Saturday, December 11, 2010

Turncoat by Don Gutteridge

Ebook buy link at Kobo or Amazon Kindle
264 pages
  • Historical cozy mystery
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart (2003)
  • Back-of-the-book:
It's 1836 and Ensign Marc Edwards, of His Majesty's 24th Regiment of Foot, is eager for some adventure and intrigue. Unfortunately he's been posted to the colonial backwater of Toronto, Upper Canada.
But Marc soon learns that the local population is openly chafing under British Rule, and the surrounding countryside turns out to be a seething hotbed of radicals, Reformers, Yankees and smugglers. 

Ensign Edwards is given his very first assignment, to investigate the mysterious death of Crown secret agent Joshua Smallman. Marc goes undercover in the small town of Crawford's Corners, wading into rumours of sedition and secret societies. He quickly finds another kind of action, seduced by one farmer's wife, and entranced by another who is just a little too close to the murder for comfort, Edwards' investigative skills and his loyalty to the Crown are put to the test. 

I was very excited when I came across this book for several reasons. First, I love this period in history and there are so few novels from this period that aren't romances. Second, instead of the usual British setting for this period, it's set in "Upper Canada" (aka Ontario). There is a completely new feel to the period having it set on a different continent.

This book did not disappoint me at all. At first, I didn't think I'd like Marc Edwards. He was too anal for anyone to like. Or, so I thought. It wasn't very long before I enjoyed that about him, watching him pay attention to small details, hoping that he could solve the murder and get back to the city and civilized life.

I liked how he didn't sleep with every single woman in the book, nor did every woman in the book want to sleep with him. From a historical perspective, the author does an outstanding job presenting the typical solider's like and contrasting it against Marc's, which was out of place, but not too strangely so.

Many mysteries I've read tries to make everyone seem innocent. In this book, they were all just a bit tainted. Just like in life. We all have little secrets we keep, and the book does an outstanding job developing the secondary characters through their little secrets.

Even though the book is a Canadian historical mystery, it's well-written and explained enough that anyone could read it. I highly recommend this novel.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tangled in Time by Pauline Baird Jones

Back of the Book Blurb:

Colonel Carey (from
The Key and Girl Gone Nova) takes a test "flight" through the Garradian time-space portal, but an unexpected impact lands him somewhere and some when. As he attempts to get to Area 51, he crosses paths with Miss Olivia Carstairs, who could be Mary Poppins' twin sister. Or maybe her cousin. Olivia's got a transmogrification machine powered by steam and something more, and a mouth he'd like to kiss like it was his job. Can he get them both to safety before the buzzard eats them or she shoots him with her derringer?

The genre for this Novella read: Science Fiction/Steampunk/ Paranormal. Quite a lot to fit into one book. I was also a little wary about the blurb because it made it seem as though this Colonel Carey character was from a series of books and I don’t like picking up a book in the middle of a series. Still I gave it a go.

The beginning read like the beginning of any novel so it seemed that perhaps I wouldn’t have to worry about it being part of a series. However I noticed right away that the genre's were misleading. The two settings in the novella are in a dessert or on another planet (which could have been anywhere really) and the only Steampunk item was the machine the brought the female main character to her current location. I wouldn't classify it as either Steampunk or Paranormal. There is some scientific techno-talk to explain the time travel bit that I guess one could classify as Science Fiction, but the genre for this should really be Romance.

Romance isn’t something I normally read and when I do I’m picky. I like my romances to have an interesting plot; something that moves the book forward in a way that makes me care more about what happens next then if the guy gets the girl (or vice versa). This book didn’t quite do it for me.

The author can write well and her descriptions of the emotions the main characters were experiencing - the lust and tension – were so well done you could almost feel it yourself. But I felt the plot and the sense of a story wasn’t as good as it could have been – particularly the lack of resolution. About ¾ of the way through the novella, a bad guy is revealed… and then nothing. They talk about him, how they will need to keep an eye out for him, but there is no resolution. There are a multitude of subplots that are brought up that bring a real interest to the story, but are never tied up at the end and sometimes are only mentioned once. In fact, the only thing that gets resolved is that the guy gets the girl at the end, which is pretty standard for most romance stories.

If this is meant to be part of an ongoing series in which things will eventually be explained in another book, then it really should be marketed like that so that people like me aren’t expecting a full story when they pick this novella up.

The author can write, she’s got talent that’s for sure, but if this is a stand alone book I can only give it 2 out of 5 stars.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bitter Night by Diana Pharaoh Francis

Back of the book blurb:

The ancient Guardians of the earth are preparing to unleash widespread destruction on the mortal world, and they want the witches to help them. If the witches refuse, their covens will be destroyed, including Horngate, the place Max has grudgingly come to think of as home. Max thinks she can find a way to help Horngate stand against the Guardians, but doing so will mean forging dangerous alliances — including one with a rival witch’s Shadowblade, who is as drawn to Max as she is to him — and standing with the witch she despises. Max will have to choose between the old life she still dreams of and the warrior she has become, and take her place on the side of right — if she survives long enough to figure out which side that is….

I'm a huge fan of DPF's traditional fantasy works, especially her Crosspointe series. Her literary tone really suits the sub-genre. So, I was hesitant to try the urban fantasy. I'm glad I did.

I confess that the first quarter of the book had me confused. To be fair, I think that was more about me not being well read in urban fantasy, as opposed to it being the author's fault. I'm a newbie reader to the genre and I found that I had a lot to consume in a really short period of time. After about the mid-way point, I found I had adjusted to the information and was able to really get into things.

The heroine, Max, and I have a hate-love relationship. I didn't warm up to her until mid-book. The hero, Alexander, well...let's say that I took a shining to him immediately. In many ways, he made the book for me. I was unable to put the book down because of Alexander. And, eventually, because of Max. I'm glad Alex was included so early on; he gave me the anchor I needed to keep reading.

I really recommend lovers of urban fantasy to purchase this book; you'll have a blast as Max chows through 45 hamburgers and kicks ass in tight leather the next day (yes, that happened, but there is a very good explanation why she was able to pull off both). If you haven't read much urban fantasy, get a copy from the local and see if it's your thing. If not, I recommend "The Cipher" instead.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Jim Butcher's "Side Jobs"

I love the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, so I was tickled to see an anthology, while we await the resurrection of the next book mid-2011. I enjoyed the stories in this anthology, some more than others.

It was odd reading short stories from the series that aren't actually connected to the books. Sure, the characters and events are all there, but it was strange having stories that didn't feel "cannon" to the main series. Most of these stories, according to the author notes, were written at the request of agents and anthology editors, so perhaps that's why they feel disjointed from the series.

All of these pieces have been previously published, either on Butcher's website for free or in various anthology collections. It does contain a new novella, Aftermath, which takes place less than an hour after the end of the last published Dresden books, Changes.

Aftermath was great and disappointing all at once. The story seemed, again, disconnected from the overall plot of the series and get I the feeling that nothing beyond "there is a power void now" is relevant to the overall series. I hope I'm wrong, but that's the feeling I got.

Still, saying that, I enjoyed Aftermath and I'm happy I picked up the book for that alone. The ebook price is a little steep at $12.99, but most of the big publishers are charging those kinds of prices. It was also frustrating trying to purchase this as a Canadian, as it apparently isn't "available" to Canadians (though the hard cover is out up here). I ended up just getting an American friend to buy it for me and email me the file. Note to publishers: Limiting the availability of your digital products is really silly.

If you have never read the Dresden Files, do not pick up this book. You'll be completely lost. Start with the first book of the series (Storm Front) and I'll see you in a couple of months.

If you are a Dresden fan, add this to the collection if you don't have the others. Otherwise, borrow from a friend so that you can read Aftermath.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dean Koontz's Frankenstein: City of Night

City of Night (Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, #2)City of Night by Dean Koontz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

New Orleans, Dean Koontz's City of Night. Home of the blues, jazz, and Anne Rice's vampires. And Victor Helios (nee Frankenstein). Police Detectives Carson O'Conner and Michael Maddison have encountered Victor's latest attempt at creating life, and with the help of Frankenstein's original monster, now calling himself Deucalion, they managed to stop (or at the very least slow down) Victor's run at world domination. (See book 1: Prodigal Son)

While Victor has managed to create life from lifelessness, he also restricted them by making them subservient to him, and unable to hurt themselves or Victor. He is the master, and all must obey. But some of his creations are self-destructing. And some are changing.

At the end of book 1, Deucalion, Carson, and Michael chase after one of these changelings, only to have it disappear into the city. Now they must find it and any others who might be out there, while trying to expose Victor's ultimate plan. And Victor, who has been oblivious to the changelings until now, must try to learn why his perfect creations are going so very wrong. Events are spiraling quickly out of control. We can only hope that our heroes can save the day, New Orleans, and the world.

This 2nd volume of Dean Koontz's Frankenstein series was co-written with Ed Gorman, an incredible thriller/horror writer in his own right (click on his name to learn more about him). Between the two of them they have continued Frankenstein's legacy and actually managed to make us feel sympathy for Victor's monsters. Victor remains, however, the quintessential villain, and readers will have no trouble rooting for our heroes in their quest to stop his machinations. This is another excellent tale and a fabulous continuation of the series. Stay tuned for my review of book 3: Dead and Alive.

Buy Link

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Killer Valentine Ball

Full disclosure. "The Killer Valentine Ball" is published by my own publisher, MuseItUp Publishing. I purchased this book myself and I was not asked to do a review.

Vital Statistics:
Author: C. A. Verstraete
Pages: 15
Light Horror 
MuseItUp Publishing

A party at a day camp; a blind date on Valentine's Day. Can you say loser?, Jess thinks. But this is no ordinary party. The Killer Valentine Ball has more thrills than Jess ever expected--or will ever forget.

I'm not a huge horror reader. Okay, I really don't like it at all. However, the description said "light horror", so I figured I could give it a try. I'm glad I did. I really liked this piece.

It's short. I read it in less time than it took for the bath water to turn cold. However, I think that's the charm of this piece. It wouldn't work as a long novel, but does succeeds on the small scale.

I can't give it full marks because I was really annoyed at the main character, Jessica, in the opening scene. Perhaps it's my upbringing, but any man who makes any unwanted physical contact with my body generally ends up with his fingers broken. I let it go, and am glad I did. However, I would have at least liked a bit more about how annoyed she was or something...instead she just reapplies her lip gloss. That got my blood up a bit.

ebook comment: Page 1 and 3 are blank on the epub version. You aren't missing anything; those seem to be just spaces between the cover page and the publisher info pages. I did report it to the publisher, however, as it really freaked me out upon first reading. Blank pages are scary on an ereader!

This short story is a great price at $0.99. Best for those who don't mind a tiny bit of gore and are looking for a quick and satisfying end. 

Buy Link

Dean Koontz's Frankenstein: Prodigal Son

Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, #1)Prodigal Son by Dean Koontz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This has to be one of the spookiest stories I've read in a long time. Dean Koontz and Kevin Anderson have taken the classic Frankenstein story and continued it into the modern day. In other words, Victor Frankenstein is still alive. When our heroine, Carson O'Connor, a police detective, stumbles across evidence of Victor's current experiments, she opens up a kettle of fish that puts her, her partner, and her family in peril. Cue the cavalry! But, surprise! The cavalry is none other than Victor's original monster. The monster calls himself Deucalion now, and no one is more surprised than he that Victor has managed to survive all these years. Deucalion teams up with Carson and Michael Maddison, her partner, to try to stop Victor's evil machinations before the city goes straight to hell in Frankenstein's handbasket. If you enjoy your stories complete with evil mad scientists bent on world domination, you can't go wrong with Prodigal Son, the first in Koontz's Frankenstein series. Stay tuned for a review of Book Two: City of Night.

Link to where you can buy the eBook

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: Seven Deadly Sins

Vital Stats

Seven Deadly Sins - AXP Flash Fiction Challenge #1

Contributors: Eileen Bell, Roxanne Felix, Tina Hunter, Billie Milholland
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: March 7, 2009
Seven Deadly Sins is a short, but fun book. This was my first introduction to the concept of flash fiction and it was a good one. I began dabbling into the realm of flash fiction because of this book.
What's flash fiction? Simply put, it's a short story that's 1000 words or less. You can read it in a handful of minutes and get a complete story.
I've come across a lot of flash fiction since first reading this book that tried to be really intelligent and just comes across as pompous and pointless. I didn't find any of the stories of "Seven Deadly Sins" fell into that category. In fact, I enjoyed them all, a rare occurrence for me and any kind of collection.
My particular favourite story? Lust. The book is worth buying just for that story alone.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Grounds for Murder

Full disclosure. "Grounds for Murder" is published by my own publisher, MuseItUp Publishing. I purchased this book myself and I was not asked to do a review.

First things first. The title is awesome. Cover art? Absolutely rocking.

I openly admit that I haven't read much mystery since high school, so I'm quite rusty on the genre. I'm not sure how it's supposed to read, how character development should be, and so on.

I'm used to character-driven novels, so this book threw me for a loop. It is plot-driven and I found myself only caring about "how done it" as opposed to the main character. Perhaps I went in with the wrong expectations?

Plot-wise, I enjoyed the story enough to finish to the end. In fact, I read half of it in the bath and put it aside. I came back to it an hour later because I was curious to see how it would end. As someone who gets bored easily in plot-driven novels, it says a lot that I wanted to keep reading.

I wasn't a fan of the characters. For me, they were not developed enough. I wasn't sure who the main character of the story was until chapter 2. If you are expecting a plot-driven story, this probably won't bother you. It did bother me, however.

There was one thing that really bugged me: the obsession with lawsuits. I'm Canadian and I know we joke up here about Americans and their law suits. But, in all seriousness, do people really threaten each other all of the time with libel suits? It was rather strange for me.

I'd recommend this to people who are used to plot-driven stories and who are looking for an amateur sleuth story that can be finished in an evening.

Buy link

Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead

Vampires have evolved…Meet the twenty-first century vampire!
Edited by: Nancy Kilpatrick, Published by: Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2010
There was a time I liked vampires. Incubus, Succubus, Spike. Then it came. You know what I’m talking about. At times, I feared that I would go stark raving mad if I had to hear about or read another story with either “sparkles” or “Sookie” in it.
I bought Evolve several months ago at a vendor’s table here in town. The cover art is what struck me to pick it up. The cover is stunning, capturing the “demon inside” part of the vampire myth. I enjoy a good anthology on occasion, as it exposes me to authors that I have never heard of, and yet write things I might enjoy. Evolve has added several authors to my “must read” list.
While the anthology is classed as “horror and dark fantasy,” it really isn’t what I’d class as horror. Don’t get me wrong; there are some horror stories. In particular, I made the mistake of reading “All You Can Eat, All The Time” by Claude Lalumiere before supper.  However, most of the stories focus on the day-to-day culture of vampires in our society. A few were quite funny.
Many sported “Canadian Endings” (not happy ever after, not even happy right now; just plain acceptance of life and circumstances), which I enjoyed seeing. No surprise since nearly all of the authors are Canadian-born. I enjoyed the touches of Canadiana, such as Kevin Cockle’s “Sleepless in Calgary.”
I didn’t enjoy all of the stories. I’m not a fan of present tense nor second person (i.e. You walk into a room), unless it’s in a choose-your-adventure novel. Still, I enjoyed plenty of the stories, with “Learning Curve” (Kelley Armstrong) and “The New Forty” (Rebecca Bradley) at the top of my list. It was great to see Tanya Huff contributing to the anthology as well.
I highly recommend picking up this collection if you are a fan of vampires and want to see a new take on the supernatural beings.

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