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review 2018-04-25 21:19
Review: "Rocky Mountain Refuge" by Nicky James
Rocky Mountain Refuge - Nicky James

 

~ 4 stars ~

 

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review 2018-04-25 01:45
Review of "Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr" (The Old Kingdom #2; The Abhorsen Trilogy, #2) by Garth Nix
Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr - Garth Nix

This reader's personal opinion, ©2018, all rights reserved, not to be quoted, clipped or used in any way by goodreads, Google Play, amazon.com or other commercial booksellers* 

 

I'm glad I read this after Sabriel.  It's hard for me to give this one a star rating. From the first book, I was intrigued by the Clayr (seers in their own society) and what happened next with the Abhorsen, the Old Kingdom, etc.

 

It's a very good book that suffers from comparison to first in series. Seriously, this is a good fantasy genre book.

 

I'm not sure I completely warmed up to Lirael, though. I think my problem was that about the time I'd start to or the story got interesting, it would change. The library and the dog (avatar? nicer version of Mogget?) could really have gotten interesting on their own. So before that was Lirael as someone not yet finding her place with the Clayr. So after that was Lirael traveling to Old Kingdom to confront necromancer and join characters from the first book. Any of those three would have made a good book; putting all three in one book made it sort of the lite version. Didn't leave a lot of room for developing other characters, including Prince Sameth (son of Sabriel and a Touchstone, the h/H of first book) despite a lot of chapters from his POV. No romance, which worked well for this tale (particularly given some spoilers).

 

Lacked the intensity but more happened than in first book. No cliffhanger ending, but also no real surprises (and I'm usually easily surprised). Behind the necromancer and a lot of the still unresolved political machinations is a never revealed Big Bad. Which, while slightly disappointing, points to this possibly being a "filler" in the series.

 

I think I would have starred it higher or lower had I not expected more from a book about a Clayr librarian.


*©2018.  All rights reserved except permission is granted to author or publisher (except Penumbra Publishing) to reprint/quote in whole or in part. I may also have cross-posted on Libib, LibraryThing, and other sites including retailers like kobo and Barnes and Noble. Posting on any site does not grant that site permission to share with any third parties or indicate release of copyright.  

 

Ratings scale used in absence of a booklikes suggested rating scale:

★★★★★ = All Time Favorite 
★★★★½ = Extraordinary Book. Really Loved It.
★★★★☆ = Loved It.
★★★½☆ = Really Liked.
★★★☆☆ = Liked.
★★½☆☆ = Liked parts; parts only okay. Would read more by author.
★★☆☆☆ = Average.   Okay. 
★½☆☆☆ = Disliked or meh? but kept reading in hopes would improve.
★☆☆☆☆ = Loathed It. Possibly DNF and a torturous read.
½☆☆☆☆ = So vile was a DNF or should have been. Cannot imagine anyone liking.  (Might also be just an "uploaded" word spew or collection that should not be dignified by calling itself a "published book." If author is going batshit crazy in the blogosphere over reviews -- I now know why they are getting bad reviews.  Or maybe author should take remedial classes for language written in until basic concepts like using sentences sink in. Is author even old enough to sign a publishing contract or do they need a legal guardian to sign for them?)

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review 2018-04-24 03:01
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away there was...
Asylum - Robert Winter

No this isn't a fairy tale and while it is a work of fiction sadly and I say sadly with all sincerity it is based on real life events...things that never should have happened, did.

 

In writing this story the author has accomplished a few things...one he's told us a story that for the most part is interesting, entertaining and a testament to the strength of the human soul and it's ability to endure.

 

Hernan is a young man born and raised  in El Salvador until he comes under the scrutiny of a gang known as 'Cuernos del Diablo (Horns of the Devil) for being gay. Hernan has struggled with this all his life knowing that he dare not tell a soul about himself...being gay and living in El Salvador is not good for a person's continued existence. Unfortunately Cuernos del Diablo doesn't really ask if a person's gay they just decided. After being stabbed by members of Cuernos, Hernan is forced to flee his homeland. With only his Tio Juan (Uncle) to help him Hernan undergoes a journey that no one should have to experience.

 

Finally arriving in America, Hernan begins life as an illegal immigrant fearing only the long arm of Cuernos but that of ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement). If he's caught it means being departed back to El Salvador where he's sure he'll meet with certain death. 

 

Hernan doesn't trust people and truthfully I wouldn't if I was him either. What he doesn't count on is meeting a man who's honorable and simply wants to help him.  Colin Felton knows that he's lived a blessed life. He's been raised amidst a level of privilege that few can truly lay claim to. He also tries to keep this little fact about himself from becoming public knowledge.  He just wants to do his job and live a quiet life...maybe, meet someone he can share that live with one day and one day is coming sooner than he realizes when he goes for a walk in P-town following the wedding of his best friend Brandon to his fiance David. It was fun seeing the men from September again...well, except not so much with Gerald and Ethan...I really can't say I've missed these two, but we did decide that they'd be a really good couple, however, I'll pass on that story thank you very much. 

 

It takes more than a little effort on Colin's part to convince Hernan that not only can Colin help him, but Hernan can also trust him. 

 

This one started out really good and we were loving it...yes, I say we, not the royal we or even the 'hey, she's got a few screws loose we', no by we I mean my Buddy Read Besties...Josy, Simone and Christelle...the awesome ladies who continue to go on book adventures with me and we had not one...not two...but three stalkers... I mean cheerleaders...yes, cheerleaders...no actually they were awesome friends who stopped by from time to time to visit. A big thank you to Anne, Shile and Ariana your insight and shared thoughts only made things that much more enjoyable.

 

So for most of this story I was looking at 4 stars not a problem...sure there were a couple of things that maybe felt a little problematic for me but over all I liked what the author was doing here. You see Hernan's experience is based on the real life experiences of two young men who have lived through circumstances similar to what happens to Hernan and these are stories that need to be told...if for no other reason than to remind those of us who are luck enough to live in countries where not only can we speak our mind but we can be who we are...we can be gay, straight, bi, trans...we can be a rainbow and we can celebrate that rainbow. 

 

I think I got a little further along in the story before things started to tank for me but sadly they did. One of my biggest niggles was Colin...or more accurately his money...all the money...for me it felt like he started out rich and...well, I believe what I said to my friends was I know he's a trust fund  baby but it feels like he started with 'money' and then he had 'Money' and suddenly it was Colin has 'MONEY!!!' and yes, I know Colin didn't want people to know how rich he was, I get that but nope, sorry I just can't reconcile this with how it all came out and more importantly that his best friend seemed to be more concerned that Colin kept this from him than with the fact that his best friend was possibly in a great deal of danger, but hey, even though it didn't feel quite right, it still didn't spoil the story for me.  It takes a lot to really spoil a story for me...I mean full out make me feel like I want those hours of my life that I lost reading that story back spoil and that wasn't happening. 

 

I know a couple of my friends were bothered by a life changing event that happened to Hernan and/or how it played out at a point where he should have been feeling safe, feeling like things were finally going to get better and while I agree that it was unfortunate I think we all agree that it was almost inevitable...sadly, the writing was on the wall for this to occur.

 

Now, here's the part that took me from 4 stars to well...a rather shaky 3.5...please bare with me on this. I'm going to ramble a bit. I love a good HEA as much as the next person...hell, there are times that I live for them, but and this is a big but for me...I really, really need to feel that HEA, it has to be believable and real. I want to feel it in my heart. I want happy tears, I want to be able to sob and think 'Oh thank heavens. Hernan got to be happy, he found that person who deserved his love and whose love he deserved. They fit, they work in a way that is real. Sadly that wasn't how I was feeling by the end of this...somewhere along the line my happy ending turned into a cookie cutter Disney romance where Prince Charming...played by Colin Felton rode to the rescue of the Princess (in this case another Prince named Hernan) and his fairy godmother (Colin's father) waved his magic wand (got out his 'black' credit card...because black is the color that says "I am rich beyond your wildest dreams bitches!) and fixed everything...well everything except for the fact that while I was willing to overlook  a lot of the niggles in this book that weren't feeling quite right for me because there was a bigger picture story that needed to be told and it was real and at times brutal and gut wrenching and for so many people too many people it's so very real because somewhere in there were words that resonated with them...suddenly it just all turned into a fairy tale. I'm sure if most of us think about it we'll realize that we've known more than one immigrant in our lives and I have to say the ones that I've known have been incredibly strong and amazing people... 

 

Men and women who were doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers and held other well educated and high paying professional positions in their homeland and now...well now they get to drive cabs and work as home support workers, waiters, generally as unskilled labor and even then there's still some kind of course or training that they need to take, so yes, while much of Hernan's story felt real and brought out my protective instincts and had me sitting on the edge of my seat and praying...praying that his ordeal would end soon. that he'd be ok, he'd get his happily ever after. When it came to the ending where he got his prince and they rode off into the sunset in their golden carriage on behalf of the immigrants that I've had the privilege to know both legal and illegal...I have to say I'm sorry but I can no longer suspend my disbelief. 

 

Maybe, this was someone's happy ending but somehow on top of all the other amazing things that happened to Hernan...and yes, I realize he also endured a great deal of tragedy...the ending for me rather than being enough...was just too much and maybe that's the cynic in me having a bad day...I know, let's call it that and move on because at the end of it all this was a story worth telling and mostly, worth reading.

 

*************************

An ARC of 'Asylum' was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2018-04-23 19:59
Cat Call by Steve Vernon
Cat Call: A Tale of Ghosts and Darker Things - Steve Vernon

If you think your cat might really be a demon in disguise you need to read this.

  

This is mine. I think many of you are already familiar with him :) His name is Patrick and his purpose on this planet is to slowly drive me insane.

 

 

This story had my name all over it. There’s a cat, a creepy-ass house and the promise of a haunting good time and it delivered on all points plus a few more! I seriously loved this little story and have no idea why I haven’t read this author before now but I’ll be changing that soon because I’ve just purchased two more. 

 

A group of kids decide to investigate the local creepy mansion and dare each other to spit on the porch. Why do boys do such dumb things?! No need to answer that. Anyhow, they see an old gray cat behind the screen nibbling on what looks to them like a piece of raw meat. The dumbest bravest young man faces down the cat and it doesn’t end in a way any of them could ever have imagined!

 

This story is told from Jeremy’s POV and Jeremy knows true darkness having already experienced it twice in his young life. I am absolutely not going to tell you any more of what happened because you should all read this story for your own selves. Just know that it was heart-tugging and you will feel all kinds of emotions for this young boy within the first few minutes of the story that will continue until the end. Unless you’re totally dead inside, that is. If that’s the case, there’s no helping you.

 

This is some fabulous characterization and I loved every moment of it. Very highly recommend!

 

If you pick this up on audio you won’t be disappointed by the narration. Tom Zainea has a down to earth voice that fits perfectly with this haunted little tale.

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review 2018-04-23 13:00
Murder Off Miami: Updated -- Case Notes and Final Comments
Murder Off Miami - Dennis Wheatley

Sooo ... turns out I correctly guessed the solution.  Though as MbD said in her review, it pretty much turns on one particular item of conjecture presented fairly early on, so I toyed with some more elaborate options for a while because initially I couldn't believe it really should be that easy. -- That said, like MbD I missed a few of the minor clues (and didn't entirely think through, or put a slightly different construction on some of those that I had seen); but ultimately none of that really mattered.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Case Notes, as posted on April 22, 2018, 00:05 AM CEST:

 

OK, I've finished it and formed my theory, but since MbD had pity on me last night (her time) and didn't exploit her world clock-generated advantage, I'll put all of my case notes (except for the corresponding headlines) in spoiler tags just to be on the safe side.  Though I do have a feeling we're on the same track as far as the solution is concerned.  But anyway!

 

Bolitho Blane and Nicholas Stodart

 

Who are they really, anyway??? 

 

* No verifiable third-hand information from any indisputable source (Scotland Yard, British armed forces, British colonial administration, etc.) on either. 

 

* Stodart's personal background especially re: the war years (WWI) is sourced only through S. himself. The British authorities don't even know him (i.e., he doesn't even have a birth certificate at Somerset House??)

 

* Ditto essentially Blane, who styles himself as a recluse and conducts even his business affairs chiefly "at the remote" -- by telephone and cable / correspondence.

 

* Both Blane and Stodart surfaced in Britain suddenly, at some point after the end of WWI, with a vague background of having come from "the colonies" (Australia / India / South Africa).

 

* Nobody, not even Rocksavage and the yacht's captain saw Blane / Stodart come on board (as per Rocksavage's testimony, you can't see the gangway from the bridge).

 

* Nobody saw Blane immediately after boarding; even the steward was kept out of his suite.

 

* Only one person on board knows what Blane looks like -- the Bishop, who wasn't in the lounge with the other passengers (minus Blane) before dinner on the fateful night and promptly has a fainting fit when Stodart enters the room where he is being interrogated.

 

* Similarly, nobody knows what Blane's handwriting looks like (or Stodart's for that matter).  The alleged suicide note is produced by Stodart.

 

* In fact, the entire suicide theory originates with Stodart.  (BUT: If you're staging a suicide, then why also stage a murder (tracks on the carpet, blood stains)?)

 

* Blane not only owns Argus Suds but (as per Jocelyn, who ought to know) also Redmeyer Synd shares, which at least before Blane's "exit" seem to have been faring considerably better than Argus Suds -- and better than Rocksavage Con, even if not as well as the other stocks associated with Rocksavage (Denton Bros, Grandol Soaps, and Sen Toilet Preps).

 

* Why the sudden need for a secretary / assistant on Blane's part, shortly before this trip?!  Explanation given isn't convincing.

 

* What is the meaning of Stodart's toothache / ill-fitting dentures?  Something to do with blood?

(spoiler show)

 

New York (Blane & Stodart's Travel to and Stay There)

 

* Blane's luggage has tags for the Ritz, Stodart's doesn't (at least not visibly).

 

* Stodart's luggage has "Cunard Line" tag, Blane's doesn't (at least not visibly).  (NB: As per internet research, the R.M.S. Berengaria really was a Cunard ship in the 1930s.)

 

* Letter to the Bishop written on Adlon Claridge paper.  That seems to have been the Bishop's hotel in N.Y.:  The Adlon Claridge match found later suggests that the letter wasn't sent to the Bishop as part of the mail delivered on board, but already conveyed to him in N.Y. in some fashion.

 

* Interpretation that letter to Bishop contains a veiled threat and is intended to hush him up is probably correct.

 

* Blane's luggage contains dirty / used clothing for 2 days.  So was there a laundry on the R.M.S. Berengaria?  (N.B.: Blue riband winners in the mid-1930s clocked in at roughly 4 days' travel time.  So the voyage from England would easily have taken that long, if not a day or two longer.)  But wouldn't the Ritz have offered laundry services, too?

 

* Stodart's luggage not inventoried.  (Presumably because police consider him a witness?)

 

* By letter to Bishop, we know that Blane / Stoddart were (was?!) in New York on March 5.

 

* Then [t]he[y] found an excuse not to travel to Florida with the rest of the passengers, and only board the yacht there at the very last minute on March 8.

(spoiler show)

 

Crime Scene

 

* If Blane was shot, where is the bullet?  Why wasn't it recovered (near one of the blood stains or anywhere else)?

 

* Crime scene photos at the very least don't suggest bullet has entered the wall.

 

* No odd number of bullets found in Blane's possession (25 bullets sounds like a number that B. could have counted off and brought with him from home).

 

* What caused that blood stain's black rim -- possibly black ink?

 

* "Suicide note" written in blue ink.  Comment on the back of the stock price listing written in black ink, like the stock price listing itself.

 

* Writing set on the desk seems to be missing one (the middle) pen.

 

* What color is the ink found in Blane's personal possessions -- black or blue?  The inventory doesn't say.

 

* Where did whoever wrote the suicide note (if it was written on board) sit while doing so?  There is no chair anywhere near the desk.

 

* Additional notes on ink / paper:

(a) Both of Hayashi's notes are written in blue ink as well.  As per his and the steward's testimony, immediately after boarding no foolscap / writing paper and no ink available in his cabin (only after the main on-board store had been reopened and cabins could be reprovisioned from there).  Lacking writing materials in his own cabin, Hayashi had to resort to materials provided in the ship's writing room.

(b) No odd number of sheets of yellow writing paper on the block contained in Blane's possessions.  25 sheets sounds like this could be the complete block brought by Blane from home.

(c) 68 pages of foolscap suggests use of some of the foolscap paper, though.  But for what purpose?

 

* In Blane's room, no change of daytime or evening clothes seems to have been unpacked / laid ready for dinner (only his pyjama and dressing gown). -- Stodart, OTOH, has had a change of shoes and socks at the very least.

 

* What is the black spot at the far end of the bathtub in Blane's suite?

 

* If the steward was in the adjacent room to Blane's suite, why didn't he hear anything?  (The shot may have been silenced, but literally nothing -- no commotion, not Blane's / Stodart's voice(s), no sounds of something falling (the body?!)?  May be the fault of the nearby carpenter's work, though.

(spoiler show)

 

Time of the Murder

 

* See above: Why can't the murder (if such a thing occurred at all) have been committed right after boarding?  We only have Stodart's word for the assertion that Blane was alive then in the first place -- and Stodart, by his own testimony, was alone in the room with him until 7:30 pm.

 

* At and after 7:00 pm (even more so, between 7:30 and 8:30 / 8:45 pm) it would have been dark outside, so presumably nobody would have seen what, if anything, was tossed out of the porthole of Blane's suite at that time.

 

* But: According to the page torn from Stodart's calendar, full moon at 4:15 am.  (Where exactly does that get us?  What, if anything, was planned for that time?)

 

* Stodart is the only person who was always in somebody's view and therefore has a perfect alibi during the entire time when Detective Kettering believes the murder was committed (i.e., after 7:30 or even after 7:45 pm). -- As Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Lord Peter Wimsey have all said on many a similar occasion: "There is nothing I distrust so much as a seemingly unbreakable alibi."

(spoiler show)

 

Relationship Blane / Hayashi

 

* Is Hayashi's note really about Blane's supposed intent to come to an agreement with Rocksavage?  I don't think so -- rather, the wording suggests a specific action being contemplated by Blane, and of which he has given Hayashi advance notice; maybe in order to sway H. in his (Blane's) own favor.

 

* We know from Slick, aka the Count, that Blane had exposed Slick's card-sharping on a previous occasion, much to Slick's detriment.  Could Blane not have told Hayashi that if H. didn't grant the Japanese monopoly to him (Blane), he'd expose the bribery scheme to which Rocksavage had more or less already agreed?

 

(spoiler show)

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

This particular volume qualifies for square / chapter 4 of the Detection Club bingo, for which I've already read Freeman Wills Crofts's Hog's Back Mystery, but I'm happy to say that I have since found affordable copies of two more books by Dennis Wheatley, as well as Q. Patrick's File on Fenton and Farr online, which I take both from MbD's reviews of Murder Off Miami and File on Fenton and Farr is more intricately  plotted, and which will qualify for the "Across the Atlantic" square.  Anyway, this was great fun -- and I'm very much looking forward to my next "crime files" adventure!

 

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