Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review--Over Your Dead Body (John Cleaver, #5)

Over Your Dead Body (John Cleaver, #5)Over Your Dead Body by Dan Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another engrossing John Wayne Cleaver, Boy (would be) Serial Killer story. John's still hunting demons, putting his special sociopath skills to work to find the monsters. His relationship with the body inhabited by the demon Nobody and two of his previous friend/girlfriend grows, and he steps up to new responsibilities.

I can't wait for the next volume!


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Monday, June 19, 2017

The War of 1812

She asked him once if the privateers made a difference for America. He looked at her blankly for a moment, then said, “Bear in mind, Doctor, we are not the Royal Navy with hundreds of years of ships at our beck and call. The United States is young, but we are strong because we put everything we have into the fight, especially at sea. Yes, our privateers make all the difference in this war. Every ship we capture is another blow to Britain and its allies.”
--Sea Change

June 18 is the anniversary of the start of the War of 1812. It's often overlooked in American history classes, but this conflict was pivotal in proving that the United States was a nation to be reckoned with. Some refer to it as "The second war of American independence", and the US privateers played a key role in the battle with Britain.

If you'd like to know more about the US privateers in 1812 or you're just looking for a great beach read, try Sea Change, available again in print and ebook. You don't have to take my word for it, you can read the reviews!


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Flag Day!

“You underestimate the will of the American people, Doctor,” he poked his finger in the air for emphasis. “When you push us, we push back. Hard. John Bull cannot bully America into surrendering now any more than you could 40 years ago. Have you already forgotten the lesson of Fort McHenry?”

He rummaged in his desk and pulled out a tattered newspaper, much folded and creased.

“My mother sent this to me with the letters, a newspaper from home. A Mr. Key wrote a poem about the battle, Doctor, titled ‘The Defence of Fort McHenry’. Look here–‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’. That’s America, Charley!"
---SEA CHANGE

June 14 is #FlagDay, the day the United States honors our nation's star spangled banner.  If you've got a flag, fly it proudly!




Sunday, June 11, 2017

Review--Moses: A Human Life

Moses: A Human LifeMoses: A Human Life by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another deep and thoughtful book from Dr Gottlieb Zornberg that will have you dwelling on the subject long after you close the cover. I read the book over the course of months, because there was so much to absorb and think about that I couldn't do it in one or two sittings. I was especially impressed by the author's writing on the role of women in Moses' life, from before he's born until late into the wanderings in the wilderness. It's said in Judaism that the Exodus from Egypt came about because of the women who took action, and Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg brings that to life in her book.

Highly recommended for a serious reading of the life of the man most revered in Judaism.


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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Review--Sawbones

Sawbones (A Laura Elliston Novel)Sawbones by Melissa Lenhardt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would have tagged it "'The Fugitive' meets 'Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman'" but what do I know? Regardless of how it's pitched, it's an exciting, fast paced read full of blood and gore, and even some romance.

Dr. Catherine Bennett is a surgeon in a man's world, forced to flee NYC when she's falsely accused of murder. She heads west hoping to reinvent herself and practice medicine far from people who know her, but ends up surviving an Indian attack only to be at risk of discovery by bounty hunters and people from her past.

There were a couple too many coincidences for me to be completely enamored of the story, but the action kept me turning pages and I look forward to reading the sequel.


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Thursday, June 08, 2017

Review--Hunted

HuntedHunted by Meagan Spooner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've read a lot of Beauty and the Beast stories over the years, and I'd put this one in the top five. Yelena, nicknamed "Beauty", is a hunter like her beloved father. When the family suffers a reversal of fortune the father and daughter depend on their hunting skills to keep the family alive.

This Beauty is bookish, yes, but also an athletic outdoorswoman, skilled with her bow. It's a refreshing change from the usual B&B fare. We also have two sisters who, rather than being greedy and hating Beauty, love and support her, another refreshing change.

The Beast is...the Beast. We know he's got a prince inside of him, but he is sufficiently beastly to Beauty to help us buy into the entire tale.

Finally, using Russian folklore and setting for the tale helps give it a fresh twist, and works well with the narrative.

I'm almost sorry it's shelved as a YA novel. Had I not read such glowing reviews from fellow authors, I might have missed this altogether, and that would have been a shame. I highly recommend it to readers of any age. It's excellent.


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Monday, June 05, 2017

Review--The Devil's Only Friend (John Cleaver, #4)

The Devil's Only Friend (John Cleaver, #4)The Devil's Only Friend by Dan Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Teenage serial killer wannabe John Wayne Cleaver is back, hunting demons both real and personal. I'd recommend starting the series with I Am Not A Serial Killer, but if you're hooked like I was you'll want to keep up with his adventures.

There's a high gore and body quotient, but fans of Dexter are likely to enjoy these novels as well.


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Balticon51 and Baltimore's Historic Ships, or "How I Spent My Holiday Weekend"

We were in Baltimore over Memorial Day, enjoying a relaxing weekend with friends at Balticon51, an area science fiction convention. It was my first visit to the city since Worldcon in '98 when I came down with mono. My memories remain mostly fuzzy about that time period.

This time though it was all good. Even though we were there primarily to catch up with good friends (I'd list them all but I'm afraid I might leave someone off--they know who they are), it was also a very enjoyable convention. I volunteered for a Green Room shift, because cons run on volunteer power and as a Green Room manager at numerous Worldcons I knew exactly how important it was to have the room well staffed. However, Manager Eileen did a bang-up job and only needed me for a couple hours, so I was free to hang out and visit with people. I even attended some program items, including a valuable one on how to hand-sell your books.

I also took time to see some sights. Baltimore, of course, is a historic US harbor and features in some of my novels, particularly Sea Change:

"The Fancy is rigged for speed,” he said, pointing to the raking masts. “She’s fine-lined and tall, and built in Baltimore, home of the fastest vessels afloat. And that ability to maneuver quickly is necessary, because unlike your British merchants, we do not have a fleet of navy ships escorting us everywhere. We Americans have to rely most on our own wits, our seamanship, and our gunnery skills to stay free.”
The ship I'd most hoped to see while in Baltimore's Inner Harbor is The Pride of Baltimore II, modeled on the Chasseur, the most storied American privateer of the War of 1812. However, the Pride was cruising in the Bahamas, so instead I visited two other historic ships. One was the USCG Cutter Taney,
 The Taney served in WWII and subsequent actions, through the Viet Nam war and into the era of drug interdiction. It's now part of the Historic Ships collection in Baltimore. While I don't write in the era of the Taney's service, I did research the USCG aka the Revenue Marine for Smuggler's Bride, so I've always had an interest in the USCG vessels. Touring the Taney was a reminder of how cramped conditions are and were in these smaller vessels, and what life was like for those who served aboard them.

I may not have had a chance to see the Pride of Baltimore, but I did see another storied sailing ship, the USS Constellation.  This is not the frigate Constellation of the War of 1812, but the sloop-of-war Constellation built in 1854.

While it's a bit past the era I write in, life aboard a USN ship in the mid-19th century is similar enough that I could enjoy the tour and find neat tidbits to work into my future novels. Here's a picture of the captain's day room, a space used for discussion of ship's business with the officers, and other purposes. I found it surprisingly spacious. There was also a zinc tub built into the bulkhead next to the captain's "seat of ease", which could be easily drained by pulling a plug. It's a neat feature I hadn't considered until now. 

I've often said one of the best parts of being a writer is doing the hands on research, whether it's caving in North Central Florida for The Bride and the Buccaneer, or walking the streets of St. Augustine for Captain Sinister's Lady, or a day at the beach with mojitos (all the books). Now I can add another historic ship tour to my research notes, and I look forward to sharing the information in future novels.

Review--No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Short Stories

No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Short StoriesNo Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Short Stories by Lee Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hardcore Reacher fans will want this collection of short stories, some of which were originally published elsewhere. We see young Jack Reacher (not John, no middle name), whose own family calls him "Reacher" from the time he's a toddler.

Most of the stories deal with Reacher while he was a young man or still in the Army, but there are some post-Army tales as well, and of course, there's coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

The collection may not make sense to people not fans of the series, but for the rest of us, it's a delightful summer read.


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Sunday, June 04, 2017

Review--The Kill Artist (Gabriel Allon, #1)

The Kill Artist (Gabriel Allon, #1)The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For years I've heard wonderful things about this series, but I put off starting it, partly because I knew if I liked it I'd want to glom the whole series right away. That would make my other books feel neglected.

Ah well, they'll just have to get used to it. The complicated story of Gabriel Allon, Israeli assassin and art restorer is the best kind of spy story. Complicated people living lives where morality is awash in gray tones and one's values and choices are subject to the worst kinds of compromise.

Of course I'll start reading the next book right now.


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Friday, June 02, 2017

Review--So Wild the Heart

So Wild the HeartSo Wild the Heart by Geoffrey Trease
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love a good story with a hero so beta he's way over into gamma, delta and epsilon territory. Adam is a young man from a poor background with a bright mind, who's focused on achieving success at Oxford. He's obsessed with creating the definitive translation and history of an obscure Roman poet...who may be obscure for a good reason.

He's finally pulled away from his studies for a summer trip where he can do some research in Italy, and suddenly his life begins to get interesting.

A sweet and gentle romance is wrapped around this coming of age story set in the Regency period. I didn't label it a romance, but it's been recommended to me by other romance authors and it will satisfy people looking for that romantic element that makes us smile while we're reading.


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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review--The Bookshop on the Corner

The Bookshop on the CornerThe Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A charming story for book lovers and anyone who likes tales of quirky little towns, amazingly perfect cottages in the country, good friends, having a job where you could spend all day talking about books, and meeting a hunky man or two along the way.

I listed this as both a romance and general fiction, because while the story is about librarian Nina reinventing herself in the Scottish hinterlands, there's also a love interest or two on her way to her HEA. I pretty much read it through in one sitting because it was a delightful way to spend a sunny spring afternoon.


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Monday, May 22, 2017

Review--Remnants of Trust (Central Corps, #2)

Remnants of Trust (Central Corps, #2)Remnants of Trust by Elizabeth Bonesteel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Space opera is alive and well in the very capable hands of Ms. Bonesteel. The first Central Corps novel was excellent, especially in its portrayal of diverse characters and strong female protagonists. This one's even better.

On the heels of her court martial, Commander Elena Shaw is sent to the backwaters of space to patrol a nearly empty sector, or so she's led to believe. There events from years past return to haunt her, and an attack on a Corps ship leaves more questions than answers.

What I'm loving about this series is the diverse nature of the women characters. The captain of the PSI generation ship is a heavily pregnant mother of six, not the usual starship captain we're used to. I saw a review that said the Central Corps novels are like "Star Trek for grown-ups", and I felt that way as I was reading it. I look forward to more novels in the Central Corps series and following Elena Shaw on her complicated career path.


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Friday, May 12, 2017

#NationalLimerickDay




"There once was a writer of books,
who was used to getting strange looks.
'I write about love,
The genre fits like a glove,
And with my pirates, I've got a hook!'"

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review--Cutting to the Chase

Cutting to the ChaseCutting to the Chase by Rose Phillips
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rose Phillips captures the essence of being a teenager, where daily life can be a constant upheaval of emotions and changes. I found this far more engrossing than a dystopian saga about young adults, as Lizzy seems so very real. The choices she has to make, the relationships she navigates, all bring an intensity that is easy to overlook from the more adult perspective.

Lizzy is also a cutter. She needs the release of her razor blades, and the reader doesn't know how far she'll go to escape her angst. The book deals with so many teen issues: bullying, cutting, first love, being part of the out-group, mean girls, suicide, parents, and ethnicity. I loved it, and I couldn't put it down.

This is the author's debut novel, and I look forward to reading more from this promising newcomer.



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Review--Burning Bright (Peter Ash, #2)

Burning Bright (Peter Ash, #2)Burning Bright by Nicholas Petrie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent suspense novel that kept me turning pages late into the night. Peter Ash has been compared to Jack Reacher, but I find him to be more like Stephen Hunter's Bob Lee Swagger--someone who's having real difficulty dealing with his personal demons and adjusting to civilian life. What I especially like about Ash is that he's growing and making progress in dealing with his PTSD. It's not all that defines him.

In this novel he meets a young woman who's up to his weight in terms of her ability to cope with adversity, and I especially like how much he deferred to her. She was in charge, and he went along with that, something she (and this reader) found refreshing.

I hope there are more Peter Ash stories in the works. It would be an autobuy for me.


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Review--Cafe Nevo

Café Nevo: A NovelCafé Nevo: A Novel by Barbara Rogan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cafe Nevo is a beautiful and poignant tale of Tel Aviv, almost a microcosm of the story of modern Israel. There are clashes between the generation of founders--kibbutz pioneers and refugees--and the disenchanted younger generation sent to fight in Lebanon; clashes between Arab and Jew; women held captive by religious law governing marriage and divorce; and the struggle of artists of all stripes, both the talented and the hack. There's even a touch of magic realism.

At the center of it all in grungy, fly-specked Cafe Nevo is Sternholz, the waiter (maybe owner) who takes it all in and filters it for the reader.

I found it a captivating read, but initially was thrown off by the shifts of point of view and characters within a scene. After the first couple times of being pulled out of the narrative, I chalked it up to the author's voice and the element of magic realism present in the story and went along for the ride. It was worth the effort, and the book is recommended to anyone who likes serious fiction about people--and a country--in turmoil.


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Monday, May 01, 2017

Review--The Nowhere Man (Orphan X, #2)

The Nowhere Man (Orphan X, #2)The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mark Twain famously said of writing that it involves chasing your characters up trees and throwing rocks at them.

Gregg Hurwitz has this down to an art. Poor Evan Smoak! First we learned about Orphan X in his debut novel, and now he's back, the Nowhere Man who takes phone calls from strangers desperate for help. All he asks is that they pay it forward by giving his number to someone else who's desperate and has nowhere to turn.

Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, and Evan finds himself up to his neck--and beyond--in troubles when a bad guy takes him prisoner.

If you like nail-biting, page turning suspense with a high level of gore. then the Orphan X books are for you. I can't wait for the next one!


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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review--Nothing Too Daring: A Biography of Commodore David Porter, 1780-1843

Nothing Too Daring: A Biography of Commodore David Porter, 1780-1843Nothing Too Daring: A Biography of Commodore David Porter, 1780-1843 by David F. Long
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent, highly readable biography of one of America's early naval heroes, a man who in many ways was a victim of his own hubris. Detailed research and good writing make this a keeper on my history shelf. I first read it when I was writing Captain Sinister's Lady in the late 90s, and now I'm re-reading parts of it for my next novel. It's a pleasure to re-visit such a good biography.


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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Review--Etched in Bone (The Others, #5)

Etched in Bone (The Others, #5)Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm still very much enjoying this series as the humans and Others learn to co-exist, and Etched in Bone, the finale of the Meg and Simon story, will be appreciated by fans of the first four books. My only quibble is the names. Nicknames are all well and good in the real world, but can be confusing in a novel, especially when you have characters whose names are similar--Sierra and Sissy, Clarence and Cyrus and C.J. and Simon and Sam and Skippy and so on. One character is called Cyrus by some, Jimmy by others, and if the reader has to stop and ask--"Wait, who's that again?" it becomes too much like reading War and Peace.

However, we still have humans described by wolves as "exploding fluffballs", Elder Gods who learn how to ask for cookies, communities cautiously coming together, and an interspecies romance. It's an entertaining excursion into the paranormal and a world where humans are not the apex predators, and I look forward to the next story in another part of this well-crafted universe.


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Review--Good Time Coming

Good Time ComingGood Time Coming by C.S. Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a wrenching novel of the Civil War from the perspective of the people left behind, the women and children. Like Cold Mountain it deals with the evil men do during wartime, and the courage and bravery of ordinary people.

Amrie St. Pierre is a pre-teen in Louisiana catching tadpoles with her best friend, Finn. Her physician father and healer mother are abolitionists who oppose the breakup of the Union, but they're loyal to their home, and when war comes Dr. St. Pierre enlists and leaves his wife and daughter to fend for themselves.

The heroes in this novel are not the generals and the soldiers, on either side, but the ordinary folks who try to live their lives and help one another. Unlike Cold Mountain and other war novels written by men, there's a wrenching and particular emphasis on the violence women suffered--black women and white women, free and enslaved--and how war affects them and their children.

Ms. Harris is best known for her Regency era romances and her Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries, but this is an outstanding example of historical fiction at its best. My only regret is we don't know more about Amrie's life post-war. She's the kind of heroine who sticks with you, and I'd love to read more of her story.


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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Noodling away at the next book

Today I was reading an old history of the early United States Coast Guard and I think I found the MacGuffin for my next novel. You don't know what a MacGuffin is? The Maltese Falcon is probably the best example. In my published novels, the pirate treasure in The Bride and the Buccaneer is a MacGuffin.

I was reading about the USCG, actually the early Cutter Service aka the Revenue Marine, because they'd been part of the plot for Smuggler's Bride and I always wanted to do another Coastie book. So much good material there, especially in Florida history!

People ask me what kind of writer I am, a plotter or a "pantser", as in "I write by the seat of my pants." I'm a "pantser", though I prefer Nora Roberts' more elegant term, an "organic writer". I start writing and see where the story takes me. Once I start the "what if?" process, my brain cranks up and I find myself filling in gaps or raising questions at odd moments--it's one reason why I carry a notebook when I walk the dog.

So, I'll see where this story goes but I know so far it's got a Florida setting, a Revenue Marine hero and a heroine who has some valuable property--the MacGuffin. More on this as it develops!

  

Monday, April 24, 2017

Weird Writer Woes

I drove myself crazy this morning trying to remember a phrase I'd once heard for a useless officer aboard ship (insert joke from all NCO's here). All my naval dictionaries and sources produced nothing except a lot of rude phrases not suited to the scene I was writing.

Finally, after lunch, the penny dropped and I remembered I'd heard it used in an episode of Star Trek, the original series where Kirk gets replaced by a computer ("The Ultimate Computer". Thank you, Wikipedia). So I typed the search question and got back "Captain Dunsel, meaning 'doesn't sail'."

Cool! But knowing better than to trust internet research on its own, I dug a little deeper and found this may have been a phrase invented for Starfleet Academy types, and not a real, historical phrase for a useless officer.

So, I'm back to revising the scene so I'm not inserting a phrase that's not only anachronistic, but fake. By the way, back in the day I would have posted the question in writing to a science fiction APA (amateur press alliance) publication because before there was an internet, we used to say "All knowledge is contained in fandom". I would have gotten an answer, but it might have taken a few weeks...or months.

Now with the internet I have new ways to waste time, but at least I may find my mistakes more quickly.


Friday, April 21, 2017

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4)

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4)The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've enjoyed the writing throughout this series. Stiefvater has a distinctive voice, and I find people either like her a lot, or can't get into it. I happen to like it. That said, I found the "upgrade" of a minor character to one who plays a major role in the final novel to be somewhat of a deus ex machina attempt and somewhat off-putting. We're so familiar with the stories of Blue, Adam, Gansey, Ronan and Noah by the fourth book that a new player involved in the resolution of the crisis is a distraction.

That said, people who've been reading the series will want to read this final volume. I was intrigued by the idea of a kiss from one's true love being fatal rather than fulfilling, and fans will definitely want to see how Blue and Gansey's story plays out.


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Review--Where the Dead Lie (Sebastian St. Cyr, #12)

Where the Dead Lie (Sebastian St. Cyr, #12)Where the Dead Lie by C.S. Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another excellent entry in an entertaining and wonderfully researched series. I especially liked how the issue of London's street children resonated with Sebastian, and how he viewed his family dynamics in light of his investigation. There's a set-up for the next book so the ending isn't a conclusion so much as a hint, and I eagerly await the next Sebastian St. Cyr Regency era mystery.


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Review--Saga, Vol. 7

Saga, Vol. 7Saga, Vol. 7 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

SAGA is the best graphic novel published today. If you've never read a graphic novel, it's an outstanding example of how words and pictures--especially pictures depicting truly alien life forms--can combine in a seamless, beautiful package of thoughtful entertainment.


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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sassy, Swashbuckling Ladies of the Sea

“Not that there is anything wrong with Mathilde,” he assured her. “It is a perfectly lovely name for a young lady. It strikes me though as not being piratical. Women who are pirates have names that are simple, but do not detract from their fierceness. Girls like Anne Bonny and Mary Read.”
“There are girl pirates?” If she looked happy before, he feared now she would explode with excitement.
“Yes, indeed there are. I will show you Captain Johnson’s book of pirates when we’re aboard the Prodigal Son. So, what shall your name be?”
--The Pirate's Secret Baby

My most requested talk is "Good Girls Go to Heaven, But Bad Girls Go to Sea: Women Pirates Through History". It's no surprise that it's a crowd pleaser. My inbox this month was filling with friends and fans asking, "Did you see the Smithsonian article on swashbuckling women?" I had, and I enjoyed it, just as I've enjoyed tales of women pirates since I first learned about Anne Bonny and Mary Read when I was about Mattie St. Armand's (The Pirate's Secret Baby) age. 

Over the years I've learned there were many more transgressive women who took to the water, on rivers and on the ocean. It's excellent fodder for an author who loved pirates as a child, but like Mattie and other little girls I was especially entertained by stories of lady pirates. It gave me hope for my own future career options.


Thursday, April 06, 2017

Review--The Night Mark

The Night MarkThe Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sweet and poignant tale of a woman who believes she has nothing left to live for, and a trip through time that offers her a new perspective.

THE NIGHT MARK refers to lighthouses and how they're identified to ships, but the lighthouse itself is a metaphor for faith, love and hope. It will appeal to fans of the film GHOST and may be a surprise to Reisz fans only familiar with her erotic stories.


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Sunday, April 02, 2017

Review--A Lady's Code of Misconduct (Rules for the Reckless, #5)

A Lady's Code of Misconduct (Rules for the Reckless, #5)A Lady's Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another winner from Ms. Duran, intricately plotted, well-executed, with characters that seem very real and complex. It uses the amnesia trope to good effect, and the in-depth look at Victorian politics is also skillfully handled.

The set-up for the next story is included, and I can't wait to read it. This is the fifth "Rules for the Reckless" novel, but you don't have to read the others to appreciate the story in this one. However, if you like A Lady's Code of Misconduct you'll want to check out Duran's backlist for more enjoyable historical romance.


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Friday, March 31, 2017

Review--Miranda and Caliban

Miranda and CalibanMiranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A bittersweet novel, beautifully written. You know how it ends, you've seen The Tempest performed or read the play. But Carey gives us the deeper story, the story of life on the island and especially the lives of Miranda and Caliban.

Carey is a talented writer whose range continues to impress me. I look forward to seeing what she tackles next.


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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Review--A Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell, #2)

A Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell, #2)A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am loving this series. The snark between the main characters makes me grin, and the mystery is snappy and intriguing. The author clearly knows her period and setting, and that too adds to the enjoyment. Finally, the idea of a butterfly-hunting heroine and a taxidermist hero just tickles me. They may not be Eve Dallas and Roarke, but they're a wonderfully matched pair.


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Friday, March 24, 2017

Book Signing This Sunday

Six Gainesville, Florida area romance authors are gathering for an afternoon of fun, prizes, light bites, and, of course, books. There will even be a cash bar! Join us at Fresco Pizza and Pasta in the Haile Village Center from 2-4 p.m. and stock up on your summer beach reading.

I'll be there with signed, award-winning historical romances, and I'd love to meet more readers. The weather forecast says "awesome", and it's a great opportunity to have some springtime fun. You can even take care of your Mother's Day shopping!

Review--Jewish Stories of Love and Marriage: Folktales, Legends, and Letters

Jewish Stories of Love and Marriage: Folktales, Legends, and LettersJewish Stories of Love and Marriage: Folktales, Legends, and Letters by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful treat (it would make a perfect Tu B'Av gift [http://bit.ly/2bCQSNe]) about love and marriage, highlighted by letters between lovers, and lovely people sharing tales of their courtships. It starts, of course, with the first couple matched by G-d, Adam and Eve, and follows Jewish tales of love and marriage down through the Bible, the Rabbinic Period, folktales and more up to modern times. There are stories from the Shoah and stories from Israel, stories of rabbis who marry one another, and stories of soldiers who don't come home. The book is inclusive, with stories of love that cross gender lines.

The People of the Book are also the People of Romance, sometimes with a little nudge from a friend, a mother, or even with heavenly intervention. After all, when Rabbi Yosi was asked what God has been doing since the six days of Creation, the answer was, "Matching couples."


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Review--Courting Carrie in Wonderland

Courting Carrie in WonderlandCourting Carrie in Wonderland by Carla Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Authors always hear "Write what you know" (Disclaimer--I have never been a pirate...but the day's not yet over.) and Carla Kelly is an excellent example of this dictum. I enjoy her Regency era stories, but I really like her tales set in the American West. They have a feeling of authenticity that too few authors can bring to their work, and her background with the U.S. Park Service comes through.

In Courting Carrie in Wonderland we get a history of the beginnings of Yellowstone Park, the crown jewel of the park service. We also get an absolutely charming love story, about a girl with too few opportunities striving to make something of herself, and an Army Noncom dealing with PTSD and, well, Army life. These two loners find each other at "Wonderland", an early name for the camping areas where city slickers could get a taste of the great outdoors in the summer.

Ms. Kelly is an autobuy for me, but I'm always happiest when it's one of her Western tales, and I hope to see more in the future.


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Monday, March 20, 2017

Review--Hot Head (Head #1)

Hot Head (Head #1)Hot Head by Damon Suede
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whew! It suddenly got hotter and steamier on my Kindle! This M/M romance will have you falling for firefighters all over again, as two BFFs navigate their way into a much deeper and burning commitment.

Beautiful and touching, and it shows how family is sometimes what you create, not just where you're born.


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Review--Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied Hospital

Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied HospitalBellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied Hospital by David M. Oshinsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was fabulous, and is really a history of three centuries of American medicine. I couldn't put it down, and as a non-New Yorker it was a revelation to learn of all that city has done over time to ensure that it's poorest people had access to quality health care. There's a lesson for all of us regarding the need to have health care available to underserved populations. It was far from perfect, but at times it was glorious.


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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Review--Devil in Spring (The Ravenels, #3)

Devil in Spring (The Ravenels, #3)Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When you're matching two people as different as Gabriel and Pandora you have to bring your "A" game, and to my great pleasure, Ms. Kleypas does just that. I admit, I was skeptical at first because I was with Pandora--everything she said about why she and Gabriel would be a disastrous marriage had me nodding my head in agreement. It takes a true master of the craft to make it work, to have us believe that the (male) catch of the season would fall for a klutz who makes convincing arguments for spinsterhood.

It's also a delight to see the older characters from the earlier books return, though really, no one got out of shape or had a receding hairline over the last 30 years? Ah well, that's why it's fiction, and why we keep closing the books on a happy sigh.


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Thursday, March 02, 2017

Review--Hold Me (Cyclone Book 2)

Hold Me (Cyclone Book 2)Hold Me by Courtney Milan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love the sheer, unabashed geekery of this couple and their story. They're not mismatched because one's a nerd and one's "normal", they're inhabiting a world of STEM and academia where they're comfortable dealing with Deep Thoughts on a minute-to-minute basis.

I also loved how the gender fluidity of the couple wasn't the main story, but part of the story. Jay being bi and Maria doesn't define every minute of their day--their conflicts were much more connected to Jay's sexist behavior and Maria's professional choices.

Ms. Milan is a star in the world of historical romance, but it's clear she's equally adroit when it comes to truly contemporary romance. I highly recommend the Cyclone series and can't wait for the next installment.


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Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Lodgers

I like to put my two hanging ferns outside when it's going to rain. They're normally on my screen porch, and a good bath and soaking perks them up.

This fern was only out for about 28 hours, but when I went to bring it back today I found it occupied. Apparently a pair of house wrens saw it as a cozy fixer-upper and built a nest in it. So instead of putting it back on the porch, I put it on a hook outside. Sure enough, I saw some birds checking it out a few minutes later.

The fern/nest is hanging on the hook where I keep my basket of mint, now temporarily relocated to the porch. I figure the birds need it right now more than I do. More on this as it develops.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Review--The Star in the Meadow (The Spanish Brand Book 4)

The Star in the Meadow (The Spanish Brand Book 4)The Star in the Meadow by Carla Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This feels like it could be the finale of the Spanish Brand series, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's been a long journey with Marco and Paloma in Spanish New Mexico, but a satisfying one. Both protagonists have grown into their new lives and the responsibilities they bear, but eventually all stories come to a conclusion.

Since Marco and Paloma's love story was handled in the first novel we have a secondary love story in this book, between a woman who's been beaten down by life and a man whom no one expected to become a responsible adult. As always with Kelly's books, her protagonists are ordinary people who show what could be extraordinary courage and grace under pressure.

I think that's what I enjoy most about these stories. Some find them too goody-goody, I find them full of characters we'd like to know. If we're fortunate as we go through life, we meet good people, people whose word is their bond, people you can count on when the chips are down. Those are Kelly's characters.

I recommend the Spanish Brand series for romance and historical readers who like out of the ordinary settings, heart-warming stories about good people doing the right thing, and a HEA you can believe in.


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Thursday, February 16, 2017

“By my life, Morgan, that is a toothsome woman!”
Morgan could only stare. He’d never seen a person who looked so much like dessert. She reminded him of every cream cake he’d ever craved as a ragged urchin on the wrong side of the bakery glass. He leaned close and sniffed. Almonds. She even smelled like cakes. He reached down for the quilt and pulled it up, covering her. When he turned his head, his friend was staring at him, completely serious for a change.
“This is trouble, Captain.”
He ran his fingers through his beard and looked down at the lady. Idly, he wondered what color her eyes were. He picked up one of the golden curls fallen to the pillow and without thinking about his actions, slipped it into his pocket.
“There is trouble, Mr. Lopez, and there is trouble. We shall see how much trouble our guest is when she awakens.”

--Captain Sinister's Lady

It's #NationalAlmondDay, and I'm celebrating! I have almond cookies, and a handful of almonds for my dessert, and when I fly to Boston I'll have individual packs of almonds in my carry-on because they're a great pick-me-up when I'm flying.

I love almonds so much I wrote them into Captain Sinister's Lady. If you'd like to know more about my hero Morgan's love of all things almond, check out the EPIC award winning ebook, available again from the usual vendors.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Review--Someone to Hold (Westcott, #2)

Someone to Hold (Westcott, #2)Someone to Hold by Mary Balogh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've never read a Mary Balogh novel I didn't like, but I've found some more satisfying than others. This one falls into the category of "enjoyable, but it didn't rock my world."

We knew the story of Camille Westcott from the first novel in the series, how she lost her place in the world when it was discovered she and her siblings were illegitimate. Camille is adrift in Regency society, afraid to leave her grandmother's house in Bath until one day she gathers herself together and applies for a position as a teacher at an orphanage.

There was a great deal to like about this book. Camille was a character who had to discover her own inner strength and be willing to get messy and make mistakes. Joel Cunningham, the hero, works hard to make his own place in the world as an artist and the two have a believable relationship.

Where the book lost me was when Joel underwent a change in status, resolving much of the couple's difficulties. In addition, everyone seems to adore Camille in her school, and she's an instant success. Plot issues were a little too neatly resolved for my tastes.

However, one comes to romance novels expecting a Happily Ever After, and Someone to Hold delivers. Balogh is an auto-buy for me, and I'm looking forward to the next Westcott novel.


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Friday, February 10, 2017

Review--Brutal Game (Flynn and Laurel, #2)

Brutal Game (Flynn and Laurel, #2)Brutal Game by Cara McKenna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Willing Victim was published it generated a great deal of controversy and discussion, and I was one of its fans. However, like so many other readers, I felt it ended a bit abruptly and that there was more to Flynn and Laurel's story. We get the answers in Brutal Game.

Flynn and Laurel are not only well-drawn characters, but you get the feeling they're real like the person next door. Their BDSM isn't secret red rooms and gold chains and silk masks, it's duct tape and soft old t-shirts for tying knots. In this book we see how their relationship has grown from their beginning playing brutal games together, and when a crisis threatens to upend all they have, they react like normal people would.

Clearly these stories are not for all readers, but I enjoyed them and would recommend the books to readers of erotic romance wanting a short novel that's well written, has real drama and has characters you can relate to.


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Review--When All the Girls Have Gone

When All The Girls Have GoneWhen All The Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I continue to find JAK a satisfying author, even though I know exactly what I'm going to get each time: an emotionally closed-off hero with family issues and a plucky heroine who helps him get through that issue. But what makes it satisfying is this is all wrapped up in a mystery with good banter, interesting twists and secondary characters who add to the enjoyment. When All The Girls Have Gone has the bonus of introducing hints of more to come from related characters, and I look forward to Ms. Krentz' next novel.


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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Boskone 54 is coming!

It's February, the azaleas and magnolias are bursting into bloom outside my window, and the frozen North continues to be hammered by snow and freezing rain. You'd have to be highly motivated to leave sunny Florida for Boston, right?* 

It must be time for Boskone

This will be Boskone 54, New England's longest running science fiction and fantasy convention. It's a weekend for book lovers, gamers, discussion of science fiction film, art, music and more. There's even going to be a special production of The Empire Striketh Back (aka, Shakespeare does SF). You can register at the Boskone website and get more information by visiting their social media sites.

*It makes it easier to go to Boston in February if you have a return ticket that says "Florida".

I'm a program participant, so here's my schedule. The (M) next to my name means I'm moderating:

My Toughest Book

Friday 15:00 - 16:00

What makes a book difficult to write, or difficult to write well? Is ignorance of the subject matter a barrier? Is knowing too much? We're always told to "write what you know," but can this be a trap? How about troubles with plot, character, dialog, or pacing? Our panel of authors recall which of their works had the most arduous gestation.

Brandon Sanderson , Charles Stross , Walter Jon Williams , Darlene Marshall (M), Allen M. Steele


Love, Romance, and the Digital Divide

Saturday 10:00 - 11:00, Harbor III (Westin)

As technology evolves, how might human empathy and love also evolve? Whether meeting in a cyber space or finding that special someone in the form of an artificial intelligence, how might human (at least on one side) relationships change over time? How do these types of relationships play out in fiction and film? Is it realistic to see or expect similar patterns in real life? What might the future, as written by science fiction authors or experienced by us, hold for star-crossed lovers, true love, and romance?

Darlene Marshall (M), Timothy Liebe, Jeff Hecht, Sarah Smith

Digital Rights and Other Small Press Traps and Issues

Saturday 14:00 - 15:00

How has the revolution in (and evolution of) digital technology affected the SF publishing field? What has the popularity/promise of e-books and of e-publishing in general done to demand, and to the whole publishing process? What are the complications of these media, barely out of their infancy? What do writers, readers, and publishers need to know to avoid running into trouble in these exciting (but dangerous) digital waters?

Darlene Marshall (M), Walter Jon Williams, Neil Clarke

The Play's The Thing!

Saturday 21:00 - 22:30

Boskone's theatrical extravaganza features a live reading of a faux-Shakespearean play that is based upon an Empire far, far away that has striketh back against an intrepid group of friends who are "forced" to confront the dark side. There will be capes and a lighted saber (or two) and shenanigans to entertain audiences of all ages!

Laurie Mann (M), Lojo Russo, Lorraine Garland, David G. Grubbs, Erin Underwood (M), Jane Yolen, Bruce Coville, David Anthony Durham, Darlene Marshall

The Sense8 Sensation

Sunday 13:00 - 14:00

It's shot on locations worldwide and produced by the creators of The Matrix and Babylon 5, yet this Netflix TV original has largely flown under the radar. (Still, season 2 starts in March.) Panelists examine the intricate storytelling and dizzyingly diverse connections of this sens8tionally groundbreaking SF show. From gender, race, and religion to the struggle of coming to terms with one’s identity, Sense8 treats its subjects in ways network television would never touch. SPOILERS ABOUND for nonviewers, but why not sneak a peek anyway?

Darlene Marshall (M), Lauren Roy, Gillian Daniels, Rob Greene, Jeremy Flagg

The Defenders Series and the Netflix Craze

Sunday 14:00 - 15:00

Netflix is delivering a powerhouse selection of superhero shows under the umbrella of The Defenders. From Daredevil to Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, Netflix has put the "human" back into superhuman ... or has it? Are these superheroes any different from their Marvelous brethren, who have been tearing up our cities in order to defend the Earth? The Defenders seems to be challenging the status quo on what it means to be a hero, and what the consequences and costs are of fighting crime. Panelists discuss their favorite shows and characters within the series, and what they think Netflix is getting right — and wrong — along the way.

Erin Underwood (M), Errick Nunnally, Julie Holderman, Michael Sharrow, Darlene Marshall


Monday, February 06, 2017

Review--Breath of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #2)

Breath of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #2)Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would, because sometimes the second book of a romantic trilogy drags. You've met the characters and seen their relationship established in the first book, their problems will be resolved in third book, so it's important to keep it fresh in book number two. Bouchet succeeds, and this romantic re-telling of Greek based mythology and adventure continues to entertain. I'm looking forward to Book #3


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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Review--The Drifter

The DrifterThe Drifter by Nicholas Petrie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Intriguing new thriller, likely to please fans of Lee Child Jack Reacher novels.

Peter Ash is a war vet, still dealing with the demons in his head and the "white static" that envelopes him when his claustrophobia takes hold. Yet he perseveres, looking for clues into his war buddy's suicide while helping his widow. What he uncovers is a mystery involving a great deal of money, bricks of explosives, and a large, noxiously fragrant and dangerous dog.

I enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to more from Mr. Petrie.


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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Happy #BurnsDay!



“I find that singing makes the time pass, Doctor. Not gloomy songs, but cheerful ones. Don’t you know any songs? Isn’t there some Scotsman named Brown, or Bowen who wrote some songs?”
He stopped cleaning the fish and looked at her with an expression of deep pain.
“Might you be referring to Rabbie Burns, the bard of Scotland?”
Daphne thought about it for a moment.
“That sounds right. He wrote a song about a red rose, and one about a hag.” Her brow scrunched. “Though why someone would want to write a song about a hag is beyond me.”
He closed his eyes, then opened them and looked at her.
“Not a hag, Miss Farnham, a haggis. A haggis is a dish enjoyed by the people of Scotland.”
“Really? What is it?”
Dr. Murray described, with loving detail, the inner workings of the mysterious haggis. Daphne looked at him, speechless for a long moment.
“I would think raw fish a treat after that!”
--Castaway Dreams


Today is the birthday of Robert Burns, the bard of Scotland.  I will forgo the haggis but raise a dram of Scotland's finest product (no, not haggis, that other product) tonight and toast the man who gave us so much wonderful poetry and music. Slàinte!


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

CASTAWAY DREAMS is back in print!

My Aspen Gold winning historical romance, Castaway Dreams, is back in print and available from your favorite bookseller. Check out the romp that All About Romance rated a "'Desert Island Keeper'...Castaway Dreams is remarkable."

Need more? 
"Alexander Murray knows one cannot exist without a brain, yet Daphne Farnham may be the exception. Her head contains nothing but rainbows, shoes, bonnets, pink frills and butterflies. Even her fluffy dog is useless. But the war with Napoleon is finally over and the surgeon is certain he can put up with cloth-headed Miss Farnham until their ship reaches England.

Did that naval officer have his sense of humor surgically removed? It is bad enough Murray has no fashion sensibilities at all, never smiles at her like other men do, and doesn’t adore her darling pup Pompom. He had the gall to proclaim her “useless” when everyone knows it’s Daphne Farnham who’s the best at picking out just the right ensemble for any social occasion. Fortunately, she only has to put up with the sour Scotsman for a couple of months until they reach England.

But when their ship goes down, the dour doctor (after a fashion), the dizzy damsel (more or less) and the darling (and potentially delicious) doggy are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime as unlikely companions, castaway on a desert island. One of them may have fleas, but it’s the two humans who will find themselves wanting to scratch a certain itch."
I'm working on new novels, but in the meantime I'm re-releasing some of my award-winning books in ebook and paper. You can check them out at Amazon, Smashwords, NOOK and in paper from bookstores.

As far as my next project goes, all I can say is, the odds are high that there will be pirates!



Friday, January 20, 2017

Review--Night School (Jack Reacher, #21)

Night School (Jack Reacher, #21)Night School by Lee Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is vintage Reacher, sure to please his legion of fans. The '90s setting with Reacher still a major in the US Army makes the story more intriguing, as we get glimpses of the kind of action that made him into the man whose adventures continued in the first book, the Killing Floor.

As always, a very satisfying tale of action and suspense.


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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Review--Market Day

Market DayMarket Day by James Sturm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a gift from my son, and it's a wise son who knows his mother so well. I found this little tale of a man's journey on market day to be deeply connected to ideals of art vs. commerce, pragmatism vs. creativity, and what it means to be a husband, a father, a creator.

Mendleman is trying to make a living in his Eastern Europe shtetel, never an easy task. He weaves magnificent, one of a kind rugs, each one a story, each one hand-crafted to stand the test of time.

But who would buy such rugs? Merchants want to make quick sales and high profits and are less concerned with craftsmanship than costs.

I look forward to discussing this little tale with the gift-giver, also an artist trying to eke out a living in a harsh environment. When your livelihood is connected to your creativity (something novelists share with artists) reading Market Day gives one much to think about.


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