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Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

Roman Games-Bruce MacBain

In Book Reviews, historical fiction, mystery on November 22, 2010 at 12:18 am

Detective Thriller In The Reign Of Domitian

One of the emperor’s main snitches is dead–murdered–and Domitian wants to know who to kill for the crime.  While he may choose many men of the Senate who had served with Verpa to investigate the crime, he chooses Pliny The Younger to conduct the investigation, despite the fact that he’s not a trained crime investigator but a vice prefect.  Pliny is a man who has spent his adult life dealing with the law, but he’s more of a probate lawyer than any policeman.  But he’s got a lot of people to suspect: Verpa was disliked by many, including his concubine, fellow senators, his slaves, and even his son, who like all Roman males from good families stood to inherit a fortune when his father died.

Roman Games, by Bruce MacBain, is an interesting story about life in Roman times.  His descriptions make the reader feel like they can imagine being in Rome during the rule of Domitian.  In addition, the story is full of well-written characters.  Pliny transforms from a bookish man of the law to a man bent on finding the murderer and exposing the reasons for the crime.  What he finds in his investigation is not only the motives for Verpa’s murder but a conspiracy that stretches all the way to Domitian himself and involves senators, those closest to the emperor, and even the Vestal Virgins. Rome will forever change because of it.

MacBain weaves a tale that stretches from the lowly slaves who tend to every Roman need through the Senate to the seat of power in the Roman empire itself.  A murder mystery/detective thriller at its heart, Roman Games has the added layer of life in Rome, which makes it unique and quite interesting.
-Alexandria

Roman Games was provided for review by the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, through NetGalley.


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The Gargoyle-Andrew Davidson

In fiction on November 15, 2010 at 12:10 am

A Haunting Story

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson is a touching love story of a man horribly burned in a car accident and a woman who comes to him in the hospital claiming they were lovers in medieval Germany when she nursed him back to health the first time he was burned.  Full of flashbacks and painful descriptions of a life considered lost but then found anew, Davidson’s story is one that stays with you long after you finish it. 

The narrator, a nameless man who is the center of the story, is a lost soul before the accident.  Born to a mother who died in childbirth and an absentee father, he bounces from relative to relative, through meth users and extended family members who don’t want him around.  By the time he enters adulthood, he’s good at two things:  sex and doing drugs.  He has to choose one to make a living at, so he becomes a porn star.  By the time of the accident, the narrator is in his early thirties and a coked up mess.

The accident changes his life, and for many months after he comes out of the coma from his massive third-degree burns, he thinks of little else but ending it all.  The life he’d been forced to leave behind, one of health and excess, is gone to him forever.  He has nothing to live for.  But a woman named Marianne Engel visits him one day and begins to tell him the stories that will make him fall in love with her.  A sculptor, Marianne tells him that she has lived since the middle ages and knew him then, the first time she nursed him back to health from burns.  Marianne’s constant caring of him continues when he is released from the hospital and into her care.  It’s then that he realizes that she is mentally unstable, but he doesn’t care.  Her stories of their love in ages past give him what he’s never had before:  a real relationship and the only real love he’s ever experienced in his life.

The Gargoyle is at times a painful story to read.  The descriptions of the care that burn victims must endure are difficult to get through, and they are plentiful in this story.  The details of what his body experienced in the crash and afterward during his recovery are at times simply too much.  But the reader is rewarded with a love story that is tender and memorable, and even heartbreaking at times.

This story may not be for everybody, but I can promise you that if you read The Gargoyle, it will touch you and stay with you.

The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe From Each Year 1941-2009

In Book Reviews, Cookbooks on November 8, 2010 at 12:11 am

A Walk Through Part Of American Culinary History

The Gourmet Cookie Book is a collection of cookie recipes from each year between 1941 and 2009.  As a cookbook, it stands out simply due to its sheer number of recipes.  But this cookbook has an interesting twist to it:  in some ways, it’s also a history book that examines the tastes of Americans in the past 68 years.  The editors combine recipes with information about the time each one was published to create a cookbook that educates about American culinary history as much as it shares great recipes and teaches how to bake.

Particularly interesting are the recipes themselves, not only because the cookies sound delicious, but also because the editors printed the recipes as they were printed in Gourmet Magazine.  The reader quickly realizes that it was commonplace  in the early years this book covers to know what temperature to bake cookies at and how much of important ingredients, for example flour, are needed to make cookies.  The recipes are startlingly vague on these details compared to recipes of today, which spell out each and every ingredient and step in minute detail.  To enable people who don’t have the baking acumen, the editors have included the specifics we modern cookie makers have come to depend on for those recipes.

The reader learns about each decade through the recipes.  The 40s were a time of war and rationing was common, so the recipes reflect that with ingredients like sugar being replaced with honey.  The postwar years of that decade saw a return to the use of sugar now that rationing had ceased.  The recipes from the 50s reflect the feeling in America that prosperity was here to stay.  Recipes for cookies like Palets de Dames containing rum soaked currants and Lace cookies show that Americans tastes had moved past the more rigid days of the decade before.  The 60s recipes show how technology and consumerism were beginning to take hold, even in the realm of cookie recipes.  Ownership of refrigerators and freezers was commonplace by this decade, and the recipes reflect this, with frozen ingredients now becoming more popular.  In addition, the recipes Gourmet offered in this decade were more international, a reflection of Americans’ more global interest.  The 70s are marked by the introduction of the food processor, that device that makes so many baking tasks require merely a push of the finger.  The international flavor of the recipes of this decade continues from the 60s, with recipes for cookies from Portugal, Greece, the Netherlands, and Ireland figuring prominently. The 80s recipes show the decadence that the country was embracing, with cookies such as Bourbon Balls (with real bourbon), rich Pecan Tassies, and Mocha Toffee Bars featured.  The 90s saw more richness and an interest in Italian food, and this is shown in the recipes for biscotti, which became very popular in this decade.  By the turn of the millennium, cookie recipes had become elaborate and detailed.  A comparison to the early years featured shows the recipes of this decade are at least two times as long and detailed, sometimes even three to four times as long.  The classics are still around, and what is old is new again.

The Gourmet Cookie Book is a wonderful cookbook.  I bake cookies each year to give to friends, and I can say that the recipes in this cookbook would be perfect for holiday gifts.  In addition, as an historical look at the eating habits of Americans over the years, the book succeeds as well.
-Alexandria

The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe From Each Year 1941-2009 was provided for review by the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, through NetGalley.

We’ve Moved!

In Uncategorized on November 3, 2010 at 10:49 am

The Brazen Broads Book Bash has moved to a new home.  While we loved our home here on WordPress, our new home at Blogger has some extra features we really like.  We hope you’ll come visit us there as we begin a new chapter in our book review blog (you didn’t think we could leave without a bad pun, did you?).

Brazen Broads Book Bash new home:  http://brazenbroadsbookbash.blogspot.com/

Alexandria and Moira
Brazen Broads Book Bash

The Ruthless Charmer, Julia London

In author information, Book Reviews, fiction, romance novels, romantic heroes, Uncategorized on November 3, 2010 at 1:33 am

The Bad Reputation Of An English Rake ……..Is So Very Good…

Lady Claudia Whitney is disturbed at the re-appearance of Julian Dane, Earl of Kettering and notorious rake, during her visit to France.  Harboring hidden love Claudia flees, returning to England, unable and unwillilg to trust herself in his presence.  Julian is the unrepentant rake Claudia imagines, with one curious problem of his own.  He has loved Lady Whitney for the last few years.  The memory of tragic events their shared history evokes, and each one’s belief that their love is unrequitted threatens to keep them separated until the fateful party at Harrison Green’s London home.  Julian pushes further than he should with a proper lady of Claudia’s social standing when he realizes her desire matches his own; and when gossip-monger Mrs. Frankton happens upon them in a questionable position, Claudia’s reputation is bound for ruination.  Julian proposes the only acceptable alternative, marriage, and at her father’s insistance, Claudia has no choice but to marry the man she is certain will break her heart.

Julia London nicely brought the couple together in The Ruthless Charmer, however, once together the pair make one bad relationship choice after another.  Honestly, London’s male character has the more level head of the two, and for being a rake, he is quite responsible in his business dealings.  Overall, Julian Dane’s character is ably put together, London writing just enough torment into his soul and swagger in his step to make him tempting.  London also described some very passionate scenes between the newlywed couple worth reading.  Her heroine, Claudia, brings to light the plight of many womens’ sufferings in the early 1800’s through her extensive charity work, which was perhaps the most redeeming quality of Lady Claudia’s character.  Regency romances abound in drama, and The Ruthless Charmer, is no exception.  Readers should be prepared, for London’s drama in this novel is …..ruthless.

Recommendation:  * * * _ _   The Ruthless Charmer offers a smooth English rake for readers seeking that particular poison, but is otherwise an average period romance.

~Moira