Monday, December 4, 2017

Bayou Born ~ Hailey Edwards

Edwards, Hailey. 2017. Bayou Born.  New York, NY: Piatkus Books, a division of Little, Brown Book Group. ISBN 978-0349417066.

I really enjoyed the unique world-building of this Urban Fantasy title and all the creativity the author put into developing the story.

Luce is a police officer in a small Mississippi town, and is infamous for being rescued from a swamp (bayou) when she was ten with strange metal bands marking her skin and no memory of her past.  She was adopted by a policeman who has protected her with the love of a true parent, but she has always wondered where she came from. When another woman is found in the swamp with the same markings, Luce hopes to get some answers with the help of a strange crew of security experts who arrive in town at the same time.

The characters in Bayou Born were well-developed and distinct and the dialogue was well-written and included a lot of humor. The paranormal elements were unique and creative, and I applaud the author for her imagination.  However, I had a few issues with the writing itself: the figurative language (similes and metaphors) and inner dialogue of the main character were often a bit overdone - some similes were so long that I got lost in understanding the point by the end of the description.  I think the writing could have been tightened up a bit without losing the humor the author was apparently aiming for.  This is a world that I would like to visit again, and it looks like it's been set up for a series.  I have high hopes that the author will continue to hone her writing style and perhaps make it a bit easier on the reader in the future.

The Beautiful Ones ~ Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Moreno-Garcia, Silvia. 2017. The Beautiful Ones. New York, NY: Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 978-1250099068. $26.99 USD.

Kudos to Silvia Moreno-Garcia for diving into yet another genre successfully! After the magical coming-of-age SIGNAL TO NOISE, she moved on to vampire mythology in CERTAIN DARK THINGS and now presents us with a Regency "romance"  - with a twist.

 This book has a very Jane Austen feel to it, which is, of course, a compliment. Nina Beaulieu has come from the country to have a "season" in the London-like city of Loisail, and is staying with her cousin. She has grown up rather wild and has trouble with the strict rules and manners needed to be a successful debutante.  She is being tutored in etiquette by her cousin's wife, Valerie, who doesn't like her very much, and things are not going very well.  The sudden appearance of a magician from Valerie's past creates an opportunity for Nina to learn to control her telekinetic powers.  But there are secrets that Nina knows nothing about that will impact her and those closest to her.  This was a very enjoyable read, and I'm impressed by this author's versatility.  Looking forward to where her muse takes her next!

Artemis ~ Andy Weir

Weir, Andy. 2017 Artemis. New York, NY: Crown. ISBN 978-0553448122. $27.00 USD.

Andy Weir's new SF novel, Artemis, is a different type of story than his run-away best seller, The Martian, but to me it was just as enjoyable.  Jazz Bashara, the main character in Artemis, is one of my favorite characters so far this year (along with Eleanor and Polly from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and The Book of Polly)!

Jazz Bashara lives on the moon colony Artemis and has a low paying, low level job. She supplements her income with a little smuggling from Earth, and wants more than anything to improve her lot in life. To achieve that, she makes some questionable choices, and this is what drives the plot.

Jazz is a fully realized character, snarky and strong willed. Her inner dialogue and interactions with other characters are hilarious at times. The author does a great job of revealing what life would be like on a moon colony and I enjoyed the descriptions of how everything worked. Jazz is what I'd call an "anti-hero" in fiction, and kudos to the author, as these characters are usually male.  She has no problem breaking the law, if she'll make money, but she also has standards. I found the story fascinating and entertaining - exactly what I look for in fiction.   I ordered two copies for my SFF collection, plus the audiobook and a large print copy, and all are currently checked out with holds!

(Just noticed this book is OUT OF STOCK on Amazon!  It must be on lots of readers' Christmas Lists this year, as it should be)!

Lariat List Reading DONE!

Image result for tla lariat list

I haven't reviewed many books recently due to the heavy reading load from my TLA Lariat Adult Fiction Reading List Committee responsibilities (We vote this week)!  I will submit reviews for those in January, once the list is published.

However, I did get a few extras read (in addition to the 75 or so I read for the Lariat List).  I'll be reviewing those in the coming weeks.

Happy Reading!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Dead Man's Bridge ~ Robert J. Mrazek

Mrazek, Robert J. Dead Man's Bridge. New York, NY: Crooked Lane Books, a division of Perseus Book Group. ISBN: 978-1683312697. $26.99 USD.

Another campus mystery that caught my eye was Dead Man's Bridge by Robert J. Mrazek, a series debut from Crooked Lane Books featuring a new character named Jake Cantrell.  I was not familiar with the author, but after reading Dead Man's Bridge, I am a new fan!

Jake Cantrell, a former soldier, has left the military under a cloud of suspicion, and the only job he can get is that of a campus security guard proffered by an old friend who is the President of the college. During Alumni weekend a former student is found hanging rather gruesomely from a bridge (the titular "Dead Man's Bridge).  Jake is persona non grata with the campus security chief, but his old friend asks him to look into the death quietly.  Using skills he honed in the miltary and contacts he knows from his undergraduate days on the campus, Jake discovers a revenge plot as well as a separate rather kinky blackmail situation to sort out.

All the elements of a great mystery are here: an interesting and slightly mysterious protagonist with a past, an unusual crime, great dialogue, episodes of violence intermixed with logical procedural narrative, and of course, a dog!  Great series debut, and I hope to read more Jake Cantrell mysteries in the future (that hopefully include the war dog, Bug)!

Shadow of the Lions ~ Christopher Swann

Swann, Christopher. 2017. Shadow of the Lions. New York, NY: Algonquin Books, an imprint of Workman Publishing Company. ISBN: 978-1616205003. $26.95 USD.

It took me a few tries, but when I finally got into Shadow of the Lions, I read it straight through.

 I love campus novels and that was what intrigued me about this title.  An author, Matthias Glass, whose life is imploding, takes a job as a teacher at his high school alma mater where years earlier his best friend Fritz inexplicably disappeared from campus, never to be seen again.  The author does a great job of describing the impact this tragedy had on the lives of Matthias and the other characters in the book.

There are several unexpected revelations that I did not see coming - always a plus! And the resolution of the book is extremely satisfying.  My only small criticism is that the pacing was a little off at times, which affected the flow of the novel. However, this is a debut and Mr. Swann will continue to hone his craft. Overall, it was a truly enjoyable read, and I became invested in the main characters and the outcome.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Perfect Stranger ~ Megan Miranda

Miranda, Megan. 2017. The Perfect Stranger. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 978-1501107993. $25.00 USD.

I was so impressed with Megan Miranda's adult fiction debut, All the Missing Girls, that I nominated it for the Texas Library Association Lariat Adult Fiction Reading List.  We were thrilled that Ms. Miranda was able to speak at our Author Luncheon in San Antonio in April.

With her second adult fiction title, The Perfect Stranger, there is definitely no "sophomore slump." As a matter of fact, I may even like this one better than the first!  As I was reading it, I felt like Gretel from the fairy tale following a trail of clues: except those clues led me into the dark forest of the unknown rather than into a safe harbor.

It is amazing how the author structures her story and drops bombshells in the narrative which take the reader into unexpected territory.  You have a somewhat unreliable narrator, but one you are rooting for; a series of crimes that you can't quite figure out; and forays into the past that shock you as they reveal truly unexpected plot twists.  The resolution is satisfying and consistent with the themes explored in story.  The Perfect Stranger is....well, perfect - and one of my favorites from last Spring. As someone who reads a LOT of books, I am truly excited to be able to recommend this one.