Posted in Book Blog

Gisseppii’s Book Blog (May – June 2017)

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May

The Kill Society (Sandman Slim, #9) by Richard Kadrey *GR*

Sandman Slim (aka James Stark) finds himself on a mountain top in Tenebrae with no idea of how he got there or why.  He comes across a mysterious figure known as the Magistrate and his band of Mad Max wannabes (along with some familiar faces) and reluctantly joins their crusade to find a very special bullet for a very special gun.

I loved this book, couldn’t put it down, and I actually yelled when I got to the end (damn, cliffhangers), which is rare for me. Just a heads up, be sure to read ‘Devil in the Dollhouse: A Sandman Slim Story’ before you read this one, you’ll thank me later.

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The Devil’s Triangle by Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison *GR*

Special Agents Drummond and Caine are asked by a notorious thief, the Fox, to look into unnatural weather phenomena that have plagued the Gobi desert and help her rescue her husband, Grant, after a transaction regarding the Ark of the Covenant has gone wrong.

This story had a lot going for it, a weather device utilizing Tesla’s coil and DaVinci’s drawing, the Bermuda Triangle, and a whip smart team to help stop a group of people from destroying the world and finding the Ark of the Covenant. I liked the end sequence with the twin’s mother and found the idea of corporations profiting off of a natural disaster (that isn’t so natural) interesting.

That is until the action, plot, and character details fall apart. The special FBI team reads more as the parents taking the kids on a vacation to Venice, Italy and stumbling across a mystery, Ajax and Cassandra are two dimensional and come across as cartoonish in their behavior (think Scooby Doo, rather than James Bond), and the constant reminder of how tough/skilled someone is (even when they are the complete opposite) and the overuse of their names is distracting.

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June

Montstrous – by Thomas Sniegoski *AB* *review forthcoming*

Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson *GR* *review forthcoming*

Calamity Cafe – By Gayle Leeson *review forthcoming*

How Music Works by David Byrne *GR* *currently reading*

Posted in Book Blog

Gisseppii’s Book Blog (January – April 2017)

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January

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry *AB*

The Fifth Petal is about Rose Whelan, a former local historian and alleged town witch, who has become suspect number one when the murder of a teenage boy happens on Halloween night. Connections to a 1989 cold case known as “The Goddess Murders” appear and police chief, John Rafferty, works to exonerate Rose before history repeats itself.

This book is filled with complex characters, intrigue, local Salem history, and did not disappoint. I really enjoyed reading about Salem’s history regarding the Witch Trials (some stuff I already knew and some I didn’t) and smiled when Elizabeth Howe was mentioned and reminded me of another author, Katherine Howe, her ancestor.

I was very happy to see that this one is a sequel to The Lace Reader; it takes place sometime after that book, but does include a few familiar faces (i.e. Towner, John, and May). It isn’t necessary, but I do recommend reading The Lace Reader first, it gives you a great introduction into the characters and their backstory.

A Truck Full of Money by Tracy Kidder *GR*

A Truck Full of Money is the story of Paul English, an innovator, philanthropist, and creator and co-founder of the website Kayak.com. He has an unconventional management style and a knack for being in the right place at the right time when it comes to technology.

I hadn’t read Tracy Kidder’s work before and wasn’t sure what to expect. Biographies can be tricky, sometimes boring and overwhelming with names and dates. I was pleasantly surprised and found this story captivating, conversational, and easy to get into.

I really liked that I knew a lot of what was being discussed in the book regarding the creation of websites, apps, and tech based companies (Kayak, Blade, Lola) and how it goes into Paul’s bipolar diagnosis and hypomania, without over sensationalizing either disorder.

The Prisoner by Alex Berenson *GR*

The Prisoner is about John Wells, an ex-CIA agent, who goes back undercover to find the identity of a mole. This is easier said than done, times have changed and the terrorist cells have become bigger, more powerful, and John must obtain the information he needs before a Sarin attack on Parisian soil is completed.

I liked the intrigue surrounding the story line, but I felt something was missing. I found John’s capture, imprisonment, and treatment in a Bulgarian prison a little far-fetched. I know he has gone undercover before, but this seemed almost too easy. I did find the final scenes in Paris really exciting, full of action and intrigue, and was well written.

I’ve never read Alex Berenson’s work before and that may have been my problem.With some series you can dive right in and follow along easily, with this series I recommend starting from the beginning rather than jumping in at the end.

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February

No Easy Target by Iris Johansen *GR*

No Easy Target is a about a woman, Margaret Douglas, who has been running from her past and a unique ability to understand and talk to animals. It isn’t until she is captured and taken back to where it all began that she finds the strength to move on.

Unfortunately, this one didn’t live up to my expectations and I kept getting the feeling that I had read this story before, especially the ending sequence.

I liked John and Margaret as separate characters, both independent, strong-willed, and determined. I liked that John was willing to do what it took to help his friends and Margaret’s ability to communicate with animals refreshing. However, I found the double speak between Margaret and John tiresome and their chemistry non-existent.

Grace Notes: My Recollections by Katey Sagal *GR*

Grace Notes is about the life, love, and emotional journey of musician, mother, and actress, Katey Sagal. Told in essay format, this memoir is inspirational, heartbreaking, and refreshing to read. Filled with life lessons, it aims for your heart and doesn’t hold back.

This was a treat for me to read. What I loved most were the stories about her music, being true to herself and the path it took to get there, rather than conforming to what others expected.

I really liked how open and honest she is in this book, doesn’t let the possibility of controversy stop her and sharing personal stories regarding the loss of a child and the impact her co-workers have had on her (i.e. John Ritter), was refreshing to read.

Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner *GR*

Right Behind You is about two siblings, Sharlah and Telly, who were separated after the brutal death of their parents. Sharlah is about to be adopted by FBI profiler Quincy and his partner Rainie. That is until a double murder happens and a manhunt gets underway.

In my experience, books that feature the same characters can sometimes grow stale and routine, but with this series that isn’t the case. It has the perfect blend of suspense, thriller, action, and intrigue with a lot of twists and turns, and well written characters.

I really liked the characters, Sharlah and Telly. I just wanted to hug them and was happy to see the way their story ended wasn’t what I had originally thought. I couldn’t put this one down and highly recommend.

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March

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Norse Mythology is a new refreshing look at some of the old familiar faces we have come to know and love (i.e. Odin, Loki, and Thor). From the beginning of the nine worlds to Ragnarok, this book breathes new life into stories of old, making this a refreshing read.

What I really liked is how this book isn’t your typical mythology book. Most of the ones I’ve read are pretty straight forward… this is the god/goddess, this is what they do, and here’s a story you’ve heard a thousand times before with maybe an illustration or two.

This book is smaller than I expected, but well worth reading. I can imagine telling these stories around a campfire. Stories about how Mjölnir was created and later stolen, how Fenrir was chained, and how Loki is the blood brother of Odin, not Thor.

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey *GR*

The Wanderers is about three astronauts, Helen Kane, Yoshihiro Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov, who are selected to complete an 18-month simulation to potentially travel and explore Mars and the effect this has on them and their families.

I enjoyed this book and found myself unable to put it down. I found the characters interesting and often wondered if maybe, in some way, they were robotic or had been mentally altered in some way, especially the astronauts. They way they would interact with one another and how they would have these “epiphanies” about themselves.

I also got the sense that they were actually traveling to Mars during the 18-month “simulation” and spent the majority of the time looking for clues to confirm. And I liked the side stories of how the families were processing their absence and having “epiphanies” of their own.

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April

The Princeling of Nanjing by Ian Hamilton *GR*

The Princeling of Nanjing is about, Ava Lee, a forensic accountant with a special set of skills who agrees to help her friend, Xu, prevent the son of an influential family from taking over his Triad organization. As Ava investigates, she uncovers a lot more than she bargained for and sets out to expose everyone involved.

Ava’s determination and ability to not let anyone intimidate her was refreshing, but at times a little far-fetched regarding her investigation techniques. She would call someone up, tell them to get her this information immediately, money is no object, and they would do so without complaint or resistance. Although, I did notice not everyone was swayed by her demands… journalistic integrity for example.

Full of intrigue, action, a great collection of characters, and a well written plot, I couldn’t put it down. I haven’t read Ian Hamilton’s work before, but aim to start from the beginning right away. A great series, I look forward to reading more by this author.

The F Word by Liza Palmer *GR*

The F Word is about, Olivia Morten, publicist extraordinaire to the stars and her ability to reinvent herself as someone else, someone not associated with the person she was in high school. That is until she runs into her “arch nemesis” and former crush, Ben Dunn.

I had a hard time getting through this one, mainly because I couldn’t tell if this book is meant for adults or teens. While Olivia is definitely an adult, her constant inner dialogue about the past was a little overwhelming, tiresome, and kind of distracting.

I did enjoy how the story unfolded, a bit passive-aggressive in the beginning and then as her world starts to unravel is forced to face her past as well as her present, she comes to the realization that she deserves better and begins the process of moving on.

Confessions of a Domestic Failure: A Humorous Book about a Not So Perfect Mom by Bunmi Laditan *GR*

Confessions of a Domestic Failure: A Humorous Book about a Not So Perfect Mom is about, Ashley Keller, who while trying to navigate the social pressures of being a new stay-at-home mom gets an opportunity to meet her mommy-blog hero, Emily, and participate in the Motherhood Better boot camp competition, and finds herself in the process.

While I did enjoy this book, it’s funny, light, and requires no thought process (think brain candy); I did find myself getting a little frustrated with Ashley. Her unwillingness to do, well, anything other than complain about how tired she is, spend money she doesn’t have, and lack of communication with her husband, made me want to shake her.

I did enjoy her mommy escapades into the mommy obsessed with perfection world of Facebook, Pinterest boards, forays into the job market (900 number anyone), and “play date” invitations. Also, the crafting ideas for the boot camp were interesting and are something worth trying out myself.

The Wingsnatchers (Carmer and Grit, Bk. 1) by Sarah Jean Horowitz *AB*

The Wingsnatchers is about, Felix Carmer, a magician’s apprentice who has an inventor’s mind and a curious nature. As luck would have it, he is rescued by a fire fairy, Grit, and they strike a deal to solve the sudden disappearances of faeries and help win the biggest magic show in town.

This was a fun book and reminded me a lot of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series with a little steampunk style story line thrown in. This is a great book for both boys and girls, grades 5-9. This book is full of magic, adventure, and is sure to ignite their imagination.

I loved Carmer’s curiosity and determination to get to the root of the problem, no matter how many times he was knocked down. Grit is a firecracker of a character, hampered by a disability, she didn’t let it stop her in trying to save her fellow faeries.

Silence of the Jams by Gayle Leeson (aka Gayle Trent) *GR*

Silence of the Jams is about, Amy Flowers, the owner of the Down South Café and (reluctant) amateur sleuth. When a member of the Chamber of Commerce dies in her café, she and those around her become potential suspects and it’s up to Amy, with a little help from the police, to find the truth before it’s too late.

This was a delight full story that is well written, engaging, and has characters you want to keep coming back to. I’m not sure what I enjoyed more, the recipes Amy would try and integrate into her menu or the amateur detective, Homer (Hero for a Day).

Also, I liked that it doesn’t shy away from the family drama. For example, when Jackie’s mother, Renee, comes back into the picture and starts up with her old ways (i.e. addiction), everyone is effected. A solid interpretation of what can happen.

I Am Death by Chris Carter (Galley, May 30) *AB*

I Am Death is about, Detectives Hunter and Garcia of the UV Crimes Unit, who are called in when the body of a young woman is found in a ritualistic manner. The detectives engage in a cat & mouse game with the killer whose past is just as shocking as his crimes.

This story is not for the faint of heart. It’s brutal, gritty, horrifying, and heartbreaking. The characters are so well written (Squirm) and the brutal murders so horrifying (you won’t look at circular saw the same way again) that you can’t help but get chills.

What I found refreshing was how the killer was more interested in getting the detective’s attention, but not the media. While the clues are in the notes left behind, you won’t see the ending coming. I didn’t and it was heartbreaking.

The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton

The Cracked Spine is about, Delaney Nichols, who has upped and moved from Kansas to Scotland in an attempt to find adventure and work in a book shop. Delaney does a little investigating to find a missing first folio, solve a murder (which is easier said than done), and get to know the kilt clad handsome bartender down the way.

I had a lot trouble with this one, it didn’t seem up to Paige’s usual standard of work which was disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the setting, the characters, and the overall idea of this book, but it wasn’t up to cozy standards.

The story seemed unfocused with too many characters, along with the random unnecessary moments that don’t really have anything to do with the story (i.e. Rosie and her love interest), and the amped-up secrecy about EVERYTHING. I found Delaney’s ability to hear “book voices” interesting and would like to have read more, but the reason as to why she could do so never made sense, leaving me confused.

Enemy of the Good by Matthew Palmer (Galley, May 23) *AB*

Enemy of the Good is about, Kate Hollister, a foreign service officer who has been reassigned to her old stomping ground. While there she is instructed, by her uncle, to discover the identity of the leader of an underground movement, in an attempt to protect the negotiations of a lease for an air base, or so one would think.

This one was okay, it had a great build up with a lot of action, intrigue, and suspense. The dynamic between the CIA and Kate’s Uncle was interesting to read and then about halfway through, the story focused more on the “love interest” aspect rather than the continuation of action, suspense, intrigue, and story.

The final coup involving the underground group, Boldu, was lackluster at best, while peaceful it didn’t have a lot going on and fizzled out story wise. Kate’s kidnapping and constant reference to her diplomatic immunity tiresome and unbelievable. If the villain is as bad as they say, he won’t care about diplomatic immunity. Just saying.

The Forgotten Girls By Owen Laukkanen *AB*

The Forgotten Girls is about, partners Windermere and Stevens, who’ve stumbled across a case involving a photo of a dead girl on a cell phone and a serial killer who selects women society has deemed forgettable (i.e. runaways, prostitutes, Native Americans) and uses the High-Line (Northern US/Canada railway system) as his killing ground.

I liked the pacing of the story, how it incorporated current technology (i.e. the Cloud) into helping the investigation, and the resourcefulness of the characters; especially Mila and her determination (albeit reckless) to find the killer and get justice for her friend, Ash.

However, there were some things that drove me crazy… Windermere’s constant need to say ‘partner’ every time she addresses Stevens and the end scene with the serial killer. His reasons for killing just boggled my mind and not in a good way. Most bad guys are complex, compelled, and psychopathic, but not this guy. This guy was just whiny.

Edgar & Lucy by Victor Lodato *AB* *review forthcoming*

Democracy: Stories from the Long Road by Condoleezza Rice (Galley, May 9) *AB* *review forthcoming*

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova *AB* *review forthcoming*