by Jane Austen
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781435127432
Publication Date: January 1, 2012
Pages: 228
Genre: Fiction, Literature
Publisher: Barnes and Noble


Well, this is where I wish I paid more attention in my English Lit. classes.  Then I could use this review to wax lyrical (or at least literate) about the exposition, the rising action, the climax and the ultimate resolution of Anne Elliot’s story in Persuasion.  Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention in class (or attend class very often) so here I am floundering for a way to adequately discuss one of Jane Austen’s finest.  (Does this make me a cautionary tale?)

I’m going to start by saying I still like Pride & Prejudice better.  I’ve heard many people describe Persuasion as Austen’s most mature work – which makes sense because it was also her last – and I can definitely see the truth in that.  But Persuasion lacks the humour, the lightness, of her earlier works, although it still retains all of the bite.

If Miss Austen wrote from life she lacked any positive parental role models.  In every book of hers I’ve read, at least one parent was vapid, shallow, vain, neurotic, dyspeptic, a hypochondriac or a combination of any of the aforementioned.  I’d argue it’s the single uniting factor in all her work (although I’ve yet to read her juvenilia or Sanditon).  Anne Elliot gets the rawest deal of all of JA’s MC’s – her family has no affection for her at all.  She is the Cinderella in their lives: useful only for propping them up when they’re down, being the person applied to for attentiveness, while never receiving any attention or affection in return.

Thank goodness for Lady Russell; only Lady Russell persuaded Anne to cut off her engagement to the man she loved 8 1/2 years ago because his prospects were not guaranteed.  Now that man is back and he’s rich.  He might also be a tiny bit bitter about having his heart broken all those years ago.

I enjoyed the story; I definitely liked it more than Emma (sorry mom) and probably more than Northanger Abbey.  Maybe.  It’s a more staid, more serious work than the others.  What little frivolity there is ends in disaster and is used to illustrate a defect in character.  As I prefer characters who ‘dearly love to laugh’, Elizabeth Bennett holds pride of place on my favorite Austen list – but Persuasion and Anne Elliot aren’t far behind.


(NB: While the edition information is correct for this review, the cover is not.  And I hate not having the correct cover on my reviews.)

Seventh Grave and No Body (Charlie Davidson, #7)

Seventh Grave and No BodySeventh Grave and No Body
by Darynda Jones
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9781250045645
Series: Charlie Davidson #7
Publication Date: October 4, 2014
Pages: 322
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Disclaimer:  This review will be biased and unbalanced.  I have love for this series and my objectivity suffers proportionally.  I truly left off 1/2 star just because I’m certain there are probably flaws (all books have them) but my love for Charlie and the gang have blinded me to whatever they might be.

So a couple of days ago I was feeling rather sorry for myself.  I injured my back – nothing serious, truly; just enough to put a hitch in my gitalong and make me feel mopey and old.  My husband came home and put a book package on the coffee table.  After I pointed out the cruelty of putting a new book on a surface that was just out of my reach (can’t bend down, of course), he handed it to me and upon opening it discovered my copy of Seventh Grave and No Body.  Proof that God takes pity on me, because I NEVER get my pre-ordered books on release day; living on the tail end of the world means everything always takes days later to arrive than it does for the U.S./Europe.

Suddenly my back injury was a spend-all-day-reading free card, and boy howdy did I use it.

So in the last book prophesies about Charlie’s existence and her role in the final battle became clearer.  In this one, Charlie starts finding out what she’s truly capable of.  Reyes always told her she was more powerful than any other being, but Charlie always seemed to view it as rhetoric.  Now she finds out it isn’t, but that she can still get her ass handed to her when she leasts expects it.  Circumstances are also forcing her to confront her immaturity too; big changes are coming and she can’t keep living in the shallow end of the maturity pool.  I always loved Charlie – even when her sass and snark were obvious coping mechanisms – but I quite like the (only slightly) more mature version too.  She still hides behind sarcasm and smart-ass banter, but she’s also utterly selfless and has a firm grip on what’s important.

As with all the books, there are several story lines running simultaneously; human mysteries as well as mythical ones.  I like this style – it keeps things moving and avoids that mid-book bogging down that sometimes happens.  My only complaint: one of the story lines (a small one that has no meaning to the overall plot of this book) doesn’t get wrapped up and I wanted to know what happened.  The sub-plot setting reminded me of the X-Files episode ‘Closure’ and I was sorry not to find out how it ends.

I’m not going to say more – although I could babble ad naseum – because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.  Things happen.  Big things.  Suffice it to say that I loved reading it, I’m sorry it’s over, and how many days until book 8?

Tears of Pearl (Lady Emily, #4)

Tears of PearlTears of Pearl
by Tasha Alexander
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780312383701
Series: Lady Emily Mystery #4
Publication Date: January 1, 2009
Pages: 307
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: William Morrow

I was tempted to give another 3.5 stars to this book, but I think personal bias might be getting in the way on this one, so I’ll err on the side of optimism.

The whole of this book takes place in Constantinople, during Lady Emily’s honeymoon.  They become embroiled in a murder investigation that involves the Sultan’s harem and the son of an Englishman.

I’m of two minds about the setting; I’ve never found sultans or harems romantic or intriguing or even interesting.  But I’ve always been fascinated by the advanced learnings of the Arabian culture.  So while I found the whole sultan/harem thing a giant yawn, I did enjoy the glimpses of beauty, culture and education – especially on the part of the Turkish women (although I was struggling to keep track of who belonged to which palace).  The author writes a fair story: she doesn’t deny the harems are at their base a form of slavery, but she is quick to point out that the English system wasn’t a model of feminism either; I thought she did a very good job comparing each against the other.

The murder mystery itself was again diabolical, but this time I knew the killer from the start.  The motivation was a complete mystery until it’s revealed to Lady Emily, so my sureness as to the villain didn’t detract from my investment in the story.


Everybody in this book had a role to play – a job in service to the story.  Except one.  That character never served any significant purpose; the author never pretended this character had any part of the murder plot itself.  So it was spotlight-obvious who the killer was.


I love Lady Emily and Colin’s relationship: it’s the stuff of pure fantasy – the ideal relationship.  Real life lacks enough of any ideal that I thoroughly enjoy it in my books, and it’s this relationship as much as anything else that keeps drawing me back in.  I’ve been wondering how, now that they are married, the author was going to keep real Victorian life at bay and I have to say she found a very clever, if not pleasant, way of doing so.  Within the world she’s created for Lady Emily and Colin it’s an entirely plausible and realistic outcome.  And yes, I’m being purposefully vague so as not to spoil anything for anyone.

I’m definitely taking a break now; time to step back and return to the series at a later date, but I’m looking forward to enjoying the next book when I do.

A Fatal Waltz (Lady Emily, #3)

A Fatal WaltzA Fatal Waltz
by Tasha Alexander
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780061174223
Series: Lady Emily Mystery #3
Publication Date: January 1, 2008
Pages: 296
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: William Morrow

I’ll admit, I read a short story the author posted online about Emily and Colin that takes place immediately after A Fatal Waltz, before I read this book.  The short story was replete with spoilers, so I knew, in essence, how this book ended.  I don’t mind spoilers and I’ve been known to seek them out, but in this instance, it might have backfired a little.

A Fatal Waltz stalled a bit for me about midway.  This could be because of the spoiler-effect or it could be that the story just didn’t intrigue me enough to hold my attention.  I’m not sure.  Either way, I enjoyed the book; I looked forward to picking it up and I got a bit irritable when I was interrupted.  It just didn’t flow as quickly as the first two did.

A character from A Poisoned Season is murdered in this book (good riddance – he was vile) and Ivy’s husband is arrested and thrown into Newgate.  Sensitive papers are missing and the victim had apparently received a warning/threat from Vienna before he was killed, but that too is missing.  Lady Emily hies off to Vienna to try to find the person who sent the note, and it’s here the story might have first lost me, because it never seemed reasonable that Lady Emily had enough information to know where to start looking.

Lady Emily’s goals start merging/interfering with Colin’s assignment in Vienna and the two find themselves working together for the first time.  But really, I think this entire plot construction was built around the romantic conflict of Lady Emily meeting one of Colin’s past um… dalliances.  One who was rather disinclined to be pushed into the past.  Ultimately, as I write this review, I think this is why the book wasn’t a 4-star or higher read for me:  I’d bet a dollar that the author came up with the romantic conflict first and created a murder plot to justify it second.

Speaking of the murder plot – it was ultimately a very good one.  I liked the way the author presented the pieces of the puzzle to both the reader and Lady Emily; I just wish it wasn’t so obfuscated by the shenanigans in Vienna.

I told myself I was going to take a break after this book and start reading some of the other books in the Pile, but when push came to shove last night, I picked up Tears of the Pearl and dove back into Colin and Lady Emily’s world.  Guess I’m just not quite ready for a break.

A Poisoned Season (Lady Emily Mystery, #2)

A Poisoned SeasonA Poisoned Season
by Tasha Alexander
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780061174148
Series: Lady Emily Mystery #2
Publication Date: January 1, 2007
Pages: 308
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mythology
Publisher: William Morrow

I thoroughly enjoyed this second outing of Lady Emily; I was sucked back into her society from the first page.  No more guilt-ridden, moony angst!  But it was not without its issues and shortcomings.

A Poisoned Season picks up where the last book And Only to Deceive leaves off – Emily has returned from Greece in time for the London Season but still chafes against the rules set out for polite society.    There’s a pretender to the French throne in town, a cat burglar, and a murder – all contributing to the enlivenment of the season.  In an attempt to help out her American friend Margaret, she unwittingly makes herself the focus of scandalous rumours concerning an illicit affair between herself and the Duke of Bainbridge.  Colin is trying to stop a coup d’etat.  Her best friend Ivy is having marital problems, and let’s not forget the wager between Lady Emily and Colin…

I think the author tried to weave too many threads into the story.  Bainbridge is so prominent as to be considered a main character in the first half of the book – then he all but disappears without so much as a line of dialogue between himself and Emily.  Perhaps we’ll see him again in a future book, but the reader isn’t given any indication of that.  Also, there’s a growing animosity towards Lady Emily on the part of Robert’s boss, culminating with a nasty scene at Ivy’s ball – but it’s never explained.  What was up with that?!?

Mostly, though, I just enjoyed the story and the mystery(ies).  The murder mystery was exceptionally well done.  I was totally bamboozled; talk about Machiavellian planning.  The secondary mysteries were entertaining, but not overly impressive; the identity of one of the characters was evident from the first clue.

If I found Colin less than swoon-worthy in the first book, I was a true convert by the end of this one.  He’s my idea of a romantic hero: confident enough of his own identity to be completely at ease with a strong, independent female.  His gift at the end of the book was inspired for both it’s real value and its metaphorical one.  If I didn’t like Lady Emily, he alone might be reason enough for me to keep reading.

A Little Night Murder (Blackbird Sisters Mystery, #10)

A Little Night MurderA Little Night Murder
by Nancy Martin
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780451415271
Series: Blackbird Sisters #10
Publication Date: August 4, 2014
Pages: 372
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Obsidian

While a pregnant Nora relaxes in her best friend’s Bucks County pool, she doesn’t have far to look for her next big story. A Broadway show is in rehearsal next door at the home of the legendary late composer “Toodles” Tuttle. His diva widow, Boom Boom, reigns over his estate with an iron fist. She has also racked up a chorus line of enemies, so the old broad’s death is a hotly anticipated event. But imagine everyone’s dismay when it’s her beloved daughter, Jenny, who drops dead just as the lights are set to go on for the lucrative new Toodles musical.

This series is one of my top cozy favourites and I always look forward to the next one.  A Little Night Murder, though – this one was just chock full o’ surprises.

Lexie’s back!  Nora’s (the MC) best friend is out of prison early for reasons unexplained and Nora’s helping her hide from the press and all the former clients who lost their fortunes when Lexie’s partner’s embezzlement came to light.  Nora is 7 months pregnant and her constant financial worries have reduced her to wearing her sister’s old maternity t-shirts sporting such gems as ‘Let Me Out, It’s Dark in Here!’  Nora and Mick are trying to prepare for the birth of not only their biological daughter, but for the adoption of Nora’s grand-niece whose biological mother is in prison and due the week after Nora.  Speaking of biological mothers: Mick’s mom is in town and Nora’s meeting her for the first time.

Nora’s sisters aren’t left out of the angst either:  Libby is imploding over becoming a grandmother and Emma has reached the pinnacle of unsuitability in her lovers.

Those are just the things mentioned on the front flap.  I’m not mentioning anything else because if you enjoy this series, I don’t want to take anything away from the surprises awaiting you.  Suffice it to say there are more than a fair few.

In the midst of all of this, Lexie’s neighbour, an old showgirl has-been is trying to revive her career, claiming she has found an unpublished musical left in her late husband’s papers.  He was famous for his musicals and everybody is buzzing about this new find.  Until the man’s daughter is found dead and oddities and absurdities surrounding the production become apparent.  Nora’s editor has given her an ultimatum:  a story about Lexie and her whereabouts, or a story about Jenny’s murder.

Generally speaking, this was a wonderful romp of a story and I didn’t want to stop reading it once I started.  The mystery plotting is always well done, but my investment is 100% in the characters.  The sisters and the people surrounding them are all fleshed out characters with realistic lives, if sometimes their names are a little out there. (I went to school with a Binky and Bubba (sister and brother) so I won’t say the names are unrealistic.)

My only harumph: Nora’s boss/editor is an Aussie and perhaps in an attempt to avoid the cliched Aussie slang terms such as Bonzer!, Fair Dinkum! etc. etc., the author has chosen to skate a bit close to the obscure.  The one that sticks out the most is ‘dinger’ – which I had to look up.  It’s recognised slang for ‘condom’ but my Aussie born-and-bred husband has never heard of it.  Perhaps some of my BL Aussie friends are more familiar with it?  There were a couple of others as well, but I forgot what they were and I’ll never find them again.  Also, in a book with no swearing, I snickered over the author’s liberal use of ‘bugger’, but I’m assuming she’s well aware of the word’s meaning and is banking on most of her readers being unaware.  I’m choosing to see it as a quiet little rebellion on her part.  🙂

The mystery is tied up at the end but the characters are left with a shock – not a cliffhanger, but definitely a story to be continued.  Which makes me happy, because it means there’s another Blackbird Sister adventure on the horizon.  Somebody pass me the champagne and a tacky t-shirt.

NB: I’ve been googling the surprise at the end of this book and personally I think it’s a tissue paper dragon based on the holes apparent after a quick search.  But such a thing does exist, who knew?

And Only to Deceive (Lady Emily Mystery, #1)

And Only to DeceiveAnd Only to Deceive
by Tasha Alexander
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780060756710
Series: Lady Emily Mystery #1
Publication Date: October 11, 2005
Pages: 310
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: William Morrow

‘A Novel of Suspense.’

No, not really.  Whomever read this book and thought it suspenseful needs to get out more.

It was a very good read though – I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s the age-old tale of ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ with Greek antiquities, art forgery, romance and mystery thrown into the mix.

Emily makes a very good marriage to Viscount Ashton for the sole purpose of getting away from her harpy of a mother: a decision I whole-heartendly endorsed after only one scene involving that nasty shrew.  Mere months after the marriage, her husband dies of a fever while on an African safari, leaving her a very wealthy widow.  When her late husband’s best friend, Colin, pays her a visit, telling her he promised Lord Ashton that Emily would see their villa in Santorini, Greece – a property she owned but didn’t even know about – she decides she ought to learn more about this man she married but knew nothing about.

Thus begins Emily’s adventures.  As she learns more about her husband Philip, she learns she had a very good man in her life for far too short a time – or maybe he wasn’t such a good man?  This is what comes from a lack of communication in a marriage:  Emily is left with contradicting information and evidence – he was either very noble or a massive scoundrel  She must sort it all out since she has fallen obsessively in love with her husband post mortem.  I found this just a touch nauseating – almost to eye-rolling stage.  I understand the regret she’d feel, but not love after the fact.

Along the way, she discovers another passion; this one for knowledge, specifically, ancient Greece.  She dives into her education, much to the consternation and disgust of her mother – which really, is a total perk for both Emily and the reader.

I loved the characterisations – each person is boldly sketched out on the page, clear enough to almost be seen.  The Parisian settings are vivd, even though few words are used.

The plot was well done, although again – NOT suspenseful.  This isn’t the sort of plot the reader figures out before Lady Emily does.  The villain is revealed slowly over the course of the story.  There’s no grand denouement, although there is a critical unveiling, which I thought was handled particularly well (no TSTL moments).

There are 8 more books in this series so far – YAY!  I’m off to order the next few; I definitely enjoyed the story enough to want to know what happens next.

NB:  I particularly enjoyed that the author thought to include a few brief sections at the end: The Story behind The Story, Fact vs. Fiction, Location, Location, Location and a Suggested Reading.  As a complete novice with all things historical, I appreciated knowing what was authentic to the time, and what she took authorial license with.  It’s a nice touch.

Agnes and the Hitman

Agnes and the HitmanAgnes and the Hitman
by Jennifer Crusie
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780312363048
Publication Date: August 21, 2007
Pages: 368
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press


I used this yesterday as my ‘guilty pleasure’ read for the ukbookaday event and since I had finished and reviewed all my currently reading books yesterday as well, it felt like I had earned a guilty pleasure re-read.  Plus, I figured this would be a great book to christen BL’s new re-read feature with, but it turns out I never recorded any read dates for this before, so that was a bust.

Remember those old-ish Goldie Hawn movies, like Bird on a Wire?  If you’ve seen those movies, you’ll have some idea of what Agnes and the HItman is like.  (Maybe a bit of Analyze This mixed in.) I think this book is MUCH better than Bird on a Wire was, but it’s as close as I can come to describing the tone.

Agnes is having a very bad week.  She’s bought the house of her dreams from her best friends mother, Brenda, with the stipulation that Brenda’s granddaughter (and Agnes’ goddaughter) be married on the grounds with Agnes planning and hosting the whole thing.  Easy!

Except suddenly someone is trying to dognap her dog, at gunpoint.  Seems a bit excessive for an ugly old hound.  Agnes defends herself with her frying pan and in the course of self-defence, the would be dognapper falls through a wall into an unknown basement and dies, letting loose all sorts of family secrets Brenda would have preferred stayed buried.  Agnes’ old friend Joey, a retired and reformed mobster, thinks there’s something up with a dognapping at gunpoint and sends his nephew, Shane, to protect Agnes.  Shane’s in the middle of a job, trying to take out an assassin, but Joey is the man who raised him – sort of – and he’s never asked for anything from Shane in 25 years.

What follows from here is just pure hilarity.  This is not a deep story; don’t look for the characters to be meaningful or even realistic.  There is zero navel-gazing and it’s pretty much non-stop action from first to last.  If liberal use of course language is going to bother you – avoid this book.  If talk about sex bothers you – avoid this book.  The sex isn’t graphic, but discussion about it abounds.

If you’re looking for a light, funny, comedic romp – find this book!  I upgraded mine to hardcover several years ago because I was wearing out my paperback.

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3)

The Book of LifeThe Book of Life
by Deborah Harkness
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780670025596
Series: All Souls #3
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
Pages: 563
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Publisher: Viking Books

I have previously proclaimed my irrational love of the first two books in this series, so it will come as no surprise to anyone that this one gets 5 stars from me.

There are few books out there I find myself truly immersed in; the kind that when I’m interrupted, I’ll look up from my book, but I’m not really there.  My eyes might be a bit glassy and I’ll stare blankly at my own DH as though he’s a stranger.  This is such a book.

I’ll admit I was expecting a war; at the very least, a massive battle.  I prepared myself to hate the author for killing off a character, or characters that I had become attached to.  For a few dozen pages, I was certain it was going to be a specific character.  Luckily, the story was not as predictable as all that.

While reading, I picked up on shades of Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus, as well as more common themes of tolerance, acceptance and fear of that which is not understood.  The twist at the end is only a twist because it is so obvious.  Of all the beliefs  humans cling to throughout history that have proven to be illusory over and over again, the idea that we control anything must surely make the top 5 list.

But what it all boils down to for me is that I just love this whole story: its characters, its plot, its settings – it all just clicks for me.  Some have likened Diana to whatshername in Twilight but I don’t see the Mary Jane – I just saw a character – a very intelligent, strong and independent one – trying to get a grip on a massive amount of change happening in a short amount of time.  I never got the victim vibe from her.  I don’t pretend to understand the all consuming love she and Matthew apparently share, but it’s thankfully not so soppy and mushy I feel the need for insulin.

All the major plot points of the three books are wrapped up at the end of this one, but, vexingly, a lot of characters’ stories are…unfinished.  They aren’t cliff-hangers, and the story could easily end here and Ms. Harkness could disappear back into the history stacks never to be heard from again in fiction.  But she has left a number of openings for a return should she choose to do so.  A lot of secondary characters are left with their stories still ongoing.  At least one of them – Gallowglass – I’d be the first in line to read more about.  I’m more than a little half in love with him.

Whether Ms Harkness every writes another word about these people or not, I’ll at least be able to re-read and ‘see’ them all again.

A Grave Matter (Lady Darby Mystery #3)

A Grave MatterA Grave Matter
by Anna Lee Huber
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780425253694
Series: A Lady Darby Mystery #3
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Pages: 421
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

Well rats.

It’s over.  I wasn’t ready for it to be over.

A Grave Matter is a mystery first, but almost equally it’s a romance as things come to a head between Lady Darby and Sebastian Gage.  Ms. Huber will always hold a special place in my heart for not dragging this out past the point of painful into inanity.  There’s plenty of conflict between these two but it avoids most of the overused tropes and these two are actually gasp honest and communicative!

I thought the setting fabulously descriptive, although ironically, Edinburgh was the hardest of the locations for me to picture.  The border villages and the Abbey were crystal clear and I could hear the frost crackling under their feet as they transversed the graveyards looking for evidence.  I found myself reading aloud to MT about the first-footers and I was thrilled at the end of the story to read the author’s note about the authenticity of this tradition.  I’m wondering if I can get away with introducing it at our NYE festivities this year.

The plot is delightfully macabre; not scary or graphic and completely fitting with Lady Darby’s background and baggage.  I’ll admit I nabbed the bad guy early on, but I can’t say what gave it away.  Nevertheless, I was never absolutely certain.  I wouldn’t have been surprised had I been wrong.

There might have been some anachronistic narrative; I can’t say for certain, and I think it was almost all in the internal dialogue.  While women for millennia have probably wished at one time or another to throw things at men, it feels too modern when Lady Darby ‘contemplated throwing a shoe at his head.’  I don’t care about this, but others might find it jarring.

But the scene at the end between Lady Darby and Gage made even this pragmatic non-romantic feel a bit mushy.  Considering the chasteness of the period, Ms. Huber is very good at conveying romantic tension.  (To be fair, there’s a LOT of kissing going on; I’m betting more than considered acceptable for the time period.  Go Lady Darbry!)

There are a lot of things I could blather on about that I enjoyed; a GR friend is just now starting The Anatomist’s Wife and I’m more than a little jealous – I wish I had 2 and a bit of these books still ahead of me.  As it is, I’ll be waiting a very long year to catch up with Lady Darby and Gage.