Showing posts with label Mystery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mystery. Show all posts

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 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.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: The Master of Seacliff by Max Pierce

A gothic mystery with a decidedly masculine point of view.

The year is 1899, and Andrew Wyndham is twenty years old—no longer a boy, but not yet the man he longs to become. Brought up by a harsh and stingy aunt and uncle in New York City after the death of his parents, young Andrew dreams of life as an artist in Paris. He has talent enough but lacks the resources to bring his dream to fruition. When a friend arranges for him to work as tutor to the son of a wealthy patron of the arts, Andrew sees a chance to make his dream come true and boards a train heading up the Atlantic coast. His destination is the estate called Seacliff, where he'll tutor his new charge and save his pay to make the life he dreams of possible. But danger lurks everywhere and nothing is quite as easy as it seems.
The Master of Seacliff by Max Pierce is an American gay gothic historical mystery with a romance. We've all read gothic historicals before, right? Pierce reeled me with great atmosphere, a multi-layered mystery and some excellent characters.

Let's begin with the setting. Our main character Andrew travels from New York City to an unnamed place up the Atlantic Coast to Seacliff, a doom and gloom estate that just reeks with atmosphere and a personality all of its own. As soon as the place is described you just know the place is either full of ghosts or something awful is going to happen.

Then there are the characters. There's the young and naive young hero, the handsome and brooding master of the household, and what I thought was a rather large cast of characters for a gothic. Pierce works them all into the mystery, and either uses them as red herrings to throw off the reader or incorporates them into the story to give it depth. The characterization is excellent and I came away from the book thinking of all these characters as having quite distinct personalities. Well done!

There's Duncan, the unhappy, unconventional master rumored to have killed his father to gain access to the business, and young Timothy, born out of wedlock, is a terror with no manners. Then there are brother and sister Leo and Elena from the neighboring estate who initially seem to be a breath of fresh air, but are they really Duncan's friends or is there something else going on? And then there's the staff who range from the downright creepy to those with tragic histories and/or secrets.

The story is definitely traditional gothic historical mystery. Our young and very naive hero is talented but poor Andrew Wyndham. He dreams of going to Paris to paint but lacks funds, so he secures a temporary three-month position at Seacliff as tutor to Timothy, son to the Duncan Stewart, Master of Seacliff. Seacliff and its inhabitants, however, are about to make those three months tough for young Andrew.

Secrets abound at Seacliff, and as Andrew begins to unravel them danger lurks everywhere, and to top it all off sensual undercurrents and confusing feelings place him in an awkward position. Who is the murderer? Who can he trust? As the bodies begin to pile up, Andrew can't decide and he needs to find out fast or he might be the next victim. Pierce leads the reader all over the place with this story, it's great! I can tell you that I guessed and changed my mind numerous times along the way and was never certain who did it until the very end.

Although the mystery in The Master of Seacliff definitely takes precedence over the romance and you won't find explicit sexual scenes, there is plenty of sexual tension between our central characters -- especially when our yet-to-become sexually aware Andrew becomes a bone of contention between brooding Duncan and sexy Leo. The romance between our two protagonists is developed slowly throughout the story and woven quite well with the mystery. I particularly like that when it comes to the romance Pierce went along with tradition and Andrew, although young, is not easy and in the end holds out for true love.

It has been a while since I read a gothic historical mystery, and frankly I enjoyed The Master of Seacliff. The American setting and the great atmosphere were both a plus for me as was the excellent characterization. And even though in some levels I found this to be a standard gothic historical, the male perspective gave this story a fresh feel, and the multi-layered mystery with its great twists was a joy to read as was the happy ending to the romance.

Category: LGBT - Gay Gothic Historical Mystery/Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Lethe Press/January 16, 2012
Grade: B

Visit Max Pierce here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Review: A Lesson in Secrets (Maisie Dobbs #8) by Jacqueline Winspear

In this story, Maisie is far from the insecure young woman we fist met on that first book, the one trying to come to terms with loss, pain and differences in class. I like that Maisie seems to have come into her own as a woman and a professional.

In A Lesson in Secrets Maisie is again coming to terms with loss, except this time she's dealing with the death of her long time mentor Maurice Blanche, as well as with the fact that she is now a young woman of independent means. Her personal life has also taken a new turn, as Maisie has entered into an affair with James Compton, Lord and Lady Compton's son. So, this is an adult and very different Maisie indeed.

Maisie has been recruited by the British Secret Service to help investigate St. Francis College and she returns to Cambridge where anti-government activities are suspected. Scotland Yard is also investigating illegal immigration as a possibility. So while James is off to Canada taking care of business, Maisie goes undercover at the college posing as a philosophy professor.

I like that this continues to be a historical fiction mystery series. This story is set in the period between WWI and the beginnings of what will become WWII. Hitler is just beginning to stir in Germany as his book Mein Kampf has been published. A murder takes place soon after Maisie joins the college staff and the investigation is off. Maisie discoveries include Nazi sympathizers, and while the British Secret Service concentrates on the Communist "red" threat, Maisie has her doubts. The investigation takes quite a few twists and turns with Maisie doing most of the investigative under cover work.

What did I like? As with the first book, I liked the historical fiction aspect of A Lesson in Secrets, the setting and atmosphere. I think those are the strengths of this series so far. The plot is also quite interesting and I like that it was two-pronged, involving the crime investigation into the death of a pacifist which brought the readers into the WWI conflict, while details uncovered during the same crime investigation took a different turn by showing how seemingly insignificant and ignored events would later become significant moments in history, bringing the readers into what would become the WWII conflict. Both of these plot lines were really very well done and I highly enjoyed them.

What didn't I like? Maisie as the main character continues to be tough to relate or connect to on different levels. To a certain extent, she almost seems to be emotionally disconnected from those around her, although she's portrayed as a kind person with a psychic empathic connection to others. I don't "feel" it though -- there's a distance there that doesn't make it seem real.

Maisie's detecting skills are also questionable in this story. She's under cover and yet by the time she was in the college a week, I would have been surprised if most of the key characters didn't know it! Hush, hush was the word... and yet she didn't exactly know how to keep things on a confidential level. Her detecting tactics are quite obvious and I admit to being frustrated with them.

I liked some of the secondary characters, particularly Scotland Yard Detective Richard Stratton whose presence in the story was strongly felt even though he was not quite key. Is it me, or is there more chemistry between Stratton and Maisie than between Maisie and James? I was left wanting more of this character and less of James.

In summary I highly enjoyed the plot, the setting and atmosphere in this book, as well as some of the secondary characters. The main character remains the one average aspect of this series, and I find it interesting that I want to continue reading it despite that fact. It goes to show how important writing, plotting, setting, atmosphere and secondary characters can be to a story.

Category: Mystery
Series: Maisie Dobbs (Book #8)
Published: March 22, 2011
Grade: B

Visit Jacqueline Winspear here.

Series Reviews:
Maisie Dobbs (Book 1)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday to Friday: Snowball in Hell & Josh Lanyon Reading Marathon

Last Friday I was home for the day. It was a beautiful day of rest and I decided to spend the day relaxing by reading a few of Josh Lanyon's LGBT mystery and/or crime detective stories.

Snowball in Hell (Doyle and Spain, Book 1)

I began my Lanyon marathon by picking up his latest release, Snowball in Hell. Setting 1940's Los Angeles during WW II. A Los Angeles detective and a journalist with a death wish investigate the kidnapping and murder of a wealthy man. Our journalist, Doyle, becomes the main suspect while trying to keep his sexuality a secret. Certain aspects of this story fall under the "noir" category: the setting, time period, sexual motives behind some of the actions, some of the secondary characters and incidents, and certainly the atmosphere created by Mr. Lanyon. However, the main characters -- the detective and the journalist -- are not gritty enough to make this a completely dark crime detective story.

The story is successful on different fronts, the murder mystery is well done with all those small details picked up by the writer and no threads left open ended. Red herrings are used as a device, but nothing is outlandish and everything makes sense in this story. The investigation follows a logical pattern and I liked the way it stayed in the forefront together with the developing relationship between Detective Spain and Doyle.

The relationship between Spain and Doyle is based on mutual attraction, suspicion and fear at first. Doyle seems to "fall" fast and hard for Spain, while Spain on the other hand takes longer to own up to the attraction. Surpringly, although he's a widower and has never had a "relationship" with a man, Spain is also the one with the coolest head. Mr. Lanyon portrays a self-destructive Doyle who can't come to terms with his sexuality and the limitations it places in his life, and whose suffering is heart wrenching in this story. There's no real "resolution" to this relationship in the end, although Mr. Lanyon leaves it on a positive note that I'm sure he'll address in the follow-up books in the series.

Where I thought the novel was less successful was in its portrayal of secondary characters. They are not well defined and felt more like outline drawings that lacked shading and depth. I'm sure there will be further development for the recurring characters in this series and look forward to that. In summary I think this is another solid beginning by Mr. Layon to a series that is rich in atmosphere with a fascinating couple as central characters. Grade B

Dangerous Ground (Dangerous Ground, #1)

I went on to read Dangerous Ground, a contemporary thriller romance by Mr. Lanyon. Now this one was a bit of a surprise and I thought it was bit different from other books I've read by this author. The two main characters are investigators that stumble into a crime scene while camping out. The story takes place entirely on a mountain as the two main characters try to resolve their personal problems while trying to avoid getting killed by the villains. I enjoyed the different setting and some of the thrilling action, and there is a rather erotic scene in a hot spring that was quite steamy. However, neither the characters nor romance really caught or kept my attention and I didn't enjoy it as much as other books I've read by this author. Grade C

The French Have a Word

I continued my marathon by reading the short story, The French Have a Word. A man is in France and meets an old friend who during his young adulthood was his bodyguard. Trust. That's basically what this little short story is all about. Trust and love. This story is very short and not quite as satisfying or complete a read as the rest of Mr. Lanyon's works (short stories) have been for me. Grade C

Slings and Arrows (Petit Morts, #2)

And I finished the day with another solid by picking up Slings and Arrows. This novella by Mr. Lanyon is set in a college campus and all the players are college students going through big changes in their lives. The story takes place during the Valentine Day holiday and it involves a stalker.

The main character is a young man who is making decisions about his life that don't necessarily mesh with that of his old roommate or friends. His career goals have changed and that unsettles some of his friends. Now the man that he's attracted to is also not one that his friends like either. This man's personality is not overly attractive or easily understood by his peers. I liked the way these characters were portrayed. The youth and the passion, plus the doubts and lack of confidence that go along with that youth, were all captured quite nicely by Mr. Lanyon. Grade B

I had such a wonderful Friday with Mr. Lanyon's books that I picked up a few more on Saturday, but that's another post. :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Impressions: Maisie Dobbs (Book 1) by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs isn't just any young housemaid. Through her own natural intelligence—and the patronage of her benevolent employers—she works her way into college at Cambridge. When World War I breaks out, Maisie goes to the front as a nurse. It is there that she learns that coincidences are meaningful and the truth elusive. After the War, Maisie sets up on her own as a private investigator. But her very first assignment, seemingly an ordinary infidelity case, soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets, which will force Maisie to revisit the horrors of the Great War and the love she left behind.
"I'm really taken with how the plight of English soldiers, during and after WWI, is depicted in this mystery novel. I'm loving the details, and the characters so far. Just went backward in time to Maisie's childhood and I'm surprised that I'm enjoying that part of it as much as her "present" time."
Those were my first impressions of Maisie Dobbs, Book 1, after having read the first part of the book. Frankly, I was taken with the historical fiction aspect of these mystery novels. Jacqueline Winspear makes much of those small WWI historical details in post-war London that give this novel a unique atmosphere. The characters that populate the novel have all been affected in one way or another by the war, and even ten years later are dealing with its effects.

This first book does contain a mystery, however it's main focus is Maisie Dobbs herself. The character is introduced and her background is thoroughly explored and developed for the reader. In the first part of the book we meet Maisie ten years after the war ended as a newly minted psychologist-investigator working on her first solo case. This is a short section that leaves off with many questions about both the case and Maisie herself.

On the longer and more detailed second part of the book, we flash back to Maisie  as a young, orphaned girl who goes to work at Lord and Lady Compton's household as a downstairs maid. This second part of the book is where Winspear really gets to the nitty gritty details of what makes this main character tick and to the basis of the story. Masie's life is covered from childhood through young adulthood. Her brilliance and intelligence are recognized by the Comptons and rewarded. Lady Compton and Maisie's mentor Maurice Blanche encourage her to study at a college for girls in Cambridge, however at the onset of the war Maisie decides to do her part as a nurse and soon departs for France.

By the time the third part of the book comes along, we know Maisie and most of her story. This is where the mystery is really developed and takes its unexpected turn -- all of it related to the war, the soldiers and the lingering effects of post-war trauma for them and the country itself. There's danger and I enjoyed the investigation part in this section as it reveals part of the history I mentioned before.

I enjoyed this book for its setting, atmosphere and historical fiction details. The time period was certainly a plus for me as well. Maisie as a character is endearing in some sections, but there is a certain restraint and perfection about her that makes it difficult to connect with her character emotionally at certain times. Even when in love, Maisie seems to be a too cautious and measured woman. There's a "new age" aspect to the story and her character that threw me off and didn't seem to fit into this story.

Some of the secondary characters were well developed while others seemed one-dimensional. However, I'm hoping that throughout the series the author will do a better job of characterization on that front. Unexpectedly, I did cry at the end of this book. Those soldiers got to me, and there's a particular story involving Maisie that broke my heart.

Although I wasn't overwhelmed by this first book in the Maisie Dobbs series, I did go on to read the latest release, A Lesson In Secrets, Book 8, as I was curious to see how Maisie fared after all that time, and will read the next release in the series.

Category: Mystery/Historical Fiction
Series: Maisie Dobbs, Book 1
Publisher/Released: Soho Press, July 1, 2003 - Kindle Edition
Grade: Grade B

Visit Jacqueline Winspear here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Review: Absolutely, Positively (Lucy Valentine, Book 3) by Heather Webber

“Exposed” by a Boston Herald reporter, Lucy is suddenly the talk of the town. Long back-story short: Even though the rest of her Valentine ancestors were blessed by Cupid with psychic abilities, Lucy’s only special power lies in her ability to find things. This skill has proven quite a blessing for those who come to her matchmaking agency in search of finding their long-lost loves. Now that Lucy’s secret is out, she has more new clients than she knows what to do with. But soon a certain man of mystery steals Lucy’s spotlight…

No, it’s not Sean Donahue, the sexy fireman-turned-private-eye who’s stolen Lucy’s heart. It’s a masked man in a cowboy hat, dubbed “The Lone Ranger,” who’s been throwing handfuls of cash across the Common. Now all of Beantown’s abuzz. Can Lucy unmask the mysterious money man, track down all her clients’ old flames, and turn up the heat on her love life? Absolutely, positively…
In Absolutely, Positively, Heather Webber again throws Lucy Valentine into quite a few different adventures. In this book, together with her sexy PI boyfriend Sean Donahue, she investigates one disappearance and one lost love. Of course, she's also curious about the identity of The Lone Ranger, a masked man who's throwing cash around -- literally -- across the Common. And, her personal life is further complicated by friends and changes in the family structure.

Webber took it up a notch with this book. Absolutely. There is a sense of real danger to the lost love story that gives it a sense of excitement. It stops having the awww... factor, when it becomes apparent that it involves ex-foster parents, troubled youngsters, an ex-con, the FBI and a murder. This is also true of the case involving the disappearance of an old artist. A case that turns out to have an interesting, if convoluted, happy ending.

I really like the way Webber is developing Lucy and Sean's relationship. They continue to work on it in Absolutely, Positively and yes, it does go forward with sexy, joyful and scary moments. If only they didn't have so many interruptions! Sean is just lovely and I like the way Lucy thinks. The secondary characters truly make this series what it is by providing the snappy dialogue and showcasing Lucy's personality in other venues besides the obvious.

This series is just getting better, and so far Absolutely, Positively is definitely my favorite. These are light, fun mysteries full of wonderful characters, dialogue and situations. I recommend that the books be read in order to enjoy the progression in the relationship between Lucy, Sean and the rest of the crew.

Genre: Contemporary Mystery/Paranormal Elements
Series: Lucy Valentine, #3
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Grade: B+

Visit Heather Webber here.

Truly, Madly, Book 1
Deeply, Desperately, Book 2
Absolutely, Positively, Book 3

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review: In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming

It's a cold, snowy December in the upstate New York town of Millers Kill, and newly ordained Clare Fergusson is on thin ice as the first female priest of its small Episcopal church. The ancient regime running the parish covertly demands that she prove herself as a leader. However, her blunt manner, honed by years as an army pilot, is meeting with a chilly reception from some members of her congregation and Chief of Police Russ Van Alystyne, in particular, doesn't know what to make of her, or how to address "a lady priest" for that matter.

The last thing she needs is trouble, but that is exactly what she finds. When a newborn baby is abandoned on the church stairs and a young mother is brutally murdered, Clare has to pick her way through the secrets and silence that shadow that town like the ever-present Adirondack mountains. As the days dwindle down and the attraction between the avowed priest and the married police chief grows, Clare will need all her faith, tenacity, and courage to stand fast against a killer's icy heart.
In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming is the first book in a contemporary mystery series with an 'updated' cozy style. The setting is the small New York town of Millers Kill in the Adirondack Mountains which provides this story with wonderful atmosphere. The place is perfect for the mystery/police-procedural plot as well as the interesting situations and characters.

The characters are what really caught my attention in this initial installment, particularly Clare. She is Rev. Clare Fergusson, the new priest at the town's Episcopal church. However she doesn't turn out to be your typical priest, Clare is also an ex-military helicopter pilot and you can tell there's history there. She's a tough, down-to-earth, no-nonsense woman who wants to know her community and give them more than spiritual guidance. The other central character is Chief of Police Russ Van Alystyne. He is more typical of this type of character: middle-aged, fairly good looking, married, ex-army, a bit cynical and disenchanted with life, but protective of his small town.

Ms. Spencer-Fleming's focus in this first installment is in developing the relationship between the central characters and to some extent revealing parts of their lives. The secondary characters are also well drawn and memorable. Having said that, it is also interesting how the author draws key characters that hover invisibly yet don't appear in the story. For example: Russ' wife, Linda, and his mother are both mentioned repeatedly. Linda in particular is a presence, yet neither character makes a single appearance even though they live in a small town. I'm hoping to meet these characters later on in the series.

The author's focus pays off and there's excellent development in the way the friendship between Russ and Clare evolves. As the friendship deepens, their commonalities come to the surface. Military background is the initial factor, but slowly they realize that even though one is a cop and the other a priest, both need to serve their community. Russ feels responsible for the town and its people -- protect and serve. Clare feels responsible for their spiritual lives and personal well-being -- serve and provide.

Despite the fact that Clare is a priest and there are moments in this book where spirituality comes into play, the fact that Russ is agnostic seems to balance the scales in that respect and the story doesn't come off as preachy. In fact as their friendship evolves, what Clare most appreciates about Russ is that he sees/treats her as a regular person (as Clare) and not as a priest. In turn, Russ appreciates the fact that he can find understanding when sharing his professional burdens with Clare. The reader experiences the great connection between these two people as they become friends, as well as a slow-building, subtle chemistry.

The mystery plot is a bit of ride. A baby is abandoned at the church steps and a young girl is found murdered. Clare and her parish are involved in both these events from the beginning and she and Russ wind up investigating both situations together. During the investigation, Spencer-Fleming touches on social issues, mainly on the plight of underprivileged pregnant teenage girls and what can or should be done to help educate them to stop the cycle of poverty.

There's a slew of suspects, red-herrings are used as a device, and Russ acts a bit like a typical cynical cop while Clare refuses to believe good people are capable of murder. They both err, but Clare makes grave mistakes along the way and her impulsive actions gave me more than a few anxious moments. It's interesting because I usually chuck these actions to lack of judgment, but in Clare's case I saw them more as part of her humanity and in some instances due to her "vocation." I had a few other niggles to do with the mystery, but nothing significant.

This is not a romance. Russ is married, Clare is a priest and they're friends. Yet, as I mentioned above, there's chemistry and a building attraction between these two people. This is interesting and a bit controversial with the Chief married and Clare a woman of the cloth, yes? I certainly want to know what happens next.

This was an enjoyable mystery with well-developed and interesting human characters, plotting and a lovely setting. I definitely want to see how this series evolves and will read the second book, A Fountain Filled with Blood.

Thanks to Orannia for the recommendation.

Category: Mystery
Series: Rev. Clare Fergusson and Chief of Police Russ Van Alystyne Mystery, Book 1
Release Date: Minotaur Books; April 1, 2010 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B+

Visit Julia Spencer-Fleming here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mini: Deeply, Desperately (Lucy Valentine, Book 2) by Heather Webber

Lucy wants to breathe new life into her family's Boston-based matchmaking company. But how? Even though she comes from a long line of ancestors blessed by Cupid with psychic abilities, a freak accident left Lucy with only one special skill: finding things. Car keys, socks in the dryer, needles in haystacks...and now, in a stroke of professional genius, lost loves!

It's not long before Lucy's on a winning streak, helping old flames reunite and create new sparks. Business is booming. But when Lucy finds herself involved in a possible case of murder, she realizes she's in too deep. Enter Sean Donahue. Lucy's handsome fire-fighter-turned private eye neighbor, Sean is just the man she needs to help her on the job. Could he also be the man she's been looking for all along? When it comes to Valentine, Inc., falling in love is always serious business...
What can I say, I love Lucy Valentine's character. Deeply, Desperately is the second book in Heather Webber's mystery/romance series. This is a light mystery series where the main story line is woven into the central character's personal life as other issues arise. The cast of characters, situations, dialogue and interactions are what make the story interesting. The way Lucy processes information (first point of view) and her personal relationships with parents, friends and Sean are what make these stories so enjoyable for me. I enjoyed Deeply, Desperately more than the first book and that's probably due to the fact that the Truly, Madly served as the "set-up" book for the series.

I really like the way Webber is developing Sean and Lucy's relationship. The romance is slow-going, fun and light. There's a bit of self-analysis on Lucy's part with plenty of kissing and "fooling around," but so far there are no explicit sexual encounters in these books. In this instance, the lack of heavy sexual scenes mesh well with the rest the plot, making the whole light and balanced.

In this book, I especially loved the way Lucy patiently and maturely fought for Sean and their relationship. Smart girl! The mystery is lighter and less of a factor than in the first installment, but it was still fun to follow Lucy's adventures. Particularly as it features Lucy working with Preston Bailey, the female reporter who drives her up a wall. I loved the turn of events with her childhood girlfriends, and the personal revelations in this book should make the next book, Absolutely, Positively, an even more interesting read.

Category: Contemporary Paranormal/Mystery
Series: Lucy Valentine Series
Released: August 3, 2010
Grade: B

Visit Heather Webber here.

Truly, Madly, Book 1
Deeply, Desperately, Book 2
Absolutely, Positively, Book 3 (Coming Feb 1, 2011)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Review: Fair Game by Josh Lanyon

A crippling knee injury forced Elliot Mills to trade in his FBI badge for dusty chalkboards and bored college students. Now a history professor at Puget Sound university, the former agent has put his old life behind him—but it seems his old life isn't finished with him.

A young man has gone missing from campus—and as a favor to a family friend, Elliot agrees to do a little sniffing around. His investigations bring him face-to-face with his former lover, Tucker Lance, the special agent handling the case.

Things ended badly with Tucker, and neither man is ready to back down on the fight that drove them apart. But they have to figure out a way to move beyond their past and work together as more men go missing and Elliot becomes the target in a killer's obsessive game...
Elliot is a man who lets his job affect his personal life. Tucker allows his personal feelings cloud his professional judgment. These are flawed, human characters. Great characters, mystery and romance, that's what I've come to expect from a Josh Lanyon book. In Fair Game, he delivers.

I didn't necessarily like Elliot or Tucker immediately. Elliot is a man at a crossroads in his life. He lost the career he loved (and seemed to define him) as an FBI agent when his knee was blown out while on duty. Simultaneously, the sexual relationship with his lover Tucker ended on a sour note. Seventeen months later, Elliot is a history professor at Puget Sound University and lives a self-imposed isolated life where daily physical pain, boredom and depression seem to plague him. Elliot is asked to look into the disappearance of a young man, a PSU student, as a favor to a family friend. After there's an apparent suicide and another student disappears, the danger escalates, as Elliot gets closer to solving the crime and becomes a personal target in a deadly game.

At first, Elliot is reluctantly excited to use his investigative abilities again, it breaks the monotony of teaching. But Tucker is the lead FBI agent in charge and aside from the built-up anger and left over hurt from their break up, Elliot resents the fact he's really an outsider in the investigation. Elliot misses being an agent and is defensive and over sensitive about the physical limitations that prevent him from being one. The focus he places on those limitations and on his loss don't allow him to immediately realize that he still has a lot to offer those around him, including Tucker. His self-pity and doubts are understandable, frustrating and ultimately quite human.

Tucker? Well... Tucker is in love. The way he goes about showing that love is what really presents the conflict in this story when it comes to the romance and, to a certain extent, the criminal investigation. Tucker blames Elliot for their breakup and vice-versa, and neither is willing to give an inch. He resents the fact that Elliot is sticking his nose in the case and from the beginning refuses to take his suggestions or suspicions seriously. Tucker's lack of professionalism was frustrating at some points in the story as he allowed human emotions to cloud his judgment. But don't get me wrong; although he makes plenty of mistakes with both Elliot and the case, Tucker redeems himself quite well.

Lanyon applies tension, angst and hostility to build up and develop the relationship between Elliot and Tucker. Personally, I loved the sexual tension that emanates from those phone calls between the two men before they're together on the page. Once they are, it all escalates into some intense emotional and sexual scenes between them. There's lots of chemistry there. I loved the characterization and the way the romance was developed. And yet, I still didn't 'fall in love' with Elliot and Tucker because neither character is portrayed as the lovable type. Ultimately that's what I liked about them.

Tucker might have been negligent in his investigation but Elliot was relentless, and Lanyon builds up an excellent crime mystery drama in Fair Game. There were a few red herrings that actually worked to throw me off this time, as well as scary moments and action to keep me involved. The villain makes it into a personal and brutal game between himself and Elliot and the conclusion was quite dramatic. I had some suspicions about who dunnit but didn't figure it out until almost the end of the story, making this an enjoyable ride for me.

Fair Game had a good balance between the romance and the mystery crime investigation and I enjoyed both aspects of the novel. I admit that although Tucker and Elliot are not my very favorite Lanyon characters, there's something about them (perhaps it's the human frailties that are so well portrayed, the chemistry and interactions) that made them come alive for me. I re-read this book almost as soon as I finished it. That has become something of a tradition with Lanyon's books and an indication as to my overall enjoyment.

Genre: LGBT M/M Mystery Romance
Series: None
Released: August 2, 2010
Source: NetGalley/Carina Press
Grade: Solid B

Visit Josh Lanyon here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Minis: Linnea Sinclair, Jennifer Crusie, Josh Lanyon

I haven't been reading as much in October as I did in September, but so far the books I've read have been highly enjoyable. Here are Minis on three of them.

Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair

The universe isn’t what it used to be. With the new Alliance between the Triad and the United Coalition, Captain Tasha “Sass” Sebastian finds herself serving under her former nemesis, biocybe Admiral Branden Kel-Paten–and doing her best to hide a deadly past. But when an injured mercenary winds up in their ship’s sick bay–and in the hands of her best friend, Dr. Eden Fynn–Sass’s efforts may be wasted.

Wanted rebel Jace Serafino has information that could expose all of Sass’s secrets, tear the fragile Alliance apart–and end Sass’s career if Kel-Paten discovers them. But the biocybe has something to hide as well, something once thought impossible for his kind to possess: feelings . . . for Sass. Soon it’s clear that their prisoner could bring down everything they once believed was worth dying for–and everything they now have to live for.
I loved Games of Command. I stayed up until 2:00 am reading it and finished it off the following morning! It's a Sinclair ride, that's for sure... Kel-Paten, the hero, had me at HELLO. That biocybe is just the sweetest thing I've seen as a romantic scifi hero in a long time. I sighed and melted when our heroine Tasha read his personal logs (that's all I'll say about that). Tasha's a classic Sinclair heroine -- she's tough and takes no prisoners, she doesn't fall easily but when she falls, she falls. I enjoyed all the action and the secondary characters, Jace Serafino and Dr. Eden Fynn (who are actually quite central), are also arresting.

Games of Command was definitely a winner for me. I was not disappointed in the plot or characterization. The pacing is excellent -- the action keeps the story moving along -- and the romance, while slow on the build-up, was satisfying. Kel-Paten's yearning for Tasha made that part of the story both sweet and angsty. I loved the slow way Sinclair developed trust between Tasha and Brendan, plus their interaction and dialogue just got better as the story progressed. The final outcome to the overall storyarc was quite complex with twists and turns from beginning to end. Grade: A

Visit Linnea Sinclair here.

Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie

Tess Newhart knows her ex-boyfriend Nick Jamieson isn't the right guy for her. He's caviar and champagne; she's take-out Chinese pot stickers. He's an uptight Republican lawyer; she was raised in a commune. He wants to get ahead in business; she just wants…him. But there's no way Tess will play second fiddle to his job.

Yet somehow she finds herself agreeing to play his fiancée on a weekend business trip that could make or break Nick's career. And while he's trying to convince Tess that he needs her in his respectable world, Tess is doing her best to keep her opinions to herself and her hands off Nick.

I couldn't wait to read Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie, a gift from Nath. I liked this book. It's the pairing between a yuppy lawyer and a free-thinking, liberal, hippy-like female. The very 80's political style -- even though it was released in the early 90's -- with references to Nancy Reagan and the Quayles dates the story. I loved the whole crazy relationship between these two very different people, with their prejudices against each other, their love and compromises. My favorite scene? The absolutely crazy scene in the restaurant.  I'll continue reading Crusie's backlist and know I'll enjoy it. Grade: Solid B

Visit Jennifer Crusie here.

Somebody Killed His Editor: Holmes & Moriarity (Book 1) by Josh Lanyon

Thanks to an elderly spinster sleuth and her ingenious cat, Christopher Holmes has enjoyed a celebrated career as a bestselling mystery writer. Until now. Sales are down and his new editor is allergic to geriatric gumshoes. On the advice of his agent, he reinvents his fortyish, frumpy, recently dumped self into the sleek, sexy image of a literary lion, and heads for a Northern California writers conference to try and resurrect his career. A career nearly as dead as the body he stumbles over in the woods. In a weirdly déjà vu replay of one of his own novels, he finds himself stranded in an isolated lodge full of frightened women—and not a lawman in sight. Except for J.X. Moriarity, former cop and bestselling novelist. The man with whom he shared a one-night stand—okay, maybe three—long ago. The man who wants to arrest him for murder. A ruthless, stalking killer, or a hot, handsome ex-lover. Which poses the greater danger? It’s elementary, my dear Holmes!
This is a mystery, a good who dunnit with a large cast of characters, but for me the best part of the book was Christopher Holmes. Christopher or Kit, the main character in Somebody Killed His Editor: Holmes & Moriarity, Book 1 is one of those characters that no matter how many bodies he finds, or how bloody the situation, will make you smile. This story is told in first person point of view and I just loved Christopher's voice... talk about a sardonic, sarcastic, insecure man with a flair for drama. I loved his internal dialogue and every single impulsive word that came out of his mouth.

He finds a dead body as soon as he arrives at the conference, winds up meeting J.X. Moriarity, an ex-cop, ex-lover and young(er) "successful" writer, and this mystery caper takes off from there, as does the rather interesting relationship between JX and Kit. We follow Christopher as he becomes the main suspect, uses less than great judgment (has some great TSTL moments), and gets involved without even trying. A favorite quote, and I had many:
"I jumped up and started yelling, "Help! Help!" I never said I was the hero of this story." 
Somebody Killed His Editor was fun, funny, sexy, full of snark, somewhat touching and I loved it! I heard there's a sequel coming out soon and I can't wait to read it. Grade: B+

Visit Josh Lanyon here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mini-Impressions: The End of the Adrien English Mysteries by Josh Lanyon

This is the truth here... I meant to write reviews for both Death of a Pirate King and The Dark Tide after I finished reading them back in May. The funny part of the story is that I was so caught up reading this series and the stories, I kept forgetting to well... write a review. 

So, what did I do instead? I kept going back to the books and just kept re-reading them and forgetting to write a thing. I just wanted to enjoy them, over and over again. It became what I'll be calling: My Adrien English Obsessive Cycle.

It has happened to me before where I find a favorite book and become selfish. I want to keep these books to myself. These are books I loved so much that I can't write or talk about them, and/or sometimes it takes me a while to share my thoughts. These books become my private joy and I hold them tight. 

The following are actually my first impressions of the books after I finished them with a few minor edits. 

Death of a Pirate King (Adrien English Mysteries, Book 4) by Josh Lanyon

I loved Death of a Pirate King. Lanyon begins this book two years after The Hell You Say ends, and I think the way he used the timeline was just brilliant. The timeline allowed for character growth for Adrien, and what I thought was more subtle character growth for Jake. It also allows the reader to experience the maturity to relationships established in The Hell You Say, as well as the long term consequences to Jake's questionable actions. I also loved the way Lanyon weaved the mystery and the main character's personal lives in this installment. The end was stunning and the perfect set up for the last book of the series. Grade: A-

The Dark Tide (Adrien English Mysteries, Book 5) by Josh Lanyon

When I finished the Adrien English series all I could think was... I love the way Lanyon finished it off and I want to read it again! The mystery in The Dark Tide parallels Jake's own life in many ways and it has a wonderful retro atmosphere that I just loved. Adrien's character really blooms, as we see just how far he has come from the time we met him. Jake is still a bit of mystery at the end and frankly I like him that way. I loved that Lanyon kept Jake's character true to himself to the end. Both characters go for an emotional ride in The Dark Tide as does the reader, and I think it is an excellent ending to what turned out to be a fantastic series.

I'll admit here that once I finished The Dark Tide, I went back and re-read favorite passages and scenes throughout the whole series and had a bit of a problem letting go of it -- addictive series, addictive characters. What more can I say? Grade: A

Visit Josh Lanyon here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

M/M Review: Fatal Shadows (Andrien English Mysteries, Book 1) by Josh Lanyon

Fatal Shadows by Josh Lanyon is the first book in the Adrien English Mysteries series; a series I've been meaning to read since 2008. My friend Mary brought it to my attention and I finally, finally got to it! Why did I wait so long?

Lanyon begins this series with a murder mystery that had me turning the pages and racing to the end. I read it in one sitting. Fatal Shadows is chuck-full of atmosphere and at times it felt almost as if I were reading a "cozy." Although you won't find the knitting, cooking or baking theme in this book, there is a theme. You will find a circle of mystery writers, references to mystery books and authors, and of course the amateur sleuth, all of which give it that vague "cozy" feel.

I was quite taken with the setting in this book and thought Lanyon was clever in choosing Old Pasadena, California, a modern and bright place if I've ever seen one, and then endowing it with a feeling of darkness, mustiness and oldness that doesn't feel contrived. I think it's the old used book store, the alleyways, the old two story brick building where the bookstore is located and the old mystery books that Adrien sells. I could almost smell the dust on those books. Lanyon did an outstanding job of setting up both atmosphere and setting.

I really enjoyed the murder mystery and Adrien, as a sleuth, was both a crack up and quite good in his way of thinking. Adrien is a mystery writer and has a wonderful imagination; one minute he's trying to figure out whom the murderer is, in his own inimitable way, and the next minute he's just freaking out. Adrien's sexuality plays a big role in the storyline, even though this is not an erotic book or a romance. Homophobia, closeted gays and subtle prejudices are all part of the storyline.

Predictably, in this first book of the series, our main character Adrien is introduced to the reader as the main suspect in the brutal murder of his best and oldest friend Robert; a device usually used in mysteries to set up the base for a series and introduce the characters. Adrien's life is turned upside down when the police begin to investigate his life thoroughly as a murder suspect. When anonymous flower deliveries, unsigned sympathy cards with creepy poetry arrive, followed by silent phone calls in the middle of the night and other creepy events, it seems as if Adrien might've also become the main focus for the murderer. When Adrien reports these incidents, the police don't take him seriously. Desperate and afraid for his life and future, our amateur sleuth decides to go off on his own and conduct an investigation that leads to a dangerous and emotional climax.

Lanyon uses the crime investigation to deeply develop Adrien's character by delving into his past and present life. By the time Fatal Shadows ends, we are well acquainted with Adrien's life, his personality, quirks and thought process, providing an excellent base for the rest of the series. Quite a few secondary characters are introduced, multiple suspects and those who populate Adrien's life. Most are kept on the periphery and none are developed as deeply as Adrien in this installment.

I find it interesting that characters that are either downright homophobic, in the closet or just out of the closet surround Adrien, a man who is confident and comfortable with his own sexuality. Some of them wear their prejudices on their sleeve, and while some are vociferously and brutally homophobic, others are subtler in how they display their deep-seeded prejudices. In the case of the policemen conducting the criminal investigation, their initial disdain and contempt for Adrien and Robert's sexuality is palpable.

Jake Riordan, one of the two detectives investigating the murder, is the saddest of all these characters in my opinion. Lanyon develops Jake with a light a touch in this installment. However, we do get to know a few key facts about him. He's a tough cop, a "man's man" who has prejudices a straight man might have against gay men, but who leads a double life. He doesn't think of himself as gay, but has "homosexual" encounters of the "leather and BDSM" kind -- nothing touchy-feely or gay to his way of thinking. The man is deep, deep in the closet emotionally and intellectually. In Fatal Shadows, he doesn't seem conflicted about his life for most of the story; it just seems to be the way he deals. He is going to be an interesting character study.

There is no obvious set-up for the next book in the series, except for a developing attraction between Adrien and "closeted" Detective Jake Riordan. Fatal Shadows is a solid beginning to this mystery series, with excellent writing, wonderful atmosphere and setting, and excellent characterization. I look forward to reading the next installment in this series, A Dangerous Thing.

Genre: LGBT Mystery/Suspense
Series: Adrien English Mysteries
Release Date: 2007 Revised Edition
Grade: Solid B

Visit Josh Lanyon here

Anezthezea's - M/M Romance Challenge 2010

Monday, March 1, 2010

February 2010 Reads & Minis: Under Her Skin by Susan Mallery, Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips & Pasado Perfecto by Leonardo Padura

Wow! February was a short/long month for me. Short on days and reads, but long on posts!

It was a month-long love fest between the Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction anthology and me. I had a wonderful time choosing quotes from each story, and in the process re-read the whole book slowly. It was a personal treat, and I hope you enjoyed reading these little quotes as much as I did choosing them. :)

I'd like to give a shout out to my friend Indigene (Cowboy Junkie). The lady who not only recommended this wonderful anthology, but who also sent it to me as a gift. You can check out Indigene's awesome GLTB reviews at Rainbow Reviews any day. But, to check out her Fool for Love review you'll need to go to The Three Dollar Bill Reviews -- a new GLTB review site. Thanks Indi!

When it comes to reading? Well, I was craving contemporary romance and that made up the bulk of my reading, although I did manage to sneak in other genres in there. The Winter Olympics took up a lot of time away from my reading, but I enjoyed them thoroughly so no complaints. Weren't they great?! Now, I'll have to detox. :)

Okay, on to my February reads:

1) The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald - B- (review here)

2) Ecstasy Unveiled by Larissa Ione - B+ (review here)

3) Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin - Solid B (review here)

4) Under Her Skin (Titan Series, Book 1) by Susan Mallery - B-

This is the first in her Titan Sisters series (4 books).

Under Her Skin was a good read, not great. I thought it had a predictable plot with a couple that had good chemistry, some great interaction between the sisters and one girlfriend, and good writing that kept me reading.

The plot is based on an engagement of convenience between Lexi and Cruz. They obviously have feelings for each other but lots of baggage. Cruz is a good man with flaws -- mainly due to the childhood baggage that he can't seem to let go, and Lexi's the same. She has a lot of "daddy" issues -- all the sisters do. The father is rich, powerful and basically unfeeling and he uses his fortune to set up the sisters against each other -- it doesn't quite work that way though, they get along although it does affect their relationship and their decisions.

I have the next book on my TBR pile and will read it.

5) Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - B-

Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, is another contemporary romance from her backlist and from my TBR pile, I wanted to read. I liked the setting for this book, it was set in a circus and it made for a different atmosphere. Daisy and Alex were both interesting as a couple. She was supposed to be this flighty, weak-minded person who didn't have any confidence in herself and who grew as a person as the story unfolded. He was supposed to be this strong-minded man who had lots of pride but whose past marked him badly -- an interesting play on strengths and weaknesses.

Although I enjoyed Susan Elizabeth Phillips' writing and the character growth that is usually found in her contemporaries, this book is not a favorite. I didn't find the plot itself, a woman who is forced into marriage by her father to a man who owes him a favor, appealing. The secondary characters were not appealing either, although I did enjoy the parallels Phillips drew between the couple and the animals.

6) Pasado Perfecto by Leonardo Padura (Mario Conde Series, Book 1) (Re-read) - B (thoughts here)

This is the first book in a 4 book series in Spanish. It's a police crime series set in modern Havana, Cuba. The author is a Cuban author who still lives there, not in exile.

In this book he introduces Mario Conde, a Lieutenant in the police department who is investigating the disappearance of a man he knew in High School. A powerful man who happened to marry el Conde's High School crush... well, more like the woman he has lusted after for years, Tamara.

Padura uses Pasado Perfecto (a perfect past), and this investigation to introduce Conde and a set of characters that will reappear in the next three books of the series. I love the way he captures the people, culture and the flavor of the city in these books. He uses the language beautifully -- a combination of Cuban Spanish -- to give the books authenticity and tops it with some darn good writing. Although I would say this is not the best book in the series, it's a great introduction.

There are English translations to this series. Pasado Perfecto's title in English is: Havana Blue.

7) Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas (Re-read) - A- (review here)

8) Glory in Death (In-Death Series, Book 2) - B (review here)

9) Double Play by Jill Shalvis - B Upcoming Review

10) Pleasure of a Dark Prince by Kresley Cole - B+ Upcoming Review

I didn't realize it, but I had mostly B reads this month and I only read two new releases. My TBR pile is diminishing though, so I'm not doing too badly there. How about you? How was your February?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Review: Dial Emmy for Murder by Eileen Davidson

Dial Emmy for Murder is a soap opera murder mystery by the author of Death in Daytime.  A soap opera star herself, Eileen Davidson is best known for Emmy-nominated roles on The Young and the Restless and Days of our Lives

I did not read Death in Daytime, so it was with a blank slate and absolutely no expectations that I began reading Dial Emmy for Murder. I knew this was a mystery set in the wonderfully dramatic world of soap operas and it sounded like too much fun to pass up -- especially since the writer herself is a well-known soap opera actress. I was expecting excellent details on that front and that's exactly what I found -- what I was not expecting was the humor or how much I would enjoy Alex's voice. The humor and the fast, flowing dialogue are what caught my attention from Chapter 1. 

Dial Emmy for Murder is a murder mystery with Detective Frank Jakes as the investigator, but our real heroine is Alexis Peters. A soap opera star with a Nancy Drew complex, Alex finds more dead bodies than she shoots scenes and nothing deters her when she decides to go after that next clue.  

In fact, we meet Alexis Peters when she arrives at the Daytime Emmys where she is about to present an award with Jackson Masters, a hunky co-star, who is running late. But is he? Jackson's dramatic entrance is an attention getter and fits right in with the surroundings -- a grisly, if darkly humorous, start to this whodunit. 

Alexis is an Emmy winner soap opera star--but not a diva, please--she left "The Yearling Tide" after being accused of killing one of the writers and now works for "The Bare and the Brazen" where she happily plays dual roles.  Alex met gorgeous Detective Jakes during that whole "Yearling" debacle (Death in Daytime)-- they worked together on that case and she's more than a little attracted to him.  But poor Alex has more than a few problems -- she has a long-time boyfriend, Paul Silas, plus ex-husband Randy the creep who is threatening to make an appearance after years in exile.  Her plate is full and getting fuller by the minute; soon a killer will make it overflow.

Alex is nothing if not persistent in her sleuthing and it doesn't seem to be beneath Jakes to use the situation to gain Alex's attention. The man is smitten! He is so smitten that he places himself in a precarious position at work and with his very strange partner. He and Alex click well as partners in the mystery and as a romantic couple. I was rooting for sweet, hot Jakes all the way.

Between her very demanding job, a murder investigation she can't stay away from, personal decisions she must make and a budding romance, Alex hardly has a minute to rest or take a sip from a martini. Except, of course, when she's visiting her best friend George and his partner Wayne -- these two characters had some of the best lines and became my favorite secondary characters. Their conversations were full of wit and comfortable best friend banter. I ended the book wanting more George and Wayne, never mind a martini.

There is a large cast of peripheral characters in the story, however when it comes to secondary characters there are only a few. These characters make brief appearances, in addition to George and Wayne, we meet: Jakes' reluctant partner, Davis; Connie the ever-disheveled manager who is always looking to pimp Alex another gig; Alex's wise mother, Mrs. Peterson and her sweet, young daughter Sarah.  Even though their appearances were few and far in between, I gathered definite impressions of individual personalities and characteristics through their interactions with Alex, as well as from her internal dialogue. The story definitely centers on Alexis, Jakes, the developing romantic relationship and mystery solving, but these secondary characters are all an integral part of it as well.

There was one very predictable moment and one of those pesky contradictory details that some of us always seem to catch when reading mysteries. Neither was enough to deter from my enjoyment nor did they take me away from the story. The climax was fast paced, exciting, and humorous. Best of all there was a bit of a twist I did not expect; those are always the best.

I found Dial Emmy for Murder to be a fun, fast paced murder mystery with well placed humor and some very dramatic moments--most appropriate for this book. The writing flowed and the details on the entertainment industry were excellent--they were weaved into and became part of the events beautifully without overwhelming the story. I enjoyed every minute of this book and was a bit sorry when it ended. 

It seems as if Alex and Jake will continue their adventures; the next one begins at the Playboy Mansion and I will be following it.

Visit Eileen Davidson here

Originally posted at Musings of a Bibliophile on June 1, 2009