Monthly Archives: March 2016

Review: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

3 Stars

**If you haven’t read The Final Empire yet, there are some small spoilers**

I loved The Final Empire.  It was one of the few books that I’ve almost given 5 stars to.  So I went into this book with pretty high expectations.  I absolutely loved Vin in the last book and I was really looking forward to watching her come more into her powers now that the Lord Ruler is gone and they have a real chance at freedom and a fair government that is inclusive of everyone.  But after 1000 years of oppressive rule by the Lord Ruler, there is now chaos as everyone seems to want to grab a crown and become a leader.

Elend Venture is now King, but his throne is tentative at best.  His father, Straff Venture, has already led his army of fifty thousand to Elend’s front gates.  The Assembly that he gathered to have a voice in the new government does nothing but squabble and Vin is busy fighting off assassination attempts.  Things start to look even more bleak as another army decides to march up to their gates.  Luthadel is now under siege and it falls to Vin, Elend and the crew that Kelsier brought together to somehow weather this storm and keep their revolution alive and keep the oppression from the past from dominating again.

Vin continues to hone her Mistborn skills, experimenting with new alloys and pushing the very limits of her power.  She fights off assassins and spars with another Mistborn that seems to want to seek her out.  She’s also known as Lady Heir, she has now taken the place of Kelsier who was known as both the Survivor and the Savior to the people that his actions helped free.  She finds that she’s becoming the center of a new and budding religion which leaves her feeling uncomfortable and unsure.  Add to that to an already full plate and to a woman who is already questioning herself and her validity and ability to live up to anyone’s standard, and you have a recipe for disaster.

A new problem develops that threatens not only the new government, but seemingly the entire world.  The mists that enveloped the world at night are becoming bolder, they are also present during the day.  It is said that the mists are killing people and bringing chaos in its wake.  The mists were kept at bay by the Lord Ruler but seem to have become stronger now that his influence is gone.  There is also a shadow within the mists that haunts Vin and makes her believe that the old prophesies are once again coming to pass.

It started well for me, I was hooked once again in this world of Allomancy and Feruchemy.  Magic and power that comes from elemental metals.  The characters were the same and it takes up very close to where The Final Empire left off.  But then it got bogged down and dragged on.  Nearly every chapter we have to listen to either Vin or Elend whine.  It was depressing and annoying to watch them become whiny little Emo brats.  I wanted to smack both of them over and over again.

Being that this is the second book in a trilogy, I didn’t expect to have the loose ends tied up and I really didn’t expect an explanation for everything.  But I was surprised by the lack of explanation for a lot of things.  There were threads that didn’t go anywhere, some that disappeared and some that just didn’t make any sense.  For me, this really detracted from what was otherwise a great story.  Also, the amount of time spent on faith, belief and religion was borderline annoying.  I wasn’t sure when this went from a fantasy novel to a religious tome.

It’s still a good story with some great action and the characters are still wonderful.  I was just underwhelmed with this book.  I’m hoping that the last book in the trilogy will give answers to the nagging questions and tie everything back together in at least a somewhat neat fashion.

 

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Review: Pretty Little Things by Jillianne Hoffman

4 Stars

Bobby Dees, an investigator who heads up the Crimes Against Children squad in Miami, is called in to investigate a possible endangered runaway.  Lainey Emerson is missing.  She’s the thirteen year old middle child of a family who has had their share of run-ins with the police already.  Her older sister has a history of running away and she’s also had problems with substance abuse.  Her mother works too much and her step-father favors his own child over another man’s problem, Lainey and her sister.  Lainey didn’t come home one Friday night after saying she was going to a movie with a friend.  She wasn’t reported missing for two days and the local police and even her family are writing her off as a runaway, but they call in Special Agent Dees anyway just to make sure they cover all the bases and cover their own asses in the process.

Special Agent Dees has been the savior of many missing children.  Bringing them home when all hope seems lost.  But the one child he couldn’t bring home was his own daughter.  Now as it nears the anniversary of her disappearance, another missing child is found dead.  Her death and location depicted by the killer after he sent a painting to to show the police, especially Bobby Dees, what he’s done.

This book is full of twists and turns.  I wasn’t expecting many of the things that happened.  The author kept me on my toes and always guessing.  I think that some may be able to untangle the web and figure out who the killer is or there may be others, like me, that just went along for the ride and had a blast with this mystery.

This one won’t be for everyone, it is about missing children and violence against young people.  That’s not everyone’s cup of tea and while the violence isn’t overly descriptive, your imagination can run with it and figure it out.  Those of us with children can find this an uncomfortable position to be in when we’re imagining this happening to our own daughters.  Definitely a solid mystery and suspense novel worthy of taking a chance.

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Review: The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi

2 Stars

Sandra Vega is a forensic photographer working with the Milan police department.  Her husband, David, recently died.  She was told that it was an accident, but she knows that it was probably something more sinister.  The voicemail that she was left shortly before he died said he was calling her from Oslo, but he fell to his death in Rome.  She launches her own investigation and ends up tangled up in something much deeper and much more evil than she could have imagined.

In Rome, women have been disappearing.  Sandra finds that the investigation into the death of her husband is somehow entwined in the investigation into the disappearances.  As she follows the clues, she’s finding herself being followed and shadowed.  She finds herself in the middle of something far bigger than this one case, this one investigation.  She begins to see what her husband was investigating and it points to a secret that the Vatican wants to keep quiet.

The plot originally drew me in, it sounded interesting.  A secret sect within the Catholic Church that takes stock of all the confessions of mortal sins and learns about evil and darkness.  But somewhere along they way they stopped being protectors and researchers and started to become avenging angels.  Giving the families of those who were touched by evil the ammunition they would need to avenge the evil done to their loved ones.  Some took the chance and had their revenge.  Others took a different path and showed compassion.  But these avenging angels were playing by their own set of rules and some have seemed to become the evil they were supposed to protect us from.

There were so many threads and facets that the story quickly became mired and bogged down.  Even at the end, after the “surprise twist” was revealed, there was still a sense of incompleteness.  There was much that was left up to the imagination of the reader because there was no explanation and no further information given about some key characters and plot points.  I don’t know if this was a way to open the door for a sequel or what.  I was not impressed with the ending and leaving so many things left unexplained.  I also think that the flipping from past to present was more confusing than it was helpful.

I couldn’t connect with any of the characters and I think that’s why I ultimately didn’t really enjoy this book.  I couldn’t empathize with any of them and for me, they really weren’t that interesting.  I had a very hard time staying interested in this book and seeing it through to the end.  It wasn’t for the lack of writing skill.  The author really does write some really beautiful prose.  If as much effort went into character development as went into some of the descriptions and narrative passages, this could have been a 4 star book at least.

This wasn’t the book for me.  But if you’re interested in a secret sect that pursues evil in the interest of doing a greater good for humanity, give it a try.

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Review: Retribution by Jillianne Hoffman

3 Stars

C.J. Townsend is a formidable Florida prosecutor.  She’s known for keeping her cool even in the most horrific of cases.  The serial killer known as Cupid has just been caught and the case has landed in her lap.  This sadistic killer has taken the lives of at least 11 women in the most horrific manner.  He has removed their hearts and left them posed, ready to be discovered.  And now he has been caught in the most mundane of manners, a routine traffic stop.  One that leads the officer to ask to search his vehicle and ultimately find one of the victims in the trunk.  This looks like a pretty open and shut case.  But looks can be deceiving.

There are quite a few twists and turns in this book.  You think you know who the bad guys are only to be left with your jaw hanging.  You empathize with C.J. and you want to root for her, even when some of the things she’s doing aren’t quite ethical.  The accused is reprehensible and disgusting but wrapped up in a nice looking package, someone you least likely find standing trial for his life.  In the beginning you almost feel bad for him as it seems like he’s being railroaded.  But then his true colors start to shine through and you can’t help but want to strap him down to the electric chair and flip the switch yourself.

The utter depravity of the murders was quite shocking.  I’m somewhat used to graphic violence, but the descriptions of what was done was a bit much even for me.  It wasn’t really over the top, but I’ve never been a fan of blood and gore.  I was pretty creeped out by the medical examiner too.  He just seemed really, really creepy.

I wanted more from C.J. and I was somewhat disappointed in the romantic side of the story.  It didn’t really feel like it fit.  Especially in the middle of the trial against a serial killer between the prosecutor and the lead detective on the task force.  And as much as you really want to like and empathize with C.J., she got on my nerves.  She’s criticizing the actions of the defense attorney while she’s breaking not only ethics but probably a law or two.  It’s hard to get behind a hypocrite.

I did enjoy the book and if you’re looking for a crime novel with a pretty solid plot and some really good twists and turns and some pretty gruesome murders, you won’t go wrong here.  I’ll probably read a few of the authors other books too.

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Review: Black Irish by Stephan Talty

4 Stars

Absalom Kearney, a Harvard graduate and detective, has come home to South Buffalo.  She is the adopted daughter of a revered and highly respected cop.  But she’s still an outsider.  She was raised in an area that is known as The County, an insulated area where not only the color of your hair or skin matters, but also where your ancestors were from.  Even though she is from the County, she’s still finding doors closed in her face and people either afraid or too stubborn to talk to her, even to solve a series of gruesome murders that are taking the lives of men of the County.

The book opens with the murder of Jimmy Ryan.  The point of view is from the victim and you get to feel his terror as he’s faced with his killer.  It was a hell of an opening to a book.  He was ultimately found murdered in the basement of a church.  The real mystery begins when Abbie and her partner go to question the family.  They are faced with a wall of silence and excuses.  No one wants to talk and the police can’t understand it.  Why wouldn’t you want to find the person who just took away your husband?  What does this community have to hide?

Abbie begins her investigation and learns that this community has more than a few skeletons in their closets.  The violence intensifies and the body count rises.  Abbie and her father are also targeted by the killer when he leaves his bizarre calling card at her door.  The more she digs, the more she finds that the roots in these murders go far deeper than she could have ever imagined.  A world where a secret society can silence an entire community and let a killer get away with murder.  As she learns more about this society, she learns that it has touched her own life and will have an impact that she never could have imagined.

I was incredibly impressed with this book.  The twists and turns kept you guessing right up until the end.  I thought I had the secret figured out several times, but then I was proven wrong time and again.  I will have to say that I was completely shocked with the conclusion.  I didn’t expect it at all.  I was fooled by one of several blind alleys that the author put into the novel.  It was perfect.

The characters were enjoyable too.  I’m always excited to meet a female protagonist, and Abbie was definitely a very strong lead.  I was a little sad to see her portrayed as crazy or troubled, but I also think that it’s probably impossible based on her upbringing and her chosen profession to not be at least a little bit troubled.  But this didn’t detract from the fact that she is a brilliant investigator and definitely someone I enjoyed getting to know.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good mystery with lots of thrills and healthy dose of gruesome.

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Review: Lady in the Smoke by Karen Odden

4 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this book prior to publication later this month.  The following review is my own opinion and was in no way swayed by receiving an ARC.

As my reading list probably shows, I like historical books.  So I was really pleased to find a historical fiction novel that dealt with romance between two people but didn’t delve into the typical pattern that many novels follow.  All in all, I think it was a very well written book and the plot was interesting and the characters were fairly interesting as well.

After a humiliating Season in London, Lady Elizabeth Fraser is on her way back to her ancestral home when the train she’s riding in derails and bursts into flames.  She and her mother barely escape with their lives and are lying injured in a field when Paul Wilcox comes upon them.  He is a railway surgeon who quickly stitches up Elizabeth’s wounds and provides care to her mother.  Elizabeth is drawn to this surgeon, so much so, that she finds herself risking her own reputation by working side by side with him while he tends to the patients that have been brought to the hotel she’s recovering in.

Elizabeth overhears Paul speaking with someone about how this derailment was not an accident.  She learns that there have been more of these accidents along the railway that have been the result of sabotage and those who are working to prove what’s happening are ending up dead.  She begins an investigation with Paul and his sources to get to the bottom of this before anyone else ends up dead.  The more she learns, the more she places herself at risk.  She risks her reputation over and over and she also puts her very life at risk.

Paul is then wrongfully accused of manslaughter in the death of one of his patients and as he is awaiting the trial that will determine his life, Elizabeth is uncovering a plot decades in the making that will explain everything.  But will she be in time?  Will Paul lose his freedom?  Will she lose her dowry if they lose the vote in Parliament and the railway closes?  Will Elizabeth and Paul ignore convention and the rules of decorum and act on the love that they now feel for each other?

Elizabeth was no shrinking violet and had a fire to her.  I’m always glad to see a woman take charge of her life, even in the face of unimaginable pain and loss.  She was a very strong female character and I was glad to get to know her.  All of the characters were enjoyable and none of them really fell flat or felt less than genuine.  I would definitely recommend this to any fan of the Victorian era or who just wants a good little mystery to keep them busy for awhile.

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Review: The Night Charter by Sam Hawken

4 Stars

For just the second time in recent months, I read a hard-cover book and not an e-book.  I joined Book of the Month club (dangerous find for a book addict) and I choose The Night Charter as my selection for February.

This book introduced a new to me character named Camaro Espinoza.  From what I understand, she’s been around for awhile in novella form but this is the first full-length novel featuring her character.  And as someone who had never been introduced to this character before, the author did a very good job of introducing her.  There were enough snippets and flashbacks that make me want to go back and read the previous works so I can find a little more about her history.  She’s definitely a very interesting character.  Former soldier who had done some bad things in her past for the right reasons and had to flee her past life.  She now makes her living as a charter boat captain, taking customers out for some deep ocean fishing.

It all starts with a man who came to hire her boat for night fishing.  Parker Story, a man with a story.  A man who is mixed up in something bigger than he is.  What begins as a request to hire her boat for a night of fishing turns into something much more.  He has become mixed up with some not-so-nice people who want to pay her $10,000 to take them into Cuban waters to pick up a man and bring him back to the states.  An easy trip, just in and out and she can go on her way a little bit richer for just a few hours of work.

Of course things don’t quite work out that way for Camaro, Parker or any of the other people involved.  Not only are they bringing in someone from Cuba illegally, they happen to be bringing in someone who both sided desperately want to get their hands on for much different reasons.  The Cubans want to capture this man because they believe he is a terrorist and a dissident, someone who stirs up unrest under the Castro regime.  But his compatriots in the States want him to further their cause in a battle that has been going on for nearly 60 years between Castroites and their Anti-Castro enemies.

There are not many twists and turns in this book.  You always know who the good guys and the bad guys are.  There are definitely plenty of grey areas, but it’s pretty easy to figure out who the true villains are.  What is interesting is how Camaro holds herself.  She isn’t squeaky clean and she definitely doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty.  She’s always at the center of the action and she’s sometimes the cause of it.  You can see that she does have a heart and a conscience, and if put into her shoes, how many of us would be able to do the right thing?

Plenty of action, the story moves fast and there is very little lull in the action.  There were a few characters that didn’t quite fit.  But they didn’t detract from what ended up being a really good action novel.  It’s always fun to see a female protagonist that isn’t a damsel in distress.

 

 

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