Tour’s Books Blog

January 2, 2016

Ebook Binge – cont’d

Yes, there are actually MORE ebooks to get through. When I binge, I BINGE! And after those football games yesterday (Just kill me now and put me out of my Fantasy football misery.), it was more ebooks or take up drinking something stronger than Fresca.

I hope everyone had a good holiday – or at least one that did not include tornadoes, blizzards, floods, or sleeping in airports or shelters.  The folks in Texas and other parts of the Great Plains and deep South sure have had a rough few days.  Our Christmas felt more like Easter and even though I did not make it to my brother’s this year, we did ‘tele-Yahtzee’ – playing Yahtzee by phone.  It was just as well I was home as I got sick as a dog Christmas night and 2 days later my SIL’s mother landed in the hospital.  Circumstances kept me home and apparently that was a good thing all the way around.  Funny how that happens.

I’m also starting to look for a new laptop or something like the Surface Pro 4.  Kind of pricey on that second option.  And naturally, ANOTHER crown fell out 2 days before Christmas and my dentist was nowhere to be found.  While I had one missing tooth over the holidays and a lovely hole where I am healing from my LAST oral surgery in October, I might just celebrate my New Year with another visit to oral surgeon.  YIPEE!  Then I KNOW my dentist will want a fixed bridge and ……………. dear God, the money makes me faint.  That expense must be handled before new computers of any type.

So solace was found in real Scotch shortbread – yes REAL, all butter so I can fail my bloodwork in January in style.  (Dr T – you will ignore that sentence!!!!!!!  I ate fruit and vegetables and saltines and have no idea why my bad cholesterol is so high!)  Then tele-Yahtzee and ebooks.  Football, my usual drug of choice, is best left undiscussed as I am still in mild shock and very close to the edge of murdering my TV – though what the poor innocent TV has to do with BAD OFFICIALS AND POOR CALLS I’m not sure.  But I seem to have this primal urge to cause it harm.  Dark chocolate covered figs from Spain have helped stabilize me.  Very high therapeutic value.

On the upside, no ebooks were damaged in the process of trying to pacify myself with harmless, entertaining books.  Though the whole ‘entertainment’ thing gets a bit shaky.  Anyway, here we go.

                           

         

We’ll start with the Lucky O’Toole series by Deborah Coonts set in Las Vegas.  Touted as humorous romantic mystery series supposedly similar to the Steph Plum books.  I can tell you they have only slight elements in common – mostly off the charts insanity.  Lucky is a much more complex, competent, mature character – or so it seems at the start, so the hapless fumbling, nutty sidekick, and crazy grandma are out.  Lucky does have a bordello owning mother, Mona, and a competent assistant, Miss P (Miss Patterson) in her job as head of Customer Relations at the swankiest, most coveted casino resort on the strip, the Babylon – and access to complementary Ferrari’s.

There are also numerous downsides.  The author seems attached to using antiquated technology, calls the casino owner ‘The Big Boss’ (yeah, that was original), she all but runs the whole operation and somehow manages to investigate murders when she has perfectly competent staff to handle such things.  Reality never had much to do with Vegas, so readers mostly gloss over all these annoying improbabilities and go along for the ride.  Hey, if Steph Plum can have giraffes running around Trenton, I guess Lucky O’Toole can have the only dinosaur Nextel in the state of Nevada – though one would think an iPhone would be more probable.

If the author’s last name sounds familiar, it should.  Her husband is NY Times best-selling author Stephen Coonts of the Jake Grafton/Tommy Carmelinni action thrillers.  I wonder how many reviews of this series were from his friends?

Anyway, let’s look at the books and keep in mind the highly improbable events in most cozies – and this would be closer to that than real mystery – so it’s like Steph Plum not having grown older during the 20+ years of the series.  (If you wonder why her sister and her kids disappeared, Evonavich had to get rid of them from the stories or they too would be ageless, despite state of the art electronics everywhere.  Robert B Parker made the same choice for his ageless Spencer.  It’s one of the wonders of FICTION.)

Wanna Get Lucky was free for Kindle to I gave it a shot.  Lucky OToole and the Babylon’s new security guy have a mystery to solve when a Vegas ‘working girl’ ends up getting dumped out of the Babylon’s helicopter into the Treasure Island Lagoon and killed.  And someone just ‘happened’ to be there to film it in high resolution.  Then there’s the 400-pound naked man by main staircase, and missing security tapes from certain floors and …….. well, a whole bunch of other stuff.

Lucky inserts herself into the investigation with the help of a very young, very green detective named Romeo.  The fast pace can’t quite cover the many flaws in logic, even for a lightweight mystery, and yes, it is cliché ridden.  If you can suspend your common sense long enough, it’s a decent read, albeit very annoying with its characters right from a TV script – including the female impersonator who is NOT gay and is interested in Lucky.  I will give Wanna Get Lucky a C- (2.8*) because it could have been really good with more attention to reality and fewer borrowed characters from all too familiar movies and TV.  It’s free, so try and see how you feel about it.

Lucky Stiff once again finds Lucky in the middle of a murder, problems with her now former female impersonator boyfriend, a convention of entomologists who bring in thousands of bees, sharks eating a Vegas odds maker with a shifty rep, and everything short of a circus act.  If book one was pushing credibility, this one entered comic book zone with a dose of soap opera thrown in – and if you didn’t see the ‘big reveal’ coming, you have to turn in your Nancy Drew card and promise to never work the Psychic Hotline.

Lucky Stiff had its amusing moments, but in many ways seemed to imitate the worst elements of the Steph Plum books with too much TV show Vegas.  You half expect James Cann to grab someone’s throat.  Anyway, it gets another C- (2.6*) and the same warning as above.  It’s heavy on the angst in parts too.  In fact, that’s true of this whole series.

 So Damn Lucky had a plot so over the top I actually enjoyed it.  You had Area 51, secret psychic warfare studies the government denies, a missing magician, a murder on the loose – or maybe not if Dimitri isn’t dead, boyfriend ‘Teddy’ now with a singing contract thanks to Lucky out on tour, a break in at her condo complex one floor blow her 30th floor unit, a French chef who looks even better than his food tastes – and he wouldn’t mind getting a taste of Lucky, and then there’s the whole, “How do I deal with Vegas knowing who my daddy is?”   Just to make life complete, Teddy shows up in Vegas unexpectedly – and so do his obnoxious parents.

OK, this one is hard for me because I kind of got a kick out of the magicians and the whole Area 51 thing, but you will have one of two reactions – SHE’S INSANE TO LIKE THIS (and many believe I am) to OMG THIS BOOK IS JUNK!  I give So Damn Lucky a B- (3.7*) because of the above points and despite the whole Teddy drama.  Plus I’m a sucker for mysteries involving magicians.

Lucky Bastard is the point at which I started giving up on this series.  Yes, it’s lighthearted fun, but there are just so many romance crisis I can stand before I hit a wall.  This is one of the problems with binge reading a series, the flaws leap out and start choking you.  Lucky’s waffling attraction to men in a kind of serial monogamy with no serious timeouts between them left me wondering how shallow she was.

Lucky O’Toole’s murder du jour is a body on the hood of a Ferrari on the showroom floor stabbed in the neck with the heel of her own Jimmy Choos – bringing a whole new meaning to ‘blood red sportscar.’  Lucky’s first thought was, “Where’s the other shoe?”  Then she learns the woman in question, well, DEAD woman in question, is actually the wife of one of the men who had been pursuing her since book 1 – former Babylon security man, undercover Gaming Commission Agent, now PI and partners with the Beautiful Jeremy Whitlock, Paxton Dane.  (Yeah, it really is that convoluted.)

Enter Detective Romeo, Lucky’s go to homicide cop who is showing the kind of growing as a character that makes his passingly interesting.  Too bad he’s always a bit player.  And the fact that Sylvie was cheating in the Babylon’s poker room, knew both the security code and the secret password to enter the Ferrari dealership after hours, and told Dane she had to speak with him about something urgent …………….. ok, we are now in ‘this is getting silly’ territory. Oh, and even though Lucky is moving on from Teddy to Jean-Charles, the famous gourmet chef The Big Boss hired, but is pissed at Dane (whom she rejected) for not telling her all about his marriage.  (All together now – EYE ROLL!)

Unlike So Damn Lucky, Lucky Bastard wanders in the personal wilderness of Lucky’s life and the mystery kind of just bobs and weaves in and out of her story.  And that’s my problem.  The books are half women’s fic romance/humor and half mystery and billed as the ‘Heartfelt Series’.  Being neither fish nor fowl, they probably appeal more to romance and romantic suspense lovers than mystery lovers.  Not a good genre for me to binge read after having finished the Savannah Martin series that fell into the same emotional quagmire, but with less humor.

The Lucky Bastard murder is not complex or exciting, but the surrounding endless distractions make it seem more than it is.  And how anyone can be responsible for largely running the biggest casino resort in Vegas AND have time to play amateur detective baffles me completely, especially since her only professional help is a PI and very young police detective is beyond comprehension.  Pacing is fast and if the lack of a real mystery plot and reality don’t bother you, it’s a decent read   I gets a C- (2.7*) from me.

We have now reached Lucky Catch – and in case you’re wondering, here’s the tally to far – Book 1, clear The Big Boss, book 2, clear the Beautiful Jeremy Whitlock, book 3, no close associate blamed (PHEW), book 4, clear Dane, book 5, clear new boyfriend Jean-Charles and his sister Desiree.  (And book 6, not reviewed here because I got fed up, clear Teddy, the ex-lover, who is back in Vegas.)
Romantic French chef, a renowned restaurateur, and new boyfriend Jean-Charles is the lead suspect in the death of his brother-in-law’s conniving mistress who helped him run J-C’s high-end food truck where chef tested potential new food offerings for yet to be opened restaurant at the completely rebuilt Athena – soon to be Cielo and run by Lucky.  (By the way, this will be fastest rebuild in the history of all hotel renovations.)

 Romeo focuses on the spurned wife – a wife with someone trying to sabotage her ultra high-end food supply company that specializes in truffles.  (Not the chocolate ones, the fungus ones.)  Too bad he did think to look closer to home ………….. Jean-Charles’ late wife.

You get a fair smattering of the ins and outs of behind the scenes food supply for top end eateries and enough French drama to fill several foreign language film festivals.  You know, the smoldering, moody, self-sacrificial, tragic crap.  Had this been a paper book, it would have gotten pitched against the wall about half way through.  I have no intention to wrecking my laptop for a cheap ebook, no matter how badly I wanted to stick a knife through the screen.  GAH!  The weakest entry in the series, (until book 6) with enough melodrama to fuel a month of soap operas.  Lucky Catch gets a D+to C- (2.5*) and read only if you’re following this series for the romance, not the mystery.

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 I received The Dirt on the Ninth Grave as an ARC ebook and hoped against hope that Darynda Jones would manage to set the story back on track after the ridiculous ‘amnesia’ ending on Eighth Grave.  You have no idea how hard I was pulling for Charley and Reyes.  SIGH!  I feared I was doomed to disappointment.  I was right and man, does that make me sad.

The Dirt on the Ninth Grave finds the still amnesiac Charley waiting tables at a diner in Sleepy Hollow, NY.  Yes, THAT Sleepy Hollow.  (It’s a scenic real town on the east side of the Hudson just north of Tarrytown where Sleepy Hollow author, Washington Irving, lived.)  Eye roll.  Reyes is now the cook there, Cookie, her PI business associate and best friend, a waitress, Detective Uncle Bob – all with obvious variations on their names and none willing to tell her about her past because she must remember on her own.  No, I am not making this crap up.  Oh, if you’re worried about Beep, the newborn from Eighth Grave, don’t bother.  Mr Wong has that handled.  Well eventually he was going to do SOMETHING.

We labor through pages of Charley seeing ghosts but not getting freaked out, serving coffee, food, and getting it on with handsome cook Ray.  And after several hundred pages, the evil demon inhabiting the body of the man who tormented Reyes and his sister comes back and kidnaps her and yes, hauls her off to a spooky house.

I will not tell you how she gets her memory back, but let me just say it ranks up there with Christina Henry’s Black Wings series ending with “Mother’s awake.”  Oh, she’s not at all freaked out about Beep being cared for elsewhere.  Not a single tear.  But she’s hot for Reyes.

OK, you’ll have one of two reactions – series lovers will LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book.  People retaining some semblance of sanity will go WTF?  Yeah.  The ‘most powerful being in the universe’ not only got amnesia but is OK with her newborn being raised by strangers and ready to make out with Reyes after once again turning the tables at the last minute.  I simply cannot reconcile the contradictions in the supposed powers of the characters and the pedestrian troubles that they should easily fixed.  The rationals don’t mesh and the baby gets whisked away because it will hinder the romance angle.  Whisked away from ‘the most powerful being in the universe’ because ‘others’ can keep him safer – DOES NOT COMPUTE.  These persistent contradictions in logic just cannot be ignored.  ……….. Let me amend that.  I cannot ignore them.  Apparently fans have unlimited tolerance for such things.

Long sigh.  Time to wrap this up Ms Jones.  You’re pushing the plot well past the sell by date.  I will be a contrarian and give Ninth Grave a C- (2.7*) and acknowledge in advance I will be hated by CD fans everywhere.  The hardcover is very overpriced even at a discount given the short length of the book.  The ebook is insanely over-priced as well.  It does have better verve than Eight Grave, but not enough for me to overlook the basic flaws in logic.  If you’re a serious, SERIOUS fan, buy it.  If Eighth Grave put you on the fence – get it from your library for free or wait for a used book discount in a couple of months.  Regardless, spend as little as possible.

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Alyssa Day is famous for her paranormal romance books featuring Atlantis and an alternate version of our world where vampires attempted a takeover of the US.  In this hybrid reality, in modern Florida swamp country mystery, Dead Eye, Tess Callahan runs a pawn shop half of which she inherited from her former boss and father figure, Jeremiah Shepherd – a man who was murdered some months earlier.  The other half of the shops and Jeremiah’s house and personal belongings went to his nephew Jack Shepherd.  Jack left Dead End 10 years ago and was involved in the vampire wars.  Now he’s back and looking to just settle his uncle’s estate …………… until he learns Jeremiah didn’t just die, he was murdered and Tess has a tiger shifter by the tail.

Tess has a gift too.  One she’d rather not have.  She can ‘see’ a person’s death when she touches them or they touch her skin.  It doesn’t happen every time, but enough that she doesn’t touch folks.  Like witches and shifters, such gifts are not uncommon in Dead End.  Jack makes himself at home all too fast and decides to ‘get this over with’ and touches Tess.  She realizes he’s already ‘died’ – kind of a first for her.  She also learns that he was one of the two top people leading the rebellion.  Jack is also a really nice guy – but bossy.

Dead Eye is a bit different from Day’s usual trope, it’s more in the UF/paranormal mystery mash-up category like Sookie Stackhouse.  Although it is tangential to her other series, you do NOT need to have read them to follow this book as works as the start of a new a different series, but it does help to fill in the background.  The series will carry on more in the UF/paranormal mystery series with the Jack and Tess romance angle.  The plot, unfortunately, was obvious and the characters, especially Tess, lacked depth.  It just came off shallow on all key elements.  There was a sense of deja vu because the characters and dialogues and plot were so familiar it felt trite.  Much as I wanted to really like it, it was too cliché, including the corrupt town sheriff.  It gets a C (3*) rating and for Alyssa Day fans, buy or borrow the ebook.  It’s much too short to justify the price of the print copy.  A miss-able series, but fun for those who like paranormal mystery in the Sookie Stackhouse style, just shorter.

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 Here is my best advice to fans if the Miss Fortune series by Jana DeLeon – RUN AWAY NOW!  DO NOT LOOK BACK!  DO NOT SPEND ONE DIME ON THIS TRIPE!  This whole Sinful World novella craze has spawned some real garbage and but this one – good grief.  You want an example of how allowing other authors to write stories set in a world you created can go wrong – here is the perfect example.  Some of the Sinful World novellas have been good, most mediocre, one other awful, but this was Outer Limits Meets Sinful and almost singlehandedly trashed the series.

I understand that many of these novellas are little better than fan fic.  OK, that’s fine.  I remember back when multiple author series were all the rage in sword and sorcery fantasy and yes, different authors perceived the same character very differently.  But there is a HUGE difference between accomplished authors writing stories using common ‘worlds’ and characters from amateur hour in ebook-orama.  Sinful Science is almost a criminal offense.  A not believable overlay of poorly thought out science fiction/horror using characters who behave totally out of character, banal dialogue, and a plot that’s little short of an insult to both science fiction/horror fans and Sinful fans alike – and even managed to throw in shapeshifting swamp rat Federal Agents at the end.  I can’t believe I just wrote that.  I think I need to bleach my brain.  My WTF gauge just exploded.

Can you guess my rating?  Yes, Sinful Science gets an F (0*).  A rare and not at all coveted award.  I’m confident this author writes far better pieces than this, I just wish she refrained from inflicting this insane mashup of Outer Limits/Twilight Zone/Sinful on Sinful fans.  If I want to read Dystopian or horror, I’ll grab Sandman Slim or one of the other many UF/paranormal/horror mashups available.

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OK, I think I’ve aborted my near cranial meltdown and can manage one more ebook novella review – another entry in Thea Harrison’s Elder Races paranormal romance series.  Pia Does Hollywood is book 2 in a novella series that started with Dragos Goes to Washington.  In this, a pregnant Pia is required to go spend 1 week as a guest of Queen of the Light Fae, who seems oddly anxious to put the timing off.  But Pia is pregnant and unwilling to wait and risk exposing her condition.  Dragos plans to skirt the rules that forbid him to go with Pia by going to CA on his own and staying up the coast to be near.

But Pia sees a problem as soon as she arrives, it’s high security and watchfulness by the Light Fea that has Pia’s own bodyguards on edge.  Dragos arrives early thanks to a favor from a djinn and flies out to grab some fresh fish before heading to Rodeo Drive.  A spectacular necklace, bracelet, and earring catch his eye.  But when he announces himself, the usual sudden appearance of owners doesn’t happen, just a confused and near hysterical sales woman.  Something is obviously wrong as she explains how Light Fae have been disappearing.  But he’s Lord Dragos Culebre, so he takes the jewels, tells he to stay secure and send the bill to his NYC office and goes to investigate.  He finds packs of rabid, mindless Light Fae who attack and try to kill him despite his fire.

Pia is struck by the fact the Light Fae queen and her whole household is armed as if they expect a massive assault.  It seems some infection has struck, perhaps deliberate bio attack, the Light Fae.  Only Dragos, who arrives at the mansion in a stolen vehicle – and he’s been bitten by an infected Fae.

Ms Harrison, who is quite capable of drawing out a slender story to a tedious novel length, manages to write excellent novellas.  Funny how the shorter format seems to bring out the best in some authors and the worst in others.  She managed to create enough plot for a decent book into an excellent, tightly written, action-packed novella.  Pia Does Hollywood is not at all what I expected, but it was actually much better and gets a B+ (4.3*) and suggested read along with Dragos goes to Washington.

With that, I will wrap the ebook binge and hopefully get back to print books for my next entry.  As I sit writing this and watching the end of the Alamo Bowl (which became quite exciting in the second half), I want to wish you all Happy New Year and Good Reading in 2016!

 

 

 

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July 1, 2014

Quick Review – Short Shots – Assorted Genre New Releases

I’ve been busy compiling lists for people and writing reviews for the PBS Book Blog, I haven’t really had time to do my own damn reviews.  JEEZE.  So here are some short ones on books I read this past month.

Sixth Grave

 

The sixth book in the Charley Davidson UF/mystery series was not up to Jones’s usual high standards.  It seemed to spin quickly, yet advanced the over-arching plot not much all.  It did add a few questions about Charley’s actions at the end when she altered Reyes’ fate, but otherwise, it was not her best stuff.  The usual dual mystery, half of which is a naked ghost who doesn’t talk, and the other half a man who sold his soul to a demon and needs it back before he dies.   A typical day in the life of Charley Davidson.

There is a kind of funny, but predictable, set piece about ‘encouraging Uncle Bob to ask Cookie, Charley’s neighbor, best friend, and business receptionist.  It was the kind of this that was probably drafted as a skit and just placed in a book otherwise short on diversions. All that said, average Darynda Jones is better than 90% of the rest of the UF writers, especially for more female based readers.

Sixth Grave on the Edge earned a B- (3.8*) from me and it remains a recommended series.  I just hope she has a slam bang ending to this series and it doesn’t go the route of never ending.  Love stories, for better or worse, must END, and Jones better be up to the job after all this build up.

Purchased from Amazon for just over $16.

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shattered

This is one of the series that can cast even Jones’ work in the shade, though not like the master, Jim Butcher when he hits all 8 cylinders.  Shattered by Kevin Hearne is his first hardcover release and I expected great things.  I was disappointed.  As is often the case, we have too many cooks – or in this case, too many druids – spoiling what should have been a tightly plotted book.  Instead, Hearne moved his POV from Atticus, to Granuaile, to the Archdruid Owen in rotation.  Unfortunately, he simply he could not establish and maintain a really distinctive ‘voice’ for each character, so the reader had to work out the who and the where each chapter was.  Owen came closest to being unique, but even he assimilated in the modern world in a really unrealistic speed.  Sorry no one does a move of 2000 years in time and not have profound culture shock.

The plot revolves around Atticus’ trying to uncover who in Tir na nÓg is betraying him.  Granuaile is off in India trying to save her father and stop a demon infestation.  The plots barely meet in the end and frankly Granuaile’s, other than trying to establish her as an independent character, was just a distraction to the main plot.

And there is the problem.  The plot is messy, Atticus loses a lot of his strongest character traits, washed out or assigned to these other characters.  Much of the strength in the story telling goes with this bizarre split.  The resulting story is an interesting, fast moving (helps hide the flaws), rather shallow and messy book, that while entertaining, lacked the depth and substance of his early work.

Once again, my grade is B- (3.7*).  It’s a good read but not at the HC price.  Purchased from Amazon.

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The Devil may care

And three cheers for David Housewright, ‘Mac” McKenzie, and The Devil May Care.  Housewright, like Craig Johnson and C.J. Box just holds to his style and character and even when writing something with a less audacious plot than Jade Lily or Taking Libby, SD, he just comes through for readers.

Like Travis McGee, Rushmore ‘Mac’ McKenzie does ‘favors’ and he’s asked to do a gem for the granddaughter of one of Minnesota’s most powerful movers and shakers – find the young man who was courting her and disappeared.  Other than crossing the Muehlenhaus family, again, what could wrong?  Riley Brodin has some rough edges, but she seems a decent young woman, so he gives it a shot and walks into a hall of mirrors and dangerous people, one true psychopath, and a man who isn’t what or who he claims and everyone looking for a lot of stolen money.

The story mixes light and dark in Housewright’s ever readable tale.  Mac is a great narrator, observant, and equal parts dispassionate and deeply affected.  It’s not just about who, but why and plot has plenty of twists and the ending was just ambiguous enough on some things and final on others.

My score for The Devil May Care is B (4.0*) and a recommended read.  his books often are not printed mmpb, so grab a used copy, get the ebook, or borrow it.  At just over $16 for the HC from Amazon, it’s a bit high for a short read, even a really good one like this

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After dead

DING:::::DING::::DING:::::DING – RIP-OFF ALERT!  DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK!

If there is one thing I despise, it’s an author taking shameless advantage of fans with worthless tripe disguised as a book.  Let me detail this paean to greed touted as a series of short stories that tell the tales of the various characters in the Sookie Stackhouse series in After Dead.

As if the boring, self-indulgent, nearly plotless and pointless crap in Dead Ever After wasn’t insult enough, here the author and publisher come with another money grab by – I am NOT exaggerating – turning a few sentences into a claim of ‘stories’ about characters.  Yup, ‘stories’.  This undersized apparent novella length book is 200 pages – but 200 pages of what?  Well, let me break this down:

Page 169 – the letter ‘U’

page 170 – blank

page 171 – 81 words.  the word ‘a’ is used 8 times – 10%  81 words = story

page 172 – blank

page 173 – the letter ‘V’

page 174 – blank

page 175 – 30 words = a story

page 176 – 24 words = a story (I think we’re redefining ‘short story’ here.)

page 177 – 57 words.  the word ‘a’ is only used 5 times.  (She really worked on this one, huh?)

page 178 – blank

page 179 – the letter ‘W’

page 180 – blank (this is the favorite of author an publisher alike.  No wonder they use it so often!)

page 181 – 29 word ‘story’.

GET THE PICTURE??????????????????

My grade for After Dead is F (0*) , two thumbs down and I spit on it for the insult it is.  In a tribute to hubris, the ‘hardcover’ is selling for just over $10, the paperback – some kind of trade size – will discount at $11 and even the stupid ebook sells for just under $10.  Save the money some something important, like toilet paper.  Got it for free from a book swapping site and it’s so awful I’ll just offer it as an add-on for free because I’d feel guilty taking a credit for it.  Obviously, Charlaine Harris does not share my values.

June 2, 2013

Getting Books Cheap Books and Paranormal Reviews

I know, bizarre combination, huh?  Maybe cheap books feels like a fantasy these days.  Somehow, getting good buys on mass market paperbacks (mmpb’s) has become a challenge, one that I occasionally go after.  Although Amazon is continuing their silly “Guess the price and hope you win” game, Book-A-Million (BAM) has taken an easier approach – additional discounts.  Both Amazon and BAM discount mmpb’s 10%, but BAM offers frequent coupons.  On Memorial Day Weekend, BAM offered two different discounts, 10% off an order of $20 or more, or $20 off $100 or more.  Guess which one I went for?  Yup, the $100 order.  I ordered 8 mmpb’s, one trade paperback, and 2 unreleased hardcovers.  Total cost, $104 + tax – which Amazon will start charging in my state July 1 anyway.  Since all these books were unreleased pre-orders, the tax was a wash between BAM and Amazon, the additional $20 off was not.

Before ordering any book on BAM, I check the pricing on Amazon.  If Amazon is cheaper by more than 50 cents, I let it sit and move on to the next option.  This is most apparent with trade and hard cover books.  MMPB’s seem to be the same or cheaper in BAM.  Here’s what I ordered from BAM:

Born Wild by Julie Ann Walker – (Mass Market Paperback)

King and Maxwell by David Baldacci – (Hardcover)

Death Rides Again by Janice Hamrick – (Hardcover)

Unbreakable by Stephanie Tyler – (Mass Market Paperback)

Death of a Chocoholic by Lee Hollis – (Mass Market Paperback)

Midnight Games by Elle Kennedy – (Mass Market Paperback)

Read It and Weep by Jenn McKinlay – (Mass Market Paperback)

Cover Story by Erika Chase – (Mass Market Paperback)

The Cakes of Wrath by Jacklyn Brady – (Mass Market Paperback)

Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach – (Paperback)

After the Storm by Maya Banks – (Mass Market Paperback)

Now BAM does not distribute the discount over books like Amazon.  They take the whole discount, in this case $20, and apply it to the first item shipped.  For these books, it will be a hard cover that costs just over $15+tax.  That means a small amount will carry over and reduce the price of the next item shipped.  After that, items will ship at their list price.  If this discount was evenly distributed over each book, it would be about $1.80/book over the already discounted list price.  As I said above, I do check ALL the prices to be sure Amazon isn’t substantially lower.  In this case, all mass market paperbacks were priced identically ($7.19) on both sites.  The trade and hard covers were within a few cents, sometimes BAM was cheaper, sometimes a few cents more.  The difference was never more than $0.50.  This then translates into a mmpb price of $5.39 per book.  It also means each of the hard cover and trade size books were nearly $2.00 less than Amazon.  (I have disregarded the tax as it would be the same in either case, or if you live in a state without sales tax, it would remain zero.  Same with shipping.  In both cases I am a member so shipping is free.)

Is this more work?  Yes it is.  And there is one HUGE drawback on BAM, you cannot cancel items in an order, so if you accidentally order two of one item because you ordered it before or on another site, you’re stuck with it.  I now list all items I bought on BAM in my Amazon wish list and tag them as purchased on BAM so I don’t order twice.  And that’s another drawback with BAM, it WON’T TELL YOU THAT YOU ALREADY PURCHASED AN ITEM!   For someone like me with hundreds of dollars in pre-orders, that a problem.  I have to be a lot more careful about choosing titles.  Still, can you beat $5.39 for a brand new mmpb, delivered on the day of release?  Let me know if you see a better price on line.

The prices with that coupon on BAM were actually LESS THAN AMAZON 4-for-3!  But, it was enough of a hassle I probably wouldn’t do it if Amazon had kept that deal.  Still, it is the third time this year that I placed an order of $50 or more with BAM to use a coupon that lead to deep discounts like this.

Do I still order from Amazon?  You bet.  They are very competitive on trade paperback and hard cover pricing and they also offer lots of freebies and deep discounts on things other than print books for Prime members.  In fact, I placed an order for 3 trade paperbacks the same day I ordered the other books from BAM.  Why?  Amazon had better prices or BAM did not list the book.  That’s the other thing – some authors love Amazon’s self-publishing platform, Create Space.  Ann Charles, who writes two successful paranormal mystery series (Deadwood and Jackrabbit), Jana DeLeon who writes humorous mysteries set on Louisiana Bayou country, and Barry Eisler, the author of the John Rain assassin books are just a few that use this option.  You can’t get these anywhere but on Amazon or maybe a used book store or book swap site.

And this leads me to the BIG DISCOUNT OPTION – book swapping online.  Your cost, the price of mailing a book, anywhere from about $2.78 to over $4 depending on the weight.  Do you get books in a timely manner?  Well, if you wish list a book your name is in order as wishes are received, so if you check the release listings on Amazon or through your library, you get in early and are one of those who get the books not long after the release date.  I’ve rec’d books in as little as 10 days from the release date by doing this, but others you can wait a LONG time.  Mostly because of three things – 1. it’s a niche publisher or author and few books are actually purchased in print, 2 – it’s a HUGELY popular title and even though a lot of books are floating around, they can hit keeper shelves, or 3 – it was sold as an ebook for substantially less so few print books were sold.  That’s what happens with CreateSpace books – people buy the Kindle version and not a print book more often than not.  That said, I just read Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris, that last Sookie Stackhouse book published May 7.  I read it within 3 weeks of publication and I was the THIRD person to read this copy of the book!  I got the book, list price $27.95 and discount around $15 and change on Amazon, for FREE through Paperback Swap (PBS).  I will pass it on to another reader, still in excellent almost like new condition.  Cost?  The price of shipping, in this case, about $3.89.

So those are my saving tips for getting cheap books.  Hope you give this a chance.  Obviously, I am a big reader, so these discounts mean a lot to me since I buy a lot of books.  BAM emails sales at least once a week.  Some are in store only and there is one not that far from me, but I don’t use those.  I use the online discounts.  So word of advice, take advantage of the discounts out there and you’ll actually do better than you did with the old Amazon 4-for-3.  More effort?  Yes.  But now it’s the best way to get good prices.  Not a big reader?  Your best bet is buying at Walmart, Costco, and the like where they offer really good discounts, or wait and buy used copies on line or at your local used book store.

Now, on to reviews!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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dead ever after (1)

What the heck, let’s start with the twelfth and final installment in the now famous Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, Dead Ever After.  I was a fan of the earlier books, but got tired of Sookie and her never ending vampire drama and moved on.  About 2 years ago, I picked up with the latest book thanks to PBS and felt like the soap opera Sookie was more tedious than ever, but since I had been there at the start, I might as well read the last three.  Like the 2 previous books, I got this one through a book swap on PBS.  Since I was 29 on the wish list numbering over 600 members, I would have gotten it in 2 weeks without the swap, as I wish listed this title fairly early.  I had long since given up spending good money on these books, or any other book by Charlaine Harris for that matter.

After receiving Dead Ever After I checked the reviews on Amazon and had a good laugh.  Scathing is the nicest word for them.  Thing is, it’s deserved.  What a sad end to what had started as a really good series.  Now all series have highs and lows, and authors get stuck in a rut.  Look at Stephanie Plum who is doing her version of Groundhog Day in loosely reworked tropes for the last 10 books by Janet Evanovich.  (Another author relegated to PBS as a source.)    There’s a hard balance between giving fans what they want (more of the same old …… er, stuff) and sending the character onto an evolved version.   J.K. Rowling really deserves a LOT of credit for what she did with her Harry Potter series, caring for both fans and her characters while hewing to her original concept of a limited number of books and an end to the series.  Brava!!!!!!   I can only wish other authors were as steadfast as you.  Ms. Harris took an unfortunate confrontational stance with fans, declaring she was the creator and the characters were hers to do with as she pleased.  Talk about flipping off the people who made you rich and famous.

Personality aside, I cracked open Dead Ever After and started to read.  A hundred pages later I wondered why I bothered.  If book one of this series had been this dull, True Blood would never have hit TV and Sookie Stackhouse would have been on the literary junk heap.  Now keep in mind, I am not a passionate Sookie fan.  As I said, I read the early books and enjoyed them, but after about 5 they started to annoy me and I just stopped reading them.  But fans do have a good reason for the outrage that poured forth in the Amazon reviews.  This was one badly executed book.  The dedication should carry a warning against narcoleptic attacks induced by the stunningly dull writing.

What about plot?  I have no idea.  Mostly it seems to be a series of mini-stories that tie up or kill off various characters.  Dead Ever After drags in a host of people from previous books and plots.  It’s page after page of first person Sookie monologue interrupted now and again by a conversation or some action.  It was like Ms Harris just threw the kitchen sink of characters on a table and rammed jigsaw puzzle pieces together til she had something resembling a plot and said, “This will do.”

Sam is having issues with coming back from the dead.  Sookie is insulted he’s not more grateful for her using the cluviel dor to bring him back.  (huh?  She was expecting an award?)  Eric is pissed she used it on Sam and not to free him from his marriage contact to the vamp queen of Oklahoma. (Sookie has a real talent for attracting losers.)   Copely Carmichael is pissed she got to use it instead of him, because he sold his soul for money and power, but wanted the cluviel dor to gain control of his wayward witch daughter, Amelia.  Claude wanted it so he could over throw the fairy king Niall, Sookie’s grandfather, and that got him tossed in fairy prison.  Now he wants revenge.  Amelia comes back when Sookie is set up on fake murder charges – but guess who had loose lips on the ‘secret’ cluviel dor?  With friends like these, who needs enemies?  For an object that was supposed to be secret, an awful lot of people knew about it!

The trumped up murder charge, the shallow stupidity of everyone, including Sookie, the lifeless sex scene with Sam (dear heavens, who knew sex could be so dull) and glaring stupidity of the characters is annoying.  Ever worse, the writing is lifeless and occasionally outright stupid.  Eric becomes immature and does everything short or throwing a tantrum.  He proves yet again, Ms Harris’ vamps are nothing but self-centered parasites who view humans as lesser creatures.  DUH!!!!!!!!  Have we forgotten Bill???? (Sorry Bill fans, but some things cannot be forgiven.)  Is any of this a surprise?  Sookie is immature and doesn’t trust her own judgement.  (Excuse me, she reads people’s minds and she STILL has the worst judgement around?  Seriously????  And let’s not discuss the insecurity issues!)  Well gee, she did take in her scummy cousin Claude who was trying to steal the cluviel dor.  She lived with a vampire who raped her, and then took up with another vampire and was afraid he was influencing her feelings, so she broke the marriage bond and then wondered why he was mad.  And he was thinking of changing her to vampire against her will and making her his mistress on the side in Oklahoma.  Oh yeah, great taste in guys Sookie.

What is wrong here?  Everything.  No real plot.  Lifeless prose.  Insecure, immature, shallow characters who have these shattering epiphanies that change their entire personality.  (Did pod people come here somewhere?)  By the end of the book, a lot of  them are just dead characters.  Dead Ever After commits the most heinous crime a book can commit – it’s BORING.  A train wreck.  The perfect bad example.  A thrown together gumbo of all the good guys and bad guys from all the previous books with no logic, rhyme or reason, just tangents.  I was not sad to finish the book, it was a relief.  An end to my suffering through a snooze-fest.  The only good part – the series is OVER.

Dead Ever After gets a F (0*) from me.  Die hard fans should get this from their local library.  Anyone else should wait and get it free.  For only the second time I will say – DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK!  That goes for any paperback editions too.  It’s a complete waste of money.  Ms Harris has never been a favorite author of mine, but this is just an insult to readers in general and most certainly to fans of Sookie Stackhouse.  It was 338 pages of complete drivel.

My copy of Dead Ever After was acquired through Paperback Swap.  It will leave here the same way.

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Witch's Handbook

Molly Harper is a generally reliable author of humorous paranormal romance set in Half-Moon Hollow, Kentucky.  A Witch’s Handbook of Kisses and Curses is set there as well though it starts in Ireland.  Nola Leary is a hereditary witch and since her grandmother’s death, the head of clan of witches in Kilcairy, Ireland.  Centuries ago, there was a schism in the clan.  Part of the witches wanted to use their power to control ordinary humans and dominate them, but the head of the clan insisted on ‘First Do No Harm’.  There was a kind of witch war and finally the head of the clan found a way to bind the other clan members.  The binding only lasted a hundred years and then the artifacts that represent the 4 elements had to be found and used to renew the binding.  They would work for the outcast Kerrigans too, so Nola is in a kind of race.  Her grandmother Nana Fee died without telling her where they were, other than Half-Moon Hollow with the man she loved as a young woman, Nola’s grandfather Gilbert Wainwright.

Nola has very limited funds.  Her family runs a healing clinic and she’s a registered nurse practitioner in Ireland, but not the US, so she’ll also need a job.  And transportation.  But first, she has to start searching Gilbert Wainwright’s shop.  Too bad it owned and operated by Jane Jameson, a vampire.  And then there’s the extremely handsome neighbor, Jed Trudeau, in the other side of the duplex rental who likes running around without a shirt and makes her forget to call her supposed fiancee back in Ireland, Stephan somebody.

Nola gets caught by Jane and has to tell the angry vamp what’s really going on.  Eventually they become allies along with Jane’s best friend and fellow vampire Andrea.  Jane, who was Gilbert Wainwright’s heir, is shocked he had a real heir, but Nola only wants the 4 elements that Nana Fee gave to him for safekeeping.  Andrea takes her news of being Gilbert Wainwright’s granddaughter a bit harder, and Nola isn’t sure why.  Nor is she sure why Andrea’s husband, Dick Cheney – the vampire, not the former VP – is suddenly watching her, having the house she Jeb share redecorated, and trying to give her things.  It’s creepy even though both the vamps assure Nola Dick is not infatuated with her.  That good, because she’s kind of lusting after Jed and she needs to remember she’s still attached to whatshisname in Ireland.  Maybe.  Unless that last phone call was a breakup.  And how did that yeti show up in her garden the first night she was there?

A Witch’s Handbook of Kisses and Curses is not as amusing as most of Ms Harper’s books, but like everything she does, it’s well written.  The story blends romance and some suspense nicely.  Told in the first person, Nola is a pleasant and interesting observer of life in Half-Moon Hollow.  The ending is excellent.  As always, the chapter headings are some of the funniest bits in the book.  A good lighthearted story with enjoyable, albeit not exceptional, characters.  It gets a solid B- (3.7*) from me.  Recommended for fans of light-hearted paranormal romance.

A Witch’s Handbook of Kisses and Curses was pre-ordered from Amazon for $7.19 at the time of release May 28.

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Binding the Shadows

Binding the Shadows is the third book in the Arcadia Bell series by Jenn Bennett.  Cady was born with moonpower, her spell-casting draws its power from the moon.  The only child of two renegade witches, her parents planned to sacrifice her to steal her power.  She turned the tables and sent them to a powerful demon they had enslaved for their punishment.  But mom is back ……………. that is so not a good thing.

Cady and her boyfriend Lon, an earthbound demon (a demon spirit trapped in a human body), came to the house of one of the members of the Hellfire Club at the behest of Dare, one of the founders along with Lon’s late father.  But Merrimoth is displaying power levels well beyond what earthbounds normally have, wielding fire and ice like weapons and laughing like a drunken teenager.  Lon and Cady end up on a small roof with the rocks and waves below and fire at their backs.  Merrimoth catches them on a narrow ledge and turns the rain to ice, sending Lon plunging to the rocks below.  Suddenly her power kicks in and she stops him with a word.  But then things get really weird …………. she sees her mom and she feels something slither along her calf.

Cady barely gets Lon to the ground without serious damage, Merrimoth wasn’t so lucky.  The ice slide he created she destroyed and he falls to his death.  Dare shows up and is furious, right up until she loses her temper and he starts showing something closer to fear of her.  A few nights later her bar is robbed by two young earthbound thugs showing the same kind of hopped up power as Merrimoth.  Her partner, Yar-Kee is badly injured by them, infuriating  Cady.  Now she’s determined to find out what’s happening.

By interviewing a neighboring shop owner also hit by these guys, she’s able to track them to drag races.  She might have lost the kid in a foot race – and heard ‘Ma petite lune’, her parents pet name for her, but one of the guys showing her restored hot rod knew who the kid was.  She has a lead – and a really bad feeling that something is happening to her – and it’s her mothers doing.

Ms Bennett has found a very fresh, original character in Arcadia Bell and the other key characters in her books, including Lon and his son Jupiter, ‘Jupe’ for short.  She is very creative with her story lines too.  Throw in some quality writing and you have a winner.  Her cliff-hanger ending is exceptional ……… well, except for the fact the next installment is a year away!

Binding the Shadows by Jenn Bennett gets a very satisfying B+ (4.3*) from me and a strong buy recommendation.  Altogether a fine series that has avoided all the cliches and that usually happen in urban fantasy.

Binding the Shadows was pre-ordered from Amazon for $7.19.  This book was worth it.  NOTE:  This is a series that needs to be read in order to follow the plot as it evolves.

August 27, 2010

New Concepts Publishing – 3 Books; Erotica – Shapeshifter to Futuristic

New Concepts Press has several very reliable authors in their stable, the two I read most are Madelaine Montague and Kaitlyn O’Connor and this lot was no different.  NCP does not release books on any particular schedule, so it’s not a site I check on any regular schedule.

So here we go, with the Good, the Bad, and the Really Icky.

  • Title: Dragon’s Blood
  • Author:  Madelaine Montague
  • Type:  Paranormal erotic romance; ménage or polyandry
  • Genre: Dragons living hidden among Native Americans
  • Sub-genre:  FBI recruit finds herself pregnant and confused about a bear attack
  • My Grade: C+  (3.4*)
  • Rating:  NC-17 to X
  • Length and price:  Full novel about 80,000 words ebook for $5.99
  • Where Available:  book available at New Concepts Publishing book store online
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased book from publisher’s website (more…)

March 12, 2010

Two Short Reviews: Samhain eBooks

As most of you know, I read a lot of Samhain ebooks.  Many of their authors are among my favorites and overall they put out some of the best quality material.  Usually.  Mostly.  OK – this week was a HUGE miss for me.  Granted, not every week do I find something that grabs my interest, but when I do buy, I am rarely so disappointed.  On top of that, Samhain is starting to have the same kind of egregious editing errors for which New Concepts Publishing is so famous – or infamous.  “Peaked” where it should be “piqued”?  Last week it was “check” where the word was “cheek”!  You might think that an aberration, but it’s happened too often of late and mistakes are escalating in number and distracting from the flow of the story.  With the cost of ebooks escalating, my tolerance for such bush league nonsense is rapidly dwindling.

The editing issue was compounded this week by two entries that should have died on an editor’s desk.  One was just a saccharine costume drama in modern dress and the other a sex fest one might expect from Siren Ménage or NCP.  OK, I grant you one novella was by a writer I didn’t know, but the other novella was written by a well establish author that I’ve read and enjoyed in the past, so I was shocked at the awfulness of it!  Here are two titles that can be skipped – completely.

  • Title: Pride and Passion
  • Author:  Jenna Bayley-Burke
  • Type:  Homage to Pride and Predjudice
  • Genre:  Regency virgin miss in modern dress
  • Sub-genre:  Dumb assumptions fed by stupid lack of communication
  • My Grade: F (0*)
  • Rating:  PG
  • Length and price: Short Novel, category – about 50,000 words for $4.50 (10% for short time)
  • Where Available: ebook available on the Samhain site
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased book from publisher’s site (more…)

June 18, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Sweet Persuasion by Maya Banks (erotic romance)

Once again I find myself confronted with a book that is wonderfully well written that I disliked beyond redemption. I know my personal distaste for certain lifestyles influences this, but I simply cannot get past it. Of all the contemporary romance writers doing erotic stories, Maya Banks seems to be the most talented in creating characters and writing intelligent, highly sensual stories without getting trite or predictable. That said, she also goes places I just do not understand and I find myself so repulsed by certain events that I cannot enjoy the book at all.  Such was the case with Sweet Persuasion.

I have said many times I do not understand or enjoy BDSM. A little goes a long way with me and then I find myself angry at the protagonists. Actually, I was so distressed by one scene that I had trouble sleeping and woke with it praying on my mind. Some would say it speaks well that an author can create characters I felt that deeply about, but I’ve learned it’s because they hit a nerve that’s like a sore tooth I can’t leave alone. Even crappy writers can do this to me. (more…)

June 11, 2009

June Erotic Romance Roundup – Part 2

I did warn you it was a werewolf kind of a month, so let’s do the Lunar Mates books I read first and I finish with another werewolf tale.

Christmas Moon by Loribelle Hunt (Lunar Mates Book 5)

Werewolf twins Cain and Abel Williamson have a special Christmas present this year – account Delilah. Raised in foster homes, Delilah has spent her life fending for herself, but when an old friend called and asked if she was interested in a job, Delilah applied and ended up with an offer she didn’t want to refuse, even if it did mean relocating just before Christmas. At least she’ll know Chloe, her college roommate. She made a Thanksgiving wish, a tradition learned from one of her foster mothers, for a man of her own. Standing in a house in the middle of a blizzard, her very first snow storm, she has a matched set. Twins. (more…)

February 28, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Only Pleasure by Lora Leigh

Lora Leigh is a very prolific erotic romance writer and a highly successful one. Her Breeds books are popular paranormals, some of her better work in my opinion, and her Bound Hearts are popular ménage books, some with a D/s element. The Nauti series is more erotic mainstream, if there is such a thing. Her SEALS books are just ludicrous and have so many technical errors it’s annoying. Only Pleasure is actually part of the Bound Hearts series and follows the story of Chase Falladay, the twin brother and third in the Cameron Falladay story told in Wicked Pleasure. All of these books revolve around the men of the Trojans Club, a very private club for men who enjoy sharing their women, even their wives. Chase and Cameron Falladay provide security for the club in addition to being members themselves. Chase Falladay was one “hero” I despised in the first few pages and Kia Stanton – for a supposedly smart business woman – became an illogical annoying simp who makes bizarre, irrational decisions regarding how her ex-husband, an employee of her father’s company, is handled.

Kia Stanton’s husband Drew attempts to get her drunk and force her into a ménage with another man from the Trojan’s Club. She gets away, gets help and files for divorce. She was apparently unaware of his sexual preferences prior to marriage, so the whole ménage thing was a shock. Drew threatens her with the power of the men who are part of the Trojans Club if she tries using the incident as grounds for divorce. In the argument, he hits her. Kia, in distress over all that’s happened, tells a friend about the Trojans Club. The friend promptly starts spreading the rumor. (Well, duh! This is Washington DC, what else would happen?) But the Trojans protect themselves with their money and positions of power. They threaten the family business run by Kia’s father. Dad, one of the few real men in this book, is willing to lose it all if his daughter wants to fight her swine of her soon to be ex. With all this on her mind, Kia answers her door to find the Trojans very own enforcer – Chase Fallady – is making a house call.

Chase, supposedly the secret object of her fantasy desire, has been sent to ‘persuade’ – read coerce – Kia to humiliate herself even further by telling her friends she fabricated the story of the Trojans to hurt her husband. Now stop and think about this for a moment – a woman is victimized by a member of the Trojans Club with attempted rape with another member, then her husband hits her during an argument, thereby committing another felony, (more…)

February 17, 2009

eBooks and Erotic Romance – The Good, the bad and the just plain awful PART 1

The reason ebooks seem like such a good – and inexpensive (relatively speaking) – way to buy erotic romance is largely due to the fact the vast majority of these books – many short novels and novellas – simply aren’t worth more than one read – if that. I’m not knocking these books for their sexual content, after all, they ARE erotic romance, but isn’t the reader entitled to SOME story? A little character development? A beginning, a middle, and an end that actually have some purpose other than a backdrop to sex? And at least a shred of believability? I know it’s a given that the men will all be hung like bulls – has there ever been a male with small equipment? – and I know they will have insanely short recovery times between bouts of sex, that I can live with. It’s no worse than the silliness of an action movie where the hero walks away from a car wreck. Fine. They’re super studs. If I’m buying a book with vampires and werewolves, or spaceships and aliens, that’s the least of my problems. It is fiction, so hey, go for the gusto! But I still deserve a STORY!!!!!!

I confess I’ve deleted many of the awful ebooks prior to this entry, but I’ll try and post some from each category – and focus on the positive.

The books reviewed below can be purchased at  Bookstrand

Mari’s Men by Stormy Glen – (ménage) I know, the author’s name should have been a dead giveaway. The first chapter wasn’t awful. Twins Cole and Bear, the leaders of the Alpha Squad, apparently go to rescue a kidnapped child in the Cascades and find Mari with the boy. Apparently Mari can communicate psychically with the brothers – who naturally have the psychic twin thing going already. After facing down the bad guy she – unbelievably – faints at the sight of Bear as she runs from Cole, her rescuer. Everyone tough enough to face down a Russian mobster faints when rescued. It’s a given she wakes up, apparently none the worse for wear and (without any inconvenient awareness between woods and house) in bed with Cole and proceeds to have sex – unprotected sex! After that, it went right down hill.

Would someone please explain to me how supposedly intelligent men busy having unprotected sex with a young female cannot count to 28 and realize that said female has not has a period in over 2 months? Never mind, that the least of the problems with this book. I was 2/3rd’s of the way through before I found out why the ‘Alpha Squad’ even existed and what the hell it was. The author kept using the SAME SENTENCE over and over just different characters in a single chapter! Good grief. Bad writing, NO character development and no discernible story line. Hard to believe, even the sex was dull. Avoid this tripe at all costs.

My Grade: F-

Rating is NC-17 to xx This is a menage story


Sweet Dreams – Cowboy’s Curse 1 by Jenny Penn – Author Jenny Penn is capable of writing decent erotic romance. Alas, this rather garbled story isn’t one. It seems reincarnation is playing a part in this, but that’s about all I could glean as to motivation since the characters driving the story are sketchy at best. Mike Baxter, eldest of the Baxter boys, is cursed by Leslie Dicks for having sex with her sister after having been warned off. To keep things interesting, the curse hits his twin brothers first by making them 2” tall. They somehow find a witch to lift the curse and she tells them only Fairies can help. Next, they enlist the aid of biker fairies – I know, I know – to lift the curse by winning the love of a woman in a kind of dream state that only fairies can create. The premise had promise, but had the feel of a book that was written in a hurry and had elements missing. Like how the hell the biker fairies and Leslie knew each other? Why did Leslie know about past lives and not Mike? Why curse innocent bystanders? I despised Leslie for her complete lack of logic – and just to make things dumber, she knows the biker fairy that’s helping the brothers and has this long conversation with him about her obscure motivations (so believable, right?) – and Mike existed as one dimensional prop in the story. Other than the curse, it was kind of a trite twins ménage story and very uninteresting. At the end, the curse rolls over to another brother who wakes with a wooden hand. Eye roll please.

My Grade: D-

Rating is NC-17 to XX – This is a menage story


Mating Claire – Sea Island Wolves 1 by Jenny Penn – It was this book that prompted me to try some of her others. A werewolf/paranormal book. Claire Hallowell is a disgraced FBI agent thought to be mixed up with a crime boss. What the FBI didn’t know was the crime boss was taken over by a demon, Agakair, and he’d marked Claire with his brand. Under suspicion and suspension, Claire finds herself working for the Masters of Cerberus, a group that hunts and exorcises demons. Following the trail of a serial killer brings her to Wilsonville, South Carolina – a town of mostly werewolves. The alpha is Sheriff Derek Jacob and one whiff tells him Claire is his mate. She is less than thrilled to be chased by this ‘man slut’. Claire is feisty, smart and funny. The Sheriff is such a guy you have to smile. Claire has a mouthy, voyeuristic ghost that helps her out. The story is good and makes sense – within the boundaries of the genre.

My Grade: B-

Rating is NC-17 to X


Taming Samantha – Sea Island Wolves 2 by Jenny Penn – werewolf/ménage/paranormal Twin brothers Sheriff JD McBane and Caleb McBane have cameos in Mating Claire. Alphas of another pack, called Covenanters, a were breed that can half transform, produce an intoxicating mating musk, and father children only on their mates. JD comes to a racing park to just check out the new owners. Dressed in protective gear and a respirator mask, Sam (Samantha) is busy painting cars when the officious male insists she speak with him. As she strips off her gear and JD smells her he realizes the mouthy little bundle is the mate he and his brother have been waiting for. Enter a battle of wills, hot werewolf sex, a cursed necklace, a slimy ex-fiancé, and a short, mouthy PI – Lilly Masterson – and you have your mix. Some of the sex gets into that grey zone that I can find annoying as it’s ‘dubious consent’, but that’s me. The demon Agakiar puts in an appearance at the end and you’re left thinking Lilly will be starring in a future Sea Island Wolves book. My favorite scene – Sam transforms into a wolf, drags the brothers’ clothes out of the truck and rolls in them as they stand there thinking how cute – then she shreds them into confetti and proceeds to attack all four tires on the truck till they’re flat.

There is an odd disconnect in the dance scene where Mike is called her sister’s husband, not their brother as per the rest of the book. Erotic romance tends to have rather poor editing and this is no exception.

My Grade: C

Rating is XX to XXX for menage and some light bondage

February 13, 2009

Just Say No – Lords of the Satyr trilogy

Filed under: Book review — toursbooks @ 11:34 pm
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I rather foolishly took the high ratings of Nicholas, the first book in the The Lords of the Satyr trilogy, as being indicative of a good story and bought the three books – Nicholas, Lyon and Raine. Never again will I buy all parts of a trilogy before reading at least one book. What a waste of money.

The writing quality is excellent, far better than your average erotic romance novel, even the lead character Nicholas, is interesting. But somewhere along the line, the story just doesn’t work for me. It starts out well enough as three brothers running vineyards in Italy in the mid-1800’s just as the notorious Phylloxera infestation sweeps the European vineyards. That the Satyr vines remain unaffected is a source of some speculation on the part of other growers – but is explained to readers as a natural outgrowth of the Satyr blood link to the land – the health and well being of each is interdependent. The story draws on various elements of Greek and Roman mythology and the relationship between various demi-gods and the fertility of the Earth.  Like the mythic half-goat half-human satyr’s, the brother’s grow horns and copulate with various creatures, including “shimmerskins” (sort of magical audio animatronic inflate-a-date substitutes) once a month at the full moon.  Their link to the mythic realms seems to include the Fey, though what Fey and descendants of the Geeks and Roman gods have in common is beyond me.  Anyway, the King of the Fey, Feydon, is dying and he asks that the brothers find and marry his three daughters that he fathered among various females in the human realm.  Nichloas, as eldest, goes first, and takes the first city offered by Feydon – Rome.  Initially, the story moves well with Nicholas finding the first daughter with little trouble and basically blackmailing her father and aunt into marriage, but once it moves back to the estate, it falls apart.

The lead characters go flat and their interaction has no spark.  Even though the book is written by a woman, the female characters are weakly developed and single dimensional and the only male that gets some substance is Nicholas – and he ends up coming across as a neglectful jerk.   At this point the story gets more absurd than anything.  Here we have a female lead who is wise enough to see the danger her aunt poses, but deliberately places herself back in the woman’s life and her supposedly intelligent husband allows it?  She finds ghosts cleaning the house at night and doesn’t freak out?  Finds her husband has a room – ROOM – full of ‘magical’ sex toys and isn’t even shocked?  All I could do was shake my head and skim the rest of the story in a desperate hope for an improvement.  No such luck.  The ‘ICK!” factor kicked in at mid-point and wouldn’t quit.  It didn’t help that you couldn’t become engaged in the characters – they just were not at all interesting or likable.

The second book – Lyon – the next brother gets mated to a hermaphrodite.   OK – now we are getting really freaky.  I honestly couldn’t get past the first couple of chapters with the nasty physician that exhibits the hermaphrodite and the syphilitic priest that wants to engage in sex with Lyon.  It was just too much.  Once again, we have a female – or shemale – that stupidly leaves the safety of the estate for no intelligent reason and walks directly into trouble.  Again, the ‘ICK’ factor is high and the plot weak.

I must admit, I was so fed up at having wasted my money on Nicholas and Lyon, I was almost reluctant to start Raine.  Would you believe the third daughter is a naiad?  May we have an eye roll please?  I surrendered.  Even I have my limits and I had reached them.

I can usually find SOME redeeming feature about a book, but honestly, these were just bad stories and more than just a little creepy – and not in any good way.  They left a bad taste in my mouth.  I treasure books, even the most mediocre represent hard work by the authors and I’m hard put to trash them.  I had no trouble tossing these three away.  Honestly, I’ve read books by Anonymous that were better than these.

Grade: F-

Who would enjoy these books: No one I know.  Maybe those heavily  into kink and not at all into a choherent story.  The books are XXX and yet they’re dull.

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