Dragon’s Revenge

I’m back to doing reviews on this blog and happy to be doing so. Today I welcome author and artist C.J. Shane and her novel Dragon’s Revenge.

About Dragon’s Revenge:

When Tucson private detective and Iraq War vet Letty Valdez is hired to investigate a murder, she immediately finds herself targeted by a violent criminal. To find the killer, Letty turns to an old memoir of life in late 19th century Tucson. Clues in in the memoir, with its tale of love between two immigrants – one, an Italian widow, and the other, an exiled Chinese revolutionary – launch Letty on a suspense-filled struggle to find answers, to stop the murderer – and to stay alive!

My Review:

By the time I finished this book, I loved it.

The author attempts something difficult, and that always intrigues me. She mixes an almost abrupt telling of a modern day detective story with a lyrical, sometimes even meandering, historical document from a century earlier. At first the combination is jarring, but before long it sort of becomes hot and sour soup, or fried ice cream if you prefer. However you think of it, it works well and the rich tale she has woven from the two very different pieces captivated me.

Nearly half the book is a love story between two immigrants, one Italian and one Chinese. It’s told beautifully through the eyes of her young son, and it is both touching and believable. The prejudice shown to so many ethnicities will make you want to scream, and will possibly force you to take a hard look at some of today’s behavior, too. (At least I hope it will.)

The other piece of the story involves PI Letty Valdez helping a friend solve a murder that occurs in a university library. Of course the investigation quickly becomes far more complicated, with Letty in danger, a few tantalizing red herrings emerging, and a tie-in to the century-old love story. Ultimately, there is a satisfying ending with more than one unsavory sort getting what unsavory sorts deserve.

Letty Valdez is a wonderful character, as are most of the people who populate her life. In fact, one of my few criticisms is that perhaps too many of them are a little too wonderful. A tad more nuance and the occasional trace of a fault here and there, would probably have made the story stronger. Yet, I much prefer the direction Shane errs in to the other alternative: a story filled with alleged heroes no one can like or root for. I plan to download  more Letty Valdez mysteries to my Kindle.

I readily admit that a reading experience is a combination of the skill of the writer, and the interests of the reader. Author Shane tells an interesting tale, and she tells it well. Her story also happens to intersect well with me. I’ve done a fair amount of research on immigration laws for my own writing and practically jumped out of my seat when I read about the Chinese exclusion act. I share the author’s apparent passion for social justice and her love of desert sunsets. And I practice qi gong (a relative of gong fu referred to often in the book.) So, while this is a novel I think anyone could enjoy; it is fair to disclose this is one book I could hardly have kept from appreciating.

I find the five start rating system much too confining, so I’ve gone to my own decimal point system. I give this a 4.6 (one of my highest ratings ever). It will round to 5 on all review sites.

(Know that I received a free mobi file of this book from Goddess Fish Promotions, the value of which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.)

Read an Excerpt:

from the memoir: Mama agreed to sing at the rededication of the cathedral. She considered this a great honor and a spiritual responsibility. She wanted to do well to show her respect and devotion. Because of this, she began practicing every week as she had time, even though the rededication was six months away. She liked to climb a ladder up onto the flat roof of our adobe house and sing there. I asked her once why she went up on the roof.

“It’s the right place to talk to God and that’s what I’m doing when I sing. Singing here helps me to be strong.” Mama said. Mama was very religious. She talked to God a lot. She also talked to Jesus, the Virgin, and all the saints. Me, I never had much use for all that.

She was up on the roof one day when Drago came up the street with his cart. When Mama didn’t appear at our front door, he entered the gate to the side yard hoping to find her at the outdoor ovens. It was then that she began singing. Drago moved into the yard and stepped away from the adobe wall so that he could see her on the roof.

Mama stood straight upright, her long skirts moving slightly in the breeze. Her hands were clasped in front of her. She took another deep breath and out came that glorious mezzo-soprano, full and textured, subtle, rich with emotions I was too young to identify but would later know, emotions like passion and longing. Tendrils of curly dark hair escaped from the knot on her neck. Her northern Italian skin, pale like a pearl, glowed in the sunlight, and her dark eyes sparkled. My mama was a beautiful woman and she sang like an angel.

Drago stood transfixed in our garden, his hands at his side, his head bent upward to watch her. He was utterly still, utterly silent. I know this because I was hiding high in the branches of a tall mesquite tree behind him where he couldn’t see me. I was supposed to be doing my chores but I, too, liked to watch Mama when she was singing.

Drago stood for the longest time listening to Mama. I was watching Mama but when I looked at Drago, I saw that tears were running down his face.

I think that was the day that Drago fell in love with Mama, the day he first heard her sing.

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.  Visit Goddess Fish on Facebook  and on Twitter. Click on the image to see the other stops on the tour.

Win a Prize:

C.J. Shane will be awarding her original artwork – an ink drawing of ocotillo on handmade paper in a wooden frame ready to hang with hooks and wire. Size of frame: 6 1/2″ by 8 1/2″ (U.S. ONLY),

The winner will be determined via rafflecopter. There are various ways to enter the contest multiple times during the tour. Enter here.

About the Author:

C.J. Shane is a writer and visual artist in Arizona. In addition to her mystery fiction, she is the author of eight nonfiction books. Her first fiction book, Desert Jade: A Letty Valdez Mystery, (11-2017) is a finalist for Best Suspense-Thriller novel, New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards.

Learn more about the author at https://www.cjshane.com/
https://www.cjshane.com/dragons-revenge.html

Also learn more about her at Goodreads, BookBub, and Facebook.

Learn more about Rope’s End Publishing.

Where to buy this book:

Amazon
Smashwords
Barnes and Noble
Kobo
iTunes

If you are interested in a review from me:

My protagonist in Shape of Secrets is a human chameleon who solves a murder, so I am predisposed to reviewing stories on this blog featuring interesting shape shifters, or any soft-boiled crime novel with an unusual premise.

I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review BDSM erotica or books about vampires or zombies.

If you would like to be considered for a review, contact me at Zane (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

Nice to be understood

I don’t usually blog about my reviews, and with good reason. When you ask someone to take hours out of their own life to read something you’ve written, it’s best to let them have their opinion and leave it be.

I know I’ve loved books others don’t like, and missed the charm many found in popular books. Reading is an interaction between the author and the writer, and the two don’t always match up well, even when an intelligent reader comes across a well done story.  We’re all different, right?

Kit 'N KabookleNone-the-less, it made me smile this morning when two reviewers of Shape of Secrets happened to get my style and like what I am trying to do. Mary DeSantis has a blog called Kit ‘N Kabookle, spotlighting books and authors of fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller/suspense, romance, and ya. She liked my “thought-provoking and expertly woven tale of the human condition.”

The Reading AddictThe Reading Addict, featuring “some of the books that I have read” loved “the way seemingly unconnected elements are introduced and elaborated on until things start to weave together into a fun and complex set of mysteries”

It wasn’t so much that the reviews were basically positive (though they were and I’m glad they were), it’s that these two reviewers happened to like what I’m trying to do. It’s no given in life, but it sure is nice when it happens.

 

Learning to Juggle

I came home from a month long trip last fall, on fire. I knew what I was going to spend the next eight months doing. I just wasn’t sure how I was going to do it.

I knew I wanted to rewrite/heavily edit all six of my books to fit a grand vision. I wanted better titles, more marketable covers, less typos, more action and more sensitivity. Chapters had to be shorter, dialog snappier, and everything more pithy. Less Michener. More poet. Where to start?

I drew on my experiences in management in a former life to chart a course, knowing I would have to motivate and direct the most challenging human I’ve ever had to deal with — me.

I do like to make color-coded spreadsheets, so I let myself go wild. It didn’t look too bad. I can do this.

Now that I’m about half-way through this, it’s time to ask. How’s it going?

Well….. Book one is out there and I’m happy with it, but I don’t have nearly enough time to advertise or promote it.  It has a review tour going which I should be putting more energy into, and I just printed out a large-type copy for my narrator who has finished a chapter of my first ever audio book and is ready for more. The sound guy will have that chapter back to us for review this week. Yikes.

Book two is out there and I’m happy with it, but I’m struggling to even get basics done like make request reviews and order hard copies for myself.

Book three comes out in two weeks. It’s still with my final proofreader and that’s making me nervous. I don’t have the paperback cover yet because I ran so late in getting the text for the back cover to my designers.  Argghhh.

Book four is on hold, having been edited. It’s ready for my final read through which I was supposed to be starting next week but there is just no way.

Book five is being edited now, and the new cover is in progress. Been through two iterations on the cover and it’s looking good. Will get what is hopefully the final version on Wednesday.

I’m not even thinking about book six.

Honestly, this is all too much to hold in my head at once. I keep checking my spreadsheet thinking I’m forgetting some essential component somewhere. There’s got to be something I’m forgetting.

Sleep? Food? Wait. In the process of trying to juggle everything, I think I’m forgetting to enjoy this.

 

Review: Murder Gone Missing

Why am I reviewing a crime novel like Murder Gone Missing? Well, even though y1 is a fantasy, it is also a murder mystery, and I have a soft spot for zany crime novels with an unusual premise. This is my third recent review here and I hope to do more. See the end of this post for details about my review policy.

 

My Review Summary: Lida Sideris has written a clever and funny story to entertain fans of light-hearted mysteries. My personal rating is 3.7/5. My full review appears later in this post.

About this book: Newly minted lawyer Corrie Locke has taken a vow of abstinence. From PI work, that is. Until her best friend Michael finds his bully of a boss stabbed in the back after confronting him earlier that day. Michael panics, accidentally tampering with the crime scene…which could lead the cops to Michael instead of the real culprit. He turns to Corrie to track down the killer. She doesn’t need much coaxing. Her late great PI dad taught her the ropes…and left her his cache of illegal weaponry.

They return to the scene of the crime, but the body’s missing. Racing against time, Corrie dredges a prestigious Los Angeles college in pursuit of clues. All she finds are false leads. Armed with attitude and romantic feelings toward Michael, Corrie dives into a school of suspects to find the slippery fugitive. Will she clear Michael’s name before he’s arrested for murder?

About the author: Lida Sideris is the author of the Southern California Mystery series, the latest of which, MURDER GONE MISSING, was published by Level Best Books. She writes soft-boiled mysteries and was one of two national winners of the Helen McCloy Mystery Writers of America scholarship award. To learn more about Lida, please visit www.LidaSideris.com or find her on Instagram,  on Twitter@lidasideris or at https://www.facebook.com/lidasideris

Giveaway:  Lida Sideris be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more and register to win.

My full review: (See my summary at the start of this post.)

What I liked best:

  1. This is a witty, fast-paced book with enough unexpected twists to keep the reader engaged.
  2. The author paints descriptions with an artistic flair, and a hint of crime noir satire. Passages like “Fog crept around the hilly street, clasping hands with the darkness” abound. Better yet, she does it deftly enough that they don’t slow the story down.
  3. The protagonist Corrie Locke may steal high-fashion items from her mother, but she is a tough and capable detective with a good heart.
  4. One of my favorite scenes is when main character Corrie admits she has been antagonistic to another character for so long that she doesn’t even remember why she is doing it. The bit of self-awareness is in stark contrast to the sometimes unjustified sharp banter, and it did much to win over my sympathy for Corrie.
  5. The author does a noteworthy job of ending chapters in such a way that the reader just has to keep going.

What I liked least:

  1. At least one other novel preceded this one, and I never felt quite up to speed on the interpersonal relationships between Corrie and her two potential love interests.
  2. In places the book reminded me a little too much of the famous Janet Evanovich series, upon which it appears to be modeled. (One spunky woman PI and two gorgeous men.) For example, Corrie’s sidekick Veeda talks entirely too much like Stephanie Plum’s sidekick Lula.
  3. Witty and fast-paced can be overdone. In its least effective places, the book becomes a series of flippant one-liners in need of a little emotional honesty.

The power of what I liked well exceeds what I didn’t, and I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a mystery with touches of humor and just a hit of romance.

Purchase this book at Amazon.

The excerpt I liked best:

I moved toward the pick-up and stopped behind Squalley’s Honda. The flat had been fixed, but the dent in the bumper hadn’t been touched. So why was the car still hitched to Ian’s truck? “Veera, keep a sharp eye out.”

“I only do sharp.” She scanned the grounds. “You think the body’s still in that trunk?”

I pulled out an extra slim screwdriver and paperclip from my purse. “No, but there should be some sign that the body was in there.” I hoped. I shoved the ends of the paperclip and screwdriver into the keyhole.

After a good amount of twisting and pumping, the trunk clicked and lifted slightly. “Bingo.” I peered inside.

“What do you see?” Veera edged toward me. She leaned in to peek in the trunk. “Oh my.”

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

Read more reviews at:

July 10: Sharing Links and Wisdom
July 10: Andi’s Book Reviews
July 10: Mixed Book Bag
July 17: Notes From a Romantic’s Heart

If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning the gift certificate.

If you are interested in a review from me:

My protagonist in y1 is shape-shifting gay male who solves a murder for his employer, so I am predisposed to stories featuring LGBT heroes (or others who find joy in life by being true to who they are in spite of obstacles) or stories featuring interesting shape shifters, or any soft-boiled crime novel with an unusual premise.

I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review BDSM erotica or books about vampires or zombies.

If you would like to be considered for a review, contact me at Zane (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

A personal note: I am a writer myself and therefore come to all reviews with biases born not only of my personal preferences but also of my own writing style. Also, I received a free pdf copy of this book from Goddess Fish, the value of which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.

Review: First Impressions

See my review in the middle of this post.

About this book:  M/M Romance

Michael:
Two years ago I made a mistake, a big one, and then I threw in another couple just for good measure. I screwed up my life big time but I made it through. I was lucky.
Then I was given the opportunity for a fresh start. Two years in Auckland, NZ, ‘The City of Sails’. Away from the LA gossip, a chance to breathe, to get my life back together.
I grabbed it and packed my new set of golden rules with me.
I don’t do relationships.
I don’t do commitment.
I don’t do white picket fences.
And I especially don’t do arrogant, holier-than-thou, smoking hot K9 officers who walk into my ER and rock my world.

Josh:
The only thing I know for certain about Dr. Michael Oliver is the guy is an arrogant, untrustworthy player, and I’d barely survived the last one of those in my life.  Once was more than enough.
The man might be gorgeous but my eleven-year-old daughter takes number one priority and I won’t risk her being hurt, again. I’m a solo dad, a K9 cop and a son to pain in the ass, bigoted parents.
I don’t have time for games.
I don’t have time for taking chances.
I don’t have time for more complications in my life.
And I sure as hell don’t have time for the infuriating Dr. Michael Oliver, however damn sexy he is.

About the author:

Jay Hogan is a New Zealand author writing in the LGBTQIA genre in MM Romance and Fantasy. She has traveled extensively and lived in many places including the US, Canada, France, Australia and South Korea, and loves to add experiences from these adventures into her writing.

She is a cat aficionado especially of Maine Coons, and an avid dog lover (but don’t tell the cat). She loves to cook- pretty damn good, loves to sing – pretty damn average, and as for parenting a gorgeous daughter-well that depends on the day.

She has lovely complex boys telling sweet sexy stories in her head that demand attention and a considerable number of words to go with them. Their journeys are never straightforward and can even surprise Jay, but the end is always satisfying.

You can find her on Facebook as JayHoganAuthor and on Twitter as @taranakidreams. Visit her on Goodreads  and buy this book, First Impressions, on Amazon.

Giveaway: Jay Hogan will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more, and register to win,

My review:

Things I liked 

  1. The two main characters are complex, intelligent and sexy people with back stories that ring true and make them both easy to like.
  2. The secondary cast of characters is also well drawn, from Josh’s sassy daughter and his loyal police dog to Michael’s best friend, the glitter-eye-shadow wearing male head nurse.  Some of these characters could so easily read as caricatures but they don’t; they come across as genuine individuals. 
  3. The banter in the book is great fun and almost everyone engages in it. 
  4. I found the switching of point of view between the two main characters to be particularly well done, especially when the same scene was told from each man’s perspective. 

What I didn’t like

  1. Everyone has a point at which steamy romance turns into porn and individual tastes do vary. I like to think mine are kind of in the middle of the spectrum, but, hey, who knows. I do know this novel crossed my line about a third of the way through the book due to the frequency of the sexual content, the really specific details given in the sex scenes and the pages-long duration of some of the scenes.  Perhaps a reader should be forewarned the novel contains a large amount graphic sexual material. I would have passed on reviewing this book if I had known.

Because the sex scenes make up so much of the book, I feel I cannot give it a rating. Rather, I will commend the author for the things she did well, mentioned above, and recommend the book to those whose tastes in this regard are different from mine. 

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

My Favorite Excerpt:

Josh was fuming. Fast pitch was one of the few activities he got to enjoy on his own and now he had to put up with Michael freaking Oliver. Arriving at Kendrick’s he’d immediately collared Mark at the bar as the guy was buying a round.“What the hell, man? Whose idea was it to invite him?”

His friend plastered a huge grin on his face and held up his hands in surrender. “Nothing to do with me, mate. Boss man just asked me to deliver him.”

“And you couldn’t think of any reason that wouldn’t be a good idea?”

“What was I going to say?” Mark studied his friend. “And honestly, he seems a good guy and he plays a solid game.”

“I don’t give a flying fuck if he plays like Nathan Nukunuku, he’s an asshole.”

“Funny, that’s what he called you.”

“Wait. He called me an asshole?”

Mark snorted. “Lighten up, Josh. Anyone would think you actually liked the guy.”

“Fuck off.”

Mark whacked him on the back of his head.

“Ow,” Josh protested.

“Suck it up. You deserved it. So, the guy was cruising, so what? Oh. My. God. What a scandal. And he even got lucky with a gorgeous young man, well good for him. It’s not a crime. And besides, he’s hot. And he hit on you. I would think that was reassuring, that you haven’t lost it. You’re both obviously hot for each other.”

“I’m a father of an eleven-year-old girl.”

“And that came with getting your dick cut off, did it?”

“You wouldn’t understand,” Josh dismissed the comment.

If you are interested in a review from me:

One of my resolutions is to review more books here. I am interested reading speculative fiction of all sorts, including science fiction and fantasy. My protagonist in y1 is shape-shifting gay male, so I am predisposed to review stories featuring LGBT heroes (or others who find joy in life by being true to who they are in spite of obstacles) or stories featuring interesting shape shifters.

I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, pure romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review BDSM erotica or books about vampires or zombies.

If you would like to be considered for a review contact me at Zane (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

Final Note:  I received a free pdf of this book from the author, which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.