Tour’s Books Blog

June 19, 2017

Another On Again, Off Again Binge

Hard though it may be to believe, there are times when books simply don’t appeal and I revert back to old favorites.   A bad cold started a round of sulking (I’m could compete in the sulking Olympics, but not the Drama Queen portion) followed by a burst of reading.  So much reading I haven’t had time to blog.  (OK and playing games on PBS.)  I apologize.

Binge reading has its pluses and minuses.  With cozies or light mysteries, they quickly become predictable.  With heavy paranormal, you hit a wall and have to stop and take a breather with something to lighten your mood.  But some flow seamlessly and have just the right balance of humor, action, paranormal events, and unfolding story arc to be great for a binge.  A good friend out in CA who has a lot of overlap with my taste in books, especially paranormal, recommended the Immortal Las Vegas series by Jenn Stark.  Once I started it was worse than a bag of my favorite potato chips.  I was up all night finishing one book and starting another.  In my younger days, I’d get dressed and go to work without sleep.  Now I’m retired and keep vampire hours.  (I am happy to report I have no urge to bite people in the neck or drink blood and do not burst into flame in the sunlight.)

Anyway, I’m still adjusting to needing reading glasses again.  By the way, the only upside to cataracts is you get your near vision back for a couple of years ……. until they get so big you’re going blind.  Five people I know have had or are going through cataract surgery.  Sure sign I’m getting old!  Honestly, emails from friends sound like plots for some TV hospital drama.  The award winner was a friend and her husband who had his prostate removed and finished radiation and took a week at the Gulf Coast before starting chemo.  Well, he stepped on a stingray and got a barb in the foot.   Normally not a huge deal, but painful.  Except for the fact the tip of the barb pierced a bone in his foot and now he has a bone marrow infection.  What are the odds?  This is TV movie territory.

Yup, just one of those years.  Thank heavens for books to escape in.

NOTE: All books reviewed below were ebooks either purchased or loaned by a friend.  All are available in multiple formats.

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

 Image result for jenn stark immortal vegasImage result for jenn stark immortal vegasImage result for jenn stark immortal vegasImage result for wicked and wilde by jenn starkImage result for aces wild jenn starkImage result for jenn stark immortal vegasImage result for jenn stark immortal vegas

OK, this series is not the usual vamps and shifters, it’s based in the tarot and those with some magical ability called ‘the Connected’.  Now if you are not familiar with the tarot deck it has 4 houses, just like a poker deck has 4 suits, plus what are called Major Arcana – cards that show Death, the Hanged Man, the Magician, etc.  This series is based on the premise there is an Arcana Council that keeps the balance between light and dark magic so neither side can control things and the Veil, behind which ancient and powerful non-humans have been banished stays intact.  Now the Council is composed of once humans that are now immortals, each possessing the characteristics of the Major Arcana they represent.  Knowing this and knowing something about tarot is very helpful in understanding the ‘world’ in which this is set.

Getting Wilde sort of throws the reader into the world without fully developing it first, so it’s a bit choppy and hard to get a grasp on but shows the potential for this series.  Hang in there and get through it and things improve rapidly.  Sara Wilde is an artifact hunter using her tarot deck to guide her to her goals.  She’s one of the Connected and mostly her bounties go to Father Jerome in France who rescues and hides connected children and families.  They are being hunted, not just by a secret sect in the Catholic Church called SANCTUS, but by technoceutical manufacturers, and black practitioners for body parts – especially hearts.  Protecting them is her main goal in life.  Being a ‘finder’ – modern-day magical artifact hunter – is dangerous, but high paying work.  The man who hires her for many jobs recently is the Magician, one of the Arcane Council, its leader at the moment.  He’s old, powerful, and very, very handsome.

The primary problem here is the reader is instantly thrown into the deep end of the pool without a clue as to the nature of the world the book inhabits.  There is an even choppier prequel ‘novella’ – also free on Kindle, but it doesn’t help much.  My grade is C+ (3.4*).  The story is good, the pacing fast with enough humor to lighten the darker moments, and characters really good and slowly fleshed out, but the world building knocked down the rating as it gets confusing.  There is an ongoing major secondary character Nikki, briefly introduced here a transsexual former Chicago cop and a good friend.  Her role grows bigger as the series goes on.  The Kindle edition is free, so read that.  The print books of this whole series are overpriced.

Wilde Card picks up where book 1 left off, Sara still in with the council to act as the astral navigator for the High Priestess – an unpleasant piece of work.  That also leaves her time in Vegas, the last city she wanted to be in thanks to the fact that Brody Rooks, the young cop she had a crush on when a teen helping the cops find lost kids, is now a Vegas Detective.  The Magician sends her on a mission to the infamous ‘Gold Show’ that sells supposedly charmed golden items of power – behind the scenes of an apparently normal gold show.  Too bad Brody is one of the cops sent for security.  But Sara isn’t the only ‘finder’ there and there’s a massive robbery – including the Eye she just managed to steal.  A former client, and generally bad guy, turns out to be the Emperor – Viktor Dal

Now she is after the thieves and falls into a huge stash they’ve amassed.  This is where Sara’s powers start growing and at the end, she is the one who uses the eye to save the world from a creature beyond the veil.  Doing so begins unleashing her full potential – a theme that runs through the series.  My rating is a solid B (4*)  This installment has a lot more meat to it than the first book and is just a good read.  Not long, but action packed and good story telling.  By the way, Death is a punked out tattoo artist that does some work on Sara that ultimately helps bind Nikki closer to Sara for their mutual protection.

Born to be Wilde has Sara back doing a job for the Magician – again.  His healing has saved her life more than once, but his style of healing is very sensual and sexual in its nature and Sara wants to stay as far away from him as she can.

But Viktor Dal, the Emporer and his experiments of allowing demons to inhabit children come to light.  To get the demon back where they belong, Sara must travel to Atlantis to find weapons.  Which she did, only she brought them back embedded in her own body.

Once again, the trip to Atlantis gives us a hint about Sara and her real role yet to be fulfilled.  I give Born to be Wilde a B- (3.8*) as some elements of the plot, especially the mind trip to Atlantis did mesh as well as it should have.

Wicked and Wilde is like paranormal on LSD.  Sara goes to Hell.  Literally.  Why?  The Magician, Armaeus, who is momentarily human, is there ostensibly to bring back the Hierophant, the Archangel Michael.  So human Sara is sent to haul their asses home.  This choppy, episodic, trip in Hell takes way too long and Armaeus comes back even darker and less pleasant than before, setting back any budding romance thing going on and Sara faces her alternate self.  That’s the big death scene with his initial love who died centuries before – and Sara’s alternate self is the one who kills her.  Talk about a WTF moment.  Even worse, it drives her after her teen crush Brody Rooks who is now very taken with Dixie, the owner of a wedding chapel and kind of Connected network mama.  I frankly found much of it just plain irritating as Sara blows hot and cold.  About half way through I yelled, “GROW UP!”

It has a slam-bang ending that kind of made up for the acid trip to Hell – Sara has recovered the much-desired artifact belonging to the head of the House of Swords from her dead ancestor.  As she tries to return the necklace the Swords are attacked, possibly due to a traitor within, and as their leader lays dying, Sara learns she is her heir to the House.

Not the best in the series, which blessedly gets better.  C+ to B- (3.6*) rating but the ending makes up for a lot.  The Hierophant is the best part of the book.  Too bad the author fails to flesh that character out better over the series.  Gammon, the ‘big bad’ she’s been fighting is finally out in the open. This is one you’ll love or hate.

Aces Wilde – book 5 in this series – is about Sara’s inheritance, which has strings attached.  Mostly she must fight all challengers to her being Head of the house.  To win, she needs a magic sword.  Of course, she has to steal it – but this time, her arch competitor is now not just her ally, but an Ace, a kind of hired assassin/finder/bodyguard but without any loyalty to the house and are not part of it.  Nikki becomes an Ace in training and given her size and police background is a natural.

Sara also is keeping up her work with Father Jerome.  For someone used to being a loner, these are uncomfortable adjustments and she has yet to fully recover from the emotional battering she took in Hell.  This evolving and complex plot line across the books makes discussing particulars difficult, but let’s just say it does not disappoint.  The traitor in her House, the person responsible for bringing down the former head of the House of Swords – is  revealed as is the reason why.  B- (3.8*)

Forever Wilde brings Father Jerome and the rescued children front and center.  It also calls into question the involvement of the 2 Houses still hidden, Pentacles and Cups.  The focus in of a series of experiments done on Connected children by Gammon and her partner.  Sara is determined to hunt down and destroy the Tehnoceutical experimental site using children as test animals.  A new strain of technoceuticals has hit the streets adding a ‘boost’ to a connected powers – and Dixie is among the addicted.  When Sara pushed Llyr back behind the veil, everyone in Vegas had a huge surge in their connected powers.  Some want to keep that so badly they are resorting to the drugs – and Pentacles is helping them.

Nicely woven plot with the usual slam-bang ending, where friend and foe become hard to tell apart.  B (4*)

Wilde Child is the most recent release.  A lot of Sara’s past and true parentage comes out here.  Sara finally uses her power as Head of the House of Swords to go after the technoceutical syndicate harming children.  It has more action than most and less of the Arcane Council, which given Sara’s ambivalent feelings toward the Magician give her emotional break – right up till she catches Gammon and her boss.  YIKES!  Talk about wanting to unknow something.  This gets a solid B (4*) and the series as a whole is a recommended read!

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

Image result for hard tide johnny asa

A new series by a new author that’s all action, no character, little atmosphere, and frankly, a dumb plot.  I bought Hard Tide because I like action thrillers and I like books set in Florida (a leftover from getting hooked on Travis McGee).  An ex-spec ops guy can’t reach dad and gets a message for help.  He drives across the country to find his dad’s house empty and his beloved boat trashed.  The pacing is breakneck so it hides all the plot holes and minimal character development.  As for conveying a sense of atmosphere, something the Keys have a lot of, it’s a loss.  The ending brought in people from nowhere who help save the day.  The prose is readable but bland.

D+ to C- (2.5*) and for mindless action thriller readers only.

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

Image result for Deep Six (Jake Long mystery) by L. P. Lyle

D.P. Lyle first mystery, Deep Six, in the Jake Long series was another low-cost ebook I picked up just to try, and unlike Hard Tide, proved a worthy read.  It is the author’s first ever novel and was a very good read.  Jake is a bar restaurant owner in Gulf Shores, AL on the Gulf.  His dad, a retired cop, and very successful PI.  Despite Dad’s urging, Jake refuses to get involved in the PI business but does do occasional jobs for his dad, and that drags him into trouble in a ritzy gated community.

Enter a Hollywood screenwriter using her uncle’s mansion as a getaway and Jake as a willing boy toy, throw in a murder of a jogger for no good reason, international criminals, and suddenly a cheating spouse is small potatoes.

Entertaining, fast paced, good characters, well plotted and worth a read.  B (4*)

 

 

October 10, 2013

Laugh of the Day – from AMAZON!

Filed under: Uncategorized — toursbooks @ 7:20 pm

Now we all know Amazon is very good about notifying customers with pre-publication orders about changes in publication dates.  But this one cracked me up.

Hello,

We’re writing about the order you placed on October 14, 2012 (Order# xyz). The item(s) you ordered is not yet released. We will notify you of a specific delivery date when one is available.

Kalayna Price “Grave Visions: An Alex Craft Novel”
Release date: December 13, 1901

The REALLY big new?  JEFF BEZOS HAS A TIME MACHINE!  The bad news, I didn’t exist in 1901 and neither did the house I live in.  Delivery might be a real problem.

February 7, 2013

Where is Amazon’s 4-for-3?

Filed under: Editorial,General,Uncategorized — toursbooks @ 8:27 pm
Tags: ,

Well, I suppose it was inevitable, but Amazon’s 4-for-3 promotion on books selling for a list price of $9.99 and under has disappeared.  And I do mean completely.  I couldn’t even find their Bargain Books listing!  It’s where I went for many of my trade paperbacks that didn’t qualify for the 4-for-3.  That heading is buried in Books , and once found, try clicking on many books are there are NO BARGAINS!  The is list price and no promotions or discounts.  I tried several genres, to be released and older titles, all to no avail.  When I placed an order yesterday, it went from 4 books to 2.  It will certainly cut WAY back on my willingness to try new authors or continue reading any series that’s less than a big favorite.

I did send an email to Amazon on the subject.  I’ll let you know what I hear back.

By the way, trying to find Amazon’s communities is nearly impossible these days, unless it’s for specific book genres.  I guess it’s time to reconsider Amazon as the primary bookseller.  I’ll be paying sales tax, I’ve lost 4-for-3, and new releases arrive FedEx Smartpost, rather than at door UPS delivery, which means I have to walk out to my mailbox and carry back big stacks of boxes – always fun in rain and snow.  All the reasons they were my preferred seller are rapidly going away.  Now, except for the Kindle books done in Create Space, they’re just another option.

UPDATE FEB. 8, 2013

From Amazon in response to my question about discontinuing the 4-for-3 promotion

Hello,

I understand you’d want to know what happened to the 4 for 3 promotion.

To make things right for you, I’d like to inform you that the 4-for-3 Books promotion is no longer available on the website, however, I’ll be sure to pass your message on to the appropriate people in our company.

If you’d like to know more about other promotional offers on our website, please visit our Help pages: 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=565778

You may also be interested in our Bargain Books page where you can find newly discounted books and other bargains:

http://www.amazon.com/Bargain-Books/b/?node=45

We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Thank you for your inquiry. Did I solve your problem?

I responded to both to Customer Service and in an email to Jeff Bezos – or whatever flunky responds to his account.  Here is my reply to him:

Dear Mr Bezos,
Below is a copy if a response sent to your automated customer service system, which I seriously doubt will make it out of the morass of various complaints to anyone’s attention, but it of sufficient importance I wanted to make sure someone with some authority understood the consequences of Amazon’s most recent business decisions and their cumulative affect on how customers (at least THIS customer) perceives their future with Amazon.
 
“I rec’d a message that confirmed Amazon has discontinues the 4-for-3 promotion entirely.  I just wanted to let you know this will seriously impact my buying habits with Amazon.  With the change to FedEx Smartpost, the addition of sales tax, and now the dropping for the 4-for-3 promotion, you have systematically eliminated the reasons that Amazon was my bookseller of choice.  If I want to pay full price and sales tax, then I can buy anywhere.  Buying from you becomes an annoyance because now I have to go my mailbox and cart everything back to the house, where if I buy in a store, I park in an attached garage and just walk in.  Plus, I don’t have piles of corrugate boxes to knock down and recycle.
Amazon prides itself on being ‘the most customer centric company on Earth’, yet has systematically eliminated its most customer friendly policies over the last 9 months.  This is, of course, your choice to make.  Mine is to shop where I get the most for my money and/or the most convenience.  To Amazon, this will directly impact sales.  I doubt you’ll see 60% of what I spent previously.  It will also impact new authors as I will be less willing to try them without a discount.
For a much smaller amount than your prime membership, I can get an across the board discount of 10% at Barnes and Nobel, so they AUTOMATICALLY BECOME CHEAPER THAN AMAZON.  Even calculating in the cost of gas, I can drive to the store and buy everything I want in one go and say “Adios Amazon”.
The cumulative effect of these changes is such that I am seriously reconsidering my Prime membership.  I will likely keep it this year, just in case, but I can see where I am now likely to return to buying in store at Barnes and Nobel.  So much for ‘customer centric’ policies.  You do reap what you sow.  In your case. a large drop in sales.  Enjoy!”

Independent booksellers rejoice!  Looks like you can now go toe to toe with Amazon on pricing.  Walmart shoppers will dance in the aisles as they get their 20% discount.  Not the biggest selection, but it’s beating Amazon by a mile.  So Goliath is stumbling and other sellers will find themselves in a far more level playing field.

December 12, 2012

Lessons in Annoying Customers Amazon Style – The Follow-Up

Filed under: Editorial,opinion,Uncategorized — toursbooks @ 6:08 pm
Tags:

Well miracles do happen.  I actually got a email response from  a living, breathing person at Amazon.  Now, do I really think Jeff Bezos read my email?  No more than I believe that my US Senators read the emails I send them – and given the often bizarre non-responses I get from them, their staff doesn’t read them either.  Actually reaching anyone in a position of true authority in any company is difficult, in government it’s worse.  It doesn’t help that I view politicians (expert professional liars) on both sides (and their staff) as scum-sucking bottom feeders.  I usually hold a very slightly higher opinion of business executives (excluding bankers and financial service firms who rank right up there with minor demons from Hell and the professional liars), but realize that the lives of those in charge are more important than my issues.

One customer more or less really has no impact on a company.  Screwing up on Twitter and getting cyber-verse after your tail is a much taller order.  Still, at least attempting to reach a person in power sometimes pays off.  (Remind me to tell you about the time I asked American Express’s CEO if the company was run by the Marx Brothers or the Three Stooges – but that’s a whole other story that happened long before email – or Twitter.)  Anyway, much to my amazement, here is a pertinent response from Amazon.

Hi xxxxxx,

I’m xxxxxxxx of Amazon.com’s Executive Customer Relations team. Jeff Bezos received your e-mail and asked me to respond on his behalf.

First, I want to thank you for bringing this experience to our attention – as you know, we strive to be Earth’s Most Customer Centric Company and it’s truly disappointing to hear that wasn’t what you encountered when you contacted us.  I want to assure you I’ve personally reached out to the appropriate managers to ensure additional training is provided so this doesn’t happen for other customers in the future. 

Regarding your original question about the missing bar on detail pages of items you’ve already purchased, our technical team’s been notified of this issue and is working to resolve this as quickly as possible.  This is a feature that’s valuable to many of our customers for much the same reason you use it and there are no plans to disable it at this time.

xxxxxxxx I’m only sorry it took so much of your time to get the correct answer to your question.  Please know we appreciate your time in writing to us, and I hope you have great rest of your week and a happy holiday season.  Please feel free to write back to me directly by replying to this e-mail if you have any further questions.

Regards,

xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Executive Customer Relations
Amazon.com

So there you go.  The answer I SHOULD have gotten when I first contacted Amazon Customer Service.  Was that so hard?  Did I really need to spend so many frustrating hours trying to get and answer – then killing orders to get their attention?  No.  No way should any customer service issue become such a problem.

If I had taken this to the Twitter-verse, Amazon might have paid attention faster.  Maybe that’s all companies understand these days, getting massive tweets about something.  And isn’t that a shame.  Maybe it’s as much to do with how we communicate and how companies respond to the pressure of social media as it is about doing the right thing.  Certainly social media is an immediate and powerful weapon, but one that is also often abused.  Still, it seems the big club really is far more effective than a single voice.  I will have to think about using it the future, however much I distrust it and the emotional tidal waves it causes.  Social media is an amazing tool for good and ill, but this blog is about as social as my media gets.

At least this story has an ending, but Amazon will not be seeing print book orders from until that status bar is back or they have something I’m dying to read.  I have so few Kindle books, I can easily check that inventory, but that’s pretty limited range of books since I still prefer print.

So there is the lesson for today.  You will eventually get an answer, of sorts, but at least a pertinent one, if you try hard enough.  Or you can stir up social media and see if that wakes them up.  Social media would likely be faster and far more effective.  LOL  But one fact remains, Amazon blew through a lot of customer goodwill and loyalty by how they handled this.  It’s not something I’ll forget quickly.

February 14, 2012

Tour’s Books – Best and Worst of 2011 – Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — toursbooks @ 3:24 pm

There are two trends in publishing that get my vote as the worst ideas since Gutenberg, and publishers have had a LOT of bad ideas in 500+ years since the invention of moveable type.  The first is electronic proofreading.  It’s been with us for awhile and is a popular tool with small press houses that can’t afford the expense of professional proofreaders.  OK, ALMOST forgivable, but major publishers allowing huge gaffs to hit print?  Nope, sorry, that’s just unforgivable, especially when it’s so pervasive that even hard cover best sellers are infected with the obvious problem.

Now understand, I’m not quibbling over perfect grammar – lord knows none of us even bothers much with that anymore.  The best writers have forgotten how to properly use commas, and I’m not getting into the ‘me’ ‘I’ debate.  No, I’m talking about using words, even phrases, that are so egregiously wrong they cause the reader to stop, go back, re-read, and try and figure out what word should have been there.  Not only are the publishers insulting their customers with such sloppy product, it spoils the book, ruining the writers ability to capture and hold their audience.  It’s like watching a play where the actors keep misspeaking their dialogue and the audience must try to mentally correct it to continue to follow the story.  The thing is, when you do that, you fracture the illusion the book casts, taking the reader out of the story and forcing them to play a game of ‘fix this sentence’.  I’m sorry, but that is unforgivable.

So, with that in mind, my 2011 Award for Worst Production Trend in Publishing – goes to all the major and small print houses that have embraced electronic/bad proofreading as a cost cutting trend.  Shame on all of you, but especially the hard cover publishers!

The second worst trend has been slowly going on for a long time, usually at the end of a writer’s long career when he has books partly written and just no longer has the health or strength to finish them.  The ‘franchise’ is too valuable lose, so a back-up writer steps in.  It used to be these were ghost writers, now it’s moderately well known writers who fill a gap, leaving their less popular series to write with – or for – a ‘name’.   Now the second worst trend in publishing has become – co-authors.  This is where famous authors lend their names, in REALLY BIG TYPEFACE to a book that really written by someone else a lot less famous.  Maybe they offered a concept, an outline embryo, but they get the credit while the second author does the work.  This means sales on the strength on the author’s name, but keeps him/her from the onerous task of actually writing the damn book!

2011 Worst Trend in Publishing for Authors – Co-writers

 And the 2011 author who most embodies the trend of selling his name to series is (drum roll please)  – James Patterson! 

 2011 Worst Trend in Publishing for Authors – Too Many Books by One Author

Wow, this was a tough one.  There’s just so many to choose from.  Gone are the days when authors had a year or more to write the next book.  Now they publish 2, 3 sometimes 4 books a year AND contribute novellas to various anthologies.   Quantity replacing quality.   Creative writing is tough work for poor pay – except for the privileged few famous authors.  I can understand ‘cashing in on popularity’, but I have trouble when the quality of work nosedives when the price stays the same, or worse, goes up.  Rabid fans will never find fault, but over time, sales erode.  Even the series that made an author famous dumbs down as creative bits and pieces get shared over too many publications.  Storylines get padded as plots thin out.  What should have been half a book, or novella, goes to 300+ pages.   It is pervasive across genres, but most noticeable in paranormal, romance, and cozy mysteries.

The number of contenders for this one was really high – surprising even me.  Still, I finally got it down to 3 authors

James Patterson – Several mystery series and young adult paranormal books, plus mystery anthologies – He does use co-authors, which helps, but still, it’s getting sold on the James Patterson Brand Name.  ENOUGH ALREADY!

Lora Leigh – romance and romantica  The Breeds series, the Bound Hearts  series, the Nauti series (to name a few) and at least 3-4 anthologies a year where her contribution is a long novella to a short novel.  Slow down and write tighter, better plotted books where you don’t rely on sex and filler to sell.  I know you have the talent, use, don’t abuse it.

Charlaine Harris – Spread out over Sookie Stackhouse, Aurora Teagarden, and Harper Connelly, plus 3 or more anthologies a year, even a young writer would have trouble keeping up, and Ms Harris is hitting her 60’s.  All her books have common ground in mysteries, but the Sookie Stackhouse ran out of steam awhile back.

Now, a word of defense for authors writing a series that has lasted long past its prime ………  The continuation of a series is partly the fault of fans unwilling to let an author end a character.  Agatha Christie came to hate Hercule Poirot, but her fans and her publisher demanded she keep writing the stories.  Arthur Conan Doyle went so far as to kill off  Sherlock Holmes only to be forced to resurrect him.  So authors do get sick to death of their characters.   Some branch out and write different characters, other move to whole different genres, but for others, it’s a cash cow they are happy to milk to death.

The 2011 Stick a Fork in It, It’s Toast Award goes to ………….. Janet Evonovich’ s Stephanie Plum!!!!!!  Ding, ding, ding!  Yes folks, the once highly original, fun and funny series has been in a death spiral since book 8 and the speed has picked up since Book 11.  Someone, please end the agonizing death throes of these painful shadows of what once was and have mercy on the readers.  PULL THE PLUG!!!!!!

First runner-up: Regency Romance – I know.  It’s just wrong in indite an entire genre, but jeeze, these books are nearly interchangeable.  A small number of authors manage well above average books, but 95% are junk.

Second runner-up (tie)Randy  Wayne White’s Doc Ford series.  Heresy, I know, but poor Doc Ford has become what he hated in his early, more thoughtful books.  Now it’s all shallow action adventure spy crap.  REALLY?????  ISN’T THERE ENOUGH OF THAT OUT THERE?????  I will say this, Randy Wayne White still has a way with words and can make things come alive with a style and gift for writing rare in this genre, but he’s taken the  Doc Ford his readers loved and made him just another two-dimensional action figure. (By the way, I like the Doc Ford’s restaurant on Sanibel Island that Randy Wayne White is part owner of.  Fans should stop in there for Buffalo shrimp, fish tacos, and ice cream brownie sundae.)

Foodie Cozy Mysteries – Can I be punny and say I’m fed up with foodie cozies?  I know, I know, here I am indicting a whole genre again, but come on people, this is just getting silly.  Actually, I’m pretty fed up with all the stupid crafty cozies too, but I avoid them enough that they don’t get on my nerves.  If I want a cookbook, I’ll buy a damn cookbook, I want a MYSTERY!  We have several chocolate based mysteries, donut/bakery shops, pizza places, catering (Diane Mott Davidson pretty much started it all), tea shops, coffee shops, cheese shops, orchards …………. what’s next?  ENOUGH!  Dear heavens, find something new, please!!!!!!!

That said, The Best Paranormal Mystery/UF in a Series 2011 – Tie

A Taste of the Nightlife by Sarah Zettle.  Yes, it cashes in on the whole ‘vampire’ thing, but it does it with style and it’s not just vamps running around, she has magic users as well, including a handsome wizard. Yes, it is ‘food’ related, but it’s far more paranormal that food.

Vamparazzi by Laura Resnick – OK, like many urban fantasy books, this one straddles the line and reads more like a mystery than the usual UF.  Like her Dopplegangsters, Vamparazzi is a lively blend humor, action, and amateur sleuthing.  As a series, it’s been uneven, but this was an entertaining read.

The Biggest Surprise of 2011 – self publishing.  Yes, a number of well established authors have literally taken to indie publishing, most notably Barry Eisler with his John Rain comeback novel, The Detachment.  But a number of new authors have used this route, combined with Amazon Kindle self-publishing, to get their books out there.  And you know what?  They’re better than a lot of what’s coming out of ‘name’ publishers.  This category has 3 winners for me………..

Existing authorsBarry Eisler for The Detachment

New Authors (paranormal) – H.P. Mallory for the Jolie Wilkins series (picked up by Bantam)

New Authors (mystery) – David Bishop for Who Murdered Garson Talmadge

Best New Paranormal Author 2011Darynda Jones for First Grave on the Right and Second Grave on the Left – smart, sassy, original and just plain entertaining with a very sharp edge, this was a winner from the opening paragraph.   With Bk 1 and 2 released the same year, it was an amazing series kickoff.  Let’s hope this one can stay fresh and not outlive its lively core romantic attachment.

Runner-up: Kaylana Price for Grave Dance, Bk 2 in the Alex Craft series.  This is darker and grimmer than the typical urban fantasy penned by popular authors writing mostly for women, but its rich layers, complex world building, and interesting characters make for compelling reading.

Best Non-Fiction Book of 2011The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  Technically, this book was published in hard cover in 2010, but I bought the trade paperback published in 2011.  An amazingly readable and fascinating look at how scientific research touches so many, yet leaves the families forgotten.  It’s makes the reader really think about the impact of scientific advances and it touches the lives of the patients and family.  Well balanced and very readable for the non-science inclined, while being thought provoking without passing judgement.

So, those are my opinions on what I saw in 2011.  Lot’s of indifferent books, too may really.  The agnsty heroes – vamps and human alike, need to shuffle off stage, cozy authors need a kick in their collective ‘me too’ rears, as do many paranormal authors.  Reliable mystery writers like Craig Johnson, C. J. Box, Steve Hamilton, William Kent Krueger, David Housewright and others deserve medals for keeping up their standards when faced with the dumbing down of mysteries and writing in general.  My thanks to many new authors who have come my way to entertain me with their hard work.  And a great big Bronx cheer to the authors and publishers who churn out junk to cash in on their names and popularity.

Whatever you read, even if it’s The Pregnant Zillionaire Vampire Werehobbit’s Virgin Mistress Secretary’s Baby from Silhouette, keep on reading.  Try and spread your wings a bit try nibbling a tough old sheriff, or wise-cracking detective, or maybe be a spy in Tudor England.  Good books take us many places, they’re ultimate magic carpet ride.  Go and enjoy the thrill of discovery.

August 21, 2011

Three Short Reviews: Recent Releases – Thriller, Paranormal UF, Paranormal Cozy

It seems good thrillers are few and far between, so when a decent read does come along, it scores really well with the genre fans.   I’m probably as guilty of that as anyone, but I did enjoy this book.

  • Title:  Buried Secrets
  • Author:  Joseph Finder
  • Type:  Suspense thriller
  • Genre:  Nick Heller Book 2 – finding a kidnapped teen for billionaire family friend
  • Sub-genre:  Fae, vamps, shifter and their coming out of the closet
  • My Grade:  B+ to A- (4.0*)
  • Rating:  PG-13 to NC-17 due to intensity
  • Length and price:  Novel – about 100,000+ $14-$17
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  bought from an online bookstore

Joseph Finder has a keeper with character Nick Heller.  Buried Secrets has the kind of action, tension, and surprising twists that a really good thriller needs.  It was a tough book to put down.  The pacing was steady and fast as the plot unfolds, with twist after twist.

Nick Heller has reason to be grateful to Marshall Markus, an old family fried who was one of the few who helped his mother when Nick’s father went to jail for financial crimes and their country club life disappeared.  When Markus calls, Nick immediately responds.  Alexa, the teenage daughter of the billionaire, has been kidnapped and buried alive.  (Heller really makes it realistically creepy and plays to one near universal fear of being buried alive, with a sadistic sociopath and a tough, badly frightened teen.)  Alexa had been kidnapped before, but this is different, this is beyond a simple kidnapping for ransom.  Markus is adamant in refusing FBI help – and it becomes obvious why, the FBI want his on securities fraud and the SAIC of the investigation will do ANYTHING to make his case, including risking a teenage girl’s life.

Nick quickly learns one thing, everyone is lying, including his client, and Boston’s movers and shakers will do anything to keep their own secrets buried.  From the drug dealing son of a South American diplomat, to Alexa’s step-mother, to her supposed ‘best friend’ – daughter of a lying US senators, to Russian mobsters, no one is willing to tell the truth.  But everyone threatens him.

In classic lone wolf with friends style, Nick Heller calls in favors and technical help, as hunts for the hiding place of Alexa’s grave.  Exciting, slightly improbable, but overall, a great suspense thriller read.  The one part that failed, was Alexa’s reaction after everything was over.  It was a real weak spot for me.  The other issue was a lack of character development with Nick Heller, but Nick was not the focus of the story, so it’s a minor complaint, and boilerplate secondary characters who were kind of predictable and trite.  I just wish Nick was more fleshed out and the other characters a bit fresher.

Is Buried Secrets worth $14-$18 at a discount?  I thought so, but books like these are not reread material, so hardcovers are not good investments.  You might want to borrow it from you library, or wait and buy the paperback.  Highly recommended for all suspense thriller fans.

********************************************************************** (more…)

May 14, 2011

Accidents happen

Filed under: Uncategorized — toursbooks @ 9:46 pm

Fell and broke my wrist yesterday. It’s really hard to type one handed, so I likely won’t be posting for a weeks at least. Quality time in the emergency room aside, it could have been worse, but I have to wait to see if I’ll need surgery on it. Apparently common with this type of fracture.

Please bear with me. I’ll be back as soon as I can!

January 15, 2011

Samhain Revised Site is Up

Filed under: Uncategorized — toursbooks @ 8:47 pm

Last year Samhain decided to stop carrying books by other publishers in their online store.  This announcement was made shortly after the online site was down for weeks for a revamp.  Well, they’re down again for another revamp.  This time, it isn’t just the My Bookstore and More that’s down, it’s the main Samhain site as well.

The launch of the news site is scheduled for Jan 16th – and it’s up and running.  Samhain

The store page is a bit messy,  code showing in spots, but I’m sure they’ll clean it up soon.

December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas – Happy Holidays

Filed under: Uncategorized — toursbooks @ 3:46 pm

 

 

 

Merry Christmas!

 

…….. or whatever holiday you might celebrate.   Eat, drink, and don’t drink and drive.  May you not receive any scary ‘It was just so cute!’ sweaters, may the turkey be moist,  may you enjoy your time with friends and family, and may the family fights be something you can laugh about in the future.  Be happy and be safe!

Tourmaline Groundhog

October 6, 2010

One of Life’s Surprises – A Mystery Review That Earned an ‘A’

Filed under: Uncategorized — toursbooks @ 11:59 am

Every once in awhile you stumble across a book that is so totally unexpected you wonder just how the author pulled it off.  Well, The Merry Misogynist is one of those books.  A less likely candidate for  hidden gem would be hard to find.  I rarely give a book and A or A-, but this one was just that good.  Colin Cotterill takes late 1970’s Laos, its poverty, inflexible communist mind set, and subsistence existence, humanizes it with witty characters that have, through decades of struggle, somehow, kept their sense of humor, found love late in life, and managed contentment and happiness.   Alien and yet familiar, the characters project such presence they feel alive.  Even more, they are characters you’d love to meet and have a drink with, people you’d be happy to know.

I joined a swap in the Games section of Paperback Swap for foreign mysteries – books written by foreign authors and set in foreign countries with foreign detectives – excluding England.  The most popular author right now would be Steig Larsson, but Jo Nesbo and Henning Mankell are long time, popular, and moderately prolific authors.  But I wanted something a bit more off-beat, so I wandered to a favorite research spot of mysteries, Stop,  You’re Killing Me! This website is an excellent site, if sometimes incomplete and lacking in cross-references, for looking up books a number of ways.  One of the really good features is the ability to hunt up books by location.  I wanted something different for this swap, not set in Europe, so this website became my hunting ground.  Even better, they have hyperlinks to Amazon, so it’s easy to just click through and check on availability and price.  It causes mini-shopping sprees like the one I had for foreign mysteries.  SIGH!  I simply must stop buying books.  I have far too many.  But that’s completely beside the point.  One of the books I bought was The Merry Misogynist.

I admit, I was very hesitant to give Colin Cotterill a try.  Many mysteries set in Southeast Asia are not especially enjoyable for me, either due to the writer’s style, or the story lacking the kind of spark that will engage my interest.  I mean really, a 74 year old medical examiner protagonist in Laos in the late ’70’s is not exactly the kind of trope that spells panting interest to spend my money.  How wrong could I be?  The reviews by readers were so uniformly good, I just had to give one of his book a try and I chose one with an irresistible title, The Merry Misogynist.   It is the discovery of books like this that restores my faith in publishers – and keeps me busy hunting for the next hidden gem.

  • Title: The Merry Misogynist
  • Author:  Colin Cotterill
  • Type:  Classic style mystery
  • Genre: Dr Siri Investigates series; 1970’s setting for Laotian medical examiner and police investigator – modified buddy
  • Sub-genre:  Elderly medical examiner with abiding curiosity hunts a serial killer who then hunts him
  • My Grade: A- (4.8*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel about 90,000+ words for $14.00 with discounts of around 30% available
  • Where Available:  book available at many larger or specialized book stores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased book from online bookseller (more…)
Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.