Thursday, 27 April 2017

Bewitched & Betrayed / Seanan McGuire

4 out of 5 stars
Elf seeker Raine Benares finds lost things and missing people- usually alive. After bonding with the Saghred, a powerful soul- stealing stone, she must hunt down its escapees. Especially since one of them is also hunting her, also hot white magic paladin and drool-worthy black mage.

As much as I enjoy the Raine Benares series (and I do enjoy it), I have to admit that the story doesn’t advance very much in each book. There is plenty of action, plenty of opportunities for Raine to beat on things or get beaten upon, but the actual story of her unwilling partnership with the evil Saghred stone doesn’t move much.

What this installment does give us is a shift in the three-way bond that she, Mychael, and Tam have been trying conceal from the Council. In some ways, it is nice to have resolution of the issue, if you believe that there must be only two people involved in an intimate bond. I find myself a bit disappointed, as I’d been hoping that we might actually get a realistic vision of what a polyandric relationship might look like. I see no reason why Raine should have to choose between Mychael and Tam—why can’t she choose them both? But apparently I am in the minority on this one.

Raine continues to be the competent fighter who tries to know her own limits. She is realistic enough to fight dirty when the occasion requires it and to rely on the people around her rather than go it alone. She is stubborn and snarky and yet often worried about her potential future if things go sideways with the Saghred. I am charmed by her circle of friends and relatives who have her back and I am heartened by the addition of a female goblin who may provide that necessary female friend that I believe that all female protagonists should have in their arsenals.

A Morbid Taste for Bones / Ellis Peters

4 out of 5 stars
In the remote Welsh mountain village of Gwytherin lies the grave of Saint Winifred. Now, in 1137, the ambitious head of Shrewsbury Abbey has decided to acquire the sacred remains for his Benedictine order. Native Welshman Brother Cadfael is sent on the expedition to translate and finds the rustic villagers of Gwytherin passionately divided by the Benedictine's offer for the saint's relics. Canny, wise, and all too wordly, he isn't surprised when this taste for bones leads to bloody murder.

The leading opponent to moving the grave has been shot dead with a mysterious arrow, and some say Winifred herself held the bow. Brother Cadfael knows a carnal hand did the killing. But he doesn't know that his plan to unearth a murderer may dig up a case of love and justice...where the wages of sin may be scandal or Cadfael's own ruin.


I am quite sure that I used to own a copy of this novel, back in the early 1980s. I finally donated it because I just couldn’t get into the story. Now, I look back at my younger self and shake my head, because this time around I found the story to be very accessible and very easy to engage. Another instance of the right book at the right time—not suitable for me in my 20s, but eminently suitable for me in my 50s.

I think that Brother Cadfael will become an old friend—I will certainly be reading the next book of the series! In my opinion, Peters transplants the murder mystery genre into medieval times extremely well. She gives Brother Cadfael common sense and logic to work with, plus a good dose of human psychology. How he deals with the Church hierarchy and the other Brothers feels very real and is often amusing.

The action begins slowly—the reader must be patient as Peters builds the story towards the murder, but after that, the action is unabated until the final resolution. This story is quite different from the forensic-based murder mysteries that crowd today’s shelves, but that very difference recommends it. Not exactly a cozy mystery, but a gentler one. No gore or psychopaths to deal with here.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd / Agatha Christie

4 out of 5 stars
In the village of King's Abbot, a widow's sudden suicide sparks rumors that she murdered her first husband, was being blackmailed, and was carrying on a secret affair with the wealthy Roger Ackroyd. The following evening, Ackroyd is murdered in his locked study--but not before receiving a letter identifying the widow's blackmailer. King's Abbot is crawling with suspects, including a nervous butler, Ackroyd's wayward stepson, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd, who has taken up residence in the victim's home. It's now up to the famous detective Hercule Poirot, who has retired to King's Abbot to garden, to solve the case of who killed Roger Ackroyd--a task in which he is aided by the village doctor and narrator, James Sheppard, and by Sheppard's ingenious sister, Caroline.

M. Poirot, what were you thinking? Retiring to a small village to grow vegetable marrows? I too would hurl them in fits of regret! As if marrows could suitably engage those little grey cells!

Excellent depiction of the competitive sport of gossip. Small communities everywhere suffer from it. That is one of the reasons that I came to live in a city—I can actually keep my private life relatively private!

Dame Agatha really did set the patterns for current mystery literature, didn’t she? Very, very enjoyable and as usual, I had no idea who the perpetrator was until M. Poirot did the big reveal.

Hôtel Transylvania / Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

3 out of 5 stars
The classic tale that introduced the legendary Le Comte de Saint-Germain, first published in 1978 and spawning 14 titles in the Saint-Germain epic, is now available in paperback. A fixture in 1740s Parisian society, Saint-Germain is a perfect gentleman--and a vampire. When the fiery young Madeline falls in love with him, a group of evil sorcerers targets her for their black mass--and only Saint-Germain can save her soul.

Hôtel Transylvania was probably a cutting edge book of its time (the late 1970s), but today it feels a little old fashioned. However, I can certainly see its place in the process of getting to the abundant vampire fiction that we have today.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula merely hinted at the sexual nature of vampires. The vampire snuck in at night like a clandestine lover and had to get up close and personal to bite his victim. Blood transfer is pretty intimate after all.

A couple of years before Hôtel Transylvania was published, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire appeared and updated the vampire legend for the times. These were vampires who could interact with humans, who could live for many centuries, and who felt strong emotions. The eroticism of the vampire-human interaction became more explicit. This was a way-station along the path that has led us to the completely sexual vampire of current urban fantasy.

Enter Le Comte de Saint-Germain. Although he does drink blood, he also provides pleasurable sexual experiences during the process. There is some hint that he obtains energy from the sex as well as the blood meal. He is apparently over a thousand years old, is able to handle religious symbols such as crucifixes, and can endure sunlight and running water if properly grounded with his home earth in the soles of his boots.

An aspect of this book that marks it as a product of its time—it is set in the France of Louis XV and revolves around a Satanic cult in the French court (supposedly linked with La Voisin, an alleged sorceress in the court of Louis XIV). Published in 1978, Hôtel Transylvania appears just before the Satanic cult panics of the 1980s. The physical & sexual abuse ascribed to the bad guys here is very similar to that attributeded to the cults of the 1980s. Rather like the Salem witch trials, it turned out that panic-stricken people have very active imaginations.

This was my first time reading the first book in the series—I vaguely remember several volumes in the late 1980s, which I enjoyed more at the time.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

On the Edge / Ilona Andrews

4 out of 5 stars
Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, between the world of the Broken (where people drive cars, shop at Wal-Mart, and magic is a fairy tale) and the Weird (where blueblood aristocrats rule, changelings roam, and the strength of your magic can change your destiny). Only Edgers like Rose can easily travel from one world to the next, but they never truly belong in either.

Rose thought if she practiced her magic, she could build a better life for herself. But things didn’t turn out how she planned, and now she works a minimum wage, off the books job in the Broken just to survive. Then Declan Camarine, a blueblood noble straight out of the deepest part of the Weird, comes into her life, determined to have her (and her power).

But when a terrible danger invades the Edge from the Weird, a flood of creatures hungry for magic, Declan and Rose must work together to destroy them—or they’ll devour the Edge and everyone in it.


This is probably my least favourite Ilona Andrews offering to date, but I still really enjoyed it. I feel like I am reading historical background to books 2 and 3 of the Innkeeper Chronicles, learning the backstory of the arbiter, George. I can also see this particular book as a blue-print for Burn for Me, which is, in my opinion, a stronger offering (and both BfM and OtE tip further into the paranormal romance direction than the Kate Daniels series did).

There is at least one obvious fairy-tale element here—Declan can win Rose’s hand by performing three difficult tasks. Plus, she is living in poverty and working a minimum wage job, evoking Cinderella comparisons. Also obvious is a fairly standard romance trope—reluctant allies developing genuine feelings for one another. Add in a Romeo-and-Juliet type angle, with Rose and Declan being from extremely different family backgrounds, and how can you miss? There are built-in communication problems to confound the couple as they try to navigate their relationship.

Another solid offering from the Andrews writing team. I will definitely read book two and I’ve already picked up books three and four second hand, so they are a foregone conclusion. I am worried that I am almost caught up-to-date on their published works—rereading will be my solution until more are published!

One Fell Sweep / Ilona Andrews

4 out of 5 stars
Gertrude Hunt, the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, is glad to have you. We cater to particular kind of guests, the ones most people don’t know about. The older lady sipping her Mello Yello is called Caldenia, although she prefers Your Grace. She has a sizable bounty on her head, so if you hear kinetic or laser fire, try not to stand close to the target. Our chef is a Quillonian. The claws are a little unsettling, but he is a consummate professional and truly is the best chef in the Galaxy. If you see a dark shadow in the orchard late at night, don’t worry. Someone is patrolling the grounds. Do beware of our dog.

Your safety and comfort is our first priority. The inn and your host, Dina Demille, will defend you at all costs. We ask only that you mind other guests and conduct yourself in a polite manner.


This installment of the Innkeeper Chronicles manages to be very satisfying while leaving the reader anxious for the next book! Some things are “settled” (or at least the beginnings of settling has begun), but enough loose ends are left to entice me along. Please tell me that there will be a volume 4? I need to know what has happened to Dina’s parents! And although it seems a foregone conclusion, I want to know what Dina’s sister, Maud, decides to do.

I loved the sibling dynamics in One Fell Sweep. The teasing between the two sisters, the insights that they have on each other, the love, and the support. I adore Dina, but I’m also becoming a fan of Maud.

I was also delighted that the trademark Ilona Andrews banter continued—the dialog sparkles. Plus, the new role for Officer Marais is genius! We get some brand new aliens to enjoy, we get to know Caldenia a bit better, see what Beast can do when necessary, and meet Sean’s parents. All in all, a lot of personal information, all while fighting a righteous battle whose conclusion is not easily foreseen.

I am ever so glad that I have purchased all three of the Innkeeper books, as I can easily envision reading all of them over-again from the beginning while I wait for number 4.

A Court of Mist and Fury / Sarah J. Maas

4 out of 5 stars
Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world torn apart.


This is an enormous book. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I was able to conquer it, however.

The things I liked?
- Getting to see more of various fairy courts (Night and Summer, for instance).
- Seeing Tamlin’s “perfect” plans being derailed by Rhys, the charming bad boy.
- Feyre escaping the controlling relationship that she found herself in.
- Watching Feyre explore her new abilities.
- Seeing the set-up for an extreme Fae-Human war.

The things I wasn’t crazy about:
- This book could have been one third the size without all the angst about what Feyre feels, what she should do, was she being fair, all that crap that unnecessarily complicates relationships.
- It reinforces the “women like bad boys” sterotypes that plague us. Despite the fact that Rhys turns out to be a nicer guy that Tamlin in every way that is important.
- Yet another book which tells women that a relationship is the most important achievement in our lives, rather than our talents and accomplishments.

Basically, Feyre has gone from being a fragile human, needing protection, to a strong Fae woman who needs a supportive partner. Tamlin was her entrée into the Fairy realm, but once she returns with him to the Spring Court, he goes all controlling on her—restricting her contact with others, restricting her movements, and acting like an abusive spouse. I’m all for getting away from abusive partners.

The whole romance-y genre drives me crazy, because I enjoy the books, but the subtext messages in them drive me up the wall!

I wonder if Maas’ plan is to write a book set in each of the Fairy Courts? Despite my complaints, there is no doubt that I will be reading on, to see how things turn out.