Book Review: Blood Moon

He moved on to the next aisle and found himself in front of a wall hung with sculptures, a theme of hearts: two blackened hearts bound together with rusted chain link, another pair of hearts twisted in barbed wire.

He felt something in his own chest twist at the sight.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Alexandra Sokoloff is one hell of a writer.

The first book in her Huntress/FBI thriller series, Huntress Moon, blew me away, as you can tell from my review.  An eerie merging of the logic and legwork of a police procedural and the intuition and symbolism of magical thinking—something at which the author has always excelled—it unearthed a fundamental connection between an unlikely serial killer and the man charged with tracking her down.

In the second book, that connection is becoming a serious problem.

Blood_Moon_7The last time FBI Special Agent Roarke encountered the Huntress, he not only allowed her to escape, he used the information she supplied to take down her targeted prey.  At odds with his partner, who believes Roarke is becoming far too sympathetic to his quarry, he himself wonders if he’s losing all objectivity when it comes to the woman whose victims are the worst kinds of predator.

But as he and his team design the perfect trap for the Huntress, they find evidence that an old evil has returned after twenty-five years of dormancy, and may strike again during the next full moon—the Blood Moon.  And Roarke must decide whether to arrest the Huntress or work with her to take down the killer whose heinous crimes led Roarke into law enforcement and sent the Huntress into a life controlled by signs, portents, and ruthless murder.

Honestly, it was nearly impossible to set this book aside for mundane things like eating, driving,  and work and if I hadn’t misplaced the charger for my eReader (it’s been a heck of a week all ’round), I wouldn’t have tried to sneak it under the dinner table, too.  As it was, that virus actually came in handy, and I read the last hundred or so pages all at once—whew, what a ride!

This book is so tightly written that I can’t share much without spoiling it further than I have, but I think I can mention an extremely effective technique that I marveled at in the first book:  the switch between Roarke’s past tense and the Huntress’s present tense.  This helped delineate the two characters—his logical piecing together of the past versus her living from moment to intense moment .

This continues in Blood Moon, with one addition: Roarke experiences recurring dreams which are also shown to us in first person.  This not only intensifies those scenes, but brings his viewpoint that much closer to hers.  It’s subtle, but the impact is undeniable . . . and possibly inevitable.

If you haven’t read Huntress Moon—and if not, why not?—I recommend reading that one first.  Though Blood Moon does a good job of dropping information from the first book, it won’t be the same as experiencing it; in my opinion, you need to earn the Huntress’s real name with Roarke and his team and you’d be cheating yourself if you skip.

And I highly recommend reading the first two before the third comes out—because I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen next and I desperately want to know.

That’s a deliciously frustrating place for a reader to be.  Come enjoy it with me.

The eWriter’s Dream

I started to write a lengthy excuse explanation for today’s post but it boils down to this:

I’ve been singing a lot of bluesy stuff lately in the car, because I like it and a lot of it is in my range—and Ann Rabson, who is my idol, writes a fine line in revenge blues that turn the usual tropes on their ear and make my commutes infinitely more enjoyable, plus many drivers in front of me will change lanes when I start belting ‘em out with feeling.*

But one of my favorites is actually a classic that was originally called, “The Weed Smoker’s Dream,” but is mostly known as “Why Don’t You Do Right.” If it helps, it’s the one Jessica Rabbit** sang in Who Killed Roger Rabbit?

It’s a gorgeous, torchy song. . . except for the lyrics, which comprise one long whine by a woman who’s telling her man that he let all these other women take advantage of him when he was flush and now that he wasted it all on them—and possibly lost it all in the Depression, like an idiot—he needs to go out and make some money for her.

I still sing it, because I’m a sucker for smoky vowels in a minor key—especially if there’s no one around to hear me butcher them—but this woman so needs a kick in the keister.***

Anyway, I’m driving along the other day and smoking vowels and idly thinking, as I tend to do, about all the articles and blog posts I’ve read lately about established authors reissuing their backlists electronically or publishing straight to eBook and why  . . . and then the words I was singing kind of changed on me, as they tend to do.

Three days later, they were still rattling around, so I wrote ‘em down to make it stop.

And I needed a blog post.  So here you go:^

You sold plenty copies back in ’93
But you let remainder tables make a fool of me^^
Now I have your rights, Like other writers do
Why don’t I eFormat you, and make me some money, too?

About cover art and marketing, I have my doubts
But I worked so hard on you—I can’t just throw you out!
I’ll program your bytes, like other writers do.
I’m going to eFormat you, and make me some money, too.

If I had prepared twenty years ago
I wouldn’t have dated your settings so
Guess I’ll rewrite, like other writers do
I’m going to eFormat you, and get me some money, too

I fell for your plotlines and took you back in
Now all I’m being offered is DRM!
Why can’t you scan right, like other texts do?
Upload right now and make me some money, too.

Why don’t you rank right, like other ebooks do?
Like those other eBooks do?

The actual, more-or-less  original lyrics are here.    And I do realize I owe a huge apology to Kansas Joe McCoy, who was awesome and amazing—if perhaps a tad misogynistic.

But we’re all products of our times—which might have been the point of this post, if I’d had one  . . .

___________________

*Exhibit A.

**Or, really, Amy Irving:

***Or to be introduced to the woman singing “Dirty Sheets.”  Sorry—obscure blues joke.  Sort of.

^And, yeah, that was the short version.  Trust me.

^^I should stress here, that neither of the authors I’ve linked to have this problem.  At all.  This is all me.

Book Review: Top Suspense

 The only thing I enjoy more than suspense stories, noir, and protagonists with alternative moral philosophies are Advance Reading Copies. 

 So when Libby Fischer Hellman, whose work I admire and whose collaborative blog I follow , offered an eARC of Top Suspense: 13 Classic Stories, 12 Masters of the Genre for review, I jumped at the chance for thirteen good reads and a blog post.

 Because I’m all about the altruism.

 I sat down with my laptop on Wednesday, intending to read a story or two before moving on to my own project.  I started at the beginning, as one does, with “Unreasonable Doubt” by Max Allan Collins.*  I loved watching Nathan Heller work again.  So much so that I took a peek at the next story. 

 After an hour and a half of just-one-more, I’d read the entire anthology.

The blurb says, in part: 

 . . .sit back, bite down on a piece of strong leather, and prepare to get hit by some gale-force suspense and writing so sharp it will draw blood.

 If you need an example of truth in advertising, Top Suspense will do the job.  Each memorable story evoked a strong reaction, whether humor or horror, noir-weary despair or holy crap shock. 

 Some of them work a combination, notably the exquisitely disturbing  “Poisoned” by Stephen Gallagher, which I refuse to describe at all for fear of ruining it, and Ms. Hellman’s “The Jade Elephant,” in which regret and reparations are paid just in time—at least for the victim. 

A few of them come close to all four:  Lee Goldberg’s “Remaindered” is a humorous nightmare of a cautionary tale for writers and librarians.  And my reaction to the reveal in “The Baby Store” by Ed Gorman made the lady next to me the café ask if I was all right . . . I’m still not sure.

Of all of these, Harry Shannon’s excellent “Handful of Dust,” might come closest to a true horror story, in which a human monster finds out he’s not at the top of the food chain anymore.   In contrast, the lightest of the collection—in mood, not quality, if that even needs to be said—might be Dave Zeltserman’s caper-based story, “The Canary.”  The ending isn’t in question, but getting there is all the fun.

 Both “Death’s Brother” by Bill Crider and “The Chirashi Covenant” by Naomi Hirahara provide unrelieved noir, though the settings are vastly different.  In classic tradition, their protagonists are each damaged before the first sentence, though Ms. Hirahara’s beautifully-layered Helen Miura evokes some sympathy and Mr. Crider’s Jon Cline only a weary shake of the head, poor sap.

Paul Levine’s “El Valiente en el Infierno,”  is singular for its protagonist, who may be the only genuine hero of the collection, and for an ending that offers hope, however fragile, that the next story for these characters might actually follow a different pattern.  Joel Goldman offers less reassurance in “Fire in the Sky,” in which young people race down a well-worn path towards a dubious future— while assuming they invented the shortcut.  “The Big O” by Vicki Hendricks offers no such expectations at all, although I’m curious to see how Chance might turn out .**  

There’s something for every suspense fan in this anthology—and if you aren’t particularly fond of the genre, this might change your mind.  It’s a great introduction to suspense written right.

The only criticism I have is that Top Suspense appears to be formatted exclusively for the Kindle***—though I do have a Kindle Reader on my laptop, so it’s not an obstacle as much as a preference for my Sony Touch. 

But believe me,this anthology is  well worth reading in any format.

 _____

 *Full disclosure:  Mr. Collins is considered something of a home town hero in these parts and he and his wife have been generously involved with the writing center a few streets away from my library. But to be fair, I’d devoured all his Heller novels before I moved up here.

 **And have been humming a certain song in anticipation.

***New information:  Ms. Hellman has informed me that a print version should be released in a few months—just in time for Dad’s birthday (and mine)!

The Saga of the eReader, part two

Turns out that there is a learning curve involved in operating the Sony Touch.  Or maybe it’s just me.

It took me ten minutes to borrow  a book from my library’s ePub service—mostly because it’s a very popular service so a lot of the books were already out— and two hours to figure out how to transfer it to my Sony Touch.  Or, rather, to get the Adobe Digital Editions software to even give in and admit that the Touch was plugged into my laptop.

It also took several frazzled calls to my friend Grace, during which I became a little testy, for which I apologize (sorry, Grace!).  But with her help, and a quick scan of the Sony forums, the trick was revealed:  download the Reader Library software from the Sony site, which is probably what I should have done first, anyway, and Adobe finally figured it out.* 

If you’re wondering which book I chose, and who wouldn’t, I went with an old favorite of ours:  Leaping Beauty  by Gregory Maguire (yep, that Gregory Maguire).   I can’t decide whether this is an adult book borrowing a children’s format, or simply one of the more cynical children’s book ever written, but I suppose it’s possible for a parody of fairy tales to be both, especially if they star a variety of anthropomorphized animals.  

And are written by Mr. Maguire.

Jane likes Cinder-elephant, Hamster and Gerbil, and So What and the Seven Giraffes, but  I prefer Goldifox and the Three Chickens, as it explains the importance of keeping one’s temper, not judging by appearances, and the value of a good night’s sleep.  

My next step is buying a book, which I think I’ll choose from the Sony store.*   Baby steps.

_____

*I have no idea why this worked.  Maybe the ADE software gets jealous?

**Jane’s pushing for Ivy+Bean, but I think I’ll choose something a little  further inside my demographic this time.

The Saga of the eReader, part one

I resisted eReaders for a long time.   I don’t know if it was fear of change, the relatively low quality of fiction when eBooks first hit the scene, my love of reading in the bathtub (and the relative safety if I forgot where I was and took a book into the shower with me), or simple job security.

But my fear of change annoys me.  Most of my favorite authors are now releasing electronic versions of their books and a few have completely switched over.  I can be taught to take only hardcopy books into wet places or, possibly, to not multitask while bathing—odds are, I’ll only mess up once.

And since my library started offering downloadable eBooks* through Wilbur and NetLibrary, I’ve learned that the public still needs librarians—especially librarians who know a data port from a power port.** 

An eReader takes up less space, too.  I’m getting tired of lugging around reading material and manuscripts in my shoulderbag, not to mention the wear and tear—if I had a chiropractor, he’d be torn between his Hippocratic Oath*** or putting his kids through Yale.

Decision made.  Now, which one to get?

This was tough—so tough that, as I think I mentioned before, I e-mailed the tech-savvy and extremely patient Sarah Wendell over at Smart Bitches and told her what I needed in an eReader.  She suggested Sony or the Kindle.  My friend Grace had a Sony Touch and she showed me how easy it was to make notes on a pdf file.  Sold!

Except I’m on a budget.  So I started saving up the money with the goal of giving myself a useful Christmas present . . . and frittered most of it away on four all-weather tires earlier this month.   I sighed and started over, figuring it would make a good birthday present.  And it wasn’t like I really needed an eReader.  It’s a luxury item.

But it turns out that the finance people over at Honda forgot to stop taking car payments out of my account and I forgot that they aren’t supposed to do that anymore.  So a nice reimbursement check arrived last week that wasn’t earmarked for anything. 

Seriously.  Nothing.  Checked with my husband first and everything.  And I placed an order for a brand-new, shiny Sony Touch, a charger, and a carrying case before the words, “I don’t think so,” were completely out of his mouth.  I might have done a few steps of the New Toy Happy Dance.

Because a true story without a touch of slapstick isn’t one of mine, I must mention that one hour and seventeen minutes after I received notice that my order shipped, the clothes washer^ disgraced itself all over the floor and suffered a nervous  breakdown from, I assume, sheer embarrassment.

But that’s tomorrow’s post.

My brand-new, shiny Sony Touch arrived today.   And now all I have to do is learn to use it.  

Perhaps while waiting for the repairperson to arrive.  Or at the Laundromat.

Either way, I’m determined to have something to read . . . even if it’s only the user’s guide.

___

*If your public library doesn’t, you might want to say something to your director.   If they don’t know there’s a need for a service, they won’t provide it.

**Because, you know, they teach us to read labels in library school.

***Do chiropractors do this?  Do physicians still do this?  Because they damn well should.

^It was a ticking timebomb anyway—the warrantee and the service contract expired a while back.