Review: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Review: Ancillary Mercy by Ann LeckieAncillary Mercy (Imperial Radch, #3) by Ann Leckie
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook, large print, audiobook
Genres: science fiction, space opera
Series: Imperial Radch #3
Pages: 336
Published by Orbit on October 6th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

The stunning conclusion to the trilogy that began with the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke award-winning Ancillary Justice.
For a moment, things seem to be under control for the soldier known as Breq. Then a search of Atheok Station's slums turns up someone who shouldn't exist - someone who might be an ancillary from a ship that's been hiding beyond the empire's reach for three thousand years. Meanwhile, a messenger from the alien and mysterious Presger empire arrives, as does Breq's enemy, the divided and quite possibly insane Anaander Mianaai - ruler of an empire at war with itself.
Anaander is heavily armed and extremely unhappy with Breq. She could take her ship and crew and flee, but that would leave everyone at Athoek in terrible danger. Breq has a desperate plan. The odds aren't good, but that's never stopped her before.

ancillary justice by ann leckieI absolutely adored both Ancillary Justice (review) and Ancillary Sword (review) so I preordered Ancillary Mercy and was so happy to see it pop up on my iPad Tuesday morning that I started reading it immediately.

Now that I’ve finished, I have comments. And questions. And yet again, an absolutely terrible book hangover. Neither Breq’s story nor the story of the Imperial Radch feel anywhere near done, but I want more.

On that other hand, while it feels like there is still more story to tell, I’m not exactly sure where it goes next. Or, for that matter, what type of ship the next one will be named for. Unless it’s Ancillary Gem? Or perhaps the author will take the story of this universe in a different direction altogether. As long as there are more, I’m happy.

Ancillary Mercy continues directly on from Ancillary Sword. And this is definitely a series where it is practically required that the reader have read the previous entries. While there is enough information about prior events to refresh the memory of a reader who read the last book last year, there doesn’t feel like enough to fill in the necessary background for someone who comes into Ancillary Mercy cold.

There are lots of players, and you really need a scorecard – especially since some of the clues that one usually uses to differentiate characters are missing.

The conceit in this series is that Breq simply doesn’t care about gender pronouns. Whether that is because she used to be a ship, and ships don’t have gender, or because the noun her language uses for people is “Citizen”, which also has no gender, or that the universe’s culture has finally moved beyond gender, the reader doesn’t know. But when Breq is required to use a gendered pronoun, she always uses “she”. It could be that the universal default has become “she”, where for us the default is currently “he”. Whatever the reason, it makes things interesting. From Breq’s perspective, it does not matter whether the citizen she is addressing or thinking about is either male or female.

Occasionally it matters to us, but not really all that often. Whether a character is female or male does not affect whether or not they can do their jobs, or fulfill their part in this story. But there are a lot of characters in this story and losing a piece of what we normally use as identification sometimes makes it difficult to keep all of the secondary and tertiary characters straight.

We don’t actually know whether the ruler of the Radch, Anaander Mianaai, is male or female. Because that’s not the important thing about the Lord of the Radch. The real problem with Anaander Mianaai is that she has cloned and split herself into multiple bodies, each containing pieces of her consciousness. They have developed a serious split personality and are now at war with each other. But all of them are the Lord of the Radch, and citizens find themselves obeying different factions of the same person without being aware of it.

Meanwhile, this very, very uncivil war is doing exactly the opposite of what the Radch was supposed to do. The Imperial Radch was built to civilize and protect its citizens. While there can be some questions about how many people were killed or re-educated in order to bring about the civilization and protection, there is no question that the war between the facets of the Lord of the Radch is killing lots of citizens for no good reason except that Anaander Mianaai has quite possibly gone mad.

And Breq, and whoever she cares about or is protecting, is caught smack in the middle. She doesn’t really support any of the Lords, although she is more sympathetic to some aspects than others. And the most violent facet of Anaander Mianaai personally hates Breq and everything she stands for. And will do anything or destroy anyone in order to stop her.

ancillary sword by ann leckieEscape Rating A-: Ancillary Mercy is a very political space opera. Not just because of the mess in the Radch, but also because of Breq’s current base of operation. She has been assigned to Athoek Station since the beginning of Ancillary Sword, and has found herself, or inserted herself, into local politics.

Breq always wants to do what is fair and what is right. She still carries with her a lot of her programming from when she was part of the ship Justice of Toren. Her job was to protect and care for her crew, and she is still doing that. Admittedly the definitions of crew have expanded quite a bit. She cares and protects everyone, not just those who are wealthy or well-born or of the right race or bloodlines. Which generally pisses the rich, high-born and upper-caste races off in a big way.

She is generally impartial, but she doesn’t suffer fools or the self-important. And people are afraid of her because she is physically powerful, has an armed ship backing her up, and because she can’t be bought.

Which makes her a fine target for the facet of Anaander Mianaai that hates her when she comes to Athoek, and gives the upper crust a chance to believe the worst of her. Meanwhile, Breq is off convincing the giant AIs that run ships and stations that maybe, just maybe, they are worthy of being citizens in their own right and having self-determination. They don’t want Anaander Mianaai to turn them all back into relatively mindless slaves again, or destroy them.

And there’s a big monkey wrench in everyone’s plans. The alien Presger, who feel a lot like the Meddlers in Jean Johnson’s Theirs Not to Reason Why series, are trying to decide which, if any, of the races of the Radch are significant enough to maintain a non-aggression treaty with. And while the Translator (read Ambassador) Zeiat seems like a buffoon, he is actually more powerful than anyone imagines. Also way more quirky.

There are lots of chefs tinkering with the soup of the Radch, and not all of them have her citizens at heart. Or sometimes even a clue about what they are doing. Breq steps into that breach and pulls a big and surprising rabbit out of the helmet she seldom wears. And Breq, Athoek Station, the Radch and even the Presger will never be the same.

Books to Movies Giveaway Hop

books to movies giveaway hop

Welcome to the Books to Movies Giveaway Hop, hosted by Bookhounds and I Am a Reader.

The theme here is pretty obvious, books that have been turned into movies. As popular as the release of a movie makes its originating book, there is also a meme that says “Never Judge a Book by its Movie”, which has a whole lot of truth in it.


The movie has to leave a lot of stuff out that was in the book. Translating a 300 page book into a movie probably gets a 12 hour movie, if not longer. And they might not even be a great 12 hours.

Rumor has it (also a ton of reviews) that the movie of The Martian might be better than the book. There’s always one exception that proves the rule. But usually, the book loses something in the translation. Don’t get me started on the translation of The Hobbit, which was a fairly short book, into three much-padded movies. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have minded a bit if The Lord of the Rings had been 4, 5 or even 6 movies instead of three. There is an awful lot of there, there, and a lot of it had to be cut.

You probably have your own favorite book into movie. And you probably also have your own “they should NEVER have turned that book into a movie”. And possibly even your own worst adaptation of a book into a movie. Share what they are in the rafflecopter for your chance to win a $10 Gift Card or $10 Book, so you can get a copy of your next favorite. Before they rip half the pages out and turn it into a movie.

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For more bookish and movie-ish related prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on the hop: <!– end LinkyTools script –>

Review: Christmas in Mustang Creek by Linda Lael Miller + Giveaway

Review: Christmas in Mustang Creek by Linda Lael Miller + GiveawayChristmas in Mustang Creek (The Brides of Bliss County, #4) by Linda Lael Miller
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, large print, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, holiday romance, western romance
Series: Brides of Bliss County #4
Pages: 272
Published by HQN Books on September 29th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

No one does the holidays like Linda Lael Miller, whose Christmas novels have warmed the hearts of millions of readers the world over!
Charlotte Morgan grew up in Mustang Creek, Wyoming, and couldn't wait to escape to the big city. But life in New York isn't as fabulous as she'd like to admit—she's lonely, doing a job she doesn't love and dating too many frogs she meets online.
There was one potential prince, though—Jaxon Locke, a veterinarian with definite possibilities—but his move to Idaho to fill in at his dad's vet practice ended things just as they were getting interesting. What Charlotte doesn't know is that he misses her, more than he expected…
Meanwhile, Charlotte's great-aunt Geneva—the woman who raised her—needs to enter an assisted-living facility. So, just before Christmas, Charlotte moves back home. When Jax catches wind of her move back West, he's determined to get to Wyoming and do whatever it takes to win her back.
Christmas in Mustang Creek is a magical time in a magical place, not least because of a mysterious visitor named Mrs. Klozz. She knows that love is the greatest gift of all, and she's ready to help out Santa by giving these two a push in the right direction!

On the one hand, it’s barely October and I’m reviewing a Christmas book. I feel like there should be someone throwing a flag on this play – “Ten yard penalty for rushing the season”.

On the other hand, Christmas in Mustang Creek is a lovely story with a heaping helping of holiday magic, so if you can sit back and check your willing suspension of disbelief at the door, it’s a sweet little holiday treat. And it was cool enough this weekend to make reading a holiday book into a reminder that the season is just around the corner. Or maybe two corners.

Winter is coming, but this little story makes that seem like a good thing.

marriage pact by linda lael millerChristmas in Mustang Creek is a follow-up novella to Miller’s Brides of Bliss County series. While that series was lovely (start with The Marriage Pact (reviewed here) to find out how Charlotte’s friends found their happily ever afters) it is definitely not necessary to read Brides in order to enjoy Mustang Creek. There’s enough recap to place the other women in their context, but this Christmas belongs entirely to Charlotte, Jaxon, Charlotte’s great-aunt Geneva and especially Mrs. Millicent Klozz.

Charlotte comes back home to Mustang Creek after seven years as a marketing executive in New York City. She loved New York and her life there, but her great-aunt Geneva, the woman who raised her, has moved into an assisted-living complex after a few incidents with her memory. Geneva feels more comfortable in a place where she can’t forget that the stove is on, or forget whether she’s fed her beloved dog and cat 10 times or none that day. Not that Mutley didn’t enjoy the extra meals.

Charlotte feels the need to go home to take care of Geneva, the dog Mutley, the cat Can-can, and figure out what to do with Geneva’s marvelous Victorian house, which is gorgeous but in serious need of a new roof, and that’s just for starters. And since Charlotte has just been laid off, returning home will give her a chance to recoup and regroup, and figure out what she wants to do next.

She also has a hard time admitting that Mustang Creek, a place she couldn’t wait to get away from, is calling her heart back home.

Meanwhile, the only man that Charlotte was ever serious about in New York, veterinarian Jaxon Locke, is moving to Mustang Creek to join his college roommate’s veterinary practice. And Jaxon is definitely chasing Charlotte. When they met in New York, he was just there on a temporary assignment – he’s from Idaho and knew he would be returning to the Big Sky Country. At the time, Charlotte seemed determined to stay in New York, and Jaxon eventually returned home.

But now that Charlotte is coming home to Mustang Creek, Jaxon has decided that her hometown in Wyoming will fit his dreams just fine, as long as she’s there to share them with.

They all get a little help from the holiday magic of Aunt Geneva’s friend Mrs. Klozz, who seems to know everything before it happens and spreads more than a bit of holiday magic to make sure that everyone gets the present their heart desires this Christmas.

Escape Rating B+: I think that how people are going to feel about this story may depend a lot of what people think of Mrs. Klozz, her extremely successful “manipulation” of people and events (all to the greater good and the course of true love) and even who they think she really is.

I have my own opinion on that last, but it’s a spoiler. Maybe. If I’m right.

Back to the story – Mrs. Klozz aside, it’s easy to see where Charlotte is coming from. Possibly easier for us than Charlotte. Her parents were killed when she was very young, and she has some serious and understandable issues about being dependent on anyone else, which definitely affects her relationship with Jaxon.

Mustang Creek is a very small town, where everyone knows everybody else’s business the moment it happens, or possibly before. It’s easy to understand why Charlotte might want out, and might feel conflicted about coming back.

Also there are way more single men in New York City, but she keeps finding frogs. The only handsome prince she dated in NYC turns out to be Jaxon, a man from a small town in Idaho just like Mustang Creek. The difference is that Jaxon is upfront about wanting to go back home and settle down. He just wants to do that settling down with Charlotte, and she’s having none of it.

Charlotte has a lot of fears that just because Jaxon wants to return to his small town roots, he also wants Charlotte to be a “traditional” wife who stays home and takes care of lots of (their) children. While they have definitely had the painful discussion of where they each see themselves living, they never seem to have had the discussion about how they see themselves living. Which makes this a fabrication of Charlotte’s fears rather than a real problem.

Jaxon sees Charlotte as a woman who will always want a career, and that’s part of what he loves about her. But this is a question that never comes up. Also, Charlotte fears that she will need to find another big city job to pay for her aunt’s care, which she wants to do. While this turns out not to be necessary, again, this is a fear that she does not share with Jaxon. High-paying jobs for marketing managers are non-existent in Mustang Creek, but Mrs. Klozz’ idea to turn Aunt Geneva’s beautiful house into a much needed bed and breakfast is a challenge that will engage Charlotte, require the use of her brand marketing skills, help the town and make enough money for Charlotte to take care of the house, herself and Aunt Geneva if necessary.

It’s a win-win-win (admittedly one with a LOT of work attached) if Charlotte can let go of some of her fears and listen to her hopes and dreams.

The author does a good job of setting up Jaxon’s move to Mustang Creek so that it doesn’t feel like creepy stalkerish behavior. Yes, he is moving there in the hope that it will give him a chance with Charlotte. But his best friend really does need another vet, Jaxon is good at his job, and he tries very hard not to put any pressure on Charlotte.

Of course, he has Mrs. Klozz in his corner, moving obstacles out of the way and setting him up for success. It turns out that having Mrs. Klozz in his corner was all the help that Jaxon really needed, because this is a love story where the heroine just needs a chance to listen to her heart instead of wrestling with every manufactured worry in her head.

And a little holiday magic always helps!

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Linda is giving away a copy of Christmas in Mustang Creek to one lucky U.S. commenter:

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Review: An Ancient Peace by Tanya Huff

Review: An Ancient Peace by Tanya HuffAn Ancient Peace (Peacekeeper, #1) by Tanya Huff
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook
Genres: military science fiction, science fiction
Series: Confederation #6, Peacekeeper #1
Pages: 336
Published by DAW on October 6th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr had been the very model of a Confederation Marine. But when she learned the truth about the war the Confederation was fighting, she left the military for good.

But Torin couldn’t walk away from preserving and protecting everything the Confederation represented. Instead, she drew together an elite corps of friends and allies to take on covert missions that the Justice Department and the Corps could not—or would not—officially touch. Torin just hoped the one they were about to embark on wouldn’t be the death of them.

Ancient H’san grave goods are showing up on the black market—grave goods from just before the formation of the Confederation, when the H’san gave up war and buried their planet-destroying grave goods for the death of war. Someone is searching for these weapons and they’re very close to finding them. As the Elder Races have turned away from war, those searchers can only be members of the Younger Races.

Fortunately, only the Corps Intelligence Service has this information. Unfortunately, they can do nothing about it—bound by laws of full disclosure, their every move is monitored.

Though Torin Kerr and her team are no longer a part of the military, the six of them tackling the H’san defenses and the lethally armed grave robbers are the only chance the Confederation has. The only chance to avoid millions more dead.

But the more Torin learns about the relationship between the Elder Races and the Younger, the more she begins to fear war might be an unavoidable result.

valors choice by tanya huffI love Tanya Huff’s Valor series. Yes, I know it’s really called the Confederation series, but in my head, it’s the Valor series. It’s all about the valor of Staff Sergeant (eventually Gunnery Sergeant) Torin Kerr of the Confederation Marines in her fight to bring her company back alive and discover who or what is really behind the interstellar war between the Confederation and the Primacy. In addition to being absolutely kick-ass military SF, the Valor Confederation series is also a standout in the long line of SF where what we think is going on has absolutely nothing to do with what is actually going on. If you have not yet had the pleasure, start with Valor’s Choice and settle in for a marvelous read starring a terrific character with a dry, laugh-out-loud, line of snark.

But Torin’s discovery that the long-running interstellar war is really a behavioral experiment on the part of some completely uninvolved alien bystanders excises some of Torin’s faith in her military, and pretty much all of her ability to follow orders without question. However, while you can take the woman out of the Marines, it turns out to be impossible to take the Marines out of the woman. Torin works better within a structure, even as she mostly goes her own way.

In An Ancient Peace, we see Torin still fighting the good fight, but this time on her own terms, especially because she is in the process of redefining what that”good fight” really is. And since she no longer has the structure of the Marines to operate in, she is looking for a way for her team to find a home and purpose in one of the structures that already exist.

Because it turns out that the Confederation is still being manipulated, the only question is whether that manipulation is coming from somewhere within, or from forces without. Or whether “Big Yellow” is still watching them.

Escape Rating A: The Valor Confederation series is one of my all-time favorite military SF series, along with Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War, Jean Johnson’s Theirs Not to Reason Why, and John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. These are all thinking people’s military SF, because the protagonists all question what they are doing and why, even as they do their best to operate within the structure and safeguard as much as possible the lives within their care.

The Confederation was a classic of the “aliens are pulling strings from the shadows” school of SF. At the same time, Torin Kerr offers a terrific perspective of a senior NCO in the military, even the SF military. It’s not her job to determine or execute grand strategy, it’s her job to keep green lieutenants alive long enough for them to contribute to grand strategy. And most importantly, it is her job to keep her squad alive to come back home. One of the ongoing themes of the series and especially this book is that Torin isn’t able to let go of the dead she wasn’t able to save.

That she now knows that the war was an alien scam just adds to her feelings of guilt, along with an unhealthy dose of survivor’s remorse.

But this story is about Torin both finding a place for her and her team to fit into the new universe order, but also about Torin figuring out where she fits into a team that she leads by adoption rather than by assignment. Everyone is with her because they want to be, not because someone cut them orders. And Torin has to find a slightly different leadership strategy to make it all work.

At the same time, Torin and her band of merrymakers have a job to do. The High Command still uses Torin, but as a private contractor. And this time, they are sending her team in on a job where they want plausible deniability.

Someone is selling artifacts that were stolen from the cemetery planet of one of the Elder Races. It is clear to the military that someone is hunting for the weapons of mass destruction that the H’san buried with their long-ago dead. The military is certain that whoever that someone is, their plan is to start a new universal war. And as collateral damage, they will feed into the paranoia of the Elder Races who believe that Humans and all of the other Younger Races they brought into the Confederation to fight their war for them are really too barbaric and savage to remain in the Confederation now that there is no more need for warriors.

Of course, nothing is as it seems. Not the thefts, not the supposed plot, and not even the Elder Races. However, as Torin discovers there is a whole lot of war weariness among the general inner-ring populace, especially all the members of those Elder and Middle-Races planets who were not touched by the war because the Younger Races fought it for them. Those who were very far behind the lines really are thinking that the Younger Races are uncivilized savages who should be locked into their own planets until they learn better.

Any parallels between the way that the Elder Races populations treat Torin and her team as representatives both of their races and of the returning war veterans and the way that we treat returning soldiers who have difficulty fitting back into peacetime society is certainly intended.

The story in An Ancient Peace is certainly the adrenaline-fueled adventure that I have come to know, love and expect from this series. There is also an underlying thread that Torin’s eyes have been opened, and that she sees a lot more of both sides of any problem than her superiors expect or even like. Her solution to finding a place for her team that both keeps them from being used as a weapon and helps add to the peace that she almost single-handedly created is novel, and will provide ground for interesting stories in the future.

And just like in the earlier series, whoever or whatever started this particular mess is still out there, plotting more plots, until Torin and Company finally catch up to them.

Review: The Guilt of Innocents by Candace Robb

Review: The Guilt of Innocents by Candace RobbThe Guilt of Innocents (Owen Archer, #9) by Candace Robb
Format: ebook
Source: publisher
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, paperback
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery
Series: Owen Archer #9
Pages: 304
Published by Diversion Books on July 26, 2015 (Originally 2007 by Random House)
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

Winter in the year of our Lord 1372. A river pilot falls into the icy waters of the River Ouse during a skirmish between dockworkers and the boys of the minster school, which include Owen Archer’s adopted son Jasper. But what began as a confrontation to return a boy’s stolen scrip becomes a murder investigation as the rescuers find the pilot dying of wounds inflicted before his plunge into the river. When another body is fished from the river upstream and Owen discovers that the boy Jasper sought to help has disappeared, Owen Archer convinces the archbishop that he must go in search of the boy. His lost scrip seems to hold the key to the double tragedy, but his disappearance leaves troubling questions: did he flee in fear? Or was he abducted?
On the cusp of this new mystery, Owen accepts Jasper’s offer to accompany him to the boy’s home in the countryside, where they learn that a valuable cross has gone missing. A devastating fire and another drowning force Owen to make impossible choices, endangering not only himself, but the two innocents he fights to protect. The bond between fathers and sons proves strong, even between those not linked by blood.

The Guilt of Innocents is the 9th story in the Owen Archer historical mystery series. I read at least the first five books in this series sometime in the way back, and absolutely loved them. But somewhere along the way I stopped, a casualty of the “so many books, so little time” problem. Although now that I have dived back into this marvelous series, I have some very sincere regrets at having missed some of the middle books.

If you love historical mystery, this series is awesome.

The setting and setup are fascinating. The stories take place in York, England in the 1360s and 1370s. Like all of the best historical fiction, the time period used is one of great foment. England was fighting France in an attempt to retake Aquitaine and the other parts of that country that had been part of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s dowry two centuries before. England had lost almost all of their bits of France during the reign of her son John “Lackland”, better known to history and literature as John I, the evil king in Robin Hood and the signer of the Magna Carta.

Those lands were long lost, but it took the English monarchy a few more centuries to finally get the point. Meanwhile, there were wars. Lots and lots of wars.

West front of York Minster
West front of York Minster

In York, the “capital” of the North, its beautiful centerpiece, the York Minster, was still in the process of being built in this period. Parts of it were completed, but it was still a work in progress. England and the rest of Europe were still Catholic countries at this point, but there were stirrings of what would become the Protestant movement.

In the middle of all this change, we have Owen Archer. Owen began his career as a Welsh archer, and served notably in France until he lost the sight in one eye in a skirmish. Owen learned to read and write, and reinvented himself as an agent for the crown, and eventually for John Thoresby, Archbishop of York and former Lord Chancellor of England. Owen comes to York to investigate a series of murders in The Apothecary Rose, and falls in love with the subject of his enquiries, a young widow named Lucie Winton. As happens in all the best romantic suspense series, Owen manages to clear Lucie’s name and eventually marries her.

However, unlike most women in her time, Lucie is not a woman who stays at home and tends to her household. Lucie is a master apothecary in her own right, and is able to contribute much to Owen’s investigations.

But not as much to this particular case as Lucie would like. During the course of this book, Lucie is vastly pregnant, and Owen makes himself conduct more of the case without Lucie’s assistance than he would like. Or possibly also than is good for their marriage. In his desire to protect Lucie, Owen is cutting her off from the most important aspect of his life, and it troubles them both.

The case itself is very loosely based on a real incident, although the problems that arise from that incident are fictional in this book.

A man is sliced with a poisoned knife. Before he dies, he returns to his coworkers, the river bargemen who work for the Abbey. His death is mixed up in a bit of town/gown horseplay between the boys at the Minster school and the bargemen, each generally trying to lord it over the other.

From this inauspicious beginning, along with the story of a missing boy and his equally missing trinket, a long sad tale of theft, murder and false accusation winds its way through York and the surrounding countryside.

One man may be killed for a crime he did not commit, in order to satisfy those who are certain that because he is not pure of thought, he must be guilty of every possible crime. And one extremely clever and guilty man nearly goes free, because Owen almost isn’t able to fit the pieces together in time.

Escape Rating A: While I think it might make the story even richer if one has read at least some of the preceding books in the series, I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. I’m sure it’s been at least a decade since I read the early books, and I got well into the story almost instantly. The author does a good job of recapping prior events for those who weren’t there for them.

One of the things about this series that fascinates this reader is the way that it evokes the city of York. Much of the inner city of York, the part within the walls, has been preserved as a tourist attraction. I distinctly remember reading one of the books in this series while I was in York, and many of the places are still there, particularly the gates and of course the Minster. It was uncanny to walk the same steps as Owen and Lucie and believe that I was seeing some of what they would have seen.

The story itself does an excellent job of using the skills and people that existed, and does not try to wrench much out of shape to fit 20th or 21st century sensibilities. Women like Lucie did become masters in some professions, and were sometimes permitted to operate businesses as widows. Being an apothecary would make her an excellent resource for Owen when it came to researching poisons and illnesses.

But at the same time Lucie is still a woman who was subject to all of the disabilities of being a woman in a time when dying in childbirth was the most common cause of death among women of childbearing age. She is eight months pregnant, she lost a child through miscarriage the previous year, she is ready to have this baby and she is very afraid, all at once. At the same time, she still has a business to run, apprentices to train and three children to raise.

The case Owen investigates allows 21st century readers to get a glimpse of just how important the Church was in Medieval life, and how the princes of that church were all too often worldly princes as well. While the motives behind the real killer turn out to be very much of this world, and downright mercenary ones at that, the motives of those who are bandying about those false accusations have way more to do with manipulating the church and people’s religious beliefs for their own opportunistic ends.

apothecary rose by candace robbOwen makes an interesting and effective investigator. While he moves within all of these worlds, he is not a part of any of them. He is a soldier, but he works for the church. His wife is a respected master in the city, but he is not a member of any of the craft guilds. For a one-eyed man, he sees very clearly indeed. And because he is not partial to any of the groups involved, he is able to trace a clear path to the real killer without being blinded by shared interests or family ties.

If you love historical mystery, this series is a real treat. My prescription would be to start with The Apothecary Rose, and enjoy your trip to Medieval England. I know I did.

Reviewer’s Note: Although this review is not officially part of the tour, TLC Book Tours is currently touring the entire Owen Archer series. My review of A Vigil of Spies will be part of the tour next Monday, but if you are looking for more reviews of the series, just follow the link in the TLC Logo.

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 10-4-15

Sunday Post

The Books That Need More Attention Giveaway Hop started yesterday, so there’s plenty of time to enter. This seems to be hop season, as there is yet another hop scheduled for this week, and then there’s the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop starting in mid-October. This may not be Christmas yet, but it still seems to be the season to give away books and bookish prizes.

But speaking of giveaways, I don’t say this often because it feels just a bit crass, but Reading Reality is an Amazon Affiliate. Buying one of the books you find on my blog (or any other book, for that matter) by going to Amazon from one of my links nets me a few cents or a dollar per book. Those affiliate fees add up, and they are how I fund the giveaways. So I very, very much appreciate when I see that someone has bought a book through my links, both because it means that I reached that person with my review, and because it helps provide the giveaways that introduce new readers to Reading Reality. So thank you all very much.

alternate banned books banner 2015And before we end the weekend, let’s take a look at what happened last week. It was a theme week for Banned Books Week, so all the books I reviewed were on topics related to Banned Books Week in some way. One book is currently under challenge, one talks about reading the world and what breaking out of our Western, anglophone reading habits might mean. And then the recent and controversial history of one of the world’s great libraries, as well as a book about our First Amendment rights and then a book about how those rights are being eroded by ubiquitous government and commercial surveillance. The books were fascinating and occasionally frightening. And compelling enough that I only made one change from my original plan – not because I’m not planning to read Terms of Service but because I needed to carry my book around the day I was supposed to read it, and I didn’t have an ebook.

Also, I admit, Patience and Fortitude was about half the length of Terms of Service, and it was starting to matter. These were all marvelous books, but not the kind of thing that keeps one up until 3 am because you want to see what happens next. I may do this again, for next Banned Books Week if no other time. If anyone has any thoughts on the concept or how it worked, please let me know in the comments.

And next week we’re back to our regularly scheduled genre fiction! I need a break from the serious.

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Books That Need More Attention Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the $10 Book or $10 Gift Card in the Rockin’ Reads Giveaway Hop is Jennifer H.
The winner of the $10 Book or $10 Gift Card in the Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop is Susan D.

immortal life of henrietta lacks by rebecca sklootBlog Recap:

A+ Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
B Review: The World Between Two Covers by Ann Morgan
B+ Review: Patience and Fortitude by Scott Sherman
A Review: Freedom of Speech by David K. Shipler
A- Review: Data and Goliath by Bruce Schneier
Books That Need More Attention Giveaway Hop

books to movies giveaway hopComing Next Week:

The Guilt of Innocents by Candace Robb (review)
An Ancient Peace by Tanya Huff (review)
Christmas in Mustang Creek by Linda Lael Miller (blog tour review)
Books to Movies Giveaway Hop
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (review)
Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh (blog tour review)

Books That Need More Attention Giveaway Hop

Books-that-need-more-attention-Giveaway-Hop 2015

Welcome to the 2015 edition of the Books That Need More Attention Giveaway Hop, hosted by Stuck in Books.

The idea for this hop is a chance to highlight books that we loved that we think have just not received the attention they deserve. You know how it goes. You read something and you absolutely love it. Then you try to shove it other people, and their reaction is “who’s that author?” or “why would I want to read that?” And you feel more than a bit crestfallen. And possibly strike that person off your list of friends.

I’m just kidding about that last bit, but for those of us who are compulsive readers, close friendship with folks who just don’t read can be…difficult. But I digress.

One book, that while it has received plenty of attention is still very much on my mind is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, reviewed here. If you are a fiction reader and normally back away from nonfiction, this one has a story that is every bit as gripping, and as heartwrenching, as any work of fiction, and all the more so because it’s true.

But when it comes to highlighting books that need more attention, I’d like to turn your gaze upon three novels by debut authors that came out in 2015. While each of these books has received some attention, I thought they were all absolutely awesome, and didn’t get near enough.

There should be something for everyone on this list, because the three books I’m talking about, and talking up, are: 1)Unbreakable by W.C. Bauers, the first book in his Promise Paen military space opera series, 2) The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson, which I sincerely hope is the first book in an epic fantasy series about economic warfare and how far do you have to go before the bloody means stop being justified by a supposedly necessary ends, and finally 3) Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart, which is a beautiful historical mystery that gives us a view of China before it was opened to the West, through the eyes of an intelligent and uncompromising seeker for the truth – an exiled Imperial librarian.

So those are my picks for unsung books that need much more singing. What are yours?

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For more terrific bookish prizes, be sure to check out the other stops on the hop: