Archive | September 2014

Review – Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1) by Melissa F. Olson

dead spotsI have a book problem.  There are plenty of ‘to read’ books on my physical and e-book shelves.  But, I always need more.  I admit it.

When I saw a review of Dead Spots, I knew that it was one to add to my list. Then I discovered that I could borrow it for FREE from Kindle Prime.  Suddenly it was at the top of virtual stack.

Here’s the deal.  It was good but not great.  3/5 stars.

What I really liked:

– Original elements to a paranormal story. Scarlett is a null which means if she gets close enough to a werewolf, witch or vampire she makes them human while she’s near.  This worked very well and added a lot of interest.

– In general there was some good world-building and writing quality.

 

What didn’t quite work me:

– Love triangle.  Ugh.  Why?

– Scarlett is another female protagonist who isn’t as confident as she should be.  For example, she is convinced that one of her suitors only wants her because she makes him human and he hates being a wolf.  I didn’t buy it.  He wanted her…not her power.  It was annoying that she treated him so poorly.

– Scarlett puts up with way too much from her employers.  I won’t say more because – Spoilers.  But, girl, get some cojones and fight the power.

 

Overall, I enjoyed it and can see potential in the series.  And, yes, I will be reading book two soon!

Review – Thunderbird Falls (Walker Papers #2) by CE Murphy

thunderbird fallsWhat a complete bummer.

I didn’t love book one in this series (aka hot mess) but did think the series had enough potential to read book two.  While there is some good writing and moments that are entertaining, I just can’t get behind this book or its main character, Joanne.

One of the main problems is that it’s all over the place.  It feels like the author had a good idea but then wanted to add everything and the kitchen sink into the story.  It could have been streamlined and tightened up into a much more cohesive novel.

And, Joanne.  I want to like her.  She’s a normal woman (which I like) and is tall like me (not the petite female characters we get too often).  But, good Lord, she is an idiot.  She makes the worst decisions possible and can’t see the writing on the wall.  I want my female characters to be smart and savvy.  Yes, they may make mistakes but they won’t question and berate themselves constantly.  It was hard to tell if the author intended for Joanne to be seen as quite so stupid or if her character was poorly written.  Either way, it was a big disappointment.

2/5 stars.  (And, what the heck, as I type this I am asking myself if I will read book 3 and I don’t really know.  Part of me wants to know more about Joanne’s journey as a Shaman and part can’t be bothered.  We’ll see where this leads.)

Review – Faithful Place (Dublin Murder Squad #3) by Tana French

faithful placeI finished Faithful Place yesterday and am still in awe of how wonderful it is.  Since reading book one of the Dublin Murder Squad series I’ve said that Tana French could really write well.  But, there was always something that kept me from giving her 5 stars.  Faithful Place pushed through all my reservations and has landed French on my favorite writers list.

This is Frank Mackey’s story.  You’ll remember him from The Likeness as the head of the Undercover squad.  He is pulled back to his childhood neighborhood of Faithful Place when an old suitcase shows up.  Turns out this suitcase belonged to his first love, Rosie, who he believes abandoned him the night they were supposed to run off to London together so many years ago.  This sets off a chain reaction of events that turns Frank’s life upside down and changes everything.

This is a murder mystery but so much more.  It’s really about family.  Messy, screwed-up family.  At times it is extremely uncomfortable to read and for some it may hit way too close to home.  Alcoholism, jealousy, domestic abuse, secret lovers…they are here in all their ugliness.

Frank isn’t always the most sympathetic protagonist.  He can be manipulative, angry and unpredictable.  But, even if you don’t like him, you come to understand him through these pages.  His childhood and experiences have shaped the man he is.  And, he is a good father to his daughter which always helps.  Adding her character to the mix was genius.  Not only did she add that layer of softness to Frank, she…well, you have to read Faithful Place to know more.

I cannot give enough praise to this series and specifically to this book.  Everyone should read this.

5/5 stars for one of my favorites.

Review – Final Sentence by Daryl Wood Gerber

final sentence

Cozy mysteries are supposed to be like a warm blanket, comfort food and chamomile tea all wrapped up in 300 pages or so.  Unfortunately, Final Sentence let me down.

I received this book through the Goodreads-Firstreads program last year and tried to read it when I first got it in the mail.  After about 50 pages I put it on hold.  Last weekend I decided to give it another shot.  To be perfectly honest, I had to force myself to finish it and I am probably being very generous by giving this 2.5 stars.

When describing this story to my husband I used the words “paint by numbers”.  It seemed like the author has a template for a cozy and just filled in the blanks.  If so, that’s fine.  Part of what is comforting about these is their predictability.

BUT…there are some things that don’t work.  The protagonist is just plain annoying.  She becomes over-obsessed that she is a suspect in the murder (all cozies have a murder, that’s not a spoiler).  She also accuses almost everyone around her of being the killer when she clumsily tries to investigate the mystery herself.  It’s probably not a good idea to go up to random people, ask them two random questions and then say that they killed someone.

And, she’s a business owner who is never at her business.  She runs out constantly to do her ‘questioning’, have lunch, get her hair done or other nonsense. As a reader, I just didn’t care about her and almost hoped she’d be put in jail so she’d shut up.

Another pet peeve is overuse of a catchphrase by a character.  The eccentric aunt always says “too ra loo” and the chef that works for her says “Hoo boy”.  Too much.

The love interest, Rhett, is a kind of nothing character.  I just didn’t feel why she would be attracted to him. Other than his name.  This will probably be fleshed out in future installments but it didn’t resonate with me here.

The author clearly has talent and there are good things about the story.  But, you have to put up with some nonsense to get there.

2.5/5 stars.  Thanks to the Goodreads-Firstreads program.

Review – The Martian by Andy Weir

the martianHow much did I love this book?  More than all the sand on Mars.

Mark Watney is part of a Mars expedition that has been on planet for 6 of their 60 scheduled sols (days on Mars).  When a strong sandstorm hits they have to evacuate and get back to their ship in orbit.  Unfortunately, Mark is struck while they are walking to the transport and it appears that he has died.  So the crew leaves.  Meanwhile Mark wakes up – injured and alone on Mars.  Now he has to find a way to survive until the next expedition is scheduled to arrive in several years!  And, his means to communicate with Earth was damaged during the storm so no one even knows he is alive.

Now what?

Listen, this could have been a stressful and sad read.  But it isn’t.  Mark is a resilient guy who has a sarcastic voice that works so well.  The story ends up being one of hope with a lot of laughter along the way.  This was one of my favorite reads this year which surprised the heck out of me.  The science part can be a little overwhelming (unless you are Sheldon Cooper your eyes will probably cross) but it needs the detail so that the reader understands what Mark is dealing with.  And, I have no idea if it’s accurate science but it is impressive!

Wanna get to know Mark?  Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“Little Hab on the Prarie” – referring to his Martian home.

“In your face, Neil Armstrong!” – when he realizes some of the space records he is setting.

“Problem is (follow me closely here, the science is pretty complicated), if I cut a hole in the Hab, the air won’t stay inside anymore.”

“I’m in the middle of a bunch of craters that form a triangle.  I’m calling it the Watney Triangle because after what I’ve been through, stuff on Mars should be named after me.”

I simply adored this book and recommend it to everyone.  5/5 stars.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review – The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

the strainHave you ever read a book that was in a genre you enjoy, generally well written and easy to read?  But, you just weren’t feeling it?  That’s the case with me and The Strain.

And it’s very disappointing because it has so many elements that should have made it work.  Vampires, viruses, the CDC, strange old men, swords and more.  Part of the problem is the pacing.  It starts strong with a Boeing 777 going dark at the airport.  It doesn’t make it to the gate and when officials investigate they find all the passengers and crew dead.  The CDC is brought in to determine if it’s a virus or some other agent that killed them.

Man, that sounds great right?  You bet!  Too bad that the story then becomes bursts of action followed by purple and overly descriptive prose.  For example: “Eldritch Palmer sat waiting on an un-cushioned chair on the rooftop patio, bathed in night.  The only direct light was that of an outdoor gas lamp burning in the corner.  The terrace was on the top of the lower of the two adjoining buildings. The floor was made of square clay tiles, aged and blanched by the elements.  One low step preceded a high brick wall at the northern end, with two door-size archways hung with ironwork. Fluted terra-cotta tiling topped the wall and the overhangs on each side. To the left, through wider decorative archways, were oversize doorways to the residence.  Behind Palmer, centered before the southern white cement wall, was a headless statue of a woman in swirling robes, her shoulders and arms darkly weathered.  Ivy slithered up the stone base.  Though a few taller buildings were visible both north and east, the patio was reasonably private, as concealed a rooftop as one might hope to find in lower Manhattan.”

Why in the world do we need all that detail?  Do I care that the floor tiles are square or that the wall was white cement?  Yes, a writer needs to paint a picture but this was just overdone.

Since there were two writers I did think several times that some of this “overwriting” was probably done by only one of them.  I wonder how that works?  If you get pages from your co-writer and they are filled with this, what do you say to them?  That’s gotta be a tough one.

Anyway, a good story full of great ideas but it loses points for execution.  3/5 stars.

Review – Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles #1) by Kevin Hearne

houndedHounded is a solid start to the Iron Druid Chronicles and a new urban fantasy series for me.

From Goodreads: “Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old–when in actuality, he’s twenty-one “centuries” old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer. Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power–plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish–to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.”

Even though I am a huge urban fantasy fan and have read tons of them in the recent past, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Hounded.  First of all, it’s written by a man.  Most of my favorite series are penned by women.  And, the main character is a guy as well.  I’m all about girl power and didn’t know if a male could carry a UF.

Luckily, I absolutely adored the voice of Atticus.  He is just what you want in a UF hero – talented, powerful, funny and a little off (but in a good way).  Here are some of my favorite quotes from Atticus:

“Tell you what: Let’s debate the meaning of honor and see who lives longer.”

“I really, really wanted to flirt, but seeing as I was the guy who widowed her, I thought perhaps there was a line somewhere I shouldn’t cross.”

“I was kind of like Yoda chilling out in the Dagobah system.”

Plus, we have the added bonus of his Irish Wolfhound, Oberon, who quickly became a favorite for me.  His doggie voice is funny and poignant.  Every Druid needs a sidekick and Oberon fits the bill perfectly.

4/5 stars for a fun, engaging and well written story.  I can’t wait to get to the next one.