Friday, January 30, 2015

Jaded by EM Lynley

Synopsis From Publisher:

Gay-romance writer Trent Copeland finds his life in a rut while his boyfriend, Special Agent Reed Acton, is away on an undercover mission.  After attending a special course at FBI headquarters in Quanitco, Trent's eager for another challenge.  He jumps at the opportunity for a trip to Japan to oversee appraisals of two art collections to be sold at the gallery he co-owns.  But the trip isn't all cherry blossoms and Hello Kitty.  When one of the collectors he meets - rumored to be the head of a Yakuza gang - turns up dead, Trent is accused of the murder and thrown in jail.

Reed drops everything to help find out who really committed the crime. He's in unknown territory in Japan, forced to navigate Tokyo's sex underworld to unravel the truth and save Trent.  He poses as a "host" at a seedy late-night club.  When Reed's undercover activities place him at a ruthless Yakuza leader's sex party, he must be willing to go to any lengths to secure Trent's safety and freedom.  But trusting the wrong people brings both Reed and Trent to the Yakuza leader's attention.  If they're ever to have a happy ever after, they'll first have to call on every skill just to stay alive.

This is really going to be more or a rant, than a review.  If you have read my reviews for the previous two books in the series, Rarer than Rubies and Italian Ice, you already know that I really like this author, and that I adore these two men.  Trent and Reed, despite all the issues that have come up between them, are a solid couple, and it's very easy to imagine them still together in 50 years.  The sex is hot, the mystery is well written, and the action is tenser than it's ever been.

My issue with this one, is the same issue I have with quite a few other romance novels. I don't like when an author relies upon the idea of infidelity to cause tension in a story.  If a couple is solid, as are Trent and Reed, putting one of them in a position to cheat, regardless of the reasons, seems like such a cheap way to cause tension in a story.  It happened in Italian Ice, even though nothing ever happened, and the idea was dragged out even further with Jaded.  The lines are pretty blurred here, and while I can't say full fledged cheating happened, it came pretty damn close.  Whether it's a physical cheating, or an emotional one, the trope is used all to often, then glossed over by the end of the book.  I still really enjoy reading them, but I think I would enjoy the books so much more if the authors could come up with something else to cause temporary tension in a relationship.

Challenges: Men In Uniform

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Angel Souls And Devil Hearts by Christopher Golden

Synopsis From Back Cover:

The Gospel of Shadows has been lost, and the existence of vampires has been revealed.  Peter Octavian is trapped in Hell, but he has given his allies a mission - to discover the secret origin of vampires.

Once they were legend.  but now the entire world knows the truth about their nature, their powers... and their weaknesses.  Everything they have fought for centuries to hold on to, including their mortal loves, is in danger.  For human prejudice can be the most powerful evil of all.

The war has begun...

I can't believe it's been a little over four years ago that I first reread the first book in this series, Of Saints and Shadows.  I'm not really sure why it's taken me this long to get around to rereading the second book, Angel Souls and Devil Hearts, but I hope it doesn't take me that long to reread the third book.  I read the first four books of this series when they first came out, and I fell in love with them.  When Christopher Golden decided to continue on with it, they reissued the the first four books of the series, and I decided to read them again since I really didn't remember everything that happened in them.  And since I really want to read what has happened after the fourth book ended, I need to get my ass in gear, read the next two books, then I can delve into the new material.

One aspect of this book, and of this series as a whole, that I did forget, is how perilous these characters lives are.  None of them are safe, even the ones you think will never die, will die.  It's always a little disconcerting to realize an author is willing to kill off any character they want, regardless of how much you like them, or how used you got to having them around.  The body count in this one is rather staggering at times, and for the most part, a lot of them are characters I truly liked.  Characters who shouldn't die do, and for the most, I loved so many of them.  Even the first vampire of them all, who is introduced in this book, loses his life.  John Courage is one of the characters who makes a grand entrance, makes a huge impact, imparts an even bigger secret, and then goes away.  If you want in on that secret, pay attention to his initials.  Let's just say that it's an interesting take on the origins of the vampire race.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Emperor's Snuff-Box by John Dickson Carr (Password Clue)

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Eve Neil, too beautiful for her own good, thought at first that she could keep quiet about her actions at the time that Sir Maurice Lawes was murdered.  True, she and Ned Atwood had seen Sir Maurice from her window, had noted first his absorption in his antique snuff-box, and then had looked again and seen him dead, with someone reaching back a brown-gloved hand to put out the light.  But she could only prove it by telling that Ned had sen it with her, and she preferred not to explain to her fiance and his family that her attractive ex-husband had been in that room with her.  Eve reckoned, however, without the horrifying charge of murder leveled against her by the police. In order to clear herself, she had to tell all her story, compromising or not.  And then, by merciless logic, the very circumstantial evidence that should have proved her innocent was used to incriminate her. 

Finally, I have read a John Dickson Carr book.  This has been one of those authors I've been wanting to read for a very long time, and now that I've finally done it, I can see myself reading a lot more.  This was a mystery that was carefully crafted and full of tension, which is amazing given how short of a period of time the story takes place in.  Normally, or at least in my experience, when a mystery takes place in a short period of time, the book seems to be frantic in it's pacing, almost schizophrenic, not sure where it's supposed to be going.  With The Emperor's Snuff-Box, Carr kept the pace at a steady clip, giving me just enough energy to keep it interesting, without losing the tension that needs to be built up.

I think a large part of that had to do with the character of Eve Neil.  She may not behave in exactly the same manner I would, given the same set of circumstances, but the force of her personality is what the entire books revolves around.  It is impossible for this book to have been written, with a different type of character as the lead, it just wouldn't have worked.  For that matter, there wasn't a weak character in the group, though there were one or two that I could have done without.  I get why they were there, to divert attention away from the truth, but they still annoyed the hell out of me.

There were really three male "leads" in this one: Ned Atwood, Eve's ex-husband, who definitely is more that he appears to be, Toby Lawes, Eve's fiance, quiet and old fashioned, but it's always that kind of man who is hiding something, and then there is Dr. Dermot Kinross, a specialist in the criminal mind.  Ned is a rake, a scoundrel, and just a tad bit dangerous, but you can't help but like him.  Even at the end, when everything is out in the open, part of me wanted the two of them back together.  Toby on the other hand is, on the surface, the kind of man you are supposed to like.  Solid, dependable, and just a tad bit stuffy, he is the stereotypical Englishman.  Too bad he is an immoral snake who can't keep it in his pants. It's a good thing the story takes place in France, otherwise he may have been as stodgy as he appeared.  I never liked him, and I'm glad the book ended the way it did, at least as far as he's concerned.  Then we have the hero, Dermot.  I really enjoyed his character, and I really wish Carr would have continued with him in further books.  Not sure why he didn't, though some of what I read online suggest a bias of Carr's part, but then why did Carr write him to begin with.  Either way, he is the detective of the piece and has no problem getting to the heart of the case, discovering the truth in a most logical way, but still using a bit of instinct to guide him.

If you couldn't tell by now, I loved the book.  The mystery itself was ingenious, and not one I really had a clue about until the big reveal.  But it wasn't an ending that comes out of the blue, yeah, I didn't pick up on the clues, but they were there.  I guess it's just a good thing I'll never be relied upon to solve a murder or two.

Challenges: Password (Emperor), Vintage Mystery Bingo (G2)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Wordsmithonia Radio: It's Time To Eat

If you couldn't tell, today's theme is all about food.  Sometimes the food is a metaphor, and sometimes, it's just there to eat, either way, it makes for a great song. So sit back, and listen to some of my favorite songs that mention food in the title.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Warlord by Jennifer Fallon

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Marla Wolfblade is reeling from the loss of her closest confidant, Elezaar the Fool. who taught her the Rules of Gaining and Wielding Power and helped shape her into a force in Hythria.  But Marla's plans for revenge are disrupted when she discovers she has a dangerous adversary....

On the border, Fardohnya has massed troops for an invasion, and Marla's eldest son, Damin Wolfblade, heir to throne of Hythria, finds his ability to fight back is thwarted by tradition, politics, and the foolishness of the High Prince....

Back in Krakandar, Mahkas Damaran awaits news of the battle and has sealed the city against Damin's return.  With the city on the brink of starvation, it seems only theft on a unprecedented scale can free Krakandar from Makhas's madness and tyranny... and destroy Hythria's web of secrets and lies.

Who the hell lets lose a plague to kill one person?  It hasn't to be the most blood thirsty attempt at assassination I've ever seen, and it didn't even work.  Alija Eaglespike, who has been a bitch the entire series, ramps it up in this, the last of the trilogy.  At least she gets what she deserves by the end of the book.

I guess I should apologize for starting this review off in such a strange way, but seriously, the woman was evil.  And though she has been trying to kill Damin and install her own heir into the chair of the High Prince, the stone coldness was truly on display in this book.  Between her and Mahkas, this book was not lacking villains.  And it seems such a shame.  Considering the power these two individuals wielded, the intelligence that they clearly possessed, it was such a waste of potential.  They could have been courageous, strong leaders, but they let greed and the love of power get in the way.

I continued to love the extended family that Marla built up around herself and Damin.  Though they came into it from different directions and different backgrounds, this is a group of people who truly care about each other, and are willing to stick around when times get tough.  And I have to say, I loved the addition of Galon Miar, the next head of the Assassins Guild.  Such a unique and complicated character.  He is the perfect match for Marla at this time in her life, and he fits into the family with ease.

The two standouts for me in this book, besides Damin who I love, where Tejay and Starros.  They are two characters who don't fit into any easy mold, but have such a core of strength running through them.  They come at life in different ways, have different beliefs, and want different things, but they both shine in this book.

At some point int time this year I will reread and review the previous trilogy, which actually takes place before this one.  If they are half as good as these three books have been, and from what I can remember they are, I'm really looking forward to it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fog and Snow

It's been a rather wet winter so far, and it's not all snow.  Actually, I bet most of the moisture we have gotten over the last few months, has been in just about any other form.  We have had sleet, rain, freezing rain, and for some bizarre reason, a ton of fog.  I almost felt as if I was living in the middle of London for a while.  And it's not fog that shows up and burns away within a few hours.  I'm talking about fog that sticks around for days at a time. And I'm not saying we haven't had snow, because we have.  It's actually snowed at least four times already, which seems to be way more than last year. And for the record, I love all this moisture.  I woke up to rain the other morning and I loved it.

I thought I would share a few pictures of what the fog was like, and some of the snow we've had so far.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Simple Way of Poison by Leslie Ford

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Handsome, sympathetic Grace Latham, is placed into the hate-ridden household of the tempestuous Nash family and their hangers-on: cruel Randall Nash; his second wife, lovely Iris, and her equally-lovely stepdaughter, Lowell; his impulsive son, Angus - and their host of craftily-contrived friends, lovers, pensioners, servants, all outwardly innocent, one inwardly, fiendishly guilty!

Yes, I do buy books based on the cover alone.  There is a used bookstore about 10 minutes from my home, and every time I go in there, I have to stop and look to see what Pocket Books they have had come in since my last visit.  Most of the time, they are by authors I've never head of, and since half of them are mysteries, all the plots start to blend in when I'm trying to read the blurb on the back covers.  So most of them time, when it comes to a decision between books, I end up going with the one I like the covers of, and I loved this one.  The colors, graphics, and font all work in harmony, love it.

I've never heard of Leslie Ford before I picked this book up, and from what I can tell it's the third book in the Grace Latham/Colonel John Primrose series.  Set in the shadow of Washington, D.C., it's an interesting glimpse into the lives of the wealthy and politically connected of the time.  Grace is an interesting character.  She's a widow who raised two sons, at least I think that's the number. She's intelligent and has a dry wit.  She has a temper and isn't afraid to say how she feels. She finds herself in the company of Colonel John Primrose a lot, but she doesn't seem to be in that great a hurry to marry him, quite the opposite really.  She really doesn't even give away how she feels about him, though he subtly hints that he wouldn't be amiss to having it go somewhat further.  She is headstrong, loyal to her friends, and probably has way too much curiosity for her own good.  She didn't really solve the case, the Colonel did that, but I'm not sure it would have been solved without her.  And I say that, having no clue what she really did, on her own, to really bring the answers to light.  I like her, and I like her a lot.  She really isn't any different from many of Mary Robert Rinehart's heroines, but since I know this is a series, I think I'll get to know her a bit more.

As far as the mystery goes, this one had me stumped until the end.  I never suspected the killer was going to be who it was, but once the pieces were put together, it made complete and utter sense.  It couldn't have been anyone else.  I'm not sure if the solution was fair or not, there were a couple of hints given, but most of the evidence was gathered off page.  It was a solid read, the language wasn't too dated, even if a few attitudes were, and the narrative flowed naturally.  I think the hardest part is going to be finding other books in the series.

Challenges: Vintage Mystery Bingo (O5)