Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Rat Pack Lives

If you're looking for a light but engaging mystery that is gonna take you to a time of crooners, mob ties, and glamor,, then look no further. The Rat Pack Mysteries fit the bill perfectly, and this first one sets the stage for all that is to come.

In Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime, we meet Eddie Gianelli, pit boss and friend to many of the Names of Vegas of the 60s. Eddie gets asked by his boss, Jack Entratter, to solve a private matter involving Dean Martin: Dino's getting death threats. Eddie's not an investigator; he's just a former New Yorker who has found his calling at the famous Sands Hotel and Casino. Still, he reluctantly takes on the case, enlisting his PI friend Danny to help him figure out what's going on. Along the way, he becomes friends with the other Rat Packers, and finds at least three not what he'd signed up for. By then, he's in too deep and needs to see the whole thing to its conclusion, if he can stay alive long enough to do so.

Confession time:  I read these last three books of the series before reading this one, so I'm aware of what's ahead for Eddie G. Still, there was major delight for me in being introduced to Jack, Danny, Jerry, and the Rat Pack, and seeing them in their early days, and I found that I loved them just as much. The mystery is pretty light, though it doesn't become clear until late in the book who the culprit(s) is/are.  As usual, I was turning the pages, enjoying the atmosphere evoked and imagining myself sitting in the Copa Room as the Rat Pack played for a packed house.

I don't know, however, if it was because this was the first book in the series or what, but the story is littered with errors:  There are punctuation, spelling, and syntax errors that pulled me out every time I came across one. I still loved the story and am happy to report that these lessen as the series goes on.

I also admit that I spent time looking up some of the characters and events mentioned, and they are all right on the money for accuracy. Rindisi has done his research and it shows. He weaves Eddie G and friends seamlessly into the backdrop of the Sands, giving us a taste of the powerful behind the scenes. If you haven't tried any of these excellent, fun mysteries, do yourself a favor and make them a part of your summer reading plans.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Well, That Wasn't What I'd Hoped

I had high hopes for The Heir because I read and loved all the books in The Selection series. How could I not love the continuing story of America and Maxon and their kids? Turns's possible not to. Unfortunately.

I didn't hate this book. It's a fast, easy read, and yes, we still get interactions with those we've grown to know and love. The problems lay mostly in Eadlyn, the main character. She never loses a chance to whine or complain. Born first so she gets the crown? Complain. So much work to do? Complain. Have to have a Selection to appease the population? Complain. Complain, complain, complain. She's obviously immature and someone who should not be contemplating marriage in any shape, form, or fashion (not that she wants to). Eadlyn keeps thinking she has figured out ways to go through with the Selection without actually committing herself to anything, but every time she does, a disaster (usually of her own making) happens. Which honestly serves her right in most ways, but doesn't make her endearing on any level.

I just have so many questions...Why, with two parents who were so likable and committed, does Eadlyn not get that her actions have consequences? Why are her parents not the fiery couple we'd seen spar so often in the previous books? Why is Eadlyn left to devise her own solutions at such a young age? How is that the Selected young men weren't vetted thoroughly? Why is Marlee and her family living in the palace? (Sure they would have wanted a place to call their own!).

Some of the young men involved in the Selection are charming, but many seem either manipulative or just plain boring. I get it; Eadlyn didn't want to do this, so she didn't take much time to get to know any of them. The first elimination is a disaster and a huge opportunity was missed when her parents actually let her get away with her shenanigans. I kept wanting to like her, wanting to cheer for her...she's America's daughter! She should be behaving better. What's with all the walls she's built around herself? Surely being a part of such a loving family would have allowed her to be less reserved.

Still, there's fun and some growth, even if it's minimal. Eadlyn is best when she's not trying so hard. I'm just not sure why, twenty years on, we have a nation that is still fighting itself and a young girl who is expected to deflect major problems by dating. This book is missing a light, fun core that was so evident in the earlier books. I am hopeful that Eadlyn will find herself behaving better after the cliffhanger ending, and this second part to the series will eventually make me feel both sympathy and hope for her. I'm hopeful this book was just laying groundwork for major changes ahead. Otherwise there won't be much point in cheering for a very cheerless princess.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Replaced

The Replaced picks up with Kyra wondering what's happened to Tyler after leaving him for the aliens to take and, hopefully, cure. She's back at the camp with Simon and the others when word comes in that a young man has been taken to the Daylighters' headquarters, and Kyra's convinced it must be Tyler. A major rescue mission is launched and Kyra discovers even more frightening facts about herself and her abilities, all while looking for Tyler's Return.

There's more, of course, but unwilling to do spoilers, I'll be careful with any more information. Kyra's desperation to find Tyler fuels most of the book, and there's another side to the story when they end up at a camp where Thom and Simon used to live and work. Run by Griffin, Kyra's instantly skeptical and oppositional in her new home, but she's in for bigger surprises when it becomes apparent that Kyra's not just Returned, she's Replaced. And that has even more dangerous connotations for the group.

What I liked: I love Kyra, and I love her feelings for Tyler. I love that she recognizes her shortcomings but still goes ahead anyway. I loved the whole rescue attempt and the ending especially. The twist of having a spy is good and sets us up for the final book. I'm eager to see what's going to happen next and if Kyra can regain everything she's lost since she came back. She's got some hard truths ahead of her and I can only hope we get the happy ever after ending we want.

What I didn't like: I don't like love triangles, and possible love quadrangles. I don't like being set up for one relationship and then having another maybe, possibly, mean something. Not be spoilery, but Simon bugged the snot out of me the whole time I was reading. Give it a rest already! I also felt like the book dragged at times and maybe it was supposed to since Kyra does spend a good deal of time waiting. I also disliked the whole Griffin scenario; I felt like I was getting a Walking Dead vibe of total power and it just didn't work.

But, yeah, this is a good sequel, and I enjoyed it. The writing is good, and Kyra's voice is strong. I like how some historical events seem to be woven throughout, and I'm eager to see what happens with all of the characters. While it may not have been quite the page turner the first book was, it's still a decent sequel and one that moved the stories along purposefully and creatively.


Avoid This One

I really wanted to love The Rules because the premise is awesome: Popular, privileged kids go on a scavenger hunt where it turns out there's more on the line than just winning a fabulous prize. The main character, Robin, is not a member of the clique, so obviously she's the one you want to root for. But then people start turning up dead or injured, and it becomes very apparent that someone has much bigger issues to resolve...and those include death and pain. Pretty good set up, right?

Honesty compels me to say that this book is so poorly executed that I wanted to give up almost immediately. But having stuck with books I disliked initially in the past, I felt honor-bound to continue. Unfortunately, it never got better, and what should have worked to be scary and fiendish turned out to be just a bunch of too stupid to live moments. People who obviously have no clue (pun not intended) do ridiculous things like splitting up and making out rather than worry that their very lives are at stake. There's no one to feel any sympathy for, and many I just wanted to go ahead and die already because they were just so unappealing. Even Robin, our heroine, falls far short of using her brains. I truly didn't care if she lived or died.

A huge turn off for me in the beginning was the jumping into points of view of random characters; it would have worked far better if there had been a core group whose heads we could get inside, rather than glimpses of the phobias and manias most of the characters seemed to have. I was also less than impressed with the style of writing itself; the phrases and the wording reeked of amateurism when it should set us up for the drama to follow. Do I really need to be told that Jinny is Robin's mom as the woman walks into the room? Nope.

Still, there were a couple of moments that keeps this one from getting the dreaded one star, including the groundwork of August's sister's death and the atmosphere of horror that sort of permeates the plot. However, I hate to be harsh, but this is one book I say you can avoid and not feel badly about skipping.