Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Vampire Mistress by Samantha Calcott

 Billed as a "lesbian retelling" of the classic horror tale (one of the original "Gothic romances"), Vampire Mistress does not disappoint. We open with Bec Renfield--a woman who used to have an obsession with insects--and her friend Johanna Seward making plans to renovate a 19th century asylum they picked up for a song and intend to transform into a modern, low-cost mental health facility. As they sift through all the patient records, Johanna finds a file on R.M. Renfield, a patient whose initials are the same as Bec's. Bec doesn't believe in coincidences, and she becomes fascinated by the case of the patient, who was admitted with "a pet and a case of religious mania.

Enter Dr. Victoria Draconis, a graduate of a university in Transylvania who is willing to work emergency late-night shifts if necessary. Bec feels an immediate erotic charge upon meeting the doctor, and a connection is established. From there things turn decidedly (and deliciously) erotic in a story that embraces all the vampire novel tropes (fog, family feuds, wolves, blood) and turns them on their side with a bit of bondge and a dash of domination ni a F/F pairing that's emorable. (There's also a set up for more books in the series.)

There's plenty of action too, including a climactic fight in a forest awash in cold blue flame, (The outcome of this episode is later recounted by Bec--the book's narrator--with sardonic wit, a lightness that is a plus for the story.) Calcott has built upon Stoker's story and introduced refinements of her own that move the story beyond a clever bit of "fan fic." The women here are strong, modern protagonists who know their way around a sword. 

"You act with passion," Quincey says to Victoria in their ultimate confrontation and she does not see that as a flaw. Neither will the readers/ Calcott will not disappoint fans of erotic paranormal fiction.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

A sense of place

I've been thinking a lot about "sense of place" lately. When I first started writing urban fiction, I was living in Los Angeles, and it was natural to set my stories and my first novel there. I have a love/hate relationship with the city where I spent decades of my life, and little by little, I incorporated both my favorite elements (the Griffith Park Observatory) and those I disliked (crazy celebrity culture, huge income disparity, ridiculous traffic) into the stories.
Photo: Matthew Field/Wikipedia
The Griffith Observatory is one of my favorite buildings in the world, and I turned it into a headquarters for the vampire family that runs L.A. and used it as the location of several pivotal scenes in Misbegotten, the first L.A. Nocturne novel. (It's currently available free in the collection After Midnight.)
Whatcom Falls photo by Ken Haufle/Wikipedia
When I first moved to the Pacific Northwest, it took me a very long time to get a feel for the place and write about it. I tried a couple of times to write UF set in Bellingham (halfway between Vancouver, BC and Seattle), even sketched an outline for something called Blood in the Rain. It just never quite happened for me. Then one day, when the wind had caused yet another hours-long power outage (a common hazard in Bellingham), I started sketching out a cozy Christmas romance and suddenly I realized I was setting it in an idealized version of the city where I'd been living for two years. And that made me happy.

I moved from Bellingham to another, smaller town nearly two years ago and from the first, I knew I wanted to use it as a setting for my Rezso and Witch War novels. My new hometown is not scenic most months of the year, but in the fall it is spectacular. (That's one reason Witch War is set in the fall.)
I am currently prepping for a move overseas. And I'm already wondering how I will write my very American books if I'm living in Europe. Under my cozy romance pen name (Katherine Moore), I already have ideas for a series of Expat romances, but I don't want to be a tourist...
Only time will tell.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Never Marry a Shifter by Azaaa Davis

New from Azaaa Davis, American author of urban fantasy (my favorite genre) and paranormal romance novels.

Jilted is the first of two books in the Never Marry A Shifter duology.

The Never Marry A Shifter (NMAS) duology is a thrilling blend of romance and horror, landing in the paranormal romance genre.

Here's the description:

Administrative assistant by day and boss lady on social media by night, Theresa enjoys sharing her charmed life with half-million followers. The only thing she loves more is being engaged to the hottest doctor at the clinic where they both work. Cementing her fame by reaching one million followers would be the icing on her wedding cake.

Life stops running smoothly when her husband vanishes on their wedding night and a leaked photo of a barely-dressed Theresa yelling at the police sparks a viral sensation. With everything at stake—love, reputation, followers, and job—she embarks on a reluctant voyage of discovery. Follow Theresa as she stumbles over her new husband's secrets and develops her own inner strength.

A thrilling blend of romance and horror, Jilted is a novella exclusive to the Soul’s Day Boxset for a limited time and releases October 2020.

About the boxed set:

Old Hallows Eve, when things go bump in the night,
Children come to play, and the witches provide the fright.

For 20 authors, USA Today and international bestselling,
The Halloween tales become more than this foretelling.

In the Soul’s Day Boxset, a mansion feeds on souls,
A gargoyle captures them, and a demon dungeon master makes the calls,
Campers gets picked off one by one,
The Karnaval’s corn dogs are less than fun,
Ghosts lurking around every bend,
‘I do’ at the wedding is certainly the end.

A boxset of chills and thrills to keep you up at night,
One-click pre-order to snap your copy filled with fright.

On old Hallow’s eve when creatures come to play,
With this spine chilling pages, it’s where you’ll want to stay.

One-click to pre-order today!
Buy it for only $0.99:

But wait--there are goodies.

Claim you gift with each pre-order:

Connect with fantasy author Azaaa Davis online: 






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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

It's Bastille Day

I've been going through a French stage--reading French crime novels in translation, checking out travel books, enjoying books about French culture. (My favorite so far, WTF (What the French?), which is written in bite-size chapters that describe everything from the French fascination with Nutella to explaining oddball idioms. Check it out here. You can get a used hardback copy for less than $2 on Amazon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Magically Delicious is here!

The third entry in my Ostrander Witches series is now live everywhere! You can get it on Amazon here. It's also available on Nook and Kobo and through Draft2Digital at a number of smaller sales platforms.

Where's number two, you ask? (Mother Nature, about Rosalind Ostrander). It'll be out soon. (I already have the cover.) It's just I ended up writing this novelette for a boxed set first because  it's a Valentine's Day story.

The stories don't have to be read in order, but the "origin story" is  Deus Ex Magical. That one has a five star rating on Amazon and a 4.5 rating on Goodreads (and you KNOW how picky they can be).

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Merry Month of May Book Fair

Five different genres--so something for everyone, unless you like Grimdark or Anime or...well, maybe there's just something for readers who mostly like romance, mystery/thriller, paranormal, and horror. (I'm all in.) Find out more here. And while you're checking out the books, enter the give-away. Books and giveaways!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

FREE!Something different in the zombie apocalypse genre

Free for the next five days.

Bloodsport: Z Sisters #1

I had a blast writing this novella. It's set in L.A. and all of the locations--the sisters' apartments, the house that Rose bought with her ex, their father's house--are real places. I'm currently writing the sequel (Bloodtrail) and getting back into the world has been like visiting old frends after being on lockdown for weeks. (In my case, it's been almost two months. Washington state's governor acted early and decisively after corona virus cases killed some nursing home residents in King County, where Seattle is located.

Writing a zombie story in the time of Covid-19 has been kind of surreal, because some of the things I'd outlined months ago-field hospitals being built in Central Park and sports stadiums--have come to pass.But so too have other things I imagined--like the resilience of the human spirit, the bravery of the frontline health care workers and those who have kept a semblance of normality going--postal workers and delivery workers, ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things. There's a William Faulkner quote that always resonated with me:  I believe that man will not merely endure, he will prevail. I believe that.

Stay home if you can.
Wear a mask if you can't.
Wash your hands.
Don't drink Lysol.
Listen to the doctors.
When you can't be with the ones you love, phone or text or Zoom or Skype or Facetime. They miss you too.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Freebie anthology of dark romance

Poison Love, a freebie anthology of stories of toxic love is just about to disappear. It was always a limited edition and time has run out. I have a story in the set--"Midnight's Daughter," based on the Nathaniel Hawthorne story "Rappaccini's Daughter." It's actually a terrific story so if you were scarred by having to read House of Seven Gables (my sympathies), you might check it out.

You can find the book at your favorite digital bookstore.

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare

The Folger Library wants you to celebrat with them--virtually of course. The party is here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Get writing!

Editing Death in the Drowned Lands reawakened my love for writing short stories. Even though I'm trying to concentrate on my longer work, I keep getting distracted by ideas that aren't novel or even novella length. So I'm thrilled to see how many places are looking for short stories.

For example, Dragon Soul Press has a whole slew of anthologies that are open for submission from now into 2021.

Abra Staffen-Wiebe has just updated her monthly market list of PAYING markets. I appreciate her list because it's heavily fantasy/science fiction, horror, speculative--genres I love writing.

Angie's Desk always has an updated list of anthology markets. She only posts once a month, so ost of the markets listed right now are closed.

Duotrope costs $5 a month for its listings, and it can be a tremendous resource for information on magazines and publishers.

If you've been looking for something to do in lockdown besides back cookies and watch Tiger King, why not do some writing?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

It's Earth Day. Stay at home and read.

About a year ago, writer Kaye George posted a map on her Facebook timeline that showed which parts of the country would be underwater as the sea level rises due to climate change. One of those places was Washington, D.C., where I was born. And for some reason, that visual--which wasn't new information--hit me hard. In the past year, my household has made a conscious effort to live without one-time use plastic and paper products (we use bamboo paper towels, we purchased a bidet attachment for our toilets), we stopped eating meat and dairy. (That's still hard for me; I used to eat my bodyweight in cheese a year.)

I've given money to climate change/environmental groups but I have been driven--particularly since the election of 2016--t do more. And "more' for me involves writing. The minute I saw that image, a phrase came to me--DEATH IN THE DROWNED LANDS. The idea was that I wanted stories of death (not necessarily murder) in a place that was inundated by water. Fourteen writers answered the call and the result is now available, just in time for Earth Day. Here's the universal link. Here's the Apple link. (They don't play well with the universal link.) Here's the Nook link. (Ditto.)

Friday, April 17, 2020

Cover Reveal! Soul's Day!

This is a boxed set collection that's been in the works for months and we're finally getting a sneak peek!

Here' are the details:

TITLE: Soul’s Day: A Halloween themed box set.
GENRE: Horror/Paranormal
ISBN: 9781947649699
RELEASE DAY: 20th October 2020
PRE-ORDER DATE: 17th April 2020
PUBLISHER: Fire Quill Publishers

Here's the blurb:

Old Hallows Eve, when things go bump in the night,
Children come to play, and the witches provide the fright.
For 19 authors, USA Today and international bestselling,
The Halloween tales become more than this foretelling.
In the Soul’s Day Boxset, a mansion feeds on souls,
A gargoyle captures them, and a demon dungeon master makes the calls,
Campers gets picked off one by one,
The Karnaval’s corn dogs are less than fun,
Ghosts lurking around every bend,
‘I do’ at the wedding is the very end.
A boxset of chills and thrills to keep you up at night,
One-click pre-order to snap your copy filled with fright.
On old Hallow’s eve when creatures come to play,
With this spine chilling pages, it’s where you’ll want to stay.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Tsundoku no more Day #7

I’m an omnivorous reader, but romantic suspense and urban fantasy are two of my favorite genres. I snapped this book up, intending to read it right away but something (probably actual work) intervened.

13 (Tallent & Lowery Book 1) by Amy Lignor

Downloaded February 18, 2014

“Tallent” is Leah Tallent, a starchy research librarian (an homage to the author’s librarian mother) who really hates dealing with library tours, especially ones like the rowdy group currently touring the Heaven & Hell exhibit (“a literary celebration of both sides of humanity”). Gareth Lowery is a handsome,. bronze-headed, green-eyed teacher who is not at all what he seems to be. And though he’s quite taken with redheaded Leah, his motives for being in the library are mysterious and intriguing.

We KNOW from the subtitle that these two are going to get together (probably in more than one way, if you know what I mean) but from the first page, the third person/dual POV book is engaging. It delivers and fans of books like Katherine Neville’s Eight and Discovery of Witches will be entertained. (Some reviewers have compared her books to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. I’m not one to scoff at that. Like everyone else on the planet, I read Da Vinci Code when it first came out and enjoyed it thoroughly.) I’ll definitely be reading more of the books (particularly the next one which has a Shakespeare connection).

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Tsundoku no more Day #6

I was still living in Los Angeles when I downloaded this book and I can tell from the date I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. The city I’d lived in since I was 22 was becoming meaner and more expensive by the day and I was having a hard time staying afloat. I was balancing a crushing day job schedule with writing and a lot of time, if the choice came down to writing or sleeping, sleeping won.

200 Motivational and Inspirational Quotes that Will Inspire Your Success compiled by Kathy Collins

Downloaded August 21, 2015

Interestingly, this book is now “out of print,” but you can access Collins’ own quotes all over the internet. They seem pithy enough but back then? I’m not sure they would have raised me out of my funk.

Tsundoko no more Day #5

My father was in the army and I lived in France as a child. I’ve been trying to polish up my French skills ever since.

1000 French Verb in Context by Alex Forero

Downloaded January 17, 2016

I’m a big fan of the website A French Word a Day because Kristi Espinasse always introduces the words or phrases in context and that way they’re easier to remember.  In a way, this is a less interactive Duolingo approach to learning the language. You learn the verb. You use it in a sentence and you move on. Do I have the discipline to do that for a hundred days? Je ne sais pas, but it’s not like I can use the excuse that I don’t have the time.

Rezso is back!

Last year, I wrote a one-off novella for a boxed set called Guardians. It was meant to be about shifters (mostly werewolves), but since I can't ever just write something simple, I came up with a new kind of origin story about a character who's a shifter. The boxed set didn't sell that well (are people tired of werewolves?) but the stand-alone novella has been a surprise hit with my readers. (Thank  you all!)

The sequel is going to be out this spring--next month if I can manage it, by May for sure. I'm having an enormous blast writing it, and I hope that will translate into enjoyment for those who read it. And here's the cover!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

tsundoku no more Day #4

Reading about food calms me sometimes and the day I downloaded this recipe book, I was STRESSED. You might wonder how I can remember a random day almost five years ago, but there are two reasons—one, it would have been my father’s 94th birthday and I was missing him; and two—our landlord had just told us he wanted his mother to move into the home we’d been renting and if we could get out by the 8th, he’d give us all our deposit back. My best friend had found a new place for us in another city and he was already gone, leaving me to finish up the packing as he handled logistics on the other end. But after I downloaded this, I ended up going to sleep instead of reading.

100 Easy Recipes in Jars by Bonnie Scott

Downloaded December 7, 2015

The recipes run the gamut from cookies to soups and beverages (including the ubiquitous “Russian tea” recipe that includes Tang). About half the book is taken up with directions on how to fill your jars and decorate them afterwards, and there are some smart tips for dealing with super-fine ingredients so the presentation of the jars looks sharp. These are great for DIY gifts, especially if you include a baked batch of the same cookies so your gift recipient knows that they’ll be able to make the same tasty treats themselves.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tsundoku no more Day #3

I know why I downloaded this book. I love urban fantasy and it was Halloween.

100 Days in Deadland (Deadlands Saga Book 1) byRachel Aukes

Downloaded to Kindle October 31, 2013

The blurb: “100 Days in Deadland is set in near-future Midwest America decimated by a zombie plague. In this truly unique story, our heroine— I Cash, an office worker and weekend pilot—is forced on a journey through hell that echoes the one Dante took in the “Inferno,” the world-renowned first poem in Dante Alighieri’s epic medieval tale, The Divine Comedy. In both tales, there are nine circles of hell that must be survived, and the thirty-four cantos of the “Inferno” are reflected in the thirty-four chapters of 100 Days in Deadland...reimagined zombie apocalypse style.”

This is a first-person story that starts out with a BANG, and doesn’t let up. Aukes’ style is readable, action-packed, and enjoyable, so it’s no surprise to find out that she’s a bestselling author (and a Wattpad star!) The setting is refreshingly different and her heroine, Cash, is extremely relatable and likable. I’ll definitely be reading more of Aukes’ work. (She’s got a new post-apocalyptic bounty hunter trilogy coming out next month and a science fiction novel coming this summer.)

Monday, March 23, 2020

Tsundoku no more Day #2

I used to be a food writer, so I read cookbooks for fun, not just to discover new recipes.

100 Casseroles and Main Dish Recipes by Chris Carraveau and Ann Carriveau

Downloaded to Kindle November 10, 2014

The subtitle of the book informs the reader/cook that the recipes were gleaned from church and community fundraising cookbooks. My mother and grandmother had a whole collection of those spiral-bound books and they always seemed to be a mixed bag. Many of the recipes started out with opening a can of soup, and a lot of them seemed to be ingredient by ingredient replicas of commonly available recipes found in similar cookbook. The authors here seem to have just cherry-picked recipes from their own collection.

I was disappointed there wasn’t any commentary between the recipes. (I like reading about how authors got a recipe from their Great-Aunt Edna who was a terrible cook but had one signature dish that was fantastic, or how the original recipe was invented to work around war-time rationing and Depression-era financial woes and yet still turned out to be a family favorite.)

The formatting of the book is funky (it looks like it was just shoveled into a file without regard to how it would look) and some of the titles and recipes are repeated, but if you enjoy “retro food” heavy on the meat and dairy products, there are a lot of comfort food recipes here, especially those involving ground beef, noodles and cheese. Chances are, though, you already have these recipes in your kitchen, hand-written in faded ink on food-stained index cards with a cheery greeting like, “From Kate’s Kitchen.”

Random lobsters

Apparently random lobsters are showing up on sidewalks on both the East and West Coasts. The last time that happened, I wrote this story, The Next Best Thing.

Priscilla Newnam had seen some peculiar things in her 87 years, but she had never seen anything like the bug that crawled across her spotless kitchen floor one sunny July morning as she was eating her oatmeal. For one thing it was huge, at least a foot long, maybe more. And it was strange in a disturbing way. It looked like what you’d get if you mated a roachy bug to a lobster. She decided it probably was some kind of mutated crustacean that had somehow crawled up from the harbor and found its way into her house. And now she was going to have to deal with it before she’d had a chance to finish her coffee.

There wasn’t much that Priscilla Newnam was afraid of but the sight of the creature scuttling across her kitchen linoleum was…unsettling. Priscilla’s husband Tom had been a lobster man, and once or twice he’d brought home some strange things he’d found in his pots. There’d been a yellow lobster once, a freakish thing that he’d sold to the owner of a clam bar in Massachusetts who wanted to keep it in a tank to attract customers.

A reporter and photographer from the Cape Courier had come up to the house to interview Tom about the one-of-a kind find. The photographer, a young fellow named Julien Thibidoux, had take Tom’s picture holding the yellow lobster up by one claw. Then Julien had taken a picture of Tom and Priscilla just because he wanted to and sent it to them later. That had been thoughtful of him, Priscilla thought. She still had the picture on her bedside table.

As she watched the thing move from one end of the kitchen to the other, Priscilla decided that she was going to play the “age card” and turn the problem over to someone else. She hardly ever did that because she didn’t want people to start thinking of her as an old biddy, someone who’d outlived her usefulness. But just this once, she decided she would call animal control and let them handle it.

When she described what the thing looked like, the dispatcher sounded skeptical but said she would send someone out right away.  Because Priscilla had a young voice, the girl on the phone didn’t dilly-dally around asking her foolish questions like, “Are you sure that there’s really a foot-long bug on your floor? Priscilla hated people who assumed that because you were no longer young, you were somehow stupid. She’d been a math teacher until she was 65 and she could still do long division in her head.

The animal control officer they sent was a young man, just out of college from the look of him and he took one look at the thing on her floor and said “Fuck me.” And he didn’t apologize for the profanity in that falsely smarmy way so many people did when they were talking to old people. As if they’d never heard a bit of salty language. Priscilla liked him for that.

“You ever see anything like this before?” she asked him.

“Yeah,” he said, surprising her, “I have.” He excused himself and went back to his truck and when he came back, he had a little collapsible trap with some kind of stinking bait in it. 

“What are you going to do with it?” she asked him.

He didn’t look up as he answered, his attention focused on coaxing the thing into the trap. “Gonna ship it to the university. Marine biology professor up there is paying $100 for specimens. He says they’re showing up all over.” It belatedly occurred to the exterminator that Priscilla might claim ownership of the bug so he added, “I’ll split it with you.”

She waved away the offer. She knew young people always needed money and Tom had left her comfortable. “No, just ask him to email me when he knows what it is,” she said.

“Email?” he repeated, as if he’d never heard the word before.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Tsundoku no more Day #1

I’m going to be reading in alphabetical order. First up is…
Scuze Me While I Kill this Guy by Leslie Langtry

Downloaded to Kindle 7, 2014

This is a first-person comic crime novel told by Ginny Bombay, a snarky single mother who comes from a long line of assassins. Tonally, it reminded me a lot of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books with her likable cast of characters (boyfriend Diego, brother Dakota, aka Dak) and her deadpan narration of the silly events that unold.

Langtry is a USA Today bestselling novelist and there are nine other books in her “Greatest Hits” series. (And it’s not the only series she’s written.)

“I turned the engraved invitation over in my hands and sighed. I hate these things [family reunions]. We only held them once every five years, but for some reason this time, the reunion was only a year after the last one. That meant someone in the family had been naughty. That means one of my relative was doing to die.”

Tsundoku no more--reading the books on my TBR list

One of my best friends gave me a Kindle for Christmas ten years ago. She knew I loved reading and buying books and she also knew I was struggling financially as a freelancer in Los Angeles. That was when I discovered the "free books" newsletters and it made me feel RICH to know I could SHOP and BUY books any time I wanted. So I downloaded anything that sounded interesting and actually filled up my Kindle cache and had to dump some books out to make room for new ones.

Now that I'm more financially secure, I buy at least as many books as I download for free; but I haven't gotten around to reading most of them. I know I'm not alone. The Japanese even have a word for buying more books than you can possibly ever read--Tsundoku. 

In the last few weeks, my workload has fallen off dramatically. Most of my work comes from Los Angeles, which is in lockdown. My clients in France, Norway, and Italy are all okay, but they're all in self-quarantine or lockdown. I am fortunate enough to have a bit of a cash cushion, so I'm not freaking out (yet)  but my state is about I'm being careful about money.  Which means not buying anything that's not edible or a paper product.

Instead of worrying, I'm burying my anxiety by writing. But I've also decided to start reading my way through my substantial (and eclectic) collection of unread books. I'm going to post on that adventure every day with a few words about the book in question. (Kind of like that "short story a day" challenge I did with Brian Lindemuth back in the day.) It'll be something to give me structure and it'll free up space on my Kindle for more books. (And if, God forbid, I run out of Kindle titles before the pandemic runs its course, I have a few bookcases full of books as well.)

Now more than ever, we're all in this together.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Anxiety Baking

It's a thing and in normal circumstances, I'd be all over the recipes being posted. (I especially like the recipes for quick breads because bread is the staff of life and it's ALL good.) But I'm living in a household with someone on a strict diet and I'm not mean enough to fill the place with good smells. (I  used to live in an apartment overlooking a grocery store with an in-store bakery. When they baked their cinnamon rolls and honey bran muffins, it was all I could do not to run over and buy a dozen. (They also fried their own chicken, which was even worse. And it was GOOD fried chicken.)

So, not doing any baking. But that doesn't mean I can't write about baking and live vicariously. About a year ago I bought a series of cozy covers from the awesome Lou Harper of Cover Affairs. They were meant to be cozy mysteries, but I decided instead to make them cozy romances in the vein of my Halliday Theater and Meredith Manor Hotel stories. (And by "my," I mean books written under the name Katherine Moore. I borrowed my pseudonym from my maternal grandmother. My other grandmother was also named Katherine, called Kate, so I still have a 'sudo on reserve if I need it.)

The stories are set in the small town of Heaven, Washington--a place not unlike the small Pacific Northwest town where I actually live. I've already fallen in love with the characters and am having a lot of fun pairing them up and adding recipes. (I used to be a food writer and was the "Chocolate Editor" for for a year. I've also worked as a caterer. So food is one of my passions.)The books are going to have a lot of really good recipes (I am friends with a woman who's just been voted one of the top pastry chefs in Portland), but here's an instant gratification recipe that's a variation of those "cake in a cup" recipes you can find online.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Notorious Minds boxed set Cover Reveal

What does it take to commit the perfect crime?

Delve into these dark and twisted tales by twenty USA Today and International Bestselling Authors. No matter what kind of crime story typically catches your imagination, there’s sure to be something for everyone.

Conspiracies, political plots, and yes, even murder, are just a few of the crimes waiting inside this box set. Discover a narcissistic grandmother running an underground syndicate, or a support group bent on murder…and even a serial killer who turns his victims into fairytale creatures.

Prepare to delve into an elite killing team who made a mistake, an oil rig filled with secrets ready to explode, and a reporter uncovering a treasonous plot.
Uncover how fatal passion, jealousy, and fear can be to a group of royal marines and learn from a detective who is far from home fighting demons from his past in order to stay alive.

This fantastic boxed set comes from Fire Quill Publishers, and will be on pre-order from today (St. Patrick's Day) for 99 cents until publication day (October 13, 2020). AND if you preorder now, there are goodies!! See how to grab the bundle here.

Order on:


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Reading for the Apocalypse

In a parallel life I would have been an epidemiologist. Ever since I read Guns, Germs, and Steel, I’ve been fascinated by the interaction of plagues and society. (Another book along the same lines that has been in my library for years is Plagues and Peoples, along with Ken Alibek’s book about the bio-weapons lab he ran. It’s called Biohazard and it will keep you up at night.) Laurie Garrett’s book The Coming Plague is a sobering, informative read. You might have seen her interviewed on The Rachel Maddow Show recently. She did not have good news about COVID-19. And the Band Played On, the monumental work about the AIDS epidemic by Randy Shilts (who died of AIDS at 42.) is a must-read.

I’ve been thinking of fictional plague books lately. I’ve read a lot of them, and am wondering what else is out there that I haven’t read. I subscribe to the service K-lytics, which tracks genres in books, and a few months ago dystopian books—particularly ones featuring disasters like plagues and EMP episodes—were all the rage. I’m wondering if people are still fascinated by those “what if” books now that we’re in a real-life plague crisis of our own. Would reading those books now allay anxiety or make it worse? Could anything be worse than refreshing news feeds every two minutes?

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell: a review

When a teenager is lured into an obsessive relationship with a teacher 30 years her senior, the emotional fallout lasts for decades.

This novel seems inspired by novelist Joyce Maynard’s relationship with J.D. Salinger. Seeing the May/December romance through the filter of the #metoo movement is an ingenious way to explore the characters, both in their past and in their present. It is also reminiscent of Philip Roth’s THE HUMAN STAIN. It is, of course, crafted to be current and controversial, but mostly it’s a little creepy. (In the 2000 sections where Vanessa is 15, it is genuinely disturbing seeing the way Strane “grooms” her. No wonder her mother reacts the way she does. The writer also brings in Monica Lewinsky and her infamous relationship with President Clinton. “She seems nice,” Vanessa says when she and her mother watch Lewinsky’s interview with Barbara Walters. Her mother, seeing the situation from a 20th century perspective, is not convinced.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

To be added to the TBR list--The Grace Kelly Dress

Or more accurately--the To Be Read Bookcase. (I've gone way beyond a bookshelf of unread books.) This one had me at the cover. The Eiffel Tower? You know I'm there. It also comes with a lovely recommendation from author M.j. Rose, so bonus.  (I trust other writers when they tell me a book is good.)
Here's the book description: 
Two years after Grace Kelly’s royal wedding, her iconic dress is still all the rage in Paris—and one replica, and the secrets it carries, will inspire three generations of women to forge their own paths in life and in love.

Paris, 1958: Rose, a seamstress at a fashionable atelier, has been entrusted with sewing a Grace Kelly—look-alike gown for a wealthy bride-to-be. But when, against better judgment, she finds herself falling in love with the bride’s handsome brother, Rose must make an impossible choice, one that could put all she’s worked for at risk: love, security and of course, the dress.

Sixty years later, tech CEO Rachel, who goes by the childhood nickname “Rocky,” has inherited the dress for her upcoming wedding in New York City. But there’s just one problem: Rocky doesn’t want to wear it. A family heirloom dating back to the 1950s, the dress just isn’t her. Rocky knows this admission will break her mother Joan’s heart. But what she doesn’t know is why Joan insists on the dress—or the heartbreaking secret that changed her mother’s life decades before, as she herself prepared to wear it.

As the lives of these three women come together in surprising ways, the revelation of the dress’s history collides with long-buried family heartaches. And in the lead-up to Rocky’s wedding, they’ll have to confront the past before they can embrace the beautiful possibilities of the future.

Brenda Janowitz' work is new to me, so lucky me--because she already has a handful of wonderful-sounding books in her backlist, so I'll have days of fun reading. Check out her book on Amazon (The book is everywhere, but I have a Kindle, so Amazon is my go-to.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

It's Women's History Month. A few thoughts.

I don't know about you, but the history classes I took in high school and college (Women's History wasn't yet a subject) were pretty devoid of women. There was Betsy Ross and Dolley Madison, possibly Abigail Adams. There was Harriet Tubman and Sacajawea and Madame Curie and Florence Nightingale.  There was Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt. (Amelia Earhart offered to give Eleanor Roosevelt flying lessons but FDR vetoed the plan.) And there were was Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great, two of the greatest, most influential monarchs who ever lived. (And no, Catherine the Great did NOT die the way you think she did.)

Madame C.J. Walker
And then there was...who else? Marie Antoinette? Joan of Arc? I learned the name of every single explorer who ever traveled up the St. Lawrence River or set foot on the South Pole or traveled across the Sahara Desert. But none of my teachers ever mentioned Wu Zetian or Nellie Bly (I wanted to be a reporter when I grew up. I was crazy about Nellie Bly.)  There was no mention of female astronomers, mathematicians (R.I.P. Katherine Johnson), or explorers. I learned about Henry Ford but not about Madame C.J. Walker.

So many amazing women have touched and changed history. This month I'm going to catch up on my reading about them.

Allison Pataki, the author of The Traitor's Wife (Benedict Arnold was the traitor in question), has written an engaging article on 7 Forgotten but Extremely Influential Women from History. Check it out here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

New Project Demon Hunter book!! Reviewof Unmarked Graves

I’m a long-time fan of USA Today bestselling writer Christine Pope, and the Project Demon Hunters series is probably my favorite. (While I love paranormal romance, I really love urban fantasy, and these books hit my reading sweet spot. (They are a little darker, a little scarier, and a little edgier. Unmarked Graves is probably my favorite book of the series so far.
The pace is fast…and the story opens just moments after the last book ended with Will and Rosemary’s ill-fated encounter with the demon Caleb Lockwood. Will doesn’t know where he stands with Rosemary, the police are skeptical of the story they’re both telling, and worst of all, that missing Demon Hunters footage is in Caleb’s hands. If he destroys it…

All the characters we’ve met over the last four books are here, plus Rosemary’s mother Glynis, who is exactly the sort of supportive mother you’d expect to have raised her brood of witch daughters. She’s warm and has a sense of humor and I wouldn’t mind if she ended up with a book of her own.
As always in her books, Christine makes the locations come alive with details that let the reader know she has actually lived in the places where she sets her books. In this case, I have lived in some of the same places, and it’s a treat to relate her supernatural doings to the real-life places I’ve been.