hawke, the Earl of Adair.  His black temper has given him a reputation and also a burden—carrying on the legacy of an unloving father whose dark temperament continues on in his eldest son. 

To keep the one thing in his life that matters most--a property that gives him solace and peace but that is entailed to someone else if Tristan doesn’t marry by his next birthday--Tristan has proposed to a shrewish woman, Lady Samantha.  He is determined that her own bad nature is the only one tough enough to withstand the wrath of Tristan’s darkest moments.

Then, he literally runs into the widowed Grace and her young son Matthew. They are fleeing a devious relative who plots Matthew’s demise in order to inherit his title and estate. Tristan finds himself compelled to help them and, in the process, drawn more and more to the lovely widow and her delightful son.

As with other books in this series, there are complications connected with the social issues that plaque the London of the era. As a reader I was intrigued by the blossoming relationship between Grace and Tristan and anxious to see how they would surmount the hurdles that entangled their lives. The characters were interesting and complex, as was their relationship. If historical romance is your cup of tea, I highly recommend Rescuing the Earl.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Short and Sweet Review: Loving the Hawke (The Seven Curses of London Book 1) by Lana Williams

In Loving the Hawke, the first of Lana William's new 7 Curses of London series, Lettie Fairchild has weathered five of Victorian England's brutal 'seasons', the precious years given a woman to make a respectable match that will supposedly support all her hopes and dreams for a happy and secure life. Failing that, she's expected to resign herself to spinsterhood while still a young woman.

Lettie's had little success and is almost content with a solitary future but she's not content to be virtually a servant to her mother as she works to marry off her younger sisters in the season du jour. Lettie is smart and courageous, not to mention outraged by the circumstances of the forgotten and vulnerable children of the impoverished citizens of London.

She sets out to make a difference, unaware of the danger a young woman alone faces in the shady back alleys of the city. But Nathaniel Hawke is well aware of those dangers and shocked to see this woman so out of place and so at risk as she naively attempts to offer better options than the long hours of hard labor in London's factories to young girls.

Nathanial has his own issues to sort through including the internal scars of a dysfunctional childhood and the external injuries that forced him to retire from a prestigious military career. Daniel is on a mission to stop a ring that traffics in kidnapped young women. But Lettie's arrival in the gritty streets of the East End leaves him torn between protecting her and pursuing his own goals.

As Lettie and Nathaniel confront each other in the streets of the city as well as the ballrooms of the Ton, their missions intertwine and their hearts aren't far behind. Readers are compelled to turn the pages of Loving the Hawke to see if these two manage to survive, succeed and, hopefully, realize they are made for each other.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Short and Sweet Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

I’ll put it right out there at the start of this review: I love science fiction. Call me geeky if you must, but here’s the deal, while The Martian, by Andy Weir may be technically categorized as science fiction, it’s really ‘science that could maybe happen someday’ and that, along with Weir’s incredible ability to make what could have been a very dry, science geek sort of read into a compelling and even humorous page turner is what makes this book one heck of a great read.

By a very unfortunate turn of events, Mark Watney finds himself alone and abandoned on Mars. It’s a long time until help could arrive, and that presumes that NASA knows he’s there and in need of help, which they don’t. Oh, and he doesn’t have enough food to last that long anyway, which leads to one of the most attention grabbing first lines I’ve read in a while, “I’m pretty much fucked.”

But don’t let that fool you, Watney is one smart and practical guy. He’s the MacGyver of Mars. If he wants to be rescued he needs to find a way to let NASA know he’s alive and he needs to figure out how to stay that way.

 For those of you who took AP Science Everything in high school, you may relish some of the finer details of each step and process as he works toward that goal. For those, like me, who spent more time in Humanities and English Lit, fear not! Weir has done an awesome job of making both kinds of readers follow happily along, explaining just enough of the science to make us appreciate the challenges, celebrate the successes and kick ourselves that we didn’t see the disasters coming, just as our hero does.

Will science save the day? Will Mark Watney survive? You won’t just want to know, you’ll need to know and that’s why you’ll turn the page. Once you get to the end (and I’m not telling you anymore, you’ll have to find out for yourself!) be sure to go a little further and read Weir’s letter about why and how he wrote this book. He is a geek, the kind of guy who wrote this for fun and put it out there to share with just a few until everyone else found out about it and it became an award winning, best seller and Matt Damon vehicle.

I’m looking forward to seeing the movie. Damon seems perfectly cast to me, in my mind his voice and Watney’s are one in the same. But movie and science aside, The Martian will go down as one of the best adventures I’ve ever been on. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Short and Sweet Review: Shattered Secrets by Lana Williams

Lana Williams wraps up her Secrets Trilogy with this third installment, Shattered Secrets. While it can easily stand alone as a suspenseful Victorian romance, for those who have read the previous two books this story spins a fun and satisfying tale of two people who struggle to come to terms with their feelings for each other, while also wrapping up the lose ends of a continuing suspense-filled plot.

Whew! That sounds like a big task but Ms. Williams is more than up to telling this tale and making it a delightfully fun story in the process.

When Lucas returns from Brazil to inherit his murdered brother's position as Earl of Berkmond he finds he's also inherited two young and rambunctious nieces. He also find their temporary governess, Moira, whose heart he broke years before when he left England after a terrible accident left him disfigured and tortured by demons he could not share with her.

Moira loves this man, despite his eye patch, gloomy disposition and mysterious head aches. She remembers the man he was and wants to help him, but she doesn't know if she can trust him. Lucas, meanwhile, is wary of sharing the ominous reason behind his headaches...and his desire to leave all he loves behind and return to Brazil.

But when Lucas' friends-and their wives-arrive, it's clear the mystery and danger that started it all is still lurking in the back alleys of London and, if they don't stop him, they may lose everything.

Want to curl up on a chilly night or a sunny beach with a good book you can't put down? This is the one. Enjoy!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Short and Sweet Review: A Knight's Kiss by Lana Williams

Whether or not you’ve already discovered Lana William’s Vengeance Trilogy you can comfortably lose yourself in this intriguing novella. We first met Sir Hugh, loyal subject of Sir Royce, in the first book of the trilogy, A Vow to Keep. Now, in A Knight's Kiss, Ms. Williams builds upon what was already an interesting character, helping us to understand his past and appreciate where this new adventure could take him.

Sent on a covert mission by Sir Royce to ferret out possible insurrection against the king, Hugh finds his mission complicated by lovely and strong-willed Liza. Now a widow, Liza was not happily married. The only love she’s known in her life has been a cruel version. But she has more important concerns now as the owner of a pub and a brewer of ale.

On a side note, with the rise in microbreweries today I found the topic of brewing and a glimpse into what medieval breweries were like to be fascinating!

But back to our story! Hugh’s mission is more difficult-and dangerous-than expected, and to complicate matters, Liza turns out to be a lovely and attractive distraction he didn’t plan on and maybe can’t afford. However, Liza could be just what he needs to accomplish his mission...not to mention kindle a long lost hope for passion and happiness for them both.

Definitely a fun read that will lead you to want more of the same. Luckily, Ms. Williams has provided it in the rest of the Vengeance Trilogy. Check it out! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Mental Floss Blows My Mind!

Okay, you may have read that title and thought that I have extremely good dental health...well, I try. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about a site I've discovered. They have these wacky, informative and fun short videos that recap a variety of topics. Just pick one that appeals to you.

As a writer I enjoyed '79 Common Mispronunciations'. The host, John Green, is hugely entertaining on a topic that you might think was just a step above watching paint dry. But really, when he instructed me in the proper pronunciation of Harry Potter's 'Hermoine' and added 'They should have been a couple but life is full of injustice and Weasleys' I was hooked!

So, maybe you don't care one way or another how people pronounce some of these words, although it can be very annoying! (I'm talking to you, verbal manglers of Illinois...that 's' is silent, people!) But as an author I really enjoyed '43 Words Invented by Authors' where I discovered that Chaucer invented the word 'twitter', thereby laying the groundwork for that 140 character behemoth that not only limits spaces but words, drastically narrowing the odds that anything Chaucer wrote will ever show up there!

Alright, do I have to use a three letter word to get your attention? Then check out '20 Misconceptions About Sex', hosted by Dr. Aaron Carroll. But beware, it can be clinical. You don't have to be an author to find the subject matter fascinating, but I would recommend it for Romance writers--it's very illuminating!

And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Mental Floss's offerings. They tackle all kinds of misconceptions and explanations, from make-up to mating seasons, alcohol to allergies, founding fathers to...cheese names?? So the next time you are passing time on hold with your cable company, check Mental Floss!