Reading is my favorite hobby, hands down. Books are love to me. I am an avid collector, and paper books will always edge out e-books with me.
Queen of Zazzau by J.S. Emuakpor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Not your typical historical fiction. I liked that it was about an African queen of legend, and there's plenty of mythology and folklore and magic intertwined. Some aspects of the story I didn't care for, but it was certainly a well-written, involving story.
Reviewed for Affaire de Coeur Magazine. http://affairedecoeur.com.
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I listened to the audiobook of this narrated by Jay Snyder and it was excellent. It's been a while since I read The Gray Man, so I was a little rusty on some details, but the book does a pretty good job of catching you up.
Court is a compelling character, undoubtedly a stone cold killer, but one with a moral compass. He started out as a CIA assassin and went private sector when he got burned, and when the book begins, he's four months out recovering from a standoff with his former employers at the CIA. Unfortunately, he has developed an opioid addiction that he somehow manages to keep in check for the most part. Now, he's having to take some assignments that aren't ideal. Gray gets picked up by a Russian gangster who wants him to do a hit on a certain leader in a certain country, and while he could say no, it wouldn't be exactly healthy for him. His former team commander contacts him to take the hit and turn it into a kidnapping, and that's when things get very interesting.
This book takes place over about a week, and it's practically nonstop action. Having said that, Greaney also leaves time for some introspection and character development with Court. While Court knows he's a killer, he knows right and wrong and would never be considered a psychopath or a monster, and he's far from sociopathic. When confronted with the genocide and ruthless murder and abuse of the black peoples of the Sudan, he wants to do something about it, even when it complicates his life greatly. He also has to save a woman who is in the wrong place at a terrible time. Court assumes responsibilities to keep her safe that involve killing others, and stands tall in the face of her judgmentalism about it. I personally was pretty annoyed at the woman. She was making some really stupid decisions and when Court risks his own mission to keep her ass safe, she's all up in his face calling him a monster. That conflict was interesting because it is timely with a lot of really profound evil going on in the world. When do our actions represent giving in to evil and compromising ourselves versus being a weapon for finding a rough sense of justice and ultimately helping others, admittedly through dark means?
Court is put into situations where he interacts with others who have the opportunity to assess his character, and most of them have huge character flaws of their own. I hope that there is some closure with the mob boss who hired Court. That dude needs to be dealt with.
I really like how Court has to get himself out of really tough situations using his training, skills and ingenuity to get out of nearly inescapable situations. Also how he makes tough, untenable choices. He knew what it meant when he decided to go against his commander's order. It was a tough decision that would make his life hell and things even worse for him than they were when everything started, but he made it anyway. He continues to do this through the rest of the book. Court is the kind of hero you root for to kick ass but also to save the day and to keep himself and others safe, even knowing he's an assassin (although I really like assassin heroes, so that's not an issue for me (as long as they aren't sociopathic or psychopathic monsters who enjoy hurting others).
The action scenes were very well written and cinematic. I felt like I was watching this on a movie screen. There weren't any cardboard character. Even the lesser developed characters still have some depth to them. His old commander, Hightower is an a***&%$%! And says some really racist stuff too. While the woman that Court helps annoyed me, I think that Greaney did show her growth in understanding of who Court was and what motivates him. Greaney gives a nuanced perspective on the situation in the Sudan and how it relates to the geopolitical current events with China and Russia (how they are exploiting Africa for resources, deliberately causing strife and destruction to facilitate this processes) , and not necessarily showing the Americans and the good guys who do the right things for the right reason.
I would have liked more closure on Court's health situation near the end of the book, but I have to assume that's all okay. I really hope he kicks the opioid addiction very soon.
This is a really excellent follow up to "The Gray Man." I already downloaded Ballistic so I can listen to it very soon.
Add a beautiful young painter and a handsome vicar who's a duke's son, throw in a dash of murder, and a sprinkle of art forgery, a Trumpian faux populist character, and there you have it.
This was enjoyable with clever writing and likable characters, but I felt like I had to keep putting it down. Could be me, with everything going on. I am looking forward to Gemma's story.
Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.
Reviewed for Affaire de Coeur Magazine: http://affairedecoeur.com.
I adore this series. I always look forward to the newest book. And I have to get these on audiobook because the narration is always excellent. I was not disappointed. At the end of "The Hollow Boy", Lucy leaves Lockwood and Co for what seems like good reasons at the time. She becomes an independent contractor ghost hunter and she's good at her job. But she's not happy, even with her glass jar skull for company. She misses the camaraderie of Lockwood and Co.: George, even Holly, and of course, Lockwood. But she left to keep them safe because her newer abilities to communicate with ghosts might cause her to make a mistake and get one of her friends hurt.
Lockwood shows up at her new digs and asks for her help with a case, and she agrees to help them out. It's one of their tougher cases, and Lucy finds her life in jeopardy shortly after, and realizing that she's more safe sticking with Lockwood and Co. until they fi
I listened to the audiobook of this and I was underwhelmed. At first I was excited since it's interracial. The heroine is a beautiful, dark-skinned African American woman and the hero is a dragon shifter (Caucasian in human form) from Eastern Europe. I still dug that about the story even though I was overall disappointed. I think that the major issue is that it was too derivative for me. I love the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and I like that it's had an impact on paranormal romance, but I would like to see an author inspired by these books to take to some diversions in storytelling that make their story more unique. While the author chose to inhabit her story with dragons of all kind, which was very cool, I felt like the style of storytelling, the number of subplots, and the set up of the group that Venom fights with is way too similar to the Brotherhood. There are characters that you can identify as certain BDB characters. Also, I feel that there is a lot of similarity to the Midnight Breed series by Lara Adrian. Another issue I have with the story is the dropped plotlines. At the beginning of the book Evelyn is in trouble with some Russian gangsters. It's like that all goes away. I was really confused about that. And some of the point of views I could deal without. I don't mind if we see the villain's POV somewhat, but not if they're not that interesting. I would rather have a scene where Venom kicks the crap out of the Russian gangster. The plot resolution suffered and failed to impress me. It was very anticlimactic. When the book ended, I was like, that's it? Yeah, I was pretty disappointed with this. I'm interested in the one character who reminds me of John Matthew before his transition, I think his name in Osgood. I'd definitely read his book. Overall thoughts: The dragon aspect, good. Romance: pretty good. Sort of an instaluv vibe, but I can live with that. Characters: Mostly forgettable. Plotting: poor. Too many storylines. Narration: I give the narrator some points for enthusiasm and style, but his Scottish accent was ferociously bad. Some of his European accents sounded like a campy version of Vlad Tepes aka Dracula. But I liked him despite that. He was having fun and that made me have fun. Overall rating: 2.5/5.0 stars.
I am a huge fan of the Will Robie series, so I thought I'd try the John Puller books. Plus action/adventure and suspense fans really recommend this series. John Puller is more like Jack Reacher than Will Robie. He's enlisted army and he's an investigator of crime scenes with military ties. His father is a three star general and his brother is in max security prison for treason. John is a by the books guy who follows the evidence. He is a decorated combat veteran with PTSD, but he manages to work past the flashback and triggers and uses the lessons he learned in Iraq to stay alive.
What seems like it should be a routine investigation into the murder of an Air Force officer and his family in one in a dying mining town in West Virginia leads to a conspiracy that goes much further and wider, and much deadlier.
Baldacci can write. John Puller is man of great self-control but he is no pushover. He can handle himself and is no fool. Highly intelligent and methodical in his work, he thinks on his feet and uses his logic and intuition expertly. I listened to the audiobook and the male narrator nails Puller. His diction is precise in speaking John's dialogue, making him feel distinct from other characters. The female narrator also does a good job, especially with the regional dialects. I liked having both a male and female narrator, because it gives the audiobook flow a vibrant energy.
The descriptions of the forgotten mining town and its citizens in comparison to the luxury enjoyed by the rich man who owns most of the town has a realism that grounds the story. The theme of broken promises and environmental rape and pillage, taking advantage of the workers and the townspeople for that extra dime in the pocket.
The suspense is expertly written. What starts as a grisly murder of a family that seems completely random leads to a climax that puts the lives of John, Samantha, the town sheriff, and the whole town and perhaps the region in jeopardy. The clock is ticking while Puller works to solve the puzzle of who, what, where and why.
The action is very good and it's balanced by a plot that is free of holes. I play a game when I read mysteries, trying to guess whodunit. I didn't guess this one, but fortunately John figures it out.
At first glance, John seems to be a very rigid guy, but glimpses of a sense of humor, empathy, pathos and vulnerability shine through his tough facade. His principles are rock solid, and it's clear that he doesn't like bullies or those who harm innocents. He's not moved by people who try to use their power and influence as bargaining chips. To him, bad is bad, no matter how big their bank accounts are. His relationship with his father is nuanced. His father is suffering from dementia and it's clear that interacting with his father through his fog of memory loss is very painful for John. But he's a man of duty and loyalty and honors his father, even when it's hard for him. I like John a lot. I'll be adding him to list of Kickbutt heroes.
I prefer Will Robie over John Puller, but I definitely enjoyed this book and plan on continuing to read it. It's just me, I like the Black Ops Asssassin trope a lot. But Puller is great for a procedural with a hero who is intellectual but also very capable of kicking butt. I think the mystery of Puller's brother Robert's treason a mystery worth delving into, and eventually I know that John will put his skills to work on it. John is a good 21st Century hero, a man of honor, integrity, intellect but also physical skills and capabilities that carry him through and make him an interesting and admirable lead character.
I'd recommend this to action/adventure suspense fans, especially for those look for an NCIS-style book.
The Early 20th Century writer HP Lovecraft has spawned a whole sub-genre of horror dedicated to his ideas, often called the Cthulhu Mythos or Lovecraftian horror. Not surprising that nearly 100 years later, people are still re-imagining his work and characters. "Carter and Lovecraft" is a different spin on Lovecraft. What if Lovecraft, frankly a huge bigot and racist, had descendants of color and one of them ran a bookshop? What if one of his recurring characters, Randolph Carter, actually existed, and his descendant was a police officer? And they team up in a story? Well, that's this book. Daniel Carter is a detective who has lived through the trauma of his partner killing himself in front of him after they rescue a kid from a serial killer. His last words referring to "the twist". Carter resigns from the police and becomes a private detective. Shortly thereafter, he inherits a bookstore from a person he never knew in Providence, Rhode Island. When he goes down there, he meets Mina Lovecraft, an African American woman who runs the bookstore for her uncle, who disappeared months ago and has been heard from since. Around the same time, Carter is hired on a case that leads to some very strange murders committed by a rogue mathematician. Could all these things be related? Yes. So this is a very strange book. It's relatively short, but there's a lot here to chew on. Howard knows his Lovecraft. This book is full of nuggets and easter eggs for Lovecraftian enthusiasts. I was encouraged to look up some elements of the story, and it gets deep into the Mythos. I think he captured the aspect of Lovecraft in that you feel like you have no idea about what's going on and you probably won't find out. He also touches on the visceral horror that is integral to Lovecraft. In some ways, he develops some aspects of the Mythos better. His characters are more fleshed out and are used as more than devices to spread the feeling of fear and fatalism about an indifferent universe. He picks up some concepts and themes from some of Lovecraft's stories and creates a new story out of them set in the 21st Century. But my favorite part is how Howard subversively dissects Lovecraft's bigotry and racism. Mina is a descendant would have done Lovecraft proud if he could get past his white supremacy and racism. She's thoughtful, intelligent, emotionally stable, well-read, and loyal and very strong. She had a matter-of-fact approach to weirdness, which is enviable, considering some of the events that happen in this family. She seems to be the antidote to Lovecraft's claustrophobic fear of the Other and conviction that some people are just genetically inferior. Daniel Carter is a good co-lead. He's a decent guy. As a cop, he tends to be a skeptic about things, but in the face of weirdness, he doesn't shut down, he follows the lead. I like that he had to confront his own hidden prejudices and comes out a better man after he did so. He does feel at times the helplessness in the face of events beyond their comprehension that is emblematic of Lovecraft's protagonists, but doesn't give into and doesn't allow it to break his mind. There's a developing connection between Carter and Lovecraft, but it's nascent. They become friends, and its likely what they go through will only strengthen that bond. It is possible that things may become romantic over time. But more importantly, they know that they have each others' backs. Of course, there had to be some weird people, because it's Lovecraft. The rogue mathematician, the Waites, femme fatales who are simultaneously sexy but also deeply wrong, and their brain dead spouses, the mysterious lawyer who informs Carter of the bequest. Enough to make any reader feel uneasy about everything. So why the <b>3.5/5.0 star </b>rating? The main feeling I came out of this was "What did I just read?" It feels short to me. It was a book that kept my interest, and I liked the main characters, but I also felt like there was a lot that I didn't get or understand when it ended. There are some gruesome elements to this story and subject matter that made me uncomfortable. This one is not for young readers. Frankly, I was a bit disturbed by some imagery. The rogue mathematician who discovers a way to manipulate reality is a profoundly damaged individual lacking in morals. His acts are unconscionable and bizarrely cruel. To him, murder is manipulating the odds. It's always hard to read about people like this for me. Readers who like having the questions will enjoy this book. I think I would have preferred a longer book that delved a little deeper into those unanswered questions. This is going to be a series, so maybe things will be more fleshed out in later books. I like the main characters and the concept, so I'll keep reading.
This was the Goodreads Classic Horror Lovers Tales to Chill Your Blood group read in October 2017. I listened to it on Kindle. This volume contains five stories: "Green Tea" "The Familiar" "Mr. Justice Harbottle" "The Room in the Dragon Volant" "Carmilla" I will go through and discuss each story separately.
"Green Tea"--I have read this story before. It's interesting, although the way it's written is a bit on the dry side. It's told with detachment, which I suppose makes sense as it's told through letters written by Dr. Martin Hesselius, a paranormal investigator. The interesting component was the concept of green tea as a substance that can cause a person's third eye to open and to allow them to see into the spirit world. The unfortunate clergyman who is the focus of the story is able to see a monkey that continues to haunt him until it drives him crazy. It could have been more suspenseful, honestly. 3 stars "The Familiar"--A psychological horror story about a man who is being haunted by a figure from his past as a sea captain. Another use of the trope of a person being driven mad by his perception of something no one else can see. I was not particularly impressed by this story. 2.5 stars "Mr. Justice Harbottle"--a story about a judge who is haunted by the spirits of those he wrongly condemned to death. Nice build of suspense. I think the writing is much better in this story than "Green Tea" and "The Familiar". Ironically, I read the original version of this story, "An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street" (1853) out of another ghost story volume I was reading in October. I like that it deals with the concept of spiritual consequences for the wrong that one does, even when the person seems to be powerful in this life. The judge was not just a corrupt official, but he was also a degenerate who treated those around him poorly. 4 stars "The Room in the Dragon Volant"--This is more of a suspense story. It reminds me of something Robert Louis Stevenson might have wrote. It's one of the longer stories in the volume, with some involved storytelling. It's not a ghost or horror story, although there initially appears to be supernatural elements. Lots of nice twists in the story that did impress me. 4 stars "Carmilla"--Another reread for me. A very famous novella about a female vampire with some very obvious homoerotic overtones. Carmilla chooses exclusively female victims and uses her allure to develop their attraction to her. Carmilla is a create of simultaneous seductiveness and repulsion to her newest victim, Laura. Readers can plot this story out and see over time that there is something very wrong about Carmilla. The story builds to an exciting climax as Laura's father and other concerned parties work to deal with the evil vampire. This is old school vampire horror. Carmilla is the bad guy. Readers who enjoy the romantic angle cannot escape the fact that Carmilla is a sexual predator who is endangering the life of Laura. This was written during the Victorian age, in which sexual values were highly pruritanical, so it couldn't have been written any other way without national outrage. However, it was a night springboard for plenty of later vampire stories that focused more of the erotic aspects and less on the evil monster component. First time I read this, I found the flowery descriptions tedious. I enjoyed this a lot more this time around, maybe because I listened to the narration. 4 stars. Overall, I would give this 3.5 stars, which is an average of my individual ratings. Le Fanu is a good writer, but his style isn't my personal favorite. He's not the most active writer and I don't find his writing particularly scary (other than a couple of moments in Carmilla). However, he has some interesting ideas and concepts and his storytelling has been influential to the genre of classic horror.
"The Last Wish" is a collection of stories about Geralt Rivia, the Witcher, whose occupation is to deal with monsters. This is a frame story in which other stories are the memories that the protagonist recalls as he recovers from a nearly fatal wound.
Readers who enjoy dark fantasy, fables, and fairy tales will love this book. The author retells some well-known fairy tales with ingeunity, such as "Beauty and the Beast" , "Sleeping Beauty," "Rapunzel", and "Snow White", and he also offers unique twists on ancient Eastern European legends such as the strigoi and rusalka, jinn, and even the Fair Folk, Fae or Elves. Some stories are pretty scary, and some are fairly humorous. Some have a little of both. All are written with loving care, with emotional depth, and plenty of action scenes.
I wish I had taken notes when I read this, but I didn't have the time. I found this enjoyable. There's a little bit of everything. There are some widely recognized classics in the horror genre here: "The Judge's House by Bram Stoker, "The Upper Berth" by F. Marion Crawford. Also stories by famous authors that might be lesser known, such as "The Lady Maid's Bell" by Edith Wharton, "Madam Crowl's Ghost" by JS Le Fanu. I didn't love all the stories, but generally they were all good quality. The best story is probably the first ones: "Thurnley Abbey", a ghost story with a hefty dose of psychological horror, and I admit it did make me giggle. It deals with how a skeptic deals with facing something beyond his perception.. Also, "The Room in the Tower" by EF Benson, about a man haunted by a horrible woman in a portrait. This was very creepy! The last two stories, "The Torture of Hope" by Villiers d I'Isle-Adam and "The Iron Shroud" by William Mudford are more like contes cruel. The former about a man who is imprisoned and allowed to believe he has escaped, only to find it was just a cruel way to torment him by his captors. The latter, about a man who is forced to face his own execution in his prison cell. It ends abruptly and makes the reader feel acutely uncomfortable. I don't like the way "The Judge's House" ends, but it's definitely a very effective ghost story with some real understanding of supernatural evil in that a horrible person's essence retains the malevolence it had in life. I listened to this on Kindle and that was a very fun way to experience these stories. It's well deserving of a four star rating.
I felt like this was very short but eventful. Superman is no longer neutralized, and he's madder than ever. Constantine is up to his scheming at maximum levels. I liked that this one had lots of magic in it. Injustice messes with my head, because Superman is a terrible and formidable villain. Wonder Woman as well. Ugh, her crush on Superman has made her into a terrible dupe. I am and always will be Team Batman, just saying. The body count is always high in this series, and I hate that people fall in with an authoritarian because he know how to manipulate fear (sounds familiar with the current situation in the US right now). I will finish this because I want to know how this ends. But I will be holding my breath and gritting my teeth the whole time.
This was a very good rebirth/reboot of Wonder Woman. It introduces a character who I would consider Wonder Woman's arch-nemesis, although their relationship is very complicated, Cheetah aka Barbara Minerva. Also, Steve Trevor plays a big role. I loved the artwork. While nice, the cover art doesn't live up to the wonderful illustration inside the book. Greg Rucka is an excellent writer, and his skills are beautifully displayed in this volume. His understanding of what makes the characters tick is evident. He gets Diana, Steve and Barbara. He also examines our society in which the lives of girls and women are disregarded as not valuable, especially if they don't serve some usefulness. Barbara's character arc shows the damage that a misogynistic culture can do to a person. I also liked how this volume delves into the Greek mythology aspects of Diana's heritage. Her father is not who she thought he was. She also realizes that the Amazons have kept secrets from her. This leads to her sense of disillusionment. Also this book explores Diana's relationship with Steve. Although I not-so-secretly ship Diana and Bruce, WonderBat, I like her and Steve together. I think the problem is that Steve is a soldier and is entrenched in the human world, whereas Diana is immortal and pretty much a demigoddess, which puts a time limit on their relationship, and they're still trying to figure all out that out. I'm pretty happy with this first book in the Rebirth series of Diana. This is the best Wonder Woman comic I've read so far. Looking forward to reading more.
This was a pretty good conclusion to this run of Suicide Squad. It's very frenetic and wild. It's hard to keep up with what's going on. Waller fans will like this volume because she gets to show how badass she is in the field. I wish I remembered more, since it's been forever since I read this. If you want to read modern Suicide Squad, then this is pretty decent, but I preferred the previous series.
Edited since this morning: I remember this. It involves a cult of death, and that was a pretty cool idea. Lots of crazy types stuck in a castle, trying to kill each other. Now that I think about it, this is my favorite in this run.
Pro tip: Don't wait three months to write a book review.
Overall rating: 4.25/5.0 stars.
This is by far the darkest Justice League book I've read at this point. Darkseid is bad enough, but if he had offspring with a disgraced Amazon, you can imagine how bad that would turn out. Everyone of the JL has serious issues, and there are some fatalities. So much happens, and it's been a while since I read this, so I'm going by my memory. It was very good, lots of action, very dark as I said earlier. I really like how the Crime Syndicate from Earth One shows up. They are so deliciously twisted.
I think Geoff Johns is a good writer. He draws you into the story and his writing melds well with the art. Sometimes I get lost trying to interpret what the panels are doing in some books. I didn't feel that way with this one, even with all the drama that's going on.
A lot of big surprises in this one, and some really great cameos. Unlikely heroes show up, and the big dependable heroes seem humbled in this. I would recommend it, despite the fact that it's very chaotic in some ways.
This was kind of weird. It was a skewed version of the Wonder Woman origin story, but instead of their patron goddess being Hera, it's Aphrodite. You can imagine how that could change a few things. It has a lot more overt sapphic tones than I've seen with Wonder Woman (but hardly surprising or shocking). I mean its a Utopian all female society, so why wouldn't the women pair up together as partners and lovers? I was fine with that. I think some of their rituals were on the verge of kinky if I'm honest. I've always been leery of sex and violence together thought.
I did like that Steve Trevor was black in this version. The relationship that Diana has with him is undefined. Since Wonder Woman has a lover already, I wasn't sure that there were any romantic undertones in her relationship with Trevor as it was written.
When Diana comes to the world of men, she is portrayed as very dominant with an edge of cruelty. I didn't love that about her characterization. I don't see Diana as being that kind of person.
The storyline where she encounters the sorority girls on a wild spring break trip and bonds with a particular girl was a bit odd. I know it was a way to group Diana and teach her the ways of the modern world. I didn't much care for it.
Honestly, I was glad this is Earth One. While I didn't mind the aspect of Diana being queer, and I liked that Steve was black, I didn't care for other aspects of the storyline. It wasn't terrible, so I would still give this three stars.