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Saturday Miscellany – 8/27/16

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:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • The Barista’s Guide To Espionage by Dave Sinclair — Fahrenheit Press has another off-the-beaten-path crime/thriller novel out this week, champing at the bit for this one.
  • I mistakenly listed this earlier in the month, whoops! Here’s where it belongs: Repo Madness by W. Bruce Cameron — I did not expect The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man to get a sequel, it didn’t need one. But I’ll gladly read it.

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and welcome to Real Tasty Pages for following the blog this week. Thanks to katknit for the interaction.

Trampling in the Land of Woe by William Galaini

Trampling in the Land of Woe Trampling in the Land of Woe

by William Galaini
Series: Patron Saints of Hell, #1

Kindle Edition, 360 pg.
Scarlet River Press, 2015

Read: August 24 – 25, 2016


This is a well-written, imaginative book with a stack of great characters — they have depth, individual voices and points of view. Coming up with the idea of this book is a stroke of something, I’m not sure what. I trust that Galaini’s parents had him tested as a child.

How do you even give a synopsis of this? Imagine Dante’s After-Life, but fuzzier on morality/religion/ethics than the Alighieri would be comfortable with. Denizens of Purgatory (and the Heavenbound) can move around from place to place (not sure if the damned can, it doesn’t appear so) — at least to “lower” levels than their own. As technology among the living advances, the dead use it, too — but instead of regular old Steam Power, they use Hellfire — which is a much better source of energy (for example). Living for thousands of years gives you plenty of time to refine your science.

Now, Alexander the Great’s right hand man, lifelong friend, and companion, Hephaestion, has decided that Alexander’s been consigned to Hell long enough and is going to liberate him. Hephaestion has been in Purgatory since his death and has spent a millennia or so preparing for his rescue mission. He’s going to sneak into Hell, track Alexander down and slip out the back door. The plan goes awry from almost the beginning and Hephaestion has to rely on newly minted friends and allies to get him where he’s going.

For some reason that’s only made clear at the end, the Jesuits aren’t fans of this, and use a variety of means (bribes, threats, assassins) to dissuade Hephaestion and his friends from their quest. Many of these assassins are ninjas. Which is just cool, I gotta say.

There’s all sorts of strange magic, odd beasts, crazy settings and some great fight scenes here — Galaini can write. Make no mistake.

But man, I just didn’t like it — I didn’t connect with any of the characters (there’s a couple I might’ve been able to, if they’d been around more), the quest seemed wrong-headed and doomed at best (as at least one person tried to tell Hephaestion), and I couldn’t muster up the interest to get invested. I persisted, in case he won me over (and Galaini came close), because I told the publisher I would, and I was mildly curious. My curiosity wasn’t rewarded, sadly. I’m not saying it’s a bad book — it’s not. It’s not a book for me.

I’m giving it 3 because it deserves at least that objectively on merit — my gut says to give it two, it just didn’t click for me — but it’s so well-written than I have to bump it up one. I do expect many would like it more than me, and if I’d read it at some other point in time, I might have liked it more (but I don’t think so).

Disclaimer: – I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. I thank them for the opportunity.

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3 Stars

Debt to Pay by Reed Farrel Coleman

Debt to PayRobert B. Parker’s Debt to Pay

by Reed Farrel Coleman
Series: Jesse Stone,, #15

eARC, 352 pg.
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016

Read: August 20 – 22, 2016

Since the closing pages of Blind Spot, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to fall victim to gravity. Jesse Stone has been, too. Well, after a more typical Stone novel, the wait is over — Mr. Peepers, the sadistic hitman that almost killed Suitcase Simpson and evaded Jesse, is back.

Just in time for just in time for Jesse’s ex, Jen’s wedding.

Before I forget, isn’t that a great move? Build suspense by ignoring the cliffhanger-esque ending for a whole book? In the wrong hands, that’d be annoying, but done right? Very effective.

Jesse and his lady-love, Diana (the FBI agent turned private security consultant) are off to Texas to meet Jen’s fiance, maybe get a little closure, and covertly protect Jen from the special mix of psychological and physical torture that Peepers subjects his victims to before killing them. While Jesse seems to be several steps behind, Peepers seems to be calling all the shots — he’s got all the power and is making Jesse jump through whatever hoops he wants him to.

Meanwhile, changes are afoot with the Paradise Police Department, State Homicide and Suit’s life (and a few other places) — just so we don’t all get too wrapped up in Pepper’s quest for vengeance.

As he has in the previous two novels in this series, Coleman keeps things moving at a great pace, the suspense keeps getting ratcheted up — interspersed by heartwarming, amusing, and troubling moments, so it’s not suspense overkill. There are some great character moments — especially with Diana and Jesse, Suit and a few people, Jesse and a bottle. There’s no mystery here — we all know who the villain of the piece is, the only question is how Peppers will attack and who will remain standing at the end of the book.

In his other major series, Parker introduced a paid assassin, The Gray Man, who almost killed Spenser and plagued him for a while afterwards. Mr. Peepers is far creepier, deadlier, and interesting than the Gray Man ever was. I really didn’t like being in that dude’s head as much as we were — which means that Coleman succeeded in making him a terrible person — I felt like washing my brain out with soap to get over some of the Peepers chapters.

Ace Atkins has returned Spenser to his roots (moved things forward, don’t get me wrong, it’s not just a nostalgia trip), but Coleman has taken Jesse and the rest and shaken things up — he’s stayed true to the characters, the series, the feel — but he’s pushed things ahead and has probably made more real changes to the series than Parker did since book 2 (but making things feel risky and inventive feels like the roots of this series). Actually, he’s not just changed this series — he’s done things that affect the whole of the Parker-verse. Just look at Suit — everything we need to know about what Coleman’s doing to the series is embodied there. I know Coleman’s take is not that popular with some long-time fans, but I couldn’t be happier — either with the series as it is right now, or with this book.

This was riveting, literally never a dull moment — not relentless, you can relax occasionally, even grin. But I had to force myself to put it down to do the responsible adult thing a couple of times. I expect most fans of Jesse and the PPD folks will have similar experiences with Debt to Pay.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from G.P. Putnam’s Sons via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

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4 1/2 Stars

The Shadow Bearers on Inkshares

Friend of the blog, Jayme Beddingfield, and her co-writer, Rebecca Clark have a neat looking novel they’re trying to get published. The Shadow Bearers — an expansion of a short-story they co-wrote — is up for funding on Inkshares.

Countless Huditra villages demolished by a darkness spreading throughout the lands. Thousands slain by the falling shadows. Hate looms over the forgotten lands like heavy fog stifling the little life that’s left. Over the years the Nafarat have been casting their magic, destroying all that’s natural. The War From Nowhere forced those who’ve survived the initial attacks into hiding. Nothing alive was safe. Both Tag, the leader of the Nari, river, people and Athea, the future chief of Dagee, the tribe behind the mountains, are all that’s left standing of their kind. With their home grounds no longer safe Tag and Athea hit the traveler’s road, each with individual missions. When their paths cross, they reluctantly team up to seek the answers that will lead them to free the land of shadows.

Once they hit the magic number of 750 preorders, Inkshares will publish and distribute the novel — and if that’s not enough, they’re competing in the Inkshares/Geek & Sundry Fantasy Contest — which just puts the whole Inkshares thing into overdrive. Follow the project over on Inkshares to help them in the contest, and if you can spare a dime, preorder the novel. I bet you’ll (we’ll, actually) be glad you did.

An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson

An Obvious FactAn Obvious Fact

by Craig Johnson
Series: Walt Longmire, #12

eARC, 320 pg.
Viking, 2016

Read: July 29 – 30, 2016

4 Stars

Craig Johnson is so consistent with these books that he makes it really hard to write about them. I’ve struggled with this one for weeks — how can I say something I haven’t before? I’m not sure I can, but I guess I can start with what makes this one different from the rest.

For starters, Henry’s borrowed Walt’s set of Sherlock Holmes (without his knowledge or consent, but who cares) and spends the novel quoting Holmes at inopportune times to his buddy. I laughed every time. Walt didn’t find it that amusing — and paid him back by talking about what a silly and reckless endeavor riding motorcycles is — much less racing/jumping/etc. He had plenty of opportunity to make these kind of remarks as the two of them were in Hulett, WY for the world’s largest motorcycle rally, where Henry is attempting to recapture a victory of his younger days.

Walt’s been brought in to help with the investigation of a motorcycle crash, the small local police force is stretched beyond itself due to the rally and really can’t take it on. It seems pretty cut and dry on the surface — just a bad break and a bit of careless driving. But every time Walt looks at another piece of evidence, he finds more reasons to doubt the obvious facts.

We learn a lot about Henry in this book — but he’s not really in it all that much (at least less than he’s been in others, lately). And while he’s not really at odds with Walt, you really can’t say that he’s on his old friend’s side throughout (nor is he really acting all that rationally).

Vic comes back to Wyoming, and injects her flair into the investigation and Walt’s life. She also continues to be the embodiment of many men’s dreams between her looks, brains, language, driving and shooting. I’m not going to say if she’s my Platonic ideal, I will say that for a totally unrealistic character, she’s a whole lotta fun.

The Whodunit was pretty easy, the Whydunit was trickier (and the Accessories to the Who were more difficult, but not hard). But, hey, we don’t read these books for the puzzle — we do it to watch Walt figure things out and to spend time with our friends from the Equality State (and the nations within it). In the end, this is just what you expect out of a Walt Longmire novel — some laughs, a nice little puzzle, a little fisticuffs, maybe a little gunplay (not necessarily a shoot-out). Well-paced, well-told, all in a day’s work for Johnson.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Viking via First to Read in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

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4 Stars

Saturday Miscellany – 8/20/16

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:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • Rise the Dark by Michael Koryta — Koryta’s fantastic and the predecessor to this blew me away, this is going to rock.
  • Dead to Rites by Ari Marmell — 1930’s Urban Fantasy — just a fun series
  • The Eternity Fund by Liz Monument — something a little “out there” even by Fahrenheit’s standards
  • Invasive by Chuck Wendig — techno-ish thriller that sounds like it could be an episode of Fringe, but stranger.

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and welcome to BusinessandBook and DPNews for following the blog this week.

Reread Project: Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams

Mostly HarmlessMostly Harmless

by Douglas Adams
Series: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy, #5

Hardcover, 278 pg.
Harmony Books, 1992

Read: July 7 – 12, 2016

1 Stars

I was dreading this one — typically, like X-Men: The Last Stand, or The Highlander sequels, I prefer to pretend this doesn’t exist. It’s the only one of the series that I haven’t bought my son, and I don’t plan on changing that. Which doesn’t mean I couldn’t be won over — after 4 or 5 tries, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency finally clicked with me, I keep hoping this will.

But it didn’t this time (I think my 5th reading).

Which is not to say there aren’t some parts that don’t deserve to be celebrated — almost everything Ford does (for example) is great. There’s a little bit with Trillian, a bit of Tricia McMillan (no, really, I meant to list those separately) and a smidgen of the Arthur material that’s okay. But not much. Don’t get me started on Random.

There’s some really clever bits here and there, some great lines — and some bits that are clearly attempts to recapture the spirit/zaniness of the earlier books, but without the heart. The narrative as a whole (after such a huge leap forward with So Long) was worthless, the story didn’t work. And the ending? Flummery. It was like Adams was just trying to get away from the series and put it in his rearview mirror. Which I get, I absolutely understand, he wanted to do something other than just crank out another Hitchhiker’s after another after another. But this was not the way to do it.

Just avoid this one, don’t bother. But if you think I’m wrong — tell me why! I’d love to be convinced that Adams couldn’t write a bad book.

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1 Star