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review 2017-05-16 06:13
He didn't do it - but who did?
What Angels Fear - C.S. Harris

A satisfying historical mystery set in Regency England, this book tells a story of Sebastian St. Gyr, a wealthy viscount, heir to an earldom, and a bitter, disillusioned man. Retired from the army after a few years of spying against Napoleon, Sebastian leads a life of a bored aristocrat, drinking, fighting duels, and seemingly not caring for his own safety. Until he is falsely accused of brutally murdering a young actress. Then he discovers that he does care whether he lives or dies. He cares a lot. Unwilling to perish for something he didn’t do, he sets out to discover the identity of the real killer.

To evade capture, he disappears into the seediest parts of London as he tries to piece together the victim’s last few days and find out who wanted her dead.

The novel is a bit grittier and darker than I like, but it’s written well, the pacing is relentless, and the characters come out of the pages almost alive. One of the aspects of this book is political. The timing is just before the Regency is announced, and the politicians and their parties are jockeying for power. The author doesn’t have any illusions about the politicians: they are all ruthless sociopaths. They don’t care whether St. Gyr is guilty or not. Some flimsy circumstantial evidence points to him – so of course the order comes down to the local magistrate to apprehend him and charge him. The masses must be appeased before the Regency starts. The justice – or the travesty of it – must be served.

It’s up to St. Gyr to clear his name, and he is practically alone. He has a few allies but none of them belongs to his family. For some reason, his sister hates him, and his father... well, that’s much more complicated. The author doesn’t describe St. Gyr’s family dynamics in details, and I was sorry for it. I wanted to know what happened to this family to make them all so cold and unloving, so hostile towards each other.

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review 2017-05-16 02:19
Combatting Fear - Sandy Vaile Combatting Fear - Sandy Vaile

Combatting Fear is my introduction to the work of Sandy Vaille and I have to say it was not a bad experience.

Neve Botticelli is not your typical kindergarten teacher. A childhood tragedy led to her living with her father a Vietnam veteran who suffered from PTSD. One symptom was paranoia, which led to him training and conditioning her for a battle that most likely will never materialise.

Micah Kincaid, a self-made billionaire, search for his son brought him to Turner’s Gully. His estranged wife had taken their son away from him. His only concern was finding his son hoping to reunite his family. He never counted on having his efforts blocked by a diminutive, feisty and strong-willed kindergarten teacher.

Combatting Fear is a romantic suspense (Heavy on the suspense, light on the romance) that plunges readers into a world of custody woes, motorcycle gangs and kidnapping. This was a suspenseful story that pulled me in from the first page and which I found difficult to put down.
I loved how the story developed for the most part. It started out with Micah finding his son’s location, followed by him meeting Neve, her mistrust of him and refusal to assist him, their getting to know each other and finally, we see them working together to achieve a common goal. What I enjoyed most was the flow of the story. The way the author tied all the events together, to create a nail-biting read.

The romance took a back seat, which did not bother me given the circumstances. Micah was still married even though his wife had abandoned him for a little over a year. Despite the circumstances, he was still hoping for a reconciliation, because he is a man who believes in keeping his family together, as such, he was shocked at his initial reaction to Neve. Eventually, as they got to know each other, they embraced their feelings for each other but they did not act on them, except for the sharing of a fleeting kiss. This was after Micah finally admitted to himself that although he cared for his wife, he was not in love with her. They did eventually get their HEA, but not without going through some difficult moments.

The characters were likeable. I admired Micah for his determination and devotion. I know readers may have a problem with the fact that being a billionaire he would have the available resources to hire a skilled team to rescue his son, instead of taking on the task himself. In some respects, I agree, but I understood why he chose to do it himself. It may not have been a wise move, but I guess he never stopped to think of the consequences as his only focus was securing his rescue. Micah grew up without the love of a father and this was not something he wanted for his son. He was determined to move heaven and earth to ensure that his son knew that he had not abandoned him. His desperation, however, clouded his judgement and he ended up taking serious and careless risks at times.

Neve’s description in the blurb indicated that she was a trained warrior with extreme survival skills" who also happens to be a kindergarten teacher, but this was not the case. Her actions belied the description in the blurb. The kick ass heroine did not materialise. Thankfully, this did not affect build up of the suspense. Where she fell down in the area of fighting she more than made up for in her determination, feistiness and selflessness. I appreciated the bond she had with her father.

The thing that annoyed me was how they allowed their mistrust of each other to get in the way of the mission. She was quick to rush to judgement regarding his monetary status. She believed rich people were snobs and felt they behaved as if they were entitled and far as she was concerned Micah was no different. He believed she was deliberately trying to prevent him from carrying out his mission. Their refusal to trust each other proved an impediment at times.

Another thing I had an issue with was the introduction of a subplot, which the author failed to develop. This was in regards the motorcycle gang and their criminal activities. They were responsible for the theft of motor cars in the area, but the author did not follow through on this thread. In addition, there was a scene, where one of the gang members and a police officer were having an intense conversation. However, I was not privy to the details of the conversation. It added no value to the story.

Verdict
Overall, this was an enjoyable read. It was not perfect, but it was enough to keep me entertained.

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text 2017-05-04 00:21
I've been book shopping again...
Bad News - Donald E Westlake,Michael Kramer
Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America - Adam Cohen,Norman Dietz

Having just finished the stack of books I got on the 50% off sale, it was time to spend a couple of my credits and get some more new title to keep me busy. I figured that since "the first hundred days" was a current topic on the news today that perhaps there was some insight to be gained by reading about FDR's hundred days. Then, after all the heaving reading, I decided I needed a bit of escapism and chose a Dortmunder story. This should keep me busy over the weekend.

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text 2017-04-30 11:16
April Wrap Up and Challenge Update Part 1
The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror - Joyce Carol Oates
Sedition: A Novel - Katharine Grant
Aurora - Kim Stanley Robinson
I Will Fear No Evil - Robert A. Heinlein
Women All on Fire: The Women of the English Civil War - Alison Plowden
The Breakdown - B. A. Paris

Well, April is pretty much over and as a reading month it hasn't been too bad. The first book I finished was:

 

The Doll Master and Other Tales of Terror by Joyce Carol Oates

This book was an opportune pick at the library. As usual I went in to get one book and came out with 5. I read a collection of her short stories a few years ago and wasn't that impressed but as this was a library book I thought I would give her another chance. I was surprised that I enjoyed it so much. The first story was mediocre and I thought that my opinion was going to be vindicated but I found the other stories much more to my taste. So 4/5 stars for that.

 

Next up was another library pick and the one that I had originally gone in for:

 

Sedition by Katharine Grant.

This one has been on my radar for a while and I wasn't disappointed. At the end of the 18th. century five teenage girls need husbands with pedigrees. But how to get them when all the girls have is money and no connections? Their mothers decide that the girls should shine at a piano concert but first they need lessons. So a piano is bought a tutor provided and many hours are spent in lessons - not necessarily of the musical kind. One of the girls is being abused by her father and decides to turn the tables on the piano teacher and get her revenge on her father. All hell breaks loose.

The story starts off fairly light and amusing but soon becomes pretty dark. This is one I would definitely read again. 4/5 stars

 

Another library pick was Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Green Earth left me somewhat lukewarm but I wanted to give this one a bash. I tested it on my husband first though and it got his approval so no worries. Although ostensibly a space opera I read it as more a tale of the environment. The message I got from it was that you can't have a second Earth so you had better look after this one. I don't necessarily have to agree with that but it has made me think about it. Another 4/5 stars. 

 

The biggest disappointment for me this month was Robert A. Heinlein's I Will Fear No Evil. Set in the early 21st century this is the story of an old man who has his brain transplanted into the body of his young secretary (I should note that she is dead). Her 'soul' still inhabits the body and helps the new occupant to settle in. I have fond memories of reading this book a couple of decades ago but being the kind of reader who can't really remember what happened in a book after I close it, I couldn't remember the story, only that I enjoyed it so much. Having read it a second time I don't know why now. 3.5/5 stars

 

Finally, I come to Women All on Fire by Alison Plowden.

This time a non-fiction book about the Civil War. I found it interesting and easy to read, even for a newbie to the subject like me. There was enough background information to put everything in context without being overwhelming. 5 stars

 

Edit:

 

That's it for April. According to my calculations I'm about 4 books behind my challenge. I'm also lacking 3 German books and 3 classics but as my self-imposed challenge conditions are more guidelines than rules, who's cares? :)

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review 2017-04-23 18:14
I Will Fear No Reread.
I Will Fear No Evil - Robert A. Heinlein

So I have finished it. Was I disappointed? No. Was it as good as I remembered it? No. The story was entertaining but it didn't make a lot of sense, esp. towards the end. It also lacked depth. It was through and through a product of the hippy era which in itself is not a bad thing. It could have been so much more, though. It was amusing and whiled away a few hours and you can't ask much more than that.

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