In 2008 a group of avid romance readers asked Murder One Bookshop if we could start a bookclub - which we did. Our first meetings were held in the old shop on Charing Cross Road in the romance section where we had to move one of the freestanding bookcases to fit in! Some of the very first authors we discussed were Sherrilyn Kneyon ( who visited the shop), Robin McKinley (who also visietd the shop to talk to us), Christine Feehan, Mary Balogh and Liz Carlyle. Since the closure of the shop at the end of Janaury 2009 we have continued to meet monthly - while we were at King Cross in the office there and since moving Murder One UK to Watford we primarily meet at one of the members workplaces in Houndsditch, London. Occassionally we have tried meeting in a pub but this has not worked out very well, they are just so loud it is impossible to talk to one another - and I'm pretty sure it is not an age thing! Although we still primarily read and review romance titles we have branched out to other genres and you can find out what we thought about the books we've read in the reviews below.
New members are always welcome to join us to discuss the selected title (along with some girly gossip and mutual drooling over the main male characters - probably a big clue that as yet we have had no male members in the club), to share ideas and have some fun, all liberally spiced with food and drink in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. If you cannot make it in person beome a virtual member and write to us with your review or email it to me. We cordially invite all avid readers of all genres to our Book Club meetings!
E-mail or phone Tanya if you want to join in:
Phone No: 01923 438335
August 16th 2013 Vicky Dreiling's What a Wicked Earl Wants:
Synopsis: WILL A RAKE'S WICKED WAYS
Andrew Carrington, Earl of Bellingham, believes in being a gentleman, whether it's fishing a soggy stranger out of the Thames or assisting a fetching lady into his bed. If the stranger becomes a friend and the lady a mistress, all the better. He certainly welcomes the opportunity to help Laura Davenport, a dazzling young widow with a rebellious stepson. Her gratitude, he hopes, will take an amorous form. But from the moment he sets foot in her drawing room, he gets far more than he bargained for...
LEAD THE LADY ASTRAY?
It was a moment of desperation. On the brink of losing her stepson, Laura turned to the notorious Lord Bellingham for help. Suddenly she, a vicar's daughter, is in the precarious position of resisting his tantalizing advances. How Bell earned his wicked reputation is clear; the surprise is how much more there is to him than the gossip sheets could possibly reveal. Now every moment with this dangerously desirable man puts Laura's good name at risk-and promises pleasure unlike any she has ever known...
September 13th 2013 Wilbur Smith's River God:
Synopsis: Ancient Egypt is the land of the Pharaohs, a kingdom built on gold as well as a legend shattered by greed. Now, the Valley of the Kings lies ravaged by war, drained of its lifeblood as weak men inherit the cherished crown. In the city of Thebes at the Festival of Osiris, loyal subjects of the Pharaoh gather to pay homage to their leader.
But Taita - a wise and formidably gifted eunuch slave, sees him only as a symbol of a kingdom's fading glory. Beside Taita stand his proteges, Lostris, daughter of Lord Intef, beautiful beyond her fourteen years; and Tanus, proud, young army officer, who has vowed to avenge the death - at Intef's hand - of his father, and seize Lostris as his prize. Together they share a dream - to restore the majesty of the Pharaoh of Pharaohs on the glittering banks of the Nile.
October 18th 2013 Emma Jane Holloway's A Study in Silks:
Synopsis: Evelina Cooper, the niece of the great Sherlock Holmes, is poised to enjoy her first Season in London Society. But there's a murderer to deal with--not to mention missing automatons, a sorcerer, and a talking mouse.
In a Victorian era ruled by a council of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch and sorcery the demon enemy of the Empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted weapon is magic that can run machines--something Evelina has secretly mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty's secret laboratories. What's a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and pray she's never found out?
But then there's that murder. As Sherlock Holmes's niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if she would only just ask.
November 13th 2013 Heather Graham's Unseen:
Synopsis: San Antonio, Texas, 1800s: In room 207 at the Longhorn Saloon, in the long shadow of the Alamo, a woman was brutally murdered. Her killer was never found.
One year ago: In that same historic room, another woman vanished without a trace.
In the past months, San Antonio has become a dumping ground for battered bodies. When Texas Ranger Logan Raintree is approached to lead a group of elite paranormal investigators working the case, he accepts the challenge. And with it, his powerful ability to commune with the dead.
In Logan's new team is U.S. Marshal Kelsey O'Brien. Kelsey has been waiting all her life to work with someone who can understand her ability to "see" the past. Now she has her chance.Together, Kelsey and Logan follow their instincts to the Alamo and to the newly reopened Longhorn, which once tempted heroes with drink, cards and women. If the spirits of those long-dead Texans are really appearing to the victims before their deaths, only Kelsey and Logan have the skills to find out why....
Synopsis: Danger stalks the city of steam and shadows.
Janus Mikani and Celeste Ritsuko work all hours in the Criminal Investigation Division, keeping citizens safe. He's a charming rogue with an uncanny sixth sense; she's all logic--and the first female inspector. Between his instincts and her brains, they collar more criminals than any other partnership in the CID.
Then they're assigned a potentially volatile case where one misstep could end their careers. At first, the search for a missing heiress seems straightforward, but when the girl is found murdered--her body charred to cinders--Mikani and Ritsuko's modus operandi will be challenged as never before. Before long, it's clear the bogeyman has stepped out of nightmares to stalk gaslit streets, and it's up to them to hunt him down. There's a madman on the loose, weaving blood and magic in an intricate, lethal ritual that could mean the end of everything...
Review: Overwhelmingly the group response was positive. Everyone said that they would continue to read more of the same series. The lead characters Mikani and Ritsuko were compared to Moulder and Scully. Lets hope it does not take the 11 years to get together. But further discussion showed some dissatisfaction with the lack of world building. Sometime authors become bogged down in setting the scene but here you are definitely left guessing. There was a lot about society's structure that you were left in the dark about and seriously some of it needed expanding on. Given the positive response to reading the next in the series most admitted to struggling to keep reading as the plot seemed to lack direction at certain points. It was certainly a slow builder and a bit of a magpie, Phantom of the Opera, steam punk, Big Trouble in Little China and Blade Runner all made an appearance.
Some of the secondary characters such as Aurelia and Leoniadis were interesting and we all want to see them in future books. Theron struck some of us as just creepy. It was noted that even with a strong female lead it seemed that the female characters revolved around the males as accessories. So if you want to read this one stick with it.
Synopsis: It all starts on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people's home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The mayor is going to be there.
The press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not...Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police.
As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan's earlier life in which - remarkably - he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century. Already a huge bestseller across Europe, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is a fun, feel-good book for all ages.
Review: The use of a central character that is 100 years old allowed Jonasson to dip into history to create vignettes within the contemporary storyline. Most members initially struggled to get into the book but once past the first 50 pages they finished it in two days. Why did he climb out the window? Because this was a man who had lived life by his own rules. Rules where manners are important even when drunk, murder may be simply expedient and any type of religious or political thoughts are to be viewed with suspicion. Self educated, intelligent and self-effacing he cuts to the chase (ask Sonya the elephant). I am sure that all of us wish that we could live life as unencumbered as Alan. For some reason this book has been compared to the film Forrest Gump, but this does it a disservice. This is charming, pragmatic, and a damn good read - except what is the deal with repeating the beginning at the end. Did Jonasson have to make up a word count or something. A strongly recommended read.
May 31st 2013 Elise Sax's An Affair to Dismember:
Synopsis: Certain to appeal to fans of Janet Evanovich, Jennifer Crusie, and Katie MacAlister, Elise Sax's hilarious series debut introduces matchmaker-in-training Gladie Burger, who stumbles into a dangerous quagmire of murder and red-hot romance.
Three months has been Gladie Burger's limit when it comes to staying in one place. That's why Gladie is more than a little skeptical when her eccentric Grandma Zelda recruits her to the family's matchmaking business in the quaint small town of Cannes, California. What's more, Gladie is also highly unqualified, having a terrible track record with romance. Still, Zelda is convinced that her granddaughter has "the gift." But when the going gets tough, Gladie wonders if this gift has a return policy.
When Zelda's neighbor drops dead in his kitchen, Gladie is swept into his bizarre family's drama. Despite warnings from the (distractingly gorgeous) chief of police to steer clear of his investigation, Gladie is out to prove that her neighbor's death was murder. It's not too long before she's in way over her head--with the hunky police chief, a dysfunctional family full of possible killers, and yet another mysterious and handsome man, whose attentions she's unable to ignore. Gladie is clearly being pursued--either by true love or by a murderer. Who will catch her first?
Review: This is the “random roundtree” of books - is it a comedy, is it a romance, is it a whodunit? No one could agree what category it fell into and some of us in the end didn’t care. It felt like Ms Sax was trying to hedge her bets by covering as many genres as possible – it had some romance, it had a crime, it had dysfunctional families, it had some humour – but it didn’t slot into any set category neatly and left you unsure what it is you were reading. Having said that everyone finished it and some said they enjoyed the odd moments of humour, It was a very light and frothy book, you didn’t fall in love with the characters, in fact a lot of them were irritating, very one dimensional and the idea of setting people up with their ‘perfect match’ and then asking for money seemed unrealistic – along with the fact grandmother Gladie never left the house. The true test of a book – would you read it again or recommend it to someone else? No! Maybe just maybe we might try the next book (this was obviously the set-up for the start of a series) in the hope the first book was used to set the stage for the beginning of what could be a good series.
The only other spirited debate this book offered was about the male models on the front cover – is it two men or the same man used twice?
May 3rd 2013 Sharon Shinn's The Shape of Desire:
Synopsis: Master storyteller Sharon Shinn has thrilled readers with her national bestselling Twelve Houses series. Now experience her original new novel in which love and loyalty are tested at every turn....
For fifteen years, Maria Devane has been desperately, passionately in love with Dante Romano. But Maria knows that Dante can never give everything of himself back--at least not all of the time. Every month, Dante shifts shape, becoming a wild animal. He can't choose when he shifts, the transition is often abrupt, and, as he gets older, the time he spends in human form is gradually decreasing.
Maria has kept his secret since the beginning, knowing that their love is worth the danger. But when a string of brutal attacks occurs in local parks while Dante is in animal form, Maria is forced to consider whether the lies she's been telling about her life have turned into lies she's telling herself...
Review: This book aroused strong feelings. Fans of Shinn felt this was a foray into the shape shifter genre as a marketing move. Shape shifting is hot at the moment so write about it. Written in the first person (which many in the group don't like) it has a very distinctive feel to the writing. With Dante the male character absent for large portions of the book this is very much a dissection of Maria's mind and the journey of how she has reached this point in her life. A life centred around enabling Dante in his life. To be honest sometimes it’s hard to understand why she is still with him. Is she in love with Dante or the drama of being with a shape shifter. He for quite a long time feels like a selfish character until they actually have a proper conversation. At this point he becomes more understandable and likeable. It seems he is confused why she has stuck around as well.
If you have read the brilliant Archangel series you may be disappointed. Suffer through your initial doubts and you find a different presentation of what is beginning to feel like an overworked genre.
March 22nd 2013 Sarah-Kate Lynch's Blessed Are the Cheesemakers:
Synopsis: Blessed are Corrie and Fee, for theirs is the kingdom of the world's tastiest farmhouse cheese. Tucked away in a corner of Ireland, the lifelong friends turn out batch after batch of perfect Coolarney Blues and Golds, thanks to co-operative cows, non-meat-eating fecund milkmaids, and the wind blowing just so in the right direction. Add to this mixture Corrie's long-lost granddaughter Abbey, fresh from a remote but by no means backward island where her husband has been on a mission - although not quite the kind which Abbey had imagined.
And stir in New Yorker Kit Stephens, heart-broken, burned-out and permanently hungover, and you have a recipe for disaster. The magic that Corrie and Fee weave in and out of the cheese vats is legendary, but can they use their powers to turn bitterness and betrayal into love - or will the secret ingredient be lost to Coolarney cheese forever?
Review: This was a bit quirky and slightly oddball and some of the bookclub felt Ireland was very romanticised and that some of the characters were so eccentric they could not possibly exist. This started a lively debate about where we all grew up and possibly why some us found the story unbelievable – most of us are from reasonable sized towns where you might know your neighbours enough to say hello to but that is about all. My next-door neighbour where I grew up was a lovely old gent but for all I know he could have had a huge collection of yoyos that he played with every evening and I would have been none the wiser. Ina coming from a very large Irish background and growing up in a smaller community says she knew ‘interesting’ characters and found the book enjoyable and very believable. All in all the main character Abbey was very likeable and some of us found this a ‘happy story’ and enjoyed it and some of us found it too whimsical. Unfortunately the book is now out of print but if you like a charming read keep your eyes peeled for this book.
February 15th 2013 Katie Lane's Trouble in Texas:
Synopsis: THERE'S A FOX IN THE HENHOUSE
Inheriting the most notorious house of ill repute in Texas can spell trouble for a girl's reputation . . . especially when she's Elizabeth Murphy, Bramble's prim and proper librarian. Yet when she discovers a buck-naked cowboy handcuffed to a four-poster bed, she forgets all about the town gossips. Elizabeth has sworn off men, but the stranger's kisses melt her resolve faster than ice cream on a hot summer day.
Waking up in Miss Hattie's Henhouse isn't how Brant Cates reckoned on getting to the bottom of his great-granddaddy's murder. The plan was to solve the centuries-old crime, then get the heck out of Dodge. But after meeting Elizabeth and discovering that the buttoned-up beauty is a sexy siren in disguise, he just can't pull himself away.
Now Brant needs Elizabeth to finally put his past to rest, but is she willing to risk her future on Bramble's newest bad boy?
Review: This month the group was looking for humour. So much of comedy is in the physical nuances that are not consciously thought about. The lack of this aspect became quite clear when we reviewed this book. That is not to say that Katie Love is not successful in inducing sniggers and smiles but perhaps it is more a reflection of modern audience tastes shaped by half hour sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory. Certainly this book reminded some of us from small towns about the pros and cons of everyone knowing your business AND having an opinion on it. Really the big city has a lot of pros. Ms Love has successfully created a book that is light hearted and enjoyable read and even Leslie who felt rather divorced from the characters agreed with the rest of the group that we would read other books from this author. However if you are like some of the group who like to approach things in an orderly fashion beware. You may find the fact that this is part of a series and story lines and characters from previous books pop up with the assumption that you have read the rest of the series irritating.
January 18th 2013 Scott Sigler's Nocturnal:
Synopsis: For centuries, their race has lived beneath the earth, emerging only at night, to feed quietly on the dregs of society and slip back into the shadows. But now their time has come - their time to rise up from their hiding places and take back what is theirs.San Francisco homicide detective Bryan Klauser is supposed to be hunting a serial killer. But a serial killer couldn't be responsible for the seemingly impossible DNA evidence the crime-scene techs keep finding - or for the gory, strangely prophetic dreams Bryan keeps having.
And what about the connections he keeps finding to a century-old cult - and his superiors' sudden reluctance to give him the answers he needs about cases that should be dead and buried?Ultimately, Klauser's investigations will reveal a race of killers who've long lurked beneath San Francisco's streets - and are preparing to take back the city. Klauser is the only man who can stop them, because ...he might not be a man at all.
Review: This is a murder mystery with a paranormal twist. There were several recurring themes in the feedback of this novel. We liked the mystery element but it was generally felt that the mystery and paranormal aspects did not mesh together smoothly. As the members of our group read every genre between us it was disappointing to find we were reading what felt like two separate stories. We chose this book based mainly on an excellent review from The Times… well the review we can say was very good, the book a let down. Our resident ex-San Franciscan did confirm that Sigler did maintain geographical correctness and did not have the characters running around a town that does not exist. Our last thought was maybe the book was written for a possible future film….
December 15th 2012 - Unfortunately we did not make it to the annual New Zealand Christmas concert on Oxford Street this year. Too many conflicting previous arrangements. Instead we met for drinks, and a meal at a Mexican resturant in the West End. A fun time was had by all - but I did discover I do not like Mexican food, well except the gorgeous Churros!
November 21st 2012 Saranne Dawson - any of her titles.
Review: This month we concentrated on author Saranne Dawson. Dawson had her first book published (as Dawson anyway, she has also been published as Saranne Hoover and Pamela Lind) in 1986 and her last book was published in 2000. We chose this author because she was one of the original forerunners of the vastly popular fantasy-romance-paranormal genre. We each read a different story by her (Leonie has read them all) and compared her to authors we read now. Although some of us did enjoy her work, the rest of us were a bit more negative. They felt dated and most of us struggled to finish our selected book. We agreed that they were books of their time but that time is not now.
October 12th 2012 Susan Andersen's That Thing Called Love:
Synopsis: For a guy she's fantasized about throttling, Jake Bradshaw sure is easy on the eyes. In fact, he seriously tempts inn manager Jenny Salazar to put her hands to better use. Except this is the guy who left Razor Bay--and his young son, Austin, whom Jenny adores like her own--to become a globe-trotting photojournalist. He can't just waltz back and claim Austin now.
Jake was little more than a kid himself when he became a dad. Sure, he'd dreamed of escaping the resort town, but he'd also truly believed that Austin was better off with his grandparents. Now he wants--no, needs--to make up for his mistake. He intends to stay in Razor Bay only until he can convince Austin to return with him to New York. Trouble is, with sexy, protective, utterly irresistible Jenny in his life, and his bed, he may never want to leave....
Review: For some of us Susan Andersen’s That Thing Called Love (ok me and I chose the book!) left us uninspired to ever try her again so I will instead concentrate on the members of the group who had read her before. Earlier books by this author were quite tense gritty romantic thrillers (and recommended if you have not tried them) but over the years Andersen’s stories have morphed into more ‘homey’ stories with humour and perky heroines and rugged heros. The premise of this one, the heroine is guardian to a thirteen-year-old boy whose father (who has not bothered with the boy before) decides to uproot him and take him away from everything he knows and loves. Well our perky heroine is not having that and even more to the point nor is the thirteen-year-old son and so a tale as old as time is spun of friction turning into love and a happy ending for all. The setting of the book in a place named Razor Bay sparked more interest than the plot-line. A well-written if light read – one for by the pool maybe?
September 28th 2012 Donna Andrew's Murder With Peacocks:
Synopsis: Three Weddings...And a Murder
So far Meg Langslow's summer is not going swimmingly. Down in her small Virginia hometown, she's maid of honor at the nuptuals of three loved ones--each of whom has dumped the planning in her capable hands. One bride is set on including a Native American herbal purification ceremony, while another wants live peacocks on the law. Only help from the town's drop-dead gorgeous hunk, disappointingly rumored to be gay, keeps Meg afloat in a sea of dotty relatives and outrageous neighbors.
And, in whirl of summer parties and picnics, Souther hospitality is strained to the limit by an offenseive newcomer who hints at skeletons in the guests' closets. But it seems this lady has offended one too many when she's found dead in suspicious circumstances, followed by a string of accidents--some fatal. Soon, level-headed Meg's to-do list extends from flower arragements and bridal registries to catching a killer--before the next catered event is her own funeral...
Review: This novel evokes images of a time past that is Cary Grant looking bemused in Arsenic and Old Lace surrounded by whacky family members that don’t view the world in quite the same light as the more mundane of us do. This can on occasion elicit a feeling of irritation and disbelief. Really, what idiot would sign up to be a bridesmaid for not one, not two but three weddings? Apparently someone who cannot say no and the main character – Meg Langslow – freely admits this. Even given this, the first Meg Langslow mystery is a very enjoyable read. Donna Andrews has created a strong female lead with the interesting and unusual job of a blacksmith, the extended family are a delight and Andrews is certainly not afraid to knock off secondary characters. While this is a caricature of the southern American family, those that enjoy a quirky but clever plot will find themselves reaching for book 2.., and 3… until you realise you have whipped through all 14 books and feel bereft when you realise you have another year to wait for the next Meg Langslow mystery.
August 2012 - After all the warnings about how busy London would be with the Olympics on we did not meet this month - but we could have after all! I'm not sure about everyone else but I was amazed at how quiet Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, and the West End in general was. We could have held the meeting in the middle of Trafalgar Square - it was that quiet! Oh well you live and learn. At least London put on a great Olympics.
July 13th 2012 Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London:
Synopsis: Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London's Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he'll face is a paper cut. But Peter's prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter's ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.
Review: The Rivers of London or Midnight Riot as it is titled in America sparked a lively discussion. Lesley thought the English title misleading as she thought it was a history title and not an urban fantasy book. However Madeline disputed this and maintains this is a TOTALLY accurate title as the main protagonists who are not either cops or murderers are the Gods and Goddesses of the Rivers of London. A mix of mystery, magic and a travel guide to London (we had fun identifying exactly where Aaronovitch has set his story and exclaiming “I’ve been there” and Ina and I went to visit the church in Covent Garden – from the outside only) this is an engaging read with characters you can develop a relationship with. Peter Grant has just completed his training as a constable and instead of getting placed with the exciting murder squad is about to start the less enjoyable job at the Case Progression Unit (data entry) – that is until the last English wizard (Inspector Nightingale who works for the Metropolitan Police) witnesses Peter questioning a witness of a murder but the witness is a ghost… Now Peter is a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard. This novel was a joy to read, full of a London that is written by someone who has actually been there, full of twists and turns and excellent intelligent humour. Moon Over Soho Book 2 and Whispers Under Ground Book 3 have already been read by the majority of the bookclub and thoroughly enjoyed. And when is book4 due out… not until June 2013. Write faster Ben!
June 13th 2012 Jussi Adler-Olsen's Mercy:
She vows not to go mad. She will not give her captors the satisfaction. She will die first.
Copenhagen detective Carl Morck has been taken off homicide to run a newly created department for unsolved crimes. His first case concerns Merete Lynggaard, who vanished five years ago. Everyone says she's dead.
Everyone says it's a waste of time. He thinks they're right. The voice in the dark is distorted, harsh and without mercy.
It says the prisoner's torture will only end when she answers one simple question. It is one she has asked herself a million times: Why is this happening?
Review: A very select group of three read this month’s book – Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Mercy. Originally written in 2008 & translated from Danish for the English speaking market in 2011 this is the first book in a series featuring the burnt-out chief detective Carl Morck. All Carl really wants from life after losing one of his partners, having one paralysed for life and getting shot himself is to be left alone, to eke out his days before he can retire doing – nothing - if possible. Instead he is ‘promoted’ to head Department Q – formed to take another look at old cold cases. His department consists of himself and his cleaner helper, Assad. After delaying the inevitable he starts investigating a missing persons case – charismatic politician Merete Lyngaard who disappeared five years ago and who everyone believes is dead.
The book is written in different time frames that jump from chapter to chapter. At first this was annoying but you soon get used to it and it ends up working very well. Never having been to Denmark I am not sure if the portrayal of how bleak it came across is accurate, but Adler-Olsen’s writing is very descriptive and it was very easy to bring a vivid image of where the events of the book were taking place. I think you can tell the book has been translated, just the way some of the sentences seemed turned around the wrong way but it does not detract from the story in anyway. This was an emotional roller-coaster of a read and Ina in particular found it hard to read, especially the horror of Merete’s imprisonment. Her comment was it seemed up close and more personal reading it, so real, as opposed to watching it as a TV series. This is an intelligent read, with a well thought out plot, with excellent characters (who I am looking forward to learning more about in Disgrace) and we recommend you give it a go.
May 23rd 2012 any of the following Madeleine Brent
titles: Tregaron's Daughter, Moonraker's Bride, Stranger At Wildings aka Kirkby's Changeling, Merlin's Keep, The Capricorn Stone, The Long Masquerade, A Heritage of Shadows, Stormswift, Golden Urchin.
Review: I picked up my first Madeleine Brent novel – Moonraker’s Bride – at a flea market at the Otumoetai Trust, in my hometown Tauranga, New Zealand, when I was about fourteen. I was hooked. At every flea market, car boot sale and second-hand bookshop I searched for anything else by this author because you could not find them new for love nor money in the shops. It was not until I started work at the age of sixteen in a bookshop named Books’A’Plenty I learnt about the joys of ordering books from across the other side of the world – good old Blighty. It took a while to get the books (it is the other side of the world!) but I was soon the happy owner of a complete set of Madeleine Brent novels from Souvenir Press (unhappily they are all out of print now) - which I have read, and reread and reread - because they are just that good. This month I wanted to pass on my love of this author to the rest of the bookclub, which is always a bit nerve racking – what if everyone loathed them?
Madeleine Brent is actually a pseudonym for Peter O’Donnell who is better known for his infamous Modesty Blaise character. O’Donnell was approached by his publisher and asked to write a gothic novel, not particularly keen on the idea O’Donnell wrote the first four chapters of Tregaron’s Daughter, gave them to his publisher and thought that would be the end of that but his publisher had handed the chapters to an American publisher who loved what they’d read and the first Madeleine Brent novel was written. O’Donnell wrote nine Brent novels in total and the bookclub were asked to read any one of these nine books. Like myself Beverley had read all of them, Madeline read Moonraker’s Bride, Merlin’s Keep and Tregaron’s Daughter, Ina read The Long Masquerade, and Leslie read The Capricorn Stone. Ina’s comment was The Long Masquerade was so English that she expected someone to leap out from behind the curtains and say “What a ripping good yarn”. Leslie said The Capicorn Stone gave a very accurate portrayal of the music hall but the American topography was weak. Everyone enjoyed what they had read and Beverley and Madeline both agreed with me that Moonraker’s Bride is the strongest of the nine novels. All nine books have very strong female characters, excellent historical detail and they are excellent (I would have to say the very last book written The Golden Urchin is a good story, it is by far the weakest of the nine novels) romantic adventure stories. If you have never read a Madeleine Brent novel, scour second-hand bookshops for one as they are well worth a read. For any publisher who may happen upon this review - please, please, consider reissuing this author.
Wednesday, April 18th 2012 Diana Rowland’s Mark of the Demon
Synopsis: Cop and conjurer of demons, she’s a woman in danger of losing control--to a power that could kill....
Why me? Why now? That’s what Beaulac, Louisiana, detective Kara Gillian was asking herself when an angelic creature named Rhyzkahl unexpectedly appeared during a routine summoning. Kara was hoping to use her occult skills to catch a serial killer, but never had she conjured anything like this unearthly beautiful and unspeakably powerful being whose very touch set off exquisite new dimensions of pleasure. But can she enlist his aid in helping her stop a killer who’s already claimed the lives--and souls--of thirteen people? And should she? The Symbol Man is a nightmare that the city thought had ended three years ago. Now he’s back for an encore and leaving every indication on the flesh of his victims that he, too, is well versed in demonic lore.
Kara may be the only cop on Beaulac’s small force able to stop the killer, but it is her first homicide case. Yet with Rhyzkahl haunting her dreams, and a handsome yet disapproving FBI agent dogging her waking footsteps, she may be in way over her head...
Review: Given that when I asked what everyone thought of this months books and I was greeted with ‘what book’, it did not bode well for Diana Rowland’s Mark of the Demon. Having said that it does have a great first chapter and grips you straight away – but I have still to finish reading it. We chose this book because we had not read anything with demons and liked the idea of a policewoman who was also a demon summoner but it somehow does not quite work. The general feedback was the book was very disjointed and disconnected but the good news is that the next two books in the series - Blood of the Demon and Secrets of the Demon – are worth carrying on with. The main lure of this book was the mixture of paranormal and police procedural and we all agreed the main character Kara Gillian was pretty inept at it. She seemed to rely more on her ‘special skills’ than actual police procedures, which in a world that must follow the letter of the law seemed very implausible. Ina as the only person who had not read the book is not inspired to do so even though the rest of us have or will give the rest of the series a go.
Wednesday, March 21st 2012 Christina Brooke's Heiress In Love
Synopsis: When the Ministry of Marriage arranges a match, all that matters is power, wealth and prestige. In the business of marriage, there is no room for love. But even the most prudent plans can go awry.
Jane, Lady Roxdale, has endured one marriage of convenience decreed by the Ministry of Marriage. While she deeply regrets her late husband’s death, she is relieved to be free at last. But when a dissolute rake threatens everything Jane holds dear, she must contemplate marrying a second time.
Disgraced libertine Constantine Black inherits his cousin Roxdale’s land and title - while Roxdale’s prim widow is left all the wealth. Constantine is not a marrying man, but wedding Jane is the only way to save the estate from ruin. Jane resists the smouldering heat between them, desperate not to fall in love with an unrepentant rake. But for the first time ever, Constantine wants more than seduction. He wants all of her - body, heart, and soul.
And Christina Brooke's Mad About the Earl
Synopsis: Lady Rosamund Westruther has no objection to the match arranged for her by the Ministry - until she meets her intended. Gruff, stubborn Griffin, Earl of Tregarth, is hardly the charming nobleman the classic beauty has dreamed of for so long. While a proper lady can’t cry off, she can demand a proper courtship...Griffin is aware of his duty to wed - and more convinced than ever that the lovely Rosamund has no place with a man like him. Built for fields and stables rather than drawing rooms, Griffin doubts he can win her in the polite manner society requires. But with every passing day, the attraction between them flares higher and hotter. Maybe there is more to love than meets the eye...
Review: We’ve reviewed historical romances before but thought it was time to do so again and so we searched for a brand new first-time novelist and thought we’d found her in Christina Brooke. Alas I had not done my homework as she had been previously published as Christine Wells. A new publisher, a new name but not a brand new author. Even more frustrating, the books written as Christine Wells are all out of print with the exception of Sweetest Little Sin. As Christina Brooke we have the first two books in what I hope will be a long on-going series called The Ministry of Marriage (bit of a giveaway that I loved them) – Heiress in Love and Mad About the Earl. Both books were enjoyed by the majority of the club (Madeline decided they were not keepers and would not continue with the series) including our mainly mystery reader, Debra. We veered to loving the second book more and I think this had to do with the character of Griffin, the hero of Mad About the Earl who had a vulnerability to him that gave the story a tender poignancy. This was achieved without descending into goo. It is the start of a very charming series that seems adept at exploring the everyday vulnerabilities that our characters develop due to life experience as opposed to some other authors who think that life does not leave you with any scars. The pragmatic approach of the heroines to marriage is probably more realistic of what the view of marriage as a business would have been. This gave these books a refreshing feel. Would we carry on with Christina Brooke and her series? Yes we would! We’re eagerly awaiting book 3 – A Duchess to Remember – due out in July.
Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 Ben Rehder’s Buck Fever
Synopsis: Blanco County, Texas. It’s one week before the start of deer hunting season, and everyone in town has come downwith a case of... Buck Fever.
The fury begins with Red O’Brien and Billy Don Craddock, two drunken poachers who fire a shot in the direction of Blanco County’s most important resident: a wide-eyed, white-tailed deer named Buck who lives on the Circle S ranch. Now Buck is on the loose, and no one knows where to find him: not Trey Sweeney, the man who took the bullet meant for Buck, albeit right in the flank of his own deer costume; not Tim Gray, the veterinarian who can’t function very long without popping a few canine tranquilizers; and especially not Roy Swank, owner of the Circle S, who wants desperately to find Buck for reasons no one can quite understand. Navigating all this turmoil is Blanco County Game Warden John Marlin, with a little help from his best friend Phil and a beautiful nurse named Becky who seems too good to be true. But when a dead body turns up, the real mystery in madcap Blanco County soon boils down to a single question: Just who is hunting whom?
Review: This is the most masculine book we have read to date. It led to a spirited discussion on hunting. With a mix of urban and country girls it was a pragmatic one, we all came to the same conclusion that hunting for hunting’s sake and especially on game ranches where stock are used to human interaction was not a mind set we could come to grips with. We all liked the book, a good plot that came together in a timely and tidy fashion. There was a sweetness to the hero’s preparation for the big date that turned into the date from hell. The plot retained your interest and it overflowed with interesting characters. Some of these characters led us down the bizarre discussion path of is it better to have sex with a dead animal or a live one but all agreed to a high ick factor. But more importantly where on earth do you get a suspender belt to that fits a deer!
Wednesday, January 18th 2012 Jim Butcher’s Storm Front
Synopsis: Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the ‘everyday’ world is actually full of strange and magical things and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a -well, whatever.
There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get interesting.
An urban detective fantasy, this appealed to the majority of us. The main character Harry Dresden is very likeable along with his sidekick, Bob the skull. Maybe we were influenced by the fact we knew there were 12 more books in the series (this is the first book in the Dresden Files) but this book felt like it was an introduction to future books. The plot had enough twists to maintain interest and Harry seemed human enough to be likeable - who among us has not run out of clean clothes and ended up wearing trackpants and cowboy boots? This was not just a book about a wizard, full of magic and mythological beings, it was also a great mystery story set in this word with a main character with strong morals who has very real normal problems - earning enough to pay the rent and eat. It was good for a first book but the later books do get better and better as long as you can deal with Harry getting dumped on so much you want to scream at Jim Butcher please give the poor bloke a break! Will newcomers to the series - Debra, Leslie, Madeline and Leonie being reading more - 3 out of 4 will be. A thumbs up for Jim Butcher.
Wednesday, November 23rd 2011 Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight
Synopsis: HOW CAN ONE GIRL SAVE AN ENTIRE WORLD? To the nobles who live in Benden Weyr, Lessa is nothing but a ragged kitchen girl. For most of her life she has survived by serving those who betrayed her father and took over his lands. Now the time has come for Lessa to shed her disguise and take back her stolen birthright.
But everything changes when she meets a queen dragon. The bond they share will be deep and last forever. It will protect them when, for the first time in centuries, Lessa’s world is threatened by Thread, an evil substance that falls like rain and destroys everything it touches. Dragons and their Riders once protected the planet from Thread, but there are very few of them left these days. Now brave Lessa must risk her life, and the life of her beloved dragon, to save her beautiful world. . . .
Review: Anne McCaffrey started writing science fiction in 1967 because she was so dissatisfied with the manner in which women were portrayed in the genre at that time. Restoree’s heroine was a strong willed intelligent woman and after re-reading it again Ina and I found it just as fresh and enjoyable as the first time we read it - and the many times after that! The decision to read an old book - Dragonflight was published in 1968 - was driven by a conversation in last months bookclub meeting about the development of paranormal and dragons in fiction. If you remember last months book was Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound. Although paranormal romances are relatively new as a genre, dragons in fiction are not and Anne McCaffrey’s dragons are captivating along with her strong female characters.
Debra enjoyed Dragonflight but did not necessarily like it. Madeline who pointed out the continuity issues of the Pern series puts forward that this is a spectacular success at world building. For those of us who have read the entire series there are serious problems with keeping storylines straight and apart from the original three books -Dragonflight, Dragonquest and The White Dragon - followed by the sub-series The Harper Hall set in the same time period, it is almost better to treat everything else set in the world of Pern as a separate novel, otherwise the lack of continuity could put you off some wonderful books. But this is actually about Dragonflight which has stood up to the test of time. It is as original, and fresh and it has not dated at all since the first time I read it in 1984 - and have probably read it once a year, every year, since I first discovered Anne McCaffrey. This is a great book and I’m happy to say it has introduced those of us who had not heard of Anne McCaffrey to her wonderful world of dragons.
PS: It was with great sadness that I realised as we’d been discussing Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight that she had passed away a couple of days previously. My hopes of a sequel to Restoree or more books in the Tower and Hive and Petaybee series dies away with one of my all time favourite writers.
Wednesday, October 26th 2011 Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound
Synopsis: Half-human and half-wyr, Pia Giovanni spent her life keeping a low profile among the wyrkind and avoiding the continuing conflict between them and their dark Fae enemies. But after being blackmailed into stealing a coin from the hoard of a dragon, Pia finds herself targeted by one of the most powerful-and passionate-of the Elder races.
Review: This book was universally enjoyed by all. Thea Harrison has crafted a believable and intricate world that has blended fantasy and reality in a deft manner. But the true delight of this book was the characters. She has created an arrogant ancient Dragon who still manages to evoke sympathy and Pia - the heroine - is no weak dweeb. The secondary characters flesh out the story and the plot is interesting and intricate enough to keep you reading speedily to the end. Harrison makes clever use of humour to enhance the story and weeks after reading, discussing the book brought chuckles all around the table - and even more amazing we could whole envision storylines without referring to the book. Read it and enjoy. We look forward to future books - hopefully one continuing Pia’s story.
Wednesday, August 10th 2011 Jean Sasson’s Princess
Synopsis: In a land where Kings still rule, I am a Princess. You must know me only as Sultana, for I cannot reveal my true name for fear that harm will come to me and my family for what I am about to tell you. Think of a Saudi Arabian princess and what do you see? A woman glittering with jewels, living a life of unbelievable luxury
She has gold, palaces, swimming-pools, servants, designer dresses galore. But in reality she lives in a gilded cage. She has no freedom, no vote, no control over her own life, no value but as a bearer of sons.
Hidden behind the vell, she is a prisoner, her jailers her father, her husband, her sons. Sultana is a member of the Saudi royal family, closely related to the King. For the sake of her daughters, she decided that it was time for a woman in her position to speak out about the reality of life for women in her country, whatever their rank. She tells of her own life, from her turbulent childhood to her arranged marriage - a happy one, until her husband decided to take a second wife - and of the lives of her sisters, her friends and her servants. In contrast to the affection and easy camaraderie amongst the women, she relates a history of appalling oppression against them, everyday occurrences that in any other culture would be seen as shocking human rights violations: forced marriages, servants bullied into sex slavery, summary executions. Princess is a testimony to a woman of indomitable spirit and great courage.By speaking out, Sultana risked bringing the wrath of the Saudi establishment upon her head and upon the heads of her children. For this reason, she told her story anonymously.
Review: Immediately we found the writing style of Princess distinctly unrefined, with it becoming increasingly clear that Sasson was merely regurgitating Sultana’s original words. We found the biography to neither reflect well on men nor women, both trapped in an ultimately destructive culture. However, for those with limited contact with the women of the veil, the book proved to be an enlightening if not engaging read. Princess was a quick read, with Sultana revealed as a realistic if not wholly sympathetic character. Princess was a different and difficult read for the club on a subject matter none of us were very keen on reading about. Why? Because we read to escape the realities of life and although none of us buries our heads in the sand about what is happening or has happened in the world we read to relax and wind down – not lay in bed at 3am in the morning with our brains still roiling around in frustration at this world we live in.
Wednesday, September 7th 2011 Jodi Thomas’s Texas Rain
Synopsis: The first book in the Whispering Mountain series. The first time Rainey Adams meets Texas ranger Travis McMurray, she steals a kiss and then his horse. Now Travis is determined to track down this intriguing woman and bring her back as his bride, but this renegade may be too much for even the toughest Ranger to handle.
Review: When faced with Texas Rain many of the group found the first pages a struggle, with historical Westerns relatively unknown territory. However, despite initial reservations, the group soon began to enjoy Thomas’s gritty realisation of Texas, one that is instantly commendable for its historical correctness. One point of contention was the failure of Thomas in clarifying who rode the fourth horse in the kidnap of Rainey - believed now to be old man Nolan - for those readers who are similarly confused! The decidedly sugary style may be off-putting for those looking for a hot and sweaty romance, yet never-the-less Texas Rain is an enjoyable and worthwhile read.
Tuesday, July 12th 2011 S.G.Browne’s Fated
Synopsis: From the acclaimed author of Breather comes an irreverent novel about fate, destiny, and the karmic consequences of getting involved with humans. Over the past few thousand years, Fabio has come to hate his job. As Fate, he’s in charge of assigning the fortunes and misfortunes that befall most of the human race - the 83% who keep screwing things up. Frustrated with his endless parade of drug addicts and career politicians, Fate has to watch Destiny guide her people to Nobel Peace Prizes and Super Bowl MVPs. To make matters worse, he has a five- hundred-year-old feud with Death, and his best friends are Sloth and Gluttony. And worst of all? He’s fallen in love with a human.
Getting involved with a human breaks Rule #1, and about ten others, setting off some cosmic-sized repercussions that could strip him of his immortality - or lead to a fate worse than death.
Review: We chose this book as it was written by a male author to compare it with the writing style with the predominantly female authors the members of the bookclub read. It provoked very strong feelings and one of the best book discussions we’ve had to date. Some of us liked it because its storyline mimicked real life, some of us disliked it because it did not have a linear storyline. We couldn’t agree on the ending as to whether it had a definitive end or it ended in a vague open to interpretation way. It was a smooth read and thought provoking when you realised the character Fate is fated to his destiny no matter what he does to try and prevent it. This book has some fabulous one-liners (too many to list) – “Common Sense disappeared in the Vietnam war and hasn’t been heard of since.” Fated was outside most of the bookclubs comfort zone and some of us moaned a lot at having to read it (I hold my hand up) but saying that it was worth the effort. It was enjoyable, not enjoyable, funny, thought provoking and whether you loved it or hated it, it was still worth reading.
Saturday, June 11th 2011
Instead of reading a book this month Ina and I decided we wanted to introduce the rest of the group to some New Zealand culture. Bacon and egg pie, Bro' Town and Footrot Flats...
Wednesday, May 18th 2011 Gail Carriger’s Soulless
Synopsis: Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire - and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and a werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate
With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart
SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.
Review: The cover caused much debate - where was the voluptuous tanned Italian with the big nose and large bust repeatedly described in the book? The anemic model on the cover looked like she needed a good chiropractor! Set in Victorian London, we felt the language was more era correct, no modern-day slang to throw the whole tone of the book off. The main character Alexia Tarabotti, was very likeable and believable, and her frustration as a woman in Victorian society was well done. Historical, Steampunk (a subgenre of speculative fiction, usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting. It could be described by the slogan “What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.” ) and Paranormal genres meshed very well. The secondary characters are as interesting and engaging as Alexia. If you’re looking for something different and clever, then the world Carriger has created is for you. Most of us have already read Book 2: Changeless and Book 3:Blameless - and are eagerly awaiting Book 4: Heartless due out on the 1st July 2011. M1UK Bookclub universally recommends Soulless.
PS: We also recommend Changeless, Blameless, Heartless and Timeless. This is an excellent series.
Attended By: Ina, Madeline, Debra, Leonie, Beverly, Tanya, a newcomer Tersia - and Tracy in spirit if not body, thank you for your review.
Location: Marquis of Cornwallis Pub, 31 Marchmont Street, London, WC1N 1AP. Ina was struck with indecision when she realised she had 5 vegetarian options instead of the normal one! Madeline and Tanya voted the Sticky Toffee pudding the best they had ever tasted. Alas however yet again the general hubble bubble of a pub made an elevated conversation hard to conduct, so while we recommend their food and general ambiance, the bookclub will be looking for quieter climes.
April 13th 2011 - Christina Dodd's Just the Way You Are
Synopsis: When Hope Prescott’s parents disappeared, her carefree teenage life vanished forever. She and her three siblings were separated and sent to different foster homes around the country. Now, seven years later, Hope is still searching for them. To support herself, she works for an answering service, and cares for her clients as if they were family. When wealthy businessman Zachariah Givens hires Hope’s service, Hope initially mistakes Zack for his butler. Tired of being coddled and flattered because of his money, Zack is charmed by Hope’s candor, not to mention her sexy voice, and keeps up the charade. As their friendship turns into passion, Zack is determined to have her, even if that means the unthinkable - marriage. But when Hope discovers his deception, Zack knows he must solve the mystery that haunts Hope’s past in order to convince her that their futures lie together....
Review: The magnate with moolah looking for true love while in disguise is not a new plot device, however this is an entertaining, well written story. Dodd is always excellent at developing secondary characters which is the case here. Ina assures us that this series (yes this is the first in a series) is one of her weakest, possibly because it was Dodd’s first attempt at contemporary romance but to stick with her as the follow on series featuring four brothers (Fortune Hunters) - one of them Gabriel - is everything you could wish it to be - funny, great plots, well written and characters you just want to keep reading about. Leonie, Madeline and I, all new to Dodd, will carry on with the series. For those of you who like a light easy read that raises the occasional chuckle, then this is or you.
Attended By: Ina, Leonie, Debra, Tanya - and Madeline in spirit if not body, thank you for your review.
March 23rd 2011 - Katia Lief’s You Are Next
Synopsis: He took everything . . . then came back for more.
Former Detective Karin Schaeffer has nothing left to live for after serial killer Martin Price destroys all she holds dear. Known as The Domino Killer because he leaves dominoes as a clue to his next victim, Price doesn’t stop until an entire family is destroyed. Even when he’s locked away in prison, the shadow he casts over Karin’s life keeps her in constant darkness.
Then a policeman brings news to her door: Price has escaped. Karin knows where he’s headed because of the message he left behind last time, scrawled in blood, on her bathroom mirror - You are next.
But Karin Schaeffer refuses to run and hide. She feels no fear and has nothing left to lose. And so she waits. She won’t stand by and let Price harm any more of her family. And she won’t rest until she’s put him back behind bars forever . . . or until one of them is dead.
Review: This book was a slight departure for the group as it is not a romance and it was in the first person which some of the group dislike. This book is very much the story of Karin, the central protagonist, and her journey back from the grief she has allowed to isolate her from everyone and everything around her. The early scene of suicide by serial killer seemed to annoy some as it made Karin’s character appear weak. The character appeared frequently to be self-indulgent and the story-line seemed to be more about Karin’s emotional upheaval with a plot loosely thrown in to hold everything together. This was not a scary thriller, the middle of the book seemed to wander and we had struggled to finish it. The plot seemed to get a bit lose and then the author quickly pulled the loose strings togetehr - the killer is in jail but the book isn’t finished, quick get an accomplice, fall in love, and solve the crime. The end was a bit neat and trite and none of us feel inclined to try another book by this author.
Attended By: Ina, Leonie, Debra, Madeline and Tanya
February 16th 2011 - Christina Henry’s Black Wings
Synopsis: As an Agent of Death, Madeline Black is responsible for escorting the souls of the dearly departed to the afterlife. It’s a 24/7 job with a lousy benefits package.
Maddy’s position may come with magical powers and an impressive wingspan, but it doesn’t pay the bills. And then there are her infuriating boss, tenant woes, and a cranky, popcorn-loving gargoyle to contend with.
Things start looking up, though, when tall, dark, and handsome Gabriel Angeloscuro agrees to rent the empty apartment in Maddy’s building. It’s probably just a coincidence that as soon as he moves in demons appear on the front lawn. But when an unholy monster is unleashed upon the streets of Chicago, Maddy discovers powers she never knew she possessed. Powers linked to a family legacy of tarnished halos.
Powers that place her directly between the light of Heaven and the fires of Hell...
Review: This book engages from the beginning and holds you. Who cannot relate to a heroine that may have magical powers but faces mountains of paperwork - in triplicate - with each death and has a pain of a boss. I always knew that life - or rather death - would be invaded by bureaucracy. Leonie says “No sex, great. She writes fantastically about an everyday person that holds you from beginning to end”. Tanya says “This really flows. It’s not as in depth as Nalini Singh’s Angel series but I read it and enjoyed it so much I immediately wanted to read it again”. As for the lack of sex (which made for a great story instead of sex scenes with a bit of plot holding them together) there was one scene that bought a snigger when Gabriel gets his happy while Madeline blacks out. Bummer. JB, the boss, who may be good looking but the whole control freak bureaucrat is enough to turn any sane woman off, including our heroine Maddy. But then who needs a man when you have Beezle - we all want one. Every girl should have a gargoyle. So when a gargoyle says he’s a handsome devil - go literal babe!
The more we discussed this book the more it became apparent Christina Harris is touching on some pretty deep issues - the perception of a just and forgiving god - or perhaps we had just had too much bubbly! However it was universally agreed (Madeline is away in Thailand this month) that this was an enjoyable read from beginning to end. As this is Ms Henry’s first book we hold high hopes for her and we have all ordered the second book due at the end of July 2011.
Attended By: First there were six - but Madeline ran off to Thailand for a wedding, then we were five - but then Beverley went to the cinema, then we were four - but Debra was struck down with a stomach bug, so we were three - Ina, Leonie and Tanya Stone.
Location: We met for the first time at Leonie’s workplace in the new St Botolph building. Well I thought my new office was nice but this was pure luxury - which is why we’re going back next month. Food, drink, girlish chatter, our own meeting room with biscuits, coffee and orange juice. What more could you ask for? A big thank you Leonie, we’ll be seeing you again in March.
January 19th 2011
No book to discuss this time as we decided just to meet for a drink and get together. We met at The Betjeman Arms, Unit 53, St. Pancras International Station, Pancras Road, London, N1C 4QL. It was easy to find, the dining room was lovely and quiet (the vibration from the trains every now and again was entertaining), comfortable and they didn’t mind if only some of you had something to eat. The food was tasty and I can recommend the lemon curd tart although the combination of a strawberry sauce (which luckily Madeline had asked to be kept separate) I didn’t like at all. I didn’t like the service charge being added to the bill either, I think this is something you as the customer should decide. Would we go back - yes we would.
15th December 2010 - Laura Bickle’s Embers
Synopsis: Truth burns. Unemployment, despair, anger - visible and invisible unrest feed the undercurrent of Detroit’s unease. A city increasingly invaded by phantoms now faces a malevolent force that further stokes fear and chaos throughout the city. Anya Kalinczyk spends her days as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department, and her nights pursuing malicious spirits with a team of eccentric ghost hunters. Anya - who is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern - suspects a supernatural arsonist is setting blazes to summon a fiery ancient entity that will leave the city in cinders. By Devil’s Night, the spell will be complete, unless Anya - with the help of her salamander familiar and the paranormal investigating team - can stop it. Anya’s accustomed to danger and believes herself inured to loneliness and loss. But this time she’s risking everything: her city, her soul, and a man who sees and accepts her for everything she is. Keeping all three safe will be the biggest challenge she’s ever faced.
Review: We chose Laura Bickles Embers because the main character had what we considered a ‘real’ job and we thought she might be an ordinary person that we could relate to. However, little did we know she needed counselling because of intimacy and commitment issues. So far so Anita Blake. Most of us have enough of these in real life - why do we need to read about it (barring those in good relationships)?
Some of us are tempted to buy book two while some members of the book club who had read the book in November struggled to remember the main plot points. It was agreed that there had to be a book two due to the hanging ending.
We all agreed that we would like a salamander - one of the better rounded characters - to keep us warm. This was a story with lots going on but no cohesive plot.
Attended By:Ina, Madeline, Debra, Leonie, Beverley and Tanya Stone
Location: We met for the first time at a pub in Wells Street which is just off Oxford Street called the Adam and Eve. Ina, Madeline & I (Tanya S) visited the pub last Saturday and it was quiet, lovely bar staff and surprisingly not very busy. Talk about the Jekyll and Hyde of pubs. It was heaving with people, so many people you had to plan a detailed expedition before you tried going to the loo, it was baking hot, it was soooo loud - and really it had nothing to do with our age - you had to shout to make yourself heard, the drink was overpriced, the food not only overpriced but mediocre, the only positive thing to say about the experience - the bar staff were still lovely. As our first experience meeting in a pub, it was off-putting to say the least but we still managed to have a good time and thats what counts. We will continue on in our search for the ideal meeting place - pubs, peoples places of work, coffee shops - anywhere we can find and any suggestions anyone has would be welcomed with open arms.
17th November 2010 - Dee Henderson’s True Devotion
Synopsis: Kelly Jacobs has already paid the ultimate price of loving a warrior; she has the folded flag and the grateful thanks of a nation to prove it. Navy SEAL Joe “Bear” Baker can’t ask her to accept that risk again - even though he loves her. But the man responsible for her husband’s death is back; closer than either of them realize. Kelly is in danger, and Joe may not get there in time. Uncommon Heroes: Welcome to a world where friendships go deep, loyalties stand strong, and uncommon heroes perform the toughest jobs in the world. Dee Henderson’s military romance series provides a detailed passage into the world of the military and homeland heroes, and those they love.
And Wanda Brunstetter’s A Sister’s Secret
Synopsis: Grace is the oldest sister in the Hostettler family. Having put her rumschpringe (running around years) behind her, she has returned to Holmes County, joined the Amish church, and begun a new life. For the past four years, everything has been going fairly well, until the day she sees an English man who knows enough of her past to jeopardize her future. Will Gary Walker’s passion for Grace destroy more than one life? Amish man Cleon Schrock is planning to marry Grace, but ignorant of her past. Will love and faith triumph over shame and deception in Holmes County?
Review: This month we were inspired - yes that is because we had the choice of one of two inspirational novels in our quest to cover all genres of romance. Dee Henderson’s True Devotion (NAVY) and Wanda E. Brunstetter’s A Sisters Secret (AMISH). There was a bit of a poll with Ina and Madeline being the most vocal (no surprise there!) with Ina coming out with very inspired feelings, Madeline not so much. So lets hear it for the Amish over the Navy. Sorry, Wanda actually made God seem like it was part of the characters life as opposed to a stuck on afterthought. However what was universal was that all of us found them charming to read, stories that focused on people who were not about designer handbags, the latest fad or how they looked. Very uplifting stories that actually made you feel good about the world. On a sad note - someone has displayed less than Christian behaviour by retaining the Amish book. Oh dear!
3th October 2010 - Leslie Esdaile’s Sister Got Game
Synopsis: Philadelphia newcomer Darien Jackson may be young, gifted, and beautiful, but she’s also maxed out on her credit cards, behind on her car payments, and unable to make the rent on her swanky apartment. Worse, her older (less flashy) sisters refuse to bail her out even one last time. On the bright side - if you could call it that - a year-long dating dry spell has kept one area of her life drama free. Then a repo man arrives to tow away her Diamante - and Darien suddenly faces the tall, hard-body chocolate Adonis who’s about to drive away with her car...and her heart. Successful entrepreneur Maxwell Ferguson has came up the hard way via a big Georgia family and a life that is all business and no pleasure...until one look at foxy Darien knocks him on his fine behind. A flirty spendthrift, she’s just what he - and his disapproving family – don’t want for his wife. But Darien may just be what too-serious Maxwell needs to bring laughter to his days and passion to his nights. Do they have a chance? Only if love can change the odds, his kin, and her credit rating...
Review: Sister ain’t got game should be the name of Leslie Esdaile’s atrocious work overloaded with clichÃƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒ©s. Is this just reverse racism, not a single white person in the book - couldn’t the waiter have been white. The central character reels from being a tease that doesn’t put out to being overcome with morals and just soooo misunderstood but soooo brave in the face of lesser mortals who could not possibly understand how wonderful she really is. I feel a bout of Madeline’s nephew projectile vomiting coming on but rice cakes won’t sort this one out. The only thing going for it is that Esdaile is even handed, as all her characters are galling. Madeline’s pennyworth: One of the sub-plots evaporates without resolution. In such a short book, keeping track of the storylines shouldn’t be such a problem. The only positive item we could find to say about this book is safe sex is mentioned and being caught naked by your housekeeper or any other member of the family did sound believable. Don’t do it dear reader at the end you will be turned forever from black contemporary romance.
15th September 2010 - Alice Kimberly’s The Ghost and Mrs McClure
Synopsis: The first book in the Haunted Bookshop series, Penelope Thornton-McClure manages a Rhode Island bookshop rumoured to be haunted. When a bestselling author drops dead signing books, the first clue of foul play comes from the store’s full-time ghost - a PI murdered on the very spot more than fifty years ago. Is he a figment of Pen’s overactive imagination? Or is the likable, fedora-wearing specter the only hope Pen has to solve the crime?
Review: This month’s book had us torn. Some of us (Ina, Debra and the two Tanya’s) enjoyed it - others (Madeline) felt that the loose ends were frustrating. We enjoyed dissecting the technique used for the murder of injecting into a plastic bottle. Research revealed the following: A diabetic needle will bend before it goes through the plastic; The nut extract is an oil and will therefore float and is a brown colour and therefore will cause discolouration!!! The cat on the cover should be GINGER not grey – why do publishers not ensure the artwork is correct on the cover?. There was a certain poignancy to the knowledge that the two main protagonists can never really be together. Ina carried on and read the other four books in the series (at present) and said the characters develop nicely and the stories get better and better.
18th August 2010 - Teresa Medeiros’s Breath of Magic
Synopsis: Precocious Puritan and aspiring witch Arian Whitewood spends her lonely nights dreaming of magic and excitement. She gets more excitement than she bargains for when she crash lands straight out of a witch hunt into the 20th century and the arms of Tristan Lennox, a reclusive billionaire. Arian blows through Tristan’s climate-controlled existence like a breath of magic, only to discover that the spell he weaves around her heart is more compelling than any enchantment.
Review: This months choice was an oldie but a goody. Teresa Medeiros’s Breath of Magic is a time travelling romance with several twists - and no I’m not going to tell you what they are, buy the book! But the real secret of time travel is via computer technology in case you wonder but many of the twists relate to the characters and here is one of Medeiros strengths, her characters even the secondary ones are likeable and you are really interested in what is going to happen to them. As for the love scenes the general consensus is that this is deftly handled, suitable to the story and yay does not contain lessons in anatomy. But for all of you that think this sounds to good to be true and we have gone soft (we haven’t slaughtered a book in months), Madeline didn’t like it!
21 July 2010 - Nalini Singh’s Angel’s Blood
Synopsis: Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux knows she’s the best - but she doesn’t know if she’s good enough for this job. Hired by the dangerously beautiful Archangel Raphael, a being so lethal that no mortal wants his attention, only one thing is clear - failure is not an option...even if the task is impossible.
Because this time, it’s not a wayward vamp she has to track. It’s an archangel gone bad.
The job will put Elena in the midst of a killing spree like no other - and pull her to the razor’s edge of passion. Even if the hunt doesn’t destroy her, succumbing to Raphael’s seductive touch just may. For when archangels play, mortals break…
Review: For all you fans of stroppy blondes with snappy comebacks this is the one for you. Nalini Singh’s Angels’ Blood is a new twist on the overflowing and quickly becoming hackneyed sub genre of paranormal romance. Here she presents angels as an example of absolute power corrupts absolutely. These are not cosy characters and I don’t think you would want to take them home to mum but the story is complex enough not to insult you while maintaining your interest to the end. Madeleine was amused by the snide play against Buffy - believe me Elena is tougher and smarter. Most of us (move it Tanya) have already bought and read the next Elena and Raphael (what else would he be called) and eagerly await the supporting characters stories. Congratulations Nalini on an innovative and entertaining story.
16th June 2010 - Cindy Gerard’s Show No Mercy
Synopsis: The sexy heroes of Black Ops, Inc., a covert private security team, sizzle in New York Times’s bestselling author Cindy Gerard’s electrifying new romantic suspense series.
THE SULTRY HEAT... Only two things can compel journalist Jenna McMillan back to Buenos Aires after terrorists held her captive there just months before: a rare interview with a shadowy billionaire and the memory of the dark and dangerous man who saved her....
HIDES THE DEADLIEST THREATS... Bad guys, bombs, and bullets are Gabriel Jones’s way of life. But he’ll never forget the brash redhead he rescued not so long ago...or the passionate kiss they shared before he sent her packing....
AND EXPOSES THE DEEPEST DESIRES. Now, forced together by a bombing at the National Congress, Jenna and Gabe confront the urgent longings that simmer between them. But this surprise meeting is no coincidence. A ruthless enemy stalks them with deadly precision. The question is... if they make it out alive, will Gabe turn his back on Jenna...again?
Review: This month’s book was a special ops book, Cindy Gerard’s Show No Mercy. Are we getting more mellow in the group!!! We all enjoyed this; she seemed to have done her homework. Ina could verify the medical stuff, yep antibiotics do not fix everything if you are running around and not taking care of the wound, as for the weapons none of us could claim an expertise there but it all seemed pretty legit. It was agreed that it drove you to buy more of her books, which is always a good omen. We noted with interest that her sentences were quite short in contrast to Georgette Heyer who last month assumed that readers have a longer attention span than the average goldfish.
12th May 2010 - Any Georgette Heyer title
Review: This month we were all tasked with reading any thing we wanted of the redoubtable Ms Heyer. The volume of work alone is daunting but no matter what we read (except for Tanya who kept falling asleep on the train) we found them charming and enjoyable. Leonie is getting back into historicals after reading hers! So another winner all around. Not a surprise as generations of readers keep coming back to her. Truthfully both Ina, and the two Tanyas initially struggled with the language but once into the flow could not put them down (except for sleeping beauty). At work Ina attempted to improve her vocabulary thanks to Georgette and got the ‘Ugh’ look, the word vexed apparently no longer being in common use. The lack of any discernable sex scenes was found to be refreshing and the focus on plot as opposed to being interrupted mid plot by tonsil hockey et.al was acclaimed by all to be a bonus and not missed at all. Please take note all authors – we want great stories, characters you think about weeks if not months later, books you finish and immediately want the next one - not porn!
14th April 2010 - Lisa Kleypas’s Smooth Talking Stranger
Synopsis: HE’S ONE SMOOTH TALKER
A billionaire playboy, and all-around ladies man, Jake Travis has a reputation as big as the state of Texas. He drives too fast, lives too hard, and loves too many women to count.
SHE’S ALL BUSINESS
In her advice column, and her love life, Ella Varner is always practical. So when she’s left holding her reckless sister’s baby, she decides to ask Jake Travis to take a paternity test.
THE TIME FOR TALKING IS OVER. . . .
Ella is instantly struck by Jake’s bold good looks and easy charm - but she’s not falling for his sweet talk. This big sexy tomcat needs to take responsibility for his actions, and Ella’s making him stick to his word. Now if she can only ignore the unspoken attraction that smoulders between them…
Review: Well the days are longer and bright and so is this book, brighter that is. Not a bad word to be said about this book we all really enjoyed it. If you are looking for something that is a joy to read and a great de-stressor this is the one for you. Ina and Madeline were already committed fans of this author (of course there had to be an argument of her historical vs. contemporary but both love all her stuff (except for the dodgy time travel one). The rest of the group all expressed a desire to read more of her works. A resounding success congratulations Lisa the first book in the clubs history that got a unanimous thumbs up.
March 2010 - Linnea Sinclair’s Gabriel’s Ghost
Synopsis: After a decade of piloting interstellar patrol ships, former captain Chasidah Bergren, onetime pride of the Sixth Fleet, finds herself court-martialed for a crime she didn’t commit - and shipped off to a remote prison planet from which no one ever escapes. But when she kills a brutal guard in an act of self-defense, someone even more dangerous emerges from the shadows.
Gabriel Sullivan - alpha mercenary, smuggler, and rogue -is supposed to be dead. Yet now this seductive ghost from Chaz’s past is offering her a ticket to freedom - for a price. Someone in the Empire is secretly breeding jukors: vicious and uncontrollable killing machines that have long been outlawed. Gabriel needs Chaz to help him stop the practice before it decimates Imperial space. The mission means putting their lives on the line - but the tensions that heat up between them may be the riskiest part of all.
Review: It was a relief to find that on this St Patrick’s Day we had managed to pick a book with a green cover and more cleverness yes, prepared to be shocked folks we quite liked this one! Most of us struggled to get through the first chapters but having finished it we all felt that it was worth the effort. Rather a lot of time on spaceship mechanics (not something we felt we would ever use but hey who knows) and could do with more character development. We spent the entire book getting told how tortured Sully is and that he is very obviously hiding something. Then in a rather rushed end it all comes out and there is talk of the bonding between Sully and Chas that could mean his death if broken?
It is also very evident that Linnea is attempting to suck us into buying all the rest of the series. Sorry Linnea most of us just find that annoying. Please take note of this authors you are just exasperating us. You can write a series and have each stand alone as good stories. Overall a positive result for Linnea and regardless of what is written above at least two of us will be purchasing more of her books.
February 2010 - Sarah McCarty’s Caine’s Reckoning
Synopsis: The Hell’s Eight is the only family he’s ever needed, until he meets the only woman he’s ever wanted . . . Caine Allen is a hardened Texas Ranger, definitely not the marrying kind. But when he rescues a kidnapped woman and returns her to town, the preacher calls in a favour. One Caine’s honour won’t let him refuse. From the moment he beds Desi, Caine knows turmoil will follow. Desi might have the face of a temptress, but she also has a will of iron and while she needs his protection, she’s determined that no man will control her again. They establish an uneasy bond, but it isn’t enough for Caine. He wants all Desi has to offer. He wants her screams, her moans, her demands . . . everything. Yet there’s still a bounty on Desi’s head, and keeping her sexually satisfied is proving easier than keeping her alive.
Review: Yet another delightful trot down the path of improbability. For gods sake we have a heroine who has been imprisoned, raped and tortured for a year but don’t worry within hours of meeting the hero she’s having sex (anal and anyway he can get it). Some of the positions so odd as to defy the physical skills of a yogi. The group seemed to particularly enjoy the fact that in an attempt to understand the physics of it all Ina was on the ground, on hands and knees trying to figure out where all the bits were. We’re still in the dark! It doesn’t even work as a western and as for the time spent on the manufacture of hair conditioner in the 1800s, um yes, that time might have been better spent on character development because the general feeling was that at the end of the book you activity disliked him and she inspired no sympathy. Please send us some ideas for GOOD books.
January 2010 - Karen MacInerey’s Howling at the Moon
Synopsis: Romance is about to get a little hairy. Sophie Garou seems to have it all: a great job at a prestigious accounting firm, a closet that rivals a Nordstrom showroom, and a terrific boyfriend who isn’t afraid to use the “M” word. There’s just one little itty-bitty problem: Sophie is a werewolf – and her time of month has a whole new meaning. Needless to say, life among yummy flesh-and-blood humans is no piece of steak . . . er, cake!, but regular doses of wolfsbane tea and a mother who runs a magic shop have helped Sophie keep her paranormal pedigree under wraps. Still, when a sexy, golden-eyed werewolf prowls into town, Sophie finds herself struggling to keep her animal impulses in check – not to mention trying to keep things on track with her super hot (and super human) lawyer boyfriend. What’s more, someone is threatening to expose Sophie for what she really is. And when her mother is accused of selling a poison-laced potion, Sophie must sniff out a culprit before the fur hits the fan.
Review: Members of the book club have bought all three books in the series due to a combination of curiosity and being left hanging after the end of the first book. It was clear to members of the club that Ms MacInerney had planned all three books in such a way that to feel you had finished the story all books had to be read. Other members of the book club didn’t care enough about the characters to give a monkeys.
While an interesting marketing ploy, as noted above, this could leave readers frustrated or annoyed. Or indifferent. An enjoyable read - candyfloss for the eyes - with amusing notes. A bare-arsed werewolf running through the streets was memorable. However, the werewolf is one of the most hapless and accident-prone werewolves ever written about. The fashion focus on handbags and BMWs was considered by all to be a limp-wristed following of ‘fashion Romance’ drivel. None of the book club care enough about shoes and handbags to care if these accessories get lost. Loss of credit cards and phones and keys were not mentioned. This is a book full of potential plot additions that don’t get developed - even across all three books.
December 2009 - Cathy Maxwell’s A Seduction at Christmas
Synopsis: She never expected it would come to this… Desperation and an empty stomach forced Fiona Lachlan to agree to a plan that ended up luring the wickedly notorious Duke of Holburn into trouble. Everything went terribly wrong, and now she has found herself posing as his ward! And while she swore nothing could make her desire a scoundrel, even if he was a duke, she is now drawing ever closer to the one man she cannot have . . Beware of innocence!
The Duke of Holburn had spent years heeding this warning, and in doing so, managed to avoid the virginal young ladies who had been put in his path. But now his wild ways have gotten him into real danger. There are killers at the door and a temptingly beautiful woman in his arms. He is about to find himself seduced . . . and he isn’t quite sure he wants to resist this time.
Review: A light simple read is the most benign comment made during the meeting. The more negative comments ranged from characters that you didn’t care about, forgettable storylines, to offensive treatment of ther abuse of women. The details were shoddy too no reader was able to determine which year this story was set in or even the decade. Apparently the abuse of the heroine was dealt with in more seriousness in a former book but the way it was mentioned in this book has nearly prompted a protest to the Romance Writers of America. The plot was multi-stranded but no strand was thought out properly, presented clearly or resolved with anything like a logical end. This felt like a book written over the weekend during a party by Cathy and all her friends while indulging in the seasonal cheer of mulled wine as after all this was set at Christmas time. Bah Humbug, to be so predictable. However not all was lost. We liked the fight between the two dogs, go Tad I think he deserves his own fan club. Certainly he was the only one who showed any common sense.
November 2009 - Charlaine Harris’s Sweet and Deadly
Synopsis: Now best known for her New York Times-bestselling Sookie Stackhouse novels, Charlaine Harris garnered an unusual degree of acclaim with her first novel - the story of a murder that embroils a small-town reporter in a mystery that hits close to home.
Catherine Linton came home to Lowfield, Mississippi convinced that the untimely deaths of her parents in a car accident was no accident - but nobody believed her. So she stayed, taking a job at the local paper, to try to both convince the sheriff that she was right - and maybe convince herself she was wrong. After all, her father had been the town doctor, loved (she always thought) by all. To think he was killed was to think that one of her friends or neighbours has harboured some deep resentment toward him. Then she finds the dead body of the women who had been her father’s nurse for many years. Obviously murdered. Now Catherine knows that she was not wrong about her parent’s death. Someone in Lowfield has a terrible secret, a secret worth killing for. Not once, not twice, but - when another body is found - three times. And the killer won’t hesitate to add more victims to the list, as Catherine gets closer and closer to the truth.
Review: A very mixed reaction to our book of the month - Sweet and Deadly by Charlaine Harris. It was one of Charlaine’s earlier novels, written in 1981 & her writing skills have quite obviously developed since she wrote this. Her array of characters including the heroine came across as very flat and no one had any sympathy or really cared what happened to any of them. Her skill in setting the scene is very evident though - concise and informative, she keeps the plot going without getting bogged down in endless descriptions. It was interesting to see how Harris has developed as an author, as some of us have read her later work,and to see that authors can get better instead of hitting the big time early on in their careers and then churning out drivel because they know fans will still buy it in the never ending hope that the next one must be better then the last one!