Book Review: Valley of Vice

Title: Valley of Vice
Author: Steve Garcia
Publisher: Diversion Books
Release Date: August 2013
Length: 287 pages (paperback)
Series?: no?
Genre: Crime
Format: e-book
Source: agent

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

18815232

Synopsis

In Hollywood, it’s not just dreams that are easily snuffed out.

When a burned body is found on a studio lot, Detective Salvador Reyes and his partner Detective Philippa Wallace are on the scene. The mystery deepens when they identify the body as a felon named Bartholomew Pearl who should have been in jail for shooting a fellow detective. Then a city official, Theodor Simons, is found dead of an apparent suicide. 

Convinced the deaths are connected, and not everything is what it appears, Reyes and Wallace investigate. Their inquiries take a dangerous turn, pointing to someone in the police department itself. Soon it’s hard to know who is an enemy, and who is a friend.

Review

WOW. I don’t know if I can write a review that does this book justice. Steve Garcia has written an amazing novel that will keep you on your toes. True, there’s not much in terms of character development because it is a crime novel, but the unraveling of the cases that Wallace and Reyes (and the rest of their comrades in blue) will leave you turning page after page after page to discover who is behind all of the murders.

Wallace’s husband works for the FID, and he has become extremely stressed from his work. Finally, one night he tells his wife that they are working on an investigation in two specific PD’s where they think there is a dirty cop. Wallace keeps this thought close, but as things start unraveling it becomes harder and harder to recognize who is truly the good guy, and who is out for himself. I thought several times I knew who the dirty cop was, but I was proven wrong. Very wrong. And this dirty cop? He’s also a raging psycho, but somehow keeps it under wraps while on duty.

Wallace and Reyes are thorough in their investigations into several murders. In fact, they are the first to determine that the first murder and suicide are linked – and that they were both indeed homicide cases. Since FID has stepped in and taken over, there’s little for Wallace and Reyes to actually investigate without overstepping their bounds, so they find ways around it…and as the murders start piling up, it complicates the investigations and adds more and more questions to the mix. All they need is to find a man named Duke, who’s name was left in the councilman’s schedule book. Looking for Duke seems to be a wild goose chase with no leads.

Meanwhile, another pair of partners are sent to work with vice on a male prostitution sting. It’s not the best of assignments, but it’s their job. While working and monitoring the streets, another murder happens just down the street at an infamous hotel known to benefit from the local prostitution.

The officer who went undercover as a male prostitute is the cop who actually ends up identifying the psycho, dirty cop after the FID has essentially given up their investigation and turned over their findings to Wallace and Reyes…but they may just be too late to stop the final hit on his list.

I don’t know what it’s like to be a cop, or work in that environment, but I do believe that Gracia has strongly captured this in his novel. The relationships between partners, and others in their workforce, seems to be spot-on and adds to each character and gives authenticity to the novel as a whole.

I would definitely recommend this read! It is a very well-spun and slightly chilling read. I will admit: I read the entire novel in two settings, it was that good.

Book Review: Stalking Sapphire

Stalking Sapphire by Mia Thompson (2013)

cover art

cover art

Genre: fiction, mystery, suspense, thriller, chick lit

Sapphire Dubois is not the typical Beverley Hills girl, but to all eyes she appears to be. She surrounds herself with people to fill her life and give her the look of the snobby, rich bitch. She detests having to date a douchebag, attending charity galas, going the the country club, seeing her mother’s infidelity and wearing $400 pajamas….OK, maybe not that last one.

It’s all a persona, because underneath it all Sapphire is an independent criminal detective. She operates on her own, does her research and leaves the bad guy (or girl, she doesn’t discriminate) in a bind and masks her voice as she calls the local police. She has solved six cases in the last two years that she’s been fighting crime, and semi-regularly visiting and confiding her side-work in a priest, Father O’Riley, at a Catholic church in San Diego.

Sapphire’s snobby friend, Chrissy, drags her to this charity event where she runs into newly promoted and transferred Detective Aston Ridder. He’s got a bum leg and got a demotion via promotion via transfer from downtown LA to picture-perfect Beverly Hills. He does his usual – takes Sapphire home, sleeps with her and then throws her out. Only, she gets the last laugh…

All the while, Sapphire keeps getting the feeling that someone is watching her – and then she knows for sure when a personal memento is stolen from her vehicle – parked right in front of the BHPD. And whoever it is wants Sapphire to pay – in blood.

Mystery Murder Man has Sapphire stumped, and he’s also sending her pieces of a missing girl. Sapphire’s onto Aston that he’s following/stalking her. It’s not clear to Detective Ridder, or even Sapphire, why Mystery Murder Man is sending Sapphire appendages of a certain middle-class girl, Shelly…until she shakes Aston, hotrods to San Diego, breaks into the McCormick house and discovers a brief entry in Shelly’s diary mentioning one Father O’Riley….

She’s also seeing her trainer show some feelings for her. She gets dumped by her boyfriend and she lashes out at Chrissy. Meanwhile, Aston’s having to fend off Sapphire’s mother, Vivienne, who uses men like tissues behind her elderly, disabled, nearly-vegetable husband that she overtly neglects. Talk about a viper! On top of it all, her friend and housekeeper Julia is engaged – which really shows the double sides of Sapphire.

For explicitly stating all she did in the beginning of the book about wanting to be different than all the other Beverly Hills rich women, she sure is acting like one of them with Julia. It’s strange to see such  jealously from a female character in this way, and especially cruel comments made directly to the reader about Julia’s choice…and then she blows up on him, insisting he’s the accomplice the first time she meets him! Needless to say, Sapphire is so bent on catching this serial killer that she’s not firing on all cylinders and is itching to capture him. Rushing leads to sloppiness.

The Mystery Murder Man is indeed only one person – and someone Sapphire knows! But the least-likely person she would suspect….

The book has a few light twists at the ending, but Sapphire showed some character development and is able to let Julia go, peacefully. She also confronts her mother about a question that’s been burning in her heart for her entire life – which was quite a surprise, as it never really came up at any time during the novel. Things are left unresolved between Sapphire and Aston, especially after her big announcement…and another crazy is on the loose – and he’s looking for Sapphire!

-CA

Book Review: Too Dark to Sleep by Dianne Gallagher

51Q0o47h5xL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-67,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

This is another book I reviewed for I Read a Book Once:

This is an incredible piece of work that grabs on and doesn’t let go, much like the dark that stalks the main character. I am very happy that this is going to be a series, because the characters, the plot, the writing is superb. Here is the synopsis from Amazon.com:
Avid readers of crime fiction, noir or psychological thrillers will find Too Dark to Sleep a fresh take on their favorite genre. This is the first book in a gripping new series and not to be missed. Maggie Quinn was the top homicide detective in Chicago’s Area One before she suffered a devastating loss. Now struggling to face each day, Quinn becomes obsessed with solving her last case for the department that now bars her from wearing a badge. But is she targeting the right person or is Quinn’s tormented mind pushing her to ruin the life of an innocent man?

I don’t read too many from this genre, but from my limited experience, I can tell this book is different.
The main character, Maggie Quinn, is deeply troubled, still grieving an immense loss, and is afraid of the dark. But, she has the best solve rate out of any of the detectives in her office, and is the best they have.

She also has a father who works for the “Outfit”, read mafia, and is still helping out his daughter from behind bars.
The police request her help when a probable serial killer strikes again. Maggie was the detective that worked the first two, and her police chief is consulting her to help solve the case.

I loved the description of how Maggie processes a crime scene. Her techniques, the way her mind works. I am a fan of Forensic Files, but most of these shows do not go into the exact details that the detectives use to solve the crime.
The stigma of mental illness is very present in this book. Maggie is literally devastated after her loss, and her father is now paying a nurse to live full time with her. The nurse makes sure she eats, sleeps, changes clothes and is protected from herself.

This leads to complications when Maggie goes back to her office on a consultant basis. Her involvement in the case causes objections from some of her former coworkers. She is paired with a new detective who has his own issues.
Together they work to catch the killer that leaves absolutely no trail. Who enjoys taunting the police, and will go to any lengths to maintain his reputation, his lifestyle and his habit of murder.

The one thing that was difficult to me, that I will state here for others who also have this issue, is that Maggie is devastated after the death of her daughter. I knew this going in, but decided to give it a go anyway. I have a daughter near the same age as Maggie’s, and at times it was difficult reading about her grief.
I enjoyed the manner of writing. The way Ms. Gallagher describes Maggie’s condition. I love the way she builds the suspense.

This is written in such a way that the reader isn’t actually sure about the perpetrator until the last chapter. While other books in this genre outright tell you who the killer is, and the book is spent trying to prove it, in this book, the reader is provided with a good amount of reasonable doubt.

Throughout the book the reader is second guessing Maggie, looking for other possible killers along with her and feels the frustration she feels at not getting “her man”.

I also appreciated the peek into the corrupt politics of Chicago that is portrayed. It is very interesting to see how things work in this (hopefully fictional) metropolis.

The ending was unpredictable and a little unsatisfying. I guess I was looking for the rainbows and kitten happy ending for her.

I understand that this is first in a series, and I am looking forward to seeing Maggie develop as a character.

Definitely a must read for anyone that likes this genre.

Book Review: Spectyr (A Book of the Order, #2)

Life is never quite how you imagine it. 

Book #2

Book #2

Spectyr (A Book of the Order, #2) by Philippa Ballantine (2011)

Genre: fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, supernatural, thriller, romance

*Let me preempt by saying Philippa sent me this book because I won her third book, Wrayth, in a book give-away. I am reviewing her first two books out of thanks for her kindness in sending them to me, and her third per the give-away rules. However, that has no affect on the review itself.

Warning: this post may contain spoilers or necessary information found in the first book, so get acquainted with this series, starting with my review of Book #1 here.

Spectyrs brought retribution on those who had wronged them.

Their shared sight dipped and swayed as Merrick tried to compensate for the staining of the ether. A scuttling sound made his mouth snap shut. Rats were running from every corner, scrambling through the walls, and skittering down the drainpipe. Animals were more sensitive than humans and always fled in the face of the undead. The noise was unnerving – even to the trained.

Beyond reality and time, the Otherside held knowledge that no human could ever possess, so the greatest Deacons of the Order had often taken chances to snatch what they could from the void.

This book continues in the principality of Vermillion, (part of the larger Arkaym nation) only one month after the attack of The Murashev, the most powerful geistlord, under the ossuary. It picks up with the despised Grand Duchess, and she is yet again getting in hot water and about to create more havoc and danger for the kingdom by calling on a goddess long without support.

I fear this addiction of yours will bring you nothing but ill.

Sorcha is (rightfully so) very cynical and bitter about the Emperor and the Order, given what happened on her assignment in the previous book and the betrayal of the Arch Abbot. The people do not trust, let alone respect, any of the Order anymore…when in fact their mistrust and fear should reside with the Emperor – or moreover, his militant sister, who just so happens to be second to the throne. Merrick is certain that time will pass and the people’s faith in the Order will return.

Life had taught her such things were oversimplifications – wishes that seldom came true in the complicated realities of existence.

When I first started reading the second book in this series, I was surprised that it started with the Grand Duchess (bad news), and not with Sorcha and Merrick on some task with the backstory from Book #1 entwined. I was a little thrown off, but then I was really thrown when “spectyrs” started appearing in the text. What is a spectyr? In Book #1 we learned that “shades” are the unliving remains of a dead person, and Book #2 gives a very short explanation about “spectyrs” – the evil cousins of shades…who want revenge. Ohhhh crap! 

But you’ll soon see why Ballantine started off with the Duchess, and the situation Ballantine sets up explains how the roles work and some of the terminology, so you don’t necessarily need to read the first book. (Kudos – that can be hard to do.) Since the great shindig with the Otherside under the ossuary a few months before (Book #1), geist attacks have continued – although some are truly real, and others are just calls of paranoid citizens who believe they have a geist in their midst. During Sorcha and Merrick’s task, we find out they are assigned areas where there are no real geist attacks…except this is not the case this time. Precious Nynnia comes to them from the Otherside and gives a warning and glimpse of the future to Sorcha – a foreboding of what is to come.

It was apparent that for every rule there was an exception. 

Since they returned to Vermillion as hunted fugitives in Book #1, the new Arch Abbot is keeping an eagle eye on Sorcha and Merrick. They are assigned meaningless tasks – guarding empty halls, escorting wagons of porcelain. They are kept on a very tight leash…with Sorcha’s husband and former partner, Kolya, following along. Although she has filed for the equivalent of a divorce in their world as well as dissolution of their Deacon’s partnership, Kolya is dillusioned into thinking her leaving the Abbey to save their world was merely her living in her fairytale mindset and “sneaking out” to avoid him. Grow up, pal. Which brings up a reminder of a couple things: Sorcha still shares a Deacon’s Bond with her husband, as well as one with her new partner, Merrick. And her bond with Merrick is so much stronger it is beyond what any Deacon’s Bond should be. But then, Sorcha and Merrick also share a Triple Bond with Raed the Young Pretender that was forged in haste in Book #1, that neither of them can break…and that’s not all she wrote! This Triple Bond will serve as the integral locking puzzle piece that draws this book together.

Meanwhile, the Young Pretender receives a summons from someone I thought dead from the way the first book went and must find his missing sister. He learns he cannot trust his entire crew, and singles some out for this excursion. Connection? Oh yes. But it’s not what I thought at all – it’s SO much bigger.

Now that Kolya is out of the infirmary, which his own rash actions caused, rumors abound within the Mother Abbey since Sorcha has moved out of their chamber into a small one next to Merrick – but they won’t be there for long. Kolya is like that crazy ex-girlfriend (or boyfriend, in this case) who just doesn’t get it. And wouldn’t even if you remarried. That’s how out of it he is. We didn’t see much at all of his character, let alone characteristics, in Book #1. The only thing we really gleaned from his character in Book #1 was that he likes to defy the rules (walking among crowds during a geist attack) and that he didn’t care one whit for his marriage. Not much has changed, except we find out he’s crazy and oblivious and annoying. As hell. Oh, AND in cahoots with Sorcha’s nemesis Rictun, who I think is just as tainted as former Abbot Hastler was.

Although Merrick has grown up some during his experience, and even with the betrayal of Arch Abbot Hastler, he is completely blinded to the animosity that the new Arch Abbot Rictun has for Sorcha. Indeed, as a reader we saw this in Book #1, but now that he is the head of the Order it really piques my curiosity. Yet Sorcha seems to have an ally on the Order Council – an enemy of Rictun’s? (I hope so – I’m holding out for a revolution of sorts; each time I see Rictun’s name I read it with a stink eye.)

What he also had were eyes that would suck out a person’s soul.

The Emperor, Kal, is in the hot seat: he must choose a wife – a proffered princess from other kingdoms in the empire. He must choose wisely, and he ironically chooses Princess Ezefia, sister of Prince Onika of Chioma, who is fabulously wealthy. Chioma is a principality south of Vermillion, home to all strange spices but also the most powerful, hard-to-detect poisons…and it’s the oldest kingdom, with the same ruling family since its beginning. And there are strange rumors about their ruler, quite strange rumors. Sorcha and Merrick accompany Princess Ezefia back to Chioma…but I think they are all getting more than they bargained for. Meanwhile, Raed’s journey to find his sister leads him right to Chioma.

I can trust very few in my Court – not even my own Deacons.

During their separate journeys to Chioma, it becomes apparent that Raed, Sorcha and Merrick are battling their own very personal issues on this journey. They arrive in Chioma and it seems like Ulrich all over again. The Prince of Chioma is not safe even inside the walls of his palace. There have been several murders already – of his unusual bloodline. The first murder was his Chancellor, second to Prince Onika, but all are told he died of old age…yet there’s no body. The Deacons of Chioma are quite odd; they openly worship the “little gods”, but particularly the goddess Hatipai. They wear robes of her colors – not colors of the Order they were sworn into. And then Sorcha and Merrick get separated…

We thought we knew better. We could go where we wished, harness all that power. We thought weirstones were harmless…

We see the return of Nynnia again, and she pulls Merrick back in time to a very pivotal turning point. He discovers some insight about who they refer to as the Ancients, and why they chose to move their famed grounds to the Otherside. So much is revealed in that section, that I can’t share without ruining it – but with that knowledge, things start pulling together to come full circle for readers. Suffice to say that The Native Order (often termed The Ancients) is not dead….and it turns out, they were dabbling in the Otherside quite a bit.

Some things you can’t fix once the time has passed.

Although Raed is on the hunt for his sister, and he has a handful of his most trusted working to find her…he is betrayed in the worst way possible. Reading this part, and his anguish of experiencing the terror and horror that the Rossin causes, and the fact that this beast killed his own mother, my heart hurt for him during this section. It was obvious his anguish and guilt and success at protecting from the Rossin was not considered. I felt those who betrayed him were very selfish, not seeing the big picture…but in a way, I agreed with one. Ten years of staying away, no real communication, is a long, trying, hard time.

From reading the first few chapters, I had the sneaky suspicion that an overthrow or revolution was going to happen in this book – and be exposed this time. I understand the reasons why Book #1′s geistlord fights couldn’t be explained to the people, and I thought something of the same sort (but on a more massive scale) was going to happen in this book.

I found it interesting that Ballantine references Raed’s grandfather’s reign – and the biggest problem  he dealt with was slavery. He was

Book #3

Book #3

the Abe Lincoln of the time, which is as yet unknown, but he also kept a diary as a young intended royal and mentions some interesting things about Chioma, including a brief and unexplained comment about it being an “ancient enemy.” Hmmmmmm.

You will definitely be thrown for a loop with this book. So many things are going on, and they all pull together. Geist seemed like such a huge feat, but Ballantine was definitely not prepared to go home. She went big! I give 5 stars for this detailed, well-written book.

Safety is just an illusion.

You can continue reading the Book of the Order series with Ballantine’s third installment, Wrayth.

-CA

Book Review: The Missing File by D. A. Mishani

This is a review I wrote for ireadabookonce.com:

My first thoughts after reading this book?  Wow.  Here is the synopsis from the back cover:

Detective Avraham Avraham must find a teenage boy who has vanished from his quiet suburban neighborhood.

Police detective Avraham Avraham knows that when a crime is committed in his sleepy suburb of Tel Aviv, there is little need for a complex investigation. There are no serial killers or kidnappings here. The perpetrator is usually the neighbor, the uncle, or the father. As he has learned, the simplest explanation Missing Fileis always the answer.

But his theory is challenged when a sixteen-year-old boy named Ofer Sharabi disappears without a trace while on his way to school one morning. There is no simple explanation, and Avraham’s ordered world is consumed by the unimaginable perplexity of the case.

The more he finds out about the boy and his circumstances, the further out of reach the truth seems to be. Avraham’s best lead is Ofer’s older neighbor and tutor, Ze’ev Avni. Avni has information that sheds new light on the case—and makes him a likely suspect. But will the neighbor’s strange story save the investigation?

Told through dual perspectives, The Missing File is a crisp, suspenseful tale that introduces an indelible new detective and offers an evocative portrait of suburban life and tension with a universal reach. As it draws to its startling conclusion, D. A. Mishani’s twisting mystery will have readers questioning notions of innocence and guilt, and the nebulous nature of truth.

I was seriously blown away by this book.  The writing, the suspense, the foreshadowing…it was absolutely riveting.

I read a variety of books, and I occasionally read about crime/mysteries.  This one was different than any other book I have read before.

First, I loved the fact that it was set in Israel.  Like the main character says “there are no detective or mystery books written in Hebrew”.  I love learning about different part of the world and how they work in terms of crime, government and everyday life.  I learned so much about this part of the world, just from this book.

I appreciated the author’s use of foreshadowing.  He inserts a little nugget of information in your brain that might not be resolved for several chapters.  But that nugget stays in your brain while you are reading the build up to a resolution.

I liked how the story was told from dual perspectives.  How the same events were reconstructed by two people on seemingly opposite sides.

The ending is so simple, but the way it is written, is so unexpected.

The characters in this book are very well developed.  The reader feels a sort of kinship with the main character, Avi and a sense of revulsion at the secondary main character, Ze’ev.

I am a nurse, so I completely understand the feelings of guilt and the emotions produced when something goes wrong.  There is a sense of responsibility to the person involved.  There is a constant replay in the mind, what did I miss?  What could have been done differently to change the outcome?

The detective in this book, Avi, is extremely dedicated to his line of work.  This case deeply affects him, and I totally identify with that notion.

This is a five star book for me for so many reasons.  For the way it is written, very sharp and concise.  The way the detective methodically attempts to solve the crime.  The vivid descriptions of police work that goes along with a case of this nature.  The emotions evoked at several points in the book.

And I definitely loved the ending that leaves room for more to come. This is an excellent book, very highly recommended.

–AA

Lukewarm

I first and foremost hope to preempt the onslaught of crap that I may get from Christians about this post.  I have no problem with people’s beliefs.  I believe that everyone should have a right to worship whatever they want to worship and should not be persecuted for it.  However, I do not appreciate when someone else’s beliefs are shoved down my throat, or when an article or book or movie is misrepresented and I make it all the way through some pretty decent writing (or movie or whatever) and it turns out to be propaganda.

Just be honest in the description of the book.  If it is a Christian based book, it should be categorized as such.

I live in Texas.  I hear enough about God and Jesus on a regular basis just LIVING here, I don’t need it to bleed over into the books I read when I do not intentionally set out to read something with a Christian twist.

The book in question is “Reunion” by Jeff Bennington. I titled this post “Lukewarm” because that is how I feel toward it.

I usually go on “book raids” of the free section in Smashwords and Amazon, and I end up downloading a bunch of books at a time.  “Reunion” was including in one of these raids.

I carefully screen the books I read for content that I find unpalatable.  See “Da Rules” here.  Months after I originally downloaded this book, I was looking for an interesting read and came across the cover art for this book.  It intrigued me so I decided to give it a go.

It is about a school shooting.  I know this violates some of my rules, but teenagers dying is different from children my daughter’s age.  The book looks at the event from several different vantage points.  From the shooter, to the victims, each of the character’s stories are shared in depth.

The book then advances twenty years after the event.  I did enjoy this section, as I often wonder what happens to those who have experienced such a public trauma.  Understandably, most of the characters have moved out of the area after high school.  For most of the characters, the “event” changed the trajectory of their lives forever.

Someone gets the grand idea to have a reunion.  Only five people agree to go back.  The book then chronicles each character’s actions and feeling about being back where it all happened.

The “supernatural” part of it is that the school, which was closed and boarded up after the shooting, is haunted.

I do have a belief in the afterlife, and I have experienced paranormal events myself (can you say Gettysburg?) so I am familiar with the concept.  But out of all of the shows I have seen, all of the books I have read on the subject, none of them come close to what this “ghost” can do.

So I continued reading, mostly out of curiosity.  The classmates have their “reunion” after several events occur that clearly scream out “this is a bad idea”.  It was kind of like watching a scary movie and knowing that the killer is hiding in the closet or behind the shower curtain and screaming “watch out” to the people on screen.

Predictably, the paranormal events continue and become more severe.  There is also this twist to the killer that I truly didn’t expect.  That made me really think hard about what occurs when these type of event happens, and it brought up the “what if” idea.  So for that reason alone I kept on going to the end.

And in the end I found an allegory.  A sermon.  Preaching.  It isn’t particularly Christian, but the end result is more like “this happened because of Satan”.

And that really ticked me off.

I know there is this entire genre of Christian books.  I have read some of them willingly.  I do not like religion sneaking up on me at the end of a pretty good book (up until that point) when I am not expecting it.

The end of the book was wrapped up way too neatly….complete with someone going out to “find God”.

If you don’t mind the preaching and are adequately prepared for it, I would give this a try.  The description of the “event” was very detailed and written very well.  The actual writing is of decent quality, if maybe a little over the top.  I do enjoy the way writers tell the story, the prose that they use, interesting style, and I did find it in this book.

This book did inspire me to take a look back at some of the real life events that this book was based on.

I was a junior in high school when Columbine happened.  I hadn’t revisited the whole saga until I read this book.  I was surprised at how much info on the killers, their activities and the event is now open to the public.  I do see how that incident shaped school policy and police procedures since that happened.

For that insight alone, this book might earn a recommendation.  Just as long as you know the ending is a bit wonky and preachy.

Book Review: Sharp Edges by Kristen Middleton

This book is the first foray by Kristen Middleton into the thriller/romantic genre.  I am a huge fan of her zombie books and vampire books.

In this book, Middleton tackles the subjects of child abuse, domestic violence, infidelity and the consequences therein.

Lindsey is a stay-at-home mom.  Her husband, Scott, prefers that she does not work out of the home, even though her kids are ‘tween age and above.  By accident, she discovers her husband is being unfaithful.  On their anniversary.  This development shakes her very foundation.  She suddenly questions everything:  her body, her self-worth.  She asks her husband to leave so they can figure out what is going to happen.

I like the new cover

Lindsey has a new neighbor, Jake, who is very good looking.  Lindsey and Jake become friends, and more, as the book progresses. Jake is a bit mysterious, and although he is in law enforcement, Lindsey understandably has issues with trust.

At the park one day, Lindsey meets a new neighbor.  Her suspicions are aroused when she notices the very pregnant neighbor and her child have ugly bruises.  Her involvement in this situation will have dire consequences.

Although I really enjoy the way the author writes, her sense of humor, her style, I felt that this book wasn’t very strong plot wise.  There is some confusion as to who is who (stemming from the prologue), and events seem unlikely.

Personally, I could identify with this book on many levels.  I appreciate the author’s choice to bring infidelity and domestic violence to the forefront.   The passages in which these topics are discussed are spot on and very powerful.  I truly understand Lindsey’s reluctance to trust men again, the notion of “who the hell did I marry?” (and I think there is a TV show with a title that is similar).

People who have had no experience with these topics can have a difficulty understanding them.  When you have been married to a person for a number of years, when you have had children with them, and they betray you, it is very hard to trust anyone. Ever.  The introspection, the critical eye that is now cast toward the self can be brutal:  “what is wrong with me?” “what does she have that I don’t have?” “how dare he (or she) do this to me after all these years”.  I feel this book can help those people who do not understand.

I also like the portrayal of friendship between Lindsey and her friend Darcy.  I feel that every woman should have close friends that are always there and are always fiercely supportive.

I also liked the relationship between Lindsey and her kids.  Adults often do not give children much credibility with understanding such situations.  But kids are resilient, and often know way more about a situation than they let on.

And I liked the way Lindsey and Scott handled the situation.  They didn’t disparage the other party, they didn’t play head games with the kids.  That happens far too often in society, and it is refreshing to see these types of situation portrayed in a positive light.

I do recommend this book for women (and men) who are fortunate to have led a life free of violence.  It is a wonderful tool for empathy.

And I always look forward to anything this author produces (I am waiting impatiently for the next installment of Blur and Zombie Games).

 

Book Review: Geist (A Book of the Order, #1)

Hello EB readers! I am guest writing this piece – I hope you enjoy!

If you are a parent or educator, scoot on over to my book blog, Girl of 1000 Wonders, that is geared toward using books in the classrooms. There’s not much now, but it will grow!  

8058609

Book #1

Geist (A Book of the Order, #1) by Philippa Ballantine (2010)

Genre: fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, romance

Between the living and the dead stands a powerful guardian…

“It was good weather for a riot.” Oh, you know this is going to be good, like when the cops walk into the restaurant where you’re holding your graduation lunch, and you tell everyone to sit back down for the show.

This book is set on the continent of Arkaym. Previously there has been some political unrest, and the people of outlying towns are miserable, desperate, resigned and starving. You can just imagine the turmoil already in place. The princes of the land requested an Emperor to rule over Arkaym. The Emperor is housed in Vermillion Palace, in the City of Vermillion, which also serves as the headquarters (Mother Abbey) of the Deacons (people with supernatural capabilities) throughout the continent. An interesting note: the royals can influence the Order (Deacons as a whole), but do not control it. The Order ranks higher than any royal, even the Emperor.

Deacon Sorcha Faris is the primary character of the book. She’s ballsy; she actually wants a riot, she smokes cigars. She has been a Deacon for 18 years. She has supernatural powers, and is an Active. Her job is to guard against signs of an uprising, but it is also her calling. There are two worlds – theirs (the real world) and the Otherside. The Otherside is a world that contains all manner of ghostly, beastly creatures, spawn of evil. Actives and and Sensitives can see and feel what’s going on in the Otherside and when Otherside creatures come into their world, but in the real world those without supernatural capabilities can’t sense these things. However, there are witches and warlocks that also practice the supernatural who are either not trained or are untrainable by the Abby (kicked out of their Deaconship). While there is political unrest in the country, it is also among the Deacons: there is a generational movement of Enlightenment occurring where the younger Deacons believe that the witches and warlocks are just as entitled to use the Otherside as the Deacons. STRANGER DANGER!!

Sorcha works with her husband of eight years, Kolya. Kolya is a Sensitive, the opposite of an Active and with different (and considered) lesser powers. Their titles say it all: the Actives are the go-getters of the group, and the Sensitives are the ones who feel out and assess a situation with powers unknown to the Actives. Each partnered pair of Actives and Sensitives share a bond, enabling them to share thoughts through their Centers. But lately, Sorcha and Kolya’s marriage has been icy. Kolya deals more directly with the people, planting himself right in the middle of mortal danger. Sorcha is barely able to save him from “the unliving,” a creature that has come through a portal that’s been opened from the Otherside. It is unlike any unliving ever documented before in the 300 years of their Order. It can read their thoughts, and it also possesses people (usually the sick and ailing).

The more interesting element of this incident is that Sorcha doesn’t save him because she loves him, or because he’s her husband. She saves him because “the other Actives would never let her hear the end of it.” In doing so, she uses a tool of the Actives – the Gauntlets. They are like leather gloves and each one is carved with one of the Runes of Dominion – flashy powers even the ungifted can see. Just as an Active has powers from the Gauntlets, a Sensitive has powers from the Strop – which is a bigger deal than the Gauntlets, and rarely used.

Due to the uncanny abilities of this geist – this unliving (terms can be used interchangeably) – Sorscha uses one of the runes that is very powerful and very dangerous…and must pay the consequences. Her husband is in a coma, and she is saddled with a new partner…for the fifth time! The girl’s earned a reputation if you know what I mean, and not just for being the strongest Active of the Order.

Meanwhile, we meet Raed, the Young Pretender. If you really want to shock him, you might use his full title: His Highness, Lord Raed Syndar Rossin, Second Vetch of Ostan and Heir of the Unsung. I don’t know what any of that means, but we learn that his father had ties with Prince Felstaad’s father, and he has been exiled for some reason. Raed is the heir to the Empire, and is trying to reclaim it. And there is a price on his head, naturally being the arch enemy of the Emperor. Due to some intense family heritage and a deal made with the devil (or the Rossin, Otherside creature of the sea in this case), Raed has been cursed – and it’s quite an evil curse at that! You wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy, I’ll just say that.

Raed has called on Prince Felstaad for aid in repairing his ship – basically his only accessible possession. Felstaad is a calculating man, and uses Raed to serve his wont. He sends Raed to Ulrich, the uppermost area of his lands, where the winter (which has already begun) is harsh and only the natives of the area reside. Felstaad of course has ulterior motives – to monitor the area. The area is near a bridge built by the Emperor to bridge the “vast distances of the continent” with a port for the Imperial Dirigibles. Unusual visitors might come forth with this new medium of transportation….

As consequence for her actions, Sorcha is partnered with Deacon Merrick Chambers, a young novice Sensitive, and they are bound for Ulrich – the focus of some vicious and unusual, unprecedented attacks, just as Sorcha and Kolya faced. Merrick, although a youngster in the world of Deacons, doesn’t believe in deceiving people. He has strong morals and values. Ironically, he was raised an aristocrat, yet he finds them pretentious. Due to a very important childhood incident, Merrick is scared of Sorcha and her infamous powers.

Before setting sail for Ulrich, Merrick and Sorcha encounter an unusual guest, Nynnia, daughter of a physician to Deacons, who joins their party. She is an important game-changing player in this book. Through one of these macabre geist run-ins, Raed stumbles across Merrick and Sorcha, with Nynnia, out at sea. Based on Merrick’s abilities and assessments of these attacks, he determines that a human is causing the attacks – they are calling beings from the Otherside! Ruh row, Scooby.

Throughout this journey, the author continually feeds the reader into the mystery of discovering the identity of the one in cahoots with the Otherside. Suspicious remarks, looks and thoughts are strewn everywhere. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out – WRONG! Ballantine throws a sidewinder, knocking down your reasoning. So each time a character is removed from suspicion, you start building up for the next one who seems odd in this grand scheme that’s unraveling. And then you get the Alice in Wonderland feeling: things are not as they seem. Indeed, things are not right at all in Ulrich, let alone within the Priory, containing a Prior (head Deacon), Deacons and lay Brothers, sworn to protect the people. It seems the newly formed gang has fallen into a neat little trap.

Dark things are at work, and Sorcha and Merrick, and even Raed, must go against everything they’ve been brought up and trained to do…to save the entire country. They find there are some well-hidden secrets within the Abby and the Order. Needless to say, their world is turned upside down.

Ballantine has written a riveting story combining many popular elements: magic, supernatural, multiple dimensions, beasts, social and political strife, power struggles, ghosts, souls. But starting off was a hard read – I didn’t know what any of the terms meant, or how they all fit together. You don’t really understand what they are until halfway through the book, and even then you don’t know for sure exactly how to describe a Center, or what it does, to someone else. That is the one flaw that I saw in Ballantine’s writing; there is no introduction, no getting your feet wet and testing the waters. It’s full on BAM!

In terms of how the book is structured, this is the closest I can come to describing it: it’s as if there’s a giant puzzle, and Ballantine is tantalizingly and ever-so-slowly giving the reader a small puzzle piece at each twist and turn to complete the picture, and even at the close of the book, there are still missing puzzle pieces….or maybe, just maybe, it’s a puzzle within a larger puzzle. Interesting thought.

Despite that, it was an excellent read and I am craving continuing the series. She creates such a strong vision of the world (quite similar to Rowling doing so with the Harry Potter series), with strong characters and incredible details that consume the reader in such a way as to put them into the story (which I strongly felt when reading Hunger Games). It will definitely have you coming back for more.

These two quotes from the book stood out to me…

An honest man in a dishonest world could be a very powerful thing.

They all had scars and injuries – it came with being an adult, messy and awkward as that could sometimes be.

You can continue reading Ballantine’s Book of the Order saga with Spectyr and Wrayth.

-CA

Wrayth, Book #3

Wrayth, Book #3

Spectyr, Book #2

Spectyr, Book #2

Books I avoid like the plague

I know I said “I read all”.  And that is mostly true.  But I have found some books that I just cannot read due to issues in my personal life.  I will occasionally violate “Da Rules” for books that have been highly recommended by friends, or after I have read a ton of reviews and can satisfy myself that the component I have issue with is minimized and absolutely crucial to the plot.

In time, maybe some of these rules will relax, and I can read some of these books, but right now this is where it stands:

  1. Avoid war books about Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.  I know people who have fought in these engagements and had horrible PTSD as a result.  I have tried reading books on these wars, and I could not get the image of these people out of my mind, and how they dealt with the horrors that they witnessed.  Especially Vietnam.  My dad, on the other hand, has more of these books in his collection than I do WWII in mine.  I do have a grandfather who fought in WWII, but he did not see any action.  My grandfather who was in Korea and Vietnam was wounded and still had nightmares until his recent death.  He was a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient.  He never spoke of his time in Vietnam, and I’m not sure if I wanted to hear it.  I never want to think of what he had to endure or witness, so I avoid it.  Maybe after more time has elapsed.  Iraq/Afghanistan– close friends of mine were in the initial invasion, at Fallujah and came back different people.  Its my generation fighting this war of dubious necessity, and it pains me to think of an entire generation dealing with PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
  2. Death of children and disappearance of children. This rule wasn’t entirely intact until after my child was born.  I have heard from others that they were the same way as well, and apparently it crosses over to movies/tv too. I guess reading or watching anything happening to children makes you think of it happening to your own.  So I try to avoid it.  See Books that haunt me.
  3. Violence against women/sexual assault.  I’m a survivor.  I try to avoid any books that have any of these elements as a central theme.  Too many issues for me.  I made an exception for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Lovely Bones” because I was hearing so many people talking about them.  “Fifty Shades of Grey” also bordered on this with the BDSM, but I was able to either page forward and skip the details or skim with the knowledge that the participants were two consenting adults participating of their own free will.  This does eliminate most murder mysteries and serial killer books.  But that is just how it is right now and it might change in the future.
  4. I don’t do vampires.  I have read the occasional short novel (The Vampire Club by Scott Nicholson), but I don’t like vampire movies, TV shows etc.  Something about using  looks and charm to lure someone into a trusting relationship and then sucking their blood just freaks me out.  So, no, I did not read Twilight or see the movies.  Nor do I plan on doing so.  And unless it seems really compelling or I receive an iron clad recommendation from a friend that knows me well, I don’t plan on taking this rule off of my list in the near future.

Romance novels used to be on this list, but since I read “Fifty” I have read many others.  I thought they were lacking literary value and actually kind of cheesy.  Granted, they won’t win a Pulitzer, but I enjoy reading about relationships and happy endings.  See my post on romance novels.

What’s up next?  My dad has been reading about WWI, and I would like to read some about that war.  I would like to read some more memoirs (I’ll be posting about the ones I have read shortly).  And zombies.  Lots of zombies.

I usually don’t even look at the best-sellers lists at all, because I usually don’t have a budget for books. The next two books I might actually pay for are “Mercury Rests” by Rob Kroese and “Strangers in the Land — The Zombie Bible” by Stant Litore.  I have been patiently waiting for these books, but they have been released at a time when I have absolutely zero funds in my book budget.

I have so many books stored in my Kindle for these dry spells, I know I can wait it out until I can get what I want.  I love the fact that I can do that.  Yay Kindle!!

 

Books that haunt me

Its October.  Spooky time.  I don’t do a lot of the horror show.  Other than zombies, I don’t do the rest of the genre.  No vampires, no werewolves, no chainsaws, no hockey masks.  I’ll do an occasional serial killer book or series, but not too much of it.  And I’ll do an occasional ghost story.  But that’s my limit.

I’m talking about a different kind of haunting.  Books that stay with you long after you have turned the last page (or in my case, pressed the button).  Either the character, plot, writing or all three just stay in your brain and resurface now and again to remind you about this book you read at one time.

I have a few of these.  Funny, as I read my first paragraph, these first two are of the ones I seldom do.

The Lovely Bones — Alice Sebold — this violated my self imposed rules.  1) murder 2) sexual assault 3) involving a child.  I have those rules in place for a reason, but one night I was staying at my parent’s house and couldn’t sleep and was looking for fresh reading material.  And boy did I find it.  I read the entire book in one night.  And this was before the movie was even in production.  I was literally crying my eyes out in bed as I was turning the pages.  The way it was written from Susie’s point of view, how she tried to communicate with her family, I literally hurt for Susie and her story.  A novel has never made me feel such deep emotion before.  I had become a mother the year before, perhaps that is what it was, but since that time I have held fast to rule #3.  I still want to cry just thinking about it.

The Millennium Trilogy aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — Stieg Larsson — this one violated the sexual assault and serial killer rule.  But the character of Lisbeth Salander drew me in.  Her fierce independence, the way her mind works, her stubbornness, but she does have a tender side.  The way she sought her own brand of justice to avenge her own sexual assault made up for violating my own “no sexual assault” rule.  I also enjoyed the relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael.  I did see the movie, and although I did not like how some changes were made to the plot, I can see why they needed to be made.  And casting Daniel Craig as Mikael definitely helped as well.  And I am now a huge fan of Rooney Mara.  And it helps that she comes from NFL royalty.

Closet Full of Coke: A Diary of a Teenage Drug Queen — Indra Sena — I love my memoirs.  Being that I was born under the Reagan administration, I was not aware of the high flying partying in the 80s.  And just look at the title!!  Who can pass that one up!!  But it wasn’t the descriptions of the partying and the money that haunts me.  It is how alone in the world that this young girl is.  And she feels responsible for her younger sister.  Her parents are a mess and basically put her out to fend for herself, and so she does.  I truly felt for her, even if I wanted to go back in time and smack her around for making stupid choices.  Also what sticks with me is how this could have happened in America.  I guess I’m naive.  There are teenagers in this country that are going through this type of thing right now.  Not everyone was blessed with two parents that wanted them, stayed together to raise them and always had the best interest of their children at heart.  A wake up call for me, really.  Very haunting.

Outbreak — Robin Cook — An oldie but goodie.  This is one of the first “adult” books that I read.  No not “adult” in that sense (see my post on THOSE books here).  This was the first time I read about things like the CDC, virology, epidemiology, all of those types of things.  And I still think about them.  Obviously, since I love my post-apocalypse books so much.  And currently there is a news story on about the current fungal meningitis epidemic.  Haunting.

On that note…Happy Haunting!!  BOO!!

%d bloggers like this: