Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stephan Talty: Black Irish: A Novel

In his debut novel in fiction writing Stephan Talty creates a story that will have the lead detective looking to the past to find the killer of today.

Absalom “Abbie” Kearney is the adopted daughter of a revered cop, but that does not mean that Abbie ever fit in with her family or the neighbourhood growing up. But she always knew that she would follow in her father's footsteps and become a cop too. Now years later Abbie is a homicide detective and about to get a case that touches closes to home. A serial killer is on the loose in her old neighbourhood, the county (an Irish American part of Buffalo) but the neighbourhood isn't giving up the killer and all of Abbie's contacts run dry and she is stopped at every turn with lack of or misinformation. Soon Abbie too becomes the killer's focus but she swears she will track down the killer, even if it means wading through the bodies one at a time.

I was really impressed with Tatly's debut novel, it was interesting, had mystery that was expertly interwoven that kept the reader  wanting more. Additionally, there are some OMG moments within the book, that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat and your heart or stomach in your throat. So lets just say that Tatly knows how to mix the mystery and the thrills together. The serial killer was also very interesting within this book, his story, his disfigurement, I just felt like I wanted to know more and more about what drove him to kill and why these men were chosen. I was just very curious about his overall story (when it comes to light there was nothing too knew as to why, but the how he became what he was is where Tatly threw something new in the mix).

I really found the history aspect interesting and well done by Talty. I cannot say how accurate the history part was, but all the connections seem to be there and for me I found out some interesting facts about Buffalo, Ireland and Canada, which is always nice. Additionally, Talty introduces this information in a way that it does not slow down the book at all and the information is spread out far enough that you do not feel like you are getting a history lesson, bravo Talty.

I'm not 100% sure I fully understand Abby as a character, there are things about her past and even present that are kept secret from the reader and I hope that Talty explores more of her character in a future novel if he is going to pursue a series. I think part of the problem of not being able to get to know Abby better is that she does not really know herself, or who her parents really were and how she became adopted (and her father was never really a loving figure for her, she always felt like an outsider). This is information is key to forming some sort of self, and with Abby lacking this information (although some comes to light later in the novel) Abby herself is not quite whole, therefore, I feel the reader never gets a sense of who Abby is.

I think my main concern or dislike within the book was Abby's use of sex in one scene in order to extract information, maybe Talty meant to show it as more than that for her, but it did not come across as so to me. I thought that that type of action or decision was beyond her character from what I was able to get from her. I'm not sure if Talty felt that he needed to have sex in the book and just decided to throw it in there, but I thought it was ill placed and not needed in the story at all, the information could have been obtained in a different way.

I'm not sure if Talty is going to make a series around Abbie Kearney. As I feel like I didnt really get to know Abbie that well in the novel, and I am interested in a character I hope that he continues on with her. This book was a great first venture for Talty into fiction writing, I enjoyed the twist, turns and on the seat moments, but if this is meant to be a stand alone novel I think Talty needs to work on his overall character development. I think those who like serial killer based novels will enjoy Talty's novel with its fairly sophisticated interwoven plot.


Note: The crimes scenes are fairly descriptive and some readers may find them disturbing.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Brett Battles: The Deceived

This is the second novel in Brett Battles' Jonathan Quinn series and while I think it could be read as a stand alone novel, the first book, The Cleaner, really does introduce all the characters and how they are connected in the second book (plus you get some background history on Quinn) but not too much is directly related back to the first. Still the first is a great read and I recommend it.

Brett Battles is back with his second novel in his Johnathan Quinn series, where an old friend leaves him a note that he never wanted to receive

Anonymity. Trust. Professionalism. In his world, Jonathan Quinn has a few rules. Quinn is a cleaner, he will get rid of bodies that need to disappear and nothing will be traced back to him, but his latest is job will test all of his rules. Quinn finds himself in a shipping yard where he is staring at the body of one of the few people he trusts and calls a friend, a former CIA agent. One thing that is also known about Quinn is he holds his friends in high regard and he will do anything to find out who killed him. Quinn is out of his element as he is not a tracker but a cleaner and this mission is based on revenge. Quinn, Nate and Orlando race across the world to follow the trail that has been left for them, but they do not know who they can trust or not. But one thing is for sure they are not going to come back whole.

The Deceived starts out with a bang that will grab your attention and make you not want to put the book down as you feel the need to follow the trial with Quinn and see where it is going to lead you. You never really know 100% what is going on and you are piecing together the puzzle together with Quinn which is what I really enjoy about this series. One thing that you will discovered in Battles' books is that just when you think you have it all figured out, Battles knows how to throw in a curve ball (or two or three or twelve) that has you looking in a totally new direction but still makes sense and flows with the story and it does not come out of left field. This keeps me continually guessing, which i think all thriller/mystery novels should.</ I am not a fan of series where you know too much information or information that your main character does not know and you always feel like you are waiting for them to catch up to you. I have not had this problem with either of Battles' novel. They are full of action, mystery, intrigue and thrills right from the very beginning and Battles has created a cast of characters that you care about.
I like how in the first two novels Battles has taken time to show bits of Quinn's past and his work as an apprentice cleaner as well as when he started out on his own. I feel like this allows the reader to know Quinn better before he became a full fledged cleaner and you can see some of this earlier cleaner in Nate. I personally find Quinn's past very intriguing and there are always small clues dropped about who he is but never really anything concrete I look forward to the novel where someone is after Quinn and things in his past just to learn more about him. I am also like how Quinn and Orlando's relationship is developing, and how they will be there for each other no matter what, but they both realize that the job and Garrett are the most important aspects in their lives and they don't want to do anything to jeopardize that.

Once again there is a sense of realism within Battles' novel that can be downright frightening. I do not want to give too much away, but you will know what I am talking about when you read this novel. It is entirely plausible and not unrealistic for it to happen as I am sure that it has happened throughout history so why not now as well.

I'm so happy that I picked up the Cleaner last year. I had never heard of Brett Battles or his novels but I know if I pick one of his books up its going to be an awesome ride. I look forward to reading the next book in the Jonathan Quinn series and i'm going to have to try his other series as well.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ilona Andrews: Magic Rises

Ilona Andrews is back with her Kate Daniels' series and this time Kate and Curran are off to Europe in search of panacea which can save the youth of the clan:

Atlanta is always having magical problem, but this one will take Kate, Curran and the clan across the ocean to Europe. Kate has fought for her place amongst the pack, she has successfully hidden from her father Roland for years now, but there is nothing that Kate can do to reverse the affects or the consequences when a your Were goes Loup, which seems to be occurring more and more often. However, there is a possible cure a magical substance called panacea, that helps prevent and reverse the affects. There is a catch though, it is the European clans that control it and there is no love loss between Curran and the European clans. But when the clans come calling, Kate and Curran must head to Europe to help ensure their clan's future, but with the old time of the European court, you don't know who you can trust, nothing is ever what it seems and not everyone is going to make it out alive.

I have been reading in the paranormal/UF genre for quite a few years now, well before it became a must read or must write genre and I have picked up series along the way but have also dropped some of them as well (never really on purpose but things do fall by the wayside sometimes). However, this has never been true about Andrews' Kate Daniels series, from the first time I picked up Magic Bites all those years ago I have never once thought about not picking up and reading the next book in the series. When I received Magic Rises in the mail the only logical thing for me to do was to stop everything and reenter Kate's world and revisit everything I enjoy about this series, which is exactly what I did. I was not disappointed, this book was everything I wanted it to be and more and went back to everything that I missing in the previous books Magic Slays.

It was interesting to see the direction that Andrews' took with Hugh, it is not what I expected and I think that was the best part. I think I expected what Kate did, that he was not quite sure as to who Kate was and when he found out he would "Storm" the keep to get to her and kill her. What Andrew's came up with was much more interested, intriguing and complicated, all things that I think Andrews excelled in this novel.

I was extremely surprised that Andrews decided to actually kill off one of their main characters, complete shocker, as for the most part all of the Andrews characters have come out still alive in each novel. True there are physical and emotional scars but everyone is still alive, so I was shocked (and I think you will be too) with their decision to kill off a character. I personally like this new aspect in that they are leading into

My only issue with this book / series, it the over all lack of trust within Kate and Curran's relationship, I wish by now they cold trust each other more. I understand what has lead them to these moments in their relationship, but there comes a time where the person also has to change. I realize that some people will say that the lack of trust if just Kate being Kate, but Kate too needs to change and adapt to situations in order to survive and Curran has to stop trying to "protect" Kate whenever a situation arises, she has fought for her place in the pack, she is probably the most powerful out of everyone in the pack, she can hold her own. They need to start working together instead of against each other.

I do not think it is any secret that I LOVE the Kate Daniels series and I like how the books keep getting better and better and the Andrews continue to expand their characters and world. This series has everything that a reader in the UF/paranormal genre could want, mystery, action (quite a bit of action), great characters, adventure, new creatures in each book, romance and overall each book is a roller coast ride that keeps the reader guess and guessing, what more could a reader ask for. I cannot wait for the seventh book in this series as I hear this one will be the show down with Roland (which I am sure it is going to be insane). If you like paranormal/UF novels, you need to pick up this series. 

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Laura Lippman: And When She Was Good

In one of her stand alone novels (that started out as a short story) Lippman explores that some decision will shape people and some will come back to haunt them:

Helen Lewis grew up in a abusive household, her father wanted to make sure that she did not have any advantage in the world and forces her to get a job while she is in high school. It is this job that set forth a series of events for Helen with her looking for love in all the wrong places and she finds herself working as a prostitute. Twenty years later Helen has changed her name to Heliose, has a son and has started her own business, but with no formal education she has stuck with what she knows. She has become a madam for a high class escort company and she thinks that she is safe, that no one can find her or her son. When Heliose sees a headline of another suburban madam who is murder, she does not think anything of it, but it appears that her past has come back to haunt her and she doesn't know who is chasing her.

I am unsure of how to classify this novel, I think that it is more of a contemporary novel, although I think it is supposed to be a mystery thriller book, it lacked some of the aspects that I associate with those genres. This novel is more about Heliose her past and present as we learn where the future is going to take here. There is a fringe mystery within the novel that pops in and out of the story but it really stays on the fringe for most of the book. It does affect some of Heliose's decisions and puts things into motion, but I don't think the reader ever feels the mystery or thrills that they would have if the novel was approached at a different angle. This is not to say I did not enjoy this book, the further I read the more I wanted to know about Heliose where she came from how she became a high class madam. This is the second book that I have read by Lippman and I enjoyed it more than the first book I read. I think that Lippman picked an interesting topic for this novel and while a part of me wished there was more thrills within this novel, I still enjoyed it.

I was not sure if I was going to like Helen/Heliose within the first few pages. She gave off the persona of believing that she is better than those around her, knows more than them and just over all pompous, it is not till you read farther into the novel, that you realize that she has created this persona in order to keep people at a distance to protect herself and her son. The more I read about Heliose, about her and her past and her business sense, I began to like her as a character. Lippman did a good job of showing how bad choices can define one's life but also how someone can overcome them. Overall, I see Heliose as a strong character (but also a dependent character as she does not realize her own internal strength) and “When she was good” she was really just looking for someone to love her and unfortunately this lead her to make some bad decisions, which I think many people can relate too.

Although this book is based upon Helen/Heliose being a prostitute and high class escort/madam Lippman did not have any sex scenes within the book. Yes there would be times when Helen would talk about having to perform sex or do sexual favours, but Lippman never went into any detail, which I appreciated. I think that Lippman showed restraint on this aspect, as based upon the topic and premise presented in the book; she could have very easily over done the sex.

Although this book was not quite what I expected and that includes the genre it is supposed to be part of it. I still found myself enjoying the story that Lippman had created. This is for those who are looking for more of a contemporary genre and not mystery or thriller.

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