Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

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.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Friday Excerpt: Deus Ex Magical

This is an excerpt from the first of the Ostrander Witches series, set in Seattle.

DEUS EX MAGICAL by Kat Parrish

I won’t pretend my usual breakfast is a bowl of unsweetened Greek yogurt with a handful of perfectly ripe raspberries stirred in with a tablespoon of chia seeds that I wash down with a huge mug of organic green tea sweetened with a teaspoon of artisanal honey.
I’m not the girl juicing beets she grew on her apartment balcony or blending kale with pineapple and ice for a super-healthy, vitamin-packed smoothie. I don’t even own a juicer. Machines like that scare me. I can barely manage to wrangle my drip coffee maker in the morning.
Most of the time I start my days with leftover Indian food or drunken noodles with chicken or kung pao shrimp because spice kickstarts my metabolism way better than caffeine and I can tell myself I’m getting a shot of protein and vegetables in with the carbs of the leftover naan and noodles.
And yes, what I eat for breakfast tells you more than you need to know about what I eat for dinner most nights.
Cooking is not my super power.
I try, but sometimes, when it’s been raining for a week and the five-day forecast calls for more of the same, the only thing I want for breakfast is the daily special at the coffee shop on the first floor of the building where my office is located. The daily special never varies because nobody wants to have to deal with making choices first thing in the morning. I find that comforting.
I love that I can sit down, push the menu to the side and tell Dineen I’ll have the special. I love Dineen, even though she’s not a morning person so our interactions are pretty one-sided. I know it can be irritating to be around someone who isn’t morning challenged when you are, so I respect that and keep it brief.
 I love that Dineen doesn’t try to talk me into having something like oatmeal with a bowl of fruit on the side. She just picks up the menu, goes away and then returns bringing me sustenance. Orange juice. With extra pulp, just the way I like it.
French toast with crispy edges.
Bacon that’s still flexible.
An egg any style, which means scrambled dry for me.
All for eight dollars, which is a steal.
It’s late October and 44 degrees in Seattle. It was a French toast kind of day.
I had meetings scheduled back to back all morning, so I wanted to come in early to get paperwork out of the way. I’d done a job fair at Kent-Meridian High School over the weekend and had not only heard from tons of kids who were looking ahead to jobs after graduation and summer internships, but six different faculty members had also contacted me. I was particularly interested in one history teacher who had her pilot’s license, had exhibited her photographs in galleries across the Pacific Northwest and who listed “adventure travel” as a hobby on her resume.
She absolutely fitted the requirements I needed to fill a position being offered by a documentary filmmaker who was putting together a history of British Columbia’s Gulf Islands and needed a pilot to get him to remote locations as well as someone to take still photos for the book he was writing to accompany the documentary. He had a government grant for the project, so the pay would be generous, and he planned to do all the field work during the summer when the teacher was on a school break.
My food arrived just as I was composing a text to my client, telling him I had the perfect candidate to work on his documentary.
You’re probably thinking—Shouldn’t you have at least interviewed the teacher before telling your client you had “the one?”
If I were just any job recruiter the answer would have been—yes, I absolutely should have. But I’m not just any recruiter. Finding people isn’t just my job.
It’s my talent.
If you’re a Fuqua Business School graduate who invented an app and sold it to Google before your twenty-third birthday, anyone can find you a job—if you actually need to work after selling your app to Google.
But say your skillset is a little more…eclectic. Say you are basically unemployable except for the one job that fits your skillset perfectly, even though you have never heard of that job.
I am the headhunter who will find you that job.
When a client comes to me with a request for a left-handed Mandarin speaker who plays the piano and has experience as a pastry chef, I know that somewhere there exists exactly the person they’re looking for.
And if you are that person, I will find you.
As I said, it’s a talent.
All witches have one.
I grant you having the ability to match people to jobs isn’t exactly the sexiest thing a witch can do. When I was growing up, a lot of my relatives pitied me and some of the ones who were closer to my age bullied me. Especially my twin cousins Lea and Tia who could both time travel. They used to call me a “lamitch,” which was their made-up word for “lame witch.” They didn’t call me that around Roz, though. My older sister is a weather witch, the strongest in the family for the last hundred years, and she’s very protective of me. The last time the twins started to give me a hard time, she conjured up an extremely localized storm that rained on them just as they were leaving for their prom.
Roz is awesome.
That sort of thing is totally against the rules, of course, but I wasn’t the only one the twins bullied, so everyone in the family kind of looked the other way. And the twins never bothered me again.
I would have liked to be able to time travel or whip up storms, but having a skill that’s actually marketable in the normal world turned out be pretty useful, and while Tia and Lea landed jobs working for a super-secret government contractor at monthly salaries roughly ten times what I make in a year, their job requires them to live on-site in an out-of-the-way military base in Greenland.
I know of at least three people who’d hire either one of them in a second if they knew they existed, but I’m not going to be the one who introduces them.
I know it’s petty, but they’re mean girls. And I don’t like mean girls. It’s not as easy to steer clear of them here in Seattle as it was in my home town, but for the most part, my life is mean girl free.
I was born in Port Angeles, Washington, a small town north of Seattle known mostly for being the birthplace of football legend John Elway. My dad runs the online learning program for Peninsula College and my mother is a liaison for the student exchange program with kids from Port Angeles’ sister city in Japan. My mother’s talent is languages. She speaks them all. Even the dead ones. Some of the ghosts of people who died in the Fukushima tsunami ended up wandering on the beaches of Washington state and my mother helped them get home. That’s another of her skills. She sees dead people.
My father loves my mother unconditionally, but he isn’t a witch and it sometimes freaks him out that both his daughters inherited her witchy ways.
I think he’s kind of relieved that what I do isn’t particularly showy or odd; that it’s almost something that could be explained as being “really good at her job.”
Even if I hadn’t had a power, though, I still would have been “different.” Even though Roz and I look enough alike I used to “borrow” her driver’s license when I was underage, in other ways, we could not be more different.