Book Reivew: Murder on the Orient Express

I read Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie for the National Novel Reading Month (NaNoReMo for short), hosted by John Wiswell. You’re supposed to that classic you always meant to read, but never got around to actually reading.

Murder on the Orient Express is a mystery classic. I’ve never seen any of the movies or the TV show. But I know the story, which probably indicates just how much of a classic it is.

Before I started the book, I didn’t know this is the ninth in a series. But it was okay. I think there were references in the beginning of the book to past events, but it didn’t affect the rest of the story.

Despite starting late – I completely forgot until the middle of the month! – I finished it quickly. The book is supposed to be around 300 pages, but it didn’t feel that long. It was a quick read. I also didn’t know that detective was Belgian. I suppose I thought he was English or American or something. (I mean, Dame Christie was English so . . . yeah, I assumed.)

The language was a bit formal, but not more than I was expecting. I mean, this book was first written in the 1930’s, and all writing was a lot more formal back then.

It’s written in the third person, and while it’s a fairly strict third person, there is a lot more distance between the reader and the main character than in contemporary third person POV. I think this might be a result of the formality of the language. That makes me wonder, how much of a role does language play in how much distance exists between the main character and the reader in other POVs?

I liked how she divided the suspect interviews into chapters and how she built up each character before the murder even happened. It made the conclusion that much more inevitable. The reveal of how all the characters are connected was slow, almost delicate, and I liked it a lot.

So, I was looking at the characters and how their stories match up. This is what comes of knowing how it ends. ;) I think, if I didn’t already know the ending, it would be hard to guess. I mean, who would guess that were all in on it!

And the ending! They let everyone go! That, I didn’t know. I am glad I didn’t because it was a surprise. They let the whole train car of murderers go. I mean, the guy who got murdered deserved it. He got justice at the hands of his victims that he never got in the courts. Even so. Still not sure how I feel about it.

Book Review: The Siren Depths by Martha Wells

The Siren Depths is the third in the series and I think it’s probably my favorite in the whole series. It might be confusing without reading the previous books.

The word is gorgeously described and very, very imaginative, just like in the first book. And it just keeps getting better. I love it.

I love the characters, too. The main character, Moon, finds the family that abandoned him when he was born. Apparently he’s the spitting image of his father. ;)

Moon was born a consort in a winged, matriarchal race. Consorts are the only males that can breed with a Queen. There are rules to govern the behavior of Consort. But Moon, having grown up in the wild, never learned any of the rules. Indeed, he never knew the name of his race until half way into the first book.

Because of the rules governing the life of a consort, Moon is forced to go back to his family. The relationship rules are kind of complex, IMO. But explained because Moon is an outsider. (I think trying to explain the rules to the reader if the main character were not an outsider would very, very difficult.)

Because of the life Moon had (he has been wandering the world ever since he was a child, always hiding, always ready to move on) trust is difficult for Moon. Very, very difficult. There is lots of action, lots of drama, but Moon’s insecurity about his place always pops up. He even says something like that to his new-found mother: if the Fell treated me well and told me I belonged with them, I would have.

The Fell are the enemy, and very, very different from his own people. Any physical similarities are misleading. It highlights how Moon felt in the first book and though he has learned to trust a little, he still has a long way to go.

The one thing that is clear to me at the end of this book is that Moon will never, ever be like a normal consort of his people. He can pretend for a few hours maybe, but in the end, he will always do something no other consort would ever do.

His Queen accepts that, which is just as well.

I don’t know which is my favorite scene in this book. There are so many good ones, I just don’t know. Nothing stands out for me right now.

Definitely worth reading, but after the first two in the series. I am pretty sure I will re-read this again. I will figure out then which scene I like best.

Continue reading

Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

I never had to read To Kill A Mockingbird in high school. Just as well. The bulk of the books I was forced to read in high school were boring. To Kill A Mockingbird doesn’t really have the blood and mayhem like the Anita Blake books or the In Death series or David Weber’s books.

But, for banned book week, from September 30 2012 to October 6, 2012, I decided to read To Kill A Mockingbird.

It’s not as boring as I expected. It doesn’t have nearly the same level of suspense and tension as my preferred reads, but it wasn’t boring. Having said that, I don’t know if I’ll ever read it again.

To Kill A Mockingbird is supposed to be a first novel. Frankly, that’s hard to believe. It may be the first (and last!) novel published, but that doesn’t mean it’s the first novel Harper Lee wrote. To Kill A Mockingbird is written very well. It shows the growth of Scott – yes, despite the reviews stating none of the characters grew at all, there is character growth. It is gently shown, gently depicted, so gently you hardly notice it at all. It is all so well-done I can’t believe this is a first novel. I can’t even believe she stopped writing after she finished To Kill A Mockingbird.

I knew from the first sentence that the book took place during in the Depression. The family must have been truly rich before the Depression, to be able to afford a cook and housekeeper during the Depression.

At first, I thought Scout was a boy. Scout isn’t a name I associate with a girl. Plus, it’s the 1930’s, and she doesn’t act the way I imagined girls in the 1930’s acted. She’s a tomboy. I only realized Scout is a girl when someone says her full name. Than I thought: wow, she’s a girl. How wonderful.

I found a couple of things odd in To Kill A Mockingbird:

1)      Scout and her brother call their Dad by his first name: Atticus

2)      On her first day of school, Scout’s teacher is upset because she can already read and write. Part of me is not surprised because I, too, had a teacher who told me not to write in cursive since it hadn’t actually been taught yet. But I don’t understand a teacher who would be upset because her student could already read.

To Kill A Mockingbird is known for being a coming-of-age novel and it is banned for offensive language and racism.

I don’t think anyone can deny there is racism in the book, but the main characters are not racist. Quite the opposite. Many of the other characters are racist, and yeah, that undoubtedly influences the feel of the book.

Scout’s aunt’s group of ladies are supposed to be good, Christian women but in one breath they praise god, the next breath they make racist comments. They don’t see it, and yeah, I think that’s deliberate. I am not sure how Calpurnia (the black cook) stood it. I suppose she wasn’t causing waves, doing her job, stuff like that. Still. I am surprised Calpurnia was able to hold her tongue.

Then there is the whole trial involving Tom Robinson. It was a real trial, and the some of the characters say that was odd. Still. Apparently Tom Robinson never stood a chance. That’s probably what prompted his escape attempt – he didn’t believe justice was possible. The white girl was clearly lying, possible being molested by her own father (she did say kissing her father didn’t count, didn’t she? I don’t know. Possible child molestation there. Not sure.) But lying for sure and no one on the jury cared. It’s not hard to understand why Tom Robinson didn’t believe justice was possible for him.

So, yeah, there is racism in the book. But it’s not really depicted in a positive way. More tragic and sad. I really don’t think that is a reason to ban or try to ban a book.

Offensive language – yes, there is offensive language in To Kill A Mockingbird. Most of them involve race. Many times they are directed at Scout’s father for actually defending a black man. Scout uses offensive words to try and get out of going to school. (She fails in this attempt.) The offensive words don’t show up for no reason, and they don’t show up all that often, either. I really don’t think that is a reason to ban or try to ban a book, either.

I’d heard To Kill A Mockingbird is a coming-of-age novel, but I don’t think it is. At least, it doesn’t go far enough. To me coming-of-age means you are growing up and going through the worse trials of growing up. It’s the transition from childhood to adulthood.

At the beginning of the book Scout is 6 years old and 9 years old at the end. She grows a lot, learns a lot in those three years. 9 isn’t grown up. She still’s a child. At the end of the book, she’s puts herself in Boots’ shoes and regrets she never paid him back for all the little gifts he gave them.

But she still has a lot of growing left to do. She still has to go through the teen years, still has to go through High School. High School will likely be more difficulty than her life so far. Not least, because she still has to yet learn girl skills. Or maybe she doesn’t. But in the time she is living, being a tomboy will only draw criticism. Which sucks, yeah, but gender roles were a lot more fixed back then. I suspect stepping out of gender roles would be very very difficult and likely require all the wisdom she learned from her father. (He raised her to be who she is.)

Book Review: Catching Fire

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

I finished the Hunger Games trilogy. I read the first book a while ago, than read most of the third book and skipped the second entirely. Last week, I finished reading the second book.

In the aftermath of the first hunger games, Katniss and Peeta are both suffering from post-traumatic stress. Which only makes sense. Katniss is slowly realizing she’ll have to wed Peeta to stay alive and she doesn’t like the idea. Actually, I think she doesn’t like the idea of being forced to do something she hadn’t decided on doing.

There are lots of memorable parts in Catching Fire. The part where she learns she has to fight in the Hunger Games again. The part where she hangs a likeness of the evil president of the Capitol. (That was really good. LOL) The part where her wedding gown turns into a mockingjay bird’s plumage. See, that is something I would love see on the screen. The movie better not skip that scene. Watching Katniss and Peeta really fall in love. The speech she gives on tour to Rue’s people.

But the part that shocked was when Cinna was murdered. I don’t know why that hit me so hard. I wasn’t expecting him to die. Her family, yes, her friends, yes, I figured them to be fair game.

One of most often quoted rules of writing is to murder your darlings and nothing could hurt Katniss worse than to watch her family die. Her sister, Prim, in particular. Rue’s death in the first book was like a foreshadowing of Prim’s death, IMO. I mean, the number of times Katniss compared Rue and Prim, the number of times Rue reminded Katniss of Prim. I half-expected Prim to die in this book or at least come close to death.

Cinna, on the other hand, is a minor character. His death makes sense in the books. But it shocked me. Shocked me more on anything else in the books. But he turned her into the Girl On Fire. He turned her into the symbol of the rebellion. His death devastated me.

But Catching Fire was good. Really good. Catching Fire was better than both the first and second books. I read it faster than the Hunger Games, faster than Mockingjay. It is the best book in the whole series. That’s odd, because it is also a middle book and middle books are usually the weakest in a series.

It has a cliff hanger ending, but I didn’t mind since I had the next one at hand. Otherwise, I think I might have been a little upset. LOL

Book Review: The Hammer of Darkness by L.E. Modesit

Blurb From GoodReads: Martin Martel is an exile in trouble with the gods in this SF novel by the bestselling writer L. E, Modesitt, Jr, now back in a new trade paperback edition from Tor.

After finding out that he has unusual powers, he is banished from the planet Karnak. Martin is thrust into the tranquil world of Aurore, vacation paradise for the galaxy. There he finds that the reality of Aurore is much different from its serene veneer. The gods are wantonly cruel and indifferent to the chaos they cause: are they really gods or just men and woman with larger-than-life powers? Whatever the answer Martin Martel must challenge their supremacy to defend his life, love, and the fate of all mankind.

I’ve read a lot of L.E. Modesitt’s books and enjoyed all of them. Except for this one. The Hammer of Darkness just confused me. I don’t understand the main character, one Martin Martel. I don’t understand his motivations or his goals.

Okay. So. There are gods and demi-gods and terrified worshipers. Odd, for a sci-fi novel. They have really mental powers, I get that. But the mental powers, the energy field they use, their god-like immortality, none of that is explained. It bothered me.

It’s also pretty clear from the writing this is an early book. I don’t know how early, but one of his earliest books. I mean, there is a big difference between this one and his latest book from this year.

What I liked: the main character does some sort of documentary of the religions of the planet. It was pretty fascinating. I would have liked to see more on this aspect of the world.

I think my biggest problem with the book is that the main character never really seemed to connect emotionally with others. He gets woman after woman. I mean, he says he loves this one, than the other one and he really lusts after these two. Another god kills the woman he says he loves, but he does nothing.

Then, later, he goes to another planet and destroys half the world. I never really understand why. He never really gave any reason for going to the other world in the first place. Afterward, the other gods see an opportunity – seeing as how he was away from his power base – to kill him. They fail and that fight that destroys a lot, too, but at least I understand destruction during a fight.

Than he comes back and takes one of the other goddesses back in time and places her as the daughter of a powerful lord in his world. It turns out she was the love of his life. But I don’t get why he took he back to the past. I just don’t.

The last scene is sweet and romantic. Apparently after destroying her rule and figuring out he wiped her memory and placed her as the daughter of a powerful noble, she decides she loves him after all.

I don’t get this book. I just don’t get it.

Book Review: Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton

Blurb from Goodreads: When a fifteen-year-old girl is abducted by vampires, it’s up to U.S. Marshal Anita Blake to find her. And when she does, she’s faced with something she’s never seen before: a terrifyingly ordinary group of people—kids, grandparents, soccer moms—all recently turned and willing to die to avoid serving a master. And where there’s one martyr, there will be more…

But even vampires have monsters that they’re afraid of. And Anita is one of them…

So  . . .  I am done with Kiss the Dead. It didn’t take long to finish. As always, it moves fast and quick. I talked about it here when I just started.

What I liked best: the beginning.

She gets her butt kicked by a new vampire in the opening pages. ;) It may be wrong of me, but I enjoyed it. It gave me hope for the rest of the book.

That hope was, by and large, fulfilled. Maybe because my expectations were low to begin with. LOL

Mostly, I just wanted a book that wasn’t driven by sex. That’s what I got. Oh, make no mistake, there was sex. But the first happened half way through the book and the second shortly after. I can’t tell you much about them; I am afraid I skipped past them. I don’t feel like I missed anything. As near as I can tell, there are no new guys.

I did pick up that by the end of Kiss the Dead, she has reached new levels of comfort with the youngest guy, the one she got as a kid in one of the previous books. (He’s eighteen now and about ready to graduate from high school. I cannot tell you much this relationship creeps me out.)

What I disliked: how Anita feels the need to point out she is small and tough every couple of paragraphs. Sometimes several times in the same paragraph.

The thing that surprised me the most is that they banished Asher for a few months. At the end, Anita has doubts about whether or not JC can really banish him. But I am hoping it happens. It’ll shake up their happy little life.

About the mystery: Anita does a lot of shooting. She does some things to scare the vampires into telling her what she want to know.

Some of the investigative part? I don’t know. Some of it feels iffy to me. Like it happens because the author needs to happen and there isn’t enough explanation.

I didn’t like the end. I didn’t dislike it, either. Oh, the mystery is solved; she goes deeper into her relationships. But it didn’t really satisfy. Something is missing, but hell if I can figure out what.

So . . . I am still going to read the next book.

Book Review: Bridge of Dreams by Anne Bishop

Blurb from GoodReads:

When wizards threaten Glorianna Belladonna and her work to keep Ephemera balanced, her brother Lee sacrifices himself in order to save her-and ends up an asylum inmate in the city of Vision.

But a darkness is spreading through Vision, perplexing the Shamans who protect it. And Lee is the only one who can shed any light on its mysteries…

I enjoyed Bridge of Dreams. I have to say I am not sure I could have understood Bridge of Dreams if I hadn’t read the previous Ephemera books. Also, I am a big fan of Anne Bishop and I’d been looking forward to Bridge of Dreams for a long time before it came it out. IMHO, it ended too soon.

So. In last book, Belladonna, lost a bit of herself. In the aftermath of the last book, she changed. Our hero, Lee, isn’t comfy with those changes. Also, he’s not comfy with her SO.

The world-building, as always, is fantastic. Her world-building is one the reasons why I love Anne Bishop and she doesn’t disappoint in this book. Some of it takes a little getting used to. I mean, the idea of a three-in-one-person is a little weird? And the notion they all different lovers, also three-in-one? I think it can probably get a little confusing.

I suppose that’s one of the things I dislike – at the end, the guy ends with one of the three-in-one-person and how does that work? It never explains. I don’t want the nitty-gritty details, but I want something more.

Anyway. The things I really liked – the world, the characters. I really loved the first scene from the POV from the three-in-one-person. It was strange and wonderful and really odd, too. All three of them are different. And then, at the end, it became a lot more clear just what they all need. It was really cool to read.

But the ending. Thing is, it didn’t feel like a real ending. It felt like there could be more, a lot more. Not just one character, either, but quite a few of them. The story needs to continue! I need closure.

Book Review: Armed & Dangerous by Abigail Roux

Blurb from Goodreads:

Left alone in Baltimore after his unpredictable lover bails, Special Agent Zane Garrett takes his frustration out on everything in his path until he is ordered to Chicago to back up an undercover operative. When he gets there, though, he finds himself face to face with his wayward partner, Special Agent Ty Grady. They have to deal with the uncertainty lingering between them while they work to retrieve their intended mark, a retired hit man and CIA wet-works operative named Julian Cross.

Ty, once a marine and now an FBI hotshot, has a penchant for being unpredictable, a trait Zane can vouch for. Zane is a man who once lived for his job but has come to realize his heartbreaking past doesn’t have to overshadow his future. They’re partners, friends, lovers, and the go-to team for unusual cases. With Cross and his innocuous boyfriend, Cameron Jacobs, in tow, Ty and Zane must navigate the obstacles of a cross-country trek, including TSA pat-downs, blizzards, their uncooperative prisoners, CIA kill teams, a desperate lack of sleep or caffeine, and each other. Ty and Zane are determined to get Julian Cross to DC in one piece, but it’s starting to look like it might be the last thing they do.

I’ve been reading this series for a long time, since Cut & Run came out, and I loved this one.

Julian Cross and Cameron from Warrior’s Cross are in this book and that is a crossover I never saw coming. But you don’t have to have read to appreciate them in this book.

All the others in the series were written by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban. This one was written by just Abigail Roux. I wasn’t sure what to expect without the collaboration, but it was good. Truthfully, I don’t think it made much of a difference. Armed & Dangerous felt a little smoother than the previous books. I don’t know if that’s because there was just one writer or something else.

What I loved: We finally learn a lot more about Ty. What makes him tick, why he is always fidgeting, what happened to him in the marines.

Oddly, we learn about it from Nick, Ty’s best friend. In the last book Nick did something he shouldn’t have and they haven’t spoken since. But they still got each other’s backs. :D

I wanted to hate Nick for what he did, but I don’t and I even forgive him. Zane forgives him, too, which is amazing. He seethed for almost the whole book whenever Nick was mentioned. IMHO, Nick deserves his own story.

So. At the end of the last book Ty left and the reunion in this book was pretty good. The drama over Ty leaving didn’t last long. Just as well.

By the end, their relationship is in a good place, stronger than in any of the other books. They both admit they love each other and they move in together. They are not open about their relationship at work, which should be interesting.

Ty’s and Zane’s boss is betrayed by an old friend. So the drama there is pretty interesting. As a result, they end up running and ditching anything traceable. Phone, car, car gps, watch.

Also, the book is just plain hilarious. The descriptions, the banter between them, everything. I really love the banter between them. It was always one of the best parts from the very beginning.

I am really looking forward to the next book. We still don’t know much about Zane’s family and history. Here is hoping the next book will fix that.

Plus, maybe Ty’s father will find out his son is gay. Not sure how the man will react to that, but judging from the past book, I don’t expect it will be fun.

Book Review: Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti

Blurb via Goodreads:

A steampunkish romantic fantasy set in Ondinium, a city that beats to the ticking of a clockwork heart. Taya, a metal-winged courier, can travel freely across the city’s sectors and mingle indiscriminately among its castes. A daring mid-air rescue leads to involvement with two scions of an upperclass family and entanglement in a web of terrorism, loyalty, murder, and secrets.

I liked Clockwork Heart. It’s steampunk. I can’t quite make up my mind whether it’s fantasy-type steampunk or science fiction-ish steampunk. Not that it matters overly much.

I liked Clockwork Heart for two reasons: the world building and the main character.

The world building is fantastic. The city and its inhabitants are made of castes, chosen after some test they take as teenagers. (I think as teenagers. Could be slightly earlier.) I didn’t see any hints that kid could be chosen into the ruling caste, but it seems possible to move in/out of the others after taking this test.

The main character is Taya, an icarus, someone who dons a flying suit and delivers messages. Like a glorified mailman. But the icarus caste are also trained in mid-air rescues. She is infinitely likeable. She falls into the company of an upper-class family as a result of a mid-air rescue that she did.

One thing I really, really liked are the computers. Most steampunk novels don’t have them. It’s called the Great Engine (there are a few smaller engines) and the programs are written on what sounds like punch cards. In my head, these computers are the size of whole rooms. Though the book talks about their gears and other steampunk-ish terms.

My favorite scenes:

1)      The mid-air rescue at the beginning of the book

It’s just so exciting. There is a heart-stopping fall. I have to say, I couldn’t perform stunts like that.

2)      The clockwork heart moment at the end of the book.

I expect the title comes from this last scene, and, yes, the title is quite perfect. This is the sweetest moment in the whole book.

The book is fast-paced, fresh and has a bit of a romance. Not much of one, maybe not enough to interest romance readers who mostly look for the romance. But it’s a strong subplot.

I just wish the main character’s motivations were clearer. She investigates the death of someone she was kind of having an affair with. For the sake of the plot, she has to do it.

But in emotional terms, I am not so sure it makes sense. She is sad and grieving and all. But she didn’t know him long enough to develop a strong attachment; he isn’t the love of her life. Plus, she falls in love with his brother so quickly afterward.

It’s almost like a setup for getting into a relationship with the brother. I just think it’s odd and now the whole relationship is stuck in my head.

BUT the book is enjoyable and fun to read. I look forward to a second book.

Book Review: Fair Game by Patricia Briggs

From Amazon:

They say opposites attract. And in the case of werewolves Anna Latham and Charles Cornick, they mate. The son-and enforcer-of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles is a dominant alpha. While Anna, an omega, has the rare ability to calm others of her kind.

Now that the werewolves have revealed themselves to humans, they can’t afford any bad publicity. Infractions that could have been overlooked in the past must now be punished, and the strain of doing his father’s dirty work is taking a toll on Charles.

Nevertheless, Charles and Anna are sent to Boston, when the FBI requests the pack’s help on a local serial killer case. They quickly realize that not only the last two victims were werewolves-all of them were. Someone is targeting their kind. And now Anna and Charles have put themselves right in the killer’s sights…

I loved loved loved Fair Game.

There is a murder investigation; Charles has serious issues with guilt over being his father’s henchman. Anna is worried about him and somehow ends up speaking with the humans about the murders, with Charles as her bodyguard.

The story is fast and tense and leaves you wanting to know what happens next.

What I liked best: the ending. It was spectacular. The legal court provides a silly (and predictable lol) ruling regarding the fae. A fae lord retaliates. His actions strike me as quite just. I think the schism is going to be permanent and provides for very interesting times ahead.

There are lots of other goods parts. Watching Anna confront the Marok? Fantastic. I mean, no one confronts him.

Charles has a lot of issues in this book. It’s been building and I suppose it’s only natural. One of the werewolves he killed kind of had it coming, but someone else made it sound like he didn’t. Charles fell for it, until yet another werewolf pointed that the punishment would have been the same even before the werewolves came out to the public. It was hard for Charles to see that.

What I don’t understand: Throughout the book, Anna kept telling everyone all the weakness of werewolves. Why? There was no need for her to reveal half as much as she did and I still don’t get why she did it. She told the agents how to behave around Charles and made him sound out of control, which he isn’t. Close to edge, yeah, but still in control.