How to Dance With a Duke

How to Dance with a Duke by Manda Collins has all the elements to make a delightfully frothy Regency romance; the hero is a Duke as well as a wounded warrior and the heroine is a bluestocking who only needs a little wardrobe consultation to transform from ugly duckling to beautiful swan.

Then there are the added elements from the dawn of modern archaeology, the men of the mysterious Egyptian Explorer’s Club who refuse to let our heroine translate her father’s diaries from his most recent expedition. And there are mummies and curses and of course, grave robbers and black market collectors.  A little mystery and mayhem always spices up a romance.

This romance starts out a bit rocky. When our couple first meet outside that Egyptian Explorer’s Club, they have both been shown the door. Miss Cecily Hurston, because unmarried ladies are not permitted inside under any circumstances. His Grace the Duke of Winterson, because he is not a member. And he is never going to be a member, either. On the Club’s most recent expedition, his brother, Mr. William Dalton, disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and is presumed dead. Cecily’s father, Viscount Hurston, led that expedition, had some kind of falling out with his secretary, and now lies in a coma. His death is believed to be imminent.

Of course, Hurston’s secretary was the Duke’s brother William. Lucas wants to find out what Hurston knows, but Hurston isn’t talking. He isn’t conscious. Failing that, Lucas would like to talk to Cecily. But when they meet outside the Explorer’s Club, they have their first fight. Not their last.

In spite of the continuous arguments, they finally agree to join forces. Lucas needs to find out what happened to his younger brother, not just for his own sake, but also for his mother’s. Not knowing is eating them alive. Cecily needs her father’s journals to figure out what happened; the stories going around London of a mummy’s curse may be ludicrous, but her father is deathly ill. Without the journals, she has no answers. Her father wrote in cipher, and Cecily is the only one who can translate the cipher besides Lucas’ brother. If something tragic occurred that brought on a seizure, they all need to know what that event might have been.

The action in this story takes on the breakneck pace of a serial melodrama, between the romance, the mummy’s curse, and the society parties that form the backdrop of the investigation into the Egyptian Explorer’s Club and its possibly nefarious ways.

The Duke doesn’t actually dance. War wound.

Escape Rating B-: This is a romance defined by how much the hero and heroine fight their attraction to each other, fight with each other, and fight about everything that happens between and around them. If “obey” was in the marriage vows, Cecily probably didn’t repeat that bit.

I would have enjoyed this book more but I felt that Cecily held on to her grievances a little too long. I understood why she protected herself after her disastrous first engagement, but she stayed angry and withdrawn too long after the marriage, which takes place in the middle of the book. Cecily and Lucas’ arguing was part of their pattern, but her cold withdrawal went on too long for this reader.


Ebook Review Central, Samhain Publishing, December 2011

By the time December rolled around, it’s pretty clear that the folks at Samhain Publishing were done with Christmas. Out of the 29 titles that Samhain published in December of last year, there’s only one Christmas book. Just take a look at their title list for December 2011 and you’ll see what I mean.

Samhain had other things on their publishing plate besides Santa’s milk and cookies.  On December 13 (not a Friday), Samhain launched their Retro Romance™ line. It’s their way of bringing out older titles that were previously published in print by a host of other publishers, and whose authors want to introduce their work to a new audience of ebook readers. Random House is doing something very similar with the revival of Loveswept, although the Loveswept revival includes some new titles.

The romances from the Retro line did not pick up a lot of new reviews, but my research introduced me to the blog Get Yer Bodices Ripped Here, which definitely wins the award for best blog title of the month. This blog is worth reading for the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s vintage cover-picture inspired trips down memory lane as well as the absolutely inspired snark-fest reviews, which still tell the reader everything they need to know about each book. This blog is awesome.

But what about the featured books for the month?

The first featured title continues a trend for Samhain. This is the second time they’ve managed to scoop up an ebook-only novella in a popular print series. That popularity was reflected in the double-digit reviews all with B ratings and above for Thea Harrison’s True Colors, book 3.5 in her Elder Races series. The Elder Races books are paranormal romances about a group of very powerful, ancient shapeshifters called the Wyr. The series began in May, 2011 with the release of Dragon Bound, and the reviews for each succeeding book, Storm’s Heart in August, Serpent’s Kiss in October, have continued to raise expectations. Since book four, Oracle’s Moon, won’t be out until March, this novella is just enough to whet fans appetites for more. And did I mention that there are dragons?

Head Rush by Carolyn Crane is the conclusion of her Disillusionist Trilogy. Based on the ratings and the fourteen reviews, the fans who were waiting for this book will not be disillusioned in the least. This urban fantasy wowed the reviewers as the perfect conclusion to an enthralling trilogy, complete with paranoia, mind games, awesome characters and bad guys you really need to see get what’s coming to them. It also sounds like this one only works if you start at the beginning, so first Mind Games, then Double Cross, then, and apparently only then, Head Rush. The reviewers all say it’s well worth the trip.

Last at this round up we have Cowboy Casanova by Lorelei James. This is book 12 in her Rough Riders series. Rough Riders is clearly a guilty pleasure for a tremendous number of readers–Ms. James’ books have appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list. The Rough Riders series is erotica, and sex very definitely sells. The series takes place in Sundance, Wyoming, and each book stars a different member of the McKay family. And yes, they are all cowboys. Well, there is one sister. But every single book is smoking hot according to the reviewers, and Cowboy Casanova is sounds like one of the hottest of the bunch. The reviewers are split on whether it’s necessary to read the whole series and get the background on the McKay family to fully enjoy the story, so if you want to start with the first book in the series instead, that was Long Hard Ride.

That’s  it for this week’s Ebook Review Central. We’ll be back next week with the multi-publisher post covering Amber Quill, Astraea Press, Liquid Silver and Riptide Publishing. And we’ll finish up 2011 in style!

What’s on my (mostly virtual) nightstand? 1-29-12

When I first started reviewing, it was easy to keep my books organized. I only had a few, and they were all on the Bluefire app on my iPad. (If you have an iPad and you need an all-purpose Adobe/PDF/everything-but-the-kitchen-sink reader, just get Bluefire, it reads everything) I read open EPUB format on the OverDrive app. Yes, I really did say OverDrive. It’s a perfectly decent EPUB reader, and it will read EPUBs that come from other sources quite happily. I use it all the time, if only to keep the list of books in my Bluefire app from getting more ginormous than it already is.

But my list in Bluefire is huge, sometimes pronounced as two syllables for emphasis, “hew-gee”. When I need to buy or borrow earlier books in a series in order to review later books, I need to track those too. After a while, my “To Be Reviewed” list became my “To Do” list, complete with calendar. It took me a while, but when I had to search my apps to figure out where a book to be reviewed was located, my entries started including all the locations of all the books involved, be they Bluefire, OverDrive, or in the case of previous entries in series, Kindle app, Google app or bookshelf. It gets complicated.

All this came up because of Cherie Priest’s Dreadnought. I had intended to pick up an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of something new to read (and review, of course) for the plane home from ALA Midwinter. I picked up so many ARCs that some had to be shipped home, but the book I read was not just not new, it was in my own TBR pile on my Nook app. It is way too easy to lose track of ebooks on an iPad. Way too easy.

But I’m back to looking ahead to February, which starts this week, even if it is still January now. The first books I have scheduled for February are a very diverse bunch.

The Dread by Gail Z. Martin is the second book in her dark fantasy Fallen Kings Cycle, after The Sworn. I’ve always meant to read something of Ms. Martin’s; I’ve seen her other work highly recommended. And The Fallen Kings Cycle is a duology, she has not “committed trilogy” on this one, so these two books are it. The Sworn and The Dread, as ominous as the titles sound, seemed like a good place to start, even if the two together are about 1,200 pages. Ouch.

The Night is Mine by M.L. Buchman is a military suspense romance about elite helicopter pilots who transport Navy SEALs and Delta Force teams to and from their missions. The heroine in this romance is the pilot who goes on a covert mission as bodyguard to the First Lady, with one of her special forces commanders as the love interest. I think the question about this one is whether the romance is going to trump the suspension of disbelief about the violation of military frat regs (yes, I watched way too much Stargate).

Miss Hillary Schools a Scoundrel by Samantha Grace gets the award for most fun title of the week. This just looked like a fun Regency that reports say has all of the elements done to a fine turn. This is a debut novel, so if the author has got it right, that would be fantastic!

Speaking of fantastic, I have Prehistoric Clock by Robert Appleton on my calendar for 2/6/12. This should be fantastic both because it is steampunk and because I found Mr. Appleton’s previous book, Sparks in Cosmic Dust, to be a “rollicking, adventurous science fiction romance.” I’m looking forward to his take on steampunk.

And to go even further for adventure, my last book is science fiction romance. I have Tundra 37 by Aubrie Dionne. Since this is labelled as A New Dawn Novel, Book 2, I picked up Paradise 21, the first book in the series. New Dawn is a colony ship series. It details life aboard the deep space transport vessel Expedition, destined for the planet Paradise 18. I haven’t read the first book yet, but I’m positive that any planet coded Tundra-anything can’t be paradise.

Even with the strange week this week, after coming back from ALA, I did get a few things read. Some of them were even the things I was supposed to read!

How to Dance with a Duke was not quite what I expected, but I did enjoy it. Thinking back, I just realized that they never actually dance! Writing that up will be one of the things that I do this week.

I started Michael J. Sullivan’s Theft of Swords, and I’m about 100 pages into it. I saw a print copy at ALA, and wow! It’s pretty in person, but it’s a tome! Theft of Swords was originally published as two books, The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha and when it was re-edited to make one book, well, it’s clearly still got the heft of two books’ content in it. I’m glad I’m reading this as an ebook.

On Tuesday, January 31, I will be conducting a webinar for the Maryland Library Association about the importance of genre fiction collection development in libraries. For anyone interested, there’s a signup link.

And tomorrow, being Monday, is the day for Ebook Review Central. It’s Samhain’s turn for December 2011. See you there!




I snagged a copy of Dreadnought by Cherie Priest from the Tor booth at ALA Midwinter. (Many publishers give their books away the last day of the show.) Boneshaker, the first book in Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series was one of those books that after reading you sort of shove at people with the admonition “you just have to read this.” Boneshaker was one of the books that makes steampunk so cool.

Back to Dreadnought. I picked up the print copy for my airplane book. I loved Boneshaker (and Ms. Priest’s paranormal/urban fantasy Bloodshot as well) so I knew Dreadnought would be awesome. I just couldn’t figure out why I didn’t already have it.

Embarrassing answer: I did already have it, in my B&N Nook app on my iPad. Which didn’t solve the airplane problem. I still needed a print book for the dreadful “please turn off all electronic devices” moments. Airline magazines are generally dull as ditchwater, and I can’t sleep on airplanes unless I’m beyond comatose.

So I realized I’ve had Dreadnought for over a year, but it got caught in the “so many books, so little time” vortex. The airplane gave me a chance to return to a writer I enjoyed and her carefully crafted steampunk universe.

Thank you Tor, and thank you ALA trip! I loved Dreadnought. It reminded me of everything I enjoyed about the Boneshaker universe, but it didn’t rely on it too much. Which was a great thing, because I remembered the big story but not the small details, since I read Boneshaker when it came out in 2009. And now I want to read it again.

In the Clockwork Century, the Klondike Gold Rush did happen, But Russian investors paid inventor Leviticus Blue of Seattle to construct a steam-powered mining machine. And history went down a very different path then the one we know. Because Levi Blue’s “Boneshaker” didn’t just destroy a whole lot of downtown Seattle, it also unearthed a terrible gas that turned anyone who breathed it into a zombie. And the stuff was addictive in the bargain, so folks ended up hooked on it before they turned into the “living dead”.

But it was effectively knocking Seattle out of the U.S. economic and political picture on the eve of the U.S. Civil War that was felt back East. That War between the States didn’t wrap up in 1865, it kept going, and going. Five years, ten years, twenty years later, it’s still going on, to the point where grievances aren’t fresh, they’re inherited from fathers and brothers. And that’s where Dreadnought begins. In a Confederate hospital, with a nurse named Mercy Lynch.

Mercy receives two pieces of news, one right on top of another. She gets a visit from the famous nurse Clara Barton, who does found the Red Cross in seemingly every universe. Miss Barton was accompanied by a Union soldier who was given permission to cross the Confederate lines after he had been released from Andersonville Prison. That infamous place also existed. Mercy Lynch and her husband were from Border states. When her husband’s Kentucky home went Union, he enlisted with the Union Army. This Union soldier has come to tell her that he witnessed her husband’s death at Andersonville.

When Mercy was left alone, she became a nurse, and a damn good one. But Mercy was from Virginia. And Virginia was a Confederate State.

After getting the news that she was a widow, Mercy received a telegram from Seattle. Her father was dying and wanted to see her. Mercy didn’t know whether to be astonished or angry. Her father had abandoned her and her mother when she was a child, and had disappeared out West. Mercy hadn’t known he was still alive. But he wanted to see her. Seattle was a long way from Virginia. She would need to quit her position as a nurse and travel thousands of miles by airship and train. The war was between her and the coast.

Mercy felt torn by duty, but also free of duty. And she was tired of being pulled in every direction every minute. After a lot of soul searching, she set out for Seattle.

The journey is an incredible adventure. Dreadnought is a road novel, but the road is like no road story you’ve ever read. It’s not just that everything that can go wrong, does go wrong, it’s also that the kind of things that go wrong are nothing Mercy, or the reader, can possibly imagine.

Most people back East don’t know what has happened in Seattle, so Mercy doesn’t know what she is headed towards. Her world is the War. In Seattle, the War is far away. Their problem is the blight gas. And yes, those two problems do collide, multiple times, on Mercy’s trip, but not in the way you might think.

And wow, what a ride! You just know that when Mercy reaches her destination, her adventure has just begun.

Escape Rating A+: I forgot I was on a plane. I got so sucked into the story, I lost track of everything around me. Mercy Lynch is an absolutely unforgettable character, and the reader is pulled along with her every step and mile of the trip.

Dreadnought made me want to go back and read Boneshaker again, and read the next book in the series, Ganymede immediately, because I want to find out what happens next. (There’s also a loosely linked novel, Clementine sorta/kinda before Ganymede.)  I’m trying to restrain myself, and it’s just about driving me crazy. Dreadnought had me on the edge of my seat. If you like steampunk, read the Clockwork Century and find out what all the fuss is about. You’ll be glad you did.


The Canvas Thief

I kind of liked The Canvas Thief by P. Kirby…once I totally threw my disbelief out the window and treated the world of the book as if it were a cartoon world, which is just the way the main character, Maya Stephenson, created the hero and the villain. The underpinnings of the whole NeoVerse/EverVerse thing never gelled for me, but the breakneck pace of the story mostly carried me along, like Wile E. Coyote over the cliff, as long as I kept reading (running) and didn’t look down.

Maya Stephenson is an artist, with a gift. All artists have a gift, but Maya’s is special. She sees demons. That might be a little too special for most of us.

Maya knows that the world we live in has a few folks in it who are a bit odder than we think. However, Maya promised her mother that she would suppress her vision, and act normal. Because her Uncle Andrew could see the way Maya can, and Uncle Andrew wasn’t just “taken away”, but his family was made to forget him. The taking away part would have meant he was crazy, but the making people forget, that’s powerful stuff.

So Maya began channeling all her visions into her art. Except Maya didn’t draw what she saw. She was trying way, way too hard to be normal. Maya drew people. Since she was a teenage girl trying very hard to be normal, she drew boys. And she made up a story about them. A cops and robbers story. Adam Sayre was the cop, and Benjamin Black was the robber, the extra-talented thief.

Maya was so talented, and she concentrated so hard on making those drawings of Adam and Benjamin so perfect, that eventually Benjamin and Adam manifested from the NeoVerse to the Real. And because Maya’s magic created them in endless pursuit of one another, they remained tied to one another. For ten years, as Maya changed from girl to woman. And her fantasy men learned the ropes of the real world.

Benjamin Black lived and loved and lost. And decided he wanted to Fade from the Real to EverVerse, so that he might never lose anyone again. Adam Sayre learned to manipulate the system that, as a cop, he was supposed to be a protector of. Adam decided he wanted to stay in the Real forever.

Both Benjamin’s and Adam’s decisions required something from Maya to fulfill. Their ‘key drawings’. That first, perfect drawing that made them ‘real’. Benjamin tries to steal it, and Adam tries to manipulate Maya into it. Neither succeeds. Any woman strong enough to create life from the NeoVerse too strong for that.

But the collision course of their three lives changes everything. Maya discovers that the rules of ‘normalcy’ she has lived by are so, so unreal. Benjamin learns that being hurt once does not make him immune from being hurt again.

Escape Rating C: The story catches you up and keeps you in its grip, which is a really good thing, because the worldbuilding doesn’t quite hold up. I couldn’t make sense of the whole NeoVerse/EverVerse concept, and I decided to just go along for the ride.  Unlike Wile E. Coyote, I chose not to look down after I ran off the edge of the cliff.

There’s a famous quote from Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit, or How Toys Become Real where the Rabbit asks “What is REAL?” and that kept coming back to me when I read this book. Maya never intended to make her characters real; she had no idea she had that power. When love enters the picture, as it does in The Velveteen Rabbit, the question of whether love is enough to make the man she loves ‘real’ enough to remain in the so-called real world becomes one of the big questions of the story.


The Two Towers: Apple iBooks Author EULA vs Amazon KDP Select

Before the announcement on January 19, the hope was that Apple’s iBooks Author program would somehow kick Amazon where it hurts. Assuming that anyone can find a location that actually causes Amazon any monetary angst, that is – hunting expeditions for this locale have so far been unsuccessful.

A publishing platform that would make ebook creation easier for the educational market was another “Holy Grail” that some pundits hoped that Apple was about to tackle. I had heard some theorizing that Apple was going to “revolutionize” ebook textbook publishing with the announcement.

And it did, but not in the way that anyone had expected.

By now, you may have heard the chatter (samples here, here and here) about Apple’s Author End-User License Agreement (EULA) for producing books (iBooks) with their new program. If an author wants to be recompensed for the blood, sweat and tears they have put into their book, and they want to create it using Apple’s new program, which is supposed to be so cool, they have to be willing to sign over exclusive, absolutely exclusive, distribution rights to their work, forever. Not for a period of time, but forever. Authors can’t even sell their books on their own sites.

Now if authors want to give the book away, they can distribute it wherever they like.

Some people wanted Apple to give Amazon a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Why? Because of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program, also known as Kindle Digital Selects. As a librarian, I have some issues with the program, because the public face of this program is the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, where Kindle Owners can, well, borrow an ebook from Amazon without buying it. Just like at their local library.

But from the authors’ side, this appears to be a way better deal than Apple. A very detailed analysis of the pros and cons from an author’s perspective was written by Carolyn McCray and posted at Publishing Perspectives. There have also been some recent sales statistics made available by Amazon at Digital Book World showing that there is a positive ripple-effect to participation in the program, because it includes promotion on Amazon’s Kindle Daily Deal mailing, which has pretty big circulation.

Authors want their books to get read, and they want to be fairly compensated. Whatever one might think about Amazon’s practices, or what they might morph into in the long-term, in the short-term, there are reports that indicate those goals are being accomplished.

And Amazon doesn’t expect a lifetime commitment when authors sign up. 90 day exclusivity may not be for everyone, but it is a much shorter term than forever. No matter how you count the days.

But a lot of people are more worried about the long-term than the short-term. Amazon is playing a very long game. As a recent NPR story put it, Amazon’s tactics are seen as ‘predatory’, because Amazon is not just an extremely huge bookseller, but they are also a publisher. Not just an ebook publisher, but a print publisher. They have more clout in more places in the publishing and bookselling business than anybody. Ever.

People were hoping that Apple’s announcement on January 19 would stick Amazon where it might hurt.

Instead, we have a situation resembling the one in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers. On the one side, the dark tower of Amazon, with their huge distribution network and their “predatory” practices and their consumers locked-in to their Kindles.

On the other side, we have the white tower of Apple, signing their authors into permanent contractual servitude, telling eager potential iBook textbook creators that if they want to use the cool Apple product they either have to give their work away for free or they have to let Apple own the rights to their work forever.

And in the middle, us poor consumers, hunkering down while the electronic salvos fire overhead.

Remember that in Tolkien’s story, the white tower didn’t turn out to be any less self-serving than the dark tower once the truth was revealed. White just turned out to be the new black.


The Stubborn Dead

The Stubborn Dead by Natasha Hoar is every bit as good as the teaser in the January print RT Book Reviews claimed it to be. At just under 60 pages, the whole book is a teaser, and a damn fine one.

Rachel Miller is the resident member of the Order of Rescue Mediums in Vancouver. Her duty is to release trapped spirits from this earthly realm. Not all spirits want to be released, and sometimes Rachel has a supernatural fight on her hands. Occasionally, that fight manifests physically, and the spirit shoves Rachel into a wall. Lucky for Rachel, being a rescue medium means that she heals quickly.

Being summoned to a haunted house to exorcise a trapped spirit is all part and parcel of Rachel’s life. The local priests even know who Rachel is, because she handles the spirits who are beyond their powers.

So when Rachel gets a call from Sylvia Elkeles asking her to remove a spirit that’s already sent the local Catholic priest to the hospital, Rachel is concerned, but still comes to the house. Even after she calls the diocese and discovers that Father Simon is not only not in the hospital, but has never heard of Sylvia.

Rachel is not prepared enough for the lying, cheating, sociopathic Sylvia. Because Sylvia has studied up on rescued mediums, and uses the code that binds Rachel’s power into supernaturally forcing her to dealing with a special kind of stubborn undead. A rodach. A wraith who is still tied to his living body and still has a soul.

Rachel has 48 hours to either find the rodach’s body or eliminate his soul. And if she fails, her supernatural powers will be bound, forever.

While the clock is ticking, Rachel has her own personal issues to deal with. Her perpetual stalker, Janus Ostara. Janus is a mob boss. But not of the usual kind of mob. Janus’ mob only contains members of the supernatural, and he wants to add Rachel to his crew, personally.

Meanwhile, about that rodach…they’re supposed to be extinct. Which means that information on dealing with the problem appropriately is limited in the extreme. And that clock keeps ticking away…

Escape Rating B+: This is one of those cases where my biggest complaint is that the book was way too damn short! I want to know more about these rescue mediums and the world that requires their services. If you’re an urban fantasy fan, just about the time you get really sucked in, it’s over.

The story itself wraps up very, very well. It’s just that I want more of the worldbuilding. I want it bad. The second book, titled The Ravenous Dead, is out on submission according to the author’s site. I really want a publisher (Carina, hopefully) to pick this up. Like yesterday.

Banshee Charmer

Banshee Charmer by Tiffany Allee is labeled as being “from the files of the Otherworlder Enforcement Agency”. I took that to mean that this might be the first book of a series. This is an excellent thing! Banshees are not usually charmers, but in this case of this particular half-banshee, if you like urban fantasy, you’ll be charmed.

We meet our heroine at a crime scene. Which is only fitting, because Mac is a cop. Not your standard, run-of-the-mill cop, of course, but a member of the paranormal unit. There are generally two kinds of people who get assigned to the paranormal unit–paranormals, and regular-type human cops who have really, really pissed off someone in authority. For a human, being assigned to the “freak squad” is an even worse type of career purgatory than Internal Affairs.

But Keira “Mac” McLoughlin is definitely a freak. She’s half-banshee. Her scream can be a weapon. When she wants it to be.

When Mac’s partner Amanda becomes the victim of a serial killer, her Lieutenant takes her off the case. He thinks she’s too emotionally involved to see things clearly. He’s sure that Mac is out for payback instead of justice.

But Mac can’t stay away from the case, so when she comes back to her place to find an Otherworld Enforcement Agent sitting at her kitchen table claiming to have more evidence about the killer, she lets him into her confidence, and they join forces. And Mac keeps investigating a case she’s supposed to be miles away from.

The more Mac investigates, the stranger things get. Even for an Otherworld Enforcement Agent. This serial killer should never have targeted her partner, because he targets the weak, not bodybuilder cops. But then, this killer seems to be a member of an otherworld species that is supposed to be extinct.

And that OWEA agent, well Aiden Byrne is not exactly what he appears to be, either. And the biggest problem with that is Mac’s feelings for him are anything but professional.

Escape Rating A-/B+: This was one of those books that was just plain fun. Within the first few pages I was absolutely hooked. It hit all the high notes of an excellent urban fantasy, the heroine was not just kick-ass, but she was interesting and slightly different, the hero was conflicted but not too much, and the world-building was gritty and real.

We haven’t seen a banshee (even a half-banshee) as a heroine before. Mac’s conflicts about her background make her perspective new. Aiden also has just the right amount of torment (I like a little bad in my boys, but not to the point of wondering why the heroine gives them the time of day!). And a world built on everyone knowing and dealing with the otherworld is cool.

I want to read the next book. If this is “from the files of” that means there are more files, doesn’t it? Please.

If you want to read more of my thoughts on this story, check this post at Book Lovers Inc.


ARC Review: Banshee Charmer by Tiffany Allee

Format read: ebook provided courtesy of the publisher
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Number of pages: 159
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info:  Goodreads, Author’s Website,  Entangled Publishing, Barnes & Noble, Amazon

When she’s sent to a crime scene and finds her second dead woman in as many weeks, half-banshee detective Kiera “Mac” McLoughlin is convinced a serial killer is on the loose. Incubi are extinct, her boss insists. But what else can kill a woman in the throes of pleasure? When her partner is murdered after using witchcraft to locate the killer and Mac is thrown off the case, her frustration turns to desperation.

Certain the killer is an incubus, Mac works behind her department’s back to chase down slim, sometimes perilous leads. While the killer eludes her, she does discover handsome Aidan Byrne, an investigative counterpart from the enigmatic Otherworlder Enforcement Agency. Mac typically runs her investigations fast and hard, but with Aidan at her side, she’s running this one “hot” as well. But Aidan knows more than he’s letting on—something that could shatter their blazing romance and add Mac to the killer’s growing body count…

My Thoughts:

This was originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

It was the cop banter that sucked me in. Not just because it was good cop banter, although the author got it just right, the exact kind of dry humor that is chuckle under your breath funny, but because it hit the right tone. One of the cops was a “normal” and the other is a half-banshee, and it didn’t matter. They were both cops, and they sounded like cops. I was a goner. And so was the stiff in their crime scene.

I love urban fantasy, and the closer it is to our world, the better I like it. The worldbuilding in Banshee Charmer was so close to the “real” world, there was just this slight difference, all the paranormal is real, and everyone seems to know about it. There are laws about what paranormals can and can’t do, just like everyone else. I love that kind of stuff.  Treating the paranormal as just different types of evidence it just plain cool. Done as well as it is here, it gets me every time.
But series like these live or die (no pun intended) based on whether we like the characters. If it’s a cop shop book, we need to like the cops in the shop.

It’s all down to Mac. Being only a half-banshee means her scream only stuns, it doesn’t kill. And she’s got some baggage about not being as dangerous as she might be. But she’s much more interesting because she’s not invincible. And because she’s half-banshee, men who might otherwise be attracted stay far, far away.
Mac is on the trail of a serial killer who appears to murder his victims while they are in the throes of ecstatic pleasure.  The killer’s last victim was her partner Amanda. And Mac is supposed to be off the case. But in the tradition of all good cops everywhere, Mac is investigating on her own time, with the help of the extremely handsome Otherworld Enforcement Agent who just happened to show up in her kitchen the evening before her partner became the serial killer’s victim.

Aiden Byrne is another reason this story is so good. On the one hand, it’s obvious that he isn’t who he says he is. And that there is a reason he keeps disappearing at what could best be described as “opportune” moments. But his conflict between what he feels for Mac that he knows he shouldn’t, and whatever it is he has to do with the killer, is utterly delicious.

I enjoyed Mac’s personality and perspective. She was someone I wanted to spend time with, so it was fun. And this world is cool. The paranormal has been integrated into society. What a great place for more stories.  Which means that even though there is a happily ever after, there is plenty of room for more stories. I want to see more of how this place ticks.
***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 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.

Ebook Review Central for Dreamspinner Press for December 2011

Welcome back to Ebook Review Central! This is another accidental Christmas issue, because this week we’re featuring the December 2011 titles from Dreamspinner Press. And in December, Dreamspinner’s biggest event was their 2011 Advent Calendar, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, featuring 32 Holiday themed titles. It made for a huge month at Dreamspinner, with a total of 59 titles published.

Regular readers of Dreamspinner titles must have been overwhelmed by the number of books available, or they were overcome by Christmas cheer. One thing they didn’t do was spend a lot of time slaving away at reviews.

Because there wasn’t a lot of action on the new reviewing front, there are only two featured titles this week.

Twelve Days by Isabelle Rowan is a holiday story. It’s also a sequel to her earlier book, A Note in the Margin. This is not just a story about the holidays, this is a story about the first Christmas that a relatively new couple, John and David, get to spend together. And John owns a bookstore, which is cool all by itself.  But this is a story about love and wanting the one you love to be happy, and also about healing past the broken places. It sounds just tailor-made for the holiday season.

Blue Notes by Shira Anthony is not a holiday story. It’s a life-changing story. Jason Green goes home one night in Philadelphia and finds his fiancee in bed with another man. So what does he do? He takes a two-month sabbatical from work and goes to stay at his sister’s apartment in Paris. In Paris he starts a love affair with jazz, a love affair with a jazz player named Jules, and, of course, a love affair with Paris. But what will happen when the two months are over?

Although there isn’t a third featured book, I’d like to give a special shout out to Serena Yates at Queer Magazine Online for reading and reviewing the entire 2011 Advent Calendar. She’s the only reviewer who managed this particular feat, and I salute her. If I’d had to make my way through that much Christmas cheer, no matter how good it read when I started, by the end I’d have shoved a candy cane down somebody’s throat, possibly my own.

While the new titles didn’t get a lot of reviewing attention, two of Dreamspinners’ October titles stood at the top of just about everyone’s “Best of 2011” list. I’m referring, of course, to Rick Reed’s Caregiver and Roux & Urban’s Divide & Conquer. I’m proud to say that both titled were featured on ERC in the October 2011 Dreamspinner post.

Caregiver has appeared on the Best of 2011 lists at Indie Reviews, Reviews at Jessiewave‘s Guest Reviewers top pics and Top 2 Bottom Reviews. It’s also a nominee for Best Book of the Year at LRC Cafe.

Roux & Urban’s fourth book in their Cut & Run series, Divide & Conquer, is even more popular. It’s on both Helyce’s and Mandi’s Best of 2011 lists at Smexy Books, as well as on Wave’s Best of the Year list at Reviews at Jessewave, Red Hot Books, Top 2 Bottom Reviews, and Fiction Vixen.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see more kudos roll in for these two books. They are both winners!

That’s a wrap for this week. We’ll be back next week with the Samhain December 2011 titles. And it will still be Christmas.