Book Series: Evan Buckley Thrillers

The Evan Buckley thrillers (although I would consider them more mystery than thriller. I only do so in this post because that’s how the author lists them on Amazon) are a series of books written by James Harper about the titular character, who becomes a private investigator after the disappearance of his wife and the lack of police assistance in locating her. So far, the series is fourteen books long, with the newest addition being released a few weeks ago. I have read the first seven of them as of this writing.

This series is another one that I started because I was able to get the first one free. (Seriously, if you have a Kindle, check out the Free section every once in a while. Sure, there’s a lot in there that’s not for you, but you can definitely find some gems in it.) To be honest, right now it’s the favorite of all the series I’m reading. While all the others are good, some even great, this is the only one where I have consistently had trouble putting the books down. The other series have had moments where I didn’t want to stop reading, but it’s been like that for each of the Evan Buckley books so far.

These books are kind of like a season of a television show. Each book is an episode with its own unique case, but it still has the larger story of his missing wife worked in here and there to tie it all together. Also like a television show, these books sport a good cast of supporting characters. And I do mean supporting. The characters are used to further the story without taking the focus off of Evan.

Now, these books aren’t nearly as good as Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series. As far as I’m concerned, the Bolitar books are miles ahead of any other mystery books that are out there. These, however, are the closest mystery books to them that I’ve come across so far.

Book Series: The Legend of Vanx Malic

I’ve published a few stories on here within the last few months. That’s been the extent of my writing recently. While that may seem like enough to some of you, it’s not enough for me. I want to write more. I’ve got many new stories that I want to tell. I also have the fifth installment of my Declevon Blackmoon series that has been sitting at somewhere between a half and three-quarters of the way done for a while now.

The problem is that I don’t really have a lot of time and I can’t muster up the drive to do any writing when I actually find the time to do so. I put a lot of thought and energy into the things I write, especially the things I publish on Amazon. The things I publish on this blog don’t take nearly the amount of work that my Amazon stuff does. If people are going to pay to read my words, I want them to be as good as I can possibly make them.

Don’t get me wrong, I want the people who read this blog to enjoy my words, but there’s a big difference between here and there. If I do make a mistake (it does happen from time to time) it’s very easy to fix it on the blog. On Amazon? Not so much.

Due to my lack of drive, instead of writing, I’ve been reading. I have a few book series that I’m going through at the moment. I know some people (most, probably) like to finish an entire series before moving on to the next one. I’m not like that, however. I don’t want to get bored reading the same genre over and over again. So, once I finish a book, I’ll switch over to a different series and read the next one in line. I have four different series that I’m going through right now, and I figure I’d tell you about them.

The first is The Legend of Vanx Malic by M. R. Mathias.

I got the first book of this series (Through the Wildwood) free on Amazon. I don’t know if it’s still free. Maybe I was lucky enough to catch it at the right time. You should probably check it out just in case. Perhaps you’ll be lucky too.

Anyway…

It took me a while to get through the first book, but that was only because it was the first book I ever read on my phone. I was having trouble getting used to reading something of that size on a screen that small. It’s a lot easier for me now, particularly because this was two phones ago and I have a much bigger screen. That has nothing to do with the book itself, so I don’t know why I’m putting it in here, but I just kind of went where my mind wandered off to.

Once I got past the screen issue, I liked everything about the book. It was paced well. There were intriguing characters. New creatures and races were thrown into the mix, along with a little humor now and then.

It was then when I figured out why he gave away the first book for free. He knew that he’d get you hooked once you read the first one and you’d buy all the rest…. and he was right.

I have all ten books in the series now. I’m about to start the seventh one. So far, they’ve all been just as good, or better, than the first one. If you’re into fantasy at all, or even just like good fiction, I would highly recommend them.

Firefly: Big Damn Hero

I was absentmindedly scrolling through Amazon a few months back, as everyone in the world does every now and then, when I came across something I wasn’t expecting to see. It was a novel set in the ‘Verse (or, for those who don’t know what I mean by that, the Firefly/Serenity universe). Until that point, I had no idea that there were novels set there. I knew that they had done a number of Firefly comics because I’ve read most of them. Well, maybe not most. I can’t really say that because I don’t know exactly how many they’ve actually made, but I’m betting it’s more than half.

So, when I saw that there were novels (3 that are completed as of this writing, with a 4th available for preorder), I was excited. I enjoyed everything that I’d seen or read in the ‘Verse up until that point, and I hoped that these books would continue that trend. The first book in the series is entitled Big Damn Hero.

Here is the synopsis as it appears on Amazon:

“The Battle of Serenity Valley was the turning point that led the Independents to their defeat at the hands of the Alliance. Yet the Browncoats had held the valley for weeks against all odds, before being ordered to lay down their arms. Command stated they refused to send in airpower because the ground war was “too hot.” But the soldiers who were there insist that was not true…

While picking up a new cargo on Persephone, Captain Malcolm Reynolds is kidnapped by a bunch of embittered veteran Browncoats who suspect him of sabotaging the Independents during the war. As the rest of the crew struggle to locate him, Mal is placed on trial for his life, fighting compelling evidence that someone did indeed betray them to the Alliance all those years ago. As old comrades and old rivals crawl out of the woodwork, Mal must prove his innocence, but his captors are desperate and destitute, and will settle for nothing less than the culprit’s blood.

I don’t want to give away any more of the story than that, so I’ll just stick to my feelings on it. Simply put, I really enjoyed it. Was it perfect? No, but it did a very good job of being a novelized version of a Firefly episode. It was very easy to imagine the actors performing the scenes as you read through the pages.

The only thing that bothered me about the book it that the author (James Lovegrove) was constantly referencing something that happened in the show. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but half the time these references seemed forced. It was like he was constantly telling you that this story takes place in the ‘Verse as if you didn’t already know it.

Other than that, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. If you’re a fan of the show/movie, you should definitely give it a try.

Relentless – Update

R.A. Salvatore is one of my favorite authors. There has yet to be anything that he’s written that I haven’t liked. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that streak is about to come to an end with his newest novel, Relentless.

Granted, I’m only a little more than 100 pages into it, but I’m having trouble working up the desire to finish it. Normally, I can’t put his work down. There have been many times when I’ve read an entire novel within a day or two because I don’t want to stop reading. When I did have to put them down, for whatever reason, I couldn’t wait to pick them back up so I could continue on. With this one, though, I don’t think it would bother me that much if I didn’t read any more of it.

The problem is not with the writing, I think. R.A. still puts sentences together very well. He paints very vivid and imaginative battle sequences that are among the best I’ve ever read, if not the best. His character building is among the best as well.

I think the problem is that this is book 36 in the series. That’s right. Book 36. There has been so many things that have happened in those 36 books, so much story, so many fights, that they’re all kind of blurring together at this point. There have been a few times in those 100 pages when I had to stop and try to remember things that happened in the last book because I couldn’t figure out what was going on. And only half of those remembering attempts were successful.

For now, I’m planning on continuing with the book, but I don’t know for how much longer. While I don’t want to quit on it, I also don’t want to keep reading something that I’m not enjoying. And, right now, I’m not really enjoying it very much.

Update

I stopped reading this book. The further into it I got, the more I realized that I just didn’t care anymore about what was going to happen. After 36 books, I just can’t invest anything else into these characters.

Livia Lone

Anyone who has followed this here blog for a while may have seen me post before about how I’m a fan of Barry Eisler. In particular, his John Rain series of books, about a half Japanese/half American hitman operating primarily in Tokyo. His other books include a couple about a military contractor named Ben Treven and a standalone about the CIA’s surveillance program. While those weren’t as good as the John Rain books, I still really liked them. So, when I was in the library the other day and saw he had a new one out, I grabbed it without even looking to see what it was about. 

That was my mistake. 

Livia is a woman who somehow escapes from a human trafficking ring, becomes a cop, and then illegally uses that position to try to find her sister, who wasn’t able to escape with her.

Now, it wouldn’t be so bad except that there are flashback sequences that detail what happened when Livia was 14, her sister was 12, and their parents sold them into captivity. I don’t want to hear about that.

I know some people out there might think that I’m just trying to bury my head in the sand or not admit that there’s a problem. That’s not the case. I know that human trafficking exists. It’s becoming an even bigger epidemic and it makes me sick to my stomach that people out there are going through those kinds of things every day. 

However, when I read a book, no matter what the genre, I want to be entertained. I’m not going to finish this book because it is not entertaining.

To me, there’s nothing entertaining about what happens to 14 and 12 year old girls at the hands of human traffickers. 

Fictional Character Death

I don’t know about the rest of you, but there are certain fictional characters that I don’t think will ever die. Whenever a character is in trouble, whether in movies, TV, or books, my mind instantly judges the likelihood that something will happen to them. There are some that, no matter what odds they are facing, I know will always come out alive. Of course, this does not apply to comic books or soap operas, as they have made their livings off of killing characters off and bringing them back (usually with explosive amnesia).

A good bit of danger is a good thing for a story most of the time. It heightens the suspense and builds the drama. However, as you can tell from the previous paragraph, it doesn’t always work on me. There are a few reasons that I might look at a situation and think, “That character will make it out just fine.” 

One: That character  is the show/movies/books. 

For example: Castle. Any time Richard Castle was in trouble on his show, you knew Beckett, Ryan, or Esposito was going to bail him out. There’s no way they would kill him off. You can’t have a show called Castle without Castle. 

Two: It wouldn’t make sense to the story. 

Sometimes there’s just too much left to do before they can kill off a character. It might work later on, but it’s too early to do it yet.

And Three: Sentimental reasons 

Granted, this one is very hit or miss. After all, it’s not based on any logical reasoning. This is just the reader/viewer praying that they don’t kill off someone that, though fictional, they have grown fond of. Or it’s someone who has already gone through so much that you don’t feel like they should have to go through more. Or you don’t want that character to die because of what another character will have to go through because of it. Regardless of the reasoning, it’s still something that is subjective to the reader.

 Sometimes, though, the writers do the uncool thing of killing them off anyway. 

This line of thought from me comes from the book I just finished reading. It’s called The Bone Tree by Greg Iles. In it, there’s a situation where two of his characters are in trouble. Going in, I thought to myself that I knew one of them was about to die…. it just ended up being the one I thought was going to live.

The reason I thought that character would live was reason two, I thought that character had more story left in them than the other. I felt like it didn’t make sense to have them die there. After finishing the book, I realized I was wrong. 

Having that character die at that time changed things profoundly, and in ways that made the story much more interesting. 

Well played, Greg Iles. Well played. 

Book Review: Kill Me

Kill Me is a novel by Stephen White.

killmecover

It is the 14th book in his Alan Gregory series. Don’t worry. You don’t need to read any of the others to get into this book. While Alan Gregory is in the book, he’s not the main character. Therefore, his backstory isn’t really that important to the story (I’m not sure why it’s included in the series, but, hey, I’m just a reader).

This is from the author’s website:

What if you could choose when to die?
But once you decide, you can’t change your mind. Ever. No matter what.
We’ve all been there. A loved one or a dear friend becomes desperately ill, or is tragically injured. Maybe an automobile accident, maybe a stroke. Someone – maybe even you – says, “If that ever happens to me, I wish someone would just . . . kill me.”
So . . . what if you had a chance to decide, in advance, what level of impairment you were willing to suffer before someone did just that – kill you? And what if you went ahead and hired someone to carry out your instructions? And what if . . .
Well, welcome to Kill Me.
Meet the Death Angels.
It’s Alan Gregory’s most tantalizing, most provocative, and most controversial case ever. A charming, vivacious man flies into Boulder, walks into Alan’s office, and slowly begins to reveal the mess he’s in.
The Death Angels are coming. Watch your back.

Let me start off by saying that this is a very good book. It made me want to not put it down. The writing was superb. The characters were engaging. I did, however, have a couple of issues with it.

If you don’t want to know details of the book, stop reading now.

The first thing that bothers me is that, throughout the entire book, you never learn the main character’s name. It is never mentioned. When his family is talked about, only their first name is mentioned, never their last name. Honestly, it’s not that big of a deal, but it was still slightly irritating to me.

The second thing that bothered me was about his son. Somewhere between a quarter of the way and half way through the book you learn that he had a child that he never knew about. One day, a 14 year old boy shows up on his doorstep claiming to be his son. Because the boy looks somewhat like him, the man just took him at his word. No mention of a DNA test at all.

While it is never actually said, it is insinuated that the man is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, if not a billionaire. I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I was worth that much money, I don’t care how much the kid looked like me, the first thing I’d be doing is getting a DNA test. Someone would need to be calling Maury.

Also, the son lived with his mother in Cincinnati. The rich guy lived in Denver. Somehow, the boy got from Ohio to Colorado all by himself. I find it hard to believe that a kid could make it all that distance by himself.

Then, after the boy shows up, the boy’s mother (who the rich man hadn’t talked to since their one-night stand all of those years ago) calls and says, “Hey, he might be on his way to see you.”

WTF???

He has made a billion dollars since the last time they talked. I’m pretty sure he has a new phone number by now. I’m also pretty sure he can hire guys who can hide his number that are better than the guys she can hire to find out what his number is.

The boy’s mother also told him details of the night he was conceived. That’s another ‘WTF’ moment. Who the hell tells their child that kind of crap? If she wanted to tell him that she met his dad at a frat party, I’d have no problem with that. She, however, told him that he was conceived while she got nailed on top of a washing machine at a frat party. If I heard that, I’d be scarred for life…

That’s the end of my little rant. Overall, those aren’t very big things, and they didn’t take away from the story. I still think it is a very good book. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes great fiction.