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Ms Winston (East Coast U.S.A.)

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Three Women At The Water's Edge
Three Women At The Water's Edge
by Nancy Thayer
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
22 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Nancy Thayer is a Very Talented & Vastly Underrated Author, July 13 2004
I discovered Nancy Thayer when her novels were being condensed for "Redbook Magazine," when that publication was still featuring outstanding fiction for women in every issue. I was immediately struck by her narrative voice, and the way she dealt with issues that face many women over the course of a lifetime: love, sex, marriage, children, divorce, and death.
"Three Women at the Water's Edge" can almost be seen as an work based on the archetypal stages of women: mother, maiden, and crone, but with a twist. Margaret, the mother, has been given a second change at life -- she divorced her plodding, old-fashioned, and frankly dull husband, physically transformed herself from "Mrs. Santa Claus" to a glamorous middle-aged woman, and moved to Vancouver from the states. In the process Margaret bewilders her oldest daughter, Daisy, and eventually charms her youngest daughter, Dale, who was always "daddy's girl."
Daisy is dumpted by her materialist YUPPY husband (the book was written in 1980) when she is pregnant with their second child. Daisy is a woman who took to marriage and motherhood like the proverbial duck to water..like many of Thayer's heroines, she passionately loves her children, probably more than she loves her husband, but his betrayal of her is shattering. Overweight when she got pregnant with her latest child, she buys into her husband's assessment that she is now dull and unattractive. The youngest daughter, Dale, is a teacher who goes to teach in a faraway town & falls in love with a local man. The divorces in her immediate family keep her unable to commit to a man who is truly her soul mate.
Thayer skillfully relates the stories of the three women, and how each works out her own destiny by accepting that a new life is possible and then acting upon it. Dale's story is perhaps the most predictable, and Margaret's the least so, with Daisy's somewhere in between. None of the characters are cliches, not even Daisy's rather miserable husband.
I wish that Ms Thayer had continued to write books in this same vein. "Stepping," "Morning," "Bodies and Souls," and "Nell" are all books in the tradition of "Three Women at the Water's Edge." Her later works have not IMO been quite as satisfactory, as they lack the narrative power & depth of the earlier books. Ms Thayer has long deserved to be more than a mid-list author --and it is possible that her later works have been an attempt to make her more mainstream. I for one hope she returns to her roots!

More than a Mistress
More than a Mistress
by Mary Balogh
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.99
64 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars "More Than a Mistress" is More than Satisfactory!, July 8 2004
"More Than a Mistress" is IMO a cut above the usual in the historical romance genre. Mary Balogh has been writing Georgian, Regency and Victorian romance novels for several years, yet always manages to come up with something fresh in her latest offerings. The book opens with a duel that is interrupted by our heroine, "Jane" Ingleby, who is on the lam in London, hiding from the father of the man she believes she has killed while defending her honor. Her shout of horror as she sees the two duelers ready to fire at each other in the public park causes our hero, Jocelyn Dudley, to suffer a severe wound to one leg. "Jane" moves into Jocelyn's house to nurse him, as she has lost her situation due to being late to work...all because of that duel!
The major strength of this book is the unveiling of the secrets of the heart: Jocelyn has had a very unhappy and unstable childhood and young adulthood even though he is a Duke. His artistic talents were a source of irritation to his father, who belittled him constantly, and his mother was distant and cold. After making "Jane" his mistress, he confides in her his deepest secrets and longings. But she, who won't even tell him her real name out of fear of being exposed as a murderess, keeps her secrets locked in her heart. Jocelyn's reaction when he discovers the "truth" is heart wrenching.
While the mystery is slight (most readers will have figured it out half way through the book) this character-driven novel will hold your attention from beginning to end. "Jane" may seem a little too modern to some readers because she is so well-educated -- but as a beloved only child of intelligent, titled parents she was obviously indulged and encouraged to stretch her intellect. Jocelyn can easily be seen as a romantic hero inspired by Byron and Shelley. All in all, a satisfying read!

Where Death and Glory Meet: Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry
Where Death and Glory Meet: Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry
by Russell Duncan
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.43
25 used & new from CDN$ 6.90

4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Portrait of "New England's Perfect Son", June 11 2004
Although Robert Gould Shaw was only 25 years old when he died, leading the 54th Massachusetts Infantry in a futile assault on Fort Wagner, he has become an object of interest in the past dozen years, especially since the release of the movie "Glory," which gave a somewhat fictionalized account of the 54th. This book by Russell Duncan is a good introduction to the life of Shaw, and gives an extensive bibliography for those who want to engage in further reading and research.
In this book (which is an expanded version of the introduction to Shaw's collected letters that Duncan edited and published in the book "Blue Eyed Child of Fortune") Duncan gives a view of a life that one can truly say was tragically cut short by war. Robert Gould Shaw spent much of his short life trying to find his way and place in the world, something that many of us can identify with immediately. He had difficulty in accepting authority; he could not decide upon a career; he was the only son of well-known abolitionist parents, yet he had grave reservations about the abilities of black people. A "rebel" by nature, he could be rigid and unbending with others. He was dominated by his mother, only truly breaking away from her by marrying a lovely young woman against his mother's wishes. Married to a woman he apparently adored, he also engaged in a flirtation with a schoolmistress in South Carolina after accepting the command of the 54th. Shaw had found his calling in the military: he was brave, and able to inspire confidence within his men, yet he promised his future wife that he would not persue the military as a career once the war was over.
This book is a good introducation to the brief life of Robert Gould Shaw. It contains some photographs of the Shaw family and Annie Haggarety, Shaw's wife. It also dispells some of the myths about the 54th that were present in the movie "Glory," chief among them the myth that the 54th was made up primarily of unlettered escaped slaves. From reading Duncan's book it appears many were literate freedmen of long standing. Also, the sergeant-major of the 54th was the son of Frederick Douglass, not the middle aged recruit as played by Morgan Freedman in the movie. I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the life of Robert Gould Shaw, or the history of the 54th, as a jumping off point for further reading.

Anonymous Rex
Anonymous Rex
by Eric Garcia
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
20 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Phillip Marlow as a Dino...Very Funny and Engaging Mystery, June 11 2004
What can you say about a book that has a dinosaur for a hero/narrator? And the dinosaur lives in present day Los Angeles, disguised as a human, trying to earn his living as a private detective? And, further more, he is part of a whole dinosaur sub-culture that exists side-by-side with the unknowing human culture? Well, I call it very, very clever and funny!
Our hero is dinosaur Vincent Rubio (VelociRaptor,get it?) a private eye whose partner has died (shades of Miles Archer), and whose business is headed straight for the toilet with various bill collectors knocking at the door. The insurance company Vincent works for from time to time gives him an arson case to investigate that, naturally, ends up being tied to the mysterious death of his partner. The story moves from Los Angeles to New York City to back again, all the while giving the reader typical detective story action, and untypical insight into Garcia's alternative world where the dinosaurs did not die out millions of years before the appearance of man on the scene. The reptiles have their own culture and society, have made their own accomodation to the present by going about in elaborate disguises (some of the funniest moments of the book occur when Vincent's current disguise goes haywire and threatens to expose him in more ways than one!), and keep strictly apart from the dominate human culture, which they view with contempt.
The book is written in a style that will remind you in a vague way of the noir mysteries of the 1940s and 50s. Vincent Rubio is an appealing character: I finished this book wanting to read the sequel, and was delighted to find out that a new hardcover ("Hot and Sweaty Rex: A Dinosaur Mafia Mystery") had just been released. My only real criticism of the book is that there is not enough "background material" on how the dinosaurs "survived" and evolved into creatures that could develop technology. Not all readers need a backstory; those who do will be spending some of their time filling in the blanks from the information that Garcia gives us in bits and pieces. If you are willing to suspend your disbelief, the dinosaur mystery books will be a real treat for you.

Islands
Islands
by Anne Rivers Siddons
Edition: Hardcover
42 used & new from CDN$ 0.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Not up to Siddons Previous Works but Readable, June 10 2004
This review is from: Islands (Hardcover)
I was disappointed in Ms Siddon's latest offering, "Islands." As a fan of long standing, I always am happy to hear when she has a new book about to be published. Unfortunately, "Islands" was not up to the standards set by such outstanding earlier works as "Colony," "Hill Towns," "Downtown," and "Outerbanks."
In this book, Ms Siddons' narrator is just plain boring:it is easy to understand why Anny Butler has spent most of her adult life devoting herself to her work, as the woman is as dull as dirt! Given that, it is less than understandable why a man-about-town takes an instant shine to her and immediately begins courting her. This improbable romance takes on the characteristics of a wish-fullfillment for potential readers, most of whom will be female of a certain age (being that age myself, I have to state that I dislike being manipulated in that fashion by an author, although maybe I am being too unkind to Ms Siddons).
Unlike many of Ms Siddons previous works, there was nothing gripping about the plot of the story, and none of the characters stood up and grabbed the reader. Ms Siddons has explored the nature of sexual and personal obsession before, and done a much better job of it. My biggest gripe is reserved for the secondary character of Gaynelle: the reader is supposed to believe that Gaynelle has an advanced degree in library science, but can only support herself and her obnoxious child by cleaning houses. In addition, most of her spare money goes to entrance fees and tacky costumes so her 7 year old girl can enter beauty pagents. It just doesn't wash! My advice on this book is to save your money for the paperback edition.

Katherine
Katherine
by Anya Seton
Edition: Paperback
53 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars "Katherine" Set the Standard for Many Readers, June 10 2004
This review is from: Katherine (Paperback)
If you talk to someone who enjoys historical fiction, it is more than likely that they have read at least one book by Anya Seton. It seems to be a tossup as to whether "Katherine" or "Green Darkness" is mentioned as their favorite of her works. It is difficult to believe that "Katherine" is the only one of her works currently in print. This wonderful new edition, reissed by Chicago Review Press in 2004, is hopefully part of an effort to reissue some of the author's other works.
What sets "Katherine" above other historical novels and especially above historical romances? Like the best historical novels, "Katherine" is specific to its time period, in this case 14th century England. It is the story of real people, John of Gaunt and his mistress, and, later, third wife Katherine Swynford. The charcters are congruent with their time period: Katherine is not a 20th-century politically correct feminist decked out in a 14th century gown. While we will never know if she experienced the thoughts and emotions ascribed to her by Ms Seton, they were correct for the time period and give the novel that feeling of reality.
John and Katherine's story has been outlined in other reviews on this page, so I do not feel it is necessary to rehash the plot. However, one of Ms Seton's gifts as a writer is her ability to create believable characters, and this work has them in abundance: Katherine's sister Philippa, married to Geoffrey Chaucer, is a busybody who is human enough to feel pangs of envy when she looks at her beautiful sister; Chaucer and John of Gaunt both find Katherine's earthy beauty disturbing when they compare her to John's remote and lovely first wife, Blanche, whom Chaucer worships from afar; and the most tragic figure of the story, Hugh Swynford, Katherine's first husband, who loves her from the first time he sees her, and who can barely gain her attention, even after they are married. Katherine's eventual guilt over Hugh's death, & her treatment of him when he was alive, is heart wrenching.
When you open this book you leave the 21st century and its problems behind, and enter the world of 14th century: it is a world full of superstition,"magic," sudden death by the Black Plague, and constant danger. It will literally come alive for you, and you may have a hard time coming back to the reality of an equally dangerous modern world. It is worth the trip!

Knight And The Rose
Knight And The Rose
by Isolde Martyn
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars If You Can't Get Enough Bickering in Real Life..Read This!, June 7 2004
Isolde Martyn's "The Knight and the Rose" had much going for it until she apparently decided that a disagreeable heroine would hit the literary spot. If you are a reader who enjoys endless bickering and conflict based primarily on misunderstandings between the hero and heroine, this is your book; however, I was annoyed about a third of the way though and serious considered not finishing the novel. Because the premise was so interesting to me I decided to complete the book: the story is based upon a real court case of the Middle Ages involving a man who posed as the handfast husband of an abused wife in order to save her from further physcial harm at the hands of her true husband.
Martyn has a good grasp of the time period (England in the year 1322, a very few years before Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabel deposed Edward II) and the culture. She has created a very appealing hero in Geraint, and some memorable secondary characters as well. Unfortunately, Johanna FitzHenry is one of those heroines who is characterized by many romance readers as TSTL (too stupid to live): her judgement is terrible, her logic is flawed, and even when she knows she is wrong she persists in her contrary ways. I found her grating in the extreme.
Ms Martyn is a talented author, who obviously put much time and thought into her research and the writing of this novel. It is a shame that she gave us a conventional romance novel heroine of the feisty-for-its-own-sake school: if someone is trying to save you from a fate worse than death, at the very least common sense dictates that you support them, not thwart them at every turn. I hope that this type of hero/heroine relationship is not characteristic of all of Ms Martyn's novels.

Abraham and Mary Lincoln - A House Divided [3 Discs] (Full Screen)
Abraham and Mary Lincoln - A House Divided [3 Discs] (Full Screen)
DVD ~ David Morse
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 86.46
7 used & new from CDN$ 27.77

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Documentary on the Lincolns, June 5 2004
This documentary on the life of Abraham Lincoln is an excellent exploration of the character and inner life of our 16th president. At the same time it provides the viewer with much valuable information about the character of his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, their marriage, the tragic deaths of two of their children, and how Lincoln continued to love his wife until his death, even though she was in many ways a liability for him. While the Lincolns as individuals are the focus of the series, the viewer is not shortchanged in regard to the presidency or the Civil War. Lincoln's growth during his four years in office is examined critically and fairly by various historians.
The story of the Lincolns was originally shown on PBS's program "American Experience," and follows the format that has made that series so respected by viewers. Photographs, drawings, paintings, maps, and other artifacts contemporary to the times alternate with new film footage that enhances the story line. Well known performers do the voiceovers -- in this case David Morse is Lincoln, and Holly Hunter is the voice of Mary Todd Lincoln. There are no stagey recreations of events with unknown performers taking the parts of historical characters, which one often sees in series made for The History Channel or Arts and Entertainment Network. The three volume set runs about six hours and contains bonus materials that appear on each individual disc. The quality of the picture and sound is outstanding. The music is excellent and of the time period, and is never distacting.
While people of all ages and backgrounds in American history could enjoy this series, I especially recommend it to families with high school or college age students, along with Ken Burns "The Civil War" and the PBS video biography of General Grant. This would also make an excellent gift for Father's Day or for a Civil War buff's birthday.

Lake in the Clouds
Lake in the Clouds
by Sara Donati
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
74 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit of a Let Down, but Still Entertaining, June 1 2004
Of the three books so far in the series, this is my least favorite, and I am sure it is because the focus has shifted from Elizabeth and Nathaniel Bonner to Hannah, Nathaniel's daughter by his first wife, who was an Indian. Hannah is just entirely too noble for this reader to relate to comfortably, and, indeed, I found that the Bonners & many of their neighbors are starting to become a little too politically correct for their time period. In the first book of the series I felt that because Elizabeth was a follower of Mary Wolstonecraft Shelley her feminist point of view was understandable, and her character is still consistent with those principles. The fact that most of the other "good guys" feel the same way is perhaps stretching the truth of the time period a little thin, although Donati does give a more balanced portrait of a conflicted character in bounty-hunter Liam Kirby.
Hannah's determination to become a doctor couldn't have arrived at a worse time, as even female midwives were being forced out of practice in the more populated areas because the use of obstetrical forceps were reserved for men. However, in this book Hannah being part Indian is more of a barrier to becomming being a doctor than being a women, which is just not realistic. The fact that she is half Indian and cannot decide for much of the book which side of her heritage has the bigger claim is the main plot driver. That also brings in one of the more appealing characters in the book, the Indian Strikes the Sky. The most interested parts of the book in my opinion are the ones that take place in New York City, and involve the Almshouse, manumission of slaves, and the Tammany Society. In other words, the closer Donati stayed to history the better the book.
Still and all, this book is a cut above the run of the mill historical romance -- although Bantam has not, rightly in my opinion, classifed it as a romance novel, but rather as a straight historical. It is full of rich detail, and has an earthy quality that is missing in so many books that deal with this period, when it is dealt with at all. For those who are looking for an enjoyable novel set in post-Revolutionary War America this is a good choice.

Dawn on a Distant Shore
Dawn on a Distant Shore
by Sara Donati
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
82 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A Cut Above the Ordinary, June 1 2004
Sequels often are big let-downs, but fortunately that is not the case with "Dawn on a Distant Shore," the second book in a projected five part series that started with "Into the Wilderness."
Elizabeth and Nathaniel Bonner are still the focus of the story, which moves along at a fairly brisk clip, although it does falter toward the end when the action moves from Canada to Scotland. Elizabeth still exhibits the same moral and physical courage as she did in the first book of the series. When her husband Nathaniel follows his father Daniel to Montreal, the younger man is also arrested and is likely to be hanged as a spy. Elizabeth, having given birth to twins, takes her babies to Canada in the dead of winter to try to save him. As in the previous book, no one is ever quite who or what they seem, and the Bonners encounter many shady characters in trying to determine Daniel Bonner's heritage....the secret of which lies in Scotland.
Sara Donati is a gifted storyteller. She has a good ear for natural sounding dialogue, her plotting is refreshingly original, and her characters are appealing -- even the "bad guys" have shades of gray in their character. My main criticism of this book had to do with the slowing of the action once the story moved to Scotland, and the fact that Nathaniel's daughter (Hannah or Squirrel) from his first marriage has started to take center stage. For some reason authors seem to feel compelled to make children in historical novels into little adults, and Hannah is no exception to that "rule." Her emotions are simply too adult-like to be appealing to this reader. However, I still highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for something a little different in an historical family saga. The fourth book in the series will be out in hardcover this fall.

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