Tag Archives: reviews

Chris Hauty — Deep State

“Spoiler Alert”
I suspected from the beginning that a piece of information about Hayley Chill is missing from the story due to a year’s gap between her leaving the army and her internship at the White House. The reveal of how she ends up as an intern at the end of the book also creates some inconsistencies in the plot. We have Hayley discovering an assassination plot during her time at the White House, but we find out that she knew about it before she started the job.

Even with stiff character portrayals plus holes and unnecessary sidetracks in the plot (Who cares about the future of minor characters?), I enjoyed the story and would read another Hauty novel.

Joseph Schneider — One Day You’ll Burn

A middle-of-the-road crime novel.

The good parts:

  • An unusual murder—a man roasted to death and dumped in the middle of the street in front of a Thai shrine.
  • New detective Jarsdel and old-timer Morales building a partner relationship.
  • A clearer picture of LA than most LA novels I’ve read lately (but I’m getting bored with LA).
  • An interesting secondary plot about someone killing pet dogs. (But why are the detectives on this case?)
  • An unusual detective—Tully Jarsdel has left academia to become a cop.

The not so good parts:

  • Jarsdel spends way too much time explaining and thinking about why he left his previous life to join the LAPD—repetitive.
  • Jarsdel’s unsympathetic two dads, who hate that he became a policeman—not an ounce of understanding.
  • The whiny girlfriend.
  • Not very good motives for the murderer or the dog killer.
  • Jarsdel’s “save the world” attitude.
  • The book could probably have been 100 pages shorter, leaving out some of the repetitive information, descriptions about driving routes, Jarsdel’s brooding about his life, etc.

Overall I enjoyed the story enough to keep reading to the end. I might read more of the series.

Martha Wells — Network Effect

I read this as a stand-alone, not having read the first 4 Murderbot novellas. Maybe if I’d read them, I would have given it 5 stars instead of 4, because I was a little confused from time to time.

I love SecUnit Murderbot and the transport AI ART and their quirky “relationship,” full of the dreaded “emotions.” Lots of humor there. Murderbot attempting to learn to be a person while despising humans always gave me a laugh.

Martha Wells writes very well, but her use of parentheses drove me crazy until after a few chapters I learned to ignore them.

Great read. Maybe I’ll read Murderbot 1 through 4 (and then 6?).

Harlan Coben — Win

Winston Horne Lockwood III, Win, is an egotistical jerk, but he knows it. He lives by his own rules because of his wealth and power. He likes few people and few people like him. I dislike his type—violent, above the law, with his own set of morals—but I find I almost like Win at times, especially his connection to his daughter. Mostly he’s the type of character I love to hate.

The plot is complex and interesting and Win’s decisions at the end of what to reveal and what not to reveal make an “almost” satisfying finish.

Elly Griffiths — Postscript Murders

Amazon calls this book a “Editors Pick: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense,” and lists it under “Gothic Mysteries” and “Police Procedurals.” I don’t think any of these genres apply. It’s a cozy mystery with a group of amateur detectives working with DS Harbinder Kaur because they believe their 90-year-old friend Peggy was murdered. It’s not gothic and the police procedurals are mostly about following instincts and vague clues. The story bumps along at a fairly slow pace (even with a few murders thrown in), not a fast-paced action-packed thriller.

The characters in the story are humorous and entertaining—Edwin, an 85-year-old neighbor of Peggy retired from BBC; Benedict, ex-monk, now a café owner; and Natalka, Peggy’s caregiver, an immigrant from Ukraine.

The climax of the novel is like rolling over a gentle hill instead of climbing a peak. And the wrap-up after the murders are solved goes on for a few chapters.

I read this as a stand-alone even though it’s the second book in the Harbinder Kaur series. I read the first book but didn’t connect until after finishing. It was a pleasant read if not all that exciting.

Candice Fox — Gathering Dark

Another good read from Candice Fox, but I prefer her books set in Australia. I read plenty of crime fiction books with LA as a backdrop. I’d much rather read the unknown to me settings in Australia where my imagination can take flight.

As they are in Fox’s other books, the characters are strong but quirky; many are mean and nasty. There are so many “bad guys” in this story it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of who’s who. All the cops are shady and twisted, some even criminal. Even Jessica Sanchez, the protagonist, pulls some very bad stunts in revenge on her partner after he fails to back her up on a call. Blair Harbour, the other main character, is only a year out of prison for killing her neighbor. She tries to be good but doesn’t always succeed. Blair’s friend “Tweat” (Blair is trying to help her find her daughter) is a thief and a liar.

I’m not sure if some of the outrageous and improbably situations the characters found themselves in were meant to be humorous, but they made me laugh.

Ray Bradbury — Dandelion Wine

One of my favorite books of all time.

Dandelion Wine draws you in with all your senses—the smell of cut grass and the sound of the lawnmower, the heat of an August day, the pattern of green leaves against blue sky, the feel of running barefoot and the comfort of new sneakers, the dark earthy aroma of a ravine, the taste of Grandmother’s abundant meals, and on and on… Add the excitement of learning you’re alive and the sadness of the loss of friends and relatives, plus so much more to wrap your mind and feelings around. Bradbury’s elegant prose makes me feel young and alive.

I pulled this book off a back shelf recently to re-read for the fourth or fifth time—the first time I read it as a teen sixty-something years ago. It’s one of very few books I like to re-read. It’s filled with life and death, inquiry and imagination, the delights and sorrows of youth. But what sticks with me over the years is the JOY of being alive.

Scott Carson — The Chill

“Sacrifice is about salvation, not vengeance.” A quote from a neighbor in the book. But this story is all about sacrifice for revenge.

A supernatural horror story, thriller, fantasy, ghost story, mixed with information (sometimes too much) about dams, reservoirs, the NYC water supply system, and the practice of drowning towns for the purpose of storing water for cities. I’m not a particular fan of fantasy and horror, but the story was well-written and kept my attention to the end.

Lisa Gardner — Before She Disappeared

I’m a fan of Lisa Gardner, and Before She Disappeared is another well-written, character-driven mystery. I wouldn’t call it a thriller as advertised. Also, it’s called a “stand alone” novel, but my instincts tell me we will see more of protagonist Frankie Elkin.

Frankie is a white, middle-aged, recovering alcoholic, skinny wisp of a woman, who inserts herself into a Haitian neighborhood in Boston to find a missing teen girl. She stands out like a spot of bleach on dark cloth. She travels around working as a bartender, but her purpose in life is finding missing persons. She has found fourteen people but all after they died. Her passion is to bring one home alive.

Gardner defines her characters in detail and gives us insights to even minor players. I found Frankie courageous, tenacious, sometimes very likeable, sometimes totally irritating. Others in the story—Frankie’s boss, her Boston police connection, her AA friend, the missing girl’s family, the villains, and more—were all interesting personalities. Even the feral cat, Frankie’s roommate, has a personality and brings a touch of humor to a dark story.

The plot held my interest with twists and turns, but was somewhat slow in the beginning. Having lived in and around Boston most of my adult life, I loved the setting even though I’m not that familiar with Mattapan. Even though the neighborhood in the book is poor and sometimes violent, Gardner builds a feeling of community togetherness.

A very good story. Only my irritation with Frankie’s reckless actions and her obsessions with her past kept me from giving it five stars.

V.E. Schwab — The Invisible Life of Addie Larue

“Ideas are wilder than memories.”

Ideas—art, creativity, invention—can breed and grow and outlast memories and lives. Addie Larue makes a deal with Luc (short for Lucifer) and trades her soul for freedom. In 1714 she fights against forced marriage, against a life spent in her village as wife and mother tied to the will of others. She wants to see and experience the world. But in exchange for freedom she not only promises Luc her soul when she becomes tired of life, she’s cursed with not being able to leave a mark or to be remembered. She can’t speak her name. If she takes pen to paper, the mark disappears; if she builds a pile of stones, the stones move back from where she took them; when people leave a room and return, they don’t remember her. She is immortal, does not injure or become ill, remains forever young. But through the years she learns to implant ideas, and the idea of her lives on through music and art.

The story timeline jumps between NYC in 2014 and Addie’s past. She is a bright light experiencing joy and pain, discovery and loss, beauty and horror. The only consistent individual in her life is Luc, until 2014, when she meets Henry who remembers her and her name.

I’m not usually a fan of fantasy. Monsters and magic don’t intrigue me. But this is a book about the meaning of life. There are interesting characters, history, romance, mystery… I found it fascinating. I recommend it to all, fantasy lovers or not.