Tour’s Books Blog

November 11, 2016

A Last Post and Then – A Long Break

I suspect you’ve noticed I’ve been posting less these last few months, in part due to repetitive computer issues and in part due to issues with my eyes.  Like most folks my age with light eyes I’ve had cataracts for years.  These last few months saw a marked changed in my vision and it is difficult for me to work on the computer for any length of time.

Yes, I am getting surgery on both eyes, but I have to wait for openings which put’s it out later than I had hoped.  Still, it will be good to get it done.  Hopefully, it will be drama free and mark the end of a very expensive year of car repairs, extensive dental work, multiple trips to the computer place (where I was mistaken for an employee), and ending with eye surgery.  Could have been better, could have been worse.

I’ve been on a spy/assassin/action thriller binge with multiple authors in various formats.  I belong to Goodreads and I occasionally post (in fits in starts) in two groups, The Orion Team, a group for fans of action thriller/spy/espionage type books and the VERY large Mystery, Crime, Thriller group.  I am almost never around the fantasy and paranormal groups I belong to.  The latest Mitch Rapp book, Order to Kill by Kyle Mills who took over for Vince Flynn and did a really spectacular job of The Survivor, the previous book in the series is reviewed below.  By comparison, I found Order to Kill …… well, average or slightly above.  My comment brought out Ryan – self-styled ‘The Rappologist” – a Mitch Rapp superfan who runs a blog dedicated to Mitch Rapp who took exception to my views.  So I did something I rarely do, I sent an email to the author, Kyle Mills.

Now I email my many political representatives and office holders in DC and tell them off or agree with them (can’t remember the last time that happened) and sent the email expecting ‘Thanks for writing’, canned reply of a similar nature.  But lo and behold, within a few hours Kyle Mills replied himself.  And not some rote response, but a thoughtful look at what books of his I liked and how I loved The Survivor, but not Order to Kill.  A part of his response was:

“My impression of the Rapp books is that he is a bit of a superhero.  Realism is less important than the fact that he be the master of his universe.  Part of that is shown through his actions and part is through the deference others show him.  Further, because The Survivor leaned toward the cerebral (in the context of the series) I wanted to do more of a pure action thriller this time out.”

I thought about his reply awhile and about what books I liked best and those that ended up annoying me and came to the conclusion I do prefer the cerebral thriller.  There’s plenty of action, but the characters are more nuanced, flawed, and human, so more relatable.  See, even a thriller teaches us something about ourselves.  And kudos to Mr Mills.

On to the reviews!

PS – Belle Chasse by Suzanne Johnson, the next in the Sentinels of New Orleans series is due out next week.  If I have a moment, I’ll post a short review before surgery.  Happy Holidays!

NOTE: All books purchased by me unless otherwise noted.

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Image result for order to kill vince flynn

Order to Kill has Rapp back in Pakistan works with the team of ex-Seals to locate the now mobile nuclear missiles the Pakistani Army is playing dangerous games with.  Then he is pulled away when the wife and son of the Louis Gould, the man who tried to kill him, are in jeopardy.  Apparently, the safe home in South Africa is breached by ISIS rebels led by a low-level Russian thug.  Rapp saves the day (of course) but feels this urgent need to get back to Pakistan.  He sends the mother and son to his house the one he’s he’s finally finishing so many years after the death of his first wife.  The best line in the book is the interior decorator who is increasingly frustrated by his non-responses to texts about things like countertops and threatens him with pink Formica if he doesn’t reply.

Then we go off the rails.  Mills’ Putin clone orders his best assassin to kill Rapp.  And the ‘Rapp is Superhero’ song begins.  It’s annoying beyond belief.  Everything in Pakistan will fall apart if Rapp is there and without him their operations are crippled?  Seriously?  He’s the ONE man who can see this and wreck the ‘big plan?  Maybe he should check with the Johnny Carson estate to see if his Carnac hat is available for sale.  All Rapp was missing was a clingy body suit and big red ‘S’ on his chest.  I just took what came next as shallow, predictable, and kind of tedious in that like a romance novel, the ending was never in doubt, just how he got there.  You couldn’t even hate the competent Russian assassin, who was just doing a job.  We can hate ISIS, but big deal.

What’s missing?  Well, there’s plenty of action and the pacing is excellent.  Mills knows his way around writing a thriller, but in trying to imitate Flynn’s later works where Rapp is less human and more a cartoonish, shallow, always right, he lost the nuance that he brought to The Survivor, what I thought was one of the best books in the series for some time.  That he deliberately changed the style to better match Flynn is precisely why I found myself annoyed with it.  I’d grown tired of Flynn turning Rapp into an almost inhuman superhero.  I did like Grisha Azarov, the Russian assassin and he has some potential for future books as he manages to get away from both Rapp and Russia.

If Mills sticks with this ‘superhero’ approach, I’ll likely quit buying after the next book.  It’s like a good, but unsurprising action movie rather than an intellectual challenge with action an integral part.  Plus Rapp is getting too old to be fully credible in plots that are all about physical challenges without the redeeming factors of human error or character flaws.  To his credit, he did leave Rapp with the widow and child now living in his house and not knowing how to handle things.

Order to Kill gets a C+ (3.4*) rating for me and will be loved by dedicated Rapp fans – 70% of whom gave it 5* on Amazon.  I found it tedious and annoying and actually a step back from the far better book, The Survivor.  There are far too many of the ‘James Bond’ superspy genre out there.  Shallow and to me, ultimately unsatisfying.  Read it if you are a Flynn fan.  I’m sure you’ll at least like it as it is was well written and paced and you like the ‘avenging crusader’ style of thriller.  If you’re NOT a huge fan, borrow it from the library, buy it used, cheap in about 6 months (or less as remainders are already down to $10 including shipping on Amazon) or hit the FOL sale in about 2 months when they start removing extras from their shelves.

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Scot Harvath, like Mich Rapp, is getting a bit long in tooth (this is book 16 to Rapp’s 15th – but Flynn’s death caused a break in time before a new author was selected) to be the only guy to do the job again, and again, and again.  Like Kyle Mills and Vince Flynn, Thor brings a sense of realism to his settings and action, but Foreign Agent lacked the originality of his earlier books and like Rapp, Harvath has become a bit too much – though Thor is giving him more humanity and a strong sense of his mortality.  The series is suffering from character fatigue.

Harvath, like Flynn, chose to go the route where action takes priority over over character and complexity of human nature.  The plot becomes the story and characters are stoically going through the motions of playing out scenes.  I give him credit for slowly developing the self-realization of his and the fact this cannot last.  Still, it’s almost cut a paste in parts from prior work.  Not a patch on Black List, which was excellent, one of his best.  This can be a trap when the protagonist must start confronting in changes age brings and the equally harsh realization that they want a life beyond the endless action, beyond being responsible for the whole world.

And it is that humanity, the flawed person, that makes characters go from good to completely memorable.  And it’s that element of the plot that raises a book from decent read to amazing.  Now you can do that with some other elements like he did with Black List, but that made the PLOT great, not the characters.  Here, the plot cannot push the book from average to amazing.  It’s a decent plot – and like Kyle Mills, he mixes Russians and ISIS are the antagonists against whom Harvath must match wits and killing skills.  But here the Rissian involved with ISIS is not an apolitical professional assassin like Mills’ Grisha Azarov, but a nutcase who hate Americans.

Again, no question Thor knows the area, the techniques, technology, and keeps things moving, but he’s at the ‘fish or cut bait’ point with Harvath.  Made a few books more, but his character is too old and fire that drove him is changing.

Foreign Agent gets a C+ to B- (3.5*) and will be a huge hit with action thriller fans.  It shows less prescience and tension than Black List, the book I now judge his others by.  Like all books in the action Thriller genre, the price on remainders drops like a stone pretty fast and you can get a HC new book delivered from an Amazon reseller cheaper than the paperback.  Or go buy it at the FOL sale or borrow it from the library.  It wasn’t worth the HC price, but I share this series, like the Rapp series with my brother, so off to him it goes.  Print only.  He and amy SIL do NOT do ebooks.

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Victor the assassin is back with another excellent installment.  Unlike characters like Rapp and Scot Harvath, Victor is a true anti-hero.  An assassin for hire with a certain code, the first priority being his own survival.  He trusts no one and leads an existence devoid of human ties.  But he keeps his promises.

A Time to Die finds Victor on a train to fulfill a contract for MI6 as part of deal they made.  But he’s not alone.  There are other assassins out to get him.  Someone has put a price on his head.  But Victor now has his focus divided between Rados, the worst of the many Balkan war criminals and mass murderers, now a crime boss, and those who are hunting for him.

Patience and attention to detail are what have kept Victor alive when most other assassins would have sought retirement and refuge.  But it also means someone sold him out and it can only be one person – the middleman who acts as the go-between Victor and is clients.  No time for that now, now he must find a way to dig deep enough into the criminal underground to find Rados who has evaded all who have sought to bring him to trial for war crimes.

It is a wonderfully twisted knot of a killer seeking to kill a killer while another killer is trying to kill him and the target that Victor ends up close nearly gets to live …….. but he seals his fate by causing Victor to break a promise.

Assassin novels are very different from ones where the protagonist is a hero fighting for a cause or belief and someone who has made his life about the art of killing and going unnoticed.  Victor is gray, he has limits, a personal code, but is morally flexible on some things.  He does not kill unnecessarily nor is he any kind of patriot.  Just a killer.  Complex and fascinating in his own way.

A Time to Die poses some interesting perspectives on the nature of true evil.  One of Tom Wood’s best and most mature from a plot and character perspective, with plenty of action and twists.  It gets a solid B (4*) and a highly recommended read for fans of early John Rain books by Barry Eisler, Solo by Jack Higgins, or Shibumi by Trevanian.  I’m not sure why this series is not more popular.  It’s really well done a Victor makes a wonderful anti-hero.

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Image result for tokyo black by andrew warren

I bought the ebook, Tokyo Black by Andrew Warren, the first in the Thomas Caine series, from Amazon through a Book Bub sale and figured I’d give it a try.  Tokyo Black is about an ex-CIA covert operative who got set up and is getting set up again by the same man.  Using an alias, he’s lived a comfortable and quiet life in Thailand’s resort area doing minor smuggling of designer knockoffs.  His partner sets him up with a narcotics rap and he lands in prison.  His was out is an ex-lover who needs him to some work in Japan, part of his old territory before things went sideways in the Mideast.

This setup moves quickly into the story where Caine is in Japan where he uses a favor owed him by a Yakuza boss to try and find out what’s going on.  Unlike most spy novels, this thriller is more tied to organized crime than national secrets or terrorist groups.  Sort of The Godfather meets John Rain – and I hope that didn’t give away the ending, which was well done.

The story is a really good, fast-paced read but not nuanced as I like my thrillers, just a personal preference in style.  Caine is a really good character and it will be interesting to see where this goes as he ends up agreeing to work freelance for the CIA.

Tokyo Black gets a solid B (4*) from me.  For lovers of the John Rain books, Gray Man series, and the Keller books by Lawrence Block.

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Image result for Curious Minds by evanovich

From well-crafted thrillers to mystery fluff with as much substance as meringue.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with fluff when it’s well done, which this is not.  In the tradition of Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, and James Patterson, we add Janet Evanovich, aging doyen (75 years old) of the increasingly awful Steph Plum books (once favorites of mine, 14 books ago), cooking up ways to ‘expand the brand’.  God, the money machine runs on her name.  The books are mostly written by her co-authors, but it is HER name that sells them.

Curious Minds is mildly original, very choppy, meant to have this brilliant and eccentric lead character (a copy of the TV series version of Elementary, except Emerson Knight has none of the flaws and is a LOT richer) and the ever reluctant female in the late 20’s trying to break into the financial world who is assigned to keep him as a customer of the financial house.  Riley Moon is the reluctant sidekick in his plans.

This is supposed to be funny, and apparently, some people found it so.  But a decade’s old scheme to replace the gold in the US Federal Reserve in NYC with gold plated tungsten while moving the actual gold elsewhere is not only improbable, it makes no sense how Knight works it out.

Curious Minds has a few really amusing throw-away lines, but it was so choppy and jittery, it got annoying.  Though it got 3* from me on GoodReads, it’s really a D+ to C- (2.6*) effort.  I know the style was deliberate, but that did not make it less annoying.  Riley is too young for her years and lacks the maturity to make this pairing work, so she comes off a dimwit with multiple degrees from Harvard, an unlikely combination.  I found it frustrating as the concept was good, it was just not well done.  For Evanovich fans, none of this will matter.  For anyone else, give it a miss or get it free or really cheap somewhere.

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Image result for the breakup doctor book

Oh dear God, why do I do this to myself?  I hate chick lit and buy the ultimate chick lit ebook because of the reviews.  On the upside, I got it super cheap, on the downside, about half way through I gave up.  It was that or throw up.

OK, a psychologist learns her building is being demolished and the two weird people she shared the practice with both knew and had new jobs.  She’s left holding the bag with even her file lost.  (The improbability of all this boggles the mind.)  So she starts a column called The Breakup Doctor with the help of the friend she was counseling when the demolition started.

She starts getting clients and missing the fact that she also missing all the signals her own romance is about to hit the rocks.  All that was missing was a flashing neon sign.

At a quarter of the way through, I’d had enough.  It’s mildly amusing, annoying, and beyond belief – with amusing being only 20%, 50% annoying and 30% not remotely believable.  The Breakup Doctor gets a DNF since I couldn’t make myself finish it.  The writing was solid but the characters everything I loathe in chick lit.  Unless this is your thing, (please, don’t tell me, I’ll just cringe) give it a miss.  If it is your thing, it gets 4.5* on Amazon, but they tend to overrate these things.

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Image result for belle chasse suzanne johnson

OK folks, it came election day and I read it all that day.  I did vote first.

Belle Chasse picks up soon after DJ and Jake make good their escape from the trial Zarkovi  – with the help of Christof Winter Prince, Jean Lafitte, René, and Adrien – getting Eugenie out at the same time.  The are now in Old Barataria at Jean’s home.  Alex stayed back to get the inside scoop on the Council.

The pace is quick as Faerie descends into civil war with the queen on her deathbed.  Eugenie’s sister is killed by vampires – but who did it?  Rand, the elf father of Eugenie’s son, the or the wizards?  Then a group of vampires attack Lafitte’s home in Old Barataria and end up paying the price as the gang arrives back before they can kill any but the undead.  Then a strange woman arrives who turns out to be her cousin Audrey, Lennox’s daughter.  They a young ally to get holy water and take messages.

Then the war the war in Faerie goes bad as Florian kills their aunt and claims Christof is to blame seeking help from the council, help denied by Zarkovi.  With the holy water and her staff, they get to eavesdrop on the council meetings.

The ending is fast and furious as Zarkovi grows more desperate to prove himself.  Old loyalties die hard, but we also lose one of the characters I really liked, so it kind of sad.

Suzanne Johnson did a really good job in keeping this series fresh and interesting and action packed.  Belle Chasse ends on a very surprising note.  Only downside, the book was pricey for a trade sized hardcover just barely over 300 pages.  I give Belle Chasse an A- (4.8*) but a big negative on cost.  Borrow it from the library or wait for a few months and get a used one.  Even the ebook is overpriced.

December 31, 2013

New Year’s Quickies

Well, another year has passed and a few hundred more books have been read.  I figure I’ll just take this last chance to do a few quickie reviews and wish everyone a happy, healthy, safe 2014.

This is the 6th book in the King and Maxwell series, and the one that the TV series was loosely based on.  You can tell it was written with an eye to TV or movie conversion, much like many of Michael Crichton’s later books, but it’s still a good read and better plotted than a lot of his books lately featuring a teenage client who seems trapped in a web of lies that his father initially helped build, and his father, trying to get back to his son and find out who set him up to die and what the hell was going on.  And naturally, there’s no better way to get Maxwell involved than to tell her to back off.

Baldacci blows hot and cold on his books, but this one hits the mark.  I give it a B- (3.8*) and recommended read for thriller fans – but try and buy the ebook.  At $15-16 for the hardcover, it’s a bit steep.

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This being the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, who better than Bob Lee Swagger to look into conspiracy theories about The Third Bullet.  An unwilling Swagger is waited out by the window of a writer who had been investigating the assassination, she asks him to look into his murder and see if it’s possible it was related to his research on the assassination.  Swagger refuses her again and again, but the one thing the widow has in abundance is patience – and a clue that probably only Swagger would understand – a bicycle like tire track on a rain coat found at a different building.  So the man who said no, suddenly changes his mind and gets involved.

Followers of the series will like the way the ending of this books ties in with Point of Impact.  In a series that has ranged from excellent to awful, The Third Bullet comes in at the high end with a solid B- (3.7*).  To his credit, Hunter did not twist the facts of the actual shooting, which makes the plot more interesting.  The usual unlikely death defying events for Swagger stresses the reader’s credulity, but otherwise a solid outing.  A must for Swagger fans.  I got the book free thru an online book swapping site in hardcover.  Borrow it, buy the ebook, or wait for the mmpb.

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A new entry in the paranormal romance genre, Dragon Awakened is book 1 The Hidden series.  Like other paranormal series, this one is set in the ‘normal’ world, but must remain ‘Hidden’ to survive humans.  This is the story of of an assassin dragon who gets an assignment he ends up questioning and in the end pays for his act of compassion.  Fun, fast paced, the two protagonists, Ruby Salazaar and Cyntag Valeron are likable and entertaining.

Dragon Awakened is a fast, easy read with enough meat to be entertaining, but devoid of any innovation or surprising plot twists.  My score is C+ (3.2*) and a pleasant way to pass your time for a few hours, but only if cheap or free.  I paid $5.40+tax from an online book store.  I certainly wouldn’t pay more than that.

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In The Art Forger, Barbara Shapiro wrote an interesting study in human nature enmeshed in the closed and clannish art world weaving in the theft of the paintings from the Isabella Stanley Gardner Museum, art forgery as its own art form, historical looks at the artists ‘Bella’ collected and her disdain for ‘impressionist’ art, and how a struggling artist copes with moral quandaries and ‘Faustian’ bargains – and rationalizes her choices.  It’s stories within stories within stories, like Russian nesting dolls, taking semi-disgraced artist Claire Roth on a path she never expected to walk – and finds her inadvertently discovering a well hidden secret of the art world.

The changing time frames and POV’s are mostly smooth, and I found the ‘letters’ by Mrs Gardner lively and interesting – and my favorite part of the book in many ways.  The mystery was more predictable than I expected.  The art world is neatly skewered and pretty accurate.  The details on the whole painting process will bore some interest others.  Me, I wavered between the two, but leaned toward bored.  The brief cover synopsis pretty much covers the whole plot.  Characters are flat and two dimensional and dialogue uninspired, which seriously detracted from an interesting plot.

My score for The Art Forger is C+ (3.2*) because the writing itself was largely tedious and saturated with the type of pretensions that annoy the crap out of me.  I bought The Art Forger from Book Outlet, a site that sells remainders, for under $3.00 on sale.  It’s current price for the same trade size on Amazon is $11-12.  It was interesting enough for a fast read and as intro to the art world few see, but buy a remainder or used copy.

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September 29, 2012

Man Plans, the Gods Laugh – and why I have so few reviews this week

Life rarely goes as planned.  It also reminds us that regardless of our problems, others have it far worse.  A friend in the book swaps took a fall and broke her back.  Her vertebra was glued together again using the surgical equivalent of Super Glue and she’s now in a rehab center in California.  Bored and in pain, she asked me to write a story for her using my groundhog character that exists on the swap forums of PBS (Paperback Swap).    It was supposed to be a simple two maybe 3 part story.  I’m on part 8 and I have one more to go to get the loose ends tied up.

Stories have a life of their own and often surprise even me.  I read that authors say their characters just won’t allow them to do certain things.  Well, over the years, this groundhog I created has developed some very definite ideas about what she will and will NOT do.  Over time, she didn’t exactly evolve the way I was expecting, and a large part of that was due to a group writing effort in a swap where each player contributed a character and story element to the game.    Unlike a Murder Mystery Weekend, it was not a play where the victims and perpetrators were determined in advance.  It was more like trying to knit together stories of Thieves World, where writers saw the same character from different perspectives and created characters for themselves.  In the swap, called Murder They Wrote, I laid the basic framework of the story and worked each contribution and character created into the plot as best I could.  I had to get pretty creative at times!  The whole thing came out surprisingly good.  Our patient and long suffering hostess, who played the part of the owner of The Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana, put the final version together as book, I did some last minutes edits and an epilogue, and she emailed it to all the players.  It was a perfect setting.  One player decided she was a ghost.  Another a voodoo priestess.  There were ‘extras’ that fleshed out the story.  But we had a great and creative group.

As a result of that swap, I created a character as a partner for my groundhog in an art theft recovery company.  He became a recurring player and I started doing multi-part stories in the swaps.  Each time my books were stolen, I’d tell another part of the story.  It takes time and often bits were in different swaps.  So another player began collecting my posts in a dedicated thread.  This lead to my friends’ request to do a story just for her.  But putting stories together takes time.  More time than I realized when I started writing the one for my friend.  Each day I’d do 4-7 pages, let it sit a day, then go back next day, do a quick edit and make minor changes, then move on to the next part.

Because I did the story like episodes in a 30 minute TV show, I actually had to put all the parts together today and start reading through from the beginning to see what I had to clean up – or questions left unanswered.  I found a few errors, but over all, for something thrown together by an amateur in a week, it really was pretty well done.

Was the story what I planned?  No.  Did it play out as I expected?  No.  Only two elements came through that I planned in advanced.  One happened because I gave my friend in CA a call to see how she’s doing.  She mentioned she really liked this one character I created, the opposite to my own temperamental, short-tempered, feisty, and sometimes vindictive character.  He’s a phlegmatic Southerner, unflappable, and and very much a loaner with a real fondness for moonshine.  In his own way, he’s fond of his cousin.  So the story changed and Cousin Cleatus came into the story.  But there had to be a reason why Cleatus was there, and that took me awhile to figure out.  Plus, the whole thing added about 14 pages to the length.  So far I have close to 20,000 words.  I’m amazed.  I’m also amazed at how much time it took and how much I enjoyed doing it.

Then I got a cold.  Just in time so I couldn’t go to the annual block party without giving it to all my neighbors.  Plus colds make my brain go dead.  Give me a simple cold and I can barely write simple sentences,  so the story sat while I pouted over being the victim of a common virus.  Nearly a week later I FINALLY finished it!   There’s another thing I learned.  If you write every day, you aren’t going to have a lot of time to read.  Get sick and trying to focus on books?  A double whammy.  I have books to be read backing up very quickly.  How authors – real authors – find time to do all that reading of other author’s works is beyond me.  My brain was so involved with my own characters and plot, I found it hard to change gears and get drawn into a different story, or I was just too sick to care.

Luckily, I’m over my cold and the associated fit of sulking.

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I finally did manage to get a few of books read.

Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire.  The October Daye series was not a hit for me from book one.  I really struggled to get into this world and accept the character.  But with each new book, I’ve liked it better and better – sort of.  This installment was an exception, not because it wasn’t good, but because it had a serious flaw.

One of the ongoing elements in the October Daye books has been her relationship with Tybalt, King of the Cait Sidhe.  That finally gets center stage here.  Toby is asked to find the changling daughter of knight in her lord’s service.  Finding things, especially lost and missing children has become something of a specialty of hers, it’s true, but of all people to have a half human child, the uptight, by the rules, knight Etienne would have been last on the list.

Etienne didn’t know he even had a daughter until the woman who was once his lover called.  She’d simply disappeared on her way home from school  But there are bigger problems.  Etienne has violated his knight’s oath and the rules of Fairie.  It also meant two more things, there was human out there who knew about Fairie and he never said a word, AND his daughter had come to her powers without anyone to teach her.

A large part of the story is also about a rebellion in the Court of Cats.  Toby spends a lot of time bleeding and being healed thanks to a disgruntled Samson, a cat who hates the fact that Tybalt, their king, involves himself with her.  The two elements overlap when Sampson is implicated in the abduction of Eitenne’s daughter.

Overall, this was a good story with two main, and different storylines.  The downside was, parts became repetitious with Toby and Tybalt no more than healed when they were once again attacked by the same group.  That brought my grade down to B- (3.7*) For fans of October Daye, it’s a must for the Tybalt story alone.  A word of warning, you really do need to read most, if not all, books in the series in order to follow the story.   The world is incredibly complex and layered and many plot elements are carried over from previous books.  While not the best in the series, I liked it for finally bringing the Tybalt/Toby relationship into focus.

Now we have the opposite – a series in decline.  A Wanted Man by Lee Child ended up a huge disappointment.  If there is one word no author ever wants to see attached to a thriller, it’s BORING.  And that is exactly what this book is – boring.   And tedious, especially the opening 130 pages or so.  If you think driving from Nebraska to Chicago in the winter is boring, try reading about – for a hundred pages!!!!!!!.  GAH!

The story moves from the boring to the absurd as an FBI agent starts chasing them then joins forces with Reacher and the waitress, who is really an undercover agent, and the whole thing ends in the most absurd terrorist kill ’em all shoot out I ever read – because the whole thing was one big terrorist Ponzi scheme.  Honestly, what nonsense.

Tedious, dull, a wild ending that seemed so blasted absurd.  I have NO idea what Lee Child was thinking, if he was actually thinking at all.  Opinion on Amazon is fractured and fairly evenly distributed 1 to 5 stars.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  Obviously, hardcore fans don’t care.  People who want a good thriller were soundly disgusted.  I can give this drivel a D+ (2.2*) and strongly urge you to get it from your library, but don’t spend ANY money on this thing, certainly not the discount price of $16.38 print or $12.99 Kindle.  Move on folks, nothing worth you time here.

I also read Physical Education by Maggie Barbieri, the most recent in her Murder 101 series featuring Alison Bergeron, a professor looking for tenure at a small Catholic college located on the Hudson River in the northern most part of NYC’s limits.  Now married to her detective boyfriend (second marriage for both) she finds herself the reluctant step-mother of college age twin girls and an even more reluctant replacement coach for the college’s D-III girl’s basketball team.

Alison is adjusting to married life, or so she wants to believe, but one thing you never quite adjust to is having bodies put in your car trunk.  Leaving the school, the retired cop, now school security guard helpfully goes to close her trunk only to have the thing pop open – and new college mail delivery hire has been shot, execution style, and thrown in her trunk.  Flashback to when mobster Pete Miceli was after her.  Now Allison was dealing with another murder, her detective husband lying about – too much and smelling of Channel #5, and her best friend, Father Kevin halfway to be defrocked for something her didn’t do, while his ambitious replacement Father Dwyer was single-handedly trying to undo Vatican II.

Now Allison has way more questions than she’s getting answers – from Kevin or Bobby or Bobby’s erstwhile detective partner and her volunteer assistant coach Fred.  Then there’s the gun with the silencer in the fridg in the garage and supposed rats in her basement.  Barbieri takes all these elements and spins them into a fast and entertaining story with several mysteries large and small for Allison to deal with.  Satisfying as few cozies are these days, with a sensible and intelligent lead character.

Physical Education gets a solid B (4*) rating and a recommendation to buy used or as a remainder.  I paid around $9 while a new copy on Amazon is selling for $16.49 – too high for light mystery.

Molly Harper is one one of my favorite paranormal romance authors.  Her Half-moon Hollow vampire series is mostly very well done and seriously amusing.  It was her name that prompted me to buy Undead in My Bed, a three author anthology that included stories by Katie MacAlister and Jessica Sims, two other authors I usually, but not always, enjoy.

I read Harper’s Undead Sublet first.  It was the longest of the 3 novellas at 165 pages, and I think the second best of the three.  Tess Maitland is a sleep deprived, overworked head chef at a well know Chicago gourmet restaurant Coda when she hears the arugula telling her ‘Knock, knock’ jokes.  She was promptly given a ‘sabbatical’ – code for ‘she has flipped out and taking time for recover’.  Her old mentor now lives in Half-moon Hollow, KY.  As the closest thing to family she has, she heads down there and rents a small house for a month of mental health time and rest.

Only problem is, the house has someone living there, the vampire owner.  Sam Clemson became a vampire by accident.  He came yo Half-moon Hollow with his soon to be ex-wife Lindy to try and save their marriage.  After building a daytime hiding spot for a vampire, the vamp decided having a human know about his ‘safe room’ was dangerous  so he drained him and left him in the woods.  Luckily, a member of the vampire council found him and turned him time, though the transition wasn’t easy.  Lindy freaked out and had him declared dead, then started divorcing him.  The new laws were a bit hazy in some areas after the Coming Out n 1999.  Sam was not exactly adjusting well and now he had a mouthy female in his house.

That’s when the war of pranks started, and some were hysterically funny.  Tess makes friends with Jolene, Jane and some others from Harper’s earlier books, and soon finds herself enjoying life in a small town again, the kind of town she grew up in.  The romance wasn’t the core of the story, rather two folks finding their own way and maybe each other while doing so.

Undead Sublet is good, but the ending is a bit flat.  Sam’s character is pushed to a minor roll for much of the story, but as a whole, it works.  I give this part a B (4.0*).

Katie MacAlister does her turn with a Dark Ones novella, Shades of Gray.  Now Ms MacAlister blows hot and cold for me, but she hit this just right.  Grayson Soucek finds a nun climbing over the wall of his ancestral home, knocks her out, ties her up, and tries to question her.  What the devil is a human doing on his property, especially a curvy nun who is anything but nun like and claims to be a Guardian and a Beloved.  But getting answers is impossible, as are her claims of being a Guardian and Beloved.  Only problem is, she smells amazing and seems to think he does too.

Noelle is thrilled to have found her Dark One, the one for whom she the Beloved.  Grayson is less than thrilled – uncomfortably excited, but he’s been cursed by a demon and can’t afford to get involved with this attractive, though possibly insane, female.  Then he learns his abby has been leased for 2 weeks to some halfwit film crew trying to capture ‘spectral phenomenon.  The thing is, dealing with them means getting near the delectable Noelle – and that leads to one thing he was trying to avoid, a joining.

Well done, with two good lead characters and a decent supporting cast (especially the ghost of the horny monk), the plot moves quickly, is kept lean and clear, and has a great ending.  My grade is B+ (4.3*).

The final entry is also the shortest, by design to to limit the length of the book is hard to say. Out with a Fang by Jessica Sims adds to her Otherworld Dating series with Ruby, the were-jaguar looking for love after spending 4 years missing the human she really did love and had to dump – dramatically – or risk his being killed.  She was on her first date tonight – with a vampire who oddly insists she wear a blindfold in the restaurant.  But it’s a supervised date, so she has an out of it gets too weird.  Something about him troubles Ruby ………… then she realizes, the vampire is actually Michael, her old human lover, no longer human.

She walks out, Michael trailing trying to explain, but she’s having none of it.  They part – but Ruby hears something in the alley and finds Michael caught by a bounty hunter trying to kill him with garlic juice injections.  Now the human Ruby is petite and curvy, buy the jaguar Ruby is an Apex predator – and a force to be reckoned with.  A force the bounty hunter is not ready to deal with.  She drives him off and goes back to rescue Michael and keep in safe.

Now it becomes a game of trying to elude the hunters.  They want Michael dead, not because he’s done anything, but because a female vampire has decided with wants him for a blood mate, kind of husband.  But another male vamp wants the females and is happy to kill the competition.  Thing is Michael doesn’t even know the woman.

Actually, all the running and hiding does is give Ruby and Michael a chance to talk about what happened since they parted.  It’s all rather dull, really, but not angsty, just not fun or exciting.  Some action, an HEA, but not in sync with the other two.  It lacked the humor and light hand with the plot.

I always maintain, every anthology has one weak entry, and for me, this was it.  It felt misplaced after two such amusing stories.  Thankfully, it was also the shortest of the three too.  My grade is a C (3*) for Out with a Fang.

Overall, Undead in My Bed gets a B (4*) as a book and a recommended read for fans of the lighter paranormal romances.  I got the book under the 4-for-3 promotion on Amazon.

 

April 27, 2011

Four Short Reviews: Assorted Genres – Paranormals, Mystery, Thrillers

Some new, or at least recent releases, in various genres.

  • Title: Tangled Threads
  • Author:  Jennifer Estep
  • Type:  Paranormal UF/alternate reality
  • Genre:  Female assassin helps others while she gets ready to avenge her family
  • Sub-genre:  Magic is alive and well in Ashland
  • My Grade: C+ to B-  (3.5*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Novel – about 90,000+ $7.99
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore (more…)

March 11, 2011

Short Reviews: Paranormal, Erotic Romance, Mystery, Action Thriller

My tastes in reading range far and wide, but mostly, I just like a good read.  Some here were, some weren’t.  Consider this a snapshot of my TBR mountain.

  • Title: Under Wraps
  • Author:  Hannah Jayne
  • Type:  Humorous paranormal with an UF edge and a mystery
  • Genre:  A magic resistant human gets involved in investigating a serial killing with a handsome detective
  • Sub-genre:  Quirky blend of ordinary woman in a paranormal world who’d love to kick ass, but lacks the instincts and skills
  • My Grade: C-  (2.8*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel – about 80,000+ $6.99
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore (more…)

January 26, 2011

Book Review: The Sentry by Robert Crais

  • Title: The Sentry (Joe Pike Book #3)
  • Author:  Robert Crais
  • Type:  Mystery Thriller
  • Genre:  Avenging crusader meets twisted reality
  • Sub-genre:  Pike breaks up a beatdown of a shop owner and gets involved when they disappear
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel – about 90,000 words for $14.00-16.00 on sale; list $26.95
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore (more…)

December 1, 2010

Book Review: Worth Dying For by Lee Child

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books blow hot and cold, but the last couple have been decent reads and this one delivers a well paced story that follows the typical formula for a Reacher story.  In most of his recent books, Reacher is the loner who lives by his own brand of right and wrong who ends up pitted against a local very bad guy – or guys in this case.  A single act of charity has far reaching effects because the bad guys are just too stupid leave the man alone.

  • Title: Worth Dying For
  • Author:  Lee Child
  • Type:  Action thriller
  • Genre:  Mid-west white slavers and local bad guys try to intimidate Reacher
  • Sub-genre:  Loner extracts his own justice
  • My Grade: C+ to B- (3.5*)
  • Rating:  PG-13 to NC-17 for violence
  • Length and price:  Full novel 90,000 words for $28.00 with 40-60% discounts available
  • Where Available:  book available at any bookstore
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore (more…)

July 13, 2010

A Vampire Mystery and a New Action Thriller

Every once in awhile, a book title is just so intriguing you simply MUST have it regardless of the fact it’s out of print and the publisher is defunct.  Such was the case with The Case of the Virtuous Vampire.  How did I stumble across such a niche market book from a tiny publisher?  Paperback Swap.  Yes, despite what many publishers think, book swapping online actually increased my purchasing of books, it didn’t reduce it.  It does the same for many others.  Why?  Because you find many new authors and/or genres and the waiting lists move too slowly because there aren’t millions of copies sold.  But I’ve bought a hundred paperbacks – trade paperbacks (those $14-$18 oversized paperbacks) and mass market paperbacks, many by new or new to me authors.  I’ve also bought more than my fair share of hardcovers.  SIGH!

I wonder sometimes just how much the current paranormal/UF craze owes to J.K. Rowling and her brilliant Harry Potter series.  You have a whole generation of kids growing up enjoying the story of the ‘boy wizard’ in the books and the movies.  A lot of today’s Twilight reader’s probably cut their fiction teeth on Harry and his friends.  It’s only natural they would find a touch of the supernatural appealing.   I think the predictions of a waning interest in paranormal and UF that many publishers predicted were a bit premature. (more…)

January 23, 2010

Book Review: The First Rule by Robert Crais

My apologies for being missing in action.  I’ve been experiencing computer difficulties and two of my electronic babies are in the shop – one with a hard drive issue and one with a virus.  So I’m on a new, rather stripped down model, trying to carry on.  SIGH!  Please be patient while I get these issues resolved.  Thanks!

  • Title: The First Rule
  • Author: Robert Crais
  • Type:  Action thriller mystery
  • Genre:  Avenging crusader
  • Sub-genre:  Joe Pike kicks ass and kills bad guys
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating: PG-17
  • Length and price: Full novel.  80,000 words for $26.95 and sold at significant discounts most places
  • Where Available: Anywhere books are sold
  • FTC Disclosure: Purchased from online bookstore

I’ve been a fan of Robert since he first published The Monkey’s Raincoat way back in 1987.  Long time.  Crais wasn’t one of those writers who regularly churned out a novel every 9 to 12 months.  At first, it would be 2 to 3 years between books.  It seems nearly every book he’s ever written, whether an Elvis Cole or one of his free-standing novels, gets multiple nominations for various book (more…)

December 6, 2009

Book Review: Pursuit of Honor by Vince Flynn

  • Title: Pursuit of Honor
  • Author: Vince Flynn
  • Type: Action Thriller
  • Genre: Mitch Rapp CIA Op series; betrayal and death
  • Sub-genre: Terrorists and assassins
  • My Grade: D+ (2.5*)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Length and price:  Plus novel – 100,000+ words
  • Where Available: Available as a hardcover everywhere; paperback release Aug 2010
  • FTC Disclosure: Book purchased from online bookseller

Vince Flynn burst onto the action/thriller scene with a terrific book about revenge called Term Limits.   He introduced Mitch Rapp, an undercover op and assassin for the CIA in second book, one of my personal favorites, Transfer of Power.  His books have increasingly become a kind of a protracted editorial and justification for his personal political beliefs and Pursuit of Honor reads more like an editorial than an action/thriller.  That part wouldn’t be so bad, but he makes two fatal errors – the first is, Mitch Rapp is never wrong, the second more grievous error is forgetting his readers want AN ACTION/THRILLER STORY!  There was a time when Vince was an automatic buy for me, then after 9/11, with each subsequent book, there was less and less of interest and more and more about the power struggles in Washington, DC.  I stopped buying him until I could either get his books as remainders – or from a book swapping site. (more…)

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