Review: “The Heist” by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Heist: A Novel (Fox and O’Hare)

A review by Vanessa

The FBI is not supposed to let the bad guys go. But sometimes a criminal might just be what you need on your side to get the job done. At least, that is what FBI Agent Kate O’Hare keeps trying to tell herself. For five years she has chased the illusive, brilliant, and boyishly charming con artist Nick Fox across the country. Watching him escape time and again has been the frustration of her career, and her personal life, especially since he has been so bold as to taunt her by visiting her hotel rooms while she is not in them. Now she has finally caught up with him, and fulfilled her promise to herself to arrest him and put him behind bars. If only she wasn’t suddenly so bored after all of the excitement of chasing him for so long. But somehow, after a daring courthouse escape, Nick has pulled off the greatest con of all; he has convinced the FBI to let him stay free and work his con-artist magic to help them catch the bigger badder bad guys. And Kate is first on his list for a partner to work with in nabbing his new marks.
Kate is as tough as they come. Raised by a career marine soldier, and an ex-Navy SEAL herself, she has never liked the idea of seedier undercover work. She likes busting in, smashing down the doors, and arresting the bad guys with her glock in hand. But in truth, chasing down Nick Fox has given her an addiction to the excitement she can’t deny. So when her boss’s boss’s boss, the deputy director of the FBI, gives her a choice to work with the con-man instead of chasing him she says yes. Against all of her better judgements. The bad guys they are going after are far nastier than Nick Fox and Kate is all about bringing in the criminals, no matter what it takes. Nick just wants a chance to stay out of the jail cell, and maybe to have some fun working with the attractive and complex Kate. So when they go after the famously corrupt Derek Griffin both Fox and O’Hare are in for a bit of a surprise as to what they can learn from each other, and what a great team they will make.
As always, I am endlessly amused when I read collaborative work that joins the best traits of humor, action, engaging supporting characters, and attraction from a co-author team. Especially when that team is a male-female duo who are masters at their craft. Evanovich and Goldberg create an action-packed exciting world where the hardcore, military trained, fast food chugging, crack-shot FBI agent is a 5’5” slender brunette, and the charming, likes-to-enjoy-the-finer-things, life-long con-artist criminal actually has heart of gold and sense of loyalty a mile wide. When they throw in the cast of supporting characters, each with a surprising depth even when they only have short moments in the story line, it makes for some seriously entertaining reading. There is no end of excitement, intrigue, and of course when Evanovich is involved, humor. Bringing the two main characters together when they are so at odds with each other and simultaneously fighting their attraction to one another is skillfully executed by the authors collaborative writing. That the two characters can so smoothly transition from enemies to partners in a totally believable way is a mark of their talent in working together. I highly recommend this book and the rest of the series.

5 out of 5 stars

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Review: “The Trouble With Harry” by Katie MacAlister

The Trouble With Harry by Katie MacAlister

A review by Vanessa.

The new home of Harry Haversham, Lord Rosse, is full of secrets. It is only natural seeing as how Harry used to be a spy, working for the Home Office, serving King and country. Now Harry is a family man in search of something even more important: a wife. After the death of his first wife in childbirth, Harry is not looking for some young title-hungry girlish maiden to throw his life into chaos. He needs a good woman to help him rebuild his new home. But Harry will have to keep a few secrets from the new Lady Rosse. To avoid someone marrying him only for his title, he won’t tell her he is a lord until after they are married; and perhaps it would be best not to mention his five children. First Harry must find the perfect woman. Someone of strong character, good humor, of some age, who loves children, and isn’t to unpleasing to the eye… Someone just like Frederica Pelham. But of course, the lady has one whopping large secret of her own. And Harry’s spying days might not be as far behind him as he thought.

Frederica Pelham, Plum to her friends, isn’t quite sure she is doing the right thing when she answers the advertisement in the paper looking for a wife, but she hasn’t much choice. After being ruined by her first husband, whom it turns out couldn’t be her husband since the lying charlatan was already married, she has been cast out of polite society. Trying to care for herself and her orphaned niece has become impossible, and Harry seems like an answer to her prayers. He is handsome, and as it turns out, a lord who doesn’t seem to know anything about her troubled past. It doesn’t feel right not to share the secret but Plum has to do what she can to survive and to be a good mother to her suddenly five stepchildren! Besides, she has an even darker secret that could ruin them all if anyone were ever to find out. Plum wrote a book, but not just any book. She wrote the most popularly banned book that is all the rage with high society known as the Guide to Connubial Calisthenics, and if anyone ever found out the fallout would be more catastrophic than ever. She has to do everything she can to keep Harry from finding out about her past and her secrets, for her sake and the sake of her new family. But how long can secrets really last?

MacAlister’s ability to shape a plot line is always fantastic. It is not just about her ability to develop lovable and interesting characters, but the way she weaves together the experience of discovering her characters with the overarching romantic story is really wonderful. In this novel, she does just that with the intriguing backstory of Harry, and his experience as a spy and his very entertaining five children. Plum, as well, is a strong character whose own backstory is fascinating and makes for a complex twist in the romance set up between the two of them. I really like how MacAlister writes in the historical romance genre, setting up the obvious tropes of the time, while still allowing her lead female character to show uncommon strength, tenacity, and determination. Having read so many of McAlister’s modern paranormal romances, I remember being very eager to see how she fit her classic humor and writing style into the historical romance genre. This one was my first of her historical romances, and she did not disappoint. The romance is passionate, heat-filled, and satisfying, but there is so much more to the story the reader will discover through the mysterious twists and turns. A great read!

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Agnes and the Hitman” by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

Review- “Agnes and the Hitman” by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

A review by Vanessa.

Cranky Agnes is a cooking columnist with an anger problem. She just wants to feed everyone she meets, write her next cookbook, and throw the wedding of the century for her goddaughter. If the men in her life would stop pissing her off, she wouldn’t have an anger problem. There is only one man she trusts, the old mobster Uncle Joey, and it’s him she turns to when a deranged dognapper shows up in her kitchen. But Uncle Joey knows why this sudden string of crazies is showing up at Agnes’s recently purchased (in need of major rehab) beautiful Southern home. So he calls the only man he can trust with Agnes’s safety: his nephew Shane, the government employed hitman.

Shane is too busy with a hit gone wrong to abandon work and rush to protect some little girl his uncle knows; but since it is the first and only time Joey has asked for help in 25 years Shane decides to honor his request. Imagine his surprise when Agnes turns out to be a cranky, comely, take-no-prisoners lady who cooks like a dream and knows how to defend herself: with her best heavy non-stick frying pan of course. Shane can tell something more is up than what Uncle Joey is willing to admit, and he is not going to leave until he can make sure that Agnes makes it through and gets everything she has earned. With an upcoming mob-wedding looming on the horizon, a ticked off rogue hitman on the loose, and the previous homeowner causing all kinds of problems, Agnes and Shane will have to work together to make it through.

As a follow up to my last review, I decided to review the follow-up collaborative novel by the Crusie/Mayer team; and as expected they did not disappoint. The excellent combination of situational humor, action, and searing romance wins again. Cranky Agnes is a totally lovable lady with a relatable dark anger simmering under the surface that makes her both multidimensional and captivating to read. She is both caring and unforgiving, with an attitude that brooks no argument but somehow still manages to inspire loyalty and support from the good people who care for her. Shane is a sturdy, reliably dependable contrast to Agnes. He is a steady, straightforward, problem fixer, which is a contrast in itself considering that Shane is a hitman.

It’s interesting to consider that he ended up in a violent lifestyle, even though his mobster uncle Joey sent him to military school to keep him away from the violent life of a killer. As per usual, the two leads are accompanied by a fascinating and varied supporting cast of characters. The old world Southern mafia is an amazing setting for the backstory, juxtaposed with Agnes’s modern world of cooking. The two blend well and make for a driving story arc that will keep the reader turning pages. The love interest between Agnes and Shane is incendiary, exploding at just the right moment and in the best way possible. Love it!

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Killman Creek” (Stillhouse Lake #2) by Rachel Caine

Killman Creek (Stillhouse Lake #2) by Rachel Caine

A review by Amanda.

I received a copy of this ebook from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This review may contain spoilers for book one in the series, Stillhouse Lake.

Gwen Proctor, formerly Gina Royal, is on the run with her kids yet again. Her ex-husband, convicted serial killer Melvin Royal, has escaped from prison. He has help from Absalom, Gwen’s ally-turned-betrayer. Gwen has help this time as well, from someone she knows she can trust. Sam Cade, whose sister was Melvin’s final victim, is running with Gwen and the kids (fifteen-year-old Lanny and eleven-year-old Connor). Their partnership is beginning to blossom into something more, but at a glacially slow pace. Absalom continues to help Melvin track Gwen, calling to threaten and taunt her regularly, despite their vigilance with disposing of phones and staying off the grid. Eventually, Gwen decides that they need to go on the offensive and hunt Melvin before he finds them. She and Sam send the kids to stay with trustworthy friends, and the hunt is on.

Killman Creek is a creepy, thrilling page-turner that may need to be consumed in one sitting, if only to stave off nightmares. Told from various perspectives, readers get most of the story while certain characters are left in the dark. Even with that extra knowledge, the author manages to pull off surprising plot twists left and right. Gwen and Sam’s journey takes unexpected turns, including new information about Absalom and new doubts about Gwen/Gina’s innocence. Readers also get a peek into Lanny and Connor’s thoughts, which provides plenty of emotional depth.

This book will be released on December 12, 2017. I look forward to the rest of the series, especially if it keeps the intense pace of books one and two.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Don’t Look Down” by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

Don’t Look Down by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

A review by Vanessa.

This book is from my personal collection, one I have re-read often. There was no author request for a review, but sometimes it’s nice to go back to read the ones we love so much.

Lucy Armstrong is a successful advertising director. She loves her job, and she’s really good at it, in spite of everyone else mocking her career in dog food commercials. So why is it she finds herself being pulled in to direct the last four days of what is supposed to be a legitimate movie set, but feels more like a practical joke? Probably because her sister is working on the crew with her niece in tow, and something is just not quite right. Not the way her ex-husband is paying her a ridiculous amount of money to finish the move without even seeing the entire script. Not the way crew members have been disappearing, quitting, or dying unexpectedly. Not the way the lead action star suddenly shows up with a real Green Beret to be his new consultant and stunt double at the last minute. And certainly not the way that Green Beret, J.T. Wilder, can capture Lucy’s attention simply by standing still. Something is up with this “movie set” and with J.T.’s help she just might figure it out in time to help her sister and her niece before things get out of hand.

J.T. was just looking to make some quick money while on leave by being stunt double for a bumbling movie star. The beautiful actresses were going to be a big bonus for the short time he planned to be involved. He certainly wasn’t expecting the director to catch his attention. The lead actress is a gorgeous snack, but Lucy is the whole meal; tall, beautiful, strong, determined, an Amazon worth a second, and third, look. He wasn’t planning on getting that involved, or caring for her and her zany band of crew members like her steadfastly loyal assistant director, or her Wonder Woman-obsessed little niece; but J.T. just can’t help himself.  Especially since his instincts tell him that Lucy has somehow ended up in the middle of something not good, and his heart definitely does not want anything bad happening to her.

What I have always loved the most about this book is that it is so well written by it’s co-authors. The writing is smart, snappy, witty, sharp and heartfelt all at the same time. The main characters are lovable, admirable, and believable while still achieving a very no bullshit kind of attitude. The storyline itself is quick and action packed as well as filled with heat and romance and just plain good writing. I have to attribute this to the individual strengths of the two writers. I have always loved Jennifer Crusie’s ability to write admirably strong women, and blazingly hot men into an entrancing but very grounded romance story. I’ve never read any of Bob Mayer’s individually written novels but his influence in the action and the writing of the male leading character is very obvious, and it adds an element of reality to the perspectives of the two main characters. The love scenes are very obviously Crusie-esque, but many of the scenes written from J.T.’s perspective have a distinctly male voice which is so interesting to read when juxtaposed against the female perspective interspersed with them. I always love when two authors from differing genres can bring the best of their writing style and experience into one book. And this book really has it all.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “The Brightest Fell (October Daye #11)” by Seanan McGuire

BOOK TOUR Review:

A review by Amanda.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This review may contain spoilers from previous books in the series.

October’s night started with happiness and fun. Her Fetch sister May insisted on throwing a bachelorette party to celebrate Toby’s upcoming wedding to Tybalt, King of Cats. Many of Toby’s friends, including some unexpected guests, have come to drink, celebrate, and sing karaoke in her honor. It isn’t long after they arrive back home in the wee hours of the morning that things take a turn for the worse. Toby’s reclusive mother, known to other fae as Amandine the Liar, shows up on her doorstep with insults and a request; she wants to hire Toby to find her older daughter, August, who has been missing for more than 100 years. In a horrific act of magic, Amandine ensures Toby’s cooperation by capturing Tybalt and Jazz, May’s Raven-maid girlfriend, trapping them in their animal forms and taking them away with her. Now October has no choice but to do as her mother commands. To make matters more complicated, she must enlist the help of someone who knew August well; she must wake Simon Torquill, the man who turned her into a fish and left her that way for fourteen years, and trust that his love for his daughter is stronger than his hatred of Toby. Their search will lead them in unexpected directions and may bring them more questions than answers.

The Brightest Fell is the eleventh book in the October Daye series and it is the strongest yet, both in plot and in character development. Emotionally, Toby and friends are put through the ringer. The writing is beautifully done and captures the emotions so clearly that readers can’t help but empathize. The plot takes several strides forward in this book, heading determinedly towards the presumed end goal. A few long-standing questions are finally answered, but more arise to keep the reader guessing. There is also a strong sense of adventure throughout Toby’s quest to find August, with several exciting and harrowing moments. Overall, this is another fantastic book in the October Daye series, and each book seems to be better than the last. If that trend continues, I cannot wait to see where the next one leads!

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Brightest Fell Blog Tour banner

THE BRIGHTEST FELL

October Daye #11

Seanan McGuire

IBSN:9780756413316 | DAW Hardcover| $26.00


Contains an original bonus novella, Of Things Unknown!

Things are slow, and October “Toby” Daye couldn’t be happier about that.  The elf-shot cure has been approved, Arden Windermere is settling into her position as Queen in the Mists, and Toby doesn’t have anything demanding her attention except for wedding planning and spending time with her family.

Maybe she should have realized that it was too good to last.
                
When Toby’s mother, Amandine, appears on her doorstep with a demand for help, refusing her seems like the right thing to do…until Amandine starts taking hostages, and everything changes.  Now Toby doesn’t have a choice about whether or not she does as her mother asks.  Not with Jazz and Tybalt’s lives hanging in the balance.  But who could possibly help her find a pureblood she’s never met, one who’s been missing for over a hundred years?
                
Enter Simon Torquill, elf-shot enemy turned awakened, uneasy ally.  Together, the two of them must try to solve one of the greatest mysteries in the Mists: what happened to Amandine’s oldest daughter, August, who disappeared in 1906.
                
This is one missing person case Toby can’t afford to get wrong.

Seanan McGuire lives and works in Washington State, where she shares her somewhat idiosyncratic home with her collection of books, creepy dolls, and enormous blue cats.  When not writing–which is fairly rare–she enjoys travel, and can regularly be found any place where there are cornfields, haunted houses, or frogs.  A Campbell, Hugo, and Nebula Award-winning author, Seanan’s first book (Rosemary and Rue, the beginning of the October Daye series) was released in 2009, with more than twenty books across various series following since.  Seanan doesn’t sleep much.  

You can visit her at seananmcguire.com.

BLOG TOUR EXCERPT:

October 9th, 2013

Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell. — William Shakespeare, Macbeth.

THE FETCH IS ONE of the most feared and least understood figures in Faerie. Their appearance heralds the approach of inescapable death: once the Fetch shows up, there’s nothing that can be done. The mechanism that summons them has never been found, and they’ve always been rare, with only five conclusively identified in the last century. They appear for the supposedly significant—kings and queens, heroes and villains—and they wear the faces of the people they have come to escort into whatever awaits the fae beyond the borders of death. They are temporary, transitory, and terrifying.

My Fetch, who voluntarily goes by “May Daye,” because nothing says “I am a serious and terrible death omen” like having a pun for a name, showed up more than three years ago. She was supposed to foretell my impending doom. Instead, all she managed to foretell was me getting a new roommate. Life can be funny that way.

At the moment, doom might have been a nice change. May was standing on the stage of The Mint, San Francisco’s finest karaoke bar, enthusiastically bellowing her way through an off- key rendition of Melissa Etheridge’s “Come to My Window.” Her live-in girlfriend, Jazz, was sitting at one of the tables closest to the stage, chin propped in her hands, gazing at May with love and adoration all out of proportion to the quality of my Fetch’s singing.

May has the face I wore when she appeared. We don’t look much alike anymore, but when she first showed up at my apartment door to tell me I was going to die, we were identical. She has my memories up to the point of her creation: years upon years of parental issues, crushing insecurity, abandonment, and criminal activities. And right now, none of that mattered half as much as the fact that she also had my absolute inability to carry a tune.

“Why are we having my bachelorette party at a karaoke bar again?” I asked, speaking around the mouth of the beer bottle I was trying to keep constantly against my lips. If I was drinking, I wasn’t singing. If I wasn’t singing, all these people might still be my friends in the morning.

Of course, with as much as most of them had already had to drink, they probably wouldn’t notice if I did sing. Or if I decided to sneak out of the bar, go home, change into my sweatpants, and watch old movies on the couch until I passed out. Which would have been my preference for how my bachelorette party was going to go, if I absolutely had to have one. I didn’t think they were required. May had disagreed with me. Vehemently. And okay, that had sort of been expected.

What I hadn’t expected was for most of my traitorous, backstabbing friends to take her side. Stacy—one of my closest friends since childhood—had actually laughed in my face when I demanded to know why she was doing this to me.

“Being your friend is like trying to get up close and personal with a natural disaster,” she’d said. “Sure, we have some good times, but we spend half of them covered in blood. We just want to spend an evening making you as uncomfortable as you keep making the rest of us.”

Not to be outdone, her eldest daughter, Cassandra, had blithely added, “Besides, we don’t think even you can turn a karaoke party into a bloodbath.”

All of my friends are evil.

As my Fetch and hence the closest thing I had to a sister, May had declared herself to be in charge of the whole affair. That was how we’d wound up reserving most of the tables at The Mint for an all-night celebration of the fact that I was getting married. Even though we didn’t have a date, a plan, or a seating chart, we were having a bachelorette party. Lucky, lucky me.

My name is October Daye. I am a changeling; I am a knight; I am a hero of the realm; and if I never have to hear Stacy sing Journey songs again, it will be too soon.

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Review: “All About The D” by Lex Martin and Leslie McAdam

Review: “All About The D” by Lex Martin and Leslie McAdam

A review by Vanessa.

Mature content warning: This is an adult contemporary romance that contains explicit sexual content.

Evelyn Mills wants to make partner at her law firm. But to do that she needs to start bringing in some big business to impress the other partners. So when she gets a call from a smart and sexy-sounding businessman with a very unique problem she wonders if maybe she finally has the opportunity she’s been looking for. Except selling him as a client to the other partners might be difficult because he isn’t just a businessman. He happens to run a very successful blog which features artistic and captivating photos of his… well… let’s just say that specific body part isn’t what Evie was thinking when she was looking for a “big” client. Big he is, however, and gorgeous, and he also happens to be Josh Cartwright; youngest son of the most prominent family in Portland. But keeping his identity a secret is part of the job, and if he is a client she can look but not touch.

Josh just wants a trustworthy attorney to help him negotiate a contract with an adult toy company, and protect the secret of his successful blog. He certainly isn’t expecting to get the curvaceous, smart, and loyal Evie, and he doesn’t expect his instant attraction to her. As his attorney, he must keep his hands off no matter how funny and vivacious she is, or how she is everything he never knew he always wanted. But his brother has a political campaign and his mother is the matchmaker from hell so he can’t afford to be bad. His blog would get him into enough trouble if anyone found out. But even if she does inspire him to get it up for the photos he takes for his blog, he has to resist. If he can.

This book is the perfect mix of evocative, funny, genuine, and naughty that makes for an all-around excellent read. The authors’ joint efforts here definitely pay off, and the result is a seamlessly written contemporary romance that is all the best aspects of truly entertaining, and heartfelt. The chapters are written from alternating perspectives of the two main characters, which makes for dynamic shifts in the storyline and a very engaging pace to the story. The characters are utterly lovable and totally real, if at times just a little bit predictable. But even given the easy to anticipate conflicts, the writing is just too good. The supporting characters are fleshed out and interesting and add great color to the story. And truly, there are scenes in the book that are just downright funny. It was a great read, and I would recommend it to any mature adult romance fans.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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