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Archive for the 'writers who are not me' Category

Thursday, December 12th, 2019
Dead in Dublin by Catie Murphy

First, so you know, I got Dead in Dublin from Netgalley. Also, Catie’s a friend and I love her books in general, and pounced on this one super fast because it sounded so good and did I say I love her books? She’s an amazing writer.

Now, onto the book. Here’s the backcover copy:

In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty, murder occurs at the feet of sweet Molly Malone . . .

Ferrying tourists around Dublin for the Leprechaun Limo Service makes quite a change after years in the military. Still, Megan Malone is enjoying her life in Ireland. She likes the scenery, the easy pace, the quirky, quick-witted locals. Everything—except having one of her clients drop dead at the statue of fabled fishmonger, Molly Malone.

Most restaurant critics notch up their share of enemies. Elizabeth Darr, however, was a well-loved international star. She and her husband, Simon, had just had dinner when Elizabeth collapsed, and spoiled seafood is the first suspect. The restaurant’s owner, worried her business is doomed, begs Megan to look into it. Between her irate boss and a handsome Garda who’s both amused and annoyed by her persistence, Megan has her hands full even before she’s cajoled into taking care of two adorable Jack Russell puppies (which she is almost definitely not keeping). But if cockles and mussels aren’t to blame, can Megan find the real culprit . . .before another fishy death occurs?

I’m going to start with why I wanted to read this book. Catie lives in Dublin. Having her character be an American living in Ireland really grabbed me, because I felt like it would give me a really good sense of the place from an American perspective, but without any obnoxious judginess. Megan appreciates Dublin and the Irish people and culture. Her point of view makes it so an American reader can easily understand the differences and sometimes quirkiness of Ireland, but without it being condescending and obnoxious.  I felt like I was in Dublin and I could almost hear people speaking.

This is a cozy mystery, so it moves at a slower pace than other mysteries, and yet this one felt like it moved at a quick clip. I was hooked by the mystery and hated having to set the book down to do anything else. I appreciated that Megan’s involvement in the mystery happened so organically, and that she wasn’t looking to horn in at all. She was a fresh take on the amateur sleuth. But then between her boss and the grieving relatives, she feels compelled to help solve Elizabeth’s murder. The little bits of information she tracks down for them pull her deeper and deeper into the mystery.

I really liked her developing friendship with Detective Bourke. He’s very real and takes the information she gives him without a lot of bitching about how she shouldn’t be involved. He points out she shouldn’t be, but he’s the type of detective who wants to solve a case and so the clues she finds are useful. Also, she doesn’t get in the way or ‘t withhold information from him, or treat the Gardai like an enemy.

Megan is a really likeable character. She’s good at her job, reasonable, thoughtful, generous, and a good friend. She cares about people, even strangers, and she’s smart. I really loved this book and I strongly recommend it. It’s perfect for a rainy day by the fire. By way of teasing me, the first chapter of the next book was included, and I was very very very disappointed that I couldn’t get it right now.  Sigh.

Monday, October 7th, 2019
Book Review: Jo-Ann Carson’s The Perfect Brew

I’ve been doing a bit of reading on and off as I can squeeze it in around the rest of life–when I was younger, I seemed to have a hell of a lot more time in a day. What happened to it all? Anyhow, I finished The Perfect Brew today, and I want to share.

First, the back cover copy:

When a witch inherits trouble …

An unexpected inheritance turns Cassie Black’s world upside-down, and she finds herself the owner of a sentient coffee-house that comes with an inter-dimensional portal and a side of ancient curse. When Cassie is summoned to attend the funeral of her great-aunt Ophelia, she finds the picturesque village on the edge of the ocean is not at all what it seems. Her benefactor’s death is suspicious, and to make matters worse, after Ophelia’s lawyer explains her will to Cassie, he drops dead in a plate of cookie crumbs. That makes two unexplained deaths, which is two too many for a good witch to swallow.

Up to her neck in mysteries, and weighed down with a curse, Cassie canvases the town to find the murderer. Of course, there are many unusual suspects, a tall, dark and annoying human detective keeps getting in her way, and a seductive warlock offers his assistance.

Will Cassie catch the villain before he kills again? Will she be able to free herself from the curse? Will Sid, her beloved cat familiar with a naughty mind, convince her to play dirty with the boys?

My review:

This is the first in a cozy mystery series–I’m not sure how long the series is intended to be. It does read somewhat as a standalone, but it leaves a lot of major questions hanging, which is frustrating. I liked the story, I liked the characters a lot, and I liked the writing. Cassie is a great character. Everybody expects her to be goody-goody, but she’s got a lot more going on and is refreshingly snarky for a girl who appears to be the proverbial girl next door. The love interest characters are definitely interesting, particularly Sanjay, and I really liked Cassie’s familiar, Sid (short for Obsidian).

A murder happens shortly after Cassie arrives in town, and she decides to track down the killer, but though that was the storyline that wrapped up in this book, it felt like it was just a subplot. The real plot was Cassie discovering her aunt’s history, that she was murdered, more about magic, and the Perfect Brew–a sentient coffee shop, which, by the way, is a very cool place. I love it.

For me, though I enjoyed the book, I feel like it wasn’t robust enough. That it really needs to be read with the other books in the series to get a better sense of the meatier part of the story, which I really want to know more about. I do plan to get the other books, because I really do like the book. It wasn’t a cliff-hanger ending, by any means, but it just felt like the end of the opening scene of a play, and that there’s a lot left unanswered and undeveloped.

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019
Book Review: THE DARK BONES

I recently read The Dark Bones by Loreth Anne White. It’s a romantic suspense, and I’ve got to say, it’s just about a perfect book.

First, the back cover blurb:

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019
Book Review: Somebody to Love By Aurelia Fray

About the book:

An unlikely pair, an impossible mission, and a hilarious hunt for somebody to love.

Henry was only tasked with fixing the leaky office pipes. So, when a crazy woman barges in and confesses all her secrets like a challenge, he’s faced with two choices: Tell her he’s not the man she’s looking for, or roll with it.

Rachel knows there’s something amiss about her new shrink–he’s far too handsome for starters–but she’s desperate to straighten her life out. With only three weeks to find a date to her best friend’s wedding, she’s willing to try anything. Even rely on a complete stranger to help her find love.

My take:

I’ll be honest. I was a little put off at first by Cassy, who I was afraid would be a more prominent character in the book, but luckily, she wasn’t. Mostly she was really obnoxious and Rachel took it laying down in the beginning, which I found annoying. But then she walks into the office and she’s so funny, and so real, and she’s not at all flat or one-dimensional. She’s got some hangups as we all do, but she’s also talented and smart and not at all a doormat. AND she stands up to Cassy at the end, which made me very happy.

I like Henry. Clearly he was an asshole and knew it, but meeting Rachel made him reevaluate himself and his friends. It wasn’t an instant transformation, but one where he grows into love, same as Rachel. His family is amazing, and I’m really hoping Taylor and Neil figure things out. His friends are both obnoxious and wonderful, which I found delightful.

Nobody was perfect, and Henry showed his true colors in a dramatically embarrassing and realistic moment and I may have fallen a bit in love with him at that point, too.

The story is well written, fun, breezy, real, and feel good. It’s fast and I really love Rachel and Henry as people and as a couple. Definitely read this book. I’m going to look up other books by Fray for sure.

 

Thursday, April 25th, 2019
The Dogs Complain

Dear R.J. Blaine. What’s wrong with you? You’re making our mom neglect us. She kept reading that stupid book—Hypnos—and hardly noticed us. Breakfast was late. Dinner was late. We went to bed late. She barely pet us or talked to us like we weren’t even there. We’re practically skin and bones, right now. So we’re writing to ask you—please, please, please, stop writing books. They are too distracting and she doesn’t need distracting. We are the goodest of boys and deserve better than her lackadaisical care of us. She’s supposed to be at our beck and call 24/7. But your stupid books suck her right in and she wouldn’t put the book down no matter how much we licked, barked, played, or nudged. Those ALWAYS work.  We checked her Kindle. She has MORE unread books from you. We tried to delete them but we have no opposable thumbs. If you don’t comply, we will be forced to take drastic measures. Nobody wants that. Well, Merlin does but he’s naturally violent.

Sincerely,

Crowley, Merlin, and Vodood

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019
Review: American Witch by Thea Harrison

I first learned of Thea Harrison when Patti Briggs said I should read her books. Sadly I was slow to get around to that, but discovered I love her writing very much. Still, with so much going on, I didn’t get to read very many of her books, though they remain waiting in the TBR mountain.

American Witch is her upcoming release, and you can get your hands on a copy on April 29th. I suggest you preorder.

So first, what it’s about. From the back cover copy: 

Power can change a person…

For months Molly Sullivan endures the inexplicable: electrical surges, car breakdowns, visions. She even wonders if she might be the cause… and wonders if she might be crazy. Then she discovers her husband has cheated on her. Again. Now Molly realizes she is a newly awakening witch and a woman pushed over the edge.

Revenge can shape a person…

Josiah Mason is a Powerful witch and the leader of a secret coven with a shared goal: to destroy an ancient enemy who has ruined many lives. Josiah lost years to this man, and his sole focus is revenge. He’s prepared for every contingency—except encountering a beautiful new witch who understands nothing of the immense Power building within her or the attraction she wields over him.

Danger can bring them together…

When divorcing her husband, Molly uncovers a dangerous secret he’s willing to kill to protect. She turns to Josiah for help, and they discover a connection between Molly’s husband and Josiah’s enemy.

As they work together, a spark ignites between them that threatens to become an inferno. But Molly is done compromising herself for any man, and Josiah’s mission is his top priority. And the enemy is cunning, cruel, and drawing ever closer.

As the danger escalates, so does the tension between them. Is a lasting relationship possible? Will either of them live long enough to try?

My thoughts:

I loved this book. Found it hard to put down, in fact, which says a lot since I’ve been having trouble reading through to the ends of books for awhile now. This was a compelling read for me.

Molly was an amazing character. Strong, stubborn, flawed, and wholly likeable. She wasn’t a doormat. She’s sharp as hell and brave as well.

Josiah wasn’t your typical asshole. He came off as focused and an ends-justifies-the-means sort of guy. He’d suppressed most of his emotions and to a large extent his humanity over years of seeking his end goal.

Also, neither are super young. They have scars and have earned those scars.

Then he runs into Molly. At first he sees her as a tool, but she doesn’t let him view her that way. She thinks and she argues and she refuses to put up with his habits of being in charge and telling people what to do. This startles him into looking at himself and he doesn’t like what he sees. Their relationship isn’t easy and grows out of respect and admiration. It’s very organic.

The path to their HEA isn’t an easy one and both are willing to walk away at various times, and then they feel compelled to do so for very good reasons. You don’t read the situation and roll your eyes and say oh, please, this could be solved with a simple conversation. No, the obstacles are real and require them both to find ways to bend if they are going to work things out.

I love the magic of the world and the intrigue of the story. There’s more to it to come in future novels. That’s clear. A struggle that will be ongoing and building toward a crescendo at some point. I’m totally planning on being on board for that ride.

I also love the descriptions of their attraction and the sex because its so very emotional. It’s not about the sex and not so much graphic as powerfully written, if that makes any sense.

I highly recommend this book and hope everyone out there will go grab a copy because it’s just that good.

Sunday, April 14th, 2019
Unexpected Choices

I happened to get my Bookbub mailer today, and in it was a bundle for “Alien Mail Order Brides.” That tripped me up. It’s on trend in a lot of ways, but it overlays the old west and even current practice of mail ordering a bride, which I find a bit unexpected. (But why is it never a man? Would gay or lesbian people be able to mail order a spouse? What does marriage mean in an alien culture? Would it be more like a mail order baby-mama?) In these books, the aliens are invaders, and no doubt superlative human-like male specimens with huge dongs and twelve-pack abs and the sexual stamina of a diesel locomotive. From the description, the women are going to be seriously happy in bed.

But the concept made me start thinking of mail order spouses in a futuristic landscape. It made me think of Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild (which is amazing and you should read it if you haven’t, and again if you have!). It also made me think of Pat Murphy’s “His Vegetable Wife.” Both are a case of alien ‘marriage,’ (and I define that term very loosely), where the difficulties of mating between two species/cultures is highlighted. (And to be clear, “His Vegetable Wife” is not a case of voluntary ‘marriage,’ but of the essential enslavement of the wife. BUT! The ending is awesome and again, if you haven’t read the story, you must.)

And then I got to thinking about ‘aliens’ and marriage in our own world, with aliens because Others of all sorts, whether othered by race, culture, education, wealth or lack thereof, age, weight, religion, and so on. Romances are often about how two ‘alien’ type of people come together and find commonalities and love. A lot of SF and F is also frequently about ‘aliens’ coming together and working together for a common goal. They also often highlight the fear of the ‘alien.’

Thinking about what I’ve written about, that’s a pretty pervasive theme in what I write. I hadn’t really thought about it that way until I started thinking about the mail order alien brides. But it makes me feel better in general knowing that a lot of books in multiple genres are tackling the ‘alien v. us’ theme and demonstrating that hatred isn’t the way to go, that people are people, no matter what color, shape, language, gender, or anything else that separates them from being the same as me or you.

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019
Considering Reverse Harem Stories

Have you read a reverse harem story? Do you know what they are? Essentially they are romances involving one woman and at least three men. Two men would make it menage-a-trois, which is another category of romance. I have been told by one writer of reverse harem stories, that this is not a group sex/orgy type of book, but the woman has encounters with each man one-on-one. The focus is on the developing romantic relationships between each pairing, while the men also develop relationships with each other of a non-sexual nature.

I’ve not really read them, after learning about them last year. I happened to run across a book bundle with four or five inside by the same author, so I picked it up and so far have read two of the stories.

This writer has a particular formula. I don’t know if applies to the genre in general or not, but there are some things I found interesting about the formula as a writer. First, in these books, the woman doesn’t know the men. She meets them one by one, usually, though one many usually has a male friend with whom he’s shared a girlfriend before, and it was something they wish to repeat again.

I think this experienced couple of men is fundamental to the way she tells her reverse harem stories, because they can reassure both the woman and the other men that this can be a healthy and normal relationship. In other words, they give a kind of permission for everyone to participate in what is currently socially taboo behavior.

The woman also has a problem that she doesn’t want to ask for help for. She’s independent and spunky the men all admire and want her. There’s an insta-love sort of quality to these stories because there isn’t a lot of time to develop each romance with any depth, so the reader just has to buy that they fall in love without a lot of evidence. There’s almost no conflict between the woman and each of the men. The conflict tends to be exterior in the shape of whatever problem the woman has, and complicated by the fact that she either doesn’t want help, or doesn’t want to tell them she needs help, Often she’s in money trouble.

The men want to help her through not giving her money, but helping her dig herself out and supporting her while she does. In other words, it’s not exactly a rescue. Nor is it a “we’ll help you for sex” situation. They like her and want to help her and the implication and sometimes explicitly stated motivation is that she deserves their help whether she’s romantically involved with any of them or not.

In both these books, they five (four men and the woman) end up moving in together after each realizes they all want her and they are willing to compete and let her choose. Of course she realizes she loves them all and can’t choose, and decides to call the whole thing off. She can’t bear to hurt any one of them by picking just one and she can’t imagine that they would want to maintain the relationship, but of course, they all do. She’s just that amazing.

She has sex with each man individually, and toward the end, there’s a kind of five-way with all the men involved, touching and kissing and pleasing her, which makes them all happy. There’s no male-on-male sex. No hint that they even touch each other while they are all naked with the woman.

I have to admit, part of me kept thinking . . . wow, what a lot of work to have sex with multiple men. It feels good and she’s terrifically happy, but combined with working and living life, that doesn’t give her a lot of time to just relax. Maybe relaxation is overrated when you can have that many mind-blowing orgasms.

One other thing that I noticed is that she has to constantly reassure herself that she’s not a slut. Her word. That having sex with multiple partners doesn’t make her an awful person. I found this annoying. It’s not that I don’t get the reason why. Society says that women who have multiple sex partners, whether dating them at the same time or serially, are whores. Readers have subconscious biases against women who do have and enjoy sex with multiple men.

Men who like sex and horndog sex, on the other hand, are just players and that makes them more manly. And the men in these stories clearly don’t have issues having multiple sex partners. It’s never suggested that they are anything less than manly men. But it has to be repeated that the women are not sluts or whores, that they really are good women, and sometimes this is reinforced by them cooking amazing meals for all the men, or being domestic in some other fashion, or being really kind and generous and the fact that they worry about what might be thought about them shows that they are really good women.

The fantasy of these novels is really the chosen one fantasy. And not just one amazingly handsome, nice, wealthy, kind, generous, and big-dicked men, but four. And they are so obsessed with her that they are willing to share her with other men. In fact, it’s a good thing because they won’t have to worry about her when they are working (all tend to have their own businesses or be workaholics). Nor will they have to feel guilty for not giving her enough of their time and attention.

I’m curious about other reverse harem novels and how they approach the story. I have to admit that while this author worked hard to make the stories robust with developed characters, I found the stories a little thin and flat. Not enough depth and not filling enough. Also a bit repetitive and not enough real conflict for me.

Does anyone read these? Do you have a favorite author or book? How do other books approach this type of story?

Monday, June 26th, 2017
Book Review: The Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop by Tracy Corbett

I received this book from NetGalley.

This is a terrific book. Let’s start there. I’ll give you more below, but just know it’s a really good book and you should read it.

So to begin, The Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop by Tracy Corbett and available July 3, is kind of a romance, but while romance is a part of the book, it’s really about people figuring out their lives and going through difficult times and finding each other as friends and family. So if you’re looking for a strong romantic narrative, it’s not going to be coming. Doesn’t matter. It’s a fabulous read.

Back of Book Blurb:

Evie is busy running the Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop and praying for an uplift in sales as soon as possible. She might be in the market of selling romance, but for Evie a new man is the last thing she needs!

That is until plumber Scott Castillo turns up to fix her boiler. She’s definitely not interested. But then, why does she keep ogling his rather attractive forearms? She’s been fooled before – she isn’t about to fall head-over-heels for some smooth-talker, right?

When he isn’t trying to balance paying the bills with caring for his sick mother, Scott has stepped in to help parent his 18-year-old nephew, Ben. Between that and working full time Scott doesn’t have time for romance. Until he meets Evie . . .

Love doesn’t always bloom the way you expect but for the customers of the Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop it might just be the perfect time for romance . . .

Set in Britain, the book follows Evie’s journey back to independence after a bad relationship. She’s running her dream flower shop, but she’s got a time crunch hanging over her head. She’s got only so much time before she’s got to buy the shop or lose out on her dream forever. She’s also got a chip on her shoulder and is terribly suspicious of men. Scott is a delightful guy, but bogged down in several crises of his own. He’s given up his business and his life in London to care for his disabled mother and his nephew, who’s mom–Scott’s sister–can’t seem to be bothered. His ex-fiance blew him off when he decided to care for his mother, and so he’s skittish of new relationships, but he’s also eager to know Evie.

Things quickly go wrong for both. Corbett follows each through their separate lives, then bumps them up against each other, often with disastrous results. Each of them are putting up fronts so nobody knows just what is going on behind the facades and how difficult things have been and are, and both are afraid of what the other might think. Gradually their secrets come to light and they share, growing closer as friends and maybe something more.

Woven through their growing relationships and acting as foils, are the crumbling marriage of Evie’s best friend Laura and her husband Martin, the passionate and devoted relationship of Scott’s nephew Ben and his soon-t0-be bride Amy, the troubled marriage of Patricia and David Robinson, and the quirky and delightful courtship of Josh and Saffy.

Layered on to these relationships are the friendships that help teach each of the characters–not just Evie and Scott–how to grow and how to hold firm to what they most need and desire.

This story is a relatively slow build, but the pacing is really perfect and the story so well woven that the end is incredibly satisfying. You don’t get any of those “too-stupid-to-live” moments, and when Evie seems determined to be blind or to react irrationally, Cordelia or Laura or Saffy or others are there to catch her up short and point out that her reality is different from what she understands. But you sympathize with her because you see that those reactions are realistic for where she’s been and she owns her mistakes and she doesn’t hide from growth. The other characters find both heartache and happiness–but in the end, it’s all perfect. 

I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to reading Corbett’s next book.

 

 

 

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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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