Spooktacular Giveaway Hop


Halloween is right around the corner. That means it’s time for the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop, hosted by Bookhounds!

So let’s talk about what spooks us.

I’ll admit that Pumpkin Spice Everything is really starting to creep me out. I like pumpkin pie as much as the next person, but seriously, Pumpkin Spice Cheerios? Never mind the Pumpkin Spice Triscuit crackers. That just sounds WRONG. But maybe not as wrong as the Pumpkin Spice Bailey’s and the Pumpkin Spice-filled Truffles. The only Pumpkin Spice thing I’ve liked so far is this one:

pumpkin spikes latte


So what are you scared of this Halloween? If you’re looking for a scary book to read, I highly recommend Teeth, Long and Sharp by Grace Draven, Antioch Grey, Aria M Jones, Jeffe Kennedy and Mel Sterling. All the stories in collection are good, but the last one, Voice of the Knife by Mel Sterling, gave me the shivers to the point I needed a hug and hot drink afterwards. And the hot drink was NOT Pumpkin Spice Anything!teeth long and sharp by jeffe kennedy et al

For Halloween, I have two books that have spooky-related themes, but are probably not too scary: Shadowed Souls edited by Kerrie L. Hughes and Jim Butcher here at Reading Reality, and Ghost Maker by Robin D. Owens over at the Book Pushers.

What scary books are you planning to read this Halloween? Or what’s your favorite scary book? Answer in the Rafflecopter for your chance at a $10 Gift Card or $10 Book. No pumpkin spice allowed!

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And if you are looking for more bookish and scary prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop.

Review: The Fourth Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay

The Fourth Rule of Ten (A Tenzing Norbu Mystery, #4) by Gay Hendricks, Tinker Lindsay
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Tenzing Norbu #4
Pages: 344
on January 5th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.org

     Ex–Buddhist monk, former LAPD detective, and current private investigator Tenzing “Ten” Norbu knows Bill Bohannon as many things: loving husband, devoted father, police administrator, former partner, and best friend. But then an uninvited guest from Bill’s past upends the Bohannons’ Fourth of July barbecue, revealing in levelheaded Bill the most unexpected behavior—behavior that awkwardly drops Ten in the middle of a crumbling marriage.      Ten makes an unexpected move of his own when he agrees to pro bono work for a convicted felon. But it was dope slinger Godfrey Chambers Ten had repeatedly busted during his days on the force, not the reformed and rechristened G-Force who is now asking for Ten’s help in claiming money left to him by a kind-hearted benefactor—and contested by the benefactor’s self-serving family.      Soon Ten’s investigations lead him down the darkest corridors of the Internet and halfway around the globe to Sarajevo as he navigates the seedy worlds of human trafficking and personal regret. As his cases intertwine, Ten will rely on the wisdom of the Buddha and his own network of relationships—with super hacker Mike, outrageously idiosyncratic assistant Kim, old monastery friends Yeshe and Lopsang, Serbian cabbie and former policija Petar, and, of course, feline rock Tank—to solve the puzzle ­and keep free of his own tangled past. Especially when an old flame returns.     The Fourth Rule of Ten, the thrilling fourth book in the Dharma Detective series, proves the only thing better than exceeding expectations is having none at all.

My Review:

Ten’s fourth rule is also the title of the theme song from Frozen, “Let it go”. And since the movie came out in 2013 but the book wasn’t released until 2015, there’s a good chance that the authors at least knew about the song when they finished the book.

And I’m going to let that possible coincidence, well, go.

What Ten is trying, but not always succeeding, in letting go of are his expectations. We tend to get ourselves tied up in what we expect to happen, or what we hope will happen, and are upset when life in general or circumstances in particular don’t meet our expectations.

Like when you feel that you’ve had the same conversation with someone so many times that you can anticipate what they are going to say, so you fail to listen to what they actually do say. Life happens. People change. Others were not put on this world to live up to (or down to) our expectations. And vice versa.

Tenzing Norbu is not the usual suspect when it comes to private detectives. Yes, he’s former LAPD, which is fairly normal. But he is also a former Buddhist monk. And his experiences in the monastery have every bit as much to do with the way he approaches and solves cases as does his time in the LAPD. That his father was the abbot of the monastery, and that Tenzing pretty much failed to live up to every single one of his father’s expectations, also has a lot to do with the way Ten lives his life and the way he approaches this particular case.

At the beginning, the expectation that Ten first lets go of is the expectation that this Fourth of July get-together at his former LAPD partner’s house will be just like the previous ones. That his friends Bill and Martha have a solid and loving marriage, and that their twin daughters will shower their “Uncle Ten” with hugs and affection. Well, that last bit does happen, before everything goes to shit.

Bill’s ex-lover shows up in the middle of the family picnic to inform Bill that their son is missing. Bill is gobsmacked, but Martha is shocked beyond belief. Bill never told her about Maia, or that he had a son. Or that he strayed from their exclusive-relationship-but-not-yet-engagement while he was stationed in Bosnia. Her trust is shattered, and their marriage might be too. Especially when Bill leaves with Maia to chase after their missing young man.

Ten, caught in the middle between helping his friend Bill and consoling his friend Martha, at first doesn’t know what to do. Especially when the facts start coming out. Not the facts about Bill and Maia, because that cat is already out of the bag, but the facts about young Sascha and what he is doing that got him in so much hot water.

Sascha is a journalistic in Bosnia, doing his level best to expose at least the local tentacle of the international human trafficking monster. His mother is afraid that his search may have gotten him killed. Bill takes off to see whether he can find the son he’s never met before it’s too late.

That he is also exploring the “road not taken” with his ex makes at least part of this journey look more like a mid-life crisis than a manhunt.

But Ten follows Bill to Bosnia, in an attempt to either talk his friend out of his madness or at the very least help him find Sascha, who really is in danger. And so is everyone he talks to, including Maia, Bill and Ten.

Because that human trafficking monster has its filthy tentacles everywhere, including Ten’s own backyard.

first rule of tenEscape Rating B+: Tenzing is a detective the opposite of noir. Not that he doesn’t go into dark places, but that he is more self-aware than the average hardened gumshoe. That’s part of what makes him so interesting to follow. And that’s why I keep following, from The First Rule of Ten to the Fourth, and sometime later this year, The Fifth Rule of Ten. While I think it would be possible to start with Fourth Rule if one’s only interest is the mystery, this is a series that rewards reading from the beginning. Who Ten is, why he does things the way he does and how he relates to the world around him is a journey that builds layer upon layer in each book.

Along with marvelous descriptions of his attitudes toward and his servitude to his feline overlord, the utterly marvelous Tank.

The case that Ten finds himself investigating gets a bit muddled in this one. The scourge of human trafficking in the 21st century is hard to pin down into a single case or a single company, even in fiction. And this case, as horrible as this crime is, surprisingly hinges on the family ties of the perpetrators rather than the victims. Admittedly in a way that slaps the reader with shock at the end.

Most of what’s interesting in this story is Ten’s internal reactions to the events around him, as he examines why he is involved, and what experiences in his past have made him vulnerable to getting roped into Bill and Martha’s mess. It’s fascinating to be inside the mind of someone who is essentially trying to “adult”, as we all do, and seeing his successes as well as his failures.

One of the things that always makes Ten interesting to watch is the way that his past actions get paid forward into his current and future dilemmas. His dysfunctional upbringing gives him empathy for Sascha and makes him vulnerable to Martha’s desperate manipulation. That he treats people fairly and listens attentively makes him friends in unlikely places, and provides him with allies when he needs them the most.

For Ten, what goes around is definitely what comes around. Usually exactly the way he dished it out.

And Ten never gets too far above himself, because Tank is right there to remind him that he’s only human, and that it’s his job to provide dinner.

Review: Black Diamond by Susannah Sandlin + Giveaway

Review: Black Diamond by Susannah Sandlin + GiveawayBlack Diamond (Wilds of the Bayou, #2) by Susannah Sandlin
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Wilds of the Bayou #2
Pages: 255
Published by Montlake Romance on October 18th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBookshop.org

For some people, the untamed beauty of the bayou is a place to hide. For Louisiana wildlife agent Jena Sinclair, it’s a place of refuge—one where she can almost forget the tragedy that scarred both her skin and her soul. But when the remains of yet another fisherman turn up, Jena realizes that Bayou Pointe-aux-Chenes is not safe for her…or anyone else.
The mysterious deaths aren’t her only problem. A dangerous drug known as Black Diamond is circulating through Terrebonne Parish, turning addicts into unpredictable sociopaths. Jena’s investigation leads her to Cole Ryan—a handsome, wary recluse struggling with his own troubled history—who knows more than he’s willing to admit. If they want to stop the killer, Jena and Cole must step out of the shadows of their pasts and learn to help each other…before the evils lurking in the bayou consume them both.

My Review:

Drug mules are always bad news, but in Terrebonne Parish some of the drug mules have four legs, a tail, and seventy-two big, sharp teeth. In other words, there’s a crazy fool using live alligators to smuggle drugs.

While karma is bound to catch up with these idiots eventually, the agents of the Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife can’t wait that long. The new drug being smuggled, Black Diamond, is a nearly instant addicting drug of the bath-salts type. One user has already shot himself in broad daylight from the top of a drawbridge.

And newly returned LDFW agent Jena Sinclair has just come home to find her kid brother Jackson at their house, higher than a kite, and a stash of Black Diamond in his room. This case has just hit way too close to home.

wild mans curse by susannah sandlinAfter the events in Wild Man’s Curse, Jena has come back to the LDFW scarred and more than a bit fragile. Being forced to return to her parents’ toxic household in New Orleans for her rehab was very nearly the death of Jena. And she’s still not all the way back at the beginning of this case.

Hunting down drugged gators and crazed drug dealers leads Jena straight to the equally scarred and still somewhat fragile Cole Ryan. Cole is living completely alone and off-the-grid after his wife, daughter and mother were killed by a teenager hopped up on meth who decided to shoot up a shopping mall to get revenge on his ex-girlfriend. He missed the girlfriend and wiped out Cole’s family, and a whole lot of other families, instead.

When he meets Jena, Cole sees her as a kindred spirit and an attractive woman, and discovers that his time alone on the bayou has healed him way more than he thought. But the isolation that Cole found so healing is just the kind of isolation that the drug dealers need for their insane “catch and release” program for their toothy drug mules.

Once Jena traces the clues, with Cole’s help, it’s a fight to the death to stop the dealers before the dealers stop them – permanently.

Escape Rating A-: I absolutely adored the first book in this series, Wild Man’s Bayou, and loved Black Diamond almost as much. This is a romantic suspense series where the suspense is front and center (and suspenseful!) and the romance, while not in the forefront of the action, backseat drives this story at all the right moments.

This story has a big whodunnit aspect, as Jena and the LDWF, along with every other law enforcement agency for miles around, is desperately trying to figure out who is smuggling the Black Diamond into the parish, and how. While it is pretty clear from early in the story that the gators are somehow involved, working out the who, how and why takes center-stage.

Along with Jena struggling to get her feet back under her and her game face on. Jena is the first cop to leap to the idea of the gators as the mules, but has a difficult time shoring up her confidence to even suggest the possibility to the powers that be.

We see her search her soul for the reasons that she doesn’t want to take the charge she knows she has to, and we feel for her every step of the way. As we do for Cole Ryan, as he just about brings himself back from the dead to reach out to Jena and save them both.

However, if we never see Jena’s parents in any future books in this series, it will be just fine with this reader. Much of Jena’s self-doubt can be laid at her parents’ door, and I found myself wanting to slap them until they got their heads out of their asses about both of their children. I digress just a bit.

The ending of Black Diamond is bittersweet, as we discover the ways that good people do very bad things for very unfortunate reasons. And it feels right.

I love this series, as I have nearly everything that the author has written under both her Susannah Sandlin and Suzanne Johnson names. I sincerely hope that the Wilds of the Bayou series continues, because I want to read more about this fascinating place and these marvelous people.

black diamond tour graphic


Susannah is giving away 1 $50 Amazon gift card and 5 $10 Amazon gift cards to lucky entrants on this tour.

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Attack of the 14 Nights of Halloween Giveaway

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter, the air is getting cooler and the nights are getting spookier. Yes, it’s time for tricks and treats, goblins and ghouls, chills and thrills and huge amounts of sugary sweets. But at the Laughing Vixen Lounge blog it’s also time for the 5th annual Attack of the 14 Nights of Halloween Giveaway. Join Laughing Vixen Lounge and our bewitching co-hosts The Kids Did It, The Mommy Island, Herding Cats and Burning Soup, The Hopping Bloggers, Mama Smith’s Reviews and Women and Their Pretties for a spooktacular Halloween event.

Enter to win a $250 Prize Pack filled with goodies from 10 wickedly fabulous shops. All shops are offering Gift Cards or your choice of item(s) so there will be something for everyone. Many of the shops have items perfect for any book lover along with lots of unique, handcrafted and custom designs to choose from.

Visit the Laughing Vixen Lounge blog daily during the giveaway for the Halloween Movie Marathon. Test your movie knowledge with the Guess the Movie Game. Then try to solve the Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt, if you dare! Each event will get you daily entries in the giveaway plus a special giveaway for the Scavenger Hunt. Find full details for these events HERE.

There’s a Guess the Movie Game at the Laughing Vixen Lounge, but Reading Reality is a book blog! I don’t read much horror, but there are a couple of books that have scared me in one way or another that I’d like to share. In the more recent category, if you like a little fantasy mixed with your horror, I highly recommend Teeth, Long and Sharp, with scary stories by Grace Draven, Antioch Grey, Aria M Jones, Jeffe Kennedy and Mel Sterling. The Mel Sterling story is particularly creepy. Another book that scared me in a completely different way is Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper. While it is not horror, the portrait of the 1960s as the “last good time” gives me the creeps every time I think about it.

young frankenstein

As far as scary movies goes, the closest I ever get to a “scary” movie is Young Frankenstein! What’s your favorite scary book or movie?

You can start by entering the Rafflecopter widget below. To experience all the games, movies, shop features, giveaway info and all around awesome fun make sure to stop by the Laughing Vixen
Lounge blog HERE.

The giveaway runs October 18th – November 1st and is open worldwide to anyone 18+. 1 winner will win the Prize Pack and 1 winner will win the Scavenger Hunt Prize Pack. Laughing Vixen Lounge is responsible for all giveaway details. Click HERE for full details.

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Review: A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Review: A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry ThomasA Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock, #1) by Sherry Thomas
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Lady Sherlock #1
Pages: 336
Published by Berkley on October 18th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.org

USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas turns the story of the renowned Sherlock Holmes upside down…   With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society.  But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.   When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

My Review:

I love Sherlock Holmes pastiches, so when I saw the eARC of A Study in Scarlet Women, I was instantly intrigued. Sherlock Holmes has been adapted in so many different directions, from the very different modern TV incarnations of Sherlock and Elementary to the slightly off-tangent House to the married Holmes in Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series along with the fantasy version in the late Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy series and Neil Gaiman’s award-winning A Study in Emerald.

While there was a well-known series by Carole Nelson Douglas that features Irene Adler (“the woman” from A Scandal in Bohemia) as a Sherlock Holmes-type detective, I’ll admit that I can’t find a citation for an actual female Holmes, although I know I’ve read them.

A Study in Scarlet Women is just that – it posits Sherlock Holmes as a woman who uses Sherlock Holmes as a nom-de-guerre to shroud her work in an air of mystery, and to keep both the police and the criminal element from dismissing her as merely a female. The rendering of Sherlock Holmes, nee Charlotte Holmes, in A Study in Scarlet Women is contemporaneous with the original Sherlock Holmes canon. One of the elements that is both fascinating and frustrating about A Study in Scarlet Women is that Charlotte Holmes does not feel anachronistic to her era at all. She is forced to deal with all of the prejudices and restrictions that surrounded young women of that era, and find a way around them.

While she does get a bit luckier than is probably likely, even her solutions fit within the time-frame. She hides who she really is behind a fictional “brother”, and conducts many of her consultations via the post, the better to hide her physical self.

Part of the frustration in this book is that those restrictions were very, well, restrictive. Charlotte’s solution to the problem of getting out from under her parents’ control while not putting herself under the control of a husband is ingenious. She reckons with all of the consequences to herself, but neglects to factor murder into her calculations. Not that she committed one, nor has anyone in her family, but that her disgrace gives her sister and her parents a reason to commit one, and puts them under suspicion of having done so.

Her first case arises from a need to clear their names, as well as to see justice done.

There is a Watson, and her origins (yes, her) are even more fascinating than Holmes, both in the ways that they do and do not follow the original character. Mrs. Watson, a well-to-do widow, comes to Charlotte’s rescue when she is at her most desperate, and finds a common cause and a new lease on life assisting in Charlotte’s investigations.

Where Dr. John Watson was a veteran of the Afghan war, Mrs. John Watson is the widow of an Army doctor who was killed in, of course, the Afghan War. However, Mrs. Watson, nee Joanna Hamish Redmayne, is also a former actress and retired denizen of the demimondaine, and therefore a scarlet woman. As is Charlotte, who arranged to have herself “ruined” to escape the strictures of upper-middle-class respectable and restricted womanhood.

It is these two scarlet women, with the help of Charlotte’s somewhat reluctant childhood friend, and an even more desperate police detective, who discover the link between a series of seemingly unrelated murders, and get Charlotte’s family off-the-hook.

It is the beginning of what I hope will be a brilliant career for Charlotte, make that Sherlock, Holmes.

Escape Rating B+: As I said at the beginning, this story is both fun and frustrating, sometimes in equal measure. Because it posits a female Sherlock Holmes during the Victorian Era, the character and the reader are forced to deal with the upper-class-Victorian restrictions on women’s, particularly young women’s, lives and movements. The first third of the book has to feature Charlotte’s solution to this particular quagmire, and its immediate consequences. It’s a situation that shows Charlotte’s resolution and self-knowledge, but for 21st century readers it’s fairly ugly. It feels realistic, but no fun at all to read through.

And we need to see the consequences of Charlotte’s tough decisions and all of their unfortunate direct consequences for Charlotte until she very nearly hits rock-bottom. It’s only at that point that she is rescued by the equally unconventional Mrs. Watson, and her story really begins.

Because Watson in this case is older and has more experience of the world, Holmes and Watson are much more nearly equal than some of the popular misconceptions about the pair. This Watson is no dunderhead. She is not the genius that Holmes is, but her acting ability, knowledge of the social strata and ability to understand people makes her a partner rather than a mere sidekick. Especially since Mrs. Watson provides the initial funds for the entire enterprise!

As the story unfolds, the reader gets to play a game of “spot the character” as we determine who in this new version is playing the parts that are familiar from the original canon. For example, the author of the stories will not be Watson, but Charlotte’s sister. It’s a fun game and I enjoyed figuring out who was who.

The case was every bit as convoluted, and the solution every bit as difficult, as any of the original Holmes’ cases. The clues may be there from the beginning, but determining whodunnit and why is an effort that takes both Charlotte and the reader the entire story.

One part of A Study in Scarlet Women troubles me just a bit. As is famously known, the original Sherlock Holmes seems to have had no truck with emotion of any kind. Until the version of Holmes portrayed in the Mary Russell stories, Holmes and romance have seemed to be, not merely on different continents, but on far distant planets from one another.

There is not exactly a romance in A Study in Scarlet Women, but there’s not exactly not one either. Charlotte’s childhood friend, Lord Ingram Ashburton, is clearly the man she should have married. And very much vice-versa. But they didn’t realize it until much too late, after Ingram was not only married but had discovered that his wife had only married him for his money and title. It is not a happy marriage, or even a companionable one. But Ingram is an honorable man, perhaps to a fault. The amount of unresolved sexual tension between Ingram and Charlotte is enough to light London for a month through a pea-souper fog. I wonder how this conundrum will get resolved as the series continued.

I wonder even more why it was necessary to introduce a romantic element for Holmes in the first place. Hopefully we’ll see in future entries in the series.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 10-16-16

Sunday Post

This turned out to be story collection week. And while each of the collections was pretty darn good, it also reminded me that collections are not my favorite genre. That’s not anything against any of the authors or collections, it’s just that I definitely prefer a sustained narrative. With a collection, it feels like just as I get into a story, it’s over, and I have to start all over again with the next story.

There are not many hours left to enter the Bugs & Hisses Giveaway Hop, but fear not, there are two more giveaway hops starting this week. And as the year draws down, we are entering Giveaway Hop season. There will be plenty more to come for Thanksgiving and the December Holiday marathon.

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Bugs & Hisses Giveaway Hop
The Girl Who Fought Napoleon by Linda Lafferty

Winner Announcements:

The winner of The Life She Wants by Robyn Carr is Megblod

devil sent the rain by lisa turnerBlog Recap:

B Review: The Girl Who Fought Napoleon by Linda Lafferty + Giveaway
A- Review: Pets in Space by S.E. Smith and more
A- Review: Devil Sent the Rain by Lisa Turner
B+ Review: Echoes of Sherlock Holmes edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger
A- Review: Teeth Long and Sharp by Grace Draven, Antioch Grey, Aria M. Jones, Jeffe Kennedy and Mel Sterling
Stacking the Shelves (206)

spooktacular-2016Coming Next Week:

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas (review)
Attack of the 14 Nights of Halloween Giveaway
Black Diamond by Susannah Sandlin (blog tour review)
The Fourth Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay (review)
Spaceman by Mike Massimino (review)
Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

Stacking the Shelves (206)

Stacking the Shelves

The shelf stacks have been shorter in recent weeks. I believe this lull is brought to you by the months of December and January. While there are some books published during that period, there just isn’t a whole lot going on between Thanksgiving and late January. So not many ARCs. I might have a chance to catch up just a smidge.

For Review:
The Darkest Torment (Lords of the Underworld #12) by Gena Showalter
The Fifth Petal (Lace Reader #2) by Brunonia Barry
Hanging the Stars (Half Moon Bay #2) by Rhys Ford
Running on Empty (Salt Box #3) by Meg Benjamin
Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde
The Tides of Bara (Sorcerous Moons #3) by Jeffe Kennedy

Borrowed from the Library:
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Review: Teeth Long and Sharp by Grace Draven, Antioch Grey, Aria M Jones, Jeffe Kennedy and Mel Sterling

Review: Teeth Long and Sharp by Grace Draven, Antioch Grey, Aria M Jones, Jeffe Kennedy and Mel SterlingTeeth, Long and Sharp by Grace Draven, Antioch Grey, Aria M. Jones, Jeffe Kennedy, Mel Sterling
Formats available: ebook
Pages: 276
on October 4th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazon

A collection of tales sharp and pointed.
IVORIES by Aria M. Jones - Eleanor resents the afternoons sacrificed to piano lessons and a disagreeable teacher who gloats over her failures and humiliations. Today, it’s Mrs. Lundemann’s turn for a sacrifice of a very different nature…
NIGHT TIDE by Grace Draven - Something hunts the surf at night, luring villagers to their deaths with a lullaby of sorrow and the torture of nightmares. Blessed with the gift of water-sight, Zigana Imre senses the presence of an ancient predator possessing a taste for human flesh sweetened by grief. With the help of a child of earth, she will battle a spawn of the sea to protect a loved one and save a man who will one day save a world.
THE NOISE OF FUR by Jeffe Kennedy - The first time, it came at night…
In the forest, a Thing prowls, picking off members of young Raven’s tribe. If they flee their home, they face starvation. If only Raven can answer the question of what kind of fur makes that noise.
VENETRIX by Antioch Grey - A merchant and a poet come to the City, seeking justice for the murder of a relative, and if justice cannot be found, they will have revenge. They collude with vampires, negotiate with mermaids, share ale and meat pies with gargoyles and navigate the prisons, waterways and court system of a city ruled by a Master possessing long life and even longer teeth.
The City will make you a fortune, or it will kill you, but it will always change you.
THE VAMPIRES OF MULBERRY STREET by Aria M. Jones - Living the simple life in small town Indiana, Mrs. H has everything she could possibly ever want: a cozy house, peace and quiet, and a garden that is the envy of Mulberry Street. But when sinister outsiders disrupt the tranquility of her neighborhood, it might be time for her to come out of retirement and take up tools more deadly than pruning shears and a trowel.
VOICE OF THE KNIFE by Mel Sterling - Biologist Charles Napier doesn’t mind getting lost in a Florida swamp—it’s part of a scientist’s job. Logic and training will get him out safely. Except lurking in this swamp, there’s a monster Napier’s science can’t explain...a lonely, exquisite, desperate monster.
Foreword by Ilona Andrews

My Review:

I should have saved this one for Halloween. Some of the stories in this collection are absolutely raise the hair on the back of your neck scary. And the rest are fairly creepy. Think of this one as horror for people who don’t really like horror.

Like me.

My favorite story in this collection, hands down, is Venetrix by Antioch Grey. It’s the one story in the collection that feels most like paranormal or alt-history-type fantasy, and is the least, well, creepy. Instead we have an alternate Venice where everyone is wearing a mask, even if they are not, and creatures who are varying shades of not-quite-human mingle with the more usual denizens of the city – the humans AND the vampires. The crux of this story centers on one group of the otherworldly, the mermaids who live in the canals and the harbor and trade with the humans. And they are more than willing to avenge the death of someone who was actually willing to talk with them and hear what they had to say. This world, with it’s hidden dangers and it’s ultra-communicative masks, is a place I would love to visit in a longer work. And the ending was spectacular in its devious cleverness.

The Venice in this story reminded me a lot of the Venice in Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s The Fallen Blade. Which was awesome.

I also really liked Grace Draven’s Night Tide, which is another story about the creatures of the sea. And also reads like fantasy as much as it does horror. There’s a creature living out beyond the waves of this fishing village, and it is luring the villagers to their deaths. Zigana Imre and her marvelous horse Gitta battle both the creature and the darkness of their own hearts. At the end of the story, Zigana has triumphed over the monster with the help of the one man she should never be near – her sister’s husband. The ending is open – evil is vanquished, but Zigana will have a battle ahead to rein in her own desires.

The trawling horses in this story are absolutely awesome.

Ivories by Aria M. Jones is a fun little story that borders on horror. At the same time, it has a definite appeal to anyone who has ever endured unwanted lessons, particularly music lessons, at the hand of a sadistic teacher. This is one where the just desserts definitely taste sweet, but in the mouth of something that is best not identified completely.

I found both The Noise of Fur by Jeffe Kennedy and The Vampires of Mulberry Street by Aria M. Jones to be interesting but not quite as arresting as Venetrix or Night Tide. However, the heroine of Mulberry Street reminds me of a Granny Weatherwax in a way that brought a smile of memory to this reader. She’s just that kind of sharp-edged old lady, for all of Weatherwax’s definitions of old and sharp.

Voice of the Knife by Mel Sterling absolutely chilled me to the bone. It’s not a story I’ll forget for a long time. And that scares me.

Escape Rating A-: Like all collections, my reaction to this one is a bit mixed. I preferred the stories that bordered on fantasy, like Venetrix, Night Tide and The Noise of Fur to the outright horror of Voice of the Knife. That I found Voice of the Knife to be utterly chilling tells me that it is a good story, but just not my cuppa. And I needed a warm cuppa after that one to chase the chill from bones.

All in all, Teeth Long and Sharp is a chilling, thrilling choice for your Halloween reading pleasure.

Review: Echoes of Sherlock Holmes edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger

Review: Echoes of Sherlock Holmes edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. KlingerEchoes of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon by Laurie R. King, Leslie S. Klinger
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Series: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon #3
Pages: 368
Published by Pegasus Books on October 4th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.org

In this follow-up to the acclaimed In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, expert Sherlockians Laurie King and Les Klinger put forth the question: What happens when great writers/creators who are not known as Sherlock Holmes devotees admit to being inspired by Conan Doyle stories? While some are highly-regarded mystery writers, others are best known for their work in the fields of fantasy or science fiction. All of these talented authors, however, share a great admiration for Arthur Conan Doyle and his greatest creations, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
To the editors’ great delight, these stories go in many directions. Some explore the spirit of Holmes himself; others tell of detectives themselves inspired by Holmes’s adventures or methods. A young boy becomes a detective; a young woman sharpens her investigative skills; an aging actress and a housemaid each find that they have unexpected talents. Other characters from the Holmes stories are explored, and even non-Holmesian tales by Conan Doyle are echoed. The variations are endless!
Although not a formal collection of new Sherlock Holmes stories—however some do fit that mold—instead these writers were asked to be inspired by the Conan Doyle canon. The results are breathtaking, for fans of Holmes and Watson as well as readers new to Doyle’s writing—indeed, for all readers who love exceptional storytelling.

My Review:

in the company of sherlock holmes edited by laurie r king and leslie s klingerThis collection is the third editorial collaboration of Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger of newly commissioned tales that fall somewhere in the Sherlock Holmes tradition, if not the Holmes canon. Like the previous collections, A Study in Sherlock and In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, this outing too is a mixed bag. Some stories are memorable, some stories are wonderful. A few are both. And then there are some that either just didn’t move me or didn’t really feel like they belonged in this particular collection.

I do have several favorites this time around, more than in Company.

Where There is Honey by Dana Cameron drew me in because it feels like a somewhat earthier version of the real Holmes canon. Partly because of the Victorian era reluctance to deal with the earthier and seamier side of life, Holmes often comes off as a plaster saint, either a bit too good or a bit too unworldly to be true. The versions of Holmes and Watson in Cameron’s story feel more like real men, who have real bodies and face real emotional issues. Watson here clearly has PTSD that he keeps at bay through writing, at least some of the time, and likes a good fight. In this story Holmes is every bit as annoying as he can be, but also worries about paying his half of the rent, or Watson sometimes does that for him. The case is complex and nasty in its way, and our heroes enjoy providing the villains’ comeuppance. But they feel real.

Tasha Alexander’s Before a Bohemian Scandal reads like a story that wasn’t in the canon but should have been. In this story, we see Irene Adler’s affair with the Crown Prince of Bohemia from its starry-eyed beginning to its cold-hearted end. It’s impossible not to sympathize with Irene’s predicament, and to see just how nasty a man the future King of Bohemia turns out to be. This story is not just good on its own, but also gives depth to the canon story of A Scandal in Bohemia.

The Adventure of the Empty Grave by Jonathan Maberry is another story that could easily be encompassed by the original canon. It takes place during the Great Hiatus between Reichenbach Falls and The Adventure of the Empty House. In this tale a grief-stricken Watson visits Holmes’ empty grave and encounters a most surprising visitor – a man claiming to be the elderly C. Auguste Dupin, the living inspiration for the detective creation of Edgar Allan Poe. Dupin eventually convinces a skeptical Watson both of his reality and his purpose – to warn Watson that even though Moriarty is dead, his criminal enterprise is not. When Dupin disappears in the end, leaving behind the accouterments of his disguise, both the reader and Watson are left to wonder if he was a ghost after all, or a disguised visit from an absent friend.

Several of the stories in this collection are meta in one way or another. Holmes on the Range by John Connolly posits a library straight out of The Eyre Affair, where fictional characters retire to live out their “lives” after their authorial creators have died. The librarian is perplexed when Sherlock Holmes appears after the publication of The Final Problem and alarmed when Holmes is resurrected in The Adventure of the Empty House but also continues to inhabit this very special library. He fears the arrival of a second Holmes upon the eventual death of his author, and fears that having two of the same character will do irreparable harm to the delicate balance that allows the library to exist.

In Raffa by Anne Perry, an actor who plays Sherlock Holmes in one of the inevitable revivals finds himself attempting to serve as the “real” Holmes when called upon by a very desperate and very, very young “client”. Watching the actor become absorbed in the part of Holmes, and his part as rescuer, makes for a lovely little story.

Of the stories where a detective who is very definitely not Holmes uses Holmes’ methods to solve a case, my favorite is definitely Martin X by Gary Phillips. I loved this one because it transplants the methods and a bit of Holmes’ personality to a time, place and person who would initially be assumed to be as far from Holmes as possible. “Dock” Watson is a black private detective, occasional bodyguard and sometimes intelligence officer who is called to investigate the death of a fictional heir to Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy. It is 1976 and New York City is still reeling from the “Son of Sam” murders. J. Edgar Hoover may be dead, but his heirs and his methods are still running the FBI, and are still conducting dirty tricks campaigns against the leaders of any movement that twisted brain found suspect – especially the Black Power movement. This Watson finds himself investigating not just the murder of a leader, but also the concerted effort by someone to make sure that the void in leadership stays void – by any means necessary. An undercover Sherlock Holmes, along with Watson, discover a chain of criminality that leads from street gangs in Harlem to someone very dirty in the CIA. This was a terrific story that made me wish there were more. Lots, lots more.

study in sherlock by king and klingerEscape Rating B+: This collection was every bit as good as the first one, A Study in Sherlock. Most of the stories here were at least enjoyable, if not memorable. And there were only a couple that either didn’t feel remotely Holmesian or just didn’t work for me. I hope there will be another editorial collaboration in this series, because each book introduced me either to new perspectives on Holmes, or new authors of mystery.

As a final note, I’m haunted by Cory Doctorow’s The Adventure of the Extraordinary Rendition. This tale of a 21st century Holmes up against the modern security state embodied by his brother Mycroft felt all too possible. And all too frightening because of it.

Review: Devil Sent the Rain by Lisa Turner

Review: Devil Sent the Rain by Lisa TurnerDevil Sent the Rain by Lisa Turner
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Billy Able #3
Pages: 352
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on September 27th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.org

Edgar Award nominee and bestselling author Lisa Turner’s hard-boiled Detective Billy Able returns in this dark Southern mystery about the murder of a dazzling Memphis socialite—and the scandals revealed in the wake of her death
The heart can be an assassin. Detective Billy Able knows that from experience.
Fresh from solving Memphis’ most sensational murder case, Homicide Detective Billy Able and his ambitious new partner Frankie Malone are called to a bizarre crime scene on the outskirts of town. A high society attorney has been murdered while dressed in a wedding gown. Billy is shocked to discover he has a very personal connection to the victim. When the attorney’s death exposes illegal practices at her family’s prestigious law firm, the scandal is enough to rock the southern city’s social world.
In a tale of the remnants of Old South aristocracy and entitlement, twisted by greed and vengeance, Billy must confront the secrets of his own past to have any chance at solving the murder of the girl he once knew. But as he seeks the truth, he’s drawn closer to an embittered killer bent on revenge—and eliminating the threat Billy poses.

My Review:

They say that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Well, everyone needs roots. And there’s a lot in this mystery about roots, both the monetary kind and the kind where your family has been someplace forever and ever, and all the old prejudices and all the old rivalries are very, very much still alive and kicking in the present.

This is a murder mystery. In so many mysteries, one of the first principles is to “follow the money” to figure out who had motive for, and probably did, the crime. This one is a surprise in that while there is plenty of money to buy a whole barrel full of red herrings, money may be at the root of all evil but it is not at the root of this murder. Exactly.

Caroline Lee is found murdered in her red Camaro in the middle of a herd of bison, wearing a wedding dress. That would be enough for sensation-seeking media to run with right there, but Caroline is also the daughter of one of the most prestigious families in Memphis, and is a lawyer at her family’s elite law firm. So there’s the lurid possibility of scandal in high society to add to the admittedly bizarre scenario of her death.

There’s a lot of pressure on the Memphis P.D., and especially Detectives Billy Able and Frankie Malone, to solve this case ASAP. Which is the last thing they are able to do. There are too many wealthy and influential people trying to muddy the waters from the very beginning, and too many possible suspects and motives.

That Caroline was Billy’s first love, back when they were teenagers, does not exactly add to his objectivity. And Frankie’s newbie impulsiveness doesn’t help either of them stay out of trouble with the powers-that-be. But they are still the best the MPD has, so they are on the case.

It could be Caroline’s embarrassed ex-fiancee, who had been stalking and harassing her for weeks. It could be the father of her unborn child, who doesn’t seem to have been the ex-fiancee. It could be either her mother or her brother, who are oh-so-obviously covering up something dirty in the wake of Caroline’s death. It could even be something related to the mysterious disappearance of her cousin five years ago. Or none of the above.

It’s up to Billy Able to sort through the tangle of lies, deceit, longstanding grievances and family ties before it all gets swept under the rug – along with his and Frankie’s careers.

Escape Rating A-: I read this in a single evening. Once I started I absolutely couldn’t stop. Devil Sent the Rain is a terrific combination of police procedural with Southern mystery, and was absorbing from beginning to end. Which also came as a nearly complete surprise and had almost nothing to do with anything I expected, yet was still set up within the story. The clues were all there, and I missed them, as did the detectives for most of the book, and for good reasons.

There is so much money floating around in this story that it seems like it must be the motive. It blows the reader away when it isn’t.

little death in dixie by lisa turnerMuch of the story revolves around the detective’s ties to the victim and her family, and his own roots in the area. While it is clear that there are previous stories featuring Detective Billy Able (A Little Death in Dixie and The Gone Dead Train) it is not necessary to have read the previous books to get deeply into Devil Sent the Rain.

I haven’t read them, but after this absorbing mystery, I surely do intend to.

Billy’s ties to the victim and her family all date back to his childhood and adolescence, long before he became a police detective. But investigating the murder of one’s first love has to be right up there as any investigator’s worst nightmare. It clouds his judgment and sends him down a few too many wrong paths, but in a way that drags the reader right along with him.

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