Hostile Takeover ★★★★☆

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Title: Hostile Takeover
Series: Arcane Casebook #8
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 293
Words: 97.5K



Synopsis:

Sorsha is dying from the curse the Legion has put on her. Alex and Dr Bell must find a way to undo it or Sorsha will be dead in days.

Alex is also hired to figure out if a fellow runewright with the ability to write a rune for radio was murdered. Everybody has a motive and nobody has a motive. A strong willed attractive CEO who is separated from her husband. The husband, wheelchair bound by polio but carrying on an affair with his live in nurse. One of the other radio companies. It’s a muddle.

Finally, Alex is hired by a couple to find out who is pressuring them to sell their house. When Alex begins to investigate, the husband is killed and the wife moves away to her family. Now it is personal for Alex.

The couple’s house was necessary for the Legion to place a gigantic finding rune in their basement. They were using the curse on Sorsha, which drained her magic, to power it. They were looking for a hidden chamber in the Arctic which contained an indescribable evil. Alex foils their plans, destroys the spell on Sorsha and takes one step closer to becoming the most powerful being on the planet.

The wife committed the murder and the case was not tied into the other two.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this one just as much as I have the previous Arcane Casebook stories. Alex shaves with a straight razor. Which means he’s clean shaven. I just made that connection after looking at the beautiful cover. Now I can’t unsee it 😦

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Living Shadow ★★★☆☆

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Title: The Living Shadow
Series: The Shadow #1
Authors: Maxwell Grant
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 224
Words: 67K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Harry Vincent, saved from suicide by The Shadow, is recruited to watch Scanlon, courier for Wang Foo, the Chinatown mastermind. Cronin murders Scanlon, but fails to find the metal Chinese disk Scanlon uses as an identifier. Vincent finds the disk, poses as the courier, is exposed, captured, tortured, and saved by The Shadow. Millionaire Geoffrey Laidlow is killed for his hidden jewels; the rest of the story involves searching for Laidlow’s killer, and the killer searching for the jewels, to be fenced with the Chinatown mastermind. In the end, the criminal mastermind’s lawyer Ezekiel Bingham, is free and unpunished. Diamond Bert Farwell, exposed as Wang Foo, goes to jail.

My Thoughts:

Riders of Skaith started reviewing the The Shadow books last year. I’m glad I jumped on the bandwagon as I rather enjoyed this novel. But everything Riders says about Harry Vincent is totally true, sigh.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Curse of the Phoenix ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Curse of the Phoenix
Series: Arcane Irregulars #1
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 272
Words: 87K



Synopsis:

From DanWillisAuthor.com

A stolen ARTIFACT…

New York Police Lieutenant Danny Pak has a problem. When one of his officers calls him out to an unusual crime scene, Danny realizes that it’s terrifyingly similar to something the department thought was dead and buried. Now he has to find a madman before the story hits the papers and the city explodes into chaos.

Across town, Agent William “Buddy” Redhorn of the FBI has two problems. He’s been assigned a potentially career-ending case with magical ties, and his sorceress boss is out of town. The case involves a stolen statue that belongs to the government of Brunei, but the more he chases the thieves, the more bodies begin to drop. Bodies affected by a strange, unknown magic.

Resolving to work together, Danny and Redhorn have to catch a cold-blooded killer, recover a stolen artifact, all while keeping everything out of the press. If they don’t, it will be more than their careers that will die when the curse of the Jade Phoenix descends on New York.

My Thoughts:

I had bought this book back in November of ’21 and it has taken me this long to get to it. The good thing about me waiting so long is that the next Arcane Casebook is now out and so I can dive into that soon after this.

I enjoyed this book. I’ve enjoyed all of the Arcane books that Willis has written. I would say he’s hit his skill plateau though. He’s a solid B-list author and that’s not a bad thing it’s just the reality. If you like light urban fantasy detective stuff, Willis has got you covered.

This is the first review for this month where I’m deliberately writing light. Adios.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Capital Murder (Arcane Casebook #7) ★★★★☆

Capital Murder

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Capital Murder
Series: Arcane Casebook #7
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 336
Words: 110K





Synopsis:

Alex Lockerby gets snagged into going to Washington, DC (the capital of the United States of America) with one of the Sorcerous Six. Of course, he immediately gets sucked into multiple investigations, all of which are “Top Priority” by the clients.

Then it turns out his girlfriend Sorsha is involved in one of the cases and the papers are publicly speculating that she can’t solve it without Alex’s help. As a top FBI agent, this doesn’t sit well with her. Placing more strain on an already irregular relationship, Alex and Sorsha have to figure out if they can both have their careers and each other.

The main case ends up involving The Legion, a secret society of Runewrights dedicated to Evil, wanting to abscond with a whole military base’s worth of secret runewright papers. They partially succeed but Alex manages to stop the majority. In doing so, he gets a target on his back from the Legion and the book ends with Sorsha in a coma and an up and coming Legion member preparing to hunt Alex down.

My Thoughts:

Another thoroughly enjoyable entry in the Arcane Casebook series. As convoluted, over the top and larger than life as usual, this hit all the points that continue to intrigue me about this series.

I do hope that Willis can slow down the pace here a bit. Alternate World War II is looming and it’s obvious Runewrights will be largely involved. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I don’t like intensive ramping up of the plot “just because”.

Sorsha and Alex’s relationship hits the skids and while they haven’t broken up and have decided to really make it work, they haven’t addressed the issues that are causing the problems in the first place. I’m concerned that Willis will treat it shallowly. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since the series is pretty light but you can’t treat a heavy subject lightly without a disconcerting dichotomy in your literary tone.

Willis is really churning these out and I’m pretty happy at the pace he’s setting. Book 8 is already scheduled for April of ’22. Yee-haw!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

ps,
the bleeping editor has changed YET AGAIN. I hate wordpress for their continual messing about under the skirts. Having to re-learn the damnable block editor every couple of weeks or months, it’s too much. I need stability in my blogging platform.

Noir Fatale ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Noir Fatale
Editors: Larry Correia & Kacey Ezell
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 296
Words: 120.5K



Synopsis:

A collection of short stories that are all femme fatale themed in some or other. Here is the table of contents, ie, the list of stories with their authors:

AIN’T NO SUNSHINE: Christopher L. Smith and Michael J. Ferguson

RECRUITING EXERCISE: David Weber

SPOILS OF WAR: Kacey Ezell

THE PRIVILEGES OF VIOLENCE: Steve Diamond

A GODDESS IN RED: Griffin Barber

KURO: Hinkley Correia

SWEET SEDUCTION: Laurell K. Hamilton

A STRING OF PEARLS: Alistair Kimble

HONEY FALL: Sarah A. Hoyt

THREE KATES: Mike Massa

WORTH THE SCARS OF DYING: Patrick M. Tracy

THE FROST QUEEN: Robert Buettner

BOMBSHELL: Larry Correia

My Thoughts:

At 4stars, I obviously enjoyed this. Unfortunately, much like in Correia’s Monster Hunter Files, there was ONE story that just annoyed the viss and pinegar out of me. So let me get that out of the way then I’ll go into all the good stuff.

Exactly like MHF, there was one urban fantasy story from a long running series. Unlike Jane Yellowrock, Anita Blake managed to annoy me in a new way. Where Jane was an asshole with an attitude, Blake was a completely competent, beautiful and “everything else” woman, with such huge inadequacy issues that THEY were as big as Yellowrock’s attitude. You want to write that in your novels, to your target audience of women, go for it. But packing in a whole novels worth of feelings of inadequacy into a short story? While I was never going to read anything by Hamilton anyway, that story cemented that determination. It was well written, I actually liked the premise, but my goodness, the “feelinz” just about made me gag.

The other stories on the other hand, I pretty much enjoyed across the board. My favorite though, was the one by Correia. It is a Grimnoir story set in the 1950’s and my guess is it is being used like Detroit Christmas was, ie, to introduce the main character of the new Grimnoir trilogy that Correia has promised is on its way. Grimnoir Chronicles is my favorite by Correia and once the new trilogy is completed, I’ll re-read the original and dive into the new. I am very excited about that prospect, even if it is years down the road. I’ve waited this long, I can wait some more.

Each story has a femme in some sort of pivotal role. Not always front and center, but without them, the story would simply fall apart. I’d never heard of Ezell before, but after this I’ll probably go check out what else she has written to see if it aligns with my tastes. She was the driving force behind this anthology and since I enjoyed it so much I’m hoping I like her full length novels.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Auxiliary: London 2039 ★★☆☆☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Auxiliary: London 2039
Series: ———-
Author: John Richter
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 242
Words: 68K



Synopsis:

Carl Dremmler is one of the few remaining human detectives left on the police force in London 2039. Investigating cases where people have died from staying in virtual reality too long, whether on purpose or not. However, one case gets the interest of his boss. A man with an artificial arm murders his girlfriend and claims he didn’t do it, that the arm did it, against his will.

Dremmler begins running down the rabbit hole trying to prove that the unhackable TIM (the AI running everything) was hacked. This brings him into contact with some other corporations that are trying to create their own versions of TIM and robots that are indistinguishable from humans. Forced to rely on TIM from everything from giving him rides in podcars to opening his own door, Carl is pretty much an Auxiliary indeed.

Then he gets a break from an anti-robot commune that his wife joined years ago, where their daughter died and whose leader Carl would gladly kill with his bare hands. His wife has some info and Carl has to infiltrate the commune to get it. He’s caught, things start to go bad, then killer drones show up and start slaughtering everyone, all on Carl’s boss’s command. Carl and his wife flee and they separate for safety’s sake. Carl goes to his boss’s house to confront her only to find her corpse, which from its condition, has been a corpse since BEFORE Carl started the investigation.

Carl realizes TIM has other plans and before he can escape, he hears the scuttling of killer rat robots behind him. The End.

My Thoughts:

This book’s rating is very much of the “I hated it” variety than the “this was a poorly constructed and badly written book”. It was well written and for what it’s worth, engaging.

However, between what I talked about in my Currently Reading post, the general malaise of the human spirit and the outright horrible ending, I couldn’t recommend this book, not at all. I’ve added Richter to my list of authors to avoid on general principle.

Nothing is unhackable. Nothing is proof against human distortion and manipulation. AI “life” will never be a thing. If there had been a human behind everything at the end of the story, it would have ameliorated some of the issues. I guess the whole point of the book was the death of the human race by slow degrees and so that kind of ending wouldn’t have fit. But for every Sherlock there is a Moriarty and for every Moriarty, there is a Sherlock. This book was lacking one of those.

If you are a fan of nihilism by robot and the degradation of the human spirit in every regard, then by all means, dive into this book and enjoy.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Blood Relation (Arcane Casebook #6) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Bookype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Blood Relation
Series: Arcane Casebook #6
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 306
Words: 102.5K



Synopsis:

Alex Lockerby, now working on commission for one of the Great Sorcerers, tries to keep his head in the detective game by doing small jobs here and there. He has also hired a small time rune wright who he is teaching to use the finding rune to find lost objects, thus ensuring a steady trickle of business.

A string of gruesome murders start occurring and Alex is called in, as all of the scenes are covered in what appear to be runes. If they are runes, they are a type that Alex has never seen before, nor has Iggy.

German spies attempt to poison Sorsha and Alex and when that fails, to shoot Alex point blank. Sorsha is guarding a political big wig who is in town on secret business.

Turns out that the blood runes and murders are being committed by a man who was gifted much like Alex but then turned on his mentors and lost the ability to use standard runes. As such, he turned to blood magic to stay young and to build his power. Alex defeats him, but no body is found.

Alex also figures out what the secret project is and has to warn Sorsha to prevent the Germans from stealing a flying bomb and destroying half the city.

In the end, Alex has a talk with Moriarty and realizes that the magic Rune book has another whole level that Iggy never found. This opens Alex up to another level of Rune Wright’ery and shows him just how small the knowledge he has is.

My Thoughts:

Once again, I enjoyed myself immensely while reading this. This time around, the two biggest things I enjoyed was the pace wasn’t as frenetic as before (Alex isn’t investigating 7 cases all at once) and the Power Creep slowed down.

Having a Rune Wright be one of the main villains this time around was also refreshing. He shows Alex that magic or even runes, aren’t a monolithic entity, but a fractured puzzle that can be put together in almost infinite number of ways. This has the side effect of allowing Alex to be on a bit more of an equal footing with the likes of Sorsha, his sorceress on again off again girlfriend.

I think my only real issue is how Willis creates characters only to not use them as much as they could be. Danny Pak is the perfect example. He started out as bosom buddies with Alex but he barely gets a mention now. I’m afraid Alex is entering into the “Only I can do anything” zone. I guess I’d like to see more of the side characters fleshed out beyond a name and a function.

Other than that, this review really suffers from “I Like This” syndrome. This was another great book in the series and I enjoyed it. I just can’t muster up much to talk about it. I’m sure you can relate. Willis has been writing this series pretty hard and I am impressed that he’s keeping the quality to what it is. I am looking forward to the next book and we’ll see what the world brings into Alex Lockerby’s life next.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Limelight (Arcane Casebook #5) ★★★★☆

limelightThis review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Limelight
Series: Arcane Casebook #5
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 319
Words: 106.5K

 

Synopsis:

Alex Lockerby is doing well. Business is booming, his clientelle are a lot richer and even the police are giving him a modicum of respect (of course, that might have more to do with Alex being on a first name basis with several of the Sorcerer Six).

A Murder Mystery author dies and Alex’s mentor wants him to investigate as he believes it was murder. This leads into Alex investigating an old case from over 10 years ago about a beautiful stage actress who died on stage but no one was ever convicted. Alex gets his friend Danny Pak assigned to the case, with an understanding from the Captain that if Danny can solve this case, he’ll be promoted to Captain himself. As long as Alex stays in the background.

At the same time, Alex gets dragged into another police case, where Rune Wrights are apparently using runes to blow holes in walls and rob bank vaults. From all that Alex knows, this is impossible. But if something IS happening, then it isn’t impossible and it’s up to Alex as the cities top Rune Wright to figure out what is going on.

Then some inexplicable deaths start happening throughout the city, all of them magic related. In each case, it would appear that the victim had no magical power but died from using magic that went out of control. Alex teams up with Sorsha Kincaid and tracks it down to a substance called Limelight, which seems to give non-magic users magic and to enhance those with the ability already.

And if that is not enough, Alex still has to worry about his new secretary. What is her agenda and is she working for Moriarty, Legion or some other unknown?

If that isn’t enough, by the end of the book we find out another Rune Wright has figured out how to turn electricity into magical power. He’s also figured out how to transfer said power to himself. With the city’s generators at his power, he can become the most powerful Sorcerer the world has ever known.

In the end Danny solves his case, Limelight ties together Alex’s cases, the mad Rune Wright is stopped and the secretary is revealed to be a 3000 year old high priestess. Oh, and Alex is prophecied to be the greatest Rune Wright to ever have lived and possibly be King of All Magic.

 

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this story so while my review might be a tad more critical than the previous Arcane Casebook reviews, please do keep that in mind.

First concern is that Alex is exactly the same as he was in the first book. Now, that could very well be deliberate, as that can be a character type (look at most of the old school noir detectives and even a character like Garrett that Glen Cook writes). Depending on your taste, this will be a bigger or smaller thing. For me, it was a small thing but noticeable. I think I noticed it more because we’re up to book 5?

Secondly, the ramping up of threats and potential. The threat was seriously ramped up in the previous book when Moriarty reveals that another World War is coming and that groups like Legion are already preparing for it. Here, Alex’s potential as The King of Games, errrrr, I mean, Master of Magic is revealed. kingofgames I can’t articulate why this kind of thing is a burr under my saddle but power creep definitely bothers me. Personally, I’d rather Alex have stayed a lower powered Rune Wright and for the author to tell more detective stories than for this world threat to happen.

I do enjoy the mysteries. It is just fun to watch the twists and turns and little sidesteps that happen. I must admit that it is exhausting to keep 3 to 5 different balls in the air and usually by the end of the book I’m ready for some of the special coffee that Alex drinks so much of.

The cover continues to be as fantastic as ever. This time I looked and it is done by someone named Mihaela Voicu. She appears to be a digital artist and I found a bit of her stuff on her facebook page. Probably going to be a shoe-in for July’s Cover Love.

Still highly recommend this series if you feel in the need for a dose of Noir’ish Urban Fantasy Mystery! 😀

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Sword-edged Blonde (Eddie LaCrosse #1) ★★★☆☆

swordedgedblonde (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Sword-edged Blonde
Series: Eddie LaCrosse #1
Author: Alex Bledso
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 320
Words: 82K

 

Synopsis:

Eddie LaCrosse is a sword jockey, ie, a private detective. He’s hired by his childhood friend King Phil to prove that King Phil’s wife didn’t kill and then eat their newborn baby.

Along the way Eddie has to revisit his past and the reason he left the kingdom that Phil now rules.

Eddie solves the case, vindicates Phil’s faith in his wife, takes down an evil dwarf that has been alive over 500 years and finds the love of his life prophesied about over 10 years ago.

 

My Thoughts:

While I was reading this I was fully into the story and enjoying it. However, once the story ended and I began thinking about what I had read, a couple of things came to the forefront for me.

First, I am reading more and more noir’ish Private Eye books. What’s more, I am generally liking them too. The Grimnoir, The Arcane Casebook, Garrett PI, etc. The thing is, those all have elements of the PI AND some other element (urban fantasy, fantasy). This, though, only gave lip service to the fantasy element. The only fantastic thing was that the wife of King Phillip used to be a goddess and that the evil dwarf was actually just a human who had messed with the goddess and been punished. That’s it. No other races, no magic spells, no grimoires, not even one magic sword. Not cool.

In conjunction with that was the deliberate anachronisms that the author uses. Between names of people that you’d expect to meet on the street today, to terms about weapons and businesses that fully belong in the 21st century, Bledsoe kept pulling me out of the story. It was obviously deliberate and meant as some sort of selling point to distinguish the series but it did not work for me one tiny bit.

I’ve been debating about whether to keep on with the series. Like I said, while I was reading I was enjoying, but the moment I stopped, well, it all came crashing down. And it wasn’t like I was enjoying the read on a Neal Asher level. This was a grocery store frozen cheese pizza kind of enjoyment. With that, I don’t think I’ll be continuing the series. There are so many other books I can try out (and hopefully enjoy more) that it isn’t worth continuing this “just because I didn’t hate it”.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Dead Letter (Arcane Casebook #0) ★★★☆½

deadletter (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Dead Letter
Series: Arcane Casebook #0
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 96
Words: 31.2K

 

Synopsis:

In 1930 New York, the sorcerers are the powerhouses of magic and the runwrights are the poor cousins. Private detective Alex Lockerby is definitely in the latter category, plying his meager magic skills to help people the regular cops ignore while barely making ends meet.

What Alex needs is a break. Just one good case to get his name out there and start bringing in business. When ambitious beat cop Danny Pak gets stuck trying to solve a John Doe murder, it might just be the break Alex has been looking for.

As Alex and Danny team up they begin to unravel a tale murder, jealousy, and revenge stretching back over 30 years. A tale powerful forces don’t want to come to light. Now the cop and the private detective must work fast and watch each other’s backs if they hope to catch a killer and live to tell about it.

Alex meets Leslie, Danny and his sister Amy and several of the cops we know from the series.

 

My Thoughts:

I didn’t bother with putting up the conclusion to the “mystery” as it was almost more of a side note that was the vehicle to introduce us to all these various characters.

In that regards, this novella was a complete success. Even while Leslie (the secretary) is leaving the series in book 4, it was still nice to see how she and Alex were introduced. Amy was a fun include, even though she has zero presence in the series. Danny, I have to admit, I was hoping for more of a connection between him and Alex. They came across as just 2 people helping each other out rather than friends, but now that I write that, that is how it comes across in later books as well.

Alex is a loner and while he intersects with other people, he doesn’t seem to need a group of friends. I can totally relate to that 😀

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)