Review – The Devil’s Star (Harry Hole #5)

8429276By the 5th installment of a series, you can usually start to determine if the author is going to be able to keep up positive momentum or if they will eventually start running on fumes.  Nesbo shows no signs of slowing down and The Devil’s Star is another solid Harry Hole thriller.

Harry isn’t doing well.  He hasn’t convinced his superiors of the truth about his partner’s murder.  His love life is in the toilet.  He’s completely off the wagon and he is about to be kicked off the force permanently.  When an apparent serial killer starts murdering women, he is called in to assist one last time.

While TDS wasn’t my favorite of the series so far (I’ll tell you why a little later), I still was on the edge of my seat and turning pages like a fanatic.  Harry has so many problems and makes so many bad decisions.  But…he’s the detective you would want investigating your murder.  (Well, if you care about it wherever you end up.)  Smart, tricky and with a moral code that is his own.  He gets the job done.  His interactions with Waaler (his suspect for killing his partner) were riveting.

Harry’s relationship with Rakel has hit a rocky patch, to say the least.  The funny thing is that the reader can see that she is willing to make it work but Harry punishes himself by not even giving her an opportunity most of the time.  And, he loves her and misses Oleg, her son.  We’ve known for a while that Harry is self-destructive and this is just one example.  Nesbo does a great job describing the pain on both sides.

My only complaint with this one is that I sometimes felt that there was too much going on with the main story and it was tough to keep up with a few times.  While the ending was satisfying, it was a little far-fetched.  I do love that there was some closure on one storyline but it still left us with more to learn about who was REALLY involved.

Still, 4.5/5 stars and highly recommended.  Just not the best.

Review – Skin Game (The Dresden Files #15) by Jim Butcher

19486421I’ve decided that I was Ms. Grumpy Pants when I reviewed Cold Days not too long ago.  Was it a 2-star read?  Maybe not.  But what I do know is that Skin Game is fantastic and 5-stars all the way.

Dresden is given another seemingly impossible assignment by Mab.  He has to work with one of the Fallen and there are schemes going on all around him.  The parasite is still in his head, Molly isn’t returning his calls for help, some of his friends are doubting his intentions and the Winter Mantle continues to worry him.  And, those are just today’s problems for Harry.  We don’t even touch on the fact that the White Council has been noticeably absent and that can’t be good news.

Butcher has told some great stories throughout the series.  We can argue about the power that Harry has gained and how it has changed the dynamics.  At the end of the day, I still want to know more about Harry and his friends.  What made this installment work is that some of the elephants in the room were addressed.  Harry goes to see Michael finally.  (I could write pages about the fact that Michael has become my favorite character and how much I would kill to have a friend like him.  But, that’s not what I’m here for.)  I feel like his discussion with Michael kind of ironed out a lot of Harry’s issues that were annoying me.  Michael has a way of getting him to open his eyes to what is real and what is important.

Harry and Karrin have some grown up conversations that actually make sense for this point in their relationship.  Their friendship and chemistry make for a great team.  I want them to be more and they seem to be headed in that direction.  But, if they don’t end up there for real reasons, I can live with it.  Skin Game took us a long way down that path.

One of his friends also brought up the fact that they should be looking for a way out of Harry’s deal with Mab.  FINALLY!  Of course they need to find a way out.  Harry will never be the Winter Knight she wants and it cannot end well unless he find a loophole.

I don’t want to spoil anything for those that haven’t read it so all I will say about Molly is that I still don’t trust her and believe she is dangerous.  (Ok, so if you read the rest of this paragraph there will be some minor spoilers that aren’t super important to the main story.)  She hasn’t even told her parents that she is now the Winter Lady?  It’s been a YEAR!  Charity and Michael deserve better than that.  By lying, she’s putting Harry in an impossible situation where he has to lie to keep her secret (this leads Michael to believe something might be going on with Molly and Harry but he reacted better to that than I expected.)  She is selfish and has been from day one.  Selfish witch = dangerous witch.  She thinks she knows everything and I worry this will be her downfall which will cause Harry to blame himself, of course.

Ok…off that soapbox.  Even though the Molly storyline is stress-inducing, it is necessary.  I do think Butcher is leading us somewhere and not necessarily where I was expecting at the end of Cold Days.  A great author can use a character that readers don’t trust to their best advantage.  I think he’s doing that here.

Skin Game is fun, fast paced, sexy and full of urban fantasy goodness.  I loved it.

Review – The Preacher (Patrik Hedstrom #2) by Camilla Lackberg

12564983I am pretty much obsessed with mysteries and thrillers right now and have been reading a lot of Scandinavian authors.  Late last year, I read book one in this series and enjoyed it.  The Preacher is overall a solid installment and well-written thriller.

Patrik Hedstrom, police detective, is taking a vacation with his very pregnant girlfriend, Erica.  When a murder occurs in his jurisdiction, he is called back in to help find the killer.  A young woman’s corpse is found with two skeletons beneath her.  The search leads Patrik to discover some terrible truths about a local family.

Lackberg does a great job pacing the story to hold the reader’s interest throughout.  She gives us just enough information to keep us guessing.  In general, the characters are also well-developed and believable.  A few twists along the way didn’t hurt either.  Writing a dark thriller takes talent.  Lackberg has talent in spades.

I had a few minor issues where things seemed forced in order to move the story in the right direction.  But, my biggest frustration was with Erica’s characterization.  She was, in many ways, the main player in book one.  We can put aside the fact that she and Patrik just started dating seriously in book one and now are living together and 8-months pregnant.  And, the fact that Patrik sometimes calls her his girlfriend and sometimes his wife.  That could have been lost in translation.  However, in The Preacher, she became a hausfrau.  Vibrant, intelligent Erica became the woman who is staying at home and entertaining uninvited guests.  Seriously, that’s really all that she did and I cannot understand why Lackberg chose to give her such a back-seat and somewhat insulting role here.  I probably will read book three just to see if Lackberg is able to redeem herself through Erica.

If I forgive Erica’s misfortune, it was a good book.  So I’m saying 3.5/5 stars.  But, I am disappointed.

 

Review – Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #1) by Ilona Andrews

19090384The husband and wife writing team of Ilona Andrews are superstars and Clean Sweep is a perfect example of why I feel that way.

Originally written as a serial on their website with the chapters posted so that readers could follow the story for FREE and give them real-time feedback.  I was kind of late to the game and it was close to being published in full so I held off on reading until I could get my hands on the paperback and add it to my waiting list.

First of all, the paperback is beautiful.  The cover, the artwork inside (drawings of many of the characters) and even the freaking font are perfect.

Most IA series are based in magic and this is no exception.  Dina runs a B&B where magical beings are welcome.  When something starts attacking dogs in her neighborhood, she knows she needs to stop it before humans are killed.

Werewolves, vampires, wicked queens and demons.  Oh my.  Did I mention her inn is a living thing and responds to her?  Or that her broom can be transformed into a spear or other weapon when needed?

While there is the start of a potential love triangle (usually the kiss of death), I don’t care.  I loved this book.  So creative and fun.  Just what the doctor ordered.

5/5 stars.  If you are new to Urban Fantasy, this wouldn’t be a bad introduction to the genre.  Give it a shot.  And, spring for the paperback.  It’s worth it.

Review – Death Without Company (Walt Longmire #2) by Craig Johnson

236862Death Without Company is the 2nd book in one of my new favorite series, Walt Longmire.

When a female resident of an assisted living center dies, Walt is called in by a fellow resident and the prior sheriff, Lucian Connally.  He believes she was murdered and has a personal interest in finding out the truth.

Craig Johnson is a natural storyteller.  The plot line is interesting and he uses great pacing throughout the book.  But, it is the characters that keep you turning pages.  Walt is obviously the star and he is a great mix of old Cowboy and modern man.  His respect for Vic is central to their relationship and their dynamic is one of the main draws.  Vic is sharp-tongued but smarter than most around her.  I just love her, potty mouth and all (she really has some zingers in DWC.)  And, you know what, I’d venture to say that Walt loves her too.  I can’t wait to see how this turns out.

Henry Standing Bear – the loyal friend and wing man.  Everyone needs a Henry in their life.  Someone who will call you out when you are wrong but will risk their life for you.

Lucian plays a vital role in this story and we learn more about his past.  He is about as non-PC as one can get and it works because he just doesn’t give a damn but deep down you see who he really is if you take away the bravado.

The secondary characters continue to add depth to the story with the feeling of a small town where everybody knows everybody else.  From the diner waitress to Walt’s daughter, each play important roles along with a few new characters including a deputy who fits right in.

My only minor complaint is something that I noticed in book one but tried to ignore.  When it happened again in DWC, it stuck out like a sore thumb.  Walt is obviously a smart man and a sheriff who pretty much plays by the rules.  But in both stories so far, he’s been far too willing to talk about current cases and what most would consider confidential information in front of women he’s seeing personally.  I can get him sharing ideas with Henry, a long time friend that he can trust.  But, someone who hasn’t earned that trust?  The only reason I can think for Walt to do that is that they are women so he is less worried about it becoming an issue and I don’t really like that explanation.  I’m going to forgive it for now and assume it’s just a character flaw that could be intentional or unintentional (mostly because he shows Vic so much respect and that gives me hope about his attitude towards women.)

While it isn’t perfect, another 5-star installment. Highly recommended.

Review – Discount Armageddon (InCryptid #1) by Seanan McGuire

Untitled-10Let’s just get this out of the way – I am a big Seanan McGuire fangirl.  She writes one of my favorite (if not #1) urban fantasy series in October Daye.  I purchased Discount Armageddon a while ago and was just holding it for a weekend when I needed a pick me up because I knew McGuire would deliver.

Now, let me tell you a little story – A few weeks ago I was talking to my mom about my upcoming vacation.  As I complained about all I had to do and my concerns about leaving pets, my house, work, etc., she basically told me that I was a stick in the mud and needed to relax.  My response?  “Yeah, yeah.  I’ll try.”  She gave me the full Yoda and said, “No try, DO!”  I kept thinking about that conversation and asking myself, “am I that boring and in such a rut that I’m getting a lecture from my mom about it?”

This book proves that the answer is a resounding YES!

Discount Armageddon introduces us to Verity Price, a cryptozoologist whose family has hunted cryptids (i.e. monsters) for generations.  They are in hiding from another group of cz’s,the Covenant, because they didn’t agree on some basic principles.  Verity has aspirations to also be a dancer so she is in New York to try to see if she can make it there (because then she could make it anywhere, right?)  Enter Dominic De Luca, a Covenant operative, who is as handsome as he is stubborn.  They clash but have to work together to save the city.

Can I see what everyone else liked about this book?  Yep.  Did I like it?  Nope.

Verity is just too…everything.  Too perky, too full of herself, too too.  A bad ass fighting, latin dancing, stiletto wearing, topless bar waitress who, by the way, came in 2nd on a TV dancing show (a la “So You Think You Can Dance”).  She and her family have been in hiding for a long time and she’s always had to use a disguise and alter ego when dancing.  Why oh why would she then immediately tell Dominic who she really is?  Because she’s dumb as dirt when it comes down to it.  She might have ninja fighting skills but she needs a brain transplant.

And, yes, maybe I am a stick in the mud because I don’t buy that:

– A woman who wants to be a professional dancer would wear 5 inch heels.  A dancer’s feet and ankles are her life.  Dumb.

– It’s normal for a woman to have sex with a man she barely knows because he brought her a bag of KFC.  (Seriously, you just described gorging yourself on fried chicken and mashed potatoes and the next second you are getting it on?)

– Verity survived to adulthood.

Sorry, guys, this one just didn’t work for me.  2/5 stars.

The Secret Life of a Book Blogger

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I was nominated by the wonderful and beautiful Dr. Babus Ahmed at ajoobacatsblog to participate in The Secret Life of a Book Blogger.  Thank you!

1 How long have you been a blogger?

Since July 2012.  Wow!!  3 years.

2 At what point do you think you will stop? 

I saw a recent update from a Goodreads friend who said that she had stopped writing reviews and even reading for a while because it had been too stressful.  She felt she wasn’t enjoying books because of the constant thoughts about how she would review, whether it was hitting any of her pet peeves or even those of her reader friends.

If I ever started to feel that blogging or reviewing was a chore, I would stop.  Plain and simple.  Reading is my escape and therapy.  It shouldn’t cause stress.

3 What is the best thing?

Finding new books that were loved by fellow readers and connecting with people who have this in common.  Not everyone loves to read and it’s nice to be part of a community that understands that it’s part of my DNA.

4 What is the worst thing?

I rarely have a “worst thing”.  Last year someone commented on a review and got a little nasty but who cares?

5 How long does it take you to find/create pictures for your post?

Seconds.  I’m not big on adding tons of pictures or GIFs.  I just include a copy of the cover and sometimes a picture that really struck me as applicable.

6 Who is your book crush?

For the last year or so it’s been Tybalt from the October Daye series (Seanan McGuire).  But, I’ll be honest that Walt Longmire (Craig Johnson) is starting to move up the ranks.  :)

7 What author would you like to have on your blog? 

Hmmm.  I’m fine with having an author do a guest post or something of that nature but generally I want my blog to be a spot for readers.  But, let’s be real, if I had the chance to have Stephen King, Seanan McGuire, Ilona Andrews, Jonathan Maberry or another favorite be on my blog, I would jump on it.

8 What do you wear when you write your blog posts?

Preferably PJs but most of the time whatever I’ve worn to work in that day as I usually fit the writing in around a pretty busy schedule.

9 How long does it take you to prepare?

I don’t really prepare.  I try to write the reviews fairly soon after reading but I’ve been 10+ behind before.  Whenever I have a free 10-minute span, I try to knock one out.  (And I know sometimes it’s obvious I’m on a timeline.  I’ve gone back and read some that made me cringe.)

10 How do you feel about the book/blogger community/culture? 

In general, it’s a great community. I’ve always felt supported and a connection with my fellow bloggers.

11 What do you think one should do to get a successful blog?

Whatever works for you.  Don’t worry about followers or likes.  Just do what you love.

 

I’m not going to specifically challenge any other bloggers but I would love to hear what you all have to say.