Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June 2009 Reading

I'm doing another "theme month" and am calling June "Support Your Local Library" month. There are a lot of great series that I have a hard time finding at my primary source of books, paperbackswap.com but that my library has. Of course, with my burgeoning TBR shelves rapidly approaching the 600 mark again, it doesn't seem practical to check out library books, but it's the only way I'll ever get to read these series, I think. So most of my books in June will be library books, although not all.

1. DRAGONSONG by Anne McCaffrey. (AUDIO) #4 in publication order of the Pern books, this is the first one in the Harper Hall trilogy. We were briefly introduced to Menolly in previous books, but this is her story--how she came to be a harper, her life at Half Circle Sea Hold and how she came to reside at Benden Wyr instead. Menolly's father is the SeaHolder (head of the Hold) at Half Circle, and very much a staunch traditionalist. Women are kept in their places, not given much information about the outside world, and most certainly NEVER become Harpers. So when the elderly harper at Half Circle dies, Menolly isn't allowed to follow in his footsteps, even though she is given the task of teaching the children and singing the songs that need singing until the new harper arrives several months later. Despite her talent for singing, playing and songwriting, fifteen-year-old Menolly can only look forward to a life of cleaning fish, repairing nets and caring for the old uncles and aunties of the hold, a prospect which chills her to the bone. She runs away one night, ends up in a fire lizard cave, and then is found during thread fall by a Dragonrider from Benden Wyr and is brought there for safety. Benden is much kinder to its women and Menolly finds she wants to stay. A different reader from the previous books in series, although no less enjoyable. Looking forward to the next in this trilogy within a huge series. A.

2. ALAS, BABYLON by Pat Frank. Post-apocalyptic fiction, a classic written the year after I was born, which I've been meaning to read for years. The scene is set for a devastating nuclear event when Randy Bragg, small-town lawyer in central Florida, receives a telegram from his brother Mark, a military intelligence man, that informs him that his wife and kids will be joining Randy in Florida the next day and ends with the cryptic phrase, 'Alas, Babylon' which is a code word between them for impending disaster. Randy does the best he can to prepare, stocking up on groceries and necessities like batteries and gasoline, and sure enough, just a couple of days after Helen Bragg's arrival, Russia launches a multi-faceted nuclear attack that destroys most major US cities, various strategic military bases, and many allied cities around the world. Randy and a small group of friends and neighbors, curiously untouched by the radiation and fallout, learn to exist without most of the things we take for granted--of course, this was probably a little easier in 1959 than it would be today, given our technology-driven society, but it was still a big fall for them. A bit dated, with responses and dialogue that seem a bit cliched, but still a great story with a lot to think about and a definite must for anyone who likes reading this type of book. B+

3. THE MERCHANT'S MARK by Pat McIntosh. #3 Gil Cunningham historical mystery set in 1490's Glasgow, Scotland. Gil (a lawyer) is present when a merchant friend of his opens a barrel of books that the two of them ordered together, only to find no books--instead, a man's head in brine and a saddlebag of jewels and coins which look to be part of the previous King's bounty that has been missing. Augie, the merchant friend, is soon charged with the unknown man's murder (a frame-up if Gil ever saw one!) so he and his future father-in-law (a master mason) set out to investigate the crime back where the merchant's cart had been loaded and to then follow its path to see if they can find where the obvious switch was made. Meanwhile at home, Gil's betrothed, Alys, and his sister Kate investigate (unbeknownst to Gil) by temporarily moving in to Augie's household. Augie is a widower of two years and his home and children are a shambles, but Alys and Kate soon have them whipped into shape, all the while gleaning information. When they catch one of Augie's cart men breaking into the house and he is then subsequently murdered, they learn that an evil axe-man that they'd previously seen in the pub with the murdered man is likely after them. I enjoy this series and feel that it's a shame that it's not more widely recognized, but I have to admit that the use of the Scottish vernacular sometimes gets old, especially as it's OLD Scottish. Sometimes it's enough to draw you out of the story as you have to look up what is meant, although most of the time it's not too difficult and just slows your reading speed a little. It's also not consistently used, which is kind of puzzling. I wasn't as crazy about this book as I was about the first two, but still a decent read. The book was split, the story told partly about Gil and Pierre, partly about Alys and Kate, and there were just a whole lot of characters to keep straight and several sub-plots. Of course it was only when the two sets of investigators were reunited that all the puzzle pieces fell into place for the characters, but by then there was really no surprises for the reader. Normally I enjoy a more complex, winding mystery, but that coupled with the extensive use of Scots accent/words made it a little more difficult to actually "enjoy" the story. B-.

4. THE LAMORNA WINK by Martha Grimes, #16 Chief Inspector Richard Jury/Melrose Plant British mystery. This is a bit of an odd book, in that we don't really see or hear from Jury until about the last quarter of the book. This book is more about Melrose--he is off to Cornwall, where he's planning to rent a house by the sea for a few months. In a contemplative mood, Melrose reflects on his past, but on his first day there, meets a young man named Johnny (who works three jobs!) and comes to like him almost immediately. Johnny's aunt Chris, who has cared for him since childhood, disappears--and several hours later, a woman's body is found shot to death in the nearby village of Lamorna. No, it's not Chris--but it's a woman who used to live in the area whom Chris once threatened. No one who knew Chris Wells could believe she had killed this woman, but where is she if she isn't involved somehow? Melrose is also intrigued by the four-year-old case of the deaths of two children who lived in the house he's renting, which is why it's available; the parents could not tolerate living there any longer and the tales going around say it's haunted. Melrose calls Cmdr. Brian Macalvie to look into Chris Wells' disappearance (he's already investigating the murder of the Lamorna woman) and discovers that it was he who was the primary officer in the Bletchley childrens' case as well. Of course the cases are related. Jury is off in Northern Ireland and doesn't come to Cornwall until just before the case breaks. An intriguing, interesting story, and although I had a gut feeling about the baddie, I didn't really know WHY until much further along when some more clues got uncovered. Very enjoyable read. A.

5. CHARLIE BONE AND THE HIDDEN KING by Jenny Nimmo (AUDIO) #5 Children of the Red King young adult fantasy series. Another series of adventures await Charlie Bone and his friends at Bloor's Academy. Their nemesis, Manfred Bloor is still about, and although he's lost his hypnotising endowment, something new is brewing. Charlie's best friend Benjamin Brown returns with his parents from Hong Kong after many months away, only to discover that his beloved dog Runner Bean, who has been at the Pets Cafe, has disappeared, along with every other animal in the city. Billy Raven talks to animals and his rat Rembrandt tells him that 'something bad has awoken and the animals are afraid and have run away.' Charlie, his uncle Paton and their circle try to figure out just what's awoken--and Charlie finds that whatever the Shadow is, it has his mother bewitched and his grandmother Maisie literally frozen under a spell. Charlie is in a race against time to recover the Mirror of Amaret so he can travel through it to his father--believed dead, but now known to be simply 'lost'--before he is totally forgotten and fades away. As usual, an excellent reading of an engaging, imaginative story. A.

6. WRITTEN IN BLOOD by Caroline Graham. #4 Chief Inspector Barnaby British police series. A local writer's group invites a famous author, Max Jennings, to come speak to them at their monthly meeting, and lo and behold, he agrees. Turns out he knew the secretary of the group, Gerald Hadleigh, many years previous, although Gerald admits this to no one except his neighbor Rex--and confesses that he's somewhat afraid of Max. When Gerald turns up dead the morning after their meeting, head bludgeoned in with a candlestick, Jennings is the obvious first suspect--and he's apparently done a runner as no one can find him. But was he really the killer, or were there other deep-seated emotions brewing in the small enclave that drove one of the writer's club to kill? I liked this book better than the previous one in the series by far. The mystery itself was more interesting, the people captured my attention, and I felt like I was getting to know Barnaby and Troy in more depth, too. As usual, Barnaby doesn't show up until a good few chapters in, when the central characters in the cast have been introduced and little tidbits of information strewn about. I figured out part of the mystery ahead of time, but not the ever-important 'whodunit' part til close to the end. Jolly good rebound, and I definitely will keep on in the series. A.

7. FACE DOWN BESIDE ST. ANNE's WELL by Kathy Lynn Emerson. #9 Lady Susanna Appleton historical mystery set in Elizabethan England with all its political intrigues. Rosamond, Susanna's 12-year-old foster daughter (the child of one of her dead husband's mistresses) involves Susanna in an investigation involving the death of her French tutor at St. Anne's Well. It's been declared an accident, but Rosamond is sure she was murdered, so Susanna and her housekeeper Jennet are off to supposedly take the baths at nearby Buxton while looking into things. What they discover is a whole nest of plotters to put Mary Stuart back on the throne--but was Madame Poitier's death related to that, or to something personal? This was a fairly typical entry in this series, an easy light read, good period detail and a relatively interesting story. However, I have to say that this series has really lost its shine for me. I absolutely loved the first few, but depsite the fact that I recognize that it's a decent book, I found that it felt like work getting through it. Not really sure why, perhaps it's the lack of Susanna's character development as the series has gone on--she seems to have become much less interesting than she was early on in the series. I do know that I'm glad I got this one from the library rather than spending much effort tracking it down myself. There's one left in the series, and while I do plan to finish it off eventually, I suspect it may be awhile. C+

8. IN BIG TROUBLE by Laura Lippman (AUDIO) #4 Tess Monaghan mystery. Tess is off to Texas when she gets a letter from there with a picture of her ex-boyfriend Crow with the headline "In Big Trouble" above it. She ignores this letter for a few days, but when she eventually tries to contact him, finds that his phone has been disconnected and he's vanished. Contacting his parents, whom she's never met, leads to them hiring her to find him, as they have not heard from him in over a month either--very unusual. So, retainer in hand, Tess tells herself that this is a job and nothing more. A dead body turns up in the last place he was known to be--so Tess can only wonder if Crow is indeed in big trouble. She finds him with a new band, with a waif-like female singer that Tess first believes is his new girlfriend, but eventually finds out otherwise. The plot twists and turns and eventually Tess solves things, not an easy feat in a strange place where she's feeling like a fish out of water and has no idea where to look. But people are people and the motives for murder seldom vary much. I figured out a few of the side plots, but not the main mystery until close to the end. Excellent listen/story, I think my favorite in this series so far. I'm very much looking forward to the next one. A+

9. TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE by Judy Clemens #3 Stella Crown mystery. It's nearly Christmas in rural Pennsylvania, and Stella is half-heartedly making holiday preparations on the farm. The last thing that anyone wants to have to deal with is a murder and a disappearance--although focusing on someone else's problems is ever a way to avoid confronting your own. That's what happens when Wolf, the tattoo artist who is working on Stella's new tat, disappears mid-tattoo. Wolf's wife Mandy calls him into the back room, and Stella, tired and feeling warm and comfortable, falls asleep for about twenty minutes. When she awakens, Wolf and Mandy are both gone, with Mandy's body turning up later in the dumpster. Everyone who knows Wolf knows he would never have done his wife harm, so Stella sets out to help the police by inquiring among the biker and body art crowd who would likely clam up under questioning by the cops. Mandy and Wolf were both political-minded and had been active in a group putting forth the rights of tattoo artists, so the police and Stella wonder whether there is some connection to Mandy's death and Wolf's disappearance or if it was some personal motivation. Meanwhile, Stella's former hottie Nick shows up, and ends up snowed in at the farm for the holiday with Stella and her farmhand Lucy, her daughter Tess and Lucy's boyfriend Lenny. Still unsure of her feelings, things don't go so well, especially at first. Once again in this book, Stella seems constantly on edge with raw emotions and she's prickly as a porcupine. Her family and friends seem to be well-endowed with forbearance, as I think I would have just drifted away from someone who is such a crab-ass all the time! But they stick with her through thick and thin, and so I guess I will, too, if only to discover if she finally finds some happiness. I do like Stella, I wish she'd just lighten up a bit sometimes. There is promise, judging from the ending. B+

10. EMPIRE OF IVORY by Naomi Novik. #4 in the Temeraire historical fantasy series, which is set during the Napoleonic war but with dragons. Laurence and Temeraire and their exhausted team have finally reached the shores of the UK, fighting off a few French dragons along the coast, and Laurence is surprised that they are not met by any of the coverts of dragons and their fliers. When they are landed, they learn that during the year they have been off in China, a horrible virus has attacked most of the dragons and many have died already while others--some of them members of Laurence and Temeraire's own group--are gravely ill. With no cure in sight, the dragon doctors are desperate and eventually Laurence, Temeraire and a crew of the feral dragons they brought back with them head to Africa to attempt to find the cure--to determine what it was that Temeraire ate or did during their trip to keep the virus at bay, since he had nothing but a mild cold. This leads to a whole series of complications, including the issue of slavery. There are political machinations at work that are not in the best interest of dragons, and Temeraire is hot under the collar...er, ruff...to make right the injustices against his kind and to make people realize that dragons are beings in their own right, not someone else's pet or property. I really enjoy this series and look forward to the next and will be eagerly watching the movie news to see if it is going to be adapted for the big screen. (Peter Jackson has bought the movie rights.) A.

11. GASA-GASA GIRL by Naomi Hirahara #2 Mas Arai mystery. Mas, a 70-year-old owner of his own gardening business in Los Angeles, is off to New York in response to a phone call from his daugher Mari. Something is wrong but he doesn't know what, and Mari isn't sure either, just why she's summoned him after being quite stand-offish for many years. Her husband Lloyd is the gardener for a Japanese museum's grounds and they are working on a major restoration project when the main benefactor is killed. Both Mari and Lloyd are suspected in the shooting death, as is Mas initially, as he is the one who found the body. Mas is lost in New York. Add to the stress of not knowing how things work (the subway, for instance) or where to go, his grandson Takeo (Mari and Lloyd's infant son) is quite ill and is hospitalized while the police are questioning them about the murder. Mas barely knows his daughter, having seen her only briefly in the past ten years since his wife's death from cancer. Despite this, and his typically isolationist lifestyle, his sense of family awakens and wanting to protect her, he--with the help of Tug Yamada, a friend from LA who is also in NY visiting his daughter--investigates some aspects of the case on his own. Mas finds he even rather likes his hakujin son-in-law. Eventually the case is solved, with a bit of a surprise (for me anyway) although I'd figured out parts of it. I enjoy this series, a peek at a culture I have little experience with, and wish there were more, but I believe there's only one book left in this series, and that published in 2006, so it looks as though it may be a dead end. :-( A.

12. PUSS 'N CAHOOTS by Rita Mae Brown (AUDIO) #14 Mrs. Murphy mystery set in Crozet, Virginia, although in this book the crew is off to another part of the state for an equestrian event as Harry accompanies her husband Fair (an equine vet) and also plans to look for a horse to purchase for her friend Alicia Palmer. While attending the events, Harry also visits a good friend Joan and her husband Larry who are horse breeders, and they meet a bunch of the other folks associated with the event, from breeders to the riders entered in the events themselves. When one of the Mexican grooms is brutally murdered during a thunderstorm, speculation runs rampant as to why and who had motive. Of course the animals (tabby cat Mrs. Murphy, gray fat cat Pewter and Tucker, the Welsh Corgi) investigate and have a private war with Miss Nasty, the pet monkey of one of the other riders. I liked this book MUCH better than the last one, but it still doesn't seem to be quite up to par with many of the earlier books in the series. Still, like most cozies, it's about the characters and the settings and it was a nice visit with "the gang" as always, and the reader is very pleasant and easy to listen to as well. B.

13. AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie. Classic "locked room" mystery (or actually, "isolated island" in this case) written in 1939, with ten people invited to an island off the coast of Devon under false pretenses, each thinking they will be having a holiday, some thinking they're meeting someone known to them, or were recommended by so-and-so, or that they will be employed by Mr. U.N. Owen. Each bedroom in the manor house has a copy of the poem "Ten Little Indians" on the wall, and in one of the downstairs rooms there is a setup with ten Indian figurines--which is appropriate as they are on Indian Island. One by one the guests are killed just as described in the poem and the figurines disappear. As time passes the remaining guests of course conclude that since they can find no trace of their host, that it must be one of them...but who? And why?? This is my all-time favorite mystery. I first enjoyed it at the age of 10 or 12, have read it several times since then, and it was a great pleasure indeed to read it once again, even knowing the solution. Christie was indeed the Mistress of Mystery! A+

14. THE ANGEL'S GAME by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Zafón , the consummate storyteller, returns to Barcelona in his followup to The Shadow of the Wind, although this story takes place years before that, before the main character in TSOTW, Daniel Sempere, is even born. The author has said he plans to write four novels in this setting, all somewhat entwined with a few shared characters and situations, but with stories that are also totally stand-alone. I look forward to them all! This book features David Martin, popular author of 'penny dreadfuls' and suspense novels under the pseudonym Ignatius B. Samson. David, a loner who has been so almost since birth with his mother leaving his father when he was but a child, and his father dying before David reached his teens, finds himself increasingly isolated socially, aside from his enjoyable contacts with Señor Sempere at his bookstore. He is contacted by a mysterious publisher, Andreas Corelli, to write a book for him. The book is to be a story that will inspire a new religion and he will be paid an exorbitant amount of money to write it, paid up front. He agrees, and then David, who has been told he has an inoperable brain tumor, is cured and begins facing his life with a new vigor. After some time working on his book, he begins to see frightening parallels to a book he plucked from the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and the author who wrote it many years before. While this is happening, his obsession with Cristina, the daughter of the chauffeur of his mentor, Pedro Vidal, grows stronger and becomes dangerous when she marries Vidal himself. Betrayed once again, David's life spirals downward as he still obsessively works on his masterpiece. While similar in style to The Shadow of the Wind, this novel is darker, more overtly violent, and has more supernatural elements to it. I liked it....no, I loved it. Zafón's lyrical, richly textured writing makes his telling of the story a delight to read--even though many times the circumstances the protagonist is in make the story itself painful. This is *not* The Shadow of the Wind reprised. It is less, and yet it is more. There are many dangling loose ends that make you wonder, and I can't help but hope that some of these threads will be grabbed and woven into another tale in the other books planned for Zafón's Barcelona. Another for the Keeper shelf! A+

15. THE BLUE LAST by Martha Grimes. (AUDIO) #17 Richard Jury/Melrose Plant mystery. Jury's policeman friend Mickey Haggerty, whom he's not seen in a number of years, asks to meet him, but upon reacquainting himself with Mickey, discovers it's not a problematic case that has Haggerty calling on Scotland Yard, but a personal case that he wants Jury to look into 'off the record.' Puzzled by the request, Mickey confides that he has a rare form of leukemia and has only months to live, and although he's the officer in charge of the murder of Simon Croft, he has a personal interest in the case as his father had been friends with Croft years previously, and he believes that there is a mystery buried in the past that may be linked to Croft's death. Croft had been writing a book about the war period and since his notes and the book's manuscript were stolen, that some detail that Croft uncovered from that time could be something that someone wanted hushed up. Jury is loathe to go back to explore the details of the past, particularly the Blitz, during which his own mother was killed, but can hardly refuse a dying friend. The Blue Last is the name of the pub where events during the Blitz tie to the present. Meanwhile, Melrose and Trueblood are off to Italy to attempt to authenticate a painting, and upon his return, Jury asks him to pose as a gardener in a rich family's home associated with his case. Although some folks don't like this foray away from the actual cases, I do enjoy Melrose's adventures with his friends in Long Piddlington and this one was especially good. I do have to say though, that I did NOT like the reader for this book. Although he did a very good reading, he totally made Melrose sound like a pretentious git with the snotty, posh accent he gave him--which is not at all how Melrose is. AND he mispronounced Melrose's butler's name, Ruthven--I remember this because in a previous book there was much discussion about just how it was supposed to be said. Argh! I have the next few here in print and I believe I will stick with those, since the readers for the series seem to change with each book, and who knows what the quality of the next one would be. I enjoyed this story despite the reader (which is the reason for the slight markdown in the grading) and was very surprised by the ending, for a nice change too! A-.

16. MAGIC STUDY by Maria V. Snyder #2 in the "Study" fantasy series featuring Yelena, a young woman with magic powers who had been kidnapped from her home in Sitia as a child and kept in a prison in Ixia, then used as the ruler's food taster. When the government changes hands and she is banished, she returns to the home she's not seen since the age of six, only to find that her welcome is a bit thin with her brother Leif accusing her of being a spy. She longs to spend time getting reacquainted with her parents and extended family, but must set out to enroll in the Citadel, where she will learn to control and use her magic. There she learns that some sort of tribal serial killer is on the loose, and that not everyone there is very welcoming, either, with one of the Master Magicians wanting her to be put to death as a spy as well. After a mind-reading assures them that she has no intention of spying, Yelena sets out to learn her lessons while plotting how to catch the serial killer. This book was okay, but I didn't particularly like it as much as the first one, which really intrigued me. The author has a great writing style, and it's easy to read and has an engaging tone. But this book has more of a romancey feel to it, and I thought Yelena in many respects to have lost her appeal as a strong female character and become something of a silly girl prone to making stupid decisions. I probably will at least attempt to read the third one, simply because I have it already, but I'm dubious as to how much appeal it will have for me if the storyline continues in this vein. C+

17. A SUMMER OF DISCONTENT by Susanna Gregory. #8 Matthew Bartholomew historical mystery set in 1350's Cambridge, UK. Matthew (a physician and professor at Michaelhouse College at Cambridge University) and his friend Michael (a monk and also an agent of the Bishop of Ely) are off to Ely at a summons from the Bishop. Matt is accompanying his friend but hopes to spend time in the library at the Priory there to gather more information for the treatise on fevers he's working on. Of course, upon arrival, they discover that the Bishop has summoned Michael because he is accused of murder and wants Michael to investigate and have him exonerated. Michael, not at all sure in his heart of hearts that his boss is innocent, investigates, often times asking Matt to tag along to offer his professional opinion, so Matt doesn't get as much studying done as he would like. When two other deaths that had been presumed accidents are tied to the first death (after Matt's examination of the bodies) the number of suspects skyrockets as none of the dead were liked by the townspeople nor the clergy involved. Of course they eventually (after a long and twisty course of events and much visiting and re-visiting the various suspects) find the killer, who was not a surprise to me. I enjoy these mysteries but the last couple especially seem to have become a bit too long with quite a lot of repetition and needless foraying back and forth, covering the same materials over and over. Still, it's been many months since I had a visit to medieval Cambridge and did enjoy this one, even if it was a bit long-winded. B+

18. THE LACE READER by Brunonia Barry. (AUDIO) Towner Whitney has come home to Salem, Massachussetts, responding appropriately when her brother calls to let her know that her 85-year-old great-aunt Eva is missing. She hasn't been home for fifteen years, and the town is full of harsh memories for her--most notably, her twin sister Lynley's suicide when they were seventeen years old. Lynley had been given to her aunt and uncle at birth as they were unable to conceive, and Towner had
never quite forgiven her mother for that, especially when her uncle Cal turned out to be a drunk and abuser, who beat his wife and sexually abused his adoptive daughter, and who has now 'found God' and become the leader of an extremist religion hell-bent on persecuting witches. Towner is a 'reader' as many of the Whitney women are--intuitives, reading people's thoughts and intentions, and specifically having the talent of reading lace, the way some read tea leaves. Towner's mother May runs a
women's shelter on Yellow Dog Island where the women are taught to make Ipswitch lace by hand; they are not close, and Towner (whose birth name was Sophya, but she refused to respond to that at some point in her childhood) spent her last months with Eva in town. Towner has lived in California for many years, having undergone serious and prolonged psychiatric therapy, including ECT (electro-shock therapy) which has left her with gaps in her memory. So when she comes home, her fragile mental health takes a tumble backward as the memories assault her, complicated by her attempts to recover from a recent hysterectomy and the cop investigating Eva's disappearance, John Rafferty, who finds himself falling in love with Towner. A multi-layered story that shifts back and forth in time with an interesting plot twist that, I have to admit, I did see coming about halfwaythrough the book. Skillfully written, a compelling story that gives you a real sense of place in modern-day Salem (where the author lives) as well as an intimate look into the world of mental illness. With elements of magic, this will probably not appeal to those who aren't fans of "woo woo" but if you don't mind a bit of the supernatural, you'll find this a wonderful and compelling story. I wondered whether there are such a thing as 'lace readers' but it seems that it's a figment of the author's imagination with no historical record of it. Very enjoyable listen, read by one of my favorite readers, Alyssa Bresnahan. I'll definitely be looking out for more by this author--it's hard to believe this is a first novel. A+

19. 47 RULES OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE BANK ROBBERS by Troy Cook. A wacky ride across the southwest begins with father-daughter bankrobbing team Wyatt and Tara pulling off a couple of major jobs. Tara, who's been helping her father rob banks since before her age was in double digits always disguised as a male, has begun to become decidedly less than happy with her father's choice of careers for her. Although she adheres to Wyatt's rules of crime, he's become increasingly violent and seems to thrive on the killing almost more than the money from the bank jobs, and Tara's getting tired of it. When she sees young Max Williams (of course he's a sheriff's son, though Tara doesn't know it yet!) in a bar in the town they're scouting for the next job, something comes alive for the 22-year-old, but Wyatt (as always) practically kills the young man as he does anyone who looks twice at his lovely daughter. And Max, smitten himself, certainly DID look. And then it happens--Max turns up at the bank
during the job and Tara doesn't follow Rule #47. The final rule: When in Doubt, Take 'em Out. She lets him get away--and when her father takes her to task for it later, she snaps and breaks up their little team, clocking a drunken Wyatt a good one and
leaving him naked with some of the money in their hotel room. She hooks up with Max and away they go, not realizing that some of Tara and Wyatt's ex-partners, having recognized Wyatt's voice on the sound bit on the surveillance video played on the
news, are now after them and their share of the cash. Add to the mix the sleazy, perverted FBI agent who ignores his much smarter subordinate and gets off on watching the blood and gore of the surveillance tapes and you've got a right ribald mix of "interesting things" just waiting to happen--and happen they did! This was a highly original work that I mostly liked a lot, but the fact that I was tempted to skim through several parts of it leads me to think that the execution of the idea was just not quite spot on, although I can't pin down just why not. Perhaps it was just too many wacky characters to try to keep tabs on, or the dearth of so-called "normal" folks for them to play off of, I don't know. The book was laugh out loud funny in spots, yet other parts seemed to have humor that was just a little forced. All in all though, an enjoyable read and an author I look forward to reading more of. B+

Current reads:

DNF: THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY by Felicia Donovan. I gave it 50 pages, but while the concept was quite interesting, the characters were stereotypical and two-dimensional and the book read like a recitation, like pieces of dry, boring prose stacked together rather than woven skillfully into a story I could care about. NEXT!

DNF: THE ANTEATER OF DEATH by Betty Webb. Another one I'm glad I got from the library. I've enjoyed a couple of mysteries in another series this author did, but this is apparently her try at a cozy and it really doesn't work. It's set in a zoo, with the main character (can't even recall her name now, although she had four or five of them...Theodora Something Something Something....Teddy, that's right....) as one of the zookeepers and a Giant Anteater accused of the murder. I yawned my way through about 35 pages and decided to let it go back to the library.