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.

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 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!

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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.

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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*)

 

 

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December 23, 2014

In Retrospect

Filed under: Editorial,Favorite book,General,Musing on life — toursbooks @ 5:59 pm
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Looking back on this year in books – and life in general – I have to say things were neither as good as I hoped, or as bad as I feared.  I lost two friends – granted, they were people I came to know and like well over the internet, but I still felt their deaths keenly.  But I’m getting to that age where losing people you know is more common, and in many ways, more expected.  But over all, 2014 wasn’t a bad year.

The same can be said for 2014 for books.  There were a few truly awful books, some serious disappointments, a whole bunch of BLAH, a few really good ones, but nothing that reached the level of ‘OMG YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK!’  In a way, I’m spoiled.  I read enough that those rare, truly original and exciting books come along too infrequently these days.  The ‘me-too-ism’ of the movie and TV worlds has always been around books.  Now it’s epidemic.  The worst are the ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ clones.  While some are far better written, they are still trading on the mad rush of ‘mommie porn’ fans for more of the BDSM genre.

Laine Moriarty was kind of a respite from that, but her ‘chick lit’ books have an alarming sameness to them and after 2, The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies, I was done.  Alyssa Maxwell had promise with her Gilded Newport historical ‘high society’ mystery, but ultimately missed the mark.  A success was Mary Miley’s Roaring 20’s mysteries, with her second book being better than the first, a rare occurrence.  I know Gone Girl was the hot book in swaps early this year, but honestly, I could not get into it all and gave up.  It was just a tedious story about people I didn’t really like.

Yes, there was a ‘worst book of 2014’ – and despite some stiff competition, Charlaine Harris’s After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse.  The title was longer than some of the ‘chapters’.  It was an all around money grubbing disgrace of absolute twaddle that would shame any respectable author, but not Ms Harris – who appears to love money more than her fans.  Certainly she doesn’t have any respect for them, but has hubris and arrogance aplenty.  A crap book at an inflated price by an author who obviously disdains her fans.  That’s a trifecta that’s hard to beat.

Some series fizzled, others got killed by publishers, one cozy series was resurrected when another publisher picked it up after a 3 year hiatus.  Welcome back to the Passport to Peril books.  Others moved to self publishing.

Readers were inundated by memoirs from former politicians, ex-spec op military, and various ‘celebrities’ (pardon me while I gag.).  The Monuments Men, which had all kinds of potential for a great read, was an over long, deadly dull book and I gave up on after 100 pages.  Despite the all-star cast, and ‘artistic license’ taken with history, the movie was lackluster too.  An oldie but goody, The Path between the Seas:  Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 by David McCullough and the newer Lost in Shangri-la The True Story of a Plane Crash into a Hidden World by Michael Zukoff both got thumbs up from my brother, a harsh judge of such things.  1776, also by McCullough, is a favorite of his.  I enjoyed My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places by Mary Roach, a collection of short articles written for various publications on a wide range of topics over the years.  It had all her usual irreverent, but gentle, humor when looking at the human condition – her own included.  For my brother, he felt none of the books I sent about economics and such measured up to his gold standard, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression by Amity Shales.

He and I both enjoyed a number of mysteries and action thrillers and he was especially happy to have Will Thomas once again turn his hand to the Barker and Llewelyn mysteries set in Gaslight London in Fatal Enquiry.  He also loves the Crispin Guest Medieval mysteries by Jeri Westerson, with Cup of Blood published this year.  My sister-in-law began them too and much to her surprise liked them a lot.  (Told her she would, but it took some browbeating on my part to get her to give them a shot.)  Like a few others, this series moved from a traditional publication house to CreatSpace, the self publishing platform.  She also started the Lady Darby mysteries by Anna Lee Huber with A Grave Matter, a book I won in a swap game.  Another swap find that found favor was the Joann Ross series set in 1950’s Scotland by A. D. Scott.  She and I both love the Miss Fortune books by Jana DeLeon and Gator Bait will come up with me for Christmas, but that one I get back.  She also likes the Meg Langslow series by Donna Andrews and I’ll take up Duck the Halls for her as well.  Both are just light reads, and I think the Miss Fortune series is better in some respects.

Neither my brother nor my SIL will go anywhere near anything with vampires, werewolves, dragons or other paranormal/UF/fantasy books get shipped out to PBS members without a stopover at their house.  But Walt Longmire, Joe Pickett, and ‘Mac’ MacKenzie all stop at their house before entering the PBS bookswap world.  Author’s Craig Johnson, C.J. Box, and David Housewright all released really good books this year, Any Other Name, Stone Cold, and The Devil May Care were all quality reads, even though none blew me away.  I also have their 2015 releases on pre-order.  Action thrillers are for my brother, and his favorite this year was Clive Cussler and Justin Scott’s Issac Bell books, all set in the early 1900’s.  He enjoyed The Bootlegger so much, he asked me to order the others in the series through PBS.  My SIL did the same with the A.D. Scott books and also loved Silent Murder by Mary Miley, set in 1920’s Hollywood.

I’m finding cozies are getting on my nerves more often than not and I’m losing any semblance of patience with stupid and illogical lead characters and author’s who skip even the most basic research.  Action thrillers can do the same thing when they get so far afield it’s like watching a cartoon of real life.  Last Year’s The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter was one of the more thought provoking, and Brad Thor seemed to predict the whole mess with the NSA in his book Black List, so action/spy thrillers can be more than just mindless entertainment, like action movies have become.

In the paranormal/UF/fantasy genres, several series ended and waaaaaaay to many installments of books in series have been delayed, some by a year or more.  The Reap the Wind by Karen Chance, was due out last month and is scheduled for release Nov 2015 – a YEAR LATE!  The follow-up to The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, Stiletto, is now out in June (had been Jan), and Pirate’s Alley by Suzanne Johnson is currently scheduled for April release, even though she finished it in 2013.  And traditional publishers wonder why readers start hating them.

On time and on the mark were Darynda Jones with 2 installments of her Charley Davidson series, Jennifer Estep with 2 installments of her Elemental Assassin series, Jim Butcher with another Harry Dresden book, and a whole lot of books by authors that aren’t in that kind of class.

Keri Arthur’s three Spook Squad novels, Memory Zero, Penumbra, and Generation 18 – pretty good reads, were all published by a small press, Imajinn Books and now Dell republished them as mmpb’s this fall at far more reasonable prices.

Possibly the most original and interesting series that came out between Nov 2013 and this year as a complete trilogy is the Paradox series by Rachel Bach, Fortune’s Pawn, Knight’s Honor, and Heaven’s Queen.  A space opera with fantasy additions that is a worthy read.

The usual reliable authors did decent work, but none stunned.  Author’s seem stuck in a rut.  I think that’s why I’ve read more ebook series this year.  The print authors are all kind of running out of steam, especially the cozy mystery genre.  Still, I am ever optimistic and have hundreds of dollars in pre-orders placed for 2015.  Let’s hope it delivers more memorable books that make it to the special spot reserved for the best of breed – on my bedside reading pile.

Let me wish all of you a Merry Christmas – or just Happy Holiday, if you prefer – and hope that you have enjoyed your reads in 2014 and let me know if you find something you think I need to try.  I do like referrals!

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I tried to get a ride up to my brother’s house, but Santa said insurance did not permit passengers.  Damn insurance companies.

March 4, 2013

Urban Fantasy Week

Why is it that many Urban Fantasy (UF) books are released around the same time?  Maybe it’s just the series I read run in bunches.  Anyway, this seemed like my week for UF.  Some good, some WTF moments, and some leaving me wanting more.

Maybe I should take a moment and explain just what good urban fantasy (UF) is – and isn’t.  Look it up in Wikipedia and it will tell you it’s ‘define by place’, namely an urban setting.  To me, it’s a little broader than that, but yeah, setting come into play.  Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series is usually considered a perfect example of UF, yet he uses true fantasy worlds in addition to urban setting through his series.  Usually the territory of science fiction writers, and occasionally cross-over mystery writers, the surge in women readers has lead to a kind of subset to the typically noir UF.  It’s romance writers and lighter fantasy writers that are now pushing the sales in UF.  And that translates into a style that is less Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder and more Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles – and maybe a bit of Janet Evanovich’s Steph Plum thrown in.  Tough women, but female leads and with a more romance, or at least emotional turmoil – and often using the two guy choice plot device – tiresome, but frequent.

So I have 3 UF’s and a paranormal romance for you this week.

Black City

Black City by Christina Henry is the the fifth book in the Black Wings series with lead character Madeline Black, former Agent of Death, escort of the newly departed to the doors that lead to the afterlife.  She is also many time great-granddaughter of Lucifer, widow of Gabriel, mother-to-be, and budding slayer of evil.  She’s high on the hit list of Tatiana, Queen of the Fairies, because she publicly diminished Oberon her king.  She also in the Agency’s hit list, even though they stripped her of her wings, because she’s causing havoc.  And what Maddy is turning into has her guardian gargoyle concerned she’s headed for ‘the darkside’ of her power.

Maddy destroyed Azazel, her father, and thought she destroyed his experiments, vampires that had been given the blood of angels so they could walk in the sun.  But suddenly thousands of vamps storm into Chicago in broad daylight laying waste to the human population in downtown.  The Agency refuses to intercede, they only escort the spirits of the dead, they won’t stop the slaughter even though they have the means.  Maddy does all she can, but it’s not enough.  Then Therion, King of the Vampires offers the humans a deal, he’ll call off the killing if they hand over Maddy Black.

Now Maddy has another enemy to run from, all the damn bounty hunters out to get her.  And all the while dealing with her ever cunning grandfather Lucifer and the capricious Puck.  In getting through yet another attempt by Tatiana to kill her, by capturing J.B. her former boss, a Fairy king and someone who loves her, she also reveals to Tatiana’s son his true father – the same father that Nathaniel has.  And discovers how and why Lucifer has been a ‘naughty, naughty boy.’  And the price he extracts from Maddy for his aid.

For a fairly short book, Christina Henry packs in a lot of story, mostly about how ambiguous good and evil, right and wrong, can be, while continuing to grow Maddy’s powers.  Entertaining to be sure, with a huge cast of characters, but lacking the power, depth, and detail of really great UF.

Black City was purchased from Amazon for $6.00 with the 4-for-3 discount.  My score is B- (3.8*) and recommended for fans of the series.  Since all books in this series are short, try buying them used or borrow them.  A good series, fast, easy reads, and entertaining without the kind of rich complexity that Jim Butcher or other UF authors have.  It is, however, sufficiently original and well dome to worth the time and effort to find and read the whole series.  Books should be read in order as each ends with a ‘cliffhanger’.  Fans of Kitty Norville and Cassie Palmer will enjoy this one.

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Dead Letter Day

Next up is Dead Letter Day by Eileen Rendahl, which unlike the earlier books in the Messenger series, was released in the more reasonably priced MMPB size.  Good thing too, because this was a strange read.  It isn’t often you read a UF book that leaves you wondering if there will be recipes in the back, like many cozies have.

Paul, the boyfriend of Melina’s friend, Meredith, and kind of the cool ‘uncle’ she never had who helped her get used to the whole world of Arcanes for she was a messenger, has gone missing.  Meredith is beside herself with worry and even Mel is concerned.  Concerned enough she approaches the pack Alpha, Chuck, to ask if he knew anything.  Werewolves were not generally a friendly bunch, but she Chuck got along.  Like many Arcanes, he was very long lived, so that meant moving himself and his pack to a new location every 10-20 years.  They were coming due for that move.  Paul was important, but whether he would move or stay with Meredith, remained a question.  Beyond that, Chuck was worried – especially about the strange reports of werewolves in a kind of half shift that real werewolves never had.  They had been seen by ‘Danes, mundanes being the word used for those with no arcane ability.

Mel’s boyfriend, Ted Goodnight, is a cop in the Sacramento police department and being the good guy he is, he helps Mel question the people who reported the sightings.  No question, something very strange was out there and it had bitten a cop who was now in a psych ward obviously half infected.  Mel ends up back with Chuck telling him the not so good news, because the werewolves would to get the guy out before the next full moon, just in case.  In investigating Paul’s cabin with a helpful werewolf, she finds a strange silver web mounted between two sicks set like trap in the word behind his house.  No one knows what the hell it is or who could have made it – though it was obviously meant to hurt or disable a werewolf.

Now all this sounds good, except through it all, is woven a major plot line involving Mel being pregnant and mother/daughter relationships, and the meaning of family – the whole teary eyed thing.  Even the solution is all about mother and children -in a twisted, disturbed way.  Honestly, at times the whole feel of the book was not UF, but paranormal cozy.  And one more family meal and I would have been screaming.  Half way through I was pretty fed up and to be honest, the plot involving the missing Paul and who was involved was obvious.

Dead Letter Day was kind of tedious and dull after a decent start.  The whole storyline felt less like it was evolving characters and plots than it was changing tracks altogether, and not in any good way.  This was never a strong series, but this entry was weak and very predictable.

My grade for Dead Letter Day is C- (2.8*) and not recommended for anyone but die hard fans.  I paid $6.01 in the Amazon 4-for-3 pre-order pricing and I consider it a waste of money.  If you must, try for used copy or borrow it from a friend.  This series might just have a fork stuck in it – it’s toast.

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River Road

From the bad to really good with the second installment of the Sentinels Of New Orleans, River Road, by new author Suzanne Johnson.  Her mature and well developed writing style is no doubt the result of her long background in editing and publishing periodicals.  But what I like the best is her characters.  Book 1, Royal Street, introduced Drusilla Jaco, DJ, a wizard of the Green Congress with some elven blood – and the daughter of a man she always thought her mentor, not her father, Gerry.  With his death in the final battle in the Beyond, DJ became the only wizard Sentinel in New Orleans.  It was a big job made bigger by the fact that Katrina, Rita and Gerry had combined to tear down many of the boundaries between this world and the Beyond.

Book two picks up the story three years later.  New Orleans is recovering, but still has vast areas of nothing but ruins.  And lot of trouble with things that are crossing the Boundary – and one of them is the charming and handsome pirate, Jean Lafitte.  DJ owes him big time, having promised almost anything for help during the Katrina crisis, and now he’s called her.  With some dread, DJ goes to Lafitte’s suite at the Monteleone hotel and learns he needs her Sentimental skills to resolve a problem between mer-clans in Plaquemines Parish.  He is in business with the Delachaise clan who are having trouble with another merclan who just came into the area.  Like the Delachaises, the Villiers have no love of wizards, but someone or something is poisoning the water and before a clan war starts, someone has to figure out what’s going on – and that someone is DJ.  He also wants to cash in on her extravagant promises – Jean Lafitte wants a dinner date with her.  Now all she has to do is tell her co-sentinel, FBI agent and shifter, Alex Warin.

DJ and Alex have kept a professional distance for the last 3 years.  Not only is he co-sentinel, he makes more money and isn’t even a wizard, two facts that chafe DJ no end.  And there’s the little fact that he and Lafitte get on like oil and water – and they can’t even kill each other.  What Ms Johnson delightfully refers to as a ‘homicidal stand-off’.

The visit to Plaquemines includes a stolen Corvette (Lafitte’s work, of course), a tense and difficult meeting with the heads of the two clans over lunch – mers apparently have prodigious appetites for seafood – and an excursion to the area with the contaminated water – where Villiers is waiting with a shotgun and a very dead body.  Now DJ has angry mer clans giving her just days to figure out what’s going on with the water, she also has two dead Green Congress wizards, both killed with knives.  And a date with a pirate.  And one with Alex’s cousin Jake, a Afghan war vet who got caught in the battle in Beyond and turned loupe garou – a notoriously unstable type of werewolf, who’s taking her to dinner and the a performance by a famous Cajun musician.  Oh, and a date with Alex where she has to pretend to have been his girlfriend for the last 3 years – and she has to meet his formidable mother.  Life was easier when she had no social life.

It gets more complicated when DJ performs a ritual that would be frowned on to get the water problem solved.  And it gets even worse when the boss for the North American wizards shows up and rather hesitantly informs her the elves know she has a staff, the one she named ‘Charlie’, made by their elders – and it isn’t some ordinary staff.  But it has ‘chosen’ her and can only be used by her, at least as long as she lives.  Isn’t that just dandy news?

Ms Johnson weaves her tale with a sure hand, and despite a few minor flaws, this story was so readable I could not put it down.  In fact, I went back re-read the book, not something I do often.  Her humor, characters, atmosphere, world building, and plot combine to make a highly recommended read.  Besides, I think I have a crush on Jean Lafitte.

River Road gets a rare A- (4.5*) from me.  As a series, Sentinels of New Orleans gets a strong recommended read for any UF fan, especially those who liked early Sookie Stackhouse and Harry Dresden.  I bought the book through an Amazon re-seller as new for $10.00 for the hardcover.  Trade paperback will be published June 25 and is currently discount priced at $10.19.  My copy is destined for my keeper shelf, next to Jim Butcher’s books.

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

Immortal Ever AFter

Well, from one extreme to another – the next book is Immortal Ever After, #18 in the Argeneau Vampire series by Lynsay Sands.  What can said about this book?  Really good beginning. ………… hummm……… OK that’s about it.  Thereafter, the operative word is ‘trite’, maybe ‘boring’.  Yes people, he suddenly tastes food and likes it a lot!  A rogue is out to get her back.  She thinks vamps aren’t real.  Can he convince her they’re ‘lifemates’?  If it all sounds familiar, it should.  Different villain  same story.

That’s it.  As boring as most Regency romances, and filled with past characters who make brief appearances, mostly for no apparent reason other than the author wanted them there.  A plot as predictable as sunrise and characters that lacked, well, character.

OK, before the Argeneau vampire lovers come and try to stake, allow me to say that I re-read Single White Vampire just before I read  Immortal Ever After.    No comparison.   Yes, there are some highly contrived plot elements in SWV, but it’s the characters that stand out.  Valerie and Anders are just variations on her past 3 books.  Valerie had a lot of potential, but frankly, 10 years in a relationship and never getting a commitment?  Seriously, what sane woman would do that?  Especially an educated and apparently independent woman she is portrayed as?  Anders just is not a strong character.  he rather bland.  That true of far too many of Ms Sands males lead.  Lucern, Lucian, and Victor stood out the most for me.   The Accidental Vampire was fluff but fun and really lively and entertaining.

Valerie is captured and held in a tiny cage in the basement of an old house.  Six other women are there as well.  Once a day food is given them.  After the first week she realizes the food is drugged and dumps it rather than eat it.  Then her day to be ‘chose’ rolls around and plays drugged until she can attack the henchman she nickname Igor.  Despite years of martial arts training, it isn’t til she drives a broken piece of wood into his heart that she can escape.  She calls 911 for help and leaves the line open when she hears the ‘master’ drive into the garage.  Weak from blood loss and lack of food, she climbs out the window and manages to crawl to a bush.  That’s where Anders finds her.

Enforcers monitor police calls and immediately went to house.  They got there after the police, but wiped their memories and sent them away.  In addition to the six women in the basement, one already dead and the other dying later, they found a pile of dead bodies, all female.  They had a rogue, and a bad one.

The one thing missing was ‘Igor’.  Apparently he too was a vampire and saved by his ‘master’.  The rogue had chosen his victims carefully, women with no families or local friends to miss them.  It’s how he stayed hidden for so long.  But he wants Valerie back.  She’s ‘his’.  Apparently, he’s not only a rogue, he’s also an egomaniac and not real bright.  The fact that Valerie gets captured again does speak well for the Argeneau’s or her.  Actually, everyone was acting dumb.  It must have been contagious.

There are several plot disconnects, like a ‘Renaissance portrait’ and the guy was a WWI soldier who was accidentally turned.  And frankly, not a lot of excitement, mostly just dull to ‘meh’.

Immortal Ever After  was weak entry in an uneven series and profoundly missable, so save your money.  Not recommended despite the high rating on Amazon.  My grade is D (1.8*) and let me tell you, I don’t do that often.  If you need an Argeneau fix, go read The Accidental Vampire.  This was another Amazon purchase under now gone 4-for-3 program and about $6.oo.  $5.90 more than it was worth.  Unless you are a die hard fan, and willing to tolerate drivel, skip it.

April 23, 2012

Reading Challenge – Lessons Learned

Filed under: Editorial,Musing on life — toursbooks @ 3:00 pm
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On the long list of foolish things I’ve done so far this year, joining a reading challenge ranked fairly high.  Luckily, the risks were low as it was on PBS and all that was at stake was a few credits.  The 5 week long challenge allowed for print books only and rereads didn’t count.  Neither did books you started, didn’t like, and tossed to one side.  (Page counts were not included)  Naturally, I read several ebooks and did a few rereads.  No, I’m not being contrary, just business as usual.  What shocked me most was the fact that I read 6-7 print books a week fairly consistently.

I was NOT the most prolific reader.  Yes, there people who read more than I do.  I find that comforting.  I was feeling like the world’s biggest book addict for awhile now and I’m reassured that others are actually worse than I am.  It was also run during tax season, which cut reading time for a lot of folks.  What did I read?  Well, let’s take a look.

Week 1

A Perfect Match Shelly Bradley
If You See Her Shiloh Walker
Highway 61* David Housewright
Fire Engine Dead Shiela Connolly
If Looks Could Chill Nina Bhruns
Heat Rises Richard Castle
No such Thing As a Good Bind Date Shelly Fredman

Week 2

Protector Catherine Mann
Bear Meets Girl Shelly Laurenston
Wanted: Undead or Alive Kerrelyn Sparks
Taming an Impossible Rogue Susan Enoch
Afterglow Cherry Adair
Generation 18 Keri Arthur
Penumbra Keri Arthur

Week 3

Bad Boys Do Victoria Dahl
A Devil is Waiting Jack Higgins
The Art of Duke Hunting Sophia Nash
50% Off Murder* Josie Belle
Werewolf in Seattle Vicki Lewis Thompson
The Taking of Libbie, SD* David Housewright

Week 4

Blood on the Bayou Stacey Jay
About That Night Julie James
The Calling Kelley Armstrong
Something About Witches Joey W Hill
Let Them Eat Stake* Sarah Zettel
Betrayal Christina Dodd

Week 5

A Bite Before Christmas Sands and Frost
The Probability of Murder Ada Madison
Devil’s Punch Ann Aguirre
Kill Me if You Can* Patterson and Karp
If You Know Her Shiloh Walker
Taking a Shot Jaci Burton

Most of the books I bought myself, but a number were through PBS.  What did I learn from this exercise?  Well, first, my favorite author can write lemons (Shelly Laurenston), a not al all favorite author can write a good book (Kill Me If You Can) – though in fairness, Marshall Karp’s humor gave it positive edge and the plot was could have held more surprises, and the vast majority of the books I read are average to good.  David Housewright made it all the way up to very good, but not a single book in 5 weeks made it to my Keeper Shelf.  Not one made me sit up and go – WOW!  The best of the lot?  Those are marked with an asterisk.  There were a few that just missed, Stacey Jay’s Blood on the Bayou, Kelly Armstrong’s The Calling, and Richard Castle’s Heat Rises.  I found Heat Rises much better than expected and The Calling disappointingly unsatisfying.  Blood on the Bayou had many of the same problems as Dead on the Delta, namely a choppy writing style and ‘heroine’ that is difficult to like or care about on so many different levels.  So 32 books and not one of them blew me away.  David Housewright’s two MacKenzie books came closest.  His writing style in mature, with lean prose, wry wit, sardonic humor, and lots of twists and turns in his plots.  They are what really good mysteries should be.  James Patterson take note.   Not that he cares given he’s now James Patterson, Cottage Industry Bank and Trust.

A few of the books above were reviewed in previous entries here, the rest probably won’t get reviewed.  Mystery fans, buy David Housewright!!!!!!!  Sarah Zettle’s Vampire Chef mystery is worth watching and reading.  Jenn McKinlay – writing as Josie Belle – is getting formulaic in her mysteries.  Her Cupcakes mysteries are still the best.  Christmas stories that include killing a long lost relative just aren’t my idea of festive fun and make me wonder what the hell the editor and author were thinking.  And Vicki Lewis Thompson needs some new ideas.  By the way, the ebook, Beneath the Skin (de la Vega Cats 3) by Lauren Dane gets a big thumbs up from me as well.  One of my favorite series by her, this entry is new and available as ebook only at the moment (so not listed above).  Try the Samhain web site or Amazon.

So, that my report for the month.  READ ON!

October 25, 2009

Authors After Dark – In Retrospect

Well, it was quite a weekend.  There were a ton of authors and what a great group they were.  Unfortunately, Bianca D’Arc didn’t make it due to a sudden issue with her mother, which I gather was not good.  Then Jacquelyn Frank went dashing down the hall, caught her foot somehow and took a bad header.  She was taken to the hospital and spent the night there.  When I left around noon today she hadn’t made it back, but they were expecting her to be released.  I skipped all of last night thanks to a horrible headache triggered by the smell of the chemical sanitizer used in the hotel bathroom.  I understand I was not alone in developing a nasty headache, so maybe it was something in the ventilation system. (more…)

July 19, 2009

Mental Meanderings

Filed under: Asleep at the wheel,Editorial,opinion — toursbooks @ 1:54 pm
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I regularly cruise blogs and forums on books and recently joined GoodReads.  It’s interesting to see how differently people view a book.  I made a HUGE exception to my ‘No Silhouettes Desire’ and got The Tycoon’s Rebel Bride from PaperBack Swap.  Why?  How could I be suckered in like that?  Simple – Maya Banks.  I can now plainly state that even in the able hands of one of the better writers out there this series is trite, formulaic, and unoriginal – in short, exactly what Silhouette and the Desire line readers wants.  On Good Reads it had anywhere from 5* to DNF.  I gave it 3*, mostly for the quality of the writing, not the plot or the characters.  I’m sure Ms Banks is being well paid for her trilogy, of which this is the middle book – and she should be.  Like many popular authors of full length novels, she has a living to make and these short books are perfect.  The story lines are constrained by the publisher so little innovation is possible, or welcome by readers, so they are far easier to write, yet sell well – if briefly.  Desire is and has been a hugely popular Silhouettes line for exactly that reason, so they’ve found a niche and authors and audience alike get to enjoy it.  Except for some of us who sit and wonder how anyone can read more than one of these a decade.  Naturally, the folks who DO read Silhouettes Desire line wonder how the hell I can slog my way through hundreds of pages of murder and mayhem, so to each their own I guess. (more…)

July 8, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Ready, Willing, And Able – The Mercenaries Series by Lucy Monroe

In an effort to reduce my horrifyingly large TBR pile, I am making a concerted effort to read books that have patiently for me for some time. I read the first book in this series, Ready, last year and for some reason never read the next two. I picked up Ready and realized it was in the wrong pile, and read Willing instead then moved directly to And Able. Game, set, match! That’s 3 more off the pile!

Lucy Monroe writes romantic suspense in much the same style as Jill Shavlis and Linda Howard. In fact, one of her major plot elements in the third book of this series seems to be borrowed from Howard’s Kiss and Tell, though it’s been used in various forms in many action thriller and romantic suspense novels and movies. The Mercenaries Series is part of The Goddard Project that is the over-riding element linking many books, though they read just fine as stand-alones. In this case, Ready, Willing, And Able are sequential, but other than the relationships, no other plot elements evolve over the books, so there’s no difficulty following the storylines. They tell the story of 3 former Army Rangers turned mercenaries that friends as well as comrades in arms: Texan Joshua Wyatt, aka Wolf, Sioux Indian Daniel Black Eagle, aka Nitro, and Brett Adams, aka Hotwire from Georgia. (more…)

June 21, 2009

Erotic Romance and Ménage

Filed under: Editorial,erotic romance — toursbooks @ 5:00 pm
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Racy Romance Reviews had an interesting post about Polyamory, Ménage, Erotic Romance and Culture. I was one of a few erotic romance readers to respond.  I listed some of my favorite erotic romance to illustrate good writing that includes ménage.   Lauren Dane, author of several of the book on my list, chimed in that she tended to write her ménage in settings other than true contemporary to get away from the hurdle that contemporary has for making the story believable.  That kind of got me thinking about the ménage stories I’ve read and how I reacted to them.

Ignoring the fact that I read Thea Divine and Susan Johnson years ago, I only tried erotic romance by accident last year.  I had several cross-country flights for business and needed books.  One of the books I bought, thinking it romantic suspense à la Suzanne Brockman, was Dangerous Games by Lora Leigh.  I’d never heard of her or her books, but the cover looked like my kind of thing, so what the hell.  On the way out I read The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson (a good book for all you espionage/intrigue fans), an impulse buy at the airport bookstore, and finished it just before we hit the ground.  While there I read several mysteries, keeping Dangerous Games for the flight home because it was a long book.  As is my custom I carried extras, but just 1 shorter ‘back-up’ book was left, so Dangerous Games was the designated primary read. (more…)

June 19, 2009

A booklover’s quandry: What do you do with books you hate or just don’t want?

Filed under: Editorial,General — toursbooks @ 4:35 pm
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My whole life I have struggled with a quandary of my own making.  I am a voracious reader but often find I do not like a book or simply have no intention of ever reading it again.  Sometimes, I actively hate a book.  Simple answer, throw it out – put it in the recycling bin.  Well, no.  You see, books are not meant to just be discarded.  Even awful books – books so badly written you wonder how they ever made it to print.  Books whose content leaves you enraged.  Books that are so freaking boring they should come with warning labels.  Books with content utterly unsuitable for any under 21 or with more than 3 operating brain cells.  The pages are too small to wrap trash in them and contrary to The Day After Tomorrow, burning books in a fireplace is no easy thing.  That’s why they have bonfires and use wood!  The pages are too tightly packed together and tend to self extinguish or smolder.  And some books I might not be interested in, but others might, especially non-fiction books. (more…)

May 20, 2009

Blogging Fixations – Amazon, eBooks and the Future of Publishing

Filed under: Editorial,General,opinion — toursbooks @ 1:45 pm
Tags: , , ,

Every blog has its own fixations. Some concern themselves with the lofty analysis of romance in ways only academics care about. Some focus on the nature of the hero and what makes him a hero – flawed, as he is. Some address publication in general and do so with great perceptiveness. I mostly review books with the odd editorial. One thing book blogs seem to have in common is very strong feelings about the impact of the business models of Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, Borders and other major retailers on publishing and book distribution, promotion and the growth of ebooks as a market segment. #Amazonfail and its ripples are still being felt, and the importance of Amazon and Barnes and Nobel rankings to authors and publishers even makes it into novels themselves. (Death and the Chick Lit discussed it as an author talking point at a fictitious conference.) The latest concern combines the two issues as Amazon expands its many tentacled empire building beyond being the most powerful estore seller of books into publishing as well. Dear Author expressed their concerns this past weekend with their AmazonEncore post.

The Booksquare blog just a posted column on ebook costs and consumer perceptions of ‘value’ in formats with regards to the pricing of David Baldacci’s latest release, The First Family, on Kindle, priced well above the $9.99 Amazon had promised for bestsellers – at least temporarily. (See the link to Mike Shatzkin’s blog on the Booksquare link above.) Mike Shatzkin makes some truly excellent points and more importantly, technically correct ones. But there is still a lot of pricing reality that must be dealt with. (more…)

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