Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer Reading 2016 Wynonna Earp Volume 1: Homecoming

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I watched several episodes of the TV series this summer, so when I saw this collection of issues 1-6, it caught my interest. The show and comics both capture a feeling that is almost "Deadpool" meets the wild west. The body count is staggering. The gore is dripping everywhere. There are plenty of snarky remarks. But there are also demons, witches, and cannibals rather than mutant villains. And Wynonna's natural talents in hunting down the unnatural enemies of mankind are a result of inheriting the family curse, not an extra options package in her DNA. The backstory of that curse and her famous ancestor (Wyatt), is revealed in small bits so that readers put together the big picture slowly, just as you do whenever you meet someone new. This new acquaintance just happens to have shootouts with demonic gunslingers and busts up black market deals for large shipments of brains.

Dealing with a family curse can make someone a bit touchy, so it shouldn't be a surprise that Wynonna tends to annoy her superior, Xavier Dolls. Then again, with a name like that, he should expect to be annoyed by people. Besides Wy and X (LOL), there are also John Henry, a questionable ally with a mysterious past, and another agent that has many years of experience (you'll have to read to find out who).

It's obvious that the writer is familiar with the Earp legend. Several of the lines spoken by Wynonna are almost identical to those spoken by Kurt Russell in the movie "Tombstone." As a fan of the movie, it was hard for me not to put the words, "I'll be your huckleberry," into John Henry's mouth, especially when he confronts Johnny Ringo (my mind kept picturing Val Kilmer and Michael Biehn). 

If you have been enjoying the TV series, then you should try the comics and graphic novels.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Summer Reading 2016 Lady Cop Makes Trouble

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Amy Stewart has done it again. Luckily, she hasn't done anything illegal, and she lives in the 21st century, so Constance Kopp won't be coming after her. And what has she done? Why, write another entertaining and absorbing story of one of the first female sheriff's deputies in the U.S. This time around Constance is trying to hold onto her new job (and paycheck). When a prisoner escapes while the sheriff is already worried that there may be trouble over hiring Constance, things get very tense. Can she track down the fugitive, prevent negative consequences for herself and the sheriff, and still make it to Fleurette's theatrical debut on time?

Meticulous research has allowed the author to paint an authentic picture of life during World War I. Not only does she have the period details of the clothing, transportation, and fads (training pigeons for the war effort), but she also manages to put the right opinions and outlooks into the characters' minds. For instance, a prisoner insists on speaking to Constance in German, and it makes her uncomfortable due to the war and everyone's dislike of all things German. When she catches a criminal, the male reporters state that she tapped the man on the shoulder rather than telling everyone that she had actually tackled him. The entire worldview with the women's-only hotels and the notion that general delivery mail was in danger of being discontinued by the post office because it was being used for secret love letters seems strange to us today.

This story has a broad appeal because it does so many things well. The setting of a century ago is perfect for those who love historical fiction. Constance and her determination to prove she is capable of being a deputy sheriff satisfies those who love strong female protagonists. For those who prefer mystery or crime procedurals, there is plenty of sleuthing to uncover where the escaped prisoner is hiding. There is even a cameo appearance by the famous William Carlos Williams.

Whatever your reason for reading this second book of the Kopp sisters, you won't be disappointed.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Summer Reading 2016 The Book Club Murders

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Mystery fans rejoice! What could be better than a murder mystery that revolves around a book club that only reads murder mysteries? A club called the Agathas, in honor of Dame Agatha Christie, of course. Nagel has captured the feel of suburban America perfectly. The secret affairs that everyone knows about, the social clout of the country club set, the shared history of lifelong residents is all there in the descriptions of Oakwood. And when a murder shatters the seeming calm of the town, then is followed by another, and another...it seems that someone is capable of keeping secrets after all. 

The characters are entertaining and provoke an emotional response from the readers. We may be amused by Charley and Frankie plotting over coffee, or amused at Dmitri's antics in the hair salon, and then irritated by the imperious Midge or feel sorry for Wilson in her rigidly controlled marriage. The tension between Charley and Marcus and the question of whether they will ever get together or not adds to the suspense of the murder investigation while also letting us take a break from death to roll our eyes at these two stubborn individuals. Even the secondary characters seem very real. There's the faithful caretaker Lawrence who tends to Charley's father; Marc's detective partner, Paul and his teasing that Charley is "Nancy Drew;" and even Charley's dad with his outrage at the inappropriate video that is posted on YouTube after one of the murders. Each person that the reader encounters is believable in all their strengths and weaknesses.

So, we have plot, setting, and characters that lure us in and then the twists and turns keep us guessing. Who is the real killer? Will the attraction between Marc and Charlie ever be acted on? Why isn't there an Old Hat vintage clothing boutique in my town? (Okay, maybe that last one was just me.) Readers who enjoy the Aurora Teagarden mysteries, Goldy's Culinary Mysteries, and other series where the protagonist is not an official detective will have fun with The Book Club Murders

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Summer Reading 2016: War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love

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I had soggy toast for breakfast this morning. No, I'm not oversharing or complaining, the toast was collateral damage from reading this book. I reached the section of the book that shared many of the stories about wounded or KIA war dogs and their handlers and cried all over my toast while I read my way through breakfast. Frankel's look at the history of U.S. military dogs and the various missions they have been entrusted with over the years is full of accounts describing the service and faithfulness of both partners - dog and handler. It also covers the types of training the teams go through to prepare them for deployment, the types of missions they run, and the lives they save.

I respect the time and energy the author put into her work. She conducted interviews, observed training sessions, and even participated in some of the drills and marches. During the research process she made friends with many of the people who shared information with her. She became close enough that when some of the teams she had met suffered a casualty, the network reached out to her and made sure that she received the news. 

I also appreciate the way she covered the various types of military working dogs - from those that deploy with combat teams to search for IEDs or insurgents, to those that work with the medical teams as therapy dogs, and even those that are assigned to help deal with PTSD once troops come back home. Frankel also talked with teams working with TSA and Homeland Security patrolling airports and former service members who have been able to adopt their canine partners once they were no longer doing field work. And the story of Buddy, the first seeing-eye dog in America is included, too.

Along with the text, there are photos of the dogs and their handlers, which gives the narrative a more personal touch. And there are quotes at the beginning of each section from famous people or from other books about these military canines. One that really appealed to me was from Will Rogers, "If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." But I think one that really pertains to how these dogs help the troops even when they are not actively sniffing out bombs or guarding the men is from Robyn Davidson, "The good Lord in his infinite wisdom gave us three things to make life bearable, hope, jokes, and dogs, but the greatest of these was dogs." 

Anyone interested in military history or dogs of any sort will find this book highly interesting and a read that will capture their attention. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Summer Reading 2016: Oberon's Meaty Mysteries: The Purloined Poodle

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What's not to love about a mystery story narrated by an intelligent Irish wolfhound? Add in the enticements of humor, great references to pop culture (of all ages), and the presence of the coolest druid ever and it's a shoe-in. Oberon is the canine companion of Atticus, the Iron Druid. Because of the skills he has perfected over the last 2,000 years, Atticus has been able to bond his mind and Oberon's so that they can communicate telepathically. Oberon is incredibly smart and loves to have Atticus tell him stories, discuss the plots of books he has read, or for the two of them to watch movies and television together. The result of all this exposure to human culture is that Oberon can make great references to books and videos. For instance, he shares, "Whenever I walk into a park all the other dogs are like hobbits saying, "It comes in pints?" because they have never seen a hound as big as me before." 

On this particular visit to the local dog park, Oberon and Atticus learn that there has been a crime spree of sorts in the Pacific Northwest. Grand Champion dogs of all breeds have been abducted and other dogs in those homes tranquilized with spiked treats or with a dart gun. Oberon convinces Atticus that they should look into the matter and tells him, "The game is afoot, Atticus!" Of course they have lots of funny dialogue that no one else can hear, but which made me laugh out loud frequently while reading. Oberon throws out references to Gandhi, Jack Nicholson, Sherlock, Lord of the RingsThe Great Gatsby and even Battlestar Galactica. At one point they have to do a stakeout and wait for some suspected bad guys to show up. Oberon says, "I hate waiting. I'm like Inigo Montoya that way."

Fans of the Iron Druid series will love this latest addition to the world that Kevin Hearne has created. For first-timers just encountering Atticus and Oberon, this is self-contained enough that it can be read on its own - but they should be warned that it will probably whet their appetites and pull them into the series (sort of like promising Oberon a sirloin). Seeing Atticus use his druidry for the good of dognap victims rather than fighting evil vampires or enraged trolls is a nice change of pace.

Highly recommended for current fans, urban fantasy readers, and those looking for a new series with magic, mayhem, and a handsome hound. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Summer Reading 2016 The Walled City

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A city within a city. The walls of an ancient fort enclose Hak Nam, a city with its own rules. Those who want to live beyond the reach of the law stay within its walls. So do those who have no choice. Dai is a bit of both. In one tragic night he lost his brother and used a gun to defend himself, now there is a warrant for his arrest. But if he can find the information that the police outside the walls want to know, then they have bargained to give him his freedom. The problem is Longwai and the Brotherhood. They are the criminals who control much of what goes on illegally within Hak Nam. He also owns the brothel where Mei Yee and other girls are held after being sold off by their families, or snatched off the streets. She has seen other girls punished for defiance or escape attempts. Does she have the courage to help Dai get the needed information so that he can help her escape? And there is Jin, the slim runner that helps Dai ingratiate himself with Longwai. Jin has been searching for a missing sister for 2 years in Hak Nam. The money Dai pays helps to buy food and continue the search. They all have their reasons for being in the city, and for wanting to escape from it. Will they succeed? Can all of them make it out alive?

The idea of people living on the edges of society, marginalized and disenfranchised from the protection that civilization is suppose to offer, is nothing new. But the way Graudin has pieced together this intricate ecosystem of criminals, vagrants, and impoverished is masterful. The descriptions of the tenements, the tiny shops selling noodles or clothing, even the details of the litter on the ground all build the scene in the reader's mind. The way the story alternates between the viewpoints of the three main characters makes the differences in their lives very apparent. Dai has his guilty conscience and desperation to make things right. Mei Yee is stuck inside the claustrophobic walls of the brothel, only seeing daylight through a tiny barred window. Even if she escapes, she can't go home; her father would only sell her again. It is nearly impossible to keep any hope alive in such conditions. And Jin is filled with the determination to find and rescue that lost sister, powered by love and determination. They all see and react to things in such different ways.

If you enjoy thrillers with the clock ticking on the chance to make it out alive, then you should give The Walled City a try. Of the other books I have read, The Young World is sort of similar in the need to get out of a city and the fight to survive long enough to do it.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Summer Reading 2016 Murder at the 42nd Street Library

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Fans of "Castle"may have a new series to follow. Murder at the 42nd Street Library features a curator of crime fiction who is an amateur detective of sorts. Ray Ambler manages the crime fiction collection, both the books and the donated papers of various authors. He also likes to help out the police by sharing facts with them. And he has even made friends with a detective on the force, Mike Cosgrove. But when a murder takes place inside the library, Ambler becomes much more involved than he could ever imagine. 

This case, and the story, has plenty of suspects, lots of complicated relationships, and secrets. What can I say without giving too much away? Hmmmm. There are two biographies being written about a prominent author, while the author himself is dealing with dementia and trouble with his current wife (who's half his age). All these folks are converging on the library along with their wives and assistants, plus the library runners who pull materials from the stacks for them, the curators, and the library's director. So how can it be that no one can describe or identify the murderer, even though the shooting took place in the director's office and the perpetrator walked right past security on the way out of the building?

Along with trying to dig up clues for the police department (whether they want his help or not), Ambler is also helping a friend cope with the death of her mother, dealing with his own son, and worrying about his position at the library being cut. His friend Cosgrove has a strained relationship with his wife and daughter and his partner on the force resents Ambler's interference in the case. Nothing is ever easy, right?

Lehane has come up with a likable character in Ambler. The bits of his history that come up help to add depth to his personality and explain his reluctance to pick up on the advances from a coworker. Each person in the story is more than just a cardboard placeholder; the other characters have their own issues - unhappy marriages, death in the family, moody teenage kids, etc. The description of the library itself is well done and captures the atmosphere of a research library with its massive stacks, requests for materials, and security procedures. The mention of various crime authors adds in another layer of enjoyment for readers who are fond of the genre. 

This promises to be an entertaining series, both in the mysteries that Ambler will become involved in and also in watching the relationships between the characters evolve.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through edelweiss.