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.

Review: REALM OF THE DRAGON

This is my first review here in a while. I hope to do more of this, so see the end of this post for details about my review policy.

Review summary: I chose this book because I enjoy fantasy, and shape-shifting dragons sounded like way too much fun to miss. It turned out to be more of a romance novel in a fantasy setting. However, it is a fun read (and the shape-shifting dragons were as good as I hoped.) I give it a 7/10. Details are below.

About this book: An ancient legend spanning eras, continents, and worlds. To some, it’s nothing more than a dream. To others, a pretty fairy tale handed down through the generations. For those in critical need of their own happy ending, a gift. For sheltered Lily Kiers, it’s all too real. Her escape from danger, straight into the arms of her destiny. Thrust into a realm made of fantasy and unbridled passion, Lily faces violent resentment and jealousy from extremely powerful enemies. Amidst fierce creatures whose very existence defy all common sense, Lily pieces together a past she could never have imagined. Claimed by Kord, Prince of Battle Draconian, their love will not be denied, even as malevolent forces plot to rip them apart.

About the authors: CiCi Cordelia is the pen name for the writing team of BFFs Char Chaffin and Cheryl Yeko.

 Published authors in their own right, they share a love for well-written stories infused with their favorite romantic genres: paranormal, suspense, and erotica. Both are fans of Alpha Men and the women they’d lay down their lives for.

 As a writing team, they bring a solid know-how for accomplishing the foundation of what makes a great romance read: a strong story, a passionate romance, fascinating characters, and a happy-ever-after ending. CiCi can be found: https://ccromance.com & www.facebook.com/HeartfeltRomance. More links for each author can be found at the end of this post.

Giveaway: CiCi Cordelia will be awarding a $10 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: Romance novels just aren’t my cup of tea, but I can appreciate a fun story, an imaginative setting and a happy ending. This book provides them all.

What I liked best:

  1. The parents. When mom and dad show up at all, in either romance or fantasy, they are seldom this supportive or having this much fun of their own. The Prince of Battle Draconian’s mother was actually my favorite character.
  2. Sensitivity. I expected the romantic male to be strong and, well, manly. No worries, he is. But he also isn’t a jerk. He treats his beloved with understanding and even courtesy and is all the more desirable for it. Kudos to CiCi Cordelia.
  3. The dragons. I loved their physical description, their shifting, and most of all the way they were part of but separate from their human brains.
  4. Bonus points for well written sex scenes that are detailed enough to be sexy and tasteful enough not to be embarrassing.

What I liked least:

  1. There aren’t many plot surprises, and I felt like the basic premises of the story were pretty obvious from the start. I’m all for the happy the ending, but would have appreciated more complexity in getting there.
  2. I’m willing to suspend disbelief about all things magic, but the idea of one of the three ruling families of an entire world living with no domestic help, doing all their own chores, was beyond what I could accept.
  3. The last third of the book slowed down. Once the romance is largely settled, the authors opt to resolve the remaining plot issues with a lot of fight scenes. I felt the book could have used a few more clever and less predictable ways to tie up the loose ends.

In spite of those flaws, I do recommend this book for anyone desiring an easy read to make a few hours melt away. It would be perfect on a difficult plane ride, where you could put on some music and immerse yourself in this story. If you are lucky enough to be traveling home, you can indulge yourself once you get there by pretending your mate is secretly a dragon. I bet it will make for an interesting evening.

Purchase this book: On Amazon or at Barnes and Noble.

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

Read more reviews at:

February 8: Two Crazy Ladies Love Romance
February 15: Emily Carrington
February 22: Fire Dancing for Fun and Profit
February 22: Sharing Links and Wisdom
March 1: Kit ‘N Kabookle
March 1: The Book Garden

My favorite excerpt:

“I won’t hurt you.” The dragon’s powerful voice held a soothing quality. Then it ruined the moment by leaning down to sniff her. “Mmm. You smell like apples and honey.” To her amazement, that long, forked tongue re-emerged and flicked gently along her neck. Its texture felt incongruously like velvet.

Lily managed to bite back a hysterical shriek even as her lower lip trembled. She clamped it between her teeth to steady it, before venturing, “A-Are you going to eat me?”

Every muscle and bone in her body hurt. Her world had upended itself. Beyond exhausted, she longed for this nightmare to end.

If a dragon could frown, then this dragon was definitely frowning. Its fierce expression sent additional shudders through her, and she fully expected those massive jaws to come for her at any moment.

As hard as she struggled for calm, tears leaked from her eyes when he raised long, sharp claws and reached for her. Too frightened to move, she turned her head away. The thrumming of her heart pounded through her entire body as she waited for the sharp talons to slash into her. Instead, the dragon carefully nudged her cheek until she was forced to raise her face and meet its magnetic stare.

“I said I wouldn’t hurt you.” Then slowly and gently the creature unfurled its tail, the very tip pressing against her lower back as if encouraging her to gain her feet, and held her steady until she was standing securely on the ground.

Before Lily had a chance to run, there was a bright flash of light, then a shimmering of brilliant colors. Her jaw slackened at the sight of a man standing before her.

An extremely handsome, naked man.

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.

Individual Author Links:

Cheryl Yeko:
Website: http://cherylyeko.blogspot.com/  ‘Where Love Always Wins’
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/qzsks8q
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WhereLoveAlwaysWins/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/cherylyeko
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/cyeko/boards/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5406425.Cheryl_Yeko

Char Chaffin:
Website: http://char.chaffin.com “Falling In Love is Only the Beginning”
Facebook: http://facebook.com/char.chaffin
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/pvscu7w
Twitter: http://twitter.com/char_chaffin
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5337737.Char_Chaffin

Final Note:  I received a free copy of this book from the authors. A free copy of a book would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.

A political kindred spirit: A review of Scott Haworth’s novel Abraham Lincoln’s Lie

lincolnThere are two reasons why I want to speak highly of this book, and it’s fair to tell you of them. First, this book has a strong political slant, and it turns out that I largely share the author’s views. More-over, his sort of moderate-liberal-progressive outlook, in my opinion, shows up too infrequently in political fiction specifically written to make a point, and I admit up front to wishing to encourage him.
Second, this is the first review I have written for a self-published complete stranger since I myself became a self-published author reviewed by complete strangers. I recognize how important reviews are and what an accomplishment it is to produce a coherent novel, much less one with only two typos. I am inclined to be gentle. That being said …..

This is a novel that covers about a forty year span after the USA breaks in two to form a red nation and a blue nation. The author wisely glosses over details, but focuses instead on following a few key families in each of the new countries. It’s a good format and he develops some compelling characters and covers issues from foreign policy to gun control.

The biggest problem with the book is that it can’t quite decide if it wants to be realistic, or satire. The smaller satire parts work well, like the number of things in the red nation named after Ronald Reagan and the conservative states getting corporate sponsors for their aircraft carriers. Funny stuff, although I personally would appreciate the humor more if some of the satire went both ways. Let’s face it, there is plenty to laugh about throughout the political spectrum.

At the other extreme, the human drama that is not satire works well also, such as the story of the two gay men who find their home is in the red nation, and are forced to flee to the blue with their adopted daughter. To me this was the most emotionally compelling story line and these were the most fully drawn of all the characters.

It’s the stuff in between the satire and realism that gave me pause. The blue states gradually turn into utopia, while having no problems with debt or high taxes. They get along famously with other countries, and somehow encourage innovation among the citizenry in spite of more government controls. Lazy or greedy people do not play a role, a fact that I find very hard to believe. In fact, after forty years the place is so perfect that I briefly thought I might have fallen into conservation satire that had been waiting to reveal itself.

Meanwhile, the red nation fares far worse. Citizens roam the countryside with legal automatic weapons. Criminals are tried and executed within days, with no appeals. Sex education has been abolished and science is barely taught. The nation is plagued with teen births, ignorant angry people and wars it cannot afford. Absolutely nothing works better here. As satire, one can do this of course. As a realistic novel, I’d have been more engaged if the red nation produced some sympathetic characters and occasional unique solutions of its own. In the real world, there are truly good people across the political spectrum. I know, I am related to many of them. Furthermore, real politics is a messy nuanced business and there are surprises.

Two things to this author’s defense. His main protagonist is the conservative politician who causes the split to begin with, and he does infuse this one character with warmth and humanity (and of course with mounds of regret for what he has done). Secondly, I skimmed through a little Ayn Rand before writing this review. I have not read her in decades and wondered in retrospect how balanced her world in Atlas Shrugged really was. Not very, so this author is at least in renowned company. Unfortunately, at this point his writing lacks the plot intricacy and the suspense that Ayn showed in her two most famous novels. We aren’t compelled to find out how this book is going to end, but rather have a pretty good idea much of the way through it.

click cover to purchase for kindle

click cover to purchase for kindle

His character’s motivations are sometimes unclear and their emotions sometimes range significantly from one sentence to the next. Author Scott Haworth also shows no skill at all in folding in either romance or sex, both of which do add to a book’s wider appeal. Lacking all this, his one-sidedness is more apparent than Ayn’s and will likely be more irritating to any reader that does not more or less agree with him already.

However, Ayn did write a first novel, called “Anthem”, and years ago I read it. I’m not going to bother to reread it now just for this review, but I remember it as a short, shrill and simplistic treatise in which she outlines ideas that she would later convey with far more power. I am a much more critical reader these days, and I feel certain that “Abraham Lincoln’s Lie” is a better first political book than “Anthem”.

I wavered between giving “Abraham Lincoln’s Lie” 3 stars or 4. I am rounding up in hopes that this is the first of several political novels we will see from Scott Haworth, and that one day soon his skills will grow enough to be able to powerfully convey the fictionally underrepresented ideal of a freedom-loving progressive nation. I am really looking forward to reading those future works.