Saturday, December 26, 2015

Review--Secret Sisters

Secret SistersSecret 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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Thursday, December 24, 2015

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

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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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Review--Make Me

Make MeMake 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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Sunday, December 20, 2015

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

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.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

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

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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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Review--The Crossing

The Crossing (Harry Bosch, #20)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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Friday, December 11, 2015

Review--Doing No Harm

Doing No HarmDoing 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 traumatized by life. As Douglas and Olive work together to help the refugees and the people of Edgar, they come to realize that not all healing comes from the surgeon's knives or the pharmacy.

Ms. Kelly's books make an excellent holiday read, and Doing No Harm is a timely addition to her collection of Royal Navy historical romances.

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Saturday, December 05, 2015

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

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 recommend The Elemental Trilogy to YA readers looking for a story with depth, heart, and a great deal of imagination.

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Friday, December 04, 2015

Review--Burning Bright: Four Chanukah Love Stories

Burning Bright: Four Chanukah Love StoriesBurning 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 gathering—with your grandmother—you haven’t been paying attention. He flips out, because as a family law attorney he’s seen too many marriages end up on the rocks and he doesn’t think marriage is for him. Now he has to win back Shari, the woman he realizes he can’t live without. It helps that there are eight days of Chanukah with which to offer heart-felt gifts...and his heart, too.

“Home for Chanukah” by Stacey Agdern—Jon Adelman travels the country producing modern Jewish music, discovering and promoting artists who fuse tradition with current sounds. It’s a busy life which doesn’t leave him any time to make his apartment into a home. When his neighbor, designer Molly Baker-Stein, sees his folding chair, futon and card table living arrangements, she’s horrified. For Chanukah she’s going to help Jon have the living space he deserves…and things go terribly wrong. It’s going to take a Chanukah miracle (and help from both sides of the family—do you see a trend in these stories?) to get them back together and appreciating one another.

“All I Got” by KK Hendin moves the action across the Atlantic. Modern Orthodox Tamar is taking a winter break from college to eat sufganiyot in Israel, apartment sit for a friend from their girls’ seminary year, and flirt with cute soldiers at bus stops. She’s particularly charmed by Avi, with his sweet smile and Southern accent, but she knows it can’t go anywhere because she’ll return to the States after the holiday. This story is peppered with a lot of “Henglish”, Hebrew/English mixed conversation, but the tale is universal as lovers try to connect, each knowing their lives are separated by an ocean.

There's a push in romance writing for more diverse stories, and a new collection from a major publisher celebrating a holiday other than Christmas is a lovely treat!

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