Bound, by Donna Jo Napoli

Donna Jo Napoli is a linguistics professor at Swarthmore College and an author of children’s books. She used to have a cat named Taxi, for the sheer joy of calling the cat and watching the neighbors make faces. She takes modern dance and yoga classes for fun, and bakes bread. She has also coauthored a scholarly paper on frogs. I’ve reviewed a couple of her books before — here and here — and while they aren’t always my favorite, I seem to keep coming back for more.

The Cinderella story is a common one throughout many cultures, and Ms. Napoli has chosen to set her variant of the tale in Ming-Dynasty China. Xing Xing’s mother dies when she is very small, and her father remarries, to a woman with a daughter close to Ping’s age. The stepmother (called Stepmother) has decided to bind her daughter (Wei Ping)’s feet, in order that she will be able to attract a man of a much higher social status. And of course, once the father dies, Stepmother treats Xing Xing as if she’s the lowest kind of servant, even so far as to sending her off to try to sell green dates as some sort of false miracle cure to raise money. One day, there is a fair in town, and Xing Xing finds some of her mother’s old clothing (including shoes) to wear into town . . . Continue reading Bound, by Donna Jo Napoli

Cybele’s Secret, by Juliet Marillier

Juliet Marillier is the author of a number of books, one of which was Wildwood Dancing, which I read and reviewed earlier. This novel is a companion (not a direct sequel; it follows a different character) to that one, and continues the story of the Transylvanian sisters. Ms. Marillier is a musician by training and a writer by vocation; she has been a full-time writer since 2002. Her family emigrated from Scotland to New Zealand many years ago, and she lives in a cottage in Perth, Australia.

Paula is Jena’s younger sister, the scholarly, studious one. She has been helping her father with many of his business matters, and dreams of starting her own rare-book collection. When he mentions that he is going to travel to wherever-it-is, Paula immediately clamors to go along — and is allowed. For in the city, there is a woman named Irene who has her own scholarly haven for women, and Paula would like to study there. They get to town, hire a bodyguard for Paula, and she begins her studies — but something is strange about the piece they have come to town to buy, called Cybele’s Gift. Many people are after it, and things are starting to happen — attacks, sudden withdrawals from the bidding, and the involvement of strange individuals including a pirate . . . Continue reading Cybele’s Secret, by Juliet Marillier

The Smoke Thief (The Drakon, book 1), by Shana Abe

I saw this book and the second (review forthcoming) in a bookstore recently on a shelf much too high for me to reach, so I asked my husband to retrieve them for me, thinking, “I’ve seen someone recommend these recently.” Well, it turned out that it was one of the Ja(y)nes at Dear Author who recommended it, so not exactly something Ben would be interested in — but he read them anyway. Shana Abe, for those who are wondering, lives in Colorado, has five rescued house rabbits and a dog, and majored in drama in college.

Kit (Christoff Langford) is the Marquess of Langford and the head of the clan of drakon in England; the drakon are eldritch beings of long life and magical abilities including transformation to smoke or the form of a dragon. They hide in plain sight among the eighteenth-cenuty English ton, and there aren’t very many of them left — especially powerful ones. Clarissa Rue Hawthorne is half-drakon, half-human, and as such doesn’t fit in with the rest of the young women particularly well. When she disappears around her eighteenth birthday, no one searches very hard for her. However, when a thief in London is reported to be able to turn into a mist, Kit listens — and goes to investigate. Continue reading The Smoke Thief (The Drakon, book 1), by Shana Abe

The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, by Mario Acevedo

Mario Acevedo apparently, when he was four years old, told one of his aunts that he wanted a machine gun for Christmas. A stint in the army — where he also flew helicopters — apparently cured him of that, and provided him with fodder and knowledge for a series of books about a vet — these books, as a matter of fact. When not in the army, he has worked as an engineer and an artist, including being a combat artist and working with children. He has apparently been writing since he was young, and has published (so far) four novels in this series, all with . . . interesting . . . titles. A member of the Rocky Mountain Writers Group, he credits joining the group with his success in the publishing world.

Felix Gomez is in the U.S. military, and while he is in Iraq, he comes back with what he tells people is “Operation Iraqi Freedom Syndrome.” Except it’s nothing of the sort; he got vampirism instead. Fortunately, some of the weaknesses of being a vampire can be mitigated by 21st-century technology, such as Dermablend and high-octane sunscreen. Now Gomez is a P.I., and one of his old friends from college has called him up to find out why something very strange has happened at his DOE base (i.e., somewhere where they do nuclear research) — the women appear to have been infected with something that is causing them to be, ahem, hyper-interested in a certain sort of physical activity. Can Gomez figure it out? And why are vampires in the area dying? Continue reading The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, by Mario Acevedo

Lust, Loathing, and a Little Lip Gloss (Sophie Katz, book 4), by Kyra Davis

Kyra Davis is half Jewish (Eastern European) and half African-American; she married early and repented at leisure, getting divorced within a relatively short period of time. Despite a career in the fashion industry, she found herself writing novels as a sort of therapy, given the events of her life. Unlike most people’s therapy journals, though, hers turned out to be worth publishing, and she signed with Red Dress Ink (now subsumed back into MIRA, rather like Luna). This is the fourth novel to feature her amateur detective and mystery novelist, Sophie Katz. Ms. Davis currently lives in Southern California, where she writes full-time.

Sophie Katz (also half Eastern-European Jewish and half African American) is at an open house one day when she runs into her ex-husband, a realtor. He tells her of a dream house, a three-bedroom Victorian being sold for well under market value, and she reluctantly agrees to meet him there. Turns out there’s a catch: When they get there, the owner is found dead of a heart attack. The owner’s son still seems likely to sell, provided that Sophie joins the Spectre Society. Also, the house may or may not be haunted. Add that to some odd characters in the Spectre Society itself, her ex-husband’s jealous new girlfriend, and Sophie’s mother, and Sophie finds herself in another uncomfortable situation . . . Continue reading Lust, Loathing, and a Little Lip Gloss (Sophie Katz, book 4), by Kyra Davis

Star Trek (2009)

Confession time: I am a Trekkie. When I was a kid, Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST:TNG) was still being aired live, and my parents were not only fans, but felt that it was good, clean family entertainment. (Close enough.) I’ve seen enough episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series (ST:TOS) to know what’s going on; I’ve probably seen all of them at one point or another, but it’s been fifteen years on many of them. I don’t, however, have the sentimental attachment to ST:TOS that I do to ST:TNG, and that’s obviously coloring my observations on the movie — which, by the way, was directed by J. J. Abrams of Alias and Lost fame, and starred Zachary Quinto (of Heroes infamy) as Spock, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, and Chris Pine as James T. Kirk. (Also Leonard Nimoy [Spock, also] and Bruce Greenwood [Capt. Pike], with appearances by Winona Ryder [Amanda], John Cho [Sulu], Simon Pegg [Scotty], Anton Yelchin [Chekhov], Karl Urban [McCoy], and Eric Bana [Nero].)

In the beginning, there was a brave young first officer named Kirk — George Kirk, thank you very much — who realized that he was in a no-win situation, and ordered the entire ship evacuated, including his wife who was pretty much in the process of giving birth at the time. Fast forward to twelve years later, and we see the baby — James Tiberius Kirk, after his grandfathers — has already started a life of rebellion and general James Deanishness. Eight or ten years later, after a bar fight, a Starfleet officer named Pike convinces the young Jim Kirk to join the academy. Three years later, while there, Kirk is on the verge of getting thrown out when a situation requires a good deal of the cadets to be used on ships, and via subterfuge, he gets onto the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701). Will they survive this situation? Continue reading Star Trek (2009)

Silver Falls, by Anne Stuart

Anne Stuart (not, coincidentally, the deceased member of the English royalty) is apparently one of the grand masters of romance, having won the lifetime achievement award from RWA. She’s been publishing novels since 1974 (when she was twenty-five) and has worked with every publisher I can think of, and in every subcategory except (as far as I can tell) paranormals. I’m sort of confused as to how this is the first novel of hers that I’ve read, what with her prolific output. Currently she is concentrating on romantic suspense/thrillers and historical romance, published by MIRA. She lives in Vermont and is inordinately fond of Japanese rock music. She also appears to have bellydanced at one point in her life, but then again, so did my grandmother. (No joke!)

Rachel Chapman is a photographer; as a single mom, she traveled around the world with her daughter Sophie for thirteen years, until, during a brief time settled in San Francisco, Sophie’s best friend Tessa was murdered. That event spooked Rachel so much that she decided to get married and settle down so that Sophie would have a safe rest of her childhood. Enter David Middleton, an English professor on sabbatical — charming, mild-mannered, smart, and a little bland, but attentive and, above all, safe — or so Rachel thinks. Some months after they return to his hometown of Silver Falls, Washington, another young woman — or three — are murdered, coincidentally right after David’s black-sheep brother Caleb returns to town. Is it a coincidence? If not, then why is Caleb so devilishly attractive?

Spoilers behind the cut. They’re always possible, but in this case, I’m telling you that there are definitely some there. Continue reading Silver Falls, by Anne Stuart

The Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic, book 1), by Patricia C. Wrede

Patricia C. Wrede is one of my auto-buy authors. Based in Minnesota, she’s probably most well-known either for the Sorcery and Cecelia series of YA epistolary Regency-set fantasy novels co-authored with Caroline V. Stevermer, or for the quartet of YA books starting with Dealing with Dragons. Less well-known are her Lyra novels, set in a fantasy world during various eras and containing such obscure titles as Caught in Crystal, The Harp of Imach Thyssel, and The Raven Ring. She has also written two novels set in roughly the same world as the Sorcery and Cecelia books, Mairelon the Magician and Magician’s Ward, neither of which features any of the main characters from the YA series. Another obscure work of hers is Snow White and Rose Red, a contribution to the Fairy Tales series (like Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin).

The Thirteenth Child is set in an alternate universe, where North America wasn’t settled by Asians via the Bering Strait, and mammoths, dragons, and other various megafauna still roam most of the country. Eff Rothmer is the second-to-last child in her family — the thirteenth, to be precise — and the twin sister of Lan, who is the seventh son of a seventh son. He is considered particularly lucky and possessed of an amazing ability to do magic, and it was suggested to her parents by more than one relative that they should have drowned her at birth. When the twins are still young, the entire family moves out to Mill City, which is just on the edge of the frontier. Mr. Rothmer has gotten a job as a professor at the brand-new college there, and besides, it would be best to move somewhere where no one knows that Eff is the thirteenth child and Lan is a double-seven. Out there, they find all sorts of adventure — on both sides of the Great Barrier that keeps the rest of the country safe from the frightening flora and fauna that characterizes the wilderness. Continue reading The Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic, book 1), by Patricia C. Wrede

Angelic, by Kelley Armstrong

A little over a year ago, I decided to read everything that Kelley Armstrong had published at that point, being that I’d been recommended her works by so many different places so many times, and in general I quite enjoy the genre she writes (urban fantasy, whatever you’d like to call it). So I read all eight available Women of the Otherworld books, and reviewed them. All the titles can be found either in this review, or this one. Ms. Armstrong is a full-time writer and presumably a full-time Canadian; I think I’m behind on this series by one book, and she started a YA series when I wasn’t looking.

This particular volume, a slender 98 pages, will be a Subterranean Press publication in December of this year. It concerns Eve Levine, the star of book five, and the mother of Savannah, a common character in the other volumes. Eve is dead (seriously, that’s not a spoiler) and is currently working part-time for the Fates as an avenging angel. Or something like that. The djinn have been behaving poorly recently — torturing those who have summoned them — and just when Eve is about to get some time off, the Fates decide to make her investigate. Alone. Well, she’s never been one to follow rules, and usually, that gets her into trouble . . . Continue reading Angelic, by Kelley Armstrong

Nights of Blood 2: More Legends of the Vampire, edited by Elyse Salpeter and Bob Nailor

I was sent this book by a member of my former writers’ group (where we talked about anything but writing) who happens to have a story published in the anthology; he and a couple of the other writers, including one of the editors, are all residents of my home region. The book, however, was published by a small press located in Texas called 23 House, and is, as one may plainly see, the second volume of stories about vampires. Mr. Nailor and Ms. Salpeter are experienced editors and writers, and both have been published in other short-story anthologies. They have both been nominated for Eppie Awards, as well.

The stories in this volume include: “The Night Garden,” by Mark Onspaugh; “Debts,” by Amanda Pillar; “Under the Chocolate Tree,” by David E. Hilton; “Floaters,” by Michael S. Bumagin, M.D.; “Burden of Proof,” by Jennifer Graham; “A Rustle of Curtains,” by Henry Leon Lazarus; “Pas de Deux,” by Edward McKeown; “Defender,” by Garry Ward; “Expiration Date Not Required,” by A. D. Nailor; “Lazuli,” by Christine Rains; “1-800-VAMPYRE,” by Bob Nailor; “The Vampire Doll,” by Joette Razanski; “Days and Nights,” by Elyse Salpeter; “Down in the Cellar,” by Joe McKinney; “Barney,” by James R. Cain; “Tales of the Vampire,” by Mitchel Whitington; and “Give Until it Kills,” by Joe Sergi. Continue reading Nights of Blood 2: More Legends of the Vampire, edited by Elyse Salpeter and Bob Nailor