Friday, February 17, 2012

Daschunds, Plantagenets, and Mystery

February is my least favorite month. It usually is a snow-laden month one just has to get through until the March promise of spring. This year that promise has come early. We've had such a mild winter here. But that means dogs with muddy feet tracking up the house. Oh, well.

Speaking of dogs....we've had a fourth dog for a week. Bud's daughter, Stephanie had a business conference to go to, so we had Tater, a mini long-haired daschund. Poor thing missed Steph so much, she just wasn't her usual perky self. Archie was not pleased either. Tater is very much a ladies' dog and loves laps. Archie was displaced and I received many disappointed and puzzled looks. Here's Tater in the yard last summer.

She's a definite cutie and super sweet, but like most daschunds, she's a bit of a diva. She rules the roost and all must be attendant to her needs. I don't mind at all, but Dusty, Brandy and, particularly, Archie are not amused. They get along, there were no fights, but distance is always preferred.

So, along with being Keeper for four dogs this month, I've been racing (well, trying to race - these are long books) through Sharon Kay Penman's Welsh Trilogy. I've gotten through the first two: Here Be Dragons and Falls the Shadow. They are fascinating historical fiction tracing the friction and wars between the Welsh Princes and the royals of England during the 13th century. The intricacies and bloody cruelty of inter-related noble families abounds! And we think we have family friction, black sheep and power plays today! Yikes! I shuddered over each time that a marriage took place between a thirty to fifty something man to a ten to fourteen year old young girl cousin! Ick! But it was all too common back then.

There was so much to cover in these books that I wonder if Ms. Penman might have been better served to focus more than she did and break the trilogy into a longer series. Her writing is best when focusing on the relationships of Llewellyn Fawr of Wales and his wife, Joanna, King John's daughter in Here Be Dragons or Simon de Montfort and his wife, Nell, King Henry's sister, in Falls the Shadow. But so very much happens around them and their families that I don't know if it would have been possible to do. These books were an amazing accomplishment and I highly recommend them to anyone interested in the Plantagenet reigns.

Now I'm heading into some lighter reading before I read the last in Penman's trilogy. I just started Rhys Bowen's Molly Murphy mysteries. I'll let you know later what I think of them.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

January Musings

Wow. It's heading towards the end of January of the new year already! Seems I just blinked and Christmas, Bud's and my birthday and the first big snow of the season flew by. My days seem to melt one into another lately.

Let's see, what has happened? Archie tore out one of his right hind foot toenails, poor baby. He limped awhile, but now all is well. Bud and I went to see the new Sherlock Holmes for our birthday. We both really enjoyed that. I found out that I am going to be a first-time Grandma in June to a little boy. I'm so excited! I started a short story set in the same world as "Snow's End" and "Bloodstone." The main character is a monk who came to me when I woke up one morning and insisted his story be told. And I've been plowing eagerly through three new-to-me series of books. Bliss!

All three series are historical mysteries. The first series is by Laurie R. King, the Mary Russell series. The first book in the series, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, grabbed me immediately and I've been greatly entertained by the pairing of a young woman of the post-WWI era and an elderly Sherlock Holmes. I've always been fascinated by WWI and the 1920s as that was the era in which my parents spent their youths. Add mystery and Sherlock Holmes and, boy, I'm hooked. Ms. King's bright and witty writing makes everything sparkle, even when the two are traipsing the more sordid sections of London, the dusty roads of Palestine or the foggy and gloomy Dartmoor.

The second series I latched onto is by C.S. Harris, the Sebastian St. Cyr books. We're back in the Regency era with a character Ms. Harris describes as, "think Mr. Darcy with a James Bond edge...." Well. Yes, that pretty much describes Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin. We follow him through the drawing rooms and fetes of the nobility (including those of "Prinny," soon-to-be Prince Regent George, son of George III) as well as the slums and brothels of London solving gruesome mysteries within the elite milieu. How can one not enjoy the dashing antics of a nobleman who cannot keep a valet because of the deplorable state of elegant clothing with which his employer returns each day?

The third series takes me back into the tumultuous days of Henry VIII's reign. C.J. Sansom brings us the Matthew Shardlake series. Shardlake is a hunch-backed would-be reformist lawyer who gets reluctantly drawn into the devious and mysterious political machinations of Thomas Cromwell, the Roman Catholic church and a host of other familiar historical figures of the day. Add a stately and brilliant Moorish monk apothecary and a scapegrace young "assistant" who has a tendency to call everyone an "arsehole", and Matthew Shardlake's adventures into the labyrinth of the 16th century Tudor reign can become addictive.

So, that's what I've been up to so far this year. It's 2012? How did I get here so quickly? Weren't we just all babbling about Y2K?