Thursday, 31 August 2017

UNSUB / Meg Gardiner

3.5 out of 5 stars
Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An UNSUB—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case.

The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career.

Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession.


A killer summer read.

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are this August, but it’s been unusually hot in our area, plus we are inundated with forest fire smoke from a neighbouring province and the combination is making me lazy. When it’s unpleasant to go outside, why not stay home and read a psychological thriller, right?

Although not the most riveting thriller that I’ve ever read, this one does deliver a tough female protagonist, with the determination to solve the case that got away from her father. Initiated into the nightmare as a youngster, she can’t just sit by and watch when the same apparent Unsub starts up his murderous ways again.

This novel could certainly be read as justification for cultural education for all professions! You never know what the benefits of literature study will be.

I have already recommended that our public library acquire the second book, when it is published in early 2018.

The Clockwork Scarab / Colleen Gleason

4 out of 5 stars
Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes never meant to get into the family business. But when you’re the sister of Bram and the niece of Sherlock, vampire hunting and mystery solving are in your blood. And when two society girls go missing, there’s no one more qualified to investigate.

Now fierce Evaline and logical Mina must resolve their rivalry, navigate the advances of not just one but three mysterious gentlemen, and solve murder with only one clue: a strange Egyptian scarab. The stakes are high. If Stoker and Holmes don’t unravel why the belles of London society are in such danger, they’ll become the next victims.



Something a little different for my real-life book club—a steampunk novel.  A perfect, light little book for reading during the heat of August, when who really wants to exert themselves too much?

It’s a young adult novel, but it’s charm is dependent on the reader having some familiarity with Sherlock Holmes and Bram Stoker.  The stars of this show are Mina Holmes (Sherlock’s niece) and Evalina Stoker (Bram’s much younger sister).  Each of them are talented in their own rights, Mina as a thinker and reasoner like her uncle, Evalina as a vampire hunter.  Brains and brawn, in other words.

When the two young women are forced to work together, their innate independence stands in their way to begin with.  But resistance is futile, and they find themselves relying on each other more & more.  Of course, there are love interests introduced for each one—a law man and a rapscallion, just to emphasize their tempermental differences!  Since neither woman expected to find a suitable romance, they are surprised & confused by this state of affairs.

While this book will never achieve the durability or popularity of the original Conan Doyle or Stoker creations, it is cute and fun, and I will probably read at least one more book in the series.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Dead Beat / Jim Butcher

4 out of 5 stars
Paranormal investigations are Harry Dresden’s business and Chicago is his beat, as he tries to bring law and order to a world of wizards and monsters that exists alongside everyday life. And though most inhabitants of the Windy City don’t believe in magic, the Special Investigations Department of the Chicago PD knows better.

Karrin Murphy is the head of S. I. and Harry’s good friend. So when a killer vampire threatens to destroy Murphy’s reputation unless Harry does her bidding, he has no choice. The vampire wants the Word of Kemmler (whatever that is) and all the power that comes with it. Now, Harry is in a race against time—and six merciless necromancers—to find the Word before Chicago experiences a Halloween night to wake the dead...


Best Dresden book so far!  I approve of the zombie T. rex Sue and all the mayhem that she causes!

Harry, like any good noir detective, is a bit soft-headed when it comes to a dame.  This gets him in trouble in every book and this one is no exception.  His wry sense of humour helps him deal with the situations that his instinctive responses get him embroiled in.

At least in this installment, Harry gets to know members of the White Council better (and vice versa), finds out that he has fans among the younger wizards, and gets to communicate with an important person from his past.

He also becomes a personal coach for a new friend, Butters.  Polka will never die!!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Raven Cursed / Faith Hunter

4 out of 5 stars
The vampires of Asheville, North Carolina, want to establish their own clan, but since they owe loyalty to the Master Vampire of New Orleans they must work out the terms with him. To come up with an equitable solution, he sends an envoy with the best bodyguard blood money can buy: Jane Yellowrock.

But when a group of local campers are attacked by something fanged, Jane goes from escort to investigator. Unless she wants to face a very angry mast vampire, she will have to work overtime to find the killer. It's a good thing she's worth every penny.



***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

"I'd rather fight an old rogue-vamp in my underwear, with my bare hands, than deal with relationship problems."


Perhaps that’s because Jane’s love life is complicated. That would have to be her Facebook status! She is so busy fleeing from all the men in her life that she allows herself to take the blame for a bunch of things that truly aren’t her fault. But, realistically, that’s what happens when you’re a woman in charge of something—the men involved feel free to blame you for every damn thing that doesn’t go as planned. Jane hasn’t been in charge long enough to learn to throw it right back at them! She’s damn good at her job—despite all the wrenches that keep getting tossed into the works, things work out.

Jane has religious questions in her life that she needs to deal with too. Can she be a Christian of some sort and still practice her Cherokee rites? I think the two are compatible, but its not up to me! I’ll be interested to see where Hunter takes this question in future books.

I’m not nearly as into Rick as Jane is. I can see why she chose him in the beginning—choose the human, right? But now that he’s a were-jaguar-in-waiting, things get complicated. Not to mention Bruiser, hanging around in the background, waiting for Rick to disappear. Is a blood-servant any better than a vampire in the long run? And there are vampires who’d like to be in line to woo our Jane as well. She may tell the people who have a grudge against her to “get in line,” but that applies to her relationships even more!

Always entertaining, lots of action, plenty of emotional ups & downs, I am coming to appreciate Jane Yellowrock a great deal. I can hardly wait to get the next book from the library!

Ash and Quill / Rachel Caine

5 out of 5 stars
Hoarding all the knowledge of the world, the Great Library jealously guards its secrets. But now a group of rebels poses a dangerous threat to its tyranny…

Jess Brightwell and his band of exiles have fled London, only to find themselves imprisoned in Philadelphia, a city led by those who would rather burn books than submit. But Jess and his friends have a bargaining chip: the knowledge to build a machine that will break the Library’s rule.

Their time is running out. To survive, they’ll have to choose to live or die as one, to take the fight to their enemies—and to save the very soul of the Great Library…



Rachel Caine has certainly got my number with this series.  Book three is right up there with book one, making me long for the next book.  The Library of Alexandria is still dark, controlling, and overbearing.  Our cast of characters is still fleeing their clutches, but wishing that they could change the Library, take it back to what it was supposed to be—a beacon for humanity.

Jess Brightwell comes into his own in this installment.  Dario pushes him to think about what he wants to change and to be realistic about what will happen.  It seems to open a whole new Jess, one who can be as Machiavellian as his father, as devious as those in charge of the Library, as ruthless as the Iron Tower.

Trapped in a city of Book Burners, our fearless band of library scholars must somehow survive and outwit those who run this blockaded city of Philadelphia.  Never has there been less brotherly love in that city.

And that ending!!!  Ms. Caine, you have guaranteed that I will be impatiently awaiting Book 4.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Bloodfever / Karen Marie Moning

3 out of 5 stars
MacKayla Lane’s ordinary life underwent a complete makeover when she landed on Ireland’s shores and was plunged into a world of deadly sorcery and ancient secrets.

In her fight to stay alive, Mac must find the Sinsar Dubh–a million-year-old book of the blackest magic imaginable, which holds the key to power over both the worlds of the Fae and of Man. Pursued by Fae assassins, surrounded by mysterious figures she knows she cannot trust, Mac finds herself torn between two deadly and irresistible men: V’lane, the insatiable Fae who can turn sensual arousal into an obsession for any woman, and the ever-inscrutable Jericho Barrons, a man as alluring as he is mysterious.

For centuries the shadowy realm of the Fae has coexisted with that of humans. Now the walls between the two are coming down, and Mac is the only thing that stands between them.…




***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

So I liked book two quite a bit more than book one—enough to raise my star rating to 3 from 2.5.

MacKayla isn’t quite so fixated on her appearance in the second book, and she is starting to wise-up, something for which I am thankful. I am completely in agreement with her that she has lots of potential friends & enemies, that its hard to tell them apart, but she might as well stick with the ones who are actually helping her. There seem to be plenty who know things who refuse to help.

So, Mac is actually growing as a human being, which helps me like her better. Plus Moning leaves this book with a dreadful cliffhanger! I’ll be moving on to book 3 just to satisfy my curiosity about who did what.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

By a Thread / Jennifer Estep

4 out of 5 stars
***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

Can it be?  Can Ms. Estep have written an installment of the Elemental Assassin series without repeating herself ad nauseam?  It would seem that she can or that an editor finally stepped into the breach.  I have raised my star rating by a whole star in appreciation!

I met Ms. Estep at a literary conference this summer and I like her.  But I think I know what’s going on with all the repetition in her books—she writes at a frantic pace!  I think that repeating things filled out those pages in a satisfying way (and there is a belief out there that readers are distractable and need these frequent reminders to keep us on track).  Plus, I think repetition is one of her methods of dealing with the world.  She was on several panel discussions that I attended, and she said virtually identical things on each and every one of them.  She had interesting things to say when someone could get her stirred up a bit, but she didn’t allow that to happen very often.  Very self-contained, she had obviously scripted some responses and wasn’t easily shaken from her script.

This was a satisfying offering in the Gin Blanco saga, as Gin realizes that getting rid of Mab Monroe didn’t solve all of her problems.  In fact, she has been outed as The Spider and now has to deal with a lot of gossip and regular murder attempts.  But Gin can’t catch a break even when she goes on vacation—there’s an evil vampire making a friend’s life difficult and despite how tough Gin thinks she is, she always stands up for the underdog.  The villain is a good one (i.e. evil & powerful).  Wouldn’t you know that Donovan Caine shows his nose again in this book—Gin gets some satisfying closure and Owen gets to strut a bit.  I appreciate Gin’s circle of friends and comrades—she’s no longer the cold loner.

I had thought to quit reading the series after this book, but I may have to amend that plan.  This book was such an improvement that I think I will forge onward and see if this non-repetitive thing continues!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Mistress of Mellyn / Victoria Holt

4 out of 5 stars
Mount Mellyn stood as proud and magnificent as she had envisioned...But what about its master--Connan TreMellyn? Was Martha Leigh's new employer as romantic as his name sounded? As she approached the sprawling mansion towering above the cliffs of Cornwall, an odd chill of apprehension overcame her. TreMellyn's young daugher, Alvean, proved as spoiled and difficult as the three governesses before Martha had discovered. But it was the girl's father whose cool, arrogant demeanor unleashed unfamiliar sensations and turmoil--even as whispers of past tragedy and present danger begin to insinuate themselves into Martha's life. Powerless against her growing desire for the enigmatic Connan, she is drawn deeper into family secrets--as passion overpowers reason, sending her head and heart spinning. But though evil lurks in the shadows, so does love--and the freedom to find a golden promise forever...

***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

After two misses, it was nice to score a hit. Apparently, I am an old-fashioned woman. I prefer a story with some mystery, some history, and some romance. Leave out the sex scenes and let’s have an actual plot, please.

Stereotypical as can be, Mistress of Mellyn gave me the usual Victoria Holt offering. An impoverished gentlewoman with no options except being a governess, a student with potential and problems, an attractive employer with an air of mystery, another man to distract our heroine a bit, plus another woman to get the jealous juices flowing.

Yes, I’ve read it all before, but yes I still enjoyed it.

Dark Lover / J.R. Ward

2 out of 5 stars
In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there's a deadly turf war going on between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other-six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Yet none of them relishes killing more than Wrath, the leader of The Black Dagger Brotherhood.

The only purebred vampire left on earth, Wrath has a score to settle with the slayers who murdered his parents centuries ago. But, when one of his most trusted fighters is killed-leaving his half-breed daughter unaware of his existence or her fate-Wrath must usher her into the world of the undead-a world of sensuality beyond her wildest dreams.


***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

Not my cuppa tea. First, a bunch of leather-wearing, loud-rap-music-favouring, foul-mouthed alpha-male vampires. For my buck, vampires must be elegantly dressed and well spoken. These guys were more like a biker gang—without the motorcycles. Fine if you like that kind of thing, but I don’t.

Then the names! Wrath? Rhage? Phury? Zsadist? Can I roll my eyes any louder?

Add to that these are supposedly big, bad men, but as soon as Wrath meets our good-girl Beth, its instant love and he completely changes who he is. Suddenly, he can’t be parted from her and all his boys are worshipping at her feet as well.

The villains were much more interesting. If the next book were about Mr. X, I be much more interested than I am.

Shadow Rider / Christine Feehan

2.5 out of 5 stars
Whether it’s fast cars or fast women, Stefano Ferraro gets what he wants. When he’s not fodder for the paparazzi, he commands Ferraro family businesses—both legitimate and illegitimate.

While their criminal activity is simply a rumor yet to be proven, no one knows the real truth. The Ferraros are a family of shadow riders capable of manipulating light and dark, an ability Stefano thought ran in his family alone—until now…

With little left to her name, Francesca Cappello has come to Chicago in hopes of a new life. She wasn’t expecting to attract the attention of a man with primal hunger in his eyes, driven to claim her as his to protect and to please. And if he discovers her secret, it could ruin her...


***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

This is a blend of the old Cinderella tale and a Billionaire romance.

First, we have our sweet little Cinderella, Francesca, who is barely scraping by. She has escaped from the dangers of her previous city with only the clothes on her back and next to no money. Her friend in Chicago sent her bus fare to get there & has assured her that there’s a job for her.

Enter the billionaire, Stefano, complete with dark rumours about how he has amassed his wealth. He is the Shadow Rider of the title, with a talent for manipulating light & darkness, and he recognizes the same potential talent in Francesca.

I’m all about the fantasy & paranormal aspects of stories like these, and frankly those features pretty much took a back seat to the romance/erotic interludes of this novel. Not that there’s anything wrong with those, but I would have been much more interested in the fantasy underpinnings of this world.

As for the romance itself, I am not a fan of instant love, and that’s exactly what Stefano experiences. I don’t find it realistic for him to instantly switch from being an international playboy to a one-woman man during a 15 minute meeting in a deli. I’m also not a fan of Stefano’s over-the-top possessiveness and his absolute control over Francesca once he decides that he must protect her for her own good.

For me, this book had too much sex, too much controlling, possessive behaviour and not nearly enough plot. This is my second try with this author, and I think I am safe in deciding that her work is just not going to appeal to me.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Circus of the Damned / Laurell K. Hamilton

3.5 stars out of 5
Most women complain that there are no single, straight, men left. I'd just like to meet one that's human.

I'm Anita Blake, expert on creatures of the night. I've dined with shapeshifters, danced with werewolves, and been wooed - but not won - by Jean-Claude, the Master Vampire of the City.

And now a darkly dangerous vampire named Alejandro has hit town. He too wants me for his human servant. A war of the undead has begun. Over me.

I would be flattered if my life weren't at stake...



***2017 Summer Lovin' Reading List***

I’m still enjoying the Anita Blake series, although I have to tell you, Anita does not seem like a 24 year old character to me. I think she would be much more believable as someone in her late 30’s or early 40’s considering how jaded she seems to be and how experienced she thinks she is.

I wonder if Hamilton got any money from Nike for product placement? It seems like she mentions the shoes by name at least once per chapter. Although I suppose I could say the same thing about 2-3 brands of gun….

In this installment, Anita learns:

1. Working two full time jobs will wear you out
2. When you meet a guy in a vampire’s house, there is very little chance that he’s normal
3. Vampires will always choose dramatic ways to fight each other
4. Snake-creatures are not her friends
5. Training new employees is twice as much work as it should be
6. Jean Claude has nipples. Honestly, she mentions it every time she sees him.

Brothers in Arms / Lois McMaster Bujold

4 out of 5 stars
If his enemies would just leave him alone, Miles Vorkosigan (alias Admiral Naismith) decided bitterly, the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet would collapse all on its own. But his enemies were plotting a more deadly fall.

For some unexplained reason the Dendarii payroll is missing and the orders from the Barrayaran Imperial Command are being delayed by Miles's superior, Captain Galeni. What connects the impeccable insufferable Captain Galeni and the Komarran rebel expatriates on Earth anyway? But the most deadly question of all before Miles is more personal: are Miles's two identities, Admiral Naismith of the Dendarii and Lieutenant Lord Vorkosigan of Barrayar, splitting apart along the lines of his divided loyalties? And who is trying to assassinate which version of him?


As per usual, Miles Vorkosigan creates a stir wherever he goes. After figuratively hitting a wasp nest with a stick and annoying the Cetagandians, he hares off to old Earth to get his crew healthy and his ships fixed. Of course, things go horribly awry and lots of intrigue & adventure follows.

Somehow, for me, even though there are lots of action sequences, these books are more about the relationships. He has to balance his two identities as Lord Vorkosigan and Admiral Naismith, each with their own responsibilities. He has his cousin Ivan to consider, as Ivan is also stationed on Earth. Plus Miles makes friendships & alliances wherever he goes—and they complicate an already intricate life. Finally there’s the question of whether he will ever get a personal life and find someone to love him as Miles, regardless of which identity he’s currently living in.

Plenty of adventure here for those who like such things, and lots of character development for me. Another successful installment in the saga of Miles Vorkosigan.

Book 261 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.

Mercy Blade / Faith Hunter

4 stars out of 5
Things are heating up in the Big Easy. Weres have announced their existence to the world, and revived the bitter tensions that run between them and their old enemies: vampires.

As a trusted employee of Leo Pellissier, Blood Master of the City, Jane finds herself caught in the cross fire. When Jane is attacked by a pack of marauding werewolves, she is thankful for the help of a mysterious stranger named Girrard. He explains that he used to be Leo's 'Mercy Blade,' a sacred position charged with killing vampires who have gone insane.

What Jane doesn't know is why this powerful assassin left New Orleans--or, more troubling, why he's now returned. It's definitely not to make Jane's life easier...


I enjoyed this installment of Jane Yellowrock in spite of myself!  It’s only book three, and already Hunter has introduced werewolves to the mix.  Not that I mind them too much, just that I like vampires so much better.  Jane runs into them by accident—or was it an accident?  Can she know how much vampire master Leo is manipulating her life?

One of the reasons that I like Jane so much is that she bestows nicknames on the people around her.  That’s one of my bad habits—giving names to those people who I see frequently, but don’t really know.  I guess I’m glad to know that other people do the same thing.

If one thing troubles me, it’s that Jane is such a doormat when it comes to the men in her life.  However, she is so ultra-competent in her professional life that she would be positively Mary-Sue-ish if she didn’t have a major flaw, and this is it.  And really, who hasn’t been torn from time to time, wondering if you’ve chosen the right guy?  Jane has the added complication of Beast to deal with—trying to please two strong female personalities is a tough job for one guy.  She may need two or three!

Thursday, 17 August 2017

A Mystery of Errors / Simon Hawke

2.5 out of 5 stars
wo travelers, Will Shakespeare-a fledgling dramatist, and Symington Smythe, an ostler and aspiring thespian, meet at a roadside inn and decide to cast their lot together for fame and fortune in the cutthroat world of the London theater in Elizabethan England . . . but neither was prepared for their offstage encounter with A Mystery of Errors. When a backer's daughter is double-crossed by a would-be suitor, the reluctant bride turns to the ostler and the playwright for help.  Little does anyone realize that these simple affairs of the heart and an arranged marriage will lead to a vast web of conspiracy, mistaken identity, and murder that finds the playwright targeted for assassination and the ostler hopelessly in love.

This novel suffered from comparison with recently read historical fiction by C.C. Humphreys, whose work stands head-and-shoulders above this little mystery. The writing of just the first page had me wondering if I would even bother to finish the book. After all, life is finite and there are tons of good books out there.

I did persevere, however, and followed the story to its rather pedestrian end. The plot was imaginative and I wish the author had been able to exercise more skill in its execution. Rather than flowing, events bumped along rather brusquely. The dialog was simple and the characterization was basic. Every now and then, there would be a tiny info-dump as the author proved that he had done his research.

If you are considering this book, I would suggest that you approach with caution. If you are looking for a book featuring Shakespeare as a character (as I was), I would recommend Shakespeare's Rebel. If something involving a highwayman is your goal, try Plague. If you are looking for a 21st century humourous take on Shakespeare, pick up Shakespeare Undead, which is lighthearted yet effortlessly shows how to reference the Bard’s works without belabouring the point.

At some point, I will probably solider on and read the second mystery in this series, as I have made a bit of a project out of reading all the novels I can find that feature Shakespeare as a character. You are not obliged to follow me in this obsession.

Plague / C.C. Humphreys

4.5 stars out of 5
London, 1665. A serial killer stalks his prey, scalpel in his hand and God's vengeance in his heart. Five years after his restoration to the throne, Charles II leads his citizens by example, enjoying every excess. Londoners have slipped the shackles of puritanism and now flock to the cockpits, brothels and, especially, the theatres, where for the first time women are allowed to perform alongside the men. But not everyone is swept up in the excitement. Some see this liberated age as the new Babylon, and murder victims pile up in the streets, making no distinction in class between a royalist member of parliament and a Cheapside whore. But they have a few things in common: the victims are found with gemstones in their mouths. And they have not just been murdered; they've been . . . sacrificed.  Now the plague is returning to the city with full force, attacking indiscriminately . . . and murder has found a new friend.

Chris Humphreys is an inspired historical fiction author. I met him last weekend at a literary conference and he is smart, funny, and charming as the devil. He definitely benefits from his acting background, particularly his ease with performing Shakespeare (we got an excerpt from one of the Henry plays during his key-note address). During one of his panel discussions, he mentioned that as an author, one must choose how the dialog will be written—choose your form of “bygone-ese” as he called it. Humphrey’s ease with the English of Shakespeare and his playwright’s ear for what will sound good gives his fiction a feeling of reality, using just enough older vocabulary and never becoming too 21st century.

There is, of course, theatre involved in the novel—a subject that the author is knowledgeable and comfortable with. But the variety of characters, from highwayman to serial killer to royalty, gives the story a breadth that I appreciated. As a reader, you are not limited to merely the theatre of 1665, you experience many parts of London. In fact London itself could be counted as a character.

I will be working my way, gradually, through all of Chris Humphreys works and will definitely look forward to more. Highly recommended.

Imago / Octavia Butler

4 out of 5 stars
In the third book of her Xenogenesis series, Octavia Butler gives us the alien’s perspective.  It makes the Oankali marginally less creepy, but only a tiny bit.  Butler excels at creating truly alien life forms, with wildly different forms of reproduction.

The Oankali having stinging cells and tentacles, giving them some resemblance to jellyfish (Cniderians) in our world, but they are upright walking, hand-and-arm-possessing, intelligent life forms.  And, it turns out, they have a three stage metamorphosis like Earth’s insects do.  This installment follows that mysterious third sex, the Ooloi, as one of Lilith’s children matures sexually into the adult form (hence the title, Imago).

In the first book, the Oankali have rescued the small remainder of humanity from a disaster of their own creation and have begun combining the two species.  That’s what the Ooankali do and they consider it their payment for their rescue services, but that’s not what it looks like or feels like to humans.  Lilith gradually becomes convinced that she won’t be allowed to live as human and reluctantly gets involved with the aliens, although it is against her true wishes.

In the second book, we follow Lilith’s construct child, Akin, who actually has five parents and who understands the relationship between the two species better than either the humans or the Oankali.  He sees the basic incompatibility between the two species but also how they can also become compatible.  Seemingly a paradox, which Akin reveals as a prejudice of the Oankali against humanity—we’ve always known that humans are prejudiced against the aliens.

This third installment reveals just how much the Oankali need and long for relationships with humans.  To this point, they have seemed very unemotional, almost clinical, in their desire to revitalize their own DNA through incorporation of the human genome.  Jodahs, who is metamorphosing into one of the mysterious Ooloi, shows us the depth of feeling, the intense sexual need, and indeed the pain of separation that we have been missing so far in the story.

Despite gaining understanding, the whole sexual system of the Oankali feels deeply creepy.  The human male and female in the sexual constellation experience repulsion when they touch one another directly, but when joined by an Ooloi, experience intense sexual pleasure.  Pheromones by the Ooloi make the situation addictive—being apart from one’s group becomes torment.

Butler is skillful in her refusal to “pick a side.”  She provides logical reasons for the aliens’ behaviour and points out both the logical and totally illogical responses of humanity.  She explores co-operation, coercion, limited choice, and unequal power without making it obvious which species she favours.

In some ways, this series makes me think of Arthur Clarke’s Childhood’s End, in that humanity is being absorbed into a genetic continuum, but likely won’t survive on its own ever again.  Do we mourn the loss or celebrate what survives?

Book 260 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.

Shivering Sands / Victoria Holt

4 out of 5 stars
 
***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List ***

In many ways, this is a very dated Gothic romance—after all, it was first published in 1969. I’m pretty sure that I read it as a teenager, but it must not have been part of my personal collection, because this reading felt like I was enjoying it for the first time. There are enough differences from Holt’s usual romance formula to make it feel a bit fresher plot-wise too.

A young widow, Caroline Verlaine, takes a position as music teacher at an estate close to excavated Roman ruins where her sister had been working as an archaeologist, only to disappear under mysterious circumstances. Concealing her relationship to the missing woman, Caroline tries to trace her missing sister. There are no poisonous distant relatives, exiling Caroline to a tedious life of uninspired pupils, penury, and living below stairs. She has freely chosen her position for a specific reason, she has an undeniable talent for music, and is therefore much less rebellious than other Holt heroines.

Of course, further disappearances occur and there are mysterious goings-on that lure Caroline into dangerous situations. If I have any complaints, it is that the ending was a bit abrupt and completely predictable. I felt the heroine’s choice should have been just a bit more difficult, requiring a just bit more agonizing than occurred. The book ends suddenly with Caroline’s choice, giving no insight into what happens to numerous other characters who formed an integral part of the story.


Still, in this genre, this was a very enjoyable novel.

Blood Cross / Faith Hunter

4 out of 5 stars
The vampire council has hired skinwalker Jane Yellowrock to hunt and kill one of their own who has broken sacred ancient rules — but Jane quickly realizes that in a community that is thousands of years old, loyalties run deep...

With the help of her witch best friend and local vigilantes, Jane finds herself caught between bitter rivalries — and closer than ever to the secret origin of the entire vampire race. But in a city of old grudges and dark magic, Jane will have to fight to protect both sides, even if no one will protect her.
 
***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

Jane Yellowrock is growing on me. Faith Hunter is a good writer and I’m enjoying the world that she has crafted to show off Jane’s talents. I appreciate that Jane has female friends right from the get-go. And they tease her about the various men who are circling, trying to win Jane’s favour. Also a pleasant change is the mystery and puzzle-solving aspects of the book taking higher priority than the personal relationships. Not that I mind a love interest, but I prefer when it isn’t the be-all and end-all in the book.

Jane is a smart leading character. She can put information together, find ways to get others to help her willingly, and see through problems that have stymied others. She’s tough, as is her alter-ego Beast, and she needs to be in the line of work that she has chosen.

The side-line into Cherokee culture as Jane reconnects with her roots was intriguing as well. Volume 3 was an easy decision—I’ll be reading it asap.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Thunder Heights / Phyllis Whitney

2.5 stars out of 5
When Camilla King's grandfather leaves her the family estate in his will, she is shocked. Before her summons to his deathbed, she had never met any of her late mother's relatives. Although the rest of the family clearly does not want her there, Camilla honors her grandfather's wish and becomes the mistress of the magnificent Thunder Heights.
But along with the grand house, Camilla has inherited a legacy of hatred and secrets. Not knowing who, if anyone, she can trust, Camilla searches for the truth about her mother's death. Soon she begins to suspect that it was no accident, but rather murder.



***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

A disappointment, as I had high hopes of Phyllis Whitney. So many gothic romances are set in England, at first I found it refreshing to read one set in New York instead. But I just couldn’t connect with the heroine, Camilla King, who seemed to be unrealistically na├»ve, especially for someone who had been through so much loss and was supporting herself through governessing.

The big party that happens close to the book’s ending would have been better placed in the middle or slightly before that, and to have introduced at least one other man into Camilla’s sphere of influence. As things stood, as a reader I knew she would have to end up with either the artist or the engineer/advisor. Whitney spent very little time letting Camilla form relationships with either one of them. As a result, when the choice was made at the end, I just couldn’t feel it was realistic—she barely knew the man she ended up with.

Darkfever / Karen Marie Moning

2 out of 5 stars
When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death—a cryptic message on MacKayla Lane’s cell phone–Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed—a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae.


***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

A reasonably good premise, with a really TSTL main character, MacKayla. If you could solve mysteries by wearing the correct colour of nail polish, Mac would be fabulous. Instead, her special talent is vomiting when she’s close to one of the special Fae artifacts. She can’t think her way out of a paper bag—her most often asked question is merely, “Huh?”

Barrons is the typical overbearing asshole alpha who gets saddled with Mac when she shows up in Ireland, totally clued out but too stupid to give up and go home. This first volume is obviously setting him up as a love interest for Mac, but I don’t see how either one of them can be seriously interested in the other.

Add to this a very simple writing style and basic vocabulary, and an insultingly simple plot, and I have a hard time believing how many people absolutely love this series! Perhaps I was just crabby when I read it, maybe I picked it up at the wrong time. I will read one more book in the series, just to see if I can find what the fuss is about.

Romeo and/or Juliet / Ryan North

2.5 stars out of 5
Shakespeare’s plays weren’t meant to be read. They were meant…to be played.

What if Romeo never met Juliet? What if Juliet got really buff instead of moping around all day? What if they teamed up to take over Verona with robot suits? This choose-your-own-path version of Romeo and Juliet—packed with fun puzzles, secrets, and quadrillions of possible storylines—lets you decide where the plot goes every time you read. You might play as Romeo, or as Juliet, or as both of them at the same time.


This was a fun idea and I really wanted to love it. It reminded me of many of the books that I bought from Scholastic Books during grades 6 and 7, puzzle books, mystery books, that a child could go through multiple times and still find new treats by taking different turns.

I don’t know how many times I started through this choose-your-own-adventure book, trying to actually follow the Bard’s version of the story, only to get distracted by goofy story lines that I just couldn’t pass by. Unfortunately, goofy was the general standard of the various branchings and the writing was a great disappointment. Less silliness and more depth would have been welcome.

I still don’t know if it was even possible to get to the traditional ending of the play. I lost interest in trying after about a dozen attempts.

Real Murders / Charlaine Harris

3.5 stars out of 5
Though a small town at heart, Lawrenceton, Georgia, has its dark side-and crime buffs. One of whom is librarian Aurora "Roe" Teagarden, a member of the Real Murders Club, which meets once a month to analyze famous cases. It's a harmless pastime—until the night she finds a member killed in a manner that eerily resembles the crime the club was about to discuss. And as other brutal "copycat" killings follow, Roe will have to uncover the person behind the terrifying game, one that casts all the members of Real Murders, herself included, as prime suspects-or potential victims.


***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

A typical Charlaine Harris setting for this mystery series, a small community in the South. As per usual, Harris nails the small town details, the over-entwined lives, the importance of reputation, and the somewhat rigid social roles that people get pigeon-holed into.

Not an overwhelmingly wonderful mystery, but enough to keep me reading quickly right to the end and enough to encourage me to put a hold on the second volume at the library. It also helps that the heroine, Aurora Teagarden, is a librarian, a career near and dear to my heart.

Like so many of Harris’ leading characters, Roe is used to being part of the background. Just like Sookie Stackhouse and Lily Bard, Aurora is overshadowed by the women around her that are deemed more attractive or more normal. Harris seems to enjoy giving these kind of women some power, some male attention, and room to explore what they might actually want from life.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Boundary Problems / Greg Bechtel

4.25-4.5 out of 5 stars
In his confident debut, Greg Bechtel offers ten magnetically charged stories about the impossible-turned-possible — secrets, paranoia, sex, conspiracies, and magic — as he effortlessly shatters the boundaries between speculative and literary fiction.

Boundary Problems vibrates on the edge of meaning, as carjackers, accidental gunrunners, and small-town cabbies struggle to wring meaning from the strange events that overtake them. Bechtel’s worlds of mystery and magic constantly challenge his characters’ pursuit of logical explanations. These compelling tales blur lines and push boundaries — into the surreal, into the playful, into the irresistible energy of uncertainty.


 I must be finally getting over my summer cold (its been kicking my butt for about a month now), because I felt the lure of reading something better and more complex than the fluff that I’ve been filling my summer with to date. This book has been sitting on my shelves for almost a year and the time had arrived—I picked it up with anticipation.

What a perfectly titled collection of short stories! All of them poke at boundaries of some sort—between physics and magic, mental health/illness, male/female, reality/illusion, self/others, past/present/future. How accurate is anyone’s assessment of the world? We each view it through our own lenses. The characters are ordinary people, made extraordinary by the author’s attention to their existence.

The writing is beautiful. The stories are a pleasure to read, but I hesitate to say that I fully understand them. They don’t spill their secrets too easily and I can see where I will likely read them again, more slowly and with more attention. Though each stands on its own, they also support one another, each providing a window into their creator’s imagination. The varied topics reveal an unexpected mix of experience and knowledge.

I will definitely be interested to see what Mr. Bechtel publishes next.

The Laughing Corpse / Laurell K. Hamilton

4 out of 5 stars
Harold Gaynor offers Anita Blake a million dollars to raise a 300-year-old zombie. Knowing it means a human sacrifice will be necessary, Anita turns him down. But when dead bodies start turning up, she realizes that someone else has raised Harold's zombie--and that the zombie is a killer. Anita pits her power against the zombie and the voodoo priestess who controls it.

In The Laughing Corpse Anita will learn that there are some secrets better left buried-and some people better off dead...



  ***2017 Summer Lovin' Reading List***

How can I not adore a book that has a character bearing my name? May I say that I did love Wheelchair Wanda, the prostitute with a heart of gold? Even better, she lives while men die around her like flies!

But the book is about Anita, who is just a bit rougher and tougher that your average Urban Fantasy heroine. Because she is an animator/nercromancer, there are also far more zombies than I'm used to in the genre. How is it that I can lurve the vampires and feel so ambivalent about the zombies? I just don't understand their appeal.

Nevertheless, Anita experiences what so many (if not all) UF heroines do--they suddenly find hidden depths to their powers which solves their current dilemma, but opens a whole can of worms, to be explored in further volumes. Has she found her leverage to use against Jean-Claude, the King of Vampires in her city, or will she be lulled into a false sense of safety with him? (I'm betting on door number two!)

Right, off to order book three from my friendly neighbourhood public library!

Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Shifting Price of Prey / Suzanne McLeod

4 out of 5 stars
Sometimes a bit of magical help might cost more than you bargained for ...

London is hosting the Carnival Fantastique, and Genny's job has never been busier or more fulfilling. Only not everyone is so happy. Genny believed she'd cracked the fae's infertility curse ... but the fae are still barren. It's a devastating plight to which the mysterious Emperor may have the solution - if Genny can find him.

She needs help.

She turns to the vampire Malik al-Khan, only to find he's wrestling with his own demons and, when the police request Genny's assistance with a magical kidnap, her own problems multiply too. Is it all unconnected, or can the Emperor help her solve more than the fae's infertility? Soon Genny is hard on his trail, so it seems she'll have a chance to ask ... but will the answer cost more than she's willing to pay?



***2017 Summer Lovin' Reading List ***

Under normal circumstances, I read urban fantasy to take a little holiday from the real world and to simply enjoy a story. But Suzanne McLeod refuses to let me coast, she provides a plot of such complexity that I have to pay attention and her characters are down-right Machiavellian in their manipulations of one another.

In her acknowledgements in this volume, she talks about getting to meet Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse series and one of the queens of urban fantasy. I enjoyed the Sookie series, but I think that McLeod is head and shoulders above Harris in every aspect—plot, characters, setting, complexity. One of my other favourite authors, Ben Aaronovitch, also appreciates McLeod’s work and their series are set to intersect somehow in a future volume of Spellcrackers.com.

How in the world am I going to fill my time until The Hidden Rune of Iron? (Very much a rhetorical question, as I have an enormous stack of library books waiting for me in my reading nook).