Friday, February 24, 2017

"Lt. Girl, Report to the Bridge. We're out of Coffee." The Sometimes Strange world of Female Characters in Science Fiction. (Plus a free ebook for you!)

Blogging today at Paranormal Romantics on women in science fiction. Here's the link:

A Special Free Offer for You!
To celebrate the release of book 3 in my YA space opera, book 1, Rimrider, is free on Amazon. The series has smart females of all ages, and the heroine, Jane Benedict, is brainy rather than brawny. Hurry, offer ends February 28.

Orphan, pirate, spy.

Teenager Jane Benedict is awakened by her father and ordered to memorize a mysterious code. Hours later, Mathias Benedict is dead and Jane and her brother, Will, are wards of United Earth Corporation. To evade the company's murderous clutches and uncover the meaning of her father’s last message, Jane leads Will on a desperate escape across the galaxy aboard the Freetrader smuggler ship, Solar Vortex. Tangled in the crew’s fight against UEC, Jane saves the life of young smuggler Mac Sawyer and learns her father’s code identifies a secret cargo shipment that can spell doom for the entire Freetrader cause and the extinction of an alien race.

Piracy, intrigue, romance, and a daring rebellion from Earth wait on the planet Rimrock. Will Jane answer the call to adventure and find new purpose on the galactic rim or will death for high treason be her fate?

L. A. Kelley writes scify/fantasy adventure books with humor, romance, and a touch of sass. She’s never picked a bar fight, but could if she wanted.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Audiobook Review: The French Chef in America by Alex Prud’homme

Once upon a time in America, ‘furrin’ food had a different definition. Boundaries were built by immigrants settling an area. You couldn’t get a decent enchilada in Vermont. Ask for a bagel in New Mexico and they’d scratch their heads. Certain types of cuisine though seemed to bypass borders, particularly French. It had the reputation for being exotic and a little mysterious, certainly something you didn’t prepare at home. Then came this mountain of a woman (all 6’2” of her) with a distinctive warble and boundless enthusiasm. Julia Child led us from the culinary wasteland to a world of international flavors and encouraged us all to be courageous cooks. So we were.

Although she made her first mark as coauthor of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, that was only Julia’s first incarnation. The French Chef in America is the story of her later years when she went on to host a succession of TV shows for public television, specials, and collaborate on other cookbooks. After 17 years and 250 shows for public television she switched to commercial TV doing spots at Good Morning America. It’s a tribute to her remarkable abilities as a culinary educator that her career didn’t begin until she was nearly 50 and didn’t stop until her death at 92.

Alex Prud’homme, who is also Julia’s nephew, writes with affection. He details Julia’s long friendship with Simone Beck, her loving marriage with Paul, and the successful collaboration with Jacques Pepin on television. Readers may be surprised to learn about her bawdy sense of humor when she’d try to crack him up on camera. “There’s a nice piece of tail for you,” she’d say offering Jacques a lobster tail. Or she’d peer into the camera with a chicken and a straight face. “Jacques is a great boner.”

The book covers a lot of ground from her relationship with PBS, the upstarts of Novelle Cuisine, her support of new chefs across all culinary boundaries, to her disgust with the food police and fear of fat. “The only time to eat diet food is when you’re waiting for a steak to cook.” Common sense was always her guide. She was against cultism and felt much of the organic movement was built on balderdash, dousing the public with misinformation and fear. She was all for hard scientific facts before passing judgment.

This review is from the audiobook and, unfortunately, the weakest part is Alex Prud’homme, who also chose to narrate. He’s not awful. He doesn’t mispronounce words or stammer, but a narrator should impart something extra other than a flat reading. He’s obviously not a voice actor and the narration is more like a college lecture series than something to enjoy on a road trip. The text is well-written so my recommendation is buy the print or e-version, but skip the audiobook.

I received this audiobook from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Trio of Spicy 99 Cent Sales

by Laura Strickland

Clara Allen needs a husband in order to keep a roof over the heads of her assorted dependents, a roof her nasty grandfather will re-appropriate unless she is married by her 21st birthday, only a few days away. Strong-minded, unwilling to take orders from any man, she decides to solve her problem by raising a murdered prisoner from the dead and marrying him. She expects an empty-headed puppet; she certainly never dreams he’ll be so devastatingly handsome.

Liam McMahon doesn’t recall much about his life before his hanging in the prison yard, other than being Irish. He does remember the kiss Clara bestowed as she brought him back to life. Every time he looks at her, his desire gets out of hand. But his former life is chasing him down like a steam engine, and when a couple of mad geniuses decide he’d make a fine experiment, he wonders if he’ll live long enough to claim Clara’s heart or if he’ll die all over again.
The room needed to be warm—she had learned that during past experiments. It helped if the subject awakened in an environment that was moist and heated, akin to the womb. And the breath of life was more easily received by warmed flesh.
Georgina walked to the corner and switched on the generator, which came awake with a rumble as the boiler lit. Immediately the familiar clatter started, the gurgle as water began drawing through the system. Once it got going, the system thudded like a heartbeat. Appropriate somehow—that would be the first thing her subject heard when he awoke. If he awoke.
Still obviously uneasy, Georgina rejoined Clara at the table. “You know you’re going to have to touch him.”
“I’ve already touched him. Ruella and I stripped and washed him down.”
“You’re going to have to kiss him.”
“It isn’t a kiss. It’s a resurrection.”
“You’re mad, Miss Clara. Stark raving.”
“You think I don’t know that?” Wasn’t it why she could allow no one—other than these lost waifs and misfits who already surrounded her—into her life? How could she expect an ordinary, sane man to accept the woman she was? Either she created her own husband, or she took none at all.
The room had warmed quickly. Now clouds of steam billowed and surrounded the table, lending an unreality to this thing she undertook. It blurred the edges of her vision and her reason.
Did she do the right thing?
She did the only possible thing.

by Mary Morgan
Crusader, Adam MacFhearguis is on one last quest to the standing stones in Scotland where he seeks to bury the past. However, a silent prayer sends him to an unknown future and to his beloved Meggie. When he uncovers a shocking revelation, Adam questions everything about the woman he thought he knew and loved. He may have traveled the veil of ages, but time is now his enemy. 

Margaret MacKay lives a life in the future without the memories of her past—her death. When Adam arrives at her door confessing he knows her, she is confused and wary. With each passing day, she yearns to learn more from this stranger. Yet, when a truth is revealed, can she trust the man to unlock the chains from her mind and heart?

Will love free the bonds to unite the two lovers who were doomed centuries ago? Or will evil finally claim victory over the Dragon Knights? 
Meggie brushed her fingers over the leather pouch. “It feels empty.”
“Are you not tempted to take a wee look inside?”
She snatched her hand back. “I’m not peering inside the man’s belongings. As soon as he wakes, he and his horse can leave.” Giving the horse a firm pat, Meggie walked out of the stall and away from her smirking cousin—only to run smack into her other cousin, Lena.
“Blast,” snapped Meggie, grabbing her cousin by the arm to help steady them both. “Sorry, didn’t see ye.” Seeing the excitement in Lena’s eyes, she stepped back. “What?”
“I hear you have a Highlander in the guest room,” she replied, giving Meggie a wink. “Are you going to share?”
Meggie placed her hands on her hips. “He’s not my Highlander. Feel free to have him, though as soon as he wakes he’s gone from here.”
Lucas strode out of the stables, wiping his hand on a cloth. “I think I’ll go introduce myself, since I think this man bothers you. You keep stating he must leave as soon as he wakes.”
Lena pushed her cousin aside. “No, Lucas. I will go check on him.”
“Ye are both crazy,” protested Meggie. “He’s just a man.” Stepping past them both, she marched away from the stables.
Approaching the entrance of the castle, her nerves tingled and the air cooled. Halting on the gravel courtyard, she slowly glanced up at the guest bedroom window. Gazing down at her was the dark Highlander. His hands were braced on either side of the glass, and Meggie could swear for an instant, she recognized him from somewhere. A dream, perhaps? The look he gave her pierced her soul, and she shivered.
“Impossible,” she muttered. “I don’t dream. And ye are leaving now.”
Breaking from his stare, Meggie entered the castle, almost running up the stairs. By the time she reached the guest room, her hands were shaking. Not even bothering to knock, she pushed open the door and stormed inside.
Her mouth became dry, unable to form the words to order this giant out of her home. His bulk blocked the light from the window as he leaned against the ledge staring at her. She was not one prone to swoon at men—any man, but this one made her a jumbled mess. Moving to the table, she picked up his sword and took it over to him. His eyes widened when she approached, and she fell into their dark blue depths.
“I…um…” she stammered before continuing. “Ye should leave.” There, she’d gotten the words out.
Instead of reaching for his sword, the man lifted two fingers and caressed her cheek. She gasped, the touch searing her skin, and she took a step back. She could see the look of shock pass over his features, as if he felt the same reaction.
Meggie shoved the sword into his arms and ran for the door. Yet, when her hand touched the handle, she heard him speak.
“Dinnae leave me again, Meggie.”

by Rachael Richey
While her husband Gideon is recording a new album with his band NightHawk, Abi Hawk is busy getting her own career as a portrait painter back on track. 

Following the death of her father, which coincides with the opening night of her first exhibition in London, Abi and her daughter come across an old painting in his attic that sets them on a journey of discovery to Paris.  They uncover an astonishing and unexpected love story, one that has repercussions to the present day.

Meanwhile Gideon, in America to promote the new album, ignores Abi’s warnings and manages to put himself in a vulnerable situation that threatens to rock the stability of their marriage. Separated from Abi by nearly five thousand miles, and unable to speak to her, will he be able to resolve the situation before any real damage is done?
After a moment Abi heard a sharp intake of breath. “What is it, Tash? What have you found?”
Natasha wriggled back out holding a canvas pressed against her chest. Her eyes were wide. “Mum? Is this you?” she asked, her tone strangled. Slowly she turned the painting around and presented it to her mother.
Abi crawled forward and stared at the large dark, dusty canvas. She caught her breath. It showed a girl of about seventeen or eighteen, her back turned to the artist. She was looking over her shoulder and her very long auburn hair hung around her otherwise naked body. Her bright blue eyes shone out from the canvas with a bold expression, and a small smile played about her lips.
“Mum,” repeated Natasha, “Is it you?”
Abi shook her head violently. “Of course it’s not me!” she exclaimed indignantly. “I’ve never been that fat, and anyway it’s quite obviously far too old a painting to be me. Just because she has auburn hair… Honestly, Tash!”
“Oh, right, so you’re annoyed I thought it was you because she’s too fat, not because she’s naked? Really, Mother, I despair of you sometimes.” Natasha shook her head. “So, if it’s not you, then who is it? She looks a lot like you. You must be related.” She peered more closely at the painting. “D’you think it’s Joan or Pauline?”
Abi shook her head. “No…apart from the fact that I think we pretty much know their story now, this is even older than that. They didn’t have red hair, anyway. Let’s see… Does it have a date, or a signature anywhere?” She reached forward, gently took the large canvas out of her daughter’s hands, and carried it over to the single light bulb, suspended from a beam in the centre of the attic. Carefully brushing off the thick layer of dust that covered the painting, Abi searched the lower half of the work for any sign of a signature. She frowned and rubbed gently at the bottom right-hand corner.
“What is it? Have you found something?” Natasha leaned over Abi’s shoulder, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “Is it valuable?”
“You really have to stop thinking of things in monetary terms,” Abi murmured, “but in this case you may be right.” She moved the painting even nearer to the inadequate light and sucked in her breath. She glanced over her shoulder at Natasha. “Look, see here?” She pointed to a barely discernable squiggle in the bottom corner. “That’s a signature. And unless I’m very much mistaken, it’s the signature of Andrew Devereaux, which means, yes, it certainly is valuable.”
Natasha scrambled round and peered closely at the painting. “Wow,” she said. “So who’s this Andrew…thingywhatsit, then? And why is one of his paintings in your parents’ attic? And who’s the girl?”
Gently Abi laid the painting down. “Andrew Devereaux was probably the most brilliant portrait artist around in the twentieth century. He was American, but he did his most famous work in Paris. He was part of the artistic community at Montparnasse in the years between the wars.” She smiled at Natasha, “He would have known Picasso, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and…ooh, loads of people you won’t even have heard of! It would have been the most exciting time to live in Paris. We learnt all about him in art college, and to be honest, Andrew Devereaux was my biggest influence.”