Book Review: Sheri S. Tepper’s A Plague of Angels

by Kathy Davie

A Plague of Angels (Plague of Angels, #1)A Plague of Angels by Sheri S. Tepper
Series: A Plague of Angels, 1
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First in the Plague of Angels dystopian fantasy series set in a possible future Earth.

My Take
Damn, now I’m gonna have to go back and re-read The Waters Rising, 2, as I need to understand how Abasio fits in with what I learned in A Plague of Angels.

It’s the restless youth who runs off for adventure to the big city trope, only Tepper gives this a twist with the culture and world she creates and combines with the fairy tale character archetypes. In some ways, it reminds me of a kid’s version of Peter V. Brett’s The Warded Man with its assortment of little kingdoms and the magic/technology of its inhabitants. Only Tepper’s underlying theme is one of our polluted world and lack of concern for its ability to sustain our depredations on it. Not to worry though, as there is little tension and the drama is primarily surface. Even the sad parts are glossed over.

It’s a study of human nature: the individual as well as the collective. It’s also a look at how being kind to others results in good things for people — and Griffins. And kindness is not often found in the city as the gangers’ treatment of women and what happens to Elrick-Ann can attest. Some of the past and current events in here are explained while others are better explained in The Waters Rising. The Artemisian approach to human nature certainly has a different approach to sex and relationships. Part of me has to wonder if they don’t have a good idea, if a bit too socialist for me.

Part of a deep laid plan, Orphan receives a good education in her village, preparing her for the realities of people and the world.

There are a couple of names that will give you a giggle, and it’s annoying. I know, why on earth would this annoy me when I enjoy laughing so much? What’s pissed me off was that I kept looking for more names Tepper could have played with, and she never came through. It was distracting. Of course, it’s always *eye roll* possible that I didn’t pick up on them…

In some ways, it’s almost a dream come true of an ultimate power that will cleanse the evil from our world.

”Men will not solve a problem unless they can find an ‘acceptable” solution, and there are no acceptable solutions for some problems.

Man believes what man wants to believe, and he always wants to believe the next time will be different.

If children are taught to ignore their minds and merely believe, grown men will never do otherwise.”

The Story
Life is calling and Abasio is eager to answer when he slips off the farm one early dawn, and the adventures begin almost immediately with travelers, truckers, orphans, and walkers.

It starts then, the walkers asking after toddlers with black hair. Then, as the years pass, a child, then a teen, then asking after a woman, for The Ellel wants to conquer the world and needs the Gaddir child.

Meanwhile, it’s meant to be as Abasio encounters the black-haired Orphan again and again.

They’ll need five champions…

The Characters
Abasio Cermit, a.k.a., Basio the Cat, a.k.a., Sonny Longaster, is a restless youth with a hunger for adventure that seems too easily satisfied. Thank god for his upbringing. Grandpa. Ma, Elisa, had her own adventure which she fled for home. Big Blue is Grandpa’s horse.

Orpn, er, I mean Orphan, is the archetype intended for one of the villages. When she leaves, she becomes Olly Longaster, honorary kin to Farmwife Suttle.

The city of Fantis
Whistler deals drugs and Sudden Stop has a weaponry store. The city is divided up into gangers; to survive, you must belong to Purple Star, Blue Shadows, Green Knives, or Renegades. Wally Skins is the chief of the Green. Nelda had been concubine to Big Chief Purple years ago, and now she manages a songhouse. Masher, Thrasher, and Crusher are Survivors, mercenaries available to whoever wishes to hire them.

Whisper-High, Dreamland, and Starlight are drugs.

Purple Star House
The purpose of women is to bear tots, to keep the House numbers up. Old Chief Purple has retired to a house on the Edge and has delegated his power to Soniff, a warlord, a regent for Old Chief Purple’s sole surviving son, Kerf, a.k.a., Young Purple Chief. Elrick-Ann was bought from the Cranked-Up gang for Young Kerf. TeClar and CummyNup Chingero are brothers become friends with Abasio, and they watch out for each other. Mama Chingero has told them to take care of him, to avoid the drugs and the songhouses. Crunch and Billibee are their younger brothers. Sybbis is the new concubine to Young Purple Chief; Posnia is her sister. They are of the Bloodrun Clan.

Wise Rocks Farm
Farmwife Originee Suttle runs the farm as her husband travels most of the time. She’s a neighbor of Abasio’s grandfather. Seelie is one of her children. Widow Upton and her son, Simile, are related but bad news. Wilfer Ponde is the dyer in Whiterby who takes Olly on as an apprentice.

The archetypal villages hold…
People who don’t fit are placed in isolated villages: Heros, Bastards, Princesses, Oracles, Poets, Fools, Orphans, Drowned Women, Princes, Virgins, Milkmaids, Misers, Martyrs, Gluttons, Painters, Spinster Sisters, Conspirators, Sycophants, Idiots, Peddlers, Babies, Students, Young Lovers, Brides, Ingenues, Pirates, Suicides, Heroines, Authors, Artist’s Mistresses, Wet Nurses, Huntsmen, and Mysterious Strangers.

In our Orphan’s village, there was a Drowned Woman, an Oracle, a Bastard, a Fool, a Hero, and a Burned Man. Herkimer-Lurkimer is the old man who brought Orphan to the village.

Artemisia, the Land of the Sages
Artemisia is where Wide Mountain Mother rules over a conglomeration of different Indian tribes including the Diné. Their purpose is to keep people and nature in balance while respecting the land and its creatures. Black Owl is an emissary. Arakny is the librarian in Wide Mountain Mother’s confidence. Abasio spends some time with Tall Elk and Night Raven. The Mankind Management Group decides “where and how many”. Lithel is a gate guard.

The Place of Power
In the Place of Power, there is the original family, the Gaddi, and four families who arrived later: Ellel, Ander, Mitty, and Berkli. The four have been compiling information about the world. The people who live here who are not of the families are called Domers and are servants to the families. Dever is the chief engineer on the space shuttle project. Bossik Finch is Qualary’s brother.

The Gaddi, Throne House
Hungagor (why does Hungagor call Abasio great-grandson while elsewhere Grandpa recalls her as his wife, Honey?) and Werra were two of the Gaddi branches. Now only old Seoca, a.k.a., Your Wisdom, is left. Nimwes is Seoca’s favorite helper. Tom Fuelry is a scientist, but a layman.

The Ellel
Think of her as the Wicked Witch archetype: Quince Ellel, a.k.a., Madame Domer, who took over after her father, Jark III, disappeared on his travels. Qualary Finch is her primary, unwilling, servant.

The Ander
Fashimir is conspiring with Quince. The Ander are way too concerned with aesthetics. Forsmooth appears to the The Ander. There’s also Aunt Bivina.

The Berkli
Jobo Berkli is the head of his house, the thinkers.

The Mitty
Osvald Mitty is The Mitty. His house is fascinated by technology.

Organizations dedicated to salvation
The Sisters to Trees are an organization intent on reforesting the world. Farmwife Chyne plans to join them. The Animal Masters are concerned with the fauna. Guardians of Earth stop erosion and clean up pollutants. The Northern Lights run ozone plants. The Sea Shepherds govern fisheries. And I’ve already mentioned the Artemisians.

Seems the old stories are true when Coyote and Bear appear. I love how they mess with the Wide Mountain people, lol. Barefoot Golly is one of the truckers with some good advice for a young man. The Edge is the only part of this world where any vestiges of our world still survive. It’s walled and their high tech protects it from the rest. Walkers are shiny figures who burn nuclear, leaving destruction in their wake, and fear in the minds they come near. IDDI are immune deficiency diseases.

The Cover
The cover is a pastel collage of the landscapes in Tepper’s world with a misty valley, an arched bridge, a stone castle, and a dragon flying overhead in the sunset of this world. A vertical column down the center third forms a red-violet banner to hold the author’s name and the title on either side of a framed graphic of Abasio and Ol on Big Blue as they flee the ogres.

The title is what others believe, that A Plague of Angels may hold the ultimate sway over this world while the virus these “angels” have unleashed is a plague.

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100 Word or Less: “What the Mirror Wanted”

KD Did It:

Taylor just cracks me up with her perspective!

Originally posted on Little Write Lies:

What the Mirror Wanted

(word count: 97)

In her flight from the castle, she never stumbled or tripped. Not once did the uneven dirt road take her by surprise, and never did the roots from nearby trees reach out to make her fall.
Once she stopped, she took refuge in the forest and took the stolen hand-mirror from her bag.
“Why must you say such things to the queen?” she whispered, looking into it.
The face in the mirror – which wasn’t hers – only smirked.
“Tell her that she is the fairest. You’re going to get me killed!”
“That’s the idea,” the mirror cackled.

View original

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Book Review: Peter May’s The Blackhouse

by Kathy Davie

The Blackhouse (Lewis Trilogy, #1)The Blackhouse by Peter May
Series: Lewis Trilogy, 1
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First in the Lewis Trilogy mystery series and revolving around Fin McLeod, a conflicted man.

The Blackhouse won the Barry Award for Best Novel in 2013.

My thanks to NetGalley and Quercus Books for providing this ARC for my enjoyment.

My Take
Oh. Wow. In so many ways, this was depressing as hell although I only cried a few times, and yet if you enjoy a good mystery in a desolate area where everyone knows your business, if you’re interested in families, the past, traditions, this one’s for you.

Just know that once you start The Blackhouse, it’ll be hard to put down. It’s an easily followed back-and-forth as May takes you back in time as Fin remembers his past before we swing back to his present and the case he’s investigating. As he sees his past with the perspective of an adult. It’s a past that revolves around his best friend, Artair, and the girl who loved him, Marsaili. It’s also one that revolves around Fin’s loss of memory. A loss that will devastate him and those around him.

May is also excellent at telling us nothing! Arghhh, he just dribbles out bits and pieces, slowly filling in the pieces that will tie it together, building the story. They’re pieces that show us the life of a young person from child to teen in a place like the Isle of Lewis, not much different from any town, city, or village, but with less chance of making something of themselves.

The people most important in Fin’s life are an assorted lot. The wife who’s a major pain and doesn’t know what she wants. Well, let’s just say I’m curious to know what Fin will find when he gets home again. His aunt sounds awful if dutiful. Marsili and his first exposure to young love and jealousy. His parents: Fin’s dad sounds like a great dad. Instead of moping about when he’s laid off, he takes his son out beachcombing. Sure, it was for a practical reason, but he was still spending time with his son. I sure enjoyed the idea of how useful all that scrounging was! His mother sounds beautiful as well.

I like what Fin says about him:

“It wasn’t what he wanted [the job he works], but I never heard him complain about it. He always told us we had a good life. And he crammed most of it into all those hours he wasn’t working at the yard.”

It made me angry that Fin wasn’t allowed his Gaelic in school; I like that it came back in vogue later.

“It was extraordinary to think that a place so hostile and exposed could play host to so much life.”

It’s that visit to Calum that puts a new light on Angus, and finally makes me feel sorrow for his death.

The niggles. I suspect the prologue is the discovery, but we never hear any more about the couple who discovers the body. There’s no time reference. What was the point of midnight being a critical time with the Sabbath so close? Is it that it is the Sabbath and what we learn much later in the book about how revered a day it is? Why would the shieling evoke bad memories? Unless it was for what he had lost…? That too-sudden segue of Fin’s when he imagines what happens in the boatshed was poorly done. It needed a segue, something that tells the reader this is Fin imagining what happened.

Fin may have been a right arse as a kid, but I do like that he can see his mistakes and acknowledge them now. And that ending…well, May leaves you with the big question you really don’t want an answer to.

I have got to read The Lewis Man, which is next up in this series.

The Story
It’s do or die time. No more time off for mourning, and DCI Black and HOLMES is sending Fin home. Home to investigate a murder that is similar to that of John Sievewright, the one Fin was in charge of in Edinburgh.

It’s an old home week Fin has been avoiding for the past eighteen years, for there’s too much at home he’s been wanting to blot from his memory. A girl, a woman now, he’d been in love with. Who’d been in love with him. Friends who’ve suffered great losses, partly due to him. His own great losses.

The Characters
Detective Fionnlagh “Fin” McLeod is a policeman, a career chosen after he screwed up university. He’s finally working to make up for this by studying at the Open University. He’s married to Mona, and they’ve just lost their eight-year-old son, Robbie. And his dreams are back. His parents, John and Helen, died when he was 8, and his aunt, Iseabal Marr, raised him. Morag was a second cousin and very efficient.

Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Black is his boss in Edinburgh with an ultimatum.

Crobost is where Fin grew up, a tiny village up in the Isle of Lewis. DS George Gunn will be Fin’s “partner” in today’s Crobost as they investigate Angel’s murder. DCI Tom Smith is the man in charge and very unhappy that he’s been saddled with Finn. Professor Angus Wilson is the pathologist who did the post mortem on the murder victim in Edinburgh. He’s an abrasive old coot. But at least he’s a positive character, unlike Smith.

Artair Macinnes was Fin’s best friend and neighbor, although their parents were never really friends. Too much of a class difference. His mother was a nonentity while his father was alive; now she makes herself the center of his life, his “imprisonment” on the island. Marsaili “Marjorie” Morrison spent her childhood on Mealanais Farm and has an English mother. She gives Fin the name he’ll live by. She has a son, Fionnlagh.

Donald Murray was the wild minister’s son who stood against bullies and for what he believed in. Now he’s the Reverend Donald Murray with a wife, Catriona Macfarlane, and sixteen-year-old daughter, Donna. His dad was the Reverend Coinneach Murray of the Crobost Free Church.

Angus “Angel” Macritchie was at school with Fin and a bully to all; his younger brother Murdo Macritchie, a.k.a., Murdo Ruadh, was just as bad.

Other classmates include Iain, Seonaidh, and the easily bullied Calum Macdonald, who has his own very sad tale of life. He’s a big man in very many ways once he’s an adult. Maid Anna is the tease who caused Calum to lose his commonsense. Irene Davis is an example of how much Fin forgot. Anita was Marsaili’s last straw.

Gigs MacAulay is the leader of the An Sgeir hunt. Other members then include Donnie, Pluto, Malcolm, Seumas, Angel, Mr. Macinnes — Fin and Artair went on their first trip that momentous time eighteen years ago — and now, Asterix. Padraig MacBean is the captain of the Purple Isle that takes the team out to An Sgeir; Duncan, his younger brother, is his first mate; and, Archie is the other member of the crew.

Eachan Stewart is a hippie-ish potter who is a witness for Angus, twice. Uilleam and Ceit discover the body. Mrs. Mackay was Fin and Artair’s first teacher; she insisted on an English-only class. Language and names. Chris Adams is an animal rights campaigner with Allies for Animals who caught Angus’ eye. That comment Fin makes to him about fish versus guga cracked me up.

Suainaval Lodge is owned by Sir John Woolridge, and he charges fishing parties for the right to fish for salmon. Big Kenny is caretaker when he’s not running his sheep. James Minto is the ex-SAS who prevents poaching.

Blackhouses were the original homes of dry-stone walls and thatched roofs while the whitehouses replaced the blackhouses and were made of stone or concrete block with tin, slate, or tarred felt roofs. Guga is “a Gaelic word for a young gannet.

The Cover
The cover is a lonely blackhouse in the middle of nowhere, a lone tree bent from the wind with a stormy sea of clouds overhead.

The title is the shelter the men use when they head out to hunt the guga, The Blackhouse, where so much is revealed.

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Book Review: Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noël Balen’s Nightmare in Burgundy

by Kathy Davie

Nightmare in BurgundyNightmare in Burgundy by Jean-Pierre Alaux
Series: Winemaker Detective Mysteries, 3
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Third in the Winemaker Detective Mysteries mystery series and revolving around Benjamin Cooker, a renowned winemaker. This is based in Burgundy and takes place between Palm Sunday and Easter.

My thanks to NetGalley and Le French Book for providing this ARC for my enjoyment. Do note that this is also a made-for-TV series.

My Take
Oh, lord…the food, the wine…it was glorious, and cozy. You can’t help but enjoy reading of the food, imagining the wine, that visit to the bookstore — so many of my favorite things in this book…*grin*…! And Sally Pane did a beautiful job of translating!

“…there are wines you talk about and wines you drink.

They are not always one and the same.”

Idyllic in some ways with Alaux/Balen’s writing of the culture and lifestyle of the people in Burgundy. I loved “seeing” the hunting game and picking mushrooms” part, a sense of small-town life with people knowing each other too well, and yet these small towns have the same problem other towns and cities have: the violence, stupidity, and uncaring bureaucracy. The corruption that destroys lives and hopes.

It killed me to read of the tasting. I kept imagining the flavors swirling through my own mouth — Alaux/Balen did a beautiful job of show, pulling me right in, waking my tastebuds. I could almost taste the soils Cooker spoke of as well. It’s also the first time I got a real sense of how one could taste the appellations. Makes me want to take classes in oenology! I loved this feeling of being behind-the-scenes as Cooker reads through Virgile’s wine-tasting report. Fascinating to read of authenticity, manners, simplicity, and honesty applied to a wine!

I did like Brother Clément’s comment about life being a comedy. Sometimes a tragi-comedy, but always something to laugh at or about.

At one point, Brother Clément mentions Cooker’s “native England”, and yet earlier, Cooker spoke of his childhood in the vineyards. So I’m wondering if Cooker is British or French; his name certainly tends toward the English.

I’m of two minds about graffiti. Most of it is totally pointless and ugly, although I do appreciate some of the font styles they create. If it says something clever or is a painting, then I enjoy it. Enough that one wall of my garage in my old place had been graffiti’d as a mural, and I enjoyed it for as long as I had the house. In no case do I believe it’s worth killing over. Forcing them to clean it up is about as far as I’m interested in punishing anyone. What did give me a laugh — and it did make perfect sense — to think of applying handwriting analysis to paint can handwriting.

A nice bit of history regarding the first vines planted and the château being built, the events that swirled around the area, the abbey, and the château through the ages. I particularly enjoyed Cooker’s comment about “the permanence of the traditions and the winemakers’ attachment to this unique piece of land” despite those same events. Too true.

As I said earlier, I think of this as a cozy mystery, and one Cooker didn’t actually solve. It was more of an accident than anything and all due to Virgile’s libido. What did confuse me was why Cooker got so intrigued by the graffiti.

The Story
It’s an honor — and a roast — and Cooker is loving every minute of his induction into the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin.

When Cooker wakes in the morning, it’s to a curious puzzle of Latin graffiti. A curiosity he carries into the morning’s session, tasting wines at the Tastevinage to determine which would deserve the honor.

That same puzzle follows him throughout Vougeot and Gilly, with Latin graffiti popping up all over the region.

The Characters
Benjamin Cooker is a specialist and sought after for his winemaking. Truly an achievement in France. He also writes the Cooker Guide, a publication that rates the wines and their vineyards. Elisabeth is his wife; his dog, lol, is named Bacchus. Virgile is Cooker’s assistant with an eye for the ladies. Raphaëlle is Virgile’s sister. Alexandrine La Palussière works in a lab.

Aurélie is his waitress in the hotel restaurant. Ernest (he shot the gun) and Honoré Mancenot are brothers and total nutjobs! Cedric and David Bravart are cousins and complete opposites. Robert Bressel is a reporter with Le Bien Public. Rendez-vous des Touristes Café is a café in the village. Pierre-Jean Bressel is the regional librarian and Robert’s nephew. Mother Grangreon is the victim of a folkloric prank. Murielle Grangreon isn’t the first woman to have her life upended when she gets pregnant. Lucien Filongey is an expert in the metaphysical. I think he’s a crackpot. Sébastien Pilat runs a fabulous restaurant with an enviable knowledge of wines and cigars.

The Cîteaux Abbey (although Alaux/Balen doesn’t make this clear, the Molesme Abbey was sort of a mother house to Cîteaux) is where Cooker found much of the information for his first Cooker Guide. Brother Clément was responsible for the “wealth of anecdotes and details”. Brother Grégoire is the abbey porter.

The Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin is a order of gentlemen who indulge in wine. Olivier Lefflaive is a friend of Cooker’s and a winemaker. Pascal Wagner is a sommelier.

The Cover
The cover is chill and moist, deep down in the cave where a wooden table is in the forefront laden with a bottle of wine, its cork lying on the table, a bunch of luscious purple grapes, a full glass of wine, and a splash of blood.

The title is more about the perpetrator-victim, about her Nightmare in Burgundy.

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Word Confusion: Fascinated By, For, or With

by Kathy Davie

I never really thought about how many ways one could be fascinated. Or the differences when combined with these three prepositions: by, for, or with.

In looking for an image for fascinated by, I was thinking of a stalker. Someone who becomes obsessed with someone or something else. Of course, it could also be someone fascinated by a gigantic candy cane or that luscious steak that just went by on a waiter’s arm. I suspect a fascination by is closely associated with a fascination for with the difference being that the former is action-oriented while the latter is subject-oriented. It’s that verb versus noun thing.

Or think of the differences between …by and …for as specific versus general using that candy cane as an example. He’s fascinated by that candy cane versus he’s has a fascination for candy canes. I see fascinated for as more general, and in many cases, more esoteric and involved in ideas, philosophies, creativity.

Fascinated with is all about items. Things you can hold or play with or touch.

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, “Fascinated by, for, or with” can also be found on my website. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Fascinated by Fascination for Fascinated with
Credit to: Apple; Oxford Dictionaries

Image by Sunshine Pub.Co.Phila. (Sunshine Pub.Co.Phila.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’d say he’s fascinated by that candy cane.

Image by Unknown or not provided. Retouched by Mmxx [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

An audience with a fascination for opera.

Image by itchys from Japan (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

He’s fascinated with stamps.

Part of Grammar:
Verb + preposition Noun Verb + preposition
To attract or interest a person very strongly

Draw irresistibly the attention and interest of someone

To charm

Something interesting holds a fascination for a person A person has a fascination with something they are very interested in, if the object of the fascination is something that can be held, handled, or manipulated

With implies a deeper interest and be willing to spend time exploring the object of their fascination

I’ve always been fascinated by other cultures.

The professor was fascinated by the country dances.

She was fascinated by this article in Newsweek.

He’s fascinated by you.

I never ceased to be fascinated by their persistence in eating buttered toast with their gloves on. – W. Somerset Maugham Moon and Sixpence

I was fascinated by the thoughts the old man murmured.

Words have always held a fascination for me.

The movies have always held a fascination for me.

Her fascination with shells was obsessive.

He is fascinated with vintage tools.

Tim is fascinated with your question.

He is endlessly fascinated with technological advances.

He was fascinated with botany.

History of the Word:
Late 16th century, in the sense of bewitch, put under a spell from the Latin fascinat- meaning bewitched, from the verb fascinare, from fascinum meaning spell, witchcraft.

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.

She is the author of the arts marketing series, Your Portfolio & You, aimed at helping artists survive (and thrive) at the business of being an artist and include Accounting for the SMALL Businessperson, How Copyright Applies to the Artist, the Buyer, the Employer/e, the Sold Artwork, Dealing with Photographs, Slides, Digital Images, and Surviving the Outdoor Arts Festival.

A huge believer in knowledge being power, Kathy has begun a 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 or explore her artwork.

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Book Review: Thea Harrison, Peanut Goes to School

by Kathy Davie

Peanut Goes to School (Elder Races, #6.7)Peanut Goes to School by Thea Harrison
Series: Elder Races, 6.7
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This very short story is 6.7 in the Elder Races paranormal romance series, and the third in the Peanut internal trilogy. The focus is back on Peanut, and he’s definitely picking up on his parents’ morals.

Normally, I’d give this a “3”, but I love the message Harrison is sending in this…so, I’m a sucker for child empowerment…

My Take
It’s a bit stiff, but a lot of fun to read. It’s all the crummy bits of school rolled into one day for Liam, and you can immediately tell that he’s not putting up with any crap. He’s honest, protective, and extremely observant.

He’s also a little boy with a little boy’s dreams and fantasies. Wrap them up in a being able to change into a flying dragon, and…whoa, nelly, lol. He’s also a little boy with a child’s fears.

It’s a family with a few upgrades in ability. It’s a boy on a fast track of growth, one most moms will be grateful their children aren’t going through at quite the same pace.

“It was so charming how Pia’s thinking went straight to the justice system, while he thought of things like vivisection and dismemberment.”

You will crack up as you read how Liam analyzes situations and decides on what he thinks are the best actions. It still makes me laugh when I re-read what he tells Marika about long-term commitments, lol. We’d all be a lot better off if we did as well as Liam. That comment Hugh makes about cows…well, it’s not the sort of statement you expect to make to little boys.

Ooh, I do love Pia’s comment to the principal. I suspect it sums up how most teachers and school officials are about bullies.

It’s the best of Dragos and Pia all wrapped up in one little boy. You can’t help but be proud of him.

The Story
Pia and Dragos are concerned that Peanut is growing too fast, and they’re desperate that he have the chance to play with children his own size. So Peanut, er, Liam, is going to school!

In the end, it’s just like Spy Wyr, Liam’s favorite game — Liam is positive that Uncle Graydon will send him out on mission. And school is exactly that, a mission.

The Characters
Peanut, oops, I mean, Liam Cuelebre, er, Liam Giovanni, is six months old and the size of a five-year-old. Intellect-wise, he’s much smarter than most mature adults. He’s a dragonshifter like his dad, a white one. And all that eavesdropping has been paying off.

Dragos Cuelebre is a dragonshifter, and the most powerful one in our world. He still hasn’t recovered from the accident in “Pia Saves the Day“, 6.6. He’s mated to a Pia, a dainty and loving lady. Hugh is one of his nannies. Eva is one of Pia’s bodyguards.

Graydon and Constantine are some of Dragos’ sentinels. Kris is one of Dragos’ assistants.

Mrs. Elora Teaberry is Liam’s schoolteacher. Hopefully there aren’t many like her in the school systems. Doreen Chambers is the principal. Mr. Huddleston is another teacher.

Marika is the Dark Fae girlfriend. Andrew is the ringleader and Joel and Brad are his tools. Perrin is the kid they were picking on.

The Cover
I do love this cover. Peanut is such a cutie in this partial full face close-up with a blurry classroom behind him.

The title is exactly what happens, “Peanut Goes to School”.

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Book Review: Anne Fortier’s The Lost Sisterhood

by Kathy Davie

The Lost SisterhoodThe Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A suspenseful fictional history that explores the past — with a feminist slant! 

My Take
The start took me back to Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy as Dr. Morgan slips around Oxford University with her interest in Amazons.

The Lost Sisterhood, however, is not as well-written as Harkness’ work. It’s melodramatic with childish behavior, interactions that rub me the wrong way, and there’s a juvenile quality to how the actions are laid out, although I must give Fortier kudos for an inventive and very plausible idea about the Amazons.

This whole story is full of dumb moves, leaps to conclusions on few facts, decisions are made based on overactive imaginations, and the adventurous actions and love interests are high schoolish. You’d never believe these were supposedly intelligent people.

A foundation that changes identities at the drop of a hat that can’t be bothered to communicate, a suspicious bombing that’s too convenient, Diana’s willy-nilly tell of her weak-willed blind traipsing along, jeopardizing her chances at Oxford, and those Amazons really need to get with the twentieth century or get more pigeons. Then there are the stupid tropes that contribute to the eye rolling and mental gagging.

Nor did Fortier make it believable that Diana was enthusiastic about delving into Amazonian history to such an extent that she would continue to follow this guy through all the twists, turns, and “traps”. Sure, Fortier told us how obsessed Diana was, but she didn’t show me. I couldn’t buy it that she was so fascinated that she ignore all the stupid hiccups along the way. Fortier needs to work on the tension levels here.

I think Fortier missed the boat with James as well. There were so many opportunities to drive the emotions and tensions with Diana’s obsession with him, and there’s all that hinting that Fortier did about the “truth” of James’ involvement in events. It was annoying. Go somewhere with it!

Aloha? Seriously?? That lovely chicks comment was out of character unless it was meant as sarcasm??

The initial encounter with the priestesses was off. I don’t know if I was distracted by Myrina’s naiveté in leaving her sister on her own and “introducing” herself from atop the temple walls or by the priestesses’ automatic judgment and then the high priestess’ quick reversal and condemnation of her own people. For someone who has risen to her position of authority, I would expect more understanding of human behavior. Yep, there were eye rolls when some of the priestesses suddenly wanted to be friends, and the childish reactions of the annoyed ones. It was so abrupt, as if Foriter could now check that one off her list. Nor did I expect the priestesses to be so naive when the ships attacked.

I did like how Fortier split the story up between Diana’s immediate day, her past, and the priestesses back in the Bronze Age. The re-telling of Homer’s Troy and how Fortier tied in his “facts” with hers was fascinating, a great twist on the plot that actually makes as much sense as the original story.

I’m of two minds — when am I not!? — of the accusations of looting by Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Yes, Western archeologists did haul home tons and tons of artifacts from these countries. You know, the ones who were doing nothing to preserve their treasures while their own people were looting the tombs and selling them to anyone who’d buy them. Which generally were not their own people. So, all of a sudden, we’re leaping into revisionist archeological practices?? It’s bad enough that we keep trying to re-write history.

The accusations certainly fly fast and furious between James and Nick, each accusing the other of skullduggery. I must confess I enjoyed the creative ending for James. It was so perfect for both him and Diana.

I do like Nick’s take on religious rules: “I try to live by the spirit of God, but not by the rules, because rules are made by man, and man is nothing but a fatally conceited flea on the mammoth of Creation.”

On the whole, if you’re fascinated by Amazons, you will enjoy that aspect of it (you will cry some), but on the whole…get it from the library.

The Story
It’s a golden opportunity and exactly what Dr. Morgan craves — recognition as the expert on Amazons and the chance to dig deep into history and find the proof to show the world. The money doesn’t hurt either!

The Characters
Dr. Diana Morgan is obsessed with Amazon culture, mostly due to the influence of her supposedly schizophrenic Granny. Rebecca Wharton is Diana’s best friend (and the daughter of the vicar and his wife) since childhood and just as fascinated by the ancient past as Diana. Rebecca had a Bichon Frise, Spencer, when she was young that provided a momentous event in their young lives. Diana’s mother was an embarrassing woman with her Moselane obsession. Vincent is her father, now retired from being the local headmaster.

Oxford University
James Moselane was a part of Diana’s childhood — at a distance anyway, having grown up in the big house. Lord and Lady Moseland are his parents. Professor Larkin is the lecturer Diana is temporarily replacing. Professor Vandenbosch is a sexist jerk. Professor Katherine Kent is Diana’s mentor whom Diana ignores. Frank is the school porter.

Ahmed, a.k.a., Nick Barrán, is the escort who meets Diana in Djerba. John Ludwig represents the Skolsky Foundation, and is even more of a jerk than Vandenbosch. Seems it’s not really the Skolsky Foundation, but the Aqrab Foundation. Maybe. Craig is the foreman at the site. Hassan al-Aqrab is a Dubai billionaire who uses terrorism to force foreign governments to return “stolen” artifacts. Kamal al-Aqrab is his son. Grigor Reznik is a crooked artifacts dealer in Istanbul who may be the head of a Swiss smuggling ring. He seeks to avenge his jerk of a son’s, Alex‘s, murder. Chris Hauser.

Mr. Telemakhos is a quasi-academic wild card who has Rebecca under his spell. Dr. Özlem is a disgraced curator of a museum in Turkey. Dr. Jäger is associated with the Museum und Park Kalkriese where a young archeologist, Felix, helps Diana make a connection. Marko is a source in Suomussalmi with an interesting and slightly erroneous story about Molotov cocktails. Vabu Rusi, a survivor, is key. Dr. Huusko is a lifesaver in Suomussalmi.

Today’s Amazons include Otrera, Tynne (a.k.a., Kara) is Otrera’s sister, Lilli is this chapter’s queen, Pitana, and Penthesilea.

The Bronze Age
Myrina has trained herself to be a hunter; she and her sister, Lilli, were lucky they were away from their village, Tamash. Their mother’s name was Talla, and it seems she had a secret past. Nena had been Myrina’s friend.

The Moon Goddess’ priestesses
The High Priestess. The priestesses Animone, Pitana, and Klito are Myrina and Lilli’s first friends. The traitorous Kara leads those who hate the girls. Neeta, Kyme, Egee, and Pylla are some of the other priestesses.

Prince Paris comes to Myrina’s rescue again and again. Aeneas is his best friend; Creusa is his wife. Dares is another friend. King Priam is his resigned father. Minos is the king of Crete. Agamemnon is king of Greece and is based at Mycenae. Menelaos of Sparta is his treacherous nephew and new heir. Achilles is a pirate sanctioned by Agamemnon.

Helen escapes Agamemnon when the girls are rescued. The Lady of Ephesus will take the priestesses in through her human emissary, Lady Otrera, Paris’ aunt. Penthesilea and Hippolyta are Otrera’s daughters. Hercules has an unexpected role — and yes there’s a reference to a girdle.

Dr. Trelawny was an old school chum of Diana’s dad. Frederico Rivera taught Diana a nasty lesson.

The Amazon Hoard is considered a myth. Diodorus Siculus is an ancient Greek historian.

The Cover
The cover is a glorious green with golden traceries in the corners, all softening in on a profile of a woman’s torso in a black sleeveless top — modern and ancient at once — one arm crooked at the elbow, a jackal-headed bracelet twining its way around her forearm. I think the cover is the best part of this story.

The title is the focus, The Lost Sisterhood.

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Book Review: Judith Eubank’s Crossover

by Kathy Davie

CrossoverCrossover by Judith Eubank
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A time travel mystery set in Devonshire, England, and revolving around Meredith Blake and her 19th century twin.

My thanks to NetGalley and Carroll & Graf Publishers for providing this ARC for my enjoyment.

My Take
The description compares Crossover to Daphne du Maurier, but I certainly contest comparing it to Dorothy Sayers. While I did enjoy the witty, lively interactions with Tony and with Peter, they were more like islands within unconnected and shallow scenes.

From the very start, Eubank has me asking questions as to why. Why do these two women insist on going through the door at the same time the gardener is trying to haul their luggage through it? And she calls him rude! And the idiocy of this action is typical of the disconnects throughout.

If anyone can explain the Little Dorrit joke, I’d appreciate it.

I wish Eubank had built the romance up instead of simply plunging us into it. It moves from deprecating the scandal from last term involving Graham and Meredith’s predecessor — Kimberly Hays — and Meredith refusing to succumb to find her immediately succumbing, and we never learn why. After all her protesting, there’s nothing about why she’s suddenly all over him. To be fair, Meredith does doubt he can deliver an interesting lecture.

She slides right into time traveling, an activity most people would consider unbelievable without really questioning how it could be possible — psst, I think Eubank slipped Meredith a copy of the manuscript so she’d know what was coming… As for the ease with which Peter accepts the news…oh, brother.

For such a determined woman, she gets distracted very easily nor does Eubank build any reason into the why of it. There’s a quick dip into possible insanity, but it goes nowhere. The bit about ley lines is interesting, and it’s a pretty image Eubank builds at the end, a-n-d she doesn’t go anywhere with this. Again. Oh, there’s a nice bit of history and chit-chat about them as she confirms that the stone wall is on a ley line, but is all this talk only to confirm this? I’m not sure if Eubank is setting the scene for book 2 or was simply padding this story out.

Eubank goes on about the Thorntons missing for a length of time, but, again, goes nowhere with it. As for it being “pretty clear that” Meredith has to leave school or investigate the path. Huh? How does that compute? She’s popping in and out of time, she’s supposed to be a scholar, so why doesn’t she determine what the circumstances are that send her back in time so she can avoid them if she desires?

Eubank leaps to conclusions like a deer at the sound of a rifle going off. Whatever led her to think that Giles would know anything? Sure there’s a Ben Martin mentioned in the older scenario and there are Martins around now, that doesn’t mean Giles knows about time travel? It does mean the Martin family has lived in the area for a good long time. I mean, yeah, later we find out he does, but what makes Meredith believe he does before this? I swear to God, Eubank gave Meredith a cheatsheet.

It is an interesting and easy way to time travel. And Eubank did create a nice bit of suspense in Henslowe’s culpability with Thornton. That bit of back history on the Thorntons’ romance helps create suspicions. Nor do I like his temper and quick fists, although he does appear to have been industrious.

I very much enjoyed her descriptions. They were nicely rich with a good bit of show.

Peter is certainly supportive, and he must be psychic! He knows Meredith’s current predicament will be resolved in two weeks. Maybe he peeked at the manuscript as well…

I did like this bit…

“‘In fact, no one touches my books but me. Do you know why?’

‘Of course. The little slips of paper might fall out.’

‘… This must be fate.'”

If Henslowe has been with the household for more than a month, I should expect she’d already know the household walked to church every Sunday. So why does Mrs. Nash feel compelled to explain it to “Henslowe”?

It almost sounds as if Giles is in love with Miss Henslowe, but then we learn he has a girlfriend.

The sisters are quite the pair; you’ll crack up at their scheming.

Through Meredith, Eubank makes an excellent point about the constriction of clothing for women and their inability to react to violence in the nineteenth century …and that there wasn’t much difference for Meredith in her time.

I can’t believe it’s taken this long for Meredith, ahem, to pick up on the fact that Henslowe is alike enough to her to be her twin and what that might mean for the timeline.

And then there’s the end…with its interesting bit of a twist…

The Story
Meredith is determined to gain her degree here in England, and nothing will get in her way.

Except those inadvertent trips back in time that expose her to an unhappy family. One crumbling before her eyes.

The Characters
Meredith Blake is an American coming to Edwards Hall to read eighteenth century English fiction.

Dr. Peter Graham, an Oxford man, will be Meredith’s tutor; he’s got a bit of a reputation. His field is Victorian fiction. He has a younger sister, Elizabeth, reading mathematics at Cambridge. His parents are in the foreign service.

At Edwards Hall, a redbrick university
Edwards Hall is located in England and is part of Exeter, a redbrick university. Fellow students include the Kiwi, Susan Franklin who’s aiming for French; Imogen Shepherd; Hilary Jamison is a fresher; Gillian is the snotty bicycle rider; Alice is the stunning redhead; Marian is a dedicated Marxist; and, Tony Moffat, an Australian, has a great, and malicious, sense of humor.

Dr. Young is the Warden, I’m thinking a warden is similar to a college’s headmistress or principal. Giles Martin is the gardener and man of talents who will be handing in his notice. He’s also had some unexpected experiences as a lad. His father runs a pub in Exeter. James Stoddard is Tony’s tutor; he’s fascinated by ley lines. Hermione is Stoddard’s cat. Dr. Ramsey is a behaviorist.

The Reverend Mr. Nicholas Creel is the rector at St. Dunstan’s Church. He has a friend, Dr. Dudley, who can lend a hand, or rather a couple of names: Miss Grace Redding and Mrs. Sophy Neville. They’re a pair of rogues!

The nineteenth century characters
The house is not called Edwards but Upper Durward and is part of Charles Thornton‘s Devonshire estate. He’s also the husband in love with the governess while Isabel Dobbs is his fragile wife. Nora Henslowe is the latest governess, and she’s been brilliant with Katherine, their remaining daughter after the son, Arthur, died. Mrs. Mainwaring is a friend of Mrs. Thornton’s. Mrs. Augustus Redding is another old friend of Mrs. Thornton’s and one of Katherine’s godparents.

Ben Martin is part of the staff. Mrs. Nashe is the housekeeper. Dr. Wylie treats Henslowe/Blake. Agnes is one of the maids. Old Weems is the gamekeeper. Jeffreys has been Mrs. Thornton’s dresser since she was a bride. Mr. Emory is the butler. Tom is the footman.

A redbrick university is a provincial or recently founded university in England.

The Cover
The cover begins at top and bottom with a narrow band of red with a much wider band of a deep royal blue. The graphic in the middle is an overhead view of Edwards Hall, with, I’m guessing, a collage of of ruin and stone wall in a grassy field — I suspect it’s meant to represent the ley line crossovers.

The title tells us what happens, it’s a Crossover that puts Meredith in danger.

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Book Review: Jacqueline Winspear, Among the Mad

by Kathy Davie

Among the Mad (Maisie Dobbs, #6)Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear
Series: Maisie Dobbs, 6
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sixth in the Maisie Dobbs historical mystery series and revolving around a female private investigator with a unique perspective on crime. Takes place in England in late 1931.

My Take
This is truly sad and demonstrates that no matter how “enlightened”, governments stay the same, using up their young men and throwing them away when they’re useless or no longer needed. By the government. The one advance we seem to have made is that PTSD is recognized now and not automatically considered cowardice.

It’s an interesting change as Miss Dobbs is brought in to interact with law enforcement. She’s a strong woman who intends to include her ways of working, and while skeptical, I suspect they’ll be incorporating some of her methods in future. I do love her insistence on getting paid — go, Maisie! I particularly like how she treats Urquhart!

I suspect there’s a sea change being set up in this one with possibilities opening up for Maisie with Special Branch and MI5. As well as a possible future romance. A curious one.

I would have liked to think we were a compassionate people, but after reading what the establishment does to Doreen in the nuthouse. Jesus. It does make me wonder how much better we’ll be at treating depression 80-some years in our future. Winspear has a curious balance in this: the lower class Doreen’s depression over losing Lizzie and the upper class Priscilla’s own depression. It’s different ends of the social spectrum and shows that money truly can’t buy happiness. Of course, I’d rather be miserable with money than without…

It’s also fascinating to “watch” Maisie profile their target. Dang, she’s good!

There is also more personal growth for Maisie with her realizing her need to make her flat a home. Pictures make a good start.

I love the sense of history and reality Winspear brings to this series. The manners, how women and different social classes are perceived. The need for introductions. The medical conditions and treatments available at the time. Naturally, I also adore Maisie Dobbs. She’s a strong woman, a trailblazer who doesn’t believe being a woman is weak or incapable.

The Story
An act of terrorism, a crippled man unable to work and dismissed as “capable” by the War Department resorts to a grenade in a crowded street at Christmas. It’s followed up by threatening letters to the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister with one particular demand—that Maisie Dobbs be a part of the investigation.

Miss Dobbs find herself working closely with Special Branch and MI5, and yes, there will be clashes between this free-thinking and very moral woman and the mistrusting self-interests of a government intent on secrecy.

The Characters
Maisie Dobbs is a psychologist and private investigator incorporating psychology in her investigative and questioning techniques. Her use of the yogic discipline is much less obvious, which is a shame. Frankie is Maisie’s dad, and he works as the head of stables at Lord and Lady Compton’s country home. Jook is his lurcher. Priscilla is Maisie’s best friend; Douglas is her husband and a poet. Tarquin, Thomas, and Timothy are their children.

Billy Beale is Maisie’s assistant, who still suffers from his wounds in World War I, and married to the very depressed Doreen. Lizzie is the daughter who died in Messenger of Truth, 4. Young Billy and Bobby are their surviving children.

Scotland Yard, Special Branch, and MI5
Detective Inspector Richard Stratton had dated Maisie briefly; he still hopes. Detective Sergeant Caldwell is his assistant (who can’t stand Maisie). Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane is in charge of Special Branch. Colm Darby seems to be MacFarlane’s aide. Gerald Urquhart is with MI5.

Dr. Anthony Laurence is an expert in psychological trauma and is situated at the Princess Victoria Hospital. Croucher is a veteran with memory issues who works as a porter at the hospital. Professor John Gale is a chemist and physicist at Oxford University. Christopher Anton and Walter Mason are scientists under Gale. Dr. Rigby is in charge of the Foundling Hospital. Sydney Oliver is a very dedicated teacher there; his wife, Amelia, taught housekeeping. Their son, Stephen, was a math genius.

Bert Shorter is one of the witnesses at the bombing. Ian Jennings liked to read. Mr. Tinsley has a very crowded used bookstore.

Mr. Baldwin is Lord President of the Council; Mr. Tryon is the Minister for Pensions; Ramsay MacDonald is Prime Minister; and, Robinson is the police commissioner. Oswald Mosley‘s brand of Fascism is displayed.

Maisie is working to get Doreen transferred to Dr. Elsbeth Masters at the Clifton Hospital.

Lady Rowan Compton was Maisie’s patron when she was younger. Dr. Maurice Blanche taught Maisie psychology and how to use yoga to investigate when she was acting as his assistant.

The Cover
The cover is a woodcut style with an old building in silhouette in the dusky blue background, birds circling its roof, its upper floor windows lit up allowing for a silhouette in one to spy on Maisie. A Maisie in one of her new red jackets, a cloche hat, and a dark blue skirt, carrying a portfolio in one hand, the other hand stable on the fender of her little red MG.

The title is where she seeks, Among the Mad, but who are the real inmates in this one?

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Book Review: Marcia Clark’s Guilt by Degrees

by Kathy Davie

Guilt by DegreesGuilt by Degrees by Marcia Clark
Series: Rachel Knight, 2
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Second in the Rachel Knight legal thriller mystery series and revolving around an L.A. prosecutor. And if you’re reading this series at all, you have to read this one if only because of how it affects future stories!

My thanks to NetGalley and Mulholland Books for providing this ARC for my enjoyment.

My Take
Whoa, Clark got me twisted up right from the start with this mysterious murder in full view of a crowded sidewalk that appears to relate to a brutal murder from the past. I just didn’t know it until I got further into the story. After that, well, I was so confused about “poor” Zack. The further in I read, the more and more complex it got before it started to connect. A very satisfying read even if there was such sadness in it.

It’s a lot of beating the sidewalk and online research along with interviews now and in the past. One thread leads to another. It also proves how essential it is to gather up as much information as possible about a person, for you never know what thread will lead where. And there were some fairly innocuous clues in this, that, when put together, told a much fuller story.

Crack me up. Rachel gets so irritated with a fellow prosecutor’s incompetence that she jumps to take his case on. Which only irritates the idiot. It’s a convoluted case where no one can figure out how there was a crime and who might be guilty. The more they dig, the more questions come up, and this is what will drag you in.

I do adore Eric. A boss who goes to bat for those under him. Such a rarity. That pair of jerks — Averill and Hemet — are on the warpath, and Rachel picking up a non-case like this provides too much ammunition against her for those who hate her. And that includes Vanderhorn. But no pressure.

Oh, wow, oh, wow, I want Meyer’s house!!

Whoa, Rachel’s reaction to Graden’s curiosity is so far out of line! I think Graden’s assessment is right on the money, that Rachel is suffering from Toni-syndrome. Rache obviously needs to spend a lot more time with Carla. Especially when we find out what she’s not telling her besties. It does lead to more in-depth information on what happened when Romy disappeared. And why Rachel is carrying all this guilt. Worse, I want to yell at Rachel for how she behaves at the time, even as I know no 7-year-old can be expected to know how to react.

It’s kind of a life of Reilly with the three friends. They spend a lot of time eating out and drinking at night. They make good use of Rachel’s very convenient hotel room, and ooh baby, that room service! Yet, they feel real. The dialogue is good with a sense of reality to it as well. You can’t help but like these ladies, and not least because they’re smart!

I do like Luis. He’s ambitious, and Clark does a beautiful job of writing his dialog.

Ya tend to think of being a lawyer as a desk job, but reading about Rachel’s adventures will reassure you about that. She and Bailey are out in the field like partners, only she’s the only one getting beaten, which will result in her being assigned bodyguards. Which makes you wonder where Rachel’s head is at that she sets up this trap without their help.

Jesus, what is it with it never being the bad guy’s fault? All these awful things that happen in their lives, and it’s never, ever their fault? I wanna smack ‘em for that alone…!

The Story
The crappy attitude of an ill-prepared prosecutor goads Rachel into doing the re-file on the death of a homeless man. It also boomerangs on her when that prosecutor, Brandon Averill,

It’s an iffy case, and it’ll take a lot of work to prove it was a murder. And with an innocent defendant.

Complicating matters is what Rachel sees as a gross invasion of privacy — and Graden is out on his ass.

The Characters
Rachel Knight is one of the best prosecutors in Special Trials, but she’s not without her faults: she’s chronically on the verge of being late, she has a potty mouth, and others say she’s confrontational. Rachel says she’s being direct. Romy is the sister who vanished twenty-seven years. Carla the Crone became Rachel’s lifelong shrink. Daniel Rose is the former love of Rachel’s life, and he’s back in town.

Special Trials Unit
The Special Trials lawyers get a lot of heat for getting hot cases, and they’re always the “most complex, high-profile cases”. Eric Northrup is Rachel’s boss and the head deputy of the unit. Melia is the unit secretary working for Eric. Toni LaCollier is one of the lawyers with Special Trials, one of Rachel’s best friends, and currently on with J.D.; theirs is an on-again, off-again relationship depending on who’s feeling too committed. Sandi Runyon is head of Media Relations.

District Attorney William Vanderhorn is an idiot, but even he could see how bad Hemet was. Fred Summers is Vanderhorn’s second-in-command — and the real boss. Rosario is one of the filers down at the clerk’s office. Arturo is a mail room clerk.

The judges
Judge Foster is the first judge to appear; Manny is his clerk. Deputy Stevenson is his bailiff. Judge J.D. Morgan is a respected judge.

The lawyers
Walter Schoenfeld is a seasoned public defender. Sam Zucker is another public defender.

Brandon Averill is a jerk of a prosecutor; Judge Foster sure doesn’t like him. Averill is great friends with Phil Hemet, a “world-class brownnoser…who lost the only case he ever tried”. Rosa is Hemet’s secretary and about to give birth; she’s not planning on coming back, and she’s got the dirt the girls want.

Detective Bailey Keller is a brilliant cop over at Robbery-Homicide and another of Rachel’s best friends. Lieutenant Graden Hales is in charge at Robbery-Homicide; Rachel met him in Guilt by Association, 1. He’s also gorgeous, filthy rich, and dating Rachel. Devon is his brother.

The DA investigators are the assigned bodyguards
Gary Schrader is the team leader and senior investigator. Stephen, James, and Mario make up the rest of the team.

Scott Ferrier, a coroner’s investigator, is a friend of Rachel’s who’s willing to slide information her way. Dr. Sparks is the pathologist. Steve Diamond is a criminalist for the L.A. County Coroner, and Rachel considers him an everything man. He’s also compiled a database of blunt and sharp force injuries. Dr. Bruno Spagnotti is Rachel’s favorite forensic psychologist.

The Yamaguchi case
Ronald Yamaguchi is the accused; he’s a masseur with a black belt in tae kwon do. The arresting officer is Hank Aronofsky. Detective Stoner is investigating until he tangles with Averill. It does make Stoner popular with everyone else. Charlie Fern is an unreliable witness. Andy Kim is the Wells Fargo bank manager. Patrolman Harley Sahagan is the alibi. Wendy is a fellow masseuse.

The murder of Zack Bayer
Zack is a cop in love with his wife, and he has a healthy, productive hobby: woodworking. His lawyer wife, Lilah Rossmoyne, was acquitted, and Simon Bayer is his angry artist brother. Angie was Simon’s girlfriend who really tried to help. Claire and Fred are the devastated parents. Larry Gladstein had been the prosecutor on the case, and he’s still furious. Mark Steiner is a buddy of Rachel’s who’d worked with Larry. Rick Meyer had been the investigating officer. Mike Howell represented Lilah during the trial. Tracy Chernoff was Zack’s childhood neighbor with some truths for Rachel and Bailey. Lilah’s mother, Pam, was a nightmare, a good reason for requiring parents to pass psychological tests before being allowed to have a child. Her father, Gary, was too lenient and blind to his daughter’s behavior. Lyle Monahan is one of the senior partners at the law firm; Audrey Wagner is the paralegal in charge of Human Resources; Phyllis Blankmeyer has the dirt on her; Joel Carstone was a junior associate then; and, Teddy Janeway is Carstone’s secretary with dirt on her as well. Sergeant Paul Tegagian was a co-worker of Zack’s down at the Glendale PD with some useful insight on Lilah. Chris is a waiter at La Poubelle. Conrad Bagram owns a used car dealership, Conrad’s Auto Body and Repair, with his own little scam going on. Alicia Morris had her car stolen back then. Tran Lee, a waiter at Josie’s, was identified as the thief. Duncan Friedkin was a co-worker and friend. Venice Community Housing is run by Teresa Solis; she fills them in on Diane Nguyen, who provides the smoking gun. Mrs. Kluffman was Simon’s landlord for a while. Dr. Aigler was a baby doctor.

Sabrina McCullough is a freelance operative gathering information for whoever has the money to pay for it. Chase Erling is the only other operative she trusts, and he’s a whiz at research and with computers. Maxwell Chevorin is one of her regular clients.

Congressman Rankin is one of her jobs. Brenda Honesdale‘s destruction was a blast from Sabrina’s past, and the reason she was hired on at the law firm. A Nazi Low Rider got some bad info.

Cletus is a homeless guy who used to be a minor-league pitcher to whom Rachel regularly gives Chinese takeout. Johnnie Jasper is a street person with a nice set-up. Luis Revelo is a shot-caller for the Sylmar Seven (see Guilt by Association). Butch Adler, a.k.a., the Glass Man, and he doesn’t like PEN1, a white supremacist group. Dominic Rostoni is the head man for PEN1 and a custom motorcycle dealer; Lonnie Wilson is his second.

The media
Miles Rykoff is a reporter for the Times. He can tell Rachel who leaked Simon’s story — Averill.

The Biltmore Hotel
Rachel just got upgraded to a two-bedroom suite in her sweetheart deal. Drew is the night bartender, and he and Bailey have been dating for a year. Angel is the doorman. Rafi is the valet. Jason is a bellman.

The Cover
The cover is consistent with the first one in this re-release of the series. A white background with two simple objects as metaphors: lipstick for the femme fatale and handcuffs for all the cops and crooks involved.

I’m confused about the title. My interpretation would be that there are different levels of guilt, and whoa, I think I just figured it out. Those parents on both sides, Rachel’s childhood trauma, a victim, a murderer…there’s plenty of Guilt by Degrees.

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