Monthly Archives: April 2014

Montana, by Gwen Florio

Montana, Gwen Florio

Montana, Gwen Florio

Lola Wicks, foreign newspaper correspondent to Afghanistan, is a victim of company downsizing. Her paper can no longer afford to let her work overseas, and so she’s brought Stateside. For Lola, who lives on adrenalin and coffee in the war zone, this is appalling. She has no wish to report on PTA meetings, neighborhood robberies, and the political ministrations of the local town council. Her editor seems as appalled; he clearly has no wish to take on fierce and fiery Lola. Lola is sent off on vacation, and while Lola is mighty resentful about it, she figures the vacation will give her time to plan her escape route back to Kabul. So off she goes, to visit an old friend living in Montana. The problem? When Lola arrives, she finds that her friend, Mary Alice, has been murdered outside her wilderness cabin.

Lola soon finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation. The local authorities appear too bumbling to find their own boots in the morning, so Lola decides she must solve Mary Alice’s murder. To do so, she must form a bond with the townsfolk, a group that is more terrifying to her than anyone she met in Afghanistan. Is she equal to the challenge? At times, even Lola is not sure.

I very much enjoyed this debut mystery from author Gwen Florio. Lola is a forceful woman who acts first and asks for permission later. Under that tough exterior, we sense that Lola has deep insecurities. She steals things. She has trouble putting down roots. She mistrusts everyone. Those traits helped make her a good foreign journalist, but they are traits that make it hard to make friends in rural America. Yet, almost in spite of herself, Lola finds that she soon cares for the local folks, even as her quest for a killer puts her life in danger. The story is fast-paced, and Lola’s irascible personality practically drips from every page. Throw in a shaggy dog, a spotted horse, and a likable local sheriff and you have a heck of a fine tale.

The second book in this series is out now, and titled “Dakota.”

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The Winner’s Curse, by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse, by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Curse, by Marie Rutkoski

I read this book on the basis of the title, as I found it intriguing. “The Winner’s Curse” is a phenomenon  that may occur after purchasing an item at auction, when the buyer regrets the high price they paid, or they find out that the item was not as described. Kestrel, the daughter of a Valorian general, buys a Herrani slave on a whim. Perhaps it is the defiance in his eyes or the stubbornness of his stance that attracts her, familiar feelings for the young woman. Kestrel is almost of age, and soon must make a choice: get married, or join the military. Kestrel wants to do neither; rather, she longs to make her own choices, to make her own way in the world. Kestrel knows that she has made a mistake the moment she buys the slave, named Arin. The Valorians have conquered the Herreni, and taken over their city. Arin should just be one more slave among many, yet Arin is not. Arin is dangerous to Kestrel, for he is intelligent, resourceful, and he listens to her in a way that few others do. By getting to know Arin, Kestrel begins to question the choices of her people, as well as the choices offered to her in life. She desperately wants a way out for herself, and for Arin. In a city soon to be ravaged anew by violence, Kestrel is forced to make some dangerous choices. Her choices may be dangerous to both the Valorians as well as the Herrani, but they may prove to be devastating to both Kestrel and Arin.

This enthralling tale of star-crossed lovers is the first book of a proposed fantasy trilogy. I found this book to be very refreshingly told, because more of the story is told by what is not said than what is said between the characters. The verbal fencing that takes place between the characters reflects their intelligence, and demonstrates the game of wits being played, both between Kestrel and Arin, but also between Kestrel and just about everyone else. Kestrel is a strong female character in a world where woman only show their strength through battle. Kestrel wants more, and as she navigates the difficult path laid out before her, we sense that maybe she has a chance to get exactly what she wants.

“The Winner’s Curse” is available now, both in hardcover and ebook versions, from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

 

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Stolen Songbird, by Danielle L. Jensen

Stolen Songbird, by Danielle L. Jensen

Stolen Songbird, by Danielle L. Jensen

Cécile de Troyes has her whole life ahead of her–she is just about to turn 17, and now she is old enough to join her mother in the city and learn to sing for the stage. Cécile has a beautiful voice, and while she loves living with her family on their farm, she is eager to sing, to use the talent she’s been given. Except, of course, life seldom works out as you expect. Instead of celebrating her birthday with her family and friends, Cécile is kidnapped and taken far underneath a local mountain. She has been sold, it seems, to trolls. Now, in a city that never sees the sky, Cécile is a prisoner to beings of darkness and magic. The trolls are trapped in their mountain city, trapped by the curse of a human witch, and the centuries of their captivity are taking a toll. Cécile, a girl of flaming hair and the voice of an angel, has been prophesied to be the key to unlock their terrible cage. The only catch is that in order to unlock the mountain prison, Cécile must become the wife of the troll prince, Tristan.

This debut title is an exceptional start to the Malediction trilogy. I immediately liked Cécile, for while she is young, she isn’t stupid. Though frightened, she keeps a clear head and treats the trolls with respect. By keeping her wits about her, she begins to see that the trolls aren’t simply evil creatures with deceitful hearts, as myth portrays them. Rather, she sees that many of the trolls are kind, caring, and trying desperately to do the right thing, for both their own people, and for the humans that inhabit the world outside of the mountain. She is instantly attracted to prince Tristan, not only because he is handsome, but he is trying to become a proper leader for his people. And it is Cécile, and not Tristan, who truly thinks his people belong once again in the light.

This is a marvelous book, and I read it obsessively. The world building is very good, and I liked the entire cast of characters, including the more…evil ones. The storyline is complex–there are no easy answers here, and I applaud that. The system of magic, especially the magic used by witches, is not as well defined as I’d like to see, but I have hope that this will be rectified in the next book.  And really, I enjoyed the first one so much that the next book can’t come out too soon!

Stolen Songbird is available now, both in paperback and ebook editions. The Kindle version is priced at only $5.79, so really, you have no excuse. Buy it now!

 

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Diners, Dives, and Dead Ends, by Terri L. Austin

 

Diners, Dives, and Dead Ends, by Terri L. Austin

Diners, Dives, and Dead Ends, by Terri L. Austin

I recently became aware of the new mystery publisher, Henery Press, from reading their title “Lowcountry Boil,” by Susan Boyer. “Lowcountry Boil” won an Agatha Award for best first novel, and I enjoyed the book immensely. I chose another Henery Press title, more by the cover than anything else, and found that I liked this book even more than “Lowcountry Boil.” The book? “Diners, Dives, and Dead Ends”, by Terri L. Austin, the first book in her Rose Strickland mystery series.

Rose Strickland started out at a well-to-do college chosen by her parents. When she decided that maybe she wanted to do something else, her family stopped supporting her. Now, Rose works as a part-time waitress and attends a community college. She’s twenty-four years old, and is still figuring out what she wants to do with her life. However indecisive Rose is about her future, she is very sure about her friendships. When her friend Axton Graystone goes missing, Rose is determined to find him. With the help of her feisty 70 year-old boss, Ma, her anime-loving friend Roxy, and some of Axton’s IT friends, Rose sets off. During her investigation, Rose encounters a sexy bad guy named Sullivan, and she can’t figure out if he wants date her or kill her. As time ticks on, Rose races to find Axton before he meets his demise.

I loved this book! Rose is loyal, smart, and fiercely determined to find Axton. The action is fast and the situations dire. The cast of quirky characters add spice to the mix. Rose’s strained relationship with her family adds some depth, and Sullivan adds the heat. And humor abounds. If you like Stephanie Plum, you’ll love Rose Strickland.

This book, and the other two books in the series, are available in paperback from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. However, the ebook versions of the title are only $2.99 each. All of the Henery Press ebooks are priced at $2.99.

 

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