Review – Cockroaches (Harry Hole #2) by Jo Nesbo

18373214This is why I need to be more disciplined and write reviews soon after I finish reading a book.  Now, it’s a week later and I can’t remember enough to write a decent review.  Does anyone else do that?  Life just seems to get in the way of what’s important.  Books.

Anyway, this is the 2nd installment in the Harry Hole series about a Norwegian detective who solves crimes while dealing with some pretty evil personal demons.  Harry is again sent out of the country (trend?) when Norway’s ambassador to Thailand is found with a knife in his back.  He works with the local authorities to solve a murder that most would rather just be swept under the rug.

A solid mystery / thriller if a bit formulaic.  I do have some concerns if the series does continue the same pattern – Harry sent out of country, makes friends with local police, flirts with someone inappropriate, makes some really bad decisions and solves case almost by accident.

I gave this one 4/5 stars as I thought it was an improvement on book one.  And, the author did surprise me with a few reveals.

But…Harry has to stop some of his nonsense if this series is going to work for me.  He is an alcoholic and I actually think the author does a good job showing this struggle.  But, these bad decisions aren’t due to his alcoholism.  As I mentioned in my review of book one, Harry sometimes comes off as a big dummy and we know he isn’t so that makes it bad writing.  (Plus, there is a plot hole here that is almost driving me nuts but I’ve decided to overlook it for some reason and leave my rating in place.)

Yeah, I really should write the reviews sooner.  I’ll just say – read this series if you like crime novels. They aren’t perfect but worth the read.

Non-Review – Iced and Burned by Karen Marie Moning

If you have never been emotionally invested in a book, series or characters you should probably avoid this post.  Or, if you are someone who proclaims that your favorite author can do no wrong and cannot be questioned – please move along.  This is going to be a long-winded rant.  You’ve been warned.

The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning is something special.  Darkfever (#1) is fun and introduced us to some great characters.  By the time we reached Shadowfever (#5), we knew that there was nothing in urban fantasy like Mac, Barrons and this story.  KMM had built a world that was terrifying, passionate and funny with heart pounding action.  Over five books, we rooted for Mac to get her happy ending and for Barrons to admit what he felt.  They fought tooth and nail to beat the Sinsar Dubh and become the most fiery of couples.  It was spectacular.

Moning said that she had more story to tell and that ICED would be published as a continuation of this world but with Dani O’Malley as the MC (Dani O’Malley #1 was the series coding.)  The cover showed Dani surrounded by the iced city of Dublin.  It immediately went onto my “to read” list but I didn’t prioritize it.  Why?  Because Dani was a 14-year-old, feck swearing, candy bar eating bundle of energy that could be annoying.  Even after I started reading some worrisome reviews from people I trust, I still planned to read it eventually.  (Worrisome meaning that grown men were making it clear that they were sexually attracted to a 14-year-old girl.  That’s called pedophilia my friends and you can spin it any way you want but it’s wrong.)  Yet, still I was going to read it.  Because I wanted to have faith in KMM.

Then…

The paperback version of Iced came out and what appeared before my eyes?  A bare-chested man a la cheesy romance novels.  A story led by a 14-year-old girl has a half-naked man on the cover?  After the uproar over the pedos in Iced, KMM started backtracking.  And, then telling people that they weren’t pedos but they read it wrong.  Ummm, no.

Then the cover of Burned was released.  Basically an orange version of the blue bare chested man from Iced.  It was coded as “Fever #7 / Dani O’Malley #2″ and in some cases just “Fever #7″.  Iced was re-coded as “Fever #6 / DOM #1″.  KMM says Mac and Barrons are back in a big way for Burned.  Warning Bells going off everywhere.

Still, I was going to read both Iced and Burned.  I was even looking forward to it because I love Mac and Barrons together.

But then the reviews.  I specifically went looking for spoilers because I just didn’t want to be disappointed.  I was hoping that someone would motivate me to read these and fall back in love with Moning’s world.  It didn’t happen that way.  What I found from others – disappointment, disbelief and in some cases, anger.

This morning I created a new virtual bookshelf titled “I GIVE UP”.  It was specifically created for these two books (although I’m sadly sure I’ll add more along the way).

Why am I giving up?  Because reading Iced and / or Burned will ruin the Fever series for me.  At this point there is no question about it.  KMM spent 5 books building this world and allowing us to fall in love with these characters.  People are invested in Mac as a person and Barrons as a, well, SOB that you can’t help but love.  Now, as an author, you choose to reuse story lines that were solidly told and finished by the end of Shadowfever.  And, you basically ruin Mac, the chemistry between these two and all that you worked for.  You cheat Dani out of years of her own story and give Mac the lead in what should be Dani’s book.

As a reader and a fan, I 100% agree that an author can and should write the story that they want.  But, as a reader and a fan, I have the 100% right to disagree with that direction by choosing not to read it.  For the rest of my life I want to be able to read the Fever series and enjoy it.  To do that I’ve decided that it ends with Shadowfever and any others are those that cannot be named.

Review – Chimes at Midnight (October Daye #7) by Seanan McGuire

chimes at midnightSomewhere along the way, October Daye became a can’t miss series for me.  Chimes at Midnight further solidified that status.

Toby and her friends are fighting the growing Goblin Fruit addiction which is killing changelings in San Francisco. When Toby approaches the Queen of the Mists (aka “The Beyotch” – my words) she is given a banishment rather than any help.  They have three days to find a way to keep Toby around and to stop the changeling deaths.

I came close to giving this one 4-stars.  The story wasn’t quite at the same level as the last couple in the series.  And, I want Toby to open her eyes to a few people around her that might not be as trustworthy as they seem.  Two are on my radar right now.  One, I am sure about and the other is suspicious.

But, that trust that Toby is showing?  That’s part of what I’ve grown to love about her.  In book one she was a loner who trusted almost no one. Since then she’s developed real friendships, a solid love life (more about that later) and built a family for herself.  I can understand why, now that she trusts someone, she does it almost unconditionally.  I’m afraid that’s going to burn her very soon but that’s what trust is about.  Right?  You get hurt sometimes.

Toby and Tybalt.  I’m not sure there is a better partnership in Urban Fantasy.  Other couples might be hotter or more passionate.  But these two are equals.  Tybalt is the leading man who should be everyone’s book boyfriend.  He loves Toby deeply and unconditionally.  As a Cait Sidhe he wants to protect her but as a man he knows that she needs space to protect herself.  He is the perfect blend of old-fashioned (he’s hundreds of years old, duh) and modern man.  I’ve liked Seanan McGuire’s writing since I discovered her.  But, she has gained a lifelong reader and much respect as the creator of Tybalt.  She got it right, friends.

There were a few twists and turns in CAM.  One I suspected for a while but the other was very surprising and changed this world.  We’ll see what both things mean for Toby when we get to the next book, The Winter Long.

5/5 stars.  (READ THIS SERIES NOW!)

Review – Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

scoundrelsI bought this book as a Christmas gift for my husband.  Timothy Zahn is practically a god in the world of Star Wars fiction and my husband was a big fan of his earlier works – especially Heir to the Empire.  How disappointed was I when this one didn’t live up to his expectations?

Of course, then he challenged me to read it.  Now, I haven’t read any other Star Wars fiction but am a HUGE fan of the movies.  What did I think?  Meh at best.

This is purely Oceans Eleven in space with Han Solo as Danny Ocean.  It takes place not too long after the first death star is destroyed and before they setup their base on the ice world of Hoth.

My first issue is the timeline.  I know I’m a stickler but this just seemed like it wouldn’t work.  So, Han goes out with Chewie (not Luke, Leia or the other rebels) to try to get a smuggling job that will pay off his marker with Jabba the Hutt.  Lando meets up with them when they take on a different job to break into a vault.  OK, for those of you that are fans – you will remember Lando’s greeting to Han at Cloud City in Empire Strikes Back.  There clearly had been some tension between them (that’s referenced here) but it seemed like a good bit of time had passed since they saw each other.  If they did this job together, it hadn’t been that long and it doesn’t make sense.

Next is the whole Oceans Eleven thing.  I’m assuming the author cleared that with whoever owns the rights to that story.  It is almost exactly the same.  Eleven people with different skills working to break in to a vault for $163,000,000.  Seriously?  I feel like the author could have done some sort of homage but it’s almost like he used that as the blueprint and just cut and paste in the new names, added some space references and made it even more convoluted.

And, therein lies my biggest issue, the writing itself.  The details of the heist are just not believable.  I was rolling my eyes at every turn.  And, Mr. Zahn has never met an adverb he didn’t like.  All adverbs.  All the time.  Plus, this is space.  A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  Do I believe they play pool or drink cognac?  Nope.  What I believe is that the author was too lazy to fully build the world.

What a bummer that I have to give my first Star Wars read 2-stars.

Review – Fate’s Edge (The Edge #3) by Ilona Andrews

fates edgeFirst things first, I adore the wife and husband writing team of Ilona Andrews. They are great writers and seem like pretty cool people. And, for the most part I have devoured their books. Honestly, I’m not sure they could write a bad book if they tried.

But…

For some reason the Edge series isn’t resonating with me. Fate’s Edge is my least favorite of all their books so far. That makes me sad.

We are back in the Edge. Kaldar Mar (Cerise’s cousin) is working for the Mirror and is tasked with finding a stolen artifact. One of the thieves was Audrey Callahan. She was trying to stay clean and work a real job but was sucked in for one last steal by her no good father. Audrey and Kaldar have to work together to recover the artifact which could be used to cause great damage. While they are fighting the Hand they also have to deal with a couple of Edge teenagers (Rose’s brothers and Kaldar’s cousin) and their growing attraction.

What I liked:

– World building – IA always delivers. We learn more about the Edge and the Weird. Kaldar and Audrey each have interesting magical gifts that kept this part of the story fresh. The fight between the Hand and the Mirror is also ramped up. Honestly, I sometimes have trouble telling who is who and definitely which side to root for.

– Kaldar – Interestingly enough, I liked the male lead better than the female lead. This never happens with Andrews so I’m not sure what to think about that. Kaldar was fun, witty, talented and the right mix of bad boy with a golden heart.

– The younglings – WHAT? Jack, George and Gaston were an integral part of this story and I loved continuing their story.

Not so much:

– The storyline – Meh. It felt kind of recycled. Man and woman are forced to work together by outside forces. He immediately starts lusting after her, she puts up a token effort and then they get married ten days later. They fight the forces of evil and win. All three books in this series have followed this formula and I was hoping for a few surprises. Sometimes a reader needs to be slapped in the face (kill a main character, don’t give them a HEA, the bad guy wins).

– Audrey – It truly pains me to say this. The female lead is usually one of the best things in an IA story. Here I just didn’t care for her. She was a cookie cutter good girl with bad parents. Other than her big boobs and the fact that she can magically pick locks, I cannot see what Kaldar was attracted to. Plus, I have a bone to pick. EVERY female MC is 23-25 years old in this world. The men can be anywhere from 28-35 but the women cap out at 25. Audrey is 23. Kaldar is 32. Her freaking pre-frontal cortex isn’t even fully developed. Yet she’s ready to marry Kaldar after 10 days. I’m not buying into these too-young leads anymore. Show me a real woman who has a little experience.

3/5 stars. I have book 4 on deck soon and am apprehensive. The male lead is Richard (another Mar who is probably also in his early 30’s). I’m not sure about the female but she looks about 12 years old on the cover. That isn’t a good sign. Please let it be okay.

Review – Ashes of Honor (October Daye #6)

Untitled-2I am simply loving this series now!

(This review may contain spoilers for prior books.)

Toby is suffering.  Since Connor’s death she’s not taking care of herself as she should and is taking unnecessary risks.  When a fellow knight’s Changeling daughter goes missing she is called on to find her.  While her friends are there to help, Toby has to find a way to move forward. At the same time, Tybalt is facing his own problems in the Court of Cats.

Each book is just getting better and better.  In Ashes of Honor, we see Toby moving on with her life and doing what she does best.  She’s still figuring out her magic and where she fits.  But, this Toby has grown exponentially from book one and is a strong woman with so much more to do.

Plus – oh yes!  There is plenty of Tybalt here.  The drama in the Court of Cats kept me on the edge of my seat and I wasn’t sure where it was headed.  Wow!  The friendship between Toby and Tybalt has been a constant throughout.  Now that we are seeing them move towards accepting their feelings and having a real romantic relationship, it has made the wait worthwhile.  Have I told you recently how much I love Tybalt?  He is seriously one of the best UF males out there.  Alpha to the max as the King of Cats but he is all about accepting Toby for who she is and letting her make her own mistakes.  (The author recently posted a short story from his perspective that takes place right after Ashes of Honor.  It was exceptional.  And, it’s free on her website!!)

5/5 stars.  Everything urban fantasy should be.

Review – Blood Rites (Book 6 of the Dresden Files)

99383“There’s what’s right,” the old man said, “and then there’s what’s necessary. They ain’t always the same.”

Finally!  A 5-star read in the Dresden Files.

Harry is hired by Thomas (his vampire semi-friend) to help protect someone he knows.  Turns out it is a porn film producer and Harry has to go undercover as a production assistant on a film set.  There is quite a bit more going on and it’s up to Harry to find the bad guys and finish the job without getting himself killed.

What makes this one so good?  It has the same humorous undertones as we’ve seen in the past.  Harry isn’t a prude but he also isn’t the kind of guy to hang around a porn set.  He’s embarrassed and doesn’t quite know how to handle seeing scantily clad women walking around while he’s trying to work.  He blushes to put it mildly.

Butcher also gives us more drama with several big reveals about Harry and some of his friends.  I finally felt a connection with him through the emotions he felt (surprise, longing, disappointment, betrayal and anger.)  His life has never been dull but it seems to get more complicated every day.  We learned one thing in particular that was a bit of a game changer and will impact the series going forward.

Watching Harry struggle through decisions that he has to make is part of what makes these books work.  He has such a strict moral code that he holds himself to yet he is realizing that things aren’t always black and white.

I’ve had some complaints about Harry’s attitude towards women in the past.  In Blood Rites, though, we see him call on help from his friend, Karrin Murphy.  He has always trusted her but now that she knows even more about the supernatural world, he is treating her as an equal.  Listen, Harry is always going to notice (and comment on) the females around him.  He’s a very red-blooded male in that way.  As long as he treats those women with respect, he and I will get along fine.

5/5 stars and highly recommended.  There is a great balance of drama, humor and the supernatural.  (But you really do need to start from the beginning of the series to appreciate Harry and get the entire story.)