Monday, January 16, 2012

Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones: A Cat Deluca Mystery
K. J. Larsen
Poisoned Pen Press
February 7, 2012
ISBN: 978-1590589212
317 pages
$ 24.95

Pants On Fire Detective Agency is owned by Cat DeLuca. This agency specializes in discovering cheating husbands. Cat learned the basics from growing up in a police family with her father and brothers being part of the Chicago Police and from her own cheating husband.

Cleo Jones definitely has a cheating husband. Unfortunately, Walter cheats on Cleo with her sister. Besides that, he takes her money and her dog. So Cleo feels justified when she shoots her husband full of buckshot so that he will not be sitting for quite a while. Cleo also tends to be overly dramatic and gives her neighbors opportunities to use their video cameras when she threatens Walter.

Cat decides that it is best if she accompany Cleo back to the house to take whatever she needs and the dog. She also is pressing Cleo to stop shooting at Walter. When they enter the house, all is quiet but the dog has been in something messy and sticky which turns out to be Walter’s blood. He’s dead. The two also find a bag full of cash which they take with them as they leave with the dog.

The police believe Cleo killed her husband and Cat knows that she didn’t since they were together at the house. Even so, Cleo is arrested and Cat plans to find the real killer.

Unfortunately, Walter had many enemies and had been embezzling money. Also, his past has many secrets with unsavory characters.

Cat DeLuca has the advantage of having a huge, overbearing, Italian, Catholic family. With family support and obligations, she is never alone and someone is always ready to give her advice and food. She also has a special relationship with one F.B.I. agent and tends to attract hunky men.

Sticks and Stones is a quick and humorous read for anyone who enjoys romantic mysteries.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Zaftan Entrepreneurs

Zaftan Entrepreneurs: Book One of the Zaftan Trilogy
Hank Quense
January 4, 2011
ISBN: 9781456349387
351 pages
$ 14.99

Over the years, the idea of our planet being invaded by aliens from another world has always sparked our imagination. From E.T., to Alien, to War of the Worlds, we just never know what to expect. What if the creatures only wanted some minerals for their fuel and their planet? Would you agree if they would respect the people and the land? Could both species learn and benefit from each other?

In Zaftan Entrepreneurs, our planet is usual with the addition of living with the humans on this planet are also elves, dwarves, and half-pints who can use magic. These new creatures only want minerals. To learn the language, they kidnap two of our planet inhabitants. (That’s always a great way to make friends.) Then the creatures make contact with our planet officially and stating their intentions. They simply want a few minerals and do not intend to trespass. They agree to respect the native creatures and their land.

Quickly, problems and situations escalate to a war. These separate creatures on this planet quickly join forces to fight their common enemy, the Zaftan.

Yunta, a Zaftanm is a squid-like creature with three eyes that commands others like her on a spaceship with the mission of finding particular minerals to fuel the craft and to assist her planet. On her planet, she is expected to be successful and she views this mission as a temporary stepping-stone to become the corporate admiral.

MacDrakin is a dwarf who comes from a legendary family who spends most of his life alone, on his land mining emeralds. His former military service and expertise make him a respected leader in his small community.

Leslie Higginbottom feels fortunate to be the constable of her town, Skensfirth. She was taught this position from her father who was the previous constable. Unfortunately, the men dwarfs are interested in her, but easily intimidated by her intelligence and position.

The story is fast-paced and enjoyable with the varied creatures and their interactions. The Yuks with Gorya as their leader was hilarious with his antics and loyalties. The characters were believable with varied depths as well as shallowness, especially in the politicians.

Zaftan Entrepreneurs is an imaginative, humorous journey showing the contrasts of humanity in all creatures on our planet.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Close-Up: A Margot and Max Mystery
Kit Sloan
Oak Tree Press
November 2011
ISBN: 978-1-61009-033-9
222 pages
$ 14.95

What will people do to be famous? have their fifteen minutes of fame? You can probably guess what normal people will do, but what about those in the movie business? What lengths will these people go to get into a film, be featured on television, or just to get some form of publicity?

Everyone is shocked when watching the news on television and seeing an elderly actress talking to a newscaster while her house is burning in the background. Besides being reminded of this person’s existence, Max and Margot view this and decide to invite this actress to play a part in their next movie as the zombie grandmother. Could the fire have been a coincidence? Could this be a set up to get the actress publicity and to remind people of her existence?

Max and Margot have their own movie production company and currently are creating a new-type of zombie movie. They begin their filming in Florida with the zombies coming out of the ocean. Also coincidentally, the containers holding the actors and actresses are covering an alligator hole. This definitely makes for interesting filming.

When the crew returns to California to conclude the filming, they are plagued with constant challenges and mysteries, most notably the elderly televised actress is dead. What looks like a heart attack is still being questioned by the medical examiner. Does anyone ever tell the whole truth about where they were?

With a typical Hollywood cast of characters, their eccentricities, greed, and ambition, Close-Up is a delightful romp of the behind-the-scenes action both filmed and in their everyday not-always-realistic life.

Close-Up is the ninth novel in the Max and Margot series. I look forward to more of this grounded couple from this creative author.

Already Gone

Already Gone
John Rector
Thomas & Mercer
October 25, 2011
ISBN: 9781612180878
317 pages
$ 14.95

What would you expect to be taken from you if you were mugged outside a local bar? Most of us would expect to lose our purse/wallet, keys, money, watch, or rings. Well, Jake Reese was mugged and all that was taken was his wedding ring with the finger. The finger was cut off with bolt cutters. They let him keep his money.

Jake Reese had a rough upbringing. Today we would consider him as a child to be “at risk”. Fortunately, he has turned his life around. His drinking is under control. He recently married and lives together with his loving wife in a house in a decent neighborhood. He has a possibility for a secure future with his position as a professor teaching writing at a university. Everything seems to be falling into place until he is mugged.

Jake decides to investigate this on his own placing his life at the university on hold when another weird thing happens. His wife, Diane, is missing.
Does this have anything to do with the finger? Is this a kidnapping? Is this revenge for something in Jake’s past? He decides to look into his past for the answers, if there are any.
This is a gripping tale. These 317 pages literally fly as you are reading this intense story. As Jake attempts to reconnect with the people in his past, they seem to have more questions and hostility than answers.
Already Gone is John Rector’s third novel following The Cold Kiss which is being adapted for a movie and The Grove.
Jake Reese is a dark, haunted character who unfortunately could be any one of us under the same circumstances. Sometimes he seems naïve, but realistic in that many of us would react similarly with those situations. The intertwining plot is enthralling. You cannot put this book down. (Yes, I read it in less than a day.) Already Gone is definitely a page-turner.
I look forward to more dark haunting complex tales by John Rector.

The Devil's Elixir

The Devil’s Elixir
Raymond Khoury
Dutton Adult
December 22, 2011
ISBN: 978-0525952435
384 pages
$ 26.95

Every parent sees that their child is special, but what if your child really has an ability that is rare and possibly prized by others? Would you take your child to a specialist to verify this ability or to improve this gift? Keep those questions in mind when reading this book.

Michelle Martinez was working in her kitchen when she heard her doorbell. Since she was personally working on not being a super-woman, she asked her boyfriend to answer it. Unfortunately she did not plan to hear the sound of gun shots using a silencer. Her training and adrenaline kicked in as she immediately ran from the house and grabbed her son who was playing in the backyard. Where do you go?

Michelle called the only trustworthy person who could investigate this incident and still protect, Sean Reilly. Since it has been five years, he was surprised to receive the call and to discover that Michelle kept a secret from him. Her son is also his son.

Sean Reilly is shocked at this disclosure. Quickly, Sean flies to California and discovers the situation extremely treacherous involving his son. He soon realizes that he needs help from his girlfriend, Tess Chaykin, who also flies to the area to help.

The Devil’s Elixir shows a different side of the endless war on drugs and how it is always changing. The characters of Tess and Sean are not as developed in this novel as in the previous novels, The Sign, The Sanctuary, and The Last Templar. However, the focus of this particular novel is still action adventure but more realistic without all the constant near-misses, even though there are still plenty of those. The focus of this particular installment of this series was the character development of Sean’s son.

The Devil’s Elixir is a page turner that is different from Raymond Khoury’s previous novels, but definitely worth reading. Raymond Khoury is definitely an author who can weave a tantalizing tale.

Monday, January 2, 2012

His Mistress by Christmas

His Mistress by Christmas
Victoria Alexander
Kensington Books
September 27, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7582-5567-9
352 pages
$ 19.95

His Mistress by Christmas involves two characters who are magnetically attracted to each other. This is definitely loved at first sight. Sir Sebastian Hadley-Attwater is intrigued when he meets Lady Veronica Smithson and is determined to be married to her by Christmas. Veronica enjoys her life as a wealthy widow and is attracted to Sebastian but plans to be his mistress by Christmas.
Unfortunately, both of them confide in their close friends who tend to tell others of their friends’ intimate secrets. This does cause both of them grief when they decide to spend Christmas together and Sebastian’s family appears to meet his new wife and to celebrate with him. Veronica finds out that the family had expected them to be married while she planned to entice him to her bed.
His Mistress by Christmas is a typical romantic novel. The story is predictable but does have many twists in the journey to the happily ever after ending. The story successfully brings into the changing significance of women and their acceptance into exclusive men’s clubs.
The first hundred pages were fairly slow in the pacing. During these pages, the two main characters were well-developed. Unfortunately, there was not any story development except their romantic involvement.
Supposedly, His Mistress by Christmas is typical of the historical romance books by Victoria Alexander. The historical aspect though was extremely weak with only mentioning the changing image and acceptance of women as equals.
This novel is directed towards a female audience who believes in happy endings and loves the romantic genre.