Sin Eater

“No curse can harm me. I am a curse.” –Sin Eater by Megan Campisi

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Atria Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Megan Campisi

(3.94 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fantasy Historical Fiction

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: April 7, 2020, by Atria Books

Pages: 304 (Kindle version)

#SinEater #MeganCampisi


Don’t I know by now that folk see their sins in the way they choose?

This is a book perfect for times such as this. Not just because we’re all stuck inside and we can finally read more of the books on our TBR that have been waiting patiently for us to find the time for them. But also because… well, I’ll tell you why, but let’s check out the blurb first…

For the crime of stealing bread, fourteen-year-old May receives a life sentence: she must become a Sin Eater—a shunned woman, brutally marked, whose fate is to hear the final confessions of the dying, eat ritual foods symbolizing their sins as a funeral rite, and thereby shoulder their transgressions to grant their souls access to heaven.
Orphaned and friendless, apprenticed to an older Sin Eater who cannot speak to her, May must make her way in a dangerous and cruel world she barely understands. When a deer heart appears on the coffin of a royal governess who did not confess to the dreadful sin it represents, the older Sin Eater refuses to eat it. She is taken to prison, tortured, and killed. To avenge her death, May must find out who placed the deer heart on the coffin and why.


…the more you live, the more the sinner and the saint can’t be pulled apart. All of us just getting by.

So, that’s the blurb – only, I don’t like that blurb entirely. It doesn’t tell the whole story. And believe me, I know how that sounds. It’s a blurb, for the whole story you would read the book. The blurb gives us the high points, but May’s story is about so much more.

It’s the story about how lives can change in the blink of an eye. We can all relate to that right now. It’s also the story about making the best of those changes and creating a life out of the nothingness that some circumstances bring. Events are happening all around May that she has absolutely no control over. They cause her to grow up fast and to make certain decisions to preserve her own life. If that isn’t a book for today, then I don’t know what is.

I don’t know how to sort this mess. The ways I’ve tried have only put me in danger.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It is fantasy historical fiction and expertly done. The action begins almost immediately and doesn’t slow. Well, I don’t mean like car chases or epic battles; this action was a game of survival and a battle of wits. This is May’s war – a little girl against her world.

This isn’t the rosy story of a cute little girl rising above her troubles on the wings of a magnetic personality and some dedicated friends. No. This is more like a pariah being stripped of everything that makes sense to her who is then only offered hell and chooses to survive through it all by any means necessary. It is dark, it is creepy, it’s about eating food over a corpse. That’s not a pleasant subject, but it is a really good book!



Megan Campisi

Megan Campisi is a playwright, novelist and teacher. Her plays have performed in China, France and the United States. She has been a forest ranger, sous chef in Paris and a physical theater specialist around the world. Originally from California, she attended Yale University and the L’École International de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family. -bio from Goodreads


China Rich Girlfriend (Crazy Rich Asians, #2)

Aiyah, these people aren’t just everyday rich with a few hundred million. They are China rich! We’re talking billions and billions.” -China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan


Author: Kevin Kwan

(3.83 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / Romance

Format: Paperback

Publication Date: May 31, 2016, by Anchor

Pages: 479 (Paperback)

#ChinaRichGirlfriend #KevinKwan #CrazyRichAsians


Beauty fades, but wit will keep you on the invitation lists to all the most exclusive parties.

It is no surprise that I do not come from money. I don’t mind being honest and saying that I wouldn’t know Chanel from Versace from Armani. I might possibly be able to point out a Birkin bag, but only because I’ve seen them on TV – and that’s probably about the closest I’ll ever get to one. Ever.

I loved reading Crazy Rich Asians and I almost equally enjoyed the movie the second time I watched it (the first time I was too caught up in comparisons to really allow myself to enjoy it on its own). Reading China Rich Girlfriend gave me the feeling like I was coming home again, but like someone had renovated and upgraded everything while I was away! Here’s the blurb…

It’s the eve of Rachel Chu’s wedding, and she should be over the moon. She has a flawless oval-cut diamond, a wedding dress she loves, and a fiancé willing to thwart his meddling relatives and give up one of the biggest fortunes in Asia in order to marry her. Still, Rachel mourns the fact that her birth father, a man she never knew, won’t be there to walk her down the aisle.
Then a chance accident reveals his identity. Suddenly, Rachel is drawn into a dizzying world where people attend church in a penthouse, where exotic cars race down the boulevard, and where people aren’t just crazy rich… they’re China rich.


I don’t understand. How can a credit card ever be rejected? It’s not like it’s a kidney!

March Movie Madness continues for me with China Rich Girlfriend, the less romantic, but equally opulent sequel to Crazy Rich Asians. The book was published back in 2016, but the movie is supposedly in pre-production, scheduled for a 2021 release. With all that’s going on globally now, projected dates may get pushed back a little, but hopefully not too much!

Kevin Kwan is a master at crafting filthily affluent characters that – in any other book – we would despise for being haughty and pretentious. But in this setting, the richer they are, the better. With his hand also in the screenplay, I’m sure the film adaptation will be appropriately representative of all the copious fabulousness that follows these well-heeled Asians from coast to coast.

Behind every fortune lies a great crime.

So Rachel and Nick’s story continues, but somewhat belatedly. Several plot points have to be set in motion before we actually get to them. At first that bothered me, but once the story gets going, I didn’t mind missing them through those first few chapters.

The one story that had me clinging to every page was that of Astrid and Michael. Astrid’s character is so regal and protected. The book could have been 100% about her and we still would have had a great story.
But don’t count that as a complaint about the other characters, because we get more Kitty Pong!

Plus, we also added lots of new faces this time around that will add fresh energy to the movie set as well: Colette Bing, a profusely wealthy social blogger; Bao Gaoling, Rachel’s estranged father; and Carlton Bao, the brother that Rachel never knew she had. I can’t wait to see if the actors chosen for these roles match up with how I see it playing out in my head.

Basically, I love it when a book and movie and can come together in perfect harmony, pleasing both the reader and the movie-goer equally. I have high hopes for this adaptation and can almost count on Kwan not to muck this one up. With several of the CRA cast already agreeing to return, a lot of things would have to go wrong to ruin this story.


Kevin Kwan

Kevin Kwan was born and raised in Singapore, where he attended Anglo-Chinese School in the mornings and spent his afternoons either hiding from his Chinese tutor or chasing after neighborhood dogs on his bike. When he was eleven, he moved to the United States, where the next few years were a blur of trying to survive high school, reading too much F. Scott Fitzgerald and Joan Didion, and dreaming of living in New York. -Bio from http://kevinkwanbooks.com/


Blog Tour | First Cut

Blog Tour | “I was being haunted by two women I didn’t even know. One was dead and buried — the other waited for me in the morgue cooler.” – First Cut

**Many thanks to Hanover Square Press and the authors for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Judy Melinek & T. J. Mitchell

(4.10 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Crime Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: January 7, 2020, by Hanover Square Press

Pages: 336 (Kindle version)

#FirstCut #JudyMelinek #TJMitchell #HanoverSquarePress


I wondered, again, if I had mad the right choice in coming to San Francisco. Then again, I had to remind myself, there hadn’t been any choice involved.

Reviewing books isn’t always easy. There are expectations attached to every review you right; publishers want a good review to boost sales, readers want an honest review to fill TBR lists, and authors want outstanding reviews to know that others also love the literary children they’ve released into the world. Sometimes those expectations make a reviewer sentimental enough to bump up a rating – you know, give it an extra star because, hey, it wasn’t terrible.

Don’t get nervous, I am not about to trash this book in the name of keeping things “honest”. Just the opposite, in fact. This isn’t your mother-in-law’s gloppy potato salad that you have to smile and pretend is delicious. This is a Food Network chef’s gourmet potato salad that can more than hold its own at any family reunion picnic. OK, I’ll translate that: This is a good book.


Dr. Jessie Teska has made a chilling discover. A suspected overdose case contains hints of something more sinister: a drug lord’s attempt at a murderous cover up. As more bodies land on her autopsy table, Jessie uncovers a constellation of deaths that point to an elaborate network of powerful criminals — on both sides of the law — that will do anything to keep things buried. But autopsy means “see for your yourself, ” and Jessie Teska won’t stop until she’s seen it all — even if it means the next corpse on the slab could be her own.


Nothing puts a messy homicide investigation out of your mind like a newer and messier one.

When a book has a certain formula that captures my attention, I get a little giddy; and this one fits the bill. It has a flawed, but relatable, main character, love interests to the left and right of her, several mysteries to solve with villains in abundance, and diverse characters that keep the plot moving along at a rapid, engaging pace. There are different voices here, different backgrounds, and varied experiences – even though they all share one basic career category: law enforcement.

I am so satisfied that First Cut is my first blog review of 2020. I mean, I could have really picked a dud to start out the year, but instead, I happen upon this gem of a mystery/thriller! If you’re into forensic-based crime thrillers, check. If you’re into messy little love triangles, check. If you’re into strong female leads working their way into power positions, check. And if you’re into thorough, clever, inclusive storytelling with heart, check, y’all, check.

You aren’t responsible for the things other people do to themselves.


You can find First Cut at any of these major booksellers on January 7th!


Judy Melinek & T. J. Mitchell

Judy Melinek was an assistant medical eaminer in San Francisco for nine years, and today works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland. T.J. Mitchell, is a writer with an English degree from Harvard, who worked in the film industry before becoming a full-time, stay-at-home dad.


The Starless Sea

=> Everyone wants the stars. Everyone wishes to grasp that which exists out of reach. To hold the extraordinary in their hands and keep the remarkable in their pockets. –The Starless Sea / Erin Morgenstern <=


Author: Erin Morgenstern

(4.22 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy

Format: Audiobook

Publication Date: November 5, 2019, Doubleday Books

Pages: 498 (Hardcover)

#TheStarlessSea #StarlessSea


We are all stardust and stories.

In school, I was a Mass Comm major with a minor in English studies. Although a took a couple of Lit classes, I feel woefully unable to put any of my scant knowledge to use at translating this book. And I say “translating” because it really did feel like Morgenstern was writing in a language that was entirely and intentionally foreign to me.

Let’s see what the premise of the book is supposed to be:
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.


What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.


It is a sanctuary for storytellers and storykeepers and storylovers. They eat and sleep and dream surrounded by chronicles and histories and myths.

I finished this book earlier this month and, honestly, my thoughts on it have still not gelled to a point where I feel I have a clear handle on anything that happened in this story. Anything at all! OK, so let me attempt to slip into the skin of one of those omniscient Lit majors and see if any meaning shakes out in the midst of this review.

One of the biggest things that is apparent in The Starless Sea is the symbolism. There are LOADS of symbols, and if you can pin down solid meanings for any of them, any of them at all, gold stars to you.

There are animals: cats, owls, bees; Objects: keys, swords, crowns, and doors; People: pirates, guardians, keepers, acolytes; and honey, honey, everywhere, but not a drop to drink. There is an Owl King, the cats may (or may not) be able to talk, and the workers in the kitchen are way too efficient to be believed. The nearly 500 pages are so stuffed with metaphor that even the best analyst will have a massive task ahead of them to unpack all of the injected meaning.

As crammed as it is with all of the possible interpretations for this object and that, Sea is sadly missing a clearly defined plot or direction. What we understand at first is that Zach (I refuse to use his whole name as it is used repeatedly in the book) finds a book that leads him on an adventure away from reality and into a world of stories. As the days pass, we expect a clear path of action or an understanding that will lead to some enlightened discovery as the final chapters approach. Unfortunately for the readers, The Starless Sea keeps its secrets both in their world and ours.

This is a rabbit hole. Do you want to know the secret to surviving once you’ve gone down the rabbit hole?”

Zachary nods and Mirabel leans forward. Her eyes are ringed with gold.

“Be a rabbit,” she whispers.

Although this book was not my cup of honey, the stories being told within it were the most interesting parts. Maybe if it had just been a book full of all of those short stories, I would have enjoyed it more. But, alas, it was not, and while I was on board for the first half – hoping for a big buildup and an even bigger payoff – neither ever appeared, and that was disappointing.


Erin Morgenstern

Erin Morgenstern is the author of The Night Circus, a number-one national best seller that has been sold around the world and translated into thirty-seven languages. She has a degree in theater from Smith College and lives in Massachusetts.


Little Darlings

⇒”Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw… she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.”⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Crooked Lane Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Melanie Golding

(4.03 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Format: Kindle Version

Expected Publication Date: April 30, 2019, by Crooked Lane Books

Pages: 315 (Kindle version)

#LittleDarlings


She’ll have to put them in the water, if she wants her own babies back … Right under the water. Hold ’em down.

Fairy tales. As children, we love them. They’re the stories of magic and happy endings. Sometimes they can be a little twisted, but we love them for their power to convey simple messages in otherworldly ways. As an adult, I learned that most of the fairy tales I heard as a child were not how they were originally written. They were dark, scary, and didn’t always have a happy ending. And I love them!

Right now my podcast subscriptions are filled with those same types of dark stories. Podcasts like Lore and Tales entertain us with the scary side of folklore; and just like them, Little Darlings will have you guessing about what is real and what is imagined.


Here’s a portion of the book summary…. Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own… creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley- to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

A book of scary stories about twins, for a woman who’s just had twins? How inappropriate can you get?

Let me say that identical twins are creepy enough all on their own. Add in a stinky old river lady, an ancient book of unsettling tales, and a disinterested police force, and you have great ingredients for a harrowing mystery. And in Little Darlings, Golding keeps you guessing from the maternity ward to the psych ward.

The characters are unreliable; yes, nearly all of them. The story development is well-paced – going to from a banal baby birth to a creepy child abduction in short order, building from there all the way up to possible infanticide.

There was a darkness to this, something unknown, the tang of evil.

Soon to be a motion picture, I can guess that the imagery on screen will be as haunting as it is on the page: a traumatized new mom, infant twins that just may be something a little less than human, and more life and death in one town’s rivers than should legally be allowed.

Read his book if you love folklore that crosses the line into creepy. Read it if your favorite Disney characters aren’t the princesses, but the witches. Read it if you get excited just by seeing the word “changelings”. And read it if you want to see what magic one debut novel author can make with one dark little fairy tale.


Melanie Golding

Melanie Golding grew up in a village in Leicestershire. She has been employed in may occupations including farm hand, factory worker, childminder and music teacher. Throughout all this, because and in spite of it, there was always the writing. In recent years she has won and been shortlisted in several local and national short story competitions. In 2016, she graduated from the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, with distinction. Little Darlings is her first novel.


Audible Originals (x3)

⇒I binged a couple – or three – Audible Originals last week. Let’s see how they stacked up to my usual audiobook reads.⇐


Last week was slower than usual at work (thanks spring break), so I popped in my earbuds and binged a few Audible Original audiobooks to see what all the fuss is about.

What fuss? Audible members now have access to at least two free original audiobooks per month. And we get to choose which two from a variety of genres.

These were my picks last week (three because I’m just now getting around to reading them), and a short review of each.

Author: Bryan Burrough

Narrator: Steve White

(3.32 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Nonfiction / True Crime

Published 2019by Audible Originals

Format: Audiobook

Length: 2 hrs 45 mins

#DemonNextDoor


The small town of Temple, Texas, where Bryan Burrough grew up, had harbored a dark secret. One of his high school classmates, Danny Corwin, was a vicious serial killer who had raped and mutilated six women, murdering three of them. Yet the town had denied all early signs of the radical evil that was growing within Corwin. -Adapted from Goodreads

As a true crime junkie, I was immediately drawn to this title. How much better can a crime story get than when it’s being told from someone close to both the victims and the criminal? Although I enjoyed exploring this story about a serial killer I’ve never heard of before, I think the choice of narrator for the audiobook was a curious one. Steve White’s voice, although perfect for book narration, did not convey the serious and grave tones the subject matter deserved. The story is tragic and graphic at many points, but White’s “Mr. Rogers”-style tone forced me to remove a star from my rating.


Author: John Woolf, Nick Baker

Narrator: Stephen Fry

(3.75 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Nonfiction / History

Published: First published October 20, 2018

Format: Audiobook

Length: 7 hrs 33 mins

#VictorianSecrets

Step right up, step right up and don’t be shy—welcome to Victorian Secrets. Over 12 fascinating episodes, Stephen Fry explores the weird and worrying ways of Victorian Britain through true accounts delving deep into a period of time we think we know, to discover an altogether darker reality. –Goodreads description

This book is only available as an audiobook and once you hear it, you’ll understand why. Stellar audio production combined with superbly perfect narration by Stephen Fry make this a book standout effort. And if you’re into spicy British secrets, then this is definitely the book for you! While I found the beginning of the book very intriguing, as it progressed, my interest steadily waned all the way down to the somewhat “unfinished ” ending.


Author: John Scalzi

Narrator: Zachary Quinto

(4.02 stars – Goodreads rating)


Genre: Fiction / Science Fiction

Published: 2019 by Audible Originals (First published October 4, 2016)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 2 hrs 18 mins

#TheDispatcher

Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher – a licensed, bonded professional whose job is to humanely dispatch those whose circumstances put them in death’s crosshairs, so they can have a second chance to avoid the reaper. But when a fellow Dispatcher and former friend is apparently kidnapped, Tony learns that there are some things that are worse than death and that some people are ready to do almost anything to avenge a supposed wrong.
It’s a race against time for Valdez to find his friend before it’s too late…before not even a Dispatcher can save him. -Goodreads description

Easily my favorite of the three audiobooks, The Dispatcher is sufficiently sci-fi enough and thrilling enough to satisfy my reading needs on both fronts. I could easily see the action playing out in my head, and I’d pay for a full-price ticket to see it on the big screen. Plus, let me ask in super-kudos for Quinto’s narration on this one – I’d listen to anything he reads!


Verdict? If you’re an Audible member, give the Originals a try – after all, with everyone else creating original content, why shouldn’t Audible as well? Happy Reading!


Artemis

⇒The author of The Martian takes us to a bubble city on the moon where a smuggler just might become a savior.⇐


Author: Andy Weir

(3.67 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Science Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 305 (Hardcover)

#Artemis


Hey, if you want to play life safe, don’t live on the moon.


I have had Artemis on my TBR for some time now, and I am glad to say that I finally added it to my “Read in 2018” pile because it was a really good book! In recent years I have shifted away from Sci-Fi novels. I called myself branching out into other genres after almost exclusively reading horror, thriller, and sci-fi for many years thanks to my Dad’s reading influence (and the free books he was lending me!). But I’m so glad I picked up this little gem of a book from my local Goodwill store and made it one of my November reads.



Check out the Goodreads blurb for Artemis:     Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. 
Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.


After reading this book, I read other reviews on Goodreads – which is often my habit. I just want to know if any number of people felt the same way I did about the book. Surprisingly, many of them said that this wasn’t the book that they were expecting. Those comments seemed to point to the fact that they didn’t want the sci-fi in this sci-fi novel. Hmmm… As for me, it was exactly the book that I was expecting: a science fiction novel.

He’s right, Dad. I am an asshole. But Artemis needs an asshole right now and I got drafted.

Artemis is the type of book that I read sci-fi for – it’s taut, smart, and still manages to weave saucy humor into every situation – no matter how life-threatening. 
Sci-fi can get technical and often it involves advanced science and math. Those weren’t my favorite subjects in school, but I love to see how those advanced concepts can be incorporated into a thrilling novel such as this one. Plus, it had maps! And who doesn’t love a great story with maps! Extra points!
Jazz Bashara, the protagonist, is brilliant but in an entirely underrated way. She is strong-willed and smart-alecky, but it only makes her more likable. If you’ve read other some of my other reviews, you know how much I appreciate an “average joe” hero. Her cohorts were varied and interesting, especially her Ukrainian super-hacker friend (what? Every hero needs one), Svoboda.

Artemis was intriguing, action-packed, and big-screen worthy. Four moon-sized stars for this genuine sci-fi story by an author who understands what the genres fans really need to make them happy!

Read an excerpt of Artemis here

(courtesy of andyweirauthor.com)


Andy Weir

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ANDY WEIR built a career as a software engineer until the success of his first published novel, The Martian, allowed him to live out his dream of writing full time. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects such as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He also mixes a mean cocktail. He lives in California.


Look Alive Twenty-Five (Stephanie Plum, #25)

⇒Apparently, Cinderella isn’t the only one leaving shoes behind and disappearing anymore. Trenton has a new kidnapper and, unfortunately, Stephanie Plum is on the case!⇐


Author: Janet Evanovich

(3.99 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Humor

Published November 13, 2018, by Putnam Pub Books

Format: Audiobook

Pages: 320 (Hardcover)

#LookAliveTwentyFive


Once again, the key to true happiness is lowered expectations.


What do you love about your favorite literary characters? Are they intrepid travelers? Ultra-genius spies? Are they strong-willed detectives? Beautiful romantics?

Why does that particular character stand out to you? Are they creative problem-solvers? Handsome mavericks? Are they earthy survivalists or alien wise men/women? Are they powerful and heroic or freaky and flawed? Lovers or fighters?

Most consistent readers have at least one lit character that they label as a favorite for one reason or another. One of my faves is Stephanie Plum. Steph is the protagonist of Evanovich’s Plum series that began with the book One for the Money (You may have accidentally seen the 2012 movie adaptation of that book starring a brunette Katherine Heigl – if you did, I won’t judge you because I’ve seen it more than once). The reason I like Stephanie Plum is that she is quirky, energetic and ultimately average, but – when pushed – she becomes brave and heroic. Maybe I see a lot of who I am and who I’d like to be in her.

I’ve been following this Evanovich character from Book 1, so I feel like she and I are friends. I’ve made decisions on love and doughnuts for her (we agree on Boston Cream doughnuts, but she’s stubbornly resistant to my plans for her long-term hookup with Ranger), and her family and friends are as familiar to me as my own. That is why each time one of the Plum books is released I eagerly devour every chapter. Although my anticipation for Look Alive Twenty-Five was no different, my overall opinion at the end of the book definitely was.


Here’s the Goodreads blurb for Look Alive…
There’s nothing like a good deli and the Red River Deli in Trenton is one of the best. World famous for its pastrami, coleslaw and for its disappearing managers. Over the last month, three have vanished from the face of the earth, the only clue in each case is one shoe that’s been left behind. The police are baffled. Lula is convinced that it’s a case of alien abduction. Whatever it is, they’d better figure out what’s going on before they lose their new manager, Ms. Stephanie Plum.


Some readers characterize themselves as “mood readers”. When I’m not under blog or release-day deadlines, I’d say I fit into that category.  One of the reasons I look forward to these Plum books is because I can always count on them for genuine LOL comedy. That’s the feel-good mood that I want to be able to always count on. I want those actual, literal laugh-out-loud moments.

Stephanie’s antics and those of her friends and family – particularly Lula and Grandma Mazur – have sent me into side-splitting spasms. I mean happy tears rolling down my face and everything! I kept waiting for that moment to happen in LA25, but it never came. I was underwhelmed.

I’m like an inept pet, beloved but pretty much a disaster.

The story started off well enough – favorite characters in their true forms doing wackadoodle things and actually achieving little or nothing. Usually, that formula is hilarious; however, in this book the wacky seems more nonsensical than usual, and the buildup to action goes on for far longer than necessary.

So what could have made it better? Here are some of my unprofessional but I’m-seriously-invested suggestions:

  • More, more, more Grandma Mazur. She’s the sole source of so many LOL moments and this book needs more of them and her.
  • Less Wulf. Correction, no Wulf. He is annoying and even though I do get the Wicked series tie-ins, Wulf’s paranormal presence in all-too-real Trenton, New Jersey feels like too much of an incongruent twist when compared with the rest of the action.
  • Pacing. The daily grind for Stephanie and Lula at the deli feels too much like reading about someone’s whole day at a real job. That’s not why I read these books. In fact, that’s the exact opposite of why I read these books.
  • No car explosions! Did I miss a chapter? Usually, I can count on someone blowing up one of Stephanie’s cars in some dramatic fashion. But not in book #25. So disappointing.

Normally, I would be the very last person to have even one critical thing to say about one of Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books; however, her latest effort left me wanting more (or less). Even so, I’m not yet soured on the series, and I am still looking forward to Book #26.

Read an excerpt of Look Alive Twenty-Five here.

(courtesy of evanovich.com)


Janet Evanovich

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Janet Evanovich is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum series, the Lizzy and Diesel series, twelve romance novels, the Alexandra Barnaby novels and Trouble Maker graphic novel, and How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author, as well as the Fox and O’Hare series with co-author Lee Goldberg. 
(Bio from Goodreads)


Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein #1)

⇒My October Spooky Reads book #2 is Prodigal Son, Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein #1. The monster has become a face-tattooed monk and his creator is plotting a global takeover with a pack of perfectly placed zombies!⇐

by Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson
SmellRating4
(4.02 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published January 25, 2005, by Bantam

Genre: Fiction / Horror / Thriller

Format: Paperback

Pages: 469

#Prodigal Son   #Frankenstein

Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, #1)He cannot understand why Father would create him to be… dysfunctional. Father seeks perfection in all things.

Say “Frankenstein” to almost anyone and you can just about guess what image pops into their brain: a big, green, rectangle-headed monster with crazy stitches marking where his body parts have been sloppily meshed together.

Whether you’ve read the classic novel by Mary Shelley or seen any of the many movies about this well-known scary guy, you come to realize that the monster isn’t, in fact, the raging creature that terrorizes a town. The monster turns out to be that creature’s creator, Dr. Victor Frankenstein.

It’s still hard to separate the name from the creature,  but leave it to Dean Koontz to figure out a way to do just that. Not only do we see the “monster” as a man, but we also see the hero in him as well.

Every city has secrets – but none as terrible as this.

Here’s the book summary:

Every city has secrets. But none as terrible as this. His name is Deucalion, a tattooed man of mysterious origin, a sleight-of-reality artist who’s traveled the centuries with a secret worse than death. He arrives as a serial killer stalks the streets, a killer who carefully selects his victims for the humanity that is missing himself. Detective Carson O’Connor is cool, cynical, and every bit as tough as she looks. Her partner Michael Maddison would back her up all the way to Hell itself – and that just may be where this case ends up. For the no-nonsense O’Connor is suddenly talking about an ages-old conspiracy, a near immortal race of beings, and killers that are more – and less – than human. Soon it will be clear that as crazy as she sounds, the truth is even more ominous. For their quarry isn’t merely a homicidal maniac – but his deranged maker.

My origins are a prison graveyard, the cadavers of criminals – combined, revitalized, reborn.

As the book opens, we see that both Dr. Frankenstein and his monster have achieved a level of immortality (200+ years of it) and find themselves living in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Nope, not joking.

Dr. Frank – now going by the name Victor Helios – has become a local entrepreneur. In public, he is a do-gooder and a powerful, influential man. But behind the scenes, he is creating a New Race of people – having perfected the method he used to create his first “person” so many years ago. As he strategically places his minions in key positions within the police force, religious institutions, healthcare, and government, his plans to achieve a future global takeover are coming together.

Frankenstein’s original monster – who has given himself the name Deucalion – spent time in the mountains of Tibet becoming a monk and getting all zen and stuff. Not kidding. He had to find a way to suppress his rage, the monks accepted him (warts and all), so he stayed. That is, until, he receives a letter from a trusted friend telling him that Dr. Frank is still alive and the S*^# is very close to hitting the fan! Deuc high-tails it to NOLA to finally confront his creator and try stop him from destroying everyone on the planet.

One man’s resistance, while admirable, cannot turn back the most titanic forces of nature.

As powerful as Deucalion is, he isn’t battling old Frank alone. He’s hitched his horse to two homicide detectives, Carson O’Connor and her partner (maybe eventually boo-thang) Michael Maddison – who weren’t exactly expecting their homicide case to turn into a supernatural saga.

Koontz’s writing is as interesting as ever – drawing you into a web of complex characters and laying the foundation for a thrillingly monstrous series. I never would have thought of the story of Frankenstein and his monster this way, but now I can’t wait to see how Deucalion, Carson, and Michael manage to save the world!

There are a whole lot of characters, but you quickly get used to the multiple POVs and all the different “voices”. By the middle of the book, I even began to anticipate which character’s story was coming up next. Don’t take that to mean that I’m calling the story “predictable”, it was… sensible.

If you’re picking this up expecting a bit of a fright for your October TBR, you may be disappointed. There are some gruesome moments, some mystery, and some definitely off-kilter characters, but all-in-all it’s basically more of a thriller than a horror novel.

That does not, however, make it any less enjoyable a read!

Koontz’s Frankenstein series continues:

Book 2: City of Night (2005)
Book 3: Dead and Alive (2009)
Book 4: Lost Souls (2009)
Book 5: The Dead Town (2011)


About the Authors

Credit EngstromKevin J. AndersonDEAN KOONTZ and KEVIN J. ANDERSON

Acknowledged as “America’s most popular suspense novelist” (Rolling Stone) and as one of today’s most celebrated and successful writers, Dean Ray Koontz has earned the devotion of millions of readers around the world and the praise of critics everywhere for tales of character, mystery, and adventure that strike to the core of what it means to be human.

Kevin J. Anderson has written spin-off novels for Star Wars, StarCraft, Titan A.E., and The X-Files, and is the co-author of the Dune prequels. His original works include the Saga of Seven Suns series and the Nebula Award-nominated Assemblers of Infinity. He has also written several comic books including the Dark Horse Star Wars collection Tales of the Jedi written in collaboration with Tom Veitch, Predator titles (also for Dark Horse), and X-Files titles for Topps.

(Bios from Goodreads)


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