BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review of Murder Takes the Cake by Gayle Trent

Publisher: Gallery Books

Release Date: January 25th, 2011

More Info: Amazon

Series: #1 Daphne Martin Mystery series

Book Blurb:

A routine cake delivery becomes a culinary nightmare when a small-town baker discovers her first client’s dead body in this irresistible new mystery series. 

It’ll take more than a little sugar to convince folks Daphne Martin’s freshly baked spice cake was not to blame for the mysterious death of town gossip Yodel Watson. Getting her new cake decorating business, Daphne’s Delectable Cakes, off the ground is hard enough now that Daphne’s moved back to her southern Virginia hometown, but orders have been even slower since she found Yodel’s body. She soon realizes, however, that just about everybody in town had a reason to poison the cantankerous busybody, from the philandering pet shop owner, to Yodel’s church potluck nemesis, to the Save-A-Buck’s cranky produce manager-turned-bagger. Now, to help prove she’s no confectionary killer, Daphne recruits her old flame, Ben Jacobs, editor of the local newspaper, and quickly stirs up a long-hidden family scandal that just might hold the secret ingredient she needs to solve the case. All she’s got to do is roll up her sleeves and get her hands a little dirty before the real culprit decides that taking sweet revenge on Daphne will be icing on the cake.

My Thoughts: 

This book was released several years ago but has been re-released with a new cover (see above) with some new material. I never read the original release so I can't compare the two.

Daphne is nice, is a bit naïve, and quite determined.  There was a wide ranges of characters in this book and Trent makes each one stand out. Daphne is starting a new life, trying to get her catering business off the ground and when Yodel's death threatens that, she finds herself investigating. She also gets involved in a family mystery which at first is intertwined with Yodel's death. While I did have fun reading this book, there were some parts in the middle where I did skim over as I felt that the story could have moved faster. Still, I enjoyed it and it held my attention.

I really liked that Daphne's involvement in the murder investigation rang true. Often in cozy mysteries, the amateur sleuths involvement requires a strong suspension of belief. This made sense and really worked. As is common with cozy mysteries involving food, there are some recipes at the back. They look relatively easy and like something your average baker could do. There are even baking tips sprinkled in throughout the book.

"Murder Takes the Cake" is a light, enjoyable, easy read.

This paperback was received from the publisher for review.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review of The Thieves of Darkness by Richard Doetsch

Publisher: Pocket Star Books

Release Date: Feb. 22, 2011

More Info: Amazon

Series: no actual series but the third book to feature the protagonist

Book Blurb:

Michael St. Pierre, a reformed master thief, thinks he has left his criminal days far behind him, when he receives word that his best friend, Simon, has been locked up and sentenced to die in a brutal desert prison. Breaking into jail for the first time in his checkered career, Michael is stunned to discover that his new girlfriend, KC, is connected to Simon’s case. 

With a madman on their heels, the three adventurers make their way to Istanbul in search of the mysterious artifact that landed Simon behind bars in the first place: a map containing the location of a holy place lost to the mists of time, a repository of knowledge and treasure predating Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Testing their courage and wits, Michael and his team are forced to plot a series of daring thefts that take them inside some of the city’s most celebrated (and heavily guarded) sanctums, from the imperial harem of Topkapi Palace to the tombs of the Hagia Sophia itself. More than priceless artifacts are at stake—the lives of loved ones and perhaps the fate of humanity itself hang in the balance. 

A globe-trotting adventure that wings from the glittering banks of the Bosporus to the highest peaks of the Himalayas, The Thieves of Darkness confirms Richard Doetsch’s place as the modern-day master of pulse-pounding suspense.

My Thoughts:

"The Thieves of Darkness" is an enjoyable read from beginning to end. Doetsch has a engaging style of writing that draws you in and holds you all the way. He takes you on an excursion through mystery, suspense, murder, romance and faith all in one book. The book is almost 500 pages and rarely slows down. The story could have been tightened up a bit but it held my attention and kept me reading. There are surprises around every corner and some that took me surprise but the clues and hints were there. The plotline and the religious themes reminded me somewhat of Dan Brown's books but with more, IMO, depth of characterization and detail. Doetsch clearly did his research and it shows.

I was a little uncertain at times exactly what the real nature of the treasure was but after reading the entire book and thinking about it, I have a better understanding and I think Doetsch was purposefully vague. The very nature of the treasure involves some vagueness. There are some unlikely coincidences, and the motives at times are fuzzy but the story held my attention. There's a lot of grey in the book, not everything is a clear case of black or white, good or evil. The characters make the best choices they can and hope for the best. The main bad guy has no redeeming qualities but he was an exception and even he was at times someone I could almost empathize with or understand.

Doetsch is ambitious, "Thieves of Darkness" is another thriller with everything but the kitchen sink and I can easily see it as a movie but overall, it's a fun, engaging and even thought provoking action thriller.

This paperback was received from the publisher for review.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An interview with mystery author Patricia Rockwell

Today we have Patricia Rockwell, a retired communications professor who now writes and publishes mysteries. She has two blogs: one, Communication Exchange about talking and communication, and Subjective Soup,Cozy Cat Press. You can also find her at Twitter and facebook. which is more of a personal blog. The press she founded is called

Bea:  Thank you for joining us today. First, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Patricia: I am a retired university professor who has recently taken up writing and publishing cozy mysteries.  I grew up in Nebraska and got my Bachelor and Master's degrees from the University of Nebraska but went all the way to Arizona for my doctorate.  My husband Milt is a retired Air Force officer and we travelled quite a bit when he was in the service.  We now live in Illinois close to family.  We have two adult children--a son and a daughter.

Bea: You were a college professor for many years. What did you like best about teaching?

Patricia:  loved teaching which I did most of my life.  Actually, I spent about four years of my career teaching in a high school and the rest at the college level.  I absolutely prefer teaching at the college level because the teacher is not required to be a babysitter and prison guard as they often are in the public schools.  I remember spending a lot of time on "smoking duty" when I taught in high school.  It was my task to patrol restrooms for wayward students who were trying to sneak a cigarette.  I'm just not cut out for that kind of interaction with students.  At the college level, my conversations with students are about their education, course work, and their futures.  Believe me, I have nothing but admiration for public school teachers.  They are asked to do a monumental task.

Bea: What prompted you to start writing fiction? Was it a long time dream?

Patricia: I've always been a reader--primarily mysteries.  As a college professor, I was expected to conduct my own research which entailed writing and publishing it in order to secure tenure.  I actually enjoyed academic writing, even spending eight years as a regional journal editor.  When I retired, I was able to put my academic writing, editing, and publishing experience to use and begin my second career as a fiction author and publisher.  

Bea: Why murder mysteries? And why someone in your field? Because you know the subject so well? Or do you think that there is a lot of potential in subject for mystery stories?

Patricia: As I said, I've always loved reading murder mysteries.  I love the puzzle aspect to them.  Actually, it wasn't until I started writing my first mystery that I discovered that the kind of mystery I liked and the kind I wrote was called a "cozy" mystery.  I like a story with an intriguing plot that the reader gets to solve along with the detective.  I don't care at all for excessive blood and violence, chase scenes, or foul language.   This is what cozies are.  Why me and my field?  If you mean, why have an amateur sleuth who solves crimes using acoustic technology, the answer is that I personally used such technology extensively in my own research so I'm quite familiar with how it works.  No, I never solved any crimes with it, but once a local television station did contact me and asked me to listen to an on-air interview with a suspect and tell them if the suspect was lying.  I did listen to the interview and reported some of the suspects behaviors and what those behaviors indicated in many typical situations.  However, I pointed out to them that just because the person exhibited these behaviors did not guarantee that they were lying.  
After my first Pamela Barnes mystery came out, one critic suggested that the potential for future stories where Pamela could solve mysteries using only sound clues was limited.  I beg to disagree.  I have finished three books in this series and am working on the fourth.  Obviously, sound is not a clue in all murders, but it can be a clue--and an interesting one--in many fictional crimes.

Bea: Do you have plans to write more books? Will they be more Pamela Barnes stories, or something new?

Patricia: I plan to write at least one book in this series each year.

Bea: You have twitter and facebook accounts, along with a LinkedIn account and several blogs. As someone who has spent time teaching and researching communication, what are your thoughts on these social sites? As a writer and publisher, do you believe they are necessary to be successful? 
Patricia: I have mixed feelings on social sites.  The landscape here is changing so fast that users have to work really hard to keep up with which sites work for them.  Truthfully, blogs were the "in" thing several years ago, but seem to be fading in preference to Twitter, Facebook, etc.  But just as quickly as blogs can decline, so can these media.  Maybe next year, Twitter and Facebook will be passe and something we don't even know about now will be popular.   Also, as an author of cozy mysteries, I am always cognizant of the results of the recent Sisters in Crime mystery readers' survey which indicated that the vast majority of cozy mystery readers are older women and that most of them do NOT use the Internet.  

Bea: Why did you start up your publishing company? What are your goals? Do you have any other books coming out?  

Patricia: I started my publishing company, Cozy Cat Press, because I truly love publishing and editing.  I got a taste of it when I worked in academia as I mentioned before.  I really love working with writers and helping them bring their work to fruition.  CCP just signed our third author and her cozy mystery will out later this year.

Bea: What's a typical writing day like for you? Are you an outliner or do you wing it? 

Patricia: A typical day for me is spent at my computer.  Most of my day is spent promoting my company and its books--as opposed to actual fiction writing.  When I'm actually writing a book, it's an all day activity for about a month until it's done.  Yes, I do use an outline but I adjust it as I go.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Review of The Survivor by Sean Slater

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Release Date: March 3rd

More Info: Amazon

Book Blurb:

Columbine. Dunblane. Virginia Tech. Winnenden. But Saint Patrick's High?

In his first hour back from a six-month leave of absence, Detective Jacob Striker's day quickly turns into a nightmare. He is barely on scene five minutes at his daughter's high school when he encounters an Active Shooter situation. Three men wearing hockey masks - Black, White, and Red - have stormed the school with firearms and are killing indiscriminately.

Striker takes immediate action. Within minutes, two of the gunmen are dead and Striker is close to ending the violence.

But the last gunman, Red Mask, does something unexpected. He runs up to his fallen comrade, racks the shotgun, and unloads five rounds into the man, obliterating his face and hands. Before Striker can react, Red Mask flees - and escapes.

Against the clock, Striker investigates the killings for which there is no known motive and no known suspect. Soon his investigation takes him to darker places, and he realizes that everything at Saint Patrick's High is not as it appears. The closer he gets to the truth, the more dangerous his world becomes. Until Striker himself is in the line of fire.

And the violence follows him home. 

My Thoughts:

Slater has a knack for grabbing the reader’s attention and making them want to keep turning the pages. Although, the first chapter or two didn't grab me right off, but then I was drawn in and the story kept me engrossed. The funny thing was, I'd had it for several months but kept procrastinating. Once I started reading, I regretted procrastinating.

 I enjoy reading mysteries, especially ones where you think you know what's going on, but you really don't. Every time I thought I knew what was going on, Slater threw a curve ball. There are some cliches; the one that annoyed me the most was the cop, in this case Striker, who rebels against his superior and constantly clashes with him. But despite that, it worked and it didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the story.

In fact, I almost liked the lead shooter. We have some insight into his mind, thanks to the chapters written from his point of view. This worked very well, and made him more human to me. I felt sorry for him, or rather, the younger, child form of him.
The story is told in multiple view points, primarily Striker's, his daughter Courtney, and one of the killers, though it's a while before we learn his identity. Even when we learn his identity, we still don't know what is going on or what the motivation was. The story is complex and layered and while the ultimate reason for the shootings are fairly mundane, the back story and detours are detailed and fascinating.

The character development was strong in this book though I would have liked to see more development of Striker's partner, Felicia Santos. There's another book planned so perhaps we'll see it then.Overall, the characters feel real, people you might in your every day life.

The book does contain violence and some torture scenes, but they are not overly graphic. I think. I am a total wimp so I skimmed those but from what I read, they weren't too bad. Just too much for me.

Although I read mysteries regularly, I think this was my first that was set in Canada. That made it interesting for me, to see the similarities and differences between there and the USA, where I live. It was less of a cultural struggle for me than when I first started reading books set in the UK.

This paperback was provided by Simon & Schuster UK 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

End of Month Giveaway! Open globally

So, to close out the month of murder and mayhem, I am having a giveaway. I may even do this every month, or every month where I have print books to mail. :)

Up for grabs are some of the books that I reviewed this month. Which ones? Well, the ones that I have print copies of :D A few are ARC's so the covers are different and there are some typos plus the final content of the printed book may differ; most are the final book. I'm having camera problems so for now, I'll use the cover pix from the posts. The winner can choose up to 3 of the listed books, and it's open internationally. April 1st, (no kidding, honest!) I'll use to choose a winner.

Who is eligible to enter? If you commented on a review this month, then you will be entered. Sorry, only review comments count.

The Books:

  1. Murder Takes the Cake by Gayle Trent
  2. The Thieves of Darkness by Richard Doetsch
  3. The Survivor by Sean Slater (ARC)
  4. Gideon's Sword by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (ARC - has different cover & title)
  5. Swept Off Her Feet by Hester Browne
  6. Altar of Bones by Philip Carter
  7. Treachery in Death by JD Robb

ARC Review of The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

Publisher: Harper Teen

Release Date: April 12, 2011

More info: Amazon

Series: #1 in the Darkness Rising series

Book Blurb: Maya lives in a small medical-research town on Vancouver Island. How small? You can’t find it on the map. It has less than two-hundred people, and her school has only sixty-eight students–for every grade from kindergarten to twelve.

Now, strange things are happening in this claustrophobic town, and Maya’s determined to get to the bottom of them. First, the captain of the swim team drowns mysteriously in the middle of a calm lake. A year later, mountain lions start appearing around Maya’s home, and they won’t go away. Her best friend, Daniel, starts experiencing “bad vibes” about certain people and things. It does’t help that the new bad boy in town, Rafe, has a dangerous secret…and he’s interested in one special part of Maya’s anatomy: Her paw-print birthmark.

My Thoughts:

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear me, happy birthday to me!

What a great present to have a new book by one of my favorite authors released on my birthday (April 12). Kelley is a wonderful author who can really weave a story so when she announced the release date for this book, it was a fun coincidence that it fell on my birthday. Now if it just came with chocolate cake and Jonny Depp, it'd be a truly awesome birthday. :P

The Darkest Powers part of the trilogy is finished for now.  The Darkness Rising part of the trilogy - which starts with The Gathering (release date April 5th in Canada) is the second part.  This part will also consist of three books, like that Darkest Powers did.  There will be a third part to the trilogy after all three of the Darkness Rising story has had it's three books.

I really, really enjoyed this book. The story flowed right along at a brisk pace but never felt rushed, it grabs your attention from the first chapter and doesn't let go until the very last page, which ends in a cliff hanger (I'm already counting down the days until book two). There are twists and turns, some mystery, some romance, conflict, humor, all worked into an enjoyable story. Maya is smart, funny, realistic, and quite relatable. She's not a smart aleck (though she can be pretty darn funny) but neither is she perfect. There isn't a word or punctuation mark that I'd change.

The supernatural element is mild at first but Armstrong builds it up as the story goes along. Readers of her Women of the Otherworld series may recognize the name of the pharmaceutical facility, but you don't need to have read any of those books nor the books in her Darkest Powers YA series. The story is a stand alone in that regard though set in the same world as those. There are some similarities between Maya and Mercy Thompson in Patricia Briggs's "Mercy Thompson" series that readers of both series will spot right away.

Kelley's teenage daughter is her advisor for the YA books and you can tell. It's not just an adult writing what she thinks or hopes will interest teens and young adults nor does she talk down to them. There are several mysteries in the book that all mesh together and I think sustaining the three book story arc will not be a problem at all.

This paperback ARC was received from the publisher for review.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dual Review of Quiet Anchorage by Ed Lynskey


Release Date: March 28th, 2011

More Info: Amazon

Book Blurb:

Quiet Anchorage, Virginia, looks like paradise. When she's accused of murdering her fiance, however, the small town is anything but heavenly for Megan Connors. With her fingerprints on the murder weapon, it looks like an open-and-shut case, and Sheriff Fox, running for reelection and anxious to get credit for 'solving' a murder case, intends on ramming through charges and getting a conviction. Megan's only champions are her aging aunts. They don't believe she's guilty, but what can two senior citizens do against the powers of the state and the evidence against Megan?

Isabel and Alma Trumbo may be aging, even worried about memory loss, but they've read just about every mystery published in the past half-century. They're sure they've picked up the skills and knowledge they need to prove Megan's innocence. Starting with the town's gossips and loafers, then scaling up when the sexy ex-girlfriend of one of the Sheriff's deputies joins them, they search for alternate suspects, possible motives, and any evidence that might exonerate their niece.

Similar cozy mysteries are Anne George’s Southern Sisters and Rita Mae Brown’s Merry Minor Herristeen titles (also a series set in Virginia).

Our Thoughts:


I like cozy mysteries, they can be a lot of fun. You get a mystery but it's as much about the characters as it is the mystery. Often, there's a theme to them - cooking, knitting, etc - but not always. "Quiet Anchorage" doesn't have the theme but it does give us cozy. We have the Trumbo sisters, no longer young, who now live together and take up sleuthing when their niece is arrested for murder. They are both avid mystery readers and waste no time putting to use what they have read. They have a lot of beginners luck, and the story gets very convoluted. There are some twists and turns, some believable, some less so and on occasion you could see that Lynskey is more used to writing more hard boiled detective stories .

I'm not familiar with the Southern Sisters series but I have read most of the Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen books and other than the fact that they are both set in rural Virginia and are both cozy mysteries, there's isn't a similarity. Why, you wonder, did I bold those words? Because, in the description, which comes straight from the email he sent us when he requested a review and is also the Goodreads blurb, he misspells the characters name. Bad form when you are comparing yourself favorably to them, and poor editing. As some of you know, that's a major peeve of mine and it cropped up periodically in the story. I'm not sure it would bug someone who isn't picky about that sort of thing, but if you are, you've been warned. :P

Overall, not bad but I'm not rushing out to get the next one in the series.

JAX: Mysteries are not my genre of choice, but I do occasionally like to pick them up. Not to solve the who-done-it, but just to watch the story unfold: the false leads, multiple suspects, etc. This story in and of itself wasn't bad, but I found somethings distracted me from it. Odd scene changes, awkward turns of phrase, and I spent half the book trying to figure out why the Sheriff's name changed suddenly when both names were finally used together, solving a mystery that had my attention more than the  murder at hand.
But, like Bea, I find some of the littlest details to be enough to jar me out of a story.

Outside those things, I think that the plot was good, and I liked the characters. There is a very clear set up for future books, and I can see the potential for the sisters to get out of their little town and into more trouble. I'd be willing to catch up with them on their next caper, see if they can use their small town wiles in a wider world.

The PDF was received from the author for review.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review and Giveaway: Real Murders by Charlaine Harris

Congratulations to Jennifer! According to,  you are the proud new owner of the Aurora Teagarden series.

Jax here. It's Mystery Month! Not a genre I read often. So I pulled out one of the few mystery series that I've read to share. I really enjoy Charlaine Harris' Aurora Teagarden Mystery Series, and I thought it would be fun to share it with one of you!  Leave a comment by midnight CST March 31st, and we'll draw a name to win all 8 books!

Here's a bit about the first book, Real Murders.

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

Published: December 2007

Book Blurb:

Every month, Real Murders, a society of crime buffs in Lawrenceton, Georgia, met to discuss a favorite infamous murder. Its members were an eccentric lot: Gifford Doakes, the massacre specialist; Jane Engle, lover of Victorian horrors; Perry Allison, a Ted Bundy fan....

The night of the last meeting, town librarian Aurora "Roe" Teagarden discovered Mamie Wright's mutilated body in the clubhouse kitchen. She felt certain the killer was a fellow member, for the crime bore a chilling resemblance to the club's "murder of the month."

And as other brutal "copycat" killings followed, the only motive seemed a horrifyingly bizarre sense of fun....

My Thoughts: I'm not usually into mysteries, but this is a fun, quick read. I think one of Charlaine's greatest talents as a writer is her ability to create a realistic cast of people and places, a great balance to the improbable events that happen. Roe is a likeable main character, with a quick wit, funny foibles and an odd hobby. I love seeing the world through her eyes, everything from the way she notes the strengths and weaknesses of her friends, family, neighbors, and even herself to the her fondness and exasperation for the life she lives.

The story moves along nicely, with great details about real murder mysteries sprinkled throughout, and good reasons to suspect just about everyone you meet. There's even a bit of romance, because, really there's nothing like a good death to make you want to live to the fullest! With summer coming, this is a great beach book.

This book is owned by the reviewer.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Review of The Zero Dog War by Keith Melton

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Release date: December 23, 2010

More info: Amazon

Book Blurb:

The first bullet is always free. After that, you gotta pay.

Zero Dog Missions, Book 1

After accidentally blowing up both a client facility and a cushy city contract in the same day, pyromancer and mercenary captain Andrea Walker is scrambling to save her Zero Dogs. A team including (but not limited to) a sexually repressed succubus, a werewolf with a thing for health food, a sarcastic tank driver/aspiring romance novelist, a three-hundred-pound calico cat, and a massive demon who really loves to blow stuff up.

With the bankruptcy vultures circling, Homeland Security throws her a high-paying, short-term contract even the Zero Dogs can’t screw up: destroy a capitalist necromancer bent on dominating the gelatin industry with an all-zombie workforce. The catch? She has to take on Special Forces Captain Jake Sanders, a man who threatens both the existence of the team and Andrea’s deliberate avoidance of romantic entanglements.

As Andrea strains to hold her dysfunctional team together long enough to derail the corporate zombie apocalypse, the prospect of getting her heart run over by a tank tread is the least of her worries. The government never does anything without an ulterior motive. Jake could be the key to success…or just another bad day at the office for the Zeroes.

Warning: Contains explicit language, intense action and violence, rampaging zombie hordes, a heroine with an attitude and flamethrower, Special Forces commandos, ninjas, apocalyptic necromancer capitalist machinations, absurd parody and mayhem, self-deluded humor, irreverence, geek humor, mutant cats, low-brow comedy, and banana-kiwi-flavored gelatin.

My Thoughts:

I was intrigued by the premise, and enjoyed the story and the characters, but didn't love it. The comedy felt over the top at times though we are warned up front that it contains sarcasm and parody (and oh, does it ever! :D). The team is made up of  wise ass, joking misfits who seem mostly unacquainted with the concept of discipline. There was so much comedy that the jokes started to get tiresome. Still, the story moves along at a brisk pace and there are some very funny lines - "The scene drowned in cloying cuteness...and yet the show didn't come with an airsick bag."; "A woman needs a man like a corpse needs Viagra" ( I cracked up at that one), "Hell, a rampaging horde of menopausal lemmings would be more of a challenge." and perhaps my favorites, "God, she was awesome. Of course, she'd come here to kill him, which put a bit of a damper on his hard-on." and "Let's face it. Evil people need love too." :P Melton does have a knack for using humor to show us insight into a character or point out the asburdities in a genre.

Most of the story's tension does not come from the bad guy as he was more of a comedic bad guy. He never felt like a real threat but I did like his geekiness. He wasn't your typical "Dark Overlord" and I did like that, even if he never felt completely believable. The main tension comes from the Zero Dog's captain, Andrea Walker, and the US government advisor, Captain Jake Sanders. There's professional tension as there's the ever-present possibility that Jake might replace Andrea as leader of the Zero Dogs and personal tension as they deal with their attraction to each other and all the complications that entails, including the professional ones.

Overall, The Zero Dog War is a fun book, easy to read, a little light on characterization but definitely worth picking up and I will most likely read the next one when it comes out.

PDF was received from the author for review.

Guest Review of JD Robb's Treachery in Death

Publisher: Putnam

Release Date: February 22, 2011

Series:  #32 in the In Death Series.

More Info: Amazon

Today we have a guest review from an acquaintance I'll call Nifty. I met Nifty at Patricia Briggs' discussion board. Nifty is an avid reader and when she's not reading or working, she is playing with her dog, Bandit.

Book Blurb:

In the latest from the #1 New York Times bestselling phenomenon, Eve Dallas tracks down those who break the law-including the ones sworn to uphold it.

Detective Eve Dallas and her partner, Peabody, are following up on a senseless crime-an elderly grocery owner killed by three stoned punks for nothing more than kicks and snacks. This is Peabody's first case as primary detective - good thing she learned from the master.

But Peabody soon stumbles upon a trickier situation. After a hard workout, she's all alone in the locker room when the gym door clatters open; and-while hiding inside a shower stall trying not to make a sound-she overhears two fellow officers, Garnet and Oberman, arguing. It doesn't take long to realize they're both crooked-guilty not just of corruption but of murder. Now Peabody, Eve, and Eve's husband, Roarke, are trying to get the hard evidence they need to bring the dirty cops down-knowing all the while that the two are willing to kill to keep their secret. 

My Thoughts:

Unlike other books in this series, Treachery in Death is light on the mystery - we know who the bad guy is, and what the crime is, from the first chapter – and doesn’t seem to have the heft and evilness of some previous plots.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as sometimes the plots of the In Death books can be over-the-top – not just evil, but eeeevil – and in this case, it’s a straight-forward police procedural that brings the focus back on the team, their skills, and their principles.  Merely knowing who the bad guy is isn’t enough.  Eve still has to gather evidence and build a case and move with care in doing so, considering that the bad cop is a ranking officer of the NYPSD and the daughter of a highly respected former commander. This investigation has to be 100% above-board and air-tight.

Most of the story moves at a lightning pace.  Eve uses the homicide of one of the bad cop’s weasel as her foot in the door, and from there it’s just connecting the pieces.  And if she has to shake a few trees to see what kind of rotten fruit falls down, so much the better.  We all know how much she loves to get in the face of the villains she has targeted.
Eve's personal story doesn't get a whole lot of attention, but there's a humorous scene with Eve, Bella, and Mavis – who is tagged for a bit of con-work -- and a sweet scene between Roarke and Eve. The most significant personal aspect for me was actually professional also: Eve muses on how the type of woman she is sets the tone for the type of cop she is, but also the type of BOSS she is.  Also, every In Death story comes with at least a little focus directed at one of the (many!) secondary characters, and in this book, that particular spotlight is focused on IAB rat Don Webster.

I thought the tightness of the story suffered just a bit at the very end - the last 70 pages or so - and the climax could have used a bit more punch. But overall I found this one to be really enjoyable and kind of rewhetted my appetite for these characters and this series (which had begun to wane in the last couple years). 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Review of The Mysterious Lady Law by Robert Appleton

Publisher: Carina Press

Release Date: January 31, 2011

More info:  Amazon

Book Blurb: 

In a time of grand airships and steam-powered cars, the death of a penniless young maid will hardly make the front page. But part-time airship waitress and music hall dancer Julia Bairstow is shattered by her sister's murder. When Lady Law, the most notorious private detective in Britain, offers to investigate the case pro bono, Julia jumps at the chance—even against the advice of Constable Al Grant, who takes her protection surprisingly to heart. 

Lady Law puts Scotland Yard to shame. She's apprehended Jack the Ripper and solved countless other cold-case crimes. No one knows how she does it, but it's brought her fortune, renown and even a title. But is she really what she claims to be—a genius at deducting? Or is Al right and she is not be trusted? 

Julia is determined to find out the truth, even if it means turning sleuth herself—and turning the tables on Lady Law...

My Thoughts: 

I have not read much steampunk but this one sounded intriguing, a mix of steampunk, mystery and romance by a new to me author. I like mixed genre stories, when done well. This one comes off okay but I think Appleton may have been overly ambitious. Though, I have to give him credit for trying and for taking chances.

There's action, steam powered weapons, giant artificial planets, steam powered automobiles, and lots of other technical gadgets that I couldn't quite figure out but I have never been a very technological person. The technical gadgets end up being essential to the story, which, since it's a steampunk, they should be. At first, they didn't seem necessary and I wondered why Appleton chose to make it steampunk but in the end it worked. The action scenes, though usually exciting, were hard for me to visualize with all of the technical things thrown in; trying to visualize it all was difficult for me. The story line was intriguing but I would have liked to have seen more character development. This might have worked better as a full length novel.

It's primarily a mystery with a side helping of romance. The romance, between Julia and Al Grant, the constable investigating her sister Georgy's murder, happens slowly. It starts with him providing comforting words and reassurance after Georgy's death and builds up as the investigation progresses. At first, Julia doesn't know whether or not to trust him. Neither she or her sister are of any importance socially  thus fall low in the priority list of the police yet he is dogged in pursuing the case, and she knows that he does not like Lady Law, who has offered her services, gratis. Grant is determined to investigate, but has been unsuccessful and Julia fears that his dislike of Lady Law is impeding his ability to accept help in the case. She is unaware, initially, that Grant and Law have a history. While I appreciated that Appleton didn't have Grant and Julia immediately jump all over each but let their attraction build over the course of the investigation, I do wish that he'd either spent more time on it or skipped it all together. At times, it feels as the romance was added purely to attract more female readers. I don't know that that's what happened but it felt that way to me.

Julia is willing to accept any help she can get, even though she wonders why Law is so willing to help. On the one hand she admires Law's independence and her ability to succeed in a man's world but she is also suspicious of Law's generous offer. She ends up accepting Law's help but has misgivings about the results. With Al's willing help, and that of semi-retired adventurer Sir Horace Holly, who also has an interest in the investigation into Georgy's death, they unearth Lady Law's secrets and find out the truth about Georgy's death.

The story gets a bit convoluted and there are some deus ex machina moments, but it's a fairly quick read and both Grant and Julia are likable, as is Sir Holly.

**This review has been edited and revised from the original version that appeared on this blog**

This eARC was received from.NetGalley.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

drosdelnoch from The Falcata Times talks about why we love a mystery

Today we have droselnoch from The Falcata Times visiting and giving us his take on why we love to read mysteries. dros reads (Oh man, does he read! I swear the man never sleeps. He reads a couple books day, I think.) and reviews at two blogs that he owns and runs - The Falcata Times, which reviews mysteries & thrillers, fantasy in all incarnations, science fiction and art books plus graphic novels; over at Tatty's Treasure Chest he reviews childrens books and young adult books. I've been acquainted with dros for several years, we met at Kelley Armstrong's discussion board. My first book review for a blog was for dros at The Falcata Times.  When I decided to focus on mysteries this month, I immediately thought of dros as I know he reads a lot of them. I hope you enjoy his post and stop by his blog some time to check it out.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review of How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Release date: February 22nd, 2011

More info: goodreads

Series: #1 in the Naked Werewolf series

Book Blurb:

Northern Exposure

Even in Grundy, Alaska, it’s unusual to find a naked guy with a bear trap clamped to his ankle on your porch. But when said guy turns into a wolf, recent southern transplant Mo Wenstein has no difficulty identifying the problem. Her surly neighbor Cooper Graham—who has been openly critical of Mo’s ability to adapt to life in Alaska—has trouble of his own. Werewolf trouble.
For Cooper, an Alpha in self-imposed exile from his dysfunctional pack, it’s love at first sniff when it comes to Mo. But Cooper has an even more pressing concern on his mind. Several people around Grundy have been the victims of wolf attacks, and since Cooper has no memory of what he gets up to while in werewolf form, he’s worried that he might be the violent canine in question.
If a wolf cries wolf, it makes sense to listen, yet Mo is convinced that Cooper is not the culprit. Except if he’s not responsible, then who is? And when a werewolf falls head over haunches in love with you, what are you supposed to do anyway? The rules of dating just got a whole lot more complicated. . . .

My Thoughts:

I had not read Ms. Harper before, but friends of mine who had, raved about her, so when I had a chance to get this one, I took it. I knew it would  be light and probably humorous. It was. It was also well written, a light romance with some depth and some good writing. I enjoyed it very much.

Mo and Cooper are the cliched couple who are physically attracted to each other but don't like each other so they try to resist. Harper makes their dislike feel real and not forced so it took me a while to realize the cliche she was using. Their relationship develops over time instead of happening instantly or in a brief period of time. Harper allows things to unfold naturally and doesn't rush them.

Mo is from the mainland of the USA, specifically Mississippi. She makes the radical move from the Deep South to Alaska, despite not having a job lined up, because her life needs shaking up and she really, REALLY wants to put distance between herself and her parents. Mo and her fiancee called off their engagement and she doesn't want to stay in her small town. Plus, her parents make her crazy, especially her mother. Her parents are hippies who have never quite transitioned out of being hippies and her mother tries to run her life, even letting herself into Mo's home and throwing out any food that she disapproves of.

So Mo moves to Alaska where the women are scarce and the men are eager to court them. She gets a job, makes friends, and in short order realizes that the wolf she has encountered on several occasions is actually hunky, cranky Cooper, trail guide. She begins to wonder if Cooper may be the wolf responsible for attacking and killing some of the locals. Cooper himself believes that he may be (Harper's werewolves sometimes have trouble recalling their actions while in wolf form). The wolf attacks are devastating to the town and the local US Forestry ranger, Alan Dahling, is working overtime trying to track the wolf responsible.

The story is primarily a romance with paranormal and mystery elements but it's really Mo's blossoming and finding her place in Grundy which really held my interest. Mo is strong and stubborn without being  TSTL, or too stupid to live; she's smart, funny, loyal, and able to admit when she's wrong. Harper is funny and sharp, I tweeted some of my favorite lines as I was reading the book - "Wait a minute, I recognized that scowl. That was Cooper's scowl. That was Cooper's sister." "So, it's like an olfactory chastity belt?" "Werewolves could be such horndogs." were among them.

Overall, this is a funny, easy sweet read that doesn't skimp on story or development.

This paperback was received from the publisher for review.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Review of Swept Off Her Feet by Hester Browne

Publisher: Gallery Books

Release Date: March 8, 2010

More Info: Amazon

Book Blurb: 

The steps of a charmingly complex dance—Scotland’s famous reel—are at the heart of Hester Browne’s enchanting contemporary novel of two very different sisters whose dreams may come true at a romantic Scottish ball.
Evie Nicholson is in love . . . with the past. An antiques appraiser in a London shop, Evie spins fanciful attachments to Victorian picture frames, French champagne glasses, satin evening gloves, and tattered teddy bears—regardless of their monetary value. 

Alice Nicholson is in love . . . with Fraser Graham, a dashing Scotsman whom Evie secretly desires. As crisply neat and stylish as Evie is cheerfully cluttered, Alice is a professional organizer determined to pull her sister out of her comfort zone—and who presents her with an irresistible offer. 

As a favor to friends of Fraser’s family, Evie jumps at the chance to appraise a Scottish castle full of artifacts and heirlooms. What could be more thrilling than roaming the halls of Kettlesheer and uncovering the McAndrews’ family treasures—and dusty secrets? 

But crossing paths with moody heir Robert McAndrew has Evie assessing what she wants the most . . . and at an upcoming candlelight gala, a traditional dance will set her heart reeling. 

My Thoughts:

I don't read a lot of straight up romances; most of the romances I read are romantic suspense or paranormal romance. But, every once in a while I crave a regular romance. This one sounded appealing - sisters (I have two, anybody want one?), dancing (not that I dance. I'm told I dance like a drunken giraffe on crutches), a castle, and a hunky male lead. 

"Swept Off Her Feet" focuses primarily on the younger sister Evie  and her romantic troubles but older sister Alice is also part of the story. In fact, Alice gets Evie the job evaluating antiques at a Scottish castle for a family having financial troubles. That, of course, is where Evie meets Robert, or Robbie as his parents call him. Like Evie, he loves his family but doesn't see eye-to-eye with him about life choices, his or theirs. Evie has a similar problem with her sister and their mother. They are waiting for her to grow up and get a real job and to stop hoarding. Now, from what I read, I'd call her a collector not a hoarder but I've had similar conversations with my own family so I empathize strongly with Evie.

That is one of the strength's of this story. Most of us don't live in castles, certainly aren't some form of royalty like Robbie's parents, but we all have family issues, we all feel strongly about our life choices, and most people just want to be accepted for who they are. Browne neatly works all these themes into the story without clobbering us over the head with them. Evie, Alice, Robbie, and Fraser (Alice's boyfriend and Evie's crush) are all likable and understandable. I found myself rooting for all of them though Alice did get on my nerves at times; Browne must have an older sister, she did such a great job of portraying Alice. (Sorry Kelly & Sarita, if you are reading this. But, it's true! :P)

Over the course of the book, Evie, Alice and Robbie all come to terms with their family issues and their relationships with each other. Learning how to reel goes a long way to building up her self confidence. Both she and her sister are very tall and not particularly graceful so dancing has always been torturous for them. The ball that Robbie's parents hold at their castle is a turning point for both Evie and Alice. But, the book doesn't end there. Evie goes back to the store where she works, trying desperately to save her job. She prefers personal, intimate antiques - diaries, plush animals, love letters, etc. Her boss prefers the bigger ticket items - furniture, oriental rugs, etc. Her job was on the line with this consult for Robbie's family. The ending is a bit pat and predictable, but overall it's a fun, well written romance with both depth and humor.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New Author JA Campbell talks about her short story & there's a giveaway!

Today we have a visit from a debut author, JA Campbell. Her first novel, Arabian Dreams, is due out August 1st of this year and her first short story, Into the West, was released yesterday, March 8th, 2011. It's part of an exciting new series from Echelon Press and marks her debut as a published author.

JA is yet another author from the Online Writers Group at Kelley Armstrong's discussion board. If you want to improve your writing and possibly get published, you really need to go join. They have about a dozen members who have gone on to be published.

 A little bit about JA:  Julie writes fantasy novels. When she’s not out riding her horse, she can usually be found sitting in front of her computer with a cat on her lap and her dog at her side.  You can find out more at her website

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Review of Wilder's Mate by Moira Rogers

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Release Date: March 8, 2011

More Info: goodreads

Series: #1 in the Bloodhounds series

Book Blurb:  Think a vampire-hunting bloodhound is dangerous?

Try threatening his woman.

Bloodhounds, Book 1
Wilder Harding is a bloodhound, created by the Guild to hunt down and kill vampires on America’s frontier. His enhanced abilities come with a high price: on the full moon, he becomes capable of savagery beyond telling, while the new moon brings a sexual hunger that borders on madness. 

Rescuing a weapons inventor from undead kidnappers is just another assignment, though one with an added complication—keeping his hands off the man’s pretty young apprentice, who insists on tagging along.
At odds with polite society, Satira’s only constant has been the aging weapons inventor who treats her like a daughter. She isn’t going to trust Wilder with Nathaniel’s life, not when the Guild might decide the old man isn’t worth saving. Besides, if there’s one thing she’s learned, it’s that brains are more important than brawn.

As the search stretches far longer than Wilder planned, he finds himself fighting against time. If Satira is still at his side when the new moon comes, nothing will stop him from claiming her. Worse, she seems all too willing. If their passion unlocks the beast inside, no one will be safe. Not even the man they’re fighting to save.

Warning: This book contains a crude, gun-slinging, vampire-hunting hero who howls at the full moon and a smart, stubborn heroine who invents mad-scientist weapons. Also included: wild frontier adventures, brothels, danger, betrayal and a good dose of wicked loving in an alternate Wild West.

My Thoughts:

Wilder's Mate is a blend of steampunk, urban fantasy, western, mystery, romance, and erotica. The two ladies who write as Moira Rogers have stirred and mixed the ingredients together to make an intriguing story.

Wilder is a Bloodhound, created specifically for the purpose of hunting vampires. He has both a human form and a wolf form but the wolf personality seems to rule. Unlike other bloodhounds, he has an ego strong enough to recognize what others can contribute and not just assume that he can do it all. He knows what he is good at and he knows what other people are good at and he's able and willing to use any and all tools and skills available to him. He is smart, quiet, deadly, and compassionate.

Satira comes to appreciate that quality in Wilder, along with many of his others. She is a human raised by her human mother and a bloodhound who is apprenticed to an inventor, a male inventor. Her world doesn't  appreciate women who have technical skills or think for themselves. Satira needs Wilder's help to retrieve the inventor who has been a surrogate father to her.

The story unfolds slowly, nothing is rushed.  The characters are fleshed out, but not all at once in an info dump. The story may be only a hundred or so pages but nothing is forgotten - characterization, plot, dialogue, smex, everything is there. I liked that our heroine, Satira, was not a blushing virgin. She had sexual experience if not much experience with actual relationships, but she was able to meet Wilder on a more or less even playing field (well, overlooking the differences between humans and bloodhounds). Overall, Satira and Wilder are equals in many respects and that makes for a refreshing change from many other romances.

I was a little unclear on what made this story steampunk as opposed to say a UF novel set in the old West of the USA. I have read very little steampunk so I'm still learning. That aside, I liked the mix of gadgets, paranormal creatures, details of the American old West, and romance. The story has some twists and turns, the characters are likable and engaging and the story was fast-paced but not rushed.

Go read!

This eARC was received from the authors for review.

Review of The Genie of the Portrait by Misty Burke

Publisher: Evernight Publishing

Release Date: February 16, 2011

More info: goodreads

Book Blurb: 
Amanda had always been forgiving, until the night of her engagement. It was at that moment, when she found her new fiancé banging the waitress in the bathroom, that she changed. Never again. Men were not going to use her ever again.

So when she found William’s portrait and learned that his whole purpose for existing was to let her use him, an electrifying relationship resulted. This genie offered her three nights of pleasure. And Amanda quickly realized she wanted more.

My Thoughts: 

     This is a fun and sexy to read. I liked the story, though I wish it could have been a little bit longer. Still, Burke made good use of her length constraints; she went straight to the point yet at the same time she was descriptive, including some hot sex. Burke tells a sweet tale in this romantic novella.

     I liked Amanda. She shows strength when she throws out her cheating fiancé, after being his doormat for their entire relationship. I was less impressed with Jason, her ex's, behavior, when he meets up with Amanda and William on the street. I thought the confrontation could have been handled without the violence, but it does underscore his flaws and moral weaknesses. Her revenge on him was well deserved and fun to read, revenge really can be sweet.

     I liked William, he is just what Amanda needed. He behaves like a perfect gentleman, treating Amanda perfectly while also being her perfect lover. He is resigned to his fate, accepting of the consequences of his decision making. Unlike Jason, William is responsible and honorable, but he is not a stick in the mud. Amanda is also resourceful and wastes no time figuring out how to free William and maybe, just maybe, have him in her life forever. As I said earlier, she gets her revenge on Jason and oh, how inventive she was.

The Genie of the Portrait is a fun, sweet, sexy story; don't pass it up.

This review was originally published at Book Lovers Inc.