Showing posts from 2014

Cleaning out the old, and a resolution or two

Cleaning is usually at the very bottom of my "to do" list, somewhere after "sleep" and "invent flying car". However, I had the dictum "You don't put flowers on a dirty table!" drilled into me at an early age, so when I got a spiffy new pen display case, I knew I had to clean my desk before I could put my fountain pens in their new home.

Once I cleaned my desk I realized I now had a floor to contend with, and bookshelves going gray and...well, you know how these things escalate.

It's probably a good thing. I found books and notes under piles of other books and notes, the dust bunnies ran in terror from the corners of the office and the windows are letting in sufficient sunlight.  Here's a picture of my desktop with the new pen home. They seem very happy in their swanky surroundings.

While 2014 was a difficult year because of the death of my elderly canine companion, it also saw a great deal of joy. My eldest son is engaged to be marri…

Review--The Kraken King

The Kraken King by Meljean Brook
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel was originally released as a serial, but it's now available in one volume. I liked it very much, but while the length of the story worked well for format used in serial segments, it was a bit unwieldy as a novel. Nonetheless, it's an excellent example of the best in steampunk romance and will be a hit with Brook's legion of fans.

The characters in The Kraken King include some we've met previously (Zenobia Fox) and some new ones. It's also a fun departure from Eurocentric steampunk. I recommend starting with The Iron Duke to get the full flavor of the worldbuilding Brook's constructed with her Iron Seas stories.

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Review--A String of Beads

A String of Beads by Thomas Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jane Whitefield is one of my favorite heroines. She's not flashy, but she gets the job done.  In her case, "the job" is keeping people alive and getting them new identities when bad things happen. This time Jane is brought home, literally, when her Seneca tribal leaders task her with helping one of their own.

Part of what I've enjoyed about the series is how Jane's methods have to evolve and change in a post-911 world. If you're new to the series, I recommend starting with the first book, but there's enough exposition in this one to bring new readers up to speed.

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Review--The Turning Season

The Turning Season by Sharon Shinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this, and it's my favorite (so far) of the Shifting Circle novels.

The reason I liked it so much is Joe. I mean, how can you get a more ordinary hero name than "Joe"? And he is ordinary, and yet, exactly the kind of hero you want to marry. He's a keeper. Not uber-handsome (he's described as having a "round, baby-face" and has to work at keeping the weight off now that he's no longer 20). Joe's an ex-cop and has that old fashioned quality where he'd be described as a "mensch", a man you can count on to do the right thing, to help out, to stand by you. Not a billionaire Dom, not a SEAL, just a good guy.

Can you tell I'm half-in love with him myself?

Oh yeah, and Joe's completely human. But Karadel is not. She's a shifter trying to get her animal self under control, or at least to settle on one animal, preferably a housecat. She's shifted into be…

"A Noble Hound" 1998-2014

"As soon as he saw Odysseus standing there, he dropped his ears and wagged his tail, but he could not get close up to his master. When Odysseus saw the dog on the other side of the yard, dashed a tear from his eyes without Eumaeus seeing it, and said:'Eumaeus, what a noble hound that is over yonder on the manure heap: his build is splendid; is he as fine a fellow as he looks, or is he only one of those dogs that come begging about a table, and are kept merely for show?'' This dog,' answered Eumaeus, 'belonged to him who has died in a far country. If he were what he was when Odysseus left for Troy, he would soon show you what he could do. There was not a wild beast in the forest that could get away from him when he was once on its tracks....' So saying he entered the well-built mansion, and made straight for the riotous pretenders in the hall. But Argos passed into the darkness of death, now that he had fulfilled his destiny of faith and seen his master on…

Review--Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover In the Civil War

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book had me turning pages like I was reading a novel, anxious to see what happened next. The untold stories of women who serve in wartime, in all capacities, are being brought to light by talented authors like Abbott.

I was especially taken by the tale of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Richmond abolitionist, and her free woman of color cohort, Mary Jane Bowser. Van Lew sent vital information to the Union, much of it gathered by Bowser. At great risk to her own life, Bowser was sent as a "slave" housemaid to the Confederate president's house, never letting on that she could not only read and write, but was gifted with an eidetic memory. As the author points out, women like Bowser were "below suspicion" as they cleaned and dusted around the papers on Jeff Davis' desk.

I had a particular interest in the story of Emma Edmonds, who served with valor and zeal i…

Review--Only Enchanting

Only Enchanting by Mary Balogh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The best, so far, of The Survivors' Club series by Balogh. She's always top-notch, but sometimes her books are truly a cut above. In Only Enchanting, the story of Flavian evolves slowly and carefully, with small clues along the way like marker stones along a path.

Unlike some of the other Club members, Flavian's wounds aren't on the surface. Handsome, sophisticated, his war injuries only become obvious when he opens his mouth and his noticeable stammer emerges, a speech impediment brought about by head injuries and PTSD trauma.

Flavian doesn't understand his attraction to the quiet, unassuming widow Agnes Keeping, but she can't help but fall-head-over-heels in love with him, something she thought would never happen, and it scares her to her core.

There was a point where Ms. Balogh almost lost me, where a character was about to do something that would move the story into Stupid Plot Device territory, but this i…

Review--Gunpowder Alchemy

Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book has a lot going for it, and I really enjoyed it. It's a wonderful steampunk romance, but with a refreshing twist: Imperial China, Opium Wars, Non-European protagonists, Opium zombies and more. It's the first in a series, and is openended as a romance novel, but the crisp writing and wonderful evocation of place has me anxious for the next novel by Ms. Lin.

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Review--A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in America

A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in America by Allyson Hobbs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Movies like "Imitation of Life" and "Pinky" opened up a new world to White Americans, the world of African-Americans who were "passing", living as white people and hiding their African roots.

This fascinating history explores 200 years of passing in America, what it meant to the people who made these choices, their families, and to society as a whole. It's a sad and important story that's neglected in American history classes, and Hobbs' excellent book brings these tales to life for a generation that wishes to view itself, and the country, as post-racial.

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Feasting With Friends, Florida Style

Before we celebrated US style Thanksgiving in Florida (the Spaniards celebrated Thanksgiving at St. Augustine long before those latecomer Pilgrims set foot aboard ship) we had cane grinding in the autumn to share the work and feast with friends:


     As the shadows lengthened, the men began gathering around the tables like wasps drawn to sweet fruit, cozying up to their women, and trying to talk them out of some of the food before the feast officially began. Ma Ivey ruled her dirt yard like an empress and wasn't above slapping a reaching hand with a wooden spoon when they drew too close. Finally though, the last of the cane was put through the mill and the syrup cooked down, and as the night sky filled with stars the feast began to a chorus of tree frogs and crickets serenading the workers. They lined up before the platters of roast pig and venison, quails, turkey, and doves. Even a possum or two joined the potatoes in the smoldering coals.
     There was…

Review--Rogue Spy

Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book so much, I hardly know where to begin.

No, wait, I do know where to begin: Fluffy Aunts.

Ms. Bourne's books are not only amazingly well written, and wonderfully entertaining, but she crafts secondary characters who could step off the page. They're not spearholders (though in the case of the Fluffy Aunts I wouldn't make any assumptions), they're people who are part of the story and you can imagine them with their own lives and concerns.

Rogue Spy is Pax's story. We met him in previous books, and know he's secretly a French spy, but as is always the case with Bourne's novels of spycraft, it's much, much more complicated than Good Guys vs. Bad Guys. In fact, Camille Leyland is not only potentially one of the really Bad Guys (as well as Pax's love interest), she's deadlier and comes from a background that's prepared her well for a life of duplicity, intrigue and crime.

Each of Bo…

5 Stars for The Pirate's Secret Baby, from Pirates and Privateers reviews

From the site Pirates and Privateers: The History of Maritime Piracy:

"...Set in 1820,The Pirate’s Secret Babyis a well-researched historical romance spiced with humor. The story of Robert, Lydia, and Marauding Mattie weaves an invisible spell that tugs at your heart strings, and I particularly liked Robert’s non-violent, but oh-so-typically-piratical solution to thwarting Lydia’s nemesis. Near the end of the story, I thought once or twice it could have ended sooner than it did, but the final scene definitely ices the wedding cake. The host of refreshing, non-stereotypical, minor characters – such as two Mutt-and-Jeff-like seamen who go to school with Marauding Mattie and go her tea party, or the vicar who doesn’t mind if his daughter dons an eye patch and duels with a wooden sword – truly help bring this story to life.
I’ve read several of Marshall’s previous pirate tales, but this is the best written and most intriguing one..."
Read the full review here, and you can purchase…

Review--Softly Falling

Softly Falling by Carla    Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lovely, sweet romance about strong, good people surviving under the harshest of winter conditions. Boy howdy, did this book make me glad I live in Florida! Just reading about a killer Wyoming winter chilled me to the bone.

Carla Kelly's books aren't about dukes (most of the time) or spies or vampires, they're about ordinary people who reaffirm one's faith in the basic goodness of humanity. She writes wonderful tales about people who could live next door or down the lane or be our ancestors, and she does it with style and flair. She's also one of the top Western romance writers today, and shouldn't be overlooked.

Softly Falling isn't explicit, but is delightfully romantic and can be enjoyed by all romance readers. It's a good starting point for those who've never experienced Kelly's special brand of romance.

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Review--Ancillary Sword

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's a special pleasure when the second book in a series lives up to the promise of the first. Ancillary Justice blew me away last year, and other voters agreed with me, because the novel won the 2014 World Science Fiction Society Hugo award along with a slew of other honors.

Now Leckie returns to her world of intelligent ships and subject populations in Ancillary Sword, and if anything, I liked it better than the first book. AJ rocked me with its worldbuilding and genderbending. Because I had some of that background going into AS didn't require the same kind of exposition and sometimes confusion that was inevitable with a groundbreaking first SF novel.

Breq is now a Fleet Captain, bringing her experience as a ship and an ancillary to a new role. She's still trying to make amends for some of the incidents in her past, and helping her crew navigate through treacherous societies. One of the most enjoyable parts of reading t…

Writer Woes

I was plinking away at the WIP this morning, crafting the new scene that came to me while I was out walking on Sunday. Then I realized that while the new scene does help and is necessary, I'm going to have to substantially re-write 35,000 words of what I've already done.

Writing is indeed akin to taking weird meat by-products and turning them into sausage. So, while it was a "two steps forward, one step back" morning, it could be worse. I've learned to trust my instincts on these things and I know the new scene (and the re-writing) will make [working title] Mattie's Story even better.

Oh, and if you're wondering why I have the cover of The Pirate's Secret Baby as my graphic, you probably haven't read TPSB. That's where we are first introduced to Marauding Mattie, the would-be pirate, so it's a fitting illustration for this post. It helps keep me on track while I'm working on the book, asking myself, "What Would Mattie Do?"  T…

Review--Poison Fruit

Poison Fruit by Jacqueline Carey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If this is the final book in the "Agent of Hel" series I will be quite satisfied. Relationships were resolved, character development occurred, there were epic doings, a lawyer was a total cliche, and much meta referencing happened. When Daisy thought of herself as a Mary Sue in a piece of bad fan fiction I nearly chortled with glee.

Carey has been one of my auto-buy authors for some time, and part of what I enjoy about her is the range of her writing. She's able to navigate epic fantasy, science fiction and urban fantasy waters with skill and verve. This was a rewarding and enjoyable series.

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Road Trip Update

While we didn't pick up a hitchhiking Brad Pitt (or drive off a cliff), the two ladies of a certain age in a convertible did enjoy perfect weather for our drive yesterday morning. At one point we missed a turn near Cross Creek (author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' home) but I reassured my companion: "Florida's a peninsula. Unless we go due north we're going to hit water, so we can't get too lost." I also knew we'd cross SR 26 or 20 eventually, which we did, taking us back home.

Now I'm back at work, recharged and ready to go. I saw some great examples of Cracker architecture out there in the backwoods, and while I love to use books for research, there's nothing like seeing a site in person to be able to give local color to a scene.

The Road Not Taken

I'm taking a short break from writing this morning. I promised a friend I'd take her for a ride in the convertible when the weather turned tolerable (it's too hot in July), so we're doing a road trip along the scenic highways in my county. This is a lovely time of year, and North Central Florida has some charming back roads that are worth taking the time to slow down and savor. The live oaks drip with Spanish moss, the mockingbirds are tweeting from branch to branch, and the clear skies turn such a vivid shade of blue in autumn it's a shame not to get out and enjoy it.

It's also research for me. I use these road trips to incorporate color, sight and sound into my writing. The WIP [working title: Mattie's Story] will have some scenes set in North Florida, so it's all useful.

Review--The Time Roads

The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've become more parsimonious with my five star reviews. It has to be a book that keeps me turning page after page, engrossed in the story, even when I know I should stop reading because life and the real world interferes with our reading time.

The Time Roads is that kind of a book. The Eirean Empire at the beginning of the 20th C. is a world power, continuing its dominance over Anglia, Cymru, Albion and its other subject peoples. Students from around the world flock to Eire's universities and government is stable under the rule of Queen Aine. But a scientist within her court is conducting exciting, but ultimately dangerous experiments, putting into play forces that will change her world and the people she loves and cares for.

There are four interwoven stories in The Time Roads, and as it progresses more and more layers become revealed over time, time that flows and folds back on itself. There are also a couple of love sto…

Review--Darling Beast

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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Review--Lock In

Lock 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 con…

Review--Rock Addiction

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…

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 clea…

Review--Bad Feminist

Bad 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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Review--The Songbird's Seduction

The 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 Ru…

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:, and join in the celebration!

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!

Review--Marco and the Devil's Bargain

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 p…

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. Mathild…

Pirates! Romance! Pizza!

I'll be at Satchel's Pizza (1800 NE 23rd Ave., Gainesville, FL) tonight from 6:30 to 8 p.m. for Author's Night, celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day with copies of The Pirate's Secret Baby and other piratical novels.

Come for the pirates, stay for the pizza!

Review--Alias Hook

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me start by saying I never liked the Peter Pan story. It started when I saw Mary Martin flying on wires on TV, and thought to my 6 yr. old self, "That's a lady, not a boy!" It was downhill from there.

The blatant sexism of the book, the cruelty practiced by little boys who don't grow up with a moral compass, luring children away from those who love them...frankly, no one in that tale interested me (well, maybe the crocodile), except for the one truly adult figure.

Captain Hook.

Sure, he was a total villain, but he was interesting. He was flamboyant, he was a leader, he was devious and cunning, he was a pirate captain! What's not to like?

Lisa Jensen brings James Hook to life in a way that's marvelous for me as a reader, and as a feminist. When a drunk woman washes ashore in Neverland, it's Captain Hook who takes responsibility for her, because adult women are too threatening to Peter's boys.

Stella Pa…

"What so proudly we hailed..."

“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 forty 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! I won’t ask
you to drink to an American victory, but you won’t mind if I have
a tot?”
David poured himself some rum while humming a tune.
Charley listened, her head cocked to the side.
“I know that tune—I heard it in the inn where I waited to board
the Lady Jane. It is ‘To Anacreon in Heaven,’ is it not? I recall the
people who attempted to navigate its melody often failed
“Maybe it…

Review--The Professional

The Professional by Kresley Cole
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was conflicted about this one. On one hand, I like a good BDSM erotic romance as much as the next gal, and this one was very well written. Lightyears better than That Book.

On the other hand, the hero's controlling behavior outside of the bedroom made my nerves twitch. The whole "I'm preventing you from leaving because I can't live without you" dynamic made me want to tell her to run far and fast, and not look behind her.

I'm also _so_ over virgin college students being taken under the wing of billionaires for sex training and amazing baubles. To me it would be much more interesting if the heroine was a neurosurgeon or tax collector or forest ranger--_anyone_ with more life experience!

Bottom line is K. Cole is an extremely talented writer, which was my primary reason for getting this book and reading it until the end. Having said that, I'm mulling over whether I would buy others in this series. I&…

Review--Dark Skye

Dark Skye by Kresley Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've enjoyed the entire series, but I especially enjoyed how Cole addressed the issue of "slut shaming" in Dark Skye. The heroine has had an active and enjoyable sex life, the hero wants her to be ashamed or regretful and she refuses to accept this.

Obviously, he has to come around to accepting, and valuing her for who she is. This is an issue too seldom dealt with by romance authors, and Cole handles it with aplomb. I'm looking forward, as always, to the next book in the series.

The only reason I didn't give it five stars is I felt the "what danger do we face now?" scenes carried on a bit too much. I would have preferred to see more of Lanthe adjusting to her new and difficult life once they're out of the fiery pits.

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Vote for Pompom!

She knew from his expression that she'd fallen even further in his esteem, if such a thing were possible.
“It was more in the nature of a suggestion, Miss Farnham. I knew better than to ask,” he sighed. “Return to your cabin. I will see to it.”
Daphne turned and walked blindly back to her cabin. Pompom greeted her and jumped into her lap when she sat on her bunk, staring at the empty covers of the bunk across from hers. Pompom licked her hand and Daphne put her head down next to the warm body snuggled into the crook of her arm.
“At least you love me just the way I am, Pompom,” she whispered to the bichon.
--Castaway Dreams

Who else gives us such unconditional love? Our dogs are always there for us, greeting us on a bad day as if we're the most wonderful thing that's ever happened to them (other than a red ball flying through the air to catch, or maybe some extra treats in the food dish).

Show your love for our fictional friends by voting for Pompom in the "Best Dogs in H…

Ireland, or "How I Spent My Summer Vacation, part 1"

I'm back from travels to the UK and Ireland, pleased with myself once again for keeping a travel journal (Moleskine with Rhodia paper, written with a fountain pen, of course.) This journal entry will be about the first part of the trip before Loncon3, the World Science Fiction Convention. I'll write about Worldcon as a separate entry.

Two things I've learned from travel over the years is to stay awake until normal bedtime hours, as much as possible, and the more I walk, the more I can eat without worrying about fitting into my clothes at the end. When we arrived in Dublin I went for a long walk around our hotel, orienting myself to the area. I was immediately struck by one of the hallmarks of Dublin, the colorful doors on the Georgian-era flats. One tour leader later said there were two theories about this: One was that when King George died in the 18th c., all the English painted their doors black in mourning and the Irish were told to to the same. Not surprisingly, the Ir…

Happy Labor Day!

“The women in my family have manufactured soap and toiletries for generations, and a Brooke woman knows how to stand on her own two feet! And I’m going to show him!
I will build my business up again. I had plenty of time aboard ship to work on my plans, and I have the skills.”
…Amanda grinned, feeling more lighthearted than she had in days. She lifted her own cup.
“To free trade, prosperity, and the United States of America!”
--Captain Sinister's Lady

Here's to all the hard working American women and men celebrating their achievements, and the end of summer. Happy Labor Day to you all!

Review--The Vineyard of Liberty

The Vineyard of Liberty by James MacGregor Burns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent, readable history of the United States through mid-Civil War. The author's comprehensive look at the various factors that went into the making and near sundering of the new republic makes this a must for all students of US history, or even the casual reader wondering why our country took the shape it did. Highly recommended.

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Another trip, another library

I was walking back to my hotel today, and without realizing where I was I managed to walk up to the National Library of Ireland. I think my brain is wired to take me to libraries automatically. I didn't have the opportunity to spend as much time as I would have liked (a month would have been nice), but as is my custom, I got a shot of myself in front of the library. This time it was a selfie, so you only see the library sign in the background, but I was there.

Greetings from Dublin!

I don't care what anyone says, there are sunny days in Ireland. Today I toured the National Gallery, then walked back on a long, circuitous route that took me past the National Library, then to St. Stephen's Green (where this lovely garden was in bloom), then to tea at Voila, finally walking along the canal back to our hotel. 
It was such a delightful day I wanted to spend as much time outside as I could, and the large number of sun worshippers in the park seemed to agree.

Review--Fanning the Flames

I really enjoyed this romance, primarily because the protagonists were seasoned adults, not YA or NA.  Reading about people who were old enough to know what they want and go after it made me happy.
In fact, I'd like to read more romances with protagonists in their 50s having wild monkey sex. Sure, there would be Astroglide and little blue pills involved, but it would still be fun for readers of a certain demographic.
I'm looking forward to reading the next Girls' Night Out story. Ms. Dahl, like her heroes, always satisfies.

Happy Birthday, USCG

Fifteen hundred dollars worth of coffee coming in duty free meant a
tidy profit, whether it was Delerue-Sanders behind the smuggling or
someone else. A simple plan, but one that worked all too well given the
poor state of the Revenue Marine. The revenue cutters couldn’t begin
to cover all of the coast, not when the ships were spread thin with
surveying, rescue operations, and winter cruising between Charleston
and Key West. Underfunded, understaffed, looked down on by the
regular navy, despised by the merchants who paid the tariffs, the
Revenue Marine was no one’s darling. Well, except maybe Alexander Hamilton, he’d loved his revenue cutters that brought money into the Treasury, but look what happened to him, Washburn thought. Irritate the wrong people and there you are, worm food. --Smuggler's Bride 
The United States Coast Guard, aka the Revenue-Marine, aka the Revenue Cutter Service was founded on this day in 1790 by US Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. Happy Birthday, Co…

Review--The Silkworm

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent mystery, wonderfully snarky insiders' look at publishing and authors behaving badly. "Whodunnit?" kept me guessing until the last quarter of the book, and even then I couldn't figure out the motive until it was all revealed.

The only reason I didn't give it five stars was the POV shifts in the middle of a scene. I realize it's becoming a more common style, but I still find it jarring.

I look forward to more Cormoran Strike mysteries!

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Review--Redefining Rape: Sexual Violence in the Era of Suffrage and Segregation

Redefining Rape: Sexual Violence in the Era of Suffrage and Segregation by Estelle B. Freedman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fascinating look at a topic still very much in the news. How do we define sexual assault, and how, historically, have charges of sexual assault been used as a political weapon? In addition, how are certain populations disenfranchised from exercising the right to charge sexual assault?

An important look at historic American attitudes that still play out today in questions of power, race and sexuality.

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A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan, now in paper!

Today is release day for the paperback edition of A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan, which I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing as an ARC earlier this year. I gave it five stars:
"It's cliched to say 'I couldn't put it down!', but that's how I felt about A Dangerous Fiction. Rogan brings an insider's keen view, pulling the reader into the New York publishing milieu with all of its jealousies, intrigue, excitement and larger-than-life personalities. At the heart of the story is a woman's need to uncover the truths about her own life, even as she's the target of malevolent foes she can't identify. Danger, suspense, romance and the deep bonds of friendship--A Dangerous Fiction has it all.
(Disclaimer--I received an advance review copy of this novel from the publisher)"
I also had the pleasure of doing a Q&A with Barbara in advance of today's release:

Q: Why does the New York literary scene make a good setting for a murder myst…

My Schedule for Loncon3--World Science Fiction Convention in London

I have my final schedule for Loncon3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention in London, UK. You can read my con bio here, and I'm looking forward to jetting across the pond and seeing old friends, as well as meeting new ones. There's a nifty app to help you schedule your time at Loncon, and you can download it in iPhone or Android formats.
Where there's an (M) next to my name, I'm the moderator for that item.  I'll also be doing a reading from either The Pirate's Secret Baby or the WIP [Mattie's Book]. Don't forget, The Pirate's Secret Baby, along with all my previous novels, can be purchased from Amazon Kindle UK, as well as at NOOK, Kobo and other ebook dealers. Paper editions are available in the US.
I'll be out and about at the con as a fan as well as a programme participant. If you see me, please come up to me and say "Hi!" Worldcon is no place to be shy, we're there to see friends and fans!

Teen Romance

Friday 15:00 - 16:30,…


Jaded by Anne Calhoun
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought I would like this novel, but I didn't think I would love it.

I loved it.

Jaded is set in a small town in the upper Midwest, and while I enjoyed the story about the quiet librarian and the hot police chief (even they acknowledge this is a cliche), what really made me love it was the library. It's no secret that I'm on my local public library foundation, that I've been involved in library renovations, and that I believe 100% that public libraries are needed in the 21st century as community centers, places where people of all ages and all backgrounds come together for a vast array of services.

I'm also a tutor in a literacy program, and I know how much it means to invest your time in a child from a home without access to books, bedtime stories and college dreams. While I can't guarantee a happy ending in life like I can in my books, it gave me a great deal of pleasure to read about the characters in Jaded earni…