Book review: Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran

Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have really enjoyed all of Michelle Moran’s books that I have read, but this one is one of my favorites. Of course, it helps that I love reading about ancient Egypt. This book is about Cleopatra’s daughter, Selene, and what befell her after Octavian conquered Egypt. The descriptions of Egypt and Rome during Selene’s time period were fascinating, and even more interesting were the machinations and power struggles surrounding Octavian, involving not only his advisers but his family members as well.
I liked this book so much that I ordered a hardback copy of it (I originally read it on my Kindle). Any book that I willingly add to the already large amounts of clutter in my house definitely deserves a place of honor!

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Book review: Sweet Revenge by Andrea Penrose (A Lady Arianna mystery)

Sweet Revenge by Andrea Penrose

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The debut novel of the Lady Arianna Regency Mysteries (I think my theory is that if I keep discovering new good series, I will never run out of books to read. I think I will never run out of books to read anyway, but that’s a different matter altogether.)
This series is actually an earlier series from the same author as the Wrexford & Sloane series. Both of these historical mystery series have a female protagonist that is “modern,” in that the character does not consider herself bound by the female norms of the times. Both do it because they have no choice–life has dealt each a bad hand.
Lady Arianna has accumulated some interesting skills as part of her unusual childhood, and these skills come in handy in her initial quest to seek revenge for her father and then in her subsequent quest to find a murderer.
This is a grittier, darker Regency mystery series, more along the lines of C.S. Harris’s Sebastian St. Cyr series (although not quite as dark) then Georgette Heyer mysteries. The perspectives of hero and heroine are interesting and unusual, and the mysteries are well crafted. I am thoroughly enjoying this series!

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Book review: Castle and Key by W.R. Gingell

Castle and Key by W.R. Gingell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the latest (but hopefully not the final!) book in the author’s Two Monarchies series. I have loved all of the books in this series and highly recommend that you read them. This most recent book is the story of Susan Farrah and is an intricate tale of a Bluebeard-like villain, magic, and romance. It is a delightful read, full of drama and fun.
The series is best read in order if you want to experience the most out of the characters. The author has a vivid and whimsical imagination that she transfers well onto paper. This book (and the series) is highly recommended!

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Book review: The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon’s Court by Michelle Moran

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Michelle Moran is one of my favorite historical fiction authors. She does impeccable research, and the historical characters come alive in her books. This book is no exception, even though it isn’t my favorite historical period. There has been so much written about Napoleon (and, to a lesser extent, Marie-Louise) that I find the era somewhat over-chronicled.
That being said, this was an excellent book. Since it was not written from Napoleon’s perspective, it was interesting to see his character formed in the reflection, as it were, of the people surrounding him. That was a clever touch and made the book (and the character of Napoleon) much more interesting.
If you enjoy the Napoleonic period, this is a must read. And for fans of excellent historical fiction, you just need to add Michelle Moran to your list of must read authors.

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A September Birthday Celebration

One of the advantages of the quarter system in college is that school doesn’t start until late September, which means that when you have a child with a September birthday, it is possible to go somewhere—say, hypothetically, Disneyworld—with that child to celebrate before school starts.

This year, it was a special birthday as we celebrated in Disneyworld for the weekend. Marcus turned 21 this year (although I am in denial about that), and we celebrated his first legal drink (note the very carefully worded description). Jade flew out from Atlanta to join in the festivities, and it was really wonderful to have the family together for such a fun occasion.

Disneyworld was magical, as usual. It was Marcus’s first time on the newest ride, Guardians of the Galaxy, and he enjoyed the three times he rode it (we had 3 different songs, too, which rocked). A lightsaber was added to his (already extensive) collection as an additional birthday gift. (Or, as his sister says in opposition, we continue to contribute to the arming of her brother.) We ate at the Brown Derby (in Hollywood Studios) for his birthday dinner. And to give the birthday boy credit, he didn’t think it was at all lame to celebrate his 21st birthday with his parents.

sipping tea in front of the Mad Hatter Party ride (aka the teacups)
his first legal drink!
the Tower of Terror ride
Happy birthday!!

Summer 2022

The summer was a whirlwind, and I have not enough space to bore everyone with our activities. Highlights include the following:

A joint birthday celebration at the Inn at Little Washington

May Liang & Jim Lintott Birthday Party Shot on 20220522 in Washington, VA Photographer Laurence L. Levin

Jade’s master’s degree (in theoretical computer science) graduation ceremony at Stanford. She is now at Georgia Tech getting her PhD in combinatorics (or theoretical computer science for those of us who don’t understand what combinatorics is).

Jim’s mom’s 90th birthday celebration in Chehalis, Washington. (Shhh, her age is a secret, as she doesn’t want people to think she’s old.) 🙂 There were over 100 people who attended, including family and friends from all over. It was a tremendously festive occasion.

Jim and I rented a house and spent 3 weeks in Hawaii. I am not sure how to start since I have run out of words to describe Hawaii (“earthly paradise” does not seem to do the place justice). The only cloud was that Jade was unable to join us (curse graduate school and its class schedule!). However, Marcus and Yinan were both able to join us for a week. It worked out well as Jim and Yinan played tennis while Marcus and I took surfing lessons.
We also had some guests join us for various weeks. I think (hope!) that a good time was had by all.
Highlights (in addition to the company of our guests) include:

Beautiful sunrises and sunsets

A visit to the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor

A visit to the Punchbowl (aka National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific)

Scenic vistas at Pali Lookout

Delicious meals, including at tbd…, The Pig and the Lady, and Piggy Smalls

and, of course, surfing lessons. Marcus (and Jade) are quite good–I have finished lesson #9 and am a work in progress… 🙂 (the video is from lesson #5)

Hawaii is definitely our zen place. We miss it already!

Book review: The Frangipani Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu

The Frangipani Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A new author! And a new mystery series! (For me, anyway.) The setting for this series is in 1930s Singapore, when Singapore was a British colony. It’s a period and place in history that I know very little about, and I love how I can learn more about it while enjoying a well-plotted, well-placed mystery. (Dead bodies always make learning history more fun.)
The heroine of the series is Chen Su Lin, a young orphan girl from the powerful Chen family. She assists the Chief Inspector Thomas LeFroy with a murder investigation by providing local insights and sharp observations.
The description of Singapore and its stratified society is fascinating without being too preachy. Su Lin is a lovely, smart, and interesting narrator. And I have found a new fun and engaging mystery series!

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Spring Break 2022

Our last spring break together as a family was in March (yes, this entry is a bit late). We really have no grounds for complaint, however. For several years, the college spring break for Jade coincided with the high school spring break for Marcus, and so we eked out a couple more years of spring break together than most families manage and feel fortunate for being able to do so.
A very wise friend of ours once told me that the way to get your children to continue to vacation with you once they leave the house is to choose interesting/fun places to go and pay for all of it. And so I bring you spring break 2022 in Los Angeles!
The kids started their spring break in San Diego visiting my parents (and eating). We then met up with the kids in Disneyland (Jade’s first trip to the mother ship!), where we stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel and spent 2 really fun days at the parks, riding rides (and eating). We then moved to Los Angeles itself (well, really, Marina Del Rey, for those familiar with SoCal) and did touristy things (and ate). We had a tour of the La Brea Tar Pits (very cool, with lots of bones and active tar pits still), a tour of the Getty Villa (it’s the classical antiquities part of the Getty—I will never look at Commodus in quite the same way again (in a good way!)), toured through the Getty Museum, and had an after hours viewing of the Griffith Observatory where we saw the Orion Nebula and an Orion star cluster, among many other things, and helped shut down the telescope for the evening. The common theme of all of the tours, for which we are immensely grateful, was the dedication and love of all the personnel we met for what they were doing professionally. Everyone was so excited about their work and loved sharing their knowledge with us. It was a good reminder to the kids that loving what you do is so important to leading a fulfilling life.
Memorable meals include Din Tai Fung (love, love those soup dumplings), Pink’s (an LA institution justifiably famous for its hot dogs), Spagos (a Wolfgang Puck restaurant that is still going strong after 30+ years), and Meizhou Dong Po (a transplant from China).
It was a fantabulously fun week with the four of us—maybe even more so because we know that opportunities like this, with all four of us together, will become scarcer as the years go on. I can’t complain—we’ve had more spring breaks together than we had expected and so each extra one is just a bonus. And this one was fun!

Big Thunder Mountain at Disneyland
Cars Land at Disneyland
view from the Griffith Observatory

Book review: Beyond by Mercedes Lackey

Beyond by Mercedes Lackey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Prequels are difficult. Because the readers (assuming they have read the subsequent books) know how the book turns out, it’s difficult to build up suspense. And origin prequels are especially difficult because everything isn’t supposed to work quite as smoothly as in the subsequent series (temporally speaking, not publication date speaking), and the author has to be cognizant of that when developing the origin story.
All of those caveats aside, if you are a fan of the Valdemar novels by Mercedes Lackey, this is quite a nice origin prequel. The author wisely focused on character development and the origin story rather than the buildup of suspense. If you haven’t read any of the Valdemar books yet, this is a good place to start. (The Heralds of Valdemar series and “By the Sword” are my personal favorites.)
I certainly will be reading the next book in the origin series to see how Valdemar develops and grows.
(I’m actually giving it 3.5 stars, which is impossible to do on Goodreads. :))

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Book review: Jane and the Man of the Cloth by Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Man of the Cloth by Stephanie Barron

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had read the first of this series a long time ago because it’s Jane Austen and a mystery, what is there not to like? But as I recall, the debut novel didn’t grab me, and as my TBR list grows daily, I set this series aside. But the author also writes the Merry Folger mysteries set in Nantucket (as Francine Mathews), which I’ve really enjoyed, and I thought I’d give this series a second chance.
My impression of this book is more positive than my memory of the first novel in this series. The author incorporates phrases from Jane Austen’s works into the books, which is fun for Jane Austen devotees. In addition, this book has an interesting plot and while I don’t think the culprit was difficult to pick out, I like the indirect tribute to “Pride and Prejudice.”
It’s a nicely themed series and this book, at any rate, is a quick and engaging read.

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