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Review: This Case is Gonna Kiss Me by Phillipa Bornikova

3 Oct

   4 out of 5 scoopers

This Case is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova
TOR (Sept. 4, 2012)
Trade: $14.99; ebook: $9.99
ISBN: 9780765326829

Favorite Lines: “I hardened and pressed my hips against hm while reaching down to cup his penis. He shifted off to the side, and I couldn’t reach him. Then his fingers were probing deep inside, but it felt more like an examination, testing the level of moisture between my legs.

And then he entered me with one hard lunge. I gasped, but it wasn’t from pleasure. I opened my eyes. He hung over me, taking his weight on his forearms. His brow was furrowed with concentration, but his expression was blank. With hard thrusts of his hips, he drove deeper and deeper into me. I tried to match his rhythm, but he made no accommodation for me.

He shuddered and I felt him go limp inside of  me. There was no warm flow of ejaculation–of course there wouldn’t be with  a vampire, just a loss of  tumidity. I realized he had been concentrating to send the blood flow to his penis so he would stay hard. Once he’d banged me, he stopped trying. he pulled out, rolled off me, and swung his legs off the bed.” (p. 122)

What happens when The Firm meets Anita Blake? You get the Halls of Power—our modern world, but twisted. Law, finance, the military, and politics are under the sway of long-lived vampires, werewolves, and the elven Alfar. Humans make the best of rule by “the Spooks,” and contend among themselves to affiliate with the powers-that-be, in order to avoid becoming their prey. Very loyal humans are rewarded with power over other women and men. Very lucky humans are selected to join the vampires, werewolves, and elves—or, on occasion, to live at the Seelie Court.

Linnet Ellery is the offspring of an affluent Connecticut family dating back to Colonial times. Fresh out of law school, she’s beginning her career in a powerful New York “white fang” law firm. She has high hopes of eventually making partner.

But strange things keep happening to her. In a workplace where some humans will eventually achieve immense power and centuries of extra lifespan, office politics can be vicious beyond belief. After some initial missteps, she finds herself sidelined and assigned to unpromising cases. Then, for no reason she can see, she becomes the target of repeated, apparently random violent attacks, escaping injury each time through increasingly improbable circumstances. However, there’s apparently more to Linnet Ellery than a little old-money human privilege. More than even she knows. And as she comes to understand this, she’s going to shake up the system like you wouldn’t believe…

I’d never heard of Phillipa Bornikova when I stumbled across her recently released book This Case is Gonna Kill Me on Netgalley. After reading the blurb which stated it was The Firm meets Anita Blake I knew it wasn’t a book I wanted to more or less promise to review. It sounded interesting, but I waited for Bornikova’s book to appear at the public library and checked it out.

I can tell you right now that blurb is misleading. Yes, the heroine works as a lawyer at a firm and yes someone is trying to kill her. But it’s not the law firm. She is no Anita Blake. She doesn’t hunt paranormal creatures or have sex with every man she meets. Linnet is a healthy twenty something year old lawyer who was fostered within a vampire household. The reader meets her and her boss at the same time when Linnet begins her career as a lawyer at the vampire law firm (White Fang).

This Case is Gonna Kill Me is told in first person and set in the normal world with paranormal creatures like vampires, Alfar (fae) and werewolves. The heroine is human, but quickly realizes she is a small pawn being played with by paranormal beings. It’s not clear who her friends are, nor is it clear who her true enemies are. The only thing Linnet knows is that she needs to prove herself by closing a case which has been open for 17 years.

I had a blast with Bornikova’s book. It had a steady pace, was filled with action and made me wonder what else was going to come. There are so many directions the author can take the next book. Someone will want to get even, rescue will need to be pulled off and secrets hopefully will be brought to light. I will buy and read the next book in this series which promises me a mystery, legal thriller and hint of romance set in an urban setting with fantastical creatures.

Most of the ratings on Goodreads are positive; only two people rated the story one or two stars. What others are saying about This Case is Gonna Kill Me:

Vampire Book Club
All Things Urban Fantasy
My Bookish Ways
Seeing Nights


Review: Dragon Justice by Laura Anne Gilman

23 Jul

Dragon Justice by Laura Anne Gilman
Harlequin (July 24, 2012)
Trade: $14.95; ebook: $10.99
ISBN: 9780373803484

Favorite Lines: “Someone who came down looking for a romantic wooing–or at least some hot and heavy sexing–might have felt cheated at being cooped up in a dank subbasement listening to two guys bicker as they worked. I was, god help me, enchanted.” (p. 130, e-galley)

In my time with PUPI, formally known as Private, Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations, I’ve seen a lot. Learned a lot. And not all of it’s been good. But what we do-make people accountable for crimes committed with magic-is important work.

Still. Even I need to take a break every now and again. Or so I’ve just been told (ordered).

So hey, vacation. Maybe I’ll finally figure out what’s going on with the “special bond” between me and the bossman, Benjamin Venec. Venec seems to like that idea-he’s invited me down to join him on a jaunt to Philly. But no sooner do I arrive in the City of Brotherly Love than we’re called in to look at a dead body.

And that’s when life gets really complicated….

Warning: This book is part of Laura Anne Gilman’s Paranormal Scene Investigations’ series. Do not try to read it as a stand alone. Another thing: I don’t keep up with Gilman’s Retriever series, but its heroine popped up quite a bit in Dragon Justice. As did mentions of some major uprising that the Retriever prevented.

Each book in Gilman’s PSI series has built upon the previous book. From a company being built and friendships made to murders being solved, the series has increasingly gotten better. I wasn’t impressed with the first book. It was so-so, but not a must have book for me. By the time I turned the final page of Dragon Justice I actually liked one of the narrators.

Bonita Torres has grown in the two years she has worked for PUPI. She no longer jumps in bed with any man or woman who catches her fancy, but she’s not willing to open herself completely to the merge which connects her to one of her bosses, a man named Benjamin Venec. Their relationship is on the cusp of changing, but is waiting for them to both accept and allow the change.

Out of the four books in the series, Dragon Justice is the least focused on paranormal forensic techniques. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, but the emphasis is placed on characters and their interactions. It’s plot driven which is why I enjoyed it.

I’ve got to tell you Dragon Justice doesn’t feel like the final book in the series. It has a conclusion, but there are many places Gilman can still take the characters. Major things happen in the book (some of which I’m not convinced is permanent). However, there’s a sentence which summarizes my feelings of the book as a whole.

“Fire in the sky, the deep, burning chasm of emotion, the hunger and anger…and the sense of something still waiting.”–p. 322

Hard to decipher? That’s on purpose. I won’t give the plot away! I simply felt like I was waiting for something major to happen the entire length of the book. That slight feeling of “bad to come” never paid off and I’m going to feel cheated if another book isn’t published to address that notion. Although according to Gilman’s website which was updated May 2012, I might just be left unsatisfied. She has only been contracted to publish four books in the PSI series.

New TV Shows: Elementary

15 Jun

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Review: Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones

1 Dec

Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones
St. Martin’s Press (Aug. 2011)
Hardback: $21.99; ebook: $9.99
ISBN: 9780312360818

Favorite Lines: “I locked the door behind me, essentially leaving the son of Satan in my apartment. Alone. Annoyed. And quite possibly sexually frustrated. A niggling in the back of my mind had me hoping I didn’t make him angry. I would hate for him to catch my bachelorette pad on hellfire.” (p. 48)

When Charley is rudely awakened in the middle of the night by her best friend who tells her to get dressed quickly and tosses clothes out of the closet at her, she can’t help but wonder what Cookie’s up to. Leather scrunch boots with a floral miniskirt? Together? Seriously? Cookie explains that a friend of hers named Mimi disappeared five days earlier and that she just got a text from her setting up a meet at a coffee shop downtown. They show up at the coffee shop, but no Mimi. But Charley finds a message on the bathroom wall. Mimi left a clue, a woman’s name. Mimi’s husband explains that his wife had been acting strange since she found out an old friend of hers from high school had been found murdered a couple weeks prior. The same woman Mimi had named in her message.

Meanwhile, Reyes Alexander Farrow (otherwise known as the Son of Satan. Yes. Literally) has left his corporeal body and is haunting Charley. He’s left his body because he’s being tortured by demons who want to lure Charley closer. But Reyes can’t let that happen. Because if the demons get to Charley, they’ll have a portal to heaven. And if they have a portal to heaven…well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty. Can Charley handle hot nights with Reyes and even hotter days tracking down a missing woman? Will Cookie ever get a true fashion sense? And is there enough coffee and chocolate in the world to fuel them as they do?

If you like the idea of a female Grim Reaper, you’ll love Darynda Jones‘ Charley Davidson series. Second Grave on the Left combines humor, passion and mystery into a delightful roller coaster ride which ends with an OMG exclamation.

Do not skip book one thinking you’ll start the series with book two. While the story recaps the highlights of First Grave on the Right, it in no way is a substitute for it. We learn about Charley, her family and friends, her love interest Reyes, as well as the world in which they live in book one.

This book, Second Grave on the Left, showcases Charley’s friendships, gives a better look at her family life and of course heats the pages with scenes filled with the drool worthy son of Satan. Set only one week after the events of book one, Charley is still reeling from discovering Reyes is the son of Satan when her best friend seeks her help finding a missing friend. While she investigates a series of deaths, Charley gets a little help from an incorporeal Reyes. His human body is being tortured by demons and he plans to let it die. Reyes wants Charley to let him go. When that doesn’t work, he is brutally honest about the lengths he will go to prevent his father from entering heaven. His honesty makes him more attractive to me and Charley’s reaction to it proves she is in for the long haul. She would do anything for him–even things he might hate her for.

Second Grave to the Left is a mixture of mystery and paranormal with a sprinkling of romance told in the first person from Charley’s POV. It’s snarky, bloody and satisfying. The whirlwind of action includes old school gangsters, fake FBI agents and a ghost in a car all of whom vie for Charley’s attention. It never becomes overwhelming or distracting though.  The next book, Third Grave Dead Ahead, will be released in February 2012.

Review: First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

9 Nov

 First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones
St. Martin’s Press (Feb. 2011)
Hardback: $22.99; ebook: $9.99; Mass Market: $7.99
ISBN: 9780312662752

Favorite Lines: “I could think of nothing else but the utter sensuality of this perfect being.” (p. 74)

Charley Davidson is a part-time private investigator and full-time grim reaper. Meaning, she sees dead people. Really. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (like murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an entity who has been following her all her life…and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely. But what does he want with Charley? And why can’t she seem to resist him? And what does she have to lose by giving in?

First Grave on the Right is a supernatural mystery told from the first person point of view. The reader discovers information at the same time as the heroine, Charley, who is telling the story. Currently there are two books in the Charley Davidson series published, as well as a novella. Book three, Third Grave Dead Ahead, will be released in February 2012.

What you need to know about the heroine: Charley is a silly woman. Her boobs have names–Danger and Will Robinson. She has a wicked sense of humor that she wields as a weapon. Her reasons for doing so become clear as she reminisces about her family and past. In a way, she reminds me of Sookie Stackhouse.

Why? She gets her ass kicked often in the story. She has a good heart, is so attractive that men seem to flock to her and has a nose for danger. She wants to help everyone, but she also wants to learn about herself. Charley already knows that she is a grim reaper. She knows that dead people are able to leave the living plane of life by crossing through her. There are many things that she doesn’t understand and some of them revolve around a teenager who made a major impact in her life.

That teenager is now a grown man and Charley is determined to find him. The information she discovers is heartbreak worthy and makes me want the man he has become. The drama all leads up to a major revelation which will rock the foundation of everything Charley has ever known. While Charley learns about her mystery man, she is working a triple homicide case and concluding a private investigation involving an abused woman. Her life is constantly in danger, but she somehow seems to always survive.

The mystery aspects of the story are well written and have been interwoven with plots surrounding Charlie’s personal life. Each plot device distract from the other just enough to convincingly muddy the waters and prevent the reader from discovering too much or becoming irritated with any one direction the story is likely to take. I learned information at a steady pace and never felt the need to skip ahead or skim pages. I wanted to know what happened and it was a pleasure to read it as it unfolded.

However, there were a few things that worked my nerves. Several sentences and facts are reiterated too often. I get that the heroine likes to give nasty stares at people who work her nerves or to get a reaction out of people. But I don’t need to keep reading  “death stare.” And the heroine seemed to take a ton of showers. Those are minor irritations, though, and did little to impact my enjoyment of the book.

If you’re looking for a book about a private investigator with sex appeal and the ability to see the dead, First Grave on the Right is the book for you.

Review: Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo

22 Jul

Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo
Minotaur Books (June 2011)
Hardback: $24.99; ebook: $11.99
ISBN: 9780312374990

Favorite Lines: “You fucking bitch! I wish I’d killed you, too!” (p. 294)

The Slabaugh family are model Amish farmers, prosperous and hardworking, with four children and a happy extended family. When the parents and an uncle are found dead in their barn, it appears to be a gruesome accident: methane gas asphyxiation caused by a poorly ventilated cesspit. But in the course of a routine autopsy, the coroner discovers that one of the victims suffered a head wound before death—clearly, foul play was involved. But who would want to make orphans of the Slabaughs’ children? And is this murder somehow related to a recent string of shocking hate crimes against the Amish?

Having grown up Amish, Kate is determined to bring the killer to justice. Because the other series of attacks are designated hate crimes, the state sends in agent John Tomasetti, with whom Kate has a long and complex relationship. Together, they search for the link between the crimes—and uncover a dark secret at work beneath the placid surface of this idyllic Amish community.

Book three in Linda Castillo’s Kate Bukholder series, Breaking Silence, is awesome. I read the book in one sitting and despite never having read the first two books had no problem.

The series is set in Painter’s Creek, Ohio, right smack dab in Amish country. The story is told in both third and first person. While in third person the reader gets into the mind hate crime perpetrators and other secondary characters. When the story is told in first person, we are watching events unfold through Kate, the heroine’s eyes.

At first the story seems to be an open and shut who dun it; find out who is committing hate crimes. As the thriller gets underway, we see new evidence that indicates more is going on than meets the eye. The author doesn’t give away much, but I’ve got an evil mind and figured out a particular person’s involvement in the Amish homicides.

If you’re like me, you’ll be saying, “Oh, my God!” as the story unfolds.

I enjoyed the variety of ways Castillo showcased the Amish. They weren’t just separatists. They were friendly and hostile. Some had technology while others did not. And that while being shunned was not a good thing, it didn’t mean the same thing to every Amish family.

I had a problem reconciling myself to not knowing Kate or her lover, John’s back stories. Things are hinted at, but it takes a while to figure out why the crimes are affecting Kate and John so much. Sure they are brutal, but the intense personal investment they make, especially Kate, wasn’t revealed until the end of the book. Those familiar with the series probably knew why, but I didn’t. I’m sure they were discussed in the previous two books: Pray for Silence and Sworn to Silence. Obviously it is my problem and not a failure of the author and it really didn’t bother me too much.

Buy it or Skip it? Buy it. It’s a thriller filled with small, engaging twists. You may think you know what’s going to happen, but in the end you might be shocked. I can’t wait to hear what y’all think about it.

In the meanwhile check out what others are saying about Breaking Silence:

S. Krishna’s Books
Lesa’s Book Critiques
Miss Lynn’s Books & More

Review: The First Victim by J.B. Lynn

17 Jun

The First Victim by J.B. Lynn (Hate the cover. Love the story.)
Carina Press (June 2011)
e-book: $4.99
ISBN: 9781426891748
Excerpt: Click here.

Favorite Lines: “He couldn’t wait to play with them. But not yet. It wasn’t time. Soon though. Right now there was another girl he wanted to toy with. He was putting the finishing touches on their playroom right now. The walls had been soundproofed. No one would hear her scream. The tools were laid out. Waiting for when he was ready for them. The brand-new clothes he’d bought to dress her up i had been washed in rose water. Crushing them in his fist, he raised them to his nose. They smelled so good. Not as good as she’d smell though.” (p. 41 e-ARC) Continue reading

Review: South of Salem by Janni Nell

25 May

South of Salem by Janni Nell
Carina Press (May 30, 2011)
e-book: $4.99 (66,000 words)
ISBN: 9781426891670

Favorite Lines: “”The Sir Galahad Award for Honorable Treatment of Women.”

I didn’t ask whether he was serious. I could tell by his expression that he was. Curious, I asked, “Who are the other nominees?”

“Henry the Eighth, Caligula and Jack the Ripper.”” (p. 108) Continue reading

Review: Waking Evil by Kylie Brant

27 Apr

Waking Evil by Kylie Brant
Berkley Sensation (October 2009)
Mass Market: $7.99
ISBN: 978-0-425-23071-8

Favorite Lines: “One minute she was upright, and the next he’d tripped her and her face was pressed in the dirt. His booted foot was on her back. “Damn right it does. And I’d like to tell you all ‘bout just how smart I am. But more than that, I’d like to show you.” The rifle barrel caressed a cool path over her cheek. “Because if ever there was a woman who needed spiritual cleansing, it’s you.”” (p. 333)

Buffalo Springs, Tennessee is a neighborly kind of place where folks leave their doors unlocked and crime is unheard of. But once every generation, a strange red mist settles over the town, and with it comes omens of death…

When the body of a young woman is found, forensic investigator Ramsey Clark is called in. She knows about the legend of the mist and about the curse that has the entire town afraid of the dark. But Ramsey believes in evidence, not superstition, despite what she’s told by the parapsychologist who has been dogging her every step. Then another murder rocks Buffalo Springs, and Ramsey begins to wonder if a killer is playing on everyone’s fears or if a prophecy is indeed being fulfilled—one victim at a time.

Waking Evil is the second book in Kylie Brant’s Mindhunters series. I did not read the first book, Waking Nightmare, but I was able to read this book without a problem. It can be read as a stand alone. As of 2011—there are five books in this series.

It’s a romantic suspense which is told from the third person POV.  The “all seeing eye” shows the story from the hero, heroine, a victim and villain’s points of view. During the time the reader is with the hero and heroine, the past which helped form their characters is brought up. For me it showed the growth their characters made off pages. The characters we meet are not the same people they were 10 years previous to the story being told.

The suspense was great. The story was well thought out and I liked the way the past was brought to light not only with the main characters, but within Buffalo Springs. The biggest issue I had with the book was the romance. I don’t find it plausible that Ramsey and Devlin fell in love so fast. They fell in love over the course of a few days. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, because they want to create a life together. I’m not sure that they will be able to have a HEA.

Waking Evil doesn’t really even feel like a romance. It feels like a suspense with a slight romantic thread.

Be aware that there is a slight paranormal aspect to this book. I was a little surprised by it, although looking back I shouldn’t have been. The only reason it works is because Devlin is a paranormal investigator. Honestly, I could have done without any paranormal action at all. In the end, the story was exciting but not one that I see myself reading again.

Review: Blackberry Crumble by Josi S. Kilpack

13 Apr

Blackberry Crumble by Josi S. Kilpack
Desert Book (March 9, 2011)
Trade: $17.99
ISBN: 978-1-60641-941-0

Favorite Lines: “Not all things broken could be fixed; Sadie knew that from her own experience with loss and with life in general. She’d been reminded of the same thing in spades as she’d watched the depth of human suffering this week and tried to comprehend the evil that could rot men’s—and women’s—souls And yet, as the sun came up every morning, as the roses bloomed every spring, she was reminded again that there was healing even in a world so full of confusion and pain. There was hope. There was love.

And love, above all things, was worth the battle. (p. 362)

The word is out about Sadie Hoffmiller’s amateur detective work, but it’s not exactly the kind of publicity Sadie wants. In the newest culinary mystery from bestselling author Josi Kilpack, Sadie accepts her first investigation-for-hire and travels to Portland, Oregon, at the request of a woman who has suspicions about her wealthy father’s untimely death. Putting her detective skills to the test, Sadie delves into a past business partnership that didn’t end well, discovers some unsavory family secrets, and exposes more than a few motives for murder. When the investigation leads to threats against her safety, Sadie pretends to crumble under the pressure. But secretly, she is more determined than ever to uncover answers that seem to be buried in shocking scandal, insatiable appetites, and pure greed.

I’m a little surprised to say this, but I really enjoyed Kilpack’s Blackberry Crumble. It’s a feel good mystery featuring a 56-year-old widow. When I put the book down, I felt lighter…happier. The book is fifth in the Culinary Mystery series, but it is the first Kilpack book I’ve ever read and I had no problems. Enough is explained about the past to make it possible to read Blackberry Crumble as a stand alone.

First I you need to be warned. Don’t read this book when you’re hungry. The food sounds delicious and will have you craving…wait for it…blackberry crumble. The book has 11 recipes: blueberry muffin tops, potato salad, crab dip, cherry chocolate chip cookies, triple-berry summer salad, salmon and wild mushroom casserole, loaded bread dip, bacon ice-cream, bran muffins, blackberry crumble and second-chance baked potato soup. I can’t wait to try most of them. If you weren’t hungry before you stated the book, odds are you will be before you set the book down. But back to the story.

In previous books Sadie, the heroine, stumbled upon different mysteries and helped solve them. This time she is approached by a woman requesting Sadie investigate her father’s death. Apparently the morning newspaper featured an article about Sadie and her past. It questioned her character and the whole town seemed to be speaking about it. Going to church becomes a trial as the congregants whisper behind Sadie’s back. In addition, while Sadie thinks her relationship with Pete is leading toward love, commitment and marriage, there are signs that Pete may not agree. Sadie makes it clear that she is not a licensed PI, but when the woman persists in wanting to hire her, she agrees. It will get her away from town for a while and give her a chance work on her PI skills.

Blackberry Crumble has a few Bible quotes and religious comments, but they aren’t over the top or preachy. Religion is both a way of life for Sadie and a part of her. She’s not embarrassed or ashamed of her beliefs, yet she doesn’t force them on others. It all plays into how she lives her life: with integrity.

In regards to the mystery, I thought I knew who the killer was. I was partially correct, but in mysteries it’s all or nothing. Or maybe all or you’re dead. Dysfunction is at its best in Blackberry Crumble.

Conclusion: It’s refreshing to read a book about a mature woman whose kids have flown the nest. I liked her reaction to dating and the world around her. The situations she found herself in were both amusing and fascinating. I’m not going to read previous books in the series, but I do see myself picking up the next installment, Pumpkin Roll which will be released in this fall (2011).