Sunday, May 3, 2009

May 2009 Reading List

I've proclaimed that May will be "Catch up or finish it off!" month, in which I tackle several ongoing series on my lists--so, there will be no new-to-me authors or series started. I hope to finish off or at least catch up to the end of several series I've got ongoing. I have a list, but...I'm not always the greatest at following lists. As long as I stick to the basic premise of "nothing new," I won't judge myself too harshly. :)

1. MONKEY WRENCH by Liza Cody. #2 Eva Wylie mystery. The street-smart, tough female wrestler Eva Wylie (aka The London Lassassin) is back, this time reluctantly helping another old street friend Crystal, when her sister Dawn, a local doxie. is beaten and killed. Crystal has Eva attempting to teach self-defense to a group of prostitutes who hung out with Dawn, as they're naturally scared silly. It doesn't take long before Eva wishes she'd never laid eyes on the group, as they get her involved in several dodgy schemes, in trouble with her gym's owner, and put her in situations where her memories and emotions get stirred up, and trust me, you don't want to stir up Eva's emotions! Eva's got her problems, but I like her--she tells it like it is, even if 'like it is' is anything but pleasant. She has a total blind spot about her own self, but given her past life, that's not surprising. More details about her childhood come out in this book and it's heartbreaking at the same time you admire this tough survivor, even as your mind boggles at some of the choices she makes. Looking forward to the next--and sadly, last--book in this powerful trilogy. A.

2. THE MAGICIAN by Michael Scott (AUDIO) #2 in the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel YA Fantasy series. Josh and Sophie Newman were working summer jobs in a book store and coffee shop two days ago--and now they're in Paris with Scathach, a centuries-old Amazonian vampire warrior, the mysterious and legendary St Germain who is a French rock star in his current incarnation, and the infamous alchemist, Nicholas Flamel. Oh yeah, and Joan of Arc--who is married to the rock star. And they have a couple of notorious criminals after them--the philosopher and magician Dr. John Dee (once an advisor of Queen Elizabeth I) and the political schemer Niccolo Machiavelli. Yes, they're immortal too, and like Flamel, believe Sophie and Josh to be the "twins of the prophecy" who will either save the world or destroy it. So naturally everyone wants them in their camp! Sophie's magical powers have been awakened, but Josh's haven't been yet, and he is feeling left out and estranged from his sister, but he hasn't much time to think about it as they dash from one disaster to the next, out-maneuvering one legendary creature or person after another. Meanwhile, Perenelle Flamel, Nicholas's wife, is being held prisoner on Alcatraz Island by some of Dee's magical creatures and strives to escape. An action-packed second entry in the series, although I am not as crazy about the reader for this series as I am for some others I've listened to. In this one, set in France and thus full of French phrases and place-names, his rendition of the French accent was accurate with its constant nasal twang and slurring of words together. It probably wasn't his fault; I admittedly find French accents annoying. B+

3. WATER LIKE A STONE by Deborah Crombie. #11 Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James British police procedural. It's Christmas, and Duncan and Gemma have both wangled time off so they can be off to visit Duncan's parents in Nantwich over Christmas week with their kids. It's a nerve-wracking time, as Gemma has only briefly met Duncan's mother (at his first wife's funeral!) and never his father, and is wondering how they will like her and how their odd, cobbled-together family will fit in. But there's no time to really worry about it much; Duncan's sister Juliet, who recently started her own company doing building renovations, while breaking some concrete in a dairy barn on Christmas Eve just before she's set to leave to meet the family for dinner, discovers the long-dead body of an infant walled up inside. Before long, there's another (freshly murdered!) corpse, also found by a member of the Kincaid family, not far from the barn where the baby was found. Is there a connection? Family tensions run high as Juliet and her husband Caspar initiate a very public split, and Kit begins to realize how troubled his cousin Lally (Juliet and Caspar's daughter) is, and has been for some time, apparently. Never mind that I spotted the bad guy early on--I love this series, and Crombie always seems to manage the right balance of police work with personal scenarios, and often a bit of social commentary or information about a given area or segment of the population as well. (In this book, the subculture of the boating community--people who live on boats and navigate up and down the rivers and canals--and how they live.) Very interesting, very well done, and I'm very much looking forward to her newest book. A+

4. THE STARGAZEY by Martha Grimes (AUDIO) #15 Supt. Richard Jury police procedural. This is the first in this series that I've listened to rather than read, and I must say I quite enjoyed Donata Peters rendition as she got a large variety of different voices and accents spot on. Jury gets involved in a case in Fulham, when he follows a woman who's behaving oddly (getting on and off the bus, going into Fulham Palace late at night) and later discovers that she was murdered shortly after he stopped following her. Or was she? He calls the local constabulary with his information and when viewing the body, realizes that the dead woman is NOT the woman he saw, but someone who looks remarkably like her. How can there be two rather distinct looking women in the same area, both wearing a long fur coat? Eventually Jury tracks the other woman down, and gets Melrose Plant involved to check up on the coat angle--the one the dead woman wore had been purchased by her at a consignment shop just that day, and had been set for consignment by a woman in a family who owns an art gallery. Melrose takes up his titles again, staying at his exclusive men's club in London and perusing the gallery in hopes of finding something hinky--and of course he does, more than one something, actually! Sometimes these stories get to be a little on the ludicrous side and you have to laugh at the amazing number of coincidences and plot twists. Some of them I picked up on quite early, some of them I didn't, but despite some of the far-fetched connections, I did enjoy this book quite a lot and plan on carrying on til the end. A.

5. ABHORSEN by Garth Nix. #3 in the Abhorsen YA fantasy trilogy. This book takes up where the second book in trilogy leaves off, with Lirael, now known to be Abhorsen-in-Waiting, and Prince Sammeth, now known to be a Wallmaker, rushing to attempt to stop Hedge, the evil necromancer who plans to ressurect the ultimate evil Destroyer. Along with their two companions, Mogget (a white cat) and The Disreputable Dog (I love that name! LOL) both also magical creatures, they try to formulate a plan while on the run towards The Wall separating the kingdom of Ancelstierre from The Old Kingdom where Hedge and Sam's friend Nick Sayre (whom Hedge is using as a host for the spirit of his evil Master until he can be resurrected) are animating thousands of dead to help them. Lirael and Sam both confront some of their worst fears along the way as the story heads toward its inevitable conclusion. Wonderful series, highly recommended for actual young adults and regular old adults as well. A.

6. THE DIAMOND OF DARKHOLD by Jeanne DuPrau (AUDIO) #4 and so far most recent in the "City of Ember" YA fantasy series. I didn't much care for the third book in this series as it was a prequel to events that happened in City of Ember, but this one gets back on the main storyline with Lina and Doon and their families and friends as they begin adjusting to life in the town of Sparks. A roamer comes to Sparks but has very little to trade, but Doon notices a ripped up book in the back of her wagon that he barters for, and finds some of the same writing as he and Lina discovered in the papers that helped them find their way out of Ember. Unfortunately, the roamer had been using the pages of the book as kindling (gasp!!) and there are only 8 pages remaining, and those are very old, crumbling and smudgy. However, there is enough to convince Doon and Lina that they should go back to Ember to look for something that was left by the Elders to help the city in its time of need. So they plan an excursion and do arrive back in Ember only to find that squatters have taken over the town, looting and pillaging and the Trogg family manages to capture Doon, with plans to make him a slave. Lina heads back to Sparks for help. I really enjoy this series as a whole, although each book has had a different reader so there hasn't been much consistency. I liked this reader, although not quite as much as the woman who read the first one. I hope the author writes more in the series, but typically she takes several years between books, and the way this book ended, it could either be the end or a bridge to a new book/series. A

7. THE DEMON AND THE CITY by Liz Williams. #2 in the Detective Inspector Chen paranormal mystery series set in Singapore Three, a futuristic version of Singapore. DI Chen is on vacation with his demon wife in Hawaii, so his partner Zhu Irzh, a demon temporarily assigned to the police force (due to his ticking off some of Hell's powerful people) ends up being the one to initiate investigation into the mauling death of a young woman from a prominent family. This leads him to Jhai Tserai, the beautiful head of a Singapore pharmaceutical company--and he also learns that she's not quite human--a little secret which could have her exiled to the farthest reaches of Hell if the powers that be knew. She takes powerful drugs that she made herself to keep her true self cloaked, but even through that cloaking, she has a physical effect on Zhu Irzh that he doesn't expect, and after a couple of steamy sessions in the sack with Jhai, is actually contemplating her offer to be part of her attempted coup. Being the most powerful woman on Earth isn't enough for her, she wants to rule in Heaven and Hell as well, and has undertaken some bizarre pharmaceutical experiments on Celestial beings to begin setting that plan in motion. Zhu Irzh is saved from his temptation by the return of DI Chen early from vacation, having been summoned by the worried Sgt. Ma and the badger, a magical creature belonging to Chen's wife--a badger who also doubles as a teakettle some of the time. LOL (He is still my favorite character in this series--I want one!) As Chen and his demon partner investigate further, the very world is rocked by impending war between the realms. I really enjoy this series--it's a strange blend of sci-fi, fantasy and mystery with a world premise that is very bizarre and sometimes so complex that it's hard to keep things straight. But it's so imaginitive that you read on eagerly. Well done! A.

8. SOUR PUSS by Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie Brown (AUDIO) #15 Mrs. Murphy mystery, set in Crozet, Virginia. Mary Minor "Harry" Harristeen and her ex, Fair, have remarried and the second chapter of their life together starts with a bang--a couple of murders, of course. Winemaking has come to Crozet and surrounding areas, and Harry herself is getting in on it with a small plot dedicated to the grape as well as a partnered business with her friend Susan, growing nursery plants. Competition between some of the more prominent vineyards has become fierce, and when a lecturing professor of biology specializing in vineyard toxins disappears and one of the local vineyard owners ends up shot dead just minutes before Fair arrives at his farm to check out one of his animals, tensions rise even further. Was one of the vineyard owners really sabotaging the vines of the others with a virulent disease as the dead man, Toby Pittmann, claimed? I've enjoyed most of the books in the series, some better than others. This was definitely low on the scale with too much technical information, characters jumping on various political bandwagons, not enough of the small-town sweetness and the characters we've come to know and love. Not even the stellar reading by Kate Forbes could totally save this book. I hope the author gets back on track with the next one! C.

9. THE TREATMENT by Mo Hayder. #2 DI Jack Caffrey mystery, set in London. Jack Caffrey is a mess. Still haunted by the disappearance of his brother Ewan when they were children, obsessed with nailing the (now elderly) pedophile next door whom Jack believes was responsible for stealing Ewan, Caffrey is in no condition to take on an investigation into the kidnapping of a nine-year-old boy (just Ewan's age when he went missing) by a likely sexual predator. Rory Peach's parents were drugged and tied up in their home along with Rory for three days before the abductor had to make a run for it with Rory when a shopkeeper looking for money came knocking. Where did they go? The hue and cry was raised quickly afterwards, and every inch of the park behind the Peachs' home has been searched. Caffrey goes into a very dark place as he hunts down clues about who could have done such a thing--and believes it is a serial criminal, so sets to searching old records for similar cases as well. Interviews with neighborhood folks turn up a few clues that lead to a shocking conclusion when they are all pieced together. Meanwhile, Caffrey's personal life is in a shambles as well, as his girlfriend Rebecca also confronts the ghosts haunting her and Ivan Penderecki, the object of Caffrey's obsession, dies, leaving him a package that may contain information about what happened to Ewan. Dark, gut-wrenching and utterly horrible in some places, this is not a book for those with a tendency towards queasiness. At times it almost feels like the author uses some of the more dark stuff purely for the shock value. That said, it's one of the few so-called "thrillers" that has actually thrilled me to any degree of late, that provided a true "edge of your seat, got-to-get-to-the-end-and-see-what-happens" experience, with plot twists that I didn't see coming and slammed me in the gut when they arrived. A+.

10. THE PRICE OF MURDER by Bruce Alexander. #10 Sir John Fielding historical mystery. Sir John and Jeremy have (as usual) two investigations going--one regarding the body of a young girl found in the river, very obviously sexually abused and the other the disappearance of a childhood friend of Clarissa's. The dead child is found to have been the same one reported missing by her mother a few weeks previously, and now the mother's gone missing as well. After Jeremy brings a neighbor woman in to speak with Sir John regarding the disappearance, they determine that the mother had actually 'sold' her child--or, she thought, adopted her out to a well-to-do family for a fee. When Jeremy goes back to question the neighbor further, he finds her brutally murdered also, and they fear the trail has gone cold. Of course it hasn't, and soon the theme of horseracing comes into play as well, when the brother of the missing woman (and uncle of the murdered child) who is also a jockey, helps in their investigation. Clarissa discovers that her childhood friend isn't who she thought she was, and the Fielding household changes yet again as Molly (the cook) and Dr. Donnelly (the Fieldings' friend and the medical examiner) plan to marry and Jeremy and Clarissa's relationship moves forward as well. This was definitely one of the more enjoyable (among many!) in the series although I'm not particularly fond of horseracing. Only one more to go before the end of the series, which I plan to finish off later in the month. A.

11. THE ORACLE'S QUEEN by Lynn Flewelling. Third and final entry in the Tamir Trilogy, in which Princess Tamir (once Prince Tobin, Tamir being revealed in the previous book when a mystical fire burns away her male body, a shell and illusion held in place by magic) takes her place as the leader of Skala from the prophesy--or she will as soon as she can thrust her cousin Korin and his evil wizard Niryn from the usurper's role. Gathering her army and supporters, Tamir begins without much confidence, but grows in assurance as the leader of her country each day. Her personal life is a shambles, of course, what with the big adjustment to her new gender ('there's an empty spot in my breeches!' LOL) and her feelings for Ki, her squire plus her worries over Korin, believing him to be a victim of Niryn's dark wizardry and manipulation . The ending to this was fairly predictable, but I really enjoy Flewelling's writing style and her characterizations, and this was certainly among the most unique series I've read in recent years with its strange premise and storyline. Will be checking out other series by this author for certain! A.

12. SHOT GIRL by Karen E. Olson. #4 (and last, to date) Annie Seymour mystery set in New Haven, CT. Annie is a crime reporter, but in this book she ends up in the middle of her story when her ex-husband Ralph ends up dead in the parking lot of a dance club where's she's attending a bachelorette party for one of her co-workers. Shells from her gun are scattered around the body, but oddly enough, he wasn't even shot--there's not a mark on his body. And several witnesses claim to have seen Annie kissing Ralph before he died, and going from the club to her car--where her gun was found. Someone is setting her up, big time--but who? And why? Where has Ralph's current girlfriend run off to--and why was Annie's mother representing Ralph in an upcoming grand jury investigation but neglected to even let Annie know he was back in town? Something smells rotten in Denmark and Annie's determined to find out why. I enjoyed this book, although it was a bit different in that Annie didn't share some things with the reader until much further along in the story--so we didn't really have all the clues we needed. I can understand her not sharing certain facts with Tom, the police detective handling the case (and Annie's ex-boyfriend) but with her readers? Please! LOL I still managed to figure out the major portion of the mystery anyway. I'm going to miss Annie--she's smart, irreverent, independent and very human; her town and friends are also a big part of these books and I do hope the author brings them all back at some point in time. Meanwhile, I'll be waitng to read the first of Olson's "Tattoo Shop" mysteries, due out in a couple of months. A.

13. MUSCLEBOUND by Liza Cody. Third and last Eva Wylie mystery in which Eva finds herself on the down and outs--her wrestling manager has barred her from the gym and won't speak to her, her Ma was all set to move away and not even tell her, and Anna Lee, the private investigator who sometimes throws her jobs has told her she must stop drinking or their working relationship is done. No money, it's raining, her new pup Milo disrespects her, so Eva is feeling particularly sorry for herself. When she 'borrows' a car that ends up having a sports bag full of money in it, she thinks her luck has changed, but it brings her nothing but trouble, as does the reappearance of her sister Simone in her life. Simone, having been adopted out by a foster family when she was a small girl, hasn't the patience to deal with Eva and her drinking and her bleak lifestyle. However, a pesky fellow-wrestler named Keif wants to be Eva's personal trainer and get her back into fighting shape and he seems to be the one bright spot in her life although she doesn't see it that way. I have to admit that reading these last two books in this series close together makes me rather glad there isn't another--I think I'd have taken a good long break from the series if there were, as Eva's almost-whiny "poor me, none of this is my fault" attitude really began to grate on my nerves and made me think of all my former mental health patients with Borderline Personality Disorder. Granted, she's had a tough life and survived a lot, but get on with it, already! She made so many poor decisions/choices in this book I can't even begin to count them, and most of them did indeed come back to bite her in the bum. Ah well. I did like the ending and would like to think that if Eva's story ever gets resurrected that there is hope for her. B-

14. WHERE MEMORIES LIE by Deborah Crombie (AUDIO) #12 and most recent in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series. I really enjoyed the reader for the one previous Kincaid/James book I listened to, but this is a different one and I must say that at times, she really annoyed me with a couple of her voices. That said, the book itself was great, with Crombie once again tying in a past case (from the 1950's in post-war Britain) to present, when Gemma's elderly friend Erica Rosenthal asks her to look into the reappearance of a valuable brooch made by her father, a well-known jewellery crafter, which she had last seen before the war. Her father, who died in the concentration camps, had made the brooch for her as a special gift, and it turns up in the catalogue of a London auction house. The murder that happened in 1952 was the brutal stabbing of none other than Erica's own husband, David Rosenthal. When the sales girl that Gemma questions about the brooch as an unofficial favor for Erica ends up dead that very same night, something smells fishy and the Yard (with Duncan) is on the case. Is there a connection between the girl's death and David Rosenthal's those many years previous? Gemma also learns that her mother is gravely ill with leukemia and takes some personal time from work but then ends up spending most of it helping Duncan and Erica. Crombie once again leads us on a merry chase with several red herrings--some of which I fell for hook, line and sinker, but I did figure it out well before the final reveal. Now I'm one of those waiting not-so-patiently for the October release of her next book! A.

15. HELL HOLE by Chris Grabenstein. #4 John Ceepak mystery, in which Ceepak and Danny investigate the supposed suicide of a soldier in a wayside rest stop. They're doing this on the sly because the rest stop falls outside of their jurisdiction, but it's obvious to even Danny, a relative rookie, that Shareef Smith did not shoot himself and that some type of coverup is underway. The two Sea Haven cops take on some powerful enemies to bring down Smith's killer, but they get there in the end with some help from folks on both sides of the law. Although the bad guy was obvious to me from the start and I was pretty sure what the motive was (at least in general,) how the murder was achieved was a bit of a puzzle until Ceepak tells all at the end. I have enjoyed every one of these books in this series--they're light reads with just the right amount of humor, interesting characters and an easy-to-read style. Looking forward to Mind Scrambler! A.

16. RULES OF ENGAGEMENT by Bruce Alexander. This is the final Sir John Fielding historical mystery in which the subject of hypnotism and "Mesmerism" is investigated as a means to murder, when a member of Parliament jumps from Westminster Bridge into the Thames in front of a dozen witnesses, one of them being Annie Oakum, former cook of the Fielding household. It was obvious that the man jumped himself--no one pushed him--and it was known that he could not swim, but why would he jump? The mystery itself wasn't much of a mystery in this one, but many threads in the personal lives of the characters were tied together as Jeremy (who tells the stories) and Clarissa prepare for their nuptials. The ending was a bit anticlimactic, but due to the author's untimely death, the last few chapters were written by his wife with the help of another author. I shall greatly miss having more adventures of Jeremy and Sir John to read about, but at least I can always go back and visit them when the spirit moves me. A.

17. SUDDEN DEATH by David Rosenfelt. #4 Andy Carpenter mystery. Andy is a lawyer living in Paterson, NJ and became rather famous in the last book by getting a convicted death-row inmate's guilty verdict reversed. This time around another celebrity case comes his way in the form of Kenneth Schilling, a running back for the New York Giants who's just been charged with murdering a long-time friend who plays for a rival team. Kenny maintains his innocence despite mounting evidence against him, and Andy nearly packs the case in, as he doesn't believe in defending people he believes are guilty. But his gut tells him Kenny is telling the truth, so he sticks it out until evidence proves his case--as always, at the last minute in the middle of the trial. On a personal note, Andy's girlfriend Laurie, who is an investigator for his law office, is thinking of taking a job offer back in her hometown in Wisconsin that would likely lead to her being chief of police in just a few years. Andy is agonizing over this, as he really loves her, but he won't allow himself to try to influence her to stay. I figured the baddie out very early on and chuckled to myself as the tiny little clues were dropped into place, confirming my thoughts. I'm not really a big fan of lawyer mystery and courtroom drama leaves me cold, but I do like Andy and his crew so I'm continuing on with the series. I enjoyed this book despite the "lawyer stuff" in it. B+

18. YOU SUCK by Christopher Moore. (AUDIO) Another crazy romp through Chris Moore's twisted mind, this one a continuation of events that happened in his book Bloodsucking Fiends, with many of the same characters. This one opens with 19-year-old Tommy Flood waking up next to his older, more worldly girlfriend Jody (who just happens to be a vampire) only to find that he gets to stay 19 forever, because Jody's "turned" him, too. Neither one of them are very experienced vampires so they struggle along trying to figure out how to make it in the world, all the while trying to stay ahead of the evil vampire Elijah (who turned Jody) and his associates--who are much displeased to learn of their presence. Also, Tommy's friends from the overnight stock crew at the supermarket ("the Animals") learn he's a vampire and try to capture him for a Vegas hooker (named Blue, because she dyed herself that way) between rounds of turkey bowling at the Safeway. LOL! Yes, it sounds ridiculous, and it really is, but lots of fun, too. This is the first audio I'd listened to by this author and the reader was really good. She was sometimes really annoying to listen to, but only because she got the characters spot on, especially Abby Normal, whom Tommy recruits to be his and Jody's minion (to get stuff done, like, during the daytime, dude!) Is there anything more annoying than a sixteen-year-old Valley Girl Goth wannabe? I doubt it!! LOL Still, an enjoyable and appropriately crazy listen. A.

19. RITUAL by Mo Hayder. #3 Jack Caffrey mystery (and so far latest--at least in the US, as her next one SKIN hasn't been released here yet.) Jack has moved from London, having left girlfriend Rebecca when she kept pestering him to have a child together, something he has vowed he will never do, seeing what he's seen and living what he's been through with his brother Ewan. So he is now in Bristol, and gets a case working with a diving crew who finds a severed hand in the river. This is nothing unusual, but when the lead diver, Phoebe "Flea" Marley, tells Jack that she believes the hand was severed while the person was still alive and the coroner confirms this, Jack definitely knows he's going to be after another sick and twisted bastard of a villain. And of course, it is. The story is also in large part about Flea, about the tragic diving accident her parents were involved in two years previously along with her brother Thom, who has been so badly affected by it that he's unable to keep a job or settle to anything. Flea struggles to find out the truth of that accident while trying not to get involved more than she ought in Caffrey's case, but because her father was a professor, she knows a lot about African black magic rituals in which severed human body parts play a big role. Gritty, grisly and gripping, this was not a book for 'enjoying' per se but was an excellent story. Caffrey is a complex character, one I don't always like very much, but whose life certainly makes for interesting reading. A.

20. CHARLIE BONE AND THE CASTLE OF MIRRORS by Jenny Nimmo (AUDIO) #4 in the Children of the Red King YA fantasy series. Charlie and his friends at Bloor's Academy find that they still must deal with the evil Manfred Bloor, son of the headmaster. Even though he's graduated, he's now a teaching assistant. There are three new endowed children with magical talents and all of them seem to be on the side of the Bloors. The balance is tipping. Billy Raven is adopted, but Charlie has a bad feeling about it which is confirmed when he looks at a photo of the adoptive parents and hears their thoughts. More about Billy's ancestry is discovered and Charlie even thinks he's discovered where his father is being held captive. The story is furthered along nicely and ends on another cliffhanger. Can't wait to get to the next one, I really enjoy this series and the reader is great--Simon Russell Beale is his name. A.

21. TO WEAR THE WHITE CLOAK by Sharan Newman. #7 Catherine LeVendeur historical mystery series set in medieval France. Catherine, Edgar and their household return home to Paris after a year's absence in Germany, where they'd gone to assist Catherine's sister Agnes with a problem. Upon returning, they find a dead body in their counting room, a man apparently a Templar Knight, as he is wearing their distinctive white cloak and a brooch. He was obviously murdered, and Catherine and Edgar struggle to find out who he was and why he was left in their home. The Templars don't recognize him and they are now set to blame Catherine and Edgar as rumors of her father Hubert's association with the Jews fly wildly. Hubert, of course, IS a Jew and has gone back to the Jewish community at Troyes, not on pilgrimage as they've told everyone. I generally enjoy this series, but this one annoyed me on many levels. There were too many sub-plots, too many peripheral characters to keep straight, and too many changes of point of view. Even several of the peripheral characters had their say, with switches often occurring mid-chapter. Just too confusing. I love the main characters in the series, but some of the issues they are dealing with have gone on for multiple books and they are getting a bit tired now. I'm going to finish this series (3 books left, and I have them all) but I'm not as eager to jump on the next one as I was to get to this one. C+.

22. THE SILENT MAN by Alex Berenson. #3 John Wells spy thriller. Another solid entry in this modern-day spy thriller series. John Wells is settling into domestic bliss with Jennifer Exley, his co-worker and fellow spy. But their life is about to be shattered when one of the baddies that John previously wronged seeks revenge in a planned assassination as Wells and Exley make their way to work. They are well-guarded, but though the attack is partially blocked, Exley is severely injured. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, two nuclear bombs have gone missing from a Russian bomb storage facility, having been stolen by a small group of Muslim terrorists. As those people work to get the bombs over the sea to American soil where they will build their own nuclear device, the CIA learns of the missing bombs and must play games behind the scenes to find out what they can because the Russians are not very forthcoming. John Wells has a role in that too--in fact, the two cases eventually intersect. I enjoy this series quite a lot. I really loved the first book where John was more or less on his own--it was a more unique story and he had to rely on his own resourcefulness and wit. The subsequent books, including this one, with all the machinations of the FBI, CIA and the other "initial" agencies and their posturing and game-playing have been slightly less appealing to me. Anyone can accomplish things if you have the CIA providing you with false documentation and 'friends' to talk to to get you what you need or to introduce you to the people you need involved. It's just not as exciting to me as the 'lone wolf.' But still a good read, well-written and as it's addressing concerns of the present day, enough to scare the bejeezus out of you if you let it. B+

23. DEATH OF A DUSTMAN by M.C. Beaton. #17 Hamish MacBeth Scottish cozy police mystery. One of the councilwomen in Strathbane, eager for some attention, targets Lochdubh for her 'go green' campaign and enlists the local dustman, Fergus Macleod, to get the residents to separate their rubbish for recycling. Fergus, a nasty, wife-beating drunk who was on the verge of losing his job before Mrs. Fleming got him a new uniform and reason to be nasty, of course ends up dead. There's hardly a villager who hadn't been heard threatening him at one time or another, but when a second man, a crofter named Angus also dies, the suspect list narrows a bit. Hamish, now a Sergeant with yet another PC--Clarry, this one a great cook but not much in the grooming and cleanliness department--learns that Fergus was blackmailing several Lochdubh residents and wonders if Angus found out somehow and one of those people killed him? Hamish keeps this news to himself, wanting to protect his fellow villagers, and of course it ends up disastrously and by the end of the book, Hamish is once again a lowly PC and Blair gnashes his teeth as his red-haired menace once again escapes being sacked. An enjoyable, light read and this one had a solution that I didn't anticipate, at least for part of it. B+.

DNF: NO REST FOR THE WICCAN by Madelyn Alt. (After 50 pages, the book had gone nowhere and seeing that the main character is likely going to be caught in a Stephanie Plum-esque romantic limbo which began last book and is continuing (Oh! Which guy do I choose?) I decided to give up on the series. Also, the main character is pretty immature for someone who is supposedly an adult. Enough is enough.)

Currently reading: listening to Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey in audio.