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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Where the LIght Falls--A Novel of the French Revolution

Where the Light FallsWhere the Light Falls by Allison Pataki
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an engrossing story--French Revolution devolving into the Reign of Terror. Simply horrifying. The rabble bound to have freedom, equality and fraternity are frightening enough but the men who managed to wrest power from the nobility are ruthless. For simply questioning the need to use the guillotine so universally one could find oneself summarily carted off to prison, given a joke for a trial and find yourself one of its next victims. It mattered not what the rank of the person nor the situation and company in which such doubts are expressed--none are safe. In reading of the threats and insidious betrayals of friends I could not help but think of the similar conditions in Russia during their revolution, of the rise of Hitler in Germany and many subsequent events in South and Central America and also in the Mideast. In one character's defense of the rampant death sentences, when another character compared the relatively bloodless success of the American revolutionaries, he said that the American's were not surrounded by other countries willing to invade them and to support resisters within. Therefore, he continued, it was essential to eliminate the enemies within totally so that they could not stop the Revolution when aided by these other monarchies which did not wish to see its success. An interesting point.
Yet, so many of those who were condemned to death were people whom the new leaders held personal animus toward or whose possessions were envied and therefore had to be taken from them. Into this maelstrom of chaos and revolt enter the characters who wish change in France and who are willing to help the cause but who are not leaders in it. The young idealistic lawyer from the South of France, Jean-Luc St Clair who moves to Paris with his wife, Marie and their young son, Mathieu. Jean-Luc finds a job with the government doing the inventory of the clothing, furniture etc taken from nobles' homes and from various Churches and convents. He also acts as lawyer in suits brought by common Citizens against members of the nobility. Not a very highly paid position but the young couple are glad to be of service and are barely noticed. That is, until Jean-Luc's trust in the law and justice cause him to take on a very dangerous case.
Then there is Andre Valiere and his brother, Remy. Both are soldiers in the French Army, where they hope they will be safe, since in actuality their surname is de Valiere and their father has already lost his head, having been a land rich noble from the North. His accuser, his former friend and fellow officer, General Murat and his prosecutor, Guilliame Lazare. Neither man will rest until they have been able to have Andre and Remy thrown in jail and eventually killed.
This cat and mouse game carries us through the rise of Bonaparte and his invasion of Egypt. It ends ironically with his own crowning as Emperor. The revolt started with the almost total eradication of those nobles who remained in France, the beheading of a King and his Queen, The Terror with its blade that ran the cobblestones of Place de la Revoltion red with blood and ended with yet another crowned head assuming control of a country whose people were somewhat freer but still starving, where neither equality nor fraternity reigned though now all were citizens or citizenesses rather than monsieurs or mesdames.

This is a review of an advanced uncorrected proof provided by Goodreads for that purpose.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Dublin Student Doctor--Fingal Takes a Walk Down Memory Lane!

A Dublin Student Doctor (Irish Country #6)A Dublin Student Doctor by Patrick Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finally, Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly has proposed to Kitty and she, after all these years has accepted. We readers know that as students the two had fallen in love but, with Fingal's procrastination and dedication to work over personal life, their romance had folded and each went on to separate lives. After a day at the races, as Fingal was taking Kitty home, they come upon a motorbike accident. Who but Donal Doherty is lying in the road regaining consciousness after a severe blow to the head. Fingal sends Kitty home with Barry Laverty and goes to the hospital with Donal, who requires surgery to relief the pressure of blood building in his bruised brain. The surgeon is none other than Dr Crombie with whom Fingal studied medicine in Dublin many years ago. Finding himself again with Crombie and in a hospital setting for several days, surrounded by med students and student nurses to say nothing of the true ward bosses, the ward Sisters, Fingal finds himself transported back to his own student days.

And so, we meet his family, Ma and Father, his brother, Lars and learn of his home life. His relationship with his parents and his struggle to convince his father that medicine is his choice of career despite his father's wishes for him to study nuclear physics. Once he manages to get into med school after a stint in the Royal Navy we are introduced to his best pals, Crombie, Charlie Greer and Bob Beresford. We follow the four through their five years of study. We meet Kitty, a student nurse and watch the development of their romance. Each of these characters are so well defined it is as if they step off the page or rather that we step into the page and hang out with them--doing rounds, treating patients, going to the pubs, to the tenements, taking exams.
They become our friends, too. The secondary characters are just as developed and complex and many of them have appeared in the earlier five books--some, like Fitzgerald as irritating and arrogant as always.

Though this book takes place, mostly in the '30's and during Fingal's young manhood, it fits perfectly into the series. It is like hearing stories about your parents' youth or the history of a new contemporary friend--interesting and gives insight into how they became the people you know in the present. Read the series from the beginning--the book that now and then appears to be out of sequence is background to the present and gives a sense of reality to the whole.

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Foreign Eclairs--Is this the end of Ollie and Gav in the White House?

Foreign Éclairs (A White House Chef Mystery #9)Foreign Éclairs by Julie Hyzy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Considering this is a series about a White House chef, one would think the author would provide us a baker's dozen before ending it. Yet, rumor has it that this ninth installment is the end of the adventures of Head Chef, Ollie Paras. It is an exciting romp filled with assaults, tension, death and near death. Ollie is the target of a man, whose brother she has successfully managed to thwart in his terrorist activities. In the process, the brother died and another terrorist is incarcerated. The surviving brother, Kern, has family honor as well as personal reputation to avenge. He intends to do it by having Ollie killed as well as the President and his family. Gav has been infiltrating the man's terrorist group but once Ollie is mugged on her way home, his cover, since he is her husband, is blown. Now, he, too is in danger. DC police and the Secret Service, including the special White House contingent all get into the act to capture Kern and his flunkies and to protect those who have been targeted by them. Easier said then done which brings us to the author's method of ending Ollie's adventures. But, as any good author of mystery novels and movie and TV scripts know, it is always wise to give yourself an out, should you want to revive your characters and their plots. We may get our baker's dozen, yet. We can always hope.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

So High a Blood The Story of Margaret Douglas, Niece of Henry VIII, Mother of Darnley

So High a Blood: The Life of Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of LennoxSo High a Blood: The Life of Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox by Morgan Ring
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Margaret Douglas, daughter of Henry VIII's sister. Born in Scotland into the Douglas family, she was brought to England at a young age and lived through all the tumult of Henry's marriages. She found herself in favor at times and at others was labeled, as her first cousins were on and off, a bastard. She was ignored and then she was considered a favorite in Henry's court. He treated her to many luxuries.yet there were times when she was a threat to the succession to the throne and as such found herself in the Tower.

All the players are here--Henry, Mary Tudor, with whom Margaret was quite close, Edward, Elizabeth--with whom she had her problems. Then there are the French, the Spanish, the Scots. Mary Stuart, Darnley--who was Margaret's son--and therein lies the story. Margaret was a Tudor--heir to the throne--she was a Douglas with claim to the throne of Scotland. Mary, Queen of Scots was her niece and first cousin to Darnley. All of these people were Catholic but there was the whole upheaval of Protestantism and the suppression of Catholic practice. Margaret was an agile politician and manipulator, who spent at least three sessions of her life in the Tower. How she managed to keep her head, how her husband, Lennox kept his was fascinating. She was in the forefront of intrigue--sometimes in touch with the Spanish, other times in cahoots with the French--allies of Scotland, but not of England. She intended Darnley would marry Mary and he did but things went really badly there as history tells us. She had eight children--only two lived to adulthood and she and Lennox placed all their hopes and dreams in Darnley. Once he was killed ,Margaret and Lennox believed Mary was the leader in that murder, their sights moved to their grandson. James VI of Scotland, an infant, born Catholic, raised Protestant, would become the King of England, Scotland and Ireland though Margaret did not live to see her dreams fulfilled. She was so high a blood, a Tudor , with possible claim to the throne of England, who spent her life attempting to bring Scotland and England together under one Ruler and back in the good graces of Rome. At least part of her wish was fulfilled.
This is a review of the ARC provided by Goodreads and Bloomsbury.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Grace Takes Off--A Manor House Mystery

Grace Takes Off (Manor House Mystery, #4)Grace Takes Off by Julie Hyzy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Haven't read an installment of this series for awhile. Easy to get back into but it stands alone well, too. Grace and her Uncle have spent a couple of weeks in Italy on vacation and we join them on their last day. They are staying with a college friend of her uncle's. As they are shown the man's large art collections, it becomes clear to Uncle Bennett that a Picasso skull that he and his friend had located in the old days is not the original. He wants to wait until he arrives at home to check pictures taken in college to be sure before he mentions his suspicion. On the flight home, Bennett is almost poisoned by a groupie of the rock band whose flight they have joined. By the time they arrive in the States the stewardess and the groupie have both died. So, who is trying to kill Bennett and why? Is the skull a copy? If so, where did the original go? As usual Grace finds herself following leads --some down dead ends, others leading to even more confusing information. Still, by the end and its dramatic climax, all becomes clear and Grace relaxes at Hugo's with her roommates, with the case solved and the perps in custody. Naturally, this is too simple and in the final scene someone enters and joins their table as Grace scooches over to provide room How can a reader not like a book by an author who uses scooch, not once but several times, in her story?

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Another Pleasant Visit to Ballybucklebo--for an Irish Country Courtship

An Irish Country CourtshipAn Irish Country Courtship by Patrick Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fifth book in the Irish Country series and, still, Patrick Taylor continues to entertain. While an elderly community member of Ballybucklebo passes on, young Dr Laverty helps a set of twins into the world. Both he and his mentor, Dr Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly, find themselves in the throes of romantic turmoil, resolved at least for O'Reilly by the end of the story. Donal Donnelly and friends find themselves in a losing position having invested with Counsillor Bertie Bishop in an apparent dud racehorse. The same Bishop who almost shoots Kitty at a grouse shoot at the Lord's mansion. A younger version of Donal shows himself as adept at shady dealings as his elder and is found out by the wise O'Reilly. A middle aged spinster finds herself with a life-threatening condition as the result of a youth spent in India.

As usual, the reader finds that he/she is transported to the village and joins the daily life of its inhabitants with great ease and comfort. One shakes one's head at the foibles of some, laughs at others, commiserates with the lovelorn, worries about the ill, enjoys the comraderie of the Doctors and is, as usual, admiring of the long suffering Kinky Kinkaid, who finds that Kitty is an ally rather than a threat. All in all a lovely sojourn in the Irish hills of Ulster.

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Gypsy Moth Summer--I Wouldn't Bother Reading It

The Gypsy Moth SummerThe Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The story takes place on an island --Avalon, the first symbolic trope of the novel--located off the coast of New York's Long Island--maybe another. The white daughter of a prominent executive of the main industrial and economic entity on the island--Grudder Aviation, manufacturer of war planes and polluter of the island--returns to claim her inheritance. She brings her Harvard educated husband, with an advanced degree in landscape architecture, and her two children with her to live in The Castle--royalty! He is in addition to being educated also black! Doesn't take long for the author to introduce all kinds of viewpoints, real and supposed, on race relations.
In addition to this woman, Leslie, her husband, Julius, her son, Brooks and little daughter, Eva, we are introduced to the coterie of men and women who were friends and of Leslie's parents and grandparents--all very shallow and all very proper and all very rich. All a big façade of perfection.
There are also the younger generation, the teens of the island--the rich pampered teens of the East end where the Castle is located; the poorer, though not necessarily poor, children of the blue collar workers at Grudder located on the West end where these kids live. Naturally, never the twain shall meet--although a West end guy married one of the East end princesses and produced the two main teen characters Maddie and Dominic, Dom for short. Their father, being of lesser stock is an abuser of wife and children--though we are soon to learn that the mother, who spends her days in a pill induced stupor, grew up with a father who also beat her mother--so, I guess, even some aristocrats are abusers.
Once upon a time, when choosing colleges, Marymount was on my list--Leslie would have been entering college about the time I graduated in '63. The description of her time at Marymount is total fiction and, if it is not, then I am truly happy I opted for Mt St Vincent, where I was not forced to live like a nun with required Mass attendance and prayer times. But, at any rate, Leslie was repressed as a young woman--is it any wonder she broke out of the mold she was expected to inhabit.
Back to the teens--Leslie brings the two groups together, allows them the run of the ballroom at the Castle and their story devolves into sex, drugs and rock and roll--or metal, or grunge or whatever it was they were blasting all the time all night into the dawn. Where were the parents of any of these kids? Nowhere to be found or else,if included in the narrative at all, they are drunks, pill poppers, wife beaters, cheating husbands.
So,has the author left anything out of this story --any of today's hot button issues? She's covered big industry--warmongers, of course and just barely disguised Grummond wanta be--who are knowingly polluting the environment, causing all kinds of cancers and miscarriages in the community. We have socio-economic divide--the haves to the East and the have-nots to the West. Racial prejudice and social snobbery; abusive husbands and fathers; neglectful parents and drug and alcohol abuse are all covered. There is Alzheimer's in the old man who owns the factory. Oh, yes, Dom is a homosexual. Not much else can happen on this little piece of real estate. But to make sure that the reader is thoroughly confused and repelled the whole story takes place within one summer --but what a summer--it is one with a huge infestation of Gypsy Moths and their eating, defecating and crawling everywhere is the background music of the piece. This too was terribly overdone--actually quite disgusting--more than the story, in fact.
It was hard to get into this book--it was superficial and too symbolic at every turn. None of the characters was appealing and none of them mattered enough to care that the ending was supposed to be tragic. That it seemed the author wanted the reader to care was a bit sad--she just filled it with too many things to care about and so none of it mattered. Like the islanders at the end of summer, it was just good that summer was over and so was the book.
I received an advanced uncorrected proof review copy from Book Browse.

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