Book Review: Sara C. Snider’s The Thirteenth Tower

by Kathy Davie

The Thirteenth TowerThe Thirteenth Tower by Sara C. Snider
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I suspect this is the first in a new fantasy series for middle grade readers, and it revolves around Emelyn.

This ARC was provided by NetGalley and Double Beast Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

My Take
Snider manages quite a lot of information in a short time as she introduces us to Emelyn’s world. One in which she indulges in all the usual daydreams of an orphan, hoping to one day find her family and learn that they hadn’t meant to leave her so long. Snider certainly kept me wondering for the longest time about Corran and the barefooted girl, and when the truth emerges, you just want to weep.

She’s included a unique twist on what I consider the fae in the form of the forest people and a horrible twist on the Magi to whom all must be reduced to rote formula. It’s actually a very good example of show, as Snider’s Magi ignore or lie about what they don’t want to discuss, and Snider uses the fear Emelyn feels about them and Corran’s suspicions to build in the tension.

Only we don’t know any of this for sure. We suspect, we wonder. We hope. Meanwhile, the Magisters know how to entice Emelyn to accompany them on their journey. It’s the core of the conflict in this story, and Snider is not shy about adding more and more of it. Teases from Snider, baiting from the Magisters, and the taunting appearances of Iyen. The Magisters’ conversations, Corran’s comments all serve to keep you glued to The Thirteenth Tower.

When they abandon Corran, I don’t get the logic that they’ll encounter him later on their journey. Okay, never mind. It’s like much in The Thirteenth Tower with the Magisters. They give out as little as possible. I fear them, that they look to trap their prey. It’s that vignette at the Thirteenth Tower that finally proves their arrogance, their stupidity. Jeez, I can’t believe how blind, ignorant, and one-sided Percival is. There should be a balance between learning and discovery — it feels like a metaphor for man and his science, and these Magisters make me think of those Nazi doctors willing to do anything to their captives for the answer to any of their perverse questions.

Oh, I did love Iyen’s revenge, their own shades offering up the same words of “comfort”.

It’s a journey that will open the world to Emelyn.

The Story
It could have been worse, and it could have been better. At least Emelyn has a place to sleep and food to eat. For today, she’s looking forward to getting her chores done so she may attend the Harvest Festival.

It’s an unexpected parade of all sorts that pulls her out of the Mansell yard, for it’s the neighbors, the Mansells, their neighbor Mrs. Bower, the servants all skipping and gadding along following a fiddler playing a twisted branch.

It’s the information Emelyn has sought her entire life that decides her to follow the Magi, and it will be a road of unexpected adventures and even more unexpected truths.

The Characters
Emelyn is an orphan left on the doorstep of the Mansell residence in Fallow. Later, Cobbe will call her Silver-eyes and Corran she will name Hollow-man.

Corran is a protective young man who appears out of nowhere and rescues Emelyn. He used to apprentice with Mr. Wainwright some years ago, although he came from Tirenfor where the Magi did not exist and his people celebrated the old ways. Iyen is the wife the Magisters took from him as he fled with their daughter, Siyan.

Magisters and Towers
Magi/Magisters are magic users. Cocky, “science”-oriented, singleminded men who came from the south. They pushed ever northward building their Towers. “Civilizing” the barbarians and bringing enlightenment. The Magisters of the past were Hauer and Jennison.

Grand Magister Percival Lacreld is from the Twelfth Tower. Aldren Keller is High Magister of the Twelfth Tower with a passion for flora and fauna.

Roelith is a bustling mini metropolis up in the north.

Cobbe is a Wylkin and was in the city trapping falcons for dinners. They are renowned as fantastic cooks, but are rarely seen as they seldom leave their forest homes. Amongst the Wylkin, a Den Mother is their leader, drawn from the Wildings, the female Wylkin who leave their villages to travel and explore. Bog is the second Wylkin Emelyn meets.

Beryl Royen is the kindly innkeeper with her husband and son. Ferrin is the name Emelyn gives the donkey they buy. Werren Worsby is a trader they encounter.

Fallow, the village
Derron is a boy Emelyn is sweet on. Mr. Hibberly runs the general store; his wife, Mrs. Hibberly, is quite critical. Mr. Cowan sells meat pies and ale. Mr. Gatwick is the dairyman whose wife will be selling butter, cream, and cheeses at the festival. Mrs. Troller sells her apples and preserves. Mr. Torvel is the alchemist, and Mrs. Gristman would never agree to what they were doing to her. Patrice is a servant girl from a neighboring household.

Mansell
Torrence Mansell is the master. Miss Merridan Cook is the household cook; the housekeeper is the one who took Emelyn in and raised until she was ten when she was put to work. Tilly is her dearest and only friend and another housemaid. Mr. Witherby is the gardener?

Lamphyr are a sea-folk superstition of men without eyes holding lanterns. The Art is the magic and using of it whether through the Natural or Constructed runes. Threshing is a test all potential Magi undergo and it exacts a heavy price. The forest-kin have great power but wield it in everyday tasks. The And’estar are their wise ones.

The Cover
The cover is beautiful with its tall pines dusted in snow as the rescued falcon flies overhead.

The title is the key to their secrets, The Thirteenth Tower. It holds the truth about their dirty deeds.

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Book Review: R.M. Clark’s The Secret at Haney Field

by Kathy Davie

The Secret at Haney Field: A Baseball MysteryThe Secret at Haney Field: A Baseball Mystery by R.M. Clark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A middle-reader’s baseball mystery that looks back over history and bigotry and rights a tremendous wrong. The story takes place in New Blackburn, Massachusetts.

This ARC was provided by NetGalley and MB Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

My Take
I can certainly understand why April won! An essay on using sabermetrics! This is a fun angle, reading the strategies and tricks of reading a baseball field. April knows her stats about the players and pays attention to the tiny details. It’s a great read and very encouraging for kids. I love how the players pay attention to her, respect her. Not to worry, though, she’s still a kid with the mischief that kids get up to. It’s just a little more focused than most, lol.

My only big quibble is that the players tolerate April’s advice at the start. She’s just a kid, they don’t know her, and adults don’t normally see kids as experts. I wish Clark had given us a reason why they’re accepting it. Same goes for Haney. He’s gotta be desperate if knowing a twelve-year-old seeing the same thing he is makes him feel better!

It’s not ’til well into the story that we learn what the mystery is, and it’s a sad state for where we were as a country. We’ve made progress down the years, but we’re still a work-in-progress. I think that old scoreboard is Haney’s dirty secret. A guilt trip he hides but wants to ease up on.

“It’s sad that we have to create laws to make people do the right thing.”

Mr. Haney is terrified that he’s losing his mind, and it’s a big part of his dirty secret. Being a kid, April has already been exploring the grounds, and she’s seen the same shadows he has and has more questions. She’ll have even more once she “time travels” and investigates deeper. She does some nice work detecting along with unexpected help from her dad.

There’s a short bit on the expectations when Jackie Robinson made it into the big leagues, and the disappointment that followed. There’s also a useful glossary at the start for those of us not in the know about baseball terms *points finger at self — although I was surprised at how much I did know*.

This is a great cozy read with some great characters and several heck-of-a-twisty endings. Two of the characters have their come-to-Jesus moments and Clark brings them right in the end. You won’t regret this for your kids! Heck, I don’t even like baseball, and I loved this!

The Story
April has just won an essay contest that will allow her to be the bat retriever for the Harpoons! For a whole week!!

It’s the question at the end of the week that will make April’s entire summer: will she come back?

But the real question is: can she see those shadows out on the field?

The Characters
April O’Day is twelve years old and fascinated by baseball stats. I think she could be a coach now! Danny is her disabled father, who used to be a minor leaguer himself. Her parents are separated and sharing joint custody. Her mother, Debby, is astraphobic (afraid of storms) and works in the meteorology department at a TV station.

Darren Plummer is April’s best friend and just as in love with baseball as she is. He’s also an artist with an excellent memory for their logos.

The Harpoons are…
…a minor-league Class A baseball team in New Blackburn. The home field is Haney Field named for the team’s owner, Mr. Walter Haney. Peg is his wife although she doesn’t appear in this, but two of their great-grandchildren do: Walter and Cassandra. Manny is Mr. Haney’s driver. Beth Harrelson is director of promotions and responsible for April while she’s there. Don “Skip” Smiley is the manager who’s retired from his own major league career. Ben Meeks is one of the coaches. Joe Clemmons is the head groundskeeper at Haney Field.

Juan Santiago is a new left fielder; Carl “Cannon” Caswell is the first baseman; Roscoe Barnwell is their speedy center fielder; Kyle Bonner is the newer left fielder; and, Jimmy “Moose” Baxter is a pitcher.

Some of their opponents are…
…the Springfield Braves and the Montpelier Mountaineers.

The Negro Leagues were…
…formed due to the racism of whites who refused to be around black people. And man, did the baseball teams back then miss out! Oscar “Flash” Henderson III was a star for the Blue Barons along with Lamont Porter and Henry Calloway, who were playing against the Grays. Marvin Henderson is Flash’s great-nephew; Sheila is his wife. They’re planning on naming the baby Oscar Henderson IV.

Mr. David Koh is a retired Asian man who tours the memories of his past and teaches Danny a lesson.

Marcus “Mayhem” Mayfield was in the major leagues back in the 1950s and played part of a season for the New York Giants. He also played in the Negro Leagues. Olivia Coiner is the granddaughter who takes care of him now. Red Cantwell was city council president back in 1963. Evelyn is today’s city municipal planner.

Jim Fogel was a scout back in the 1960s and ’70s and has a wealth of knowledge.

Sabermetrics is a science about baseball records, math, and statistics. Barnstormers were teams who were not in a league but played teams all over the country.

The Cover
The cover is bright in a fan array of blues radiating out from a baseball resting above crossed bats resting on blades of grass. A bright pink banner showcasing the title arcs across the top. I like the crossed bats. It feels like the meeting of two sides, a resolution of a hateful iniquity with this positive outcome. Let’s play ball!

The title says it like it is. It’s The Guilty Secret at Haney Field that has the team owner freaking out.

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Book Review: Maya Banks’ After the Storm

by Kathy Davie

After the Storm (KGI, #8)After the Storm by Maya Banks
Series: KGI, 8
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Eighth in the KGI romantic suspense series and revolving around the Kelly family, their undercover operations, and their friends. The couple focus is on Donovan Kelly and Evie.

My Take
This is another library-only book. Do not waste your money on this. I’d say don’t waste your time or brain cells on reading this either, but if you’ve been following the series — and are as OCD as I am! *grin* — you still have to read to know how Donovan gets hooked up with the love of his life. Just please, know that you may want to jump ahead in After the Storm. A lot.

I’m of two, possibly three(!), minds about After the Storm… I’ve read a few reviews that thought Banks took this in a different [read wrong] direction with its focus on rescuing a woman and her half-siblings in distress. Their objection was to Banks writing about women in an abusive family situation. That it was somehow different from previous stories, which I don’t get.

Sure, Banks focused on Van’s pet charity that helps in domestic abuse cases to give Van the “excuse” for being even more interested in Evie, Josh, and Cammie, and if anything, I appreciated the twist on how KGI got dumped into a conflict in this story. Life comes at us from all angles, and I don’t see why life at KGI would be any different. It may be more dramatic with bigger bad guys and more guns, ahem *and another grin*, but this change-up made it more interesting.

Where it fell apart was in two places: the melodrama — and y’all know how much I hate the overwrought histrionics! Thankfully the eye rolling didn’t give me a headache, just a queasy stomach. The second issue was the insta-family-love. Puh-lease. Rusty and Donovan barely get the trailer’s door open, and he’s in love??? Pull the other one. Couldn’t he just have been concerned, impressed, worried, feeling a tug at his heartstrings and not understanding it? Start to wonder why he feels this emotional towards this woman? But no, instead he starts to feel stalkerish himself as he insists that Evie and the kids are moving in with him. That he’s never letting them go. Banks reinforces this creepy vibe with how desperately Donovan wants to feel the love as his other siblings do. He wants their family. Eeyewww. I’d be on the run right there. As for Evie’s side of things, she sounded more as if she were veering off into “I’ll love him because he’s rescuing me”, and not the “oh, I’ve found my life mate kind of love”.

Throw in the stupid don’t-bother-to-ask or find-out-if-you-missed-something tropes…and it’s all down hill. Anndd, as lame as Eve’s conclusion is, I can’t fault one part of her decisionmaking, the kids are better off exactly where they are.

I do love Rusty’s actions and her desire to help. I also love that she’s careful of Travis’ pride. She’s a good kid. And, hoo boy, she isn’t shy about slinging it at Sean! It seems he has a lot to regret!

For as protective as Donovan is, I’m surprised he doesn’t pull the Hansons in under cover with the threat of that storm.

I want to yell at Evie to trust Donovan, but that’s only because I know him and his family. I totally get why she won’t, why she can’t, how terrified she is, and it pulls me in two.

I love how easily the Kellys pull Evie and the kids into the family. It’s so sweet and supportive.

Too cute! Garrett is buying Charlotte soldier dolls, and she’s already agitating to go to the firing range.

What would make Walt think Rusty had lied? It was a plausible story. Made sense. What doesn’t make sense is Walt’s conclusion. Why didn’t KGI have someone tailing Walt after he left? Wouldn’t that be part of the info-gathering process? If Sean really has found Rusty as soon as he did, wouldn’t he have called Donovan to let him know. It certainly sounds as if Walt already has Eve when he meets KGI, so Sean had plenty of time to contact Van.

Then you read the mudslinging and blame going on at Marlene and Frank Kelly’s place and later the reasoning Travis used to decide to light out for his sister, and ya gotta wonder why anyone would jump to his conclusion. I mean, WTF? How stupid is this whole story? Was Banks not paying attention to her timeline? If you heard someone say something negative about someone you loved, would you listen to only one paragraph? Or would you get very still, very quiet, and listen to get more information? I mean, c’mon…

There’s an odd bit at the end in which Banks notes that the sisters-in-law are taking more of a roll, er, I mean, role in administration of KGI. Then Banks says something about them “devoting many hours to helping other women”. I think it’s a reference to Donovan’s charity, but Banks doesn’t say.

The Story
It’s déjà vu for Rusty when she decides to hire Travis under the table. She recognizes all the signs and can’t help but want to help.

Only she doesn’t know she’s aiding a “mentally deranged kidnapper”! As for Donovan, he can’t help but draw comparisons between Sam and Sophie’s Charlotte and young Cammie…

The Characters
Eve and her half-brother and sister, the fifteen-year-old Travis and four-year-old Cammie Hanson, are on the run from their abusive father, Walt Breckenridge.

Donovan “Van” Kelly has a life outside KGI, it’s just not the hell raising, woman-chasing kind of life you might think, for he has cofounded a charity to help women getting out of abusive relationships.

Rusty Kelly is one of the “orphans” adopted into the Kelly family (see Darkest Hour, 1). In Rusty’s case, more formally than most *grin*. And she’s learned the value of a soft heart. Frank and Marlene Kelly are the parents with Frank working his hardware store. Sean Cameron is another of the Kelly “orphans”. A sheriff’s deputy, he keeps a close eye on the whole family and is always there for them. Seems he’s more than there for Rusty *nudge, nudge, wink, wink*

The rest of the Kellys and KGI

Sarah and Garrett (see Hidden Away, 3); Sam and Sophie with their daughter, Charlotte (No Place to Run, 2); and, Rachel, a schoolteacher, and Ethan (see Darkest Hour, 1, and “Softly at Sunrise”, 6.5) with the twins, Mason and Ian.

The new team is led by the twins, Joe and Nathan Kelly (Nathan’s married to Shea; Whispers in the Dark, 4), with teammates Swanny, Skylar, and Zane, a.k.a., Edge, his MMA fighter nickname. Rio, another team leader, and Grace adopted thirteen-year-old Elizabeth after events in Echoes at Dawn, 5. Tough, badass team leader, Steele, softens up around his new baby, Olivia, and his wife, Doc Maren (see Forged in Steele, 7). Maren has taken over the retiring Dr. Campbell’s practice and is slowly coming back to work.

Adam Resnick had been a friend, now he’s merely a CIA contact (after events in Whispers in the Dark) who owes them one. Kyle Phillips, a Marine, is leading the federal team that invades the mental institution.

The Cover
Ooh, pretty. Those blacks and grays on the cover give a nice sense of drama while the oranges and blues provide hope with that sunset. That and the jean-clad Donovan holding his gun, those taut, well-muscled arms with that gray, well-fitting T-shirt, well, he looks like he could protect anyone from anything.

The title is when Donovan’s and the Hansons’ lives all change After the Storm.

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Word Confusion: Ate versus Eight

by Kathy Davie

Yeah, I was surprised at this one too. I struggled to find a reason why the author was using ate as a dialog spelling for eight, but using this as a word was totally out of character for the character. And I spent so much time pondering it that I lost track of what was going on in the story. Not a good sign.

The primary definition for ate is a past tense of eat while eight is the number 8 in several forms. Mmmm, gets my mind racing, thinking back over my snacks for the day: I ate eight grapes, eight ounces of bean salad, and thought longingly of eight pieces of chocolate…sigh…

One spelling that isn’t defined is a dialect spelling — the original trigger that set me off looking for more information. The only word that lends itself this way seems to be hate, which becomes ‘ate — please note the apostrophe that indicates a missing letter!

It’s an evolving list, these Word Confusions, and sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better. If you’d like to track it, “Ate versus Eight” can also be found on my website. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Ate Eight
Credit to: Dictionary.com: ate and eight

Image courtesy of Glum via Wikipedia

He ate part of his hamburger.

8

Part of Grammar:
Acronym; Noun 1;
Verb, intransitive & transitive;
Suffix 2, 3, 4
Adjective 5; Noun 6
Acronym:
ATE [a(utomatic) t(est) e(quipment)]

Equipment that makes a series of tests automatically

Noun:
Ancient Greek goddess personifying the fatal blindness or recklessness that produces crime and the divine punishment that follows it

Verb:
Simple past tense for eat


Verb, intransitive:
To consume food

Take a meal

To make a way, as by gnawing or corrosion

Verb, transitive:
To take into the mouth and swallow for nourishment

Chew and swallow (food)

To consume by or as if by devouring gradually

  • Wear away
  • Corrode

To make a hole, passage, etc., as by gnawing or corrosion

To ravage or devastate

To use up, especially wastefully

  • Consume (often followed by up)

To absorb or pay for

[Slang: Vulgar] To perform cunnilingus or fellatio on

Suffix:
2 Originated to add a- stem verbs to form adjectives ( separate). The resulting word could also be used independently as a noun, e.g., advocate and came to be used as a stem on which a verb could be formed, e.g., separate, advocate, agitate. In English, its use has been extended to stems of non-Latin origin: calibrate, acierate.

3 A specialization of -ate 2, used to indicate a salt of an acid ending in -ic, added to a form of the stem of the element or group such as nitrate, sulfate.

4 Occurs originally in nouns borrowed from Latin, and in English coinages from Latin bases, that denote:

  • Offices or functions, e.g., consulate, triumvirate, pontificate
  • Institutions or collective bodies such a:
    • magistrate
    • potentate
    • An associated place, consulate
    • A period of office or rule, protectorate
  • Joined to stems of any origin:
    • Signifies the office, term of office, or territory of a ruler or official: caliphate, khanate, shogunate
Adjective:
Amounting to eight in number

Noun:
Cardinal number that is the sum of one and seven and the product of two and four

A numeral, 8, VIII, etc, representing this number

[Music] The numeral 8 used as the lower figure in a time signature to indicate that the beat is measured in quavers

Examples:
Acronym:
ATE is any apparatus that performs tests on a device using automation to quickly perform measurements and evaluate the test results (Wikipedia).

Noun:
Having been deceived, Zeus cast Ate out of Olympus, after which she remained on earth, working evil and mischief.

Zeus later sent to earth the Litai, his old and crippled daughters, who followed Ate and repaired the harm done by her (Encyclopædia Britannica).

Verb, intransitive:
We ate at six o’clock.

Acid ate through the linoleum.

Verb, transitive:
We ate hamburgers and french fries for dinner.

Rust ate away at the pipe.

Disease and pain ate at the patient.

Fire ate the forest.

Unexpected expenses ate up their savings.

The builder ate the cost of the repairs.

He ate me out.

Suffix:
He advocated for higher teacher salaries.

Certain nitrates are a specialized class of explosives.

With Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s reforms, the caliphate in Turkey was abolished.

Magistrate is sometimes another term for justice of the peace.

Adjective:
Eight boats started in the race but only three finished.

She bought eight yards of velvet for her skirt.

Her surgery lasted eight hours.

Noun:
Hot dog buns are sold in packages of eight.

It’s 8:01 p.m.

Eight quavers equal a semibreve (MusicArrangers.com).

History of the Word:
1 Greek: special use of átē, meaning reckless impulse, ruin, akin to aáein, meaning to mislead, harm.

2 Latin -ātus is the masculine, -āta is the feminine, and -ātum is neutral, and equivalent to -ā-, a thematic vowel + -tus, -ta, and -tum past participle suffix.

3 Probably originally in Neo-Latin phrases, such as plumbum acetātum salt produced by the action of acetic acid on lead.

4 Latin -ātus (genitive -ātūs), generalized from v. derivatives, as augurātus office of an augur (augurā(re) to foretell by augury + -tus suffix of v. action), construed as a derivative of augur.

5 First known use: before 1000

6 Circa 1200, ehte

5 & 6 Middle English eighte, Old English ahta and is related to the Dutch acht, Old Saxon, Old High German ahto (German acht), Old Norse &amacr;tta, Gothic ahtau, Latin oct&omacr;, Greek oktṓ, Old Irish ocht, Welsh wyth, Breton eiz, Tocharian B okt, Lithuanian aštuonì, Albanian tetë, Armenian uth, Persian hasht<!–, Sanskrit aṣṭáu–>.


C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?


Kathy Davie is an author, educator, and artist with a BS in Technical Writing & Editing with minors in Digital Media and History from Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado.

A huge believer in knowledge being power, Kathy has an ongoing and free set of Author Tools for authors interested in self-editing including an online tutorial in Using Microsoft Word’s Markup Tool, words commonly confused by authors and Punctuation and Formatting Tips.

Contact Kathy for various writing and editing services.

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Book Review: Louisa Treger’s The Lodger

by Kathy Davie

The Lodger: A NovelThe Lodger: A Novel by Louisa Treger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An historical fiction biography about a woman author at the turn of the twentieth century who changed how novels were written. How cool is that!

The events in the novel take place in 1906 in England, although Treger confesses at the very end that it’s a re-arrangement of what truly happened in Dorothy Richardson’s life. The events are essentially accurate at heart, which only makes me want to explore more about Richardson. I want to know more about her and her writings.

This ARC was provided by NetGalley and Thomas Dunne Books in exchange for an honest review.

My Take
Treger made me feel this one! The cold, the hungriness — and not just for food!, the misery of her existence. She also made me feel Dora’s excitement about how much of the world was open to her. It’s honest in its joy and its depression. And it’s definitely a book for women! Dora so prefers being a woman in spite of the drawbacks of being a woman in her day, and she would hate to have a man’s mind, lol.

The start of The Lodger sucks you in with the coziness and oddity of this man greeting Dora as he does, and the warmth of the Wells’ home seeps under your skin. It feels more and more like a refuge when Dora returns to London and we see what her life is like there.

It’s Bertie’s chatter, his way of looking at the world around him that sucks you in. I can certainly understand why Dora is so charmed and needful for his conversation. Unfortunately, his bedroom actions regress into the average man’s method of attack. You know, really, sex education classes would be a lot more useful — especially when you consider how many years of it they put you through — if they talked more about the making love part. That women need a bit of a warm-up before the man progresses into his pounce. It’s no wonder Bertie can’t find his perfect partner. He doesn’t deserve one!

Lol, I do agree with Bertie’s thoughts about how God came about. Then there’s Dora’s lack of restraint. Go, girl! I love that she refuses to accept his statements as fact, that she pushes back with what she believes. That what she loves about living in London is the societies, ideas, and meetings that are possible. That she continues to stretch her mind.

I do wish Treger had explored (revealed?) more about what was making Jane so uneasy. Part of me wonders if it isn’t a plan on her part, to distract Bertie from whoever his latest was. What is it that Jane’s so fearful of?

I’m conflicted over Dorothy. I admire her strength of mind in that she’s determined to hold out for someone to love and to love her back as a real human being. I despise her carrying on this affair with her best friend’s husband…and yet, I can totally understand why. Being with him, listening to him propound on his theories about life, is fascinating, invigorating. And yet I can’t say that I’m disappointed when she finally faces up to the truth. It’s less difficult than her encounters with Benjamin, and he’s a sweetheart. Treger certainly knows how to make you remember, to feel the pang of hurting someone for not returning their love.

It’s an interesting look at H.G. Wells. And as much as I’ve enjoyed his books, I don’t like him. I reckon I’ll have to read some biographies to learn what’s real and what’s not. He was quite typical for a man of his time, getting exactly what he wanted and not even considering his partner. It’s odd. We never think of what life was really like for a classic author when they’re alive. We read their books and think wow. We don’t think of the kind of house they lived in, how they treated their wives or families. What those families were like. “Listening” to Bertie moan and groan about how awful this writing is going does make me feel better when I whine about my own writing, though, lol. I am in good company!

“Dorothy was beginning to realize that one’s inmost self was lost and not found through close relationships.”

Anyone in love should read this…there are truths in here that should cause anyone to sit back and take stock. To be honest with themselves and what they’re feeling.

Treger writes so beautifully about Dora’s little stories that she’s gathering up to “feed” to Bertie. It’s very much Dora’s stream of consciousness pouring forth, although I’d have to read some of Richardson’s novels to know if it was anything like Dorothy’s own works.

There’s an interesting bit in here when Bertie is writing a review for someone’s book and he believes that “reviewers tread a fine line”, and I do agree. Although I’m not sure it’s a line I can walk. I do try. And I do know I’m not always successful. Sometimes I’m too enamored of a book and don’t look critically enough, sometimes I only see the bits I’m enjoying and miss the rest, and sometimes I skew to the complete opposite and am furious with how poorly written something is. But Bertie does make me think. Then there’s Dora’s joyful experience with editing. Mmm-hmm, I can totally understand that one!

Ooh, I like that bit about riding a bike, the sense of fr-e-e–d–om…whee

Then when Dorothy begins to write. Well, all I can say is I’m looking forward to reading more Treger.

Oh, please. Bertie says he’ll take care of everything? Like he did anything to help Dora before, during, or after??? What a jerk.

I do have to wonder why Treger teased with those depressing notes about the dentist. Nor did I feel what initially drew Dora downstairs to Veronica’s room. Once they touch however, it’s a startling contrast to what Dora has experienced with Bertie. Hmmm… As for Veronica herself, she strikes me as one of those women who needs variety and will play on your emotions to get what she wants while she plays herself up. Then there’s Benjamin. Thinking of him makes me cry. He’s such a decent and naive young man. I hate to think of his future.

Thinking of what the suffragists went through to get women the vote. The beatings. The torture. And look what we do with it. It’s sad and depressing. I got to thinking — lol, dangerous, I know — about what people have said about women’s lib and how it broke up our cozy perspective of family and forced women out into the workplace. That family harmony was destroyed, yadda, yadda, and reading in here about Dorothy’s life, about most women’s lives, about the play Veronica was forbidden… Thank god for women’s lib!

That said, I do think this is a very good read. I do like a book that makes me think, that makes me want to do more research into what lies behind it all. To read of a character who is willing to look at her thoughts and feelings honestly.

It ends on a curious note. It left me wanting more, and I went searching for more about Dorothy Richardson on the Internet. Lovely. …and I must pick up Pointed Roofs, the first in Richardson’s Pilgrimage series.

The Story
It’s a too-oft told fate for single women in that day and age. Unless married, they are circumscribed and hedged about with expectations, and certainly without a helping hand.

It’s with relief that Amy Catherine answers Dora’s letter. A friend who had an inquiring and lively mind is just who Dora needs right now. It doesn’t hurt that “Jane” Wells has such a well-stocked pantry!

The Characters
Dorothy “Dora” Richardson is struggling as a dentist’s receptionist/secretary in London, determined to make her own way and on her own terms. At seventeen, her father, Charles Richardson, went bankrupt and her mother couldn’t cope. Kate is the oldest daughter and lives with her family (and their father) in Long Ditton.

Amy “Jane” Catherine Wells has been her best friend since school, and Jane met Bertie when she was a student in his science class at university. It’s a time in H.G. “Bertie” Wells‘ life when he’s published The Time Machine. Yes, the science fiction author. Isabel was his first wife, a cousin, whom he divorced for Jane. Anne is the daughter of a friend of Bertie’s, a fellow teacher at school. Amber Reeves graduated from Cambridge with a first.

The boardinghouse in London
Benjamin is a well-to-do young Russian student to whom Dora had been giving English lessons, and he’s fallen in love with Dora. Mrs. Baker is the landlady struggling to get by. Carrie is her oldest daughter and helps with the cleaning and cooking. Mr. Cundy has designs on Mrs. Baker. Dr. Weber is a young Canadian doctor who also falls for Dora. Miss Boyd. Mr. Abella is an alcoholic Portuguese waiter who has the room next to Dora. Veronica Leslie-Jones is the latest of the boarders. Desperate to get away from family expectations, wanting to fulfill her own desires.

Mr. Badcock is the dentist for whom Dora works. Mary-Lou Jones is a typist down the road, and Dora can understand why she did as she did. Mrs. Despard is the suffragist who pulls Veronica in.

The Cover
The cover is beautiful and perfect with its soft ripe peach and grays. It’s Dora standing by her bicycle on a cobblestoned bridge overlooking Big Ben. It’s an intelligent mind soaring with freedom in a city that offers both the good and bad of that freedom.

I’m not sure who the title applies to… It could be Dora as she floats through life, unattached, The Lodger who is passing through, observing us all.

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Book Review: Patricia Cornwell’s Dust

by Kathy Davie

Dust (Kay Scarpetta #21)Dust by Patricia Cornwell
Series: Kay Scarpetta, 21
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Twenty-first in the Kay Scarpetta mystery series and revolving around a forensic pathologist and her FBI agent profiling husband. The story is set in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

My Take
A much better story than the last Kay Scarpetta I read, but I do feel as though I’ve missed a story what with all the drama about Pete Marino. And I find myself hoping he can’t make out with the Cambridge PD and comes crawling back to Kay!

That said, this is a rather pissy book. Everyone’s getting pissy with someone. Marino is pissy with Kay and Benton: Kay because Marino’s both attracted and repelled by her, and Benton because Benton’s so much better than Marino is, and Kay chose him over Pete. Is Marino really that insecure that he needs Kay to constantly wish/command/demand his presence everywhere she goes? As for Kay, she is angry that he never let her know that he was quitting. And I’m feelin’ that righteous anger until…Kay confesses that she talked him out of quitting every time he wanted to make a change. So, hullo? Why would he give her the opportunity to do it again?

And Kay is being whiny. To be fair, she is sick with the flu and she just got back from helping with the murdered children in Connecticut. Pete’s defection is piled on that, so it’s probably fair for her to be moping. More whining that is driving me mad, if only because she keeps harping on it, is her worry that Benton will or has gone mad himself through constantly putting himself in the criminal’s mind. She whines on about it a LOT more than any symptoms we’ve seen from Benton. Yadda, yadda, yadda, give it a rest. We get the idea already. I swear if Cornwell had cut out half the yammering on about Kay’s feelings about the school, Benton, and Marino, she could have cut the book in half.

If Cornwell is trying to create tension and drama, stop. Just stop. Create the drama with show and not whine. Please.

There is so much possibility here for that tension and drama from Kay’s worry that someone is watching her; the conflict between Kay and Pete; Pete’s constant whining about how necessary he was for her — and Kay does go on to note how necessary he was in being her investigator; Granby’s vendetta and all the ways he could take any of them down; Kay, Benton, and Lucy’s plot to take Granby down; Benton’s anger and frustration; and, the murders themselves. There are also some good messages in here, but Cornwell is not evoking our emotions. She’s not making us feel the fear, the frustration. Instead, she keeps telling us.

It all feels author-manufactured — I’m simply not feeling it. I’m not frightened or worried. I am appalled at what happens in the story, don’t get me wrong. It is possible to participate in the story on an intellectual level. But I do want the emotional level as well. Hmmm, got to thinking about it, and Benton’s conflict with his boss and Martin’s experiences are the closest I come to engaging emotionally.

Then when you get to the criminal side, this is sleazy all the way around on so many sides and levels. It’s a terrifying premise that Cornwell presents, and I don’t blame Kay for not wanting to believe it. That the FBI doesn’t want to solve this case. That they’ll go so far as to suborn medical personnel and fiddle with CODIS. Nor can I blame Lucy one teeny tiny bit for the actions she takes and the tricks she gets up to with military-grade cellphones, top-secret apps, and, um, erasing information. I’m jealous of Lucy’s toys, *grin*.

“‘That’s some ride you’ve got,’ he says this to Lucy. ‘I was looking for the gun turret.’

‘You have to order it special,’ she says.”

On the positive side, yes, there is one after all my whining, it’s a kick to “listen in” on Kay’s thoughts as she watches Benton case the scene. It’s fun seeing how she sees herself and Benton as a couple. It’s a curious tip about the Vicks, and when you think about it, yeah, it makes a lot of sense that smell provides a greater range of clues while a lack of smell would make it easier to focus. Since it’s a first-person narrative from Kay’s perspective, Benton has to tell us what he’s thinking, and if that ain’t fascinatin’…

I do agree with Marino about our judicial system these days. The little guy can’t afford to go to court what with paying witnesses and jurors, needing a PR firm, a roomful of lawyers, and who knows what else. The funny…and very believable scene about the students at MIT being so absorbed in their studies that they forget bathing, eating, sleeping, and more. That they wouldn’t notice a murder unless it happened on top of their books or computers. Kay mentions Locard’s exchange principle, and I just read another book that mentioned this in a bit more detail — Frédérique Molay’s Crossing the Line, 2.

Cornwell makes use of the Sandy Hook school shootings to set Kay’s state of mind. No, she never says it’s Sandy Hook, just a school shooting in Connecticut. It sounds terrible, unfortunately Cornwell never makes me feel how awful. Instead, I go into my mind to manufacture the feelings Cornwell should be pulling out of me. Anndd, don’t mind me. I’m being bitchy. No, it’s not the flu. I’ve been annoyed with Cornwell for the last two books I read, so I’m pitching a mild fit. This really is more like her old writing about Kay.

A walk down memory lane, the good and bad of it. Cornwell takes us back ten years as part of Kay’s pissy fit. To the day when Pete was insisting on moving to Florida with her. At the time, Kay and Pete were both desperate for each other, but not for the same reasons. Further back when she first met and hated Benton, their affair, the years when Benton was “dead”.

Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t understand why Pete wanting to go back to law enforcement is so incredibly awful. Why does Kay think all the other “kids” will think she was bad? Lots of people feel the need to change jobs, environments. Cops who leave to do other types of work sometimes miss the rush of being a cop and want to come back to it. What is the big deal?

You do have to wonder about a mother who teaches her mentally disturbed son how to use a gun. This need our society seems to be acquiring for spectacle killings. Wholesale murder done for the fame of it. Makes ya wonder if maybe we do need more gun control if the idiots using them can’t be trusted to use them responsibly. Then again, when guns are illegal, only criminals will use them. Doesn’t help us much.

How dense is Kay? Or should I ask that question of Cornwell? She’s been telling us that Kay knows of the problems Benton has been having at work, so why would she feel slightly shocked or not understand that Benton doesn’t want anything going to the Bureau? Has she been taking too much flu medication?? She goes on to say that Benton has been having trust issues with the FBI. Duhhh… With all the trouble Kay has had with bureaucracy and officials in the past, is she really still that naive? As for Marino having such a tough time making the decision to let Lucy take the server, even I know that once the FBI gets its hands on something, the local LEOs will never see or hear of it again. I don’t care how conflicted Marino is about Lucy, he’s got to know he has a better chance of finding out what’s on it if Lucy takes it whereas the FBI won’t even give him the time of day.

It is fascinating to read how they sort out the clues. Determining what is a clue, how it relates, why that clue exists, how it contributes to what happened. It’s the psychological, physiological, mechanical, history, medical, toxicology, ballistics, computers, and more that goes into an investigation. That analysis Kay does to Geist about the accidental death some seventeen years back is amazing. The things the body and the scene can say if only one takes the time to look.

Profiling is another tool used to find the bad guy, so why is Granby wanting to toss it out the window? I don’t get that. Wouldn’t you want as much information about a potential suspect as possible?

There may be a killer out there, but it’s the cat-and-mouse with the FBI that ratchets up what fun and tension does exist.

The Story
It’s a dead body without a mark on her. Too familiar to Kay even though she’s never seen anything similar before, as it sounds like a series of murders Benton has been working. Murders he should never have breathed about to her, as Granby has demanded a total blackout with no sharing of the investigative information.

On a personal front, it doesn’t help that someone is watching Kay.

Things only get murkier with Benton shut out of the investigation, Lucy diving ever deeper as her relationship with Gail Shipton emerges, and Granby determined to tell everyone who he wants the Capital Murderer to be.

The Characters
Dr. Kay Scarpetta is currently the chief medical examiner of Massachusetts and the director of the Cambridge Forensic Center (CFC). Special Agent Benton Wesley is a profiler with the FBI and still her husband. Whether he’s still FBI at the end of the book, well, who knows… Rosa is their housekeeper. Sock is Kay’s rescue greyhound. The amazingly tech-oriented Lucy Farinelli, Kay’s niece, is still doing incredibly well; she’s with Janet. Jet Ranger is their very spoiled bulldog. Lucy is also the CFC’s forensic computer and technology expert. Dorothy is Kay’s “self-absorbed…, narcissistic male-addicted” sister, “who’s guilty of criminally neglecting her only child”. She writes children’s stories. Grams is Kay and Dorothy’s mother.

Cambridge Forensic Center
Bryce Clark is Kay’s chief of staff; Ethan is his significant other. Dr. Luke Zenner is one of the pathologists. Rusty and Harold are part of the transport team, and they’re thrilled to not have to take orders from Marino anymore. Anne is a radiologic expert trained in many disciplines, except that of society. Dr. Ned Adams is a “certified odontologist obsessed with the minutiae of teeth” — and on-call for the CFC. Ernie Koppel is the most senior microscopist and trace evidence examiner. Gloria is a DNA scientist. The PIT is their Progressive Immersion Theater in which they can recreate a murder scene in holographic 3-d.

Jennifer Garate is interviewing as Marino’s replacement. Dr. Venter is the chief in Baltimore. Dr. Jerry Geist was an old-school pathologist who wanted to write Lagos’ death off as an accidental death.

Cambridge PD
Pete Marino has quit working for Kay (after ten years!) and is back to being a detective. Quincy is his rescue German shepherd whom he’s training, sort of, okay, fluffing it badly, to be a police dog. Detective Sil Machado is working the case with Marino. Officer G.B. Rooney is car 13.

Other police departments include:
Andy Hunter worked a case which Kay investigated of a wrestler at MIT who died suddenly. Seems Andy doesn’t like Marino either. NEMLEC is the North Eastern Massachusetts law Enforcement Council and includes fifty-plus police departments that share equipment and expertise. Officer Randall Taylor is with Watertown PD.

The FBI
Special Agent-in-Charge Ed Granby is based in Boston and is Benton’s boss these days, and he hates Benton. He’d like nothing better than to toss him out. Colleagues include Warren, Stewart, Butler, Weir, and others.

The Massachusetts murders
Gail Shipton is about to go to trial on a high-stakes litigation case. Carin Hegel, a high-powered attorney in Boston known as a pit-bull in the courtroom, is her lawyer. Haley “Swan” Swanson works with a PR firm, Lambant and Associates, that handles crisis management and is the friend Gail was with who reports her missing. Barney Moore is her dentist. Sakura Yamagata is a fashion designer who took a header from the roof of her nineteen-story apartment building. Dr. Franz Schoenberg is a psychiatrist in Cambridge. Enrique Sanchez works maintenance for MIT and owns a pickup truck.

Double S is…
…an international financial management company that has a past history of possible mismanagement. Dominic Lombardi owns the company and is being sued by Gail. Jadwiga “Ika” Caminska is Dom’s administrative assistant. The Cirque d’Orleans may be one of Dom’s distribution arms.

The FBI murders
Klara Hembree is the first victim they know of, and she’s originally from Cambridge. Sally Carson was a professor. Julianne Goulet was a concert pianist.

Martin Lagos was fifteen some seventeen years ago who disappeared when his mother, Gabriela Lagos, became one of Kay’s cases in Virginia back in 1996. She was an art historian who oversaw exhibits at the White House. Martin’s best friend at the time was Daniel Mersa. His mother, Veronica Mersa, and Gabriela were great friends. Senator Frank Lord had been a longtime friend of Kay’s at the time.

Carl is a Marriott hotel clerk. Barbara Fairbanks is a news correspondent Kay doesn’t like. Gavin Connors is a journalist with the Boston Globe and a friend of Bryce and Ethan’s. Jake is a homeless guy in Florida with a care for elephants.

The Cover
The cover is perfect, for it’s the tricolored dust that Kay finds at that murder scene. A curious contrast between the flowing lines in the dark background with the scratchy threads caught within the title. The author’s name is a silver holograph.

The title is a stretch, although this very colorful Dust is what ties them all together.

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Word Confusion: Appraise versus Apprise

by Kathy Davie

This may not be a particular popular pair of words, and I would think that anyone using them would understand the difference. Which leads me to hop up on my pet hobby horse. Yep, don’t trust your spellcheck on your computer to find confused words.

Getting back to appraise, there’s something about that a that makes me think of this word as eye-opening. Kind of like those insurance appraisers who show up to tell you how much the insurance company won’t pay out on your claim…*eye roll*…

As for apprise, it’s such a tight little word all scrunched up without that a. I suspect it’s how I’d feel if a cop were, ahem, apprising me of my rights! Eeek! Do remember that while apprise may be an obsolete form of appraise, it is obsolete, which means it is not a popular choice for contemporary writings and will date your story.

So when the insurance guy is apprising you of his appraisal, keep the smelling salts on hand!

It’s an evolving list, these Word Confusions, and sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better. If you’d like to track it, “Appraise versus Apprise” can also be found on my website. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Appraise Apprise
Credit to: Dictionary.com: appraise and apprise

Image by National Weather Service Jackson, Mississippi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The damage to The Ogletree Alumni House from the 2013 Hattiesburg, Mississippi tornado has to be appraised by an insurance adjuster.


Smoky the Bear sign tells visitors that they can prevent forest fires

Image by Nicholas (Flickr: Apprised) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This Smoky the Bear sign can be found in Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield County.

Part of Grammar:
Verb, transitive

Past tense: appraised
Gerund: appraising

Verb, transitive

Past tense: apprised
Gerund: apprising

An obsolete variation of appraise

Set a price or value on something

To estimate the monetary value of

  • Determine the worth of
  • Assess the worth, value or quality of

To estimate the nature, quality, importance, etc.

Make a valuation of, as for taxation purposes

Notify or brief someone (of a situation)

Give notice to

  • Inform
  • Advise (often followed by of)
  • Make aware (often followed by of)
Examples:
We had an expert appraise the house before we bought it.

He tried to appraise the poetry of John Updike.

We had an antiques expert in to appraise mom’s furniture.

Jim had to be apprised of the death of an old friend.

Before you fall behind on bills, apprise your creditors of the situation; they may have programs to help.

We then apprise them of their obligations legally, morally, and ethically.

History of the Word:
First known use: 1400–50

Late Middle English apraysen, meaning to set a value on. It’s probably a conflation of aprisen to apprize and preisen, meaning to praise.

First known use: 1685–1695

French appris, meaning taught, informed. It’s a past participle of apprendre, meaning to teach, learn.


C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?


Kathy Davie is an author, educator, and artist with a BS in Technical Writing & Editing with minors in Digital Media and History from Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado.

A huge believer in knowledge being power, Kathy has an ongoing and free set of Author Tools for authors interested in self-editing including an online tutorial in Using Microsoft Word’s Markup Tool, words commonly confused by authors and Punctuation and Formatting Tips.

Contact Kathy for various writing and editing services.

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Book Review: Maya Banks’ When Day Breaks

by Kathy Davie

When Day Breaks (KGI, #9)When Day Breaks by Maya Banks
Series: KGI, 9
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Ninth in the KGI romantic suspense series and revolving around the fighting men of Kelly Group International. The couple focus is on Eden Sinclair and Swanny Swanson.

My Take
Normally I adore the KGI stories. There’s so much love, loyalty, and unconditional support among the men and their families that you can’t help but love them all back. Especially when the Kellys have such terrific parents! And the boys’ mission statement is one any decent person can get behind.

With When Day Breaks however, oh brother… Banks has her two main characters whining and questioning throughout the entire story. Before and after the faster-than-insta-love reaction. What’s worse is it simply repeats the same whines over and over and over. It’s enough to drive you mad.

It also slides into the great-admiration trope almost immediately. Banks does have a good message in this, that beauty is only skin-deep. That Swanny’s scar is a badge of honor to his courage. And she beats this horse to death as well.

I don’t know if Banks is going through a bad time in her personal life or if she was struggling to stretch this story out into a full-length novel, but if she’d cut out the soul-searching out, I suspect this would have been novella-length, at best. The flag-waving got annoying as well. Probably because it was in addition to and mixed-in-with all the breast-beating and the aw-shucks attitude.

Skylar cracked me up with the relationship advice she’s adding out. A much-needed bit of help for both parties, although, why Eden doesn’t get why Swanny is befuddled is beyond me. She’s got to know how the world works, and just because she’s an open-minded young thing, she can’t believe the rest of the world is as accepting as she is. I mean, duhhh.

Nice insight into the modeling world and what they have to do as part of their job. I also like Swanny’s thoughts on how Joe and Nathan’s team operates, leadership sliding to whoever has the expertise in a situation.

It is fun to read of all the weaponry…and how well prepared KGI is for the zombie apocalypse, lol. There are some good bits of back history in here about what Swanny did after he and Nathan escaped from Afghanistan. You’ll laugh too at Banks’ description of those big tough guys, Sam and Garrett, playing daddy with their babies. Swanny cracked me up with his comment about the Kelly girls growing up and dating…or not, lol.

I have to agree with Hancock and Swanny. They both screwed up. Hancock should have called as soon as he realized the truth, and Swanny and his team should have never assumed everything was fine. Then all that posturing at the hospital about the decision to bring in a plastic surgeon. Why is this even a debate?

Now, I like Swanny. And I like Eden. She seems like a great girl anyone would be proud of. And while there are some great tidbits in here, there is too much that is awful. See if you can find a condensed version or borrow this from the library…if you’re really desperate to know what happens.

The Story
Eddie’s past is rising up, again, to threaten all he holds dear, and his contacts are not responding as fast as he needs.

That past is threatening Eddie’s supermodel daughter, and he trades on Ryker’s friendship with the Kellys to protect her. Only. She can’t know what’s going on or why.

The Characters
Eden Sinclair is a down-home kind of girl, even is she is an internationally acclaimed supermodel. Ryker and Raid are her big brothers. I think Raid is a cop. Ryker was in the army with Nathan and Joe Kelly. Big Eddie Sinclair, their dad, retired from special ops some years ago and is an old friend of Guy Hancock who is practically family (yeah, who knew?!) and helped Eddie out years ago when Eddie’s wife was murdered. Hancock is that special thorn in the side of KGI.

David and Micah are Eden’s security. Nigel Blackstone is Eden’s agent. Detectives Gibbs and Barnes are investigating the sniper attack in the States.

Daryl “Swanny” Swanson is part of Joe and Nathan’s KGI team. He was horribly scarred when he was tortured in Afghanistan when he and Nathan were held prisoner.

The rest of KGI
Nathan and Joe Kelly are twins and head up this latest team; Nathan’s married to Shea (see Whispers in the Dark, 4). That naughty Skylar Watkins and Zane “Edge” Eddgerston are the rest of the team. Steele‘s team (he’s married to Doc Maren; Forged in Steele, 7) includes Cole and P.J. (Shades of Gray, 6). Rio leads up another team.

Sam (married to Sophie with TWO kids now, Charlotte and baby Grant, No Place to Run, 2), Garrett (married to Sarah with baby Kelsey, Hidden Away, 3), Ethan (married to Rachel with twins; Darkest Hour, 1, and “Softly at Sunrise”, 6.5), and Donovan “Van” (married to Eve with her two siblings, Travis and Cammie; see After the Storm, 8).

Marlene and Frank Kelly are the boys’ parents — they raised six of ‘em! Being born to them isn’t exclusive to Marlene and Frank Kelly as they simply keep adding “children” in as they find ‘em. Rusty Kelly is about to graduate from college. Sean Cameron is a sheriff’s deputy in Stewart County.

Grace is Shea’s sister (she married Rio; Echoes at Dawn, 5), and it’s thanks to these two that Swanny and Nathan were able to escape their captors (see Whispers in the Dark, 4)

Aria is a huge and lucrative modeling contract Eden has just landed. Justin is the photographer in the States. Lonnie is the shoot director in Paris. Inspectors Mercier and Dubois investigate the RPG attack.

Raul Sanchez was the mission that got screwed up.

The Cover
The cover is perfect as Swanny and the team have to get tuxes for some parties in Paris. And Swanny looks madder’n anything as he stalks toward us, his gun held down at his side, his tie askew, and his shirt rumpled while the city of Paris glitters in the night behind him.

The title is cute; I suspect it’s a metaphor, When Day Breaks, for Swanny falling in love and being loved back, in spite of his disfigurements.

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Book Review: Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory’s The House of the Four Winds

by Kathy Davie

The House of the Four Winds (One Dozen Daughters, #1)The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey
Series: One Dozen Daughters, 1
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First in the One Dozen Daughters fantasy series and revolving around Clarice/Clarence Swann. The couple focus in House of the Four Winds is on Clarice and Dominick.

My Take
It’s a rollicking fantasy of fun — think expanded fairy tale — with Clarice both excited and a teeny bit sad about leaving. I do think her parents have done really well in ensuring their children will survive whatever may happen. Too bad more parents don’t do as well. Especially with that sense of humor they have, lol.

Lackey slid in and answered my first question even as I was asking it. She certainly kept me on my toes as she set each bit of drama and forced me to read to its conclusion before she set the next and the next and…

It’s a leapfrogging sort of tale as Clarice and her mates leap into one tight adventure after another, driven to it by the bad guys as they struggle to survive it. A hidden pirate refuge, a ships’ graveyard, monsters of the deep, a sorceress and her minions, and the enthrallment the Lady throws.

It’s full of life lessons and negatives tucked in here and there even as Lackey keeps the story on a positive note. It reminds me of the tone of her Valdemar novels but lighter and with less depth. Adventure and distress, and a fear that rises up when Clarice realizes the truth of what Sprunt and his cohorts are up to. It worsens when they check their stores and realize they’ll have to finish the true voyage out, if only to stay alive. Lackey certainly downplays all the death in the penultimate voyage. You’d hardly know anyone was dead.

Well, turns out Sprunt is lucky, and he’s a man who hedges his bets to ensure it. It’s just too bad he’s mishandles his money so badly. As for the crew, it’s lucky for them that Clarice did sail as she had received a much better education in the essentials of life and was no innocent, as she goes about saving lives, bargaining, bartering, and assessing the tricks they all try to pull.

It always astounds me when the cruelly vicious who were about to murder you get upset when you turn the tables on them. If you dish it out, you’d better be prepared to take it.

“We, too, come from God, and our purposes are often ungodly … [any of the arts] … can be turned to good purpose — or ill.”

There are a few failings in this: the love that develops between Clarice and Dominick is all tell; we have no idea that Dominick is returning this feeling. Of course, he does believe that Clarice is Clarence, but Lackey could have developed interactions between the two to build up the tension and drama. Oh, there’s a blip here and there that raises up an emotional tear, but few and infrequent. And that includes the short scene in which Clarice realizes what close attention Dominick has been paying her habits. More drama could have played up the enthrallment and the trick to breaking it. At the very least, play it up when Dominick and Clarice realize it’s possibly worked. Alas, it was not. Another wasted opportunity. Dr. Chapman’s desperate act was just dumb.

I don’t get it. Why would Shamal want to destroy so many of the crew? She’s so desperate for that treasure, wouldn’t she want to ensure she had as many sailors as possible to ensure she gets to her destination? How can she live on an island, dependent upon ships, and have no idea what is required to sail one? After the way she’s treated everyone, and I mean every one, she actually thinks she’ll have it all her own way?

I like that phrase: “a young fortune”. It seems quite in tune with the story.

Lackey was very good at holding back on the truth behind the Lady’s actions. I read on, desperate to learn the why of her need and the how of their escape.

Argh, that’s what they are, “…honest, virtuous, law-abiding mutineers…”

And every time Clarice gets up the nerve to tell Dominick the truth…it’s yet another reason to keep the secret.

The Story
The Duchy of Swansgarde is too tiny and too poor to marry off its many daughters. Fortunately, the duke and duchess firmly believed in their children acquiring practical life skills, for one never knew what Fate may bring.

So far, it’s been an interesting journey, and Clarence has a hankering to visit Manna-hattan in New Hesperia. Too anxious to wait, she takes the first ship she can find: the Asesino. And experiences a cruel, cruel voyage as she learns too late the dangers of the sea and the men who sail her.

And the only way out is through a trap and a vicious and perilous voyage with an even more vicious and petty mistress.

The Characters
Princess Clarice is the eldest and must leave her home when she turns eighteen. Her particular skill is swordsmanship, and she has dreams of building her reputation and opening a salon. As Clarence Swann. At least at first.

Dominick Moryet is the navigator on Asesino with a sad tale of his own. Daniel Moryet was his father with ships of his own, so many that he needed a manager to handle the landslide of the business.

The rest of the crew
Simon Foster is the quartermaster; young Jerrold Robinson is the cook’s mate; Ned “Neddy” Hatcliff is a timid lad, always worrying what his mother will say; John Tiptree is the best topsail man in the seven seas; Dickon Greenwell is the helmsman; Emmet Emerson is the ship’s cook with a love for the drink; Reverend Philip Dobbs of the One True Church is the ship’s chaplain, a gloom-and-doom sort; the bullying Freeman Lee is the first mate; Dr. Lionel Chapman‘s surgery becomes Clarence’s refuge; David is the much-abused cabin boy; Miles Oliver; George “Geordie” Lamb; Kayin Dako; Rogerio Vasquez will become armorer; Duff Evans is the ship’s carpenter; Gil Morley is one of Dobbs’ ilk; Robert Kinsey provides an unwelcome opportunity for Gregale to demonstrate his strength; Lemuel Kane will jump to avoid the bespelled ship; Hume Lewis; and, Cecil Mild.

Barnabas Bellamy is a merchant who has built up a whole fleet of ships and married a Sea Lord’s daughter; he was once Dominick’s father’s land-based manager. The captains Clarence speaks with include James Galloway, Hawthorne, and finally the thuggish Samuel Sprunt whose ship, the Asesino is heading out the next day. Guildmistress Watson remembered Dominick. The Cornhill Society insures ships and their cargo.

Duke Rupert (he has quite the dry sense of humor) and Duchess Yetive (she has a matching one) have ruled peacefully for many years. Prince Dantan is their only son and the youngest child, the heir presumptive. Meanwhile, they have twelve daughters to send off: the next oldest is Anise, a thaumaturge; Talitha is more venturesome; and, Damaris is a bloodthirsty six.

Dr. Karlavaegen taught all the princesses how to see magic, to become aware of its hyperreality. Count Albrecht was Clarice’s instructor in the sword. Rudolf, the duke’s great-nephew, used to be the heir before Dantan’s birth. Queen Gloriana rules in Lochrin-Albion, a powerful and wealthy country underpinned by thaumaturgy.

The House of the Four Winds…
…is a pirate stronghold protected by the Vile Vixen, captained by Melisande Watson while Topper Harrison, who wears a hangman’s noose as a tie, is captain of the Horrid Hangman. The hyperreal Lady Shamal rules; Gregale is the mute slave she brings on the voyage.

The Sea Lords and Ladies and their Code of the Brotherhood
Besides the two captains who met Asesino, there is Edmund Bell Fairfax, master of Scirocco, one of the ships taken from Sprunt by pirates. Captain Aubrianna is mistress of the Lusty Leman and Watson’s sister. Nigel Brown is captain of the Tamerlane. Captain Alec Campion of the Limerick Rake.

The town of Dorado
Peter Robinson runs the candy store. The chandlery is a ship’s general store, ready to sell or buy everything and anything a ship might require. Rollo Thompson runs the store here on the island with the help of his children, Randolph and Alumeda. Fleta is a scornful whore. Matthew Pratchett runs the local bookstore, Pratchett’s Fine Books, and he’s a fount of the secrets behind Dorado’s population.

And 52 men are sent aboard Asesino to fill out her complement.

Thaumaturgy developed from magery and evolved into a regular science over the centuries. It requires both gift and training.

The Cover
The cover has a dreamy quality with the sailing ship coming along behind, the spray of the sea creating a haze between it and Clarice who stands in the stern, a tricorne on her head, her sword over the shoulder of her gilt-trimmed and braided coat, wisps of blonde hair blowing in the freshening breeze.

The title is the threat, The House of the Four Winds.

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Book Review: Erin McCarthy’s Sweet

by Kathy Davie

Sweet (True Believers, #2)Sweet by Erin McCarthy
Series: True Believers, 2
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second in the True Believers romance series for New Adults and revolving around a group of friends in college. The couple focus in Sweet is on Jessica Sweet and Riley Mann.

My Take
It’s all about knowing who you are and staying true to that. Of not allowing people’s judgments of you to affect who you are, how you see yourself. It doesn’t help that Riley has a hard time not treating her like her parents do.

They’re both such brats, and they’re perfect for each other: both think relationships are too much work and not worth it. Riley had a comment that cracked me up: “…my hand doesn’t expect me to text it twenty times the next day.” They’re both honest about how they see the other. That they see the bad AND the good. And that the good is not simply that the other one is hot!

They have their negatives with Riley suffering from foot-in-mouth disease, blurting out exactly what he’s thinking. But Jessica doesn’t back down. She doesn’t go into guilt mode…yeahhh! Instead she veers between mature and so immature. Getting drunk the day of the party? Not smart. She’s also misguided on her worth. Freaking out because Riley won’t take her to bed and get naked. And his moves, his holding back!, teach her so much more about herself.

It’s interesting that everyone sees Jess as so hard-core. Tyler even asks her to not break Riley’s heart — he is the more romantic of the two. He’s a guy and he initiates the following: “Hey, if you married me your name would be Jessica Sweet Mann. That’s literally the best name I’ve ever heard.” Any “normal” guy? If a woman said that to him? He’d be out the door so fast. Instead, Jess is the one gettin’ worried.

It’s partly because of Riley’s actions and reactions that this was sweet. A mostly enjoyable story that frustrated me with my confusion at the start when Jessica couldn’t stand Riley which quickly segued into “okay, yeah, I’m attracted to him” maybe, sort of, but “he’s so disgusting”. I wish McCarthy had started off immediately with Jessica’s conflict about her attraction to Riley. Or am I being too obtuse? I’m okay with her thinking he’s hot but a jerk. I’m not okay with McCarthy ambushing us with Jessica’s thinking “okay, he’s hot” when she’s been working to establish him as a jerk.

As for the family side, I can relate. Her parents are overly moral with a high stench of holier-than-thou attitude. As for that brother… How Christian is he?? Not. It’s enough that it’s tipped Jessica over the edge. She’s perfectly comfortable hopping in and out of beds, and I can’t disagree with her reasoning. Especially when she blows up at Riley for his comments. Again. And again.

First there’s the family influence and her rebelling against her parents and that double standard society sets. Why is it okay for guys to sleep around without an emotional commitment, but it’s not okay for girls? You’d think guys would love that since they always complain about the girl chasing after them later. Then again, Jessica’s own hypocrisy raises its head, and I do think Jessica has been deluding herself. She believes she doesn’t use her sex to repay favors or to say thanks, and yet, that’s exactly what she planned to do for that one-week bridge between apartments and in a way, it’s what she’s doing to go to college. Part of her sexual attitude shows when she’s freaking because she’s not swerving male heads into doing her bidding.

Her upper middle-class upbringing shows itself. And it shows how little she has learned about consideration for others. She’s getting a free ride for a week and her first action is to complain about how the house smells and complain about how Riley is raising his brothers. WTF? Who does she think she is? I do have to hand it to her, though. She is trying. That first trip on the bus? Too funny in her first real taste of how the have-nots live. Her decision that saying “thanks for having me” is to redo the Manns’ kitchen is another example of her judging the Manns. Sure it’s desperate for a redo, and I know I’d have the same reaction Jessica does. However, it’s not my house! How dare she make a judgment like this! Annnnddd, yes it was a really good idea. Too bad McCarthy didn’t bring in the drama and tension of Ethan’s fate earlier.

Ya gotta wonder about her family. It’s kind of weird that Jessica makes her dad sound like the number one jerk in the family, and then at the end, it sounds like her mother and brother are worse. It doesn’t really matter, since both parents are major control freaks who’ve simply turned their daughter away from their church. Jesus, even Jess’ ringtones reflect her mom’s and brother’s personalities. Then you look at the Mann boys’ living conditions. What a struggle their life is and how TRUE they are to and for each other. I’ll take friendship with them any day of the week.

Okay, that comment about “quilts old crocheted afghans” makes me think of that stupid toilet paper commercial where they were quilting TP with knitting needles. “Bedcoverings” or “bedspreads” are the words I think McCarthy was groping for here. Not “quilts”.

Jessica makes good points about how the world views the “fat chick”, how the comments and images make a girl worry and obsess over her size. Jessica understands this and yet she continues to go along with it. I suspect Riley is going to be good for her. Break her out of her mother’s conditioning. A person — girl or boy, man or woman — has to be true to themselves. If you’re not, you will be so miserable. All you have to do is look at Jessica and how miserable she is.

“Never ask someone to tell you who you are. You tell them.”

It’s an odd courtship by two people who don’t want to have a relationship, who snark and snipe every chance they get with each other. A guy who wants to hold off on the sex and “dating” a woman who wants to jump in bed last night. And she learns something she hadn’t expected. It’s all about control for Jessica. She’s sick and tired of being controlled, and she refuses to give in to it anymore. It’s also about emotions. She sees her mother controlled by her father through emotions, and she doesn’t want to fall into that trap.

The Story
Desperate to not go home to her sanctimonious parents, Jessica lies so she can stay in town for the summer. She just needs that one-week bridge. Somewhere to live until her summer sublease is ready.

It’s Riley who comes up with the invite. One she can’t turn down as much as she can’t stand him, after all, it’s only for a week.

The Characters
Jessica Sweet is a minister’s daughter, expected to toe the line and appear as sweet as her name. She’s pursuing a major in religious studies and interior design, as Jessica puts it, “majoring in future preacher’s wife”. Her roommates Kylie (who’s been her best friend since childhood) and Rory are happy with their boyfriends Nathan and Tyler Mann (see True, 1). Bill is Nathan’s roommate and in love with Jessica.

The twenty-five-year-old Riley Mann works construction and is Tyler’s older brother, and while gorgeous, Jessica can’t stand him. Jayden is their sweet eighteen-year-old brother with Down Syndrome while Easton is

Robin, a graphic design-art major, is another friend. Mandy is the bartender at the restaurant where Jessica works. Maggie is one of her new summer roommates. Aaron is a guy from her Dead Sea Scrolls class. Zeke is the bartender at Riley’s preferred bar. David is the neighbor about to steal Jess’ vacuum.

Paxton is Jessica’s jerky brother. Donna is her “Material Girl” mother. The Reverend Sweet is not so sweet.

The Cover
The cover is dark with Riley in a black wifebeater and Jessica in a black bra and jeans and smoke rising between them — nice touch that — as they kiss a handbreadth apart.

The title is both Jessica and not, for she may be a Sweet, but she’s not sweet.

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