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review 2018-01-17 06:35
Creeping Fear
Lockwood & Co.: The Creeping Shadow - Jonathan Stroud

I adore this series. I always look forward to the newest book. And I have to get these on audiobook because the narration is always excellent. I was not disappointed. At the end of "The Hollow Boy", Lucy leaves Lockwood and Co for what seems like good reasons at the time. She becomes an independent contractor ghost hunter and she's good at her job. But she's not happy, even with her glass jar skull for company. She misses the camaraderie of Lockwood and Co.: George, even Holly, and of course, Lockwood. But she left to keep them safe because her newer abilities to communicate with ghosts might cause her to make a mistake and get one of her friends hurt.

Lockwood shows up at her new digs and asks for her help with a case, and she agrees to help them out. It's one of their tougher cases, and Lucy finds her life in jeopardy shortly after, and realizing that she's more safe sticking with Lockwood and Co. until they fi

gure out who's trying to kill her. That's when their biggest case comes their way, a whole haunted village. They end up in a small town with serious ghost problems a conspiracy that will shake the foundations of the ghost hunting community.

I love how Stroud steadily builds on the foundation of the last book and the previous ones. The story just expands beautifully and he doesn't leave any plot elements dangling. While he turns a few things on their heads, it's organic as the reader realizes that things weren't as the characters thought or believed. The characters are very well developed and layered. While the main characters are all teens, they have a maturity that is realistic considering the world they live in and the dangers they face every day. Let's face it. The children are the ones on the frontline, confronting and dealing with the ghost Problem.

These books are delightfully eerie and downright chilling at times. Also, there's plenty of human menace. I mean, grownups trying to kill kids. How sick is that? While the paranormal elements are integral to the story, the heart of it is the characters. Everything is told from Lucy's point of view (it's 1st person), but the characters don't suffer from being seen through the typically narrow 1st person vantage point. Instead, they are richly described, with dialogue and action that shows you everything you need to know about them. Lucy also grows as a character as she faces significant challenges and comes to realizations about what she is and how to deal with the troubles she and her friends face. And that they are stronger together.

As with the last book, this has a nice conclusion but it also leaves the door open for the next book. Things are about to get even more intense, and I'm here for it.

Another book I'd love to see made into movies. And I just checked and it's going to be optioned for a tv series in the UK. This pleases me. Sadly, the next book is the last book. But all good things come to an end.

Highly recommend!
 
 
 
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review 2018-01-17 04:07
Sleepy Little Murder Town
Zero Day - David Baldacci

I am a huge fan of the Will Robie series, so I thought I'd try the John Puller books. Plus action/adventure and suspense fans really recommend this series. John Puller is more like Jack Reacher than Will Robie. He's enlisted army and he's an investigator of crime scenes with military ties. His father is a three star general and his brother is in max security prison for treason. John is a by the books guy who follows the evidence. He is a decorated combat veteran with PTSD, but he manages to work past the flashback and triggers and uses the lessons he learned in Iraq to stay alive.

What seems like it should be a routine investigation into the murder of an Air Force officer and his family in one in a dying mining town in West Virginia leads to a conspiracy that goes much further and wider, and much deadlier.

Baldacci can write. John Puller is man of great self-control but he is no pushover. He can handle himself and is no fool. Highly intelligent and methodical in his work, he thinks on his feet and uses his logic and intuition expertly. I listened to the audiobook and the male narrator nails Puller. His diction is precise in speaking John's dialogue, making him feel distinct from other characters. The female narrator also does a good job, especially with the regional dialects. I liked having both a male and female narrator, because it gives the audiobook flow a vibrant energy.

The descriptions of the forgotten mining town and its citizens in comparison to the luxury enjoyed by the rich man who owns most of the town has a realism that grounds the story. The theme of broken promises and environmental rape and pillage, taking advantage of the workers and the townspeople for that extra dime in the pocket.

The suspense is expertly written. What starts as a grisly murder of a family that seems completely random leads to a climax that puts the lives of John, Samantha, the town sheriff, and the whole town and perhaps the region in jeopardy. The clock is ticking while Puller works to solve the puzzle of who, what, where and why.

The action is very good and it's balanced by a plot that is free of holes. I play a game when I read mysteries, trying to guess whodunit. I didn't guess this one, but fortunately John figures it out.

At first glance, John seems to be a very rigid guy, but glimpses of a sense of humor, empathy, pathos and vulnerability shine through his tough facade. His principles are rock solid, and it's clear that he doesn't like bullies or those who harm innocents. He's not moved by people who try to use their power and influence as bargaining chips. To him, bad is bad, no matter how big their bank accounts are. His relationship with his father is nuanced. His father is suffering from dementia and it's clear that interacting with his father through his fog of memory loss is very painful for John. But he's a man of duty and loyalty and honors his father, even when it's hard for him. I like John a lot. I'll be adding him to list of Kickbutt heroes.

I prefer Will Robie over John Puller, but I definitely enjoyed this book and plan on continuing to read it. It's just me, I like the Black Ops Asssassin trope a lot. But Puller is great for a procedural with a hero who is intellectual but also very capable of kicking butt. I think the mystery of Puller's brother Robert's treason a mystery worth delving into, and eventually I know that John will put his skills to work on it. John is a good 21st Century hero, a man of honor, integrity, intellect but also physical skills and capabilities that carry him through and make him an interesting and admirable lead character.

I'd recommend this to action/adventure suspense fans, especially for those look for an NCIS-style book.

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review 2018-01-17 03:21
Holding Grudges
Antigoddess - Kendare Blake
 

I read this back in September and I'm just now able to write a review. I really dug this book, well at least until the abrupt ending. If you're a fan of Greek Mythology, I'd consider it a must read. Blake does something very interesting with Greek myths and legends. It has some elements of reincarnation, which is normally a turnoff for me, but it was fairly well accomplished in the book. Well, one aspect was disturbing, the character had to die violently to recall who they were in their previous life.

Largely, this was a really exciting read. I haven't been reading much young adult lately because I'm not interested in high school life anymore. The good thing about this book is, these characters are technically teens, but most of the main characters are reincarnated personages from the Greek myths, so they act a lot more mature and have interests and concerns far beyond typical high school drama.

There are some unanswered questions, which I think is a standard tactic of a writer who's putting together a series. I just wish it wasn't so overused. Frankly, I get tired of the whole, "Keep Reading" tactic.

Another issue was Blake sort of picks and chooses which gods/goddesses she'll feature and to what degree. It's up to her as the author, but that was a bit of a letdown how she represented some of them. The curses or fates of some of the gods/goddesses were maliciously creative, and I won't even go into them, because that's part of the fun. I felt that overall the characterization is very strong for the main leads, not as much for the secondary and villainous characters. I especially liked the way that Blake humanized the ancient god/goddess figures and endowed the human (sort of) reincarnated characters with such depth.

Hera is always portrayed as a mega-bitch in just about everything. I've never been into Hera, but in a way it seems kind of sad that her reputation is so low. I would want to feel sorry for her, honestly, seeing as how she's the wife that's been cheated on by her lothario husband for many millennia. But she's always scheming and making peoples' lives miserable. In this she gets an update as a fashion forward Queen B who would fit right in with the One Percenters.

Athena and Hermes have strong points of view as they travel looking for the reincarnation of the person who could be the key to stopping the god or goddess behind the curse that is slowly killing them. They encounter high school student Cassandra, who is the key to their plan, and whose life and family is about to be in terrible danger, because Hera is headed her way.

This book has fantastic action and arresting imagery. The opening scene is the hook that grabbed me and wouldn't let go. I knew I wanted to finish this book just with the beginning. I just wish the ending wasn't so abrupt. I can't tell you how much of a buzzkill that is when you are reading a great book and then it sort of fizzles out. Maybe fizzle isn't the right word. This book goes from atomic explosion to the sizzle when you throw water on a campfire. I was confused at how fast things resolved. Having said that, I was hoping my library would have book two.

Yeah, so I'm giving it four stars because it really is a very good book. I wasn't happy with the ending, so that's why I took off a star. Despite that, I was really excited about this book and I could hardly put it down. This is one I think would make a great movie. Maybe someday soon.

I wanted to like "Anna Dressed in Blood" a lot more than I did. It was good, but it felt too derivative of popular horror movies for my tastes. I think that based on this novel, Blake has grown as an author, and I'm really excited to see where she goes from here.

 
 
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review 2018-01-16 22:45
Family Legacies
Carter & Lovecraft - Jonathan L. Howard

The Early 20th Century writer HP Lovecraft has spawned a whole sub-genre of horror dedicated to his ideas, often called the Cthulhu Mythos or Lovecraftian horror. Not surprising that nearly 100 years later, people are still re-imagining his work and characters. "Carter and Lovecraft" is a different spin on Lovecraft. What if Lovecraft, frankly a huge bigot and racist, had descendants of color and one of them ran a bookshop? What if one of his recurring characters, Randolph Carter, actually existed, and his descendant was a police officer? And they team up in a story? Well, that's this book. Daniel Carter is a detective who has lived through the trauma of his partner killing himself in front of him after they rescue a kid from a serial killer. His last words referring to "the twist". Carter resigns from the police and becomes a private detective. Shortly thereafter, he inherits a bookstore from a person he never knew in Providence, Rhode Island. When he goes down there, he meets Mina Lovecraft, an African American woman who runs the bookstore for her uncle, who disappeared months ago and has been heard from since. Around the same time, Carter is hired on a case that leads to some very strange murders committed by a rogue mathematician. Could all these things be related? Yes. So this is a very strange book. It's relatively short, but there's a lot here to chew on. Howard knows his Lovecraft. This book is full of nuggets and easter eggs for Lovecraftian enthusiasts. I was encouraged to look up some elements of the story, and it gets deep into the Mythos. I think he captured the aspect of Lovecraft in that you feel like you have no idea about what's going on and you probably won't find out. He also touches on the visceral horror that is integral to Lovecraft. In some ways, he develops some aspects of the Mythos better. His characters are more fleshed out and are used as more than devices to spread the feeling of fear and fatalism about an indifferent universe. He picks up some concepts and themes from some of Lovecraft's stories and creates a new story out of them set in the 21st Century. But my favorite part is how Howard subversively dissects Lovecraft's bigotry and racism. Mina is a descendant would have done Lovecraft proud if he could get past his white supremacy and racism. She's thoughtful, intelligent, emotionally stable, well-read, and loyal and very strong. She had a matter-of-fact approach to weirdness, which is enviable, considering some of the events that happen in this family. She seems to be the antidote to Lovecraft's claustrophobic fear of the Other and conviction that some people are just genetically inferior. Daniel Carter is a good co-lead. He's a decent guy. As a cop, he tends to be a skeptic about things, but in the face of weirdness, he doesn't shut down, he follows the lead. I like that he had to confront his own hidden prejudices and comes out a better man after he did so. He does feel at times the helplessness in the face of events beyond their comprehension that is emblematic of Lovecraft's protagonists, but doesn't give into and doesn't allow it to break his mind. There's a developing connection between Carter and Lovecraft, but it's nascent. They become friends, and its likely what they go through will only strengthen that bond. It is possible that things may become romantic over time. But more importantly, they know that they have each others' backs. Of course, there had to be some weird people, because it's Lovecraft. The rogue mathematician, the Waites, femme fatales who are simultaneously sexy but also deeply wrong, and their brain dead spouses, the mysterious lawyer who informs Carter of the bequest. Enough to make any reader feel uneasy about everything. So why the <b>3.5/5.0 star </b>rating? The main feeling I came out of this was "What did I just read?" It feels short to me. It was a book that kept my interest, and I liked the main characters, but I also felt like there was a lot that I didn't get or understand when it ended. There are some gruesome elements to this story and subject matter that made me uncomfortable. This one is not for young readers. Frankly, I was a bit disturbed by some imagery. The rogue mathematician who discovers a way to manipulate reality is a profoundly damaged individual lacking in morals. His acts are unconscionable and bizarrely cruel. To him, murder is manipulating the odds. It's always hard to read about people like this for me. Readers who like having the questions will enjoy this book. I think I would have preferred a longer book that delved a little deeper into those unanswered questions. This is going to be a series, so maybe things will be more fleshed out in later books. I like the main characters and the concept, so I'll keep reading.

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review 2017-10-24 04:56
Counting the Cost
Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Three Vol. 2 - Brian Buccellato,Bruno Redondo,Mike S. Miller

I felt like this was very short but eventful. Superman is no longer neutralized, and he's madder than ever. Constantine is up to his scheming at maximum levels. I liked that this one had lots of magic in it. Injustice messes with my head, because Superman is a terrible and formidable villain. Wonder Woman as well. Ugh, her crush on Superman has made her into a terrible dupe. I am and always will be Team Batman, just saying. The body count is always high in this series, and I hate that people fall in with an authoritarian because he know how to manipulate fear (sounds familiar with the current situation in the US right now). I will finish this because I want to know how this ends. But I will be holding my breath and gritting my teeth the whole time.

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