Thursday, December 30, 2010

Crimson City

Crimson City by Liz Maverick

Once, this was the City of Angels. The angels are no longer in charge. From the extravagant vampire world above to the gritty defiance of the werewolves below, the specter of darkness lives around every corner, the hope of paradise in every heart. The city knows a tentative peace, but to live in Los Angeles is to balance on the edge of a knife. One woman knows better than most. She’s about to be tested, to taste true thirst. Fleur Dumont is about to meet the one man who may understand her: a tormented protector who’s lost all he loved. Theirs is one tale of many. This is Crimson City, where desire meets danger and more than just the stars come out at night.
--Crimson City by Liz Maverick, Copyright ©2005 by Elizabeth A. Edelstein, published by Dorchester Publishing

My Review
Welcome to Crimson City, where the vampires and werewolves are not just the stuff of film and books. They’re real, and they share the city with the handful of humans brave enough to share the city with them. There’s a definite caste system, with the vampires occupying the upper strata of the city, the humans on the street level, and the werewolves living in the underground. Though the three species don’t get along, there is a tentative peace that exists over the city.

Fleur Dumont is a member of the ruling family of the vampires. She should be ruling, period, but that job was taken over by two of her half brothers, Christian and Ryan because she was not ready to rule. Because she had made a mistake, one that destroyed any respect she had among the Council members. She ready to redeem herself, but is unsure of how to approach her brothers for that opportunity. When her brothers are killed before her very eyes by a mech—a human converted to a machine—she seizes the opportunity and takes over. But is she really ready?

It takes a brave human to not only live in Crimson City, but to interact with both species. Dain Reston is just such an individual. A member of “Battlefield” Operations, it’s his job to ensure the tentative peace between the species stays. But when he and his partner, Cyd, come across the mech—something that shouldn’t exist—they know something bad is going down.

Now Dain must ally himself with the vampires, and with Fleur specifically, if he is to figure out who sent the mech after the Dumonts and what exactly that person hoped to accomplish. At the same time, he has to deal with his wild, barely-in-control partner, an overeager tabloid reporter, a boss who seems more intent on hampering than helping his mission, and his own growing attraction for Fleur Dumont.

Crimson City is the first in a series of novels. The first five were written by different authors, but numbers six and seven were written by Liz Maverick.

Being the first in a series, there’s a lot of background to present, causing the story to suffer from “too-much-information-itis.” The information is necessary to understand the world of Crimson City, but it just felt like too much of an info-dump for me. I could almost draw lines around sections and label them: here’s background on the city, now background on a character, here’s an action scene, now more information, a bit of dialogue—oops, interrupted by more information—and the rest of the dialogue and finally the end of the scene. Plus, each character had a lot of internal dialogue going. A lot. A lot a lot.

Having never ready anything else by Liz Maverick, I can’t say if this is her usual style or just the style she adopted for this series, but it makes me reluctant to read anything else by her. I will read the other novels that I have in this series (A Taste of Crimson by Marjorie M. Liu is next), but I don’t know right now if I’ll read Liz Maverick’s other entries in this series.

I give this story TWO STARS.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blood Sins

Blood Sins by Kay Hooper
Young, vulnerable, attractive, Tessa Gray looked like the perfect victim. Which was why Noah Bishop of the FBI’s Special Crimes Unit recruited the novice operative to use as bait for a killer hidden inside the Church of the Everlasting Sin–a fortified mountain compound where at least two women have already been murdered in ways that defy explanation. By entering the cult’s compound, Tessa will expose herself to the dark magnetism of its leader and his fanatically loyal followers. Once she’s inside, no one, not even Bishop or the town’s chief of police, can guarantee she’ll come out alive. And not even Tessa knows if she’s strong enough to resist the lure of a killer who is less than human.
--Blood Sins by Kay Hooper, Copyright ©2009 by Kay Hooper, published by Bantam Books

My Review

Young widow Tessa Gray has been targeted by the Church of the Everlasting Sin—and that’s exactly what she wants. Working undercover for Noah Bishop and the FBI’s Special Crimes Unit, part of Tessa’s job is to find out why (so far) two people have been murdered, one of them an undercover member of the SCU. Sarah had been living inside the compound, gathering information and, whenever possible, smuggling out “special” children so they could no longer be used for the Reverend Samuel’s questionable purposes. Now she’s dead, her body found several miles downriver from the Church’s compound.

When the Church starts to actively recruit Tessa, she is reluctant but plays along. After all, how else is she supposed to get information that will help the SCU bust open the Church and expose the Reverend? Things get a little dicey when the local police chief, Sawyer Cavanaugh, makes his suspicions of the church obvious. Tessa must decide if she can trust Sawyer and if in doing so, can she risk exposing him to the evil that is surely a part of the Church?

A normal Kay Hooper story involves a mystery along with a romance between two of its characters. This story veers from that norm, in that there’s an attraction between Tessa and Sawyer, and that’s it. The rest of the story, say 80% or so, is all about the mystery of the Reverend Adam Deacon Samuel and his connection to Blood Dreams’ serial killer. And even when that mystery is resolved, there are still too many unanswered questions, leading to the twelfth story in the series, Blood Ties.

It’s a good story with enough action to keep the story moving, but it definitely isn’t a stand-alone read. It’s hard to fully understand what’s going on unless you’ve read Blood Dreams and if at all possible, the entire previous 10 books in the Bishop/SCU series. I have, and I’m still a little bit in the dark. Drawing a flowchart detailing all the characters and their attributes along with their varied connections probably would have helped.

I give this story THREE STARS.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Hot Mahogany

Hot Mahogany by Stuart Woods
While dining one night at Elaine’s, Stone Barrington—back in Manhattan after chasing down the bad guys in the Caribbean—meets Barton Cabot, older brother of his sometime ally, CIA boss Lance Cabot. Barton’s career in army intelligence is even more top secret than his brother’s, but he’s suffering from amnesia following a random act of violence. Amnesia is a dangerous thing in a man whose memory is chockfull of state secrets, so Lance hires Stone to watch Barton’s back. As Stone discovers, Barton is a spy with a rather unusual hobby: building and restoring antique furniture. The genteel world of antiques and coin dealers at first seems a far cry from Stone’s usual underworld of mobsters, murderers, and spies. But Barton also is a man with a past, and one event in particular— in the jungles of Vietnam more than thirty years earlier— is coming back to haunt his present in ways he’d never expected. Stone soon finds out that Barton, and some shady characters of his acquaintance, may be hiding a lot more than just a few forged antiques.
--Hot Mahogany by Stuart Woods, Copyright ©2008 by Stuart Woods, published by Putnam Books

My Review
Hot Mahogany is the 15th book in Stuart Woods’ Stone Barrington series. The story opens at Elaine’s, a tony New York restaurant that Stone dines at regularly. He’s surprised to see an older version of his friend, CIA director Lance Cabot, standing at the door. The situation is explained when Lance himself arrives and speaks to Stone quietly. The other man is his older brother, Barton, whom Lance himself hasn’t seen for many years. Barton is suffering a mild case of amnesia…could Stone look after him for a day or two while Lance takes care of a very important, very classified situation overseas? Of course, Stone agrees and Lance departs, leaving Barton in Stone’s very capable hands.

Using his police contacts, Stone is able to find out where Barton lives. As luck would have it, Barton’s home is not far from Stone’s second home in Washington, CT. The next morning, Barton is feeling much more like himself. His memory hasn’t fully returned, but he feels well enough, so Stone drives him home. Barton shows Stone around his home, including the barn where he works as a furniture builder and restorer. But Barton isn’t just an ordinary carpenter. He’s an expert at reproducing antique American furniture. His work is so good, noted furniture experts can’t tell the difference between his work and the original.
He shows Stone a piece he keeps hidden in his workshop, a mahogany secretary made in the 18th century by Goddard and Townsend, a Colonial American furniture maker. The problem is, he’s unsure if the secretary in his barn is the original or the copy. The other is in his van, which was stolen the night of the accident that caused his amnesia. Barton asks Stone to help him locate his stolen van so he can recover his missing secretary. Stone agrees to help.

But there’s more to this tale than just a missing piece of furniture. Becoming an expert furniture reproducer takes not only talent, but money. And Barton has money. Lots of money. What exactly are the origins of Barton’s wealth? What happened to his promising career as a U.S. Marine during the Viet Nam war? Why did he disappear from his brother’s life more than 20 years ago and stay “missing” all those years? Who was responsible for his “accident” and his stolen van? Is the original or the reproduction secretary lost along with the van or is the piece about to make an appearance on the auction circuit, where it could fetch as much as 25 million dollars? And how does Stone’s technical go-to guy, Bob Kantor, connect to Barton Cabot?

As if solving those mysteries wasn’t enough to keep Stone busy, there’s also his ever complicated love life. A former lover of his, Eliza, is set to walk down the aisle shortly, a feat Stone is sure is only a ploy to get his attention, while he begins to date one woman with a volatile soon-to-be ex, and then another who appears to be more his type of woman. No woman manages to stay in his life for long, but will Tatiana prove to be the exception to the rule?

I love Stuart Woods’ Stone Barrington novels. They’re not your typical shoot-em-up whodunits or your typical lawyer-centered mysteries with a lot of law-speak. Stone is a simple, straightforward man who gets involved in the most complicated scenarios and always manages to come out clean in the end with barely a hair out of place and usually with a woman on his arm. There is an underlying continuity thread among the series, but each story stands alone and each story is a terrific read. I very strongly recommend Stuart Woods’ books, primarily the Stone Barrington and Ed Eagle series.

I give this story FIVE STARS.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Double Take

Double Take by Catherine Coulter

Are you ready to dive into the world of psychic mediums? We begin with Julia Ransom, widow of the renowned psychic medium August Ransom. For six months the San Francisco police tried to find enough evidence to arrest her, but failed. Then on a clear evening on Pier 39, a stranger knocks her unconscious and heaves her over the railing into the bay. If it weren’t for Special Agent Cheney Stone, Julia would have drowned. Cheney quickly realizes that the attempt on Julia’s life has to be connected with the murder of her husband, and reopens the investigation with the SFPD.

Meanwhile, In Maestro, Virginia, Sheriff Dixon Noble—last seen in Point Blank--learns about a woman named Charlotte Pallack who bears an extraordinary resemblance to his vanished wife, Christine, gone now for more than three years. Dix knows to his soul that Christie is long dead, but he has no choice—he flies out to San Francisco to see this woman.

Dix’s and Cheney’s paths cross, brought together by Savich and Sherlock. They all begin to unlock the mystery of Charlotte Pallack’s identity as well as the forces behind Julia Ransom’s attempted murder and the vicious murder of her husband. The most fascinating aspect of the case is the extraordinary cast of psychics they meet as they push deep into the intriguing, complex world of visions, mind benders, and communications with the dead.

--Double Take by Catherine Coulter, Copyright ©2007 by Catherine Coulter, published by Jove Books

My Review

Life isn’t easy for Julia Ransom.

First her husband, psychic medium August Ransom, is killed. The cops focused on her as the potential killer and never bothered to check any other possible leads. Finally, six months later, the police and the media have backed away, giving her some peace.

Then someone tries to kill her.

Fortunately, Special Agent Cheney Stone witnessed the attack and saved her life. He quickly intuits that the attack on her has something to do with the murder of her husband and gets himself involved in the investigation.

Across the country, in the small town of Maestro, Virginia, Sheriff Dixon Noble learns of a woman in San Francisco (not Julia) who bears an uncanny resemblance to his missing wife. Though afraid of what he might find, he has no choice but to go to San Francisco and see this woman. When he meets Charlotte Pallack, he’s taken aback at how much she looks like his Christie, but he also knows that she is not Christie. So why, when they meet the next day, is Charlotte wearing the bracelet he gave Christie for their anniversary?

Dix and Cheney are brought together by Special Agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock as their seemingly separate cases in fact run together. Who killed August Ransom? Who’s trying to kill his widow, Julia Ransom? Who is Charlotte Pallack? Does she have a connection to Christie Noble? What role do August’s contemporaries, mediums Wallace Tammerlane, Blevin Wagner, Soldan Meissen and Katheryn Golden play in this increasingly tangled story? And can they figure it all out before the hired killer gets to Julia?

I’m hard pressed to put my finger on exactly what it was that kept bothering me while I read this book. I had a problem with some of the dialogue—in some areas, the dialogue was, well, it felt wrong. Some of her characters say things that I just can’t imagine people saying in real life. Here’s an example:

At the beginning of the story, Julia is at Pier 39 in San Francisco when the killer attacks. He hits her in the jaw but before he can do anything else, Cheney interrupts them, so the killer tosses her over the pier and takes off. Cheney jumps in and rescues her. His friend, Manny, comes out of the restaurant to look for him.

Another man’s voice came out of the darkness. “Hey, Cheney, can’t I leave you alone for a single minute? Where’s June? I thought she only came out for a cigarette. I thought you came out to fetch her. What’s going on here? Who is this?”

A minute later:

She heard a woman’s voice. “Cheney? Manny? What’s going on here? I finished my cigarette, but neither of you were at the table when I went back inside. Linda said Manny had come to look for you, Cheney. Come on back inside, they just brought our dinner. Hey, what’s this?”

If you were coming out of a restaurant to look for your friend and found them soaking wet, trying to help another person breathe, would you really say all that before saying “Hey, what’s going on here?” Sure, you might start saying all that, but you’d likely shut up the moment you realized something wasn’t right. Nope, these two had a whole paragraph of stuff to say before they clued the reader in to the fact that they could see something was going on.

This is only the first example of what I’d call meaningless dialog that I came across, but it certainly wasn’t the last.

The story involves several different story lines that slowly—very slowly—start to come together before the mad dash at the end. Each line was interesting, but I think there were just too many of them and they were too separate for too long. I was afraid of putting the book down for more than a day for fear I’d forget what was going on and lose track of the story. This, to me, does not make for good reading.

I give this story TWO STARS.

But hey, that’s just my opinion. I’m not saying I hated Double Take, I’m just saying I had a hard time reading this particular book.

When I start to read a series by an author, I usually like to start with the very first book in the series so I can get a handle on the main protagonists. That way, as I continue to read the series, I’ll know their histories and I’ll better understand some of the ensuing story’s nuances. I haven’t done that with the Savich and Sherlock series. Double Take is number 11 in the series, and the only other one I read is number 12, Tail Spin. So I’ll take the blame if there’s something I’m not “getting” by reading the series out of order.

Catherine Coulter has a huge following of loyal readers who love her Savich and Sherlock stories. Right now, I’m just not one of them. I have a few more of her books and I will read them so hopefully I’ll have better things to say about the next one.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blood Dreams

Blood Dreams by Kay Hooper
Dani Justice knows all about monsters. They haunt her dreams—and her life. But she never expected to find herself on the trail of a real flesh-and-blood predator so cunning, he’s eluded the best law enforcement could send against him; so deadly, he doesn’t hesitate to kill even a senator’s daughter. Or a cop. Dani doesn’t want to hunt this killer. But she doesn’t have a choice. She alone commands a weapon powerful enough to stop him. And she knows something even Bishop of the FBI’s Special Crimes Unit doesn’t know. Dani knows how the hunt ends. It ends in fire. And blood. And death. What she doesn’t know is who will survive.
--Blood Dreams by Kay Hooper, Copyright ©2008 by Kay Hooper, published by Bantam Books

My Review

We begin in Boston, where a serial killer has the city in his grip. Twelve women killed in only thirty days, the last being the daughter of a prominent senator. Bishop and members of his team join the “regular” FBI agents on the scene to aid in the investigation, but secretly, Bishop has dispatched members of his team to a small town outside Atlanta, which he is convinced is the killer’s next hunting ground. But why would the killer move from a big city like Boston to such a small town like Venture?

Dani Justice and her twin sister Paris are from Venture, and though Dani lives in Atlanta now, she returns to Venture under the cover of being there for her sister as she goes through a divorce. Unfortunately, returning to Venture means meeting up with the local sheriff, her old boyfriend Marcus Purcell. As much as she might want to, she can’t avoid him, especially when women start disappearing.

Her dreams aren’t helping much. Every night she has the same dream of her, Bishop and Agent Hollis Templeton being trapped in a burning building as they hunt for the killer. But now the dreams are changing. Marc is suddenly in the dream and where before Miranda—Bishop’s wife—was in danger, that’s changing too. What does it all mean, and does Dani have the ability to change the dream’s outcome before someone else, someone she knows, winds up on the killer’s table?

Blood Dreams is the tenth book in Kay Hooper’s Bishop/Special Crime Unit series and the first in the “Blood” trilogy. Unlike the other books in the B/SCU series, this book doesn’t really “end.” Several questions are left deliberately unanswered, like: who was the killer working with? How does Hollis fit in with this unknown’s plans? What role does the town’s unusual charismatic church/cult play in all of this?

The answers to these and many others will (may?) be answered in Blood Sins and Blood Ties, books eleven and twelve in the series. Stay tuned!

I give this story THREE AND A HALF STARS.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Killer View

Killer View by Ridley Pearson

When a skier goes missing at Sun Valley’s Galena Summit, Sheriff Walt Fleming quickly assembles his crack search-and-rescue team and heads out into the snowy night. Despite the treacherous conditions, Walt and his group, including deputy Tommy Brandon and Walt’s best friend, Mark Aker, set off on skis, accompanied by highly trained search dogs. Within minutes, something goes horribly wrong: a shot rings out, and one of their team is dead. By morning, Mark Aker has disappeared.

Torn between professional responsibility and the desperate urge to find his friend, Walt is further challenged by an unexplained illness at a local water-bottling plant that sends workers to the hospital and sets off biohazard warnings. Following threads of questionable evidence through the glitter of Sun Valley leads Walt to an unlikely—and darker—source, and reveals a crime played out on a much larger scale than he originally envisioned. Waist-deep in snow and knee-deep in lies, the life of his friend in the balance, Walt begins to suspect that the whole operation is controlled by people of great wealth and power, which leaves him where he started: out in the cold.

--Killer Weekend by Ridley Pearson, Copyright ©2008 Ridley Pearson, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

My Review
It started off as a simple search and rescue mission. It ended with one member of Sheriff Walt Fleming’s search-and-rescue team dead and another missing. Fleming focuses his energy on finding his missing friend but is soon distracted by other problems: employees of a local water-bottling plant are getting sick and local ranchers are inexplicably burning their sheep in open pits.

Veterinarian Mark Aker, the missing friend, proves to be much more resourceful than his kidnappers could ever have imagined. Members of a radical group calling themselves the Samakinn plotted the whole missing skier scheme so they could get their hands on Mark and force him to help their cause. He not only can help them, he’s perfectly willing to…but he’s not an easy prisoner to hold and when he makes his escape into the snowy countryside, they have to find him before anyone else does, or before he dies of exposure.

Meanwhile, Walt’s personal life is in disarray as he tries to be a good father to his twin daughters as he and his wife proceed with their divorce. It doesn’t help that she’s the jealous sort. It’s perfectly all right in her mind for her to live with another man—Walt’s chief deputy Tommy Brandon—but as soon as she sees Walt and Fiona, the sheriff department’s part-time photographer, together in what she assumes is a romantic clinch, she goes crazy and takes the girls away from him.

Somehow, Walt must divide his attention between getting his girls back and finding Mark, all the while trying to unravel the mystery of the sick employees and the euthanasia of the local cattle. He starts drawing the different lines together and begins to paint a picture of a cover-up on a scale that’s much bigger than any he could have ever imagined.

Compared to the first Walt Fleming book, Killer Weekend, Killer View far outshines its predecessor in plot construction and story telling. The different story lines all seem unrelated at first, but the more you read, the more they all start to come together until you can’t put the book down because you want to know how it all ends. I laughed out loud when Walt decided to take Tommy up in his glider—because Tommy doesn’t like small planes and he’s sleeping with Walt’s soon-to-be ex-wife—and let out a loud “ewwww!” when I found out where the bad guy was hiding from Walt in the shed (very clever, but yuck yuck ewww!!!).

As a reader, you want your favorite authors to throw something new and different at you and not the same old story lines with one or two little tweaks. Killer View may start out sounding familiar but slightly different, but stay with it…it will take you places you never thought you’d go.

I give this story THREE AND A HALF STARS.

I Am Not A Cop!

I Am Not A Cop! – A Novel by Richard Belzer with Michael Black

When famous TV detective Richard Belzer meets Rudy Markovich, NYC medical examiner, for dinner in Brighton Beach, he has little reason to expect anything more than a friendly bull session. But in the next twenty-four hours the Belz finds himself in the middle of a vicious street bgrawl, splashed across the tabloid headlines as an out-fo-control celeb, and fearing for the life of his good pal—who police assume is sleeping at the bottom of the East River.

With Rudy kidnapped, or worse, it falls to Belzer to solve the riddle of his trusted friend’s mysterous disappearance. As The Belz finds himself increasingly required to call upon the reseources he taps to portray his TV cop character, he maintains his signature sense of humor and carries us along on a rollicking ride through the underworld of New York City. In I Am Not A Cop!, Richard Belzer’s off-camera persona comes to life on the page as one of America’s great comics brings us all of his talents to bear in bookform to produce a captivating, often hilarious, debut mystery.
--I Am Not A Cop! by Richard Belzer with Michael Black, Copyright ©2008 by McBelz Enterprises, published by Simon & Schuster Paperbacks

My Review

The story starts with Richard Belzer—as himself—meeting his good friend Rudy Markovich for dinner. Rudy needs Belz’s help in a delicate matter, one that may require Belz’s contacts in the police department. When Belz protests, saying “I’m not a cop. I just play one on TV,” Rudy drops the subject and offers Belz a ticket to a boxing match featuring a mutual friend, Alexi Zotkin. Rudy has the other ticket, but doesn’t show up for the match. When Max Kaminsky, a NYPD Detective and friend shows up, he reluctantly informs Belz that Rudy’s car was found down by the East River, riddled with bullet holes. Rudy’s coat was there too, covered in blood. It does not look good for Rudy.

Belz is all for letting the police do their work, but Rudy was his friend, and when he receives an intriguing letter from Rudy, posted shortly before his death/disappearance, Belz has to act.

Using the skills he’s learned throughout the years of portraying Detective John Munch and enlisting the aid of Kalisha “Kali” Carter, his studio-assigned babysitter/personal assistant, Belz begins his own investigation and before long, finds himself in very serious trouble, not only with the police, but with the Russian mafiya. Can he get to the bottom of Rudy’s disappearance before Kali and he are made to disappear?

Having enjoyed the comedy of Ricard Belzer in the eighties and his witty, acerbic portrayal of Detective John Munch in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, purchasing this book at The Green Valley Bookfair was an easy decision.

Co-authored by Michael Black, a former Chicago police officer and author of three novels and two non-fiction books, I Am Not A Cop! is a well plotted novel involving … um … well, I don’t want to give away more of the plot. If you enjoy Richard Belzer’s humor—which permeates this book as Belz himself is the primary character—then you’ll enjoy this book.

I give this story THREE STARS.

This story has a sequel, I Am Not A Psychic! which I will add to my to-be-read list for next year. Given the size of the list, it may not get read until 2012!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Kiss Me, Kill Me

Kiss Me, Kill Me by Maggie Shayne

She’s protected him since the day he was born. Since the day the lie began.

A longago act of kindness to a desperate woman changed Dr. Carrie Overton’s life forever. Before disappearing, the grateful stranger had given Carrie her newborn son. When the woman is murdered, the secret becomes Carrie’s alone.

She has kept both it and her son, Sam, safe for sixteen years. But now a friend of Sam’s has gone missing. The police believe he’s a runaway—until he’s found dead. Then another teen disappears, and talk turns to that longago murder.

Newcomer Gabriel Cain is asking too many questions, befriending Sam, getting too close. Carrie distrusts him even as she finds herself falling for him. But Gabriel has secrets too…

Is it time for the lying to end?
--Kiss Me, Kill Me by Maggie Shayne, Copyright ©2010 by Margaret Benson, published by Mira Books

My Review

Welcome back to Shadow Falls where sixteen years ago, with her infant son Sam, Dr. Carrie Overton settled down to begin her medical practice. Today, she’s a long-standing respected member of the medical profession and the community, Sam is a star on the high school soccer team and Sam’s best friend Kyle has gone missing.

Search teams are assembled, comprising mostly of the town inhabitants, but several seasonal tourists give their time to help find the teen, including Gabriel Cain, itinerant songwriter and Ambrose Arthur Peck, CEO of a Milwaukee investment firm. Both men are attracted to Carrie and while Ambrose is the type she usually goes for—the nerdy, serious type—her eye keeps wandering back to Gabe with his guitar, pony tail and psychedelic 1960’s VW Bus.

When Kyle’s body is found, Sam has a hard time dealing with the loss of his best friend. The two of them and Sam’s girlfriend, Sadie, practically grew up together. Carrie tries to help Sam cope, but it’s Gabe, not Carrie, that seems to get through to the teen with his calm, take-life-as-it-happens philosophy. Carrie may not agree with him, but if it helps Sam, she’s willing to go along with it.

Gabe is a mystery to her, but she finds herself growing more and more attracted to him as the days go on. But she needs to be careful, more careful now than she’s ever been. Some of the new people in town have been drawn to Shadow Falls because of the mysteries that had been uncovered in the past few weeks, and the still unsolved mystery of what happened to Olivia Dupree’s missing baby, known only as Baby Doe. Carrie’s the only one in town that knows the answer to that mystery, and she’s not telling anyone.

When Sadie goes missing, Carrie is forced to confront her fears and must figure out a way to carefully unleash the secret she’s been hiding for sixteen years. Because whether Sadie is found dead or alive, she alone knows who will be next on the kidnapper’s list: Sam.

I have to admit, I had a hard time writing this review because there are so many layers to this story, so many intertwining story lines that tie up the Shadow Falls trilogy that I was afraid to give anything critical away or make the review so long you wouldn’t bother to read the book because I would have told the entire story in the review! I strongly encourage anyone interested in romantic suspense to read these stories. Maggie Shayne is an excellent author who has woven together a terrific trilogy of memorable characters and intriguing story lines that will have you wishing for more. She joins my rank of new authors I’ve come to love thanks to this year-long experiment and I’m sure I’ll read more of her work next year.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Kill Me Again

Kill Me Again by Maggie Shayne

I’m not who they say I am. Trust me.

But can she?

Reclusive novelist Aaron Westhaven, a man she’s admired—and more—for years, has accepted Olivia Dupree’s invitation to speak at a local fundraiser. But the day he’s due to arrive, she gets a call summoning her to the beside of a John Doe whose sole possession is her business card.

Can this undeniably compelling man—survivor of an execution-style gunshot wound—really be the novelist the lonely Olivia has grown to think of as a near soul mate? If not, he can be in Shadow Falls for only one reason: to kill her.

Olivia, too, has secrets. And discovering the truth about the man in the hospital bed means dredging up her own past—a past she’s been hiding from for sixteen years.
--Kill Me Again by Maggie Shayne, Copyright ©2010 by Margaret Benson, published by Mira Books

My Review

Welcome back to Shadow Falls, where Professor Olivia Dupree has been living a secret life for sixteen years. She moved here to escape a bad—seriously bad—relationship and has lived in relative anonymity all that time. She’s had no relationships, save for a few friends and her English mastiff, Freddy. And a secret crush on a certain reclusive author named Aaron Westhaven. She’d written to him every time he published a new book, praising his work for touching her so emotionally. She never expected a response, not even when she wrote to him asking him to speak at her college’s annual fundraiser. Imagine her surprise when he responded to her invitation with a ‘yes’ provided his appearance was kept strictly confidential. He even wanted to stay with her at her house. Then imagine her surprise when he fails to show up. Imagine even further her surprise when she receives a call from the hospital, saying they have a John Doe with amnesia and no possessions, save for a pocket watch, a key, a packet of gum and her business card. She agrees to speak to the man in the hospital bed, telling him what she knows about him.

He listens to her, and while he likes what he sees, he can’t help feeling that something about her story is wrong. If he wrote such beautiful, touching stories as the professor insisted, why would anyone want him dead? He needs to get out of the hospital, the sooner the better, but has nowhere to go. Subconsciously calling upon skills he didn’t know he had, he manages to get out of the hospital and find his way to Olivia Dupree’s house just in time to stop an intruder.

Olivia admits that she’s been hiding from killers for sixteen years, but refuses to tell him why. Deciding it’s best for both of them to hide out for a while, at least until they can find some answers, they go into hiding. Olivia eventually admits that her former lover, a police officer in Chicago, was abusive with her. He was also a drug dealer who kept meticulous details of his transactions, including sales ledgers and photographs. His customers may not have been well known back then, but today, if news of their illegal activities got out, their careers and lives would be ruined. Tommy obviously found her and sent someone to obtain the disks and take care of her, permanently.

Aaron’s memory, meanwhile, has been coming back to him in fits and starts. A dream tells him his real name may be Adam, and as for his profession, well, he’s in Shadow Falls for a reason, and he has Olivia’s business card…could he be the killer hired to take out Olivia?

He doesn’t want to believe it, yet every instinct he has says it’s true. And not true at the same time. Olivia seems to be falling in love with him, but is she falling for Aaron, a man she’s already infatuated with, or Adam, the potential hit man? Somehow, he’s got to get to the bottom of this mystery of who tried to kill him and why. If he can figure that out, maybe he can save Olivia, even from himself.

I give this story THREE AND A HALF STARS.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Killing Me Softly

Killing Me Softly by Maggie Shayne

First you drink, then you DIE.

The Nightcap Strangler, who terrorized the town of Shadow Falls sixteen years ago, has finally been executed. Case closed. Until Bryan Kendall’s lover is murdered in the notorious killer’s unique style and the rookie cop stands accused. Has someone committed the perfect copycat crime…or was the wrong man put to death?

A continent away, Dawn Jones hears that her first love has been accused of murder and knows that only she can help him. But to do so, she’ll have to face the very fears that drove them apart.

Together they’ll work to uncover secrets someone’s willing to kill to keep, and renew a love as dangerous as it is inevitable. And their best lead is the gril found dead in Bryan’s bed, reeking of the whiskey poured down her throat before her killer squeezed it shut.

A killer who thinks that Dawn, too, could use one last drink…
--Killing Me Softly by Maggie Shayne, Copyright ©2010 by Margaret Benson, published by Mira Books

My Review
Bryan Kendall, rookie cop in Shadow Falls, VT, has just been returned to active duty following the shooting of a suspect in the line of duty. So, like all young men with something to celebrate, he throws a party. Nothing major, just a dozen or so friends, some beer, some chips and music. But the next morning, when he manages to pick himself up off the bathroom floor and stumble into bed, he finds his girlfriend dead asleep. No, not asleep, just dead. Killed in a manner of a serial killer who was recently executed after being in jail for sixteen years.

Surely this must be the work of a copycat. Very few people knew the intimate details of the case. Nick di Marco, the cop who cracked the case, the chief of police, and Bryan himself.

On the other side of the continent, Dawn Jones receives a call from her mother, telling her the news. She’s sorry, but she can’t return home. There’s too much unfinished business between her and Bryan and that’s the way she wants to keep it. But her mother insists, and Dawn reluctantly boards the flight her mother has booked for her. When she arrives at the bed and breakfast run by her mother (and Bryan’s father), the tension between the former teen lovers is palatable. Before they can even attempt to resolve any of their issues, though, another woman is killed. Bryan was “a person of interest” before. Now the police have obtained an arrest warrant. Though it goes against his instincts, Bryan goes on the run, taking Dawn with him.

Working with Nick, his mentor, Bryan and Dawn begin to investigate the details of the case, trying to track down the real killer and answer some questions. If the man convicted of the crimes sixteen years ago was just executed, who’s committing the crimes now? How did he know the unique signature of the Nightcap Strangler, a detail never released to the press?

And what about Dawn’s special “gift,” passed down to her by her psychotic father, the one that lets her talk to the dead? She left Vermont five years ago to escape the gift, leaving Bryan in the dark as to why she left. Now that she was back, would the dead talk to her? Was the ability gone for good? Or would it come back in time to save not only Bryan’s life, but her own?

I give this story THREE AND A HALF STARS.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Killer Weekend

Killer Weekend by Ridley Pearson

Eight years ago, Sun Valley, Idaho, sheriff Walt Fleming bravely thwarted an attempt on Attorney General Elizabeth Shaler's life. Now AG Shaler is back in town, poised to announce her candidacy for president at a three-day conference catering to the world's most prominent business leaders. The event is the brainchild of Patrick Cutter, a tycoon whose sybaritic lifestyle is a source of both scorn and awe. (He is but one example of the super-rich citizenry that's taken up residence in the once-quiet ski town.) There is no shortage of security for the proceedings--local police, Secret Service, and Cutter's own team--but it's not enough to deter a cunning assassin who slips seamlessly between a pair of identities. Meanwhile, Sheriff Fleming must cope with the suspicious death of a beautiful socialite and the breakup of his own marriage; it doesn't help matters that his deputy is sleeping with his ex-wife.
--Killer Weekend by Ridley Pearson, Copyright ©2007 Ridley Pearson, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

My Review
The place is Sun Valley, Idaho and, following a hunch, Patrolman Walter Fleming enters the vacation home of New York Attorney General Elizabeth Shaler. He found a community property bike in the woods behind her house and one of the windows to the crawlspace of her home is broken. He saves her life, but not before being seriously injured himself.

Fast forward eight years and Patrolman Fleming is now Sheriff Fleming. Liz Shaler has returned to Sun Valley Idaho and some believe she’s about to announce her candidacy for President of the United States. As local law enforcement, Walt joins her security detail, but he still has his regular duties, including an investigation into the death of a beautiful and faithless socialite, his interfering father, controlling the group of conference protestors and his own dissolving marriage. Not to mention hunting down a clever assassin who manages to slip in past security as easily as he slips between identities.

He saved Liz Shaler’s life once before. Can he do it again?

Normally, I give more detail in my reviews, but I found it difficult to do so with this story without giving away the entire plot. Know this: If you’ve never read Ridley Pearson before—and I never had—he weaves a tightly intricate story combining several different seemingly unrelated story lines that are, in fact, all part of the whole. My only criticism is Sheriff Fleming’s seemingly infallible intuition that tells him means one thing when everyone else says it means something else. Sure, I’ve heard of a cop’s instinct, but it just doesn’t quite ring true with me. Nevertheless, it was a great story.

I give this story THREE AND A HALF STARS.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Happy Ever After

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

Parker Brown turned the quartet’s childhood game of Wedding Day into their dream jobs. And now she’s the face of Vows—the one who meets every bride’s demands; deeps every event on schedule; and brings Emma’s romantic flowers, Laurel’s delicious treats, an Mac’s stunning photography together in one glorious package. She knows how to make dreams come true…

Mechanic Malcolm Kavanaugh loves figuring out how things work, and Parker Brown—with her mile-long legs—is no exception. But as a good friend of Parker’s brother, Mal knows that moving from minor flirtation to major hookup is a serious step.

No man has rattled Parker in a long time, but the motorcycling-riding, raven-haired Mal seems to have a knack for it. His passionate kisses always catch her off guard, much like her growing feelings for him. Parker’s business risks have always paid off, but now hse’ll have to take the chance of a lifetime with her heart…

--Happily Ever After by Nora Roberts, Copyright ©2010 by Nora Roberts, published by Berkeley Books
My Review

The final installment of the Bride Quartet is a wonderful conclusion to the series. The romance that has been building up between Parker and Malcolm finally spills over and these two find themselves face to face with each other…and they like what they see.

Socially, they’re living in two different worlds. Parker is a “have” while Mal is a “have not” but Parker is not one to live off her family money. Browns work, and she does, building Vows with her three friends and as she’s the primary planner and organizer, she doesn’t just work, she works! Malcolm sees that and has a lot of respect for her because of it. He’s worked hard all his life and he knows what it means to sweat for a paycheck.

The coming together of these two may seem like a mistake, but Mal and Parker compliment each others weaknesses. Mal seems to know instinctively how to get past Parker’s barriers and make himself comfortable within them and Parker knows just how to push Mal’s buttons. They’re perfect together…but Parker wishes Mal would open up about his past a little bit. He says it’s not important, but how can they build a future without knowing what formed the past? Her past is an open book—everyone knows her story—but Mal’s is closed to everyone, including Parker. Will Malcolm let down his walls and let Parker in or will he be closed and alone forever?

I give this story FOUR STARS.

And with that, I officially end "Norapalooza" for the remainder of 2010. I swear that I will not read or listen to another Nora Roberts book for the rest of this year. I have a backlog of books to read like you wouldn't believe and if I keep going back and re-reading old stuff, I'll never get caught up. So for the rest of this year, if I read a book, it has to be a new-to-me book and not a re-read and not a Nora Roberts. I promise! I do, I really do promise!

As for next year...well, I have decided that I will continue this blog into 2011, and yeah, I'll no doubt be reading new and re-reading old Nora books, but I'll try my best to keep them to a minimum, okay?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Red Lily

Red Lily by Nora Roberts
Book Three of the In The Garden trilogy

A Harper has always lived at Harper House, the centuries-old mansion just outside of Memphis. And for as long as anyone alive remembers, the ghostly Harper Bride has walked the halls, singing lullabies at night…

Hayley Phillips came to Memphis hoping for a new start, for herself and her unborn child. She wasn’t looking for a handout from her distant cousin Roz, just a job at her thriving In the Garden nursery. What she found was a home surrounded by beauty and the best friends she’s ever had—including Roz’s son Harper. To Hayley’s delight, her new daughter Lily has really taken to him. To Hayley’s chagrin, she has begun to dream about Harper—as much more than a friend…

If Hayley gives in to her desire, she’s afraid the foundation she’s built with Harper will come tumbling down. Especially since she’s begun to suspect that her feelings are no longer completely her own. Flashes of the past and erratic behavior make Hayley believe that the Harper Bride has found a way inside of her mind and body. It’s time to put the Bride to rest once and for all, so Hayley can know her own heart again—and whether she’s willing to risk it…

--Red Lily by Nora Roberts, Copyright ©2005 by Nora Roberts, published by Jove Books

My Review
Seeds of the burgeoning Hayley/Harper romance have been growing ever since Hayley moved into Harper House, and now those seedlings have come into full bloom (sorry, couldn’t help the flower analogy!). Though Hayley still has some reservations about having a romance with Harper, after all, his mother is her best friend and she doesn’t want Roz thinking she’s taking advantage of the situation, Roz recognized the look in her son’s eye the moment he fell in love with the young mother. Roz and Mitch and Stella and Logan are all for the young couple, but someone in the house is not.

Amelia somehow manages not only to get inside Hayley’s mind to spread her particularly vile thoughts, but finds a way to possess her body. These events scare Hayley because she has no control and the words that come out of her mouth can be particularly disturbing. Amelia was not a well woman and she’s even crazier in spirit form. She’s stepped up her attacks, revisiting Roz and Stella, doing everything she can to keep the young lovers apart. But as crazy as she may be, her deepest desire comes through. She wants to be found. Can Harper and Hayley solve the mystery of what happened at Harper House the night Amelia died and can they find her body before it’s too late?

A good ending to this trilogy, I give this story THREE AND A HALF STARS.

One more Nora Roberts story, Happily Ever After and I’ll be putting her away for the remainder of the year, I promise.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Black Rose

Black Rose by Nora Roberts
Book Two of the In The Garden trilogy

A Harper has always lived at Harper House, the centuries-old mansion just outside of Memphis. And for as long as anyone alive remembers, the ghostly Harper Bride has walked the halls, singing lullabies at night…

At forty-seven, Rosalind Harper is a woman whose experiences have made her strong enough to bend without breaking—and weather any storm. A widow with three grown sons, she survived a disastrous second marriage and built her In the Garden nursery from the ground up. Through the years, In the Garden has become more than just a thriving business—it is a symbol of hope and independence to Roz, and to the two women she shares it with. Newlywed Stella and new mother Hayley are the sisters of her heart, and together, the three of them are the future of In the Garden.

But now the future is under attack, and Roz knows they can’t fight this battle alone. Hired to investigate Roz’s Harper ancestors, Dr. Mitchell Carnegie finds himself just as intrigued with Roz herself. And as they begin to unravel the puzzle of the Harper Bride’s identity, Roz is shocked to find herself falling for the fascinating genealogist. Now it is a desperate race to discover the truth before the unpredictable apparition lashes out at the one woman who can help her rest in peace…

--Black Rose by Nora Roberts, Copyright ©2005 by Nora Roberts, published by Jove Books

My Review
What I didn’t like about Blue Dahlia did not apply at all to Black Rose. How many romance novels do you know star a widowed woman with three grown sons who, in just a few short years, will turn the dreaded 5-0? Not many that I could mention, that’s for sure. And that’s what I loved about this story. Roz and Mitch’s love story is not terribly unique—they meet because Roz hires Mitch to research her family to find the mysterious Harper Bride, Amelia. There are no clashes of personality as in Blue Dahlia…Roz and Mitch just work so well together, you almost wish they had met years earlier just so they could have had those extra years enjoying each other.

That’s not to say their romance didn’t have a few obstacles. After becoming a widow at a young age, Roz started her business and, once her boys were a bit older, met and married Bryce Clerk. It was a mistake, one Roz was quick to rectify and she pushed her philandering second husband out of her life. But now Bryce was back, and he was not going to go away quietly. Roz doesn’t really need Bryce back in her life, not with trying to run and expand her business, explore her relationship with Mitch and find out what she can about Amelia, all while keeping up the public façade of a proper, well-bred Southern woman.

Of course, being the heroine of the story, Roz triumphs, and triumphs beautifully. In the end, they find out more about Amelia and Roz and Mitch are together, despite Amelia’s attempts to drive them apart. But there’s another young woman in Harper House, and Amelia will not go away quietly.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Blue Dahlia

Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts
Book One of the In The Garden trilogy

A Harper has always lived at Harper House, the centuries-old mansion just outside of Memphis. And for as long as anyone alive remembers, the ghostly Harper Bride has walked the halls, singing lullabies at night…

Trying to escape the ghosts of the past, young widow Stella Rothchild, along with her two energetic little boys, has moved back to her routs in southern Tennessee—and into her new life at Harper House and the In the Garden nursery. She isn’t intimidated by the house nor its mistress, local legend Roz Harper. Despite a reputation for being difficult, Roz has been nothing but kind to Stella, offering her a comfortable new place to live and a challenging new job as manager of the flourishing nursery. As Stella settles comfortably into her new life, she finds a nurturing friendship with Roz and with expectant mother Hayley. And she discovers a fierce attraction wiht ruggedly handsome landscaper Logan Kitridge.

But someone isn’t happy about the budding romance…the Harper Bride. As the women dig into the history of Harper House, they discover that grief and rage have kept the Bride’s spirit alive long past her death. And now, she will do anything to destroy the passion that Logan and Stella share.
--Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts, Copyright ©2004 by Nora Roberts, published by Jove Books

My Review

I read this series when it first came out and enjoyed the ghost story thread that went through all three books. However, I can’t say the same for the romance story in this first book, Blue Dahlia. It’s the standard love story of a young widow with two small children moving to a new town. She finds a job that caters to her skills and she gets to spend more time with her father and stepmother, whose company she prefers far more than her own natural mother’s. She meets Logan, her boss’s landscaper and their styles immediately clash. He’s loose and laid back, she’s efficient and organized. Of course, for the sake of their mutual boss and friend, they find a way to get along. And of course, they take that “getting along” concept straight through to an engagement. Standard romance and I’m sorry to say, a trifle boring. Enjoyable, but not unique.

In this first book of the In the Garden trilogy, I feel as if it’s the story of the Harper Bride that kept me reading…okay, listening as I was listening to the audio version. The Harper Bride, as she’s always been known, has lived in Harper House since before Roz was born. Roz has always thought of the Bride as a benevolent spirit, paying occasional visits to her as she grew up and paying special attention to her three sons as they were born and as they grew. And she continues to behave that way when Stella moves in with her three boys. It’s only as Stella’s romance with Logan heats up that the Bride begins to act out, trying to keep the two separated.

Growing up, Roz never bothered to learn anything about her supposed ancestor’s ghost, but now she’s intrigued. Who exactly was the Harper Bride? How is she related? What does she have against Stella and Logan’s romance? And what tragedy occurred that resulted in her spirit being trapped in the house?

At the end of the story, the Bride leaves them with a tantalizing clue to her identity. Only her first name, Amelia, but it’s a start…to book two, Black Rose.

I give this story THREE STARS.

I'm still here!

Sorry it's been so long since my last posting, but things have been a bit hectic here. As some of you may know, November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, or just NaNo (or just WriMo, depending on which camp you inhabit). As such, I've spent considerable time researching that I might have otherwise spent reading. The audio books continue to roll, and I finished two and--shame on me--never posted review. I'm correcting that error now with posts on Blue Dahlia and Black Rose. In another day or two (or three) I'll post on Red Lily and since book 4 in The Bride Quartet has come out, there'll be a posting on that soon, and there's a new J.D. Robb out, so you'll see that review sometime next month. Then I think Nora-palooza will come to an end for the remainder of the year.

Thanks for back to the reviews!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bridal Jitters

Bridal Jitters by Jayne Castle

In the distant future, an official marriage of convenience between paranormal business partners is almost called off because of love…

--Bridal Jitters by Jayne Ann Krentz, Copyright ©1999 by Jayne Ann Krentz, published by Berkley Books

My Review

This story was originally published as part of the Charmed anthology with three other authors (Lori Foster, Eileen Wilks and Julie Beard).

When the mysterious Curtain opened, people of Earth were able to travel between our world and a new one, named Harmony. Long ago, a mysterious alien civilization abandoned Harmony, leaving behind green quartz ruins, unusual artifacts and a strange “vibe” that brought out psychic abilities in all the planet’s inhabitants. Before long, people began to colonize Harmony and travel and trade between the planets became commonplace.

Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the Curtain closed, stranding the colonists. Cut off from all they knew, the new Harmonics had to find a way to survive…or die.

When Sam met Virginia, he knew she was the one for him and would do anything to keep her with him. Anything. So he came up with not just one, but two ways to keep them together. First, he suggested they become business partners, combining their ghost hunter and tangler abilities into one consulting agency. Second, he suggests a marriage of convenience would keep their taxes low. She agreed to his proposal, but now she’s not so sure.

Because she’s fallen in love with Sam.

Those feelings need to be put to the side, however, while they work on their first job. They’ve been hired by an excavator to clear a particularly nasty ghost trap called a waterfall, blocking their progress. As Sam works to defuse the waterfall, he has to act quickly, not just because the waterfall is dangerous, but because the runaway truck barreling down the corridor will kill them if he doesn’t get them through.

Sam manages to carve a hole large enough for him and Virginia to jump through, but now they have another problem. They’re trapped on the other side in a chamber like neither had ever seen before in the catacombs.

Virginia thinks it’s the remnants of an alien zoo. Sam thinks it’s an office park or prison. They’re both wrong. And in this Halloween season, when the real ghosts are released underground, will Virginia and Sam survive the storm?

I give this story THREE STARS.

Charmed Anthology

Harmony, containing Bridal Jitters and After Dark

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Single Sashimi

Single Sashimi by Camy Tang

Venus Chau is determined to start her own game development company and launch the next Super Mario-sized phenomenon. However, she needs an investor to back her idea. When Drake Yu, an old nemesis, approaches Venus with a contracting opportunity at his sister’s startup, the offer tempts Venus to think the unthinkable.

Venus would rather throw away her PS3 than work for Drake again…but then Grandma bribes Venus to do this favor for Drake’s wealthy family. With the encouragement of her three cousins, Lex, Trish and Jennifer, Venus discovers that even a wounded heart can undergo a beautiful transformation…
--Single Sashimi by Camy Tang, Copyright ©2008 by Camy Tang, published by Zondervan Books

My Review

Some books easily land in a genre while others sit nicely on a fence between two. This book, a Chick-Lit Asian Christian Romance, manages to straddle four and does so very nicely.

The story is set in San Jose, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley, about eight months after the end of Only Uni. Venus Chau is not the oldest of the four Christian Sakai cousins, but she is the most direct. She’s the programming team lead/acting game lead at a popular computer gaming company and her firm, direct style of management intimidates most people she comes in contact with. But not Drake Yu.

Venus worked for Drake once but quit after a “personal dispute.” Now, suddenly, after almost six years, Drake calls her and offers her a new job. He’d retired a few years earlier at thirty-eight due to a sudden heart attack, but now he’s come out of retirement to help his sister’s start-up. The company needs a new Chief Technology Officer, one that can get the employees under control and drive production. In Drake’s mind, Venus is the most obvious choice. To sweeten the deal, along with the promotion and higher salary, he’ll help her start her own programming company. Her immediate answer is “no,” but after she’s passed up for promotion to permanent Game Lead—by a junior programmer, no less—she decides to take Drake’s offer.

While her work life may be settled for the time being, her spiritual life is not as good as it should be. She prays every morning, reads her Bible and even volunteers to work with a church youth group, but something is missing. She just can’t figure out what.

Though she prefers her introverted lifestyle, Venus is besieged by relationships. Her relationship with God, her father, her mother, her cousins, her secret business partner, the youth group, her co-workers and most especially, her relationship with Drake—she has no idea how to control them all.

It’s only when Venus finally learns to let go of control with her relationship with God do the pieces of the other relationships start to fall into place. But will she like the picture God is drawing for her, one that leads her away from the dream she’s been working hard to create and toward a life with Drake?

Camy Tang is a wonderful author with several titles under Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense line as well as the Sushi Series (which I’m now done reading—better late than never!).

Are you wondering why she never published a book for the fourth cousin, Jennifer? If you join Camy’s YahooGroup newsletter (for details, click here), you can get Jennifer’s novella titled Weddings and Wasabi…I think she’s finished writing it…

I give this story THREE STARS.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Enchantment Emporium

The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff
The Gales of southern Ontario can change the world with the charms they cast, and they prefer to keep all this power in the family. The Gale Aunties are in charge of this clan, or like to think they are. Alysha, like all her cousins, often finds herself beset with too many Aunties trying to run her life. SO when a letter from her missing Gran arrives telling her that she’s inherited a junk shop in Calgary, Alysha is ready and willing to honor her grandmother’s last request to keep the shop open and serve “the community.” The Aunties, of course, want her ot find out what really happened to Gran and come right back home where they have her future mapped out for her.

It isn’t until she arrives in Calgary that Alysha realizes it’s the fey community she’ll be serving in The Enchantment Emporium—and that one person’s junk may be another person’s magical treasure. Finding out what happened to Gran will not be easy, especially since Alysha has no way of knowing just how much otherworldly trouble is brewing in Calgary. And even calling in family reinforcements may not be enough to save the day…

--The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff, Copyright ©2009 by Tanya Huff, published by Daw Books

My Review

As you can tell from the list of titles I’ve read, I tend to stick with contemporary romance novels, but every now and then I need something different. For the first half of this month, I’ve been reading The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff, a novel set firmly in the Urban Fantasy genre. Not my favorite genre, but one I occasionally enjoy.

Alysha “Allie” Gale is 24 years old, recently unemployed, and has just moved back home with her large, extended, magical family. She’s trying to figure out what she wants to do next when she receives a letter from her grandmother in Calgary, saying if she’s reading this letter, then she’s dead and she’s left all her possessions to Allie, including a junk shop called The Enchantment Emporium.

With a new purpose, Allie packs her bags and moves to Calgary. Gran wants her to serve the community and that’s what she’s going to do. Anything to get away from the gaggle of nattering aunts, baking pies and pushing her to make a decision about who she’ll marry and what she’ll do with the rest of her life.

The peace she finds in Calgary is quickly quashed when her first customer arrives, a five-foot-six-inch leprechaun. Part of Gran’s “service to the community” was to run a mailbox service for those who would otherwise have difficulty getting mail, and Joe O’Hallan definitely qualified.

By the time a cute reporter from the local weekly tabloid shows up, Allie has started to get the hang of running the shop. Graham Buchanan had started to interview Gran for a story about the shop, but now that she was gone, perhaps Allie would like to pick where she left off. There’s a definite attraction between them, one they happily explore.

What Allie doesn’t know—yet—is that Graham works for a sorcerer. Sorcerers are the Gale family’s number one enemy and this one has a secret, several secrets, that connect him to the Gale family. And to a family of Dragon Lords who appear poised to take over the city. Or burn it down.

Things are about to get interesting in Calgary and Allie’s life will never be the same.

At 473 pages and with more characters and bisecting story lines than I could detail here, this is a very involved read, but Tanya Huff has a great sense of humor with her characters and tells a great story. It took me just over two weeks to read, but it’s a great story and well worth the time.

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Light in Shadow & Truth or Dare (a Two-Fer!)

Light in Shadow and Truth or Dare by Jayne Ann Krentz

Light in Shadow -- Hiding behind an expensive, black-market-created identity, Zoe Luce has built a successful interior design business in Whispering Springs, Arizona, and hopes that she has just as successfully buried her past. She can't ignore her unique psychic abilities, however, and when she walks into a new client's bedroom and hears the walls scream and moan, she knows something terrible has happened in the house. Did her client murder his wife? She's determined to find out, but investigating a possible murder is beyond her expertise, so Zoe turns to Ethan Truax, a private detective new to the small Arizona community. Solving the murder of the businessman's wife is a piece of cake for Ethan compared to the complicated enigma that he finds in Zoe. Mysterious nightmares haunt her and when a would-be blackmailer is found dead, Zoe's past inexorably collides with her new life, threatening their dreams of a future together.

Truth or Dare -- In her latest paranormal tale, Krentz takes up the story of psychic interior designer Zoe and private investigator Ethan, who met and fell in love in Light in Shadow. They are now working to create a successful marriage, but different events in their pasts keep interfering with their hopes for wedded bliss. Still haunted by his brother's murder and his own pursuit of justice in that case, Ethan expects Zoe to dump him, just as his previous three wives did. Zoe is plagued by memories of her imprisonment in a private psychiatric sanatorium, as she unexpectedly encounters psychic "spider webs" clinging to several places she has recently visited. As Ethan and Zoe struggle with their pasts, both become caught up in the dilemma of Zoe's friend, Arcadia, who fears that her ex-husband has returned from the dead to settle an old score.
--Light in Shadow and Truth or Dare by Jayne Ann Krentz, Copyright ©2004 by Jayne Ann Krentz, published by Jove Books

My Review

Light in Shadow -- Zoe Luce moved to Whispering Springs, Arizona to begin a new life as an interior designer. Focusing on fung shui and other design theories that focus on the balance and flow of energies in a room, she’s building a reputation for creating interiors that compliment the homeowner’s personal needs and harmonies.

When she walks into a new client’s bedroom, the walls begin screaming at her. Literally. A terrible act was committed in the room and, once she has a chance to talk about it with her good friend, Arcadia Ames, she decides to take action. She hires private investigator Ethan Truax to find the client’s wife (who claims his wife left him and they’re in the process of a divorce).

Ethan is a bit suspicious about Zoe’s reasons for hiring him, but takes the case and investigates. When all the evidence points to murder, Ethan demands the truth from Zoe.

Zoe manages to evade most of Ethan’s questions. After all, she’s not ready to confess that she’s a genuine escapee from an insane asylum, committed against her will by her late-husband’s relatives because she says she can feel strong energies emanating from the walls of rooms. (You know the old saying “if these walls could talk?” Well, they do to Zoe.) But when someone from the asylum arrives in Whispering Springs and begins to blackmail Zoe, she turns to the only man she knows in town who can help her. After listening to her story, he helps her the only way he knows how…by proposing marriage.

Truth or Dare -- We return to Whispering Springs, shortly after the end of Light in Shadow. When they got married, Zoe and Ethan agreed that once her issues with her late-husband’s relatives were resolved, they would get a divorce and go their separate ways. But once those issues were settled, they decided to see if they could make a go of their marriage. So far, it seems to be working for them, even if Zoe has suddenly become overly security-minded and Ethan wonders how long it will take Zoe to leave. He hopes never, but given the fact that Zoe is his fourth wife, he figures her leaving is inevitable.

Other problems come to light that overshadow their concerns. Arcadia Ames, Zoe’s friend from the asylum, believes that her dead husband Grant is actually still alive and is coming after her. Arcadia checked herself into the Candle Lake asylum as a ruse to escape from her husband, but somewhere along the line, she made a mistake, and now Grant is after her, and he’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants from her—she’s holding evidence that could get him sent to jail. He wants that evidence. And he wants her dead.

Meanwhile, Zoe encounters strange, unexpected “psychic spider webs” at Arcadia’s and in the Designer Dream Home where she’s decorating the library. Some dark mind is responsible for the webs, stalking her and dredging up old memories of Candle Lake. Zoe wonder if she is finally, truly losing her mind. Can she trust Ethan with the truth about what’s happening to her, or will it be the thing that drives them apart forever?

This entry is a two-fer because the two stories go together and it took me less than a week to listen to them both. I enjoyed Light in Shadow and while Truth or Dare is also good, it has the feel of a forced sequel. That is to say, Light in Shadow was a good story in and of itself, but it did leave one or two threads untied and therefore another book had to be written to tie them off. I would almost have preferred Light in Shadow be an extra 50 or so pages longer in order to tie off those threads than to have an additional book.

BUT! Since these stories were published six years ago, I guess my opinion doesn’t really carry any weight, does it?

I give the stories THREE STARS each.

And with this entry, I'm off my Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle kick and back to Nora Roberts. I've been wanting to re-read the In The Garden series since spring and I've held off until now. I read the series when it first came out and I can remember tiny bits and pieces of the stories but not the individual or over-arching plot lines, so now would be a good time to indulge myself.

Also, next month's readings will be sparse (even sparser than this month) because of National Novel Writing Month. This is my fourth year participating and if you've ever had a yen to write a novel, go to the site and check out the details. This is your chance to spend a month pounding out that novel burning within you, to see if you have what it takes to write a 50,000 word novel. Trust me, it's tough, but it's a load of fun!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Midnight Crystal

Midnight Crystal: Book Three of the Dreamlight Trilogy (Arcane Society, No. 9) by Jayne Castle

For many earthly centuries, a legendary curse has plagued the Winters family, stemming from the tumultuous founding of the Arcane Society. But now, on the futuristic world of Harmony, the curse’s final mystery will be unraveled…

Adam Winters has enough responsibility as the new head of the local Ghost Hunter Guild without being saddled with the family curse. He’s convinced his recent nightmares and hallucinations will lead to him becoming a psychic rogue—unless he can find a stolen relic and a woman who can read dreamlight.

Marlowe Jones rides into his life on a motorcycle and with a dust bunny at her side. Though a descendant of the rival Arcane family, she’s just what Adam needs: a psychic private investigator and dreamlight reader extraordinaire.

Together, amid the glowing catacombs and steamy underground jungles of Harmony, Adam and Marlow must break the curse, save the entire underworld—and fight a passion that could destroy them both…
--Midnight Crystal by Jayne Castle ©2010 by Jayne Ann Krentz, published by the Penguin Group

My Review

Book Three in the Dreamlight Trilogy takes us into the future and across the galaxy with Jayne Castle, to a planet called Harmony.

Adam Winters is falling under the family curse. He’s developing another psi ability, leading to hellish nightmares and disturbing hallucinations. He needs the Burning Lamp and a powerful dreamlight reader to stabilize his mind before he goes completely insane.

Marlowe Jones is that woman, and as luck would have it, she also has the connections to track down the missing Lamp. But stabilizing Adam’s mind is only the beginning of their association with each other. The Arcane Society had what they believed was the Burning Lamp in their possession—which Adam confesses is actually a fake—but it was stolen. Who stole it and why?

When Adam and Marlowe use the Burning Lamp it to stabilize the underground power generator that illuminates the green quartz structures throughout the planet, they unknowingly activate the Midnight Crystal. None of Adam’s ancestors who employed the Burning Lamp have ever been able to activate the Midnight Crystal, leading many to believe that the Crystal is simply a pretty stone with no special power. But surrounded by the green quartz psi and activated by Adam and Marlowe, the powerful hypnotic command embedded within the Crystal comes alive and orders Adam to destroy every living member of the Jones family. Can Adam find the strength to disobey his multi-great grandfather’s command and save Marlowe?

I wish I had been a beta reader for this story, as I would have posted several questions to the author for clarification.

First, why would the Winters family on earth risk losing control of the Burning Lamp by letting it go to Harmony? Granted (as the history goes), no one thought about the possibility of the Curtain between our worlds closing, making the Lamp inaccessible to those on Earth, but still, why take that risk? Unless every last member of the Winters family moved to Harmony to stay near the Lamp, moving it across the galaxy is a very risky move.

Second, how is it something made on Earth centuries ago be the key to stabilizing an alien power generator on another planet? And as luck would have it, that object is on the right planet at the right time? It feels too contrived to me.

Third, who stole the Burning Lamp from Adam? Tully, an antiquities and artifacts dealer in the Old Quarter has it and is willing to give Marlowe first crack at buying it, but how did he get it? He dies before Marlowe can ask him, so we’ll never know.

Fourth, Marlowe visits the Arcane Society library to do a little research. As the scene is written, it is implied that the books in the Arcane library are originals, not copies. Like the Lamp, why would Arcane make the risky move of sending these important books and documents to another planet? If at some point it said that the books were copies and the originals had been left on Earth, that would make perfect sense and this paragraph would not have been written. But it doesn’t, and so this paragraph exists.

There may have been other little questions that popped into my mind as I read this, but they were minor enough that I forgot them. These are the big four, though, and ones I would dearly have loved to pose to Ms. Krentz prior to this book being published. Alas, that did not happen.

Despite my questions/issues, Midnight Crystal is a good story and a nice tie-off to the Dreamlight Trilogy. If you read the other two stories, Fired Up and Burning Lamp, you will obviously want to read Midnight Crystal, and you should, as it nicely ties-off the Dreamlight Trilogy.

I give this story THREE STARS.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Three Fates

Three Fates by Nora Roberts
She was shimmering silver, small enough to fit in the palm of his hand. He took possession of her on an impulse—never knowing that she was more than just a trinket who might fetch a pretty price in a pawnshop at the next port. Then a thunderous explosion rocked the ship—and in mere minutes, so many fates were changed…

When the Lusitania sank, more than a thousand people died. One passenger who survived became a changed man, giving up his life as a petty thief—though keeping the small silver statue he lifted, a family heirloom to future generations. Now, nearly a century later, that statue, one of a priceless, long-separated set of three, has been snatched from the Sullivans. And Malachi, Gideon, and Rebecca Sullivan are determined to recover their great-great-grandfather’s treasure, reunite the Three Fates, and make their fortune.
The quest will take them far from their home in Ireland: To Helsinki, where Malachi seeks out Tia Marsh, a formidable American scholar whose privileged background, sharp mind, and authoritative knowledge of Greek mythology mask a fragile, fear-plagued woman within, and whose family is an important link to the mysterious missing statue. To Prague, where a bold exotic dancer named Cleo will enchant Gideon Sullivan—and embark on a gamble to turn her life around. And to New York, where security expert Jack Burdett joins the Sullivans in their fight against an ambitious woman who will stop at nothing to acquire the Fates.
--Three Fates by Nora Roberts, Copyright ©2002 by Nora Roberts, published by Putnam Books

My Review


Why? Why? Why?

Why did I read this book for—no joke—the third time? Or was it the fourth?

If I was to draw up a list of my ten absolute-favorite books, this book would be Number One. Numbers Two through Ten are up in the air, but Number One—hands down—is Three Fates.

That’s why.

I love this book not just for the wonderfully told story, but the wonderful way in which it is told. As a reader, I would tell you that the story involves seven people, six working against one, all in pursuit of the same goal. As a writer, I love the intricate plot and the myriad of story lines that weave its structure.

The stars of the story are Three Fates, a trio of small silver statues depicting Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, the three sisters of Greek Mythology who weave, measure and cut the thread that measures each of our lives. The Sullivans, Malachi, Gideon and Rebecca inherited one of the statues which had actually been stolen by one of their ancestors on the Lusitania right before it sank in 1915.

Unaware of its value, Malachi took the statue to renown antiques expert Anita Gaye. Anita, recognizing the statue for what it is, employs her feminine wiles and steals the statue from him. Determined to get it back, the Sullivans hatch a plan to find the other two and sell them to Anita for the millions of dollars that they’re worth.

Malachi goes to work on Dr. Tia Marsh, who is in Helsinki on a lecture tour promoting her new book. She’s also an expert in Greek mythology and a descendant of Henry Wiley, the original owner of Clotho, the statue his great-great-grandfather stole. Gideon heads to Prague to track down Cleo Tolliver, the descendant of the owner of Lachesis. They think to get ahead of Anita, but they don’t realize that Anita is already ahead of them. Tia’s hotel room is trashed, forcing Malachi to abandon his plans. Cleo’s apartment gets the same treatment and Gideon and Cleo go on the run across Europe.

Anita consults with her security expert, Jack Burdette. He’s also a collector and she attempts to pump him for information about the Fates. Almost immediately afterward, Jack heads for Ireland to meet the remaining Sullivans, Rebecca and her mother Eileen. He also stops off at his great-grandfather’s home to pick up the third Fate, Atropos. Anita, of course, has no idea that Atropos belongs to Jack’s family.

Uniting through various circumstances in New York, the six form a team to figure out a way to bring Anita down. Not only do they want the stolen Fate back, they want Anita to pay for all her crimes. And pay she will, in ways she can’t begin to imagine.

I love the structure of the story because as you read it, you can see the individual stories—threads, if you will—and how they weave and mesh together to form an intricate storyline. Not only do their present lives mesh, but so do the histories of their families and everything connects back to three silver statues. You can see it all, and it all is easy to follow. That’s what I love about this story, and I’m sure, a few years from now, I’ll be reading it again. And I’ll enjoy it as much as I did the first time I read it.

I give this story FIVE STARS.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Obsidian Prey

Obsidian Prey by Jayne Castle
Three months ago, amber tuner and independent prospector Lyra Dore made the find of the decade in an underground rain forest: amethyst ruins. But the very man she was dating stole her claim - and her heart. At least she has her artistically talented dust bunny, Vincent, to comfort her....

Amber Inc. CEO Cruz Sweetwater never meant to hurt Lyra. His affinity for obsidian amber gives him the ability to sense that she is his true love. But the ruins have mysterious powers, putting everyone involved with the project in danger. Only by trusting their psychic instincts will Cruz and Lyra survive - and surrender to the desire that binds them.
--Obsidian Prey by Jayne Castle, Copyright ©August 2009 by Jayne Ann Krentz, published by Jove Books

My Review

“You’re the woman who broke Cruz Sweetwater’s heart.” That’s what everyone connected to the Sweetwater family says to me whenever I meet one of them and it’s driving me crazy!

First of all, Cruz lied to me about his name. When we met, he said his name was Cruz Marlow. And so now he tells me that Marlow is his middle name. Okay, so I guess technically he didn’t lie, but he never used the name Sweetwater around me, so I call that a lie by omission. Second, he used me. He kept me distracted just long enough so his company, Amber, Inc., could jump all over my find in the rainforest and file paperwork with the government so they could legally claim my amethyst ruin as their own. Right out from under my nose! Can you believe that? And then, once their claim had been accepted, they shut me out, refusing me any access at all. It was my ruin, darn it! I found it, therefore, it belongs to me, not them! And third, oh, third was the worst. Once I was shut out, Cruz walked out of my life. Bam! Gone! So long, see ya, thanks for the memories. And those crazy Sweetwaters actually have the gall to say I broke his heart!

So now here we are, three months later, and look who’s come crawling back. I was all set to enjoy my revenge. I imagined Cruz Marlow—um—Sweetwater, begging to take me back, but I never imagined him asking me for help. It seems an energy storm is blocking the entrance to their—ahem—my ruin and no one within the Amber, Inc. empire can de-rez it. But since I’m the one who opened it in the first place, could I please come do it again? I was all set to say no when Cruz told me there were five people trapped inside. Oh, geez. Guess I’m going to have to help Cruz after all.

So off into the underground rainforest we went and I oh-so-nicely-and-neatly made short work of the energy storm. I now have the gratitude of Amber, Inc. and the Ghost Hunter Guild. I can do without the Guild’s gratitude, but as for Amber, Inc? I need to decide how much to charge them for my skills.

But there’s something else Cruz needs my help with. Seems one of the amethyst relics collected from the ruin has gone missing and he thinks, given my naturally affinity with amethyst, I can help him track it down. I naturally refuse to help him, but the next day, I was consulting with a new client at an exclusive collector’s auction and what did I sense but missing relic. But before Cruz or I can do anything, the gallery owner is murdered. Oh geez again!

So not only do I have Cruz Sweetwater back in my life, I have to deal with a gang of thieves and murders. Oh, and there’s the strange waking nightmares I’ve been having lately, and the feeling that someone is stalking me. Plus all those darn Sweetwaters keep saying I broke Cruz’s heart!

Can’t they understand that it’s Cruz who broke my heart when the cad made me fall in love with him and then walked away from me?

I tried to channel the spirit of Lyra Dore as I wrote this, but I can’t say I was particularly successful at it. Oh well, it was fun to write anyway.

Jayne Castle/Jayne Ann Krentz has the wonderful ability to create characters that are slightly whacky and a little off center, but spunky. Lyra certainly fits that description and she’s a perfect foil for Cruz. Throw in a dust bunny, a secret admirer, a mysterious modern artist and an even more mysterious collector and you have another entertaining Harmonic adventure.

I was disappointed at the very end, though. Throughout the story, Lyra and Cruz trade barbs and snappy remarks that add to the emotional and sexual tension between them. Even when some of that tension is released (you know what I mean), they still have this great banter between them. He hurt her by stealing her claim and then walking away and now he’s back and he wants her, but she’s not going to go quietly. She fights him every inch of the way, kicking and screaming and just when she’s had enough of those darned Sweetwaters saying she broke his heart, he goes and says “I’m sorry. I screwed up. But I fell in love with you when I first saw you.”

And she melts like putty in his hands.


What a way to ruin an ending.

I give this story THREE STARS.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Water Bound

Water Bound, a Sea Haven novel by Christine Feehan
The last thing Lev Prakenskii remembered was being lost in the swirling currents of the ocean and getting sucked deeper into the nothingness of a freezing black eddy off the coastal town of Sea Haven. Just as quickly, just as miraculously, he was saved—pulled ashore by a beautiful stranger. But Lev has no memory of who he is—or why he seems to possess the violent instincts of a trained killer. All he knows is that he fears for his life, and for the life of his unexpected savior.

Her name is Rikki, a sea-urchin diver in Sea Haven. She has always felt an affinity for the ocean, and for the seductive pull of the tides. And now she feels drawn in the same way to the enigmatic man she rescued. But soon they will be bound by something even stronger, and their tantalizing secrets will engulf them both in a whirlpool of dizzying passion and inescapable danger.
--Water Prey by Christine Feehan, Copyright ©August 2010 by Christine Feehan, published by Jove Books

My Review

I thoroughly enjoy Christine Feehan’s stories and I’m glad she stepped away from the crueler, darker path that she was starting to go down (those who have read her last Drake and Dark stories know what I’m talking about). Water Prey introduces us to some new characters, namely Rikki Sitmore and her “sisters” on their farm outside Sea Haven, the home of the Drake Sisters.

Rikki’s a loner, working solo as a sea urchin diver and is very happy with her solitary lifestyle until the day she’s swept off her boat by a rogue wave. Quickly gaining her equilibrium under water, she spies something unexpected. There’s a man in the water, and if she doesn’t act quickly, he’s going to die.

Lev Prakenskii probably would have welcomed his death, if it weren’t for the piercing gaze of the woman who rescued him. She didn’t just see him, she saw into him, and that sensation was one he would treasure for the rest of his days. Once on her boat, however, his battered, broken mind not only sees her as his savior, but as a threat. And threats must be eliminated.

Rikki slips easily past his defenses and takes him to her home to rest and heal. Romance blossoms quickly, but Lev senses something different about Rikki. The jerky little hand motions, her almost-obsessive cleanliness, the need to keep everyone out of her home (except him, somehow), brings him to one conclusion about her, a conclusion her “older sister” Blythe confirms.

But he didn’t need Blythe to confirm that she’s a water element, someone who is drawn almost compulsively to water, and water to her. Lev figures he might as well be water for the way he is drawn to her. But someone else is drawn to Rikki. Someone whose element counters Rikki’s, and if Lev isn’t careful, he may lose his love to the one thing she most fears.

Can Lev save Rikki from her fire-starting stalker and carve out a new life for himself in Sea Haven, knowing someone else out there wants him dead too?

I actually felt a little let down at the end of this story, though I couldn’t figure out why. Later, I resumed listening to my current audio book (Obsidian Prey--review coming very, very soon!) and figured out why. We readers have become accustomed to the villain—once uncovered—explaining all the reasons for his crimes and his plans for what comes next. That didn’t happen in this story. Through a mistake he made, Sheriff Jonas Harrington was able to trace the bad guy's fingerprints and come up with an ID. Rikki didn’t recognize the name, so they dug deeper and found the connection. Once Rikki was no longer in danger, Jonas explained everything to her and Lev. End of story. No protracted explanation for the reasons for his crimes, no baiting by the heroine to throw the villain off-track so the hero could swoop in and rescue her, no last minute boastful cry by the bad guy. Just boom, done, here’s why, now let’s get on with life. And, I have to admit, I like it. Because, let’s face it, it’s a much more realistic ending (seriously, do bad guys do this in real life?), and I like writers who keep it real.

I give this story FOUR STARS.