Monday, December 19, 2016

Big Rock by Lauren Blakely

Big Rock  Big Rock was so much fun, so hot, and so funny. Spencer is rich, smart, nice, and shall we say gifted. He is a total playboy but the women he dates seem to know and appreciate what they're getting with him. Spencer also comes from a good family with parents who adore him, his sister, and each other. Spencer's parents are so in love with each other all his father wants to do is sell the family jewelry business and retire early so he can sail around the world with his wife. Luckily Spencer's father has a buyer all lined up. He just needs Spencer and his sex life to stay out of the gossip pages for a week because the potential buyer is conservative and wants to buy a wholesome family company. Spencer not only agrees to keep it zipped up for a week, he raises things up a notch and asks his best friend Charlotte to pretend to be his fiancee. She agrees with a condition of her own. Spencer and Charlotte agree to a few ground rules, one being no falling in love. Despite their best intentions it doesn't take long before Spencer and Charlotte's fake engagement starts to feel real.

A heterosexual romance from a guy's point of view - that's not something I come across everyday. Big Rock was pretty near perfect. It was funny, steamy hot, succinct, and had likeable characters. There was no unnecessary filler, not much in the way of artificial obstacles - just two people falling in love. And I fell a little in love with this story.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Fatal Shadows by Josh Lanyon

Fatal Shadows (The Adrien English Mysteries, #1)  Pasadena bookseller Adrien English has a problem. His high school friend and current employee has been brutally murdered. Someone has ransacked his shop and is sending him threatening messages. The police seem to consider Adrien a suspect in the case of the former, and are dismissive of the latter. And then there is the matter of his heart - sudden excitements tend to send poor Adrien's heart into a tizzy.

This was a lovely little mystery. Little because it is less than two hundred pages. Lovely because Adrien is adorable. He is what I like to call an accidental detective. He runs a bookshop and is working on publishing his first book. It is mystery of course. Notwithstanding his love of  mysteries Adrien doesn't have any particular interest in being involved in an actual mystery. Nevertheless Adrien must become a detective if only to save himself. When his friend Robert is killed, the police seem ready to arrest Adrien, thinking perhaps it was some sort of lover's quarrel gone terribly wrong. Adrien thinks this might be a hate crime, perhaps a serial killer who's stalking and killing gay men. Whoever the culprit is, Adrien has to figure it out before he ends up in jail or dead himself.
Fatal Shadows wasn't a perfect mystery. There were a few holes and I figured out the culprit pretty easily. I was expecting a bit more romance. On Goodreads this was tagged as both a romance and a mystery. The romance was pretty scant here. This being said, this is the first in a series. Hopefully the romance that is hinted at in Fatal Shadows takes shapes in the next book.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal, #1) Zacharias Wythe is the Sorcerer Royal of England, that is he is the leader of the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers and advisor to the crown on England's magic related matters. As a Black man, former slave, and suspected murderer of the previous Sorcerer Royal and his adopted father Sir Stephen Wythe, there are plenty of people who think Zacharias Wythe does not deserve the position. Zacharias doesn't have time to worry about that however, for he has too many other pressing problems to deal with at the moment. England's source of magic is drying up, for one. Also, someone keeps trying, and luckily failing, to kill him. On top everything there is Prunella.

Zacharias meets Prunella Gentleman at a school for young ladies with magical tendencies. The school aims to teach the young ladies how to suppress their magic because in this Regency era society women are thought to be far to frail to handle the power of magic. There is a small exception - it's fine when servant women use a bit of magic to tidy the house, make a better pie, or otherwise better serve their employers. Beyond that women are not to do magic. Magic is reserved for men, specifically White, wealthy men. Being a member of the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers is as much a function of one's magical talent as it one's social standing. Women, poor people, and people of color need not apply. Zacharias is the exception partly because of his adopted father but mostly because he can wield the magical staff, which only a Sorcerer Royal can do. Prunella defies all expectations. Without much formal training she is one of the most powerful and naturally gifted sorcerers Zacharias has ever seen.

If Sorcerer to the Crown had a subtitle it might be something like, " How Microagressions Work." Zacharias is incredibly conscious of his position and how people view him. He's smart, talented, and Black. For many (but not all) in the Royal Society the last thing is the only thing that matters. Sure some people think he killed his father, but they only think that because they find it hard to believe that a Black man could have ever gained control of the magical staff without stealing it. People speak to Zacharias in ways they would not to a White man in his position. No matter how angry he feels, Zacharias knows he must his restrain himself. He must always act like gentleman even when people are not acting like one towards him for he is always on display. I appreciate that Cho did not shy away from race or try to make her story some sort of color blind society, but instead acknowledged it for what it was.

I also appreciated the tension between Zacharias and his adopted family. He truly loves Sir Stephen Wythe and Lady Wythe and is grateful for all they have given and done for him. He also knows they love him. Still there is a little nugget of tension arising from the fact that Sir Stephen took Zacharias away from his birth parents, he did not free Zacharias's birth parents, and Sir Stephen took a while before formerly freeing Zacharias from slavery. Similarly Prunella, a "half-caste" woman who was raised by her father's second wife after he died is grateful to her White stepmother. At the same time Prunella knows her stepmother does not consider her an equal in terms of social class. 

Sorcerer to the Crown also addresses sexism in a clever way. At its heart this book is about ass-kicking, smart as a whip women. Prunella is hands down the best sorcerer in all of England. After Zacharias sees her perform a spell while trying to control a room full of schoolchildren, he realizes that the ban on women practicing magic is ridiculous and must change. There is also Mak Genggang, a witch who comes to England when England is threatening to meddle in the affairs of her homeland. She doesn't come to beg for help but to warn England of the consequences of doing anything that threatens the women of her land. Even one of the big villains ends up being a woman. In fact, much of the action involves men standing around debating what to do and watching helplessly as the women just get stuff done.
It was refreshing to read Sorcerer to the Crown. Zen Cho has done something really wonderful here. She has written a historical fantasy novel with diverse characters, that addresses sexism and racism, and tells a fun story involving magicians, killer fairies, dragons, and all sorts of other fantastical creatures. Make no mistake - although the book tackles big issues it is not an "issue" story. It is a fantasy story that happens to have a diverse cast of characters and doesn't shy away from the fact that some groups of people are not treated equally. I would definitely recommend this to everyone, but especially to young women and young people of color. If you like fantasy or historical stories and wish you saw more people that look like you in them, then give Sorcerer to the Crown a try.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Black Friday Read-a-Thon

What are you doing the Friday after Thanksgiving? Okay, after shopping? How about relaxing with a good book. If books are your thing, and if you're reading this blog they probably are, then join me and many others in the Black Friday Read-a-Thon, hosted by Du Livre and Mocha Girls Read.

From Du Livre:

Hi, everyone! It's Halloween so I guess that means that we're officially in the Christmas season (I've come to accept it). If you're in the United States, you know that Black Friday is a holiday in itself. I personally prefer to sit around the house in my PJs while eating leftover turkey instead of trekking to the shopping centers, so I wanted to make my mini read-a-thons more official.

Friday, November 25 will be the Black Friday Read-a-Thon (#BFRAT). It doesn't matter if you're sitting around the house like me or fighting the hordes at 2 a.m., everyone is welcome to join! Since this is the first #BFRAT, everything will be super chill. You can make your own goals and go your own pace. In short, do you.

More information will come in the coming weeks, but for now, I just wanted to put the idea out there. If you want to challenge yourself to read on Black Friday, consider signing up.

Go to Du Livre's blog to sign up:  

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Reading!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train Every day Rachel rides the commuter train from the suburbs into the city. Along the way the passes the street where she used to live with her now ex-husband Tom. Anna now lives in that house with Tom. As she rides the train Rachel can't help but gaze at her old street. If she is not staring at her old house, she is staring at another a few doors down where the cute couple she has nicknamed Jess and Jason live. Rachel likes to imagine their idyllic life.

I have this system for tracking books that come into my home. Newly acquired books are added to my handwritten "Books as of Yet Unread" list and are placed in the unread pile, which is literally a pile of books in one corner of my living room. After I have read a book one of two things happens: either I add it to my electronic catalog and find a home for the book on one of my bookshelves or it goes into the donation pile and eventually out of my home. For the first half, maybe even two-thirds of The Girl on the Train I thought it was definitely going into the donation pile.

The Girl on the Train is told from the points of view of three women: Rachel, Anna, and Megan (the actual name of the woman Rachel has nicknamed Jess). Rachel is the primary storyteller and she is an alcoholic. I'll give Paula Hawkins this much - she made Rachel's alcoholism feel real. She didn't pretty it up or minimize it. Rachel is a sloppy mess who does stupid, gross alcoholic things that hurt her and other people. It was annoying and hard to read, but again, it did read as real. Further because Rachel is an alcoholic who regularly gets blackout drunk, nothing she says or thinks can be totally trusted.

Anna and Megan are perhaps slightly more trustworthy than Rachel, but only just barely. Before becoming Tom's wife Anna was his mistress, and she admits to never feeling the slightest bit bad about that. Rachel was never real to her and the thrill of being part of a secret affair was just too much fun. Now Anna is living in the house where Rachel used to live and she finds being wife isn't always as much fun as being a mistress. She's smug, bored (and boring), and paranoid. Admittedly her paranoia is not entirely undeserved. Rachel just won't stop coming around.

Of the three women Megan is the one we hear the least from. She is also the one with the most secrets - one of which might be the end of her. She's troubled and it is awhile before we start to learn the reasons why.

I found it hard to relate to or care much any of the three narrators. They were all annoying in their own way. I don't have to like a character to enjoy a book but there must be something compelling about them, something interesting. For much of the book that was sorely lacking.

The story didn't get interesting until the last third. Something bad happens and Rachel thinks she knows something. She goes to the police. The problem is she isn't sure what she knows. No one takes her seriously. And why should they? With her multiple alcoholic blackouts she can't trust her memory and no one else can either.

I'm still not sure if I'm going to keep this book. The ending was good but I can't imagine spending any more time with any of these characters again, although I might watch the movie.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Injustice: Gods Among Us (Year One, Volumes 1 & 2) by Tom Taylor

17671993Superman and Lois are in love, married, and expecting their first child. It's beautiful and short-lived. The Joker brings a quick end to Lois and Superman's happy ending, killing Lois and destroying Metropolis. Superman goes berserk. He takes swift and fatal revenge on the Joker. If it had ended there his actins might have been if not acceptable, at least understandable but it doesn't end there. Superman decides he wants to make sure no one else has to suffer the pain he is going through. He decides he will do whatever it takes to bring peace to the world. Sounds great right?

Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year One, Vol. 2It is not great. Batman sees the situation for what it is immediately. Superman's intentions may be good but his actions are not. His peace is brought about and enforced through violence. People who disagree with Superman and his friends are labeled as terrorists. Luckily humanity has Batman on its side.

I can't remember what attracted me to this series. Maybe it was the artwork or that it was a complete series by the time I came across it, which meant no waiting to see how the story ended. (This is only Year One, there are four more years left for me to read.) Whatever it was I wasn't expecting anything more than a fun superhero story. Did I mention that this series is based on a video game?

The best stories make a reader think. Injustice made me think. Like many I've wondered why Batman never puts a permanent end to the Joker and his deadly antics. Here we get an answer. Batman is not a murderer. Batman understands that he has to stick to a moral code or he would be no better and no different than the criminals he fights. Superman doesn't get that, at least not yet. But again the series isn't over yet so maybe he will eventually. I am eager to find out.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin

Product DetailsFrom Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You

Are you dealing with a loss of faith or the loss of a loved one? Do big books frighten you or are you having trouble concentrating? Are you a compulsive book buyer? (That's a yes on that last one for me.) Whatever it is that ails you or whatever conundrum you find yourself in, there is a book for that according to Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin.

Apparently the idea of using books as a cure for emotional or mental turmoil is known as bibliotherapy. I'm not sure to what extent bibliotherapy is actually used as a genuine treatment option but I do believe that sometimes the right book at the right time can be just what you need when you can't sleep, are sad, lonely, or confused. It can calm a person down or spur her into action. The Novel Cure can help you find that book when you need it. Even just reading The Novel Cure might be the cure you need.

Berthoud and Elderkin have taken great care in not only putting together a selection of books for a variety of ailments, but explaining the reasoning behind their selections. Their reasons are funny, insightful, and gently admonishing when necessary. One of my favorite examples is the entry for vengeance. For that they recommend Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. In explaining the general plot of that, ahem awful, novel they explain the utter futility of seeking vengeance. 
I have one small quibble and it is really more a question of format rather than context. There is no table of contents, at least in the paperback edition I have. I read the book page by page which is fine for an initial read through but it would be great to be able to quickly skip to a wanted section. There are author and title indexes but they are not as useful as a table of contents would be. Beyond this one tiny quibble I would absolutely recommend The Novel Cure to just about anyone. I would especially recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Nancy Pearl's Book Lust. If Book Lust is an appetizer, The Novel Cure is a three course meal plus dessert. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

For Real by Alexis Hall

For Real  Laurence Dalziel, Laurie to his friends and D to his casual BDSM hookups, is 37, six years out of last relationship, and emotionally stuck. His life is outwardly successful: he's a doctor with a nice house, but something is missing. He doesn't expect that something to be a 19-year-old. When Toby and Laurie meet there is immediate chemistry. Laurie takes Toby home expecting nothing more than a one-night stand. Toby wants more.

This is one of the best romances I've read in a while. It goes beyond the surface of two people meeting and delves into the depths of two people figuring out how to make a relationship work amidst the chaos of real life. Toby wants a real relationship while Laurie is skeptical of how a 19-year-old could possibly know what he wants. Laurie thought he had found the love of his life before and isn't sure he can go through losing that again. Toby is still figuring out what he wants to do with his life. He wants to be Laurie's equal but isn't sure what Laure will think or say when he realizes Toby works in a cafeteria and doesn't have much more than that going on in his life. Laurie worries about taking advantage of someone so young. Toby bristles at the idea that he needs that kind of protection; he knows what he wants and is willing to go after it. The two men come together quickly but it takes some time to work out if they want to stay together, and if so, what that is going to look like. It all adds up to a steamy, heartfelt romance.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

First Frost (Waverley Family, #2)  On one of the literary podcasts I used to listen to the host always asked his guests whether there were any authors whose new books the guests bought as soon as the books were published without so much as a thought about the contents of the book. Sarah Addison Allen is one of those authors for me. Ever since reading her first book, Garden Spells I've been a fan. Any new book of hers is automatically added to my unread pile (or as the masses say, TBR list). This week I read First Frost and was once again transported to one of the small North Carolina towns in which Addison's books take place.

First Frost is a sequel to Garden Spells. Ten years have passed. Claire runs a successful candy business and is slowly drowning unhappily in work. Sydney is desperate for a baby boy. Claire's daughter Mariah has a mysterious new friend. Sydney's daughter Bay has a crush on boy. All of the Waverly women have a bit of magic. Claire's concoctions never fail to make people something, be it love, lust, or the need to tell the truth. Sydney's hairstyling can truly make or break a person's day. Bay always knows where a thing or person should be. Sometimes the Waverly gifts have a way of getting the Waverly women into trouble, but the gifts also lead them out.

The plot of First Frost is simple and to be honest, not the most compelling aspect of the novel. What's stands out are the characters. That, and the mood. Allen doesn't just tell a story, she creates a mood, an atmosphere, a reality. Her characters come alive, I feel like I could know them. I wish I could live in one of Allen's novels for a week eating fig and pepper bread and sitting under the Waverly apple tree, provided it allowed me to sit there and didn't throw apples at me.

This is what I could call "un-put-downable." I grabbed a late breakfast after my morning workout and read this book while waiting for my meal. I ended up spending an extra hour at the diner because I was so caught up in the story. Before I knew it, it was over. I hope Sarah Addison Allen writes another book soon.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti (Binti, #1)  Winner of the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novella, Binti is the story of a woman who leaves her family and her homeland to attend the prestigious Oomza University. She is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a position at the university. With an insatiable curiosity and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and learning, she can't say no to the offer although that is what her family would have her do. Himba people don't ordinarily leave their homeland. Binti boards the ship bound for the university anyway. Along the way the ship is attacked and Binti finds herself in the middle of a conflict between the Meduse and the university.

In Binti author Nnedi Okorafor may be telling many stories and one of them is clearly about race and outsiderness. At the transportation hub where Binti goes to catch her shuttle (spaceship?) women come up to her and start grabbing her hair without asking. They comment about and insult her appearance and customs in front of her as if she were an inanimate object. This is just one example of the indignities Binti endures as she travels to the university. She is made to feel unwelcome and different at every turn. Once upon the ship with her fellow classmates things improve. She is intelligent and curious and fits in well. Then disaster strikes.

I liked this a lot. This is third short piece of writing I've read in the past two weeks. As with Folding Beijing and We the Animals, I liked this but ultimately was left unfulfilled and wanting more. Maybe short fiction just isn't my thing. Then again, maybe wanting more is a good sign. I am honestly not sure.

We the Animals by Justin Torres

We the Animals  We the Animals centers around three half-Puerto Rican, half-white brothers growing up in upstate New York. They are the Three Musketeers, the Three Bears, the Three Stooges, Frankenstein, the bride of Frankenstein and the baby of Frankenstein. Narrated by the youngest brother, they are always three, always a "we." They grow up in poverty with parents who work long hours in an effort to put food on the table, sometimes succeeding, sometimes not. Together they watch their parents fight and love, in both cases violently and passionately. They struggle to make sense of what they witness. What is obvious to the reader - the violence of the father in particular, is not at all obvious to the three brothers. As the three brothers grow older "we" shifts to "I." His good grades and sexuality begin to set the youngest brother apart, with painful consequences. 

The word that kept popping up in my mind as I read We the Animals was lyrical. The writing was so alive. It felt like someone was speaking directly to me, telling me his story with the eloquence of a poet. I recently read this great post on Book Riot about what one sees when one reads. The author of the post has a condition which prevents him from seeing images as he reads. When he reads all he sees are words on a page. I do see, or rather imagine, as I read. With Torres's writing I could see everything. I saw the boys smashing tomatoes. I saw them hiding in the bathtub. I saw them staring at her mother when she asked them what they should do - return home or runaway. Every scene Torres wrote painted a picture.

My only complaint, and really it is less of a complaint and more of a question, was the ending. It confused me. I don't want to say what the ending is lest someone hasn't read the book yet, but to me it came out of nowhere. There were steps missing. It either seemed like it didn't fit, or that it should be a transition to another story about the narrator as a grownup or teenager. The story can't simply be over.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Darkest Passion by Gena Showalter

Title: The Darkest Passion, Author: Gena Showalter The Darkest Passion continues Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series about a group of immortal warriors, each of whom holds a demon inside of him or her. If the lord is killed his or her demon would be released into the world. And so, the lords must protect themselves not only because they want to live but to prevent their demons from wreaking havoc in the world. The hunters don't see it that way. They blame the lords for everything bad that is happened and believe killing the lords will fix all the problems of the world.

Every book in this series has at least two main plot lines: (1) the particular lonely lord at the center of the book who will soon be lonely no more and (2) and the ongoing battle between the loads and the hunters. In The Darkest Passion Aeron, the keeper of wrath, is the lucky lord who finds love.

Early in the book Aeron and fellow lord Paris (keeper of promiscuity) are debating the merits of relationships. Paris whose demon forces him to bed a different woman (and the occasional man) every night or lose his strength, longs for a relationship. One woman in particular has caught his eye but that's a story for a different book. Aeron doesn't see the point of relationships. They are immortal after all, and a relationship with a human woman means watching her get older and eventually die as he continues to exist. It also means worrying about someone and given the lifestyle of the lords, namely that they continually find themselves in bloody battles with the hunters, having someone else to worry about holds no appeal for him. No Aeron, is content with his brothers and Legion, the little demon he loves like a daughter. Enter Olivia, the fallen Angel.

Olivia's first job as an angel was to bring joy to people who needed it. Then she got promoted to warrior status and was given the task of killing Aeron. She follows him, or rather stalks him, and simply cannot bring herself to kill the heavily tattooed warrior. So she gives up her wings for the chance to be with Aeron. Unfortunately, Aeron is not at all interested in her and Legion can't stand her. Guess how long that lasts.

These books are always fun. The men are always resistant, the women very insistent and at the end there's a love match. Olivia is naive and pure love. She's eager to dive into Aeron's arms and his bed. Everything is new to her. As an angel her life was perfection. She knew neither the joy nor the agony of longing for something or someone for she had all she needed to be content. Something about Aeron changed that. Aeron doesn't quite know what to make of her. He literally has a demon inside him and has done terrible things, that an angel would want him so ardently makes no sense to him. Complicating everything is Legion. Aeron always thought of her as a little girl but she doesn't think of herself that way. The guy who wanted no attachments suddenly has two women to deal with.

I liked this but admit I didn't fully buy in to Olivia and Aeron's relationship. He's wrath - a demon who revels in punishing people for their sins. She is an angel. I get how all the lords are secretly super lovable despite their demons but I wish there was little more about what attracted Olivia to Aeron in the first place. That would have made the love story come alive for me.

The side characters helped redeem the not entirely satisfying romance plot. William always makes me laugh. I'm not sure if there will be a book about him since technically he is not one of the lords but I would love to get his story. Gideon, keeper of lies, and the wife he can't remember - can't wait to read that story.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Sugar by Seressia Glass

Sugar (A Sugar and Spice Novel)  Sugar is the second in what I'm guessing will be at least a four book series by Seressia Glass (the first book being Spice). Siobhan "Sugar" Malloy is a thirty-five year-old co-owner of the Sugar and Spice Cafe, a part-time burlesque dancer, and a recovering addict. She's doing mostly okay with five years of sobriety, a group of supportive friends, and a successful business. All that's missing is a love interest. Enter Charlie O'Halloran.

The moment Charlie lays eyes on Siobhan he's hooked. With her rockabilly style and vintage clothes accentuating her curves in just the right way, how could he not? The two begin a steamy affair. Feelings come into play quickly and easily. The trouble is both of them have secrets holding them back from a happily ever after.

I liked Sugar a lot, maybe even more than Spice. Siobhan and Charlie have serious issues in their pasts and in their present to deal with and those issues are not solved easily or quickly. I also like that Siobhan is a woman with a past and experience, some good and bad. On the back of the book it says that Sugar is for mature audiences. I would agree, not just because of the sexy times between Siobhan but because it is they are both mature adults dealing with adult problems.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Spice by Seressia Glass

Product DetailsSpice is a contemporary adult romance. Nadia Spiceland is a bakery owner, former reality TV star, and a recovering accident. She's been sober and celibate for four years and is looking to change one of those things. She doesn't want a relationship, just a man who knows what he's doing. Enter Kaname "Kane" Sullivan a professor at the local college who teaches human sexuality. In addition to teaching, Kane is a police consultant and an author of several well regarded nonfiction books. The seriousness of his academic pursuits has not stopped Kane's students from giving him the nickname Professor Sex. Fortunately for Nadia Professor Sex is exactly what she is looking for. 

There are so many things to like about Spice. It is effortlessly inclusive and diverse - Kane is half-Japanese and Nadia is the daughter of two men who are very much in love. Nadia and all of her friends are recovering addicts and that isn't taken lightly. Kane and Nadia act like the adults they are, meaning among other things they discuss things like sharing medical records, something I don't see in too many books (or movies). Above all, there is quite a bit of steam in this romance. Another thing I appreciated about Spice was that the story starts right away. Nadia wants to explore her sexuality and so she does, simple as that. Things begin to get complicated when one of them starts wanting more out of the relationship.

Overall I really enjoyed reading Spice. It did drag a tiny bit in some spots and there was some unnecessary conflict, but overall it was well worth the read. I have already bought the next book in the series.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Secret Place by Tana French

Image result for the secret place tana french  The Secret Place is the fifth book in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series and it's so good! Detective Stephen Moran is toiling away on cold cases waiting for his chance to join the murder's squad. That chance appears in the form of sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey. A student at the girls boarding school St. Kilda's, Holly arrives at the police station with a card she found tacked on her school's Secret Place, which is basically a bulletin board where students can post anonymous confessions and other secrets. Moran couldn't be more thrilled.

A year earlier the body of Chris Harper, a boy from St. Kilda's brother school was found on the grounds of St. Kilda. His murder remained unsolved despite the efforts of Detective Antoinette Conway and her former partner. The anonymous card Holly brings is a photo of Chris with a note purporting to know what really happened to him. Moran practically skips into Conway's office with the photo. Solving this case could be his ticket to the murder squad.

Conway and Moran quickly narrow their suspects down to eight girls: Holly and her friends Julia, Rebecca and Selena; along with four other girls, Joanne, Gemma, Orla, and Allison. The entire novel takes place over ten to twelve hours with Conway and Moran trying to navigate their way through the complicated world of teenage girlhood and figure what happened that might have caused one or more of these girls to kill Chris Harper.
A good book tells a story. A great book goes beyond that and says something about some aspect of the human condition while still telling a good story. French does that here. Holly and her friends are considered freaks and weirdos. Why? Because they dare to decide for themselves who they are rather than letting others decide for them. When Rebecca wears jeans to the Valentine's Day dance, for example, people lose their shit! The way Rebecca sees it she likes dancing but didn't feel like wearing a dress and wasn't trying to impress any of the boys so why not wear what she's comfortable in?
Moran puts it like this:  
"It took me till then to put my finger on it, what was different about them, or some of it. This: Joanne and all hers were what they thought I wanted them to be. What they thought guys wanted wanted them to be, grown-ups wanted them to be, the world wanted them to be. Holly's lot were what they were.  When they played thick or smart-arsed or demure, it was what they wanted to play. For their reasons, not mine."
Repeatedly other people remark in various ways that Holly, Rebecca, Julia and Selena need to learn their place; they can't just do what they want. The world doesn't work that way. At its core The Secret Place is about female friendships, loyalty, strength, and figuring out who you are. The crime element kept me guessing but it was the story of the girls' friendship that really drew me in.

I've been in a bit of a reading slog all summer. Not quite a slump, I've been reading just super slowly. It isn't that the books haven't been good, just that nothing that has been un-put-downable. The Secret Place is the first book in awhile that I eagerly tore through. If not for the fact that I was traveling this past week I would have finished it much sooner.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz


Product Details
I've been meaning to read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao for over a year. My book club, Mocha Girls Read, selected it to read for the month of June, providing the necessary motivation for me to finally pick it up. My fellow Mocha girls had mixed feelings about this book, as do I.

The description on the back of my copy describes Oscar of the title as a "sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love." Unfortunately Oscar never quite how to exist in the world. Blame it on the fuku, the curse that has followed his family for multiple generations. Or, blame it on his crazy mother. Or, blame it on his tendency to wallow in self-pity and his inability to get out of his head.

I found this book incredibly frustrating. On the plus side I liked that it was about a Dominican family. I haven't read many, or any really, books by or about Dominicans or the Dominican Republic. It was a new perspective for me, one that I found refreshing. I also really liked the character of Lola, Oscar's sister. She grew up in the same crazy, unloving household as Oscar and yet she turned out so differently. Both Lola and Oscar were smart; both went to college. In the end Oscar seemed stunted, like he stopped growing mentally and emotionally at age 12.  Lola on the other hand, not only survives her childhood, she thrives. She travels the world. She has adventures. I would have rather read the wondrous life of Lola Wao.

The down side of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was Oscar. I am not sure if the character is meant to be seen as mentally ill but I kept hoping that someone would take him to a therapist. His obsession with women a little creepy. At times his behavior came a bit too close to stalking for comfort. Perhaps Oscar would have been a more sympathetic character if the story were told from his point of view rather than a third person narrator. (Not to say I didn't have some sympathy for him.) Coming from a third party, it was never quite clear why Oscar acted the way he did or how he felt. It might have helped to have been in his head. Then again that might have been an equally frustrating place to be in.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Undoing by Shelly Laurenston

Image result for shelly laurenston books  It's strange how at times media that I am consuming end up relating to one another in unanticipated ways. Over the last few days I've been watching the final episodes of the last season of Showtime's Penny Dreadful. (Yes, I know it ended weeks ago. I am perpetually behind on my DVR list.) At the same time I've been reading Shelly Laurenston's The Undoing. Unexpectedly both have feminist underpinnings with a particular focus on women refusing to conform to what men (or society or large) want or expect. On Penny Dreadful this is most evident with the characters Vanessa Ives and Lily. On the episode Ebb Tide (season 3, episode 7) Dracula gives a great speech in which he tells Vanessa that he loves her for who she really is and that she need not conform herself to what others expect, as she has tried to do for so long. Meanwhile the murderous Lily is bent on avenging herself and the multitudes of prostitutes, abused wives, and other women who society turns a blind eye to when they are beaten or otherwise ill treated. In The Undoing there is Jacinda "Jace" Berisha, a once abused wife who woke up in her second life filled with rage. 

This is the second book I've read by Shelly Laurenston and the second in her Call of Crows series. Whenever I think of the Crows I can't help but picture a biker gang but they are something much cooler than bikers: The Crows are Viking inspired warriors. Long story short, there are various Viking clans on present day Earth whose job is more or less protect humanity from itself and from the misdeeds of various supernaturals. Each clan was created or put together by a particular god or goddess, like Thor or Odin. I can't remember which goddess created the Crows, but whoever she was she takes women who died, usually violently, and offers them a second chance at life as one of her Crow warriors. In their second lives the Crows are stronger, can sprout wings and fly, and are generally bad ass in every way. 

I would classify this series as paranormal romance with lots of action. Each book in the series focuses on a particular Crow woman and her budding romance with a guy from one of the other clans. Plus there is always some big bad they have take down. The Undoing focuses on Jace, who aside from having the usual Crow powers of super strength and flight, manifests berserker level rage when she is really pissed off. Her fellow Crows find Jace's rages both helpful and frightening. When she is in a rage Jace is unstoppable but she is also has a tendency to lose control of herself. The reasons behind her rage are undoubtedly rooted in her first life when she was forced to be the wife of a crazy cult leader who believes the end of days are near. In The Undoing Jace has a lot on her plate. She has to (1) deal with her crazy ex-husband who wants to forcibly bring her back into the fold, (2) figure out how to stop a vengeful, ancient goddess who is wreaking havoc on the world, and (3) contemplate dating when the only other relationship she has ever been in was one that was forced on her at the age of ten.

I really liked this. How could I not? When not in a berserker rage, Jace is a quiet girl who prefers reading to small talk. She hides in empty cars, up in trees, wherever she can to escape the constant chatter of her sister crows, love them as she does. When Ski Eriksen of the Protectors clan, whose is also known as the "Keeper of the Word," asks for her help with translating and organizing a bunch of books his clan took from a Russian mobster Jace is all in. For the books, that is. She is completely clueless that the cute guy offering her job is in interested in much more than an employee/employer relationship.

There was also something about an enchanted necklace, an unkillable goddess causing all kinds of trouble. Truthfully I  focused less on that part of the story. That part of the story was fine, and the parts about the other clans and how none of them get along was funny, but really it was all about the romance for me. Can't wait for the next book in the series.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Trailer Park Fae by Lilith Saintcrow

Title: Trailer Park Fae, Author: Lilith Saintcrow  Trailer Park Fae has a great cover and a great title. That was part of what attracted me to this book. That and the blurbs on on the back by Patricia Briggs, author of the Mercy Thompson series which I love, and Chuck Wendig. With a title like Trailer Park Fae, I expected fantasy and fun. I got fantasy, not that much fun, and lots of confusion.

Normally I wold write a little something about the plot but honestly I'm not quite sure what happened in this book. The big hurdle was my lack of knowledge about the world of the fae. There wasn't much world building in the story and it felt like the reader was expected to be well versed in fae mythology. I am not. I'm still not sure who half the characters were or why there were battling one another.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey

Title: Sabotaged (Alaskan Courage Series #5), Author: Dani Pettrey  Sabotaged is the fifth and final book in Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage series. Like the other entries in the series, it is a mixture of romance and suspense with a heavy dose of Christianity. The couple at the center of this entry in the series are Kirra Jacobs and Reef McKenna.

Kirra and Reef have known each other since childhood but were never exactly friends. She was a “goody-two-shoes” and apparently rather bossy while Reef was the resident bad boy. Plus, Reef once dated Kirra’s cousin Meg. Now they’re both working search-and-rescue for the Iditarod race. When Kirra’s uncle Frank, a competitor in the race, goes missing Kirra is determined to go looking for him. Reef is determined not to let her go alone. Reef and Kirra quickly discover why Frank has veered off course. His daughter Meg has been kidnapped and the kidnappers are threatening to hurt her unless Frank does what they want. Kirra and Reef must find Meg in order to convince Frank not to do whatever it is the kidnappers are demanding.

I didn’t enjoy this as much as the other books in the series. As noted earlier, Sabotaged could best be described as Christian fiction with elements of suspense and romance. As to the suspense element, this definitely wasn’t an edge of your seat kind of book. The main twist was evident a mile away. Still it was good enough to keep me reading. And as to the Christian element, it was heavy handed and overly simplistic, but I expected that having read the first four books in the series. This isn’t a book I would give to someone who is questioning their faith as it is not inspiring in that way. That being said, it is refreshing to read about characters who have a faith system.

The romance is where the story really fell apart for me. It happened too quickly and didn’t ring true. Sure Reef and Kirra knew each other as kids but they didn’t have much a relationship then, certainly not a romantic one and it didn’t seem like much of a friendship either. Now this a romance so of course they were going to end up together but the whole novel takes place over the course of a week so for them to be madly in love by the end just didn’t feel real on any level.

What I really wanted from Sabotaged and didn't get was more about the Iditarod. What largely drew me to this series in the first place was the Alaskan setting. Strangely there wasn’t much about the race in the book beyond the fact that it exists. Nor for that matter, was there much Alaska at all here. I just didn’t get a strong sense of place the way I have with some of the earlier books in the series. In contrast, I recall Submerged having a good sense of life in a small Alaskan time. I have never lived in Alaska so I don’t know if was true-to-life but at least it read like a tangible place. Here the Iditarod and Alaska served mostly as a plot devices which is a shame.

In sum, Sabotaged was definitely not my favorite but I enjoyed the Alaskan Courage series overall.

Monday, June 6, 2016

My First Manga: Dimension W by Yuji Iwahara

Title: Dimension W, Vol. 1, Author: Yuji Iwahara  I only began reading comics and graphic novels in earnest a few years ago. The launch of the DC New 52 is what initially pulled me into the world of comics. Eventually I branched out beyond DC and superheroes, but the manga section of the bookstore remained off limits. One of the reasons it took me so long to get into comics is because I didn't know where to start. With its right-to-left format, manga was even more intimidating and confusing. But with a little help from the website Panels and the beginning of a new cartoon series, I decided it was finally time to give manga a try.

I first came across Dimension W in anime form and really liked it. A post on taught me about the relationship between anime and manga, namely that anime cartoons are adapted from manga. I wondered if that meant Dimension W had a textual counterpart and finding that it did, decided it was time to read my first manga.

Dimension W takes place in the year of 2072. The world's energy problems have been solved with the invention of coils. The power behind coils comes from Dimension W, a recently discovered fourth dimension beyond X, Y, and Z. (I have to admit it took seeing a drawing of a Cartesian coordinate system with its X, Y, and Z axis before I fully grasped the concept of a fourth W dimension.) Kyouma Mabuchi makes a living as a Collector, retrieving illegal coils that can be dangerous. While on his latest retrieval job he comes across Mira, a very human-like robot. Their meeting starts them on a journey to learning some of the secrets behind coils, their inventor, and much more.

A little bit of mystery and heap of science fiction made Dimension W a really fun read. The characters are funny and complex, especially Kyouma who clings to old technology while making a living chasing down old versions of new technology, and Mira who seems to feel human emotions even though she's more steel than flesh. I already knew the story from having watched the anime but reading it was still great. The only thing I wish was different were the black-and white drawings. There were a few color pages and they popped off the page. I wish the whole book was in color. Overall I'd say my first attempt at manga was pretty successful.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

In Praise of Assigned Reading

(This post originally ran on Book Riot.)

A Thank You to Teachers Who Forced Me to Read “Boring” Books

When my eleventh grade English teacher announced that we would be reading books about or centered around war to correspond with our eleventh grade history class where we were studying various wars that the United States had been involved in (the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War), I was not particularly happy. Wars weren’t really something I was into. Nor was I excited at the prospect of reading a critique of American democracy by a Frenchman or about the trials and tribulations of whale hunting, these last two to be read over the summer. I have always loved reading but none of this sounded fun or interesting.

As a student I greeted prescribed reading and summer reading lists with a mixture of excitement and dread. On the one hand, reading lists inevitably provided a list of titles that were not new but were new to me. Plus, I love lists and crossing things off.

On the other hand, I wanted to read what I wanted to read. This was especially true during the summer, which more than any other time of the year, was for what I called “free reading,” as in free to read whatever I wanted at the pace I wanted. But being the rule follower/good student that I was, I grudgingly read Catch-22, Democracy in America, Moby Dick, and host of other books that made their way onto my class syllabi and summer reading lists. Thank goodness I did.

There is much to be said for letting kids pick what they want to read. They are more likely to finish a book if they got to choose what to read. Giving kids choices, particularly kids who otherwise wouldn’t choose to read, tends to make reading seem less like homework and more like something that could be enjoyable. As a librarian and aunt to many young readers I try to encourage their reading by helping them find books that match their interests.

The son of a friend told me that he wanted to travel around the world with his mom so I gave him a kid’s atlas from National Geographic. One of my nieces loves animals, not just cats and dogs but polar bears and frogs so I searched the shelves at my local bookstore for fiction and nonfiction stories about or involving animals. One of my middle grade aged nephews, who is somewhat of a reluctant reader, loves football so together we found a series of books that featured kids playing sports.

That being said, I also encourage them to read books they claim to not be interested in because although I respect other people’s choices and preferences whether they are kids, young adults, or actual adults, I also think a person doesn’t fully know what they are interested in until they have been exposed to it. It is easy to have a gut reaction to a thing without actually knowing much about the thing, like my reactions to books about wars and whales. Sometimes those gut reactions are spot on, sometimes not.

Catch-22 ended up being one of my favorite books of all time, so much so that I have reread it several times since high school. Moby Dick was amazing in a way I would have not thought possible. (Yes, I really do like Moby Dick.) This isn’t to say I loved or liked every book I was forced to read in elementary, middle, or high school. Try as I might, I simply cannot stand Wuthering Heights. I didn’t not like Democracy in America but I have no intention of ever reading it again. Still, I am grateful for being exposed to books I did not think I would like. I am also grateful for being exposed to things I didn’t like because it helped me figure out what I didn’t like and why.

And so I keep buying my nephews and nieces “boring” books because I know that once they actually sit down and read them they will find that some of those books are not so boing after all. At least, that’s what happened to me. Or maybe not, maybe my nephews and nieces will think a book I gave them is terrible and then they can tell me why they did not like a particular book. Either way is fine with me because I got them to read a book and talk about it. 

So thank you to all the teachers who forced me to read boring books.  In some cases you helped me find something I loved. Sometimes you forced me to think about why I didn’t like something. In every case you gave something to think about.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Title: Into the Wild, Author: Jon Krakauer   Chris McCandless, a twenty-four year old man, college educated and from a well- to-do family, walked into the Alaskan wilderness. He left a hundred or so days later in a body bag. Chris was a wanderer and adventurer. He apparently wanted to test himself by living completely off the grid, without modern (or even old-fashioned) conveniences. He survived for nearly four months, hunting and foraging for berries. He would have made it out of the wilderness but for a few mistakes. In Into the Wild Jon Krakauer recounts McCandless's life and death.

Krakauer first wrote about McCandless in a magazine article. The article generated a lot of strong feelings with many concluding McCandless was foolish, arrogant or worse. It is easy to see why people feel so strongly about McCandless. Trotting off into the Alaskan wilderness without a good map, a compass, or knowledge of the particular demands of the Alaskan landscape (apparently the climate makes preserving meat in Alaska a different challenge from preserving meat in another climate). But then how many stories are there of young people going off on foolhardy adventures? How many of us have done foolish things that could have ended in disaster but didn't?

Krakauer peppers Into the Wild with stories of other men who went on crazy, solo treks into the wilderness. They were often ill prepared or they miscalculated in some small way that ended up having fatal consequences. Krakauer's examples are all of men but McCandless's story reminded me of Cheryl Strayed solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail as described in her book Wild. Strayed's journey could have ended badly. She made some mistakes (the over-packed backpack, the ill fitting boots) but with a little luck and the kindness of strangers, she survived those mistakes. It seems to me that the big difference between Strayed's hike and McCandless's wilderness jaunt was a little bit of luck. (He was aided by many kind strangers on his way to Alaska.) For that reason, I neither see McCandless as an idiot deserving of scorn or as a courageous hero. He was a just a guy who tried something and failed. Unfortunately, his failure was fatal.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Otherworld Secrets by Kelley Armstrong

Title: Otherworld Secrets: An Anthology (Women of the Otherworld Series), Author: Kelley Armstrong  Otherworld Secrets is an anthology containing five stories related to the Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series.

Life After Theft stars Hope and Karl. Hope is a tabloid journalist, a half-demon that feeds off of chaos, and the daughter of Lucifer. Karl is a werewolf and a master jewel thief. (I can't help but think of the 1955 film To Catch a Thief when I think of Karl.) A thief in a building full of valuable artifacts; a chaos craving half-demon surrounded by objects with dark pasts - what could go wrong?

Forbidden focuses on the werewolves, specifically on how Morgan came to join the pack. It was also published as a stand alone novella, which I reviewed previously.

Eve and Kristof are two minor characters who have since died and moved on to the afterlife. In almost no one's idea of heaven, people still have to work. Kristof  does legal work as he did in life. Eve works part-time as an avenging angel for the Fates, or something like that. I've forgotten the precise details of her arrangement with the Fates. Angelic revolves around one of Eve's missions. Eve is a fun character. She has always been the bad good girl. In life she was a witch who embraced dark magic and sorcery. (In the Otherworld series, witches who are always women and sorcerers who are always men have been engaged in a long standing feud over whose magic is better.) In the afterlife Eve is the angel who doesn't always play by the rules.

I actually read The Ungrateful Dead, which focuses on Jaime, a while ago and don't remember all the details. (I'm reading the Otherworld series in chronological order which means skipping around in the anthologies.) In any case, I love any story involving Jaime and Jeremy. I wish there were more of them.

Zen and the Art of Vampirism focuses on Zoe, a minor character in the series. It was a quick, funny read about a couple of vampires who make the mistake of trying to take over Zoe's territory.

Counterfeit Magic stars Paige and Lucas, along with Page's ward Savannah (although she is an adult now so I'm not sure if she would still be considered ward), and friend Adam. Of all the Otherworld couples Paige and Lucas are the most ordinary. He's a lawyer and she, if memory serves, did something like build websites and otherwise help people with computing issues. Paige is also a witch, as is Savannah, and Lucas is a sorcerer. Adam is a half-demon. Several books, novellas, and short stories in to the series, and Paige and Lucas have now been married for eight years and they're struggling a bit under the strain of all their ventures and commitments: their investigative business, their work with the Cortez family cabal, and their work interracial council (for dealing with issues among the various supernatural races), plus the added work of being married and staying married. I liked this story. It started out about one thing and ended up somewhere else.

I love this series and am almost done with it. It will be sad when I reach the end. Luckily, Kelley Armstrong has several other series waiting for me to read.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

What We Talk About When We Talk About Clone Club by Gregory E. Pence

Title: What We Talk About When We Talk About Clone Club: Bioethics and Philosophy in Orphan Black, Author: Gregory E. Pence  I saw the cover of this book and the words "Clone Club" and immediately knew that I had to read What We Talk About When We Talk About Clone Club by Gregory E. Pence. I love the show Orphan Black. It's fun. It's intriguing. It makes me think. What could be better than a book about one of my favorite shows! Thankfully, the book did not disappoint.

For anyone not familiar with the show, it starts with a woman named Sarah Manning who sees a woman jump in front of a train. It's hard to know which is more disturbing: that a woman just committed suicide in front of Sarah, or that the woman looked exactly like her. Sarah soon learns that there are several other women who look exactly like her, excepting personal style in dress and hair and the like. It turns out Sarah is a clone.

I was hooked the moment I saw a preview of the show. I watched it and pretty much just accepted the science fiction aspect of it and didn't think too much about it. Pence's book made me think about the real world possibilities and ethical issues surrounding cloning. While human cloning seems unlikely to become a viable possibility anytime soon, it raises lots of interesting issues about assisted reproduction; expectations of children based on ancestry, culture, family, and other factors; individual and group identity, nature versus nurture, and more.

This book did have more science that I was expecting. As someone who was hopelessly confused by chemistry class, I was a little worried but Pence did a great job of explaining things. I would even say I learned something about genetics. If you're a fan of Orphan Black this is definitely worth the read. It's a quick read. It's thought-proving, and it's a lot of fun.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Dewey Read-a-Thon

The Complete Peanuts 1983-1984The 24-hour Dewey Read-a-Thon is back. On Saturday, April 23, I along with many others will spend an entire day reading. Okay, not really an entire day. One must make time for walks, snacks, and on occasion, talking to other people. Also it starts at 5 AM for my location and as much as I love reading I don't see myself waking up that early on a Saturday just to read.

What exactly is a read-a-thon? The official website describes it as a sort of reading challenge, one that you can participate in without leaving your house. In some ways it is an excuse to spend the day on my couch with a book. To be honest, that's not something I need a lot of encouragement to do. Yet at same time it is a very social event with people cheering and encouraging each other across multiple social media platforms.

Title: Otherworld Nights: An Anthology (Women of the Otherworld Series), Author: Kelley ArmstrongThere are different ways to approach a read-a-thon. One year I decided to focus on finishing one book. That was challenging in that although I was enjoying what I was reading it was difficult to stay focused on one thing for such a long period of time. Another time I used the read-a-thon to get through a bunch of comic books that had accumulated in my unread pile. That worked out really well. Lots of variety equaled no boredom. This year my plan is to read a bit from three to four different books: a nonfiction collection of essays on the ethics of cloning, a collection of Peanuts comics, and short stories from the Otherworld series. That way I shouldn't get burned out on any one thing.

Title: Otherworld Secrets: An Anthology (Women of the Otherworld Series), Author: Kelley ArmstrongWhat We Talk About When We Talk About Clone Club: Bioethics and Philosophy in Orphan Black   

So, 24 hours of reading, I can't wait! I love that people all over the country, perhaps even the world, will be reading together and celebrating the world of books.

Good luck to all those participating. Happy Reading!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters

Title: World of Trouble (Last Policeman Series #3), Author: Ben H. Winters   I picked up this book with anticipation and dread. Anticipation because I have loved this series, and dread because once I finished World of Trouble it would be over. Oh, the problems of readers and great books.

World of Trouble is the third and final book in Ben H. Winters's Last Policeman series. The world is ending, really ending. An asteroid is scheduled to crash into the planet in early October and most of the life on Earth is expected to go the way of the dinosaurs. Henry "Hank" Palace is promoted to detective as other officers resign to go fulfill their bucket list dreams before the world ends. In a way Hank is doing his bucket list - being a detective was always his dream job and he's not about to let a little thing like the end of the world stop him. In the first book Hank persists in solving a murder that appears to be a suicide. In the second he takes on a missing person case. In this last book the case is more personal: he's looking for his little sister Nico.

Title: The Last Policeman (Last Policeman Series #1), Author: Ben H. WintersHank last saw Nico when she rescued him after he was shot. Saving Hank was a pit stop on her way to saving the world. There was a scientist who worked out a way to do it by blasting a nuke into space and altering the course of the object hurdling towards the planet. Nico and others were working to get the scientist to where he needed to be to make it all happen. Hank listened in disbelief as Nico explained the plan to him. He tried to make his sister understand that there was nothing to be done, but Nico wouldn't accept that. She had hope. The two siblings parted, each thinking the other was blind to the truth. Now with just two weeks before the asteroid is expected to alter the planet in a most severe way Hank realizes that he wants to spend what little time there is left with the last surviving member of his family. And so Hank, with his dog Houdini and a not entirely trustworthy companion he met on his last case, leaves the woods of New England and sets off for Ohio where Nico was last headed.

Title: Countdown City (Last Policeman Series #2), Author: Ben H. WintersHank is single-minded in a way that is almost certifiable. When he's on a case he doesn't stop even when personal safety or common sense suggest that he should (or at least that he should take a step back and try a different tactic). He is a person who must know the truth, who must solve the puzzle. Under normal circumstances this would probably make him a great cop, the guy you want on your side because you know he will stop at nothing to find the truth and bring the perpetrator to justice. Under world ending circumstances he's still a great cop, a great man even, but he's also arguably a little crazy. Nico was in denial about the impending the end of the world. In a way Hank's insistence on discovering the truth and ferreting out wrongdoers in world where the big truth is that life is about to end is its own form of denial.

This is one of the best series I've read in awhile. Every book was strong. The characters, the details about society as it crumbles under the despair of impending doom - it all worked. I'm so sad the series is over.