Review – The Ripper Affair (Bannon & Clare #3) by Lilith Saintcrow

18459434A steampunk take on Jack the Ripper.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but this was my favorite of the series.

After the events of the Red Plague Affair, Emma Bannon has kept to her house and not ventured out.  She is ignoring requests from the queen and still needs to have a serious conversation with Mikal about what he did to save her.  Archibald Clare is doing his work as a mentath and being the general know-it-all that he is.  When an accident wreaks havoc in his life, Clare turns to Bannon for hospitality and care.  He also has learned of what SHE did to save him.  And, let’s just say he is none too pleased.  (Who doesn’t want this gift?  He should be thankful!!!)  The queen makes a personal visit to Bannon to ask for help with a string of murders occurring in the slums.  They are somehow weakening her spirit through sorcery.  Reluctantly, Emma agrees for one last service to the crown.

Where to start?  I was surprised at the emotion in The Ripper Affair.  From the heartbreaking loss early on, to the revelations about Emma’s early childhood.  Just wow.  So well done.  Clare also struggles throughout the book with Feelings (he capitalizes them as they are an unknown quantity to a mentath and he has no idea how to deal with the pain, rage and sorrow he feels.)  Many times he takes out his frustration on Emma and that was hard to read.  They have so much respect and care for each other yet they both have such strong personalities that they clash painfully at times.

The Ripper story isn’t overdone and melds nicely with the sorcery aspect of this series.  The author did a great job of tying into Emma’s past (both recent and childhood).  I appreciated that she didn’t romanticize the Ripper’s actions.  It is clear this killer is a psychopath who needs to be stopped.

Mikal is such an interesting character.  I think my biggest disappointment while reading this was the knowledge that the publisher isn’t continuing with the series so this is it.  We do learn a teensy bit more about Mikal but not nearly enough.  Emma still has questions.  I still have questions.  GAH!!!!!

As I said in the review for RPA, it’s all too unusual to see a real male/female friendship in a fantasy/steampunk novel.  Saintcrow did a nice job with the relationship between Clare and Bannon.  (There is a strong hint of something about Clare that I’ve suspected but I’m glad that she didn’t overplay that hand.  It shouldn’t matter.  Vague, I know but if you read the series, you will pick up on it.)

A really great finish to this too-short trilogy.  4.5 stars (so close to 5 but Clare still talks about Bannon’s childlike face way too much.)

Review – Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

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I kept seeing Joe Abercrombie’s name pop up in my Goodreads feed and knew that I wanted to give him a try. With the stellar reviews for Half a King, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Prince Yarvi has only one good hand. The other is missing fingers and this ‘weakness’ has defined his life. He isn’t a strong fighter so is set to become a Minister (the kind that counsels kings not preaches to the masses.) When his father and brother are murdered he is thrust upon the throne. From there, things go downhill quickly. Now he has to fight to regain his birthright and seek vengeance.

In many ways this book is just plain excellent. An easy read that is full of interesting characters and a strong storyline. I even gave this 5-stars right after I finished reading and I can see why others have raved. Half a King is kind of like a YA Game of Thrones and I fully mean that as a compliment. It’s a dark, twisted, edge-of-your seat page turner.

So why am I now giving it 4-stars? Hard to say but I think it’s because the more I thought about Yarvi’s evolution through the pages, the more I had some problems with his character’s growth (or lack of.) You can make the argument that Yarvi is a well-rounded character. He toughens up, learns some hard lessons and discovers more about himself. BUT…he takes some major steps backwards in a couple of instances that I can’t live with. I don’t want to spoil anything but he isn’t consistent. If you are put through tests as a character, the goal should be to learn from them. Well, he kind of does and then says “well, I can’t be the person that I should be because then I won’t get what I want.” That’s not really okay. Maybe he is supposed to be a sort of anti-hero in some scenes but that just doesn’t fit with the Yarvi we came to know for about 75% of the book. As a reader, I can’t decide if this is intentional (and may be further explained through the rest of the series) or if it’s somewhat of a cop-out to make the story go where the writer wanted.

Eh, anyway, I’m probably reading too much into it and should have just stuck with my original feelings. It truly is a great book and I highly recommend it.

Review – The Cold Dish (Walt Longmire #1)

109901“Revenge is a dish best served cold.”  (Mostly attributed to Shakespeare but best used by Khan in Star Trek II.  Yes, I’m a nerd.)

I am still amazed by how much I enjoyed this book.  My father had mentioned watching the TV series last year and recommended it so I started it on Netflix.  Then, I saw this at the used bookstore and thought “why not?”

Walt Longmire is a long-time sheriff of Absaroka County in Wyoming.  His best friend is Henry Standing Bear (a local Cheyenne Indian – apparently they prefer this to Native American.)  Deputy Vic Moretti is a talented investigator with a potty mouth.  Deputy Turk Connally is a know-it-all that gets under Walt’s skin.  And, Deputy Ferg is on his way towards retirement.  (There are way too many other colorful characters to list.  All important but these play the primary roles.)  When a convicted rapist is killed, Walt and his team have to determine if it was a hunting accident or murder.  There were 3 others involved in the rape and all of them got off too easy by most accounts.  Is someone settling debts?

OK…Let’s talk about the book first.  A great story, wonderful character development (first novel?!?!?!) and beautiful descriptions of Wyoming.  What is not to love?  Johnson made me want to read more modern westerns.  That is a feat in and of itself.

Because I’ve been watching the show at the same time, I can’t help but compare.  Usually I am a “book is always better” person.  And, while I LOVED the book, I think the show is equally great.  Part of what works is they really knocked it out of the park with casting.  Robert Taylor as Walt is pretty much brilliant.  He captures the goodness and humor of this tough-as-nails older man.  Katee Sackhoff plays Vic flawlessly with swagger and attitude that cover a softness that she doesn’t want the world to see.  (There are some physical differences.  Sackhoff is a blonde while book Vic is an Italian brunette but it just doesn’t matter.)  Lou Diamond Phillips is Henry through and through.  While watching the show I had noticed that he never uses contractions.  This is consistent with the book and it is a good representation of his character.  Precise and thoughtful yet ruthless when he needs to be.  There are a few character differences.  In the show, Branch, son of Barlow Connally, is a deputy who is running against Walt for sheriff.  Barlow is a rich, not so nice man.  In the book, Lucian Connally is Walt’s predecessor as sheriff.  I think he will be revealed in the show to be Branch’s uncle (meaning Branch may be a version of Turk from the books.)  And book Ferg is an older man while TV Ferg is a wet behind the ears deputy that needs to learn a few hard lessons.

Wow, that got very long-winded.  Sorry about that but I just couldn’t help it.  I think I’m in love with this series.

4.5/5 stars.  Almost perfect but the ending felt a little rushed.

Review – Ghost Story (The Dresden Files #13) by Jim Butcher

8058301Guys, there is no way to review this without spoilers for the prior book, Changes.  So, if you haven’t read that one and want to go in spoiler-free, read no further.  And when I say “spoiler” it’s a doozy so be warned.

 

I was really impressed with Changes; the ending was jaw-dropping.  Killing your main character (and, yes, I did fully believe that he was dead and didn’t consider it a cliffhanger – especially after reading the follow up short in Side Jobs) is a gutsy move.  I knew that Butcher would find a way to still have Harry as his lead but felt that he had changed the game with that ending.

The problem with such a bold decision is that you have to live up to it and the expectations that you’ve created.  I don’t think Butcher quite did that with Ghost Story.  While it’s a solid installment in the series, there just seemed to be so many missed opportunities.  I hoped that Butcher had a grand plan to wow us after killing Harry.  Truthfully, though, I think he felt that he had written himself into a corner and didn’t quite know what to do about it.

In Ghost Story, Harry comes back as a shade (for ease, let’s just call him a ghost) and is sent to investigate his own murder because of irregularities.

So, for the first 75% or so of the book, he is back in Chicago and does almost everything except look into his death.  Typical Harry.  The reader gets updates on most major characters and it’s not a pretty picture.  Chicago is a mess.  Karrin is a mess.  Molly is a hot mess.  Only Butters seems to be handling Harry’s death without falling apart.  (Teaming him up with Bob was brilliant!)  Yes, they are all still fighting the good fight but on a personal level they are very screwed up.

There was one “whoa” scene pretty early on and we meet someone new in the afterlife.  That was pretty neat.

And, the last 25% was as action packed as we’ve come to expect.  The big reveals (there were two of them) were…well, I’ll leave that to you to decide how you feel about it.  I’m honestly still not sure.

4/5 stars because I still love Harry and the Butters/Bob duo made the book more than worthwhile.

Hope For A Better World

Originally posted on By Hook Or By Book:

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While it’s difficult to make any sense of the massacre at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston S.C, I think this beautiful quote bears repeating:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite.”

~ Nelson Mandela ~

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Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy #2) by Stephen King

22453035Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers.

Stephen King has no reason to weep.  He has another winner with the 2nd book in the Bill Hodges trilogy.

John Rothstein, an author, is killed by a fan who isn’t happy with the direction he took with his most famous character.  The killer steals money along with a lot of handwritten manuscripts for future novels.  He is arrested for a different crime shortly after hiding the stolen goods and goes away for a long time.  When a young man finds the hidden trunk years later, it turns his world upside down.

I actually liked Finders Keepers a good bit better than the first book, Mr. Mercedes.  The bad guy seemed more realistic and, honestly, isn’t that what should scare us?  A bad guy that COULD be out there in the real world.  I was reminded of some of the comments you would see on author pages, twitter and blogs threatening writers for the direction of their stories.  Serious, literal threats of physical violence because you didn’t like what the character did or did not do.  Really?  But, it happens.  And, that makes it scary.

Bill Hodges, retired policeman and current PI, doesn’t show up until over 1/3 through the book.  That was okay.  He isn’t a showy character and Pete Saubers, the young man who found the stolen money/books, does just fine as the lead character.

The story is more reminiscent of a crime novel than most of King’s works.  I had heard comparisons to Misery; those seem overly simplistic.  Yes, a crazy fan attacks a writer but any likenesses end there.  King always writes interesting teenage male characters and that was the most recognizable thing about this book.

Overall, a strong addition to the King library and highly recommended.  You do need to read Mr. Mercedes first as there are some ties that bind the two stories together.  5/5 stars.

Review – Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1) by Louise Penny

338691I’ve been reading more mysteries lately than in the past.  My reading cycles change occasionally and they fit my mood better than some of the supernatural work I was reading for the last 18-24 months.  When I decided to pick up Still Life, I went in with guarded expectations.  The first review that popped up on my Goodreads page was a 1-star from a very fair reviewer but I decided to give it a shot anyway and I’m glad I did.

Still Life is the first in the Inspector Gamache series.  He is an experienced investigator with the Sûreté du Québec and is tasked with looking into a death in a small village outside Montreal.  An elderly woman was found dead after being shot with an arrow and it’s up to his team to determine if it was an accident or murder.  Dun dun duuun.

Penny created a book that is somewhere between a cozy mystery and a crime novel.  Not too light-hearted but not too intense either.  Just right for this story.  Gamache is an interesting character and we’ve only begun to peel away his layers.  The residents of Three Pines are a motley crew and I can see why the writer set this series in this village.  There are always plenty of secrets and lies in a small town.

This was the author’s first novel and, already, her writing talent shines through.  It will be fun to catch up on this series and find out more about Gamache and Three Pines.

4/5 stars.