Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Don of the Dead

By Casey Daniels

Pepper Martin had a pretty easy life. That is until her father was convicted of fraud and sent to prison. Everything Pepper took for granted was gone: loving parents, comfortable family home, wealthy fiancee, secure future. And that's how she ended up as a tour guide for a cemetery.
But after she bumped her head on a tombstone, Pepper's life took a turn for the weird. Because now she is being pursued by a dead man, Augustino Scarpetti, the gangster. He is pestering Pepper to find out who gunned him down back in the 1960s. The police concluded he'd been killed by a rival gang but his murderer was never brought to justice. And until the murderer is revealed Don Scarpetti cannot rest in peace. And he isn't going to give Pepper any peace until she is able to do what the police could not or would not do forty years ago. Only problem is that mobster organizations really don't appreciate strangers poking their noses into their private business, even if that business is forty years in the past.

This was a pretty good story, your basic mystery story with a supernatural twist. It's also obviously the first in what is intended to be a series, as Pepper meets two eligible guys but hooks up with neither. And at the end of the story a new ghost, sent by the dead Don, approaches Pepper for help.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Good in Bed

By Jennifer Weiner

Cannie is a woman in her late twenties and one of the most important things in her life is that she is a tad overweight, about 40 pounds or so. Also she is rather tall, about 5' 10", so she is quite a big person.  Her father made some uncaring remarks just as she was entering her vulnerable teen years and ever since, her weight has mattered a lot more to her than to anyone else, especially the men in her life.
At the start of the story, she has just ended a three year relationship with Bruce because she realized he was not the right guy for her. But then Bruce has a magazine article published describing what is was like to be in love with a larger woman and Cannie gets thrown for a loop and ends up deciding that Bruce is the love of her life. This despite the fact that he has moved on and wants nothing to do with her. And then things get even more complicated for her.

Cannie is her own worse enemy, from her unrealistic view of her own body to her chasing after a man no longer interested to her breakdown towards in the latter part of the story. She consistently fails to appreciate her own qualities and the love that surrounds her. Which sounds pretty depressing, but this is not, for the most part, a depressing story because the Cannie character is witty and often quite amusing. I liked this novel mostly for its humor.

A Free Man of Color

By Barbara Hambly

Benjamin January is a free black man living in New Orleans in the 1830s, where he is a musician. He both teaches and plays music, and one night, while performing in the band at a Mardi Gras ball, a young woman is murdered. And since January was one of the last people to see and to speak to her, he is the number one suspect. The police are happy to blame a black man and are not continuing the investigation. So it is up to Benjamin January to clear his name, if he doesn't want to end up on the gallows.

This was an OK story. I found all the French names rather confusing and thus found it hard to keep track of the characters, especially as they had lots of different forms of their names. Like the main character is sometimes Benjamin, Ben, January, and Janvier. Also, I found the action didn't really pick up until almost the last, when January gets captured and imprisoned and has to escape and flee for his life and freedom. The last part of the book was much more exciting than what came before. So I liked the last part, but the rest was a little boring.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

China Mountain Zhang

By Maureen F. McHugh

China Mountain Zhang is the name of this novel and the name of its main character. He is a half-Hispanic, half-Chinese man living in New York City. Set in the not too distant future, in Zhang's world, America had a second revolution and now the country is run by communists and dominated by China. Being a half-breed is a detriment and so Zhang, who is also called Rafael Luis, is passing as full Chinese. He has a two year engineering degree and works as an engineering tech. His boss, who is native Chinese and who has a ugly unwed daughter, thinks Zhang would make a good son-in-law. Zhang knows that if his boss knew the truth about him that not only would he not want him for a son-in-law but he would also be fired. So Zhang takes the ugly daughter out on a date. Of course, nothing results from it, not only because the woman is unattractive but also because Zhang is a homosexual. Homosexuality is not condoned under the Communist regime and is yet one more thing that Zhang is hiding about himself.
Well, he does get fired, which sets him off on a new course and eventually to China to study for his engineering degree. But his is not the only story touched on in the book. It also looks at the life of a pioneer on Mars, and at the boss's ugly daughter, and briefly at the life of professional kite racers.

I enjoyed this story quite a lot. It is a look at a different society but the people are still the same, coping with life and trying to find some measure of peace and happiness and fulfillment. Quite a good read.

Saturday, June 02, 2012


By Tanith Lee

 Artemis was at a school for young ladies when she took a tumble and hit her head and suddenly started to remember things about her past that she had forgotten. She remembered being a little girl, at her mother's side, as her mother led her crew of pirates in raids. Now obsessed with this memory, she escapes from the school and goes looking for her mother's gang of pirates.  She finds them, but they claim her mother was never a real pirate,  she was an actress, playing the role of pirate captain on stage.
But Artemis knows her memories are not those of someone just playing a part, she remembers in vivid detail the events at sea and the various ports her mother's ship visited. Somehow, she talks her mother's old gang into joining her in returning to the sea and following in her mother's footsteps and into piracy.

Somehow the author wants the reader to believe that piracy is an acceptable occupation if you don't kill anyone or take people's treasured mementos. This is just stupid. It is still thievery and Artemis is not a role model for teenage girls.  The whole book is kind of ridiculous, and not in a good way, although it seemed to me that the author intended Artemis to be a beacon of courage and good sportmanship, the fact is that Artemis is just a thief and a criminal.  And besides that, the book was just not that interesting.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Thale's Folly

By Dorothy Gilman

Andrew Thale has been sent by his father to look over a property in Massachusetts, an old farm house and the 25 acres that go with it. The house has been empty since Andrew's Aunt Harriet died some years ago. Thale's father, a successful New York businessman, was too busy too attend to the matter himself but is now thinking of selling the property to developers. So Andrew is supposed to go there and take a look around, take some photos and report back to his father. But when he gets there, he finds out that the house isn't unoccupied, in fact four people are living there. They were the guests of Aunt Harriet and they just stayed on after she passed. There is the elderly, mysterious Miss L'Hommedieu, Gussie (the witch), Leo (the Communist) and Tarragon, a lovely young woman who Andrew falls for almost at first sight. Naturally, they have no money and no place to go if they lose the old farm house. Andrew falls in with these people and begins to deal with a trauma from the past and starts to feel he is part of a family, something he never had as a child. Then Dad comes looking for his errant son and messes it all up. But maybe it will be all right if they can just find Harriet's lost will.

This was an OK story. The premise is that everything happens for a reason, including Andrew being almost killed in a plane crash. The crash sent him into a funk, and he ended up working for his father which resulted in Andrew going to Massachusetts and there is also a mistaken raincoat that leads to a fortuitous discovery. Plus there are gypsies, long-lost relatives, witchcraft and other contrivances, too many in my opinion. Also there is too much herbal tea in the story.


By Raymond Haigh

Set in Britain, this story starts out with the beautiful Samantha Quest, ex-agent, putting a gun to the head of a handsome, young male escort and forcing him to divulge the names and details of some of his local clients.  It's all part of her new job as a private investigator, and in the course of the story, she will investigate, for a worried father, what is bothering his teen daughter, for a government official why her boss is getting death threats, and a local prostitution ring that has fingers in lots of criminal pies, including arming terrorists. Meanwhile, said terrorists are bombing the rail lines and  synagogues and Samantha's former boss is pressuring her to take up her old job as government agent and assassin.

I really liked this book. It was exciting and it grabbed me from the start and it only took me two days to read it, that's how enthralling I found it. Even though her investigations start out pretty small, exposing straying wives and getting anxious teens to confide in her, it leads to much bigger things. And towards the last part of the book, she is meting out justice to those who deserve it the most. Very satisfying and I wouldn't mind reading more Samantha Quest novels.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

By Seth Grahame-Smith
A novel about Abraham Lincoln which places this real person in a fictitious setting, in an America in which vampires exist and prey upon people, including Lincoln's own family. His father borrows money from a vampire and when he can't repay his debt, the vampire exacts revenge against the Lincoln family, inspiring in the young Lincoln a deep, abiding hatred of the undead. He dedicates himself to the destruction off all vampires, not knowing in his inexperience how very deadly the undead are. He is almost killed in a vampire encounter but falls into the hands of a sympathetic vampire who nurses Lincoln back to health and then gives him tips on how to better deal with vampires and even sends Lincoln on other missions to take out vampires.

As Lincoln gains more knowledge and experience in the craft of vampire hunting, he finds out that one of the reasons slavery is supported in the South is because much of the South is under the secret control of vampires, who view slaves as easy prey, even to buying them just to consume. Lincoln is disgusted and outraged at the willingness of non-vampires to collaborate with vampires in supplying them with their slave victims. He discovers this involvement reaches into the highest levels of American society, North and South. And maybe the best way to bring down the vampire reign is to destroy their source of easy prey and end the peculiar institution of slavery in America....

This was an OK story. An odd blend of history and fantasy, it was more interesting at the beginning, when Lincoln is young and strong. But as he gets older and marries and has kids, he retires from vampire hunting. The story kind of slowed down then as middle aged Presidents are hardly in the position to go out chopping vampire heads off on the weekends.

Outlaw in Paradise

By Patricia Gaffney
Cady McGill is a saloon owner in Paradise, Oregon. Looked down on by the local women, she is independent and tough-minded and used to being on her own. Then one day a tall stranger comes to town, renting a room above the saloon. Attractive and dangerous, the stranger Jesse Gault is there to get whatever he can out of the citizens of Paradise. Because Jesse Gault is a man with a mission, hired gun out to exact revenge for whomever hires him. And, hired gun though he may (or may not be), Cady finds herself drawn to him, despite his murderous reputation.

I liked the premise of Jesse's scam on the citizens of Paradise. It's a cute idea, using his deadly reputation to extort money from those with guilty consciences. But other than that, it was just your typical romance story, with a subplot of a local bully whom Jesse eventually has to deal with. And like most modern romances, Cady eagerly falls into bed with her new lover. I guess the local ladies were right about her. Anyway, while I liked Jesse's scam and the Jesse character, the rest of the story was only average.