Repo Madness by W. Bruce Cameron

Repo MadnessRepo Madness

by W. Bruce Cameron
Series: Ruddy McCann, #2

Hardcover, 368 pg.
Forge Books, 2016

Read: September 7 – 8, 2016

I dropped Jake off at Kermit’s office before I headed out of town and tried to ignore how eager my dog was to leave the repo truck. ‘you know you belong to me,” I reminded him. He gave my hand an affectionate, reassuring lick. I think we both knew I was being condescended to by a basset hound.

Ahhh, Ruddy McCann — from local (and rising) sports star to someone pitied by a hound. Life isn’t that nice for him — even his heroics at the end of The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man didn’t do much to improve his life.

One day, he’s minding his business and a complete stranger comes up and tells him that he’s not guilty of the crime he was convicted of. This encounter turns his world upside down — he remembers nothing that happened around that time, he just assumed he was as guilty as he was told. But if he wasn’t?

He starts looking into things and soon finds more dead women than he expects — and before he knows it, Ruddy (and Alan) are on the trail of a possible serial killer.

He’s also found himself doing errands for (and maybe accidentally threatening people on behalf of) a corrupt banker — he is making pretty decent money this way, but he’s not sure he should. Still, he needs money as a couple of local police have taken to shutting down any of his repossession activities. So he soldiers on, while trying to find a way to take this guy down, too.

Ruddy’s having some difficulty in his personal life, too — both with his fiancée and his sister. Because a barely employed ex-con needs more complications in his life than stopping two crime sprees. Alan’s advice (as unwilling as he is to give it) probably saves the day, for him.

I’m not crazy about his psychologist as a character — but as an antagonist he worked well. Also, I’m not sure I like what we seem to have learned about Alan from him. The banker was amusing, I’m not sure I took him as seriously as a criminal, but I had fun with him. I may have liked Katie more in the last book, but she’s a good character and I enjoyed her effect on Ruddy.

I don’t know why Cameron gave Ruddy’s brother-in-law, Kermit, this knack for using the wrong word so often, but I have to tip my cap to him — it has to be hard to write (and not overdo it) and it works so well for building a character and bringing some extra lightness to his scenes.

Cameron walks a fine line between humor and serious drama — I don’t find this as funny as some, but it is light and amusing. That doesn’t take away from the drama, the danger or anything — it just makes the narrative easier to read.

This is one of those sequels that you don’t see the need for — The Midnight Plan was a fun novel, and a complete story, but it did leave the door open for this one (and Repo Madness has left at least one more open). I’m glad that Cameron brought Rudy back and look forward to his return. This was another solid outing for this unlikely hero.

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3 Stars

The Informationist (Audiobook) by Taylor Stevens, Hillary Huber

The Informationist The Informationist

by Taylor Stevens, Hillary Huber (Narrator)
Series: Vanessa Michael Munroe, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 12 hrs, 30 min.
Random House Audio, 2011
Read: December 7 – 13, 2016


When I read this 4 years ago, I only had a little to say, but let’s start with it:
Heckuva ride. Vanessa Michael Munroe is Lisbeth Salander with a healthier mental state (not saying she’s perfectly well adjusted…she’s just better adjusted). Same intensity, same ferocity, same tenacity. A character you want to see more of.

I think the novel had a couple too many twists and turns–don’t ask me which could be cut out w/o sacrificing the whole, though. But really, if my major complaint about the novel is that the mystery is too complex, keeps you guessing too much? Is that really a knock?

This time through, I think I appreciated the depth of Munroe’s character and backstory a bit more. Stevens created a rich character and I look forward to seeing what she does with this world.

Huber’s narration was pretty good — she kept things going well, and captured both the emotion and tension. The only problem I had was with one character — an African male sounded too much like Kate Mulgrew doing a Russian accent for me.

—–

3 Stars

Saturday Miscellany – 1/14/17

The last couple of weeks have been the snowiest here since the 1890s — which is a pretty long time. The kids have had an extra week of break, I’ve not been able to make it into work 3 days in the last 2 weeks (and I’m doing better than some). Which has played havoc with posting/reading schedules for ye olde blog, too. One of those things that I’m the only one who notices, probably.

Still, it’s Saturday, so time for some links and whatnot. Here are the 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:

  • Big Law by Ron Liebman — where big business and law intersect, you find all sorts of nasty machinations. This looks promising.
  • The Silver Skull by Anne Renwick — book two of The Elemental Web Chronicles, the first book of which was a lot of fun.

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

Shadowed Souls edited by Jim Butcher, Kerrie L. Hughes

Shadowed SoulsShadowed Souls

edited by Jim Butcher, Kerrie L. Hughes
Series: The Dresden Files, #14.5; InCryptid, #531; Simon Canderous, #0.5 (I’m guessing) ; and some others that I don’t have a tag for right now

Paperback, 330 pg.
Roc, 2016

Read: January 10, 2017


This is a collection of stories

based on the idea that good and evil are just two aspects of a complicated and very human story . . . [with plots that] play with the concept and invite the reader to explore the edges of their own darkness.

Eleven of the best Urban Fantasy authors working today contributed to this book, each bringing their worlds to life from that basis.

I’m not going to talk about each story, just about those from authors I talk a lot about here — I don’t have the time and energy to talk about Kevin J. Anderson, Kat Richardson, Tanya Huff or the others. If for no other reason, I feel like I should read more of these series/characters/authors before talking about them — many of whom are on my “Try Out Sometime” list.

We, like the book, have to start with “Cold Case” by Jim Butcher. Harry’s former apprentice, Molly, gets to shine in this story. This is one of her first tasks in her new role as Winter Lady — in Alaska, fittingly enough. There’s a large amount of on-the-job training going on for her — more than she bargains for, really. We also get to spend some time with Warden Carlos Martinez — been too long since we saw him. Perfect mix of action, humor and atmosphere — we also get a good idea what’s in store for poor ol’ Molly.

We got to meet another member of the Price family in Seanan McGuire’s “Sleepover”. Elsie Harrington is a half-succubus cousin to Verity, Alex and Antimony. Their presence is felt in the story, but other than a couple of name-drops, they don’t factor into things, it’s just in that series’ universe. Elsie’s watching Antimony in a roller derby match and finds herself kidnapped. Not for any nefarious reasons — just because some people needed her help and are bad at asking for favors. Elsie has a very Price-like voice and outlook on life, but she’s got her own way of doing things. I really enjoyed this — even if the ending felt abrupt.

Anton Strout got to revisit the series that gave him his start in “Solus,” which featured Simon Canderous as a rookie DEA Agent dealing with a haunted house. His partner/mentor, Connor Christos, has almost no use for him at this point and seems to have no interest at all in working with him/training him. Maybe I’m not remembering the character as clearly as I thought, but I thought I liked him as a person more. Still, this was early enough in the relationship that it was probably the right way to deal with it. Other than happening before I was ready for it, I really enjoyed the conclusion of this story. In short, “Solus” was good, it reminded me why I liked the series and why I miss it.

My one complaint about all these stories (save for “Cold Case”), was that they were too short. It’s not just Strout and McGuire. In all the stories, just as things started to get going, they resolved. I’m not saying I wanted a collection of novellas, but another 5-10 pages each, maybe?

Yeah, like all collections, you’re going to get some that just don’t work for a particular reader, and others that are going to get a reader pumped – and maybe one that’ll make you wonder why you bothered. Your lists of each will be different from mine — but there’ll be more than enough of the good ones to make it worth your while. You may even find a new series/author to check out.

—–

3 Stars

2017 Library Love Challenge

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez

I’ve been trying to finish this since September — thankfully, today being A. Lee Martinez Appreciation Day gave me the motivation.

The Last Adventure of Constance VerityThe Last Adventure of Constance Verity

by A. Lee Martinez
Series: Constance Verity, #1

Hardcover, 384 pg.
Saga Press, 2016

Read: September 8 -12, 2016

“I didn’t think you believed in jinxes,” said Tia.

Connie didn’t.

But she wasn’t so sure that jinxes didn’t believe in her, and they’d had a long, long time to build a grudge.

I go in to a Martinez book assuming I’ll like it, this one took less time than usual for me to know I liked it. Lines like that are just part of why.

Thanks to a gift from a fairy godmother, since she was 7, Constance Verity has been saving the world as she goes on unbelievable adventure after unbelievable adventure — she travels the galaxy, time, alternate realities and all over (and under) the Earth. She’s run into demons, aliens, wizards, killer robots, mad scientists and many more threats — and overcome them all. A couple of decades later, she’s starting to think that she’s missing out on something despite all the excitement. She’s missing out on being ordinary.

Haven’t you saved the world on multiple occasions?”

“That’s what people tell me, but I’m beginning to think that the world isn’t as fragile as all that. The universe got along just fine for billions of years without me. I don’t think it needs me to save it. I think it all works out about the same in the end. Sometimes, I like to think of myself with a dead-end job that I dislike, a husband who is letting himself go, and some ungrateful kids I take to soccer practice. It sounds dreary, but at least it would be my life.”

Connie doesn’t stop to consider if she’s really cut out for ordinary, but if anyone can rise to the challenge of normality, it’s Constance Verity.

So she and her sidekick best-friend, Tia, head out to get that normal life for her. Step 1: Kill her fairly godmother.

I really don’t know what to say about the book beyond this without getting into more details than I ought. I guess I could say a few things about character. Connie is a great character, for someone who’s lived a superhuman life, she’s really human. Tia is incredible — wise, funny, caring, a real good friend. The relationship between the two is almost perfect.

This is a typical Martinez — a strange combination of loony and thoughtful. You can laugh and then be struck by a profound thought within a couple of pages. This is a fun adventure (a handful, really), and a bit of a commentary on heroes, villains, tropes and themes in SF stories (particularly the pulp-ier variety).

This is the first installment in a series — which is something Martinez hasn’t done before — I have no clue how he’ll pull this off, the book ends like I’d expect a Martinez stand-alone to end, so I have no idea how he’s going to follow this up. But I cannot wait to see.

—–

4 Stars

Cover Reveal: Chameleon by Zoe Kalo

Premise

Kicked out of school, 17-year old Paloma finds herself in an isolated convent in the tropical forests of 1970s Puerto Rico, where she must overcome her psychosis in order to help a spirit and unveil a killer

Blurb:

An isolated convent, a supernatural presence, a dark secret…

17-year-old Paloma only wanted to hold a séance to contact her dead father. She never thought she would be kicked out of school and end up in an isolated convent. Now, all she wants is to be left alone. But slowly, she develops a bond with a group of girls: kind-hearted Maria, insolent Silvy, pathological liar Adelita, and their charismatic leader Rubia. When, yet again, Paloma holds a séance in the hope of contacting her father, she awakens an entity that has been dormant for years. And then, the body count begins. Someone doesn’t want the secret out…

Are the ghost and Paloma’s suspicions real—or only part of her growing paranoia and delusions?

Genre: YA/Gothic/Ghost/Multicultural
Word Count: 55,000
Release Date: February 2017

About the Author:

A certified bookworm, Zoe Kalo has always been obsessed with books and reading. Reading led to writing—compulsively. No surprise that at 16, she wrote her first novel, which her classmates read and passed around secretly. The pleasure of writing and sharing her fantasy worlds has stayed with her, so now she wants to pass her stories to you with no secrecy—but with lots of mystery…

A daughter of adventurous expats, she’s had the good fortune of living on 3 continents, learning 4 languages, and experiencing a multicultural life. Currently, she’s working on a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature, which she balances between writing, taking care of her clowder of cats, and searching for the perfect bottle of pinot noir.

Connect with Zoe Kalo on the web: www.ZoeKalo.com / Facebook / Twitter

Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells

Hunger Makes the WolfHunger Makes the Wolf

by Alex Wells

eARC, 326 pg.
Angry Robot, 2017

Read: January 6 – 10, 2016


Let’s just get this out there — this is a very cool novel. If you dig SF that’s not beholden to space ships and lots of future tech — and can even handle a little bit of magic, you’ll want to read this one.

Tanegawa’s World is a little forgotten backwater of a planet — think Tatooine — so forgotten that none of the colonists there really have a clue that there’s an interplanetary government, or what’s going on with any other planet. The company that runs the mines (and by extension, the farming communities that support the mines) runs the whole show. There are organizations of workers in individual towns, and there’s a loose network connecting them, for mutual assistance and support. And then there are the Ghost Wolves — a band of mercenary bikers. They are a law unto themselves, but have strong ties to the miner groups. They may be supported by/sympathized with by most people in the towns, but officially they’re outlaws.

Hob Ravani is the lowest ranked member of the Wolves — she’s made some serious blunders that required her to go through the training/probationary process twice. But she’s a full-fledged member now, and the leader, Nick Ravani (no blood tie, but he gave her his name), seems to trust her, even as he’s still testing her commitment following these blunders. Making a routine run with a couple of other Wolves, Hob finds the body of Nick’s brother lying dead in the sand, shot in the back several times. This discovery — and the ensuing investigation, retaliation, and the side-effects of both — will end up changing Tanegawa’s World and the lives of many of its people in ways that no one can expect.

Which is not to say that this is a big, global story. It’s not. This is about Hob and her immediate circle. They just find themselves (and, eventually, put themselves) in some critical areas — and also don’t realize just what they’re getting themselves into. Mag, the dead man’s daughter, is Hob’s estranged best friend, and will be the favorite character of many readers. There are Geri and Freki — twins who are only slightly senior to Hob when we meet them, they’re not really friends of hers, but they are allies she can count on when she needs to — and on this world, that might be more important. There’s Coyote, who I enjoyed immensely, and a couple of other Wolves that we spend time with, but most aren’t factors in the story. There’s one more person in her circle, the Bone Collector — I’m not even going to try to sum him up in a sentence, but he’s worth getting to know.

On the flip side we have Mr. Green, who is just creepifyin’ (as Mal Reynolds would say), a Weatherman (not like Al Roker) and a couple of cut-throat corporate types who just this side of wearing black hats and twirling their mustaches They are absolutely believable and not cartoon-y, but reek of “bad guy.”

There is something that could be magic going on here — it’s definitely seen as magic by some. It might be radiation-induced mutation. It could be some sort of world-spirit/alien entity doing something to people. It’s tough to say, and it really doesn’t matter — some individuals on Tanegawa’s World possess abilities that others don’t. The ultimate cause of those abilities makes no difference to the story, it’s interesting to speculate about (and to see why various groups adopt their interpretation and how they use it) — but at the end of the day, it just means that there are a few characters walking around with extra abilities which don’t define them, but are definitely helpful.

The plotting is good, the pacing is strong, and there’s a strong voice throughout the work. This is just an impression — I can’t quote anything to verify it (were I a professional, I’d make the effort), but while the voice is consistent and strong throughout, I think Wells is a bit more aggressive about it in the opening chapters. In sort of a “come on strong and get you into the world” then dial back to “now here’s the story.” Or maybe it’s “throw you into the deep end” and then let you swim undisturbed. Or maybe I acclimatized Or maybe I should stop trying to make this point and move on. My overall point on voice — both the narrative voice, and the individual characters — it that it was strong, clear and engaging — the kind that you want to spend 300 pages with. Wells demonstrates the chops to keep and build an audience, if they’ll just give the book a shot.

I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to Dune and this world — I’ve never been able to get through much of the first book, and nor the adaptations — so I can’t comment. There’s a lot of sand, so, I guess maybe. Tanegawa’s World feels like something out of O’Keefe’s Scorched Continent or Firefly — a mining/agricultural society in what might as well be the Old West with (some) better technology than we have. Arguably, this planet is a little less hospitable to humans and The Powers That Be are a shade more corrupt.

I’ve also seen a lot of talk about the biker gang aspect of the book. It didn’t feel as prominent as I’d have liked — it was there, but it didn’t seem that vital to the nature of the mercenary crew the Ravani leads. If I had to compare it to anything, the Ghost Wolves felt more like a UF werewolf pack than anything else. That may say more about what I’ve been reading than anything that Wells wrote, still I got more of a Briggs/Vaughn/etc. vibe to the group than a Kurt Sutter-vibe. Outside of a handful of individual members, I didn’t get a clear feel for the Wolves. It’s understandable, Wells had a lot balls in the air and was doing just a good job juggling them that I didn’t notice. In retrospect, however, I’d have appreciated a little more time with this aspect.

I feel like I’ve gone on too long here, but I haven’t touched all the things I want to say. There’s just so much going on in these few hundred pages! Despite all that, you don’t get bogged down in the worldbuilding, the details, the backstories, or anything — Hunger Makes the Wolf is a fun, fast, gripping read. I trust there’s a sequel on the way. There just has to be. Not that this isn’t a complete story — there’s just a lot of threads that beg to be picked up. Either way, you’ll want to read this one.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Angry Robot via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this opportunity.

—–

4 Stars