Besieged by Kevin Hearne

BesiegedBesieged

by Kevin Hearne
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles, #4.1, 4.2, 4.6, 4.7, 8.1, 8.6

Hardcover, 235 pg.
Del Rey Books, 2017

Read: July 25 – 27, 2017

“Tell me about the old days, Atticus, when you were wee and had to walk both ways uphill in feces because no one had toilets.”

Granuaile’s request for a story around the campfire during her training sets the stage for this collection of stories from The Iron Druid Chronicles, primarily about events that took place prior to the first time we meet Atticus. Thankfully, we don’t get as much fecal matter as she suggests (although, it is there).

We see Atticus in San Francisco during the Gold Rush; in Egypt, annoying that pantheon (and setting the stage for complications in a previously published short story); in London, meeting and influencing a certain Bard of Avon; we also get a bit of post-Tricked action and learn why Atticus doesn’t spend much time in Nebraska. I enjoyed all of these — I don’t know that I got amazing new insights in to any of the characters, it was just nice to see them in low-risk adventures. Time with Atticus and Oberon (and the rest) is almost always time well spent.

Not all of the stories were from Atticus’ perspective. These weren’t as appealing to me, but I did enjoy them. I wasn’t crazy about the story featuring Flidias and Perun — the setting was pretty off-putting for me. Although I did enjoy Perun’s narration and in the end the story won me over. There’s a story from Granuaile’s perspective about enforcing the agreement to rid Poland of vampires. This was the most I’ve liked her since Trapped, which was quite a relief. Of the two stories told from Owen’s perspective, the one set post-Staked worked better for me than the one about his life before he became anyone’s archdruid. I really like watching Owen try to train this group of children while attempting to keep from recreating the mistakes of the past.

I can’t say much about the last story, because it takes place immediately before the series finale, due next year. It whet my appetite for the last book, for sure (not that I needed it) — and reminded me that I might need to keep a supply of Kleenex handy.

Not as good as a novel, but a satisfying collection of tales in this world. A must for fans — casual or die-hard.

—–

4 Stars

Kindness Goes Unpunished (Audiobook) by Craig Johnson, George Guidall

Kindness Goes Unpunished (Audiobook)Kindness Goes Unpunished

by Craig Johnson, George Guidall
Series: Walt Longmire, #3
Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hrs., 42 min. pg.
Recorded Books, 2011
Read: June 29 – July 3, 2017

I was going to try to come up with something original for this time through the book, but mostly, I liked what I said last time, so let’s stick to that. I do have a few new things to say at the end, I should note.

It’s a sure sign that I need to spend more time reading Johnson than watching the show based on this series in that I’m consistently surprised at how funny these books are. Sure Henry Standing Bear’s dry wit is there, Vic is brash and inappropriate — amusing enough — but the narration, Walt himself? I chuckled a lot.

So, Walt and Henry (and Dog!) are off to the City of Brotherly Love to visit Walt’s daughter, Cady, meet her boyfriend, and for Henry to do something at a museum (just an excuse to see Cady). Oh, and conveniently enough, to meet Vic’s family (three police officers, one former police officer, and one attractive mother). After arriving in town, Walt doesn’t even get to see Cady before she’s brutally attacked and hospitalized.

Naturally, Walt stumbles upon the one person in Philadelphia who’s more knowledgeable and interested in Indians than Henry. It’s that interest (obsession?) and his connection to Walt that makes Walt the best man to track down the man who put Cady in the hospital (and other assorted nefarious acts). That’s a level of coincidence that you just buy — like Gideon Oliver vacationing somewhere that a set of bones surprisingly shows up; Nero Wolfe needing information from someone who’s a sucker for orchids; or that every falsely accused murderers that Andy Carpenter stumbles upon happen to own a cute dog.

There’s enough twists, turns — and one seeming unnecessary but entertaining diversion (that turns out to be not so ancillary) — to satisfy any mystery reader. Even out of water, this fish can swim. There’s some very interesting things that go on in the character’s personal lives that should make things interesting down the road (and that I can’t talk about while remaining spoiler free) — enough to make this more than a tale of a father’s vengeance.

The first chapter (only one in Wyoming) is great — Walt totally failing to connect with an elementary school classroom, a fun and prototypical Absaroka County shootout, and other things that make up a typical day for Sheriff Longmire on the eve of his trip.

One thing that I did take note of last time, but didn’t write about was the theme of daughters and parents. There’s a lot about Vic and her mother, but the focus is on Cady and the place that she has in Walt’s head and heart. I’m not sure how you could read/listen to this without your heart melting a bit — particularly if you have a daughter who’s growing up a bit too quickly, like me. Guidall did a solid job with his narration of this book, but his performance in the last chapter just about broke me.

Walt in the big city, like Walt in the least populated corner of Wyoming, is just a pleasure to spend time with — even if things are going horribly for him.

—–

4 Stars

Death Without Company (Audiobook) by Craig Johnson, George Guidall

Death Without CompanyDeath Without Company

by Craig Johnson, George Guidall
Series: Walt Longmire, #2
Unabridged Audiobook, 9 hrs. and 51 mins
Recorded Books, 2007
Read: June 7- 12, 2017

Everything to do with women is foolish, and, therefore, absolutely essential.

This novel picks up a couple of weeks after The Cold Dish, with Walt still trying to get his head on straight — and it’s not going to well. The major impetus for him now is the impending arrival of his daughter, Cady, for a visit over the holidays. There was enough of a gap between the time I read the first two installments in this series that I missed a lot of the ties that connected the two. I appreciated a lot of the little nuances this time through the novel that I’d missed the first time.

Otherwise, I pretty much agree with what I said before:

The atmosphere of the book, the relationships between Vic, the Ferg, Henry, Cady and Walt are effortless, they feel like coworkers and friends. So even when the bodies start to pile up, the external pressures mount, and answers are in short supply, there’s an ease to things that make the book more entertaining than it could’ve been. Even as Sheriff, Walt still comes across as deferential and secondary to his former boss Lucian Connally (though he doesn’t hesitate to put his foot down when necessary).

When Lucian tells Walt in no uncertain terms that a death in the retirement home he lives in is not from natural causes, he has to investigate. Even if he’s not entirely convinced. It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that Lucian’s right — otherwise, we wouldn’t have a novel to read. Which takes Walt on a journey through the murky history of both one of Walt’s oldest friends and the area he calls home — this time with a different minority group as the focus (though the Rez and its inhabitants are always lurking around in the background).

There’s a new romantic interest in these pages — as well as a couple of new deputies for Absaroka County (the particular skill set of one of these is a bit too deus ex machina-y for my tastes, but he’s so likable, who cares?). Throw in the kind of snow storm you can only get in rural Wyoming (or areas like it) and some brushes with Indian spirituality, and you get a distinctive kind of mystery novel, making the adventures of Walt Longmire and his cohorts the kind of story you can get nowhere else. It won’t take me as long to come back to this series next time.

Guidall took awhile to grow on me in the first book — but now he’s just what Walt sounds like (I imagine when I read a Longmire book the voice in my head will be some sort of blend between Guidall and Robert Taylor). I thought he did a great job all around.

This novel took the foundation that Johnson laid and started building on it so that it could become the series we all love. I’m glad I got a chance to revisit it, and recommend those that haven’t tried it yet to come on down to Absaroka County.

—–

3.5 Stars

Bound by Benedict Jacka

BoundBound

by Benedict Jacka
Series: Alex Verus, #8

Mass Market Paperback, PAGE pg.
Ace, 2017

Read: April 10 – 11, 2017


I expected this book to start with the equivalent of Voldemort bending Wormtail to his will while Nagini snacks on a Muggle. I couldn’t have been more wrong — Richard (lamest name ever for an arch-enemy, which is why it’s so good) simply lays out his plan and tells Alex and Anne what they are supposed to do. No threats, no maniacal laughter, no giant snakes eating anyone.

“I was expecting . . .” Anne said.
“Expecting what?”
“I don’t know. Something worse.”

Me, too, Anne. Me, too.

Basically, Alex has to act as the personal aide to Morden (the first Dark Mage on the Council) when he’s not being the most ignored Keeper in history. He’s been working on earning the position of full Keeper — now he’s given it, and is resented by the rest. Even when things go well for him, it’s a disaster. Similarly, Anne is the least utilized person in the Healer corps.

Right now I’m fighting Levistus and Richard, and I’m losing. Part of it’s because they’ve got better cards than me, but that’s not all of it. It’s that they’ve got a plan. They‘re always playing the long game, looking to next month, next year. Meanwhile I just wait around until some sort of crisis happens, then I scramble to fix it. It’s like they‘re shooting holes in a boat, and I’m running up and down trying to plug the leaks. Sooner or later there’ll be too many holes, or one of the bullets will hit me, and that’ll be it.

Which is a pretty good summary of how things are going for Alex. He goes to great lengths — some might even say extraordinary — to be proactive. I won’t say how well it works, but if you’ve read any of these books before, you’ll have a pretty good idea.

This book probably has the best use of Luna we’ve seen — I really liked everything Jacka did with her here.

We’ve had Richard looming as a threat since the beginning. Richard in the shadows, a danger that few believed was real. But Alex knew all along he would be back. And now that he is, he’s great. There’s no destroy the world plans, just evil planning and machinations and a calm exterior. You will do what I say, or I will end you — and I couldn’t really care either way. He’s worse than we ever could’ve expected. Love it.

Ultimately, this is pretty much what every Alex Verus book is — Alex struggling to earn and/or gain the trust of the Establishment — particularly those he likes and respects, and any gains he may make towards those ends are jeopardized by his efforts to help others.

Now that I look back on the whole thing, I can see the clues I missed, but that’s how it works with hindsight. When you know what’s relevant and what you can ignore, then everything is obvious, but it’s not so obvious when you’re caught up in surviving from day to day. At least until life reaches out and smacks you over the head.

(not just a commentary on Alex’s methods and life, but on everyone’s).

It was nowhere near as dramatic as the ending to Burned, but poor Alex is actually in a far worse state now than he was at the beginning of the book, which was no mean feat — but I should’ve known that Jacka wasn’t finished beating up his creation. I really don’t know what else to say without indulging in spoilers — so I’ll leave it at this. Bound is another great installment in this series, one of the best and most reliable around.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

The Cold Dish (Audiobook) by Craig Johnson, George Guidall

The Cold DishThe Cold Dish

by Craig Johnson, George Guidall
Series: Walt Longmire, #1
Unabridged Audiobook, 13 hrs. and 18 mins
Recorded Books, 2007

Read: June 7- 12, 2017


This is by and large what I had to say about the book a couple of years ago — but I’ve expanded it a touch.

It’s hard to believe this is a first novel. I love it when that happens. Johnson is assured in his writing, he knows his characters and their world, there’s no mistaking that. The world and the characters are very well-developed, it’s hard to believe that Johnson worked in as much backstory as he did for these characters in such a short space. Walt, Vic, Henry Standing Bear, Lucien — they’re all fully fleshed out and ready to go.

As always, the mixture of Cheyenne Mysticism (for lack of a better word) and Longmire’s realism (and Vic’s cynicism) is great — even at this point, Johnson’s ready to present things that could be Cheyenne ghosts, or it could be Longmire’s mind playing tricks on him as a result of injury and exposure without taking a clear narrative stance. It’s not a fast-paced tale by any means–Johnson saunters through his prose like Longmire would through the world. That doesn’t mean it’s not gripping, though. It’s lush with detail, as scenic and expansive as the Wyoming country it takes place in.

It took awhile for Guidall’s narration to work for me, I did eventually come around, and I expect I’ll enjoy him more fully in the next book.

I figured out whodunit pretty quickly, but it took a while to get the why. The journey to the why was compelling, interesting and well worth the time. Looking forward to the next installment.

—–

4 Stars

Pub Day Repost: Cold Reign by Faith Hunter

Cold ReignCold Reign

by Faith Hunter
Series: Jane Yellowrock, #11

eARC, 384 pg.
Ace, 2017

Read: March 6 – 9, 2017


Lee Child (and others, I’m sure) has said something along the lines of the key to writing a long-running series is that in each book you give the readers exactly the same thing, only different. Here in book 11 of the Jane Yellowrock series, that’s exactly what Faith Hunter has delivered — Jane Yellowrock up to her neck in revenant vampires, schemes within schemes within schemes, and dealing with the Big Cat that shares her body — but in a new way, with different (yet the same) schemers, a different kind of revenant, and new challenges and revelations about her Beast.

The tricky part of this is coming up with something to say . . . I mean really, the fact that I’m still reading the series 11 books in pretty much demonstrates that I’m a fan and that I’m predisposed to like this — both in its sameness and differentness. I like spending time with Jane and the rest (particularly Eli, Alex and Bruiser), seeing her navigate through this wold, and beating people up/taking out vampires. The “same” stuff is as good as always (maybe even a little better), so what about the “different” stuff?

There’s a lot to cover on that front, actually — I can’t cover it all, that’s Hunter’s job (and she’s so much better at it). But I can do a little. This book takes place sometime after Curse on the Land (yay, multi-series continuity!), and long enough after Shadow Rites that Jane’s started to come to terms with her expanded household and all that it entails (please note the use of the word, “started” — I’m not sure she’s quite finished even at the end of this one). But that’s just the beginning. There are a handful of revenants popping up — but they’re not the kind that Jane is used to dealing with. And their presence might be signalling something significant.

The Youngers have evolved somewhat — Alex is maturing, and even getting out of the house a little — but he’s still the same dude. Eli — wow, we see so many sides of him here that we hadn’t before (maybe saw hints of, but not like this), I loved every bit of the Eli material here — and man, did he make me laugh. He also made me get a little bleary eyed at one point — something I couldn’t ever imagine that I’d say.

Beast does something that I don’t think we’ve seen before — she has something going on that she’s keeping from Jane. There’s something she knows, maybe something she did, that she’s blocked Jane’s knowledge of . That’s scary — kinda cool — but mostly scary. The repercussions of Beast doing things without the human part of her knowing, there’s a couple of books right thee.

Naturally, the biggest differences come from growth and changes to Jane herself — at one point, she says

My life was so weird I scarcely recognized it.

The only reason readers can recognize it is that we’ve followed the series — if someone made the strange decision to read Skinwalker and then jump to Cold Reign, I bet they’d barely recognize the protagonist. The changes in her abilities, her shifting (but not totally shifted) feelings towards vampires and their practices, her love life, her friends, her understanding of her past, etc., etc. — she’s come a long way, mostly for the good, I think. There’s even a sentence I identified in my notes as “possibly the sweetest, sappiest thing to come out of Jane’s narration.” I decided not to include it here, but fans will gush over it. I just know it.

None of that means that when it comes time for bringing the pain that Jane’s not up to it — in fact, thanks to recent events, she’s better at it than ever. Her use of the Gray Between (which is bordering on being over-used), is improved here — she’s able to handle it better and uses it to her great advantage. Yeah, she might be not be that recognizable, but she’s a better character for it.

The core of this book — plotwise, anyway — comes back to the looming summit with the European Vampires, while Leo continues preparing for it, some things start happening that make he and his Enforcers begin to think that maybe the EVs are already in New Orleans and doing what they can to undermine him before anything official happens. Hunter, like many authors, has really taken advantage of the long-lived nature of vampires and how they’ll use that for long-range planning. In Cold Reign we see that used very well — as I mentioned before, there’s a new kind of revenant running around New Orleans — and there’s no good explanation for how that’s happening (there’s a pretty diabolical explanation, however). This brings us back to the first time Jane stuck her toe in the water of Leo Pellisier’s plans, and the early defenses against insurgents that Jane mounted on his behalf. Plots and schemes that we thought we were done with (if only because the plotters and schemers were no more), are brought back up and put into a new light in a very convincing manner. If Hunter said that she’d been planning these moves since book 2 or so, I’d believe her — I’d also believe her if she said that she needed something for this book and took advantage of some of material from her early books. Either way, she does a very clever job of it.

There’s a little bit of Soulwood in Cold Reign. We get a mention or two of Nell Ingram. Rick LaFleur is around doing PsyLED stuff — without the rest of his team, sadly. Soul is seen a few times, but doesn’t do much (but what she does is pretty cool).

I’ve long enjoyed Jane’s calorie-rich dietary needs and the abandon with which she dives into her food — and I think I’ve noted with both books, how fun it is to watch Nell Ingram sample junk food. But I think in Cold Reign, Best trumps them both — she eats her first taco. And I found it delightful, really, literally laughing out loud. I’ve decided that what Hunter’s fans need is a Food Network-style show featuring Jane, Nell and Beast trying various foods — I’d just love it.

The ending came a little quicker than I expected (possibly was confused thanks to the Soulwood preview at the end tweaking the percentage — but even without that, it seemed sudden). Which isn’t a bad thing, and probably says more about me than anything about the book — maybe I just wasn’t ready to say “see ya later” to Clan Yellowrock yet. Without spoiling much, there wasn’t a lot of resolution here — there was enough — but not as much as you might expect. The threat to Leo is still out there, and Jane et al. have their work cut out for them to prevent a European Vampire takeover.

Another winning tale of Vampire Politics, New Orleans weather, Magic, Big Cats and blood — lots and lots of blood. At this point, I’m not sure Hunter can do anything wrong with this series — and I hope she doesn’t prove me wrong anytime soon. Get your orders in now folks so you can dive on it on May 2.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Berkley 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

Cold Reign by Faith Hunter

Cold ReignCold Reign

by Faith Hunter
Series: Jane Yellowrock, #11

eARC, 384 pg.
Ace, 2017

Read: March 6 – 9, 2017


Lee Child (and others, I’m sure) has said something along the lines of the key to writing a long-running series is that in each book you give the readers exactly the same thing, only different. Here in book 11 of the Jane Yellowrock series, that’s exactly what Faith Hunter has delivered — Jane Yellowrock up to her neck in revenant vampires, schemes within schemes within schemes, and dealing with the Big Cat that shares her body — but in a new way, with different (yet the same) schemers, a different kind of revenant, and new challenges and revelations about her Beast.

The tricky part of this is coming up with something to say . . . I mean really, the fact that I’m still reading the series 11 books in pretty much demonstrates that I’m a fan and that I’m predisposed to like this — both in its sameness and differentness. I like spending time with Jane and the rest (particularly Eli, Alex and Bruiser), seeing her navigate through this wold, and beating people up/taking out vampires. The “same” stuff is as good as always (maybe even a little better), so what about the “different” stuff?

There’s a lot to cover on that front, actually — I can’t cover it all, that’s Hunter’s job (and she’s so much better at it). But I can do a little. This book takes place sometime after Curse on the Land (yay, multi-series continuity!), and long enough after Shadow Rites that Jane’s started to come to terms with her expanded household and all that it entails (please note the use of the word, “started” — I’m not sure she’s quite finished even at the end of this one). But that’s just the beginning. There are a handful of revenants popping up — but they’re not the kind that Jane is used to dealing with. And their presence might be signalling something significant.

The Youngers have evolved somewhat — Alex is maturing, and even getting out of the house a little — but he’s still the same dude. Eli — wow, we see so many sides of him here that we hadn’t before (maybe saw hints of, but not like this), I loved every bit of the Eli material here — and man, did he make me laugh. He also made me get a little bleary eyed at one point — something I couldn’t ever imagine that I’d say.

Beast does something that I don’t think we’ve seen before — she has something going on that she’s keeping from Jane. There’s something she knows, maybe something she did, that she’s blocked Jane’s knowledge of . That’s scary — kinda cool — but mostly scary. The repercussions of Beast doing things without the human part of her knowing, there’s a couple of books right thee.

Naturally, the biggest differences come from growth and changes to Jane herself — at one point, she says

My life was so weird I scarcely recognized it.

The only reason readers can recognize it is that we’ve followed the series — if someone made the strange decision to read Skinwalker and then jump to Cold Reign, I bet they’d barely recognize the protagonist. The changes in her abilities, her shifting (but not totally shifted) feelings towards vampires and their practices, her love life, her friends, her understanding of her past, etc., etc. — she’s come a long way, mostly for the good, I think. There’s even a sentence I identified in my notes as “possibly the sweetest, sappiest thing to come out of Jane’s narration.” I decided not to include it here, but fans will gush over it. I just know it.

None of that means that when it comes time for bringing the pain that Jane’s not up to it — in fact, thanks to recent events, she’s better at it than ever. Her use of the Gray Between (which is bordering on being over-used), is improved here — she’s able to handle it better and uses it to her great advantage. Yeah, she might be not be that recognizable, but she’s a better character for it.

The core of this book — plotwise, anyway — comes back to the looming summit with the European Vampires, while Leo continues preparing for it, some things start happening that make he and his Enforcers begin to think that maybe the EVs are already in New Orleans and doing what they can to undermine him before anything official happens. Hunter, like many authors, has really taken advantage of the long-lived nature of vampires and how they’ll use that for long-range planning. In Cold Reign we see that used very well — as I mentioned before, there’s a new kind of revenant running around New Orleans — and there’s no good explanation for how that’s happening (there’s a pretty diabolical explanation, however). This brings us back to the first time Jane stuck her toe in the water of Leo Pellisier’s plans, and the early defenses against insurgents that Jane mounted on his behalf. Plots and schemes that we thought we were done with (if only because the plotters and schemers were no more), are brought back up and put into a new light in a very convincing manner. If Hunter said that she’d been planning these moves since book 2 or so, I’d believe her — I’d also believe her if she said that she needed something for this book and took advantage of some of material from her early books. Either way, she does a very clever job of it.

There’s a little bit of Soulwood in Cold Reign. We get a mention or two of Nell Ingram. Rick LaFleur is around doing PsyLED stuff — without the rest of his team, sadly. Soul is seen a few times, but doesn’t do much (but what she does is pretty cool).

I’ve long enjoyed Jane’s calorie-rich dietary needs and the abandon with which she dives into her food — and I think I’ve noted with both books, how fun it is to watch Nell Ingram sample junk food. But I think in Cold Reign, Best trumps them both — she eats her first taco. And I found it delightful, really, literally laughing out loud. I’ve decided that what Hunter’s fans need is a Food Network-style show featuring Jane, Nell and Beast trying various foods — I’d just love it.

The ending came a little quicker than I expected (possibly was confused thanks to the Soulwood preview at the end tweaking the percentage — but even without that, it seemed sudden). Which isn’t a bad thing, and probably says more about me than anything about the book — maybe I just wasn’t ready to say “see ya later” to Clan Yellowrock yet. Without spoiling much, there wasn’t a lot of resolution here — there was enough — but not as much as you might expect. The threat to Leo is still out there, and Jane et al. have their work cut out for them to prevent a European Vampire takeover.

Another winning tale of Vampire Politics, New Orleans weather, Magic, Big Cats and blood — lots and lots of blood. At this point, I’m not sure Hunter can do anything wrong with this series — and I hope she doesn’t prove me wrong anytime soon. Get your orders in now folks so you can dive on it on May 2.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Berkley 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