Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Lodgers

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

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

--Captain Sinister's Lady

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

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, February 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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Review--When All the Girls Have Gone

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

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

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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Boskone 54 is coming!

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

It must be time for Boskone

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

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

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

My Toughest Book

Friday 15:00 - 16:00

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

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

Love, Romance, and the Digital Divide

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

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

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

Digital Rights and Other Small Press Traps and Issues

Saturday 14:00 - 15:00

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

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

The Play's The Thing!

Saturday 21:00 - 22:30

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

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

The Sense8 Sensation

Sunday 13:00 - 14:00

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

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

The Defenders Series and the Netflix Craze

Sunday 14:00 - 15:00

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

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

Monday, February 06, 2017

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

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

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

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