Saturday, December 31, 2011

With a Tear in our Eye...

...we say goodbye to 2011. I make my book count this year at 65 (okay, that should probably be 64 since one of them is a repeat).

So here are a few stats:

Top 5 of 2011

1. The Enemy – Lee Child
2. Collide – Megan Hart
3. The Keeper of Lost Causes – Jussi Alder-Olsen
4. X Plagues – Mary Nealy
5. White Wind – Susan Edwards

This would have been a Top Ten, but I didn’t read enough books this year to have ten that I absolutely loved. If I had to pick five more, they would likely come from Lee Child and Susan Edwards. And maybe one David Baldacci.

Favorite new-to-me authors:

1. Mary Nealy (X Plagues)
2. Jussi Alder-Olsen (The Keeper of Lost Causes)
3. Susan Edwards (White Dawn, White Dusk, White Shadows. White Wind)
4. Harry Dolan (Bad Things Happen)

There were more new-to-me authors this year, but these three were my favorite. I’ll keep an eye out for Mary Nealy to see if/when she writes another book, Jussi Alder-Olsen has written three books in his Department Q series, but since I don’t read Danish, I’ll have to wait for the other two to be translated to English and released here in America, and the next four installments in Susan Edwards’ White series will be out in February 2012.

I would like to add a fifth “honorable mention” favorite author: Steven James. I’m still reading his first book, The Pawn. Since it’s the year end and I’m still reading it, it hasn’t made my review list yet, but I already know I like his writing and he’ll be one of my favorites in 2012.

So thanks to my busier schedule, I haven’t read as much this year as I did last year (79 books in 2010, 65 in 2011), but with good reason. Going to the gym several days a week took some reading time away—though I compensate by listening to audio books as I work out—and starting school in October took away even more. I don’t like that I spend less time reading for pleasure, but given what I’m gaining in exchange (lost almost 60 lbs and working on a college degree), I’d say it’s for the better. I hope to read at least as many books in the coming year.

2010 saw a lot of Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz and 2011 was a blitz of Lee Child. I know 2012 will have a lot of Susan Edwards as I read the remainder of the White series, but I hope to discover more new-to-me authors that I will love as much as these.

How about you? Have you been inspired to read more in the new year?

Oh...and I suppose it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, yes, this blog will continue into the new year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Deliver Us from Evil

Deliver Us from Evil by David Baldacci

Evan Waller is a monster.

He has built a fortune from his willingness to buy and sell anything . . . and anyone. In search of new opportunities, Waller has just begun a new business venture: one that could lead to millions of deaths all over the globe. On his trail is Shaw, the mysterious operative from The Whole Truth, who has tracked Waller to Provence and must prevent him from closing his latest deal. But someone else is pursuing Waller: Reggie Campion, an agent for a secret vigilante group headquartered in a musty old English estate-and she has an agenda of her own.

Hunting the same man and unaware of each other's mission, Shaw and Reggie will be caught in a deadly duel of nerves and wits.

--Deliver Us from Evil
by David Baldacci
Copyright © 2010 by David Baldacci
Published by Grand Central Publishing

My Review
Evan Waller is a man with two lives. In his past, as Fedir Kuchin, he was a war criminal and mass murderer from the Ukraine. He faked his death to avoid prosecution and emerged as Evan Waller, Canadian businessman. He made his millions in human trafficking and now wants to branch out into international terrorism by dealing in nuclear material.

Unaware of his previous identity, Shaw and his boss, Frank, want to take him down because he threatens the balance of power in the world. They figure his upcoming vacation in Provence, France, is the perfect place.

Reggie Campion and her team also think Provence is the perfect place to take down Waller. They, unlike Shaw, are aware of his previous identity. Her organization tracks down war criminals who have escaped persecution and deliver final justice to them. They are aware of his current identity and profession, but they want to take him down for his past deeds.

The nuclear deal is abruptly aborted, so Shaw is called off Waller’s tail. But before he can leave Provence, Reggie’s team takes him hostage. Seems Shaw and Reggie—working under aliases—were getting too close for comfort and Reggie’s boss orders Shaw’s detainment.

Waller/Kuchin manages to escape Reggie’s trap in Provence and now he turns his sights on getting his revenge against the people who would seek to take him down. And he finds a most unlikely route…through Katie James.

Sometimes you want the details, and other times, you don’t, wanting to rely on your own imagination to fill in the blanks. Think of the scene in “Silence of the Lambs” where Clarice Starling is shown a picture of one of Lecter’s victims. We see her reaction to the photo, but we never see the photo. The horror of what she’s seeing is left to our imagination. Baldacci doesn’t leave the horrific actions of Fedir Kuchin/Evan Waller to our imaginations. He tells us, in graphic, gory detail, exactly how evil and sadistic this man is. It’s a testament to a skilled storyteller and yet, I can’t help wondering how good the story might have been if he had left something to our imaginations.

Baldacci created a wonderful heroine in Reggie Campion, and as the story progressed, I couldn’t help wondering when/if Katie James was going to make an appearance beyond more than just a phone call and a quick “hi” at a Paris café. She almost could have been edited out of the story entirely, except she’s the route Kuchin/Waller takes to get to Shaw. I liked Katie in The Whole Truth but I have to confess, I like Reggie more. She’s more of a match for Shaw than Katie ever was.

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS.

The Whole Truth

The Whole Truth by David Baldacci

"Dick, I need a war."

Nicolas Creel is a man on a mission. He heads up the world's largest defense contractor, The Ares Corporation. Dick Pender is the man Creel retains to "perception manage" his company to even more riches by manipulating international conflicts. But Creel may have an even grander plan in mind.

Shaw, a man with no first name and a truly unique past, has a different agenda. Reluctantly doing the bidding of a secret multi-national intelligence agency, he travels the globe to keep it safe and at peace.

Willing to do anything to get back to the top of her profession, Katie James is a journalist who has just gotten the break of a lifetime: the chance to interview the sole survivor of a massacre that has left every nation stunned.

In this terrifying, global thriller, these characters' lives will collide head-on as a series of events is set in motion that could change the world as we know it.

--The Whole Truth
by David Baldacci
Copyright © 2008 by David Baldacci
Published by Grand Central Publishing

My Review
Defense contractor and multi-multi-millionaire Nicholas Creel is not happy. The world is seemingly at peace, no major wars going on, and that’s not good for business. He needs a war, so he has his perception manager, Dick Pender, start one. And start one he does. He plants false stories about the Russians and the rumors spread with the speed and efficiency you’d expect from our internet-driven society.

Shaw hears the stories, but he has other things on his mind. A kind of global policeman for a shadowy international agency, he travels the world to take care of problems, big or small, that might impact the global power balance. He’s very good at what he does, going into hairy situations that would get most people killed within the first two minutes and always manages to come out alive. He’s ready to retire so he can marry Anna Fischer, the love of his life, but his boss has a stranglehold on him that he cannot easily escape.

Katie James, an award winning journalist on a downward slide fueled by alcohol, happens upon Shaw as he attempts to take down a group of drug dealers in Scotland. Barely escaping with their lives, they go their separate ways, only to be reunited as they join forces to take down the man responsible for starting Cold War II.

The story is marred by occasional cliché’d dialogue and implausible characters, but it also fast paced and full of action. The plot is both believable and unbelievable, in that you can’t believe something like this could really happen, and yet you’re afraid it really could. A good escapist read.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

White Wind

White Wind by Susan Edwards
Dakota Territory, 1828

Alone in the world since the death of the man who raised her, Sarah Cartier is forced to flee her home to escape her abusive guardian. No sooner does she ride off into the untamed wilderness than she is swept away by Golden Eagle, the Sioux brave who saved her life once before. Insisting that Sarah belongs to him, Golden Eagle brings her to his village to learn the ways of his people. Her fantasies becoming reality, Sarah is a willing captive--but she fears the danger she'll bring when her guardian finds her.

The blue-eyed beauty has haunted his dreams ever since their first encounter. Now Golden Eagle is determined to claim her as his own. As future chief, Golden Eagle is betrothed to the daughter of another tribe. Consumed by passion for Sarah, he knows he will be forced to choose between love and duty...
--White Wind
by Susan Edwards
Copyright © 2011 by Susan Edwards
Published by Carina Press ebooks

My Review
Remember Emily Ambrose and John Cartier of White Dawn? They’re gone now, but their daughter Sarah is all grown up…and in danger from her guardian cousin Willy. He’s determined to have her and her inheritance for himself. If she doesn’t agree, he’ll tell everyone the secret of her true parentage.

So she runs and lands in the path of Golden Eagle, a warrior she met several years earlier. He and other warriors are looking for the men who kidnapped and murdered two of their women. Concerned for her safety, he convinces her to return with him to his tribe as his captive. It’s the only way he can keep her safe.

Sarah quickly adapts to the ways of the Miniconjou tribe and to loving Golden Eagle. But their future is uncertain because Golden Eagle is set to wed Wild Flower, the daughter of Chief White Cloud of the Hunkpapa, an arrangement made to bring peace to the two tribes. Neither Golden Eagle nor Wild Flower wish to wed each other, but marriage between the eldest son of Hawk Eyes and eldest daughter of White Cloud must occur to fulfill the terms of the peace treaty. Time is running out, and it’s running out faster than either could imagine, for Cousin Willy is hot on their trail. He wants Sarah and her money, and he won’t stop until he finds her.

Readers of the series, of course, know Sarah’s secret, and can easily deduce the solution to Golden Eagle and Wild Flower’s dilemma. Susan Edwards hides this solution behind a dark veil…you can see its form but can’t quite make out the details.

This story captured my imagination and wouldn’t let go until the final page. I can’t wait for the remaining books to be released. Don’t miss out on this series!

This story was first published in 2003, the remaining stories in the series following naturally. They’re being re-released by Carina Press and the first four books are available on their web site. Click here to order from Carina Press or the below link to order from

I give this story FOUR and a HALF stars.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.

White Shadows

White Shadows by Susan Edwards
Dakota Territory, 1838

Night Shadow is driven by the need for vengeance, to find and punish the man who murdered his family and kidnapped his sister. And what better way to exact that revenge than by stealing his enemy's intended bride on their wedding day: a woman for a woman. He will release his captive if and when his sister is returned to him.
The daughter of a great chief and no meek maiden, Winona fights her captor every step of the way. But she cannot deny that the warrior's touch arouses something in her that her betrothed never has. She sees through the anger in Night Shadow's eyes to the despair within, and knows in her heart it is her destiny to help him learn to live again.

Night Shadow is mesmerized by Winona's beauty and spirit, and soon realizes he must face his past and end the hatred in order to offer her a future.
--White Shadows
by Susan Edwards
Copyright © 2011 by Susan Edwards
Published by Carina Press ebooks

My Review
Winona, daughter of Chief Hawk Eyes, is preparing to marry the man she loves, Hoka Luta, the medicine man of another tribe. But Night Shadow has other plans.

Night Shadow wants his revenge and is determined to keep Winona at arm’s length until he has his sister back, but he can’t help his attraction to his spirited captive. She’s promised to another, but the longer she’s with Night Shadow, the more she realizes how weak her love for Hoka Luta is, and how strong it is for her captor. When he finally tells Winona his story, she is determined to help him expose the traitor and find his sister.

Little did anyone know his sister was closer than anyone could imagine…

The location of Night Shadow’s sister was almost convenient, but under Susan Edwards’ skillful storytelling, it didn’t seem convenient. I certainly never saw it coming…I figured his search for her in White Shadows was going to be the setup for a future novel, but it is nicely concluded in this one.

The “captive falling in love with her captor” is a well-used, almost predictable plot and it weakens the story a bit, but the attraction between Night Shadow and Winona is strong and well written. A wonderful addition to the series.

This story was first published in 2003, the remaining stories in the series following naturally. They’re being re-released by Carina Press and the first four books are available on their web site. Click here to order from Carina Press or the below link to order from

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dark Peril

Dark Peril by Christine Feehan

Carpathian Dominic Dragonseeker has taken a desperate gamble by ingesting deadly vampire parasites that will help him infiltrate cruel enemies who seek to destroy his peaceful race. He never counted on finding his lifemate under these dire circumstances, but to his shock, his dreams of a jaguar shape-shifter turn into reality when he meets warrior Solange Sangria. Solange is bent on destroying her evil father and his cohorts, who murder women and conduct hideous scientific experiments. Dominic and Solange must learn to fight side by side and trust each other to protect the innocent and heal their old wounds.

--Dark Peril
by Christine Feehan
Copyright © 2010 by Christine Feehan
Published by Berkeley Hardcover
Reprinted October 2011 in paperback by Jove Books

My Review

I’ve long enjoyed Christine Feehan’s books, but I have to say, the sexual depravity by some of the characters in a couple of her most recent books have left me with a bad taste in my mouth. This one contains similar elements by supporting characters (not the main protagonists) and I can’t help wondering if this is becoming a staple in her books. Yes, there are plenty of depraved people out there, but that doesn’t mean all of us readers enjoy reading the details of their demented thoughts.

This is probably the lowest review I've ever given a Christine Feehan book, but I could barely bring myself to finish this story. One of the things I've always loved about her characters is their passionate nature that's constantly at war with their savage nature. But this time, it was just over the top. Long paragraphs of narration about how everything in their world has changed now that they found their life mate and the same information is repeated again and again and again ad nauseum. I started listening to the audio version of the book and had to stop and finish it by reading the novel. It was much easier to skip over the unbearable parts that way.

To quickly summarize, Solange is the last pureblood of the royal Jaguar line. Her father, Broderick, has been on a campaign to kill any female with Jaguar blood that cannot shift. He thought years ago he had killed Solange, but she's still alive. Joined with Dominic, her life mate, they fight to destroy Broderick's operation. At the same time, they work to destroy the vampires that Broderick has allied himself with in his quest.

For those who may think I'm no longer a fan, you're wrong. I do still enjoy her novels and I'm looking forward to the next Sea Haven novel. I'm eager to learn more about the Prakenskii men...I just hope it's not as repetitive as the Carpathians have become.

I give this story TWO STARS.

She's back!

I didn't disappear off the face of the earth, nor did I go on a six week vacation (I wish!). No, what I did was enroll myself into an on-line university course so I could start getting my Bachelor's degree. The classes are only six weeks long, however, they're very intense with a lot of reading and writing to do. I did some reading for pleasure, but as you can see by the posts, only four books. My next class starts Monday, so with a week off, I figured I'd better get caught up on stuff I was putting off.

BY the way, if you're in the Northern Virginia area, would you like to adopt a couple of kittens?

My nephew's wife wants the grey one, and my other nephew has dibs on the red (though I don't know if he'll be able to keep it). The two blondes, both boys, are available and we'd like them to go as a pair. So if you're interested, or you know someone who might be (AND THEY'RE IN No. VA! Seriously, I'm not driving cross-country to deliver a couple of kittens to someone.), let me know!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The First Family

The First Family by David Baldacci

It began with what seemed like an ordinary children's birthday party. Friends and family gathered to celebrate. There were balloons and cake, games and gifts.

This party, however, was far from ordinary. It was held at Camp David, the presidential retreat. And it ended with a daring kidnapping . . . which immediately turned into a national security nightmare.

Sean King and Michelle Maxwell were not looking to become involved. As former Secret Service agents turned private investigators, they had no reason to be. The FBI doesn't want them interfering. But years ago, Sean King saved the First Lady's husband, then a senator, from political disaster. Now, Sean is the one person the First Lady trusts, and she presses Sean and Michelle into the desperate search to rescue the abducted child.

With Michelle still battling her own demons, and forces aligned on all sides against her and Sean, the two are pushed to the absolute limit. In the race to save an innocent victim, the line between friend and foe will become impossible to define . . . or defend.

--The First Family
Copyright © 2011 by DAVID BALDACCI
Published by PUBLISHER

My Review
Another Sean King/Michelle Maxwell adventure, this one finds the two seemingly on their feet and working to build their business. Years ago, when Sean was still with the Secret Service, he happened to meet Dan Cox, the new senator from Georgia in, shall we say, a compromising position? He returned the inebriated gentleman to his wife and kept the identity of the woman he was with a secret. Years later, First Lady Jane Cox calls Sean for help. Her niece, Willa, has been kidnapped. Will he and Michelle please work with the FBI to find her?

Naturally, they take the case and uncover a plot that digs deep into a father's need to avenge his daughter.

I won't say any more, because I think you might have caught a little bit of the plot that I just threw at you. The basic motive of the bad guy was pretty easy to work out, but it was the execution of his plan, and how Sean and Michelle worked to uncover it, that kept me interested in the story. Baldacci's plots are both simple and intricate at the same time, making the reader actually think about what's happening. That's why I like him so much. As an added plus, Michelle finally uncovers the memory that she's been blocking all this time. Now that she has, I hope she can finally heal. I'll find out eventually as The 6th Man is in my "to listen to" queue.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

White Dusk

White Dusk by Susan Edwards
Dakota Territory, 1810

Nothing is more important to Swift Foot than restoring his family's honor, not even love. Though his heart belongs to another, he agrees to wed Small Bird, in the hopes that the marriage will end a war. A war that began when his own father chose love over duty to his people...

Small Bird believes she is destined to stand by Swift Foot's side as his wife, that their shared past has shaped their future. She knows he does not wish to marry despite the desire she sees in his eyes, but she is determined to win his heart as well as his respect.

Just as passion flares between the newlyweds, the enemy draws near. And the wife of Swift Foot is their target...

--White Dusk
by Susan Edwards
Copyright © 2011 by Susan Edwards
Published by Carina Press ebooks

My Review
Swift Foot has returned to his Hunkpapa clan and been made chief of his people. Now he must marry Small Bird to bring peace to the two clans. But for some, the Miniconjou to be exact, peace cannot come until Swift Foot, the product of a Hunkpapa Indian and a white woman, is dead. By marrying him, Small Bird puts herself in harm’s way.

But the threat to her life isn’t the only thing Small Bird must contend with within her marriage. Her new husband loves another, a white woman. Though he assures her she is out of his life, she isn’t out of his heart. Can Small Bird find a way to bring peace to the Hunkpapa and Miniconjou and at the same time, banish the spirit of the white woman from Swift Foot’s heart and fill the space with her own?

Ah, now we know what happened to Emily’s lover from White Dawn. Though I was sad to see Swift Foot and Emily’s parting, they needed to experience their love for each other in order to fully love the ones they eventually married. It was a difficult task the author set out for herself in the plot of this story, but she handled it beautifully and in a way that doesn’t feel forced or false.

Susan Edwards shows her mastery of the craft in the way she brought Swift Foot and Small Bird together. I know the characters in the remaining stories in the series will find themselves in similarly heart-wrenching situations, but under her skillful pen, they will find their way to their true heart’s desires.

This story was first published in 2002, the remaining stories in the series following naturally. They’re being re-released by Carina Press and the first four books are available on their web site. Click here to order from Carina Press or the below link to order from

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.

White Dawn

White Dawn by Susan Edwards
Missouri River, 1810

Broken-hearted and abandoned in the wilds of America's untamed West, sixteen-year-old Emily Ambrose is rescued from certain death by solitary trapper John Cartier. Though she's learned the hard way not to trust any man, she can't help but feel safe with the kind stranger.

John can't imagine anyone willingly letting Emily go. Her strength and beauty call to him, but it is clear her wounded heart needs time to heal, and he won't settle for just her body. He vows to return Emily to civilization-and to resist the desire growing between them, unless she turns to him out of love.

Emily is drawn to her rugged but gentle rescuer, and begins to feel the passion that a woman can feel for a man. But she can't embrace a future with John as long as she's haunted by secrets of the past...
--White Dawn
by Susan Edwards
Copyright © 2011 by Susan Edwards
Published by Carina Press ebooks

My Review
I’m usually not a fan of historical novels, but the overall story arch of the twelve “White” stories that Susan Edwards penned intrigued me, so I decided to give them a try. I’m glad I did.

Emily is actually rescued from death twice. The first time, she is saved from a pair of wolves by a Sioux Indian named Swift Foot. They travel together through the spring an early summer and Emily finds herself falling in love with Swift Foot. Because of the language barrier, they’re not able to converse, but they find a way to, ahem, communicate. Swift Foot wants to keep Emily for himself, but loyalty to his people has him leaving her to rejoin them. He doesn’t abandon Emily—he leaves her where he knows she’ll be found by a trapper he knows, John Cartier.

Though John finds himself drawn to the golden-haired beauty, she has her secrets and they keep her from returning his affection. As much as she tries, Emily cannot deny the pull on her heart. But what will John do when he learns the truth?

This story is a wonderful beginning to the series and I'm eagerly looking forward to the remaining stories.

This story was first published in 2002, the remaining stories in the series following naturally. They’re being re-released by Carina Press and the first four books are available on their web site. Click here to order from Carina Press or the below link to order from

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Canyons of Night

Canyos of Night by Jayne Castle

The island of Rainshadow is home to the mysterious, privately-owned woods known only as the Preserve. Now, after fifteen years away, both Charlotte Enright and her teen crush, Slade Attridge, have returned. But will their psi talents and Slade's dust bunny companion be enough to keep them from getting drawn into the darkness at the heart of the Preserve?

--Canyons of Night
by Jayne Castle
Copyright © 2011 by Jayne Ann Krentz
Published by Putnam Adult

My Review
Canyons of Night follows the same predictable pattern as the previous two books in the series. The beginning where Charlotte and Slade first meet as teenagers was sweet, and I like that they’re reunited fifteen years later as they both return to Rainshadow and seize the opportunity to pursue their attraction as adults. But from there, the plot follows the same predictable patterns that I won’t bother describing because, as I said, it’s predictable.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, the standard “villain explains his/her motive to the heroine right before he/she delivers the killing blow only to be interrupted and arrested/killed by the hero” trope that Krentz/Quick/Castle employs needs to be put to rest. She’s not the only author who employs it, but her use of it stands out in my mind because she seems to use it in every novel she’s written lately.

One of Mrs. Bridewell’s Clockwork Curiosities makes an appearance, as does the eponymous Looking Glass, but again, the mirror almost seems like an afterthought. Why name a series after an item that barely makes an appearance?

There is a place on the island called simply The Preserve. The land is privately owned and it’s protected by a “fence” that interferes with a person’s psi abilities and effectively keeps people out. Most people, anyway. There are a select few, Slade being one of them, who can cross the barrier and enter The Preserve. Activity inside The Preserve is “heating up,” and it’s an obvious set-up for another series of Harmony-only based stories. Hopefully, Ms. Krentz/Castle will stay away from the tropes and come up with a new plot for this series.

Rex, the dust bunny, was probably the only really interesting, fun character in the story.

I give this story THREE STARS because I’m glad this series is over.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Affair

The Affair by Lee Child

Everything starts somewhere. . . .For elite military cop Jack Reacher, that somewhere was Carter Crossing, Mississippi, way back in 1997. A lonely railroad track. A crime scene. A coverup.

A young woman is dead, and solid evidence points to a soldier at a nearby military base. But that soldier has powerful friends in Washington.

Reacher is ordered undercover—to find out everything he can, to control the local police, and then to vanish. Reacher is a good soldier. But when he gets to Carter Crossing, he finds layers no one saw coming, and the investigation spins out of control.

Local sheriff Elizabeth Deveraux has a thirst for justice—and an appetite for secrets. Uncertain they can trust one another, Reacher and Deveraux reluctantly join forces. Reacher works to uncover the truth, while others try to bury it forever. The conspiracy threatens to shatter his faith in his mission, and turn him into a man to be feared.

--The Affair
by Lee Child
Copyright © Sep 27, 2011 by Lee Child
Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House

My Review

In my last Lee Child review for Worth Dying For, I was less than enthused by Reacher’s motivation for sticking around and resolving the mystery. May I say my enthusiasm has been revitalized.

In The Affair, Jack Reacher is talking to us, telling us the story of how he got kicked out of the Army. I knew, from book one, that Reacher’s departure from the Army was not a voluntary thing and I wanted to know how it all came about. And now, with this story, we know.

Reacher is sent undercover to the town of Carter Crossing, Mississippi to help another Army investigator figure out if anyone from Fort Kelham, the nearby Army base, is responsible for the death of a local girl. The other investigator, Munro, will work on base while Reacher works the town. He meets the town sheriff, Elizabeth Deveraux and, being a former Marine Chief Warrant Officer herself, easily makes Reacher for who he is. They team up to figure out the mysteries surrounding Fort Kelham and the mystery of the deaths of five—not one, but five local people.

I think Reacher took justice a little bit too far in this story, but I guess that’s just Reacher’s way, and he had to take it too far in order to achieve the end result—his removal from the U.S. Army. There’s also some intriguing foreshadowing… Backshadowing? Hindsight? Flashback? … okay, I don’t know if the right term exists, but there’s a hint toward the events that take place in Child’s first book, The Killing Floor. It almost—almost—makes me want to pick up the first book and read it again.

I’m glad to finally have the answer to one of the mysteries that surround Jack Reacher, namely why he left the Army. I was also happy to see Frances Neagley make an appearance. She’s another intriguing mystery and I hope to see her again in a future Reacher novel, however, in a recent interview, the author said that is unlikely to happen.

I give this story FOUR and a HALF STARS.

Finishing this book actually made me a little sad. Now that I’ve read all the Jack Reacher novels (in less than a year, mind you), I have to wait at least another year for the next novel to come out. Fortunately for me, I have a lot of other novels to fill that void. But I’ll be watching…and waiting…

Dr. Morgan Snow: In Session

Dr. Morgan Snow: In Session by MJ Rose

IN SESSION from international bestseller M.J. Rose, features the return of Dr. Morgan Snow, in a brand-new story collection!

As a therapist specializing in sexual issues, psychiatrist Dr. Morgan Snow isn't easily shocked, or shaken, as readers of the popular "Butterfield Institute" novels know. There are times, however, when the need for her services leads her out of the office... and into unfamiliar worlds.

In these stories the therapist matches her wits -and her training - against three men of mystery: Jack Reacher, John Rain, and Cotton Malone.

Those characters are, of course, familiar to readers as the creations, respectively, of NYT bestselling authors Lee Child, Barry Eisler, and Steve Berry. All three swore that their characters would never agree to therapy - unless Rose found a way to get then there. And she did.

In EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES with Steve Berry's Cotton Malone, a woman seeks help for her lover, and sends Dr. Snow overseas on a most unusual house call....

DECISIONS, DECISIONS where Barry Eisler's John Rain forces Dr. Snow out of her own comfort zone, and into the world of a former patient's worst nightmare...

And KNOWING YOU'RE ALIVE with Lee Child's Jack Reacher results in revelations for both the injured Dr. Snow, and her unexpected savior/patient...

--Dr. Morgan Snow: In Session
by MJ Rose
Copyright © 2011 by MJ Rose
Published by as a Kindle e-Book release

My Review
As my regular readers know, I’m a major fan of Jack Reacher, but I’ve also read a couple books in Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone series and I’ve read the first in Barry Eisler’s John Rain series (I do plan to read more, I promise—both Cotton Malone and John Rain). So when an author has one of her characters interacting with characters I know and enjoy, I had to give it a read. Her character, Dr. Morgan Snow, is a sex therapist based at the Butterfield Institute and she has the opportunity to interact with all three of these wonderful characters. Oh…only one is having a slight problem that she’s able to help professionally. The other two…well, she has different reasons to interact with them.

I felt Rose had both John Rain and Cotton Malone down perfectly, but she made two mistakes with Jack Reacher. Regular Reacher readers will have no trouble spotting the errors. But still, it was a fun, quick read and I liked it.

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS. It would have been four, except for those two errors.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.

The story will be available for purchase through on October 17, 2011.


Quicksilver by Amanda Quick

Virginia Dean wakes at midnight beside a dead body, with a bloody knife in her hand and no memory of the evening's events. Dark energy, emanating from the mirrors lining the room, overpowers her senses. With no apparent way in or out, she is rescued by a man she has met only once before, but won't soon forget.

Owen Sweetwater inherited his family's talent for hunting the psychical monsters who prey on London's women and children, and his investigation into the deaths of two glass-readers has led him here. The high-society types of the exclusive Arcane Society would consider Virginia an illusionist, a charlatan, even a criminal, but Owen knows better. Virginia's powers are real-and they just might be the key to solving this challenging case.

by Amanda Quick
Copyright © 2011 by Jayne Ann Krentz
Published by Putnam Adult

My Review

I liked the character of Virginia Dean, even though she seems like a carbon copy of all the other Amanda Quick heroines in the Arcane Society series. And Owen Sweetwater? Well, he’s like a carbon copy of the other Amanda Quick heroes in the Arcane Society series. The sameness of the characters and plots, along with the very formal Victorian-style language made the story a bit difficult for me to read.

That being said, Quicksilver also gives us some background into the Clockwork Curiosities that appeared in the first novel, In Too Deep. The Quicksilver Mirror makes an appearance in this novel and we discover its true potential as a weapon when it’s used against Owen. Naturally, Owen recovers from the psychic shock and the mirror is neutralized and turned over to the Arcane Society for safe keeping.

So now I can’t help wondering how big a part it and the Clockwork Curiosities will play in the third novel in the series, Canyons of Night.

I give this story THREE STARS.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tortured Rake

The Tortured Rake by Sarah Morgan

Nathaniel... Icon. Celebrity.Heartthrob. Underneath the movie star's good looks is a man battling with the demons of his past. No one knows the real Nathaniel, they only see the pin-up, the man he pretends to be. Until one night he is forced to rely on Katie Field, an ordinary young woman from a very different world to Nathaniel's. She may be starstuck but she isn't blinded by the bright lights of fame. Can Nathaniel trust her enough to reveal the man behind the mask? Let the seduction begin...

--The Tortured Rake
by Sarah Morgan
Copyright © 2011 by Sarah Morgan
Published by Harlequin UK

My Review

This was a nice, light-hearted romance, so different from the stories I’ve been reading lately. Most romance novels focus on the woman, so it was nice to read one where the man was the primary focus. Nathaniel had a traumatic childhood and turned to acting to escape, burying the secrets of his past. Katie is also hiding, though not from her past. She’s very different from her glamorous, supermodel sister and does everything she can to not be like her.

Together, Nathaniel and Katie make an unlikely pair, but their opposing personality types are exactly what each other needs to break out of the cages they’ve locked themselves in. Katie brings out Nathaniel’s fun side and makes him see he can have a personal impact on people, not just his screen/stage persona, and Nathaniel brings Katie out of her shell, making her see herself for the beautiful person she is. He also gives her career a well-deserved boost while she helps him figure out how to slay his personal demons.

These two make a great couple and showcase what a great romance should be…fun, passion, a touch of angst and emotional healing on both side, culminating in a kiss that burns the pages.

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley, however, the book was released by Harlequin UK in May 2011. It may no longer be commercially available, but can be found through on-line used book sellers or in your local used book store. The link below can connect you to some of those on-line used book sellers.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bad Things Happen

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan

The man who calls himself David Loogan is hoping to escape a violent past by living a quiet, anonymous life in Ann Arbor, Michigan. But when he's hired as an editor at a mystery magazine, he is drawn into an affair with the sleek blond wife of the publisher, Tom Kristoll-a man who soon turns up dead.

Elizabeth Waishkey is the most talented detective in the Ann Arbor Police Department, but even she doesn't know if Loogan is a killer or an ally who might help her find the truth. As more deaths start mounting up-some of them echoing stories published in the magazine-it's up to Elizabeth to solve both the murders and the mystery of Loogan himself.

--Bad Things Happen
by Harry Dolan
Copyright © 2009 by Harry Dolan
Published by Penguin Group

My Review
The story starts slowly, introducing the reader to David Loogan and the quiet life he’s living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. But his quiet life isn’t quiet for very long. Tom Kristoll, his boss and owner of Gray Streets literary magazine, needs a favor. He needs to bury a body. Not long afterward, Tom Kristoll is dead.

From there, David’s life begins to change, and his quiet, peaceful, anonymous world slowly begins to unravel. The lead investigator, Detective Elizabeth Waishkey, is suspicious of him because he seems to be completely open and honest, and yet also seems to be hiding something. Who exactly is the man calling himself David Loogan? What’s he hiding in his past and why does he seem to know too much about how a murder investigation is conducted?

When a man is found in David’s home, stabbed with one of David’s own knives, David goes on the run. He needs to find out who’s behind all the deaths and why. He doesn’t quite trust the cops to do the job, but he trusts Elizabeth. Can they unravel the twisted web of lives and deaths before any more Bad Things Happen?

The story really does start a bit slow, even though the opening chapter starts with the burying of a body, but if you invest your time in the beginning, it will pay off by the end.

After the initial start, the tension gradually starts to build, like climbing the first hill of the world’s largest roller coaster. There you are, sitting in the front seat, watching that far-off curl of track that’ll rocket you down the rest of the ride. You’re waiting, your heart picking up speed, your breath growing short, listening to each and every click of the track, watching that curl grow closer and closer. And with each and every click of the track, with each page that you turn, the tension grows stronger and stronger until you finally reach that moment when you go over that smooth curl of track. You’re off and rolling, screaming down that first hill, climbing the next, going through an unexpected tunnel and rocketing up around a double loop. A helix spins you round and round and you have to hold on tight, because you’re being pulled one way and pushed the other. You’re thrown back in your seat and pressed forward. You’re going through twist and turns, bumps and jerks, going up and down until finally, blessedly finally, you come to the end and you think to yourself, “now that was a ride!”.

Yeah. It’s like that.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Worth Dying For

Worth Dying For by Lee Child

There’s deadly trouble in the corn country of Nebraska…and Jack Reacher walks right into it. First he falls foul of the Duncans, a local clan that has terrified an entire county into submission. But it’s the unsolved, decades-old case of a missing child that Reacher can’t let go.

The Duncans want Reacher gone—and it’s not just past secrets they’re trying to hide. For as dangerous as the Duncans are, they’re just the bottom of a criminal food chain stretching halfway around the world. For Reacher, it would have made much more sense to put some distance between himself and the hard-core trouble that’s bearing down on him. For Reacher, that was also impossible.

--Worth Dying For
by Lee Child
Copyright © 2010 by Lee Child
Published by Dell

My Review

All he wanted was a cup of coffee and a place to stay for the night. (Isn’t that what he always wants?) Instead, while trying to do the right thing for a woman in trouble, Jack Reacher manages to make an enemy out of the most powerful family in the county. (Isn’t that what he always does?)

The Duncans rule their corner of Nebraska with an iron fist. They own the only produce trucking company in the area, so if you’re a farmer with produce to get hauled, you call the Duncans or you don’t get your produce hauled. But shipping corn and alfalfa isn’t the company’s only business and if anyone in the area finds out what else they’re shipping, they could find themselves in a world of trouble.

So it’s in their best interest if Reacher would get out of town.

Problem is, he won’t.

He could walk away, head south toward the highway which will take him to Virginia, his intended destination and several times he’s on the verge of doing just that, but it’s the story of an eight year old girl, missing for twenty-five years, that keeps drawing him back. Children and women in trouble are two of his soft spots, and mysteries that remain unsolved bother him. So Reacher is going to stay until he gets to the bottom of the mystery, and he will get to the bottom of it, no matter who gets in his way.

In most of the previous novels in this series, Reacher always has a compelling reason to stay and figure out the mystery he’s presented with. In The Killing Floor, Reacher stays in Margrave, GA because that’s where his brother was killed, and he’s determined to find out who did it. In Die Trying, he was kidnapped and needs to get himself and his fellow kidnappee to safety. In Tripwire, the woman he loves is in danger. Et cetera, et cetera. In Worth Dying For, the reason isn’t quite so compelling. This time, it’s his own personal sense of justice that keeps him in town until the mystery is solved. And while that can be a very strong reason to stay and fight, somehow, it just didn’t feel like enough to me.

Granted, this is a good story with an interest cast of supporting characters with ulterior motives. I love the scenes with Reacher at the Courtyard Marriott and the almost-comically crossed wires the supporting characters get tangled up in. But for all its good points, it fell a little short for me.

I give this story THREE STARS.

The Best American Mystery Stories 2011

The Best American Mystery Stories 2011 Edited by Harlan Coben & Otto Penzler

Best-selling novelist Harlan Coben, a master of suspense and creator of the critically-acclaimed Myron Bolitar series, edits this latest collection of the must-reads in mysteries from the past year.

-- The Best American Mystery Stories 2011
Edited by Harlan Coben & Otto Penzler
Copyright ©October 2011
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing

My Review
This is a good collection of stories featuring a variety of styles under the mystery genre. Some made me laugh while others made me scratch my head, trying to figure out exactly what the mystery in the story was. Like any collection of short stories, some tales hit the mark while other missed. It’s all a matter of personal taste. Overall, I liked this collection and would definitely recommend it to mystery lovers.

I give this book THREE and a HALF STARS.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.

Available for pre-order at

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Guardian

The Guardian by Robbie Cheuvront and Erik Reed
A Mysterious Scroll Holds the Key to Mankind's Destiny

A young woman thrust into a world of power and corruption...
The sold-out follower of Christ who vows to defend her...
And the scroll that links them both together...

Anna Riley has just stumbled across a family secret--her ancestors have been keepers of an ancient scroll that God gave to John the Disciple. And now it's hers. But Anna will soon discover that being the keeper of the Scroll comes at a price, for there are those inside the Church who would have the scroll and its secrets at any cost. Sucked into a world of corruption and deceit, Anna is thrust into a journey that leads her half way around the world. And the only person she can trust is a stranger named Jason Lang who, she's told, was appointed by God to help her with the task.

As Anna and Jason race against the clock, Anna's own journey of faith may very well be the thing that unlocks the scroll's secrets. And her decisions will determine whether the man she's grown to love will live or die, as a mystery that's eluded the world since the time of Adam and Eve is finally revealed.

--The Guardian
by Robbie Cheuvront and Erik Reed
Copyright ©2011 by Robbie Cheuvront and Erik Reed
Published by Barbour Publishing

My Review
When the grandfather she never knew passes away, Anna becomes the keeper of a vitally important Christian artifact. In the book of Revelation, an angel of Christ gave John the Disciple a scroll containing a riddle that would reveal the answer to a centuries-old mystery. The problem is, she has to find the scroll and then find the answer to the mystery.

Assisting her on this quest is Father Vincent Marcella, her grandfather Thomas’s friend and guardian. The clues her grandfather left her lead them first to Venezuela, then to France, to the church where her grandparents were married.

Unfortunately, such quests are rarely solitary adventures. The Vatican is aware of her grandfather’s—and now her—quest and while she has the blessing and backing of the pope, not everyone in the papacy is on her side. A certain cardinal with more earthly aims will do whatever it takes to possess the scroll and its secrets. His hired gun is following Anna and Father Vin from Venezuela to France to the church.

At the church, Anna and Father Vin follow her grandfather’s clues and discover the hidden location of the scroll, along with Thomas’s notes regarding his work in deciphering the riddle. But leaving the church with the treasure is not easy, because Jason Lang, an American Baptist missionary, stands in their way. So does the cardinal’s hired gun.

When the smoke clears, Father Vin is dead, the hired gun is wounded and Jason has become Anna’s new guardian. Together, they flee France to a London safe house. Together they must solve the mystery of the scroll before the key to the temple falls into the hands of evil.

I enjoyed this story because it concerns an event in the Bible, specifically in the book of Revelation that most people probably just skip right over and keep reading (kind of like the Prayer of Jabez). I like stories that delve into those little-realized mysteries and give them the exploration that they deserve.

I feel that the authors could have gone a bit deeper into the characters and into Anna’s slowly growing faith. Their motivations are genuine and not exaggerated as some over-done stories play out, but I came away feeling as if I wanted more. I never felt as if Anna fully grasped the importance of the mission she’s been given, although she never wavers in her determination to see it through. Jason’s motivations are clear, as are the supporting characters, but Anna is the protagonist of this tale. Her motivations and development of her faith need to be clearest, and to me, that goal wasn’t quite achieved.

This is a very good story and I would recommend it to Christian book study groups (there are even helpful discussion questions at the end).

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.

This book is now available for purchase through popular online retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million and Borders) as well as Christian,, Family and

For more information, check out the book’s web site, Unlock the Scroll

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Third Circle

The Third Circle by Amanda Quick

Leona Hewitt, a gifted crystal worker, isn't the only one sneaking into Lord Delbridge's private museum to recover a relic. Thaddeus Ware, a mesmerist with psychic gifts, is on a similar mission. Neither one of them has any idea that this relic—a rare ancient crystal—will lead them in a deadly chase where danger and desire await.

--The Third Circle (An Arcane Society Novel, Book 4)
by Amanda Quick
Copyright © by Jayne Ann Krentz
Published by Putnam Adult, 2008 (Hardback) and Jove Books 2009 (paperback)

My Review

Leona Hewitt has been hunting for the Aurora Stone ever since it was stolen from her family when she was sixteen years old. Now that she’s finally found it, she’s found she has a rival for possession of the stone, one Thaddeus Ware. They manage to steal it from the man who stole it (who stole it from yet another thief), but Thaddeus is unfortunately poisoned in the endeavor. Only Leona, wielding the power to use the Aurora Stone to its full potential, is able to cure him. Leona, with the aid of her friend Adam Harrow, leaves Thaddeus in the care of an innkeeper and disappears into the night.

Thaddeus, however, is not about to be denied the woman who saved his life. He tracks her down and convinces her that the man they stole the Aurora Stone from can find her just as easily. His words prove to be true when she finds the Aurora Stone is not where she hid it in her home.

Reluctantly accepting his offer of protection, Leona and her dog, Fog, move in with Thaddeus and his aunt, Victoria Melton. Together, they plot to find out who took the stone and get it back.

Meanwhile, Thaddeus is conducting an investigation on the behest of the Arcane Society into a series of murders attributed to a man the press calls the Midnight Monster. The Aurora Stone, the Monster and a mysterious cabal called The Third Circle are connected and Thaddeus and Leona must tread carefully to expose the members of The Third Circle before they end up like the victims of the Midnight Monster.

I found the pacing in parts of this story to be long, hard and tedious. Part of that, I suppose, is due to the verbiage Amanda Quick employs to give the story the proper Victorian-era atmosphere that, if one were to be honest, it so rightly deserves as the style of speaking in that time was quite formal.


That being said, I did enjoy this story as it gave the background into two more Arcane Society entities, Jones and Jones Investigations and (though I’m sure it had a different name before the internet era).

Thaddeus and Leona’s search for the Aurora Stone took some predictable turns and the romantic entanglement between them was a given (it is a romance, after all) but it was an enjoyable read.

I’ve read the next two novels in the Arcane Society series, Running Hot and Perfect Poison but will have to re-read them in order to give a review. They may wait, however, as I have several other new books to read and would like to get to them before doing any re-reads.

I give this story THREE STARS.

Calling Mr. King

Calling Mr. King by Ronald de Feo

Long considered cool, distant, and absolutely reliable, an American-born hit man, working throughout Europe, grows increasingly distracted and begins to develop an unexpected passion for architecture and art while engaged in his deadly profession. Although he welcomes this energizing break from his routine, he comes to realize that it is an unwise trajectory for a man in his business, particularly when he is sent on the most difficult job of his career.

Set in London, Paris, New York, and Barcelona, Calling Mr. King is at once a colorful suspense tale, laced with dark humor, and a psychological self-portrait of a character who is attempting, against the odds, to become someone else.

--Calling Mr. King
by Ronald de Feo
Copyright © August 30, 2011 by Ronald de Feo
Published by Other Press, New York

My Review
“Mr. King,” as he is called, is an assassin, one of the best in his field. He has a job in Paris, but is having a hard time finishing it. He’s uncharacteristically distracted, following his target around the city for days, wondering exactly what the target is doing. He’s had several opportunities to finish the job, but keeps delaying until finally, after a call from his superiors, gets the job done and returns to his base in London.

While he’s waiting for another assignment, he begins to explore his adopted home city. He becomes fascinated by the architecture, specifically Georgian, and begins to research it. Perhaps some day he’ll own a Georgian home. But in the midst of his exploration, he’s given another assignment in Derbyshire. He’s reluctant—he’s really getting into his research—but does as they order. Unfortunately, again, he’s distracted. He completes the job, but is forced to take out a witness. His superiors are not pleased with this and decide to send him to New York City for a while until things calm down.

“Sir Peter Chilton,” as he’s now calling himself, finds himself on vacation in New York City and has no idea what to do with himself. He begins to explore the city, much as he did London, and continues his research into Georgian architecture. He likes his new identity as “Sir Peter Chilton,” gentleman, researcher, explorer, art lover, but when called, he obediently flies to Barcelona. There he waits and, true to form, begins exploring and researching Spanish architecture and the city of Barcelona itself. But when it comes time to finally do the job he’s been sent to do, can he bring himself to complete his mission?

The story started off interesting, a dedicated “best in his field” assassin being given an assignment to take a man out. By the end of the story, he’s fighting off the assassins who were sent to take him out.

Everything written between these two events was a waste of words.

There are long, long, long narrative passages with very little action, just details about the narrator’s wanderings around Paris, London, New York City and Barcelona that, quite frankly, were boring. While he’s wandering around these cities, he begins to rethink his life, and about what he could make of himself if given the opportunity, but these reflections are buried so deep within the narrative/travelogue that they’re hard to find.

When he was sent to New York to lay low after the assignment turned bad, I expected him to be on alert for a possible hit on himself—an assassin that’s losing his touch becomes a liability to his employers and those employers don’t have very nice retirement packages—but no one comes after him. There is one moment where he spies a suspicious black van, but it amounts to nothing. He meets a woman, but aside from a phone call late in the story, that potential relationship goes nowhere and serves no purpose.

When the narrator (which by now, if you haven’t guessed, goes unnamed until the very end of the story) is sent to Barcelona to do a job there, he’s not happy because he wants to go back to London, but obediently goes to Spain. When he fails to do the job there, his employer sends assassins after him. This is the point where the story finally hints that it may be getting to some action, but aside from taking out the first couple assassins, nothing really happens and the story is over.

Given the main character's profession, I was expecting more of a plot/action oriented novel. I was very hard-pressed to find a plot and there was very little action. If you're looking for plot, look elsewhere. If you're looking for a travelogue and deep introspection, this is your book.

At the very end, there’s a nod back to the man the narrator was hunting in Paris, which I found to be an interesting little move on the author’s part, but I found very little else in this story interesting.

I give this story ONE STAR.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Writing the Paranormal Novel

Writing the Paranormal Novel: Techniques and Exercises for Weaving Supernatural Elements into Your Story by Steven Harper

Paranormal novels (those with ghosts, telepaths, vampires, werewolves, fairies, witches and more) for adult and young-adult readers continue to top bestseller lists, but, until now, no resource exists to help writers craft these stories. This book shows how to successfully introduce supernatural and paranormal elements into your stories, create engaging and relatable characters and craft plots where even the most unusual twists are not only possible, they are believable.

--Writing the Paranormal Novel
by Steven Harper
Copyright ©2011 by Steven Harper Piziks
Published by Writer’s Digest Books

My Review

I enjoy writing and I have more books on how to write than I care to acknowledge. I’ve made it a personal goal this year to start weeding through them and getting rid of those give me no great insight into the craft. (Don’t know if I’ll finish that task this year, but at least I’m starting, right?)

This book will stay on my bookshelf forever.

Not only does it do a great job of explaining how supernatural elements should be woven into a story (vampires, werewolves, magical objects and mystical gateways), it lays out the essential elements of a story, ANY story (plot, theme, voice, language), whether supernatural in nature or not. It contains a trove of useful information, from gathering the elements of your story, to creating characters and the crafting of the story. It even goes into what happens after you’ve finished creating your story (the dreaded query letter, submitting to agents and publishers and how to handle what comes next).

And it’s written with humor. Rather than being a dry, boring textbook-type read, Harper has fun with us, keeping the reader/aspiring writer interested and wanting to keep turning the pages to learn more.

For example, when discussing the “Gary Stu” character (the male counterpart to “Mary Sue”), he writes:

Like Mary, Gary is possessed of breathtaking looks (don’t forget the exotic eye color), has more skills than James Bond, and has a body made for pouring melted chocolate over.

Mmmm, melted chocolate…

Oh…ahem…back to the review.

If you have zero interest in writing paranormal stories, I would not recommend this book. Its main focus is on writing for the paranormal audience and the constant reference to those elements may eventually bore the non-paranormal reader. However, if that is your interest, whether you only want to write paranormal novels, or if your interests lie in both para- and non-paranormal, then give this book a read. You’ll enjoy it and you’ll learn a lot about the craft of writing.

I give this book FIVE STARS.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

X Plagues

X Plagues by Mary Nealy

A crazed killer invades the streets of Chicago, patterning his murders after the Old Testament’s ten plagues. Detective Keren Collins, gifted with the ability to discern good and evil spirits, is on the case, as is ex-cop, now mission pastor Paul Morris. Can they put their differences aside long enough to catch the maniacal murderer?

--X Plauges
by Mary Nealy
Copyright ©October 2011 by Mary Nealy
Published by Barbour Books

My Review

I finished this story a couple weeks ago but just realized I never wrote the review.

Chicago Detective Keren Collins is watching an old brownstone on the city’s South Side, keeping an eye out for Juanita Lopez, a young woman who’s gone missing. A couple of gang members are hanging out on the stairs, keeping her from going inside to look for Juanita. When a man comes running up the sidewalk and gets hauled inside by a couple of the thugs, she wants to help him, but isn’t about to take on a whole gang by herself.

Gifted with the ability to sense good and evil spirits, she can’t help but feel the evil in the air around her. Is it because the man might be meeting with an evil fate inside the brownstone or is it due to something else?

When the building suddenly explodes, she seems to have her answer. She springs into action, hauling out as many survivors as she can. The mysterious runner appears through the smoke, helping several gang members escape the inferno. They’re separated by another explosion, but later, Keren is stunned to find out the mysterious Samaritan is Paul Morris.

Five years ago, Detective Paul Morris almost destroyed her career. Now he’s Pastor Paul Morris of the Lighthouse Mission. As much as Keren doesn’t want his help, Paul is at the heart of the case and without him, and she and her partner, Mick O’Shea, will never find out whose recreating the ten plagues of Egypt in Chicago.

The story starts quickly with strong action and keeps moving straight to the end. Even the calmer, emotional scenes keep the story moving, something that’s not always easy to do. It’s an exciting read, well constructed with strong Christian themes, but isn’t preachy at all. Keren grew up with a gift to discern spirits, both good and evil, and always believed it was a gift given to her by God. Paul found Christ later in life and serves Him by giving to the homeless in his community. Mick is also a believer, but is quieter about his faith. It’s there, but it’s not in your face, so in my opinion, those with faith or without will enjoy this story.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sizzle and Burn

Sizzle and Burn by Jayne Ann Krentz

When Raine Tallentyre made the mistake of revealing her paranormal abilities, her most recent romantic relationship came to a hasty end. Her Aunt Vella, a gifted but troubled soul, had told her years ago to keep her talents a secret. And now that poor Aunt Vella-her last blood relative-has died, Raine has resigned herself to a lonely life.

But when she journeys to Shelbyville, Washington, to clear out Aunt Vella's house, Raine's highly developed sensitivity leads her to a horrifying discovery: a young woman bound and terrified in a basement storage locker. The victim has survived, but the culprit is still on the loose. Without warning, a new man enters Raine's life-investigator Zack Jones. Surprisingly, Zack isn't repelled by her powers: in fact, he has them himself. While Raine hears voices, Zack sees visions and within hours of their meeting, Raine experiences an intense, thrilling intimacy-mental, emotional, and physical-she never dared to expect.

There's one complication, however: Zack Jones is working for the Arcane Society. This secret organization, dedicated to the study of paranormal phenomena, shattered Raine's family with an act of betrayal long ago, and she's not about to trust them now. But as a killer makes her his target, and a cabal of psychic criminals known as Nightshade operates in the shadows surrounding them, Raine and Zack must rely not only on their powerful abilities but on each other . . .

--Sizzle and Burn (The Arcane Society, Book 3)
by Jayne Ann Krentz
Copyright ©January 2008 by Jayne Ann Krentz
Published by Putnam Books

My Review
Raine has good reason to mistrust the members of the Arcane Society. They ousted her father for his research into the Founder’s Formula and a member of Jones & Jones—an investigative tool of the Society—torched her father’s lab. So when she meets Zachary Jones of Jones & Jones, she is naturally suspicious of him and his motives.

Zack is hunting Nightshade, a secret cabal whose purpose is opposite that of the Arcane Society. He needs Raine’s help because he believes her father’s research holds the key to breaking the back of the cabal. Yes, the lab was destroyed, but he believes it possible something survived that could help him in his mission.

Raine has problems of her own. She’s been targeted by a serial killer and the last thing she needs is a Jones in her life, especially someone related to Wilder Jones, the man who betrayed her family. But there’s an attraction between them, one too strong for them to deny.

They can help each other, and along the way, find out just how far this fiery attraction can take them.

This story is a continuation of Jayne Ann Krentz’s Arcane Society series. It can be read alone because it does go into detail about the history of the Arcane Society, but it helps to have read the previous books in the series (Second Sight and White Lies).

The writing is smooth and easy to read, though there are some bits of dialog that seemed odd and unnatural, almost as if they were inspired by a bad television drama. Still, the chemistry between the main characters is good and the various story lines surrounding them engage the reader’s imagination. The villain of the story, codenamed “January” does a good job of hiding in her anonymity. The fact that she’s a she is the only clue the reader has until she makes herself known.

Some of the actions taken by the characters are almost comical in nature, like the ideas were lifted (again) from a bad television drama, but they’re handled with a lightness and humor that make them fun to read.

A great addition to the series with more to come.

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS.

Monday, August 22, 2011

White Lies

White Lies by Jayne Ann Krentz

As a level 10 para-sensitive, Clare Lancaster can tell for certain when someone is telling the truth. So Clare knows that her half-sister, Elizabeth Glazebrook, isn't lying when she says her husband, Brad McAllister, is trying to kill her. But Brad is murdered instead, and as the first person to find his body, Clare becomes the Stone Canyon Police Department's favorite suspect. With no evidence to tie her to the crime, Clare is allowed to return to her old life in San Francisco. But six months later, her father, Archer, summons her back to Phoenix. Her unique gift tells her not only that there is more to her father's new business "consultant" Jake Salter than he would like her to believe but also that she is in grave danger.

--White Lies (The Arcane Society, Book 2)
by Jayne Ann Krentz
Copyright © 2008 by Jayne Ann Krentz
Published by The Putnam Group

My Review

Jayne Ann Krentz started the Arcane Society series with Second Sight, set in 1800’s London, and written under the pen name Amanda Quick. Book two in the series takes place in contemporary times in the town of Stone Canyon, Arizona.

Clare Lancaster is the illegitimate daughter of Archer Glazebrook, a wealthy real estate developer, the product of a one-night stand. Archer never knew about Clare, but Clare knew about Archer and chose not to interfere with his family. However, when she fears for the life of her half-sister, Elizabeth, she gets involved and Elizabeth’s husband winds up dead.

Six months later, Archer summons Clare back to Stone Canyon, unintentionally opening up a can of worms. Although Clare was cleared of suspicion in Brad’s death, there are many in town who believe she is guilty. Her presence in town is making a lot of people—people with secrets to keep—very nervous.

Jake Salter, Archer’s new business consultant, meets Clare and his assignment (as a Jones & Jones undercover operative) just got more interesting. He’s investigating the possibility that there’s a new organization counter to the Arcane Society, of which he, Clare and the Glazebrooks are all members. Very quickly, as several attempts are made on Clare’s life, it becomes obvious that these attempts, the murder of Elizabeth’s husband, and the formation of the new cabal are all tied together somehow. And if Jake’s going to get to the bottom of things, he’ll need to keep Clare safe. To do that, he’ll need to keep her close…very close, a position neither of them seem to have a problem with.

As the investigation progresses, the can of worms becomes a snake pit, and each viper they pull out is more dangerous than the one before. Can they survive long enough to uncover the whole truth or will they be the next victims of the cabal’s deadly conspiracy?

Growing up with a psychic ability that helps her discern lies from truth, Clare has a hard time trusting people because people lie all the time. That’s understandable, but sometimes, I just wanted to give her a shake and tell her it’s okay to trust some people even if you think they’re lying to you. It’s the degree of the lie that’s important, not the fact of the lie.

There was a lot of “info dumping” in this story, where the telling of the story was interrupted for narrative on the history of the Arcane Society and where each character fit in the Society. While important to give the reader a better understanding of the Society and its purpose, it did get boring and a little frustrating to have the narrative stopped so many times. I think the previous book in this series (Second Sight) did a much better job handling the history of the Arcane Society than this second book.

I liked the banter between Jake and Clare. They’re both very strong-willed people determined to get their own way, but at the same time, they work well together and they get results. Elizabeth strikes me as a bit of a wimp, Archer is a bit of a jerk and Myra (Archer’s wife) is a real bitch to Clare until the mystery is finally wrapped up (I understand Myra’s resentment of Clare, but really, you don’t blame the product of the affair, you blame the ones involved in the affair…and Myra already made Archer pay for his indiscretion, so get over it, woman!). These personality traits bothered me a little, but as they’re all secondary characters, I tried not to let them get to me.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and I’m looking forward to the next in the series, Sizzle and Burn.

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Second Son

Second Son by Lee Child

Okinawa, 1974. Even at thirteen, Jack Reacher knows how to outwit and overpower anyone who stands in his way. And as the new kid in town, that’s pretty much everyone. His family has come to the Pacific with his father, who’s preparing for a top-secret Marine Corps operation. After receiving a rude welcome from the local military brats, Reacher and his older brother, Joe, intend to teach them a lesson they won’t forget. But it’s soon clear that there’s more at stake than pride. When his family’s future appears to come crumbling down, it’s the youngest Reacher who rises to the occasion with all the decisive cunning and bravura that will one day be his deadly trademark.

--Second Son
by Lee Child
Copyright ©August 15, 2011 by Lee Child
Published by Delacorte Press

My Review

So now we know the roots of Jack Reacher’s genius. He learned early how to think, how to observe, how to plan and how to act. He learned how to file away the smallest details and how to use that information later to his advantage.

Got a problem? Turn Jack Reacher loose and it’ll be taken care of. You may not like his methods, but they get results and that’s what matters, right?

I give this story FIVE STARS.

Second Son is available only as an e-book through (see link below), Barnes &, and

Second Son also includes an excerpt from Lee Child’s forthcoming novel, The Affair, due out September 27, 2011.

Although I told myself not to, I started to read this Chapter 1 excerpt. I managed to stop myself at the end of the first scene. I don't want to get myself hooked on to this new story because one chapter isn't enough and I don't know if I can wait another six weeks to find out why Reacher would go into the Pentagon, anticipating an arrest, wearing a Class A uniform and five days of beard growth on his face. Come on! If you've got the time to prepare and put on Class As, you've got time to shave, so why didn't he shave? This is going to drive me crazy! Why did I start reading it??? Aaugh!!!

Second Sight

Second Sight (The Arcane Society, Book 1) by Amanda Quick

Financially straitened and on the path to spinsterhood, Venetia Milton thought her stay at the remote, ramshackle Arcane House would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to engineer her own ravishment. She was there to photograph the artifacts collected by a highly secretive organization, founded two centuries earlier by an alchemist. And the alchemist's descendant-her employer, Gabriel Jones-has the eyes of a sorcerer.

But despite Venetia's intent to seduce Mr. Jones and move on, she is shattered upon her return home to read in the press of his violent demise. Using the sizable fee Mr. Jones paid her, Venetia establishes a new life, opening a gallery in London. Of course, posing as a respectable widow makes it easier to do business, so-in a private tribute to her lost, only lover-she assumes the identity of "Mrs. Jones."

Her romantic whim, however, will cause unexpected trouble. For one thing, Mr. Jones is about to stride, living and breathing, back into Venetia's life. And the two share more than a passionate memory-indeed, they are bonded by a highly unusual sort of vision, one that goes far beyond Venetia's abilities as a photographer. They also share a terrible threat-for someone has stolen a centuries-old notebook from Arcane House that contains a formula believed to enhance psychic powers of the kind Gabriel and Venetia possess. And the thief wants to know more-even if he must kill the keeper of the Arcane Society's treasures, or the photographer who catalogued them, to obtain such knowledge.

--Second Sight (The Arcane Society, Book 1)
by Amanda Quick
Copyright © 2006 by Jayne Ann Krentz
Published by The Putnam Group

My Review

Though I try, sometimes I simply cannot improve on the synopsis provided by the publisher. The above is taken from’s “Product Description” of the book and it seems quite lengthy for a “back-of-the-book” blurb, but sometimes Amazon is all I can draw from, so there you go.

Venetia Milton is not your typical Victorian-era heroine. She’s strong-minded, willful and determined to do things her way. She has to in order to support her family, which consists of herself, her younger brother and sister and her aunt.

Gabriel Jones is also not your typical Victorian-era hero. He’s open-minded about women establishing businesses for themselves and encourages Venetia in her work, except, of course, when her life is potentially in danger, he puts his foot down, and she very neatly trods over it. Which, of course, both infuriates him and makes him admire her even more. Truly a modern thinker.

Amanda Quick captures the era very nicely, and her historical knowledge of Victorian-era photography is excellent. Throw in the supernatural elements that she is quite adept at weaving into her stories and you have a well-constructed, entertaining story that’s a good kick-off to the Arcane Society series.

For those who don’t already know, Jayne Ann Krentz writes under two pseudonyms, Amanda Quick for historicals, Jayne Castle for futuristics and uses her own name for contemporaries. The Arcane Society series crosses all three of these genres, though each book can be read on its own. I’ll be reading/re-reading the series but not back-to-back, as I have so many books to read. I foresee the consumption of this series taking me well into next year…but I’m no psychic, so we’ll see!

I give the story THREE stars.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Seers by Heather Frost

David Baldacci
For Kate Bennet, surviving the car wreck that killed her parents means big changes and even bigger problems. As she begins to see auras and invisible people, Kate must learn to trust Patrick O'Donnell, a handsome Guardian, or risk her life being overrun with Demons. She soon realizes that both she and her heart are in big-time trouble.

by Heather Frost
Copyright ©October 2011 by Heather Frost
Published by Bonneville Books, an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc.

My Review

Kate Bennet’s life changed the summer before her senior year in high school. Her parents were killed in a car accident and her grandparents move in to help raise her and her two younger siblings. The accident also left Kate with an unusual gift: she can see auras. She adapts easily to this new gift, but tells no one about it except her best friend Lee.

Things change, however, on the first day of school when she meets the new guy, Patrick O’Donnell. He intrigues her, but not just because he’s handsome and has a cute Irish accent. He has a silver aura where everyone else has colors. Plus, he has every single class with her. Plus he seems to turn up everywhere she goes. What’s going on with this guy?

Eventually, Patrick tells her the truth. He’s a Guardian, and because she can see auras, he needs her help to find Demons. At first, she’s skeptical, but when she spies her first black-auraed Demon, she immediately runs to Patrick for help.

As Kate, Patrick and his partner, Toni, work to piece together just who this demon is, they need to move fast, because this demon won’t stop until he gets what he wants. And he wants Kate.

This is not my usual genre (young adult), but as I’m interested in reading new authors to find those gems I never knew existed, I decided to take a chance with both a new author and a different genre.

The pacing of the story is slow but it does pick up about half-way through and once it does, it really takes off. It’s nice to read a story that touches on some of the other aspects of the paranormal and not just the usual vampires and werewolves. Kate’s aura-seeing ability quickly turns from an unusual quirk to something that can take her on a grand adventure and save her life at the same time. Patrick is wonderful as her Guardian and potential love interest and Toni…well, I couldn’t quite get a handle on Toni, but I guess that was kind of the point. He’s a loose cannon, but he’s loyal and will stay with you to the end.

And finding out Grandpa was…well, he was certainly hiding his light under a bushel, but I’m so glad he came out as Kate’s ally (in more than one way). He definitely added the right seasoning to this story. And Jack? I’d love to see more of him!

Great characters, good plot, terrific action sequences and a touch of romance. All in all, I found Seers to be a fun, light (light for me, that is) read by an author whom I definitely want to see more of in the future. The story is very well written for such a young author and I wish her all the best and lots more success in her future. Good job, Heather, and keep writing!

I give this story FOUR STARS.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

61 Hours

61 Hours by Lee Child

A bus crashes in a savage snowstorm and lands Jack Reacher in the middle of a deadly confrontation. In nearby Bolton, South Dakota, one brave woman is standing up for justice in a small town threatened by sinister forces. If she’s going to live long enough to testify, she’ll need help. Because a killer is coming to Bolton, a coldly proficient assassin who never misses.

Reacher’s original plan was to keep on moving. But the next 61 hours will change everything. The secrets are deadlier and his enemies are stronger than he could have guessed—but so is the woman he’ll risk his life to save.

--61 Hours
by Lee Child
Copyright ©2009 by Lee Child
Published by Jove Books

My Review
61 Hours is the 14th book in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series.

Jack Reacher is in South Dakota on a tour bus heading toward Mount Rushmore. Seeing the monument isn’t his plan, he just needs to head toward it to catch the main highway heading south. After all, South Dakota in winter is not the place for a vagabond such as himself. But when the bus crashes in the middle of a blizzard, he springs into action and helps get the passengers settled in the nearby town of Bolton.

While there, he becomes curious about the behavior of the police department’s top two men, Chief Holland and his second-in-command, Deputy Chief Peterson. They’re expecting something bad, more than just another blizzard and Reacher being Reacher, he gets involved. He really would rather just move on, but since he’s stuck in Bolton until the roads clear, he might as well give the town the benefits of his experience.

One of Bolton’s main problems is the large group of bikers camping out at an abandoned Army facility just outside of town. The police believe the bikers have a meth lab in their camp, but so far, have no authority to search. When one of the bikers is busted for dealing—with a highly regarded local woman as witness—their ability to drive out the bikers is greatly improved. The witness, Janet Salter, just needs to survive through to trial. That tells Reacher what Holland and Peterson are expecting…a killer with his sights on the witness.

Reacher agrees to help guard Mrs. Salter. He also offers to help Holland and Peterson sort through they mystery of the abandoned Army facility so they can get a grip on what exactly the bikers are doing out there. Along the way, they discover a connection to a powerful drug lord from Mexico called Plato. Plato is a man who gets what he wants and there are two things he wants: he wants what the bikers are guarding, and he wants Janet Salter dead. Plato will do whatever it takes to get what he wants.

And there’s only one man who can stop Plato from getting what he wants.

The author, Lee Child, started this story with the idea that the telling of it would cover a 61 hour period, and so at appropriate intervals, he inserts a countdown, letting the reader know just how many hours are left. You’d expect a lot to happen in those 61 hours, but much of it passes pretty calmly with only a few spikes of action. It’s actually a little bit boring, but because you know the clock is ticking, the tension inside you increases until you’ve got only the last six hours to go and that’s when everything happens.

Reacher isn’t perfect. He makes mistakes in judgment and his assumptions, while based on experience, don’t always prove to be right. But just because he makes mistakes, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t learn from them. He adjusts as necessary so he can achieve the desired outcome. I like that he isn’t always right, that he makes mistakes and has to rethink his strategies. It makes him human, not perfect, and I think that adds to his appeal as a literary hero.

As to the exciting cliff-hanger ending, I had the comfort of knowing there was a 15th Jack Reacher novel, so I know he survived the ending of this adventure…but in what shape I won’t know until I start Worth Dying For.

I give this story FOUR and a HALF STARS.