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December 2nd, 2012

31 of 52

Christine Falls (Quirke #1)Christine Falls by Benjamin Black

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a bleak, bleak book. That said, I really enjoyed it.

I've read a number of books lately all set between 1920 and 1960--it's apparently a trend right now, and I must say I'm reveling in it. The protagonist is a flawed, broken detective (aren't they all), and the supporting characters are everything from megalomaniacal to ingenue. Each, with the possible exception of one of the villains, feels real and possible.

Set in an Ireland that has more of Dubliners and Angela's Ashes than An Irish Country Doctor or Born in Fire, this isn't a book for someone looking for sunshine, brogues, and a happy cuppa tay. It's grey, and grim, and sad. But the author has created people I'm glad to have met, and who I'll seek out again.

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32 of 52

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first saw the book come out in hardcover I read the jacket and put it down. Vampires. Again. I grew out of vampires decades ago, working my way through the classics, then getting scared to death by King's Salem's Lot, then falling a little in love with Lestat, and then falling out of love with him. Then I met the vampires of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, but that was my last flirtation with blood sport in literature. The only thing I know about vampires that sparkle in sunlight is what my friends tell me.

Then my friend Kathy, whose standards are high, and whose taste is excellent, recommended this book. I used my Nook's free sample feature, and that was that--I was hooked. I devoured this book. That part of it is set only a mile from where I grew up was just an amusing detail; seriously--how many books are set in little, rural Madison, NY?

The characters are round and fascinating, the world the author has created is just enough different from our own to be interesting, and the "mystery" is actually compelling. If I have a complaint it is that the last chapter seems to be leading toward a Galbadon-esque turn, which I really have reservations about. But friends who've read on encourage me to stick with the series. I found the rest of the book such a delightful surprise, that I will take their advice.

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33 of 52

Sovereign (Matthew Shardlake, #3)Sovereign by C.J. Sansom

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoy the Matthew Shardlake series, in part, perhaps because as the series has progressed Shardlake's dissolving respect for the Tudors mirrors my own passage from starry-eyed attachment to that dynasty to sheer, unadulterated disgust. I'm a proud Welsh-American in many respects, but I constantly feel it necessary to apologize for the Tudors, whose Welsh ties besmirch a noble people.

This book, in particular, is hard on the dynasty, and the portrayals of the members of the English nobility, and the royal family, are scathing. Set during the time Henry shared the throne with young Catherine Howard, the action takes place primarily in York, during the great pilgrimage when Henry was attempting to re-establish a proper relationship with the north. Sansom continues to have a deft hand presenting some of the hard realities of Tudor England, both in the physical realities of day to day life, but also in the tangled loyalties and priorities of people still bitterly torn by sectarian conflicts. It is that, more than any other aspect, that attracts me to the book. The people struggle to find a way through a moral and ethical minefield, with varying degrees of success in the moment, and in general. They make mistakes, innocent people get hurt, the venal and vicious sometimes win, but people keep trying, keep striving, to do more right than wrong.

I don't want to live in Shardlake's world, but I'm happy to visit it from time to time.

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35 of 52

The Goldsmith's Daughter (Roger the Chapman, #10)The Goldsmith's Daughter by Kate Sedley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's been a long time since I've read any of the Roger the Chapman books, and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy them. I need to go back and find the ones I haven't read (5-6 by my count), and there are more after this.

I like middle-class Roger's take on the world of late 15th century England, and I like how Sedley spools out her mysteries. She doesn't have the complex world of Sharan Newman or Candace Robb, let alone C.J. Sansom--in fact her books are far more like those of Ellis Peters or Margaret Frazer. But sometimes I don't want something so complex, and Sedley's careful enough with historical details to keep me happy, with characters I feel engaging.

But, I must confess, part of the attraction is her sympathetic portrayal of Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Yes, I'm one of those.

So, Roger, I apologize for my long absence. I'll try not to be gone so long next time.

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