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Archive for February, 2013

Mystery Monday Review – Grave Error

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Grave Error by Stephen Greenleaf

 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

In the first of the series starring PI John Marshall Tanner, he is hired by a wife worried about her husband’s recent furtive behavior. Such as, he disappeared for a week and large amounts of money are running through his hands. Going on a spree and all night poker would drive ordinary guys off the rails for a week, but the husband is no ordinary guy. He’s a nationally famous consumer advocate whose reputation for probity and integrity makes partying unlikely and undesirable.

The couple have a handicapped daughter who has retained as a PI Tanner’s old buddy. The old buddy ends up snuffed execution style. Old buddy’s distraught wife hires Tanner to nail the perp. Though Tanner puts the consumer advocate case on the back burner, he does get emotionally involved with a beautiful and smart lady-lawyer who works in the consumer organization. Tanner pursues the case to the very bitter end.

Tanner is a fairly intellectual guy. In his first-person narration, he deploys  heavy duty vocabulary like “immutably” and “vilify.” He makes learned allusions, owns an original Paul Klee, and a taste in antiques, given that he works at his grandfather’s walnut desk. Those that like Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer series will enjoy a convoluted plot and Tanner’s brooding descriptions of Northern California’s landscapes and lifestyles. When this novel was released in 1979, The New Yorker magazine praised it with, “The classic California private-eye novel . . . Mr. Greenleaf is a real writer with a real talent.”

The problem is, it’s depressing. Tanner’s an emotional guy who takes things to heart. He’s had rough experiences that have left marks. The plot too often stops while Tanner recounts grotesque stories and ruminates. And ruminates a little more. Though many readers and critics consider Greenleaf the natural heir to the hard-boiled traditions of Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, I doubt if I will read another one of the 14-book series.

YA Paranormal Review – Poison Princess

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

 

Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

Review by Kelsey O.

 

I have not read any of Kresley Cole’s Immortal After Dark series but I had heard good things about them (and yes there are a few on my TBR shelf, I just haven’t gotten to them!). When offered the chance to review her new YA series, The Arcana Chronicles, I jumped at the chance to dive into her world. I was not disappointed.

 

Evangeline Greene (Evie), Miss Popular at school, has a secret. This secret gets her locked up into a mental institution for the summer and when she returns she tries to pretend that everything is normal. But her hallucinations are back and stronger than ever. Even though she tries and tries to ignore them, her hands reach for her hidden sketch book and she begins to draw all the horrible things she sees. Not only does she see things, now the voices have started and Evie cannot think what could be worse.

 

But the worst is coming. The apocalypse (aka The Flash). It hits hard and if Evie hadn’t trusted her hallucinations she and her mother would have been decimated along millions others. Now they must survive by finding water and food since The Flash destroyed all plant life and evaporated all water so nothing will grow on the land anymore. To top it off, her visions (not hallucinations) and the voices are becoming stronger and she knows that she needs to find her grandmother (if she is still alive) to help her discover what her role in this new world will be and also along the way learn what new powers she holds inside herself.

 

Jackson Deveaux, bad-boy from the bayou, comes riding down her road one day with news that there is a band of baddies on their way and if her and her mother stay here they will be taken and these guys do not treat woman with any respect. Evie and Jackson already have a bit of a history, with him tempting her from her preppy boyfriend before The Flash, so Evie is not too keen on having to go with him but she knows it is the only way.

 

Evie is not exactly the strongest heroine at this time. This first installment introduces us to many of the characters that will be playing some big parts in the future I am sure. As the story continues, we watch Evie grow from spoiled rich girl to the heroine that the world needs. This leads to a journey that the reader can’t wait to finish. Cole’s characters are all based on a Tarot deck and Evie is part of the Major Arcana. Loved this original storyline and that is what first drew me in and Cole was able to easily make her characters believable. Even though looking back I see how complex her plot is, she introduces the reader at a pace that we can follow without too much confusion.

 

Loved the characters, the plot and Cole definitely has me anticipating her next installment. Because of that I recommend this for adult or teen readers if you are looking for a fresh take on the dystopian genre.

 

 

 

Paranormal Romance Review – Forbidden

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Forbidden by Jacquelyn Frank

 

Review by Kelsey O.

 

Docia Waverly’s life is about to change. After being hit by a speeding van she hovers in the Ether and is given a choice. She can live but with consequences or she can die and leave her brother Jackson who has raised her since she was 5 alone. The choice was pretty easy for Docia.

 

After coming home from the hospital she realizes that the van that hit her wasn’t an accident and the people that want her dead are still gunning for her. Enter the very sexy Ram to her rescue. Of course Docia has no idea who this over muscled goliath is but there is a voice in her head telling her it is safe.

 

Ram and his friends are here to help Docia accept the other voice in her head that is actually going to be cohabiting with Docia. Unfortunately, who they believe is inside Docia is their queen, Hatshepsut, and Ram knows that his attraction to her can go no further. She belongs to their King, Menes, when he is finally reborn. But why does he feel so pulled towards her when in the many past lives he hasn’t. Also thrown in the mix is Docia’s overprotective cop brother, Jackson. His role plays out very well and the surprise that Frank throws in the end was unpredictable and amazing. I can’t wait to read the next installment.

 

And so this begins Frank’s spinoff to her Nightwalker series. We are introduced to Bodywalkers who are souls of Ancient Egyptians that ended up in what they call the Ether after being mummified. They found a way to rejoin the living by cohabiting with willing humans. This angered the God Ra who cursed them to only walk at night. The Bodwalkers have enemies called Templar priests, who are Bodywalkers also but don’t want to cohabitate with their soul; they want dominate them and the human race. They also want to bring down Menes and Hatshepsut.

 

Loved the love story between Docia and Ram and the twist that is thrown in that explains why they have such an instant attraction to each other. When they finally decide to just go for it, it is explosive and tastefully done. Another aspect that I loved was the character of Leo, who has been kind of a protector of Docia and Jackson since they were young. He is kind of the anti-Jackson. Whereas Jackson has to obey the law being a cop and all, Leo uses less conventional ways of finding out information. I am wondering where Frank will be going with him since he just kind of disappears at the end.

 

I really enjoyed this first book in Frank’s new series. The world she has created is interesting and I know will never get dull. I love Ancient Egyptian themed fantasies so this one fit the bill perfect. It had just the right intensity to keep the reader turning the pages and enough twists to make sure we anticipate the next book. Loyal Jacquelyn Frank readers will not be disappointed.

 

Rating: 5 BUTTERFLIES

 

 

 

 

Fiction Review – The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

 

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

 

Review by Carole (craftnut)

 

A lonely concierge in a French apartment complex, a young girl with suicidal thoughts and a Japanese gentleman could hardly have anything in common, or could they? The Elegance of the Hedgehog explores this premise intensely in an absorbing character study, devoting much of the book to the character’s thoughts.

 

Renee, the concierge, has spent years in her job, living on the premises, taking in packages and watering plants all while trying very hard not to be noticed.  In her thoughts we find a woman of complex intelligence with whom others interact but do not really see.  Believing that there are class distinctions between her and the residents, she keeps to herself.   She creates the concierge they expect to see, knowing they would be uncomfortable with her true nature.  She carefully maintains the illusion, while hiding her love of books, philosophy, art, music and learning.

 

Paloma, the 12-year-old girl, lives on the fifth floor.  She is also intelligent beyond her years, able to read and understand books above her peers.  In this young girl, we also find a complex and complicated existence, trying to hide her intelligence behind a mask of simply being ordinary.  Seeing no reason to prolong this charade, she is determined to end her life on her 13th birthday.

 

Neither of these two characters interact with each other until the arrival of the Japanese man, Ozu, who takes over one of the apartments.  Mr. Ozu sees behind Paloma’s mask, and together they unlock the secret Renee is so desperate to keep.  Unbound by the social mores of the French aristocracy, he sees Renee as a person.  Recognizing another with the same love of great literature and art, music and culture, he attempts to draw Renee out from behind the walls she has so carefully constructed.

 

This is not a book to be devoured in a few hours.  The chapters are short, but the prose is a bit difficult.  Sentences are long, with complex thoughts.  There are a number of chapters devoted to what Ms. Barbery labels “Profound Thoughts”, which a book club could spend a year discussing.   Above all, this book is a deep character study, with a very simple plot.  I will be reading it again, taking the time to savor and consider the philosophies.

 

 

 

Mystery Monday Review – She Died Because…

Monday, February 11th, 2013

She Died Because… by Kenneth Hopkins

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

Eighty-one-year-old Doctor of English Letters William Blow looks up from his scholarly endeavors over Samuel Butler’s burlesque polemic Hudibras. Blow realizes that it is 3 o’clock – morning or afternoon, he isn’t quite sure – and decides to ask his housekeeper, Mrs. Solihull, to rustle him up some lunch. He finds her, however, in her room lying on her rug. Lest people get the wrong idea, Blow fetches his seventy-nine-year-old friend, Professor Gideon Manciple. Gideon notes that she has a knife in her back.

Thus a professor of English and a professor of numismatology dodder their way into a murder investigation. Blow’s absent-mindedness and Manciple’s craftiness bedevil the official police including Superintendent Urry, Constable Poindexter, Inspector Elkins and Sergeant Wix. All of the characters are comic in a unique way. English majors and readers who like the erudite mysteries of Michael Innes and Nicholas Blake will find exchanges like this a hoot:

… Blow put in, “I very often hear her singing through the wall.”

“Singing through the wall?”

“Through the wall, singing. Dear me, how pedantic you policemen are.”

The quiet ways, impracticality and unworldliness of the two unlikely sleuths afford them protection against the bad guys. Very funny are their forays into the worlds of burglary, fencing stolen goods, and prostitution. I recommend this comic mystery to readers looking for a break from mayhem and angst or those that need a fix of veddy hardcore Britishness. The books are violence-free, and cruelty-free (unlike Innes), and angst-free (unlike Blake).

Dr. Blow and Professor Manciple starred in two other detective novels Dead Against My Principles (1960) and Body Blow (1962). Hector Kenneth Hopkins was born in 1914 and also wrote as Christopher Adams.

 

  

Historical Fiction Review – India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

India Black and The Shadows of Anarchy by Carol K. Carr

 

Review by Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty)

 

What is India up to now?

It is when I read Carol K Carr’s India Black novels  I think that good authors are really actors on the page.  India makes me laugh; she is who she is without apology.  As we find India, she is brooding about French’s absence and over the Dowager Marchioness of Tullibardine’s parting words about her mother.  When she about to go crazy, India is summoned to Disraeli’s presence, and given her first solo mission.

During this period all over Europe the Industrial Revolution’s impact was being felt. People were coming off the farm into the cities to find work.  They found work and also, crowded filthy living conditions, unsafe working environments, back breaking work for little pay.   People felt oppressed and within this the seeds of works rights were sown, and with this discontent a more violent radical element was emerging.   London was the capital of empire and the anarchists were converging there from all over Europe.  India’s mission is to infiltrate a cell that called themselves the Dark Legion…

Okay here is what you get, India at her snarky best, Vincent the street urchin eager and hungry to be back in service to the crown.  I love Vincent and India’s interaction, it is pure magic.  And then there is French, I wondered if he would be in this story but he comes in just in time to deliciously aggravate India.  There are so many threads in this episode (for this is how I see it) the mystery of India’s mother and the old trout the Marchioness.  French’s domestic arrangements and the growing yet denied attraction they feel for each other. There is the procuress from Seven Dials, and we can’t forget the anarchists.  You get great dialogue, sexual tension,   a subtle view into a dynamic historical period.  A ripping good yarn, that is well crafted, Carol K Carr is a real gem of a story teller.

Her best offering yet, 5 STARS

The series:

India Black (A Madam of Espionage Mystery)

India Black and the Widow of Windsor

India Black and the Rajah’s Ruby (A Novella)

 

Mystery Monday – White Heat

Monday, February 4th, 2013

 

White Heat by M.J. McGrath

 

Review by Vicky T. (VickyJo)

 

I love reading all kinds of books, both fiction and non-fiction.  I think that’s one of my problems: I like too many fiction genres, and I’m interested in too many topics!  It makes for an overwhelming amount of titles that catch my interest.

But anyway, lately I’ve been on a mystery kick.  Most mysteries seem to be set in the U.S. or the U.K. so when I came across the book White Heat by M.J. McGrath, and saw that it was set in the far north (as in Canadian Arctic far north) I was intrigued.

McGrath introduces us to Edie Kiglatuk, a half-Inuit, half white woman who teaches school, but supplements her income by guiding hunters from ‘down south’ on hunting expeditions.  She compares these white hunters to “taking a couple of toddlers out on the land” but it’s good money, and she loves the old ways of her people.  The book opens with a particular hunting trip with two men, Felix Wagner and Andy Taylor; men who profess to be interested in hunting, but don’t seem to act that way.  Things get even stranger when Felix is mysteriously shot and killed while on Edie’s watch.

The Council of Elders declares that Felix was killed by his own bullet ricocheting off a rock.  Case closed.  Edie knows this isn’t true, but keeps quiet, and hopes to instead convince local policeman Derek Palliser that something fishy is going on.  When the second tourist Andy Taylor comes back with another buddy, and then disappears, she knows something is seriously wrong.

The mystery in this novel unfolds at a fairly slow pace, and I found myself thinking that some concise editing might have been in order.  But I loved the glimpse into Inuit culture and language (although the glimpse into Inuit cuisine left me slightly queasy).  The land is almost a character in and of itself; McGrath shows us the beauty and the danger of the Arctic in its various seasons.

I liked the characters too:  Edie, a former alcoholic and an all-around tough cookie; her stepson Joe, a likeable young man who has ambitions to become a nurse; Aunt Martie, a hard-drinking bush pilot; Derek Palliser, a good cop who has dreams of getting his studies of lemmings published in a scientific journal; and Sammy, Edie’s ex-husband who remains a friend but not the best influence on Edie and her struggles to maintain her sobriety.

The writing is good, detailed and yet clear. If you allow the story to unfold at its own pace, you will find yourself immersed in a foreign culture within an equally foreign landscape.  The clues may seem confusing, but they all come together at the end in a satisfying resolution.  I’m looking forward to the second book featuring Edie and Derek, The Boy in the Snow.