Book Reviews: Quickfire Reviews of Bitter Gold Hearts, Vengeance is Mine, and Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Odeon

It’s time once again for an edition of Quickfire Reviews! This is what I do when I have books that I don’t have a lot to say about and just want to get a few thoughts out there about them.  Some of the books I like, some I don’t, but either way, they just don’t inspire a verbose review.  So, without further adieu…

bitter-gold-hearts

Title: Bitter Gold Hearts: A Garrett, P.I., Novel

Author: Glen Cook

Format: Paperback edition, Roc

Published: 1988

There are some series that you hear about for years and years and always mean to get around to.  Glen Cook’s Garrett, P.I. series is one of those for me.  Set in a world of fantasy,  the series’ title character is a hard boiled investigator who plies his trade amongst elves, dwarves, orcs, and other fantasy creatures.  Extremely popular with readers of fantasy and even some of mysteries, “Bitter Gold Hearts” is second in the series.  This being the only book I’ve read so far, I don’t really see the appeal.

When a high ranking official’s son is kidnapped and ransom requested, Garrett’s reputation of dealing with such cases gets him pulled in to the maelstrom of family betrayal, mystical politics, and a lot of unfriendly, unlikable types.  Although the story has a decent pace and characterization is, for the most part, good, there was just nothing about this book that made me want to read more of the series.  The lead character is by far the most appealing aspect of the book, as the supporting cast, both those who seem to be recurring and those just appearing in this book, just really fall flat.

 

‘Bitter Gold Hearts’ rates two out of five pages. It’s a rainy day read, but nothing really significant.

On my own personal scale, it gets three out of six bullets, but just barely.  Having read other works by Glen Cook, I know that this book must have just been a misfire, so that buys it a a little bit of grace.

52 Mickey Spillane Vengeance Is Mine Signet 1953 1

Title: Vengeance Is Mine

Author: Mickey Spillane

Format: Paperback edition, Signet

Published: 1950

“Vengeance is Mine”, the third book in the Mike Hammer series by Mickey Spillane, is classic Hammer in every single way.  Early on in the character’s development, this book opens with Mike being roughly interrogated by policemen who find him hung over in a hotel room where a friend of his had apparently committed suicide with Hammer unconscious when it happened.  With his license and gun lifted, Mike is on his own when he decides that his friend was murdered.  Tearing through the city on a mission of blood and revenge, Mike takes on the model industry, the District Attorney, snipers, and blackmailers in typical rapid fire Hammer style-Lots of people bleed and die until Hammer gets to the truth.  This is pure Spillane-savage characterization, galloping plot, and a cast around Hammer that proves as tough as he is!

‘Vengeance is Mine’ gets five out of five pages. It’s simply Spillane at his Mike Hammer best.

This one also gets six out of six bullets for sure.  Life changing? No.  But everything You expect a Mike Hammer novel to be when penned by Spillane, right down to the last sentence twist? Yup, in every way.

lando

Title: Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Oseon

Author: L. Neil Smith

Format: Paperback edition, Ballantine/Del Rey

Published: 1983

 

I am a Star Wars fan. Obsessive, no, but probably way more a fan than the average joe or jane who says they like the movies.  Favorite character of all time? Han Solo,without question. Second favorite? Landon Calrissian. Which is why when I tripped across this, the second volume in the Lando Calrissian trilogy of books published in the 80s, I was excited to read it.

I didn’t finish it.  Couldn’t stomach it.  The pacing of the book was as slow as a dead tauntaun and the characters didn’t appeal to me at all.  The sad part of that last bit is that list of characters I could do without had Lando at the top of it.  Cardboard portrayal of a character that sizzled with humor and life on the screen will kill a book faster than anything, this one proves that.  With the plot going nowhere, the characters being as dead as the wood they were printed on, and the overall writing being weak, I couldn’t find anything in the first fifty pages that hooked me in at all. So it remains unread. which means this one gets no pages and the chamber stays empty, no bullets out of six.

 

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Hexed: The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

 

Title: Hexed: The Iron Druid Chronicles

Author: Kevin Hearne

Format: Paperback edition, Ballantine/Del Rey

Published: 2011

 

hexed

I love book series, enjoy seeking them out, and definitely get over the moon excited for them when I stumble across one that just captures my imagination and takes off with it.  That last bit doesn’t happen very often, but it did when I read “Hounded”, the first book in The Iron Druid Chronicles series by Kevin Hearne, a few years ago. A book about Atticus O’Sullivan, the last living Druid and a mystical bad ass in modern day Arizona, “Hounded” opened up a world with a brand new take on multiple mythologies coexisting together, gave a twist and new life to the concept of vampires and werewolves, and made me believe that a psychic connection to a dog might be the greatest thing ever.  I definitely was eager to read the next book in the series, to see what happened to Atticus, a character that was different in many ways.

And then I read “Hexed”.  And didn’t get what I expected at all.

Don’t misunderstand.  Compared to all the books in existence and even the large majority of modern urban fantasy/mythological gods causing crap books that are out there, “Hexed” is good.  Compared to the book that came before it, the one that started the series, “Hexed” falls on its face from page one and doesn’t recover the magic of its predecessor until well past the middle.

Spinning out of “Hounded”, “Hexed” sees Atticus O’Sullivan trying to correct damage to the earth that the battle in the first book caused and finding himself to be the mostly unwilling guardian against all things bad and magic to the part of Arizona he lives in.  Among the issues that he has to deal with is an invasion of Germanic witches with Nazi connections trying to fill the gap that the deaths of Polish witches in the first book left.  Also, his vampiric lawyer (that’s his nighttime lawyer, his day time legal issues are handled by a whole pack of werewolf attorneys) is after him to go after Thor, or at least one of the versions that exist of the Thunder God.  And then there’s a version of Coyote who cajoles Atticus into helping him take out a demon that had been unleashed to take out the Druid in the first book… and so on and so forth.

There’s a lot going on in “Hexed” and it seems that much of the book is Atticus trying to get to the actual conflict the book was built around, which was supposed to be the witches I think. I could have dealt with that, most likely, had I not been put off almost immediately by how the author wrote Atticus, his main character.

Instead of the rather wise, yet relaxed Druid that the author crafted throughout “Hounded”, the Atticus O’Sullivan that opens “Hexed” and that occupies most of the book is someone else, almost.  He seems very eager to fit in and to make sure others fit in, so he goes out of his way to sound like the young crowd around him.  Again, this is something that is in the first book, but it’s just an aside, really. In “Hexed” it is a recurring theme, one that Atticus focuses on, especially in terms of his vampiric lawyer being too stuffy and acting too much like he’d lived for centuries.  That and other aspects of how Atticus is portrayed, including his personal observations about supporting cast being overly snarky and there being a preoccupation with Irish Goddesses finding him attractive and the problems this causes him, simply make the story stumble and don’t add anything to the story.  It’s not until a lot of the extraneous loose ends are tied up finally and he moves on to face the witches that we get the same Atticus that made “Hounded” an awesome read.

Will I read the third book? Yes, because Atticus that I liked from the first one did finally show up in the second and we’re left with a great direction that I think will be a lot of fun in the next volume.  But, unless I get obsessed to do a full re read of this series later on, I won’t be visiting ‘Hexed’ again.

‘Hexed: The Iron Druid Chronicles’ rates three out of five pages. It’s a decent read, but doesn’t hold up to the first one in the series and only comes into its own more than halfway through.

An average score for me for this one on my personal scale as well, only three out of six bullets. The lead character not really matching up to how he’d been presented in the first book threw me for so much of a loop for most of the book that it made it difficult to enjoy, and the supporting cast, though great, wasn’t enough to right the ship by themselves.

Book Review- A Girl and Her Cat: Honey West and T.H.E. Cat by Win Scott Eckert and Matthew Baugh

Title: A Girl and Her Cat: Honey West and T.H.E. Cat

Authors: Win Scott Eckert and Matthew Baugh

Format: Hardcover edition, Moonstone Books

Published: 2013

HoneyWest-Cat_title_FINAL

 

 

As stated previously and likely to be stated many more times, I love mysteries.  And a special sort of mystery I love happens to be the tv tie-in.  When authors are able to take tv characters that I’ve liked or even loved and weave wonderful prose tales of them, I’m always happy.  Now, I’ve tripped over a few that were average or even awful as well, but still even those stay on my shelf just because it’s a tv tie-in.

“A Girl and Her Cat: Honey West and T.H.E. Cat” by Win Scott Eckert and Matthew Baugh qualifies not only as a tv tie-in novel, but it’s a simply told, well presented tale of intrigue and action that hits almost every note exactly right.

Now, before I continue, let me clarify. Moonstone published this novel and I do have a position with Moonstone.  I normally don’t review books from my own company, Pro Se Productions.  I also don’t normally review books from other companies that I had anything to do with, either as a writer, editor, or any other capacity. Yes, Moonstone published this. Yes, I work for Moonstone. No, I had nothing at all to do with this book and therefore feel okay giving my thoughts on it.

“A Girl and Her Cat” features two characters, each leads in their own 1960s television series- Honey West and Thomas Edward Hewitt Cat, better known as T.H.E. Cat.  As a matter of fact, prior to the series starring Anne Francis, Honey West, a female private eye following in the footsteps of her murdered father, actually debuted in a series of novels.  T.H.E. Cat, a master thief turned bodyguard for hire, first appeared on the scene in his series of the same name, played by Robbert Loggia.

In ‘A Girl and Her Cat’, Honey is hired by an Asian scientist to help recover a potentially deadly virus that has fallen into the hands of an evil terrorist type.  Almost immediately, Honey is attacked and the case turns on its ear, as a past lover of Honey’s who works for the CIA shows up.  It turns out that there’s more to the case, the Asian scientist, and even Johnny Doom, the well named lover, than Honey was led to believe, all of that carrying to a point where she is forced to actually attempt to steal the virus for a criminal organization. Enter another friend from Honey’s past, T.H.E. Cat, who teams up with the buxom PI to not only try to save the CIA agent being held captive, but also potentially the world from dying from a horrible plague.

This novel has everything a fan of these series or even just fans of 1960s type spy mysteries would look for.  Great leads, fantastically wild supporting characters, and a plot that involves world devastation or domination, depending on how one looks at it, and even teases its way into other fantastic things beyond that.  The authors didn’t go out of their way to make the story over complicated and that makes it that much better.  It’s an easy read and one that is paced exactly as it should be.  Also, the characterizations of Honey and Cat are dead on perfect, actually allowing me to hear Francis’ and Loggia’s voices as I read it.

There are other characters who make cameos and veiled appearances in ‘A Girl and Her Cat’, characters that are featured in other books, television series, even in films.  This is something I love in stories usually and enjoyed it immensely in this one, recognizing the nods to several other favorite characters of mine.  In this book, though, I felt a little overwhelmed by this in some way as well.  I don’t know if it was that there was more than one or two such appearances, or if when they were introduced in the story was just to close together, but something made that affectation seem a little too much for ‘A Girl and Her Cat.’  Not so much so that it made it a bad book, it’s quite a great book actually, but I did find myself more than once distracted from the story by wondering if a name was used because it was an Easter egg.  Again, this is something I do enjoy, it just felt a little… I don’t know, forced maybe this time around.

‘ A Girl and Her Cat’ rates four out of five pages. Aside from being a slightly overfilled easter basket, this book delivers a fast, action packed, and fun read all the way around.

Five out of six bullets goes to this one, using my personal scale. The authors capture Honey and Cat perfectly and the interactions between the two sing just like a groovy jazz tune.

Book Review: The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Title: The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet

Author: Becky Chambers

Format: Kindle E-book

Published: 2015

Sci-Fi books often frustrate me.

I am intrigued by ideas and the chance to escape into this wholly new time and place that the author teases in the blurb.   More often than not I get a little bit here and there about the story’s setting and then…snooze.  Another war.  Another cat and mouse game across the stars.  Another devious plot.  A little zero gravity sex.  It’s Tom Clancy in outer space.

That’s why this book was so exciting to me and why I can’t stop telling people that they really need to read it if they like thinking about interesting things.

Becky Chambers has invented a far future galaxy with multiple species living and working together.   She has then created a microcosm of that galaxy in the form of a wormhole-drilling spaceship and its varied crew.    The story in this book is the story of that ship and her crew and the year-long life changing voyage they take to fill a government contract on the far edge of the known space.

It’s a pleasant trip where we get to know the ship’s crew in all their varied forms while we experience spacer life alongside them.    There are stops here and there to pick up necessary parts or attend necessary functions and we get to experience life planetside and life in spaceports along the way.   It’s a fun journey with a satisfying conclusion.

There ARE shots fired and there are beasties to overcome but the action never swallows the story.

This is a 4-worm novel that is definitely worth a purchase.   4 bookworms

Why Review Books?

I originally wrote reviews for this page which appeared on Sundays.   I stopped for awhile for a number of reasons, but then Mandi asked me to come back and I thought about it.  Why do I review books?  What is that about?

Different reviewers will give you different reasons.  Some people review books because they just plain like talking about books.   Others want to get their names out there and into the publishing world by any means necessary.   There are those who want free books, and in the past having book review site was the way to do that.   Then there are those who want to bring books they love to a wider audience.

Why do I review books?   Not for free books…I think in the time I’ve done this I’ve gotten a grand total of 10 free books, all from indie authors.  There has never been a “hey, here’s the hottest novel of the summer three months early” moment.  Nor do I want there to be.    I don’t need for publishing to notice me via reviews.  My reviews have very little in common with the work I hope to publish.  It would be like getting someone to come to my restaurant by offering them a cold drink.

I do love talking about books.   I love telling people about books.   I love discussing books.

But most of all…I was a travel agent many moons ago and I’ve never gotten over the pleasure of giving someone a way to escape from the grit of their life.   I remember booking tickets–I booked thousands of tickets–and there was more often than not a joy there when people were planning to fly.    Going home to see mom, going to visit the baseball hall of fame, going home for Thanksgiving…no matter what it was it was a chance to get away.  And it was always several hundred dollars.

Books are cheap.  For a dollar or three you can take a few hours to a whole new place, an old familiar place, a scary place or a happy place.  You can meet interesting new people or hang out with old friends.

Even though books are cheap, I know from experience that there’s nothing worse than a bad trip.  And our free time is precious.  So even if the five dollars won’t crater your budget, I know  you don’t want to lose an afternoon hanging out in a bad neighbourhood.  And that’s why I review books.   I’m still a travel agent.  I’m just trying to book your ticket to the right place.   So when you see a review from me it’s going to be _about your trip_.   It’s not going to be about me getting my name in front of literary agents and it’s not going  to be about me getting free books.   It’s about what I’m doing for you.

That’s what I’m doing here, and that’s what I hope to be able to do here for a good long time.

Stay tuned for a review of the Best Sci Fi Book I’ve read this year and a little essay about the most disappointing Sci Fi book I’ve ever read in my life.   Those are coming up later today.

Slainté

 

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