Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Festive in Death" by J. D. Robb

Just in time for Christmas!  I try to get on the library list for the J.D. Robb books as soon as Nora Roberts posts her publishing schedule for the upcoming year.  I was on the list for this book in early 2014....then had a baby.  My hold at the library came and went with me none the wiser.  So imagine my excitement when I was browsing for something to read and realized there was an In Death book I hadn't read...and that there was no wait!

Summary:  Lt. Eve Dallas is a murder cop in 2060 New York.  She stands for the victim and gives her investigations 1010% in order to find justice...even when the newly deceased turns out to be an asshole.  When Eve gets tagged on a homicide right before Christmas, she soon finds herself investigating the life and career of a personal trainer found with a bashed in head and long list of enemies.  In classic J.D. Robb style, Dallas must use her best assets--her wits and her colleagues--to solve the latest crime.

What I Liked:  One of the things I really like about the In Death series is how author J. D. Robb inserts humor into what is usually a grisly murder investigation.  There are usually a few genuine "laugh out loud" lines woven into the story, and "Festive in Death" didn't disappoint.  One of my favorite "in" jokes of the book had to do with boozy Santa Eve and her partner Peabody once shared and elevator with.  Upon running into him a second time:
“Well, stop it or . . . Crap, is that Drunk Santa currently mooning passing traffic?”“Wow, that’s some ugly ass he’s got there. It is Drunk Santa. Oh, please, do we have to stop? Think of the smell. Fear it.”“We can’t leave that ugly ass hanging out on Ninth Avenue.” Resigned, Eve started to pull over, then spotted two hustling beat cops. Pitying them, she kept going.“It’s a Christmas miracle,” Peabody said, reverently.”     -J.D. Robb, Festive in Death
If you read my review of "Thankless in Death" you'll know that I was disappointed that Eve's relationships with friends and family was mostly left out of the plot.  I believe that how Eve interacts with her husband makes her relateable, how she reacts to Peabody, McNab and Summerset makes her funny and how she communicated with her friends makes her human.  If you're like me, you'll be happy to know that Roarke and Peabody are central characters and that many of Eve's friends make an appearance, including Mavis, Reo, Nadine, Dr. Mira, Dr. Morris, Charles and Louise and even Dickhead himself.

What Drove Me Nuts:  I don't have any complaints.  I thought this was a solid story with the great dialogue and excellent character building I expect from the In Death brand.

Rating:  Read it!  It was a solid and fast read.

Other Reviews for this Author:  Concealed in Death, Thankless in Death

Reviewed By:  Tami

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"When Christmas Comes" by Debbie Macomber

I picked this book up at my local library's seasonal section.  The book jacket mentioned that it was a Christmas romantic comedy, so I was game to give it a shot.  The I remembered.  Oh Debbie Macomber.  How I forget that your books are written for maiden aunts and sweet Grandmas until I'm at page 50.  And by then I feel committed and just can't quit.

Edited to add:  Rumor (aka Google) tells me that this book has been turned into a movie.  Lord help me, but I have an urge to watch it.

Summary:  When Emily's daughter Heather tells her she's not able to home for Christmas, Emily decides to bring Christmas to Heather.  Using an internet house-swap site, Emily trades homes with a stodgy Harvard professor who wants to avoid the distraction of Christmas all together.

As luck would have it, Emily arrives in Boston to find out that her only daughter has taken off on a motorcycle trip to Florida with her boyfriend and she'll be spending her favorite holiday alone after all.  When Charles Brewster arrives at Emily's home, he's shocked to find that the small town of Leavenworth isn't the small prison town he thought, but Santa's village come to life, complete with sleigh rides, carolers and Christmas lights galore.  Christmas is ruined for both Emily and Charles.

Or is it?  The magic of Christmas has a way of bringing the unexpected to even the most loneliest of Christmases.

What I Liked and What Drove Me Nuts:  I did not like nor dislike this book.  In fact, I feel almost nothing for it.  The plot was sweet and the author had some funny ideas.  In fact, I'd say that this book is perfect for sweet Grannies who like to bake, attend church and don't quite understand modern culture or kids these days.  The characters are all a bit proper and the plot is shiny and pure without a spot of mystery or smut in sight.  There were a few funny moments in the story that I appreciated: a situation with a goat, some sassy elves and adults sledding.  But that was it, and it wasn't enough for me.

Rating:  This book is one of those that tells the reader what happens instead of showing them, and for that I can't recommend it.  This book reminds me of something my Grandma would read.  She's in her eighties, if that gives you any insight.

Reviewed By:  Tami

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"For the Emperor" By Sandy Mitchell

A friend of mine gave me the push I needed to start reading ebooks and said push involved a lot of Warhammer 40,000 books. Also, other friends have been trying to get me to read this series for a while now. 

Summary: This story follows an officer in the Imperial Guard of the Imperium of Mankind in the Warhammer 40k universe. There is a huge collection of books, movies, video games, role-playing games and table top wargames all based in this setting. Humanity is constantly at war with a variety of aliens and internal threats. The Imperial Guard is the largest force of soldiers that stand between the the subjects of Terra and certain doom. There is one particular office in each regiment called the Commissar. It is the duty of the Commissar to ensure the regiment is loyal to the Emperor and ready to serve Him. Commissars are authorized to summarily execute troops under their command, including other officers.

This story follows the exploits of Commissar Cain, a peculiar individual amongst his cadre. Cain is in many ways a psychopath, worrying only about himself with no regard for the well being of his friends and companions. He is constantly calculating the odds of his survival and makes decisions that will maximize it. Despite this selfishness, he is an exceptionally good officer who achieves great feats for humanity and takes good care of the soldiers under him. In fact, Cain is an interesting case-study exploring the idea that a morality can be built out of rationality. That one need not have good intentions in order to behave as a good person.

Anyway, "For the Emperor" starts when Cain is transferred to a new regiment that was formed out the ashes of the 296th and the 301st Valhallans. Both regiments had been severely reduced in their last major battle and many of the officers had been battlefield promotions. Cain comes in as the most experienced leader among them and helps them take the reigns of the rowdy group so that they may once again be a fit fighting force. They are sent to Gravalax where the aliens called the Tau have established a foothold through trading with the locals. The politics are delicate as a war has not started, but the Imperium fears this Tau incursion will lead to a takeover of the planet. Unfortunately, Gravalax is not an important world and few resources can be devoted to the task. Cain and the other leaders are forced to walk carefully in both their fights and their negotiations to resolve the situation.

What I Liked: This is my first ebook and I should note here that I very much enjoyed reading this way. I admit I am addicted to my phone and waste a lot of time on social media or playing with dumb apps. Reading an ebook means I can fulfill my phone addiction and my reading addiction simultaneously.

As for the story, I really liked the narrative style with Cain telling his stories as an unreliable narrator, but then having annotations added in by more reliable source.

What I Didn't Like: My ebook formats strangely, so the footnotes do not work quite the way I want them to.

Rating: Love it! I will definitely read the rest of the series.

Also Read by this Author: Scourge The Heritic, Innocence Proves Nothing.
A side note, Sandy Mitchell is a pseudonym for Alex Stewart.

Reviewed by: Nick

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"Comfort and Joy" by Kristin Hannah

Tis the season to be jolly....or in my case, binge watch Hallmark movies by the light of the tree while sipping hot chocolate and reveling in fuzzy socks. To keep the holiday mood rolling I picked up "Comfort and Joy" at my local library after doing a quick search for Christmas in the online catalog. Did you know there are an obscene amount of books that take place during and around Christmas? I guess I'm not alone in my love for the season.

Summary:  This Christmas is anything but merry for high school librarian Joy, who's recent nasty divorce from her husband has left her shell shocked and depressed. Especially since she walked in on her husband while he was cheating on her. With her little sister. To add insult to injury, when Joy pulled into her driveway after work she sawher sister holding what could only be a wedding invitation. This last act of betrayal spurs Joy into doing something completely out of character. Joy heads for the airport looking to get away from her pain by going anywhere that has an open seat. Joy's purchase of a ticket on a charter plane to Hope, Canada feels like just thing to help her heal in peace. What happens next changes Joy's life forever.

What I Liked and What Drove Me Nuts:  I want to start off by saying that this book was incredibly cheesy. That being said, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. "Comfort and Joy" was easy to fall into, easy to stay into and quite fast to read.  Kristin Hannah has a way of crafting characters that sucks the reader into the story. Point in case: Bobby. I've always had a soft spot for kids, and now that I'm a mom with the associated instincts and hormones, my heart went out to Bobby from his first appearance on the page. He was such a sad little boy who clearly needed something to help distract him from the loss of his mother and his estranged relationship with his dad. His developing relationship with Joy is just what both of them needed to start healing and was one of the best parts of the story.

I found myself feeling a spectrum of emotions as I tried to understand Joy. Joy is so sad and tired and love starved that I found myself feeling more sorry for her than relating to her. I couldn't--and didn't want to--put myself in her shoes. What I find masterful is that Joy wass clearly depressed and Kristin Hannah crafts Joy in such a way that the reader feels what someone in Joy's life would feel: empathy, frustration and a little bewilderment. Towards the middle/end of the story Joy eventually finds herself and with that the courage to go after what she needs which gave "Comfort and Joy" the feeling of hope and magic all Christmas stories need.

I was also drawn to the resort on the lake. For as long as I can remember I've been fascinated with the idea of running a B&B (which is ridiculous as I can barely cook and dislike body fluids.) The little run down resort in the Pacific Northwest sounded absolutely lovely and like the perfect place to recharge and heal.

There were two moments in the story that were "HOLY COW" moments for me. I can't say more without ruining the surprises for others that may want to read this book, but I will say that I didn't expect either of the moments. This is some feat as I pride myself on my ability to predict what's going to happen next in holiday movies/books. In fact, I might even read the book again to see if I can spot the signs of the second big surprise before the reveal.

Rating:  This is worth a read, but only if you secretly like Hallmark movies.

Also Read by this Author:  Firefly Lane, Winter Garden

Reviewed By: Tami

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Blood Magick" by Nora Roberts

Summary:  Branna O'Dwyer and Finbar Burke consummated their young love one magical night when they were teenagers.  What should have been the start of a lifetime together instead tore them apart as a mark developed on Fin that same night---a mark that branded Finn a descendant of the ancient enemy of the O'Dwyers, the evil sorcerer Cabhan.

Now that the final fight between the current Three and Cabhan looms near, Branna must learn to not only accept Finn's help in the battle against Cabhan, but to decide once and for all if she'll let the curse laid by Sorcha dictate her life and relationship with Finn.

What I Liked:  My favorite part of a NR trilogy is her attention to family dynamics and how the interactions between brothers, friends, or in this case, cousins, flavors the individual characters and the essence of the plot.  In “Blood Magick”, main character Branna is independent with a bit of a stubborn streak.  Branna feels the burden of her heritage more heavily than her brother Connor or cousin Iona.  That feeling combined with her preference to do things her own way and her refusal to accept the help of others is one of the main obstacles she must face in the cousin’s fight with Cabhan.

I also found myself drawn to the slices of every day life NR wove throughout the main story.  While the main focus of Blood Magick is the looming magical battle with Cabhan, I found the every day scenes of family holidays, a New Years party and the in and out of Branna's life at the shop just as - if not more - fascinating than the magical parts.

What I Didn't Like:  This is first and foremost a romance novel and I felt that the overall romance between Branna and Finn was a bit lackluster.  Branna and Finn's story was all about overcoming forbidden love, but instead of the heart wrenching sadness of a couple torn apart or the soul numbing sadness of true love denied, the romance just felt...tired.  Almost like Branna and Finn were too tired to fight for their love any longer.

I also couldn't get into the rhymey rhymey spell casting.  But perhaps spending my formative years reading Harry Potter has left me a bit skeptical of spell casting.

Rating:  This was not my favorite Nora Roberts book nor my favorite Nora Roberts trilogy.  That being said, fans of Nora Roberts trilogies (especially those that liked the Key trilogy, Sign of Seven, and Circle trilogies.)

Also Read By:  I've read almost all of Robert's catalog, which you can find at her website.  You can check my other reviews on Robert's books by searching for Nora Roberts in the quick search on the right hand side of the page, or by clicking individual links here:  Shadow Spell   |   Dark Witch   |   Thankless in Death   |   Concealed in Death  |  The Collector

Reviewed By:  Tami