Friday, September 23, 2022

Forsaken Country - Allen Eskens

Once I discovered Allen Eskens back in 2015, I started recommending him to everyone I knew. Since that first book, Eskens' writing has only got better and better. (Which is saying a lot as that first book was really good!)

His latest (and eighth) book is the newly released, Forsaken Country. For those of you who know his works, you'll be just as excited as I was to find that Max Rupert is at the heart of the book. 

In this latest, former Homicide Detective Max begins to question his self imposed solitude. Why? Well, Lyle, a retired lawman, comes to Max with a desperate plea for help. His daughter and grandson have gone missing - and the local sheriff has already made up his mind that she's run away and closed the case. Max has his reasons as to why he finally agrees to take a look at the case. Those who have read previous books, will know why he is so reluctant. New readers, there's certainly enough backstory to fill in the 'what came before'.

Oh my gosh, I could not put the book down. The plotting is brilliant. The action is non stop and had my stomach in knots. What to do? Yes, I stayed up very late until the last page was turned. I had to know the ending before I could sleep.

Eskens' characters have depth and introspective voices. Max's losses, love, pain, determination and struggle to be in the world again ring so true. On the flip side, there is an antagonist that will make your skin crawl, but again he rings true. There's a second antagonist had my sympathy by the end chapters. Each of these three have a voice with their own chapters.

What else is there to say - it's a fantastic book. And a very easy five stars. I can't wait to see Eskens' next book.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Wheel of Doll - Jonathan Ames

I read the first book in Jonathan Ames's 'Doll' series last year and absolutely loved it. The second book, The Wheel of Doll, has just released - and it delivers another additive read.

For those of you, who, like me, love hardboiled, down on their luck P.I. fiction, you're going to want to introduce yourself to 'Happy Doll'. Uh huh, that's his name.

The case? A beautiful young woman turns up at the office, wanting to hire Hap to find her missing mother. And her mother just happens to be a woman Doll once loved. You got it - he takes the case and immerses himself into the search.

The home setting is LA and I immediately get a noir feeling from the settings and characters - Hank's office, his occupation, (which is officially a Security Consultant since he lost his PI license), his home under the lights of the Hollywood sign, his knowledge of back alleys, encampments and the denizens those who call them home and more. 

Happy's inner dialogue is wickedly sharp and darkly humourous. He acts on impulse quite often and doesn't seem to realize that he isn't immortal. He's quite likeable and you can't help but behind him. Oh, and his dog George is an excellent sidekick. 

Another heckuva ride tale with a no apologies lead character. Can't wait for the next case! See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Wheel of Doll.

Gentle readers this book may not be the one for you - this book contains violence, drug use and more.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Bookish People - Susan Coll

Oh my gosh - Susan Coll's new novel, Bookish People, had me laughing out loud so many times!

If you love books, bookstores and/or have ever worked in a bookstore, this one's for you. I have indeed worked as a bookseller. Coll's depiction of an independent bookstore and it's patrons, staff and authors had me wanting a shift on the front desk.

Bookish People is told from two points of view. First from the owner, Sophie, who is tired. She's had enough of the bookstore and really, of the world in general. She's got a plan to cope with things though. (I really love her solution!) The other voice belongs to Clemi, the store manager. She's at a different stage in life, but is feeling the pressure everyday as well. 

There's a character for every reader - younger, older, married, single and more as they all navigate the bumps and joys along the road of life - and the stacks of the store. There are two other 'characters' that figure into Bookish People. One is Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - a tortoise and the other is the bookstore vacuum. (It actually figures quite prominently!) Coll's work benefits her expertise as the Events and Programs Director at a Washington DC bookstore. (The author events were hilarious!)

I chose to listen to Bookish People. The narrator was Alexa Morden. She was a great choice! Her voice is clear and clean, enunciated well and pleasant to listen to. She brings different voice to the various characters, making it easy to know who is speaking. She captures Coll's plotting with her pacing, pausing and the tone, tenor and emphasis of the words. Her voice suited the mental images I had created for the players. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt. An easy five stars for this listener. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Marple: Twelve New Mysteries - Agatha Christie

New Miss Marple stories?! All written by some of my favorite authors?! Yes please!!

Marple: Twelve New Mysteries has just released and features fresh Marple tales from some of the best mystery authors around -  Naomi Alderman, Leigh Bardugo, Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, Elly Griffiths, Natalie Haynes, Jean Kwok, Val McDermid, Karen M. McManus, Dreda Say Mitchell, Kate Mosse and Ruth Ware. This collection has the seal of approval from Christie's estate. 

The details of this iconic character are used in all of these stories - her knitting, her prim and unassuming manner, her cozy village of St. Mary Mead, her nephew, author Raymond West and his wife, the respect Miss Marple has earned from her amateur sleuthing and more. 

Some of the tales take us from St. Mary Mead to far off locations and some are closer to home. But what hasn't changed are her keen observational skills. I always enjoy the seemingly effortless way Miss Marple deduces who the culprit is. I'm with the supporting cast in each tale - just waiting for the final word on 'whodunit'. 

I really enjoy short story collections. It's nice to stop and take a break with a cuppa to read a story or two and have the closure of a solved case. I can honestly say I enjoyed each and every story. I've read most of the contributors works and it was fun to see bits of their own styles in the Miss Marple stories. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Marple: Twelve New Mysteries.

Monday, September 19, 2022

The Lost Ticket - Freya Sampson

I love my mystery and thriller reads, but the books that stick with me a bit longer are those that tug at my heart strings.

That's very much the case with Freya Sampson's latest novel, The Lost Ticket.

Libby is a newcomer to London, and arrived carrying some emotional baggage, along with her suitcase. An elderly passenger strikes up a conversation with her while they both ride the 88 bus. Sixty years ago, while riding the bus, he met a girl. A girl who he thought could be 'the' one for him. She gave him her phone number.....but he lost it. And so, every day, for sixty years, he's ridden the same route, hoping to find her. There's another rider that day as well that will become part of the search for Frank's lost girl.

Uh huh, all the right elements are in place for a 'tug at your heartstrings' read. Love lost, love found, loneliness, friendship, purpose, meaning and connections. What we all need - people, not things.

I adored the three main players in The Lost Ticket. Working together, they find what they were missing when they were alone. The supporting cast is just as endearing.

I loved the premise as well. The big question is of course, do they find the girl on the bus? I'm going to leave you to find out for yourself. The ending was, for this reader, satisfying. (But have a tissue handy.) An easy feel-good five stars!

See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Lost Ticket. Sampson's writing is a delight.

And be sure to check out Sampson's debut novel, The Last Chance Library. It's just as heartwarming! My review.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Fairy Tale - Stephen King

Oh, I'm a long time fan of Stephen King's writing. I love getting lost in his imaginings - other worlds, other times, what we can't see, what we can see, (but don't want to) and more. Each book is new and fresh, infused with the touch only King can bring to a tale.

The latest book is Fairy Tale. What a wealth of possibilities that title hinted at! I think this descriptor from the publisher sums it up nicely.

"...spellbinding novel about a seventeen-year-old boy who inherits the keys to a parallel world where good and evil are at war, and the stakes could not be higher - for that world or ours."

I love the amount of detail King puts into his characters, settings, plotting and world building. They paint vivid mental images for me, bringing the story to life. Charlie is a great lead, easy to like and root for. And there's a dog. :0) I loved the whole idea of another world with a hidden entrance just waiting for the reader. King pulls out pieces of childhood fairy tales and weaves them into his imagined world. And as we know, not all tales are fairies and lightness....

I chose to listen to Fairy Tale. Seth Numrich was the reader and he was the perfect choice. (He has read a previous King book and I enjoyed his narration) The protagonist is a seventeen year old boy and Numrich's voice embodied the mental image I had created for Charlie. There are a wealth of characters in the book and Numrich does a fantastic job of providing different voices for the players, making it easy to know who is speaking. And there are some real challenging characters. He absolutely brings the book to life with his voice. The action, emotions, danger and more are easily portrayed. His voice is easy to understand, pleasant to listen to and is well enunciated. There's a nice little gravelly tone to his voice as well. His reading speed accentuated the dialogue. Fairy Tale makes for addictive listening. There's more around the next corner, and the next and the next. The run time of Fairy Tales is only 24 hours and 6 minutes. Yes, only, as I could have listened to much, much more! Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of Fairy Tale

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Bad Day Breaking - John Galligan

I really like John Galligan's 'Bad Axe County' series. The fourth book - Bad Day Breaking - has just released. 

What do I like about this series? 

The protagonist, Sheriff Heidi Kick, has fast become one of my favorite lead characters. When I first 'met' Sherriff Heidi, I couldn't help but think bad a**, as I got to know her. She's tough, smart and determined to keep her town as crime free as possible. And she's a wife and mother to three as well. Now, as much as she wants to erase crime, there are those who are determined to get rid of Sheriff Kick and run things their way. The more things heat up, the cooler Sherriff becomes. On the outside she presents calm and cool, but inside she's paddling hard.  

Next up are the plots. Galligan's plotting is fantastic and makes for addictive reading. This time round, there's a cult that has to be evicted. But the formerly quiet group seem to have some new members with different ideas. And....we get to know more of the 'Dairy Queen's' past. There's some darkness there and an old acquaintance is determined to bring it to the light. 

I like that we are not just seeing everything from Sheriff Kick's point of view. Instead we get inside looks at what's happening at the cult, from those innocent and those with evil in their hearts. As listeners, we have more information that Heidi does and that just kept me glued to my player.

The ending is not at all what I expected, but is a great way to close this book. This listener will be eagerly awaiting Galligan's next book. 

I did choose to listen to Bad Day Breaking. I've said it before and I'll say it again - listening to a book draws me deeper into the book. That is definitely with the Bad Axe books. The reader is Samantha Desz and her voice is perfect for the mental image I've created with the characters, especially Heidi. I've appreciated that she has done all four books. The continuity is important to me with a series. Her speaking voice is measured, calm and has a wonderfully low tone that draws the listener in. The calmness matches the character perfectly. Now that's not to say she doesn't show emotion. She does, but it's contained. Desz captures Galligan's characters and plotting wonderfully. An excellent presentation of an excellent book. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of Bad Day Breaking

If you're a 'grit-lit' fan, you're going to enjoy this series. You could absolutely read this as a stand alone, but I would start at the beginning with the first book, Bad Axe County.