Tour’s Books Blog

June 12, 2014

Finis – The Problem of the Endless Series – Part 3 THE END?

I find I can only do so many series before my head explodes.  Honestly, authors resurrect characters and series, like soap operas, recycle characters.  There are so many epic fantasy series out there, some starting life as a stand alone – or as an outgrowth of early works where and author developed ideas.  Dune was such as book.  I recall how blown away I was by it when I read back when it first came out.  I never did make it to the end of the series, just book 1 and 2, because book 3 was published nearly 7 years after book 2 and I’d moved on.  It would take 5 more years for book 4 and 3 more for book 5 and then book 6 followed and was the last.  Sort of.  Now his son, Brian, along with Kevin Anderson, have continued Dune stories as prequels and sequels to the original series.

The unique universal appeal of Dune is surprising.  It’s themes and characters carry well into other cultures making it one of the best selling science fiction novels of all time at 20 million copies.  But to put that in context, the Harry Potter series sold over 400 million copies and (Lord help us) Fifty Shades of Gray eclipsed that number at over 450 million.  Of course Dune, Harry Potter, and many other books will still be popular long after Fifty Shades is lost in time.  But it does prove one thing, SEX SELLS! Trust me, Fifty Shades isn’t selling based on it’s unforgettable characters, original plot, and brilliant writing.  It’s selling for the same reason Peyton Place sold in the 1950’s, SEX and the lure of the forbidden, in this case, BDSM.  (Quick, who wrote Peyton Place and what was the lead character’s name?)  Yeah, I remembered the author’s name, but in all fairness, I couldn’t get past page 50 in that book either, though it was decades after publication when I actually tried, and I can’t even recall a plot.  Was there one?

Will most of the series so beloved of readers stand the test of time?  Unlikely.  Anyone over 40 would be hard put to find titles popular in their teens and 20’s still on the shelves in print.  Dune?  Yup, that’s there.  So is everything by Tolkien.  But those ARE classics.  I’ll bet in 20 years you’ll still find Harry Potter for the simple reason that his story is one we can all identify with – and the reason adults read so much YA fiction.  Like The Hobbit, Harry will age well.  Some experiences just continue to resonate over time, long after the cheap, voyeuristic thrills of Fifty Shades has been supplanted by the next hot item.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of good, cheap voyeuristic thrills, just not a fan of BDSM.  Which segues nicely into another niche market, erotic paranormal romance and futuristic paranormal romance.  Kaitlyn O’Connor writes a lot of futuristic si-fi/paranormal erotic romance, spiced with humor.  She writes modern shifter romance as Madeline Montague.  I’ve kind of been avoiding this stuff because it is a small market, but I’ll include a few here, with fair warning, it’s for adults only.  Like most romance, alpha males abound, there is often some BDSM or at least D/s going on, but not the level of kink you get with true BDSM.

Si-fi and fantasy are no strangers to sex.  No less an icon than Robert A Heinlein got his book, Stranger in a Strange Land, pulled from school library shelves for a host of reasons including ‘cheap eroticism’.  Hey, if you can slog thru 160,000+ words and find a bit of ‘cheap eroticism’ along the way, more power to you!  Boy, did you earn it!

(Suggestion – if you actually enjoy reading BDSM, try Maya Banks (also writes mainstream), Shayla Black (also rites as Shelly Bradley), Sylvia Day, and Lorelei James among others.  All are light-years better than E.L. James.)

Joey W. Hill (living) – Vampire Queen series now up to book 13, future status unknown, paranormal vampire erotic romance.  Hill writes mostly in the BDSM vein, but does some more mainstream series, and stand alones in paranormal, historical, and contemporary genres; Arcane Shot series centers on witches (2 books so far), and she has a paranormal romance series based on mermaids.

Kaitlyn O’Connor (Madeline Montague) (living) – small press author that has gained a loyal following for her humorous ménage Cyberolution series futuristic si-fi romances, 6 books and complete, but as they were written out of chronological order, they can be read as stand alones; as Madeline Montague she writes Wolfen series, a loosely related group of werewolf shifter books, with some, but less humor. 3 books – status unknown.  Hard to find author.  Short books.  Buy the e-books.

Lara Santiago (living) – small press author; two futuristic stand alones – one intended as a possible series that never happened, Menagerie -is a clever apparently poly-amorous story that begins and ends in present day.  Rogue’s Run is an intersteller m/f/m ménage.  Reads like the start of a series, but she went from futuristic to Western.

Suzanne Collins (living) – Hunger Games – best-selling YA trilogy set in Dystopian future.  Complete.  Before writing Hunger Games, she authored a series of children’s fantasy books about Gregor the Overlander in her Underland series, 5 books, complete.

Veronica Roth (living) – Divergent trilogy – 3 books plus numbers short stories, novellas, complete, YA si-fi Dystopian; kind of a Hunger Games knock-off with shades of Twilight Zone

Pittacus Lore (living) – Lorien Legacies (5 books but on-going to 9?) and Lost Files (12 books complete); YA futuristic alien invasion; Another variation on Hunger Games type tropes

Jaye Wells (living) – Sabina Kane, 5 books, complete, UF, vampire, mage, assassin – worthwhile read; Prospero’s War – 2 books complete another under contract.  Status of additional books – unknown, UF/magic

Kelly Meding (living) – Dreg City – 5 books, complete, Dark UF, si-fi, horror; about a bounty hunter who is killed, loses her memory, is resurrected, and has 3 days to live, but sometimes, you get to die more than once; Meta Wars – futuristic UF/superhero, 4 books, complete, each book focuses on a specific ‘talent’ of a group/

Linda Robertson (living) – Persephone Alcmedi – 6 books so far and 1 more due this year.  Completion status unknown.  UF, witches, vamps, weres, Fey.  Young witch finds she might be one that was in a prophesy, making her a target for her coven and the only one that change the outcome of a potential war.

Harry Connolly(Living) – Twenty Places, 3 books – series cancelled by publisher; UF/Paranormal/fantasy mystery; well liked by those who read it, but not enough readers.

Rachel Caine (living) – Morganville Vampires – 15 books, complete, YA/UF/vampires; Weather Warden – 9 books, complete; UF/paranormal/magic/romance – weather warden (magic worker) is unjustly accused of crimes and goes on the run to look for the one that can offer proof of her innocence. Outcast Season – spin off of Weather Warden, 4 books, status complete.

M. J. Scott (living) – Half-Light City, 4 books, complete, Fantasy/UF/Fae/Vampires – a new author who seemed to be improving with each book.  Watch for more from her.

Marjorie M. Liu (living) – Hunter’s Kiss, 5 books and several short stories/novellas, complete, Paranormal Romance/shifters/magic;  Dirk & Steele, 13 books – status unknown, paranormal romance, can be read as stand alone books.

Lisa Shearin (living) – Raine Benares, 6 books, complete 2012, fantasy/magic/high fantasy/some romance; kind of a classic fantasy adventure series featuring a female thief; SPI Files – 1 book released this year, one on order, UF/modern paranormal; author has engaging humorous writing style that makes for quick easy reading.

Jeanne C. Stein (living) – Anna Strong, 9 books, novellas, shorts stories, Plus 1 to complete?, paranormal/UF/shapeahifter/vamp/ romance …. If anyone has any comments on this series. let me know

Richelle Mead (living) – Dark Swan, 4 books complete, UF/paranormal/magic/romance; Vampire Academy, 6 books, complete, YA paranormal/supernatural/magic;  popular with adult paranormal fans; Bloodlines – spin-off of Vampire Academy, 6 books, ongoing, YA/paranormal/fantasy

Rachel Vincent (living) – Shifters, 6 books, complete; UF/paranormal/paranormal romance, power plays and life among shifters; Soul Screamers, 7 books, plus novellas and short stories, complete, YA/paranormal/fantasy – school taken over by Hellions and the fight to take it back OK, that is a wrap.

 

And I know a missed a WHOLE LOT OF SERIES, but I’ll try and update Finis every so often.  But seriously, too many hours on Goodreads, Amazon, hunting for author websites and I’m DONE.  So for those who hate waiting, you now have a place to start.  Anyone wants me to add a series they really liked, just post a comment.  I review them all.

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February 1, 2014

Starting 2014 with a …………. THUD and Some Modest Applause

The year got off to a busy start with a raft of ebook humorous mysteries that I enjoyed and will review separately.  It also started with a bunch of dead tree books that honestly could have been skipped.

OK, I know not every book is good, but seriously, some authors just phone it in these days.  Janet Evanovich is famous for it, cozy writers have formulas that are so predictable, 30 pages in, you’re done.  Now Julie Garwood is doing it.  Yeah, yeah, I know she was hardly a great romantic suspense writer to start with, her early historicals being the best and most polished work she’s done, but seriously, she is plumbing new lows.

Hotshot

In Hotshot, we have a classic Garwood set up of an insanely handsome FBI agent/lawyer/former Olympic gold medalist/champion triathlete (who is likely also an organ donor and loves animals), and woman in jeopardy (who is also a trained chef) – of course it follows they were childhood neighbors and he saved her from drowning when he was a teen and she was a small child.  And naturally they meet at a wedding, Finn MacBain being the older brother of the groom and Peyton Lockhart being the little girl who is now all grown up – and naturally beautiful.  She’s also the woman with a serious problem.  Her dream job of food critic at a well known publication came with more strings than she knew of – namely a boss who is a sexual predator.  But she records him and runs, leaving him thinking he’s erased the recording, not realizing she had a back-up.  So we now have the kind of lame villain of the piece – who is friends with a psycho not averse to killing and married to an equally skanky and amoral woman who is the magazine owner’s daughter.

Enter wealthy Uncle Len who offers Peyton and her two sisters a shot at owning one of his resorts if they can pull off the renovations and increase profit 20% – it’s theirs.  Or they can each have $500,000.  They take the resort on an island off the coast of Florida and Peyton thinks she’s free of the sleazeball former boss.  Soon Finn is back in the picture and the story, which was about a lifelike as cutout dolls manages to go downhill.  Finn is a alpha moron wallowing in angst of ‘I am a loner’ crap.  Peyton is ……….. jeeze, not much.  A quip?  A bit of snark?  Sadly 2 dimensional and the whole magazine thing is just ludicrous.

No real tension, flat characters, only occasionally intelligent, spritely dialogue, and so BORING it was just stupid.  Honestly, there was not one memorable character in the book and the really unbelievable final scene that had me rolling my eyes.  Hotshot was a waste of time, money, and paper.  Only ardent Garwood fans will think this good.  Save your money and buy something else.  A comic book would be an improvement.

My grade is D+ (2.7*) and that’s mostly for a couple of supporting characters.  Skip it.  Purchased used from Amazon for $6 – which is $5.99 more than it was worth.

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takedown twenty

And the current Queen of Phone It In strikes again.  In Takedown Twenty Janet Evanovich does another feather light, plotless piece of fluff.  I honestly would love to give you story highlights, but a giraffe running through the streets of Trenton and being ignored by the area residents is beyond even my wild imagination.  Steph needs to bring in Morelli’s godfather and Uncle, a mob hit man, who jumped bail.  His feared Gramdma Bella keeps giving Steph ‘the eye’ and even Morelli, still recovering from the gunshot wound, won’t help.  He and his cohorts are busy looking for a serial killer of elderly ladies.

The elusive Uncle Lou and the giraffe are the only plot in the book – meringue has more substance.  Plus it’s short.  Maybe 3 hours if you read at a modest pace.  Given the fact book is selling for over $15 new, and it has little to offer, you have a “Give this one a miss” recommendation.  Borrow it from the library – or just sit and read it there, because it won’t take long.  You’ll laugh in a couple of places, just like you would at the Three Stooges, but when it’s over it will disappear in a puff of smoke.

Takedown Twenty gets a D+ (2.7*).  I got the book for free from an online book swap site.  If you MUST read this, buy it super cheap used or borrow it.  Even the mmpb will be over priced at $7.99.  Not worth the money.

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Grendel affair

Lisa Shearin is well known to fantasy readers for her Raine Benares series, but in The Grendel Affair, first in her new SPI series, she enters the wide world of Urban Fantasy.  Combining her fantasy skills with an action/mystery element set in today’s NYC, Ms Shearin has another winner.  Told in the first person by her female lead character, seer Makenna ‘Mac’ Fraser, this fast paced story weaves together a set of characters in a plot that is interesting and a bit different.

Makeena has her degree in journalism, but the only job she can get is with a sleazy tabloid that runs stories about space invaders and leprechauns.  Thing is, as a seer, Makeena does see all manner of paranormal beings for what they really are, not the human illusions they use to mask their true selves, so her stories are actually true – even though no one believes it and she can’t tell them how she knows without running the risk of getting locked up for being nuts.  Many are just ordinary creatures working like anyone else, but some are not.  Some are predators.  Mac gets a job offer for a private security company run by a female dragon lady – that is a real dragon who looks like a very classy lady.  She’s partnered with a former cop, the human Ian Byrne, who shows up just as she’s about to try and capture a nachtgnome at the slightly illegal ‘antiques’ business her sort of friend and snitch Ollie runs.  The night went south when she was almost mugged then attacked by a vampire who knew her name – and chased off by the mysterious would be mugger.

A murder in the office above the shop – a gruesome murder that they should have heard – lands them in jail and then on the trial of what the creatures were after.  The complex plot spins out with action and interest.  A relative short book at just under 300 pages, it’s both entertaining and well written.  Parts of the plot are a bit predictable, but it’s big short-coming the world building.  The reader must buy into the premise that a huge paranormal security business could run in New York City, interfere in police cases, and get very publicly involved in accidents and such, and go undetected by the police and FBI.  Now you either ignore this and enjoy The Grendel Affair, or it will nag at you and you won’t.

The other issue is Mac herself.  Supposedly from down south, she’s a bit ‘girly’ for the role she plays.  Granted, part of the book is about her getting respect for abilities beyond being a seer, a rare gift that few humans have, but part of it is the credibility gap this creates.  The quality of Ms Shearin’s writing mostly covers this and allows the reader to just enjoy the book, but in retrospect, you see the holes.  The dialogue is sharp and witty, the plot fast moving – which helps to hide things – and the ending rather predictable.

The Grendel Affair gets a C+ to B- (3.5*) from with a tentative suggested read.  It’s not top quality, but is a fast, enjoyable read.  We’ll see how she does with characters and world building issues in subsequent books.  At $7.19 + tax, it’s kind of borderline, so buy it used if you can.  Got it free thru a book swap site.  I’ll pass it along.

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Something About Harry

The latest in Dakota Cassidy’s Accidental series of paranormal romance set at Pack Cosmetics.  Harry Ralph Emmerson calls OOPS (Out in the Open Paranormal Support) hotline and gets the anything but supportive, razor tongued vampire, Nina.  The opening scene with the two of them on the phone is a highlight of the whole book.  Harry took an online test that seems to indicate he’s turning into a werewolf, which is very freaky given he thinks he got it from drinking vitamin water.

Only thing is, it wasn’t vitamin water, is was a formulation created by the pack alpha’s sister and research scientist, Mara Flaherty.  Mara has a crush on Harry, a human employee of the pack’s cosmetic business and she made an awkward pass at him at a company party, something that still makes her squirm in embarrassment, so she decides heck with finding a mate, she’ invent a formulation to get herself pregnant (which is without doubt the dumbest plot device ever invented) and puts it in a vitamin water bottle – the one Harry drank right before he started getting furry.  And that is where I kind of lost it.  Mara is a scientist who thinks she needs to drink an elixir to get pregnant?  Did she miss basic biology for mammals??????  OK, it’s fantasy, but still, you don’t get to rewrite something as basic as that for the sake of a plot device.

Anyway, if you can get past that bonehead issue, the book is actually pretty decent, but that’s a BIG issue to get past.  Then you have the tension created by the fact Harry is a widower with a young daughter who needs care as he very unwillingly becomes a werewolf, and the fact that Mara violated pack law by turning a human without permission, something even her pack alpha brother can’t fix.  So the ladies of OOPS step up and try and help – though Nina’s idea of ‘helping’ is a half bubble off plum – and usually pretty funny.

The accidental series is basically lighthearted fun paranormal romance.  The plots often stretch credulity to the break point, but they have good time doing it and they usually have a serious side, as this one does.  If you can check you common sense at the door, they are fun reads, but the plot devices are outrageous, and this one a bit harder because the Mara is a scientist.

Something About Harry gets a C- (2.8*) from me, but gets 4.5* on Amazon.  Obviously romance fans can buy into the premise more easily than I did.  Dakota Cassidy writes well, and has quite a sense of humor.  If you can get past the ‘pregnancy elixir’ thing, this will be a fun read with a surprising twist at the end.  For hardcore fans of Cassidy and paranormal romance this is a good choice, but at $11-$12, I suggest buying it used.  My copy came thru a online book swap site.

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Bitter-Spirits-final-high-res

I’m a big fan of Jenn Bennett’s Arcadia Bell series, so I didn’t hesitate to pre-order this first book in her new Roaring Twenties series.  I have to admit, it is NOT what I expected, but it was still good.   I honestly thought this would a 1920’s Steampunk book, but instead, I got a paranormal romance.

Aida Palmer makes her way in the world with the precarious living of a medium act in speakeasies around the country.  It’s a hard living, but she’s slowly built a reputation and hopes someday she can settle down and eventually have enough private customers to stop traveling and make a home for herself.  For now, a tiny apartment in San Francisco’s Chinatown new where she works is home while she performs at the Gris-Gris speakeasy in Chinatown for SF’s elite.  Winter Magnusson is a bootlegger who is attracted to her.  A widower with a lot of emotional baggage and someone trying to destroy his business.

The book capture’s the atmosphere, setting, and time period well enough.  The bad guy was obvious to me, but then I’m a mystery reader.  The characters are well drawn and like Aida’s spirit and her independence.  She reminded me of two great aunts who actually WERE flappers in their youth.  Well written and supporting characters were good.  BUT …….. this is not anything like her far more complex world of Arcadia Bell.  So, if you’re in the mood for a romance with some woo woo spiritual stuff, this will fit the bill just fine.

Bitter Spirits gets a C+ to B- (3.5*) from me, but 4.5* on Amazon.  At $7.19 is is typical, so try and buy a used copy.  Recommended for paranormal romance fans and those who enjoy Amanda Quick’s Ladies of Lantern Street series.

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Cursed by Destiny

This third book in the Weird Girls series kept up with the strong first two entries – except for dwelling on romantic angst.  Cursed by Destiny finds Celia Weird in the care of Misha, the master vampire she accidentally gave a soul back to.  Alpha werewolf Aric has been ordered to take a werewolf mate for the sake of the species.  Celia is not just a cat, she’s a shifter and has other powers, but she isn’t part of the pack.  Her gifts are a curse placed on her family and each sister is different.  Two of her sisters mated to weres in Aric’s pack, but Aric is like werewolf royalty, and his line must continue – or so the elders insist.  Despite refusing her entry to the pack, the elders have no trouble calling on her and her powers to help put down a demon uprising.

There is a huge problem, it seems someone is trying to kill Celia – blowing up Misha’s car, having the ‘Cathloic school girl’s’ her nickname for a group of female vamps that dislike her, and others want her dead.  And there’s this collective outbreak of demons coming after her like she’s a huge threat to them.  It makes no sense …………. until the very end of the book, which sends the plot down a whole new path.

Cursed by Destiny gets a B- (3.8*) rating from me and recommended reading for fans of the series and the series is suggested for fans of paranormal, like the Arcadia Bell series and the Persephone Alcmedi series.  If it had been more angst free with the whole forbidden love thing it might have scored higher, but that’s one part that’s wearing on my nerves.  I bought Cursed by Destiny from an online book seller for $7.19 and that’s slightly more than it’s worth, but the series is an overall good read.

July 23, 2013

Hot! Hot! HOT! Summer Reading Reviews

OK, I confess, summer can get just too damn hot for me.  Yeah, yeah, I know, we’ve been spoiled here in the Northeast with several pretty mild summers in a row and summers are SUPPOSED to be hot.  Still, walking out the door is like getting hit in the face with a steaming hot towel.  ICK!  You don’t take your clothes off, you peel the sodden mess from your body and shower twice a day.  Have I been in hotter places?  Well, many years ago I was in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt in July and it was about 130F.  The wavy air currents that you see coming from hot pavements extended above the heads of the visitors and the photos I took all had this odd pink hue to them, like I’d slapped a colored filter on the lens.  Abu Simbal was 123F.  And Scottsdale, AZ was 117F – so yeah, I’ve been in MUCH hotter places.  But hot, muggy, Northeast summers were meant for the beach or the lake, not grocery shopping at mid-day.

So what can one do but read?  Not that I ever need much of an excuse.  And I’m falling behind in getting books read for swaps.  I wrote 3 book reviews for PBS (paperbackSwap) book blog so I can’t review them here, but I’ll give you a few sentences and my rating.

laced-with-poison

Book 2 of the Sweet Nothings series is a well written bust because you know the who and why by page 50.  If you don’t, shame on you and turn in your Nancy Drew badge at the door.

My rating is C- (2.6*) and a suggestion you give this dull effort a pass.  You’ll miss nothing.  I spent $7.19 for this from Amazon and it was a waste of time and money.

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InkedDestiny

A year, I waited damn near a year and was ready to strangle Jory Strong half way through this sex fest masquerading as urban fantasy erotica.  Honestly, this is a 16 year boy’s wet dream, with pieces of an actually good story threaded thru it.  Not as well done as Inked Magic, the first book and overall, disappointing in its story quality.  I found myself skipping pages so I could keep up with the plot, which wandered badly.  The sex would put the book in the XX range.

My rating for Inked Destiny is C (3*) and I’m being kind.  Will appeal to erotica lovers, but UF fans are doomed to be disappointed.  Only smut lovers need to consider a buy, everyone else wait for a cheap or free copy.  I can’t believe I wasted nearly $11 on this through Amazon.

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werewolf in alaska

Did someone forget to tell me July was Mediocre Book Month?  Seriously, another paranormal romance from a usually reliable author that’s BLAH!  Good thing this book cost me less than $5 on BAM or I’d be ticked.

My rating for Werewolf in Alaska is C (3*) and again, that’s being kind.  Get it free or used.

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biting Oz

I like the Biting Love series by Mary Hughes and her books in general.  Yeah, they’re another vampire romance series, but they’re done with a flair and fun to read.  Published by Samhain in both print and ebook, I bought Biting Oz from Amazon to read and use as part of a prize basket I offered in a big swap.  It was on my wish list anyway, so the fact the prize winner wanted it too gave me the excuse to buy it.  At $12 with tax, it was a good thing I enjoyed it, but it’s still over priced.

For a small town Miers Corners has a lot of strange events happening lately.  But on the upside, someone is spending a LOT of money to renovate places like the old theater where they’re staging a rewrite of Wizard of Oz, called Oz, Wonderful Oz, a musical starring a quite talented young woman who seems a bit lonely to ‘Junior’ Stieg, a member of the orchestra and worker in her father’s sausage store.  Junior and her pal Nixie (Biting Nixie, one of the few books in the series that kind of annoyed me with all the punk cant) and Nixie’s handsome lawyer husband Julien.

Junior is running late to the dress rehearsal, hauling multiple instruments and a music stand when she – literally – runs into overexcited Munchkins blocking the aisle to the pit.  Suddenly, tall, dark and really, really big saves her and the Munchkins from disaster.  Glynn is a Welsh vampire who was hired to protect the young star, Mishela, by the show’s financial backer and town’s fairy godfather, the enigmatic Mr Elias.  But when Rocky, Junior, Mishela see something strange attack, Gylnn’s phone all to Mr Elias seems to convince her ever thing is normal.  Unfortunately, it did NOT convince Junior.  And Junior’s attraction to Gylnn not withstanding, what the hell is going on?

It’s only when Junior’s parents invade her bedroom after hearing obvious sounds of an amorous adventure that has Junior realize Gylnn really isn’t human.  Not when he hid in the one place they’d never look – on the ceiling!  Enter a jealous ex-girlfriend, problems with the cheeseshop owners next door, and things get really out of control.

Biting Oz has more substance than the usual paranormal fluff romance, but the nosy parents of an adult woman (especially the bedroom invasion which did nothing but make me dislike her parents) and the way her mother speaks to Junior really annoyed me.  Frankly, Junior should have stood her ground more.  That was the only part that really annoyed me.

Overall, I give Biting Oz C+ to B- (3.5*), better than average, but not by much.  For series fans, buy the ebook.  For print readers, wait for a used copy.

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fangs-for-nothing

Waking up handcuffed to an uptight female French vampire, Lizette, who refuses to believe Johnny Malone is really alive and his supposed death just a way to dump a persistent girlfriend, is no way to spend the morning after one of his best friend’s wedding to a dominatrix – who is also out cold in the same room.  But even worse, he’s staring at the naked butt of his bandmate, ladies man Drake, in some kind of a sex swing contraption inches from his face also and the very human caterer, Josie – wearing nothing but the frilly shirt that Drake had on when dressed as the best man in a pirate costume.  The really bad part, no one could remember the night before.   Must have been a hell of night if Drake ended up wearing nothing but chaps, leaving a lot more than his ass hanging out.

On top of all that, Saxon, the groom, is missing and there’s an alligator in the hallway.  Oh, the handcuffs?  Titanium.  Johnny and Lizette are stuck together – and her blouse is covered with blood down the back.  Now Johnny and Lizette need to get free of each other, and Drake and Josie have to figure out what the hell happened to everyone’s things – including Drake’s pants.

Erin McCarthy and Kathy Love created a fast, fun read.  Short on substance, but entertaining enough to finish it and not feel cheated.  No, it wasn’t captivating, just a good beach read.  Undemanding and amusing.  While the ending kind of loses steam, the bulk of the book is better than average for fluff.

Fangs for Nothing came to me via a PBS bookswap and I’d give it C+ to B- (3.5*) and a suggested summer read if you can find it cheap in a used book store because the ebook is no bargain.

October 16, 2012

Some New Releases

The past two months have seen the usually rash of fall releases, and it’s no exception this year.  My TBR pile grew exponentially again.  Trying to keep up is a challenge.   So here are some recent releases and a few from the summer I’m just catching up with.

First up is new author Owen Laukkanen with his first book, a thriller, The Professionals, about college kids with no job prospects who somehow find themselves in the easy business of kidnapping wealthy upper management types, mostly banking and investment types, and holding them for reasonable ransoms, and letting them go the next day.  A simple business plan.  Don’t get greedy, ask for an amount that the wife would have available, don’t call the cops.  But finally one victim DOES call the cops and the cops call the Minnesota BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension made famous by John Sanford’s Lucas Davenport books) – the state criminal investigation unit.

Overworked and world-weary detective Kirk Stevens catches the unwanted call about a kidnapping in Minnesota.  Talk about a rare occurrence.  Curious, Stevens goes to investigate. As Stevens starts finding bits and pieces, our enterprising gang, lead by Pender and girlfriend Marie, tough guy Sawyer, and ‘Mouse’, the computer hacker, have moved on to another city.   The next target leaves town with his family for vacation the day they plan to snatch him.  So now they have leave town or quickly change targets.  They find a back-up and snatch him – and things start to go terribly wrong.

At the same time, Stevens gets permission to get the FBI involved with his case and Agent Windermere start working together. Donald Beneteau isn’t frightened about being snatched, he’s mad.  He keeps telling them “You don’t know who you’re messing with.”  The phone call to the wife for the ransom demand doesn’t go as scripted, just “You know what to do.”  The gang is nervous and Mouse digs deeper, the kind of digging he should have done before the snatch.  Donald isn’t the big problem, his wife Patricia is.  It’s a worst case thing, they just grabbed a guy with mob ties.  Worse he learned one of their names – and foolishly taunts them with by asking, “Who’s Pender?”  That’s when Sawyer shoots him in the head on street in front of his house.

Now they’re running from the police, the Feds, and the mob – and from themselves for suddenly being part of a murder.  Shocked by what happened, and the magnitude of what they’ve done, Maria takes off for home – Seattle while the 3 guys head for Florida.  The mob is hot on their tail, so are Stevens and Windermere.

The story switches point of view between characters – the cops, the mob, and our gang.  The characters are well drawn, especially the 4 young gang members.  The author does a decent job of watching them go from treating kidnapping as a virtual ‘victim-less’ crime to to the realization they are serious criminals and now killers.  When Mouse gets shot by mob guys there for bayback, he lives, but the mob guys don’t and Pender has to deal with the fact he remorselessly killed a man.  The change is realistic, but not their ease with weapons, but I found that credibility factor not too hard to hurdle.

It’s a long book at over 400 pages in paperback, but it held together. The Professionals is a good first novel and apparently the start of a series featuring BCA Agent Stevens and FBI Agent Windermere.  It get a B- (3.8*) from and a suggested read for thriller readers.  I got the book thru the Amazon 4-for-3 promotion for about $8 ($9.99 list) and it was worth that as entertainment.  The second book, Criminal Enterprise, is due out in hardcover in early 2013.

Daryanda Jones hit the paranormal market with a real breakthrough book First Grave on the Right, first in the Charlie Davidson series.  She has now turned the same bright, sassy, irreverent style to the lucrative young adult market with Death and the Girl Next Door.   Lorelei MacALister was left an orphan when her parents were killed – though in truth, she just remembers their ……. disappearing.  Raised in a small New Mexico town she and BFF’s Brooklyn, an irreverent and loyal friend since they fought it out at 6 years of age, and Glitch, the boy who’s kind of skinny and funny and tight with both of them.  Inseparable friends who keep Lori’s secret – she can see things when she touches people.

As if being sophomores in high school isn’t bad enough, Lori finds herself the centerpiece of a battle between loner Cameron Lusk and a supposedly ‘new kid’ Jared Kovach.  Neither is what they seem to be – but then neither is Lori.  Luckily, her two quirky friends and loving grandparents seem OK with what she is.  When the high school principal seems to recognize Jared, and Lori quickly realizes he’s made his name up, and she starts having lots of questions.  She has a lot more when Jared seemingly does the impossible and saves her from dying when she’s hit by a truck.  Literally.  And why isn’t she hurt far worse than she is?  And where did Jared disappear to?  And why does Josh hate him and warn her away from him?  And what’s going on with the school principal?

A quick read, and suitable for teens, as young adult books should be, yet still entertaining enough for adults.  It’s a lighter version of  characters that are in many ways similar to those in her Charley Davidson series.  The same humor is here too and the kids seem only slightly too mature for sophomores.  The plot doesn’t move a smoothly as it should, digressing into various side stories, and tension levels are not all that high.  The ‘Big Reveal’ about Lori is a bit flat and more than a little confusing in its mythology/history.  Without spoilers, I can’t give the details, but I can’t say where this is going from here.

Overall, it was average at the end with some excellent moments in spots.  I’d give Death and the Girl Next Door a C+ to B- (3.5*) and say for $9.99 on the 4-for-3 promotion, it’s a decent buy with 3 other books, especially if you have a young adult reader in the family.  Got my copy thru the Amazon promotion for about $8.

Christie Craig writes romantic mysteries that are on the frothy side.  Her latest series centers on three PI’s – cops wrongly convicted of murder who were exonerated after 18 months in prison.  Blame it on Texas is about Tyler Lopez.  Tyler Lopez is convinced he’ll never find happiness like his partner did, but he has god a big family that loves him.  Unfortunately, the command performance at his niece’s birthday party ended up with him in a clown costume.  And punching her stepfather who hit his sister.

Zoe Adams is a grade school teacher on a one month leave of absence while she investigates the strange story of a supposedly kidnapped and murdered girl, granddaughter of a billionaire, in a house she has vague memories of.  His ordinary and loving parents claimed she was born in Alabama, yet her birth certificate was from Texas, this small town she faintly recalls.  She had years of therapy convincing her the ‘memories’ she had as a child were all false.  By the time she graduated college, her dad had died and then her mom.  It was going thru their belongings that lead her to the birth certificate.  Working as a waitress in a diner helps pay the rent while she tries to find the truth.  Her boss suggests she go see the PI’s that come in to eat lunch.

Now Zoe is no wimp, but she’s getting threatening phone calls and decides maybe talking to the PI’s isn’t a bad idea.  She goes to the office – but it seems empty.  The sign says ring the bell.  Looking, for the bell, she sees a file on the Bradford’s when her oversize purse knocks the file on the floor.  Crawling on the floor to pick up the papers, she suddenly sees the one thing she has an irrational phobia of – a clown.

It’s not everyday a beautiful redhead is crawling around the floor of the office, and Trey assumes this is the new receptionist, Ellen.  Except for the complete panic when she sees him – and the certainty he knows her from ….. somewhere.  But she’s out of there and running before he can do anything and all he gets is the fact her plate is from Alabama.  Finally, he remembers where he saw her before – and next day heads there for breakfast – one that he ends up wearing when he startles Zoe while holding a tray full of food.

Finally Trey and Zoe talk, and he’s not exactly believing her theory.  But he becomes a believer when someone starts shooting at her in her apartment.  No question, someone wants her GONE.  Taking her to the agency ‘safe house’ – well he invented that because he had to say something to get her out of there, he takes her back to the agency where the upstairs apartment he was planning to move into.  He more of a believer because of the yearbook photo in one of partner’s father’s HS class, but when the man walks in, he takes one look at Zoe and says she’s the image of her real mother.

But why try and kill Zoe?  A simple DNA test would prove whether she was the kidnapped granddaughter.  The story twists and turns and Trey and Zoe get romantically involved, but he believes he’s a bad bet for marriage.   But there’s another story, why did two decent, ordinary, loving people kidnap a child and raise her to believe she was theirs?

That answer is tied up a bit conveniently in a letter from her dead mother, along with the suicide of one of the men involved.  There is an HEA and a not very happy family reunion, one that tells Zoe that maybe what happened to her was in fact, good luck.  Confusing things is a second story line of policeman and part time PI agency agent Rick and the new agency receptionist Ellen.  With two romances running, the old kidnapping, current attempts to frighten or hurt Zoe, and the the whole spousal abuse element with Trey’s sister, it was kind of on overload

Ms Craig draws her characters well, even if they are a bit unoriginal, but the ‘humorous meeting’ thing is forced here.  I general, Zoe is grounded and feisty and I liked her.  Trey was a bit too angsty.  Give him fangs and he could have been a vampire.  It was fluff, but a decent read.  Overall I give Blame It on Texas a C+ (3.7*) though Amazon readers rate it much higher.  On the 4-for-3 rate of $6.00 it’s an OK read, but not not recommended unless you’re a fan of Craig.

Terry Spear favors writing stand alone shifter novels and Savage Hunger is no exception.  Set mostly in the Amazon where Jaguar shifter Conner Anderson and his sister Maya are camping.  She wants him to find a mate, instead he finds Captain Kathleen McKnight a prisoner of men that work for the local drug lord, Carlos Gonzolas.  Things go wrong.  She’s badly injured and vaguely recalls being rescued by a jaguar and a man named Connor.   Eventually, what’s left of her team rescues her, and she spends a long time in military hospitals and then gets discharged from the only life she’s known, the military and her fiance breaks up with her.

She goes back to the jungle in hopes of finding the man who saved her only to be save again – by a pair of jaguars.   After what had happened to her on her first trip, Kat did a lot of reading on jaguars and she finally decides this male and female pair must have been raised as cubs by her mystery rescuer.  And sure enough, Connor shows up.

Kat’s pheromones are driving Connor crazy.  But she’s human, not a suitable mate for him.  Maya thinks differently and scratches Kat with her claws, then licks the wounds, hoping the virus transfers to her and she becomes a jaguar shifter too – and a mate for Connor.  She knows he’ll be furious at what she’s done, but he needs a mate.

The local drug lord has not forgotten what happened the year before when all his men were killed and when he hears that the woman is back in the jungle, he comes hunting her.  There’s a mysterious ‘jaguar god’ that gets sighted now and then that may, or may not have something to do with Connor and Maya’s parents, but that is one mystery left unsolved.

We have our HEA and then Kat’s ex-fiance shows up to ‘patch things up’.  This, after he used her as bait to lure out the drug lord.  Men are idiots.  You can imagine the reaction.

Savage Hunger was a decent paranormal romance, but I did prefer her A SEAL in Wolf’s Clothing.  Not her best effort, but with some good parts.  C+ (3.5*) and a suggestion to buy used or get it through book swapping.  I paid $5.99 on the Amazon 4-for-3 promotion.

Last review is one of the better action thriller reads of the year, Black List by Brad Thor book 11 in his Scot Havarth series.  Thor has a bad habit of using his characters to preach his own ideas about national security and terrorism, but here he went back to basics and wrote a traditional action thriller that was scary in that I can see this happening.  In an odd quirk of fate, I read this book just before Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense, spoke about ‘Cyber Pearl Harbor’.  On the cover page –

“All of the technology contained in this novel is based upon systems currently being deployed, or in the final stages of development, by the United States government and its partners.”

Caroline Romero once saved the life of an enigmatic computer genius nicknamed “The Troll”.  Now she stumbled onto something so black and so unbelievable, she reaches out to the one person who would never be linked to the conspiracy.  But she’s being followed and knows they’ll kill her.  She has to get this to someone who can get to the Troll in her place.  Goes the one place the men won’t follow – Victoria Secrets.  Then she runs.  And dies.

Scot Havarth meets with Riley Turner in an apartment in Europe.  He no more than arrives when they get attacked.  Riley is killed and he uses his SEAL training to make use of what weapons he has to take down the killers.  Killers his own government sent.  He runs, using cover passports and still he’s tracked.  Unable to reach any of the other operators or their boss, he manages to get back to the US to try and find out why he and the other operators have become targets.

Meanwhile, back in the US, the Troll lands in Texas at a private ranch owned by someone who owes him more than a few favors.  He rarely sets foot in the US, but for the woman who saved his life and never asked for anything from him, he came.  A dwarf with two huge dogs, he keeps the lowest profile someone can.  But when he makes the meet at a parking garage, it’s not Caroline running to his SUV – but she knew all about how they met and he saves her – and the memory stick Caroline mailed her.

In Northern Virginia, Reed Carlton, founder of the Carlton Group for whom Havarth works, as do many other skilled spec ops  people is awakened in the middle of the night by a fire.  A fire that’s engulfing his whole house and all the electronic safety measures, including the safe room, into a prison.  But it’s a prison with a secret escape hatch and the shrewd old man makes use of it and very quickly realizes that everything electronic can’t be trusted.  But he was a spy back before all the electronics existed, so he uses his old tradecraft to evade detection.  Then he enlists his own mentor for help.

The three men manage to link up to get the man who put them on the Black List – a list of ‘Enemies of the State’.

Thor takes the three separate story lines and weaves them together through a private security company turned rogue by their CEO – Craig Middleton.  Devoid of his usual editorialism for most of the book, Black List is a first rate thriller and one of the best he’s done.  I had trouble putting it down and knocked it off in a few hours.  Thor’s writing isn’t in the same class as Daniel Silva’s more elegant prose, but for this story, his straight-forward, spare style suits.

Black List gets a solid B+ (4.3*) and a recommended read for action thriller lovers.  It’s selling for $16+ on Amazon, but I got my copy through a book swap site.  Either buy used or get it from the library.  Or if you can, wait for the paperback, but do read it.

April 15, 2012

Mixed Genres & Mixed Reviews (Mixed Drinks Optional)

March over and so is the whole ‘March Madness thing.  It’s a lot more reliable than crocus as a sign of Spring. Clocks have been pushed ahead and we have daylight at 7PM again.  Allergies aside, I like spring.  Blossoms start appearing on shrubs and trees, daffodils, hyacinths, and forsythia bloom and my taxes get done by my accountant.  Yippee.  Spring ain’t for sissies.

Neither is reading voraciously as I do.  Thank heavens for Amazon and its sales. The nice thing about their 4-for-3 promo is that I can try new series and new authors and not feel bad when I get a book I don’t like.  Hey, not everyone likes everything.  Most reviews on Amazon showed readers loved An Appetite for Murder by Lucy Burdette, I didn’t.  I sent a review to PBS for their book blog but it likely won’t show up there for months.  I basically didn’t like the lead character.  Her personality annoyed me.  I’m the same way about Wendy Roberts’ Ghostdusters mysteries, I just don’t like them.  They aren’t badly written or anything, just ……. well, annoying to me.  Despite that, I had waited patiently to get a copy of the first book she wrote back in 2005 for Red Dress Inc, Dating Can Be Deadly, through PBS.  Well it finally made it thru the US postal system and I read it this week  I’ll start my reviews there.

  • Title:  Dating Can Be Deadly
  • Author: Wendy Roberts
  • Type:  Contemporary paranormal mystery
  • Genre: Chick-lit mystery
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating:  PG – 13
  • Length and price:  Novel – 80,000+ words – price varies
  • Where Available:  Available from used book sellers, including Amazon, Alibris, Half.com
  • FTC Disclosure: rec’d through through an online book swap site

As I noted above, I can’t get into Wendy Roberts’ Ghostduster mystery series, but I wanted to read Dating Can Be Deadly, so I had it wish listed on PBS for the past year and finally got a copy.  Light, amusing, entertaining and far more enjoyable for than her Sadie Novak Ghostdusters books.  Worth a read if you can find a copy. (more…)

February 12, 2012

Recent Reads – A Mixed Bag of Brief Reviews

I’ve been hauling in deliveries from Amazon almost daily – like a true book addict looking for fix.  I have no defense, some authors are ‘must have’ even at hard cover prices, and many trade paperbacks would take forever to get through a book swapping site, then there’s the lure of the 4-for-3 promotion that extends to unreleased titles on pre-order.  What can I say, I’m just weak.

For the first time in awhile, I read some erotic romance.  With so many of the ebook authors moving from small press publishers to major print houses, I ended up trying 3 new to me authors at Siren.  Keep in mind, the current popularity of m/m, f/f, and BDSM books cuts way back on what I might read.  Not opposed to them and many good ones have m/m or BDSM elements, they just don’t have a lot of interest for me.  With what I did buy, the results were not encouraging.  In print, yet another anthology came up, meh!, another a cut average thanks to good wring – and there were two winners – Cipher by Moira Rogers and Jory Strong’s Inked Magic!  YEAH!!!!!   I had other winners too –  in the mystery category Boca Daze by Steven M. Forman, in the historical cozy category The Cocoa Conspiracy by Andrea Penrose, and in the noir Urban Fantasy category Aloha from Hell by Richard Kadrey.

First up are the Erotic Romance ebooks and print books:

  • Title:  Cowboy Commandos Seduce Their Woman (Wyoming Warriors 3)
  • Author: Paige Cameron
  • Type:  Contemporary erotic romance
  • Genre: ménage
  • My Grade: C (3.0*)
  • Rating:  NC-17
  • Length and price:  Short/ Category Novel – under 60,000+ $5.99
  • Where Available:  Available online at Siren
  • FTC Disclosure: purchased through an online publisher bookstore

I know, the title should have been a dead give away.  I bought it anyway.  Actually, it was the pick of the litter, even though the shopworn plot has one used so many times, by so many authors, it embodied trite.  Still, the characters had some personality and  for a short novel, it managed a beginning,  middle, and end.  The sex was OK, but not really pulse racing. (more…)

February 14, 2011

Three New Release Paranormals

Sorry for disappearing for awhile, but I had a project in trouble.  Hate when real life interferes with my virtual one!!!!!!!  We have really good and indifferent here, so read on.

  • Title: Halfway Hexed (Southern Witch, Bk 3)
  • Author:  Kimberly Frost
  • Type:  Paranormal/Paranormal Romance
  • Genre:  Star-crossed lovers and a magical takeover attempt
  • Sub-genre:  Tammy Jo and Bryn Lyon find out how far they’ll go for each other and Duvall, TX
  • My Grade: B (4*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel – about 90,000 words trade paperback for $10.00-11.00 on sale; list $14.00
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore (more…)

January 10, 2011

eBooks: Three Recent Releases from Samhain

Well, I caught up on some ebook purchases from December and one new release this week in a series I really like, the Southern Arcana series by Moira Rogers, and really good and rather hot paranormal series that’s been a little uneven, but hit well on this entry.

  • Title: Deadlock (Southern Arcana Book #3)
  • Author:  Moira Rogers
  • Type:  Paranormal – shifters, witchcraft; Power struggles, family betrayal, and a second chance at love
  • Genre:  Werewolf society, internal political strife, involves the wrong person
  • Sub-genre:  An alpha werewolf is pushed to where he”ll risk all for change and progress
  • My Grade: B- (3.6*)
  • Rating:  PG-13 to NC-17
  • Length and price:  Full novel 90,000 words for $5.50 for ebook
  • Where Available:  Available online on the Samhain site
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore (more…)

February 19, 2010

Book Review – Cat’s Cradle by Bianca D’Arc+

  • Title: Cat’s Cradle
  • Author: Bianca d’Arc
  • Type:  Paranormal romance
  • Genre:  Shifter and woman in jeopardy
  • Sub-genre:  new series book 1
  • My Grade: C+ (3.5*)
  • Rating: NC-17 to X
  • Length and price: Full Novel – about 80,000 words;  ebook $5.50
  • Where Available: Publisher’s website
  • FTC Disclosure: Purchased ebook from publisher site

Set in the same ‘world’ as her Brotherhood of the Blood and Tales of the Were series, Bianca d’Arc’ s Cat’s Cradle starts another tangential series that revolves around magic users, shifters, and other supernaturals, as well as the watchers of the Altor Custodis, and the resurgence of the Venificus.   Venificus is the group who seek to return Elspeth from the Fourth Realm where she was banished centuries before and control the world. (more…)

November 1, 2009

Book Reviews: Three Short Paranormal/Futuristic Erotic Romance Reviews

After a bit of a drought for me on the new book offerings at various erotic romance publisher sites, I did find three that looked interesting enough to give a whirl.  First let me say that the price of these three novellas is way too high for what you get.  This is not a new complaint of mine, but the escalating cost of ebooks, especially novellas, is getting out of hand.  Proportionally speaking, short stories and novellas are way overpriced and getting worse. It’s also one of the main reasons I’m buying fewer erotic romance ebooks.  Too many disappointments with expensive, poorly developed and executed novellas.  Is it any wonder that there’s a market for used print books?  The swapping of erotic romances is often the only economically viable solution.  So erotic romance publishers – WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE.  You’re pricing yourselves out of the market.

  • Title: Unleashed Temptation
  • Author: Savannah Stuart
  • Type: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy erotic romance
  • Genre: werewolf meets mate
  • Sub-genre: over-sexed werewolf lover and nutso immortal
  • My Grade: C- (2.7*)
  • Rating: NC-17
  • Length: 39,000 words for $4.42 (sale price, will be $5.20)
  • Where Available: as an ebook at Ellora’s Cave (discounted at this time; link for convenience only)
  • FTC Disclosure: ebook purchased on the publishers website

OK, I admit it.  I’m a sucker for shape-shifter stories.  Big cats, dragons, wolves – I like the idea of blending certain animal traits with human ones.  It just appeals to me.  The world building often sucks.  The world building here was slim, but given the length of the story, it was about all you could expect. (more…)

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