Tour’s Books Blog

August 4, 2015

By Request – RF and the Yacht Theft Case

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 5:38 pm
Tags: ,

Apparently RF has a small fan club and there will be one more multipart RF story for this summer and that’s it till next year.

In the Clan Reunion story, RF first had word of the yacht thefts.  Once again she and Trey and Rupert were off on an adventure to find stolen yachts.  We open the story at the Bakery Cafe where RF and her cousins have returned from the Clan Reunion.

**********************************

RF got Darlene’s message, but important Bakery business and her demanding partner kept her busy all morning.  Finally, she broke free and headed to her workshop, only to have Lula Mae stand right in front of her, glaring.

“WHAT?????”  RF was feeling cranky.

“You heading to Big Daddy’s Barbados villa and not taking us?”

“No. we’re not going there.”

“Then where are you going?”

“Anguilla”

“Big Daddy has a villa on Anguilla?”

“No, a friend of his does and he’s loaning it to us.”

“There should be plenty of room for us then.  I’ll tell everyone to pack.”

“I’m going on a business trip, Lula Mae, not a vacation!”

“Well, we can use a vacation too!”

“You just got back from one in Santa Barbara!  Where you annoyed me!!!!!!”

“That was weeks ago, before the Reunion.  We’re due for a nice beach trip.”

“That house was ON THE BEACH!”

“Yeah, well this is a TROPICAL beach, so that’s better.”  Lula Mae saw Greta, “Greta, we’re heading for Anguilla.  Better let Marilyn know.”  She turned back to RF, “When we leaving?”

“NEVER!  YOU’RE LEAVING NEVER!”  Lula Mae moved out of her much larger cousin’s way as RF stormed into her workshop.  Then she took a seat by Trey.  “Mite cranky today, ain’t she?”

“She had books stolen again.  And this could be dangerous, Lula Mae.  Yacht thieves are often thugs and pretty ruthless.”

“All the more reason to be there are back-up.  She takes too many chances.”  That was too true, and Trey knew it.  Lula Mae was one of the few that could get RF slightly under control.  Too bad Tour wasn’t available.  She would clobber her cousin if she did something stupid.  And she was damn cunning.  The way she handled that whole thing at the clan gathering was brilliant.  Sadistic, but brilliant.  Those two together, no wonder the guys who tried to kill Big Daddy didn’t stand a chance.

Next Day

Big Daddy’s jet was waiting for them next morning and yes, Lula Mae, Cleatus, Greta, and Johann were all tagging along – much to RF disgust.

“The vile, evil, wretched, reprehensible Marion stole my books.  I shall extract my revenge.”  RF stalked to the bedroom at the back of the plane where Trey put her portable workshop.

Lula Mae looked up from the magazine she was reading about the latest Paris fashions – though what that had to do with a middle-aged groundhog, Trey couldn’t begin to guess.  “She on a tear about a book thief again?”

“So it would seem.  She’s not usually so dramatic about it.”

Rupert, who had consumed every scrap of food RF had packed in a hamper for him was looking around the private jet for more to eat.  “Are they serving dinner?  I’m hungry.”

“You just ate enough for a family of 8 humans.  You should be full.”  Lula Mae sounded fresh out of sympathy.

“I just spent a week visiting my mother.  I have to be very careful about what I eat there.  I need a good steak.”

“What, your momma don’t feed you steak?”

Rupert just stared at the older marmot, not saying a word.

“Oh.  OK, yeah, I see the problem now.  I’d probably eat vegetarian around her myself.”  Rupert’s mother had highly suspect eating habits.

“And she can’t make dessert worth a damn.  Are there any jelly donuts around?”

Trey didn’t even bother looking at Rupert when he said, “Didn’t you learn your lesson about hogging the jelly donuts back in LaJolla?”

Rupert blanched at the memory.  “I’ll just look for something else then.”

“Do NOT get between RF and her desserts.  She’s already cranky.  Don’t make it worse.”  Trey knew his partner all too well, and having her cousins under foot was making her very unhappy.  She even tried to kick Lula Mae down the boarding steps.  Luckily, Lula Mae had kept her distance by boarding behind Marilyn, but the witch was sporting a nasty bruise on her leg.

The loud *POOF!* from the sleeping cabin had the two flight attendants looking a bit pale.  The attendant named Staci placed a tray of appetizers on the table in front of Trey and asked softly, “What did she just do?”

“Transformed a book thief into something ugly and smelly,” fully expecting the usual reaction – something between horror, abject fear, and complete disbelief.  Instead, she looked …….. intrigued.

“Would she mind if I talked to her about something?”

Trey shrugged.  “It might be better if you spoke with her after she’s had dinner.  She’s more …… civil, when she’s full.  And extra desserts help – but no custard type stuff.  She hates anything that tastes like custard.”

“I like custard!”  Rupert cheerfully announced.  “I’ll eat hers!”

Staci smiled at Rupert.  “We have extra crème brulee for you.  Ms RF’s request.  Now I’ll just get more appetizers.  I’m sure she’ll be hungry.”

As the flight attendant walked off, Rupert leaned in close to Trey, “I thought they were all scared to death of her.”

It was Marilyn who snorted.  “She wants something from RF.  Bet you anything it involves a cheating male.”  Trey and Rupert protectively crossed their legs. Purely reflex.  His cranky partner was not fond of cheaters.  Trey had noticed a pale line on her ring finger where he suspected her wedding ring used to sit, so Marilyn was likely right.

RF stood there, looking at them, knowing something was going on.  “WHAT?”  Damn, she could be silent.

“Get up here and have some appetizers before Rupert eats them all.”  Trey lifted his partner into her special seat and gave her the tray to pick from – much to Rupert’s annoyance.  She looked at the sea of innocent faces.  Damn.  Someone wanted something.  Well, it could wait till after dinner.

*************************************************

Sure enough, a whispered conversation between RF and flight attendant had RF back in the bedroom and another *POOF!* sounded.  The flight attendant emerged looking smug and satisfied.  RF refused to discuss it.  Somewhere some male was paying a serious price for his transgressions.

The villa on Anguilla wasn’t as nice as Big Daddy’s place on Barbados, or as dramatic, but it was very nice, with 10 bedrooms and lots of staff. There was even a small private beach and many more huge beaches easily accessible.  RF was enjoying the place.

Her favorite spot immediately became the palapa right on the water, where she shamelessly commandeered the lounge as HER’S!  Big Daddy sent Jacob’s his head butler at his Barbados Villa to assist the Le Bleu staff as they adjusted to their bizarre visitors.  The cooks, of course, had heard of RF and her cousin Tour and were anxious to please her.  The rest of the staff was a bit nervous.

Afternoon tea – in this case, iced tea with fresh lemon – included trays of traditional and very non-traditional sandwiches and sweets carried out to RF – who promptly helped herself to generous servings.  Rupert and Trey had just come back from ‘yacht shopping’ looking attractively windblown and starting to tan already.  The female help at the villa was in constant danger of whiplash when they walked past, and Big Daddy was paying to replace a lot of broken china.  Marilyn, meanwhile, was sending the male staff into fits in her very attractive, but skimpy, 2 piece swimsuit and her 3 other suits all of which showed off her well-endowed, curvy figure.  She joined the two men and soon RF had everyone invading her private spot.  She was going to grab a cast iron skillet tomorrow to help keep them out.

They’d arrived late, but Trey and Rupert headed to the casinos on St Marteen to start checking things out.  RF look at Trey and Rupert and asked, “Well, any luck today over on St Maarten?”

“Rupert won about fifty grand at the poker table.”

RF gave Rupert an evil look.  “We went over this.  No playing tricks with the cards so you win!”

“I didn’t!  It was a marked deck and I could see it!”  Even Jacobs stared at the djinn in astonishment.  The normally staid and quite butler was so shocked he said, “The Atlantis Casino would not use marked cards!  They have a reputation and do NOT want to lose it!”

“I don’t think those were casino cards.  The dealer palmed a deck and swapped it for a marked one that looked identical and suddenly I could read the cards.  So I made a little money by hiding the marking on my cards so they read wrong.”

“Cheating a cheater is a dangerous thing to do Mr Rupert.” Jacobs sounded serious as a heart attack.  “These rings of thieves can be quite violent.  I’ve heard of killings over things like that.”

Rupert nodded.  Yes, he was aware of that, but he couldn’t resist doing it.  He was not any more fond of humans who cheated others than RF was.  Trey sighed.  “Do you remember who the dealer was?”

“A woman named Muriel, or that was the name on her badge, but I heard someone calling to her as we left and they called Sammy or Sanni.”

RF looked at Trey and this time they both sighed in resignation.  One day in and it was already messy.  “I’ll call Rast and see if he can get us in touch with someone quietly.”

RF looked at Rupert.  “What did the man calling to the dealer look like?”

“Well, he was dressed like an American, but his accent was wrong.  It’s like an American trying to pretend they’re French.  They get it wrong.  His mistakes were less obvious, but he was not American and certainly not Texan, which is how he dressed.  Complete with boots.  But he sounded nothing like Big Daddy or RJ.”  Both men were native Texans, even though RJ’s accent was minimal after years of living in California, it was still there.  Just like Trey’s Cajun accent was still there, slight, but noticeable and always stronger after he’d spent time at home.

Trey straightened up.  “They man in the Western cut shirt and Tony Lamas?”

Rupert looked confused.  “What is a ‘Tony Lama’?”

“He’s a well-known Western style boot maker,” RF explained.

“Ah, yes.  The boots were very fancy with pointy toes and an odd heel.  Part of them looked like lizard or a small crocodile.”

“Probably caiman.  He uses that for his bespoke boots.  Now, why would someone wearing Tony Lama boots get involved in an attempt to swindle the casinos?  And does this have anything to do with our boat thieves?”  RF’s claws drummed on the lounge.

“If I may, Ms RF, several staff members here at the villa have extended family at the Atlantic as well as the Casino Royale and several in Phillipsburg.  I can have them check to see if a man wearing such boots was seen.  They would be quite unusual on the islands.”

RF smiled.  “Thank-you Jacobs, excellent suggestion.  I’m sure Rupert will be happy to reward them generously.”  Rupert squawked a bit, but the look he got from RF stopped that.  He graciously agreed under the unrelenting glare of the marmot.

Jacobs chuckled and went back to the villa to oversee dinner and have a chat with the staff.  RF looked at Trey, “Did you have any luck?”

“Maybe.  I’ll head to Casino Royale toniht and see if I get approached.  You coming?”

Trey grinned.  “I bribed the right guy.  Yeah, my lucky pet can come in.”  RF gives a disgruntled sigh and snuggled down into her cushion.  Pet!  Why was she always a PET?  And Trey was enjoying this waaaaay too much.

“Oh, by the way, your books were stolen in the Darkness Released swap.  See you at dinner!”  Trey was gone like a shot with RF’s snarl ringing in his ears.  Thank heavens she wasn’t cooking!  There would be a meat fork in his ass.  He took a shaded lounge on the far end of the covered terrace.  Trey liked Barbados and Big Daddy’s villa, it was a stunning place, but he really loved the beaches of Anguilla.  Shoal Bay was favorite.  Of course, he loved a lot of the Caribbean.  Each island seemed so different, it would be hard to choose a favorite.  His musing about the charms of the different islands was broken by a loud *POOF!*  The islands were better enjoyed without a testy marmot.

**********************************

Later that night back on Anguilla …………..

Cleatus sauntered over to where RF sat eating popcorn while watching Trey pace back and forth lecturing her about turning humans in small animals or awful demons.  There was some yelling and a lot of arm waving and finger pointing.  “Something happen tonight?”  Cleatus grabbed some popcorn and settled in near RF, careful not to crowd her.

“Oh, this man kept patting my head for luck and suddenly broke out in hives and had to leave the casino.”

“That’s all?”  Cleatus didn’t believe that Trey was this upset over hives.

“Well this woman kept pestering Trey.  Rubbing against him – and then she tried to grab his arm that was holding me.”

“She trying to kidnap you?”

“Doubt it.  She just wanted me gone so she could have Trey.”

Cleatus nodded and ate more popcorn.  “What did you do?”

“What makes you think I did anything?”

“Cause you’re not answering my question and Trey’s giving you a lecture.”

ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME RF?”  Trey yelled right at her.  She stared for a moment, then gave a noncommittal shrug.  “That woman had hair all over her body!”

“Fur,” she corrected.

FUR???!!!!!!  What kind of fur?”

“Weasel.  Ferret to be precise.”

“You made her a giant ferret?”  Her partner sounded rather stunned.

“No, I made her a human covered in ferret fur.  See, I didn’t do a transformation, because I promised I wouldn’t, and didn’t give her hives, because after that head patter incident I promised I wouldn’t, but I didn’t promise anything about fur.  So now she’s covered in ferret fur.”

“Why ferret?”  Trey knew he should be lecturing her again, but honestly, what more could be said?

“Well, I could have made her a polecat I suppose, but ferret seemed a better idea.”

“Polecat?  You mean a skunk?”

“No.  A polecat is not a skunk.  Americans call skunks that, but polecats are really a good sized weasel.  Skunks aren’t weasels.  They’re kind of distant cousins.”

“Janice Baker is now covered in ferret fur?”

“She almost made you drop me!!!!!!  It was that or she was going straight to guinea pig.”

Trey sort of fell into a chair and stared at his partner.  He had long since given up on her transforming book thieves but had stopped her turning rude waiters into lemurs.  This was a first.  And a woman in a lowcut evening gown covered in fur – two dark rings around her eyes and dark ears, was a very disconcerting sight.

Oblivious, or just ignoring Trey, RF cheerfully added, “Did you know the blackfoot ferret was also called the American polecat?  The eat prairie dogs in the wild.  Of course the ferrets in the Bakery are a lot smaller than me, or even Cleatus, and marmots in general, so we’re kind off the menu.”

“She’ll lose the fur?”

“In about 2 to 3 days.  A little longer for her rump.”

“WHY?”

“Why fur or why does the rump take longer?”

“The rump fur.”  Was he really having this conversation about ferret fur on human rear ends?

“I’m not really sure, but she might have to get it waxed.  For some reason, ferret fur does really well on human rumps.  She can just wear jeans.  The tail will hardly show.”

“Tail?  SHE HAS A TAIL?????

OOPS.  hummmmmmm  “Didn’t I mention that?  I’m sure I did.  It will go away.”

HOW LONG?

“You’re shouting again and that vein in your head has popped.  You really should just relax and have a drink.  Wild Turkey.  I’m sure Jacobs has some around here.”

As she tried to scurry past, Trey grabbed RF by the scruff of her neck and held her up till they were eye level.  ” How. Long. Will. She. Have. A. TAIL?”

“Oh, a week, maybe 10 days.  ……………… a month at most.”  He stared at her silently, then put her back on the patio where she sat, patiently watching him.  Twice he opened his mouth, but nothing came out.  Finally he managed, “No more tails on humans.”  Damn, another rule.  He had an awful lot of rules.  Then he walked away.

“Shouldn’t have mentioned the tail, RF.”

“It just sort of slipped out.”

“Not sure he’s taking it real well.”

“If she’d made him drop me, I would have broken a paw, maybe more than one, and maybe my ribs.  I’ve had a broken paw, thank-you, I don’t need more.”

“She involved in this yacht thing?”

“I don’t think so, or if she is, she’s just the distraction.  Her husband looks like a constipated toad, but he’s rich.  I don’t blame her for going after Trey, just for trying to get me dropped.  That was dangerous and she didn’t care if I got hurt.”

RF never heard Trey come up behind them, but as the breeze shifted she scented him.  “I didn’t do it for laughs, you know.”  He nodded.  She was right.  Janice had tried to get him to drop RF, not caring if the animal was hurt.  “No more tails.”

“OK”

He walked off as silently as he came.  She forgot sometimes that he was a world class thief and had all the skills.

“Well, that could have been worse,” Cleatus said as he ate the last of the popcorn and got a good glare from RF.  “See you in the morning RF!”  And he made his getaway before she threw the bowl at him.  Good thing it was plastic so they wouldn’t have bleeding paws tomorrow.

The book theft alarm went off early, but Lula Mae and RF were busy fighting while Cleatus, Johann and Greta watched …………… until RF looked at them and snarled, “If you three have nothing better to do, I’m sure I can find some work for you!” at which point Trey grabbed RF and Rupert grabbed Lula Mae and walked in opposite directions.  Finally, Trey sat on the sand on the tiny private beach.  “You should try discussing things first, before fighting with Lula Mae.”

“She tries to boss me around!  NO ONE TELLS ME WHAT TO DO!”

“Except your cousin Tour.”

“Tour doesn’t try and run my life like that Southern busybody.”

“Tour just walks softly and carries a cast iron skillet.”

RF shrugged.  She and her cousin knew each other too well and they both knew Tour would use that damn skillet.  “She doesn’t tell me what to do like Lula Mae.”  Now she sounded petulant.

Trey sighed.  RF and Lula Mae were way too much alike.  “Just walk away RF.”

“She followed me and kept badgering me.”

“About what?”

RF was quiet and looked around at the view and the amazing clear water.  “Beautiful place, not the way Barbados is or St John in the USVI, but amazing beaches and water.”

Trey picked his wandering partner up and held her.  “What was she fighting with you about?”

RF sighed.  “The pictures from the clan gathering.”

“The ones Tour gave you so you could use them to blackmail everyone in sight.”  It was a statement, not a question, so she shrugged.

“What does she want?  Copies for herself?”

“No.  She wants me to get rid of them.  That way I can’t ever be tempted to do anything with them.”  Trey was quiet for a long time.  “OK, I see her point, but I know why you won’t do it.  However, I think you’ve both forgotten something.”  RF looked at him curiously.  “Tour had all those pictures and she gave them to you.  Do you think for one minute that your very shrewd cousin doesn’t have a full set herself?  Probably multiple sets?”

RF got a small smile, it grew, then she laughed.  “You’re right.  It doesn’t matter what I do.  Tour has them and Lula Mae wouldn’t DARE go after her.”

“See, there’s no need to argue.  Now, you’ve had a book theft that needs taking care of, unless you’ve given up transforming book thieves.”

“HA!  Not happening!”

“I assumed as much.”  He’d carried her back to the beach palapa where her workshop was stored.  “We’ll go over to Casino Royale after dinner.  The man who has the yacht for sale is coming for drinks later.  I think you should be around.”  She nodded and checked the book theft info.

To be continued ……………………….

July 31, 2015

A ReacherFan Short Story – Witches, Demons, Romulans, and Elvis

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 9:10 pm
Tags: ,

I don’t always have the time to create a long, multi-part story for RF, she’s had a long career in her Bakery turned Cafe and catering service. She now has a large human staff and can spend more time having adventures with Trey and Rupert.  In the early days, RF did all the baking herself.  Then her young cousins, Greta and Johann came and started living with her.  Then came Cleatus and finally Lula Mae.

Marilyn the witch was one of her first friends, mostly because Marilyn decided she liked RF whether or not RF liked her.  The marmot surrendered gracelessly to the inevitable, but when Marilyn’s coven got RF to cater a huge fund raising breakfast and failed to pay her, then things turned ugly.  Johann, an account, discovered the Elder of the coven embezzled a whole lot of their money.  He managed to get most of it back, RF stripped the elder of her powers and generally saved the day.  But the coven took all the recovered money and spent it on new, state of the art brooms…… and didn’t pay RF.  That was not a wise decision.  RF confiscated their brooms and demanded payment in full of their debt to get them back.

Marilyn and her three friends, Caroline, Bethany, and Glenda (or the Three Stooges, to RF) have come to plead their case for getting the brooms back.

****************************************************************

RF is incensed by Alice’s second theft in one week – vile, duplicitous, sneaking human should be stuck as scarecrow!  That’s what she deserved.  But RF was ever so gently snockered when casting the spell and nailed Alice and Mr A, weakening the longevity by spreading it to two people.  Well, that won’t happen today!  The timer went off and RF stalked into the kitchen to pull out another tray of pies.  She made cranberry apple pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate pecan bourbon pie, cherry pie, coconut custard pie, pear and almond tart, raspberry custard tart with port wine currant glaze, miniature almond tarts with a spoonful of raspberry jam at the bottom and filling of rich almond paste on top, apple strudel with ground walnuts and cinnamon nutmeg sugar between the layers of pastry and light and dark raisins mixed with apples, lemon meringue, and key lime pie topped with whipped cream.  Johann and Greta eyed the goodies longingly, but fear of RF’s wrath made them leave them alone.  Mostly.  They hoped she didn’t count the pies, because, well, chocolate pecan pie was just soooooooooo good.

RF heaved a sigh of contentment and cut a wedge of the cranberry apple pie she’d made earlier.

“RF … yoohoo …… RF, where are you?”

RF stared in horror at the sound of Marilyn’s voice.  Not again.  Not so soon!  She should still be dealing with the angry – and broomless – coven members!

“Oh stop looking under the tables Bethany, I’m sure she’s just in the kitchen.”

“She sneaky and I don’t want to be surprised!  She might like you, Marilyn, but she scares me! ”

“What is wrong with you three?  RF is very nice ……… sometimes.  A little testy maybe, but nice.  Besides, we have to ask a favor, so don’t annoy her!”  Marilyn hoped this worked, or she and her 3 friends will be homeless as well as broke.

With no little trepidation, the four witches entered RF’s kitchen.  She was sitting there, fork poised to eat what looked like an utterly delicious pie with a big scoop of ice cream.  All four gazed at her plate and then the array of pies and tarts spread around on cooling racks.  Their eyes glazed over.

“What the devil are you doing here?  I’m in the middle of my evening sacrifice to Tortum and you’re disturbing my …….. um……… chakras.”

Marilyn blinked.  “You have chakras?”

“YES!!!!!!!  Go away!!!!!!!  You’re getting them all discombobulated!”

“I thought chakras were Hindu.”  Caro looks deeply suspicious – and very hungry.  Damn.  RF does hate smart ass witches.

“Well you’re standing right in the path of my power vortex to Tortum and I want you to leave so I can make the sacrifice with proper decorum!”  The whole ‘decorum’ thing might have been a bit more believable if she wasn’t standing on the counter with bits of pies crust on her fur and a smudge of ice cream on her nose.

“Pah!  You’re making that up!  There’s no power line here.  (Wrong!)  You just want to eat everything and not share!  (True)  After all we’ve done for you!!!”  Caro, Glenda and Bethany looked varying degrees of outraged while Marilyn looked rather bemused by Caro’s bold outburst.

‘All you’ve done for me????????????????’  Done FOR me???????  The last thing you ‘did’ for me was try and feed me Weight Watchers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“Well, you are rather portly, dear and you’d look much better if you ate more veggies and fruit.”

“I’M EATING FRUIT!!!!!!  APPLES AND CRANBERRIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  VERY HEALTHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“That’s pie and it’s full of sugar and fat.  I bet you used lard in that crust!”

“I did not!  Ok, well, some, but not all lard.  It makes the flakiest crust!!!!!!!!!!!  Wait, why am I justifying this to you?  It’s none of your business what I eat!  You touch that pie and you’ll be missing a hand.”  Caro takes one look at the groundhog’s narrowed eyes and aggressive stance and backed up.  She was hungry, not suicidal.

“We’re here about the hostages.”  Marilyn figured it’s time to intervene before RF kicked them out – without feeding them.

“What about them?”  RF resumed eating her pie and ice cream, hoping the witches got the message and left – though that seemed unlikely.  She sighed.  That means she’d need to ………………………. share.   No wonder she hated witches.

“Is that marinara sauce I smell?  And meatballs?  And SAUSAGE?”  Glenda stared at the stove where RF was simmering a big pot of sauce with meatballs and sweet Italian sausage.  Then Bethany’s stomach rumbled with hunger.  And Marilyn’s.

RF had the urge to strangle all of them, or turn them into pumpkins and paint scary faces on them, but she isn’t so devoid of manners she could just throw them out.  Well, she is, but Trey gave her a stern lecture and she now felt obliged to be marginally polite.  “Would you like meatball or sausage subs?”

“Yes!!!!!!!!!!!”  All four shouted so loudly, RF jumped a little.  Damn.  “I expect you two want some too?”  Greta and Johann had been loitering – possibly in the mistaken belief RF did not know about the missing pie.

“If it’s no trouble Cousin RF.  I’ll help you!”  Greta smiled and grabbed the loaves of fresh Italian bread, slicing large portions for the sandwiches.

“I’ll take fresh mozzarella on mine”

“I’d like mozzarella and provolone”

“Do you have a good parmesan?  I’ll take that and mozzarella.  OWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!”  Bethany and Caro glared at Marilyn who had smacked them smartly in the back of the head.

“We’ll take what RF gives us, and be grateful.”  She glared back at her friends who grumbled, but gave RF big smiles.  “Yes sorry, we got carried away.”  No way was Caro risking a meatball sub.

Greta and Johann kept their heads down helping RF assemble the sandwiches just the way RF liked them, with the bread crust rubbed with a split clove of garlic, the bread lined with sliced provolone, adding meatballs and sliced sausage and plenty of sauce, them generously mounding shredded mozzarella before sticking the sandwiches under a broiler to melt the cheese and heat the bread.  “Cousin RF, can we have some chocolate pecan pie for dessert?  It just smells so good!”

With a deep sigh, RF nodded agreement.  At this rate, she’d be eaten out of food by noon tomorrow.  Those young groundhogs were bottomless pits.  She removed the sandwiches and served one to everyone, including herself, adding a bowl of extra sauce for dipping and tossed salad of baby greens, diced cucumber and grape tomatoes with balsamic and oil and a plate of antipasto with a variety of thinly sliced meats, salami, cheeses and several kinds of olives.

The witches reverently grabbed the sandwiches and devoured them in record time.  RF watched in complete amazement.  Then Caro burped.  “Oh, errrrrrr, excuse me.  That was just wonderful RF.”  She started on the antipasto and RF had barely made a dent in her sandwich.  Greta set out a pitcher of sangria and some red wine.  “Can we have some pie too?”  RF barely nodded when each witch and both her cousins went nuts grabbing pies – everyone taking a whole pie.  Before she even finish her sandwich, the antipasto was gone, the salad was gone and there lots of empty pie plates – more plates than guests.  About 12 empty plates.  RF looked at them, annoyed.  They were much too full to care.

“To RF!”  Caro raised her glass of wine.  Jeeze, how many bottles did Greta set out?  “Damn good cook, even if she is fat.”

Silence blanketed the room.  “Excuse me?”  RF sounded a bit too calm and her eyes had that unnerving red glow.

Zaftig!  I meant to say zaftig!!!!!!!!!”  Caro looked desperate and Bethany and Glenda slid further away from her.

“Why are you here again?”  Eyes narrowed, RF watched them with a very unfriendly glare.

Marilyn looked a little nervous.  RF had an …… unpredictable temper.  Caro’s was really annoyed with RF because now she had to explain what happened.  “Well, it’s about the brooms you stol….. ah, took hostage.  The coven blames us for their not having any transportation.  They said we have to get their brooms back ……… or ……. um…………”

“Oh for heavens sake, Caro.  They’ve taken our brooms from us and they won’t give them back unless we get their brooms back from you.”  Glenda looked outraged – and drunk.

“I thought those brooms were keyed to each witch to prevent theft?”

“They are.  They can’t use them without our permission, but they said if they’re grounded, so are we.”

“How is that my problem?  They took money they owed me and bought brooms rather than pay off the coven’s debt.  Well, I have the right to recover my money, especially since it was my cousin who found and recovered the funds.”  RF’s eyes narrowed again.  “Wait, if you’re grounded, how did you get here?”

Marilyn and the other witches exchange wary glances.  “We took the bus.”

“The nearest bus stop is over a mile from here.  Your shoes are not what any sane person would walk in,” RF looked at Caro, “and you’d be limping long before you got here.  Since none of you are limping, you did NOT take the bus!”

“RF …….. we TOOK the bus,” explained Marilyn patiently.

The marmot is about to go nuts about their lies when she realized what Marilyn just said.   “You stole a bus?  A BUS???????????  But…….. WHY?????”

“Well, none of us could hotwire a car, so we took something that had keys in it!  It’s not like people go around leaving cars with keys in them!  Or at least we couldn’t find any.  But the bus was running and there was no driver and it was empty, so we took it.  But none of us can really drive a stick shift and it was really hard to maneuver, you know, especially around corners.  So, I think we kind of might have dinged a few cars.”  Caro shrugged and looked unconcerned about ‘dings’ on cars.

“Yeah, and we couldn’t get past second gear or whatever, so we were going real slow.”  Marilyn really was getting into the story.  “I think we missed the fire truck, but those guys were kind of angry.  And the police car was sideways in the road, so we had every right to hit it!  I mean, who parks sideways in the road?  That’s just dumb and then they had the nerve to be mad!!!!!!!!   And they chased us till Glenda cast an invisibility spell, but that was a problem because no one could see us and three cars hit the bus and then the police cars hit them, but at least they stopped following us.  Everything’s OK.  The bus doesn’t look too bad and we’ll take it back late tonight so the invisibility spell shouldn’t be such a problem with traffic and all.”

RF, Greta, and Johann were all staring at the witches.  “You stole a bus?????”  RF sounded so incredulous, Marilyn wondered if there was something wrong.

“Well, it’s a public bus, RF, so that’s ok, right?  I mean, it’s our tax dollars too you know!”

“A BUS?????” 

“Are you OK, RF?  You seem awful hung up on the whole bus thing.”

“Where’s the bus?”

“Oh, well, we left it a block away because we couldn’t figure out how to get it down this lane without having to back up to leave and we don’t know how to do that.”

“You left a bus with the motor running and an invisibility spell on it parked on a road in town?”

“Sure.  It was legal parking.  I even put money in the meter and we only partly blocked the hydrant.  It should be fine.  I’m sure there won’t be any fires or anything.”

“OK”  RF decided it would best to get rid of the witches ASAP.  She did not need a police raid on the bakery.  “What is it you expect me to do?”

“Well, we need the brooms.”

“NO.”

“No?”

“HELL NO!”

“Oh, well.  Caro?  You have any ideas?”

Before Caro could say a word, RF laid down the law.  “No ideas, no promises, no compromises, no brooms till I have my money.  Now, you’ve been fed and it’s time for you to leave!  Get a move on, all of you.  Here, take a pie.  Out…. OUT!!!!!!”

“But RF, what are we supposed to tell the coven?”

“Tell them they can have their brooms when I get my money and not one second sooner.  If they don’t like it, we can go to binding arbitration with the Council!”

The witches exchanged horrified looks.  “No, no, we don’t need to trouble the Council.  I’m sure we can straighten this out between us, right Caro?”

“Right, no Council!”  Caro agreed while Bethany and Glenda nod enthusiastically.

“OK, goodnight, watch your step.  See you around!”  RF slamed the door and dropped the bar that kept it closed.  Then she raced into the kitchen and did the same with the back door.  After she turned on the alarm, she turned to Greta and Johann.  “If they come back, do NOT let them in!  Absolutely NOT!  Especially if the police are around.”  Her cousins nodded solemnly.

“Do you think they’ll get back to the coven?”  Johann sounded a bit concerned.  He and Greta liked Marilyn.

“I don’t want to know.  We will forget what we just heard.  I know nothing about any stolen bus, invisible or otherwise.  Neither do you two.  I’m going into the workshop to deal with a book thief and I’m taking the wine.  Help the ferrets clean up and put away the extra food.  DO NOT EAT IT ALL!”  RF headed to the workshop.

“Wow, they stole a bus and then made it invisible!”  Johann sounded a bit star struck.

“Yeah, maybe they’re more fun than we thought.”  Greta looked thoughtful.

“But the food is awful.”

“There is that.  Maybe we could come here for meals a lot and then hang with Marilyn and the others.  I think that bus ride would have been AWESOME!  Getting arrested wouldn’t be.  Maybe after the bus thing is over and we know if they go to jail or not, we’ll hang with them.”

Johann thought it over.  “Good idea.  Might as well see if they go to prison first.”  He finished a whole chocolate bourbon pecan pie then burped.  No point giving up Cousin RF’s food till they know what will happen to the witches.

********************************************

Next day ………….

RF had been outside making final arrangements for the Fall Festival on the expanded Bakery grounds, so she was chilly as she sat waiting for more hot chocolate – the real stuff, not that crappy cocoa stuff.

Lots of humans in the cafe today being waited on by her human staff.  Some of them got nervous when she did it, but they had  become accustomed to her sitting there reading.  Of course, today’s headlines are all about the carnage caused by a hi-jacked bus.  A bus that mysteriously disappeared.  There was a great deal of speculation about secret military technology, three people asserting the Romulans are real and ‘a cloaking device’ was stolen from a Romulan warship that crashed in Area 51, and several more opining about this having been invented in the late ’70’s and used by Elvis Presley to disappear.  Of course, they also claim that it was really ‘The King’s’ tour bus that was stolen, not a city bus.  So far, no one had mentioned witches.  RF wondered why humans found Romulans more credible than witches, but apparently they did.  She gave a snort of disbelief and the gray-haired lady at the next table gave a start and looked at her apprehensively.

“Excuse me, ReacherFan, I’m from the Enquirer.  We’d like an interview about the disappearing bus and the Romulans that have been visiting you.  Can you tell me how long they have been calling here?”

RF looked at the reporter, if you could call this idiot one, and decided to roll with it.  “Off the record, the Romulans came with the demons about 2 years ago.  They like the Boston Cream Pie.  If you bought one, the Romulans will try and get it.  It’s an addiction.”  She kept a straight face.

“Demons come here?”  Funny, the reporter disbelieves the demons – who do show up – and believes the Romulans, who don’t exist.

“Of course.  Not often, but they can’t exactly keep ice cream cake, so they always want pie a la mode or a good ice cream cake or ice cream puffs with chocolate glaze.  We always keep some handy.”  RF smiled.  Everyone who knew her knew something is about to happen.  “Come with me.”  She heads to the kitchen.  There sits Melchom, a demon accountant and comptroller of their treasury and RF’s head account (He also advised the IRS.).  He was eating ice cream puffs.

“RF!  Good to see you!  I brought the monthly payment.  Would you happen to have any of that Snicker’ssss Ice Cream Pie?  I love that!”  A huge bag of gold sat on the workbench, so RF felt generous and got the pie, cutting a big piece for Melchom.

“Here you go.  Melchom.  This man is a reporter from the Enquirer.  He’d love to hear from a demon.  You’re here, you’re a demon, so it all works out.”

The reporter sneered at the demon, who was currently using a charm to disguise his real looks.  RF helped herself to some cherry pie and watched as the idiot reporter cut into the ice cream pie.  Melchom’s displeasure was obvious.  His long tail appeared.

“What do you want to know?”  The demon’s voice growled.  The reporter was oblivious.

“You think the Romulan cloaking device is what kept the bus invisible last night?  Was it Elvis’ tour bus?  Do you know Elvis?”

Melchom stared at the reporter then looked at RF, who shrugged.  “I told him the demons brought the Romulans here for the Boston Cream Pie.”

“I see.  Are you sure it’s wise to let humans know about the Romulans?”  Say what you will about demons, they were quick on the uptake.

“It seemed to make sense.  After all, even with the space ship cloaking device, how long before they bump into the humans.  It isn’t Halloween all year!  Those forehead ridges can be hard to explain.”

“Yessss.”  Demons can’t quite disguise the sibilant hiss they make with some words.  Melchom looked thoughtful.  He didn’t know much about these ‘Romulans’, but it would seem it refers to some science fiction story.  Star Wars or something like that.  Unlike some demons, he was never much for human entertainment.

“Well, the Romulans are quite aggressive.”  RF nodded sage agreement, so he must be on to something.  “But they have this sweet tooth.  When they first called here on Earth, demons were around and eventually we reached a kind of détente.  Once we discovered they liked sweets, things got easier and RF here has made recent Romulan trade easier still by supplying their favorites.”

“Is Elvis with the Romulans?  Did he trade the recipe for fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches for a cloaking device for his bus?”

Melchom blinked.  Elvis?  Wasn’t that dead singer?  Well, if he ate fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, it wasn’t surprising.  “Yessss.  He traded with them.  Now he can move about at will.”  He has NO idea what to do with this because he has only a vague notion of who this person is/was.  He sent RF a pointed look.

“Well, there you are.  Elvis met the Romulans thru the demons – I believe he sold his soul for Love Me Tender – and then negotiated his secret fried peanut butter banana sandwich recipe for a cloaking device for his bus.  The crystal energy source must be getting weak and that’s why it was visible for a time – or he accidently hit the off switch.”  RF was running out of ideas here.  But wait, they showed the bus right by Popeye’s.  “He’d only stopped for fried chicken!”

“Elvis eats Popeye’s?”

“Loves the stuff, you should go ask there if they saw anyone who looked like Elvis.”

“Great idea, and thanks!”  The reporter hurried off to ask about Elvis, but stopped.  “Did Elvis sell is soul for ‘Love Me Tender’?”

“Yessss.  And others.”

“Great!!!!!!!!  Er…….. you’re who again?”

“Melchom.”

“I can quote you?”

“Yesssss”

“Thanks!”  A very happy reporter leaft the kitchen.

“Don’t forget to buy a Boston Cream Pie to lure out the Romulans!”  RF reminded the reporter, just before breaking out into giggles.

Melchom looked at RF.  “Who in the name of the seven Hells are the Romulans?  And why is he chasing a dead singer when he could have asked about demons?”

RF all but fell over laughing hysterically. “Romulans are from the Star Trek TV show and movies.  He just finds Romulans and Elvis more believable, and no way was I telling him about witches.  Marilyn would have tried to date him and that would have been a complete mess – and the Council would have blamed me!”

“Yessss.  Ssso, I hear you took their brooms hostage.”

“Serves them right.  They took all the money my cousin recovered from Gretchen’s embezzlement and bought new brooms before they paid me what they owe.  I’m taking the potion books next and their cauldrons.”

For a long moment Melchom just looked at RF, then he shook his head in disbelief.  “I have no idea why demons have such a bad name while YOU are the High Priestess of Tortum.  You could probably reign in Hell, you know.  If I were Lucifer, I’d be worried if you ever went over to the dark side.  You have a natural talent for the diabolical.  A real gift.  Plus you’re vindictive and creative at the same time.  Excellent combination.”

“No interest in his job.  I’m perfectly happy being High Priestess of Tortum.”

“You are sure?”  It was a demon’s nature to offer temptation, but RF was not one to fall for such things.

“No ice cream in Hell.”

The demon stopped to think, got another piece of pie and savored the wonderful cold flavors.  “I see your point.  The food is much better here.  Everything tastes like brimstone down there.  Could I get another pie to go?  I need to make points with the boss.”

“You bet.  I’ll have it in an insulated cooler with dry ice so it will stay frozen.  I’ll even throw in some extra ice cream puffs!”

“Many thanks Priestess.  I will come with another payment next month.  I hope.  This is a much coveted task and competition is always great.”

“Well, so long as they know they’re bound while here, that’s fine.  I’ll have a turkey feast next month and pumpkin spice ice cream with rum sauce.”

Melchon’s eye gleam with demon greed.  “I’ll be sure that I am the one who comes back.  Till next month Priestess.”

RF hummed happily.  She diverted attention from the witches and now the press would be chasing ‘alien technology’.  She stopped in her tracks.  There better not be any Romulans or she was in big trouble!  Chuckling, she went back to her papers, hot chocolate and extra large pastry basket.

 

 

July 30, 2015

Reviews: New Releases in Print and eBook

Here it is nearly August and parents are busy calculating how long before the kids are back in school and the routine starts again. The kids are trying really hard to forget all about it.  And I’m trying to forget about winter, which is getting closer every day.  Obviously not in time to do anything about the current heatwave.

Books, like life, sometimes come in cycles.  So do book discounts.  I thought Amazon’s Prime Day was blah, but that’s me.  I understand WalMart kicked their butt online, but Amazon will be making this event an annual mid-summer sale for Prime members – expect WalMart to follow.  WalMart requires NO MEMBER FEE and offers Free Shipping (though NOT 2 day) on orders over $35.  They had better electronics options.  Me, I’m a lot more interested in books unless shopping for something I need.  With BAM offering routine discounts on pre-orders and current stock books with free shipping for members ($25/yr), and Amazon offering some deep discounts, I ordered a LOT of to-be-released titles from both companies.  Amazon got all the trade and hardcovers and about 40% of the mmpb’s.  BAM got one large ($100.00+) mmpb order.  Many titles are due out next year and some hardcovers were discounted all the way down to $13-$14.75 – 46% to 52% off on a PRE-ORDER.  Grab when you can.  Discounts can be fleeting and by October they often stop offering them.  Remember, Amazon allows you to cancel any part of an order, BAM does NOT.

It’s not just sales that come in bunches, you’ll get a bunch of good books then a bunch that descend into, “What a waste of money!” territory ….. and you realize ‘boring’ is insufficient to the task at hand and you need to hit the old thesaurus for reviews.  I just want you to know, these reviews are not because I hate the dog days of summer (I do), but because I really hate spending money on books that are tedious and boring.  I sharpened the knives and I’m ready to work.  And it won’t be pretty, but I did save 2 good ones for last.

Here it is, one of two big releases in July and a much-touted hardcover by JR Ward, the author who made a name for herself with the angsty vamps of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.  Pardon me while I yawn.

The Bourbon Kings is a classic “sweeping family epic” replete with stereotypical characters and tired plot elements:

Daddy Dearest (who married the family with the fortune) – Abusive, controlling, hateful, liar, cheat, embezzler, and all around utterly despicable man.  (He probably had bad breath too.)

Absent Mother – Weak, insipid, lame, and a nonentity.  Rather than crawling into a bottle of the family’s bourbon she climbed into doctor’s drugs and lives – if you can call it that – in her bedroom.

Eldest Son – Heir to the business and respected by the board, he was quickly moving into position to take over the family business.  Physically broken by a South American kidnapping (likely engineered by said Despicable Daddy Dearest) who turns alcoholic horse-breeder.

Youngest Prodigal Son – Our ‘brooding reluctant hero’.  Screws clinging deb, leaves deb, falls for head gardener, declares love for gardener, learns deb is preggers, marries deb, leaves for NYC and the sofa of an old college chum where he crashes for 2 years trying to drink himself to death while torturing self for his mistakes.  Oddly, he seems incapable of calling a divorce attorney, so stupid comes in here too, though I think we’re supposed to see tortured hero.  hummmm ………. Apparently ‘stupid’ has a new definition.

Vacuous Deb – Gets knocked up deliberately to coerce youngest to marry her.  Stays at family mansion when new hubby deserts her for a couch in NYC.  Gets abortion to keep her figure.  Is screwing Daddy Dearest and …….. well, some history just repeats itself.

Middle Son – WHO?????

Slutty Sister – Vain, vapid and manipulative and does phone sex while hairdresser works on her, so throw in tacky.  (Or just throw up.  Your choice.) Complete with out of wedlock child at 17 and now a parasite on the family fortune.  Sold to a yucky toad son of liquor distributor by Despicable Daddy Dearest for an advantageous contract.  Realizes family is broke – runs to toad.  Underwear optional.

Daughter of Arch Competitor – In love with broken eldest son and holds mortgage on Bradford family estate.  Juliet to his unwilling, alcoholic, self-loathing Romeo.  These people all need shrinks.

Loyal Head Cook – and the ‘real’ mother to the boys.  Her being taken to the hospital means the Prodigal returns to the bosom of his family.  Oh joy.

Head Gardener – Blond, hard-working, honest, loyal, and a glutton for punishment for hanging around this estate despite a masters in horticulture.  Leaps to conclusions.  Maybe she should have applied to Longwood Gardens and skipped the whole nightmare of ‘forbidden love’.

Assorted hangers on, supporting players, fast cars, family jet.

Missing – Shoulder pads, big hair, catchy, dramatic theme song while panning opening film of dynastic estate, and JR Ewing – who would have at least made things interesting.  (Just a moment, I’m having an ’80’s flashback to Loverboy doing Everybody’s Working for the Weekend and need to regain my sanity.)  Great, now I have an earworm.  OK, so let’s assume you miss the original Dallas, Falcon Crest, and Dynasty, (and I’ll ignore your obvious need for therapy), well rejoice!!!!  You have found your book!  Shallow, predictable, boring, trite, tedious, boring, …… wait I said that, hang on …… insipid, dull, humdrum, and ………….. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

OK, there you go, if you have trouble figuring out the plot, you’re a- too young to remember nighttime soap operas, or b – as dull as this book.

Best line in the book:

Preacher to Prodigal Son at Faithful Retainers Church: “We haven’t seen you here in awhile, son.”

Prodigal: “I’ve spent the last two years up north.”

Preacher: “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Redeeming characteristics – it has an attractive cover and Daddy Dearest gets his in the end – but there’s a twist!  (Oh, just kill me now.)  HINT: It sure as hell isn’t Who Shot JR!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Bourbon Kings is a melodramatic, overwrought, snoozefest and gets a resounding D (2*) and a suggestion that you SAVE YOURSELF!  Go buy something else, I beg you!  I swear I could feel brain cells dying by page 60.  Purchased from BAM and I should have just burned the money.  I could have toasted some marshmallows in the flames.

**************************************************

If it weren’t for the fact I won Fatal Fortune in a swap game, I would never have read it.  It’s a series I liked and then it just got silly and unbelievable.  That was compounded by author Victoria Laurie getting into a very nasty ego-driven spat with a negative reviewer on Amazon.  Apparently the self-proclaimed psychic failed to predict the huge backlash her unpleasant and threatening comments caused.  It was so bad, she shut down her own blog and left Amazon.  She was lucky to not be sued into oblivion.

Well, after sitting here looking at this damn book for 6 months (I kept hoping it would just move on in another game), I figured I should at least give it a shot.  By page 100 I remembered all the many reasons I stopped reading this series, starting with improbable plots and moving onto seriously idiotic FBI relationships.

Psychic Abby is now married to FBI agent Dutch.  Candice, her best friend and business partner, is married to Dutch’s boss, Brice.  Abby wakes at just after 3AM with a feeling of dread.  She checks her cell and has a cryptic message from a stressed out Candice telling her to nothing is what it looks to be and go to the office and get a file and cash from the wall safe hidden in her closet then HIDE them.  By the time she gets home, she knows something is seriously wrong.  She hides the file and money in a vacationing neighbor’s garage and goes home ………. and starts lying to Dutch, Brice, and the police.

Candice was caught on a very clear garage camera recording getting out of her car shooting a retired physician then calmly driving away.  Now let’s be clear here, lying to a detective in a homicide investigation and hiding evidence, however well intentioned as a friend, is a one-way ticket to criminal prosecution.  That’s why I had to stop reading this series.  It gets worse.  To ‘protect’ Dutch and Brice, Abby leaves her consultant role as ‘profiler’ to investigate Candice.  She as qualified for that as I am as a heart transplant surgeon.  Worse, both men know what she’s doing and let it happen!!!!!  (Hiring standards for the FBI apparently do not include IQ tests.)

You know, there are just so many WTF moments any author is allowed before I ring the bell and yell, “YOU’RE FINISHED!”  Ms Laurie hit that magic number at page 95. I skimmed the rest of book, which unfolded as I had already predicted (Hey!  Maybe I have a future as a psychic!) and the big finale was …………. hang on, I need the thesaurus again ………  mind numbingly mundane!!!!!!!

Fatal Fortune had fatal flaws, mostly in the credibility department and then in the, ‘who gives a crap about these idiots’ department.  As a lightweight cozy, with all the flaws of that genre, it gets a D+ to C- (2.6*) and a suggestion to not bother with this series.  I cannot believe I subjected myself to this witless tripe again.  I read the hardcover, but it is available in paperback and even as a ‘free’ book, it wasn’t worth the money.  To think a tree died for this.  It’s just all kinds of wrong.

*******************************************

One Mile Under is the half way point between some bad reads and decent reads, an uninspired outing for Ty Hauck.  Ty is basking in the sun being a boat bum in the Caribbean when a message from by an old friend asks to help out his daughter, Hauck’s goddaughter, a Colorado River guide.  Dani Whalen is all grown up and working a job she loves, guiding newbies and tourists on white water rafting trips.  In the middle of a trip, she spies something in the river and discovers an old friend, now a responsible young father and store owner, Trey Watkins, dead in his river kayak.

Dani’s step-father, Wade Dunn, is the small town sheriff, formerly the Aspen police chief till drink caught up with him.  His adamant refusal to investigate what he calls ‘an accident’ gets compounded when Dani learns he’s also hiding something.  Dani asks questions on her own and a not too reliable balloon pilot claims he saw what happened and he’d tell her the next day after his early flight.  Another ‘tragic accident’ kills him and his passengers.

When her Uncle Ty shows up, she finally has an ally, albeit one who initially sides with the sheriff’s version of events.  An extreme sportsman taking that one chance too many.  To satisfy his goddaughter, they head to northern Colorado farm country where the Watkins family still has their farm and find the company who was assigned the license plate Dani got from the park exit camera.  When an attempt is made by two oil tankers to kill him by running him off the road after he talks with the head honcho, Ty knows Dani is onto something.  But what?

This could have been a very suspenseful and interesting story, but read more like a ‘paint by numbers’ version of a great painting, close, but no cigar.  You know who the bad guys are early, you even know WHAT is happening (or this is your first mystery), then after that it’s all ‘follow the money’ and the usual ‘Perils of Pauline’ stuff.

One Mile Under is neither awful nor good, just blah.  It has some really good moments and a decent showdown at the end but was never compelling because too much is obvious at the 1/3 point.  It gets a C* (3.3*) and read only if you’re a Ty Hauck fan.  I bought it used from an Amazon reseller.

*******************************************

   

Finally something that was fun, tongue-in-cheek punny, snarky, and just a hoot of a paranormal romantic mystery read are the first two books in the Shift Happens series by Robyn Peterman, Ready to Were and Some Were in Time. (Enas, pay attention here.  These are included for you!)

Essie McGee is hauling ass back to Hung Island, GA on an assignment from WTF (Werewolf Treaty Federation) with her bestie, gay vampire Dwayne.  The opening pages are a hoot and Essie is sassy, feisty, and all around solid character.  But it’s Grannie and Dwayne who keep stealing the show.  Staying with her grandmother, a former stripper, who’s 80+ and looks 40 and acts 20, is never wracking enough.  See her ex, pack Alpha, sheriff, and 6’3″ hunka, hunka of burning love, Hank Wilson, was hell on her nerves.  Plus he still smelled like her mate.  Damn.

Young pack females have gone missing and she’s there to find out what’s happening.  Why can’t Hank back off and stop driving her wild?  Somehow, she manages to work around Dwayne and Grannie’s antics, Hanks unrelenting pursuit, and her own raging hormones, to find the common denominator – a photography studio.  With a helping of Dwayne’s vampire blood, she’s able to not only save herself, but kill bad guys and rescue the other females with help from Hank, Grannie, Dwayne, and the pack.

The HEA has a catch when Grannie reveals some family secrets and we’re off to book 2 with Hank and Essie now a pair of WTF agents and Grannie ….. well, she was a lot more than a stripper.

Some Were in Time picks up at the end of the week long Jamaica vacation that Dwayne cheerfully paid for (300-year-old vamps being the wealthy kind) when Angela, looking frazzled and scared, gives them a new assignment.  Find out who on the council were working with the kidnappers of the werewolf females Essie and Hank just set free.  Of course, she does NOT care that Essie and Hank are trying to arrange their wedding, something werewolves do to keep up the human front.  Dwayne is determined to ‘help’ since is ‘maid of honor’ and can wear a dress!!!!!!!!  And Hank has to convince his older brother, the pack man-slut, it’s time to take up his position as Alpha.  It’s hard to say a lot more without giving away the whole plot of book 1, so just trust me, it’s worth the effort.

Ready to Were is an enlarged novella at 168 quick pages and free on Amazon Kindle.  Some Were in Time is full-length novel at 330 pages, still an easy fun read, and $4.99 in ebook.  Other ebook formats are available through links on the author’s website, some with lower prices.  Both get B+ (4.2*) as good, rollicking reads with solid plots, fun characters, and enough romance to add that extra something.  I got both from Amazon as ebooks.  Recommended.


July 21, 2015

Adventures of ReacherFan Groundhog – The Clan Reunion Finale

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 9:47 pm
Tags:

RF tried to open one eye, but the effort was just too much.  Someone placed an ice pack on her throbbing head.  Why can’t she just be left to die in peace?  “Oh stop whimpering, you big sissy Yankee.  It’s just a little hangover.  Shouldn’ta had so much of that cake with Cousin Hardwick’s grain alcohol.  That stuff would knock out a mule.”

“I’m in Hell.”

“Don’t be silly.  You’re at the clan reunion and everyone is waiting on you.  Good thing your cousin Tour can cook as good as you or Billy Bob wouldda been in here with a bucket of ice water to wake you up yesterday.”

“Tour’s cooking?  Why?”

“Was cooking.  Said she wasn’t eating anything made by …… and I’m quoting here ……. ” … a bunch of inbred hillbillies that don’t know the meaning of soap and water.”  Kind of got Maisie Lee riled up when Buster tasted her peach pecan sour cream pancakes and said they were the best things he ever ate.  Then he proposed to her.”

RF’s eyes popped open making her wince at the light.  “He didn’t?”

“Tour told him to back off, but you know Buster.  Always thought he was a catch.  Then he pinched her.”

“Oh no …………..”

Lula Mae chuckled.  “Well I was thinking I needed to rescue her when she grabbed that skillet in both paws and swung at Buster like she was aiming for the bleachers.  He went sailing a good 20 feet before hitting a big old tree.  She just stood back and yelled, ‘Any of the rest of you idiots want a piece of this?’  And they backed right off.  Aunt Ethyl was right annoyed at having to nurse him from the concussion, so she and that busybody Esme Willet went to the Matriarch and complained.”

RF just buried her face in her pillow and groaned.

“Now you know the Matriarch don’t much like Yankees and she comes over and tells Tour they put up with your ornery butt cause your kin, but they ain’t putting up with her.  That’s when this giant white furball walked in and picked her right up off the ground and says to your cousin, “General Tour, is this thing bothering you?  Should I get rid of it?”  Lula Mae starts laughing so hard, she can barely talk.  “So the Matriarch says, “‘General Tour?  You mean General Tourmaline Groundhog?’ and the big thing shakes her like little bug.  “You be respectful to General Tour, or you answer to me!”  That was when the tiny little rainbow hair troll showed up, naked as babe and riding a skunk called Pepe.  Seems she knew Tour too and offered to have the skunks guard her, then invited her to this party over near Memphis they was having to commemorate their victory over Erma the Evil U-Haul Clerk and the Mutant Lizards.  Said the Gnomes were coming and everything.  Tour said she’d see about it and go with Gilbert the Yeti.  So Gil tossed the Matriarch into a pile of leaves and got this big ol’ keg of his own home brew and invites the whole clan to try it in celebration.

“Well, it kind of sounded like a dare, so naturally everyone did.  She stopped Cleatus and me from trying any, though Cleatus was a mite put out.  He sipped a bit and gave her a look and went and rescued Johann and Greta, but let Petunia, Inger and Ingrid drink away.  She just waited.  Then Trey and Rupert showed up and she gave all of us these little cameras and had us take pictures.  I think Rupert did a bit of ……. posing of the subjects, said it was ‘artistic license’.  There’s a video of those 3 idiot ‘ all natural food’ females doing a belly dance while eating barbecue chicken wings.”

RF stared wide-eyed at Lula Mae.  Damn.  Tour was even sneakier than she was, and RF was about as sneaky as they came.  “Oh my …………… she is BRILLIANT!”

“Damn right she is.  You OWN the Matriarch and most of this clan.  She downloaded everything to a website and said you’d know where to find it or Aunt Meg would come back and haunt you.  She left a few shots with the Matriarch, who is steaming mad but can’t do a damn thing.  So now it’s up to you who replaces her and she is one unhappy old bat at not holding that over your head.  Tour and the Yeti left for Memphis about an hour ago in this big ol’ freezer trailer he uses as a travel trailer, but she was riding with this wild looking human with an eye patch dressed in black leather.  Claimed to be Snake Plissken.  Thought that was a movie character.  Had her own little helmet and this fancy back seat on his motorcycle and everything.  Said she’d see you soon and hopes you ain’t too mad about the cake.”

RF flipped through the photos.  OMG!  Tour was the most devious, brilliantly evil groundhog EVER!  No wonder she won the Mutant Lizard War!  “You know RF, you never said your cousin Tour was THE Tourmaline Groundhog,” Lula Mae admonished softly.

“She doesn’t much like folks knowing,” she replied absently, amazed at what Tour had accomplished in 36 hours.

“Everyone would have been a mite more respectful of her had they’d known.”

“I don’t think that would have let her plan work.”

“She PLANNED all this?”

“Well, she didn’t plan Buster, but she was betting one of those idiot males would do something that would give her the opening she needed.  And then the Matriarch would get involved.  And if the males didn’t start it, she might have picked a fight with Esme.  She’d asked a lot of questions about her.”

“Yeah, well, Esme won’t be a problem anymore, not with those photos.”

“She is my favorite cousin, even if she did cheat and give me the mother of all hangovers.”

“She also gave you control of the Matriarch.  Not a bad exchange.”

“I adore her.  I forgive her the sneaky cake trick – but reserve the right to use it myself.  I am sorry I missed meeting Snake.  He’s a legend, and yeah, they based a movie character on him.  Well, his father, actually.  Snake just followed in his footsteps in Spec Ops.”  She smiled.  Her head still throbbed, but now she had control of her life and the damn manipulative Matriarch.  The Matriarch could not even THINK of trying anything with her.  Not when she had a picture of her in a threesome with Zeke Hightower and one of the Baxter triplets.  This was the BEST REUNION EVER!

*************************

RF was humming while she cooked a huge spread for the whole clan.  Everyone was still a bit hung over.  That fermented yak’s milk was killer.  Moonshine consumption was at an all-time low.  So were the usual fights, everyone being too …… fragile ……… for such things.  She was leaving tomorrow and tonight the Matriarch named her successor – handpicked by RF.  Trey was there, just being pleasant and helping RF now and then.  Rupert went to the big party in Memphis at Tour’s invitation.  Last they heard, fermented yak’s milk made djinn, normally highly resistant to alcohol, drunk as skunks.  Her cell phone dinged.  Tour sent a video of Rupert dancing with a female troll.  Well, RF thought it was a female.  She had more blackmail material.  What a great week this turned into!

July 20, 2015

The Adventures Of ReachFan Groundhog – Clan Reunion Part 2 and 3

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 4:23 pm
Tags:

RF and Tour were having a quite lunch when Trey – after making sure Mrs Waxman wasn’t around – joined them.  “I heard from 2 more insurance companies who agreed to pay the rewards they’d offered for the items found in the locker.  Peter Abruzzi’s greed turned out to be quite the windfall.  And we have another job offer.  An insurance company thinks one of its customers is pulling a scam.”  RF perked right up.

“Art?”  RF’s tail wagged a bit in excitement.

“No, yachts.”

“Missing yachts?” Tour and RF chorused.

“That’s right.”

“Well, they won’t be in any handy locker in Charleston.”

“It would seem unlikely.”

“I guess that means I’ll have to miss the Clan Reunion.  But business comes first!”  RF sounded so cheerful, Trey almost hated to tell her the rest.

“Actually, the meeting is scheduled AFTER the reunion.  Gerald Housemann, the man in charge, has plans for this week and next.”

“Can’t we meet him next week?”  Now RF sounded a bit desperate.

“Sorry.  Just not possible.   He’ll be completely out of touch.”

“Oh, isn’t that just too bad?”  Tour smiled sweetly at her cousin.

RF sent a killing look at her amused cousin and turns to her partner, ready to beg.  “We can go meet him!”

“Wouldn’t do any good.”

“Why the hell not?  He taking a vow of silence or something?”

“Yes he is.  He’s going on a 2 week spiritual retreat to a monastery, or is it lamastary? Anyway, it’s in Nepal and run by Buddhist monks.  No talking.  Apparently he has a wife and 3 daughters and this is how he stays sane.  We’ll see him when he gets back.”

“Maybe Gil could ………….”

“NO!  You are not dragging Gil into some crazed scheme because you want to avoid your clan reunion.  Suck it up! And stop sitting there plotting ways out of going.”

“Who made you the boss of me?” RF was snarling.

Now the two groundhogs were nose to in the middle of the table, glaring at each other.  Tour snapped.  Wait, wasn’t she the ‘nice’ cousin?  “You remember what happened in Acadia National Park?  Well I have that phone number right here and I’ll call it if you don’t stop trying to get out of this.”

“How could you do that to me?  Your own cousin?  Your best friend?”  RF was channeling Susan Lucci does Lady Macbeth.

“Easy.  I just have to remember that little boating incident on Sebago Lake!”

“It wasn’t my fault!  It was just an accident!”

“There are no accidents.”  Both groundhogs turned on Trey wearing identical looks – killing looks.  “Momma always said that.”  Then he rattled an ice bucket.  “This wouldn’t be an accident either.”  Tour and RF eyed him as he rattled the bucket again.  Being a world class thief required more than skill, it required nerve and the ability to stare down everyone from victims to law enforcement.  RF was tough, but so was he.  Finally, both groundhogs returned to their seats.

“I still think we should go see that insurance guy ASAP.”

“And invade the only two weeks of quiet he gets all year in some remote monastery in Nepal?  I don’t think so.  Let the man be.”  He looked at his partner.  “You really just have to deal with this RF.  It’s family.”

“I hate my family,” she muttered.

Before she could do her dramatic interpretation of Little Eva on the ice floe, Trey and Tour were saved by the Book Theft Alarm.  RF snarled and headed to her workshop yelling, “We’re not done!”

Trey sighed and looked at Tour who had resumed eating like nothing had happened.  “So, what phone number do you have?”

Tour laughed.  “One that RF wants to forget all about – and something she seriously does NOT want her Southern cousins knowing anything about.”

“A youthful indiscretion?”

“Something like that.”

They both heard the …… *POOF!*  RF had just turned some hapless book thief into a smelly, grotesque monster for stealing her books.  The irony she was, in fact, herself a notorious book thief was lost on her.

Tour leaned across the table and spoke softly to Trey.  “You might want to make a quick getaway before she gets back.  I’m sure she has at least a good hour of dramatics to get through.”

“I feel like I’m abandoning you.”

“I’m fine.  If she gets carried away, I have the tranq gun.  Peter has the spare, just in case.”  Trey nodded and ran for it.  Mrs Waxman was coming through the door and he had to swerve through the kitchen and out the back.

RF came back to the table.  “Where did he sneak off to?”

“Avoiding her.”  Tee pointed to Mrs Waxman.

“That woman needs a life.  Trey is NOT interested.”

“This from the Queen of Family Avoidance?”

And the two groundhogs bickered for a good two hours, much to the entertainment of RF’s customers.

***********************************************

RF and Tour spent a glorious 4th of July at the Bakery, which supported the town fireworks display to raise money for the volunteer firefighters and EMT’s.  The firemen grilled hamburgers and hot dogs while the Bakery supplied its famous chili, and things like potato salad and coleslaw.  But mostly, RF and Tour dished up ice cream and frozen fruit treats.  The Bakery’s Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies were, as always, a huge seller.  Tour’s chunky pineapple sorbet and Mad Passion – a combination of passion fruit and mango sorbets topped with lemon sorbet and her classic Italian Lemon Ice sold just as fast.  The firemen and EMT’s raised a lot of money for a good cause. As gratifying as it was, RF and Tour felt like they’d run their paws off after a full day at the Bakery and then here.  Luckily, all the food shut down so they could watch the fireworks.  Trey saved them a prime spot and he Rupert, who arrived unannounced a few days earlier, acted as groundhog structural support to give them good views.  They were fast asleep with seconds of hitting the backseat of the car.  When the two males reached in to carry them up to their bedrooms, Rupert murmured, “They look so sweet asleep.”

“If I wasn’t so tired, I’d bite you.”

“Oh, just turn him into a field mouse and let it go.  A hawk will take care it for you.”  Who knew Tour could be so bloodthirsty?

“I thought you were the nice cousin?”  Rupert sounded insulted.

“I am.  Now shut and go away so we can sleep.”

“Evil little creature,” he muttered as he closed the door on Tour yelling, “HAWK CHOW!”

Trey chuckled.  “They’re a lot more alike than either will admit.”

The busy weekend was over and they had to get ready for RF’s 3 days in Hell, otherwise known as the Clan Reunion.  Lula Mae had been ominously quite.  Not one phone call.  Johann and Greta evaded RF and Trey seemed mighty busy with something.  Tour said nothing at all about the reunion knowing RF wasn’t entirely sane on the subject.  Or as Trey observed, “RF isn’t sanity’s poster child for anything.” hummmmmmmmmmm  He had a point.

Tour handed RF a lemonade and sat next to her watching the weekend Farmer’s Market and Crafts Fair people pack up.  RF had placed orders for local artisan cheeses to add to the menu and so she and Peter could experiment with them, creating new recipes.  But first she had to survive her annual trip to Hell.  Tour sipped and nudged RF.  “We decided on a backup plan for this fiasco?”

“Kill ’em all?”  RF sounded so hopeful.

“No, we discarded that one last week.”

“Still my favorite.”

“While it does have a certain permanence to it, it’s just not doable.  I still think making Lula Mae take the job is a good bet.  She’ll hate it and she won’t be in your business so much.”

“Better her than all those Watkins boys hanging out here, because she’d make sure they did.”

Tour thought for a minute.  “You remember that war I fought against the Mutant Lizards?”

“Sure, you and that strange little naked rainbow haired troll, what’s her name.”

“JustMiss.  Anyway, Erma the Evil U-Haul Clerk is on parole and back living in that trailer in the swamp in Florida.  We could send the Watkins down there.  Won’t matter if the gators get them or Erma.  It’s a win-win.  And they are a hungry lot.”

“Not bad.  We’ll keep that on the list.”

They were both quite while things closed down and folks said their goodnights, RF nodding at the folks who called out their goodbyes and thanks.  Trey and Rupert joined them on the stacked stone wall, Trey sitting next to RF and Rupert next to Tour.  RF could smell Trey’s bourbon, but Rupert had a huge slice of Tour’s Creamsicle Cake – a lush dessert even RF drooled over – layers of orange sponge brushed with orange rum, then spread with homemade orange curd, a layer whipped cream flavored with Cointreau for 3 layers of yum with a top of  thick whipped cream icing, shaved orange white chocolate bark mixed with orange zest served on its side with a huge rosette of the orange liqueur flavored whipped cream and wedge of ripe orange.  It was amazing and sold like crazy.  She’d made a white chocolate raspberry one using Framboise as well.  RF would kill for it, so would half her customers.

“Did you bring any of that for us?”  RF sounded a bit cranky.

“Last piece and I had to fight some little old lady for it.”

“If you hurt Mrs Cranston, I really will turn you into a field mouse!”

“She’s fine.  She’d had 3 slices and hit me with her cane when I grabbed this one.  I wanted a corner.  More cream there, but she’d eaten them.”

“Maybe she was taking it home to Mr Cranston!”

Rupert popped the last of the cake in his mouth and just looked at RF.  He swallowed.  “Not even you believe that one!”  Well, no, she didn’t.  Mrs Cranston was quite greedy about that cake of Tour’s.  She sighed.  She wanted some of that.  Honestly, she could just eat the whole thing.  Tee nudged her and motioned her inside.

The groundhogs headed indoors as Trey reminded them, “Big Daddy’s plane will be here early, so you two be ready.”  RF gave him ‘the finger’ – or in her case, ‘the claw’.   “You should treat him better.  He puts up with a lot from you.”

“And he’s gotten damn rich doing it, so it’s not like he’s doing me a favor.”

“He’s going to this stupid reunion isn’t he?  Be nice – or at least a little nicer than you usually are.”  A rabid skunk was generally nicer than RF, so that shouldn’t be too much of a challenge – except for the whole clan thing.  But Tee had a plan and she pulled it out of the private refrigerator in RF’s office.  Her raspberry white chocolate cream cake laced with extra Frambois.  She handed the drooling RF a fork before she just shoved her claws in and started eating.  She cut a big corner square, added extra raspberry coulis and a swirl of cream and fresh raspberries then handed it to RF.  The alarm went off signaling her turn to play in the JulyTBR swap.  No way was she unlocking this door.  She texted Daisy with instructions and went right back to the cake.  Tee smiled and delicately nibbled on her own slice, a much, much smaller one than RF’s.  She thoughtfully served her cousin more before nibbling a bit more.  It took two more servings before RF couldn’t stay awake any more.  “I’ll eat the rest later.”  She walked over and climbed in her portable bed and was snoring up a storm in about 15 seconds flat, not once wondering why that bed was in her office.

Half an hour later, Tee walked out into the kitchen where Trey and Rupert waited, ready to go.  “Should be safe to move her now.  She’ll be out till long after we touchdown, but just in case, I’m taking more cake.”

“You’re sure this is the best way?”  Trey didn’t like tricking RF.  It tended to end badly.

“She promised to go to ‘the clan reunion’.  She did NOT agree to go to her MOTHER’S clan reunion.  We both belong to a different clan that meets about every 3 years.  By dawn tomorrow she’d be off for Nova Scotia.  You want to deal with that?”

Trey sighed.  His partner was tricky and Tee was right.  She’d been very careful about what she promised.  And if there was a way out, she’d take it.  “She’s not drugged, is she?”

“Just drunk off her paws.”

“What the hell was in that cake?”

“Raspberry vodka and Framboise in the cake plus grain alcohol from Cleatus in the raspberry coulis.  Tastes pretty good, but it’s potent as all get out.  That stuff must be 180 proof.”

Trey looked horrified.  “She won’t need a liver transplant, will she?”

“Just an ice pack when she wakes up.  I’m taking extra cake along, just in case she comes around too soon.”

“I have got to try that cake!”

Tour eyed the djinn.  “If there’s any left when we land, you can try it.  I am not getting in a plane with a drunk djinn.”

“Djinn don’t get drunk!”  He sounded haughty, condescending, and insulted.  Not an easy combination to pull of, but he’d had lots of years of practice.

“Famous last words.  You’ll still wait till we land.  Now let’s get moving.  I don’t want to get in all this trouble for nothing!”

*****************************************************

Peter, RF’s head chef and former Navy SEAL – a man with nerves like steel,  and Daisy the ferret, along with a good portion of the staff watched them leave carrying the snoring RF to Trey’s car.  Peter shook his head.  “I’m glad I’ll be up here when she wakes up.  And I sure as hell hope no one checks that raspberry coulis for a fire hazard.  It probably violates half a dozen FAA and DOT rules and should be in a HazMat container.”  Courtney and Amanda nodded.  Daisy wasn’t sure they’d be far enough away.  It was only 800 miles.  She’d feel better if it was in Nicaragua or something.

July 19, 2015

RF and the Clan Reunion – Part 1

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 4:23 pm
Tags:

Earlier this summer, I promised another ReacherFan Groundhog story.  Here’s the first installment with Trey Dupress, her partner in the art recovery firm, and her look-alike cousin, Tourmaline Groundhog, former General in the Mutant Lizard War and the other High Priestess of Tortum.  This is the story of RF’s much hated annual Clan Reunion with her Southern cousins, her mother’s ‘kin’.  Since RF’s father and Tour’s mother were twins, she and Tour were raised together apart from both the Northern and Southern clans, so Tour isn’t part of this budding annual fiasco.  So why is she here?

**********************************************

A few days ago……………….

 

Refreshed from her shower after digging a burrow to help sooth her nerves, RF disposed of a book thief and went out to join her cousin Tourmaline.  She and Tour grew up together and spent summers in New England with their aunt, the one that initially trained RF.  Since her daddy and Tour’s mamma were twins, they looked like twins themselves and often played games on friends and relatives that couldn’t tell them apart.  They still did.  She chuckled.  Some things never got old.

She wandered out and chatted with a few customers, but the women all kept watching the door to kitchen like Johnny Depp was hiding in there.  She said hello to Mrs Waxman, head of the Garden Club, who simpered ……….. really, a 50+ year old human simpered!  “Will that handsome partner of yours be staying long?  I’d love to show him my beds.   They’re in full bloom.”

RF stared a bit, praying she meant flower beds, and replied, “I wasn’t aware he was coming so I have no idea what his plans are.  I’ll let him know about that bed offer.”

She really needed see why Trey was here.  She nodded to Peter who sent her a speaking glance at her office door.  Tee and Trey were in there together ……… plotting …… well, something.  RF strolled in and the two stop mid-sentence.  She could almost feel her good mood evaporating.  Staring at her cousin and partner, she demanded – “What’s going on?”

“Nothing.”  Tour gave her an innocent look.  “Just catching up on what happened with that art theft ring.”  She gave RF her best, ‘I am an angel!’ look, a look the two of them perfected in their early youth when they HAD been guilty of something.  Her eyes narrowed, but before she could start in, Trey scooped them both up and cheerfully announced, “Let’s have dinner!”

“It’s 4:30,” RF sarcastically drawled.

“Then we’ll have high tea.  I’m feeling hungry.”

“We can eat in my office.”

“No, no, it’s nicer at your private table.”

“Mrs Waxman is lying in wait for you.”  Trey stopped in his tracks.  “She wants to show you her beds.”

“You two have to protect me from that woman.  The last time she got near me, she grabbed my butt.”

“Oh sure, we can do that, can’t we RF?”

Tour was lying through her teeth.  She’d abandon Trey in a heartbeat just to see what happened.  RF should know, she’d do the same damn thing.  “Right!  We’ve got you covered.”

“You’re both liars, but I’m not putting you down till I’m safe in a chair.”  The two groundhogs had the nerve to laugh.  Sure enough Mrs Waxman pounced on Trey the moment he walked out.  His skill at maneuvering in tight places helped him keep facing her until he could plant himself at RF’s reserved table.  Even Peter had stepped into the Bakery to watch the show.  EVERYONE knew Mrs Waxman wanted to bag Trey, but his ability to elude her was legendary.

Finally, Tour spoke up.  “I’m sure you’ll excuse us, but we want to have tea and a private conversation.”  Mrs Waxman gave Tee a look that would have slayed a lesser being, but Tee just looked back with bland indifference while RF snickered.  Damn, Tour could really channel their stuffy Great Aunt Elsie when she wanted too – though Elsie usually had a shaker of martinis, not tea, handy.

As Mrs Waxman huffed off, Trey finally set them down – and watched as they shamelessly started laughing at him.  As always, food was promptly delivered to the table and rather than a pot of hot tea, they had iced tea and lemonade – but not mixed into an Arnold Palmer.  A bottle of bourbon showed up too, thanks to a sympathetic looking Amanda, along with a big roast beef sandwich slathered generously with horseradish cream.  Trey didn’t know if the sympathy was because of Mrs Waxman or the two still snickering marmots, and he honestly didn’t care.  That sandwich looked great and he’d need the bourbon before they were done here.

“So ….” RF filled her plate with little sandwiches, puff pastry shells filled with various kinds of seafood or cheeses, and a second plate with choice desserts.  “Are you two going to tell me what’s going on?  Lula Mae and Cleatus left like someone set fire to their tails, then Tour shows up 3 days later and now your back a week ahead of schedule.”  She popped a cherry tomato filled with garlic herb goat cheese in her mouth and stared at Trey.

“Actually, I’m here because we have the insurance company agreements already on Bryce’s painting, as well as 7 others recovered in that storage unit in Charleston.  Milo has recovered and is singing like a bird about a fairly large tax and divorce asset hiding scheme he’s been running.  The IRS is going insane trying to nail a large part of California’s rich tax cheats while divorce lawyers are taking people back to court for hiding marital assets.  Businessmen to socialites to politicians are claiming, ‘errors were made on back taxes that they are in the process of correcting them.’  Thing is, there’s at least 3 dozen insurance fraud cases too, and that just scratching the surface.  Courts will be busy for awhile.  Witlow sends his regards.  He also said to tell you Garrison took medical leave.  Seems this latest coup by Witlow has caused acute depression.”

“Very interesting, but why were you and Tour acting like villains in a James Bond movie?”

“Oh don’t be silly, we were just catching up.”

RF stared at her cousin, which was kind of like looking in a mirror.  “You lie.”

“Not really.”

RF’s claws drummed on the table as she studied her cousin, who remained completely indifferent to her glaring regard.  She was even better at ignoring her than Cleatus.  “You’re not lying, you’re just not telling the whole truth.”  RF was too shrewd for her own damn good.  “This has to do with why Lula Mae went back home and Cleatus went with her.  That means it’s about the damn clan reunion, and she wants you there to keep an eye on me.  So what is it?  Another fake cradle contract?  Jasper put out a hit on me?  The aunt’s planning to gang up on me?”

Tour shrugged and bit into a triangle ofcroque monsieur.  Damn.  They made a good one here.

That’s when RF snarled.  “It’s that damn scheming matriarch again, isn’t it?  She’s planning to announce her successor ……. AGAIN!  What?  She wants more bribes?????”  RF was almost shouting.  Trey tried to shush her, but she was standing on the table, almost none to nose to Tour, yelling about the conniving matriarch and her greed for gifts.

“I’m not in your clan, so how would I know?”

“You know because that Southern Rasputin called you and told you to come!”

“I think Lula Mae might take exception to be lumped in with a drunken, dissolute, syphilitic, fake Russian monk.”

“I DON’T CARE!”

“You’re scaring the customers.”

“TELL ME WHAT’S GOING ON BEFORE I …………….”

Tour dumped an entire bucket of ice water over RF.  Her cousin stared at her, blinking as the water dripped in her eyes and the ice slithered off her fur, landing on the table with a soft ‘plink’.  “That wasn’t necessary.”  RF sounded quite calm.  Trey pushed the ice away from his part of the table and set his sandwich plate back down.  Good thing he had fast reflexes.

“I disagree.  You have customers throwing money on their tables and running out.  I think 2 of your new wait staff just quit.”

“Sissies.” RF muttered as she fought to calm down.   She smiled at her customers.  Peter stepped out and gave her a dirty look and went about visiting customers, soothing them with his presence.  “You better tell me what’s going on.”

“Apparently, the Matriarch plans to name a successor.”

RF snorted derisively.  “She does that every time she wants bribes.  So what?”

“So this time, she means it.”

“If Esme Willet gets named, her days are numbered.”

“I’ve got a feeling everyone knows that, RF, including Esme Willet.  You did threaten to skin her and roast her over a slow fire if she pulled another cradle contract stunt.”

RF shrugged.  “There are lots of other candidates.”

“Including you.”

RF froze.  “WHAT?”  She knew she was screeching, but couldn’t help it.

“Don’t make me use my skillet!”  That when she noticed Tour had her weapon of choice, a cast-iron skillet, propped against the wall.  “Now sit down.  Apparently, the fact that you’re one of the top five candidates has a whole lot of folks on edge.  And the whole clan knows how you feel about Esme, so if she’s named her life expectancy will be measured in minutes and ANOTHER successor will have to be named.”

“So?  Let Lula Mae take the job.  She loves telling everyone what to do.”

“Yeah, well, her being a Wakins by mating is a bit of an issue.”

“I’m distantly related to them and Cleatus, he’s Watkins by his momma, he all but lives up here.  Can’t see where I’d be a better choice.”

Tour cleared her throat and gave Trey a look.  “What????  I’m not a groundhog!  I don’t even know what’s going on!  I can barely understand Congress!”

“They’re easy.  They’re just greedy, incompetent fools.”

Trey glared at his partner.  “And yours are better?”

“No, we just have fewer of them.”

OK, Trey had to agree she had a point there.  Tour cleared her throat again.  Damn, why was she stuck with this?  “Maybe she wants you to be Matriarch.”

RF choked on the bite of shrimp she’d just swallowed.  Tour sighed, stepped over the wet table and pounded her back till the damn thing came up.  “ME?”  It was barely a rasp, but she could tell by the look on Tee’s face this was serious.  “I don’t even LIKE them?  Why would I be named Matriarch?”

“You know the answer to that as well as I do.  Besides, I get the impression the current Matriarch doesn’t like them much either, so I don’t think that part matters,” Tour said patiently.

“I am NOT letting that good-for-nothing lot of inbred hillbilly groundhogs interfere in my life.  If they try, I swear, I will wipe them off the face of the Earth.”

“Yeah, I think that’s what has Lula Mae so upset.”

“Why?  The gene pool would be smaller, but who would miss those idiots?”

“The surviving idiots.  You cannot kill off your clan.”

“Fine, I’ll abdicate and give the job to Lula Mae.”

“And we’re back to the Watkins.”

RF sighed.  “OK, so obviously you and Lula Mae have talked about this.  Is there a solution that does not include Esme Willet dying by my paws or my knocking off half the clan?”

“She’s working on that.  You just have to stay calm and let her negotiate a compromise.”

RF looked at Tour.  “And why are you coming to this clan reunion?”

“I find your family amusing.”

“You’re not related to those morons.”

“That’s why I can be amused.  Mostly I’m there to try and keep you from killing anyone – or help hide the bodies if necessary.”  Trey choked and stared at Tee.  “Trey will be nearby if we need him.”

“Or I could just call Lucifer and have him wipe them out.”

“Not a good idea.  He’d want a lot more than your triple chocolate ice cream pie and it wouldn’t be worth it.”

“Then Rupert’s mother can have as many as she wants.”

Tour sighed.  She told Trey this would happen.  “No sending them to Rupert’s mother, though calling him in might be necessary to impress upon ……… certain members of your clan that you are NOT to be messed with.”

“You would have thought they’d know that by now.”

“Apparently they have limited capacity to retain vital information.”

“That’s just you politely called them stupid.”

“It sounds better the way I say it.”

“I’ll think about it.  But if that scheming old battleax thinks she’s conning me into buying my way out of being named her successor, she’s in for a nasty surprise.”

Tour was going to have to scout out locations that would be good for hiding bodies.  After RF went to talk to Peter and smooth things over, Tee turned to Trey.  “You know, it might be a real good idea if your rental car was good for a fast get-away after all.”

 

To be continued………………

 

July 14, 2015

Book Reviews – Various Genres in eBook and Print

Now first a word from Book Addicts Anonymous, or BAA – yes it does sound like sheep.  So, all you book addicts out there who are blaming me for enabling your addiction need sit back and take personal responsibility for your lack of control.  The fact that I’m a Book Addict does not mean you must be as well.  (If you think this sounds like your mother saying, “Don’t do as I do, DO AS I SAY!”, you’re right, it’s exactly like that.)  Just because I set a bad example is no reason to fault me for your personal addiction.  That’s YOUR problem.  I have my own.  Like an American Express card with way too many Amazon charges and towering piles of books to be read.  So deal with it ………… and pass the Cheetos.

Now, it’s been a busy month on the book front.  Let’s get started with some reviews.  And quit hogging the chocolate!

David Housewright is a very reliable and often inspired writer with his McKenzie books.  Here he does very good job with a rather predictable story arc about an ‘amnesiac’ young woman known only as Unidentified Woman #15.  He was there when two people threw her from a pickup and started a chain reaction accident on a snowy road when he stopped to keep from hitting her.  His old cop buddy, Bobby Dunston, asks him and his steady girlfriend, Nina, temporarily take her in when the hospital releases her.  Neither man quite believes her story.  When she disappears with some of his ready cash and 2 handguns from his collection, he and Nina both want know what’s going on.  She let one clue slip, Deer River.  And what might be a nickname, L, or Elle, or El.

Housewright creates a series of characters with a sure hand and begins spinning the tale of a supposedly nameless young woman who might be from Deer River.  As he begins unraveling the mystery that links garage sales to a series of thefts, to Big, the nameless power that has everyone scared, he slowly connects the dots.  He also becomes sure the one thing El isn’t is innocent or an amnesiac.

A highly readable combination of wry humor, action, and a mounting number of dead bodies that spin the mystery out.  For fans of classic PI style mysteries in the vein of Robert B. Parker and John D. McDonald, you can’t beat Housewright.

While not equal to his book, The Jade Lily, Unidentified Woman #15 is still a recommended read.  I give it a solid B (4*) rating and suggested read.  Housewright rarely comes out in mmpb, and the HC, which I bought from Amazon, rarely gets cheap, so if you’re looking for a price break, it will take awhile.  Book Closeouts does offer his titles at excellent remainder prices.  Used book prices tend to stay high as they are not that many available, but do look.  His books are worth the effort for fans of the genre.

********************************************************************

Amazon had a pre-publication price that was hard to refuse, so I bought this one.  I usually wait to get mine through PBS, but with their change to paid membership for full benefits, not easy to do for this author.

Gabriel Allon is about to become a father and head of The Office, what we would call Mossad.  An accomplished assassin and famed art restorer, he is not anxious to go back in the field, but he gets dragged in by a past debt to MI-5 and the young woman he rescued from Russia (The English Girl).  But what really pulls Gabriel back into the field is the chance to catch the man responsible for the bomb that killed his son and sent his ex-wife into life in an institution.

Eamon Quinn, the IRA bomber just blew up the yacht a British princess was on (a Diana clone moved to the current date), he was also the man who got away when a certain SAS operative was sold out as a Britsh spy in the Real IRA, the most violent offshoot of the IRA .  To destroy the peace process, Quinn planted a car bomb in Belfast that killed dozens and injured more after calling in a bomb threat that deliberately had police driving crowds TO the bomb.  Hunted by the IRA and the Britsh, Quinn becomes the bomb teach to terrorists from all over the world, especially the Mid-East.  Quinn’s current employer is a head of state furious at be denied the oil and gas leases in the North Sea he’d gotten the British PM to agree to under duress – the Russian Prime Minister.  Now he wants Britain and Allon to pay for thwarting him.

Allon is wise enough to know he’ll need help, that person is the British hitman who works for a Corsican Don, Christopher Keller.  Keller knows Quinn and has good reason to hate him.  More importantly he knows all the players in Northern Ireland where peace is a very uneasy condition with hate still running deep.  Quinn has worked with Gabriel a number of times, and he finds himself restless enough to agree and go back to his roots, roots he’d left behind in the Mid-East when he was a sole survivor.

The hunt is on and a thin trail of clues is all they have.  Too late they realize that trail was left by Quinn who is leading them into a trap.

A really well-done novel of international spies, intrigue, double-dealing, and three shrewd men playing a chess match with lives at stake.  The English Spy seems to continue the slow transition from Gabriel in the field to Christopher Keller taking the lead.  The one shortcoming is that lack of growth in Keller’s character.  While we get more background on him, he’s still lacking that third dimension that always made Allon an appealing protagonist.  Sill, Silva has done a marvelous and detailed job with the story on many other levels.

The English Spy gets a solid B (4*) from me and a suggested for lovers of spy, assassin, and intrigue novels.  I paid under $15 on an Amazon pre-order and it is current just over that mark, so remains a decent buy.    This author’s book do go mmpb and are usually available in your local library.  At just under 500 pages in HC, the mmpb will probably be around $10 and in small typeface, so take that into consideration.  You will be able to find good used copies before the mmpb is released.

***************************************************************

                                                                                     

The first two books in A Lion’s Pride series by paranormal romance author Eve Langlais are both short, easy reads.  The plots are kind of thin and both sets of lead characters lack depth, but that’s not really her forte.   The bright breezy dialog in When an Alpha Purrs is classic Langlais.  Both books have a ‘woman in jeopardy’ element for the heroines, but otherwise they are different.  The heroines are very different people, but the pride males have a lot of common traits.

Arik Castiglione is not only a billion and alpha of his pack, he’s also something of a fashion plate and deeply attached to his perfectly styled mane, which is in dire need of a trim.  Too bad his long-time barber is off on a well earned visit with family and his mouthy niece is his substitute.  Kira is fresh off having her beauty salon burned down by her stalker ex-boyfriend who has gone off the deep end.  So she came half way across the country to her uncle’s NYC barbershop to find a new job and new life.  Instead, she found another controlling male who wanted to boss her around because he didn’t trust he ability.  HER!!!!!!  She was an excellent stylist and he was still wearing his hair like some rebellious teen!  His superior attitude finally drives her to do something drastic – and she expresses her intense displeasure by lopping off a huge hunk of his precious hair and raining down the now unattached hair in front of his face.

Arik, stunned by the temerity of the mouthy hairdresser, waits just a little too long to give chase and loses her on the streets near a fish market.  He vows to get even, especially after his beta teases him unmercifully about his pride and joy hair.  But Arik is surprised to find his planned revenge derailed by his attraction to the impossible woman.  Worse, when he delivers her home to her small apartment there’s a crude threat painted on her door.  Kira plays it off despite being obviously scared, but Arik smells wolf and calls in help from the local wolf pack.  From here on out, the story gets very formula and its brief length keeps and character  and plot depth shallow.

In When a Beta Roars, Arik’s beta, Hayder, is sulking as only a male lion can when he gets asked to babysit a wolf shifter that Arik granted protection in the well-guarded condo complex where the pride lives.  Arabella is the city wolf alpha’s sister, but Arik is the city Alpha of all shifter so even Jerrod answers to him.  Arabella had a miserable mating to a much older alpha wolf of a large clan.  His best feature is he’s now dead.  The worst is all the other males want to fight to make her their mate – with every intention of killing her for the inheritance.  It wasn’t any brilliant deduction, they flat out told her.  Jerrod’s pack is no match for her old one and she knows they’re hunting her, so the safest place to keep her is with a lion pride.

Then Hayder walks in like he owns the place.  Arabella has spent years with her head down and eyes averted to keep the abuse to a minimum.  It was so bad, her wolf left her and she hasn’t shifted in years.  Hayder is having none of that and his when she finally snaps at his bold and arrogant assumptions, he laughs and encourages her.  He seems to enjoy her feisty side.

Hayder is determined and patient.  Arabella is slow to emerge from her shell, but like a turtle, her fiery spirit peeks out more and more as she slowly grows more assured.

Despite the more serious theme, Langlais still manages a light and humorous edge to the romance of an abused woman.  This story had more substance than the slight and airy Alpha book, but remains a short, rather shallow novel, though a better one overall.

When an Alpha Purrs gets a C  (3*) and When a Beta Roars gets a C+ (3.5*) though both get much higher ratings on Amazon.  I bought the Alpha book in print and the Beta book in ebook.  Both are much too short for the price.  The book-length is under 200 pages for each title.  Frankly, at $3.99 the ebooks are overpriced for the length and the $8.99 for print is simply outrageous.  Both are modestly amusing and can be read in a fairly short single sitting.  She’s done better books.

********************************************************

Kristen Painter is well known for her paranormal vampire series, the House of Comarré, a rather dark and complex series.  Here she takes a very different tone with an upbeat romance about a waitress who accidentally witnesses a murder which she records on her iPhone and finds herself on the run from mob killers.  Evading the people chasing her, Delaney James finds the file of a woman heading to a place called Nocturn Falls, Georgia to marry a man she’s never met or seen.  Well, the man has never seen her either, so it works out all around after she calls the woman from the road to say the arrangement has fallen through.

Hugh Ellingham cannot believe his grandmother arranged for a mail order bride for him through some ‘discrete match-making service’ because SHE wants great-grandbabies.  When he refuses, she threatens to take back the magic talisman that her 300-year-old witch created for each member of her remaining family.  A Duchess in England, she still rules her grandchildren with an iron hand and the threat to remove their ability to walk in the daylight.

Delaney has no intention of hanging around Nocturn Falls forever, even if it is Halloween every day.  It’s kitschy, over the top, and like candy irresistible.  And lordy, Hugh Ellingham’s place is an estate with a mansion!  Talk about out her element!  Yikes!  But her life is depending on laying low and making sure no one followed her from New York.  That means playing the game for at least week.  She just hoped she’d last that long.

Hugh is very drawn to Delaney, she’s sharp, witty, perceptive, and she’s pretty easy to look at, but Hugh had a terrible experience with his wife dying and hundreds of years later, so he’s still resistant to remarrying.  He quickly discovers she’s lying about her identity, thanks to the town’s werewolf sheriff, but the two make a deal – she’ll stay and they can tell his grandmother they are unsuited.  But plans sometimes don’t work out quite as expected.

At 370 pages in print, this lively paranormal romance was entertaining, had sharp dialog, well-drawn characters, and well done, if unoriginal cast.  Like all romances, there are improbable serendipitous events used to progress the plot that are contrived and the characters rather stock, especially the over-bearing grandmother and bitter ex-girlfriend, but nonetheless it succeeded in entertaining and keeping the reader’s interest.

The Vampire’s Mail Order Bride gets a C+ to B- (3.6*) from me.  Buy the ebook for a better deal, but the print book is not over priced.  Nothing like her better known series.

******************************************************

The Magical Bakery series by Bailey Cates set in Savannah is one of the better cozy series out there – which is kind of damning with faint praise given the level of competition.  Like all cozies, it’s an easy read, but the writing quality, plot, and lively characters are a cut above.  This is the 5th book in the series and the author has kept it interesting so far.

Katie Lightfoot returned to Savannah to live and help her Aunt Lucy and newly retired fireman, Uncle Ben, open and run a bakery.  She a very good pastry chef and learning her craft as a hedgewitch, sometimes called ‘kitchen witches’ because they work with plants and nature to bring healing to the body and soul, is a big part of her life now.  The also believe in the threefold rule, whatever intent you send out into the universe will return to you threefold, so doing evil is highly self-destructive.  She and her Aunt Lucy, another hedgewitch, meet with the coven for their ‘Spell Book Club’.  This month Katie chose the book and it was written by a very young woman who obviously is under the thrall of a much older male poser.

As the conversation turns to other things there comes a pounding on the bakery door and woman calls for help.  She collapses and just manages to tell Katie she’s Franklin Tate’s niece and someone stole his gris gris before her heart stops..  Doctor’s are baffled as they can find no cause for her condition, but Cookie knows something, something from her past in Hati.  But there’s another surprise, Katie thought Franklin Tate dead for 3 months, he’d sent a message to her through a medium  Turns out that Detective Quinn, was once partnered with Tate, someone they once thought was a witch hunter, actually died right here in Savannah in the last couple of days.  What the hell is going on?

Cates weaves a tale centered on voodoo and it’s many flavors as practiced by its different branches.    As Katie dips her toes into voodoo with the reluctant help of Cookie, a Haitian immigrant, they find kind of a mixed bag of skills and willingness to help.  Former boyfriend Steven Dawes comes back for her to meet his new girlfriend, whom Katie thinks is a very manipulative young woman after his money.  She has no idea how right she is, or how deeply everything is tied together.

The plot moves quickly and, like all her books, comes back to the core beliefs of those who practice the craft.  Some very interesting characters in this one that I hope to see again.  Magic and Macaroons get a B- (3.7*) from me and a suggested read.  It’s one of the best paranormal mystery series out there.  I got a deeply discounted pre-release price on Amazon, but the book is now back at $7.99.  Try for Walmart or other discount stores if you want to buy it as Cates is a popular and widely carried author.

July 7, 2015

Random Price Reductions and Prime Day

Filed under: General — toursbooks @ 10:41 pm
Tags: , ,

Once again Amazon is deeply discounting print books in many genres on a short-term random basis. So take your wish list and look. There might be some really good discounts.

Examples include these to-be-released titles:

Brimstone Deception by Lisa Shearin UF is $5.99
A Red Rose Train by Seanan McGuire UF is $4.79
Grave Visions by Kaylana Price UF $5.99
Dead in the Wind by Miranda James Mystery cozy is $5.45
Dead Men Don’t Eat Cookies by Virginia Lowell is $4.79 (released today)
Fatal Reservations by Luck Burdette is $5.45 (released today)

A number of popular To-Be-Released hardcovers were also discount at 40% or more off list, including Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee due out later this month and just released The English Spy by Daniel Silva.

Several titles I ordered over the weekend have already gone up and down further, but as Prime I will get the lowest price after my order regardless.

On July 15 Amazon is holding a huge 1 day sale for Prime members only called Prime Day. Mostly non-book items will be on sale. It includes everything from patio furniture to Cameras. They claim the discounts will be even bigger than their Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals and they will be running specials every 10 minutes to encourage using tablet and cell apps for ordering.

Have fun. Reviews soon I hope. Been busy reading.

June 11, 2015

Hot Off The Press

This installment is mostly recent releases of ebooks and DTB’s in various series and one that can be viewed as a stand alone, and a few ebooks.  I’ve noticed I’m gravitating to more humorous mystery in ebook than paper.  Only a few series are worth the cost of a print copy for my bedtime reading.  And since it’s summer, I will also tell more about Reacherfan Groundhog and Trey Dupress – their first major adventure – Murder at The Myrtles Plantation.  It’s a long story that had many authors about half written by me and then I edited the tale into a finished product.  I’m doing another polish and then I’ll post installments during those lazy summer months.

But right now, it’s all about books.

Many times I’ve said how good this series is and how creative and funny Darynda Jones can be spinning multiple story lines at once.  I supposed that’s why I was so disappointed in Eighth Grave after Dark.  Jones set the bar high and held it there through seven books – then she wrote this.

Eighth Grave has several issues – first was the stagnant setting.  In the other books, Charley was moving around, checking on things.  Her she’s near her delivery date for Beep and essentially trapped in an old nunnery on hallowed ground to keep the Hellhounds from killing her and Beep.  Second is the rather insubstantial mystery plots that run thru this book.  ‘Kit’ Carson is working on a serial kidnapper/killer case involving an old lover’s niece.  There’s nothing there, just ordinary data checks.  Next is the crying nun’s ghost and what she wants. (Jones always runs a ‘live’ mystery in tandem with a ‘ghost’ case.) And then there’s the elephant in the room – Beep.  And there was the whole Beep’s birth scene, not to mention the sob story from the evil step-mother explaining her DECADES of bad behavior.

Now al lot of information is finally disclosed in this entry, but it’s done without excitement or tension.  But the worst part – and I mean ‘throw the book at the wall’ annoyance level – is the ending.  I won’t spoil it for you, but I sat there yelling “WHAT?  WTF IS THIS CRAP?” at about 3AM when I finished it.  I just hope none of the neighbors heard me.  Between her father’s ghost and his not believable tale, to “You really don’t remember!” – I wanted to set the book on fire.  Since this was about the over-arching plot of Charley’s existence that’s key to the whole series, it’s unforgivable.

OK, my seething anger aside, the book was far from her best effort.  Tension levels were off, the whole pregnancy plot kind of fizzled, so did the wedding, and bland ‘mysteries’ that could have been solved by any armchair Nancy Drew, resulted in the kindest description of this effort as LAME – and the ending insulted the intelligence of the readers.

Eighth Grave After Dark gets a D+ to C- (2.8*) from me.  It is nowhere near the quality of the first seven books and the ending has me wondering if I want to pay the HC price for the ninth book that’s already on order.  Fans will love this book despite all the plot, the data dumps, and character issues.  Try and get it cheap because it’s far from her usual quality.  My copy is off to the next owner in Hawaii.

****************************************************************

Cold-Burn-of-Magic-final

Cold Burn of Magic is the first book in Jennifer Estep’s latest young adult series.  Young Adult is a very hot market for paranormal writers as The Hunger Games and other proved.  Her previous YA series, the Mythos Academy books, I never read, so I can’t say how they compare, but here, her 17 yr old female and 19 yr old male leads acted more like adults than teens.

Lila is a 17-year-old thief who is stealing a necklace to order for her sort of friend, mentor, and fence, Mo.  We catch her as she eludes guards armed with swords – why not guns and swords, but apparently only swords.  Like her Elemental Assassin series, people here often have ‘Talents’.  And like her Spider assassin, Lila has two talents.  She is also a high school student trying to avoid getting put back in the foster care system.  After school, she heads for Mo’s pawn shop and ends up getting in the middle of an assassination attempt on the heir to one of the two most powerful families, Devon Sinclair.

Lila’s interference saves Devon’s life and forces her to change her own and take a job as his bodyguard.  Lila hates the Sinclairs because her mother died as a result of protecting Devon years earlier during a chance encounter in the park.  Now here she is doing the same thing and risking exposure of her rare Talent to people powerful enough to rip it from her.

The plot of Cold Burn of Magic is basic and had limited tension.  At just over 300 pages in trade size, it was a very fast, easy read.  Too many of the ‘world building’ elements had common ground with her Elemental Assassin series, and Lila was a bit too much like Gin Blanco – tough, talented, independent, and shrewd – and the setting just adds ‘magical’ creatures to the list.

While not impressive, Cold Burn of Magic is suitable for young adult readers while having just enough substance for many older adults.  I give it a C+ (3.3*) and suggested read if you can find it cheap.

************************************************

I admit that Craig Johnson is a favorite mystery author and Walt Longmire is a marvelous character, so I am predisposed to love his writing and sly wit.  Dry Bones delivers plenty of entertainment but is far from his best mystery.  Johnson’s biggest weakness is the emotional elements between Walt and his daughter, home to visit with his granddaughter.

At the heart of Dry Bones is the discovery and ownership of a huge T Rex skeleton found on disputed land and a dead Native American found by Walt’s enigmatic friend Omar while out fishing.  Danny Lone Elk’s status in the tribe means no autopsy can be performed, but Walt is convinced the old man was murdered.  Caught in the middle of the dispute between the tribe, the family, the discovery of the bones, and the state, Walt also has to deal with his exhausted, cranky daughter and granddaughter.

Johnson creates characters that seem so real that you feel you know them, but Walt’s emotional disconnect from his daughter is on full display.  When the call comes about her husband, Vic’s brother, Walt is, as always, tied up with the case.  Fossils of T Rex skeletons sell for big bucks (Johnson acknowledges he used the fight over another fossil as his inspiration here, so if that seems familiar, that’s why.) – money all different parties are claiming.  And murder is usually about money – only this time, not from the auction of the skeleton.

While I figured out who did it early on, Johnson’s writing and characters made the story too entertaining to put down.  The ending had a very clever twist.  “Save Jen!”

I give Dry Bones a C+ to B- (3.6*).  My SIL who also read it, voted it higher, but I’m tougher on books than she is.  We both liked the ending.  A short read, it really isn’t worth the nearly $20 discount price, so wait any buy used or borrow from the library.  My copy went right to my brother and SIL and then off to the book swap games.

**********************************************************

In the latest installment of the Lexi Carmichael series, No Woman Left Behind, Moffet opens with a hysterical scene where a nervous Lexi is trying to explain to Slash why having dinner with her parents will be a disaster.  The part about her father looking at them and knowing they were having sex, including that ‘innovative maneuver’ he did on the table cracked me up.  But dinner is interrupted by gunshots and Lexi and Slash are drawn into a battle of wits with arch villian Broodryk from No Test for the Wicked – a man she defeated and deprived on millions of dollars.

Xavier is in a Greek hospital fighting for his life and twin, Elvis Zimmerman, is being held captive by Broodryk and only Lexi and can play the game to free him.  From a private chat room, Lexi finds she must swallow her fears and go to Africa to get the next clue.  Broodryk wants to play on his home turf.

Slash and Lexi fight about her going, but she feels responsible for what’s happened to Elvis and if she doesn’t play his game, he’ll just kill him and kidnap another person, maybe her brother or mother.  She knows even with SEALs and the help of Grayson, the CIA analyst, she probably won’t live, but off she goes.

There are several hysterical scenes – the one finding Gray and ‘Hands’, the SEAL sniper team leader, in flagrante delicto while running from a ‘spider’ and then the tandem jump from 12,000 feet with Hands are both priceless.  The plot has tension and wit and is just a damn fun read.

No Woman Left Behind gets a B+ (4.3*) from me.  Available ebook only and worth the price.  This is a fun series.

*********************************************************

Boundary Crossed

Book one in a new series my Melissa Olsen, Boundary Crossed was offered free in the Prime First plan on Amazon.  Can’t beat free, so I gave it a shot as ebook.

Allison Alexis Luther ‘Lex’ to her Army buddies, spent two tours in Iraq until she walked out if the desert after an IED got her squad in the Humvee.  The Army gave her an honorable discharge and funny looks, because she should have died.  Now, the only living child of the Luther family, second largest employer in Boulder,CO, is a night clerk at a convenience store building a floor display in soda 12 packs when she hears a young couple debating diaper sizes.  When she goes to help them, she sees the baby is her niece – and the couple has kidnaped her.  She screams for the other clerk to call the cops and proceeds to use her best combat skills against them.

Something strange happens in the fight and even though she gouged out the mans eyes, he seemed to grow them back.  Badly wounded, Lex dies.  Again.  Then 4 more times in the OR, but each time she comes back.  She wakes in the hospital getting the same strange looks she from the Army doctors.  Her world goes sideways when ‘Detective’ Quinn comes in to question her and she relates everything to him.  Then she feels the same pressure on her mind she felt from the kidnapper.  Quinn tells her she’s a witch, so does a young man name Simon, who is also a witch.   he’s a vampire Welcome to the brave new world.

Finally grudgingly accepting the whole witch thing, she seeks protection from the vampire ‘dominus’ for the state.  Her niece is a null.  The story centers around Lex’s slow acceptance of her power and the fact most witches hate and fear her – she’s a Boundary witch, or death witch, with a special affinity for vampires, since technically, they’re dead.

In print, the book is just about 300 pages.  It’s a fast, easy read and the UF world building minimal since it all happens here and now.  Lex is an interesting character, but only she and Quinn are well-developed.  The supporting cast is minimal and kind of sketched in.

Boundary Crossed gets a C+ (3.3*) from me.  Not essential, but give it a try if find a cheap print copy or buy the ebook.  At $5, the ebook is pricy for what you get.

May 30, 2015

Trolling thru Ebooks

Like I don’t have enough to read with stacks of books clogging my floor space, I go trolling through Amazon ebooks and get special offers from some author websites for $0.99 specials for full length books.  I’m a book junkie and have a habit to feed, so ………….. well, I’m weak.

There are upsides to ebooks, some not even available in print, and there are downsides.  One of those downsides of self publishing is things like ‘Set in the World Of ………….’, take your pick of popular series.  The ones that I read we’re set in Sinful, LA, in the world of Jana DeLeon’s entertaining Miss Fortune series.  Thing is, some of the ‘tribute’ stories are more fan-fic than professional writing.  A couple were good.

I also discovered another humorous mystery series – you know me and my love of humorous mysteries – set in Scottsdale, AZ, a place I grew to know well thanks to many long business trips out that way.  And I finally started getting through the Housewife Assassin books as well, and I’m about half way through – but some DTB’s came and demanded my attention.

But ebooks are the topic for this post, so here we go!

                                                                                                     

BA Trimmer introduces Laura Black, a PI who works for a semi-sleazy but very successful lawyer, Lenny Shapiro, in Scottsdale.  I Reviewed Scottsdale Sizzle in a prior post, then read these two, completely out of the order in which they were written, but we’ll just ignore that for the moment.

We have the same cast of characters as Scottsdale Sizzle in Scottsdale Heat and Scottsdale Squeeze.  We do, however, get to know exactly how Laura got involved with Max and Tough Tony, the local mob boss.  Both books were well done with interesting characters, decent plots with Scottsdale Heat (Book 1)  is Laura’s first case.  Here she looks for the missing son of one of Scottsdale’s wealthiest socialites and ends up entangled in an improbable hunt for bag switched by Alex (the grandson) in a resort owned by Tough Tony.  While the series events is almost laughably unlikely, it’s still a good, fun, fast read.

Scottsdale Squeeze (Book 2) tells the story of how Jackie Wade, she has a brief cameo in book 1, came to own Saguaro Sky resort and is another convoluted tale that once again puts Laura in contact with Tough Tony and the handsome and all too tempting Max – whom she again does a huge favor for.

This series is billed as a humorous romantic mystery, and it is fun, but not the laugh out loud kind that Jana DeLeon delivers.  The plots seem to be getting better with each book.  Scottsdale Heat gets a B- (3.7*) from me and Scottsdale Squeeze gets a B- (3.9*).  A suggested read in ebook for any fan of Christine Craig’s books, or Jana DeLeon.  More fun than most boring and predictable cozies.

******************************************************

 Amazon’s Kindle deal had books 1-3 of the Gotcha Detective series for a great low price so I figured OK, I can do this.  Now remember, I really disliked book 6, Electile Dysfunction.  Buy the early ones was a leap of faith, but worth it.  These are far better than her more recent books with the annoying and pointless changes on POV chapter to chapter, which drives me nuts and adds NOTHING to the overall quality of the story, but still rather lame overall.

Mimi Cappruo is supposedly for Secret Service and protected the First Lady, something a junior member of the SS would never do.  Still, that’s her background – and yet she barfs at a dead body?  Worse, as the stories progress, we learn she married the mob??????  HUH?  The SS does a thing called BACKGROUND CHECKS on any anyone involved with agents protecting the First Family.  And she’s shocked?????  On the upside, books 1-3 were halfway decent and quick reads.  Charles, the gay tech expert who eventually becomes her agency partner gets increasing larger parts.  But as the dynamics change among the characters, the story quality starts falling apart.

Book 1 to 4 and all written in first person from Mimi’s POV.  By book 5, we have Charles interlaced and that’s where she lost me.  The plots and characters simply are not strong to pull off the changing perspectives.  It becomes nothing more than a writers trick.

The Gotcha Detective Series is not that good with books ranging from C+ (3.4*) to D+/C- (2.8*).  Yes, some are free and deals are offered.  The rave reviews elude me.  Anyone who thinks these books rival Sue Grafton’s is delusional.  Very average and frankly, not recommended, even as ebooks.

*************************************************************

               

The popular Housewife Assassin series is another decent read, but one that requires the reader to buy into the initial concept.  Character, including Donna, housewife turned assassin for a government contractor that her supposed dead husband betrayed.  Jack, another Acme operator sent to play Carl, her dead husband on history’s longest business trip, Carl, her undead lying with every word husband, the mommies of her upscale neighborhood where she pretends she’s just another mom and housewife.

OK, it’s not great stuff, but the characters are well done, the dialogue is realistic and often quite witty, even the ‘mommies’ (and Donna imaging what she’d do to them) are amusing, and the plots are on par with any James Bond nonsense.  Relationship Survival Guide and Vacation to Die For were really good.  Plots were hardly subtle, but held some surprises.  I enjoyed them and they did have some really fun moments.

It should be noted, due to over-arching plot elements, this is a series that needs to be read in order to work out who and what all the underlying subtleties are that are happening.

Books 2 through 5 of the Housewife Assassin series get mostly B- (3.8*) to B (4*) from me – except the Killer Christmas Tips which I found a bit ragged at C+ to B- (3.6*).  A suggested read for fans of humorous mysteries that can take things not too seriously.

*******************************************************

  

Short stories and novellas really test a writer’s skill.  You have little space or time to create characters, setting, plot, and build excitement.  Mysteries are especially difficult as they are so very character dependent and rely on subtle misdirection.  Using a known setting, like Sinful, known and well defined characters, and somehow come up with an original idea is the baseline.  Some succeed.  Some crash and burn.  We have both here.

OK, Let’s take these left to right.  Body in the Bog was just downright awful and I don’t care what the Amazon reviewer’s say.  It fundamentally changed the characters of Ida Belle, Gertie and especially Fortune – a pragmatic assassin who NEVER would have done what kicked this whole tear-jerker off.  Add to that the fact that everyone spends the story repeating dialogue and crying, if it had been paper, it would have been thrown at the nearest wall.  DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME OR MONEY!  Even if it’s free, it’s just awful on every level and a the perfect example of what fan-fic does with characters.  D- (1.5*)  Short story/short novella length and still only good to line bird cages.

Nearly Departed, at around 100 pages, is a longer novella and a fun story that does keep the 3 main characters true to form.  Gertie is throwing her 10th annual Funeral Party, yup, she’s laid out in a casket and all and has hired a transvestite singing group for entertainment and the usual romp – except for the fact someone wants Gertie dead for real.  Well written and plotted and definitely worth reading and more importantly, true to both the characters and spirit of DeLeon’s books.  Gets a B (4*) from me, rare for novella.

Leslie Langtry, author of the Bombay Assassin series and fellow refuge from Dorchester with Jana DeLeon, does her usual professional and stylistic best to combine a character from DeLeon’s Mudbug series with the gang from Sinful, the place her socialite twin sister and batty momma live.  Bloodshed on the Bayou is more about Margaret Ancelet and her posh sister than our Swamp Team 3, but Fortune’s cover is at risk, so they swing into action to try and work out who is selling illegal booze – the favorite of Margaret’s dead father, who’s shooting people, and why there are suddenly Feds all over the place.  Langtry does a very good job of telling a moderately complex story in a novella format under 80 pages.  Entertaining, fast paced and especially good for fans of the Mudbug series as well.  Another B (4*) short read.

Next Page »

The Rubric Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 76 other followers