Tuesday, February 20, 2018

First Paragraph/Teaser Tuesday: Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posted the first paragraph of a book she is reading or planning to read. In 2018, Vicki from I'd Rather Be at the Beach is taking over this meme.

Here's mine:

Two children, a brother and a sister, played down by the Old Bridge nearly every day, weather permitting. None observing them would have guessed they were a prince and a princess. The boy, the younger of the two, was generally up to his elbows in mud due to his brave exploits as a frog catcher. His sister, though significantly more prim, was often barefoot and sported a few leaves and flowers stuck in her hair. She thought these romantic, but her nurse, when she brushed the princess's hair at night, called them "common," and said it with a distinct sniff.
Link up here. It is very easy to play along:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday.
Here's mine:
Fidel cleared his throat. There are many expressive ways a king may clear his throat; this one expressed keen interest. "Just how great would you say your kingdom is?"

"How great can you imagine, King Fidel?"

"Rather great."

"Mine is greater."
This week I am spotlighting Heartless from Anne Elisabeth Stengl which has been on my TBR pile since July, 2, 2010. Here is the description from Amazon:
Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon be married. She dreams of a handsome and charming prince, but when the first suitor arrives, she finds him stodgy and boring. Prince Aethelbald from the mysterious land of Farthestshore has traveled far to prove his love--and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be approaching Parumvir.

Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer--and ignores his warnings. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir, and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in grave danger. Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.

Book Review: The Sons of Broad Novellas

Shattered Fear
Author: Tara Thomas
Series: Sons of Broad
Publication: St. Martin's Paperbacks (February 6, 2018)

My Thoughts: This novella introduces the Sons of Broad romantic suspense series. The setting is Charleston where a serial killer is targeting young women without families. They have been disappearing from a local club. The Prologue introduces The Gentleman and the nameless minion who is kidnapping girls for him. The minion is a gambler who owes The Gentleman half a million. He also apparently has ties to the police department since he knows Janie has been assigned to work undercover.

Janie is a police officer who is undercover at the club working as a bartender. There she meets Brent Taylor who is a rich guy who is also really handsome. She starts dating him despite the fact that he fits the profile of the kidnapper. They are shot at and Janie is removed from the case for her relationship with Brent. However, since a homeless guy she befriended outside the club is murdered, she doesn't want to let the case go and decides to investigate on her own.

The story ends on a cliffhanger and has a few things that bothered me. First of all, Janie is awfully weepy for a police officer. Also the relationship with Brent happened very quickly. I know that things have to happen fast in a novella but I still thought the relationship got too serious too fast. I also thought that Janie going from suspended to fired in the course of a couple of days seemed pretty unrealistic and looked like a potential lawsuit for the police department.

I am eager to see where the clue that Janie smelled a minty cedar smell and has linked it to the kidnapper goes in the next novella.

Hidden Fate
Author: Tara Thomas
Series: Sons of Broad
Publication: St. Martin's Paperbacks (February 13, 2018)

My Thoughts: This second novella has Janie still investigating the kidnappings and murders that happened at the club where she was working undercover until she fell in love with a suspect and was fired by the police department.

Wealthy Brent Taylor was cleared of the charges through the use of DNA evidence. Now his main goal is protecting Janie who is still the target of someone who wants her dead.

The assassin who was assigned by The Gentleman to kill Janie is having too much fun trying to scare her by sending her dead roses and threatening poetry and trashing her apartment. He did make a mistake by leaving some DNA but his is not on file.

In her personal life, Janie and Brent and falling in love. She's ready to move with him to Washington, DC, as he serves on a government committee. Thinking they are safe house hunting in DC, they learn they are wrong when the assassin sends pictures of the two of them in an intimate moment in their hotel suite.

This is definitely the middle novella in a trilogy because it ends on a major cliffhanger. While the readers knew who the assassin was, the good guys just find out when Janie is kidnapped from a police picnic.

Twisted End
Author: Tara Thomas
Series: Sons of Broad
Publication: St. Martin's Paperbacks (February 20, 2018)

My Thoughts: This concluding episode deals with Janie's kidnapping and Brent and Alyssa's quest to find her.

Janie has been drugged which leaves her with slow reactions and hallucinations. Her kidnapper didn't remove her phone from her back pocket though and, despite hands tied behind her back, she manages to call Brent which lets him know she's alive.

Alyssa grabs a tablet and tracks Janie's phone which leads them to an isolated forested area. They need to rescue Janie before the kidnapper steels himself to kill her.

After a fight which leaves Janie and Brent wounded and the kidnapper dead, The Gentleman decides Janie and Brent aren't a danger to him. He also kills a couple of young cops and frames one of them leading the police to believe that he was the kidnappers partner.

This series is among the least realistic romantic suspense stories I've ever read. Janie was kidnapped from a police picnic yet Alyssa doesn't alert the police to the kidnapping. She and Brent go off on their own to try to find her! She does indicate that the Charleston police force is fulled with corruption and she doesn't know who she can trust. But really? There are no officers that she can trust?

I am still curious about who The Gentleman is since he says that he fears Alyssa would recognize him. Hopefully, the full-length novels coming soon will answer that question.

Monday, February 19, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Feb. 19, 2018)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

I will be combining my YA and adult reading and purchases on this one weekly roundup. YA and middle grade reviews will still be posted on  Ms. Martin Teaches Media - my other blog.

Other Than Reading... 

This was my "go to the dentist" week. I went on Tuesday and had an exam and met the dentist. I went on Wednesday for a cleaning and one filling. My next visit is already schedule for August. Our weather has been nice this week. Although it got well below zero during the night, the days were bright, sunny, and relatively warm. I think we hit 40 degrees on Valentine's Day. Of course all good things must come to an end. As I am writing this Saturday morning, I'm hearing a forecast for 3 - 6 inches of wet heavy snow on Sunday and continuing on into Monday.

For our excitement this week, our furnace quit working. I ran out to do some grocery shopping on Friday afternoon and got back to a chilly house. My brother came home shortly after I did and called the furnace repair guy he uses. Now our furnace has a brand-new motor and brain and should last us for a while. We have been talking about getting a new furnace since we moved in because we know this one is the original from when the house was built in 1999 and isn't as efficient as a newer furnace but it was working. Now we are going to keep an eye out for sales on furnaces with a goal of having a new furnace before next fall.

I've been staying up late to watch the Olympics this week. I mainly look for the figure skating. That should keep me busy for the rest of this week. The Voice starts again next Monday with Kelly Clarkson as a new coach. I can't wait!

Read Last Week
  • Deja Moo by Kirsten Weiss - cute cozy mystery. My review will be posted on March 14.
  • The Broken Girls by Simone St. James - Excellent mystery with a vengeful ghost. My review will be posted on March 17.
  • Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn - science fiction that reminded me of Robert A. Heinlein. My review will be posted on March 15.
  • Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts - TBR pile; YA epic fantasy that starts a series. My review will be posted on March 16.
  • Bones Don't Lie by Melinda Leigh - next in the Morgan Dane romantic suspense series. My review will be posted on March 13.
  • Losing Leah by Tiffany King - YA twisty psychological suspense story. My review will be posted on March 14.
Heart on Fire by Amanda Bouchet - Epic fantasy from TBR mountain.

Next Week
Reviews Posted

On Inside of a Dog:
On Ms. Martin Teaches Media:
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?

Diane Duane put out a plea on twitter to earn some quick money as she and her husband were in danger of losing their rental house and becoming homeless. I bought these to help her out.
More of Gwen Florio's backlist
  • Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James (because I loved The Broken Girls and wanted to try more of her work.)
  • Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre - I read the eARC and wanted a keeper copy.
  • Falling Star by Terri Osburn (March 27) - because I haven't read a romance for a while
  • What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka (May 1) - this request was approved at NetGalley but I don't remember asking for it. I ordered the first book in the series since this is the second.
  • Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen (July 17) - sequel to another eARC I read
What was your week like?

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Book Review: Little Girl Gone by Gerry Schmitt

Little Girl Gone
Author: Gerry Schmitt
Series: An Afton Tangler Thriller (Book 1)
Publication: Berkley; Reprint edition (June 20, 2017)

Description: On a frozen night in an affluent Minneapolis neighborhood, a baby is abducted from her home after her teenage babysitter is violently assaulted. The parents are frantic, the police are baffled, and, with the perpetrator already in the wind, the trail is getting colder by the second.

As family liaison officer with the Minneapolis P.D., it’s Afton Tangler’s job to deal with the emotional aftermath of terrible crimes—but she’s never faced a case quite as brutal as this. Each development is more heartbreaking than the last and the only lead is a collection of seemingly unrelated clues.

But, most disturbing of all, Afton begins to suspect that this case is not isolated. Whoever did this has taken babies before—and if Afton doesn’t solve this crime soon, more children are sure to go missing . . .

My Thoughts: Afton Tangler works for the Minneapolis Police Department as a family liaison officer but somehow she finds herself deep in the investigation of a kidnapped three-month-old baby. Elizabeth Ann was kidnapped from her parents' home and her babysitter was assaulted. These residents of the posh Kenwood section of Minneapolis have lots of influential friends who keep pressure on the police department and the FBI to find their child.

Afton works with Detective Max Montgomery searching for clues and trying to find connections that will lead to the recovery of the child. Their investigation leads to a mistress for the husband and some sexual hijinks that led to him leaving one med-tech company for another which makes him somewhat suspicious. But the key clue comes from the wife who points to a woman she talked to at a doll show at the local mall. She gave the woman her phone number and showed her a picture of Elizabeth Ann. Unfortunately, the woman gave a false name and the doll show organizer can't help the police locate her.

This story is told from a few viewpoints. Afton's is the most common but we also hear the thoughts of the really creepy doll lady and her equally creepy and murderous son. The story has a wonderful setting. I am quite familiar with winter in Minnesota and the locales - Minneapolis, St. Paul, Cannon Falls, and Hudson, Wisconsin - where the bulk of the story takes place. And, as it happens, I'm writing this while waiting for the kind of snowstorm happening in the story.

I liked Afton as a character but thought it was pretty unlikely that she would get as involved in the investigation in real life. She has the dogged persistence that a good detective should have. She wants to be a police detective and is getting support and training from many of the others on the case.

This was a real page-turner. It is filled with action and danger and scenes that kept me turning the pages until the satisfying conclusion. Fans of police procedurals will enjoy this well-crafted tale.

Favorite Quote:
Ronnie drove to the end of the block and stopped. Put the car in Park, left the engine running. "You sure you want to do this?" he said. Ronnie didn't mind a little rough sex when he needed to get his gun off, but killing a woman? Then again, it might be interesting. Sort of a new...diversion.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday Memes: Little Girl Gone by Gerry Schmitt

Happy Friday everybody!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City ReaderThe Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Marjorie Sorenson turned hard, flat, snake eyes on the young woman in the fox fur parka who strolled toward her in the Skylark Shopping Mall. And instantly pegged her: rich bitch.
Friday 56:
Max squeezed into her cubicle and wedged himself into an uncomfortable metal side chair. "You know, I've been with the department for twenty years, and the most important thing I've learned is that as long as you can meet your own eyes in the mirror every morning, you're doing okay."
This week I am reading Little Girl Gone by Gerry Schmitt from my TBR pile. Here is the description from Amazon:
On a frozen night in an affluent Minneapolis neighborhood, a baby is abducted from her home after her teenage babysitter is violently assaulted. The parents are frantic, the police are baffled, and, with the perpetrator already in the wind, the trail is getting colder by the second.

As family liaison officer with the Minneapolis P.D., it’s Afton Tangler’s job to deal with the emotional aftermath of terrible crimes—but she’s never faced a case quite as brutal as this. Each development is more heartbreaking than the last and the only lead is a collection of seemingly unrelated clues.
But, most disturbing of all, Afton begins to suspect that this case is not isolated. Whoever did this has taken babies before—and if Afton doesn’t solve this crime soon, more children are sure to go missing . . .

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Book Review: A Call to Arms by David Weber, Timothy Zahn, & Thomas Pope

A Call to Arms
Author: David Weber, Timothy Zahn, Thomas Pope
Series: Manticore Ascendant (Book 2)
Publication: Baen (October 6, 2015)

Description: Lieutenant Travis Long of the Royal Manticoran Navy is the sort of person who likes an orderly universe. One where people follow the rules.

The good news is that Travis is one of those rare people who may like rules but has a talent for thinking outside them when everything starts coming apart. That talent has stood him—and the Star Kingdom—in good stead in the past, and it’s one reason he’s now a “mustang,” an ex-enlisted man who’s been given a commission as a King’s officer.

The bad news is that two of the best ways of making enemies ever invented are insisting on enforcing the rules . . . and thinking outside them when other people don’t. Travis learned that lesson the hard way as a young volunteer in basic training, and he knows that if he could just keep his head down, turn a blind eye to violations of the rules, and avoid stepping on senior officers’ toes, he’d do just fine. But the one rule Travis Long absolutely can’t break is the one that says an officer in the Royal Navy does his duty, whatever the consequences.

At the moment, there are powerful forces in the young Star Kingdom of Manticore’s Parliament which don’t think they need him. For that matter, they’re pretty sure they don’t need the Royal Manticoran Navy, either. After all, what does a sleepy little single-system star nation on the outer edge of the explored galaxy need with a navy?

Unhappily for them, the edge of the explored galaxy can be a far more dangerous place than they think it is. They’re about to find out why they need the Navy . . . and how very, very fortunate they are that Travis Long is in it.

My Thoughts: A CALL TO ARMS is the second book in the Manticore Ascendant trilogy. Its main viewpoint character is Travis Uriah Long who is serving in the Royal Manticoran Navy. Travis is a rule follower and a stickler for doing the right thing. Writing up a fellow officer for infractions puts him on the radar of a very powerful Admiral who is subtly and not-so-subtly hampering his career.

Of course, despite being a rule follower, Travis has a remarkable talent for coming up with out of the box solutions to problems when the sh*t hits the fan. This becomes an essential skill in this episode. Manticore, after a hundred years of peace, has become the target of an organization who wants to conquer it and take over its valuable wormhole.

The story takes place over six years. As is usual in a Weber book, many plot threads intertwine. One of them tells the story of a spy named Llyn who is gradually assembling the forces that will lead to the takeover of Manticore by his employers. I liked the way that various members of the RMN get hints of what Llyn is doing but don't have enough information to put all the pieces together.

One other plot thread has to do with political infighting on Manticore. Strong factions led the Lord Breakwater, Chancellor of the Exchequer, don't see the need for a Navy and are constantly trying to gut it and transfer assets and personnel to the Manticore Patrol and Rescue Service which has smaller, unarmed ships and has as its mission close-in protection for the planet. Since MPARS is under Breakwater's command, any strengthening increases his influence and power. For some reason, Travis's half-brother Baron Winterfall is a strong supporter of Breakwater.

I like the way Travis changes over the six years of the story and the way he gains supporters of his own among the part of the RMN who value competence more than nepotism. He doesn't play politics at all well which doesn't really change from the beginning to the end of the story.

The main action in this book is the attempt by armed mercenaries hired by Llyn to take over the planet. A hundred years of peace is shattered when the invading force appears on Manticoran Space where they will be opposed by the RMN which is under-staffed, under-supplied and determined to save their home planet.

Fans space operas will enjoy this intriguing series which is a prequel series to the Honor Harrington series.

Favorite Quote:
Osterman had a high regard for officers who actually tried to do their jobs rather than letting things slide. But there was a balance required, and Long tended to be as subtle as a hammer when it came to accomplishing that. He seemed more tone deaf than most where other human beings were involved.
Long was terrific at reading the lines of manuals and regs and orders.

Now, he needed to learn how to read between them.
I bought this one Sept. 12, 2015. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

ARC Review: Murder in Bloomsbury by D. M. Quincy

Murder in Bloomsbury
Author: D. M. Quincy
Series: Atlas Catesby Mystery
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (February 13, 2018)

Description: Acclaimed author D. M. Quincy is back with a second captivating mystery as adventurer Atlas Catesby must put aside his own feelings for Lady Lilliana as they work together to get justice for someone she holds dear.

Aristocratic adventurer Atlas Catesby has spent the last year trying to forget Lady Lilliana Warwick, but when she reappears in his life imploring him to help her solve a murder, Atlas feels compelled to say yes.

The ner’re-do-well brother of Lilliana’s maid died of arsenic poisoning. Authorities are ruling his death an accident, but his sister suspects he was murdered. As Atlas and Lilliana investigate, they discover that the victim had a mysterious lover―a high-born lady he threatened with scandal after she spurned him. When they finally uncover her shocking true identity, the case blows wide open and it turns out there is a whole string of women who had reason to kill the handsome charmer. Now, as Atlas fights his growing feelings for Lilliana, they must work together to catch the assassin before the killer gets to them first.

My Thoughts: The second Atlas Catesby historical mystery begins when the woman he's been trying to forget asks him to solve the mystery of the death of her maid's brother. Atlas is very good at puzzles and is intrigued by this mystery. He is also the fourth son of a newly minted baron - aristocratic but on the lowest end of the scale. Lady Roslyn Sterling is the sister of a duke and way above him in wealth and the ranking of society. Atlas feels that he can not have any sort of relationship with her despite the fact the he loves her. She is not convinced and is determined to show them how well they would suit, in her subtle and ladylike way.

As Atlas investigates Gordon Davis he uncovers more and more people who would have wanted him dead. Davis was an attractive and charming man from the lower class who wanted to raise his social status by marrying up. He carried on affairs with and aristocratic lady and a wealthy businessman's daughter. While he was a footman, he also accompanied two young aristocratic ladies on their shopping expedition for "naughty" books which gave him blackmail material to use with their fathers. One of the fathers is the wealthy peer who is courting Lady Roslyn and who asks that Atlas back off to allow him to court her.

Davis was poisoned with arsenic which was a relatively common chemical of the day. It was used in industry including the dye factory where Davis worked after losing his position as a footman. It was also sometimes used medicinally for clearing complexions and to increase vigor. Atlas and is new valet Jamie need to check the poison books of the pharmacies near the suspects to find out who bought the arsenic and who poisoned Davis.

I enjoyed the setting of this story. I also enjoyed Atlas Catesby who is an honorable man and a great puzzle solver. I have hopes for the relationship of Lilliana and Atlas and look forward to more books in the series to see how it progresses.

Favorite Quote:
A bittersweet sensation sliced through his lungs. Black-and-gold livery could only belong to the Duke of Somerville. Lilliana's brother. Not Lilliana, he reminded himself harshly. Roslyn. Lady Roslyn Lilliana Sterling. The woman he'd been trying to forget for the past nine long months.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.