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review 2017-12-11 23:55
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 9 Reads (Winter Solstice / Yaldā Night and Yuletide)
The Poetry - David Shaw-Parker,Christina Rossetti,Ghizela Rowe
Goblin Market - Christina Rossetti
A Christmas Visitor - Anne Perry
Colour Scheme - Ngaio Marsh,Ric Jerrom

Book themes for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night: Read a book of poetry.

Book themes for Yuletide: Read a book set in the midst of a snowy or icy winter.

 

Holiday Book Joker as Bonus Joker: A book set on Winter Solstice (or Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere)

 

  

 

Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night Read: Christina Rossetti: The Poetry

A wonderful reading of some of Christina Rossetti's best-known poems by David Shaw-Parker and Ghizela Rowe, including her long narrative The Goblin Market, which I also own (and reread, for the occasion) in a delightful hardcopy edition illustrated with images by Christina's elder brother, the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Not holiday reading per se (and The Goblin Market is decidedly dark), but still very fitting poetic complementary material for the holiday season.  Highly recommended!

 

  

 

Yuletide Read: Anne Perry: A Christmas Visitor

Anne Perry's Christmas novellas are spin-offs of her major Victorian series (Thomas & Charlotte Pitt, and William Monk, respectively), featuring supporting characters from those series as their protagonists.  A Christmas Visitor is the second of those novellas, and its protagonist is Henry Stanhope, a mathematician friend of William Monk's.  Stanhope travels to the snow-laden Lake District to spend Christmas with the family of his longstanding friend Judah Dreghorn; only to discover that just prior to his arrival Judah has apparently slipped on a set of ice-sheeted stones crossing a brook on his estate.  What initially looked like an accident, at closer inspection is revealed to be murder, and while everybody's favorite and allegedly most likely suspect is soon found, it falls to Henry to find out what really happened.

 

Perry's writing is very atmospheric and captures the Lake District, 19th century rural society, and the Christmas spirit to perfection -- I loved this story right up until its very end, which (even for a Christmas book) struck me as overly moralizing and sentimental on the one hand, and just that decisive bit too neat on the other hand.  (Readers not enamored of mysteries hingeing on certain points of law might be turned off on those grounds)  Still, for a quick read to get into the spirit of the season (and be served up a nicely-plotted mystery into the bargain), I could hardly have done better -- and the stellar reading by Terrence Hardiman contributed greatly to my enjoyment.

 

  

 

Winter Solstice Book Joker Bonus Read: Ngaio Marsh: Colour Scheme

One of my favorite mysteries from Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn series, here served up in an unabridged reading by Ric Jerrom.  The story is set in Marsh's native New Zealand and begins on Summer Solstice, which is Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and thus makes the book eligible for this particular holiday's book joker.

 

The mystery is set at a spa hotel near a hot springs / mud pot / small version of Yellowstone National Park type of area, where a gentleman who has made one enemy too many (i.e., your classic Golden Age murder victim) one day is found to have fallen into a boiling hot mud pot.  (He may or may not also have been a German spy -- the story is set in the 1940s -- but this is one of the rare exceptions of a Golden Age mystery with that kind of angle that is blessedly devoid of "5th column" shenanigans, and where the war background is actually used skillfully to demonstrate how WWII affected daily life even in seemingly remote New Zealand.)  Also present at the spa is, inter alia, a star of the British stage and screen (unabashedly based on Sir Laurence Olivier) -- secretary in tow -- as well as, arriving on the day after the "accidental" death that very probably wasn't an accident, a Mr. Septimus Small, whom none of the other denizens of the spa manage to figure out, and who soon inspires the wildest conjectures as to his identity and occupation.

 

Upon revisiting the mystery -- thanks in no small part to Ric Jerrom's excellent narration and portrayal of the characters -- I found the story's inner logic (and the path to the solution) decidedly more obvious than when I first read it a few years ago, but then again, this time I knew where the whole thing was headed and, consequently, I was not as distracted by minutiae as the first time around.

 

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review 2017-12-09 05:26
Review: The Bad Girl and the Baby (Cutting Loose #3) by Nina Croft
The Bad Girl and the Baby (Cutting Loose) - Nina Croft

Darcy has a painful past. She thinks she failed her sister and now she’s trying to make it up by making sure her sister’s daughter, Lulu is living a happy and safe life. The only problem is that Lulu’s guardian, uptight, ultra-organized, ex-SAS, Capt. Matt Peterson won’t allow her to even visit her. Now Darcy needs to find a way to convince him that being a tattooed ex-con is not as bad as it seems. 

I loved Darcy’s kick-a$$ character! I think the author did an excellent job of portraying the true nature of her character. She was tough and protective yet showed glimpses of vulnerability at exactly the right moments. Even when she was unsure or feeling susceptible, she still went ahead and made the tough decisions. 
Matt on the other hand cracked me up half of the time. He was supposed to be this stiff, uptight, almost super-soldier but when it came to Lulu and Darcy… well, let’s just say he became someone else entirely different but not in a bad way. He and Darcy formed some kind of bond, that as much as they tried to deny it existed, or not give it a name, worked excellent for me because it was that openness and honest attitude from both of them that made their nameless relationship work; as long as their meddlesome friends were not trying to dictate their lives. 
Argh! That really annoyed me, though! Darcy and Matt’s friends were always telling them how bad they were for each other and how much damage each would cause to the other. I mean, seriously, consenting adults? At least in the end, friends served their purpose and proved that without them life would not only be boring but also so much harder and lonely. 

It’s not very often I connect this well with characters but this book was something else. Even Lulu was a delight to read. Those that have dealt with little kids will immediately understand and chuckle at what the characters had to go through with little Lulu. 
It’s not very often I give 5 stars to books either but I think this one warrants it. There simply was nothing I didn’t like; if anything I could re-read this book just for the sheer pleasure of reading it again. 

** I received this book at no cost to me and I volunteered to read it; this is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.***
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text 2017-12-07 15:01
The Fate of Kings

Mark Stibbe is a guest on my blog today, announcing his new release The Fate of Kings and discussing the relevance of late 18th century politics to modern times. 

 

Source: samanthawilcoxson.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-fate-of-kings-and-its-relevance-to.html
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review 2017-12-04 19:39
The Mummy Case / Elizabeth Peters
The Mummy Case - Elizabeth Peters

Radcliffe Emerson, the irascible husband of fellow archaeologist and Egyptologist Amelia Peabody, has earned the nickname "Father of Curses" -- and at Mazghunah he demonstrates why. Denied permission to dig at the pyramids of Dahshoor, he and Amelia are resigned to excavating mounds of rubble in the middle of nowhere. And there is nothing in this barren area worthy of their interest -- until an antiquities dealer is murdered in his own shop. A second sighting of a sinister stranger from the crime scene, a mysterious scrap of papyrus, and a missing mummy case have all whetted Amelia's curiosity. But when the Emersons start digging for answers in an ancient tomb, events take a darker and deadlier turn -- and there may be no surviving the very modern terrors their efforts reveal.

 

“Catastrophically precocious”—this is how Amelia Peabody Emerson describes her young son, Walter Emerson (better known as Ramses, for his demanding nature). Several times during this novel, a chill runs down her spine when she wonders just where her darling son is and what mischief he has found in which to embroil himself!

The fact that the author herself is an Egyptologist really makes these books fun. She uses all the historical archaeologists as characters for Emerson to roar and bellow at when he is not debating archaeological issues with vicious thrust-and-parry.

I still love Amelia, armed with her parasol, seeking out clues. Ramses is lawyer-like in his reasoning, endeavouring to manoeuvre around her prohibitions. But “da cat Bastet” really steals the show in this installment—somehow I picture her as a haughty Siamese.

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review 2017-12-02 16:04
The House of Beaufort by Nathen Amin
House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown - Nathen Amin
This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the late Plantagenet era. The Beauforts are a family that hovers around the edges of royalty for a century before they seemingly disappear . . . . except that the last Beaufort, by blood if not by name, is on the throne. 

Amin unravels the complicated family ties of the Beauforts, creating clarity for anyone who has wondered how this 'bastard line' managed to hold such incredible power. By the time of the Wars of the Roses, the Beaufort family had spread and married into enough noble lines that there were truly those with Beaufort blood on both sides, including Edward IV himself through his mother, Cecily Neville. Somehow, the author manages to explain all these interwoven relationships without making the reader's head spin. For that alone, this book deserves every one of those 5 stars.

I appreciated that this was a balanced look at each person included. Yes, the focus is the Beauforts, but their weaknesses and mistakes are covered just as thoroughly as their strengths and triumphs. Unlike some modern non-fiction, I do not feel a need to label this as a narrative leaning in any particular direction or favoring a certain point-of-view. It is simply a comprehensive and understandable record of the Beaufort family from its birth, through a tumultuous and stunning rise, until its tragic end. (Unless you count Henry Tudor as a Beaufort, then they claim the ultimate victory.)

This book is the brilliant result of tireless research and a passion to reveal the truth about a family that is always mentioned on the periphery of historical events without often managing to be the focus. The Beauforts deserved this book, and it will help clarify the family's role to anyone who has only encountered them through historical fiction. 

I received an electronic copy of this book from the author for review purposes, but I will be purchasing it in hardcover because I see it being a source that I will wish to reference again and again.
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