Reposting Just ‘Cuz — True Fiction by Lee Goldberg: A Writer on the Run

Here’s the second of my Lee Goldberg reposts for the day — by the time you read this, I’ve probably finihsed the sequel to this one, which might be even more fun than this. Do yourself a favor and check out these books — but first, let me try to lay out the argument that you should.

True FictionTrue Fiction

by Lee Goldberg
Series: Ian Ludlow Thrillers, #1

Kindle Edition, 248 pg.
Thomas & Mercer, 2018
Read: July 20 – 21, 2018

“Sorry I’m late,” Ian said. “I’ve been on the run all morning.”

It was a line worthy of Clint Straker and Ian knew it. He couldn’t stop being a writer, always thinking of the next line in one of his thrillers. But he was living a thriller now and it was no thrill at all.

This is one of those books that’s super easy to write about — if you like the premise of the book, you’ll like the book. It’s just that simple. The tricky part is finding someone who wouldn’t like this premise.

Ian Ludlow, television writer turned thriller novelist, can’t believe his eyes — a terrorist attack in Hawaii went exactly the way that he designed and he’s pretty sure that someone is trying to kill him. Ludlow was part of a group of writers (movie, TV, novelists) that came up with some scenarios for the CIA that terrorists might use, so the CIA could design counter-measures. This is a thing that actually happened (maybe still does) following 9/11, because writers have much better imaginations than government employees do. One of those scenarios is playing out in real life and Ludlow doesn’t know what to do. Clearly someone out there doesn’t want Ludlow spreading the word that he’s the source for this attack.

Before he realizes what’s happening, Ludlow is running for his life and has dragged Margo along with him. Margo’s a dog-sitter, house-sitter, aspiring musician, and occasionally drives authors visiting Seattle to their signings. That’s how this poor girl gets sucked into Ludlow’s mess — she saves his life (and then he returns the favor), dooming her to having to run with him.

Add in some over-the-top villains (I hope, see below), and Goldberg’s signature wit and solid writing, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

This is a fast fun ride featuring about the most unlikely of all thriller protagonists. Ian Ludlow isn’t really in any kind of shape; he has no skills with hand-to-hand combat, cars, or weapons — his people skills are suspect, really; all he has going for him is a pretty agile mind. Margo’s a little better off, but not much. They quickly run to the home of one of Ian’s friends who lives off of the grid and is paranoid enough he’ll believe their story. Which may not really be the strongest of qualifications, but they can’t afford to be choosy. The three of them will have to figure out a way to survive — and possibly stop whoever it was behind the attack.

Does anyone else remember Condorman? The Disney film about a comic book writer/artist who accidentally (very accidentally) becomes a super-spy? I was 7 or 8 when it came out and loved it. Anyway, I had a flash-back to that when Ludlow stumbles his way into taking out one of the many assassins that come after him — one of the many times I had an honest audible response to this book (not a book I recommend reading in an ICU ward, for what it’s worth, people tend not to like noises there).

Now, I called the villains over-the-top. I’m not really sure they are — they seem over the top, but there’s a little part of me wonders how hard it really would be for someone to pull off something like this. John Rogers, of Leverage, frequently talked about how some of their over-the-top bad guys were watered down versions of the real thing (because no one would believe the real thing). Take my word for it, I don’t have time to track him down saying it. Let’s put it this way — they’re perfect for this book, and like just about every thriller villain ever, it’s best that they stay inside the book.

While he’s telling a very fun story, Goldberg takes a little bit of time to satirize thrillers, thriller writings, and thriller heroes — I loved every bit of that. It helps that Goldberg writes and reads the same books he’s satirizing, so you know he does it with love and honesty. Some of the excerpts from Ludlow’s books are just awful, it must’ve been hard to write (but so much fun). Ditto for the TV shows that Ian’s friend Ronnie starred in, I really hope that those are things that Goldberg made up for this book (and fear they aren’t).

This feels like Goldberg and Evanovich’s Fox & O’Hare books, or maybe The Man with the Iron-On Badge (which features a protagonist only slightly more likely than Ian) — not his more serious work like King City. The story moves quickly, deftly and will leave you smiling — I can’t imagine Goldberg writing a disappointing book at this point, I just don’t think he can. Pick this up, you will be entertained.

—–

4 Stars

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Going Dark by Neil Lancaster: An Action-Packed Thrill Ride, an Interesting Spin on the Hero, and a Dynamite Plot

Going DarkGoing Dark

by Neil Lancaster
Series: Tom Novak Thriller, #1

Kindle Edition, 314 pg.
Burning Chair Publishing, 2019
Read: May 15 – 17, 2019

So Tom Novak came to the UK as a refugee from Bosnia at the age of twelve and was raised in Scotland by a wonderful couple. He joined the military, did a lot more than many soldiers had to and then came home and became a cop. He’s driven and focused — one could argue that he’s obsessed with the job — he’s talented and frustrated with the attitude of many of those above him in ranks and how little they’re able to accomplish for the common good. When given a chance to use his background to infiltrate a group of Serbian criminals who are engaging in human trafficking, prostitution, and immigration fraud he jumps at it. The primary target is a lawyer who is defrauding the government, innocent refugees, and young girls — while making a lot of money — but if he can take out the Serbs funneling girls to him, well that’s just icing on the cake.

I loved the pacing of the undercover work — it’s not one of those where the UC officer meets the bad guy and almost instantly gets taken into their confidence — there’s work, there’s time involved. Now, Lancaster takes care of most of that work and time with a time jump and a summary sentence or two. But that’s okay, the book would’ve slowed down considerably and added a few dozen pages to show us all that. He’s not giving us a play by play of UC work here — and he has the qualifications to do that — it’s not that kind of book, it’s a Thriller. He makes the nod to reality, and then keeps things moving so that the book can get to the exciting stuff.

It’s after the time jump that things go horribly, horribly wrong. Evidence goes missing and the bad guys know who Novak really is and put out a hit on him. Clearly, the police have a leak and Novak can think of only one way to survive — and maybe uncover the leak and still take care of his criminal targets — that’s by (title alert!) by Going Dark. He hops off the grid, grabs a burner phone and a phony ID he’s had ready for just such a contingency, makes a call or two to people he can trust and sets about doing what he can (which is plenty).

Like many action heroes, focus on martial arts, physical fitness, weapons and police procedure doesn’t leave a lot of time for things like learning a lot about tech, hacking, and the like. So one of the favors he calls in (from outside the police force, because he really doesn’t trust anyone there right now) results in getting loaned this nice young computer savant named Pet. Pet’s awesome — she can do pretty much everything that Novak wants, and doesn’t care what rules she breaks while doing so — and is perfectly willing to risk her neck for this relative stranger. Sure, she strains credulity a bit, but she’s entertaining enough that you really don’t care (besides, just about everyone else in the book is as realistic as you could hope for. Every thriller needs a couple of larger than life characters, might as well make it a fun techie girl in addition to the super-solider/cop).

With Pet’s help, Novak goes on the hunt for everyone involved in his precarious situation — both within and without the Metropolitan Police. And you know it’s not going to go well for anyone he finds.

You’ve really got three criminal groups at work here — the Serbs (a couple of brothers, their mother, and eventually their father); the lawyer and his brother; and the corrupt police. The Serbs are your typical rough and tumble crooks who don’t care much about their victims, the people they use or the necessity of violence — they know what they want and will do what they can to get it. Links to war criminals and larger criminal groups back home, make them more dangerous. You’ve seen the type before, you’ll see them again — and Lancaster nails their characterizations. He possibly does better with the sleazoid lawyer. It took no time at all for me to want bad things to happen to him, and then things got worse. He feels all-too-real and all-too-horrible. The same sentence could be applied to their inside-the-police tools, but I’m not going to say anything more about this group because I’ll end up giving something away. So, let’s just leave it there. Really this is a pretty impressive group of opponents for our fledgling hero to go up against, larger-than-life assistant or not.

The thing that sets Tom Novak apart from so many super-cops/soldiers/spies that the Thriller world are his particular background and his current psychology. The two are likely related, but lets ignore that. While you can’t say his childhood was as horrible as many are, or as it could’ve been given some of the events that surrounded him. It left an impression on him, it set him apart from his peers and still shapes him — he’s quick to tell anyone who says something that he’s not Scottish, or English, or anything else he’s tagged with. He may have adopted (willingly or not) his new country, but that’s not who he is at his core. More than once — particularly after things get violent — that we’re shown Novak’s emotional/psychological state. It’s not what one would expect — it’s not what he’d prefer to see — but it’s who he is. He knows he’s different, and his self-awareness helps the reader get insight. I don’t want to get into details at this point, but I really hope that Lancaster and his readers get to explore this more.

This is Lancaster’s first novel and it shows some, but really he’s pretty impressive. I really thought that early on, Lancaster had set up a particular ending. And boy did he not deliver at all. It wasn’t as narratively satisfying or expected as what I thought — but it was a lot more realistic and practical. And Novak is nothing if not practical, so it was fitting. And I always appreciate when an author makes you think you’re going to get something and gives you the opposite (in a way that’s justifiable, and not lazy or clumsy, anyway). Technically, there was an awkward phrase or two, but nothing major — I did think he stumbled pretty early by giving us the same information in two back-to-back paragraphs. But those were minor hiccups and it wasn’t long before I was too wrapped up in the story to remember them.

This is the second book I’ve read recently largely based on the recommendation of Ian Patrick, at this point, I’m thinking of just paying him a monthly fee to curate my TBR. It’s just a fun read, with the right amount of touches of realism to ground the more fantastic elements. The undercover stuff feels authentic (but what do I really know); the bureaucracy reeks of realism (but DS Novak’s complaints seem different than Sam Batford’s, Peter Grant’s, or Washington Poe’s — to name a few); the inciting crime feels as “ripped from the headlines” as anything that Dick Wolf has done; the characters are solid; pacing and twists are as well executed as you could hope and the action is right up there with the seasoned pro’s. All in all, I’m not sure what more you could want from a debut — I’m hoping I get the chance to see more from Lancaster and more about Novak tout de suite!

—–

4 Stars

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge 2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs: Goblin Royalty, Coyote, the Strangest Zombies you’ve Run Across Combine and an excess of “Next”s

Storm CursedStorm Cursed

by Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson, #11

Hardcover, 355 pg.
Ace, 2019
Read: May 8 -10, 2019

Adam grinned at me, “That which doesn’t destroy us . . .”

“Leaves us scratching our heads and saying, ‘What’s next?'” I said.

There’s always plenty of things that can answer that “What’s next?” question in the land of Mercy Thompson — but Storm Cursed seems to have extra nexts in it. Briggs is such an excellent series writer — there’s always a great mix of classic favorites (Zee, Uncle Mike, Mary Jo and Ben) and the new (Goblin King, the events of Silence Fallen, the baddies of this book) — like a favorite band touring in support of their new album that no one’s heard yet, she sprinkles in enough of the familiar with the new that you can enjoy the songs you can sing along with and appreciate the new for what they bring to the table.

We start off with the typical mini-adventure featuring Mary Jo, Ben and Mercy — with a little bit of Larry mixed in. There’s a goblin on the run from law enforcement after causing some mayhem in California who thought the Tri-Cities would be a safe place to lay low. Boy, was he wrong. This goblin accomplishes a lot of other things, though. He brings Mercy and the pack into a new part of the area and the law enforcement there, for starters.

This sets things up perfectly for Mercy and Mary Jo to come to the aid of said law enforcement when it comes to a very strange supernatural outbreak. Miniature zombie goats. ’nuff said.

Zombie goats — no matter their size (as important as it is to Mercy and Stefan) don’t just show up one day. They’re the product of witchcraft, and with Elizaveta still in Europe following Silence Fallen the Ti-Cities is ripe for new witches to move in and usurp her. I’m not going to tell you if they’re successful or not, but they sure make things interesting for the defenders of the area like Mercy and Adam. This also gives Sherwood Post, the mysterious wolf sent by the Marrock to be a part of this pack after something happened that he can’t talk about/remember involving witches. He apparently picked up a thing or two, and gets the chance to demonstrate that.

I’ve liked Sherwood since he showed up the first time, and now I’m super-intrigued by him.

There’s a big, summit-like meeting between representatives of the U.S. and the Fae leadership in the making — and the Pack has a lot to do with making sure it happens without a hitch. Naturally, for reasons that are unclear (at first), the new witches in town are working to disrupt it for their own ends. Because there’s not enough going on without that — an excess of nexts, really.

Speaking of excess — Coyote is lurking in the background of many of these events and he’s determined to keep Mercy in the middle of things, for his own reasons. If he’d just been up front with her, I think she’d have been on-board without hesitation (and certainly seems glad to have helped once she figures out his play). Instead, he manipulates her into doing what he wants — which is bad for the character, good for the reader, because he’s so much fun to read, especially when it comes at Mercy’s expense.

No matter what happens in a Mercy Thompson book — they’re filled with fun, and it’s easy to fool yourself into only remembering the fun parts and pushing the darkness and trauma aside in your memory until the next book comes along and reminds you just how messed up things can get for Mercy and the rest. This book is no exception — but in may ways the evil they confront this time is a special kind of Evil that requires at least one capital when you talk about it. What happens throughout this book, what’s uncovered here — especially the last few chapters — is probably the most inherently disturbing that Briggs has given us yet. I wondered at more than one point, if even Atticus O’Sullivan could hate witches as much as Mercy does (for good reason!). I decided the two would probably end up in a tie, but that Mercy has more recent evidence for her prejudice.

There’s something that happens in the climactic battle scene that I want to talk about more than I want to talk about anything else in this book — because in the long run it’s going to be bigger and more important than anything else that happens or I’ll eat my hat. It’s so small, so quick that it’d be easy to miss — 2 sentences on one page, then twelve pages later 2 more sentences. And Briggs has at least one novel’s worth of plot seeded right there. I love when I see an author do something like that and make it look effortless. And I think I’m underselling it. But I’ll have to leave it there — maybe in book 12 (or 15) when it happens, I’ll remember to say, “Remember that thing I didn’t talk about in Storm Cursed? This is it.”

Overall, this is another very solid entry in an incredibly reliable series, and I’m already excited to see what happens in book 12. Still, I get the feeling that Briggs is holding back a lot lately — here more than usual. Maybe it’s to keep the tone light, maybe it’s to keep the page count in check. Maybe it’s just me. But it seems to me that the last few books could’ve easily been deeper, darker, and more exciting, if Briggs would just allow that to happen — like she’s pulling her punches. As much as I love these characters, this world and Briggs’ writing, I just can’t get as excited about them as I want to. This is a great read — please don’t misunderstand me — but it could be better, it feels like it’d be easy for her to make it better. So I’ve got to stick with 4 stars — which feels like I’m pulling my punches, too.

—–

4 Stars

Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin: Rebus’ Past Comes Back to Haunt Him

Saints of the Shadow BibleSaints of the Shadow Bible

by Ian Rankin
Series: John Rebus, #19

Hardcover, 389 pg.
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
Read: April 15 – 17, 2019

           Rebus said quietly. “It made sense that we stuck up for one another back then–might not be so true now.”. . .

“. . . secrets and lies and all the other crap we’ve dealt out and been dealt. I didn’t see you owning up in there to singing your name to statements that weren’t yours. But we both know it happened a lot happened back then, and one crack in the dam might be all that’s needed . . .” Patterson paused, looking Rebus up and down. “So make sure you know whose side you’re on John.”

Rebus is officially un-retired, and very happy (at least by his standards). To be reinstated, he had to agree to be a Detective Constable again, instead of an Inspector. But he was willing (and usually still is) to take the rank cut so that he keep working. For anyone who’s read a Rebus book or two, this makes perfect sense. Buying books he doesn’t read, listening to his music collection, and police work — that’s all he has in his life. Well, okay, smoking and drinking, too. But those two can only occupy so much time.

Serving as a DC, he investigates a car that went off the road for no good reason on a straight stretch with DI Siobhan Clarke. It doesn’t take the two long at all to determine that what happened at the scene is as obvious as everyone else thinks (everyone but readers, because we all know that Rebus and Clarke together at a scene = more than meets the eye). They were called in because someone with influence exerted that influence at got detectives to investigate a seemingly routine auto accident that injured a young woman. Within days, there’s a more serious crime related to their investigation, and the two are plunged into a veritable minefield of money, politics, and family secrets.

Meanwhile, Malcom Fox is working his last Complaints case before being reorganized into detective work. He asks Clarke for help in approaching Rebus for some information related to the case. He’s looking into a murder case related to the group where Rebus served his first assignment as a rookie detective. Rebus is initially resistant to help Fox nab one of his old friends, but soon begins to think that Fox is onto something and works the case with him.

Watching the rapprochement between Rebus and Fox is great — at times it feels like things used to when Rebus was working with Clarke (in the latter stages, when they were more like equals). Fox and Clarke’s burgeoning friendship is a lot of fun to read, too. Basically, Fox’s addition to this world in general is something to be praised. I’m not 100% sold on Clarke’s rise, she almost seems more like Gill Templar than herself at times. Now, at one point, Clarke might have taken that as a partial compliment, but I don’t think so. She retains her sense of humor and instincts, but her commitment to the job might be more powerful than those instincts.

Over the last couple of books, one of the most interesting things is the rise of Darryl Christie in the Edinburgh crime world. He’s back in these pages. Not as Rebus’ target, but a presence — like Cafferty so often was. Time moves on and the young move up on both sides of the law. But as Rebus can’t let go, I can’t believe that Big Ger will roll over and let Christie take over the entire city without at least some resistance (something tells me that it’ll be very effective resistance).

I can’t think of another way to talk about Rankin’s skill. Here we are in the nineteenth Rebus book and things feel as fresh as ever — yet this is a world that the reader knows and feels comfort in. These characters and situations are old friends and Rankin’s Edinburgh is as real to me as Parker’s Boston, Connelly’s L.A. or Johnson’s Wyoming — I’ve never set foot in Scotland, but that city feels like a place I’ve frequented.

As you can’t help but expect, this is a completely satisfying mystery novel full of fantastic characters, tangled webs of lies and motives — and an excellent look at the ways policing used to be carried out and the changes it’s gone through. But more than that, it’s a little more time with one of the greats of Crime Fiction as he continues to try to stay active, an old dog learning a couple of new tricks (despite his best efforts) and not forgetting any of the old tricks.

—–

4 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge 2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

Pub Day Repost: Breaking the Lore by Andy Redsmith: A Funny, Fresh Take on a Police-filled Portal Fantasy

Breaking the LoreBreaking the Lore

by Andy Redsmith
Series: Inspector Paris Mystery, #1

eARC, 321 pg.
Canelo, 2019
Read: April 3 – 5, 2019

Inspector Nick Paris is your all too typical cynical, bitter, hard-drinking, chain-smoking police detective, and his world is being rocked. The latest corpse he’s been brought out to see and investigate the circumstances around the death is that of a fairy. The tiny, impossibly good looking, humanoid with wings kind of fairy. While still trying to wrap his mind around how that was possible, a crow (named Malbus) flies into his house demanding, demanding a smoke and talking to him about the murdered fairy. Not long after this, he’s visited by an elf and a rock troll (Tergil and Rocky).

And that’s just Day One of his new reality.

Essentially, there’s a connection between our world and the world of all these magical beings — a portal of sorts that those who desire to can travel between the two (or people and animals can stumble through unintentionally). For all sorts of great reasons, the magical creatures/folk kept their existence from humanity — and let what humans know fade into myth and legend. But something’s happened in their world, and those who are over here have to come seeking help (in terms of political asylum) and possibly even letting humanity in on what’s going on around them.

This is a little beyond Paris’ typical caseload, but he and his Superintendent, a no-nonsense woman named Thorpe, respond very well to these new challenges — dragging other officers and even the army along with them. They are obviously relying on the advice and guidance of the magical creatures — Tergil in particular (although Malbus makes sure his input is heard, too). They also recruit a local supernatural expert — Cassandra, a self-styled witch that no one in the police would’ve given any credence to if not for this new reality.

As fun as Paris, Tergil and Malbus are, Cassandra is a delight. She’s wise, insightful, and has a fantastic sense of humor — she might be harder for Paris to cope with than fairies, dwarves, and trolls. I shouldn’t forget Paris’ Sergeant Bonetti — he’s loyal, strong, brave and probably not as mentally quick as he should be. He’s also the target of near-constant mockery from his superior. I’m not sure why he puts up with the abuse, but I found myself laughing at it. When the fate of multiple worlds is on the line, it’s these few who will stand strong in Manchester, England to keep everyone safe.

I can think of as many reasons that this is a lousy comparison to make as I can to make it — but throughout Breaking the Lore I kept thinking about Chrys Cymri’s Penny White books. There’ll be a big overlap in the Venn diagram of Fans of Penny White and Fans of Inspector Paris. I’m sure there are other comparisons that are as apt, or more so — but this is the one that I kept coming back to for some reason.

I had so much fun reading this book, Redsmith has a way with words that makes me think it really doesn’t matter what story he decided to tell — I’d want to read it. He was able to express the seriousness of the situation, while never stopping (either narratively or through the characters) the quips, jokes and sense of fun. There’s an infectious charm to the prose and characters that easily overcomes whatever drawbacks the novel has. I’m not saying this is a novel filled with problems, it’s just that I woudn’t care about most of them thanks to the voice.

Now, Redsmith’s wit does have an Achilles’ heel — puns. Redsmith is an inveterate punster, and will hit you with them when you least expect it. Now me? I love a good pun — and I hate them at the same time. Maybe you know what I mean. I cackled at pretty much all of them (frequently audibly), but I hated both myself and Redsmith for it. You know those, Pearls Before Swine strips where Rat beats up Stephan Pastis because of the very carefully constructed pun? Yeah, this book is a series of those moments (but he rarely gives the setup Pastis does, usually it’s a quick sucker punch).

There are many other points I’d intended to make, but I think I’ve gone on long enough. This novel is silly, goofy, intelligent, charming — with a fresh take on a great idea. You’ll find yourself enjoying Paris, Cassandra, Malbus, Tergil and the rest. I can see a few different ways that Redsmith takes Book Two, and I’m looking forward to seeing which one he picks (probably none of my ideas). But before that happens, I’m just going to relish the fun that Breaking the Lore was and encourage you all to go buy and read it for yourself.

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

—–

4 Stars

Breaking the Lore by Andy Redsmith: A Funny, Fresh Take on a Police-filled Portal Fantasy

Breaking the LoreBreaking the Lore

by Andy Redsmith
Series: Inspector Paris Mystery, #1

eARC, 321 pg.
Canelo, 2019

Read: April 3 – 5, 2019


Inspector Nick Paris is your all too typical cynical, bitter, hard-drinking, chain-smoking police detective, and his world is being rocked. The latest corpse he’s been brought out to see and investigate the circumstances around the death is that of a fairy. The tiny, impossibly good looking, humanoid with wings kind of fairy. While still trying to wrap his mind around how that was possible, a crow (named Malbus) flies into his house demanding, demanding a smoke and talking to him about the murdered fairy. Not long after this, he’s visited by an elf and a rock troll (Tergil and Rocky).

And that’s just Day One of his new reality.

Essentially, there’s a connection between our world and the world of all these magical beings — a portal of sorts that those who desire to can travel between the two (or people and animals can stumble through unintentionally). For all sorts of great reasons, the magical creatures/folk kept their existence from humanity — and let what humans know fade into myth and legend. But something’s happened in their world, and those who are over here have to come seeking help (in terms of political asylum) and possibly even letting humanity in on what’s going on around them.

This is a little beyond Paris’ typical caseload, but he and his Superintendent, a no-nonsense woman named Thorpe, respond very well to these new challenges — dragging other officers and even the army along with them. They are obviously relying on the advice and guidance of the magical creatures — Tergil in particular (although Malbus makes sure his input is heard, too). They also recruit a local supernatural expert — Cassandra, a self-styled witch that no one in the police would’ve given any credence to if not for this new reality.

As fun as Paris, Tergil and Malbus are, Cassandra is a delight. She’s wise, insightful, and has a fantastic sense of humor — she might be harder for Paris to cope with than fairies, dwarves, and trolls. I shouldn’t forget Paris’ Sergeant Bonetti — he’s loyal, strong, brave and probably not as mentally quick as he should be. He’s also the target of near-constant mockery from his superior. I’m not sure why he puts up with the abuse, but I found myself laughing at it. When the fate of multiple worlds is on the line, it’s these few who will stand strong in Manchester, England to keep everyone safe.

I can think of as many reasons that this is a lousy comparison to make as I can to make it — but throughout Breaking the Lore I kept thinking about Chrys Cymri’s Penny White books. There’ll be a big overlap in the Venn diagram of Fans of Penny White and Fans of Inspector Paris. I’m sure there are other comparisons that are as apt, or more so — but this is the one that I kept coming back to for some reason.

I had so much fun reading this book, Redsmith has a way with words that makes me think it really doesn’t matter what story he decided to tell — I’d want to read it. He was able to express the seriousness of the situation, while never stopping (either narratively or through the characters) the quips, jokes and sense of fun. There’s an infectious charm to the prose and characters that easily overcomes whatever drawbacks the novel has. I’m not saying this is a novel filled with problems, it’s just that I woudn’t care about most of them thanks to the voice.

Now, Redsmith’s wit does have an Achilles’ heel — puns. Redsmith is an inveterate punster, and will hit you with them when you least expect it. Now me? I love a good pun — and I hate them at the same time. Maybe you know what I mean. I cackled at pretty much all of them (frequently audibly), but I hated both myself and Redsmith for it. You know those, Pearls Before Swine strips where Rat beats up Stephan Pastis because of the very carefully constructed pun? Yeah, this book is a series of those moments (but he rarely gives the setup Pastis does, usually it’s a quick sucker punch).

There are many other points I’d intended to make, but I think I’ve gone on long enough. This novel is silly, goofy, intelligent, charming — with a fresh take on a great idea. You’ll find yourself enjoying Paris, Cassandra, Malbus, Tergil and the rest. I can see a few different ways that Redsmith takes Book Two, and I’m looking forward to seeing which one he picks (probably none of my ideas). But before that happens, I’m just going to relish the fun that Breaking the Lore was and encourage you all to go buy and read it for yourself.

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

—–

4 Stars

Rogue Superheroes by Matt Cowper: Unintended Consequences Wreak All Sorts of Havoc on the Heroes’ Lives

Rogue SuperheroesRogue Superheroes

by Matt Cowper
Series: The Elites, #2

Kindle Edition, 242pg.
2019

Read: March 7- 8, 2019

When we left Nightstriker at the end of The World Savers, he was trying to apply the new convictions he’d adopted after The Elites encounter with the Giftgiver and his followers. Yes, the primary task for heroes like himself was to take on super-human threats, but other sources of injustice should be in their sights as well. Starting with corrupt politicians and government officials. Nightstriker, who seems to accumulate intelligence on everyone he stands next to in line at Starbucks, had plenty of dirt on them all — and starts releasing some of this information to the Press. Suddenly, officials are forced to resign in droves — and the stresses on the fault-lines of society increase exponentially.

Suddenly, the nation seems on the verge of civil war, and Nightstriker comes clean to the team about what he’s done. Before they can even decide how to react, their HQ is attacked and the President identifies Nightstriker (and because of him the rest of the Elites) as the source of the leaks and exposé stories. As they try to get out of the rubble that was their HQ, a new, government-controlled, team of heroes comes to arrest them. Before the Elites can really wrap their minds around what’s going on they’re on the run, hiding and licking their wounds.

So the Elites have to clean up their image, defeat the new team, and try to help fix the mess that Nightstriker inadvertently created by not thinking things through as he should have. It’s a good thing they’re super-heroes, or this could be very daunting.

That’s not the whole book — like before, a significant portion of the book is devoted to Sam (Blaze’s) continued maturing and the growth of his powers. There are heavy prices for him to pay along those likes I have to say, but especially for the reader — it’s all worth it. The rest of the team have strong storylines — and a good number of people from the previous book make appearances (some pretty significant). It’s easy (and right) to focus on his “Big Three” and what’s going on with them, but without the rest of these characters, the book wouldn’t work.

In the midst of a story where the stakes are so high — Cowper throws in a lot of smaller stories, a good number of scenes that aren’t involved in the overall story, but develop the characters well. It’s a well-balanced story, just enough of things that aren’t the overarching stories to round out things so you can take in all the details of the rest.

I cannot tell you how many times Cowper did things with these characters I didn’t see coming. Things happened to people (powered or not) and then the heroes reacted in ways that were shocking. Despite the fact that this is only the second book in a series, Cowper is clearly playing for keeps and won’t be satisfied with simply injuring some characters. More than once, I had to go back and read a couple of paragraphs again just to make sure that Cowper had the chutzpah to do what I thought he did. “I couldn’t have read that right, because that’s just . . . nope, he did do that.” It wasn’t deconstruction and shocking moves for the sake of it, there was a reason for it all and it served the story, but wow.

But that’s not to say that everything is dark and grim — yes, Cowper’s Super-Hero stories are more like a movie directed by Zack Snyder than one directed by Patty Jenkins or Jon Favreau, but there are moments of joy, of small victories, even a little romance. The moments with Blaze and Metal Girl continue to be enjoyable and are a great break from the Nightstriker drama (even when the moments with the two aren’t happy times). The character Anna, introduced late in The World Savers proved to be another source of relief from the tensions — which is odd, because things don’t really go that well for her for most of the book.

Slab and Buckshot continue (in my opinion) to be under-served, but they both had opportunities to shine here, and we saw more aspects of their character. I do understand why they don’t get the time devoted to them that Metal Girl, Blaze and Nightstriker get — I really do. Also, I’ll probably complain about Slab’s use until Cowper gives him POV chapters that make up at least a third of a novel. Still, Cowper uses the characters well and I like them a lot — he’s probably right to give them the “screen time” that he does. It’s better to leave readers wanting more, anyway, right? Rather than a “I don’t know why we spent so much time with Buckshot, when we could’ve got some more awkward flirtation from Blaze” situation.

A quick note — I thought the original cover for The World Savers was just fine. But the new cover, that matches the look of this cover, is just outstanding (as is this one). It’s a small thing, but the covers are great.

I had a blast with The World Savers, but Rogue Superheroes surpassed it on every front, and I was excited to read it. I’m not sure how Cowper continues the story from where it is — The Elites and the world around them were pushed to such extremes in these pages that topping this book might prove too much to try — but if instead of trying to climb that mountain, he goes around it just right, it could be very satisfying. I am really looking forward to seeing how he proceeds (and how wrong he proves me).

For solid super-hero action, a dash of intrigue and some jaw-dropping outcomes, Rogue Superheroes will satisfy any reader, and I encourage you to go grab it.

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

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4 Stars

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