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review 2019-06-16 23:57
Charlottenburg Palace, Rudolf G. Scharmann
Charlottenburg Palace: Royal Prussia In Berlin - Rudolf G. Scharmann

This slim but large-format book is really a souvenir for visitors to Schloss Charlottenburg and is therefore rightly primarily about the images, reproducing some of the art work as well as the palace exterior, interior and gardens. additionally the text gives an interesting, if superficial, history of building, gardens and occupants (the Hohenzollern Dynasty) from first construction to post-WWII reconstruction (which is on-going). It's got most visitors covered, I suspect, with editions in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian - even German! There were a couple of subtle translation errors, "plastic" again and "stove" for "fire-place," but nevermind - the pics are fab, inculding one of my favourite object from those I saw, the White Harpsichord, which is white (duh!) with Chinoise paintings all over and was played by Charlotte herself, who was a keen musician and all-round intellectual. This was particularly delightful to me as a fan of Baroque era music and harpsichord pieces in particular.


There are LOTS more pics I like from my Berlin visit but here's just four more:


Flagon and Speedy went to see Neptune in Alexanderplatz:




Flagon says, roar! I whoosh FIRE out of my nose! This character is whooshing WATER from his!

Speedy says, snuffle! Different!


They also visited Alte Nationalgalerie on Museuminsel:



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review 2019-04-11 01:51
Review of The Last Palace by Norman Eisen
The Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House - Norman Eisen

This was an interesting book that looked at Czech history through the lens of the people who lived in and around the palace. It took the history from the early 1900s all the way through the present. I liked the stories even though many of them were sad and dark due to the awful history of Eastern Europe during the World War II era.

Overall a good read about a part of Europe I should know more about.

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review 2019-02-10 05:33
The Corpse at the Crystal Palace (Daisy Dalrymple Mystery, #23)
The Corpse at the Crystal Palace - Carola Dunn

 This is one of those series that's a reliable old friend for me.  Definitely cozy, a little bit frothy, and terribly innocent but never twee or precious, Dunn writes an historically accurate mystery that aims to offer a bit of harmless escapism.  She generally succeeds.  


Daisy and her step-daughter Bel are entertaining some young cousins for a week at their home in London, and on the agenda is a day at the Crystal Palace. When Daisy finds out that neither the nanny nor the nurse have been there, she ends up with a large group outing on her hands.  Everyone splits off to explore the huge building and grounds, and when it's time to meet back up, Bel and her cousins spy Nanny Gilpin running out of the "Ladies conveniences" in pursuit of another nanny.  They cannot resist following her, playing spy, to see what's up, and it's all great fun until they find Mrs. Gilpin unconscious in one of the ponds.


Meanwhile, Daisy arrives at the rendezvous point to find the nurse and her twins, but no nanny.  After an appropriate amount of time has passed, Daisy goes off to the Ladies conveniences to find out what's holding up nanny's return.  Only instead she finds another nanny, dead.  When Mrs. Gilpin regains consciousness (the children having dragged her out of the pond), she can't, of course, remember anything.


And so begins another amateur investigator by Daisy, who is determined to find out why her heretofore grave, humourless but ultra responsible nanny would hare off and leave the twins, even if it was in care of the nurse.


Dunn has fun playing up the meddling Daisy does, lightly pitting her in a race against her husband, DCI Alex Fletcher.  Daisy has a knack for purposely putting herself in the right place at the right time, but rather than press the point and interrogate, she merely observes and listens, picking up information as she goes, so it really isn't meddling.  This along with her connections to the peers of the realm (she's an Honourable), gives her access to information faster than the police and makes her contributions valuable, though  it pains her husband to admit it.  


The plotting of the mystery was so-so.  I should say, it was technically well done, but the motivation behind a couple of pivotal moments felt weak.  They worked, but only just.  This would probably be a crucial point in book 1, or any of the early entries, but by book 23 most readers are invested in the characters and will probably forgive a less than riveting plot for the chance to catch up with Daisy and her friends and family.  I did, anyway.

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review 2019-01-27 20:05
Lady Derring Takes a Lover by Julie Anne Long
Lady Derring Takes a Lover: The Palace of Rogues - Julie Anne Long

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. 


No one, particularly not her late husband, had ever valued her for wits. Oh, but she possessed them.


Starting off the Palace of the Rogues series, Lady Derring Takes a Lover, is a magnificent return to historicals for Long. The first thirty percent of the book was perfection with our heroine Delilah being told by her solicitor that her late husband was in massive debt and eventually winding up going into business with said late husband's mistress. Their Grand Palace on the Thames boarding house becomes the setting for smuggling intrigue and romance.


Derring never laughed at my jokes. But I laughed at all of his, even though I didn’t find him amusing. He sulked if I didn’t,” Delilah said. “It’s a small but killing thing, isn’t?”


Delilah and the mistress, Angelique, start off very wary of each other but with fantastic telling some truths and learning lessons story writing, Long gives us a female relationship that you will ship hard. This tandem of women from different social levels and impoverished by the same man bonding together was just brilliant. Long played them off each other beautifully, they had their separate strengths and weaknesses but ultimately, their hearts beat for the same reasons. If looking for a immensely satisfying female relationship in your romance, this is it.


I am the king’s favorite hunting dog.”


Our hero, Captain Tristan Hardy, is all that is strong, contained, and eventually burning. Delilah and Angelique start off with more of the focus and are so strong, that Tristan ended up a little bit to the edges of the spotlight. It takes a little bit before Tristan and Delilah really get going, around 40%, which I know will make some antsy, but while their time seems a bit shortened by how full this first in series book is, they tended to make the most of it. From the first time Tristan sees Delilah, to the mandatory drawing room nights, and finally to the last 10% of their story, they had chemistry. Tristan might not have felt as fully fleshed out as I like, but let me tell you, the man can grovel/make things right with the top tier of romance heroes.


The notion of seducing her made him breathless, because he thought it was both possible and inadvisable for a dozen reasons.


While Delilah is living at and running the boarding house because it was the only thing not repossessed, Tristan arrives there because he is the captain of the blockade. His investigation into a cigar smuggling ring has led him to believe Delilah's husband was involved, along with The Palace of the Rogues, renamed The Grand Palace on the Thames by Delilah and Angelique. I thought the cigar smuggling investigation worked to get these two together but it moved very slowly and tended to feel almost ignored at times, not the strength of the novel. It is obvious the history of the former Palace of the Rogues is going to be the plot thread stringing the series together as we get a couple hints and clues here that will probably add to the building of an eventually completed puzzle (series).


It was nearly as much a collision as a kiss, at first, fierce and hard, as if they were both intent on punishing themselves and each other for wanting this.


Long did a great job interweaving secondary characters to create a full ensemble cast but I did think it took away from time I would have preferred to go to Delilah and Tristan. I loved Tristan's relationship with his Lt., providing a wonderful showing and not telling insight into his personality and character, wouldn't change a thing about Delilah and Angelique's friendship, but a very small secondary romance and some other minor focuses on characters could have been taken out. There is some on fire commentary dealing with women's rights but I did almost cringe at a very close to feeling forced mansplaining moment. There is some definite first in a series fullness happening here but again, Tristan and Delilah's moments are impactful when they have them.


Oh, now I see. You’re that Captain Hardy.”


The beginning was 5 stars, the middle 3.5ish, and the ending brought it back to 5 stars, for me. All in all, I was highly impressed with this first installment and am dying to read the next in the series, which I think will be about Angelique and a mysterious stranger that arrives late in the story. A brilliant female friendship, a loaded chemistry couple, and an ensemble cast that pulls you into their world, don't miss this one.


Know that I am at your mercy, now and forever.”

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review 2018-11-15 10:16
In the Vanisher's Palace
In the Vanisher's Palace - Aliette de Bodard

I've read quite a lot by Aliette de Bodard, so I was very pleased to get approved for a pre-release copy of this by Netgalley. Well, it was pre-release when I got it, even if it's taken me forever to get around to actually reading it and then even longer to review it! That shouldn't be taken as a comment on the quality of the story, just on sudden craziness in my life and inability to settle down and actually read stuff. 


Anyway, on to the story. The basic premise of In the Vanisher's Palace is that it's set on a world where aliens had ravaged everything and the characters we come across now are literally living in the ruins of what has been left behind. One of our main characters (Yên) is the daughter of the local healer, who is dealing with all sorts of odd illnesses caused by mutating viruses, and they live in a community where being useful is the key to survival. Yên herself is a scholar and not particularly good at anything else, so when attempts to heal the daughter of one of the community's leaders fail to be effective and more stringent measures are needed, she gets traded away to the dragon Vu Côn in exchange for a more effective treatment.


Vu Côn is one of the last dragons living and takes Yên to her palace, the abandoned ship of one of their former alien conquerors (the Vanishers), a place that literally does not obey the rules of physics. Rather than being killed in a bloody and violent manner, as Yên is expecting (and as was her potential fate in the outside world for the crime of not being useful to the community), she's given the job of tutor to Vu Côn's teenage children and also find herself unexpectedly attracted to said dragon. 


Anyway, no secret has been made of the fact that this is a Beauty and the Beast re-telling in any of the publicity for In the Vanisher's Palace, so you can probably figure out roughly how it all works out. Finer details would spoil the story, so I just urge you to check it out if you like stuff that's inspired (as much of de Bodard's work is) by her Vietnamese heritage. To be honest, as is often the case with novellas, I get frustrated by the fact that they just don't on for as long as I would like and this is also the case here - there's enough world-building for a novel at least and it's constrained down to support the fairy-tale storyline instead. That's probably why I didn't give 5 stars in the end. 


I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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