Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Sunday, January 31, 2021

A thriller two thousand years old! Carolyn McCray's 30 Pieces of Silver


There is a heresy at the bottom of 30 Pieces of Silver,  Carolyn McCray’s thriller, a nicely worked out bit of (alternate?) history that’s bolstered with tons of bogus academic papers and made-up artifacts that feel persuasive. As the story plays out along two timelines—the present and two thousand years ago—the pace never flags, and there are action beats that build and build and build and build from the moment we meet Rebecca Monroe being squeezed to death by an anaconda to the final explosive revelation. 

The special ops team central to the mission is familiar in concept—like James Rollins’ Sigma Force—are not just warriors, they know their science and their religious history. Characters keep underestimating them and it’s a lot of fun to see them thwart those snooty expectations. It’s also fun seeing military people being portrayed as something more than meatheads. (Once an Army brat, always an Army brat.) 

It is a little disappointing that Rebecca is just about the only woman with anything to do in the book. While she does some brave things and she is an intriguing person, she doesn’t necessarily drive the story—Brandt and his team do. Still, you have to love a book that combines all these thriller elements so seamlessly with an ancient backstory. Worth the read if you’re a fan of Clive Cussler, James Rollins, and Dan Brown.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Good and Gothic--DREAM REAPER by Alistair Cross

 Remember the heyday of the Gothic novel, those books that all had the same cover--with the beautiful long-haired woman running from a castle/mansion/tower with one lighted window? (Here's a Pinterest board that proves my point.)

I gobbled those books up like  chocolate-covered cherries. The sub-genre is having something of a comeback right now and that is really good news for readers because the neo-Gothics are a lot more complicated and compelling than the Bronte imitators that spawned the first wave of books back in the Seventies. 

And I'm not even counting the O.G. Gothics, a list of which you can find here.

Which brings me to Alistair Cross and his novel Dream Reaper. Cross brings the goth with a capital G and this book delivers angels, demons, holy hell, and dark desires. 

The story takes place in a fictional California town where a new Chief of police has just arrived. Nick Grayson is looking for a fresh start but his initial impression of Prominence is not promising. He's afraid he's going to be bored to death with only the town's Fouinder's Day festivities to look forward to. (Town mascot Winkie the golden hedgehog figures prominently.) 

Just one day in, however, weird things start happening, and Nick finds himself caught up in a battle between good and evil. (Cue the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" as you start to read--you'll see why.)

The characters in Dream Reaper are fully fleshed out and real. Readers will immediately be caught up in heroine Madison's story because we know what we need to know about her before she has the accident that kicks off the narrative. Although the story takes place in present day, all the trappings and tropes of Gothic novels are in place. There are haunted rooms, whispering voices, an abandoned church, a cemetery with wrought-iron fences, and more. Dark secrets and hidden needs fuel the action as the battle between good and evil plays out. There are real stakes here--eternal stakes.

There are intense moments, as when a woman randomly admits to her greatest sin and several other women attack each other over a man neither one truly wants. The heroes and heroines of the story are all flawed, even broken, and that adds to their believability. 

The horror here is lightened with levity, and quirkiness, and emotions run the gamut. It's a terrific read.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy 2021

 If there was one thing 2020 was good for--and there wasn't much it WAS good for--the decline in my freelance jobs left me more time for my own writing. I really branched out this year, writing in my own name and under my usual pen name Kat Parrish. But as the year unfolded and I joined a writer's group interested in boxed sets, I started branching out into subgenres--paranormal cozy, paranormal women's fiction, horror hybrids, science fiction romance. And I started creating new pseudonyms for these different stories. I'm not sure that's a great idea--it's a lot of work to "build a brand" and also it can be hard when one pseudonym gets accolades and the others don't. (Kat Parrish is an internationally bestselling author, thanks to one boxed set and an Amazon bestselling author thanks to another.) 

I'm still not convinced that readers care about these accolades, but when you work at home and kind of ain a vaccuum, the affirmation they give can be balm to the soul. (So far, I haven't seen any increase in sales thanks to being entitled to use the phrase on my covers, but it's fun knowing I am entitled to them.)

I made a lot of plans last year and they were nearly all upended. This year, I'm thinking in broader terms and not making resolutions at all. But that doesn't mean I'm not making plans. I'll be launching a couple of cozy series this year (look for my work as Katherine Moore) and really mazing out on the holiday

stories. (Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving.) I'm going to write more suspense (which is my first love) under my real name. And as for the urban fantasy I love--there will be historical shifters, more about my conflicted werewolf Rezso, a couple of gargoyles, a few fae, and many, many vampires. Because really, can you ever have too many vampires?

So, basically, I want this new year to be more productive than last. We're going to be stuck with the plague for a while longer, so I fully intend to go my part by staying at home, wearing a mask, and writing. 

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.