The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 9-20-15

Sunday Post

This is giveaway week. The Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop started this morning, and it will still be going strong when the Rockin’ Reads Giveaway Hop stars on Wednesday. This is the end of summer/chilly enough to curl up with a good book giveaway season. Enjoy!

This was a damn good week for reviews. I obviously got very lucky. It’s seldom when every book in the week is a grade A winner. Hopefully next week will be just as good.

Current Giveaways:

StuckinaGoodBook Hop 2015$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Paris Time Capsule is Megan B.

rebel queen by michelle moranBlog Recap:

A- Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
A- Review: Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold
A Review: Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran
A- Review: Leaving Orbit by Margaret Lazarus Dean
A- Guest Review: How to Clone a Mammoth by Beth Shapiro
Stacking the Shelves (153)
Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop

Rockin Reads Giveaway HopComing Next Week:

Gold Coast Blues by Marc Krulewitch (blog tour review)
The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton (review)
Rockin’ Reads Giveaway Hop
Marcus by Anna Hackett (review)
Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart (review)

Stacking the Shelves (151)

Stacking the Shelves

I couldn’t resist the Humble Bundle of Star Wars Audiobooks. It includes the original radio broadcasts, and should make our next driving trip fly by. If you’re interested, there’s still a few days left to get in on the bundle.

Something else I couldn’t resist was the opportunity to get the last two books in Candace Robb’s Owen Archer series. This is a terrific historical mystery series that I fell in love with a long time ago. The story takes place in York, England, during the mid-14th century, at the time that the awesomely beautiful York Minster was being built. While I was reading the early books in the series I was in York, and walking the same streets as the characters made the story resonate even more. I’m glad to see that the series is back.

Last but not least, I picked up the two historical romances by Eva Leigh after discovering that Eva Leigh is a new penname for one of my favorite authors, Zoe Archer. I can’t wait to see what she does with this new series.

For Review:
Forever Your Earl (Wicked Quills of London #1) by Eva Leigh
The Guilt of Innocents (Owen Archer #9) by Candace Robb
Lowcountry Bordello (Liz Talbot #4) by Susan M. Boyer
Moonlight over Paris by Jennifer Robson
Return to Dark Earth (Phoenix Adventures #7) by Anna Hackett (review)
Scandal Takes the Stage (Wicked Quills of London #2) by Eva Leigh
This Gulf of Time and Stars (Reunification #1) by Julie E Czerneda
A Vigil of Spies (Owen Archer #10) by Candace Robb

Purchased from Amazon:
Humble Bundle of Star Wars Audiobooks


The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 8-30-15

Sunday Post

We survived Worldcon. The skies over Spokane looked like Mordor, but we survived. We also came home with con crud, really nasty colds. UGH!

We attended the Hugo Awards Ceremony Saturday night. I personally found the results as satisfying as possible under the circumstances. Mileage on that subject varied widely both during the Con and afterward in the blogosophere. Once the complete vote and nomination numbers were released, seeing the works that should have made the ballot but didn’t because of the slate-rigging was heartbreaking. I’m kind of hoping this will die down a bit until January, when the run up to next year’s nomination process begins. The rhetoric in this mess is even more hyperbole-filled than the U.S. Presidential race. There are plenty of pixels spilled on this topic at File770 and George R.R. Martin’s Not a Blog if you want the excruciating details.

I’m going to go read a book. I need to find more good stuff to nominate next year.

clear off your shelf August[1]Current Giveaways:

Break Out, Deadly Pursuit and Death Defying (2 copies, paperback) + Temporal Shift (5 copies, ebook) by Nina Croft
Nina Croft First in Series (Break Out, Bittersweet Blood and Operation Saving Daniel) ebook prize pack
If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins (paperback)

Winner Announcements:

The winners of the Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop are: Adriana (Back to You), Bethany N. (Armada), Michelle L. (Invasion of the Tearling), Janie M. (Bourbon Kings)
The winner of my ARC of A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd is: Faye G.

nature of the beast by louise pennyBlog Recap:

A+ Review: The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
B Review: Tequila Mockingbird by Rhys Ford
B- Review: The Last Time I Saw Her by Karen Robards
B+ Review: Blood and Metal by Nina Croft + Giveaway
Guest Post by Nina Croft on Living Forever + Giveaway
B+ Review: If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (150)

sloe ride by rhys fordComing Next Week:

Keeper’s Reach by Carla Neggers (review)
Updraft by Fran Wilde (review)
Wildest Dreams by Robyn Carr (blog tour review)
Treasured by Thursday by Catherine Bybee (blog tour review)
Sloe Ride by Rhys Ford (review)

Review: The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

nature of the beast by louise pennyFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: mystery
Series: Chief Inspector Gamache #11
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Date Released: August 25, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Hardly a day goes by when nine year old Laurent Lepage doesn’t cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. Including Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache, who now live in the little Quebec village.

But when the boy disappears the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true.
And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. Leads right to the door of an old poet.

And now it is now, writes Ruth Zardo. And the dark thing is here.
A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, Ruth knows, it is back.

Armand Gamache, the former head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, must face the possibility that, in not believing the boy, he himself played a terrible part in what happens next.

My Review:

As much as I love this series, and all the characters in it, I would not want to live in Three Pines. Quebec. The murder rate is much too high. I can see the tourist brochures now – Come to Three Pines if you’re tired of your life. With the subtext that your life will probably end if you go there.

The regulars all survive. Often not unscathed, but survive. This is a place that people come to for sanctuary, and often stay. Providing they survive their initial introduction.

For a story that starts small, The Nature of the Beast brings in a wider and wider world, even though its entire physical setting is that one small village in Quebec.

We start with one myth, the boy who cried wolf, and end with another, the Whore of Babylon. While that seems like quite a stretch, the path from one to another ultimately becomes clear, even as it obscures who is responsible for the evils that rain down on this place.

A little boy loves to roam the woods around Three Pines, and make up stories about the monsters he finds. Laurent Lepage is not just very imaginative, he’s also an excellent salesperson – he does all too good a job at getting people to believe his fantastic tales. But Laurent has been doing this since he was 6, and at age 9 people are generally wise to him. So when he bursts into the local Bistro claiming that he found a gun bigger than his house with a monster on it, no one believes.

And, just as in the fable about the boy who cried wolf, this time he is telling the truth. And it gets him killed.

Three Pines has been hiding a terrible secret. 40 years ago an arms dealer, a genius engineer, and a serial killer built a gigantic gun in the woods near Three Pines. Over time, the arms dealer was murdered, the engineer died, and the serial killer got caught. But the gun remained under camouflage netting until poor little Laurent found it, and touched off a series of murders, a witch hunt, and very nearly a prison break.

Chief Inspector Gamache, formerly of the Surete du Quebec, has retired with his wife Reine-Marie to the village of Three Pines. He became famous for rooting out the long-standing corruption in the Surete, and retired or perhaps retreated, to Three Pines to heal.

But murder, and his past, keep finding him. He is the first to think that Laurent did not die in a bicycle accident, but was murdered. And it is he that starts the search for the boy’s trail, and discovers the gun known in the arms trade as Big Babylon.

This Supergun was purported to be able to shoot a payload into low-earth-orbit using mechanical energy only – no electronics. The aiming, however was so imprecise that it could only be used on a very big target, like a city. It is a weapon of mass destruction, and the rumors said that it was purchased by Saddam Hussein. Luckily, he never got it.

During the story I kept wondering if the reason that the image of the Whore of Babylon was etched onto the gun’s base was for Saddam’s benefit. The reason turns out to be much more chilling than I imagined.

The discovery of the gun brings a host of interested parties to Three Pines. Laurent’s death has already brought Gamache’s former colleagues to the village. Isabelle Lacoste is now Chief of Homicide, Gamache’s old position, and Jean-Guy Beauvoir, originally Gamache’s second, is now hers. They are there for the murder.

Following in their wake are a retired physics professor and finally, two agents of the Canadian Security Service. The professor knew the arms dealer, and the Security Officers claim to be paper pushers who just so happen to be experts in the arms dealer, and especially in the Supergun he planned to sell. Or sold.

After a second death, both investigations heat up, and go at cross purposes. This is a case where everyone has secrets, and everyone’s secrets get in the way of anyone else finding the truth. They are all going in circles, and they all suspect each other of agendas that may not be for the greater good.

Into the middle of it all, a bigger threat than anyone imagined. The one person left alive who might know the truth of the whole mess is a convicted serial killer, locked in maximum security for a series of murders so heinous that his trial was kept secret. Gamache is the only person who knows who the man really is or just how much he has done.

The question facing the retired Chief is a terrible one – will the world be better off with a soulless serial killer on the loose but the plans for the doomsday gun found and safe, or will it be better to keep the devil locked up and let the world hunt for the Supergun plans throughout Three Pines, with all the chaos and destruction that will cause?

Which is the greater good?

Escape Rating A+: This one kept me up until 3 am. I had to finish. And as usual with this series, it’s the way that events affect the people involved that stick with me, and not necessarily the case itself.

This is also a case that fools the reader, as well as the detectives, right up to the end. The story starts with “Who killed Laurent?” but we and the detectives all get so sidetracked by the Supergun that we lose sight of the dead boy. We all think we know the motive for his murder (and the one that follows) but no one seems to fit the frame for the murderer.

The tie to the serial killer seems to come from left field. At first, the detectives think that Gamache is grasping at straws when he brings the man’s name into the investigation. At the end, of course, he’s right. He’s always right in the end, no matter how many times he seems to go off course in the middle. And this course looked very far fetched when it is first introduced. It’s only at the end where we discover just how deliberate this particular piece of misdirection was.

How the Light Gets In by Louise PennyAnd through the entire story range the people of Three Pines. By this point in the series, we know them and love them – even the cantankerously nasty poet Ruth Zardo and her duck Rosa. It is Ruth that is both shielding the present from the awful past, and who provides the insights that make the solution possible. And it’s Ruth who provides a surprising amount of compassionate healing to those who are left needing it most. Just as she did with Jean-Guy at the end of How The Light Gets In (enthusiastically reviewed here)

The part of the story that is sticking with me are the open questions that are left at the end. Gamache has healed enough that he needs to find a second act for his life. He’s not yet 60, and there is plenty of time for him to leave his mark again in some other service. He still feels the need to fight injustice, right wrongs and solve murders. There are plenty of places begging for him to come and lead them.

At the same time, the serial killer is a manipulative murdering bastard who is looking for a way out of prison and back into the world where he can commit more sick crimes. He knows Gamache’s name, and obviously spends his life planning his next action. Or evisceration. I have a feeling that he will (unfortunately for Gamache) be back.

And then there’s the Supergun, and everything it brought with it. It’s not just that the behemoth is out there in the woods, it’s that there are now members of the illegal arms trading community who know where it is and where to look for information on it. Some of those completely unscrupulous people know that Gamache and his colleagues thwarted them this time, and there’s a chance they’ll want payback.

But the big questions are the hard ones. Do the ends justify the means? Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or of the one? And if they do, who decides which are which? And last, particularly in regards to the security community – Who watches the watchers?

Those are the questions that haunt Gamache at the end of this book, and I expect will play a big part of the next. They are certainly haunting me.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Stacking the Shelves (147)

Stacking the Shelves

I generally find books irresistible. As if you couldn’t tell. And once I get caught up in a series, I find it difficult to let go.

I’m saying this because I’m still surprised that I pre-ordered a copy of The Last Time I Saw Her by Karen Robards. I’ve read the whole series, but there have been eARCs before. Not this time. This particular series have been “train-wreck” books for me. They all strain the willing suspension of disbelief, and sometimes even the willing suspension of stupid. But they’re like crack. Or as I said, train-wreck. I know it’s going to be horrible, and I absolutely can’t turn my eyes away. Over and over and over. I laugh at myself for reading this series, but I can’t make myself stop.

For Review:
Game of the Red King (Once Upon a Red World #3) by Jael Wye
Here All Along (Kelly Brothers #7) by Crista McHugh
Lamp Black, Wolf Grey by Paula Brackston
Make Me (Broke and Beautiful #3) by Tessa Bailey
Once in a Great City by David Maraniss
Owl and the City of Angels (Adventures of Owl #2) by Kristi Charish
Sisters in Law by Linda Hirshman

Purchased from Amazon:
Commissioned in White (Art of Love #4) by Donna McDonald
The Last Time I Saw Her (Dr. Charlotte Stone #4) by Karen Robards
Long Upon the Land (Deborah Knott #20) by Margaret Maron
Penric’s Demon (World of the Five Gods #3.5) by Lois McMaster Bujold


Review: Wings in the Dark by Michael Murphy

wings in the dark by michael murphyFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: historical mystery
Series: Jake & Laura #3
Length: 214 pages
Publisher: Random House Alibi
Date Released: July 14, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Witty and stylish in the classic Dashiell Hammett tradition, Michael Murphy’s latest high-flying Jake & Laura mystery features a Hawaiian honeymoon that’s interrupted when their friend Amelia Earhart is accused of murder.

Hawaii, 1935. Mystery novelist Jake Donovan and actress Laura Wilson are in gorgeous sun-soaked Hawaii, but their best-laid plans for canoodling on the beach are interrupted by a summons from famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart. It seems a local businessman has been gunned down next to her plane. In just days, the famous pilot intends to fly from Honolulu to Los Angeles, making aviation history over the Pacific. But now, without Jake and Laura’s help, Earhart’s flight might never take off.

Trailing a killer, the newlyweds’ sleuthing leads to a jealous pilot, a cigar-chomping female officer of the “Royalist Militia,” and a notoriously disagreeable lieutenant colonel named Patton. With a sinister killer lurking in the shadows, it’s safe to say the honeymoon is over . . . and the danger has just begun.

My Review:

Jake Donovan always tries to convince himself that whatever case he has walked, or in this case been strong-armed, into, it’s always going to be his last. For the good version of last, that he will have given up being a private detective and is now a full-time, and quite successful, author of hard-boiled mysteries.

His new wife Laura Winston is rightfully afraid that one of these cases will be his last, for the bad definition of last, that he’ll get himself killed. At the same time, Laura can’t help but get herself involved as well, partly to protect Jake, and partly because she can’t let go of the adrenaline rush either.

And Laura has plenty of adrenaline in her life already. She is a Broadway actress and Hollywood star. In 1935, the combined incomes of a successful movie star and a best-selling novelist put Jake and Laura into a lifestyle that is both a million miles away from their hardscrabble childhood in Queens, and far from the difficulties of life for so many people during the Great Depression.

A Depression which in 1935 shows no sign of ending.

This time it’s Jake’s career that gets them into trouble, not that Laura’s connections don’t have a hand in it as well.

Amelia Earhart c. 1935
Amelia Earhart c. 1935

Jake and Laura are in Hawaii for their honeymoon. Amelia Earhart is in Honolulu in preparation for her ground-breaking solo flight from Honolulu to California. But all is not smooth flying for the aviatrix, and she calls on her friend Laura and Laura’s husband Jake to investigate a murder that threatens to set back her scheduled flight.

Someone murdered one of Amelia’s Hawaiian backers in her hanger while she was sleeping in her plane. The police can’t decide whether Amelia is the killer or the real target, so Amelia’s influential husband strong-arms Jake into helping with the investigation.

The strong-arming was heavy-handed but very successful. Earhart’s husband George Putnam really was one of the Putnam’s of the publishing house G.P. Putnam’s. He just called Jake’s publisher and threatened to kill the man’s career if he didn’t cooperate.

While Putnam’s methods were very heavy-handed, they were necessary, because the plot to stop Amelia Earhart’s flight reached into some surprising and deadly places – and also struck all too close to home.

It’s up to Jake and Laura to protect Amelia, investigate the murder and find out both what the killer’s real agenda is and stop them before it is too late.

It’s not just the life of Amelia Earhart that’s at stake. This flight, if it is successful, has the potential to continue America’s fascination with and expansion of air travel. If it fails, aviation will go into a depression even deeper than the U.S. economic situation.

If the flight succeeds, Hawaii will become a vacation destination for mainlanders, both assisting and transforming the Islands’ economy. And if the flight succeeds, the U.S. Armed Forces will expand into air power and patrol the Pacific Ocean.

In 1935, there is a lot of interest in the Pacific Rim in stopping that expansion. At any cost.

yankee club by michael murphyEscape Rating B+: If you like historical mysteries set in the 20th century, or noir (kind of noir-lite) or stories where real history and real people are wrapped around a fun mystery, this series is an absolute hoot. Start with The Yankee Club (reviewed here) and take a trip back to a different time, where so much is different, and so much is the same.

Like The Yankee Club, Wings in the Dark is wrapped around some true historical events. Amelia Earhart really was in Honolulu in January of 1935, and this flight, with all its attendant hoopla, did take place. The implications of the flight were as they are in the book. Success meant an expansion of aviation, failure meant that aviation would die a quick and painful death.

We’ve seen this in recent history as well. Every time the U.S. Space Program suffers a disaster, there is a retrenchment and reconsideration, even though all the participants signed on for the risk of being among the first people “out there”.

The times in which Amelia’s ground-breaking flight took place are also an important part of the picture. Hawaii was part of the U.S., but there were still plenty of people alive who remembered the “good old days” of the monarchy. There is still loads of resentment at the way the U.S. managed to take possession of the Islands.

Then there’s the war. The one that hasn’t happened yet, but is certainly looming on the horizon for those who have eyes to see. One of those people with eyes is then Lieutenant Colonel George S. Patton, who was stationed in Hawaii in 1935, mostly an exile in disgrace. Patton views the growing militarization of Japan with alarm, and fears that the Japanese military sees the potential rise of U.S. airpower as a threat to their hegemony.

The mystery in Wings in the Dark circles, and sometimes barrel-rolls, around the murder in Amelia’s hangar. At first, it seems like an inside job as well as a crime of passion. Amelia’s female mechanic (and aviation rival) was having an affair with the dead man. But not all of the pieces fit this scenario.

The dead man was an Islander who had thrown in his economic lot, very successfully, with the Americans. The Royalist fringe, including his own brother, were not happy with his plans for more American influence.

Jake is sure there’s more than meets the eye, and when Patton provides scanty but convincing details of a Japanese assassin operating in the Islands, Jake starts to believe that this case is much, much bigger than he thought.

Especially when his old friend, the American agent Landon Stoddard, shows up to stick the government’s oar in this particular choppy water. Whatever is going on, it is way bigger than a simple lover’s spat, no matter how deadly.

This is a case where the “who benefits?” question will have world-changing answers.

The fun part of these cases is always following Jake and Laura, and whomever they drag along in their wake. Any resemblance to Nick and Nora Charles from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man series is strictly intentional. And an absolute blast.


***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 7-19-15

Sunday Post

You’ve probably noticed by now – well I certainly hope you’ve noticed by now. Reading Reality has a new look! The new design was created by the marvelous Parajunkee, and I love it. I asked for something using the colors in Hubble Space Telescope pictures, and some geeky, nerdy, sci-fi type references, and she created a marvel. I utterly adore Mr. Bear. He’s the cybernetic descendant of my original mascot, and he’s especially engineered for sweetness. I love the new blog design, and Parajunkee is terrific to work with.

reading reality bear
The original Mr. Bear

Now I just have to propagate the goodness to all my social media. She gave me fantastic skins for everything. I just need to find the appropriate bribe for my handsome techie to take care of everything this weekend.

In the comments, please let me know what you think of the new design!

This week’s books were a mixed bag. I’ll admit that as much as I enjoyed Armada, it was disappointing compared to Ready Player One. Last First Snow, on the other hand, definitely lived up to its series.

The book that blew me away was Battle Lines. I wanted a Civil War book because I was interested in looking back at the origins of the Rebel Flag and the controversy surrounding it. I may live in Atlanta, but I’m still a Yankee. Battle Lines did provide plenty of background, but some of the individual stories utterly blew me away.

last first snow by max gladstoneBlog Recap:

B Review: Armada by Ernest Cline
A Review: Last First Snow by Max Gladstone
B Review: Space Cowboys & Indians by Lisa Medley
B- Review: The Widow’s Son by Thomas Shawver
A- Review: Battle Lines by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm and Ari Kelman
Stacking the Shelves (144)




mechanical by ian tregillisComing Next Week:

Ether & Elephants by Cindy Spencer Pape (review)
The Best Kind of Trouble by Lauren Dane (review)
Wings in the Dark by Michael Murphy (blog tour review)
The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis (review)
Liesmith by Alis Franklin (review)

Review: The Widow’s Son by Thomas Shawver

widows son by thomas shawverFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: mystery
Series: Rare Book Mystery #3
Length: 200 pages
Publisher: Random House Alibi
Date Released: July 7, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

In 1844, Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, died at the hands of an angry mob who stormed his jail cell in Carthage, Illinois. Shortly after, a radical faction of Smith’s followers swore to avenge Smith’s death by killing not only the four men deemed most responsible, but to teach their heirs to eliminate future generations of the prophet’s murderers as well.

One hundred and seventy years later, rare book dealer Michael Bevan is offered a valuable first-edition Book of Mormon that bears a strange inscription hinting at blood atonement. Within days of handing the book over for authentication, the volume disappears and two people lie dead. Michael soon learns that his friend Natalie Phelan, whose only crime is her genealogy, is the likely next victim. One of her would-be murderers has fallen in love with her, another is physically incapable of carrying out the act, but other avenging angels remain on the loose.

When Natalie is kidnapped, Michael must venture into a clandestine camp of vengeful men hell-bent on ritual sacrifice. To save her life, the book dealer needs all his worldly courage, brawn, and wits. But to defeat fanatics driven by an unholy vision, a little divine intervention couldn’t hurt.

My Review:

There are two threads to this story. One is the continuing saga of bookseller Michael Bevan and the sometimes cutthroat nature of the antique book business. In this installment of Michael’s odyssey to get his Midwestern bookstore into the exalted ranks of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, Michael makes several wrong turns. Even more than he has already made.

Michael has a tendency to take short cuts – it’s how he got disbarred in the first place. But the prestigious ABAA doesn’t just want pristine provenance for their books, it wants the appearance of squeaky cleanliness for its booksellers as well.

left turn at paradise by thomas shawverAnd Michael is not squeaky clean. While the deal that brought him his prize collection was legal (see Left Turn at Paradise, reviewed here, for details) it occurred mostly under the table and involved more than a bit of blackmail on the part of all the participants – even some of the dead ones.

It’s a story that Michael can’t tell, not even to the grand doyenne of the ABAA. So he tries bribing her instead.

It’s not exactly a bribe. He lets her “help” him sell a rare and very pricey book – one of the original copies of Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon, a copy which includes a handwritten dedication by one of Smith’s disciples.

Michael takes one of his famous shortcuts – he neglects to get a receipt for the $250,000 book. So when the old lady collector dies in a very suspicious fire, Michael is in all kinds of trouble with his client – who turns out to be in all kinds of trouble himself.

This is where the story gets interesting, and more than a bit crazy. His client, Emery Stagg, is the descendant of one of Smith’s disciples. When he was a teenager, he was brainwashed into the lunatic fringe of his religion. As a descendant of one of the disciples, he and his two cousins were tasked with sacrificing the last descendants of one of the men who colluded in Joseph Smith’s murder.

Instead poor Emery Stagg has a change of heart. Instead of killing Natalie Phelan, he falls in love with her. It should all be over, and the threat to Natalie and her daughter Claire should be finished.

But Emery’s family hasn’t given up. And now Emery himself is considered a traitor, and must be eliminated so that the sacrifice can proceed as planned.

Unless Michael can stop it.

dirty book murder by thomas shawverEscape Rating B-: As the three books in this series prove (starting with The Dirty Book Murder, reviewed here) the antique and collectible book trade is a lot more dangerous than an outsider might believe. Mike Bevan is always in trouble. Sometimes its financial trouble, and sometimes its just plain deadly dangerous.

His friends, like Natalie Phelan, often find themselves in hot water over their heads for something Mike did, or didn’t do. Once the trouble appears, Mike is the best friend a person could have, but he often had something to do with things going from bad to worse in the first place, even if it’s by accident.

In this case, Mike’s attempt to sell the book for Emery is the catalyst that brings all the trouble down on everyone’s head. It’s not Mike’s fault. It’s also not NOT Mike’s fault. The story of his life.

The mystery in The Widow’s Son is incredibly convoluted, and involves a lot of beliefs that have been disavowed by the LDS Church multiple times. While I’m a bit uncomfortable using the backdrop of the history of an existing religious group as twisted fodder for a mystery, it did make for an extremely twisty tale.

I was able to figure ot some of what was going on in advance, but the twisted reverence for an insane reading of history, along with the inclusion of some less-than-sane people, cloaked the entire picture in the fog of war until it was too late for Bevan or the reader to prevent getting sucked all the way in.

Mike Bevan is a likable character, a hero who is so flawed and screws up so often he is almost an anti-hero, but not quite. In the end, Mike does the right thing, and he always protects his friends. He’s one of those guys who has a heart of gold, but never quite grows all the way up.

We have a little bit of that in all of us, which makes him interesting to watch.


***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 7-12-15

Sunday Post

I didn’t give anything away this week. I need to fix that. Maybe next week.

SFRQ website buttonThis was a fun week. Lots of lovely speculative fiction, a bit of fantasy, a bit of paranormal, and some of my favorite sci-fi romance. Speaking of sci-fi romance, in case you missed it, I’m going to give another shout-out to the latest issue of Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly, which just came out on July 5. As usual, it is awesome, especially if you love SFR as I do. The opinion column on this year’s Hugo kerfuffle, and how the Hugo awards treat romance in general, was an interesting take on the ongoing controversy. It also made me wonder something – is SFRQ itself eligible for a Hugo next year, in one of the Fan Writing categories?

Next week I’ve got two books that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. First is Armada, the second book by Ernest Cline, the author of Ready Player One. Is Armada as awesome as RPO (squeed over, ahem, reviewed here)? And Last First Snow, the fourth book in Max Gladstone’s totally awesome Craft Sequence.

minion adorableSo far, it’s a lovely summer! Because…Minions!

Winner Announcements:

The winner of A New Hope by Robyn Carr is Maranda H.
The winner of the $10 Gift Card or Book in the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop is Summer H.

inherit the stars by laurie a greenBlog Recap:

A- Review: The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
B+ Review: Ink and Shadows by Rhys Ford
A- Review: Among Galactic Ruins by Anna Hackett
B+ Review: Video Game Storytelling by Evan Skolnick
A+ Review: Inherit the Stars by Laurie A. Green
Stacking the Shelves (143)



armada by ernest clineComing Next Week:

Armada by Ernest Cline (review)
Last First Snow by Max Gladstone (review)
Space Cowboys & Indians by Lisa Medley (blog tour review)
The Widow’s Son by Thomas Shawver (blog tour review)
Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm and Ari Kelman (review)

Review: Duke City Desperado by Max Austin

duke city desperado by max austinFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: mystery/thriller
Series: Duke City #3
Length: 174 pages
Publisher: Random House Alibi
Date Released: June 9, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Under a sky full of stars, Dylan James lies sleeping on the roof of a pueblo-style house. He’s a fugitive, and everyone in Albuquerque seems to be looking for him. A murderous Mafia prince wants to kill him. Two FBI agents want to cuff him. A Goth girl wants to make love to him. And a fierce, sexy Chicana just wants to clean up the mess Dylan made.

The trouble started with a drug-addled career criminal named Doc and a bank robbery staged with a garage door opener. Then it all goes off the rails after a little misunderstanding with Dylan’s ex-girlfriend and her jealous, gun-toting new beau.

When the sun comes up, this sleepy, scrawny desperado is going to show the world what he’s made of—all for a one-in-a-million shot at walking out of Duke City alive.

My Review:

I didn’t realize until this entry in the series that it’s the same hapless pair of FBI agents who get left holding the bag in every book in this series.

It’s not that Pam and Hector are involved with any of the crimes – it’s that they are the primary agents investigating each of the messes, and the bad guys keep getting the best of them, over and over. Their careers are never going to recover.

duke city hit by max austinThe story in Duke City Desperado, as in the previous entries, Duke City Split (reviewed here) and Duke City Hit (here) all comes from the criminal side of the equation. The poor FBI agents keep ending up as patsies.

And just like in the other stories, the criminals in Desperado are way more lucky than good. Doc and Dylan are pretty much small-time all the way around, until Doc, permanently hopped up on pharmaceutical grade speed, gets the wild idea to rob a bank through the drive up window. Pretending that a garage remote control is the detonator for a bomb.

The teller has to stop herself from laughing while she stalls Doc long enough for the police to get there. The police have a hard time too. No one has ever tried to rob a bank through the drive up because it is just so lame.

The bank captures the entire ridiculous scene on video. It’s an open and shut case.

Until it isn’t.

Poor Dylan is in the passenger seat of the van while Doc pulls his crazy stunt. When the cops enter the scene, Dylan exits, and a citywide manhunt ensues.

Doc ends up in Municipal Detention. Of course he does, he’s so high that he gives up Dylan’s name to the cops before he can manage to calm down and make a deal.

While Doc experiences the joys of the correctional system and waits for his trial, Dylan is on the run. Every place he goes, and every friend he looks up, just lands him and them in more and more trouble.

The only person who seems to be on Dylan’s side is a crazy Goth chick who gets turned on by all the violence that follows in Dylan’s hapless wake. As Dylan gets beaten and beaten up on all sides, together they cook up a foolish plan for her to honk off her hated stepfather by robbing the guy who pays her bills and helping Dylan spring Doc.

After all of Dylan’s incredibly hellacious bad luck, he finally gets just one thing right. It’s a hell of a ride.

duke city split by steve brewerEscape Rating B-: I didn’t like this one nearly as much as the first book in the series, Duke City Split. While Dylan just seems like someone who, if it wasn’t for bad luck, wouldn’t have any at all, the amount of chaos he manages to accidentally stir up strains the bounds of even fictional disbelief.

Neither Dylan nor Doc is evil, just hapless, hopeless and more than a bit lazy. Crime seems to be their easy way out, and they’re not particularly good at it. Right up until Doc turns spectacularly bad at it.

There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of motive or motivation for either of them, until Dylan finds himself on the run for something he not only didn’t do but actively argued against. He’s afraid to turn himself in because he’s sure, and undoubtedly correct, that the cops will find something to charge him with.

The wild and crazy stuff gets stirred up as Dylan starts looking for a friend to take him in and help him out. He manages to rile his ex-girlfriend’s insane new boyfriend, setting off multiple chases through the city, as the angry little man chases Dylan, the cops chase Dylan, and the ex-girlfriend gets her sister to chase the abusive new boyfriend. The Keystone Cops would feel right at home.

The Goth chick turns out to be the big surprise. At first she just seems part of the weird, but the more she talks about the hate-on she has for her stepfather, the more the reader starts to wonder. The surprise at the end of that particular plot string was a real shocker.

Duke City Desperado is a madcap cops and robbers chase across Albuquerque where you find yourself wanting the bad guys to ride off into the sunset – in their stolen Audi. You’re left wondering if the FBI has an even less prestigious post for those two agents, because if they do, they’re definitely going to be assigned there. Probably somewhere in Alaska. Like maybe Barrow.

Nobody should have luck that bad.


***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.