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Wednesday, June 14th, 2017
Book Review

I received this book from NetGalley

This one has two elements that really caught my attention: firefighters and Australia. Burning Both Ends by Sinclair Jayne is a contemporary romance and a lot of fun.

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Sunday, June 11th, 2017
Book Review Roundup

I’m doing a fair bit of reading. I’ve discovered some new authors that I enjoy and plan to talk about those soon, but I’m behind on some specific book reviews, so I’m going to get started on them. These books are provided by NetGalley.

 

Ella’s Ice Cream Summer by Sue Watson

I was in the mood for a romance, and thought this would be more romantic, but it wasn’t. It was, however, well worth reading. It was a delightful read, despite me having a significant level of annoyance at the beginning. I’ll explain, but first, about the book:

Ella’s life just hit rock-bottom, but can a summer by the sea mend her broken heart? When life gives you lemons… make ice-cream!

Life hasn’t always been easy for single mum Ella, but she has just hit an all-time low; she’s jobless, loveless, very nearly homeless and, to make matters worse, now the owner of a pocket-sized pooch with a better wardrobe than her.

Packing her bags (and a bigger one for the dog), Ella sets off for the seaside town of Appledore in Devon to re-live the magical summers of her youth and claim her portion of the family ice-cream business: a clapped-out ice-cream van and a complicated mess of secrets.

There she meets gorgeous and free-spirited solicitor, Ben, who sees things differently: with a little bit of TLC he has a plan to get the van – and Ella – back up and running in no time.

In the beginning of the book, Ella’s up against a really obnoxious family. Her mother and her kids seem to be unredeemably selfish and can’t seem to give Ella the time of day. She’s struggling with finances, with the financial demands of her ex, and losing her job. She gets a lifeline in the shape of an inheritance from her aunt. When she finds out what it is, she’s a bit disappointed, but pretty soon she starts to turn things around. She gets a new focus for her life, a new romance, and starts finding a confidence in herself she never had. She also starts uncovering the secrets of her past, secrets that her mother doesn’t want to come to light.

This book was a lighthearted, but very real journey of a woman to find herself and her past. She comes through it all stronger, and her family becomes stronger for it. I enjoyed this book quite. I really appreciated the deepening of Ella’s character and the way she becomes stronger and becomes the anchor for her family and friends.

This next one is a huge change of pace. Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler not for the faint of heart, either. It’s a psychological thriller and it hits hard. It’s creepy as hell. It very well may give you nightmares. This is a good thing. It’s well written and well constructed. I’m not going to say a whole lot about it overall, because I don’t want to give spoilers. But first, here’s the description:

Alex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table.

The man who stands over her isn’t a doctor.

The offer he makes her is utterly unspeakable.

But when Alex re-awakens, she’s unharmed – and no one believes her horrifying story.

Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, Alex begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind. And then she meets the next victim.

You can tell just by the description that it’s going to be pretty terrifying. It was incredibly frustrating to see how no one believes Alex. The plot was complex and the characters were compelling, especially Alex. The end was  satisfying and pulled things together well. I’d definitely read this one if you’re into thrillers.

Lord of Chance by Erica Ridley

Normally I really enjoy Erica Ridley, but I wasn’t all that big a fan of Lord of Chance.

Here’s the description:

Disguised as a country miss, Charlotte Devon flees London, desperate to leave her tattered reputation behind. In Scotland, her estranged father’s noble blood will finally make her a respectable debutante. Except she finds herself accidentally wed to a devil-may-care rogue with a sinful smile. He’s the last thing she needs…and everything her traitorous heart desires.

Charming rake Anthony Fairfax is on holiday to seek his fortune…and escape his creditors. When an irresistible Lady Luck wins him in a game of chance—and a slight mishap has them leg-shackled by dawn—the tables have finally turned in his favor. But when past demons catch up to them, holding on to new love will mean destroying their dreams forever.

So to begin, I didn’t have a lot of respect for Anthony Fairfax. He’s a gambler and he seems to be reckless and stupid. Charlotte is a good character, but I find it a little bit unbelievable that she gambles in a public inn with strange men or that they let her, or treat her like a lady. It just struck me wrong. I also wasn’t all that engaged in their relationship or in the ending. For me, the story just didn’t have the fun and quality of characters that her books usually have.

This next one is paranormal romance and part of a longer series. It’s called Wicked Kiss by Rebecca Zanzetti.

Description:

Working as an informant for the DEA, Victoria Monzelle is used to living on the edge. But she’s not a big fan of getting kidnapped. And definitely not by a bunch of bad boy witches with fancy-colored fire to shoot at people. So when Adam Dunne shows up and claims to be a witch enforcer, she’s not going to put her life in his hands based on his word, no matter how smooth and smart and beautifully Irish his words sound. But on the run from a tribunal of witches, she isn’t going to make it far . . .

Before she knows it, Adam’s word is all that stands between her and execution. Sophisticated, just-gotta-ruffle-him Adam has vowed to make her his one eternal mate, wild and unpredictable as she is—to save her from a sentence of certain death. But Tori isn’t interested in being anyone’s pity date. And if they think she’s unpredictable now, they should see what’s coming next . . .

Let me start by saying there’s a lot to love in this book. I’m just not sure they overcome the flaws.

First, Victoria is an informant, but she’s definitely unwilling. I went in expecting her to be more savvy about crime and etc., but really, she’s not at all. But that isn’t really a big issue for me.

The book begins right in the middle of the action and Victoria and Adam have definite chemistry and they definitely don’t get along. This has a great deal to do with the secrets that both are hiding. Now there’s no getting around that Adam is the overbearing alpha type and while challenges him frequently, too frequently for me, she ends up discovering she should bend to him. Now this is a fundamental part of the story because the (steamy) sex scenes are definitely themed with a master/submissive bondage thread. I don’t have a problem with that, except that for me, Victoria comes off as kind of weak because she gives into him sort of against her will (despite being incredibly turned on), and so she has no ability to say no or have boundaries. The idea is that he will know what she needs (submission-wise) and that he knows better than she does what to do and what she should do. That bothers me.

Victoria is constantly doing things that seem strong, but then gives up her power to Adam because I’m not sure why. There is supposed to be this equality between them, a balancing, but I don’t see it.

Plotwise, I liked a lot of what was happening. I thought the whole motorcycle gang thing was a little bit iffy, and I definitely thought Victoria’s “boss” was way out of line. I thought the Witch Council thing was cool and I thought that the story of the drug and the other realms of supernatural were cool. I was annoyed that Victoria had relatively little to do with the resolution of the story–again Adam is dominant. I guess I feel like she kept losing herself and that just didn’t work for me.

I’m torn about my feelings for this book because the writing was so good and the plot was really cool. But. I’m not sure I want to read more of the unbalanced romantic relationships. I just have a lot of trouble with it.

 

 

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Friday, February 10th, 2017
Book Review: Dark, Witch, and Creamy by H.Y. Hanna

Book provided by NetGalley

Dark, Witch, and Creamy is a fun little contemporary fantasy with the beginnings of romance in it. Here’s the back of the cover blurb:

A witch, a kitty and dark chocolate magic…
Caitlyn is used to being the ugly duckling in her glamorous showbiz family… until the day she learns that she was adopted as an abandoned baby. Now, her search for answers takes her to the tiny English village of Tillyhenge where a man has been murdered by witchcraft – and where a mysterious shop selling enchanted chocolates is home to the “local witch”…

Soon Caitlyn finds herself fending off a toothless old vampire, rescuing an adorable kitten and meeting handsome aristocrat Lord James Fitzroy… not to mention discovering that she herself might have magical blood in her veins!

When she’s dragged into the murder investigation and realises that dark magic is involved, Caitlyn is forced to choose. Can she embrace her witchy powers in time to solve the mystery and save those she loves?

I enjoyed this book. It’s sort of on the cozy side of the mystery continuum, with fun and colorful characters and of course, chocolate. Lots of chocolate. I enjoyed Caitlyn and Widow Mags quite a bit, though I wish a little more about Caitlyn’s background had come to light. I also had some questions about Viktor and I hope those get answered in the future. I thought the magic elements were charming. My major complaint about the book is that while the bad guy is identified, the story seems a little unfinished (trying not to spoil it here). There is another book in the series that I think I’ll probably pick up. All in all, the book is fun and worth reading.

4 out of 5 stars

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Wednesday, February 8th, 2017
Book review: Combatting Fear by Sandy Vaile

I obtained this book through NetGalley.

I really wanted to like this Combatting Fear by Sandy Vaile. The description pulled me in and I thought it was going to be a fun romantic suspense. Plus it’s set in Australia, which was a big attraction to me (though there were no spiders in this book, which I found surprising. Or venomous snakes.)  Let’s start with the back cover copy:

How far would you go to save a child that wasn’t yours?

Mild-mannered kindergarten teacher Neve Botticelli leads a double life. Thanks to a childhood tragedy and her paranoid father, she’s a trained warrior with extreme survival skills who lives off the grid.

When self-made billionaire Micah Kincaid storms into town in search of his son, Rowan, he’s pushy, entitled, and stands for everything she despises. Micah can’t believe a kindergarten teacher is barring the way to him getting crucial information or even just a glimpse of the boy his cheating ex kidnapped. They share only one thing in common: either will do anything to protect the four-year-old, who they soon discover is being held for ransom by an outlaw motorcycle gang.

But as they work together to get Rowan back, they start to see beyond each other’s masks. Could falling in love be even more dangerous than hunting down deadly criminals?

The writing of the book is really good, and the end relationship stuff was well done. Plus there were a lot of elements in the book that worked well. The moments between Tony and Neve especially. The descriptions were evocative and made me feel like I was there. Where I ran into difficulties was with 1) the relationship development, and 2) uneven/contradictory character development.

I’m going to start with the second issue first. Both Neve and Micah were engaging and likeable. But they were also inconsistent and constantly waffled on issues for no good reason. There were no real triggers for much of their–but what if? thoughts. I got annoyed with both of them. Vaile justified their qualms and fears with a solid foundation. I got why Neve was suspicious of Micah and why he’d doubt her–at least at first. But then it kept feeling artificial as they got to know each other and still had the very same doubts without any real trigger for them.

Then Neve is billed as leading a double life. Not really. I was disappointed in that. And that she’s a trained warrior. It didn’t really come across. She’s weepy and nervous and generally sort of passive. And then she’ll have these sudden moments of warrior action and thinking, and then go back to the other. It’s aggravating. The warrior stuff comes out somewhat in the end, but still wasn’t all that warrior-like. I felt a little bit like there’d been a bait and switch.

The relationship development was also odd. Their attraction came at odd times and sort of out of the blue. The final development was really well done, but the development just didn’t feel organic or natural.

In the end, I felt the book was okay, but I didn’t come away feeling satisfied.

2 out of 5 stars.

 

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Sunday, February 5th, 2017
Book Review: At Close Range, Laura Griffin

I really love the Laura Griffin books. They are romantic suspense and have great characters and engrossing plots, but hot and compelling romance. At Close Range is the latest in her Tracers Series, of which I’ve read most, if not all. I have to check. This one includes characters from previous books, though it can totally be read independently of any of the others.

The book revolves around a double murder that quickly grows into more murders and a twisted investigation. Dani, our main character, is the lead investigator on the case. This is her first time leading, and she’s very nervous, though also very competent. Scott Black is a ballistics expert and former Navy SEAL who works at a local lab that provides forensic services to law enforcement all over the country. Dani and Scott go back to their teenage years. He practically grew up in their house–her brother’s best friend. His career in the Navy ended with an injury, and now he’s become a primary expert in his field. The two of them have sparks, but he’s not ready to cross the brother-friendship line to mess with Dani, and she’s pretty sure he’ll break her heart.

He is one of the experts called in on the case, but soon is implicated as a suspect. That puts them on opposite sides, because even though Dani believes in him personally, a good detective works on facts and evidence. Secondary characters are introduced and play important roles in the story, all the way to the end.

I didn’t love this story as much as some of Griffin’s previous books, but I liked it quite well. I thought the relationship between all the characters–professional and personal–were deftly written, particularly Dani’s relationship with her fellow cops. Her relationship with Scott had some places that I winced at, but I think that was a personal thing, and overall I thought it developed organically and realistically and romantically. The sex scenes were both hot and emotional, which is an art to do. The only major problem I had with the book was that the ultimate bad guy seemed a little bit farfetched. The twisted plotline was wonderful and kept me guessing, but I wish the ultimate villain had been more on the page pulling strings.

I would rate this 4.5/5 stars and totally recommend it and all the others in the series. Good writing, good suspense and mystery, wonderful romance. I read it pretty much in one sitting as soon as it showed up on my Kindle.

 

Friday, November 25th, 2016
Book Review: The Doctor’s Christmas Proposal

I like Christmas romance, and especially this year, it seems like a good inoculation against the unhappiness in the world and the stress of life and the holidays. I picked up Eve Gaddy’s The Doctor’s Christmas Proposal off NetGalley. I really like Eve’s writing and expected to really like this book. And a lot of it I did. But one unfortunately central element kept bothering me and while it was addressed somewhat at the end, not enough for me.

So here’s the story (blurb off Amazon):

Betrayed by his ex-fiancée, Dr. Wyatt Gallagher turns to the one woman he can always trust – his best friend, Mia Watson. 515tvf7nqlAfter moving away, Wyatt has realized he wants more than friendship with the beautiful artist. With that in mind, he convinces Mia to come to Marietta for the Christmas holidays. But wooing Mia is surprisingly difficult — especially given the passionate night they’ve already shared.

Though Mia Watson has loved Wyatt Gallagher for years, he’s always seen her as a friend, never a lover. Except for one unforgettable interlude when comfort turned to passion. Then Wyatt moved back to Montana, leaving Mia with an unexpected consequence of their night together–and soon, heartbreak to follow.

Faced with the fulfillment of her dreams, Mia knows she must reveal the consequences of their night together to Wyatt. But having withheld the truth for so long, will her confession destroy his trust in her, ending their friendship and any hope of a future together?

So obviously there’s some cool angsty stuff going on. Also, the setting is Montana, and having lived there for 15 years, I loved reading about it. From that third paragraph, you can guess that Mia got pregnant from Wyatt on their one night stand years before (which for her was not one, and for him–very confusing). More on that below.

The family and secondary characters were fun and interesting and warm. This isn’t a book of high drama, it’s quieter and more family focused. It’s a fairly gentle story in many ways. I liked Wyatt and Mia quite a bit and felt that their emotions and feelings for one another were real and strong.

Now this is going to be a spoiler, so if you don’t want to have that, don’t read more.

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Saturday, November 19th, 2016
Cool Exciting News!

I want to announce my inclusion in a new anthology that will be out very very soon. bloodring

Faith Hunter writes some fabulous books. One trilogy is the Rogue Mage series–which are really really good and if you haven’t read them yet, you should (e-version of the first book is $2.99 right now). She asked me if I’d like to write a story set in that world for an anthology. I spent a little time squealing and dancing and then said yet. Cuz, duh!!!!

The title of my story is Ashes and Dust, and I’ll tell you more about it later, but for now, here’s more info and the cover:

rma1_trials-ebook-cover-correctedThe Rogue Mage world began long ago, when the epic battle between the High Host and the Darkness was won and lost. Now, nine writers—including Faith Hunter herself—take fans of Thorn St. Croix into the past, before the opening pages of BLOODRING. These stories, set in Faith Hunter’s Rogue Mage world, are adventures with new characters and old, facing dangers unimaginable. And they must save the world all over again.

If you ever wondered what happened between seraphs, kylen, second-unforeseen, mages, seraph-touched, spawn, dragons and their creatures, and humans before the series, now is your chance to delve deeper and wider. The ebook TRIALS presents twenty-one vignettes and short stories. TRIALS will be followed soon by TRIBULATIONS, and then by the trade paperback omnibus TRIUMPHANT. Enjoy!

TRIALS Authors: Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, Lou J Berger, Ken Schrader, Spike Y Jones, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Christina Stiles, Tamsin Silver, Melissa McArthur.

TRIBULATIONS Authors are Lucienne Diver, Jean Rabe, Spike Y Jones, Christina Stiles, Faith Hunter.

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Thursday, October 6th, 2016
Sirens Anthology Release Day

This is a really cool anthology that I wanted to share with you. I asked Cynthia, one of the contributors and one of the people who came up with the idea of the anthology, to come and talk to you about Sirens, her story, and the anthology in general. So without further ado, please welcome Cynthia:

My name is Cynthia Porter.  I’m here today to tell you that writing a blog post about Queens & Courtesans: A Sirens Benefit Anthology, is only slightly easier than writing my short story, Affairs of State, that is included in its pages.

Sirens is a conference dedicated to women in fantasy literature.  The conference describes itselfqueens as “part scholarly conference, part enthusiastic convention, part networking weekend, and part personal retreat.”  Attendees include readers, authors, librarians, booksellers, educators, scholars, and publishing professionals.  Queens & Courtesans is a labor of love created to benefit the conference where we all met.

This is the first time I have ever written a story to a writing prompt.  When we created the idea of the anthology, the request was for stories with a Queen and a Courtesan.  None of my current projects had characters like these.  I had to almost start from scratch.  The almost part was because the world I chose to set the story in was one I’d created years ago.  I shifted south of where my other stories have taken place and found myself in a royal court.

I knew I wanted my queen to be a mature woman, not a teen/young woman who has no idea of the trials ahead of her.  I wanted my characters to know who they were, to be confident in their abilities and their lives.

I think I wrote three drafts before my queen character finally got her name.  This is very unusual for me.  My stories are character driven.  Typically I know nothing about a story until I have a name.  That name brings the character’s personality, their back story, their hopes and dreams, and the plot!  With a normal story I’m stuck without a name.  Except for this queen.  She was more than happy to share her story, she just didn’t see the need to share her name with me.  It drove me crazy.  I would talk to her while staring at the story on my computer screen.  “Name, name, name– you need a name!”  She’s one of the rare ones who knew who she was without a name.  I had to work to find a name that fit her temperament.  Not my most difficult character ever, but absolutely one of the most quietly stubborn.  She was the Queen.  What more did anyone need to know?  Her name, as it turns out, is Arcalys.  True to form, it took about four drafts of this post to realize she’d done it to me again!

Lenzienne, or Lenzi, my courtesan, knew exactly what her name was from the very beginning.  She walked into a room, completely furious, and snarled her opening lines.  Her name flowed onto the page and the story followed.

The really difficult characters in Affairs of State were the secondary characters.  Three of them hung on to significant roles in the story.  A couple more exist as, well, names and nothing more.  The others all got cut from various drafts of the story.  Why?  Because they thought they were populating a novel.  I prefer the longer forms of storytelling because invariable my characters bring big ideas, themes, plots trailing behind them—none of which fit into a short story.  Borders, Barriers, Refugees, Magic, all this exploded into larger and larger arcs.  I shoved most of them aside, telling them “later”.  My editor, Jessica, jumped on several more.  She helped me focus what was more of a prologue for a novel down into a short story.

While my queen and my courtesan are happy with their “little” story, I’ve acknowledged that their novel needs exploration.  Once Queens & Courtesans is well and truly launched into the world, I’ll be letting all those characters, all that world-building, all those themes and plots to swirl out from the door where they’ve been lurking.

To get your copy of Queens and Courtesans in print or ebook, click here for Amazon, or  here for BN.

 

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Friday, September 2nd, 2016
Poisons

For no particular reason, I started looking at poisons today. I figure it’s something I’ll stash in the back of my head for future writing use.

The one I discovered today is Thallium Nitrate, which is odorless, colorless and tasteless. It’s a heavy metal. It cause hair to fall out, vomiting, organ failure, and general system failure, plus causes a burning/prickling sensation in the limbs. It will kill you in a high dose, but in low doses, it’s a slow road to death. There’s no antidote for it, and if caught soon enough, you can survive. It can be found by blood, urine, and hair. It leaves the blood pretty quickly, though, so if the blood test is all there is, then it might not get discovered.

I thought it could be a pretty good poison for a poisoner. Especially if it can be put into food. Be good for someone who wanted to cause a slow, diminishing death.

The stuff was used in the 50s in rat poison.

I’ll probably talk about more poisons in general. I find them interesting. I’m working on some murder/suspense stuff that could benefit from this sort of info.

In the meantime, I’ve a bunch of roses to plant and the weather is fine and the puppy boys are happy. Been reading Lexi George’s Demon Hunters books and they are frequently very fun. Just like candy, and funny urban fantasy romance.

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
Book Review: Romance, Hard to Handle

I received this book from NetGalley

The book is Hard to Handle by Raven Scott. It will be published August 30th by Kensington Books. It’s romance with some suspense thrown in.

Here’s the description:

A covert ops specialist, a cyber-surveillance expert, and an unmatched international security and recovery pro. These are the men of Fortis. When money is no object, discretion is essential, and the police are not an option, the wealthy and powerful call on this trio of former government agents with elite military training—not to mention charm and good looks…

Samuel Mackenzie has his hands full with Fortis’ latest assignment. Their client is a European real estate investor who is trying to close a multi-million dollar acquisition. But a competitor is attempting to block the deal by any means necessary, including threats and vandalism that quickly escalate to life threatening assault. For Samuel it’s all in a day’s work—except for one unexpected twist…

The mission requires protective detail for the client and his mistress, who is also his personal assistant. But the mistress is Mikayla Stone-Clement—the only woman Samuel has ever loved, and who always seems out of his reach. Yet things aren’t what they seem. Because Mikayla has a hidden agenda of her own, one that puts her directly in the crossfire. Now Samuel will have one chance to save her life…and make her his forever.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Parts of it a really liked, parts of it annoyed the heck out of me, and parts of it made me feel a little uncomfortable in a weird way that I will delve into a little bit deeper here.

So first, the good: Overall, I thought the romance was pretty good, and the suspense plot well designed and laid out (except for the bad guy because he came out of nowhere.) I thought the security stuff was believable and I thought the development of all the actions really smart.

That leads me to the bad. One thing drove me seriously nuts. That was Scott’s inclination to use a lot of book saidisms–insisted, muttered, yelled, etc., when people talked. That was okay, but I felt like they were frequently off. Like when people yelled when they really didn’t. Maybe they raised their voices a little–but yelling jarred me because it was wrong for the scene. Likewise, using insisted when there’s nothing to insist on. Like saying, I’d like a yogurt, only writing it as: I’d like a yogurt, insisted the girl. When no one is protesting that she have a yogurt. And then when one character mumbled when he really was murmuring, because mumbling means unintelligibility of the words. It drove me batty and threw me out of the story.

The next thing that drove me up the wall were the over-the-top connection between the two leads. I loved that there was a time when they forced themselves to keep their hands off each other because of emotional tension, but it annoyed me early on when they couldn’t because it seemed too much for these very controlled people. I think that was the writer’s point–that their passion for one another overcame their usual control–but I had a hard time buying it.

I was really annoyed that the actual bad guy wasn’t even mentioned until they pegged him as the bad guy. I wanted him at least mentioned far earlier.

Finally, and this last one may just be me, but one of the things that threw me out of the story was something that seemed to be missing. Many of these characters were people of color. While I am glaringly white, I do know that POC face various kinds of discrimination based on their skin color on a daily basis. There was no hint of that in this book and it struck me as odd. Or maybe the word is artificial. I thought this particularly for Kaylee, who is not only a black woman, but she works in a field dominated by men. In fact, she’s worked in two fields dominated by men. So I kept waiting for someone to be obnoxious both because of her gender and color and there was nothing.

Now, this may be the fantasy of the book–that there’s a world where POC don’t have to worry about their skin color any more than white people do. And maybe it’s the Black Lives Matter movement that makes me extra-sensitive to those elements in society right now. I’m not judging the writer or the book on this one. I’m trying to figure out if this is a reasonable thing to expect in a book or not. I don’t know. In expecting it, am I doing making demands of a text that I have no right to? I’m interested on what anybody here might say because I think it’s important to discuss and frankly, I’m interested in being corrected if I’m way off base.

All things taken together, I’d give this book a 3/5 stars.