Saturday, January 30, 2016

Review--Forbidden

ForbiddenForbidden by Beverly Jenkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another winner from Ms. Jenkins, highlighting the lives of African-Americans in the old west. Rhine Fontaine is light enough to pass, a situation that's helped the former slave move through Nevada society, amassing property and wealth. But his commitment to living in the white world is tested when he meets Eddy, a black woman making her way through pluck, determination and her talents in front of the cookstove.

Jenkins brings the west to life while shining a light on a part of American history too often neglected in the books and in popular culture. Forbidden will please her legion of loyal fans, and attract new readers as well.



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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Review--Listen to the Moon (Lively St. Lemeston)

Listen to the Moon (Lively St. Lemeston)Listen to the Moon by Rose Lerner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes you get tired of dukes and billionaires and vampires and you want to read a story about people who lead ordinary lives, but can still have extraordinary love stories. If so, you'll enjoy Listen to the Moon as much as I did.

This is another "Lively St. Lemeston" Regency by Rose Lerner, set in a small town in the English countryside rather than an exotic locale (like London[g]). John Toogood is a "gentleman's gentleman", a valet laid off and unable to find a new employer after he annoyed a powerful woman. Sukey Grimes is a maid-of-all-work, who catches John's eye with her plucky attitude and saucy smile, but he knows they could never make a go of it, because even in the servants hierarchy they're at opposite poles.

But then an opportunity comes along which could benefit both Sukey and John, and suddenly they're seeing each other in a different light.

Fans of Bate and Anna from Downton Abbey will appreciate this tale of belowstairs love. The author's sensual writing and deep insight into the characters made the novel a book I couldn't put down. I wanted to give it five stars, but head-hopping between protagonists in the middle of scenes kept me from fully enjoying this delightful tale. However, it's definitely one of the best books I've read this month, and is likely to be one of the best romances I'll read this year.


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My Boskone 53 Schedule

It's that time of year, time for this Florida girl to dig out the snowboots and heavy weather gear, 'cause I'm going to Boston!

Not much could convince me to travel from Florida to Boston in February, but it's worth it. #Boskone is the longest running science fiction and fantasy convention in New England, a weekend filled with books, film, art, music, gaming and bid parties. You can go to www.boskone.org  to register, and follow the news at their Twitter feed or Facebook page. I'm confident if we get snowed in, again, there will be enough party supplies that we won't have to draw lots to see who goes in the cook-pot. Actually, the Westin Waterfront has done an excellent job in past years coping with the occasional blizzard and a hotel full of science fiction fans. Kudos to them, and thank you for keeping the bar and restaurants well stocked.

Here's my schedule. The (M) means I'm moderating that panel, and I look forward to seeing you at Boskone53:

Outlander: Something for Everyone

Friday 18:00 - 18:50, Harbor II (Westin)
If your heart's in the Scottish Highlands, come discuss Diana Gabaldon's Outlander in this, its 25th year. This series of novels and shorter works features elements of historical fiction, romance, mystery, adventure, and science fiction/fantasy. It has spawned a Starz TV series, a graphic novel, and a 14-part song cycle. If you loved the books, how do you think the series is faring? Maybe your introduction to Outlander was through the TV series. How do these two perspectives differ?

Heather Albano (M), C.S.E. Cooney, Flourish Klink, Darlene Marshall, Gillian Daniels

Dating 101 in Urban Fantasy

Saturday 11:00 - 11:50, Marina 3 (Westin)
Magic is in the air! Dating comes with its own unique sets of rules when finding love within urban fantasy novels. You never know what secrets your special someone is hiding — or what's really so "special" about her. Our panelists share their best advice for how characters can find true love while fighting against the imminent destruction of everyone and everything they hold dear.
Darlene Marshall (M), Max Gladstone, E.J. Stevens, Charles Stross, Lauren Roy

Young Love and First Kiss Fiction

Saturday 12:00 - 12:50, Harbor III (Westin)
Much of young adult fiction deals with those early romantic impulses: First kisses. Jealousy. Romantic triangles. These are things we all ultimately have to navigate on our own, but reading about them gives us a safe place to imagine how things might happen, as well as how situations might unfold. Panelists discuss the pitfalls of young love, and why it is so compelling for boys and girls as well as for men and women readers. What does YA romance have to offer that we aren't getting on the adult shelves?
Django Wexler (M), Esther Friesner, James Patrick Kelly, Darlene Marshall, Michael Stearns

Romance Across Space and Time

Saturday 15:00 - 15:50, Marina 2 (Westin)
Romance shows up in the unlikeliest places: from prehistory to the far-flung future; from pole to pole; from fantasy and science fiction to horror. Must it be a guilty pleasure? Or should we proudly proclaim the heart of the matter: wherever they may find it, all the world loves a love story!
Darlene Marshall (M), D L Carter, Mary Kay Kare, Steve Miller, E.J. Stevens

It's a Pirate's Life for Me!

Saturday 16:00 - 16:50, Harbor III (Westin)
Hoist up the Jolly Roger, mates, and bend your ear to a lively discussion of the men and women who rule the sea. From Captain Hook to Blackbeard, Jack Sparrow, and the Dread Pirate Roberts, pirates have a long history in speculative fiction. Join our participants for lighthearted discussion about these literally scurvy scourges. Panelists and audience members are encouraged to bring their eye patches, hats, and garb, and of course to talk pirate to us.
Edie Stern (M), Leigh Perry, James D. Macdonald, Darlene Marshall

Dealing With Rejection

Sunday 10:00 - 10:50, Marina 4 (Westin)
Getting rejected is difficult. It can be hard to find the motivation to go on when you feel like you’re not gaining any headway. Our panelists share their own experiences with rejection, what kept them going, what hard truths they faced, and what changes they made to keep working.
James Patrick Kelly (M), Barry Goldblatt, Bob Kuhn, Kenneth Schneyer, Darlene Marshall

Reading: Darlene Marshall

Sunday 14:00 - 14:25, Griffin (Westin)

Darlene Marshall (darlenemarshall@darlenemarshall.com)


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Review--The Theory of Death (Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus, #23)

The Theory of Death (Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus, #23)The Theory of Death by Faye Kellerman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part of what I've enjoyed with this series, ever since The Ritual Bath, is watching the characters grow and age in real time. Now Peter's semi-retired, and he and Rina have left LA for upstate New York, so they can be closer to their grown children and grandchildren.

Even so, murder has a way of following them, and while their small college town may seem more suited to a "cozy" mystery than LAPD cases, there's still plenty of blood and gore.

New characters are introduced (and return), and there's an outing with the entire family, so fans will feel like they're settling in for a comfortable reunion. Best of all, the murder had me guessing up to the end whodunnit, which is really the best part of all with a long running series.


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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Review--Caliban's War (Expanse, #2)

Caliban's War (Expanse, #2)Caliban's War by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fabulous story, great characters who come to life on the page, everything you want in a long, involved, complex space opera. Can't wait to read the next one!


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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Review--Frisk Me (New York's Finest, #1)

Frisk Me (New York's Finest, #1)Frisk Me by Lauren Layne
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I liked the romance, but it was one of those situations where knowing the business under discussion made me itchy. Each time the heroine talked about her three hour feel-good special being her ticket to the anchor desk, it made me squirm.

The Superbowl gets three hours. Presidential inaugurations get three hours. Documentaries like "Making a Murderer" get three hours. But a piece on a heroic cop who saves a kid from drowning? Uh uh.

I was a TV news producer, radio news director and station owner in a different life. Now, if her piece had been a three hour expose of corruption, _that_ I'd believe, but puff pieces don't cut it. Aside from all of that, it was an entertaining story, but it didn't rock my world, and I just couldn't find that sweet spot where I could suspend my disbelief.


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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Review--Six-Gun Snow White

Six-Gun Snow WhiteSix-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Completely different retelling of the Snow White story, with a heroine who's not snow white, a wicked step mom who's got her own issues, seven interesting not-dwarvish characters and an old West setting that gives it a new twist.

The language is evocative of Huckleberry Finn, and the story combines elements of American and First Nations mythology along with the classic fairy tale. Especially recommended to readers who're looking for more diversity in their sf & fantasy.


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Friday, January 08, 2016

Review--Evening Storm

Evening StormEvening Storm by Anne Calhoun
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the last story it was stationary porn. This time, it's lingerie porn. These books are making me lust, not for the hunky guys (wonderful as they are), but for the plot devices!

All that being said, Calhoun does a superb job building a sense of place and setting a scene, key components in good erotic romance. Evening Storm is about the owner of an exclusive lingerie shop in New York's Garment District, the kind of design studio where you can drop thousands on a corset ensemble. One day a Wall Street wolf brings his super-model date to be outfitted and the sparks fly. The story unfolds in Scheherazade-style with the telling of erotic encounters to titillate the senses, proving once again the most erotic parts of our bodies can be our brains.

This is a wonderful series, and I look forward to reading the next one.


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Thursday, January 07, 2016

Review--Forty Thieves

Forty ThievesForty Thieves by Thomas Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thomas Perry is one of my favorite mystery authors, and Forty Thieves is an excellent example of why he's on my auto-read list. It's a stand alone novel about a husband & wife detective team, both retired from the LAPD, and their path intersects with a husband & wife assassin team during a murder investigation.

It's said too many cooks spoil the broth, but in this case, too many thieves are complicating the investigation. One of the things I loved about the book is the detective team, Sid and Veronica Abel, are in their 50s. As Ronnie points out, part of what makes them so successful is gray-haired, middle aged women are invisible to society, especially to men. She's an example to us all of how to be grown up and still kick-ass and take names.

If you've never read Thomas Perry, one of his stand-alone books is an excellent starting point. Then you get to go on to discovering the Jane Whitehead novels, which really define what a kick-ass woman can bring to a story.


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Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Review--Jeweled Fire (Elemental Blessings #3)

Jeweled Fire (Elemental Blessings, #3)Jeweled Fire by Sharon Shinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another entry in the Elementals series, this time featuring a heroine who's not a Prime, one of the select few who can control the elements. I liked that. Corene is "sweela", fire-oriented, and her red hair is a giveaway as to her temperament, but she's not super-powerful like the primes.

She's also a princess, but one who's been raised in a family full of secrets and deceit, which prepares her for the foreign court where she's thrown herself into the pool of candidates to be the bride of the heir to the throne.

I liked this book because of its strong female characters, the friendships among the princesses who are not rivals so much as allies, the quiet, capable hero and the court intrigue. It will please Shinn fans, and it's a lovely addition to a series with elaborate and enjoyable theological world-building.


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Monday, January 04, 2016

A Note To My Readers

As some of you have heard, Amber Quill Press will be closing this year. Amber Quill has been my publisher for over 10 years, and I have nothing but praise for them. Without their professionalism and editorial skills, I might not have received so many awards for my books.

What this means for me is I'm going to be re-grouping and figuring out how to keep my backlist available, while getting What the Parrot Saw published. I'm not going away--far from it. You'll still see me reviewing and talking about writing and blogging and doing all the other things I do when I should be writing. It just means a slight hitch in my plans for 2016.

This isn't the first time I've had a publisher fold beneath me, and I've always moved on. I want to thank my loyal readers for sticking with me, and you'll be hearing more about my upcoming books in the future. However, if you've ever thought about buying one of my novels, now is the time to do it while they're still available at Amber Quill Press, Amazon, AllRomance and the other sites. Thank you for your support.

Darlene