Monday, July 30, 2012

Beverly Barton: Dead by Midnight

In the first book in her Dead By series, Beverly Barton intoroduces the read to a serial killer who is obsessed with eliminating all copies and those associted with the pornographic move Midnight Mascaraide.

Lorie Hammonds has a past that she is not proud of her past. Ten years ago she was conviced by her then boyfriend to pose for Playboy and have a small role in a pornographic film. Lorie has done everything since then to remake her life, and forget her past, even if those people of the small town that she returned to will not. Lorie is extremely frighted when she receives a second letter that tells her that she may be next, may be dead by midnight. Lorie does not know why she has been contacted but she feels that the threats are real. She contacts the Powell Agency as she knows that the sheriff department will not believe her, as it is run by her high school sweetheart Mike Birkett, whose heart she broke by going to Hollywood to try to become an actor. But Lorie is forced to interact with Mike as the threat become very real, as another actor from the one film that Lorie made are murdered. With each new murder Lorie receives another letter and there is less and less people for the killer choose from, it is only a matter of time before they get around to Lorie.

.I was first attracted to this book because of the premise, I thought that it sounded interesting with a serial killer that became obsessed with the actors in the pornographic movie Midnight Masquerade and his quest to eliminate all those involved in the movie. However, I found as I read farther and farther into this book that the book became more about the relationship between Mike and Lorie than the mystery of the serial killer. I liked that at the beginning of the book there was a separation or two main couples that the book follows, one with Mike and Lorie and one with Maleah and Derek. This allowed Barton to explore the relationship with Mike and Laura but still keep the reader entertained with the hunt for the serial killer. But the book strays away from this format as you get closer to the end. This is where Barton lost me, I felt that this book became more about the relationships and not the hunt for the serial killer. Furthermore, due to the fact that Barton decides to focus more of the relationships, there were way too many sex scenes or sex references for me.

This is the first book that I have read by Barton and I thought that it was the first book in a series by her. However, as the book continues on, out of no where there was a back-story I feel like I missed. As this was the first book in this series, I felt like there was a book before this one that I had not read. This is mainly seen in the murder of one of the Powell agents that is looks like it is connected to a murder that had happened before. Then we get some additional back story about Griffin's past which may now be connected to these other two murders. Barton tried to do too much within this novel, too many sub plots, which distracts too much from the actual main plot and premise of the novel.

 I did like that before the killer murdered his victim, the reader was able to get a glimpse into the victim's life now after the Midnight Masquerade. Many of the actors have changed and moved on with their life, while others have not, but this makes no difference to the killer. I also liked how with each of this episodes the reader was able to see how much of a chameleon that the killer was able to be.

I think that this book had great potential but it was not for me in the end. I felt that by the end of the book it was just dragging on and that Barton was trying to do too much and actually got away from the main plot/premise of the book to pursue relationship and other subplots. However, I think that individuals who like (or need) a the relationship story and romance in the mystery books they read I think that you may enjoy Barton.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

J. A. Pitts: Black Blade Blues

In his debut novel, J. A. Pitts reintroduces the reader the world of dragons and these are still the fire breathing type from the Norse mythical stories.

Sarah Beauhall is a black smith by trade and by passion. She loves the feel of the hammer in her hand as she mold and shapes metal into new objects. While working as a props manager on a movie, one of her beloved swords that she is broken and she feels the need to re-forge it if she wants to keep her job. However, re-forging the sword is about to change Sarah's life, as it causes a chain of events that will change the world as a Dragon that has long slept has felt the power of the sword and knows that is could disrupt the dragons happy existence. It now becomes a race for the sword as well as a race for Sarah to figure out what is happening in her life, and whether she able to be everything that she needs to be to survive and protect those around her.

I really enjoyed reading this book, it has been awhile since I have a read an urban fantasy book that featured dragons, and really who does not like Dragons? This book was a little bit of a slow starter as Pitts takes the time to set up the story, Sarah's background and struggle of trying to be okay with who she is. Once Pitts has set the stage, the book begins to move fairly fast that you do not want to put the book down as it turns into a fairly dark gritty urban fantasy a with medieval flare. It was interesting giving the dragons the ability to be shape shifters and take the form of humans, and as much as many of them have adapted to the modern times, the dragons are still the same at heart. Wanting to possess everything, wanting to have a fast amount of riches, and when you piss them off be prepared to be eaten or burned (and this happens even if they like you). It was also interesting how each Dragon had different territory and I thought that it was interesting that how Pitt used real news events that were attached to the dragons. For example the Dragon whose territory includes Vancouver, BC, was commented to have lost another pig farmer, who he used to cover up his kills. I think that this was a clever way to have the dragons included in modern times.

I really enjoyed that Pitts allowed many of his characters to get hurt both physically and mentally, he was not scared to have some of the characters that you begin to love get in the way of the evil in his novel. I think that Sarah was a very believable character. You could feel her struggle with trying to accept herself after coming from a very religious background that condemns homosexuality and that she herself was part of the individuals who spoke out against it even though that was who she was you can see how there would be a struggle for her when she meets the girl of her dreams, Katie. I like the progression of Katie and Sarah's relationship and the hardships that they have to endure, mainly because of Sarah's internal feeling of shame. I think the way she acts in several of the situations is very real or someone who is having this internal struggle. Yes, there are some sex scenes between Katie and Sarah but they are short, not drawn out or too descriptive. Additionally, I liked how Pitts portrayed Sarah as a "hero", or not wanting to be one and being scared of this fate that seems to have come her way. The way that Pitts had Sarah's first interaction with a dragon was awesome, and very true to how I think the majority of people would act (including myself, I mean it's a freaking Dragon, how would you react).

I like the "powers" or abilities that the sword gives Sarah, but there is a struggle for her to develop and get used to what the sword wants her to do. The sword speaks to her, but at times she does not want to do what the sword does. However, based upon a few events within the novel, you can tell that Sarah does not even have a grasp of what her abilities is or will be. You know that Pitts will be exploring these in the future novels.

My one complaint was the dream event at the end was kind of different/weird and I was not too sure where Pitts is planning on taking the events of that dream. I do not know how else to put it, just weird and a little bit confusing, therefore, I hope that Pitts is able to explain it further in the second book, as there are some very big foreshadowing going on in this moment and I did not know how to take the events that it is showing could come. I will say that some of the foreshadowing showed events that I did not picture this novel taking

This was a great urban fantasy debut, that was more than just Dragons in modern times, and I think it is sure to appeal to those who like their urban fantasy with a darker more gritty edge. Pitts and his Sarah Beauhall series is one to watch out for.


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Monday, July 16, 2012

Gemma Halliday: Alibi in High Heels

This is the fourth book in the High Heel series. You will want to read the first three books Spying in High Heels, Killer in High Heels and Undercover in High Heels, before you pick this book up as with each book there is the development of the main characters, the relationships and the "world" that they live in, which is one of high fashion and murder.

In the fourth book Maddie's dream of  going to Paris is coming true, but Maddie is a fool if she does not think that murder will also follow her there.

Maddie cannot believe that Paris is in her future. That her shoes will walk down the catwalk at Paris fashion week, with actual models showing off her designs. As Maddie makes her way to Paris with her Mom and Mrs. R in Tow (not Maddie's idea i'll tell you that) and without Ramirez, Maddie thinks that all her fashion dreams are about to come true. That is until the lead Model in her fashion show ends up dead with a high heel protruding from her neck that looks very familair and the manner of death is very familiar to Maddie. The evidence is all pointing towards Maddie being the killer and it is up to her to find the real murder before they decide to make Maddie disappear as well, but more importantly her design may fail to grace the catwalk in Paris Fashion Week.

I really enjoy this series. I really like having Halliday as my go to author after I have read some more serious novels. The way that she can easily mix humour, Maddie's antics and murder are fantastic. I find that I am never bored when I read this book as I am ever waiting to see what Maddie and her group of friends and family will do next. These are the books that you use to take your mind off of everything else that is going on in your life and sit down just for the pleasure of reading. I think individuals who are a fan of the "cozy" mystery genre, that includes such authors as Janet Evanovich and Stephanie Bond (both authors I have read and enjoyed) will enjoy Halliday as well.

I like the way this story takes off and how each book Halliday has taken the opportunity to develop Maddie as a character as well as all of her relationships. This is not to say that Maddie does not get into the same trouble as usual, but especially in this books, there are a few events that really change Maddie. The relationship with Maddie and Ramirez really heats up in this book; well I think that it brings Ramirez to the boiling point with Maddie and her antics. The one thing I do not understand about Maddie and Ramirez's relationship is that Ramirez knows who Maddie is and what she is like when a mystery presents itself, yet he seems to constantly wanting to change her (though it would probably be for the better as she would get into less trouble but what fun would that be).

I am really excited to read the next book in this series, after I have read some more serious novels. The end of this book really has a great cliffhanger to it, and you will feel the need to read the next book if you are a fan of this series. This is a great series that I really enjoy escaping each time I pick a Halliday book up. I think I am going to have to look into her other series as well to see if they are as good as the high heels series.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

J. C. Daniels: Blade Song

The debut novel by J. C. Daniels (but she does know a thing or two about writing as she also goes by the name of Shiloh Walker), Daniels brings the reader into the P.I world of Kit Colbana who may looks human but she is always reminded that she is only a half-breed.

Kit Colbana has been a jack of all trades, most of which involve not wanting to meet her in a dark alley, as you are likely not to leave that ally alive. Although Kit has many talents, she has decided to set up shop as a private investigator and while work started off great, when the human started move out of her part of town business has been slow and she really needs a job. The next one that walks in her door has a big payout, but she is leery about working for one of the alpha's local shapeshifters. But there is a missing kid involved and Kit has a soft spot for missing children stemming from her own horrible childhood. Along the way Kit discovers that there is more than one missing kid from different areas, group and abilities that seems like no one is looking for. Kit enters into a deadly game of hide and seek, where she has to use all of her knowledge and abilities to try to survive.

I have never read anything by Shiloh Walker before so I am unable to compare the difference between the books, though based upon the book covers of the Walker authored novels, I do not think that those books would be for me, looks like they would fall into the paranormal romance genre. I found that this had a an interesting premise, storyline and characters, that just flowed well throughout and will be keep the reader engaged from the first page. However, Daniels does not add anything too new to the paranormal/urban fantasy formula other than the introduction of Aneira, better known as Amazons. I find the Aneira culture very interesting and I want to know about their culture, powers and where they fit within the world.

I like the main character in this book, she has the ability to focus on the task and is not distracted by Men too much, especially at the beginning of the book, she was all about focusing on the job (this does change as the book continues on, but this has become part of the urban fantasy formula). I like how the reader receives snippets of Kit's past, mainly from her training and grandmother's abuse and while it does seem like we get a large amount of information about her past, you still get the feeling that there is more to tell and I cannot wait to find out more about Kit's past. Additionally, I found that Kit was not overly typical of the female protagonist in the paranormal genre, there are times when she is stubborn or will not take anyone's advice, and she really does hate answering questions all the time, but for the most part she does not come across as bitchy or self centered. I also liked the powers that Daniels gave to Kit, especially her ability with weapons. I thought that the ability to call her sword when she needed it was really neat, and I liked the direction that Daniels is taking this power. Furthermore, I liked that Daniels did not just show all of Kit's powers right off the bat and hinted more than once, that she had additional tricks in her bag that she did not want those around her to know about, so I look forward to seeing what additional abilities Kit has.

There is some sexual tension and romance in this book, which I think will help it appeal to the individuals who enjoy paranormal romance and possible to the fans of her works under Shiloh Walker. I did not mind the sexual tension in the beginning of the book, however, I was not a fan of how quick Kit becomes to rely on Damon in more that just a partnership to find the children way. Nevertheless, I am interested in seeing how their relationship develops, I have come to accepted that the romance in the paranormal/urban fantasy genre now seem to go hand in hand (for the most part, there still are some exceptions out there).

This book it a mix of some earlier Luarell K Hamilton Anita Blake series and Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series (though the romance part move faster than in both the Hamilton and Andrews series). I can see different aspects of those authors within this book from the plot to the characters, and as I enjoy both these authors a lot (well the earlier Hamilton books, not so much the new ones) I think that people who like them as well will enjoy this book as long as they are not looking for something different and new in the paranormal genre. All in all a really good debut novel, that is sure to impress those who are a fan of the paranormal genre, Daniels books are going to be ones to watch out for. I am looking forward to reading the next book in this series when it comes out.


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Thursday, July 5, 2012

John Lescroart: A Certain Justice

 John Lescroart looks what happens when a mob mentality takes over San Fransisco and everyone is willing to condemn a man for being in the wrong place at the wrong time

Kevin Shae really just wanted a night of drinking by himself, but when the pub he is sitting in starts to get rowdy and making racial remarks, Kevin knows it is time for him to leave. He never imagined that the men drinking in the bar would spill out to the street and start a frenzy of events that will change Kevin's life forever. The mob has decided to attack the lone black man and string him up like they used to in the 1960s. The few men from the pub has attracted more people and they all seem to be saying the same thing, Hang Him. Kevin seems to be the only individual who has some sense, he attempts to save him. But Kevin's photograph is taken and this image is immediately misinterpreted by everyone. Kevin has just become San Fransisco's enemy number one. And while some are willing to search for the truth and others are willing to condemn Kevin, one thing is sure everyone is looking for Kevin, but not everyone cares whether he gets turned over alive.

This is the first book that I have read by John Lescroart and I thought it was good, it started off great the first chapter of the mob scene were fantastic, but it was unable to completely hold this fast paced start. This novel was well written and you could tell when Lescroart was in his element of knowledge and the premise of the plot was very interesting and it had everything to make a great thriller novel but I felt that it lacked the suspense that is key in any thriller. I never felt that I was on the edge of my seat as I was reading this book. There points where it should have been suspenseful but the events were never able to get there.

I also found it interesting that the character that is supposed to be the book smart, not street smart character turned out to be the individual that Kevin came to rely on and it was Melonie who had better ideas of how to keep Kevin safe. This did not seem very realistic as Kevin was in the military and you think would know a thing or two about staying hidden. I also could not believe that they decide part way through the book, when everyone in the book is looking for them (and there is a price on Kevin's head) they go out for pizza and the only thing that Kevin uses to disguise himself is a cap. When an individual's picture is plaster all over the news and he is the person who everyone is talking about I think more than one person would recognize them espically with police lining the street. Not very realistic at all.

The political aspect of this book was awesome, very interesting how there were many individuals willing to condemn one man just to further their own political careers. You can tell that Lescroart is in his element when he is talking about law and politics. These were the high points of the book, the interchange between the police department, the D.A.'s office and the elected officials. This is where the decisions in this book are made, whether they are good or bad and it really highlighted the flaws in the justice system especially the one about being presumed innocent until proven guilty.

I liked that Lescroart highlighted that there still an ever present idea of racism within people and that one event can cause a mob mentality where people do loose their own morals and since of right and wrong and that this mob mentality. Also I liked that Lescroart showed how easily people will condemn an individual based upon very little information

I really liked Abe Glinsky as a character, he was everything you want a Homicide Lieutenant to be, he is always after the truth and when events and the evidence do not add up, he has no problem going against the grain of the higher ups and elected official's beliefs in order to make sure that justice is served. I would read another novel with Abe as the main character. I just really enjoyed his detective style.

This book is not an easy read, but not for the wrong reasons. The dialogue and the plot can make an individual think way beyond what an easy read would. If you are looking for something more in a thriller novel than just sitting on the edge of your seat, then you will enjoy this book. For me I just wanted a little bit more suspense in the novel, but I would read another novel by Lescroart.


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