Monday, August 31, 2015

Automaton by C.L. Davies

AutomatonMajor points for uniqueness on this novel. I've never read anything like this before. In a nutshell, it's the future and think Dungeons and Dragons taken to a whole 'nother level. Gamers get a character and tell it what to do and sometimes paths cross and shit happens. this case, the gamers get to watch their characters live their lives and do the things they're told. Because it's real. It's a little island full of manipulated and brainwashed humans and robots. Imagine realizing you're just a game human form and someone elsewhere is controlling what you do, all your major life events, and if you break the get terminated.

We follow a couple of gamers and see how obsessed they are with the game and their characters. We follow the gamers' characters (Dean and Lily and Ross) too and see how they struggle with what their gamers tell them to do and what they really want to do. And the fear they live with...

There's a love story between two characters. There's infidelity, murder, secrets. I didn't like Lily much, mostly because she stayed with Dean, but on the other hand Dean was only a loser because his gamer told him to be. This raised a lot of emotional conflicts with me. I felt like a pendulum, leaning this way and that in what I felt for the characters. That's a compliment to the writer. They obviously became real to me.

The writing is okay. It could be better. It's a tad simple. But I like that it got to the point. There's a moral about playing god and also about the way many people like to watch others suffer.

Some things bothered me though, things that didn't make sense in the storyline. 1. Madison's wife couldn't have a child. Instead, he created GameWorld and in it, he puts real live babies. He gives his wife her own character, who replaces the daughter she never had, yet the character is always on TV, not in his wife's actual life. Why did he not give his wife one of the babies to have in her real life? 2. *************Slight spoiler************** Why didn't they wipe Dean's memory when they did Lily's to avoid problems?

I'd read more by this author.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Virgin Damsel and Manwhore Romance? Not Anymore! @LaceyWolfe Breaks the Mold with Virgin Cowboy

Virgin Cowboy (Carver Ranch Series, #3)Full disclosure: Yes, I'm friends with the author. Yes, she posts regularly on this blog. Yes, she provided this book for my enjoyment--no strings attached. No, I'm not writing a fake-ass review.

One of the things that puts me off the romance industry, especially the older titles, is the virgin woman and man-whore hero. He's always super experienced and she's this delicate flower waiting for her cherry to get popped. It's annoying. I've said more than once that we need to turn the tables, but most authors balk because that's not the norm or they're afraid of making their heroine a ho. So huge thumbs up to Lacey Wolfe for giving us a slightly experienced heroine and a virgin male eager to please his lady.

I love that this is not an alpha male. I love this hero. If all heroes were like this guy I'd read more romance. Braden is the sensitive type who takes people's feelings to hear and wears his own on his sleeve. He's not cocky, but quite the opposite. The heroine is a single mom who doesn't stand down from adversity and in this case she gets it in spades--from Braden's mother. That's something else I appreciate in this story--family tensions. Family drama/disapproval in one's love choices is very common but rarely brought up in romance stories--I'm not talking those regencies when daddy frowns because the suitor is not from the right family or doesn't make enough money. I'm talking real life NOW type stuff. So this isn't just a sweet romance; it's got real-life issues thrown in. How many women have been ostracized by a lover's family because they already kids?

I also enjoyed the sex. There's a lot of nice build-up to the major event. And the daughter steals the show more than once, making me smile with her attitude and antics.

My only complaint is how very fast the heroine went from, "No, I don't want to date you" to "I'm madly in love with you and I want your bod." I'd have like the psychology delved into a bit more, or more conversation/flirtation/dating between them before they're suddenly think of marrying each other. But that's a difficult line to walk in romance. Too much and readers be like, "Just do it already!"

I felt the connection between the characters though.

Thank you for sharing this one with me, Lacey. I can't wait to see how you break the mold next.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Insanity of Murder (Dr Dody McCleland #4) by @felicityyoungco

The Insanity of Murder (Dr Dody McCleland, #4)Dr. Dody is back, and better than ever. While this novel doesn't explore too deeply the prejudice she faces in her line of work (she's a death doctor in Victorian England for those just now hearing about this series), it does explore a different kind of prejudice toward women during those times. There's an epidemic sweeping the country. Women are being declared insane and thrown into institutions where horrific surgeries are performed on them.

Dody's sister Florence plays a huge role in this novel as circumstances lead to her being incarcerated on the inside. Behind the scenes is Dody with her breaking and entering, Pike ready to acquire search warrants, suffragists running in front of the king's horse (real event included in the story), and doctors will ill intentions.

And that's not all. More drama ensues with the maid's beau, tensions rise at police headquarters, and Violet, Pike's daughter, shows a headstrong side. Dody and Pike continue their romance nevertheless, but it appears their secret is no longer a secret and women did not take lovers and maintain careers both back then. So there's a lot of tension in this story. And did I mention female genital mutilation? Talk about frightening.

I really enjoyed it, but feel the really intriguing stuff, such as Florence going "undercover" and the midnight breaking and entering, came a little too late. Everything really got exciting in the last half, making the first half feel a tad slow. Florence also irritated me in the first  half with her refusal to take responsibility for her actions and I was displeased with Dody too for going along and not doing the right thing. But it also made me wonder, "What if it was my sister?" I appreciate the story line for making one think.

I look forward to the next installment in this series. Please keep them coming. Lots of strong women, tension, "what would you do?" scenarios, and history. (Women being incarcerated simply for husbands' and fathers' conveniences was a real problem.)

Thank you to Netgalley for a digital copy of this.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Spotlight on Honor Among Thieves

04_Honor Among Thieves_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Honor Among Thieves (Hope & Steel: Book I)
by J.M. Aucoin

Publication Date: June 30, 2015
Publisher: Sword & Cape
eBook & Paperback; Pages: 330

Series: Hope & Steel (Book One)
Genre: Historical Adventure/Swashbuckler

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02_Honot Among Thieves_Cover
France, March 1609. The French Wars of Religion are over, but forces still conspire against the crown…

Darion Delerue, former soldier turned highwayman, has only two things of value—the hope in his heart and the steel at his side. After a heist on a royal ambassador goes wrong, Darion is thrown into a political plot to undermine the crown, pitting his old life as an honorable soldier against his new life as a thief and bandit. His actions could send France back into civil war.

Honor Among Thieves is a gripping tale of daring sword-play and political intrigue, with superb historical detail of 17th Century France that will have readers wanting to draw their swords and fight for glory!



03_Justin Aucoin
Author. Fencer. Sometimes actor. Full-time nerd. J.M. AUCOIN is the product of when a five-year-old boy who fell in love with reruns of Guy William’s Zorro grows into a mostly functional adult. He now spends his time writing swashbucklers and historical adventure stories, and has an (un)healthy obsession with The Three Musketeers.

When not writing, he practices historical fencing, crafts historical outfits, and covers the Boston Bruins for the award-winning blog Days of Y’Orr. He lives in Heraldwolf’s Stone with his fiancĂ©e Kate, and their dire-beagle, Rex.

For more information visit J.M. Aucoin's website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube.


Monday, August 24
Kick Off & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Guest Post at Carpe Librum

Tuesday, August 25
Review at Genre Queen
Spotlight at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Wednesday, August 26
Spotlight at Book Babe
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, August 27
Review at Book Nerd
Excerpt at Boom Baby Reviews

Friday, August 28
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Saturday, August 29
Spotlight at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Sunday, August 30
Excerpt at The Never-Ending Book

Monday, August 31
Review at Back Porchervations
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sustained by @EmmaChse

Emma Chase is a new to me author. Sustained was a fun book. The entire book is told in a male point of view. Jake starts off as one of those guys, the ones who want to screw every woman. However, he gets a surprise and has to stop sewing his seed for a little while. Then comes Chelsea and her six kids she's raising after her brother and his wife died.

Jake is instantly attracted to her and from there, he does anything and everything for Chelsea and the 6 kids. He's an attorney, so of course the kids get into lots of trouble that he has to step in and play the lawyer.

As far as the story of this book, I liked it. I enjoyed reading Jake and Chelsea's story. I liked the two of them together and I really liked Jake's protective nature. When the book started, I mentioned earlier that Jake was one of those guys...the ones who swear they will never settle down. For me, Jake did a 180 too fast in the story. He went from a man who just wanted to have sex with women to family man over night. It seemed a little out of character to me, but I didn't let it pull me from the story.

Because, I did in fact, enjoy the story. I found myself picking it up during my busy day, wanting to know how the story would unfold. I would read the author again, for sure.

Lacey's Rating:

About the book

A knight in tarnished armor is still a knight.

When you’re a defense attorney in Washington, DC, you see firsthand how hard life can be, and that sometimes the only way to survive is to be harder. I, Jake Becker, have a reputation for being cold, callous, and intimidating—and that suits me just fine. In fact, it’s necessary when I’m breaking down a witness on the stand.

Complications don’t work for me—I’m a “need-to-know” type of man. If you’re my client, tell me the basic facts. If you’re my date, stick to what will turn you on. I’m not a therapist or Prince Charming—and I don’t pretend to be.

Then Chelsea McQuaid and her six orphaned nieces and nephews came along and complicated the ever-loving hell out of my life. Now I’m going to Mommy and Me classes, One Direction concerts, the emergency room, and arguing cases in the principal’s office.

Chelsea’s too sweet, too innocent, and too gorgeous for her own good. She tries to be tough, but she’s not. She needs someone to help her, defend her…and the kids.

And that—that, I know how to do.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Lethal In Love 3 by @msomerswriter - Book 3 in a thriller serial

And the series continues. I'm now on episode 3 of 6. Check out my review for book 1 and book 2.

The story really began to heat up in book 3. At this point, there are so many mysteries, my head is buzzing and trying to figure out how it all ties together. Who is The Night Terror? What does Jayda's father have to do with it? As well as all the people who live around Jayda in her apartment building? And of course, why is The Night Terror targeting her?

There is still an underlying romance plot between the reporter Seth and detective Jayda. Though, in this book I just wasn't feeling the connection between them. Jayda was very cold toward Seth, so for me it would be amazing if he in fact is still at all interested. I'm hoping in the next book, she will begin to be nicer to him. Maybe...

And this book ends with the worst cliffhanger so far. Wow, I couldn't believe it ended when it did. Needless to say, I am still hooked on this series and anxiously awaiting book 4.

Lacey's Rating:

About the book

Lethal in Love is a steamy romantic suspense about an instinct-driven detective and a sexy, scoop-hungry reporter, both on the hunt for a sadistic killer.

Jayda Thomasz is a sassy homicide detective who never lets her emotions get in the way of a case. So when a serial killer re-emerges after 25 years, the last thing she expects is to catch herself fantasising over the hot, smooth-talking stranger who crosses the path of her investigation.

Seth Friedin is a reporter chasing the story that'll make his career. When he enters the world of swinging for research, he never imagines he'll be distracted by a hard-talking female detective whose kiss plagues his mind long after she's gone.

Past experience has shown Jayda that reporters are ruthless and unscrupulous. But when the murders get personal, will she make a deal with the devil to catch the killer? How far will she and Seth have to go? And do you ever really know who you can trust?

PS - Book 1 is free on Amazon. :)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Alice Takes Back Wonderland: Explosive Fairy Tale Mashup

If  you enjoy the television series Once Upon A TimeAlice Takes Back Wonderland by David D. Hammons will have a very similar vibe.  Characters from  Wonderland, Neverland and the realm known in this book as Grimm are all mashed together quite delightfully.   I received a free copy in advance of publication from Curiosity Quills, the publisher, in return for this review.


Hammons' premise is that authors such as Lewis Carroll, James Barrie or the Grimm brothers are receiving echoes from other realities. Echoes aren't the same as accurate descriptions. The "real" stories are quite different.

Literary mashups are usually considered as the equivalent of stunt-casting for fans of the characters involved who want to know what would happen if they met.  It's akin to fanfic,  and is based on the same playful impulse. This novel is for those fans, but is also much more.

Hammons is seriously posing the question of why people want to escape through fiction.  The general assumption is that the audience for escapist literature are people who are bored by humdrum lives, but some people like the Alice in this novel (who starts out in our contemporary world) lead lives that feel like prisons.   Escapist fiction gives them hope.  It allows them to imagine that their lives could be better.

Yet what if  even your ability to dream of a better future were somehow removed? In Alice Takes Back Wonderland, Alice discovers that a dictator who has seized power in Wonderland is "taking the wonder" out of people.  This actually parallels Alice's 21st century experience.  Well-meaning adults were trying to remove her capacity to perceive other realities through modern medicine.  So Alice's battle to restore Wonderland is a war on behalf of imagination against those who consider imagination dangerous.   At one point the iconic Cheshire Cat declares "You call us mad for acting free."  Without imagination, there can be no freedom.

At first, I had an ambivalent reaction to the HEA ending because it appeared to eliminate all possibility of a sequel.   Yet it eventually occurred to me that if Alice was going to keep her happiness, she would have to fight for it.   All HEA endings are really provisional.




Tuesday, August 18, 2015

From A High Tower: The American Wild West German Style

From a High Tower by Mercedes Lackey is the latest in her Elemental Masters series.  The original premise of the series is that these would be  fairy tale re-tellings taking place in the 19th century  starring mages with elemental gifts.  This is the second volume in this series that takes place in Germany.  Giselle,  the protagonist of the book, is an Air mage who begins as a version of Rapunzel.

Later in this book there is a brief  Hansel and Gretel re-telling.  I admit that if I had known that there was a Hansel and Gretel element in this novel, I would have avoided it.  I consider Hansel and Gretel a very nasty story that has fueled hysteria about witchcraft.  Others feel that Hansel and Gretel exposes the neglect and abuse of children. I think that other fairy tales deal with this theme, and that Hansel and Gretel has done more harm than good.  There is a long history of  false accusations that have been primarily made against women because this fairy tale is engraved in the Euro-American collective unconscious. The only re-telling of Hansel and Gretel that I've liked is Louise Murphy's WWII novel, The True Story of Hansel and Gretel.  I have no more use for Lackey's version than I have for any other traditional re-telling of this poisonous tale.  The best I can say for it, is that it takes up relatively little narrative space in From a High Tower.

So let me tell you about some more interesting aspects of this Elemental Masters book that relate to feminism and popular culture. 


The re-telling of Rapunzel is a narrative frame that is fully woven in the opening of the novel.  This is really a book about an Air mage who uses her gifts to earn a living as a sharpshooter.  She eventually joins a Wild West show that is touring Germany.  There are two perspectives to take on this character.  One is that Giselle is an unethical fraud who is only pretending to be the equal of  the real historical sharpshooter Annie Oakley. ( Annie Oakley is mentioned in From a High Tower.  She was also touring Germany in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show.)  The second is that Giselle is a feminist hero.  She is a resourceful survivor who has found a really cool way to utilize her magical abilities.  Do the ends justify the means?  I will allow readers to make their own decisions about Giselle.

What interested me most about this novel is that Lackey portrays German perceptions of the American Wild West as being drastically different from American perceptions.  Germans have been influenced by the works of the 19th century bestselling German author,  Karl May.   I have chosen to link to an English page on the Karl May Society website because it discusses why this author is regarded as important.   I had heard of Karl May, but had never read his books or understood their appeal before reading From a High Tower.  Like many other Americans , I had dismissed Karl May as inauthentic.

Popular culture is steeped in legend.   Each nation is very attached to the way their popular culture portrays the individuals who are regarded as key figures.  American popular culture about the 19th century American West, which is still known as the Wild West, is no more authentic than the German version created by a single author.    Lackey presents the American Wild West show performers with a dilemma.  Their rendition of  the Wild West didn't connect with the German audience.  They wanted to see a  dramatization of  a scenario out of the works of Karl May, and their expectations were being disappointed.

Why should this culture clash matter to 21st century readers?  The most important issue was the portrayal of Native Americans.   Should they be heroes or villains in a Wild West show?  Karl May's novels depict Native Americans as heroes.  In the U.S. of the 19th century such a scenario would never be seen.  As a 21st century reader, I might consider Karl May's view romanticized, but the universal villainization of  Native Americans that occurred in U.S. Wild West shows during that period is totally unacceptable to me.   So I was on the side of the German audience and the Native American performers who deserved better than to be depicted as hateful caricatures.

This is noteworthy because Germans are now so often associated with Nazism which regarded all non-whites as inferior and degenerate.  In From a High Tower, Lackey depicts Germans in opposition to American racism in the century before the rise of the Nazi movement.

So Mercedes Lackey's tale is primarily about abandoning stereotypes.   I just wish that she could also have also broken the mold of Hansel and Gretel.  We need to grow beyond demonizing anyone.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Lethal In Love 2 by @msomerswriter - Book 2 in a thriller serial

Installment two in the Lethal In Love series is now live. Check out my review for book 1 HERE.

At the end of book 1, we are left with a broken heart from Jayda after a big loss that was from a murder. I don't want to say much, so I don't give away spoilers. The book picks up almost where book 1 left us. Jayda is a detective and is determined to find The Night Terror serial killer. She teams up with reporter Seth, who is also someone she'd very attracted to and vice versa.

I enjoy the flirting between them, though it wasn't as much in this book, which I found realistic with the loss Jayda just had. It's hard to review a serial without giving away spoilers, so this is going to be short.

The writing was good and I was pleased with the pace of book 2. This one wasn't as intense or emotional is book 1, but I'm still intrigued to move on to book 3 as we dive deeper into who the killer might be.

Lacey's Rating:

About The Book:

Lethal in Love is a steamy romantic suspense about an instinct-driven detective and a sexy, scoop-hungry reporter, both on the hunt for a sadistic killer.

Jayda Thomasz is a sassy homicide detective who never lets her emotions get in the way of a case. So when a serial killer re-emerges after 25 years, the last thing she expects is to catch herself fantasising over the hot, smooth-talking stranger who crosses the path of her investigation.

Seth Friedin is a reporter chasing the story that'll make his career. When he enters the world of swinging for research, he never imagines he'll be distracted by a hard-talking female detective whose kiss plagues his mind long after she's gone.

Past experience has shown Jayda that reporters are ruthless and unscrupulous. But when the murders get personal, will she make a deal with the devil to catch the killer? How far will she and Seth have to go? And do you ever really know who you can trust?

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Forgotten Flapper

04_The Forgotten Flapper_Tour & Blast Banner_FINAL

The Forgotten Flapper: A Novel of Olive Thomas (Forgotten Actress Series, Volume 1)

by Laini Giles
Publication Date: August 1, 2015
Publisher: Sepia Stories Publishing
Formats: eBook & Trade Paperback
Pages: 411

Genre: Historical Fiction/Biographical

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02_The Forgotten Flapper_Cover
A presence lurks in New York City’s New Amsterdam Theatre when the lights go down and the audience goes home. They say she’s the ghost of Olive Thomas, one of the loveliest girls who ever lit up the Ziegfeld Follies and the silent screen. From her longtime home at the theater, Ollie’s ghost tells her story from her early life in Pittsburgh to her tragic death at twenty-five.

After winning a contest for “The Most Beautiful Girl in New York,” shopgirl Ollie modeled for the most famous artists in New York, and then went on to become the toast of Broadway. When Hollywood beckoned, Ollie signed first with Triangle Pictures, and then with Myron Selznick’s new production company, becoming most well known for her work as a “baby vamp,” the precursor to the flappers of the 1920s.

After a stormy courtship, she married playboy Jack Pickford, Mary Pickford’s wastrel brother. Together they developed a reputation for drinking, club-going, wrecking cars, and fighting, along with giving each other expensive make-up gifts. Ollie's mysterious death in Paris’ Ritz Hotel in 1920 was one of Hollywood’s first scandals, ensuring that her legend lived on.




03_Laini Giles_Author
A native of Austin, Texas, Laini Giles grew up the daughter of bookworms, and became a Nancy Drew devotee early on. When she realized there might be no escape from hairy tarantulas and bad guys with guns, she put her detective dreams on hold and wrote about them instead, finishing her first mystery novel with custom illustrations when she was eight. It was this love of mystery combined with a love of old MGM musicals and The Marx Brothers that led her to check Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon out of the library during her formative years. Ideas began to simmer.

A graduate of the University of North Texas, she put the writing on hold for a while when real life got in the way (i.e.—she met and married her Canadian husband and headed north for maple-flavored goodies and real beer). She highly recommends moving to another country and not being able to work for a year for finishing any novels you may have laying around.

Laini and her husband live in Edmonton, Alberta with their three gray girl cats, nicknamed The Supremes.

For more information visit Laini Giles' website and blog. You can also find her on Twitter and Goodreads.


Monday, August 3
Kick Off & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, August 4
Interview at The Maiden's Court

Wednesday, August 5
Book Blast/Spotlight at History From a Woman's Perspective

Thursday, August 6
Review at Book Nerd

Friday, August 7
Book Blast/Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Monday, August 10
Review at Book Babe

Tuesday, August 11
Book Blast/Spotlight at Room With Books

Wednesday, August 12
Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Thursday, August 13
Review at Beth's Book Nook Blog

Friday, August 14
Spotlight & Giveaway at To Read, or Not to Read

Saturday, August 15
Book Blast/Spotlight at Please Pass the Books

Monday, August 17
Book Blast/Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, August 18
Book Blast/Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, August 19
Review at A Book Drunkard

Thursday, August 20
Spotlight & Giveaway at View From the Birdhouse

Friday, August 21
Book Blast/Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Monday, August 24
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, August 26
Review & Giveaway at Raven Haired Girl

Thursday, August 27
Book Blast/Spotlight at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Woman in the Movie Star Dress by Praveen Asthana

The Woman in the Movie Star DressThe blurb for this title talks a lot about a mysterious red movie star dress. "One day her fears become crystallized—intrigued by a man who comes asking about a beautiful scarlet dress she has recently sold, she looks into its history and discovers a secret that terrifies her. So begins a quest to find the scarlet dress complicated by a budding romance and the threads of her past, which intervene like trip wires. Emotions run high, and in the background the quickening drumbeat of the race to find the scarlet dress, potent as a loose, loaded weapon."

I rarely do this, but this book warrants it. I'm posting a one-bike review. Why? Because at 57% the red dress had only been in maybe three or four short scenes. There's next to nothing about it. It's like 5% of the book/story. I feel teased. The red dress appears in one scene of the past. Then it appears in the store. There are hints that a woman wore it who was murdered...and some modern-day unhappy wife buys it. The rest of the story follows the heroine as she does drugs, drinks, and becomes promiscuous, having sex with random men.

Where is the mystery? The cover screams noir, intrigue. I expected a bit more about this dress and its previous wearer. I was expecting perhaps a time slip. I was not expecting what I got. I'm all for a woman "getting some", but this woman isn't even enjoying the sex she has with these random men. It's more like she needs them to want her to feel worthy of herself. It's not the kind of heroine I like to promote on the blog, let alone read about.

I didn't mind the writing style, even though it was a bit overly simple. The story itself was just a bummer for me, especially the heroine. I recommend a different cover and blurb for this story. There is no mystery. There is no romance either. It's just sex. And there isn't even any detail about her sexual escapades, so it's not erotic either.

Thank you to Netgalley for letting me read this.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hurricane by @jewell_p_rhodes --The Ultimate Mississippi Delta Whydunit

When I reviewed the Jewell Parker Rhodes children's fantasy Bayou Magic recently  here, I said that I wanted to catch up on novels by Rhodes that I hadn't read.  That included this final book in her contemporary mystery trilogy about Dr. Marie Levant, a physician descended from Voodoo priestess Marie Lavaux.  Levant became a Voodoo priestess herself after re-locating to New Orleans.

As readers might expect Hurricane deals with Hurricane Katrina, but not a description of NOLA's experience of Katrina.  Rhodes doesn't even reveal the post-Katrina fate of Charity Hospital where Dr. Levant worked. I personally discovered what happened to Charity Hospital while watching a Book TV discussion on C-SPAN 2 on We're Still Here Ya Bastards, a non-fiction book by Roberta Brandes Gratz about NOLA's recovery.  If you're interested, you can read Gratz's article on Charity Hospital which appeared in The Nation here.

Now it's time to begin the review of what Hurricane did include.


It starts with Marie Levant discovering an entire family murdered in their home outside the small fictional African American community of Delaire.   When she reports the crime in NOLA, no action is taken.  So she decides to investigate herself and discovers that the case is much larger than she ever imagined.   I was exposed to some very sad information that I can't unlearn now about the tragedy of environmental degradation in the Mississippi Delta that didn't begin with the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  This is a novel about real life horror and monsters that do exist.  Similar environmental atrocities can and do happen anywhere.

Delaire also had a Hoodoo woman known as Nana who was a visionary and a healer.  She had seen that Marie was coming to Delaire.  Dr. Levant was expected to be their savior, but addressing symptoms without any knowledge of the underlying cause is not really healing.  In fact, it can be a terrible mistake. 

Marie recognized one of the spirits that Nana worked with.  She was Mami Wata, the mermaid goddess from West Africa who I encountered in Rhodes' Bayou Magic.  As a nature spirit, the interests of Mami Wata did not necessarily coincide with those of humans.  This was a spiritual lesson that Marie Levant needed to learn while Katrina descended on her city.

I've said a great deal about the themes of Hurricane and their implications in this review, but I don't think I can convey the brilliance of this book.  Readers must experience the hard truths that Hurricane uncovers for themselves.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Julius Romeros Extravaganza #3--Charming Book With A Middle Grade Vibe

I absolutely loved the original approach of The Julius Romeros Extravaganza #1 by Hayley Lawson- Smith.   It introduces the protagonist Abigail, a bearded girl who is sold to a circus by a disapproving servant in 19th century Australia.   I reviewed this book at my former blog The Unmasked Persona here. The second book was  different in tone.  It was a very dark story about the abuse of circus freaks.  My review of that book was the last one I wrote for The Unmasked Persona. You can find that review here.  Like the earlier books in this series,  I received this book from Hayley Lawson- Smith in return for an honest review.


Each volume in this series has had a different tone.  This one seemed to be too gentle to be considered satire like the first book. I thought that it was an adventure novel with occasional charmingly absurd events of the sort that I  have seen in books intended for middle grade children.  Yet I'm an adult and I admit that I was entertained.  Maybe this book is for people of all ages who enjoy reading about unlikely dreams coming true.

In this book Abigail and other members of the Extravaganza troupe, find their happily ever afters.  Readers may find this heartwarming.  Others, like me, may be somewhat disappointed that the adventure is over and the trilogy is complete.

 Yet maybe at some point in the future Abigail may have restless feet and want to resume her wandering.  It's also possible that some of her circus companions may want to join her, or that she may find new ones.   When you consider how strangely things sorted themselves out in the end, I would have to say that anything might happen.  You just never know.



Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Thrill Me by Susan Mallery @SusanMallery

Sometimes the one we let go is meant to be our true love. That's the case in Thrill Me, a second chance love story. Maya and Del were high school sweethearts until Maya dumped him because she didn't want to become like her mother. She didn't want to be young and have kids, instead she wanted to live life and find success, and they way she felt about Del, that would never happen. So she broke up with him.

Years later, she's back in Fool's Gold and so is Del, and since they both work in TV, they've been thrown together. The two of them admit to being attracted to one another, but of course the past creeps in, stopping them in their tracks.

I enjoyed the flirty banter in this book and a lot of the towns characters. Reading as Del and Maya found love again was fun. I'm more of a novella reader, so this one did seem to drag in a few places for me, but I pushed through and I'm glad I did. I had several moments I laughed because the Mayor of the town is a funny lady.

Susan Mallery isn't a new author on the block and I enjoyed her writing style.

If you're looking for a second chance love story, consider Thrill Me by Susan Mallery.

My Rating:

About the Book:

Meet the Mitchell brothers of Fool's Gold, California—five gorgeous men who've left a trail of broken hearts in their wake…

Maya Farlow learned the hard way to depend only on herself, so when she fell too deeply for the bad-boy charms of Del Mitchell, she did the only thing she could—she ran. Stunned, Del left Fool's Gold to make his name and fortune in extreme sports.

Now ten years later, Maya's been hired to promote her hometown's new slogan, The Destination for Romance. The celebrity spokesman is none other than Del, the man she dumped but never forgot. Awkward!

Although Del's not the type to hold a grudge, he's determined to avoid falling a second time for the woman who broke his heart. He's a daredevil, not an idiot. Trouble is, in all his adventures, he never found a rush as exhilarating as Maya's kiss. Maybe risking his heart will prove to be the biggest thrill of all…

Monday, August 3, 2015

Queen of the Night by J. A. Jance

Anna Faktorovich's academic study on mysteries and romances which I reviewed here, led me to try the mystery author J.A. Jance, who I'd never read before.  I was intrigued with what Faktorovich wrote about this author in her study.  So I took a look at descriptions on Goodreads of the books she'd written,  and decided that I'd probably enjoy reading this one.  It's a crime thriller rather than a mystery.  Readers won't need to see the major serial killer case solved.  The suspense lies in how the perpetrator's crime spree will finally be stopped. 

Queen of the Night is actually #4 in a series, but reading out of order never dismays me.  I believe that books ought to stand on their own.  If they don't, it's not my responsibility to remedy the situation by reading other books.  I will only read more books by the author if  I am hooked by the first one I tried.  That's why I'm so careful about my choice of first read by an author.  The Queen of the Night has a story line that deals with the legends and customs of the Tohono O'odham of Arizona.  I tend to like mysteries and thrillers that involve Native American background.  I definitely knew that I'd come to the right place when I saw that Jance had dedicated the book to Tony Hillerman.


The book opens with a really wonderful Tohono O'odham legend that is both feminist and anti-war about how the night blooming cereus flower came to be.   The annual blooming of this flower is a pivotal event in the plot.  I also loved discovering the concept of  "ghost scent".  This means that the scent of the night blooming cereus reminds the Tohono O'odham  of its story.

Yet it was a quote from Psalms that kept on running through my head when I thought about the stories of a number of the characters in this book.  I heard it  sung in Hebrew in my mind, but the best English version of the quote is:  "The stone that was rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone." (Psalms 118:22) Over and over Jance shows that people who are despised triumph.  I'm fond of underdogs, so this is very heartwarming to me.  The backgrounds of Dr. Lani Walker and Dan Pardee are the most compelling examples.

I do feel that Jance reached deep for the full humanity of all the prominent characters including the serial killer.  I don't mean that they were all sympathetic, but I understood where they were coming from.  We saw the heart of some of the relationships depicted in this novel.  The relationship between Diana Ladd and Brandon Walker was particularly moving.

This was a strong book that also taught me a bit about the Tohono O'odham.  I will definitely want to read another book in this series soon.                                              

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Reading Radar 8/1/2015 @katekerrigan @natmegevans

What's the Reading Radar? It's just a list of books that caught my interest in the last week, why they caught my interest, and HOW. Having been an author myself once upon a time, I was always curious about how to reach readers. I type this up every week to share with readers books they may be interested as well and to let the authors know how they're being "discovered".

I spotted all the titles this week on Netgalley.

The Milliner's Secret

The Milliner's Secret by Natalie Meg Evans. I love millinery. Wish it hadn't gone out of style here in the States. And oh, WWII. 'Nuff said.

London,1937. A talented young woman travels to Paris with a stranger. The promise of an exciting career as a milliner beckons, but she is about to fall in love with the enemy...

Londoner Cora Masson has reinvented herself as Coralie de Lirac, fabricating an aristocratic background to launch herself as a fashionable milliner. When the Nazis invade, the influence of a high-ranking lover, Dietrich, saves her business. But while Coralie retains her position as designer to a style-hungry elite, Paris is approaching its darkest hour.

Faced with the cruel reality of war and love, Coralie must make a difficult choice—protect herself or find the courage to fight for her friends, her freedom and everything she believes in.


The Dress by Kate Kerrigan caught my interest because I LOVE vintage dresses. I'm intrigued by the idea of a scandal/story around a fifties dress.

The DressLily Fitzpatrick loves vintage clothes - made all the more precious because they were once owned and loved by another woman. Thousands follow her vintage fashion blog and her daily Instagram feed. But this passion for the beautiful clothes of the past is about to have unforeseen consequences, when Lily stumbles upon the story of a 1950s New York beauty, who was not only everything Lily longs to be, but also shares Lily's surname.

Joy Fitzpatrick was a legend. But what was the famous dress which she once commissioned - said to be so original that nothing in couture would ever match it again? What happened to it - and why did Joy suddenly disappear from New York high society?

Kate Kerrigan's enthralling novel interweaves the dramatic story of Joy, the beautiful but tortured socialite and that of Lily - determined to uncover the truth and, if possible, bring back to life the legendary dress itself.