Saturday, May 25, 2013

Freebie Fun (And Other Reviews!)

Sometimes you get lucky with Amazon freebie books; you discover an author whose works you just have to read.

I never heard of JB Lynn before I downloaded her freebie novella, The Hitwoman Gets Lucky. I'm definitely going back to Amazon to pick up the first book in this series, though, if only to learn how Maggie Lee became a hitwoman in the first place (and why, after being injured in a car accident, she can now understand the spoken language of her two pets, a Doberman named Doomsday and an anole lizard name Godzilla).

Lynn gives readers only a brief explanation of Maggie's past in The Hitwoman Gets Lucky. The backstory includes some info on her murder mentor, police detective Patrick Mulligan, and her semi-psychic girlfriend, Armani. Also mentioned are her numerous aunts and her niece, Katie. Obviously, we're meant to have read Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwomanthe first book in the series. Nevertheless, you can get a pretty good take on the complex lifestyle of the heroine in the first few pages of this 2013 novella.

In this story, Patrick asks for Maggie's help in recovering a computer flash drive from Lucky O'Hara, a professional thief working in Atlantic City. The stars seem in alignment for Maggie when her aunt suddenly gives her two tickets to a Barry Manilow concert taking place in--you guessed it--A.C. Maggie and Armani take off for the concert, Godzilla in tow. The smart-alecky little lizard (he has the vocabulary of a college professor) steals the show in this off-beat tale that ends in a mad romp down the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

I found this to be a fun read that introduced me to some unusual, but thoroughly interesting, characters. I'm definitely going back to Amazon for more JB Lynn.

And now, here are two reviews by Carl Brookins.

Ordinary Grace
By William Kent Krueger
ISBN: 1-978-4516-4582-8
A March 2013 Atria release in
HC and as an e-book.

To maintain complete transparency, Mr. Krueger and I are long-time friends, we frequently travel together as the Minnesota Crime Wave, and I received a pre-release copy of this book at no cost to me.

“Ordinary Grace” is a standalone novel, a project the author has long desired to write. The book is considerably different from his multiple-award-winning Cork O’Connor series. It benefits from everything the author has learned over the years writing that series. It is directly and powerfully written, wasting no words, yet always moving the characters and the story ahead at appropriate pace, depending on the actions of the characters and the plot.

Set in a small community in southern Minnesota in 1961, this is how the story begins: “All the dying that summer began with the death of a child, a boy with golden hair and thick glasses, killed on the railroad tracks outside New Bremen, Minnesota.” The narrator is an adult white male, son of the Methodist minister in town. Frank is recalling the momentous events of that bygone summer when he was but thirteen years old, a teen-ager on the cusp of young maturity. The death of that child sets in motion events and revelations of suppressed attitudes that alter the lives and futures of many people in the town. Some of the people affected are important and wealthy, others, as plain and ordinary as one could imagine. Yet everyone in the novel is required to come to terms to greater or lesser degree, with who they are and how they must relate to family, friends, members of their faith, and how they function in the wider yet limited community. What Frank learns that summer, and equally importantly, how he sees and interprets the evil and the grace of that time, will affect him for his entire life. It’s an important lesson.

Krueger’s writing, as always, is smooth and strong and the logic of the plot is easy to follow. While the story has many layers, there are no convoluted or tricky passages readers will have to struggle to interpret. That’s part of the book’s charm and its strength.

The novel explores faith, mysticism, and rationality in thoughtful, even-handed and open ways that lend itself to recollection and continuing reflection, regardless of readers’ experiences in those areas of life. The characters, and there are many, are carefully and consistently well-drawn. This is a novel of discovery and exploration, for the author and for readers. Well done.

Blood, Ash & Bone
by Tina Whittle
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0093-9
A 2013 HC release from Poisoned
Pen Press. 285 pages

Tai Randolph is an unusual character. She’s a southern gun-shop owner with her own set of tattoos and a questionable background. She also sports intimate contacts in her past with some seriously evil people, people like KKK members, like gun and booze runners. She’s also one of the go-to merchandisers of authentic costuming and equipment for Civil War re-enactors. This novel is Randolph’s third adventure.

There are big re-enactment doings coming up and Randolph has to pack up merchandise to set up at the Southeast Civil War Expo in Savannah. The first problem is her history. Savannah is her home town, seat of her family and scene of some of Tai’s most notorious escapades.

Complications arise almost immediately when her ex-lover a scallywag biker-cum-independent entrepreneur enlists her aid in retrieving a long-sought Bible, once thought to have been in the possession of both President Lincoln and General Sherman. Is it real or just a Maguffin? If it’s real, it’s worth a ton of money. According to John, Tai’s ex-boyfriend, the bible has been purloined by Tai’s ex-roommate, Hope. Hope and John were a heavy item some time ago but that relationship seems to have cooled.

Enter Tai’s current main squeeze, a seriously hot but damaged ex-cop, now a security expert for an upscale security firm in Atlanta. He obviously is highly suspicious of anything Tai’s ex boyfriend touches, especially Tai. Now add some layers of interesting active honest and criminally inclined citizens, some with too much money at hand and you have as rich a gumbo as any reader could ask for.
The story is fast-paced, clean and highly evocative of the place. Whether you’ve been to Savannah or not readers will revel in the city scenes and waterfront activity. Whittle knows her characters, her setting and how to tell a fine story. This one is an excellent novel.

A copy of the novel was supplied free of charge by the publisher.

Carl Brookins,
Case of the Great Train Robbery, Devils Island, Bloody Halls, Reunion, Red Sky
more at Kindle, Smashwords & OmniLit!


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