Posts Tagged Series

Review of The Alphabet Mysteries Series by Sue Grafton

Bottom line: A great example of the hard boiled genre, featuring a strong female P.I.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb for First Book: A is for Alibi (1982)

A IS FOR AVENGER
A tough-talking former cop, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has set up a modest detective agency in a quiet corner of Santa Teresa, California. A twice-divorced loner with few personal possessions and fewer personal attachments, she’s got a soft spot for underdogs and lost causes.

A IS FOR ACCUSED
That’s why she draws desperate clients like Nikki Fife. Eight years ago, she was convicted of killing her philandering husband. Now she’s out on parole and needs Kinsey’s help to find the real killer. But after all this time, clearing Nikki’s bad name won’t be easy.

A IS FOR ALIBI
If there’s one thing that makes Kinsey Millhone feel alive, it’s playing on the edge. When her investigation turns up a second corpse, more suspects, and a new reason to kill, Kinsey discovers that the edge is closer–and sharper–than she imagined.

Review:

It’s been a while since I’ve read any of Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Mysteries, so I got A is for Alibi from the library and started over at the beginning (not all of them – I’m dedicated to you, my loyal readers, but not THAT dedicated). I’ve read up through T, though Grafton has published up through V (W is for Wasted comes out this fall). For a series that has 22 published books, plus some short stories (none of which I’ve read), the level of quality is surprisingly consistent – and high. The mysteries and characters are interesting and varied enough so that you don’t feel like you’re reading the same book over and over again. There are, obviously, some books that are better than others, but for the most part they’re very good reads.

One thing to note is that just because this series features a female detective, do not mistake these for cozies. They are definitely hard boiled: gritty and full of the realities of life – sex and bad language and all the rest of it. Kinsey is a tough, prickly, character, one that you come to respect before you necessarily start to like her. In the first book, you get enough details about her earlier life to keep you interested, without there being an info dump of backstory. I find it annoying when within a few strategic conversations in the first chapter you learn everything you need to know about a character. Real life doesn’t work that way. You do learn more about her as the series progresses, in a very natural way.

I’d recommend this series for anyone who likes the hard boiled mystery genre, or even mystery fans in general. Be warned that there is quite a bit of detail involved in tracking down various aspects of the cases; facts don’t seamlessly fall into place on the first try, which I quite like. Another great thing about these books is that any library is almost guaranteed to stock them. So, pick one up and give it a try – if you like it, you’ll eventually have 25 more great books to keep you entertained. Even for someone who reads as fast as I do, that’s at least a hundred hours of happiness.

 

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Review of the Chronological Man Adventure Series by Andrew Mayne

Bottom line: A fun, historical, science-y, steampunk-y, adventure-y series of short stories.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Review:

I really like this series. It consists (so far) of two short stories, telling the tale of Smith, time traveler extraordinaire, who shows up to save the day whenever he is needed. The books are short enough to be read in one sitting (Ok, so I read most books in one sitting, but I’m a bit obsessive that way. Normal people could read these books in one sitting), but long enough to feel balanced – you get good characters, good settings, AND a good story. I wouldn’t put the premise in the “terribly plausible” category, but the ride is such a good one that it doesn’t matter. My favorite aspect of the series is the characters. The assistant, April, is smart and capable and takes action when it’s called for. She’s no Watson-esque sidekick, perpetually stumbling around in the dark. Teddy Roosevelt, more big stick than speaking softly here, is a hilarious and brilliant addition to the crew in the second story. And of course there’s Smith, a strange genius who suffers from amnesia due to his time travelling.

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Review of Murder on the Cote d’Azur by Susan Kiernan-Lewis (2012) (Maggie Newberry Mysteries)

Bottom line: I didn’t enjoy it very much, but it would be a good book if you were looking for a free book to read on a plane to France.

Rating: Not Recommended

Blurb:

The first in the Maggie Newberry mystery series takes Atlanta Copywriter Maggie Newberry to the south of France and Paris in her search for her sister and her niece’s killer. Along the way, she meets Laurent–a sexy Frenchman who is not at all what he appears. Is he helping her in her quest? Or is he the reason for it?

Review:

I’ve had this on my Kindle for quite a while, as it consistently show up on the Amazon’s top 100 free bestsellers. I finally read it today and was disappointed. I wanted to like it, I just didn’t. I’m having a hard time putting my finger on what exactly it was that bothered me. It’s set in Atlanta and France, but other than the use of “y’all” and several French lines (which was kind of fun, dusting off my very poor high school French), this isn’t a book that really immerses you in the locations. The story doesn’t flow very well, you jump around in time and place a lot, with no warning that a switch has occurred. The main family was set up to have some really interesting, complex relationships, but the characters still seemed somehow flat to me. And there are a lot of secondary characters, none of whom seem particularly likeable or realistic. In addition, I didn’t feel like all the loose threads were tied up at the end.

I did think the murder and unraveling of it were handled well. Amateur detectives often are given unrealistic insight or access to information, but this protagonist used means that any ordinary person would be able to pursue. There were also some plot layers that were handled well – you aren’t quite sure which crimes are connected, or who is involved – without it feeling like elements were introduced solely to trick you.

All in all, it works better in theory than it did in execution for me. There just wasn’t anything I loved about it, and I found myself pushing myself to read quickly to get it over with.

Available: Free e-book at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Smashwords.

What did you think? Did you like the book?

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Review of Timekeeper by Heather Albano (2012)

Bottom line: A very strong sequel to Timepiece, and a very fun read.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Blurb:

An alternate history adventure featuring time travelers, freedom fighters, Frankenstein’s monster, the Battle of Waterloo, and Napoleon invading Britain by dirigible.

In Timepiece, young adventurer Elizabeth Barton and her suitor William Carrington used a mysterious pocket watch to travel from 1815 to 1885. Horrified by what they found—a steampunk dystopia patrolled by Gatling-gun-wielding robots—they joined fellow time traveler Mr. Maxwell in his quest to prevent that future from taking form…and accidentally set in motion a chain of events that allowed Napoleon to win the Battle of Waterloo.

Now they are trapped in a second 1885, one even worse than the first, where the tricolor flag flies from the Tower of London and Britain has long since accepted its fate as a conquered possession of the globe-spanning French Empire. In Timekeeper, Elizabeth, William, and Maxwell struggle to undo the damage they caused—and gradually come to realize the stakes may be even higher than they initially supposed, for they are not the only ones attempting to affect the timeline.

Review:

I really, really enjoyed this book. It was well worth waiting for. The plot ran smoother, the characters had more depth, and the writing was just as strong as the first book, Timepiece (review here). All of the minor quibbles I had with the first book were nonexistent here. I think you could read this book as a standalone, but I wouldn’t really recommend it – it definitely follows straight on from the first, and you’d miss a lot of the context. I think one of the great strengths of this book was how she took the same people and made them believably act differently due to their external circumstances, yet consistently with their characterization in the alternate timeline.

The story wraps up satisfactorily for two of the main characters, and there is enough closure for the third that you don’t feel left hanging, although his story is certainly not finished. I’ll certainly read that when/if she writes it, but I was very happy with the way things concluded.

Available:E-book currently $2.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and in all e-formats at Smashwords.

More Info: Check out the author’s website here.

What did you think? Did you like the book?

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Review of the Lord Peter & Harriet Vane mysteries by Dorothy Sayers

Bottom line: Great mysteries, great characters, great writing. I cannot recommend these highly enough.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Review:

Gaudy Night is my all-time favorite book. Not just mystery, but book. The other three books in this series are all very, very good (though I’d rate Have His Carcase a bit below the other three – it’s slow in places). The depth of Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, combined with their interactions, feel more real than any other characters I’ve read. It feels more like being in a room with two people you know well than reading a story about fictional creations.

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Review of The Emperor’s Edge Series by Lindsay Buroker

Bottom line: This is one of my favorite ongoing series. These are great stories, extremely well written, with awesome characters. The first book is free, so give it a try and see what you think!

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Review:

I was going to do a review on each of the books that are out, but then I realized the reviews would be virtually identical for all books, so I’m going to do it in one fell swoop for the books of the series that are currently out, and I’ll update as the other books come out. There are six planned total in the main storyline.

These books are excellent. It was one of those where I read the first one because it was free, not really expecting all that much from it. When I was done, I immediately downloaded the next two books in the series (the only ones that were out at the time), read all through the night, got an hour of sleep, and had to go to work the next day. I then discovered that there were short stories with the same characters, but not in the main storyline/time frame and bought and read those immediately as well.

 

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Review of The Emperor’s Edge Series by Lindsay Buroker

Bottom line: This is one of my favorite ongoing series. These are great stories, extremely well written, with awesome characters. The first book is free, so give it a try and see what you think!

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Review:

I was going to do a review on each of the books that are out, but then I realized the reviews would be virtually identical for all books, so I’m going to do it in one fell swoop for the books of the series that are currently out, and I’ll update as the other books come out. There are six planned total in the main storyline.

These books are excellent. It was one of those where I read the first one because it was free, not really expecting all that much from it. When I was done, I immediately downloaded the next two books in the series (the only ones that were out at the time), read all through the night, got an hour of sleep, and had to go to work the next day. I then discovered that there were short stories with the same characters, but not in the main storyline/time frame and bought and read those immediately as well.

 

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