Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Why I Love Research

I'm re-reading one of my favorite Florida histories, James Branch Cabell's The St. Johns; A Parade of Diversities and enjoying it all over again. This is one of my favorite quotes, and it seems timely: "Andrew Jackson, that idolized heckler for the unshaved frontier, who was now beginning to dominate the United States as an epitome of their national failings...."

It really is an entertaining history, well worth tracking down in a used bookstore.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a cracking good tale! Half the fun was identifying the 19th C. tales of the fantastic that are referenced: Rappaccini’s Daughter, Murders in the Rue Morgue, Frankenstein, Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Cornish Giant, The Prisoner of Zenda and The Island of Dr. Moreau are some of the stories mentioned as wonderful plot points.

But at its heart, The Alchemist’s Daughter is The League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen (along with a token male, one Mr. Holmes), sisters brought together by circumstances. They’re not all exactly human, but they share a common need to be accepted, part of a family.

Mary Jekyll, a conventional London spinster, uncovers a mystery following her mother’s death, a near feral young woman named Diana Hyde who claims to be her sister. From there the mysteries grow and expand as they meet others connected to Mary and Diana by a mysterious scientific society.

I would love to read more tales of these women and their adventures (chronicled for profit by one of their little band) and it’s fun to see a new take on classic tales of English literature.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

These Boots Were Made for Walking

There's something poignant about retiring your hiking boots. These Mephistos have served me well over more than 25 years. They've trekked from the winding streets of Edinburgh to the ramparts of Masada, from the heights of Hawaii's Big Island to the depths of a North Florida cave, from the California coast to Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the Australian Outback.

These Nubuck beauties were re-soled three times, got new laces more than once, and are still in good shape. However, technology has advanced over the decades and it's time to replace them with 21st century hiking boots, boots that are waterproof, boots that weigh less.

Sure, I could still wear them on weekends and for casual walks, but there are people who need them more than I do. That's why I'm donating these boots and some of the hiking socks to our local homeless program.

Shoes and warm socks, as well as packages of unworn underwear, are some of the greatest needs for people on the street. When the seasons change and you finally get around to that long deferred closet clean-out, check with your local shelter agencies and see if they can use your running shoes, low-heeled boots, or other items you're no longer wearing. You'll have the memories, but someone else will have the benefit of warm, dry feet.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Review: A Taste of Honey

A Taste of Honey A Taste of Honey by Rose Lerner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the more common tropes in historical romance is the aristos leaving tradesmen's bills unpaid because a gentleman always pays gambling debts to another gentlemen, but hoi polloi have to wait their turn.

But if you're one of those tradesmen you could be one bad debt away from bankruptcy or debtor's prison yourself. You had to put up the capital to fund your venture, unpaid bills mean you can't pay your creditors.

I hadn't planned on this being a screed on market economics, but part of what I enjoyed most about A Taste of Honey was its focus on ordinary people with businesses to run and bills to pay rather than the ton, bakers and shopgirls instead of dukes and countesses. We met Robert Moon earlier in the Lively St. Lemeston saga, but now he gets his own story, and it's as hot and sweet as cakes fresh from the oven. Be warned, if you're dieting this book will make you moan in frustration because while the sex between Robert and his assistant Betsy is hot, the pastry and confection descriptions are even hotter.

Lerner has earned a reputation not only for writing excellent romance but for her ability to bring in local color and ordinary people to her stories. It's a nice change from the glittering ballrooms and Almack's, just as a good loaf of rye makes a nice change from fluffy white breads.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Review: A Queen from the North: A Royal Roses Book

A Queen from the North: A Royal Roses Book A Queen from the North: A Royal Roses Book by Erin McRae
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this alternate history spin on The War of the Roses very much, as it combined the best of The Crown with some intriguing characters in a world similar to ours, but not exactly the same. In the Unified Kingdom of Britain the Lancasters hold sway, and have since Richard III was defeated. York is a backwater with a huge chip on its shoulder, Ireland is an independent kingdom and the Commonwealth is pushing back at edicts from London. America as a nation does get mentioned, so one presumes there was a revolution.

Enter Lady Amelia, staunch daughter of Yorkists, who catches the eye of the Prince of Wales. Their relationship has all the earmarks of a marriage of convenience uniting North and South, and there's a paranormal element as well.

I wanted to give it 4.5 stars. While I understood the circumstances preventing the protagonists from talking to one another, too many Big Misunderstandings could have been cleared up with a conversation or two. However, I'm already looking forward to another Royal Roses book and hope to see more of this universe.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Beach time

One of my few regrets about living in Gainesville for my adult life is its distance from the ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Granted, it's the place to be during hurricane season (or as I told more than one concerned friend during Irma, "We're the place Floridians evacuate to, not from"), but I miss being close to the sand and the sea, especially the Gulf.

I grew up in SW Florida and spent many days at Naples, Bonita Springs, Estero and Fort Myers beaches. When our children were small we often vacationed at Clearwater beach or with the grandparents in Fort Myers. Now, though, I don't get over there as much as I'd like. However, since my son married into a Yankee family that likes to come south in the winter, we're spending the end of the year at Siesta Key.

This was our third visit to the son's in-laws and we opted to stay for a week and really make a vacation of it. We had a charming, rustic Old Florida cottage on the Intracoastal Waterway and every morning I'd eat breakfast on our veranda and watch the dolphins jump and the boats cruise by.

Between that and the long walks on the beach, I realized something about myself as a writer. It dawned on me that maybe I should stay in my comfort zone and keep setting my books mostly in Florida and the West Indies. I like it here. I can describe the land and the history and best of all, I get to take research trips to places I love, like St. Augustine, Fernandina, Key West, Siesta Key and other sites. I can share my joy in Florida with people who only know of Disneyworld and South Beach.

This makes me happy, so I'm going to set aside the 10,000 words of the manuscript that had been frustrating me (the as yet untitled Book 9) and start a new story in the land I love. Believe me, you'll hear more on this as it develops.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Review: A Duke in Shining Armor

A Duke in Shining Armor A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ms. Chase is on my autobuy list, and has been since she was first published. There are reasons her Lord of Scoundrels is on almost every shortlist of recommended historical romance--smart, capable heroines, uber male heroes, great historical detail, she brings it all.

I'm already looking forward to the next "Difficult Dukes" offering. This one set the stage for the story of three dissolute friends and their forays into romantic love with a runaway bride, rival best friends and concepts of honor over everything else, not to mention enough book and library love to charm any bibliophile.

A satisfying page-turner that will help you recover from all the frenetic holiday events.

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Review: Bitch Planet, Vol. 2: President Bitch

Bitch Planet, Vol. 2: President Bitch Bitch Planet, Vol. 2: President Bitch by Kelly Sue DeConnick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Too much of this graphic series is eerily prescient with its #MeToo storylines and banned words (and concepts). Of course, the people who should read this won't, so it's left to the rest of us to buy outstanding graphic novels like Bitch Planet and be ready to step back into the fray.

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