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review 2016-09-15 14:33
Murder on the Quai (An Aimée Leduc Investigation) - Cara Black

I am a big fan of the Aimée Leduc detective novels, but this one took me a while to get into.

A prequel to the series, this book gives us a 19-year-old Aimée struggling in medical school, losing her boyfriend to another woman -- and deciding on her own to take up an investigation that her father cannot handle due to urgent business surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In the process, Aimée winds up witnessing two murders that bring her into the purview of former Nazi collaborators and Resistance alike ... and we see a subplot related to World War II as well.

I didn't feel like this book and its mystery was as tightly constructed as it might have been. However, we do get to see Aimée's back story -- how she gets her dog, Miles Davis, how she meets computer genius René ... the whole shebang. I enjoyed it far more on that level than for the mystery itself.

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text 2016-08-19 01:56
Thirty Days Later: Steaming Forward: 30 Adventures in Time - B J Sikes,Dover Whitecliff,A.J. Sikes

Disclosure up front: Two of the paired tales in this book were written by me. My review covers the other stories in the volume.

One of the things I love about anthologies is the variety. In this book, there are stories by folks as varied as veteran author Harry Turtledove to brand-new authors with just one book under their belts.

The stories were all entertaining, but some rose to the forefront for me. Not too shockingly, Turtledove's stories about sasquatches living in the State of Jefferson was a front-runner. Other delights included Dover Whitecliff's prequels to her forthcoming book, T.E. MacArthur's archaeology stories, and Anthony Francis' new stories about Jeremiah Willstone. All of these stories managed to get a lot of detail into a limited amount of space, and kept me turning pages long past my bedtime more than once.

Throw in that proceeds from the book benefit local literacy programs, and you have a winner all the way around.

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review 2016-03-18 13:39
When Falcons Fall - C.S. Harris

Yet another outstanding entry into the mystery series, "When Falcons Fall" finds Sebastian St. Cyr, Lord Devlin, and his wife Hero visiting a little Shropshire town. Their mission is to deliver a gift to an elderly woman from her deceased grandson ... a man who looked so much like Devlin that he was mistakenly murdered.

While in Ayleswick, Sebastian becomes involved in solving a number of local murders ... as well as dealing with the local gentry, and the exiled Lucien Bonaparte, whose son found the first body while out birdwatching (Charles Bonaparte eventually became a noted ornithologist).

In any event, the book examines historical matters such as the Enclosure Act, how coroner's inquests were conducted during the early 19th Century, and numerous other matters well-documented in the author's notes. At the same time, it's a "ripping good yarn," peopled with fascinating characters and events.

And yes, once again, author C.S. Harris manages to surprise me with the "whodunnit."

Nicely executed and highly entertaining.

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review 2016-02-15 16:07
Moonlight over Paris: A Novel - Jennifer Robson

Helena Parr has seen her engagement broken off, and some nasty gossip as a result of it. She wants to go somewhere where she can be herself, instead of living up to her obligations as the daughter of the Earl of Halifax ... and she chooses to attend art school in Paris. In fairly short order, she's made friends with two American ex-pats, and some rather colorful characters from her art school.


This book is well-researched, and peopled with interesting characters both fictional and historical. It also provides a look at the strictures faced by young, well-to-do women in 1920s England (think of the sisters in "Downton Abbey" and you'll have a good picture of Helena's life).

The book is well-paced and entertaining, although one can see the romance coming from miles away.

A good "beach read" piece of historical fiction.

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review 2016-02-07 16:46
The Queen of the Night - Alexander Chee

"The Queen of the Night" was inspired by (but not based on) the story of Jenny Lind. In this book, Lilliet is an American soprano who goes abroad and, after several tribulations, finds great acclaim as an operatic soprano.


Author Alexander Chee most certainly did his research; the author's note at the end of the book reveals several of his sources, including primary documents like letters.


It's too bad that the book just fell flat for me. It was not easy to read, due to the stream-of-consciousness style and lack of punctuation (e.g., quotation marks). Many characters go unnamed (one is merely "the tenor," for example), and it is easy to become confused about who is who.


While likeability is not a requirement for a character, it is unfortunate when there is not a single redeeming soul in the entire story. Everyone is a user and generally unpleasant, be they servant or nobility. I could not find it within myself to either sympathize or empathize with Lilliet once she reached adulthood. Frankly, I really only finished the book due to my obligation to review it. Had I picked it up from the library or similar, it would have gone back unfinished.


Three stars for good research and a story line with decent potential that never felt realized to me.

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