Category Archives: review

Review: Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

Dear Daughter

After ten years in prison, former party girl Janie Jenkins has been released from prison on a technicality. But rather than use this opportunity to put her life back together, Janie has decided it’s time to uncover the truth of who really killed her mother (Janie was doing the time for the crime) and the motive for her mother’s killing.

Janie hasn’t been wasting any of her time in prison — she’s taken advantage of the prison library to study details on the small town her mother escaped as a young girl. Free again, Janie launches a plan to change her identity and head back to the small town — all while eluding various members of the media who want a photo of the former party girl turned convict and one particular blogger who has an ax to grind with Janie.

If you’re worried I’m giving away too much of Elizabeth Little’s engrossing mystery-thriller Dear Daughter, don’t be. All of what I’ve described above is laid out within the novel’s first fifty or so pages (or if you want to be even more nitpicky, on the cover blurb) and most of it’s set-up for what’s to come as Janie peels back the layers of her past to find out who her mother really was and who might have killed her.

Janie is completely unapologetic for her attitude and world-view, both of which are dour, pessimistic and sarcastic. Janie fills us in on details of her present and past on a need to know basis with hints coming first and then later filling in the necessary details. And while you may think you’ve guessed the ultimate ending to the novel by the mid-way point (as I did), Little is able to still pack in a few twists and pull the rug out from under you moments in the finale that are earned and appropriately foreshadowed.

It all adds up to one of the more impressive mystery debuts I’ve had the pleasure to read of late. It also puts Elizabeth Little firmly on my radar as someone to watch for future installments and see where she goes from here.

I was given a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation — The Light Fantastic by Jeffrey Lang

The Light Fantastic (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Lately I’ve found myself wishing the Pocket Books Star Trek tie-in novels could get a reboot.

I remember the days when you could pick up a Star Trek novel and enjoy a couple of hundred pages with familiar faces and friends from the franchise. There might be a continuity reference to an obscure-to-you episode thrown in or a wink to a previous novel, but it didn’t hinder you from enjoying the story or feeling like you were being left out.

But somewhere along the way, the Star Trek novels have become more insular and dependent on an internal continuity that seems to be growing more complex with each passing novel. With three of the four modern Treks sharing the same publishing universe, it’s becoming more and more difficult for me to pick up and fully enjoy a novel set in them. And it’s a shame because I really enjoy a good Star Trek novel.

The Light Fantastic had the chance to be a really good Star Trek novel. Following up on the success of Mortal Coil, Jeffrey Lang focuses once again on Data and his family. Apparently, Data is back from the dead (because no Trek character killed on-screen can stay dead for long on the printed page) and living on Orion with his daughter Lal and her mysterious “babysitter” Alice. When Lal is kidnapped by Moriarty (seen in two TNG episodes), Data is forced to come out of hiding to try and find his daughter. Seems that Moriarty has figured out that he and his wife are trapped inside a computer bank and not really out among the stars as he thought and he wants to be free with a real body outside the holodeck or computer core.

Lang ties-in a ton of Trek continuity from various television shows, movies and (I assume) books in his story. How Moriarty determines he’s in a computer core and how delicate that life can be is a nice tie-in to events in Star Trek: Generations. And the tie-in of building an android body to a couple of classic Trek installments is also nicely done.

But where the novel falls down is its over-reliance on previous novels in the franchise that I haven’t had the time or inclination to read. I’m going to assume that Data’s return to life is a central plot point of the last trilogy that I didn’t read. And while I could read and enjoy (most of) The Light Fantastic without knowing every single little detail, I still felt like I was missing something by not having spent 900 or so pages with the past trilogy (which was built on the last trilogy which built on a couple of other novels….well, you get the point). It all adds up to a frustrating experience from a book that I was, quite frankly, looking forward to.

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Reviews: Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me

Perusing reviews of Lies My Girlfriends Told Me, it appears the books is a bit polarizing among readers. There are some who call is “ground breaking” while others are quick to dismiss it as your standard teen angst novel.

My thoughts on the subject are that yes, the novel is full of teen relationship angst and that it’s not necessarily as ground breaking as some reviewers would have you believe.

When Alix’s girlfriend Swanee passes away of cardiac arrest during a run, Alix’s entire world is shattered. But not nearly as much as when Alix sneaks into her girlfriend’s room and discovers her cell phone full of voice-mails and text messages from LM. Seems that Swanee had more than her fair share of secrets, including the fact that she was in a relationship with not only Alix, but also this mysterious LM.

Driven by a need to find answers, Alix quizzes Swanee’s younger sister, Joss for clues and eventually begins to answer back the mysterious LM’s texts. Alix eventually founds out that LM is Liana, a cheerleader at another school who Swanee assured Alix she’d broken up with when they got together. Confused, Alix seeks out Liana, wanting to find answers and possibly get some closure. But things get complicated when Alix and Liana share a connection, becoming friends and possibly more. Continue reading

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Review: Star Trek: No Time Like the Past by Greg Cox

No Time Like the Past (Star Trek: The Original Series)

While he’s not quite in the same pantheon as Peter David, Greg Cox still offers up more this fair share of intriguing, well-told Star Trek tie-in novels. So when I saw the cover of No Time Like the Past promised an “epic crossover event,” I was willing to give this blending of classic Trek and Voyager a chance.

And for the most part, it was a fairly fun read, even if I felt like the book overstayed its welcome by about fifty or so pages.

Thanks to some relic in the Delta Quadrant, Seven of Nine is sent back to the era of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. In order to get back and to prevent damage to the future time-line, Seven enlists the help of Kirk and company to reassemble a time-travel device and return home. Pieces of said artifact are scattered across the galaxy, all on planets that Kirk and company visited during the original seventy-nine episodes. Add in that the Klingons are aware of Seven’s presence and potential value and a commodore is up the usual classic Trek standards of cluelessness and you’ve got all the ingredients for a fun, diverting visit to the Star Trek universe.

As he’s demonstrated in the past, Cox has a firm grasp on history — Star Trek and otherwise. That is fully on display here and I’ll admit the classic Trek fan in me ate up the references and returns to some familiar locations.*

* It was almost enough to make me want to re-visit the three major episodes referenced in the story.

But the novelty and fun begin to wear out long before the novel reaches its final pages. By the mid-point of the novel, I found myself growing a bit weary of the constant reminders that everyone wants Seven for her future knowledge and potential to get a leg-up on the balance of power in the quadrant. And the book has to go to some huge lengths to have Seven regenerate since she’s cut off from her Borg cubicle.

It’s not to say the novel isn’t a fun one. It’s just that it feels a bit longer than it needs to be. There’s a bit too much treading water in the middle section and that drags the story down a bit.

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Review: Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)

Jim Butcher’s on-going Dresden Files has been one of the best things in the publishing world for a long time now. Each new book is a must read for me and I eagerly look forward to the moment I can crack the cover and spend a few hundred pages with my favorite wizard, Harry Dresden.

So maybe I had my expectations set a bit too high for the fifteenth installment, Skin Game.

It’s not that Skin Game is a terrible book or a jump the shark moment for the series. But it just didn’t quite thrill me as much as some of the other recent installments have.

In many ways, Skin Game is the Dresden Files’ take on Ocean’s 11. Harry’s boss Mab loans him out as part of a team that is looking to pull off a heist from an underworld safe. The stakes are just a bit higher however than just stealing the (literal) holy Grail. Dresden is paying off Mab’s debts and his own and failure is not an option.

Butcher does a nice job of pulling in a wide variety of familiar faces from the series and reminding us just what Harry stands to gain and lose should this particular assignment succeed or fail. The book also examines some of the impact and consequences of Harry’s decision to become the Winter Knight and to wield the powers and responsibilities that come with that mantle. I have a feeling that Butcher is setting the stage for some other shoes to drop in future novels as well as tying up a few plot threads here so we can start building toward the end game of the series.

As I said before, this isn’t a bad book. It’s just not my favorite in the series. There’s still a lot to love about our favorite wizard and his world and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what Butcher gives us next for Harry and his friends. The Dresden Files is still one of the best on-going series on the market today.

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Review: Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

Goldfinger: James Bond Series 7

Goldfinger was the first Bond novel I read during the summer of between my sophomore and junior years of high school when I got really into the Bond canon. It was a summer when I checked out a LOT of Bond novels from the library, reading them in random order based on the movie titles and which ones I wanted to see.

The last impression I took away from my teenage reading a)that the movie was fairly faithful to the book and b)boy the differences between the book and the movie sure were interesting. For example, did you know in the book that Pussy Galore plays for the other team?!? Well, at least that is until she crosses paths with James Bond and he works the old Bond magic on her!

It was this last tidbit of trivia that I liked to throw into conversation from time to time when it came to discussing the James Bond books and movies.

Alas, this wasn’t necessarily something that came up all that often, so I rarely got to utilize this bit of trivia as much as I might have wanted to.

And so it was that a couple of decades later, I decided to return to Goldfinger. But this time instead of reading the book, I’d give the audio novel a listen. Part of the reasoning went back to the fact that the book and movie are so similar in the basic plot that I could easily listen to it while working out and not be too worried about missing a pertinent plot twist or detail. And part of it was that I wanted to have my impression of the book be more than — holy cow, did you know Pussy Galore played for the other team until she met James Bond?!?

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Mystery Mini-Reviews: The Silkworm, All Day and a Night & And Then There Were None

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike, #2)The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Last year, J.K. Rowling created a bit of buzz in the publishing world when she published a mystery novel under the pseudonym, Robert Galbraith. But once the initial buzz was over, fans discovered that Rowling had crafted an enjoyable mystery novel with The Cuckoo’s Curse and that she’d already penned and the sequel The Silkworm.

As a fan of the first novel, I was curious to see what Galbraith had in store for us with the second Cormoran Strike novel.

Basking in his new-found fame and finally getting back on his financial feet, Strike has more work than he can handle. But that doesn’t stop him from taking a case that may not necessarily mean a huge financial windfall for him (in fact, the client may not be able to pay at all) but has instead piqued his detective’s curiosity. Novelist Owen Quine has gone missing and his wife asks Strike to help track him down. Quine has just written what he believes is his masterpiece, a thinly veiled portrait of various people he knows within the publishing industry. This means there is no shortage of subjects who would love to see the novel never see the light of day and to finally silence Quine’s poison-pen.

Many might say that Rowling is biting the hand that feeds her with a mystery set within the literary community. But that would sell short the intriguing mystery and, once again, the compelling character of Cormoran Strike.

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Catching Up on Reviews 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Double-Booked for Death (Black Cat Bookshop Mystery, #1)Double-Booked for Death by Ali Brandon

When it comes to mysteries, I’ll admit I’m usually drawn more to those with a harder edge. But the combination of a murder in a book store along with a mystery solving cat caught my interest with Ali Brandon’s Double Booked For Death.

Darla Pettistone inherited her aunt’s bookstore in New York City, along with a car, an apartment and a cat named Hamlet. Darla’s working to keep the store afloat and a signing by the biggest name in teenage supernatural literature certain can’t hurt. But Darla wasn’t counting on protesters, long lines of teenage fans in goth outfits and capes and the death of the best-selling author near the premises.

It all seems like an accidental death until Hamlet uncovers a clue that sheds new light on things.

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Review: Personal by Lee Child

Personal (Jack Reacher, #19)

In a bus station in Seattle, Jack Reacher comes across a copy of the Army Times with a classified ad addressed to him with instructions to make contact. Reacher does and is quickly swept up into a race against time to stop a potential assassin from taking out the heads of state of the world superpowers at an upcoming economic summit.

One of the potential killers has a connection to Reacher — he was put behind bars years ago during Reacher’s time in the army. And it appears the potential assassin has an ax to grind with Reacher and wants to take him out as well as the heads of state.

The nineteenth entry in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series Personal is most disappointing one I’ve read so far. Usually the novels narrated by Reacher have been among my favorites in the series, but Personal never quite clicks and spends seemingly long periods of time with Reacher doing little or nothing to impact the investigation or the plot. Part of the problem is that Reacher is part of a team this time around. The character has had help in the past, but he seems less the unstoppable force that he has been in previous novels.

In fact, there were points during this book that I found myself double-checking to make sure this was a Reacher novel and not so other standard thriller I’d picked up. But every few pages, I’d be reminded of Reacher’s love of coffee and diners and the portable toothbrush is the greatest invention in the history of humankind so I knew I wasn’t reading the wrong book.

I’ve made this observation before, but I think it bears making again here. In the past year or so, Child has published several Reacher novellas and stories that felt a bit rushed and left me wanting for more and a couple of Reacher novels that felt like a short story expanded far past their natural length. Personal continues this trend, feeling more like a solid novella or short story than a full length novel.

And while I didn’t love the latest entry in the series, I’m still hopeful that Child will find his grove again for the upcoming twentieth installment in the series.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was given a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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Catching Up on Reviews

Side Effects May VarySide Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

What if you were diagnosed with cancer and only given a few months to live? Would you create a bucket list and start crossing things off it? And what if some of the things on that bucket list weren’t necessarily the most positive things — including getting revenge on your ex-boyfriend and the girl he’d been cheating on you with?

Sixteen year old Alice faces the possibility that she won’t make it to her next birthday and decides she wants to wrap up all her unfinished business before her time on Earth is done. She enlists the help of her long-time friend Harvey, who has carried a torch for Alice for years. As the two cross-off items on Alice’s list, including humiliation for the ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend, they slowly begin to grow closer and fall for each other.

But then, Alice’s cancer goes into remission and she’s suddenly forced to live with the consequences of her actions, including her profession that she will miss Harvey the most. Instead of seeing this as a second chance for life and happiness with Harvey, Alice withdraws further into herself and falls back into some of her bad pre-diagnosis habits, including ditching school and hooking up with a random guy under the bleachers each day instead of going to class.

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