Tag Archives: setting

Paul Doirdon — Dead by Dawn

The story starts off with a bang with Maine game warden Mike Bowditch crashing through the ice in his Jeep into a river with his wolf-dog, Shadow. The book is back and forth between Mike’s survival of the river and being chased through the wilderness by some not so believable bad guys, and his recounting his investigation that led up to the staged “accident” that put him in the river.

I enjoyed the survival chapters more than the investigation chapters, which dragged. I found it confusing that he continued to stay in a dangerous community interviewing people he believed were lying to him. The first survival chapters gave good insights into how to survive winter in northern Maine. The later survival chapters were a bit over the top.

The bad guys at Pill Hill were mostly one dimensional and it took Mike a long time to figure out who they were and why they were chasing him, trying to kill him.

One of my favorite parts of the story was the relationship between Mike and the wolf-dog Shadow.

William Kent Krueger — Lightning Strike

Krueger takes us into the north country of Minnesota in the 1960s. I can feel, see, hear, and smell Iron Lake and the woods around it. Twelve-year-old Cork O’Connor lives in a small town next to an Indian reservation.

Cork and his closest friends, Billy and Jorge, find Big John hanging from a tree. To Cork’s father, County Sheriff Liam O’Connor, it appears to be a suicide. But people’s opinions keep him looking more closely and he makes another assumption about who murdered Big John. Due to politics and the fact that his suspect was the most powerful and wealthy “white man” in town, Liam is unable to arrest him. There are more twists (and deaths) before we find out who really killed Big John.

Woven into the plot is the relationship between the Ojibwe and the whites who have invaded their territory plus the intermixed families. There are friendships and hatreds between the two groups. The story is also about the connection between father and son as they work together and separately to solve the crime.

A good story with and interesting underlying theme, good plot, likeable characters, and captivating setting that kept my interest from beginning to end.

Maggie O’Farrell — Hamnet

I opened this book with trepidation since I’m not a great fan of historical fiction, but the exceptional writing captured me and kept my attention throughout the story. Some reviewers criticize the writing as too flowery, but I found the lyrical style suitable to the story. O’Farrell captured my heart and mind with her poetic descriptions of people and places. She made me grieve with Agnes over the loss of her son. She brought me into the world of late 1500s England–the sights, sounds, smells, and the attitudes of the people.

This is Agnes’s story, of her love, her marriage, her children, her talents (which she feels have deserted her after Hamnet’s death). It’s also the story of complex family ties and the effects the death of a child can have in a marriage.

I would have rated this 5 stars except I had unanswered questions, minor items that were mentioned but not followed up. What was the story with the hidden sheep skins? How did Agnes get comfortable with the A shaped house? Did the apples spoil after being knocked around in the apple store? Did Hamnet’s injury have anything to do with his illness? And I wanted more about Agnes and her kestrel.

Overall a great read!

Martha Wells — Fugitive Telemetry

Murderbot Diary #6 follows an almost standard closed room (an isolated section of Preservation Station) murder mystery plot line. Muderbot works as a consulting independent private investigator (SecUnit or security bot) working with the police (security system and space station personnel). But the imaginative SF setting and the grumpy, paranoid, snarky, and protective personality of Murderbot set the story steps above a normal murder mystery.

The story starts with an unidentified victim with unknown who done it, how, why, and even where was the murder committed. Murderbot is limited in his investigation because of an agreement he’s made not to hack the station’s systems.

As always, I’m fascinated with Murderbot, the SecUnit who wants to spend its time absorbed in media and is disgusted by humans but can’t overcome his urge to protect them. Wells is extremely creative with characterization (mainly with Murderbot but also with other characters) and her world-building settings are definitely “out of this world.”

Great SF series. Martha Wells has a terrific imagination. She creates a cyborg character who is more human than some people I know. She’s good at world-building, plotting, characterization, and keeps my attention throughout. She writes with the three H’s — head, heart, and humor.

Having read #1 through #6, I’m looking forward to more. I understand that Wells has at least three more Murderbot books in the pipeline.

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?).

Alex Kava — Hidden Creed

Kava gives us the three H’s—head, heart, and even a little humor. This is only my second read of an Alex Kava story and the first with dog handler Ryder Creed. She also includes FBI Agent Maggie O’Dell from another series. Kava gives us a picture of Florida’s Blackwater River State Forest for setting, a well-paced plot, and likable (and despicable) characters. My favorite characters are the dogs.

Ryder, his sister Brodie, and dog Alice uncover a body dump in the forest behind Ryder’s dog kennel. Some of the bodies aren’t even buried.

Even though the sixth book in the Creed series, I had no problem reading it as a stand-alone. I recommend for all murder mystery lovers.

Alyssa Cole — When No One is Watching

*Spoiler Alert*
I rate this five stars for the first half or more and three stars for the last part. The first part feels almost like a romance novel with girl meets boy, conflict between girl and boy, etc. The last part is more like a thriller, with the two main characters chasing down the enemies who are trying to take over the neighborhood—lots of violence.

For me, the strongest part of the novel is the social theme of breaking up neighborhoods for profit. This story carries it to an extreme, with really evil people doing terrible things. I learned a lot of history about the ups and downs of Brooklyn.

The characters at the beginning of the story are so well written they pull me into their frustrations, especially Sidney. Divorced, she returns to Brooklyn, trying to hold onto her mother’s home in a neighborhood undergoing gentrification. Trendy upscale shops buy out familiar stores, new condo buildings crop up, a pharmaceutical company is moving into an old hospital, and Sydney’s friends are disappearing. She’s not only trying to save her mother’s home, she’s trying to save the neighborhood.

In contrast to black, angry, frustrated Sydney, her new neighbor Theo is clueless, white, out of work, and riding the coattails of his rich girlfriend, who has relegated him into the hot attic of their house while she redecorates. Theo is a puzzle to me. He admits to doing things, even in the present, that don’t seem to fit his likable, curious, helpful personality.

The end of the story left me hanging. It solved the neighborhood’s immediate problem but left the overall issue alive and well.

I enjoyed the read; it kept my interest from beginning to end.

J.S. James — River Run

Oregon’s Willamette River is such a strong presence in this novel that it almost becomes the main character. Sheriff’s Deputy Delia Chavez is obsessed with fear of the river, which took her baby brother away from her when she was five years old. But murders are happening on the river, and she has to deal with it to solve them.

As a character, Delia is messed up and angry, but I liked her. The author does a good job of giving insights into both good and bad actors in the story. A good plot kept my attention through to the end.

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.