Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sohpie Littlefield: A Bad Day for Sorry

This is the debut novel of author Sophie Littlefield. Some of you may recognize the name from her Aftertime series (which I have read and loved) but this was Littlefield's first venture into the published book world, and Littlefield takes the mystery to vigilante justice with a twist:

Stella Hardesty was in an abusive marriage that came to an end one day when she killed her husband with a wrench. For a while Stella did not completely remember what happened that day but she was very happy to be free; free to live how she wants and free to live her own life. Stella has come into herself later in life and now she wants to help those who are suffering the same abusive relationship that she had endured for years. Now Stella is out to help women who are being abused by their husbands and boyfriends; exacting her own type of justice on her own parolees. But when one on her parolees strays from the course Stella has set him on and there is a young child involved, Stella will do anything, even take on the Mob, in order to get the child back.

This is a different type of mystery book as it is not as cut and dry as others and this has to do mainly as having Stella as the main character and heroine as well as the path that Stella has decided to take. She really feels that she has helped multiple women out of abusive situations with her own strange type of persuasion, rumours and apparently dominatrix ways (I laughed when I heard that rumour about her) and I don’t see anything that counteracts this conclusion, though she slightly on the wrong side of the law (okay maybe more than slightly). Littlefield definitely knows how to introduce the reader to the south, from the land scape, the small town life and how some of the characters talk. I like how Littlefield was not afraid to have Stella as a mortal individual, who can’t beat everything; she is a very real person. Even though Stella has changed a lot since her husband's "death", it does not mean that she is in control of everything her body and life. The mystery was a little bit lack luster in this book, and a little bit predictable but overall it was still an enjoyable read.

Littlefield was smart to have an "older" woman as the main protagonist as I think it open the book up to a demographic that probably does the majority of reading these days. Does this mean that a younger reader will not enjoy this book definitely not. I am in my mid-late 20s and I really enjoyed this book but I know personally I like reading book every now and then when the protagonist is about the same age as me and I can relate to some of their choices and though processes.

Stella does not represent the typical image of a heroine when you are reading a mystery novel, i'm pretty sure she is the last thing that you would expect. Stella is 50 years old, and is known around town for killing her abusive husband three years earlier with a wrench. Stella not being the typical heroine is what makes her so interesting.There are so many different aspects to her character that it was interesting, for me, to read a book where the protagonist was over 50 years of age, as there are experiences that Stella has had that I have not, and how they have shaped her into the person she is now. I think that it is funny that Stella refers to the men as her parolees and that she has to make sure they walk the straight and narrow and that she still keeps her sowing shop open, even though it does not sound like it is very profitable. Stella had so many characteristic that I was drawn to and enjoyed. She is protective, witty (with some very dry humor), she still got all hot and bothered when the guy she liked was around, she was fearless and really I think overall just wants to see the good in everyone. Stella is still a little green in the whole detective aspect of this book, but man does she ever have resources, some that I think the police would appreciate.

To be honest this book is all about Stella, she is what makes the book. So if you like Stella you will enjoy this book, if you don’t then you probably are not going to like this book. I personally liked Stella as a character and really who does not want to read a book about a 50 year old lady who is doing her own style of Vigilante Justice against abusive men? I am looking forward to getting my hands on the next book.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Darynda Jones: Second Grave On The Left

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Darynda Jones is back with her second installment of her Charley Davidson series and things are going to get tough for the Grim Reaper:

Charley is about to take a case that is really personal to her best friend and co-worker Cookie. One of Cookie's friends Mimi disappeared five days earlier and this was just after she had talked to Cookie about hiring Charley for help. As Charley and Cookie dig into Mimi's past they find of friend of Mimi has just died as well and the body count keeps getting higher from people of Mimi’s past and she could be next if they don’t find her first. If this was not enough Reyes has left his corporeal body and is haunting Charley. Reyes is being tortured in order to lure Charley to the Demons who are looking for a way out of Hell and Reyes has decided that he no longer needs his corporeal body. Charley is determined to save him at all cost, but it becomes a question is showing the Demons a way into Heaven too much of a price to pay?

I liked and enjoyed this book, it was a good continuation from the first and the elements that are established in the first carry over in to this book and you are not left wondering, what happened to this character. Jones does a good job of just updating you on even the secondary characters are in their lives, but she works it into a way that it is part of the story, for example, the demon child spawn ghost (Charley’s words not mine) from the first book, you don't get as much of her in this book, I think she only has a few scenes but she is helpful to the case but also gets Charley involved with her brother’s love life, lol.

I really appreciated that Charley had the ability to say NO to Reyes even when he was trying really hard to persuade her otherwise. This made me not only like Charley as a character more but also Jones as an author as she did not succumb, to what would have been easier and let Charley and Reyes have sex. However, I did find that there may have been a few too many incorporeal scenes where Reyes attempts to persuade Charley to have sex with him, and although it doesn't happen, I just got a little bit tired of them popping up every time it seemed that Charley was asleep and sometimes when she was not. I think in many authors these days lack the art of developing a relationship from book to book and it has been lost in series based novels. If you know that you are going to have at least a trilogy why not have your characters a) get to know each other better and b) no just jump into bed with them because of this sudden "love" / "lust" that the characters feel between each other, I think that Jones has attempted to find the best of both those worlds that I think this series will appeal to more that just those looking for a paranormal romance.

I liked that there is always more to these stories than the supernatural and that Charley and Cookie take actual cases. There is the Case about Cookie's friend, the dead guy in the trunk of Cookie's car that needs to be investigated and then all the Heaven/Hell/Apocalyptic events with Reyes. Yes all of this is in one book but I never found that the intertwining plots to be overwhelming or confusing, Jones is some how able to make it all work well together.

I liked that we get to see more development of Charley as a character, things from her past, her powers and the development of all her relationships, including some of those in her family, which I think needed to be done. I'm a big fan of the Grim Reaper aspect; I just find that role so interesting and something truly unique to me as I have not read another book that has the Grim Reaper as the main character. I am also interested in finding out more of the powers that Charley has as the Grim Reaper as Reyes hints throughout this book that Charley has power that she has yet to discover and I wonder what direction Jones will take this in as the possibilities are endless.

This is a really good follow-up to the first book and I look forward to reading the third. Although, I do hope in the third there is a bit more interaction with ghosts such as Angel, I find him a really interesting character. Jones has done something that all authors want to do, make their sequel just as good as the first. I personally think that Jones has succeeded in that venture.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Jason M. Hough: The Darwin Elevator

Jason M. Hough is out with his debut novel that mixes sci-fi and post-apocalyptic genres, where humans are forced to either live in the city of Darwin or in the orbit above the city and there is more than one person that would like to control it all:

It is the mid 23 century and the city of Darwin is the last safe haven for human civilization on Earth. The wealthy and influential have migrated to the orbits around the Earth to escape the uncivilized ways and corruption that have taken over Darwin. The human race has been reduced to scavengers getting what they can from beyond the walls of Darwin. There are a few people who have been determined to be immune to the disease that ravages just past the walls of Darwin and they are willing to risk their life for much needed supplies. Beyond the wall there are people who have reverted back to a more primal stage and within Darwin and in the skies greed and corruption run at a high. Skylar and his crew attempt to navigate on the fringe of this new world, but a series of events and scavenger runs are going to pull Skylar into the middle of everything and the fate of the human race may just be left up to him.

Sci-Fi is not where I normally read but I was really interested in the premise that was presented for within this book, a post-apocalyptic technological world. I was completely engrossed with this book, yes even though it was sci-fi. I did not want to put this book down, the story, the characters, everything drew me in. This was an amazing debut novel. I will say that Hough is a very smart writer. What is the trend today? Post-apocalyptic stories with zombie or something similar, but it is clear that Hough favours the sci-fi genre, so why not blend the two together? This way you attract to a wider audience and those who would not normally read a sci-fi book (also known as me) are intrigued enough to pick up this book and give it a try because there is an aspect within the book that I know will interest me.

I was really happy that Hough did not take the sci-fi aspect too far as if he did I know I would have felt lost. I think that Hough did a great job of writing for the masses and not just those who love the sci-fi genre. I think that this book and series will appeal to a lot of people, especially those who like the sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal and urban fantasy genres. Even those who like to read political based books I think will find this book intriguing because of the complex system of reliance that is built between Darwin, the orbitals and the scavengers and the ever need of people to have all the control and power.

I liked the use of the city of Darwin, but also what the word or person that Darwin represents; Survival of the Fittest which is true in this world and any post-apocalyptic novel. It also, for me, meant the evolution of Man and how some of the individuals were immune to the Subs disease and could travel outside of Darwin, while the rest of the population could not without specialized suits.

The characters tend to take a secondary role within this book as it is mainly plot driven which also means that we get chapters from different characters, but do not worry this actually enhances the world and plot. The characters that Hough has decided to have chapters from their point of view all have different and unique points of views of what is happening in Darwin, on Earth and in Space. Our main character Skyler is an interesting character as he struggles to be the captain of his crew that he knows they need him to be, but he does not want to fulfill that role. I liked that to begin with Skyler might not be a character you would expect in this type of book, he is not portrayed as a fearless leader ready to do battle and win at all costs and not willing to be taken advantage of. Actually my favorite character is Russell Blackfield the antagonist in the book, who is bad to the core however, you understand some of the actions he takes and the reason behind them but that does not make them the right decisions. Niel Platz is also a different character, who one could take as either a good or bad side of the characters, as he is obsessed with his own survival and the possibility to make money from others needs and survival. 

The book is at times on the slower side, but this is due to the fact that Hough needs to set up his world and all the politics that surround it, as politics play a major role within this book. I personally did not find that there were too many slow parts, and they were always broken up with an adventure that Skyler and his crew would be on. Hough did a good job on timing and never had two slower chapters in a row. This showed great knowledge of the reader by Hough and I know I appreciated as a slow read is one that I would put down.

For someone who does not read and does not really like the sci-fi genre, I was completely enthralled with this book and did not want to put it down. Hough has down a great job of creating a plot, world and characters that will suck readers in. This was a great debut novel and I cannot wait to read the next in the series, as I want to find out about the elusive aliens that changed the world.


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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Linda Howard: Shadow Woman

Linda Howard is back with another romantic thriller, where one woman wakes up and realizes that the face in the mirror is not hers:

Lizette Henry wakes up one morning, looks in the mirror and sees a face that is not hers. She remembers what her face should look like and the person staring back at her is someone else’s reflection. To make matters worse she finds that her memory is off and she is missing at least two years of her life and no matter how hard she tries to remember or search for evidence of that time there is nothing about those years. Everything starts just three years prior. Lizette feels like she is only half of herself, they have taken everything away from her, who they is has yet to be determined, but Lizette knows that she is not just being paranoid that she is actually being watched and followed, and all she can think of is that is not my face, what happened to my face. As events happen Lizette is convinced more and more that she is being watched, as she struggles to determine what is true and what is a fabrication? One thing is for sure the past always finds a way to return, even if it something that people will kill to keep hidden.

It has been sometime since I have read a novel by Howard. She used to be on of my go to authors when I really started to become an avid reader, however, I gave up her novels when they became more about sex than actual story. I thought I would give this one a try as I thought the premise sound interesting almost like Howard was trying to do a woman's version of the Bourne Identity and I think in some aspects Howard did succeed but there was a major flaw in the novel for me; Too Much Sex. I was really hoping that Howard's writing style had changed since the last time I read a book by her, but I was sad to discover that this was not the case. Howard start off the book great, the opening prologue would get any reader interested to find out more and where the story is going to lead. However, I do not think that Howard was able to maintain this forward motion because there were too many dream sex and sex scenes, which is what the story became about. They were not short scenes either they were at least 4-6 pages, with minimum of 6-8 sex scenes in the book and when a book is only 300 pages this takes up a lot of room that could have been dedicated to other aspects within the story. Additionally, even outside of the sex scenes all Lizette could think of was the mysterious X and this just added to the overall romance theme within the book, not the suspense/thriller that is promised in the premise.

It was really interesting seeing Lizette discover/rediscover her past and the missing two year and I think that Howard really excelled at showing this process. I liked how Howard gave the reader insight to what was occurring to Lizette mentally as she questions the thoughts that would pop into her head and not understand why her thought process had all of a sudden changed. It was also interesting to see with as the memories came back but also certain acts became second nature to her as well, even though she could not remember ever doing them. Although I did not agree with the amount of sex that Howard put within Lizette’s dreams, I thought this was an interesting way to show the fragmentation of Lizette’s mind as it allowed the reader additional access to be a part of what Lizette was going through.

I did find the ending a little bit strange, the book felt a little incomplete for a stand alone novel. I felt that there were certain issues and characters that went unresolved for some reason, unless Howard was planning on their being a sequel or using the same characters again. It just felt a little bit off to me, but who knows Howard could very well revive some of the characters in come capacity.

I think those who like their romance novels with a side of mystery and thrills will enjoy this book and probably others that have been written by Howard. But if you are looking for a just a mystery or thriller book I would not recommend this book for you. While the premise was interesting and the deconstruction of Lizette and the reconstruction of Lizzy was very interesting this was overshadowed by the constant sex scenes, therefore, the book overall was just not for me.

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