Book Review: For Better or Cursed by Kate Williams @DelacortePress @favouritepages

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Title: For Better or Cursed
Series: The Babysitters Coven #2
Author: Kate Williams
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: December 15, 2020
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Google Play
Amazon // Book Depository // Indiebound

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For Better or Cursed
The Babysitters Coven # 2
Kate Williams
Delacorte Press, December 2020
ISBN 978-0-525-70741-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Adventures in Babysitting meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this funny, action-packed sequel about a coven of witchy babysitters who realize their calling to protect the innocent and save the world from an onslaught of evil.

Esme Pearl’s life used to be all about bumming rides and babysitting. Sure, it wasn’t glamorous, but it was predictable. All that changed when Cassandra Heaven came to town, and they discovered their complicated, and connected, legacy: Esme and Cassandra are Sitters, supernaturally-gifted teens armed with an ever-changing grimoire of Sitter witchcraft to help them protect the innocent and keep evil demons at bay. You know, the typical teenage stuff.

But just as Esme is starting to adjust to–and maybe even like–her new normal, life lobs another glitter bomb her way. The Synod–the Sitterhood’s governing circle–has called a Summit, a once-in-a-generation gathering that promises training, education, and whole lot of ice-breakers.

Esme should be excited–a Summit might mean she can finally get the answers she desperately wants–but she can’t shake a building sense of panic. Especially since Cassandra’s not acting like herself; Esme’s dad is MIA; Pig is out of dog food; Janis is scared to be alone; and there’s a guy who seems too good to be true, again. Worst of all, it soon becomes clear, there’s no one watching the kids. It’s obvious the Summit is a haute mess, but will it be a deadly one, too?

You know the TV commercial for Geico that shows a group of teens trying to escape from a Michael Myers-esque killer and they choose to get behind the chainsaws instead of getting in the running car? I must have seen it a gazillion times and I still always chuckle, point being, this book’s description somehow made me think of that commercial. I was primed for some good, snarky laughs and Ms. Williams did not disappoint. Now, granted, some of the language is a bit rough but not excessively so especially when you consider that this is teens defending humanity from demons.

As you might expect when it comes to fighting evil, things don’t always go well and Cassandra is suffering some pretty important amnesia, leaving Esme not exactly on her own but definitely with a partner who’s not on top of her game. The timing for that isn’t great since their coven has to host the upcoming Summit and we all know that trouble is likely to ensue. It does, of course, but this is a fun read although I wish Esme were more aware of behavior that’s somewhat dismissive of Cassandra’s LGBTQ concerns; still, I have to remind myself that, as unenlightened as we might be today, it was worse in the 1990’s when this is set. Having said that, Cassandra has developed her own unpleasant ways so neither girl is entirely likeable. The pacing in this book is also a little slower than I like and, in fact, I think the plot takes a back seat to the characters.

Although I’m rarely bothered by not reading books in order, I do think it probably would have been best in this case and I recommend that anyone wanting to try this series start with the first one, The Babysitters Coven, to have a better understanding of how Esme and Cassandra came to be Sitters. After all, being a witch, even a good one, isn’t exactly “typical teenage stuff” 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2020.

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An Excerpt from For Better or Cursed

Chapter 1

The sun was setting, and up and down the street, I could see Christmas lights flicker on and blow-up snowmen fill with air. It was supposed to be festive, but I found it ominous, the snowmen especially. I’d seen demons that looked almost exactly like them, and now anything white and puffy automatically put me on guard. My breath billowed in front of me, and I pulled up the collar of my shearling-lined jacket, accidentally tugging it too close to my nose. I stifled a gag and immediately folded it back down.

The jacket was killer. It was pale-peach suede, had a ’70s Foxy Brown cut, and was about the warmest thing I owned. I’d found it at a thrift store the night before, and it was a serious score except it was dry-clean only. I thought I could get away with wearing it without spending more to have it cleaned than it actually cost, but nope. Breathe too deeply and I definitely got a whiff of weed, BO, and a third note I couldn’t identify. Maybe canned corn? I tried breathing through my mouth.

Cassandra wasn’t wearing a coat. Of course. Even in December. She sat next to me on the wooden bench, in just one of her brother’s hoodies over a flannel, her hair pulled back into a ponytail and anchored with a plain old rubber band. Cassandra doesn’t worry about split ends. She was gnawing on her thumbnail, making really gross sounds that were at odds with her I-sell-detox-tea-on-my-Instagram kind of beauty. Her right leg bounced at 180 bpm, and she spit a piece of nail onto the ground.

There were only three kids left on the playground, all bundled up like little marshmallows. Their shouts echoed off the school’s brick walls, and the swings made a metallic creak in the wind. The kids were taking turns throwing a red rubber ball at a basketball hoop, and one of the boys hurled the ball at the girl. She caught it and immediately turned and drop-kicked the ball away from him, sending it flying out into the playground. I stifled an urge to cheer her on.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“I swear it’s here,” Cassandra said. “It’s just weird that it’s waiting so long.”

Cassandra was right. It was here. I could tell by the sadness that tickled the edges of my mind, and the way I shivered more from disgust than the cold every time the air moved around me. It was the reason Cassandra was so nervous, even though we were about to do something that, in the past month, had become as routine to us as going to school or not doing homework. We’d been in its presence for a while now, and exposure to a Negative demon always brings nerves and despair. Even to Sitters.

On the basketball court, one of the little boys was on the ground crying, while the little girl stood over him doing some sort of dance and kicking at his shins, her dangling mittens giving her the appearance of having four hands. I was trying to decide whether I was still on her side when Cassandra jumped up and started running across the playground. I was right behind her, my eyes straining in the crepuscular light, to make out what she saw.

There. By the monkey bars. A Shimmer. Barely visible, but I saw it nonetheless, like a glitch in reality. I detoured to the basketball court and held up my hands, palms facing the kids. “Mnemokinesis!” I shouted at them. They stopped fighting and turned to look at me with blank stares, arms hanging limply at their sides. Cass and I now had five minutes to do what we needed to do before the spell wore off and the kids would remember everything they saw.

Except Cassandra had stopped, and she was bent over, staring at the ground. I caught up to her, my heart pounding. “Cass! Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

She looked up at me and smiled. Her pupils were huge, which made her dark eyes look like deep black holes. Her expression was peaceful. More than peaceful–euphoric. “Esme,” she said, her voice an excited hush. “Have you ever noticed there’s glitter in the concrete? Look at how it sparkles.” She reached down and ran a hand over the dirty ground. “We are literally walking on rainbows. A million tiny rainbows.”

What the?

“Are you serious?” I looked away from her as something flickered in the corner of my eye. Now that we were stationary, the Shimmer thought it was stalking us, and not the other way around. I looked back at Cassandra, and her expression shifted in a split second, like she’d just been snapped by a rubber band. She gave her head a quick shake and broke into a run again, jumping a merry-go-round in two strides. She collided with something midair and went pixelated as she crashed to the ground. Shoot. The Shimmer was on top of Cassandra, and her limbs were going in and out of focus as she thrashed. My breath caught in my throat as the Shimmer surrounded her head, lifting it like it was about to smash her skull against the teeter-totter.

I held out my palm and wedged my powers between Cassandra and the ground so the Shimmer was just pounding her into the air. The sensation disoriented the Shimmer enough that it loosened its grip for a second, and a second was all Cassandra needed to wrench free. She rolled away and pushed herself up to her knees, her palms held out in front of her. Instantly, the Shimmer erupted in a blaze. With it outlined in flames, I could see that it was as big as at least two jungle gyms. It let out a piercing hiss, and I clamped my hands over my ears.

Her fire bathed Cassandra in flickering orange light for an instant. Just as quickly as the flames appeared, they were out again. She’d put them out. She had one palm extended and was gripping something tightly in her other fist. She raised it, but in a split second the Shimmer swung and connected with her, knocking her through the air. I winced as she smacked against the monkey bars and she fell to the ground in a heap.

“Cassandra!” I yelled. “What are you doing?”

She was back up in no time, her fist raised again, and now I could see what she was holding: a rope I didn’t know she’d had. She unfurled a length of it behind her and started to swing it over her head. I was so confused that I stopped for a second. Was she trying to lasso this thing?

“Pin it!” she yelled back at me. “Don’t let it go!”

I glanced up. The Portal was here, swirling over the playground like a curdled latte, which meant we only had a few seconds to flush the Shimmer before the Portal closed again. Pinning the Shimmer and not letting it go was not part of the plan. “What?” I screamed back, but before I could do anything, Cassandra had swung the lasso. Only, instead of being pinned, the Shimmer caught the rope and gave it a hard yank, pulling Cass off her feet and toward it.

“What are you waiting for?” I screamed. “Torch it!” That was how we usually did this: she set something on fire, which disabled it just long enough for me to grab it and flush it into oblivion. But she was over there playing tug-of-war like we were at a barbecue, and the Shimmer seemed to be having a grand old time.

I glanced up. The Portal was already starting to shrink, and Cassandra was still cowgirling. I had to act. I held up a hand and took hold of the demon, then focused my energy and gave it the biggest, hardest yank I’ve ever given anything. And, crap, it weighed as much as a baby elephant. Who’d been snacking on Kälteen bars. I held out my other palm, as this was a two-powered-hands job. Cassandra was yelling something at me, but I couldn’t make it out. I sucked a breath in through my nose, and yanked.

I felt the Shimmer’s energy course through me. It was hot and angry and still writhing in pain, and I didn’t care one bit. I started to swing it around in a circle, gathering speed. With each swing, I grew more powerful and it got lighter. I looked back at the Portal, still burbling above us, and took aim. With a final swing, I let go of the Shimmer. It hurtled toward the swirl and sailed right through the middle. As it always did, the Portal flushed, a sound that never failed to send a rush through my body, from my eyebrows down to the tips of my toes.

Then I turned to Cassandra. “What the crap was that? Did you want it to stick around and hang out?” She wouldn’t meet my eyes as she stood there, dirty from the scuffle and trying to catch her breath. “And that whole walking-on-rainbows thing? When did you become a flower child?”

Her eyes locked on mine. “What are you talking about?” she said. She seemed genuinely confused, but I was not going to let her put me on the defensive.

“You were wasting all sorts of time out there!” I snapped. “And you got distracted by the concrete! Of all things.”

She was coiling the rope back up. “I just wanted to do it a bit differently this time.”

“And you didn’t think that this was something you should tell me?”

“It’s no big deal,” she said.

“Yes, it is, Cassandra,” I said. “It could have gotten loose. What were you trying to do, anyway? Tie it up?”

She turned and started to walk away from me. “I wanted to interrogate it,” she said. Which made such little sense that I needed her to repeat it.

“You wanted to do what to it?”

“Interrogate it,” she said. “You know, ask it some questions.”

I still didn’t get it. “I know what interrogate means, Cassandra,” I said. “But it’s a Shimmer. It doesn’t even have a mouth.” We passed a trash can and she tossed the rope in it. It landed on a bag of dog poop and a Wendy’s box. A bigger question hit me, and I stopped. “Wait, you wanted to talk to it?”

I stared at the back of her head as she kept walking. She reached up to redo her ponytail as she nodded, and I winced when she ripped the rubber band out of her hair, taking several strands with it. “What did you think it would say?” I asked, catching up to her. But she picked up her pace and I could tell she was starting to get annoyed with me.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I thought maybe we could learn something. Let’s drop it, okay? I won’t do it again.” Then she said something that really blew my mind. “I’m sorry.”

Wow. I had to play my cards right with this one. What she had just done was weird, there was no doubt about it, but it was also clear that she didn’t want to discuss it. She so seriously didn’t want to talk about it that she’d even apologized, which she never did. I wasn’t going to get anything more out of her, so sure, I’d drop it. For now, at least. It was hard to tell when Cassandra was being weird and when she was just being Cassandra. I did know that she kept her word, though, so if she said she wouldn’t do something again, she wouldn’t. But interrogate a demon? Maybe she’d been watching too many cop shows? “What about the sidewalk rainbows, though?” I asked, figuring that was at least a different subject.

“Huh?” she asked, looking over at me like I was the one not making any sense.

“Do you not remember that? Your pupils were huge. It looked like you were on a different planet.” Something flickered across her face, too fast for me to decipher it.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, looking away from me and down the street. “I got really light-headed there for a minute. I didn’t really eat anything today.”

“Oh,” I said. “You should eat lunch. And breakfast.” She nodded. “Something with protein, like yogurt, or an egg . . .” Cassandra smirked.

“What’d you have for breakfast today?” she asked. I knew exactly what I’d had for breakfast: six Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and a venti iced coffee.

“Irrelevant,” I said, “as I’m not the one who had a . . .” I wasn’t sure what to call what had just happened to Cassandra. “Tripping balls” seemed most apt. “Episode,” I said finally. “In the middle of a Return. It did not seem like you were okay.”

“Thank you for your concern, Nutritionist Esme,” she said, reaching out to squeeze my shoulder. “I will make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Before either of us could say anything else about the subject, my phone started ringing. An incoming call from Jim Halpert, which is how I had Brian Davis–Cassandra’s and my Counsel, and also my dad’s best friend, hence the code name–saved in my phone. Brian always called me because he knew that Cassandra’s phone was usually broken, missing, or dead, and sometimes all three.

I answered and put him on speaker so Cassandra could hear too. “Hey,” I said. “What’s up?”

“Where are you?” he asked, his voice sounding more clipped and businesslike than usual.

“At the playground by Woodland Elementary,” I answered. “We just Returned a Shimmer.”

“Stay there,” he said. “I’m coming to get you.”

“It went well!” Cassandra called out. “Thanks for asking.” But Brian had already hung up.

“What do you think this is gonna be about?” I asked her.

She shrugged. “Something to do with his balls, probably.”

I nodded. She was probably right. Brian’s true passion was interior design, and he had a flair for mixing boho patterns and textiles with mid-century silhouettes. Overall, his style was very sophisticated and clean, yet it still felt cozy. But I digress, because Brian’s day job was as the football coach at our high school, and “his balls,” as Cassandra fittingly called them, stressed him out to no end. So much so that he neglected our training, which resulted in serious disaster. In the month or so since then, even though the Spring River Bog Lemmings (yep, the lemming is our school mascot) managed to close out the season and take home a trophy that they all spit in, or whatever it was you did with a trophy, Brian had been working overtime to get us up to speed. Which meant that Cassandra and I were working overtime too. We hadn’t planned to meet up to train tonight, so Brian’s urgent call was kind of a bummer. I was looking forward to a night off. I had plans. I mean, I was going to put a blackhead mask on my nose and watch the Versace American Crime Story for the fourth time. Those were plans, right?

Excerpted from For Better or Cursed by Kate M. Williams. Copyright © 2020 by Kate M. Williams. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Original Link: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/592191/for-better-or-cursed-by-kate-williams/

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About the Author

I’m the author of the YA novel The Babysitters Coven.

I also write for magazines, including Cosmopolitan, NYLON, Elle, Women’s Health, Shape, Time Out New York, Monster Children, Russh, Oyster, The Fader, NME, H&M, Smith Journal, Gather Journal, KnitWit, Popular, Style.com and more.

I have ghostwritten New York Times bestsellers, celebrity tell-alls, memoirs, how-tos, and beauty bibles (Shh…. I was never here, and you haven’t seen me.)

And, just ‘cause we’re still talking about me, I’ve also written windows, billboards, emails and captions, captions, captions for brands such as Urban Outfitters, Nasty Gal, Vans, Calvin Klein, Nike, Lively, BAGGU and more.

I love to write about witches, teenagers, girls behaving badly, palm trees, and other forms of magic. Teenage girl witches behaving badly under the palm trees is my penultimate subject.

AUTHOR LINKS

Website | Goodreads | Instagram

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Giveaway

Win a physical copy of FOR BETTER OR CURSED
by Kate Williams (INT)

Starts: 23rd November 2020
Ends: 14th December 2020

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Book Review: Booked for Murder by R. J. Blain @rj_blain @XpressoTours

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Title: Booked for Murder
Series: Vigilante Magical Librarians #1
Author: R. J. Blain
Publisher: Pen & Page Publishing
Publication Date: August 18, 2020
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Mystery

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Purchase Links:
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Google Play // Amazon // Indiebound

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Booked for Murder
Vigilante Magical Librarians #1
R. J. Blain
Pen & Page Publishing, August 2020
ISBN 978-1-64964-003-1
Trade Paperback

From the author:

Life as a bodyguard and driver for the rich, famous, and powerful is dangerous on a good day, and after sustaining a crippling injury while on duty, Janette’s left with few options. Having signed a ‘for life’ contract but unable to work, she uses her skills to disappear.

Her new life as a librarian suits her. Nobody cares she limps and sometimes requires a cane to walk. She’s wanted for her knowledge, not her lethal magic. She’s surrounded by books, a woman’s best friend.

But when her former employer’s best friend is murdered on the steps of her library, old loyalties and secrets might destroy her—or set her free.

Teaming up with her co-workers to find the killer might keep her from being booked for murder, but unless she’s careful, she’ll find out exactly how far her ex-boss will go to reclaim what is rightfully his.

Her. For life.

A mashup of mystery and urban fantasy is one of my favorite reads so I looked forward to this one with great glee but, while I enjoyed many aspects of it, the overall result was not quite as good as I hoped.

The concept of a woman who’s a bodyguard in the top echelons of society, exposed to all kinds of dangers and *stuff* that we can’t quite identify with because this is an alternate universe of sorts, is really appealing. It gets even better, in my opinion, when she decides to take advantage of a dire injury to reinvent the wheel, i.e., herself and what better way to hide out than to become a librarian? Of course, as you might expect, all does not go well for the long run and Janette soon finds herself tangled up with her former boss, Bradley, in a murder investigation. My kind of story!

So why am I not 100% in love with this book? The first hiccup for me is that I didn’t really like some of the characters but, in itself, that wouldn’t be a complete turnoff; I actually think an unappealing character or two makes for a more natural tale. However, the second issue was pacing that dragged in places, largely due to overdumping of info. Sure, the first book in a series needs to have more worldbuilding than later books but this just seemed to take up too much word space.

Bottomline, while this didn’t give me the wow factor, it’s a promising beginning to what I understand is going to be a five-book series and I do want to find out what happens next, particularly since the murder is not solved in this one. Like some other mystery series, Booked for Murder apparently is going to carry that storyarc over at least one more book, perhaps all, so I’ll be watching out for number 2.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2020.

About the Author

RJ Blain suffers from a Moleskine journal obsession, a pen fixation, and a terrible tendency to pun without warning.

In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until satisfied.

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$50 Amazon gift card

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Book Reviews: Desert Rage by Betty Webb, Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch, and Me on the Floor, Bleeding by Jenny Jagerfeld

Desert RageDesert Rage
A Lena Jones Mystery
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen Press, October 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0310-7
Hardcover

Betty Webb‘s powerful series is based in part on the knowledge gained during the author’s work as an active reporter in Arizona. That information infuses her novels with a strong feeling of authenticity. Teen aged angst, misunderstandings and over-reaction lead Scottsdale private investigator Lena into a dark place where she must pit her analytical skills and persistence against both official stubbornness and a nearly diabolical adversary.

As readers of this series have come to expect, the writing is excellent, the characters are well-delineated and the story is complicated and real. Two teens, Alison and Kyle, plan to run away to Hollywood and in idle exchanges threaten to murder Alison’s family. When the family is indeed brutally murdered, the teens believe each has separately done the deed and each confesses to authorities.

Arizona Senator Julia Thorsson, with secrets of her own, hires Lena Jones to clear the teens and find the real murderer or murderers. The task leads Lena and her partner, Pima Indian computer expert Jimmy Sisawan, into a difficult case with many surprising layers.

The action is mostly intense and persistent although there are chapters in which the author seems to lose focus and the action slows considerably. However, when Lena is focused on the case at hand and not arguing with her partner the action is brisk and logical. There are indications that her journalistic zeal for the story—surrogacy, law enforcement assumptions, public attitudes toward politics gets in the way of the story. Nevertheless, the quality of the work shines through, the story is compelling and well worth any reader’s time.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.

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Midnight RiotMidnight Riot
Peter Grant Series #1
Ben Aaronovitch
Del Rey, February 2011
ISBN 978-0-345-52425-6
Mass Market Paperback

Oh, boy, I’ve discovered a most entertaining new (to me, at least) author! Ben Aaronovitch is writing an urban fantasy series set in present day London that’ll knock your socks off. It’s ultra amusing, featuring well-developed characters along with an imaginative take on magic.

Constable Peter Grant’s ambition is to become a detective in the London Metropolitan Police. With the weird flashes of insight that appear to him, he’s soon apprenticed to Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who is in charge of crimes involving magic and otherworldly manifestations. Peter sees and speaks to ghosts, you see. Who knew the London Police had a whole department devoted to magical mayhem? Who knew Peter would have such a learning curve to surmount in his advancing his career?

Peter, along with his partner, Leslie, is soon plunged into the investigation of some awful and outlandish murders, where the killers are as damaged as the dead. And then Leslie becomes a victim as well, as she is taken over by a brutal ghost, and Peter is in a harrowing race to save not only her, but her potential victims.

Aaronovitch not only provides the reader with a unique magical world set alongside the mundane, but he peoples it with all kinds of characters. You’ll find just regular folks, those with magic coursing through their veins, and even gods and goddesses walking this mortal world side-by-side. Good stuff and highly recommended.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, June 2014.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

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Me on the Floor, BleedingMe on the Floor, Bleeding
Jenny Jagerfeld
Stockholm Text, July 2014
ISBN 978-91-7547-011-5
Trade Paperback

Maja saws off the end of her thumb in sculpture class. What surprises her is that everyone—her friend Enzo, her teacher, even her father—believes she did it on purpose. Maja lives with her father, a music journalist, but spends every other weekend with her mother.

This weekend, when she gets off the train, her mother isn’t there to meet her. Nor is she at home. Bored sitting by herself in the apartment, thumb throbbing, Maja crashes a party next door. It’s here she meets a young woman she calls Debbie (because she looks like singer Debbie Harry) and a sexy young man in faded pink jeans, who tells her his name is “Justin Case.”

Maja resolves to find out why her mother was not at the apartment, but doesn’t tell her father what happened when she returns home. This young adult novel, a prize winner in Sweden, will appeal to readers who enjoy tales of alienated youth, although the Swedish locations and references may turn away some readers. It’s a well-crafted novel, with a thoughtful, articulate main character.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, October 2014.

Sins of the Lost—Book Review: Sins of the Angels by Linda Poitevin, an Interview and a Giveaway!

Sins of the Lost Tour Banner

Title: Sins of the Lost
Series: The Grigori Legacy #3
Author: Linda Poitevin
Publisher: Ace/Penguin Grouplication Datre
Publication Date: October 15, 2013

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Sins of the LostFrom the author of Sins of the Angels and Sins of the Son comes the newest novel in the “electric, thrilling and extremely intelligent” (Ex Libris) Grigori Legacy series.

Heaven and Hell are on the brink of war as Lucifer builds his Nephilim army and waits for his new agenda to become a reality — that of having a Nephilim child of his own bloodline to lead his forces to cataclysmic victory.

With rumors of the pending war rampant on Earth, Alex fights to save humanity from its own panic –­ leaving little time for her fledgling relationship with Seth, the man with heavenly origins who has captured her heart. But when Nephilim children begin to disappear, along with Alex’s own vulnerable niece, the inevitable war between Heaven and Hell becomes as personal as sin.

Heaven has its own plans to fight the coming apocalypse, but first it needs Seth back. Asked to betray the man she loves, Alex must turn for help to the soulmate she thought she’d given up — the Archangel Aramael, who may be her last chance to save her family and humanity from the ashes of Lucifer’s Armageddon.

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A Review of Book One

Sins of the AngelsSins of the Angels
The Grigori Legacy #1
Linda Poitevin
Ace, October 2011
ISBN 978-0-441-02091-1
Mass Market Paperback

From the publisher—

When homicide detective Alexandra Jarvis is assigned a new partner in Aramael, a Guardian Angel who doubles as a hit man, they have only one thing in common: a fallen angel hell-bent on triggering the apocalypse. Now they have no choice but to work together-relentlessly, fearlessly, intimately. Because only they can stop the rogue angel from ushering in the end of days.

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Oh, my. I hate this book. I love this book. This hardly ever happens to me.

When Alex met Jacob aka Aramael, I knew I was in for a rocky ride but I had no idea I’d be torn between so many emotions, not only my own but also those of many others. That has to be chalked up to really good writing, the ability to invest the reader in every significant character. I found myself liking and simultaneously sneering at Christine, I empathized with Staff Inspector Roberts in his battle of wills with Alex and his increasing frustration at the serial killer’s climbing body count, I felt compassion for that serial killer, Caim, and why he was doing it, and I was aggravated by the machinations of Verchiel and Mittron. Who knew Heaven could be mired in bureaucracy?

Most of all, though, I loved spending time with Alex and Aramael as they found ways to abide each other and, when Alex began to believe that perhaps she wasn’t going insane, I lost all resistance to what their story might become. The introduction of Seth Benjamin only made the future more questionable and there was no going back for me.

It didn’t hurt that one of my very favorite subgenres of mystery is crossgenre, particularly detectives and the supernatural and angels appeal to me much more than such creatures as vampires or shapeshifters. I’m fascinated by how any given author approaches the existence of angels and creates a story around them and Linda Poitevin has shown herself to be as good a storyteller as I could possibly want.

A note to the squeamish—you might want to page past the descriptions of Caim’s predations upon humans. In truth, they make the possibility of what might come ever more urgent so they’re not the least gratuitous but they are very graphic.

So, why did I say I hate this book? I’m not telling. Suffice it to say the ending will grab you by the throat AND the heart and make you run to get the next book, which is what I’m about to do 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2013.

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An Interview with the Author

Thank you so very much for hosting me here today, Lelia—and for participating in the Sins of the Son blog tour!

1.   Who did you pretend to be when you were a kid?

You are so going to laugh at this…my most frequent “pretend” was to be a horse. I didn’t own one, but I loved horses. I lived, breathed, and dreamed horses. I obsessed over them. And every chance I got, I corralled (no pun intended!) my siblings into being my herd while I played the fearless stallion saving them from predators. I’m sure we made the most awful commotion as we romped around the living room on our hands and knees…my mother was very forbearing. 😉

2.   How much of you is in your character, Alex?

Definitely the stubbornness, lol! I grew up wanting to be a cop and ended up working as a dispatcher for the RCMP for almost three years (that’s where I met my husband), so I’d say that Alex is the kind of cop I would have liked to have been.

3.   What does Alex do for fun?

These days? Not much. Before the world began to fall apart, however, she spent a lot of time with her sister and niece (her only family). She introduced her niece to horror movies…hm…I wonder how she feels about that now that she’s learned how real monsters can be? o.O

She also used to get together outside work with her colleagues…usually for casual get-togethers such as barbecues and game nights. Oh, yes, and she was a runner, too…both to stay in shape and as stress-release. The life of a homicide detective can get a little grim.

4.   What is your favorite scene in Sins of the Lost and why?

Without giving spoilers, there’s a scene between the One and Lucifer later in the book that I absolutely love. I also agonized over it for weeks because it was so challenging to get down on paper. It’s powerful, pivotal, and a total game-changer in soooo many ways. It also made me cry as I was writing it…so yeah, it’s definitely a favorite.

5.   Do you carry on conversations with Alex while you’re working on the story?

Not directly with her, no. At least, not as myself. I tend to become the character whose viewpoint I’m writing. So if I’m writing Aramael, then I am Aramael…and if he’s speaking to Alex, then yes, I am too.

6.   What is the one thing you would say about Canada to lure tourists?

Whatever you’re looking for in a vacation, chances are excellent that we’ve got it. 🙂

7.   Is there one author (mystery or otherwise) who has really influenced your writing career?

Not one in particular, no…but I owe a debt of gratitude to every writer I’ve ever read over the years, because I think I’ve learned something from each of them (even the ones I didn’t like, who showed me what I don’t want to do!).

8.   If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently in your writing career?

I would have been much more realistic in my expectations, and I would have approached it from more of a business perspective. As much as writing fiction is a creative venture, producing a publishable book that people want to buy is a business one. This means knowing your genre and knowing where your audience lies—and these days, it also means building a relationship with that audience through social media long before you publish (which has also turned out to be great fun, incidentally!).

9.   What is your #1 secret–or not so secret–addiction?

Coffee. And it’s no secret! 🙂

10.  If you could spend a weekend with one fictional character not your own, who would it be and why?

Edmond Dantѐs from the Count of Monte Cristo. He was so intelligent and complex, and he could have so easily (and understandably) have given in to the bitterness, but in the end he didn’t. That speaks to a strong character I would like to know better.

11.  You just woke up as a castaway on a remote, uncharted island and you have one book to keep you entertained but it’s the very last book you’d want. What is it?

A cookbook with beautiful, glossy pictures of all the foods that I can’t have.

12.  Please tell us an embarrassing anecdote about yourself—we can always use a good laugh.

High school, grade 9: We had an annual “Greaser Day” where we were allowed to dress in 50s style for the day. I got my days mixed up and came to school one week early in a poodle skirt, bobby socks, and backwards-buttoned cardigan…and I lived too far away to go home and change. I drew a lot of attention that day…not the kind of thing you’re looking for at that age.  Then, to top it off, I did the exact same thing two years later…argh.

13.  What is in store for you? What’s happening next?

I’m currently at work on the fourth and final book in the Grigori Legacy series, tentatively entitled Sins of the Warrior. After that, I have another series in mind, but I’ll need to do some serious research and reading first. I’d also like to tackle a novella as a sequel to Gwynneth Ever After, a romance I self-published over the summer…several readers have asked for one, and it would make a wonderful (and lighter!) project.

Linda, thank you so much for being here today—it has been a real pleasure 😉

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About the Author

Linda PoitevinLinda Poitevin was born and raised in B.C., Canada’s westernmost province. Growing up in an era when writing was “a nice hobby, dear, but what are you going to do for a living?”, Linda worked at a variety of secretarial jobs before applying to be a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Due to an error in measurement, however, she was turned down when she didn’t meet the height requirement of that time. Undeterred, Linda became a civilian member in the force and was a dispatcher for two and a half years, during which time she met her husband, a police officer.

Following their transfer to Ottawa, Linda went on to become a real estate agent and then a human resources consultant before starting a family. She remained a stay-at-home mom, homeschooled her youngest daughter for nine years and, now that she has realized writing can be more than a nice hobby, she continues to live her dream of being a cop vicariously through her characters.

Linda currently lives near Ottawa with her husband, youngest of three daughters, one very large husky/shepherd/Great Dane-cross dog, two cats, a rabbit, and a bearded dragon lizard. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found in her garden or walking her dog along the river or through the woods.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS | YOUTUBE

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Follow the tour here.

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Linda Poitevin Giveaway Prize

There are two awesome giveaways included on the tour –

1 – GRAND PRIZE Giveaway (US & Canada ONLY) for a surprise
prize package from Penguin – ONE Winner

5 – GRIGORI LEGACY Swag Packs (International) – tote bag, pen,
fridge magnet, sticky notes & bookmarks – FIVE Winners

– The Grand Prize Giveaway is open to US/Canada.

– The Grigori Legacy Swag Pack Giveaways are open Internationally.

– Giveaways end on November 10th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific.

– Giveaways are open to anyone 18 and older.

Tweet daily for additional chances to win!

Enter the drawing at Rafflecopter.

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Book Review: Pros and Cons by Jenna Black, Dragonflies: Shadow of Drones by Andy Straka, and The Reluctant Reaper by Gina X. Grant

Pros and ConsPros and Cons
The Nikki Glass Series
Jenna Black
Pocket Star Books, February 2013
ISBN 978-1-4767-0010-6
Ebook Exclusive

From the publisher—

An original eNovella in the acclaimed Nikki Glass urban fantasy series, taking place between the events of the novels Deadly Descendant and Rogue Descendant.

As a living descendant of Artemis the Huntress, private investigator Nikki Glass knows how to track someone down—but this time, her latest case leads to unexpected revelations of lies and betrayal…

I’m a big fan of crossgenre books, especially when the crossing is crime with dark fantasy. Supernatural detectives rock my boat, you might say, so I’m always interested to find a new (to me) series. Pros and Cons fits the bill very nicely, even though it’s not the beginning of the series; this novella is actually the third publication in the chronological list but is not labeled as #3 because it’s not a full-length novel. To my way of thinking, a mid-series novella or short story is a perfect way to introduce a new reader to that series and it certainly worked its magic on me.

I love the idea that Nikki Glass is a descendant of Artemis because, after all, what is a private investigator if not a huntress? I’m pretty sure I didn’t get a really good taste of Nikki’s story because there’s not much about her cohorts in this novella. That’s OK, though, because I needed to know that the crime element of this series is not just a throwaway side story to the paranormal theme. Nikki is a bona fide detective and I can learn more about her friends and colleagues, as well as her romantic life, when I delve further into the series.

In Pros and Cons, Nikki takes on a “normal” case to give her an excuse to stay away from her supernatural environs for a little while but, early on, she realizes that something is not quite right about her new client. All the mythological trappings were lingering off to the side and I fell in love/like with Jack when he got involved. Jack is a descendant of Loki, the Norse trickster god who’s fun and devious and more than a little bit of a bad boy. Jack was the icing on the cake of a decent little tale of crime and I’ll be glad to see these folks again when I go back to book #1, Dark Descendant. I have some catching up to do!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2013.

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DragonfliesDragonflies: Shadow of Drones
Andy Straka
LLW Media, May 2013
ISBN 978-1-4756-0204-3
Ebook

From the publisher—

Out to seek justice for their comrades-in-arms, a former Army helicopter pilot and the soldier who saved her life find themselves drawn instead into a web of government intrigue and peering micro drones.

Raina Sanchez is plagued by nightmares. She can’t erase the memories of being shot down in Afghanistan, of losing her foot in the crash, and the death of her commanding officer. When asked by an ex-military contact to participate in a secret drone operation with ties to the war, she jumps at the chance to exorcise some of her demons.

She joins Tye Palmer, the decorated ex-infantryman who rescued her from the flaming wreckage of her Kiowa chopper. As civilian private investigators, together they embark on a sensitive, risky effort: using cutting-edge, micro air vehicle drones in an attempt to expose the son of media mogul Nathan Kurn as a campus rapist.

But as Raina and Tye come closer to the truth about Kurn and his powerful allies, Raina’s loyalties take a potential detour when she begins to understand a chilling reality. In a world where surveillance devices as small as tiny insects are being piloted into places most would never imagine, public and private forces both large and small are maneuvering to control them with inevitable consequences. For Raina and Tye the danger didn’t end when they finished their military careers—the threat has just begun.

Disclaimer: I have known Andy Straka for years and his previous books are among my favorites. That has not affected my review of this book.

As noted above, I know Andy and appreciate his writing but Dragonflies: Shadow of Drones is very different from his earlier work and must be considered in a different light. In all honesty, my feelings about it are quite mixed.

The premise of the story is quite engaging and I especially appreciated the way the author allows his protagonists to be confused about what’s really going on.  Too many thrillers, in my opinion, have characters who never seem to get ruffled and always have a finger on the pulse, so to speak. I’m quite sure black ops and intelligence communities, even high-powered corporations, have a better understanding of the situations they encounter than a layman would but it sometimes reaches the level of incredulity or, at the very least, a raised eyebrow. In Dragonflies, Raina and Tye are frequently caught in the middle of plots that don’t quite come together for them and I like that; it makes them very human and not so superhero-ish.

I was also intrigued by the whole idea of these extremely tiny spying devices and that experienced pilots would be needed to fly them. What a scary thing to contemplate! I don’t think I’m of enough interest to anyone to ever be a target but this certainly would be a formidable and potentially very damaging tool in the wrong hands. Having them be used in both private investigative work and by rival government factions in Dragonflies highlights how invasive they could become.

Raina and Tye are interesting characters but a bit too shallowly drawn to get to know them very well. Actually, we know more about Raina than Tye but I imagine we’ll get to know both of them much better as the series continues.

And that brings me to my last, and most adamant, opinion. I HATED the ending of this book.  I don’t mind cliffhangers but this one is beyond the pale and, if I had known it was written in serial style, I would not have read it until at least the second book, and maybe the third, was available. While I can get past any other faults in this book besides this one, I imagine other readers will be more accepting, especially those who like the TV cliffhangers that happen from week to week—and this has, in fact been optioned for TV. As for me, I probably won’t read any more installments until several are available.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2013.

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The Reluctant ReaperThe Reluctant Reaper
The Reluctant Reaper Series, Book One
Gina X. Grant
Pocket Star, June 2013
ISBN 978-1-4767-2868-1
Ebook

From the publisher—

Life for Kirsty d’Arc might not be perfect, but it’s far from hellish. She likes her job, has a great BFF, and truly admires Conrad, her boss. But when she dives in front of a lunatic’s blade to save him from certain death, she finds out Conrad isn’t so admirable after all. In fact, he’s traded her soul to the Devil! 

While her body lies comatose on the Mortal Coil, Kirsty’s spirit is dragged straight to Hell…which is not quite the fire-and-brimstone abyss she’d expected. In fact, the place is quirky, wacky, and not without charm. Desperate to reunite body and soul before her time runs out, she seeks out allies, earning the friendship of a powerful drag demon, a psychic server, and, most importantly, Hell’s civil servant. But what of her growing attraction to Dante, the sexy Reaper with a flair for romantic language—can she forgive him for scything her soul?

Stuck in the netherworld, Kirsty vows she’ll do everything on her postmortem bucket list, starting with getting her life back and ensuring that Conrad has Hell to pay!

Oh, my, I can’t remember the last time I read a book that had me smiling, chuckling. sometimes outright guffawing on every single page but Gina X. Grant has accomplished that very feat with The Reluctant Reaper. This is just one of the funniest books ever and here’s the weird thing—a LOT of the humor involves puns and I have never been enamored with puns. Until now.

Kirsty D’Arc has just been accidentally reaped by a guy named Dante who carries a scythe and struck her with it instead of her boss who was supposed to die. Since it was an accident, though, Kirsty is not exactly dead, more like undead (but not of the vampirish sort). Kirsty has no choice—she has to go to Hell and appeal her “death”.

Hell, it turns out, is full of interesting surprises, including Charon who ferries the river in full drag and a small, very cute kittenish animal who is actually a real life gargoyle. Her name is Jenni, short for Jenni-fur because she sheds so much. Then there are the vicious little creatures called gee-gnomes who can alter your DNA. Most are sort of countrified-looking except one that seems to be more sophisticated,  known as a “metrognome”. Dante himself is a 700-year-old poet—yes, he’s THAT Dante.

Ms. Grant also has a great time skewering the very things we all love to hate, like this:

“Reaping is a precise art. It must occur only at the exact hour, preferably the exact minute, as ordained by Death. Or by our new software system, MS Death 2.0.”

“You have Microsoft products in Hell?”

Figures.

Kirsty’s adventures in Hell keep her busy while she’s waiting for her trial but, when that finally comes, she’s in for a rude awakening. Will she be able to go back to her life or will she have to stay in the afterlife even if she isn’t really dead? Will she have to give up the hunky Dante? Will she really have to do something useful with her life?

I can’t help it, I loved this book and can’t wait to read the next one, Scythe Does Matter. Thank heavens—oops, Hell doesn’t appreciate that saying—it’s already on my Nook.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2013.

Book Reviews: King of the Dead by Joseph Nassise, The Girl in the Wall by Daphne Benedis-Grab, and Dog in the Manger by Mike Resnick

King of the DeadKing of the Dead
The Jeremiah Hunt Chronicle

Joseph Nassise
Tor, November 2012
ISBN 978-0-7653-2719-2
Hardcover

From the publisher—

In a devil’s deal, Jeremiah Hunt sacrificed his human sight in exchange for the power to see the hidden world of ghosts and all of the darker spirits that prowl the streets. Hunt uncovered a world of murder and magic that took his daughter from him and nearly cost him his life, but that was only the beginning….

Now Hunt is on the run from the FBI, who have pegged him as a mass-murdering dark sorcerer. His flight from the law is diverted to New Orleans when his companion, a potent witch, has a horrific vioiledsion of the city under magical siege. When they arrive, they realize that the situation is more dire than they could have imagined: the world of the living faces a terrifying attack by forces from beyond the grave. King of the Dead, the second book in this groundbreaking series, promises more of Nassise’s electrifying writing that will enthrall readers looking for a supercharged, supernatural thrill.

 

One of the best combinations that has come about with the tremendous growth of crossgenre fiction is crimefighting supernatural beings. Early players—meaning in recent years because crossgenre is certainly not a new thing—such as Harry Dresden (Jim Butcher) and Rachel Morgan (Kim Harrison) whetted our appetites and many readers, including me, are always on the lookout for more, especially those that are a bit different.

And Jeremiah Hunt is decidedly different. We’ve had central characters who can wizard or witch their way through life, or chase down bad guys while in the form of werewolves and vampires and such, but how often do we come across a guy who can see ghosts and all the scary things in the dark and can do so BECAUSE he’s blind? To make it even more unique, Jeremiah actually wanted his blindness, unlike so many who gain their abilities through no desire to be able to do these things. Jeremiah and his cohorts, a witch and a berserker, ought to be kickbutt.

Unfortunately, they don’t quite do it for me and I’m not entirely sure why. Part of the problem is a bit too much infodumping in an effort to bring the reader up to speed in this second book. I appreciate the effort because knowing some background helps when you haven’t read the earlier books in a series (a frequent happenstance for reviewers) but it’s a little too heavyhanded in this case. I was also a little put off by the shifting points of view—generally, I like that but the shifts were sometimes too abrupt and I would lose my connection to the story while taking the time to figure out who’s speaking.

Having said that, the worldbuilding is very good and I like these characters, especially Jeremiah. I’ve heard excellent reports about the first book, Eyes to See, so I think this may be one of those rare occasions when I should have read the first book first. King of the Dead interests me a lot and I think I’ll enjoy it much more if I start at the beginning.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2012.

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The Girl in the WallThe Girl in the Wall
Daphne Benedis-Grab
Merit Press, December 2012
ISBN 978-1-4405-5270-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Ariel’s birthday weekend looks to be the event of the season, with a private concert by rock star Hudson Winters on the grounds of her family’s east coast estate, and all of Ariel’s elite prep school friends in attendance. The only person who’s dreading the party is Sera, Ariel’s former best friend, whose father is forcing her to go. Sera has been the school pariah since she betrayed Ariel, and she now avoids Ariel and their former friends. Thrown together, Ariel and Sera can agree on one thing: this could be one very long night.

They have no idea just how right they are.

Only moments after the concert begins and the lights go down, thugs open fire on parents and schoolmates alike, in a plot against Ariel’s father that quickly spins out of control. As the entire party is taken hostage, the girls are forced apart. Ariel escapes into the hidden tunnels in the family mansion, where she and Sera played as children. Only Sera, who forges an unlikely alliance with Hudson Winters, knows where her friend could be. As the industrial terrorist plot unravels and the death toll climbs, Ariel and Sera must recall the sisterhood that once sustained them as they try to save themselves and each other on the longest night of their lives.

One of the dreaded tropes of young adult fiction is femjep, female in jeopardy. This goes way back, to the days of “The Perils of Pauline” nearly a hundred years ago and earlier. At times, it seems as though many writers of young adult fiction can’t come up with a story without it, and that has led to a craving for those tales that feature girls with a brain, girls that can actually take care of themselves most of the time. It’s an even greater pleasure when an author is able to craft a story around a girl of, shall we say, substance, involved in a situation of jeopardy.

Ms. Benedis-Grab has accomplished this in spades with The Girl in the Wall and there are, in fact, two very capable girls, Sera and Ariel. The author makes good use of the hostage aspect and watching the girls cope with such deadly circumstances is knuckle-whitening. I literally raced from one chapter to the next and thoroughly enjoyed myself along the way. Some of Ariel’s behavior raised my eyebrows and Sera is faced with an impossible choice but I really liked both of these teens and found them highly interesting.The action is intense and frightening and I loved getting to know both Sera and Ariel.

This is a pair of girls I’d like to have by my side in a dark alley.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2012.

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Dog in the MangerDog in the Manger
Mike Resnick
Seventh Street Books, November 2012
ISBN 9781616147105
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Hired to investigate the disappearance of a Westminster winner, Eli Paxton stumbles into a web of intrigue.

A dog is missing. Not just any dog. The number one Weimaraner in the country and current Westminster winner.

Down-on-his-luck private eye Eli Paxton is hired to find him. Not exactly an elite assignment, but better than nothing. Maybe it will help him pay his rent.

It turns out to be anything but a routine case. People start dying in mysterious ways, a cargo plane goes missing, and someone is taking shots at him. It makes no sense. Even a top show dog isn’t worth that much.

Now the hunt is on. Paxton needs to find this dog to save his own skin. The trail leads to Arizona, then Mexico, and finally back to his hometown of Cincinnati—Where he finds the startling solution.

 

Dog in the Manger is a reprint of a book first published in the mid-1990′s and I’m just so glad somebody decided to dust it off. I’ve been familiar with Mike Resnick‘s work for many years but it was his science fiction that I knew—I had no idea he’d ever written a mystery.

Eli Paxton seems like the typical down-on-his-luck private eye and, in many ways, he is but there’s more to him than that. Whether he wants to or not, Eli cares about his cases; they’re more than just a paycheck. When he first agrees to find out what happened to Baroness von Tannelwald, he almost sees it as having sunk as low as the low can go, a desperate move by a man having a little difficulty making his income stretch to cover his bills and allow the occasional good seat at a Reds game. It can’t be all that hard to find a dog, especially when her handler, Hubert Lantz, is willing to pay a tidy sum for Eli to track her down, right?

But wait, why has everybody who’s been connected to Baroness in the last few days  disappeared—or turned up dead?

Mr. Resnick may not have spent his authorial career writing mysteries but Dog in the Manger shows that he clearly knows how to do it. This book has nasty criminal stuff going on as well as a good deal of sly humor and a true puzzle and Eli is a guy I’d like to hang out with. Luckily, we’ll get to see Eli again when his second book, The Trojan Colt, comes out next June and I must say I’m delighted to know he’s in my future.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2012.