Go Home, Afton by Brent Jones: A Gripping, Fast Read about a Would-Be Murderess

Go Home, AftonGo Home, Afton

by Brent Jones
Series: Afton Morrison, Book 1

Kindle Edition, 156 pg.
2018
Read: June 13, 2018
I have some potentially, slightly spoilerly thoughts in paragraph #9. Feel free to skip that, to help, I’ll write my conclusion first and then add that on as a post-script of sorts. Deal? Okay here we go:

I learned over time that the murderess without blood on her hands has a lot in common with a heroin-addicted streetwalker. Both crave a fix, and both are willing to do just about anything to get one. And the longer she has to wait, the more dangerous and erratic her behavior becomes.

Afton Morrison, our narrator, has a problem — she has this drive to kill someone. Multiple someones, actually. She’s not a female take on John Wayne Cleaver, though. She’s really at peace with the idea (as much as you can be). She wants her targets to be deserving (in a Dexter kind of way), and she wants to get away clean, so she can do it again. This isn’t your typical take on a Children’s Librarian from a small town public library, but, hey — maybe it should be. She’s found her first victim, follows him, knows his habits, is sure he’s the right guy and is all set to make her move. . . but can’t seem to find him when the time comes.

Meanwhile, she’s got to play supportive and attentive little sister to her brother who’s having trouble with his love life. She’s an unwilling mentor to a would-be over-achieving high school student. Plus, Afton’s finding herself with new and unexpected interpersonal connections — none of which she has time for, because he’s got to go kill a man. As soon as she finds him.

Also, other complications ensue — Afton may have a well-conceived plan, but she’s going to have a really hard time sticking to it once other people get involved.

I like Afton — as much as you can like someone like her. Her brother’s great, ditto for all the other complications in her life — good characters, and (generally) good people. I hope we can find out more about Afton and most of the secondary characters (there’s a couple I’ll ignore for now for spoiler reasons).

The writing could be tightened up a little bit. A couple of errors fixed — and I’m going off of an ARC, it’s possible they will be in time for the publication. I think some of the language used by a some of the characters (see Peter, a fellow librarian, in particular) goes over the line — he can be a creep, but when you make him that much of a creep, he becomes a liability. “Can we just spend time with the would-be murderess? I don’t feel quite so dirty reading about her.” But on the whole, the storytelling itself is strong enough that it makes up for whatever deficiencies one may find in the text.

A personal note to Mr. Jones: If you don’t stick to your schedule on the following installments, so I have to wait to find out what happens, I’ll…I’ll, I dunno. Tweet nasty things about your mother. Just sayin’ — I need to find out.

A fast, fast read that grabbed me from the first chapter and wouldn’t let me go until the end. And even then, it left me wanting more — soon. Thankfully, Jones has his 4-part series scheduled to wrap up this October. Go Home, Afton is as entertaining as it is intriguing with a protagonist you want to get to know better (even if she’s someone you’d like to see locked up in a treatment facility for at least a few years).

So, Afton is a great unreliable narrator. She’s not trying to be one — which is the best part. She’s reporting things to us as she sees them, but she can’t trust what she’s seeing and hearing. Which makes the reader pretty sure they know what’s going on most of the time — but they can never be totally sure.Thankfully, Afton is pretty up front about this. Neither she nor Jones are trying to play games with the reader. I can get behind that.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for my honest opinion. The ensuing addiction was just a bonus.

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3.5 Stars

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Rescued by David Rosenfelt ★ ★ ★ 1/2 A tale of self-defense, an old flame and a truckfull of dogs

RescuedRescued

by David Rosenfelt
Series: Andy Carpenter, #17

eARC, 304 pg.
Minotaur Books, 2018

Read: May 4, 2018

At an early age, Andy Carpenter discovered that he couldn’t hit a curve-ball and therefore had to give up on his dreams of playing in the majors and fall back to following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a lawyer. His father, a lifelong prosecuting attorney, probably wished for something else, but for the many people that he’s defended in court, they wouldn’t have it another way.

This is the seventeenth novel in this series — I’ve talked here about nine of the previous sixteen. There’s part of me wondering just what I could possibly have to say about this one that I haven’t said at least once before.

Andy Carpenter is called to a nearby rest area — a truck containing sixty-one dogs was discovered with the driver shot. Andy and Willie were called out to help the police retrieve the dogs and care for them. The police are really not happy to see him there — Andy Carpenter at a crime scene? Not a welcome sight. But then he’s called away, there’s a prospective new client waiting for him at home.

Not that surprisingly, the potential client was also at that rest area earlier in the day. He actually tells Andy that he shot the driver — in self-defense, mind you. Sure, there’s a history between the two — Kramer (the client) had assaulted the victim and threatened to kill him, in fact. But that was years ago, and he had no current reason to. He just needs some help with the inevitable arrest. Andy believes him — he has to. Kramer is Laurie’s ex and she vouches for him — so much so that Andy pretty much has to take the case for her sake.

Honestly, Andy really isn’t that interested in helping tall, hunky and dangerous Kramer — ex-Military, ex-police, ex-licensed investigator. But it’s not long before he starts to believe that there’s something more afoot. And what was the deal with all the dogs?

All the regulars are along for this ride — Pete Stanton brings the law and order, we get a little more about the fun side of Hike that was introduced in the last book, Sam and his hacking crew dig up plenty of information, Marcus is his typical imposing self, Tara is as loyal as ever — and Andy gets a lot of courtroom time in. There’s a new prosecuting attorney for him to face off against — I liked her, and would like to see her against Andy again.

I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler here, because it’s pretty much the default in this series, but there’s a conspiracy behind the murder and they men behind it have decided to frame Kramer. This is one of the better — or at least one of the more grounded — conspiracies featured in these books. Up to a point, some of it was pretty hard to swallow — it just went a little over the top for my taste (but many of them do in this series). Also, this one features the best code names this side of Reservoir Dogs. Still, it was one of the more clever solutions that we’ve been treated to lately.

A thought about the series as a whole at this point: I would appreciate it if Rosenfelt would shake things up a little bit — I’m not talking about killing Hike or splitting up with Laurie or anything — just dial down the super-criminals a bit, maybe spend some more time with the client again. But there’s little reason for him to do that — the series moves like clockwork and is reliably entertaining. I only say this because I’m a fan — Rosenfelt is in danger of becoming a parody of himself (at worst) or just putting out cookie-cutter books (at best), I don’t want Andy Carpenter to become a Stephanie Plum.

This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book — because I did. Andy, Sam, Pete, Vince, Laurie, Tara and the rest are old friends that I enjoy getting together with every few months. Rosenfelt’s latest demonstrates what’s been true for years — this series is at the point where you can reliably count on each book for an entertaining read, a puzzling mystery, some good comic moments, a nice dog or two and maybe even a tug on the heart strings. They’re still charming enough to win over a new reader (and any of the books serve just fine as entry points) as well as satisfying the long-term reader. Rescued delivered just what I expected and left me satisfied — satisfied and ready to read number 18.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this, it was a real pleasure.

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3.5 Stars

Trouble Makes a Comeback (Audiobook) by Stephanie Tromly, Kathleen McInerney: Not as good as its predecessor, but a heckuva fun read/listen

Trouble Makes a ComebackTrouble Makes a Comeback

by Stephanie Tromly, Kathleen McInerney (Narrator)
Series: Trouble, #2

Unabridged Audiobook, 7 hrs., 56 min.
Listening Library, 2016
Read: May 23-24, 2018

After the explosive ending of Trouble is a Friend of Mine, life has settled down for Zoe — so much so, she may have achieved “normalcy.” Her grades are good, she’s got a nice job, she’s dating the backup QB (maybe not the brightest guy, but he’s nice), and even has a couple of friends. The biggest stress in her life is the SATs just around the corner (she’s over-prepared but doesn’t believe it). Her mother’s got a new live-in boyfriend, and other than all the health food he’s insisting they eat, things are good on that front, too — better than they’ve been in years.

Which means, it’s time for Digby to come back to town and muck everything up. And boy howdy, he does a great job of that.He’s got a lead on his missing sister, and he wants Zoe to help. Oh, and he’s pretty sure there’s a drug ring afoot at her school, and he might as well take that out while he’s at it.

The drug story runs just like you’d think it would — maybe a bit too conventionally, really. But it does it’s job — giving Digby, Zoe and the rest an easier target than the quest for his sister. And is good for enough laughs and tension that it feels like more than just a distraction from the “real” story.

That story, the hunt for clues to his sister’s fate is huge. We learn so much more than we did in the first novel — and find out that so much that Digby thought he knew wasn’t quite right. In the end, this task feels out of the reach and capabilities of these two — even if it’s inevitable that they’ll get somewhere that the police, FBI, and other professionals never did.

I may not have done myself a favor listening to this so soon after the first novel — I may have liked it better with a cool-down period. Still, I just don’t think it’s as good. Which is strange, the story’s more focused, there’s less stage-setting needed — we know almost everyone already, the situation is clear, etc. But the story wasn’t as gripping, I kept waiting for something to happen — and when it did, it seemed too easy. Plus, the whole “high school story” thing — romantic relationships, etc. — was more significant to this book. None of this made it a bad book, just a “less-good” one. Still, plenty of fun, and I really want to get the sequel, which can’t be a bad thing, can it?

Nevertheless — I enjoyed the novel (and McInerney is a big part of that) — I laughed, I had fun, I enjoyed the tension, and might have even gotten wrapped up in the emotional moments. A strong sequel that does an admirable job of setting up a sure-to-be knockout final book in the trilogy.

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3.5 Stars
2018 Library Love Challenge

Born to the Blade 1.6: Spiraling by Marie Brennan: Just when things were looking up . . .

SpiralingSpiraling

by Marie Brennan
Series: Born to the Blade, #1.6

Kindle Edition, 47 pg.
Serial Box, 2018
Read: May 24, 2018
Yesterday, Serial Box tweeted:

Defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory as warders Ojo Kante and Kris Denn search for answers and their superiors grow eager for war.

That’s about the best way to sum up this episode without getting into too much detail. As much as last week’s episode was a reaction to the events of the episode 4, while setting the table for the next arc — this episode was a reaction to the final chapter from last week.

Which was a doozy and deserved these 47 pages of fallout. I’m not going to say anything about the main story because I’ll just ruin things for people who haven’t read it yet. I will say that I could not have been more wrong after last week’s episode when I guessed what was on the horizon. While I found what Brennan did with the characters most obviously impacted (Kris, Ojo) with this — Michiko was by far the most interesting character this time out, and had a lot more to do than one would expect.

I have no real clue about what’s going on with Lavinia and Bellona in this episode — which is pretty cool, because you know that’s going to explode in a week or two. I have a theory or two about Lavinia’s actions, but am halfway convinced that I’m wrong and that the writers have something far better in store. I can’t help but assume that Bellona’s plans will fail — mostly because that seems in keeping with the character. But if she succeeds, it’ll make Lavinia eat a little crow. Either will work for me.

I’m looking forward to episode 7 more than I’ve looked forward to any of the others. For the first couple of weeks, I talked about the promise of this series — it’s being fulfilled now, and I’m glad I stuck with this through my initial ambivalence.

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3.5 Stars

Benedict Arnold: From American Hero to British Traitor by in60Learning: A compelling and tragic story of America’s Traitor

Benedict ArnoldBenedict Arnold: From American Hero to British Traitor

by in60learning
Series: in60Learning

Kindle Edition, 40 pg.
in60Learning, 2018
Read: May 4, 2018

If someone knows just two names from the US War for Independence, they’re George Washington and Benedict Arnold. We should all probably know a few more, but most of us have those two in our mental arsenal. He’s easily the most famous traitor since Judas Iscariot — his name is synonymous with the act.

But how many of us know just how he betrayed the American forces? How’d he get to that position? What happened to him afterwards? This book answers those questions — and a few others you hadn’t thought to ask.

The story is just tragic, really. That’s not an apologetic for the guy — don’t make misunderstand me. But there’s just something about his floundering for significance and success that just strikes you as sad — he’s like Forrest Gump, but without engendering any good will anywhere.

I want to read more about Arnold after reading about this — something I never expected.

As they have every time I see them interact with Christianity, these authors just don’t get it. They seem to misunderstand the New Light/Old Light controversy and American Puritanism. It’s a very minor point in this narrative, but as trends go, it’s pretty annoying.

This is a pretty compelling story and the book seems longer than it is — that’s not long as in boring, but long as in it covers a lot and you’d think it’d take at least 20 more pages to fit it all in. This brief biography of Arnold is this series at its best — a brief introduction of something most of us should know about told in a way that you can digest easily, that will drive you to read more.

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3.5 Stars

The Assassin of Oz by Nicky Peacock: A Fast, Strange and Violent Sequel that Tops its Predecessor

The Assassin of OzThe Assassin of Oz

by Nicky Peacock
Series: The Twisted and The Brave, #1

PDF, 180 pg.
Evernight Teen, 2018
Read: May 14 – 15, 2018
I’m not sure what it says about me/the books I read/the world in general, that given the strangeness of the world depicted in this series — the serial killer, vigilante organization, imaginary friend that’s not that imaginary, Native American legendary creature that’s going around killing people — and the even stranger stuff on the horizon of this book, that the hardest thing for me to swallow came in these opening pages. The Prime Minister imposes mandatory capital punishment for murder? That’s just so hard to believe. All the outlandish supernatural stuff just around the corner of that moment seems routine and blasé in comparison.

It takes awhile for this novel to show how it’s related to Lost in Wonderland, although it shares a sensibility and style from the get-go. Because of a couple of references and a news story, you know that this happens in the same world, but the characters are all new for the first two-thirds or so of this book. So when some of the characters from Lost in show up, it almost feels like they’re guest stars.

A 17-year old orphan named Halo is living with her horrible step-father who uses her for a punching bag and a cover for him as he sells drugs, she’s just not sure how to get out of this life when someone calling himself the Wizard shows up to recruit her for his club — Oz. The members of this little club are all murderers, many are technically serial killers at least partially responsible for the re-imposition of capital punishment.

Gavin is a police detective from the States, working with the British police to stop some of these serial killers — apparently Britain is recruiting police officers from around the globe to help slow their slide into dystopia. Gavin and his partner are on the hunt for a killer they call Valentine — who takes the hearts of his victims. A reporter is also trying to get him on board his personal crusade to help exonerate a convicted murder before he’s the first execution in decades.

These actually have more in common than you’d expect — a whole lot more than they’d ever expect or guess. Both end up immersed in the activities of Oz. Which is really about all I can say without ruining everything.

The prose is sharp and sparse — there’s hardly a wasted word. I mean this as a description, not a criticism, but frequently this reads more like an extended outline than a completed draft. It’s a gamble to try it — but Peacock makes that kind of writing work for her.

Fast-paced, focused, imaginative, action-packed and strange. This is an entertaining read — The Assassin of Oz novel delivers what it promises, a genre-mashup full of excitement. This is a solid sequel and does a nice job of setting up the next installment which seems like it’ll be another fun one.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinions.

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3.5 Stars

Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies by Barb Taub: A fun humor collection looking at family and life.

Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog DiesLife Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies

by Barb Taub

Kindle Edition, 175 pg.
2018

Read: April 13 – 14, 2018

Barb Taub, a former Midwest newspaper columnist turned blogger, has released a collection of (I think) previously published and/or posted columns and blog posts around the family-related themes — kids, relationships, life, travel, holidays, pets, and death.

You know how there are hard-boiled mysteries, noir mysteries and cozy mysteries? This feels like cozy humor. (I’m sure there are better designations/genre labels, but I don’t know them). There’s nothing offensive, nothing boundary pushing, nothing upsetting — just amusing anecdotes, a slightly off-kilter look at life, and a way with words. Simple entertainment — pretty much what you’re looking for in a collection of humor, right?

I wouldn’t recommend sitting down and reading this cover to cover. Sample from it, a little here and a little there over a few days. Taub has a couple of phrases that she really likes, anecdotes that she returns to often (for different ends sometimes) — and I don’t blame her for doing so, when it works, it works. But when you read them too close together, it takes a way from the moment. But that’s a minor quibble.

This is a simple, straightforward, collection of amusing, occasionally heart-warming, pleasantly humorous pieces. I feel obligated to say something else about it, but I can’t think of anything else to say. Taub’s a funny woman, if you like reading funny things, you should read this book.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for my honest opinion and this post. I appreciate it, but this simple act didn’t impact my opinion.

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3.5 Stars