Category Archives: Book Banter

Book Banter: Bitter Blood

bitter bloodTitle: Bitter Blood (Morganville Vampires #13)

Author: Rachel Caine

Length: 404 pages

Genre: urban fantasy

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: After defeating the draug, the vampires of Morganville are taking the top spot again, despite promises to give humans more equality. When the humans are asked to carry identification, Claire and her friends take issue. As usual, Claire and co. get in way over their heads as they try to figure out what might be behind the vampires’ behavior.

Banter Points: I’ve been trying to finish this series for ever and I’m down to the last two after this one. The first six books are still the best, but of the recent ones, this one was really good, probably because it felt like a return to the beginning of the series. The humans v. the vampires was the main plot — no weird drugs, no strange enemies in the water-monster draug. Forcing the characters to figure out who they could trust, again, was a nice echo of the first few books.

This one also had interesting ideas about political resistance which felt a little too on point for today.

With two more books to go, I’ll be interested to see how Caine puts an end on the series.

Bummer Points: I started reading these books when the series launched in 2006. In the ensuing 11 years, I don’t have quite as much as patience for the YA side of these books, especially the romantic drama.

Also, there was a strange subplot with ghosts that was never fully explained and just bogged down the interesting part.

Word Nerd Recommendation: For an older teen reader, these are still a good choice.

Advertisements

Book Banter: The Late Show

lateshow The Late Show

Author: Michael Connelly

Genre: Mystery

Length: 405 pages

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: Detective Renee Ballard is stuck on the “late show,” the overnight shift for the Hollywood division of LAPD. She rarely gets to see cases through, just doing the initial legwork. But when terrible beating is followed by a mass shooting at a nightclub, Renee finds herself uniquely positioned on both cases.

Banter Points: This is Connelly’s first foray with a new detective that’s not Harry Bosch. The crimes are interesting and the twist is a nice one.

Bummer Points: Connelly should stick to Bosch, or maybe Mickey Halley. Renee Ballard isn’t a compelling character. While I have no problem with authors writing main characters that are the opposite gender from them, Connelly falls terribly short on writing a female cop. Yes, Renee has to be tough to fit in with the “guys” in the department. But in private moments, she’s just wooden and terrible. She should have emotions, or worries and she has none of them.

Also, without being too much of a spoiler, something happens to Renee that just feels cliched for a cop novel.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Unless you’re a die-hard Connelly fan, skip it.

Book Banter: Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?

who killedTitle: Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? (Shadow Police #3)

Author: Paul Cornell

Length: 358 pages

Genre: urban fantasy

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: The Shadow Police team are back and this time their victim is none other than London’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. Or maybe just the idea of him. “Holmesmania” is stirred up in town because of three film project all featuring the famed detective. But after Holmes’ death, subsequent murders start mimicking his great cases. But the Shadow Police themselves are struggling after their last case and not functioning well as they try to get ahead of the Master Detective and make sense of the clues.

Banter Points: If you like convoluted mysteries, this one has a doozy. I can’t say much without spoilers, but keep your thinking cap on as you read because the twists are pretty mind-bending.

My friends and I have been playing a number of games based on the Lovecraftian Cthulthu mythos and in such our game characters are regularly going mad. Because of that, I think I appreciated more what Cornell was doing in this one of letting the toll of the supernatural horrors the team has seen really affect them, particularly their DI, James Quill. Still the series is building nicely on itself, ratcheting up the action and tension with each installment.

Bummer Points: Because it’s been a while since I’d read Shadow Police and had read the Pete Grant magical London books, I was getting the two systems mixed up. I think I was expecting Shadow Police to be like Peter Grant and that’s never going to be the case.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you want some dark urban fantasy, then the Shadow Police series is for you. Bordering on horror

Book Banter: Finding My Badass Self

findingTitle: Finding my Badass Self (ARC)

Author: Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

Length: 225 pages

Genre: humor/memoir

Plot Basics: Writer Sherry Stanfa-Stanley takes her readers through a year-long humorous journey of 52 new experiences — from a Brazillian wax to going ghost-hunting — as she decides that her 52nd year will be one of testing herself and saying “yes” to new opportunities.

Banter Points: Memoirs typically aren’t my thing, but Sherry’s book is laugh-out-loud funny and manages to also be insightful, a feat that I think is probably easier said than done. I met Sherry several years ago at the Midwest Writers Fellowship and since we weren’t in the same small workshop group, I didn’t really see her writing at that time. But when she announced her 52/52 Project on Facebook, I happily followed along.

I’d read many of her adventures in the book as she blogged about them on Facebook, but in the book, they were refined and even better. I made the mistake of reading about her bug-eating adventure as I was microwaving my lunch, felt my hands get sweaty too as she described the high-ropes course and decided from her adventures in a float tank, that that is an experience I can safely say is not from me because I learned from her.

If you need some inspiration to get out of the ruts in your life and try something, this is your guidebook.

Bummer Points: My TBR pile has been so stacked up lately, that I had to read Sherry’s book in big gulps, more like a novel. I think the wisdom would seep out more if a reader could read one of two of her adventures, put it down, and come back the next time they needed a laugh.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If your reading soul needs some chicken soup without the schmaltz, this is the book for you. Sherry really is funny and her willingness to be honestly self-deprecating is refreshing… because she finds the places she learns. Sure, she might get lost on a Segway in Italy, but she also triumphs and successfully figures out how to navigate herself back to safety. It’s the fact that she wins (mostly) that makes the book so rewarding to read.

 

Book Banter: Broken Harbor

Broken-HarborTitle: Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad #4)

Author: Tana French

Genre: mystery

Length: 450 pages

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: Detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy has a brilliant solve-rate, always playing by the book (save for the fracas in “Faithful Place.”) He and his new young partner, Richie Curran, get the call about a brutal, apparent murder-suicide of two children and their parents in the town of Broken Harbor, a place that’s burned into Scorcher’s memory for past reasons. The case should have been open-and-shut, but as Scorcher and Richie look into it the case gets strange — a deleted computer records, weird holes in the walls of the victims’ house and Scorcher and Richie soon find the case isn’t what they thought.

Banter Points: Tana French delivers again. Each one of these books keeps delivering a great story, even though the formula is set now. I was telling a friend about these — how you know that the lead detective will do something career-ending through the investigation — but how compelling it is anyway.

Bummer Points: As much as I love these books, they are kind of emotionally exhausting. After I finished this one, I turned to my husband and said, “let’s watch something nice now” because I needed a palate-cleanser. Watching people make humungo mistakes (especially when that is one of my great fears in life) is hard. Cathartic because it was them and not me, but hard.

Word Nerd Recommendation: This series is great, but you might need some space in between each. Past books are reference, but you don’t have to read them in order to know what’s happening.

Book Banter — Afterlife

afterlifeTitle: Afterlife

Author: Marcus Sakey

Genre: suspense/sci-fi

Length: 320 pages

Where Bethany’s copy came from: ARC from NetGalley; releases on July 18.

Plot Basics: FBI agent Will Brody has found the woman of his dream, his boss, Claire McCoy. But they are caught up in a manhunt for a sniper who’s terrorizing Chicago. But when Will gets caught in a bomb blast, he wakes up, in an alternate Chicago, utterly alone. Or so he thinks, until he finds others in the echo. The manhunt spans life and death and not even that will stop Will from reuniting with Claire.

Banter Points: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. While I tagged it as suspense/sci-fi, it’s really a love story (sort of like Passengers, in that regard). Yes, it’s set in a cop-plot with crazy, big worlds and elder gods, but ultimately, the story is about how far Will and Claire will go to be with each other.

Sakey mentioned in his afterward that he kicked this idea around for years. I’m glad he did. This plot in the hands of a younger writer — even a younger Sakey — would probably have come off as corny as heck. Sakey’s always had suspense chops, but in the last few years as evidenced in his Brilliance trilogy, he’s developed a finer emotional edge that makes a story like this work.

Bummer Points: Certain readers will not be able to handle the theology of this book. For me, it was still an enjoyable read even if it didn’t align at all with what I believe happens after death. For potential readers with strong views about Heaven/Hell, this isn’t the book for them.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you haven’t read any of Sakey’s work, this is a fine place to start. Afterlife is going to be a movie, but like with most adaptations, it’s probably best to do the book first.

Book Banter: Miranda and Caliban

mirandaTitle: Miranda and Caliban

Author: Jacqueline Carey

Genre: fantasy

Length: 348 pages

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: Miranda knows only life on the island with her Papa, though she has fragments of memory from before. When Papa binds the wild boy — Caliban — to serve him, Caliban and Miranda become good friends. But their friendship stands in the way of Papa’s magical plans and it could threaten to destroy them.

Banter Points: If you haven’t guessed, “Miranda and Caliban” is a retelling of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” I think I saw a live production of the Tempest when I was in high school, but my memory is foggy at best.

I think not knowing the play actually increased my enjoyment of Carey’s retelling because I didn’t know what was coming. My recollection is that Carey’s book spends a ton of time before the Shakespeare story actually starts and the part that’s the play takes up just a fraction of the book.

Carey’s story is a beautiful picture of the innocence of early friendship and how the world can taint it. Miranda is lovely, Caliban is loyal, Prospero is deceiving, Ariel is tricksy — just as expected, but the way she tells the story, it’s all rich. I just sank into this book and wish I could go back.

Bummer Points: I don’t have much here, other than I wish it could have ended differently for the characters.

Word Nerd Recommendation: This is a strong, strong contender for a top 10 book of the year.

Bonus: Also, my May Reading Challenge Book! While I didn’t quite find it on the new book shelf, I had it on hold from Wowbrary from before it was released.

Book Banter: Henry and the Chalk Dragon

chalk dragonTitle: Henry and the Chalk Dragon

Author: Jennifer Trafton

Genre: juvenile fiction

Length: 229 pages

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: Henry drew the best chalk dragon on his door… but it escapes. With his creativity running wild, Henry and his school friends Oscar and Jade. are going to have to learn bravery and how to let their imaginations run free to recapture the creature.

Banter Points: At Hutchmoot 2016, I got to hear Trafton read a chapter aloud and she had the audience of grown-ups laughing along. I promptly told my coworker who is the juvenile book selector about it and she ordered a few copies for our Library for when the book released in April.

This book is delightful. I’ve already told several people about it and I highly suspect it will make my top 10 for the year. Yes, it’s a kids books, but it powerfully talks about the differences of creativity and conformity and how to stand up for both people in trouble and your work. It’s just as poignant for adults… maybe even more so.

Bummer Points: I wish this book had existed when I was a 3rd-grader like Henry. It would have been good for me in those years.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Read it for yourself or get it for the kids in your life, especially if they are artsy types who might be inclined to give that up in the face of conforming to popularity.

Book Banter: Moon over Soho

sohoTitle: Moon over Soho (Peter Grant #2)

Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Length: 375 pages

Genre: urban fantasy/police procedural

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL digital collection

Plot Basics: When a jazz musician suddenly drops dead, Peter Grant doesn’t seem to think it’s case that falls into his specialized (aka, magical) territory. But when the coroner realizes it’s the latest in a string of jazz musicians falling dead, Peter is on the case, while still trying to learn both policing and magic.

Banter Points: Sometimes, series suffer from the sophomore slump, but “Moon over Soho” is maybe even better than “Midnight Riot.” Peter is still learning what it means to be a magical wizard cop and dealing with the aftermath of what happened to Leslie and Nightingale in the first outing.

Because of the links to jazz, Peter turns to his dad, the famous “Lord Grant” and former jazzman to understand the players — and how they are being played — and it gives a nice insight into Peter’s background. The books is peppered with brilliant one-liners from Peter that are soaked in British thought. They might some of the best parts of the book.

Also — Aaronovitch clearly has a sense of how magic works in the book and while the reader gets small lessons it’s not overwhelming. The lack of long explanations helps to make it, well, magical.

Bummer Points: Because I’m discovering him for the first time, Peter is still possibly edging Harry Dresden off his perch.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Loving this series. If you are looking for a great read, this is it. The magic is subtle enough that if you’re mostly a mystery book reader, you can still like these. If you’re more of an urban fantasy person, these are great crime books with a solid police procedural core.

Book Banter: Generation V

generation vTitle: Generation V

Author: M. L. Brennan

Length: 312 pages

Genre: urban fantasy

Where Bethany’s copy came from: IndyPL Downloadable collection

Plot Basics: Fortitude Scott is a baby vampire, meaning he’s still mostly human, and trying to make a human go of it, barely making ends meet with a coffee shop job and a deadbeat roommate. When his mother accepts a vampire guest into their territory, Fort is stunned at the way that vampire behaves and is determined to do something about it. With his new bodyguard, the shape-shifting fox Suzume, Fort goes up against a menace and has to figure out how to use his family legacy to get the job done.

Banter Points: If I hadn’t already found Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series, this might be in the running for Best Discovered Author. I haven’t picked up an urban fantasy in a while that entertained as much as Generation V.

While Brennan plays with the vampire mythos, her changes were good ones. She kept familiar items — such as their weakness with sunlight — but gave it a nice twist so that it’s an affectation that gets worse as the vampire gets older.

Fort and Suzume have a fun banter between the two of them, but it works both as sidekick material and ways to move the story forward and propel characters to action. Also, at least so far, the vampires are not sex symbols. More like Rachel Caine’s Morganville vampires, they are bad guys but trying to stay under the radar of humans.

Bummer Points: I got nuthin’.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I’m definitely going to keep going in this series of fun reads.