Title: The Christopher Killer (Forensic Mystery)
Author: Alane Ferguson
Publisher: Puffin Books
Genre: YA Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I have one thing to say about this forensic mystery targeted at YA readers. Really great book, and really terrible cover.
I haven’t read a lot of gritty forensic mysteries with a younger protagonist, so that’s what drew me to the book. Catelyn is just about to graduate high school, and wants to become a medical examiner. That’s handy, since her father’s the town coroner. When a local murder shocks the small town, she has a front row seat to all the evidence and the investigation.
Of course in addition to a murder mystery, there are relationship issues and family issues, as one would expect in a YA novel. In this book, there’s the mystery of Catelyn’s mother who left years ago, as well as two young men she can’t decide are threats or allies. There’s also an interesting theme parsing out where science meets religion meets fake mumbo jumbo when a famous psychic comes to town. And of course there has to be danger, and there’s plenty of that.
The forensic scenes were well done–just enough ugly reality and facts to keep things interesting without going full CSI and being gross. The interactions were also well done. I found this an easy book to read, and was sorry to see it hasn’t done better. This is a case where I hope the author gets the rights back and is able to republish at some point. I think the publisher did this book a disservice.
Overall, a very enjoyable murder mystery, suitable for both adult and YA readers.
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles (Book 1)
Author: Kevin Hearne
Publisher: Random House LLC
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!
I’m pretty stingy on my five star ratings. Five stars means you wowed me; you expanded beyond the genre and gave me something I’ll want to read again. This book did both those things, and what’s even cooler is that the author perfectly captured the city of Tempe, Arizona where I grew up.
Hearne did a great job integrating things, including Arizona locations and culture, Celtic legends and lore, and even some Indian mythos in the mix. Atticus was something of an eternal college kid, but the humor in the writing was so infectious, I pretty much just embraced it. His Irish wolfhound was hysterical with his fascination with Genghis Khan and poodles, and the entire Celtic pantheon were a hoot. I particularly liked “the Morrigan,” the sexy goddess of death.
The action was fast-paced, as was the dialogue and overall style of the book. This is urban fantasy at it’s finest, with an immediate threat and a lot of finagling with supernatural entities in order to survive. A touch of romance, a good heaping of humor, and lots of monster blood. What made this book different was the druidic aspect, as well as the setting.
Title: Duma Key
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Pocket Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This book is classic Stephen King. There’s ghosts, monsters, and shifting reality alone with phantom limbs and the mystery of the brain after trauma. As a hobbyist who dabbles in art, I also appreciated the creative aspects of the book. Remember Dorian Gray, who could paint himself young? Yeah, this is kinda like that.
I’ve always found the brain fascinating, so coupling that mystery together with weird psychic stuff and ghosts was a perfect mix. I also like that King took what would not normally be considered a scary place–the Florida Keys–and still managed to make it scary. The main character isn’t immediately likeable, but he grows on you. King also makes excellent use of his trademark narrative voice and foreshadowing.
This is not an action-packed book, but there’s enough strangeness to keep the reader engaged. If you liked Dead Zone or Insomnia or even Pet Cemetery, you’ll enjoy this one.
Title: Game of Thrones
Author: George R. R. Martin
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire (#1)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Okay, so I finally did it. After far too many fellow fantasy readers and friends cajoling and pestering me, I finally opened up the first book in GRRM’s monster series, “A Game of Thrones,” and began reading it. “It’s so great!” they said. “Don’t grow attached to any of the characters!” they said.
My reaction? Meh. It’s okay. Just okay.
The writing quality overall is good. I can’t find any fault with GRRM on that, and that’s why I gave the book four stars. And so far I like the world that he’s built. But the characters…yeah, I’m not feeling them. Which I guess is just as well.
I think there was only one character that I felt much of anything for, and I’ll keep in mind that this writer likes to kill off his characters. I think GRRM may have shot himself in the foot on that one. It’s one thing to kill off a lot of characters (like Stephen King, for example). But even horror writers know when to keep certain ones alive in order to keep their fans loyal. GRRM has made such a reputation now of being a ruthless killer that I think it puts off a lot of readers from even picking up one of his books. I know it did me, and I’m still not convinced I want to read Book 2. I don’t get what the fuss is about, and at the moment, I think I might enjoy the HBO series more. At least then I can ogle Sean Bean.
As far as the plot itself . . . this is where it felt more like same old same old fantasy. I see the potential with the dragons and the wild things and winter coming, but it felt like it was taking forever for things to get going. Maybe just me? It very well could be the classic issue that books with large casts spread over the world struggle with, as readers of Robert Jordan would know. At least in this case, I saw subplots being wrapped up before the end of the book, leaving only the larger arcs to be dealt with in later books. This to me was a strength.
So now I’m left with the question. Should I actually take time to read the next book? It’s like you have to take a serious commitment to these things at over 1000 pages apiece. I’m not sure I’m feeling that dedicated.
For now, I’ll probably move on to other projects. And maybe I’ll check out an episode on HBO Go or something.
Title: The Passage
Author: Justin Cronin
Rating: Meh. 3 out of 5 stars.
This book was a chore, much like reading the Grapes of Wrath in high school was a chore. I saw enough promise in the beginning to start the book–Amy is a very interesting character with a very interesting life. The virus looked promising. I also liked the allusions to aliens and God and religion.
Then it became a zombie/vampire apocalypse novel with too large a cast of characters and too great a time span for me to care about anyone. And it had WAY too much information. I think if this book had been half the size, it would have been a decent book. But this was like a door weight, and it didn’t need to be.
The plot really meanders. I think if it could have focused more on Amy and then Peter, it would have been better. There’s a decent story here, but it’s buried in words, and I found myself skimming a lot to get through it. I couldn’t keep track of half of the survivors at the camp, much less care what became of them. It didn’t help that relationships between men and women in the book are stiff and formal, almost side notes to everything else going on.
So if you like lots and lots of words . . . eh, go for it. I won’t be reading this author again.