Tour’s Books Blog

January 22, 2012

Tour’s Books – Best of 2011 (and some of the Worst) – Part 1

Filed under: Editorial,Favorite book,Musing on life — toursbooks @ 11:29 pm
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Looking back on 2011, it was a year that had some great new writers, quality work for well established one, some real lemons, and a downgrade in overall quality of books.  So here are some personal opinions on books I read – and I’ve read a lot, but a far cry from all the new books in 2011, so feel free to chime in with your Best and Worst of 2011.

Best New Author

Kevin Hearne!  What a pleasant surprise.  In a sea of ‘me too’ UF/paranormal books, along comes an author with a lead character that’s a 2,000+ year old Druid that looks like a 20-something hippie and runs a bookstore herb shop in Tempe, AZ.  And even better, his very amusing sidekick is an Irish wolfhound that he’s taught to speak mentally with him.   Hounded, Hexed, and Hammered make it as the best first 3 books I’ve read in a long time.  Engaging, amusing, exciting well told tales.  YEAH!!!!!!!   The fourth book is on order!

Worst Mystery in a Series

Smokin’ Seventeen by Janet Evanovich.  Stick a fork in it, this series was toast awhile back, but this entry was a complete disgrace.  Whole paragraphs came from previous books and there wasn’t an original thought in 300 slight pages.  The whole Morelli/Steph/Ranger thing is took a twist that was insulting to the characters and fans alike.  Poor plot, worse concept, and a total waste of money and time.

Best Action/Thriller Series Division

Kage: The Shadow (A Connor Burke Novel) by – John Donohue is an unexpected choice in a year when Barry Eisler brought back his brilliant John Rain character.  Sentiment aside, Donohue just wrote a better book.

Runner Up: Buried Secrets (Nick Heller, Bk 2) by Joseph Finder – A relentless thriller that combined multiple plot twists and it’s fair share of not quite credible moments, but held up well overall.

Biggest Disappointment – tie:  Soft Target by Stephan Hunter – Wow, what a letdown!  This lame story had nowhere to go from the outset and generated no real tension or surprises.   It’s only positive was it was short.

Bad Blood (Virgil Flowers) by John Sanford – What a predictable bit of tripe this was.  Sanford relied on the shock value of incest to cover an otherwise nearly plotless book.  Waste of time and money.

Best Entry in Ongoing Series – Paranormal/UF

The Hour of Dust and Ashes (Charlie Madigan, Bk 3) by Kelly Gay  Some authors manage to keep things interesting and write complete stories yet keep an ongoing plot moving without looping endlessly.  Kudos to Ms Gay for her quality work

Runners-up:  One Salt Sea (An October Daye Novel) by Seanan McGuire – This is a series that seems to get better with each book.  McGuire is another author that has produced consistent, quality work.  Brava!

Kill the Dead (A Sandman Slim Novel) by Richard Kadrey – Sandman Slim might have been over hyped in 2010, but Kill the Dead, book 2 in the series, was excellent.

Biggest Disappointment:  The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtney Grimwood – This was one of those books that was just plain annoying.  Despicable people, dumb plot, badly paced and simply incoherent in places.  What a waste, yet hyped by it’s fans.

Best Cozy Mystery

Wow is this a crowded field these days with all kinds of cozies out there.  About the only genre that releases more books per month is romance.  I have to admit I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the bulk of this genre, but there are some exceptions.  I actually find myself with multiple winners in a range of sub-genres.

Traditional Cozy

Ink Flamingos (A Tattoo Shop Mystery) by Karen E Olsen – I love this series.  It’s off beat, well written, interesting and amusing.  Ms Olsen created a terrific character with tattoo artist Dee Carmichael.  Read them all and enjoyed every one of them!

Runner Up:  Death by the Dozen by Jenn McKinlay – Everything a cozy should be, and an amusing behind the scenes look a cooking contest with a group of thinly veiled Food Network characters.  An unexpected pleasure.

Best New Series – tie

Die Buying by Laura DiSilvero – An interesting heroine, ex military police woman with partial disability, and a good story.  An all around out of the ordinary read.

Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure by Diane Kelly  Another really good read with an ensemble cast and good lead character who works for IRS!!!!!!  Is there a less likely heroine?  It works on every level.

Runners Up: Quickstep to Murder by Ella Barrick – This unlikely candidate was a surprise for me.  Entertaining, with a good mystery and a look into the world of competitive dancing.  Don’t know if the series can hold up, but book one was a good start.

Death on Tour by Janice Hamrick – Set to a lightning tour of ancient Egypt, where nothing is quite what it seems, the book works.  the characters are not as fresh or original as the others, but it’s an Edgar nominee and was a good read.

Paranormal Mystery

Baited Blood by Sue Ann Jaffarian – Vamps that are not warm and cuddly, a couple of humans, and a LOT of dead bodies.  It all added up to a good, if darker than usual, read.

Special Mention:  Ghost a la Mode by Sue Ann Jaffarian – this book was written in 2009, but I read it last year.  It blew away the usual paranormal claptrap that’s swamping the market.  A cozy and a paranormal that’s still an intelligent read.

Best Traditional Mystery

Rogue Island by Bruce de Silva – A first novel by a newsman, this story about corruption and death in Rhode Island was a really good read.

Runner up:  The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton – A brilliant piece of literature and an Edgar winner, but so stylized it’s a challenge at times.

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January 12, 2012

Happy New Year – and a few new release book comments

Well Happy 2012 to everyone!  A new year, a fresh batch of books, new authors, undiscovered gems, and yes, disappointments, are all there waiting for us in life and in books.  I sincerely hope everyone has a healthy and prosperous 2012 and you each take the time to enjoy a few good books, whatever your choice of reading might be.

I had a good Christmas visiting family and eating too much.  Now it’s home, football, and books.  Come Tuesday, Amazon will be delivering a PILE! of new release books, mostly paranormal/UF and mystery, but a few brave publishers did release a few just before and after Christmas.  Of course, I did take time to read.

Oh, by the way, the Christmas books I gave – these are comments from those who got them and read them!

Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermes Collection by Kristine Loughran, Cynthia Becker – this is no coffee table book, but the photos are so worth it.  Terrific for anyone interested in unique silver work of the mid-East and nomadic tribes.  Keeper shelf material.

The Iona Sanction by Gary Corby – rated a very good read

The Diamond Frontier by John Wilcox – rated a very good read

Throw Them All Out by Peter Schweizer – makes your blood boil, so read a bit at a time

The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle,  Scott McKowan – totally worth the money for an excellent quality book and a great gift according to my Holmes fan!  It goes to the ‘keeper shelf’.

Now, what I read…………………

  • Title:  Silver-Tongued Devil
  • Author:  Jaye Wells
  • Type:  Paranormal/UF
  • Genre:  Sabrina Kane, vampire mage, continues flounder through her life
  • Sub-genre:  Maisie redux
  • My Grade: C+ (3.3*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Novel – about 90,000+ $7.99 with discounts available
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores and online
  • FTC Disclosure: purchased through an online bookstore

This is a series that’s starting read like a literary treadmill – moving quickly and going nowhere.  The lead character, Sabina Kane seems trapped in a loop of repeat adventures, repeat mistakes, and no character growth, the plot was predictable, and the story arc held only one big surprise.  As for Sabina, well, isn’t it time she gave up the emotional angst of a 23 year old?  She is in her 50’s.  Time to pull on the big girl panties and grow up.  Silver-Tongued Devil‘s biggest downsides:  Sabina still has these stupid knee-jerk, unthinking reactions, too much of what’s happening is merely a weak continuation of the plot of Green-Eyed Demon, the whole roller derby thing was kind of pointless, and the plot telegraphs everything like  some frantic semaphore flag waver.  The upsides: The pacing is good and the story moves quickly, there’s lots of action, the contrived angst is only moderately annoying, the plot has a nice twist near the end, and it seems we might finally make progress in the next installment.

Silver-Tongued Devil starts a few months after the end of Green-Eyed Demon with the rescued Maisie back in NYC and her twin, Sabina, still trying to reconcile with what happened and each other.  Sabina is doing her best to stop hunting humans for blood, and settle in living with Adam Lazarus, her mage lover, and come to terms with her guilt and fear for her twin, Maisie.  Giguhl, her mischief demon, is his usual conniving self and possibly the best character in the series.

Part of  Sabina’s efforts to adjust from the emotionally barren upbringing of her twisted grandmother, Lavinia, is to drink bagged blood rather than hunt humans for food.  But the overwhelming smell of blood draws her to crime scene where a man has been brutally murdered – but without enough blood present given the wounds.  Sabina knows a vampire kill when she sees one.  It soon becomes apparent there is some bigger thing going on and her old lover, vampire mob boss Slade, kind of blackmails her into helping him track the culprit down.

Against a backdrop of tentative peace negotiations between vamps, mages, and fea, and concerns about Maisie’s mental and physical health, Sabina chases a vicious killer and deals with having a secret she should never have kept causing a rift between her and Adam.  The sense of ‘deja vu’ that much of the book evokes and a less than thrilling ending, left a sense of ‘retread’.

Is Silver-Tongued Devil worth $7.99?  Meh.  If you love the series, yes.  You could very likely read Blue-Blooded Vamp, the next book due this summer, without needing this one to keep you current.  Try and get a deep discount or buy used in a few months.

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  • Title:  Wicked Circle
  • Author:  Linda Robertson
  • Type:  Paranormal/UF
  • Genre:  Persephone Alcmedi series book 5
  • Sub-genre:  Seph, Johnny and Menessos tangle with fate and furies
  • My Grade: B- (3.7*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Novel – about 100,000+ $7.99 with discounts available
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores and online
  • FTC Disclosure: purchased through an online bookstore

The Persephone Alcmedi series has been one of the most consistent and complex series to come along in awhile.  Wicked Circle might be a weaker entry, but it’s still superior to most of the popular paranormal series.  The one problem with this series is the long time between books.  While this certainly makes for much better books, it can be hard to recall all the various plot elements from the previous installment.

Wicked Circle picks up the story just where Arcane Circle left off.  Eris Alcmedi has removed the spells that locked Johnny’s power as Domme Lupe, but doing seems to have changed him, more than

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