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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.

Review: Bear Meets Girl (Pride Series #7) by Shelly Laurenston #PrideSeries #Shifters

“See,” Cella shot back, “that’s a ridiculous thing to say, because I don’t even know this guy or whether I like him or not. I was just going to kill him.”

Yep. The Smith wolf pack is back. Along with the van Holtz pack, the Llewellan Pride, all the members of the Carnivore Shifter Team, and everyone’s assorted friends, family and pack members. And any strays that happen along. But when you add in the Malone family, especially Cella “Bare Knuckles” Malone, She-Tiger, hockey enforcer for the Marauder, ex-Marine sniper, daughter to Butch “Nice Guy” Malone and hit-woman for Katzenhaus Securities, or KZS, the international feline protection agency. . . well, things get “interesting” in a very “Holy Homicide, Batman!” sort of way. Gotta love me some Cella!

Bear Meets Girl is another of Shelly Laurenston’s Pride series, and is just as good as all the others in the series. Although, I have to admit, the cover is really bad. As in, sticking “Cella” down there at Crushek’s feet like some prissy little weakling really sort of ticked me off. As IF Bare Knuckles Malone would whimper and mewl at some dude’s feet!

Anyway, off my “Hate the Cover” Rant Horse (and what is up with that wimpy title, anyway? Just sayin’.) and on to the story. I had read the book before I saw it on Netgalley, but who could pass up being able to read any of Shelly’s Pride series once more? I mean, the books are freakin’ awesomesauce!!! I love humour in my urban fantasy/paranormal romance, and Shelly always offers something fun. In this case, watching poor Crushek wake up from a horrendous hangover in bed with a feline of all things (He knew lots of felines, but he didn’t spend time around them because they were, as he’d already stated and everyone knew, totally untrustworthy. It was a fact. Look it up!) he only came to the party because, well, yeah, he was depressed. Well, he was getting transferred, of all things! And Crushek hates change. Like the fact that his favorite shoe store moved six years ago. And he still goes by and stares in the window and wishes that things didn’t change. At least, until the people in the tea shop called the cops on the meth dealer standing around outside the window and scaring them all. Well, when you are a 6’9” 350-lb polar bear shifter who works as an undercover cop (yes, normally as a meth dealer. Sometimes a hired killer. But mostly? Yeah, a meth dealer) that isn’t all that hard to understand. But that whole ‘change’ thing? Crushek just doesn’t care for it. Like, At. All.

Sigh.

But change is here, and what happens? He finds himself mixed up in all sorts of change. Oh, and poachers. And taxidermists. And let’s not forget Novikov. And Nice Guy Malone. And a whole lot more of his hockey heroes. Because while he may not be able to play all that well, Crushek is a serious (and I mean really serious) hockey fan. And the fact that Cella, who he is sure is a whacked out female who is a danger to her toddler daughter (Snort. Giggle. Wait till you meet Cella’s “toddler” daughter. . .) keeps pretending to be his girlfriend, sitting in his lap and basically driving him right out of his tree? Ha! Gotta adore some Cella!

Shelly Laurenston’s Pride series is in my top five of the best paranormal series out there. The characters are amazingly fun, diverse, and consist of quite a few asskicker women who don’t put up with any sort of garbage from anything or anyone. The underlying storyline of the families is well laid out and developed. But what I really like is her continuing story of how the shifters are working hard against humans, and even other shifters, who are running hunting camps where shifters, some as young as six, are turned loose on private preserves, hunted and slaughtered by anyone who has the money to pay – their bodies then stuffed, mounted, and kept in the homes of the rich and depraved. It isn’t the animals who are the true monsters.

The story gets deeper, and meaner, this time around. The BPC, the Bear Preservation Council, and their leader, Peg Baissier, are up to something. Isolationists, the BPC don’t like that Crushek works for the police department. Something bad is going down, and Peg seems determined that Crushek will fall into line. And if that means Crushek’s cover was blown, and Crushek himself blown-away, well. The hunters are bad enough. But Peg Baissier may be even more deadly. Especially to Crushek – her foster son.

If you are a lover of PR and UF and haven’t picked up this series after all the praise I have given it, why not? If you like humor, action, truly likable (and hatable) characters, solid world building, and a tight storyline, well, you can’t do much better.

I received this book from the publisher (and Netgalley) in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. I love this whole series!

Review: Stitch It Simple by Beth Sheard #SimpleSewing #Crafts

The holidays are coming. I know, hard to believe, isn’t it? Time goes so fast! But there is still time to make gifts for the young, and young-at-heart, in your life. Stitch it Simple is a great little book with perfect ideas for handmade gifts.

Let’s face it – anyone can go out and buy a gift. However, there isn’t really any ‘heart’ in those sorts of gifts. Why not make something yourself, something special for the people in your life?

There are many projects to choose from, and all are super easy. Add decoration to customize a Hobby Lobby purchased lampshade. Add a simple tree applique to a canvas tote bag and fill it with favorite food items or other things your recipient might like. The designs don’t have to be incredibly difficult. I find that coloring books from Dover Publishing are a tremendous source for simple designs. The birds and flowers books are very simple lines and lovely illustrations. You can sew up bunting, pillows, a butterfly mobile and soft stuffed letters for a new baby nursery. You can even make a simple quilt for the crib from squares of fabrics and letters to match the alphabet theme. Cut out squares of fabric, use the letter­­­­­ templates provided and copy them onto freezer paper. Iron the freezer paper onto fabric and cut them out. Sew them by hand or by machine onto each square. Sew the squares together, add backing and binding and sew it all together simply, either by hand or by playing with all those cool stitch patterns on your machine. Voila! A whole new baby nursery for pennies!

If you have ever wanted to sew but were afraid to try, this is the perfect little book to allow you to create wonderful items for very little money. You can grow your confidence with all these quick, simple little lovelies. It is going on my “OMG I need a gift quick!” shelf.

I received Stitch it Simple from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. This is a great book, and a great gift, for the beginning sewer. It is available right now on Netgalley.com.

 

Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical #BlackFeminist

Now Available on Netgalley

Description

Often photographed in a cowboy hat with her middle finger held defiantly in the air, Florynce “Flo” Kennedy (1916–2000) left a vibrant legacy as a leader of the Black Power and feminist movements. In the first biography of Kennedy, Sherie M. Randolph traces the life and political influence of this strikingly bold and controversial radical activist. Rather than simply reacting to the predominantly white feminist movement, Kennedy brought the lessons of Black Power to white feminism and built bridges in the struggles against racism and sexism. Randolph narrates Kennedy’s progressive upbringing, her pathbreaking graduation from Columbia Law School, and her long career as a media-savvy activist, showing how Kennedy rose to founding roles in organizations such as the National Black Feminist Organization and the National Organization for Women, allying herself with both white and black activists such as Adam Clayton Powell, H. Rap Brown, Betty Friedan, and Shirley Chisholm.

Making use of an extensive and previously uncollected archive, Randolph demonstrates profound connections within the histories of the new left, civil rights, Black Power, and feminism, showing that black feminism was pivotal in shaping postwar U.S. liberation movements.

Curvy Cover Girls? Where?

old me jpeg
I miss the old me….

A lot of romances today, especially paranormals, are all about the “curvy girls” – the ones with real breasts and bellies and butts. Well, that’s cool – while I was, once upon a time, a model for a couple of different companies (Everlast and L’Oreal, and a few artists), let’s just say, I don’t look like this any more! Sigh. I lost a crap-ton of weight when I was going through chemo (60 lbs) which was hard, (small children ran away screaming that the zombies were coming) and after chemo? Well, let’s just say that my body was not happy with me, and I now sit here bemoaning my double-wide ass. At least I no longer have boobs – those suckers were a nightmare even when I worked out for hours each day!

Anyway, beside the point… what always tick me is that, no matter that the heroine may be a “curvy 24312494girl” in the books – the covers always show a supermodel sized picture! As in a size 2 body – if that . . . check the cover for Waking Up Were by Celia Kyle. Don’t get me wrong, I love Celia’s work, but her cover artist 24502051needs a slap. Of course, most of the BBW paranormals just show the hunky, ripped torso of the male lead – guess most women couldn’t care about the realistic female body – give em’ the 8-pack and it’s all good! (That tat is gorgeous!)

 

But hey! Check this out. Now that is what I’m Talkin’ about!!! I know there are curvy models out there, and this one fits exactly the idea I have in my head of what a cover model for this type of book should look like.

Good for Skye Eagleday for picking out just the right body for this cover. The book is available at Netgalley.com as an automatic download. Just sayin’.

 

Review: Swimming With The Dead: An Underwater Investigation Novel by Kathy Brandt

As I sit here in the freezing weather, just outside Denver, I can’t help but envy Hannah Sampson. Heck, Hannah should envy herself! Stuck knee-deep and zero degrees into a bitter winter in Denver, Hannah, a Homicide Detective for the DPD is called to the scene of what first seems to be a senseless crime. The secretary of the Police Commissioner, Greta, has been murdered in the file room of the Commissioner’s offices. While the room is torn to pieces, the contents are so innocuous, there is really no reason for the death, or the break-in.

swim
Oh, yes…. I want to BE THERE!!! Grab this book and sink into the beauty of the Caribbean!

When Hannah received a call from the Commissioner’s assistant the next day, she is pulled into a situation she never would have believed. A month before, the Commissioner’s son died while diving a shipwreck off of Great Camanoe, an island in the BVI (British Virgin Islands). The investigation, slapdash at best, was dropped with minimal investigation, and an outcome of “Death by Drowning.” Commissioner Duvall and his wife Caroline cannot, and will not, accept that their son, Michael, a professional diver and Marine Biologist, would have died so carelessly. They want the situation investigation, and answers found. And who better to do that than Hannah, who is not only Homicide Detective, but also head of Denver Homicide’s Dive & Recovery Team?
When Hannah arrives upon the breathtaking shores of the BVI, things immediately turn interesting as her investigation leads further and further into darkness. Did Michael truly drown due to his own carelessness? Or is there something much more evil occurring, something that could endanger Hannah’s life?
Swimming With The Dead was an absolute pleasure to read. It is always fun when a book is set in your own home area, and with the author, Kathy Brandt, being a “local” as well, it was great fun to follow Hannah through Denver before she left for the BVI. Then, when she arrives in the BVI, the surroundings become even more interesting, as Hannah becomes more and more involved in her investigation. I loved how Ms. Brandt described the islands and the people, the colour and vibrancy of that gorgeous world. Her descriptions of the underwater world were stunning, as well as being informative as Hannah follows through on Michael’s quest to protect the ocean and her creatures. The book is well researched, and draws you into the beauty and the warmth of her story.

At first, honestly, I didn’t really care for Hannah herself. She comes across as hard and emotionally distant, and her seeming lack of care for the environment and the fragility of the ecosystem seems quite odd for a resident of this beautiful state. However, as you come to know Hannah and what her life is, you begin to understand. And as Hannah begins to bloom, you get a true feel for a woman who is damaged, but begins to live once again, and appreciate the beauty around her.
I will be checking out Ms. Brandt’s other works in the Hannah Swenson world, and very much look forward to the pleasure.
This book was provided to me by netgalley.com in return for a realistic review. All opinions are my own.

Check out Ms. Brandt’s website for information not only on her books, but also about  the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) and her role with the organization.

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