Book Reviews

As an author, I’m often asked what I like to read. Basically, my taste runs to genre fiction. I like to escape to other worlds far away from the reality of daily news. Here are some of my recent reads from Fall 2015. You can also follow my reviews on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/91508.Nancy_J_Cohen

Bookshelf

A Matter of Honor by Jamie McFarlane (Science Fiction)
Captain Liam Hoffen and crew are determined to rescue the survivors from Cape of Good Hope, a ship abandoned by the powerful Belirand Corporation. But even as they set this goal, they’re marked for death. Because now they know the secret that Belirand will kill to keep. Aiding their quest is the mysterious inventor, Phillipe Anino. While avoiding Belirand’s assassins, Liam and friends discover the issue is way bigger than they’d thought. It could blow a hole in everyone’s concept of the known universe. And Belirand is willing to guard this knowledge at the expense of Liam, his crew, and their families. Is he willing to risk all to save the forty-five crew members of Cape of Good Hope?

A Matter of Honor is another action-packed installment in the Privateer Tales. What makes you care are the characters who are noble at heart and take the moral high road. They are heroes you can cheer for until the final page is turned, and then you have to wait impatiently for the sequel.

Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron (Mystery)
Cajun cuisine mixes with murder and history in this delightful debut novel from Ellen Byron. Maggie Crozat, an artist from Manhattan, goes home for a stay at her family’s B&B. The mansion’s rooms are filled, but no sooner can you say “Laissez les bons temps roulez,” than the shenanigans begin. First one guest meets her demise. When her death appears suspicious and the finger points to Maggie’s relations, Maggie vows to uncover the truth. Impeding her progress is the sheriff, whose feud with the Crozat family is legendary. Fortunately, his handsome relative shows up on the force and quickly becomes Maggie’s ally. Will she unmask the murderer before more guests meet their untimely end? Can she save their plantation from financial ruin? Maggie needs to fire up her southern charm and sniff out a killer to save the estate. With the richly Southern setting, quirky characters, and evocative descriptions, you’ll be wanting more in this charming series.

Kris Longknife: Unrelenting (Science Fiction)
Admiral Princess Kris Longknife is in charge of Alwa’s defense, a planet under imminent threat of attack from a homicidal race. Her resources are limited. But it’s hard for her to remain focused when an act of sabotage within her own ranks neutralizes a number of military women’s birth control devices. Kris is one of the affected officers who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. With a baby on the way, she faces her biggest battle yet. The survival of the planet depends on her. Will her forces be strong enough to defend this one world and prevent the aliens from eradicating humanity elsewhere in the galaxy? Natives, colonialists, scientists, and soldiers join forces in the ultimate confrontation.

Kris Longknife is a sympathetic, strong female protagonist who keeps being forced into military space battles when she’d rather seek peace. But with her brilliant strategic mind, she’s best suited to lead her people toward victory. I’m eager for the next installment.

A Cup of Jo by Sandra Balzo (Mystery)
The grand opening of Maggy Thorsen’s coffee shop by a train station is proceeding according to plan, until the event organizer is found dead inside an inflatable coffee cup. Suspects abound, from the woman’s husband to various acquaintances, most of whom have motives. When her boyfriend’s integrity is called into question, Maggy decides to do some investigating of her own. A solid mystery, a cast of quirky characters, and a savory setting make this a pleasant whodunit to add to your shelves.

Killer Transaction by Catherine Bruns (Mystery)
Real estate agent Cindy York has the job from hell. She’s consistently cheated by rival Realtor, Tiffany Roberts. Tiffany steals her listings and woos her clients while their boss looks the other way. Being cheated one time too many, Cindy leaves a nasty message on Tiffany’s voice mail. This comes back to haunt her when she discovers the woman’s dead body. The police focus on Cindy as the main suspect. With her job in jeopardy and being a hairsbreadth away from serving jail time, can Cindy find the culprit and clear her name?

Smuggler’s Dilemma by Jamie McFarlane (Science Fiction)
In Book 5 of the Privateer Tales, Captain Liam Hoffen and company are hired to locate a battleship operated by the deadly pirates known as Red Houzi. The pirate fleet has just decimated a naval force, and the Navy must regain control so people don’t panic. Liam’s unorthodox tactics are the only thing that might help them gain the upper hand. But when Liam spies the enemy ship, he decides that rather than call in the Navy as he’d been ordered, he’ll attack the vessel and take it over instead. Meanwhile, he struggles with his girlfriend’s recovery from disabling injuries. Can she manage well enough to come along as his pilot? This story contains the usual battle scenes, along with personal interactions that develop the characters.

Mercy’s Prince by Katy Huth Jones (Fantasy)
Valerian is second in line to the throne until his brother is killed in battle. Now the Crown Prince, Valerian must live up to his father’s expectations and become a warrior. While he’s struggling with his fate, Mercy lives in a nearby village and has to discover her destiny. Aware only recently of her healing power, she has no idea how extensive her gifts are until forced to use them. When Valerian and Mercy meet, they slowly realize they belong together. United, they can defeat the enemy. But how long will the peace last before the fearful soldiers come back stronger? Dragons, mind melds, magic, and romance blend together in this coming-of-age tale. Mercy’s Prince is a pleasant escapist read.

The Savants by Patrick Kendrick (YA SciFi Thriller)
The Eastern seaboard of the U.S. is imperiled when a nuclear bomb explodes underwater off the coast, triggering a fault line to crack apart. A gigantic tsunami will flood a number of states unless the President can find a solution. He discovers unlikely help at a research institute for savants, individuals who’ve suffered brain damage but are gifted in unique ways. Working together for the first time, these young people believe they can help. But their leader, who has brought them there to study the group’s dynamics, hides a secret of his own. Much worse is the secret guarded by the Vice President, who sows the seeds of distrust in our government. Can disaster be averted and the traitors in our midst exposed in time to save the world? Scientific theories collide with political intrigue in this fast-paced thriller. Kudos to Mr. Kendrick for educating us about savants and their special talents.

Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen (Historical Mystery)
This installment in the Royal Spyness series is the best yet. A trip to America for Lady Georgiana, distant cousin to the royal family, provides laughs with its fish-out-of-water theme. Add to this a wacky cast of film stars, an eccentric producer, and a jewel thief, and the fun accelerates. Georgiana’s suitor, the mysterious Mr. Darcy, appears when the crew congregates at a glitzy Hollywood mansion. He’s after the jewel thief, but then someone turns up dead. As the puzzle deepens, Georgiana wonders which one of her new friends is the culprit.

G-2 (The Guardian of Earth Series) by Nigel Carson (Science Fiction)
When Zeke discovers a hostile alien fleet is headed to Earth, he is determined to stop them. His role as Guardian of Earth and descendant of a faraway race is a secret. He trusts no one for help, including his robot valet, Forman. It’s a good thing, since Forman’s creator has tampered with his programming. She’s put a locator inside him, and this becomes useful as Zeke and Forman are compromised by the Maleem invaders. Zeke has a narrow escape aided by his girlfriend, Jessie. Could they use the way she freed him as a means to repel the alien force? Why is it that humans are disappearing around the globe? As more world leaders succumb to the Maleem mind link via a mysterious necklace, Zeke consults his Taman relatives for answers. How can he defeat an ingenious enemy who is seemingly unstoppable? They tell Zeke that he needs to have faith in his own powers and the help of others who believe in him. Can he use his newfound heritage to protect the planet? Filled with action, adventure, and suspense, this story will take you on a ride that’s out of this world. The secondary characters are memorable and unique. An exciting, edge-of-your-seat read!

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Book Reviews: What I Am Reading

When I give talks, people always ask what I like to read. So I am going to share with you some of the books I’ve read this year. You can also follow my reviews on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/91508.Nancy_J_Cohen

Death with All the Trimmings by Lucy Burdette (Mystery)
Hayley looks forward to writing about new Key West chef Edel Waugh in her food critic column, but things go up in smoke when a fire shuts down the restaurant. Then investigators discover a dead body inside an adjacent burnt-out shed. It’s no other than Edel’s ex-husband. Was his death an accident, or did Edel commit arson to cover up a crime? Or perhaps someone else has a grudge against the talented chef? Hayley determines to help the woman, who’s anxious to open for the holidays. But will Hayley even have a column to write when a rival threatens her job? Chaos ensues amid holiday preparations in this fun mystery. The mouth-watering food descriptions will compel you to make a dinner reservation at your favorite restaurant.

The Heir by Kiera Cass (YA Fantasy)
This fourth installment in The Selection series by Kiera Cass is just as much frothy fun as the previous three books. If you like to daydream about living in a palace and being on first name terms with royalty, you might enjoy these titles. In this story, Princess Eadlyn agrees to her parents’ requests to hold a Selection in order to distract the populace from their woes. Having no interest in getting married, she dutifully obeys while plotting to get rid of her suitors along the way. She doesn’t expect to actually care about any of the young men who show up at the palace hoping to win her hand, so it comes as a surprise when a few of them make an impression. Can she let down her emotional walls enough to give herself a chance at love? With this being part of another trilogy, you know the princess won’t make her decision until the end, and the author does a good job of keeping you guessing which guy will win her heart. If you’re looking for complex political intrigue, look elsewhere. The Heir is light, fun, and full of dreams for a pleasing summer read.

Murder at Beechwood by Alyssa Maxwell (Historical Mystery)
Journalist Emma Cross, a lesser member of the Vanderbilt family, opens her mansion door in historic Newport one day to find a baby on her doorstep. Down the road is a murdered coachman who must have left the infant there. Who are they, and why did they come to her house? She launches her investigation into an elite society soon clouded by another death. Textile magnate Virgil Monroe disappears overboard from his sailboat. Was it an accident or murder? Is there a link between the missing man and the abandoned child? Who among this bejeweled crowd might know about the baby? As Emma investigates, she learns shocking secrets that might make her the next victim unless she discovers the culprit first. Emma continues to show her strength and gumption in an era when independent women weren’t the norm. You’ll be eager to join her next adventure involving history, mystery, and high society in the Gilded Newport era.

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace (YA Fantasy)
This story engaged me from the start and swept me along with its frantic, engrossing pace. Multiple viewpoint switches were done well, with each chapter labeled by the character who ruled it. I quickly felt sympathy for Johanna, member of a performing troupe who watched her father die as he fell from a tightrope in the forest. Was it an accident as people said? And why were girls who looked like her being murdered in different villages? She performs at the estate of Duke DeSilva and meets his son, Lord Rafael. There’s an instant love-hate relationship between them that makes you realize they’re destined to be together. But Johanna has a broader destiny, because she hides an identity unknown even to herself. And once Rafi finds out who she really is, he swears to protect her at all cost. But can he protect her from dangerous mages headed their way or conspirators bent on destroying them? Romance, mystery, and fantasy are wound into one package that will have you bolting for the next volume.

Bubba Done It by Maggie Toussaint (Paranormal Mystery)
When a dying banker says that someone nicknamed Bubba stabbed him, he unleashes the sheriff’s investigation into a number of townsfolk all of whom share the same moniker. What makes the lawman’s task more difficult is that each person has a viable motive. Wayne turns for help to the local Dreamwalker. But when Baxley tries to contact the dead guy in the great beyond, she runs into a dark entity that threatens to pull her into the void forever. Complicating matters are the victim’s niece who is missing and her boat that was found abandoned in the marsh. What has happened to the young girl? As Baxley gets closer to the truth, she receives threatening messages and acts of vandalism that are meant to discourage her. But she persists on pursuing justice regardless of her own peril. It’s a pleasure to see Baxley’s paranormal powers expanding. This unique element adds to the story’s mystique. With its cast of quirky characters, Southern setting, and psychic sleuth, Bubba Done It will keep you guessing until the end.

Murder and Marinara by Rosie Genova (Mystery)
Victoria returns to her hometown on the Jersey Shore to do research for her next mystery novel. Fiction turns into reality when TV producer Gio Parisi dines at her family’s restaurant and keels over dead. Could the culprit be their food supplier who has a grudge against Parisi? Or Tim the chef, who had the opportunity? Or maybe Parisi’s wife or girlfriend? Suspects abound in this lighthearted romp that will have you remembering your days at the seashore with fond memories.

The Saffron Crocus by Alison McMahan (YA Historical Mystery)
Isabella, 15, longs to be a singer in 1643 Venice, but as a lady, she’s confined to singing in salons. Her teacher, Margherita, introduces her to the opera, and Isabella sees a new future ahead of her. But when Margherita is brutally murdered and her son is accused of the deed, Isabella shifts her goals to discovering the killer. She’s met Rafaele, who respects her ambitions, and she wishes to help clear his name. But can she resist her aunt’s attempts to match her to another man, who won’t allow her to sing in public? As she discovers secrets her teacher kept hidden, Isabella races to gain evidence before Rafaele is executed for his alleged crimes. If he dies, so will her hope, because she’s fallen in love with him. This glimpse into a fascinating era moves at a quick pace that will have readers singing for justice and wanting more from this talented author.

The Counterfeit Lady by Kate Parker (Historical Mystery)
Georgia Fenchurch, a London bookshop owner during the Victorian era, is a member of the secret Archivist Society that investigates crimes. So when her house guest Lady Phyllida’s cousin is murdered, Georgia gets involved. The cousin was married to a man who’d designed warship blueprints for the government, and those documents are now missing. There’s only a handful of people who would have known he’d taken them home that evening, and they are members of the upper crust. Thus Georgia assumes the identity of Lady Georgina and teams up with the Duke of Blackford to infiltrate high society. They must root out a spy and find the real killer to clear the husband’s name of murder.

This second book in the Victorian Bookshop mystery series is as engaging as the first. Georgia is a capable heroine, strong-willed and independent. She grows to care for the duke while knowing their relationship can never progress beyond friendship. I’m eager for the next installment as the search for her parents’ killer continues and she gets involved in another adventure.

G-1 (The Guardian of Earth Series book one) by Rigel Carson (Science Fiction)
The world is on the brink of ecological disaster, but scientist Dr. Zeke Landry has trouble convincing anyone that a conspiracy might be the cause. As he digs deeper, he uncovers truths about himself that leave him even more mystified. When he becomes a target for deadly forces bent on his destruction, is it because of his research into the global water shortage or because of his own mysterious background? In a race against time, he must discover his legacy and activate his powers to save the world. G-1 is a page-turning ecological thriller that could become chillingly real.

The Goddess’s Choice by Jamie Marchant (Fantasy)
Robbie can’t take any more beatings by his father, and so he looks for escape one day at the country fair. Here he meets the lovely lady he calls Milady. They share a dance and a conversation before her guards hustle her off. Figuring he’d never see her again, Robbie returns to his farm and the animals who comfort him. Somehow he can understand what they say and can heal their injuries with his mind. Meanwhile, the lady he met returns to her home at the palace. She’s actually Crown Princess Samantha. Her father, the king, is ill and has been pressuring her to choose a consort. She rejects the fawning suitors who want nothing more from her than her royal status. As members of her court conspire to seize power, Robbie learns he has powers of his own that go beyond healing. Can he gain his strength in time to save Samantha from the noblemen plotting to kill her? This well-imagined story will grab your attention from the start and take you on an adventure filled with magic until the satisfying conclusion.

Undercity by Catherine Asaro (Science Fiction)
Beginning a new scifi detective series set in the Skolian Empire universe, Asaro introduces Major Bhaajan, a former military officer turned P.I. who returns to her home planet under assignment to rescue a missing prince. What she discovers goes beyond a kidnapping and reveals a conspiracy that shakes her world. Exquisite world building, strong characters and fast-paced action will have readers eagerly awaiting the sequel.

What is on your reading list for this summer?