Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review--Darling Beast

Darling Beast (Maiden Lane, #7)Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another winner from Elizabeth Hoyt: tortured, "ugly" hero, working girl heroine, plenty of romantic tension and enough interesting secondary characters to make the reader look forward to them getting their own books.

Darling Beast is a classic Beauty & the Beast tale done well, set in London during the Georgian period. It reintroduces other characters from the Maiden Lane series, and brings forward some new ones, and the entire effort is a very satisfying page turner.


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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Review--Lock In

Lock InLock In by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another Scalzi winner that has "Future Hugo Nominee" written all over it. I was turning pages late into the night in this futuristic police procedural.

FBI agent Chris Shane has Haden's Syndrome, a disease where he's "locked in" to his body, unable to move or respond but fully aware. Modern technology has provided Haden's survivors with the ability to transfer their consciousness into "threepios", metal shells that can move and act like humans, but resemble a beloved robotic film character.

Chris and his non-Haden's partner are racing to figure out what's happening in a series of murders and terrorist attacks linked to the Haden's community. The writing is vibrant and the dialogue snappy as they uncover clues leading to a conspiracy larger than anyone could have suspected. The only reason I didn't give the book five stars was the number of pieces that fell into place a touch too conveniently, such as Chris' new roommate happening to have the skills necessary to figure out a key issue.

However, one of the things that struck me the most, and I didn't realize it until late in the novel, is that the Haden's community is a post-racial community. Most people don't know the racial background of the people in the threepios. They're not black, or Hispanic, or Asian, they're all Hadens. It was an interesting twist as a new class of people emerge in society subject to slurs ("clanks" rather than Hadens) and hate crimes.

This is a solid SF novel combined with a good suspense tale, and I hope it's the start of a series because I'd love to read more about Chris, his partner Vann and the Haden's community.  


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Review--Rock Addiction

Rock Addiction (Rock Kiss, #1)Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I normally wouldn't seek out a contemporary romance about a rock star, but I do enjoy Nalini Singh, and she delivers the goods in Rock Addiction. Bad boy rocker Fox has a reputation for partying hard, but when he meets good girl librarian Molly (and yes, they do make fun of the cliche) he's hit with a thunderbolt and knows She's the One.

This is different, the man recognizing True Love and something special right away. It's a pleasure to read about two people who need each other so badly and when they're together the sum is greater than its parts. The novel is emotionally charged and erotic. I almost rejected it at one point because I thought it was veering off into Big Misunderstanding territory, but a skilled author knows how to make these things work and Singh kept the story going in a realistic and logical fashion.

I'm looking forward to more in this series. Sometimes it's a good thing to break out of your reader comfort zone and trying something different.


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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

It's Autumn! Time for Smuggler's Bride Persimmon Cake!

Autumn is my favorite season. I know up north people long for spring to free them from winter's ice and snow, but in North Florida we long for autumn to free us from summer's brutal heat and humidity. This week the weather finally turned, and we enjoyed crisp nights and comfortable days again. When I was at the farmers market I saw another sign of autumn, tables piled high with persimmons. That mean's it's time for me to start baking, and time to once again share a recipe from Smuggler's Bride, a book where a savvy young woman realized if you're not going to use a knife to get to a man's heart, then you might try what kidnapped heiress Julia Delarue does, cooking her way into the good graces of smuggler Rand Washburn: 
“I have to hunt and fish to keep food on the table,” Rand said. “I can’t be spendin’ all day doin’ women’s work!”
“If it is women’s work, it is not work this woman ever did. At the estate where I lived there were laundresses who did the cleaning for the entire household. I can cook better than you can, but it seems to me that if you have experience doing laundry, then you can continue to do a better job than I would. Not to mention that if I am spending all my time doing laundry I won’t have time to make the pork pie I was planning for dinner. With persimmon cake for dessert.”
There was something wrong with this logic, Rand knew it, but he couldn’t come up with a good argument. It became even harder to think about it when Julia waltzed past him into the house carrying a plate and leaving behind an aroma of griddle cakes, syrup, and woman.
--SMUGGLER'S BRIDE

Julia's Persimmon Cake


Preheat oven to 325F


1 cup sugar
3/4 cup margarine or butter
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1 cup persimmon pulp--approx. six small very ripe Florida persimmons
½ cup chopped pecans


To get persimmon pulp: Take very ripe persimmons, cut in half, scoop pulp out. Remove pithy seed area, pulse a few times in food processor.

1. Stir together dry ingredients

2. cream sugar and butter, add eggs, add dry ingredients, pulp and nuts.

3. pour mixture into standard loaf pan (grease and flour pan, if not nonstick model), bake 1.25 hours. Let cool ten minutes, remove from pan.

Freezes well. You can also try baking it at 350F for 1 hour, depending on your oven.



Review--Bad Feminist

Bad Feminist: EssaysBad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this collection of essays by Roxane Gay. I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read her analyses of current events, especially ones relating to gender and women's issues. I'd recommend it to young women in particular, but feminist readers of all ages will appreciate it.


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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Review--The Songbird's Seduction

The Songbird's SeductionThe Songbird's Seduction by Connie Brockway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of classic comedy with romance, especially the trope of the serious guy whose world is overturned by the free-spirited woman who he thinks is All Wrong For Him. But it can't be a movie where the woman's a plot device, a manic pixie dreamgirl with no needs or desires of her own. It has to be a film where a woman is a strong, active character--think Bringing up Baby or Ball of Fire or The Lady Eve or even Born Yesterday. These were great films with strong women and men who (eventually) loved them.

And why don't we get films like this anymore? One reason may be these films were made for adult audiences, women and men, not adolescent boys who like explosions. They had wit, and characters the audience could respond to, and it was a golden age for actresses in Hollywood looking for good films where they were the star, actresses like Barbara Stanwyck and Rosalind Russell and Katherine Hepburn.

But I digress. The preceding rant was to illustrate why I liked The Songbird's Seduction so much. The hero's name, Archibald Grant, is an immediate tip-off. Cary Grant starred in Bringing Up Baby, among other films, and his real name was Archibald Leach. Archie falls in with chanteuse Lucy Eastlake, who's on her way to France to help her elderly aunts claim an inheritance. Along the way there's mayhem galore as Archie and Lucy get separated from the aunts (who end up with the best traveling companion ever), and the couple has to wend their way to the rubies on their own.

The Edwardian setting was also a nice touch. It allowed Lucy to act with more freedom (she has a career!) while highlighting a time and place and fashions that were glorious, but soon to be overturned by World War I.

Fans of Connie Brockway will love this, fans of screwball comedy will wonder why there's not more like this, and fans looking for a historical with a different setting will all enjoy The Songbird's Seduction.


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Happy Anniversary to Amber Quill Press, LLC!

My publisher, Amber Quill Press, LLC, is celebrating its 12th anniversary! Where has the time gone? They've been selling my books for nearly 10 years, and this year they rolled out a spiffy new website to make ordering books easier than ever.

Amber Quill Press is also celebrating all this month with special promotions and giveaways. Remember, you can purchase my books in all formats there, and they're always priced right. Check them out, especially if you've been wanting to try M/M or F/F romance in some of their other lines like Amber Allure and Amber Heat.

To get all the info on new releases, contests and more, sign up for the newsletter at the website: www.amberquill.com, and join in the celebration!


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Music to write by

I've mentioned once or twice that my favorite writing music is epic soundtracks without vocals--Game of Thrones, Hans Zimmer music, Klaus Badelt, that sort of thing. Where once I depended on film or TV soundtracks, I'm finding now that some of the best epic music is being composed for games.

It may set the mood for gamers to score points against their opponents, but for me these pieces trigger a little switch in my brain that says, "Time to write!" It may be a chicken/egg deal: When I hear the music, it sets off a response. Or I may have picked the music deliberately to create that response. Regardless, it helps keep me focused and on task.

I use Pandora's Epic Soundtracks station, or when I want to go offline, I use my personal playlists. So on that note, I'm cranking up my  #4 Writing Music playlist of Game of Thrones (Season 1), Braveheart, Pirates of the Caribbean 1 and Gladiator.

Time to write!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review--Marco and the Devil's Bargain

Marco and the Devil's Bargain (Spanish Brand, #2)Marco and the Devil's Bargain by Carla    Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is something deeply satisfying about reading a novel dealing with the turmoil of making a marriage work. Most romance novels are about the courtship, the journey from Point A to Point B, and the "Happily Ever After". But we all know real life doesn't work that way, and in the hands of a talented author we can get a glimpse into the real work of life, making a marriage grow and become stronger.

Marco Mondragon and Paloma Vega (The Double Cross) are now married in Spanish New Mexico where Marco is the Juez de Campo, a brand inspector who's the closest thing to a judicial officer in the isolated royal colony. He and Paloma are settling in to newlywed life, though Paloma deeply regrets their lack of children, something he shared with his first wife before she and the children died of cholera.

Their happiness is disrupted by news that "la viruela"--smallpox--is coming. Some of the people have been inoculated, most have not, and many fear inoculation because it can bring on the disease. Marco's own brother died of inoculation (not vaccination--that method was not yet in common use). An English physician offers Marco a bargain: if he's escorted deep into Comanche territory to find his kidnapped daughter, he'll inoculate Paloma and others.

It is a devil's bargain, for entering Comanche land is almost certainly a death sentence, yet Marco agrees, the inoculation occurs, and after her recovery Paloma insists on accompanying them on their dangerous journey.

Marco and the Devil's Bargain is a tale of good people making difficult choices. Paloma and Marco share a love that endures through disease and death, struggling to find their place in a harsh, yet beautiful land. The secondary characters make the story real, particularly Toshua, their Indian brother, and Anthony Gill, the Englishman burdened by a secret.

This second book in the Spanish Brand series is sure to please Ms. Kelly's fans. It's a lovingly crafted novel of marriage and growth, and a glimpse into what's left out of traditional US history books, the role played by the Spanish settlers who preceded the Anglo-Americans into Florida, Louisiana Territory and the Southwest. I look forward to more books from Ms. Kelly in this setting.




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Friday, September 19, 2014

Celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day

“Avast, ye scurvy dog! Strike your colors or I’ll…I’ll… What will I do, Mr. Turnbull?”
“Say, ‘I’ll scupper your ship and use your guts for garters, ye lily-livered—oh. Captain, sir!” Turnbull knuckled his forehead and said, “Um, I have to be off now, Mattie,” before scurrying below.
Mattie looked up then and spotted the governess, her face lighting up. She ran over and Lydia Burke squatted down on the deck to open her arms to Mattie’s embrace.
“Miss Burke! Miss Burke! I am so happy to see you again!”
“I am happy to see you too, Mathilde. I missed you,” she said fiercely, hugging the child to her chest. Mattie drew back her head and looked at her.
“I am not Mathilde anymore, Miss Burke. Now I’m Marauding Mattie, the terror of the West Indies!”
“Are you indeed, miss?”
She stood, still holding Mathilde. While her words were icy, if she were a dragon she’d be breathing flame to protect the child. Rather than make Robert angry, he found it promising she would champion her welfare. Mathilde needed someone to watch her back because while there were few things in the world he was certain of, he knew pirates did not die of old age in bed. At least, not their own beds.
“Mathilde, you know I said you needed a governess.”
“Papa did say that, miss. He said my governess would keelhaul me if I disobeyed her commands.”
“Wha—no, I did not say that!” He glanced around the deck for rescue. “Mr. Fuller! Is the cabin ready for Miss Burke?"

--The Pirate's Secret Baby

How are you celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day? Amber Quill Press is offering all my pirate themed ebooks at 50%, including The Pirate's Secret Baby. It's time to stock your ereader and channel your inner pirate!

I'm celebrating by re-reading Treasure Island, of course.