Friday, February 24, 2017

Taken by the Tycoon

Normandie Alleman
Stormy Night Publications
Reviewed by Nancy
3 out of 5 stars


He reminds me of the men who grace the walls of stores where my daughter shops. Men with rippling abs and sinewy ropes of muscles. Men intended for younger women.

I never expected him to notice me. Imagine my surprise when he cornered me in the locker room, pressed his incredible body against mine, and forced me to acknowledge a desire more powerful than anything I’d experienced before.

Now that he has introduced me to the pleasures of being dominated, he wants to possess me completely. But how can I risk my heart, when I know his affection will never last?

My Review

After years in a boring, loveless marriage, Violet Weeks is now ready to meet someone new. She sets eyes on Stuart Swearingen, a man who is loaded, gorgeous, and knows exactly what he wants in a woman.

Will Violet’s hang-ups about being ten years older than Stuart end their relationship before it even starts?

If you’re looking for a romance full of sexual discovery, heat, and a little kink, this may be the perfect short story for you.

Though the story was entertaining and sexy, I was annoyed with Violet’s preoccupation with her age and what her peers thought. She was fit, attractive, and desired by a younger man. It’s not as if he was her child’s age.

As grandma would say, “never look a gift horse in the mouth.”

There were lots of steamy sex scenes and while I mostly enjoyed Violet’s and Stuart’s encounters, I found them pretty tame. I liked Violet’s teenage daughter, Margaret. (Does anyone really name their kids Margaret anymore?)

I wanted moar kink!

I had to go and read a porny Powerone story just to finish off what this one started.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Game of Shadows by Erika Lewis

Over the years, fantasy has splintered into various sub-genres, urban fantasy, sword and sorcery, paranormal, and medieval. Stories involving magically enabled American who enters a magical fantasy world to save the day are abundant, some very good, others less so. Game of Shadows by Erika Lewis is a fun read that hits all of the high notes, while maintaining some restraint in the young hero's use of magic and showing a learning curve with respect to other medieval skills While we as readers want to see magic, it can overwhelm a story. Indeed, immediate super powers in all things medieval also detracts. Unless a god endows a character with super powers, it can be hard to believe that a teen from California ends up in magical land and immediately can kill with a sword against trained warriors. Thankfully Lewis has a refined pen. Despite horse riding lessons in Los Angeles, Ethan is not automatically a great horseman. Her young hero wins the day with courage, smarts and using his nascent magical skills of talking to ghosts. He also gets help from others. It's a winning combination.

Ethan Makkai lives in California, a freshman in high school, believes his mother Caitrionai is overprotective. He knows that his ability to talk to ghosts is unusual but wants to be his own person. On his birthday, he escapes his tight apartment only to be attacked by the school bully, who he bests, but his triumph is short-lived, as magical invaders from Tara, Caitrionai homeland, attack him on the streets and kidnap her His savior, a Captain Bartlett takes him back to Tara.

Lewis shows a deft hand with world building. Tara is composed of eight lands and multiple different inhabitants. When Ethan arrives in Landover, his ancestral realm, he is eager to go after his mother, but General Niles, the war leader is reluctant to let him go. Ethan is the heir and must present himself to the other kings to prove his power.

Ethan cannot wait and escapes with Lily Niles and his cousin Christian to find his mother, who is being held by the Ravens, shape shifters, who have aligned with the evil imprisoned sorcerer Sawney Bean. It seems that Bean believes he can use Caitrionai to free himself from his prison and to power a spell of potent evil. Ethan later teams up with Runyun Cooper, his unknown father, who knows the way to Sawney Bean's prison.

But on the way the questers have to escape the Glatisant, a huge monstrous beast, convince some bothersome wood sprites to let them go, escape from the muscular Fomorian king and elude the wild milcai. There is little down time in this engaging novel. As the story progresses, we see Lily form a bond with Ethan that makes her magic grow more powerful, and Ethan learns to use his ability to talk to ghosts. But Ethan also grows up.

Sawney Bean has powerful magic at his call and an army of the undead to fight for him. Can Ethan defeat him. In the coming confrontation with Sawney Bean, a traitor will be revealed and Ethan will have to put on the line his ability to talk to ghosts to prove he is the rightful heir. This young adult novel  packed in enough adventure and action to entice this reader. Join the quest.

Civil War II

Civil War IICivil War II by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A massive threat appeared in New York,
but the superheroes were warned about it by the Inhumans and were ready to defeat it.
During the celebratory after party everyone wants to know how the Inhumans knew the threat was coming...
and they told them.
A new Inhuman named Ulysses can see the future and it can change everything.

Civil War II really wasn't good. I'm currently interested in all things about the Inhumans so I was excited to see they were taking a central role, but they really didn't. Ulysses could have been from any group of super powered individuals and it wouldn't have made a difference, although I'm sure this put the spotlight on the Inhuman characters more. Not sure that was a good thing.

So the conflict centers around Captain Marvel and Iron Man, but in truth it was largely about a type of profiling. Ulysses visions showed a future, but is it ok to arrest someone for something they haven't done. Captain Marvel believed Ulysses visions were absolutely true and started arresting and detaining people before they could commit crimes. Iron Man wasn't sure and honestly his side of the argument was always a bit confusing. I don't really know outside of an early major incident why Tony Stark was fighting the use of the visions.

In the end Civil War II was an undeveloped excuse for the heroes to fight each other.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Six Wakes By: Mur Lafferty

Six WakesSix Wakes by Mur Lafferty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

more like a 3 and a half but hey! round up.

A totally fun sci fi mystery. The world Mur Lafferty built honestly held more appeal to me than the mystery, which fell into place for me earlier than I would have liked, BUT!! still..a majorly fun, pretty fast read.

I kind of, sort of hope there is a future return to this world, although it doesn't really leave room for a sequel, it doesn't close the door on it either, (weird statement there, but true)

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The Cold Eye (The Devil's West #2) By: Laura Anne Gilman

The Cold Eye (The Devil's West, #2)The Cold Eye by Laura Anne Gilman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I find it weird that when I was younger I didn't like western tales or the genre at ALL. But the older I get, I guess I have learned to broaden my horizons.

The Cold Eye is the second in the Devil's West series, it is a exceptionally well written story that straddles a fantasy quest and a western perfectly, not the easiest task in the world.

Terrific world, characters you care for, and the best thing of all, a story that you want to keep reading.

go buy this series.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

The Men Who United the States

The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, IndivisibleThe Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible by Simon Winchester
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the most boring Simon Winchester book I've ever read and yet I still really enjoyed it! The man just has a way with history that few other historians can replicate. He's the Dr. Frankenstein of history. He enlivens it. He even embiggens it!

Reading the title The Men Who United the States, I assumed I was in for the usual Revolutionary War book. I expected Washington, Adams and Jefferson, and yes it does begin with them (just Washington and Jefferson though...poor Adams). Then it slides into Lewis & Clark, and from there we're off! Surveying of the U.S., the Oregon Trail, and relations with the natives bridge the gap until we get to the railroad and telegraph.

At this point I finally read the subtitle America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible and realized my earlier error. This book is about the people and innovations that coalesced the nation. It does a damn fine job of bringing it all together!

Dependent on your interest in each subject, some parts of the book may lag or entice you more than others. It felt like Winchester balanced his page-count well for each topic. Eventually the reader passes through the day of the car, electricity, airplane, telephone, radio, and television, right up to the internet. It's not chronologically linear from start to finish. Asides abound as they often do with his books. But the flash points and eureka moments of U.S. history are all in a row.

There were a few passages off of Winchester's pen that take license, say with imagined history or off-the-cuff theories. These passages are brief, often no more than one-liners probably meant to be taken tongue-in-cheek. They didn't bother me much, but they'd probably bother a scholar. Then again, why would a scholar be reading this?

So, why only three stars? The subject matter on the whole lacks the tension of Winchester's past books. Prior, he'd picked material that might've made a good episode for Ripley's Believe It Or Not. This stuff, while important and interesting in its own way, lacks much wonder, mystery or excitement.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017


RunRun by Douglas E. Winter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Burdon Lane works for a legal gun dealer who also dabbles in some illcit side deals. When a gun deal goes south and a political figure winds up assassinated, Burdon's friends turn on him and he goes on the run. But who can he trust?

During our third booze-soaked meeting, Kemper gave me two books: Seveneves and this one.

The book started slow. The first 35% was setup, introducing all the players and getting them into position. The remaining 65% was an orgy of violence and betrayal.

Run could have easily been a no-brain thriller but raises a lot of questions on race, identity, and gun violence. Burdon Lane struggles with who he is over the course of the novel. His feelings over the deaths and betrayals set him apart from other anti-heroes, making him more than the Parker ripoff I thought he might wind up being.

While Douglas E. Winter writes great action, the relationship between Burdon and Jinx was my favorite part of the book. Jinx could have easily been a stereotype gang member but wound up being one of the better written characters in the tale.

The never-ending betrayals and brutal violence wore on me after a while. Still, I loved the showdown at the end. The aftermath was a little soft, though.

That's about all I have to say. Run is better experienced than read about anyway. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Rise of Empire

Rise of Empire (The Riyria Revelations, #2)Rise of Empire by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nyphron Rising

With a newly declared heir, the Nyphron Empire looks to gain control over everyone. Melengar stands alone against the growing colossus and Princess Arista has a desperate plan. She defies her brother, hires Riyria, and plans on forging an alliance with the Nationalist Army. Meanwhile Royce debates telling Hadrian about what Esrahaddon showed him in the tower of Avempartha. Royce doesn't trust the Wizard and first intends on learning the truth to the claims by investigating Hadrian's past.

Nyphron Rising is a solid continuation of the tale of Riyria Revelations. I enjoy the story overall, but from time to time the tropes are a heavy weight for me. The antagonists are incredibly evil while the heroes are good for goods sake...except for Royce, he does what he does for profit.

The main strength of the series remains for me as Royce and Hadrian. They are an unlikely duo yet I cheer for them, particularly Hadrian, to succeed. They are two men whose actions are far more important than most realize.

Nyphron Rising was good and I wonder what will happen next as the story continues.

3.5 out of 5 stars

The Emerald Storm

A message is intercepted regarding Merrick Marius's plans. King Alric tasks Royce and Hadrian to find out what Marius is up to which leads to them boarding the Emerald Storm. Meanwhile Princess Arista has left Ratibor in search of the true Heir of Novron.

I had a little bit of trouble with The Emerald Storm largely because much of the story revolves around Royce and Hadrian's travels on a ship. It's full of all the seaman jargon which honestly bores me. Once the duo left the high seas though the story was excellent.

Arista's story was equally strong as she taps deeper into her magical powers and performs some remarkable feats. Arista has demonstrated the most growth of any character in the series and I look forward to how her story continues.

One thing I find I dislike about the series thus far is a lot of time is spent with the characters traveling. When something particularly poignant is happening this doesn't bother me, but to show traveling for traveling sake is frustrating at times.

The Emerald Storm is likely my favorite story of the series thus far and it has me excited to read the final omnibus of the series.

4 out of 5 stars

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017


The Dark RoomThe Dark Room by Jonathan Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”’You’d remember, if you saw her?’

‘I’d probably remember.’

‘Because she’s a knockout, right?’

The mayor glanced at the photograph. Cain wasn’t sure if he nodded or not.

‘She looks like one of those old film stars,’ Cain said. ’Lana Turner maybe.’

‘You got it mixed up,’ Castelli said. ’It’s Lauren Bacall you’re thinking of. She looks like Bacall.’

The Big Sleep--that was her?’

‘Bacall and Bogart,’ Castelli said. ’Yeah.’

‘One of your favorites?’

‘It was okay.’

‘I mean Bacall.’

‘Bacall?’ the mayor asked. He took another drink.’She was before my time.’

‘Way before mine,’ Cain said. ’But you see her on the screen, and it doesn’t really matter.’

‘Maybe for some guys.’”

Inspector Gavin Cain of the SFPD is interviewing San Francisco Mayor Harry Castelli about a packet of blackmail photographs that he received that date back to the 1980s. The girl in the photographs is who they are discussing. Now the interesting thing about this interview is that Cain is playing dumb on purpose. He knows the girl looks like Bacall, but he throws Lana Turner out there to make Castelli correct him. There is no way that anyone would confuse Lana Turner and Lauren Bacall. Bacall is about as distinctive of a woman to ever grace the silver screen. The only woman I’ve ever seen on film who looks even vaguely like her is Lisbeth Scott, who I always refer to as the poor director’s Lauren Bacall. If you can’t afford Bacall, you get Scott.

Now me, I’d be very leery of Cain at this point. He’s playing a bit of the Columbo, but Castelli has been drinking like a fish, not plowed, but as foggy as the streets of San Francisco. He isn’t quite tracking. If I were his handler, I’d have put the cops off until I had a chance to sober him up or at least have the cops talk to him first thing in the morning while he was hung over, but not yet starting his daily backstroke in a bourbon bath.

Castelli does the right thing calling the cops in, and Cain catches the case because he has the most seniority. He has other cases that he’d rather be working on, but a high profile case like this takes priority over everything else.

The blackmailer promises more photographs.

But doesn’t this feel like the type of thing a guy like Castelli would handle on his own? Powerful men and blackmailers go together like vodka and cunning eyed blondes. You pay off blackmailers or call in a favor to make them go away. The fact that Castelli calls the cops, instead of say a Philip Marlowe type, is interesting, maybe even puzzling.

Of course, there is always the possibility that he is innocent...naw can’t be that. The question is more about how guilty is he.

Cain goes to talk to Castelli’s wife and daughter, which if I wasn’t already having some Big Sleep flashbacks, I am now. If you remember from the book or the movie of The Big Sleep, there is the Sternwood mansion with one member of the family as crazy or crazier than the last one. Bogie spends most of the movie trying to figure out what is going on from people who haven’t had their feet planted on the real terra firma in a long time. Alexa Castelli is the daughter, and she is an IA investigation waiting to happen. She is comfortable with her body and doesn’t mind sharing it with everyone, including an unsuspecting police officer by the name of Cain. The mother is waiting for Cain with a pitcher of martinis, her eyes floating with gin dreams. Her engagement with reality is just a broken string of half thoughts and lost memories weighed down by a melancholy future.

Power and money do not make you happy. You still have to like yourself to be happy.

Cain has an interesting back story. He is involved with a piano teacher named Lucy, who has an anxiety order similar to agoraphobia. Jonathan Moore does a wonderful job giving us just enough about the source of a problem without actually revealing the story to us. He puts us on high alert for the rest of the book, looking for the clues that will reveal those missing pieces. So while we are trying to figure out the blackmailing story, we are puzzling over another case that may connect to the blackmailing case involving an exhumed casket, we fret over the backstory on Lucy, and of course, we are looking for any information that Moore wishes to breadcrumb to us regarding the mysterious Inspector Gavin Cain.

I love the way Moore sprinkles CSI stuff in that is, frankly, fascinating.

”She pulled his bottom lip out, and ran her gloved finger over the broken teeth. ‘You see that, this kind of suicide. End of a pistol’s barrel has a raised sight. It’ll crack the hell out of your teeth when the gun kicks.’

‘The bottom teeth?’ Grassley asked. ‘The sight’s on top.’

‘Most of your gun-in-the mouth guys,’ she said, ‘they put it in upside down. What else are they going to do---pull the trigger with their thumbs? So when it kicks, the sight knocks out their bottom teeth.’”

The case is strange, but becomes more twisted and sinister as more is revealed. As Cain and his partner close in on the perpetrators, the hunters become the hunted. Cain finds himself in a nightmare where he has seconds to be there in time, but is long minutes away. The conclusions will leave your heart pounding and sweat trickling down your neck. Readers who like the references reminiscent of the days of Philip Marlowe will love those subtle undertones, but those just looking for a great thriller will also be equally satisfied. The San Francisco backdrop again proves a fertile ground for Jonathan Moore. I’ve heard there is a third book already in the can. Sign me up.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Moment with Mark Lawrence

What was the inspiration for the Broken Empire series?

There wasn’t any obvious (to me) inspiration for the story or the setting. The main character, Jorg Ancrath, was directly inspired by Alex DeLarge from Anthony Burgess’s 1962 book, A Clockwork Orange. Inspiration is a strange and nebulous thing though. We’re all products of our environment and I have been reading fantasy for a very long time.

You write, in my opinion, some of the best characters that you hate to actually like, great anti heroes. Are you just exploring a different side of the hero character, or is it a necessary extension of the world you are creating?

I don’t create worlds and then populate them with characters. I think about a character and then follow them. So no, not necessary extensions. And although my books do turn out to explore themes in what has sometimes been called a literary manner, I don’t set out to do that either. So I wouldn’t ascribe any great meaning to the character choice other than I write the books I would like to read. So I need characters that interest me. My characters aren’t vehicles for plot delivery, they have to generate the story from within, and to do that you need someone interesting and conflicted.

With being a review site, what are you currently reading? What would you recommend?

Right this minute I am reading a self-published book with two ratings and one review on Goodreads. It’s by T.O Munro and is called The Medusa’s Daughter. I’ve only just started but it’s good so far.

My best read of last year was another self-published title that emerged from the contest I‘ve held the last two years (Google SPFBO if you’re interested). The book is Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft, a really great read.

More generally I find my tastes align with many popular choices. I love George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, I am keen for Pat Rothfuss to bring his third book out, Robin Hobb’s work is genius…

Are you a gamer? Physical or video) If so, what are you into right now?

I would certainly count myself as a video gamer, having played with dedication since the things first appeared in the 70s. The truth is though that since my writing took off I really haven’t found the time for it. I bought a PS4 and played one game on it: GTA5. The last games I really got into were some years back. I got pretty good at multiplayer Call of Duty and the RTS game Command and Conquer 3.

When I had a day job I would happily play video games when “off duty”. Now I write full time I find it hard to consider any hour “off duty”.

finally, what would you want to say to anyone who wants to have a career as a writer?

To my way of thinking wanting a career as a writer is a rather upside-down way of approaching it. It’s bit like saying “I want to be an author.” A better approach, one more likely to have a happy outcome, is to say “I want to write.” Nobody can stop you doing that and it shows that it is the writing that will make you happy and scratch that itch. From some people I get the impression that it’s the being an author they’re really after, for some imagined kudos, social approval, popularity, or wealth. And the writing is a necessary chore that will get them there. That’s unlikely to work out well.

Write because you enjoy it as an end in itself (like playing video games). If you luck out and a career comes along, then that’s a bonus!