Thursday, April 17, 2014

Strong is Sexy Heroine of the Week: Bluebell Kildare

Book: The Light Who Shines
Author: Lilo Abernathy
Heroine: Bluebell Kildare (a.k.a. Blue)

Bluebell Kildare lives in a society where prejudice and hate runs rampant between three different breeds of humans (Norms, Gifted, and Vampires). Orphaned by the death of her parents at the hands of Dark Vampires, rejected by her grandparents because of her magical heritage, Blue is accustomed to going it alone. After all, she survived bullying, hate, fear, and ostracism in the orphanage, yet still managed to maintain her moral compass.

As an Inspector in the Homicide Unit of the Paranormal Investigation Bureau, Blue fights for interbreed peace every day. She believes in this job with all her lonely soul. She both chases down those who perpetrate hate crimes against the supernatural breeds and stops those who use their powers to hurt innocents. Blue fights for what is right regardless of who is in the wrong!

Sometimes a deceptively soft nature can cover a spine of steel, and make no mistake, Blue has such a spine. She faces down a hate mob to apprehend a perpetrator who left an innocent bleeding and fighting for his life. She enters the fray with full knowledge of the danger to herself, and even when the hostile mob turns against her, she refuses to allow the deed to go unpunished. Later, she willingly sacrifices everything, even at the price of unbearable pain and on the point of death, to keep a dangerous power out of the clutches of a madman, for fear of the destruction it would cause in his hands. Blue has courage in spades!

This heroine also has a secret. She harbors a love for frilly lingerie, and she has plenty of it. Nevertheless, she covers it up with her standard work uniform and keeps it hidden by her discerning tastes. While she dearly wants to be loved, she is only willing to share this part of herself with the right person. Does the right person come along? Perhaps he has been here all the while. Regardless of what the different factions of humans believe about her, Blue knows her own self-worth and this makes her strong and sexy!

Excerpt


Jack’s eyes flick to Varg and then back to my face. He says in a grim tone, “You may not have been hurt, but another minute or two and you could have been dead.”

I lift up my chin and respond steadily, “All in the line of duty, Jack. I did what was right, and if you know me at all you should never expect less.”

I holster my gun and walk, head held high, back to my car with Varg trailing behind me and Jack watching my back.


The Light Who Shines When Paranormal Investigation Bureau agent Bluebell Kildare (a.k.a. Blue) arrives at the scene of the crime it's obvious the grotesquely damaged body of the deceased teenage boy was caused by far more than a simple hit and run. Using her innate sixth sense, she uncovers a powerful magical artifact nearby. She soon discovers it acts as a key to an ancient Grimiore that was instrumental in the creation of the Vampire breed and still holds the power to unravel the boundaries between Earth and the Plan of Fire.

Blue and her clever wolf Varg follow a trail that starts at the Cock and Bull Tap and leads all through the town of Crimson Hollow. Between being sidelined by a stalker who sticks to the shadows, and chasing a suspect who vanishes in thin air, the case is getting complicated. If that isn't enough, Dark Vampire activity hits a record high and hate crimes are increasing. However, it's her growing feelings for Jack Tanner, her magnetic Daylight Vampire boss, that just might undo her.


While Blue searches for clues to nail the perpetrator, it seems someone else is conducting a search of their own. Who will find whom first?

Danger lurks in every corner and Blue needs all her focus in this increasingly dangerous game or she risks ending up the next victim.


Buy it on Barnes & Noble or Smashwords or Amazon.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Makers: Women Who Make America

What a thought-evoking and interesting documentary about the struggle of women and the many women who have paved the way.

The first episode begins with telling us about a woman who was the first to run a long-distance marathon--notably, the Boston Marathon, in 1967. My mother would have been ten  years old and it's incredible to think that had she attempted to run a long-distance marathon, she'd have been physically attacked by the race director in the middle of the race, just because of her sex.

But that's exactly what happened to Katherine Switzer. The only way she could even get in the race was by signing up under her first initial and full last name.

When I think of how that was my mother's "time", I'm appalled at how recent this really occurred.

The Feminine MystiqueThe show then discusses the Feminine Mystique, a book that made many a housewife realize that that deep sense of unhappiness she was feeling was nothing to be ashamed or guilty about. It just meant that she wanted to be more than just so-and-so's wife and so-and-so's mother.

The book opened the doors to the women's movement in the sixties and wow! Did it take the world by storm, as the more radical groups claimed that being a housewife was equivalent to being an unpaid slave. It's free labor, after all, for the man. I'd like to think, however, that most of us women nowadays have made our marriages more of partnerships.

One of the most interesting things to me and NOT the least surprising...the first sexual discrimination case presented to the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) was between stewardesses and the airlines.

Having been in aviation for twelve years now, I can totally believe it. The aviation industry still is not always kind to women... But the nasty fact is women hired around 1953 were fired at the age of 32, declared "too old to be in public". After all, she should be at home raising children, right? And this was after discriminatory hiring practices based on their looks, weight, age, and marital status.

Another case presented, a more successful one for the women's rights movement, is Southern Bell telephone company. A woman operator kept applying for higher-paying jobs within the company only to be told over and over again that she could not have the job because she was a woman. In court, SB's defense was that they were protecting her from having to life 30 pounds. It was a lady lawyer to the rescue, a lawyer for the then women's version of the NAACP--NOW that brought 30-pound objects into the courtroom and proved over and over that she could lift them, herself not even 100 pounds.

The case was won. Enter episode two, not my favorite. Why? Now, I'm an open-minded person, and I see what they were trying to do here: show us two sides, but frankly, I didn't care to hear the other side. Did you know there was actually a group of women who OPPOSED the Equal Rights Amendment? The ERA would have ensured equal pay and the overthrowing of many laws that were discriminatory against women, but this ultra-conservative group who was really happy being slave--*coughs*--housewives at the time actually opposed it and much of the second episode followed them and their anti-abortion companions. 

If you're happy just cooking and cleaning and changing nappies all day, good for you. If you're happy, I'm happy for you, but don't make it so that women who have chosen to work are stuck making less pay just 'cause we have va-va jays. 


Billie Jean King is on the right.
Picture from Wiki Commons.
One good point the anti-ERA movement made though: equal rights would mean that we'd be drafted. Right? Didn't come to pass, but shouldn't we be drafted too?

Moving on. I really liked how this introduced me to a woman named Billie Jean King, who was a tennis player and beat a man in the "battle of the sexes." Did you know that in the sixties, when women first began playing professional tennis, that when the man won the cup he got 2,000 pounds, but when a woman won, she only got 750?

In the seventies, women could not get approved for credit cards without their husband's signature. Didn't matter if SHE was the one making the money. URGH.

The third and final episode (these are all one-hour long, making the "series" three hours total), gets into the eighties and nineties and how the older generation worries we are taking steps backs. After all, the birth control issues was just recently brought up again. But while I understand their concerns, I also have to agree with some of the women who said that the feminist movement is an ongoing, never-ending movement. We may not be out there marching, my generation, but we are feminists in that...we have CHOSEN our paths, not had them dictated to us. If we want to work, we work. If we want to have children and stay home, we do that. 

Terrific food for thought though is...are our husbands really pulling their weight around the house or are we working two shifts, one at work, one at home? Make sure your marriage is a true partnership, ladies, and don't revert back to the fifties. 

I watched this on Amazon Prime.



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bad Karma In The Big Easy Tackles Controversies

I have read a number of mysteries taking place in post-Katrina New Orleans—most notably Tin Roof Blowdown  by James Lee Burke and   Claire de Witt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran.  Both of these are beautifully written and atmospheric.  Bad Karma in the Big Easy by D. J. Donaldson is not in their league, but it’s full of big issues.  There are issues involving post-Katrina New Orleans, surrogate mothers, organ cloning, violent media and post- traumatic stress for law enforcement.

                                                     
  
The organ cloning issue is somewhat futuristic as D. J. Donaldson indicates in an author’s note.  For some readers, this sort of technology would present a spiritual problem.   For others, it would be a tremendous advance that would save lives.   I admit that I come down on the side of those who would regard it as beneficial, but I recognize that there is a controversy surrounding it.  See http://www.cloneorgans.com and an article by Alex B. Berezow in the UK magazine Wired World  for  current scientific analysis of the issue.

This is the seventh book in a series centering on forensic pathologist Andy Broussard and expert in criminal psychology Kit Franklyn.  Both are employed by NOPD, and work together.  Broussard examines the corpse, and Franklyn determines whether or not this is a case of homicide.    I have to say that this is the first mystery I’ve read dealing with New Orleans police that portrays them as competent and capable of solving crimes.   Perhaps this is a result of my preference for private investigators.  Traditionally, most mysteries that star PIs portray the police as bunglers.   There is actually a PI in Bad Karma in the Big Easy who is impressive.  So this police procedural doesn’t denigrate PIs despite the fact that PI novels tend to denigrate police.

Kit Franklyn has a problem with post-traumatic stress in this case.  I personally liked the way her PTSD was handled, though not all readers would agree.  I think that it’s important to point out that not everyone responds to PTSD in the same way, and that people recover at different rates.  Some individuals are more resilient than others.   I give D. J.  Donaldson extra points for recognizing that recovering from PTSD is an individual matter.

I could have done without the sequence involving the alligator.  I am not a huge fan of alligators, and would rather not read about them at all.  Those who consider gators local color might rate this aspect of the plot as a big plus. 

Although I haven’t previously read D. J. Donaldson before, I would be willing to read more in this series.  I liked the principal characters and I enjoy reading mysteries set in New Orleans. 

I received this galley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Heroic Measures by Jo-Ann Power

Heroic MeasuresWhen men looked at her, they saw a woman in uniform. Dedicated. Smart. Or she hoped they did. At the least, they respected her and that satisfied her mightily.

I love a good WWI or WWII story, most especially those involving nurses. What brave, incredible women they were, going overseas to face the unknown and help in any way they can, watching so much suffering and pain. This was no disappointment in that aspect. The story of the nurses is here, from training to washing their hair in helmets, to shell-shocked patients, to the sound of bombs, the collapsing of tents, the lack of supplies...

And added into the mix is some romance, conflicting emotions about the people left behind in America, friends, and a doctor killing himself with drink. I kinda liked the story there, kinda. I mean, I couldn't help but feel bad that the doctor is portrayed so badly when really, he's just a man with PTSD. You don't have to be on the battlefield to deal with that. I could understand why he was drinking...but I digress.

Actually, that brings me to my quibble. There were some great opportunities to expand this novel with the secondary characters and I feel the story was weak in that way. It kept introducing us to all these people with what could have been amazing side stories and plots and really barely touched upon them. Lex and the Lafayette Esadrille. The doctor and his decline. The one nurses who for some reason balks at marrying a French comte. What was going on there? Why mention it all if it doesn't really add to the story?

My second quibble is the romance. It appears out of thin air. Why do they love each other? What do they see in each other? She nurses his wounds, maintains a professional demeanor though she finds him handsome, shares a single dance with him in which she tries to ignore he's so handsome...but suddenly she's madly in love with him and he her? 

Huh?

That came from nowhere. The romance development is poor. Also, there is no complicated love triangle here. Not that I wanted one, but the story makes it sound like one is coming and the cover is a tad suggestive of one. Just throwing that out there.

But all that aside, I did love this heroine. I love the way she takes over the surgery, the way she makes demands for her patients (chocolate is important!!!), the way she puts the other nurses in their places when they get depressed, how she sticks up to her mean aunt. There was a lot to like about her, especially what she does in the end. Thumbs up to you, lady.

Conclusion: Could have used better development of side stories, secondary characters, and romance, but is a very nice tribute to the nurses who dedicated their time and lives in this war.

Even here we've seen that a woman must have equal status with a man. If she is denied that, everyone loses. And people can die from the failures to ensure it.

I received this via Netgalley.



Sunday, April 13, 2014

Queenpin by Megan Abbott

QueenpinA sexy book if nothing else. Crime noir. Makes me think of Mob City. Speaking of, does anyone know when that's coming back?

What was sexy about it is the writing. Let me lay out some examples for you.

I'm yours, that's what I told him without every spitting out a word. He could see it on me, feel it on me. He liked to have me on the bare mattress, like the way it rubbed me raw. I liked it. Liked the burn of it. Liked thinking of it all the next day, every time I leaned against anything, every time the strap on my brassiere pulled across it.

But while I could totally feel the heat from the pages, I hated that we got a pretty savvy woman once again suckered by a man. Why do men always have to be our downfall?

Though the narrator does her share of suckering.

I gave him my best walk, half class, half pay-broad. You can twist those two tightly, fellas don't know what hit 'em. They can't peg you. It gets them--the smart ones--going. Spinning hard trying to fix you. You're like the best parts of their grammar school sweetheart and their first whore all in one sizzling package.

Basically: the narrator is seductive, whether you like what she's doing or not.

At only 180 pages, this is a book you just pick up to kill some time. You won't lay it down enlightened, won't muse deeply on anything, won't really remember it a few days later, but it is entertaining as it follows two lady gangsters embroiled in the gambling business--which sometimes has to include murder...

We got the senior Gloria and we got the narrator and just who is going to be betray who? I feel this story could have been expanded on and it would also make a great TV show. I'd love to read something like this without a woman being taken in by a sleezy man though. I'd like to feel the women come out on top for a change.

As for the writing: superb. I'm impressed with this author's voice.

I got this via Paperback Swap.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Reading Radar

Spotted on Edelweiss and on my wishlist: Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough. I do love a good twenties/thirties novel, and you all know I like those nurses and doctors too.

BittersweetAn unforgettable Australian saga of sisterhood, family, love and betrayal.
This is the story of two sets of twins, Edda and Grace, Tufts and Kitty, who struggle against all the restraints, prohibitions, laws and prejudices of 1920s Australia. Only the submissive yet steely Grace burns for marriage; the sleekly sophisticated Edda burns to be a doctor, the down-to-earth but courageous Tufts burns never to marry, and the too-beautiful, internally scarred Kitty burns for a love free from male ownership.


Turbulent times, terrible torments, but the four magnificent Latimer sisters, each so different, love as women do: with tenderness as well as passion, and with hearts roomy enough to hold their men, their children, their careers and their sisters.


***

And I had to acquire this one, because I love dogs, women detectives, and a good laugh. Paw Enforcement by Diane Kelly.

Paw Enforcement

Introducing police officer Megan Luz and her loyal K-9 partner Brigit—two Fort Worth cops who are worth their weight in kibble.

SHE’S ON A SHORT LEASH.

Officer Luz is lucky she still has a job after tasering a male colleague where it counts the most. Sure, he had it coming—which is why the police chief is giving Megan a second chance. The catch? Her new partner can’t carry a gun, can’t drive a cruiser, and can’t recite the Miranda Rights. Because her new partner is a big furry police dog. So that’s what the chief meant when he called Megan’s partner a real b*tch…

WILL FATE THROW HER A BONE?

With Brigit out on the beat, Megan is writing up enough tickets to wallpaper the whole station. But when a bomb goes off at the mall’s food court, it’s up to Megan and Brigit to start digging—and sniffing—for clues. With the help of dead-sexy bomb-squad expert Seth Rutledge and his own canine partner named Blast, Megan finds herself in a desperate race to collar a killer. Will justice be served—or will she end up in the doghouse?


***

Spotted on LibraryThing, Amy Bloom's Lucky Us hit the radar/wishlist. 

Lucky Us: A Novel“My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.”

So begins this remarkable novel by Amy Bloom, whose critically acclaimed Away was called “a literary triumph” by The New York Times. Brilliantly written, deeply moving, fantastically funny, Lucky Us introduces us to Eva and Iris. Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star, and Eva, the sidekick, journey across 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris’s ambitions take them from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.

With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine through a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war. Filled with gorgeous writing, memorable characters, and surprising events, Lucky Us is a thrilling and resonant novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, the creation of a family, and the pleasures and inevitable perils of family life. From Brooklyn’s beauty parlors to London’s West End, a group of unforgettable people love, lie, cheat, and survive in this story of our fragile, absurd, heroic species.


***

The Magician's LieSpotted on NG. It caught my interest because it's about a historical woman magician. Whether she was real or not, that is a cool as heck story line. The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister. *Cover is not final. It's an ARC cover that was on NG.* Regardless, it's rare for me to read a SB Landmark book and not love it. They have quickly become one of my favorite publishers, even though they only approve my requests half the time. LOL I do believe this title releases in October of this year.


Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus in The Magician’s Lie, a debut novel in which the country’s most notorious female illusionist stands accused of her husband's murder --and she has only one night to convince a small-town policeman of her innocence.

The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, with young policeman Virgil Holt watching from the audience, she swaps her trademark saw for a fire ax. Is it a new version of the illusion, or an all-too-real murder? When Arden’s husband is found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems clear.

But when Virgil happens upon the fleeing magician and takes her into custody, she has a very different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless—and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding. Over the course of one eerie night, Virgil must decide whether to turn Arden in or set her free… and it will take all he has to see through the smoke and mirrors

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Captain for Laura Rose by Stephanie Grace Whitson

A Captain for Laura RoseI was drawn to this novel because it's about a woman trying to obtain her riverboat captain's license in a time (just post American Civil War) when women did NOT navigate the river waters on their own. Well, at all. Except for Laura, the heroine, whose father and brother taught her all they knew before they crossed the rainbow bridge, so to speak.

First of all, I was fully aware this was a Christian-themed novel and I was fine with that, as I haven't found majority of the Christian novels very preachy lately. Normally, they are just wonderful, spunky heroines facing and overcoming obstacles with a clean romance on the side. This one, however, was a tad preachy, and I found the message hard to discern as I didn't feel the judgmental, overly pious, close-minded characters to be very good examples of what a Christian should be.

Maybe that was the point.

But while I enjoyed Laura's story and parts and reading about all the different problems a steamboat faced as it went up and down the rivers--scarcity of wood, sandbars...I could totally and completely have done without Fiona and Adela. I loathed both characters and while the theme of not assuming the worst and being quick to judge was clear, I didn't feel their bits added enough. Laura's realizing what she was doing was strong; these two horrid women, no.

Had the book eliminated them completely, I'd have been a happy camper. Fiona...wow. You don't get more close-minded and uptight than her and Adela is just a spoiled brat who I can't say redeemed herself in my eyes really. She's a user.

Again, last time I'll say it: I hated Fiona and Adela and all their scenes and this ruined half the story for me.

I also grew tired of the anti-drinking theme. Frankly, I'm a firm believer that if a man or woman works hard all week long, they are entitled to get--excuse me--sh*t faced here and there!!! The book made it seem like anyone who dares to enter a saloon is a bad seed and sinful. I wanted to tell them to get over themselves and, "I'd like to see you not have a drink or two after dealing with this, this, and that."

But I did like Laura and her struggle to get her pilot's license and get up and down the river and honor her family. I really did. We could learn a thing or two from her, us women. To stand up for what we want in the face of adversity and discrimination. WE CAN DO IT.

Favorite LOL moment:

He scowled at her. "Unless, of course, you have another addendum you'd like added? Tea and crumpets served mid-examination, perhaps?

"Oh, no, sir," Laura said, as she rose from her chair. "It's all very satisfactory. I've never cared for tea and crumpets, anyway."

I received this via Netgalley.