Tour’s Books Blog

November 16, 2015

The Good, the Average, and the (YAWN) Dull – books and ebooks

Getting new authors and sometimes old authors can be a real crapshoot. Authors you know need to meet a certain standard, one they set with their previous books. Sometimes the miss the mark – by a LOT. New authors and ‘new’ to you authors are a shot in the dark. You read the reviews and cross your fingers and give them a try. Some good, some are bad, and every once in awhile one is really amazing.

Well, one amazing read came my way, but no new discoveries came through my little paws this month, and a few authors did disappoint and several redeemed themselves.  So here we go:

The Hitwoman Hires a Manny is an ebook and the latest in the long-running Hitwoman series.  This complex story revolves around Maggie bringing her niece Katie home from the hospital where she’s shared a room with the grandson of mobster and her sometimes employer Tony Delvecchio.  She’s also trying to deal with her over-sexed, overbearing Aunt Loretta and Aunt Susan, the fact one keeps having sex in the back room of her ‘corset shop’ and the other is constantly running Maggie’s life.  With Maggie’s dad in witness protection and her mom in the loony-bin, Maggie has never had what anyone could call a normal life.  So taking up Tony Delvecchio’s offer of part-time hitwoman to earn enough money to pay for her niece’s care came when she need it most – but it also came with bigamist policeman Patrick – Tony’s other part-time hitter.  He was a man with 2 families to support and an interest in Maggie that’s way past professional.  Through in Aunt Loretta’s ‘boyfriend’ another WITSEC person hiding from a suddenly paroled killer, a ‘manny’ hired by Aunt Susan without asking Maggie and he’s fresh from the navy, easy on the eyes, interested in Maggie, and a licensed physical therapist – and Agnel Delvecchio, Tony’s non-mob nephew – and BOOM, you have a mess.

A fast, fun, interesting read in a series that’s best read in sequence, though you need not read every book.  It gets a B- (3.8*) from and a suggested ebook read for those who like lighter mystery/romantic suspense.  Purchased from Amazon for $3.99, but a bit short (around 200 pages) for that price, so try and borrow it from the library.

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This book was billed as the next Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novel, but ThePromise was more of a mashup of the Cole/Pike series with the Scott James/Maggie K-9 cop book, then threw in Pike’s friend turned mercenary for the US government, Jon Stone, a nearly absent key character, Amy Breslyn and a client who lies from the start and the whole thing had FAIL written all over it.

The plot is best described as slender and ill-defined.  Cole and Pike had supporting character roles and their normally sharp and witty exchanges were dull and lifeless.  Cole was a shadow of the character as he appeared in the earlier books.  Actually, the POV changed so often, it was like watching 5 versions of one story that ended up like babble rather than an edge of the seat thriller.  You had, Cole, Jon, Scott, Maggie (yes the dog was a narrator), the mysterious ‘Mr Rollins’, and the ‘client’ Meryl Lawrence.  Even the hard nose cop is blah.  I suggest a stiff drink and 2 Advil for the brain whiplash.

For 300 pages I kept waiting for the story to gel – it never did.  I kept waiting for Cole and Pike to morph back into the Cole and Pike readers always knew.  They didn’t.  I waited for Jon Stone or Scott James to emerge as the unifying character and take charge of ……….. something, preferably the damn plot.  Hell, I would have settled for Maggie becoming Sherlock Holmes, but no.  It was a dull and droning story with barely enough life to justify finishing the book.  Even the grand finale was blah.

The Promise was an empty one.  Please do not pick this up expecting the Crais you know from his earlier Elvis Cole books or his more Watchman, an excellent book featuring the enigmatic Pike.  Just not in that class.  Crais is possibly the most reliable writer of mystery fiction out there and this is easily his worst book.  It will sell on the strength of his name, but is so far below his standards it’s a sad shadow of his former self.  Pedestrian plot, shallow, lifeless characters, a ‘victim’ who could not be more wooden, and a villain that was just annoying and boring in equal parts.

The Promise gets a C- (2.8*) from me a strong recommendation that you BORROW DO NOT BUY this book.  I paid just over $13+tax for the hardcover on Amazon.  It was a waste of money.

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Gail Carriger is one of the better Steampunk authors out there, but her series can vary in quality.  I’m happy to say Manners and Mutiny wrapped up her Finishing School series on a high note.  The book picks up with slightly disgraced Dimity, Agatha, and Sophronia back at school after helping Sidheag get back to Scotland and her pack after her grandfather deserts it for attempting a coup.  (Waistcoats and Weaponry)  After a difficult ball at Bunsun’s – the Academy for Evil Geniuses – where each of the 4 most senior girls must play the part of their most opposite roommate, and dealing with Lord Felix Mersey, her erstwhile suitor who betrayed to his father, a leader of the Picklemen, the 3 friends head to London for the holidays.  She has a chance to visit with Soap, the sootie who she had the Dewan change to a werewolf to save his life after Mersey’s father, the Duke, shot him.

Something strange is afoot at the school and as usual, Sophronia is determined to find out what.  All year she and Dimity and Agatha have been putting their finely honed skills to the test and Sophronia is convinced Miss Geraldine’s floating school is key to the Pickleman’s evil plot.  As usual, she’s right.

You really need to read this YA series in order to follow the twisted plot and frequently overwrought prose, carriger’s signature style.  Manners and Mutiny brings our 3 friends full circle and is chock full of big and little surprises and a dash of romance in forbidden young love.  The conclusion is satisfying and story moves at a rapid pace then takes the time to do a bit of wrapping up in an Epilog.  I give Manners and Mutiny a solid B (4*) rating and the entire Finishing School 4 book YA Steampunk series a suggested read even for adult lovers of the genre.  I purchased it for just over $11 on Amazon, but honestly, unless you followed the series, you can easily wait and get a much cheaper copy later or borrow it from the library.  It is not adult ‘keeper shelf’ material.

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I bought this ebook on a whim looking for something different and it got an Amazon 4* rating and ‘One of the Best Self-Published Books of 2014′.  OK – ONE – never trust Amazon ratings.  TWO – Best Self-Published’ means nothing.  For all the colorful cover art, Kelly’s Koffee Shop was a sleeping pill in electronic form.  Lifeless would suggest the characters ever had life – they were barely mannequins.  The dialogue – OMG – awful does not come close.  The whole deal was so drained of color and verve that it felt less exciting than the Walking Dead playing Jeopardy.

I reached the ‘Please, just kill me now and put me out of my misery,’ stage by page 30.  I spoke with a friend who is more of a cozy lover and she lasted only 12 pages.  So there you have it.  No detectable pulse.  DOA.

Kelly’s Koffee Shop is a rare DNF.  Since even a dedicated cozy lover blew it off, I kind of strongly suggest giving this one a miss.  Or buy it as an insomnia cure – but be warned, it might take a while for your brain to recover.

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Let me start by saying my screen name on PBS is Reacherfan, so you know I’m a big fan of the early Jack Reacher books.  This one was not awful, it was just so – ok – YES IT WAS AWFUL!  There, I said it, ok?  Make Me was like Lee Child read John Sanford’s Virgil Flowers book Bad Blood nd tried to find a way to out-gross the incest religion at that book’s core.  GAG.  He kind of did it too and all the people in the town of Mother’s Rest were part of the grand conspiracy.  Make Me ended up a test of the reader’s gag reflex and tolerance for the pointlessly grotesque.  I just wish there had a redeeming reason to all this, but there was none.  At the end, Reacher seemed oddly unaffected by the truly awful people and events.

The book starts out in classic Reacher fashion with randomly leaving a train at a place called Mother’s Rest.  He was curious about how the town got its name.  A woman approaches him thinking he might be the colleague she was looking for and Reacher ends up drawn into her case.  The first 1/3 or so of the book was all predictable Reacher, different town but kind of a copy of the last few books, but an ugly edge creeps in.

After refusing to help the female PI, Reacher comes back and does just that and book takes a grotesque turn.  It’s like Child wanted extreme shock value – which failed – and ended up with just a gross monstrosity of a book that made me feel like I needed a shower when I was done.

A few authors can carry off the truly horrifying stories with a style that makes them dark, yet compelling and engrossing.  This lacked the kind edginess that keeps the humanity in those stories.  While the oddly prosaic monster at the heart of the tale meets a suitably awful end, the fact that Reacher not more affected by it all bothered me.  Such things provoke strong emotions and even soldiers don’t walk again unscathed.

Make Me made me want to gag and I’ve read some very dark and nightmare inducing books.  Lee Child just does not have the writing chops to pull off a plotline this ugly and still keep his characters real and compel readers to the right reactions.  The power of the horror never reached through, it just struck the wrong notes, dissonant and disturbing because it felt like a calculated author’s trick – something I find profoundly annoying.

Make Me gets a D- (1.2*) and a strongly suggested DO NOT BOTHER TO READ THIS GOD AWFUL TRIPE!  And it makes me damn sad to say that about a favorite character.  I got this book through an online book swapping site and left the same way.

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I saved the best for last.  The second book in Ilona Andrews Innkeeper Chronicles was a gem.  Sweep in Peace was one of those rare instances where book 2 of a series is better than book 1 – and since I liked Book 1 that was no easy feat.

Dina DeMille has been running her parents’ inn since they disappeared.  This is no ordinary inn, it’s a place reserved for travelers from other worlds, a sanctuary where there is a symbiotic relationship between the inn and the ‘magic’ its guests bring.  To thrive, an inn needs guests to replenish its energy and magic.  Those who stay there are in turn protected by the inn and the rules that govern the sanctity of the inn and its guests.  The inn will protect itself.

Located in a small town in Texas, the inn is well off the beaten cosmic pathway and has just one permanent – and highly dangerous – guest.  The inn needs more guests and Dina needs the income, so when she’s suddenly offered the opportunity to host the Arbitrator’s peace conference, it seems to good to be true.  It is.  With some reluctance and a fair amount  of dickering, Dina agrees.  No sane innkeeper really wants to host the Arbitrator’s, The Holy Anocracy of Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the slipperiest merchants in the galaxies, the Nuan Cee of Baha-Char under their roof at the same time.  And these guests will demand nothing but the best – so Dina needs a chef.  That might be hard given her finances.

The story has more twists and turns than a complicated maze and Dina has to figure out what’s really going on because she becomes convinced of one thing – the Arbitrators lied.

I won’t ruin a good read with spoilers, but trust me when I say if you like this genre that blends Si-Fi with UF this series is a winner.  Andrews did an excellent job of spinning a complex web without allowing the plot to get out of control.  It all worked and all tied together in some unexpected ways and Dina’s solution is both inventive and oddly touching.  Sweep in Peace, like Clean Sweep, is a fairly short book but packed with fine story-telling.  It gets a rare A- (4.5*) from me and highly recommended read.  Do read Clean Sweep first to get the world-building background.  Purchased from Amazon in ebook for $4.99.  I might buy it in print for a much too high price of $11.69  for my keeper pile.  Yes, I enjoyed that much!

 

April 7, 2015

A Worthy Read – and Some Reviews

Where are all the worthy reads?  You know, the ‘good books’, the ones that are hard to put down!  Yeah, they are kind of thin on the ground.  Sometimes I feel like a broken record saying ‘same old same old’, ‘average’, ‘not great’, and all those other trite phrases that tag a read that was a classic C student ordinary.

The thing is, what I deem a ‘worthy read’ is only worthy to me.  Like music, art, and even movies, we all want something different.  I’m probably NOT the target audience for many authors, but more and more women cross over into what was formerly ‘male reader’ territory – action thrillers, assassin, and spy novels.  James Bond has many female fans even as every young male dreams of being, “Bond.  James Bond.”  (Preferably in Sean Connery’s lilting voice.)

Barry Eisler recognized the value female readers brought – after all, women buy and read more books than men – and even attended the Romantic Times annual convention.  Women are discovering Craig Johnson, Lee Child, Brad Thor, and many more.  Some, like me, read them from book 1, but I’m a fan of thrillers.  Even I don’t read everything.  Take Dystopian, (I feel a Henny Youngman, “PLEASE!” coming on here.) a genre I just don’t much like, yet I generally like the Sandman Slim books by Richard Kadrey.  I don’t like ‘chick-lit’, women’s lit, 97.9% of historical romance, or almost anything that ever won the Booker prize.  I’m a proud troglodyte and happy reader of what used to be called ‘pulp fiction’.

Yup, I slum with the mystery, thriller, si-fi/fantasy, and paranormal writers.  Bottom of the literature food chain.  So, my idea of a ‘worthy read’ has no redeeming social value for anything other than good entertainment for the length of the book and to hell with all the high moral character and ‘profound social insights’.  I’d rather laugh or get so engrossed I can’t put the book down.   After all, no one ever had wet dreams about Theodor Dreiser’s books.  Ian Flemming ……….. well please.  James is drool worthy and guys get skimpily clad hot chicks.   I don’t know about you, but that works for me.

Thank heavens for a few reliable authors!  Good books might be hard to find, but authors C. J. Box and Craig Johnson have stayed steady and dependable – and not gone off trying to create 5 other series with co-writers to make the ‘great money grab’ that’s become so popular.  Box’s Endangered is reviewed below – and dubbed by me a ‘worthy read’.

But even proven and consistent authors have lemons and one that seems to have slipped into a predictable pattern can suddenly break free and do a very original book.  One of the most reliable mystery writers – a man with limited output and almost every book nominated for some award is Robert Crais.  His Elvis Cole and Joe Pike are great though the last 2 Joe Pike ones were weaker than his Watchman.  Crais’s next book is due out this fall.

Author style differs a lot as well.  The late Tony Hillerman was one of the most atmospheric and evocative mystery writers I’ve read.  He breathed life into modern Navajo society and gave us a chance to see through other eyes.   William Kent Kruger is profoundly lyrical in his prose – sometimes to the detriment of his plots.  Gail Carriger has a unique over the top style that worked very well with her Parasol Protectorate series, but she lost her touch with the two latest books.  (Prudence is reviewed below.)  That’s the problem with stylized writing, an author gets so wrapped up in style, they lose sight of other things.  Her sharp humor is markedly missing of late and without it, the style is just annoying.

Randy Wayne White has been a curious author to watch.    His early Doc Ford books feel so different from his more recent ones on many levels.  He’s always researched heavily and that shows, but his characters and plots suffered after hitting the New York Times Bestseller list.  Doc Ford became everything he didn’t want to be and quit the CIA to avoid.  Tomlinson, his hippy, erratic, headcase friend became almost a caricature of himself.  The writing, often narrated thru Tomlinson’s drugged haze, has that soft focus dream-like quality that’s confusing and irritating by turns.  It makes his books heavy slogging.  I’ve always thought action thrillers needed a clear, crispy style to succeed completely, so I find the combination of angsty hero and soft-focus prose combined just kind of annoys the reader.

Molly Harper is another is another paranormal romance writer who can really hit it home, but again, her most recent didn’t work.  The review is below.  Daniel O’Malley used some pretty unique writing tricks to pull off his first book, The Rook, an extraordinary amalgam of styles.  His second is due out this summer, so let’s see if he can sustain the quality – always a difficult task.  First books carry no expectations, second books do.  Shelly Laurenston has an offbeat sense of humor and a way with strong female lead characters that most paranormal authors couldn’t pull off.  For all that, her books are lightweight reads, but they are amusing and very entertaining.  Her most recent is set in the world she created in The Gathering and is titled Unleashed, due out 3/31.  We’ll see how she does.

And unfortunately, I – and by dint of reading this blog, YOU – will be subjected to more of my, “average”, “OK, but not special”, “not awful” reviews.  SIGH.  Just be glad you aren’t reading all the books too!

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Endangered is the latest installment of the Joe Pickett series by Western mystery writer C. J. Box.  It opens with an interesting look at the slaughter of sage grouse, a small, flightless bird that mates and nests in the spring and ends up being a major plot point.  As Joe documents the slaughter of a lek, he gets a call that a girl resembling Alice, his adopted daughter, was found badly beaten in a ditch by the road.  Alice ran off with bull rider Dallas Cates in a previous installment, and Dallas, with a history of abuse, is suspect #1.  Joe abandons the slaughtered birds and heads for the clinic to arrive as a Flight-for-Life helicopter is about to take his wife Marybeth and daughter to a medical center.

Left behind, Joe gets involved with the sheriff department’s investigation, which takes a strange turn, pointing the finger at not the Cates family, but a survivalist.  The sage grouse twins get short shrift as Joe and his youngest daughter try and manage on their own.  A second story line involving Nate Romanowski gets woven in and eventually the two meet in an unexpected manner.

Tautly written and satisfyingly complex, the plot spins evenly to multiple conclusions that ultimately are very satisfying as they tie together various plot elements.   Endangered is a ‘worthy’ and recommended read for all mystery fans, and particularly western mystery fans.  I give Endangered an A- (4.5*) and a recommended read.

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Molly Harper is a favorite author and I was really looking forward to this book.  Too bad The Dangers of Dating a Rebound Vampire fell flat.  Gigi, the younger sister of Iris, the lead character in The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires (a really entertaining read) has been hired by the Vampire Council to help develop software to help the undead trace living descendants.  If her job works out, she’ll have employment after graduation the next year.  Iris is against the decision despite her having turned vampire herself.

She no more than starts her job when she’s assaulted by a vampire on her way to her car.  Nikolai Dragomirov is the tall blonde she kept catching glimpses of over Christmas, only now he seems to want to kill her and drain her blood.  She meets him with her brother-in-law Cal and challenges him on their history – of which he remembers nothing.  Way to shatter a girl’s ego.

So the story goes and it could have been great, but Nikolai never becomes a well rounded character.  Gigi carries the story and Nik is little more a love interest cutout.  Curses by a witch and an evil co-worker all figure in, but the book lacked the kind of spirited dueling between the leads that her other books had, in large part hindered by Nik’s condition and Gigi’s youth.  Without that repartee, the whole thing felt flat and the ending was predictable.

The Dangers of Dating a Rebound Vampire gets a C (3.0*) from me and is on OK read.  Get only if you’re desperate for a Molly Harper fix.  It’s not much, but the best you’ll get.

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Slayed on the Slopes is the second installment of the Pacific Northwest series by Kate Dyer-Seeley.  It picks up new journalist Meg Reed as she starts her second assignment for a feature article at Northwest Extreme, the online magazine she works for.  Having spent the summer training with the volunteer Crag Rats rescue team to get over her fear of heights, Meg feels ready to tackle the start up of a new group of extreme winter sports guides called Ridge Rangers being created by a tech millionaire and with several of the Crag Rats she knows looking at working for him.

As you might guess the obnoxious, drunk, rich, sneering, a-hole boss ends up dead.  GASP.  The guy did everything but wear a tee shirt saying “TODAY’S VICTIM”.  Then Meg goes out looking for the knucklehead and finds Henry instead.  There’s plenty of suspicion to go around.  Amazingly (color me stunned – NOT), the good old Sheriff from book one is with her grandmother at the main lodge for the same wedding Meg will attend and as the only available law enforcement, he’s investigating.

Despite all the predictable crap. this is actually a decent read in large part because the author winds in a second plot line about Meg’s dad, a discredited investigative journalist.  That ends up way more interesting than the primary mystery and is not resolved, but turns into an over-arching plot line.  Seems cozy writes are taking their cues from the likes of Darynda Jones and her wildly successful Charlie Davidson series, though none can duplicate that sharp wit.

Slayed on the Slopes gets a B- (3.8*) from me and a suggested read for all cozy fans.  Not as lighthearted as some, but overall, a cut well above average.

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Gail Carriger is back with her next series featuring the daughter of Alexia Tarabotti and Lord Maccon, an alpha werewolf, Prudence (Rue to everyone), is the only metanatural in Empire and the adopted daughter of vampire Lord Akeldama.  Lord Akeldama gifts her with an extravagant dirigible – and an assignment – go to India a secure his tea samples and find land where he can begin cultivating the highly desired plant.

Rue assembles her teams, including the son and daughter, and her best friend Primrose, the children on the Westminster Hive Queen of vampires.  Naturally, the son of Professor Lafoux is here as well.  Despite the cast, the exotic locale, and all the potential of the plot involving weremonkeys, the book is flat and dull.  The spirit and knife like wit in the Parasol Protectorate is missing and Ms Carriger seems rather at loss as to how to give a 20 year old the maturity to carry off a persona similar to that of Alexia.  Answer is, she can’t, or at least she didn’t.

A disappointment, especially after her very average Waistcoats and Weaponry installment in the Finishing School series.  That two mediocre books in a row.  The lack of wit and charm is not unnoticed by her fans, though many seem ready to overlook it.  I assume the ‘bargain price’ has something to do with the weak first book, a critical piece of getting followers for a series.  She needed a home run and got a base hit.

Prudence gets a C+ (3.3*) mostly for 2 characters, Spoo and Miss Sekmet.  It is not a must read, but isn’t an avoid.  I suggest waiting for the mmpb as $7.99 is still more than this is really worth.

March 6, 2015

A Quick Review of Recent Paranormal/UF Reads

OK – I’ve been nursing my shoulder and reading and trying not to type too much or do other things that annoy my joints – which in the winter is pretty much everything. God, I HATE WINTER!  The chaos on Paperback Swap has only gotten worse and that’s proved a distraction as well.  What a complete charlie foxtrot that’s turned into and PBS management is completely, utterly, and aggressively tone deaf to the community. SIGH!

I’ve also been reading till my eyes want to bleed, too bad so much of it is forgettable junk.  Cozies are the pablum of the mystery world and I OD’ed on them.  I’d say 70% are just tripe, 25 % are so boring you want to kill yourself, and last 5% give you false hope that the genre will snap out of it and start writing the good stuff again.   The odds are marginally better with paranormal, but honestly, I swear I could script most book’s entire story after the first 20 pages.

So here we go, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the just plain BORING.

The Dragon Conspiracy

The Dragon Conspiracy is Book 2 in Lisa Shearin’s UF series set in modern, paranormal NYC.  A fun, though predictable read with a finale much too similar to book 1.  Lively dialogue saves it from complete banality. C+ (3.5*) and read if you like paint by numbers UF.

BoundbyFlames-cover

Bound by Flames continues the saga of Vlad (Dracula) and his love, Leila.  Honestly, how does one love a sadist?  No matter how I break this down, Vlad is a violent sociopath.  Yes, a vicious product of his times, but not exactly evolved in the years since.  The writing is blah, the characters 2 dimensional, the plot almost silly, and the ending inevitable.  Trite is a kind description.  Give it a miss despite the good Amazon reviews.  The readers have a much higher tolerance for shallow and unlikable than I do.  D+ (2.7*) and suggested skip.

Casually cursed

Casually Cursed is the seemingly last installment in the Southern Witch series that started years ago as trade paperbacks, changed publishers and is now complete and in mass market paperback.  This series seemed to loop for a bit, but Kimberly Frost put together an excellent ending that makes me wish she’d put as much thought and originality in a few of the earlier installments.  The main story arcs all wrap up in a sprawling cast that crosses more than international borders.  Tammy Jo, Bryn, and the various other characters get their tales completed.  The series is good, if uneven in spots, but the ending was worth waiting for.  B (4*) and a strongly suggested read.

Deadly Spells

It seems to me Jayne Wells goes out of her way to think up at least one gratuitous, sexually gross scene in each book and by golly she has a gem in Deadly Spells.  It’s all so unnecessary to just disturb readers with these mental images.  It adds nothing to the plot and brings a ‘ICK!’ factor in that can detract substantially.  In book 3 of the Prospero’s War series, she does advance the over-arcing plot, but but inches not yards.  Frankly, I find her ‘gross out’ scenes so annoying, the remainder of the book was unsatisfying and dull to what became my hyper-critical eye.  I think this is a series I’ll be skipping over now on.  I want to give this book a D for that stupid ‘Hot Pocket’ thing, but it gets a C- (2.7*) as does have some other value, just not enough to redeem it.  If you enjoy being depressed, this is the series for you.

Foxglove Summer

Foxglove Summer, latest installment in The Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovich, is kind of a Harry Dresden style UF, though Peter Grant is no wizard like Harry – yet.  He is learning some magical skills and is sent by his mentor to a bucolic town well away from London and his usual beat to investigate two missing children.   So Peter is off his patch, but some of his patch comes calling.  The basis of much of the books is the living, sentient embodiment of rivers and streams that appear as humans, and as such, they travel, to an extent.  Here, the two missing girls are actually complicated by fae, unpleasant and dangerous creatures.  Foxglove Summer is an entertaining read with humor and tension and an engaging lead character.  The series is a bit hard to get into, but improves with age.  Books can be read as stand-alones,  especially this one, which is more accessible than some.  The ending is a bit anti-climatic.  C+ to B- (3.6*) and suggested read.

Waistcoats

Waistcoats and Weaponry is the latest YA book in the Steampunk Finishing School series by the witty Gail Carriger.  She has more to say about certain social factors here than usual, but mostly she sticks to her winning formula of tomboy Sophronia Temminick and her school mates, especially Sidheagh, Dimity, Soap, and Lord Felix Mersey.  Sophronia must go home for her older brother’s wedding ball, but Sidheagh has bigger problems, her pack is complete disarray and without an Alpha.  Her grandfather (who is a lead character in the Parasol Protectorate series) has killed his traitorous Beta and left his pack, arriving in England and fighting to take another pack by killing its mad Alpha.  Sophronie has no intention of allowing Sidheagh to go off alone and she and her friends quickly follow.  The tale is mostly about determined young adults banding together to help each other, with shades of class and race issues and a dash of romance that she Carriger doesn’t quite pull off.  Not up to the quality of others in the series as there is no underlying mystery, just a straight forward YA adventure.   C+ to B- and suggested read for YA fans and those who follow the series.  Carriger plans one last book to finish the series and then she concentrates on her Custard Protocol books, the sequel to the Parasol Protectorate.

June 12, 2014

Finis – The Problem of the Endless Series – Part 2

We left our series reading enthusiasts with Sandman Slim watching over them and now we switch to a fan favorite – VAMPIRES!.  You can’t throw a stick in the paranormal romance or UF aisles of a bookstore – live or online – without hitting a dozen vampire books.  There is a massive vampire infestation.  SOMEBODY GET THE HOLY WATER!

Now it is true, each author has his or her own take on vampire mythology.  To paranormal romance author Lynsay Sands, Argeneau Vampires are really Atlanteans, people who escaped the fall of Atlantis with nanos in their blood to cure disease.  They need more blood than they can produce, so the fangs were a natural adaptation to allow them to get food for the nanos (human blood) as needed.  As for the whole ‘no sunlight’ that was just to reduce the need for blood as sunlight destroys skins cells and the nanos then need to to work harder to repair the damage and more blood is needed.

For Chloe Neill in her Chicagoland Vampires series and many other authors, vamps are variations on the traditional Dracula model.  In fact, the Night Prince books by Jeaniene Frost that I mentioned in Part 1 is ABOUT Dracula and he has a part in Karen Chance’s Cassie Palmer series, where vamps are major characters.

Almost all authors, other than horror writers, make vamps sexy.  After Navy SEAL’s and Spec Ops guys in general, they’re hottest selling stars in romance today.  (We’ve had shifter SEAL’s from several authors, but no vamp SEAL’s. (And bare-chested guys in kilts!!!!!!!  How did I forget them?)  There is, however, a sort of vamp James Bond and several vamp assassins.).  But given the overwhelming number of vamp romances, I’m only going to mention a few series, because frankly, it would take days to get them all down.  What can I say, sex sells.  Just ask E.L. James.

Many UF series have paranormal romance as an integral element in the plot line, but it is not the sole purpose of the series.  I’ll illustrate this with two very well known and hugely popualr series as my first two examples.

Chloe Neill (living) – Chicagoland Vampires, has many other species including Fae, elves and werewolves.  Best classified as UF with some romantic suspense, it is both character and plot driven in equal parts; contracted to book 13, so no end in sight; Also wrote the Dark Elite series, 3 books apparently complete

J.  R. Ward (Jessica Bird) (living) – Black Dagger Brotherhood – Paranormal romance centered on a group of vamps that act as protectors.  Each book features a specific romance, 12 books to date since 2005; Fallen Angel series, 6 books since 2009 to present; also writes stand alone historical and contemporary romance

Simon R. Green (living) – prolific author; Hawk & Fisher – complete, fantasy, UF 6 books that tie in loosely with- The Forest Kingdom Series 5 books, complete plus a ‘follow-up’ sixth book, fantasy.  Deathstalker series, complete at 8 books, creates a universe where his current Secret Histories series, 8 books to date, also takes place and the completed Nightside series, 12 books, also took place and also loosely ties ties with Hawk & Fisher in a fantasy future London.  Also Ghost Finder, a related series not as well received as the Nightside and the others, 4 books so far.

Kelly Gay (living) – Charlie Madigan series, 4 books, complete 2012, UF with some romance elements; might have more installments as certain plot elements not resolved, but none scheduled

Amber Benson (living) – Caliope Reaper Jones (Death’s Daughter) series, 5 books, complete 2013, UF/fantasy/magic; co-author Ghosts of Albion, YA, historical fantasy/magic/horror

C. E. Murphy (living)- Walker Papers series, completes this year with book 9, UF/paranormal/magic/time travel; Negotiator Trilogy, 3 books complete 2008, UF/Fantasy/vamps/dragons

Keri Arthur (living) – prolific author; Riley Jensen series, 9 books complete 2010, UF, paranormal, paranormal romance lead character is half vamp/half werewolf; Dark Angles series, 7 books, last book due 2014, UF, paranormal, fantasy; Spook Squad, 3 books complete, out of print and being re-issued; UF/paranormal/paranormal mystery; Nikki and Michael, 4 books, complete 2008 and re-issued 2013, UF/paranormal romance/vampires.

Jennifer Estep (living) – Elemental Assassin series, Gin Blanco barbecue restaurant owner, freelance assassin, and killer of underworld leader, Mab Malone.  A really good UF series with some romance, but mostly action and mystery, mostly character driver with one plot driver element, 13 books in print or scheduled and no end in sight, but as a more character driven series, you can skip around after 8 or so; Mythos Academy – YA; mythology, fantasy, UF – series complete with 6 books, a prequel and a novella, coming of age with gifted/special young adults to new adult.; Bigtime Superhero series – tongue in cheek paranormal romance/paranormal chick-lit – status, not known, 4 books so far.

Kevin Hearne (living) – The Iron Druid series – UF, fantasy, mythology, paranormal – multiple mythologies come together around a 2,000 year old druid, Atticus O’Sullivan, who looks like a 20-something hippie, up to book 7, the first HC, this month and a contract for at least 2 more, plot and character driven similar to Dresden, there are multiple short stories and novellas that come before book 1 or between books in anthologies or e-book only; no other series or stand alone novels; contributes to Carniepunk anthology.

Benedict Jacka (living) – Alex Verus, UF/magic kind of a poor man’s Harry Dresden a mage who never finished training but is useful to full mages, 5 books so far and no word on additional books, but likely.  Very character driven.

Douglas Hulick (living) – Tales of the Kin, fantasy/epic fantasy/dark fantasy, only 2 books so far with a contract for 1 more.  At least 2 years between books.  Interesting underworld anti-hero.  Character driven.

Rachel Bach (living) – Paradox series, 3 books, status unknown; si-fi/space opera/space paranormal, talented new author with a fresh, original voice.  Took some effort to get into book one after so many fantasy/paranormals, but she wrote a fine series with a strong female lead.  All published 2014; Additional books or more books set in same universe, unknown.

Meljean Brook (living) – Guardians series, 8 books complete 2014, paranormal romance/paranormal fantasy/demons, serial romance with some overarching elements.; Iron Seas – Steampunk, steampunk romance, 4 novels and multiple ebooks and serial releases.  Continuation status, not known, but books can be read as stand alone novels

Mark Del Franco (living) – Connor Grey series, complete at 6 books in 2012; UF/Dark UF/Magic, A mostly plot driven series that seemed a bit choppy at times about the Light and Dark Fey and the uneasy truce with humans and each other that Connor helps maintain through the series; His first YA book was released in 2014 titled Whirlwind; Be wary of the Kindle ebook.  Apparently is has numerous errors.  Series status in this unknown.

You know, there’s nothing quite like being a smartass to get the attention of the universe and have it slap you upside the head and yell, “IDIOT!” in your ear.  I thought I was making a joke about needing multiple entries to list the main complete series.  And the universe laughed.  Yes, I have included a few major series that character driven that could be read without spraining the brain, like would with the Wheel of Time series, but even so, with the help of fellow readers and their own input of completed series, I have at least one more entry to do.  So I rather humbly apologize for my maniacal laugh at the end of part 1.  It seems the joke might just be on me!  But I have to admit, I kind of enjoyed that evil laughing.  SO much so, maybe the joke is on you!?????

 

MUWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

 planktons-diary-evil-laugh-16x9

 

 

 

 

 

June 9, 2014

Finis – The Problem of the Endless Series – Part 1

Finis.  Shows up at the end of films and sometimes books.  It’s a welcome sign that the story is over.  Unfortunately, series books, especially in the UF, paranormal, and epic fantasy genres, are more the norm than a stand alone book.  In mystery and action thrillers, the plot finishes at the end, though characters and groups may carry-on over many books (character based series).  In romance, by definition, the story ends with a happily-ever-after – which is why they kind of belong in a sub-set of fantasy.  So-called ‘series romance’ usually involves interconnected characters, like members of a family or close friends, and may have some small over-arching element, the primary plot is about the two individuals featured in the book.  Christine Warren’s The Others series, written out of order in real time, and Shelley Laurenston’s Pack and Pride series, are examples of this.

For the sake of sanity, in this article, a series is a group of books that tell an on-going story (plot based series) that is not resolved till the last book.  So each book would be an installment or section of a story with an over-arcing plot.  This type of writing is common in the fantasy, Steampunk, and Dystopian fields of science and fantasy fiction.  The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Belgariad are all examples of installments that unwound a long, continuous plot where each installment was a different segment of a whole, but the main story line does complete till the last book.  To make things simple, a plot based series needs to be read in order to makes sense of characters and events.  A character based series can be read in any order and the basic plot still makes sense, though some personal relationships may change.  Examples of character based series are James Bond, Travis McGee, Walt Longmier, Miss Marple, Dirk Pitt, or in UF, Garrett books by Glen Cook, Remy Chandler by Thomas E. Sniegoski (yes, I looked it up), the Joe Pitt series by legendary mystery author, Charlie Huston, and the Felix Gomez series, uneven in quality though it may be, by Mario Acevedo, but his best was his last Gomez book, Werewolf Smackdown.  It can easily be read as a stand alone.

The plot based series type of writing, though common,can be amazingly frustrating for readers.  Take for example the ultimate #epic fail – in multiple senses – Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.   With a 2-3 year wait between books, his incredibly complex and demanding story ended unfinished at his death.  Personally, I grew tired after over 6 years and 7 books and gave up when the last one I read covered all of 72 hours in a 1,000 pages in hardcover and was published  TWO YEARS after book six.  His death in 2006 resulted in a 4 year wait for the next installment, which was supposed to be the last book that a greedy publisher split into 3.  In part, to get an installment out before everyone forgot the series, and in part to buy time while Brandon Sanderson worked on the next two part.  It still took Sanderson 3 years to finish the last of the 3 books he co-authored.  Unlike some authors, Jordan did not make arrangements with another author while still living to finish his work, though he knew he was dying.  Not unusual.  Authors protect their ‘baby’.  From the year the first book was published till the year the last book was published, the series took 23 years.  That is an entire generation of human existence.

So, fans are understandably concerned with aging Georger R.R. Martin and his Song of Fire and Ice series.  At 66 years, he’s not young and now spends much of his time working with HBO on the Game of Thrones series.  That takes a lot of time and focus AWAY from writing.  Ask Kaylana Price, whose latest Grave Witch book is now 3 YEARS OVERDUE!  Or Scott Lynch and his Gentleman Bastards series.  It took SIX YEARS before The Republic of Thieves was FINALLY published, and that’s just book 3 in his series.  He’s a young man, but still, that is a loooooooooooooooooong wait.  I should know.  I had the book on pre-order.

Patrick Rothfuss takes his time with the King Killer Chronicles as well – which is SUPPOSED to end at book 3.  It took 4 years between 1 and 2, so I’d advise against holding your breath.

Gee, and I wondered why I was asked to name some series that have finally wrapped.  Well, I don’t read every author, but I’ll give this a shot.

David Eddings (d. 2009) – The Belgariad, The Malloreon – epic fantasy

J. R. R. Tolkein (d. 1973) – The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit (a stand alone and precursor of the Lord of the Rings) – epic fantasy

Robert Jordan (d. 2007)  (w/Brandon Sanderson) – The Wheel of Time (finished 6 years after his death)

Charlaine Harris (living) – Sookie Stackouse completed 2013 (and it sucked) – UF/paranormal/paranormal romance

Daryanda Jones (living) – The Darklight Trilogy (didn’t like the ending) 3 book series complete 2013 – YA, Paranormal, UF; Charley Davidson – ongoing with no indication of when the series will end – UF, Paranormal mystery, Paranormal romance

Gail Carriger – The Parasol Protectorate (5 books) complete 2012 – Steampunk, paranormal; Finishing School – in progress – YA Steampunk  NOTE:  Highly stylized writing for both series, so read a sample to be sure you can deal with it.  I liked it after I got over her style.

Jenn Bennett (living) – Arcadia Bell – complete 2014; Four novels and 1 novella – UF, paranormal romance; consistently well written, but the ending, while good, was not slam bang.

Devon Monk (living) – Allie Beckstrom complete 2012, 9 book series – UF; the latest novel, Dark Magic, is a spin-off of the series.  Another series, Broken Magic is as well.  She is also writing Age of Steam – Steampunk set in the old West.

Kim Harrison (living) – The Hollows (AKA Rachel Morgan) Series – Supposedly complete 2014 with book 13 of the series.  There are numerous novellas associated with it as well.  Dystopian, UF, Futuristic Fantasy

Jacqueline Carey (living) – Kushiel’s Legacy – 3 different series set in the same ‘universe’ complete 2011, 9 books total plus 1 companion book – fantasy; currently writing Agents of Hel

Karen Marie Moning (living) – Fever series complete 2011; 5 books; UF; new series set in the same ‘world’ Fever World AKA Dani O’Malley series in progress; uses the Irish myths for her world building

Molly Harper (living) – Jane Jameson (Nice Girl) series, 4 books complete 2012 – paranormal, paranormal romance, humor; the Half Moon Hollow series are stand alone books set in the same ‘world’- paranormal romance; Naked Werewolf series – stand alone humorous paranormal romance with common elements tying the series to the same ‘world’.

Lauren Dane (living) – Bound by Magic – UF, paranormal romance; 4 books series complete 2013; Tied several other series involving werewolves, were jaguars, and witches together.  For a strong author, the ending was lame and unsatisfying.  The Charvez Witches – erotic paranormal romance, UF series that stopped but was not finished

Kelley Armstrong – The Women of Otherworld – 13 books, numerous novellas and short stories, paranormal romance, UF, complete 2012; has published stand alone books set in Otherworld; Darkness Rising – 3 book series, YA paranormal completed 2013; also writes mystery

Jeaniene Frost (living) – Night Huntress series 6 books,paranormal, paranormal romance, UF complete 2014; stand alone books in Night Huntress Universe and related Night Prince books on-going

Yasmine Galenorn (living) – Indigo Court – 4 books complete 2013, UF; Otherworld series on-going at 13 and at 4 more scheduled; also writes mystery

Deborah Harkness (living) – All Souls Trilogy – completes July 2014 – Paranormal romance; Occult, paranormal romantic suspense, horror; the over-arching plot looses focus now and then, and she gets quite pedantic on some subjects which takes the characters out of character; despite its shortcomings, an original concept in a ‘me too’ field, but the author can’t seem to make up her mind what’s most important, the book or the relationship between her two lead characters.

Some books start as stand alones and end up the first of a series, but unlike a true series, these books are more like mystery or thriller books where the plot is resolved, but the characters continue.  The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is a perfect UF example of a style we’d normally associated with spy or action thrillers.  Complete in itself, readers want the characters to continue.  Stiletto, his second book scheduled for Feb 2015, will continue the characters, but the primary story has (in theory) been resolved, so a new, but related story will be told.  Rather SPECTER in James Bond.

Another apparent stand alone is Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is another first novel and author Robin Sloan seemed to have ended the plot.  It’s tough to classify this book as it feels like many genres at once, yet never fits into any one.  In Amazon it’s listed under Fantasy AND Techno-thriller, so take your pick.  Personally, I found it curious, but not enthralling or exciting in any way.

Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series – UF,  is one of those that is neither a character based series nor a plot based series, but instead moves between the two seamlessly.  You’ll get some virtual stand alones with only minor elements tied to earlier and later books, just as you’d get with a traditional mystery.  Then you’ll get several books primarily driven by a plot element that is resolved at some point.  Harry goes on – even after death, such as it is.  Butcher also writes Codex Alera, a separate fantasy series that has never gained the international following of his Dresden books, but sells very well.  He has signed a deal for a Steampunk series, which may well have an impact on the Dresden series.  Want a perfect example of how UF crosses into Mystery?  Butcher had a book-signing scheduled for the release date of Skin Tight at the famous mystery book store in Scottsdale, The Poisoned Pen.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga is science fantasy/science fiction and another one of those series that defies simple classification.  She wrote her Vor books in random order, moving back and forth in the timeline of Miles Vorkosigan’s life then spinning off related books in which he is not a major character.  So they can be viewed as related stand alone books or a character driven series, but the story actually starts with his mother and is plot driven!  It’s just one of the many frustrating things readers deal with.

Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series is character driven in book one but turns to plot driven right at the very end.  Book 5 is due out this summer, The Getaway God.  The books read almost as stand alone novels, but link enough that reading them in order is necessary.  Horror, dystopian, UF.  His novel Dead Set is a stand alone dark fantasy/horror book.  By the way, Sandman Slim has been optioned for a movie.

Now, the real question is, when will I write Part 2????? MUWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

March 30, 2014

Life Gets in the Way – and Book Reviews

You know really, you’d think at my age life would not keep getting in the way.  That’s for the young.  Well, apparently, the problem is more universal than I thought.  Nothing dramatic, just everyday living seems to fill up the day.  I have no idea how people have time to get bored.  I always seem to have something to do – and plenty of stuff I push off till the last minute – mostly because I hate doing those things.  I am a master of procrastination!!!!!!  It’s an art form.

The one thing I get impatient for is the next book in a series.  Yes, I know I already have too many books, thank-you for reminding me.  I DO NOT CARE!  I want certain series and I want them NOW!  Unfortunately even authors are at the mercy of the publishers.  Now Jana Deleon solved that problem by becoming a publisher and her latest Miss Fortune book hit Kindle and Nook this past week.  You guessed it, I bought it the day it was released.  I’ll buy a print copy when one becomes available.  I also checked with Suzanne Johnson, author of the Sentinels if New Orleans series, which was less than thrilling news, the publisher is delaying the release till first quarter next year.  ARGH!  Look, I know the fall is when the coffee table books sell, not fiction, but come on.  It will be almost 18 months between releases.  That is so damn frustrating.  Then Daniel O’Malley, author of the fabulous UF book The Rook, has his follow up written and going thru rewrite now.  Again, maybe next year.  Yes, I did yell at my computer when I read that.

In the mean time, cozy authors are churning 2 to 3 series every year with new books in one or the other every few months.  The stories are so formula that they seem to become the equivalent of those trashy series romances that get churned out every month.  Too many cozy mysteries are just landfill waiting to happen.  Unfortunately that’s become true in a lot of UF as well.  Still, there are bright spots and I found a few this month, so here we go!

Indexing

Indexing takes its title from the ATI (Aarne-Thompson Index) used to codify fairy tale manifestations.  No seriously, that’s the core premise of the book.  Too bad I found it boring as hell.  Seanan is one of my favorite authors.  Fresh, original, clever, and complex, she does first rate urban fantasy.  I was expecting something just as good here as her October Daye series, but I got a weird story that I simply could NOT get into with characters that were more irritating than fascinating.  I will say this, it was original, just not remotely believable and kind of seriously annoying.  Now that said, I do feel I must add I am in the minority here.

The reviews are overwhelmingly favorable on Amazon.  I am surprised. The basic premise is some people are born who are capable of fulfilling the role of a character in a fairy tale – like Sleeping Beauty or the Pied Piper – or the evil witch.  There is this whole organization, ATI Management Bureau, that exists to disrupt any fairy tale manifestation that begins unfolding.  Not sure how you hide all this from Homeland Security, NSA, the CIA (yes, not in the US, HA!), FBI and the NYPD, but OK, let’s give that a pass, even though this is supposedly a government agency and therefore not entirely SECRET.  Still, how many Sleeping Beauties and Prince Charmings are there?  Apparently too many. Now understand, I did not read the serial installments of this story, so I started the book with zero knowledge of what to expect.  As a result, the whole thing came over as episodic and choppy, rather than a smooth, continuous story.  In addition, I simply didn’t care about the characters.  I found the plot annoying rather than interesting and by the end I just wanted it OVER.

If you’re a fairy tale fan, perhaps you’ll like this more than I did.  If you aren’t, be advised to give it a PASS!  Indexing is about one of the characters trying to take over the plotline because she feels she’s been marginalized.   At that point I would have said, “Go for it!  Anything to end this!!!!”  It took longer than that.  Too long. Indexing gets a C- (2.7*) and in fairness, no I do not recommend it.  Again, if you like fairy tales, this may just the book you’re looking for, so go and enjoy.  It’s currently selling for under $9 on Amazon for print and $4 for Kindle.  If you really want it, buy the Kindle version.  Otherwise, just wait for remainders.

******************************************************* Disenchanted

Lynn Viehl has earned a rep in the UF and fantasy field, not one of my usual authors, but this Steampunk book looked more up my alley than her others so I grabbed the print version.  Like Indexing, Disenchanted & Co originally sold as an installment ebook.  There the similarity ends.

Charmain “Kit” Kitteredge is a debunker of all things magical in the city of Rumsen in Toriana (sort for Victoriana, the name of the US in this alternate history where we lost the Revolution and remained a colony of England).  Orphaned as a young teen, she’s had to make her own way, and polite Society was less than kind to her, so she is disinclined to take any commission from their members.  They are both fickle and dangerous.  But a second wife prevails upon her to investigate her husband whom she is convinced is cursed or possessed. Lucian Dredmore, a Deathmage, becomes involved in her investigation as does police Chief Inspector Thomas Doyle, an old childhood friend whom she meets again after many years.  Both Lucian and Tommy have more than professional interest in Kit!  Kit is also very friendly with an eccentric inventor (is there any other kind?) who lives in the sub-basement of her office building and treats her like a favorite niece.  And in the midst of all this, Kit begins believing in magic herself, because it’s the only way to explain what’s happening.  But when a spirit appears to her, she isn’t sure if she’s going mad, or it’s real …… but she trusts the spirit enough to hand over a cursed stone that spirit then destroys.

Soon Kit is held captive by Dredmore and she’s appalled to find herself very attracted to the man.  She knows he’s just trying to keep her safe, but Kit is an independent woman and has no intention of allowing him to control her, even if her client’s husband is doing his best to destroy her and her fledgling business. The story weaves in various plots, creates different races, and ends with a not quite believable sequence where Kit steps thru time to thwart an invasion with Dredmore. Overall, Disenchanted & Co worked, though I found the denouement a bit like that idiot ‘dream sequence’ in Dallas many years ago.  That was the weakest part of the book, along with developing the characters of Kit’s two closest friends, a madame who runs a house of ill repute, and the leading modiste in Rumsen.  Rumsen itself seems to be San Francisco.

I bought Disenchanted & Co and the second book in the series, The Clockwork Wolf, from Amazon for $7.19 each.  I felt I got my money’s worth.  It’s is recommended for fans of the Parasol Protectorate, with the caveat that Carriger’s books are better.  Still, Viehl did a good job with Disenchanted & Co and it gets a B- (3.7*) from me and higher marks on Amazon.

********************************************************** Study-in-silks-lo-res

And here we have another Steampunk style mystery, this time featuring the niece of Sherlock Holmes.  A Study in Silks is the story of a not quite Society girl who is too shrewd and observant living in her best friend’s house with a wealthy family that is several levels above her own place in society.  In this version of Victorian England, it is not the titled aristocrats who rule, but the ruthless ‘Steam Barons’ who control everything, including who does and does not get power to their homes and businesses.  Cross one and you will ‘go dark’ and be shunned, no matter your title. Evelina Cooper is well aware she lives with Imogene’s family on sufferance.  A connection to Sherlock Holmes is hardly enough to lift her into society.  But when a murder occurs in the family home, Imogene gets involved.  And here’s the rub, this book is a ‘new adult’ level read, not a mature adult read.  Romance and plot stay pretty much PG-13 and lose some potential.  But even within the confines of the ‘new adult’ format, it works fairly well.  Not as dark or detailed as a standard adult story, but satisfying enough for most mystery fans.

Evelina also has to hide the fact she has magic.  People with magic are quickly put to death, as the Steam Barons fear and hate them. Magic can have no place in their society ruled by invention.  This places a further strain on the plot as Sherlock Holmes is the most rational man to ever walk thru mystery stories and he fits rather poorly into this world.  Then again, they had Sherlock defeating the Nazis in WWII in the movies and people bought into that so …… eh, deal with it Holmes fans. Given her magical gifts, her less elevated place in society, and rather precarious position in the household as Imogene’s friend, her relationship with Tobias, the son of the steam baron, is doomed from the start.  Involving her Uncle Sherlock and Dr Watson was likely ill advised, especially when someone tries to kill him.  The ending is not really an ending, it merely points to a man we knew to be the bad guy from the start.  (Shades of Moriarty.)

A Study in Silks was ok.  I will say my fellow mystery readers seemed to like it far better than I did, possibly because I get impatient with young adult/new adult stories that seem to have angst.  I don’t like the whole angst thing no matter how it’s done.  I give the book a C+ to B- (3.5*) rating and say it was good, but not as good as many others out there.  Purchased from Amazon for $7.19 it’s a long book, so I suppose it’s worth it, just not to me.

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Swamp Team 3

I broke my own rule on what I’ll pay for an ebook and bought this one for $5.99 the day it was released.  Swamp Team 3 is the fourth book in the Miss Fortune series by Jana Deleon.  Fortune Redding is a CIA assassin with a huge price on her head and an informer in the CIA who set her up with an insane arms dealer in the mid-east.  Now she’s in hiding in wacky Sinful, Louisiana posing as her boss’s niece, Sandy-Sue Morrow, a librarian and former beauty queen.  She immediately became friends with two elderly women, Ida Belle and Gertie, who run the Sinful Ladies Society and turn out to have been Counterintelligence in Viet Nam.

In three weeks in Sinful, Fortune has had more than her fair share of excitement – and interaction with hunky Deputy Carter LeBlanc.  Tonight, however, is a first.  He asked her out to dinner and she said yes.  So Gertie and Ida Belle show up early telling Fortune she needs a ‘day of beauty’ to ‘girlie up’, which is really odd given these two know next to nothing about it.  And so the farce begins.  After many false starts and nearly having her house burned down by Gertie (who refuses to wear her glasses), Fortune and Carter finally get off to dinner………. in New Orleans. Dear God, what will she talk about for 2 hours?  How to kill someone with a Q-tip?  Just as panic is setting in, Carter gets a call that sends them both back to town.  Someone set fire to Ally’s house.  Ally is the first and only female friend her own age that Fortune has.  Naturally, Carter’s admonition she let him handle this falls on deaf ears.

The plot is interesting and more of a mystery than than usual, but with plenty of laugh out loud moments.  Ally is staying with Fortune until its safe for her to go back to her own house.  Her neighbor, a nut case, sics a bobcat on Fortune, Gertie, and Ida Belle when they sneak in his yard.  There are mob guys from New Orleans, a stalker, and always Cater catching them doing things they shouldn’t.  The end is cute.

Swamp Team 3 is a fast and furious romp, not to be taken too seriously.  It’s as frothy as a romantic comedy movie, and about as deep.  The characters are good, and the plot was better than average, pacing is good, and the ending good as well.  I like the Ally character and she doesn’t get quite a co-star role, but at least a bigger part than in the earlier books.  If you enjoy a good humorous mystery, get the book.  My grade is B- (3.8*) and hope that Ms DeLeon picks up some of the assassin elements from the start of the story in Louisiana Longshot in the next installment.

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Dead_Between_the_Lines

Denise Swanson writes the Scrumble River mysteries, that tend to annoy me, and the Devereaux Dime series, which is turning into a better than average cozy series.  Dead Between the Lines is the third book and has a plot that folds in an element of pop culture. A man who is the real author of a book like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ under a female pen name and made a fortune, even though he hates it and does not just wish to dominate women, but abuse them as well, is speaking to the book club about a volume of poems he published that takes shots at women and small town life in a bitter and denigrating way.

Dev left her high powered life and moved back to her hometown to look after her grandmother who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.  Now she’s trying to make ends meet running the dime store, playing hostess to various clubs and serving them refreshment (for a fee, of course), and making gift baskets, each uniquely themed.  This is the first time she’s had the book club in and the guest speaker is an obnoxious, misogynistic poet who thinks all women should be ‘taught their place’.  The book club all but runs him out – but he’s sure to collect his fee – and Dev says good riddance.   Only it wasn’t.  His body is found out back the next day.

Once again, Dev lands squarely in the middle of a murder.  And just as squarely between her high school boyfriend, Dr. Noah Underwood and US Marshall Jake Del Vecchio.  The plot is above average, the pacing and action better than usual, and the ending satisfying as few cozies are.

Dead Between the Lines is well written, the characters are well developed. and the pacing never lags.  Dev is used to taking charge and making decisions, but doesn’t get absurd.  Both Noah and Jake are well done and Dev’s relationship with the men works at the moment, but can’t go on that way indefinitely.  Dead Between the Lines gets a B(4*) rating and $7.19 is at the high end of what it’s worth.

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Resistance Man

Martin Walker writes on of the better foreign mystery series with his Bruno, Chief of Police books.  The Resistance Man is the 6th book in the series and like the others, this one folds together current crimes with those of the past.  In this case, it’s the story of a massive theft of gold and currency from a German train as the Occupation is ending and Germans are leaving and the Resistance strikes one of its most effect blows.  What happened to all that money and gold has been speculated for decades, but the French have always taken a worldly approach to life and chose not to look to closely as suddenly rich Resistance fighters after the war.

The natural death of an elderly man, a missing women, a gay couple beaten and robbed, a crime at a foreigner’s house where antiques and art were stolen, and some questionable dealings in a company all seem unrelated.  The theft gets top billing because the Brit is very politically connected – and a ‘former’ spymaster – who might not be all that former.  And an academic writing a book about France’s nuclear arms program finds her source documents missing.

Woven into this series of seemingly unrelated events is Bruno’s final acceptance of the vast gulf between himself and Isabelle, the ambitious woman he cares for, and as always, all the little details of life in the quiet French countryside that is changing slowly into the modern times.

One of the things I like about Martin Walker’s books is the way he makes them work on several levels at once.  He effortlessly weaves in history, slice of life atmosphere of the Perigord region of France, the life of Bruno and his fellow villagers, and the over-arcing mystery of the crime that has been committed – crime that always sees its roots in the past.  The Resistance Man does that very well indeed.  He does it with respect for history, the characters, and the plot.

The Resistance Man gets a solid B (4*) from me and a recommended read for mystery fans or those who enjoy their mysteries with more substance than fluff and with a decidedly foreign flair.  I bought the hardcover from Amazon for about $20, which is steep for a relatively short book.  Wait for the paperback – likely tradesize, or borrow it from the library, but do give this excellent series a try.  Walker has made a few minor missteps in his books, but taken as a whole, he’s done excellent work that’s well worth reading.

October 30, 2013

Some Thoughts on Fall and Reviews

What is it about fall that makes us reflective?  Is it the knowledge that yet another year is slipping away?  That the cycle of our lives that crawled so slowly as children is suddenly speeding up, making us want to linger longer in the various seasons?  Spring lightens our hearts as the barren trees and gardens spring to life in a burst of green, pinks, white, purple with highlights of yellow.  Cool, soothing, young colors. Then summer sees all the local foods in farmer’s markets and gardens in full bloom and the smell of fresh cut grass.

Then fall comes ………………

Trees turn the colors of warm jewels, and I think the very fleeting nature of such amazing beauty is what makes it so memorable.  It also has a certain melancholy to it – fall is the final shining moment before winter closes in and shrouds our short days in cold and snow, or just leaves us barren trees and lifeless gardens till spring comes and begins the cycle with a riot of new colors.  Are the seasons a metaphor of life itself?  Maybe.  And maybe, as we grow older we appreciate just how truly fleeting perfect moments are, and how little we appreciated some in our past.  So on that perfect fall day, stop and remember and enjoy it.  Each day is unique and will not come your way again.

Fall also brings a surge of book releases, and not just the usual stuff.  This is when publishers release all those glorious ‘coffee table’ books intended as Christmas gifts.  When I was I kid, books like that were always on my Christmas list, but these days, fewer and fewer are printed.  Another victim of technology.  Cookbooks are still big sellers, reliably so.  But hey, Halloween is is almost here, so let’s do some paranormal and UF books!

Tempt the Stars

The Cassie Palmer series by Karen Chance is a good one, but with two huge drawbacks – first, it’s complex, yet lacks the subtle detail to fully flesh it out, and second, it’s a looooong wait between books.  So long, you’ve pretty much forgotten the characters and plot from the previous book!  Since each installment builds on a previous one, that’s a major stumbling block.

Tempt the Stars starts more or less where Hunt the Moon left off.  Pritkin gave his life to save Cassie in the battle with Ares – not by dying, but by returning to his father’s court – he’s an incubus.  Las Vegas, especially the casino, suffered in some of the fallout, leaving quite a mess.   But Cassie made up her mind – and a Pythia’s mind if tough to change when she can move thru time and space – she’s getting Pritkin back!  It helps that’s she’s the daughter of Artemis.  But the magic the goddess worked so long ago shutting out her other gods and goddesses from access to Earth is breaking down, and Cassie needs to talk to her mother, which means she has to move thru space and time.

First she has to get rid of the witches that showed up demanding an audience.  Witches, vampires, and war mages are not a great mix, especially for a Pythia that never had formal training in any of the court etiquette required – thanks to Master Vampire and the ultimate manipulator – Micrea, who is oddly absent here.  Cassie is determined to rescue Pritkin from his father, but in doing so, frightens the rulers into thinking her mother, Artemis, may try and stage a comeback.  As usual, the whining Casanova provides comic relief as our daring trio journey thru Hell.

Lightweight entertainment, following the rather complex and scattered plot can be a challenge, but over all a decent read.    Tempting the Stars gets a C+ to B- (3.5*) from me and is decent fun for fans of the series.  The book was purchased from Books-a-Million for $5.39 and worth a read for series fans.

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deathandthegirlheloves

Darynda Jones’ final installment in her young adult Darklight trilogy about a teenage girl and her association with Death and saving the world.  Now understand, I’m not a huge fan of young adult books, but this series had a good start and a good middle, aimed as it was at older YA readers, not early teens.   While she has worked wonders with her Charlie Davidson books, here, book 3, Death, and the Girl He Loves, got off to what still seems a pointless and diversion to a private school in Maine where Lorelei McAlister makes one friend, acquires a male sidekick, and ends up under the watchful eye of what seems to be the school tough girl, Kenya.  Again we have a trio of students, a girl, and boy, and Lorelei, just like back in New Mexico, and then the local tough – this time Kenya.

Lorelei is struggling to adjust to her loneliness away from her grandparents and friends, but suddenly, everyone she touches triggers visions of death and darkness.  EVERYONE.  Plus, someone wants her dead and his killing her will start the Apocalypse.  She needs to get back to New Mexico and fix whatever is wrong.  Turns out Kenya is not bad but, but her guardian, raised by members of the group her grandfather leads and rescues her form a supposed friend and gets her safely back to New Mexico.  Well that was a complete waste of 75 pointless pages as only the Kenya character actually stays thru the book and the whole thing serves no other purpose.

And we’re back to the bickering Brooke and Glitch, the brooding Jared and testy Nathaniel and her loving grandparents.  Now that ‘the end’ is near, Lorelei has to figure out how to save the world.  This is when I have to start reminding myself this is YA paranormal, because frankly, the premise was a bit thin from the start, and the many shortcomings were hidden behind the facile charm of the characters.  Or maybe we are conditioned to the ‘Harry Potter Complex’ of an 18 year old saving the world.  The difference between the two, though, is Harry Potter suffered and grew wise beyond his years, but here, Lorelei solves it all in the nick of time without paying the price of her wisdom.

I am in a distinct minority in saying the ending just didn’t work for me.  The characters didn’t evolve in any meaningful way to earn insight and wisdom and Death should really have been the mentor – or at least a much more mature character given his age.  That was kind of creepy, even is Death appears as a teen, he ISN’T.

In many ways, the Darklight plot is pale shadow, suitably watered down for teens, of her darker and funnier Charlie Davidson story.  But for me, the ending didn’t work.  OK, I suppose within the context of the story it was acceptable, but my credulity broke and couldn’t be mended.  What should have been the strongest of the 3 books was the weakest redeemed, in part, only by the last few pages.

Death, and the Girl He Loves gets a C+ (3.5*) from me.  I was not impressed, but if you’ve followed the series, it is a must read.  I just think better ones are out there.  A ‘chick book trilogy’ in that teen girls will swoon.  Judging by the Amazon reviews, so did the moms, but I was still kind of astonished by the ‘ick factor’ that was seen as romance between ageless Death and a high school girl.  Did no one else get kind of creeped out by this?  Putting a character that existed since the beginning of time into an ‘apparent’ 18 year old body, does NOT make him 18.  EWWWWWWWW!

Death, and the Girl He Loves was purchased from Amazon for about $9-10.  I think it over priced, but then, I’m not a hormonal teen.

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Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

OK, here is another Young Adult book aimed at younger readers – the 14 to 16 set.  No romance, just the further adventures of Sophronia Teminnick and her friends at Miss Geraldine’s Finishing Academy.  Finishing School is a very different kind of series from the Darklight books, focusing on the growth, curiosity, and indomitable Sophronia.  Shrewd, observant, and very intelligent, Sophronia had all the making of a spy and is given a scholarship of sorts to the floating school, a ‘finishing school’ for spies that protect England.

In book two, we are back to the problem of the device that went missing and what exactly that device can do.  It seems everyone wants it and Bunsen’s and Miss Geraldine’s are collaborating on building a replacement.  Boys on board!  And one young lord tries to ‘court’ Sophronia, which puzzles her no end as there are too many far more interesting things than boys.  Especially self adsorbed young lords.   The escapades that the girls get into while trying to unravel what’s going on move at a swift pace.  Sophronia is perfect lead character, oblivious to anything but her insatiable curiosity.  She does, however, recognize the value that good manners has in this kind of ‘war’ where battles can be won or lost in the drawings rooms of society.

With her classic wit and style, Ms Carriger spins a good tale here with lots of thrills and more than enough plot, but it is a very short novel.   Too short.  Yes, 14 year olds are not big on long stories, but I was left with the impression it would have been fleshed out more had there not been a rush to publish book 2 in the series.

Curtsies and Conspiracies gets a solid B- (3.8*) and might have earned more had it been more polished.  It’s a great series for young teen girls and anyone who enjoyed Harry Potter.  Sophronia is smart, likable character with quirks and a gift for observation and a shrewd mind that has just the right amount of over-active teen imagination that many lack.  I received a free ebook pre-publication copy of Curtsies and Conspiracies.  It’s current price on Amazon is $12, though it had been lower.  Frankly, I’d say stick with an ebook version as this one is too short a novel for the money being asked.

October 8, 2013

New Releases, Three New Authors and the Usual Suspects

I know you’ve been there – picked up a book, started to read and were so bored you put it down and started another one.  I did that with Raymond Feist’s The Magician three times before I was actually able to read the book.  These days, I’m not so patient.  Maybe it’s old age.  Maybe it’s the realization that there are just too many good books to waste my time on ones I can’t get into.  Maybe I just want a book that hooks me and makes me want more, instead of wanting it to be over.  And I REALLY don’t want a book that just depress me.   I want to be entertained, enthralled, like the characters, enjoy the plot, and basically sit back and revel the ride – whether it’s a wild action filled one with spies and killers, or a more sedate cozy, or something off-beat and zany that makes me laugh rather than cringe.  Yes, I’m that shallow.  I’ve read hundreds of biographies, more non-fiction than I can count, but now, at this point in my life, I want to just enjoy.  I have enough reality every day.  When I read, I want to escape a bit.

I love my mysteries and thrillers, but the paranormal section of science fiction and fantasy, where worlds collide, is the fastest growing part of Mt TBR.  Fantasy to me is an alternate world, usually with magic of some sort.  The Lord of the Rings, The Game of Thrones, The Wheel of Time, Gentleman Bastards, or The Kingkiller Chronicles – all true fantasy.  Science Fiction would be Arthur C Clarke, Larry Niven, Theodore Sturgeon, and Robert Heinlein – a not so popular genre these days.  But new sub-genre’s have appeared and caused fits for those who classify books.  You have paranormal romance – some of which is like the traditional generic romance, but with fangs or fur.  Others border on paranormal romantic suspense, having a strong mystery or action element.  Other are urban fantasy – which has somehow given birth to suburban fantasy – urban fantasy having a strong thriller or mystery type element and may, or may not have a romance element.  And just to confuse things further, we have Steampunk – which could be anything from young adult to romance to horror in an alternate history with ‘mechanicals’ and magic and/or things like vampires and werewolves coexisting.

Genre bending series have proven popular, just as the anti-hero has in mystery with things like the Dexter series.  But regardless of how you try and classify them, a book remains good or bad based on character, plot, and writing style.  This time we a pretty much cover the extreme mix of those three common elements.

etiquette and espionage

No one writes more stylistically than Gail Carriger.  Her florid, over-the-top, flowery prose is the opposite of the clean, spare writing of most authors I read.  It is an affectation bound to annoy many, but once you get past the stilted silliness, the deliberately outrageous names, and verbose dialogue, she spins a good tale, and the style in which she tells it, actually suits the story, even though it still annoys at time.

I first read Carriger’s books because many players in the PBS games raved about how good they were.  I started Souless twice before I could get past her style and start enjoying the story.  She kind of made a pastiche of her world building, but I finally managed to get it organized in my head.  And rather surprisingly, she did kind of wrap up the story line in book 5 of the Parasol Protectorate series – though she left an opening for more.

Etiquette and Espionage is her first foray into Steampunk young adult and is set some years before the Parasol Protectorate.  We meet the inventor Lafoux as a child here and get to know whole new cast of characters.  This is book one of her Finishing School series and I won it in a swap, just as I did the first few books of the Parasol Protectorate.  I’m not a huge fan of young adult, and I really have to be in the mood to tackle one of her books, because I can find her style as annoying as it can be amusing at times, so it took awhile for me to get to this one.  Once I did, I read through it fast.

Despite her lurid prose, the story moves at a fairly quick pace as tomboy-ish Sophornia Temminnick is a burden to her mother.  One of many children of an upper middle class family, she’s the square peg in a round hole.  But suddenly, she finds herself packed off to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality – an unexpected event that ends a day that included her taking the dumb-waiter apart to see how it worked and then catapulting herself out to prevent crashing.  Not much can hide hide the torn and dirty clothes.  Despite her protests, the whole thing is looking more like an adventure than anything else.

You have Skyway-men, the Steampunk version of Highwaymen, only using hot air balloons with a dinghy rather than horses.  And the academy itself is a large ship help afloat by multiple balloons.  Sophronia saves the day, gets a new best friend, learns about the boys school for Evil Geniuses and and finds out Miss Geraldine’s is anything but your normal finishing school.

I liked the characters and realize the book is aimed at a younger audience, not an adult one, but despite the story, which was well told and interesting, it felt like it lacked substance.  OK, the age group it’s aimed at won’t notice, but like Harry Potter, books like this attract both younger and older readers, so we’ll see if she follows Rowling’s model and makes the books more ‘adult’ as he character ages as the Harry Potter evolved.

Etiquette & Espionage gets a B- (3.8*) rating and a recommended read for all YA or steampunk fans.  Shorter and less substantial than her Parasol Protectorate series, the price is high for the hardcover and trade size paperback.  I’d urge you to borrow it from your local library or buy an inexpensive used copy.  This is not destined to be on a keeper shelf like Harry Potter and is certainly not as original or creative.  As stated above, my copy came thru a book swapping site and will go back out the same way.

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Aunty-Lees-Delights

I love foreign mysteries and just soak up the atmosphere they convey.  Usually.  There are exceptions.  For example, I dislike Alexander McCall Smith and the Precious Ramotswe mysteries.  I find them oblique, boring, tedious, and just plain dull.  I read 4 books in that series before giving up.  Here we have Singapore’s answer to Precious Ramotswe, Aunty Lee.  An overly chatty Miss Marple with lurid imagination that runs as wild as her mouth.

Ovidia Yu is not a new author, but she is new to the US market and this is book one in a new series obviously designed to appeal to those who like the First Ladies Detective books.  While I did not not dislike Precious Ramotswe, I actually found Aunty Lee wore on my last nerve by page 30.  Her overly obsequious Philippine assistant cook, her step son, his wife and damn near everyone in her restaurant for the wine tasting with food.  By page 75 it got the heave ho – yes I did read the end and no, I was not thrilled.

Aunty Lee’s Delights will get no second chance.  Too many excellent foreign mysteries for that.  If you want to read books that capture character, time, and place, try Colin Cotterill’s Dr Siri series set in Laos in the 70’s, or Martin Walker’s Bruno series set in the Dordogne region of France – or even Shamini Flint’s Inspector Singh books.  All are much better bets.

Aunty Lee’s Delights gets a DNF and I just can’t recommend it even for Precious Ramotswe fans.  Too many good foreign mysteries to be bothered.  To my horror, I bought this book from BAM for just over $9 with tax.  Waste of money.

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Murder and Marinara

Another first book, but this one is a world removed from Aunty Lee’s Delights, not just in setting, either, even though both involve restaurants.  Murder and Marinara is set at the Jersey shore in a little Italian place on the boardwalk in the fictional town of Oceanside.  Like all towns along the shore, the shop and restaurant owners of Oceanside depend heavily on the summer tourist trade to keep the the business afloat.  Victoria Rienzi, better known a Vick Reed to her mystery readers, fled Oceanside, the family restaurant, and a broken love affair for New York where she hit the semi-big time with her fussy fictional detective Bernardo.  Vick is sick of Bernardo – and like Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes, she yearns to kill him off.  Thing is, she hasn’t created a new detective in her head yet, but she started a fictionalized historical based on her own family’s history.  With the reluctant agreement of her agent and editor, she takes a year to go the 50 miles and a lifetime away back to Casa Lido, her disapproving nonna, her flighty mother, gambler father, and policeman brother who is married to her best friend.

The obnoxious producer of a reality TV show (Jersey Shore, but even lower class) wants to film in Oceanside.  Vick’s nonna and family are opposed.  The mayor, never a fan of family, is gung ho for it.  Then the damn producer walk-in, demanding lunch – salad dressing on the side, hot water for tea, grilled chicken – you know the type.  Before he leaves, he’s pale and sweating.  Unfortunately, a few hours later our mystery author finds his body out back by the garden shed.

The police investigation gets complicated when the woman responsible for Tim and Vick’s break up shows up as the wife of the dead producer.  Tim, the restaurant’s sous chef, is now the prime suspect.  Nonna declares that Vick’s job is now to find the REAL killer so the restaurant can get back to normal FAST.

Sophia, her best friend and brother Danny’s wife – well, separated wife – is ready and willing to help.  Too bad Vick isn’t felling as ready and isn’t very willing.  But nonna is a force of nature and if she wants to learn to cook or wants a snowball’s chance of getting the family history, she had to do SOMETHING.  And the something was well done, pretty believable, and interesting.  The who and why are straight from Miss Marple, but the ride was still a good one.

Murder and Marinara gets a B- (3.8*) from me and recommended read for cozy fans.  A cut above average on plot, characters, and writing.  And the Jersey shore setting was dead on.  Thanks to the author for not dragging Superstorm Sandy into it.  I got the book for $4.79+tax from Amazon and consider it more than worth the price.  I will be happy to buy her next one.

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The Rook

Another first book by a first time author and folks, it’s a winner.  Daniel O’Malley is an American educated Aussie who delivers an original, wry, witty, complex, and very clever urban fantasy story based in London that satisfies both paranormal and thriller junkies with a female lead character, Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) Thomas.

Soaked by the cold rain, Myfanwy wakes up with a ring of dead people around her – all wearing latex gloves.  She knows there is a reason for the gloves, but she can’t think what it is.  She also knows something – she did kill them, but doesn’t know why.  She can’t even remember her name.  She tries to find something, anything to help her remember who she is …………….. and she finds a letter, one she wrote to herself because she knew that she would lose her memory and the ‘new’ Myfanwy would be the same, but different and she had a lot of decisions to make FAST, or die.  The letter is simply addressed to You and signed, Me.

Myfanwy is given a new name, Anne Ryan, an ATM card and ID and a set of instructions to check into a hotel.  Claiming an abusive boyfriend to explain her black eyes, she does as instructed, and reads letter two at the 5* hotel.  She has a choice – one of two safe deposit boxes, each with a different set of information – one let’s her run using the identity and piles of money Myfanwy set up in advance, or two helps her return to her job and discover who is responsible for what happened.  Easy choice, run.  In the morning she goes to the bank for the safe deposit box and is again attacked, and she screams.  Apparently, the scream downs the assailants and she grabs the contents of the box, not the run box, the stay box, because she realizes she’ll never be safe even if she runs.

So begins a fascinating story told in turn by the ‘original’ Myfanwy – or Miss Thomas, as the ‘new’ Myfanwy thinks of her – about an organization of pf people with paranormal abilities, some bizarre, others deadly, other just plain creepy – some all of the above.  And the ‘new’ Myfanwy is a very different person.  Miss Thomas was nothing if not organized and she has prepared well for what she was sure would happen, regardless of any action she might take.  The ‘new’ Myfanwy needs every thing Miss Thomas provided and more, but she simply cannot cram a lifetime into one night.  She doesn’t carry the emotional baggage, is more pragmatic, and unlike Miss Thomas, not afraid to use her abilities.  The last bit she keeps to herself.  But she has a daunting task ahead of her.  She’s walking into an organization of people with all manner of abilities, governed by rules and etiquette dating back hundreds of years, and trying to pretend she belongs in a fairly high level position.  Thing is, she completely lacks the memory set to function as Miss Thomas, so she improvises.  But there’s no disguising her strength and assertiveness, two traits Miss Thomas lacked.

The difference shows itself markedly when a prisoner is ‘interrogated’ and an old enemy, long thought gone.  This struggle between what science can create and what nature creates – the Checquy vs the Grafters – alchemists turned monster makers, or perhaps, creating through science what occurs naturally in the members of the Checquy.  But modern science challenges the long held supremacy of those born with special talents, the Grafters just take it to a different level.

There is no question this book is original and very, very well done.  The only problem, Myfanwy Thomas does not feel very ‘female’.  She feels almost androgynous.  Maybe that’s the way the author wanted it, and he does kind of explain it away, or being male, he simply could not nuance the character enough to feel truly female.  This is a minor issue, but one that caught my several times saying, “What woman would not do xyz?”  I suspect most readers might miss that entirely as the story is engrossing. That said, his description of the visit of the ‘the Greek woman’ told by Miss Thomas was a complete hoot.   Some might dislike the ‘real time’ events interrupted by the many instructions and tutorials the ‘old’ Miss Thomas left for her new self.  It’s a style that I sometimes find contrived or just annoying, but it worked here and wove into the story giving the two versions of Myfanwy, Myfanwy 1.0 and Myfanwy 2.0, substance.  Their differences are quite clear and make the story more interesting.

The Rook is a really good first novel by a new author and gets a very rare A- (4.6*) from me.  The writing style is bound to annoy some, but worked for me – and many others.  Already questions are being asked about when book 2 will be available – assuming Book 2 is planned.  Given the ending of book 1, a rather clever ending I never saw coming, I might add, I’d say yes, this might be a series, but perhaps only a trilogy.  I could be wrong.  Bravo Mr O’Malley for a extraordinary first effort.  Highly Recommended.  I bought The Rook from Amazon for just over $11.50 plus tax.  It was worth every penny.

March 4, 2011

Six New Paranormals – Short Reviews

OK, I’ve been doing a LOT reading, so here we go.  I’ll have more next week, including some erotic paranormals.

  • Title: Absolutely, Positively
  • Author:  Heather Webber
  • Type:  Humorous paranormal light cozy mystery
  • Genre:  Psychic finder of lost loves ends up in the middle of a murder
  • Sub-genre:  Young lovers want to re-unite, but a murder of their bully former foster father gets in the way
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel – about 80,000$7.99
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore (more…)

February 14, 2011

Three New Release Paranormals

Sorry for disappearing for awhile, but I had a project in trouble.  Hate when real life interferes with my virtual one!!!!!!!  We have really good and indifferent here, so read on.

  • Title: Halfway Hexed (Southern Witch, Bk 3)
  • Author:  Kimberly Frost
  • Type:  Paranormal/Paranormal Romance
  • Genre:  Star-crossed lovers and a magical takeover attempt
  • Sub-genre:  Tammy Jo and Bryn Lyon find out how far they’ll go for each other and Duvall, TX
  • My Grade: B (4*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel – about 90,000 words trade paperback for $10.00-11.00 on sale; list $14.00
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore (more…)
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