Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Wild One, Nick Petrie's latest Peter Ash novel is a thriller about a man seeking a kidnapped boy



Peter Ash is back in another blow the doors off action thriller. Peter Ash is an ex-vet who suffers from bad PTSD, which he feels as wild static, which gets worse in close in spaces. But since he has returned from the wars, he has put to use his martial skills, both hand to hand and with weapons and shrewd intelligence in the helping of others.

Here Peter Ash has been hired by a rich Washingtonian to track down her missing grandson, who disappeared with his father, of Icelandic descent, after her daughter, the boy's mother was murdered.

While a little slow in the beginning, Petrie gets in high gear once the action gets to Iceland as he has our hero tackle some extreme weather, some burly Icelandic barkeeps and fisherman, cops with batons and killers all to try and find the little boy, who may have been kidnapped by his killer dad.

There are a couple of slick twists and not all of the action involves fisticuffs but Peter Ash is up for almost any challenge.

I was sick for two weeks and really could not get into a groove in reading, but opened this up one night and danced with it to 1:30 am when I finished it in one long glide.

If you like these type of thrillers, then you should be adding Nick Petrie to your go to list of authors.

Petrie is the real deal, and Peter Ash, is a good hero to find.

In Louisa Luna's Alice Vega returns in "The Janes" to save underage girls from a terrible fate in the compelling mystery thriller



Alice Vega and Max Caplan reunite to investigate the suspicious deaths of two underage Latino girls, who appear to have been working as sex slaves. The main clue is that they have been fitted with IUDs with very close manufacturers marks. Vega a bounty hunter and Caplan, an ex cop are being paid off book in cash by members of the police and DEA, the latter of whom seem to be mostly interested in various underground tunnels used by drug smugglers.

From this scant little clue, Vega and Caplan are able to sift through the vast criminal underworld and various connected criminals and open a lot of doors with the use of smart detective skills, computer searches from Vega's computer hacker friend - Bastard - and the application of extreme bashing (Vega) to get to the bottom of mystery.

But its not all an upward trajectory as Vega and Caplan are each assaulted and hurt, face the inevitable double cross, dirty cops, murderous thugs, Cartel killers and a hodgepodge of dire situations.

Luna keeps the action coming while shifting the point of view between the cagey smart and bashing Vega and the older family man Caplan, with his young teen daughter. As this is the second book featuring these two detectives, one could have hoped for a tiny bit more elaboration about Vega's background, if you, like me had not read Luna's first book, but Caplan does make some wry observations about Vega's capabilities that help and Luna drops in little tidbits. But its a minor gripe in an otherwise stellar work.

Because Luna's Vega knows what she is doing, and that is saving the world one little bit at at time, and we are all lucky to be able to see her doing it. So much so, that I am going to track down Luna's first book and read it too. I suggest you do the same.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

A Little Hatred

A Little Hatred (The Age of Madness, #1)A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Union is in the midst of an Industrial Revolution. Investors like Savine dan Glokta have become remarkably wealthy thanks to these inventions, but commoners find their lives changed for the worse because of machines doing the jobs of many. Multiple wars with Styria has left the Union deeply in debt, so much so that the Union can't afford to pay to send an army to Angland to help the embattled Leo dan Brock's war with Stour Nightfall and his forces. The disappointing Crown Prince Orso is trying to sober up enough to help. Rikke, the daughter of the Dogman, is trying to help the Union and the protectorate with the magical foresight of her developing Long Eye, but even with her assistance men will continue to fight and die.

A Little Hatred is undoubtedly what I've come to expect from Joe Abercrombie. Brutal and dismal with hopelessness sprinkled on it for good measure. Even when good things happen, Abercrombie is quick to remind the reader of additional horrors. Abercrombie does not do happy endings.

A surprising element to this book was the Industrial Revolution the Union is undergoing. Despite the world being fictional, the struggle experienced by the commoners especially felt quite historical. The problems they experience in the book could easily have been what people experienced as new technology emerged and altered industries forever. Greater efficiency often means that someone is out of a job and the commoners of the Union are living in a hellish time.

Abercrombie did a good job mixing the old characters with the new. The world he created made it somewhat simple as nearly all the point of view characters are the children of characters from The First Law world. Jezal, Glokta, Dogman, and Calder's children are all among the main characters. A multitude of familiar characters appear from earlier books and many other notable names are mentioned.

The point of view characters are distinct and their stories are solid. I can't say I particularly care about any of them though. My two favorites may in fact be two of the characters who get the least attention, Vick and Gunnar Broad. Vick was sent to the work camps in Angland because of a crime her father committed, but she's back in Adua now. Gunnar Broad is a war veteran who just returned home. Broad means to do well, but he's an extremely powerful man with an awful temper. The two of them were dealt awful hands and they're playing things out as best they can.

A Little Hatred has all the elements of The First Law trilogy with some new characters and stories to tell.

3.5 out of 5 stars


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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Blood of Empire

Blood of EmpireBlood of Empire by Brian McClellan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ka-Sedial and the Dynize Empire are on the cusp of creating a new god. Vlora, Ben Styke, Michel Bravis, and many others go to extremes to prevent that from happening.

Blood of Empire was largely what I expected from the conclusion of the Gods of Blood and Power series. Lots of intrigue and battles. I was hoping to see if Brian McClellan had something more or truly unexpected in store for this book, but he unfortunately didn't. Blood of Empire is the first book in the Powder Mage universe that I got from the library rather than buying since Promise of Blood and I did end up buying Promise of Blood later on.

My challenge with this series compared to the novellas and the Powder Mage trilogy is I haven't found someone to truly route for. I've somewhat enjoyed Ben Styke, but he doesn't fill my desire for a lead character. I'm more indifferent to Vlora and Michel although I have to admit, they really came alive for me in this final installment. Ben, Vlora, and Michel all face significant personal trials in this book. They grow from them in a truly organic sense becoming more human by the page. This was a huge shift for me when it came to Vlora and Michel because they were largely forgettable in the prior two books.

In a lot of ways the entire Gods of Blood and Power series felt like a sequel to the Powder Mage trilogy. Unfortunately not in a good way. A lot of the aspects felt copied from the original series despite being in a new location and having some different abilities. I did enjoy it, but just not as much as the first series.

As far as Blood of Empire specifically goes, it's pretty even with it's predecessors in this series. It's a good book, but not one I imagine finding myself desiring to revisit. On top of lacking a truly compelling lead, the book lacks a compelling villain. The story describes Ka-Sedial being incredibly evil, but he's seen so rarely that he's more of a looming danger than an active villain.

Blood of Empire was a solid conclusion to the Gods of Blood and Power trilogy.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Age of Death

Age of Death (The Legends of the First Empire, #5)Age of Death by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With Suri in the hands of Fane Lothian, Nyphron is convinced he no longer has a chance of winning the war. Persephone finds herself alone. Her brave friends who went to save Suri are dead, but Malcolm tells her that there's still a chance they could return. The group who willingly entered the land of the dead are the Rhunes only hope.

Age of Death like Age of Legend ended in a cliff hanger. At least I know I won't have to wait too long for the last book of the series, but I really wish the story progressed further.

Age of Death clearly shows that in this world, death isn't the end. The reader is granted a view of the afterlife and the realms within it. The history of the world and the gods are mentioned in some detail which was interesting to say the least. The gods aren't exactly what I imagined they would be.

I love the work put into the various characters. I find myself enjoying all of them and what they add to the tale, which is rare. Michael J. Sullivan puts them through what appears like hell at times and they all face it differently. I know it's not reasonable to expect a happy ending for all of them, but I hope things all turn out for the better for each one of them.

Age of Death was a really enjoyable read. Now I just have to wait for the series conclusion, Age of Empyre.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone


Rachel Lynn Solomon
Simon Pulse
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars



Summary



Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

From debut author Rachel Lynn Solomon comes a luminous, heartbreaking tale of life, death, and the fragile bond between sisters.


My Review



After reading the heartbreaking and thought-provoking Inside the O'Briens, I went in search of more fiction that deals with Huntington’s disease.

This is the story of fraternal twin sisters Adina and Tovah, two teenagers who have gradually grown apart.

Can one enjoy a book and at the same time be glad it’s over? Perhaps I’m just too old to read about 18-year-olds with their volatile emotions, their self-centeredness, and their never-ending drama. Add to this boiling cauldron a mother with early symptoms of Huntington’s disease and the upheaval that results when both sisters decide to take the genetic test to determine if they have inherited the gene. One of the twins has it and one doesn’t. This story very thoughtfully explores what it means to live with the possibility of inheriting a rare genetic disease and watching that disease slowly take the life of a parent as well as the survivor guilt experienced by the one who manages to escape this fate.

There are pros and cons to predictive testing. On the positive side is an increased ability to plan for the future and a life without worry or uncertainty about getting this disease. On the negative side, receiving a positive result is likely to be emotionally devastating to the individual. In Adina’s case, she experiences anger, despair, suicidal thoughts, and engages in self-destructive behavior. All of this makes it difficult to like her at times, but the author has done a wonderful job creating well-rounded characters that are easy to empathize with. While the sisters are both extremely competitive and share many of the same problems plaguing teenagers their age, it was good to have both of their perspectives, as their personalities, beliefs, and attitudes are very different. Another good thing is the presence of loving parents. So often, parents are absent or insignificant characters in fiction for young people.

While I was exhausted by the time I reached the story’s conclusion, I can’t deny that this debut was beautifully written, engaging, thoughtful, and convincing. I very much look forward to more of Rachel Lynn Solomon’s novels.

“The fear is never far away. My broken heel reminds me the disease could sneak up on me at any moment. One day I will twitch when I want to be still, rage when I want to be happy, forget when I want to remember. It has happened to my mother, and it will happen to me. We are a doomed family – but we are not done fighting yet.”

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The United States is no more. Birth rates have plunged to a terrifying low and the Republic of Gilead has taken over to right things. The problem in their collective mind is people have gotten away from living life in a biblical manner. Gilead's changes started slowly. The first step was banning all women from working, but things got much worse. Gilead gathered their "natural resources," women they've deemed to be unwed who've had children. Gilead has tasked these women to have children for their commanders and their barren wives. In Gilead only women are deemed barren because it can't possibly be a man's fault. Offred is a woman who has had everything except her life stripped from her. Even the name Offred is not the one she was born with. It means of Fred, the commander whose household she's assigned to. She had a child with her husband, but her husband was divorced. In Gilead their marriage isn't recognized and so she's been taken to be a handmaid and her daughter was given to another family. The work of a handmaid is being forced to lay upon her commander's wife's knees as he attempts to impregnate her once a month.

"Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary."


So I don't know if Margaret Atwood should be viewed as an incredible writer or if she be viewed as a troubled sadistic mind. Atwood crafts an astonishingly terrifying and tortuous world with the Republic of Gilead. When people talk of men hating women and only valuing them for their bodies, they could easily point to the characters in this book. I don't have the imagination to fully appreciate the horror of this world. To strip all women of so much of their lives and some women of basically everything, makes me sick to think about. They did it to make things "better."
"Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some."

It's only better for men. For some women it's bad and for many it's a living hell.

So I realize this is an old book and much of the current interest is due to the TV show. That being said, past this point there will be spoilers and they won't be hidden.

You've been warned


There's absolute truth that people will do what they must to survive and this book is no exception. I accept that and know it's true. The handmaid's choose systematic rape, psychological torture, and having their identities erased just to stay alive. As Offred said, there is some choice. Not a great choice as the other choice is being labeled an unwoman and being sent to the colonies to clean toxic waste without protection. It's a death sentence plain and simple.

I also recognize that people are capable of incredible amounts of evil often in the name of some greater good. The rulers of Gilead literally steal rights from all women. They aren't allowed to read, own property, and to make choices for themselves. That's still kind compared to the life of handmaid's. The insane thing is the need for survival causes so many men and women to conform to the system rather than risk their own lives.

The only thing that felt unbelievable to me was the handmaid's themselves. Women being kidnapped and subjugated to unspeakable things is terrifyingly common historically speaking. The psychological torture and systematic rape is also not historically uncommon. What gets me is the power the rulers of Gilead still allow their wives. They have complete power over any woman they choose. So creating the handmaid's, with the men being limited in the way they can interact with them seems surprising. Granted the book only shows Offred's commander who doesn't seem devout at all. He flaunts the laws and doesn't seem overly concerned about it until the very end. Perhaps some of the rulers of Gilead are true believers, but Jezebel's makes me doubt it. I'm surprised the country didn't just scoop up the fertile women and split them up among the most powerful. Perhaps allowing a polygamy or creating harems because these powerful men must have heirs of course.

The Handmaid's Tale is a well written horror story of sorts that's too realistic to ignore.

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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Pile of Bones

Pile of Bones (The Legends of the First Empire #0.5)Pile of Bones by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The mystic Suri hears the sound of Elan itself. It helps her in times of trouble and at times reveals things she wasn't meant to find. Pile of Bones takes us back to a time Suri stumbles on a secret even her wolf Minna wasn't able to help her with.

Pile of Bones is a solid short story that displays Suri more like she was in Age of Myth. Suri's a wide eyed explorer. She listens to the trees, the Earth, and animals. Listening, learning, and exploring is Suri's life. It was nice to be reminded of the character at a younger age when things were simpler. There's not much I can get into that won't spoil the story. Needless to say if you loved Suri in Age of Myth, then this is a must read short story.

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Warrior Prime

Warrior Prime (Ink Mage Legacy #1)Warrior Prime by Victor Gischler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The threat of war has brought the Helvan envoy Peyne Erlich to Fryia. Unfortunately, his stay is short lived. The King's Ambassador sends him back to Helva with an urgent message about Ink Magic before Peyne can even unpack. However the ship he sails on holds an unexpected challenges and Zayda. Zayda's father's financial failure led to her being sold as a slave to pay his debts. Rather than being forced into prostitution, she finds a different path. Zayda has been made into an Ink Mage and forced into a magical collar meant to control her. Peyne and Zayda find themselves forced to trust one another in order to survive.

Warrior Prime is a continuation of the series A Fire Beneath the Skin. Many years have passed since A Painted Goddess, but some old characters are seen and mentioned in the book. The story has it's own compelling factors as Zayda is fighting to remove the magical collar that's use to control her while Peyne is trying to reach Helva to warn the King about Ink Magic.

The main characters felt similar to Ink Mage as Zayda resembles Rina and Peyne reminds me of Brasley Hammish. Zayda is a young woman who receives the prime suddenly like Rina. They are both forced to seek out new tattoos to assist them towards their goals. They each set out on significant treks with the hope of restoring their lives. Peyne and Brasley are both womanizers who drink, gamble, and steal. I realize Brasley was forced to change over the course of A Fire Beneath the Skin, but Peyne is nearly Brasley in Ink Mage.

I did appreciate the villainous Meddigar. He's a wizard who inadvertently stumbled onto Ink Magic and used his knowledge to ingratiate himself to the Fryian royalty by not only making them Ink Mages, but also providing a way to control them. Meddigar isn't completely evil, but he's truly selfish, self centered, and justifiably paranoid. Meddigar would rather take his money and secrets and disappear rather than deal with Fryia, but the Grand Sultan wants his cash cow protected, at least until he can gain the secrets for himself.

Warrior Prime felt just a little too similar to Ink Mage, but was an enjoyable story.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Taking Turns: Stories from HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371



MK Czerwiec
Penn State University Press
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars



Summary



In 1994, at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the United States, MK Czerwiec took her first nursing job, at Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, as part of the caregiving staff of HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371. Taking Turns pulls back the curtain on life in the ward.

A shining example of excellence in the treatment and care of patients, Unit 371 was a community for thousands of patients and families affected by HIV and AIDS and the people who cared for them. This graphic novel combines Czerwiec’s memories with the oral histories of patients, family members, and staff. It depicts life and death in the ward, the ways the unit affected and informed those who passed through it, and how many look back on their time there today.

Czerwiec joined Unit 371 at a pivotal time in the history of AIDS: deaths from the syndrome in the Midwest peaked in 1995 and then dropped drastically in the following years, with the release of antiretroviral protease inhibitors. This positive turn of events led to a decline in patient populations and, ultimately, to the closure of Unit 371. Czerwiec’s restrained, inviting drawing style and carefully considered narrative examine individual, institutional, and community responses to the AIDS epidemic—as well as the role that art can play in the grieving process.

Deeply personal yet made up of many voices, this history of daily life in a unique AIDS care unit is an open, honest look at suffering, grief, and hope among a community of medical professionals and patients at the heart of the epidemic.


My Review



Never have I been so moved by a graphic novel as I have with this account of M.K. Czerwiec’s career as a nurse in an HIV/AIDS care unit.

Her story begins in 1993, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, and before effective retroviral drugs existed. Though much of this story centers on patient treatment and interactions with other caregivers, there is a lot of thought-provoking exploration of living with a terminal disease, the fluid boundaries between caregiver and patient, and the emotional toll death takes on us all.

This thoughtful, simply written story is deeply moving, powerful, and a worthy addition to modern AIDS literature. While this graphic novel deserves every one of its 5 stars, I have a few minor quibbles that didn’t at all detract from my enjoyment.

One of the sentiments expressed towards the end bothered me a little. “This was our plague. It was devastation of a generation, a couple of generations…” I never liked that AIDS was referred to as the “gay plague.” This implies the disease only affected men and was a punishment.

The art was simple, and there were annoying blank pages between sections. This may just affect the e-book.

Some of the panels contained too much text and were at times difficult to read.

Though much progress has been made, many people around the world are still dying of AIDS because of fear, social stigma and ignorance, so I am glad for this novel’s existence. I was happy to find the e-book at my local library, as I can’t justify paying over $20 for a graphic novel.