The Friends and Family


First and oldest page. List starts with the most recent at the top.  Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Joy read: RIVER'S END by Nora Roberts
4-year-old Olivia's parents were Hollywood stars. Then her mother was dead, hacked to death, and "the monster with the face of her father" left bloody handprints on Olivia's bedroom door trying to get at her. All the years of shelter her family gave her afterwards couldn't ease her need to understand. This terrifying premise is sensitively handled, with Olivia herself the lovable anchor for our emotions.

Joy read: NORTHERN LIGHTS by Nora Roberts
Alaska -- ahhh. Winter of the long nights, and Mount No Name shouldering brusquely up from the ice. A group climbed it 16 years ago and one was murdered. Now his daughter, with her lover the Chief of Police, want to stop the killer from murdering others to protect his secret.
   Half way through this one, I went out and bought another half dozen Nora Roberts mysteries. I didn't care for the one romance of hers that I read, but these mysteries have such strong atmosphere that I felt I was there, enjoying the company of the town characters.

Todd read: MADAME BOVARY by Gustave Flaubert

Joy read: BLUE SMOKE by Nora Roberts
A tough, determined young woman learned the beauty of fire at a young age. She turns her many talents to arson investigation -- and an old nemesis turns to revenge. Goood strong stuff. Luckily I have another Nora Roberts mystery in my tbr stacks. Review.

Joy read: HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON by Naomi Novik
Kay's entry about this book was too tempting to resist. Now I'm telling you the same thing. This is an irresistible book. If you like dragons, do not miss it! If you like historical fantasy or naval warfare, don't miss it either. If you like just one of those elements, this book has what it takes to make you like the rest of them. Review. **Most enjoyable book I read in 2006. Part of my most enjoyable Series in 2006. **Most enjoyable Fantasy, Adventure, and Debut Novel I read in 2006

Joy read: THE ANVIL STONE by Kathleen Cunningham Guler
Book 3 of the
Macsen's Treasure series. Marcus ap Iorwerth only seems to be a spy for King Uther. In reality he is your brother or uncle determined to see right done. That's how real he seems. With one exception -- most people's uncles don't go through this much agony. Review.

Since I was reading in the fourteenth century, this was the right time to read a nonfiction I had on my tbr shelves. This combination of conventional history and social history takes as its focus Enguerrand VII, Sire de Coucy, who was involved with most of the notable events in France and its relations with the rest of Europe. There are colorful descriptions of the European kings and nobility and their rivalries, including how they affected the lives of the common people. My previous reading about this time period was mainly focused on England. I had no idea conditions were so appalling in France.
   "Tuchman's Law": "The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable developments by five- to tenfold (or any figure the reader would care to supply)." In other words, the author says, reports usually look worse than things really are. That's because the normal, good things don't get reported. Well, maybe somewhere someone was leading an obscure, peaceful life of sufficiency in the France of A DISTANT MIRROR, but it looks like it would have been quite a trick.
   A DISTANT MIRROR is rightly a classic; Tuchman writes with a luxuriant detail that brings the time to life.

Joy read: GHOST HUNTER by Jayne Castle
Halt! Hold everything! Stop the presses! (Oh, scratch that last, never stop the presses.) The latest Jayne Castle is out. Drop any book that can't compete. Back we rush to the planet of Harmony with its underground catacombs glowing green with psi-power and its sizzling lovers whose vibes are strong enough to burn amber... Review.

Five stories of men with Social Anxiety Disorder. Dostoevsky is surprisingly easy to read.  He had a very dry sense of humor.

Kay read: BLACK POWDER WAR by Naomi Novik
Black Powder War is the third book about the great black dragon Temeraire and his captain and crew by Naomi Novik. In Throne of Jade they travel to China by a special ship that carries dragons - the equivalent of one of our air craft carriers. In Black Powder War, the British party is recalled and assigned a task in Turkey. They decide that the quickest journey would be to travel overland from China to Turkey. They have many adventures in the desert and mountains on the way; only to find Europe in great turmoil and war and their way home blocked... **Part of my Favorite Fantasy Series read in 2006

Kay read: THRONE OF JADE by Naomi Novik
We journey along with Temeraire and his captain and crew to Imperial China. Temeraire is the dragon who hatched from the egg the British navy captured from the French in His Majesty's Dragon. It turns out that he is from a very rare and special breed, developed in China over thousands of years for beauty, intelligence, and wisdom - and that the egg had been a personal gift from the Emperor of China to Napoleon himself. The Chinese are very insistent that Temeraire come home for at least a visit. Great adventure on the high seas and in far away lands follow. **Part of my Favorite Fantasy Series read in 2006

Kay read: HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON by Naomi Novik
I found it very charming, funny, warm, and almost impossible to put down. It begins with a small naval battle during the Napoleonic Wars. A British frigate takes a French frigate, and finds that their captured prize contains worth beyond measure in an unhatched dragon egg. The British air forces are far behind the French in numbers of dragons, so this is a very great treasure, indeed, worth an immense amount of money from the Admiralty. Then, to their horror, the British officers realize that they are at least two weeks from the nearest landfall, and the egg is about to hatch now. One of their number must offer himself up as a lifetime companion to the baby dragon, and will have to give up his naval career and Polite Society to join the (gasp!!!) Aerial Corps! **Favorite Fantasy read in 2006 **Part of my Favorite Fantasy Series read in 2006

Joy read: BORDELLO by Jewelann Butler
Savannah Knight lives three lives in 1893 New Orleans: society widow, madam of a bordello named La Hibiscus Rouge, and protector of battered wives. Her balancing act gets even more dangerous when she meets a very attractive man who hunts down runaway wives. Review.

A very good graphic novel about an aging Batman (and a young female Robin) in a world filled with crisis. **Favorite Graphic Novel read in 2006

Kay read: AUNT DIMITY TAKES A VACATION by Nancy Atherton
A mystery story set at a large English manor, the seat of an Earl, and involving various plots for and against two candidates to be the earl's heir.

Sunnie read: DEAD STRAIGHT by Peter James
Enjoyed it much more than I initially thought because it seemed to start out as being very cliched but took an about turn about 1/2 way through. Review.

Joy read: PASSAGE AT ARMS by Daniel Hall
Book Two of Kemp. Longbowman Martin Kemp follows Sir Thomas Holland to the siege of Calais. After the war is won, he goes into service with Sir Thomas, while Europe is torn apart by the Black Plague and then a resumption of the war with France. PASSAGE AT ARMS has as much humanity as THE ROAD TO CRCY does, and plenty of threads ready to pull one into future books -- but the publisher axed the series. If there is an existing manuscript for the third Kemp book, I want to hear about it.

Kay read: THE HEALTHY DEAD by Steven Erikson
This is the second of his novellas set in the world of the Malazan Empire which tell part of the backstory of the two evil necromancers, Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, along with their long suffering man-servant, Emancipor Reese, whom we first meet in the novel Memories of Ice which is the third in Erikson's huge fantasy series called The Malazan Book of the Fallen. This one is a hoot and is very funny if you like dark humor. The citizens of a small and isolated city named Quaint suffer from a King who is a health nut and who enforces laws and provides enforcement to make all of his subjects health nuts, too. They are miserable as a result, and they hire the two completely evil necromancers to take care of their problem. **Favorite Humor read in 2006 **Honorable Mention as part of my Favorite Fantasy Series read in 2006

Kay read: LEGEND OF THE JADE DRAGON by Yasmine Galenorn
Yasmine Galenorn's Legend of the Jade Dragon is one of her Chintz 'n China Mysteries. Following a bitter divorce, Emerald moves to a small town in Washington State with her two children. There she opens a tea shop which also sells china, and where she reads tarot cards. One day a man comes into her shop for a reading, which shows chaos and disaster. He leaves the shop only to be run down by a car right in front of Emerald. She tries to find out more about the priceless jade dragon he left behind in her shop, and the answers are anything but reassuring.

Kay read: BLOOD FOLLOWS by Steven Erikson
A novella telling a bit of the backstory of two very creepy necromancers we meet in his novel Memories of Ice and how they come to hire their long put-upon manservant. **Honorable Mention as part of my Favorite Fantasy Series read in 2006

Kay read: DEAD AND LOVING IT by Mary Janice Davidson
Four super explicit novellas featuring werewolves and vampires finding their perfect mates. She has a series out about werewolves, which I have not read, and a very fun series about vampires, which I find to be a hoot (think Sex and the City if Carrie and Big were both vampires). One of the novellas ties the two series together. This author's stories, while fun, are not for everyone with tons of explicit sex and lots of naughty language.

Kay read: DEFINITELY DEAD by Charlaine Harris
Having finally finished the Suetonius, I had a reading orgy last night. Charlaine Harris's Definitely Dead is one of her Southern Vampire Mysteries. A girl's cousin, a vampire, dies the final death. She has to figure out what the cousin has in her apartment that is attracting so much supernatural attention, attempted break-ins, etc. Features a very sexy male weretiger. Harris is a very gifted writer when it comes to creating well rounded characters, and the character this series centers around, named Sookie Stackhouse, is always wonderful to visit. She is a telepath who works as a barmaid in a small town in Louisiana. Normal men are creeped out by her reading minds, so she becomes involved with the supernatural side of life. While not well educated, she is quite bright, and has a big, loving heart. **Favorite Supernatural Romance read in 2006

Joy read: THE ROAD TO CRCY by Daniel Hall
Book One of Kemp, about an English peasant finding his calling as a soldier. It must have been very much like this, scrambling across the French countryside to the battlefield where the mounted and armored knight became outdated. I'm going right on to the sequel. Review. **Most enjoyable Historical Novel I read in 2006

Kay read: THE TWELVE CAESARS by Suetonius
Suetonius was one of the top aids to the Emperor Hadrian. A lifelong reader, and friend and coworker of Pliny the Younger, who described him as a quiet man devoted to writing, he was a lover of literature and words. He had access to the Imperial archives...and his The Twelve Caesars is a result of that.
   Not wanting to directly compete with the histories written by Tacitus, Suetonius instead decided to write little biographies of the first twelve emperors of Rome.
   He shows them - good points and bad - warts and all.
   And some of these men were very corrupt, and had a lot of warts. Holy cow, were some of these men ever violent and depraved.

Joy read: THE THREE EDWARDS by Thomas B. Costain
Covers the reigns of Edwards One through Three of England, history so well written that it qualifies as literature. I've read this book to pieces. This time through was because I wanted to compare Higginbotham's account of Edward II's troubles with Costain's.

Joy read: THE TRAITOR'S WIFE by Susan Higginbotham
Edward II is notorious as the homosexual king, and Hugh le Despenser the Younger is notorious as his greedy lover. I enjoyed this new and refreshing view, Hugh the family man as seen by his loving wife. Review.

Kay read: THE UNKNOWN AJAX by Georgette Heyer
charmer. I absolutely love the hero. Set soon after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, a lord's heir and the heir's heir are accidentally killed. The estate and title must be passed on to the only son of the lord's disgraced second son, who had been tossed out of the family when he married a tradesman's daughter. When the new heir, a Major who had recently returned from overseas, arrives at the estate of the lord, he immediately discovers that his newly found aristocratic relatives expect the worst of him. So he plays up to that, pretending to be an ill-educated big dumb lout, when he is anything but. Loads of fun. **Favorite Romance read in 2006

Kay read: THE BLACK SHEEP by Georgette Heyer
A very enjoyable Regency romance set in Bath. A fortune hunter courts a very rich and very beautiful and very young heiress, while his estranged uncle (his family's black sheep) courts her favorite aunt.

Joy read: AN ANTIC DISPOSITION by Alan Gordon
In the fifth of the Fools' Guild series, Gordon has combined his benevolent jesters with the story of Hamlet. Intelligent intrigue and boundless passion. Gordon has reasoned out the complex motivations of all his characters so that they fit with Shakespeare's story, then added so much that it becomes a fresh new being. An impressive achievement.
   I hear the first draft of Gordon's 6th book has been completed...

Joy read: THE WIDOW OF JERUSALEM by Alan Gordon
The fourth of the Fools' Guild series centers around Isabelle, called Queen of Jerusalem even though that city has been taken by Saladin. Alan Gordon goes from strength to greater strength. Review. **Most enjoyable Historical Mystery I read in 2006

Third of the Fools' Guild series,
set in 1203. An undercover diplomat is murdered just as the 4th Crusade sails menacingly up to Constantinople, and suddenly the head Byzantine administrator doesnít have any way to communicate with the attacking fleet. Theo of the Fools' Guild is asked to take over the dead manís role, and to investigate his predecessorís death. There are, of course, members of the Fools' Guild also with the Crusader fleet, so Theo is actually a good choice for the diplomatic job; but amid all that's going on, does one murder even matter? An evocative look at a once-invincible city realizing it isn't invincible any more.
   As always in this series, the Fools are lively fun, even under siege.

Kay read: BLOOD ORANGE BREWING by Laura Childs
At an event catered by her tea house in historic Charleston, South Carolina, Theodosia Browning becomes involved in solving the murder of a prominent Charlestonian which occurs in the middle of the event. Other crimes will follow before Theo and her employees (a gifted baker named Hayley and a master tea blender named Drayton) begin to figure things out.

Joy read: BLACK FLY SEASON by Giles Blunt
A serial killer takes up drug trafficking. Describes the effects Red Bear has on the people around him -- fellow criminals, cops, and incidental associates. He is one smooth, scary fellow. I started reading this in a cafe after the bookstore, and was trapped in an irresistible momentum. Review. **Most enjoyable Contemporary Mystery I read in 2006

Kay read: THE HISTORIES by Tacitus
The death of the infamous emperor Nero in AD 68 marked the beginning of a terrible year to be an average Roman. The realm was to be marked again and again by uprisings and civil wars as one man after another fought or murdered his way to power.
   That year was marked by the coming of four new emperors - Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and finally Vespasian, who was the founder of the second imperial dynasty, the Flavians (the first was that of the Julio-Claudians, which began with Caesar & Augustus and ended with Nero).
   In that year the man would be known as the Roman historian Tacitus was a fourteen year old boy. He managed to survive the upheavals, and later wrote the story of that year in his The Histories. It begins with Galba, an unarmed elderly man, being brutally murdered at the orders of his once principal supporter, Otho...

Joy read: JESTER LEAPS IN by Alan Gordon
Second of the Fools' Guild series. Theo has acquired a wife, an apprentice, and a severe wound during his previous adventure. Busy with each, he is not ready to be sent into Constantinople, where all six of the Guild fools have disappeared. There is a plot against the Byzantine Emperor. Theo, perched uneasily at an inn surrounded by criminals, finds his associates are even more volatile than he had expected. Clever surprises and a loving, independent wife keep Theo balanced on a knife edge as the Crusade poises to attack Constantinople. I'm picking up the next one as soon as I finish this entry.

Kay read: THE CONVENIENT MARRIAGE by Georgette Heyer
During the early years of the American Revolution, two noble houses in England wish to make alliance. The youngest daughter of one of the houses offers herself as the bride to the Earl, as her older sisters do not wish to wed him. She is young and high spirited, and the Earl's enemies decide to try to use his high spirited and madcap bride against him via manipulation of the young and inexperienced girl. Her brother, the Viscount, and his friends rally to protect her and her honor. Goofy, good natured fun.

Joy read: THIRTEENTH NIGHT by Alan Gordon
First of the Fools' Guild series. Theophilos is summoned back to Orsino when Duke Orsino is murdered. Known there fifteen years ago as Feste, Theophilos had been sent by the Fools' Guild, a secret society of undercover diplomats, to straighten out the tangles among the nobility in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. The long term result seems to have been the murder of Duke Orsino by Malvolio. A few chapters into THIRTEENTH NIGHT, I checked the other 4 books in the series out of the library. The fools' scenes are effervescent, Duchess Viola and her son Duke Mark are lovable, and the other characters lively and interesting. I'm starting immediately on JESTER LEAPS IN, second in the series.

Joy read: CRADLE THE LIGHT by Vicki Gaia
First of the Warring Hearts trilogy, set during WWII. Richard, an undercover agent, believes that women must always be betrayers; and Claire, an artist, believes women's lives must always be stifled if they love men. Up to a point, the characters are chock full of psychological realism, but eventually everybody flies into the kind of woolly thinking that gave women a bad stereotype.

Kay read: BLUE SHOES AND HAPPINESS by Alexander McCall Smith
These books are astonishingly warm, and the setting of Botswana is always interesting and exotic. That beautiful country almost functions as another character in these books.
   In this particular installment, Precious Ramotswe is on the trail of a blackmailer. She is also trying to find the cause of trouble on a nearby game reserve. Her assistant, Grace Makutsi, is trying to work out some personal problems.
   These books feature well developed characters whom you would like to have as personal friends. They are not perfect people, but they are good people.

26 historical mystery short stories. It was enjoyable to read stories set in the ancient Middle East, using historical characters such as Sennacherib, Herodotus, and the Queen of Sheba.
   The first standout, to me, was The Jester And the Mathematician by Alan R. Gordon, author of the Fools' Guild series. His heroes are a guild of jesters, troubadours, and fools who act as a spy ring throughout Europe. The author's lively humor kept surprising laughter out of me, and so did the cleverness.
   The Duke's Tale by Cherith Baldry makes Chaucer a detective in Renaissance Italy. I found it fascinating: glittery and sinister.
   In Sea Of Darkness, Sarah A. Hoyt turned the inquiring mind of Prince Henry the Navigator to detection. He was very easy for me to identify with. I would love to read a novel with this main character.
   I don't like books about witch hunts or false accusations, so for a while my least favorite story was The Witching Hour by Martin Edwards. Then that was beat out by Botanist At Bay
by Edward Marston. Surely a rich man was allowed to protect his own property in the Botany Bay penal colony? In general, I thought I was liking the stories less as they approached present day, but then I enjoyed The Living and the Dead by Judith Cutler and decided it was just a phase. As usual in a short story collection, there's a wide variety to suit many tastes.

Sunnie read: THE JUDAS SHEEP by Stuart Pawson
Third DI Charlie Priest novel.  In THE JUDAS SHEEP Charlie's on sick leave and things are going very well romantically (for a change) with his new girlfriend, Annabelle.  Charlie is reluctant to return to work, but the disappearance of the wife of a millionaire and the murder of her chauffeur need attention. Then there's a drug ring operating in the area and the brutal rape/murders of several women. Charlie believes that the evidence is pointing towards all 3 cases being connected.
   The Charlie Priest series is a little different from the majority of Police Procedurals in that the CID aren't depicted as a bunch of borderline dysfunctionals who drink too much and can't sustain a relationship.  Heckley police socialise outside of work hours, take part in football tipping contests and share jokes around the office. They're a very likeable bunch and they are always a good entertaining read.

Sunnie read: GRAVE TATTOO by Val McDermid
6.5 out of 10. Latest offering from McDermid. Stand alone.  The discovery of a tattooed body in a bog near the home of William Wordsworth has a Wordsworth expert speculating as to whether it could be the body of Fletcher Christian. While searching for as yet undiscovered Wordsworth writings our heroine (name escapes me) realises that a series of deaths of elderly people in the town may not be of natural causes.  I'm probably being a bit harsh with the rating because, although it wasn't a bad book, I didn't think it was up to the standards of McDermid's other standalones.

Kay read: THE TALISMAN RING by Georgette Heyer
It's a mixture of mystery and romance, with well drawn and fun characters. Very charming. I think I will be starting another of the Heyer books very soon. Since they are small paperbacks I might stick one in my purse and take it in to work with me to read on my breaks.

Joy read: PRAYING WOMAN by Marsha Carter
I got this for reviewing. The story moves around in time among the lives of a few special people in an
Appalachian community. I was entranced by page 8, because it was written with such piercing love. Non-denominational, even though the characters attend a Christian church -- any person with a spiritual ache to heal can find inspiration in it. Review. **Most Enjoyable Inspirational Read in 2006

Sunnie read: BARKING! by Liz Evans
After the "housebrick from hell" that I'd never thought I'd finish, I read a book by one of my favourite authors.
    Liz Evans has been described as "the English Janet Evanovich", but I think that's selling her short.  She's funny, yes. But her plots have far more substance than Evanovich's blow up the cars and deal with nutty grandma.  The opening scene in Liz Evan's BARKING! has poor PI Grace Smith on a regular task of tracking down a rather unattractive dog who keeps running away.  The task involves her tying a length of rope to the hind leg of a cow and swinging it over her head while singing the Abba song Waterloo. She accidentally clonks an unsuspecting man on the head with this device and knocks him out, thereby stumbling across her next client.  Such a pleasant change from all the earnest endeavours of the characters in LABYRINTH. Review.

Kay read: THE WAYS OF THE SAMURAI by Carol Gaskin and Vince Hawkins
This book tells of some of the history and culture of the Samurai, Japan's elite warrior caste. It is very interesting. I had not known that the girls were also trained as warriors (they specialized in the yari or straight spear and the naginata or curved spear) and often fought on battlefields alongside their husbands. A Samarai wife ran her husband's estates when he was at war, including the finances.

Joy read: LIE BY MOONLIGHT by Amanda Quick
The latest Victorian romance by Jayne Ann Krentz. Several attractive young women have been stolen away, and a collection of protectors with shady backgrounds set out to stop a nefarious plot. The main character is a teacher with a freethinking viewpoint that leaves her out of place in her world. I had fun as I whisked through this.

Kay read: EXCALIBUR by Bernard Cornwell
Arthur's marriage is a shambles and so is the kingdom he had sworn to protect. The Saxons are still a huge threat, and religious differences have heated up to the point where killings are starting to occur...only Arthur and his followers stand, like shield wall, between the Britons and chaos. Yet they are beginning to lose heart after a lifetime of fighting for peace... **Part of my Favorite Historical Series read in 2006

Joy read: PAINTED VEIL by Beverle Graves Myers
A superlatively nice opera singer tangles with some of the rapacious powers of Venice. I didn't intend to review this when I started it, but the series deserves special attention. Review. Author interview.

Todd read: GAMES PEOPLE PLAY by Eric Berne
Very interesting.  GAMES is one of the few "I could use that in real life!" psychology books I've read.

Sunnie read: LABYRINTH by Kate Mosse
A housebrick of a book which developed my arm muscles holding it up. The cover blurb says, "Three secrets. Two Women. One Grail." The plot revolves around the discovery of two bodies and some artifacts, many centuries old, near an archaeological dig in France. There's an inordinate amount of interest in the bodies from some unusual quarters and the discoverer of the bodies, Alice, quickly realises there's something unusual about it.  Just what is revealed by both her investigations and alternate chapters time shift to the 13th century and another woman named Alais.  Shades of Da Vinci Code with some woo woo thrown in. Review.

A Pennsylvania Dutch Mystery. It tells the story of a Mennonite lady named Magdelena Yoder (who has a bad temper and a really smart mouth) who has turned the old family farm into a B&B. A Hollywood film company rents out the inn to be a movie location, and murder follows.

Joy read: BLACK SHEEP by Georgette Heyer
While a fortune hunter romances the niece, his disgraced uncle romances the aunt. Appearances are very deceiving. A sassy little story set in Regency Bath.

Joy read: THE TALISMAN RING by Georgette Heyer
Surely romantic Eustacie cannot find the adventure she craves with her practical fiancť Tristram. Then she meets her smuggler cousin Ludovic, on the run from the Law, and a very practical kind of help is needed. One of the lesser known Heyers, this had me giggling freely by page 70.

Todd read: FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley
Not a single movie has gotten it right.  If the movies are all you know, you have missed a classic.

Todd read: MAN AND HIS SYMBOLS edited by Carl Jung

Todd read: THE TALE OF GENJI by by Murasaki Shikibu
In my opinion, Genji is a soap-opera, not a novel.  It is literate, well written, interesting, psychological soap-opera and well worth reading.  I found the complexity and depth of the characters its strongest point.  From someone who studies psychology, I found the author's insights very interesting.  Specific traits and character types are clearly represented.  One character, Kaoru, appears to have Attention Deficit Disorder.

Todd read: DON QUIXOTE by Miguel de Cervantes
My own interpretation, Don Quixote is metafiction.  Don Quixote, himself, is a writer, particularly, a very bad writer who thinks he is a very good writer.  Sancho Panza is his audience.  Sancho knows Don Quixote is a bad writer but doesn't care.  Volume 1 is about writers.  The various heroes met in the story are also writers, the ladies they seek are their stories.  Volume 2 is about readers.  It includes references to bad fan-fiction and comments on readers who nitpick minor inconsistencies.

Kay read: THE ENEMY OF GOD by Bernard Cornwell
The second book of Cornwell's trilogy. Much of the internal warring between the petty kings of Britain has seemingly ended with Arthur (a complex character, filled with many good and many bad qualities) as the war leader of the Britons. However, peace remains but a dream, with the Saxons still pressing into British lands, and with diverse religions vying for followers...and some of the people closest to Arthur have very strong ambitions both for him and for themselves... These books are not fantasy books as such, though that is where you will find them in the bookstore. They are historical fiction and rather gritty historical fiction at that. **Part of my Favorite Historical Series read in 2006

Kay read: THE WINTER KING by Bernard Cornwell
First volume of a trilogy called The Warlord Chronicles. This is a story of Arthur, and Arthur's Britain, in the Dark Ages, some 1500 years ago.
     Arthur's Britain is a terrifying and very dark place. It is divided into numerous petty kingdoms, most of them at constant war with each other. It is being invaded by the Saxons on one side, the Irish on the other, and being raided from Scotland to the north. Many of the British in the petty kingdoms which have been overrun by the Saxons have settled down in Brittany in France, but are being pressed by Franks there.
     On top of everything else, there are religious differences ripping through what remains of society. The Romans did their best to destroy the native religion and the Druids, but those ways are still followed by many, particularly countryside peasants. And when the Romans withdrew from Britain, they left behind many of their religions, particularly Mithraism and Christianity. All of these religions, alongside the Druids, vie for followers and power.
     No one is ever safe.
     In retelling his grim and gritty story, Cornwell goes back to the earliest recorded legends of Arthur, often associated with the stories of obscure Celtic saints, where Arthur is called a War Leader (but never called a King) and where he is portrayed as the enemy of the Christian God.
**Favorite Historical Novel Read in 2006 **Part of my Favorite Historical Series read in 2006

Joy read: WE SPEAK NO TREASON by Rosemary Hawley Jarman
The title refers to the character assassination of King Richard III by his triumphant enemies. Three friends of Richard describe him as they knew him. Beautifully written, loving portraits of Richard, the book recognized as a classic -- but I kept breaking off from it to read other books. I think the reason I couldn't relate to it is that I know too much about Richard's life. I couldn't buy into the viewpoints of three characters invented by the author. The last two of the four stories were so tragic I had to force myself to finish them.

Joy read: CHARITY GIRL by Georgette Heyer
Charity Steane is abandoned by her father and ill-treated by her aunt. Viscount Desford, dashing around the country looking for a home for Cherry, learns who among his friends he can really count on. Cute story. I was amazed how fast I finished it.

Joy read: THE NONESUCH by Georgette Heyer
A spoiled beauty doesn't manage to make life hideous for those around her. Her governess, and various friends, find happiness anyway. Sir Waldo, known as the Nonesuch, and his governess love provide strength for those forced to associate with the Beautiful Miss Wield. Not Heyer's best, but certainly an enjoyable reread.

Joy read: FREDERICA by Georgette Heyer
The Marquis of Alverstoke is oh-so lazy and bored with his luxurious life, until he finds himself the guardian of five active young cousins. Frederica and her brothers and sister are infinitely entertaining. I have read each of Georgette Heyer's Regency books with pleasure any number of times, especially when I need something to occupy my mind in difficult circumstances.

Joy read: THE PALACE by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
True horror. This really happened, or close to it. Savonarola really did enforce puritanism in Florence, stirring up such hysteria that average citizens approved the burning of decorations, then artwork, then people. The vampire Ragoczy is an exciting, vigilante rescuer in a repulsive setting.

Joy read: INTERRUPTED ARIA by Beverle Graves Myers
I learned of this mystery on the CrimeThruTime Yahoo List. I'm a sucker for novels about opera, so I was totally seduced when I read that the detective is a castrato opera singer in eighteenth century Venice. Good choice. Myers created a set of lively characters in the opera world, and explored them as individuals. Then she wrote a story that serves them, instead of them serving the story. Sparkling, well-crafted style. The sequel is PAINTED VEIL. I must have it.

Joy read: THE BOOK OF TROUBLE: A ROMANCE by Ann Marlow
This memoir was sent me for review. The author is sincere and doesn't deserve my irritation, so I am shifting into detached mode, as much as I can, to write about it. I flatly refuse to tell her how to conduct her romances -- besides, who am I to lecture? Review.

Joy read: DOUBLE DEALING by Jayne Castle
A romance by Jayne Ann Krentz. These days she mostly saves the Castle pen name for her sci fi romances. Twenty-something businesswoman tries to use one tough entrepreneur to get revenge on another tough entrepreneur. This one was written in 1984 and shows its age a bit, but Krentz's usual smooth, fast-moving style makes it hard to put down nonetheless.

Joy read: H‘TEL TRANSYLVANIA by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
I read straight past the end of my lunch hour on this. Emotionally heated, fascinating. Review.

Joy read: GOD EMPEROR OF DUNE by Frank Herbert
After I bought the recently-released DVD of David Lynch's "Dune" (love the expanded version), I found myself compelled to reread DUNE. Then to the next book in the series, and so on. GOD EMPEROR is psychologically and ethically complex. I've had a different reaction to it on each reading -- this must be the fourth -- but the end always remains tragic, no matter how much I understand Leto's plans. It's one of those books where there is always more to find.

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