Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, October 5, 2012

Week ending October 5, 2012

Ashe, Katharine. How a Lady Weds a Rogue. Avon. (Falcon Club, Bk. 3). Oct. 2012. 369p. ISBN 9780062031891. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Nineteen-year-old Diantha Lucas is on her way to Calais to confront her long-absent mother. What will ensure Diantha’s success is the aid of fellow mail coach passenger Wyn Yale, her hero after sending packing several young men at a ball three years ago who ridiculed the then fleshy and spotty-faced girl. Wyn wonders at the presence of Baron Carlyle’s stepdaughter on a public coach, but he has his own issues weighing on his mind, not the least being his work for the clandestine Falcon Club and his own yawning desire for a brandy. Somehow, Wyn’s and Diantha’s agendas become one, and while this clever young woman may be the answer to Wyn’s as yet unasked question, Diantha sees in Wyn a knight whom she can rescue.
Verdict This latest series installment from Ashe (How To Be a Proper Lady) takes its time getting to the backstory of Wyn’s Falcon Club activities, but it is the complicated and complex protagonists at the heart of this intriguing novel who hold the book together. Will the Falcon Club survive now that one more bird has flown the coop? Recommended for romance fans who crave character-driven reads.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

Cowboy Lust: Erotic Romance for Women. Cleis. 2012. 244p. ed. by Delilah Devlin. ISBN 9781573448147. pap. 15.95; eISBN 9781573448284. EROTIC ROMANCE
This collection of lusty cowboy stories is packed with popular erotic romance writers, including Cat Johnson, Cheyenne Blue, and Charlene Teglia. With topics ranging from hot cowboys of the Outback, sexy cowboy CEOs, and the X-rated nights on the rodeo circuit, these stories pay homage to the passionate world of cowboy hats and jangling spurs and the men who earn their living in the saddle. Each story explores the primal animal that erupts when a cowboy ropes his filly.
Verdict Who can resist this collection of sweaty men and sensual nights? These authors create mesmerizing tales full of cowboys, horse riders, stables, and tight jeans. Not for the casual romance reader, this collection is for those who like their romance explicit and risqué. Erotic romance readers will enjoy this exploration of life on the plains!—Judy Taylor Garner, UCPI Univ. Lib., Glen Allen, VA

starred review starHill, Susan. A Question of Identity: A Simon Serrailler Mystery. Overlook, dist. by Penguin Group (USA). Nov. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9781468300505. $25.95. M
A serial killer is targeting the residents of a recently completed senior housing neighborhood in picturesque Lafferton. His “signature” is distinctive, but his identity is particularly baffling to DCI Simon Serrailler and his team. All attempts at DNA identification and crime scene analysis hit dead-ends as police records specialists are surprisingly uncooperative. The real break in the case comes from a conversation between Serrailler and his former sergeant, who’s willing to bend the rules a bit for his former guv. This seventh entry (after The Vows of Silence) in Hill’s highly successful series is a tricky case for her talented DCI, filled with twists and turns and, of course, the romantic complexities that Hill’s fans just love.
Verdict Man Booker Prize nominee Hill has done it again! Masterly writing and just the right touch of darkness make this a marvelous addition to her DCI Serrailler series. Her fans will find this a satisfying continuation, and new readers will be captivated by the lovely village of Lafferton and Hill’s superb storytelling.—Susan Gene Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA

McIntosh, D.J. The Witch of Babylon. Forge: Tor. Oct. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9780765333667. $25.99. F
Fabricated around the real events surrounding the looting of Iraq’s National Museum in 2003, McIntosh’s debut thriller is the first of a planned trilogy. Mesopotamian scholar Samuel had always been more father than brother to art dealer John. After Samuel is killed, John’s life begins to fall apart. Simultaneously he becomes an unwitting player in the revenge scenario of a childhood chum and caught between opposing forces seeking to find a now missing Iraqi relic safeguarded by Samuel. Whom should he trust? When John discovers that the relic is related to alchemy, he believes that New York–based witches may be involved in the theft.
Verdict McIntosh, a member of the Canadian Society for Mesopotamian Studies, gives readers a tutorial in ancient history, art, and religion while weaving a plot thrilling enough to keep them captivated as they learn those lessons. Her thriller, which was shortlisted for Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award and won a Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award for best unpublished novel, will appeal to readers who enjoy artifact-seeking adventures in which the author, with obvious and abundant supporting research, provides a great deal of infotainment set against a backdrop of towns familiar from the nightly news.—Laura A.B. Cifelli, Ft. Myers–Lee Cty. P.L., FL

Varley, John. Slow Apocalypse. Ace: Berkley. 2012. c.448p. ISBN 9780441017577. $25.95. SF
Varley, the Nebula and Hugo Award–winning author of numerous popular sf tales set in the far future (Rolling Thunder; Steel Beach) turns to a setting closer to home for this story of disaster and survival. In present-day Southern California, a Hollywood screenwriter hears a strange and frightening recounting from a former military script consultant who predicts the imminent “end of the world as we know it.” A bioengineered bacterium that consumes crude oil has contaminated underground oil fields, resulting in the violent destruction of most of the world’s oil-producing capacity. In the gradual global cascade of disasters that follows, transportation, infrastructure, and basic social order wither away, and the protagonist and his family are forced to develop personal survival skills and revert to ever more basic forms of social order to survive both natural disasters and the acts of desperate and violent human beings.
Verdict In Varley’s latest, Los Angeles takes a fictional drubbing of epic proportions, and readers knowledgeable about the area will have many opportunities to name-check famous landmarks subjected to indignities and destruction. An exciting and engrossing tale of worldwide disaster and personal survival.—Bradley A. Scott, Corpus Christi, TX

Wong, David. This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9780312546342. $25.99. HORROR
Wong’s much anticipated sequel to John Dies at the End, narrated in the first person with the author as the protagonist, tells the story of a small town that is suddenly besieged with spider-like creatures that take over a victim’s body and turn them into zombie-like monsters with supernatural strength and speed. A heavy dose of crude comedy akin to what you’d find at Cracked.com, where the pseudonymous Wong (Jason Pargin) is the editor in chief, contrasts with the vivid horror that runs through the book. Many characters die, and their demise are often very gruesome, but the jaded perspectives of Wong and his best friend John strike an interesting symmetry. Owing to the graphic nature of the horror as well as the perverse humor, this book is suggested for older teens and adults.
Verdict Zombie fiction fans looking for a fresh take on a trope that has become a bit overplayed will want to give this title a shot.—Matt Schirano, Grand Canyon Univ. Lib., Phoenix

Zepeda, Gwendolyn. Better with You Here. Grand Central. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780446564038. pap. $14.99. F
As a newly single mother, Natasha Davila is living a life of quiet desperation. When her son, Alex, has an accident at school, the school can’t reach her at work so they call her ex-husband’s new girlfriend. It’s one more piece of ammunition for her husband, who shocks her when he asks for custody for their two children. Natasha, whose former friends disappeared when she was forced to move to an apartment she could afford, turns to two new acquaintances for support. Husband Mike will even find a way to use those new friendships against her.
Verdict Zepeda (Lone Star Legend) succeeds in revealing the desperation in the lives of single mothers as they struggle to do what’s right for their children and showing how people can be judged unfairly. Bullying doesn’t end in childhood. However, most of the characters are not as well developed as Natasha and Alex. Some characters, including Mike, have story lines that end abruptly as if the author didn’t know what to do with them. Because of its weak characters, this novel doesn’t live up to expectations.—Lesa Holstine,

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"