Book Review: Vicki Lewis Thompson’s Riding Home

by Kathy Davie

Riding Home (Sons of Chance, #16)Riding Home by Vicki Lewis Thompson
Series: Sons of Chance, 16
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sixteenth in the Sons of Chance western romance series and revolving around the Chance family. The couple focus is on Jeannette Trenton and Zach Powell.

My thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin for providing this ARC for my enjoyment.

My Take
This was sweet and very thoughtful. I love all the inward-looking thoughts going on in this one. That’s not to say there weren’t some rough patches, but on the whole, it’s a great story that shows us the path Jeannette has followed to understand where she went wrong and where she needs to go for a more fulfilling life.

It’s an opportunity for both of them to look back over their lives, see what outside influences nudged them in those wrong directions. A weekend in which each forces the other to re-think their choices, re-think why they made those choices, what influenced them. Parents, an overwhelming lifestyle, immaturity, and fear can all play havoc with our decisionmaking.

I really like her determination to let Zach decide what is best for him. I understand the desire to push him into what Jeannette wants him to do, but she’s smart. She draws her line in the sand. As much as she loves him, she’s looking down the road at how his choices and her own will affect her attitude. Very smart. I do like how she got Zach thinking.

“Any man who’d take the time to listen to a woman’s troubles and offer to help her solve them would likely also be committed to giving his sexual partner pleasure.”

As for Zach, I do love how thoughtful he is. How he acknowledges the wrong choices he made and what he’s doing to learn what will make him happy. No one can tell you what to do. Well, that’s not true. Everyone tells anyone else what they should be doing, what they ought to be doing, lol. Doesn’t mean you have to do it. It’s more important that you examine your own mind, the ideas of what makes you truly happy. What will make you stretch and improve yourself as a person. Just as Zach and Jeannette do in Riding Home.

Some word choices are a bit of a hiccup, but on the whole, the sex scenes are sweet and slightly erotic. I did enjoy Jeannette’s strip tease…it was very encouraging.

And this sums up a good chunk of what I like about Thompson’s Sons of Chance series:

“…the guys at the Last Chance lived up to the image of what a cowboy should be — brave, honest, protective.”

There’s also that bit about Jack only hiring a cowboy who can dance!

These two are good for each other. They challenge, support, care, and oh mama, do they have the things in common! That bit of insight on friendship is an excellent one. And it’s true. It’s better to become friends with someone whether it’s while you’re in bed, after, or before. Just take the time to get to know each other as well.

Ah, man, and again. Some people should not have children. It’s not really a bad set of parents. They didn’t churn out a sociopath, but they didn’t give Jeannette the support and confidence any parent should provide their child. I have to laugh…if people could only have kids if they were prepared to be there for their child and not use or ignore the child, we’d solve overpopulation.

The Story
Jeannette has a lot of guilt to shed, and she’s starting with Regan’s engagement party to Lily. It’s hard for her, because she was so-definitely in the wrong, but she’s determined.

Zach Powell just happens to be in the barn at her lowest point with a heap of understanding.

The Characters
Jeannette Trenton, a lawyer in Virginia, was the bad girl in Riding High, 14, when she cheated on Regan O’Connelli with his best friend, Drake. Erin is her paralegal assistant. Her parents, Dick and Eunice Trenton, run a racing stable and are more interested in each other than their daughter.

Zach Powell used to be a high-powered lawyer in Hollywood until he fled for the peace and beauty of working as a cowhand at the Last Chance ranch.

Regan O’Connelli is a large-animal vet who’s marrying Lily King (see Riding High). He works with Nick Chance in his veterinary practice. Regan’s sisters include Cassidy, the Chance’s housekeeper; Morgan, a real estate agent; and, Regan’s twin sister, Tyler.

Drake Brewster was Regan’s partner and best friend back in Virginia until he got caught in bed with Jeannette. He came back in Riding High to make amends and found his own new love, Tracy Gibbons, in Riding Hard, 15; they’re moving to Virginia to establish an equine rescue facility for Thoroughbred racehorses.

The Last Chance ranch
The Last Chance was established as a place where people and animals could have one last chance to set things right.” Jack Chance is the oldest son and married to Josie, who runs the Spirits and Spurs bar. Sarah is still alive although Jonathan died some years back, and she married Peter Beckett. Mary Lou is the Chance cook.

Pam Mulholland owns the B&B, the Bunk & Grub, in town; she’s Nick Chance’s aunt, and she’s married to Emmett Sterling, the Chance foreman. Watkins is a long-term ranch hand and a great guitar player. Trey Wheeler, he’s good on guitar too and is engaged to Elle, and Shorty are more ranch hands. Barnaby Hanks is Jack’s lawyer, the one who’s retiring. Ben is commissioned to custom build a saddle.

Some of the horses include Ink Spot, Spilled Milk, and Bertha Mae who is Sarah’s favorite mount.

Back in 1990
Eleanor Chance writes how grateful she and her husband are that their son Jonathan married Sarah Gillespie and how wonderful Judy and Bill Gillespie are. How lucky the Chances and Shoshone are to have had Judy blow into their lives.

The Cover
Dang, I’d be drooling too if I saw this be-hatted, bare-chested hottie in jeans and leather chaps, a saddle hoisted over his shoulder, staring off into the distance.

The title is for Zach and Jeannette, for in many ways, they’re both Riding Home.

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Book Review: Thea Harrison’s Pia Saves the Day

Elder Races by Thea Harrison

  1. Dragon Bound
  2. Storm’s Heart
  3. Serpent’s Kiss
  4. 3.5. “True Colors

  5. Oracle’s Moon
  6. 4.5. “Natural Evil

    4.6. “Devil’s Gate” (can also be found in Destiny’s Tarot)

    4.7. “Hunter’s Season” (can also be found in Destiny’s Tarot)

  7. Lord’s Fall
  8. 5.5. “The Wicked

  9. Kinked
  10. 6.5. “Dragos Takes a Holiday

    6.6. “Pia Saves the Day

    6.7. “Peanut Goes to School

  11. Night’s Honor (coming September 2014)

by Kathy Davie

Pia Saves the Day (Elder Races, #6.6)Pia Saves the Day by Thea Harrison
Series: Elder Races, 6.6
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A short story, 6.6, in the Elder Races paranormal romance series and revolving around the Wyr and its dominant shapeshifters. This particular short story is part of a short-story trilogy that focuses on family life with the Peanut, even though this one is more about Pia and Dragos.

My Take
The official description/summary of “Pia Saves the Day” is actually more dramatic than the story. It had potential for being tension and drama, but Harrison didn’t go there. Instead, it’s sweet enough, and more of a day-in-the-life, albeit a nerve-wracking few days for Pia as Dragos has lost all memory of who she or Peanut are.

The sweet is in how much this Dragos hates the other Dragos, how possessive this one feels toward Pia, how realistic yet caring Pia will be toward this damaged dragon, and how supportive the Sentinels are for Pia.

It includes some of the negatives for the nearby town in having someone like Dragos and his family moving into the area.

We also get a glimpse of Peanut, and I suspect this is the purpose of this mini-series within the whole, to show us Peanut and his growth in so many ways.

The Story
Being Dragos, he can’t resist being involved in all aspects of the construction process on their upstate home. It’s an accident waiting to happen, and when it does, it’s not Dragos anymore.

It’s that comment from Pia: “You have to be a big soldier now.”

The Characters
Dragos Cuelebre is a dragonshifter, born at the beginning of Life. Pia Cuelebre is his mate and a unicorn shifter. Liam, a.k.a., Peanut, is their four-month-old son, who’s already at the toddling stage! Eva is Pia’s personal bodyguard. Hugh, Sasha, and Ryssa are Peanut’s nannies.

Graydon, Aryal, Quentin, Bayne, Constantine, and Alex are some of his Sentinels. Grym stays behind in New York. Dr. Kathryn Shaw is the Wyr surgeon and a falcon shifter.

Ned Brandling was the shift foreman. Mitchell is the estate manager.

Death, a.k.a., Azrael or Hunter, seems to be related to Dragos and after him.

The Cover
The cover is a beautiful range of blues for the sky, the flying dragon, the forested mountains, and the lightest blue the haze and lake below. It’s Pia right in front of us, albeit with her back turned to us, in camouflage shorts and a coffee-brown tank top with her backpack of treasure beside her.

The title is exactly what happens, for “Pia Saves the Day” indeed. Dragos believes she saves his day every day.

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Book Review: Walter Mosley’s Jack Strong

by Kathy Davie

Jack StrongJack Strong by Walter Mosley
Series (I think): Jack Strong, 0.5
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This 52-page short story is a prequel introducing Jack Strong in this science fictional urban fantasy, a potential series that I suspect will roam the world.

My thanks to NetGalley and Open Road Media for providing this ARC for my enjoyment.

My Take
It started as I expected a Walter Mosley to start, with an excellent use of dialect and sentence structure, but Mosley quickly took me into a completely different world. One that was both small and yet expansive.

I’m both curious and apprehensive, but then again, I remember: Mosley. The apprehension comes from wondering how he can bring the tension to the inner men of Jack Strong, seeing as how it was so easy for Lance to meld. The curiosity comes from wondering where he will take us on this journey of redemption, and seein’ as it’s Mosley, how he will create the tension. I know, I seem to be repeating myself, and actually I’m not. I’m a Mosley fan, and what may be difficult for other writers is a slight challenge for him.

As the subtitle says, it’s “A Story of Life After Life”, and that’s where Jack Strong is headed. To find closure for the many personalities and souls within himself. On the outside, he’s a Frankenstein of a man, all patched together from various parts. On the inside, it’s the same. A Frankenstein of the inner voices, carrying each individual’s abilities and knowledge. It makes for very interesting reactions. Like a database of people, abilities, and information Jack can call up at will.

I liked the technique Mosley used to shift personalities, and while I liked how easy this was, I’m hoping Mosley will create problems down the road with this. Bring some tension into this. Don’t get me wrong, there’s tension in this story. Plenty as we’re struggling to figure out what’s going on, and it’s the tension in future stories that I’m curious about.

Part of the tension in this one was reading how hard Ron worked to get Anna to acknowledge him. And I’m still trying to imagine how the sex works! Sure sounds interesting…being able to experience both the female and the male as well as bringing all the personas together at the same time!

It’s gonna be a fun ride, and I’m looking forward to the multitude of adventures as we peek into each one’s lives as they fix what was wrong before they died.

The Story
He woke in a cheap hotel room, confused, seeing too many possibilities of who he or she was. His body was a patchwork of parts and colors. The penis was, unexpected. As he examines himself, tries to make sense of the swirls of thoughts and lives he’s never experienced, the memories of actions he’s never taken, one memory comes to the fore.

He’s a casino manager.

The Characters
Jack Strong is a patchwork of parts, thoughts, memories, and knowledge: the immoral Lance Richards, Sergeant William Tamashanter Mortman is quite skilled with his hands, FBI Special Agent Ron Tremont, Connolly Wright, Minna Achet, the hung Stumper Brown, Dr. George Forsythe comes in very handy as does the very competent counterfeiter Johnetta Reis, and the serial-killin’ Aldus Ray are among the crowd.

Rosetta Jeannette Lawson is a waitress at a diner who helps Jack. Anna Wolf was Ron’s partner back in the day, the alive day. The Cherry Bomb is one of the clues. Their supervisor, Mason Daub, was resentful of Anna. Filo Drammon sent up red flags on Anna.

Tom Grog is Jack’s oversight manager, and he works for Convocation, the organization which raised Jack.

Sammy is the Samoan guard who tries to take Lance down with Trapas and Kraut. Siggy Petron was taking from Ira Toneman, his boss. Bernard Lime had been the accountant. Lara Santini was the daytime bartender. Pedro is her current man. Roaches is an old acquaintance of Lance’s; his cousin Rolly works at the Beamer Motel. Bernard, a.k.a., Berry, was Lance’s stepbrother. Ed Coffers was the moving man, Lara bypassed because Ed sent Winters.

Albert is the hotel valet. Tony is the desk clerk with two sisters, Esther and Shoni, working the switchboard.

The Cover
The cover is all face. Jack’s determined face with his multicolored eyes.

The title is the man, “Jack Strong”; the subtitle is what it’s all about, “A Story of Life After Life”.

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Word Confusion: Mail versus Male

by Kathy Davie

Chain male. Really? Sounds like a Neanderthal speaking: “Chain male, chain male up with leash and collar.”

From all the errors I ran across in this author’s book, I suspect she saved money and used software to proofread her manuscript. Oops.

Please, please don’t give me an excuse to make fun of your book!?! I really don’t want to. I want to read the story, to fall into it. I don’t want to be giggling my way through it imagining some caveman grunting his way through it or finding the mail in bed with some woman…I’d probably be thinking it was a great catalog that was getting her all excited. Not the impression you want me having, I’m sure.

Don’t rely only upon spellcheck. Yes, it’s good to catch a lot of misspelled words, but it will never check the context. Go through your manuscript, your draft, your potential post. Become aware of the words you tend to mix up and make a list.

It’s an evolving list, these Word Confusions, and sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better. If you’d like to track it, “Mail versus Male” can also be found on my website. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Mail Male
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: mail

Image by Gaius Cornelius (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Sudanese chain link armour, worn by a mounted warrior.</p


Image courtesy of Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Rosser, U.S. Navy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A son rushing to greet his father — two males — on his return from a six-month deployment.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective 2; Noun;
Verb, transitive
Adjective; Noun
Noun: 1
Letters and packages conveyed by the postal system

  • The postal system
  • [As modifier] A mail truck
  • [In singular] A single delivery or collection of mail

[Computing] E-mail

[Dated] A vehicle, such as a train, carrying mail

[Archaic] A bag of letters to be conveyed by the postal system

Verb, transitive: 1
Send a letter or package using the postal system

  • [Computing] Send (someone) e-mail

Adjective: 2
mailed

Noun: 2
[Historical] Armor made of metal rings or plates, joined together flexibly

  • The protective shell or scales of certain animals
  • [Textiles] An oval piece of metal pierced with a hole through which the warp ends are threaded, serving as an eyelet on a heddle or especially on the harness cords of a Jacquard loom.

Verb, transitive: 2
Clothe or cover with mail


Noun: 3
[Scottish] Payment, rent, tribute
Adjective:
Of or denoting the sex that produces small, typically motile gametes, especially spermatozoa, with which a female may be fertilized or inseminated to produce offspring

  • Relating to or characteristic of men or male animals; masculine
  • [Of a plant or flower] Bearing stamens but lacking functional pistils
  • [Of parts of machinery, fittings, etc.] Designed to enter, fill, or fit inside a corresponding female part

Noun:
A male person, plant, or animal

Examples:
Noun: 1
You can order by mail.

The check is in the mail

a mail truck

Did you see that new magazine that came in the mail today?

Verb, transitive: 1
If you will mail the coupon, we’ll send you a free trial package.

Hank, e-mail those attachments now.


Adjective: 2
a mailed gauntlet

He struck him with a mailed fist.

Noun:2
Chain mail has been around since at least the fourth century BC and continues to be used today.

Chain mail was eventually supplanted by plate armor.

Verb, transitive: 2
Mail up!


Noun: 3
We ordain and appoint our present Town-thesaurer, and his successors in office, to pay the house-rent and mails of his Lordship and succeeding Presidents of the Session (Act Sederunt, 12. Jan. 1677).

The arrears of rent, or, in our law-style, of mails and duties, prescribe, if they be not pursued for within five years after the tenant’s removing from the lands out of which the arrears are due (Erskine’s Inst. B. iii. T.7. § 20).

Adjective:
male children

male unemployment

a deep male voice

Noun:
The audience consisted of adult males.

The male of the species.

History of the Word:
1 First known use: 13th century
Middle English male, from the Anglo-French, of Germanic origin and akin to Old High German malaha meaning bag.

The notion by post dates from the mid-17th century.

2 First known use: 14th century
Middle English (also denoting the individual metal elements composing mail armor) and from the Old French maille, from the Latin macula meaning spot or mesh.

3 First known use: before 1150
Middle English male, maille, from Old English māl meaning agreement, pay, from the Old Norse māl meaning speech, agreement and akin to the Old English mǣl speech.

Late Middle English from the Old French masle, which is from the Latin masculus, which is from mas meaning a male.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?


Kathy Davie is an author, educator, and artist with a BS in Technical Writing & Editing with minors in Digital Media and History from Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado.

A huge believer in knowledge being power, Kathy has an ongoing and free set of Author Tools for authors interested in self-editing including an online tutorial in Using Microsoft Word’s Markup Tool, words commonly confused by authors and Punctuation and Formatting Tips.

Contact Kathy for various writing and editing services.

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Book Review: Cordelia Frances Biddle’s The Conjurer

by Kathy Davie

The ConjurerThe Conjurer by Cordelia Frances Biddle
Series: Martha Beale, 1
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

First in the Martha Beale historical mystery series and revolving around a newly orphaned woman, Martha. Set in 1842 Philadelphia.

My thanks to NetGalley and Open Road Media for providing this ARC for me to read.

My Take
As the page or percent indicator as to where I am in the book isn’t available, all I can say is I stopped at “I will be the mistress of my fate. I’ll rule my own house, and demand that Simms leave it.”

It starts off interestingly and too quickly descends into a morass of timidity and domination. Biddle takes way too long to turn Martha into a strong character — I’m assuming that Martha becomes a strong person simply because the series is about her as I still haven’t read far enough to find out.

She was too annoying to read. Yes, there is an interesting story in here with lots of possibilities and odd subplots, but the primary character, Martha, was the most stupid woman. Her actions, or rather the lack of actions, drove me nuts. I cannot stand the stupid trope, let alone the stupid woman trope. And what’s worse is that she doesn’t strike me as a stupid woman.

I’ll agree that the customs, styles, and manners of the time period feel very accurate. As for the romantic subplot…talk about long and drawn-out, tediously so.

Again, I did not finish this book, so I have no idea if the various subplots eventually tied back to Martha’s initial problem. Some of the other characters did seem to be tied in with her father and his business plans, but the crazy incidents that were occurring did not make me believe they could. It’s always possible that Biddle does manage to pull them in, but I’m not interested enough to suffer through this to find out.

The Cover
Banded in red at the top and bottom, the cover is a blue tint with Martha and Thomas on opposite sides of the drive?, road? It’s an accurate reflection of society’s expectations of a single woman.

The title refers to the “magician” who sets Philadelphian society awry (at least that’s my interpretation based on how far I read).

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Book Review: Nalini Singh’s Making Dinner

by Kathy Davie

Making Dinner (Psy-Changeling, #11.4)Making Dinner by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling, 11.4
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This short story is 11.4 in the Psy-Changeling paranormal romance revolving around two different groups of shifters. The couple focus is on Mercy and Riley.

My Take
A teeny, tiny short of a free story in Singh’s newsletter. If you want to read future teeny shorts, sign up for it.

As always, it’s Singh-warm and cozy with Mercy’s brothers showing up to banter in family fashion.

The Story
It’s literally making dinner as Riley is chopping vegetables to make soup and Mercy is worrying over her almost-showing belly.

The Characters
Mercy is a leopard shifter and newly pregnant while her mate, Riley, is a wolf shifter and both are glowing with happiness.

Bastien, the DarkRiver financial shark, Grey with his strong future in the pack, and Sage are Mercy’s brothers.

The Title
The title is what it’s all about, “Making Dinner”.

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Book Review: Kate Hewitt’s Expose Me

by Kathy Davie

Expose MeExpose Me by Kate Hewitt
Series: Fifth Avenue Trilogy, 3 & last
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Third and last in the Fifth Avenue Trilogy romance series revolving around a few friends seeking revenge against Jason Treffen. This story concludes the trilogy with the friend focus on Alex Diaz with Chelsea Maxwell as his romantic counterpart.

My thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin for providing this ARC for my reading pleasure…

My Take
…one which I enjoyed very much. A strong woman who is broken and struggling to rise above it up against a man who also fought his way up, both with an end goal they are determined to reach.

“She never denied anything. Denying rumors put you on the defensive, and ended up just stoking the fires of gossip higher. “

I love that they’re both so attracted to each other and struggling so hard to ignore it. Chelsea has her issues, and she is determined to not give in to a man. Alex sees a woman who’s used her body to get where she is. Both are so wrong about the other.

I love that they’re both intelligent, both determined to use and leave the other wanting, both working toward an end goal that is important to them.

Hewitt does do a beautiful job of teasing us along, dropping bits and pieces about their lives, why Chelsea is so cold, the attack, what caused Sarah to commit suicide, about Treffen. She drops those hints, tugging us along the trail, making me more and more desperate to find out what happened and what will happen.

I had a few niggles about Alex’s character. As we progress further into the story, I can better understand Alex’s reaction in the car when Chelsea slipped and bumped her head, but any guy leaves me like that, I’m outta there. Then I gotta wonder about an intelligent man like him not considering how Chelsea would react. He claims he’s done his research, but obviously not enough. I’d’ve liked to see Hewitt play up his angst getting in the way on that one.

For all that it’s unreal in how these two people managed to claw their way up to the heights they currently embrace, there’s a reality to the emotions in Expose Me. Alex keeping himself safe. Chelsea desperate to stay in control after events in Alabama. Louise with her clang of a confession. And it’s a courtship that develops slowly, reluctantly. It too feels real.

Oh, that scene where Chelsea tells Alex that she “wants someone to think I’m worth it” will break your heart. Then the scene where she’s interviewing Jason Treffen. I held my breath through some of it, my heart racing, my mind jumping up and down, cheering. It was beautiful!!

Now I want to read Avenge Me, 1, and Scandalize Me, 2. I want to wallow in how they make their plans.

The Story
Alex needs Chelsea Maxwell for the final nail in Jason Treffen’s coffin — public exposure, and he’s annoyed when she sees through his ploys. Considering who and what she is, he has every confidence she’ll jump at the chance to work at Diaz News.

And he’ll lie, cheat, or bed Chelsea to ensure Treffen is exposed for what he is.

Chelsea, on the other hand, intends for this interview with Treffen to be her springboard to serious television. There is no way she’ll play games with her chance to be a serious, respected journalist.

The Characters
With the reputation for revealing a guest’s innermost pain, Chelsea Maxwell, the former Aurora Jensen, is the host of the number one daytime talk show, Chats with Chelsea. Professor Louise Jensen is her long lost older sister. Their mother, Diane, had been obsessed with Chelsea and beauty contests when they were kids, a beautiful child mama’s boyfriends lusted after.

Alex Diaz has worked hard to build his communications empire, and Diaz News is at the top in the nation. Now he and his friends, Hunter and Austin, are determined to seek justice for a friend. Sarah Michaels was a young law intern who committed suicide over sexual harassment. They were wrong. It was so much more. Eric is Alex’s driver. Beatriz is Alex’s mother. Aunt Patricia is his mother’s sister.

Katy Michaels is Sarah’s sister, and she’s helped Austin Treffen expose his father to his family (see Avenge Me, 1). Hunter Grant is working on getting him out of the law firm (see Scandalize Me, 2) with the help of Zoe Brook, the PR queen of New York.

AMI Television
Michael Agnello is Chelsea’s boss and said to be her lover. Paul Bates is AMI’s leading news anchorman and a total jerk. José is one of the security people at the studio. Miles is her producer. Sonya is her makeup artist.

Jaiven Rodriguez is a friend of Alex’s from the old neighborhood who slugged his way up and out of his childhood.

Publicly Jason Treffen has a reputation for protecting women’s rights; privately… Eric is his lawyer.

Brian Taylor was the domineering jerk from the local news station in Huntsville, Alabama, where Chelsea learned to never let a man in.

The Cover
The cover is a pale gray background with a casual looking Alex in a loosened tie, button-down shirt, slacks, and a black leather jacket, looking intently out at us. He’s determined.

The title is about revealing inner secrets, inner shames, things a casual lover doesn’t want to hear, and in the end, it will Expose Me.

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Book Review: Jennifer Estep’s Web of Deceit

by Kathy Davie

Web of Deceit (Elemental Assassin, #0.4)Web of Deceit by Jennifer Estep
Series: Elemental Assassin, 0.4
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This short story is 0.4 in the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series revolving around Gin Blanco, an assassin about to go on her first solo outing.

You can read this short story for free on Estep’s website.

My Take
A peek in on those years Gin spent training up to be an assassin, right along with the worries Fletcher has. The big hints he drops about Gin’s past, and how he believes he failed her.

It’s scary how much Fletcher actually knows, that he never told Gin.

The Story
It’s a worry for Fletcher. It’s Gin’s first solo outing as an assassin, and so many things could go wrong.

The Characters
Fletcher Lane, a.k.a., the Tin Man, is an assassin who’s been training Gin Blanco, his apprentice, for the past three years. By day, they both work in the Pork Pit, Fletcher’s barbecue restaurant. For her night work, he’s dubbed her the Spider, for so many reasons.

The girly Jolene “Jo-Jo” Deveraux is one of Fletcher’s oldest and dearest friends. Sophia is Jo-Jo’s Goth dwarf of a sister. Both have the gift of Air.

Jimmy Fontaine is a giant who runs a drug-and-kiddie whorehouse. Jackson Fontaine is his sweet-looking younger brother with a specific task for which he’s well-suited. Violet Wong was one of his victims, and the wrong one for Jimmy. Victor Wong is her father.

Mab Monroe is a vicious Fire elemental.

Southtown is the nasty neck of the woods in Ashland, the haunt of vampires and anything bad.

The Title
The title is perfect for Gin in this, as she spins her first “Web of Death”.

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Book Review: Louise Penny’s Bury Your Dead

by Kathy Davie

Bury Your Dead (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #6)Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, 6
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sixth in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series and revolving around Armand Gamache and his team. The focus is on three separate events: a hostage event that turns disastrous, the murder of a passionate historian hunting for the truth of Samuel de Champlain, and the hunt for the real Hermit murderer.

My Take
Whoa. This was intense and so very, very emotional. I so liked the potential of that kid. The conversation he had with Gamache as they talked to save his life broke my heart. He was so real and earnest. He was in love and had plans. He appreciated his past and looked toward his and Suzanne’s future.

There is a quote Gamache told Morin that was read at Armand and Reine-Marie’s wedding, one that makes me cry at the promise and the hope within it:

“Now you will feel no rain,

For each of you will be shelter for the other

Now you will feel no cold

For each of you will be warmth for the other

Now there is no loneliness for you

Now there is no more loneliness

Now there is no more loneliness

It’s the aftermath we read of as Gamache tries to heal, to understand what happened. And it’s one of the aspects of his character that I adore about Gamache. It’s not only the suspects Gamache examines, he examines himself. He tries to understand his weaknesses even as he uses and shares his strengths. He’s an intelligent and compassionate man, able to step outside that compassion and assess, question. He sees angles I can’t see until he points them out. Then it is so obvious.

It’s the strength that Beauvoir finally understands in this one as he fulfills this request from his superior. While appreciating his chief, his mentor, he’s never understood Gamache’s approach to people being investigated. Never saw the point until he was forced to pretend to like the core cast in Three Pines. Beauvoir has always been surface and outside of understanding human beings. More interested in what he can see instead of delving inside the individual, keeping life separate.

Weak points in this story are the whys. Why does the Hermit need to escape into the woods with these treasures? Why, or should I ask how, do those bullet holes appear in that back?

This is a tough story with all this emotion roiling about the choices that are made, the promises that are made. The anger and fear between the French and the English in Québec. That need to cling to a façade of power and what people will do to hang on to even a semblance of it. The human need to present their own façade of well-being. The need for revenge whether it’s against one person or a people.

I did like the imagery of the nesting doll: North America inside of which is Canada which holds Québec which enfolds the English community who are huddled within the Literary and Historical Society and “their records, their thoughts, their memories, their symbols”.

Gamache is assessing an old battle. The one that decided the nationality of Canada. The one in which bad choices were made. I see it as a metaphor for what Gamache is attempting to understand about himself. Of course, it is also history and we all know that history is written and re-written to reflect what the winners want it to say. Gamache wants to dig deeper, for he sees flaws that were not brought into the light, and this is so typical of this character. A desire for truth and why. It’s also an anthropological exercise in basements and the things stored in them, how religion ruled lives, and a tour of Québec City, its history and architecture.

Yet another quote, which evokes emotion, and I find I agree with Gamache:

Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori

It is sweet and right to die for your country.”

The manner in which Penny unfolds events, both today’s and yesterday’s, builds the suspense. I could wish she had inserted a text separator between the different times, more space between them, and yet, this is more effective in making us feel how much a part of Gamache’s thoughts these events are. There is no separation for Gamache; it preys upon him at all times.

Four phrases everyone should learn:

“I don’t know.
I’m sorry.
I was wrong.
I need help.

The Story
It’s the aftermath of disaster and Gamache’s team is recovering from its wounds. The physical are difficult enough to survive, and there are still those emotional wounds that must be touched.

Worse, in questioning his judgement, his choices in another case, Gamache questions the decisions he made that resulted in such carnage. A loss that has affected so many. Determined to know, to understand, he asks Beauvoir to investigate, sub rosa.

To learn the truth.

The Characters
In Québec
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is the head of the Sûreté du Québec Homicide Division. A man who leads with compassion and warmth, who mentors the unwanted. Reine-Marie is his beloved wife, a librarian who accepts the man her husband is. Henri is their young shepherd. Annie is their bright, energetic daughter happily married. Daniel is their son who lives in Paris with his family.

Émile Comeau was Gamache’s mentor and chief when Gamache was the trainee. Now he’s retired in a “stone home within the old walled city of Québec”. Inspector Langlois invites Gamache to assist in his investigation.

The Literary and Historical Society
…is a bastion of English language and history within the beleaguered walled city of Québec. Porter Wilson is the ineffectual chairman. Elizabeth MacWhirter is the real power behind the throne. Stuart Blake is the oldest board member and always perfectly turned out and as attractive as ever. The Reverend Tom Hancock is the minister for St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Ken Haslam is the murmuring one with a sad, sad secret. Winnie is the librarian.

Augustin Renaud is obsessed with Samuel de Champlain, the founder, the father, of Québec. Most believe he’s nuts. An elderly Cree woman Gamache had met years ago and helped.

Société Champlain
René Dallaire and Jean Hamel are members along with Émile.

Père Sébastien is a “leading scholar on the early settlement of Québec and the role of the church”. Chief Archeologist Serge Croix is a major pain. Sean Patrick had a great-grandfather who knew Francis O’Mara.

Names from the past include:
Madame Claude Marchand was housekeeper to Charles Paschal Télesphore Chiniquy, a former Catholic priest who went too far in rescuing alcoholics. Dr. James Douglas was a founder of the Literary and Historical Society, a collector of mummies, a grave robber, a gifted physician who could whack off a limb in less than ten seconds, and a brilliant teacher. He also believed the mentally ill should be treated with care and respect.

In Three Pines
Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir is anxious to get out of the house, away from Enid, and back into the field. Actually, to get anywhere at all.

The core characters in the village
Ruth Zardo, a respected and honored poet within Canada, is still telling everyone to fuck off while Rosa flew off south. Gabri still believes in Olivier Brulé‘s innocence, even though he was convicted of murdering the Hermit. Peter Morrow is bemused by Clara Morrow and Myrna‘s enjoyment of the vacation porn game. Old Mundin is a furniture builder and restorer with a much-loved wife and son: The Wife and Charlie, a toddler with Down syndrome.

Roar Paar works for the Gilberts these days; his wife is Hanna and their son is Havoc, a waiter at the bistro. Carole Woloshyn Gilbert is Marc’s mother. Marc and his wife, Dominique, bought the old Hadley house and turned it into an inn and spa. Dr. Vincent Gilbert, Saint Asshole, is the resurrected father who has done so much for people with Down syndrome. Pina is an exercise instructor.

The Hermit is still so much a part of the Three Pines community (see The Brutal Telling, 5). Temps Perdu is the shop where Olivier sold so much.

Back in Montreal
The rest of Gamache’s team is mentioned: Agent Isabelle Lacoste and Agent Yvette Nichol who has been banished to telecommunications so she may learn to listen.

And his new trainee, Agent Paul Morin who loves to play violin. He and Suzanne plan to marry soon. Inspector Norman in Ste-Agathe relays the hideous news.

Chief Superintendent Sylvain Francoeur, Gamache’s primary enemy, takes the disaster-in-the-making over and refuses to see beneath the surface.

The Cover
The cover is thoughtful as well as a metaphor. The bright orange of autumn leaves falling onto crisp, white snow. The death of a season buried by the one following.

The title is the underlying theme throughout this story. The need to Bury Your Dead in whatever shape, form, or reason it appears.

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Book Review: Jim Butcher’s Fool Moon

by Kathy Davie

Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2)Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
Series: Dresden Files, 2
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Second in the Dresden Files urban fantasy series and revolving around Harry Dresden, wizard. Based in Chicago.

My Take
Ooh, the snark! I love it when Murphy has the nerve to ask for Harry’s help and his angry response! Then there’s Bob harassing Harry about doing those weight-loss potions, lol.

Harry’s right, his problems do come from that conflict between needing to keep secrets and other people’s need to know — to keep them alive. He’s really gotta tell Murph’, especially after that last scene! And hindsight is 20/20. I like that moment when Harry gets it. When he finally starts to see it from Murphy’s point of view. Now if only Murphy would do Harry the same courtesy! Still Harry takes too much guilt that he doesn’t deserve onto himself. Kim, for one, should have explained why she needed to know.

We meet the good-guy wolf pack in this story, and how they came to be. We learn more back history about what Harry knows about his parents, that his magician dad died of an aneurism when Harry was young, and his mother died at his birth. So when Chauncy teases Harry with tidbits about his mother, how she almost fell, ooh, it’s very tempting to give up yet another part of himself to know.

I don’t know where Murphy gets off bitching at Harry for following up his clue when she’s doing the same thing.

Wait a minute. At one point Harry reckons Tera wouldn’t wait for him and then a few paragraphs later she’s checking behind to make sure he’s keeping up with her. C’mon…which is it?

Ah, geez, that escape at the jail…if only Murphy would’ve trusted Harry.

I can’t believe how careless Harry is. I’d’a thought he’d been around a lot longer, had more experience than to make the mistakes he makes in this.

Tera’s right, animals only kill to eat or to protect or defend. It’s humans who are the real monsters. And ain’t that a scary thought.

It’s an exciting blend of magic and police procedural, urban fantasy and human politics, and it all boils down to human interaction, whatever flavor of being you may be.

The Story
After events in Storm Front, 1, Murphy hasn’t called Harry to consult, and he doesn’t think it’s because the monsters disappeared. So, when suddenly Murphy is calling, and they’re both too busy dancing around that silly need-to-know.

Dang, Harry’s in trouble. His morals do keep him hopping. Between antagonizing a pack of lycanthropes, turning down Marcone’s offers, and unable to tell important people in his life the truth about it all.

The Characters
With a strong sense of responsibility and of right and wrong, Harry Dresden finds work here and there as a private investigator and wizard. The Blue Beetle isn’t really blue anymore, but Volkswagens survive better being around a wizard — technology doesn’t do well around wizards. Mike is his mechanic. Mister is his huge cat. Bob is a skull who lives in his sub-basement and has more knowledge of magic than anyone. He’s got a thing for romance novels. Justin was Harry’s teacher until he died.

The five-foot-tall Lieutenant Karrin Murphy is the director of Special Investigations at the Chicago PD due to some influential enemies. Her department investigates the unusual. She’s also the source of most of Harry’s income. And she hasn’t been calling. Partly due to intense interest from Internal Affairs. Carmichael is Murphy’s right hand man, and he thinks Harry is a charlatan.

Susan Rodriguez works for the Arcane and is always hunting stories with a supernatural slant, determined to make people think. And she’s curious as to why someone is so anxious to get rid of the most successful preternatural investigator the police department has ever had.

The Alphas wolf pack
Billy, Georgia, Tommy, and Cindy form the pack.

Harley MacFinn has inherited the family curse and is obsessed with the Northwest Passage Project, an endeavor that’s making a lot of businessmen, including James Harding III, unhappy. Tera West is Harley’s fiancée.

Gentleman John Marcone is Chicago’s resident crime lord with influence reaching all over the country and into Washington D.C. Rumor is, Harry’s working for him. Spike was one of his bodyguards; Hendricks still is.

Agent Philip Denton is FBI and quickly on the scene, every time. The rest of his team includes Deborah Benn who has control issues, Roger Harris is a redheaded kid, the forensic specialist, and George Wilson is an overweight jerk.

The Streetwolves, a biker gang of lycanthropes
Headquarters is the Full Moon Garage. Parker is their aging leader; Flatnose would like to challenge him. Lana is another member of the pack.

Chaunzaggoroth, a.k.a., Chauncy, is a demon Harry calls up on occasion.

Mac owns and runs McAnally‘s pub and grill with great food and his own brew. It’s also neutral territory for supernaturals and magic users. Kim Delaney has been a student of Harry’s, unwilling to heed his warnings.

The White Council makes the Laws of Magic for the magical world, and they don’t like Harry. Elaine was Harry’s first love.

There are different kinds of werewolves: hexenwolves make a deal with the devil or a powerful sorcerer and use a wolf-hide belt with some magic words; werewolves are theriomorphs, a being that shifts from human to animal; lycanthropes are a natural channel for a spirit of rage which gets inside a person’s head — Norse berserkers are an example; and, loup-garou which are the major monsters, cursed, who transform at the full moon and go on a killing spree until moonset. A soulgaze is when you look deep inside a person and see them for who they really are.

The Cover
The cover is Harry with staff in hand in his black leather coat and hat atop a tall building above Chicago. A huge fool’s moon behind him.

The title is a reference to Harry and how slowly he puts the pieces together in this time of the Fool Moon.

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