Saturday, September 29, 2018

A Dangerous Mourning by Anne Perry

A Dangerous Mourning (William Monk, #2)Monk number two was certainly an improvement on number one, but it didn't have a high bar to jump.  

We are back in aristocratic Victorian England to solve the mystery of a young woman found dead in her bedroom with the only suspects living in the house.  Nothing but class politics and home bound intrigue here.  Exciting (image my sarcastic eye rolling).

While I love Victorian England because of the many moral debates that can arise from it, this go around it was too on the nose.  The whole novel is servants versus gentry, man versus woman.  Sigh.

Also, the author still lingered on Monk's amnesia for too many pages.  It is frustrating to slog through so many unnecessary paragraphs.  I can't figure out if it is the author's attempt at burying the clues or just some really poor editing decisions to make this book 368 pages.  I feel this could have been a 200 page book easily.

The mystery was marginally better hidden this time.  While I knew the cause of death by the halfway point, I wasn't able to pin down all the players and motives involved until the 3/4 point.  A Dangerous Mourning managed to get itself one whole extra star in rating for being mildly more entertaining and taking longer to solve than The Face of a Stranger.

I'm going to try Defend and Betray next because the writing does seem to be improving considerably, and the moral discussion possibilities are strong for a mystery series.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Image result for a wrinkle in time bookI decided to reread A Wrinkle in Time because husband and I just watched the movie, and it seriously irked me.  It has been a considerable time since I first read the "Time Quintet." I couldn't remember the exact details of the book, but the message of the book had always lingered.  The movie just screamed that something was severely off kilter.  After the reread, I managed to get even angrier at the movie.

I don't expect a movie to be an exact visual representation of the book--because cinema has proven they have no idea how to do that.  I do, however, expect you to stick to the source material in a few basic ways.  Keep the plot, keep the characters, and keep the message.  Disney managed to throw all three categories out the window.

A Wrinkle in Time is a beautiful story of string theory and astrophysics.  It has an amazing moral dialogue to help children think about their impact in the world and just how small they are in comparison.  

Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit are some extremely phenomenal ladies.  They take Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace on an astounding journey through the galaxies to rescue their father from IT.  They go to fascinating planets and meet incredible entities along the way.  They learn valuable lessons at every juncture.

The writing is serious while being fantastic and captivating to a young reader.  It easily deserves all the awards it has received.  The story is timeless and still incredibly modern despite its original publication date.

A Wrinkle in Time is a great starting point for children to think about what good and evil mean, and their influence on the world around them.  I highly recommend these stories for every child.  Never ever let them see Oprah's movie.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry

Image result for anne perry face of a strangerI decided to depart from my usual reading list again for a change of scenery.  I pulled a list of LDS authors and found Anne Perry.  She writes in the mystery genre, and I thought this would be a good chance to try a mystery that could be more than just the murder. 

I wasn't disappointed on that front.  The story wasn't just about the murder of Joscelin Grey.  There was a bigger argument going on with the characters.  I was also very smitten with the Victorian setting; the hansoms, the elite, the urchins.  It was all reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes.

What I did not find entertaining, and almost made this novel impossible to read, was Inspector William Monk.  The major premise of his introductory novel revolves around a London detective waking up in hospital with amnesia.  

And he deals with that tragedy through the whole book with feet dragging, whining, blubbering annoyance.  This was very much a case where the author told too much instead of showing the reader the landscape and letting them wander.

The second negative was the matter of the who-dun-it portion.  I figured that out at the half-way point and had to slog through the rest of the novel dealing with the long winded red herrings. 

The clue that proves the killer's identity was not very well hidden in the foreshadowing.  It kind of stuck out like a sore thumb in the dialogue, and then the author pointed it out two more times.  Not very subtle.

I keep trying to find someone in the mystery genre worth reading, but I don't think I've found it just yet.  I'm going to give the second novel a shot because I enjoyed the Victorian setting and moral undertones of Anne Perry.  Hopefully she gets better at hiding the clues as she gains experience.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

Reaper Man (Discworld, #11)
Halloween decorations and candy are filling the store shelves.  Pumpkin spice has been spotted in its staple foods.  Fall is getting ready to gear up, and I'm getting ready for my favorite season.

I have never been one for seasonal reading.  Beach books, fall favorites, spring flings have never really made a difference to me.  I read what I'm feeling at the given present and be damned if it is out of season.

However, this fall, I have a couple of stories that really just go with the weather too perfectly.  I didn't read them in the fall, but I'll recommend them for fall reading.

Reaper Man is one of those fall books.  You can certainly read this book whenever you feel like; because as with any Pratchett novel it is good for time immemorial.  This is a satire of consumerism and the life of Death.

It revolves around the harvest in plot and motif, which makes it an exceptional fall novel. Death has been given the chance to Live, which makes the perfect storm of excess life for consumerism to breed.  Who doesn't want to read about soldier trolleys?

The Color of Magic, Guards! Guards!, and Reaper Man are the top of the Discworld favorites list fighting it out for the championship.  Every time I reread this one it scythes it way a little bit closer to the top--one stalk at a time, one click, one grain of sand.

This is a 5 star novel anytime, but also a perfect read to get yourself all geared for fall and the harvest.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Sacred Seas by Karen Amanda Hooper

Sacred Seas (The Sea Monster Memoirs, #3)I read Tangled Tides and Dangerous Depths in 2014.  Somehow I only managed to review one of them for the blog.  Whoops.  The conclusion of the trilogy took four years to make it to print, so I reread the first two novels one weekend to catch myself up with the characters before starting in on the finale.

You can read my thoughts on Tangled Tides here.  Sorry you can't read my thoughts on novel number two.  I remember now that the story was good, but not great.  I was never inspired to write a review, and then time happened.

I have waited four years for the conclusion, plus I bought it--and I read every book I spend money on no matter what.  Now that I had reimmersed myself in the world of Yara and company, I was ready to start Sacred Seas.  

On rereading them, I still enjoyed the first novel and its fresh look at mythology, but my interest in the story has paled quite a bit.  I'm in a different point in my life.  These novels do not resonant in the same manner they did in 2014.

The conclusion was an excellent conclusion in technical terms.  It tied up all the ribbons of story line that had been floating through the waters.  It achieved what all finales require--an end.  However, I was mostly disappointed in this novel.  

Despite this being the story of Treygan and Yara, Koraline played the leading lady more often this time.  It seemed odd to throw in a whole new side of the story in the last act.  There were new characters and new plot devices.  This is probably due to taking four years to write the story.  A sudden inspiration for the ending meant that connecting pieces had to be inserted, if somewhat awkwardly.

Maybe a spin-off in the between years would have been better suited.  I would have really enjoyed a spin-off novella instead.  It would have set up the plot and Koraline would have had her own space, which she deserved being such an excellent character.

The modernizing of myth by giving the Kraken a personality and an existence beyond ship swallowing monster was fantastic.  There was so much room for him as a villain.  A love triangle, though.  Flat.

The ending saved the series for me.  Making the mythology their own and bringing ancient history into our modern times was worthy of all the time I spent rereading the first two novels and the third.

In conclusion, I'm disappointed, but I largely put that on myself.  I couldn't connect with these books at this stage in my life.  That happens when a series takes a hiatus.  No fault to the author.  Time is the enemy to all.  

I will still gladly recommend this series to anyone looking for a story steeped in Greek mythology.  It gives a nice modern twist to the classics that is reinvigorating.  These books are also probably well suited for the YA audience they are geared towards.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Lady Mechanika: The Clockwork Assassin

Lady Mechanika Vol. 4: The Clockwork AssassinWe have, today, the fourth installment in the world of Lady Mechanika.  You can catch up with Vols. 1-3 here, here and here.

Our steampunk mystery for today revolves around Mr. Lewis's past colliding with his present.  There is a dark secret behind the work of Blackpool engineers, and Lady Mechanika is the leading suspect for their crimes (insert dramatic mystery music).

The first volume suitably pulled me in with its steampunk Holmesian heroine, Lady Mechanika, and her endearing drunk engineer, Mr. Lewis.  The original duo are back in action, and we get to figure out why Mr. Lewis is always drunk.

I must admit, I almost lost my way with the truncated Volume 3 and non-arc short La Dama de la Muerte.  But I persisted.  The short wasn't related to the main story and was kind of like those holiday specials of your favorite show--you watch them but wouldn't mind if they didn't find their way to the DVD release.  I wasn't going to be deterred from returning for Volume 4.

The true pull to this series is the why of Lady Mechanika, not her individual escapades.  I'm glad my curiosity prevailed because Volume 4 brought back the action and intrigue of the first volume.  Sure, I knew who-dun-it before the big reveal, but there were enough little twists and turns in the story to make it worth the investment.  Plus the gizmos and gadgets and artwork certainly more than made up for the plot simplicity.

For the numbering confusion of readers out there, this is Volume 4 of Lady Mechanika's story to find her creator.  Purchasing websites list it as Volume 5 because they consider the non-related short La Dama de la Muerte to be Volume 4.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Traitor Born by Amy Bartol

This whole novel is just page after page of tension.  I really didn't even care that this is just a repurposed Kricket series.  The world and characters are different enough to make this an entirely different read.  The author found a plot formula that works for her writing style and created another success.

While this is a book about political intrigue and love at its heart, there is something about the world and characters that make me want to read more.  Sure, the male characters are all identical in appearance and personality--and Roselle seems to fall in love with them at the drop of a hat despite having fallen in love with someone else 10 pages ago.  

Sure, the plot has been done and done again in YA novels presently--it's a badass young woman who is learning how to be herself while contending with being a badass.  The action scenes are fast-paced and thrilling while being completely unrealistic.  So many cliches!

But, that just doesn't seem to matter as I kept turning the page to find out what came next.  There is a magic to Amy Bartol that makes me read her books despite having obvious character flaws and stereotypical plots.  Her twists and turns in the action mean that 5-6 hours later I've read the entire book and emerge in the real world dazed that the day is gone.  Magic I tell you.

The path has been set for Roselle to escape her conniving mother in the Fate of Virtues.  She has become the most protected Secondborn in existence.  What will she be expected to do now?  And who will she be expected to crown the victor?  So many people and factions are trying to make Roselle their icon and their hero they have forgotten she is person, even if Secondborn and raised to fulfill her duty without question.

I'm ready to be reading the conclusion in all its glorious trope ridden plot that I won't be able to put down.  I want to be back in the worlds that Amy Bartol builds.  They are full ecosystems I just want to visit time and again.  That's what reading for entertainment is all about.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Happy Labor Day

Thanks to all those who labor and sacrifice so the people in their lives have an easier existence.  To the farmers and ranchers who work long hours so we can eat.  To the technicians and operators who destroy their health so we can have manufactured products.  Thank you one and all.  You are underappreciated and often unrecognized.

The Plastic Magician by Charlie Holmberg

My absolute go-to author when I need a perk in my reading list.  I have yet to be disappointed by a single story she has written.

The Plastic Magician is a continuation to "The Paper Magician" trilogy.  Ceony's story was wrapped up wonderfully at the end of The Master Magician, but the world still exists and time keeps on ticking.

We are now a few years along when we meet our new protagonist, Alvie Brechenmacher.  She is a character near and dear to my heart as we are identical twins.  

Alvie is an American girl heading across the pond to take an internship in Polymaking--plastic magic.  In England, she meets an incredible new cast of characters along with some excellent cameos from our favorite Folders.

The new characters are a delight and interact as well as the original cast.  While reading "The Paper Magician" trilogy will help you understand the magic system, The Plastic Magician needs to remain a story read on its own merits.  They are not the same characters and should not be compared with the originals.  This is a continuation not a copy.

Their is conspiracy and intrigue as Magicians deal with the harsh reality of inventions and intellectual protection.  Holmberg once again gives us quite a large concept to consider on progress and what does "for the greater good" really mean.  That's why I love her writing so much.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The New Dark by Lorraine Thomson

I was disappointed in this one.  Another grab on Netgalley that didn't pan out quite they way I was hoping.  Picking new books is tough.  When I have high hopes for a story from the synopses and it doesn't deliver on the premise advertised, I find it very hard to support the novel.

This novel plus The Queen of All Crows really put me in a bad place when trying to write helpful, objective reviews.  Even when I dislike a book, I try to remain objective that others may find what I consider faults to be entertaining or essential to their reading experience.  

Now that I have recuperated with some very excellent reading--reviews on those in the next couple days--I feel ready to write about The New Dark

This is a book about an EMP future.  There are no electronics, there is no grid; there are only mutants.  That was the hook that made me pick it off the "shelf."

I am really attracted to the idea of a world without the grid.  I gravitate towards books that have this premise.  Then the author threw in mutants.  How very X-Men.  Plenty of room to make a book impossible to put down.  Except that didn't happen.  I never really made a connection with the story and didn't feel the need to invest my time in it.

Then Sorrel comes across the Free People.  Wow.  I could be reading it completely wrong, but I really just did not like this section.  I felt like the story had stepped away from itself and onto a soapbox.  The reader was left there to wallow in the politics.  We also end up in a major metropolis run on slave labor.  Mutant and human race relations abound.  How many tropes can we shove in one manuscript?

Unfortunately, the story suffered from mediocre editing.  Maybe in ten years they can get a new editor on it and release a reboot edition.  While they're there, they can eliminate a few of the extraneous YA stereotypes.  Best of luck to any who go forward and try this novel.  I hope you find something to enlighten you.