Showing posts with label Charlaine Harris. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charlaine Harris. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

SNARKY DNF: An Uneasy Death by Charlaine Harris

"The beloved #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series, the inspiration for HBO’s True Blood, and the Midnight Crossroad trilogy adapted for NBC’s Midnight, Texas, has written a taut new thriller—the first in the Gunnie Rose series—centered on a young gunslinging mercenary, Lizbeth Rose.  
Set in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a run across the border to Mexico Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie. For the wizards, Gunnie Rose has already acquired a fearsome reputation and they’re at a desperate crossroad, even if they won’t admit it. They’re searching through the small border towns near Mexico, trying to locate a low-level magic practitioner, Oleg Karkarov. The wizards believe Oleg is a direct descendant of Grigori Rasputin, and that Oleg’s blood can save the young tsar’s life. 
As the trio journey through an altered America, shattered into several countries by the assassination of Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression, they’re set on by enemies. It’s clear that a powerful force does not want them to succeed in their mission. Lizbeth Rose is a gunnie who has never failed a client, but her oath will test all of her skills and resolve to get them all out alive."
(Originally posted on Goodreads)

I. Could. Not. Love. Nor. Appreciate. The. Voice. And. Tone. Of. This. Book.

Dry. Static. No flavor. No personality. No salt. No cinnamon. Not even a little gun-toting gristle and marrow–despite its promise of such. Unnecessary rape to heighten an already inert story. And each "gunnie" bullet fired may as well been a sponge cake thrown. I DNF'ed at page 22. Grateful I had the forethought to check it out from the library. You see, I learned from my last investment in a Harris series post Sookie.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

#MarchMysteryMadness | My 6 Eye-Burner Mystery Reads

Hi, guys.  Here are 6 mystery books within any given series that has caused my eyes to burn (more so than glisten) with tears.

All links are Amazon affiliate (the books' descriptions are from Amazon as well)...

1.  Body of Evidence by Patricia Cornwell:

A reclusive author, Beryl Madison finds no safe haven from months of menacing phone calls—or the tormented feeling that her every move is being watched. When the writer is found slain in her own home, Kay Scarpetta pieces together the intricate forensic evidence—while unwittingly edging closer to a killer waiting in the shadows.

2.  Promises in Death by J. D. Robb:

Amaryllis Coltraine may have recently transferred to the New York City police force from Atlanta, but she’s been a cop long enough to know how to defend herself against an assailant. When she’s taken down just steps away from her apartment, killed with her own weapon, for Eve the victim isn’t just “one of us.” 

Eve starts questioning everyone while her husband, Roarke, digs into computer data on the dead woman’s life back in Atlanta. To their shock, they discover a connection between this case and their own painful, shadowy pasts. The truth will need to be uncovered one layer at a time, starting with the box that arrives at Cop Central addressed to Eve, containing Coltraine’s guns, badge, and a note from her killer: “You can have them back. Maybe someday soon, I’ll be sending yours to somebody else.” 

But Eve Dallas doesn’t take too kindly to personal threats, and she is going to break this case, whatever it takes. And that’s a promise.  

3. O is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton:

O is for once upon a time. . .
Let’s talk about Kinsey’s past. We know of the aunt who raised her, the second husband who left her, and her long-lost family up the California coast. But what about Kinsey’s husband number one? He was always a blip on the radar―until now.

4.  The Lily Bard Series by Charlaine Harris:

While trying to prove her innocence in the murder of her landlord, Lily Bard, karate student and cleaning service proprietor, finds plenty of skeletons in the closets of Shakespeare, Arkansas.

5.  When Death Comes Stealing by Valerie Wilson Wesley:

Struggling as a single mother to make ends meet on the mean streets of Newark, New Jersey, ex-cop-turned-PI Tamara Hayle races against time to find a murderer when someone begins killing her ex-husband's sons--and her own son might be next.

6.  Blind Descent (Anna Pigeon#6) by Nevada Barr:

When a fellow ranger is injured in a caving accident, Anna swallows her paralyzing fear of small spaces and descends into Lechuguilla to help a friend in need. Worse than the claustrophobia that haunts her are the signs-some natural, and some, more ominously, man-made-that not everyone is destined to emerge from this wondrous living tomb. All the skills Anna has honed in the terrestrial world are called into play on precipitous climbs, exhausting treks, and descents into canyons that have never seen the sun. The terrain is alien and hostile, the greed and destructive powers of mankind all too familiar. In this place of internal terrors, Anna must learn whom she can trust, and, in the end, decide who is to live and who is to die.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Night Shift Reading Struggles

"At Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and dramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town. 
Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place. 
And now they must come together to stop the bloodshed in the heart of Midnight. For if all hell breaks loose—which just might happen—it will put the secretive town on the map, where no one wants it to be..."
So I’ve been dragging my ass reading Night Shift by Charlaine Harris.  As the third and final book in her Midnight trilogy, I'm kind of not surprised at my paling mood.  While I finished the first book in the series not long after its May 2014 release; a year later, it took me six months to finish the second book.  Why?  Because it was just unexciting.  And now that same bored, languid feeling has arrived in Night Shift.  No matter how many second winds I suck, I just don't think this book is going to happen.
The days kept ticking.  And ticking.  And ticking.  And four days since cracking the book open, I've yet to jump over 93 pages.  The sad part is I like the characters populating the book/town.  I like their individual quirks and supernatural presences (there's psychic, witch, were-tiger, vampire, etc.).  I like how each attempts to serve the mysteries surrounding their small town.  Yet, by God, there just isn’t enough fire and movement in the story to keep me wholly invested.  On second thought, it's as if I'm in love with the idea of the characters, but that's almost the extent of it. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Few Charlaine Harris Wrappings

Looks like I’m starting November concluding two of Charlaine Harris’ popular series, via library check-outs.  And I’m excited to see how each will end.
So first I’m finally going to finish the fourth and final book in Charlaine Harris’ Harper Connelly series.  As some of you may or may not know, I finally finished the third book in the series, An Ice Cold Grave, as part of the #SaveOurCozies readathon back in July.  It had taken me all of about six years to finally find my way to the book–after reading the first and second back-to-back.
Anyhoo.  The Harper Connelly mysteries follow a female character of the same name who, crazy enough, has the ability to locate corpses.  She survived a lightning strike during her teen years, and this unfolded her abilities.  
For the past three books she and her partner/stepbrother, Tolliver, traveled to three different small towns to help clients in need of finding a body.  And, like a human divining rod, Harper goes to work locating corpses.  The problem is some of those still living aren’t too happy to have bodies found, and will do what it takes to keep them buried.  
But besides all that, there’s a overarching story that revolves around Harper and Tolliver's missing sister.  Questions as to whether or not she walked out of the family or was kidnapped by gangsters has been in the air between these two since childhood.  Supposedly, that sister’s mysteriously disappearance is coming to an end in this fourth and final book.  Another thing–which is a little creepy–though once stepbrother and sister by marriage, Harper and Tolliver finally slept together in the previous book.  So will this borderline incestuous relationship work?
Anyway, more family matters are coming to a head in Grave Secret.  It appears to be a book wrote right on time to close the series out.  
Charlaine Harris’ latest series consist of a trilogy of books featuring an eccentric and strange Texas town called Midnight.  Plenty of unusual residents live within this small community.  A murder/burglar, a psychic, a witch, a were-Tiger, and of course a vampire.  All among other "things", of course.  The first book focused on this band of characters coming together to solve a “human” influenced murder, and subsequent hiding of the body of a particularly once popular resident.  The second book spoke about the training of a were-tiger, and a running side story consisting of the characters falling into the push-and-pull of a rundown hotel in the area.  But I’ll leave all those details for another day.
However, while I swung swiftly through the first book, it took me half a year to finally finish the second book in the series.  I eventually made it.  With only three books, I figured eventually I’ll give to the final book and close the series out.  Which is now with Night Shift.
Night Shift has an interesting premise in itself.  Apparently, something is causing the residents in the town to walk into the local pawnshop, buy a weapon of choice, and walk outside into the main crossroads of town to… well… commit suicide.
And I’m leaving it at that!
I’m already ready to go read this suckers instead of talking about them!
If you’ve read any of these series, please share with me your thoughts below! 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday Reads ~ #SaveOurCozies

“Harper Connelly heads to Doraville, North Carolina, to find a missing boy–one of several teenage boys who have disappeared over the last five years.  And all of them are calling for Harper.  She finds them–buried in the frozen ground.  All Harper wants is to get out of town before she’s caught in the media storm, until she herself is attacked.  Soon, Harper will learn more than she cared to about the dark mysteries and long-hidden secrets of Doraville–knowledge of the dead that makes her the next in line to end up in an ice cold grave…”
~ An Ice Cold Grave by Charlaine Harris
Let’s see.  In 2009 I stopped reading this book on page 61.  Last I remember, dead-body-‘voyant-finding Harper Connelly (per finding herself struck by lightning to gain her abilities) was left in the hospital of the small town of Doraville.  As mentioned in the blurb, she was attacked.  I’ve never figured out what happened on forward, and can’t exactly recall why I stopped on page 61 and never came back.  Until now, I’ve never picked up the book since.  But, going along with the #SaveOurCozies readathon (from midnight today till midnight tomorrow), it appears I’ll finally get the answers I abandoned seven years ago.  That’ll be my Friday Reading.
Any hints as to what's in store?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015's 6 FINAL READS ~ PART 1

It’s time to go ahead and tidy 2015 and my fluxing reading ADHD on up.  So what I want to do is a rundown of the final six books I’ve read this year–unless I can squeeze in one more.  (Another Rita Mae Brown Mrs. Murphy mystery is looking mighty good right about now.)  Some of these books I’d like to dedicate an entire post toward.  And they really, really deserve one.  But this will have to do, as there are more books and posts ahead for 2016.  So let’s get started.  Let me share with you the six books I’ve unofficially wrapped the year with.

1.       Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody
Calling from the highest mountain to the deepest sea, this books deserves a full post.  I finished it mid-November where it immediately fell into my favorite reads list of the year.  Published in 1968, it's an autobiography of the author's experience growing up in rural Mississippi.  As well as how her childhood turned her into a prolific Civil Rights activist.  
To elaborate, Anne Moody came from tenant farmers on a Mississippi plantation.  Not one to find comfort in her upbringing, she had unconventional expectations for herself.  Many of which she expressed to the point of becoming problematic to others.  Still, she had enough drive for better for her family and the African-American community.  And she would see the drive realized.  
The first half of the book chronicles Moody's growing ambition for change.  She takes readers on her journey through her humorous and desperate childhood.  Then moves into her high school years and college life, where you get her relatable life events.  I found this half of the book builds the identity of Moody, molding her leader and activist nature.  Though I found her just a touch self-absorbed underneath some subjects of conversation.  Particularly her academic comparisons with other students.  Nonetheless, her childhood and young adult journey provides the foundation for the remaining half of the book.  Because the second half showcases Moody's immense contribution to organizations such as NAACP and CORE.  
Years seeing this picture, I never knew the story of the courageous
woman (and others) behind this sit-in.  My mouth dropped.
And it's interesting because the second half's direction was almost unforeseen to me.  The book switched focus, with nuggets of Moody's personal life sprinkled between her activism.  When I picked up the book, I had no prior knowledge of how prolific the author actually was.  I would even wager to cry "blindsided."  But moved by the intimate story behind her voice.  It’s so easy to recognize Civil Rights leaders such as Malcom X and Martin Luther King.  So how often do we recognize those who took action in smaller (though no less powerful) integral efforts?  Moody withstood protests, sit-ins and death threats.  She rallied for Mississippi residents to vote and start political change.  Even as an entire community appeared petrified of retaliation from empowered white leaders circling their community.  She questioned her resolve a number of times–to the point of collapsing.  Yet, she kept going.  
Just an all-around intense, courageous, and emotional read; powered by historical black leaders and events.  One day I’ll have to go back and fully flesh out my thoughts on the book.  In the meantime, a "thank you" will suffice if this book hasn't hit your radar yet.  (More on ANNE MOODY'S biography)
Book two in Harris’s Midnight, Texas Trilogy.  I started on its May release, but didn’t actually complete it until November.  Why?  Because I was so bored with it.  Or I couldn’t snap into engagement mode all the way.  When I made the decision to dedicate myself to Day Shift, I enjoyed it enough to breeze right through happily.  Now I can’t say it was all that exciting by its end, and I can’t say it was all that uninteresting.  God.  I’m really up and down about this one. 
Anyway, what I will say is I’m still a fan of Harris’s work and do look forward to the final book in the Midnight, Texas Trilogy.  I wish I had more to share.  Yet, I think that five-and-a-half-month break kind of took whatever glory or upset I have.  I just can’t pick the book apart.  I’ll make up for it when the third book comes next May.  In the meantime, maybe its Goodreads page can serve you some interest.  Sorry, guys.  I have nothing.
But take this one thought with you:  An eccentric cast of characters with secrets and murder on the mind.
Okay.  We know I live and breathe for Buffy.  TV show.  Comics.  TV tie-in books.  I’m there for it all.  Eighteen years (where the HELL did time go?) and counting.  Sadly, I wasn’t there for this book.  It’s another book that took me five and a half months to complete.  Sad, sad days.  What made me pick up this book in particular had a lot to do with Buffy facing a vampire who once was a slayer named Celina.  I’ve always, always wanted to ride into that avenue of discussion.  What would the vamp-slayer be like?  How would Buffy take her on? 
Now I like the character of Anya all right.  I really do.  We're alike in more ways than one.  But as it concerns this book–which dropped loads of angst of her pondering death versus immortality–I just couldn't Anya anymore.  Adjacently, I just didn’t care for Buffy's struggles after awhile.  I laugh at the thought, but seriously found myself gurgling along with this one.  I will say Buffy’s final confrontation with Celina made up for much of my disinterest.  During their heated battle, I was living for the barbs and shared introspection.  While trading blows, the two squared with what it took to be a slayer/hero versus the darker colors of a predator.
I’ve recognized this in the past but, having spent time shifting through these tie-ins, I only enjoy the Buffy-centered books.  The books where her slayerness–in some form or fashion–is addressed in a new, challenging way.  Those books that really look into what it means to be a slayer, through Buffy.  This book served, but it was that damn Anya storyline (no hate or shade to her) that irritated the whole experience.
All right my friends!  Stay tuned for the second half where I share the last (unofficial) three books I've tied the year over with.  What were the six or so books you left 2015 with?  Leave all your comments below!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Books I'm Looking Forward To Releasing In 2015

Today I shall share my break-the-wallet-on-release-day books.  Or simply put: BOOKS I CAN'T WAIT TO RELEASE THIS YEAR!  I just had to share this to keep myself accountable for my reading needs as 2015 unfolds.  Yes, yes.  I must be ready for each of these titles.  So let's go!

1. X is for… [Unannounced] by Sue Grafton

This was a breeze to conjure up.  Book number 24 in Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series is due out in August. I scream inside; as we all know I idolize Grafton and her smart-mouthed P. I., Kinsey. The series releases bi-yearly, so it’s right on time after 2013's W is for Wasted hit shelves that September. I just wonder what in the hell could the “X” in this title stand for, besides “Xylophone” or “Xenophile”?  And besides the full title, I haven't a clue what this one is about.  What's Kinsey's next case?  Where's Kinsey going to go next in her trapped-in-the-80s narrative.  I kind of like it that way, though.  The uncertainty, while having the utmost faith that it's going to be something incredibly sweet and fulfilling because Grafton and her protagonist is just that damn close to me now. I’m waiting desperately for you Mrs. Grafton!  And while I don't re-read books, I suddenly want to take this series down again.  From start to finish!  A to X.  One Kinsey Millhone one-liner after another.  I bask...

2. Devoted in Death by J. D. Robb

Well, it’s obvious at this point that I've stopped denying my need for J. D. Robb books. Yep. That’s over with. So I wait anxiously for September 8th when book number 41 in Robb’s Eve Dallas In Death series releases. Apparently, Devoted has a sort of Bonnie and Clyde setup. Two committed lovers on a cross-country killing spree. Sign me up for it!

3. The Moon Tells Secrets by Savanna Welles

Yes, yes, yes. Mrs. Welles is another pen name for author Valerie Wilson Wesley. And yes, sometimes I desire a little more out of her writing. Nonetheless, I somewhat enjoyed Welles’ first Gothic thriller, When the Night Whispers. Therefore, I'm willing to follow Wesl–err–Welles into The Moon Tells Secrets. It’s coming out on March 24, and that’s right around the corner. Apparently, The Moon Tells Secrets is about a woman raising her adopted son, a son with the ability to shift into animals. In turn, he’s hunted down by something called “skinwalker." Crazy, right? Well, the thrill to this–for me anyway–is that the cast is Black. I’m always, always there for Black characters featured in stories outside of contemporary fiction.  As well as the Black writers who take the dive to tell these unique stories. As far as I'm concerned, Black authors can do crime fiction and paranormal just as well. Needless to say, Tuesday, I'll be at Barnes and Nobles for this one. Support.

4. Disciple of the Wind by Steve Bein

I've waited an entire year for book number 3 in Steve Bein’s Fated Blades series, one of the remaining remnants of urban fantasy series I find worth reading. And I’m less than a month away from its April 7th release. Color me all kinds of happy!  I can’t wait to go back to Tokyo with Bein's Detective Sergeant, Mariko Oshiro, and her infamous Inazuma blade. I just adore this series; from its protagonist to the way Bein jumps the reader back and forth through time via stories surrounding ancient Japanese blades. However, I'm hoping Bein offers Mariko a lot more spotlight this go-round. I enjoyed the last book, Year of the Demon, tremendously.  Nevertheless, I thought Mariko’s story got diluted by the time hopes to ancient Japan.  And believe me when I say that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.  If you're into stories that tap into realms like legends, superstitions and Edo period Japanese tales, Bein delivers.

5. Last First Snow by Max Gladstone

Gladstone and Bein go hand-in-hand with me now, as both authors are my ports into the urban fantasy genre. Anyway, Last First Snow is book number 4 in Gladstone’s Craft Sequence series. It'll be out in July. I don’t have too much information on the story; quite honestly, the big brute man on the cover has me worried. Nonetheless, as more details come about, I’m sure my excitement for this book will rise until I rush through the bookstore to grab it with little hesitation.

6. God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

God Help the Child releases April 21. Now here’s the thing: I love Toni Morrison. I really do. However, as I mentioned before, I love her work pre-90s. Afterward, I found it difficult to get through her material. It almost feels like all the accolades and whatnot that Beloved garnered had shifted something in her writing. And while I managed through a few of her works then forward, it’s books like A Mercy that just makes me scratch my head in wonder. I never managed to finish that book, but hold on to it for the next attempt. I just never quite understood who and where that book took a claim to. And apparently I’m not the only one. Nonetheless, I do have hopes for God Help the Child. So much so that maybe I can go back and read Morrison’s Home, her 2012 release.  I suppose I'm hoping God Help the Child get me back on track with her.  It looks promising.

7. Day Shift by Charlaine Harris

All right, despite a few problems, I did enjoy the first book in Harris’ new series, Midnight Crossroad. I enjoyed the dust town and small-town cast of unique characters, and do intend to return to it all this May in Day Shift. I'm excited to see what these crazy-ass people (among other things) do next. Unfortunately, as Amazon is my only source at the immediate moment, I don’t have much information on what Day Shift is about. However, I'm still excited. As I said before, Harris is just ruthless with her characters. You never know what they'll do in her books.  She surprises me time and time again, and I like that.

8. Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen

Gerritsen just announced her October release on her blog, and it’s called Playing with Fire. In the same vein as her book, The Bone Garden, Playing with Fire jumps back and forth through time. It’s the story about a violinist, and how her 3-year-old daughter turns violent at the sound of a particularly piece the violinist plays. It's a piece of music she traces back to 1940’s Venice. So no, this is not a Rizzoli and Isle entry. Which is okay with me because its sounds just as Gerritsen and just as nuts.

9.  China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

I almost forgot this one!  Somebody beat me in the head because I don't understand how this one slipped me.  Well, I'm sure many more 2015 releases have already slipped around me.  Nonetheless, on to China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan.  China Rich Girlfriend is the sequel to Kwan's breakout debut, Crazy Rich Asians.  I thoroughly enjoyed Crazy Rich Asians when I finally got my hands on it the winter before last.  Evidently, China Rich Girlfriend picks up on Chinese-Singaporean, Nicholas Young (heir to a magnificent fortune), and his relationship with ABC (American Born Chinese) girlfriend Rachel Chu.  After all of the gossiping, family coups, and destructive intentions to break the two apart, it appears the two are continuing forth with their wedding.  This, of course, only invites more drama.  Needless to say, I can't wait to get my hands on it in June.  For anyone who indulges in the melodrama that makes up Asian soaps, this is the author to get into!

Okay. Off the top of my head, that’s it for now. I got a few fence-riders I’ll like to mention next.

10. Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell

This is book number 23 in Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta forensic thriller series. After last year’s awfulness of Flesh and Blood, I'm not sure (that’s a lie because Depraved Heart will be sought) how this one will go. I think I just want to hear myself say lie to myself, but I am worried about whether this book is going to be as awful as Flesh and Blood. Will I have to abandon it, just as I did Flesh and Blood?  Well, we'll see in November when this book releases.

11. One Night by Eric Jerome Dickey

I used to be totally in love with this guy. Then he didn't release a book for an entire year, came back, and broke my heart. The book that threw me over was An Accidental Affair (2012); this torrent story about some guy finding his girlfriend (or was it his wife?) was having an affair. So what does he do, run out and sleep with just about every woman who takes an interest in him. I didn't make it through that book before I, to be perfectly honest, returned it. The following year I bought Decadence. This featured the return of Dickey's sex-crazed protagonist Nia Simon Bijou. Needless to say, I never even cracked it. I gave the book to my mom, as I just didn't care to read about Nia and her orgies again.  I think those two books just weren't written for me, or maybe I just grew tired of this sudden slip of sex over plot. However, last year’s A Wanted Woman looked promising, but by then I was already too hurt to try. I just didn’t feel like another erotic action thriller. Which is odd because it’s a book about a hit-woman, and y‘all know I love books featuring women with guns. Nonetheless, the idea is that I'll go back to A Wanted Woman before I return to what seems like classic Dickey in One Night. Who knows?  Here's to One Night's April 21th release.

Drum, But No Drum

12. The Drafter by Kim Harrison 

The Drafter is first in Kim Harrison’s new series, and seeing I've somewhat abandoned her Rachel Morgan series, I don't see The Drafter happening. Nonetheless, it’s on my radar. How’s that for September possibilities?

13. Dead Ice by Laurell K Hamilton

My ultimate guilty pleasure. The series that I love to hate. And hate more than I love, yet find myself bewitched after Hamilton waved her wand over readers from book 1-9. I’m locked into Anita Blake and her story. Even as I want to throw up at the ridiculousness of it along the way.  Here's to gathering my pail in June.

Off Subject, But Not

Why do I want to read Nora Roberts’ Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy? Is it the covers? I don’t know, but for some reason, I really want to read these books. Help me, Jesus.

So what new releases are you guys looking for this year? 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

So I finally finished Midnight Crossroad.  Although it’s been a slow reading month, I’m happy to say that it didn’t take me over a week to finish the book (unlike Sujata Massey‘s The Floating Girl).  I say that mainly because Midnight Crossroad was both easy to put down at times, then not so easy.  So it certainly had a revved-go-halt feel to it concerning my personal sense of its pacing.  That doesn't disregard my overall enjoyment of the book and its cast of dusty, supernatural characters hunching together over a Texian (hoo-hoo) murder mystery.  No, that’s only to say that as much as there were arid, unfulfilling chapters, there were just as many (and more) entrancing ones.  Nevertheless, I believe the true seduction to the first book in Charlaine Harris’s fresh series remains within her party of characters.  And I can gladly state that I live in anticipation for the following two books in her new trilogy, especially because she gives you just enough overarching plot and room for character development to bread-crumb you into the proceeding offerings.

So in reflection of my Friday Reads post--where I posted my many speculations about the book--I should share what Midnight Crossroad is really about.  The book opens with an introductory scope of the town Midnight, Texas.  You get the single stoplight.  The old, occupied settings/buildings the characters frequent.  And the registry of West Texas climate and terrain.  So it’s clear that this is a place for seclusion, touched with Harris’s mystical wonders.  Seriously, you just know something isn't right about this town.  

Harris's description of the town comes further expressed in the form of Manfred Bernardo’s arrival in the opening chapters.  Searching for solitude, he’s the psychic of this developing group of supernatural (and natural) characters.  Those familiar with Manfred will realize that he came plucked from Charlaine Harris’s Harper Connelly series.  Next on the list of peculiar people populating Midnight is Manfred’s landlord and owner of the town’s pawnshop, Bobo Winthrop.  Now this took me a really, really good minute to realize this, and I had to sort of mentally cross check Bobo’s background with my suspicions.  Eventually I came to realize that Bobo Winthrop was a character pulled from Charlaine Harris’s Lily Bard series.  It clicked the minute Bobo shared information regarding his racist father, and the reasoning behind his migration to Midnight.  With Bobo tied into the book's murder plot, it dawned on me that the bulk of Midnight Crossroad’s mystery element bubbled out of the mystery contained in the second book in Harris’s Lily Bard series, Shakespeare’s Champion.  When all this clicked, I found myself grinning (as you all know how much I love the Lily Bard books).

One other character comes into Midnight Crossroad from another of Harris’s series; however, the new character--and my personal favorite from within this new venture--is the character of Fiji Cavanaugh.  Fiji is the owner of a New Age shop called The Inquiring Mind.  She sells rearing unicorn statues and stuff like cold case resin statues of dragon fairies.  That’s not all, however.  Considering she identifies herself as a witch (or Wicca), she also sells herbs from her backyard and gives spiritual classes related to her religion.  Fiji easily became my favorite for a host of reasons--besides her being a witch.  She just had that resonance of practicality and reason that I attached to.  Plus, her cat can talk.

Several characters leaked from these three series by Harris
Stack in a gay couple, an odd blond woman who isn’t afraid of enticing murder, and a vampire serving some of the strangest of customers after hours in the pawn shop, and you have a recipe for unscripted scenarios and some tough character motivations.  And the ball begins rolling during a peaceful picnic where Harris’s collection of misfit characters run across the dead body of Bobo Winthrop’s missing girlfriend, Aubrey Hamilton.  Under his duress, this loving casts them comes together to gather their powers--and brains--to seek out the culprit.

And let me clarified how that is absolutely not all contained within their first story.  There are other complexities, complications, and layers worth exploring.  Oh, and several moral dilemmas that even I walked away scratching my head at their conclusion; slightly upset by Harris's set up to be honest.  Yep.  As much as I liked this cast of characters, they were sometimes dimwitted.  I have to stay frank.  However, the funny thing is that this book reminded me of how ruthless Charlaine Harris’s characters can often be.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if I can see a different outcome to a situation, I don't understand how a party of six or so sit on a moral panel and not think differently from one another.  Or at least contest their options thoroughly.

[That last paragraph was vague to save a spoiler!  Come express your thoughts after you've read the book (^_^)]

Another hiccup I had with the book had less to do with the material and more to do with Harris’s reliability with unfolding her characters' state of affairs to the reader.  Given that a multitude of characters bucket-brigade the book, their voices/roles are shared through the third person.  Very well.  That’s a first for Charlaine Harris.  Nonetheless, a problem fell in those moments where important information arrives second-handedly to the reader.  But first let me backtrack a bit and state that the principle characters are Manfred, Bobo, and Fiji.  So while those characters seemingly outside the trio may get a pass for having significant activities take place off-stage, I did find myself frustrated when Fiji reveals important information to Bobo about an e-mail she received from one of her customers related to the mystery.  I had a moment of “excuse me, but why wasn't I there when you got that email?” cross over me.  Clues, red herrings and misdirections must be uncovered to the reader in time with the character providing the sleuthing.  It's no biggie, however.  It didn't take away from the overall experience.

So on that note, I have confirmed that I am absolutely in love with Charlaine Harris’s new series.  It had its moments with both pacing and an unassured narrative flow.  Maybe I'm just a fan of Harris that I'm bias and prone to find a reason to love everything she writes any damn way.  But still, that permeating breeze of mystery surrounding both her peculiar characters and the backbone of the book is what really drove it all home.  Be ready for puzzles, intrigue, and somewhat caginess toward the characters’ rash decisions.  But mostly, be prepared to occupy yourself within Midnight, Texas.

Please share your thoughts if you've read Midnight Crossroad.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Reads: Midnight Crossroads

"Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and the Davy highway.  It's pretty standard dried-up western town.

There's a pawnshop (someone who lives in the basement is seen only at night).  There's a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger).  And there's a new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he's found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).

Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal.  Stay awhile, and learn the truth..."

Like a big dummy I waited a week and a couple of days to finally pick up the first book in Charlaine Harris’s new series, Midnight Crossroads.  Well… actually there was a money-saving, Chicago-headed reason behind that.  And now that I won't be heading to Chicago later this month, and I've already spent money renewing a driver’s license that was a month and thirteen days expired (!!!), I decided to stop fooling around and treat myself [snicker].  See, there was no doubt that I was going to grab Midnight Crossroads, especially because I enjoyed my yearly expeditions through Sookie Stackhouse’s (see my “Farewell Sookie Stackhouse” post) riotous love life and Harris’ darker (and further enjoyable) Lily Bard series.  I may not have made it beyond the first book of Harris’ Aurora Teagarden series--yet.  And I'm still hoping I’ll get to the final book in her Harper Connelly series one day.  But with all that aside I am definitely where I want to be with her current offering.

Because Midnight Crossroads is the first book in a trilogy of her new series, I deliberately avoided Amazon and Goodreads reviews.  So I basically have no idea what this book is about other than it takes place in a dust bin Texas town with one traffic light.  I know it'll include many characters, and because Charlaine Harris wrote it, they'll have funny names.  I have yet to determine if it is paranormal-based, but I can count that the backbone of the plot revolves around a cozy mystery of some sort.  I say that in consideration of Harris’ writing catalog.  The mystery (or paranormal element) will surround a pawn shop--which sounds fun and dangerous at the same time.  So I'm kind of guessing something along the lines of Stephen King’s Needful Things crossed with maybe a touch of Hulu’s original series, The Booth at the End.  I'll stick with those two with a grain of salt, though.

Well, enough speculation.  Midnight Crossroads will be my Friday Reads (and on forward until I finish it I suppose).  While it’s ever possible to go spend time with a friend, it’ll be me, birthday cake crème flavored Oreos, and maybe one episode of Ghost Adventures tonight.  Then… a cozy night of reading…

And reviewing at a later date…

Here's to a fresh start Mrs. Harris.

Have you read Midnight Crossroads?  Please, no spoilers, but between 1-5 stars, what would you rate it?  Better than Sookie Stackhouse, anyone?  No, no.  Don't answer that.  (^.^)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Sounds of Sub-Genre

To keep in line with my March Mystery Madness theme (sadly ending next week), I've decided to follow up my post on Poe by listing a number of sub-genres in the mystery field.  These sub-genres transformed and expanded upon the classic whodunit that Poe created, with authors who took the pandemonium of literary murder and restored order in their own unique fashion.  I can't say that I've read exclusively in each and all of these sub-genres, so I'll admit that I'll need a little Google help in finding some authorial examples.  However, I think when you read a diversity of mysteries, which all seem to involve a series of some sort proximating one main sleuth, you get a taste of each.

So without further ado, let’s break this down…

Regional Mystery

First on the list is the often missed regional mystery.  At least I tend to think of this sub-genre as often missed.  Why?  Because just about every mystery has a particular region in which the sleuth detects.  Except for something like Lee Child’s traveling ranger, Jack Reacher.  In any regard, regional mystery appears to expansive to always contain.  Take Jessica Fletcher’s [Murder, She Wrote] atmospheric blend of cozy and regional, where her cozy-style sleuthing takes place in the idyllic coastal town of the fictional Cabot Cove, Maine.  A defining characteristic of regional mysteries place a chunk of the setting as a character in itself.  In turn, this requires the author to shed information on the setting’s history, economics, and local color/culture.  Maybe those requirements are set above the actual mystery element, however, to a careful degree.  Still, those elements must be there and present, as they are what educates readers and draws color around the sleuth and his/her list of suspects.  Additionally, the regional aspect may also construct itself into the culprit’s modus operandi, as well as the list of evidence.  At least that’s how I see it.  A quick example: Honey Island swamp drownings in New Orleans and the bodies recovered with botanical pieces specific to that swamp region.  When I think of regional fiction I think of two authors who I recall shelving with a double glance at their covers.  Those covers were undoubtedly a sign of their regional based content.  First, Tony Hillerman’s settings take place in New Mexico and Arizona, capturing each of their local zest mostly through Native American culture.  Like I said, this is obvious from the cover but I haven't read him (only researched him).  That second example belongs to Elizabeth Peters.  From the covers of her Amelia Peabody Emerson books, you automatically gather that her regional sparkle takes place in sands of Egypt.

Historical Mystery

I think this sub-genre comes easier to mull over than the last.  They are mysteries that take part in a historical era prior to our own.  In a sense, historical mysteries go hand-in-hand with regional.  They both seem to call on an author’s affinity--or rapport--for a certain setting.  With historical mysteries authors can take their sleuth to China’s Qin Dynasty, sniffing for clues around the Terra Cotta Army.  Or see a sleuth in a lost tribe before the drought of Africa’s the Green Sahara.  Though I imagine that would be tough to pull off.  Nevertheless, some of the common historical locales of this specific sub-genre are European places like Victorian England.  The possibilities go on.  A loose example resides in Diane Wei Liang’s Mei Wang series.  Mei Wang is a private detective in today’s China; however, Liang fuses her protagonist’s personal struggles and job-related riffs with references to China’s outcome years after the Cultural Revolution.  Also included are mounts of discussion about the Red Guards, as well as references to the Tiananmen Square protest.  The only sad part is that the series is currently two books deep after its 2009 release of Paper Butterfly.  Just the mention of this series warrants a re-read.  Also worth mentioning off the top of my head is Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian and Tess Gerritsen's The Bone Garden.

Cozy Mystery

Cozy mysteries are one of the most diversely themed mystery sub-genres.  You walk into a bookstore’s mystery section and see an assortment of murder mystery books adjoining murder and subjects such as sewing, knitting, baking, pasta, ghost, witches, librarians, cats, dogs; it just goes on and on.  Cozies are considered cozy because of their customary blend of light and comical tones.  That’s not to say that many aren't darker, like Charlaine Harris’s Lily Bard series.  Nevertheless, one common trait of cozy mysteries are the off-stage murders.  An immediate example of off-stage murders emerges in Rita Mae Brown’s cozy, Wish You Were Here.  The first murder consisted of a character‘s body found crushed in a cement mixer.  The main protagonist, Harry (she‘s a woman), never saw the body, but had it described to her--as well as the reader--second-handedly.  I should point out that one strong stipulation to the off-stage murder topic is during the final reveal.  It's here that the protagonist sometimes witness or cause the killer's own demise.  Nonetheless, the same example could be said about sex in cozies--which is usually off-stage also.  But that's another post.  However, the off-stage sex deal brings me to another cozy commonality: cozies are often explored by a female amateur sleuth residing in a small town/community.  This amateur sleuth knows the population and their individual ticks as characters, which helps guide her detection toward the murderer.

Police Procedural Mystery

Simple enough.  Mysteries underneath this sub-genre use a professional detective operating underneath the auspices of law enforcement.  Therefore, said detective has access to certain resources that an amateur--or good-natured P.I--would not.  Usually authors portray these departmental sleuths from a big-city precinct’s homicide division, whether the sleuth status himself as detective or lieutenant.  Nonetheless, narcotics, high-tech crimes, undercover, and vice make for conceivable intermingling into murder.  So you often get a blend of much more than a simple murder mystery.  The key of the police procedural lies in the detective’s almost step-by-step case-handling.  Under an authoritarian view, this detective responds to the crime, process and collects evidence, then follows suspects and leads related to the victim.  That’s my simplified version at least.  I won't go into the use of marking paint and traffic cones, blood splatter and insect evidence.  Nor case clearance rates.  It’s hard to find others who talk about this particular series, but one police procedural writer I love is Eleanor Taylor Bland.  She wrote the Marti MacAlister series.  The series follows an African American homicide detective through the streets of the fictional city of Lincoln Prairie (near Chicago).  There will always be series far popular than this, but I point this out specifically because it’s rare to find an author sporting a black woman as the resident detective.  Granted that Bland was black herself.  Nevertheless, Paula L. Woods and her L. A. detective, Charlotte Justice, are murder mystery sisters with Bland and MacAlister.  For more on women of color solving crimes click here.  

P. I. Mystery

So of course the P.I. mystery sub-genre is my favorite.  I like it because it has this lonely hearts taste to it.  Which I can identify with, and also why I would love to write a series in this sub-genre.  I learned to really submerge myself into hard-boiled P.I. novels through Sue Grafton.  Consequently, her Kinsey Millhone detective is high on my list of favorite gumshoes.  I was at a used bookstore recently where a customer asked me to recommend her a mystery to help her out of a reading slump.  Without hesitation I told her to start with Sue Grafton.  Needless to say, Grafton and Kinsey deserve a post of their own.  So I’ll rein back and stick to the topic.  P.I.  Private Investigator.  Characters working in this vocation need a license to sleuth gracefully; a vigilant comprehension of liabilities and insurance; and a profitable, operating niche.  Secondary requirements consist of a good camera, binoculars, digital recorder, and some powerful mettle.  Oh, and sometimes a pack of cigarettes and a liver that can handle alcohol.  For all it’s worth, the P.I. sub-genre is probably the most familiar and easiest to reference.  However, two examples besides Grafton/Kinsey are Raymond Chandler’s classic hard-boiled defining P.I., Philip Marlowe; and Valerie Wilson Wesley’s single mother P.I., Tamara Hayle.  Both show the range and spectrum of characters and voices you'll find in the P.I. sub-genre.  Before I move on, you want to know something funny?  Female private investigators like Kinsey Millhone unearths my need to listen to Giorgio Moroder and Joe Esposito's "Lady, Lady." 

Forensic Mystery

The forensic sub-genre applies a gamut of varied physical evidence to uncover its criminals.  Normally operated in a lab or morgue, an evidence tech or forensic pathologist concerns him or herself with crime-related matters such as the autolysis of a corpse, DNA, bones, fingerprints, and blood splatter velocity.  This science pushing sleuth also uses hard facts, as well as chemicals like fluoresce and cyanoacrylate vapor, to corner criminals with harder evidence.  Considering we're speaking from a murder mystery stance, in the real world these coroners and medical examiners spend much of their time in a lab or court room.  They use their services to aid law enforcers in building a solid case.  However, in the literary world these individuals take on the role of a gumshoe, following their own trace evidences and firearms examinations to the criminal.  It goes without saying that Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series is the king of this sub-genre.  Speaking of Cornwell, I once had a mystery writing instructor mention that she's mean?  Is that true?  Okay, back on the subject.  Tess Gerritsen’s use of medical examiner Maura Isle pulls her own weight, as well as Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan forensic anthropology series/sleuth.

That is it for now.  I haven’t forgotten about the Caper sub-genre which involves a complicated plan designed for a character to break into an impenetrable establishment of some sort.  It might be a little off beat to mention, but Eric Jerome Dickey’s Tempted by Trouble works as a caper of sorts.  It’s not easily recognized, but it involves thieves and an elaborate set of schemes used to relieve its characters of a financial, economic bust.  Naturally, it goes all wrong.  Then there’s the Suspense/Thriller sub-genre (sometimes subcategorized between Romance and Psychological Suspense).  I look quickly to my set of Greg Iles books, remembering the little old lady who suggested his book 24 Hours.  Needless to say, it took me less than five to read it because I couldn't put it down.  

Having years of bookseller experience, I know without a doubt that John Grisham is the defining force of the Legal sub-genre.  That’s not without a healthy mention of Michael Connelly and Lisa Scottoline.

Of course the subject of mystery sub-genres go on.  Listen, we could be here all day discussing it.  We could even have a sub-sub-sub-genre discussion filled with tiers and diplomatic ramblings on the details that make them all difference.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that the mystery genre is about chaos, puzzles, and the necessity to swerve life back into order.  Tact in themes surrounding social issues and personal disparities and you can't go wrong here.

The video below is one of my favorite summaries of mystery sub-genres, delivered gracefully by Lisa Scottoline...  

Each of us like our mysteries like our coffee.  So how do you get your fix?  What’s your favorite sub-genre and why?  Also, share your favorite author and what it is about this particular writer that appeals to you?  And if you like this post and found it entertaining and informative, please share it through the provided networks below.

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