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review 2019-12-02 18:18
Book Review - How to Shield an Assassin by AJ Sherwood
How to Shield an Assassin (Unholy Trifecta #1)How to Shield an Assassin by A.J. Sherwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So I first learned of A.J. Sherwood through her Jon's Mysteries series and kinda fell in love with her writing style. And then I read her Fourth Point of Contact and my mind was blown!
But this book... this book is a bit different from her others and yet oh so wonderful, It was a fun, delightfully amusing romp despite the main characters being an assassin, a mercenary, a thief and a hacker. Oh, and a seriously badass little girl who has them all wrapped around her finger!


Assassin Ari (Aristide) Benelli has lived his life in the shadows and alone. Sure he has a twin brother but that brother was as far from a career criminal as Ari could get so he stayed as far away from Luca as he could for his brother's sake. He had a few friends, a hacker and a thief, but he lived his life solo, doing the job he was good at. And yet a desperate and abused little girl named Remi had him doing the unthinkable - adopting her and settling down. Sort of.

With the help of Ivan and Kyou (the thief and the hacker) - Remi's adopted 'uncles' - Ari attempts to raise his very own little Black Widow in the making while continuing to work. Enter Carter Harrison - Mercenary with a soft spot for kids and a pretty honourable guy all around.

Carter has a job, one that needs a very specialized skill set - and the only one who has it is Ari. A stolen painting needs to be 'liberated' from a private collector with a penchant for illegal objets d'art and a Fort Knox like security system. Ari is the only one who's ever managed to get in and get out. But Ari comes with a crew, and Carter is blindsided by the attraction he feels for the assassin as well as being completely charmed by Remi and reluctantly impressed with Ivan and Kyou.

This book was lighthearted and _fun_. I enjoyed every gosh darned minute of it, from Ari's unconventional parenting, to Remi with her vulnerability and swagger, to the 'crazy uncles'. The romance between Ari and Harrison was sweet and nice but the story itself drew me in and kept me interested.

Can't wait til for book 2!

View all my reviews

 

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review 2019-11-27 04:28
2 Crooks, 1 Realtor, 1 Housekeeper and a Whole Lot of Thievery
Thieves - Steven Max Russo

Last month, I posted my thoughts on Steven Max Russo's second novel, The Dead Don't Sleep, and now I get to focus on his first book.

 

Skooley (I kid you not), is a small-time criminal with aspirations of greater things (and, let's be honest, delusions of at least a bit more grandeur than he actually possess). He runs afoul of actual bad guys in Florida and makes himself scarce, hiding out in New Jersey for awhile. He gets a job in a restaurant and meets Ray. Ray isn't as an accomplished thief as Skooley, but he'd like to be. And he knows where to start: their fellow co-worker Esmeralda had an idea.

 

You see, she's got aspirations and dreams of her own. Hers are on the legal side, it's nice to say. She's a housekeeper, a restaurant hostess at night, and does some grunt work at a hair salon when she's not working as either of those. She's trying to save money for beauty school while taking care of her mother and younger siblings. She's making progress, but it's slow and she could really use a little boost.

 

Esmerelda tells Ray about the owners of a house that she cleans who take off for a month or so every year at this time. They're the kind of people who leave cash and expensive things around with no one to check on them. Ray tells Skooley.

 

So Ray and Skooley break and enter, with the idea of spending a couple of days carefully and thoroughly pillaging this house. Almost immediately, things don't go according to plan and the three conspirators are mired in distrust, frustration, and assorted moments of larceny.

 

There's a subplot involving a real estate agent named Loretta. She blows off a little steam one night after work by having a little too much to drink. Somewhere between being one and three sheets to the wind, she runs into Skooley on a break from his plundering. In case there was any doubt at this point for the reader, what happens next definitely qualifies Skooley as a villain. Other than that, it wasn't until the very end of the book that I saw anything redeeming about this storyline. Once I did, it all made sense. But man, I spent a long time wondering just what Russo was trying to accomplish with it.

I wouldn't call this fast-paced, it's more of a slow-build. More than that, it's steady and always tantalizing about what's coming next. Steady enough that you won't want to put it down.

 

This is really an Elmore Leonard-esque plot and batch of characters, but it has none of Leonard's style. Which is not a complaint—I'm trying to describe, not challenge—if he'd tried, I'd spend a few paragraphs describing the ways that someone who isn't Elmore Leonard shouldn't try to ape his style. Instead, you get the same types of characters in tight situations, which is good enough.

 

There are really two conclusions to this novel—and both are a lot more satisfying than anything I thought the novel might be leading to. And the last line is a killer, make no mistake.

 

All in all, a solid Crime novel featuring lowlifes, misguided people, and a few hardcore bad guys. It's also enough evidence for myself that I'm going to grab the next Russo novel in a heartbeat. I dug this one, I think you will, too.

 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. I am grateful for that, but not so grateful that I changed my opinion.

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2019/11/26/thieves-by-steven-max-russo-2-crooks-1-realtor-1-housekeeper-and-a-whole-lot-of-thievery
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review 2019-08-31 20:47
Thieves of Blood, Blade of the Flame #1 by Tim Waggoner
Thieves of Blood - Tim Waggoner

Diran Bastiaan is a priest of the Silver Flame with a dark past and is travelling in the Lhazaar Principalities with his friend the half-orc Ghaji on a general quest to root out evil wherever they find it. In the city of Port Verge Diran runs into an old colleague and former lover, Makala.

 

Shortly therafter the city is raided by the Black Fleet - black ships that come in the night and take nothing but people - and after a fight with a vampire Makala is taken.

 

Teaming up with an elf woman, Yvka, with an agenda of her own (and a fast ship) Diran and Ghaji set out across the cold Lhazaar sea to find out the truth of the Black Fleet and to rescue Makala.

 

Despite the never-ending quest to save my girlfriend plot, 'Thieves of Blood' is an excellent adventure with elements of real horror. Eberron often touches on elements of the genre - but when you have rabid ghouls tearing people apart and vast quantities of blood magic, I'm going to look at the book differently. The Blood of Vol always have potential, but Waggoner nails it.

 

Diran and Makala's complicated back history as former assassins, Ghaji's reflections on prejudice, and great use of the settings own character without suborning the plot makes this a winner. Along with Yvka the addition of an elderly artificier and a Ravenloft-level traumatized halfing to the party make things more interesting. Makala, even as a captive, is allowed heroism, but I could have used more time with her and some more thought-out motivation for the female antagonist. This stands on its own well, but there's real potential for development as the trilogy moves forward.

 

The Blade of the Flame

 

Next: 'Forge of the Mind Slayers'

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text 2019-07-05 18:09
Comic Round Up
Heathen #7 - Natasha Alterici
Sea of Thieves #0 - Jeremy Whitley
Sea of Thieves Origins #2 - Jeremy Whitley

Sea of Thieves (each 3 stars) - Sea of Thieves #0: This sets the strange for the comic series (and I think the video game). Good use of poc characters. I like the exchange between Mele and Alessia. the story of Mollie sets up the economic side of being a pirate. Its a good tale because it shows that intelligence is important and it occurs in Origins #2.

 

Heathen #7 - Installment 7 of everyone's favorite lesbian Viking series features some action and the furthering of the main quest, but the heart of the story if the conversation between Freyja and Odin about the nature love, worship, and power.

And it is a worthy and wonderous conversation.

The end of this installment is heartbreaking.

It should be noted that Alterici draws women who may or may not be in various states of undressed - for instance, Freyja's boobs are always uncovered. The difference is that Freyja isn't sexualized the same way that fully clothed women in superhero comic books usually all. That is, unless Freyja herself turns on that sexually energy. I love that.

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review 2019-06-23 22:21
Baccano!, Vol. 2: 1931 The Grand Punk Railroad: Local (book) by Ryohgo Narita, illustration by Katsumi Enami, translated by Taylor Engel
Baccano!, Vol. 2: 1931 The Grand Punk Railroad: Local - Ryohgo Narita,Katsumi Enami

The year is 1931, and the Flying Pussyfoot, a limited express train bound for New York, has just acquired several groups worth of dangerous passengers, nearly all of whom think they'll easily be able to take over the train for their own ends. There's crybaby bootlegger boss Jacuzzi Splot (best name ever) and his misfit band of delinquents, who plan to steal some secret cargo. There's the Lemures group, a bunch of terrorists determined to take some hostages in order to free their leader, the immortal Huey Laforet. There's murder-loving Ladd Russo, the nephew of the head of the Russo mafia family, his bride-to-be Lua, and his group of fellow killers. There's the mysterious monster known as the Rail Tracer. And then there are a few less dangerous passengers, like the thieves Isaac and Miria.

All of these passengers have their own goals and motivations. Only some of them will make it to New York alive.

First, a disclaimer: I have seen (and enjoyed) the anime, which adapted several books in this series, including this one. I suspect it helped my ability to follow along with the characters and story. Normally, I'd suggest watching the anime prior to attempting these light novels, but the anime has gone out of print and, as far as I know, isn't legally streaming anywhere (to anyone who wonders why I still buy so much anime when streaming is an option, this is why).

As far as reading order goes: Although Narita wrote in his afterword that he planned to keep each volume as self-contained as possible, that doesn't mean the books can be read in any order - definitely read Volume 1 before starting this one, even though only a few characters from the first book make appearances in this one. Also, if you make it past Volume 1 and plan on reading Volume 2, you might as well buy Volume 3 as well, because Volume 2 isn't self-contained. It doesn't end in what I'd call a cliffhanger, but it does leave a good chunk of the story untold. Multiple characters show up, only to disappear again, the details of their fates saved for Volume 3.

In my review of the first volume of this series, I wrote that the writing/translation was bad but that this somehow didn't interfere with my enjoyment. That was sadly not the case with Volume 2. I don't know whether it was actually worse than Volume 1 or whether I was just less in the mood, but there were times when the writing literally ground my reading experience to a halt as I tried to figure out what Narita meant. One example:

"Nice objected to that idea. Since she was talking to Nick, even under the circumstances, she meticulously parsed out casual speech and polite speech to the appropriate listener; Nick received the latter." (147)

It would have been simpler to say that, even though she objected to Nick's idea, she still did so politely. Not only is the phrasing incredibly awkward, I'm not sure that "parsed" is the right word here. "Parceled out" might have been more appropriate.

Here's an example that just made me shake my head:

"Without giving an audible answer to that question, Lua nodded silently." (48)

Can we say "redundant"?

As in Volume 1, the writing was almost completely devoid of descriptions. Nearly all of the book's historical and setting details were limited to pages 61 to 62 - otherwise, it was all character introductions, dialogue, and action, pretty much in that order.

It's a sign of how excellent Ladd Russo's English-language voice actor was that I kept hearing him every time I read Ladd's dialogue. Of all of this book's many characters, Ladd and Jacuzzi probably stood out the most. Jacuzzi was a relatively fun and interesting character, a young man who tended to cry and panic about everything but who nonetheless inspired intense loyalty within his group. Ladd, unfortunately, just came across as an excuse for occasional mindless bone-crunching violence.

Isaac and Miria were a disappointment this time around. They continued their role as the series' comic relief, but instead of being oblivious to the violence around them, they were presented as being well aware of what was going on, but so used to it that they were unfazed. Honestly, it made them seem more creepy and disturbing than, say, a more in-your-face monster like Ladd.

I don't expect the series' writing to improve, but I'm hopeful that I'll like Volume 3 more than this one, because all of the fantasy elements that Narita only hinted at in this volume will actually be on-page in that volume. Also, my favorite character from the anime, Claire, will finally get more than just a few vague mentions.

I'll wrap this up with a couple things that made me go WTF. Was the fingernail thing in the anime? I can't remember, but in the book it made me wince. Fingernails don't work like that - I don't care how you shape or cut them, you're not going to be able to saw through multiple ropes with them, and certainly not quickly enough to do any good. Also, if you did arrange to have one of your nails shaped like a tiny saw, you would constantly regret it as you accidentally cut yourself or other people or even just got the nail caught on cloth or whatever. And then there was the thing under Nice's eye patch, which I know was definitely in the anime, although I'd completely forgotten about it. So much wincing. Just a bad, bad idea.

Extras:

Several color illustrations at the front of the book (with text that will likely only confuse readers who haven't yet read the volume and haven't seen the anime), several black-and-white illustrations throughout, and an afterword by the author.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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