I ended up with about 12 hours of reading - I got in some good solid reading in the morning, and finished Who Buries the Dead by C.S. Harris - I was at about 60% at the beginning of RAT.
After that, I rolled my extra-rolls and figured out my reading strategy. I ended up starting Natchez Burning by Greg Iles, which is a very long book (816 pages) and made it to 61% (540 pages), which burned up (pun intended, lol) most of the day. I also took a break and read about 10% of Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan.
I got sidetracked in the middle of the day by yard work, however. It's been an incredibly wet and rainy spring here in the PNW, so we haven't been able to get outside and start the spring clean up of our property. My house sits on an acre, and about 1/3 of the acre is wooded with huge old pine trees, so we get a lot of downed limbs and other forest debris every winter. It's a big project! We also don't have any yard debris service, so everything needs to be burned before the end of the burn season.
Yesterday was dry, and the sun even came out for a while, so we decided to burn while the burning was good (burning seems to have emerged as thematically relevant). I dragged an adirondack chair up to our fire ring and sat out and read and tended the fire.
We also just bought a new tool! We bought a battery operated chain saw that works a treat for lopping off limbs and cutting things up. I am here to tell you, fellow readers and individuals of the allegedly more delicate sex, that there is nothing more empowering than wielding a chainsaw. I went mad with power, trimming trees and dragging limbs down to the fire pit to be cut up and burned. It was awesome, and made me feel like a fucking goddess wreaking vengeance on winter.
So, yeah, that got in the way of reading. A bit.
Read a book that is tagged fantasy or fairy tale on GR. I will be reading Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan as planned. This book is 352 pages, & is worth $3.00
New Orleans Square Station 14
Read a book that involves overseas travel or has a suitcase on the cover. I will be reading East of the Sun by Julia Gregson.
Read a book that was published in 2006, 2011, 2013 or 2014, or that has a car on the cover. I am planning to read Natchez Burning by Greg Isles, which was published in 2014. Finished 4/30/17 - 865 pages ($10.00).
Read a book set in Asia or Africa. I will be reading Shadows on the Nile by Kate Furnival. Finished 5/5/17 - 448 pages ($5.00)
Read a book tagged YA or MG, or that has a child's on the cover. This one is an easy one! Let's go with The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman, which was shelved YA 215 times on GR!
How quickly I read this (862 pages in 9 days; that's almost a hundred pages a day, which is a lot for me nowadays, given how busy my life has become) is a testament to how fucking amazing Greg Iles is. Anyone who can make almost 900 pages consistently and constantly thrilling gots to be a damn wizard, yo. (#IlesTheGray) There are authors working with half this page count who can't hold my attention for more than 200 pages.
But, boy oh boy, if I'd read this when it first came out and had to wait for the next book, I would've lost my shit. (#firstworldproblems) This is the first Penn Cage novel that does not stand alone. It doesn't tell one complete story from beginning to end, which honestly shocked me. I expected Iles to wrap up one thread completely, but he didn't. All he did was put a tourniquet on a severed appendage.
Spoiler alert: you're in for a disgusting cliffhanger at the end of Natchez Burning. I suppose that's all right, considering I have the final two books in my possession, but I feel for those people who had to wait multiple years to get the entire story. I
've debated deducting a star due to some reused plot ideas and themes Iles lifted from the first three books in this series but have decided not to. Even though the book deals with a cold case (like The Quiet Game), finding out someone we suspected to be of strong moral character is really an adulterous asshat (ala Turning Angel), and an unstoppably powerful villain with legion and uncountable wealth at their disposal (circa The Devil's Punchbowl), I was thoroughly entertained. Sure the book is a hybrid of the first three books in the series, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a fucking blast to read. I wouldn't change a thing about it, so it gets all the stars.
Actually, I take that back. I missed Kelly. I hope I see my boy Kells in the next two books. He really is my favorite character in this series. Such a stone-cold badass. #mancrush
In summation: Sorry this review is short but I have two more 800+ page novels to read in this series so I'm under a time crunch and fuck you this'll have to be enough goodbye.
Final Judgment: Cliffhangers-R-Us
Friends, I am winded from the epic sprint that Greg Iles sent me on with this book. I tell you, I was already eagerly awaiting this final installment in Penn Cage's family saga. What I wasn't prepared for though, was how much Iles was going to throw at me all at once. This book is a rapid fire rush to the finish the line. It sweeps you off your feet, and all you can do is hang on for dear life as everything that you've been waiting for unfolds in this maniacally beautiful fashion. This book right here, more than anything else, has proven to me what an expert writer Greg Iles is, and I happily bow down to that expertise.
First off, let me say that I was originally a bit put off by courtroom melodrama that started in Mississippi Blood. Admittedly, I wasn't sure I actually wanted to read a whole murder case laid out on the page. I worried that it would slow things down. That is, of course, until I realized that even these portions of the book were utterly riveting. Watching Shad Johnson and Quentin Avery go at it soon became something that I looked forward to. Iles wrote two brilliant lawyers who, despite any flaws they might have otherwise had, were masters of the judiciary art. I felt like a part of the jury, as surprise witnesses were thrown into the mix and tantalizing details were unearthed. I felt like a part of Penn's family, as I watched them struggle to keep themselves together while dealing with what everyone around them was terming the "case of the century". In other words, I was completely engrossed. I've never run through a 700+ page book more quickly in my whole life. If I could have lived without sleeping for the three days I read this, I would have. I needed to know what happened next.
More than that though, was the fact that Iles didn't let go of a bit of the character development that he'd been nursing throughout this whole series. Despite the trial, and all the violence surrounding it, he didn't stop at all in his quest to make the reader actually care about these characters. I admit, I teared up more than a few times during this book. I hadn't realized how much I actually empathized with Penn and his family until everything was ramping up to a conclusion. It amazed me how quickly I fell in step with even the new characters who were put in place, and how much I wanted them to succeed. It's no secret that I was a little angry after the last book, where Iles took something away from Penn that I really thought was unfair and unnecessary. Reading this installment though, I understood. I saw the reason. It didn't mend the hole in my heart, but I saw Penn in a new a light. A man who has been through hell and back, but still has a heart as big as anything. It's tough not to love a man like that, even when his decisions seem insane.
Look, the point of this rambling review is to fairly confess that I started out this book with a bit of doubt as to whether or not I was going to fully enjoy it. I expected over the top courtroom melodrama, and worried that the climax might not be what I expected it to be. I'm happy to report that I was wrong. I was so very wrong. This book is amazing. Mississippi Blood is not only the ending that Penn Cage deserved, but the type of ending that any author should be damn proud of. My heart is still pounding from what happened, even after the epilogue tried to assuage my fears. This is mastery, plain and simple, and Greg Iles quite rightly has my heart.
Am I sad that there won't be anymore Penn Cage? Yes. Will I happily read anything else that Greg Iles puts out into the world? Absolutely. If you haven't started this series yet, please do. This is a genre that I all but never read, and so you can trust me when I say that this is worth your time. 2,100 pages later, and I'm not even the least bit sorry that I put in the time.