Category Archives: mystery

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

This book was freaking fantastic. Like, so good I almost didn’t want to start another book because I couldn’t recover. Wow.

City_of_Blades_cover

Hint: swords are important in this novel.

I love the concept behind the Divine Cities trilogy. The Divinities are dead, killed in the war between the Saypuris and Continentals almost a century ago. The Saypuris, once enslaved by the Continentals and their gods, are now large and in charge and trying to unite both their land and the Continent under the same ruler. Hasn’t been going as planned though, because these Divinities and their powers can’t quite seem to stay as dead as everyone hopes.

Alright. Here’s the synopsis for the second book in the trilogy, City of Blades:

The city of Voortyashtan was once the domain of the goddess of death, war, and destruction, but now it’s little more than a ruin. General Turyin Mulaghesh is called out of retirement and sent to this hellish place to try to find a Saypuri secret agent who’s gone missing in the middle of a mission, but the city of war offers countless threats: not only have the ghosts of her own past battles followed her here, but she soon finds herself wondering what happened to all the souls that were trapped in the afterlife when the Divinities vanished. Do the dead sleep soundly in the land of death? Or do they have plans of their own?

My one and only (small) gripe with this book was that I really could have used a “In the previous novel…” type-thing at the beginning. I read City of Stairs quite awhile ago, and it took me awhile to remember who all the characters are and their relationships, etc. But I figured it out quickly enough, and not remembering all the details from City of Stairs wasn’t a problem.

Turyin Mulaghesh was a fantastic character. She was not your average hero. Having been instrumental in winning the Battle of Bulikov, she has taken her prosthetic arm and retired. She in NOT pleased to be dragged out of retirement by Prime Minister Shara (hero of book one), who uses a glitch in the system to claim Mulaghesh must work a few more months to receive her military pension. Thus, Mulaghesh is sent on a mission to determine if the mysterious white powder being mined in Voortyashtan is Divine, and discover what happened to the spy-scientist Shara sent before who has mysteriously disappeared. The mission is fraught with peril, and not just the physical kind. In charge of the Fort in Voortyashtan is General Biswal, Mulaghesh’s former commander who brings with him a host of terrible memories from the last war that Mulaghesh wishes she could forget. Added to the mystery of the missing scientists are the horrific deaths of the natives happening around the city. Suddenly, the issues facing Mulaghesh are much bigger than just a missing person, and she must race to figure out what is going on in Voortyashtan before everyone’s lives are at stake.

Throughout both this novel and the previous one, author Bennett does a masterful job weaving his world’s history into the present-day plot. His world-building is spectacular. So much detail, so much history, and every bit of it adds to the story. While at times all this information can be over-whelming and difficult to keep straight, Bennett does a skillful job helping his readers determine what is important and remember how everything connects. It’s rather amazing how he brings everything together.

Bennett’s stories are a fabulous, fun mix of mystery and fantasy. Readers of either genre will enjoy his work. It will grab on to your imagination, and won’t let go. I can’t wait to get my hands on the third book in the trilogy, City of Miracles. This book receives a rare 5 out of 5 stars from me, and is recommended to those who enjoy other high fantasy novels, like those of Brandon Sanderson or Sarah J Maas. Read it. You will not be disappointed.

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The Serpent’s Tale by Ariana Franklin

I rarely cheat and use Goodreads for my book summaries, but I just couldn’t figure out a way to summarize this one without giving too much away, so…

serpent's tale cover

Rosamund Clifford, the mistress of King Henry II, has died an agonizing death by poison—and the king’s estranged queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is the prime suspect. Henry suspects that Rosamund’s murder is probably the first move in Eleanor’s long-simmering plot to overthrow him. If Eleanor is guilty, the result could be civil war. The king must once again summon Adelia Aguilar, mistress of the art of death, to uncover the truth.

Adelia is not happy to be called out of retirement. She has been living contentedly in the countryside, caring for her infant daughter, Allie. But Henry’s summons cannot be ignored, and Adelia must again join forces with the king’s trusted fixer, Rowley Picot, the Bishop of St. Albans, who is also her baby’s father.

Adelia and Rowley travel to the murdered courtesan’s home, in a tower within a walled labyrinth—a strange and sinister place from the outside, but far more so on the inside, where a bizarre and gruesome discovery awaits them. But Adelia’s investigation is cut short by the appearance of Rosamund’s rival: Queen Eleanor. Adelia, Rowley, and the other members of her small party are taken captive by Eleanor’s henchmen and held in the nunnery of Godstow, where Eleanor is holed up for the winter with her band of mercenaries, awaiting the right moment to launch their rebellion.

Isolated and trapped inside the nunnery by the snow and cold, Adelia and Rowley watch as dead bodies begin piling up. Adelia knows that there may be more than one killer at work, and she must unveil their true identities before England is once again plunged into civil war . . .

Basically, our favorite 12th-century forensic pathologist is back in action, only this time her action is complicated because 1) its winter, and in 1147(?) travel wasn’t easy in perfect weather, so imagine how much tougher it is in 4 feet of snow; 2) her friend, confidant, and all-around helper Rowley is now a bishop, an Important Person in court and in the Church so on top of everything else their relationship is changing; and 3) she has a BABY and running around solving murders when you need to take breaks for breastfeeding is tough for anyone, 12th-century or otherwise.

Much like the first book in this series, Mistress of the Art of Death (reviewed here!) Adelia is called on by King Henry to help solve a murder, only this time the murder is connected to the royal court and the identity of the murderer could lead to war. I like these books, not just because I like historical fiction, but because I like Adelia. She wants to be strong and independent and most of the time she is successful, impressive for a time period when any woman with an ounce of brains was accused of witchcraft and executed. Yet she also struggles with things like balancing her work and motherhood, her faith – whether she has any at all, and if she does, what exactly does she believe in? She’s imperfect, and despite her sometimes abrasive manners and foolish decisions, she’s likable and as a reader you are on her side.

I missed Rowley a bit in this novel. He wasn’t as involved as he was in the first book, and when he was, his character began to change and grow due to his new position as bishop. I wouldn’t say he is a favorite character by any means, but his interplay with Adelia was fun and I wanted more. We did see more of Adelia’s relationship with her friend Glytha (I think that’s the correct spelling of her name – I made a dumb move and returned the book to the library before writing my review to avoid fines, haha). Anyway, Glytha is matronly and well-grounded in common sense, and she’s a good balance to Adelia’s impulsive and sometimes pig-headed nature. I like her, and enjoy reading about her.

There was definitely more court intrigue in this novel, including a long, detailed scene with Adelia interacting with King Henry. He’s a smart, progressive ruler who could be much more of a jerk than he chooses to be. His queen and children are in the novel as well, so if historical fiction with Royal Drama is your thing, you will like this novel.

Finally, I wasn’t able to figure out who the murderer was before the characters in the novel, which was great. I was surprised and pleased with the twist ending. While I didn’t love this book quite as much as the first, I still give it 3.5 stars out of 5, and recommend it to fans of historical fiction and mystery novels.

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

mistress of the art of death coverAdelia is a forensic pathologist, a doctor who studies corpses to discover the cause of death. Alone, this isn’t a shocking or particularly special characteristic. When you add “in 12th-century England” it becomes much, much more interesting. Adelia trained to become a doctor in Salerno, Italy, a quite progressive town for the mid-1100’s, not only because the people who live there know so much about medicine, but because they trained a female doctor. Adelia is even more of an oddity because her particular field of study – that of death. While she is respected by those in the medical profession in Salerno, she is still so unique that her foster father must take credit for her work. Thus it becomes a shock for absolutely everyone when Adelia is the “death doctor” chosen to fulfill the King of England’s request for a doctor to help the determine the cause of death of the several children in Cambridge.

I was intrigued by this novel before reading it. The idea of a “death doctor” in the 12th Century was enough to make me want to pick up this book – the fact that the lead character was a woman made me even more interested, and I was not disappointed. Adelia is a strong, independent, and brilliant young woman. She is faced with an exceptionally difficult task, taking a long journey to England, a country that is much more conservative, and practically even backwards by the standards of Salerno that she is accustomed to. Her servant and dear friend dies on the journey. She must pretend her other servant is really the doctor, as female doctors in England are unheard of, and she would be accused of witchcraft and executed. Not to mention she’s living in a time period where women are considered property of their man, and without a man are regularly taken advantage of. Adelia faces her challenges with her head held high and never backs down from those who consider themselves her betters. She makes mistakes as she learns her way, but she learns from them, and this only makes her more human and relate-able.

Some other reviewers complained about Adelia’s indecision about her belief system. At times she rejected religion, and at other times prayed and called upon God, Allah, or whoever came to mind at the time. I found this understandable rather than obnoxious. Adelia comes from a place where science and medicine are appreciated and practically worshiped, which does not often lend itself to belief in a higher power. Traveling to England, she finds herself in a location where God is the ultimate power, believed to be the only thing that can take pain away, and any sort of science or medicine is not just disbelieved, but frowned upon and reviled. Being surrounded by these varying ideologies, it only makes sense that Adelia would question and at times change her views.

There was some romance in the novel, but it was not essential to the plot and did not distract from the story in any way. Most of the supporting characters were well-written and had their own depth and backstory. I enjoyed the history in the novel as well. I recently read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, and noticed Kind Henry II and some other events in this novel were similar to those in Follett’s novel, which took place about 100 years later. Had I not read Pillars so recently, I would not have noticed, and while this might bother the more historical minded, it didn’t effect my enjoyment of the story. I am looking forward to A Serpent’s Tale, the next book in the series.

I give the novel 4 out of 5 stars, and recommend it to fans of mystery and historical fiction.

Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk

Everything has a cost. And every act of magic exacts a price from its user – maybe a two-day migraine, or losing the memory of your first kiss. But some people want to use magic without paying, and they Offload the cost onto innocents. When that happens, it falls to a Hound to identify the spell’s caster – and Allison Beckstrom’s the best there is.

COV_Magic to the Bone.inddDaughter of a prominent Portland businessman, Allie would rather moonlight as a Hound than accept the family fortune – and the strings that come with it. But when she discovers a little boy dying from a magic Offload that has her father’s signature all over it, Allie is thrown into the high-stakes world of corporate espionage and black magic.

Now Allie’s out for the truth – and must call upon forces that will challenge everything she knows, change her in ways she could never imagine … and make her capable of things that powerful people will do anything to control.

Allie Beckstrom is an interesting character. She is in some ways the typical urban fantasy heroine, with an attitude and a chip on her shoulder. She is also paranoid to the extreme, refusing to trust anyone and making stupid decisions based on her paranoia. The really intriguing part about her was how using magic could cause her to lose memories. It made her much easier to sympathize with when thinking of how she had to write her life down in her little black book to keep track of both little things like her current cases, to big things like her own name. The rest of the characters I did not find very interesting. Zayvion was the typical tall-dark-handsome-mysterious love interest, who mysteriously pops into Allie’s life and she falls in love with him despite her better judgement, and then pushes him away when she thinks he might love her back. Been there, done that. Allie’s best friend Nola was the “I’m going to shun magic in the magical world” type. Again, not new or exciting.

The world building in this novel was relatively unique. Magic being somewhat controlled and flowing through pipes underground was something I had not read before. I didn’t buy into it though. Sounded pretty silly, along with magic just being “discovered” only 30 years ago. There were some hints about magic being around much longer, and secret societies trying to control its use, but they weren’t particularly subtle or surprising, so I didn’t really care. When Allie uses too much magic in a way that’s not supposed to be possible, strange tattoos show up on her arms. I wish they would have been described in more detail, because that intrigued me, but the only mention of them was how Allie thought they would be a swell conversation starter at parties and then she moved on. Like, hello, you have cool new magical tattoos that no one else has or understands! Let’s talk about them! *sigh*

Overall, I would give this book 2 stars out of 5. I might read the next one, but not any time soon. Happy reading,

-Branwen

Written in Red by Anne Bishop

Written in Red coverAs a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.

Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.

It’s not every day I read a book I like so much I don’t want to start another book, because I want to keep living in the world of the book I just read. Written in Red, first novel of The Others, was one of those books. I thought this book was pretty cool because in this world, which parallels the one we live in, humans are not the top of the food chain. This isn’t really new, but the fact that they KNOW they are not the top of the food chain was new (at least to me). The Others, or terra indigne, own the land in Thaisia, which they “allow” the humans–who they consider clever meat–to live on. At least, until they piss them off and then the Others just eat them, or find other creative ways to use their powers to kill them. Very creepy. In large towns, the Others live in places called Courtyards where humans are generally not allowed except for a few stores. Others know humans are intrigued by them, but they have no interest in developing relationships with them. That changes in at least one Courtyard, when Meg Corbyn stumbles into Howling Good Reads, bookstore owned by Courtyard leader Simon Wolfgard, and gets hired as the new Human Liaison.

Meg is a blood prophet, considered property by the Controller. She risked everything by escaping the Compound, and risked her life again by taking the job in a Courtyard, where she believes she will be safe because human law does not apply. The Controller educated her enough to be able to understand the prophetic visions she sees, but not enough to do anything for herself. Meg has to work hard to figure out not only how to take care of herself, but live with creatures who may look human, but aren’t anything like her. It is this very naivete that helps Meg survive. She is afraid of the Others, like any other human who knows they could be lunch at any second. But as she learns how to exist on her own, she comes up with creative ideas no “normal” human would even consider, and her unusual ideas and positive attitude help endear her to the hearts of the Others she lives with. I loved Meg Corbyn, and wanted to be her friend. In her place, I would not have had her courage, and I certainly wouldn’t have bought the Wolves dog beds to keep them happy, or put a Wolf cub on a leash to take him for walks.

I liked the way Anne Bishop portrayed The Others in this novel. I would love to know what other kinds of shifters there are, in addition to the Wolves, Bear, Coyotes, Crows and Hawks that live in this particular Courtyard. I tend to think vampires that can turn into smoke are a little weird, but they were so scary in this novel I didn’t mind. The way the Others characters would so casually talk about eating humans would give me chills. In addition to the “standard” supernatural creatures, this book also had Elementals. My favorite part of the Elementals was their steeds, ponies who controlled elements as well, like Thunder and Lightning. And then there was the mysterious Tess, who no one is sure about other than she is very powerful and frightening. All of these characters were interesting and exciting, and I’m already looking forward to reading more about them.

Everything about this book was excellent. I am very excited to read the next one. The expected publication is March 2014. I’ll be first in line at the library to read it when it comes in.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry

king of plagues cover“Are you ready to come back to work?” asked Mr. Church.
He didn’t say hello, didn’t ask how I’d been. He got right to it.
“Haven’t decided yet,” I said.
“Decide now,” said Mr. Church.
“That bad?”
“Worse. Turn on the TV.”
I picked up the remote, hit the button. I didn’t need to ask which channel. It was on every channel.
“Okay,” I said. “I’m in.”

Just like that, Joe Ledger’s sabbatical from the Department of Military Sciences is over, and he and his new four-legged companion, a white German shepherd named Ghost, are back in the fight against terror. And this is terror on an epic scale. It starts when the Seven Kings, a secret society that DMS has long been chasing, bombs the London Hospital. And that is only the beginning.

It doesn’t seem possible that every Joe Ledger novel Maberry writes could get any more intense and terrifying that the last, but this one scared the crap out of me. The Seven Kings is a frightening secret society of powerful, often famous evil men from around the world whose main goal is to sow chaos and reap the benefits. They are nasty villains in their own right. To make matters worse, Sebastian Gault, lunatic from the first Joe Ledger book (Patient Zero reviewed here!) who tried to start a zombie apocalypse with his actual mad scientist girlfriend Amirah, is initiated into the Seven Kings group and becomes the King of Plagues. He adds his knowledge of weaponized lethal diseases to the Kings’ plan for chaos. Gault plans to weaponize ebola and make it airborne, killing as many people as possible. This was an especially creepy plot point for me, since I just finished reading The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, about an ebola outbreak near Washington DC not so very long ago. I didn’t review that one, since it was non-fiction, but it was rather paranoia-inducing, and reading another book about ebola right after it was enough to have me running out to buy gas masks. Jonathan Maberry sure knows how to write convincing horror.

Along with Sebastian Gault’s reappearance, which I have been waiting for since he sailed away at the end of Patient Zero, came the reappearance of his assistant Toys. When Gault becomes one of the Seven Kings, Toys becomes his Conscience, the fancy name for an advisor of a King. Though Toys is no saint, and plenty corrupt in his own right, he is nowhere near as insane as Gault. As Gault concocts wild plans that will cause higher and higher death tolls, Toys begins to feel this is not where he belongs. It could be said he grows a conscience of his own (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). Anyway, the point is, I actually liked Toys in this novel. I sympathized with him, and I was rooting for him to at least stay alive.

There were several other things I liked about this book. Joe Ledger, his psychologist and best friend Rudy Sanchez, and of course the mysterious Mr. Church were all present and as entertaining as always. We met some new characters too, the first being Henry Vox, world-renowned expert on security who trains government agents in counter-terrorism. Vox gets the world’s best thriller, spy, suspense, and horror – genre authors together to come up with worst case scenarios for his agents to train against. I thought that was extremely clever of Maberry. After all, any spy-novel reader would tell you those authors can come up with situations that are much scarier than anything that could happen in real life–at least, I hope. Another new character we meet is Circe O’Tree. She is a researcher for Vox, and has been collecting information on “the Goddess,” who she believes is the leader of the Seven Kings. She ends up working with Ledger and the rest of the DMS team to figure out the Seven Kings’ next move and stop them. She is brilliant, tough, and drop dead gorgeous. Both of these new characters come with their own twists at the end of the novel. I’ll admit, I predicted them (well, I guess I predicted one and a half of the twists, I didn’t predict everything), but I didn’t mind because I was  busy worrying about whether DMS would stop mass murder, and was not distracted by figuring out who Circe was before Ledger did.

I love that Joe Ledger got a dog. Even better was the fact that it was a gorgeous white German shepherd, which before reading this book I did not know existed. In case you haven’t ever seen one either, here’s a picture for you.

white-german-shepherd

Additionally, Maberry made two wonderfully fun Doctor Who references in this book. I finally caved to quite a bit of peer pressure from friends and started watching Doctor Who a few weeks ago, so I was extra amused when Dr. Hu, scientist who works for DMS, said his call sign was “Dalek” and Ledger remarks “He was a nerd on several continents.” Later, Ledger mentions they label their boxes full of “ultra-high-tech doodads” with TARDIS stickers. I was amused.

These Joe Ledger novels are great. Each one is better than the last, and I can’t wait for the next one. Happy reading!

-Branwen

Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

trail-of-the-spellmans coverYou wouldn’t think another book about the misadventures of Izzy Spellman would continue to be interesting. After all, most of the Spellman Files books follow the same basic premise: Isabel Spellman, a 34-year-old private investigator, never acts her age and constantly gets herself in trouble by bucking the rules and doing what she feels is right no matter what. The thing is though, I like each one of these books more than the last.

In this novel, Izzy and her father are working on cases with conflicting interests, and he refuses to share information with her. Their conflict escalates, because Izzy is sure there is something suspicious about the clients and her father won’t listen to her. Meanwhile, her mother has taken up a plethora of extra-curricular activities with no explanation, and is never home. David has thrown Rae out of the apartment below his house and refuses to give anyone an explanation. Rae has been surveilling a 18-year-old girl with paranoid parents, but has been faking the surveillance reports. And finally, Demetrius Merriweather, wrongly-convicted man freed by Izzy and her sister-in-law Maggie in Document #4 is living in the Spellman house, and Izzy’s mother is determined to find him a girlfriend.

This might sound like a ridiculous amount of mysterious to some, but for Izzy it is just a day in the life of San Francisco’s more irreverent PI. Throughout the novel, Izzy solves all these problems by spying on and interrogating both family and clients alike. The novel is full of both humor, surprises, and tender moments that teach a lesson for both Izzy and the reader. Izzy actually starts to grow up a little in this novel and think about her future, which hasn’t happened often before. She gets along better with her family members–but not well enough to not have amusing Spellman family dinners of course. Old characters like Bernie make reappearances, and new characters show up too, like Granny Spellman and Henry Stone’s mother Gerty. I especially liked Gerty and how different she was from Henry, and how well she and Izzy got along. SMALL SPOILER ALERT: Gerty eventually meets and falls in love with Bernie, a relationship Izzy desperately wants to sabotage, and watching her collect affidavits from Bernie’s previous girlfriends (some available to read in the Appendix!) is pretty hilarious.

In this novel, Izzy spends more time interacting with her older brother David, his wife Maggie, and their 18-month old daughter Sydney. I loved seeing more of David and Maggie, they are my favorite characters, aside from Izzy of course. I missed Rae though, since she wasn’t in this book as often, and Izzy did not have much interaction with Henry Stone either, so that was a bummer. Granny Spellman and Demetrious made up for their absence though, so I didn’t mind too much, and it was nice to read about characters that were a little different. I like Lisa Lutz and the Spellman Files book a lot, and I’ll definitely keep reading them.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

The Devil You Know by Mike Carey

Devil you know coverFelix Castor–known as Fix by the people who can stand him–has the unusual ability to exorcise ghosts. But ever since the disaster that left his friend Rafi possessed by the demon Asmodeus, he hasn’t been practicing. In fact, despite the urging of his friend and landlady Pen, Fix swears he has given up exorcising ghosts for good. Then, on one of his rare visits to his office, he gets a call with a job offer. On the heels of this offer is a warning from Asmodeus that taking this job will get him killed. This spikes Fix’s curiosity in spite of himself, and he meets with Peele, the h

ead of the archive that claims to need the exorcism. Fix’s limited contact with the ghost when he visits the archive makes him hedge his bets and take the job, which thrusts him back into the world of exorcising ghosts with much more enthusiasm then he is ready for.

I enjoyed this novel much more than I thought I would. Felix Castor was a great character, and I really liked solving the mystery of the archive ghost along with him. This novel actually read much more like a murder mystery novel to me, with just a few paranormal elements thrown in, which I thought was great. I read plenty of urban fantasy novels that are all about the paranormal and action packed scenes, with some plot/mystery thrown in almost as an afterthought. This book was very different, with the mystery being more important that the ghosts or other paranormal creatures. There almost wasn’t enough world building, or enough explanation about the ghosts, weres and zombies. But I didn’t mind, I just wanted to know who the archive ghost was and how she came to be.


Felix Castor, exorcist turned children’s magician turned unwilling exorcist was a great leading character. He made smart decisions, took actions when he needed to even if didn’t want to, and grew up and learned about himself as the novel went along. I liked him very much. This was definitely one of those stories where I wanted to live in the world and be friends with the main characters: Felix, his landlady and best friend Pen, and even some of the people Felix met at the archive, like Cheryl. Then there was the interesting addition of the succubus Juliet. She’s going to be back in the next books, and I really want to know what happens with her. I’m very excited to read the next Felix Castor novel. It’s nice to read a book series where I can go get the next book right away, and don’t have to wait for it to be published for a change.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore

Sacre Bleu coverIn July 1890, Vincent van Gogh went into a cornfield and shot himself. Or did he? Why would an artist at the height of his creative powers attempt to take his own life…and then walk a mile to a doctor’s house for help? Who was the crooked little “color man” Vincent had claimed was stalking him across France? And why had the painter recently become deathly afraid of a certain shade of blue?

These are just a few of the questions confronting Vincent’s friends–baker-turned-painter Lucien Lessard and bon vivant Henri Toulouse-Lautrec–who vow to discover the truth about van Gogh’s untimely death. Their quest will lead them on a surreal odyssey and brothel-crawl deep into the art world of late nineteenth-century Paris.

I will admit, I had some reservations about this book going into it. I wasn’t a huge fan of the last Moore book I read, Fool, and I’m not really a fan of art, so I wasn’t sure I even wanted to read this one. But then I read the above summary from the inside cover flap and figured I would give it a try. It gave me high hopes. They were dashed. I didn’t love it. It wasn’t terrible. But I’m having a hard time coming up with things I liked. First, let me complain:

The timeline was very difficult to follow. I had to keep skipping back to the beginning of the chapters, and to the previous chapters to figure out if what I was reading happened before or after the previous chapter. Eventually I gave up and tried to stop caring haha, but the timeline was pretty important in this story and I just couldn’t follow it. I also had trouble keeping track of which character was which. Maybe it was the French names (I really don’t like reading French things) but I didn’t even realize Henri and Toulouse-Lautrec were the same person at first. I either missed something which is definitely possible, or it wasn’t clear, which is also unfortunately possible. I did like Henri’s character a lot. He was probably my favorite. And I liked Lessard’s mother, too.  I didn’t dislike Lessard, the main character, I just wasn’t terribly interested in him. Books don’t work very well when you can’t get at least a little emotionally invested in the main character. Oh well.

Sacre Bleu cover 02I think my overall problem with this story was it just didn’t read like a typical Moore book to me. Christopher Moore’s Lamb and Fluke, or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings are some of my favorite books, that I read every time I need to relax or have a good laugh. This book was not like those. There was only one really funny line I wanted to quote here, but I didn’t have a place to write the page number down at the time, and I can’t remember it well enough now to go back and find it, so I guess it wasn’t amusing enough to stick with me. Essentially, this book wasn’t what I expected, and I was disappointed. Oh well. Next time I wanted to entertained by a Christopher Moore book I will just grab The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove off my shelf.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry

dragon factory coverJoe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences are tasked with saving the world again, only this time they don’t even know what they are fighting until it is almost too late. Two competing groups of geneticists are trying to take over the world, one by manipulating genes to make animalistic super-soldiers and bring to life dangerous mythical creatures, and another by creating a pathogen to wipe out the “Mud People” and continue the Nazi Master Race program. The Nazis have set an Extinction Clock, counting down until their pathogen will be released and no one will be able to stop the death that will follow. Ledger, his not-so-secret lover Grace Courtland, psychologist friend Rudy, and the mysterious leader of DMS Church must find the geneticists and stop the Extinction Clock before it reaches zero.

I read Patient Zero a few weeks ago (and reviewed it here!) and loved it, so I had high hopes for the The Dragon Factory, the second installment in the Joe Ledger series. Once again, I was very impressed by author Jonathan Maberry’s exceptionally creepy and evil villains. The first were Cyrus Jakoby and his second-in-command Otto Wirths. We are first introduced to these characters on the very first page of the story, and they are described like this:

Otto Wirths was the second-worst mass murderer in the history of the world. Compared to him Hitler, Stalin, Attila the Hun and even Alexander the Great were amateurs, poseurs who could not hold a candle to Otto and his body count.

Only one person was worse.

Cyrus Jakoby.

Before you can even wrap your mind around this description, you read that Cyrus and Otto are giggling as they set the Extinction Clock, and prepare to put into motion a plan that will murder millions of innocent people. The amount of evil contained in this first page and a half is almost over-whelming. And, in typical Maberry fashion, it only gets more intense. Enter the Jakoby Twins, Hecate and her brother Paris, brilliant albinos who are constantly in the tabloids for their exploits. To the general public they are entertainment; to their buyers they are gods who can genetically engineer almost anything. They think they control their father Cyrus, he thinks he controls them, and they are all watching the Extinction Clock tick.

Joe Ledger has barely recovered from his last major task with DMS when he is jumped by NSA agents while visiting the grave of his deceased girlfriend. Working under orders from the Vice President who doesn’t like Church very much, the NSA is trying to shut down DMS. Things quickly spiral out of control from there. In addition to the race to stop the madmen, Joe is also trying to sort out his feelings for Major Grace Courtland, who has become his girlfriend, and he fears he is falling in love with her. This adds some drama to the story, since both Joe and Grace need to find a way to do their jobs without their feelings for each other getting in the way. In my review of Patient Zero, I said I liked Grace and wanted to see more of her in the next book. We did get to see more of her, even though it wasn’t really until the end of the novel, and it was great. It’s always a nice change of pace hearing things from her point of view.

The timeline in this story almost became it’s own character. Jumping back and forth in time, and starting every chapter with the “Time Remaining on the Extinction Clock” definitely added to the tension. It did seem that the clock moved VERY slowly at the beginning of the novel, and then suddenly extremely quickly at the end, but I suppose that was partly to be expected, even if I didn’t particularly like it. I could have done with a few less point of view changes in this novel as well. While I do typically like reading from various perspectives, this was almost too many different perspectives, and it sometimes slowed things down. I can’t say I actually lost interest in the story, but I did want some of those parts to be shorter or move more quickly.

The ending of this novel blew me away. I absolutely can’t wait to see what happens next.

Happy reading!

-Branwen