Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review--The Girl Who Knew Too Much

The Girl Who Knew Too MuchThe Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amanda Quick, best known for her Regency and Victorian historical romance moves into the 20th century with this engaging novel. It's hard to think of the 1930s as being a period for historical romance, but that seemed the most appropriate shelf, and the historical details made this even more fun.

Ace cub reporter Irene Glasson finds a dead woman in the bottom of a swimming pool at a swanky resort, the very woman she was supposed to meet. But that's not the worst of it. Someone tries to kill Irene, she has her own dark secrets to keep hidden, and the enigmatic owner of the swanky resort is far too interested in her.

It's typical JAK/AQ, which means the hero and heroine are cut from familiar cloth, but the Hollywood and California setting, the speedy roadsters, smart dames and mysterious gentlemen make it an engaging read and a good summer choice.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

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

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

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

I can't wait for the next volume!

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Monday, June 19, 2017

The War of 1812

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Flag Day!

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Review--Moses: A Human Life

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

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

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

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Saturday, June 10, 2017


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

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

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

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

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Thursday, June 08, 2017


HuntedHunted by Meagan Spooner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, June 05, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, June 04, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, June 02, 2017

Review--So Wild the Heart

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

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

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

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

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