Tour’s Books Blog

February 9, 2019

Annual e-Book Edition

Well, I may have been lax on posting, but not reading.  I made some finds and also found some lemons.  Most have been average.  I am reading nearly 90% e-books.  In part, this is due to the near-complete annihilation of mass-market paperback a publishers booting authors out the door.  Some authors seem to waver between self-publishing and finding a new print publisher to relieve the burden of self-promotion.  None the less I’ve found some offbeat goodies in large part due to BookBub.

These will be mostly short reviews as I have a lot to get through and I’ll look at series in an overall fashion.  Before I start my rants and raves, allow me to wish you all a belated Happy New Year!

Let’s start with light cozy style humorous mysteries:

Julie Mulhern wrote two books featuring Poppy Fields, Field’s Guide to Abductions and Field’s Guide to Assassins.  Then she stopped writing them, something I find really annoying.  She responded to my comment on BoobBub saying the death of a friend some years ago caused her to stop writing the humorous series but she planned to pick it up again.  If she does, this is a worthwhile series.  If not, skip it and move on.  Characters are good and of the outer edge of plausible, but the plots are decent for the genre.  A good choice for a lighter read.  My grade is B (3.8*) with the conditional recommendation as given above.  NOTE:  The author has finally restarted this series and book 3 is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Next up is Camilla Monk’s Spotless series.  There are 4 books ranging from somewhat interesting while being annoying to WTF??????  Ms Monk was apparently aiming for a kind of Lexi Carmichael style geek girl accidental adventure series and bombed.  Spectacularly.  The 4th book is a MOAB of epic proportions.  Spotless, Beating Ruby, The Crystal Whisperer, and MOAB Butterfly in Amber represent a perfect example of characters that are shallow, badly drawn, and hard to like, plots that are choppy, without logic, and by book 3 just plain annoying and in book 4 it makes you wonder if there is a satisfying way of burning an e-book.  The synopsis is best summed up a ‘STUPID’.  Grades from C-(2.8*) at the start and descending to hell from there, though I am limited to giving Butterfly in Amber an F (0*).  It deserves less.  AVOID THIS SERIES.

Thankfully, my brain did not turn to mush nor my IQ drop to drool level and I was saved by Marianne Delacourt’s Tara Sharp series.  Sharp Shooter, Sharp Turn, Too Sharp, and Sharp Edge so far.  Set in Perth, Australia and featuring Tara Sharp who has been blessed – or cursed – with the ability to see auras, although not always getting her reading of the auras right – proved by her terrible taste in boyfriends and current jobless state.  The dialogue quick and sharp, Tara is real and witty, and the plots are entertaining with enough tension to make them worthwhile.  The secondary characters are well drawn and offbeat.  There are some noticeable editing errors as the series moves on.  A chronic problem e-books that drives me nuts.  Still, they are fun reads but be warned, they are also filled with Aussie slang and have the rhythm of Aussie speech, so if you hate dealing with that, you might not enjoy them as much.  New entries are erratic as the author is mainly a sci-fi writer under another name.  My grades are C+ (3.7*) to B (4*) and they are a recommended read for those who enjoy Jana DeLeon, J. B. Lynn, or Josie Brown.

Speaking of Jana DeLeon, she published two new Miss Fortune books in 2018!  Reel of Fortune and Swamp Spook.  Both are good and everyone seems back in character but some of the tension is gone from the series making a shade less satisfying than most early books and with less snark.  Still, but get a B- (3.8*) and remain recommended reads.

Also back in the saddle, Julie Moffett finally put out a new Lexi Carmichael this year.  It centers around Slash’s past and Vatican politics.  Not her best, but it has some excellent moments and Slash and Lexi remain solid characters even though I found the plot on the lame and sentimental side.  No Stone Unturned left lots of stones unturned, so it gets a C+ to B- rating (3.6*) but is still a recommended read.

Finally, there was a find worth reading K. F. Breen’s DDVN world books featuring bounty hunter Reagan Somerset and vampire elder Darius Durant, the worst investigative team ever.  Written in the first person from Regan’s view, she’s tough, feisty, snarky, and just my kind of female lead.  Darius has his hands full and oddly, for an old vamp, he’s enjoying it.  Born in Fire starts the plot, Raised in Fire takes it up a notch, and Fused in Fire finds Reagan finally getting a grip on her powers.  All are excellent, but book 3 is a bit darker and less humorous.  You have it all, weres, vamps, mages, magic, and demons – and a brief appearance by Lucifer.  The books get solid B to A- (4* to 4.4*) with the first two being my favorites.  The author will be continuing this world using Vlad, the vamp elder, as a lead later this year.

Breen has done several other series, but none I’ve enjoyed as much.  Her current best selling Demi-gods of San Francisco, the 3rd and final book due this month, are pretty good, but they are more romance than UF adventure and the best character is a too-old-for-her-years teen with a sharp mind and smart mouth, not the lead characters.  I give Sin & Chocolate and Sin & Magic get C+ to B- (3.6* to 3.8*) for paranormal romance.  Decent choices for readers of the genre.

I read book one in her Chosen series and was bored stiff, so don’t assume her character traits and style carry over.  I speed read the Chosen series and frankly, there are better things to read that aren’t to damnably predictable.

The Librarian by Phillip Wilson looked right up my alley as a woman turned vengeance seeking killer against crooked cops.  Preposterous is the kindest thing I can say about the plot and characters.  On the plus side, it was fairly short, so the sheer magnitude of stupidity didn’t do permanent brain damage.  My grade is D- (1.8*) with the strong suggestion you just pass this by.

Hell Bent by Gregg Hurwitz is the latest installment of his Orphan X series, though he did release a new book this month.  Book 1 was very good, book 2 was annoying, and Hell Bent took the plot down a whole new road and rescued the series.  Evan Smoak has to fulfill the dying request of his old teacher and save his most recent student.  After the angsty and annoying Nowhere Man, this was back in top high-speed form as Evan tries to rescue and less than trusting teen girl from the kill squad that’s wiping out all traces of the highly illegal government program.  Exciting and well paced and Joey is a surprising plus in the plot.  My grade is B- (3.9*) for action thriller/assassin readers.  (I read the HC from Amazon)

The first 3 books of the Thirteen Realms series by Aussie author Marina Finlayson, Changeling Exile, Changeling Magic, and Changeling Illusion are better than average UF/Pnr Rom.  The story centers around 3 young women each with a tie to the Fae Realms.  The books are fairly well done, though Changeling Illusion seems choppy and not smoothly told, plus too predictable.  As a group, you get C+ to B- (3.3* to 3.7*) and each of the 3 females friends appears they will a trilogy of their story.  Best character, Yriell, the High King’s sister who lives outside the Realm disguised as a cranky old healer.  Her I loved.

Marriage Vow Murder is Book 9 in the Merry Wrath series by Leslie Lantry.  This has been an erratic series and the books, though short, somehow manage to screw up timelines and facts from previous books and leaves things just dangling.  Wrath is finally getting her big day, but the groom is missing.  Of all people, Merry goes to her sharp as a tack 4th-grade teacher and puzzle fanatic to get help with the clues to find Rex and maybe the solution to a hidden treasure.  If you can suspend all credibility, it’s kind of OK.  Best I can muster is a C+ (3.5*) well below the Amazon ratings.  Langtry scrambles her facts and timelines in every series.  She desperately needs a continuity editor.

And I close with a fairly reliable author, Jenn Stark with her latest The Lost Queen.  The second of 3 stand alones that tie with her Immortals of Las Vegas as Sara Wilde takes over as Justice for the Council.  Niki is still with her and the Magician is as remote and enigmatic as ever, though he seems to go full masochist here.  The Lost Queen is a very powerful witch but the real story becomes about the witch Danae and a spirit Myanya who seeks to inhabit the most powerful witch alive.  I’ll give this a B- (3.7*) and it’s a must read for fans of Immortal Las Vegas.

 

 

 

September 13, 2017

And Even More Binge – Short Reviews

My apologies for not posting.  I’ve been suffering fatigue and just kind of digging out of it slowly.  Yes, I’m still reading, actually more ebooks than print lately.  Why?  Well, publishers have consolidated, ruthlessly cut authors and series, no longer give a series a chance to develop a following and delay publication dates 18 months or more except on big name bestsellers.  On top of all that, they raised prices and reduced quality of everything from the paper itself, to the crappy proofreading and editing.  No wonder authors have turned to self-publishing.  Earlier this year, cozy mystery writers had contracts canceled and whole series dropped.  Now si-fi, fantasy, paranormal, and dystopian are getting the same treatment.  Action, espionage, military thrillers and many mysteries, from humorous to noir have gone ebook.

Looking at my Amazon purchases, I found I ordered more non-book merchandise than books.  Five years ago, the first Tuesday of the month meant UPS had sacks on boxes at my door.  Now a get maybe 2 books a month, 4 in the high release months.  Having moved from quality packaging, Amazon now also save money using padded envelopes, except the books often arrive with creased covers and scuffing thanks to Amazon and the PO abuse.  When I spend $20+ on a book, is it too much to ask for a dust jacket that’s NOT TORN?  A trade paperback with a bent, creased cover?  Can the damn publishers not use recycled tissues for paper so thin I can see the print on the back of the page and despite great care, the fragile paper rips just turning a page?  Better still, can they find printers who don’t leave blotches of link like mini-Rorschach tests all over the pages – often causing those frail thin pages to glue themselves to each other?

God knows ebooks are the prototype of bad proofreading – not to mention authors who seem unable to exercise even minimal self-discipline in CONTINUITY ERRORS – but they aren’t $20, either.  I get a lot of them through Book Bub on sale for $0.99 to $2.99 and a lot of free books.

The big downside of ebooks is the fact most authors choose a short novel length.  That might be what ebook readers prefer, but it often leaves the characters and plot wanting.  Certainly, Golden Age mysteries were largely short novel length, with Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time being one of the finest mysteries ever written and one of the shortest.  Christie’s books were all shorter novels, especially her best early works.  Same for Hammett and even Chandler.  But today’s writers are simply not in that class – or even close.  Today’s writers lack the skills of compacting paragraphs of atmosphere into a single sentence.  “It seemed like a nice neighborhood to have bad habits in,” from Chandler’s The Big Sleep tells you more that paragraphs about the setting and the atmosphere in a modern book.

But bemoaning the loss of mystery’s Golden Age is a bit pointless.  Today’s books reflect the taste of modern readers and the fact they want easy, entertaining diversion – and apparently a limited vocabulary.  Not many authors can command a wide audience other than a handful of big names that run more on the reputation for their past works than their often mediocre, formulaic current novels.  Still, even ebooks have good, bad, and indifferent authors, so let’s see what we have for July/Aug mysteries.

PS:  No, I have not lost my fondness for UF and paranormal, but most paranormal now seems to fall into mystery or romance genres.  Pickings are lean there too.  Some authors have nothing new out – due to the whole publisher issue or the fact they’ve just hit a dry spell I can’t say.  I do have a few for the next print book reviews group.

*********************************************

Image result for mud run murder leslie langtry

The newest entry in the Merry Wrath series is decent but choppy and frankly, not that credible, but still a fun read.  Mud Run Murder is decent as an ebook, but try and borrow it unless you’re a hardcore fan.  SHORT book.  C+ to B- (3.7*)

*********************************************

The Never Say Spy series books 1 to 10 that I binge read:

Image result for never say spyImage result for never say spyImage result for never say spyImage result for never say spyImage result for never say spyImage result for never say spyImage result for never say spyImage result for never say spyImage result for spy high (never say spy 9)Image result for spy high (never say spy 9)

OK, this series is set in Canada and involves a cross between a spy series, near future virtual reality, and a book keeper who is mistaken for a deep cover spy.  It has humor, heart, twists, turns, excitement, and some interesting takes on the James Bondish style send-up mixed with serious stuff.  Each book, while part of an overarching story, is complete unto itself.  Aydan Kelly, the woman who insists she’s a book keeper (which she is) is a terrific lead character, but would be more believable as someone 10 years younger.  Book one, Never Say Spy, is free and ebook.  Give it a try.  I enjoyed the series a lot.  The books ranged from C+ to B (3.6* to 4*)

*****************************************************

Image result for house of spies daniel silva

The House of Spies, the 17th book in the Gabriel Allon series, was the usual 500+ page tome by Daniel Silva.  What it wasn’t was great.  In fact, it barely made good.  With a cast of ever character you can think of – and some extras, an episodic style, and no really solid lead, it limped along in Mediocreville.  Completely miss-able.  Get from the FOL sale or borrow it.  Read the HC version – it was cheaper than the ebook.  C- (2.8*)  Not impressed by a usually reliable author.  Retire Gabriel, please.

**********************************************************

Image result for call of the wilde jenn stark

 

How a really good series can cause an author to rush out a book before it’s time.  Call of the Wilde is a very short book.  Yes, it’s action packed because the author doesn’t take the time flesh out any of the many individual elements and it all becomes messy in the headlong rush to the big finale in London.  Let’s do, not think.  Never a good plan.  Loose ends all over.  The rush had predictable bad consequences.  Not as well done as the earlier books.  Unpolished and fragmented.  My score is a C (3*).  Had Ms Stark taken the time to just breath deeply and THINK, it would have been light-years better – and 50-75 pages longer.

**********************************************************

Image result for the preacher ted thackrey

An interesting concept, a former Episcopal priest turned war vet turned professional poker player/trouble shooter.  The Preacher was a book I wanted to like.  It had all the anti-hero elements.  It was dull, predictable, occasionally tedious, and just blah.  The Preacher gets called into some dusty torn in New Mexico by and old seminary friend to find out what’s wrong.  How he does this playing poker only works because the poker players are what’s wrong.  As sere and dusty as eastern New Mexico.  I was frustrated at wasting my time on this.  My score C- (2.8*) and give it a miss.

********************************************************

Image result for bring the heat ga aiken

OK, a favorite author – G.A. Aiken/Shelly Laurenston and a favorite series, the Dragon Kin.  Bring the Heat was a sure bet – sort of.  Now Branwen the Awful is a great character and so to is Aiden the Divine, what didn’t work do well is the choppy plot.  You’ve got Annwyl the Bloody in Hell, the dragons wiping out the followers of the blind god,  and Brannie and Aiden escorting Keita to poison another dragon queen because he son was kidnapped and murdered while under the Dragon Queen’s care.  Anyhoo …… the scene switching is not unusual, but the story isn’t smooth or as interesting, which is a shame as Brannie is one of my favorite characters.  My score is C+ (3.3*)

 

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.

**********************************

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.

*******************************************

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.

****************************************

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.

**************************************************************

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.

****************************************************************************

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!

 

September 1, 2013

eBook vs Print and Some Mystery/Thriller Reviews

I just had three lessons in ebooks vs print books.  The first was Elysian Fields by Suzanne Johnson, third in the Sentinels of New Orleans) which I had read as an ARC ebook (twice) and then got in print and read again (twice).  The second was Inferno by Dan Brown which I only had in print.  For the record, I bought Elysian Fields on a pre-order through BAM.  Inferno came to me via Paperback Swap and it’s already leaving next week, though I did end up with 2 copies – one from a swap and one from my wish list which I forgot to cancel.

So what lesson did I learn?  Well, I enjoyed Elysian Fields in ebook, obviously, I read it twice, but reading it as a print book was a very different experience.  I felt more involved and when I was done, more satisfied than with the ebook.  It will even get a higher rating, and not just because all those minor proofing errors got cleaned up, but because I quite literally experienced the story differently.  Result – print book was superior all around for reading satisfaction.

The next was Heart of Venom by Jennifer Estep, the latest in the Elemental Assassin series.  I read it as an electronic ARC as well, and bought the books.  Oddly, I found less of a difference in how I experienced the story.  That could be the more straightforward ‘action thriller’ style of the series, or the difference in writing styles.  I’m inclined to think it’s the straightforward and fairly uncomplicated plot.  I noticed those books I liked best as ebooks were all very much in the same vein – uncomplicated plot lines, so I could just enjoy the characters.    While certainly not the intricate, multi-layered, cast of thousands book, written with flowing, complex prose and a demanding vocabulary, that say one of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books is, Ms Johnson does write a more layered and complex story and atmosphere and characters require greater attention.  And yes, the writing style, syntax, and vocabulary will slow down my reading speed.  Some writers are worth savoring – William Kent Kruger may not write the best mysteries, but they among the most lyrically written.  And that works better for me in print.

Now Inferno, is a different story.  Part of the problem is the fact that Dan Brown is a complex plotter, but lousy character author and as a writer, not the most skilled in his turn of phrase.  In that he’s much like the late Robert Ludlum.  This makes staying involved in one of this maze like stories a challenge.  But there was a bigger problem – the book itself.  It weighed a ton.  I switch hands when reading, holding the book more often in my left so I can turn pages with my right.  This isn’t usually an issue – or it wasn’t until two things happened:  1) I developed arthritis in my thumbs and, 2) I broke my left wrist 2 years ago and had a plate implanted to stabilize the bones.  While the recovery from the break was excellent given my age, the wrist is just not as strong as it was and like most broken bones, sensitive to the weather.  So reading big, heavy books is actually quite taxing to the wrist and hand, which makes for an uncomfortable situation and shortens the attention span.  Add to that Dan Brown’s less than enthralling writing skills and it was a long, slow, oft interrupted slog.

Now keep in mind, I own a Kindle that I hardly use.  I downloaded the software to my laptop and read on it instead.  Why?  I have an older Kindle and it’s a PIA to use and heavy to boot.  Heavier than a paperback, but not as heavy as a hardcover.  I just found the short page length annoying.  Actually, that’s pretty much true of ALL ebooks.  Fewer words per page.  It makes keeping a train of thought going harder.  With a book, you see two pages at once and do not have to think about changing pages every 225 words.  It keeps breaking the story’s flow.

So yes, I will still buy ebooks, but truth is, they are less than 10% of my book purchases.   The experience with Elysian Fields showed me why.  Trow away books, like romance, and even basic plots like Heart of Venom, ebooks are fine and cheap.  Book you want to sink into – for me it’s paper – DTB (dead tree book).

****************************************************************

Inferno

Dan Brown hasn’t written many books, but that could be because of the amount of research he puts into his plots.  Like Robert Ludlum, Brown relies on the compelling story of a puzzle being unraveled to avert a crisis, not on any character development, though each book does have character elements as the underlying motivation.  The other reason might be the fact that his books are really LONG – just shy of 500 pages in hardcover.  Not as long as Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time epic fantasy books, but for a thriller, it’s a long book.

With Inferno, Brown steps up to bio-terrorism plate, an area usually explored by action thriller writers with former Spec Ops heroes battling their way to the truth.  But Robert Langdon is no soldier and uses his odd eidetic memory and his vast knowledge of history, art, and symbology to unravel clues to avert some kind of global disaster.  Only this time his memory is failing for the first time in his life – thanks to a bullet wound to the head.  He wakes up in a hospital in Florence, Italy, a city he loves and knows well, but the last thing he remembers is being in Cambridge at the Harvard campus several days earlier.

What follows is classic Brown …… fast, filled with exquisite detail, and often tedious.  And not one single outstanding character leaps off the page.  Langdon has three dimensions in large part thanks to Tom Hanks.  The nerdy academic who unravels complex clues.  Though why these brilliant villains always leave these trails of breadcrumbs has always baffled me.  Kind of like James Bond villains who always screw up because their gloating.  A brilliant scientist leaving a trail even though he leaped to his death to avoid revealing anything?   hummmmm

Anyway, let us accept the master villain left these arcane clues only a master scholar could follow – bring on Robert Langdon.

WARNING:  Spoilers below

What’s right with Inferno:  The pacing is fast, and Langdon thinking he’s averting a global bio-terrorism plot gives it an edge.  The armed men chasing him do too.  As usual,

What’s wrong with Inferno:  The ending.  It fell flat in the last 75 pages.  All the tension built up over 400 pages as Langdon races against time to prevent a disaster and the solution was a classic WTF moment.  Unfortunately, for the reader, it was also a “WTF did I just waste my time on this?”

As a thriller reader, the dénouement after such – well sort of – breathless journey to avert the disaster was EPIC FAIL.

The other huge problem was the lack of any aftermath for an event of this magnitude with economic, social, religious, and political consequences.  Two scientists walk off into the ‘brave new world’, Langdon flies home, and ………… That’s it?  What about what happens when the world finds out?  What happens to fertile females?  Will they be made into baby factories under control of the government?  Jeeze, talk about a disaster.  Someone didn’t think this through – including Dan Brown.  No wonder he just threw Langdon on a flight home.  I would have run from that mess too.  The author just ignored the ramifications of the event completely.  Astonishing.

Inferno gets a D+ (2.3*) from me in large part due to the ending.  I know his legion of fans will hate me, but come on, he did NOT think this through.  He just abandoned the whole thing in an abstract, professorial way.  It did not register with the man.

Thankfully, I got Inferno through Paperback Swap.  Free is the only way to go here unless you are die hard Langdon junkie.  Then but a CHEAP used copy.  This is no keeper.

*******************************************

the-english-girl-daniel-silva

Will this 13th outing be Gabriel Allon’s last mission?  We’ll see.  Here Allon is minding his own business at home in Israel restoring a Bassano when he gets a visit from the ‘the old man’, the legendary Ari Shamron.  Seems something has happened in the UK and Graham Seymour is calling in a favor.  An English girl, late 20’s, vacationing in Corsica with friends has disappeared.  This is no ordinary English girl, she a rising star in the PM’s party – and his very secret mistress.

The kidnappers have made contact – but strangely, no demands.  Gabriel finally agrees to go help, not as assassin, but as an investigator.  He hears the story first from John Lancaster, the PM with his ‘power behind the throne’, Jeremy Fallon.  From all outward appearances, Madelyn was a middle class success story, a beautiful, brainy young woman who caught the eye of party powers and was raised thru the ranks, getting groomed for an eventual run as an MP.  Her disappearance in Corsica is even more mysterious as no ransom demands have been made – just notification to Lancaster they have her.

Gabriel goes to Corsica to see the local Don who makes his money in olive oil and contract hits, and ask to borrow one of his assassins, an Englishman, former SAS thought to have been killed in the mid-East – and a man who was once contracted to kill Gabriel and didn’t.  The two men began the investigation all over again – and starting with a picture of Madelyn at a table with an unknown man, they begin trying to piece things together.

All the elements are there for a great story, yet somehow, it didn’t quite cut it for me.  It was obvious they knew Gabriel’s personal history and they also knew entirely too much about things that were known by only a few, and had Gabriel not been so lost in his cycle of personal angst, he would have seem it.  I guess that’s the part that annoyed me.  Allon is known for his ability to puzzle out motives, yet he failed to do confront a key one for a long time.  Perhaps, Gabriel’s concession to age and the need for a new man to take his place in the field – and who he apparently tries to recruit at the end, was the single most interesting part.  It looks like the baton may be passing to a new lead character, and someone who is interesting and enigmatic too.

The English Girl is not quite up to DeSilva’s usual standards, but is a good read.  I give it a B- (3.7*) and a recommendation for fans, but only in mmpb.  The HC is over priced.  My copy of The English Girl came through an online book swapping site and will leave the same way.

*******************************************

breaking point

Like Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series, C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett books went a long time unnoticed outside hardcore mystery readers.  Not anymore.  Longmire and Pickett have a lot in common, especially a bone deep respect for nature and the fundamental kind of survival instincts that keep a man alive in the unforgiving wilderness.  They also have the fierce independent nature that is typical of Westerners, tough, self-reliant, men that enforce laws but respect personal freedom and the land itself.

Box incorporates a lot more aspects of government intrusion into citizen’s lives and in Breaking Point he used an actual lawsuit and Supreme Court ruling as a springboard for his plot.  One of Joe’s friends is former black ops man Nate Romanowski who was featured in his last book Force of Nature, (not my favorite) and since disappeared.

The story opens with two armed EPA enforcement agents driving from Denver to deliver a cease and desist order on a man in Wyoming.  The Corp of Engineers man who is supposed to meet they and go out to the land with them is aghast at the order and the person they plan to serve it on.  In the end, both officers are dead and buried under a berm of dirt.

Joe’s out riding a line of watering trenches set up so wildlife stays away from domestic herds to get water.  He sees a cut fence an follows it to a camp where local builder Butch Roberson is.  Butch is a real outdoors type, but something about their whole encounter feels wrong.  Still, Joe heads back and then gets the call about the murders.

Over on Butch’s land, new sheriff and paraplegic Mike Reed is doing all the right thing to keep evidence and crime scene conditions in tact with a loud, obnoxious, and obviously self important EPA Juan Julio Batista shows and has the FBI claim jurisdiction.  Reed is not about to be bullied by some high level desk jockey and tells him to get a court order and get out of his crime scene.

Now Joe is only a game warden, but even he knows something here isn’t right, and it’s more than 2 dead agents and an over-reacting desk jockey who starts calling Butch a terrorist.  As his new boss keeps caving to the increasingly outrageous tactics of the feds, Joe goes and hunts for Butch – and the fools he’d taken hostage when they’d tried capture him – said fools including the former sheriff who sent Mike out into a surefire armed confrontation that put him in the wheelchair – all because Mike was running against him in the election.

McLanahan, the former sheriff, with his ego and an ax to grind ends up one of the hostages trying to show up Mike.  But it’s when the EPA idiot calls in a drone strike with a Hellfire missile kills the wrong man and sets off a monumental forest fire that thing go really south and pushes Joe to find out what the hell is REALLY going on here.  And Butch has most of the answers.

Box spins a tight, well written mystery and has his usual twist at the end, a twist that puts everything into perspective and puts the real motives behind the whole incident that led to the deaths of 2 agents, firefighters, and other people, into perspective – and it all started long ago with a lover spurned.  An innocent man willingly goes to jail to protect another.  That part I saw coming, the rest I didn’t.

Box does have an ax to grind with the high-handed tactics of the EPA thanks to what even the US Supreme Court calls a ‘badly crafted law’ that Congress has no interest in fixing.  That does not control the story, which is more about hubris, long held grudges, and people who use connections to screw others, in addition to the abuse of federal authority – a favorite theme of writers who live out west.  It also sees Joe quit his job, a job he loves, but can’t do thanks to the weak management caving to what he sees as highly illegal and ethically and morally questionable tactics.

Breaking Point is just a really good read on several levels, but there is no question political points are part of the story and Box has some strong views that did not make Joe step out of character, but remained within his own well established ethical boundaries, a lesson some other authors should take to heart.  Breaking Point gets a B+ (4.2*) from me and a recommended read.  I got Breaking Point through an online book swapping site.  Buy a discount copy as the current online price is over $18.  This is a series to read!

September 29, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

July 8, 2012

Is imitation really the sincerest form of flattery?

A new book hit the market and zooms to the top of the bestseller list and in nothing flat, there are dozens of clones out there, all variations on the same theme.  I’m having a private bet with myself over how many 50 Shades of Grey rip-offs will saturate the market.  (This is one case where the clones might be better than the badly written original.) Even the originator of a series can be hard put to keep things fresh and new.  In fact, having a series almost precludes too much fresh and new, especially as books pass the 8th and 10th entry.

J.K. Rowling did a brilliant job with Harry Potter, telling the story and resisting the temptation to keep Harry and friends ‘forever young’.  As the books progressed, he matured and so did the stories, growing darker and grimmer and dealing with more adult themes.  Her dedication to the initial premise was worth it and the series is, as a whole, remarkable.  Before his death, Robert Jordan began his deep, complex and beautifully written Wheel of Time series, but by book 7 he became so lost in the minutiae, I just gave up on the series.  Other series are never meant to be anything but froth and fun – and there’s nothing wrong with that so long as they aren’t also boring and predictable.  It doesn’t matter the genre – mystery, romance, paranormal, fantasy, even historical fiction, author patterns emerge and ongoing characters begin to enter certain predictable sequences of events.  To me, a certain amount of this is forgivable, maybe even a bit desirable – kind of like finding old friends just as we remember them.  What isn’t so forgivable is copying another writer’s formula and creating a clone.

Clones are as inevitable as the sunrise, and some are so well done, they become icons in their own right.  Look at all the books based on famous fictional and historical characters recast into different perspectives.  Sherlock Holmes must have 6 or 7 different versions of himself walking about the pages of various books.   Everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Queen Victoria is hunting vampires and zombies.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Brontes’ must be spinning like tops in the graves.  Some authors can carry it off, others, simply cannot.  To purists, the whole thing is a massive insult, an abomination.  What can I say, even Shakespeare stole plots and characters, but, some of these books are, inadvertently perhaps, insults to the original.

Take The Innocent by David Baldacci.  CIA assassin Will Robie is 25% Jack Reacher, 25% John Rain, 25% early Bob Lee Swagger, 15% Mitch Rapp and 10% original.  The plot, which held great promise at the start, just didn’t stand up over the length of the book – especially when compared  with Barry Eisler’s standards in his early John Rain books.  It lacked the kind of detail in tradecraft that makes the stories seem more real and gives twisty spy novels their verisimilitude.  Still, it was good, had potential, but lacked the punch of a top of the line thriller.  Best I could do was a B- (3.7*) and a wait for the paperback, or borrow it from the library recommendation.

On the lighter side of the mystery/thriller genre sits Death, Taxes, and Extra Hold Hairspray by Diane Kelly.  This is her third installment of the Tara Halloway IRS Enforcement agent series and another winner.  There are shades of Stephanie Plum, but Tara Halloway is a very different person from the amateurish Steph.  Strong, competent, and tough, but with a real sense of humor for the eccentricities of people.  Kelly plots well, writes solid characters, has good cast of secondary characters and blends humor in without ever going over the top or forcing things to a ‘Lucy and Ethel’ farce.  With a B+ to A- (4.5*) it comes as a recommended buy for fans of classic style mysteries without the cozy oozing out.

On the romance front we have Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase.  Chase is as reliable as any writer out there.  Her early books were fresh, original, and very well researched.  Personal favorites are Lord of Scoundrels, The Last Hellion, Lord Perfect, and my most re-read historical romance, Mr Impossible.  And it is the shade of Mr Impossible that hangs over Scandal Wears Satin, but nothing can disguise the slight story, which seems to wander aimlessly for 200 pages on weakest premise ever seen, then wrap up much to simply.  There were far to many, “You must joking” moments, and far too few moments of any real connection with the characters.  It wasn’t frothy, just a big ball of empty puff.  Even the romance was weak and had no real fire.  Mr Impossible had heart, laughs, and interesting plot and a great setting.  Scandal Wears Satin had a lot of detail about clothes and totally bland and unexciting characters playing out a minor plot for far too many pages.  Best I can muster for Ms Chase’s latest book is C- (2.8*) and a suggestion she go back to her more historical based books and leave the froth to others.

Once Burned, book 1 in the Night Prince series by Jeaniene Frost isn’t so much a new series and it is a spin off of her highly successful Cat and Bones Night Huntress books.  Spin-offs don’t just happen with TV shows, they happen with books all the time.  Generally speaking, Frost writes a lightweight paranormal with romance elements and a certain percentage of gore.  I’ve always felt it was used to cover up what the books lacked in character and plot.  She can’t seem to hold suspense well, and even her most ardent fan would have to admit, the books are kind of shallow.  By turning to the darker, more bloodthirsty Vlad Tepesh – who we met in the Night Huntress books – she ups the gruesome factor without with amping up the plot and characters to match.  Three-quarters of the way through, I was still waiting for the core of the story to start unfolding.  It was rather frustrating to say the least.  By the end, it was like a meal that might have filled you up, but not satisfied you appetite.  It just wasn’t an entertaining read.  I’m breaking with the majority of reviewers on Amazon and giving Once Burned a C (3.0*) and say this is for hardcore Jeaniene Frost fans only.  There are far better series out there, so give it a pass.

More to come, but I have to get away from dentists and oral surgeons long enough to be able to sit back and get some reading done!

July 27, 2011

Four Super Short Reviews: Mixed Genre

Having a broken wrist caused a real bad attitude, and FINALLY, I’ve made it to therapy.  Now the ulnar nerve is having fits.  SIGH!  Back in the splint off and on, and I still have the problems with blood flow.  One stupid little fall.  A non-event.  What a pain in the rump.   Still, the enforced idleness came when a bunch of books I’d been waiting for got released.

  • Title: Dead on the Delta
  • Author:  Stacey Jay
  • Type:  Paranormal UF/alternate reality
  • Genre:  noir style paranormal mystery
  • Sub-genre:  killer faries, drug runners, and family secrets on the bayou
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Novel – about 90,000+ $7.99
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore

This was a semi-original story by a new author.  If certain backstory elements and world building had gelled just a bit better, this could have been an A.  The writing style and quality lacked some polish, but the atmosphere was there.  The story is centered around the murder of a small girl, thought to be one of a string of such murders, and it hits close to home for Annebelle.  Annabelle Lee, is seeking forgetfulness and oblivion at the bottom of the bottle way too often, but her unique talents – she’s one of the rare immunes who won’t die from mutant fairy bites – her affair with the too-good-to-be-true boyfriend, police detective Caine Cooper, and the appearance of ex-fiance Hitch as an FBI technical expert with his female partner/agent – who is his current fiance, was kind of too much coincidence for one book.

Annie keeps reminding herself she’s just a special kind of crime scene technician,med school dropout, and someone who deserves to be punished.  Her determined efforts at self-destruction for an incident in her past, are at odds with her unwanted sense of obligation to the murdered child.  the story unwinds rather like a choppy homemade movie, without smooth segues and criss-crossing various plot elements in a distracting style.  The ending brings an interesting twist, not so much to the crime, but to what happens to Annabelle and what she will become.

Was Dead on the Delta worth $7.99?  Yes – for any fan of the noir style.  The writing is no match for authors like Lawrence Sanders or Dennis Lehanne, but a decent read.  I just hope the authors style smooths out a bit in future. (more…)

April 27, 2011

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

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

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

March 11, 2011

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

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

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

February 23, 2011

Two New Suspense Mysteries From Old Hands

Two of the most reliable authors in the mystery/suspense genre are the late William G Tapply and William Kent Krueger.  Their styles are profoundly different, Tapply writing lean, tightly plotted, short books and Krueger penning longer books with an almost lyrical quality to his prose that reminds me of Tony Hillerman.  What they have in common is a high standard.  From the late Tapply, who died in 2009, this last book is a complete departure – we have a stand alone suspense novel that is surprising in so many ways.  Krueger offers the 10th outing for Cork O’Connor in a bleak tale of old crimes coming back to haunt another generation with painful remembrance and new deaths.   The two very different books have that common theme – old sins come back and causing new ones that in turn uncover the past.

  • Title: The Nomination
  • Author:  William G Tapply
  • Type:  Suspense
  • Genre: Politics and cover-ups
  • Sub-genre:  Supreme Court nominee wants his past buried – literally
  • My Grade: C+ to B- (3.5*)
  • Rating:  PG-17
  • Length and price:  Full novel – about 80,000 hardcover $15-$17 on sale; list $24.95
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore (more…)
Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.