Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne: A Comedic Fantasy Tells a Good Story While Playing with Too-Familiar Tropes

Kill the Farm BoyKill the Farm Boy

by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Series: The Tales of Pell, Book #1

eARC, 384 pg.
Del Rey, 2018

Read: June 5 – 12, 2018
Ugh. I wish the eARC didn’t say I needed to hold off any quotations until I could compare it with the final copy — or maybe, I wish I had noticed that very tiny print before I got half a draft of this finished. On the other hand, I was having trouble narrowing down which of my lengthy options to use, because, if nothing else, this is one of the more quotable books I’ve read in the last couple of years.

Kill the Farm Boy is a comedic fantasy, a satirical look at fantasy and even a parody of the genre. But what makes it effective is that for all the comedy, there’s a decent story and some solid characters throughout. It’s be easy for it to be a collection of jokes, with no story; or a tale full of character types, not characters. But Dawson and Hearne avoid those pitfalls.

The titular farm boy, Worstley, is going about his typical day, full of drudgery when an inebriated pixie shows up to announce that he is a Chosen One — one who is destined to save, or at least change, the world. To demonstrate her power, the pixie gives one of his goats, Gustave, the power of speech. The goat isn’t too happy about being able to speak, but since he was destined to end up in a curry in a few days, decides to travel with the newly appointed Chosen One, his former Pooboy. The pixie, having Chosened Worstley, disappears. Worstley the Pooboy (hey, Taran, worse things to be called than Assistant Pig-Keeper, eh?) and Gustave head off on a quest for glory.

Despite the book’s title, we don’t spend that much time with Worstley — instead the focus shifts (for good reason) to a band of hero–well, a group of companions. There’s Fia — a fierce warrior from a distant land, who just wants to live a life of peace with some nice roses — and some armor that would actually protect her (not that there’s anyone who minds seeing here in her chain-mail bikini). Argabella, a struggling bard who is cursed to be covered in fur — she’s basically Fflewddur Fflam and Gurgi combined (last Prydian reference, probably). Every adventuring party needs a rogue/thief, this one has to settle for the klutzy and not necessarily bright, Poltro, and her guardian, the Dark Lord magician, Toby (though some would only consider him crepuscular), of dubious talents. I can’t forget Grinda the sand witch (no, really), Worstley’s aunt and a magic user of considerable talent.

There are no shortage of villains — and/or antagonists to this party. There are some pretty annoying elves; a hungry giant; Løcher, the King’s chamberlain and mortal enemy of Grinda; Staph, the pixie behind the Chosening; as well as several magical traps, Lastly, there’s Steve. We don’t meet him (I’m betting it’ll be in Book 3 when we do), but throughout these adventures we how much this world, and our heroes lives, have been turned upside down my the worst Steve since one (allegedly) unleashed the preposterous hypothesis that Jemaine was a large water-dwelling mammal. Steve . . .

The writing is just spot-on good. Dawson and Hearne have taken all these various and disparate themes, tropes, characters and surrounded them with a lot of laughs. There’s some pretty sophisticated humor, some stuff that’s pretty clever — but they also run the gamut to some pretty low-brow jokes as well. Really, these two are on a tight comedic budget, no joke is too cheap. The variation ensures there’s a little something for everyone — and that you can’t predict where the humor will come from. I will admit that early on I got annoyed with a few running jokes, but I eventually got to the point that I enjoyed them — not just in a “really? they’re trying it again?” sense, either.

For all the comedy — Kill the Farm Boy hits the emotional moments just right. There’s a depiction of grief towards the end (spoiler?) that I found incredibly affecting and effective. There are smaller moments — less extreme moments — too that are dealt with just right. Maybe even better than some of the bigger comedic moments. This is the reward of populating this book with fully-realized characters, not just joke vehicles.

I have a couple of quibbles, nothing major, but I’m not wholly over the moon with this (but I can probably hit sub-orbital status). There was a bit about a fairly articulate Troll being taken down by a female using (primarily) her wits that could’ve used a dollop or five of subtly. Clearly they weren’t going for subtle, or they’d have gotten a lot closer to it. But it bugged me a bit (while being funny and on point). Secondly, and this is going to be strange after the last 2 posts — but this seemed to be too long. Now, I can’t imagine cutting a single line, much less a scene or chapter from this, but it just felt a little long. I do worry that some of Poltro’s backstory is too tragic and upon reflection makes it in poor taste (at best) to laugh about her — which is a shame, because she was a pretty funny character until you learn about her.

This is probably the best comedic/parody/satire fantasy since Peter David’s Sir Apropos of Nothing — and this doesn’t have all the problematic passages. I’ve appreciated Dawson’s work in the past, and you have to spend 30 seconds here to know that I’m a huge Hearne fan, together they’ve created something unlike what they’ve done before. Well, except for their characteristic quality — that’s there. I cared about these characters — and they made me laugh, and giggle, and roll my eyes. This is the whole package, folks, you’ll be glad you gave it a chance.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 Stars

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Dark Queen by Faith Hunter: Jane Yellowrock’s latest has everything — including the kitchen sink.

Dark QueenDark Queen

by Faith Hunter
Series: Jane Yellowrock, #12

eARC, 432 pg.
Ace, 2018
Read: April 23 – 28, 2018

I’ve stopped reading the blurbs for the Jane Yellowrock books, so I had no idea what to expect out of this one when I started it. I spent a couple of days planning on how this was a rumination of/celebration of family disguised as an Urban Fantasy novel. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of action and plot and all the things we have come to expect from a Jane Yellowrock book. But, yeah, family was the overarching theme. But then . . .

But then, Hunter kicks it into high gear and the long-awaited Sangre Duello starts. Which I didn’t expect — I figured we’d get an entire novel (minus an introductory and follow-up chapter, maybe) dedicated to it. Man, am I glad I was wrong — I’m not sure I could’ve handled more of the tension surrounding it than Hunter gave us. Still, everything I’d planned on saying pretty much went out the window.

I’ve gotten ahead of myself. This series (like any that has gone more than 5 books) needs a “Previously . . .” section. Things have changed so much since Jane rode into New Orleans in Skinwalker that it’s almost impossible to remember everything that’s happened. Hunter does do enough in the text to remind you who is who and what they’ve done in the past, so I’m not saying the book is inaccessible. It’d just be nice to have a reminder just where we are in the story without having to re-read eleven novels (not that I have — I’d probably pick up a few more nuances).

The book begins with Leo solidifying his organization. Moving people around, giving promotions, and cleaning house (not as much as he should have, but even someone who’s as politically savvy as Leo isn’t perfect). Part of this is the official recognition and establishment of Clan Yellowrock — which was just so strange. One of the groups that Leo is dealing with is a werewolf pack from the Western part of the US, who are doing some work for him related to the Sangre Duello, who are pretty interesting, and I’d like to see more of them in the future. There’s also a new PsyLED honcho floating around — Rick’s boss and Soul’s underling — and his presence is almost as disruptive to Jane’s world as the European Vampires are.

Then before you know it — there we are, the European Vampires are coming ashore to start the Sangre Duello. Which is basically a series of duels — some to first blood, some to the death (true death, in the case of vampires) — and just about everyone connected to Leo ends up fighting at least once. It is clear from the way this is set up, the way it’s carried out, the way that just about everyone acts during it — that vampires act on a different morality than just about anyone else. Jane has a very hard time with it all, and many readers will, too. That’s good — that means you’re not a monster. I will say that Leo’s psychological games with the EV’s are a lotta fun. If you have much of an emotional attachment to the characters in this series, you will stress out during this part of the book. Not all survive. Not all who do survive do so unscathed. Without saying what happens to him, I didn’t realize how invested I was in Leo Pellissier’s continued existence.

Faith Hunter puts all of her experience, all her skill and talent on display here — and it works. This is really a tour de force for her and it’s just a pleasure to read. On the one hand, I thought the pacing was a bit slow at first and wasn’t sure what she was doing — but at a certain point, I recognized that she knew exactly what she was doing and you needed the slow-burn of a start so that you’d be ready for the almost non-stop action to come. There’s some brave choices she makes here — totally shaking up the series, the status is not quo, as a horrible doctor might say. While that might seem like the kind of thing writers need to do (and it is), it can’t be an easy choice — because no matter what we say, we fans want our comfortable series: where we know that Riker will be Picard’s Number One for far too long, Lisa will be 8, and that one couch at the Central Perk will always be available for Monica’s friends to sit on.

Jane continues to grow and mature, embracing — and even expanding — the emotional ties she has to people in her life, taking on more people to protect and defend. She’s not a loner anymore, and has stopped fighting this reality. It’s great to see. And everything I wanted to say about family is present here, and you’ll know exactly what I was talking about when you read this. And if you’re someone who threatens any of those she’s decided to align herself with? I pity you, because, well, Beast is best hunter, and there’s nothing really that’ll stop Beast/Jane from making you regret that threatening.

If I was a better blogger — or at least one who had better time management, I’d come up with a post just about Eli Younger. I really wish I was that guy — because Eli deserves more attention. As I write this, I remember that Carrie Vaughn gave Cormac a novel to himself (pretty much) — Hunter should consider letting Eli have his own.

This would’ve been a great series finale just as it is. I am so glad that it’s not — Hunter’s got things set up so well for the next couple fo books (at least) that I’m as excited about this series as I’ve ever been. But, Dark Queen could’ve worked as the end. Which is really just to say two things: 1. If you’re looking for a new Urban Fantasy series to start, full of magic, vampires, shape-shifters and more? This series is a great one — but don’t start here, start with Skinwalker. 2. Hunter has tied up a lot of loose ends, a lot of long-going plotlines are resolved (or at least brought to a satisfying resting point), which should satisfy long-term readers. I won’t say that they’ll all be happy about where everything ends up — I’m not — but I will say that it’s nice to have some sense of closure and resolution.

I laughed, I got angry, I cheered, I fretted, I got awfully close to letting water leak out of my eyes — I loved this book from start to finish.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

5 Stars

Book Spotlight: Dark Queen by Faith Hunter

Welcome to our Book Tour stop for Faith Hunter’s Dark Queen, the twelfth (and best — so far, anyway) Jane Yellowrock novel. Along with this blurb about the book and author I’ll be posting my 2¢ about the book in a little bit, although I guess I just spoiled it, eh? The book is released today, you should head out and buy it (or, I guess, surf to the e-retailer of your choice and order it).

Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post for a chance to win a complete set of Jane Yellowrock books!

Book Details:

Book Title:  Dark Queen by Faith Hunter
Publisher:  Ace
Release date:  May 1, 2018
Format: Mass Market Paperback/ebook
Length: 432 pages

Book Description:

Jane Yellowrock used to hunt vampires, but now she must fight–and win–beside them.

As Enforcer to the vampire Master of the City of New Orleans, Jane Yellowrock stakes her reputation and her life on keeping her territory safe. But Leo has been issued a blood challenge by the emperor of the European vampires, who seeks to usurp all of his power and possessions. If Leo loses the match to the death, the city will be forfeit, and the people of New Orleans will suffer the consequences. Jane can’t let that happen.

Preparing for the duel requires all of Jane’s focus, but with so much supernatural power in play, nothing goes according to plan. She has to rely on herself and the very few people she knows she can trust to stand and fight. Only two things are guaranteed: nothing is sacred, and no one is safe.

ISBN: 1101991429
ISBN-13: 978-1101991428

Purchase at:

Author Bio:

Faith HunterFaith Hunter is a New York Times and USAToday bestselling author. She writes dark urban fantasy and paranormal urban thrillers.

Her long-running, bestselling, Skinwalker series features Jane Yellowrock, a hunter of rogue-vampires. The Soulwood series features Nell Nicholson Ingram in paranormal crime solving novels. Her Rogue Mage novels, a dark, urban fantasy series, features Thorn St. Croix, a stone mage in a post-apocalyptic, alternate reality. Two of her fantasy series have been nominated for Audie Awards.

Under the pen name Gwen Hunter, she has written action adventure, mysteries, thrillers, women’s fiction, a medical thriller series, and even historical religious fiction. As Gwen, she is a winner of the WH Smith Literary Award for Fresh Talent in 1995 in the UK, and won a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award in 2008. Under all her pen names, she has over 40 books in print in 30 countries.

In real life, Faith once broke a stove by refusing to turn it on for so long that its parts froze and the unused stove had to be replaced. Her recent hankering for homemade bread and soup resulted in fresh loaves each week and she claims that the newish stove feels loved and well used—because Faith talks to her appliances as well as to her plants and dog. She collects orchids and animal skulls, loves to sit on the back porch in lightning storms, and is a workaholic with a passion for jewelry making, white-water kayaking, and RV travel. She likes the shooting range, prefers Class III whitewater rivers with no gorge to climb out of, edits the occasional anthology, and drinks a lot of tea. Some days she’s a lady. Some days she ain’t. Occasionally, she remembers to sleep. The jewelry she makes and wears is often given as promo items and is used as prizes in contests.

For more, including a list of her books, see www.faithhunter.net , www.gwenhunter.com  To keep up with her, like her fan page at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/official.faith.hunter

GIVEAWAY!

Win one of two complete sets of Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock novels! Contest runs April 23rd until May 11th.

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Rafflecopter link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/9751c0429/?

My thanks to Let’s Talk! Promotions for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

Scourged by Kevin Hearne: The Iron Druid Chronicles conclude with a bang.

This took me longer to write than I intended. Maybe I should’ve talked about it right after finishing it after all.

ScourgedScourged

by Kevin Hearne
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles, #9

Hardcover, 265 pg.
Del Rey, 2018
Read: April 4, 2018

So, in a fast 265 pages Kevin Hearne gives us: Ragnarok; a lot of dead vampires; environmental crises; a friendly sloth; puppies; send-offs to many, many characters; shocking deaths; less-than-shocking deaths; surprise non-deaths; and more discussion of poots (elven and jaguar) than one’d expect in this kind of book. The amount that he accomplishes here is really staggering. Some of it, alas, could’ve been deeper — explored more thoroughly — if he hadn’t set out to do so much or if he’d taken more time with some things (and less time with others). Still, this was a heckuva way to end the series.

This is not the book to start this series with, go back and read Hounded if you’re curious (one of the best series kick-offs around), and I’m not going to get into the plot much. It’s Ragnarok. We’ve all known it was coming and now it’s here — ’nuff said. Along those lines, however, Hearne also gets bonus points for including a “where we are in the series” introduction, summarizing the first 8 novels and the short stories/novellas that got us to this point. Again, this should be a requirement for long-running series.

There’s no easy way to say it: there was just too much of Granuaile and Owen. Yes, it’s the best use of Owen since his introduction, don’t get me wrong. But it’s the Iron Druid Chronicles — fine, use the others if you want, but they shouldn’t get equal time to the Iron Druid here in the last book. Especially given the number of things — and scope of action — that had to be accomplished in Atticus’ story, it really should’ve had more room to breathe. That said — for End-of-the-World Showdowns featuring deities from multiple pantheons? This rocked. He wrapped up the story he kicked off in Hammered and Two Ravens and One Crow in a fantastic fashion, full of death, blood and tension. At the same time, he maintained the very idiosyncratic characterizations he’d created for the various gods and goddesses.

Speaking of Two Ravens and One Crow, a small, but fun, point from that comes back in these pages in a way that no one could have expected and added just the right level of fun to the battle.

Hearne did a great job integrating the short stories from Besieged into this book — I didn’t expect to see so much from them carry over to this. It all worked well and set the stage for Hearne to get in to the action of Scourged right away and he took full advantage of that.

There were more than a few things that seemed like they needed better explanations — doesn’t the convenient dog sitter find the way that Atticus spoils his dogs more than a little strange? Given that they’ve known the clock was ticking on Ragnarok, why did Atticus wait until the last second to give Granuaile and Owen their assignments? I mean, it works out well for dramatic purposes, and allows certain plot points to be triggered, but that’s not a good reason for the characters to work that way. At the very least, why weren’t his former apprentice and his former teacher pestering Atticus to lay out his plans long before this? While I eventually saw what Atticus and Hearne were up to, in the moment, a lot of the plan just didn’t make sense. When the world is falling apart, why set someone up for an extended training session (for one example)?

I’m not giving away anything about anyone dying — or living — but we know this is the finale, so we’re seeing the end of stories for these characters. Some good, some shocking, some disappointing, some sad. In no particular order: Laksha got a nice send-off, I really didn’t expect to see her here — and I really appreciated what Hearne did with her. It’s not honestly the ending I’ve had wanted for Atticus — but it’s the kind of ending that Hearne’s been building to for a while now, so it’s fitting. I can appreciate the way that Hearne accomplished his goals, even if I think Atticus deserved better. Owen’s ending was everything you could’ve hoped for. Granuaile’s story was fitting for her — and a good reminder that I stopped liking her a few books ago (seriously, why couldn’t she adopt an attitude similar to Owen or Flidias when it comes to their assignments during the battle?). I would’ve liked to have seen Perun one more time, but he got a good send off in Besieged.

Oberon was sidelined for most of the book — I understand why: Atticus wanted to keep his buddy safe, and Hearne needed to keep things ominous, dramatic and threatening, which is hard to do with everyone’s favorite Irish Wolfhound putting his two cents in (it’s hard enough with Coyote around). Still, we got some good Oberonisms, and he elicited more than one smile from me — and you could argue he saved the day ultimately. If I didn’t know that Hearne was writing one more of Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries, I’d be despondent over not seeing him again.

Scourged wasn’t perfect, but it was very satisfying. If I have to say good-bye to these characters, this is a pretty good way to do it. There was enough excitement, drama, and happenings to fill a couple of books and Hearne got it all into one — no mean feat — and it was a great read. It’s not easy letting go of most of these characters and this world (I mean, apart from re-reads), but I’m glad Hearne got out when he did and the way he wanted to. I’m looking forward to his future projects.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

I’m not going to talk about Scourged by Kevin Hearne today…

ScourgedScourged

by Kevin Hearne
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles, #9

Hardcover, 265 pg.
Del Rey, 2018

Read: April 4, 2018


I was able to take the evening last night (when this posts, anyway — was just a few minutes ago really) to read the last two-thirds of Scourged while sipping some Tullamore Dew (see yesterday’s rambling). And it was a very satisfying way to spend an evening, no doubt.

My intention was to turn immediately to writing a blog post/review/rave about it, but I think I want to spend some time thinking about it before I start to write. A couple of spoilers about what I’ll end up saying: I really, really, really liked it. It wasn’t as triumphal as a part of me had hoped (“Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, everybody lives!”), but it wasn’t as grim as I feared (Angel “Not Fade Away”‘s ending). It wasn’t perfect, but it was very satisfying. If I have to say good-bye to these characters, this is the way to do it.

And I’d better shut up before I end up writing a whole post after all.

My Favorite Fiction of 2017

Is he ever going to stop with these 2017 Wrap Up posts? I know, I know…I’m sick of them. But I’ve already done most of the work on this one, I might as well finish…Also, it was supposed to go up Friday, but formatting problems . . .

Most people do this in mid-December or so, but a few years ago (before this blog), the best novel I read that year was also the last. Ever since then, I just can’t pull the trigger until January 1. Also, none of these are re-reads, I can’t have everyone losing to my re-reading books that I’ve loved for 2 decades.

I truly enjoyed all but a couple of books this year (at least a little bit), but narrowing the list down to those in this post was a little easier than I expected (‘tho there’s a couple of books I do feel bad about ignoring). I stand by my initial ratings, there are some in the 5-Star group that aren’t as good as some of the 4 and 4½-Star books, although for whatever reason, I ranked them higher (entertainment value, sentimental value…liked the ending better…etc.). Anyway, I came up with a list I think I can live with.

(in alphabetical order by author)

In The StillIn The Still

by Jacqueline Chadwick
My original post

Chadwick’s first novel is probably the most entertaining serial killer novel I’ve ever read. Without sacrificing creepiness, suspense, horror, blood, guts, general nastiness, and so on — she gives us a story with heart, humor and humanity. The second novel, Briefly Maiden is arguably better, but I liked this one a teensy bit more — and I’m genuinely nervous about what’s going to happen in book 3 (not that I won’t read it as soon as I possibly can).

4 1/2 Stars

The Hangman's Sonnet Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet

My original post

How do you possibly follow-up 2016’s Debt to Pay, especially with that ending, without dramatically altering the Jesse Stone flavor? I’m still not sure how Coleman did it, but he did — Jesse’s dealing with Debt to Pay in a typically self-destructive way, but is keeping his head mostly above water so he can get his job done, mostly by inertia rather than by force of will. Reflexes kick in however, and while haunted, Jesse can carry out his duties in a reasonable fashion until some friends and a case can push him into something more.

Coleman’s balancing of long-term story arcs and character development with the classic Jesse Stone-type story is what makes this novel a winner and puts this one on my list.

4 1/2 Stars

A Plague of GiantsA Plague of Giants

by Kevin Hearne

This sweeping — yet intimately told — epic fantasy about a continent/several civilizations being invaded by a race nobody knew existed is almost impossible to put into a few words. It’s about people stepping up to do more than they thought possible,more than they thought necessary, just so they and those they love can survive. It’s about heroes being heroic, leaders leading, non-heroes being more heroic, leaders conniving and failing, and regular people finding enough reason to keep going. It’s everything you want in an epic fantasy, and a bunch you didn’t realize you wanted, too (but probably should have).

5 Stars

Cold ReignCold Reign

by Faith Hunter

My original post
Hunter continues to raise the stakes (yeah, sorry, couldn’t resist) for Jane and her crew as the European Vamps’ visit/invasion gets closer. Am not sure what’s more intriguing, the evolution in Jane’s powers or the evolution of the character — eh, why bother choosing? Both are great. The growth in the Younger brothers might be more entertaining — I appreciate the way they’ve become nearly as central to the overall story as Jane. I’m not sure this is the book for new readers to the series, but there are plenty before it to hook someone.

5 Stars

Once Broken FaithOnce Broken Faith

by Seanan McGuire
My original post

Poor planning on my part (in 2016) resulted in me reading two Toby Daye books this year, both just excellent, but this one worked a little bit better for me. Oodles and oodles of Fae royalty and nobility in one spot to decide what they’re going to do with this elf-shot cure leading to a sort-of closed room mystery (it’s just a really big, magical room) with peril on all side for Toby and her found family.

5 Stars

A Monster CallsA Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness
My original post

There were so many ways this could’ve been hacky, overly-sentimentalized, brow-beating, or after-school special-y and Ness avoids them all to deliver a heart-wrenching story about grief, death, love, and the power of stories — at once horrifying, creepy and hopeful.

4 1/2 Stars

Black and BlueBlack and Blue

by Ian Rankin
My original post

Rankin kicked everything into a higher gear here — there are so many intricately intertwining stories here it’s hard to describe the book in brief. But you have Rebus running from himself into mystery after mystery, drink after drink, career-endangering move after career-endangering move. Unrelenting is the best word I can come up with for this book/character/plot — which makes for a terrific read.

5 Stars

SourdoughSourdough

by Robin Sloan
My original post

This delightful story of a programmer turned baker turned . . . who knows what, in a Bay Area Underground of creative, artisanal types who will reshape the world one day. Or not. It’s magical realism, but more like magical science. However you want to describe it, there’s something about Sloan’s prose that makes you want to live in his books.

Do not read if you’re on a low carb/carb-free diet. Stick with Sloan’s other novel in that case.

4 1/2 Stars

The Hate U Give (Audiobook)The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas, Bahni Turpin (Narrator)

My original post

This was a great audiobook –and I can’t imagine that the text version was as great, I just didn’t have time for it. It’s the story about the aftermath — socially, personally, locally, nationally — of a police shooting of an unarmed black male as seen through the eyes of a close friend who was inches away from him at the time.

I think I’d have read a book about Starr Carter at any point in her life, honestly, she’s a great character. Her family feels real — it’s not perfect, but it’s not the kind of dysfunctional that we normally see instead of perfect, it’s healthy and loving and as supportive as it can be. The book will make you smile, weep, chuckle and get angry. It’s political, and it’s not. It’s fun and horrifying. It’s . . . just read the thing. Whatever you might think of it based on what you’ve read (including what I’ve posted) isn’t the whole package, just read the thing (or, listen to it, Turpin’s a good narrator).

5 Stars

The ForceThe Force

by Don Winslow
My original post

There may be better Crime Fiction writers at the moment than Don Winslow, but that number is small, and I can’t think of anyone in it. In this fantastic book, Winslow tells the story of the last days of a corrupt, but effective (in their own corrupt and horrible way), NYPD Task Force. Denny Malone is a cop’s cop, on The Wire he’s be “real police” — but at some point he started cutting corners, lining his pockets (and justifying it to himself), eventually crossing the line so that he’s more “robber” than “cop.” Mostly. And though you know from page 1 that he’s dirty and going down, you can’t help get wrapped up in his story, hoping he finds redemption, and maybe even gets away with it.

But the book is more than that. In my original post I said: “This book feels like the love child of Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities and Nicholas Pileggi’s Wiseguy. You really feel like you understand how the city of New York is run — at least parts of it: the police, elements of the criminal world, and parts of the criminal justice system. Not how they’re supposed to run, but the way it really is. [Winslow] achieves this through a series of set pieces and didactic pericopes.”

A police story, a crime thriller, a book about New York — oh, yeah, possibly the best thing I read last year.

5 Stars

There were a few that almost made the list — almost all of them did make the Top 10 for at least a minute, actually. But I stuck with the arbitrary 10 — these were all close, and arguably better than some of those on my list. Anyway, those tied for 11th place are: <

Skyfarer by Joseph Brassey (my original post), Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb (my original post), Briefly Maiden by Jacqueline Chadwick (yes, again) (my original post), The Twisted Path by Harry Connolly (my original post), Bound by Benedict Jacka (my original post), The Western Star by Craig Johnson (my original post), The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire (see? Another Toby Daye) (my original post), The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh (my original post), Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells(my original post).

My Favorite 2017 New (to me) Characters

A few weeks ago, I started to describe someone as one of the best characters I met this year. Which got me to thinking about and honing this list. I’m limiting myself to characters I met this year, otherwise I don’t think there’s be much room for anyone — Spenser, Hawk, Scout, Harry Dresden, Toby Daye, Ford Prefect etc. wouldn’t really allow anyone else to be talked about. These might not be my favorite people in their respective books (although most are), but they’re the best characters in terms of complexity, depth and story potential I doubt I’d like most of them in real life (and can’t imagine that any of them would enjoy me), but in novels? I can’t get enough of them.

(in alphabetical order by author)

  • Aimee de Laurent from Skyfarer by Joseph Brassey (my post about the book)– she’s smart, she’s driven, she’s compassionate, she’s powerful, she’s fallible. She also flies around in a spaceship and does magic.
  • Lori Anderson from Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb (my post about the book)– She’s more than Stephanie Plum without the Lucy Ricardo DNA. She’s a tough lady, a dedicated mom, and more. This bounty hunter will impress you with her guts, get your sympathy with her plight, and make you cheer as she bests her opponents (I should probably add “make you wince as she takes some brutal beatings).
  • Ali Dalglish from In the Still by Jacqueline Chadwick (my post about the book)– Ali is a certified (and possibly certifiable) genius. She’s a criminal profiler working in Vancouver, BC after nearly a couple of decades away to raise her kids. But when a serial killer’s victim is found near her home, she’s drug back into the professional world she left with the investigation. She has the most creative swearing this side of Malcom Tucker, a fantastic and fast mind, a jaded look at life, and a sense of humor that’s sure to please. Early in In the Still, she asks questions of a police officer in a public forum and pretty much ruins the poor guy — it’s one of the best scenes I read all year. If you can read that far in the book and not become a Ali fan at that point, there’s something wrong with you. If I was ranking these, I’m pretty sure she’d be #1.
  • Nick Mason from The Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton (https://wp.me/p3z9AH-2NI)– A convicted non-violent criminal gets released early from an Illinois prison only to find himself in a different type of prison to work off his debt for being released, making him lose the “non-” in front of violent. He’s a great character, on the verge (always on the verge) of redemption and falling further.
  • Dervan du Alöbar from A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne (my post about the book is forthcoming) — I could’ve named about half of the point-of-view characters from this book, but Dervan eked out a win. He’s a widower in mourning. A former soldier, wounded in duty, turned scholar, turned . . . well — that’s a long story. There’s something about his coming to grips with the new reality, his new vocation, his self-awareness and growth in his personal life just really clicked with me. He’s basically an unqualified fantasy hero, forced to step up and play a role in saving civilization (which actually describes many people in this book, but that’s for another day).
  • Isaiah Quintabe from IQ by Joe Ide (my post about the book)– South-Central LA’s answer to Sherlock Holmes. We meet IQ early in his career and, via flashbacks, see him begin to develop the gifts that will make him the super-detective he’s destined to become. He’s such a great take on this character, I can’t believe no one beat Ide to the punch.
  • Anci from Down Don’t Bother Me by Jason Miller (my post about the book) — yeah, her dad, Slim, is the series start and protagonist. He’s the one that goes trough all the hardship, the beatings, the investigative moves, not his 12-year-old daughter (who isn’t a young Veronica Mars clone, or Rae Spellman). But Anci is the heart and soul of the books — she’s why Slim goes to work in this field, and why he comes back. She’s smarter and wittier than any 12-year-old has any right to be (but believably so), she’s Slim’s conscience, and his reason for doing what he does.
  • LeAnne Hogan from The Right Side by Spencer Quinn (my post about the book)– comes back from Afghanistan after near-fatal injuries, and isn’t fit for the civilian life she’s thrown back into. She begins to deal with her grief and anger while hunting for the child of a dead friend with the help of a stray dog. She’ll break your heart.
  • John Rebus from Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin (my post about the book)– Wow. How do I sum up Rebus? 2017 was the 30th anniversary of Rebus’ creation and the first year I read him. He’s a wonderful, complex character. He smokes too much, he drinks too much, he ignores the rules and regulations (and maybe even the laws) in his ongoing effort to forget about himself and his life by pouring himself into his work. Tenacious with a capital “T”, he may not be the smartest police detective you ever read, but he makes up for it through not giving up (although he’s pretty smart — especially when not drinking).
  • Hob Ravani from Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells (my post about the book)– Tough does not begin to describe this biker. She’s all about surviving on this planet that’s not at all conducive to survival — from the environment, to the economics, to the politics — there’s just nothing on the planet that wants her or her fellow Ghost Wolves to survive. But somehow she does.