Black Irish by Stephan Talty. I saw this book on some website or other and it looked good, so I bought it. It’s a really excellent thriller. The basic premise is that Abbie Kearney, a police detective in Buffalo, NY, is looking for a serial killer. A nasty one (I love disturbed killers in books). The only trouble is, nobody in town wants to talk to her. The close-mouthed Irish community called the County doesn’t trust her, even though her father is a famous local Irish cop. As the number of killings ratchet up, she gets uncovers old secrets that more than one person thinks worth killing for.
First I want to talk about the mystery and portrayal of Abbie. Both are done really well. I love the twistiness at the end. There were several twists and all of them had well-laid foundation but were still surprises for the most part. The portrayal of characters was realistic and compelling. And there’s a lot of tension, a lot of history underneath everything that drives the various characters. Everybody has been hardened by economic collapse, by loss, by crushed hopes, by feeling of being trapped.
Buffalo has been decimated economically be the desertion of the big steel companies as well as general economic bust. There are few jobs and people are scraping by. Talty pains a poetic and compelling picture of this world, of its people, and of the atmosphere. There’s a richness to the prose, even as there’s a spareness to the writing.
I really enjoyed this book. The mystery was tangled and the world and development is dense and complex. It’s a terrific read.
I started out the year reading a whole bunch and then this month I’ve not been reading that much. In fact, only one book in the last couple of weeks. Finished it today. I didn’t really like it–it wasn’t particularly well-written and there was a lot of info-dumping, the villains were cardboard and rather silly, and the romance was, for lack of a better word, stupid. And by that, I mean that there’s an epidemic that’s killing millions of people, and the doctors from the CDC who are desperately trying to figure out what’s going on, two of the them are making happy cheerful flirties and then perky sex while being hunted down and you can see why this is stupid. I mean, people can fall in love in desperate situations and they do–I mean, they might die–but they aren’t going to be all happy and flirty and smiley and winky. Oh, and one of the doctors kept making muffins and cookies at the drop of a hat. In the jungle. With MILLIONS of people dying.
You might wonder why I kept reading. Basically I wanted to see how the story finally pulled together or if it fell flat. Some of the elements were done decently well. Others . . . yeah, no. But here’s the thing I discovered–even though I could have just not finished it, I felt compelled to. And yet I didn’t want to read it, so I didn’t read at all. Then I decided I should try something else, so I’m reading Stealing the Elf King’s Roses, which is fun, but I misplaced the book and sigh.
And now I’m having constant acid reflux. Which is not typical for me. I do not know if this if because I’m sick (and I have had some symptoms in that direction), or if I’ve suddenly developed it. As it is, Tums isn’t doing the trick so I need to pick up something else. I cannot stand this feeling of having something stuck in my throat. Blech.
I’m way behind on my Netgalley reviewing. So I’m going to jump in with some long and some shorts. All these books came off Netgalley.
I’ll start with the book I finished most recently, called A Jury of One by Charlie Cochrane. This is a British police procedural combined with romantic elements as it follows the developing relationship between the detective, Robin and his lover, Adam. They met in the previous book in this series and at this point, they are newly living together.
I really enjoyed this book. It feels very realistic and the mystery and love story elements were both well written. The mystery wasn’t easy to see through, which I like, and there were a lot of possible ways for the investigations to go. There are several crimes that overlap and end up weaving together nicely. The romance between the two men suffers from the problems of new relationships, the uncertainties of each man, a certain amount of jealousy. I thought it was well done.
The only drawback for me, and it wasn’t entirely a drawback, was the extensive use of British slang. Police are known as rozzers, bad guys are scrotes, voicemail is answerphone. A lot of these were easy to figure out in context. Where I stumbled was when I couldn’t sort out the meaning. I thought these words gave a lot of reality to the world, I just wish there weren’t quite so many. Or a glossary. I like a good glossary. So I’d recommend this one. It comes out March 21st.
Another book I finished recently was a romance called Catching Summer by L.P. Dover. It’s contemporary about a woman, Summer, who two years ago witnessed her husband’s murder. She’s now come out of her grief with the help of counseling. A former nurse, she helps run a restaurant with her sister and former brother-in-law. A lot of football players from the local NFL team frequent the restaurant and one, Evan Townsend, has fallen for Summer. He’s not made any moves on her because of her past trauma. So that’s the set up.
I didn’t find this book that successful. I liked Evan and Summer and most of the time I liked their interactions, particularly because they didn’t get stupid for ridiculous reasons. That was a huge plus. What did bother me was the constant use of ‘fuck’ to describe their sexual activities. Not romantic, at least to me. Then there was the schtick where Summer goes back for ‘certification’ to keep her nursing license. She works two weeks with the team doing medical things including relearning CPR and it just seemed completely ridiculous that this would keep her nursing license current. Another thing that bothered me was the beginning which started 2 years previously and then leaped forward. I didn’t find it all that useful and it was really more a distraction.
In the end, while I did want to finish, I kept getting put off and out of the story and it didn’t work as well as I hoped it would for me.
The next book is Love the Witch, Hate the Craft by Nora Lee. This is the first of a series. It’s got a little bit of the feel of a cozy mystery, with magic. The heart of the story is really about a Rowan who’s come home to her town that she swore never to return to, in order to help save the Elder Tree, which is dying. Should it die, so will the town. Stir in the fact that she’s just broken up with her boyfriend and a local warlock has decided he wants to marry her in order to become the head of the coven, and also the fact that her friend’s kid has uncontrollable magic. Rowan is going to be busy.
In general, I liked the story. Rowan is supposed to be taking over the coven at some point because of her family, and she has to want to come back. She gets to see the town and her friends and family with new eyes and of course, everything turns out all right. This is a fairly fluffy book, as you can tell from the cover. It’s a quick read and pretty fun.
This next one is Winter’s Fairytale by Maxine Morrey. This one was fluffy like the last book, and also a romance. Not a great deal of depth, though I enjoyed the interactions between Izzy and Rob. She was jilted by his best friend, and Rob’s been in love with her for long before that. They were friends also, but she’s been unwilling to see him since the wedding, since he got to deliver the bad news and she punched him. She’s embarrassed.
The story begins with a snowstorm that keeps her from getting home to her shady sort of flat where a guy lives who is portrayed as a potential rapist, and at one point he does grab her. She runs into Rob and he takes her home where she stays through the storm and they connect.
Things roll forward and they figure out they’re in love. This is a Christmas story, so the holidays are the backdrop, and the other cast of characters are delightful. Izzy is a wedding dress designer and ends up helping Rob’s sister with her dress last minute.
This book is light reading and fun and a good Christmas story.
I have more to review, so there will be another roundup soon.
I came back from the writing retreat having written 32, 281 words in basically 3.5 days. I am completely stunned. I have never written that much in that little time, ever. I worked on the sequel to The Incubus Job (comes out in just six days!!). It’s what you might call a zero draft. That means that I tried to just write story and not worry about the research elements, or making up names for particular people or things, and so on. I just put and asterisk and described what should go there. I’ll be able to search asterisks and fix those, though I’ll probably just end up combing through the whole thing when it’s done and revise and catch them that way.
I never write like that. Devon Monk encouraged me to try and it was kind of freeing. I’m going to use that technique in the next couple days to write an anthology story I have due soon. I doubt I can do 10,000 words a day since I’ve got obligations here that I didn’t have in the rainforest, but I think I could get at least 4 or 5K. If I don’t get bogged down in doing stuff on the net. I’m thinking of getting the Antisocial app, but I’m wondering if there’s a free sort of thing out there that works the same way.
The writers retreat is at The Rainforest Resort Village which sounds a lot less rustic than it actually is. We got to stay in a cabin with a back sliding glass window and deck overlooking a very babbley creek and beyond that, the lake. Geese flew in and out and it was absolutely lovely, even raining most of the time. We had a fire going in the cabin and a little kitchenette, and we hunkered down and wrote like fiends. It was fabulous. I love doing this retreat and plan to go next year, crossing my fingers I register before they sell out.
Once I got back, I had to finish the copy edits on Whisper of Shadows, the next Diamond City Magic book, which will be out April 15. Got that done, then worked on the tax receipts. I always have the best intentions of inputting those receipts into my spreadsheet throughout the year, and I always have to do it right at the end. They were all in one place. I keep a file bin hanging on my wall in my office to stuff them into.
I also went out and bought some manure and worm castings for the garden, along with three plants for the rock garden we hope to put in shortly (we need to create better drainage in that location before we can.) My peonies are all in bloom and so are some other flowers. Plus the crocuses are up and so many. The former owners had planted them and this year some came up where they hadn’t before. I guess the wet this year really helped them.
I’m just about on schedule with my reading for this year. Trying to read at least six books a month, not including my own. Need to finish the one I’m reading–a British police procedural–to get my 12 for the year. I tend to let reading slip when I’m tired or really busy and just veg in front of the TV. I’m trying hard to avoid that and read, which most of the time I enjoy a lot more. A lot of them I get from Netgalley, which lets me discover a wider range of authors than I might ordinarily encounter, and a wider range of topics. So that’s been very nice.
I just finished the third book in Lisa Shearin’s SPI files. They are so fun. I read the first one, The Grendel Affair, when it first came out. I bought the second, The Dragon Conspiracy, and then somehow forgot about it. Then The Brimstone Deception came out last month and I realized I had some reading to do. The happy thing is that I had two to read back-to-back and that was so fabulous. The unhappy thing is that I don’t have another to chew through. Damn.
Anyhow, the SPI books take place in New York City and revolve around a supernatural non-official police force. There’s a lot of police procedure, adventure, snark, and a hint of romance. The character interactions are just so much fun. Smart and funny and serious and in the latest book, you get to meet the great great great . . . grandaughter of the witch who built Hansel’s and Gretel’s gingerbread house. Only Kitty’s not a child-eater. You’ve got a wide cast of characters, and a variety of cool stuff going on. I really recommend you just go get all three, stock up on some munchies and your drink of choice, and hunker down for a good long, lovely read. Really.
And then, because she’s just so much fun, watch Jeanne Robertson. A very fun, very clean comedian. You’ll laugh.
From the New York Times bestselling author of A Rush of Wings and The Maker’s Song series, a humorous, action-packed urban fantasy about a werewolf pack and an animal control officer in way over his head!
Someone is picking off fortune tellers and hippies in Oregon, snatching them out of their Birkenstocks mid-stride. And when the legend himself, Hal Rupert, Animal Control Officer, gets a whiff of the mystery, he knows he’s the man to solve it. In between proudly wrangling out-of-control cats and dogs, he’s noticed a peculiar uptick in another sort of animal…werewolves.
Hal infiltrates the country fair to investigate the disappearance of the flower children. But his real priority is protecting the love of his life, Desdemona Cohen, whose long purple tresses and black-glossed lips captured his heart the moment he first saw her standing behind the register at Hot Topic. Desdemona may have nicknamed Hal “Creep,” but he’s determined to win her heart. And, you know, save everyone else, too.
So first of all, you can tell from the tone of the description, that this is a tongue-in-cheek sort of romp. It’s entertaining as hell with a lot of fun stuff going on. First of all, Hal is a dog-catcher and his weapon of choice is a catchpole. At first I thought, oh, dear, this could go horribly awry. I should have known better. It’s so fun. Hal is partially a Walter Mitty, slightly delusional and believing he’s a secret superhero, and he’s also a secret superhero saving the world from terrible evil. The mix of his own delusions overlaps with reality in a lovely way. All the characters are well drawn and–I know I keep repeating this–they are so fun. There’s snark and wit and silly jokes and reversals and seriously, you’re going to want to read this one. It releases on January 4th, and right now the electronic version is only $1.99. I’m telling you, give it a grab. You won’t regret it.
I just finished R.M. Greenaway’s Cold Girl. This is a mystery and a police procedural. It revolves around a disappearance–what happened to the pretty singer of a local up-and-coming Canadian band? The main characters are Constable Dion, who has survived a terrible car crash and a year later, is still not able to think the way he once did. Once a hot-shot detective, he’s now relegated to the backwaters of Canada doing scut work. The other main character is Leith, a detective who has been pursuing a particular serial killer and thinks that maybe this case is related.
What unfolds is a picture of a place–the cold remote back country of Canada where people eke out a living. It’s isolated and unrelenting and oh, so cold. In this tiny town, there are too many suspects. Pinning down motives and who did what and when is a difficult task. Worse, Dion has a terrible time articulating himself and he begins to perceive patterns and clues, but his memory and mind won’t work properly. He’s frustrated. Everybody is frustrated with him. He’s hidden his past, not wanting pity, so everyone sees him as inept at best, incompetent at worst. He quickly finds himself at odds with the other local law enforcement officers and scrutinized by his higher-ups.
Leith is feeling burned out, angry, and left behind. Even when he solves one major mystery, he’s left with more piling up. He’s not sure he’s happy in his marriage or his job, and he’s not sure what he wants or where he wants to be. But soon, the missing girl becomes important to him and he finds it imperative that he solves the case.
At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book. Neither Dion nor Leith are particularly likable. But they are fascinating. And watching Dion both fall apart and pull himself together at the same time is agonizing and yet I kept hoping for him. The mystery was somewhat slow to unfold, but then, while this book is about the whodunnit, it’s more about the characters searching and the place and the local world.
The mysteries (they build as you go) are tied up and a satisfying way. Less so are the characters. The ending is slightly muddy for me and I wish it was a little clearer. Two small things are dropped in and I just don’t know quite what to make of them. Also, a lot is made of Dion looking native, and yet nothing comes of it. I kept waiting for it to matter.
I do think this is a really good book and I enjoyed it. It comes out in March, so look for it.
The sick continues. Last night was . . . hell. Girlie woke me up at 11:43 having explosively vomited. She’s got quite the messy room and didn’t make it out of bed, so yeah. First it was clean up in order to clean up. Since I don’t get sick around other people’s vomit (as do the man and the boy who tried to help), I did most of it. So there you go. The glory of momhood. Ah well. The girlie is feeling crappy still, but she hasn’t been sick again. She hasn’t developed diarrhea yet, which hopefully means this is something besides food poisoning.
Meanwhile, the rest of us are improving, but definitely aren’t at 100%. But moving the right direction, I hope.
In the meantime, I’ve been working on some writing. Attempting nano words, but it’s slower than I like. On the other hand, I’ve been making excellent progress with the revision of Whisper of Shadows (DCM book #3). Are you eager for that one? I hope? I can tell you it’s exciting. I can tell you Riley’s dad is front and center. Dalton is back. So is the lovely Agent Sandra Arnow. Remember her? You get to meet more of Riley’s family, and also some really cool stuff happens. Well, cool bad stuff. Really bad.
The Ghost Job is getting closer to publication. I’ve named the series Mission: Magic. I can’t wait for you to read some of it. In fact I plan to send a chunk out in the newsletter very soon, so if you’re not signed up, you should so that you can see it first! I’ll probably send out this week.
I’ve been doing reading without reviewing. Some of it is just meh. But I have read something awfully fun, so I’ll report on that soon. In the meantime, I suppose I should put words on my own book, yes? Oh, and also figure out a replacements for MS word, because apparently the one I use (2008 version for the Mac) doesn’t play well with the latest operating systems of the Mac and I’m having significant issues. I kind of am interested in the word 2016, but 1, I’m not a fan of the yearly rental, and 2, it’s expensive, and 3, I hate the ribbon. HATE it. That’s why I’ve been so glad to cling to the 2008 version. It doesn’t have it.
I’m hoping to get into the holiday mood soon. Going to see the family at Thanksgiving, and hopefully friends too. I just haven’t been in the baking/party mood. I have to find that. Maybe food poisoning is the reason. Hmmm. Possible.
Wow. I mean, wow. The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon) is stunning. So freaking good. I’ve read three books so far this year that I think deserve big awards and this is one of them. The writing reminds me of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Cat Valente and Kelly Link. Kingfisher’s writing, however, is more pointed and observant, while being witty and delicious and funny and unexpected. I seriously love this book.
To begin, the description:
Rhea is an ordinary miller’s daughter, engaged to be married under suspicious circumstances to a man not of her choosing. He has unknown powers and a manor house full of mysterious women.
Rhea has a hedgehog. It claims to be ordinary, but normal hedgehogs don’t act like that.
It’s probably not going to be enough.
I don’t want to give away too much, but Rhea is only 15 when a noble asks for her hand in marriage. The asking is more of a telling, as she has no real opportunity to refuse or her peasant family will suffer significantly. So she reluctantly agrees. Very quickly she begins to suspect he’s a magician, though that’s not a terrible thing. What really bothers her is that he’s rather a shifty, mean-seeming sort.
He invites her (again, she can’t refuse) to visit his home and once there, she cannot leave. She discovers his terrible secrets and then must use her wits and her friendships to try to escape before very bad things happen to her.
The worldbuilding in this story is incredible. I loved the golem birds and I thoroughly enjoyed Rhea. She’s smart, observant, and while afraid, she’s courageous as well. Crevan was seriously obnoxious in the best possible way, and I loved the other inhabitants of the house and the quirky magic within.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a couple of things that niggle–a lot was made of Rhea’s name and I thought that would turn into more, and also, Rhea made some pointed observations and then didn’t go anywhere with them. Those were only a couple of things, though and the rest of the book was stunning and engrossing. One of those that I stay up stupid late to read because I can’t put it down. It’s coming out very soon, and you should preorder your copy. Seriously. Do it. You won’t regret it.
This book is actually two novellas about Christmas, both contemporary romances. I don’t really have a lot to say about them. I found them fine, but not really all that appealing to me on an emotional level. I’ll go one at a time.
Tis the season for finding passion and rediscovering love… Mistletoe Mantra by Nana Malone
Returning to her Virginia hometown where her fiancé dumped her—years earlier on Christmas Eve—is making Nomi Adams croon the holiday blues. She needs to find the reclusive photographer who can advance her magazine career. However, Lincoln Porter’s on his own rescue mission this yuletide. Because during this season of love and renewal, Faith, Virginia, looks to be a place for second chances…
So to begin, the premise seemed a little forced to me. I just didn’t buy that the editor would put so much pressure on Nomi to find the photos. But okay, I can deal with that. Moving on, I thought that their romance was fine, but not particularly engaging. Things progressed in a normal manner. I did like Nomi and Lincoln, but I found the final difficulty between them artificial and manufactured rather than natural. White Hot Holiday by Sherelle Green
A solo Caribbean vacation is college professor Sage Langley’s perfect escape from Christmas and all its merriment. But she has unexpected and thrilling company at Grayson Ellington’s luxurious vacation home: the sexy attorney himself! And her brother’s best friend—who has desired and longed for Sage for years—has fantasies and plans for a red-hot romance to chase away her winter doldrums.
This story was more fun for me. The set up was more believable. I liked Sage and Grayson, and while there wasn’t a lot of drama to the romance, it was fun read and light and quick.