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review 2017-12-11 22:36
Deadly Sting / Jennifer Estep
Deadly Sting - Jennifer Estep

Most people shy away from blood, but for an assassin like me— Gin Blanco, aka the Spider—it’s just part of the job. Still, it would be nice to get a night off, especially when I’m attending the biggest gala event of the summer at Briartop, Ashland’s fanciest art museum. But it’s just not meant to be. For this exhibition of my late nemesis’s priceless possessions is not only the place to be seen, but the place to be robbed and taken hostage at gunpoint as well. No sooner did I get my champagne than a bunch of the unluckiest thieves ever burst into the museum and started looting the place.

Unlucky why? Because I brought along a couple of knives in addition to my killer dress. Add these to my Ice and Stone magic, and nothing makes me happier than showing the bad guys why red really is my color.

 

I couldn’t resist another installment of Elemental Assassin—I need a regular supply of urban fantasy if I’m to be happy these days!

Estep continues to provide action-filled plots, consistent with the world of Ashland that she has created for our reading pleasure. Nevertheless, it’s the action between Gin and Owen that rivets the attention in book 8, as we wonder if these two star-crossed lovers will find their way back together again.

This time around, we see Gin doing the patient Griselda routine, while Owen tries to sort himself out. She’s not happy about it, particularly as it seems that Owen and his sister Eva seem to continually need her assistance to get out or stay out of the clutches of Ashland’s underworld. Owen is willing to accept the assistance, but not necessarily Gin.

Gin actually gets some self-reflection time in this book—time to realize that she does make very pragmatic, unromantic decisions mostly and that this may be hard for those closest to her to live with. But she certainly proves that she is a strong, independent woman—Owen may be “needing some space,” but she continues to run her restaurant, take courses, spend time with her friends, and defend herself from all the opportunistic villains who want to take her down!

With her sister Bria and her pals, Jo-Jo and Sophia Deveraux and Roslyn Phillips, we are definitely getting into Bechdel test territory. Certainly they do discuss the men in their lives, but plenty more besides that. That’s what I like to see—a woman realistically surrounded by supportive women friends who are there to listen, support, and help when they can! More of this, please, Ms. Estep.

P.S. All the Southern cooking got to me--I ended up making Cornmeal Cheese muffins half way through the book so that I could concentrate on reading again!

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review 2017-12-11 22:33
Magic's Promise / Mercedes Lackey
Magic's Promise - Mercedes Lackey

The wild magic is taking its toll on the land, and even Vanyel, the most powerful Herald-Mage to ever walk the world, is almost at the end of his strength. But when his Companion, Yfandes, receives a call for help from neighboring Lineas, both Herald-Mage and Companion are drawn into a holocaust of dark magic that could be the end of them both.

 

How wonderful to have a more mature and thoughtful Vanyel to narrate the second volume of this series. Not there is no angst, but it is dealt with in a much more adult way.

A depleted & exhausted Vanyel returns from the battle front, only to discover that his family insist on his presence at home—not the most restful place for the young man. His father is having difficulty accepting Vanyel’s sexual orientation and his mother frankly refuses to believe him, proceeding to push any and every attractive young woman at him. If that wasn’t enough, he has to deal with his former master-at-arms and the local priest, both of whom made his younger life miserable.

However, Vanyel is now a hero, his exploits sung about by the bards, and he & his companion, Yfandes, are called to rescue another young man & Companion during their visit. Demonstrating his magic, skill, bravery, and good judgement, Vanyel is able to start the healing journey for his family relationships.

Book number 268 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

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review 2017-12-11 22:32
Widow's Web / Jennifer Estep
Widow's Web - Jennifer Estep

Once an assassin, always an assassin. So much for being plain old Gin Blanco. With every lowlife in Ashland gunning for me, I don’t need another problem, but a new one has come to town.

Salina might seem like a sweet Southern belle, but she’s really a dangerous enemy whose water elemental magic can go head-to-head with my own Ice and Stone power. Salina also has an intimate history with my lover, Owen Grayson, and now that she’s back in town, she thinks he’s hers for the taking.

Salina’s playing a mysterious game that involves a shady local casino owner with a surprising connection to Owen. But they call me the Spider for a reason. I’m going to untangle her deadly scheme, even if it leaves my love affair hanging by a thread.

 

It really struck me as I was reading this volume of the Elemental Assassin series (number 7, if you’re counting) that Jennifer Estep is really working her way through all the relationship issues that a woman can have. The first couple of books revolve around being fixated on the wrong person—the one you’ve got chemistry with, but not necessarily shared values. The relationship that’s doomed from the start, but you’re still inexplicably drawn to (that would be detective Donovan Caine).

Then Gin meets Owen Grayson, someone she’s got things in common with—this is the stage where she’s found someone who could be compatible, but she’s not sure he’ll accept all of her, even the ruthless parts. They do the “do we really trust each other” dance for a couple of books, before seeming to settle into a pretty solid relationship.

The last book tested Gin’s commitment—bringing Donovan back into her life, seemingly anxious to reconcile. She passes on Mr. Caine, realizing that they still have polar opposite values and that it couldn’t possibly work. This book, its Owen’s turn, as his former fianceé Salina returns to Ashland, determined to get him back.

Things that I have complained about in earlier books—repetition, mostly—isn’t present in this installment. Estep seems to have either matured as a writer or found a much more stringent editor who doesn’t put up with it. As a result, the books are much more entertaining and my irritation quotient is dramatically reduced.

A nice little urban fantasy hit to keep my addiction alive!

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review 2017-12-11 18:38
Review: "Maelstrom" (Whyborne & Griffin, #7) by Jordan L. Hawk
Maelstrom - Jordan L. Hawk

 

~ 5 STARS ~

 

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review 2017-12-09 20:20
Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries
Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries - Various Authors,Martin Edwards

Like any collection of short stories, this one is a mixed bag. Martin Edwards is, of course, an expert in the stories and authors selected here, but as with his other selections, and indeed any other selection, his tastes and favourites are somewhat different to mine.

 

And, let's not forget that some authors are better at writing short stories than others. The authors selected for this collection seem to represent some of the big names of mystery writing, but not necessarily the ones who were good at shorts.

 

 

The Blue Carbuncle (Arthur Conan Doyle) - 5*

One of my all-time favourites.

 

Parlour Tricks (Ralph Plummer) - 3*

Quick and fun but not difficult to solve.

 

A Happy Solution (Raymond Allen) - 2.5*

Convoluted.

 

The Flying Stars (G.K. Chesterton) - 3.5*

Ah, Father Brown, you observer of human frailty. Far superior to old biddy Marple but quite quaint ... unless you happen to catch the BBC tv series or the 1960s German adaptation.

 

Stuffing (Edgar Wallace) - 4*

Typical Wallace humour, I'd say.

 

The Unknown Murderer (H.C. Bailey) - 3.5*

Dark and unsettlingly evil.

 

The Absconding Treasurer (J. Jefferson Farjeon) - 2*

This one just felt like a rushed listing of plot points and character names. 

 

The Necklace of Pearls (Dorothy L. Sayers) - 4*

A fun Christmas country house jewel theft story.

 

The Case if Altered (Margery Allingham) - 3.5*

A fun Christmas country house espionage story.

 

Waxworks (Ethel Lina White) - 4.5*

Waxworks turned out to be brilliant, tho probably better at home in a horror collection.

 

Cambric Tea (Marjorie Bowen) - 2.5*

Meh. Great concept but too drawn out. I guess, the length meant to give time for the suspicions to develop and linger, but it didn't quite work for me. Also, I had predicted the ending rather early on.

 

The Chinese Apple (Joseph Shearing) - 2*

This one just did not grab me at all. In fact, I had to read several paragraphs two or three times, and still managed to fall asleep.

 

A Problem in White (Nicholas Blake) - 2.5*

I should have enjoyed this one more than I did - we had a number of clues to solve the puzzle and I loved the setting: starting on a train and with a background story of a great train robbery. (And I actually had to imagine P.D. with the voice of Sean Connery - until he said he was "English on the outside, Scotch on the inside"...).

However, this one struck me as one where the author wanted to let us know how incredibly clever he is, and that dampened my enjoyment.  

 

The Name on the Window (Edmund Crispin) - 3*

This was an interesting one, but then I do love a locked room mystery.

 

Beef for Christmas (Leo Bruce) - 3*

Much like The Name on the Window, this one was fun, even tho it bears a remarkable resemblance to a certain story featuring a certain Belgian gent.  

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