Stacking the Shelves (109)

Stacking the Shelves

I just realized that I have Christmas romances for the next three Christmases! Everything from Tule Publishing always looks so yummy when I see it on NetGalley, then I forget how many I have until Saturday. OMG

8 is really an audiobook. It’s the full-cast recording of the play by Dustin Lance Black about the court case to fight Prop 8 in California. Because I loved Forcing the Spring so much (review on Monday), I couldn’t resist hearing the fictional version.

For Review:
All I Want for Christmas is You (Coming Home #5.5) by Jessica Scott
The Axeman’s Jazz by Ray Celestin
Bad Romeo by Leisa Rayven
Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss
Christmas in Venice (Christmas Around the World #3) by Joanne Walsh
Christmas at Waratah Bay (Christmas Around the World #1) by Marion Lennox
Christmas with the Laird (Christmas Around the World #2) by Scarlet Wilson
A Cowgirl’s Christmas (Carrigans of the Circle C #5) by CJ Carmichael
A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall
Down and Dirty (Cole McGinnis #5) by Rhys Ford
Just in Time for Christmas (Southern Born Christmas #2) by Kim Boykin
The Mouth of the Crocodile (Mamur Zapt #18) by Michael Pearce
Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview and Other Conversations by Ray Bradbury and Sam Weller
Skeleton Key (Todd & Georgine #1) by Lenore Glen Offord
Tainted Blood (Hell’s Belle #2) by Karen Greco
The Trouble with Christmas (Southern Born Christmas #4) by Kaira Rouda
A Very Married Christmas (Southern Born Christmas #3) by Erika Marks
The Wanderer’s Children (Angelorum Twelve Chronicles #2) by L.G. O’Connor
Windy City Blues (Jules Landau #2) by Marc Krulewitch
A Yorkshire Christmas (Christmas Around the World #4) by Kate Hewitt

Purchased from Amazon:
Escape from Zulaire by Veronica Scott
Mission to Mahjundar by Veronica Scott
Not Quite Dating (Not Quite #1)by Catherine Bybee
Not Quite Enough (Not Quite #3) by Catherine Bybee
Not Quite Mine (Not Quite #2) by Catherine Bybee
The Right Thing by Donna McDonald
Teach Me by Donna McDonald

Borrowed from the Library:
8 by Dustin Lance Black

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Guest Post by Author Jeffe Kennedy on Ebooks and Libraries + Giveaway

My featured guest for today is Jeffe Kennedy, the author of the marvelous fantasy romance series, Covenant of Thorns. The series concludes with today’s featured review book, Rogue’s Paradise, which answers so many of the questions that series fans have been waiting for.

In her guest post, Jeffe talks about one of the subjects near and dear to my heart, getting ebooks into libraries.

Rogues Paradise Button 300 x 225

I love that Reading Reality focuses on ebooks and ebook integration into libraries. This is partly because libraries and librarians have always been such a huge part of my life as a reader. As a writer, too, which is less visible to me. But more and more, librarians come up to me at events and tell me how my ebooks are in their collections and I should know how often they’re checked out and how their patrons just love, love, love them! I’m glad they tell me, because otherwise I have no way of knowing that.

I also appreciate that Marlene is dedicated to bringing ebooks into libraries, especially genre books, because I strongly feel that, without Carina and their willingness to take a chance on my digital series, A Covenant of Thorns, then these books might never have seen the light of day. That’s the terrific thing about ebook publishers—they’ve allowed books that don’t neatly fit into genre categories to have a chance.

rogues pawn goodreadsWhen I started Rogue’s Pawn,, I had no idea that I was writing a story that would “fall into the cracks between genres.” My tale of a modern woman, a professor of neuroscience who passes through a magical gate at Devils Tower and ends up in Faerie—exactly as in the tales of old—would maybe be an urban fantasy. Only with more romance. And sexier.

Okay, like many newbie writers, I had no idea what I was doing. I understood my story, but not how the marketplace worked.

Since I first started shopping that book—to praise for the writing and imagination, followed by rejection for marketability—the market has changed. Carina called it Fantasy Romance and now there’s lots more of those books out there. The Covenant of Thorns trilogy doesn’t sit squarely in Fantasy Romance, but it gets to be in the club still. More, the books have found readers and I’ve gotten to write others.

All because people embraced ebooks and the windows they open.

I couldn’t be more thrilled!

Jeffe KennedyJeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook. Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera, which released beginning January 2, 2014. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and a fifth, the highly anticipated erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, will release starting in July.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website:, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Foreword Literary.

To learn about Jeffe, visit her website or blog or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.


Because I enjoyed the Covenant of Thorns series so much, I want to give some lucky reader the chance to enjoy it too. So, the prize is the winner’s choice of Rogue’s Pawn, Rogue’s Possession or Rogue’s Paradise. These are all ebook only, so anyone can win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Review: Rogue’s Paradise by Jeffe Kennedy

rogues paradise by jeffe kennedyFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genre: paranormal romance, fantasy romance
Series: Covenant of Thorns #3
Length: 280 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: September 8, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KoboAll Romance

Pregnant, possessed, and in love with a man I don’t dare to trust—those are the consequences of the risks I took to save my life. But Faerie, the land of blood and magic, is filled with bitter ironies, and the bargains I made now threaten me and my unborn child.

The darkly sensual fae noble Rogue still tempts me to danger and desire. As we await the birth of our child, I’ve been forced to question whether our offspring is part of a bargain Rogue once made to save himself. He can’t tell me the truth due to a spell the vicious Queen Titania has him under. Would he betray our family against his will? Could I ever forgive him if he does?

Rogue insists on an eternal commitment from me, even as Titania’s forces close in on us. I don’t know if Rogue and I can withstand her onslaught, or that of the beast within me. But I will not stop looking for answers—even if it brings the walls of Faerie crashing down.

My Review:

The fae world in the Covenant of Thorns is built on the concept that powerful mages need to be careful what they wish for, because they might get it.

In other words, if someone says “don’t make me call my flying monkeys” you can bet that they really have flying monkeys on call. (This happens and it’s awesome).

But magic is the power to essentially wish things into being. Including “True Love”, because that seems to be the only power on Earth or in Faerie capable of stopping the Queen Bitch Titania. Who also happens to be mad as a hatter, along with being nearly all powerful.

But not quite. The sorcerer Rogue has the idea that the one thing she can’t win against is two equally powerful mages who willingly share power equally. And the only thing that would make that possible is complete trust. In other words, true love on both sides.

rogues pawn goodreadsThere’s two problems. Rogue wished for a woman who might be capable of being that equally powerful sorceress and might be able to love him. What he got was a woman from our non-magical world with great potential, and he spends a good chunk of Rogue’s Pawn (see review) manipulating her and the situation so that she can come to control her power.

Manipulation does not make for a good path to trust and eventual love, so Rogue makes as many problems for himself as he does solutions. Neither he nor any of the fae know much about love, if anything. His learning curve on that subject is incredibly high, and the cost is one that is paid not only by himself, but also by that woman he brought to faerie, Gwynn.

rogues paradise by jeffe kennedyWhile the story in Rogue’s Possession (see review) may seem by the title that Gwynn is “owned” by Rogue, it isn’t strictly true. It also isn’t strictly not, as she spends much of the series having her agency taken away, and then fighting to get it back. Rogue is trying to seduce her rather than own her, but his ability to understand her true nature comes in fits and starts. Two steps forward, one step back.

Meanwhile, Gwynn has promised, because she had no other choice at the time, to give Rogue her first-born child. She did not stipulate a time, but Titania drugged them both and made sure Gwynn got pregnant. Titania wants to steal the child for her own really disgusting purposes. She needs to be stopped.

Rogue finally finds the way to Gwynn’s heart. Or, in the face of the overwhelming threat, Gwynn decides that since she’s already pregnant, she might as well reap all the benefits of her status. The worst has already happened, so giving in to Rogue’s seduction seems like a reward in comparison.

Together, they have the power to beat Titania back from her campaign to control both Faerie and Earth. But in order to do that, Gwynn has to trust Rogue utterly. Which is something that he has not exactly earned. But still desperately needs.

His wish for “True Love” has bitten him, too. And it’s the best thing that ever happened to him and to Faerie. But only if they all survive.

Escape Rating A-: This entire story, from the beginning in Rogue’s Pawn, works because of Gwynn’s voice. The entire story is in her first-person perspective, so we see this entire strange new world through the eyes of someone who has our sensibilities. As she tries to make sense of things to herself, she also makes sense of them for us.

There’s a thread through the entire series about Gwynn’s agency or lack thereof. At the very beginning, she loses control of her immediate future because someone has to train her in using her incredibly powerful magic. Otherwise, her every thought transforms the world around her beyond bearing.

But that training is both emotionally and physically painful; everything she learns leaves her with a bad case of PTSD and an unwillingness to trust anyone who has been responsible for anything that’s happened to her.

Especially Rogue.

She learns painfully that every thing in Faerie is limited by promises and vows; no words are casual. It is only in this final installment that she knows enough about what is happening around her to understand why Rogue has done the things that he has, and how much he is bound by events that occurred before he wished her into Faerie.

The revelations about the true nature of the Fae, and the true insanity of Titania, make Gwynn (and the reader) understand how high the stakes have been from the very beginning.

The world, as a great writer once said, is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine. That may be true, but Gwynn’s world is marvelous strange, and there are fantastic and wonderful stories told there.

Rogues Paradise Button 300 x 225

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Censorship, Stalking and the Blogger Blackout

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We interrupt our regularly scheduled book blogging in order to bring you a slice of real life where too many worlds are intersecting.

YA author Kathleen Hale admits in her Guardian essay that she didn’t just tweet and post online about her extreme unhappiness with a one-star review she received on Goodreads from a YA book blogger, she fully cops to stalking the pseudonymous blogger in real-life. Hale received the blogger’s address through misrepresentation, and paid an internet search firm to find her work address and phone numbers.

The Guardian essay (here) reads like a piece of fiction, but it isn’t. And the blogger has decided to stop book blogging as a result of this harassment.

Because yes, it is harassment. Parking in your car outside someone’s home, looking in the windows and backyard to see if the furnishings and the dog match pictures on Pinterest, all constitute stalking. Which is illegal.

Hale’s purpose was to shut down or shout out her critic. Not someone who had stalked her, but a book reviewer who received a review copy of Hale’s book and did exactly what she claimed she would do; she posted an honest review on Goodreads. She didn’t criticize Hale as a person, she criticized her commercially available work.

Which is something that book bloggers do every single day. Because we love reading in general, even if we don’t love a particular book. So we share what we liked, and what we didn’t. We provide our own opinion, not speaking ex cathedra, and all we ask is that our readers use our words as a tool for evaluating what they choose or don’t choose to spend their own time reading.

I use my real name in this blog. I am fairly easy to find. The conduct of Hale and those who support her is frightening, and it creates a chilling effect for any blogger who finds some of the books they read as less than stellar.

That chilling effect I refer to is just another name for censorship. It is a way of frightening people into censoring themselves, so that they do not publish material that the censor finds unacceptable. In this case, it has both worked and not. The original blogger has chosen to stop blogging; her real life has been threatened and she has had enough.

Many of us are taking the opportunity to highlight this offensive behavior and the negative effects it has on the book and reading community. This week, many book blogs are posting a blackout day or week to commemorate this event. The blackout has been organized by Dear Author with this post. She is publishing essays this week to give a brief glimpse of what it would be like for publishing if we all stopped providing reviews. The Book Pushers will also be blacked out for a day, as am I.

Instead of a book review, I’m posting this essay to show my support for Dear Author and the blackout, and to go on record that my reviews will not be written in fear.

I am also a gamer. A female gamer, one of the 48% of the gaming population that identifies as female. (Much as I hate giving in to the need to prove my creds here, I will say that my copy of Dragon Age Inquisition has been on pre-order for months.) Women who write critically about video games and the video game industry are stalked, catfished and receive death threats, unfortunately on a regular basis. I hear an echo of Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu’s treatment in this case where an author stalks a critic, and I am chilled.

But now cowed. And especially not silenced.

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Review: Heaven’s Queen by Rachel Bach

heaven's queen by rachel bachFormat read: ebook (purchased)
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Science fiction; space opera
Series: Paradox, #3
Length: 388 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Date Released: April 22, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

From the moment she took a job on Captain Caldswell’s doomed ship, Devi Morris’ life has been one disaster after another: government conspiracies, two alien races out for her blood, an incurable virus that’s eating her alive.

Now, with the captain missing and everyone — even her own government — determined to hunt her down, things are going from bad to impossible. The sensible plan would be to hide and wait for things to blow over, but Devi’s never been one to shy from a fight, and she’s getting mighty sick of running.

It’s time to put this crisis on her terms and do what she knows is right. But with all human life hanging on her actions, the price of taking a stand might be more than she can pay.

My Review:

The titles of the Paradox series did not really resonate with me until Devi herself brought it to my attention.

“Hello, Deviana,” he said, his voice calm and dreamy. “It is always a pleasure to share space with any companion of my darling Novascape and Copernicus. I was just about to start a game. Do you play chess?”

My smile vanished. Why did all these former Eye types keep asking me that? “No,” I said, “I don’t know how.”

I feel you Devi. I’m not a chess fan myself, and I do not enjoy anyone trying to turn chess into a metaphor for life. It’s just a game people. Personally, I hope that by the time human society has expanded into several galaxies, and encountered a multitude of sentient alien life, we would have moved beyond the chess obsession.

Which is to say, that unlike Marlene, the chess comparisons do not resonate with me. Devi’s character does evolve over the course of the series (which I discussed in detail in my review of Honor’s Knight), but, much to my chagrin, she doesn’t mature into a queen in her own right.

However, we’re all forever grateful that Devi booted Charkov off the angst-ridden-love-slave train. I finally started to get behind their relationship once he’d started sharing necessary information about the Eyes, Maat, and the Daughters with Devi. Basically once he stopped waffling and went all in, I could ship it.

Then…well, then I found out why people have been comparing this series to urban fantasy. “Devi, I am a tortured old vampire man, the last survivor of my species planet, who never understood love until you. Alas, my demon symbiont hates you for bringing joy to my soul and will forever try to take you from me. I am so utterly selfishly enslaved by your vagina that I couldn’t bear to leave before, but now, despite always knowing this would happen, I truly know how dangerous I am. Woe. Ennui.”

“The only way you put me in danger was by not telling me this shit earlier!” I yelled, ignoring the pain in my throat as I shot to my feet as well. “If you want to beat yourself up over something, beat yourself up over that, but like hell am I letting you abandon me out of some stupid, chivalrous, self-punishing sense of guilt.”

YES. Of course, being Devi, she immediately solves the problems that Eyes have been plagued with for 90+ years on symbiont control. The Eyes clearly needed to recruit more practical soldier types, and fewer True Believers.

Once we all stop rolling our eyes at the romance hurdles, Rachel Bach decides to use the opportunity to drop a Paradoxian-society-bomb in our laps.

I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing. It was horribly inappropriate, but I couldn’t stop. He just looked so damn earnest. “You can’t get me pregnant,” I said when I finally got a hold of myself. “I’m Paradoxian, remember?”

The look on Rupert’s face at that moment was absolutely priceless. “What does that have to do with it?”

“I never got out from under the ban,” I said, wiping my eyes. “Honestly, Rupert, what kind of girl did you think I was?”

If Rupert had looked bewildered before, he looked absolutely dumbfounded now. “Ban?”

My smile faded. “The king’s fertility ban.” When that got nothing, I spelled it out for him. “All Paradoxians are sterilized at twelve. Breeding rights aren’t returned until you’ve finished your military service.”

Rupert’s bewildered expression had turned horrified by the time I finished, and I put my hands on my hips. “How do you not know this? The ban’s been in place for over a century. It was all over the Terran propaganda during the Border Wars.”

“Exactly,” Rupert said. “I always thought it was just propaganda.” He pushed up on his elbows, looking me straight in the face. “You’re seriously saying your government forcibly sterilized you?”

“Not forcibly,” I said. “My mom took me in to get it done on my birthday. The whole thing was over in ten minutes. And it’s not like it’s forever. I’ve been eligible to have it reversed for years. I just never saw the point. I mean, do I look like the sort of person who wants to worry about babies?”

I finished with a grin at the ridiculousness of that idea, but Rupert was still staring at me like I’d grown a second head. “I’m sorry,” he said, falling back on the bed as he reached up to rub his temples. “It’s just, it sounds a bit barbaric.”

“How so?” I asked, lifting my chin. “All Paradoxian children are wards of the king. You can’t let just anyone have them. We’re not animals, having babies all over the place. Barbaric, indeed. If you ask me, we’re the civilized ones. You Terrans let anybody be a parent no matter how young or unprepared or undeserving they are.”

As I said this, I was again reminded how blessed I was to have been born under the Sacred King’s prudence. I couldn’t imagine growing up in the Republic with no living saint to watch over you. But while I was feeling rightly superior, Rupert had started to chuckle.

I still love the universe-building in this series, but what the fuck is this shit?!

Devi your creepy religious government has literally taken control of your body as a means of forcing military service and ensuring that only the devout breed?! How are you not bothered by this?! At this point, all my hopes that Devi would take out the so-called Sacred King when she dismantled the Eyes horrifying Daughter system crumbled into dust.

In the end, Devi could never buy into the Eyes’ fervor, because she was already a True Believer. Just a different flavor of devout, and no amount of exposure to other species, races, cultures, societies, and proof that her goddamn Sacred King was willing to sell of any of his (female) wards to the Eyes’ on a moment’s notice was going to change that.

In Heaven’s QueenDevi finally realizes that she has no one to rely on but herself and her Cook. Even Maat is an unpredictable ally. (Though you really can’t blame her. Almost a century of being used, abused, betrayed, and disregarded – it’d be hard to believe in sincerity).

Caldswell, Brenton and company all play a big part in the finale, namely trying (and failing) to put a leash on Devi. The problem with putting a bioweapon inside a sentient being is that person is going to have an opinion on how it is used. And when that person is Devi, said opinions will be expressed with a multitude of firepower and sass.

I can’t really delve too much into the overarching plot without giving things away. But it is safe to say that Paradoxians are creepily brainwashed from infancy, Terrans are moronically unable to think in any fashion that is not directly linear, and together they are both easily duped by and alien race, a psychotic immortal teenager, and/or a gun-happy mercenary.

Escape Rating: C+ for taking me on an exhilarating ride, and giving me the most unsatisfying conclusion. The last few pages of the book are just like watching the last few minutes of Battlestar Galactica. (Wow, that show was awesome….wait so Hera just screwed a bunch of neanderthals? Whaaaaa?). 

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah and Agatha Christie

monogram murders by sophie hannah and agatha christieFormat read: ebook borrowed from the library
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: mystery
Series: Hercule Poirot #43
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Date Released: September 9, 2014
Purchasing Info: Sophie Hannah’s Website, Agatha Christie’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Hercule Poirot’s quiet supper in a London coffeehouse is interrupted when a young woman confides to him that she is about to be murdered. She is terrified – but begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer. Once she is dead, she insists, justice will have been done.

Later that night, Poirot learns that three guests at a fashionable London Hotel have been murdered, and a cufflink has been placed in each one’s mouth. Could there be a connection with the frightened woman? While Poirot struggles to put together the bizarre pieces of the puzzle, the murderer prepares another hotel bedroom for a fourth victim…

My Review:

I enjoyed reading The Monogram Murders quite a bit. Enough to finish it in a single day.

However, for all the purists out there, my primary introduction to the works of Dame Agatha is through the TV series; I have read a very few of the actual books, but mostly, I have enjoyed the various performances of her work.

David Suchet as Poirot

David Suchet as Poirot

I could hear David Suchet as Poirot in many of his lines in The Monogram Murders. Which does not make the book the epitome of Dame Agatha’s, work, but does make it seem in keeping with his TV portrayal of Poirot. So perhaps a good adaptation of an adaptation?

The entree to The Monogram Murders certainly seemed to fit Poirot; he takes a vacation to rest his “little grey cells” by pretending to leave London. Instead he takes a room at a boarding house within sight of his apartments.

He also finds a mystery where at first there doesn’t seem to be one; the mysterious and seemingly frightened “Jennie” who interrupts his dinner to announce that someone is trying to murder her and that she deserves it. The scenario is guaranteed to garner Poirot’s interest. As it was intended both by the author and by Jennie herself.

All of Poirot’s mysteries are complicated and convoluted, and this one proves to be no exception.

Meanwhile, Poirot’s erstwhile friend, the police detective Edward Catchpool, has left the scene of not one, but three murders in an upscale hotel. Although the victims initially seem to have nothing in common, all their bodies were formally laid out in the same ceremonial manner, leading to the inevitable conclusion that they were all murdered by the same person.

When Poirot and Catchpool relate their evening activities to each other back at the rooming house, Poirot immediately jumps to the conclusion that his mysterious Jennie is somehow involved with Catchpool’s three murders.

Catchpool is a reasonably good detective; his version of Occam’s Razor tells him that while the three murder victims must have something to do with each other, Poirot’s Jennie, while possibly in trouble, couldn’t possibly have anything to do with his case.

Of course Catchpool is wrong, or this wouldn’t be a case for Hercule Poirot.

Philip Jackson as Inspector Japp

Philip Jackson as Inspector Japp

Poirot takes it upon himself (doesn’t he always?) to insert himself into his friend’s case. Catchpool is savvy enough to know that while he will get the official credit (or official blame if it goes wrong) it is really Poirot’s case and Catchpool is just there to give Poirot official standing. He’s also aware that he isn’t senior enough to be left a case this big on his own without Poirot. He feels slightly trapped a good chunk of the time. (I wonder how Inspector Japp used to feel?)

The murders seem like the kind of overdone melodrama that is also designed to get Poirot’s attention. The three victims not only knew each other, but were involved in a long-ago scandal that resulted in two suicides. It’s no wonder that someone killed them, it’s just a question of who.

And whether or not there will be another victim before Poirot figures things out.

Escape Rating B-: As I said at the top, I could practically hear David Suchet reading Poirot’s dialog, so the story felt like it captured his “voice” pretty well.

On the other hand, and while this seems off-topic it wasn’t for me; Edward Catchpool’s name reminded me all too much of Eric Catchpole, the assistant on Lovejoy. Eric is not the brightest bulb in the pack, so that resemblance was not a good thing. (I digress)

I did wonder why the author created an entirely new sidekick for Poirot instead of using any of the familiar faces. Where was Japp? Has he retired by the time of this story? (I miss the original crew of Japp, Hastings and Lemon.)

One of the things that struck me in the book, that is often swept along by the action in the TV series, is just how convoluted the mystery turns out to be. Naturally, the perpetrator is never the obvious person, or Poirot’s help would not be needed, but still, the way that this particular crime reached back into the distant past felt a bit contrived.

Also, the originating scandal was one that may have been reasonable at the point where Christie was writing, but the behavior of the people in that small village 16 years previous to this story just didn’t feel true-to-life. Or it may be that times have changed just too much. Your milage may vary.

monogram murders by sophie hannah international edAlthough speaking of the times changing, the international cover of The Monogram Murders captures the art deco feeling that one associates with Poirot much better than the US cover. Again, milage definitely varies.

None of these quibbles change the fact that I had an absolutely marvelous time reading The Monogram Murders. It reminds me more than a bit of Jill Paton Walsh’s re-creations of Lord Peter Wimsey; it may not be the original, but it is the best we’ve got. If it’s an echo of Christie’s genius, it is still a lovely echo to hear.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: The Key by Pauline Baird Jones

key by pauline baird jonesFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Project Enterprise #1)
Length: 471 pages
Publisher: L & L Dreamspell
Date Released: August 14, 2007
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

When Sara Donovan joins Project Enterprise she finds out that what doesn’t kill her makes her stronger. An Air Force pilot – the best of the best to be assigned to this mission – Sara isn’t afraid to travel far beyond the Milky Way on an assignment that takes her into a galaxy torn apart by a long and bitter warfare between the Dusan and the Gadi. After she’s shot down and manages to land safely on an inhospitable planet, Sara encounters Kiernan Fyn – a seriously hot alien with a few secrets of his own – he’s a member of a resistance group called the Ojemba, lead by the mysterious and ruthless Kalian. Together they must avoid capture, but can they avoid their growing attraction to each other? A mysterious, hidden city on the planet brings Sara closer to the answers she seeks – about her baffling abilities and her mother’s past. She has no idea she’s being pulled into the same danger her mother fled – the key to a secret left behind by a lost civilization, the Garradians. The Dusan and the Gadi want the key. So do the Ojemba. They think Sara has it. They are willing to do anything to get it. Sara will have to do anything to stop them.

My Review:

The difficult thing about reviewing for the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly isn’t the book I’m assigned–it’s the commitment to review one “classic” work of SFR. The definition of “classic” is thankfully loose–the book just has to be older than the current quarter.

core punch by pauline baird jonesSince I chose Core Punch by Pauline Baird Jones for my current book (review to come), my decision was made for me, sorta/kinda. Core Punch is a spinoff of not one but two of Jones’ series; Project Enterprise and The Big Uneasy. Much as I love the sound of The Big Uneasy (yes, it’s New Orleans) it doesn’t quite seem like SFR.

The Key is very much SFR. And here we are.

The crew of Project Enterprise, which in this story is a group of ships, and not just one intrepid explorer, has definitely gone where no Terran has gone before. Unfortunately, they’ve ended up in a galaxy under extreme contention between two empires, the Gadi and the Dusan. The non-aligned Terrans, and their flagship Doolittle, choose sides pretty quickly when the Dusan start a shooting war without provocation.

If the Doolittle isn’t named after Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle, U.S. Army Air Forces, the leader of the famous “Doolittle Raid” over Tokyo during World War II, I’ll eat my rocketship. Or yours, just find me one.

The Key to the story, and to the intergalactic hi-jinks that ensue, is Captain Sara Donovan, a hot shot Air Force pilot who joined to explore new worlds meet new people, and kill them. Mostly Sara just wants to fly fast and far. The mission of Project Enterprise to another galaxy is about as far as it gets.

Except that she may have come right back to where she belongs. Sara bears an incredibly strong resemblance to a legendary woman of the Garradians, and all the planetary powers that be are much too certain that Sara is the key to a vast treasure-trove, because the legendary Miri must have given that key to her.

And Sara, who has always been firmly convinced that she is not beautiful, is utterly certain that all this alien interest in her is a result of who she resembles, not who she is.

So the chase is on. Sara just wants to fly. The rulers of both the Gadi and the Dusan want her to be their queen. Or their chief prostitute. Or their slave. Opinions vary, but both Sara and her commanding officers are sure that whatever fate the locals have in store for Sara, it isn’t for her good. Or anything she would ever want.

What she thinks she wants is Kiernan Fyn, the alien she found on a deserted planet. After the Dusan crashed her ship. And it turns out, his ship. They might be made for each other, if he can manage to spill all the secrets that chain him to his old life.

And if Sara is willing to embrace her destiny.

Escape Rating A-: The Key is a huge, sprawling space opera of a book, so be prepared to wallow in the pleasure of exploring this universe for a good long time. Emphasis on both “good” and “long”.

girl gone nova by pauline baird jonesI’m annoyed at the “long” because I want to dive into the rest of the series (Girl Gone Nova is next) right this minute–and I’m booked up until late October at the earliest. DAMN!

Sara is a terrific heroine, not just because she seriously kicks ass, but because all of her actions, even the ones she isn’t conscious of, have incredibly good reasons behind them. I also loved that while she does fall “gooey in love” with Fyn, it doesn’t remove her brains, her reason or her agency. This is Sara’s story, and she’s not in it looking for Prince Charming. She’s in it to take care of herself and do the best job she can for her country.

Finding Prince Charming, or even Hot Alien sometimes Charming, is a bonus.

Speaking of Sara’s country, she really is a U.S. Air Force Captain. This series is set in a slightly alternate version of our world (well, back home it is) and does not seem to be very far removed (if at all) from our current timeframe. It’s as if the U.S. Government has a “black” project to solve Faster-Than-Light (FTL) travel right now, and it worked. Sara and her team’s pop culture references are very contemporary, which was fun and provided lots of perspective, but seems slightly off, unless that “black” project exists after all.

It feels like she should be just a bit further into our future than she is, or that our past should be different than it was.

While I like Fyn, a lot, he does fill the role of alpha male with big secret more than he stands out as an individual. He fills that role very well, but this is Sara’s show. It felt like I’ve met his type on Star Trek a million times–not that that is a bad thing.

What shone for me was Sara’s relationship with her commanders and crewmates. While she has deliberately suppressed much of what makes her “extra-special” in order to blend in, the depth of her commitment to her ship and to the crew that serves her feels right. She calls herself a fighter-puke and she presents herself as such. (Think Starbuck on BSG but with a bit more respect for the rules). She sees the crew and the Air Force as family, and it’s mutual.

If you like your space opera with romance, The Key is a fantastic way to get your fix. The way that Sara and Fyn meet is reminiscent of Cordelia and Aral in Shards of Honor. The role that Sara both fulfills and subverts reads a bit like Gillaine Davre in Linnea Sinclair’s Accidental Goddess. Those are terrific “fairy godmothers” for any SFR.

Website-button-01-300x200This review originally appeared in Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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