Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs

I had this pretty much ready to go yesterday and the day before that, but I didn’t like what I’d written — it’s not like I disagreed with myself (I’m funny that way), but I just had gone off on a tangent and ended up writing about things I didn’t care that much about, and ignored the things I’d been thinking about since I read the book. This isn’t exactly what I meant to talk about, nor is it as clear as I wanted things to be — but it’s close enough. Hope someone gets something out of it.

Burn BrightBurn Bright

by Patricia Briggs

Series: Alpha and Omega, #5

Hardcover, 308 pg.
Ace, 2018

Read: March 7 – 8, 2018

Anna was her father’s daughter, and her father believed in science and rational thinking. She’d been a werewolf for years now, and she still tended to think about it from a scientific viewpoint, as though lycanthropy were a virus.

Faced with a wall of briar-thorned vines straight out of a Grimms’ fairy tale, she’d never had it brought home so clearly that what she was and what she did was magic. Not Arthur C. Clarke magic, where sufficient understanding could turn it into a new science that could be labeled and understood. But a “there’s another form of power in the universe” magic. Something alien, almost sentient, that ran by its own rules-or none. Real magic, something that could be studied, maybe, but would never rest in neatly explainable categories.

I appreciated this look into Anna’s thinking. It matches up with what we’ve seen of Mercy’s take on magic, but not completely, underscoring the differences in t heir personalities and way of looking at the world.

Burn Bright takes place on the heels of Silence Fallen — Bran’s not back yet and Charles is handling things. At least as much as Leah will let him. We’ve known for quite some time that Bran’s pack is full of misfits, wolves that need extra care and attention that they probably couldn’t get elsewhere — particularly older werewolves, the type who are nearing the point where they can’t keep control. Asil is a prime example of this — but now we learn that Asil actually is an example of an older wolf who’s doing just fine and that there are a half-dozen or so living near the Marrock, but that don’t come into town or have much at all to do with anyone not Bran, Charles or a small number of specific individuals.

Now, while the Marrock is gone, someone is targeting these wolves — and all signs point to someone within the pack. Can Charles, Anna and others protect these pack members from this new threat? Can they identify the traitor in their midst, and will Charles have to kill someone he trusted to preserve the safety of all the wolves?

One thing I noticed last year doing my re-read of the Mercy and Alpha & Omega books was just how comfortable I felt in these books — that holds true here, too. It doesn’t matter about the peril being faced by Charles and Anna (or any of the rest of the pack), reading this book was a nice, relaxing time with old friends. Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers, she’s not, but Briggs sure writes a cozy novel. I cannot put my finger on why — if it’s something in Briggs’ style, her voice, the stories, a combination of the three — but it doesn’t matter. As long as she does that, she’ll have loyal readers.

This was a very talk-y story (and maybe all the Charles and Anna stories skew this way, but this seemed a bit more pronounced). More than once I asked “Do we need to tell this story now? Can’t we come back and chat about this later, you know, after everyone is safe?” Of course, the answer is now, and we need all the talk-y bits to get the understanding and information necessary to defeat the bad guys. Still, the author and readers know this, but Charles, Anna and the rest don’t know that and I wish they displayed a greater sense of urgency.

Most of the talk-y portions were discussing the wildlings being targeted by the mysterious (and well-armed) forces at work here. Which at least pays off in the readers getting to know them — which I greatly appreciate. The other person we get to know better is Leah, Bran’s wife and his wolf’s mate. Between these books and the Mercy novels we’ve gotten to know here a bit, but this novel fills that knowledge out. Between Leah and Chrissy (Adam’s ex- in the Mercy books) Briggs displays a real talent in writing women that you cannot stand or trust, but have enough sympathy for that you can’t just hate. They’re manipulative, conniving, and self-promoting in ways that are clearly meant to set your teeth on edge — but there’s something very vulnerable about them, too.

There’s a reveal or two later in the book that seem inevitable — only because that’s how stories work, even when (especially when?) everything is pointing in one direction, but there’s no way an author of any experience would go with something so obvious. It’s hard to get more specific while not giving away the details — but those reveals ended up leaving me dissatisfied only because I called them so early. It feels like when you’re watching a police procedural and identify the killer when the guest star makes their appearance in the first 10 minutes — sure Castle might be charming, Bones’ intern might be delightfully quirky, or Rizzoli might have some sort of compelling side-story, but the mystery part of the story is a disappointment because how is Morgan Fairchild not going to be the killer?

But the focus of the book is on the relationship between Charles and Anna, their mutual trust, the way they help each other in ways no one else can. That part of the novel is rock solid, and as long as Briggs delivers that, who’s going to complain?

I thoroughly enjoyed this one, don’t misunderstand me. And the more I learn about Bran’s pack in Montana, the more I like it and the more I want to know. Asil, as always, was a joy. But . . . the more I think about Burn Bright the less satisfying it seems, the slighter it feels. I’m glad I read it, I’ll likely gladly read it again — and I look forward to the next adventure with these two. But I think Briggs could’ve — and should’ve — done better.


3.5 Stars


Opening Lines: Everything is Normal by Sergey Grechishkin

We all know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover (yet, publishing companies spend big bucks on cover design/art) (also, this has a great cover). But, the opening sentence(s)/paragraph(s) are fair game. So, when I stumble on a good opening (or remember one and pull it off the shelves), I’ll throw it up here. Dare you not to read the rest of the book.

from Everything is Normal: The Life and Times of a Soviet Kid by Sergey Grechishkin:



n.: the most popular form of Soviet humor, a short story or dialogue with a punch line, often politically subversive. “Being simultaneously independent from and parasitically attached to mass cultural production and authoritative discourse, the anekdot served as a template for an alternative, satirical, reflexive, collective voice-over narration of the Soviet century.”

Many of the anekdots under this book’s chapter headings were once punishable in the USSR by up to ten years of forced labor under article 58 of the criminal code (“ Anti-Soviet Propaganda”). This article was used freely to put critics of the Soviet government behind bars. Today, of course, things are very different in Russia. Now it’s article 282.

Maybe it’s just given the subject matter, I was expecting something dreary or earnest or incredibly serious — or all three, but man, I cracked up at that last sentence. I tell you, my friends, this book is going to have to work for less than 4 stars from me at this point.

Saturday Miscellany — 3/17/18

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to millennialdrowning, Merv, Danielle The Bookworm and damppebbles for following the blog this week.

My Little Eye by Stephanie Marland

My Little EyeMy Little Eye

by Stephanie Marland
Series: Starke & Bell, #1

eARC, 351 pg.
Trapeze Books, 2018

Read: March 9 – 12, 2018

They say I was dead for three thousand and six seconds. They say that when I woke I was different, but I don’t know if that’s true. What I do know is that my world became a different place once every one of those precious seconds had expired.

No matter how gripping the prologue might have been, when those’re the first words you get from a character’s POV, you sit up and pay attention.

The Lover is a serial killer just beginning to plague London, and a semi-distracted DI Dominic Bell with his team are making little progress in apprehending him (he’s trying his level best not to be distracted by the press and the brass won’t let him leave his last operation in the dust). Given that the Lover’s technique is improving as the time between kills is decreasing, the pressure is mounting for Bell and the police. One group dissatisfied with their achievements are the members of True Crime London — a group of True Crime aficionados from (duh) London. Some of them have decided to take matters into their own hands so they’ll investigate these crimes themselves — some for the thrill, some to show up the Police, some to draw attention to the fact that the Police are understaffed and underfunded. Clementine has her own reasons — she’s spent some time studying these people as part of her doctoral work in psychology; she hopes to get a better understanding of online communities through this group and she has a theory about “crowd-sourcing justice” she’d like to establish.

We meet both groups (through Dom’s POV and Catherine’s) as they begin to look into the third victim of The Lover. The race is on (even if only one group realizes there’s a race) to find and put a stop to The Lover. I wouldn’t mind more time getting to know the individuals in the respective teams as this goes along — we do get to know some of the people involved in the investigation a bit, but this book focuses on Dom, Clementine and their hunts — everyone else doesn’t matter as much. I could talk a little more about the context for Dom, Clementine and the hunt for the killer — but you don’t want to know more until you get into this book.

The killer? We learn exactly as much as we need to in order that we know that the right guy has been taken care. He is not the most interesting character in the novel — I guess he might be, but Marland didn’t give us enough detail. This is such a great change from serial killer novels that dwell on the obsessions/fetishes/compulsions/methods of the killer, that seem to relish the opportunity to revel in the depravity. Marland shows us enough to be disturbed and utterly sickened by him, to believe that he’s capable of the heinous acts he’s guilty of — and no more. I’m not saying everyone has to write a serial killer this way, but I love that approach.

The protagonists are far more interesting — possibly more damaged even — than the killer. They are wonderfully flawed characters and repeatedly — and I do mean repeatedly — do things that readers will not want them to — because it’s unwise, stupid, dangerous, unethical, immoral, or all of the above. And as much as I was saying “No, no, don’t do that,” I was relishing them do that because it meant great things for the book. At times it’s almost like Marland wants you to not like Dom or Clementine, maybe even actively dislike them. Set that aside, because you will like them, because they are the protagonists hunting for a serial killer; because despite themselves they are likeable characters; and because they’re so well written, with so many layers, and nuances that it’s impossible for Marland to fully explore them and you want to know more. Both are in the middle of professional and personal crises as the book opens — and all of those crises are going to get worse before we leave them (yeah, Dom’s professional life is in worse shape than Clementine’s and Clementine’s been in crisis since just before those 3,006 seconds, so they’re not exactly parallel).

Sometimes the police investigation and the True Crime London’s investigation dig up the same information at about the same time, but on the whole the two follow very different approaches — one more methodical, careful and predictable. The other is haphazard, reckless and (at times) criminal. But both get results, and for the reader, we get a full-orbed view of the investigation which is almost as engrossing as the protagonists carrying it out.

The book is able to say a lot about online communities, True Crime (and some of those who love it as a genre), public acts of grief, criminal investigations and the media — and even a little about memory. All while telling a great story.

While I enjoyed the whole thing, the last quarter of the book was full of surprises that kept me leaning forward in my chair and completely glued to my screen as the plot raced from shock to shock to reveal to [redacted]. There’s a reveal that took me utterly by surprise, but made sense when you stopped and thought about it. There’s another reveal at the end that seemed fitting but wasn’t what you expected — and it followed an event that I never would’ve predicted. Oh, and that last sentence? I can’t tell you how many times I swiped my Kindle screen trying to get what comes next, unwilling to believe that was it.

I was a fan (almost instantaneously) of Marland’s alter ego’s Lori Anderson and that series. My Little Eye has made me a fan of the author — Broadribb, Marland, whatever names she’s publishing under, it’s an instabuy. This book got its hooks into me straightaway and didn’t let go, I resented work and family as they distracted me (however good or pressing the reason) from Clementine and Dom’s quests. I can confidently say that I’ve not read a mystery novel like this one — and that’s not easy this many decades into my love of the genre. I have no idea how Marland’s going to follow this one up — there’s no way that book 2 is a repeat of My Little Eye, but beyond that? No clue what she’ll be able to do. I don’t care — I just want to read it soon.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Orion Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.


4 1/2 Stars

Guest Post (and Giveaway!): 3 Things New Authors Need to Know About Self-Publishing by Michael Phillip Cash

Today, I’m happy to welcome to our humble e-abode Michael Phillip Cash, multi-genre author, screenwriter, and all-around good egg (I assume). After some wise words about self-publishing (a topic he probably knows more than three things about), there’s a link to a giveaway. The giveaway prizes are a $25 Amazon gift card and the signed 4-book A Haunting on Long Island series. I haven’t read the series, but it looks like a pretty solid and intense time. Enjoy!

Michael Phillip Cash3 Things New Authors Need to Know About Self-Publishing

by Michael Phillip Cash

As the self-published author of more than ten novels, I can definitely say I know a bit about the process of self-publishing. I’ve been at it for years and I’ve accumulated a lot of information and I love passing it on to anyone looking to publish his or her own books. Below are just a few of the things I’ve learned along my self-publishing journey.

Get Your Name Out There
Publicity is everything. If you’re not making a brand for yourself, don’t bother writing. Your name should be known by as many people as possible. Get social on social media and do some genuine engaging. Join online writer’s groups and post often. Position yourself as the go-to guy or gal for self-publishing related info. People tend to be more inclined to return the favor when it comes time to share your book info.

Wait, Wait and Wait Some More
You’re going to spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting for your book to be discovered. Waiting for your book to be read. Waiting for book reviews to be posted. Waiting for a mega movie deal.  Just waiting. Don’t let that discourage you. Remember, good things come to those who wait.

Keep Followers Informed
Tell people what’s happening via newsletters, social media posts and word of mouth. As you grow your list of followers and subscribers, you need to keep them up to date on your writing, publishing and marketing efforts.

Marketing, promoting, informing and waiting is all part of the self-publishing process. I won’t lie. Self-publishing can be difficult and time-consuming, but it is definitely incredibly fun and rewarding.

Michael Phillip Cash is the author of the four-book series A Haunting on Long Island. Readers can connect with Michael on his website and Facebook.

and now, as promised, the Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 by B.C.R. Fegan, Lenny Wen

Don't Ever Look Behind Door 32Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32

by B.C.R. Fegan, Lenny Wen (Illustrator)

Kindle Edition, 32 pg.
TaleBlade Press, 2018

Read: March 10, 2018

I was excited — yes, really — to get the email from TaleBlade asking if I’d like a copy of this book. Fegan/Wen’s previous book, Henry and the Hidden Treasure, was one of my favorite books of last year. Could they live up to that one? Thankfully, they could at least come close.

In these pages, Mr. Nicholas Noo takes two children on a tour of “the magical Hotel of Hoo” showing them all the wonderful things in store and repeatedly warning them, “Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32.” He shows what’s behind every other door in between the warnings, most of which is wonderful, some of which is just . . . odd (which I prefer, really). Unlike Disney’s Beast, however, Noo does more than tell the children not to go somewhere, he ultimately tells them why they shouldn’t go there.

I can’t tell you what a pleasant change that is — even if this book is intended for kids — to get a book where a character just tells the others characters everything they need to know to react in a responsible manner. But this isn’t the place for that rant (as tempting as it is).

This book isn’t as good as last year’s Henry and the Hidden Treasure but it’s close — the last page or so of Henry was a sweet note, this ended with a reveal/punchline. Is it bad? No — not at all, it’s just not as good in my eyes. That said, a punchline ending isn’t going to satisfy even a 3-4 year old on the 32nd read through (at least not on its own), but Fegan and Wen don’t rely on that — the book is full of jokes, clever lines, visual wonder, and lots of things to pay attention to along the way.

Sure, you want the book to be appealing to kids, but the real key to success for a kid’s book is appealing to parents/grandparents/caregivers. They’re the ones who have to read, reread, rereread, and rereread again these things. Dr. Seuss and Sandra Boyton enjoy long-lived success because adults enjoy reading them. I think I judge books like this on this standard, but I rarely do it self-consciously. This is one of those books that adults can have fun with even on the fourth “just one more time” of the night. Which has nothing to do with the big reveal at the end, but the trip you take along the way.

Wen’s art is just delightful. Really — the colors are vibrant, the characters look great, there’s something extra to grab your eye on every page. (which is also great for adult readers)

I’d say something neat about the typeface — it’s part of the look of the book, it’s fair game. But I say anything beyond “even the typeface is great looking” I’ll show I have no idea what I’m talking about, so that’s all I’m going to say there.

I can honestly say that I never envisioned having this much to say about a 32 page book, but once I got started, I couldn’t really stop. I really dug this book, you will, too — especially if you have kids to read it to.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinions about this book.


4 Stars

A Few (more) Quick Questions With…David Ahern

David Ahern was nice enough to answer some questions for me when his debut novel, Madam Tulip, came out and somehow, I got him back for another round as we prepare for the release of Book 3 in the series, Madam Tulip and the Bones of Chance. I talked about it earlier today, and really recommend you go grab it (pre-orders are being taken now, it releases April 12).

Anyway, here’s the new batch of questions:

So it’s been almost 2 years since your first novel came into the world, How’s the reality of that (and the follow-up book) match up with your hopes/expectations? Other than James Patterson, I’m sure every writer wants better sales, but are readers being generally receptive?
The important thing for me is that readers enjoy the books, especially the characters; and happily people seem to love Derry and her friends. That’ll do. There are a lot of books out there, and anyone who imagines they’ll be an overnight best-seller isn’t paying attention.
Has your writing process changed? Are things coming easier now — or are you finding yourself working harder as your craft improves?
Writing is a funny old thing. Parts are a hoot, and hugely enjoyable. Other parts are a pain, and like any craft hard work. In a way the job does get harder in that you’ve set the bar for yourself and you want each book to be better than the last. At the same time, you’ve got a comfortable storytelling rhythm you can settle into, and that’s nice.
In Madam Tulip, it seemed like most of this fortune-telling was a joke, Derry being a good listener with a flair for the dramatic and possibly a touch of something else (if you believed in that sort of thing). But in each book since, you seem to be emphasizing the reality of Derry’s gift. Unless I’m misreading that, was that your plan all along, or something you stumbled on to? Do you see this continuing, or will there be a resurgence of the ambiguity?
Hey, this is Ireland. We can believe stuff and laugh at the same time. Seriously though, the main thing is that Derry’s modest powers don’t help her solve mysteries – that would be cheating. But a sensitive person, psychic or not, will sense disturbances and respond unconsciously to situations that don’t seem right or are somehow contradictory or even dangerous. Derry has that ability. It can be scary.
Talk to me a little about Bruce — your Hawk/Joe Pike/Wallace Fennel/Ranger character. I’m not really sure I have a question about him — just tell me something about him and/or writing him.
Almost every woman I know has a close gay male friend they love. I guess because there’s the possibility of a strong friendship without romantic complications. It’s a happy kind of relationship and often a lot of fun. The other side of Bruce is his background as a Navy SEAL. When I was a film maker, I developed a tremendous respect for a certain type of military personality. Bruce has the balanced confidence and extreme competence I associate with the best soldiers (and sailors, of course, as Bruce would remind you).
What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
Ooh, that’s too hard. I’m probably strange, but I only envy non-fiction writers. I read some people and I think, ‘how do you get to be that clever?’ But then I relax, remembering that mostly it’s best not to have a clue.
Thanks so much for the book, these characters and for spending some more time answering my questions — I hope The Bones of Chance is a success!