Sunday, November 6, 2011

November 2011

The year is fast drawing to a close--I'm still hanging in there and have not purchased any books this year. Still doing the occasional cull from my TBR stacks, and planning to do a bunch more this month in a last-ditch effort to close down a few of my bookshelves before we move in February.

BUT...I've just ordered a Kindle Fire! Never thought I'd do it, as I really love "real" books, but I think it's almost a necessity with the limited space I'll have at the new place. Still not going to order any books for it til 2012, but I'll have to borrow a couple to try it out. :) Addendum: so far, so good! I think the Kindle Fire will be great! I am still fiddling with it and playing around...have read a few chapters in my borrowed book and it reads easy, I have to say.

On to the reading list!

1. DEATH WILL HELP YOU LEAVE HIM by Elizabeth Zelvin (#2 Bruce Kohler mystery) C+ Second (and so far last) book in the Bruce Kohler mystery series. Bruce is a recovering alcohol/drug addict living in New York and the story centers around him and his two best friends, Jimmy (also in recovery) and Barbara (Jimmy's girlfriend, and a counselor.) A friend of Barbara's is suspected of killing her drug-dealer boyfriend and the trio get involved with trying to figure out who else might have killed him so as to clear Luz's name. While I like these characters well enough, for me the book was just a little too heavy on recovery/addict jargon, and the whole recovery process was focused on much more than the mystery itself IMO. The first book was more interesting because it was different--Bruce woke up hungover in a detox unit in the Bowery, so was newly sober. Now he is 10 months out and his whole life centers around AA and staying sober. Perhaps for someone with addiction issues it would be more interesting, but it was just too much for me.

2. A TASTE FOR DEATH by P.D. James (#7 Cmdr. Adam Dalgliesh mystery) (AUDIO) C+ I normally enjoy the Adam Dalgliesh series very much, but this one seemed to drag on and on as the mystery into the murder of Sir Paul Barrone, a Minister of Parliament, and a tramp in the vestry of a church went onwards. There just seemed to be too much extraneous detail, too much wandering off into the lives of minor characters which left me often thinking, "Get ON with the story already!" It's also one of the few where I knew the bad guy almost straight away. I guess every author is allowed an 'off' book--it's certainly not enough to put me off reading more. Another consideration is that this book is the first audio production of a P.D. James book I've listened to rather than read in print, so perhaps that impacted my feeling about the book too. Although the reader was perfectly skillful, the excess of posh, snooty voices grew rather tiresome after awhile.

3. TERRA INCOGNITA by Ruth Downie (#2 Ruso the Medicus historical mystery) C+ This second book in the series sees Ruso, a medicus with the Twentieth legion, on the way north from Deva (modern-day Chester) to the border with the 'wild barbarians' of which his housekeeper Tilla is one. A near-fatal cart accident along the way necessitates an amputation and Ruso is conscripted to fill in for the local medic who's gone mad, and also to investigate the death of the trumpeter, who had an interesting sideline. I enjoyed the story, I really like Ruso and the other main characters, the humor, the period detail. BUT. It was just too long and convoluted, with too many characters to keep straight and too many little side plots distracting from the main mystery. I found myself skimming through the midsection of the book.

4. THE WARDED MAN by Peter V. Brett (#1 Demon trilogy) A WOW! An excellent first book of a planned trilogy set in a world 300 years after a great war left mankind struggling to stay alive against demons, which come out at sunset and fade with the dawn. The corelings as the demons are called, take various shapes and have different qualities but very few humans survive interaction with them, staying inside their heavily warded homes after dusk. Magic symbols make up the wardings that keep the demons from attacking, and only brave men like the Messengers who carry powerful portable warding circles, would be outdoors after dark. This story tells of three children--Arlen, Leesha and Rojer--who grow up in different isolated villages and have dreams of seeing the world one day. They all have different talents and the story takes place over several years as they grow into adulthood and their talents become more readily apparent. Excellent storytelling, great characters, looks like another wonderful series in the 'dark fantasy' subgenre. Yay!

5. A CUP OF JO by Sandra Balzo (#6 Maggy Thorsen mystery) See review on the Paperbackswap Mystery Monday blog here:

6. RIVER MARKED by Patricia Briggs (#6 Mercy Thompson paranormal) (AUDIO) C+ Sixth in this series about 'walker' Mercy Thompson (she shapeshifts to Coyote) and her mate, werewolf pack leader Adam Hauptmann. They are off on their honeymoon and get tangled in a web of Native American myths and legends as they are asked to help kill a vicious river monster. First one of these I've listened to rather than read, and I liked the reader's voice and reading style. However, the story itself was somewhat lacking for me. Okay, but not as good as the others.

7. WICKED GAMES by Ellen Hart (#8 Jane Lawless mystery) B- I like this series, and have liked recent ones more than early ones, but this book took a step backwards with Jane turning into a jellyfish, insecure and wibbling about her new love and seeming almost desperate when she suspects Julia is lying to her and is evasive about her life. This is not the Jane I have come to know and enjoy spending time with. On the mystery end of things, Jane gets involved in the family dynamics of the wealthy Kastner family when their son rents Jane's third-floor apartment and the daughter moves down the street and shows an inordinate amount of interest in Jane. Then a private detective contacts Jane to inform her of some of the family's colored past.

8. THE CROSSING PLACES by Elly Griffiths (#1 Ruth Galloway/Harry Nelson mystery) (AUDIO) B+ This first book in series featuring forensic archaeologist and professor Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson started off with a real bang and sucked me into the story right away. Bones have been found in the salt marsh near King's Lynn and Nelson has been led to Ruth to check them out. He believes they might be the bones of a young girl who went missing 10 years previously. They end up being about 2000 years old, but when another girl goes missing in similar circumstances, and Ruth's cat is brutally killed and left on her doorstep, Harry and Ruth's paths keep crossing. I have some serious plausibility issues with the thread dealing with Lucy, the missing girl from 10 years previously which is the only reason I marked the grade down a notch--can't say much without giving things away, but suffice it to say it just didn't seem very likely as written by the author. Other than that though--it was a great book! I have the second one on my library list already.

9. MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs B+ An interesting book about a strange boy who finds out the hard way why he's strange. All his life, he believed his grandfather's fanciful stories were just that--made-up stories about monsters and peculiar children living in a home where they were loved and accepted. Even the old photographs Jake suspected were altered--surely there is no girl who can levitate off the ground or another who can lift boulders with one hand?! When his grandfather dies, Jake finds things in his grandfather's belongings that lead him to ask for a trip to a small island off the Welsh coast, and his father, an avid ornithologist, agrees to accompany him to study birds. What Jake finds there astonishes him. A very interesting story, although I am not sure what I thought about the ending. It does seem to leave an opening for a possible sequel.

10. ANGELS PASSING by Graham Hurley (#3 Joe Faraday mystery) B+ Another interesting entry in this British police procedural series set in and around Portsmouth. DI Joe Faraday, once again being sought for promotion, is too busy investigating the death of a teenage girl who may or may not have thrown herself off the roof to even consider it. Meanwhile some of his team are seconded to Major Crimes to work on a hanging death. Faraday's personal life is also in an uproar and he tries to deal with that as well. As usual, quite a page turner, with a good balance of the police cases and personal details of the various characters.

11. THE POACHER'S SON by Paul Doiron (#1 Mike Bowditch mystery) B- Mike Bowditch, 24-year-old Maine Wildlife Ranger finds himself distracted from his job duties when a state-wide manhunt for the killer of two men takes over the whole north woods of Maine. The distraction comes because the man they are hunting is none other than his father, Jack Bowditch, an alcoholic tracker, woodsman and poacher, who is believed to have shot a deputy and the head of a land-development company in cold blood. Mike has never been close to his father, since he and his mother left when Mike was 9 years old--and in fact hadn't spoken to him at all for two years. But while Mike agrees that his dad is a first-class prick, he can't see a motive for his father behind this killing--'he's a bar-brawler, not a cold-blooded killer.' Intent on clearing his father's name, he risks his job, friendships and his life, often wondering why he's doing so. This was a decent first book in series, but I was rather surprised at the award nomination...although I often am, so that's nothing new. LOL For me it had one major flaw that permeated the whole book and undermined the believability of it and it was primarily this than sunk my opinion of it: unless Mike Bowditch was an alien with a vastly different lifespan, there is no way in hell he was 24 years old. It may have been partly the 'voice' the reader on the audio version gave him, but it was more than that--his attitudes, actions and his world-weary demeanor made him seem to be a man in (at the very least) his late 30's, more like someone in their 40's. To me, if you can't believe the character is who he is supposed to be, how can you believe the rest of the story?

12.INK FLAMINGOS by Karen E. Olson (#4 Tattoo Shop mystery) B- This is apparently the last book in the tattoo shop series featuring tattooist Brett Kavanaugh, and I for one am relieved. It sort of ended with a fizzle in my opinion. I like the author's writing style and really enjoyed her other series (which I wish she would have continued) but this one just never worked for me as well...but then, I am no fan of typical cozy mysteries, of which this is one. The tattoo shop setting is what made it unique and interesting for me. I did like the ending, though.

13. SERPENT IN THE THORNS by Jeri Westerson (#2 Crispin Guest medieval mystery) C+ Second in this medieval mystery series featuring Crispin Guest, a former knight who was stripped of lands, title and wealth but spared his life when caught in a treasonous plot seven years previously against young King Richard. Now he lives in the London slums and works as a Tracker, basically a private detective. In this book, he is hired by a scullion in an inn, whose mentally challenged sister keeps confessing to the killing of a French courier--who was carrying a relic that may be the genuine Crown of Thorns. When Crispin comes across the man who betrayed him--and who now happens to be Richard's Captain of the Archers--and he is tied to the case, he tries to find a way to solve the mystery as well as have his revenge. This book was somewhat disappointing, though I can't quite put my finger on exactly why. I know I was somewhat distracted by several typos I found--well, not typos that would have been found on spell check, but things like "that" instead of "than" or the wrong spelling of a word, for example, "make due with..." instead of "make do." So the proofreading/editing was somewhat less than professional. It's dubbed as "medieval noir" but I didn't find it particularly noir-ish. Certainly not a cozy, but noir? Not really. It also gets somewhat repetitious with frequent descriptions of the stink and dirtiness of medieval London. A good story, and I do like Crispin and Jack, but...a bit off the mark this time.

14. WHISKEY SOUR by J.A. Konrath (#1 Jack Daniels mystery) (KINDLE) A This book has the distinction of being the first book I read on my new Kindle Fire. It was easy to read, pages easy to turn, and on top of all that, it was actually a great story! It features Chicago police Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels, who is in hot pursuit of a brutal, sadistic serial killer--who tortures women and dismembers them, then dumps them in garbage cans, leaving a shellacked Gingerbread cookie as his calling card. The Gingerbread Man sees Jack as a worthy foe and targets her personally to be one of his victims. Great introduction to this tough Chicago cop and looking forward to reading more in the series!

15. CROWNER ROYAL by Bernard Knight (#13 Crowner John medieval mystery) (AUDIO) B- Crowner John has moved from the Devon west country where he was the Coroner for the county of Devon, but now at the behest of his king has become Coroner of the Verge, dealing with cases within a 12-mile radius of the King's Court, wherever it might be. He's homesick (as is his assistant Gwyn) and bored, as there seems to be very little activity--and when a dead body or two do show up, his jurisdiction is questioned at every turn by the local sheriff.
I wasn't as fond of this book as previous ones in the series...I liked the Devon setting as it's where my husband sister lives, so it was interesting reading about local history there. London and Winchester have been done to death, so to speak. LOL This book was also more fraught with political intrigue on the Royal level (as opposed to local political infighting as in previous books) which has never been a huge interest of mine. So far there's only one more book in this series, so perhaps the author also realizes that the series is growing a little lackluster and is stopping it. I'll certainly finish it off, but if Plague of Heretics is indeed the last, I think it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

16. A LETTER OF MARY by Laurie R. King. #3 Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell historical mystery. A It seems to me that each book in this series gets better--after the first one, which I thought was too long and convoluted, I wasn't sure if I would continue reading the series, but the second and this, the third, were absolutely brilliant! Sherlock Holmes and his new wife, Mary Russell, work again to solve the suspicious death of an old acquaintance, an archaeologist who comes back to England from Palestine with a peculiar gift for Mary. A day later, Dorothy Ruskin is struck down in a London street by an unmarked black motorcar, and only a fool would not make a connection between the two--especially when the Holmes' home is ransacked a day later.Wonderful, multi-faceted mystery with red herrings all over the place and the deeply-layered characters becoming better known to the reader too. Very much looking forward to the next one!

17. I AM HALF SICK OF SHADOWS by Alan Bradley #4 Flavia de Luce historical mystery. (AUDIO) A. (Review pending)

Current reads:

Kindle: CHILDREN OF THE STREET by Kwei Quartey (#2 Darko Dawson mystery set in Ghana)

Audio: THE DOG WHO KNEW TOO MUCH by Spencer Quinn (#4 Chet and Bernie mystery)

Print: THE GRAVEYARD GAME by Kage Baker (#4 in The Company Sci-fi/fantasy series)