Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Touch of the Demon by Diana Rowland

I loved this book. This is fifth in the Kara Gillian series.  Kara has finally succumbed to the summoning to the Demon world. She knows that she is in trouble. Kara will find out a lot about herself and her skills through some terrible and wonderful things that happen.  The demons are not what they seem - both good and bad ones.

Summary from penguin:
Kara Gillian is in some seriously deep trouble.

She’s used to summoning supernatural creatures from the demon realm to our world, but now the tables have been turned and she’s the one who’s been summoned. Kara is the prisoner of yet another demonic lord, but she quickly discovers that she’s far more than a mere hostage. Yet waiting for rescue has never been her style, and Kara has no intention of being a pawn in someone else’s game.

There’s intrigue to spare as she digs into the origin of the demonic lords and discovers the machinations of humans and demons alike. Kara is shocked to discover that she has her own history in the demon realm, and that the ties between her and the demonic lords Rhyzkahl and Szerain go back farther than she could have ever imagined. But treachery runs rampant among all the lords, and she’s going to have to stay sharp in order to keep from being used to further their own agendas. The lords have a secret that dates back to earth’s ancient history, and it could have devastating repercussions for both worlds.

Yet more than anything else, Kara’s abilities as a homicide detective will be put to the test—because this time the murder she has to solve is her own.
 
Excerpt:

Chapter 1
I didn’t whimper when the demonic lord placed the collar around my neck and sealed it closed.
Didn’t curse as it dampened my ability to see the arcane and nullified the chances of anyone’s
being able to locate me. Didn’t cry. Didn’t scream. Didn’t fall to the floor and curl into the fetal
position.
I wanted to. Holy shit, did I ever want to. But in all my years of being a summoner and of
being a cop, I knew that if ever I had to appear strong, it was now—when face to face with a
demonic lord in the demon realm.
“Don’t you recognize it?” the lord had asked. “It’s your old summoning chamber.”
My gaze swept the chamber again. Its dark grey marble floor carved with worn glyphs
joined matching walls, so numerous that the room felt circular. No windows, no furnishings, and
a massive set of charred double doors ahead of me, one ajar, and two smaller doors to the sides.
Arcane light cast by shimmering sigils high above bathed everything in an amber glow and eerie
sliding shadows. Wisps of smoke rose from glowing coals in a brazier against the wall, likely the
source of the pungent skunk-spray-meets-jasmine odor.
I’d appeared here less than two minutes ago, finally summoned to the demon realm after
over a month of dodging the attempts; an evasion aided by wearing an arcane-crippling arm cuff
similar to the collar I wore now. Already I could tell that this collar wasn’t as brute force crude
as the cuff. I wasn’t nauseated and could actually see the glimmer of sigils and patterns dancing
at the edges of my vision, though I knew without even trying that I wouldn’t be able to touch or
form them.
The demonic lord stood before me, tall and elegant in what looked like a perfectly
tailored charcoal grey Armani suit, complete with crisp white shirt and black tie. Keen silver grey
eyes set in a face with an oriental cast left no doubt that he was thoroughly assessing me on
all sorts of levels. Inky black hair entwined with gold cord hung to the small of his back in a
heavy intricate braid. Power pulsed from him in such controlled undulations that I got the sense I was only getting a hint of his full aura.
The human—otherwise known as the asshole who summoned me—busied himself at the
perimeter of the summoning circle, anchoring the flows and sealing the portal. Though he
couldn’t have been much more than a teenager, I had to give him some credit. Bare-chested, tall,
and lean with a crazy halo of curly blond hair, he dispelled and traced sigils with a confidence
that told me he was damned skilled.
I straightened my shoulders. “I’ve never been here before. What sort of game is this?”
The lord’s face grew hard, and when he spoke his voice was a lava flow promising to
consume all in its path. “No game, summoner.” He seized my chin, looked into my face as
though determining my worth. “If you do not know, then you have been kept well hooded by
your lord.” He released me with a slight shove, and I staggered back a step before recovering.
Terror coiled in my gut, but I did my best to put on a sneer.
Read more here.

Pages: 440

Monday, July 29, 2013

High Bloods by John Farris

I really enjoyed this one. A murder mystery/werewolf/cop book. Rawson is a high blood who works for ILC.  He was investigating a werewolf hunt and a kidnapping when he witness a werewolf kill the man he was talking to.  It was the wrong time of the month for a wolf to "hair up". R thinks he knows who the wolf was. He continues to investigate and gets drawn into a huge conspiracy.

From macmillan:
The greater Los Angeles area is in the horrifying grip of a werewolf epidemic. Twenty-eight days of the month, those who change are no different from the uninfected—the High Bloods. But every full moon, they become the most ravenous creatures mankind has ever seen.
Rawson is an agent for Lycan Control. It’s his job to identify and monitor the afflicted—and lock them up the night they change. But the Lycans in Hollywood have risen to cultlike proportions, and Rawson’s job is getting tougher.
Someone has managed to rewrite the rules: Lycans can now change form even when there isn’t a full moon. Battling a rising tide of Lycan-rights activists and people who choose to become werewolves, Rawson must carve a path to the top of the Lycan hierarchy before all hell breaks loose.

For an excerpt, click here.
Pages: 299

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2013: Scattergories Wrap Up

These are the books/categories that I read for the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2013: Scattergories. I read in sixteen different categories. I liked this challenge a lot.  I hope to participate in this one in 2014.
 
Vintage Categories:

1. Colorful Crime: a book with a color or reference to color in the title The Window at the White Cat by Mary Roberts Rinehart

3. Amateur Night: a book with a "detective" who is not a P.I.; Police Officer; Official Investigator (Nurse Keate, Father Brown, Miss Marple, etc.) The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart


4. Leave It to the Professionals: a book featuring cops, private eyes, secret service, professional spies, etc. Plot It Yourself by Rex Stout 


5. Jolly Old England: one mystery set in Britain Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

 

6. Yankee Doodle Dandy: one mystery set in the United States A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin
 

8. Dangerous Beasts: a book with an animal in the title (The Case of the Grinning Gorilla; The Canary Murder Case; etc.) Dead As A Dinosaur by Frances and Richard Lockridge

10. Wicked Women: a book with a woman in the title--either by name (Mrs. McGinty's Dead) or by reference (The Case of the Vagabound Virgin) My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier

12. Murderous Methods : a book with a means of death in the title (The Noose, 5 Bullets, Deadly Nightshade, etc). Behold, Here's Poison by Georgette Heyer


14. Scene of the Crime: a book with the location of the crime in the title (The Body in the Library, Murder at the Vicarage, etc.) The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey
 

15. Cops & Robbers: a book that features a theft rather than murder The Secret of the Golden Pavilion by Carolyn Keene
 
18. Murder on the High Seas: a mystery involving water  The After House by Mary Roberts Rinehart

20. Murder Is Academic: a mystery involving a scholar, teacher, librarian, etc.  OR set at a school, university, library, etc. The Scapegoat by Daphne Du Maurier


21. Things That Go Bump in the Night: a mystery with something spooky, creepy, gothic in the title (The Skeleton in the Clock, Haunted Lady, The Bat, etc.) The Ghost of Guir House by Charles Willing Beale

28. Book to Movie: one vintage mystery that has appeared on screen (feature film or TV movie). Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
 

29. The Old Bailey: a courtroom drama mystery (Perry Mason, anyone? Witness for the Prosecution...etc.) OR a mystery featuring a judge, lawyer, barrister, D.A., etc. 
The Case of the Crooked Candle by Erle Stanley Gardner


35. Genuine Fakes: Authors who wrote under a pseudonym (Josephine Tey [Elizabeth Mackintosh]; Nicholas Blake [Cecil Day Lews]; etc)  Behind A Mask by A M Barnard (Louisa May Alcott)

The Case of the Crooked Candle by Erle Stanley Gardner

I chose this book for the Monthly Key Word Challenge 2013.  Key Word: Candles  I just went to that site and it no longer exists.....where does that leave me for the challenge?  I can use this book for the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2013: Scattergories in the category 29. The Old Bailey: a courtroom drama mystery (Perry Mason, anyone? Witness for the Prosecution...etc.) OR a mystery featuring a judge, lawyer, barrister, D.A., etc.

Perry has a case that starts out with trying to get an old lady a good price for some land.  Then he helps a couple involved with a car accident. Another potential client comes in to hire him to help her father out of a murder charge.  Perry, Della and Paul realize this is one big case.  The murder takes place on a yacht and perry figures out who done it just in time to save his client in court.
This is the 24th outing for Perry Mason and crew. It was a nice quick read.  I enjoyed it very much!

From goodreads:  
Time and Tide... it takes only a minute for Perry Mason to win a hefty accident settlement from a fur company that doesn't want to appear in court. But it takes a little longer than that for Mason to start wondering why the company is buying large tracts of land outside of Los Angeles.

On his way to finding out, Mason meets Mrs. Milfield, a barely distraught widow, and a slew of suspicious characters all intimately connected to the recently deceased, a man murdered on someone else's yacht. As the surprising scenario unravels, it takes a sharp mind like Mason's, the savvy of his secretary Della Street, and the legwork of investigator Paul Drake to pull all the clues out of the water before the case sinks like a deadweight...


Pages: 233

Friday, July 26, 2013

My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent

This is the second book in the Soul Screamers series. Kaylee, Nash and Tod find out that teens and younger are selling their souls for success in the entertainment field. Tod's high school girlfriend, Addison, is one of these kids.  He wants to get her soul back. Kaylee says she will help and Nash goes along with it to protect her.  Kaylee is living with her father again.  Aiden is reluctant to let Kaylee have much time with Nash.  He is afraid they will have sex.  She is late one night and gets grounded which complicates her helping Addison.

From Vincent's site:
The last thing Kaylee needs right now is to be skipping school, breaking her dad’s ironclad curfew and putting her boyfriend’s loyalty to the test.  But starry-eyed teens are trading their souls for a flickering lifetime of fame and fortune in exchange for eternity in the Netherworld—a consequence they can’t possibly understand.  Kaylee can’t let that happen, even if trying to save their souls means putting her own at risk...

Read an except here.

Pages: 279

Dreams by Barbara Delinsky

I got this book to read for the Monthly key Word Challenge 2013. Key Word: dreams
I did not realize there were three stories in this book.
The Dream is about Jessica's need to save her home, Crosslyn Rise. She comes up with a plan to build condos and such with help from Carter Malloy, her childhood nemesis.  They fall in love.
The Dream Unfolds is the story of builder Gideon Lowe and interior designer Christine Gillette that work together on the Rise project. At first they don't like each other but they do fall in love.
The Dream Comes True is the story of realtor Nina Stone and bookseller John Sawyer who meet on the Rise project.  they are complete opposites but yearn for each other. And then they fall in love!

From goodreads:
For five generations, Crosslyn Rise has been home to one of Massachusett's  finest families. But time and neglect have taken their toll on the estate. These three stories--"The Dream, The Dream Unfolds, " and "The Dream Comes True"--follow three couples as they find love during restoration work.

Pages: 443

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Grave Dance by Kalayna Price

This is the second Alex Craft novel. John has 3 feet in the morgue.  Three left feet.  The police don't understand what is going on.  John asks Alex to raise a shade to find out what happened to the rest of the body. Then a report comes in that there are more left feet in the river. This leads Alex and the police to a foot dump that is glamored by Fairie magic.  Alex, Holly and Tamara are out to lunch and then a monster comes running down the street.  Alex realizes it is not real and saves Holly.  Alex has been noticed by the Winter Queen.  Uh oh!  What is going to happen?  I cannot wait to read the next one in this series, Grave Memory.

From Price's site:
Whoever said dead men tell no tales obviously never met Alex Craft.
After a month spent recovering from a vicious fight with a sorcerer, grave witch Alex Craft is ready to get back to solving murders by raising the dead. With her love life in turmoil thanks to the disappearance of Fae Investigation Bureau agent Falin Andrews and a shocking “L” word confession from Death himself, Alex is eager for the distractions of work. But her new case turns out to be a deadly challenge.
The police hire Alex to consult on a particularly strange investigation in the nature preserve south of Nekros City. The strange part: There are no corpses, only fragments of them. A serial killer is potentially on the loose, and Alex has no way to raise a shade without a body, so she’ll have to rely on the magic of others to find leads. But as she begins investigating, a creature born of the darkest magic comes after her. Someone very powerful wants to make sure the only thing she finds is a dead end—her own.

Excerpt:

Chapter One

When I first straddled the chasm between the land of the dead and the world of the living, I accidentally raised the shade of our recently deceased Pekinese. The former champion dog floating around our backyard resulted in my father shipping me off to a wyrd boarding school. Seventeen years later, I still reached across that chasm, but now I got paid to do it.
“That isn’t a body, John,” I said, staring at the open black bag. “It’s a foot.” A pale, bloated, waterlogged foot.
John Matthews, personal friend and one of the best homicide detectives in Nekros City, nodded. “It’s a left foot, to be precise, and I have two more back at the morgue. What can you tell me?”
I frowned and nudged the toe of my boot at a clump of grass sprouting between chunks of loose gravel. My business cards read: alex craft, lead private investigator and grave witch for tongues for the dead. I was actually the owner and only employee of the firm, but that was beside the point. I raised shades and gave the living a chance to question the dead—for a fee. My work tended to take me to a lot of graveyards, the occasional funeral home, and to the Nekros City morgue. The parking pit for the Sionan Floodplain Nature Preserve was most definitely not my typical working environment. Nor was a single severed appendage my typical job.
“Sorry, John, but I need more than a foot to raise a shade.”
“And I need some better news.” His shoulders slumped as if he’d deflated. “We’ve been scouring this swamp for two days and we’re turning up more questions than answers. We’ve got no ID on the vics, no obvious cause of death, and no primary crime scene. You sure you can’t give me anything?” As he spoke, he shoved the flap on the body bag farther open with the butt of his pen.
The foot lay in a sea of black plastic. The sickly scent of rot filled the humid afternoon air, coating the inside of my nose, my throat. The bloodless skin had sloughed off the exposed ankle, the strips of yellowish flesh shriveling. My stomach twisted and I looked away. I’d leave the physical inspection to the medical examiner—my affinity for the dead was less tangible and more spectral. Memories hid in every cell of the body. Memories that my grave magic could unlock and give shape as a shade. Of course, that depended on having enough of the body—and thus cells—at my disposal for my magic to fill in the gaps. I didn’t need to cast a magic circle and begin a ritual to know I couldn’t pull a shade from the foot. I could sense that fact, the same way I could sense that the foot had belonged to a male, probably in his late sixties. I could also sense the nasty tangle of spells all but dripping from the decaying appendage.
“The foot is saturated with magic. Some pretty dark stuff from the feel of it,” I said, taking a step back from the gurney and the sticky residual magic emanating from the foot. “I’m guessing you already have a team deciphering the spells?”
“Yeah, but so far the anti–black magic unit hasn’t reached any conclusions. It would really help if we could question the victim.”
But that wasn’t going to happen with such a small percentage of the body. “You said you had a matching foot back at the morgue? Maybe if we assemble all the parts, there will be enough to—”
John shook his head. “Dancing jokes aside, unless this guy had two left feet—literally—neither of the other feet belong to him.”
Three left feet? That meant at least three victims. “You’re thinking serial?”
“Don’t say that too loud,” John said, his gaze flashing to a passing pair of crime scene technicians headed toward the dense old-growth forest. “No official determination yet, but yeah, I’m thinking serial.” His grizzly bear–sized form sagged further and his mustache twitched as he frowned. The mustache had been a thick red accent to his expressions as long as I’d known him, but in the weeks since he’d woken from a spell-induced coma, slivers of gray had joined the red. He pushed the flap of the body bag closed. “Park rangers found the first foot yesterday morning when they were checking the paths after the recent flooding. We got wardens and cadaver dogs out here and the second foot turned up. When we found the third, I pulled some strings to hire you as a consultant.”  Read more here.

Pages: 371

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Winter Oak by James A. Hetley

This is the second Summer Country/Wildwood book. Maureen and Brian are still in the Summer Country.  Jo and David have gone back to Maine.  They find out that they have been gone 3 months when it felt like a week.  Fairie time is different. A bunch of stuff happens and they all end up in the Summer Country again.  Fiona is coming after all of them again.  What will happen?? I did not like this one as much as the first.

Synopsis from Hetley's site:
Maureen Pierce has come to terms with her magical heritage and has elected to stay in the enchanted land. But before she can fully embrace her new home-and new love, Pendragon warrior Brian Albion-Maureen must face the sorceress she believed was vanquished forever.

Excerpt from AFWA:
David gritted his teeth and followed Jo's hand through the darkness. He assumed the rest of her was still attached. Damp, clammy things brushed past his face and hissed gibberish threats in his ears. Phantoms teased the corners of his eyes, shapes black against black, yellow against yellow, flowing through the ghost images his brain played to give substance to nothing.
The touches, sounds, and shapes plucked at his fear like virtuosi on over-taut harp strings. The air smelled of sodden graveyards, thick and rank in his nose and against his skin as if he had to swim through it.
Under the Sidhe hill, he thought. Three steps between magic and reality. Magic with teeth and claws as long as his forearm, magic with vampire briars that had tried to suck his soul into the land and spread his life in a blood sacrifice to renew the perpetual summer of the Summer Country. Magic that Jo carried in her genes.
Jo wasn't human. He loved her anyhow. Maybe that was witchcraft instead of True Love. From his end, he couldn't see the difference.
Loving Jo didn't blind him to her faults -- that girl was headstrong like you wouldn't believe. She was barely an apprentice witch, yet she insisted on walking this path between the worlds without a guide. She'd only done it once before, and that by accident. She'd been following Maureen. Brian said you could get lost, end up in a nightmare if you held the wrong image in your mind or let yourself get distracted.
But David's blood was human. He couldn't help her.
He felt cold sweat between his shoulder blades and trickling down his sides under his arms. This was taking far too long. When Brian had brought him to the Summer Country, it had been step, step, step, and they were there, sunshine and green grass and warm sweet breezes contrasting with the icy mess of winter in Maine. David hadn't even had time to be scared. That had happened later.
Jo's hand gripped his, tight enough that his bones creaked. It tugged, and he took another step and another. The darkness held firm. Hot breath chuckled in his left ear, and feathery fingers brushed across his eyes like someone testing ripe fruit in the market. He flinched.
Coward!
Fear. That was the soul of the Summer Country. He'd bugged out, thrown the bow and arrows and the pack into the bushes and run from a lizard bigger than a tandem trailer rig. He'd only come back because there wasn't any place to run to. Sheer luck, he'd killed that goddamned dinosaur masquerading as a Chinese dragon. And then they'd been captured anyway.
And now he knew there was another dragon, even bigger, swearing vendetta for his mate's death. Who would have thought they were intelligent, got married, for Chrissake?
Where the hell was Jo taking him? This was going on far too long.
*****
Khe'sha brooded over the skull of his mate. He coiled his body around the nest mound, a living wall of obsidian scales looming taller than a man above the murky water and deep marsh grass.
Sha'khe was dead, her song cut short between one word and the next. Sha'khe, who should have lived for centuries of dark beauty under the sun, gone. He flicked out his tongue and caressed the sharp ridges of her crest, stroking up the long slope of her muzzle from her nose. She'd always enjoyed that, stretching flat in the sun with a rumbling sigh while he groomed her scales. He remembered how she'd relax, the membrane rising slowly across her great yellow eye as she drowsed.
Now she was dead, murdered, her bones scattered in a long cold drift through the forest where she had fallen. Her kin should have carried ribs and thigh-bones and the great links of her spine to the hidden bone-cave and sung her deeds each step of the way in a strong deep-noted poem that distilled her life into its essence, but her nest-mates lived in another land, her clan lived in another land. Her bones should lie with her ancestors in another land.
Her kind, his kind, did not belong in this land. He hated it. He hated the humans and Old Ones who had brought them here and forced them to guard a grim, gray castle instead of the bright-painted Temples of the Moon.
he mind-spoke to her empty skull.
He tested the mound's warmth with his tongue, thrusting gently at both the sun side and the shade, and then rested his sensitive throat across the surface to judge the heat that flowed from deep around the eggs. He pawed dry marsh-grass over the shaded side to hold in the heat of the leaves that rotted there, warming the clutch. He studied the sky, afraid of rain -- the long, soaking rains that could flood the marsh until dark water swallowed the nest and killed the tiny dragonets inside their eggs.
Dragons grew slowly, and the seasons turned slowly. The season for nesting had finally come. Now Khe'sha guarded the end of Sha'khe's song. Twelve of the mottled brown eggs lay buried, near the time of hatching. Twelve dragons alone, far from their ancestors, far from the Celestial Temple and the Sages. They would hatch. Then what?
The strongest might survive to breed. With luck. And who would they join their souls to, in this land of puny apes? Who would teach them the songs, the long sonorous history of clan and bloodline, the deep thoughts and resplendent deeds that echoed through the hills and valleys and grew with each generation? They would live alone, and die alone, as he would die alone.
Only the nest remained, his life and heart. He would never take another mate. The dragon bond tied a pair for centuries, their bodies and thoughts mirrored like their hatchling half-names were mirrored around the deep booming sound in the gut that clothed monkeys couldn't make. A dragon pair grew together through the ages until one could not live without the other. Only the nest kept Khe'sha alive, now that Sha'khe was dead.
I will see the hatchlings leave the nest and hunt. I will teach them the songs I know. I will have revenge. After that, nothing. Without Sha'khe, I have no reason to live.

The Perfect Ghost by Linda Barnes

From Barnes site:
Fearful and shy to the point of agoraphobic, Em Moore is the writing half of the successful celebrity-biography team, T.E. Blakemore. Her charismatic partner, Teddy Blake, does the interviewing, the negotiating, the public glad-handing. But Em’s dependence on Teddy runs deeper than the job – Teddy is her bridge to the world as well as the main source of love in her life. When Teddy dies in a car accident, Em is devastated, alone in a world she doesn’t understand. The only way she can honor his memory and cope with his loss is to finish their current project – an “autobiography” of the renowned and reclusive film director Garrett Malcolm.
Ensconced in a small cottage near Malcolm’s Cape Cod home, Em slowly builds the courage and strength to interview Malcolm the way Teddy would have. She finds the director at once friendlier, more intimidating, and far sexier than she had imagined. She soon senses trouble between Malcolm and one of his former stars, the washed-up Brooklyn Pierce, and she hears whispers of skeletons in the Malcolm family closet. When the police begin looking into the accident that killed Teddy, Em’s control on her life – tenuous at best – is threatened.

My thoughts:
This book fooled me.  I could not figure out the title.  Teddy's death makes Em come out of her shell.  You have to read it to find out!!
 

Excerpt:
Chapter One
 Teddy, you would have been proud of me.
I left home on my own, and not just to pace up and down Bay State Road like a restless feline, either. I made arrangements online, but I physically climbed into a puke-stinking cab, pinched my nose during the ride to South Station, and raced onboard the 9:50 Acela. I almost bailed at New Haven because I was terrified, because my Old Haven no longer existed, because it sounded so damned hopeful: “Five minutes to New Haven, exit on your right.” I squeezed my eyelids shut and resisted the impulse to flee. Instead, I thought about you. I conjured you. I imagined talking to you, telling you about the strangers on the train.
There was a snooty woman, tall, imperious, cradling a full-length fur, patting her mink absentmindedly, as if it were a friendly dog. Two teen lovers, a Celtic cross tattooed on her neck, a too-big-to-be-a-diamond stud in his right ear, entertained their fellow passengers by crawling into each other’s laps. A bald man with a hawk nose trumpeted his importance into his iPhone.
Something makes people want to confide in me, no matter how hard I stare at my book. I wish I knew what it was so I could change it. When the businessman abandoned his cell and adjusted the knot in his tie, I had the feeling he was going to start complaining at me, like I was his secretary or his wife, and then just in time I remembered the quiet car. Really, Teddy, it was like you whispered in my ear, Em, go sit in the quiet car. I shot to my feet as though the engineer had electrified my seat, lurched down the aisle, and found a place among the blessed book-readers and stretched-out sleepers where I collapsed and breathed until the pulse stopped throbbing in my ears.
I considered swallowing a Xanax, but as I stared out the gray-tinted window at the passing shoreline, I got a better idea: I could pretend there were thick glass windows between me and the crowds, a bulletproof tunnel running straight to Henniman’s. I could keep myself mentally separate, isolated and alone. I could figuratively stay on the train and lock everyone else outside, and I wouldn’t open the door for anyone but Jonathan.
When an elderly woman peered at me over her rimless reading glasses and smiled encouragingly, I let my face go blank, willing her to turn away, to not mistake me for some friend’s college-bound daughter in need of a comforting pat. I must have looked desperate, stricken, agonized in spite of my careful preparation. You can’t imagine how much time I spent modeling outfits in the mirror, changing my mind about this scarf, that pocketbook, these pants, this sweater, before winding up in a sophisticated version of what you called my uniform: ink-black jeans and a wheat-colored edition of my usual V-necked T-shirt. At the last minute I added a black suit jacket because everyone in Manhattan wears one. Simple gold jewelry: a necklace and a ring. All those wasted hours and I still screwed up the shoes. I made a mistake and chose the heels you once jokingly termed my “power shoes.”
At the time, I figured I’d take a cab from Penn Station to Henniman’s. But I was early. When have I not been early? I roamed the station for eighteen minutes, but they kept making scary announcements over the PA. Watch for suspicious persons, abandoned parcels, don’t leave your luggage unattended. The lights were bright and hot, and the air reeked of rotting pizza with a hint of urine underneath. A seedy-looking man focused hollow eyes on my pocketbook, sizing me up for a mugging, so I made the snap decision to walk. I visualized a dot on a map: me. The dot would slide smoothly from Penn Station to the meeting with Jonathan.
I erected my imaginary tunnel and under its protective shell sped crosstown to Fifth Avenue, silently reciting sonnets to counter the boom-and-thud construction noise, the screeching traffic. Shakespearean iambs moved my feet, and the map-dot made steady progress until I reached the corner of Fifth. There, despite the simplicity of the directions, I halted, confused. Right or left? Shaken, I almost panicked. My breathing shifted into second gear, but I knew the numbered cross streets would inform me if I erred. I turned right, which proved correct, and then I simply had to scoot down to the Twenties, which would have been fine except for the shoes.
Never look like you need the money when you go in for a loan. That’s what I thought when I tried them on in front of the mirror. New and expensive, practically unworn, they seemed glamorous and carefree, but how can you look carefree if your toes are getting squeezed in a vise?
I was hopelessly early. Twenty-two minutes. So I detoured, backtracking up Fifth, bypassing the library because the stairs seemed too steep a challenge, taking refuge in Saks, pushing through the heavy door, thinking I could stand there motionless without attracting notice, flexing my toes and inhaling the overly perfumed cosmetics-counter air. I checked myself in the mirror over the Guerlain counter, and really, I could have been someone else, any one of the young professional women in their late twenties who milled about the store. I looked unruffled, as serene as a Madonna in a painting.
I didn’t want to be early, Teddy. Early is so desperate. And that couch in the glass reception cage? It would have been like trying to relax on the rack while the hooded torturers elbowed one another and rubbed their sweaty palms together in anticipatory glee. I was picturing their evil grins when a frozen-faced saleslady showed her teeth and asked if she could help me.
Jesus, Teddy, the days I waited for someone to say that. The years. Can I help you? And when exactly was it that “Can I help you?” started to mean “Can I sell you something?” When was the last time anyone genuinely wanted to help me? Help as in aid, as in succor, as in give sustenance?
I could have moved into scarves or hats or shoes. Shoes would have been best. I could have sat in a cushy chair, removed those awful blister-makers, and wriggled my achy toes. But I felt forced outside into the cold.
I joined the downtown parade, marching behind a man in a leather blazer chatting loudly into his cell. Each cross street thundered with traffic, pedestrian and automotive. Plunging into intersections, I felt like a chipmunk darting under the carriage of an eighteen-wheeler. I wondered if the leather blazer–clad man was talking to his wife or his lover, if the woman was telling him she loved him or hated him, if he’d continue the rest of the day in lockstep or if something he learned during that particular conversation would shatter and spin him around, alter his life and change his path. Irrevocably, the way mine had changed.
I walked right past the Flatiron Building, herded by the press of pedestrians, afraid to stop for fear of getting trampled. Where were all these purposeful souls headed? Were they late, afraid that if they paused and lifted their eyes to the murky sky, they’d stop, paralyzed by fear and uncertainty, dismount their painted carousel horses, collapse on the bare pavement, and howl? Read more here.

Pages: 310

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton

I don't know how I missed this one last year when it came out.  Anita is looking for some vamps that are kidnapping teens and turning them.  That is against the law. They find out that these vamps have no master.  The vampire that sired them does not want to be in charge.  The "new" vamps want to kil Anita and Jean Claude. What is going to happen?

From Hamilton's site:
When a fifteen-year-old girl is abducted by vampires, it’s up to U.S. Marshal Anita Blake to find her. And when she does, she’s faced with something she’s never seen before: a terrifyingly ordinary group of people—kids, grandparents, soccer moms—all recently turned and willing to die to avoid serving a master. And where there’s one martyr, there will be more…
But even vampires have monsters that they’re afraid of. And Anita is one of them…

Excerpt:

Chapter One

On TV, interrogation rooms are roomy and have big windows so that you can watch everything. In reality, the rooms are pretty small, and there are almost never big picture windows; that’s why real police footage is grainy and black-and-white, rather than Technicolor gorgeous. The interrogation room was painted pale beige, or maybe it was taupe, I’d always been a little fuzzy on the difference between them. Either way it was a bland color described by real estate agents as a warm neutral; they lied. It was a cold, impersonal color. The small table was all shiny metal, and so was the chair. The idea was that the prisoners couldn’t scratch their names, or messages, in the metal like they could have in wood, but whoever thought that had never seen what a vampire, or a wereanimal, could do to metal. There were plenty of scratches in the shiny tabletop, most done with just fingernails, superhuman strength, and the boredom of hours of sitting.
The vampire sitting at the small table wasn’t trying to carve his initials on anything. He was crying, so hard that his thin shoulders shook. He’d slicked his black hair back from his face in a widow’s peak that I was betting was a haircut and no more natural than the ink-black color.
He was mumbling in a tear-choked voice, “You hate me because I’m a vampire.”
I spread my hands flat on the cool metal table. My jacket’s jewel-tone blue sleeves looked too bright against the naked metal, or maybe it was the crimson nail polish. That had been for my date the night before; it looked out of place while I was U.S. Marshal Anita Blake. I counted to ten, to keep from yelling at our suspect again. That was what had started the crying; I’d scared him. Jesus, some people don’t have enough balls to be undead.
“I don’t hate you, Mr. Wilcox,” I said, in a smooth, even friendly voice. I had to deal with clients every day at Animators Inc.; I had a customer voice. “Some of my best friends are vampires and shapeshifters.”
“You hunt and kill us,” he said, but he raised his eyes enough to gaze at me between his fingers. His tears were tinged pink with someone else’s blood. His putting his hands over his eyes had smeared the tears around so that his face was trailed and marked with the drying pink tears. It didn’t match the perfectly arched black eyebrows, or the eyebrow ring that sat dull blue metal above his left eye. He’d probably done it to bring out the blue in his eyes, but at best they were a watery, pale blue that didn’t work with the dyed black hair, and the dark blue of the eyebrow piercing just seemed to emphasize that his eyes were too pale, and matched the pink traces of blood way better than the artificial additions. I was betting he started life as a white-blond, or maybe pale, nondescript brown.
“I’m a legal vampire executioner, Mr. Wilcox, but you have to break the law to bring me to your door.”
Those pale eyes blinked at me. “You can look me in the eyes.”
I smiled, and tried to shove it all the way up into my own dark brown eyes, but was pretty sure I failed. “Mr. Wilcox, Barney, you haven’t been dead two years yet. Do you really think your weak-ass vampire mind tricks will work on me?”
“He said people would be afraid of me,” and this was almost a whisper.
“Who said?” I asked. I leaned forward just a little, keeping my hands still, trying to be pleasant, and not spook him.
He muttered, “Benjamin.”
“Benjamin who?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Just Benjamin. The old vampires only have one name.”
I nodded. Old vampires had one name, like Madonna, or Beyoncé, but what most people didn’t know was that they fought duels to see who got to use the name. A powerful vampire could demand that another lesser vampire give up the use of a name he’d had for centuries, or fight for the right to keep it. I didn’t say that part out loud, because most people, even us vampire experts, didn’t know it. It was an old custom that was dying out as the modern vampires kept their last names, and duels were illegal now that vampires weren’t. Dueling was looked on the same under the law regardless of whether the participants were alive or undead. I would have bet a lot of money that this Benjamin wasn’t old enough to know the history behind vampires having only one name.  Read more here.

Pages: 359

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Last Word by Lisa Lutz

This is the 6th outing of the Spellman family.  Isabel did a hostile takeover of the family business in book #5.  Now she is paying for it.  No one is cooperating with her.  There is so much office stuff she does not know how to do.  Her mom won't help.  Izzy is trying her best.  Edward Slayter, her main client, needs her help.  Her parents refuse to meet with him. Something is going on with Edward and it does not look like it's his Alzheimer's. Can Izzy get everyone on board and get some help?

Synopsis from the author's site:
Isabel Spellman is used to being followed, extorted, and questioned—all occupational hazards of working at her family's firm, Spellman Investigations. Her little sister, Rae, once tailed Izzy for weeks on end to discover the identity of her boyfriend. Her mother, Olivia, once blackmailed Izzy with photographic evidence of Prom Night 1994. It seemed that the Spellmans would lay off after Izzy was fired for breaching client confidentiality, but then Izzy avenged her dismissal by staging a hostile takeover of the company. She should have known better than to think she could put such shenanigans behind her.
In The Last Word, Izzy's troubles are just beginning. After her hostile takeover of Spellman Investigations, Izzy's parents simply go on strike. Her sister, Rae, comes back into the family business with questionable motivations. Her other employees seem to be coping with anxiety disorders, and she has no idea how to pay the bills. However, her worst threat comes from someone who is no relation. Within months of assuming control of the business, Izzy is accused of embezzling from a former client, the ridiculously wealthy Mr. Slayter, who happens to have Alzheimer's, which Izzy and he are diligently trying to keep under wraps. Not only is Slayter's business and reputation on the line, but if Izzy gets indicted for embezzlement, she'll lose everything—her business, her license, and her family's livelihood. Is this the end of Izzy Spellman, PI? The answer makes The Last Word, hands down, the most thrilling book in this bestselling, award-nominated series.

 Excerpt:

12:38 a.m.
 
 
Can’t sleep. Again. The final notice for the electricity bill came today. I shredded it, paid the bill out of pocket, and then shook down a delin- quent client by reminding him that company policy is to tell a cheating spouse about an investigation when payment is past due three months. It’s never been policy before, but I’m warming up to it.
 
A fed came to visit today. Bledsoe is his name. Agent Bledsoe. B-l-e-d- s-o-e. He knows about the money. If he has the evidence, I think we could lose the business. Thirty years down the drain because somebody wasn’t paying attention. Embezzlement. Of all the stupid things that could take us down. It isn’t even enough money to save us.
 
Some days I wish I weren’t the only one doing the fixing. I feel like I’m playing a solo game of toy soldiers with just a few pieces out of my control. Some days I really believe there might be something left to salvage if we know when to call it quits.
 
Some days I think that this just might be the end.
 
Opening Statements
 
Six Weeks Earlier
 
 
“Boss”
 
 
 
Memo
 
 
to  all  Spellman employees:
 
 
Pants are mandatory. Footwear is encouraged.
 
 
Signed,
the  management
 
 
 
Three lazy knocks landed on the door.
“It’s  open!” I said as I’d  been saying for the past three months. I leaned back in my new leather swivel chair. It was less comfortable than you’d expect, but I wasn’t letting on.
 
My father entered the Spellman offices carrying a bowl of oatmeal, topped with a few raisins, walnuts, and honey. I don’t have a problem with people eating at work, but I did take issue with his attire—boxer shorts, a wife-beater (the likes of which he hadn’t owned until he started wearing his skivvies into the office), and a cardigan that had been feasted on by a hungry moth. I foolishly thought that lowering the thermostat would encourage my
father to put on slacks. Live and learn.
 
The Spellman offices are located on the first floor of my parents’ house at 1799 Clay Street in San Francisco, California, a three-story Victorian sitting on the outskirts of Nob Hill. A Realtor would tell you that the house has “good bones”—three floors, four bedrooms, three baths—but everything needs to be updated and the exterior demands a paint job so badly that some of the neighbors have taken to writing paint me on our dusty windows. Even a few “anonymous” handwritten letters have arrived from a concerned neighbor, but since Dr. Alexander has sent other handwritten missives in the past, his anonymity was lost. Point is, my parents have a nice house in a nice neighborhood that looks like crap from the outside and is not so hot from the inside, and not enough money to do anything about it. I remember the blue trim on the window frames from when I was a child, but I’m not entirely certain that I’d know it was blue now since it’s almost gone and the thirty-year-old lead-loaded green paint beneath it is what ultimately shines through. Those now-retired painters must have been really good.
 
The office itself is a fourteen-by-twenty-foot room with an ancient steel desk marking each of the four corners. The fifth desk is parked between the two desks with a window view. Perhaps “view” is an overstatement. We look out onto our neighbor’s concrete wall and have a slight glimpse into Mr. Peabody’s living room, where he sits most of the day, watching television. There’s nothing to recommend the décor of the office. The white walls are covered with bulletin boards so tacked over with postcards, notes, memos, cartoons, they resemble the layering of a bird’s feathers. The collage of paperwork hasn’t been stripped in years. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if an archeological dig produced data from as far back as 1986. It’s not pretty, but you get used to it after a while. The only thing that begs for change is the beige shag carpet, which is so worn down you can slip on it in footwear without treads.
 
As for my father’s extreme casual wear, it would have made sense that my parents might find the home/workspace divide difficult to navigate, but they’d been navigating it just fine for more than twenty years. These ward- robe shenanigans were purely for my benefit.
 
“What’s on the agenda today?” Dad said through a mouthful of steelcut oats. He shook his computer mouse, rousing his monitor from slumber, and commenced his workday with his new morning ritual: a two-hour game of Plants vs. Zombies.
 
“Mr. Slayter will be here in an hour, Dad.”
“Should I have made extra oatmeal for him?” Dad asked as he planted a row of flowers and a peashooter. I would have used the spud bomb and taken the extra sunlight. But Dad seemed to be doing fine on his own.1
“I think Slayter would prefer pants over oatmeal.” “You can’t eat pants,” Dad said.
The pants conversation would have continued indefinitely if my mother hadn’t dipped her head into the doorway and said, “Everybody decent?”
“No, Mom, everybody is not decent,” I said.
 
Then Mom entered, indecently. While less skin was exposed, her sartorial choice was perhaps even more perplexing. Her hair, coiled in plastic curlers, was imprisoned in a net that she must have stolen from Grammy Spellman. She wore a housecoat pockmarked with daisies and pink fluffy slippers on her feet. I had not seen this outfit before, and were we at a Halloween party, I might have found it mildly amusing. My mother, at sixty, is one of those classic beauties, all neck and cheekbones, sharp lines that hide her wrinkles from a distance. She still gets whistles from construction workers from three stories up. With her long bottled auburn hair flowing behind her, a carnival guesser wouldn’t come within a decade of her birth date. Although today, in curlers, she was looking more like her true age.
 
“Mom, those curlers must have taken you hours.”
“You have no idea,” she said, easing into her chair, spent from the chore. I would bet my entire share of the company that Mom hadn’t used curlers since her senior prom.
We’d never had a dress code before all the trouble began and it was foolish of me to think that a memo posted on bulletin boards scattered throughout the house would have any impact. But I think it’s important to note that the dress code was perhaps one of the least ambitious dress codes that ever existed in an office setting.
 
And to further illustrate my laissez-faire management protocol, I even instituted pajama Fridays (so long as a client meeting was not on the books). The next Friday Mom showed up in a muumuu and a turban, re- sembling Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, and Dad slipped on his swim trunks and a wool scarf (I was still keeping the thermostat low, stupidly certain of an auspicious result).
 
For more than three months I had been president and primary owner of Spellman Investigations, and I can say with complete certainty that I had more power in this office as an underling. My title, it seemed, was purely decorative. I was captain of an unfashionable and sinking ship.
 
Edward Slayter, the man responsible for my position at my family’s firm—and for close to 20 percent of Spellman Investigations’ income—was coming in for a ten o’clock meeting. I had to get my parents either out of the office or into suitable clothing in less than twenty minutes.  Read more here.


Pages: 339

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Every Breath You Take by Judith McNaught

Synopsis from Random House:
High atop a snow-covered hill, the stately old Wyatt mansion is perched like a crown, its stone spires pointing upward, its stained glass windows glowing like colorful jewels. Such opulence means success and, surely, happiness. But on the eve of wealthy philanthropist Cecil Wyatt’s eightieth birthday, all the money in the world won’t bring back his missing grandson, William Wyatt. The only thing for certain: Foul play was involved.

The family, the police, the media–all have tried in vain to discover the young man’s fate. Now suspicion has turned shockingly toward William’s own half-brother, the rather distant and enigmatic Mitchell Wyatt.

Kate Donovan never dreamed that a chance romantic encounter on a tropical island paradise would tag her as a suspect in a high-society murder case. But after Kate tangles with the darkly charismatic Mitchell Wyatt, she finds herself cast in a shadow of guilt and mistrust. As the Chicago police tighten their net, it will take all of Kate’s ingenuity to clear her name. With her calm, cool wit, and the help of a man who may or may not be a dangerous catch, Kate vows to claim the life and love she desires.

My thoughts:
I got this book for the Monthly Key Word 2013 Challenge. Key Word: Take  I liked this book.  Mitchell Wyatt is suspected of killing his newly found brother, William.  He is in Chicago for his grandfather's 80th birthday. Kate Donovan is in St. Maarten waiting for Evan to come vacation with her.  He is a lawyer and is working a case that he thought would be finished by now.  Kate meets Mitchell and they spend a few days together until Evan finally comes. Kate and Mitchell get wrapped up in circumstances that they don't foresee.  Will they get back together?

Excerpt:
Chapter One

High atop a snow-covered hill, the Wyatt mansion perched like a regal crown, its Gothic stone spires pointing skyward, its stained-glass windows glowing like jewels.

A mile away, limousines and luxury cars paraded in a slow stream toward a uniformed security guard posted at the gated entrance to the estate. As each vehicle reached him, the security guard checked the occupants’ names off the guest list; then he issued a politely worded edict to the driver: “I’m sorry, because of the snowfall, Mr. Wyatt does not want any vehicles parked inside the gates this evening.”

If a chauffeur was at the wheel, the guard stepped aside, allowing the chauffeur to turn into the drive, proceed through the gates, and deliver his passengers to the house before returning to the main road to park and wait.

If the vehicle’s owner was at the wheel, the guard motioned him toward a line of shiny black Range Rovers parked up the hill at a cross street, wisps of exhaust curling from their tailpipes. “Please pull forward and leave your car with an attendant,” the guard instructed. “You’ll be shuttled up to the house.”

However, as each new arrival soon discovered, that process was neither as simple nor as convenient as it sounded. Although there were plenty of helpful attendants and available Range Rovers waiting within sight, large snowbanks and parked cars had encroached on the winding residential lane so that it was almost impassably narrow in places, and the steady procession of slow-moving vehicles had churned four inches of unplowed snow from earlier that day into thick slush.

The whole ordeal was unnerving and annoying to every- one. . . . Everyone except Detectives Childress and MacNeil, who were in an unmarked Chevrolet that was backed into a driveway one hundred and fifty yards uphill from the entrance to the Wyatt estate. The two detectives were part of a handpicked team, formed earlier that day, assigned to keep Mitchell Wyatt under twenty-four-hour surveillance.

At eight pm, they had tailed him here, to Cecil Wyatt’s estate, where he swerved around the security guard who was trying to wave him down, then turned into the private drive and disappeared from sight. Once Wyatt vanished, there was nothing for Childress and MacNeil to do but park and make a record of whom he was associating with. To facilitate that, Childress was observing the scene through a pair of night-vision binoculars, reporting license-plate numbers and miscellaneous information to MacNeil, who wrote it down in a notebook.

“We have a new contender approaching the starting line,” Childress murmured as another pair of headlights reached the security guard at the gate. He read the vehicle’s license plate aloud for MacNeil; then he described the vehicle and driver. “White Mercedes AMG, this year’s model, or possibly last year’s. Driver is a Caucasian male in his early sixties, passenger is a Caucasian female, early thirties, and she’s snuggled up against her smiling sugar daddy.”

When MacNeil didn’t reply, Childress glanced at him and realized MacNeil’s attention was focused on a pair of headlights slowly descending the hill from the right. “Must be someone who lives up here,” Childress remarked. “And he’s not only rich, he’s curious,” he added as the black Lincoln Town Car came to a full stop and cut off its headlights directly in front of the driveway where they were parked.

The back door opened, and a man in his late thirties wearing a dark overcoat got out. Childress rolled down his window, intending to make an excuse for their presence, but as the man paused and put his cell phone to his ear, Childress recognized him. “That’s Gray Elliott. What’s he doing out here?”

“He lives nearby. Maybe he’s attending the party.”

“Or maybe he wants to pitch in and do some surveillance with us,” Childress joked, but there was admiration in his voice. After only one year in office as Cook County’s state’s attorney, Gray Elliott was a hero to the cops—a brilliant attorney who wasn’t afraid to take on tough, risky cases. The fact that he was also a wealthy socialite who’d dedicated himself to public service rather than the pursuit of greater wealth added another facet to his heroic image.  Read more here.

Pages: 334

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sins of the Demon by Diana Rowland

This is the fourth Kara Gillian novel.  Now I am caught up and have to wait for a new book to be written. Boo Hoo!!  People are dying and they are people Kara's knows.  She knows she did not do it but who is behind this?? She is still trying to figure out what is Ryan's story. Will she ever know?

From the author's site:
The homicide beat in Louisiana isn't just terrifying, it's demonic. Detective Kara Gilligan of the supernatural task force has the ability to summon demons to her aid, but she herself is pledged to serve a demonic lord. And now, people who've hurt Kara in the past are dropping dead for no apparent reason. To clear her name and save both the demon and human worlds, she's in a race against the clock and in a battle for her life that just may take her to hell and back.

Excerpt here.

Pages: 311

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Expats by Chris Pavone

Synopsis from the author's site:
Kate Moore is a typical expat mom, newly transplanted from Washington DC to the quiet cobblestoned streets of Luxembourg. Her days are filled with coffee mornings and play-dates, her weekends with trips to Paris and Amsterdam. Kate is also guarding a tremendous, life-defining secret, one that’s becoming unbearable, indefensible. It’s also clear that another expat American couple are not really who they’re claiming to be; plus Kate’s husband is acting suspiciously. While she travels around Europe, looking for answers, she’s increasingly worried that her past is finally catching up with her. As Kate digs, and uncovers the secrets of the people who surround her, she finds herself buried in layers of deceit so thick they threaten her family, her marriage, and her life.

My thoughts:
I really liked this book.  It was exciting BUT, once again, I did not like the back and forth of telling the past and present stories at the same time.  At least the present time was printed in a different font. I liked Kate.  She was a great character. I enjoyed the journey of her trying to figure out what was going on.

Excerpt:
Prelude: Today, 10:52 a.m., Paris
“Kate?”
Kate is staring through a plate-glass window filled with pillows and tablecloths and curtains, all in taupes and chocolates and moss greens, a palette that replaced the pastels of last week. The season changed, just like that.
She turns from the window, to this woman standing beside her on the narrow sliver of sidewalk in the rue Jacob. Who is this woman?
“Oh my God, Kate? Is that you?” The voice is familiar. But the voice is not enough.
Kate has forgotten what exactly she is halfheartedly looking for. It’s something fabric. Curtains for the guest bath? Something frivolous.
She cinches the belt of her raincoat, a self-protective gesture. It rained earlier in the morning, on the way to school drop-off, mist snaking in from the Seine, the hard heels of her leather boots clicking on the wet cobblestones. She’s still wearing her lightweight slicker, the folded Herald-Tribune poking out of her pocket, crossword puzzle completed at the café next to school where she eats breakfast most mornings, with other expat moms.
This woman is not one of them.
This woman is wearing sunglasses that cover half her forehead and most of her cheeks and the entire area of the eyes; there’s no way to positively I.D. whoever is under all that black plastic and gold logos. Her short chestnut hair is pulled back severely against her scalp, pinned in place by a silk band. She is tall and fit, but full through the chest and hips; voluptuous. Her skin is glowing with a healthy, natural-looking tan, as if she spends a lot of time outdoors, playing tennis, or gardening. Not one of those extra-dark deep-fries that so many French women favor, tans generated by the ultraviolet radiation of fluorescent lamps in coffinlike booths.
This woman’s clothes, while not actually jodhpurs and a show coat, are reminiscent of riding. Kate recognizes the plaid jacket from the window of a hideously expensive boutique nearby, a new shop that replaced a cherished bookstore, a swap that vocal locals claim signals the end of the Faubourg St-Germain they knew and loved. But the bookstore’s esteem was mostly in the abstract and the shop usually empty, while the new boutique is habitually mobbed, not just with Texan housewives and Japanese businessmen and Russian thugs, paying in cash—neat, crisp piles of freshly laundered money—for stacks of shirts and scarves and handbags, but also with the rich local residents. There are no poor ones.
This woman? She is smiling, a mouth full of perfectly aligned, brilliantly white teeth. It’s a familiar smile, paired with a familiar voice; but Kate still needs to see the eyes to confirm her worst suspicion.
There are brand-new cars from Southeast Asia that retail for less than this woman’s plaid jacket. Kate herself is well-dressed, in the understated style preferred by women of her type. This woman is operating under a different set of principles.
This woman is American, but she speaks with no regional accent. She could be from anywhere. She could be anyone.  Read more here.

Pages: 326

Monday, July 15, 2013

Damage Control by J.A. Jance

Sheriff Joanna Brady has had four homicides in one weekend. She feels guilty for the time she spends away from her family but she loves her job. Her mother is acting more weird than usual and fighting with her husband, Brady's coroner. Joanna's husband needs to go on a book tour to sell his first book.  Who will take care of the baby?  Now she needs to solve these murders.

From the author's site:
At first glance, it appears to be an accident . . . A car carrying an elderly couple goes off the side of a mountain and tumbles into oblivion on a beautiful sunny day in the Coronado National Monument. A note pulled from the twisted wreckage suggests the tragedy may have been a double suicide—but an autopsy later suggests something different. A deadly fire and a fatal home invasion may or may not have some connection to the terrible crash. And miles away in the desert, a savage rain has revealed something grisly and terrifying: two trash bags filled with human remains.
It's just another day in the life of Cochise County sheriff Joanna Brady, who must somehow balance the rigors of police work with a newborn, a teenager, a writer-husband, and a difficult mother. But Joanna will not allow murder to go unpunished in her jurisdiction—even if her path to the truth is twisting and dangerous . . . and leads to shocking revelations about those entrusted with caring for the helpless.

For an excerpt, click here.

Pages: 374

the last original wife by Dorothea Benton Frank

I really enjoyed this book but then I have not read a Dorothea book that wasn't a great read. Leslie is the last original wife among her husband's friends in Atlanta.  She feels like she is babysitting the young women two of the men are married to. They went on vacation to Scotland so the husbands could golf at St. Andrews. Leslie fell into an open manhole.  The other 3 people did not realize that she was not with them until the got back to the hotel 45 minutes later.  then her husband went back and found her being put into an ambulance. The next day she woke up in the hospital to find her husband not there.  The young wife Cornelia was there. the men went golfing.  What??  Something is wrong here.
Then a few months later, Les is cleaning - with a broken arm because her husband is too cheap to let her have help. Wes has left a cabinet open..it's usually locked.  She finds a statement from a brokerage account saying they have 22 MILLION dollars! WHAT?? The account has her name on it too.
Later they are having dinner at the club with the other two husbands and wives.  The men leave the women and the young ones get into a fight with two other women.  Fists are flying, dishes are broken and cuss words are loud.  The husbands come back into the room and Wes starts screaming at Les, blaming her for the whole thing.  She looks at him and says I did not do anything.  He says that's right you should have stopped it.  She leaves him there.  Needless to say that is the last straw.  She packs up and moves in with her brother in Charleston.

From goodreads:
Leslie Anne Greene Carter is the last original wife among her husband's group of cronies. They've all traded in their first wives-the middle-aged women they long ago promised to love and cherish 'til death did them part-for riper peaches: younger . . . blonder . . . more enhanced models.

Leslie is proud of her status and the longevity of her marriage. Sure the spark isn't quite as bright and sometimes takes a little longer to flame. And it wouldn't be too much to ask if her husband paid just an itty bit more attention to her desires. But there's something to be said for a comfortable and deeply familiar relationship. Or at least she thinks until the day, out golfing with her husband and his friends, she slips into a manhole. And nobody realizes that she's gone.

That one misstep opens Leslie's eyes to the sham her perfect life has become. No longer will she be invisible. No longer will she accept being taken for granted. With the healing powers of South Carolina's lush white beaches, candy-colored sunsets, and fiesty and funny residents, Leslie is going to transform herself and reclaim the strong, vibrant, sexy woman she was meant to be.

The Last Original Wife is classic Dorothea Benton Frank: an intoxicating tale of friendship and love that is as refreshing as a soothing breeze across a golden lowcountry marsh and as invigorating as a dip in cool, salty waters on a sizzling South Carolina summer day.


Excerpt:

Chapter One

Leslie and Wesley's Present Situation

Atlanta, September 2012
Welcome to Saint Magnolia's Wounded Theater. At least that's what I called it. Within these slick walls reside Atlanta's pish-posh team of premier psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, and relationship counselors who specialize in the broken hearts/crushed egos of the privileged and renowned. Their lavish confessionals, perched high above the city, are, well, breathtaking. I was here because my husband, Wesley, insisted this was the only place he'd even consider receiving, as he was loath to say, therapy. And as it was on my first visit, the vast waiting area was packed.
Just for the record? Wesley needed therapy. I. Absolutely. Did. Not.
The circular reception area held a large round workstation of bird's-eye maple. The countertops of deep brown granite were chiseled and polished. Behind them stood two young women who appeared to have fallen from the pages of Vogue magazine. Above them hung a chandelier worthy of an opera house that I imagined sailed right to America directly from the lips of the finest glassblowers of Murano. Every square foot of their offices was as beautiful as a session was insanely expensive, leaving me to wonder where exactly was this much heralded recession?
"I'm here to see Dr. Katz," I said.
"And you're Mrs. . . . ?"
"Carter."
"Thank you." She pecked around on what looked like a keyboard from the Starship Enterprise and smiled when she found my name among those on his appointment calendar. I was officially entered into the captain's log.
"Please make yourself comfortable in the waiting area. There's bottled water . . ."
"Thanks."
My heels clicked across the beige marble flooring that was shot with veins of black and gold. When the veins of gold caught a stream of afternoon light, they sparkled like the proverbial streets of paradise. Perhaps some people thought all this grandeur was a comfort; you know, they must be good at what they do if they can afford all this? Not me. The whole drama was a grand demonstration of conspicuous consumption and their complete disregard for carbon footprint. I shuddered. Read more here.

Pages: 352

Sophia's Birthday Cake

Saturday was my younger daughter's birthday.  She asked for a red velvet cake.  I don't know why.  She never had one before.  I never made any because the recipe I had called for 2 ounces of red food coloring and that was all you tasted.  So I put a call out on the Penzey friends page on FB and got a couple of recipes. One from my friend Donna but it called for red beets to color the cake and Sophia does not like beets and did not want me to try it.  Then Linda added her recipe.  I made the cake but did not use cream cheese icing.



Linda Whitley's Red Velvet Cake

½ C Butter
1½ C Granulated sugar
1 tsp Penzeys Vanilla
2 Large eggs
1 Tbs liquid tasteless red food coloring
Just over 2 1/3 C unsifted cake flour (or 2 C unsifted all-purpose flour)
¼ C Ghirardelli or Penzeys unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp Penzeys kosher or sea salt
1 C buttermilk
1½ tsp baking soda
1 Tbs white vinegar

Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla in large bowl. Add eggs and food coloring; blend thoroughly. In separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and salt; add alternately with buttermilk to creamed mixture. Stir baking soda into vinegar; fold carefully into batter (do NOT beat). Pour into two greased and floured 9-in round cake pans. Bake at 350° F for 30 to 35 minutes or until cake tester inserted comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, remove from pans. Cook completely on wire racks. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter (1/2 C), softened
4 C confectioners sugar
1 Tbs cream or milk
1 tsp vanilla (optional)

Cream together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add confectioners sugar in parts (2 C, 1C, 1C). Beat until smooth. Add milk and beat until smooth.



 I made 2- 8 inch rounds and let them cool for an hour.

You can really see the color in this photo! 
Only 1 Tablespoon of coloring.

I started putting on the crumb coat of icing and Frank took over.  
His first job in the US was as a cake decorator.


Sophia wanted an animal print cake. 
We found this sugar sheet at Walmart for $4.
That made it easy!

Here's the finished product.
Frank started getting carried away with the icing.

The cake was delicious!!

 Birthday Girl!!

A slice!

Here's a basic buttercream recipe.  I made half this recipe.  I only used butter.

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature (use vegetable shortening when pure white icing is needed)
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla or other desired flavoring
2 pounds confectioners' sugar

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in large mixing bowl and mix at slow speed until smooth. If stiffer icing is needed, or if the weather is very warm, add a little extra sugar. This recipe is enough to cover and fill a 9 by 13-inch sheet cake or 2 (9-inch) layers.