Review: Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #1) ~ Laurell K. Hamilton

Guilty PleasuresISBN ~ 978-0425197547
Publisher ~  Berkley Trade
No. Of Pages ~ 355 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Guilty Pleasures

Anita Blake may be small and young, but vampires call her the Executioner. Anita is a necromancer and vampire hunter in a time when vampires are protected by law—as long as they don’t get too nasty. Now someone’s killing innocent vampires and Anita agrees—with a bit of vampiric arm-twisting—to help figure out who and why.

Trust is a luxury Anita can’t afford when her allies aren’t human. The city’s most powerful vampire, Nikolaos, is 1,000 years old and looks like a 10-year-old girl. The second most powerful vampire, Jean-Claude, is interested in more than just Anita’s professional talents, but the feisty necromancer isn’t playing along—yet.

4 Thumbs-UpI had this book recommended to me, and I have to admit I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to read it; after all it has a romantic overtone to it, contains vampires and well just isn’t my usual read or even one I would have thought to pick up.  In this case I am glad I did as despite being classified as romance, it really wasn’t at all.

The main protagonist is the Anita Blake mentioned in the title of this review, and I thoroughly enjoyed her and her character make up immensely.  She is a strong-willed woman, very independent and has a sarcastic tongue that really helped me connect with her.  She has flaws too, she is judgmental and extremely abrasive but these only add to her appeal and make her a character that both male and female readers can get to grips with, even if they cannot relate to her.  I found it absolutely hilarious, and like so many people I know to discover that this character had never developed a working filter between her brain and her mouth.  Through great descriptive writing I was able to build an image of this main lead in my mind’s eye, and this is something that some Authors are unable to do.  All the other characters are treated with equal measure in this book, and are all given their personalities and flaws that the reader will either be drawn to, or dislike instantly.

This book is a quick read and, although gory at times, well it does contain vampires so go figure, it is full of mystery and irreverent humour.  However, I have to mention as a warning to those sensitive souls out there that the Author has managed to include a great deal of implied and actual eroticism in the storyline, so if this is not for you I would advise you to give the book a miss.  My reason for the 4 thumbs review was the dialogue, and I felt at time that the Author was trying to see how many times they could have the speaker use the interlocutor’s name; another reason is that although this is a darned good read it would never go down in the annals of classic writing and, if you want to enjoy them but don’t want to be seen doing so it would be a book to hide in something more ‘high brow’.

As for me I’ll definitely be reading some more in this series and I would highly recommend this book to any reader is looking for a light read, but one that has some substance to it.

divider

Review: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place ~ Julie Berry

PrickwillowISBN ~ 978-1596439566
Publisher ~ Roaring Brook Press
No. Of Pages ~ 351 Pages
Links ~ Barnes & Noble, Amazon

3 Thumbs-UpIf you like farce you will love this middle grade book; yes, it is aimed at children, but adult readers would get a chuckle out of reading it too.

The character descriptions are very basic and, as in most children’s books not full of the in-depth backstories that readers have to cope with as they get older.  To make the characters more memorable to the age group this book is aimed at, the Author associates traits to them and then uses these traits in the naming protocol for the characters throughout the book.  As fun as this was, and a middle grader would probably enjoy it immensely, this was the weakest link in this book for me, and the reason it only gained a three thumbs review.  All the characters are nicely stereotyped though, and as with all things farcical this fits the overall tone of the novel very well indeed although it did bring up the problem for me that, as I read through the book, all the schoolgirls tended to ‘speak’ with the same voice.  Again I couldn’t see this been a big issue with the audience the book was aimed at, and put it down to my ancient age.  As the book progresses though, despite the Authors attempts to keep the main characters tied to their adjective laden names, their true characters begin to leak through and the reader gains a small insight into the backgrounds and home lives these girls have.  One thing that comes through loud and clear, and ties all these girls together  is that none of them want to return home, and this is major driving force behind the book.

Although this is a complete farce, with murder, mystery and a few thrills thrown in, it is also a cleverly written historical novel which brings to light the societal perception of women in the nineteenth century.  Not only does the reader subtly learn of how society perceived women, but it also gives them a look at what it meant to be a young woman/girl in this time, and how the ‘rules’ affected the way they not only saw themselves but the world around them.  The book itself is a very effective period mystery that has been well researched and then had the facts woven together with fiction in a clever way.  However I do feel that this may receive a better reception if aimed at the high school age group rather than middle school, as they would be more attuned to picking up on some of the nuances than a younger reader may be.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, apart from naming protocol, and read through it in a weekend.  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys farce, and also those who are looking to introduce younger readers in their circle to something new.

divider

Review: The Judas Chronicles: The First Three Books (The Judas Chronicles #1-3) ~ Aiden James

judasASIN ~ B00CHPQAV4
Publisher ~ Aiden James Fiction
No. Of Pages ~ 466 Pages
Links ~ Amazon

An archivist for the Smithsonian Institute and also a part-time operative for the CIA, no one would ever suspect the handsome ‘thirty-ish’ William is in fact the most reviled human being to ever walk the earth. His infectious warmth and sense of humor make such an assertion especially hard to believe.

But long ago, William Barrow had another name…one that is synonymous with shame and betrayal: Judas Iscariot.
Forced to walk the earth as a cursed immortal, William/Judas is on a quest to reclaim the thirty silver shekels paid to him in exchange for Jesus Christ. Twenty-one coins have now been recovered–thanks in large part to the help from his latest son, the esteemed Georgetown University history professor, Alistair Barrow.

Ever hopeful the complete coin collection will buy him a full pardon from God and end his banishment from heaven; William plans a visit to a remote village deep within Iran’s Alborz Mountains to retrieve ‘silver coin number twenty-two’. But the CIA has a different objective for this trip, one that pits both father and son against an unscrupulous Russian billionaire searching for something else that’s just as precious within the ancient mountains of Iran…something that threatens peace in the modern world if William and Alistair fail to reach it first.

4 Thumbs-UpIt’s not often I download a Kindle book that is a three in one offer, but this intrigued me so I made the decision to do so; I was not disappointed.  I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, as there have been so many books giving a different slant on the Judas story, but this was certainly not the normal fare.

The main protagonist is, of course, Judas, and he is a well written and very believable character.  He bares his emotions and feelings about the longevity of his life, whilst adding humour to his recounting of his life.  This makes him a likable character and one who, regardless of your religious beliefs, the reader will be very hard pressed to not be able to connect to.

With a skilful hand the Author takes a different route from the ones normally read about.  There are biblical references throughout the book which I enjoyed but which some, more religious readers than I, may find rude and blasphemous but these add to the reality of the Judas story and are necessary in the development of the storyline.  There were times when some aspects of the story appeared just a little too farfetched to fit comfortably into the stories as a whole, but this does not detract from the sheer enjoyment that is to be had from reading these books.

These books will be able to hit the spot for most readers as they have a blend of covert operations, horror and the paranormal, to name but three and I would highly recommend them to anyone who is looking for an enjoyably e read to while away these cold winter days.  I will definitely be reading the rest of this series, and possibly others written by this Author.

divider

Review: All the Light We Cannot See ~ Anthony Doerr

All the light we cannot seeISBN ~ 978-1476746586
Publisher ~ Scribner
No. Of Pages ~ 531 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great-uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

2 Thumbs-UpWhat a confusing book, flipping backward and forward between time periods and not being what I was expecting at all from the synopsis; and it’s not as if the Author gradually leads the reader into all this mayhem, he throws them right into it from the very first chapter.  Don’t misunderstand me, I am not against the multiple thread novel, as I have reviewed other Authors that use this tactic, and use it well; it was just not the case in the book and, in my opinion did nothing to improve or help the novel in any way.

The book has two main protagonists from different sides of the conflict that book is set partly in, World War II.  I’m not sure if it was me, or I am losing my touch but I really found nothing that make me connect to either of these characters; I didn’t like them at all.  In fact the only emotion I had for them was pity that they had been placed in a novel such as this.  Yes, it was sad that the female main lead was blind, but did we have to be reminded of it every few pages; and given the amount of miles her fingers walked they must have been nothing but nubs by the end of the book.  As to the male lead, given he was an orphan he lacked the zeal and love for the Nazi party that many orphans felt, as they found a ‘family’ at last that needed them.

Thinking that this was a historical novel was the reason I picked it up in the first place, so imagine my surprise when it seemed to turn on its heels and become a fantasy mystery; very strange.  In my mind it would have been better if the object of the mystery had been connected with Nazi thefts during the war, rather than some magical and mysterious properties it was supposed to possess.  This added to the tediousness I was beginning to feel over the flipping between eras, and just added to my lack of overall enjoyment of this book.

The saving grace for this novel and the reason for the two thumbs rating was the prose.  With an elegant pen the descriptions of objects, places, sensations encountered by the senses was just beautiful; it brought to the front of the reader’s mind how much we take for granted the sense of touch and smell and results in making them experience the mundane on different level in their own lives.

I’m sure there are some readers out there who will totally disagree with my review, but that is the nature of the world and both sides of a coin have to be seen to get a well-rounded picture.  If you enjoy fantasy, mystery and WWII historical fiction all in one book, this may be a good read for you.  If you like to keep your genres separate unless they are skilfully blended together, I would give this a miss.  I doubt I will be reading anything else by this Author.

divider

Review: The Water Rat of Wanchai (Ava Lee #1) ~ Ian Hamilton

water ratISBN ~ 978-1250032270
Publisher ~ Picador
No. Of Pages ~ 400 pages
Links ~ House of Anansi, Amazon, Indigo

In Ian Hamilton’s The Water Rat of Wanchai, we meet forensic accountant and martial arts expert Ava Lee in her early days working for the mysterious businessman Uncle as they track down large sums of money that have disappeared. One of Uncle’s longtime friends has requested help for his nephew, who needs to recover five million dollars from a business deal that went sideways. Ava steps in and immediately is off on a global hunt for the missing money that has her dodging shady characters.

On a journey that takes her from Seattle to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Guyana, and the British Virgin Islands, Ava encounters everything from the Thai katoey culture to corrupt government officials. In Guyana she meets her match: Captain Robbins, a godfather-like figure who controls the police, politicians, and criminals alike. In exchange for his help, Robbins decides he wants a piece of Ava’s five million dollars and will do whatever it takes to get his fair share.

2 Thumbs-UpI started to read this book because I couldn’t recall ever having read a crime series that had a forensic accountant as the main protagonist, and a female one at that.

This character just grated on my nerves from the very first, and I’m not sure if it was the intention of the Author to make her dislikeable or was just the way things turned out in the end.  She is rich, as we are constantly reminded whenever possible, only likes the best of everything and was an avid coffee drinker, like all the other characters in this novel.  As a female lead character she is not the strong independent woman I was hoping for; the kind that inspires other women to reach their full potential.  In fact she is quite the opposite, she comes out of the page as being some sort of superwoman that can do anything, have anyone and anything she likes.  This in itself is not a bad thing, but the way in which she is written could possibly make her an intimidating character to those women readers who are not supremely confident in their own skin and lives and, in my opinion this is something no Author should do to their readers, make them feel less than they are.  In an effort to make her interesting she is Chinese-Canadian, although how this could redeem her flaws I am still not sure.

The coffee company Starbucks was mentioned so many times in this book that I broke off to look and see if it had been published through some program they funded.  Another disappointment, apart from the obviously brand push, was that there is actually very little forensic accounting in this book, and what small amount there is takes place in a whole 5 or 6 pages. Combine these points with flat and uninteresting language and you have a book that really does not deliver for me, and this is the reason behind by 2 thumbs rating.

Given that this is marketed as an international thriller, I failed to get the thrill from the book that was hinted at and, although a taste of each country visited in the storyline was given, it just wasn’t enough to make this a series I would want to read anymore of.

divider

What to read next.

After finishing a good book in the early hours of the morning I often find myself with the problem of what to read next.  I usually go through my ‘to be read’ stack in the order of which books were added to it, but sometimes the book on the top of the pile doesn’t appeal to me at the very moment I need a new read.

This flowchart, found on Upworthy.com may help me, and others in the same predicament, head in the right direction and find something we are in the mood for.  Just because it says summer in the chart doesn’t mean you can’t use it anytime of the year, after all what better way is there to spend a rainy day than curled up in your favourite spot reading?

101_books_to_read

Review: Search The Dark (Inspector Ian Rutledge #3) ~ Charles Todd

Search the darkA mind-damaged veteran comes home from the Great War to be told his wife and two children were killed in the bombing of London. Refusing to believe the news, or unable to, the man thinks he spots them on the platform of the station of a small town in Dorset. Then a woman’s body is found there, and Rutledge is sent by his jealous rival at the Yard to locate the children.

 

4 Thumbs-UpI came across this book by accident, hiding on my shelf and opened it to scan the first page; later that day I closed the cover and sat back feeling I have used my time wisely.

The main protagonist in this book and all the other in this series is a Scotland Yard policeman.  Newly returned from the Great War, he has his own personal demons to deal with as well as helping those who are also dealing with their demons from fighting in this war.  Add to that the stress of trying to find the criminals, and it could make for a very unstable and highly strung character but the Author manages to avoid this wonderfully.  Instead he uses this character as a vehicle to bring the reader’s attention to the unseen horrors that many carried with them when they returned home.  This character is vulnerable, unsure whilst at the same time being very capable of doing his job and bringing the wrongdoer to justice.  I felt for this character as I don’t usually do in a cozy mystery, and wished there was some way I could help him find peace in his life.  In this one character the Author managed not only to show the inner turmoil of those who returned from the fighting, but he also shows in the other people he encounters in his enquiries the change in society that had taken place while he was away.  These range from total indifference to the way these returnees were feeling and going through, to those who wanted to cosset them and keep them wrapped up from the hurts that may come their way in everyday and finally to the group of people who refused to believe that, mentally, their loved ones would never return to normal.  This book is not loaded down with a bunch of secondary characters which helps the book move along at a steady clip and keeps the reader on track to the end.

What an end it was.  This is the kind of book I love.  I thought I had spotted the bad guy, then no it took a twist, and another, then another until the end I had no idea who the real criminal was, and when the reveal came I was blown away as I never thought it was this person.  Add to this the feeling of flying down country roads in a little old car when horses and carriages were still in good use, and it all combines to the kind of book that I just couldn’t put down.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of cozy mysteries, and those who enjoy a great read that will keep you guessing until the end.  I will definitely be reading more in this series.

divider