We bring you a break from your regularly scheduled programming…

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on April 26, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of wikipediaSo I felt like doing something outside my usual milieu of urban fantasy and talk about one of my all time favorite authors, Clive Cussler. More specifically, his book Inca Gold. I’ve been reading Clive Cussler for about twenty years now (ouch, I’m old! Well, older) and he’s still a great author. This book is one of my favorites of his.

Like all of Clive’s books, we start back in time, to a piece of ‘forgotten history’ involving the Inca, the Chachapoyas and the Spanish. We’ll start with Sir Francis Drake, who is one of my all time favorite historical figures, ever since I did a report on him in the fourth grade. :) Drake has plundered a couple of Spanish vessels during his circumnavigation of the globe and found a magnificent collection of Inca artifacts. He sends one ship back around to the Straits of Magellan while he takes the rest of the plunder with him. The other ship never makes it, having run afoul of a tidal wave that leaves it stranded deep ashore. On board that particular ship is a quipu, a type of proto record that the Inca created using a series of knots in ropes. Obviously a very basic description, but click the link for more details.

Anyway, this quipu is the key to finding a long lost Inca treasure. Its a detailed map of the journey that a secret group of Inca troops made in order to hide this treasure from greedy Spanish conquistadors (and really, those guys were pretty greedy). Fast-forward about 400 years and an archaeologist and her team are excavating a sacrificial pool high in the Andes when they run into trouble under the water. Coming to the rescue are Cussler’s main heroes, Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino, who are working relatively nearby on a NUMA project. They fly in with their scuba equipment and come to the rescue, luckily finding Dr. Shannon Kelsey and her companion alive.

Lucky, that is, until the whole lot are kidnapped and marched through the jungle while Dirk is left to drown in the sacrificial pool. Of course, the bad guys underestimate Dirk’s tenacity. He climbs free with the help of a few items on his dive belt. Once he recovers at the destroyed base camp, he tracks Al and the others through the jungle.

Its a long, hard slog to catch up with and then rescue his friends. Dirk and Al manage to steal a military helicopter to get away from the bad guys. Military because the bad guys are antiquities thieves who have their sticky fingers in all levels of the Peruvian government in order to ease their smuggling, including the clout to order military intervention on two NUMA people and a number of untrained archaeologists and students.

Long story short, they get away but not without injuries and shenanigans. The adventure doesn’t end there. They just scratched the tip of the iceberg on a huge art and antiquities smuggling ring. Its a race to find what the bad guys are after, a literal treasure trove of Incan artifacts that could add to the knowledge of the short lived empire. This race will take Dirk and Al all over the US, Peru and Mexico.

The thing I really like about Cussler is that his adventures are fairly believable. Sure there are things that make you go yeah right but they aren’t really egregious things like supernatural creatures. Its more like I don’t believe that as being possible for the science of the time. At any rate, Inca Gold is one of my all time favorite books and one of the first that got me rereading books. Can you believe I used to be a one-and-done type of girl? What was I thinking?! At any rate, if you’re looking for something different from your usual, give Clive Cussler a shot. And if you like vintage automobiles like I do, definitely give his books a shot. There will be at least one new vintage car in each book! Rating: A+

Incidentally, the National Underwater and Marine Agency from his books is a real agency. Clive Cussler was behind the raising of the C.S.S. Hunley, so if you love old ships and shipwrecks, check them out. And again, if you like vintage autos, check out the Cussler Museum. One day, I will get there!

Ghost Finders

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , on April 19, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of goodreads.comSo I love Simon R. Green. He’s one of my all time favorite authors. It saddens me that he’s wrapping up his amazing series before he’d planned to because he has diabetes and he’s afraid he’ll leave his fans hanging. I’m not sure if his diabetes is currently manageable or life threatening, but its sad that he feels he has to do that. On the other hand, when it comes to his Ghost Finders series…I’m kinda okay with it. I’d classify this more as an urban horror/fantasy than a straight up urban fantasy novel, if only because Simon R. Green can get amazingly graphic with his descriptions.

The Ghost Finders work for the Carnacki Institute. Their job is to deal with ghosts and all ghostly related situations in Britain. Apparently this is quite the job. Our three main characters are JC Chance, “Happy” Jack Palmer and Melody Chambers. JC is your typical smooth, charming leader type. In the first book, he gets touched by something from the Outside and now hides a strange golden gaze with a pair of sunglasses.

Happy Jack isn’t very happy at all. Its an ironic nickname, like calling a tall man Tiny. Happy is a telepath, a very strong one. He’s also a coward, and the combination leads to him trying everything and anything chemical to be able to live with himself and the voices he hears. He’s currently sleeping with teammate Melody Chambers, who firmly believes that her tech can do and should do everything they could possibly think of on a mission. And she gets mighty pissed when it doesn’t. She’s a kick-ass tech geek who doesn’t take anyone’s shit.

I like those three characters. I like the dialogue he gives them and the way that he writes them as a dysfunctional buy loyal team. Their cases, though, are only mildly interesting. And there’s some sort of overarching conspiracy going on that I just can’t be arsed to care about. He could wrap this series up tomorrow honestly. I’ll still read it, but it’s more of a ‘Oh, I don’t have anything else to read and there’s a new Ghost Finders out’ sort of way than a ‘OMG, new Simon R. Green!’ sort of way.

If you really want good Simon R. Green, go for the Deathstalker series, the Nightside series and the Secret Histories series. Oh, and Hawk & Fisher natch. The nice thing about Simon is that all of his stories are subtly connected. Its amazing. Every time I read one of his books and he’s slipped in something from another novel, I have a fan girl squee moment. So, those are great. The Ghost Finders? I’d say Rating: CNot great but not unreadable.

Rylee Adamson

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2015 by crookedreviews

Book one cover. Courtesy of goodreads.comWell work has been craaaaaaaaaazy lately so now I’m back, missing a week. Still, it gave me time to read a few books. And by few I mean five. Granted they’ve all been just about 300 pages, which is kind of short for my usual fare, but still. Five books. Well, five and a half. I picked up Shannon Mayer’s Rylee Adamson arc because the first four books were on sale for .99 cents each on Amazon recently. They may be short but they’re interesting.

Rylee Adamson is a Tracker. That is what she was born to do. She has not been and never will be human, though she didn’t know that when she was little and her abilities kicked in. She’s had a tough life, abandoned by her parents and her sister missing, presumed dead at a young age. That’s why Rylee does what she does. She uses her innate ability to track any creature (human or supernatural) to find missing children when the police can’t do anything. She doesn’t always get them back alive, but she will bring them back to their parents. She also happens to be Immune to pretty much any magic or poison. Not all, though. But it would have to be incredibly strong to get through her natural immunity.

With her in this world is werewolf Alex. Alex was a pretty meek and mild human when he received the bite. Unlike most fantasy books where once bitten, you become super aggressive simply by virtue of being a werewolf, the bite in this universe just enhances your natural characteristics. So Alex is strong, fast, heals quickly and has enhanced senses…but he’s incredibly submissive. And not in a sexual way. And because he’s so submissive, he doesn’t have the power to fully shift between human and wolf. He’s stuck in between.

There’s also Milly, an incredibly powerful witch. She and Rylee grew up together, adopted by a Reader named Giselle. Milly is a bad person all around. She’s a literal home wrecker, seducing the leader of a local coven and arranging the death of his wife. Betraying Rylee and Giselle. Trying to kill Alex, a harpy named Eve and Rylee’s love interest, a former FBI agent turned werewolf Liam O’Shea.

There are Shamans and Druids, cat shifters and ogres, trolls and giants, dragons and vampires. There are Readers, who can see glimpses of the future, which also tends to drive them mad. Unicorns travel in herds called crushes and are a lot more bad ass than most fantasy novels make them out to be. Also, they don’t really have a thing for virgins. Oaths are taken incredibly seriously and breaking them has repercussions, which is a common theme amongst most fantasy novels.

Rylee isn’t quite as naturally gullible as a lot of female fantasy novel leads tend to be, but she is easy to play. Because she’s an orphan who found herself a family, if you threaten them, you can get her to do what you want. She’ll also do her level best to kill you for it so you’ll really have to decide if that’s worth it.

If you’re looking for a quick, fun read, these books are for you. Like I said, I’ve made my way through five and a half in about a week. Then again, I’m a crazy fast reader. Rating: A-. There are some cliche bits but when isn’t there these days?

Calling all superheroes!

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of Amazon.comOkay, so I came across this book on Amazon called Love for the Cold-Blooded: Or The Part Time Evil Minion’s Guide to Accidentally Dating a Superhero by Alex Gabriel. I was hooked pretty well immediately but before I go too far in this, I give you fair warning that there is quite a bit of explicit m/m sex in this book. If this squicks you, don’t read even though it was a damn fun book.

This is a world where villains (who call themselves challengers) and superheroes (whom the villains call hoagies. It took me an embarrassingly long time to get that joke too) are a normal part of every day life. So in that way, its kind of like the movie Mystery Men. The book stars young Patrick West (Pat to his friends, Patpat to his family), the youngest child of infamous supervillainess Serpentissima (yes, she is part snake/part woman).

Pat doesn’t want to follow his mother’s footsteps like his sisters do. He loves his mother and he loves being a part time minion to other villains but his love is architecture and urban design and that’s what he’s going to school for god damn it! The children of the challengers/villains are often lent out to other villains as part time minions. They can work themselves up to Trusted Lieutenant and Right Hand, so its sort of like a whole business.

Pat is going to college, is on the swim team and has a part time gig as a night manager for superhero Silver Paladin, rich, genius and eccentric (and hot, let’s not forget that) billionaire Nicholas Anderson. Nicholas Anderson is completely out of touch with societal norms. There was very little of Anderson’s back story so I can only guess that this young genius was home-schooled or was just Doogie Howser-ish because he really doesn’t have any way to connect with people, he’s incredibly insecure and he has absolutely no game.

And by no game I mean, he hires hookers (“companions”) in order to get laid. Well, handling that sort of thing is actually in Pat’s night manager manual…which he neglects to read because he’s got homework.  Naturally, hi-jinks ensue when Anderson asks for a guy to be sent up to his lab. Pat sends himself because he has no idea that Anderson’s looking to get laid.

You can guess what happens. ;) Pat gets one of his sisters to get him a fake ID complete with fake bank account and he takes the money because text books won’t buy themselves. This continues on for a bit until Anderson comes down to the night manager’s post and discovers Pat at work. Pat freaks and jumps at a chance to minion for the gentlemanly Sir Toby because there’s no way he fell in love with a hoagie. None at all. Honestly, he doesn’t miss Anderson and his cheesy lines and “would you rather” questions.

I found this book cute and hilarious. Its got romance and shenanigans and a happy endings. I would highly recommend this book and I’m really hoping this young author does more in this world because it was really fun. If you don’t mind the sex scenes (or enjoy them, whatevs), I suggest you check this out. I was fun and light-hearted and the world building was pretty darn good. And I loved that it was done from the point of view of the “villains”. You can see what they feel about their position in society and that was refreshing. Rating: A+

Trick of the Light

Posted in Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , , on March 15, 2015 by crookedreviews

I love writer Rob Thurman. She’s got two great series, Cal Leandros and her Trickster series. Her first book in the second, but interconnected, series is Trick of the Light. Starring trickster paien Trixa Iktomi, this series takes place in Las Vegas. Because of course. Where better for a trickster (or two) to pull their tricks.

Trixa owns a dive bar in Las Vegas with her best friend and bartender Leo Rain. Leo looks like a very large Native American man but don’t let that fool you, he’s probably the most infamous trickster in history. I’ll give you a hint: He’s Norse. The two of them take great pleasure in foiling the plans of the city’s demon population. Demons as in fallen-angel type demons. They’re everywhere in Vegas which…duh, really. Makes perfect sense.

At any rate, Trixa and Leo keep their heads moderately down, doing just enough to have their fun and play on whatever Trixa’s long game is, because she does the long con like no-one’s business. They took two young orphans under their tutelage some years before, two now young men named Zeke and Griffin. These two young men are a telepath and an empath, respectively. And they very much enjoy killing demons. They do, in fact, do it professionally.

In this book, Trixa gets herself in a position of having to find an extremely powerful artifact called the Light of Life. In the wrong hands (see: Demons), it could be utterly devastating. In the right hands (hers, naturally), it could be a savior. The paien get hunted by demons and this Light could provide them with an impenetrable safe haven.

I loved this book because it kept me guessing the whole time. And the finale was amazing. I love a book that can surprise me to the end. I highly, highly recommend both this and its follow up Grimrose Path. In fact, I think I will go ahead and re-read these both. :) I hope Rob Thurman writes more of these because I love Trixa. Rating: A+

Steampunk-ish: Red Hot Steele

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Steampunk with tags , , , , , , , on March 8, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of goodreads.comSo this book Red Hot Steele by Alex Berg came up when I looked for a new steampunk novel  in Amazon. Only thing is…it isn’t really steampunk. Its more like…an Edwardian pulp mystery. Its a bit more Dashiell Hammet than Gail Carriger.  This is a first person novel told from the perspective of Detective Jake Daggers. Really. That’s his name. And he seems to be every stereotypical gumshoe rolled into one. He’s a large, misogynistic detective in New York that eats poorly, is divorced and not a good dad.

At least I think its New York. The world building in this book is almost non-existent. Magic/the supernatural seems to be known and somewhat accepted in this world, as evidenced by the fact that Detective Daggers’ new partner is a young female half-elf by the name of Shay Steele. Yes, really. Despite her name, she’s actually the most interesting character in the book. She supposedly has some supernatural talent for visions which lands her on the police force. As women are not police in this time/world, her visions are the only way she can gain detective status.

The story itself is a regular old murder/con double-header with a sprinkling of magic. It wasn’t really all that spectacular a story and I figured out the whodunit pretty quickly. It could have been an acceptable book if there were more world building but seriously, the most thought I felt was put into it was the fact that horses weren’t used in the city anymore because of all the droppings so therefore rickshaws were the mode of transportation for those who could afford such things. I thought that was an interesting concept but it was the only thing that put any sort of time-frame on this story.

There was none of the usual steampunk trappings of steam powered everything, gadgets, brass, and general sense of elegance. I was overall disappointed with this book and grateful I got it on sale for about 4 bucks. I don’t see myself getting the next book in the series. If you’re a fan of the old Sam Spade/Big Sleep style mysteries, this might be a good book for you. If you are more a steampunk person or an urban fantasy person, I’d stay away. There just isn’t enough of either genre in this to satisfy.  Rating: C-

Downfall: A Cal Leandros novel

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , on March 2, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of goodreads.comAh! A day late! My excuse is that I spent the weekend having awesome good outdoor fun with the hubby. :) So anyway, on to Downfall by Rob Thurman. This is the latest book in the Cal Leandros series. At this point, Cal has managed to kill off every Auphe except for himself and his fairly newly discovered half brother Grimm. Grimm is trying to make a new Auphe race out of succubae but that isn’t working so well. Cal and Niko can wipe the floor with those suckers and Niko is one hundred percent human.

Still, Grimm is getting trickier and more persistent. He wants to break Cal, wants to prove he’s the better Auphe. And the way to do that is the get rid of Niko in one way or another. The problem is, Robin Goodfellow knows this. He also knows that if Cal dies, then Niko dies with him. Even if Niko survives physically, he’d soon follow Cal wherever Cal ended up. Robin has been watching it happen over and over again for millenia. He won’t let it happen again.

Rob Thurman does an excellent job of keeping us guessing by throwing Robin’s perspective in this book, as opposed to just Cal and Niko’s. We learn a lot more about my personal favorite character in this series, both in how much he can care and how devious he is. And even then, it isn’t a guarantee that things will turn out well for our favorite underdogs.

I enjoyed the hell out of this book. It was full of sneakiness and deviousness and yet there were warm fuzzies too. And I’m not just talking about the werewolves. ;) I think it would help to read a book or two of the rest of the series but I came in about half way through and I’ve managed to catch on just fine without reading all the books. Still, a little background reading would not go amiss and I don’t think you’d be disappointed with any of these books. Rating: A

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