Blog Archives

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.

Bad Blood – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

Bad Blood by: Dana Stabenow

The 9th Girl  by: Tami Hoag

A Tale for the Time Being by: Ruth Ozeki

What Alice Forgot by: Liane Moriarty

Blindfold Game by: Dana Stabenow

 

Other Books I’m Reading: 

World War Z by: Max Books

Anathem by: Neal Stephenson

 

“Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.” – William Shakespeare

 

Can I just ask?  Are you Shakespearienced?  Apparently Dana Stabenow is.  Sure, the setting of Bad Blood is two villages on different sides of a river. One rich and one poor. So there are more than two families.  It’s more like four families.  Other than that it’s very Shakespearean.  Which is fine with me.  There is a reason that Shakespeare’s works are considered classics.  If you’re going to take inspiration from someplace, may as well take inspiration from the best place.  

 

Bad Blood is number twenty in the Kate Shugak series.  Readers familiar with the series will be familiar with Chopper Jim, Kate Shugak’s current boyfriend.  This is good because this book is really more about him than it is about Kate.  Jim is called into the poorer village on the river to investigate a murder.  At least it’s pretty clear to Jim that it’s a murder.  Everyone else is insisting it was an accident.  Meanwhile Kate does yard work, picks up mail, and runs into the still menacing Erland Bannister.  Jim get’s called to a murder on the rich side of the river next.  Again he gets the this murder is clearly an accident routine.  Which he finds frustrating.  Meanwhile Kate finds that Erland Bannister is supporting both sides of a major issue, bootlegging and drug running are on the rise in the area, and the mandatory young lovers have run away, gotten married, and gotten into a pickle.  Kate helps the young lovers even though she knows it’s going to make Jim mad, and then….  There is a huge cliff hanger. 

 

Let’s face it.  Twenty books is a huge number to write about one set of characters.  While I enjoyed Bad Blood, it’s not my favorite in the series.  I would actually be fine if Dana Stabenow decided that this was the last Kate Shugak book.  She is a very talented writer, and I see no reason I wouldn’t continue to be a fan no matter what she was publishing.  It is all to easy for one major character to take over a writer’s life.  Look at Arthur Conan Doyle. I would much rather have Dana Stabenow writing at the top of her game because she’s enjoying it, than writing another Kate Shugak because she has to.  

 

Enjoyability: Four stars

Where to read this book:  This is not a cold snowy book.  So just curled up on the coach, or laying on the beach would be good.  

Further reading:  I’m right in the middle of The 9th Girl.

The Cold Dish & Death Without Company – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

Blindfold Game by: Dana Stabenow

Halt’s Peril by: John Flannagan

What Alice Forgot by: Liane Moriarty

Death Without Company  by: Craig Johnson

 

Other Books I’m Reading: 

World War Z by: Max Books

Anathem by: Neal Stephenson  (Poor Neal.  He’s been languishing on the night stand for several months now.  To think I was going to read the first book of the Mongliad this summer too.  Ha!)

When the Longmire television series popped up on Netflix, I thought I’d give it a try.  I enjoyed the show.  Then I read the Netflix comments and found out several people really liked the books better than the show.  Books?  That’s when I got all excited.  Because we know how I love a really good book.

The Netflix reviewers were right.  The books are much better, then the very good series.

The whole series of books is set in fictional Absaroka county Wyoming.  Walt Longmire, is the county sheriff.  In The Cold Dish we see Walt try to figure out who is shooting some very guilty young men.  I had actually gotten Death Without Company from the Library and started it, before realizing I really needed to read The Cold Dish first.  That being the case, I knew who the shooter was in The Cold Dish.   This knowledge did not in anyway impede my enjoyment of The Cold Dish.  If anything, I think I enjoyed it more.  I kept wondering how Craig Johnson was going to pull it off.  And then he did.  It was very well done, and at the same time completely heartbreaking.

In Death Without Company an elderly woman dies in a retirement home.  This seems not at all odd to Walt, but sets all the alarms going for the former county sheriff Lucian.  With some serious convincing from Lucian, Walt starts to investigate what looks like a routine death, and stumbles onto a sixty year old murder mystery.

Interestingly, these books are written in the first person.  I wouldn’t have thought that I’d relish the thoughts of a Wyoming sheriff.  I was wrong.  Walt is intelligent, in possession of a rich inner landscape, and funny.  Between Henry’s remarks, and Walt’s internal monologue, I was laughing for a good half of these books.  Also, there was a literary reference I had to look up in The Cold Dish.  That does not happen often.

There are many colorful supporting characters.  Henry Standing Bear, Walt’s best friend.  Ferg, Turk, Sancho, and Vic, the deputies.  Ruby, Walt’s secretary.  Dorothy, the woman who runs the local restaurant.  Having read the books, I have to say that Katee Sackhoff’s casting as Vic in the television series is completely inspired.  The physical description in the book doesn’t match, and I don’t even care.  Even without having seen the television series Katee would have been Vic in my head.  You’d be that pissed off too if they took away your fighter and stranded you in Wyoming without a Cylon in sight.

These books do not have any scenes of corporeal exuberance.   At least not yet.  There is a rape in Death Without Company.  However, it is not unnecessarily graphic, and is very much in keeping with the characters and plot.  I will say that like a Bernard Cornwell book, these books are not for sensitive readers.  Walt is dealing with some seriously blood soaked vistas.  Which is only to be expected.

Unlike Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugak series – which has left me with an unreasonable fear of getting eaten by bears, or shot by Germans in any part of Alaska outside Anchorage – these books leave me thinking I could deal with Wyoming.  I’ll just need a 20 gauge.  Well, okay, maybe a 20 gauge, and a .357.  My husband says that would be fine with him.  I’d at least shoot in the right direction.

Also, apparently, if an Indian gives you something and tells you that it’s haunted, believe him.

 

Enjoyability: Five stars, and a Bullet. 

Where to read this book:  I’ve been reading these on a blanket in the back yard while the kids play.  I highly recommend it.   

Further reading:  I should probably read more Anathem.  It doesn’t do to neglect Neal.   

Fly Away Home – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

Fly Away Home by: Jennifer Weiner

Whisper to the Blood by: Dana Stabenow

The Historian by: Elizabeth Kostova 

Other Books I’m Reading:

 Anathem: by Neal Stephenson. 

Fly Away Home by: Jennifer Weiner is probably never going to be a favorite of mine.  Still, as always with Jennifer’s work, I absolutely respect the effort.  Her pacing is good.  Her characters multi faceted, and surprising.  She’s got a clear and interesting voice as a writer.  Fly Away Home is a well constructed novel.

That said, I didn’t find Sylvie Woodruff scorned wife of Senator Richard Woodruff all that sympathetic.  Which may, in a way, be the point of the book.  Sylvie doesn’t really seem to find herself all that sympathetic.

Our story starts with Senator Woodruff’s wife headed home down the Jersey Turnpike in the back of the standard black Town Car when she gets  a call from her best friend  Ceil.  Sylvie isn’t near a television, so it falls to Ceil to break the news of Richard’s affair.  Sylvie is understandably upset and pulls over at a rest stop to see the news on a television.  Possibly, the experience of hearing herself spoken of so harshly in the rest stop is almost as bad a shock as hearing about her husband’s affair.  Either way, Sylvie stays in town for the mandatory apologetic press conference, and then beats a hasty retreat to regroup.

Meanwhile, the Woodruff daughters Diana and Lizzie are finding out about the affair as well.  Diana, wife, mother, ER doctor, and woman cheating on her husband with a younger man, blames her father entirely.  Which I guess is no surprise.  Rather refreshingly, she blames herself for ruining her own marriage too.  Lizzie, younger, just out of drug rehab, and spending the summer babysitting for her sister’s son, adores her father, and doesn’t really seem to come down on a side for most of the book.

In fact the interplay between the sisters is some of the best material in the book.  Their relationships with each other, and with their parents is insightful and well written.  No surprise.  Weiner has always had a talent for writing about the difficult and confusing world of the sisterly relationship.

After finding out about the affair, Sylvie does the only thing she really can.  She leaves to rebuild herself, and eventually the relationships she has let slip with her daughters.

Watch for the scene where Sylvie yells at the woman in the grocery store.  It put me in mind of something Elizabeth Edwards said in an interview about the death of her son.  Actually not long before Elizabeth’s husband was caught cheating.

Enjoyability:  Four stars.  

 

Where to read this book: This is a good beach book.  

 

Further reading: I’m having another run at The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.  Last time I was really distracted.  

A Summery Summary

I have been reading many books, as usual.  Just nothing recently that’s really made me want to write a review.  Also, I’ve been mentally gearing up for NaNoWriMo.  It’s been two or three years since I’ve finished my NaNoWriMo project on time.  Or in fact at all.  So this year I’m trying to work myself back into a writing schedule.  I feel silly having finished with time to spare three years straight, only to lose my edge.

I did read the first two novels in the Liam Campbell series by Dana Stabenow.  Both Fire and Iceand  So Sure of Death are very entertaining reads.  I confess that I don’t find Liam as interesting a character as Kate Shugak, the authors other major hero.  However, I find the people placed around Liam more compelling than those surrounding Kate.  Which is to say there are four minor characters and one major one in these books, that could easily be spun off into their own series.  I’d be on board.  I also like that these books make me feel like I could possibly survive in Alaska.  Where the Kate Shugak books make me feel that I would surely perish in a horrible way if I set foot in our forty-ninth state.  The Liam Campbell series puts me in mind of my friend Cindy who lived in Alaska for many years, and claims that old saying “the chances are good, but the goods are strange”, is dead on.

For my new book club I read A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers.  I admit, I am not a fan of Inspiration Fiction.  Generally I find the genera to be heavy handed, over emotional, manipulative, poorly sourced, badly executed, faux theological drivel.  That said, A Voice in the Wind was an interesting read.  There are plenty of cliff hangers, red herrings, and game changers to keep the reader engaged.  Francine Rivers is a talented writer.  I am looking forward to the next book in the series, which we are reading for next months meeting.  Be aware, she does stray into some works righteousness theology, and I have questions about how deeply she researched the Roman social order, but all in all, there’s nothing to get unhinged over.  I think most of the ladies in the group were upset by the gore, especially in the first several chapters.  Return readers will not doubt be aware of my Bernard Cornwell fixation, and take it into consideration when I say, the level of gore didn’t bother me.

Just now I’m reading Rift Zone by Raelynn Hillhoues.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but I feel a very good review coming on.

Hope everyone had a great summer.  So glad the fall is here.

Restless in the Grave – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Better to Rest  by Dana Stabenow

Restless in The Grave by Dana Stabenow

 Other Books I’m Reading:

I’m always tempted to put a title here that makes me look smart and witty.  Sadly, I’m not reading anything else right now.   The crazy busy is eating into my reading time.   

Here is what I have come to appreciate about Dana Stabenow books.  It’s never the same book twice.  Many authors come to a point where you know exactly what you are getting when you pick up their books.  Think James Patterson, even in the long ago days when he was not more industry than author, or Tami Hoag, as much as I enjoy her work, or pretty much any romance novelist ever.  There just does not seem to be a formula that Dana Stabenow is working with, or maybe there is, but she uses a different formula for every book.  I really delight in that aspect of her writing.  Although I freely admit, I have not yet read everything she has written.  Not even most of the Kate Shugak novels.  

 I came to the Kate Shugak novels through a friend who recommended them.  I’ve read five now, out of about fifteen.  I do have plans to slowly work my way through the other ten.  Hopefully while keeping up on the new installments as they come out.  I know that by hunting and pecking my way through Dana’s work, I am in a sense short changing her efforts.  There seems to be, even to my out of sync eye, a great deal of foreshadowing and inside joking, in these books.  Which is defiantly part of their charm.  I am already starving to see what next Kate Shugak book holds.  

 Restless in the Grave starts with Alaska State Trooper Liam Campbell showing up in Niniltna, Kate’s hometown, looking for help investigating a possible murder.  Liam is apparently an old friend and student of Chopper Jim, Kate’s current beau.  Liam is also apparently the main subject of another Stabenow series.  Which I obviously also have to read.  Bringing to fourteen the number of books added to my must read list from this author.  

 Kate agrees to help Liam, apparently any woman would, and heads off for Newenham, Alaska to investigate the possible murder.  Since it’s a Stabenow novel, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by telling you, it was a murder.  Although I wasn’t entirely sure it was until a good three hundred pages in to a three hundred and seventy page book.  Also, the murderer, while not entirely a surprise to me, was also not really my suspect list until a bit of foreshadowing around page three hundred. Gotta love a book that keeps you guessing until the end.  

 Kate takes the usual amount of abuse in this book.  Including being covered in trash, and blood.  There are fewer guns than usual, although they are of the larger more powerful type.  So I guess that makes up for the number.  The body count is reasonably low.  As are the, as usual, very tastefully done scenes of corporal exuberance.  There are tons of planes.  Restless in the Grave has more than convinced me I never need a pilot license.  Just like skinning a moose is not for me, flying a plane is not for me.  Breaking and entering also figures largely into this book, and more than a little marital strife with a side of fortune hunting.  

I am a little worried that Chopper Jim is on his way out.  Which is too bad.  I kind of like Chopper Jim.  Not just for the cool nickname either.  Watch for the return of the very menacing Erland Bannister.  Also, I feel that the next novel may be about a serial killer.  Or at least about a body buried in a basement.  Call me crazy.  I hope wherever Dana Stabenow is today, she’s working on it.

Enjoyability: A nice four and a half star read.  It does drag a little around the two thirds mark.  Still it’s a humdinger.     

Where to read this book: Over your drink of choice.  Daylight not required.  

Further reading:  The Forever War which I absolutely must get to before returning it to the Library.  Also, obviously the first Liam Campbell mystery.  

Death of Kings – review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

Death of Kings by: Bernard Cornwell

The Forever War by: Joe Haldeman

The Crown by: Nancy Bilyeau

Other Books I’m Reading:

The new Dana Stabenow is on hold for me at the Library.  I think it is called Restless in the Grave.  But don’t quote me.  My mind is on the 9th century right now.

I admit I was worried about Cornwell’s Saxon Stories series after the fifth installment The Burning Land.  I thought I detected the sort of subtle aimlessness in the book that often is the sign a series is about to founder.  I should have had more faith.

Death of Kings finds Saxon Warlord Uhtred poor and living off the estates of King Alfred’s daughter Aethelflaed.  He’s still a Pagen, he’s still ready for a brawl, and he’s still very grouchy when mercenaries show up to kill him.  After foiling the attempt on his life with some sheep a shepherd and a large sword, Uhtred marches off on a peace mission to King Eohric.  Naturally it’s a trap.

The next three hundred pages are all that another installment to this series should be.  There are bloody battles, although mostly raids.  Which are actually more fun than the larger battles anyway.  There are fortune tellers and counter fortune tellers.  Traps and counter traps.  I think it’s not spoiling anything to say that Alfred finally dies, and his son Edward takes the throne.  Likewise Aethelwold who has been asking for it for several books now, finally dies in a  largely satisfying way.

Watch for the scene where Uhtred tells the people he’s attacking exactly what he’s doing, and they refuse to believe him for long enough that he has time to do exactly what he said he would.  I admit those scenes are a staple of this series.  Still I’m always amused by them.  This time their are boats.  And don’t boats make everything better?

The main problem with the book is a problem that Cornwell is saddle with by history.  There are simply an appalling number of people running around with very similar names.  Not just the Aethelwolds and Aethelflaeds and Aethelreds, but also a Sigelf, two Sigurds and a Sigebriht.  I am always tempted to wonder what these people called each other when they were alive.  Maybe Edward called Aethelflaed “Sissy”.  Maybe everyone called Aethelwold “Stumpy”.  We’ll just never know.  Yet, Cornwell pushes forward to spite the fact his word processor must be having a melt down.  I don’t blame you if you need a score card.  I certainly thought about using one.

Death of Kings does serve to remind me that Uhtred is getting old.  In his 40’s in this installment.  35 is the average life expectancy for the period.  So it seems the clock is ticking on Uhtred and his ambition of retaking his family home of Bebbanburg.  All along the books in the series have eluded to a future in which Uhtred does accomplish his goal.  Sadly, I’m thinking we’re going to have to get there soon.

As usual I’ll remind you these books are shamelessly gory and should be avoided by sensitive readers.  I’d say Death of Kings is about medium gore for the series.  Less rape than usual.  More  bodies left exposed to the elements.

Enjoyability:   Very Enjoyable.  I give Death of Kings  five stars.

Where to read this book:  Anywhere.

Further reading:  I’ve started on The Forever War, which my husband is shocked I’ve missed up until now.  Also, I’ll be headed to the Library for the new Stabenow.

Back to Reality

Currently on Loan from the Library:

City at the End of Time  by Greg Bear

Madame Tussaud  by Michelle Moran (Mostly because the woman on the cover had huge hair.  Massive.)

Other Books I’m Reading:

Of Nobel Birth by Brenda Novak – Free with Kindle app.  

Alright, I admit it.  I’ve sort of taken the last couple of weeks off.  Christmas is always crazy in our parsonage.  Good crazy.  But still crazy.   

Now, the Christmas Tree is down, the advent calendar is put away, the preschooler is back at preschool, and all the fake pine needles have been vacuumed up. So I’m back.   

Over the holidays I did finish one book.  The first book I’ve ever read completely on the iPad.  Which I guess is a small accomplishment of sorts.  A Cold Day for Murder seems to be the fist book in the Kate Shugak Mysteries by Dana Stabenow.    Previously, I remember writing that Dana had one of the highest death to pages ratios I’d ever seen.  I was waiting for the starting pistol here too, but was surprised with a total of three deaths.  Only two of them murders.  Still and enjoyable read.  And a solid recommend for anyone who enjoys a good mystery.  

I do wonder though.  I’ve noticed that many of the Kindle, Nook, and iBooks that are offered for free are romance novels.  I’ve also seen at least two articles lately on the spike in romance novels as ebooks.  Seems we women really want to read romance novels, but are too ashamed to read them openly.  But of course on the ereader of your choice no one knows what you’re reading.  

I’ve been tempted because of this trend to download a bunch of romance novels, basically anything I can get for free, and review them here.  I kind of wonder how they are.  In fact maybe that is my new years resolution.  Every dead tree edition reviewed comes with an ebook review.  Hummm.  Food for thought.  

In the mean time I’m on a Science Fiction kick this week.  Anyone know where I can get a copy of  The Gone Away World  by Nick Harkaway?  I’ve heard good things.  

Enjoyability:  Four stars.  Although I’m sort of missing the body count in this one.    

Where to read this book: It is safe for the coffee house.  

Further reading: How about This Shared Dream by Kathleen Ann Goonan?  Although I hear I need to pick up In Times of War first.  Love Kathleen.  She’s just really hard to find around here.  

%d bloggers like this: