Quick Book Review- Deathwatch by Steve Parker

February 12, 2014 Leave a comment


I’m still relatively new to the world of Warhammer 40K fiction. I’ve gotten to know the Inquisition thanks to Dan Abnett’s novels. I’ve also done a bit of adventuring with the Imperial Guard via Sandy Mitchell’s first Ciaphas Caine omnibus. I really loved those books.

Deathwatch is my first Space Marines novel and I really did enjoy it. The characters of Talon Squad were the highlights of the book. I really enjoyed getting to know them and watching them bond via Deathwatch training and their actual mission. The book’s weakness was that it was a dual narrative that focused on the Inquisition from time to time and it tended to slow things down. The characters and action there were not as interesting. Plus the nature of Talon Squad’s mission was a little predictable.

All in all though this was a fun novel with character you cared about and some great action especiallySteveParkerBW when the protagonist Karas, a Psyker Space Marine got to cut loose with his powers. I hope Mr. Parker gets a chance to tell another novel length adventure featuring Talon Squad.

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Book Review- “The Gods of Guilt”

January 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Gods of GuiltIn 2005 I was a huge fan of Michael Connelly’s police procedurals starring LAPD detective Harry Bosch. So I begrudgingly let the writer introduce me to a new protagonist, defense attorney Michael “Mickey” Haller, even though court room thrillers were not really my thing. I ended up liking the “Lincoln Lawyer” (the book where Mickey was introduced) though. I also enjoyed Mickey’s return appearances in the novels “The Brass Verdict” [2008], “The Reversal” [2010], and “The Fifth Witness” [2011]. It’s been a couple years since we’ve seen Mickey though and I didn’t realize how much I missed him until I read Connelly’s latest book “The Gods of Guilt” which is hands down the best novel in the Lincoln Lawyer series and one of the best novels he’s ever written.

When we last saw Mickey in “The Fifth Witness” it looked like he was going to turn over a new leaf and run for the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. When we meet him in “The Gods of Guilt” though he’s still a defense attorney. We don’t find immediately find out why, but when we do it’s a pretty shocking reveal and it’s clear that Haller is a haunted and damaged man. It’s fascinating watching him deal with that damage and try to come to terms with who he is and what he does, and of course it’s also fascinating to watch him do what he does best. So “The Gods of Guilt” is a great character study of a deeply flawed, but cunning and brilliant lawyer who has to beat both his personal demons and the evidence that’s stacked against his client.

Mickey isn’t the only great character in “The Gods of Guilt.” We also get to spend some time with some great familiar characters like his imposing investigator Cisco, and his loyal driver Earl, but we also meet some interesting new new faces like young lawyer Jennifer Aronson, the newest recruit to the Michael Haller and Associates Law Firm. The antagonists of the novel, once they reveal themselves, are also quite interesting. They’re believeable and and fun to watch in love to hate them sort of way.

The case Mickey and his colleagues are up against is a labyrinthine and twisting mystery with personal stakes. That’s because a former client of Mickey’s, a prostitute he believe he helped quit the life, is dead and the Lincoln Lawyer must help acquit the man accused of her murder.

Mickey’s quest to clear his client’s name leads to an investigation with a ton of exciting twists and turns. The pacing of “The Gods ofGuilt”is phenomenal. There’s never a dull moment. Even the time jumps are handled perfectly. During those moments you’re left wondering what happened in those gaps and then you slowly find out in exciting, shocking, and poignant ways that reveal the kind of toll a murder trial can have on the accused and his defense team.

The court room scenes are also incredibly riveting. When you hit the portion of the novel where Haller actually mounts his defense of his client I guarantee you’ll be tempted to read that portion of the novel in one sitting. I did! When a chapter break came I had to pause and catch my breath. I was that invested in the story!

So if you’re a fan of Michael Connelly’s writing, crime novels, or court room thrillers do yourself a favor and read “The Gods of Guilt.” It’s a fantastic novel that once again cements Michael Connelly’s reputation as one of the best crime writers in the business.

Categories: Book Review

Book Review- “The Cuckoo’s Calling”

September 2, 2013 Leave a comment

jk-rowling-the-cuckoos-callingYears and years ago, a friend introduced me to the Harry Potter series and as we were listening to the first three books on audio (this was before “Goblet of Fire” had been released) I was struck by a few things: the quality of the characters and the world, and the fact that each of the books was a mystery. Subsequent books in the series further demonstrated author J.K. Rowling’s knack for telling mystery tales. So I thought it would be pretty cool to see what she could do with an adult crime/mystery novel.

When the news broke that she had indeed written one under the psuedonym of Robert Galbraith I was excited, what made the announcement even cooler was the fact that the description of the book, “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” made it sound like something I was going to read anyway. It was a P.I. novel and I’m a sucker for a good P.I. novel. Now having finished it I’m happy to report the book wasn’t just a good P.I. novel, it was a great one.

Of course the heart of any good Private Detective novel is it’s protagonist and with “The Cuckoo’s Calling” Rowling/Galbraith gives an interesting protagonist that you can root for in Cormoran Strike. When we meet Strike he’s haunted by several things. The first is the leg he lost while investigating a crime as a military police man in Afghanistan. The second is the dissolution of his relationship with his temperamental fiance Charlotte, and the third is the home he lost by ending things with her. On top of that his interactions with the world are also colored by the different and sometimes traumatic experiences he endured growing up with his mother. Those experience are part of some interesting character reveals later in the book though and I don’t want to spoil them.

So Strike is good hearted but emotionally battered and down on his luck when we first meet him. Our first meeting with him comes when he literally bumps into a character I really didn’t think I’d like very much, Robin, a temp worker assigned to be Strike’s secretary for a couple of weeks. At first Robin doesn’t seem like she belongs in a crime novel. It’s almost like she stepped out of a romantic comedy. She turns out to be a charismatic, caring, and capable secretary though. So by the end of the novel I was won over and enjoying Robin’s appearances; especially her interactions with her boss.

Robin comes into Strike’s life right as a gigantic case falls into his lap; A lawyer named John Bristow wants Strike to investigate the death??????????????????????????? of his sister a world famous supermodel named Lula Landry. Landry, who was hounded by paparazzi everywhere she went in London, died months earlier in a fall from the balcony of her flat. The police ruled that she jumped, but John Bristow believes that his sister was pushed and he wants Strike to find out the truth.

Strike takes the case and his investigation plunges him into the decadent, deceitful, and even dangerous world of the ultra wealthy. It also gives Rowling/Galbraith the chance to show off her flair for crafting interesting and believable characters like Landry’s family, a designer grieving her death, her drug addicted boy friend, her best friend and fellow supermodel, and an enigmatic and non-wealthy girl she met in counseling.

The most interesting character we meet and get to know though is Strike himself. Like I said earlier when we first met him he’s suffered quite a bit and he’s barely dealing with it. So watching him struggle with his woes and struggling to find justice for a woman who might have been murdered is fun. You get to cheer him on.

The insights into Strike and his investigation don’t come via the usual first person narration found in private detective novels, but that’s okay. Rowling’s prose is exciting and we still get enough of Strike’s perspective and some times we get Robin’s perspective as well.

In terms of pacing “The Cuckoo’s Calling” starts off a little slow as you wade into the investigation of Landry’s death with Strike. Once the investigation heats up though the book takes off like a rocket. It really was a struggle to put down at points, especially near the end. Best of it all, the ending suggests that Rowling/Galbraith has more plans for Cormoran Strike and I can’t wait to see what they are

So, “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” J.K. Rowling (A.K.A. Rober Galbraith)’s first detective novel was a hell of a read. It was as much fan and intriguing as I hoped it would be. If you want to see what Harry Potter’s creator can do with a real world, grounded mystery or are just craving a great detective novel pick it up.

Categories: Book Review

Book Review- “Point & Shoot”

PointShootHEY YOU! Are you looking for something cool to read? Well have I got some good news for you! I just finished reading Duane Swierczynski’s latest novel “Point & Shoot” and I loved it. It’s like a carefully crafted cocktail of the best elements from 70′s and 80s action films, classic conspiracy stories like “The X-Files” and “The Parallax View,” and the awesome mind bending trippy twists of the films of writer/director Duncan Jones. Sound good? Great because now I have even better news. “Point & Shoot” is the concluding volume in a trilogy of novels starring police consultant, turned house sitter, turned target of a shadowy conspiracy Charlie “Unkillable Chuck” Hardie. So if you haven’t read the first book in the “Fun & Games” go do so now. Don’t worry we’ll wait.

Okay. You’re back. That was fun wasn’t it. How’d you like the ending? Don’t worry it’s picked up in book two of the series “Hell & Gone.” You should really go read that too. It’s cool, we’ll wait.

See what I mean? Wasn’t that cool? Okay now that you’re caught up I can elaborate on my thoughts on “Point & Shoot” because I try to keep my reviews spoiler free, but I don’t think we can talk about this novel without understanding the context of the other two and what they’ve done to Charlie Hardie. So that being said you have been warned. THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD FOR “FUN & GAMES” AND “HELL & GONE.”

“Fun & Games” and “Hell & Gone” came out within a few months of each other and “Point & Shoot” was supposed to follow shortly after, but because the life of a professional writer can become very complicated and some stories demand extra care readers had to wait an extra year for “Point & Shoot,” but as I indicated above the wait was worth it.

“Point & Shoot” picks up right where the agonizing cliff hanger of “Hell & Gone” left us with Charlie Hardie trapped in space aboard a satellite and forced to do the bidding of his enemies, the shadowy conspiracy known as the Cabal, in the hope that they’ll leave his ex-wife and son alone. Swierczynski makes you feel Hardie’s loneliness right away.

Then suddenly someone is knocking on the door of Hardie’s satellite. I can’t say much about Charlie’s rescuer without spoiling some fun and very swierczynskicool reveals. What I can say though is this is where a large part of the novel’s fun and trippy head twists come from. The first quarter of the book is almost a psychedelic sci-fi movie as you watch Hardie and his would be rescuer interact.

What goes up must come down though, and in the second quarter of the book that’s the satellite that Hardie and his rescuer were on. Once the Satellite crash lands “Point & Shoot” transforms into another fun genre that Swierczynski expertly handles, the buddy action pic and road movie combo. Imagine a blending of “Midnight Run” and conspiracy films and you’ll get an idea of the fun of this sequence.

Hardie and his rescuer are on a cross country trip to save Hardie’s family from the Cabal and their foot soldiers, the assassin army known as the Accident People. So the final half of “Fun & Games” is a bloody, action packed thriller as Hardie and his rescuer battle some old enemies in an attempt to save his family.

Those old enemies include Mann, the one-eyed Assistant Director of an Accident People cell that Charlie first matched wits with back in “Fun & Games.” She’s as delightfully evil as she was in that book and in “Point & Shoot” we get to see how she’s haunted by her failures with Charlie in the first book. We also to catch up with Factboy, Mann’s amusing information specialist and Abrams and Doyle the remaining heads of the Cabal, both of whom have physical and mental scars from their battles with Hardie in previous books.

Old friends come back as well like Hardie’s FBI contact Deacon Clarke. In the second half of “Point & Shoot” we get to see some scenes from his perspective and get to appreciate how competent and resourceful he is. Plus we get more with Hardie’s ex-wife Kendra and more with his son CJ. Both are interesting characters. And of course Charlie Hardie himself remains a fascinating and fun character especially in light of all that’s happened to him.

So with old enemies and old friends coming back, and events escalating, it feels like everything is coming full circle in “Point & Shoot. With “Fun & Games” and “Hell & Gone” the writer built a fun and exciting trilogy with an amazing character. And in “Point & Shoot” the writer brings that trilogy to a hell of close.

Categories: Book Review

Book Review- “Cold Days”

Cold Days cover_lgWow! Has it really been 10 years since I first discovered the Dresden Files series of books by Jim Butcher? It really seems like it’s been shorter, but I just checked and yeah I started reading the books right around 2003 when the fifth entry had been released. I read the first two and thought they were just okay, but the third installment in the series “Grave Peril” hooked me. After that the books were consistently entertaining. So much so that they were something I looked forward to reading every spring when they came out.

The series hit a major high in 2010 with “Changes,” the 12th book in the series. “Changes” was a book that paid off so many plot threads and also was true to it’s title. I tried to keep that in perspective when I read the next book in the series, “Ghost Story,” but something about that book just felt off. So I was worried that the series might be losing steam and direction. Well having just finished the latest book in the series “Cold Days” (the 14th book in the series) I’m happy to report that the Dresden Files is still a series that is exciting, and a ton of fun to read.

In “Cold Days” wizard Harry Dresden is trying to get his life back together after having it blown apart in “Changes” and sort of dying in “Ghost Story.” Unfortunately for him the Queen of the Winter court of the Sidhe (AKA Faerie Folk) has other plans. In “Changes” Harry agreed to be her enforcer, the Winter Knight and she plans to make him live up to that obligation.

So “Cold Days” opens with Harry rehabilitating from injuries and adjusting to life in Mab’s fortress. It makes for a few slow chapters, but then Mab gives her enforcer a mission and that’s when the book takes off because that’s when Harry returns to Chicago and the family and friends he left behind.

Harry Dresden is a fun, identifiable, and very cool character, but one of the things that makes his adventures so entertaining is the eclectic cast of characters in his life. Butcher is aware of this and gives them all a chance to come back into Harry’s life in a big way. When they enter the narrative in “Cold Days” it’s in bold and usually heroic ways that will make long time fans of the series clap and cheer. I especially loved the return of my favorite character in the series, former police detective Karrin Murphy.

It was also a lot of fun to see Harry interacting with these characters. I’m especially interested in the dynamic between Harry and Murphy andJim-Butcher-2010-profile_book-jacket-205x300 they got several satisfying moments together. One dynamic that I found myself appreciating more was the one between Harry and his vampire half brother Thomas. I always liked Thomas, but there was something about his scenes with Harry that felt more genuine in “Cold Days.” Their dynamic reminded me of the great bond between another pair of monster fighting brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester of “Supernatural” fame.

I don’t want to get too much into plot because there are lots of twists and turns and Harry’s mission from Mab is complicated by the strange going ons on the island of Demon Reach, which has appeared in several previous novels. Harry uncovers some cool revelations there that make me excited for the book going forward. It also gives “Cold Days” a pretty impressive scope and scale. Harry doesn’t just need to solve a mystery in this book or put down a bad guy. The fate of Chicago and perhaps the world is on the line.

That of course means we get some pretty impressive action scenes. I don’t want to say too much about them for fear of spoiling their surprises, but some of them do rival the craziness of “Changes.” I can tell you that there were many moments in “Cold Days” where I stopped and chuckled at the unexpected and awesome insanity that I had just read.

So all in all, “Cold Days” is a return to form for the Dresden Files series. It reminded me why these books have been such fun and comforting reads over the years, and it added enough new elements to the series to make me excited about where Butcher is going to go next. That’s a pretty impressive feat for the 14th entry in a novel series.

Categories: Book Review

Book Review- Extinction Machine

These past few years Spring has brought more than just nice weather my way. It’s also brought another installment in Jonathan Maberry’s incredibly fun and exciting Joe Ledger series of novels. After last year’s “Assassin’s Code” I had the theory that Maberry was slowly setting up Joe and his fellow soldiers in the Department of Military Sciences as defenders against the supernatural and things that go bump in the night, but now having finished the latest Ledger novel “Extinction Machine” I have a feeling that Maberry is doing something much more exciting and larger; setting up Joe and the DMS as the last line of defense against all manner of weird, and otherworldly threats.

Ex MachineThese past few years Spring has brought more than just nice weather my way. It’s also brought another installment in Jonathan Maberry’s incredibly fun and exciting Joe Ledger series of novels. After last year’s “Assassin’s Code” I had the theory that Maberry was slowly setting up Joe and his fellow soldiers in the Department of Military Sciences as defenders against the supernatural and things that go bump in the night, but now having finished the latest Ledger novel “Extinction Machine” I have a feeling that Maberry is doing something much more exciting and larger; setting up Joe and the DMS as the last line of defense against all manner of weird, and otherworldly threats.

I don’t want to spoil any of the fun reveals, but the otherworldly threat that Joe and the DMS are up against in “Extinction Machine” is alien technology and a sinister cabal looking to exploit it. It’s a big leap forward into a new area of strangeness, especially after Maberry spent a couple of novels dropping hints that the supernatural may be part of Joe’s world, but the writer handles it in style. A sense of dread permeates encounters with possible interplanetary elements, and not everything is spelled out for you. It give those scenes a feeling of mystery and power.

Maberry also pulls off the tricky act of answering some questions about what’s going on with alien technology and grounds it in enough details and UFO folklore to make these “facts” feel real. So some questions are answered, but sometimes answering them raises bigger questions.

It’s also of course fun to see the alien elements bounce of Maberry’s great cast of characters. As always most of the chapters of the book are narrated by Joe Ledger himself, a great blend of the every man and the extraordinary man. Joe’s sarcasm, wisecracks, and affection for his friends and family are all believable and help us identify with him, but Maberry never lets you forget that Joe is not like us; that the price he pays for keeping the world safe is sacrificing parts of himself in order to do the messy and violent work his profession often calls for.

So Joe is a pretty multifaceted character who reacts to things and people in lots of interesting ways. In “Extinction Machine” I especially enjoyed seeing his reactions to a new character, Junie Flynn, an insightful and intelligent conspiracy theorist.

Joe also gets to spend plenty of time interacting many of the great established characters in the series like his enigmatic and bad-ass boss, Mr. 250px-JonathanMaberryChurch; his best friend and the DMS’ resident shrink Rudy Sanchez, his fellow Echo Team members Top, Bunny, and Lydia Ruiz, and his faithful combat trained German Shepherd, Ghost. I especially enjoyed the scenes with Ghost in “Extinction Machine.” I think after reading Robert Crais’ latest novel “Suspect” I’ve come to enjoy well thought and believable animal characters, and in the Ledger series Ghost definitely is such a character. His loyalty to and love for his pack mate Joe shine through in all his scenes, making him just as a fun and exciting character as any of the human ones in the series

“Extinction Machine” also features several other interesting new characters as well. We get to meet some of Echo Team’s latest recruits, and we get to spend time with the main villains of the piece; a brilliant billionaire, his second in command, and their chief assassin who may not be entirely human.

These adversaries are very capable and dangerous too. In fact they accomplish an act that will leave long time fans of the Ledger series shocked and horrified.

Like previous novels in the Ledger series “Extinction Machine” is brimming with action. The pacing is breakneck and as you race towards the book’s climax the scope and scale of the novel just grow exponentially making things even more exciting.

Plus we get a number of great fight scenes. Long time fans of Maberry’s work know that the writer has a background in martial arts, and it shows. In other thrillers hand to hand combat scenes can be fun, but they’re never as fun as they are in the Ledger books. Joe Ledger’s fights crackle and explode off the page. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again when it comes to fight scenes Maberry is the Jack Kirby of prose. No one does them better.

So “Extinction Machine” is the usual literary cocktail of fun action, great characters, and creepy weirdness that I’ve come to look forward to every spring when a new installment in the Ledger series rolls around. Plus it has the great added element of opening up the world of books even further and doing so in a way that was fun, mysterious, and wondrous.

Categories: Book Review

Book Review- “Suspect”

March 15, 2013 2 comments

crais-suspectI discovered the works of crime writer Robert Crais back in 1997 and have been reading him ever since. Over the years his novels have evoked a variety of emotions. They’ve scared me. They’ve excited me. They’ve moved me. And yes, they even made me cry. Usually those tears came about because of an especially emotional denouement. I never cried over the events that happened in one of his prologues until I read the writer’s latest novel “Suspect,” which is a stand alone novel not part of his usual Elvis Cole-Joe Pike series.

My tears came about because in that prologue we meet Maggie, a german shepherd that works for the Marine Corps sniffing out IEDs in Afghanistan. What makes this chapter so powerful is that it’s told from Maggie’s point of view. Crais expertly captures that point of view too. It feels believable. You understand how pure and noble a dog’s love for a human being can be. So when Maggie loses her partner in a surprise attack it’s utterly heartbreaking. I was sobbing by the end of the prologue.

Maggie isn’t the only character in “Suspect” that’s lost someone. The other protagonist is LAPD officer Scott James whose partner was gunned down in a mysterious night time assault that murdered two other people and left Scott severely injured. When the novel opens Scott has just about recovered from his energies and ready to be a cop again. Only he doesn’t want to become attached to another partner. So he transfers to the LAPD’s K-9 unit thinking that his connection with a dog would be superficial at best.

When it comes time to pair Scott with a dog he discovers Maggie who is still haunted by the events in Afghanistan and is considered unfit for duty. Scott is also still haunted by the death of his partner. So sensing a kindred spirit he decides to take a chance on Maggie and see if he can work with her and get her fit for duty.

That partnership between Scott and Maggie is the emotional center of the book, and it’s the reason why “Suspect” is so powerful and moving. Asrobert_crais they train and live together Scott and Maggie heal each others emotional wounds. The scenes are sweet, funny and full of heart. You see things from Scott’s perspective, but you also get Maggie’s point of view too.

I would have been fine if “Suspect” was simply about the friendship between Scott and Maggie, but Crais also give the duo a mystery to dig into that’s pretty compelling. Together the duo set out to find the people that murdered Scott’s partner and what really happened on that fateful night. It’s a harrowing tale too because by the time their investigation kicks into high gear I was so emotionally invested in Scott and Maggie that I genuinely feared for their safety.

Scott and Maggie’s investigation brings them face to face with both fellow cops and some seedy characters. You primarily see these characters through their eyes, but Crais occasionally shifts things and gives readers the perspective of a police detective and even the book’s main villain. It’s an interesting technique that spices up the story.

So ultimately “Suspect” is Robert Crais’ best stand alone novel to date. I’m a cat person, but I was absolutely captivated and tremendously moved by the bond between Scott and Maggie. That’s how good the book was.

Categories: Book Review

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