Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Timothy Hallinan: Crashed

 In the first novel of his Junior. Bender series, Timothy Hallinan takes a burglary with an exemplary career and turns him into one of the good guys a PI:

Junior Bender is Los Angeles burglar since he was 14 years old and breaking into houses has been a very lucrative past time for him. But now after 22 years of a "spotless" record he is set up on a job that he barely survives. Now that Junior has the main objective of a burglar don't get caught he is forced to work for mobster Trey Annunziato in order to keep his skin.Trey has an interested project for Junior protecting an once famous child actor Thistle and discovering who is trying to put the porn production shoot out of business. Although this is not Junior's usual gig he goes have some investigative type skills that are more towards the other side of the law. As Junior sets out he discovers that protecting Thistle from herself is going to be a challenge in itself, but coming out this job alive seems to be less and less likely.

Even though the beginning of the book was very entertaining, with the botched burglary and dogs trying to eat Junior it still took me awhile to become invested in the story and characters, but I'm glad that I stuck around with this book. It not only became very entertaining to read, but I really enjoyed the sarcastic tone that the book is told in by Junior. I will say that much like the TV show that is talked about in the book, the book really starts to shine when Thistle enters the picture. Thistle makes this book very entertaining, with her antics and child like behaviour that makes you think of a starlet or two who were child stars. I kept trying to decide which starlet that Hillinan used as his inspiration for Thistle.

Junior is an interesting character, he doesn't like to think of himself as a good guy as he is a master thief, but some of his actions definitely show him as the good guy. The way in which he "mothers" Thistle shows how much really really cares about people. He knows the difference between right and wrong in this situation and he does everything he can to prevent Thistle from hurting herself with drugs, but also help her stand up tot he press who hound her. Having Junior as the only voice in this book was the right choice by Hallinan, it made me like Junior so much more as he is very witty and he likes to play the dangerous side of things, for what he thinks is "right".

I liked that this book showed that Hollywood lifestyle can turn out to be so glamorous, and that things can go downhill really fast. I do not think that Hallinan lacks inspiration from the real world and I guess that really is the sad reality of Hollywood and I'm glad that Hallinan does not sugar coat it in his book. The book does show what drug addiction can do even to those who have the money to support that habit and what an addict will do to get the fix for that habit. He also shows the ruthlessness of the press and how they push people to their limits just to get a story or a picture.

Witty and satire are the best ways to describe this book and if you are looking for something in that tone this book is for you. While there are some slower parts within this book, I think that Hallinan is able to keep the reader really entertained with his cast of characters and it is his character development that will keep me coming back f or more.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Taylor Stevens: The Informationist

In her first novel in her Vanessa Michael Munroe series, Taylor Stevens has Michael going back to Africa where she was created into the woman she is now:

Vanessa Michael Munroe deals in information. She has the ability to get information that no one else is able to obtain and she goes through some extreme measures to get it. Michael has the ability to adapt, be who people need her to be in order to achieve the information required. You would never know Michael was there unless she wanted you to know. When she is approached by a an oil tycoon to find his daughter who has gone missing in Africa, Michael is forced to return to the place where she was tormented, abused and reshaped into the women she is today. The places where Michael needs to go are just as wild and dangerous as all the years ago when she escaped, but it is time to put certain demons to rest in Africa before they have the chance to kill her first.

I found that this book was not an easy read and I do not believe it was written to be one. This is not only because of the dark elements within this book but also you need to pay attention to all the events happening in order to follow Michael's thought process but also the events that are unwinding and where the clues lead next. You never really know throughout the book who can be trusted and who is Michael's ally or foe or both at times, this keeps you guess with all her relationships in the book which means to me that this book was the perfect mix of mystery and thrills. Further, I liked that Stevens was not afraid to take the readers to Michael's dark past to see how she was created into the woman she is today.

With this book you either like Michael or not and this will probably be the deciding factor as to whether you will enjoy this book or not. Michael has such a dark history that it is amazing that she is able to function in regular life many people would not have has the strength to carry on. Michael is a complete chameleon and it was interesting to watch her transform herself to fit not only in to different culture and situation but also the stereotypes that people have. You can see that she used this ability to be useful to the rebels in Africa and how she was able to survive the torture she endured.

What an ending, it had me on the edge of my seat even though some aspects were a little predictable. This is a great debut novel and first in a series. This book, for me was well thought out and written so much so that it appeared like Stevens had been writing for years and could outshine some big name authors. I cannot say how much I enjoyed this novel and Michael and I would definitely read the next book in this series. Bravo Stevens.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sandy Williams: The Shadow Reader

In her debut novel Sandy Williams take the readers to the world of the Fae where only certain humans are able to see the Fae and even fewer are able to read the shadows:

McKenzie is a College student who is desperately trying to finish her final exam and receive her degree, but as she is writing the questions her Fae partner Kyol appears with a danger warning. Not wanting to be seen talking to herself (again), McKenzie has to leave her exam behind (again) and flee as the rebels. McKenzie is the court's most talented shadow reader and can pin point where a Fae fissure out which has help with the chasing the rebels throughout the realm. Kyol tries to protect McKenzie but the rebels are able to capture her. McKenzie thinks that she is going to have a quick death, she is mistaken the rebels want to use McKenzie as the court did, but she refuses. Her loyalty is to the court and more importantly to Kyol. But the more the rebels pressure her and show her what life is like outside of the court, the more she beings to questions everything that has been told to her and that within the rebel force she might find everything she has ever wanted.

First off I would like to say that the cover of this book is misleading. I do not think that there is any point within this book where McKenzie wields a sword. I am actually pretty sure that she does not have any sort of fighting skills in her. Yes her and Kyol work as a fighting team but she is more of a spotter and he is the actual fighter. So if you are going into this thinking that McKenzie is going to be a kickass fighter and battle leader stop right now and put the book back on the shelf as that is not what you are going to get in this book. The only thing I can think of is that it is actually Lena on the cover, as she has the ability to fight, defend and lead the rebels.

What this book essentially boils down to is a love triangle and each Man trying to get McKenzie to see their way of things. It is an Old love versus a New love and I actually became tired of the fact that they both kept pushing her in passive aggressive ways to make her decision on who she should side with and really which side of the war she should work for.

I truly think that Williams could have had something here, she does a great job world building by having the Fae world and our world interconnected. I liked the idea of the different gates that are between the two worlds and the Fae's ability to fissure in and out. It was also interesting that there are only a few humans who can see the Fae and even fewer still that can read the shadows of the fissure and how McKenzie draws the information like a map and it can be in our world or theirs very interesting concept. The rebellion idea works and the possibility of it spilling over into the human world is a great threat as it could mean exposing the Fae to the world. Nevertheless, everything gets over shadowed by the Love Triangle and I mean everything that is all the story boils down to, who will McKenzie choose. If you want a urban fantasy romance, then you will probably like this book and enjoy this read, but if you are looking for more than that, I would look some where else.

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Matthew Quirk: The 500

In his debut novel Matthew Quirk introduces the reader to The 500, the most powerful people who really run Washington, and they use that power to shape it and it is Mike Ford's job to own them:

Mike Ford's past is definitely different from others attending Harvard Law School, and normally is not one you would put on you University application. Mike grew up in a small town, where his father was a con-man and Mike has been learning the techniques of this trade for as long as he can remember. He is completely shocked, when he gets picked for a job at the Davies Group, Washington's most powerful consulting firm but Davies seems to see something in him. Mike never questions what he is asked to do and he becomes a rising star in the company, but some things do not seem right and Mike begins to question everything. Now, he's staring down the barrel of a gun, pursued by two of the world's most dangerous men. To get out, he'll have to do all the things he thought he'd never do again: lie, cheat, steal-and this time, maybe even kill.

 I originally picked up this book because I thought the premise of the book sounded a bit like the TV show Suits, which I am a big fan of. There were just too many similarities not to think that they could be from the same ilk. However, I have since discovered that they are not related but I think if you like the show Suits you will like the book as well.

Yes, you read that correct above, this is Matthew Quirk's debut novel, but you would never know that it is, without searching that information out. Quirk displays a sophistication within his writing and plot lines that you expect from seasoned writers. The first scene will catch your attention and you will need to know how Mike found himself in this situation with a gun to his head. I know it made me want to read more.

I liked the voice that Quick decided to write this book in, with the main character Mike basically talking to the reader about events that have already transpired. I felt that this allowed the reader to get to know the main character better as you were part of his overall thought process. However, this does mean that you do not get to know the secondary characters and have Mike's opinion as to how he sees those characters as well, but for this book I think that it worked really well.

I liked Mike as a character and his struggle, to prove that he was just as good as those who did not have to pay for their education at Harvard and according to him, were just handed all the best opportunities that life could offer while he had to work for every one. Mike comes from an interesting past of con artist and scammers and it is his reliance at times to his past an his father's occupation that makes his work for the Davies Group so interesting. Mike has amazing problem solving skills and just when you think that you can count him out, he is able to come up with a plan, but nothing that seems too crazy, he just sees things differently.

I found this book very interesting and I was captivated throughout and this is a great achievement for a debut author and debut series. I am interested to see how Quirk turns this book into a series, as the ending seemed very final to me, but I think that Quirk will be able to handle this. I am extremely impressed that this is his debut novel and can't wait to pick up his next book.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Cassie Alexander: Shapeshifted

This is not a series where you can start any where, the books are not meant to be stand alone reads, so you will need to pick up the first two books in this series Nightshifted and Moonshifted before you read this book.

Nurse Edie Spence is back in Cassie Alexander's shifted series and Edie is looking for a new direction in her life, one that does not involve the paranormal:

After being shunned by everything paranormal, Edie has lost her job on Y4 and is struggling to find something that interests her as much. Edie is depressed, she seems to have lost all of her friends and her mother has just come out and told that she has terminal Cancer. Edie knows that there is only one thing that could cure her mother and that means trying to get the help of the Shadows once again but they send her on crazy mission to find Santa Muerte which send her to look for work in a not so great part of town, where gangs, both human and paranormal run rampit. Edie may be looking to help her mom, but she may not have her own life at the end of this.

One thing that everyone who is a fan of this series can agree upon is that Edie is always looking for trouble and seems to find it even if it is in the human world and not the paranormal one. I like that Alexander had this book introduced a few new characters like Olympio and kept Alexander mainly away from some of her allies within the paranormal community, though that did not stop some of her enemies from coming back. There was also a very dark aspect to this book that I do not think that Alexander has really gotten to before, I won't give away what happens, but lets just say there is a room full of bones.

I love Edie, she is a great character and I think she shows what you really need to have in order to be a nurse, willing to do anything to save someone. No one is left behind when it comes to treatment, you treat everyone, even when they were just shooting at you. Edie is so different from all the other heroines in the paranormal series I read, because Edie is Human. There is not magical discovery of powers or that she is part some creature. Nope Edie is completely human, sans everything paranormal. This makes Edie probably the most "Real" character in all the paranormal books our there and I applaud Alexander for taking this stand in this series. I honestly dont think that this series would work with out it. Well Done Alexander!

To be honest I did find that the book was a little predictable about certain aspects, but that is okay I still fully enjoyed the story and really I read these novel for Edie not the overall mystery. Great addition to the series and I cannot wait for Alexander to come out with her next book.

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Karen Robards: The Last Victim

In the first novel in her new series Karen Robards, has a forensic psychologist who can do more than diagnosis the psychopath, but can see their victim's ghosts:

Dr. Charlotte (Charlie) Stone is a distinguished expert in criminal pathology so it should come no surprise to her when the FBI seeks her out to help consult on their case. However, this case has a more personal than Charlie. When Charlie was 16 she witnessed an unspeakable act of the murder of her friend and family and this was the push that started Charlie on her path, to understand Why. The FBI thinks that Charlie can put into perspective what is happening and if the killer she witnessed once before, has struck again. All Charlie and the FBI know is that more families are going to die and it is up to Charlie and her unique perspective and abilities to stop them.

When I first read the premise me first thoughts were "okay this could be interesting". I will say that I did not get the whole I can see ghost aspect from the premise and was a bit of a surprise to see that enter into play. I would think that you would want to make mention of that as there are quite a few people who enjoy the addition of the paranormal aspect in mystery books these days. But that was okay as I happen to be one of them, it was I guess a twist I did not see coming right at the beginning.

Nevertheless, overall I find this book hard to review due to Robards choice of leading man. While I understand that there are some people and this includes women who have in the past found serial killers attractive and for all intense purposes they were attractive and were able to attract the attention of many women (just think of Bundy or Paul Bernardo) I just did not see this as crossing over into this book. I'm unsure if Robards just wanted to create the ultimate Bad Boy, that all the girls fall for. However, I do not think that it is appropriate for someone who is a doctor/psychologist/researcher to have sexual fantasies and thoughts about a serial killer especially when they themselves classify the subject as psychopath, when it is their job to help them. I am unsure of what Robards was thinking or what her overall strategy was when she chose Michael Garland as the leading man. Maybe she was trying to be different or edgy but I think she failed on both aspects. As you read further into the novel you understand, but there should have been a different way to get to this point outside of attraction and sex. I think this is going to be a polar book you either agree with Robards choice of a leading man or not.

If you take the questionable leading man aspect out of the equation, I would say overall this book is just okay. The mystery is okay, nothing too new there or new idea for a serial killer. The characters are just okay, Dr Charlie Stone is a interesting enough with a background that you can understand why she became a psychologist, but due to the leading man issue and her choice as him as her romantic thoughts ect, I found it hard to respect her. The paranormal aspect is nothing new and there seems to be more and more novels where the main character has the ability to see ghost and within the more mystery and thriller genres they help them solve cases, nothing new there either. When the rest of the book is just okay and then it is over shadowed with a poor leading man choice, I can personally say that I did not enjoy this book.

This is a romantic suspense book with a larger part of it seemed to be geared towards the romance side of things. I don't really know how to recommend this book as I found fault with Robards leading man choice in the novel and this aspect takes over everything else in the book. I think it could have been handled in a different way that still would have allowed Michael Garland to be part of the story. I do not think I will continue on with this series.

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