Megan Reviews Switchblade by Carsen Taite


When we last saw Luca Bennet, she and Jessica Chase were sharing a rather sweet moment, both rather tongue-tied as they stood at the precipice of moving from their long-standing friends-with-benefits relationship to something more. And then Ronnie Moreno (I spit out her name in disgust) shows up out of the blue, after involving Luca in a rather questionable case and torrid romance two books ago. I liked Ronnie when she was the romantic interest in Slingshot, but after she dumped Luca’s ass and the subsequent developments in Battle Axe, I’m firmly in the Luca/Jess camp and am fervently hoping Luca gets her head out of her ass and makes a good decision for once.

I hate cliffhanger endings when I read them, but love them when I have the next book in the series ready to crack open. I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on the latest book in the Luca Bennett series since I read the last screen of Battle Axe and, now that I have it loaded on my reader, I’m going to settle down while it rains this weekend. I’ll be back shortly to let you know my thoughts.

Switchblade picks up Luca’s life, a life in which the hard-boiled PI hasn’t met a bad decision she didn’t like, right where things left off and drags the reader on another headlong adventure involving investigating corrupt cops and a rather complicated love life. Ronnie’s asshole of a brother (must run in the family), is a recently promoted detective who’s just been accused of corruption and falsifying evidence – of course Ronnie turns to Luca to find the truth and exonerate him. Based on her previous run in with Jorge, Luca isn’t sure that the charges are trumped up, but as she digs in deeper she finds more questions than answers and wondering who she can trust. Wow…sounds like pretty good back of the book blurb.

I’ve always enjoyed Taite’s legal mysteries and her foray out of the courtroom with Luca as a rough and tumble bailbondswoman is a nice addition to her oeuvre of work…and I think I like them even better than the legal ones. As in the previous books, Luca’s approach is more “damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead” than Taite’s lawyer characters, but that gives the books a great sense of suspense – especially when you’re never quite sure what Luca’s going to do next and happily cringe as she charges headlong into the thick of things. She’s definitely not as refined, but being a bad girl with a gun is what makes Luca rather irresistible. And she certainly appears irresistible despite that she drinks too much, gambles excessively, spends a fair amount of time dodging her rent-seeking landlord, and scrounging through dirty laundry for semi-presentable t-shirts. But in the end, she’s a likable character and the first person narration makes it easy to fall in line with everyone else that succumbs to her charm. Luckily, Luca seems to be maturing as the series continues – and she’s giving a lot of her previous decisions second thoughts and trying hard to do the right thing once she figures out what that is.

I’d classify this as a detective style mystery – Luca does a decent job of tracking stuff down and making the connections and I wasn’t left with the feeling that there were too many loose ends or that things get resolved through a deus ex machina intervention. The plot is pretty fast paced and not a lot of extraneous exposition or non-essential elements slowing things down. Taite’s humour shines through, and that softens some of Luca’s harder edges. Only three people end up in the hospital, so the danger and mayhem factor was there but not overly excessive. Just enough to give it some grit.

There is a bit of a triangle – with Ronnie and Jess both pressing her for more, but it isn’t overdone and is balanced with the overall mystery and action. Kudos for not letting Luca get too angst-ridden – but then again, she isn’t a character that wrestles with angst. Even my favourite super secret squirrel federal agent with a stripper name pops up to stir the pot and muddy the waters of the investigation. For those who’ve read her other books, Ryan Foster and Brett Logan from Nothing But The Truth show up for a bit of a cameo and Taite handles it well in that they fit in the story, but don’t steal the spotlight from Luca. Sneaky since now I want to re-read that book to get re-aquainted with those characters. My favourite addition was Cash – who seems to ground Luca and steal all the scenes.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and it was a fun read – mystery, action, humour, and a bit of romance. Who could ask for more? It was a great story to wile away a dreary, rainy day and managed to quell my aggravation over Battle Axe’s cliffhanger. If you’ve read and enjoyed Taite’s legal novels, you’ll like this. If you’ve read and enjoyed the two other books in this series, this one will definitely satisfy your Luca fix and I highly recommend picking it up. And as to whether Luca gets her head of her ass and makes a good decision – all I’ll say is …. read the book.

Highly Recommended.

You can download a sample or purchase Switchblade by clicking here.

Wow, there’s Nothing On TV aka C-Spot Reviews: The Chained Heat Edition by Megan

Over the last few weeks, my reading increased in direct proportion to the number of cable shows’ season finales. Now that I’ve exhausted all the PVR’d episodes of various series I’ve been hoarding, I’ve started playing around with the “On Demand” selection of movies and series that was included with my cable package. Sadly, just because it’s “On Demand” doesn’t mean that it is “In Demand”.

One of the series I stumbled upon was Femme Fatales – which I thought could be interesting as I’m a big fan of the Noir genre. This anthology series is produced by Cinemax, which I didn’t discover until later is also known as Skinamax, and the first episode follows a Lindsey Lohan-like actress who’s sent to prison. Oh yeah, baby, Women in Prison. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor during the rather, uhm, vigorous sex scene between Lacey and her cellmate, Camille, I had a good laugh, seriously considered rewinding and was reminded of a few fanfic and lesfic stories. I know, I know – Women in Prison movies and pulp novels were exploitive, geared to push censor boundaries and titillate male audiences. But there are a few WiP lesfic stories that I loved – more for the absolute angst ridden melodrama than anything else (and, some hot smoldering sex behind bars). Once I thought about them, I just had to read them again. For research purposes of course.


Hard Times by Blayne Cooper From her days as Advocate in the fanfic world, I’ve always been a big fan of Blayne Cooper’s work. She has a wicked sense of humour with fast paced and imaginative plots and characters who stood out as vibrant, smart. Hard Times was one of the first “published” novels by Cooper that I read and I think it is an excellent example of successful transitioning from fanfic to publishing. Her humour is still there but there are more serious plot lines and I found the characters even more real and endearing than in her fanfic. Kellie Holloway is a privileged, self-destructive woman who ends up in prison after a drunken confrontation with the police ends in tragedy. Once there she meets Lorna Malachi, a woman who’s been incarcerated since she was a teen and has learned early how to toughen up and survive behind bars. An unlikely friendship (not really … since this is a pretty common trope in prison stories) develops and of course there’s a sizzling romance and at least one shower scene. Both main characters are flawed – making bad choices along the way and learning to deal with the consequences – but at the same time. If you haven’t read this one yet, I’d recommend it as a well written romance set in a not so typical setting .


Angel and Ice Trilogy by Susanne M Beck (Sword’n’Quill)
(Redemption, Retribution, Restitution)
Note: I read (and re-read) the fanfic versions of these books, and can’t tell you whether the published versions (issued in early 2000’s) have any major differences, editing, etc. According to Amazon, these books are still available in paper version, though the publishers that are listed are no longer in business. Fanfic versions can be found here: http://www.ausxip.com/fanfiction/r/redemption.html, www.ausxip.com/fanfiction/r/retribution.html , http://www.ausxip.com/fanfiction/r/restitution.html
Angst, romance, tragedy, deception, danger, corruption, noble sacrifices, soul mates (who are united, torn apart, reunited, torn apart and reunited again), scads of uber characters including a gang called The Amazons, lots of sex, lots of violence, an over the top plot that keeps getting more and more ridiculous, hilarious dialogue that makes the reader laugh out loud and a breathless florid narrative. I really shouldn’t … but I really love this story . This is a long series – in which the author seems to be having such a fun time telling the story from Angel’s perspective that she just doesn’t want to wrap things up and continues to throw up obstacles in the path of Angel and Ice’s quest for a Happily Ever After. And I had such a fun time reading it that I didn’t want it to end. Angel, who embodies her nickname, is convicted of killing her husband (but it was self defense as he beat and was about to rape her) and sent to The Bog to serve out her sentence. The Bog is a decrepit, corrupt and dangerous women’s prison full of gangs, crooked guards and …. lesbians. How could I not love this series? Once Angel has established herself as a person who can “get things” behind prison walls and settles in for what is going to be a long sentence, Ice returns. One of the most uber of uber characters, Ice is an assassin for the mob until she’s double-crossed and returned to prison where she resumes her leadership of the Amazons, a gang of self-appointed protectors of the innocent. Dark, brooding, stoic, noble and a total bad ass when it comes to fighting – of course she’s Angel’s soul mate. The first book focuses on Angel and Ice’s time in the Bog, the second follows them on the lam and the third continues as they deal with the aftermath of the second book. This series pretty much breaks the angst-o-meter, so be prepared to suspend your disbelief and enjoy.

Orange is the New Black
Based on a book by the same name, this is a standout new series produced and available through Netflix. I haven’t had a chance to watch any of Netflix’ other series, but they knocked this one out of the park. The actors, writing and production in this series are outstanding – something I wasn’t expecting from a company that doesn’t even have a channel on TV. The story follows Piper Chapman, a rather self-absorbed and entitled woman who ends up in prison for inadvertently being her ex’s mule in an international drug cartel. Chapman is a spoiled little rich girl, used to avoiding consequences and taking accountability for her words and actions and to say that she’s a fish out of water in prison is an understatement. Although she is the primary character in the series, I think Orange is the New Black shines through the ensemble cast. Unlike most series, each of the supporting characters back stories of how they ended up in prison is brilliantly portrayed – elevating what would normally be two dimensional, stereotypical background characters into fully developed and real women whose circumstances and choices led them to incarceration. Even better, as the series progressed, characters I liked, I learned to hate and those I hated I fell in love with. I started this series with almost no expectations – and finished it on the edge of my couch, devastated that I have to wait a year to find out what happens next.

Cheri and Megan Review The Shoal of Time by J. M. Redmann


After the last installment of J. M. Redmann’s Micky Knight series, Ill Will, Megan and I spent a good two weeks talking about how the book affected us. Megan shed a lot of tears and I mostly just shook my head and wondered if the author would follow the storyline through to the most logical end. We had to wait many months for our answers but we finally got them in the newly released The Shoal of Time.

Megan and I are double teaming this one. We’re going to state right away that it’s going to be very hard to keep this a spoiler-free review but we’re going to do it. Before we begin with the summary, I want to say that this isn’t a book to read if you’ve not, at the very least, read Ill Will.

Megan, you want to give a brief summary?

Megan: Why do I always get the summary?

The Shoal of Time is the eighth installment of the Micky Knight series. This is a series that you need to read in order as the underlying plots and characters continue throughout each book. If you haven’t read the series, stop reading this review because all kinds of spoilers for the previous books will be cropping up. The Shoal of Time takes place several months after Ill Will … New Orleans is still recovering from Katrina and Micky is alone. This is exactly what I dreaded after reading Ill Will. Seemingly at loose ends, Micky heads out one evening for dinner and overhears a conversation at the table next to her. A bit of flirtation with the cute red head in the group and Micky ends up offering her PI services to a group of Feds who are investigating potential human trafficking in New Orleans. Providing them with a tour of the seedier sides of town and, after a run in with some rather nasty smugglers, Micky finds herself getting deeper and deeper into the investigation, taking it on herself to pursue several leads. Enter a rather hot FBI agent that has it in for (and the hots for) Micky, and things become even more dangerous as Micky tries to figure out who she can trust and who’s telling the truth.

Okay … so that’s the back of the book type blurb.

Cheri: That’s why you get the job of summarizing! You’re so good at it!

Ok, so we’ve got the potential for an interesting case and we don’t know for several chapters exactly what happened to Cordelia to have Micky in her current solo situation. Micky is sad and alone and trying to figure out how to move on with her life. Like previous books in the series, Micky tends to be her own biggest enemy. Her drinking isn’t out of control but she’s removed herself from all of her friends – we don’t hear from any of the old gang in this book – and she’s second guessing every aspect of her life.

Megan: I’ve always said that Micky is best when she’s fucking up. She’s a much more nuanced character when she’s vulnerable and struggling with her own demons. As much as I loved her and Cordelia together – a domesticated Micky wasn’t the same. This book brings some of that old Micky back – but as she’s aged over the series, her vulnerability and self doubt are hitting her a bit harder and I think led her down a few paths that old Micky would never have stumbled down. The mystery part of this book was not as satisfying as some of the other books – but for me, the Micky Knight stories are more about the characters. I wanted to throttle Micky a few times but after a bit of reflection, what happened off the page left her so desperate for some sort of validation or love that she could be forgiven for being a bit of an idiot when it came to figuring stuff out.

When I read the first few chapters, I had this inescapable feeling of dread whenever Cordelia was mentioned … or not mentioned. I was desperate to know and not wanting to know. Redmann must have had a hard time with developing this plot – Cordelia was so polarizing in the last two books that I`m sure she was beset by readers who wanted her killed off (eaten by alligators was one of my suggestions) or for a happily ever after ending where the author waves a wand and makes all the emotional turmoil experienced by both characters in the last few books just faded away as Micky and Cordlia rode off in to the sunset. By the time the truth came out – I was so angry and upset. Possibly as angry and upset as I was with what happened in Death of a Dying Man. I almost wanted to stop reading because the betrayal was almost personal.

Cheri: I completely agree with you on the Cordelia aspects of the past few books. I do, however, think you’re much more forgiving about Micky’s detective skills in this one than I am. Maybe because the case was so intertwined with every other aspect of the book that made it impossible for me to ignore the mystery and focus on the personal relationships instead. From the first interactions about the case, it seemed obvious that all was not what it seemed. For me, that made the only thing left to figure out was how the Cordelia situation was going to shake out. I think this was the first time I ever thought that it may be time for Micky to retire.

Megan: Agreed. This was not Micky`s shining hour in PI work. Although she was rather gullible and there were several instances where I raised my eyebrow to say “Really?”, I’m willing to cut her a bit of slack because of the shit that happened between the books. Bad choices and Micky Knight go together like Peanut Butter and honey (I don’t like jam). But I’ve always had more than a bit of a girl crush on Micky. As much as I didn’t like the mystery part – I do think that by the end of the book she seemed to be getting her shit together and I think that the next book will have her a bit more settled and sure of herself – and less prone to choosing the worst possible course of action every single time. 🙂

Despite the issues around the mystery and perhaps a bit of “over the top” with the Cordelia situation, I think that if someone has read the Micky Knight series, this is one that should be picked up. I’m hoping that this is a transition book – bringing back the bad ass Micky Knight who is full of sarcasm, piss, and vinegar.

Cheri: I still don’t know that I agree with you, Megan, but I’ve always been tougher on Micky than you have. I think the only character in the series I’ve ever been close to having a crush on is Alex and there was no Alex in this book. Maybe that’s why I’m disappointed. It may have nothing at all to do with the case or the way the Cordelia plot line was (un)resolved. I just needed some Alex.

Megan: Micky’s relationships with Danny, Joanne, Alex, Torbin, etc always gave the books a great sense of humour as well as a way of humanizing Micky. It was disappointing that the regular cast of supporting characters were nowhere to be found in this book. Redmann establishes early on that Micky has either frozen them out or that they’ve grown apart. It’s something that had started in the last few books, so although I missed them, I wasn’t surprised that this was a Micky on her own kind of book. There are some interesting new characters introduced. I like the FBI agent. 🙂

I’m judging this book as part of the overall series as opposed to as a standalone. It is by no means the best of the eight books – but I think that things in the book needed to happen in order to close out some of the emotional turmoil of the last few.

I think we could both agree that in the next book Micky needs to 1) brush up on her detective skills and not get taken advantage of, 2) build a new support group of smart, funny, and hot friends, 3) stop drinking that expensive scotch and buy some groceries (going to restaurants gets her into trouble, and 3) sleep with the FBI agent.

Cheri: I don’t think I can add much more to that, except I think you have terrible taste in women. Except for my wife. You’re right on the money with her. I’m not sold on the FBI agent. I want Micky to find a nice, sweet woman who will not second guess her all the time and make her feel like a loser. Damn you, Cordelia! No, I can’t let go of anything that she did from just before Katrina right on to the end. Booo!

So the bottom line is that if you’ve read the rest of the Micky Knight series, you absolutely have to read this one. It’s a requirement. If you’ve not read the series, well, I guess you really should because it’s a great series. Like Megan said, some books are better than others but I still think it’s well done with gritty cases, difficult personal situations, and never a happily ever after.

You can purchase or download a sample of The Shoal of Time by clicking here..

Secret Lies by Amy Dunne

*Note: This was an advance review copy provided through NetGalley – scheduled for release on December 1, 2013 from BSB or, according to Amazon, December 17th.

Secret Lies by Amy Dunne is a book that I read over two days, but stayed with me for quite a bit longer. Categorized as a Young Adult book, it deals with some rather difficult subject matter and is something that deserves a bit of reflection both during and after reading. This isn’t to say that the book is nothing but doom and gloom – but it also isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. I’m impressed at how well Dunne balances the darker story lines against the burgeoning romance between the two main characters to produce a remarkably good first novel.

Although they are both in the same school and grade, Jenny O’Connor and Nicola Jackson are virtual strangers when they literally run into one another and end up skipping classes. Both girls are hiding their own secrets – Nic is the victim of abuse at the hands of her stepfather, hiding the scars and bruises and isolating herself from everyone. Jenny seems to be a young woman who has it all – pretty and popular, she’s the natural leader of her friends; but, underneath she is emotionally paralyzed by the pressure of everyone’s expectations, as well as her own guilt and doubts, leading her to cut herself as a means to feel anything. As their friendship develops and solidifies over shared secrets, they each provide the support the other needs. Sounds like it is bound to be a complete angst-ridden train wreck, but Dunne handles the back stories without hand-wringing angst – giving a realistic and sensitive portrayal of abuse and cutting. At the same time Dunne captures the intensity of first love, weaving in all the overwhelming wonder and joy as well as the doubts and fears of coming out. Obviously, there’s a lot going on in this book.

Dunne has created characters that feel real and easy for the reader to connect with. I liked both characters and found myself easily caught up in their story. At times I thought Nic was a bit too grounded and maintained a level of maturity and strength and would have expected her to have more baggage to deal with as a result of her rather brutal home life. In counterpoint, Jenny’s development is much more apparent as the story progresses and she grows and matures, learning to deal with the issues and guilt that led to her cutting.

It was refreshing that neither one of the characters were waiting for someone else to save them. Jenny had already been seeking help from a therapist to deal with her cutting and Nic had her own plans to make enough money and get good enough grades to escape her home life. In meeting one another, they didn’t find a saviour; rather, they found someone to share their secrets and draw the strength they needed. The immediate seriousness of Nic’s situation was a bit more dire, and Jenny does have a few white knight moments – but I was so desperate for Nic to get out of that house that I was more than willing to accept Jenny’s invitation for Nic to stay with her family.

There are a few elements in the story that are a bit contrived and the romance develops pretty fast; but, Dunne’s writing invests the reader into the characters so much that I was willing to accept them and plunge ahead in the story. My biggest qualm was Nic’s plan to confront her stepfather in order to get proof of his abuse – the scars alone should have been more than enough, but I’m willing to go with it because there’s something canonical about teens making bad decisions in YA books. In most books actually since without characters making bad decisions, the book would end after the first chapter and everyone would live happily ever after.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author. Recommended.

Note: If you have any triggers around abuse, this may not be the best book for you to read. There are a couple of brutal scenes of physical abuse – complemented by even more brutal doses of ongoing psychological abuse from her stepfather. They are not gratuitous and are essential for the plot and character motivations.

MEC Reviews The Devil’s Orchard by Ali Vali


I approached Ali Vali’s fifth book in the Cain Casey series with a bit of caution. Not that I don’t love the series – I’ve re-read it quite a few times, enjoying the action, humour, and characters enough to find them a welcome haven when I’m stuck in one of those moods where nothing new piques my interest. Vali’s created memorable characters and some complex plots full of crosses and double-crosses that still keep me riveted, even when I know damn well what’s going to happen next because I’ve read the books so often. I will admit though, that the author’s habit of ending each book with cliff-hangers was starting to wear on my nerves. There’s nothing worse than racing through the last few chapters of a book, completely captivated by the plot then find myself left dangling precariously (along with the characters) with unresolved plot points and the promise of resolution in a year or two when the next book comes out. It appears that I don’t do patience well. 🙂

From the scuttlebutt I picked up at the GCLS conference, Vali plans two more books in the series and possibly a “prequel”. She’s already started to lay a bit of groundwork around the history of the Cain family and I’m suspecting that the prequel won’t be about a young Cain, but about her great (great?) grandmother. That’s a book I’d be very interested in reading. Needless to say, the last two books in the Cain series will be downloaded as soon as the BSB newsletter announces their release and I’ll be rereading the series from start to finish on a semi-regular basis.

The Devil’s Orchard is a welcome addition to the series. It picks up a short time after The Devil Be Damned and I think it does a lot to bring the series back on track, focusing the story back on Cain and Emma. Many of the characters who had larger roles in previous books are relegated to more peripheral parts; something I think needed to be done in order to make sure the whole storyline didn’t spin out of control. Vali was juggling a lot of characters and intersecting plots without having the chance to close some of them off satisfactorily within the confines of one book – hence the cliff-hangers. The Devil’s Orchard closes off a few outstanding plots (and characters … cause what’s the Devil series without a bit of retribution, murder, and mayhem?) while setting the stage for lots more action and intrigue in the next two books. Although I didn’t want the book to end, I was happy with the way things closed off in this chapter of the Cain saga.

Cain and Emma’s relationship is rock solid in this book – which is a good thing because everyone and everything seems to want to take them both down. The FBI continues to dog their every move – and the arrival of a new Special Agent in Charge with his own agenda adds some new wrinkles as he seems to be more willing to bend the law in his pursuit of Cain. The drug wars are heating up with Juan Luis, Anthony, and Gracelia seeming to work at cross purposes (although if the worked together, I think that they’d disintegrate even faster – the word dysfunctional does not even come close to describing that family). Shelby brings in a new investigator who has her own issues with Cain and then there’s a random obsessed old flame of Cain’s who is bound and determined to get Emma out of the picture and have the mobster all to her delusional self. Seriously, with all that going on, there was no room for the other romantic leads and supporting characters from the other books.

With Muriel and Shelby, Remi and Dallas, and Merrick and Katlin in the background, this book is more action than angst. It’s hard to believe that this series spans only about a year … Vali packs in a lot in that time frame and there were points where I wanted to go back and re-read The Devil Be Damned to refresh my memory of who’s who in the zoo and what dastardly things did they do. In addition to dropping the reader right back into the thick of things, Vali sets up things for future conflict – giving some tantalizing hints of what is yet to come. This is a book you don’t want to put down because you don’t want to miss a thing. My only quibble is that there were too many POVs in the book – I already know that the bad guys are bad, I don’t need to keep going back to see how bad (and sometimes just plain stupid) they are.

I found this to be a bit darker than the previous novels – with Cain making some rather harsh decisions and reactions on both a professional and personal level and even Emma is becoming more involved in the less than savoury side of Cain’s business. Cain advises Shelby that in order “To avoid the fruit of sin, stay out of the devil’s orchard. … Revenge is something you think will soothe the ache that loss leaves you with. Like apples growing in an orchard, it will tempt you, but it’s an illusion … Take my advice and avoid the orchard, the sin and the devil you’ll find there.” An interesting warning from someone who spends a good portion of the series exacting revenge (or is it retribution) against those who have harmed or threatened her own family.

Vali loves to tell a story that is firmly entrenched in the greys – you’re cheering for the criminals and jeering at the FBI. When all is said and done, Cain is a mobster – she’s smarter than the FBI, loyal to her family and friends, but make no mistake, she’s ruthless and unforgiving if crossed. Vali doesn’t sugar-coat the violence, but she doesn’t dwell on it either. I wouldn’t classify this as noir – Cain’s just a bit too charming and likable to be a noir anti-hero. It does have a gritty bite to it – definitely a departure from the standard lesfic romances; but, it still stands up as a strong ongoing romance series. The relationship between Cain and Emma sizzles and, even though they’ve been together for the last five books, they are still working their asses off to get to their happily ever after – no matter how many bodies they have to dispose of to get there.

If you’ve been reading the Cain series, pick this one up. It’s an excellent addition and ties up some of the loose ends from the other books. The Devil’s Orchard is a fast-paced read, full of twists and turns with an end that will leave you satisfied (for now) but eager to find out what Vali has in store for the New Orleans crew. If you haven’t read the series – go back and start at the beginning. This isn’t a series you can read as standalone – Vali’s developed a complex set of plots and characters that deserved to be savoured in their entirety. My love of this series has been re- invigorated and I’m looking forward to seeing how Cain’s story will play as the series comes to a close. Definitely recommended.