Irresponsible Reader

Irresponsible Reader

I read widely and voraciously, with little discipline (although I have my bouts). And then I write about it -- sometimes a little, sometimes more (not sure how often I get to "a lot", so let's go with "more" instead). I'm a Mystery junkie and have been since I can remember, I love Urban Fantasy, I can't pass up good Science Fiction or Fantasy, I've been known to dabble in Chick Lit ('tho, honestly, I'm more comfortable in "Lad Lit"), even a decent Western will do the trick.

Review
3 Stars
The Saga Continues
The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 2) - Lloyd Alexander, James Langton

Of the five books in the Chronicles, this is probably my least favorite installment, still I enjoyed reliving it with this audio. Why Disney chose this one to make a movie out of, I'll never know (and have never seen).

 

Prince Gwydion has called a council at Cair Dalben -- bringing warriors, royalty and others from across the land to discuss something of urgency. Taran is included as well, thanks to the Prince's experience in the previous book. One of the attendees, Prince Ellidyr, is a young, proud twit who might as well have been named William Zabka -- if he doesn't remind you of the quintessential 80's movie antagonist, you're not reading him right. He and Taran clash immediately, and are predictably assigned to work together.

 

We also meet the son of Taliesin, the chief bard, Adaon. Adaon is one of those characters that comes out of nowhere, every character loves and so do the readers. He's wise, kind, and probably a decent fighter. Taran is possibly more taken with him as friend and role model than he was with Gwydion -- partially because he's not a prince, and so is more approachable; but also is just that kind of guy. Thankfully, Taran and he are also assigned to work together so it's not all about the jousting with Ellidyr.

There were other characters introduced -- several actually, but those two are the ones to focus on now. I'm not going to tell you anything about Gwystyl and Kaw, because I'll not do them justice. But you'll enjoy both. Gurgi was Gurgi, and Eilonwy was perfect -- seriously just perfect. I always liked the character, but maybe never as much as I am this time through the series.

 

I got distracted by talking about the characters, the purpose of the council is to go hunting for the Black Cauldron, the source of the Cauldron Born warriors of Arawn. These are basically zombies with swords, doing anything their master calls for -- and were the source of a good deal of apprehension when I was a kid, and now just seem like a great foe. Their numbers are swelling, making Dalben and Gwydion certain that something bad is on the horizon -- now seems like a good time to raid the Dark Lord's domain and destroy the Cauldon. Which may not derail the plans in motion, but will at least make them easier for the good guys to survive.

 

So after the Council, the heroes head out. As soon as they launch their strike, they discover that someone has beaten them to it -- the Cauldron is gone and they've got to regroup before hunting it down. Things go bad there, the companions are separated from each other and on the run from those the Cauldron has already produced.

 

Taran, Ellidyr, Adaon, Gurgi and Fflewddurr get a lead on the Cauldron and decide to follow it up immediately rather than let their foes get it while they're off looking for Gwydion. This takes them to the swamps of Morva -- one of my favorite places in the series -- and to the hut of Orddu, Orwen, & Orgoch. They will chill younger readers and entertain readers of all ages. From there peril, betrayal, redemption, grief and more ensue as the companions try to destroy the titular MacGuffin.

 

The Lloyd Alexander introduction to this one was better than the previous -- I'm such a geek that listening to little bits of Alexander was one of the highlights of my day. I don't think I have anything to say about Langton's performance here that I didn't say last time. It was good, nothing spectacular, though. He kept me engaged, even if he paced it slower than I'd like. Whoever transferred this from audiotape to digital format had an odd approach to dead space between tapes/tape sides -- there are times that I feared the file had stopped unexpectedly, either from a corruption in the file or a glitch in the app, and just as I'd grab my phone to check the Langton's voice would start again.

 

A needed part of the story, if only for Taran's growth, and for what it sets up in books to come. It was never my favorite growing up, still isn't now, but it was still an entertaining few hours.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/03/27/the-black-cauldron-audiobook-by-lloyd-alexander-james-langton
Saturday Miscellany - 3/25/17

Yeah, it got quiet around here this week -- I've got 2 books that I'm excited to talk about, a couple of more that I really want to talk about . .. and a couple of "contractual obligation" books (even if the contract's just with me). Basically too many books to blog about to be quiet -- but man, I'm tired. Inexplicably so. Anyway, keep checking, I'll get underway again soon. I do have a handful of partially written posts, just have to figure out how to end them. Enough about me, here are the odds 'n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You've probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    A Couple of Book-ish Related Podcast Episodes you might want to give a listen:
  • Reed Farrel Coleman - What You Break -- Stephen Usery's interview with Reed Farrel Coleman is great.
  • This week's Two Crime Writers and a Microphone is loads of fun -- starting with the interview with Russel D McLean. I can't imagine anyone can listen to his pitch for his new novel, Ed's Dead and not rush to buy it. I couldn't.

    This Week's New Releases I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon:
  • Chalk by Paul Cornell -- there's magic, bullying and a look at Thatcher's England from the pen of one of the better authors around.
  • The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi -- the beginning of a new space opera series

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and welcome to Let's Read Something New and publishquest2017 for following the blog this week.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/03/25/saturday-miscellany-32517
Review
4 Stars
Mercy's up to her usual tricks in the Old World
Silence Fallen - Patricia Briggs

It was pretty clear from the pages of Fire Touched that Mercy's little The Doctor to the Sycorax speech was a big deal. But I don't think any of us really had a clue just how far-reaching the potential ramifications were until it's spelled out for us by a few different characters here. Well, okay, that's probably not true -- a lot of people who read these books probably thought about it, but I didn't -- and I think that Mercy and her acquaintances do a better job of spelling things out than I could, so I'll let them. But many in the supernatural communities aren't happy that she did it and are looking for ways to insulate themselves from it, as well has looking for ways to take advantage of it for their benefit.

 

One such person is Bonarata -- one of the oldest, and most feared vampires in the world -- he has ties to the Tri-Cities vampires, as well. He's the one who's responsible for Marisila, Stefan and Wulfe leaving Europe and ending up in the Tri-Cities. He's also a legend in Werewolf circles -- many years ago, he killed an Alpha and turned his mate into a blood-slave. After the death of Chastel, Bonarata is the closest thing the non-Fae have to a Super-Villain (pretty sure any of the Grey Lords that wanted to could wipe the floor with him).

 

So shortly after Fire Touched, Bonarata arranges for Mercy to be kidnapped. Now, while Briggs' vampires aren't the political wheels-within-wheels schemers that Faith Hunter's are, they're still crafty and wily -- so all his reasons for doing so aren't immediately discernible (and probably not totally discernible by the end of the book -- but we get closer).

 

Mercy is Mercy, however, and it doesn't take too long before she escapes from Bonarata and finds herself running throughout Europe to escape from his henchmen. She finds herself in Prague (this detail feels like a spoiler, but it's on the dust jacket, so . . . ) where her best bet for an ally is one of the few Alphas in the wold with a grudge against Bran Cornick. In addition to this she finds herself in the middle of a couple of vampire nests competing for control of Prague, and there's a whole bunch of ghosts (and other things that go bump in the night) that are taking advantage of the presence of someone who can see them.

 

Meanwhile, Adam, Marisila, Stefan, Honey and a couple of others are on the way to Bonarata's home to negotiate for Mercy's release. Whoops. These chapters are told in Mercy's voice from Adam's point-of-view, as if she's relating what he told her happened, which is a nice touch. It also suggests that she survives this mess -- not-at-all-a-spoiler: the first person narrator lives. It's here that we learn a lot more about Honey, Marisila and Stefan -- we also learn about Adam's Doctor Who fandom. It's nice seeing things from Adam's POV for a change.

 

Mostly the book consists of Adam and Mercy doing all they can to survive long enough to see each other again -- which is sweet. We've seen them work together plenty of times in this series -- we've also seen them apart for brief periods -- this is the longest (that I can recall) that they've been separated, and the furthest apart they've been. They're both independent by nature (however that nature is shaped into something else for the needs of the Pack), so they can adapt to this, but their primary goal is to get back together. Which I'm sure made many, many fans cheer and melt.

 

Will someone drawn in by the cover art, or wanting to see what the fuss over this Briggs-person enjoy the book? Yeah, I think so -- but not as much as the established fan. This book works as well as it does because of the world, not just the story. We've been in Mercy's world for 10 books now -- for most of us you can add the short stories and Charles & Anna novels, too. We know it what it means for Honey to make that trip. We know what it means for people to exploit Mercy (or try to) to get to Bran or Adam. We know the pain that the loss of pack-link or mate-bond creates. This would be a lousy book 4, but with the cumulative weight of this series, Silence Fallen us a strong book 10.

 

It was a fun book -- exciting, amusing, and fascinating to see how packs and nests work outside of the US. Most of all it was a good story, taking several competent and powerful characters out of their usual setting and circumstances, and throwing them into a milieu they're not familiar with to watch them sink or swim. Excellent read for fans of the series -- which isn't a surprise to any, but just something I think I have to say.

 

Now begins the wait for #11.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/03/22/silence-fallen-by-patricia-briggs
Review
4 Stars
A hunt for an escaped pig leads a hero into adventures
The Book of Three (Chronicles of Prydain, Book 1) - Lloyd Alexander, James Langton

I'm pretty sure that I've mentioned once or twice before here that The Chronicles of Prydain were the books that got me into fantasy. The Chronicles of Narnia made me a fan of Narnia, but really didn't carry over to anything outside of Narnia (at least until I got older and tried Mere Christianity). But Prydain got me appreciating the tropes, conventions and characters that'd get me into Brooks, Weis & Hickman, Eddings, etc., etc. Listening to the audiobooks seemed like a nice way to revisit the series.

 

Taran, the Assistant Pig Keeper to Hen Wen (an oracular pig), dreams of glory to be found with a sword on the battlefield. His charge is frightened by something and escapes from her pen -- Taran chases after her, leaving the only part of Prydain he's ever known behind in the process. This hunt for the pig takes him to the far reaches of Prydain, where he encounters the son of the High King, Gwydion; Princess Eilonwy -- about his age, and a fantastic foil and friend for Taran; Fflewddurr Fflam, an unofficial bard; Gurgi -- some sort of simple-minded Sasquatch-like being; and others. Taran also encounters the forces of evil -- the Horned King; Archen the enchantress; and other minions of the Dark Lord Arawn.

 

The themes of true nobility, heroism and what it means to be a man are prevalent (and Alexander maybe gets a little didactic here) -- nothing I object to, just it seems a little thick by contemporary standards. Taran learns (for the first time) that there's as much honor to be found in doing your everyday work well as there is on the battlefield. It probably feels a little old-fashioned to many, but there's value here. Taran begins to mature here, but it takes (as I recall) all but the last 30 pages of the fifth book for it all to come together for him.

 

There's a little audio recording of Alexander before the book kicks off as an introduction -- that was pretty cool. Langton's narration was okay -- the narration was okay, maybe a little slow. His interpretation of Taran and Gwydion didn't do much for me (and actually made me realize how clunkily Alexander wrote their dialogue), but they slowly grew on me. I really couldn't find anything to like about Gurgi (one of my favorite characters ever). But I really liked everything else -- his Eilonwy and Fflewddurr were perfect and a lot of fun. He deserves kudos for his Hen Wen alone, really.

 

This isn't the greatest writing you'll encounter -- for the age group or genre. But it's effective, there's so much to appreciate here (and not just for nostalgia's sake). I remain a big fan of the series, and do appreciate the audiobook.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/03/21/the-book-of-three-audiobook-by-lloyd-alexander-james-langton
Review
2.5 Stars
An attempted coming of age story
Pipeliner - Shawn Hartje

I just don't know what to say about this one. It's a coming-of-age story about a young man in the 1990's growing up in (what I believe is) a fictionalized Idaho Falls, Idaho. It's arguable how much Jason Krabb actually comes of age here -- you could make a pretty decent case that he regresses throughout the book.

 

Jason's main goal in life is to become a rock star in Portland, OR or Seattle, WA -- along the way, he'd like to have a girlfriend and party a lot. He spends a lot of time and energy becoming pretty mediocre at guitar, and hangs out with a poser who's new to town and a couple of older friends who are more interested in scholastic success and their futures (a concept Jason can't really wrap his brain around). He's got an older brother studying at Princeton and dating a nursing student, a very successful mother and a less-successful father who's browbeat by the other constantly.

 

The writing is uninspired and dull, there's no life to it at all -- just a dry recitation of what's going on. To be fair, there's a bit of flair displayed when he writes little Lake Wobegone-inspired descriptions of things from Jason's mother's perspective, but I never saw the point of those, they didn't seem to add anything. The sex scenes are perfunctory and clumsy (fitting for a seventeen year-old's initial fumblings, I guess), at least those involving Jason. The one with Jason's parents was just . . . odd and unnecessary. There were a couple of anachronisms that bugged me, but by and large, his history is good -- he captures the feeling of the time, while maybe overplaying the pre-dawn of the Internet as we know it a little bit.

 

Were I an LDS youth of that era, I might be offended at the depiction of both the straight-laced LDS and the backsliders. If I were someone who spent time with a lot of LDS at the time depicted in the book, I might say it was pretty accurate. Either way, it's going to be divisive.

 

There's nothing new here -- stylistically, narratively, or in terms of character. It's all cliché, it's not original, there's nothing here you haven't seen before -- and likely better. It's not bad, but it's not worth your time and effort. While reading it, I spent a lot of time annoyed by the book -- but there's nothing to rant about here. At Hartje tried to do something, but like Jason, did the bare minimum and it shows (not unlike what I did here).

 

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for this post -- sorry Mr. Hartje.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/03/21/pipeliner-by-shawn-hartje
Review
3 Stars
One war ends, another begins, and bigger things loom.
Defying the Prophet: A Military Space Opera (The Sentience Trilogy Book 2) - Gibson Michaels

The second installment of a trilogy has the hardest role -- the first introduces us to the world, the characters, the conflict -- basically sets the stage for everything in the series. The third has to tie up everything and give a satisfying conclusion. The second has to build on the first and make the audience want to read the end. There needs to be a clear arc to the book (or what's the point), yet the conclusion has to make us thirst for more. It's also bound to be the most overlooked entry in the trilogy (The Empire Strikes Back being one of the exceptions that proves the rule). As such, Defying the Prophet fulfilled most of the duties of the second installment, and was entertaining enough -- but man, I just wanted more from it.

 

I also usually find it difficult to talk about the second installments more than the other two, so here are some general observations as I put off any real analysis off until I finish the series.

 

I was surprised -- and pleased -- at how quickly Michaels wrapped up the Civil War story in this book -- I really expected it to go on much longer. I'm not entirely certain I liked the mechanism by which he did it -- but I can't say I disliked it, but it almost seemed a bit too easy. Oh well, he uses the state of military readiness of the various human governments to be able to respond to the looming alien invasion in an effective manner.

 

The battles between the human factions were good. The battles between Raknii and humans was great. Seriously great -- particularly the first one. I'm not sure Michaels could've sustained things there longer without sacrificing quality, but I wish he did. Thankfully, there's more to come on this front, and I can't wait to see how things go there.

 

I didn't find the plots involving the internal developments and movements with Raknii as compelling this time around -- and they were my favorite parts of the first book. We also didn't get as much of them this time. Still, I appreciate what he's doing with the Raknii overall and would willingly read more about them beyond this series.

Meanwhile, at least a few people in the USA have started to figure out just how the AI that runs things for them undermined them in the lead-up to the Civil War -- and during it. They still don't seem to have a great idea what they're going to do with that knowledge however . . .

 

My biggest problem with this book is that at a certain point it was like Michaels realized -- "you know what I haven't included in this series? Romance. I'd better fix that." -- and then, bang-zoom, we've got two love stories going. One page it's all political/economic/military intrigue and action and the next it's political/economic/military intrigue and action plus hearts, flowers, and anatomy. Which was awkward enough, but then those love stories just weren't that well-executed. He reminded me of Aaron Sorkin's attempts at romantic comedy in Sports Night, The West Wing, and The Newsroom -- I loved almost every other thing Sorkin did in those shows, but man . . . romance just isn't his thing (I'm not even going to mention Studio 60, because that was just bad all around) . Michaels tried -- and I appreciate the effort, and could enjoy what he was going for, they were sweet, but I just don't think he nailed the telling (and, yes, Mr. Michaels, if you read this, feel free to summarize this as "He favorably compared me to an Oscar Winning writer").

 

So we've got an interstellar conflict to wrap-up; at least one species' culture is going to be changed by this conflict; some internal shake-ups to go along with that among the Raknii; at least one human government responding to the sentient AI; the sentient AI up to something new; and a couple of other dangling plotlines -- and 340 pages to do it all in. Wrath of an Angry God is going to be a busy, busy conclusion -- should be a fun ride. This? This was good, but it's clearly the middle volume and really the poof's going to be in whether Michaels can stick the landing. My guess is that he can, but we'll have to see.

 

Disclaimer: I received this novel from the author in exchange for this post -- thanks Mr. Michaels.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/03/20/defying-the-prophet-by-gibson-michaels
Saturday Miscellany - 3/18/17

Odds 'n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You've probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week's New Releases I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon:
  • Hack by Duncan MacMaster -- very excited about this Mystery novel about a Ghost Writer who watched as his client was murdered and found himself a target as well. I blogged about this yesterday, and the author was nice enough to A a few of my Qs.
  • The Astonishing Mistakes of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone -- I was excited when I saw this on the release list this week -- the first book in this series was so fun, I hope this is almost as good.
  • Dragonwatch by Brandon Mull -- Really, the last thing the world needed was a sequel to the Fablehaven series. But something tells me that if Mull's returned to the series after this long, it's going to be worth it. My kids who read Fablehaven are too old for this, I'm going to have a hard time justifying this, but curiosity is a strong thing . . .
  • Got Hope by Michael Darling -- Goethe “Got” Luck is back for Round 2 in the Urban Fantasy series. The debut rocked, I have high hopes for this.

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and welcome to Genre Book Reviews and gencyazarlarklubu for following the blog this week.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/03/18/saturday-miscellany-31817
A Few Quick Questions With...Duncan MacMaster

I'm not sure how the formatting on this will transfer to BookLikes, if it's too ugly to read, head on over to my blog to read it...

 

 

Not only did the good people at Fahrenheit Press provide me with Duncan MacMaster's Hack (which I just posted about), I got an interview with Mr. MacMaster as well! As usual, this is short and sweet, he's got better things to do than come up with clever answers for me, y'know? Seriously, loved his answers. Give this a read and then scurry out to buy his book.

Would you like to give the elevator pitch for Hack? (for that matter, if you want to throw one in for A Mint Condition Corpse, that'd be fine, too)
  The elevator pitch for Hack would be: A desperate man is hired to ghostwrite the autobiography of a washed up TV star with scandal in his past and murder in his future. The pitch for A Mint Condition Corpse would be: A semi-retired artist's trip to his favourite comic book convention is spoiled by murder, and only he can solve it.
Do you have experience as a Ghost Writer? Is Hack your way working out some demons? Or does it have a much more benign genesis?
  I never specifically worked as a ghostwriter. I did do things like selling jokes to comedians (no one you ever heard of) so I know a bit about doing something that someone else gets credit for. There is a certain amount of exorcism in the genesis of Hack. By the time I got to writing it I had spent a very long time getting metaphorically kicked in the head by the writing business. The joke market had dried up, and I spent years enduring rejections that ranged from the incoherent to the callous, and some career setbacks that were downright ridiculous. As you could guess, those experiences left some demons that needed to be exorcised, and Jake Mooney, the hack writer of the title, did it for me. Jake's had a life defined by setbacks and it's made him bitter, cynical, and lonely. He sees being a credited author as a step towards some redemption as a writer, and solving the crimes as an attempt at redeeming himself as a human being. Of course none of this was conscious while I was writing it. While putting down that first draft all I could think about was the plot, the characters and making sure everything made sense. I didn't discover what I had done with Jake's and my own hunger for redemption and validation until working on later drafts. It was different with my first crime novel A Mint Condition Corpse. That started with a conscious decision to make Kirby Baxter, card-carrying comics geek, the Sherlockian hero instead of the comedy relief sidekick, and to use him as a vehicle to combine mystery with a satire of pop culture and the people who run it. Hack, has a lot more of my id running amok in it.
You've done a little in other genres, but your publications seem to be predominately in the Crime/Mystery genre. What is it about the genre that brings you back? Is there a genre you particularly enjoy, but don't think you could write?
  I've dabbled in science fiction, fantasy, and even horror, and I do plan to do more in those genres in the future, but mystery/crime does seem to have a grip on me. Probably because it deals with people who are at the extremes of their emotions, and also because it's a genre that's is still a wide open field when it comes to narrative possibilities. I always credit my narrative style to SCTV. It was a sketch comedy show I watched as a child that parodied television and movies, and it taught me that popular culture is loaded with tropes and cliches that create expectations in the audience. If you know them and understand them, then you can use them to manipulate expectations to misdirect, surprise, amuse, and hopefully amaze the audience. When I started reading crime fiction in my teens I began to see the patterns inherent in the genre, and started seeing how they could be manipulated to create something new and entertaining. As for a genre I enjoy, but don't think I could write....well, I'm not sure. I'm sure readers would tell me if I really screwed up. My bet would be on straight up horror without any sort of mystery to solve inside it.
What's the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, "I wish I'd written that."?
  Don Winslow's The Power of the Dog, a relatively slim volume that contains an epic inside. It sets a high standard that I hope to come close to some day. For the most part I tend to avoid reading fiction while I'm writing. I have a bad habit of inadvertently imitating whoever I'm reading. I wrote some truly dreadful pastiches while I was on a Lovecraft reading binge in my early twenties. All sorts of gooey overwrought eldritch nonsense.
This one's not about you directly, but what is it about Fahrenheit Press that seems to generate the devotion and team spirit that it does (or at least appears to)? I don't know that I've seen as many authors from the same publisher talk about/read each other's books -- or talk about the publisher -- as much as you guys seem to. Is it simply contractual obligation, or is there more?
  There's no contractual obligation for camaraderie at Fahrenheit Press, or the House of Love, as our fearless leader likes to call it. I can sum it up this way: Joining Fahrenheit is like joining a punk band in the mid-70s. We don't know what the future holds, or what we will achieve in the end. All we do know is that we are a band of misfits who are all doing what we love, we're breaking rules and conventions that some thought were inviolate, and that we are all in this wild ride together. Fahrenheit has been the best experience I've ever had in publishing, and I'm sure my fellow authors will agree with me on that.
What's next for Duncan MacMaster?
  I just finished the first draft of a sequel to A Mint Condition Corpse, called Video Killed The Radio Star, and the brutal editing/rewrite process awaits me. I'm also developing a more experimental project examining male archetypes in crime fiction and the concept of the unreliable narrator. I am even outlining a potential sequel to Hack called Hacked, where Jake goes Hollywood. I'm hoping to complete all these projects and make them worthy of publication as soon as possible. What happens after that, is anyone's guess. Thank you for having me on your blog.
Thanks for your time -- I really appreciate it, and hope that the Hack's release is successful (as it deserves).
Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/03/17/a-few-quick-questions-with-duncan-macmaster
Review
4 Stars
A strong mystery, fun characters & an as close-to-perfect ending as you'll find.
Hack: A perfect summer read... - Duncan MacMaster
Little victories, since they're all I can hope for, they're what I live for.

Jake Mooney used to be a pretty good reporter -- good reputation, good results -- but he got out of that game and got into a more lucrative field, even if it was more distasteful. Events transpired,  and that goes away -- I'll let you read it for yourself, but it involves lawyers and an ex-wife. Nowadays, he gets by being a ghost-writer for established authors who don't have the time or ability to write their own material. Out of the blue, he gets an offer to help a former TV star, Rick Rendell, write his autobiography. He'll even get credited for it. Credit -- and a nice cash bonus. How can he say no?

 

Before you can say "Jessica Fletcher," someone tries to kill Jake and then Rick is shot in front of a handful of witnesses, including Jake. Between his affection for (some of) the people in Rick's life, worry over his own safety, curiosity, and his own sense of justice, Jake dives in and investigates the murder himself.

 

Jake finds himself knee-deep in a morass involving unscrupulous agents (I'm not sure there's another kind in fiction), wives (current and ex-), Hollywood politics, an IRS investigation, a Drug Cartel, former co-stars, hedge fund managers, hit men, and a decades-old mysterious death. And a few more fresh deaths. . The notes he's already taken for the book gives Jake fodder for his investigation -- but the combination of notes and his continuing work provides the killer a constant target (and threat). As long as Jake's working on the mystery/mysteries -- and doing better than the police at uncovering crimes and suspects -- the killer can't just escape, Jake has to be stopped.

 

The voice was great, the mystery had plenty of twists and turns, Jake's ineptitude with firearms was a great touch and served to keep him from being a super-hero. I really can't think of anything that didn't work. There's not a character in the book that you don't enjoy reading about. I had three strong theories about what led to Rick's death and who was responsible -- the one I feared the most wasn't it (thankfully -- it was a little too trite). My favorite theory was ultimately right about the who, but was absolutely wrong about everything else. I take that as a win -- I felt good about my guess and better about the very clever plotting and writing that outsmarted me.

 

That's more about me than I intended it to be, so let me try this again -- MacMaster has set up a great classic mystery -- a la Rex Stout or Agatha Christie. A dogged investigator with a personal stake in the case, supporting characters that you can't help but like (or dislike, as appropriate), a number of suspects with reasons to kill the victim (with a decent amount of overlap between those two groups), and a satisfying conclusion that few readers will see coming. Hack is funny, but not in a overly-comedic way, it's just because Jake and some of the others he's with have good senses of humor. I chuckled a few times, grinned a few more.

 

I bought MacMaster's previous book, A Mint Condition Corpse, when it came out last year -- sadly, it's languishing in a dark corner of my Kindle with a handful of other books from Fahrenheit Press (I'm a great customer, lousy reader, of that Press).  Hack wasn't just an entertaining read, it was a great motivator to move his other book higher on my TBR list. Get your hands on this one folks, you'll have a great time.

 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from the publisher, nevertheless, the opinions expressed are my own.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/03/17/hack-by-duncan-macmaster-2
Review
3 Stars
wherein a ramble a bit, but don't have a lot to say, about Rebus #2
Hide and Seek - Ian Rankin

Now, this is more like it. You've got a seasoned detective who sees something that just doesn't jibe -- a routine O. D. that just doesn't look right. At least to him -- everyone else (including the detective who'd normally be assigned to the case) is good with the obvious answer. Not at all shockingly, there is more than meets the eye to this death.

 

Rebus' ex and daughter have moved away, his brother is in jail, Gill is now seeing a DJ (who seems to be pretty popular), and Rebus has a new boss (and a promotion) -- so outside of Rebus himself, there's not a whole lot to tie the two novels together. It's not just his coply intuition (to borrow Jesse Stone's phrase), it's some occult symbolism, a stolen camera, and the testimony of a near-witness that make Rebus continue to investigate. He spends time with druggies, students, male prostitutes, artists, academics, and the upper crust of local society in an effort to explain the death.

 

There's something to Rankin's prose that elevates it above most of what you find in Police Procedurals -- I can't put my finger on it, but you can feel it. The description of the corpse was fantastic, filled with those little details that will stick with me longer than your typical macabre tableau à la Thomas Harris or Val McDermid. The closing image was just as strong -- ambiguous, but striking. I can't wait to see what he does as he becomes a better writer.

 

Rebus isn't good with people -- family, friends, co-workers, lovers -- he drinks and smokes too much, and cares more about police work than anything else. Even when he makes an effort with people (not part of a case), it just doesn't go well at all -- we've seen this character before, but it still works -- readers just like this kind of cop.

 

So much of this feels (when you think back on it -- or when you start to realize what he's doing in a scene/with a character) like something you've seen before -- maybe several times. Even by 1991 standards. But when you're reading it, somehow , Rankin makes it feel fresh. I should note, incidentally, that a lot of what you think you've seen before, you maybe haven't, if you give him enough time. He didn't cheat with the solution, or how it was reached -- but it felt like it came out of nowhere (it didn't). That's good enough for me.

 

That's 2 down, 19 to go. Knots & Crosses felt like a character study, a good crime novel. Hide and Seek, on the other hand, feels like someone is building/introducing a series. It's a subtle difference, but important. I'm reminded of the difference between Parker's The Godwulf Manuscript and God Save the Child. It's only going to get better from here. I really like this character, even if I'm not doing a good job talking about him -- I think that'll change in forthcoming books. Once Rankin stops establishing the character/building the series' foundation and starts building.Also, I look forward to getting a better understanding of Rankin's use of the term "Calvinist." This one was good, solid writing with a satisfying story -- not dazzling, but everything you want in a procedural.

2017 Library Love Challenge

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/03/16/hide-and-seek-by-ian-rankin
Review
4.5 Stars
Clan Yellowrock finds themselves neck deep in Vampire schemes once again
Cold Reign (Jane Yellowrock) - Faith Hunter

Lee Child (and others, I'm sure) has said something along the lines of the key to writing a long-running series is that in each book you give the readers exactly the same thing, only different. Here in book 11 of the Jane Yellowrock series, that's exactly what Faith Hunter has delivered -- Jane Yellowrock up to her neck in revenant vampires, schemes within schemes within schemes, and dealing with the Big Cat that shares her body -- but in a new way, with different (yet the same) schemers, a different kind of revenant, and new challenges and revelations about her Beast.

 

The tricky part of this is coming up with something to say . . . I mean really, the fact that I'm still reading the series 11 books in pretty much demonstrates that I'm a fan and that I'm predisposed to like this -- both in its sameness and differentness. I like spending time with Jane and the rest (particularly Eli, Alex and Bruiser), seeing her navigate through this wold, and beating people up/taking out vampires. The "same" stuff is as good as always (maybe even a little better), so what about the "different" stuff?

 

There's a lot to cover on that front, actually -- I can't cover it all, that's Hunter's job (and she's so much better at it). But I can do a little. This book takes place sometime after Curse on the Land (yay, multi-series continuity!), and long enough after Shadow Rites that Jane's started to come to terms with her expanded household and all that it entails (please note the use of the word, "started" -- I'm not sure she's quite finished even at the end of this one). But that's just the beginning. There are a handful of revenants popping up -- but they're not the kind that Jane is used to dealing with. And their presence might be signalling something significant.

 

The Youngers have evolved somewhat -- Alex is maturing, and even getting out of the house a little -- but he's still the same dude. Eli -- wow, we see so many sides of him here that we hadn't before (maybe saw hints of, but not like this), I loved every bit of the Eli material here -- and man, did he make me laugh. He also made me get a little bleary eyed at one point -- something I couldn't ever imagine that I'd say.

 

Beast does something that I don't think we've seen before -- she has something going on that she's keeping from Jane. There's something she knows, maybe something she did, that she's blocked Jane's knowledge of . That's scary -- kinda cool -- but mostly scary. The repercussions of Beast doing things without the human part of her knowing, there's a couple of books right thee.

 

Naturally, the biggest differences come from growth and changes to Jane herself -- at one point, she says

My life was so weird I scarcely recognized it.

The only reason readers can recognize it is that we've followed the series -- if someone made the strange decision to read Skinwalker and then jump to Cold Reign, I bet they'd barely recognize the protagonist. The changes in her abilities, her shifting (but not totally shifted) feelings towards vampires and their practices, her love life, her friends, her understanding of her past, etc., etc. -- she's come a long way, mostly for the good, I think. There's even a sentence I identified in my notes as "possibly the sweetest, sappiest thing to come out of Jane's narration." I decided not to include it here, but fans will gush over it. I just know it.

 

None of that means that when it comes time for bringing the pain that Jane's not up to it -- in fact, thanks to recent events, she's better at it than ever. Her use of the Gray Between (which is bordering on being over-used), is improved here -- she's able to handle it better and uses it to her great advantage. Yeah, she might be not be that recognizable, but she's a better character for it.

 

The core of this book -- plotwise, anyway -- comes back to the looming summit with the European Vampires, while Leo continues preparing for it, some things start happening that make he and his Enforcers begin to think that maybe the EVs are already in New Orleans and doing what they can to undermine him before anything official happens. Hunter, like many authors, has really taken advantage of the long-lived nature of vampires and how they'll use that for long-range planning. In Cold Reign we see that used very well -- as I mentioned before, there's a new kind of revenant running around New Orleans -- and there's no good explanation for how that's happening (there's a pretty diabolical explanation, however). This brings us back to the first time Jane stuck her toe in the water of Leo Pellisier's plans, and the early defenses against insurgents that Jane mounted on his behalf. Plots and schemes that we thought we were done with (if only because the plotters and schemers were no more), are brought back up and put into a new light in a very convincing manner. If Hunter said that she'd been planning these moves since book 2 or so, I'd believe her -- I'd also believe her if she said that she needed something for this book and took advantage of some of material from her early books. Either way, she does a very clever job of it.

 

There's a little bit of Soulwood in Cold Reign. We get a mention or two of Nell Ingram. Rick LaFleur is around doing PsyLED stuff -- without the rest of his team, sadly. Soul is seen a few times, but doesn't do much (but what she does is pretty cool).

 

I've long enjoyed Jane's calorie-rich dietary needs and the abandon with which she dives into her food -- and I think I've noted with both books, how fun it is to watch Nell Ingram sample junk food. But I think in Cold Reign, Best trumps them both -- she eats her first taco. And I found it delightful, really, literally laughing out loud. I've decided that what Hunter's fans need is a Food Network-style show featuring Jane, Nell and Beast trying various foods -- I'd just love it.

 

The ending came a little quicker than I expected (possibly was confused thanks to the Soulwood preview at the end tweaking the percentage -- but even without that, it seemed sudden). Which isn't a bad thing, and probably says more about me than anything about the book -- maybe I just wasn't ready to say "see ya later" to Clan Yellowrock yet. Without spoiling much, there wasn't a lot of resolution here -- there was enough -- but not as much as you might expect. The threat to Leo is still out there, and Jane et al. have their work cut out for them to prevent a European Vampire takeover.

 

Another winning tale of Vampire Politics, New Orleans weather, Magic, Big Cats and blood -- lots and lots of blood. At this point, I'm not sure Hunter can do anything wrong with this series -- and I hope she doesn't prove me wrong anytime soon. Get your orders in now folks so you can dive on it on May 2.

 

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work -- I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/03/14/cold-reign-by-faith-hunter
Review
3 Stars
A totally O.K. follow-up to the Lunar Chronicles.
Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 - Marissa Meyer, Douglas Holgate

So, in the months following Winter, life has progressed as one would expect -- Cinder has strengthened her position on the Moon, Scarlet's returned to the farm with Ze'ev Kesley, and Cress and the Captain are touring Earth. One of the loose strings that Meyer left hanging was the fate of the Lunar military troops all over Earth. They're still out there, causing trouble.

 

Cinder can't send any troops down -- in the aftermath of a failed invasion, the optics alone would be bad. But . . . she can send a single operative, and Iko nominates herself for that. She spends weeks taking out pack after pack, helping local authorities take them into custody.

 

But they're not just going to roll over, there are some that are preparing to strike back against Iko -- and Cinder.

 

Throw in a love story, an examination of Iko's true nature, and some nice catch-up with our old friends, and you've got yourself a fun story. It's fun, but it's light. If it were prose instead of a graphic novel, it might take 40 pages to tell this story. Which doesn't make it bad, just slight.

 

The art was . . . oh, I don't know -- cartoonish? Not in a bad way, but I see why some people I know weren't impressed. Once I got used to it (after about 30-40 pages), I even kind of liked it.

 

Basically, I'm saying that the book was okay -- I enjoyed it, but man, I wanted more. At the same time, I think it delivered everything that Meyer and Holgate were looking for, so I can't complain. Fans of the series may enjoy it, but it's not a must read. People who haven't read the books had best avoid it -- but should probably go back and read the novels.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/03/14/wires-and-nerve-volume-1-by-marissa-meyer-douglas-holgate
Saturday Miscellany - 3/11/17

Been one of those days, but it's still Saturday, so posting it still counts :) Odds 'n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You've probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    A Couple of Book-ish Related Podcast Episodes you might want to give a listen:
  • Alan Dean Foster was interviewed on Hank Garner's Author Stories podcast this week -- some fascinating stuff from an author I'm sure you've read a little of.
  • The Writers Panel #319: Christine Lennon/Bob Daily, features some good stuff -- I really liked what Daily said about characters/scenes (have used it a little already in looking at books). The story about getting his job on Frasier is pretty good, too, albeit off-topic for this blog.

      After a couple of slow weeks on the New Release front, we get hit with this one...leading to:

    Bledsoe's right. Get to work, people. This Week's New Releases I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon are a good place to start:
  • Gather Her Round by Alex Bledsoe -- the fifth Tufa novel looks to be the darkest so far. Really looking forward to this.
  • Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs -- I'm almost halfway done with this, and it's a good one, folks (shock). Mercy's kidnapped by a vampire, and well, Adam's trying not to kill everyone in sight.
  • Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire -- the new InCryptid novel is from Antimony's point of view, and she's getting to deal with the fallout from Verity's live television surprise at the end of Chaos Choreography.
  • How the Hell Did This Happen? The 2016 Presidential Election by P. J. O'Rourke -- title says it all, don't it?
  • Say Nothing by Brad Parks -- Parks' first stand-alone is fantastic. Read my full take here.
  • Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells -- SF world, Biker Gang, and some strange sort of magic. Cool book. My full take on this one is right here.

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and welcome to five experts for following the blog this week.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/03/11/saturday-miscellany-31117
Review
3.5 Stars
Another gripping read in this series
The Doll  - Taylor Stevens, Hillary Huber

The novel starts with Miles Bradford witnessing Vanessa Michael Munroe being kidnapped -- and in a most impressive way. He mobilizes he members of his private security team in town and begin looking for her -- and Logan -- immediately. Miles assumes (correctly) that if the object was to hurt Michael, he and Logan would be the top candidates to join here. If she's being kidnapped to do a job, Logan would be the ideal candidate for a hostage -- as long as someone has him, Michael will do whatever it takes to keep him alive. Ergo, since he knows Michael's out of the country, but he's not sure where, the best thing he can do is to free Logan from whoever took him, eliminating the leverage they have over Michael.

 

Meanwhile, Michael wakes up somewhere in Europe where she's presented with this simple choice: do a job for this man she recognizes as The Dollmaker -- or he'll have Logan killed (and he threatens to do similar things to others Michael cares about). The job is to deliver a young woman into a life of sex slavery and torture. This particular young woman is a rising movie star who's gone missing -- the surrounding publicity makes her one of the best known faces in the wold. She needs transported over a few European borders without being seen or injured in any way. Doing this will repay a debt to The Dollmaker that Michael incurred in a previous case.

 

Just typing that makes it sound like Michael's a monster for even considering delivering Neeva -- and she certainly thinks so -- but in the context, Michael can't seem to do anything better (although she does hope that Logan will be rescued, giving her the opportunity to save Neeva). Michael also knows that no matter what happens, she and Logan are dead as soon as the girl is delivered (barring a successful rescue). Most of the book is a compelling race against the clock, followed by Michael's hunt for revenge.

 

This is the first time that we really get to see Bradford's operation outside of just him -- I'd enjoy a novel or two about he and his team without Michael, I must say. The best parts of this book involve Miles and his team doing their thing.

 

Huber did a great job, as per usual -- I honestly can't think of anything to say about her work that I haven't said before. Neeva frequently sounded like Anna Faris to me -- which helped solidify the character. There is one thing that I've meant to say since the last book and forgot about until this instance -- there's a playfulness that creeps into Huber's voice as Michael prepares to do something violent. I love that little touch. It says so much about the character (and I hope Stevens agrees with what it says) -- it also speaks volumes about Huber's attention to nuance.

 

A gripping tale -- with some of my favorite moments in the series -- even if I found some character choices hard to believe/stomach. With plenty of callbacks to earlier books to cement this in Michael's story. Still, another good entry for Stevens, Huber and Munroe.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/03/08/the-doll-audiobook-by-taylor-stevens-hilary-huber
Review
3 Stars
A fun but unsatisfying (for now) tale
Snotgirl Vol. 1: Green Hair Don't Care - Bryan O'Malley, Leslie Hung, Leslie Hung, Mickey Quinn

I don't know what Bryan Lee O'Malley was doing here, really. Lottie Person is a fashion blogger, trend setter, and all around would-be Kardashian. She's a little vapid, a little shallow, but pretty likable (don't ask me how). Her actual life is a mess -- she has horrible allergies -- crazy horrible (hence the name), has been recently dumped, and maybe, just mayyyyybe killed somebody. She's not sure -- neither is the reader.

 

What follows (for about 80% of the book), is Lottie bouncing around between social engagements, possible hallucinations, and run-ins with her ex and his new girlfriend. Throw in a fashion-conscious cop and things get pretty interesting (and confusing).

 

I loved the art -- it was a little strange to see this kind of art attached to O'Malley's writing, but I really liked Hung's work. Yeah, her white guys tend to look too much alike to easily tell the difference (that might be intentional) -- but otherwise, I really liked it -- everything jumped off the page, the drawings were filled with energy and life. Every time I thought about bailing because the story just wasn't working, the art kept me in.

 

I just don't know what to make of this -- I enjoyed it, but man . . . I really wish I knew what was going on. I can handle it for a little bit longer -- but not much. Volume 2 had better be a little clearer (or a little something else). I'm not going to wave potential readers off, but I'm not going to encourage anyone either.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/03/08/snotgirl-vol-1-green-hair-dont-care-by-bryan-lee-omalley-leslie-hung
Review
4 Stars
A fantastic, clever, & heartwarming mystery w/great characters & a tragic motive.
Death Stalks Kettle Street - John Bowen

Nothing against Adrian Monk -- either in book or TV form -- he was brilliant, fun, and his OCD was treated with sensitivity. But also for laughs -- the combination wasn't easy to pull off. But OCD isn't really a laughing matter -- just ask Greg Unsworth, the protagonist of John Bowen's compelling cozy mystery. Greg wants to be normal, he doesn't want to be kept awake because a tea cup might be out of alignment with the others, he doesn't want to lock and relock and relock and relock his front door just to be sure it took, he wants to be able to cross the road when he wants to. Partially this would be for his sake, but mostly, it's to help his brother out, because he's really bothered with Greg's OCD.

 

Beth Grue doesn't believe in normal -- she knows everyone is a little not-normal in their own way, she's fully embraced her non-normality. She just wants everyone else to treat her as no more different than anyone else -- cerebral palsy or no.

 

The two of them meet when they discover the dead body of one of Greg's neighbors together, which leads to a fairly unlikely friendship. They understand the others struggles, they accept each other for what they are (well, almost, Beth isn't as patient always as she wants to be). As the friendship develops, they begin to realize that the body they discovered was one of a pretty high number of accidental deaths in Greg's neighborhood recently. Not only that, but someone has been sending Greg advance notice of these accidents (which casts a shadow on the whole "accident" idea, no?).

 

There's a great subplot about Beth taking a class in mystery writing -- which allows Bowen to comment on the genre, while helping Beth to think both about her novel in-progress and the murders she and Greg are convinced are being committed.

 

And the mystery? It was pretty well constructed, and the reveal was wonderful. There's a handy red herring that was so obvious that the character might as well have been named Mr./Ms. Hareng Rouge. I didn't mind him at all because Bowen used it well; our protagonists learn how to investigate (and how not to investigate) through wasting time with the false trail; and the way Greg discovered just how wrong he'd been was so much fun.

 

Right up until a couple of pages before the reveal of the killer I had a 3 competing theories -- all of which seemed pretty likely (well, 2 of them did, anyway). I'm glad the killer is who it was, their motive -- and best of all, how Bowen handled the reveal. One of the most satisfying conclusions to a mystery that I've read in ages.

 

It wasn't perfect, but it got pretty close. I enjoyed the characters, their wants, their interaction, their fumbling attempts to solve the mystery - I can't recommend this highly enough, really. It's a cozy that has enough of an edge and dept to appeal to those who prefer their detectives a little more hard-boiled, without getting too messy, too violent, too un-cozy for the core audience.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/03/07/death-stalks-kettle-street-by-john-bowen