Tour’s Books Blog

August 25, 2014

Pot Luck – Book Reviews and One Rant – New & Old Various Genre Books

Yeah, I don’t always read new releases.  I read older books and books that have been sitting on Mt TBR too long, or just something to break the steady diet of mystery, thrillers, UF, fantasy, and paranormals.  So this is a little bit of everything.


Yup, we have a good old fashioned, humorous bodice ripper here.  Published 2012 and still wish listed on PBS, this Regency style romance feature’s a reprobate Lord, his mother, and a weekly rag that basically is a long gossip column and HE’S the star attraction! Determined to put a stop to being the star of the Ton’s gossips, Ben marches off to confront the owner of the dreadful rag.  He will make him a very generous offer and then he can shut the thing down and have peace.

Simple plans rarely work.  The publisher was none other than an old flame he’d abandoned, Evangeline Ramsey.  Still proud and independent, she makes no apology for how she makes a living as her charming father, a risk all gambler, left her with his debts, this little printing operation, and his deteriorating mind.

Unable to convince Eve to see she should sell to him, Ben manages to find her father on one of his more lucid days.  He gets his sale agreement and thinks he’s done.   But come the following Tuesday, the London List publishes it’s final issues and lays out EXACTLY why and who is responsible.  And he has a mass of people protesting in front of his town house and his mother and staff mad at him.  Yeah, she was THAT clever.

What follows is the odd delayed courtship of two people from very different social and economic backgrounds battling it out over continuing the damn London List.  Both Ben and Evangeline are well done, mature adults and the books has a bit more substance than most Regency romances.  It was fun, but lack the heat and sparkling wit of a top notch romance.  Lord Gray’s List gets a C+ (3.5*) from me.  For Regency fans sick of the whole ballroom thing, a nice change of pace.  Get it used.  Avoid the ebook.  It’s WAY overpriced by the publisher.  Hardly a must read, but a good beach read or lake weekend diversion.  Got the book thru a book swapping site.  Will pass it on the same way.


Muscle for Hire

Muscle for Hire is a classic Samhain romantic suspense novel heavy on the romance and much better than average on the suspense/mystery side.  A short, interesting read with enough mystery to intrigue the reader and better than average characters.  Lexxie Couper is a well known writer of romantica (AKA smut) from Australia.  She was at it long before E.L. James, and at least her older stuff, like this, is readable.  Simply sexy romance, not some nonsense that just carries the sex scenes.

Aslin Rhodes is ex-SAS and for 16 was head bodyguard for Nick Blackthorne, a famous rock and roll star now in semi retirement.  Nick recommended him to act as bodyguard/teacher/tech help for Chris Huntley, a rock who is turning to action films.  He finds a tall girl in black leather trying to get into Huntley’s trailer and instead of easily taking her down, he lands on his butt.  Turns out, Chris’s sister Rowen is no lightweight, she’s a world class martial arts champion.

What follows is a better than usual, if still shallow as a saucer, bit of romantic suspense complete with bombs and shots fired.  Turns out though, Aslin is protecting the wrong person and works it out just in time.

Muscle for Hire gets a C+ to B- (3.5*) for a good, mindless entertaining read, best read on vacations, during flights, or when sick of all the current crap and best bought used, as an ebook, or gotten free thru the library or book swap site like I did.


WellRead_2 (1)

First in a new a cozy series that offered EXACTLY what I wanted, Well Read, Then Dead went to the front of the line for reading when my new releases hit.  My favorite location of SW Florida barrier island and a bookstore with food.  My idea of heaven on earth.  Too bad it didn’t work out.  Sassy Cabot and Bridget Mayfield are best friends who found themselves suddenly without jobs or husbands, so they decided to do something they always wanted to, open a book store that also served as a kind of tea room, casual dining spot.  They chose Ft Myers Beach Florida, not exactly the swinging spot for singles in Fl, except maybe those over 50.  The story opens with the book club meeting where most of the main characters make their appearance.  The minister’s wife, an older shop owner, two elderly cousins descended from old Florida families, a faintly terrified newcomer, and Sassy and Bridget.  (Too bad they never got to Bill Crider’s books, a wonderful and underrated mystery author.)

The characters were cozy stock people.  They could be the wiccans in the Magical Bake Shop series by Bailey Cates, or the readers in the Library series by Jenn McKinley.  (By the way, both are far better written and plotted.)  Sassy has a cop boyfriend, like half the other cozy shop owners, who also seem to attract cops.  She also suffers from ‘Shop Owner Sam Spade Delusion’ – a common mental disorder that cause small business owners to believe they are better qualified and informed about a murder than the cops – AND should investigate.   Bridget’s role is ‘The Voice of Reason That Shall be Ignored’.

The victim was not a surprise nor was the killer.  Why was even evident.  About the only parts I liked were the discussions of the early settlers of the area, though shallow, at least it showed some aspects of Florida’s history that are often overlooked.  The writing itself was adequate for a cozy, but if you’ve read Randy Wayne White’s Captiva and Sanibel Flats, or many of his other books, you quickly realize how weakly the whole location and it’s history is portrayed.

One of those ‘WTF’ moments was when Sassy gets up and looks out her 5th story window northward and sees Sanibel, North Captiva, Pine island, and Cayo Costa.  One small problem – other than the curvature of the Earth and at 5 stories the human eye can only see about EIGHT MILES.  There is the whacking big BRIDGE – that despite being the closest thing  to her other than the lovely view of Punta Rassa area of Ft Myers, is invisible!!!!!!!!  (I almost threw the book across the room.)  FMB has many great views, just not the one described.  By the way, the east end of Sanibel where the lighthouse is?  Yeah, that would almost due west of the north end of FMB so you’d be looking out at the Gulf,  and if you were mid-island, you’d see no islands looking north, just the Estero Bay mangrove preservation area, because FMB tilts to the east as you travel south along the long, narrow island.  Another sad case of directional impairment.

Issues with the setting aside (all authors take liberties), Well Read, Then Dead was DOA for me.  The first of the series and likely the last I will buy.  I acknowledge I am in the minority.  Cozy mysteries are like Harlequin romances, not meant to be taken seriously, not well researched, and certainly lacking in logic on the part of the lead characters, but the damn things are getting on my last nerve. Seriously, what sane person chases a man they suspect is a killer into a remote location ALONE – unless you’re well armed and know what you’re doing and your name is James Bond or John Rain or Jack Reacher?  (I have concluded female shopkeepers have a heretofore unidentified suicide gene.)   Well Read, Then Dead gets a D+ to a C- (2.8*) and a suggestion to give it a miss.  It’s a ‘me too’  mystery that lacks originality and has none of those extra redeeming characteristics that you need to pull a cozy onto the ‘good reading’ list.  Purchased from Amazon and I’m unlikely to buy more by of this series.  (I know you’re shocked)


cursed moon

Book 2 of Prospero’s War by Jayne Wells, Cursed Moon, has some good stuff and some bad stuff.  The plot part was actually good, stolen love potions that are really rape inducing drugs are stolen from the Hierophant, and half male, half female leader of the cult Kate left years ago.  She nearly 10 years ‘sober’ that is no longer cooking (the term used to produce potions) or using magic.  But she’s ridden with guilt because she ‘cooked’ to cure Volos and her brother were they had been infected in Dirty Magic.  Volos is supposedly legit now and magic free, but she knows he’s just better at hiding.

Kate and her partner Morales, another former magic user, having a tough time with brutal rapes happening, a Blue Moon on the way, and Kate’s evil Uncle Abe trying to call her from prison.  Refusing his call didn’t stop him, word comes down from on high that she’s to go see what he wants.  Uncle Abe is still Uncle Abe.  Pulling strings and getting people to dance.

The story of the potions, theft, rise of new leader who feeds off watching the violence he starts happen, risk of huge the violence sex crimes escalating during the Blue Moon when magic’s effects are amplified, has all the cops on edge, especially Magical Crimes Unit.

Those are the good things.  The bad parts are the long segues into Kate’s private life where she’s raising her brother and wallowing in guilt over not admitting in her AA meeting she ‘cooked’.  Meetings she avoided for weeks since saving her brother.  As everyone knows by now, I have VERY limited patience with angst.  Her sanctimonious friend Pen got on my nerves too.

The other issue is the ‘rape’ drug.  I felt this was treated with less seriousness than it deserved and frankly, any book that uses rape drugs as a major plot element is doomed for me.  And be warned, there are some ugly scenes in this book, thankfully brief.  There was an almost gratuitous sense of ‘I want to SHOCK you!’ by the author – instead she made me wonder if that was the most interesting plot twist she could think of.  Either way, all she got was, “Eeewwwwwww.”  And this from a reader of smut, which is NOT RAPE.

Cursed Moon is not a bad book.  The pacing is good, as are the characters, but the whole guilt wallowing is a PIA and the rape scenes – gag – but not as bad as some I’ve read and not a big enough part of the whole to wreck things, just leave a bad taste.  It really was all the guilt crap that pushed me over the edge.  At the end, Kate finally gets up in an AA meeting and says what needs to be said – and she should have realized a whole lot sooner.  If the choice is between magic and death, take magic.  Hopefully, she can move on to a healthy balance without guilt in the next book.  If not, I’m done guilt thing.

Cursed Moon was an OK read, and if you liked Dirty Magic, it was a good second book.  But author’s sometimes take stories places I don’t care to go.  That’s OK, there are other books and other authors.  While Cursed Moon was in some ways better and some ways worse than Dirty Magic, it still gets just a C- (3.2*) from me.  It would have done better had the author come up a more interesting ‘hook’ than rape, the whole guilt crap part been reduced or minimized.  As it was, it kept an annoying, constant, background noise going that actually detracted, rather than added to the plot or the character and the rape part was just ICK factor.  Purchased from Amazon.


NOTE:  Due to Amazon’s ongoing battle with Hattchet, owner of many imprints, I’ve cancelled a number of book orders.  Many books I want are not available for pre-order.  This is getting old and as good as Amazon is, they are equally annoying.  I haven’t decided yet what I’ll do about orders I’ve cancelled.  I can go buy at BN or BAM locally or mail order.  We’ll see.  Good reason to go use the library.


November 12, 2013

Genre Sampler – Reviews and Comments

Thanksgiving and Christmas are rapidly approaching and, as usual, I’m completely unprepared.  Oh well, we always manage somehow.  The family is small now, and it’s not like adults beyond a certain age actually NEED anything.  Well, other than a winning Lottery ticket.

November and December are both big release months as well, but I have to say, the new releases this month have proved disappointing to me.  As usual, books will be gifted, but that’s been true most of out lives.  In addition, I always haul up a bunch of books by authors my brother and SIL enjoy and let the read away. For many years, my brother an I built a Lincoln Log village on Christmas – starting with an old set his wife picked up at a flea market.  Well, the set grew, and grew, and grew.  A few years ago was our last ‘build’ and it was quite a grand finale.

christmas 2009 021

christmas 2009 007

We built that whole complex, mostly free form buildings, in about a day and half, working off and on and watching Charlie Chan movies and eating.  But standing for hours was getting hard on my knees and back.  Plus getting out and cleaning up and sorting the thousands of logs to be stored away again was a major project by itself.   Now we work jigsaw puzzles and play cards or Yatzee – and watch Charlie Chan, the old Sherlock Holmes, or other favorite 40’s movies that we saw on TV as kids – and eat.  It’s just more about spending some time together.  It also helps us remember why we live 200 miles apart, it prevents bloodshed and the need to hide bodies.  But before the holidays disrupt my life, I better get on with some reviews.


Read It and Weep

This latest installment of the Library Lover’s mystery series was disappointing – at least for me.  Read it and Weep was the first book I read from the mass of Nov 5th releases I bought.  Problem is, by page 40 I knew the whole plot and who did it and why.  I know cozy mysteries aren’t exactly the early Ellery Queen books that would lay out all the clues and challenge the reader to solve the mystery, but come on, this was as obvious as a slap to the head.

The local community theater group is putting on A Midsummer’s Night Dream, using as a star a well known actor, Robbie Vine, and friend of the resident semi-retired actress turned director, Violet LaRue.  Everyone is in a dither of anticipation over getting parts, even Ms Cole, the always critical older librarian that thinks Lindsey isn’t up to the level of the former head librarian in Briar Creek.  Robbie is more than a bit interested in Lindsey.  It isn’t helped by Sully having broken things off with her for months to ‘give her time’ without even talking with her about it.  They’re on the outs and Robbie is inspired to chase her, and she’s interested – until he gets poisoned.

In addition to the easy to see plot, the other problem is yet another budding love triangle.  Ms McKinlay did this in her Cupcake series as well.  IS THERE AN EPIDEMIC?  It’s easy to blame Janet Evanovich and her Morelli-Plum-Ranger ploy and Steph Plum’s extended adolescent emotional immaturity, but why is it contagious?  Or just ‘monkey see, monkey do’ writer syndrome?  Are authors so lost in copycat land they are incapable of original thought?  Whatever is causing this blight on cozies needs to be stamped out.  SOON!

Read it and Weep gets a C- (2.8*) rating for predictable plot and even more predictable love triangle.  I am apparently in the minority in this as Amazon reviews are much kinder.  Bought this from BAM for $5.39, but Amazon had it discounted to $4.79.  Its current price is $7.19.  Read if you’re an uncritical fan of generic cozies, but try and get it cheap.



It’s been awhile since I reviewed a single author anthology of steamy romance novellas.  In the now well entrenched tradition of using Spec Ops military as the the heroes, Cat Johnson offered her rather generic romances using the usual group of male buddies.  If the love triangle infestation in cozies if the fault of Janet Evanovich, then Suzanne Brockman takes the hit for the current inundation of Spec Ops romance in mainstream and smut – even some paranormal.  Everyone from Lora Leigh to Lisa Marie Rice has used them.  Hands down, the most popular heroes in romance.

Red Blooded has 3 novellas originally published as ebooks by Samhain, a high quality smut and mainstream publisher who carries many of the better steamy writers.  Cat Johnson also writes mainstream romance and romantic suspense.  Like all romance novellas, there is no time for complex plots or character development.  More ‘slam bam, thank-you ma’am’ type of sex with the usual ‘struck by lightning’ emotions.  Harmless fantasy that’s well written and highly readable with better than average plots and characters.  Good lunch break or single sitting length stories for romance fans.

Red Blooded gets a C+ (3.5*), which is again well below Amazon.  For novellas, they are cut above.  Still, when Suzanne Brockman hits on all cylinders, as she did in Over on the Edge and Out of Control, she is better than anyone, but those are full length novels, so the comparison isn’t equal.  For pure steamy ex-military, no one beats Lisa Marie Rice’s Midnight Man.  I bought Red Blooded from Amazon for $12.93 and no, it wasn’t worth the price.  If you want to read these, go ebook directly from the Samhain site and think twice about the price – ebook or print – and maybe buy it used.


Wild Darkness

Lauren Dane is one of my favorite paranormal romance writer’s.  Whether it’s steamy or more mainstream, she is a pretty reliable storyteller.  I’m not that fond of her popular contemporary romances, which I find trite, even if well written.

Wild Darkness is the fourth and final book in her Bound by Magick series that ties in with her Cascadia Wolves and De La Veaga Cat series.  It started off really well with Heart of Darkness, which laid the groundwork for the revealing of Others beyond just the already ‘out’ werewolves.  As a romance involved in a really good plot, it worked well on both levels and it gave the series a strong start.  The focus shifted away from the Magister to the birth of virulent hate groups that wants all Others in the equivalent of concentration camps in Book 2.  By book three, the central plot revolved around DC politics and a weak female president that refused to step into the debate.

Unfortunately, by the time we hit Wild Darkness, the whole over arcing plot kind of fizzles.  Going Under was less than stellar, but laid good groundwork, ending literally with a bang – a bomb in the Senate hearing chamber.  Wild Darkness opens with attacks by hate groups on an Other community, but the focus shifts from action to mostly romance and the whole thing is disappointingly weak.  The ‘big finale’ confrontation is all of 2 pages.  I read through 4 books for THAT?  Unfortunately, while Lauren Dane can start a complex paranormal series, she just does not have the skills needed to bring it to a strong conclusion.  Instead, she writes a romance that pushes the series main plot in the background and fails to give the reader a really satisfying conclusion.  A short fight scene does not work, especially when the main bad guys aren’t even there.  And penetrating their HQ was easy.  Honestly, the whole thing was just lame.

And for the third time, I will deviate from Amazon’s glowing reviews and give Wild Darkness a C- (2.8*).  Bound by Magic deserved better.  I am beginning to understand why she left so many of her series unfinished, like the Charvez Witches and the Cher Chez wolves.  She just can’t write a slam bang ending to her over-arcing plots, she can just end the individual romance parts.  It’s a shame really, because it weakened the whole series and took it off my recommended list.  I bought Wild Darkness from BAM for $5.39 and it wasn’t worth the price.  If you followed the series, read it.  If you haven’t started, give it a miss.


Mr Penumbra's

Some title’s are irresistible and when this book was in a swap, I took the chance and bought a used copy.  Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore was selected as one of the best books of 2012 – and I’m rather baffled by that.  Yes it was quirky and somewhat interesting, in a nerdy kind of way, but great?  Eh, not so much.  It was, however, original, unique, and mostly enjoyable, if a bit tedious at times.  A ‘Best Book of 2012’?  Lord, I hope not.  In a strange way, it worked, but lacked strong characters.  That kind of left me with ambiguous feelings toward the book.

Clay Jannon is a less than ambitious guy laid off from his job as a web designer and coffee shop clerk and just sort of cruising along, sharing a 3 bedroom place with an uptight corporate landlady and his buddy Neel who works special effects for movies and builds bizarre things in the living room they all share.  He’s job hunting, but the economy sucks and skills aren’t up to Silicon Valley level, so he’s in that uncomfortable in between place.  Then he land’s a job in a very strange bookstore, Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.  As he works there, keeping detailed records of each person who comes in to borrow a book, Clay gets increasingly bored.

One night a young woman walks in and sees the 3-D model Clay is building on his computer that tracks each customer and every book they’ve checked out in order over time.  He’s certain there is meaning and pattern to their actions and they are really code breakers.  Kat admires his work and offers him a chance to put Google’s data analysis engines to work on a scanned copy of one of the logs that details more of the same data.  Neel makes a replica of one of the log books and Kat and Clay get it scanned and analyzed in minutes.  After he enters all the new data, he still can’t quite see the pattern and in frustration sends his 3-D model spinning – and the many colored lines suddenly form an image.  Mr Penumbra sees it and claims he’s broken the code!  A code he didn’t even realize existed.

Like an onion, layers get peeled away until the final code is discovered.  This quasi-adventure, puzzle, code-breaker, technology meld made a curious story, but not a great one.  Perhaps because, for me, great fiction books requires great characters, not just a layered plot.  No question, the plot was original and on several levels, fascinating.  But ultimately, is was kind of dull without strong, likable characters filled with personality.  Oddly, it reminded me of a nerdy Robert Ludlum book.  Ludlum was always a brilliant plotter, but aside from Jason Borne, never wrote a memorable character.  The action here is more cerebral and other than the quirky Penumbra, none of the players were really memorable, just lightly sketched in enough to do the job.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookshop gets a C+ to B- (3.6*) from me.  I can see why critics loved it, since they had a field day with the computer technology vs print book thing, but who really cares?  It was interesting without being engrossing.  It’s in that strange grey area where I neither love nor hate the book, found it oddly appealing, but never compelling.  I can’t really recommend it for anyone other than a person who enjoys offbeat books.  I got my copy used (in perfect condition) from a third party re-seller on Amazon and it’s leaving here this week to a person who won it in a PBS swap.  I’d suggest you borrow it or get it cheap because reactions vary.  The nerd in the family might like it best and it is suitable for teens.


wicked Autumn

G.M. Malliet hit the mystery scene a few years back with her first cozy in the Ngaio Marsh/Josephine Tey tradition, just not was well done.  Nonetheless, she garnered heaps of praise for bringing back the English cozy in Death of a Cozy Writer – a classic manor house mystery.  She followed that with Death of a Chick Lit wherein she completely emasculated her Detective Inspector St Just.  That put paid to my reading her books until I got Wicked Autumn, the first book in her Max Tudor series, in a book swap.  Really, you’d think I’d learn.

What is it with cozies these days?  The authors talk you to death, drag you through a garden of a character’s personal guilt, beat certain things into the ground, and toss out clues so obvious you want to whack them over the head.  Wicked Autumn opens with the Women’s League planning the Harvest Fayre.  The usual officious and unpleasant woman, Wanda Bratton-Smythe manages to make more enemies, but sees herself as ‘saving’ these poor incompetents from themselves.  Her snide, cutting remarks and generally superior and patronizing attitude have not endeared her to her neighbors.  She may as well be wearing a sign, “Hi!  I’m the victim!  I’m rich, controlling, and obnoxious!  I have a deadly peanut allergy!  Guess how I die!!!!!”

Max Tudor is the local Vicar now, but used to be MI5.  He sought peace and refuge from his former profession and memories of the death of a friend and co-worker.  He refuses to be drawn into the fray in the Women’s League, but knows the complaints are valid.  The day of the Fayre everything s running smoothly.  An oddly excited Wanda disappears and Max goes hunting for her joined by another poor soul Wanda badgered into ‘volunteering’, chef Guy Nicholls.  They do find her, dead on the floor of the village Hall.  Guy starts mouth to mouth to revive her, but Max knows dead when he sees it and pulls him away.  Not just because it’s too late, but because it looks like murder to Max.

Turns out, people had more reason to want Wanda dead than just her personality.  She was also a very rich woman.  Her only child, a son and up and coming artist, was estranged from his parents.  Suzanna Winship, the doctor’s shapely much younger sister was Wanda’s rival and self appointed protector of those Wanda went after the most, like sweet Lily Iverson.  Actually, pretty much every member of the Women’s League hated her.  But the whole plot is twisted around long periods of the backstory on Max and how he came to be a vicar.  By page 124 I was loosing interest.  I finished it, barely.  The killer was OBVIOUS, the why a bit more subtle, but not surprising.

Wicked Autumn gets a C- (2.7*) because the story is told in a choppy and muddled way and lacks exciting characters or any shed or originality.  It’s just dull.  If you’re a hardcore cozy reader, try it if its free, but don’t blame me if it’s just boring.  My copy, thankfully, free from a book swapping site.

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.


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.



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.


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.


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.



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.


November 11, 2012

Sandy Was Here, Voting, and a Few Reviews

Yup, I live in the Northeast in Bruce Springsteen’s home state, but away from the coast.  Our ‘sand’ here is on the beaches by one of our lakes, if at all.  But living in a rural area has it’s pluses and minuses.  I can stay in touch with the world on my chat boards where we have members from the UK, Norway, the US, Australia and more, just on out one little thread.  On my book swapping site, it’s US only and lot of us live in what the Weather Channel is fond of calling ‘The Megalopolis’.  Well, Sandy was like something from one of their ‘It Could Happen Tomorrow’  episodes.

We were lucky here.  We lost power in my complex, except for a few units in a bizarre pattern.  I kept mine and was clueless about the fact that 80%+ of my neighbors were without.   The pump on the well switched to a generator which lasted (thank-you so much) for the 8 days it took to restore power.  I lost phone, internet, and TV – right in the middle of Monday Night Football.  (insert loud scream) As I said, I was lucky.  I was also bored.  Turned out, you kind of get sick of watching movies.  Then I watched episodes of Magnum PI on my laptop and played computer games. ………….. And I read.  Yup, I know you’re shocked.  Typical week I read 4-6 books.  In 6 days I read 11 books.  And one thing I did NOT miss – political ads.

For many days, my news came via my brother who lives up in Western Massachusetts.  It wasn’t till Friday that I really sat down with my neighbor and learned what happened locally.  I thought we’d done OK, but the town is still without water and power – and that means no heat in some VERY cold temperatures – in many area.  Schools were closed all week (no heat, water, or lights).  Over a week later some people still weren’t getting mail delivery because their streets are blocked with downed trees and wires as crews from all over the country came into the state to help.  But Tuesday the sun was shining, the sky a cloudless blue, and folks flocked to the polls in town to vote.

Funny, it’s a right we take so lightly,often less than half of eligible voters actually bother to vote.  Did you know, in some countries it’s against the law to NOT vote?  You get fined.  And you better not do it twice.  I learned that from my Aussie friends on the chat board.  Here we have a right that people die for, and have our voters ignore it.  My mother, an American History teacher, must be turning in her grave.  If I learned nothing else, it was if you don’t vote, SHUT UP BECAUSE YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM.  I voted.

Sandy was about the worst storm, including blizzards, that’s I’ve seen in my life.  I was inconvenienced, but warm, dry, and with plenty of food and electric, I had no real complaints.  It was sheer luck.  The roads were blocked by downed power lines and trees, so even though I had the good sense to fill my gas tank before the storm, I wisely stayed stayed off the roads and let the emergency crews do their work.  Good thing, because there was no gas available in town and we still have only one station open off and on.  Sunday my neighbor needed to pick up her daughter from the hospital about 20 miles away, but she was low on gas and rationing had started and she couldn’t buy more, so I drove her and her SIL down to pick up her daughter.  Lines at the open stations weren’t as bad as they had been, so the rationing was already helping – just not around here due to the continuing power outages.  It was my first look at the real mess in the area, and it wasn’t good, but already things were improving – except along the coast.

As a child, I went ‘down the shore’ at least once each summer.  I can remember sitting in the rocking chairs on the wide veranda of the Seaside Hotel in Ocean Grove where my grandmother would vacation, then walking down the boardwalk to Asbury Park and playing endless games of skeeball in an amusement building called ‘The Casino’.  It had those claw machines, a beautiful old carousel that I just loved, and my beloved skeeball.  On the way, we’d pass the place with the salt water taffy machine in the window.  It fascinated me to just watch it work.  (It still does.  LOL)  Years ago the Northend Hotel that marked the border between Ocean Grove and Asbury Park was leveled.  So was the Old Homestead Restaurant that sat on the pier at the edge of town.  The roller-coaster fell into ruin as Asbury Park went downhill in the 60’s.  Springsteen immortalized this slide with ‘My City of Ruins’ which became famous when he later sang it for the live 9-11 concert in Sept 2001.  One of his early album covers shows the Casino in the background as he leans on the boardwalk railing with beach and sea behind him.

But the Jersey shore lived on, and prospered and eventually even Asbury Park came back somewhat, though it’s now a very different town.  Others, like Ocean Grove seemed almost unchanged.  Spring Lake, a beautiful, and very wealthy community, was had hit hard.  Like many other places it played home to an array of historic homes 100 years old give or take a few years, built when folks fled the heat of cities for the cooling shore breezes.  Houses with wide covered porches with awnings where you could sit and enjoy the breeze off the Atlantic.  Atlantic City morphed into a casino mecca – and not the harmless nickle kids games I played, but gambling casinos.  I’ve never been in one.

Once my internet was back and I saw the photos of communities on Long Beach Island, towns line Seaside Heights and Breezy Point in Brooklyn, the extent of the damage really registered.  Yes, North Jersey is a mess, and towns along the river suffered greatly, but seeing whole towns wiped out was sobering.  I have always believed that a certain amount of good natured whining is allowed – snow storms (heaven knows we get plenty of those), things like the Halloween Storm of 1991 (AKA The Perfect Storm), Hurricane Donna in 1960, and others have come our way.  Life goes on, but many lives change forever – and some, tragically, end.  Nature isn’t kind, and never was.  Not since Katrina had I seen this kind of devastation, and even though Sandy was a MUCH weaker storm, it hit the most populous part of the US.  And that could change history, in more ways than one.

With Election Day just a week after Sandy, folks were still in shock in the hard hit areas.  There were a lot of lives in ruins out there, homes gone forever, irreplaceable family photos washed away or lost to fire.  People left with nothing, not even a roof over their head.  Voting for them was a test of will, and act of sheer determination.  All these people left in dark by Sandy voted on paper ballots by flashlight.  I’ll give Gov Christie this, he has done all he can to give the affected folks a way to vote.  Regardless of the outcome will be, I strongly believe we should always participate in state and national elections.  On this Veteran’s Day, it’s the best way to give thanks to the men and women who sacrificed so much for freedoms, especially our right to vote.  Thank a Vet today.  The price of freedom is paid in blood.

Now, this is a book blog, so allow me to get to a few book reviews.

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet by Darynda Jones – A- (4.5*) This installment of the highly original Charley Davidson series missed a A for one reason, suddenly Reyes was willing to share a lot of information about where Charley came from and her history before being born as Charlotte Davidson.  It was just too pat and too easy.

The story opens with Charley suffering PTSD from the assault and torture she suffered by the supposedly dead Earl Walker, Reye’s step-father and childhood tormentor – and the man he was in prison for supposedly killing.  Now Walker is really dead, Reye’s is free and hates her, her father had her arrested, supposedly for her own protection, and they’re not speaking.   Being betrayed by Reyes, her father, and tortured by a man supposedly dead has left her with a serious case of agoraphobia, and no office, so it’s not like she has anywhere to go anyway.  So insane purchases from TV shopping networks fill her day – and her apartment, until a case comes to her door.

Charley has another problem.  There are a series of bank robberies and even though the robbers wear masks, there’s something so familiar about them!  A young woman comes to her with a bizarre story of being stalked and terrorized – something that’s been happening since she was a girl of 5 and he father remarried.  Dragging her sorry butt outside is a special hell, but Charley starts to investigate – and finds another step-mother from Hell, like her own.

Charley also decides to give Reyes a bill for all the work she did to get him free – $1 million.  Reyes sister claims he has $50 million, he says he broke and he’s doing cage fights – but they’re more than that.  Demons are taking over humans – special humans.  Humans that can ‘see’ – demons can steal their bodies and Reyes is killing them to kill the demons.  It’s Charlie they want.

As always, Ms Jones spins a lively, very readable story.  Reyes suddenly revealing a lot of information about Charlie and where she came from, her cosmic history – well, that was annoying to have a data dump like that.  Why had he with held it all so long?  Was the sole purpose for the sudden openness to lay the groundwork for future books?  Not sure I bought the whole thing, and it kept the book from an A rating.

Is Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet worth  $14-16 at discount?  Kindle is $11.99.  Well, it is an excellent read in the series, so for any series followers, the answer is yes.  Otherwise, give it some time and pick it up used or at the library.  At 320 pages, it was a quick and easy read and a bit short for the price.

Popped Off by Jeffery Allen is the second book in a stay at home dad mystery series.  Deuce is a soccer dad to his wife’s ambitious attorney.  When the entire treasury of his daughter’s soccer league is stolen, along with all the trophies the girls will get, he gets dragged into looking for their errant league president.  Using his association with a dwarf PI (politically incorrect humor got childish at times and made Deuce seem petty and mean), Deuce finds a cousin in a gambling casino – who also embezzled money.

Unraveling the trail for money, illegal gambling, and enterprising sonority sisters selling smuggled Viagra on campus to horny undergrads is amusing, but shallow.  I really enjoyed parts and parts were a turn off – especially the whole sex thing with his angry wife, which was weird and creepy.  The story was only half believable.   The solution forgone.

Is Popped Off worth $7.99?  Nope.   At C- (2.75*), I’m glad got my copy for free through a book swapping site and it has since moved on to a new home.  A very lightweight read that is amusing for the most part, but has many annoying sections.

The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker, his 5th book in the Bruno, Chief of Police French countryside mystery series, finds the author once again weaving history, both ancient and recent, with modern murders and potential terrorism.  It’s spring in St Denis and Bruno finds himself embroiled in something more serious than a PETA member letting ducks loose, though he’d like that resolved with a minimum of fuss.  A representative from Spain’s anti-terrorist group is there because a Spanish and French minister will be signing new agreements at the local castle and Bruno finds himself being assigned as the local defense expert.

As with all of Martin’s books, there are many sub-plots.  Bruno’s sometimes lover and local B&B owner, Pamela, is back in Scotland with her semi-estranged mother in the hospital with a serious stroke.  His former lover is the leader of the security detail for French Intelligence Service and the attraction is as strong as ever, an old friend has made an historic discovery of a prehistoric burial at a local excavation, while one of the professor’s students finds a much more recent burial – a body dating back to Spain’s ‘Dirty War’ against the Basques and other groups, many of whom were assassinated in the south of France.

The author immerses the reader in village life and the unique pace of daily living in rural France, a life that is being eroded away, but traditions still clung to by in villages throughout France.  Part history lesson, part slice of life, and fully entertaining, with well planned plot and a writing style that is descriptive, atmospheric, and evocative without going over the top, The Crowded Grave was an excellent read.

Is The Crowded Grave worth $14 or so at discount?  I bought a like new copy thru an Amazon reseller for $11 with shipping.  Loved it and thought it worth every penny.  So try for a well priced used book or wait on the paperback, which will take awhile  as it was just published in the US in July.  There is a notation in the front that this edition differs from the UK edition and earlier publications.  No idea how the text had changed.  My grade is B+ (4.2*) Recommend for mystery readers who enjoy enjoy Colin Cotterill and Tony Hillerman.  They do not have to be read in order, though it helps a bit, it isn’t essential to following the plot.

Black Lament by Christina Henry is Book 4 in the Black Wings series.  One of the more original series in the crowded paranormal/UF market, Christina Henry created a unique character in Maddy Black, who got married, pregnant and widowed in in the last few chapters of Book 3 to her love – Gabriel.  Book 4 picks up immediately after Gabriel’s death.  Maddy might be Lucifer’s granddaughter – many generation removed – but it was her father Azazel, Lucifer’s rebellious son who killed Gabriel.  Now Maddy will return the favor and kill him if she can.

Maddy needs protection now that she’s pregnant with Lucifer’s many great-grandson’s and Azazel is still after her.  Of all people to send her for protection, Lucifer sends Nathaniel.  He’d betrayed her, tried to rape her, generally followed every order that Azazel gave, but he fled Azazel’s court and Lucifer is making his protecting Maddy his act of atonement.  Needless to say, he’s not exactly welcome.  Then attacks start happening.  Attacks that smack of Fey.

Angry at Maddy for killing Queen Amarantha.  Even though the queen broke Fairies own laws, Oberon and Titania want payback.  SO Maddy decides to take the fight to them.   Actually, that all she does in this book, is fight.  First the Fey, then her father Azazel, and finally her own Agency – which suddenly seems not so impartial and benign as it did.

The book felt like 3 short stories strung together linked only by threats to Maddy and her unborn child.  She seemed almost a different person, suddenly very violent and powerful.  The interesting supporting characters that made the stories feel complete were little more than walk on parts here.  Filled with action, but no character or soul.

Black Lament gets a C (3*) rating for it’s lack of heart, an important element in the previous books.  Is it worth $7.99?  Not really.  I got mine on the 4-for-3 plan from Amazon, so I paid $5.99 and read it in a few hours.  Like all her books, it’s fairly short.  It was also a very quick and easy read, since it lacked depth and complexity.  It is, however, important if you plan to continue the series, so try to buy a cheap used copy.  This is a series that needs to be read in order to make sense.  The earlier books are better.

Tart by Lauren Dane is one of her loosely related contemporary erotic romances.  Set on Bainbridge Island Washington State, this installment has Juliet ‘Jules’ Lamprey running her bakery and sharing space with her friend and caterer Mary while they get ready for the wedding of their close friend Gillian.  They decide to incorporate local produce and other ingredients whenever possible, so Jules heads out to see an elderly widower who runs and farm and meets up with his grandson, a former high school crush, Gideon Cater.

Gideon came back to Bainbridge after successfully starting and running a ranch with his former brother-in-law.  His divorce made it impossible to stay on the land, so he sold his share and knocked around the world for a few years.  His grandmother’s death and yearning to get back to the land brought his home.  Jules was a major bonus.

Cal Whaley was his best friend in high school and is now the local lawyer.  Cal swings both ways, but is a serial monogamist.  Jules has had a major crush on him since they were kids, but she and Gideon get together and she has no intention of letting Cal get in the middle.

As you can imagine, Cal and Gideon get together with each other and with Jules.  Lots of m/m sex, m/f sex, and various combinations of m/f/m sex held together by a fairly slim plot.  Of it’s type, well written, even if the characters lacked originality.  I could have written the dialogue in my head.  Dane is a favorite of mine, but I find her contemporary books rather short on plot and long on trite and predictable.

Best part – the friendship between the women.  The least believable, the easy way everyone, except Jules brother Ethan,  accepts the triad.  My grade for Tart is C+ (3.5*) – though it gets 4.5* on Amazon, so it’s a matter of personal taste.  Is it worth about $10.00?  No.  Just not enough substance, but if you want a hot contemporary read, it’s a good choice.


September 2, 2012

Perfect Pairs

Some things just go together.   Chocolate and fruit.  Mac and cheese.  Rib roast and potatoes.  Lobster and butter.  Pasta and tomato sauce. Gin and tonic.  Reading and travel.  And is anything better than peanut butter and chocolate??????  Combinations so fundamental, they’re ubiquitous.  You can’t find a burger place, regardless of how snooty and high end, that doesn’t serve potatoes.  And most lobster lovers will stab you with their fork if try and steal their butter.  Some other pairings need a bit more ……………. ummmmm, developed tastes.

I confess, I like peanut butter (Skippy All Natural Super Chunk) and crispy bacon (Schaller and Weber hand cut thick slice) on toast – or a toasted roll.  It really is good.  No, REALLY!  OK, not ……… normal perhaps, but amazing.  I know Elvis liked fried peanut butter, banana sandwiches, but I’m not a big fan of bananas.  Bacon, GOOD bacon, that I love and it goes so well many things, including peanut butter.  I also love creamy peanut butter stuffed dates rolled in sugar – the very first food I ever learned to make in kindergarten – and perfect for my brother’s cooking skill level – nil.  My brother and I make them every year at Christmas.  Even his wife likes them.  (She’s Polish and eats stuffed cabbage, so keep that in mind.)  You’ll notice the peanut butter trend.  Yes, it is my safety net food.

One thing any business traveler will tell you is to have some non-perishable food handy – and bring a book, print, ebook, even a game.  For me, the food is cheese and peanut butter crackers and maybe some Nutter Butter or Oreo’s in those small packs.   The hours wasted in airports is mind numbing – and often ass numbing as well.  And occasionally, when stuck somewhere in a small airport, there’s nowhere to eat – or worse, sitting on the tarmac waiting for your flight to be released due to weather, flights attendants are unable to serve food even in first class.  Those packages of crackers have saved more than just me from starvation.

Books are what will keep you entertained – or maybe video games.  I like having both new books and rereads when on long flights.  I read fast, so thick books can easily be finished by the time we touchdown if I fly to the west coast.  I read Point of Impact on a trip to Arizona.  A friend needed a book, so I passed it on to him.  He still remembers that nearly 20 years later.  Like me, he read the other Bob Lee Swagger books and when he called in my office, I made sure to have a pile of books for him to pick from.  Every once in awhile, you start a book and hate it, well, go to the back-up reread.  It’s not like you can stop the plane and go look for something better – unless you have a wi-fi Kindle or other ereader.  Frankly, I cannot imagine any business traveler without one these days, even if its a Smartphone.   I kind of hate watching movies on planes, even on those personal screens, (It has to do with seeing Godzilla too many times on Asia flights.  As aversion therapy, it works.), but you can watch them if you hate reading.

Fall was always a favorite travel time for me, especially for vacations.  Kids are back in school, so the mad summer rush is over, the weather cooled off, and I can extend summer by heading down to the islands or enjoy a long fall by going up to New England and following the changing leaves south.  I read on a plane, but NEVER in a car.

Ever since I was little, I’ve been prone to car sickness.  The smell of leather will forever be associated with memories of being sick as a dog for me.  Mom had a Chrysler Imperial Highlander with red and blue plaid wool upholstery insets in maroon leather, a black exterior, and the approximate curb weight of a tank.  It also could not be easily killed, so we had that thing a LONG time.  I now have a car with leather interior, but it took me decades to reach the point where I didn’t get the instant urge to vomit the moment I smelled leather.  Now I can wear leather coats and own a car with leather seats – not by choice, it’s the way it came.  They’ve worn like iron and I’m ALWAYS getting leather from now on.  Too bad buying cars is only slightly less desirable that root canal without Novocaine.

They say your strongest memories are triggered by smells, and that’s why you bake bread or pie when selling a house.  It smells like home.  Oh course, our house generally smelled like wet dog, but oddly, that’s not a selling point.  Fall smells differently that other seasons.  No, I honestly don’t remember the smell of burning leaves, but fall always smelled like apples to me.  Trees get dressed if the fanciest colors, the air turns dry and cool, pumpkins start showing up everywhere along with pots of mums in colors that match the trees, and produce stands smell like fresh apples.  As I said before, mom wasn’t a cook, so if we had fresh baked apple pie it was thanks to Mrs Smith, but she could manage things like chocolate chip cookies and pumpkin bread – a quick bread made with Bisquick.  To this day I make a version of that, only mine is modified from a recipe from Madia Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts, and a perfect fall cake – all moist and rich with pumpkin, spice, raisins, and nuts.  If Spring is rhubarb and strawberries, fall is pumpkin and apples – and cranberries.

The Halloween candy hit the food stores in August.  (Talk about rushing the season!)  And it’s that time of the year when books, especially mysteries and thrillers, get a surge of new releases.  The summer doldrums are over and the beach reads mostly gone, the scare new releases of mysteries during July and August suddenly burst out in full bloom.  In just the past 2 weeks, I’ve gotten about 10 new ones, cozies mostly, but a Brett Battles book came and the new Jack Reacher book arrives tomorrow – something I face with some trepidation as Lee Child hasn’t been all that reliable with one of my favorite fictional characters.  I have piles for new releases sitting on Mt TBR, but I also tried to clear out some of the older books and added a few ebooks to list.  So here we go ………….

Paradise By the Rifle Sights by Leslie Langtry is one of her Bombay Assassin Greatest Hits novellas and ebook only that I bought for my Kindle.  Now understand, this series was a true original, funny romantic assassin stories not exactly being thick on the ground.  While not the best in the series, Stand By Your Hitman is one of my favorite rereads.  I didn’t even hesitate to buy Paradise By the Rifle Sights.  Good thing it only cost $2.99 or I’d be foaming at mouth right now.

Like Stand by Your HitmanParadise By the Rifle Sights puts a Bombay on a reality show – only instead of being a rip-off of Survivor, it’s one of those Bachelor romance shows and it’s Paris Bombay stuck with it when his sister, who was assigned the hit, convinced him him to cover for her because of her kids.  Seems the producer of the show is a human trafficker and all around sleazeball.  What the heck, Paris has nothing to do, is longing to find someone like his cousins have, and frankly, he’s a bit bored.  So even though exchanging assignments is against the rules, Paris fills out the bachelor application online and ends up getting called for the audition.  On the flight out to LA, his seatmate is an attractive woman that he manages to insult then ignore.  He has a job to do.

At the studio, Paris finds himself whisked into the interview room and is madly thinking about how he can get into the control booth where his vic is sitting behind a one way glass , while giving the worst interview in history.  In the end, the killing is both loud and messy, not the usual Bombay style, but it gets done.  That should fold the show too, since the vic was the only moneyman funding production.  He manages to fake two additional interviews from the booth then leaves like nothing happened, fully expecting news of his vic’s death to be all over the next day’s news.  Nothing.  Except one thing ………….. he’s the new star of Bachelor.  And by the way, read the fine print on those applications.  The contract is BINDING.

He’s whisked off to the overdone mansion where the filming will take place and since his contract also requires the production company make him happy and comfortable, he fills out the form for his ‘requests’, asking for things like mud baths, Mongolian goat meat, and F Troop to be on all TV’s all day.  And a yoga instructor that only speaks Hindi.  Oh, the things we regret.

To this point, the story was similar to Stand By Your Hitman, but suddenly the plots started getting too much alike as production schedules where pushed up and things got weird.  In the last 70 pages, it all fell apart.  The ending was lame, the ‘romance’ never developed, he marries a barely there bit player in the story, and it all just seemed dumb.  A huge disappointment for a book that had me laughing out loud at times.  It read like a book that was 2/3’s done then just wrapped up as quickly as possible and sold as an ebook because the author had written herself into a corner that only a complete re-write could fix.  Kind of like a straight to video movie.

Paradise By the Rifle Sights had a good beginning, funny first quarter, good second quarter, then started a decline that accelerated to and ending that is best summed up with “WHERE THE HELL DID THE PLOT GO?”  My grade, D+ to C- (2.5*) and even at $2.99 NOT a recommended read.

Things didn’t improve with Ms Langtry’s supposedly humorous look at a marriage falling apart in The Adulterer’s Unofficial Guide to Family.  Nearly as I could see, the amusement was all in the title and then on it was boring to downright insulting.  Molly Harper’s One Last Thing was funny and sad and rang true.  This was just a first person over-indulgence in revisiting a first love under implausible circumstances.  Amazon called Adulterer’s Guide ’emotional and spicy’ and they got the spicy part right.  Emotional, not so much.  Just hypocritical and self indulgent.

The story, told in the first person by a narrator who doesn’t even have a name, just Mike’s wife and , for pages till we finally meet Laura Smith, part time professor, mom of twins, and wife of an ad exec who is married to his job – with a few side benefits.  Of course, it’s not like she has room to complain having had a fling of her own.  Her life is dull, dead, and predictable.  Her PhD dissertation on adultery in literature (another irony that pushed the boundaries of credibility) is going nowhere fast.  Perhaps the story was meant to be as dull and lifeless as Laura feels.  In that it succeeded.  It was as exciting as watching paint dry.

Anyway, the big family vacation to ‘the happiest place on Earth’ – though Disney is NEVER mentioned directly – is the big family event that will save everything – and at the last minute Mike backs out pleading work commitments and a big account.  Laura and twins head down alone, and she ends up moving rooms so they don’t have the endless walks to the resort bus.  (ever been to Disney World?  Those walks ain’t for the tired.)  She ends up in a room next door to her first love, now a successful play write in NYC, Alan.  His wife Susan, a successful lawyer, also backed out at the last minute leaving him with his 4 and 5 years olds.  What are the odds?  (Eye roll)

The tedious story drags on thru predictable events, choppy memories of Laura’s past affair, the unhappy life she allowed herself to fall into, and then allowing herself to fall for the fantasy of first love returned.

I suppose this is a romance, albeit an angsty, improbable, and cliched one.  The HEA is about as likely as winning the lottery and lot less exciting.  Dull, kids marginalized to non-entities, spouses barely there, this self-adsorbed story managed to be annoying, boring, and brainless all rolled into one – despite the sex scenes, including the one in the limo.

Avoiding all the ethical and moral issues here, the story was just lifeless, stupid and pushed the reader into trying to believe in something that was fairy tale bull.  Mostly, I just felt my intelligence had been insulted and all of the characters were pretty much morally questionable at best.  Mike actually came off as the most mature and reasonable.  The epilogue HEA was slightly less believable than the Easter Bunny.

The Kindle edition was $4.99 and not worth it.  In print it’s an insane $11.99.   The Adulterer’s Unofficial Guide to Family is a sleeping pill in print.  Miss this book.  My score is D- (1.8*) and a strong recommendation to avoid it at all costs.

OK, moving along to stories that have no pretense of ‘slice of life’ reality – Elizabeth Lapthorne’s Desperate Fantasies a book that had a short novella, Desperate and Dateless followed by first of the Montague Vampire stories, Heated Fantasies, a short novel.

Like most novellas, especially the short ones, the plot was simple, Vlad, a Vampire Prince, is coming into heat, something vamps do infrequently, and it’s the only time a male vampire is fertile.  It also sends them searching for their mates.  Vlad finds his at the Desperate and Dateless Ball in the from of a security guard named Vicci.  Since this was written for Ellora’s Cave, you can cue the hot sex and HEA in 60 pages.  Only a writer with Lapthorne’s skill could make it readable and modestly interesting.

Heated Fantasies was the highlight here as Lapthorne had 200 pages to develop a futuristic type novel introducing the Montague Vampires some 200 years from now.  Clare Rooney is a present day librarian avoiding an oily come on from an unwanted admirer when she starts shelving books, only to find a very old book she’s never seen before – a book on vampire anatomy.  Tracing the odd inset, she reads the even stranger words – and finds herself on a whole different world hundreds of years from her time and no way home.

The book appeared to be an ancient text on the anatomy and anthropology of vampires – and she lands on a world where they are very real. Taken in by two scholars, she finds herself slowly acclimating to this strange place and working in what passes for an antique bookshop – until the day Simeon Montague comes in looking Graveel, the vampire that rescued her and went looking for answers to her problem, leaving her with his kindly, though absent minded friend.

Simeon was expecting many things when he went hunting for Graveel, but finding his mate was not among them.  Now Simeon has to convince Clare she really is his mate, beat off his interfering brothers who nearly botch everything for him, and try and figure out where Graveel went with this mysterious book.

Amusing, good characters, decent world building, this is what a good erotic romance should be.  Largely ignoring the novella up front, I’ll give this a B- (3.6*) and suggested read for erotic romance lovers.  Both stories can be purchased as ebooks from Ellora’s Cave website.  The print book containing both, I got thru a book swapping site, but can be found used on sites like

Powdered Peril by Jessica Beck is the latest in the Donut Shop mystery series – and first one I actually liked.  Where I usually find the plots silly and the characters annoying, this time, the plot actually worked and characters stayed within sane limits to very near the end, and that didn’t spoil it, just annoyed me a bit.

Suzanne Hart is a classic divorced woman finding her second life and a lot of fulfillment owing a donut shop in her small hometown of Alice Springs.  Her best friend Grace has caught her boyfriend cheating on her – and apparently everyone else.  Seems Peter Morgan was kind of a small time con artist that skirted the very edge of the law, cheerfully screwing over business partners, friends and family.  Anything for a buck.  And with the attitude that his victims ‘deserved it’ for trusting him, he’s not a likable fellow.

Well Grace trusted him and until she caught him out, by of all things, his cell phone.  A phone with all his OTHER girl friends on it.  Grace, kicks him out and then goes and cries on Suzanne’s shoulder.  But Suzanne keeps very early hours, so Grace leaves for home and Ben and Jerry’s therapy.  Suzanne’s mornings start in the middle of everyone’s night, so she’s off to make the donuts – except the police are everywhere behind her shop.  A man had been murdered – Peter Morgan.

Grace is one of many suspects, but pretty much top of the list.  Plus she feels guilty.  After she went home, Peter came back, drunk and repentant, wanting get a second chance.  Grace sent him away.  Now she feels like her actions might have contributed to his death.

But Peter’s life turns out to be a lot more complex than anyone thought.  To help her friend find peace and also to try and find the killer, Grace and Suzanne start asking questions – and the answers leave Grace even more disillusioned and wins the women no friends.  It’s when their car is run off the road that they realize just how serious someone is about finding Peter’s secret.  The secret that would let him blackmail someone with a lot of money and a lot to lose.

Though the killer does toss out the clue you need, the story of Peter is really the core and overall, I found this entry a lot more satisfying than the previous books.  I think it’s because this tie, there was a very real personal link to the victim, and the story worked on several levels at once, rather than just a question to be solved.  Powdered Peril gets a solid B (4*) from me a suggested read for cozy lovers.  Under Amazon’s 4-for3 program, I bought this for $5.99.  Try and get it at one of the big discounters, like Walmart, for a good price.  At the $7.99, it’s a bit high.

Brett Battles hit the action thriller scene a few years back with a terrific first book, The Cleaner – the start of his Quinn series.  While the series has had its ups and downs, Battles has branched out and with his Logan Harper series he opted to do as several well known authors have lately and use Create Space, Amazon’s self publishing platform.  The first book, Little Girl Gone I bought in print.  Unlike his complex Quinn books, Little Girl Gone is a basic, straightforward thriller of limited complexity and very fast moving.

Logan Harper is a man with a past he’d just as soon forget.  Now he works at his dad’s garage fixing cars and living quietly in central California.   But his simple life is destroyed when he interrupts the assault and attempted murder of ‘Tooney”, the local Burmese immigrant who has run the coffee shops for decades.   A man his father and his father’s cronies, 70 to 80 something Viet Nam vets, have called ‘friend’ his whole life.  Logan saves Tooney, but the old man begs him not to call police, just call his father instead.

After pushing his dad, Harp, and the still silent Tooney, he can’t get them to budge on calling the cops.  But Harp asks Logan to drive to LA and check on Tooney’s granddaughter, Elyse, who was due at her grandfather’s house that afternoon but never showed up.  Not really understanding, but seeing how upset all the men are, Logan agrees.  A simple call at her apartment leads to her neighbors who claim she spent the night before with her boyfriend.  This leads to a house – one that is now empty and smelling of disinfectant and bleach.  Next day the house burns down, the apartment where the neighborhood boys were hanging out with Elyse’s roommates  is empty and as clean as the house – even the trash is burned.  And one of Eylse’s roommates is lying.

Stories begin unraveling and using his one contact at Forbus, the ‘security’ company that fired him, he finds the flight that’s taking Elyse out of the country.  The story moves to Thailand and the politics of Burmese military government meets the greed of oil companies.

Satisfying, believable, but without the complexity of plotting usual for this genre and no weird twists at the end.  But is it worth nearly $14.00 in print?  Not really.  AT $3.99 for the ebook, it’s a bargain.  By rating B (4*) and recommended for ebook (you can get an app for your computer, ipad, or Smartphone if you don’t own a Kindle) only or used in print.

Finally, I grabbed a book that had been sitting in mt TBR pile for nearly a year.  Burning Down the Spouse by Dakota Cassaidy was yet another look at marriage gone bad, closer to Molly Harper’s One Last Thing than Leslie Langtry’s fiasco.  Despite the snarky dialogue and some good characters, it was as predictable as sunrise in the east.

As with One Last Thing, Burning Down the Spouse opens with a very public meltdown of a wife who learns her husband is unfaithful and has her meltdown on live TV at the beginning of a national cooking show.  Walking away from 18 years of marriage with little more than the clothes on her back and dog she rescued from a dumpster, Frankie Bennet indulges in an extended bout of depression, sleeping her days away in her Aunt’s spare bedroom in her senior community in NJ.

Her Aunt Gail gets a friend, Maxine, another former Trophy wife who had to remake her life, to drag Frankie out and back into life.  In this case, a job as a prep chef in a diner kitchen.   Nikos Antonakas is the stuff of Greek legend – tall, dark, handsome and with a loud, boisterous family that seem determined to pull Frankie back to land of the living – and those who bathe regularly.

It quickly apparently that Chloe, a waitress, is none to pleased to see Frankie.  Gradually with the job and going to group therapy, and making a friend of stunning blond Jasmine Archway, another ex-wife who has a knack for numbers and keeps the books at an exotic dance club, Frankie slowly starts living again.  Nikos’ friend, a gorgeous blond ex-quarterback who was blinded in a freak accident, originally goes for Jasmine for revenge, but changes his mind and just chases her for himself.  And Nikos finds himself chasing Frankie.  But both men are hiding things – things that will come back and bite them.

Meanwhile, Frankie’s ex, the would be Emeril, is back and asking her to come back to his show.  Wait a minute, since when do you get asked back to a show that you – quite literally – set fire to?  Turns out, his audience was largely female and his cheating and subsequent round of talk shows where he painted Frankie as a nut, caused a huge drop in ratings.  He needs her back, but this new, still fragile Frankie, knows a line when she hears it and refuses.

Then we have a missing family recipe, the expected accusations, lies about cancer, and all kinds of ‘truth will out’ before we hit the sort of HEA.  As I said, predictable.  Entertaining after the first 60 pages or so, but I guess as someone who always worked for a living, the whole ‘trophy wife’ thing is a bit beyond my understanding.  Anyway, it was OK for what it was.

Amazon and PBS diverge on ratings for this book and I can see why.  It isn’t as entertaining as say, Suzanne Enoch’s Samantha Jellico series, or some of Rachel Gibson’s books, or even her own Accidentally paranormal series, but it was good.  My rating is C+ to B- (3.5*) and buy it used used of as a remainder for about $4 and get your money’s worth.


OK, so I said Fall smelled like apples, but not many of us have time to make things from scratch these days.  One shortcut I use is frozen puff pastry.  Have you ever SEEN the recipe for puff pastry?  The famous one that opens with, “On a cool, clear, dry day ……” and estimates prep time at 36 hours?  It’s all that refrigeration between roll outs and folding of the dough.  While I have spent 3 days doing a few desserts, making puff pastry is beyond my skill level and I’m a better than average cook.  Thankfully, Pepperidge Farms sells it premade in your freezer case.  No, not as buttery as the real thing, but if it were, you couldn’t afford it.  Just go buy the stuff.  You’ll need 1 box for 2 people, so buy as many boxes as you need.

Now go to your produce department – or better still a local farm stand.  Buy 1 large FIRM red delicious apple for each person.  Put the puff pastry in the fridge for an hour or so to defrost.  Meanwhile, peel and core the apples and put in cold water with lemon juice.  In a small bowl mix (for 4 apples) about 1/3-1/2  cup light brown sugar, dash of salt, some chopped walnuts, chopped white and dark raisins (roll them in extra fine sugar and they’re easier to chop), some fresh nutmeg to taste, a dash or true cinnamon (not that cassia crap), some lemon and orange zest and mix it together with your fingers.  I do this by sight, but figure a couple of tablespoons each of nuts and raisins – and chopping them if really optional, they just fit better – and you can substitute cranraisins for nice change.  Some people use chopped dates, but I find them too sweet for me.)

Take a sheet of the dough and carefully unfold on a LIGHTY floured surface using a lightly floured rolling pin.  Take one of the apples and DRY IT INSIDE AND OUT completely!  Place in the middle of the pastry sheet.  Pull up the opposing corners to make sure it fits.  Now stuff the core with sugar, nut raisin mix and cover with a generous pat of sweet butter (the real stuff, please).  Using a pizza cutter, square off any excess pastry, but save the bits in the fridg in plastic container or covered bowl – and DO NOT mash them together.  Using a pastry brush, ‘paint’ the edges of the pastry square with ice water.  Press the edges of the sides as they meet and if you can, add a decorative twist at the top.  Place the bundle on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining apples.  If making more than 4, keep them in the fridg so the pastry stays cold.

Bake at 400F for 30-40 minutes, or until the apples are tender.  Smaller apples take less time and Yellow Delicious take less time as well.  DO NOT try and use Cortland or Macintosh apples.  They turn mushy.  Rome Beauties look great, but have low flavor levels.  If you can find them, Pippin and Northern Spy are my favorites, but they are smaller than Delicious, but might be more suitable for portion control and honestly, they have a terrific flavor.  Great for pies, too.

Now, about the leftover strips of dough – grate some good sharp white cheddar, and GOOD parmesan from Italy in about equal amounts.  Sprinkle lightly with Kosher salt, and McCormick Italian Herb blend, or use some sweet marjoram, dry basil. and a LITTLE GREEK (not Mexican) oregano, and some fresh ground pepper.  Blend with your fingers till everything is mixed.

Lay out the dough strips, brush with melted SWEET butter, cover generously with the cheese and herb mix, lift the ends and twist.  Some cheese will fall off, jut put it on the exposed sided.  Bake at 400-425F till browned.  These keep well in airtight containers, but better still, serve them hot with your favorite Italian meal and some extra sauce or with appetizers.

The baked apples make a perfect dessert plain, with whipped cream (not the canned or frozen crap, beat heavy heavy with powdered sugar and skip the damn vanilla, that a French thing and technically cream Chantilly) or good quality vanilla ice cream.   They go with nearly any kind of food.  If serving plain, mix about a cup of Confectioners sugar with 1-2 tbls of milk add gradually as the sugar thins) and a dash (1/8-1/4 tps) of vanilla.  when thin enough to drizzle, use a spoon to carefully drizzle on each apple package while still warm – but not hot.

Easy to make, tasty, and low skill levels – but high points for a special treat for the family.


June 23, 2012

Tried and True – or is it Old and Tired

One of the downsides of being a prolific reader is lack of originality in books.  All kinds of books – well, all the genres I read.  A great new idea comes along once in a blue moon.  Reliable authors fall into ruts, even though some of those ruts hold very high standards, most just spiral downwards.  Lots of new authors come along each year – some excellent (Bruce DeSilva and Kevin Hearne) and some awful (E. L. James), but most fall into that large mid-section of just OK to very good, but not remarkable.

I’ll give you romance – after all, how many ways can you tell a love story?  Excuse me, romance.  It all comes down to an author finding a fresh take on the oldest theme out there.  Keep in mind, to be a romance, it must have an HEA (happily ever after).  Great stories like Gone with the Wind and Casablanca are not considered ‘romance’, they are ‘love stories’.  Love stories can have tragic endings – like Romeo and Juliet.  By definition, romance cannot.  So no matter what, you know how it all ends.  Of all genres sold, romance is by far and away the biggest seller.  Makes sense since women read more than men.  I enjoy a good romance, but find I prefer to re-read the few that I found entertaining than to plow my way through another mundane bodice ripper.  Well done romantic suspense is more my speed, but aside from a few reliable authors, even much of that is just junk.

Fifty Shades of Gray is by far and away leading the pack for the Worst Book for 2012.  OK, I admit I couldn’t actually read the whole thing – the writing was atrocious, the characters banal, and the plot nothing more than a teenage wet dream.  It was stop reading or risk permanent brain damage.  Then again, I thought Peyton Place was stupid (I still do) and never did understand why people were all inflamed over it.  It must be the first BDSM book to hit the best seller list, and it’s just so damn undeserving.  I’m no fan of the genre, but please, Shayla Black and Maya Banks could write better books half asleep than this tripe.  I just passed my copy Shades to some poor unsuspecting victim in another book swap and thanked heavens I didn’t spend any money buying the stupid thing.

No Tan Lines by Kate Angell is a contemporary romance with a promising start that kind of slips into the great land of BLAH about half way through and never recovers.  A beach read at best, but mostly a forgettable and modest romance that is seriously overpriced at the discount price of $8.69 (list $14.00).  If you need something mindless for a few hours and can get it free or used, fine, otherwise, spend your money somewhere else.

I enjoyed Chaos Burning by Lauren Dane.  In this second installment of her Bound by Magic series, she begins bringing in characters from her Cascadia Wolves series written for Ellora’s Cave and ties it in with her storyline evolving in the De La Vega Cats series she’s still writing for Samhain.  Again, I think this another good series of her’s.  Much better than the popular Psy-Ops futuristic series published by Berkley. ( I’m in a minority in not liking that series, which I find shallow with not very credible plots or characters.)   At $7.99 (discounts available), you get lots of entertainment for your money, but you will enjoy it more if you read  Heart of Darkness first.  You don’t need to read the Cascadia or De La Vega series, but I do recommend the De La Vega cats books as really good reads.

Dead Man Waltzing by Ella Barrick (a pen name for Laura De Silverio) was another good entry in this unusual, and well written ballroom dance based cozy series.  Unlike many series, this one need not be read in order to follow characters or plots.  Not a must read, but a better than average cozy worth reading – with the following considerations:  Like many cozies, at $7.99, it’s a fairly short book, so try for a deep discount used book or borrow it if you can.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from cozies is The Curse of the Jade Lily by David Housewright.  How could I resist a book with a title that harkens back to the heyday of B mystery movies in the 1930’s and 1940’s, something featuring Charlie Chan or Mr Motto?  I loved those movies and David Housewright is a favorite author of mine with his McKenzie novels.

Rushmore McKenzie is a former cop who quit the force so he could collect the substantial reward on stolen goods – Over $3 million dollars.  The insurance agent, Vincent Donatucci, who handed over his windfall shows up on his doorstep asking Mac for a ‘favor’.  Like John D MacDonald’s immortal Travis McGee, Mac isn’t a PI, he just does ‘favors’, and this one is being asked by the man who made him a millionaire.

“People we make big payouts to, I like to keep an eye on them, see how the money changes them.”
“Does the money change them?”
“Always. Always it changes them. Sometimes for the better. They become philanthropists, you know? Share the wealth. Most of the others, they become prisoners to their money. Not always their fault, though. Suddenly everyone wants a piece. Friends turn on them, usually out of resentment. Most end up wishing they could go back to the way it was before they were rich. And then there’s you. You became Batman.”

First rate classic mystery, written in his usual breezy, non-stop, first person style, with intricate plotting, and a wild, twisty ending.  Two thumbs up and a must read for any fan of Travis McGee or Spencer.


May 29, 2012

Waiting Rooms and Emergency Exits

What is about the Month of May?  Isn’t it supposed to be ‘The Merry Month of May’?  The big May Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Beltane celebrations at the start and ending with the long Memorial Day weekend that signals the unofficial start of summer.  Last year I celebrated by falling and breaking my wrist, followed by implant surgery when the damn thing broke in the cast.  This year it’s the Festival of the Dentists.  Honestly, it’s not only getting old, it’s getting damn expensive.

A crown falls out.   No big deal, just get it re-cemented.  Nope.  Apparently, the cement was stronger than the tooth, took a chunk with it, and it’s root canal time!  Then probably a new crown.  What had been a nothing dental visit became $2500 in minutes.  But wait!  There’s more!  The tooth with the root canal has developed a problem!  Now it’s antibiotics and wait and see if they need to do the root canal AGAIN.  (Which, by the way, costs nothing.)  So drink lots of fluids and take clindamycin and see what happens.  But wait!  There’s more!  While continuing with the whole ‘soft food’ thing, something goes ‘CRUNCH” and a different crown falls out!  Now this one already had a root canal so no problem.  WRONG AGAIN.  Apparently bacteria got under the crown and the tooth rotted.  Now I see the oral surgeon, get the root extracted and start the process of an implant.  Figure another $5000.

BUT WAIT!  There’s even more!  My doctor tells me my blood work came back showing a problem.  So they do it again.  And again.  Now I have fun with specialists looming on the horizon too.  This week alone it’s will be 3 different dentists and 1 doctor.  I’ve been stabbed, drilled, stabbed, glued, stabbed and soon I’ll have stitches from tooth removal – after being stabbed with a few more needles.  Wow, the excitement is more than I can stand.  Oh, the antibiotic?  It’s one of those that has the delightful ‘risk of death’ that can occur MONTHS after finishing the drug.  No way to tell.  Another miracle of modern medicine.  Basically, The Merry Month of May SUCKS!

This leads me to ‘What to do While Being Bored in Waiting Room’.  Well, read is the obvious answer.  And not those aged magazines (unless you foolishly forgot a book!)  Staying focused can be tough when listening to the whine of dentists drills or the non-stop droning of some heath network on the doctor’s TV.  (Wow, that’s a way to make you feel positive.)  So, here are some quick reviews of some recent reads:

As the Crow Flies by Craig Johnson is the latest Walt Longmire mystery, and another very good entry in a first rate series.  Set out in the remote areas of Montana and Wyoming, the books are evocative and wryly humorous, and filled with unique characters.  Walt and his best friend, Henry Standing Bear, are trying to the ‘wedding planning’ for the marriage of Walt’s daughter, Cady, and less qualified pair would be hard to find, especially since Walt has trouble decision making.  But the real problem is the fact on the rez where they reserved the spot for the wedding has been usurped by a tribal member who is running a in depth language program.  She won’t budge.  Henry and Walt end up hunting for another spot – and end up seeing a woman fall from a cliff clutching something – a baby who survives.

Walt isn’t in his county, he isn’t even in his state, so the investigation lands in the untrained hands of an Afghan war vet suffering PTSD, a big chip on her shoulder, and perpetual mad on.  Watching laid back, shrewd, Longmire try and teach patience and people skills is worth the price alone, especially when he is so damn inept with his own daughter.

As the Crow Flies get’s two thumbs up.  FYI – – A&E will be showing a multipart series based on Johnson’s books called simply Longmire.

The Dark Vineyard by Martin Walker is book two in the Bruno Courregés series set in the wine making French countryside.  Walker captures the attitudes and perspectives of typical rural France and it’s reluctance to chance their traditional was of life.  It’s also about wine – and the emotional attachment artisans have vs. the business of the mass produced wines – and the fears surrounding anything to do with genetically modified crops in the sensitive vineyard area.  The mystery is not as well done Bruno, Chief of Police, but remains a cut above the usual, but not in the same league as Dr Siri series by Colin Cotterill.  I got my copy through a book swapping site, and I have to say that buying it would depend on price, but I’d suggest used or get it from the library.

Blue-Blooded Vamp by Jayne Wells is supposedly the last of the Sabina Kane novels and it did have a decent wind up.  Yes, things were left unsettled, but nothing major and let’s face it, life does not get neatly tied in a bow.  Sabina is after Caine – the Biblical Caine who is the original vampire.  Caine is after Lilith, who left his psychotic butt and fell in love with the demon king of Irkalla, Asmodeus.  (Talk about questionable taste in lovers!)  Of course the road to retribution isn’t easy and Sabine has all these ‘tests’ she must pass to become the Chosen so she can slay the one who cannot die, Caine.  It was a good read, and a good ending to a sometimes uneven series.  I’d give a B- (3.8*) and a definite buy for fans of the series.  My opinion, there are better series out there.

Captivated by Lauren Dane, the latest in her futuristic Phantom Corps series, was a disappointment.  This is one series I keep hoping will live up to her considerable storytelling skill, but one that keeps falling short.  Maybe it’s the lame heroines, or the angsty, predictable plots, but try as I might, I just don’t like the books.  While Captivated had a better ending than most (and I can only hope it’s the end of the series, but she left an escape hatch), overall, it was more than half tedious.  I can take just so much ‘wounded dove’ crap and I’m at my limit.  Unlike her female leads in the de la Vega Cats series, Witch’s Knot series, or her Cascadia Pack series, her female leads are rather blah.  Yeah, there was steamy sex and lots of m/m action, but after that, it was weak and the writing had trouble holding my attention.  I just couldn’t connect with the characters.

Obviously, I’m in the minority here in giving it a C+ (3.5*) rating.  The Amazon reviewers raved.  I yawned.

OK, that’s all I have time for now, but once all my tests are done and the dentists are finished – and I’m languishing in poverty – I’ll have more books for you.


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…)


March 26, 2011

Short Reviews: New Release Paranormals, Romantic Suspense, Erotic Romance, Cozy Mystery

Talk about a disappointing group of books.  YEESH!  Not one really good one in the whole lot!

  • Title: Accidentally Catty
  • Author:  Dakota Cassidy
  • Type:  Humorous paranormal romance series
  • Genre:  A vet gets infected my a mountain lion that’s really a shifter and must deal with the paranormal reality
  • Sub-genre:  Normal human gets involved with vamps and shifters and an insane scientist
  • My Grade: C  (3.0*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel – about 100,000+ $8.50-10 with list of $15.00
  • 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…)
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