Tag Archives: books

Candice Fox – Gone by Midnight

In addition to her great characterization, Fox gives us a crocodile-filled picture of the setting in Queensland, Australia, a complex and twisty plot (a locked room mystery), emotions (head, heart, and humor), plus coverage of some themes such as wrongful crime accusations, bad police behavior, parenting, truthfulness (or not), and more.

When I read several books in a series, sometimes the main characters begin to lose their attraction for me. Not so with Candice Fox’s Crystal Lake series. PI partners Ted Conkaffey and Amanda Pharrell, both with dark pasts and quirky personalities (especially Amanda), continue to fascinate. Fox’s coverage of all her characters—villains, suspects, police, extras, etc.—is thorough and entertaining.

Gone by Midnight is my favorite in the series. Looking for #4.

Gytha Lodge — Watching from the Dark

There is something about a good British police procedural that captures my imagination. Lodge gives a step-by-step description of the police unraveling the clues to find the killer of a young woman, Zoe. The crime looks like a suicide, but Zoe’s boyfriend is watching via Skype when someone creeps into her apartment and her bathroom. He anonymously reports it to the police.

The author follows the four policemen on the case and several of the victim’s friends, who are all suspects, giving us insights into all the characters and their relationships with the crime and the victim. She also goes back in time for the story of Zoe’s time leading up to her murder.

The writing style is methodical and detailed but holds your attention from beginning to end. I had a vague idea of who killed Zoe before the reveal at the end.

Good writing, good plot, good characters.

William Kent Krueger — This Tender Land

Krueger transports us to a different time and place in this saga of four orphan children traveling the rivers of the Midwest in 1932, the middle of the Great Depression. They have escaped a cruel Native American training school where Odie and his brother Albert were the only white children. Their river “family” includes Emmy, a young girl whose mother was killed in a tornado, and Mose, a Sioux who speaks only sign language. They meet helpful and dangerous people as they travel the river, trying to stay ahead of the owners of the school and the law.

Excellent writing with interesting characters, good story, and settings that make you feel you are there. Written from the point of view of an old man telling the story of his adventures as a twelve-year-old, young, naïve boy, Odie sometimes seems too wise for his age.

Karin Slaughter — The Last Widow

Even though this book is the ninth in a series, it’s my first book by the author. It reads well as a stand-alone. From some of the reviews I read, I might get tired of the characters if I read all nine.

I found Slaughter’s unique style of writing fascinating. She covered the exact same events in the same timeframe in separate chapters from different characters’ points of view. Although interesting, it probably could have been done without repeating all the details and action multiple times. The book is looonng!

Good writing, good plotting, interesting characters (both good and evil), lots of themes, lots of action, but very dark, needs some fact-checking, and her political POV is sometimes overbearing.

Hank Green — A Beautiful Foolish Endeavor

“…Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton, 1887

Let me first say that I’m an eighty-year-old woman who loves to read most fiction genres. I receive my books from the local library Books by Mail program. Most are not specific requests and they cover a wonderful variety of subjects and styles. Second, I almost didn’t start this novel because it’s a sequel to a book I haven’t read, and reviews indicated it was aimed at a young audience with a theme about social media, which I avoid.

But I loved this book (even without reading the previous installment). It’s not only about the abuse of money and power, it’s about humanity, encompassing our worst and best traits and in between.

Don Winslow — Broken

Six novellas in one book. Some better than others.

Broken (2**): Way too dark for my taste. A story about a cop family and a gang, each seeking revenge on the other. The only saving grace was the ending.

Crime 101 (4****): A dedicated cop looks for a thief he’s convinced has committed several robberies, although no one else seems to agree with him. The thief is planning a multi-million dollar heist before he retires. Both are interesting characters in this somewhat humorous story.

The San Diego Zoo (4****): Hilarious story about a young cop who tries to do the right thing, but keeps getting into trouble for stepping over the lines. And there’s a chimp who escapes the zoo with a gun. Picture it!  🙂

Sunset (4****): Great characters—a bail bondsman whose business is tanking, a washed-up surfer/addict who runs out on his bail, a surfer/bounty hunter chasing his friend, and more. Several characters are getting older and dealing with it in different ways. I understand many of them have appeared in previous novels, but this book is my first taste of Winslow’s writing.

Paradise (2**): The drug trade underside of Hawaii combines with a picture of surfing. (Winslow has surfing in all the stories.) In Paradise, his characters are a bit thin. The plot makes me think of a big wave, starting calm and building to a crescendo.

The Last Ride (3***): Some reviewers labeled this story political, but I feel it’s a strong character study of a border patrol agent fighting a broken system. I would give it 4 stars except the ending crushes my heart.

Adrian J. Walker — The Human Son

*SPOILER ALERT*

Fascinating and well written, but in my opinion a few things don’t quite add up. The story has good concepts and questionable ones.

An intriguing concept—Erta, genetically modified, superior homo sapiens, created to save the earth from the destruction caused be humans. Humans have died out. The Erta have promised to bring back the human race when their purpose is complete. Five hundred year old Ima, who was programmed to clean up earth’s atmosphere, is assigned the task of raising the first human child.

Good: Ima maturing emotionally and becoming more human along with her human son, Reed. She even appears to go through some of the behaviors of puberty along with her son.
Questionable: How could Ima live so long without evolving emotionally, then in the relatively short time develop emotions, curiosity, and question what she has been told and believed all her life?

Good: A true villain, Caige, (every good story needs a villain) who wants to keep the earth free of humanity. He meddled with Reed’s genetics to make him weaker physically and less intelligent than Ima’s design. There are also lesser villains, some appear friendly in the beginning, and some who appear mean and evil at first but turn out to be allies.
Questionable: How did such an evil and emotional being, Caige, develop when all Erta are designed for the purpose of cleaning up earth with no emotional connections?

Good: A picture of a mother with zero experience or education on taking care of an infant or raising a child. A good mixture of head, heart (and heartache), and humor.
Questionable: Why would a race built around superior logic, education, and programming neglect educating the mother? (Possibly because she was meant to fail?)

Good: Full of interesting characters.
Questionable: Why do we even need Ima’s sister?

Good: The idea of transition at the end of the Erta’s existence.
Questionable: How do a people who are supposedly programmed for logic fall into an emotional “religious” belief? Why do they need this? I guess it adds to the plot.

Good: Ima’s journey through emotional maturity.
Questionable: Why the phase with alcohol addiction? Wouldn’t her perfect immune system see alcohol as poison and mute its effects?

I found other questionable ideas in the story, but overall it was engaging and kept me reading, wanting to know what would happen next. The ending was both good and frightful. It felt a bit like it was the beginning of a series.

Sara Paretsky — Dead Land

I’ve only read one other Paretsky novel, Shell Game, which I gave three stars—middle of the road. With Dead Land, I connected with the protagonist, V.I. (Vic) Warshawski, and found her determined and focused on solving the mysteries surrounding friends and family. Previously I found her too angry at the world, scattered in her investigation and her life, and making foolish mistakes. With this story, she seems to have reason behind her decisions, even when her moves are reckless and dangerous. She isn’t filled with anger and even has a sense of humor.

A side character, Coop, is interesting. Even though we see little of him, he’s a major character in the story. I love his dog, Bear.

Even though it twists and turns and has some almost unbelievable connections, the plot of Dead Land makes sense, where Shell Game didn’t. Paretsky connects greed and corruption in Chicago politics with greed and corruption in Chili, all revolving around a famous woman musician, first homeless then missing on the streets of Chicago. She’s another major character we see little of, but we learn a lot about her.

The settings in Chicago and Kansas are both well covered, making me feel the heat in the streets and the muddy rain in the flooded fields.

Although a bit too long, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

William Kent Krueger — Sulfur Springs

This novel gives us a look at the mess at our southern border. Cork O’Connor and his new wife, Rainy, go to Arizona to find her son Peter, who is involved with a group trying to help refugees from Central America. Every time they get a lead on where to look for him, the drug lords and/or the lawmen appear. Who is tipping them off?

A well-written story with a good plot and engaging characters. The coverage of the drug wars and the immigrants escaping through the border wall with Mexico keeps tension high.

Only the second Krueger novel I’ve read, both are about Cork’s children or step-children. He has an interesting family.

Dean Koontz — Devoted

I’ve read Dean Koontz in the past with mixed feelings. Some are excellent and some I haven’t finished due to lack of interest. This one is somewhere in between. The differences in Koontz’s writing styles makes me wonder if he uses ghostwriters, or if he has multiple personalities.

Devoted is a mix of fantasy, suspense, genetics SF, horror, psychological thriller, paranormal, and maybe a “shaggy dog story” without the humor. It’s the story of an intelligent dog, Kipp, and an autistic eleven-year-old boy, Woody, who has never spoken a word. The boy screams a psychic cry for help that is picked up by “The Wire,” a telepathic communication network for a group of dogs. Kipp comes to the rescue.

My biggest problem with this book is the characters all appear to be seen from the point of view of the dog. All the people are either very bad (haters, liars, greedy, etc.) or unbelievably good (loving, truth-tellers, sympathetic, loyal, etc.). The good people have no bad characteristics, and the bad have no good. And of course, all the dogs are noble.

The best part of the book is the hopeful ending.