Kearsley, Susanna. The Shadowy Horses.

NY: Bantam, 1997.

I read a great deal, in nearly every genre and flavor of fiction, and I strongly disagree with the elitists who insist that certain entire categories of books simply aren’t worth their time. That’s pure snobbery, and it’s generally based on prejudice, not experience. Because a book is either well-written or it isn’t, and while there are plenty of books that I haven’t bothered to finish, and certain authors whose repeated lame attempts I have learned (usually) to avoid, the occasional losers are spread across the whole of literature. There are almost always books in any niche that are worth your time. And this one, a romance novel with a strong psychic flavor, is one of them.

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Gaiman, Neil & Charles Vess. Stardust: Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie.

NY: DC Comics, 1997.

Neil is the modern master of the fairy tale, and he writes all kinds, from comic to wistful to thoroughly noir. This one is of the traditional variety, though often with tongue firmly in cheek. Gaiman won a number of awards for this one, and deserved them. Vess won another bunch of awards for the art which greatly enhances nearly every page. He reminds me a little of Arthur Rackham and a lot of Alicia Austin, and that’s praise.

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Ashford, Lindsay Jayne. The Woman on the Orient Express.

Seattle: Lake Union Publishing, 2016.

It’s a historical fact that in the fall of 1928, still recovering mentally from a very painful divorce and not wanting to be trapped by the press in England when her ex-husband married his mistress, Agatha Christie, already famous as the author of ten mystery novels (and also for her public bout of “amnesia”), anonymously crossed the Channel and boarded the Orient Express, headed for Baghdad.

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Waters, Sarah. Tipping the Velvet.

NY: Penguin, 1998.

This was apparently Waters’s first novel and it sort of sets the pace for the five books (so far) that have followed. It’s 1888 and eighteen-year-old Nancy Astley spends her days help her family run its oyster business in Whitstable, down in Kent. Though it’s only an hour or so away by train, none of them have ever visited London, but Nance frequents the Palace music hall in nearby Canterbury and knows all the tunes and the comic turns from the big city.

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George, Elizabeth. For the Sake of Elena.

NY: Bantam, 1992.

With the death of P. D. James, George has become the primary writer in English of the “literary mystery.” This fifth book in the lengthy series featuring Detective Inspective Thomas Lynley (who is not only a card-carrying English gentleman but also the Earl of Asherton) and his sidekick, the often belligerently working-class Sergeant Barbara Havers, takes the team to Cambridge University where a young woman, the daughter of a top-level academic. was beaten to death while out jogging one very early, very cold, very foggy November morning.

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Bunch, Chris. The Last Battle.

London: Orbit, 2004.

This concluding volume of the “Dragonmaster” trilogy is rather different from the first two, and I don’t think it’s quite as successful. The great war between the nation of Deraine and its junior ally, Sagene, on one side and the loathsome enemy of Roche on the other, a widespread and exhausting conflict that filled the previous two books, is over now, and Hal Kailas, the Dragonmaster of Deraine, is at loose ends.

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Fellowes, Julian. Belgravia.

NY: Grand Central Publishing, 2016.

The famous ball hosted by the Duchess of Richmond in Brussels in June 1815, while Napoleon’s resurgent armies moved in on the city, is one of the great cultural icons in modern British history. Many of the officers in attendance would be fighting for their lives against the French the next day at Quatre Bras, and then Waterloo, and for those who survived, soldiers and civilians alike, the ball was a defining moment in their lives.

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Bunch, Chris. Knighthood of the Dragon.

London: Orbit Books, 2003

This is the middle volume of the “Dragonmaster” trilogy and the pace of the action, which opens only a few weeks after the climax of the first volume, never lets up for a minute. Hal Kailas, now Lord Kailas of Kalabas, Hero of Deraine, Defender of the Throne, is in charge of what constitutes Deraine’s air force in its long war with neighboring Roche.

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Published in: on 9 November 2016 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Appel, Allen. Till the End of Time.

NY: Doubleday, 1990.

The third book of this excellent time-travel trilogy — which turned out not be the last in what became a series, though it certainly felt like it at the time — puts Alex Balfour in the thick of World War II in the Pacific, beginning with Pearl Harbor and ending with ground zero at Hiroshima.

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Battles, Bret. Destroyer.

Seattle: 47North, 2016.

This sequel to Rewinder picks up a few months after Denny Younger, “personal historian” and time traveler from an alternate version of our world, made an inadvertent minor change in his own world’s history that had vast repercussive consequences for the future.

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