Sunday, July 29, 2012

Highlight: The Chaperone: A Novel by Laura Moriarty

Only a few years before becoming a famous silent-film star and an icon of her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, Kansas, to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone, who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle, a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip, has no idea what she’s in for. Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous black bob with blunt bangs, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will transform their lives forever.

For Cora, the city holds the promise of discovery that might answer the question at the core of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in this strange and bustling place she embarks on a mission of her own. And while what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, she is liberated in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of Cora’s relationship with Louise, her eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.

Drawing on the rich history of the 1920s,’30s, and beyond--from the orphan trains to Prohibition, flappers, and the onset of the Great Depression to the burgeoning movement for equal rights and new opportunities for women--Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone illustrates how rapidly everything, from fashion and hemlines to values and attitudes, was changing at this time and what a vast difference it all made for Louise Brooks, Cora Carlisle, and others like them.

"There is no Garbo! There is no Dietrich! There is only Louise Brooks!" - Henri Langlois, 1955

This n' That: Vacation, Hex Appeal edited by P.N. Elrod + Reading Update

Hey everyone! It sure has been slow around here lately... sorry about that... but, I'm getting ready to go on vacation and have been going a bit nuts cleaning up at work and getting ready for my little bit of summer sunshine and relaxation.

I have been reading, don't get me wrong! I've been relaxing as much as possible in between the craziness. Plus, I've been doing my regular summer young adult reading with the kids in the family. So far, I've re-read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer Stone, Book #1, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Book #2 by J. K. Rowling, with the young ones and following up the books by watching the movies. It has been fun!

Besides the fact that these books are so much fun to read along with the kiddies, I guess what really strikes me about those two books is how age appropriate they are, and how the writing changes, becoming more complex as the characters grow older. But those first two books are perfect for 9 and 11 year old kids.

But those two are not the only books that I've been reading that contain magic or magical beings. I finally finished the Hex Appeal Anthology edited by P.N. Elrod. Here's the summary for the book:

Fall under the intoxicating spell of their hex appeal…

In the magical world that lies hidden beneath our own, witches and conjurers play deadly games. They know just the right spell to kill a man with one kiss—or raise him back again. And they’re not afraid to exact sweet revenge on those who dare to cross them. But what if you’re the unlucky soul who falls victim to a conjurer’s curse? And if you had the power to cast a magic spell of your own, would you use it?

In this bewitching collection, nine of today’s hottest paranormal authors tell all-new, otherworldly tales. Spellbinding stories featuring bigfoot, albino vampires, professional wizards, resurrected boyfriends and even a sex droid from the twenty- third century named Silicon Lily. But as our conjurers are about to discover, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hexed. And sometimes, even the best spun spells can lead to complete and utter mayhem.
This anthology really turned out to be a wonderful read. It includes stories from Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Carole Nelson Douglas, P. N. Elrod, Simon R. Green, Lori Handeland, Erica Hayes, and Carrie Vaughn. They are all about characters who have been hexed. My favorite stories are:
Retribution Clause by Ilona Andrews, a story set in the same world as the Kate Daniels' series, but one that introduces new characters and a new city. I absolutely loved this short story, and the characters. The main character is Saiman's cousin -- also of the same species -- but much nicer partners a fascinating, feline-like powerful witch with lots of secrets. The story is scary, full of action with some understated sexual tension between the two main characters and a good ending. I would love to read more about these characters and this city because as it often happens with these writers and this world a short story is never enough for me.

Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden character appears in Bigfoot on Campus. He is another character that so far I seem to love in short stories although I have yet to read the series. In this one, Harry helps Bigfoot, Strength of a River in his Shoulders, by saving his son who is in danger from his vampire girlfriend. Of course there is more to this story! Narrated in the first person, this one is exciting and a bit on the sweet side.

How do you feel? by Simon R. Green. This is a Nightside story that covers Dead Boy's backstory. I really loved this nightmarish, dark story of betrayal and revenge with a touch of futuristic love. A speculative fiction short story that might not be for everyone, but is perfect for me!

Outside the Box by P.N. Elrod was a tale of vampires and the witches who help them. I really liked this one, but wish... oh how I wish that these two characters had their own continuing tale told in the future. They need follow-up. :)
Although those were my favorite stories, all the stories more or less fit the anthology's theme and they were all worth reading. Grade B-.

What am I reading right now? Well, I'm still reading Sexual Revolutions in Cuba: Passions, Politics and Memory by Carrie Hamilton. That book is a trip and a half. I keep swinging from anger to disbelief in some sections, but overall I'm really enjoying it and I'm reading it slowly and only when I can really concentrate. This is a book that will probably be read by my brothers as well as a few personal friends because it's such a great study.

However, in between, I've picked up a few category romances (because of the length) and other contemporary or romance suspense reads.

What books am I taking on my vacation? My Kindle with tons of books in case I get the chance to read. (Yeah, right!) And in print, You Will Meet a Stranger Far from Home: Wonder Stories by Alex Jeffers and 2012 Wilde Stories edited by Steve Berman. Those two books have short stories that I'll be able to read in between other activities. :)

Hope you all have a great week!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New Releases: August 2012

Here are a few releases scheduled for early August. The first two releases highlighted have been on my "to be read" list for a while. Green Thumb is a gay speculative fiction (post-apocalyptic) novella from favorite writer Tom Cardamone. And, Wild Texas Rose, the 6th installment in the Whispering Mountain western romance series is from another favorite writer, Jodi Thomas. So, these two books are not only definite reads, but expect reviews soon!

Title: Green Thumb: A Novella by Tom Cardamone
Release Date: August 2, 2012 (Brazenhead)

Mutability blooms in the Florida Keys after the Red War and the genie boxes. King Pelicans with the brains of scientists and a single human hand in place of one webbed foot rule the ruins of half-drowned Miami. Slavers roam the deep waters offshore, taking captives to feed the voracious Kudzu Army and the human aqueduct bearing fresh water from Lake Okeechobee. On the last stretch of the Overseas Highway still standing, an albino seeress slowly becomes her name: White Flamingo. ''You,'' she says. ''You will reach for the sun while staying rooted to the ground. But I fear your shadow will be much too long.''

Transformed by his father's genie box in the late days of the Red War, Leaf has lived for decades or centuries alone in a collapsing Victorian house on a desolate sandy key, misunderstanding time, feeding on sunlight and dew. When at last he meets a boy like--but so unlike!--himself, Leaf understands he has met destiny and sets out on a long, strange journey. A post-apocalyptic, psychoactive, polymorphous-perverse pastorale, Green Thumb will startle you with its utter strangeness and break your heart with its fragile beauty.

Title: Wild Texas Rose (Whispering Mountain #6) by Jodi Thomas
Release Date: August 7, 2012 (Berkeley)
Twenty-five-year-old Rose McMurray may be beautiful, smart, and capable of running her family's ranch at Whispering Mountain, but she's backed away from marriage three times without giving anyone reasons. Everyone thinks she is a coward, afraid of any adventure, including falling in love. She's never done a single wild or reckless thing in her life...until now.

Duncan McMurray, like Rose, was adopted into the family. As a Texas Ranger, he swears he'll never settle down and marry. He's been Rose's guardian angel since they were kids but for the first time in their lives he's the one who has caused her to be in danger. Somehow, he has to protect her from an outlaw gang determined to kill her without letting Rose know of the danger she's in. He's convinced that her heart can't take the stress if she knows...the only question is can his heart take the nearness of her.

When opposites collide the adventure begins...

And from Kensington Books the following three books releasing on August 1st all look good to me. I'm going with Naked Games, a hot erotic romance from Anne Rainey; Demon Hunting in the Deep South, what looks to be a funny, Southern paranormal romance by Lexi George, and Don't Say a Word, a romance suspense from Beverly Barton, a well-known writer who passed away on April 2011 but who left behind a legacy in books.

Title: Naked Games (Hard to Get #3) by Anne Rainey (Aphrodesia)
Dean enjoys women of all varieties, but unless they’re naked and in his bed he doesn’t have much use for them. He trusted his heart and soul to a woman before and he won’t let it happen again.

Then Dean meets curvy Catherine Michaels, the mouthy woman claiming to be Gracie Baron’s long lost baby sister. He’s immediately suspicious of the pretty redhead, but he can’t seem to keep his distance.

He aches to strip her bare so he can sip at her satiny skin. But once Dean’s had a taste of her succulent body, he wants more. In fact, he wants her for his own.

Title: Demon Hunting in the Deep South by Lexi George (Brava)
Shy, self-conscious Evie Douglass tries to stay under the radar, especially when petite socialite Meredith Starr Peterson, aka The Death Starr, is anywhere around. Meredith and her bitch posse of skinny girlfriends have tormented Evie about her size since seventh grade. Unfortunately, it's hard for a plus-sized gal to stay invisible in a small town like Hannah, Alabama. And then Evie finds Meredith brutally murdered. Suddenly, she's the number one suspect in a sensational murder case. Worse, Hannah is infested with demons, and the only thing standing between them and Evie is a hunky blond demon slayer named Ansgar.

Evie could swear, though, that Ansgar is interested in more than demons. She could swear that he's interested in her...

Title: Don't Say a Word by Beverly Barton (Zebra)
Cross Your Heart…

One by one, they will die. He has waited patiently, planning their final moments. Their tortured screams, their pleas for mercy—all will be in vain...

And Hope…

Homicide detective Julia Cass has witnessed plenty of crime scenes. But the murder of a Chattanooga judge is shocking in its brutality. Teamed with FBI agent Will Brannock, Julia delves into an investigation that soon unearths more bodies—all mutilated in the same way, all left with a gruesome souvenir of a killer’s ruthless rage…

To Die…

The only way to stop the slaughter is to predict the next victim. But when you’re dealing with vengeance at its most ruthless, one wrong move can make you a target…and the next word you utter could be your last…

For a change of pace, these are ALL early releases. Any books you're looking forward to reading in August?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Minis: Strike Zone by Kate Angell, The Breach by Patrick Lee

Hey... July has been one hot month so far! I've been pretty much staying away from the blogosphere and twitter, trying to concentrate on family, friends and outdoor activities. Yes, I've 'checked out' a bit, although not altogether, but I've been reading.

Actually, I began rearranging the print books in my TBR in a new book shelf and now that they are "visible," they are looking readable again! I actually read (and finished) three books from my TBR pile earlier this month, the first one Open Season by Linda Howard, I reviewed for the TBR Challenge this month, here are the other two:

Strike Zone (Richmond Rogues #3) by Kate Angell has been in my TBR for a long time and I purchased it based on Nath's recommendation.

Strike Zone is a contemporary romance with baseball players (pitchers) as the male protagonists and baseball as the background, which I love. Two couples, Brek and Taylor and Sloan and Eve, find their happy ever after.

Brek and Taylor's is the main romance with a second chance at love trope. Taylor left Brek at the altar a few years back when her parents died in a tragic accident. She went on to live her life as a thrill seeker, and now that Brek is engaged to be married she comes back to apologize for her behavior, but of course there are unresolved feelings between the two. This storyline would have been great, except that Brek and Taylor didn't spend too much time together and although there is a happy ever after in the end, the reader never gets to experience how they really work out their differences. Everything just... kind of happens, and that includes the end of Brek's engagement.

Sloan is a young pitcher, and pretty much a superficial hunk with lots of groupies. He has his pick of women and enjoys choosing his one-night stands. He goes after Taylor first, but as he and Taylor's sister Eve get thrown together often, ends off liking her instead. Their romance is cute and I like the way Eve puts Sloan in his place, and Sloan makes Eve feel daring. But, frankly I wish their story had been longer or better developed.

Both romances in Striking Zone have likable characters, the baseball atmosphere is delightful, unfortunately although a cute, nice read, by making both romances central to the story neither is really developed enough to make this a memorable read. Grade C


I also read The Breach by Patrick Lee, a book that was recommended to me by amazon (because of my browsing history). I purchased it and it has been in my TBR where I just let it linger...

The Breach is a suspense action/thriller with sci-fi flavor. I know those look like a lot of categories, but believe me, this book fits them all. Travis Chase is an ex-cop/ex-con trying to make some decisions about his life while hiking in Alaska. He finds a crashed airplane full of dead bodies and one strange note giving instructions to retrieve an artifact taken by the killers. Travis ends up saving  Paige Campbell's life and retrieving the artifact, but he's about to enter a world that will change the course of his life. A world that contains the Breach and "artifacts" that can change the world as we know it. Paige is tough. She's a combination scientist, super soldier with a spine of steel, with a few vulnerable spots that show at the most unexpected of times throughout the story.

Travis and Paige team up to save the world in this action packed story full of twists and turns, scientific as well as some science fiction details. The pacing is so quick that there's no putting the book down once you begin reading it, and the story feels shorter than it actually is (384 pages), as Travis and Paige run all over the world trying to figure out how to beat the villain of the piece, a super-intelligent, cold as ice villain. There's suspense, a mystery to unravel, cool gadgets, and gun fights with some horrific violent scenes included.

I think of The Breach as one of those fun action/thriller suspense reads (with some sci-fi flavor to spice things up) that are great to pick up in the summer because they're so full of action and such quick reads that it becomes tough to put them down. That's a big positive, but in reality this was not a great read for me. Why? It has a great beginning with a wonderful premise but there are holes in the storyline, the secondary characters are never more than two dimensional, and while I found Paige's characterization stereotypical, Travis left me cold. I questioned his decision-making abilities from the beginning and that's not a good thing. Example: why did he wait until Paige's father was dead before taking action? That was my first WTF moment -- I had a few more along the way.
Grade C+

So far I've enjoyed contemporary romances by Kate Angell, but they have not been big winners for me. That doesn't mean that I won't read more. I like the atmosphere that she creates and the likable characters usually make her books enjoyable while I'm reading the books. If I want a quick contemporary romance fix, I'll keep Angell in mind. :)

And will I read the other two books in the Travis Chase trilogy by Patrick Lee? I already had the second book in my TBR (yes, I bought books 1 and 2), so I will be reading Ghost Country, and that means I will probably finish the trilogy. I hope the other two books are quick, action packed thrillers like the first one. :)

Friday, July 20, 2012

TBR Highlights: Gay Spec Fic, Fiction, Non-Fiction

This was my week to again review a (one) book from my ever-growing TBR (to be read) pile. Last month I highlighted books added to my Kindle library, this month I would like to share with you some of the latest print books added to my book shelves.

My additions? They are a motley crew! You tell me:

Wilde Stories 2012: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction ed. Steve Berman (Lethe Press, July 2012)
Prepare to skew your view of the world: where jinni in the clouds of a future Tel Aviv aren't spirits but powerful computer programs; where a suburban garden hiding unrecognizable bones; to a planet colony that outlaws color; or the night when a lonely lab tech finds a spambot flirting with him. The latest volume in the acclaimed Wilde Stories series has tales of hitchhikers on the run, dragons in the sky, swordsmen drawing their blades. These are stories fantastic and strange, otherworldly and eerie, but all feature gay men struggling with memories or lovers or simply the vicissitudes of life no matter how wild the world might be.
I loved the 2011 Wilde Stories Anthology and wasn't about to miss this one. But why in print? Well... my 2011 copy is in print and I like to be consistent when keeping collections, plus the cover for this book looked gorgeous. As it turns out, the cover IS gorgeous, now I have high hopes for the stories. :)


Sexual Revolutions in Cuba: Passion, Politics, and Memory by Carrie Hamilton (University of North Carolina Press, March 2012)
In "Sexual Revolutions in Cuba" Carrie Hamilton delves into the relationship between passion and politics in revolutionary Cuba to present a comprehensive history of sexuality on the island from the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 into the twenty-first century. Drawing on an unused body of oral history interviews as well as press accounts, literary works, and other published sources, Hamilton pushes beyond official government rhetoric and explores how the wider changes initiated by the Revolution have affected the sexual lives of Cuban citizens. She foregrounds the memories and emotions of ordinary Cubans and compares these experiences with changing policies and wider social, political, and economic developments to reveal the complex dynamic between sexual desire and repression in revolutionary Cuba.

Showing how revolutionary and pre-revolutionary values coexist in a potent and sometimes contradictory mix, Hamilton addresses changing patterns in heterosexual relations, competing views of masculinity and femininity, same-sex relationships and homophobia, AIDS, sexual violence, interracial relationships, and sexual tourism. Hamilton's examination of sexual experiences across generations and social groups demonstrates that sexual politics have been integral to the construction of a new revolutionary Cuban society.
Now this book falls more under Latino Studies (history and sexuality in Latin America). The subject fascinates me. The whole idea of a sexuality study done by way of oral history (interviewing subjects) was intriguing enough, but throw in the fact that this is a Latin American country that has undergone political upheaval, and my curiosity as to how those changes influenced sexuality did me in... I had to have it! Ebook format is not available! (I'm reading this book right now)


Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel by Edmund White (Atlas & Co., October 2008)
Poet and prodigy Arthur Rimbaud led a life that was startlingly short, but just as dramatically eventful and accomplished. Even today, over a century after his death in 1891, his visionary poetry has continued to influence everyone from Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan to Patti Smith. His long poem A Season in Hell (1873) and his collection Illuminations (1886) are essential to the modern canon, marked by a hallucinatory and hypnotic style that defined the Symbolist movement in poetry. Having sworn off writing at the age of twenty-one, Rimbaud drifted around the world from scheme to scheme, ultimately dying from an infection contracted while running guns in Africa. He was thirty-seven.

Edmund White writes with a historian's eye for detail, driven by a genuine personal investment in his subject. White delves deep into the young poet's relationships with his family, his teachers, and his notorious affair with the more established poet Paul Verlaine. He follows the often elusive (sometimes blatant) threads of sexual taboo that haunt Rimbaud's poems (in those days, sodomy was a crime) and offers incisive interpretations of the poems, using his own artful translations to bring us closer to the mercurial poet.
I've had this biography of the French poet Rimbaud on my wish list since approximately the time the book was released but for one reason or another always put off buying it for later... and later. Well, I finally purchased it. I hope it doesn't take me four years to read it. :) I've always been fascinated by both the poetry and the poet.


Boys Like Us edited by Patrick Merla (Harper Paperbacks, October 1997)
In stunning essays written especially for this collection, 29 noted gay writers recount their true "coming out" stories, intensely personal histories of the primal process by which men come to terms with their homosexuality. These essays form a documentary of changing social and sexual mores, timed to coincide with National Coming Out Day (October 11) and AIDS Awareness Month.(
Boys Like Us falls under the Gay Studies Memoir category, and it is a Lambda Literary Award winner. These are essays written by gay writers about their coming out experiences. This is another book I've had on my wish list for a long time that finally made it to my personal library.


The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd (Dial, May 2009)
It's Dade's last summer at home. He has a crappy job at Food World, a "boyfriend" who won't publicly acknowledge his existence (maybe because Pablo also has a girlfriend), and parents on the verge of a divorce. College is Dade's shining beacon of possibility, a horizon to keep him from floating away.

Then he meets the mysterious Alex Kincaid. Falling in real love finally lets Dade come out of the closet - and, ironically, ignites a ruthless passion in Pablo. But just when true happiness has set in, tragedy shatters the dreamy curtain of summer, and Dade will use every ounce of strength he's gained to break from his past and start fresh with the future.
The Vast Fields of Ordinary is another book I've had in my wish list since it released in 2009. I do this a lot! I add books to my list and then wait to buy them. This book is young adult gay fiction. It won the 2010 Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Literature Award and I understand it's good. Why print? I found a used hardcover copy at a great price, so why not?

Have you read any of these books? Are any of these books in your TBR? I added three (3) non-fiction books to my print book collection. Do you enjoy reading non-fiction?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

TBR Review: Open Season by Linda Howard

Be careful what you wish for....

On her thirty-fourth birthday, Daisy Minor decides to make over her entire life. The small-town librarian has had it with her boring clothes, her ordinary looks, and nearly a decade without so much as a date. It's time to get a life -- and a sex life. The perennial good girl, Daisy transforms herself into a party girl extraordinaire -- dancing the night away at clubs, laughing and flirting with abandon -- and she's declared open season for manhunting. But her free-spirited fun turns to shattering danger when she witnesses something she shouldn't -- and becomes the target of a killer. Now, before she can meet the one man who can share her life, first she may need him to save it.

Seamlessly blending heart-pounding romance and breathless intrigue, Linda Howard delivers a stylish and provocative novel that absolutely defies readers to put it down.
I've been wanting to read Open Season for a long time. Don't ask me why I never picked it up, I usually end up loving Linda Howard's books and Open Season is no exception. A romance between the small-town librarian and the Chief of Police? What's not to like? And a romance it is. Open Season is categorized as a romance suspense, however because the suspense is not substantial and there's no real mystery, this book is really what I think of as a thinly disguised romance where the suspense serves to drive the romance. So let's talk about what constitutes the meat of the story.

Daisy Minor is what people think of as a "typical" small-town librarian. Well-respected but overlooked by all, Daisy lives with her elderly mother and aunt. She pretty much acts like an old fashioned naive spinster from another era and dresses the part. On her thirty-fourth birthday Daisy decides she's had it with being a "good girl" and makes major changes in her life. A makeover and some shopping are a good beginning and moving to her own apartment helps, but her answer to finding a man is to hunt one down at nightclubs by becoming a party girl. This leads Daisy into trouble when she inadvertently witnesses a murder and becomes the killer's target.

Jack Russo was a big city cop and SWAT officer in both Chicago and New York City, but after his divorce and the death of his aunt exchanged that life to be the Chief of Police in the small town of Hillsboro, Alabama. He runs a clean, dry town and the last thing he expects is big trouble, murder or to become helplessly attracted to the town's prissy and naive librarian. But that's just what happens to Jack.

Daisy is looking for a man, but Jack is not her type: he's an outsider and too muscular/fit for her. Jack is not looking for a woman, and although Daisy's eyes and smile are truly attractive, she's not his type: she's too prissy and conservative for him. But as Daisy undergoes her makeover and gets in the way of Jack's ongoing investigation in the nightclubs, he can't help but feel protective and more attracted to her, and the more she tells Jack he's not her kind of man the more he gets on her way. Their physical attraction grows and whether she likes it or not slowly but surely Jack becomes her man.

Oh Lord! There are such great scenes in this book between Daisy and Jack. Under the guise of protecting Daisy, Jack basically seduces her, and she helps along by spilling the beans to her family and the whole town. I mean almost everybody has an idea of what's going on between Daisy and Jack even before they do! And while there's sexual tension and their bedroom scenes are super hot, others are fun and hilarious. Just read the PartyPak condom scenes, there are two of them. The discussion that follows had me laughing, and I mean out loud! Those two didn't know when to stop!

The suspense involves sexual slavery and transporting females illegally from foreign countries for that purpose, date rape drugs are used to subdue the women and one man is using the drugs on local women at the nightclubs. There's no mystery as to who is involved in the crimes, so this becomes more of a police procedural (how Jack and company figure out the truth), and of course keeping Daisy safe from the killers. The resolution to all of these threads is a bit surprising, but not really dramatic.

On the other hand, the romance is very satisfying. This romance grows from prickly dislike between Jack and Daisy, to a sort of friendship, some pretty hot and steamy scenes because they can't keep their hands off of each other and on to love. I loved their dialogue throughout the story, particularly how Jack went out of his way to rile and tease Daisy, and his attempts to play down jealousy and protectiveness when other males came into the picture. I loved that Daisy found her man and happiness, but the real Daisy didn't change... much. Open Season was a surprise because as a romance suspense it turned out to be a fun and very enjoyable romance with a suspense plot that just happened to be part of that romance.
Theme: Free Pick Month
July Review

Category: Romance Suspense
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Pocket Books/August 2001, Hardcover
Source: From Mariana, NJ Blogger book swap on July 2011
Grade: B

Find out more about Linda Howard here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Midyear Recap: Favorite Reads January through June 2012

It is time for the midyear recap covering books read from January through June 2012. What's different? I gave out more A's than usual this first half of the year, so they are all included below. This year I've separated the titles by category and in no particular order of preference. I'm keeping it simple and will leave that chore for my end-of-year post. :) Let's look at my list:

2012 New Releases:

Contemporary Romance/Suspense: The Witness by Nora Roberts (Putnam, 2012): A
Historical Romance: Starlight (The Christies #2) by Carrie Lofty (Pocket, 2012): A-
Fantasy: Range of Ghosts (Eternal Sky#1) by Elizabeth Bear (Tor Books, 2012): A-

Gay Historical Romance: Purgatory: A Novel of the Civil War by Jeff Mann (Bear Bones Books, 2012): A-
Gay Fantasy: Point of Knives; A Novel of Aestreiant by Melissa Scott (Lethe Press, 2012) A-
Poetry: Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral (Yale University Press, 2012): A
Poetry: He Will Laugh by Douglas Ray (Lethe Press, 2012): A-

Re-Released in 2012:

Historical Romance: The Temporary Wife by Mary Balogh (Dell, 2012): A
Historical Romance: The Rake by Mary Jo Putney (Kensington Books, 2012): A
Gay Historical Romance: It Takes Two by Elliott Mackle (Lethe Press, 2012): A

Released in 2011:

Gay Contemporary Romance: Split by Mel Bossa (Bold Strokes Books, 2011): A-

As always this is a frustrating process for me. Of course As should be on my top reads list, but there are so many books that I thoroughly enjoyed this first half of the year that it would be sad if some of those awesome, memorable Bs went unmentioned. So here are a few honorable mentions, some released in 2012 and others before, but all reviewed this year: We the Animals by Justin TorresThe Proposition by Judith IvoryDrown by Junot DiazOld Man's War by John ScalziShards of Honour by Lois McMaster BujoldHistory's Passion: Sex Before Stonewall edited by Richard LabonteThe Heart's History by Lewis DeSimoneHer Best Worst Mistake by Sarah MayberryTaxi Rojo by Erik Orrantia, and well... there are so many more my list could go on and on. :)

Total books read as of June 2012: 95 

Grades (+/- included with numbers):
A = 11
B = 53
C = 29
DNF = 1 (exception - I don't really keep a running # of books I don't finish)
NG = 1

Interesting points? 3/11 A's allotted to previously published books, and 5/11 to LGBT books. I will break down my numbers by category on my year-end post. NOTE: These numbers do not include miscellaneous short stories read from anthologies or collections that were not completely read/finished, poetry, etc. I don't list those unless I finish the whole book.

That's it for the first half of the year, it was a great one for me. Let's hope the second half is just as good or better!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

June 2012: Reads + Summary

In June, summer finally arrived in full force and my reading slowed down dramatically. By the end of the month, I found myself needing a break from reading and blogging in order to enjoy outdoorsy events. However, as we all know, quality has nothing to do with quantity, and as you will see below quality-wise June was a great reading month for me.

Total books read: 9
 Contemporary Romance: 1
 Historical Romance: 3
 Science Fiction (Police Procedural): 1
 LGBT: 3 (Gay Spec Fic: 1, Gay Fic/Rom: 1, Gay Hist Mystery/Rom: 1)
 Poetry: 1

  1. Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral: Slow Lightning is one of my top reads of the month. I did not write a full review, instead I highlighted it and wrote a recommendation, but this is a magnificent little book of poetry that I will enjoy for a long time since I re-read poetry over and over again. I recommend it highly. Grade: A
  2. Starlight (The Christies #2) by Carrie Lofty: I loved this historical romance for its atmosphere and characters that ended up winning me over. The romance was sexy and ultimately satisfying. Grade: A-
  3. The Touch of the Sea edited by Steve Berman: Overall this anthology was such a wonderful flight of fancy. The stories took me away and made me dream of the sea. This is definitely one of those books that you can read by the beach while people watching. I guarantee that the stories will make you wonder. . . Grade: B
  4. A Night Like This (Smythe-Smith #2) by Julia Quinn: Julia Quinn is known for her fun and light historical romances, and this book has those qualities. I needed some fun and some lightness, so the Smythe-Smith series was perfect for me. Enjoyable! Grade: B
  5. No Tan Lines by Kate Angell: Now here's a book that spells summer. I wanted to be at the Boardwalk while reading it, and after. I had a few problems with the inclusion of two other romances and lack of focus on the main couple, but otherwise this was an enjoyable, if average, read for me. Grade: C
  6. Logan's Outlaw (Men of Defiance #4) by Elaine Levine: This western romance took me by surprise with its combination of harsh, violent situations and sweet romance. Although I believe that there are readers out there who won't enjoy this combination, it worked for me. Grade: B-
  7. Taxi Rojo by Erik Orrantia: This was my first book by Erik Orrantia. I absolutely loved his depiction of Tijuana, Mexico, as well as his rendering of everyday people who struggle to find hope and happiness. Mr. Orrantia's characters stayed with me. Grade: B+
  8. It Takes Two by Elliott Mackle: It Takes Two was my very favorite read of the month. I love the way the author transported me to a racially divided little town in a post-WWII America. There was no waste to this story beginning with the depiction of racial bigotry and ending with the realistic romance that develops between the two main characters. Loved it! Grade: A
  9. The Last Policeman: A Novel by Ben H. Winters: Now... let's talk about this pre-apocalyptic police procedural (that's not easy to say). In this science fiction story the rendering of the main character and the pseudo-contemporary setting really grabbed my attention. I will be reading the rest of the trilogy because I need to know where Winters will take his character and the overall story arc in the end! Grade: B+
What am I reading at the moment? Well, I just finished another book by Elliott Mackle, Captain Harding and His Men, the second book in his Captain Harding series. However overall, I am finding that the heat of summer has given me an appetite for romance suspense, contemporary romance and science fiction! Interesting, right? I'm not sure what I'll pick up next!

That's it for June, I hope yours was as enjoyable as mine. Did you find any great reads in June that you would love to recommend? Any gems out there? Let us know!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Review: It Takes Two by Elliott Mackle

It Takes Two is a gay historical romance/mystery set right after World War II in the Southern town of Fort Myers, Florida. In his first novel, Elliott Mackle tackles bigotry against homosexuality and people of color, PTSD affecting veterans of World War II, and a 'why-done-it,' all while building a romance-in-the-making between the two central characters, Dan and Bud.

U.S. Navy veteran, Lieutenant Dan Ewing has suffered from survivors’ guilt and nightmares ever since he lost his best buddy and sexual partner of 18 months when his ship was sunk by a submarine and the majority of the men were lost at sea. In Spencer 'Bud' Wright, he finally seems to have found the man whose company helps him find solace. Unfortunately, Bud fights the reality of their attraction and relationship. Sergeant Bud Wright, veteran and ex-sharpshooter, is now a Lee County detective. He and Dan are having what he thinks of as a friendship with occasional sexual benefits. Bud is not beneath playing a little grab-ass, but a homosexual? No. He is confused and scared of the consequences, but most of all afraid 'mixing it up' with Dan might be more than just the fulfillment of a teen-age fantasy. What poor deluded Bud doesn't understand is that sooner or later Dan always gets what he wants.

Managing the Caloosa Hotel with its private club where gambling, drinking and loose behaviors are only acceptable behind closed doors becomes a dangerous proposition for Dan, especially after he inadvertently becomes involved in one of Bud's murder investigations. In a hotel room located at the edge of 'Colored Town,' two men are found shot: a colored soldier and a white man. The white man is husband to the daughter of the most influential man in town. All hell breaks loose when the white man's widow shows up and shoots up the scene, almost shooting Dan in the process. Bud and Dan get mixed up in a whydunit that involves powerful players, bigotry, the KKK, civil rights advocates, and corruption.

It Takes Two is written in the first person narrative from Dan's perspective. In Mackle's hands the first person point of view becomes quite effective as he creates a quick, intimate connection between the reader and the narrator's emotions. The result is that he reeled me in from page one. However, (and this has become one of my favorite aspects of Elliott Mackle's writing style), Bud and the secondary characters, as seen through Dan's point of view, are just as fleshed out as Dan is himself.

The story must be read and the characters viewed from a historical and not a contemporary perspective. These characters have just been through war, seen the world and experienced situations that vastly changed their lives and their points of view. Yet, with few exceptions, when they return home America remains much the same as before these soldiers went to war, particularly in places like Fort Myers. The time is right after World War II and Mackle certainly succeeds by using the right historical touches and creating an atmosphere that transports the reader to place and time. Personally, I love the way language is consistently used throughout to maximize all of the above.

Mr. Mackle utilizes the whydunit aspect of the story as a tool to enhance the historical elements, Southern atmosphere, and to develop the budding romance between Dan and Bud. Mackle also weaves in the subject of PTSD seamlessly and with authority, and by using ex-servicemen and women as central and secondary characters gives this story a wonderful military-on-leave atmosphere outside of the military environment that feels true to time and place, making It Takes Two an excellent read.

Last year, I fell a little in love with Elliott Mackle's writing style after reading Captain Harding's Six Day War because of the way he drew me into the story, but along the way found myself falling rather hard for his characters. Fortunately for me It Takes Two was reprinted and re-released because this time I fell rather hard for both his writing style as well as with his wonderful characters -- I loved Dan and Bud! This is a book I will re-read, so it is definitely highly recommended.

Category: LGBT - Gay Historical/Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Lethe Press/June 1, 2012
Source: ARC from author
Grade: A

Visit Elliott Mackle here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Overview: The Expanse by James S.A. Corey (Leviathan Wakes #1, Caliban's War #2)

Last year I read, and loved, the first book in James S.A. Corey's science fiction space opera series, The Expanse. As the first book, Leviathan Wakes sets up the trilogy perfectly, and in Caliban's War development of the world, characters, and circumstances are magnified and expanded upon.

Overview: The Expanse
The writing team that makes up James S.A. Corey, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, borrowed from different genres to set up this series. This is a space opera, which means lots of action adventure in space with a wide variety of characters, but so far there are also strong elements of a mystery/thriller in both installments. The authors made this blend of genres work.

Science Fiction: The Expanse series features the space battles and action that are expected of a space opera. Those battles are described in detail, but not to the extent that a military sci-fi story would take such scenes, instead they are quick and to the point. The same can be said for science details, explanations are given to satisfy, but more often than not the little nitty gritty details often found in hard sci-fi are not there. Readers looking through a magnifying glass for in-depth scientific details will be disappointed, while others, like me, will be thoroughly satisfied.

Other Elements: Because the battles are fast and furious and the scientific details are part of, but not central to the story, the reader focuses on the rest: the plot that drives each story, the characters that populate them, the overall story arc and the atmosphere. In addition to science fiction action adventure, there are other elements that made both books excellent reads for me. In Leviathan Wakes it is the noir mystery/thriller detective aspect of the story, mixed with more than just a dash of horror. Caliban's War has the mystery/thriller with a healthy dose of political intrigue added to the action, and while the physical horror is less prominent, it takes on a more psychological flavor.

The World: The world is our own solar system. The Epstein Drive allowed humanity to reach the outer planets in our solar system, including the Belt, if not the stars. Natural resources give Earth its power while Mars holds the technological advantage. Although allies, Earth and Mars are fierce competitors that see each other as possible enemies -- political games and jockeying for power abound -- and there's always the possibility that open war might ignite.

Belters are at the bottom of the food chain. The engineering genius of Tycho Manufacturing and Engineering Concern allowed humans to populate the artificial environment of working stations in such places as Ceres and Eros, by building reaction drives that allowed asteroids to spin, as if on an axis, and stabilized the massive rocks, creating huge artificial planets. Because of the artificial environment -- low gravity, artificial air and light and confined spaces -- throughout the centuries Belters have physically mutated to accommodate that environment.

Belters depend wholly on Earth and Mars for everything they need to survive: security, money, goods, technology, food, water, and even the air they breath. Earth and Mars control Belters by using these needs against them, particularly food, water and air. As a result, there is a rebel faction pushing for the Belt's independence and demanding they be recognized as important contributors to the solar system. The OPA, or the Outer Planets Alliance is that faction and Fred Johnson, an Earther known as the Butcher of Anderson Station, is their leader. (See mini about short story here

The Conflict: The main conflict is one where the major players, Earth and Mars, are fighting for power, with Belters playing the role of underdog. Major corporations, political games, greed and fear all play a major role as our main characters find out throughout the course of their adventures. Alien presence is not exactly physical, but takes the form of a protomolecule sent to our solar system, finally proving that there is something "out there" and that "they" have either been or are trying to get "here." The race to own the protomolecule is what it's all about, and of course to the greedy, the end justifies the means.

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1)

Leviathan Wakes is told in the first point of view from the alternating perspectives of the two main characters: Captain Jim Holden and Detective Miller, with the first chapter told from Julie's point of view. This splits the story into two: a space adventure and a detective story, with both halves meeting and mixing quite effectively in the middle to provide the thrill.

The mystery in Leviathan Wakes is followed by a "nourish" character that could have stepped straight out of a pulp fiction novel. Detective Miller, the depressed, and cynical Belter who becomes obsessed with finding and saving a young girl serves as the "mood" setter for the novel with his pessimistic and cynical views. Miller needs to save and be saved, and Julie is his answer. When I visualize Miller, I see him in black, white and different shades of gray, never in color.

Color is saved for Holden from whose perspective we experience the space adventure. An Earther, Captain Jim Holden is a terminal ideologist and rather naive. With his linear way of thinking, Holden is portrayed as a straight shooter who thinks that if he tells the truth as he sees it others will do the right thing, and more often than not winds up causing mayhem. However, Holden's character serves to counterbalance the pessimism and cynicism that Miller brings to Leviathan Wakes. If Holden balances out Miller, Holden's mixed crew helps to balance Holden's character. Naomi, a Belter, Alex, a Martian and Amos, an Earther, all provide that much needed backup that a Captain in a science fiction adventure needs, with Naomi serving as the romantic interest in the story.

The action is fast and furious, almost non-stop, for Holden and his crew as they race to save themselves and the solar system. The plot takes the characters, and the reader, into a world where humans turn into the unknown by the unknown, making room for incorporating some pretty horrific scenes as greedy and unscrupulous humans experiment with what they see as alien technology. The 'whodunit' is full of twists and turns with an unexpected final truth that will change humanity forever, and one that also provides an exciting and organic ending to this first installment in the series.

Leviathan Wakes is the first book in this science fiction opera that has all the action and enough science fiction details any reader would expect of just such an endeavor. Yet for me, the amazing characters and the excellent mystery/thriller in this fantastic space adventure are the ones that lifted it from being just another tale about space ships, spectacular battles and chases through space. This book is a big winner for me all around.

Caliban's War (The Expanse #2)

Caliban's War has a different atmosphere. There is a new mystery to follow, but the "noir" atmosphere found in the first book is lost as the James S.A. Corey writing team adds new characters to the mix, further develops the world and expands the overall story arc introduced in Leviathan Wakes.

The story is again divided into alternating chapters told in the first point of view from the perspective of the main characters. However, in Caliban's War there are four narrators: Holden, Prax, Bobbie, and Avasarala with the first chapter narrated by Mei. Interestingly enough, there are still two halves to the story as Holden and Prax quickly team up to provide a combination of space adventure and mystery/thriller and Avasarala and Bobbie do the same to provide the political intrigue and the rest of the details necessary to solve the mystery.

Prax is a botanist at the agricultural Ganymede Station where Bobbie is a Marine for the Martian forces. When a monster kills UN Marine Forces and all of Bobbie's crew as they each patrol their sides of the fields, leaving her as the only survivor of the incident, The shooting is misunderstood and a battle breaks out between Mars and Earth, damaging and dooming Ganymede Station.  Bobbie is lifted from the station and taken to Earth and the UN where she meets Avasarala and enters the world of political intrigue. Meanwhile, Prax rushes to pick up his daughter Mei so they can evacuate, but finds that she is missing along with 15 other children suffering from the same illness. Desperate, Prax lingers on the station looking for his missing daughter and unable to find help from the authorities begs help from Holden who just arrived with his crew at the station under OPA orders to check out the situation.

The race is on again for Holden, Prax and the Rocinante's crew as in the process of looking for Mei they find residue of the alien protomolecule that was thought to be under control or only found at Venus. Fear takes over, but worst than that are the questions: What was that thing? Who has been tampering with the protomolecule?  Everybody is pointing fingers, war between the planets is imminent... and Venus is still changing. Soon it becomes clear that while some are looking at the trees, others are looking at the forest and that winning this war means more than just grabbing power.

Caliban's War is a great follow up book to Leviathan Wakes. The characters are not a disappointment either. There's character growth for Holden, Naomi and the crew, plus the romantic storyline between Holden and Naomi continues, conflict included. Avasarala, as assistant to the undersecretary of executive administrator at Earth's UN, is the best new character introduced to the mix -- a little tea-drinking grandmother that makes a foul-mouthed sailor sound like schoolboy (dang can she swear!), she is a tough-as-nails politician who plays the "game" to win or die. I again found the action to be excellent, even  though there was element of predictability during the battles. There is a great resolution to the conflicts presented in this installment, and yes... the ending left me holding my breath! Not a cliff hanger, but it definitely left me wanting more, now!

Conclusion: Leviathan Wakes is an excellent beginning to The Expanse series and a book that I highly recommend, and Caliban' War is a great follow up book with no real disappointments. When I began reading this series, I understood that this was going to be a trilogy. That made me really happy. Abbadon's Gate will be the last book of this trilogy and will complete the story that started with Leviathan Wakes. However, the authors have been contracted to write five additional novellas in this world so they can complete the overall story arc. I'm excited!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Review: Slow Summer Kisses by Shannon Stacey

Anna Frazier is used to living life at 100 mph, but being downsized out of a job in the financial industry has her permanently stalled. With nowhere to "go, go, go, " Anna hails a cab to her grandparents' neglected New Hampshire camp to plan her next move. It seems like a good idea--until she realizes there's no takeout to be had and the boy next door has grown into a sexy but surly recluse.

Cameron Mayfield knows he can kiss his peace and quiet goodbye when Hurricane Anna blows in. She was loud and bossy as a ten-year-old--and besides developing some attractive curves, she hasn't changed. Cam's not looking for a relationship, especially not with a woman like Anna. He nearly broke down on that road once before. So why can't he stop thinking about her?

It's not long before their sizzling attraction leads to smoking-hot kisses. But as the days get shorter, Anna must decide if she's found a new road to happiness, or just taken a detour.
Slow Summer Kisses by Shannon Stacey is a short summer romance with fun filled moments between the two main characters. It's the type of summer romance that I usually love to read any time of the year.

After losing her job and while looking for a new one, Anna goes to her grandparent's camp in New Hampshire to stay and to maybe learn how to relax a little. An almost impossible task for a woman who doesn't seem to know when to stop and smell the roses. Cameron, the boy she knew from childhood summer days, is now her gorgeous neighbor and so easy on the eye that Anna can spend hours just enjoying him as the view. Unfortunately, although he helps her when needed, the man is permanently cranky and prefers his own company.

Cam has been there and done that... he recognizes the type of woman Anna has become, a workaholic with ambitions, the same traits that killed his father and would have done the same to him. But Cam changed his life and now lives at the camp in New Hampshire on a full-time basis. He keeps telling himself that he doesn't like Anna... that is until he can't help himself and they begin sharing slow kisses.
"A kiss should be anticipated. You should know it's coming so your heart can beat faster and your skin can flush with heat." - Cam
I enjoyed the light atmosphere, the heat and summery atmosphere in this story. Additionally, Cam and Anna knew each other as children and had shared some cute moments, even if they saw them differently -- she remembered Cam teaching her how to swim, he remembered her as bossy and chatty. There is initial sexual tension between them with hostility thrown in for good measure and that goes well with the summer heat. Additionally there are some really funny baseball moments since Cam is a Red Sox fan and Anna, a Yankee fan. I loved those moments!
"You're a Yankees fan."


"I kissed a Yankees fan."

"Yup. Really well, too."

It was too late for mouthwash, so he did the next best thing and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. "Get off my dock."

"Fine. You stay on your half. Move your chair over."

He didn't even make it to the first inning. The radio announcer was going through the line-up and, when he got to Jeter and Anna made a little woo-hoo sound, Cam got out of the chair and walked away.

"Damn Yankees fan."

Her laughter followed him all the way to the house.
I loved Shannon Stacey's contemporary romance Yours to Keep, and I also wanted to love this book. The real conflict between Cameron and Anna is that of incompatibility, they want and need different things. Of course this conflict is never really a conflict because they don't talk about how their needs would affect a real relationship since all they are having is an affair. At least not until the end of the book after the conflict has already been resolved.

Slow Summer Kisses is a short, quick read. Unfortunately, I think in this case that worked against it as I found there to be a lack of real development in the romance. The beginning of the relationship is well rendered -- those wonderful fun moments that turn to hot sex -- but the rest is glossed over, and the end feels rushed. Regardless, Slow Summer Kisses is a quick summer read, that romance readers might enjoy for those fun, sexy moments, and others might actually love as a short, light, beach romance read. :)

Category: Contemporary Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Released: Carina Press/June 4, 2012 - Kindle Ed.
Grade: C

Visit Shannon Stacey here.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Review: The Last Policeman: A Novel by Ben H. Winters

What would you do if the world was ending in six months? Would you make it to the end, or would you check out? These are the questions that plague the reader while reading The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters. These are the questions that plagued me while I quickly read this intriguing pre-apocalyptic police procedural.

The world and its people have six months left to live until the massive asteroid known as Maia or 2011GV1 makes impact and sets off a chain of destructive events that will rapidly overwhelm the whole planet. As people decide what to do with the last days of their lives, civilization begins a slow collapse as many leave their jobs to fulfill lifetime dreams or spend time with family, and while massive amounts of people across the globe turn to religion looking for hope, others find the answer in suicide. So at six months to impact, civilization's real collapse is near as most have physically or mentally 'checked out,' and what was once important has become incidental. That is to everyone, but Detective Hank Palace.

Our story begins as Detective Hank Palace is called to investigate what appears to be a suicide by hanging in the bathroom of a McDonald's in Concord, New Hampshire. In his short career as a detective, all the deaths Hank has investigated have been suicides, and since Concord is known as a "hanger town" because that is the popular suicide method, at first it appears that is also the answer to Peter Zell's death. However, as Hank observes the scene in detail, something doesn't seem right. Hank declares Peter Zell's death suspicious and begins a murder investigation. This becomes a source of disbelief and amusement to everyone Hank comes in contact with throughout his investigation, including his co-workers who, although still on the job, have already checked out psychologically.

One of the aspects that makes The Last Policeman gripping as a pre-apocalyptic science fiction story is that Winters sets it in what seems to be contemporary times and not a futuristic or unreal world. In other words, these events could happen... anytime. Of course that makes the circumstances in this book realistically bizarre and unsettling for the reader. I found this to be one of the most effective aspects to the story. What would you do?

In this case, Hank Palace is Winter's case study. Hank is a most interesting character too. A man whose way of dealing with the upcoming apocalypse is to concentrate on the daily grind, on the here and now -- at least on the surface. Frankly since this is the beginning of a trilogy, there is still much to be learned about Hank and what drives him. I personally can't wait to see where his emotions take him as the final time approaches.

However in The Last Policeman, in his own anal and obsessive way, Hank serves as a microcosm of humanity's conscience when there is no real conscience left -- he is what is left of civilization when civilization is crumbling around him. When nobody cares whether Peter Zell committed suicide or was murdered, Hank does... and later when Hank's sister calls him to investigate his brother-in-law's disappearance and events culminate unexpectedly, Hank once again proves where he stands on this question.

Winters uses the police procedural aspect of the novel to drive forward the overall story arc and to develop a subtle, detailed and very effective pre-apocalyptic atmosphere. However besides the gripping pseudo-contemporary setting in this science fiction novel, it is Hank's character that makes the most impact, as it is through his first point of view perspective that the reader experiences the apathy, depression, desperation, resignation, and even false hope of those who surround him. Winters combines all those elements in The Last Policeman beautifully, and most importantly because this is the beginning of a trilogy, the story ends at the right moment. Personally, I can't wait to find out what happens to Hank next, or where Winters will take the story.

Category: Science Fiction/Mystery
Series: The Last Policeman Trilogy, Book 1
Publisher/Release Date: Quirk Books/July 10, 2012
Source: ARC Quirk Books
Grade: B+

Visit Ben H. Winters here.
About the Author: Ben H. Winters has written plays and musicals for children and adults; all sorts of magazine and newspaper journalism; and six novels: Bedbugs, Android Karenina, the New York Times bestseller Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, the middle-grade novels The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman and The Mystery of the Everything, and the upcoming mystery The Last Policeman.