The Madness of Mercury by Connie di Marco

This book is a wonderful cozy mystery involving a San Francisco astrologer. Julia Bonatti is enjoying some small success in her career. A local paper is publishing her astrology based advice column. She has a loyal clientele. But Mercury is in retrograde and life becomes difficult. A cult like religious group accuses her of being a witch. Escalating harassment and violence from the cult result in her taking refuge at the home of a client.

This novel was a perfectly paced, well-executed mystery. The author has carefully placed the clues. She has teased and bemused the reader with red herrings. Any astrology aficionado will enjoy her references to astrology. It is an excellent start to a new series.

 

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A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff

Gunnery Sergent Torin Kerr has left the military, but she is still immersed in the action. The former marine is now a peace keeper for the Justice department of the Confederation. When an outlaw group of Confederation and Primary species captures a team of scientists on a remote, uninhabited planet, Kerr finds herself leading a group of Confederate and Primary soldiers. The former enemies must unite and work together on this mission in an unknown terrain.

After seven books, this series does not flag. Torin Kerr is the tough, pragmatic leader of an interspecies group of former marines and civilians. Huff excels at characterization and world building. Yet it is the fast paced action that keeps the reader absorbed in the story from beginning to end. It is not necessary to read any other books in the two series involving Kerr to enjoy this book. It is military science fiction at its best.

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The Rogue by Meredith Allen Conner

 Pia has been raised by the Order, a villanous group who want to use her elemental power. But despite experiments, abuse and torture, this elemental power has never appeared. Now on the run from the Order, Pia is on her own. She doesn’t dare find her long-lost sisters, who have themselves been hunted by the Order. But the Order isn’t the only predator following her.

This fourth and last book in The Elementals series was one of my favorites in the series. It didn’t have the laugh out humor of the first book, but it had a provocative romance. Full of action, this book brought the series to a satisfying conclusion. Pia is on a path of self discovery.  She has more power than she knows.   But she cannot take on the Order alone. She must learn to trust and rely on other people, including some scary werewolves.

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Made of Stars by Anne Fraiser

I love short stories when they are done well  .  A short story should be a punch to the solar plexus, leaving the reader breathless. Long after the punch, the reader can still feel the short story. My kids all hate me for making them read The Lottery. But Shirley Jackson knew how to throw a mean punch.

But the emotional punch doesn’t have to be about shock and horror. It can be about wonderment. A story can enchant. One of my favorite short stories read in recent years is Made of Stars by Anne Fraiser. This is a vampire romance, which is a departure from her usual writing. I was bedazzled by this mesmerizing story about a vampire in love with a stranger. It is a bargain for 99 cents on Amazon.

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My latest guilty pleasure author

Kylie Scott recommended Defy by L.J. Shen on Facebook. Being a huge fan of Scott (another guilty pleasure author), I immediately bought the book sight unseen. I did not read the blurb. If I had, I might hesitated in buying the book. It is a high school student and teacher romance. Ugh. I hate this trope.  High school student-teacher romances are just wrong.

So I loved Defy. This romance works for two reasons. The high school student doesn’t remotely act like a high school student. He acts like a 30 year old man. The heroine acts much younger than her age of 26 year. Also, the student is definitely pursuing the teacher. These two factors negated my usual ick response to this trope. This book was sexy and fun.

Since Defy, I have read three more books by L.J. Shen, Vicious, Ruckus, and Sparrow. The Sinners of Saint City is my favorite series and the books get better and better. Shen writes about sexy, tortured alpha heroes obsessed with the heroines. Which is one of my favorite tropes.

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Shane by Anna Beguine

Lilith Saintcrow treated her Patreon contributors (https://www.patreon.com) to her upcoming short story, Shane. This short story will be published July 15, 2017 under the pen name, Anna Beguine.  I am very particular about short stories. I find a lot of short stories and novellas lacking. But I loved this twisted werewolf romance. This story featured a female fantasy hero, the perfect man in every way……..except for one little flaw.

Not only should you check out this novella, check out patreon. It is opportunity to support your favorite artists. Saintcrow has been providing a weekly zombie serial, which I am loving.

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Truly Dead by Anne Fraiser

Evocative, dark, and searing, this latest book in the Elise Sandburg series by Anne Fraiser may the best yet. Fraiser creates and brings to life powerful, memorable characters. Even her secondary characters are complex and multifaceted.

In Elise Sandburg, Fraiser has created one of her most amazing characters. If Fraiser has a niche, it is her ability to explore the psyche of a strong woman dealing with catastrophic trauma in her past.

In this novel, , Elise returns to Savannah with her partner, David Gould, in triumph. They had successfully solved a murder in Chicago. There is a demand for the services of their new company. But a friend on the police force contacts them for assistance when a boy’s body is found during the demolition of a building.

As they attempt to find the killer before any one else is harmed, both Elise and David must face their innermost demons as well as the monster killing children. The emotional journeys in this novel are just as engrossing as the murder mystery. When Elise finally reveals her grotesque and disfiguring scars to another person, there is a gut wrenching honesty to the scene. In the meanwhile, her partner, David must decide whether he should move on with his life rather than waiting for Elise to return his feelings.

This is a murder mystery. The mystery is engrossing, frightening, and well plotted. There are red herrings and distractions. Fraiser creates strong visual, action scenes. In fact, it is very easy to see this novel translate into a movie or television show.

This book can be read as a standalone. It isn’t necessary to have read the first three books in the series.   I highly recommend it.

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