Saturday, July 30, 2016

Review--City of the Lost (Casey Duncan, #1)

City of the Lost (Casey Duncan, #1)City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was different, refreshingly so. Imagine an isolated community, almost a desert island (though it's in the remote Yukon Territory of Canada) where people who need to disappear, can. Some are victims. Some are perpetrators. All must escape their old lives, and, for a price, a certain mysterious corporation can make it happen.

Casey needs to get away. She's already killed one man--the book stars with that sentence--and now her past is catching up to the police detective. But when she gets to Rockton she finds her professional skills are the real reason she's there. Someone's killing people, and the sheriff--the only native of the town--needs more help.

This was a quirky mystery with interesting sociology overtones, and I found it a real page turner. I haven't read Ms. Armstrong's supernatural novels, so I came to this one with no expectations, and I found it a solid, satisfying mystery novel with intriguing characters. I look forward to more in the series.


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Friday, July 29, 2016

Review--Last Shot (Tim Rackley, #4)

Last Shot (Tim Rackley, #4)Last Shot by Gregg Hurwitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another solid Tim Rackley suspense offering, this time with a complicated antagonist who could be Tim's shadow. The story starts with a prison break and the US Marshal's office is called in, with "Troubleshooter" Rackley on the job. It was amusing and poignant to see his home life with his active and into everything toddler son, especially since the series has focused so much on Rackley's tragic family circumstances.

And this book is all about family. The escaped con has an agenda, and his purpose is slowly revealed over the course of the story while a little boy's life hangs in the balance. Rackley is driven to find the fugitive, but the two of them are sides of the same coin--highly skilled ex-Special Forces.

I found the story engrossing, and once again, it could have been ripped from the headlines in its take on corrupt Big Pharma companies. I would suggest readers start with Kill Clause, the first Rackley novel, to appreciate the full character development that Hurwitz so skillfully weaves in.


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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Review--The One in My Heart

The One In My HeartThe One In My Heart by Sherry Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an interesting change of pace for Thomas, who normally writes excellent Regency romance. There was a nod to her first novel as we follow one of the descendants of that romance into his own story.

This could have been subtitled "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with Abandonment Issues", and the difficulty in relating to the overly accomplished, wealthy and beautiful H&H kept me from giving it five stars. Nonetheless, it handled the classic "fake relationship" trope well, and the characters' lives were interesting. The exploration of mental illness, particularly depression, also brought depth to the story.

There were enough intriguing secondary characters that we can hope for more contemporary romance from this accomplished author.


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Editing tips

I've just returned from a few days on the road as I accompanied my dear husband to one of his annual conferences. For me it was an opportunity to edit. I find sometimes that being out of my normal environment helps stimulate either the editing or the writing, and since our hotel wasn't near anything interesting, it helped keep my bottom in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard.

One editing trick I use for the final pass is to turn on the "Reveal Codes" function. It's amazing how many extra spaces, open quotes and other editing woes can leap out at you. I also read dialogue aloud, and see if it sounds real or not. Finally, I change the font, another good way to catch typos and problems.

No editing process is perfect but I always enjoy the sense of accomplishment when I've done a final pass before sending it off to a prospective publisher.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Review--Night Shift (Midnight, Texas, #3)

Night Shift (Midnight, Texas, #3)Night Shift by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another entertaining story set in Midnight, Texas, a town that's a lot like Mayberry--if Mayberry had vampires, witches, weres, angels, assassins and things that go bump in the night.

We're still in the Sookie Stackhouse universe, but with characters who lead much more mundane and ordinary lives, eschewing vampire and were politics (for the most part) and keeping to themselves. But now something is drawing people to the crossroads at Midnight to commit suicide. The residents have to figure out what's amiss, hide a few bodies, and some will make life decisions long overdue.

I recommend reading the other books first, but it easily stands on its own.


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Off to #RWA16!

I'm packing for my first Romance Writers of America conference in San Diego and I've learned from experience to use a packing list before big and/or important trips. You don't want to pack a gown for the Rita and Golden Heart Award Ceremony only to find out you left your evening pumps in the closet at home! The iPad is fully charged, my ereader is full of good books for the long flight, and I'm ready to rock-'n-roll with the other writers.

I also left my dear husband detailed instructions regarding the adorable, but not-quite-housetrained dachshund puppy. I predict Dodi will be getting plenty of cuddles from her dad, and I have complete confidence he can handle any small mishaps. I'm especially confident because I've got the baby gates blocking her access to most of the rugs.

For updates and pictures, I suggest following me on my Instagram account where I'm darlenemarshallauthor. There will also be Twitter updates with the hashtag #RWA16 and #RITAGH from @DarleneMarshall. You can join in the fun, and follow the live feeds to find out who's received Romance writing's highest awards at the ceremonies Saturday night!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Review--Troubleshooter (Tim Rackley, #3)

Troubleshooter (Tim Rackley, #3)Troubleshooter by Gregg Hurwitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another solid Tim Rackley novel, this time featuring biker gangs and a truly convoluted mystery. Rackley's back with the US Marshal's office, and his nickname of "Troubleshooter" is apt and earned. I'm looking forward to reading the next Rackley novel, and Hurwitz is climbing up my "auto buy" list, right alongside Lee Child, Robert Crais, Thomas Perry and Stephen Hunter.


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Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Review--Stiletto (The Checquy Files, #2)

Stiletto (The Checquy Files, #2)Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"So, yes," Odgers said firmly, "we are going in. We are the troops of the Checquy, we are trained, we have supernatural powers, and we have big fucking guns. This is what we do."

It's mad scientists vs. the supernatural in a fight to the death! Or at least it was for centuries. Now the Checquy (Britain's really, really secret service) is feeling out a detente with The Grafters, the European scientists who scoff at the notion that there were things Man Was Not Meant to Know.

A delegation is sent from the scientists to London, and Odette Liliefeld and her young brother Alessio are as much hostages as diplomats as they feel out the Checquy. Odette's handler/guard, Pawn Felicity Clements will have to overcome her own visceral hatreds and mistrust to keep Odette safe, or kill her if commanded to do so.

Rook Myfanwy Thomas is back, but isn't the protagonist. Once again O'Malley has written dynamic and strong female leads who drive this book forward. There's no way to describe it, really, but it should appeal to fans of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe, Buckaroo Banzai in the Eighth Dimension, and Men in Black. You must read The Rook first to get the full, gonzo experience and appreciate the wordplay and skillful writing. O'Malley's fans have been waiting a long time for this sequel, and it was well worth the wait.

I read this novel with a gleeful smile on my face, and a happy sigh as I closed it at the end. I can't wait for the next Checquy Files adventure!


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Friday, July 01, 2016

Fourth of July!

“It is brave of you to uproot yourself and come to a new land, Mrs. Stephenson.”
“My goodness.” Amanda looked at the captain and thought about it for a moment. “I never considered myself a brave person, Captain Roberts. I am excited about seeing a new country. And America is wonderful, a land of freedom and great opportunities! Mr. Freneau’s poetry says it so well! ‘Honor to those who first designed, this chain of States to bless mankind.’”
--CAPTAIN SINISTER'S LADY


The Fourth of July is just a date on the calendar in other countries, but in the United States of America it's Independence Day, a day celebrated with fireworks, music, patriotic speeches and, if you're in this part of the country, plenty of cool, refreshing watermelon (usually followed by a seed-spitting contest).

Do like Amanda Stephenson does in Captain Sinister's Lady, embrace the concepts that made our country great, while always working vigilantly to make out country even better.