Saffron and Brimstone by Elizabeth Hand

Saffron and BrimstoneSaffron and Brimstone by Elizabeth Hand

Description from Goodreads

Widely praised and widely read, Elizabeth Hand is regarded as one of America’s leading literary fantasists. This new collection (an expansion of the limited-release “Bibliomancy, ” which won the World Fantasy Award in 2005) showcases a wildly inventive author at the height of her powers. Included in this collection are “The Least Trumps,” in which a lonely women reaches out to the world through symbols, tattooing, and the Tarot, and “Pavane for a Prince of the Air,” where neo-pagan rituals bring a recently departed soul to something very different than eternal rest.

Written in the author’s characteristic poetic prose and rich with the details of traumatic lives that are luminously transformed, “Saffron and Brimstone” is a worthy addition to an outstanding career.
* Elizabeth Hand’s work has been selected as a “Washington Post” Notable Book and a “New York Times” Notable Book, and she has been awarded a Nebula Award and two World Fantasy Awards.

I gave this book four stars out of five

My thoughts:

I very much enjoyed this book. I liked the format a lot. It consisted of eight separate short stories, of varying lengths. It provided great variety, with each story being different from the others and covering an assortment of genres from supernatural to dystopian themes.

I thought that each of the stories were very well written, and the breadth of topics dealt with was impressive.

My favourite story was Cleopatra Brimstone, which was one of the longer stories. I found this to be remarkably clever and inventive story with a lot of surprises.

The stories all contained interesting and real characters, despite the limited length. It was easy to connect with and invest in the characters portrayed. I think that this is important in a short story, since the relationship that we have with the characters in a story is so very important, but is often one of those things neglected in short stories.

The plot and storyline of all of the stories were very creative and all of them were highly character based.

I think that this book provides a very good example of how to write captivating short stories. The stories all felt finished and fully formed. Even though I often wanted more, I was not left feeling that any of the stories were incomplete.

I would recommend this book to any fan of the short story, and of Elizabeth Hand’s work. This was a fascinating collection of stories that I enjoyed greatly.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

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No Quarter Asked by Janet Dailey

No Quarter AskedNo Quarter Asked by Janet Dailey


Description from Goodreads

Stacy needed time to adjust

Stacy’s world collapsed with the death of her father. She had to sort herself out; decide what she wanted to do with her life.

The secluded cabin in a Texas valley seemed a perfect place to think. But when Stacy met the arrogant rancher, Cord Harris, all her hopes of peace and serenity vanished. Especially when Cord said, “Go back to the city, where you belong.”

It was exactly the wrong thing to say to Stacy. It made her fighting mad–and determined to stay!

I gave this book three and a half stars out of five

My thoughts:

I quite enjoyed this book as a light, easy to read romance, that was reasonably short and quick to read.

I found that the story was a little predictable in its format and structure and it was obvious from the beginning, how things were going to end. This made the story feel rather formulaic, passing through the usual features present in a romance.

I liked how the initial ill feeling between Stacy and Cord, and their instant dislike of one another, advanced as the story progressed, right up until the final conclusion of the book.

The tension and antagonism between Stacy and Cord was well handled, although given the western theme I found it difficult to grasp all of the nuances of the interactions between them. It was interesting seeing the difference between the accepted manner in which a rancher would behave towards a woman, and the way a city woman would expect to be treated by a man.

I liked the character development, which I thought was very good, with just enough back story provided to allow mixed signals and confusion to creep in to their burgeoning relationship. It was fascinating to see how both of the main characters grew through the course of the book, adapting their views and beliefs.

Overall I enjoyed many aspects of this book and would recommend it to anyone wanting a quick, easy read, that does not require too much interpretation.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher, Open Road Media, as part of the Retro Reads Program.

Whistle for the Crows by Dorothy Eden

whistle for the crowsWhistle for the Crows by Dorothy Eden

Description

From one of the world’s classic authors of romantic suspense comes the thrilling tale of a young woman caught between the desires of two very different brothers while researching a family’s secret history in an eerie Irish castle.

For Cathleen Lamb, traveling to Dublin to record the history of the mystery-shrouded O’Riordan family is the answer to a prayer. Still grieving over the accident that killed her husband and baby daughter, she hopes to lose herself in other people’s lives.
But something sinister is going on at the ancient castle at the edge of the moors . . . something beyond the scandalous skeletons rattling around the O’Riordans’ closets. The former heir was killed three years earlier in a suspicious fall. The same night, the family matriarch suffered a stroke that left her mute.

Despite the malice that surrounds her, Cathleen is drawn to the brooding, darkly passionate man who is plotting to control the family. But even he may not be able to protect her when the crimes of the past reach into the present to terrorize the living.

I gave this book three stars out of five

My thoughts:

I quite enjoyed this book. It was a relatively straightforward read that was easy to immerse oneself in. The setting was perfect for the story that evolved, particularly the gloomy, half ruined castle on the moors in rural Ireland. The author painted an excellent picture of the location with many great descriptive passages.

The story was a nice mix of a number of different elements. It was filled with family history, scandal, investigation, suspense, although I thought that it was a little short on the actual romance.

I enjoyed the interaction between Cathleen and the members of the O’Riordan family, especially Liam and Rory. The rivalry between the brothers for Cathleen’s attention was interestingly handled, and gave great insights into the characters of these men.

I enjoyed the authors skill at character building. She gave us a number of well-rounded characters that were interesting and deep. It was easy to invest in the characters and their lives.

The plot was interesting and moderately paced, although a little slow in places.

The introduction of snippets of back story and the revelation of more and more skeletons from the close to bursting closet of the O’Riordans was cleverly done.

I enjoyed the conclusion of the story and found it interesting and somewhat different to how I had expected.

I would certainly recommend this book to those interested in an eerie mystery story, but would be more reluctant in recommending it as a romance, as this element seemed to be very understated.

This review was based upon a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher Open Road Media as part of the Retro reads program.

The Bleeding Heart by Marilyn French

Bleeding HeartThe Bleeding Heart by Marilyn French

Description from Goodreads.

By the author of the groundbreaking feminist novel The Women’s Room, The Bleeding Heart is a compelling novel about the devastating power of marriage — and the unexpected power of love. A love story for and about adults, it speaks to the hearts and minds of women and men everywhere.

Dolores and Victor are both successful, both Americans living alone in England. They meet and fall instantly in love, only to discover they agree on nothing. From the start they know they have only one year together. Their affair is sometimes bitter, always passionate, and, in the end, an extraordinary revelation for them both.

I gave this book two stars out of five 

My thoughts:

I have to say that I did not get on very well with this book. I struggled to get through it. I enjoyed the location, Oxford, England, but found the rest of the book held little for me.

It was an unusual romance. In principle the idea was interesting, but I found the narrative tedious. There were extremely large sections that just seemed to be undirected rambling and whining about the past by the main characters, Dolores and Victor.

There was a lot of back story, presumably designed to indicate to the reader the main characters motivation for acting as they did. Instead it came across, to me at least, as rather monotonous and extremely negative. There appeared to be a real ire for men, in general, and an automatic assumption that all men are the same. This became wearing after a while.

This was not a book I particularly enjoyed, and although I felt that technically it was well executed, the narrative of the story and the past lives of the main characters quickly began to irritate me, and sadly, that didn’t change throughout the course of the book.

I was hoping for a big conclusion and some life changing events towards the end of the book, which were never realised. A big epiphany, if you will, but it was not to be.

I am sure that there are many readers out there that will enjoy a romance of this nature, but whilst I can appreciate the author’s skill, I am not one of them.

This review was based upon a complimentary copy of the book provided by Netgalley and the publisher Open Road Media as part of the Retro reads program.

The Dawning by Judy Griffith Gill

DawningThe Dawning by Judy Griffith Gill

Description from Goodreads.

In a world ravaged by biological warfare, two young survivors fight to protect a supernaturally powerful child

Following the devastating Bio Wars, in which genetically modified diseases were weaponized and used with astonishing cruelty, some survivors developed extraordinary powers, such as telepathy. These people, called Talents, are feared and hated by the Normals, who occupy the seats of power in this post-apocalyptic world. As Talents are forced to hide out in wilderness territories, two survivors among them—Serena and Andrew—team up to protect one of the youngest members of their community: a baby, named Grace, who needs protection from the territorial government at all costs.

I gave this book three and a half stars out of five 

My thoughts:

This was an interesting read. There were parts of it that I really enjoyed, but other parts that totally frustrated me. I thought that the ending was a little anti-climactic. I also felt that the plot was reasonably predictable, when you understood the rules of society that defined the world at that time.

I thought that this book was quite Orwellian in outlook, as many dystopian novels are apt to be. It is always interesting to see another person’s perception of how the future could be, and with some major exceptions, this was an almost believable vision of a possible future for the planet.

I liked the relationship between the two main characters, and the way that Serena viewed Andrew, based upon her perception of his actions in the past. It was interesting how the renewal of their relationship grew to the point that he could finally be totally open to her, revealing horrific surprises that she hadn’t expected.

I enjoyed the twist on the stereotypical view of a man not allowing the people he loves to be privy to the inner workings of his mind, his true feelings and thoughts.

I thought that it was relatively easy to divine the identity of the presence, and to foresee the conclusion of the story, but I found that this did not detract from my desire to continue along the journey with them.

This was a relatively easy read and moderately paced with many action scenes. It was always moving on towards the goal of the journey they were taking together, but with the expectation that something needed to happen before they got there.

I would recommend this book to readers that enjoy a different type of romance and that are comfortable with the idea of the futuristic backdrop against which it was set.

This review was based upon a review copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher Open Road Media as part of the Retro Reads programme.

Who Forgot Valentines Day?

So, who forgot valentines day then?

It may be a bit late in the day, but here is the perfect opportunity to extricate yourself from the excrement. Check out the Open Road Media special valentines site by clicking the image below, to find just the right ebook gift for your loved one.

OpenRoadValentines

Lady by Thomas Tryon

LadyLady by Thomas Tryon

Description from Goodreads

A young man becomes transfixed by a beautiful widow with a shadowy past

In Pequot Landing, there are two sights to see: the largest elm in America, which dominates the stately old village green, and the house of Lady Harleigh. When the Great War ended, she was the most beautiful bride in the village, and though she was widowed soon after, mourning dampened neither her beauty nor her spirits. By the time the Great Depression rolls around, she is the unchallenged center of Pequot society—lovely and energetic, but subject to bouts of grim melancholy that hint at something dark beneath her surface.

Woody is eight years old when he first notices the Lady, and her glittering elegance captures his heart. He spends his boyhood deeply in love with the mysterious widow, obsessed with the sadness that lies at her core. As he gets closer to her, he finds that Lady Harleigh is haunted—not just by grief, but by a scandalous secret that, if revealed, could change Pequot Landing forever.

I gave this book four stars out of five

My thoughts:

I was unsure at first what rating to give this book, vacillating between three and four stars. It is not as if I didn’t enjoy it, I just found it a slow, long read. I think this was mainly due to the unhurried, meandering pace of the story set by the author.

There were many beautifully, descriptive passages in this book, and the story was certainly well written. I was always turning the page in anticipation of finding out what the big secret regarding lady was, and it was this that kept me hooked until the end. There was, however, a long prelude to the main events of the story, building character and back story, which I found to be a little too drawn out, lacking any real excitement.

I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Woody, as a boy, and Lady. The relationship between the children was also interesting, as was how the coloured staff were respected by the children without any hint of the prejudices and bigotry displayed by many of the adult townsfolk.

The final revelation of Lady’s scandalous secret, and the subsequent disclosure of even more shocking events from her past was very well handled, and in my opinion well worth the wait.

I would recommend this if you enjoy reading well written stories with a lot of descriptive language and an intelligent plot, but not if you are looking for something fast paced and filled with suspense.

This review is based on a digital review copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher, Open Road Media.