Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Review--The Last Chance Christmas Ball

The Last Chance Christmas BallThe Last Chance Christmas Ball by Mary Jo Putney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These delightful holiday stories are woven together like a Christmas wreath, each bringing its own special moments to the collection as characters overlap and lead one story into another. I have great admiration for the authors and their editor for making it all work.

As with all anthologies there are some stories stronger than others, and I especially enjoyed the Jo Bourne entry because of her flavorful language and nuanced metaphors.

Some of the tales seemed a bit rushed to their HEA, but in a short story format that's almost inevitable. Overall the collection is solid, with one or two stars shining like the gold entertwined in the wreath. It's a great way to start the season.

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Review--The Virgin (The Original Sinners: White Years, #3)

The Virgin (The Original Sinners: White Years, #3)The Virgin by Tiffany Reisz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have great admiration for Ms. Reisz' skill in unspooling the Original Sinners stories from the glimpses and revelations shown in The Siren. Each subsequent book has revealed backstory on the characters in a fashion that's engrossing, engaging and erotic. I'm looking forward to the release of The Queen, what looks to be the ultimate, and possibly final, entry in the Original Sinners series.

The Virgin tackles the year Nora left her master Soren, and how she reinvented herself as a novelist and as the premier dominatrix in the NYC BDSM scene. It also give us the backstory on Kingsley's Juliette, the love of his life.

As always, themes of kink and religion will not go down well with all readers, but for those who are fans, it's a rewarding experience.

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Sunday, October 04, 2015

Review--The Shadow Throne (The Shadow Campaigns, #3)

The Shadow Throne (The Shadow Campaigns, #2)The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked it even more than the first book in The Shadow Campaign. Great characters, wonderful pacing. Anyone who knows European history and the French Revolution will appreciate this fantasy with its twists and turns on the storming of the Bastille, the revolutionary committees and their leaders, the issue of the monarchy and the church and more.

Even better, we see how a charismatic military leader can rise out of chaos to lead a nation. Can't wait for the next book!

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My favorite time of year

When he returned from releasing the snake into a friendlier
environment, Rand saw Julia was still sitting up on the table, crosslegged,
staring out the window. Her hair had come undone and was
falling down her neck and back in ringlets that clung to her skin, and
large circles darkened her blouse under the arms.
“What are you doin’ up there?”
“I hate this place. I hate Florida. I hate living where giant beetles fly
into your hair and where snakes come into the house. I hate breathing
in wet gnats, and I hate the mosquitoes, and I hate the damp that keeps
my clothes sticking to me. I hate that it is autumn and it is still hot
enough to raise bread. And I hate you for keeping me here,” she
finished conversationally.
“Come down,” he said, reaching up his arms.
“No. I am going to stay up here until I die, and they will find
nothing but my bones in a moldy mound on the table.”
He reached up and slid his hands under her skirt, moving them
against the tender flesh around her ankles and at the backs of her knees.
“That tickles!”
“Then you’d better come down before you squirm right off, darlin’.
I want to show you somethin’.”
“Oh, I bet you do want to show me something, Mr. Washburn!”
“Yeah, that, too. But come down for now and I’ll show you
somethin’ else that’s special. You’ll like it.”
--Smuggler's Bride

I know a lot of Yankee friends look forward to a season where they can return to open windows and getting out into the fresh air.

Their season is springtime. For those of us in the land of air conditioning, 105F temps and 99% humidity, it's autumn. Later this month I'll do my annual posting of the Persimmon Cake recipe from Smuggler's Bride (persimmons are starting to pop up at the farmers market), but today I'm enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, and being able to walk around outside without wilting into a humid little pile of sweat soaked clothing,

Later, gators!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review--Taking the Heat (Jackson: Girls' Night Out, #3)

Taking the Heat ( Jackson: Girls' Night Out, #3)Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was unsure whether to shelf this under "romance" or "erotic romance", but I ended up going with "romance". Be aware, however, this delightful little story has lots of sex. Really, really, good sex. The kind of sex that if you were on the receiving end, you'd want to call your BFF at 3 a.m. to give her blow-by-blow details.

There's also a charming love story here. Librarian Gabe is in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on a temporary assignment to bring their library more into the digital book and media realm, but it's a labor of love. He's a rock climber, and being out of NYC is recharging his batteries and making him feel alive. But he knows he can't stay.

Veronica writes the "Dear Veronica" advice column in the local paper and online, but she's a hot mess of insecurity and sexual repression. When she meets Gabe there's attraction, but she doesn't know how to get around to discussion of the big "V" issue, and I don't mean "V" for Veronica.

All of Dahl's "Girls' Night Out" stories are entertaining, and this is a wonderful addition to the line-up. If you're looking for hot reading set in ski country, these are the books you want.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Review--Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal, #1)

Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal, #1)Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There were many things I enjoyed about this debut novel. I liked the Regency/Georgette Heyer feel of it, I liked the protagonists who were outsiders in their insular society, I liked the magic, but I think, most of all, I liked the strong women.

Prunella Gentleman is a rather pragmatic, one might even say cold-blooded, young lady who'd been dealt blows by life, and rather than fade into the genteel background she seized every opportunity, including trying to make a good match for quite mercenary purposes.

In addition, there were dragonesses who could teach the Patronesses of Almacks a thing or two, witches who don't take crap from any starched-up Englishmen, and society dames who manipulate events in their own subtle, but effective fashion.

As far as the men go, Zacharias Wythe is less cold-blooded and more of a dreamer as Sorcerer to the Crown, but even he realizes that his strong moral code is compromised and affected by the venal men around him. He'll have to be open to all sorts of things he never would have considered acceptable before (like women sorceresses) if he's going to keep his position, and his life.

The book is titled Sorcerer Royal #1, and I hope this means there will be more from Ms. Cho. It's a delightful start to a wonderful new series.

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Review--Saga, Vol. 5

Saga, Volume 5Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Saga just keeps getting better and better.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Review--Craving Flight

Craving FlightCraving Flight by Tamsen Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I remember many years ago hearing a rabbi say, "If someone tells you, 'This is what Jews believe!', move quickly in the opposite direction."

There are many misconceptions about What Jews Believe, or what they practice, even (or especially) within their own community, so I approached this story with some trepidation.

To my relief and pleasure, Ms. Parker got it right. The tension between the BT & FFB communities, the misunderstanding and anger that can develop in families when someone becomes more observant and Shomer Shabbat, the difficulty in communication in a society where men and women have very different, but no less worthy, spheres of interaction--it's all here.

More importantly for the purposes of the tale, there's an emphasis on the joyous interaction that can happen within the boundaries of marriage and observance of niddut (separation for part of the month). Too many authors writing about religious societies only focus on their perception of restriction and repression.

In this regard, Tzipporah (literally, "Birdie") is an excellent narrator. She teaches a comparative religion class at a university and emphasizes the commonality of religious practice. But her secret longings have made the divorcee hesitant to marry again, even though she wants a family to have a full life within her Orthodox community.

Elan is the neighborhood butcher and when his name is mentioned to Tzipporah, something clicks. He excites her, but it's not until their wedding night that she broaches the subject of her desire for BDSM as a sub, and this is where one sees that Elan's her b'shert (destined love), for he has the same desires as a Dom. Talk about a match made in Heaven!

The novella is thoughtful, complex, and erotic. I would give it 4.5 stars if I could. The only reason I didn't give it a full five stars is the crisis at the end seemed a little rushed--I would have enjoyed a bit more pacing to bring the story to its full conclusion, but the author may have been constrained by the limits of the novella framework.

Nonetheless, I heartily recommend this tale. In fact, I'd love to see it in the kalla class curriculum, though I know that's unlikely to occur.[g]

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Review--The Saint (The Original Sinners, White Years #1)

The Saint (The Original Sinners: White Years, #1)The Saint by Tiffany Reisz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this entry in the Original Sinners series because it gave us much more background on Soren and Nora. We'd picked up bits and pieces over the years, but this novel clearly establishes how their unique relationship as a BDSM couple developed.

Part of what I love about this series was Soren's insistence on Nora being an adult before she entered into her full relationship with him. One could quibble that because of the age difference he'd always been able to mess with her head, but The Saint makes it fairly clear that Nora's power to walk away was  real and strong.

I will continue to read, and I expect, enjoy, Ms. Reisz's tales of the BDSM community.

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Friday, September 18, 2015

Review--The Thousand Names (The Shadow Campaigns, #1)

The Thousand Names (The Shadow Campaigns, #1)The Thousand Names by Django Wexler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked it, especially the aspect of strong female characters and the alternative history feel of it, very much a setting familiar to fans of Sharpe's Rifles and other novels of the Napoleonic Wars. There's a definite nod to Napoleon's tactics and the use of the French square formation for infantry.

As far as the chicks-in-breeches female characters go, there were a few scenes that passed the Bechdel Test, and that's always a plus.

Clearly, this novel is the start of a series, and I'll know more after I read the second book. What bothered me the most about this one was that the alternative-history feel of it included light skinned "Europeans" vs. darker skinned, desert dwelling "Natives". It made a certain amount of sense if one's writing an alternative history, but it's difficult in the 21st c. to read a novel set in a faux-Egypt/Libya and not feel the weight of colonial history pressing down on you.  

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Celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

The tavern in Nassau had no name or sign outside the door, but everyone knew it. Almost everyone. It was a shame the place wasn’t known to any decent brewers, Oliver thought, as he tried to drink some lackluster ale.
“I told you to get the rum.”
“I don’t have your tolerance for that beverage yet, Captain.”
He shifted uncomfortably as she sipped from her own mug.
“You keep doing that and he may relieve himself on you out of spite.”
“I’m not used to wearing a live animal,” Oliver protested, as the parrot preened on his shoulder.
St. Armand looked at Turnbull.
“‘Bring him along’, you said, ‘It’ll be good for him to get out and about.’”
“I meant Woodruff, not the pa—not Roscoe!”
She snickered.
“Well, Woodruff, are you enjoying being out and about?”
He took another sip of the ale, worried that if he tried to respond he’d break out into a huge grin. He was sitting in a disreputable tavern in the Caribbean, with two dangerous pirates, and a parrot on his shoulder. This was the most exciting thing that ever happened to him, and being here today brought home to him how gray, structured and boring his life in Manchester was.

--[WIP] What the Parrot Saw (Mattie's Story)

September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, where you get to channel your inner pirate and talk with too many "Aarrrrs!" in your speech. Be sure to celebrate, pirate style, which may involve rum, booty (I will not elaborate on that) and basically, freeing yourself a tad from society's restrictions.

Pirates: Adding excitement to boring lives for over 2,000 years.