The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-28-15

Sunday Post

We’re on the road again, so any scheduled winner announcements will appear next week. Which will be the July 4 weekend in the U.S., and probably no one will care until after the weekend.

ALA san francisco 2015This weekend we’re in San Francisco at the American Library Association Annual Convention, hopefully not freezing. I’m referring to the famous quote attributed to Mark Twain, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” SF can be a bit chilly, but I’ve never found it to be quite that cold. And a few days in the 60s are going to feel quite refreshing after weeks in the 90s in Atlanta.

Ironically, the research seems to say that when Twain first made the original statement, he was not referring to San Francisco, but Duluth Minnesota. I currently live in Duluth Georgia, which was named for (you guessed it!) the city in Minnesota.

I keep reminding myself that every place has something that sucks, weatherwise. Atlanta and the South in general, are hotter than Hades in the summer, but generally lovely in the winter. Chicago had horrible winters, and hot summers, but the spring and fall are marvelous. Anchorage totally sucks in the winter, but summers are usually sweet, although apparently not this year. And, just to keep things really interesting, you have to get used to the earthquakes. But I grew up in “Tornado Alley”, so there’s always something.

Current Giveaways:

Ruthless by John Rector

on a cyborg planet by anna hackettBlog Recap:

C+ Review: Dissident by Cecilia London
B- Review: Ruthless by John Rector + Giveaway
B Review: Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell
B+ Review: Valentine by Heather Grothaus
A- Review: On a Cyborg Planet by Anna Hackett
Stacking the Shelves (141)




freedom-to-read-giveaway-hop1-237x300Coming Next Week:

Phoenix Inheritance by Corrina Lawson (review)
A New Hope by Robyn Carr (blog tour review)
The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs (review)
Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop
A Sword for his Lady by Mary Wine (blog tour review)
Duke City Desperado by Max Austin (blog tour review)

Stacking the Shelves (141)

Stacking the Shelves

Today, I am in San Francisco at the American Library Association Annual Conference, surrounded by aisles and aisles and piles and piles of books and ARCs. I will be desperately attempting to resist temptation, or at least channel it into requests for NetGalley and Edelweiss eARCs instead of overloading my suitcase.

Again. <sigh>

For Review:
The Drafter (Peri Reed Chronicles #1) by Kim Harrison
Ether & Elephants (Gaslight Chronicles #8) by Cindy Spencer Pape
The Obsidian Temple (Desert Rising #2) by Kelley Grant
Rockies Retreat (Destination: Desire #5) by Crystal Jordan
Space Cowboys & Indians (Cosmic Cowboys #1) by Lisa Medley
Tales by Charles Todd

Purchased from Amazon:
Wildfire on the Skagit (Firehawks #9) by M.L. Buchman


Review: Ruthless by John Rector + Giveaway

ruthless by john rectorFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: mystery/thriller
Length: 270 pages
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Date Released: June 1, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Nick White is the only person who can save Abigail Pierce. After uncovering a plot to have her killed, he attempts to warn her but instead puts himself squarely in the crosshairs. They know who he is, they know where he lives, they know how to get at his family.

Drawn into the conspiracy surrounding Abigail, Nick soon discovers the danger is bigger than he ever believed. Now he must uncover the truth to save her and himself.

My Review:

duke city hit by max austinRuthless reminded me a lot of The Dismantling by Brian DeLeeuw (reviewed here) and Max Austin’s Duke City series (Duke City Split and Duke City Hit, reviewed here and here).

Why? Because in all these cases the protagonist is a guy who ends up involved in basically two-bit crimes. He’s not evil, he doesn’t intend to become a career criminal, but he just takes the easy way out one time too often and finds himself on the wrong side of the law and in way over his head.

Also, in both Dismantling and Ruthless, the poor schlub is misled by a woman who he wants to believe is basically innocent, and turns out to be anything but.

Ruthless also takes a surprising turn into lab-based science fiction, but we’ll get there in a minute.

At the beginning of the story, Nick White is at his regular bar, talking to his regular bartender and feeling regularly sorry for himself. His wife is over him because he keeps gambling, and often losing. Even worse, he gambled away their savings – and her trust. It’s not clear whether Nick is addicted to gambling, or if he’s just good enough at it that he generally walks away ahead – just not ahead enough.

His life is basically on the skids when he decides to play a prank on a drunk woman who walks into the bar. She thinks he’s the person she was planning to meet. It’s only after she staggers away that he opens up the manila envelope she left him. (Why is it always a manila envelope?)

The lady was expecting to meet a hitman, to contract with the guy to off her step-daughter. Because Nick’s luck is running true-to-form, meaning bad, the real hitman walks in as Nick is skulking out, and the really bad guy figures out who Nick is and what he has let himself in for.

Nick’s life goes all downhill from that point. Not that it had far to roll.

He should call the police and turn the evidence over to them. Instead, he decides to warn the intended victim.

Abigail Pierce looks like innocence personified. When the bad guys show up and start cutting her, Nick will do anything they say – and anything Abigail says, to keep her, and himself, and his soon-to-be-ex-wife, and possibly his dad, from being murdered.

He should have run as fast as he could, and left Abigail to her well-deserved fate. By the time he figures things out, he’s much, much too late to save anyone – including himself.

Escape Rating B-: At first, it just seems like Nick is out of luck and over his head. After his initial mistake, he keeps trying to do the right thing. It’s only as he gets deeper in to the quagmire that he finally figures out that everyone on all sides is using him.

He doesn’t even know what it is he is being used for. Poor schlub.

For all of Nick’s faults, and he has a bunch, he can’t see through Abigail’s innocent act, and he can’t believe that everyone is lying to him all the way around. For a guy who supposedly makes a living as a gambler, he does a lousy job of reading everyone’s tells.

dismantling by brian deleeuwAt first, this story seemed pretty familiar – it was a better written version of the story in The Dismantling. Nick gets sucked in to a life of crime, or at least a life on the run, by trying to save a woman who doesn’t really need saving. What made this one different is what he finally discovers he is saving Abigail for, or from. Or not.

Abigail and her stepmother appear to be fighting over the estate of a wealthy industrialist, the man they have in common. The question is presented to Nick as a matter of who gets the vast estate when the guy dies, which is expected to be soon.

It’s really about the details of his research. Abigail is the result of a experimental genetics lab. (This bit reminds me just a little of Orphan Black). Abigail wants the details of the research that created her, because she wants to start it up again. Her stepmother won’t deal with her, so she enlists Nick as a go-between. Also as a patsy.

This one ends up being about who is using who.

I’m not totally sure about the science fictional nature of the reason why Abigail gets Nick into this mess. There was plenty of thriller there if Abigail was just a typical heir trying to stay alive to inherit, and if she and her stepmother were in the middle of some mutually assured destruction without the lab-related distraction.

You will end up feeling sorry for Nick. He should have seen it at least some of it coming.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

I’m giving away a copy of Ruthless to one lucky U.S. or Canadian commenter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-21-15

Sunday Post

For those of you wondering who won some of the recent giveaways, I was able to catch up now that I’m back home.

ALA san francisco 2015Next week I’ll be at the American Library Association Annual Conference. This year, ALA has done something sensible for a change. We’ll be back in San Francisco. Because San Francisco is generally cool, or cool-ish in the summer, it’s a perfect place to have to be dressed up and running around, unlike last summer in Las Vegas. Or next summer in OMG Orlando. If ALA decided to have every Midwinter Conference in San Diego or San Antonio, and every summer in San Francisco (with the occasional break for Chicago) that would be just fine with me. But c’est la vie.

For anyone who loves fantasy, and has not yet read The Goblin Emperor, go forth and get a copy post-haste. I have seen it described as manner-porn, which is a term I’d never heard before. The Goblin Emperor is set in a world where manners don’t just make the man (or elf, or goblin) but they also keep him alive in the midst of his enemies. It certainly runs counter to the recent spate of grimdark fantasy. And it is simply awesome.

There are still a couple of days left to get in on the Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop. Just tell us who your favorite heroine is for a chance at either a $10 Gift Card of a $10 Book of your choice.

Current Giveaways:

favorite heroinesFlirt and Loveswept mugs + ebook copies of Rock It by Jennifer Chance, After Midnight by Kathy Clark, Alex by Sawyer Bennett, Wild on You by Tina Wainscott, Plain Jayne by Laura Drewry, and Accidental Cowgirl by Maggie McGinnis from Loveswept
$10 Gift Card or book in the Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of her choice of title in Jeffe Kennedy’s Twelve Kingdoms series is Kristia M.
The winner of The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller is Maria S.
The winner of Let Me Die in his Footsteps by Lori Roy is Brandi D.

goblin emperor by katherine addisonBlog Recap:

A+ Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
B- Review: Zack by Sawyer Bennett + Giveaway
Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop
A- Review: Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell
B Review: The Sage of Waterloo by Leona Francombe
Stacking the Shelves (140)




valentine by heather grothausComing Next Week:

Dissident by Cecilia London (review)
Ruthless by John Rector (blog tour review)
Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell (review)
Valentine by Heather Grothaus (blog tour review)
On a Cyborg Planet by Anna Hackett (review)

Stacking the Shelves (140)

Stacking the Shelves

I knew that this week would make up for last week. I just didn’t realize how much!

Last week I said it was too early to see Christmas books on NetGalley. I spoke much too soon. This week, I saw eARCs on Edelweiss for books that are not scheduled for publication until March 2016! Too soon, too soon! Make it stop!

old mans warThere’s one book on this list that I don’t think I can resist reading way early. That’s The End of All Things by John Scalzi. I love his Old Man’s War series, and I’m a bit sad that this will be the last book for a while. He’s promised to go back later, but this is it for the moment. The book is being released as a serial ebook right now, but I’ve discovered (see Monday’s review of Dissident) that I just don’t like the serial novel format. I need a beginning, middle and an end, even if it’s just a temporary end. This makes me doubly glad to have the entire End of All Things to chomp through at once. Which won’t stop me from buying a print copy the next time I see him and can get him to sign one. Maybe WorldCon?

For Review:
The Bourbon Kings (Bourbon Kings #1) by J.R. Ward
The Dark Forest (Three-Body #2) by Cixin Liu
The Devil’s Brew (Sinners #2.5) by Rhys Ford
Doctor Who: The Drosten’s Curse by A.L. Kennedy
The End of All Things (Old Man’s War #6) by John Scalzi
Gold Coast Blues (Jules Landau #3) by Marc Krulewitch
Gray Card by Cassandra Chandler
If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins
The Kill Box (Jamie Sinclair #3) by Nichole Christoff
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
Part of Our Lives by Wayne A. Wiegand
Tequila Mockingbird (Sinners #3) by Rhys Ford
Tough Love (Ultimate #3) by Lori Foster
Whiskey and Wry (Sinners #2) by Rhys Ford
Wrath of the Furies by Steven Saylor

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-14-15

Sunday Post

We are on the road again, so I’ll have to let everyone, including the winners, know who won what of last week’s giveaways next week.

And I’m not just writing this early, but I’m writing in the middle of a thunderstorm. I’m wondering when we’ll lose either power or ‘net. Or both. The fweeping sound the UPS (uninterruptable power supplies) make drives the cats absolutely bonkers.

Or at least more bonkers than they are normally.

One of the things about being on the road is that while I may get plenty of time to read, time and space (and quiet) to write in can be hard to come by. Some people are multi-taskers – Galen can write and even code in the living room with the TV on. Me – I need surround-silence, as opposed to surround-sound.

On that other hand, when I’m reading, the world could go to hell in a handbasket right next to me, and I wouldn’t hear a thing. I’m not there. I’m in Middle-Earth, or wherever the book takes me.

Current Giveaways:

Hot Cowboy Nights book bundle by Victoria Vane
$25 Gift Card + ebook copy of The Rhyme of the Magpie by Marty Wingate
5 copies of Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper

night of the highland dragon by isabel cooperBlog Recap:

A- Review: Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman
B- Review: Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy by Victoria Vane
Guest Post by Victoria Vane on Art Imitating Life + Giveaway
B+ Review: The Rhyme of the Magpie by Marty Wingate + Giveaway
A Review: Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper
Guest Post by Isabel Cooper on her Favorite Author + Giveaway
A- Review: Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford
Stacking the Shelves (139)

favorite heroinesComing Next Week:

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (review)
Zack by Sawyer Bennett (blog tour review)
Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop
Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell (review)
Inherit the Stars by Laurie A. Green (review)

Review: Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford

sinners gin by rhys fordFormat read: ebook borrowed from the library
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: M/M romantic suspense
Series: Sinners #1
Length: 260 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: December 24, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

There’s a dead man in Miki St. John’s vintage Pontiac GTO, and he has no idea how it got there.

After Miki survives the tragic accident that killed his best friend and the other members of their band, Sinner’s Gin, all he wants is to hide from the world in the refurbished warehouse he bought before their last tour. But when the man who sexually abused him as a boy is killed and his remains are dumped in Miki’s car, Miki fears Death isn’t done with him yet.

Kane Morgan, the SFPD inspector renting space in the art co-op next door, initially suspects Miki had a hand in the man’s murder, but Kane soon realizes Miki is as much a victim as the man splattered inside the GTO. As the murderer’s body count rises, the attraction between Miki and Kane heats up. Neither man knows if they can make a relationship work, but despite Miki’s emotional damage, Kane is determined to teach him how to love and be loved — provided, of course, Kane can catch the killer before Miki becomes the murderer’s final victim.

My Review:

I pulled Sinner’s Gin out of the endless TBR stack as a treat to myself. It’s seldom these days that I get a chance to read a book just because “I wanna” and not because I’ve promised a book tour or picked up an ARC from NetGalley or Edelweiss that comes packages with its own commitment to read and review.

Not that I don’t love a good chunk of the books I get from those sources and in those ways, but sometimes I miss the days when I could read something “just because”.

I had to provide myself with an excuse this time, too. I wanted to read at least one book for Pride Month, and I’ll confess that I needed a relatively short book (under 300 pages) to round out the week because of, well, reasons. And because I love Rhys’ Ford’s other series and have had the Sinners series on my iPad forever, this seemed like the time to finally read it.

Boy, howdy, am I glad I did!

The story in Sinner’s Gin is incredibly sad, horribly frightening, and ultimately marvelous. It takes a lot of twists and turns to get to its surprising, in fact, downright shocking, conclusion. And I loved every minute of it.

One of the terrific things about this story is that it starts in a way you don’t expect. Where Olivia Cunning’s Sinners on Tour series shows a rock band at the height of its success, and sometimes excess, Sinner’s Gin shows the pride before the fall, and it cuts like a knife.

They’ve just won a Grammy. The garage band has finally made it to the top, and while they are all still young enough to enjoy it. Tragedy strikes in an instant, and a drunk driver totals their limo on the way back from the awards show, ending three of their lives, plus the limo driver, in a squeal of crashing metal.

We meet survivor Miki St. John months later, and he’s just barely surviving. His extensive injuries are still providing more than enough physical pain to give him nightmares, but its the survivor’s guilt that keeps him stuck in the sea of despond.

Until the dog he won’t even admit is his drags a cop into his life. And until someone leaves the dead body of one of the men who abused him as a child stuffed into his dead bandmate’s classic car.

A car that Miki can’t even drive. It’s just one of the many memories he hangs onto of the only time in his young life that he belonged. Or was happy.

The murder changes everything. But Miki has to wade back through all the bad shit in his life before he is truly ready to reach for something good. The cop that his dog drags into their lives, and into their hearts.

Escape Rating A-: Sinner’s Gin starts with a tragedy, and ends with a shock that kicks over everything that the characters have assumed at the beginning, although they don’t know it yet.

I will say that the whipcrack of that ending answered my questions about how this series was going to continue. Just before the end, it seemed like Miki had worked out his demons, and the mystery was solved with the murderer pleading his case before a much higher court. I didn’t know where the story could go next. And then boom!

Although Kane (and Dude’s) introduction into Miki’s life provide the impetus for the story, and sometimes the impetus for Miki to just manage to get out of bed, this is Miki’s story. It’s his pain, his anguish, and ultimately his re-emergence into the light that gives the story its heart and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.

At first, the mystery of the trail of dead bodies (and dead body parts) feels like insult added to injury. Miki was lost in the foster care system until he got himself out at 15 and was discovered by the very fledgling band Sinner’s Gin.

He wasn’t able to get justice for the men who physically and sexually abused him, because they were upstanding members of the community and he was considered mixed-race trash who should be grateful for the roof over his head.

In other words, the system failed him. And it starts out failing him again when the body of one of his tormentors is discovered in his garage. It’s obvious that Miki couldn’t have committed the crime, but the cops still circle him like vultures. Until Kane Morgan reaches into the mess and pulls Miki to safety, and into his arms.

It’s a tough time for either of them to be starting a relationship. Miki has never healed from any of the damage that was done to him, either by his childhood or the accident that took his friends. Kane should not get involved with a suspect, or even a person of interest, in a murder case he’s investigating. But it happens anyway.

One of the lovely and marvelous things about the start of Kane’s and Miki’s relationship is that no one is giving Kane any crap over being gay. He is accepted for who he is by everyone, both his fellow cops and his family – not that there isn’t considerable overlap between those two groups. He does take some heat for getting involved with a potential suspect, but that’s an equal opportunity problem.

We do end up following Kane as he is frustrated by his inability to deal with Miki’s very dark night of the soul. Miki is being victimized all over again by the deaths of his tormentors, and by the media leak of his trauma. All Kane can do is be there for him, because Miki has to conquer his demons himself.

I also liked the way that Miki figures out not who exactly, but what drives the person who is attempting to frame him. And the way that he ultimately saves himself.

Just a couple of little niggles that keep this from being an A or A+, as much as I enjoyed it. Kane and Miki’s relationship feels like it goes from zero to 60 in no time flat. While sometimes a sex-into-love relationship works, this was more of a “get under each other’s skin into love and sex” relationship. They seemed to fall in love with each other without this reader feeling it happen. YMMV. It also seemed like Kane’s mother Brigid was a bit of a stereotype of the overpowering mother. I would have pushed her out of my apartment, too. I wanted a bit more nuance to her. Or something.

But I loved Dude. He is such a cute scamp, and exactly what Miki needed.

whiskey and wry by rhys fordI can’t wait to make up an excuse to read the next book in this series, Whiskey and Wry. I desperately want to discover how that BOOM of an ending plays out.

***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.


Review: The Rhyme of the Magpie by Marty Wingate + Giveaway

rhyme of the magpie by marty wingateFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: cozy mystery
Series: Birds of a Feather #1
Length: 261 pages
Publisher: Random House Alibi
Date Released: June 2, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

With her personal life in disarray, Julia Lanchester feels she has no option but to quit her job on her father’s hit BBC Two nature show, A Bird in the Hand. Accepting a tourist management position in Smeaton-under-Lyme, a quaint village in the English countryside, Julia throws herself into her new life, delighting sightseers (and a local member of the gentry) with tales of ancient Romans and pillaging Vikings.

But the past is front and center when her father, Rupert, tracks her down in a moment of desperation. Julia refuses to hear him out; his quick remarriage after her mother’s death was one of the reasons Julia flew the coop. But later she gets a distressed call from her new stepmum: Rupert has gone missing. Julia decides to investigate—she owes him that much, at least—and her father’s new assistant, the infuriatingly dapper Michael Sedgwick, offers to help. Little does the unlikely pair realize that awaiting them is a tightly woven nest of lies and murder.

My Review:

garden plot by marty wingateI have really enjoyed Marty Wingate’s Potting Shed series (The Garden Plot and The Red Book of Primrose House, reviewed here and here) so when I saw that she had started a new series, I was hoping for more chilling mysteries in a cozy setting with a likable main character, and I was definitely not disappointed.

The Rhyme of the Magpie is a real treat, and Julia Lanchester is a lovely, lively and intelligent heroine on the cusp of a lot of changes in her personal and professional life. The setting is charming, and the mystery is definitely chilling.

The story centers around the old, familiar bird-counting rhyme:

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret,
Never to be told.
Eight for heaven,
Nine for hell
And ten for the devil’s own sell!

I repeat the rhyme here because Julia keeps referring to it in the book, and I ended up keeping a reference copy handy.

Eurasian Magpie
Eurasian Magpie

In England, the rhyme counts magpies, and is used for making near-term predictions. In America the birds counted are often crows – they are in the same family as magpies, but are more common here where magpies are not. (Robin D. Owens’ Ghost Seer series also uses this counting rhyme, but definitely with crows)

In Julia Lanchester’s life, her family has used the rhyme on multiple occasions to anticipate her sister Bianca’s pregnancies and predict the outcome. So far, completely accurately, but baby #4 is on the way, and the magpies predict a boy. If there are more in the series, and I hope there are, we’ll discover if the magpies are maintaining their streak.

Julia is counting birds because they keep predicting sorrow, and Julia is worried.

A few months before this story begins, Julia changed her entire life. Her mother was killed in a car accident, and her father remarried less than six months later. Julia, who can’t stop grieving, can’t understand how her father could move on so fast. She hasn’t forgiven him for letting go of her mother’s memory so easily, and she can’t forgive his new wife – especially since Beryl was her mother’s best friend and almost a second mother – certainly a favorite aunt – to Julia.

In her anger at her father, Julia has given up her job as his production assistant on her father’s popular BBC nature program, A Bird in the Hand, and has become the manager of a tourist initiative in the small town of Smeaton-under-Lyme.

It is as she is finally adjusting to her new life that her old one catches up to her. First her father drops by unexpectedly and unwelcome, and Julia gives him the bum’s rush. In turn, he steals her car and disappears – not out of spite, but because he wants to travel incognito for a while and no one will expect him in Julia’s little blue Fiat.

But with Rupert Lanchester in the wind, there is no way of knowing exactly who murdered the man found at her father’s cottage – and police are extremely interested in interviewing the elusive popular naturalist, as not only did the crime occur on his property, but the dead man was known to be an enemy of his.

Julia finds herself increasingly involved with her dad’s new assistant – her replacement – in order to discover where Rupert might have gone and what it is he has been hiding from everyone. Julia and her replacement Michael Sedgwick can’t help but involve themselves in the murder investigation as they track down Rupert – along with an increasing list of all the enemies who might have wanted Rupert out of the way – whether temporarily or permanently.

As the case unwinds, Julia’s memories of her childhood unravel. And her father’s enemies turn out to be much closer than she thought.

But she’ll never look at bacon the same way again.

Escape Rating B+: If you like cozy mysteries, both of Marty Wingate’s series are absolutely tons of fun.

There’s something about Smeaton-Under-Lyme that makes me wonder if it’s not all that far from St. Mary Mead, where Miss Jane Marple held sway for so many years. I can’t explain why I feel that way, but I do.

Back to Julia Lanchester. She feels like a well-rounded character, and a well-rounded person. By the end of the story, we know who she is and what she wants. Also what she doesn’t want. And in this story, we see her make one of the key but unfortunately revelations of adulthood – that her parents, and their marriage, were not and are not perfect. The world of her childhood reminiscences becomes much smaller than she remembered, and a lot of her rose-colored glass illusions are stripped away.

It’s easy to understand her anger at her father and his new wife – Julia is navigating those seven stages of grief much, much differently than her father, or, for that matter, her sister. But Rupert is still her father, and no matter how mad at him she might be, she wants him safe and well. Even as she wants to shake him for worrying everyone.

Her involvement with Michael Sedgwick is part of her reaction to the danger. She wants to find her father. She wants to keep an eye on her replacement – because she initially doesn’t trust him. She wants to make sure that her father doesn’t come back to a disaster because Michael just hasn’t had time to learn all the ropes.

And Michael is handsome, intelligent, interested and just a little too smooth for Julia’s own good. She falls for him, and into bed with him, knowing that he is keeping a big secret from her. Because she is also keeping secrets from him, she finds it difficult to judge him on that count. But she lets her heart (or other organs lower down) overrule her head, only to discover that it was both the right and the wrong thing to do.

The secret Michael is keeping is a major one, but it has nothing to do with her father’s disappearance. And while Julia’s discovery of that secret affects her relationship with Michael, it is something that Rupert has known all along. Only Julia is hurt. And Michael, when the truth about his background comes to light.

Rupert is a towering figure, and is extremely popular. All of the various reasons why he disappeared, and all the plots that center around him, make perfect sense in light of that popularity, and just how polarizing a figure he can sometimes be. Yet all the reasons why people would wish him ill also make sense. Or at least make sense if one keeps in mind the famous quote attributed to Henry Kissinger – “Academic politics are so vicious because the stakes are so small.”

While I did figure out Michael’s secret relatively early on, and had a good guess at who was writing the anonymous threatening letters, I did not figure out who the big villain was in this story until the very end. The clues were there, but I was looking in a different direction entirely.

Well done.


This tour includes a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $25 e-gift card and a copy of the book!

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This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***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.

Review: Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman

rock with wings by anne hillermanFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, large print, audiobook
Genre: mystery
Series: Navajo Mysteries #20
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins
Date Released: May 5, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Navajo Tribal cops Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito, and their mentor, the legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, investigate two perplexing cases in this exciting Southwestern mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Spider Woman’s Daughter

Doing a good deed for a relative offers the perfect opportunity for Sergeant Jim Chee and his wife, Officer Bernie Manuelito, to get away from the daily grind of police work. But two cases will call them back from their short vacation and separate them—one near Shiprock, and the other at iconic Monument Valley.

Chee follows a series of seemingly random and cryptic clues that lead to a missing woman, a coldblooded thug, and a mysterious mound of dirt and rocks that could be a gravesite. Bernie has her hands full managing the fallout from a drug bust gone wrong, uncovering the origins of a fire in the middle of nowhere, and looking into an ambitious solar energy development with long-ranging consequences for Navajo land.

Under the guidance of their mentor, retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, Bernie and Chee will navigate unexpected obstacles and confront the greatest challenge yet to their skills, commitment, and courage.

My Review:

I found myself watching the third season of Longmire at the same time that I was reading Rock with Wings. Even though Longmire is set in Wyoming, the series is filmed in New Mexico, so this is not as far off as one might think.

Hillerman’s Navajo Mysteries series is set in the Four Corners area, where New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah meet. Much of the action in this story centers around Shiprock, New Mexico and the lonely monadnock from which it takes its name.

Shiprock - Tse Bit'a'i
Shiprock – Tse Bit’a’i

Ship Rock, the geological feature, is the “rock with wings” of the story. Monadnock turns out to be the name for what’s left of a volcano after the land around it wears away.

There are lots of monadnocks in nearby Monument Valley, where the rest of this story takes place.

But enough about the geography, what about the story?

In Rock with Wings, married Navajo Tribal Police Officers Jim Chee and Bernadette “Bernie” Manuelito spend much of the story apart, dealing with family issues in the wake of an aborted vacation attempt. They thought they’d be spending a week with Jim’s cousin Paul in Monument Valley.

Instead Bernie rushes home to deal with yet another one of her younger sister’s arrests, and Jim is stuck, not just because he agreed to help his cousin with the start of his tourist business, but also because he agreed to help the local Navajo Police office out for a few days while they are stretched thin dealing with a Hollywood crew filming in the Valley.

Instead of a vacation, Jim ends up working in the place where the classic film Stagecoach was filmed, in the middle of a Hollywood created zombie apocalypse. He starts out hunting for a missing woman, and trips over an unauthorized burial, complete with bone fragments. It looks like a publicity stunt for the movie, but too many people involved with the production seem to have more to hide than an ill-advised and illegal grave. Unless there’s a fresh body in it.

Bernie, back at home, also finds herself back at work when her sister gets out of jail and goes back to help care for their aging mother. This endless series of crises is a gift that keeps on giving Bernie headaches, but there doesn’t seem to be a reasonable, and reasonably affordable solution.

But Bernie has a case of her own. In the middle of a major drug operation, Bernie pulls over a car filled with one very nervous driver. The guy is so nervous that he offers Bernie $500 and a rifle to make the traffic stop go away. Instead, she arrests the guy, only to discover that there isn’t anything to discover. No drugs, no other weapons, no dead body in the trunk – just some boxes of dirt and a case that the local FBI agents make disappear. Along with the driver.

Jim’s unauthorized grave in Monument Valley and Bernie’s dirt smuggler should not be connected. And they mostly aren’t. But they also kind of are, and not just because both Bernie and Jim use their need for a bit of assistance in both cases to get the Legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn back to his computer providing them with his own prodigious investigative instincts and decades of knowledge of the area.

It turns out that Jim and Bernie will need all the help they can get to solve this set of interlocking and very puzzling, crimes.

Spider Women's Daughter by Anne HillermanEscape Rating A-: On the one hand, it was terrific that this case got Joe Leaphorn at least partially back in the saddle after his near-fatal gunshot at the beginning of Spider Woman’s Daughter (reviewed here). Leaphorn’s shooting is still haunting Bernie – she can’t help but think that if she’d been just a couple of seconds faster she might have prevented it. As the entire Navajo community respects Leaphorn, everyone that Jim or Bernie run into asks after Leaphorn and wishes him well.

But Leaphorn was shot in the head, and his rehabilitation is taking a while. He still can’t speak, but when Bernie rearms him with his computer, he’s able to do research, provide insight, and start to get back in the game. His sometimes cryptic advice provides just the right spark to keep Jim and Bernie on the right track without his taking over either of their cases.

This is a story where Jim and Bernie spend most of the story apart, investigating separately. They aren’t used to being separated, and aren’t used to not having the other available to bounce ideas off of. Because of the geography of the Four Corners region, they truly are separate – cell phone coverage is so sporadic that even the instant communication of the 21st century is usually not available.

It’s damn hard in our era of online-all-the-time for an author to create a reasonable excuse for why people can’t just whip out their cell phones and make their problems disappear, but this one definitely works.

Jim’s case starts in Monument Valley, where his search for a missing woman finds too much – the woman and a grave on Navajo land, along with some campers who are camping out where they shouldn’t be.

As the investigation into the illegal gravesite keeps getting deeper and deeper, Jim finds himself taking a hard look at the movie company filming out in the Valley. While they are bringing much needed dollars to the region, they are also bringing more than their fair share of trouble. And Jim Chee, as is typical for him, refuses to take the simple and easy explanation that the grave was just a publicity stunt. There are too many people on the set that keep dodging him and his questions.

And then the dead bodies start turning up.

Bernie is home near Shiprock, juggling her responsibilities as her mother’s oldest daughter with her duties as a cop. But she can’t get the case of the nervous dirt smuggler out of her head. And she’s right not to.

Bernie’s predicament showcases a conflict that plagues women much more than it does men, and not just in traditional societies. She wants to take care of her mother – who admittedly doesn’t believe she needs taking care of. However, Bernie sees where the old and the new worlds conflict, in that she knows that no matter how responsible she is, or how much she helps, she can’t keep her younger sister on the straight and narrow. If Darleen continues to hang out with the wrong crowd and drink and get herself arrested, there is no way another person can stop her from continuing down the road she’s on. Darleen has to decide not to be an alcoholic for herself.

And Bernie’s job is every bit as important to her as her family. She finds herself often second guessing her choices about having to ask for time off to deal with her family issues. She’s all too aware that the male officers have sisters or wives who are handling those traditional responsibilities for them, where she has to juggle both.

In the end, Bernie saves not only herself but also an old man who becomes the target of a crazed activist. Her police work resolves all the crime-related riddles, including the ones that Chee has turned up over in Monument Valley. It is telling that her family issues have no clear resolution, only more problems to be solved.

Police work may be complicated but the solutions are often clear-cut. Family is just plain messy.

***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-7-15

Sunday Post

I had a couple of really terrific books this week.

One of my terrific books here this week was The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy, the epic conclusion of her Twelve Kingdoms series. I loved the series so much that I am giving away a copy of the winner’s choice of title in the series, so that I can share the love. If you like epic fantasy and/or fantasy romance, this series is awesome.

shards of hope by nalini singhAnd over at The Book Pushers I was part of the gang for one of our epic group reviews, this time for Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh. Shards was also absolutely awesome, and everything I’ve come to expect from Singh’s Psy/Changeling series. And now we wait for next year’s installment.

Speaking of awesome, my first book this coming week is Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman. It is a more than worthy successor to last year’s fantastic Spider Woman’s Daughter, and to her father’s terrific Navajo Mysteries series.

Current Giveaways:

The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller
Winner’s choice of title in The Twelve Kingdoms series by Jeffe Kennedy
Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland is Anita Y.

talon of the hawk by jeffe kennedyBlog Recap:

B+ Review: The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller + Giveaway
A+ Review: The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy
Guest Post by Author Jeffe Kennedy about Warrior Women + Giveaway
B Review: Moonlight on Butternut Lake by Mary McNear
B Review: Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy + Giveaway
A Review: The Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato
Stacking the Shelves (138)

sinners gin by rhys fordComing Next Week:

Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman (review)
Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy by Victoria Vane (blog tour review)
Rhyme of the Magpie by Marty Wingate (blog tour review)
Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper (blog tour review)
Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford (review)