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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

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Where is Saardisca?

All the President's Menus (A White House Chef Mystery, #8)All the President's Menus by Julie Hyzy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Olivia Paras' story continues with the White House Executive Chef running the kitchen with only Bucky as assistant and Marcel continuing to create his sugary confections in the pastry kitchen. The country is in the midst of a sequester so Cyan is on unpaid leave and is thinking of leaving the White House staff, much to Ollie's dismay. Ollie and Gav are now married so there are many marital conversations about government doings with Gav's return to duty with the Secret Service.

This latest adventure finds President Hayden entertaining the female candidate for the Presidency of Saardisca, a fictional country in which female leadership is unheard of and where dssidents to the government, are harshly handled. Coinciding with the visit the White House kitchen is hosting four Saardiscan chefs anxious to learn the secrets of organizing and presenting State dinners efficiently. Despite her directives to speak only English while in the kitchen these men frequently revert to their own language.

Two fainting bouts by Marcel and the death of the leading Saardiscan chef begin to make the hairs on Ollie's neck rise and soon, despite her best efforts, she is embroiled in an international mystery. Are these events merely the results of natural causes or is something else afoot--well,this is Ollie Paras about whom we speak. What do you think?

In the meantime, Gav has the opportunity to leave the Secret Service and take over the operation of a winery currently being run by the parents of his first fiancé who was murdered before they could wed. Though no decision has been made other than to consider it for some
future time, the introduction of the possibility creates flexibility to the author should mysteries at the White House dry up.

If there was a weakness in this episode it was the fact that Saardisca is a fictional country--making it more a distraction than an exotic twist.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Jamie Stewart is Back in Scotland and the Lairds MacFarlan are Loyal

The Laird's Choice (Lairds of the Loch, #1)The Laird's Choice by Amanda Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of many examples where having won a Goodreads book I've looked for others in the author's series to read and review. This is the first in The Lairds of the Loch trilogy which I read after having won the second and third installments. They are all stand alone books revolving around the three MacFarlan girls during the time of Jamie Stewart's return from English captivity to resume the rule of Scotland.

I am particularly fond of this series for several reasons--the characters are so well drawn and realistic that you are honestly interested in their lives and relationships. Secondly, there is a great deal of actual Scottish history shared in an entertaining way. And third, the description of the scenery of this wild, rocky, highland is breath-taking.

This is the first story--the escape of a young galley prisoner from rebel clan's fleet. Magnus Galbraith washes up on the shore of MacFarlan land and is found by the eldest daughter, Lady Andrena. Having lost all of his sons, Laird MacFarlan convinces Mag to marry Dree and to assume the MacFarlan name. James Stewart is once more on Scottish soil and is in the process of gathering loyal followers together to unify Scotland under a uniform code of law. This is their story and it is page turning.

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The End of the Hope Diamond Trilogy

The Undercover Scoundrel (The Hope Diamond Trilogy, #3)The Undercover Scoundrel by Jessica Peterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the last of The Hope Diamond Trilogy and, though the middle book was disappointing, this one returns to the excitement and enjoyment of the first. All three books revolve around the brazen robbery of the Hope Diamond by a bored womanizing aristocratic young man looking for a thrill. The first focuses on him, William and his lady love, Violet and is quite exciting when he realizes that he must return the diamond without revealing his role in its theft.

The second book focuses on Violet's mousey cousin, Sophia and the banker, Thomas Hope, owner of the diamond. They are also trying to recover it, since Hope's bank is losing customers since word got out that he wasn't able to protect such a valuable asset. He and his remaining clients, including Sophia's family are in dread danger of losing all they have. In this installment, the constant repetition of events from the first book made for boring and less than exciting reading.

This last entry in the trilogy returns to a higher level of excitement with the return of Henry Lake, an English spy, attempting to find the Diamond so that he might use it as a bargaining chip with Napoleon, who wishes to reclaim this lost gem of the French crown jewels. Henry hopes that he can trade it for the lives of British soldiers held captive by the French. His cohort in his quest is none other than William, the thief's, sister, Lady Caroline. Henry had married her in secret twelve years earlier, when he was 20 and she 18. He left her the day after the marriage to serve his King as a spy, without any parting word. She married his best friend and is now that man's widow. The excitement builds as spy vs spy battle to find the gem, as Caroline's brother attempts to hide his part in the whole affair and as Henry, who knows he must leave once more, attempts to avoid new entanglement with Caroline, who is also restraining her emotions.

Yet, as is often happens in these spun-sugar historical romances all's well that ends well. --Easy read and fun trilogy, to which I was introduced by a Goodreads win of the first installment several months ago.

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Hope Diamond Trilogy Part 2--Ho-Hum

The Millionaire Rogue (The Hope Diamond Trilogy, #2)The Millionaire Rogue by Jessica Peterson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is the second installment of The Hope Diamond Trilogy by Jessica Peterson. Having enjoyed the first in which William, a bored Duke, meets Lady Violet, an almost spinster at 22 and equally bored, I was looking forward to a continuation of the story. In actuality, this turns out to be a rehash of the original. Lady Violet is dancing with William and is wearing the Hope Diamond.
Acrobats come storming into the ballroom, create havoc and when everything settles down the Diamond and William are both gone.

When I reached this part of the story I thought I had already read this book but NO--it is the exact plot of The Gentleman Jewel Thief, part one of the Trilogy, but retold from the perspective of Violet's young cousin, Sylvia and Thomas Hope, the banker who owns the Diamond. Quite a disappointment, since all of the major plot lines are repetitions. The difference is that Sylvia, determined to make an excellent match has caught the eye of the most eligible batchelor of the season and, because she has some pretty heavy romps with Thomas, finds herself turning down the man's proposal and settles for the non-English tradesman, Hope.

There wasn't even the suspense of the mystery of the theft of the Diamond or whether it would be recovered since that had all been revealed in the first book. I have the third book of the Trilogy and will read it--at least as far as it takes to determine whether there is any difference in the story--other than which guy is tearing which bodice this time. While that is fun there needs to be a plot in which it is set that offers SOME mystery to the story.

Left me as bored as William and Violet in the first.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

You're NOT in Riudoso or Tularosa Anymore NPH!

Never watched Doogie Houser--don't know why--think it seemed like a kid show, though my daughter, who was a toddler when it was on, assures me it was not. Never watched How I Met Your Mother--or more cool HIMYM--seemed like Sex in The City, which didn't seem anything like my young single adulthood in that same City. But then, I didn't smoke pot or drop acid in the 60's either and I was in my 20's. Not cool, enough, I guess. And that same daughter assured me I WOULD NOT like HIMYM! So, how is it possible that I even KNOW who NPH is ( that's the way he refers to himself, ad nauseum, throughout the book--or refers to YOU, if you accept his premise that the book is about you--very confusing, this talking in the second person. But that is who he is a cutesie, gimmicky guy from small town New Mexico. And yet, the book is interesting and fun. From his teen-age breakthrough on TV, to his almost invisible movie roles, to a successful Broadway career, that I missed since I'd left the city by then (and probably would have missed if I'd stayed since many of the shows he appeared in did not appeal to me. I saw Cabaret in its original run--didn't like the blatant homoerotic reimagining that pervades its rebirth. ) the story romps along professionally and also, personally. For it is once he is on his own in his 20's in NY playing in Rent that he starts to explore more thoroughly his sexual orientation. His description of his sexual awareness through school, to Hollywood, to NY and finally to Germany is handled so beautifully. It is obvious this is an intelligent and sensitive man speaking. Throughout most of the book, the Neil Patrick Harris that tackles that sensitive issue in such a way is the narrator. Periodically, however, he wanders off into vocabulary and language that is strange to me. It seems immature, self-conscious and even insecure. It was difficult to tell if it is locker room speak, gay man speak, Hollywood cool speak, or just used to shock. At times, when he digresses this way, I almost abandoned the book. But, because it is scattered throughout such interesting and well told and thought out areas--meeting David, why he fell so hard for him in comparison to others with whom he'd been involved, their decision to have children, the process of accomplishing it, the joy of birth and the wonders of parenthood--I had to keep reading. I still don't know how it is that I'm familiar with this actor. But, I'm glad to have read his story and come to know him better as a person--or at least as well as any autobiography lets you know someone. I am very familiar with the area from which he came, a bit familiar with the city where he tread the boards and totally unfamiliar with the fiction that is Hollywood, but he made the trip a magic carpet ride and he seems to have been happy taking it with his readers. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Smart Cookie Takes the Lead, but China is Still Around

Cat's ClawCat's Claw by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was interesting to look back on my last China Bayle's mystery review and see that I'd read #19 Mourning Gloria in April of 2012 and at that time said I'd taken a break from the series because they were beginning to feel like reruns. That book was written in 2012 and I must have bought Cat's Claw paperback when it came out and then proceeded to misplace it. So about a week or so ago, looking on Amazon for something new to read, I ordered another copy ( I've since found the first on my nightstand, where I was putting this one each night before turning in.). I'm glad I waited three years to resume the series because not only is it nice to see China and her family, including recently adopted daughter, Caitie, but also to reconnect with Ruby. It is refreshing, too, to see that Susan Albert apparently recognizes that the stories needed a bit of a tweak. This episode focuses on Smart Cookie, Sheila Dawson, the new Chief of Police in Pecan Springs, having kept the job after winning a coin toss with her new husband, Blackie. They decided that they couldn't both work in law enforcement after marriage and could not figure out which of them should resign when both loved their work so much. After the coin toss Blackie joined China's husband in forming a PI company and in this installment the two men are on their way into Mexico to find a young Austin child kidnapped by his non-custodial parent.

Not only do I enjoy the stories Albert tells but being familiar with the area of Texas she writes about I enjoy the information she shares such as the dangers around Piedras Negras/Juarez that have developed in the few years since I've crossed the border there with no thought of danger. Sad developments. Also until I read this I had never heard of the dead peasant insurance policies that large corporations take out on their employees. Interesting use of the system.

All in all, with the new tweaks focusing on some of the other characters in Pecan Springs, the new crimes being investigated and the breaking news of changes in the Hill Country, I am happily back on board and have a new copy of Widow's Tears ready to go.

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