Thoughts about books... when I get around to it.

Love at first sight?

Three Bedrooms, One Corpse - Charlaine Harris

Or at least lust. This book does involve a murder, two actually. But Roe doesn't do nearly as much investigating as before, even though she's got the time since she's "a lady of leisure". Much of the book centers on Roe's relationships with men, or lack thereof. And on the sudden lustful interest in the buyer of the house where the first corpse is discovered. The book is ok if you're not really looking for a juicy murder mystery. It is definitely not one of Harris' better works. 


Mr. Green, you are definitely not Lovecraft.

Ghost of a Chance - Simon R. Green

I have read and enjoyed other works by Green. This book I have read. What was the most difficult for me was the speech styles. "The chain of events opened a door, and now Something from the Past is forcing its way through, into the Present!", "An ancient Presence, powerful and pitiless, demanding worship and sacrifice, blood and horror. Out of the Past, out of Time, come to drag Humanity down to its own level again", "I'm getting definite indications of Time shifts. Intrusions from the Past. Some recent, some not. And underneath all that... I'm reading Deep Time, JC. From long before this station even existed. This is bad, JC, seriously bad. I've never seen so many extreme readings in one place before."


That's just in the first three chapters of the book. Later on their speech does creep up to match the modern timeframe of the story, but the overemphasis on "OMG!!!" sits there all along. Each new thing they encounter in the London Underground is always more than anything they've ever seen before. And these are supposed to be seasoned field agents? Green tries to get around that by frequently reinforcing that they are a B-team and only there because there was absolutely no one else. Same with their enemies from a rival organization. That team is also there because there's no one else and they're an effective B-team. However, two Bs do not an A make.


Add in some over the top descriptions, more than one info dump, a deus ex machina and an barely believable team up and the story just falls apart. Which is sad, because I know Green can do better and the idea had so much potential. In the end, it felt like Green was trying to be Lovecraft, rather than paying homage to his style. Bad choice all around.


Ummm, no?

Betrayal in Death - J.D. Robb

I like JD Robb. I don't like Nora Roberts. This book reads more Roberts than Robb, which just brings it down for me. One of the things I enjoy about Eve Dallas is how much her inability to innately comprehend things most people consider given, like why people use makeup or why someone would chose to live in the country with animals, affects people around her. Her straightforward view points out things that most people haven't considered.


" 'How the hell did she walk around in that?' Eve wondered. 'Looks like it weighs a ton.' He had to laugh. It was so Eve to see the inconvenience rather than the glamour." Things like this amuse me to no end. But since the book was uncommonly light on things like this, I was not amused.


After having some major upheavals this year, many involving my children, I need that levity in the books to keep them from cutting too close to the bone. I had trouble with this book because there wasn't enough escape for me. I'm re-reading it this time through and this is one of the books that I remembered all the twists to once I read the first few pages. I persevered because I prefer to read a series in order, but I really didn't get any enjoyment out of it.


Personal issues aside, the book itself seems rather bland compared to some others in the series. Eve's frustrations, Roarke's anger and grief, Peabody and McNab's jealousy all seemed rather two dimensional. I remember reading this through the first time and being fascinated with the steps taken to track down the murderer and the angles that I wouldn't have thought to follow. It's a very good thing I'm not a cop, cause I'd suck at it. Apparently that fascination was the redeeming feature of the book for me, and it's missing on a second read through.


If you're a fan of Robb I'd say read the book. It's not as bad as Ceremony in Death, not as good as Origin in Death. Really only good for a once through unless you HAVE to reread in series order.


Not as impressive as others

Hercule Poirot's Christmas - Agatha Christie

I won't say I'm a Christie expert. I won't say I'm a Christie connoisseur. I won't even say I'm a Christie fanatic. What I am is an occasional Christie reader. I definitely have not read everything she's ever written. I haven't even finished all the books containing either Marple or Poirot. I have, however, read enough to know that I usually enjoy her stories. This was not one of them.


In the dedication Christie writes "You (James) complained that my murders were getting too refined- anaemic, in fact! You yearned for a 'good violent murder with lots of blood'. A murder where there was no doubt about its being murder! So this is your special story- written for you. I hope it may please. Your affectionate sister-in-law, Agatha"


What this tells me is Christie was writing this to please the audience, rather than herself, and it shows. The characters weren't nearly as complex as others and were somewhat choppy. I kept losing track of when Colonel Johnson was present for the action and when he'd gotten off somewhere. Which is pretty sad since he's the one who drags Poirot into the investigation in the first place. The characters kept getting churned up in my head and if Christie hadn't had people harping on aspects of the others personalities I would probably have completely lost them. Needless to say, with this much confusion going on and the clues not nearly as precise, if subtle, as I've seen from Christie, this book was really hard for me to get through. 


The ending, which I won't give away for those people like me who hadn't gotten to this book yet, was bewildering in so many ways. Was there three twists or four, and when did we see the clues that point to the actual murderer? I'm sorry to say, this whole book lacked cohesion and coherency for me, which was disappointing. Christie does much better work when she's only writing to please herself, not fulfill another's expectations.


Ummm, which book reviews are attached where?

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Harry Potter) - J.K. Rowling, Newt Scamander

I was eyeballing the reviews attached to this book page before I wrote mine. I pulled the page up by the ISBN and my book matches the one described. However, the reviews are all about the screenplay version, which I'm pretty sure is a completely different animal. The book I read, and am reviewing, is basically the textbook from Hogwarts, not the movie in book format.


That being said, I enjoy this book a lot. I got around to reading it again because I showed my daughters the movie and then tipped them to the fact that I had the book. Just in case they wanted to read it, ya know. What I like most about this book is that I can totally see this being a used textbook that Harry received. The "notes" written in the margins are amusing and relate to the various adventures from the series. The descriptions of the creatures themselves are informative but not professorially dry for the most part.


Having read this book well before the movie came out I resisted watching it for many, many moons. So when I finally gave in a watched the movie, I was pleased that my mental picture of Scamander's mannerisms was reflected quite a bit in the screen version. The fact that Rowling wrote both has no small part in that.


Don't go into this version thinking of the movie. Go into it thinking of the Hogwarts classes and students. It totally fits in there.

Hmmm.... meh.

The Trouble With Witches - Shirley Damsgaard

I have yet to manage reading any of this series in order but most of the books are self contained enough that it doesn't create problems. Some references are lost if you haven't read the previous books, but nothing critical hinges on them. That being said, there really isn't anything critical in this book at all.


Somehow, Damsgaard manages to take a fairly spooky premise and water it down enough that it's just tepid. I understand that there's a great evil in the abandoned decaying cabin in the woods. I understand that there's a cultish group of people living on that same property. I understand there's a Sioux medicine man who may or may not be helping. But I don't really feel any of it. The characters are rounded but flat, there isn't any punch to their responses and actions. The pace of the book is jumpy, running fast and hard in some places, slogging along in others. That messes with the tension of the story so there really isn't any to speak of.


The clues to who the villain was were all over the place and extremely inconsistent. When it was revealed I thought, "Ok, it makes sense in context, but there was no way I would have reached that conclusion". There's so many people who could be the villain, who make sense to be the baddie, that the actually person is anticlimactic because there's no real buildup for it. It's like Damsgaard decided to pull someone off the wallpaper as the twist at the end of the book. Not working so much for me. 


It wasn't a bad story. It wasn't a good story. It was just meh.


Not a bad little story

Doll Bones - Holly Black

Having read lots of John Bellairs and similar authors growing up, I would say that this book is as well done as those. The story isn't too convoluted but is just messy enough to feel realistic. The ghost of a girl who's bones were used to make a china doll wants to be buried, and drags three friends into a quest to do so. In the course of the quest they have obstacles to overcome with resolutions that make sense but aren't handed to them for the most part. Most of the adults they encounter treat them as would be expected. Waitresses and shop owners treat them as regular customers. Bus station personnel and librarians try to track them down or make them call their parents. No kindly old eccentric smoothing their way by covering for them with other adults.


I personally didn't find the story too creepy, but my freak-out quotient is pretty high, so I wouldn't hold that against the book. The interpersonal relationships are believable and echoing the theme of what to do when your body's growing older but your soul is resisting "growing up". That I can definitely relate to. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a tween-levelish "horror" book. Not overly frightening but will most assuredly make you look sideways at china dolls for a while. 


Call it.

Alright! I'm all caught up on the Bingo books. Bring on the next space!


Spells and Scones - Bailey Cates

Since this is the sixth book in the series and I own paperback copies of each, it's safe to say I enjoy Bailey Cates' writing. Her characters are well fleshed out, motivations make sense and the action is mostly what you'd expect in any story, magical or not. The town of Savannah where the action takes place is large, but the group Katie interacts with is a much smaller circle of people.


What intrigued me most about this one is Katie's familiar, Mungo. In this mystery, the accused innocent is actually Mungo's former witch partner. So watching Katie struggle with the jealousy and fear of loss that their reunion engenders enhances her responses. Because of this she's understandably less enthusiastic about clearing up this mystery than others before. 


What I didn't care for was the convenient manner in which Katie's rejected suitor, Steve, is removed as an obstacle in her relationship with her boyfriend Declan. Steve's attempt to use a spell to force Katie to love him isn't out of character. It's what happens when he shows up at her house to beg forgiveness that seems like a cop-out. No, I won't give any more details because spoilers. 


Figuring out who the murderer was was actually pretty simple but not so obvious as to be patronizing. All in all, a worthwhile story, as long as you're not expecting too much depth. 


Every so often a writer falls on their face

Haunted - Kelley Armstrong

Which is exactly what happened here. Eve Levine is a ghost. A ghost of a black witch with half-demon heritage. A ghost who in life said to hell with rules, I'm going to do what I want and take what I want and accomplish what I want by any means necessary. Kristof is the ghost of a sorcerer that had a very similar attitude. At least before he died. 


Now they're both dead, hanging together in the ghost world, pretty much sliding into the suburban middle class stereotype. Eve's only adventures is trying to find a way to interact with her living daughter. Kristof is a middle age lawyer with a belly. Bleh. Enter the Fates.


Eve made them a promise in a previous book and now they want her to track down this demi-demon who's causing havoc in the living world. Great! Time to brush off those ol' badass skills and kick some booty, right? Wrong! Kristof doesn't push to be allowed to help Eve even though their daughter is involved. And Eve follows the rules that are set for her. She may find creative ways to use those rules, but she never breaks them. What the hell happened to the people who others feared while living? Now they are impotent ghost laughingstocks.


To add insult to injury, then ending of the book sucks. Eve ends up getting exactly what she didn't want and the Fates give her a "Persephone solution" as a consolation prize. Despite the fact that she fulfilled her promise three times over. Talk about a cop-out.


Not one of Armstrong's better books.


Yes, I snuck one more in!

Cycle of the Werewolf - Bernie Wrightson, Stephen King

A skinny one, admittedly, but a book nonetheless. A reread from my childhood for Bingo, I remembered that this was one of King's books that has illustrations. I had forgotten how specific those pictures were. Not terribly horrifying by today's standards, but fairly graphic back in 1983. The storytelling is classic King, small vignettes making up a whole narrative, separated into months for this book. While King could have expanded this story into one of his epic books, measurable by inches, he chooses not to. The very spareness of the story and concise descriptions, the simple buildup and sharp ending to each "month" add to the impact of the story better than several hundred pages of narration ever could.


Yes, I truly read three books in a 24 hour period...

Blackhearted Betrayal - Kasey MacKenzie

So sue me. I like to read, a lot. This story is much better crafted than the previous book and confirms to me that Green-Eyed Envy was mostly a bridge between books one and three. The events of that books are barely referenced in this one, which doesn't detract from the story at all. 


I enjoyed how she built even further on the worlds and mythologies used in book one. Riss seems to be much better at piecing things together also, so that lifted the book also. The solutions to various situations are creative but not beyond the realm of possibility within the framework. The only deus ex machina comes from actual gods, and even then they need a helping hand because immortal doesn't mean omnipotent or all powerful in this world.


The ending does wrap things fairly neatly while leaving enough openings for the author to add more books to the world if desired. Babies to watch grow, pregnant Harpies, and body-snatched Fury and god that need to be returned, a mortal who's suddenly a quarter divine, a Warhound who spends every other week in the Egyptian underworld. Yup, plenty of openings. 


And for my second book today...

Green-Eyed Envy (A Shades of Fury Novel) - Kasey Mackenzie

I've read the second book in the series. Green-Eyed Envy picks up after the events of Red Hot Fury, although not directly. In this one Riss and Scott are tracking an arcane serial killer. I enjoyed the story even though it was slightly formulaic but I did get annoyed that Riss didn't put together several puzzle pieces that she should have much sooner. I knew who, how and why before the book was half over, so Mackenzie wouldn't be that great of a mystery writer. Fortunately, she wasn't really writing a mystery, more of an urban paranormal action thing. This book seemed to be more platform for setting up book three than a stand-alone story in its own right. Disappointing, but not enough to put me off reading book 3.

Another Bingo pre-read

Red Hot Fury - Kasey MacKenzie

To get myself reacquainted with this world before I read the actual Bingo book. I first picked this up because the main character is a Fury named Riss, something rarely used as a race in urban paranormal and almost never outside of a Greek setting. This Fury, however, lives and works in Boston as a police investigator in a world where supernaturals are already revealed. She's in charge of all arcane related cases, which leads her to a dead body that isn't who it appears to be.


One of the best things about this work is the way the arcanes (to use the book's appellation) are drawn from everywhere and how they are named. An Oracle is a healer/prophet. Bastai are shifters that become felines, while Warhounds become canines. Giants and half-Giants are large, strong and intelligent while a Phoenix makes the perfect suicide bomber, Harpies are Furies that have lost control and gone insane, etc.


While there is some sex thrown in it's not in every other chapter like a some urban fantasies. The story focuses on Riss tracking down the people who try to kill her every chance they get and find out what they're hiding. If you were to take out the personal relationship Riss and Scott, the other main character, the story would still hold together quit well, because no major plot points rest on it, which is refreshing. 


Now I remember why I've kept this all these years.

Definitely a junior novel.

Wonder Woman: The Junior Novel - Steve Korte

I will say this first so there is no confusion. Wonder Woman is my top superhero, well beyond any other. One of my daughters keeps telling me I have enough Wonder Woman related items. I keep telling her there's no such thing.


With this in mind, of course I went to see the movie on opening day. Paid a pretty penny, sprung for the deluxe recliner seatings in the 3D theater. Treats, candy, soda and much money later, all four of us were psyched by the film. While it wasn't fully accurate to the current comics depiction of Wonder Woman (no flying) it was faithful to the core image of her. 


In comparison, this is a novelization of the movie, done for "juniors". I think they mean tweens. More than little kids, less than full YA. As such, it is a fairly good interpretation. Lighter on the details than the movie, left a few things out that tween aren't supposed to be reading about apparently (Diana discovers intimacy), and ends earlier in the story than the movie. There isn't any actual mention of specific people dying although grenades are thrown, arrows shot, cannons boom and swords stab. Kinda a cozy mystery level of adventure. No actual blood and guts. It also leaves off the final scenes of the movie, where Diana confronts Ares. For those who haven't seen it, that's all I'll give for spoilers. Really, you need to watch it.


All in all, a good conversion and faithful to the movie it's pulled from. 


Industrial Magic - Kelley Armstrong

Actually, a pre-read for Halloween Bingo to bring me back into the world of one of my books. It's been a while since I read this so had to refresh myself before going on to the next. One of the things I like about Armstrong is her ability to create well rounded characters, most especially the women. In fact, thinking on the Bechdel Test I realize that it would pass with flying colors. There are more than two named female characters who hold significant conversations that do no revolve around personal relationships/men. Looking closer at the characters, I also noticed that the more two dimensional characters seem to be the men. Lucas is a good example. He trusts Paige and loves her and supports her, from a mostly "got your back" position. There isn't any development of his responses or feelings to the action of the book, especially to the changing status of the relationship with his father and Paige's beginning relationship with the same person. He seems to be there more as a sounding board or resource center than an active partner, despite what descriptions are used. 


In spite of some flatness of secondary male characters, the story itself is quite good. Revolving around a case where teenage children of Cabal (supernatural Mafia) children are being killed, it develops the action quite well, reads easily and is very engaging. Since not every character has to have huge dimensions, the relative flatness doesn't detract much from the story. Don't read this if you're looking for a romance. Read this if you want a good adventure story with an amazing female protagonist.