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Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession (Six Tudor Queens #2)Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession by Alison Weir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Considering the lack of sources for writing a novel about Anne Boleyn, the author has filled in the historical gaps with an interesting and fully developed character to follow. The earlier part of the book, Anne's youth in France and the later part of the book, once she and Henry are married were the most interesting. The interminable seven or so years that it took for Henry and his advisors to get to the point where he put Katherine aside and married Anne were just as interminable to read. That portion of the book became terribly repetitious, though it did serve to develop the feelings of frustration, hope followed by despair, followed by more frustration in the reader as it must have in the two main characters.
The moral quandary of replacing Katherine, a queen of over 20 years, with a younger, hopefully more fertile queen must have been difficult for many of the people involved. The attempts by Henry to overthrow all of the Church's precepts in an effort to secure a wife who would presumably be able to give him sons are thoroughly explored. The political, social and religious ramifications of his actions were very serious and the manipulations and behind the scenes scheming to prevent war or worse were intense. The book brings all of these things to light.
The years after the marriage of Anne and Henry which should finally have been a fulfilled love match with many children were anything but happy. The further complications of this ill-fated are laid out in great detail. At times, one could almost feel sorry for them but at others the selfishness on both their parts made them anything but sympathetic. Still, the death of Anne and the men accused with her, as well as the death of those who'd been sacrificed for not supporting Henry's union with her was nothing short of tragedy. All of this certainly changed the course of history and the changes reverberated for many, many years throughout the Western world.
If there is one criticism of this advance uncorrected proof from GoodReads on which I've based this review, it is that it was much too long and moved too slowly in many parts.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Lady Emily and Hargreaves Return to Greece and Phillip Returns--Or Does He?

A Terrible Beauty: A Lady Emily MysteryA Terrible Beauty: A Lady Emily Mystery by Tasha Alexander
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My five star review is primarily for the setting and history contained in the story. Having been to Greece the description of the countryside and ancient places is so detailed and true to the place, it was like being transported back again. If I were to rate the book on story and plot I would give it between 3 and 4 stars, but, I've read the series from the beginning. It may be the resurrection of Phillip to those who have not been with Kalista, oops, I mean Lady Emily and Hargreaves from the beginning might not feel the full impact of Phillip's unexpected return from death in Africa. It would still be an enjoyable read but it would feel as though there were some inside facts which the new reader might sense but not fully grasp. The whole of Jeremy's story would be truly lost on them and trying to figure out Margaret's relationship would be even more problematic. Still, the characters are fully developed with their individual personalities well developed. The alternation of Phillip's return to life story and Emily and Hargreaves' annual return to Greece from England works really well. And, it truly isn't until the very end that the question of is he or is he not Phillip is answered and, I must confess, I wavered as much as the main characters but wasn't totally surprised ( nor were they, truth be told ) at the answer. Good read if new to the series, excellent read if a dyed in the wool follower.

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Tea Planter's Wife

Gwen, a young, somewhat innocent English girl marries and older tea plantation owner and moves with him to Ceylon in 1925. He is a widower, whose wife died twelve years earlier though he does not share the circumstances under which she died. Life in Ceylon is exotic, mysterious, somewhat lonely and the relationships among the British, their workers and house servants is a bit confusing. But Gwen is madly in love with her husband, who now, in this new environment has become somewhat distant. Gwen, upon her arrival in Ceylon met a local artist, a Sinhalese, who seems charming, helpful and friendly but she soon becomes aware of her husband's intense dislike of the man, despite Laurence's unwillingness to clarify the source of his animosity. In addition to this tension, Gwen must overcome her suspicions of an affair between Laurence and an American beauty, Caroline, who makes no effort to hide her attraction to him. He in turn, though denying the relationship, seems to revel in the flirtation and attention. Add to this situation, the live-in presence of Laurence's younger sister, Verity, who considers herself mistress of the plantation and the manager of the estate, a gruff Scot named McGregor who thwarts Gwen at every turn as she attempts to show compassion and caring to the workers in the fields and the tension and anger builds. When Gwen becomes pregnant she is, at last, hopeful of changes in the situation. She has found a hidden grave of a young child and Laurence has opened up about his first marriage a bit. He has become more attentive. The house servants, especially the housekeeper, have become more cooperative and Gwen has become a little part of the British community. Her cousin has come for a visit, though she has returned to England and Laurence is determined that it is Verity who will be Gwen's companion and aide during her pregnancy and after the babies, she seems to be carrying twins, are born. So though some of the stress and tension has subsided, Verity continues to be a thorn in the side. Once the children are born, however, the situation only grows grimmer and Gwen is left to wonder if her marriage can be saved and if, indeed, Ceylon will remain her home. Though the story plot lines are intriguing and the stress and tension builds and the mysteries continue almost to the very end, the repetition of strife between the characters and the burden of the secrets they each conceal at times becomes as suffocating and irritating as the heat, humidity and rain of the weather and the incessant buzzing of the flying insects. Even the constant reminder of the beauty of the sunsets and the lake does little to move the story and at times it just plods along--to the point that I read ahead to find out how the whole thing ends--I became so impatient. I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in return for a review.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Slightly South of Simple--is Simply Boring

Slightly South of Simple (Peachtree Bluff #1)Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good summer beach read--so you don't have to dwell too much on any of these characters. Just pure fantasy--a little tragedy that didn't really hit me deeply--but lots of monied women who don't need to work, or work at very glamorous jobs. Peachtree Bluff sounds pricey and the family, though old Southern gentry, can well afford it. Found the characters shallow and self-indulgent to say nothing of willing to do anything for what they want, without much regard for the feelings of any but themselves. Oh, the mother, grandmother and sisters are all very concerned about each other and their children, but the rest of the people who love them and who they purport to love fall outside the golden circle. Could not relate to any of them, although the NYC-country mindset is definitely one I've lived and can sympathize with Caroline's need for the city. I miss it, too. Probably will not bother with the sequels.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Who Killed the Scarecrow at the Harvest Festival and Stuffed His Mouth with a Pumpkin Muffin???

The Pumpkin Muffin Murder (A Fresh-Baked Mystery, #5)The Pumpkin Muffin Murder by Livia J. Washburn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Just an easy read for when your mind is tired but you want to relax with a fun book. Phyllis is a retired teacher who is also a widow whose son is grown and married and out of the house. She had decided to rent rooms in her house to two fellow, also retired teachers, Eve the manizer and Carolyn, an overbearing sort always competing with Phyllis for baking awards and cooking compliments. Sam, from another school district, has also joined the ladies and he and Phyllis are boyfriend and girlfriend though, at their age, they shrink from the terms.
In this, the fifth outing of mystery solving in Weatherford, Texas we find the community getting ready for the annual Harvest Festival. Phyllis is entering Pumpkin Muffins in the baking contest but, this time around, Carolyn is acting as a judge. While that situation in itself may have ended in a murder and may have been quite interesting the contest never came to be.
On the morning of the day, as contestants arrived with their baked goods, Carolyn and Phyllis notice that one of the scarecrows that are scattered around the park as decoration appears to have been moved onto the porch of the cabin serving as the venue. Always ready to set things straight, the ladies take it upon themselves to move the misplaced fellow, only to have him fall at their feet--not a straw filled men's outfit, but a dead body dressed as a scarecrow. One of the local real estate moguls lies there, his mouth seeming to be stuffed with a PUMPKIN MUFFIN!!!! The game as has been said before is afoot! Did his wife do him in? The local police chief and his head detective are sure of it--but not so fast--Phyllis doesn't believe this lovely teacher could kill her husband. And, as is her wont, she sets out to prove it.

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Monday, July 31, 2017

New Evanovich Series--Curious Minds--Knight and Moon #1

Curious Minds (Knight and Moon #1)Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having grown a little tired of Stephanie Plum, I decided to try this new series by Evanovich. The story moves fast, Emmie Knight is a little spacey but interesting, though I think he could become quite irritating after awhile. Sort of like Bones who never seemed to get with the program--in time, the lack of social grace in such an intelligent character seems a bit far-fetched. For now, however, the repartee between him and Riley Moon is a cross between Hart to Hart and Nick and Nora Charles and fun. The mystery involving the Federal Reserve Bank and the gold of many nations was interesting and informative. Will definitely rejoin the couple on their next adventure. Whether this will become a must read series for me remains to be seen.

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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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