Saffron and Brimstone by Elizabeth Hand

Saffron and BrimstoneSaffron and Brimstone by Elizabeth Hand

Description from Goodreads

Widely praised and widely read, Elizabeth Hand is regarded as one of America’s leading literary fantasists. This new collection (an expansion of the limited-release “Bibliomancy, ” which won the World Fantasy Award in 2005) showcases a wildly inventive author at the height of her powers. Included in this collection are “The Least Trumps,” in which a lonely women reaches out to the world through symbols, tattooing, and the Tarot, and “Pavane for a Prince of the Air,” where neo-pagan rituals bring a recently departed soul to something very different than eternal rest.

Written in the author’s characteristic poetic prose and rich with the details of traumatic lives that are luminously transformed, “Saffron and Brimstone” is a worthy addition to an outstanding career.
* Elizabeth Hand’s work has been selected as a “Washington Post” Notable Book and a “New York Times” Notable Book, and she has been awarded a Nebula Award and two World Fantasy Awards.

I gave this book four stars out of five

My thoughts:

I very much enjoyed this book. I liked the format a lot. It consisted of eight separate short stories, of varying lengths. It provided great variety, with each story being different from the others and covering an assortment of genres from supernatural to dystopian themes.

I thought that each of the stories were very well written, and the breadth of topics dealt with was impressive.

My favourite story was Cleopatra Brimstone, which was one of the longer stories. I found this to be remarkably clever and inventive story with a lot of surprises.

The stories all contained interesting and real characters, despite the limited length. It was easy to connect with and invest in the characters portrayed. I think that this is important in a short story, since the relationship that we have with the characters in a story is so very important, but is often one of those things neglected in short stories.

The plot and storyline of all of the stories were very creative and all of them were highly character based.

I think that this book provides a very good example of how to write captivating short stories. The stories all felt finished and fully formed. Even though I often wanted more, I was not left feeling that any of the stories were incomplete.

I would recommend this book to any fan of the short story, and of Elizabeth Hand’s work. This was a fascinating collection of stories that I enjoyed greatly.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

Unleashing Mr Darcy by Teri Wilson

Unleashing Mr DarcyUnleashing Mr Darcy by Teri Wilson

Description from Goodreads

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman teetering on the verge of thirty must be in want of a husband.

Not true for Manhattanite Elizabeth Scott. Instead of planning a walk down the aisle, she’s crossing the pond with the only companion she needs; her darling dog, Bliss. Caring for a pack of show dogs in England seems the perfect distraction from the scandal that ruined her teaching career, and her reputation, in New York. What she doesn’t count on is an unstoppable attraction to billionaire dog breeder Donovan Darcy. The London tycoon’s a little bit arrogant, a whole lot sexy, and the chemistry between them is disarming. When passion is finally unleashed, might Elizabeth hope to take home more than a blue ribbon?

I gave this book four stars out of five

My thoughts:

This was an extremely fun and enjoyable romance, cram packed with humour. As the title and cover art suggests, it was based upon Jane Austen’s, ‘Pride and Prejudice’, and set against the backdrop of the world of dog shows. This classic love story was given a makeover, updated, and transported to the 21st Century.

I loved the two main characters, Elizabeth Scott, from the US, and Donovan Darcy, from the UK. It is always nice to read a story that understands that love knows no bounds and that distance can be overcome. These characters were very well developed and reminiscent of the original Elizabeth and Darcy. There was plenty of back story provided to allow us to understand the motivation and meaning behind how they acted, especially towards one another.

I liked how the two main characters showed some restraint and didn’t fall into bed, or the back of a car in a pub car park, at the earliest opportunity. It was nice to see that some respect and reserve still exists. This is not the case in far too many romances these days.

The descriptions of locations and places in England were very well crafted, and the plot moved swiftly enough to keep me always curious and eager to see what came next.

I know that some people are not fans of the reworking of classic literature, but I really enjoyed this and was very impressed with how it was accomplished. I like the fact that I had an idea of the plot in my head and that famous lines from Jane Austen’s novel were used. This made it all the more interesting and surprising when something happened that I wasn’t expecting. I think that enough of the original was used, but it was not a merely a simple retelling. Certain subplots of the original were treated differently or indeed not used at all. This kept me interested. Some of the original characters played different roles or were almost non-existent.

I thought that the misconceptions that Elizabeth had regarding Darcy and first Zara then Helena, worked well and sprang naturally from her character. I also found Elizabeth’s preconceptions and prejudices regarding the moneyed and noble fascinating.

My one complaint was the overuse of clichés about how the English behave and the way that we are. Whilst it is true that many of us are suave and debonair, putting James Bond to shame as we drive our Aston Martins up to the doors of our stately homes or castles, this is certainly not the norm. I felt that this overuse made some passages seem very tongue-in-cheek and ultimately lose some of their impact.

I would most definitely recommend this book to anyone that likes revamped classics, interpreted in a modern way, and also those that like fun, easy to read romances. An extremely enjoyable book.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

Netwars – The Code by M. Sean Coleman

NetwarsNetwars – The Code by M. Sean Coleman

Description from Goodreads

Netwars: The Code. A high-tech serial thriller from the dark side of the net. Episode 1.

Welcome to the Deep Web. Those parts of the internet no search engine explores. The place where you can buy anything. Drugs, children, weapons.
Anyone can do it. And get away free.

Anthony Prince, head of PrinceSec, a firm which provides high-tech security for the government and major corporations, dies in a plane crash when crossing the English Channel. Responsible for Prince’s death is a hacker named Strider. His real name is Scott Mitchell and in his day job at the National Cyber Crime Unit he uses legitimate means to get the bad guys. As Strider, his means are less legal. On the same night, PrinceSec is the target of a cyber-attack. When the NCCU is called to assess the damage, a link is found between Prince and a criminal hacker group called Black Flag. The race is on for Mitchell to protect his identity as Strider and to stop Black Flag before it’s too late.

I gave this book five stars out of five

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. I like everything about it, with only one exception, which was that this was only episode one, and I will have to wait for the remaining episodes to find out what happens next.

This book contained so many things that I found fascinating, cyber-crime, cyber-terrorism, hi-tech gadgetry, black and white hat hackers, secret identities, murder, mystery and mayhem, and so much more.

I thought that the story was interesting and the author created suspense and ambiguity with ease. The characters were attention grabbing and exciting, especially the enigmatic Strider. I love the secrecy of the dual identity, and the idea of secret groups and societies.

The author has provided us with a creative and inventive plot that will delight fans of the thriller. I would recommend this book to anyone that likes clever, suspense laden plots full of thrills and mystery.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

The Red Hot Fix by T. E. Woods

Red Hot FixThe Red Hot Fix by T. E. Woods

Description from Goodreads

In the white-knuckle follow-up to her explosive debut novel, The Fixer, T. E. Woods returns with another tense, intricate thriller.
 
What do you say, Morton Grant, Chief of Detectives? You got what it takes to find me? Show me a move. . . . Or I’ll have to show you one of mine.

A little more than a year after the Fixer killings, Detective Mort Grant of the Seattle P.D. once again has his hands full. In the last four months, seven men have been murdered in seedy pay-by-the-hour motels: first strangled, then tied with rope and set on a bed of crushed mothballs, with a red lipstick kiss planted on their foreheads. Speculation abounds that the killer is a prostitute who’s turning her tricks into dead men. The press has taken to calling her “Trixie.”

As Mort follows scant leads in the case, he can’t help but feel continued guilt over his involvement with the Fixer. Though the public holds her up as a folk hero, a vigilante who seeks justice when the system fails, Mort cannot shake the fact that serious crimes have been committed. And though legend says she has vanished, Mort knows exactly where the Fixer is—and he’s conspiring to keep her hidden.

As Trixie strikes again, Mort suddenly finds himself and his family in the crosshairs. Because these new murders are not random, and their perpetrator is hell-bent on luring Mort into a sick and twisted game. If he’s not careful, he’s going to need Fixing.

Praise for The Fixer
 
“Pitch-perfect . . . solid characters, unpredictable twists and excellent plotting; a must-read for those who enjoy crime fiction.”Kirkus Reviews

I gave this book four stars out of five

My thoughts:

This was an easy book to read, and I really enjoyed it. I thought that it was very well written. I enjoy this author’s work. As the second book in a series it provided an excellent follow up to the author’s debut novel, ‘The Fixer’. This book was a definite page turner.

The plot was fast paced and crammed full of suspense, keeping me interested and invested right to the end. There were many clever and inventive twists and turns in the plot that kept me thinking the whole time, including false leads that took you off in the wrong direction.

The story continued the connection between Mort and Lydia, which had been solidified in the previous book. I enjoyed seeing how each of them attempted to develop relationships with prospective partners, given our knowledge of the secrets they were keeping, and the things that had happened in their pasts.

It was fascinating to see how the fixer had grown as a person and the creative manner in which she dealt with the situation that she found herself in. The themes were definitely of an adult nature, but were not treated in a tacky way. It seemed like this was almost two stories in one, with the strength of the main subplot.

The characters were very interesting and well established. They were developed further in this book, with a greater amount of back story revealed, especially regarding Mort and his past. It was also good to see that the members of Mort’s team, introduced in the first book were given larger roles to play in this one. We were able to get to know those characters that we had only a passing familiarity with.

The conclusion was surprising, with a great twist. I would recommend this book to thriller fans, that like a heavy dose of suspense and a plot that is not straightforward to unravel. Although the book can be read in its own right, I think it is beneficial to have read the first book in the series too.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

American Past Time by Len Joy – Blog Tour part 2

Part two of today’s Len Joy extravaganza is my brief review of ‘American Past Time’.

American Past TimeAmerican Past Time by Len Joy

Description from Goodreads

September 1953. Dancer Stonemason is three days away from his major league debut with the St. Louis Cardinals. With his wife and son cheering him on, he pitches the greatest game of his life. And then he loses everything.

Told against the backdrop of America’s postwar challenges from Little Rock to the Bay of Pigs to Viet Nam, AMERICAN PAST TIME is the story of what happens to a man and his family after the cheering stops.

I gave this book five stars out of five

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. I thought that it was extremely well written and I found the story fascinating.

For me, it was the story of a chance at future success squandered, or rather, certainly in the eyes of the protagonist, traded, for the sake of the perfect game.

The story had a good pace to it, and I liked how each part concentrated on the viewpoint of different members of the family. I enjoyed how it was possible to relate to these differing standpoints and opinions, yet still understand why each of them acted as they did.

The characters were all well rounded and very believable. It was easy to identify with the Stonemason family, and invest in their lives. Dancer Stonemason in particular, was an interesting character. I was fascinated by his growth as a person, and how he gave up his dreams for what he thought was the good of his family. Not that this necessarily worked out as he expected.

I also liked how the family ultimately grew and developed as a unit, whether they were together in the same location or not. It was nice to see how the relationship between Dancer and his son, came full circle in the end.

The story was set against a backdrop of a number of major events in American history, such as the moon landing, the Vietnam war, the assassination of Kennedy, etc.

This was most definitely one of those books that I did not want to end. I found myself always wanting to know what happened next to the characters. I would have been happy had the book been double the length.

I would recommend this book to, well, just about anyone really. I enjoyed this immensely.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by JKS Communications.

MI29 – Mouseweb International to the Rescue by S.J. Tozer

MI29 Mouseweb International to the RescueMI29 – Mouseweb International to the Rescue by S.J. Tozer

Description from Goodreads

Did you know that we humans are monitored by Mouseweb International, a worldwide network of mice working undercover to lend a paw whenever we need it most?

I gave this book four stars out of five

My thoughts:

This was such a fun book to read. It is pretty short, and obviously written for younger readers.

This would be a great book to read with the children. What children wouldn’t enjoy a story about intelligent, talking animals, spies, and a battle of wits between the good, kind-hearted mice and the mean, evil rats?

I really enjoyed the way that the mice had taken human technology and miniaturised it for mouse use, and how they had a secret intelligence organisation that worked in unison with a number of human agencies for the betterment of all.

There were many wonderful illustrations by Rosy Salaman, my favourite being the ones of the mice attending a fancy dress party.

I would recommend this book as something to read with younger children, and for older children in the six to nine year age range to read themselves. Frankly I think anyone, of any age, would enjoy it. I certainly did.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

No Quarter Asked by Janet Dailey

No Quarter AskedNo Quarter Asked by Janet Dailey


Description from Goodreads

Stacy needed time to adjust

Stacy’s world collapsed with the death of her father. She had to sort herself out; decide what she wanted to do with her life.

The secluded cabin in a Texas valley seemed a perfect place to think. But when Stacy met the arrogant rancher, Cord Harris, all her hopes of peace and serenity vanished. Especially when Cord said, “Go back to the city, where you belong.”

It was exactly the wrong thing to say to Stacy. It made her fighting mad–and determined to stay!

I gave this book three and a half stars out of five

My thoughts:

I quite enjoyed this book as a light, easy to read romance, that was reasonably short and quick to read.

I found that the story was a little predictable in its format and structure and it was obvious from the beginning, how things were going to end. This made the story feel rather formulaic, passing through the usual features present in a romance.

I liked how the initial ill feeling between Stacy and Cord, and their instant dislike of one another, advanced as the story progressed, right up until the final conclusion of the book.

The tension and antagonism between Stacy and Cord was well handled, although given the western theme I found it difficult to grasp all of the nuances of the interactions between them. It was interesting seeing the difference between the accepted manner in which a rancher would behave towards a woman, and the way a city woman would expect to be treated by a man.

I liked the character development, which I thought was very good, with just enough back story provided to allow mixed signals and confusion to creep in to their burgeoning relationship. It was fascinating to see how both of the main characters grew through the course of the book, adapting their views and beliefs.

Overall I enjoyed many aspects of this book and would recommend it to anyone wanting a quick, easy read, that does not require too much interpretation.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher, Open Road Media, as part of the Retro Reads Program.