Review of by Cape Refuge (2002) by Terri Blackstock (Cape Refuge Series #1)

Bottom line: A realistic mystery that is well worth reading.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

Mystery and suspense combine in this first book in an exciting new 4-book series by best-selling author Terri Blackstock. Thelma and Wayne Owens run a bed and breakfast in Cape Refuge, Georgia. They minister to the seamen on the nearby docks and prisoners just out of nearby jails, holding services in an old warehouse and taking many of the ‘down-and-outers’ into their home. They have two daughters: the dutiful Morgan who is married to Jonathan, a fisherman, and helps them out at the B & B, and Blair, the still-single town librarian, who would be beautiful if it weren’t for the serious scar on the side of her face.

After a heated, public argument with his in-laws, Jonathan discovers Thelma and Wayne murdered in the warehouse where they held their church services. Considered the prime suspect, Jonathan is arrested. Grief-stricken, Morgan and Blair launch their own investigation to help Matthew Cade, the town’s young police chief, find the real killer. Shady characters and a raft of suspects keep the plot twisting and the suspense building as we learn not only who murdered Thelma and Wayne, but also the secrets about their family’s past and the true reason for Blair’s disfigurement.

Review:

It has been a while since I’ve started a mystery that compelled me to finish it. Despite having some characters that irritated me, and the frequent point of view changes between five or so main characters, I found myself really caring about them, and rooting for them all the way through (even the ones I occasionally wanted to shake – Jonathan, I’m looking at you here.) I thought the book could have done with some slimming down in spots – there were a couple of places it seemed like the characters should have caught on well before they did.

But overall, as I said, I found it compelling. It was a frighteningly believable story, and I found myself suffering with the helplessness of the main characters as it feels like all is crashing down around them. What do you do when it seems like everyone is against you? In a small, isolated town, where only a few people are in power and they all know each other, that can create a dangerous dynamic.

I also liked how the author was able to create scenarios with tension and danger, without relying on completely implausible set ups, such as a middle aged woman singlehandedly barging in to a biker bar to confront the bad guy who could eat her for lunch. (Side note: on kboards, a forum I sometimes hang out on, I learned about an acronym for just such heroines – TSTL, or Too Stupid To Live. I thought that was hilarious.)

It features Christian themes pretty heavily throughout, but it was done in a way that made sense in the story – in fact I thought that part was exceptionally well handled. So, apart from a few quibbles with the pacing and one or two of the characters being annoying (though in a very realistic way, which was perhaps why I found them so annoying – these are people that would irritate me in real life, too) it was a very enjoyable read. Well, enjoyable in the traditional mystery sense of “I need to figure out who did it and what is going to happen to the characters now!”

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of Temperance Brennan (A.K.A. Bones) Series by Kathy Reichs

Bottom line: A good look at the behind the scenes of police work and what a forensic anthropologist does – extremely violent and sometimes sub-par storytelling.

Rating: Recommended if you’re a fan of police procedurals or the TV show Bones.

Review:

I watched several seasons of Bones before giving up. It’s a good mystery show, but I got tired of the sexual tension being the main focus and the jerry-rigging done by the writers to keep that tension…tense. That being said, if you’re a mystery fan, it’s worth checking out, especially the first couple seasons or so. Anyways, a few years ago I had been wandering my library looking for something fun to read and randomly grabbed one of the Temperance Brennan mysteries that inspired the show. It was very good, although the show has practically nothing in common with the books except the name of the main character and the fact that she’s a forensic anthropologist. So I read a few more over the years and always found them to be clever and entertaining.

On my recent library run I had picked up several first-in-a-mystery-series books to review, and Deja Dead was one of those. I was looking forward to reading it, based on my previous experiences with Kathy Reichs. This, my friends, is a good example of why I’m not an optimist. I didn’t enjoy it at all. It was tedious and gruesome and slow. I didn’t identify with the main character at all, and despite the extremely graphic nature of the violence, didn’t find it all that interesting until the last 70 or so pages. For a book that clocks in at 532 pages, that’s kind of a big deal. I did see some hints of why I enjoyed some of the other books in the series. Towards the end, the characters felt more fleshed out. The murder(s) part of the plot was believable if grisly. The ending was genuinely a page turning, oh-no-what-next kind of thing for me. So overall I’m going to rate the series as a “Recommended If” with the first book a “Not Recommended”. From what I recall, the murders/violence stay pretty graphic but less so than this book (I’d skip the series entirely if you’re not a fan of that sort of thing), but the writing improves tremendously: the action starts rolling earlier in the book and the characters feel more realistic. I will say that I found the science-y parts to be well done and interesting.

Available:

Deja Dead (Book 1) Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Death Du Jour (Book 2) Amazon, Barnes & Noble

First Season of BonesAmazon, Barnes & Noble

What did you think? Did you like the series?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Family Fridays – A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Book: A Wrinkle in Time (1962)

Series: The Wrinkle in Time Quintet

Genre: Children’s Fantasy / Children’s Science Fiction

Ages: 10 and up

Blurb:

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

 A Wrinkle in Time is the winner of the 1963 Newbery Medal.

Review:

I have loved A Wrinkle in Time for decades. The writing style, which I can appreciate more as an adult, is clean and beautiful. It manages to be simple without being simplistic and never feels like it has been dumbed down for children. Written just over fifty years ago, it will ring just as true to children today as it has over the last half century. The story is a classic, the world building is unique and interesting, and the characters are well drawn. It is particularly wonderful for children who feel like misfits. I do remember being scared the first time I read it, which was well before the 10-11 years old that I see online as age guides, but as previously noted (often) I have always been easily frightened. I sometimes feel that books written earlier (such as Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia – see my review here) end up with higher age ranges than books being written now. Maybe it’s like how older movies had stricter guidelines for what got rated as PG-13, what got rated as R and so on.

There are five books in this series, with some branch off books about the Austin family. The Austin family books are good (at least the couple that I read) but more mature – I would recommend late junior high or early high school. The Wrinkle in Time Quintet is very good overall. I didn’t actually care for Many Waters, but the rest of the books I thoroughly enjoyed (though do be aware the themes get more mature as the series progresses). My second favorite is probably the last book: An Acceptable Time.

In order, the Wrinkle in Time Quintet books are as follows:

  1. A Wrinkle in TimeAmazon, Barnes & Noble
  2. A Wind in the DoorAmazon, Barnes & Noble
  3. A Swiftly Tilting PlanetAmazon, Barnes & Noble
  4. Many WatersAmazon, Barnes & Noble
  5. An Acceptable Time Amazon, Barnes & Noble

The full paperback box set (which is the version I have) is available here: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Apparently there’s a movie, but I haven’t seen it. Any of you seen it? Read any of Madeleine L’Engle’s works?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Bottom line: It’s a deeply beloved classic for a reason. Read it!

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Review:

There are many types of nerds/geeks (also, I prefer the term nerd to geek, but that’s a topic for another post) out there in society – Dr. Who nerds, Star Trek nerds, Star Wars nerds, and so on. While there are many different ways that I am nerdy, I am a Lord of the Rings nerd through and through. Yes, it’s a billion pages long. Yes, there aren’t any female main characters. Yes, there are some plot points that rely too heavily on eucatastrophe (a word he coined). But it is SO good! Tolkien created a masterpiece of storytelling and world-building, an epic tale of how one small (literally) person can save the world (um – spoiler alert?). He certainly gets points for thoroughness, creating a complex history and mythology of his world, and at least one complete language. The Lord of the Rings was conceived as a sequel to The Hobbit, though that is a children’s book and this is certainly not – at least in terms of length, prose, and themes.

My favorite characters are Eowyn and Faramir, the former being one of the few women in the saga – and a pretty awesome one at that. Faramir is an overlooked son of a noble, and is strong in actions and character. In my opinion, both of these characters are pretty underrated, so when you read it, keep an eye out for them.

I recognize that this may not be everyone’s cup of tea – it is certainly an epic high fantasy quest, which means that the good guys have to get from point A to point B to complete a task while using magic, sword fighting, their wits, and help from strange creatures along the way to defeat the unspeakably evil bad guys and save the world – but it is worth reading, at least once (I reread it maybe every three years or so. In fact, writing this post has made me realize I’m due for another reread.) Though the setting is fantasy, the themes are incredibly relatable – friendship, betrayal, loss, good vs. evil, family, love, pity, and many more. If you aren’t really “that type of person” and only read one epic fantasy in your life, read this one. You won’t regret it! Also, I urge you to read it as a paperback, the experience is just so much better.

Books in order:

The Fellowship of the Rings (1954)Amazon, Barnes & Noble

The Two Towers (1954)Amazon, Barnes & Noble

The Return of the King (1955)Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Side notes:

Though there are some hard things in it, there isn’t graphic violence, no sex, and the language is clean. You could share this with your kids as soon as they’re old enough to not be overwhelmed by the sheer length of it (there are some deaths of fairly major characters).

There were movie adaptations of the trilogy released in 2001, 2002, and 2003. On the whole I thought they were very well done. They (well, Peter Jackson) did manage to ruin Faramir almost completely, but other than that the quality was consistently high throughout the 10 hours or so of movies.

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

What did you think? Did you like the series?

(P.S., if you have already read the LOTR and want to show your pride, you can always check out ThinkGeek. They have LOTR LEGOS, people! Also furry hobbit slippers. )

(P.P.S., After you’ve read the books and watched the movies, then you have my permission to watch How it Should Have Ended. Also, the Honest Trailers is pretty funny, but it’s very graphic (there is a montage of one of the characters dying in really gruesome ways in other movies), so it doesn’t get the Lector’s Books thumbs up.)

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Blurb:

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? Why do we spend so much time between wearing digital watches? For all the answers stick your thumb to the stars. And don’t forget to bring a towel!

Review:

This originally started as a radio drama on BBC Radio, and has been adapted to novels, and a not bad movie. Please, please, PLEASE, do yourself a favor and listen to the radio drama. It is perfect for long road trips. Although comedy is a matter of taste, this is one of the funniest things out there. You need to appreciate science fiction, and dry sense of humor, but it is so funny. I re-listened to it a few weeks ago (I generally don’t review things unless I’ve read/watched/listened to them within the last month or maybe two), trying to find the best lines to quote. I gave up about five minutes in because there are so many good ones. If you are involved in nerd culture at all, this is the source of many of the seemingly random jokes out there: 42 (the answer to the ultimate question of the universe), Don’t Panic (in large, friendly letters), and Don’t Forget Your Towel (or Towel Day, see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Towel_Day).

My favorite part of the loose story arc is the beginning up through their meal at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The story does occasionally get a bit tedious in places, but the comedy moments are a great pay off for the weaker moments. This is full of incredibly random non sequiturs, strange ideas that seemed to have popped into Adams’ head and lead you on to interesting rabbit tracks around the vast reaches of space. If I haven’t convinced you to try it, I’ll leave you with what, after much internal wrestling, I think might be my favorite part. Or at least one of my favorite parts.

“Come now, or you will be late.”

“Late? What for?”

“What is your name, human?”

“Dent. Arthur Dent.”

“Late, as in the late Dentarthurdent. It’s a sort of threat, you see. I’ve never been very good at them myself but I’m told they can be terribly effective.”

Get the radio drama! Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Get the first book! Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Get the movie! Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Mystery Series Roundup

We have moved recently, and I have been a little disappointed with my new library. For one, the online e-book lending system has been upgraded since I used it last and I can’t figure out how to browse for Kindle books. It’s very unwieldy. For another, they put all their fiction in one category. ONE. That means mysteries are next to literary fiction, romance next to sci fi, all lumped into one big heap. Of course it’s neatly organized alphabetically by author, but one of the great pleasures of the library is browsing. I find it far too overwhelming to do so when you have such a large and varied selection of books. However, the redeeming feature I’ve discovered is the online hold feature. Essentially you get to shop for books online, for free, and they collect them and put them on a shelf at the front of the library for you. It’s wonderful. I came home with 11 books the last time, many of them first in a mystery series. So here are three that I’ve recently read or reread, and I hope you can find a new-to-you series to enjoy.

How do you like your mysteries? Intensity varies from low (over-easy) to high-ish (over-hard).

Over-easy: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (1998) (series by the same name) Alexander McCall Smith Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I’ve read the first eight or so of these mysteries, and they’re just lovely. Set in Botswana, the pace is slow and rambling, like a story shared by an old friend on a back porch with iced tea. Though there is sadness in the books, the intensity level is very low. The mysteries investigated have more to do with everyday problems than murder and the books themselves are more about the characters than the investigations. A pleasant lazy Sunday afternoon read.

Blurb of first book:

This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.

Over-medium: Still Life (2005) (Chief Inspector Gamache series) Louise PennyAmazon, Barnes & Noble

This was a new read for me. It had been recommended by a few different people and I finally got around to reading it. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be reading the rest of the series. Two things I wasn’t crazy about were 1) there are a lot of characters introduced pretty quickly and 2) the point of view shifts pretty quickly and seemingly randomly. But those were fairly minor annoyances. The setting was great – a small town in Quebec, the characters were very good, and the murder itself was cleverly plotted. Her detective was interesting without being forcibly quirky and I can’t wait to learn more about him.

Blurb of first book:

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal and yet a world away. Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season…and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

Over-hard: Track of the Cat (1993) (Anna Pigeon series) Nevada Barr Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I’ve read perhaps six or seven of this series. Each murder mystery is set in a national park, and investigated by Park Ranger Anna Pigeon. I give high marks to Barr for creating a complex main character – Anna is middle aged, stubborn, occasionally bad-tempered, and very capable – and for setting – I love the idea of using national parks as a background. Although I wouldn’t say the first book, Track of the Cat, is particularly grueling, some of her stories can be very violent and graphic. I have avoided Hard Truth, my “local” national park mystery because of fairly consist reviews saying how graphic the content matter (child abuse). Winter Study was also fairly gritty. That being said, I have continued to read books in this series. If you’re looking for an intense, page-turning mystery with great settings and interesting characters ,this just might be the series for you.

Blurb of first book:

Patrolling the remote West Texas backcountry, Anna’s first job as a national park ranger is marred by violence she thought she had left behind: the brutal death of a fellow ranger. When the cause of death is chalked up to a mountain lion attack, Anna’s rage knows no bounds. It’s up to her to save the protected cats from the politics and prejudices of the locals – and prove the kill was the work of a species far less rare.

 

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Castle TV Series

Bottom line: A murder mystery TV series with great characters, acting, and storylines.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Castle is my favorite TV show. Maybe of all time, but definitely my favorite currently running show. It’s a murder mystery that features Detective Kate Beckett and her crew, who have been told to bring a writer, Richard Castle, along with them in the course of their investigations, so that he can gather information to write a series of books.

I only tried it because it stars Nathan Fillion, who was the male lead in the tragically short lived TV series Firefly. Castle is fantastically good. It’s one of those rare shows where everything comes together: the writing, characters, casting, acting, plots, etc. are all just incredibly well done. They even managed to handle the sexual tension (it’s TV, therefore there must be sexual tension) well. I stopped watching Bones because at the end of every season, there would be this huge “will they/won’t they” cliffhanger, and then when they started the next season they just pretended the last episode hadn’t happened. After 5-6 seasons like that, I just got fed up. I’m not a huge TV watcher in general, but any time the writers start to obviously manipulate the audience, I lose interest instantly (this annoys my husband – we’ll be invested maybe a couple of seasons deep and all of a sudden, I’m done.). I want to be thinking about the story and the characters, not be wondering about how the writers are going to yank my chain next. Anyways, in Castle the relationship between the male and female lead feels natural, and progresses and regresses (for the vast majority) according to believable events within the context of the show. As the characters are the main draw for me, this is even more important than usual. And ALL the characters are great, even the supporting cast – they feel realistic and interact well and are basically the kinds of people that you wish you could go hang out with.

The only downside for me is that sometimes you get an incredibly intense, edge-of-your-seat, gruesome show, and sometimes you get a fun, lighthearted show, and you never know which you’re going to get. Although I think in general that’s a good thing (keeps it fresh), it is the reason I stopped watching about a year ago when I was pregnant and tired and stressed out and couldn’t handle anything even remotely intense. I haven’t managed to get caught up yet, but I will.

Get the first season: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Side Note: As an interesting promotional tactic, the powers that be have created the Nikki Heat books that are supposedly written by the character Richard Castle (the Amazon author page even shows Nathan Fillion). They’re actually not bad mysteries. The writing style is a little more sensationalized and occasionally cheesy than I would typically go for, but it’s a fun extension of the Castle world. This is one of the incredibly rare times when I’ll tell you to watch the TV show first, but there it is. I’ve read the first two Nikki Heat books and enjoyed them. I don’t know yet if I’ll read the others – my “to be read” list has become quite enormously high again – but not because I don’t think I wouldn’t like them. Do be aware, especially if you typically read cozies, that these are fairly intense and PG-13-y.

Get the first book, Heat Wave: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Family Fridays – Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan

Genre: Children’s Fantasy

Ages: 9 and up

Blurb for the first book:

The Lightning Thief

After getting expelled from yet another school for yet another clash with mythological monsters only he can see, twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is taken to Camp Half-Blood, where he finally learns the truth about his unique abilities: He is a demigod, half human, half immortal. Even more stunning: His father is the Greek god Poseidon, ruler of the sea, making Percy one of the most powerful demigods alive. There’s little time to process this news. All too soon, a cryptic prophecy from the Oracle sends Percy on his first quest, a mission to the Underworld to prevent a war among the gods of Olympus.

Review:  

I will try very hard to restrain my enthusiasm during this post, or we could all be here for a while. At least I would be, the rest of you would probably give up and head to greener pastures after the first 1,000 words. The Percy Jackson series is one of my all time favorite series. Though written for middle school aged children, the books appeal to children, teenagers, young adults, and not so young adults. They are, quite simply, amazing. The characters are more lifelike than just about any other author’s I can think of (Lindsay Buroker being another excellent example). Percy’s narration is clever, hilarious, snarky, and maintains a very realistic voice for an early teens boy. The world building is interesting, unique, and thorough without being overwhelming or tedious. The plots are well executed and you see characters develop (and not just physically) throughout the series.

Another thing I liked about it: Percy and most of the rest of the demigod children are ADHD and Dyslexic. Riordan takes these challenges and turns them into advantages in Percy’s new reality. I love that – a reminder that not all of us are wired the same way, and that can be a good thing. Also, in a later series, one of the demigods is lactose intolerant. Represent!

Something you see quite often with book series written for this age group is that the themes and characters become more mature and darker as the series progresses. Here there is a little bit of that, but not nearly as much as, say, Harry Potter. A child who can handle the first book emotionally will be able to handle the last book as well, which is not necessarily the case with the Harry Potter series. The bottom line is that I cannot think of anything negative to say about these books. Some books you just read with a big smile on your face, and for me, the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books are way at the top of that list.

Random side notes:

The five books in this series in order are:

  1. The Lightning Thief  Get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble
  2. The Sea of Monsters Get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble
  3. The Titan’s Curse –  Get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble
  4. The Battle of the Labyrinth  Get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble
  5. The Last Olympian –  Get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

There is a continuing series, The Heroes of Olympus, which features some of the Camp Halfblood gang as well as some new characters. It is also excellent, but even though the age ranges given for it at various online sources is the same as the original series, it feels older to me (the characters are in high school now and, for example, focuses more on girlfriend/boyfriend relationships) – not a bad thing, but something to be aware of if you started Percy Jackson with children on the younger end of the spectrum.

I debated on whether to make this a regular post or a Family Fridays post. Although I feel like any age of fantasy (or even book) lover would be able to enjoy this series, I decided to post it under FFs because this is something the whole family could enjoy together.

Riordan sold the creative rights to the movies, had nothing to do with them, and claims he hasn’t even watched them. As of now only the first movie is out, with plans to release the second later this year. The first movie was terrible. I cannot even begin to describe how much I hated it. They took much of what made the book so great and either ignored it or did the opposite. In the interests of fairness, I have met people who really liked the movie. Get it, if you must, from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Riordan also has an adult mystery series, which is quite good, but not something I’d care to read with a nine year old. So make sure you know which brand of Riordan you’re getting.

Whew – kept it under a thousand words…but not by much.

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of JET by Russell Blake (2012) (Jet Series)

Bottom line: JET is a free, full length novel introducing the JET series. If you’re a fan of thrillers, give it a try!

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Blurb:

Code name: Jet 

Twenty-eight-year-old Jet was once the Mossad’s most lethal operative before faking her own death and burying that identity forever. But the past doesn’t give up on its secrets easily.

When her new life on a tranquil island is shattered by a brutal attack, Jet must return to a clandestine existence of savagery and deception to save herself and those she loves. A gritty, unflinching roller-coaster of high-stakes twists and shocking turns, JET features a new breed of protagonist that breaks the mold.

Fans of Lisbeth Salander, SALT, and the Bourne trilogy will find themselves carried along at Lamborghini speed to a conclusion as surprising as the story’s heroine is unconventional.

Review:

I recommend reading this book when you can devote a few hours to it and finish it all in one gulp – otherwise, you’ll still end up finishing it all in one gulp, but there will be babies crying, dogs barking, chores neglected, and food uneaten as you frantically race through the pages. The style reminded me the most of the Bourne trilogy (as suggested in the blurb). We have an extremely competent assassin: a female character far more strongly developed than one would normally expect to see in this genre. We have international shenanigans, scary bad guys, cool weapons, and clandestine government agencies. The writing was very tight, and as I said earlier, I was very impressed with the lifelikeness of the main character. Blake managed to create a ruthless assassin who still feels realistically human and also manages to be a sympathetic character. Descriptions were evocative without being tedious, and there are enough logistics and details (e.g. what kinds of weapons they used, how they get from point A to point B) to give the reader a good flavour of setting but not so much that your eyes start to glaze over. The only thing I know about guns is that they fire bullets, and the only thing I know about cars is that they come in different colours. (Yes, I’m a girl. Yes, I know that’s a stereotype, but seriously, I look at a car and I can generally tell if it’s an SUV, truck, or car, but that’s it. I’m a mess trying to find my car in parking lots. Do you know how many gray cars there are?!? Anyways…)The only aspect I wasn’t crazy about was how the story jumped around in time and place, but I recognize that these were all important for the plot and/or backstory. My brain is very linear and I just have a hard time coming into and out of the main story line.

So basically, we have an intriguing premise, lots of action, an interesting main character, and last but not least, very good writing. Oh, and it’s free. What’s not to like? I’ll definitely be reading more in the series as time (and budget) allows, and will be checking out some of Blake’s other works.

Side note: This is a violent story, and while the writing certainly conveys that, it never felt overly graphic to me (and I am a total wimp).

Get it! Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of The Alphabet Mysteries Series by Sue Grafton

Bottom line: A great example of the hard boiled genre, featuring a strong female P.I.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb for First Book: A is for Alibi (1982)

A IS FOR AVENGER
A tough-talking former cop, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has set up a modest detective agency in a quiet corner of Santa Teresa, California. A twice-divorced loner with few personal possessions and fewer personal attachments, she’s got a soft spot for underdogs and lost causes.

A IS FOR ACCUSED
That’s why she draws desperate clients like Nikki Fife. Eight years ago, she was convicted of killing her philandering husband. Now she’s out on parole and needs Kinsey’s help to find the real killer. But after all this time, clearing Nikki’s bad name won’t be easy.

A IS FOR ALIBI
If there’s one thing that makes Kinsey Millhone feel alive, it’s playing on the edge. When her investigation turns up a second corpse, more suspects, and a new reason to kill, Kinsey discovers that the edge is closer–and sharper–than she imagined.

Review:

It’s been a while since I’ve read any of Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Mysteries, so I got A is for Alibi from the library and started over at the beginning (not all of them – I’m dedicated to you, my loyal readers, but not THAT dedicated). I’ve read up through T, though Grafton has published up through V (W is for Wasted comes out this fall). For a series that has 22 published books, plus some short stories (none of which I’ve read), the level of quality is surprisingly consistent – and high. The mysteries and characters are interesting and varied enough so that you don’t feel like you’re reading the same book over and over again. There are, obviously, some books that are better than others, but for the most part they’re very good reads.

One thing to note is that just because this series features a female detective, do not mistake these for cozies. They are definitely hard boiled: gritty and full of the realities of life – sex and bad language and all the rest of it. Kinsey is a tough, prickly, character, one that you come to respect before you necessarily start to like her. In the first book, you get enough details about her earlier life to keep you interested, without there being an info dump of backstory. I find it annoying when within a few strategic conversations in the first chapter you learn everything you need to know about a character. Real life doesn’t work that way. You do learn more about her as the series progresses, in a very natural way.

I’d recommend this series for anyone who likes the hard boiled mystery genre, or even mystery fans in general. Be warned that there is quite a bit of detail involved in tracking down various aspects of the cases; facts don’t seamlessly fall into place on the first try, which I quite like. Another great thing about these books is that any library is almost guaranteed to stock them. So, pick one up and give it a try – if you like it, you’ll eventually have 25 more great books to keep you entertained. Even for someone who reads as fast as I do, that’s at least a hundred hours of happiness.

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