Book Review – The Camelot Gambit

TITLE:  The Camelot Gambit – Night Shade/Forensic Files Book 7
AUTHOR: AJ Scudiere
PUBLISHED: 2019
FORMAT: Kindle e-Book

 

I have read AJ Scudiere before, but never this series, so I knew what I was getting into in term of writing style, but not a thing about these characters. I was assured it wouldn’t matter, so I decided to jump in anyway.
Donovan and Eleri are undercover FBI agents in the fictitious town of Curie, NE, populated almost entirely by a hand-picked group of geniuses and their families. One of their neighbors has been murdered, and they’ve been assigned the case, determined to figure out who the killer is before the think-tank type town discovers they’re there.
The murder itself is slim on clues… They know the victim was bound and that he didn’t really struggle, but they don’t know why he stopped breathing or what the motive is. As the bodies pile up, they’re more confused as ever and have to finally break their cover for the safety of several people in the town. But is it too late? And are Donovan and Eleri even smart enough to understand what’s going on?
Okay. So, on one hand, this book is definitely what you’d expect from AJ. It’s well written in neat, proper sentences, and she’s definitely done her research (hell, I’m beginning to think she may be smart enough to live in Curie herself…)
On the other hand, a couple things. First, this is part of her NightShade series, which means cases that the FBI have deemed a little abnormal. It also means that the agents are a little abnormal themselves, although that’s glossed over and hinted at early on with no good explanation and then explained later. So, yes, you can read this book on its own, but you will be missing quite a bit of back story about the agents.
Second, some of the things in the book seem a little too forced. Curie is supposed to be a uber-smart town, with neighborhoods playing up to its geeky residents. So you can go to the coffee shop and order an E=MC2 or pick by scientist at the diner. One neighborhood is named after C’thulu, and some houses are Frank Lloyd Wright or The Shire inspired, but then it gets weird. Kangaroo Court is where the geeks have whatever odd pet they want, for instance. And it just stuck out as weird.
Also, be prepared for some really bad puns and inside jokes along the way – a few I think even went over my head. Fun side note. I keep telling people “I’m reading a book where they named the pig Atinlay…” and waiting to see who gets it or not. I may need smarter friends (bye, Mom!)

The book itself seems to have two parts. The first half has a whole lot of frustration from its undercover agents and most of it is spent with them saying “… So we don’t know how or why he died or who would want to kill him…” And I felt as frustrated as they must have felt because I thought I read about fifty unnecessary pages in all of that where not a lot happened and not a lot was established beyond ordering a coffee. There was a definite upswing after the second murder, though, and I was much happier with the second part of this book. Stuff was happening. They were slowly working their way through the how and why and who, but they were finding things and making progress. It was finally more about the case than about Curie. And we were finally getting information about the agents, so I was finally able to piece together who Donovan and Eleri were in some sort of meaningful way about 2/3 through the thing.

There wasn’t a lot outright annoying about the story – although LeDonRic’s name seemed like the author couldn’t decide which name to pick so she used them all at once. Fortunately, he was less involved as the story progressed. Mostly, I think the things I had issue with were just from not knowing the back story of the recurring characters.

So even though the book *CAN* stand alone, it definitely would have helped to know a little more about the characters at the beginning. In all, I think the book was pretty solid, and I don’t regret that I took the time to read it.

Four out of Five for sure.

Book Review: The Wedding Guest

Title: The Wedding Guest

Author: Jonathan Kellerman

Format: Netgalley Advancer Reader Copy Ebook

Published: 2019

Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read The Wedding Guest before it is released on February 5, 2019 in exchange for my honest review!

I really want to like this book, however, it became like a chore for me to read.  I think I read 2 other books during the time I was reading this one.  I would like to say that I did not care for the writing style of Kellerman, that is just my personal preference.  I did not enjoy frequent use of short sentences (or parataxis if I may use a big word).  It kept throwing off my pace of reading and I found it to be distracting.  If you don’t mind it, pick up this book!

The book seemed to drag on…and on.  This is number 34 in Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series.  Did I think I missed much by not reading the first 33?  No.  You are able to piece together who the characters are even with (what I found to be) a lack of background on them.  The most important part is that the characters involved in the murders (yes, more than one) are clearly described and grow throughout the story.

I felt it was a lackluster ending.  To be dragged along for so long it ended pretty nonchalantly.  I actually had to re-read one of the last chapters to understand what happened to the murderer.  Maybe it was my lack of focus and that I missed it at first.  Like I said, I was not that into this book.  If you are a fan of Kellerman I am sure you will enjoy this book.  It just was not my cup of tea.

I am going to give this book 3 stars.  If you come across it, don’t stop what you have in line for your TBR list, continue on and get to this when you do.  It does have key character development and keeps you guessing on whodunit until the last quarter of the book when we know (or assume we know) who did it and that drags on until we know for sure, he was the culprit.  To each their own!  If you pick this book up let me know how you enjoyed it!  Tune in next week for my review of Believe Me by JP Delaney!

Book Review: The Truth Waits

Title: The Truth Waits

Author: Susanna Beard

Format: Netgalley Advance Readers’ Copy Ebook

Published: 2018

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Legend Press for the opportunity to read The Truth Waits before its release on November 1, 2018 in exchange for an honest review.  Please make sure you come back HERE to Book In The Bag on November 9th for an exclusive stop on Susanna Beard’s blog tour!

We meet our protagonist Anna, who appears to be a depressed workaholic.  She resides in England, but, decided to take an extended work trip to Lithuania, where her factory that makes her clothing line is located.  She unfortunately gets stuck in Lithuania due to the volcano that erupted in Iceland and ends up having to extend her stay.  She goes out for a walk on the beach and ends up discovering the body of a dead girl washed ashore, with whom she becomes obsessed with.

Through all the chaos, she hesitantly meets a friendly couple, Gavin and Charlotte, at the hotel bar and ends up talking to them.  Through sitting and talking with this couple she also gets introduced to Will, whom she takes a liking to.  They end up spending a week together while stranded in Lithuania and continue to see each other in England, where they both reside.  Will ends up moving in with her and we see a strange, distant relationship blossom.

It ends up that both Anna and Will have some deep, dark secrets.  In the end both are innocent enough, however, as you are reading your mind takes you to crazy places with what is going on.  I was upset in the beginning of the book because it seemed too predictable and that the book was going down a path of a substandard thriller.  I was so wrong.

This book kept me hooked and became a quick read for me.  I had to know what was going on and I became as obsessed with the dead girl Anna found on the beach as she did in the book.  This was a captivating thriller that I got swept away in.  I appreciated the closure at the end of the book and through all the darkness, we were given a happy ending.

This is a solid 4 star read for me.  It comes out next week so pre-order it now, you won’t be disappointed.  Beard does not disappoint in this fast-paced thriller.  Be warned, if you are looking for a book that you will be able to put down to go to bed at night, this is not the book for you.  She captivates you and makes you believe that you don’t need to sleep for the night, you need to find out what is going on with Anna and Will.  Tune in next week for my review Into The Hollow by Lynn Vroman.  But more importantly don’t forget to come back in 2 weeks on Friday, November 9th for Beard’s stop HERE on her blog tour!

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Book Review: The Diagnosis Is Murder

Title: The Diagnosis Is Murder

Author: Steven Gossington

Format: Kindle Edition

Published: 2017

Thank you to Hidden Gems for the free copy of The Diagnosis Is Murder in exchange for my honest book review!

What an interesting book.  We meet Laura Valorian, an ER doctor, who seems to be carrying some baggage with her.  When it comes to child abuse cases, Dr. Valorian tends to lose her cool and go overboard.  This all stems from her once missing a case of child abuse in the ER and that child goes on to later die.  As the story progresses she works through her issues with this.

The characters throughout this mystery get introduced to us one at a time.  This is much appreciated so you are not overwhelmed at the beginning with a ton of characters to remember.  Gossington builds the characters slowly, but, does not neglect their development.

A fellow colleague at the hospital comes in unresponsive to the ER.  It is a conceited surgeon and he unfortunately succumbs to his “heart attack” and dies.  Dr. Valorian has a gut feeling that he did not die of natural causes and ends up doing some gutsy private investigation work.  Along the way she connects with Alec, a private investigator, who decides to help her out free of charge.  They set forth together and narrow down the potential list of suspects and look for possible motives.

Throughout the story I felt like there were mini stories taking place as well.  Dr. Valorian had a medical student intern in the ER and he came with his own baggage and story.  Alec also comes with baggage and his own story too.  They all intertwined nicely and just when I thought the story was over, it wasn’t.  The little stories ended up combining to fill in the larger story and kept the book going.  I was glad because I was not quite ready end to see the end of Dr. Valorian.

This is book one and I am disappointed there is no book two yet, Dr. Valorian is a very enjoyable character.  It was a fun, light read and kept my attention with the twists and turns.  I also could tell that Gossington has experience working in the ER as those little details shined through in this book.  I also appreciated that this book was not overrun with medical terminology that a common person, such as myself, would have a hard time understanding.  Sometimes doctors get a little ahead of themselves (and show off with fancy words) when they write a book, however, Gossington does not and this attributes to the book being a great read!

I am giving this book 4 stars.  I enjoyed the plot and the ending was satisfying.  I am hoping that there will be a book two and we will see even more character development with Dr. Valorian and Alec, and I will be the first in line to buy book two, you can bet your bottom dollar on that one!  Tune in next Thursday for my review of Lifeline by Abbey Lee Nash!

Book Review – Y is for Yesterday

Note:  I was very saddened just after Christmas to find out that Sue Grafton had passed on.  (Eff Cancer).  I, along with a lot of readers, learned my alphabet on her covers.  I think I’m more upset with the world that there was just one book left than I would have been had it ended part way through.  I had finished this just before the news was released.  At the publishing of this post, it will have been about a month.  I’m still shocked and saddened by the loss of Sue. 

 

TITLE: Y is for Yesterday
AUTHOR: Sue Grafton
FORMAT: Hardback and EBook (I had both)
PUBLISHED: 2017

Y is for Yesterday is the 25th installment in the alphabet series of cozy-ish mysteries starring Kinsey Millhone (rhymes with Bone) and her cast of characters (ie her friends).

In this book, we flip between two story lines.  Several years in the past, there’s some extraordinary teenage angst happening at the school, somebody steals a test and then somebody else dies.  Oh, and somebody makes a sex tape.  In the current time line, there are two story lines – the same cast of characters as the past, and Kinsey’s.  Because the guy who went to jail for Sloan’s murder has just been released from juvie, and, well, he’s being blackmailed.  They have the tape, he has the money, and maybe just maybe they could swap.

Oh, and while all this is going on, a jackass from *kinsey’s* past is around.  And he’s trying to kill her.  Ned is a total piece of crap, and nobody’s safe while he’s on the lam.

 

So, as soon as I got the book, I immediately texted my mother to tell her I had it already and did she.  Then several updates as I read the book.  We’ve both read the series together for years.  It’s one of the things I liked so much about the series – it’s not one demographic.  It appeals to so many.   At Christmas, I stopped in to visit my Mom’s aunt, and she had it sitting in her coffee table.

Which is why what I’m about to say pissed me off so much.  When you read a series like this, you expect something.  I mean, we’ve done TWENTY FOUR other books with Sue, and when you do that, your readers gravitate towards your books because you expect them to work a certain way.  Longtime readers to the blog will remember that I’m the one that did the review of 50 Shades of Grey.  I say that because I want you to really appreciate me saying this:  *I AM SO FRIGGIN PISSED* that in the first third of the book she *graphically described the sex tape*.  I mean we know what got stuck where and I don’t always mean body parts.    It probably wouldn’t have upset me to find that in another book by somebody else.  But again, Sue’s been writing a certain way most of my life, and I’ve been reading her for over 20 years.  I expect a certain something and that isn’t it.

And for Sue’s *readers* that isn’t it.  I remember way back when her message board was a thing somebody complaining because Kinsey said bad words.  Now you’re going to tell us where to stick something?

In Kinsey’s normal cast of characters, we of course have Henry, her wonderful elderly landlord (I always thought the series would end with his death, not Sue’s…), and a couple transients that he’s picked up.  Homeless people who pitched a tent in the dirt patch that was his back yard.  One of them is fat.  Really fat.  Apparently so fat that I have forgotten her name but remember her plumptness because she was friggin’ fat shamed for most of the begining of the book.  I can’t tell you anything else whatsoever about her.  Not her eye color or hair color or anything.  Just her fatness.  Because Sue talked about how we had to shoehorn her into her clothes, etc.  She hardly talks about any other character’s body type, so this was a bit over-the-top ridiculous, too.

With that said, once you get through about a third of the book, it’s a huge sudden shift.  I know that the family has said that Sue was adamant that she wouldn’t have co-writers or ghost writers or anything else, but I’m serious when I say that the first third of the book sounds and feels like a totally different person wrote it.  I don’t know if there was a different editor or she set it down and came back to it months later or what happened, but it was definitely a very different book from that point on.

Oh, and at some point (I don’t remember where) there’s some unfortunateness involving Ned and Henry’s cat.  That I legitimately wanted to punch Sue for.  The cat comes through okay, but there’s not a lot I don’t ever want to read in a book, and animal abuse – even potential animal abuse – is way high on the list of shit you just don’t.

The last two-thirds of the book are something that I would expect from picking up a Sue Grafton book.  There’s a fantastic scene with Pearl and Ned, some really classically Sue stuff happens involving Fitz (the one getting blackmailed), and it was balanced nicely with Kinsey’s family stuff.

 

So rating this book is hard.  The first third as a Sue book gets about a 1/5, but a much higher rating if I had just stumbled upon it elsewhere.  The second and third third (that sounds funny, lol!) get at least a 4/5.  But combining them together…?  I’ll give the book a solid 3/5 overall.  If you can overlook the first third of the book, you can bump it up to a 4/5, but if you’re expecting a typical Kinsey Millhone read all the way through, you’ll be disappointed.

Book Review – Daughter of Deep Silence

TITLE: Daughter of Deep Silence
AUTHOR: Carrie Ryan
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHED: 2015

I’ve got to start this review out by saying that I love, love, love Forest of Hands and Teeth that Carrie wrote several years ago, so when I saw this in the library, I snatched it, despite the overly full armload of books I was already carrying.

With Forest, I was transported to a world with amazing details, and a story that I hungered to finish, and as somebody who absolutely hates first person – especially first person present – 90% of the time, I loved that the story carried me through so well that I didn’t care that that was how the book was written.  I figured that Carrie’s writing style would continue on to another book.

 

Daughter of Deep Silence starts off on a cruise ship.  Except something has gone very terribly wrong.  Armed men have come aboard the ship and outright murdered everyone on board.  Well, almost everyone.  The senator and his son of course make it out perfectly fine.  And Frances Average-And-Boring Mace and her newly acquired rich BFF Libby O’Martin, who dies just an hour before a boat finally rescues them.

Senator Wells and his of course perfectly amazing (*swoon*) son Grey have lied about what happened; they say a huge wave took out the boat.  Frances wants to speak up, but then she’s offered the deal of a lifetime from Libby’s father – she looks enough like Libby that she could pass as her, so why not?  After all, her parents were killed on the boat, she’s got no other family.  Why not be a child of affluence instead of an orphan lost in the system?

Fast forward four years, and Frances-turned-Libby is now out of high school and ready for revenge.

*sigh*

I hate the characters’ names.  Grey reminds me of 50 shades, Frances Mace is clunky and hard to say (I’ll wait), which also makes it clunky to read, and Libby O’Martin sounds cheap… like Patty O’Furniture or something.  Seriously, there wasn’t a name in the book I really liked at all, and when the very name of a character is grating, it makes it hard to read the book…

And back to the whole first person present thing.  I came of age right about with the YA movement.  I was there when YA was crap, I was there when it picked up steam, and now that I’m a, um, bit older *cough* I’m still reading the stuff.  When the genre started, the authors were perfectly capable of books that didn’t feel like trashy romance with the sex (barely) removed, and they were perfectly capable of past tense and third person.  I don’t know when we got to the part where those things were totally not allowed, but I really really miss those books.

I get that I’m a little older than it’s target audience, but oh dear gods.  The MC spent the better part of the start of the book gushing over wonderful amazing Gray.  Page after effing page of what pretty much boiled down to how much in love she was and how she couldn’t help but feel him touching her and if only they could be a couple and…  ARGH.

If she were even 16, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad.  But the chick was fourteen.  FOUR TEEN.  Fourteen put me in Junior High, and I can assure you that I wasn’t worried that guys were effing amazing and if I could just make out with them, let alone falling in love with some guy that I had met a day ago and already kissed.  So, sometime around page 80, I realized that I just wanted this bitch to take a cold shower and shut up already.

Oh, and also, we’re dealing with her going back to Libby’s home and ending up with the guy that Libby’s father basically raised as a son and who was in love with Libby.  You know, because if from the time you’re five until you’re twenty, you’re raised like this kid is your sister, you’re totally going to be head over heels for her, right?  We’re talking Libby’s Dad adopted him.  Forgive me while I’m grossed out.

But I had anticipated this book for so long that I was going to read the damn thing at least for a little while longer.  The story line was on an upswing and I hoped that it would improve.

Okay.  Deep breath.  Let’s keep reading.

Somewhere about page 300, the story finally got exciting for me.  Stuff was happening, and we were mostly over the crap about Frances being in love with Grey and totally over the crap about Libby being in love with Shepherd.

The ending got a little over-the-top.  Obviously Carrie Ryan wasn’t going for the less is more thing.

Fortunately, it was a fast read, so I’m only out about four hours of my life.  But still.

 

I think the story about what happened *before* this book started would have been way more interesting than this thing.  I’m sorry I picked it up, and I’m sorry that an author I loved has now been downgraded to “Well, she wrote that one thing, but…”  like Ursula K. LeGuin or several others.  And yeah, I know that I won’t love everything that every author ever does, but it just makes me sad when I come across something that I can’t even *like*.

Bottom line.  A lot of the things that annoyed me about this book were things that might not annoy other readers.  If you like first person and/or present tense, then you’re not going to be nearly as annoyed with this book as I am.  If you don’t care that we have young teenagers stupid in love with each other, then you won’t have nearly the problems with this that I did.

I waited a couple days after reading to rate this.  Before the last 100 pages, I’d’ve given this book a two, but the ending was mostly satisfying and left me with a better taste in my mouth than the start of the book, so I’ll give it a three out of five pages and happily return it to the library.

Book Review: The Body Lovers by Mickey Spillane

Title: The Body Lovers

Author: Mickey Spillane

Format: Paperback, Signet Books

Published: 1967

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When people talk about classic Private Eye writers, three usually bubble to the top.  It’s normally Dashiell Hammett for refining the classic ‘hard boiled’ detective, Raymond Chandler for bestowing upon the trench coated fedora wearing gumshoe the possibility of being a modern day knight, and then Mickey Spillane for giving a rough, balls to the wall, overtly violent edge to the PI character.  Of course, each has their signature character, Spillane’s being the tough as nails, very nearly psychopathic (according to some) Mike Hammer, ready to deliver death at a moment’s notice to those who deserve it.

‘The Body Lovers’ is the tenth Mike Hammer book in the series and a prime example of what I’ve said for sometime.  I think Mike Hammer gets a bum rap often from supposed experts in the Private Eye Fiction field and maybe even some fans.  Spillane’s Hammer is often, if not nearly always described as some sort of seething, angry monster walking on the edges of justice, ready to strike out at his own discretion with deadly violence against the depraved, be they threats against national security or near demons passing through humanity nearly unnoticed.  He is not seen as ever reaching the sophistication of sorts that Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe seems to be credited with from the first story forward, nor is he ever described as a multifaceted character, something that is normally always said about Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade.

In ‘The Body Lovers’, Hammer happens onto a scared kid at a  construction site who has found a dead woman in a negligee.  Insistent to stay on the outside of this particular situation, Hammer ends up pulled in not only when links are drawn between this death and the alleged suicide of another woman previously, also found wearing a negligee, but also when a con Mike sent up the river sends him a message and hires him to find his sister to make sure she’s not the third victim.

What unfolds, once Mike is involved, is a case that involves evil at all stages of society, from foreign dignitaries to the rich upper crust of New York down into the bowels of Greenwich Village and even into the ghetto.  No one is immune from the darkness that seems to be engulfing these women, nor are they protected from the justice seeking Mike Hammer.

This is top of the line Spillane.  Every word is keyed to illicit the perfect reaction, the phrasing is top notch, and the characters are cut from the hardest asphalt any city has to offer.  Mike is on full display here, along with Velda and Pat Chambers.  But, be warned. If You’re reading this to find the unhinged, rather over the top Mike Hammer that you read in ‘I, The Jury’ or ‘One Lonely Night’, then you’re likely to be disappointed. Yes, Hammer has his savage moments in ‘The Body Lovers’, his the rules be damned way of dealing with things.  But that’s not the core of Hammer in this book, not at all.

And why should it be? I think Mickey Spillane is often underrated as an author, especially when compared to others in his field.  Spillane’s Hammer grew and developed with each book, sometimes slightly, sometimes dramatically.  Spillane revealed facets to this dark diamond, and Mike often exceeded, but sometimes regressed to the character at his most primal.  To say that Mike Hammer remained the same throughout each book and what changed was the story around him, which several have insinuated, is unfair to both the author and the character, as well as the reader.

‘The Body Lovers’ puts a more methodical, a more detective like Mike Hammer on stage for all to see, a man who doesn’t have to prove how violent he can be or out of control his methods are, because we know that already.  The fact that Mike is the center of most of the news stories when he just stumbles across the body at the beginning of the book establishes that he is good copy, that he has a reputation.  And although that is a recurrent theme in the book, Spillane does not feel like he has to prove to us that Mike can only be that.  We see Mike work a case from the ground up, after spending a few pages trying to not even be involved.  Mike’s street wise intelligence shines through much more in this book than does his reliance on shooting his way out of things that so many people associate with the character.  ‘The Body Lovers’ is definitely Spillane at not only the top of his Mike Hammer game, but showing his chops as a true author with every single page.

‘The Body Lovers’ is an easy five out of five pages.  Not a missed beat anywhere between the covers.

It’s also a fully loaded six out of six bullets.  Spillane balances violence, crime solving, and characterization like the truly professional author he was, and in my opinion, this is what makes him one of the greatest American writers of the 20th Century.

 

 

 

 

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