Tour’s Books Blog

August 7, 2013

End of Summer Reviews and a View on Author Popularity

I wrote a review of Fifth Grave Past the Light for PBS’s (Paperback Swap) book blog  You think opinions like mine mean nothing, or at least I think that.   Maybe my doctor, who has similar tastes in UF/paranormal might listen, and my brother and sister-in-law who have come to trust my taste in mysteries, action thrillers, and romantic suspense, listen to me, but otherwise, no.  I have twice now recommended additional reads when doing a recent review on PBS, either in addition to a good book or in lieu of a not so good one on the PBS Blog.  I am gratified to see the wishlist for River Road and Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson growing.  I know my doctor bought the ebooks to read while on vacation.  It’s hard for good authors to get noticed, so I try and wave a flag to fellow readers when I can.

Years ago, I read a news column on the internet about buying ‘airport books’.  At the time, I was doing a lot of domestic and international travel myself, so airport bookstores were my savior more than once.  Action thrillers tend to be big sellers in airports because of how many business men look for some mindless entertainment during layovers and flight delays.  The columnist talked about several authors, but missed two fairly new ones – well, new at that time.  As it happened, he included an email address and I sent him a recommendation to read two new authors – Barry Eisler and Lee Child.  Eisler has already released two books in his John Rain series and Child had only Killing Floor out in the Reacher series.  The columnist wrote back, he’d never heard of them, but would give them a try.  He wrote about them some time later.  Yes, even small voices get heard.  It’s why I write this blog, and why I try and promote reading in general.  And every so often, I get rewarded with a friend trying a new genre, my SIL calling, laughing her head off over the old Sharyn McCrumb books I told her to try, and my doctor passing on to her staff a UF book I loaned her and telling me she LOVED Harry Dresden.  I even got a chat board friend to read the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones!  (She just yelled at me that number 5 better not be the end.  I assured her it wasn’t.)

For years I read Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire books and all but had to beat my brother into trying them.  Now he and his wife read them, so do his friends in Vermont.  When Longmire hit A&E all his books saw a big jump in wish list number on PBS.  I even got them reading C.J. Box and David Housewright!!!!!  I feel like I should have a soapbox on the corner of Hyde Park to promote overlooked books and authors.

Justified or not, authors get famous and their names on the covers generate sales.  Thing is, often there are BETTER authors, but never having gotten ‘the big break’ their sales are much more limited and they remain known only to hardcore readers of a specific genre, not supermarket self types who grab the latest Jayne Ann Krentz or James Patterson – or (I cringe saying this) Fifty Shades of Gray (insert dramatic retching sounds).

One of the benefits to playing in swaps is getting books by authors you’ve never heard of, but someone you trust said, “READ THIS BOOK!”  It’s how I found Colin Cotterill, Phillipa Bornikova, Patrick Rothfuss, Martin Walker, Dayanda Jones and many others.  So when a friend you trust says, “Try this book.  It might start slow, but it’s worth it.”  Give the book a try.  I find about an 80% or better agreement with folks who like similar authors.  There are some great authors out there that deserve more notice and some seriously over-hyped average writers who are long past their prime.  (Evanovich, Harris, and Higgins all come to mind)  Amazon helps, but friends help more.  There is no better way to shed the stress of the day than by getting lost in a good book.  And having someone become a new fan of a favorite author makes reading so much crap (and man, there is a LOT of crap out there) all worthwhile.

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Well, I’ve been in a Reading Challenge on PBS trying to whittle down my Mt TBR and I did a fair to middling job of it.  Doctor’s appointments and fatigue brought on by getting used to new drugs have slowed me down a bit.  Here are some quick reviews of books I recently read, some new releases, some old ones sitting and waiting for me to get to them for far too long.  As usual, a mixed bag of paranormal, mystery and UF and very mixed results as well.

You Cannoli Die Once

Another foodie cozy entry by a new author – Shelly Costa.  Ms Costa does have some short stories and such published, but this is her first mystery novel.  You Cannoli Die Once is another in that circle the Earth conga line of food mysteries, this time centered around a family owned Italian restaurant, Miracolo.  You have the usual mix of zany friends, an eccentric grandma, a dead body, a handsome cop, and a nosy female – in this case, a chef.

While I enjoyed the mystery part, I found when I was done, not one character stayed with me as 3-dimensional person.  They all were sort of generic personalities, bit players that never gained any substance.  I even forgot their names.  And therein lies the problem.  The story arc might have moved quickly, with plenty going on – maybe too much going on – but there was no character development.  No chance to really connect with anyone in this too large cast of characters.  End result was an OK book, but with nothing memorable – good or bad.

I’m giving You Cannoli Die Once a C- (2.8*) rating because of the forgettable characters.  The plot was OK, though not original.  I might try book two, but if things don’t improve, this is a series I’ll forget.  I got You Cannoli Die Once through a book swapping site.

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untitled

I bought The Devil’s Cave book from Book Depository in the UK, owned by Amazon, simply because they published it nearly a year ahead of the US publisher.  In the end it made no difference, it sat on Mt TBR for all this time and I finally got to it because I put it on the Reading Challenge list.  Why did I wait so long?

The Bruno Chief of Police series is one I seem to always enjoy, and this one is no exception.  While Martin Walker never quite hits the best of breed, he is consistently very good and captures the Perigord region of rural France and populates it with memorable people and an atmosphere that almost palpable.  Tony Hillerman had that gift with his Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn books.  Colin Cotterill has it with his Dr Siri books.  Even when parts of the story stretch the readers credibility, it’s still a pleasurable read.

The Devil’s Cave combines a little Satanic ritual, with a naked dead body floating on the river, with a questionable investment scheme, some shadowy Mid-Easterners, a too slick and glib young promoter and local domestic violence.  Perhaps the stew has just a few too many elements, but the end result is satisfying – even if Bruno seems a little too competent at EVERYTHING.

In the end, The Devil’s Cave gets a B- (3.8*) from me, mostly because of the over busy, not quite credible plot with the con-men investors.  No one leaves due diligence to a cop rather than an experienced banker.  Recommended for fans of the series, but try and wait for the paperback.  My book was a hardcover size book, but with soft cover, typical of UK publishers.  I paid less that US price, about $14.00.

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                                                          boyfriend from hell                                             Damn Him to Hell

This is another book that got lost in Mt TBR and book two in the series was delivered last month, so I figured I’d better sift it in gear.  Boyfriend from Hell was actually fairly good.  Imaginative, original, but not quite there with the characters or the world building.  The end result was a bit choppy and confusing as neither Tina nor the reader knows what’s happening with Tina’s suddenly having these ‘powers’ – and getting ‘rewarded’ for sending souls to hell, with things like great hair and a leg that is no longer partly crippled.

Since book 2 was sitting there, I read that immediately and ………………… wow, disappointment time.  Many series start slowly, Sentinel’s Of New Orleans is an example, and other is The Rift War Saga by Raymond Feist (And no, I have not forgiven him for naming a key character ‘Pug’.  That almost killed the story and the book.  Plus it served no useful purpose.), but book two just stalled.  I get the feeling Jamie Quaid isn’t sure where to take this, so she spun the wheel in place.  And she did so with more choppy plotting and confusing scenes.

I give most series a 3 book limit, unless they’re so awful I can’t even finish book 1.  I’m not sure I’ll buy 3 in this one.  Boyfriend from Hell gets a C (3*) rating and Damn Him to Hell gets a C- (2.6*).  This is a series that can be skipped.

Both books were purchased from online booksellers for $5.99 and $7.19 respectively.  If you feel you must at least try these books, get them as cheaply as possible.  Not worth the money or your time.

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Biting Bad

So this hit the house yesterday thanks to Amazon’s ‘release day delivery’ program – which BAM DOES NOT DO – and naturally, I read it first thing.  Well of course I did.  I like the Chicagoland Vampire series and this was no exception.  Like many series, this one coasts a bit now and then for much of the book, and Biting Bad did that a series of well timed assaults happen against three very different targets – a blood bank that supplies vamps, albeit very quietly, Grey House – one of the three Houses in Chicago, and the third attack is far more personal – it’s on Merit’s grandfather’s house.  Merit and Jeff, the nerdy shapeshifter colleague of her grandfather’s barely manage to save him.

Through all this, the GP – the governing vampire group that Cadogan House quit, has declared them essentially enemies of all vamps and any dealing with them with be an act of treason.  But when Grey House is hit, it’s Cadogan that comes to help and gives them temporary shelter, while House Navarre does nothing AND refused to offer the homeless Gray House vamps even temporary shelter.  (If you just missed the signal on the story arc for future books, well shame on you!) So despite the GP’s outlawing Cadogan, the Grey’s stay there.

But vampires are the drama queens of the supernatural world, and close proximity of two houses leads to conflict, which is nothing compared with what happens when Harold Monmonth, the GP vamp with hate on for Eric and Cadogan House shows up, kills two humans and ends up dead by Eric’s sword.

The story line is complex and weaves in Mallory’s redemption struggles, Merit’s father’s angling for control over a vampire house, even though he’s human, McKitterick’s real goal, and the internal conflict that the potential of his success has for many vamps.  It was an interesting twist, but kind of X-Men plot stealing.

Biting Bad was a good read, a bit shorter than usual, but packed with action.  It wasn’t the best book in the series, and the pot twists weren’t as original as her previous books, but then the flack Ms Neill took over the Eric story arc might have made her more cautious, which is unfortunate.  I was cheering her on myself for her daring and her clever resolution.  Still, it remains very entertaining and a cut above average.  Biting Bad gets a B- (3.8*) from me because the Harold Monmonth and Navarre House bits deserved more attention and a bigger part in the story, and in part because McKitterick’s end didn’t feel like an end to me and some things do need to end.

Biting Bad is a must for Chicagoland Vampire fans  My copy was $8.82 + tax on Amazon pre-order, but the price is $9.00.  It was $12+ the other day.  Amazon does that a LOT.  Very annoying.  I got my money’s worth.  This series is one that needs to read in order to follow the plot lines.

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Hunters-Rise-21

Shiloh Walker began her Hunter’s series way back in her Ellora’s Cave days, so anyone expecting another x-rated paranormal will be disappointed.  If you’re looking for emotionally tortured, angsty lead characters, well, Ms Walker seems to specialize in that, so you’re in luck.  Hunter’s Rise is another book that has languished on Mt TBR for a long time.  Now I remember why.  Not a big fan of angst, even well done angst.

Toronto is a werewolf without a past – or least no childhood he could remember.  He’s also one of the best Hunter’s, but is too independent and too much an alpha to take order’s well, even from an Alpha Vampire.  Sylvia James is a vampire assassin for hire who picks and chooses her jobs very carefully.  She specializes in helping abused women, but trying to con her turns into a huge mistake for a greedy young wife who doesn’t want to waste her youth waiting for her rich, elderly husband to die.

The Hunter and the assassin cross paths looking for a murderous vampire and a child prostitution ring.  Eventually, the trail leads the to where both must face their pasts, Toronto to remember and come to terms, and Sylvia to finally find the strength to face the monster that created her.

Paranormal romance for the angst lovers out there and like most of her work, well written.  Not my thing, but still, well plotted and with strong lead characters that get over their PTSD a bit too easily, even if Toronto does take longer.  Hunter’s Rise get a C+ to B- (3.5*) from me because I found the plot too predictable, but Shiloh Walker fans will be happy with the book.

Hunter’s Rise $5.99 on the now defunct 4-for-3 plan at Amazon.  It should be readily available in used book stores.  Her earlier Hunter books were partly republished since, but no new ones in this series.  Ms Walker is now mostly publishing her steamy romantic suspense series and novellas in various hot anthologies where she goes back to her ‘lady smut’ roots.

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