Tour’s Books Blog

March 29, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Weddings Can Be Murder by Christie Craig

I finally decided to take a break from my attempts to get into Dead Silence by Randy Wayne White and went for something much lighter, a romantic mystery by Christie Craig – Weddings Can Be Murder.  I haven’t read any of her work before, but this looked interesting so, what the heck.  This is a Lovespell  Contemporary Romance, but honestly, it really is a romantic mystery.

First of all, let me just say that despite some reviewer comments, Craig did not have the same feel as Evanovich.  Yes, it has humor to it, but not the kind of ‘screwball’ edge that Evanovich always has, even early on in the Plum series.  Plus, this isn’t part of series, but a standalone that seems to follow Craig’s formula of ‘innocent female bystander caught up in a crime’ and ‘hunky detective’.  As formulas go, not new, but not bad and the success can be measured by how involved you get with the characters.

Someone is killing the clients of wedding planner Tabitha Jones.  She contacts Carl Hades, ex-cop turned PI, for help when the police just blow off her reports of missing brides.  Sunday afternoon finds him off to see Tabitha when he’d rather not.  Katie Ray is an art gallery owner who is a client of Tabitha’s, not so much by choice, but because Tabitha is a good customer and a bad woman to cross.  Unfortunately, Katie spent the morning throwing up and dealing with trying to convince herself and her best friend Leslie Grayson that she really did want to marry Joe Lyon.  She wasn’t getting married so she wouldn’t feel so alone after the accident that took both parents and her brother Mike – Les’s fiancée.  It wasn’t nerves causing the problem.  Really!  Right up to where she accidentally flushed her $8,000 diamond engagement ring.  Les may have moved away after the accident, but she’s been best friends with Katie since they were kids and she’s convinced the marriage is a big mistake.  Engagement rings don’t get ‘accidentally’ flushed.  Meanwhile, Joe is getting fitted for his tux when he realizes he has doubts of his own. (more…)

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March 26, 2009

Ruminations on Plots, Characters, and the Quality of Books

Filed under: Editorial,General — toursbooks @ 2:56 am
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Here I sit, trying with all my might to get seriously interested in Randy Wayne White’s latest Doc Ford novel, Dead Silence, and I find myself once again questioning – “What’s gone wrong with the whole action thriller genre?”  The plots are implausible.  The characters are increasingly shallow and cartoonish.  The action parts realistic only in Hollywood.  Suddenly, everyone is trying to be James Bond.  If I wanted James Bond, I’d read Ian Fleming.  And it’s not just action thrillers, it’s a lot of other genres and authors as well – from Janet Evanovich to Stuart Woods to Christina Dodd.  Their books are increasingly the literary equivalent of ‘paint by numbers’.  I feel insulted that such mediocre junk is passing for ‘best sellers’ on the strength of an author’s name.

OK – not everyone demands, or even fully appreciates, a good piece of writing, but the core fans do.  When you start cheating, we know it!  And no, I don’t hold all genres to the same standard.  That wouldn’t be fair at all.  But within a genre, especially within the limits of a writer’s own work, I should have a reasonable expectation of consistent quality.  Not so anymore.  Take a look at my recent reviews and you can see the degree to which things have deteriorated.  My favorite writers are falling off my ‘auto purchase’ list faster than bugs dropping at a Raid convention.

Who’s to blame for this flaming train wreck?  The writers for offering generic material and milking their fame?  The publishers for making deadlines more important than quality?  The public for buying it?  Maybe it’s a big circle jerk of equal parts laziness and greed for publishers, editors, agents, and writers – and readers who buy the crap are the willing victims.  So, instead of aiming high and doing the ‘good stuff’, and maybe taking 18 months to write a book, writers and publishers alike fall back what’s safe, forgetting it was the ‘good stuff’ that got them where they are.  Now at the top, they publish one book a year – sometimes more.  Nobody cares as long as the filthy lucre rolls in.  In the end, we the buying public end up cheating ourselves. (more…)

March 24, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Danger in a Red Dress by Christina Dodd

I’m feeling kind of doomed with my recent reading selections.  Despite the rather mixed reviews, I bought Danger in a Red Dress in hopes it would live up to the previous books in the series.  (Christina Dodd is a favorite author of mine.)  Dodd’s stories of the illegitimate sons of Nathan Manly played out across Trouble in High Heels, Tongue in Chic, and Thigh High.  All were quite good, but Trouble in High Heels remains my favorite.  It is there we first meet Carrick Manly, the only legitimate son of the fugitive businessman who bankrupted his company and fled the country years ago leaving hundreds of shattered lives in his wake.  (Very Bernie Maydoff long before there was a Bernie Maydoff)  We see Carrick briefly in the books and Gabriel Prescott also is a threaded thru the books – and is quite prominent in Thigh High.  Gabriel is also the adopted brother to the sisters in Dodd’s Lost Texas Hearts series.

The two things that bothered me most about Danger in a Red Dress was the total change in Carrick Manly’s character from how he was portrayed in previous books to a sociopath here.  The other is Gabriel’s blind spot where his half-brother is concerned.  It’s against all logic.  I could deal with Carrick suddenly being a slime ball, though I was hard put to see how men as astute as Roberto Bertolini (Trouble in High Heels) or Gabriel could miss the fact Carrick is a manipulative liar, not to mention a sociopath.  Gabriel, however, was so completely out of character it was like he’d had a personality transplant.  Maybe if you hadn’t read or remembered the earlier books, it wouldn’t be so bothersome, but it was for me.

Ignoring these glaring continuity problems, we’re left with a story where the characters are not especially likable – or very bright.   Hannah Grey is the private care nurse that is accused by a bitter family of having ‘relations’ with their 90+ year old grandfather so he’d change his will.  She inherited $50,000, but the bulk of the millions the greedy relatives counted on went to charity.  One bitter relative gets her nursing license suspended so she can’t work and then makes sure the investigation drags out to deliberately ruin her.  (Though I’m tempted to point out several obvious issues here, I’ll pass.)  Hannah is getting desperate when Carrick, learning of her predicament, gets her to agree to care for his difficult mother at the family estate in Maine.  Hannah thinks it’s a gift too good to be true and doesn’t tell him about her suspended license.  Foolish mistake and one that would cost any nurse her license permanently. (more…)

March 23, 2009

Book Swapping Online: Is it worth it?

Filed under: Editorial,erotic romance,General — toursbooks @ 6:00 pm
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OK, so obviously I read a whole lot.  This means I have tons of books, many of which aren’t the kind you plan on reading twice.  Fluff books.  Books that aren’t suited to passing on to friends because they don’t read that stuff.  Books that were good, but once you know the answer, the thrill is gone.  Books that just won’t make the ‘keeper shelf’ cut.  Lots of books.  When you read around 200 books a year they really pile up – and with prices rising, and the economy making those loud sucking noises, saving money seems like a really good idea, right?  So I joined Paperbackswap.com to see  if this approach would suit me.

Here’s how this site works – you list your books by ISBN number and they go into a system.  Books that are on people’s Wish List go immediately into a 48 hour hold while their accounts clear the swap.  You get 2 points for just signing up and then 1 point for each book swapped, 2 points for each audio book and it is tied into a DVDswap and CDswap sites, so you can transfer points between your accounts on the 3 sites.  Now this is ‘free’, right?  So far anyway.  Up goes my list and 4 of the 11 titles are gone while I’m still entering ISBN numbers.  And then WHAM – I have books that need to be sent out.  (more…)

March 22, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Fault Line by Barry Eisler

Barry Eisler is arguably the best action thriller writer working today, though you’d never know it by Fault Line.  He’s better than Lee Child, Jack Higgins, Brad Thor, Kyle Mills, Vince Flynn, even Daniel Silva, who is his nearest competition.  Yes, he really is that good.  His plots are intelligent, his world building some of the best out there (that’s also Silva’s greatest strength) and his action realistic.  His characters have depth, his ability to paint an atmosphere with words rivals Silva and his action scenes are as good as anyone’s – maybe better.  That’s why this book seems like a more spectacular failure than it really is.  If this was Mills, Thor, Flynn, or Higgins I doubt I would judge it so harshly.  Child has slipped lately, just not as badly.  Sliva’s deterioration is much more subtle and involves his plots and lead character, so only his hardcore fans really see it.  This was the literary equivalent of a NASCAR wreck.

The premise of Fault Line is not all that original.  The whole concept of encryption that is nearly unbreakable is one that’s been done before.  Versions have even played out in the news over the years as the government has forced various encryption software manufacturers to turn over source code so they can break encrypted files, always invoking the argument that it a matter of public safety and national security.  Neither is killing off the creator of an encryption code.  Even Windtalkers had a version of ‘kill the source code’, in that case it was shoot the code talker as a key plot element!  Right from the start, the plot has no new ground, so Eisler set himself a formidable task: find a new take on a well explored area and make your characters different yet believable.

Next are the three key protagonists, again they’re predictable and shallow:  Ben Treven is the eldest son in a family of three and in some ways a misfit in his family.  He’s the athlete who became a soldier, not the academic his family wanted.  A former Ranger, he now works as an assassin for a black ops military unit.  He believes people should be grateful to him and others for protecting them and has a certain disdain for those ordinary people. Alex Treven, the youngest, is a super smart kid who always showed off and acted like being smart somehow makes him better than others.  Now he’s clawing his way up to a partnership in a major law firm with a specialty in patent law.  His condescension toward others and scheming against his nominal boss is totally believable.  Richard Hilzoy’s encryption patent is his ticket to the coveted partnership.  Sarah Hosseini is a young first year associate at the firm and another smart patent lawyer.  The only child of Iranian parents caught in the US when the Shah was overthrown, she’s trying to make her parents happy by being a successful lawyer.  She’s smart and beautiful, but not all that happy or satisfied with her career.  Ten years younger than Alex, she hasn’t developed his arrogance or lust for the trappings of power.

Finally there is the inter-character tension, which Eisler built with a really old plot device of childhood angers and another round of clichéd tragic family events – a sister killed in a car accident, a father’s suicide – that shapes how the brothers interact.  Ben believes himself more virtuous and deserving of thanks for the dangerous and deadly work he does for ‘the nation’.  Alex believes himself the more virtuous because he was the one who stayed home and dealt with all the emotional fallout of their sister’s death, their father’s suicide and their mother’s cancer while Ben was off playing solider.  Frankly, I thought they both needed to just GROW UP and please, dear God, get over themselves.  (All that was missing was the Smothers Brothers doing their “Mom Always Liked You Best!” routine.)  Not to mention the whole thing plays out in flashbacks throughout the book like some new kind of psychological torture for readers. (more…)

March 20, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Death Song by Michael McGarrity

Death Song, billed as a Kevin Kerney mystery, is set in Northern New Mexico – known to most mystery fans as Hillerman Territory.  Unlike Hillerman, McGarrity has always focused on the police procedural format combined with the travails of his central character, Kerney.  Comparisons with Hillerman are inevitable, not just because of the location, but because McGarrity began passing the torch of his key character to a younger investigator – Mescalero Apache Sergeant Clayton Istee.  In a previous book we learned that unbeknownst to Kerney till a few years ago, Istee was his son by an old sweetheart who hid the truth from both of them.  Now, we have young sergeant to Kerney’s retiring Chief, a close echo of Leaphorn-Chee.  Istee is also a more ‘traditional Apache’ like Jim Chee’s traditional Navajo juxtaposed to Leaphorn’s modern Navajo.  Unlike Hillerman, both characters are regular police, not tribal police (though Istee formerly was tribal police).  McGarrity’s straightforward prose is much better suited to the procedural genre.  With Hillerman’s more lush, atmospheric writing that works well with his complex character studies, mixed with myth and culture, the mystery is almost secondary to the overall story.

Death Song gets off to a roaring start with a brutal double murder.  A new Lincoln County deputy sheriff, Tim Riley, is shot in the face as he arrives home.  His wife, Denise, who is still in their old home up Santa Fe County is missing.  While the wife resides is outside Kerney’s jurisdiction, Denise is the youngest sister his long time friend and administrative assistant Helen Muiz.  When Tim can’t reach Denise by phone, he calls Helen and asks her to go over to the house and check on her.  When things don’t look right, Helen calls Kerney.  It’s Kerney and his detectives  first on the scene, initially as a favor, but then as lead detectives under the Sheriff’s department when her body is found locked in a horse trailer.  So Istee and Kerney, whose relationship is distant at best, are again brought into each other’s orbit.  Just to layer on the complications, Kerney’s wife Sara, a career military officer, is back from an Iraq tour with a Purple Heart, Silver Star, a promotion to full colonel – and a case of PTSD. Kerney is a month from retirement, and has no direct authority over either crime scene, but using politics eventually gets himself put in charge about half way through the book.  (more…)

March 19, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Mayhem in High Heels by Gemma Halliday

No one will ever confuse books like Mayhem in High Heels with great literature – even great romance or great mystery.  What books like this are is fluff entertainment.  Not especially innovative, but they have a hook of some sort, likable characters, a sense of humor and usually a decent mystery.  Some authors get a tad carried away creating the secondary characters – to the point where they almost become stereotypes rather than people.  Gemma Halliday’s lead character, Maddie Springer, is a struggling shoe designer in Hollywood whose best friend Dana is an aerobics instructor/actress/sex-aholic.  Her stepfather, “Faux Dad”, who she thinks is gay, runs a hair salon.  Marco, his receptionist, is so gay he’s a ‘bridesmaid’ at her upcoming wedding.  Her mother is lost in the ‘60’s somewhere, and her mother’s best friend, Mrs. Rosenblatt – a overweight, muumuu wearing, Jewish psychic, round out the ‘comic relief’.  The ‘boyfriend’ is a police detective, naturally, Jack Ramirez who has an extended family of his own.  You still with me?

When we last saw Maddie and Jack, he was proposing to her atop the Eiffel Tower.  Thanks to Mom, Maddie and Jack’s ‘little wedding’ was currently at 400 people.  Mayhem in High Heels opens with Maddie and Jack going to do the final cake tasting just days before the wedding and finding Hollywood’s leading wedding planner, Gigi Van Doren, face down in the cake samples with a knife in her back.  With Gigi’s death, Jack has a murder to investigate and Maddie has to figure out how to pull off her wedding.  Notably absent for this installment are any design deadlines for Maddie’s shoes. (more…)

March 18, 2009

Soon to be released titles of interest

Filed under: espionage/intrigue,General,To be released — toursbooks @ 11:55 pm
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It’s that time for a whole raft of new releases that I am anxiously awaiting.  It’s a mixed bag, but mostly mysteries and action thrillers, even an historical mystery is the mix.  Here we go:

One Hot Mess by Lois Greiman

This is the 5th book in Greiman’s series with amateur sleuth psychiatrist Christina McMullen along with boyfriend LAPD Lt. Jack Rivera.  This outing sees her working out the whys behind serial killings.  Looks good.

Release date: 3/24 paperback

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I Shot You Babe by Leslie Langtry

The fourth Bombay assassin novel.  Likely to be funny and interesting.  See my review of Langtry’s Stand By Your Hitman to get a feel for her kind of book.

Release date: None provided paperback

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The Defector by Daniel Silva

Gabriel Allon saves the world again.  It ties into the end of Moscow Rules, so read that one first.  It will be out in paperback in July shortly be for this book is released.   Takes place in London again – where Gabriel is persona non grata.  Action espionage spy thriller.  Allon is an assassin for the Mossad.

Release date: 7/21 hardcover

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Murder of a Royal Paine by Denise Swanson

Skye Dennison finds the body of the Wicked Witch – or at least she’s dressed like one.  It’s the pushy mom of the Halloween prom queen – who was also dressed as the Wicked Witch.  Is the right witch dead?  A cozy with a sense of humor.

Release date: 4/7  A TOP PICK AND MUST BUY paperback

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Breaking Loose by Tara Janzen

The last of this set of the Steele Street series?  It all started with her Crazy series and now her popular Loose series all centered around certain recurring characters with new ones being added.  Romantic suspense action thriller.

Release date: 7/28  A TOP PICK AND MUST BUY Paperback

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Alexandria by Lindsey Davis

Marcus Didius Falco, my favorite wise cracking Roman private inquiry agent, is taking his lovely wife Helene Justinius and family on vacation to Alexandria, Egypt.  Too bad even in the time of Vespasian, murders happen and Falco is left putting the pieces together.  A favorite series and favorite author.  Historical mystery.

Release date: 5/12 A MUST BUY Hardcover

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Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child

The last few Jack Reacher outings were big disappointments, but this one looks promising.  Takes place in NYC and has Reacher working with shadowy government agencies.  Action thriller.  I was so disappointed in his last 3 books,  I’ll wait and see what the first reviews are like before ordering.

Release date: 5/19   Sure bet bestseller Hardcover

NOTE:  Lee Child is the new President of The Mystery Writers of America – the folks who award the Edgars.  Click here for 2009 nominees.

March 17, 2009

What’s On Order at Amazon

Filed under: Editorial,General — toursbooks @ 7:29 pm
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OK – I admit I’m semi-addicted to Amazon’s 4-for-3 promotion and this has led to a backlog of books.  On top of that, I have a ‘wish list’ that’s 3 pages and growing.  Today, some of the new releases I’ve been waiting for were out, so ORDER TIME!  Two hardcover’s,  Barry Eisler’s Fault Line and Randy Wayne White’s latest Doc Ford novel, Dead Silence.  Well, I can’t just buy 2 books, can I?  No I can’t.  So while I’m sitting around waiting for a whole bunch of other releases, I figured I’d try a few new authors.

WoodWitchDame – author Melanie Nowak – started a thread on the Amazon Paranormal Romance forum and listed authors by the kind of books they write.  So I went looking for some ‘light paranormal’ and found Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta.  On my Wish List it went along with 2 more of her books – but neither of those were in the 4-for-3, so they didn’t make it to the cart, but stayed on the ‘wish list’.  Christina Dodd wasn’t a 4-for-3 either, but her latest installment in the ongoing Manly family, Danger in a Red Dress, went in the cart.  Trouble in Mudbug went because I liked Deleon’s two previous books and her’s was in the promotional program.  The first two books in the Stephanie Bonds’ Body Movers series made the cut as did an Avon Romantic Treasure book – In Bed With the Devil by Lorraine Heath.  Welcome to the Grave, a PI novel by Michael Koryta and a LoveSpell book (a rare thing for me) Weddings Can be Murder, a romantic suspense book by Christie Craig.

Nine paperbacks and 2 hardcovers later, I have my books for the next few weeks to go on the TBR pile.  In the meantime, I’m struggling to get interested in Ben Pastor’s The Water Thief.  Thirty pages in and I’ve read three books in between because I got so sick of, “To Emperor Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletian Pius Felix Invictus Augustus, his Aelius Spartianus, greetings.  In obedience to Your Divinity’s command, I have delivered letters and sealed orders to Epidius Censorinus, commander of the garrison of Antinoopolis, and to Rabirius Saxa, epistrategos of the Heptanomia and representative of Clodius Culcianus, praefectus Aegypti.”  The excitement was just too much.  I have to finish Mayhem in High Heels by Gemma Halliday and I think Gennita Low is calling me with Into Danger instead.  The Water Thief will have to wait.

PS – In the interests of full disclosure, I will confess I also have two not yet released books on order at Barnes and Nobel – I had an additional 15% off coupon I wanted to use.  Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz and the long awaited (by me anyway) return of Myron Bolitar in Harlen Coben’s Long Lost.

My name is Tourmaline Groundhog and I’m addicted to books.

March 16, 2009

The Controversy of DRM Protected eBooks

Filed under: Editorial,General — toursbooks @ 3:35 pm
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Think about this for a moment.  If you buy a book, hardcover, paperback, hell, a comic book, you can trade it, re-sell, give it away, put it on a shelf and hope it becomes a collector’s item, or tear it apart and use it to start a fire in winter – though I would recommend using the Federal Register or some of the 90 pounds of catalogs you get in the mail every week and not a Sherlock Holmes First Edition.  Whatever you choose to do with the book, it is yours to dispose of as you wish.  Now, buy that SAME BOOK as an ebook with DRM protection and suddenly, it isn’t your’s.  You can’t just move it from device to device.  You can’t give it away.  You sure as hell can’t trade or sell it.  Should your device crash, you can lose it and have a hell of a time trying to get the rights back to read a book you bought and paid for!

What’s wrong with this picture?  The same thing that has been plaguing the music industry for some time now.  How to balance consumer rights vs. seller/artists rights to an income stream.  The DRM solution is very heavily weighted against the consumer.  Electronic files are wonderfully compact and easy to transport.  Ask any iPod owner how great it is to have a huge music library on a small handheld device.  Until that device malfunctions and the several thousand dollars of music you so carefully selected and complied can’t be accessed.  The same thing is happening with the cute little ebook readers.  You only sort of own these electronic files and you can only legally access them on the specific device they were licensed to – unless you want to break the law and strip the DRM off.

Now I’m pretty sure you can get your 14 year old computer geek to strip the DRM for you, but even if you don’t have a handy teenage wiz available, there’s plenty of online help.  So why not take a page from Nike and “Just Do It”?  Well, people like me have a real ethical problem with it even though I am totally opposed to DRM and think it infringes on MY rights of ownership.  Unfortunately, the law is not on my side and with my luck, I’d be the one person the publishers bring action against to set an example and throw the fear of ruinous legal fees at consumers in general.

Others far more knowledgeable than I have hashed this out at some length on blogs and on various techie sites.  I’m just one of the poor schmucks caught in this stupid ‘convenience vs. ownership’ problem.  So far, I have REFUSED to buy any dedicated device. (Sorry Amazon and Sony)  My ebooks are 90% pdf files without DRM and the handful of others I have as ebooks are on my laptop and can be read with free software – but they are validated files.  I’m just unwilling to invest in more than a few bucks for that kind of book.  I do make damn good use of Amazon’s 4-for-3 promotion on paperbacks and my discount card and addition coupons at Barnes and Nobel.  Yes, it’s a pain hauling books on vacation, but at least I can leave them for the next person to enjoy.

The very clever ladies on Dear Author have a list of publishers that do not use DRM on their ebooks.  Some of these publishers have more than just romance available.  Take a look at the list with weblinks by clicking here.

It is an unfortunate fact of publishing life that many authors simply cannot get published except by small presses and then often as ebooks only.  It’s where our next generation of writers are getting their start.  Christine Warren got her start at Ellora’s Cave and now is a very popular mainstream writer with St Martin’s.  She would never have had that chance without EC’s help.  Yeah, there’s a lot of junk and ‘erotic’ crap that only those into super kink could like, but there are some real good writers too.  Be daring and give a few a try.  And be sure to buy DRM free whenever possible!!!!!!!!!

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