Monday, October 30, 2017


By Mary Balogh

Sophie has a secret and unfortunately she is being blackmailed because of it. It isn't even her secret, it is her dead husband's secret. But to protect his reputation and his family, Sophie has been paying the blackmail.
She is not a wealthy woman and the blackmailer keeps demanding more and more money. She may even have to sell her modest home to buy his silence. She does sell her wedding ring and her pearls, the only valuable jewelry she owns.
Living quietly in London, she suddenly finds her social horizons expanding when the "Four Horsemen" reenter her life. Four friends of her husband, they had all fought in the war together but had gone their separate ways afterward. But they have all come to London for the season for various reasons.
Sophie always had a bit of a crush on one the four, Nathaniel. So now that she is a widow and he is looking for love in all the wrong places, it is not too long before they are in an intimate relationship. They have decided that no strings will be attached. She is lonely, he is lonely and together they will ease their desires. But Sophie's financial problems and her rather irrational scruples are going to ruin everything.

This was an OK read. I suppose sexual promiscuity was not all that rare back in the 1700s and 1800s.  People will do what people like to do, that is for sure, no matter how much religion and society may frown upon it. But reading about sexual antics does not appeal to me. I have enjoyed Regency romance novels since I was a kid, but these writers nowadays always have to thrown in detailed descriptions of sexual acts. Writers used to be able to tell a romance story without the characters ripping their clothes off and hopping into bed together. I miss that.

Dear Author review:

Scepter of the Ancients

By Derek Landy

Stephanie was only twelve years old when her favorite uncle died and left her virtually all of his estate. Her uncle was a very successful author of novels of magic and monsters.
Her first night in the her uncle's house, a man broke in and tried to kill her, demanding a key from her, a key she knew nothing about. But Skulduggery Pleasant arrived just in time to send the intruder packing.
Skulduggery Pleasant isn't a normal guy. He is a skeleton and a mage and a detective. And right now he is on the hunt for a magical item, the Scepter of the Ancients. He believes that Stephanie's dead uncle knew something about it and maybe even had the scepter in his possession.
Some time in the past a war had occurred between the mages and a truce had been entered upon. But now someone is trying to acquire the Scepter and break the truce and bring about the end of the world as we know it.
All this magic and mages and wars are news to Stephanie and she is smitten. And thanks to the death of her uncle, she is now totally involved in a new world of magic and monsters and deadly threats and she loves it.

This was an OK read, a bit too juvenile for my taste, though. I was really hoping for something a lot more whimsical. But instead it was just another story of bad magicians vs good magicians. Teen and older kids would probably like it and enjoy the rather obvious jokes about Skulduggery being a skeleton.

Rated Reads review:

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Off the Grid

By C.J. Box

Nate Romanowski and his girl friend are living in a cabin on a ranch owned by a friend. They have no electricity and no telephone and are living "off the grid." This is because Nate is a wanted fugitive by the federal government. But when the girl friend has to call her gravely ill mother, Nate is back in the government's sights. And it isn't long after the girl friend goes off the visit her mother that the agents show up.
They have a deal to offer Nate. If he will do an investigation for them of a site in the back country of Wyoming, they will wipe his record clean and he can live like a normal person once again. So he agrees.
The feds want to know what is going on at an old abandoned ranch in the Red Desert of Wyoming. A gang of possible terrorists in up to something and they want Nate to take care of it. But when Nate tracks down the gang, it turns out he has more in common with the leader's plans and goals than he does with the people who sent him there.
Meanwhile, his old friend Joe Pickett, the game warden, has been given a heads up by the Governor that Nate might be headed for trouble. He sends Joe to the same area to figure out what the feds are up to as he feels they are overstepping their bounds and he doesn't like it.

This was a very interesting, exciting book as the reader roots for the good guys and hopes for the worst for the bad guys. And the terrorist plot is very scary and unsettling.

Publishers Weekly review:

Maisie Dobbs

By Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs was a young teen when her mother died.  Her dad was devastated by his wife's death but he could see that Maisie was trying her best to replace her mom, keeping house, preparing meals, running errands. It was not the life he wanted for his daughter so her found her a job as a maid in the home of a wealthy lord and lady.
It wasn't long before her employers realized Maisie had a keen intellect that would be wasted in a life of drudgery. So they very generously provided for her to be educated, while continuing to earn her keep with her maid chores. She even eventually went to college.
Before she could start her new life as an adult, World War I broke out and she  trained as nurse and was sent to France.
Back in London after recovering from a serious war wound, Maisie decided to strike out on her own as an investigator. One of her first cases involved a man who was worried that his wife was cheating on him. It didn't take Maisie long to discover that the wife was not cheating but was visiting the grave of a man she had a crush on as a little girl. Maisie gave the husband some good advice about how to help his wife and bring their marriage back onto solid ground.
The dead man had become involved with a private asylum for gravely wounded soldiers. One of the requirements of the asylum was that those who entered it turn over their financial assets to the asylum to help cover the costs of running it. But when she visited the asylum, it seemed the residents were happy and contented and the man in charge seemed dedicated and compassionate.
But now her wealthy patrons' son was planning to enter the asylum and her patrons were worried that he was making a mistake handing his money over to the asylum chief.  Maisie enlisted a friend to enter the asylum and what he discovered was not the sanctuary it claimed to be.

This was a good story and the first in a series of 14 books (so far).

Kirkus Review:

Thursday, October 19, 2017

All Clear

By Connie Willis

The sequel to Blackout,  finds the time travelers stuck back in 1940s Britain in the thick of World War II. Their job now is to survive and hope that someday the people back in Oxford of the future will figure out their plight and send someone to rescue them. Surviving is the problem, with bombs falling on London and Britain, no place is truly safe.
Polly and Eileen have jobs as sales clerks. Mike finds them but he gets cut off from them trying in vain to find other time travelers in the area. Eileen discovers that Binnie and Alf are living on the streets after their mother died and she takes them under her wing. Both she and Polly get involved in Sir Godfrey's amateur theatrics and it nearly costs Polly her life. Mr Dunworthy, their boss from the Oxford Future comes back to save them only find himself trapped in the past too.
Now it is all upon a teenage boy in Oxford Future with a huge crush on Polly to try to locate them in time and effect a rescue. Before Hitler manages to blow them all to bits.

While not as exciting as the first book, still this is a good read, about missed connections and odd coincidences. And if you are smart enough and have a really good memory, (unlike me) you may be able to figure out the direction of the story. It is all laid out in the end and tied neatly together. Which makes for a tidy and slightly unsatisfying end, as one of the most interesting characters in the story **spoiler alert** doesn't make it out alive.

Check out The Guardians review:

The Chemist

By Stephenie Meyer

She was called Juliana until she found herself in the crosshairs of a corrupt government agency. Now she sleeps with one eye open and a pocketful of fake identities. Currently going by the alias Alex, she is a young, brilliant scientist, best at what she did for the government, but apparently someone decided she knew too much and needed to be silenced.
Alex hates her new life on the run, never trusting anyone, always looking for her assassin. So when her old boss tracks her down and promises to call off the dogs if she will do one last job for him, against her better judgment, she agrees, pressured by the desire for a normal life and by the even stronger desire to prevent a terrorist from releasing a virulent, deadly disease upon the nation.
Her old boss points Alex in the right direction and she is able to locate the terrorist. But he just doesn't look like the kind of man who would be a mass-murderer. In fact, he seems kind, gentle and basically decent. (Also very good-looking.)
So she kidnaps the man, Daniel, using her particular set of unique skills and interrogates him. But no torture she inflicts upon with her chemical potions is able to get him to confess where he has stashed the deadly disease. And he continuously denies any knowledge of anything about a disease, insisting he is a just an ordinary guy who teaches school for a living. The interrogation is interrupted by hired killer who crashes her torture session to rescue Daniel. Turns out the new guy is Daniel's black-ops twin brother Kevin whom Daniel thought was deceased. And he is highly upset that Alex is torturing his brother. In the struggle that follows, Alex's hidden defenses take Kevin (and his killer dog) down and she is able to secure him and his dog.
Like Alex, Kevin used to work for the government and then became a liability. His old boss and her old boss got together and hatched a scheme that would have the two of them efficiently eliminate each other. Poor Daniel was nothing but a pawn to lure the two of them in. But due to Alex's foresight, they both survive the encounter and put their heads together to take on the bad guys who are trying to take them down.

This was a gripping, exciting story. Alex is a very resourceful, highly competent heroine who, despite her diminutive size, comes out the victor, eventually. She usually is the one who saves the day in any deadly encounter. Together, she and Kevin are a match for anything their ex-bosses try to throw at them.  Yet, despite her deadly past, she and Daniel fall hard for each other, with brother Kevin looking on in disgusted bemusement.  So this is part thriller, part spy novel and part romance story and a really fun and engaging read.

Kirkus Reviews rated it "B for Badass":