My Bookish Ways

Time’s Last Gift by Philip Jose Farmer

Time’s Last Gift by Philip Jose Farmer
Publisher:
Titan/June, 2012 (Reprint)
Science Fiction
Kind thanks to Titan for providing a review copy
**Reviewed by Peter (husband and resident sci-fi reader)

Three men and a woman on board a timeship travel from 2070 AD to 12,000 BC – a journey that could never be repeated. For the passengers, all anthropologists, it was a once-in-a-million-lifetimes expedition… a chance to study primitive man as modern man never could. But none of them was prepared for what they would discover – or for the impact of their travels in a time that had yet to come…
A novel in the Wold Newton universe, in which characters such as Sherlock Holmes, Flash Gordon, Doc Savage, James Bond and Jack the Ripper are all mysteriously connected.

REVIEW
Though by no means a Philip Jose Farmer completist, I have read numerous works by Farmer and enjoy them more often than not. Farmer excels at universe/world generation, creating complex backdrops in which his characters enact his story. His characterization and interaction, in my opinion, were never as solid but were strong enough that I enjoyed the romps through the worlds he had created.

Time’s Last Gift begins with a team of four scientists traveling back in time to 12,000 BC. The team is made up of Gribardsub, the leader and doctor, von Billmann, a linguist and cultural anthropologist, and the Silversteins, a zoologist/geneticist and a physicist/geologist. They begin to study the tribe nearest their arrival point, though they more or less take over the tribe and make all the major decisions for them. The Silverstein’s marriage begins to break up and jealousy enters the mix as it becomes clear one of the team is not who (or maybe what) they claim to be.

Farmer follows the group as they trek around (literally) the Mediterranean Sea taking samples of native flora and fauna though the major emphasis appears to be on finding the pre-Indo-Hittite speakers. Through it all, the team must find a way to stay together and work as a team for the four years they will be in prehistory.

This is a time travel story only in the fact that people from one time travel to earlier era. The science behind the travel is very light and potential paradoxes are dismissed as impossible since whatever is done in the past has already happened and time has accounted for it. Instead this is a story more concerned with the interactions of the group and the uncovering of the one member’s secret.
Without the grand world scape upon which to act, the characters go from one conflict to the next with a decided lack of transition. There were also a few typos, which distracted me from the narrative a few times. However, if you’re a fan of Farmer’s work it shouldn’t be an issue.

This is a short, quick read and as such, it is worth the time I spent to read it. I’ve seen reviews from one star all the way to 5 stars. Both extremes are not justified:I would place it firmly in the middle and your personal tastes of Farmer’s work will determine which way the pendulum will swing.

Purchase Time’s Last Gift: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

Off the Grid (Monkeewrench #6) by PJ Tracy

Off the Grid (Monkeewrench #6) by PJ Tracy
Publisher:
Putnam/August 2nd, 2012
Suspense
Kind thanks to Putnam for providing a review copy

On a sailboat ten miles off the Florida Keys, Grace MacBride, partner in Monkeewrench Software, thwarts an assassination attempt on retired FBI agent John Smith. A few hours later, in Minneapolis, a fifteen-year-old girl is found in a vacant lot, her throat slashed.
Later that morning, two young men are found in their home a few blocks away, killed execution style. The next morning, three more men are found savagely murdered in the same neighborhood.
As Minneapolis homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth struggle to link the crime scenes, they discover that there have been similar murders in other cities across the United States. Piece by piece, evidence accumulates, pointing to a suspect whose identity shocks them to the core, uncovering a motive that puts the entire Midwest on high alert and Monkeewrench in the direct line of fire. Before it’s all over, Grace and her partners, Annie, Roadrunner, and Harley Davidson, find themselves in the middle of a shocking collision of violence on a remote northern Minnesota Indian reservation, fighting for their lives.

REVIEW
When we last left the Monkeewrench crew, Grace McBride made the shocking decision to set sail with 20 years her senior FBI agent John Smith. After 3 months of sun in the Florida Keys, Grace finds herself facing down two men who have boarded the boat with the seemingly single motive of killing John. John has no idea why anyone would be gunning for him, so Grace contacts the team for help, as John goes off the grid. Meanwhile, Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth find themselves at a crime scene where the body of a young girl lies, her throat slashed. Soon, more bodies, and illegal weapons, are piling up, and there seems to be a connection. It will take the full resources of the police, the FBI, and Monkeewrench to figure this one out, but at what cost?

I admit, when I found out that Off the Grid was coming out, I had to stifle a fangirl squee. Ok, I may not have stifled it. It’s been 8 years since the wonderful Monkeewrench (book 1), and 2 years since the last book was out, so this one was very eagerly awaited. The authors are on their game, as usual, and Off the Grid is more than just a murder mystery. When Magozzi and Rolseth start putting the pieces together, and other crimes start popping up in other cities that are very similar to their cases, it’s obvious something very big is happening. They’re on the clock, and time is running out. So,the attack on John has brought Grace back to Minnesota and back into Magozzi’s life, a big group of baddies are after John, but nobody knows why, and it seems like something really big might be going down on Halloween, only a few days away. But what, and where? Off the Grid was a nonstop roller coaster ride from start to finish, and unlike previous books, the focus was more on Detectives Rolseth and Magozzi rather than the Monkeewrench crew, but that’s ok, because I loves me some Gino and Magozzi. I was hoping that we’d get some quality Grace and Magozzi time, but with everything going on, it just wasn’t to be. Maybe in the next book? Off the Grid was lots of fun and I couldn’t be happier to have the gang back! Can’t wait for the next one!

Purchase Off the Grid: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

Interview: PJ Tracy, author of Off the Grid

I’m so excited to have mother/daughter team PJ Tracy (Traci Lambrecht and PJ Lambrecht) here on the blog today to talk about their brand new book, Off the Grid! The Monkeewrench team is back, and I couldn’t be more excited! Please welcome them to the blog!

Your eagerly awaited (and sixth) new Monkeewrench book, Off the Grid, just came out! When you started the series, did you have in mind how many books you’d like to write, or did you just decide to see where the gang took you?
Actually, Monkeewrench was written as a stand-alone. The possibility of a series wasn’t even on our radar. But our publishers were so enthusiastic about the cast of characters, they asked to see more of them, and we were thrilled to comply, because we’d become so attached to all of them. Now, six books into the series, we just roll with the gang – they take us to unexpected places every time, which is one of the greatest joys of writing. But series writing isn’t without its own set of challenges – once you establish characters, you have to find creative and realistic ways to keep them dynamic while staying true to their individual integrities.

Will you tell us a bit about Off the Grid?
It begins with two of our recurring characters thwarting an assassination attempt off the coast of Florida and discovering that one of them is inexplicably marked for death – why, or by whom is a baffling mystery, but they’d better figure it out quick! At the same time, homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are investigating a series of brutal, seemingly unrelated murders in Minneapolis. But as evidence accumulates, they discover several shocking links to their homicides, the assassination attempt on one of their friends, and the tragic kidnapping of five young girls. The stakes are already high, but they get raised in a big way when Gino and Magozzi realize that the crimes are all part of a much bigger plot with terrifying and far-reaching implications that must be stopped, even if it means war.

Many people assume that an author’s favorite character to write is the main character, but that’s not always the case! Which is your favorite character to write?
We have so many important players in our books, we’re not sure there even is a main character. And readers all have different impressions of who is central to the series, which is pretty cool. But at the end of the day, Magozzi and Gino are total candy to write for both of us.

I’ve heard that your collaboration sessions are…interesting, to say the least! Will you tell us a bit about your process?
It’s PJ and I hanging out together, laughing hysterically about 80% of the time. The other 20% is spent chuckling. Somehow, we manage to come up with a plot through all of this, and then its go-time. We get serious, and plunge ourselves into the work, at which point, we become extremely anti-social and difficult to live with. Well, I live alone, but sometimes I find myself difficult to live with!

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
T:Probably just about everything we’ve ever read. You learn just as much from reading a great book as you do from reading a bad book.

If you could read a book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
T:That’s a tough one – since I’m being asked a specific question, I would have to say Catcher in the Rye. It kind of blind-sided me, because it was a laugh out loud novel for me, as dark as it was, and before I’d read it, I’d never really laughed while reading. I guess it really played to my hereditary dark sense of humor.

PJ:Winter of Our Discontent – more dark humor. You can see that Traci and I are related.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
T:Free time is kind of an alien concept, but on those rare occasions when I’m not writing, or thinking about writing, I’m with friends and family, indulging my three favorite pastimes: entertaining, cooking, and drinking wine. In the summer, I love to garden. During Minnesota winters, I love not having to go outside if I don’t want to!

PJ:Watching Traci cook and drink wine and entertain.

If you could pack your bags and travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
We would both stay put! We reached our travel saturation points a couple years ago, and now we’re both total homebodies.

Quick! What’s something that makes you laugh out loud?
T:Kittens. South Park. Life in general. It would probably be easier to list what doesn’t make me laugh out loud.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
We recently finished a Christmas novella entitled Return of the Magi. It’s dark, it’s light, it’s funny, and ultimately, it’s a story of redemption. We hope to see it published in 2013. We have also optioned the Return of the Magi screenplay, and the film and TV rights to the Monkeewrench series. And we’re currently working on the seventh Monkeewrench installment – you haven’t seen the end of the gang yet!
Keep up with PJ Tracy: Website | Facebook

The Prophet by Michael Koryta

The Prophet by Michael Koryta
Publisher:
Little, Brown/August 7th, 2012
Suspense

Adam Austin hasn’t spoken to his brother in years. When they were teenagers, their sister was abducted and murdered, and their devastated family never recovered. Now Adam keeps to himself, scraping by as a bail bondsman, working so close to the town’s criminal fringes that he sometimes seems a part of them.
Kent Austin is the beloved coach of the local high school football team, a religious man and hero in the community. After years of near misses, Kent’s team has a shot at the state championship, a welcome point of pride in a town that has had its share of hardships.
Just before playoffs begin, the town and the team are thrown into shock when horrifically, impossibly, another teenage girl is found murdered. When details emerge that connect the crime to the Austin brothers, the two are forced to unite to stop a killer-and to confront their buried rage and grief before history repeats itself again.

REVIEW
When a young girl comes into Adam Austin’s bail bonds office, he has no concept of how young she really is. He thinks she’s college age, but she’s actually a high school girl that claims to have been in touch with her incarcerated father, and now he’s out, and she wants to visit him. The only problem is, she says, is that he won’t tell her exactly where he’s staying. In his letters, however, he mentions he’s staying in a rental home and names the property owner. All the girl wants is an address. Adam pushes back all of his misgivings about giving her the information, thinking she would be better off not making contact, and finds the address for her. When he hears she has been murdered, Adam takes it upon himself to find her killer, giving him the name of his sister”s killer so many years ago. See, Adam blames himself for his sister’s death, and he’s not going to let this guy get away. Not even if he has to make sure of that himself.

When The Prophet started, I thought I knew where it was going. As it peels back the layers of Kent and Adam’s lives and motivations, I really, really thought I knew what was going to happen. As it turns out, I didn’t. Seems pretty straightforward at first. Adam sends this girl to that house, where instead of reuniting with her father, she is killed. Adam feels responsible for her death, much like he still feels responsible for his sister’s death, when he was still in high school. Adam is the big brother, and he takes everything, and I mean everything, on his broad shoulders. He’s not about to let this one get away. Adam still lives in the house that they grew up in and has preserved their sister’s room down to every detail. He also talks to her on a regular basis as he sits in her room, watching the sun bounce off of the stain glass figures she so painstakingly created. Adam is most thoroughly haunted by his sister, and when details start coming to light about Kent, and his possible connection to the killer, Adam realizes there’s much more to this story, and Kent is equally determined to put things right.

On the surface, The Prophet is a thriller, but at its heart, it’s a story about revenge, redemption, and the power of love and family. The twists and turns will keep you turning the pages, but the love between these brothers will break your heart. Also, if you’re a football fan, you’re in for a treat, because there are plenty of passages detailing the exploits of the high school team that Kent coaches, and even if you don’t give a wit about football, you’ll find yourself sucked in to the drama, because it’s that drama that drives Kent, and the urgency of the writing during these passages is addicting and impossible to ignore. The Prophet is a barnburner of a novel, cutting a swath through families and lives with a razor sharp quickness. It will suck you in, chew you up, and spit you out, and you’ll love every minute of it. Michael Koryta is hugely talented writer, and The Prophet is not to be missed!

Purchase The Prophet: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

Interview: Andy Siegel, author of Suzy’s Case

I’m thrilled to have Andy Siegel on the blog today! Andy is the author of the brand new legal thriller, Suzy’s Case (my review), and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, so please welcome him to the blog!

 

Andy, you’re a successful medical malpractice lawyer! What made you decide to take the plunge and write a novel?
Someone said I should write a book — so I did. It just happened. Tug Wyler simply popped into my head. Or maybe he quietly had been there all along.

Suzy’s Case is about a little girl horribly affected by a medical mistake, something that could have been easily avoided. You managed to balance something very dark with Tug’s ability to not take himself too seriously. Other than the obvious similarities (career, kids), are you and Tug alike in personality?
In certain ways, the answer is yes. Tug Wyler and I are alike. But I live in the real world, so I’m unable to follow Tug’s antic ways as he goes about satisfying his sense of justice. What keeps him tunneling deeper and deeper into the circumstances is his compulsion, like mine, to make the system work for the injured victim.

Was it tough balancing the demands of your practice (and family, etc) while writing Suzy’s Case, and how did you do it?
I am a lawyer. The name of my law firm in New York City is Siegel & Coonerty. I represent people who have sustained serious personal injuries. Many are victims of traumatic brain injury (TBI). So, the demands of my practice and the interests of my client’s, come first. Regarding my home life, I don’t require much sleep, so the balance was quite easy.

What are some of your favorite authors or novels? Is there anyone in particular that’s influenced you the most?
I can’t honestly say that any particular author influenced me. I’m just kind of raw — a barbarian with a pen.

I like books from the 1970s such at Fletch by Gregory McDonald or The Hot Rock by Donald Westlake. They’re incredibly clever. I find it entertaining to see how the stories unfold in the absence of technology. The characters have to do things the old-fashioned way, using their intuition, logic and intelligence.

If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
The Fountainhead

What’s one of your favorite lines from a book or movie?
“Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.”

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
With my dog, Otis.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
If people read and embrace Suzy’s Case the way you did, I imagine Tug Wyler will have other cases to solve. Spread the word, Kristin. Spread the word.
Keep up with Andy: Website
Click here for some of Andy’s links as well as some causes that are close to his heart.

August 2012 New Releases!

Here are the new releases for August! However, this is by no means a comprehensive list (just ones that I especially have my eye on.) If you have any new releases that I didn’t include, and that you’d like to direct me to, please list them in the comments. Thanks!

August 7th, 2012:
Dark Souls by Paula Morris (YA Fantasy/Aug. 1st)
The Jess Haines Bundle (H&W Investigations Books 1-4/Kindle/$9.99) by Jess Haines (UF) |Aug.1st
Death Benefits (novella) by Nelson DeMille (Thriller/Aug. 1st)
The Far West by Patricia Wrede (YA Fantasy/Aug. 1st)
Off the Grid by PJ Tracy (Thriller/Aug. 2nd) | REVIEW
Monster by Dave Zeltserman (Horror/Thriller/Aug. 2nd)
Survive by Alex Morel (YA Thriller/Aug. 2nd)
Beneath the Bones by Tim Waggoner (Horror reprint/ebook)
The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow (Steampunk)
Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake (YA Horror) | REVIEW
Seawitch (Greywalker #7) by Kat Richardson (UF)
Widow’s Might by Sandra Brannan (Suspense) 
Blood and Silver by James R. Tuck (UF) 
Precinct 13 by Tate Halloway (UF) 
Shadowlands by Violette Malan (Fantasy) 
Glitch  by Heather Anastasiu (YA Scifi) 
Two Week’s Notice by Rachel Caine (UF) 
The Constantine Affliction by T. Aaron Peyton (Steampunk) 
Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines (Fantasy) 
The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter (Mystery/Noir)
The Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan (Scifi)
King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (Fantasy)
Bruja Brouhaha by Rochelle Staab (Mystery)
Silver: Return to Treasure Island by Andrew Motion (Fantasy)
Biting Cold (Chicagoland Vampires #6) by Chloe Neill (UF)
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (Fantasy)
Identity by Mark Hosack (Thriller)
The Prophet by Michael Koryta (Thriller) | REVIEW
Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain (Thriller)
Freak by Jennifer Hillier (Thriller) | REVIEW
Blood, Bath, and Beyond by Michelle Rowan (Mystery)
The Grass King’s Concubine by Keri Sperring (Fantasy)
The Dead Do Not Improve by Jay Caspian Kang (Suspense)
Far North  by Michael Ridpath (Thriller)
I Ate the Sheriff (Mallory Caine Zombie at Law) by K. Bennett (Supernatural Thriller)
The Army of Dr. Moreau by Guy Adams (Fantasy/Horror)
Trucker Ghost Stories by Annie Wilder (Mystery)
A Wolf at the Door by KA Stewart (Fantasy)
Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear (YA Steampunk)
Bad Little Falls by Paul Doiron (Suspense)
The Viper by Hakan Ostlundh (Suspense)
Ghost Hero by SJ Rozan (Suspense)
The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin (Sci-fi Thriller)
Sentinel (Spycatcher) by Matthew Dunn (Thriller)

August 14th, 2012:
Romeo Spikes by Joanne Reay (Fantasy) | REVIEW
The Outlaw Among Us by Nathan Dodge (Suspense) 
Shake Off by Mischa Hiller (Suspense) 
The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent (YA Steampunk)
The Kill Order by James Dashner (YA Dystopia) 
Yesterday’s Hero 
by Jonathan Wood(Fantasy)

Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye by Paul Tremblay (Sci-fi) 
Bullettime by Nick Mamatas (Sci-fi/Aug. 15th)
The Rising by Will Hill (YA Horror/Aug. 16th)

August 21st, 2012:
Hidden Things by Doyce Testerman (Fantasy/UF) | REVIEW
The Raft by SA Bodeen (YA Suspense)
A Guile of Dragons by James Enge (Fantasy) 
Black Bottle by Anthony Huso (Fantasy)
The Survivor by Greg Hurwitz (Thriller)
The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle (Horror)
The Laughterhouse by Paul Cleave (Thriller)
Port Vila Blues  by Gary Disher (Suspense)
Blood Line  by Linda La Plante (Suspense)
Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez (Thriller/July 19th)
The Survivor by Gregg Hurwitz (Thriller)
Ghost Key by Trish J. MacGregor (Supernatural Thriller)
Widow’s Web (Elemental Assassin) by Jennifer Estep (UF)
Split at the Seams  by Yolanda Stefsos (Paranormal)
The Unincorporated Future  by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin (Sci-fi)
Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Freedman (Mystery/Aug. 22nd)
Caravan of Thieves by David Rich (Thriller/Aug. 23rd)
Reaper  by KD McEntire (YA Fantasy/Aug. 24th)
A Guile of Dragons by James Enge (Fantasy/Aug. 24th)

August 28th, 2012:
Soul Trade (Black London) by Caitlin Kittredge (UF) 
Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig (UF) | REVIEW
Death Warmed Over by Kevin J. Anderson (UF) 
Ghost of a Dream by Simon R. Green (UF)
The Demoness of Waking Dream by Stephanie Chong (Paranormal)
The Iron Legends (short stories) by Julie Kagawa (YA Fantasy)
Wrayth by Philippa Ballantine (Fantasy)
The Uninvited by Heather Graham (Thriller)
Haunted  by Jeanne C. Stine (UF) 
Bones Are Forever by Kathy Reichs (Thriller)
Chosen by Sable Grace (Paranormal) 
The Facility by Simon Lelic (Thriller)
Taken by Benedict Jacka (UF)
Immortally Yours by Angie Fox (Paranormal)
Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh (YA Fantasy)
Endgame  by Anne Aguirre (Scifi) 
Beyond Here Lies Nothing by Gary McMahon (Horror)
Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher (Fantasy)
Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye by Paul Tremblay (Fantasy/Aug. 30th) 
Birthdays for the Dead by Stuart McBride (Thriller/Aug. 30th)
Legion by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy/Aug. 30th)

What new books are you jonesin’ for this month?

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith
Publisher:
Feiwel and Friends/Nov. 2010
Fantasy/Horror

Sixteen-year-old Jack gets drunk and is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is kidnapped. He escapes, narrowly. The only person he tells is his best friend, Conner. When they arrive in London as planned for summer break, a stranger hands Jack a pair of glasses. Through the lenses, he sees another world called Marbury.

There is war in Marbury. It is a desolate and murderous place where Jack is responsible for the survival of two younger boys. Conner is there, too. But he’s trying to kill them.

Meanwhile, Jack is falling in love with an English girl, and afraid he’s losing his mind.

Conner tells Jack it’s going to be okay.

But it’s not.

REVIEW
16 year old Jack was born on the floor of his grandparent’s house to a 17 year old mother that he’s barely seen or talked to since, except for grindingly awkward twice yearly phone conversations. Days away from a trip to England, along with the possibility of attending a boarding school called St. Atticus for his junior year, he attends a party at his best friend Connor’s and after getting quite drunk, attempts to walk home by himself. It’s then that he falls asleep on a park bench and is kidnapped by a doctor that offers him a ride home. Luckily, the creepy time spent with the doctor is fairly brief, and Jack manages to escape. He decides not to tell the police, only Connor, and Connor decides to make the doc pay, which they certainly do. So, it’s off to London and in the first few days of waiting for Connor to arrive, Jack is followed by a man with the strangest glasses, which soon fall into his hands. Of course, inevitably, he puts on the glasses, and is soon sucked into the world of Marbury.

Ahhh, Marbury… Marbury is a blasted wasteland where humans are few and far between and violence is not the exception. The boys are being followed by cannibals and droves of large black bugs called harvesters. Strangely, Jack knows who everyone else is in Marbury. It’s like he’s always been there. He immediately meets half-brothers Ben and Griffin and gets on to his now full-time job of survival. Meanwhile, back in London, life goes on. And therein lies the problem with Marbury. The first time Jack visits, no time has passed it the real world, but this begins to change, and as a result, while Jack is in Marbury, it’s evidently business as usual with Connor, but Jack can rarely remember things that have happened in the real world. To complicate things further, he meets a girl named Nickie who he just might be falling in love with.

Just like Jack is sucked into Marbury, I was sucked into Jack’s world. Poor Jack. He’s still haunted by his kidnapping (which may or may not tie into current events), and can’t understand why Marbury is such a pull for him. Even worse, he’s seen Connor on the other side, and he’s not the Connor he knows and loves. If you enjoy trips down the proverbial (and super scary) rabbit hole, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this one, although Marbury certainly is no Wonderland. Ghosts, cannibals, and constant danger are Marbury’s hallmarks, and the author doesn’t hold your hand, or pull any punches. Trust me on this one. There’s some gruesome stuff here, but it’s never gratuitous, and it’s always terrifying. Here’s how Jack describes Marbury:

“I was thinking, What if the world was like that? What if we only saw one surface of it, the outside, but there was all kinds of other stuff going on, too? All the time. Underneath. But we just don’t see it, even if we’re part of it? Even if we’re in it? And what if you had a chance to see a different layer, like flipping a channel or something? Would you want to look? Even if what you saw looked like hell? Or worse?”

Even though this is technically a YA novel, the only real thing that distinguished it from a non-YA is the age of the protagonists (I’d recommend this for older teens). I only had one quibble, and it’s the speed in which Jack falls for Nickie, but then kept reminding myself that that’s pretty much how things were as a teen, so it is what it is. Andrew Smith’s writing is tight and sure and he captures Jacks self-conscious angst perfectly. I couldn’t help but fall in love with Jack, and watching him slowly fold in on himself in fear is painful. It also hit me in a soft spot as the mom of a boy. I think my son got an extra helping of hugs while I read this book. If you love your modern fantasy with a healthy dose of horror, you’ll eat this one up in one sitting. I did.

Purchase The Marbury Lens: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

Whispers Under Ground (Peter Grant #3) by Ben Aaronovitch

Whispers Under Ground
Publisher:
DelRey/July 31st, 2012
Urban Fantasy

It begins with a dead body at the far end of Baker Street tube station, all that remains of American exchange student James Gallagher—and the victim’s wealthy, politically powerful family is understandably eager to get to the bottom of the gruesome murder. The trouble is, the bottom—if it exists at all—is deeper and more unnatural than anyone suspects . . . except, that is, for London constable and sorcerer’s apprentice Peter Grant. With Inspector Nightingale, the last registered wizard in England, tied up in the hunt for the rogue magician known as “the Faceless Man,” it’s up to Peter to plumb the haunted depths of the oldest, largest, and—as of now—deadliest subway system in the world.

REVIEW
Peter Grant and Lesley May go to the home of 13 year old relative, Abigail, who claims to have a ghost that she’d like Peter to look at. The problem is, this ghost is underground, on the tracks, and technically, Peter and Lesley should be calling the British Transport Police and have them send a safety qualified search team. Ghosts are interesting, and all well and good, but unfortunately, there are darker things at work. Peter is called to a murder scene the next day in the Underground, where a man was apparently stabbed with a shard of pottery. Turns out he’s also an American. Peter and Leslie soon learn that the victim’s father is a senator, marking this case top priority. When Peter detects vestigium (a sense of magic, like smells, or sometimes music) on a bowl belonging to the victim, it’s time to follow the magical clues, hopefully directly to the killer.

If you’ve kept up with this superb series, you already know what a rich environment the author has created in which to set Peter’s rather odd cases against, and Whispers Under Ground is no exception. Ben Aaronovitch’s London is chock full of the magical and the mystical, in many different forms, and there’s no shortage of ghosts or the occasional river god or goddess, of whom Peter has more than a casual acquaintance with. Whispers Under Ground has the feel of a more traditional procedural than the other books…until Peter, Nightingale, and Lesley head into the London Underground. This is most definitely not your average murder, but if anyone can solve it, Peter can. I adore Peter Grant. There’s nothing stuffy, uptight, or staid about him, rather, he’s the kind of guy you’d want to hang out with on a Saturday night, with a pint in your hand and some jazz in the background. His dry snark is never forced and always funny, and we also learn a couple of new things about our hero. Three books in, and for me, this series is still going strong. Ben Aaronovitch is my go to guy to get my fix of British procedural with a general helping of the supernatural. This is a fascinating and unique series, and not to be missed by mystery and urban fantasy fans!

Purchase Whispers Under Ground: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

The Demands (Tom Thorne #9) by Mark Billingham

The Demands (Tom Thorne #9) by Mark Billingham
Publisher:
Little, Brown/June 2012
Suspense/Police Procedural/Mystery
Tom Thorne Series

UK Title: Good As Dead

The Crime The customers in a London convenience store are taken captive. Among them is young mother, Detective Helen Weeks. She is told her life depends on the co-operation of one of her colleagues – detective Tom Thorne.

The Demand Akhtar is desperate to know what really happened to his beloved son, who died a year before in prison. He is convinced the death was not an accident and forces the one man who knows more about the case than any other, Thorne, to re-investigate.

The Twist What Thorne discovers will upend everything he thought he knew about the fate of those he’s put away…but will it be enough to fulfill the wishes of a grieving and potentially violent father?

REVIEW
Detective Helen Weeks walks into the convenience store she’s been coming to for ages, her mind on her 1 year old son, and the workday ahead, when she’s abruptly taken hostage, along with another customer, by the convenience store owner, Akhtar. This is a man she’s talked to every day for months, exchanging pleasantries, and Helen is baffled as to why he’d want to hold two people at gunpoint. He doesn’t want money. He doesn’t want fame. He wants to speak with Tom Thorne, and until he does, Helen and her fellow captive have no chance at freedom. See, a year earlier, Akhtar’s son was attacked by a group of boys with knifes. He turned the tables, and stabbed one of his attackers to death. Given a sentence above and beyond what anyone expected, he supposedly killed himself while in the infirmary 8 weeks earlier. Akhtar knows his son didn’t kill himself, and wants Tom Thorne to find out who did. Until then, Helen Weeks will be his hostage. At first Tom thinks it’s certainly a suicide, but as he digs deeper, he realizes it’s so much more, and time is of the essence.

It’s no secret Tom Thorne is one of my fave detectives, and he’s back in fine form in The Demands. It’s a powder keg waiting to burst inside that convenience store and Mark Billingham has a talent for garnering sympathy for people doing terrible things, as in the case of Javed Akhtar. His son is dead and determined to be a suicide, but he knows it’s not true. Obviously, holding two people hostage is not the way to go about things, but he feels he’s done everything right throughout his life, been an honest man, and that the justice system that he once believed in has failed him. He’s desperate, and his grief and terror over his own actions is constantly on display. Helen Weeks is fighting her own demons as well, still mourning the death of her son’s father, and fellow cop, Paul. All she can think about is getting home to her son, and will do anything to do so, even if it means keeping secrets that will come back to bite her. The body count is piling up as Tom sniffs around, but his willingness to color outside the lines serves him particularly well in this case. Sadly, he uncovers something far more tragic than a random attack and killing in self defense, and it involves some pretty powerful folks, but that never stopped Tom before, so why should this be different? The clock was ticking here, and it gave an immediacy to the events that really kept me turning the pages. I just had to know what happened next. Fine writing and explosive revelations rounded out another great entry into the Thorne series, and The Demands actually ends on a bit of a high note for our hero. I can’t wait until the next book!

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The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli

The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli
Publisher:
Random House/June, 2012
Suspense

Raised to pick a pocket before he could walk, Terry Rand cut free from his family after his older brother, Collie, went on a senseless killing spree that left eight dead. Five years later, only days before his scheduled execution, Collie contacts Terry and asks him to return home. Collie claims he wasn’t responsible for one of the murders—and insists that the real killer is still on the loose.

Dogged by his own demons, Terry is swept back into the schemes and scams of his family: His father, Pinsch, a retired cat burglar, brokenhearted because of his two sons. His card-sharp uncles, Mal and Grey, who’ve incurred the anger of the local mob. His grandfather, Shep, whose mind is failing but whose fingers can still slip out a wallet from across the room. His teenage sister, Dale, who’s flirting dangerously with the lure of the family business. And Kimmie, the woman Terry abandoned, who’s now raising a child with Terry’s former best friend.

Terry pieces together the day his brother turned rabid, delving into a blood history that reveals the Rand family tree is rotten to the roots, and the secrets his ancestors buried are now coming furious and vengeful to the surface.

REVIEW
Terry Rand hasn’t seen his family for 5 years, but the impending execution of his brother Collie has brought him home. He thought that living under an assumed name and losing himself in the labor of tending to a sprawling ranch would give him the peace he desperately wanted, but he was so wrong. His family is shattered after the killing spree perpetrated by his brother that left eight dead, including a family of 5 and a little girl. After all, the Rands aren’t killers, they’re thieves, and the why of Collie’s rampage is still a mystery, and Collie certainly isn’t shedding any light on it himself. He didn’t call Terry back to tell him why he killed eight people, though. In fact, he claims that the young woman that was strangled and attributed to him wasn’t actually his doing, and he wants Terry to find out who it was, before anyone else dies. What made Collie go so deep down into the underneath, and can Terry find out without destroying his family any further?

Terry’s homecoming has stirred up all kinds of new trouble, not to mention the trouble that had already infiltrated his family. His grandfather is sinking further and further into Alzheimers (and possibly his uncles), his 15 yr old sister is dating a much older guy (who “smelled of oil, acne ointment, and second-rate pot”) that his parents strongly disapprove of, and the only woman he’s ever loved is now married to his former best friend. Then there’s the other crime family that’s got their eyes and ears on him, and they’re not a peace loving clan like the Rands. There’s also a nosy cop (and family friend) sniffing around, looking for his own particular brand of trouble. Things are slowly crumbling, amidst this eccentric family, and Collie seems to be at the center, but there are plenty of skeletons in this family’s rather deep closets. When the body count starts to rise again, and is unmistakably connected to the girl that Collie claims he didn’t kill

This isn’t just a murder mystery, it’s a book about a brother’s love, a son’s love for his family, and the ties that bind us together. The gritty, nourish undertones only serve to highlight the prose that always hovers right at the edge of desperation, as Terry’s voice carries us through his own self discovery, and his struggle to understand his relationship with his brother and how things could have gone so, so wrong in one long, dark night. Terry is terrified of someday becoming his brother, or succumbing to the disease that seems to be eating his family from the inside out, and his search for answers is eating him alive. Throughout this book, I kept hoping that Collie was innocent, that he didn’t cold bloodedly kill eight people, but he did. All except for one. The race for the true killer is only one of the reasons you’ll be up late reading this. Terry Rand and his dysfunctional family are nothing short of fascinating, yet for all of the dysfunction, their love for each other is fierce and true, and the explosive climax will test that love to the limits. The Last Kind Words will keep you up late, horrify you, and break your heart, and you’ll still want more. Don’t miss this one!

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