The Barista’s Guide to Espionage by Dave Sinclair: A Bond Girl à la Amy Sherman-Palladino leads this entertaining action story.

Finally, some original Fahrenbruary content!

The Barista’s Guide to EspionageThe Barista’s Guide to Espionage

by Dave Sinclair/a>
Series:
Eva Destruction, #1

Kindle Edition, 306 pg.
Fahrenheit Press, 2016
Read: February 4 – 6, 2018

All her adult life, she’d dated men who were bad for her. Men who treated her dreadfully and undervalued her worth. She knew that, she’d always known that, and yet she failed to break the cycle. There had only been one man who’d treated her with respect and as an equal. It was a shame he’d also threatened every government on Earth and drawn UN condemnation.

Eva ran her finger around the rim of her pint. Why were all the best kissers hell-bent on tearing down the world?

This is just your typical story of a feminist, stripper-turned-barista, who falls for an super-rich aspiring super-villain, and ends up holding the fate of the world in her hands. I’m going to stop right there — my attempts at synopsizing this just aren’t paying off. Here’s some of the back of the book blurb:

Meet Eva Destruction, the only thing quicker than her mouth is her talent for getting into trouble. It’s true she’s always had an eye for a bad boy but when she falls for billionaire super-villain Harry Lancing, it seems that even Eva may have bitten off more than she can chew.

Eva hurtles headlong into terrorist attacks, assassinations, car chases and the occasional close encounter with a dashing spy who seems as determined to charm Eva into bed as he is to thwart Lancing’s plans to bring down every government on earth.

As the odds begin to stack up in Lancing’s favour the fate of the world lies in Eva’s hands. Luckily for the world, Eva Destruction isn’t the type of girl to let a super-villain ex-boyfriend with a massive ego, unlimited resources and his own secret island get the better of her.

Eva, Horatio Lancing and the MI6 agent are entertaining characters — the action scenes are exciting. There’s a car chase that’s remarkably good. But the banter, verbal sparring and jokes are where the real fireworks are found. It’s almost like Amy Sherman-Palladino wrote an action film.

A few caveats I should issue for some of the regulars around here: Early on, there’s a sex scene that is entirely too graphic, and unnecessarily so. I liked what Sinclair achieved with it and the aftermath. But He could’ve achieved the same (or practically the same) result with a little less detail. There are further references to sex if you can get past this one, but nothing that comes close to the detail of this one scene. It’s probably PG-13 afterwards, actually. Additionally, Evan utilizes some of the more creative swearing you’ve read. It’s not anything you’d care to repeat anywhere near a mother armed with a bar of soap mind you. But creative nonetheless.

Eva is smart, witty and determined — it’s easy to see why men are fawning over her (even without the looks). She’s the kind of character you like reading — she’s sure of herself, and yet really, really not. I love reading about someone who is just awesome with zero self-confidence in certain instances. But when push comes to shove, she comes through in a way worthy of Jason Bourne or Frank Martin.

This book is essentially a cartoon — it’s over the top, exaggerated, and entertainingly hyperbolic. But Lancing . . . I tell you. For a would-be global dictator, there’s something appealing about him. He’s described as “Snowden with an agenda and Assange with charisma,” and truly (often) seems to only want to hold governments/government officials to their word. “You promised the voters X,” he essentially says, “deliver X, or I’ll release the videos of you in a compromising situation with a 14-year old.” A motivation that many people would agree with, and a capability that doesn’t seem that outlandish — especially compared to the rest of the story, Lancing seems realistic — realistic-ish, anyway.

There are so, so many quotable lines in this book — it’s practically impossible to pick one to focus on. This is like early Evanovich — just with the sex, swearing and violence turned up a bit. I think it went on a bit too long, and could use maybe 50 fewer pages. But it was so much fun, I don’t want to complain too much. The Barista’s Guide to Espionage is a big explode-y ball of entertainment and Dave Sinclair is someone to keep an eye out for.

—–

3.5 Stars

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Fahrenbruary Repost: The Song of The Swan by Michael RN Jones: Locke and Doyle’s triumphant return is sure to please

The Song of The SwanThe Song of The Swan

by Michael RN Jones
Series: The Victor Locke Chronicles, #2

Kindle Edition, 306 pg.
Fahrenheit Press, 2017
Read: September 13 – 14, 2017

On ending the sentence, his face dropped. “Oh,” he exhaled, “that’s it. I’ve just had one of those TV detective moments.”

“What d’you mean?”

“You know. When some tiny and unrelated fact, like a car door slamming or an answerphone machine flicking on, makes the whole case drop into place. It happens to Jonathan Creek and Adrian Monk all the time…”

In The Accidental Detective, we met Victor Locke and his court-appointed psychologist, Dr. Jonathan Doyle — a modern-day Holmes and Watson in a collection of stories that were partially a tribute, partially a pastiche, partially an update and entirely entertaining. This second episodic novel/short story collection continues in that vein.

This book opens with Doyle and Locke being arrested for bank robbery, which is not really what I’d expected. It’s, as is the case with many of the stories in this book, a chance for Doyle to stretch his investigatory skills and do a lot of the work. The two are not equal partners in any sense, but it’s nice to see that Doyle is more than just the sidekick (see Archie Goodwin and Joan Watson for other examples of this kind of relationship).

Not only is Doyle on his way to becoming a proper investigator, his write-ups of the cases are gaining him a greater degree of notoriety. I particularly enjoyed watching various characters go out of their way to fawn over him — or try to work their way into his writings.

At the same time, Doyle is wondering how well he actually knows his friend — and frequently discovers the answer is, “not that well.” At the same time, everyone (including Locke himself) regards him as the world’s expert on Victor Locke. Locke is just fun to watch in the varied situations he places himself in. As much as I appreciated Doyle’s larger role in things, I missed Locke when he wasn’t “on screen.” There’s a greater depth to the character than we’ve seen previously (or maybe I just missed it last time — that’s possible)

I’ve talked a lot about the characters and not much about the cases — there are two reasons for this, primarily, you read things like this for the characters. Secondly, Jones can tell you about the cases in a much more interesting way than I can. I’ll just say that they’re clever, enjoyable and Holmesian (in the best sense).

I’ve gotta say, I didn’t like the ending. I thought it was well done, it flowed organically from the events leading up to it, it fit the characters, it was earned — and so on. I just didn’t like it.

I enjoyed The Accidental Detective and if The Song of the Swan had been more of the same, I’d have been satisfied. But, Jones kicked everything up a notch — Locke was stranger, more clever, and funnier; Doyle was a better version of the guy we’d met previously, and the crimes were more interesting. All in all, a fun read, a great way to spend a few hours and one of those sequels that delivers on the promise of the first. Heartily recommended.

—–

4 Stars

Fahrenbruary Repost: The Lobster Boy And The Fat Lady’s Daughter by Charles Kriel

Here’s the first book I read from Fahrenheit Press. It left an impression. In addition to the Kindle copy I bought, I have two paperback versions of this — and ordered the Hardcover last year (not sure what happened there…oh well). I wonder today if I’d given it more stars, I think I would’ve. It’s just weird enough that I didn’t know how to judge it. I’m still not sure I do, but I wish I had time for a re-read, I think I can appreciate more of it now that it’s percolated in the back of my mind for 3 years and change.

More than anything, I really hope that Kriel gives us another book with these people some time.

Be sure to check out the music video of the song FP commissioned to accompany the book.

The Lobster Boy And The Fat Lady's Daughter The Lobster Boy And The Fat Lady’s Daughter

by Charles Kriel
Series: Mel Barry Investigates, #1Kindle Edition, 250 pg.

Fahrenheit Press, 2015

Read: October 31, 2015


I can’t give this one the discussion it needs with my standard spoiler-free stuff. So…after the break below, I’ll talk about my spoilery-beefs with this book. If you don’t want to read them (I’m not sure I’d blame you for skipping) read on. Otherwise, you can stop when you get to the stars.

Carnival/Freak Show owner Charlie “Lobster Boy” Koontz is being framed for murder, and given his physical appearance, an already ugly situation promises to get much, much worse. So he does the unthinkable — he calls his adopted daughter for help. You’ll have to read to find out why this is such a dumb move. Mel comes to town, starts asking questions, kicking some butt — occasionally getting a name — all while reconnecting with her carnie roots and learning a bit more about her family.

Mel’s a combination of Jack Reacher and Charlie Fox with a more mysterious past than either. Which Kriel teases us with frequently, but doesn’t give us much to go on. I’m fine with that, if we get a sequel that actually explains what happens to Mel post-carnival, otherwise, it’s a problem (one that’s not Kriel’s fault, really). Anyway, she’s good with a gun, good with hand-to-hand, crafty as all get-out and determined to get Charlie out of jail no matter what.

We don’t get much of an idea about the town that the murder takes place in, we get a flavor of some of the leadership — we see that Law Enforcement is a racist joke, and that there’s a strip joint. That’s pretty much it. Kriel comes close to playing the stereotype card, but somehow avoids it. We see almost nothing of the populace, no characters that we can remember longer than the sentence that they’re (outside of the villains, obviously)

We get a good look at The Lobster Boy’s Mermaid Parade, on the other hand. It’s a not just a group of coworkers, it’s a family — admittedly, a strange family. They live together, travel together, perform together, play together — it’s enough to make you want to run off and join them. But you should probably bend a law or two first, so you can fit in. And it’s filled with characters — almost none of which we get adequate time with, but enough to make them people, enough to remember in a couple of cases, at least.

Early on, there is a rape scene that I found to be gratuitously graphic. I get that occasionally for reasons of plot or character, you’ve got to have a scene along those lines — and while I don’t appreciate them, I can accept them. But they need to serve a purpose, this one seems to do little more than demonstrate that the man is a creep, a misogynist, violent with a twisted idea that he’s connected to Mel. Now we already know everything except the violence before things got graphic, and there’re other ways to show that. I’m not saying the guy can’t rape the girl to illustrate this stuff if that’s what an author thinks is best, but we don’t need the details. The fact that he rapes someone alone says that. The details don’t add to that. A couple of chapters earlier, there’s an attempted rape scene (different perpetrators, different victim) — I had no problems with that at all, because it accomplished things that served the story and the characters.

The first two chapters of this were interesting, yeah, but there was something about it that made me think this wasn’t going to be a book for me — no matter how well-written it turned out to be, there was just something that didn’t appeal. I’m not sure if I finished Chapter 3 before I decided I was wrong — I liked Mel, straightaway. I still wasn’t sure about anything else in the book, but if this was her book, I was in.

This was a fast read, a compelling read, and a fun read — and were it not for graphic elements in the rape scene and the stuff coming up below, I’d have rated it higher. Still, Mel Barry is a character I want to see more of, and I’m sure Charles Kriel is an author I will see more of. Especially at a Kindle price, it’s worth the read — would be for twice what Amazon is asking, too.

—–

3.5 Stars
Continue reading

Fahrenbruary Repost: Fahrenheit Press is Not Your Father’s Publisher

A little blast from the past (October 13, 2015) when I was just starting to get to know Fahrenheit’s brand of magic to get the month started . . .

(that is, if your father had a publisher)

Fahrenheit Press is a new publishing house with a “punk ethos” that describes themselves as:

…intent on doing things differently and we’re building a publishing company that’s heavy on curation and deadly serious about marketing.

And yeah, they’re doing something different with their second book, to be published at the end of this month. Take a look at the Amazon listing:

One day, I hope they’ll explain how they got Amazon to play along. Be sure to click the link to get more details on this book.

Their founder, Chris McVeigh, explains the deal, the thinking behind it and a few more things in this post at fromfirstpagetolast. I hope this experiment works for them (and that the book is worth the effort), if only so I can see what they try next.

Welcome to Fahrenbruary


I’ve been doing a little ground work the last week or so for my participation in Fahrenbruary, but here on the first day of it, I find myself a little short of anything to say. But I couldn’t let the month kick-off without something, and it’s still technically the 1st of the month here, so I’m good.

Honestly, The Beardy Book Blogger’s kickoff post is where to start — especially if you have no idea what I’m talking about. But to summarize, Fahrenbruary is a month-long celebration of the publishers, Fahrenheit Press and Fahrenheit 13; their authors and their books.

I haven’t worked out my schedule or anything precisely (hopefully tomorrow) — but essentially, over the next month I’ll be reading my backlog of Fahrenheit books, posting about them, reposting things I’ve said about other books, and I’ve got some other nifty things in the pipeline. I’m looking forward to seeing what teh IntraWebs comes up with to commemorate the month (it seems that the good people over at Fahrenheit Press are compiling an index).

I really wanted to get something new written for today, but that just didn’t happen. So instead, coming right up is the first thing I ever said about Fahrenheit Press — back in 2018. Come back next week for something fresh and hot.

My Favorite Crime/Mystery/Detective/Thriller Fiction of 2018

Once I settled on dividing this chunk of my reading out for its own list, I knew instantly half of the books that’d make it before I looked at just what I’d read in 2018. After going through that list, I had 15 more candidates for the other 5 spots. Whittling those down was hard, but I’m pretty comfortable with this list. That doesn’t mean the other 90 or so books I read in this family of genres were bad — most were great (I can think of maybe 5 I could’ve missed). But these are the crème de la crème.

Man, I wanted to write the crème de la crime there. But I’m better than that.

Not all of these were published in 2018 — but my first exposure to them was. As always, I don’t count re-reads, or almost no one could stand up to Stout, early Parker, etc. and my year-end lists would get old fast.

Now that I’m done with this, I can focus on 2019.

(in alphabetical order by author)

The Puppet ShowThe Puppet Show

by M. W. Craven

My original post
A book with some of the darkest moments I came across last year — and some of the brightest, too. The mystery was great, the character moments (not just between the protagonists) were better — great rounded, human, characters. Even after I saw where Craven was going with things, I refused to believe it — and only gave up when I had no other choice. Two (at least) fantastic reveals in this book, very compelling writing and fantastic characters. What more do you want? Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are two of my favorite new characters and I can’t wait to see where they go next.

5 Stars

Needle SongNeedle Song

by Russell Day

My original post
I could pretty much copy and paste that above paragraph for this one. It never gets as dark as The Puppet Show, but the depravity displayed is bad enough to unsettle any reader. What makes this story compelling isn’t really the crime, it’s the way the crime impacts the people near it — those who lost a family member (I don’t want to say loved one) and those who are close to the suspects. Yakky and Doc Slidesmith are characters I hope to see again soon, and I want to bask in Day’s prose even more.

5 Stars

She Rides ShotgunShe Rides Shotgun

by Jordan Harper

My original post
The story of a little girl being surrounded by death and destruction, with both looming and threatening her all the time, and her discovering how to be brave. The story of a man trying to be a good father — or just a father. The story of survival. A story of revenge. A story about all kinds of violence. Wonderfully told.

4 Stars

WreckedWrecked

by Joe Ide

My original post
Not as entertaining as IQ, but it works as a novel in ways the previous two didn’t. I don’t know if I could put my finger on it, but it’s there. Wrecked is a clear step in evolution for Isaiah, Dodson, and probably Ide. It definitely demonstrates that the three are here to stay as long as Ide wants, and that these characters aren’t satisfied with being inner-city Sherlock/Watson, but they’re going places beyond that. Some good laughs, some good scares, some real “I can’t believe Ide ‘let’ them do that to Isaiah” moments — a great read.

5 Stars

A Mint Condition CorpseA Mint Condition Corpse

by Duncan MacMaster

My original post
I put off reading this for reasons I really don’t understand and haven’t forgiven myself for yet. But the important thing is that I read it — it took me a chapter or two to really get into it, but once I did, I was in hook, like and sinker. In my original post I said this is “a joy to read; full of characters you’ll want to spend days with, that you’ll want to have over for Thanksgiving dinner just to lighten things up and distract you from Aunt Martha’s overcooked yams and dry turkey; a completely fun time that’s very likely most I’ve enjoyed a book in 2018. It is escapist. It is silly. It is clever.” I also said, “Probably the 5-Star-est 5-Stars I’ve given this year.” There are a couple of books that could compete for that line, but I’m not sure they’d win.

5 Stars

My Little EyeMy Little Eye

by Stephanie Marland

My original post
Fantastic, fantastic premise. Great hook. Another great pair of protagonists (although most of their work is independent of each other). A True Crime blogger and a DI racing to uncover a serial killer, while battling dark secrets, dark pasts, and outside pressures that threaten to derail them at every turn. Marland surprised me more often and in more ways than just about any author this year. I was floored by some of them, too. A great puzzle, a great mish-mash of amateur detective and police procedural.

4 1/2 Stars

Her Last MoveHer Last Move

by John Marrs

My original post
I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into when I said yes to this Book Tour request. I’m not sure I could have — no offense to Mr. Marrs, but I don’t think I’d heard of him before. He’s definitely on my radar now. This was brutal, devastating, shocking, and just about every other adjective reviewers (professional and otherwise) overuse when describing a thriller. Marrs did so many things I didn’t think he would do. He didn’t do a lot that I thought he would (and seemed to mock the idea that he’d so some of what I wanted him to do). I spent a lot of time while reading this book not liking him very much, but so grateful I was getting to read the book. I’m still upset by some of it, but in awe of the experience.

5 Stars

Stoned LoveStoned Love

by Ian Patrick

My original post
Sam Batford, undercover cop, is back in a sequel that shows real growth from a very impressive debut. Batford is in incredibly murky ethical and legal waters — and that’s not counting what his undercover op is. Any misstep could ruin his career, end his life, land him in prison — or all three. Actually, those options hold true even if he doesn’t make any missteps. There are so many balls in the air with this one that it’d be easy to lose track of one or more. But Patrick doesn’t seem to struggle with that at all — and he writes in such a way that a reader doesn’t either. That’s a gift not to be overlooked. I liked the overall story more than it’s predecessor and think that Patrick’s writing was better here. This is a series — and a character — that you really need to get to know.

4 1/2 Stars (I remember liking it more than that…I’m sure I had a reason at the time)

Exit MusicExit Music

by Ian Rankin

My original post
I’ve spent enough time with John Rebus over the last couple of years that I knew one of the books had to end p here, I just wasn’t sure which one. Exit Music ended up on the Top 10 not so much for the main mysteries (although they put the book in contention), but for all rest of the things that the novel was about — Rebus’ moving on (not knowing how to or to where), Siobhan moving on (and not sure she wants to), and the dozen or so little things surrounding the two of them and their work. Even Big Ger was kind of moving on here — and that’s just strange to read about. Exit Music would’ve been a great way to say farewell to John Rebus, I’m just glad it wasn’t that.

5 Stars

Trouble is a Friend of MineTrouble is a Friend of Mine

by Stephanie Tromly, Kathleen McInerney (Narrator)

My original post
If not for Kirby Baxter (above), I could say this was the most fun I had with a Mystery novel this year (not to take anything away from the sequels on that front). This is just the right mix of high school hijinks, teen drama, quirky characters and writing with panache. Zoe and Digby are a great combo of smarts, recklessness and responsibility as they work their way through puzzles surrounding missing kids, drug dealing doctors, and some strange cult-like group. You can feel the chemistry between them — like Remington Steele and Laura Holt, David Addison and Maddy Hays, Cumberbatch’s Sherlock and Freeman’s Watson. Throw in their friends and frenemies and you’ve got a recipe for fun and suspense. I listened to this on audiobook (and bought the paperback for my daughter before I got to the end, I should add) and McInerney’s narration was perfect — she captured the spirit of the book and made the characters come alive.

4 Stars

Blackwater by GJ Moffat: A Brutal and Gripping American Crime Story

BlackwaterBlackwater

by GJ Moffat

Kindle Edition, 292 pg.
Fahrenheit Press, 2017

Read: December 14 – 15, 2018

           Early went to [redacted]’s body and hunkered down in front of [redacted]. His skin was flaccid and his jaw and face swollen and misshapen from the effects of his injuries. His shirt was entirely soaked in blood.

Early shook his head, thinking: this is what men do.

Take Walt Longmire (Deputy Longmire, before Lucian Connally’s retirement) throw him into Jesse Stone’s Paradise, and then tell a story imbued with the spirit of Fargo (movie or show), your results will be pretty close to GJ Moffat’s stunning Blackwater.

It’s a tale of violence, bloodshed, power, inevitability and death — what men do.

Deputy Sheriff Early Simms of Blackwater County is the son of the previous sheriff and probably the only member of the Department really fit for the job. A tragic accident in High School changed the direction of his life, and as a result he’s in the same dying New England area he grew up in. He’s made peace with this, and even seems to be happy — he’d be happier if his boss (and colleagues) cared a bit more about the job and his father wasn’t battling Alzheimer’s, sure. But this is his life.

And then everything changes in a couple of days — his old high school flame (and love of his life) returns to town, there’s an investigation into a corrupt public official, an investigation into an assault/attempted murder at a nearby jail, and a couple of brothers on a killing spree have come to the region. There’s also some drug running, spousal abuse, a pretty nasty bar fight. I don’t want to say that Early Simms is the only one investigating the crimes, in trying to preserve the peace — there are three (that we know of) other members of the Sheriff’s Department, some other local law enforcement officers and some FBI agents running around. But Early’s the only individual who’s in each of the stories — he’s the region of intersection in the Venn diagram of Blackwater (and frequently the most capable person around).

One of the criminals we meet in these pages (not saying which one) is clearly not an evil man. There’s some sort of undiagnosed (by the author or by any professional this criminal has ever encountered) mental health issue affecting him. Which does not lessen the evil he does and the trauma he inflicts on others. Part of me wants to know more about the whys, hows, wherefores, and whatnot about this disorder and is a little frustrated that Moffat doesn’t give us any of it. The other part of me is so glad that he didn’t succumb to temptation to get into tall that, instead merely showing his readers what was going on with this man, leaving it to us to do the work. There’s someone else who probably has some sort of Traumatic brain injury symptoms — not quite the same, but some of the same results.

We also see crime perpetrated by someone motivated by power, money and meanness. Also, there are some criminals who just don’t seem to have options, means or inclination to do anything but break the law. It’s up to Early to face down these people, no matter where on the spectrum they seem to be found, to prevent them from inflicting too much harm on the community.

How successful he is at that, well . . .

Moffat can write. That’s all there is to it. It took almost no time at all to recognize that. You get a strong sense of every character in just a few lines and his world is as fully realized as you could hope for. He presents the evil Early sees and fights against in this book fairly realistically, in a way that is as capricious and destructive as anything you see on the news.

So many times — almost every chance he gets — Moffat will do precisely what you don’t expect. What people just don’t do in this kind of book. He’ll put the characters in a situation you’ve seen dozens of times before, and just when you think “X will happen right after I turn the page,” B happens before you can turn the page. I realize there’s a danger in saying that — you’ll be looking for that kind of thing. But I expect that the same thing’ll happen to you as it did to me every time he pulled the rug out from under me — you’ll get sucked in by his writing and the characters (and possibly still be reeling from the last shock) and you won’t even think to expect that he’ll do it again.

I finished the book I was reading before this earlier than I expected to, and didn’t have the next on my list with me, so I took the opportunity to pay a visit to what I call my Kindle’s “Fahrenheit Ward” — where I stick all the Fahrenheit Press books that I buy without time to read — and I grabbed this. I’m so glad my timing worked out that way — this is exactly what I needed. I got sucked in by this immediately, and it was practically impossible to put down. Before I got to the novel’s final confrontation(s), I jotted in my notes, “Man, I hope this isn’t the first of a series — I don’t know if the community can survive another book.”

But if Fahrenheit published a sequel today? I’d shell out cash before the end day. I strongly expect you’ll feel the same way once you recover from Blackwater.

—–

4 Stars