Audio Book Junkie

Audio Book Junkie

My name is Mike Finn and I'm an Audio Book Addict.

I'm here to share my experience of the books I listen to.

Review
2.5 Stars
"Camino Island" by John Grisham
Camino Island: A Novel - John Grisham

“Camino Island” starts as a fast moving, (very) stripped down, matter of fact, look how ingenious we are, heist. The plot moves along rapidly, if somewhat mechanically, executing what should have been the perfect robbery. The thieves are straight from central casting. The items being stolen, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s manuscripts, are the only original things in the opening chapters. If this had been a movie, the robbery would have taken place as a background to the credits rolling by and no one would have missed anything.

Then the flow of the book suddenly slows and we’re gently meandering through the life of our heroine, a woman with one successful novel behind her, weighed down by her student loan debt, about to lose her teaching job, involuntarily single and three years behind on writing her next novel.


It turns out she is the last best hope for retrieving the missing manuscripts. She accepts payment to go back the island she grew up on and spend the summer infiltrating the life of a bookseller, suspected of holding the manuscripts.


Much of the book is spent describing the books seller’s life, the lives of the other writers on the island (they are legion) the changing nature of the publishing world, the delights of good food, fine wine and antique Provençal furniture and the freedoms of an open marriage.


The dialogue is well done and the characters are clearly drawn but I felt that I had walked into a different novel (possibly written by a different author) than the one I’d started. I was less engaged that I could have been as I found the bookseller unattractive and our heroine passive and voyeuristic.

I kept reading partly because I wanted to see how this dive into Floridian book culture would connect back to the heist and partly because the writing made up for the plot.
In the end, the clever twist emerges and is well executed but it had all the emotional impact of a magician pulling a rabbit from a top hat.

The epilogue that brings the main characters together for a final resolution simply confirmed that I didn’t like or care about either of them.

This is not a bad book but it left me feeling a little cheated because the heist never got passed the cardboard cut-out stage and most of the book was as thrilling as watching strangers drink too much and talk too much at a cocktail party

Review
3 Stars
"Clean Sweep - Inn Keeper Chronicles #1" by Ilona Andrews
Clean Sweep - Ilona Andrews

"Clean Sweep" made me smile. Despite dealing with werewolves, vampires and predatory aliens locked in mortal hand to hand combat (which is describedin great detail) it manages to be completely charming and often quite amusing.

 

Set in modern-day Texas, it tells the story of a young Inn Keeper who's bed and breakfast is actually part of a network of magical Inns that offer a neutral place for travelers from different worlds and species to stay in in safety.

 

Ilona Andrews has created an original universe that cleverly combines and redefines urban fantasy and science fiction tropes into something new and intriguing. She's then used it as a setting for taking a tongue-in-cheek tilt at the romance themes that typically wrap themselves like vines around vampire. werewolf, magic maiden threesomes in Urban Fantasy. While the book never tips over into either slapstick or satire and has many scenes of graphic violence, humour rather than tension is the dominant scent in this book.

 

The Inn Keeper is fascinating. She speaks softly and draws upon formal Southern manners but is unphased by carrying out an autopsy on an alien who has attacked her and will happily slaughter her enemies in droves when necessary. The depth of her character is what makes the book. The male characters, regardless of species, seem to be mainly foils to display our Inn Keeper or generate laughter at the (self-evidently inferior) approach males take to problem solving.

 

The humour sometimes made it hard for me to take the science fiction seriously (the names of the planets could have come directly from Molière's comedies) but the comic scene in which one of the scary predators gets its ass kicked in a Costco aisle, more that made up for that.

 

"Clean Sweep" has been on my TBR pile for a while, partly because I kept selecting Ilona Andrew's Kate Daniels books instead. I don't have the same hunger for another Inn Keeper book that the Kate Daniels books always leave me with but I'll reach for the next in the series when I need a light, unchallenging but original read that will make me smile.

Review
3.5 Stars
"Still Life - Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1" by Louise Penny
Still Life - Louise Penny

"Still Life" is a like a favourite armchair: a comfortable, familiar, structure that you relax into and become reluctant to leave.

This is a leisurely tale of murder, betrayal, art, archery and excellent croissants.

Set in a rural French Canadian village that seems to be populated by local hunters who were born there and talented but poor artists and poets who relish its bucolic charms, it involves the investigation, by a senior detective and a surprisingly large team of police officers, of the death of a local artist who has been shot through the heart by an arrow.

The tone of the book is set by the polite but unyielding authority of the most senior police officer, Inspector Gamache, a well read, softly spoken man who observes closely, thinks deeply and spends much of his time gathering information either by sitting in the local bistro/café or by sitting on a bench on the village green, watching who does what with whom.

Gamache solves the mystery by pulling at loose threads that others might miss until the deceptions hiding the killer unravel and all is revealed.

The writing is vivid without being garish. There is a strong sense of place and community. The story has the unhurried pace of a dinner party where each course is to be savoured and discussed between friends before things move on. I rather enjoyed the poetry attributed to one of the characters who turns out to be a famous Canadian poet.

The plot is a puzzle, with a satisfying number of twists and turns and a relatively small number of suspects. I worked out the killer just before their name was revealed. I take this to be a kindness on the author's part, allowing me to feel smug but not bored.

Despite being about murder, this is a gentle, reflective, cultured book that is as much about understanding the lives the villagers have constructed for themselves as it is about discovering whodunnit.

I felt that I'd taken a pleasant weekend break in a place different enough to be interesting but not so exotic as to disturb my comfort.

The first book in a series, "Still Life" left me disposed towards reading more but not passionate about getting the next book as soon as possible.

Review
3.5 Stars
"Magic Breaks - Kate Daniels #7" by Ilona Andrews
Magic Breaks - Ilona Andrews

I enjoyed "Magic Breaks" because it moved the series along, had some original magic in it, had great fight scenes and kept me guessing about what was going to happen next but...

 

...well it was a little weird and I ended up with a feeling that this was a book that entertained me and disappointed or frustrated me at the same time.

 

The first piece of weirdness was the authors telling me in the introduction that this wasn't the last book in the series. Huh?

 

Then they told me they were already under contract to write more. OK. So why the warning? Having read the book, I can why (although I'm not going to tell you - no spoilers here), but I think the warning wasn't needed. If this had been the ending of the series then anti-climatic would have been an understatement.

 

Most of the weirdness was around Kate. For the first part of the book, she's left to lead the Pack alone, a thankless task that she is becoming rather disenchanted with. It was good to see Kate in action on her own but it really showed that she's not cut out for politics or building a power base on any other basis than being able to kill anyone who comes against her. You can feel that she's in some kind of transition but it's hard to see from what to what.

 

Then there's the fact that her blood magic and her parentage both seem to be known by just about everybody. They were the deep dark secrets she was desperately trying to keep in earlier books and now she's been outed and the world hasn't ended. Kate's power, the stuff she inherited from her big bad world-eating father is growing, making her less and less human and, in some ways, less and less Kate.

 

The parts of the book that I enjoyed most were in more traditional territory: Kate getting into traps and fighting against impossible odds. Kate and Curran taking on the world, solving puzzles, taking risks and slicing the enemies apart.

 

Then we got to he big climatic ending and everything twisted out of shape.

Kate goes all cold-blooded avenger, not only killing her enemy but punishing her along the way with an efficiency that was chilling. Kate's enemy was not a nice person and you could argue she deserved what she got but that doesn't make me like Kate any better for being able to mete out that kind of punishment. This whole thing was made worse because the punishment was a display put on for her father's benefit.

 

I can't make my mind up if the end of the book was a clever way of re-configuring all of the players so that the struggle changes from an unwinnable final conflict into something more ambiguous and complex or whether the whole thing was just anti-climatic.

 

 

The quality of the writing and the momentum of the series carried me through. Maybe book eight will help me decide if I still care what happens to Kate.

Review
1 Stars
"Enclave" by Ann Aguirre - DNF
Enclave - Ann Aguirre

This one was just too YA for me.

Well written and well conceived but too noisy with teen emotions. This was probably amplified by the "I must emote every sentence at full volume" approach of the audiobook narrator.

 After 90 minute i decided it was a DNF.

OFF TOPIC POST "It Was So Easy" a song I'm only now coming to understand

Carly Simon remember 2

 

I was fifteen coming up to sixteen in November 1972 when Carly Simon released  her "No Secrets" album and I fell in love with with her voice and her lyrics in equal measure.

 

Forty-five years later, that album still gives me pleasure although changes in my  experience and expectation have altered what the songs mean to me.

 

The song that's been calling to me the loudest recently is "It Was So Easy".

 

For those of us who bought the vinyl version back in the last century, this was third track on side two. Now my iPad thinks of it as track eight of ten which makes it sound like the Borg have assimilated my music.

 

"It Was So Easy" was never released as a single. I don't remember hearing it on the radio. It was something that I got to savour, lying in the dark, in a room filled with the soft scent of warm plastic and dust that record players had back then, with Carly Simon singing just for me.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vneYZMjtYZk&w=560&h=315]

 

Back then, I enjoyed the clever variations in the rhymes and the bubbling joy in the music that spoke to me of American sunshine that, in my teens, spent in cloudy England, I'd never experienced.

 

I got the "It was so easy" part but I skipped over the subtext that it wasn't easy anymore.

Now, when I listen, the verse that jumps out at me is:

 

I remember a time when our fears could be named
And courage meant not refusing dares 

These days, I have more fears than I used to. The world is becoming a darker place where kindness is replaced with contempt and the desire for peace is being extinguished by a nationalism that is unthinkingly selfish and proudly ignorant.

 

If things were easy, I would stop working soon and use the money I've accumulated to enable me to spend my days with my wife, farting around doing bugger all.

 

Except, I now hear the past tense in:

It was so easy then never takin' any stands
It was so easy then, holdin' hands

and I find myself asking, "what does courage mean" now that I'm sixty, financial secure, well informed, good with words and can clearly see the very wealthy 0.1% undermining democracy and pushing more and more people into grinding poverty?

 

I'm not a crusader. I've never been particularly brave. I'm not even a people person. I've always thought that all I needed was my wife and my books and the time to enjoy both of them.

 

And yet... I keep playing this song.

 

It WAS so easy once.

 

It isn't anymore.

 
Review
3.5 Stars
"Nice Dragons Finish Last - Heartstrikers #1" by Rachel Aaron
Nice Dragons Finish Last - Rachel Aaron

I picked up "Nice Dragons Come Last" because I was looking for some lighhearted escapism that would make me smile. Rachel Aaron's book delivered that and a good deal more; surprisingly strong and original world-building, intriguing characters, gentle humour and some great actions scenes.

This is a book about being nice, decent, honest, trustworthy and reasonable, It is not one of those knowing, self-mocking books. It occasionally goes right up to the cliff-edge of cute but never drops into the abyss of sugary wholesomeness. Instead it works through the idea that being nice doesn't have to make you weak, that being fair doesn't have to make you vulnerable and that being who you are is better than hiding from who everyone else wants you to be.

What spices all that up is that the person addicted to niceness is a dragon. Dragons don't hold with niceness. Dragon's are about cunning and power and strength and above all, about winning. Our hero is simply too nice to be a successful dragon, yet, if he fails to display a sufficiently draconian approach to the mission he has been given a couple of days to achieve, his mother will eat him. He teams up with a young mage, who, although she's human, behaves much more like a dragon than he does: she's fierce, territorial, always looking to find an angle and never backs down from anyone. Together they make the perfect odd couple.

There is a quest of a kind, labyrinthine intrigues, warring seers, hungry monsters determined to feed and lots of men with guns,

Our hero is congenitally incapable of being nasty and much of the humour in the book comes from the incredulity with which our hero's attempt to find win-win, conflict-avoiding, solutions to problems that are traditionally resolved by combat.

I found myself slipping more deeply into this world than I'd expected and liking the characters of dragons, even the scary or annoying ones.

So, I've bought the next book in the series "One Good Dragon Deserves Another" and I'm saving it for the next time I'm craving lighthearted entertainment backed up by clever ideas and likeable characters.

Review
3 Stars
"Winner Take All - John Rain #3" by Barry Eisler
Winner Take All - Barry Eisler

"Winner Take All" was an enjoyable continuation of the John Rain series but it lacked the impact and or depth of the first two books "A Clean Kill In Tokyo" and "A Lonely Resurrection".

 

The encouraging thing is that it seems to have managed a transition from John Rain as a lone wolf to someone who may have people he can trust. This should open out future books and increase the momentum of the character development.

 

John Rain is an assassin, particularly gifted at making his kills look like death by natural causes. In the course of this book he kills about a dozen people, most of them in a close up and personal way, and doesn't lose a moment's sleep over it, unless you count the fact that he realises that, in his fifties, he's starting to be less fast and to heal more slowly.

 

Barry Eisler's biggest achievement is to make me care about John Rain. Rain kills for money, trusts no one, feels that his mixed blood excludes him from both his Japanese and his American heritage, and leads a life so solitary that it leaves almost no trace on the world.

 

So what's to like? Perhaps his sense of regret that he is who he is? Perhaps his acceptance, uncoloured by excuses or mitigating arguments, that he is a killer? Perhaps his loyalty to the women in his life? Perhaps that the people he kills are, mostly, nastier than he is?

 

You see how seductive and corrupting these lines of argument are? That's the kind of man Rain is. His strong sense of self, his discipline and his endurance are seductive. You start to admire how he does what he does. You start to want him to survive, perhaps even to be happy. I can't say this is something I've ever felt about Jack Reacher.

 

Barry Eisler sets his books in places that, for me, are exotic but in which John Rain is clearly at home, or at least as at home as John Rain is ever going to get.

 

"Winner Take All" (I hate that title. The absence of an S at the end of TAKE, makes me stumble every time. What was Barry Eisler thinking? This was his third attempt at a title for this book and THIS is what he came up with?) is set in Macao and Rio, taking John out of the his comfort zone in Tokyo and setting him loose to become someone new.

 

This turns out to be almost cruel as John discovers that living in a new country with a new name doesn't change who he is, what he has done and what the people who know about him will always want him to do. I felt sorry for Rio John Rain. The Macao John Rain, not so much.

 

Rain makes his first kill in Macoa in the first few pages, taking out a fellow predator just on a suspicion. As the book progresses, Rain's body count rises rapidly. True, most of them were trying to kill him but his efficiency and his ability to compartmentalise are chilling.

 

The new thing, probably the best thing, in this book is that John starts to trust at least two, maybe three people (the tentative, almost reluctant quality of John's trust explains why I can't be entirely sure of the number).

 

I like the fact that John can see he's getting older and that this has consequences. I liked that the people he (probably) trusts are not people who would inspire trust in others. I liked the fact that, despite staying in the best hotels in Rio and Macao, Tokyo still calls to him. The scene where he returns to his old neighborhood and finds it changed and all evidence of his time there erased, was beautifully done.

 

I also love the way Barry Eisler reads his own novels. He improved my experience far beyond what I would have gained from the text alone.

 

I'll be back for more.

Review
3.5 Stars
"Six Degrees Of Assassination" by M J Arlidge - an audible originals production
Six Degrees of Assassination: An Audible Drama - Hermione Norris, Audible Studios, M.J. Arlidge, Clare Grogan, Andrew    Scott, Freema Agyeman, Geraldine Somerville, Clive Mantle, Julian Rhind-Tutt

"Six Degrees Of Assination" is a radio play rather than an audiobook.  It has a full, very talented, cast and the story is told entirely with dialogue supported by sound effects and punctated with (slightly annoying) "thriller" music to remind you how excited you are.

I spent a fun six and half hours on a sunny day, losing myself in the events following the assassination of a British Prime Minister in London.

I was convinced by the portrayal of British politics at a time of crisis. These are the types of politicians I recognise and understand. A couple of the political speaches were so well done, I felt sure I'd heard them before.

The list of suspects, foreign and domestic, was long and colourful. The story moved quickly and had a surprisingly large body count but never fell into the realms of the completely unbelievable.

The acting was what kept me interested. Most of the dialogue was good, some was even quote funny but the occaisonal "I'm saying this to move the plot along" lines were skillfully smoothed over.

I didn't guess who did it but I didn't feel tricked when I found out who it was.

A fun way to spend some time with a drama playing out in your head.

Review
4 Stars
“And The Rest Is History – Chronicles of St Mary’s #8” by Jodi Taylor
And the Rest is History - Jodi Taylor

There's a point in this book when Max says, "Remember when we used to have fun?" I do. The early books in this series were a lot of fun. Bad things happened. Horrible historical events were encountered. Yet eccentric, prank-playing, anarchic fun was at the centre of St. Mary's.

This hasn't been true for a while now. I don't read a new St Mary's book with the expectation on spending most of my time grinning, (although there're always a few points at which I laugh out loud. I figure that Jodi Taylor adds them so I'll know that their absence in the rest of the book is deliberate). Now, when I pick up a St. Mary's book, I know that I'm in for trauma and tears and damn but Jodi Taylor is excellent at it.

I'm attached to the staff at St. Mary's. They're nice people. Odd, slightly broken, often deeply repressed people but I like them. I want good things to happen to them, perhaps because I understand, as they do, that happiness is not what they've signed up for.

"And The Rest Is History" is the most traumatic tale yet. The events the St. Mary's historians visit are bloody, violent and described in enough detail to make you want to look away and with enough passion to keep your eyes locked on what's happening. We see battles in Saxon-soon-to-be-Norman England. We are subjected to the barbarity of the papal-sponsored "you're forgiven for whatever you do to the Heathens" sack of Constantinople by the Christian Crusader rabble in 1204.

Yet these are not the worst parts. The worst parts are what happens to the people from St Mary's. Jodi Taylor put them and me through an emotional hell and made me feel every moment of pain, despair, sorrow, guilt and grief.

Do I remember when we used to have a good time at St. Mary's? I do. And I enjoyed it. And then the series grew up and became something touched with a deep understanding of what we fear and what we love and how closely linked the two are.

This is not a book I could read in public. People would look at my face and wonder what terrible thing had happened to me to explain that wet eyes and stricken expression and all I'd be able to say was, "Jodi Taylor did this to me."

The worst part is, she did it so well, I know I'll be back for more.

Review
5 Stars
"Red Sister" not a review (yet) just a quick thank you to Just One More Chapter
Red Sister - Mark  Lawrence

It's rare for me to find a fantasy author that I've never heard of who then makes me go "wow" on a regular basis through nineteen and a half hours of the first book in a series.

 

The book is "Red Sister" and the author is Mark Lawrence.

 

I found them both through a review by Just One More Chapter.

 

That's one of the joys of BookLikes.

 

I'll write my own review once my head has stopped spinning.

 

In the mean time, take a look at the review that set me on this path and see if it gets your imagination running.

 

http://biblioaddict.booklikes.com/post/1562984/a-stabby-angsty-super-young-assassin-nun-in-training-beware-child-animal-abuse-within-but-if-you-can-get-past-that-you-ll-really-enjoy-this-awesome-series-starter

 

 

Review
3 Stars
"The Witches Of Lychford" by Paul Cornell
Witches of Lychford - Paul Cornell

I'm not sure what to make of this novella.

 

I ought to be singing its praises and reaching for the next in the series. The three main female characters are intriguing. The themes in the story fold over one another in intricate patterns through which malice spreads like wine staining linen. Magic transforms the everyday world of a Cotswold village so that normal life seems illusory and less substantial than the shadow worlds that the witches of the title hold at bay.

 

That's a lot to pull off in a novella but in the end it disappointed rather than satisfied me.

 

It felt like a song with not enough lyrics. I could feel what it might have been and so was disappointed by what it actually was.

 

i think, perhaps, it was all just a little too easy. Victory should cost more. The ending felt too neat and too bloodless. Not uninteresting or unbelievable, just not enough.

Review
3.5 Stars
"Kitty Saves The World - Kitty Norville #14 - last in the series
Kitty Saves the World - Carrie Vaughn

"Kitty Saves The World", the last Kitty Norville book, reflects my experience of the series as a whole, strong on good guys, albeit sometimes flawed and haunted good guys, but weak on really evil villains who are a terrifying threat to the world.

 

Still, if you enjoyed the first thirteen books, the lack of palpable evil will neither surprise nor disappoint you.

 

The book read like a fond farewell, bringing back some of my favourite characters, having Kitty give another great performance on "The Midnight Hour", showing Kitty and Ben as a strong and loving couple and finally resolving the conflict with Roman so that Kitty can indeed, save the world.

 

I liked Kitty in this book. She continued to be strong and brave and witty, even when deeply afraid, but she was also willing to lead and to accept her right to take the help offered by her friends.

 

The resolution with Roman was clever, original and plausible, within the context of the series. It was drama rather than melodrama. I enjoyed it partly because it felt like something that Carrie Vaughn had been carefully leading up to for some time, rather than a "how am I gonna end this so I don't have to write any more of them?" ending.

 

It seems to me that Carrie Vaughn has never quite known what to do with the pack that Kitty and Ben lead. She had one book, after Kitty took over, where the pack dynamics were important but mostly, Kitty's pack have been passive elements in the story. Sadly, this remained true for the final book, although there was a good explanation for it.

 

I ended the book and the series very glad to have spent time with Kitty and watched her grow from a frightened victim of terrible abuse into a strong and compassionate leader who inspired loyalty and created hope.

 

I think the final book honored Kitty and her readers by staying true to the spirit of the series and by bringing many story arcs to satisfying conclusions without closing everything off so neatly that it became too "happily ever after".

 

I'm sure the Kitty books are over but I have a suspicion that Carrie Vaughn isn't quite done with Cormac yet. Which is a very fine way to end a series.

"Beartown" has me holding my breath and I've barely started it - 3% complete
Beartown: A Novel - Fredrik Backman

"Beartown" is the latest book from Fredrik Backman ( "A Man Called Ove" and "My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry"). It's about a remote, slowly dying, small town in the middle of the woods where the success of the Junior Hockey Team is the last hope for the town to grow rather than continue its slow decline.

 

I've barely started the book and its already holding my imagination hostage. The language is simple and undramatic yet it gets to the heart of the things that shapes lives.

 

Here's how it starts:

"Late one evening, towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked in to the forest, put the gun to someone elses forehead and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there".

 

I'd love to take today off to drink this book down but I'll have to sip at it as work permits. Still, it will make my day.

Review
4 Stars
"Cold Reign - Jane Yellowrock #11" by Faith Hunter.
Cold Reign - Faith Hunter

"Cold Reign" was a fun read that brought the series back to form.

Finally, the evil European Vampires have arrived. We've been waiting for them for what feels like forever. Their arrival picks up the pace, challenges existing relationships, reveals long-planned treachery, and unleashes lots and lot of violence.

I enjoyed seeing Jane moving with more freedom now that she no longer has to hide her true nature. I was glad to see Beast playing a significant part in the action. I always enjoy seeing the world from her unique point of view.

The story made sense (at least in part - there's more to come) of the various additions to Jane's household, the alliances that she's made and the magical objects she's acquired. It's clear that she's going to have to draw on all of them to survive the arrival of the European Vampires.

Jane's powers continue to evolve in useful ways and she, perhaps more importantly, she continues to grow and to make better connections with the people around her and the "family" or clan she has built for herself.

"Cold Reign" casts-off two problems that I'd been having with earlier books: Jane was losing her humanity and she was spending her time protecting some not very nice vampires. In this book, Jane leaves her humanity behind and accepts that she has become something else. Something that she relishes and that those she cares about accept and value. Protecting the vampires is put in a more positive light now that the "take over the world and kill them all" European vampires  have arrived. They are a threat worth fighting against.

This book is about as good as it gets in the Jane Yellowrock universe: vivid battle action with blades, bullets, stakes, fangs, claws and lots and lots of blood, snarky humour, byzantine plot, new players and new magics and, at the heart of it all, a set of people worth protecting.

The Kate Shugak Series – Books 16-20 Kate grows into her power.

16 to 20

 

This month sees the publication of the 21st book, “Less Than A Treason”. Before I read it, I decided to remind myself of the story so far and how I felt about it. I’ve tried to avoid spoilers but it’s inevitable that you’ll get a sense of what happens to Kate during the course of the series.

 

I’ve split this into four posts to make them easier to read. I’ve provided links to my spoiler-free reviews of individual books if you want to be certain of not hearing something  you don’t want to know.

 

 

16 whipser to the blood In the previous book, the Auntie's over-stepped, upsetting the equilibrium of the Park and unleashing vigilante violence and starting to lose control of the community.

 

In "Whisper To The Blood  is as the consequences of this imbalance manifest, I understood the balance Kate Shugak always brings to her actions.

 

Kate isn’t motivated by power or a need to be in control. She doesn’t give way to the outrage she sometimes feels. Without having to think through why, when she acts to limit harm or protect the weak, she does so with a calm fury guided by her sense of what is right. That’s what makes her respected and feared. It’s also what prevents her from understanding fully the power that she has.

 

The fun element in this book comes from watching Kate deal with having political power thrust on her by mastering it so she can give it away. Yet the book has a dark, cold feel to it with snowmobile trips to remote landscapes only to find slaughter, attacks on the frozen river and a killer on the loose.

 

 

17 a night too dark"A Night Too Dark"   surprised me, given the title, by being an up-beat Kate Shugak novel. Nothing lifts my spirit more than being around Kate Shugak when things are going well.

 

Of course, up-beat is a relative term. This is a Kate Shugak novel so, although the book is filled with the intense sunshine of humour, love, sexual attraction, practical compassion, moral courage and physical bravery, it is still loomed over by deaths, murders, political intrigue and the impossibility of being able to save everyone.

 

Dana Stabenow’s ability to write (relatively short) novels that make me laugh, cry, become angry and relax in the company of characters who feel like friends continues to astonish me.

 

 

 

 

18 though not dead"Though Not Dead" was a wonderful, spirit-raising read. This is Kate Shugak at her best, following a quest, solving puzzles,  exploring her family’s past, using her wits and her strength and her courage to take on the bad guys with only Mutt at her side.

 

The plot of “Although Not Dead” is driven by the bequests of two dead men: Old Sam, who leaves all his property to Kate, along with a one-line instruction that sets her on a path to discover more about Old Sam’s past than she might want to know, and Jim Shugak’s father who leaves him an enigmatic gift that will change Jim’s understanding of  his own childhood.

 

Kate’s intense, sometimes combative, sometimes deferential, but always loving, relationship with Old Sam contrasts starkly with Jim’s emotionally barren childhood, the sterility of which is illustrated by the fact that Jim was at a sleep-over with friends before he discovered that parents hugged their children.

 

I particularly enjoyed seeing the world that Old Sam grew up and the events that shaped the world Kate has grown up taking for granted.

 

We learn how Sam came to own the Freya and why he spent so much time away from home. We come to understand his rugged independence and some of his loneliness. In some senses, “Although Not Dead” is like a wake for Old Sam. It gave me a sense of completion, off saying goodbye to him without forgetting him.

 

 

19 Restless in the grave"Restless In The Grave" This is the book where Kate Shugak and State Trooper Liam Campbell, the lead in Dana Stabenow's other Alaskan series, finally get to meet.

 

Kate get's to go undercover investigate a possible murder at Newenham, Trooper Liam Campbell’s domain. She gets locked up and hit over the head but it stills feels like freedom to, leave Niniltna politics behind.

 

It was fun getting to see the Liam Campbell cast of characters through Kate's eyes and seeing Jim realise how much he misses Kate.

 

The plot turned out to be big and twisty and perfectly paced.  It also set up some challenges for Kate when she returns home.

 

 

 

 

 

20 bad blood"Bad Blood"

When I read this book, I believed it was the last time I'd be in Kate's company and I was surprised to find how much I'd miss her and the people around her.

I won't go into the plot here. It would spoil the book. Instead I'm going to remember the things in this book that showed me Kate in her prime.

 

Kate is not a saint. She hates as intensely as she loves. She judges people and she acts on her judgement. She is capable of great generosity and violent vengeance. She is almost always fearless and when she’s not fearless she’s brave.

 

The Kate in “Bad Blood” is not the Kate I met in  book one,“A Cold Day For Murder”, reclusive, damaged, unwilling to be part of the lives of others, nor is she the woman so lost to grief that she has abandoned herself, that I met in my book eleven “The Singing Of The Dead”. She has become a woman at peace with herself and her family and friends. She is full of passion and potential and serious intent.

 

“Bad Blood” is full of small scenes of joy and friendship. It also contains violence prompted by hate and ignorance and shear male pig-headedness. It is another credible and compelling view of Alaska. It is another chance to understand that who we are is as much about what we do as what we think.

 

And now Book 21...

 

21 less than a treason

It's eighteen months since I last saw Kate. Now I have book 21 on my iPad mini, waiting for me.

 

I'm almost reluctant to open it, yet I was too impatient to wait for the audiobook version to be ready.

 

Just because Kate and the people around her are fictional doesn't mean that what happens to them doesn't matter.

 

In the end, all you can do is trust the author. After all, she's the real source of the meaning in these books.

 

I've honoured my memory of Kate. Now I'm going to see what happens next.

 

currently reading

Progress: 20%
Progress: 46%
Progress: 37%
Progress: 9/334pages
Progress: 12/336pages
Less Than A Treason -  Dana Stabenow
The Girl Of Ink And Stars - Kiran Millwood Hargrave