Stars Uncharted by S. K. Dunstall – Review

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About Stars Uncharted

In this rip-roaring space opera, a ragtag band of explorers are out to make the biggest score in the galaxy.

On this space jump, no one is who they seem . . .

Captain Hammond Roystan is a simple cargo runner who has stumbled across the find of a lifetime: the Hassim, a disabled exploration ship–and its valuable record of unexplored worlds.

His junior engineer, Josune Arriola, said her last assignment was in the uncharted rim. But she is decked out in high-level bioware that belies her humble backstory.

A renowned body-modification artist, Nika Rik Terri has run afoul of clients who will not take no for an answer. She has to flee off-world, and she is dragging along a rookie modder, who seems all too experienced in weapons and war . . .

Together this mismatched crew will end up on one ship, hurtling through the lawless reaches of deep space with Roystan at the helm. Trailed by nefarious company men, they will race to find the most famous lost world of all–and riches beyond their wildest dreams . . .

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Review of Stars Uncharted

Stars Uncharted’s two main characters are very different. Josune Arriola is an engineer/explorer. Nika Rik Terri is a body modification artist (also known as a modder). No reason they should ever meet.

But they do. Stars Uncharted chapters alternates between the perspectives of Josune and Nika. Totally separate and unknown to each other at first and becoming best friends by the end.

‘Ragtag’ is an apt way to describe the crew of the Road to Goberlings. Diverse and a bit on the shabby side. A chef that is also the cargo master (he would rather be cheffing), a very capable engineer, a junior engineer who’s talent belies her juniorness and a captain that likes to rule by committee even if it does occasionally bite him in the butt.

When they happen upon the disabled Hassim, a very famous exploration ship, things take off. Everyone wants what they think the Hassim has. So everyone is after Captain Hammond Roystan and his crew.

Strangely enough, body modification tech overlaps with ship navigation tech, so when a critical ship part goes bad, somehow, the Road ends up with not one, but two modders, both of whom are on the run.

Now the crew is really ragtag!

Non-stop adventure, really bad bad guys, motley good guys, a broken down ship, and the treasure of the universe! What’s not to like about this book! I ate it up! Stars Uncharted is the kind of story that gives space opera its good name!

Through NetGalley, the publisher provided a copy of this book so that I could bring you this honest review.

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Tiffany Blues by M.J. Rose – Review

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About Tiffany Blues

New York, 1924. Twenty‑four‑year‑old Jenny Bell is one of a dozen burgeoning artists invited to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s prestigious artists’ colony. Gifted and determined, Jenny vows to avoid distractions and romantic entanglements and take full advantage of the many wonders to be found at Laurelton Hall.

But Jenny’s past has followed her to Long Island. Images of her beloved mother, her hard-hearted stepfather, waterfalls, and murder, and the dank hallways of Canada’s notorious Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women overwhelm Jenny’s thoughts, even as she is inextricably drawn to Oliver, Tiffany’s charismatic grandson.

As the summer shimmers on, and the competition between the artists grows fierce as they vie for a spot at Tiffany’s New York gallery, a series of suspicious and disturbing occurrences suggest someone knows enough about Jenny’s childhood trauma to expose her.

Supported by her closest friend Minx Deering, a seemingly carefree socialite yet dedicated sculptor, and Oliver, Jenny pushes her demons aside. Between stolen kisses and stolen jewels, the champagne flows and the jazz plays on until one moonless night when Jenny’s past and present are thrown together in a desperate moment, that will threaten her promising future, her love, her friendships, and her very life.

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Review of Tiffany Blues

Jenny Bell is my character of the month. Of all the books I’ve read in the last 30 days, Jenny is the one I loved the most. Maybe it is her tragic past. Which made me cry. Or her artists optimism. Or determination to move forward. Its all those things really.

But if she does not have good supporting characters, the story would go nowhere. Minx Deering is the rich girl that does whatever she wants and gets away with it. You really want to set her down for a good talking to sometimes. Ben is the reporter that Jenny wants to trust, but can’t because he is a reporter and reporters ruin lives.

Then there is Oliver Comfort Tiffany, grandson of the great Louis Comfort Tiffany. He is the sort of rebel without a cause who befriends Jenny and encourages her when she needs it. Jenny and Oliver will become the two halves of one heart. But they are from opposite sides of the social spectrum and really, can that ever work out?

Perhaps my favorite supporting character is the man Louis Comfort Tiffany himself. He tells his own stories to enlighten his art. He guides Jenny with both suggestions and orders. His interactions with Jenny are beautiful and even spiritual. It is his line “…there is beauty even in broken things.” that brought tears to my eyes.

In addition to these exceptional characters, there is jazz, art and philosophy. And there is a mystery. While I did not find the mystery all that mysterious, it was critical in leading up the the climax, so pay attention!

In Tiffany Blues, the author’s notes are at the beginning of the story, which I liked. One of the reasons for the placement, I believe, is to tell the story of Laurelton Hall, the place Jenny and her fellow artists go to study with Mr. Tiffany. There is a mystery there too. In 1957, the magnificent hall was burned down and no explanation was ever made. The thing is, despite the precisely worded Author’s Note, while I was entranced by Jenny Bell’s Jazz Age story, I forgot all about Laurelton Hall’s unfortunate demise until the very end. Tiffany Blues is Ms. Rose’s brilliant explanation for the fire.

Tiffany Blues is a heartachingly beautiful story set in the Jazz Age amidst the exquisite art of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Art lovers will be drawn to this story, but anyone can savor it, as I did.

Through NetGalley, the publisher provided a copy of this book so that I could bring you this honest review.

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Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley – Review

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About Bellewether

“The house, when I first saw it, seemed intent on guarding what it knew; but we all learned, by the end of it, that secrets aren’t such easy things to keep.”

It’s late summer, war is raging, and families are torn apart by divided loyalties and deadly secrets. In this complex and dangerous time, a young French Canadian lieutenant is captured and billeted with a Long Island family, an unwilling and unwelcome guest. As he begins to pitch in with the never-ending household tasks and farm chores, Jean-Philippe de Sabran finds himself drawn to the daughter of the house. Slowly, Lydia Wilde comes to lean on Jean-Philippe, true soldier and gentleman, until their lives become inextricably intertwined. Legend has it that the forbidden love between Jean-Philippe and Lydia ended tragically, but centuries later, the clues they left behind slowly unveil the true story.

Part history, part romance, and all kinds of magic, Susanna Kearsley’s latest masterpiece will draw you in and never let you go, even long after you’ve closed the last page.

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Review of Bellewether

Bellewether is different from other Susanna Kearsley books I have read in that there is no supernatural tool to unveil the past (time travel, ancestral memories, psychometry, to name a few I’ve run across in Ms. Kearsley’s writings). The main character, Charley is a museum curator and researcher and uses the artifacts, memoirs, and oral history to find the truth about what happened in the past.

She does this from her job at the Wilde House Museum. I mentioned that Charley uses just plain good detective skills to reveal the Wilde House past, but that does not mean there are no ghost stories associated with it. It is the telling of one such ghost story that seems to kick off Charley’s fascination with what happened in the years before the Revolutionary War. The ghost story involves Lydia and Jean-Philippe and their tragic love story. Some say you can still see the ghost today.

As an American, the Revolutionary War and it’s outcome was an integral part of my studies in school. We barely covered the history leading up to it. Bellewether is divided between current day and that time leading up to the Revolutionary War – The French and Indian War. So, like all of Ms. Kearsley’s books, the reader is offered a bit of history from a viewpoint not covered in school.

The book seesaws between current day and Lydia’s time, telling two separate stories. Chapter headings are character names, guiding you to perspective and to time setting. The current day chapters are all from Charley’s perspective, but the historical chapters are from Lydia’s and Jean-Philippe’s perspective.

I found Jean-Philippe to be one of the more interesting characters. He is a French officer, basically under house arrest in a place where nobody speaks French and he does not understand English. Jean-Philippe is observant though, and he learns by watching, helping with work, and eventually learning a few words of English.

Back in the present day, Charley lives with Rachel, her niece. Niels, Charley’s brother and Rachel’s dad had recently died, so Charley was taking care of Rachel. There is also a museum board of directors, some of which love Charley and a few that don’t like her one bit. And there is a grandmother that lives in town that disowned her father. And Sam.

Sam is the contractor that is restoring the Wilde House. He is also an all round handy man, dog rescuer and always-there-when-you-need-him type of a guy. There is a very understated thing going on between Charley and Sam. I like that it was understated. I really wanted to find out what happened in the past, rather than the present.

The book gets its title from a boat owned by the Wilde family. Bellewether was the ship captained by Benjamin Wilde, who made his mark as a privateer with that ship. The Wilde House Museum was meant to focus on Benjamin Wilde’s life, but as the ship had a life before Benjamin sailed on it, so too did the Wilde House. Bellewether’s role in the lives of Lydia and Jean-Philippe is slight, but important.

If you read Bellewether, do not skip the author’s ‘About the Characters’ section at the end of the story. Kearsley’s meticulous research leads the reader to believe that Lydia and Jean-Philippe really existed. In fact, the historical characters are a mixture of truth and invention. Kearsley’s skill in combining history with a really good story always entertains and Bellewether is no exeption.

Through NetGalley, the publisher provided a copy of this book so I could bring you my honest review.

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