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Trafficking in Demons: Book Seven of ‘Fantasy & Forensics’ (Fantasy & Forensics 7)

“I’ve smelled some truly terrible things in my time. It came with the job. In fact, the patent was still pending on my very own Chrissie Scale of Stinkiness . . . I wasn’t going to be using a body bag. It looked like I’d need a wet-vac for this job.”  Dayna Chrissie, Trafficking in Demons: Book Seven of ‘Fantasy & Forensics’ (Fantasy & Forensics 7)

Not by the forces of civil war can you govern the very weakest woman. You can kill that woman, but she escapes you then; you cannot govern her. No power on earth can govern a human being, however feeble, who withholds his or her consent. – Emmeline Pankhurst

Poor Dayna. As if it weren’t bad enough wading into all the ‘normal’ carnage of being a Crime Scene Tech in gritty Los Angeles, cleaning up all the Andeluvian spillover sometimes causes some really messy messes. And Trafficking is boiling – not only in LA but in the world of Andeluvia as well. As has been so well put before, She’s the LAPD’s best corpse-kicker. And the world of Andeluvia’s as well these days.

C.S. Lewis does indeed continue to meet CSI in Michael’s newest addition to the absolute incredible Fantasy & Forensics series. And the tension continues to ramp up, both in our world and the other.

If you are a poor suffering reader who hasn’t found this series yet – well, let’s just say you are missing something special! The series began back in Centaur of the Crime (and hey! It’s FREE on Kindle unlimited right now! As is The Deer Prince’s Murder!)  What are you waiting for??? 

(Clearing throat.) So, back to your regularly scheduled review…

The tensions of the previous books have built to what, in this addition to this incredible series, could very well be an explosion of epic proportions on both our world and on Andeluvia. The carryover of technology to a Middle Ages world is bad enough – but magic in our world? Let’s just say that the blowback could be devastating for both worlds.

Of course, not everything is horrible and scary. Dayna began the series feeling as if everyone hated her and she only had herself to rely upon. And let’s not fool ourselves, lots of people did. And still do. But as the series has developed, so has Dayna. She has grown, realizing that she no longer has to rely solely on herself. And what is not to love about a group of close friends that include a Centaur Wizard, a Griffin Warrior and a gentle Fayleene Prince? And the addition of Skallgrym Serikkaylen of the House of Friesain (Better known as ‘Rikka’) in Assault in the Wizard Degree, the previous book in the series, gives another much needed feminine (yet strong!) presence to the series. Which is hysterical in this case, because Rikka’s warrior status in the centaur realm is a huge contrast to Dayna’s most recent requirement placed upon her by King Fitzwilliam. Let’s just say it requires miles of pink fabric (PINK!) and some highly embarrassing pomp and ceremony!

Well, even with war on the horizon, politics and catering to the expectations of the masses must continue…

If you haven’t read the series, you ‘can’ pick up here, but I highly recommend starting from the first. This blend of humor, fantasy, politics, and plain ol’ excellent writing is well worth the investment of your precious reading time!!!!!

(And aren’t the covers Great?)

 

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Under Her Skin (Shifter Shield Book 1)

“Some sons-a-bitches just need killing.” – Detective Daniel Moreland, Under Her Skin (Shifter Shield Book 1)

 

Lindi Parker couldn’t agree more. Some sons-a-bitches absolutely, positively needed killing. Like the father who kept coming into his little girl’s room at night – “He hurts me.” So, finally, she killed him. A ten-year-old girl killed her scum sucking pedophile father. Of course, as a counselor for the Child Advocacy and Protection Center, Lindi has seen horrific crime scenes, the horrors visited upon the most fragile, the most helpless among us. But this one? This one rocks her all the way to her core.

She isn’t alone.

“Solitude, isolation, are painful things and beyond human endurance.” – Jules Verne

Not that she hasn’t known love in her own life. Her adoptive family loves her with all their heart and soul. But understanding someone as ‘special’ as Lindi hasn’t always been easy. Especially when they thought that she was the only one of her kind. Now, not only has she found that others exist – they apparently all want her dead.

Well. That bites.

And hey! Look at that! They even have special people whose whole point in life is to track her down and murder her. Score!

Lucky her, huh?

Yes, this is a shapeshifter tale, with many of the same tropes as you would find in any other. But Margo Bond Collins steps outside the box in this one in ways both horrible and fascinating. And in doing so she writes a paranormal that leans heavily toward a blend of mystery and suspense that raises the bar to something beyond ‘just another paranormal.’

I enjoyed the book very much, and highly recommend it.

 

Review: Dead Spots By Melissa F. Olson

Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard, #1)

“Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in.” ― Shannon L. Alder

Scarlett Bernard is one pragmatic lady. Of course, she has to be considering her job is supernatural crime scene cleanup. As in, get in, clean up the mess, steal the body, and book the hell out of Dodge before the cops arrive. She is truly good at her job, and her boss, the cold and distant Dashiell, Master Vampire of the city, may be scary, but he pretty much allows her to do her job without interference. But then, the worst happens.

She gets caught. Caught by a newly minted detective, Jesse Cruz, just after she arrives at a scene more bloody and grotesque than any she has ever seen. What happens next is fast paced action with terrific world building and interesting characters. I first read the book back in 2012, and enjoyed it then. This time I listened to the Audible edition narrated by Amy McFadden (one of my favorite narrators) and, as sometimes happens, I liked it even more as I listened. Scarlett is a strong character with a well-developed, though brutal, background and is likeable. She isn’t perfect, but that is what makes her interesting. She has taken horrific hits in her life – but the one she walks into later on is absolutely devastating and Olson does a rather wonderful job of writing the horrors of betrayal. I would have liked her to be more mature in her interactions with others – her tendency to cope a nasty, self-serving attitude at times was a downer. I am hoping that the next books will show growth in her as a character (especially since I own them all). Her behavior isn’t as horrendous as other female characters in the genre, but I am hoping for more maturity in upcoming works.

There are some things that were irritating. The Dreaded Love Triangle. Irritating! Not only do love triangles make me retch, this one felt stilted and unnecessary, dragging down the storyline. Also, the POV switches between characters and from first to third person erratically and unnecessarily. Irritating, but not as irritating as the lurrve (titter titter, Groan) triangle. Olson’s take on werewolf psychology was more interesting than a lot of other books in the genre, and her friendship with the Alpha and Beta were more realistic than many others. The Alpha isn’t as ‘Alpha’ as in other books (thank the Goddess!) and the tortured Beta was very realistically portrayed in the vein of “I never wanted this in the first place.”

So, flawed, it isn’t perfect by any means, but I still enjoyed it as much as I remembered, and Amy’s narration was, as always, spot on.

Review: Beneath The Blood Moon by R.J. Blain

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“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” -Buddha

The chaining of Fenrir cost the god Tyr his right hand” – Völuspá,  translated to English in The Poetic Edda,  Henry Adams Bellows, 1923

 Free On Kindle!

Sara Watson thought her life was bad enough as it was. Working as a stripper and part time Vegas showgirl, she tries to hold down four part time jobs, go to college, and still pay the rent and eat. They say Vegas is a hard place to live, and she knows all about that. But even the hell of her life is better than the hell she ran from in New York. A father that beat and controlled her, a life with no meaning. At least now, if she can get through school, she can start a real life on her own – fake ID or no fake ID.

Yes, life was hard. But nothing as hard as being kidnapped along with her best “friend” (though the idea of friend is Las Vegas equates to ‘what can I get out of you for doing you the favor of being your friend) and dragged out to the desert by her ex ‘I’m-a-cheating-POS’ boyfriend who has tracked her down to Las Vegas to bring her back. Or kill her. Whichever works.

Telling him to get stuffed, taking her beating and broken ribs, then crawling out into the desert to die on her own and free is gutsy enough. I gained a ton of respect for her at this point, though I already respected her for keeping her moral compass (unlike her crappy friend) and going against said ‘friend’ and not going full-on prostitute made me respect her. Yep. She is one tough cookie, with more internal fortitude than any man her age I have ever known. But after the ex and the girlfriend finish doing the nasty and track her down as she crawls across the desert, then turn into wolves and begin eating her alive (literally), even weirder things happen. And suddenly, Sara’s life is more hell than she could have ever imagined.

Let’s get serious here. First, I really, REALLY wanted to give this book five stars with a bullet. Sara is tough and strong, yes. But she isn’t unbelievable, and she has a heart of gold and a strong sense of right and wrong – and did I mention the heart of gold? Then she meets four other women who are an absolute joy. Tough, take no prisoners women with a fetish for guns, not taking any crap off of anyone, and their husbands (pretty much in that order). There is romance, but no sex scenes, which was completely refreshing (if you are an erotica-only lover, skip this one). The story is fast, suspenseful, sometimes terrifying, and kept me totally immersed in the story. The characters are wonderful, the world building is unusual (living in the world as we know it, but with their own governance, etc.) Some of the scenes literally brought me to tears. That’s the good.

The bad came after I had a chance to come down off my ‘reader-high’ and start thinking about what I would write in my review, and realized I couldn’t give it a five at all. The story is complex, and kept my attention throughout, but there were some issues that a really good content editor could have solved. Ms. Blain has a brilliant mind for writing paranormal suspense, but she isn’t organized. She has a few different threads moving through the book, which is fine, I really enjoy books that are more than one-note songs, but she literally dropped the ball about midway through, dropping one of the more interesting story lines and never going back to it. No wrap, just dropped. Poor form. The book is quite long, 564 pages, and I was never bored or wanting to skip pages as I do with some longer books, and her descriptive narrative and conversational style was enjoyable, but dropping the story line, which I was invested in, shows a lack of organization. Editing for word usage, spelling, and dropped words was OK, but not good. Someone put effort into beta reading for that sort of thing, but the continuity is what killed it.

Overall, I will still recommend the book. The story and pace kept me up all night long (literally, yawn) and then the minute I rose I went right back to it and stayed with it to the end. Give this woman a good content editor, or just a whiteboard to write down all of her threads to make sure she ties them all up at the end and a couple of really good beta readers and she will be a force to be reckoned with in the world of Paranormal Suspense. Recommended, but could be better.

 

Review: Blanche Passes Go by Barbara Neely #SouthernMurderMystery #SouthernMystery #BeingBlackInTheSouth

“It was always so hot, and everyone was so polite, and everything was all surface but underneath it was like a bomb waiting to go off. I always felt that way about the South, that beneath the smiles and southern hospitality and politeness were a lot of guns and liquor and secrets.” ― James McBride, The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother

Blanche Passes Go: A Blanche White Mystery (Blanche White Mystery Series)

Ahh, the “New South.” Where the ancestral mansions were built by slaves, and the moneyed want to forget that their wealth was built on the efforts of “slavers, Indian-killers, Confederate generals, and diehard segregationists. Of course, they still occasionally named their sons Braxton and Zebulon, in honor of their Confederate slaver ancestors . . . and they still didn’t invite their string of mulatto relatives with the same looks and last name to sit down at the family table.”

Yep. Pretty much the same “Old South” I grew up on. And when pretty much the first thing Blanche sees when she returns to Farleigh, North Carolina is one of the privileged white trying to rape a black catering waitress in the family mansion, Blanche knows one thing. Underneath it all? The South is still the “Old South” just like before she left and moved to Boston. She left Farleigh after her own rape by a rich white man, David Palmer, but she is back now, her sister’s children, Taifa and Malik now raised and out on their own. It is time to come home, to work with her childhood friend Ardell in her catering business, Carolina Catering.

“Half of it’s yours whenever you’re ready,” Ardell had told her.

So, Blanche is back. And whom should she run into but David Palmer – the rich, entitled, knife wielding rapist. And all the pain and humiliation, the terror and boiling rage, come slamming back. David Palmer. He’s back in Farleigh with his wife and children, his wealth and old family history.

Terror. Panic. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on steroids. “He’d already killed the woman she’d been before he raped her.” Of course, Blanche can’t get back at him to his face. The police would never listen to a black woman’s story about a white man. But surely her Ancestors will point the way.

And then, the possibility for payback falls right into her lap. But sometimes, payback is a bitch. A deadly, cruel bitch with a wicked sense of humour.

I have to admit, I let my timing fall off on Blanche’s story. I simply couldn’t get into it at first. But once I finally sat down and started reading, I discovered something. This is a really, really good book. Blanche is not your ‘typical’ heroine. Fifty years old, blue-black, size-sixteen and going gray, Blanch is one tough cookie. Someone I would love to emulate in my own life. She has had it far from easy in her life, but she keeps going, keeps moving, keeps doing what she wants no matter what anyone else says. That is something to admire, an attitude to strive for.

This is apparently the fifth of the Blanche White Mystery Series, and I will be adding the others to my teetering piles of to-be-read. I won’t get to them right away, but when I do get to them I think I will be glad I did.

I received Blanche Passes Go from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

The St. Martin’s First Winter 2015 Sampler #StMartin’sPress

St. Martin’s First Winter 2015 Sampler is a taste of fifteen newly published books by various authors under the St. Martin’s umbrella. A mix of debut novels and books from old favorites, the Sampler offers the first two chapters of each, allowing you to gain a ‘feel’ for each book. As with all samplers, some books caught my attention, especially A June of Ordinary Murders by Dubliner Conor Brady, and Her Name is Rose by Christine Breen. Neither are books that I would have given a second glance at, as they aren’t my genre, but both surprised me by landing on my TBR shelf. A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders was an automatic “I know I am going to like this” while the story of two giantesses, Andorra Kelsey and Anna Swan, The Thunder of Giants by Joel Fishbane, set in 1937, is one I never would have expected to be so drawn to. Then there is The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown, another surprise addition to my to-be-read stack.

Take a look and see if there are some nice surprises for you as well!

A June of Ordinary Murders: A MysteryA June of Ordinary Murders by Conor Brady. Published April 21. Brady pulls the reader into the dark corners and political back rooms of 1880’s Dublin as the country prepares to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s ascent to the throne – and a vicious murder falls into Detective Sergeant Swallow’s lap. I honestly never was interested in period pieces until happening upon the Murdoch Mysteries and the Miss Fischer Mysteries on BBC. Now I am addicted, and I am greatly looking forward to reading the rest of the book.

 

Her Name Is Rose: A NovelHer Name Is Rose by Christine Breen is another Irish tale, this time a modern one, of the pains that life can bring. Iris has just been pushed out by her newspaper, “They didn’t see gardening articles as appealing no matter that she gets mail with questions and comments every day. Well, the books section, and the crosswords guy have to go as well. It seems people no longer want intelligence in their newspapers any more.

People used to say Iris Bowen was beautiful, what with the wild weave of her red hair, the high cheekbones, and the way she carried herself like a barefoot dancer through the streets of Ranelagh on the outskirts of Dublin city. But that was a lifetime ago.

Her husband dead the last two years, her adopted daughter, Rose, a brilliant violinist away at the Royal Academy in London. And Iris’s doctor has just called.

Promises to keep will draw Iris away from her quiet Irish life in a search that could be absolutely heartbreaking for all involved. But a promise, as they say, is a promise. Another to add to my stacks.

The Perfume GardenThe Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown is another of those books that I would have never simply picked off the shelf on a whim. And I would have missed what appears to be a lovely tale, as Emma, a London perfumier walks through the doors of a villa forgotten since Franco’s depredations of 1936. Flowing backwards and forwards in time, the story of Emma and her grandmother Freya is a redolent tale of love and loss, terrible secrets, and lyrical words.

 

Pretty Ugly: A NovelPretty Ugly by Kirker Butler is billed as “a satirical look at a dysfunctional southern family complete with overbearing stage mom, a 9 year-old pageant queen, a cheating husband, his teenage girlfriend, a crazy grandmother, and Jesus.” Not one I will be investigating further, but if it sounds good to you, go for it. I would love to hear what you think.

 

Meeting the English: A Novelmeeting the English by Kate Clanchy is another tale from the Continent. Struan Robertson, “orphan, genius, and just seventeen” leaves Scotland for London in 1989. It is described as “a bright book about dark subjects, told with love.” It sounds like the perfect intelligent young adult novel.

 

The Thunder of GiantsThe Thunder of Giants by Joel Fishbane is set in 1937 and revolves around the lives of Andorra Kelsey – 7’11” and just over 320 pounds, is on her way to Hollywood to portray the life of Anna Swan, a Nova Scotian giantess who toured the world in the 19th century with P.T. Barnum, who fell in love with a Civil War veteran. It is a tale that spans nearly one hundred years as two women become reluctant celebrities in a time when the term freak was written upon the human psyche. The story feels very Shakespearean from the two chapters I read. Love the cover.

 

A Murder of MagpiesA Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders is a debut mystery set in London and Paris, as Samantha “Sam” Clair, a London book editor tries to find a way to tell her star novelist that her latest book is utterly unpublishable. That is hard enough, but when Inspector Field turns up asking about a package addressed to Sam, well, who knew the fashion industry could be so deadly? I laughed with the first two pages, so guess what? Another for the stacks!

 

The Friendship of Criminals: A NovelThe Friendship of Criminals by Robert Glinski is a crime thriller set in Philadelphia. A Scorsese-esqe tale of Italian and Polish mobsters, murder and madness, this is a hot blooded debut novel. It grabbed me in the first two pages, sharp, brutal and deadly with a tough, take-no-prisoners voice. For the crime thriller set, I see this as a must read.

 

The Secrets of MidwivesThe Secrets of Midwifes by Sally Hepworth is a story of secrets and lies, consequences, and the complex relationships among three generations of midwives, all centered around Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, her hippy mother, Grace, and her wise, no nonsense grandmother Floss. “I didn’t even particularly like babies. No, for me, the decision to become a midwife had nothing to do with babies. And everything to do with mothers.

 

The Figaro Murders: A NovelThe Figaro Murders by Laura Lebow, is set in 1786 Vienna, where Lorenzo Da Ponte is the court librettist for the Italian Theatre. As Da Ponte begins the libretto for Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, Da Ponte finds himself pulled into the highest diplomatic circles in a tale of intrigue and murder, politics, music and theatre – and the some of the most famous figures to ever grace the Italian Opera stage.

 

The Tragic AgeThe Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe is a coming-of-age novel, introducing you to Billy – Billy, who doesn’t trust happiness. “It’s the age he’s at. The tragic age.

A Fireproof Home for the Bride by Amy Scheibe A Fireproof Home for the Brideis a tale set in southern Minnesota in 1958. A sparkly, shiny Lutheran world on the surface, but hiding a nasty, black world underneath, where rape is common, and the KKK isn’t just a ‘southern thing.’ Emmy thought she had no choices in her life. But when her fiancé rapes her, she find that you have to create your own choice in this life.

The Last Flight of Poxl WestThe Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday explores the history of Poxl West, his nephew Eli’s hero and a Jewish hero of the “Great War.” But the deeper Eli looks into Poxl’s life as he helps him to write his memoirs the darker the story becomes.

Duplicity by N.K. Traver is a young adult novel with a creepy edge. DuplicityHacker Brandon gets his thrills hacking bank accounts and living the tattooed bad-boy life. He is miserably happy, I suppose you could say. Until the Brandon in the mirror decides that he could live Brandon’s life better than Brandon can.

The Wednesday GroupThe Wednesday Group, a debut novel by Sylvia True, delves into the lives of five women who meet in group every Wednesday, each with shameful secrets. Gail, a prominent judge, keeps receiving letters from her husband’s latest girlfriend, though her theology professor husband claims he is “nine-months sober” from banging grad students. Hannah catches her husband having sex with a male prostitute in a public restroom. Bridget, a psychiatric nurse at a state hospital finds out that her husband has an addiction to chat rooms and match-making websites, while high school teacher Lizzy is married to a porn addict. Flavia’s husband was just arrested for groping a teenage girl on the subway. And the psychologist who runs the group, Kathryn, has her own secrets. Will they go, or will they stay? Will they learn to build their own boundaries, live their own lives? Or will their husbands destroy them all?

I received St. Martin’s First Winter 2015 Sampler from Netgalley in exchange for a realistic review. I found some goodies here – I bet you will as well.

Review: The Accidental Alchemist #Mystery #HerbalAlchemy #FoodieMystery

“This is why alchemy exists,” the boy said. “So that everyone will search for his treasure, find it, and then want to be better than he was in his former life. Lead will play its role until the world has no further need for lead; and then lead will have to turn itself into gold.

That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The Accidental AlchemistWhen Zoe Faust moved to Portland she was hoping for a quiet, unobtrusive life, away from her memories. She wanted to start a new life. That isn’t anything unusual. Many people move to Portland to start over, away from their old lives. Of course, the fact that Zoe is over 300 years old and studied as an alchemist under Nicholas and Perenelle does make her a bit different from those others who have washed up upon the green and fertile shores of Portland. To-ma-to, to-mah-to. It seemed so simple. Buy the old, rundown house in a good neighborhood. Set up her online herb and antiques business. Have a nice, quiet life. At least for as long as she can get away with it.

All-in-all, it might have been better to stay in France.

Things began well enough. Find a discreet contractor to come in, fix up the house (including the nearly fallen in roof) and while he is at it, have him build an alchemical oven in the basement cum lab, then take his money and forget he was ever there. But as with all things, issues arise. Such as the fact that said contractor winds up dead on her front porch before he can even pick up a hammer. Then of course there is the three-and-a-half-foot gargoyle who climbs out of one of her packing boxes. There is the break-in in which the gargoyle’s ancient alchemical volume, and several other volumes and items of great financial and alchemical value, are stolen. At least Dorian Robert-Houdin can cook. Although he really doesn’t get the whole vegan thing – but when it becomes a challenge, well, the food that comes from the kitchen is enough to make even a non-vegan’s mouth water.

A chemist, a cop, a tea shop owner and a 14-year-old housebreaker are only a few of the interesting characters you meet in The Accidental Alchemist. The mystery is well plotted and very well executed, and the author’s knowledge of the history of alchemy truly adds to the story. Being born in 1600’s Salem, Zoe has seen a lot in her time on Earth, not all of it good – but not all of it bad either. Now, in order to save not only the tea shop owner, Blue Sky, from being convicted of a murder she did not commit, but also to save Dorian from returning to stone – an excruciating way to “die” when he won’t really be dead, only trapped in an stone body, his mind still alive and functioning – Zoe must find out who really killed her contractor and get Dorian’s alchemical text back in order to save Dorian’s life.

There are some things about the book I really liked that others seemed to abhor. I loved how the author talked about food and cooking. I could nearly smell the scents from the kitchen as Dorian cooked – something he learned from a well-respected, but tragically blinded, chef long ago. It felt to me like a commentary on what it is like to live so very long, to be so very different that you have to hide yourself away. How lonely that life must be, and how Dorian immerses himself in cooking to fend off that aching loneliness. Coming to Zoe for help not only gives him hope that she might save him, but feeding her is a caring act, designed to show his respect and understanding of Zoe and her long, long life. So, I will respectfully disagree with those who found that part of the book unnecessary. To me, it was a very necessary part of the dialog – the understanding of the depths of loneliness and loss that surely burns at the soul of those touched by the Philosopher’s Stone. The same can be said for the complaints about Zoe not being ‘omniscient’ – not automatically remembering how to do absolutely everything she has ever learned. Being long lived must certainly be, in many ways, incredibly boring. You can’t retain relationships – someone might catch on that you aren’t aging. As the days flow on, pouring one unto the other, time certainly must begin to have no real meaning, lessons learned fading away until memory becomes dream.

I really, really liked this book, and look forward to more by Gigi Pandian. I listened to the audio version and Julia Moytka does a wonderful job with the narration. Her voice simply “fits” the characters, and her rendition of Dorian, rather than being “overly Frenchy” as one reviewer put it, is warm, carrying over the old fashioned French of the 16th century. If you try this book, I hope you enjoy it as much as I.

About this author

Gigi PandianGigi Pandian is the USA Today bestselling author of the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series (Artifact, Pirate Vishnu, and Quicksand) and the Accidental Alchemist mysteries (The Accidental Alchemist). After spending her childhood being dragged around the world by her cultural anthropologist parents, she now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Gigi’s debut novel was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant and named a “Best of 2012” debut mystery novel by Suspense Magazine. Gigi also writes locked-room “impossible crime” short stories, and her story “The Hindi Houdini” was short-listed for Agatha and Macavity awards.

Gigi blogs at http://gigipandian.blogspot.com/ and posts gargoyle photographs at http://www.gargoylegirl.com.

Review: Midnight Burning by Karissa Laurel

One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” – Robert Fulghum

This dream was worse, So. Much. Worse. Than all the others. Horrifying, bloody, savage. And the worst part?

It was true.

Solina’s brother is dead, torn apart by a wolf-like creature. A monster who talks. Who thinks, and plans, and has yet another goal.

Kill Solina. Eat her alive.

A baker by trade, an introvert by nature, Solina Mundy is pulled to Alaska where her beloved twin met his end. Ostensibly, to gather her brothers things and close down his apartment. Realistically? To find out what really happened to her brother. Everyone is hiding things. Everyone apparently knows things she doesn’t. And they have no intention of telling her anything – or of helping her in any way. Go Home, Little Girl. Nobody wants you here.

Like. Hell. Solina is afraid, sure. She is, by nature, passive. A homebody who spends her time working in her parent’s bakery, kowtowing to their every wish. She has always left her twin, Mani, to be the adventurous one, the one who allowed her to live vicariously through his actions. But now, Mani is dead, and Solina is meeting obstacles every way she turns. Mani’s boss, Thorin, is a cold, unwielding jerk, belittling and demeaning in word and action. Val, on the other hand, is a Player, in all forms of the word. He was Mani’s best friend, and helped Solina though the first few months after Mani’s death. But now that she is there, she finds that he is more like a bull moose in rut than a real friend, and no matter how she tries to keep him in the friend zone, he keeps pushing, pushing, pushing. No respect there, only a single-minded determination to drag her into bed, no matter the pain it brings Solina when she comes to realize that he only wants to screw, not to be real friends. Val, the “Patron Saint of the Perpetual Erection.” Sigh. What a jerk. When she needs a friend as much now as she did when Mani died. Possibly even more.

Then, Solina meets Skyla. A former Marine and one tough cookie, Skyla is the woman Mani loved. And she loved him as well, with all her heart. She isn’t about to let his death go unpunished. And if helping Solina will help her meet that goal, she is all over it. Sol and Skyla quickly become close friends. Which is all to the positive, as the world begins to blow up around them.

You see, Solina and her twin are more than they ever could have expected. And if their enemies have anything to say about it, Solina will die as her brother did, ripped apart by a monster. And then?

And then, the world will burn.

This book is amazing. Really amazing. It delves into a mythology I have read very little about, and I found that incredibly refreshing. I don’t want to give things away – whatever I say will cause spoilers, and as I know my review will be one of the first ones out there, I don’t want to ruin it for other readers. Suffice it to say that it is a wonderful pleasure to watch a woman like Solina, an introverted woman who never even raised her voice in the past, much less her hand in anger, grow into someone who is learning to embrace her own power. This isn’t a Mary Sue “I was just a normal person and now I magically kick backside” sort of story. Solina takes the pain and gets up, over and over again, learning the whole way, making mistakes, and suffering for it. She isn’t stupid – far from it. Those around her, except for Skyla, treat her like she is worthless – though the whole world, and their own survival, balances upon her staying alive. Their dismissal of her Ticked. Me. Off. Which makes it even more fun when she takes their dismissal and slowly, but surely, turns it back on them.

This is, I deeply and profoundly hope, the first of a series. The book doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger, per se. But there is plenty of room for the story to continue. My only problem? Now I have to WAIT for the next one!!! Sigh. That is going to be MASSIVELY difficult!!!

I Highly recommend this book for those of you who enjoy a well written modern day Fantasy with a mythology you certainly haven’t read much on before (if any), well-developed female characters (yes, with an ‘s’ – there are several well developed characters here, even if one of them makes me want to slit her throat and watch her eyes dim to empty black), a creative story line and wicked good thrills.

Midnight Burning was received from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. I will have the next in the series on my Must Have list – I enjoyed it that much.

If you like my reviews, please choose “This review was helpful” on Amazon, or whichever site you visit to purchase your books. The authors will appreciate it, as it draws more attention to my reviews! Thank you!!!

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Review: The Blind by Shelley Coriell

The Blind (The Apostles, #3)“Scapegrace leaped up. “I am the Killer Supreme! I make murder into an art form!”
Skulduggery hit him again and Scapegrace did a little twirl before falling.”―
Derek Landy, Playing with Fire

“Terrorist bombings, like rampage shootings, are events that maximize the amount of publicity per amount of damage. That’s why people do them, because they know they will set off a media frenzy.” – Steven Pinker

The Apostles. A highly specialized Special Criminal Investigation FBI team, under the aegis of Parker Lord, the best that the FBI has to offer when it comes to those cases that can’t, but must, be solved. Those cases that walk the edge of destruction of everything humans hold dear. Whether serial killer or child molester, terrorist or sociopath, Parker Lord has an agent to handle it. Under direct management of the President of the United States, they go where they need to be, when they need to be there. And they don’t quit.

Coriell’s third book in the Apostles series, after The Broken and The Buried, is The Blind. And it is everything that I love about romantic suspense. Evangelina “Evie” Jimenez is a five-foot crackerjack, in more ways than one. Lord’s bomb specialist, Evie is ex-military, tough as nails, and completely focused on her work. She is the best – even though the President has, in order to cover his own backside, put Evie in ‘time-out’, smearing her name across the news and destroying her reputation. But when a bomb is ready to go off in a high school gym in Bar Harbor, Maine, the home of the Apostles, Evie goes against the President’s orders in order to disarm the bomb, an IED – a simple blow and go, the type of stuff she could do in her sleep.

The blow and go worked, just as expected. But what wasn’t expected is the man who followed her down an alley – a man with an offer. An offer that comes with a promise. Brady Malloy works for Jack Elliot, CEO of Elliot Enterprises, one of the richest companies in the world. Jack wants Evie in California, now. Because he has something that no one else has – information on the next Angel Bombing.

The Angel Bomber has terrorized Los Angeles for three months. Three women have died horrifically – blown to pieces by a sadistic bomber. Several more people have been killed or maimed. The next victim is only days from being taken, and Evie can’t turn down the opportunity to save lives, to stop the bomber. And to get her reputation back.

What follows is classic Coriell. Her women characters are strong, independent, and totally tough – but though they hide it well, they also have a soft side, an ability to empathize with victims, see both sides of situations, and do the right thing, no matter the cost. There is terror, suspense, thrills and chills in The Blind, but there is also romance, of course. If I do have one problem with this particular book it is that the romance felt rushed to the point that I found it unrealistic. From meet to love at warp speed – though people meeting under stressful circumstances often do fall for one another quickly. The thing is, love at warp speed often fizzles out just as fast.

Other than that bump in the storyline, I loved this book, just as I loved the other two. Characters from the other books make return appearances – I was thrilled that Smokey Joe is back. Blind, elderly, and full of spit and vinegar, Smokey’s ‘little accident’ (driving off a cliff – yes, driving), his constant running-off of his aides, and his refusal to move in with Kate and Hayden (from The Broken) makes his case worker decide that he can no longer live alone on his mountain. While The Apostles race to find the bomber before he kills again, Smokey Joe lends his help, throws a temper, and pretty much lends that bit of gravel to the character list. Awesome. It is going to break my heart when he passes away one day. I hope Shelley keeps him around as long as possible!

This book was received from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. Shelley has solid “shelf” space in my reader any time she publishes a new book!

Pub Date: Jul 28 2015

Forever (Grand Central Publishing)

Shelley_Coriell[1]About the author:

A former newspaper reporter, magazine editor, and restaurant reviewer. These days Shelley writes smart, funny novels for teens and big, edgy romantic suspense. A six-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Finalist, she lives and loves in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue Weimaraner. When she’s not behind the keyboard, you’ll find her baking high-calorie, high-fat desserts and haunting local farmers markets for the perfect plum.

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