Mini-Review: The Blessing Way (Navajo Mysteries #1) by Tony Hillerman

Now that I am obsessed with the Longmire books by Craig Johnson, I decided that I needed another similar series to read so that I don’t binge-finish Longmire with nothing left on my bookshelf. I saw Tony Hillerman’s books at the used bookstore and gave The Blessing Way a try. 
It was written in 1970 but suffers little from age. The writing and story are a little simple but given that it is book one in the series and for the author that’s forgivable. A promising start and I’m looking forward to reading more about Leaphorn, his friends and the Navajos. 

3/5 stars. 

Review – Trapped (The Iron Druid Chronicles #5) by Kevin Hearne

13536649So far The Iron Druid Chronicles have been crazy fun and entertaining.  Trapped is no exception.  Atticus, Oberon and Granuaile have successfully faked their deaths and are working to get Granuaile fully trained as a Druid.

Did I like Trapped?  Yes, for the most part.  Was it special?  Afraid not.

I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t connecting with this installment but it finally hit me towards the end.  It felt like several short stories and novellas cobbled together to create a novel.  It wasn’t as cohesive and fell a little flat in spots.  Here are the high/low-lights:

  • After 12 years of training, Atticus is finally ready to bind Granuaile to the earth and make her a full-blown Druid.  Problem is, we don’t really get to see any of this.  The 12 years are glossed over and all we really know is that she had physical training (apparently she is now a bad ass fighter), learned several languages and knows most of the chants and bindings.  Now all she needs are her tattoos so that she can communicate directly with the elementals and can shape shift.  This was a let down for me.  I wanted to know more about her training and honestly felt several books could have been devoted to the subject.  Maybe then I would have grown to appreciate her more as a character.  Right now she is pretty bland and hasn’t earned a place in my nerdy heart.
  • The fae and misc. gods have realized that Atticus isn’t dead and that he’s close to binding another druid.  Anti-climactic.  Yeah, some of them want to kill him but that’s been the theme from book one.  Nothing new.  The gods pull some mumbo-jumbo to try to trap him during the binding (which takes 3 months) but it felt kind of forced.
  • Bacchus – meh.  Who cares?  It’s too easy for Atticus to outsmart him so the reader just doesn’t feel any tension.
  • Lief – okay I’m going to get a little spoiler-y here for prior books.  We know that Lief was using Atticus and put both him and Oberon in an unforgivably dangerous situation.  Yet, Lief still maintained that he really did create a friendship with Atticus.  He makes a surprise appearance in Trapped and Hearne does a good job of showing the current state of their relationship while leaving many questions unanswered.  It will be interesting to see where this leads.
  • Too much of a forced cliffhanger.  Just my opinion.
  • OBERON!  The star of the show and the primary reason I still loved this book.  Favorite Quote: “You know I’m right.  Dogs are much smarter about this. Bitch comes into heat, the Marvin Gaye song plays, puppies in nine weeks. Leaves more time for playing and napping when you’re not worrying about all the things humans worry about after sex. I swear you spend more time worrying about it than doing it.”
  • Now to be a bit of a Debbie Downer.  There have been several scenes throughout the series when I felt Atticus did things that weren’t very Druid-like.  I don’t expect him to be perfect but his role in life is to protect the earth and not to cause harm to other, innocent living things, right?  When Ratatosk (the squirrel who runs up and down the tree of life) was killed a few books ago due to Atticus’ actions, it really caused me to stop and think.  No, Atticus didn’t kill him but he created the scenario where he knew that would be the outcome.  Ratatosk was innocent and died just to help Atticus out of a jam.  I didn’t like that.  In Trapped, Atticus not only hurts innocents (dryads) while trying to fight the gods, we also find out that one of his past actions led to massive deaths amongst a race.  Again, he didn’t kill the creatures directly but he made a conscious decision that caused their deaths.  Basically he pointed a dangerous person in their direction (yes, to help himself out of a jam) with no real thought of the possible outcome.  If this continues it will become harder and harder to pull for him.  As a reader, I’d like to see him learn from these mistakes and take some real responsibility. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Still good but just not great.  3/5 stars.


Review – Police (Harry Hole #10) by Jo Nesbo

20685377This is going to be a non-review review.  Anything, and I do mean anything, I say about Police will be a spoiler.

So, I’m going to talk about the series as a whole.  These ten books were a whirlwind for me.  I feel like I just discovered The Bat and then, all of a sudden, I’ve read everything out there about Harry Hole.  While the plot lines were top-notch, it is all about Harry.  He is what makes or breaks this series.  For me, he makes it.  Flawed beyond description as an alcoholic with an addictive personality.  Relationship problems both personally and professionally.

Why then, is he one of my favorite characters ever?  Because despite all that I listed above he is smart, loyal and tenacious.  He doesn’t give up on the people around him and has a moral compass that forces him to come back from the brink every time.  Harry is a policeman.  (Read the books and you will understand that simple statement.)  The kind of detective that I would like to believe exists.

One other thing that has made this series exceptional is that Nesbo is brutal with his characters.  Too many times authors have us believe that their main characters are so tough that they can’t really get hurt.  And any major (and for some even secondary) characters are untouchable.  Yeah, Nesbo doesn’t go for that.  Harry is beaten up, shot at, loses a finger and more.  And, none, NONE of the characters are safe.  In real life, people are hurt.  People die.  Nesbo doesn’t shy away from that.  In fact, he embraces the realities of life.

The last line: “Knowing this was how things should end, like this.” I can’t find confirmation if this is the final book or if Nesbo has plans to continue.  Either way, I’m satisfied.  Sort of.  I guess.  I did go back just now and reread a few scenes towards the end.  Nesbo is a master of manipulation and misdirection.  You can believe what he’s written on the surface but I have a sneaking suspicion that, if there is a book 11…Geez, I can’t even tell you that as it would be a spoiler.  Jo Nesbo, you are going to drive me crazy!

Not my favorite of the series (that is reserved for Phantom which broke my heart and probably took years off my life) but a close second.  5/5 stars.

Review – The Cruelest Month (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #3) by Louise Penny

9839068Once again, Inspector Gamache is called to the tiny village of Three Pines when a murder occurs in the old Hadley house.  He is also fighting his own battles within the Surete because of the Arnot case.

The primary mystery and plot line focused on friendship, jealousy, small town living, etc.  Penny did a great job of providing plenty of suspects while keeping it believable.

But, honestly, this became a 5-star read for two of the sub-plots.

A very, very minor portion of the story revolves around Ruth.  She has been written as a tough old bitty who offends everyone around her but she still somehow remains a part of the inner circle of friends.  Here, we are able to see a hidden side of Ruth and it reminds us all that we need to be more forgiving and understanding.  We don’t always know what someone is going through or the memories they deal with.  Most of the time, harsh words may be said to you but the underlying emotion isn’t meant for you.

And, finally.  Finally!  We learn more about the Arnot case (which took place prior to book one) and why it still affects Gamache personally and professionally.  He is a good man who had to make a hard but necessary decision which changed his life forever.  Instead of becoming bitter, he has remained content by accepting his decision and the consequences.   There are those around him that just can’t understand his happiness when their own lives are so unhappy.  Since I don’t want to spoil anything, I will just say Penny found a way to twist the knife unexpectedly.  My heart was racing and my eyes were burning.  It was that good!

5/5 stars.  Highly recommended.

Mini-Review — Two Ravens and One Crow by Kevin Hearne

Another solid Iron Druid Chronicles novella. Atticus, Granuaile, Oberon, Morrigan and Odin. Really, could you ask for more?
In most series, you can skip the short stories and novellas that take place between the main novels. But in this series they usually give the reader important background info and, when it’s this good, you don’t want to miss a thing!
Favorite quote: “But people who truly want to shed blood will find a way to shed it, just as people who wish to do good will find a way to be a benediction to their neighbors.”

Review – The Drafter (The Peri Reed Chronicles #1) by Kim Harrison

23492477I cannot imagine the pressure a successful author feels when they release the first book in a new series.  Kim Harrison has many die-hard fans from her Hollows series and they have been both anxiously awaiting the Peri Reed book and lamenting the loss of Rachel Morgan’s adventures.  When the first reviews started coming in, I was confused.  Goodreads friends rated either 5-stars (It was awesome!) or 1-star (Ugh!)  Where would I fall in the spectrum?  Truth is, somewhere in the middle.

The Drafter is set in an alternate, future world where drafters are able to reset time – basically go back a very short period – and redo an action to change the past.  Anchors are able to see these drafts and remember both timelines.  They are also needed to bring the drafter back mentally by giving them an accurate memory of the new version of events while erasing the old one.  Make sense?

Anyway, Peri is a talented drafter who is employed by a government agency and sent on covert missions.  Think Sidney Bristow (Alias – one of my favorite TV shows) with some paranormal ability.  She and her anchor are also lovers.  Apparently this is encouraged to support their bond.  Peri finds out that she has been lied to and doesn’t know who to trust.  When others can change your memories, how do you know what is real and what has been created to manipulate you?

Harrison did a good job of starting to build the world but she does have some work to do.  I felt there were holes in my memory a few times while reading as things didn’t always add up.  I decided to just go with it and enjoy the story but hopefully she will tighten this up in future installments.

Also, I can see why some readers didn’t like Peri.  For most of the pages, she isn’t likable.  And we are supposed to believe certain things towards the end of the story that haven’t been supported with the facts we’ve been given.  Harrison did some “telling” about character history rather than “showing” them together in action.  I’m able to forgive this in book one.  But, I want to feel the feels to be sold on relationships.

Overall, a good start with great potential.  3.5/5 stars.

Review – Phantom (Harry Hole #9) by Jo Nesbo

13256064Remember the complaints I listed in my review of Book 8?  Well, forget them.  Book 9 is freaking brilliant and justified none of the worries I had a few weeks ago.

I won’t spoil this book for you but might spoil prior installments.  Be forewarned.

Phantom begins with Harry living on the wagon in Hong Kong.  He is now a collections agent (ha!) and is keeping his act together.  When he gets a call from Beate Lonn that Oleg has been arrested for murder, he comes back to Oslo to help clear the boy who once called him Dad.

Where to begin?  Nesbo didn’t use serial killers or grisly, inventive murders.  Instead he focused on the characters.  Specifically, Harry, Rakel and Oleg.  Both Harry and Rakel admit that they are the loves of each others lives.  But they haven’t been able to make it work because of his job and addiction to alcohol.  She pulled back even more after the events of The Snowman and Oleg lost his father figure.  It would be easy to blame all of his problems on this but that would give him a free pass that he doesn’t deserve.  Oleg has had some tough times in his life but his mother has loved him unconditionally and when it mattered, Harry was always there for him even with they weren’t together.  Phantom is, put simply, heartbreaking because we know the boy that Oleg was and glimpse the man he may become – both good and bad.

Secondary characters are familiar.  Gunnar Hagen as the head of the Crime Squad, Beate, Bjorn Holm, Mikael Bellman and even Martine, who we met The Redeemer.  We have finally narrowed down those that are truly Harry’s friends.  Hint: not everyone on the list above is a friend to Harry.

Nesbo slips in and out of the timeline to keep us on our toes.  The murder victim narrates a portion of the flashbacks to allow us to see the entire picture.  And, yes, the author does use misdirection to his advantage and you will never see it coming.  It isn’t manipulative but, as a reader, take nothing for granted!  Pay attention to the details and you will be glued to the pages until the end.

5/5 stars.  So far, there is one more book in the series.  It’s possible that it is the final installment for Harry and I cannot wait to see what Nesbo has in store for us.