Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Buried Book by D.M. Pulley

Synopsis From Back Cover:

When Althea Leary abandons her nine-year-old son, Jasper, he's left on his uncle's farm with nothing but a change of clothes and a Bible.

It's 1952, and Jasper isn't allowed to ask questions or make a fuss.  He's lucky to even have a home and must keep his mouth shut and his ears open to stay in his uncle's good graces.  No one know where his mother went or whether she' coming back.  Desperate to see her again, he must take matters into his own hands.  From the farm, he embarks on a treacherous search that will take him to the squalid hideaways of Detroit and back again, through tawdry taverns, peep shows, and gambling houses.

As he's drawn deeper into an adult world of corruption, scandal, and murder, Jasper uncovers the shocking past still chasing his mother - and now it's chasing him too. 

Why does it seem that the vast majority of publishers synopses either exaggerate an aspect of the book, or take you in a totally misleading direction?  Half the time when I sit down at the computer to write a review, I want to rebut an aspect of the synopsis, but I'm going to reign that instinct in this time around.  It's not that the inconsistencies don't bug me, because they do, but it's rather that I'm too tired to write my own synopsis, and the issues I have with the publisher's version aren't bugging me enough to force my hand.

And I think that's the overriding feeling I have towards the book as a whole.  I'm simply apathetic towards the finished product, and I have no clue on what to say about it. If I could state I loved it, or even hated it, that would be one thing.  I could then pull it apart, highlight the reasons behind either feeling, and finish with why I think you should or shouldn't read it.  Rather, I find myself in this rather limbo like existence, and I feel horrible about it.  I didn't like it, nor dislike it, and that's all I can really say about the story itself.

Regardless of my antipathy towards the book, I'm absolutely enthralled by the hero of the book, Jasper.  I don't think it's possible for me to come across a fictional kid, and love them more than I do him.  He has to be the bravest, most stubborn, and determined character I've come across in a very long time.  I do think he acts a little too old at times, and I'm not really sure an actual nine year old would have acted in the manner he did, but I really wish I would have been as brave as him at that age.  If I ever read this book again, it will be because of Jasper.

I would like to thank Lisa of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read more reviews.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Evensong by Krista Walsh

Synopsis From Publisher:

Author Jeff Powell wakes up to find the impossible has happened.  He is within his own novel - summoned into the fictional world of Feldall's Keep by a spell he didn't write.  One the House enchantress hasn't figured out how to reverse.

When the villain he's been struggling to write reveals himself, unleashing waves of terror and chaos, Jeff must use more than his imagination to save the characters he created - and the woman he loves. 

Trapped within a world of his own creation, he must step outside the bounds of his narrative to help his characters defeat an evil no one anticipated, even if he must sacrifice his greatest gift.  In the end, he has to ask: are novel really fiction, or windows into other worlds?

As a kid, I fell in love with Fantasia and all the promise it held.  For years I would play a game in my head where every character I cam across, be it from books, movies, TV shows, or some other medium, lived in one giant fantasy world.  They formed organizations, opened businesses, built relationships, and fought the bad guys, who happened to be on a neighboring planet.  What all that meant, was that these characters existed outside their creator's mind.  They lived entire lives that were not influenced by their creator's arbitrary decisions.  That last concept is why I fell in love with this book, and why I can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy.

When Jeff wakes up in the world he thought he created, he's just a tad bit confused.  At first he thinks it's an elaborate prank, but quickly decides he is simply dreaming.  He plays along with the characters he though he invented, humoring them when they tell him they brought him there to solve some major problems.  Of course they lecture him a bit on the way he is handling some of the plot points, and quickly inform him that what he's writing is only a small fraction of their daily lives. Over time, as he gets to know them, to understand their history, he realizes that he is in fact in the world he created.  When he is faced wit the death of one of his "creations", a death he did not plan, his world is turned upside down.

To be blunt, I couldn't stand Jeff in the beginning.  I thought he was just a tad bit too egotistical, but he's an author who loves creating worlds, so what else should I expect from someone with a godlike complex.  And for the most part, his characters modeled that attitude.  As he matured, he softened up and I grew to like him.  And oddly, as he became less rigid, so did his characters.  As they turned to face a common threat, they grew as a unit, and really began to understand each other.  The one relationship I never understood or even liked was with the "love of his life."  It made no sense in the structure of the story, and I kept waiting for her to be killed off.  My wish was never granted, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the next two books.

I still don't think Jeff, nor his characters, know whether Jeff dreamed them up, or if he just tapped into their world, influencing their actions when he could.  I don't think I have a strong opinion on it either, and I'm okay with it.  I'm just looking forward to what happens next.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Favorite Fictional Character --- Dr. Beverly Crusher

Given which character I'm featuring this week, what I'm about to say is going to sound rather odd.  I'm not a huge Star Trek fan.  I don't hate it, but I would never actively seek it out to watch.  I'm sure it's been at least 15-16 years since I've seen an episode of any of the TV shows, and the only reason I watched the first Star Trek movie with Chris Pine, was because of Chris Pine.  Like any good kid of the 1990s, I got into Star Trek: The Next Generation more than the original, but if I missed a few episodes or a whole season, it was no skin off my nose.  So you are probably trying to figure out why I would be featuring a character from the Star Trek universe, so I'll tell you.  For whatever reason, boredom probably, I recently downloaded the Star Trek: Timelines game, and now I can't seem to stop playing. The universe is dealing with several temporal anomalies, and every single character who ever existed, along with every single version of the character, are now all smashed together. Dr. Beverly Crusher is not one of the characters on my crew as of yet, but I'm hoping I get her at some point in time.

Of every character created for the franchise, she is my all time favorite. She suffered loss after loss in her life, and she always found the strength to come back and beat it.  She lost her parents at a young age, then her husband dies, leaving her to raise a son by herself.  She pours herself into raising Wesley and becoming a Starfleet Commander.  She is a strong independent woman, and she really cemented herself as my favorite when she went to bat for Hugh, the young Borg that was rescued from his crashed ship.  When those around her, including Captain Picard, wanted to use him as weapon, Dr. Crusher defended him, and did everything she could to make sure he had every chance to become his own person.  Time and time again, crisis after crisis, Dr. Crusher proved to be a deeply talented officer, willing to put the needs of others before her own.  I also thought that of all the main characters on the show, she was the one who seemed to grow the most over the years.  By the end of the series, she was a woman & officer who was not only completely comfortable in her own skin, but supremely confident in who she was, and what she had to offer.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Murder Most Yowl by Quinn Dressler

Synopsis From Publisher:

Cat-sitting is a dangerous business.

Cameron Sherwood turned his back on law enforcement the night his investigation lead to the death of an innocent gay man.  Now Cam spends his time running a business that caters to his favorite animal, cats.  But when Cam stumbles upon the body of a friend while feeding her feline, he can't walk away.  Dealing with a sexy yet stubborn sheriff, a matchmaking sister, and a terrifying blind date, Cam must somehow track down a killer, all while keeping the cats around him fed with is gourmet cat treats. 

Let's be frank.  As much as I love a fiendishly plotted mystery, there are times I just want to read something that I don't have to think too much about.  I want there to be a mystery component, but I don't want to strain my little grey cells trying to figure out who the killer is.  I know that this is where you guys are going to start yelling at me, reminding me of my usual distaste of cozy mysteries, and you would have a valid point.  And I'm going to invite you to keep yelling at me after I say this next bit.  In my experience, most "mainstream" cozy mysteries are about as cookie cutter as you can get.  Half the time I can't tell you who the author is, because they all read the same.  The plotting, character development, and writing style all blend together, creating a very forgettable mess.  There are exceptions to that, and there are even a few authors I do enjoy, Rhys Bowen's series with Lady Georgina being one of them. For the most part though, I tend to have to go into the realms or romance to find the type of light, fluffy mystery I can get into, specifically m/m romance.  I'm sure there are some terrific m/f romance mysteries out there, but if I'm going to read romance, I want it to be relevant to my own life experiences.

And before I get yelled at anymore, I'm not saying all m/m romance mysteries are of the light and fluffy kind, because they aren't, not by a long shot.  I absolutely love the Life Lessons series by Kaje Harper, have been blown away by several Josh Lanyon books, and could name another twenty authors I've enjoyed who take a more detailed, plot driven approach to their mysteries.  But that's not the kind of mystery I felt like diving into when I picked Murder Most Yowl.  I wanted cotton candy, and I got it.

The mystery itself is barely structured, doesn't make a whole lot of sense by the time it's solved, and required me to suspend my disbelief on multiple occasions.  And I loved it.  It's has a quirky sense of humor that I found charming, and two leading men I found to be a blast to hang out with.  In Cam and Jake, I found two headstrong men that just seemed to fit together.  I can't imagine witnessing what Cam did when he was on the force, and come out sane.  I would have more than walked away from my career, I would have walked away from my life, and started over on some beach in Brazil where nobody knew me. In partnering with Jake to solve the murder, he is able to come back to himself a bit, which makes the love that develops between them that much sweeter. My one quibble with the romance is in the way the author broke the tension between them, which in turn allowed them to accept their feelings for each other.  The way it's handled was about as realistic as the mystery component, but strangely I'm okay with it.  When it comes to reading a romance, I don't want real life, I want fantasy.  If I wanted real life, I would read Ulysses by James Joyce, or some other tedious volume that nobody actually reads.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Ninja's Daughter by Susan Spann

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Autumn, 1565:  When an actor's daughter is murdered on the banks of the Kyoto's Kamo River, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo are the victim's only hope for justice. 

As political tensions rise in the wake of the shogun's recent death, and rival samurai threaten war, the Kyoto police forbid an investigation of the killing, to keep the peace.  Undeterred, Hiro and Father Mateo undertake a secret investigation into the exclusive world of Kyoto's theater guilds, where nothing, and no one, is as it seems.  Their investigation soon reveals a mysterious golden coin, a forbidden love affair, a missing mask, and dangerous link to corruption that leaves both Hiro and Father Mateo running for their lives. 

Before I sat down to start this review, I went back and reread my review for the second book in this series, Blade of the Samurai.  I could cheat, copy and paste that review here, with maybe a few edits, and call it a day.  For the most part, it would be an honest review of this book, but blogger ethics are kicking in.  I figure I better get to writing a fresh review to convince you that no matter what, this is a book, and a series, worth reading.

I should start with the similarities, just to get them out of the way.  I love Hiro and Father Mateo.  I would gladly spend the rest of my life hanging out and talking with them.  I have a preference for Father Mateo, but it's a slight one as both are well written and fascinating to read.  Despite my love for the two protagonists, I'm still wishing I could get lost in the setting more.  While I think the author builds a realistic, and three dimensional world for the reader to explore, I still don't get the impression that Hiro and Father Mateo belong exclusively to feudal Japan.  I could just as easily see them in modern day New York, and while I love them both, I wish that wasn't so.

The biggest difference between the two books for me was the atmosphere of the book.  This was one just a tad bit darker, a little heavier, and I loved it.  I want a mystery book to envelope me when I'm delving into it's pages, and this one did.  It had enough twists and turns to keep me guessing, and I had to force myself to put it down when my attention was needed elsewhere.  I'm really needing to go back and read the two books I've missed in this series, since hanging out with Hiro and Father Mateo is quickly becoming one of my favorite pastimes.

I want to thank Lisa of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Favorite Fictional Character --- Underdog

I always find it fascinating when a fictional character is created for a single purpose, but ends up being so much more than that. Many times they are created as an advertising gimmick used to sell toys, greeting cards, cat food, and just about anything else you can think of.  Some of them, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as an example, prove to be so popular that most people don't realize they were originally created to by an ad agency. There are some of that never leave the realm of advertising, Tony the Tiger for example, that still somehow manages to become bigger than the product itself.  The guy, while not as huge as Rudolph still managed to follow in his footsteps, and become more than the cereal peddler he started off as.

The superhero who always spoke in rhyming couplets, Underdog was the brainchild of General Mills, the company behind many of my favorite cereals from childhood. He, along with Tennessee Tuxedo, proved to be so popular they got their own cartoons, comic books, and merchandise.  Much like Superman, Underdog hid his greatness behind a mediocre front, Shoeshine Boy. They shared many of the same superpowers, and even had a familiar catchphrase, but that's were the similarities end.

Where Superman was focused on saving the world from extensional threats, Underdog was more concerned about saving his girl from the nefarious villains who just couldn't leave her alone.  And while he did in fact have great superpowers, he could never finish a episode without flying into a building, or causing so much collateral damage that I can't even begin to imagine the cost of his cleanups.  I would have suggested Karate Kat, who was a janitor by day, for cleanup duty, but he didn't come around until decades later. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Mark Park and the Flume of Destiny by Brian Olsen

Synopsis From Publisher:

Mark Park is model-handsome and strong as an ox, but thinking has never been his strong suit.  When everyday machinery turns murderous, Mark will have to strain his brain to keep his friends and family safe.  An amusement park holds a deadly secret and his roommates are in for the rides of their lives, but Mark will have to venture alone into a whole new world, a world where all his strength is useless and only his underused intellect can save the day. Can Mark solve the mystery of the flume before the people he loves are lost to him forever?

I think most of you guys already know about my childhood years spent traveling with a carnival, so when I figured out that an amusement park is one of the star attractions of the book, I couldn't wait to dig in.  I had already read the two previous books, and I fell in love with the roommates and this weird mix of science fiction, urban fantasy, and horror.  The fact that the author has a twisted sense of humor that is evident on every single page, and I knew I would love this one just as much as I did the first two.  I was right.

Mark is one of those guys that can get any woman he wants, and he has, but it's not enough for him anymore.  The events over the last two books has Mark thinking towards the future, and he's tired of sleeping with random women, and not remembering their names the next day.  He's not sure what he wants out of a relationship, or even out of life, but he knows that what he's been doing, isn't working anymore.  It's with this confused outlook on life that Mark is forced to deal with yet another extensional threat to the human race.

This time around he, the rest of the roommates, and their friends, are facing another incarnation of the artificial intelligence born out of Amalgamated Synergy, except this time around "she" has a younger brother.  That's right, another company has spawned it's own mind controlling entity, and this time around he like makes machines do whatever he wants them to do.  Add in the mad scientist from the previous book who is intent on building doppelganger clones of the first mind controlling monster and a dead actress, and the roommates are in trouble.  They have to face a brain erasing carnival ride, a visit from Mark's multi-cultural family, explosions, a body count larger than the two previous books put together, out of control construction equipment, betrayals out the wazoo, and the lead human bad guy, that I'm still in love with, but just can't seem to get his act together.  I really do understand where he is coming from, and I feel so bad for the pain he goes through in this book, but what he's doing is wrong.  He's fighting fire with fire, and the fire he's using, can't be controlled.

But it's Mark that's the star of this show, and boy does he pull it off.  He tests himself in ways that I'm not sure he thought he would be able to pass.  I'm actually pretty sure he was expecting to fail this one.  He saves everyone else, and is ready to get lost in the shuffle, but he shows a strength of will that surprises everyone, himself included.  He comes out stronger for it, and he quickly became my favorite of the four roommates.
Other Books in the Series:

Alan Lennox and the Temp Job of Doom
Caitlin Ross and the Commute from Hell