The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

>> Thursday, March 31, 2011


The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

Genre: Mystery
Series: #7 in the Maisie Dobbs series
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 338
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Newly discovered remains of an American who joined the British army and disappeared in World War I bring to light mysteries and secrets hidden by many for nearly twenty years.

Why I Read It:
This is such a wonderful series that gets better with every book and I’ve been working on getting caught up.

The Book
In 1914 Michael Clifton left America to join the British army to demonstrate his support for the country of his father’s birth. He was eventually declared missing and the land he’d purchased in California just before leaving for the war was left in a legal muddle.

In early 1932 a French farmer discovered the underground bunker where Michael and his fellow soldiers died. Clifton’s American parents hire Maisie Dobbs to learn more about their son’s time in the army and the circumstances of his death. Along with his remains are found some of his tools and belongings, including a packet of letters from someone only identified as an English nurse.

The letters and Michael Clifton's remains themselves lead Maisie on a journey through the past that includes secrets, betrayal, love affairs and murder. As her investigation continues, there is also present day danger when Michael’s parents are attacked in their hotel room and Maisie herself is pursued.

As Maisie follows her investigation into the wartime activities of young Clifton she can’t help but revisit her own memories of her early career as a battlefield nurse including both her lost love and the horrible circumstances of the war.

As she traces the story for her clients she also faces a personal sadness in the failing health of her mentor and teacher Maurice Blanche. This is tempered by a changing relationship with a long familiar acquaintance that Maisie learns to see through different eyes.

My Thoughts:
I know I say this after every single book in this series but this one was my favorite so far. The central investigation and mystery of Michael Clifton is entertaining and intriguing on its own, but coupled with the changes that are happening in Maisie’s personal life is what made this such an interesting installment in this series.

Family secrets come into play not only with her clients, but also with some of Maisie’s closest friends. She finds herself surprised by people she’s known most of her life. This book feels like a significant turning point for Maisie in both her personal and professional life.

The historical aspect of this series continues to be its high point. Even though part of the story takes place years earlier, it continues to place the ‘present day’ aspects of the story in historical perspective. The aftermath of the first World War and it’s continuing impact on the people of London and the world in the early 1930’s is the continually developing back-story and setting for this series. Maisie’s role as an independent businesswoman who spent her youth ‘in service’ is something that could not have happened had not the devastation of World War I happened to change societal norms in particular the expected and acceptable roles of women. Granted she had the benefit of mentors that allowed her to get an education and experiences that were not readily available, but at the same time she is an example of a single woman in her mid-thirties in a post-war society that has had to adapt its acceptance of women as something other than wife and mother. Nevertheless, while Maisie on one hand represents independent womanhood, on the other hand she naturally desires love, companionship and perhaps family.

I am most definitely looking forward to continuing with this series to see where Maisie’s path leads.

Rating 4/5

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Wordless Wednesday #78

>> Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lonely Chair
Ixtapa, Mexico


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Confessions of a Serial Reader – The audio vs visual series

>> Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I’ve discovered that I don’t like to mix media when it comes to my series reading. With rare exceptions if I start a series as audiobooks, I stick with audio and if I start reading a series I’ll stick with reading over listening.

Once in a while I’ll have a hard time finding an audio version of a book in a series and I’ll have to read one instead of listening to it and it just feels a little wrong. Even though I can hear the regular narrator’s voice in my head it makes that installment of the series feel a bit out of joint to me. For the same reason I don’t like to switch to audio once I’ve started reading a series. No matter how wonderful the reader, it never quite feels ‘right’ compared to the characters as they sounded in my head as I was reading.

I also have a dividing line of sorts between my audio series and my visual reading series. I won’t listen to the more hard boiled, twisted or gruesome type of mystery series as audiobooks. I’m not sure why but I’ve tried it and it just didn’t work for me. Partly that’s because it’s easier for me to read the tough stuff than to hear it and partly because of the way I tend to listen to audiobooks. I do all my audiobook listening when I’m in the car by myself. That means is it’s my commuting and driving around town time. I do most of my book listening in 10-20 minute increments rather than in longer stretches. Maybe the ligher fare is more interruptible for me? Maybe it’s not good for me to listen to icky murder details and super fast paced action scenes that might induce road rage? Maybe I’m just weird?

These are my current series that I’m reading via audiobook:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Series by Douglas Adams

Since these were originally written as radio comedy broadcasts, they make a wonderful and fun audio series.


The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith

This is a series that I doubt I’d enjoy as much if I read them as I have listening to Lisette Lecat read them to me. I just love listening to her and she’s made this series a delight for me.


The Three Pines Series by Louise Penny

This is an exception to my normal audiobook fare in that it’s not a series that I would classify as having a lot of humor in it. It does however have a gentler pace and a wonderful cast of characters brilliantly read by Ralph Cosham.



The Amelia Peabody Series by Elizabeth Peters
These are like listening to an old time melodrama with both adventure and humor throughout the books. Victorian era Egyptologist Amelia tells the stories and is read so well by Barbara Rosenblat. The first few in the series were read by Susan O’Malley and although she did a fine job, Barbara Rosenblat just IS Amelia’s voice to me. (speaking of that, maybe reader switching mid-series should be a topic for a future Confessions of a Serial reader post.)


The Miss Julia Series by Ann B. Ross

This is one of my non-mystery series and is more of a comedy of manners style of story. This is one of the few series that I started (the first two) as books I read and then switched to audio because the type of story fits better into my driving around listening enjoyment than it does my sit in my chair and read enjoyment. This is also one that went through a reader change partway through. The earlier ones are read by Claudia Hughes and the later ones by Cynthia Darlow.



So what about you? Do you mix your media with your series? Are there series you prefer to read rather than listen to? Does listening to the gruesome stuff give you road rage or nightmares?

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Weekend Update: March 26, 2011

>> Saturday, March 26, 2011


This week:
I was checking through my books read and realized that one of the books I reviewed last week qualifies for this year’s What’s in a Name Challenge as a book with a number in the title. This means I’m 1/6 of the way through that challenge. Guess I’d better get some more qualifying books into the “to be read” pile. This week I finished Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson and have to say that if you haven’t read his books, you should. I also finished The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear. I know I say it after every book in her Maisie Dobbs series, but I think this one is my favorite so far.

I’ve just started The Borgias and Their Enemies by Christopher Hibbert because we plan on watching the new Showtime series and I want to get a feel for the real history before watching Showtime’s version.

Other than books and reading:
I started a baby afghan for a friend. This will be my first serious knitting project after taking my class so I picked a fairly easy pattern. Just casting on that many stitches (171) is a bit daunting but after counting and recounting I got things started. She’s having a girl so I’m going with a lavender to balance out all the pink she’ll likely get. I’ve also discovered that the lavender is a very difficult color to photograph.

I finally finished the vacation photos from our trip to Mexico. If you have time to kill I’ve put a bunch of them (and by bunch, I mean 84) into a web album if you care to browse.
Click on the photo to go to the album
Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo Vacation


Added to my TBR List (To Be Read) this week:
A Heartbeat Away – Michael Palmer
I’ve read a few of Palmer’s early books but none of his recent stuff. Jenn at Jenn's Bookshelves clearly could not put this book down this week so I must need to read it.

Sons and Princes – James LePore
I’ve enjoyed his earlier books and this is his most recent.

The Night Season – Chelsea Cain
I started reading Chelsea Cain when she had a regular column in our local paper. Trust me, her newspaper column was nothing like her novels. She makes twisted fun. I’m looking forward to the latest in this series.


Purchased this week:

A Game of Thrones by George R.R.Martin
I know that HBO is doing the series, but with The Tudors starting on Showtime we probably won’t watch it. Fantasy stuff is not normally on my reading menu, but the way Beth Fish Reads was raving this week about this book made me accidentally on purpose drive by Powell’s on my way home the other day and pick up a copy.

No additions to the current library stack (and down by one this week).


Lastly - if you didn't see the photos on my posterous blog - here's a sample of some I took of the plum trees in bloom.

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Audiobook – The Hippopotamus Pool by Elizabeth Peters

>> Friday, March 25, 2011


The Hippopotamus Pool by Elizabeth Peters

Genre: Historical Mystery
Series: #8 in the Inspector Amelia Peabody series
Publisher: Recorded Books
Publication Date: this audio edition 2006 (originally published 1996)
Read by: Barbara Rosenblat
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Victorian Era archaeologist Amelia Peabody returns to Egypt with her family for another season of excavation, this time at a previously undiscovered royal tomb, but danger comes along on the adventure.

Why I Read It:
This is one series I listen to rather than read and it’s always an enjoyable adventure. It’s been a while since I listened to one and it was just what I was in the mood for.

The Book:
In 1900 Amelia Peabody and her family are back in Egypt for another season of archealogical adventure. Shortly after they arrive in Cairo, a mysterious stranger offers them information about a previously unexplored Royal Tomb. Obviously this intrigues Amelia and Emerson, but when the man disappears they are puzzled and of course Amelia is sure a nefarious plot is underway.

They manage to follow the few leads they have and make their way to what may be a major archeological discovery. Is it really the tomb of Queen Tetisheri? Will they even be able to find out? Suspicious people are everywhere, even in their own party and before long it’s a mish mash of plots (both genuine and imagined), threats, kidnappings, and a whole lot of fun along the way.

My Thoughts:
These books read more like an old style movie melodrama than a typical mystery. Amelia narrates the story in her unique and entertaining style. She’s always sure a plot is afoot, that every female around adores her husband and that her son will get into trouble. The first two are always possible, but not always the case, but as for her son getting into trouble, well that’s almost guaranteed,

These are just such fun as read by Barbara Rosenblat that I just can’t imagine reading the printed versions. The audios are among my favorite listend. Ms. Rosenblat does a great job of voicing both Amelia’s sarcasm and smugness and despite the adventure and mystery in the stories, I find myself giggling all the way through.

If you’re looking for a fun entertaining audiobook series that has a bit of mystery, a bit of history, a bit of adventure and a bit of fun you should check out this series.


Rating 3/5

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Wordless Wednesday #77

>> Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Peaceful Evening
Ixtapa, Mexico




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Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson

>> Monday, March 21, 2011


Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson

Genre: Mystery, Crime Fiction
Series: #2 in the Inspector Kari Vaara series
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 323
Source: Copy provided by the publisher



The Short Version:
In Helsinki, Inspector Kari Vaara, still reeling from last year's events both physically and emotionally takes on a homicide investigation and political hot potato while at the same time worrying about his pregnant wife and the complications of her visiting family.

Why I Read It:
I thought the author’s first book (Snow Angels) was an incredibly impressive debut and I’ve been waiting for the follow-up for more than a year.

The Book:
Finnish Inspector Kari Vaara has a lot on his mind. The events that occurred last year are still haunting him. He and his American born wife Kate have moved to Helsinki and away from the small town in the north where Kari grew up. He’s now working for the homicide division. His wife is nearing the end of a fairly high risk pregnancy. Her brother and sister (whom she hasn’t seen in years) are visiting and planning to stay for a while after the upcoming birth.

Inspector Vaara is involved in several investigations. The most complicated of these is the gruesome torture and killing of the wife of a Russian businessman. Kari is being pushed by his superiors to wrap up the case and charge her lover with the crime but he’s not convinced the man is guilty and thinks someone might be framing him for the crime.

At the same time Kari is assigned to investigate a charge of war crimes targeted at an elderly national hero from World War II. The government wants this wrapped up as mistake because the last thing they want is to be put in the position of extraditing this man to Germany. What Kari doesn’t anticipate is his own grandfather’s connection in the events in question.

As if that’s not enough, he’s battling chronic migraines and insomnia that his wife and therapist are sure is post-traumatic stress from what happened in the first book, but Kari would rather just ignore it and hope it goes away.


My Thoughts:
What an impressive follow-up to an impressive debut. I’m now in the position of waiting the interminable months until the next book in this series is published.

Inspector Vaara is a wonderful character. He’s got problems but he’s a guy I want to end up happy even though at times it seems like that’s pretty unlikely with everything he’s got on his mind. The story is pretty brutal and the squeamish need not apply, but it’s interesting and the multiple issues and cases keep the action moving. Because the main character tells the story there are times that the action moving forward actually takes place in his thoughts but even that never feels like a lull in the pace.

I enjoy reading a crime story set somewhere other than a large U.S. city and moving this series from a small town into a large metropolitan city doesn’t change that. The atmosphere and history of Finland is very much a part of the story.

What I liked about this book is that unlike much crime fiction it’s not almost all about one case. There are multiple investigations and situations going on all at the same time. This adds to the sense of pressure and stress that the main character faces while at the same time dealing with his headaches and fears for the health of his wife and baby. Family is also very much a part of the story. As Kari faces fatherhood he’s also facing his own family’s history and that’s not always a pretty one. His wife’s brother and sister also add to the complex familial issues addresses in the story.

There is a lot going on in this book but it never feels like threads are dropped or too jumbled at all. It’s a well done, exciting and interesting book. The next one can’t get published soon enough for me.

If you haven’t read Snow Angels go get it and read it now. Then read this one. I will warn you that the outcome of the first book is openly talked about early on and throughout the second. You can read this one without having read the first, but why short yourself? Just read both of them.


Rating 4.5/5

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Weekend Update: March 19, 2011

>> Saturday, March 19, 2011



This week:
Between the time change and still working my way through the to do list that seems to have exploded while I was on vacation I feel like I’ve spent the week being sleepy when I should be awake and awake when I should be sleeping and chipping away at the list of things I need to catch up on whenever I had two minutes. Somehow I’ve managed to carve out some reading time but not as much as I’d like (as usual). I did finish Lazybones by Mark Billingham and I’m just loving this series. It’s kind of dark and disturbing but so good. I started James Thompson’s second mystery featuring Finnish detective Kari Vaara. It’s called Lucifer’s Tears and it’s wonderful, but read Snow Angels first because it’s outcome is discussed openly in the second book.

I took a road trip last Sunday to meet some dear friends for lunch and an afternoon of chatting so I got some good audiobook time while driving. I finished listening to The Hippopotamus Pool by Elizabeth Peters and started A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny. Both of those series are so well done on audio and among my favorites.


Other than books and reading:
No I have not finished editing vacation photos. I’m working on it and I’m very very happy with how many of them have turned out, but I don’t have a web album put together yet.

I finally got all my files and stuff moved to my new laptop and I’m gradually getting used to Windows 7 but that whole new computer thing has contributed to the feeling of being behind the imaginary schedule I had in my head of when all this stuff was going to be done.

Check out my photo of a rainbow from my office. Even with an iphone photo through a dirty window it's pretty cool. It was a nice St. Patrick's day surprise.


Added to my TBR List (To Be Read) this week:


I picked up the audio version of Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation from the library for The Hubster and I to listen to on our next trip to Southern Oregon. Swapna at S.Krishna’s Books recommended it and it certainly sounds like something we’d like. I normally don’t do abridged audios but based on her review I’m going with it.


Purchased this week:

The Dark Rose by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles.



I enjoyed the first in this series enough to pick up the second. What can I say? I’m a sucker with a book with a big ol’ family tree diagram at the beginning.


And as usual, the current library stack

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The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

>> Friday, March 18, 2011


The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Genre: Mystery
Series: #2 in the traditional canon of Sherlock Holmes
Publisher: The Floating Press
Publication Date: 1890 (this edition 2009)
Pages: 117
Challenge: What's in a Name 4 (a book with a number in the title)
Source: Library ebook

The Short Version:
A young woman hires Sherlock Holmes to find out what happened to her long missing father and the reason someone has been sending hear a valuable pearl once a year.

Why I Read It:
I recently started the Sherlock Holmes books for the first time and liked the first one so much that it didn’t take me long to request this one from the library.

The Book
Mary Morstan’s father disappeared years ago. He was on leave from his regiment in India and had arranged for her to meet him in at a hotel in London, but when she arrived, he’d gone out and not returned. He was never heard from again. A few years later Miss Morstan had seen an advertisement asking for her address which she answered. Since then on an annual basis she’d received a large and valuable pearl in the mail. The reason she came to see Sherlock Hollmes is that whoever has been sending these gifts has now asked to meet Miss Morstan and has said she could bring friends. She hires Holmes and Watson to accompany her to this mysterious meeting.

The meeting leads to revelations about her father’s history as a prison guard, lost treasure, a mysterious man with a wooden leg, a criminal pact and murder.

My Thoughts:
Once again I think I enjoy the asides and observations from Watson nearly as much as I do the actual mystery story itself. This is a short quick read, but there is a lot of action and story in relatively few pages. It’s also a chance to learn a bit more about Holmes and Watson. Right off the bat, Holmes drug use is mentioned and while Watson seems disapproving, Holmes passes it off as a way to keep his mind stimulated when he’s bored from lack of work.

It’s interesting that while Holmes is clearly brilliant, he’s kind of an arrogant jerk and the character of Watson serves as such a great foil. We see the story and Holmes through his eyes and filters and he’s able to soften some of the disagreeable sides of Holmes through his own likeability and sensitivity. His feelings toward their client are quite sweet to read about.

This time around the story flows a bit better than A Study in Scarlet without the sudden change of time and place that was so jarring in that first Holmes story. This time around the story stays with Holmes, Watson and the present day investigation with events of the past revealed as told by characters.

I have no idea why it took me so long to actually start reading these books. Perhaps the age and some bad experiences with books written about the same time had something to do with it. Nevertheless I’m finding them quite readable, enjoyable and interesting. I’m looking forward to reading the next one soon.

Rating 4/5

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Wordless Wednesday #76

>> Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fan Palm
Ixtapa, Mexico


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Lazybones by Mark Billingham

>> Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Lazybones by Mark Billingham

Genre: Mystery, Crime Fiction
Series: #3 in the Tom Thorne series
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 327
Source: Library



The Short Version:
Detective Inspector Tom Thorne and his team investigate a series of murders some may not see as that bad because the victims are former sex offenders.

Why I Read It:
I’m still working on getting caught up with this series before Bloodline comes out in mid July and I’m glad I had a reason to get started and work my way through this excellent series.

The Book:
The first victim is found in a cheap hotel room. The death was brutal and the body gruesomely posed afterwards. As the crime scene is still being processed Detective Inspector Thorne learns that a local florist received an order for a wreath to be delivered to the room about the time the man on the bed was killed. He knows that he’s dealing with a particularly unique killer.

When the victim is identified as a recently released convicted sex offender there’s some chat among the investigators that perhaps the killer is doing them a favor. Thorne may not have much sympathy for the deceased, but he knows he’s got a killer out there who has taken great pains to seek vengeance. How did the killer know when his victim was getting out of jail and how was he lured to the hotel and also important is why?

When another body is found in similar circumstances, Thorne and his team have to answer these questions and stop whoever is killing these men.

My Thoughts:
Yes a vigilante killer can make a story tough to sell. When the victims don’t necessarily generate sympathy the author has to find a way to make the reader want the killer caught as much as the detectives do. Billingham does an excellent job with this. Interspersed with the current story and investigation are flashbacks to events of the past that gradually build into a history of the murderer. As the reader I picked up on clues that the investigators didn’t have. At a certain point I was absolutely sure I knew who was behind the killings. I was almost right but Billingham still managed to throw in a surprise for me at the end.

Speaking of the end – wow! The last few chapters played out at a fast pace and had me not wanting to put the book down until I finished. The tension and danger at the very end along with the last few twists in the story were great.

With every book in this series I like Thorne and the handful of recurring secondary characters more and more. They’re all troubled in their own way but by now I’m rooting for them. Thorne’s devoted subordinate Dave Holland admires his boss, but at the same time gets frustrated with Thorne’s way of becoming so emotionally involved in his cases. There’s a little less of the wonderful pathologist in this one, but Holland’s story needed to take some steps and have a bit of focus in the secondary storylines this time around.

Thorne is a great character. He’s messed up and his personal life is even more of a mess than his professional life most of the time. Despite that, he’s a guy I like and want to see find his way both professionally and personally.

I’m very glad I started this series and I’m looking forward to continuing it soon.


Rating 4/5

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Weekend Update: March 13 ,2011

>> Sunday, March 13, 2011









Vacation Time! We spent a wonderful six days in Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo Mexico this past week. Late February and early March is an excellent time to get out of Oregon. This is the third year we’ve made this trip and I’m already looking forward to next year.


We spent much of the time reading either on the terrace of our room or on the beach. I have a tendency to grow basal cells so the fact that the place we stay has a large beach with plenty of palapas (palm sun umbrellas) for shade makes it a wonderful place for us to stay.



I finished four books while in Mexico. I read The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and two books in the China Bayles series by Susan Wittig Albert (Mistletoe Man and Bloodroot). On the flight home I started Purity in Death by J.D. Robb, but once I got home I went back to my unfinished library book (Lazybones by Mark Billingham). I don’t like to take library books on vacations unless it’s a trip where we’re driving.

We had a wonderful relaxing and rejuvenating trip. We had lots of reading time interspersed with trips into Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo for some fabulous seafood.


I have to say that one thing that disappointed us about this trip was the marked absence of American tourists in the area. Despite the issues in the Border States and other interior areas of the country, this resort area has not been as risky to visit. Granted we don’t take unnecessary risks. We stay in the main areas of the towns and don’t take off across country on our own at night. For us it was a matter of taking the same kind of travel precautions we’d take in any large US city. It was a bit sad to see the local businesses struggling due to the lack of tourist business. We met up with lots of travelers from Canada but there was a noticeable difference in the numbers of American visitors in the area.

We had a great time and it’s a beautiful and relaxing area of Mexico to visit. I’d recommend it if you’re considering a trip to seek out some sun. You’ll definitely notice a Mexican theme to my Wordless Wednesday posts for the next several weeks.

The return to routine when we got home was a little crazy as always but we managed to work it out so that our first week back at work was just Thursday and Friday. Having a nice two day work week to ease back into the routine makes it seem not so awful.

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The Founding by Cynthia Harrod Eagles

>> Friday, March 11, 2011


The Founding by Cynthia Harrod Eagles

Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: #1 in the Moreland Dynasty series
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication Date: 1980 originally (this edition 2010)
Pages: 539
Source: Purchased new

The Short Version:
Eleanor Courteney's arranged marriage to a mere sheep farmer dashes her dreams of romance with Richard the Duke of York, but leads to the beginning of a powerful family.

Why I Read It:
I'd added this one to my TBR list a while ago but never found just the right time to read it but I decided that it was the perfect book to take on vacation.

The Book
In the early 15th century Eleanor Courteney is an orphan without a dowry and isn't in much of a position to be demanding about her potential marriage prospects. She is the ward of a powerful man and this is what catches the attention of Edward Morland. He needs to ensure that his son Robert's marriage will be to his family's advantage in terms of prestige and potential political alliances with the Beaufort family.

Eleanor is shocked to be told that her marriage to this mild mannered son of a sheep farmer is a done deal. Leaving her longtime friend (the wife of Lord Beaufort) and her home to travel to Yorkshire and marrry Robert Morland, is the end to her dream of romance with Richard, Duke of York. Lord Beaufort sends a pair of young servants north with Eleanor and with these loyal companions she sets out to make the best of her situation.

The home she arrives at is less than what she considers acceptable and has been without a woman's influence since the death of Robert's mother.

Of course our plucky heroine makes her mark and even manages to slightly tame her gruff father-in-law. It's her marriage and relationship to Robert that while not necessarily a romantic love story is the beginning of an almost businesslike relationship of respect and eventual deep understanding that sets the foundation for a large family on the road to success. To manage this in the turbulent times of the Wars of the Roses is a political obstacle course and Eleanor's devotion to the Duke of York and his side of the conflict makes keeping her family safe and successful a challenging lifes work.

My Thoughts:
It's been a while since I dove headfirst into a big fat family saga and reading this first in a series that currently stands at 33 books with number 34 due out in November is a spectacular swan dive into a saga that takes sweeping to new lengths. This first book is set in the 1400's during the Wars of the Roses. The newest one is set in the 1920s so it's definitely a daunting series to consider.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I have no doubts that I will continue with the series. Whether I'll ever get to the end is a complete unknown but I'm already looking forward to learning where this family's story will lead.

I enjoyed the mixture of fictional characters interacting with real historical figures. When I read this kind of series I don't get too hung up on how 'historically accurate' they are, as long as it's not too many glaring and ridiculous deviations from known history. I think this one did a decent job of achieving that balance.

Eleanor was a great heroine but even with her as the 'star' the book is full of memorable characters and the complex relationships between the families and the social classes provide plenty of entertainment. The backdrop of the turbulent times and the Morland family's role as the power swings back and forth is an interesting balance to the story of Eleanor and Robert and their children as they develop into a powerful family in their own right.

Because of the way the series is structured this book reads just fine as a standalone historical fiction story so don't feel like you have to commit to the series if you read it. The next book does not appear to follow immediately after this one even though it's a continuation of the story of the Morlands.

This was interesting, entertaining and a fun return to historical fiction for me.

Rating 4/5

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Wordless Wednesday #75

>> Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bethany, Oregon




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Weekend Update March 5, 2011

>> Saturday, March 5, 2011









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Wordless Wednesday #74

>> Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Still Standing
(sort of)



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Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear

>> Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear

Genre: Mystery
Series: #6 in the Maisie Dobbs series
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 303
Source: Library



The Short Version:
The plight of WWI veterans struggling with “shell shock” is at the heart of this story of a potential act of terrorism in 1930’s London

Why I Read It:
The newest book in this series is coming out this spring and I’m trying to get caught up before then.

The Book:
On Christmas Eve Maisie Dobbs and her assistant Billy witness a gruesome suicide on a London street corner. She still travels to the country to spend the holiday with her father but on Boxing day is called back to London by Scotland Yard. A letter has been delivered that threatens massive deaths unless the letter writer’s demands are met. The letter mentions Maisie by name, but she has no idea why.

The detectives at Scotland Yard are suspicious of Maisie’s potential connection to the would-be terrorist, yet they enlist her assistance in the investigation.

At the same time as the investigation is proceeding, Maisie and Billy are coping with concerns about Billy’s wife Doreen who is suffering from a deep depression. Her admittance to a less than stellar mental hospital and treatment with what we now consider horrific methods has Maisie and Billy torn between their criminal investigation and doing whatever they can to get Doreen the help she needs.

The story highlights the horrors of the mental hospitals of the time and the plight of the World War I veterans struggling with what we now know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder combined with the effects of the chemical weapons used during the war.

My Thoughts:
Every Maisie Dobbs book is a little different than the others. I like that they don’t become quite formulaic. In this one Maisie’s work with Scotland Yard makes it a little more of a police procedural than some of the earlier books in the series. There are also some of the usual elements I’ve come to expect in the books in this series. Maisie’s concern for her assistant Billy and his family continues and her efforts to help Doreen are a great part of the story. The way this was used to portray the things that both war veterans and civilians who needed mental health services had to deal with and just how little was available to them.

Maisie’s friend Priscilla is again a side story and always an enjoyable presence despite her own struggles and issues that stem from her experiences during the war made for a very interesting story.

The best part of this series for me is that it is so much more than the central mystery story. It’s a wonderful way to learn about London and its people during the time between the World Wars. While the aftermath of World War I and the economic troubles are very much part of all of the stories, there are also more and more hints and signs that trouble is brewing yet again in Europe.

I enjoy the gentleness of Maisie. As her relationship with Billy and becomes much deeper than employer/employee Maisie becomes more involved with Billy’s families and their lives. At the same time she tries to remain objective and she struggles with this balancing act. As a single woman with a career in a world where there are fewer single men due to the war, Maisie and women like her have to forge their own path and find plans for their lives that are quite different than they expected when they were growing up.

I highly recommend this series and also recommend reading it in order.


Rating 4/5

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