Traitor’s Storm

Traitor's StormTraitor’s Storm

By: M. J. Trow

mjtrow.co.uk

(Tudor Mystery)

220 pages (Hardcover)

Christopher “Kit” Marlowe, playwright, is called upon by the Queen to investigate the disappearance of another agent. This request sends him to an island community with eccentric inhabitants.

I know I said I was going to focus on all the unread books I currently have in my possession, but somehow I managed to wander into the library again, and I saw a couple of books with shiny covers that I had to bring home. This book was one of them, my previous review was the other. I really can’t help myself.

For me though, this book didn’t really live up to its shiny cover. I enjoy the occasional historical mystery, and this one being just over 200 pages, I figured I couldn’t lose. Unfortunately, I just had trouble with this one, mostly because it was often confusing. There were a lot of historical references that I just didn’t get, which isn’t the author’s fault necessarily, I suppose I should learn more history. It wasn’t just that, however, the story often seemed more about the military history of the region than it was about a mystery. I often had trouble finding the mystery. Then, there was the perspective problem.

I’ve been dabbling in the art of writing myself, and am far from experienced in that area, but I noticed that the perspective in this story seemed to occasionally jump around. I could be wrong, but it seemed that details were revealed suddenly that the main character, who’s perspective I presume I was following, couldn’t have known, or the thoughts of someone else would jump into the narrative. I probably don’t know what I’m talking about, and maybe I wouldn’t have even noticed if I wasn’t a little more focused on those details in an attempt to learn more about writing. Regardless, I found it to be abrupt and confusing. Add this to the historical bits and pieces I wasn’t familiar with, and 220 pages starts to feel an awful lot longer.

There were a few things I did like though. There were some amusing moments, a hint of irreverent humor, which I always enjoy, and a little toying with history. A lesser-known Shakespeare makes an appearance, especially at the end, which I really liked. It was subtle, but fun.

I like history and I like Shakespeare, but this combination didn’t quite work for me. The “strange inhabitants” of the island were oversold on the cover. They were really just mildly strange, and not in any truly unique ways. I felt like I was missing something. Perhaps the plot line of the mystery got lost along the way. As promising as this book seemed at first, it just didn’t live up to my expectations. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

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Book Sale Haul VI

Wow, I’ve done six of these already? Time flies. I’ve been learning to restrain myself a bit more at these book sales, since I’m really running out of room, so this time I have 21 new books to share with you. Behold the literary splendor! (click for larger images)

Apparently I'm collecting The Wheel of Time books now...
Apparently I’m collecting The Wheel of Time books now…so far I’ve got 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 11. That’s a start.
Two more Shannara books for the collection and some fantasy/scifi...
Two more Shannara books for the collection and some fantasy/scifi…
Elizabethan espionage, sherlock, thrillers, and Ian M. Banks since I really liked The Algebraist...
Elizabethan espionage, Sherlock, thrillers, and Ian M. Banks since I really liked The Algebraist
Tarot and math make an odd combination, but I've always had an interest in forms of divination, as well as a fear of math. It says it's painless, so maybe I'll learn something.
Tarot and math make an odd combination, but I’ve always had an interest in forms of divination, as well as a fear of math. It says it’s painless, so maybe I’ll learn something.

So there you have it, my restrained book sale finds. I’m pretty happy with it and since my personal library seems to be growing at an alarming rate, I’ve decided to focus on reading what I already have for the time being. There will be no more trips to the library for a while, since I get distracted so easily. I’m almost done with The Wise Man’s Fear so there will be some new reviews in the very near future, including an indie or two, so please look forward to them! Until next time…happy reading 😉

Wyrmhole

WyrmholeWyrmhole

By: Jay Caselberg

www.sff.net/people/jaycaselberg

(Sci-Fi/Mystery)

309 pages (Paperback)

 While pursuing an investigation for a large corporation, Psychic Investigator Jack Stein uncovers something more mind-blowing than he ever expected.

This was a fun mystery with a sci-fi twist, or perhaps a cool sci-fi story with a mystery twist? Regardless, the combination of mystery and science fiction worked well and it read a lot like an urban fantasy. So, I guess you could call this urban science fiction.

Psychic Investigator Jack Stein is your run-of-the-mill scruffy investigator, but his psychic work is interesting, and not something you would expect in the context of the story. He uses dreams, impressions, and dumb luck to figure things out.

The story is set in a “quasi-organic, self-feeding urban environment” known as the Locality, which was probably the best thing about the book. I’m a fan of world-building and I hadn’t come across anything like it before. Maybe I need to read more science fiction though. The New end of the Locality is shiny and fashionable while the Old end crumbles and decays. There’s plenty of technology and furniture can even be programed to grow out of the walls when needed. I’d love to explore such a place.

Alchemy and science are tied together wonderfully in this story, with the past and future coming together and making sense. It’s nice to have something rooted in history when you’re dealing with a futuristic world. It connects the story back to reality in a grounding sort of way.

However, there was one problem with the history and science: the research. The author did his research, there’s no denying that, but it often felt that he just copy-and-pasted it into the story. There were quotes from various sources but they didn’t seem to be an organic part of the story. The worst thing about it was the footnotes. I don’t know if they were there as part of the story or just because the author was legally required to give credit, but they were distracting. If it was necessary for legal purposes, then there’s nothing he could have done about it, but if it was part of the story, it didn’t quite make sense, primarily because of the dates on the publications. As part of the story, it doesn’t seem right that most of his sources are from the mid 1990s. In a futuristic world, you’d expect a little more variety in dates when it comes to research. It takes you out of the story, but if it’s about credit, then I guess it can’t be helped, although perhaps they could have put them at the back of the book so you know that it’s not supposed to be a part of the story.

I’d give this one a solid like. I liked it enough to add the other few Jack Stein novels to my ever-growing book list, especially since I like having some good quick books to read. I need something to help break up all the epic fantasy series and protracted space operas. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Fool Moon (Dresden Files)

Fool MoonFool Moon (Dresden Files)

By: Jim Butcher

www.jim-butcher.com

(Urban Fantasy/Mystery)

320 pages (Hardcover)

 

Harry Dresden is at it again, this time with werewolves… lots of werewolves.

I know I’ve said in the past that I wasn’t that into werewolves and vampires these days, but I guess I like contradicting myself. Also, I wanted to continue the series so I didn’t have much of a choice.

This book was quite a bit more violent than I expected from the tone of the first book. There was some gore in that one as well, but this one was worse. I guess werewolves are like that, and Harry spent most of the book getting ridiculously beat up. Ultimately though, I think it reminds the reader of his vulnerability. He’s just a guy with some knowledge and power, doing the best he can, although given how many close calls he has, he’s pretty lucky too.

What kept this book a little more interesting was the different types of werewolves. Rather than just hunting down one target, we get to see different ways one can become a wolf. I liked the variety. It added some much needed complexity to a potentially simple and predictable subject.

There are also hints about deeper things in the story like Harry’s past and who might be setting certain things in motion, all with the desired effect of subtly killing him off. These bits and pieces pop up here and there, which make these books more than a monster of the week kind of thing. I’m interested to see where all this goes. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

And Only to Deceive

And Only to DeceiveAnd Only to Deceive

By: Tasha Alexander

www.tashaalexander.com/index.html

(Victorian Mystery)

310 pages

This is the first book in the Lady Emily series of Victorian mysteries, and since I was in a historical fiction kind of mood, it seemed appropriate. This series had actually been on my book list for quite a while, and I had picked up the second book in the series at a book sale somewhere along the way, so I thought it was about time I started it.

The most important thing in a book like this is to like the main character, especially since it’s written in the first person. Fortunately I did. She was the right combination of independent and confident, while still being believable, and faltering from time to time. She wasn’t too strong or too weak. The characters surrounding her complimented her nicely, and presented plenty of suspicious options as to who the culprit really was.

While the story was intriguing in a “who done it” sort of way and with its connections to antiquities and Greek history, I felt like something was missing. By the time I finished the book I realized what it was, danger. Lady Emily, despite poking her nose into some slightly dangerous plots, was never in any real danger. There was no running about London, or wandering its seedy underbelly. It was all a very proper kind of danger. However, after reading the author’s explanation in the back of the book, I understood this lack of real, action packed, danger.

The author explains that she didn’t want to take a modern girl with modern, freethinking sensibilities, and stick her in period costume. The idea was to make a character that was dangerous and shocking for her time, and with that she succeeded. After thinking about it, I realized I was just expecting something that has become a bit of a cliche, and in a way, I rather like this idea of a heroine who is a little ahead of her time, without fully removing herself from the society she is a part of.

I think I’ll definitely be reading more of this series. I like variety, and I’ve been a little lacking in the historical fiction department lately. I’ve only read a couple mysteries in the past, and I find that placing them in a historical setting makes them a lot more fun. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Learning to Swim

Learning to Swim Learning to Swim

By: Sara J. Henry

www.sarajhenry.com

(Thriller/Mystery)

289 pages

I picked this one up at a book sale, largely because of the mention of Lake Champlain and the surrounding area. My family used to go on vacations there, and it seemed nifty to read about a place I’m familiar with. I guess a story about a boy thrown off the back of a ferry and his rescuer had something to do with it too.

Being yet another first person narrative (I seem to be reading a lot of those lately) the story moves quickly, and it’s a short book at less than three hundred pages. As I said, a boy is thrown off a ferry and the main character, Troy Chance (who is a woman by the way), leaps in after him and just manages to keep both of them alive. Then she needs to figure out what to do to keep him safe, including finding his father and those who harmed him. The inside jacket of the book describes it like this:

“What she uncovers will take her into a world of wealth and privilege and heedless self-indulgence – a world in which the murder of a child is not unthinkable. She’ll need skill and courage to survive and protect her charge and herself.”

But this is a little misleading. This description had me envisioning lavish parties, and a host of wealthy suspects…something a little like Clue perhaps. I imagined the main character hiding in a closet in some mansion, the boy in her arms, hoping he wouldn’t make a sound while some crazy, rich, psycho stalked just outside the door. The story is quite different from that. Yes there is some wealth, and a couple suspects, but I wouldn’t call it a world where the murder of a child is not unthinkable, more just the mentality of the person or persons (I won’t give anything away here I promise) who wanted him dead.

There was actually a surprising amount of downtime in this story. There were a few events involving skill and courage, but it wasn’t the whole thing, which is not what I expected. And it’s in this down time that I have a little bit of a criticism. Too many details!

Details, to a point, are vital to making a story seem real, but when the details seem arbitrary, and do nothing to give the reader insight into the nature of the character or the world in which the story takes place, then they just clutter up a page. I don’t need to know that she used Microsoft Outlook to check email, or MapQuest to print a map, or that she had a TracFone, used Twitter, Craigslist (this one might be the only one that’s ok), or watched something on Netflix. The flavor of her bagel or the Ragu she put over some pasta didn’t really help me either.

Then she went on to detail basic computer maintenance more than once like running spyware programs or defragging the hard drive. Finally, since the author is a bicycle enthusiast and her protagonist is also, there was quite a lot about bike repair and maintenance, which is a little reminiscent of Clive Cussler novels where he spends a lot of time on details about a fancy submersible. Where’s all the intrigue and suspense in this world of privilege and heedless self-indulgence?

Despite this complaint, it was a good story but not a great one in my opinion. It moved quickly, so even with all the downtime, it never felt slow. The little boy is completely adorable, and the story ended with a bit of a twist, but I had kind of guessed at who was responsible for everything.

The author has a second book out with the Troy Chance character, only this time it’s winter in the Adirondacks, which I have to admit I find intriguing. I might read that one eventually, but it won’t be at the top of my list. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Storm Front (Dresden Files)

Storm FrontStorm Front (Dresden Files)

By: Jim Butcher

www.jim-butcher.com

(Urban Fantasy/Mystery)

308 pages

My first introduction to the Dresden Files series, came in the form of a sadly short-lived TV series on the SciFi channel some years ago. I really loved the show, and although I looked into reading the books at the time, I wasn’t thrilled with them. There were certain changes they made to the characters in the show, making them just a wee bit more serious, and I liked that more than what I read briefly in an excerpt from the novels online. Maybe I just liked what I was more familiar with, but like so many other under appreciated shows, it was cancelled after half a season.

For a long time I considered reading the books, since I couldn’t watch the show, and recently, after seeing Cold Days on the bargain shelf at Barnes & Noble, I thought it was about time I gave it a try, regardless of my first impressions.

I came at this series with an open mind, not expecting it to be the same as the show, and it’s really growing on me. Harry Dresden is still his moody, irreverent self, and the tone is similar but slightly lighter than the show. I’m not sure where to place Murphy in all this. Her character is probably the most different. I’m still adjusting to it, but I think I’ll manage. The overall tone is light, like I said, but with enough serious danger to keep me reading. It was a really quick read in fact, and I like that, since I tend to pick up so many long books.

The premise of a wizard who is essentially a private detective, is a fun variation of urban fantasy. Dresden’s dark past, gloomy present, and grumpy attitude actually make for a fun and likeable character, believe it or not. He’s not a hero, but saves lives when he can. He’s not the most powerful wizard either. He just does the best he can with what he’s got, and often goes above and beyond to do it. Maybe that last part makes him a little bit of a hero, but he certainly doesn’t regard himself as such.

Overall, it’s a quick, fun read, with plenty of adventure, magic, and danger. I like to think of these books as good “in between” books, the kind of books I like to read in between the epically long ones. I also happen to have a copy of the first novel in his fantasy series The Codex Alera, so I’ll have to see how that series pans out as well. You’ll probably be seeing more Jim Butcher reviews from me in the future. Until next time…

Happy Reading!