Down the Darkest Road – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

Still Waters by: Tami Hoag

Red 1-2-3 by: John Katzenbach

One for the Money by: Janet Evanovich

The Last Dead Girl by: Harry Dolan

The Intern’s Handbook by: Shane Kuhn

Other Books I’m Reading:

Galatea 2.2 by: Richard Powers

I have done it! I have read every last one of the books in the Kate Shugak Series by Dana Stabenow. Yes, I double checked. I have experienced very approving sentiments while reading all of them. However, I will not be reviewing any of them. Not that they don’t deserve well written positive reviews. They do. I just don’t want to be away from my books that long. Although I did download Everything Under the Heavens a couple of days ago. So another Stabenow review may be forthcoming.

Onward!

While I was on vacation I picked up a Tami Hoag series I’d been meaning to read. Deeper than the DeadSecrets to the Grave and Down the Darkest Road are all set in Oak Knoll, California during the mid to late 1980’s. The first two installments are all the things I’ve come to expect from a Tami Hoag book. They are creepy, surprising, intense, and interesting. I even cheered a little at one point. Some guys just deserve a tire iron to the head. Then there is Down the Darkest Road.

Down the Darkest Road is set four years after the previous book. While it does revisit the main characters from the first two books, the main character in this book is Lauren Lawton. Lauren’s daughter Leslie disappeared four years earlier, an event that was followed closely by the death and/or suicide of Lauren’s husband Lance. Lauren has supposedly moved to Oak Knoll with her daughter to escape from the attention they draw due to the well publicized disappearance.

Yes, that’s right. She’s moved to a town famous for a serial killer, several stabbings, and a mental hospital fire, for peace and quiet. This made more sense to me later in the book when it became apparent that Lauren is stalking the man she is convinced kidnapped and killed Leslie. It couldn’t be more clear that Lauren is hanging on by a thread. It also couldn’t be more clear that it is better to know who you are dealing with before you try and deal with them.

There is a lot to like about this series as a whole. Especially the setting. It’s refreshing to read a crime book where DNA does you no good, and computers barely exist. However, if you are sensitive to violence against women, it is probably not the series for you.

In Down the Darkest Road I did miss several characters that were not continued into this book. Dennis Farman the stabby pre-teen arsonist from the first two books is totally missing. Leaving his story line cut short. Likewise the effervescent Mr. Franny, Anne’s best friend and confidant is never even mentioned. Anne the heroine of the first two books is a very serious person. She needs her Mr. Franny. Saddest of all though, there is not resolution of the Tommy Crane matter.

In the first book Tommy is taken out of the country by his mother who is possibly complicit in several crimes. It is noted that Anne will never see him again. But I’m not Anne. I want to know what happens to Tommy. I’m going to be looking for him from now on in every new book Tami Hoag publishes. Poor Tommy.

Favorite Scene: Lauren realizes she should have checked with the licensing board.

Favorite Quote: “From what everyone is saying about Mrs. Lawton, it doesn’t sound like there’s much chance of you falling in love with her,” Hicks said.

Enjoyability: The first two in the series are five stars. Down the Darkest Road is a four. Mostly because, no Mr. Franny.

Where to read this book: If you’re in the mid-west for the next couple months, anyplace you can find that has air conditioning.

Further reading: Just started Red 1-2-3 by John Katzenbach. Creepy.

Any Other Name – A Walt Longmire mystery- Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

Any Other Name by: Craig Johnson

A Deeper Sleep by: Dana Stabenow

Whisper to the Blood by: Dana Stabenow

The Singing of the Dead by: Dana Stabeow

Other Books I’m Reading:

Galatea 2.2 by: Richard Powers

I admit it. I’ve been in a serious book funk lately. Partially because I’ve been rewriting some of my own work, and finding the first draft to be much less perfect than I had hoped. Partially because I spent several lovely rainy days actually out in the rain and not curled up with a good book.

To break the funk, I decided to order every mystery on my to read list from the library. Which worked out well for me because I ended up first on the list for the new Craig Johnson. Score! I’ll get to the massive amounts of Stabenow I’ve been inhaling in the next couple weeks. Today we’re going to talk Longmire.

Any Other Name starts with Lucian Connally dragging Walt Longmire into the investigation of the suicide of Detective Gerald Holman over in Campbell County. Not Walt’s jurisdiction. Not Walt’s problem. However, Lucian feels like he owes it to the widow, who just happens to be one of Lucian’s ex girlfriends. Of course.

Just let me pause here and say, I love Lucian. Of all the characters that have been lost in translation over to the A&E series, which is a very good series, I miss Lucian the most. If I had to deal with them in real life as a criminal, I’d take Lucian over Walt any day. You always know where you stand with Lucian. He reminds me of that old joke where the newlyweds start out on their honeymoon, and the horse pulling the carriage starts giving the new husband trouble. “That’s one,” the husband says to the horse. When the husband gets to “that’s three” he shoots the horse. Naturally the wife starts yelling at him. “That’s one,” the husband tells her. I always expect Lucian to bust out a “that’s one” on somebody.

Not unexpectedly the investigation of what seems to be a straight forward suicide turns into a full blown search for some missing women. In the course of events we are treated to another freezing, bleeding, haunted, snowbound scene. This time there are buffalo, and it’s in South Dakota. Vic is back and just as rip roaring as ever after being stabbed in A Serpents Tooth. I was about to give up hope on Henry, but then he turned up too. About one page before he was needed. There are also slave traffickers, an embezzler, hit men, trains, strippers, and a guy named Thor.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this book is that it sets up the possibility of a recurring antagonist for the next book. And boy is Vic not going to be happy about that.

All in all a fast paced and enjoyable read. Although maybe Walt needs to think about putting the brakes on his collection of haunted/cursed/unlucky items.

Favorite Scene: It’s a toss up between Lucian flags down the waitress, and Lucian deals decisively with a train. Although, some guy takes it right between the eyes with a staple is pretty darn good too.

Favorite Quote: “You’re sure you want that? Because he’s like a gun; once you point him and pull the trigger, it’s too late to change your mind.”

Enjoyability: Five stars 

Where to read this book: This is a take to the beach, lay out in the back yard read. Just use plenty of sunscreen so you don’t get engrossed and burn.

Further reading: Finishing out the Kate Shugak series. Then maybe some Bernard Cornwell. I haven’t read his most recent one yet. Can you believe that? I really have been in a funk.

The Medea Complex – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

A Plague of Angels by: P. F. Chishom

Book of Ages by: Jill Lepore

Other Books I’m Reading:

American Gods by: Neil Gaiman

 

Almost a month ago I was contacted by Rachel Roberts author of The Medea Complex. Would I review her book honestly, in return for a copy of the book?

Brave woman. We all have our price. Apparently mine is free books.

The Medea Complex is set in the mid 1880’s mostly at Royal Bethlem Hospital which is a mental institution. Anne Stanbury has been sent to Royal Bethlem for killing her three month old son John. Dr. Savage who is director of Royal Bethlem, and a bit of a case himself, is intrigued by the Anne’s condition. Here’s the hook though. He’s pretty sure he can cure her.

Anne’s father Lord Damsbridge is relived that he will eventually be getting his daughter back. Anne’s husband Mr. Edgar Stanbury is not so sure he wants her back. Sure, Edgar needs Anne back as she is the only way he can produce a male heir and get his hands on the Damsbridge fortune. On the other hand Edgar is not sure he wants her back. After all he’s going to have to make sure that she doesn’t kill any future heirs.

The Medea Complex is a dark, and obviously well researched read. I think my biggest hang up was that it does drag in places a bit. However, if you just keep going there are certain to be some airborne bodily fluids, or perhaps some fascinatingly questionable treatments just a few pages ahead. The descriptions are not so much graphic, as they are mentally disturbing. Easily offended readers be warned.

To the good, the plot is interesting and engaging. As a long time reader, I particularly enjoyed the discussion between Dr. Savage and Anne’s mentor Beatrix about how reading books caused Anne’s mental illness. The Medea Complex is not rendered in a look how quaint those silly Victorians were tone, nor is the author writing from sadistic glee. There is a genuine plot twist about two thirds of the way through that will leave you asking yourself if the heroine is totally crazy, or totally sane. Personally I come down on the way way way crazier than anyone gave her credit for side. Although being locked up in Royal Bethlem probably didn’t make that situation worse, or better for that matter.

This is a first novel for Rachel Roberts. I certainly hope she will publish more.

If you would like to explore Rachel’s work:

Amazon UK

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Book Trailer

Book Website

 

Favorite Scene: There’s a phrenologist is the courtroom!!! (Yes, I did need all those exclamation points.)

Favorite Quote: “Books. Women and their books.”

Enjoyability: I’m going four and a half stars out of five. Solidly enjoyable.

Where to read this book: Not someplace dark.

Further reading: Oh I don’t know. I’m suffering from a spring malaise. It is kind of bodice ripper weather around here. You know, tumultuous and yet insipid.

The Valley of Amazement – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

Critical Mass by: Sara Paretsky (Incidentally there is a handwritten post it in this book that says “AB Not Her Best”. I’m a little intrigued. Okay, more than a little intrigued.)

The Revisionists by: Thomas Mullen

Other Books I’m Reading:

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I’ve been on the fence about how to review Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement. On one hand, I remember the days of the The Joy Luck Cluband I’m disappointed. The Valley of Amazement has all the hallmarks of a book that was written by an author that didn’t really have a story to tell. On the other hand, if it wasn’t an Amy Tan novel, I could be willing to go easier on the book. Hum.

The Valley of Amazement is largely about Violet, the daughter of Lulu Minturn. Lulu is a white American who ran off with a Chinese painter to Shanghai. After their daughter Violet is born, the Chinese painter steals their second child, a son, and runs off to his family. This leaves Lulu with only one choice. Open a high end courtesan house in Shanghai. A house that Violet is raised in until she is about fifteen.

When Violet is fifteen, Lulu is conned by her long term lover. This lover steals Violet, and sells her into service at another Courtesan house. Then he helps a local gang take over Lulu’s house while Lulu is in America.

Essentially The Valley covers the three lives of three women in three different generations. Lulu, Violet, and Violet’s daughter Flora. These three lives are so similar they are basically the same story told in three different settings. There are several heavy and oft repeated themes in The Valley. Young women having sex way to early, and being used by those sexual partners. Children stolen from their parents. Mother’s that barely know their daughters. Daughters who have to deal without the help of their mother. Poverty, and the fear of poverty. I found the book to be a repetitive and dismal. It is meticulously written, as every Amy Tan book I’ve ever read has been, but lacking the poetry I’ve come to expect from her work.

I did at one point become convinced that Violet was having a child with her long lost brother. Thankfully this turned out to be not the case at all. Whew. Too much V.C. Andrews in my past.

There are some scenes of corporeal exuberance. Nothing over the top or really intense. It is after all a book about courtesans. I think actually the most disturbing scene in the book is one of Violet getting beaten by a patron.

Favorite Scene: Rocks fall, and the evil guy dies. Well, one of the evil guys.

Favorite Quote: Anything in which the phrase “clouds and rain” is used seriously.

Enjoyability: I’m going two stars on this one. It left me to gloomy to give it more.

Where to read this book: Maybe somewhere sunny.

Further reading: Critical Mass. Wasn’t there a V.I. Warshawski movie in the 90’s?

 

Thumbs up, Thumbs down #1

I realized over the last year that there are many books that show up on my blog as just titles and never as reviews. It’s true, I don’t read everything that I check out from the library. I do try everything that I check out from the library. Not everything gets a review.

However, just because I don’t review a book doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book. To remedy this I’m starting a new feature. Every once in a while I’m going to post a short summary of what I’ve liked, and the other books. Welcome to Thumbs up, Thumbs down.

Thumbs up:

Bad Religion by: Ross Douthat

Earth Made of Glass by: John Barnes

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by: Ian Morimer

The Princes in the Tower by: Alison Weir

A Serpent’s Tooth by: Craig Johnson

Hell is Empty : by Craig Johnson

Solidly Meh:

The Crying of Lot 49 by: Thomas Pynchon

Thumbs down:

Quiet Dello by: Jayne Anne Phillips

The Long War by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The King’s Deception by: Steve Berry – In fairness I didn’t read even most of this book. There were some technical problems with the copy my library has. But it wasn’t looking good when I put it down.

Riotous Assembly by: Tom Sharpe

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by: Andrew Sean Greer

So what’s been on you’re Thumbs Up list lately?

Daybreak Zero – Review

 

Currently on Loan from the Library:

The March of Folly by: Barbara W. Tuchman (Which contains among other wonderful chapters, a chapter on the Protestant Reformation that I’m really enjoying.)

Quantico by: Greg Bear

Other Books I’m Reading:daybreak zero

I’ve been rereading Much Ado About Nothing this week. My gosh William Shakespeare was a genius. I always forget if it’s been a while since I’ve read his work.

Daybreak Zero is the second installment in a trilogy by John Barnes. I’ve also read the first installment, Directive 51. I hope soon to read the third installment The Last President. However, my library is being difficult.

Daybreak Zero is set in the post apocalyptic world created by the author in Directive 51. Basically, a group of people with good intentions and a wish to go back to a more natural world are  turned into terrorists by an idea, and some hypnotism. These people called Daybreakers, set out to destroy everything that made the modern world work, and they were incredibly successful. With microscopic beings eating all the plastic, and turning gas into sludge the world comes to a screeching halt. Add in fission explosions that have leveled most of Europe, parts of South America, and a large chunk of North America. Also, there is a EMP cannon on the Moon that is shooting out any major radio station. By the end of Directive 51 millions of people have died and the United States government has divided into three parts. A group in Olympia, Washington, that is led by the Constitutional President, a group in Athens, Georgia led by the person who was supposed to hand over the Presidency, and didn’t, and a group in Pueblo, Colorado, that is led by Heather O’Grainne who is just trying to keep what is left of humanity from killing itself.

Daybreak Zero opens with the introduction of the tribes. The tribes are the people who used to be Daybreakers, or have become Daybreakers, and have gone native. Scary, violent, aggressive, and sort of faux American Indian groups start attacking anything that could be considered rebuilding, and taking slaves. Meanwhile, the Georgia, and Washington contingents are spitting at each other while Heather tries to get them to the table to set up the next election.

Heather, along with having her own plans for the future of the country, seems to be the only leader really interested in restoration. Which makes it doubly sad when she realizes that Daybreak has infiltrated her administration. That means somebody she likes and trusts is selling them out.

I think what makes these books work so well is that Barnes has a surprisingly deft hand with the interpersonal relationships. From the little town in the mid-west that just hunkered down and survived wave after wave of trouble together, to the trophy wife of a General, his characters have dimension.

Possibly the most heartbreaking character is in fact the trophy wife of the General. Married to a man twice her age. She seems to be leading him around by his desires. Most of the people in the book remark on her intelligence. She’s clearly much smarter than her husband. But she’s paying a horrible price for her influence.

These books are mostly mayhem and death. There is no denying it. They are also well written. I can’t wait to see how he finishes the series off. Actually given the series up until now, he may really be finishing things off in the last book.

Sensitive readers should be aware there are some scenes of torture. It’s not terribly graphic. But it is disturbing.

Favorite Scene: Santa Claus bites the dust. And boy did he have it coming.

Favorite Quote: “I wasn’t much of a lurer when I was twenty-one. My big seductive move was to send her a list of Xbox games I had. Anyway, Look, I know Harrison Castro, and I’m sure you’re right about his intentions.”

Enjoyability: Five Stars

Where to read this book: Possibly in your well stocked end of the world bunker. Just for safety sake.

Further reading: Enjoying The March of Folly so much. Not sure I could review it. But it is definitely a thumbs up.

New Year’s Resolutions and other Foolhardy Endeavors.

Last year I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions.  I thought it would be freeing.  Besides, I’m way too old for that stuff.  Right?  Right. 

Looking back now, I realize I still tried to do all the things I would normally make resolutions about.  I just did them in a haphazard manner, instead of an organized one.  I’m not sure if it was freeing, or just madcap.  

Since it would be pure folly to reveal all here, I will simply say that for the blog these are my goals:  One posted review a week.  Plus a post about once a month on all the other books I’ve been reading.  Hopefully with a simple thumbs up or thumbs down rating.  Also, fewer typos.  

How are your plans shaping up for 2014?  

Soulless – Review

soullessCurrently on Loan from the Library:

The Long War by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Bad Religion by: Ross Douthat

Other Books I’m Reading:

Don’t Kiss with your Mouth Full by: Henry P. Mahone

Anathem by: Neal Stephenson

Directive 51 by: John Barnes

Soulless by: Gail Carriger

I admit it. I’m a pretty opinionated person. It is not often that I don’t know exactly how to review a book. Usually I can point to the thing I liked, the things that worked, the parts that were a total disaster. I’m not actually sure I can do any of that with Gail Carriger’s book Soulless. But I’m going to try.

I came across Soulless because of my husband. He was reading an article about new genre twists and asked me if I’d ever heard of Gail Carriger. I hadn’t. How embarrassing. So I popped her book on my to read list, and proceeded to try and get my hands on a copy. It does not exist in my local library lending system. I hadn’t been able to find it at any local books store. It took months, and I finally broke down and bought my copy from an Amazon.com dealer for one cent plus shipping.

Leaving aside the fact that I generally mock the whole, the Undead fall in love genera (sorry Joss) almost as much as I mock the Jesus is my boyfriend genera, there are problems with this book. Stilted dialogue, both internal and external. Scenes I’m not certain make sense. Stock characters that are trotted in because the author needs a place holder. Plenty of romance novel type scenes of corporeal exuberance. Choppy plot. Hit and miss descriptions of people and places. In short, it is not what I look for in a Steampunk novel. Or any novel really.

And yet. And yet.

It’s as if Gail Carriger sat down and did exactly what they tell you to do in writing classes. Write what you like. I think she had a ball writing this. It’s funny, and quirky. Sure it’s a bit silly in places, but it’s fun. And wait for it…….. I enjoyed it.

Obviously I will have to research her work further. Purely for scientific reasons you understand.

Favorite Scene: Queen Victoria randomly shows up.

Favorite Scene to Mock: Let’s have sex on the dungeon floor before the madmen kill us.

Favorite Quote: “These are my monocular cross-magnification lenses with spectra-modifier attachment, and they are invaluable. I will thank you not to mock them so openly.”

Enjoyability: I’m going four and a half stars on this. Definitely a guilty pleasure read.

Where to read this book: Alone. On your e-reader. Possibly in the dark.

Further reading: Started Directive 51. It’s a good day to be me.

The Forever Queen

foreverqueenCurrently on Loan from the Library:

The Forever Queen by: Helen Hollick

The Long War by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Bad Religion by: Ross Douthat

Other Books I’m Reading:

Don’t Kiss with your Mouth Full by: Henry P. Mahone

Anathem by: Neal Stephenson

I decided not to do NaNoWriMo this year. I was sad about it. Yet, it turned out to be a good thing. There were sick children, and car repairs, and last minute travel. Basically if rocks fell and everybody died I wouldn’t have been in the least bit surprised. While all that was going on, I thought I’d go on a many worlds kick to round out the Finity review.

That turned out to be not the best of ideas. I started The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. However, I didn’t finish. Dick’s actual life is always more interesting to me than his writing. I also started The Long War by Pratchett and Baxter. Got halfway through that before putting it down. There was some question in my mind about series, and maybe the last book was so bad because they were just setting up their universe. Nope. In fact, if you want a full review of The Long War just look at my April 15th 2013 review of The Long Earth and change out the titles in your head.

What could make this all better? Obviously. Vikings. The Forever Queen is about Emma of Normandy. Wife of English king Æthelred the Unready. Isn’t that a great name? He was unready too. Mostly, unready for the Vikings that were ravaging his lands. So his wife Emma has to step up and try to get something, anything done. Which is how she ends up married to the Danish invader, and new king, Cnut the Great.

I’ve got to give Helen Hollick her props. She is writing about an era with not a lot of reference material, and some extremely confusing names, and she’s doing it well. While the book does drag around the death of Æthelred, making the reader wish that Emma would just take care of business already. Still, mostly the plot moves along at an occasionally dry but steady clip.

There are some tragic scenes that are not depicted in overly gory detail. So far less gory than most Viking tales. There is a very upsetting scene of Emma getting beaten by Æthelred that may be difficult for some readers.

Hollick also explores the origins of King Harthancunt, Emma’s son by Cnut, Edward the Confessor one of Emma’s sons by Æthelred, and William the Conqueror who is Emma’s illegitimate great nephew. There are many royal children with very sad lives in this book. In fact the whole era after Cnut is sort of like the year of the five emperors in Roman History. No sooner in one guy on the throne than he is dead and someone else is sticking their face on the currency.

All in all, a solid read.

Favorite Scene: Cnut and Emma meet for the first time.

Favorite Quote: “Ælfgifu of Northampton was two months dead.” – Okay, it may not seem like much, but I had a party.

Enjoyability: Solid four stars.

Where to read this book: Anywhere.

Further reading: Really looking forward to the new Allison Weir, and the new Bernard Cornwell. Both coming out in the next six week. Can’t wait.

The Color of Ordinary Time

The Kindle version of my book is marked down to $.99 for the holidays.

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