Showing posts from 2015

Review--Secret Sisters

Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you're a fan of JAK (and I am), you know what to expect, so it's always an enjoyable reading experience when she delivers the goods. Secret Sisters features her trademark laconic heroes and plucky heroines, and this time the heroine was especially plucky, a hotel executive willing to make the first moves for romance. I like a strong-minded woman who knows what she wants, and apparently so does hero Jack Rayner.

The mystery is sufficiently convoluted and surprising to keep the reader guessing, the secondary characters are well crafted and interesting, and the ending is satisfying. What more do you want? This book is what JAK fans desire, and it will please new fans as well.

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Review--A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell Mystery, #1)

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Delightful new entry in the amateur lady detective sub-genre, as Deanna Raybourn begins a new Victorian mystery series.

The mystery surrounding Veronica Speedwell's background is intriguing, though I figured out what the big reveal was fairly early. Nonetheless, the characters are engaging enough that we can expect more adventures in the future, and the secondary characters offer their own intrigue and secrets to keep things going.

The dialog was snappy, the settings were delightful, and Ms. Raybourn has another winner on her hands with Miss Veronica Speedwell.

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Review--Make Me

Make Me by Lee Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love it when a mystery surprises me, especially when we're 20 books into a series. I thought I knew what was going on, I was wrong, and this made me very happy. It's a testament to the author's skills.

MAKE ME is classic Jack Reacher. He's got no place to go and no where to be, so he gets off a train one day because the name of the town--Mother's Rest--intrigues him. Of course, since this is a Reacher novel, he stumbles into a nest of WTFery? and spends the rest of the book using his special skill set to straighten things out.

There is a woman, not young, and not skinny (another nice treat) and lots of great Reacher moments.

Highly recommended for hardcore Jack Reacher fans.

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Review--Clockwork Samurai (The Gunpowder Chronicles, #2)

Clockwork Samurai by Jeannie Lin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's hard to be the second book in a trilogy. You have the "gee whiz!" excitement of new worldbuilding in the first novel, a resolution of conflict in the third, but the second book has to do the heavy lifting with little of the glory.

Despite these limitations, Clockwork Samurai carries the load and advances The Gunpowder Chronicles as the action shifts from China to Japan. Both nations are confronting Western interference, paralleling events in our own world in the 19th c. However in this universe, the Asian powers have airships and mechanical automatons and opium zombies and more.

New characters are introduced, old characters re-emerge, and the excitement is heightened as the groundwork is laid for an East vs. West confrontation in the next novel. Readers are well advised to start with Gunpowder Chronicles #1 while the rest of us eagerly await the next volume.

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An Early Christmas Gift--Ebooks half off!

Amber Quill Press is offering an early sale on ebooks, half off through Boxing Day (Yes, all that research I did for my Regency & Victorian romances does pay off)! Load your ereader with hot reading for cold nights, and settle in with a cup of your favorite beverage. You've been good girls and boys, and you deserve a treat.

Review--Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch. #3)

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

Wonderful, moving, deeply satisfying conclusion to one of the most imaginative SF trilogies published in recent years. It's definitely going to be on my ballot for Hugo Nominees. I'm in awe at Leckie's ability to craft such well rounded characters without gender identification. It made me think about the people involved in an entirely new fashion, a different way of considering characters than the classic Left Hand of Darkness, which showed everything through a male human's eyes. Here we just had Breq and "her" people, both on-station and aboard ship.

There were even moments of humor, and the scene with the Thousand Egg Song made me laugh.

I look forward to reading more from this talented, award-winning author in the future.

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Review--The Crossing

The Crossing by Michael Connelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent police procedural as Harry Bosch, retired (under duress) from the LAPD, crosses over to the other side by helping his half brother Mickey Haller (The Lincoln Lawyer) investigate a case involving one of Haller's clients. Harry's not thrilled about helping the defense put another criminal back on the street, but the more he digs, the more he realizes there's a great deal missing from the murder investigation.

Connelly shows his deft touch in laying out the case, piece by piece, even as we see Harry's troubled adjustment to civilian life. This latest Bosch mystery is sure to please the legion of fans who've been following Bosch's adventures for 20 books, and hoping for more from Connelly in the future. Harry may be retired, but he's far from done with investigating crime in the big city.

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Review--Doing No Harm

Doing No Harm by Carla    Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another sweet tale of good people doing the right thing, one of Ms. Kelly's trademarks. It's especially appropriate to the season and the current world situation, as the people of a small town struggling to survive open their hearts and homes to refugees who just want a chance, and a safe place to raise their families.

The long war with Napoleon is over, and RN surgeon Douglas Bowden finds himself adrift, finally washing ashore in the Scottish lowlands town of Edgar. A medical emergency requires his skills and he puts himself to work, never planning on staying.

However, he didn't count on spinster Olive Grant, who has worked herself to a nub assisting displaced Highlanders driven from their land by the clearances to make room for more profitable sheep.

The novel deals strongly with issues of PTSD, both the form suffered by former military men like Douglas, and the kinds affecting small children who've been traumati…

Review--The Immortal Heights (The Elemental Trilogy, #3)

The Immortal Heights by Sherry Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A strong and satisfying conclusion to an excellent fantasy trilogy. The action was non-stop--almost literally. I was exhausted reading it, and the world-building was intense. Titus and Iolanthe, along with their friends and allies, are moving closer to stopping the Bane and removing his threat to their lives and their very world and there's no time to waste.

The entire series is a Harry Potteresque world of mages living alongside mundanes, their world mirroring ours in many ways. I missed the scenes at Eton that made the first volumes so interesting, but our characters had outgrown that phase of their lives.

If I have one quibble about the books it was characters with names that were too similar (Amara/Aramia), a problem which could easily have been avoided. There was a great deal to keep track of in the wonderfully complex plot, and having to stop and remember who's who didn't help.

However, I would cheerfully rec…

Review--Burning Bright: Four Chanukah Love Stories

Burning Bright: Four Chanukah Love Stories by Megan Hart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Burning Bright: Four Chanukah Love Stories, is out in ebook, just in time for the holiday:

“Miracle” by Megan Hart—This sweet tale touches on a little known issue, very religious Jews who go “off the derech”, leaving their strictly observant communities for the wider world. It’s a difficult adjustment for Ben Schneider, but he finds his neighbor Amanda willing to help him navigate through new customs and traditions as she shows him her Chanukah celebration of helping her neighbors experience the holidays with joy.

“A Dose of Gelt” by Jennifer Gracen—“Gelt” is money, the traditional Chanukah gift, symbolized by foil wrapped chocolate coins. Evan Sontag and Shari Cohen have so much in common and such a great relationship that when Evan brings Shari to his family’s annual Chanukah party, there’s discussion of when they’re setting a date. Honestly, Evan, if you didn’t think that was going to happen at the family…

Review--Bitch Planet, Vol. 1

Bitch Planet, Vol 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every now and then I feel like subverting the patriarchy (OK, I feel like that most days), and it's refreshing to run across graphic novels like Bitch Planet. It's in-your-face, subversive, we won't be "quiet ladies", fun with a strong tongue-in-cheek attitude and a lot of womyn behaving badly.

Can't wait for the next volume!

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Review--Career of Evil

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent writing, very good mystery that kept me guessing right up until the Big Reveal. The protagonists aren't always sympathetic (isn't that part of what makes noir noir?), but their lives seem very real as they unfold before our eyes.

Cormoran Strike and his partner/assistant (depending on who's being asked) Robin Ellacott receive an especially nasty mystery to solve when a delivery to Robin turns out to be a severed human leg. That unpleasant day at work rather sets the tone for the entire novel, but it's very well done. There are still unresolved issues between Robin and Cormoran, between Robin and her fiance Matthew, and we learn more about what makes these two tick.

I look forward to more excellent (if sometimes stomach churning) suspense from Galbraith in the future.

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Alex returned and added water to the pot, careful not to let it
fall below a boil. Eventually, after some whining (the dog) and
grumbling (Miss Farnham), he pronounced the crabs ready for
consumption. He extracted the crabs by using his stick to flip them
into the air.
“Catch them, Daphne! Quick, before the dog grabs them!”
Holding the valise open, Miss Farnham dashed about, catching
the manna as it fell from the heavens. The dog barked and she
laughed and Alexander felt almost lighthearted.
He put it down to hunger.
--Castaway Dreams
I've always felt it's important to count your blessings as often as possible, but Thanksgiving gives us a special focus on being grateful for the little things--food, shelter, puppies, and people who love us.
I'm especially grateful for each and every one of my readers. When you take time to drop me a note saying you enjoyed my stories, it recharges my batteries and gets me back to the keyboard. Thank you. I couldn't do this without you.
As you …

Review--The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1)

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Aeronauts! Steampunk! Space Pirates! Privateers! Naval battles! Giant freakin' spiders! Cats with thumbs! ( This book has everything, and it's held together with brass and leather and optics and steam as Jim Butcher strikes out for new territory.

It's post-apocalyptic steampunk gooey goodness when the forces of noble Albion are fiendishly attacked by their hereditary enemies of Aurora. New recruits to the Guards will be tested in fire, and new alliances forged (as well as a relationship or two formed in the heat of battle) when Albion defends its very existence. The airship battles rival anything Patrick O'Brien penned, and the hefty first book in The Cinder Spires is a page turner sure to satisfy adventure fans.

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Walking Through History

St. Augustine was a cosmopolitan piece of Europe bordering
the new United States. With Florida tossed like a shuttlecock
between Spain and England, the Americans were poised to seize
the territory of East Florida and shore up their coastline,
eliminating the foreign threats from their southern shores.
“See? A perfectly respectable establishment,” Jack said when
he ushered Sophia into Captain Roberts’s home on St. George
Street. The two-story house had a stuccoed lower floor, its creamy
walls reflecting the afternoon sun, and a wooden second story with
a balcony. It did indeed look like the abode of a prosperous sea
captain, neatly maintained if sparsely furnished. There were no
pictures on the wall, none of the little touches making a house a
home.--The Bride and the Buccaneer

I modeled Captain Roberts's house (Captain Sinister's Lady; The Bride and the Buccaneer) on the Ximenez-Fatio House Museum on Aviles Street in St. Augustine, Florida. I "relocated" the house to St. George…

Review--The Accidental Assassin

The Accidental Assassin by Nichole Chase
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fun book, perfect for a weekend getaway at a historic inn (yes, I had a lovely time, thank you very much). The H&H were perfect for each other, the secondary characters shone, and the non-stop action kept the finger swiping on the ereader.

American gal Ava's tired of her life being in a rut, so she strikes out for London, anxious to stretch her boundaries. She's flat-sitting at her best friend's yummy place, and job hunting, sightseeing and people watching. One of those people is a hunky guy who makes eye contact with her in a neighborhood coffee shop. When Ava accidentally runs over one of the residents of her apartment building, she finds herself targeted for a hit and on the run with Hunky Coffee Shop Guy, who's a professional assassin.

What I really liked about it is Ava doesn't make TSTL mistakes (her one slip-up was understandable), and her skill set is modest, but realistic.

I enj…

Review--The Queen (The Original Sinners: White Years, #4)

The Queen by Tiffany Reisz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A satisfying conclusion to a complex and thoughtful erotic series about a dominatrix, her lovers, and their lives.

Of course, it's much more than that. Anyone who followed The Original Sinners through the Red Years (starting with The Siren) and the second part, The White Years, knows that it's not a simple love story. Rather, it's a story of forbidden love and a triad relationship that evolves, becoming so complex with the people drawn into the orbit of the protagonists that one practically needs to diagram it to remember who's connected to whom.

Nora, Soren and Kingsley's lives unfolded in the manner of Scheherazade's storytelling, with flashbacks and exposition sandwiched into current events. In this final book we learn the full backstory of how Nora became the Red Queen, the top domme in NYC, and what that meant regarding the "forever" she and Soren had promised each other. I'm still not sanguin…

Veterans Day

Dr. Murray looked like he was about to say something, but
Carville spoke up, saying stubbornly, “I still don’t believe the
United States surrendered.”
“A peace treaty is not a surrender, Carville,” Charley said. “I
am sure there is more to this than we know.”
Indeed, when Captain Doyle returned there was a full report. A
peace treaty had been negotiated restoring Great Britain and the
United States to their antebellum status.
“But what of the prisoners?” Charley asked Captain Doyle.
“A Yankee trader from France bound for Charleston put into
port a few days back. That is how we got the news. The governor
is not interested in having a gang of Americans roaming through
Kingston, and asked if we would ‘host’ them for a while longer
until they can ship out with their countrymen.”
It was that simple. Men who two days earlier would have run
each other through or blown each other to pieces, now were up on
deck toasting each other’s countries with carefully rationed grog.
Captain Doyle wisely…

Review--Corridors of the Night (William Monk, #21)

Corridors of the Night by Anne Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well done mystery involving William and Hester Monk. Part of what I enjoy about these novels is the protagonists are very much part of the middle classes, not the gentry (though in Monk's case we can't be positive since he has no memory of his early life). They have to think about paying bills, and cooking food, and making ends meet. They can't just hie off on mystery solving like Peter Wimsey or Sherlock Holmes.

This novel involves a question of medical ethics and the price of success. If experimentation involving live subjects--human subjects--can bring life-saving results for millions, should we condemn the scientists who conduct the research?

It's much more complicated than that, naturally, but the mystery involves something we very much take for granted in the 21st c., blood transfusions. In an age before an understanding of blood typing, no one knew why it almost always failed. Hester gets involved with a…

Review--The Price of Valor (The Shadow Campaigns, #3)

The Price of Valor by Django Wexler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another crackin' good yarn as we go deeper into the political turmoil of Vordan, in events that parallel the French Revolution. And yet, even as things lead to what would be the rise of the First Consul in our history, in The Price of Valor we have a monarch still very much involved in the country (too much so, according to her grumbling handler), and we have the "woo-woo" element as well.

This is the third book in Shadow Campaign series, which will total five volumes, according to the author. No one should start the books at this point, in my opinion, because we've had so much wonderful character development and growth in the earlier books, especially in characters like Winter.

However, if you like a good fantasy with a faux-European set-up and lots of well done battle scenes and political intrigue, this is the series for you.

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Harlot by Victoria Dahl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked the story, and thought the heroine was a character with depth to her. What I really liked was:








She spoke truth to the hero and stood up for herself, reminding him that a woman doesn't sell her body without a man to buy it, and who is he to judge her when he's patronized prostitutes while telling her to save herself for him? I especially liked that this didn't happen at the end of the story, but about 3/4 of the way through. You go, girl! We came away with the image of a strong woman who would survive, even if the hero got back on his high horse and rode off into the sunset. I liked that a lot.

Having said all that, the hero got his head screwed on right, apologized to her, and figured things out before the end. It's another lovely little erotic western from the talented author who gave us The Wicked West, and I'd enjoy seeing more from Ms. Dahl along these lines.

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Review--Highlander Undone

Highlander Undone by Connie Brockway
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting setting, England of late Victorian times, and references to General Gordon's disastrous North Africa campaign and the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite and early Arts & Crafts movement. I liked the story and the protagonists, but the villain was drawn in such broad strokes it was hard to take him seriously. I kept expecting to hear hissing from the audience when he emerged on the scene.

Nonetheless, the story showcases Ms. Brockway's talents and will please her many fans. There's even a secondary love story that could be a set-up for a subsequent novel.

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Review--Rock Redemption

Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent friends-to-lovers tale of Noah and Kit, two people who share a special bond until Noah f*cks it up, literally, when Kit walks in on him screwing yet another of his faceless partners for a night.

I liked the slow build of this story, how Noah has to re-earn his place in Kit's heart. She's not a limp dishrag, she's a strong, capable career woman, a rising Hollywood actress who has her priorities straight.

We all know Noah's severely damaged by trauma in his childhood, and it's not too difficult to guess the nature of the trauma, but Singh does an excellent job of fleshing out Noah's life so that his issues of trust become so much more real. The reader can understand why Noah needs Kit to be his friend long before Kit can see the depth of his need.

Rock Redemption is the third book about Schoolboy Choir, and each book has been fabulous. Even if you don't lean toward contemporary romance about tatt…

Review--Sense and Sensibility

Sense And Sensibility by Jane Austen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The biting wit and wonderful, snarky writing of Jane Austen shines in Sense and Sensibility. I have never understood why high school students are expected to read and enjoy Austen. Clearly, her writing and humor would fly right over the heads of most 17 year olds, which makes re-reading it after one has been (ahem) seasoned for a few decades that much more enjoyable.

If your only exposure to Austen was in high school, or via film, treat yourself to a re-read. She's that good.

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Review--Paloma and the Horse Traders (Spanish Brand #3)

Paloma and the Horse Traders by Carla    Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We're past the romance-novel aspect of the first book and straight into classic western territory as the story of Paloma and Marco Mondragon continues. They're now a settled couple with two small children and one on the way, but the land around them continues to remain unsettled as rumors surface of new Comanche attacks, and strangers who may represent powers unfriendly to the Spanish government.

I've been enjoying Ms. Kelly's Spanish Brand series very much, not only because she tells a great story, but because as a resident of La Florida I'm all too aware that U.S. history overlooks the contribution of Spanish settlers throughout what's now the southern U.S. Florida, Louisiana, Texas and points west all had European settlers long before the Pilgrims set foot in New England, but their history is seldom told.

The stakes are still high for Paloma and Marco living in their fortress-like home on …

Persimmon season

I'm writing this while sitting on my back porch, watching the birds rock the feeders (today we're getting Carolina chickadees, cardinals, tufted titmouse, blue jay, brown thrasher and mourning dove visitors) along with a squirrel drinking from the birdfeeder and a huge Eastern tiger swallowtail sucking down nectar on the butterfly plants. I can enjoy this show because it's finally cool enough to sit out on the porch with my laptop again. Summer's just too darn hot and humid, and we all look forward to the first cool days of autumn to get us back outside.

Autumn is also persimmon season in North Central Florida, and each year I repost my persimmon spice cake recipe from SMUGGLER'S BRIDE. I've made one already, but I may tweak the recipe next week by using some of my sourdough discard. Wish me luck!

Smuggler’s Bride Persimmon Cake
“…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…

Review--Devoted in Death (In Death, #41)

Devoted in Death by J.D. Robb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Given that this is the 41st installment in the "In Death" series, there's not much more to say except that Ms. Robb continues to shine and satisfy her legion of readers.

Perhaps part of the reason is the way she grooms minor characters and brings them forward. For example, we met Officer Trueheart many books back as a rookie beat cop and he immediately resonated with readers. His wide-eyed, all-American boy attitude made him the opposite of world-weary Detective Eve Dallas. Over the series Trueheart would pop up periodically, and we could see his growth just as Eve does, until finally he's ready to sit for the Detective's exam in "Devoted in Death".

In addition, we're introduced to good ol' boy (and smart as a whip) Deputy Banner from Arkansas in this novel, plus Eve's team is racing against the clock to save a victim taken by spree killers in NYC. It's all good, and satisfying to fans…

Review--The Legend of Lyon Redmond (Pennyroyal Green #11)

The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Long's Pennyroyal Green series has been building to this book from the very beginning. We were introduced to the Eversea and Redmond families, and told there was enmity between them going back centuries, but we never had the full story of the twisted tale of Lyon Redmond and Olivia Eversea until now.

Ms. Long's writing is wonderfully lyrical, and her characters are beautifully drawn--even the secondary characters come to life.

I found the epilogue at the end unnecessary, and frankly, somewhat distracting. However, the novel is a must-read for fans of Pennyroyal Green, and while I would encourage new readers to start at the beginning, it's good enough to stand on its own.

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Review--The Last Chance Christmas Ball

The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Mary Jo Putney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These delightful holiday stories are woven together like a Christmas wreath, each bringing its own special moments to the collection as characters overlap and lead one story into another. I have great admiration for the authors and their editor for making it all work.

As with all anthologies there are some stories stronger than others, and I especially enjoyed the Jo Bourne entry because of her flavorful language and nuanced metaphors.

Some of the tales seemed a bit rushed to their HEA, but in a short story format that's almost inevitable. Overall the collection is solid, with one or two stars shining like the gold entertwined in the wreath. It's a great way to start the season.

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Review--The Virgin (The Original Sinners: White Years, #3)

The Virgin by Tiffany Reisz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have great admiration for Ms. Reisz' skill in unspooling the Original Sinners stories from the glimpses and revelations shown in The Siren. Each subsequent book has revealed backstory on the characters in a fashion that's engrossing, engaging and erotic. I'm looking forward to the release of The Queen, what looks to be the ultimate, and possibly final, entry in the Original Sinners series.

The Virgin tackles the year Nora left her master Soren, and how she reinvented herself as a novelist and as the premier dominatrix in the NYC BDSM scene. It also give us the backstory on Kingsley's Juliette, the love of his life.

As always, themes of kink and religion will not go down well with all readers, but for those who are fans, it's a rewarding experience.

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Review--The Shadow Throne (The Shadow Campaigns, #3)

The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked it even more than the first book in The Shadow Campaign. Great characters, wonderful pacing. Anyone who knows European history and the French Revolution will appreciate this fantasy with its twists and turns on the storming of the Bastille, the revolutionary committees and their leaders, the issue of the monarchy and the church and more.

Even better, we see how a charismatic military leader can rise out of chaos to lead a nation. Can't wait for the next book!

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My favorite time of year

When he returned from releasing the snake into a friendlier
environment, Rand saw Julia was still sitting up on the table, crosslegged,
staring out the window. Her hair had come undone and was
falling down her neck and back in ringlets that clung to her skin, and
large circles darkened her blouse under the arms.
“What are you doin’ up there?”
“I hate this place. I hate Florida. I hate living where giant beetles fly
into your hair and where snakes come into the house. I hate breathing
in wet gnats, and I hate the mosquitoes, and I hate the damp that keeps
my clothes sticking to me. I hate that it is autumn and it is still hot
enough to raise bread. And I hate you for keeping me here,” she
finished conversationally.
“Come down,” he said, reaching up his arms.
“No. I am going to stay up here until I die, and they will find
nothing but my bones in a moldy mound on the table.”
He reached up and slid his hands under her skirt, moving them
against the tender flesh around her ankles and at the backs of her k…

Review--Taking the Heat (Jackson: Girls' Night Out, #3)

Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was unsure whether to shelf this under "romance" or "erotic romance", but I ended up going with "romance". Be aware, however, this delightful little story has lots of sex. Really, really, good sex. The kind of sex that if you were on the receiving end, you'd want to call your BFF at 3 a.m. to give her blow-by-blow details.

There's also a charming love story here. Librarian Gabe is in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on a temporary assignment to bring their library more into the digital book and media realm, but it's a labor of love. He's a rock climber, and being out of NYC is recharging his batteries and making him feel alive. But he knows he can't stay.

Veronica writes the "Dear Veronica" advice column in the local paper and online, but she's a hot mess of insecurity and sexual repression. When she meets Gabe there's attraction, but she doesn't know how to get around…

Review--Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal, #1)

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There were many things I enjoyed about this debut novel. I liked the Regency/Georgette Heyer feel of it, I liked the protagonists who were outsiders in their insular society, I liked the magic, but I think, most of all, I liked the strong women.

Prunella Gentleman is a rather pragmatic, one might even say cold-blooded, young lady who'd been dealt blows by life, and rather than fade into the genteel background she seized every opportunity, including trying to make a good match for quite mercenary purposes.

In addition, there were dragonesses who could teach the Patronesses of Almacks a thing or two, witches who don't take crap from any starched-up Englishmen, and society dames who manipulate events in their own subtle, but effective fashion.

As far as the men go, Zacharias Wythe is less cold-blooded and more of a dreamer as Sorcerer to the Crown, but even he realizes that his strong moral code is compromised and affected b…

Review--Saga, Vol. 5

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

Saga just keeps getting better and better.

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Review--Craving Flight

Craving Flight by Tamsen Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I remember many years ago hearing a rabbi say, "If someone tells you, 'This is what Jews believe!', move quickly in the opposite direction."

There are many misconceptions about What Jews Believe, or what they practice, even (or especially) within their own community, so I approached this story with some trepidation.

To my relief and pleasure, Ms. Parker got it right. The tension between the BT & FFB communities, the misunderstanding and anger that can develop in families when someone becomes more observant and Shomer Shabbat, the difficulty in communication in a society where men and women have very different, but no less worthy, spheres of interaction--it's all here.

More importantly for the purposes of the tale, there's an emphasis on the joyous interaction that can happen within the boundaries of marriage and observance of niddut (separation for part of the month). Too many authors writing about rel…

Review--The Saint (The Original Sinners, White Years #1)

The Saint by Tiffany Reisz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this entry in the Original Sinners series because it gave us much more background on Soren and Nora. We'd picked up bits and pieces over the years, but this novel clearly establishes how their unique relationship as a BDSM couple developed.

Part of what I love about this series was Soren's insistence on Nora being an adult before she entered into her full relationship with him. One could quibble that because of the age difference he'd always been able to mess with her head, but The Saint makes it fairly clear that Nora's power to walk away was  real and strong.

I will continue to read, and I expect, enjoy, Ms. Reisz's tales of the BDSM community.

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Review--The Thousand Names (The Shadow Campaigns, #1)

The Thousand Names by Django Wexler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked it, especially the aspect of strong female characters and the alternative history feel of it, very much a setting familiar to fans of Sharpe's Rifles and other novels of the Napoleonic Wars. There's a definite nod to Napoleon's tactics and the use of the French square formation for infantry.

As far as the chicks-in-breeches female characters go, there were a few scenes that passed the Bechdel Test, and that's always a plus.

Clearly, this novel is the start of a series, and I'll know more after I read the second book. What bothered me the most about this one was that the alternative-history feel of it included light skinned "Europeans" vs. darker skinned, desert dwelling "Natives". It made a certain amount of sense if one's writing an alternative history, but it's difficult in the 21st c. to read a novel set in a faux-Egypt/Libya and not feel the weight of colonial history…

Celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

The tavern in Nassau had no name or sign outside the door, but everyone knew it. Almost everyone. It was a shame the place wasn’t known to any decent brewers, Oliver thought, as he tried to drink some lackluster ale.
“I told you to get the rum.”
“I don’t have your tolerance for that beverage yet, Captain.”
He shifted uncomfortably as she sipped from her own mug.
“You keep doing that and he may relieve himself on you out of spite.”
“I’m not used to wearing a live animal,” Oliver protested, as the parrot preened on his shoulder.
St. Armand looked at Turnbull.
“‘Bring him along’, you said, ‘It’ll be good for him to get out and about.’”
“I meant Woodruff, not the pa—not Roscoe!”
She snickered.
“Well, Woodruff, are you enjoying being out and about?”
He took another sip of the ale, worried that if he tried to respond he’d break out into a huge grin. He was sitting in a disreputable tavern in the Caribbean, with two dangerous pirates, and a parrot on his shoulder. This was the most exciting…

Review--Half a War (Shattered Sea #3)

Half a War by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel did not go where I expected it to go, and that's a good thing. I like a book where the boundaries between the good guys and the bad guys are blurred, or in some cases erased all together. This is the the third of the Shattered Sea novels, maybe the last one, and it's an excellent conclusion to a series about violent people in a bloody and stark post-apocalyptic world with overtones of the Viking era.

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Review--The Wolf Hunt

The Wolf Hunt by Gillian Bradshaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading this novel is reminiscent of hearing classic folk songs, which is deliberate. It's based on the medieval Lai de Bisclavet by Marie de France. There are themes of Tam Lin, Beauty & the Beast, classic werewolf tales and more, but at its heart it's a darn good story.

Tiarnan of Talensac is a "parfit, gentil knight", beloved by his people and his liege lord, and he has a secret. He goes into the woods and becomes a wolf a few days each month. When he marries, his secret puts him at risk, but he trusts love will conquer all.

Gosh, he sure is naive!

Anyway, there's a wonderful story here of a woman whose brains and morality outshine her beauty, a loyal lord, a scheming wife, a weasely enemy and faithful servants (even a faithful dog!). It's not a paranormal romance, but it's got a strong romantic element, and does a good job of capturing Medieval life in Brittany and Normandy.

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Happy Labor Day!

...under Cicero’s direction, he carried pots of porridge to the mess, followed by steaming coffee. There wasn’t much conversation as the men hurried through their meal to get to their tasks, and he returned to the galley to gulp down his own breakfast while Cicero readied a tray for him.
“Take this to the captain’s cabin, smartly now!”
The captain had mostly the same as the men, save for the addition of fine china and silver rather than tin plates and cups. There was a pot of coffee, porridge with a small dish of honey, and cheese from the ship’s goat.
He stood in front of the door, trying to figure out how to knock and balance the tray while the deck rolled beneath his feet. Fortunately, the door opened and Mr. Turnbull looked down at him, then raised an eyebrow.
“Your new cabin boy is here.”
“I am not the cabin boy,” Oliver said, setting the tray on the table in the captain’s cabin. “I’m the cook’s assistant. Good morning, Captain, Mr. Turnbull.”
St. Armand was dressed, but didn’t …

Review--Only A Kiss (The Survivors' Club #6)

Only a Kiss by Mary Balogh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I read a top-notch Mary Balogh novel I feel like I'm getting the additional bonus of a class in "How To Write Really Good Romance With All The Feels". Balogh's use of subtle body language, spare description, slow builds and real, adult characters makes reading her books not only deeply, emotionally satisfying, but also illustrates what a good romance novel can be in the hands of the right author.

Only a Kiss is the latest Survivors' Club book. The Survivors are a group brought together by shared traumatic experiences during the Napoleonic Wars. Some are battle veterans and visibly scarred, others have hidden, but no less serious trauma. Lady Imogen Barclay is the only woman in the group, and this is her story.

We know parts of it from previous novels: Imogen's husband was a recon office behind French lines. His wife followed the drum. They were captured, Imogen's husband was tortured before her eyes, a…


Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a deeply disturbing book, and that's a good thing. People should be disturbed when they read accounts of American slavery, just as people should be disturbed when they read accounts of the Holocaust. And the two were linked in my mind as I read Kindred.

Dana is a black woman in 1976, transported back in time to early-19th C. Maryland, to the farm where her ancestors were held in bondage. As I read Kindred I kept thinking about Jane Yolen's Number the Stars, a YA novel about a Jewish teen transported in time to the Holocaust.

A 21st c. reader has difficulty conceptualizing the horror of those eras, but through the vehicle of excellent novels the events are magnified for a modern person who knows, or at least has been told, how evil slavery is or how horrific the Holocaust was. Seeing it through contemporary eyes can help awaken the reader to the reality of the events.

I would like to see Kindred on high school reading …

Review--Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained

Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained: Expanded Edition by Maya Rodale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a must-read for all budding romance authors, and it's a valuable addition to the shelves of established authors too. Rodale joins the small, but growing, list of researchers examining the attraction of romance novels, and I'm now recommending her book along with Beyond Heaving Bosoms, Dangerous Men, Adventurous Women and other recent publications about the romance genre and the romance publishing industry.

If nothing else, it's nice at the end of the day to read a serious, but entertaining, volume that looks at romance without sneering at it.

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Another holiday weekend=More reading time!

"...for best results, read it on the beach!" Smart B*tches, Trashy Books on The Pirate's Secret Baby.
Got books? It's the end of summer, and for some, a last chance to lounge in a hammock with a good beach read. Make sure your ereader is fully stocked, or your paperbacks light enough to lift while sipping a refreshing drink, and enjoy Labor Day Weekend. You've earned your rest and relaxation!

Some giggles from The Toast, and a snippet from the WIP

Oliver returned to the endless piles of vegetables, turnips today. They were thicker skinned than the potatoes, and after a few swipes at the uncooperative produce, Holt sighed and took the knife from him.
“Watch, Beaumains, while I show you how it’s done so you don’t waste half of it!”
Oliver raised his eyebrows.
“Shall I serve you then as Gareth served Sir Kay the Seneschal?”
Holt’s hand pause from where it was neatly skinning the vegetable, and his dark face broke into a grin so wide it threatened to displace his ears.
“You’ve read Le Morte d’Arthur? Welcome aboard, friend, welcome aboard!”
For the next two hours the cook stumped around the galley, discussing his favorite points of Mallory’s classic while Oliver plied his knife. When the cook announced work was done for the morning, Oliver stood, flexing his hand, then sucked on a nick on his thumb where the knife slipped when he wasn’t prepared for the ship to roll through a trough. --[working title] WHAT THE PARROT SAW

It's no sec…

Review--Brown-Eyed Girl (Travis Family #4)

Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quite enjoyable, moved along at a good pace, had a great heroine, hero and secondary characters (not to mention Coco). I was worried about the resolution of the heroine's career vs. love dilemma, but found the ending quite satisfactory. In addition, there's a set up for another Travis Family related story.

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Review--Siren's Call (Rainshadow, #4; Harmony, #12)

Siren's Call by Jayne Castle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was the perfect airplane book. I could read & enjoy it on a long flight without feeling like I had to work my brain too hard (I'm convinced they decrease the oxygen on the flights). It had a satisfactory mystery, trademark Jayne Castle H&H, and best of all, it had a great Dust Bunny, Lorelei. I recommend it to fans of the series.

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