Sunday, October 19, 2014

Black & Blue by Ian Rankin

Mystery

Inspector John Rebus is managing a few cases, harassment from television stations about a possible wrong conviction, and a personal interest in two serial killers. The cases start with a man that is impaled on a fence, tied to a chair, with a bag over his head. Did he jump or was he pushed? What circumstances caused the man to end here? The evidence takes him up north, looking at a crime boss Uncle Joe. He is known to run drug rings but no one can touch him.

While investigating this crime, Rebus' old partner commits suicide. This is after media has been hounding him on a case he closed many years ago where some suspected that his partner planted evidence. The media hounds Rebus too and an internal investigation is opened with someone who is not too fond of Rebus heading it up. Rebus is assigned DI Jack Morton, an old friend, to watch Rebus' every move and follow him everywhere.

This makes it harder to Rebus to continue his unofficial investigation in to the serial killer Bible John, and his more recent copy cat killer, Johnny Bible. There was lots going on in this book but everything managed to work and fit together quite nicely.

Morton and Rebus being paired up was the best part of this book. The two have a mutual respect for each other but Rebus is angry enough at having Morton watching his every move to get a few good one liners off at Morton. Morton also, somehow, manages to get Rebus off alcohol. Let's hope it lasts. He may just be able to make something with Gill work out if things stay this way.

First Line: "Tell me again why you killed them."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Angel Killer by Andrew Mayne

Mystery

FBI Agent Jessica Blackwood is called in to consult on an interesting case because of her background as a magician. The Warlock has hacked in to the FBI's website and left an encrypted message. It takes their computer scientists a week to uncover that the message contains GPS coordinates and, when they visit those coordinates, they find a dead girl, dead only a few hours. The problem is that this girl died 2 years ago. The FBI knows they are dealing with an illusionist and hope that Blackwood's experience can help them.

Not surprisingly, things escalate and the illusions get more complex and on a larger scale. They need to find The Warlock before he kills more people, and before the public starts to believe what he is doing is real.

This book is unlike anything I've read in the past. I've read books on magicians and illusionists and books about mysteries but I can't recall reading one that combines the two. I really enjoyed the magical element brought to the crimes. It's rare that I wish for more crimes to be committed in books, usually I want the good guys to find the bad guys, but I couldn't help but wishing there were a few more tricks up The Warlock's sleeves to see what else Mayne could come up with.

I also enjoyed Blackwood as a character and everything her background brought to the story. I've never seen Mayne's tv show but it's obvious he knows his stuff. However I do have a few small issues with this book. Blackwood's ex-boyfriend, Damian, made a few appearances throughout the book and it seemed that whenever Mayne couldn't figure out how to get the FBI to figure out the next clue, Damian did it for them. It felt a bit like cheating. I also have an issue when books turn the killers on the main character. This happens far too often in books that I read and it always feels cheap to me. Why can't characters figure out who the murderer is and then capture them? Why does it always have to involve being taken? My last issue would be with the ending. I felt like everything wrapped up too quickly and I wondered if I missed something. The book was left open for another Blackwood novel though, and I would pick it up if another were to come out.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour.

First Line: "You're going to die."

Rating:
(4/5)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tara Road by Maeve Binchy

Romance

Ria is a doting, loving mother of two to Annie and Brian. Her husband, Danny, is charming and a powerful real estate agent. They live in their dream home on Tara Road in Dublin and have friends and family coming and going, constantly filling the home with love and noise. Ria loves her live until one day, everything comes crashing down around her. Her husband has been unfaithful and has gotten a younger girl pregnant and wants to make a life with her. Trying to escape her problems but still desperate for a reunion with her husband, Ria accepts a house exchange in the USA.

This is the first Maeve Binchy book that I've read and I'm surprised it made it to Oprah's Book List. The characters were interesting and the novel flows very well. I did have a few problems with this book though. I felt like the purpose of this book was to have Ria and Marilyn exchange homes to learn more about themselves. Marilyn isn't even introduced to the book until 1/2 way through. Less background on Ria and more on Marilyn would have made more sense.

The other major issue with this book is how the female characters let their male counterparts walk all over them. There's very little justice for most of them. I wanted to slap Ria a few times for how she felt and acted around Danny. This is part of what made me so surprised that this was an Oprah book club pick because she usually likes her women strong and to stand up when being treated like crap.

First Line: "Ria's mother had always been very fond of film stars."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Finger Lickin' Fifteen

Mystery/Chick Lit

Stephanie Plum is a horrible bounty hunter. When sexy and mysterious Ranger asks her to help him out with a problem he's having with break ins of customers for his security firm, Stephanie knows it's too good to pass up. Especially since her and Morelli have had a huge argument and are no longer seeing each other. Stephanie starts to spy on Ranger's employees, thinking that one of them may have something to do with this since the robber knows the codes. Stephanie can't give up her day job though, and still has to find her skips, including the ancient old man who likes to flash to elderly ladies.

The end of this book, at the BBQ competition, almost had me laughing on the train. I would have been nice to know what happened with Lula and Tank. In the last book they were together and in this book it was no more. What a shame!

A frequent complaint I have about these books is that the mysteries are solved and then the books instantly end. It would be nice if there was a bit more closure on the books before they wrapped up.

First Line: "When I was a kid, I was afraid of spiders and vegetables."

Rating:
(4/5)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott

Non-Fiction

Four ladies of the Civil War show their cunning nature and intelligence by spying and deceiving those against their cause. This book focuses on four ladies:

- Belle Boyd, a 17-year old charmer who shoots a Union soldier in her home then becomes a spy for the Confederate army. She gets her information by using her charm.
- Elizabeth Van Lew living in Richmond, Virginia, leading a spy ring. She had ciphers and codes for sending all of her messages, under the noses of prominent Confederates.
- Emma Edmonds, a Canadian, enlisting as "Frank Thompson" as a Union private, fighting, nursing, and spying for her cause.
- Rose Greenhow, using her daughter little Rose to provide important information to the Confederates.

Watch author Karen Abbott describe the four ladies in her book:


These women were incredibly brave and it's quite amazing that many years before women were even allowed to vote, these women were controlling so much information and changing the efforts of the war. I think it's natural to pull for some of these women more than others. Personally, I enjoyed Emma's story the best, and not only because she was Canadian but because she did so many things that one would never think at that time a woman could do! She was a soldier, she fought in the war, she nursed others back to health, she spied, she posed as a man who posed as a women, and she posed as a black man to gain information for her side.

I found that I had troubles keeping track of the four women in this book because of the way it was written. Abbott switched between the stories of the women multiple times within a chapter and I feel like it would have been easier and smoother had each chapter been dedicated to a single woman.

I also found that there were some pacing issues with this book. It was like a roller coaster ride where some parts were very interesting and others did nothing to move the story along.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of of this tour!

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich

Mystery

Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter from New Jersey, is back for the fourteenth installment of her series. This time she isn't doing as much bounty hunting as she is bodyguarding and babysitting. A famous singer is in town and Stephanie has been asked by Ranger to help with keeping her in line and on time. In her spare time she does look up one skip, Loretta, who asks Stephanie to take care of her teenage son while she's getting bonded out. This ends up lasting for much loner than expected and Stephanie has to live with a teenager in Morelli's house for quite a few days.

These books have become less about plot for me and more about how the characters interact with each other. These books still make me smile and are easy to plow through which I why I keep coming back to them. After I've read something heavy, these are a nice break.

First Line: "In my mind, my kitchen is filled with crackers and cheese, roast chicken leftovers, farm fresh eggs, and coffee beans ready to grind."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

Women's Fiction

Shandi and her little boy Natty are moving to Atlanta, after her father offers up his condo so she can be closer to college. Her best friend Walcott is helping with the move and the three stop at a Circle K on the way. Shandi and Natty go inside to get some drinks where a cute man looks lost looking at laundry detergent. Coming up with a thousand ways to approach him, she doesn't really notice another man enter the shop with a gun. He charges the cash register and robs the store but before leaving, a police officer enters the store and the robber shoots her. Realizing he can't leave, the robber takes everyone in to the back and both Shandi and the cute man, William, relive past events in the fear of not having any future ones.

Shandi gave birth to Natty a virgin. She has chosen to forget the day Natty was conceived but in the back of the Circle K, she starts to remember being drugged that night. William lost both his wife and kid in a car crash exactly a year ago. He forbid anyone from mentioning his wife's name infront of him shortly thereafter but starts to relive courting her during high school and remembering how much love they had for each other.

Having read quite a few of Jackson's books in the past I was looking forward to this one. She does a fantastic job of writing imperfect southern women. Shandi isn't the best character Jackson has written but she is typical to Jackson's writing. She's southern, she makes the reader like her, and she has many flaws that she acknowledges and tries to sort out. I think this is part of the reason why I like Jackson's books so much. The characters know they aren't perfect and they usually try to sort things out.

Also typical to Jackson books, this one was very easy to get in to. I started reading and felt like I couldn't stop. I needed to find out what these characters were hiding from themselves and how they were going to get past their issues.

Despite all this, by the time I completed the book and put it down, I felt a little bit let down. There were two reasons for this. The first was that the ending was crammed with revelations. In about 20 pages, there were two plot twists which made me feel like there wasn't enough time to digest what was happening and get resolution out of it. The second was the story of rape that seemed to get played down as not being a big deal. It's not surprising that the rapist himself tried not to make a big deal out of the rape, but when other characters started going along with it, it bothered me. Rape is rape, regardless of the back story that goes along with it.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this book tour.
Buy the book here.

First Line: "I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K."

Rating:
(3.5/5)