Monday, October 12, 2015

Pop Goes the Weasel (Helen Grace #2) by M.J. Arlidge

This is an odd little series.  After I read the first book, the author scared me so badly I stayed awake at night for a few nights.  So I vowed, never again.  Despite that, here's a review of her second book.  And, yes, this one is as macabre as the first one...

New American Library sent me a copy of this book to read for review (thank you).  It has just been published so you should be able to find a copy at your bookstore now.

He's a deacon of the church but he's not a nice man.  When he goes out to find a prostitute for the evening, he never expected to end up dead.  His family had no idea of his outside activities but when his heart is delivered by special courier, they find out he's not coming back.

He's not the only victim, just the first one.  Helen Grace is assigned to the case but it's not an easy one to investigate.  Her boss is against her, her staff is having personal problems, and she's got a journalist that always seems to be in her back pocket.  The journalist has found out her secrets and is trying to blackmail her.  The family of the dead deacon refuse to believe that he was a regular john and had several sexually transmitted diseases; they are  just speaking ill of the dead.

There's lots of trauma, karma caught up with the deacon, two cops have resigned, and Helen doesn't know what's going to happen to her.  You don't read this series for clean easy-to-figure-out mysteries or happy endings.  The stories are mean and Helen always ends up on the short end of the stick.  I'm hoping maybe by the next one there might be some hope in Helen's life.  But I won't hold my breath.  Having said that, I'll probably end up reading the next one, too.  Mr. Arlidge's stories are well written, just hard to take.  Are you brave enough to read this one?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen

This book takes you beyond the pale.  Forget everything you knew and open your mind to the world of monsters...

Orbit and Edelweiss allowed me to read this book for review (thank you).  It will be published October 27th.

I wasn't expecting what I got in this book.  It's a wild ride with danger everywhere.  It's also the tale of a half-breed girl who leaves the alcoholic folks she lived with as an orphan and begins looking for her own people.  Or, at least, people who see her value and are willing to pay her an honest wage.  When she has an encounter with a vampire at home, she moves on to the next ranch and pretends she's a boy.  She knows how to break horses and gets a job there.  One old cowboy is like a dad to her.  She thinks she's got it good until she finds out that she can now "see" monsters.  The whores at the saloon are vampires but the men think they're getting sex.  It makes them happy and they never take enough to kill them or turn them.  But it bothers her...

If that's not bad enough, an Indian woman shows up at the ranch and she is ordered to take care of her as she is newest wrangler.  She does it even if she's unwilling.  Then a magical horse kills the woman and the horse and the woman haunt Nettie.  She can't ignore them if she wants to.  She's also given a mission to go kill the Cannibal Owl.  She can't do it alone.

If you haven't freaked out yet, there's a lot more to the story.  There are monsters everywhere, shapeshifters, good men and bad, and you can't even trust the animals.  Friends aren't even safe.  The ending is something else.  I'm not sure exactly what happened.  They talk about cliff hangers.  In this case, it's a cliff jumper.  As weird as the story was, I'd read another in this series.  Just to see what new challenges in life Nettie will be facing and also to see what she has become.  You won't be bored.

The Boy Who Knew Everything by Victoria Forester

Here we have a dark fantasy:  It's our world with mostly good people but there's also a pervading sense of evil.  How can children stop a guardian who is immortal?  Even if he's insane, he's almost invincible.

Macmillan Children's Publishing and Net Galley allowed me to read this book for review (thank you).  It will be published October 27th.

Conrad is very intelligent and that makes his father mad.  He's not sure why.  All he knows is that he can't "dumb up" and be like everyone else.  He's too inquisitive, can hack computers easily, and is willing to fix things in the world.  His father is moving up in the world and will be president soon, so he sends the boy away.  After all, if he's held in a school and no one sees him any more it'll be easier.

This is an interesting world.  Some children have special powers.  Piper can fly.  Some have X-ray vision, can turn invisible, are very strong, can shrink in size and more.  They are persecuted because they are different.  But Conrad helps turn them into an elite force that can save people from natural disasters.  The big question is are they natural disasters?  Or is someone helping them become one?

Ms. Forester creates a lot of questions in this story and she answers all the questions as the book goes on.  It's a complex story with twists and turns and I was afraid of the ending but she manages that well, also.  It might not be the happiest ending but it's one the characters in the book can work on.  They're not done yet. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas

She does what she can for the women of the community.  Most of the time she's successful but there are some difficult cases.  What she never expected was someone to accuse her of murdering a healthy child after its birth.  She left it alive, who killed it?  It wasn't her.

St. Martin's Press sent me a copy of this book for review (thank you).  It was published September 29th.

This is a story of secrets.  Every family in this community had them, even Gracy.  She never told the secrets she knew but some people still didn't trust her.  Some also thought she had caused their problems, mostly from guilt on their parts.  What she didn't expect was how many would stand against her.  The child belonged to the mine owner and he was a big man in town.  If he said she was guilty, they wouldn't disagree.

This story reads well.  It's sad and bit depressing but very honest about life in the late 1800's.  You didn't get coddled in that era.  My father's mother talked of having her babies at home by herself and then going back to the field to finish working.  The ladies in this book didn't have to do that but they also had to recover quickly.

I found myself reading the book in one sitting.  I had to see what happened and how it all turned out.  Gracy won't sacrifice a young girl to save herself.  It's not looking good for her.  The ending is ironic and appropriate.

This book is thought provoking and well worth the read.  If you have any interest in midwives or history this book is for you.

Nicotine Dreams by Dan Ehl

Trent Rowen is trying to give up smoking.  In an endeavor to make it less painful, he's wearing nicotine patches.  It was working quite well until he started dreaming.  Especially when the dreams ended up leaving him with bruises...

Mr. Ehl sent me a copy of this book to read for review.  I've reviewed other books for him and have enjoyed his work in the past.  At first his stories seem a bit too confusing with all the characters and the action going on but soon you're captivated and waiting to see what happens next.

This story has a very interesting premise.  The nicotine patch he is wearing allows him to visit alternative worlds.  We have the same characters from one world to another but the circumstances are different.  The love of his life disappeared and he never saw her again.  The alternate world has her but he's the one that died.  The killer is the same on both worlds.  Get your mind around that!

What's worse is that their monsters on the other worlds and perhaps even in his.  Trying to stay alive, move between worlds, and transport those who don't have the skill takes a lot of doing.  There's lots of action, lots of fantasy, lots of unbelievable stuff but it's a good story and keeps your attention.  I enjoyed it.  I wonder what Mr. Ehl will write next?

Friday, October 9, 2015

Go Home Flash by Ruth Paul

Here's a precious story about a puppy.  He looks a bit scruffy, he loves his family and he especially likes to go on walks.  The illustrations are luscious.

Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky sent me a copy of this book to review (thank you).  It has been published so you can grab a copy now.

Flash doesn't want to stay home.  He wants to go with one of his people.  He's OK with going to work or school or even grocery shopping.  Staying home is boring.  He has a few adventures but always ends up back at home.

This is written for young ones and has easy concepts to share about Flash digging a hole to get out or jumping over the fence.  My favorite part is when the family gets home and is ready to take Flash for a walk and can't find him.  Where he's hiding is sweet and so is he.

My "New Yorker" Stories by Thomas Owen

If you like esoteric stories that are a bit odd, you'll like this book.

Mr. Owen sent me a copy of it to review.  You can buy it now on Amazon.  These are stories he wrote hoping to get them in the New Yorker magazine.  I've seen the New Yorker but never read it.  I always thought it was bit stiff and formal.  Mr. Owen's stories are not but they are unusual.

The first one (and my favorite one) is The Winner's House.  It all started out as a good idea for a class project and it turned into a monster.  Two families are doing anything they can to win it.  With all the chances they've bought, they should be sure too.  Right...

Reality - "The Final Episode" reads just like some of these TV shows.  They keep going further and further trying to ensure the public will watch.  I think some are going beyond the pale now and don't watch, but here's the ultimate reality show for you.

February is an interesting story.  Apparently there are people who go nuts in February and act out however they can.  There's no real harm done, but this main character in this story is not normal.

These stories don't even taste like they were done by the same author but I know they were.  It's amazing what roads our minds can travel.  If you'd like to walk down some different ones, try these stories.  Who knows, they may sound familiar...