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June 2015




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Jun. 1st, 2015

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Book Review: LifeFlight by Alexa Silver

Bren Harrold was on a mission to get a photograph of the dragon who has been flying near his family’s healing waters. But when Dante actually does appear again, Bren is too busy helping heal the wounded and poisoned shifter.

I was graciously provided an advance copy to read and review. I absolutely loved this story. There was so much contained within the pages. It seemed to be a much larger story than what the page count would indicate, in a good way. I had to savor the words and the universe Silver created. Everything flowed so well and I loved how the author dealt with the various types of paras. Honestly, I got tingles as I read it. That doesn’t happen often. This will be a great series, so much scope to explore. I wish there was something higher than a 5 out of 5 in my rating system, the story was that good.

May. 28th, 2015

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Book Review: The Mammoth Book of Short Spy Novels

The Mammoth Book of Short Spy Novels edited by Bill Pronzini & Martin H. Greenberg

This collection of twelve previously published spy and espionage novellas are set in a wide variety of settings and times. Written over a 75 year period, you can see the development of the genre. 3.5 out of 5 overall rating of this collection.

“The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Part of the Sherlock Holmes series. Sherlock's brother, Mycroft Holmes, needs help with the mysterious death of a government employee who was in possession of important government documents, three essential pages of which are missing. I've always had a soft spot for Mycroft Holmes, a man more brilliant than his younger brother, but a man who prefered to help direct the British government from his office or his club rather than running about London. In this small tale, we can scent the approaching winds of war as everyone is scrambling to find the top-secret submarine plans. 3.5 out of 5.

“The Traitor” by W. Somerset Maugham. When R put Ashenden in charge of their assets in Switzerland, he held up Gustav as an example of the type of intelligence reporting they wanted. But it isn't long before R become suspicious and sends Ashenden to find out the truth. That leads to another spy, this one a traitor to his own country. I've never read any Maugham before, so I wasn't certain of his style. Oh, but this tale. The author gives the characters such depth and dimension. As Ashenden himself states, people are not just black and white, good or bad. There are so many shades of gray. Despite their actions, I felt sorry for the Caypors. 4.5 out of 5.

“Tokyo 1941” by Cornell Woolrich. John Lyons enjoyed his life in Japan, even if his wife Ruth didn’t. He drank too much, whored around, and did some spying. The thread of the blue diamond and the bad luck of everyone who possessed it previously was an interesting touch, presumably based on the alleged history of the Hope Diamond. Lyons was a despicable character throughout…until the end. The one I felt most sorry for was the wife, an innocent caught up in her husband’s machinations and the Japanese police state. 3.5 out of 5.

“The Sizzling Saboteur” (aka “The Saint and the Sizzling Saboteur”) by Leslie Charteris. Taking a back road while on his way to Galveston, Texas, Simon Templar comes across what he first thought was a burning log in the middle of the road. It isn’t soon before the Saint is hard at work to discover exactly who the victim was and who could have wanted him dead is such a horrible manner. My father was a huge fan of the Saint books, but by the time I was old enough to read, they were mostly out of print. All I could do was watch Roger Moore, the best Saint since George Sanders, on television. This story is set during World War II, after Germany tried to invade Russia. We’re given the snarkiness, the smoothness, and the way Charteris had of inviting the audience in on the joke. I do so wish the books were brought back in their entirety rather than just the same five that are constantly reprinted. 4 out of 5.

“The Danger Zone” by Erle Stanley Gardner. Major Copely Brane, soldier of fortune, is forcibly hired to find kidnapped Jee Kit King. Jee had been spying on Mah Bak Heng, looking for proof that he was delaying peace talks in China. The author, better known for his Perry Mason books, has attempted a story in the style of James Bond or Simon Templar. While an interesting look at Chinatown in San Francisco with surprisingly little derogative narration considering the time it was written in, Brane just doesn’t have that debonair air about him. Sadly something went horribly wrong with the editing and compilation in the middle of this story with another tale seemingly jammed in. I don’t think much was missing, but it still didn’t help with the flow of the story during one of the more intense parts. 3.5 out of 5.

“Betrayed” by John D. MacDonald. After the death of her Army soldier husband, Francie Aintrell fled the memories of Washington D. C. to take a top secret job in rural New York. She makes new friends, but that might not turn out well at all. Loved this one. A strong female lead who, despite there being a potential love interest present, stood up for herself and didn’t really need him to rescue her. Intrigue, romance, exciting plot, all in one fascinating story. 4 out of 5.

“Deep-Sleep” by Bruce Cassiday. Mario Rimini is kidnapped as leverage to force his twin sister Paula to turn over a top secret knockout formula. It is up to Peter Baron and his friends to retrieve the formula once Mario and Paula are safe. Kind of a low rent Simon Templar, but still a decent read. The villain of the piece was like those in James Bond or Doc Savage cranked up. No, more like in Batman or Dick Tracy! 3.5 out of 5.

“The People of the Peacock” by Edward D. Hoch. Small town police captain Leopold is visited by CIA representative Jim Saunter after the apparent suicide death of Walter Moon, another of the CIA’s investigators. Moon had been in town searching for a retired enemy spy. Very interesting in that the author doesn’t go for the simple black and white with his characters and their actions. A few too many red herrings could have the reader going quietly nuts, but does mess up the suspect pool quite a bit. 3.5 out of 5.

“Dr. Sweetkill” by John Jakes. Freelance agent Nick Lamont was not currently in favor with British Intelligence after Arthur Tenderly’s death in Gibraltar. But a suicide mission with his name on it soon has Nick and an associate trying to destroy Dr. Sweetkill’s laboratory. Once again we have a low budget James Bond like story with spies, girls, and strange villains. There are some good scenes, but also some blatant caricatures. I did find interesting Nick’s anger issues, particularly when he drinks. It was okay, but nothing great. 3 out of 5.

“The Giggle-Wrecker” by Peter O’Donnell. Minister of Defense Waverly has ordered Sir Geral Tarrant to get a defecting scientist out of East Germany, even if he must activate their sleeper cell. When Tarrant refuses, Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin step in to save the day as well as Tarrant’s job. I adore the Modesty Blaise books. They are funny and inventive, but still raw and violent at times. What particularly attracted me from the first was the relationship between Willie and his Princess. It is not sexual in anyway. They are best friends and partners, a closer relationship than that of lovers. This shorter tale shows all the best of a Blaise and Garvin adventure. 4.5 out of 5.

“The Spoilers” by Michael Gilbert. Mr. Behrens and Mr. Calder are brought in to investigate the increasing number of government officials who have suddenly resigned and who died by suicide. I’ve long heard of Behrens and Calder, but had never read any of the stories before. Quite interesting, the strong characterization as well as the glimpse into how the two men work and live made me want to read more. A super strong female with the ability to rescue herself was icing on the fictional cake. 4 out of 5.

“Octopussy” by Ian Fleming. Crimes from the end of World War II have come back to demand justice from retired Major Dexter Smythe, courtesy of James Bond. Smythe has just one more task to complete before he must decide whether to take the “gentleman’s exit”. Very little Bond in this one. Definitely no sexy women or super villains, just one sad and lonely man already facing death due to a bad heart. 4 out of 5.

Apr. 28th, 2015

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Book Review: Tales of the 23rd Precinct by Kevin 11

Book One.

This is a Goodreads First Read book that I recently received in the mail. Gotta love free books.

Kevin 11 (aka Kevin Anglade) has given us tales of the 23rd Precinct in Brooklyn. He focuses primarily on Detectives Deborah Lane, Luke Fisher, and Frank Matthews, although we meet other cops in the precinct as well. I think Detective Alvin Alvin has to be one of the more unusual character names. They are slowly intertwined and the end may be a surprise to some readers. I don't want to go into too much detail as to not spoil potential readers. I would advise you to be prepared for a wild ride.

I liked the book. The style is different, a bit twisted in parts in regards to storyline, but if you're prepared for that, it can be fun to see where the story is going. Would I have bought the book if I'd stumbled across it in the store? Honestly, I'm not certain. The cover art gave me a feel of graphic novel, so I might've missed that it was words, not pictures that have developed this world. Although I've not lived in Brooklyn, I have lived in Queens AND had friends from Brooklyn, so I can see a certain level of truth in much of the style of life and character there. I would give it a good 3 out of 5. It is out of the norm, but still enjoyable.
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Book Review: The Dark Tide by Josh Lanyon

Adrien English 5

Starting almost immediately after bookseller (and author) Adrien English's heart surgery, he finds his life filled with former partners, from Guy and Jake to his first lover Mel. When renovation of the other half of the building Adrien's bookstore is located in uncovers a dead body, he finds himself harassed by an obnoxious cop and the bookstore the focus of numerous attempts to break in. Adrien hires Jake, now a private investigator, to look into the situation.

Even though there have been times over the course of this series when I've wanted to slap Jake upside the head for his arrogance and nastiness, I realized that this was a man deep in denial and emotional pain. Since coming out, he's learned to be more comfortable with what and who he is. But in regards to his relationship with Adrien, I really like them together. They truly bring out the best in each other when given a chance. The fact that they are back together again probably means that this is the end of the series. I don't count the "Choose Your Own Adventure" one. I really hope to see more of Adrien and Jake in their partnership as they are the best.

As to the mystery, it was extremely interesting with a wide ranging cast of characters, not all alive. I felt so sorry for the actual murderer, even more so for Jake. We get a look at the Los Angeles of the 1950s, when it was on the cusp of a new sensibility compared to that of World War II. Lanyon is a remarkable writer with such a way with characters. 4.5 out of 5.

Apr. 19th, 2015

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Book Review: UnMAsKed by Frances Stockton

Major Crimes Unit 1

When a lawyer is found dead, tied to a cross in a run-down hotel, it first appears to be S&M gone bad. It isn't long before Detective Faith Oliver and her partner realize that they have a vicious murder on their hands, one connected to a lifestyle that is beyond her knowledge. Dr. Kane Welbourne is more than willing to educate Faith, feeling an instant attraction. Faith also feels that attraction, but is gun shy after a broken engagement.

This is definitely hot, but not erotic. We're given a strong mystery with romance and education on a sexual life choice that has been in the news lately due to a bestselling book. Unlike the book in question, this author has done her homework. D/s, Master/slave, S&M, role play, all of it comes up during the murder investigation. To find their suspect, Faith must learn what is involved with the people who have been members of UnMAsKed, a club that caters to the unusual, yet providing a safe environment for exploration.

I was given this book at no cost for review purposes. I did warn the author that this fact would not affect my review. I really didn't need to issue that warning as I enjoyed this book very much. Stockton has provided us with strong characters, an interesting mystery, and some great education on alternate sexual styles. If you're a fan of romantic suspense or mysteries with a strong romantic context, this is a book you should check out. 4 out of 5.

Apr. 5th, 2015

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Book Review: Mission of Honor by David Weber

Honor Harrington 12

Things are heating up between the Sollies and Manties, thanks to the interference of an interested third party. Knowing the dangers of fighting two wars at the same time, it is up to Honor to negotiate a peace treaty between Manticore and Haven.

The thing I really love, and hate, about Weber is how often he can make me care so very much for certain characters, only to be devastated when they die. This is true of more recently met ones as long time friends. Yes, it is realistic in war, but few writers can do that to me so thoroughly and so consistently enough as he can. This time particularly hit me hard enough to be glad that I was at home when I read of one particular death. We're given more insight into the Sollie mindset and how they have become to believe in their own PR. And we're beginning to see the plan behind Manpower's generational plans. But finally we get to see how Haven can deal with Manticore when the going becomes very tough. 5 out of 5!

Mar. 18th, 2015

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Book Review: The Doomsday Key by James Rollins

Sigma Force 6

After an explosion at the Vatican puts her uncle in a coma, Rachel Verona calls Grayson Pierce and SIGMA for help. It soon becomes apparent that there is much more involved than a simple attack, from mutated grain to an ancient mystery from the Domesday Book.

I freaking adore Rollins' books. Thick and satisfying, thought-provoking and exciting, with characters you can care for, even when they are essentially the villains of the piece. Seichan fascinates me. Such a complicated character. This installment allows us even more insight into her thoughts and emotions. I have to be honest, as much as I like Rachel, I rather prefer Seichan for Gray. I just think it is a better match. There was one result of the mission that I was sad about, but I won't go into detail in order to avoid spoilers. 4.5 out of 5.

Mar. 7th, 2015

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Book Review: Lord's Fall by Thea Harrison

Elder Races 5

Against Dragos' better judgment, Pia goes to the Elves' conclave in South Carolina to negotiate a treaty. Her mate is busy overseeing the Wyr competition that will choose a new set of Sentinels. When a rival Elf suddenly appears, Dragos must make a different type of alliance.

It is great to check in again with Dragos and Pia, the couple who started this wonderful series. The danger that they find is the worst kind, a good man who has become corrupted, destroying the very people he wanted to protect. We also get to see more of Peanut, including what his true name will be. Lovely tale. 4.5 out of 5.

Mar. 5th, 2015

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Movie Review: Kingsman ~ The Secret Service

I was debating whether to go see this in the theater or wait until it was on Pay for View/On Demand. I am so glad I opted for the big screen as this movie's content works better that way.

The basic story line is that there are a group of agents (mostly male, but they aren't anti-women as two women are allowed to compete for an open slot; however, the color is extremely white) who take the dirty jobs to keep Queen and Country safe. In 1997, one agent gave his life to save the rest of his team. One of the team, Harry Hart, gives a medal to the agent's widow and son with the promise of a favor to be given when needed.

17 years late, the son, Eggsy Unwin uses that favor to get out of jail, discovering a whole new world. Harry sees potential in Eggsy, despite his working class roots and his ties to his overprotective mother who kept him from making a life for himself beyond the gangs and tenements. Harry puts Eggsy up as a potential Kingsman.

Meanwhile, a genius billionaire decides to clean the planet up through any means necessary, getting allies all over the world. It is up to the Kingsmen to save the planet's population from Valentine's diabolical plan.

I absolutely LOVED this film, although I wish that [Spoiler (click to open)]Harry hadn't been killed, making it impossible to appear in a later film, if this ever becomes a series. That said, this was partly old style spy (a mixture of James Bond and Our Man Flint) and new style action film. Extremely violent, yet not overtly graphic, if that makes any sense. Yes, there were people killed (many of whom deserved it) and some extreme fight scenes (beautifully choreographed, may I say), but we aren't talking slasher film here.

I understand that it is based on a graphic series, which I may have to check out to see if it is as cool as the film. Nice to see some great Brit actors who I adore, such as Colin Firth, Michael Caine, and Mark Strong. I have to admit that I didn't recognize Mark Hamill as the Professor Arnold. I will definitely be looking out for more from Taron Egerton in the future as he did a remarkable job holding his own against this greats.

And, just my thought, but didn't he resemble Colin when all bespoke? I would definitely give this movie 4+ out of 5. Only the spoiler brought it down a hair under 5.

Mar. 1st, 2015

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Book Review: SEAL of My Dreams (collection)

This collection was inspired by the cover photograph of a real Navy SEAL preparing for a mission in Fallujah. The proceeds of the sale go to the Veteran’s Research Corporation, a non-profit foundation supporting medical research for veterans. It will benefit all branches of military service.

A very good collection of stories, running the gamut from currently serving to former SEALs. There is definitely something for everyone here. The collection as a whole rates 4 out of 5.

“Coming Home” by Jami Alden
The death of his mother finally drags Nick DeMarco back to the home he had avoided since breaking up with the woman he loved. Sarah Decker had their lives together all planned out before September 11, 2001. When Nick joined the Navy, Sarah refused to accept that he wanted to do more, to contribute to the defense of the country.
Not an uncommon situation when lovers have been together since high school. Add Sarah’s grief over her father’s death and you have a recipe for disaster. They both needed to mature before marrying. Short and sweet. 3.5 out of 5.

“Baby I’m Back” by Stephanie Bond
(Southern Roads 3.6) Barry Ballantine returned to his home town after a debilitating injury that took him off SEAL duty. He has no plans to stay; he’s just got one small thing to do for a fallen comrade. But meeting physical therapist Lora Jansen may change his plans.
This is part of a series dealing with the rebuilding of a small town by a group of former military men. I’m definitely intrigued by the premise and will be checking out others in the series. A sweet, gentle romance. 4 out of 5.

“SEALed Fates” by Kylie Brant
Cort Ramsey, former SEAL, stumbles upon two children belonging to his childhood friend, Emma Watkins, now Cunningham. It doesn’t take him long to realize that Emma is hiding from something or someone that has her terrified.
This one was great. Well constructed with strong characters, especially for a short story. 4.5 out of 5.

“Going Dark” by Helen Brenna
Chief Petty Officer Nate Griggs isn’t exactly trusting in his gut after being taken by a woman he was falling in love with and who turned out to be a reporter digging up dirt. When he and his team are sent into Somalia to rescue captured reporters, he discovers that Carly Danson, the same reporter, is a previously unknown captive. She must quickly repair her relationship with Nate in order to continue her real mission in the country.
While Carly’s actions were reprehensible, you quickly find yourself forgiving her after learning the reason behind her charade. Nate is beyond a good guy, one of the best. A man who will sacrifice a mission to rescue the helpless and endangered. 4.5 out of 5.

“Finding Home” by HelenKay Dimon
When the new embassy of Erites is attacked, Navy SEAL Hal Robertson must try and get staff member Megan White out alive.
Instant fireworks when these two meet. Megan is strong, working through her fear. I do wonder if Skip Ellison even tried to keep the Ambassador alive? 4 out of 5.

“SEALed With a Kiss” by Cindy Gerard
(Black Ops Inc. 6.5) On the last day of their belated honeymoon, Valentina and Luke Coulter find themselves in danger. It is up to Valentina to save her former SEAL husband’s life.
To have the big bad Black Ops hero need rescuing by his supermodel wife is a great twist. Very intense. 4 out of 5.

“Panama Jack” by Tara Janzen
Navy SEAL Jack Corday has been requested by a visiting CIA agent every time she needs cover in the jungles of Panama. When Lani Powell’s mission goes FUBAR, she’s glad Jack is at her side.
Love, love, LOVE this one! Lani is my favorite kind of heroine, more than able to take care of herself, yet not too stubborn to accept help when it is offered. She’s also an accomplished sniper and dedicated fishing fiend as well. Jack is equally a favorite, willing to accept that a woman can fend for herself when needed, not trying to take over to “protect the little woman”, working with her. 5 out of 5.

“Wrapped and SEALed” by Leslie Kelly
Navy SEAL Tanner Boudreau has searched for his Jessica since meeting her in the middle of battle. The last place he expected to find her was on his lap while he was dressed as Santa Claus.
Tanner certainly received the Christmas present he had longed for. Despite an initial reluctance to accept Tanner’s choice of career, everything ran smoothly once Jessica came to her senses. If you don’t know about the Indianapolis, please take the time to Google it. 3.5 out of 5.

“Worth the Risk” by Elle Kennedy
Jason Anders has returned to his hometown of Skylark Springs, long after the death of his abusive father. All he wants is for Callie to leave with him.
Dreams can so easily be lost if we don’t fight to keep them alive. I did have a problem with Callie comparing her childhood with loving parents, even if they did die when she was younger, with Jase’s own with his physically and emotionally abusive father. Big difference, sweetie! 3.5 out of 5.

“Twenty-One Hours” by Alison Kent
Teri Stokes reconnects with Shane Gregor, the one who hurt her in high school, when fires threaten her family’s home.
Wonderfully sweet, yet with a bite of how cruel high school can be. 3.5 out of 5.

“Not Waving But Drowning” by Jo Leigh
Dan Hogan headed straight to long-time friend, Renee Crocker, when he was on leave. Renee quickly senses something is wrong. Whatever it is, she’s willing to help.
Here’s another extraordinary tale, this one involving what appears to be a case of PTSD. We also have friends who love each other, but never chose to take the next step in their relationship. Seriously brilliant! 5 out of 5.

“Her Secret Pirate” by Gennita Low
(Crossfire 4) Rebecca Powers and her Ambassador father are hiding on a ship held by pirates. It’s up to Zodenko Zonovich and his team to take back control and rescue the hostages. For Zone, that particularly means Rebecca.
Another capable heroine, always a plus to me. If this entry is any indication of the quality of the rest of the series, I may need to read more. 4 out of 5.

“SEALed by Fate” by Marliss Melton
Sam Sasseville and his team were sent to extract Senator’s daughter Madison Scott after she refused to leave with the evacuated embassy staff.
Did I like the writing? Yes, but it read like a chapter from a larger story. Nothing was truly resolved. No HEA or even the prospect of one. I do get what Sam meant, but it is arrogant and foolish to dismiss the good that aid workers do. 3 out of 5.

“Signed, SEALed, Delivered…I’m Yours” by Christie Ridgway
Mandy Warner just wanted to spend Thanksgiving with her last remaining relative who was currently working in Central America. Now she’s hiding from rebels, in fear for her life. Until Josh Frye suddenly appears.
Lovely, simply lovely. We’re given a couple who have an instant attraction, but are aware that they have different visions of their future. I love that Mandy is given time to consider and adjust to the idea of getting involved with a military man. 4 out of 5.

“Dog Heart” by Barbara Samuel
Marcus Stone brings Thor, a military dog with PTSD, to Jessie for help. Marcus and Jessie had been in love since seventh grade, but Jessie couldn’t deal with Marcus enlisting and broke things off.
Jessie is willing to help both wounded warriors heal, but she must also deal with her own issues and mistakes. 3.5 out of 5.

“Whirlwind” by Roxanne St. Claire
Billie Jo Taylor needs to leave her hiding place due to the approaching hurricane, but worries that Frank Perlow could find her if she does. Rick Stone, looking for a precious watch Billie had purchased on eBay, finds her first.
The power of a hurricane is nothing compared to the immediate attraction between Rick and Billie. 3.5 out of 5.

“Holding On” by Stephanie Tyler
(Hold 3.5) Jamie Michaels is close to giving birth, but Chris is in Somalia on assignment. Even with his brothers surrounding her, she just wants her man home.
This is the first of this series that I’ve read, so perhaps that is why I didn’t have a big connection to any of the characters. I did like the idea of the male side of the family having psychic powers. 3 out of 5.

“Letters to Ellie” by Loreth Anne White
Fifteen years ago, Ellie’s fiancé disappeared, declared MIA. Now Max McDonough, the man who was captured with Flynn, has brought a box of letters essentially dictated by Flynn during the long nights they were captive.
Tough one. I have to wonder if the love, the attraction is real. Max only knows the idealized Ellie of Flynn’s memories. Is Ellie connecting with Max? Or a substitute for Flynn? That is something that a longer story would have to address. 3 out of 5.

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