Daughter of Baal by Gill McKnight

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Another one from The Law Game series, and another excellent one. If you’ve never heard of Gill McKnight (and why haven’t you?) I highly recommend her book The Tea Machine, because it may just be one of my favorites.

Daughter of Baal is another novella and it’s a good one. It’s set in the 1920s in England. The two protagonists are as different as they could be, but they agree that all the deaths at Clamp House must stop and the killer or killers be brought to justice. How the lady and her chauffeur will go about that, I will not tell.

What I will tell you is that the novella is beautifully written and the characters are charming. The case happens to be quite surprising, and that is an important part of a good mystery. You have it all here. As with Archer Securities, it’s only a little sad that it’s not longer.

If you like a short read, an entertaining read, something to pass the time pleasantly, this is for you. You might also wanna check out the other books in the series as they’ve all been written by very good writers. Now, go get and I’ll be here reading and telling you what to read next.

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Archer Securities by Jove Belle

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As you can see, this is part of a series of books from Ylva Publishing called The Law Game. Crime books. I know what you’re thinking: but you’re always saying you don’t like crime books. Well, I don’t and yet I do. Just like with crime shows, some are too predictable. But there are also really good ones, brilliant even.  And some are not even that much of crime books, if all is said and done.

And maybe, I’d like to put Archer Securities into that latter category. After all, there is no murder to solve, no gory description of dismembered bodies, no psychological profiling of a psychopath. It’s about something else:

Laila Hollister is a private investigator whose uncle Samar has asked for her help. The books of his company, Archer Securities, show discrepancies and he wants her to find out who’s stealing from him. Easier said than done, as Laila finds out, because cyber-Robin Hood Trinity Washington re-distributes Archer’s resources so cleverly that she doesn’t leave a trail. And Laila isn’t quite sure who’s the cat and who’s the mouse in this investigation.

It’s a lovely novella. Jove Belle is slowly becoming a favorite for mine. She’s practically sucking you into her worlds, leaving you wanting more. Especially since this is a novella and you really want to read like a whole encyclopedia about Laila and Trinity. They’re wonderful characters, flawed, but so very good.

Belle understands the intricacies of family relations, her characters are never shallow, never one-dimensional. The story she tells is straight forward but never simple or boring. The characters and the plot will keep you chained to your ebook readers and kindles.

This is really a fantastic read and I think you should all go and get it. Only thinking of you here, because it’s really that good. You can thank me later.

The Old Deep and Dark by Ellen Hart

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This is the 22nd Jane Lawless Mystery. And it’s the first I’ve read. You might wonder why, and having read it, I wonder the very same thing: Why am I only discovering this series now? Whatever the reason, one thing is clear – The Old Deep and Dark won’t remain my only venture into this series.

Here’s what happens:

Jane’s friend Cordelia bought an old theater. Not only is the place historically relevant and haunted, Jane and Cordelia discover a body in the cellar, which once upon a time was a speakeasy. And that’s only the first body recovered, because country singer and friend to Cordelia Jordan Deere is found dead on a jogging path.

Investigating this murder with her father, lawyer Raymond Lawless, Jane discovers the truth of an old saying: Everybody lies. And the Deere family turns it into a kind of art and everyone becomes a possible suspect who may not only have murdered Jordan Deere, but also the bodies that keep piling up in Cordelia’s theater.

I’m not going to reveal the murderer, don’t worry. But I’m also not saying that they’re difficult to discover, though Hart sure keeps one guessing. That’s one of the appeals, of course, but it may not be the greatest, because Hart’s writing is wonderful, her characters delightful, and the hints toward solving the crime subtle.

Subtlety isn’t the characters’ best feature, though, and it’s probably luck that the real killer is finally revealed. While Jane is hard-working and committed enough, she’s also distracted by personal problems. Fortunately for her, she has able assistance in finding this serial killer.

Hart’s ensemble of characters is solid and one can read this book – and I would guess every book in this series – as a stand alone. But then, how can one not want to know their complete story? Hints are given throughout that it’s an exciting one and I, for one, won’t likely miss out on more of these entertaining volumes. I’m looking forward to discovering Jane Lawless and her friends, one book at a time.

Legend by Marie Lu

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This book… feels sexy. It does. It’s got a roughened cover and just feels nice. Yeah, I know book cover fetish, but seriously, if you find it somewhere (the Speak edition from 2013): feel it.

And it doesn’t just have a sexy outside, the inside has its own magic you might want to discover. Here’s what’ what:

The North American states (that’s the Republic and the Colonies) are at war. Before this background, June Iparis wants to avenge her brother’s death. Only suspect is Day, a much sought-after criminal, who’s never killed before. But before June even knows that she’s found him, she spent some time with him undercover and (of course) falls for him. Turns out, he did not kill her brother, but others did. And they have more than that one secret to protect.

There’s much more to this story, naturally. This is a different North America from what we know, but it’s not Suzanne Collins united version, either. The Republic is a sinister place where the lines between rich and poor are quite severe. Much like in The Hunger Games and Divergent, there is a Trial children have to go through – this one is to rid the gene pool of its bad apples.

Day is such an apple. Even though he had a perfect score in The Trial, he was told he failed and was given over to experimentations (while the public thinks, children who failed The Trial were send to labor camps). But he survived and he wants revenge on a corrupt system. June is a prodigy of the system. She also had a perfect score, but because she was born to rich parents, she started training for the military, following in her brother Metias’ footsteps. But her family has a secret of their own, and as she finds out about it, her loyalties are tested until they break away.

I already compared this to The Hunger Games and Divergent, and it’s not far fetched. And yet, Legend is also different. Lu decided to break the book into two distinct voices, June and Day’s. Both are equally important, both are the main characters, and also I-narrators. I think she solved the problem I had with Divergent (or rather its sequel Insurgent) cleverly – giving Day his own voice, keeps this book from being about Day in June’s voice, while June is free to explore her own story.

Yes, there’s quite a bit of romance between the two characters, and I must confess, those pages bored me a little. But the story is so well written, so well thought through, that they were the only moments I did not entirely enjoy. It also made apparently clear to me how much I yearn for a story like Legend, or The Hunger Games with a queer protagonist (or two queer protagonists).

Legend is a really good book and it’s part of a series, followed by Prodigy and Champion, which I will probably read soon and will probably tell you about. I honestly hope Legend will get made into movies, and I also hope that these movies will not white-wash Day who is half-Mongolian. In fact, Legend lends itself perfectly as a series that could bring more Characters of Color to a ‘whitened’ genre.

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

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This is the first part of The Lives of the Mayfair Witches series which includes three books so far. Here’s what The Witching Hour is about:

Rowan Mayfair is a successful doctor in California, but unbeknownst to her she is the heiress of a legacy of an old New Orleans family. Despite rigorous attempts of a few family members to prevent her from coming to New Orleans, the death of her birth mother does exactly this. Together with Michael Curry, her lover and someone sharing a supernatural power since their first meeting, she discovers what this legacy entails: riches and jewels, yes, but also a ghost-like apparition whose aim and desire it is to become flesh and blood. And Rowan is supposed to fulfill that desire.

The book is over a thousand pages strong, so this short blurb only scratches the surface. There is a whole history contained in the book, but though it is supposed to be about the Mayfair witches, it’s more about their live-in spirit, Lasher.

I was actually looking forward to reading a book about witches, but already the beginning taught me that Anne Rice won’t just tell a plain story about a family of witches, about women (excuse me, if I think of women hearing the word ‘witches’, of course there are male witches, too). I’ve read some of her Vampire Chronicles books, and The Wolf Gift and they all struck me as very male-centric. I presumed that a story about witches (and Anne Rice seems to think mostly of female witches, too) would actually be about women. I was wrong, though.

While the story is interesting, enticing, gripping even, the story is not really about the Mayfair witches. It is more about the men watching these women. There’s a secret society in the book calling themselves the Talamasca, who have compiled the history of the Mayfair witches. Petyr van Abel tells a great part of that history. Then there’s Michael whose story starts in New Orleans where he is already pulled into the Mayfair history by seeing ‘The Man.’ Aaron Lightner is protagonist as well as compiler of the history. There’s Julien Mayfair, himself a powerful witch and pretty much the center of the tale about the Mayfairs, as well as his son Cortland.

The Witching Hour is another good example for the tale of women told through male eyes. Anne Rice is such a superb story teller, but I’m wondering if she is actually able to grab the female voice, to tell a story from the female perspective. This astonishes me, honestly. You may wonder why it is important, but if you read any of my other reviews you know I’m a feminist and kind of focus on stories about women, often by women.

It’s certainly not a great tragedy, or a fault that makes Rice’s writing unreadable. As I said, I enjoyed the tale. But even her one female protagonist – every other female’s story was told by a male – has a strong masculinity about her. And Rice makes it part of her personality, actually. She’s aware of it, she uses it, also in the character of Carlotta Mayfair, or Aunt Carl.

This is an intersting observation and maybe I will one day write a paper about it, but let’s come back to the book.

It’s a good story. The history is told from the Talamasca point of view and you never know if the narrators are trustworthy. You don’t get to know the witches’ story first hand, so that you can never see through their reasonings. You don’t get to know who Lasher is, where he comes from until the end of the book. But you know he’s a man (gendering a spirit and making him sexually potent and all-consuming, really?).

Rice ends the book on a kind of cliff-hanger, but I’m reluctant to pick up the follow-up Lasher. For all the reasons I already disclosed. As for wanting to read a story about witches and wanting to know what they do, how they do magic? Maybe pick up Harry Potter again, because The Witching Hour is more a history of a family where psychic powers are rather common. But if you’re a Rice fan, go pick it up, it’s a good read.

A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

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Since I started reading Stephen King when I was only ten, I never really read young adult novels when I was a young adult. I’m pretty sure there weren’t as many around as there are now, I’m also doubtful that they were as good as some of them are today.

To these good ones belongs A Spy in the House, the first part of Lee’s The Agency series.

Mary Lang is kidnapped from her way to The Gallows, where London rids itself of its criminals by hanging. When she awakes, she finds herself in a school where she receives a formal education in the years to come. Same school is also a cover for The Agency, a covert operation helping the police and other interested parties to gain information. Like their students, all their agents are women.

Mary’s (now using the last name Quinn) first assignment for The Agency places her as a female companion in the house of the Thorolds. Mr. Thorold is suspicious in several crimes under the cover of his trading company. Mary tries to gather information, but gets involved in far more than just Thorold’s shady businesses.

If the summary sounds a little muddled, that’s my fault, because nothing in Lee’s novel is muddled. She did her research, she wrote an excellent, exciting tale. I couldn’t get away from this book, because I wanted to know what happened next, and next, and next.

Y.S. Lee spins an intriguing tale around her protagonist. Mary Quinn is a modern heroine trapped in times which treated women as anything but heroines. Victorian England is not for the faint at heart, and Mary surely isn’t. She has moments of doubt, moments of emotional turmoil, but she fights to be someone better than her lot in life has dealt her.

Mary’s story and the whodunit tale of the novel are woven into each other. We get to know Mary better as she unravels the mystery surrounding the Thorold family. And she finds herself a male adversary in James Easton. While their war of wits is charming and engaging, Easton is never put before Mary. She is the heroine, it is her story.

This is a book you will like, no matter if you’re 17, 37 or 67. While the main protagonists are in their late teens, they’re mature and interesting, the story is exciting and mysterious, the setting believably narrated. This is a truly wonderful tale. I bet you’ll like it too.

The Red Files by Lee Winter

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So, last Saturday over at Facebook (yes, Facebook – hate it or love it, most of us have an account), Ylva Publishing offered the opportunity to chat with three of their writers – Jae, Lee Winter, and Jove Belle (and as I hear, this is planned as a monthly event – not with the same authors, of course). Oh, the fun we had. And besides being able to ask these writers questions, there were also ebooks to win. And I won myself a copy of Lee Winter’s debut novel The Red Files.

I had actually ogled this one for awhile, but haven’t come around to it yet, so, this was a treat in itself – winning something. And then I started reading it and, let me tell you, I lost sleep over it. It was so good.

What is it about?

Lauren King is a young hopeful journalist, but her superiors don’t seem to think she can do anything but write about celebrity parties. It being L.A., one might think that Lauren would be excited about it, but she wants to be a political writer, not some celebrity stalker-type.

Catherine Ayers has been where Lauren wants so desperately to be. She was at the top, but fell deep when Washington decided she got a little too nosy for their tastes. Now she has a similar job to Lauren, with 15 years more experience.

These two have a war of wits going on whenever they meet. But when Lauren discovers some shady dealings at a business launch party, Ayers offers her experience and contacts to help Lauren uncover the story of a lifetime. And what a story it is! And what a chase it is! And what a killer body Catherine has! Oh wait, does that mean, these two women could actually find each other attractive?

Read the book and find out. You seriously won’t regret it. Winter writes a witty, suspenseful tale about two women who risk everything for a story. She might just have given us a modern His Girl Friday, and this comparison should tell you just how much I love this book.

Reading it, you will delve into a well-written, delightful, exciting story with two remarkable protagonists and great supporting characters. You’ll just love it, trust me.