Category Archives: Percy Procrastinator

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

Though The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom might be a great book for young adults new to the spy/espionage genre, it wasn’t unique enough to capture the interest of our spy-loving adult reviewers.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

TitleThe Cruelty
Author: Scott Bergstrom
SeriesThe Cruelty, Book 01
Publish Date: February 7, 2017 by Fiewel & Friends
Genre: YA Thriller
Source: Provided by the publisher

Publisher’s Description: When her diplomat father is kidnapped and the U.S. Government is unable to help, 17-year-old Gwendolyn Bloom sets off across the sordid underbelly of Europe to rescue him. Following the only lead she has—the name of a Palestinian informer living in France—she plunges into a brutal world of arms smuggling and human trafficking. As she journeys from the slums of Paris, to the nightclubs of Berlin, to the heart of the most feared crime family in Prague, Gwendolyn discovers that to survive in this new world she must become every bit as cruel as the men she’s hunting.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

The best line in the book The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom is in the very first chapter when the main character, Gwendolyn, pulls a book out of her backpack and tells us, the reader,

“It’s a novel with a teenage heroine set in a dystopian future. Which novel in particular doesn’t matter because they are all the same. Poor teenage heroine, having to march off to war when all she really wants to do is run away with that beautiful boy and live off wild berries and love. Paper worlds where heroes are real.”

This is echoed two hundred some odd pages later when Gwen, now called Sophia, who is in real danger from the Czech mafia, says “Damn my luck, having to go off to war when all I want to do is run away with that beautiful boy and live off wild berries and love.”

That about sums up what’s wrong with this book: it pretends not to be formulaic but follows the same pattern as all spy/espionage novels. This could have been written by James Patterson, Lee Child or Robert Ludlum and I really wouldn’t have noticed the difference. The author simply puts a 17-year-old girl in the role of the main character and, unfortunately, this doesn’t lend itself to believability. The only training this teenager gets is about a month from an Israeli spy, and she totally eludes and ultimately defeats criminals in several European countries included the “dreaded” Czech mafia and kills several of their number through a variety of methods?

I also really didn’t think that The “Cruelty” itself, which the author tries to describe as an internal “thing” rising up in Gwendolyn and taking over her more sane (regular) self, was well defined. He mentions it a few times as “wanting to get out” or “taking over” but I don’t think he spent enough time on her internal struggle. It felt really ho-hum when Gwen had to make difficult choices, like murdering someone in cold blood!

I give this book a 3 for being too much like other books I’ve read in this genre and not having enough of what the title featured.

Percy Procrastinator says…

For me, as a forty-four-year-old long interested in thriller/spy/espionage novels, this was a tough read. I didn’t read it all, either. At about the halfway point, I realized that I had read this story before by some other author. It’s not that it was bad; it just wasn’t good enough to pull me in. I don’t know if it was because it’s geared toward young adults or if I have just read and seen too much of this kind of story.

The setup is quite good. It was easy for me to believe that Gwendolyn could become a spy. She knows languages and had gymnastics, so had some of the rudimentary skills needed. It wasn’t luck that had her know several ex-spies, people who could set her on the path to find her father. I was happy that she got a month of training and even a test so she knew if she could do it.

Reading about her training was interesting to me to see which way the author would have Gwendolyn go. And once she made her choice, I knew how the rest of the story would go, again from decades of reading these kinds of novels. I just wasn’t interested enough in reading this particular story. I skimmed through several chapters of her meeting people, going up the chain and following the leads. I can easily see how this would be a great introduction for someone to these kinds of novels. It’s just not for me.

Finally, I will say that the ending left me a bit disappointed. I read the final ten percent of the book and I don’t think I got the payoff I wanted. The twist didn’t surprise me and the ending left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

I give the book a three. It might deserve a four because it handles the subject matter well, but I can’t be the one to give it that rating.

Other recommendations…

Advanced teen readers could probably jump right into the Alex Cross, Jason Bourne, and Jack Reacher thrillers, or go with the classics and give the original James Bond novels a try. Unfortunately, those all have male protagonists. For female protagonists, here is a list of 9 Best Thrillers with Strong Female Protagonists.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

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Hell Night by Matt Kincade

What a fun book! Zombies! Running for your life! Necromancers! Oh my! I enjoyed my introduction to Alex Rains, Vampire Killer, even if there were no vampires in sight!

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00021]TitleHell Night
AuthorMatt Kincade
Series: Alex Rains, Vampire Hunter, Book 02
Publish DatePrint – March 15 | Kindle – March 21
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Cover: J. Caleb Design
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s Description: Alex Rains knows all about hunting vampires—after all, that’s his job, and he’s the best at what he does. But when he follows a lead to the tiny desert town of Prosperity, Nevada, Alex quickly learns that vampires aren’t the only things that go bump in the night. He’s just as surprised as the town’s residents when the dead start walking the streets of Prosperity . . . and they’ve got a bit of an appetite.

Together with a ragtag group of survivors, Alex will have to dodge undead horrors and small-town drama as he digs into Prosperity’s darkest secrets and macabre Wild West heritage to figure out why the dead aren’t staying dead, discover what–or who–is responsible, and put a stop to it . . . before the whole mess gets out of hand.

After dealing with the undead in Prosperity, Alex Rains is going to have to update his resume.

It’s sunny with a chance of apocalypse in Hell Night, Matt Kincade’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to The Devil’s Mouth. With Hell Night, Kincade once again delivers fast-paced, gritty pulp action, engaging characters, and delightfully grim humor.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Percy_Procrastinator_100Percy Procrastinator says…

Even though this is book two of Alex’s story, and I don’t prefer to read books out of order, this was still a great introduction to Alex. Alex obviously just had a big adventure, perhaps book one, and is looking to take a break. Quite quickly, I learn Alex is a fan of the 50s, especially of Elvis, and wants to go sight seeing to a place where the King himself visited.

Enter Prosperity.

It’s got all the standard tropes of a dying town. The main business closed down and recently even the national park that it had is closed. The residents know they will have to leave but haven’t been able to do so just yet. Alex comes to town to find out where Elvis was and perhaps flirt with the cute waitress at the diner.

Then the body is found. And gets up and walks again. In a well-handled twist, Alex goes from suspect number one to hero number one as the zombies arrive in Prosperity. The rag-tag group of survivors has to find a way to get across town without being eaten alive. Most make it.

Soon, Alex finds himself trapped in a building, holding off zombies while trying to save as many survivors as he can. And Alex is a vampire slayer, not zombie slayer. He doesn’t really know much about them other than finding that the zombies can be killed permanently and he’s good at that.

Alex has realized that these are not typical zombies. They ambush. They concentrate their attacks at weak points. They even let a few of the group survive. Whoever is controlling them wants something from the group. Alex also knows that when that happens, they won’t be needed anymore.

badge5v5All of this leads up to a fun ending that had me reading as fast as I could. I really enjoyed meeting Alex and Prosperity’s people. The bad guys motive made as much sense as an insane person can. And Prosperity’s history and hidden secrets were all so much fun to read! I’m glad I have a book one I can read and look forward to more. This was a solid five for me.

 

Nervous Nellie says…

Damn, that was good!  I bought this book because it was recommended.  If I would have known it involved zombies, I probably would have declined spending the whole 99 cents.  Zombies are not my thing.

This is an urban fantasy – not apocalyptic, so don’t panic.  There is a tiny bit of sex – not enough to make me blush BUT it’s definitely not sweet either.  There is a zillion bloody scenes – gore, splatter and grossness.  It’s “ew” factor was pretty high, but the quotes in this book nearly broke an all time record.  If I put in this review every quote I highlighted, I could fill a chapter alone.

Alex Rains is a vampire hunter that is refreshing in the fact that he doesn’t know anything else supernatural other than vampires.  He didn’t even know zombies existed until he stumbled into a little offbeat town called Prosperity.  The super villain in this book was pretty easy to see right off, but that’s not the point of the book.  The point of the story was the same goal as all of the evil villains we’ve ever read with the twist of the machinations of an even more evil villain.  That’s the part that set this book apart.

Matt Kincade is a brand new author to me – like I said – recommended.  I enjoyed this book a lot and I’m looking forward to the next one.  I would say that this book is better than the first, so I can’t imagine how blown away I will be with the next.  Oh, and by the way, for those of you that may have read my review of The Devil’s Mouth?  No, Carmen isn’t in this book.  I said I’d hunt down the author for not including her, but this story was so good, I’ll give him a pass this time.  😉

 

Our reviews in this series…

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Black City Demon by Richard A. Knaak

What can happen when a bad person gets control of a lot of power? Isn’t that what many Americans are asking themselves these days? Black City Demon tackles that question as well when an old enemy of Chicago gets his hands on the power of Feirie.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

black-city-demonTitleBlack City Demon
AuthorRichard A. Knaak
SeriesBlack City Saint, Book 02
Publish Date: March 14, 2017 by Pyr
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Provided by the publisher

Publisher’s Description: Since he became the guardian of the Gate between our world and Feirie sixteen hundred years ago, Nick Medea, once Saint George, has battled to keep the darkest Feirie–the Wyld–from invading the mortal plane. With the dragon an unwilling part of him, Nick maintains balance between realms, often at great cost to him and those nearest to him.

Nick and his ragtag confederates—including the shape-shifter Fetch and Nick’s reincarnated love, Claryce—have battled the Wyld, but not mortals as sinister as the darkest Feirie. Now, with Prohibition in full swing and bootlegger wars embattling Chicago, a murderous evil born of the mortal world has turned its attention to the power of the Gate… and Nick himself.

Nick must turn again to his most untrustworthy ally: the dragon within. Yet even together they may not be enough to face what was once a man… but is now a creature even dragons may fear.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

This is a great follow-up to Black City Saint. Nick, Fetch, Kravayik, Claryce, and the Dragon have another mystery to solve, one even more insidious than the last.

I like how Knaak wove real Chicago history into this book. This particular historical figure seems to be popping up quite often in books and TV lately. He is an interesting psychological case study so I can see the fascination.

This book, even more than the first, truly establishes Nick as a curmudgeon. He is grumpy, and he can hold a grudge for a LONG time. I’m looking forward to the book where he can accept himself and all of his friends, including Claryce, and stop being so short and grumpy with them. However, a lot of urban fantasy detectives are grumpy; so are a lot of noir detectives. So that may never come to pass.

Knaak has a lot of really good side characters in this series. I really like Detective Cortez. I’m hoping he becomes part of the inner circle eventually.  I love Fetch, of course, even when his true nature peaks through. Kravayik fascinates me, too.  I’d love to learn more about his conversion to Christianity. I even like Diocles; the backstory between Nick and Diocles fascinates me. There are so many interesting stories that could come from that relationship.

I hope this series continues for a while. I think there are some great stories here worth telling.

Percy_Procrastinator_100Percy Procrastinator says…

The second book in the series starts slow but once it gets going, it’s non-stop action and fun!

A long time ago, I read a review of a movie and the reviewer spoiled the movie. The reviewer didn’t go out of his way to spoil movies, but if he had to do so for his review, he didn’t shy away from them. He did so because, in his opinion, if a movie can’t stand on its own even after a spoiler, it must not have had much to it.

With that, I get to my review, and while I won’t directly spoil the book, I could be giving enough information that other readers might feel I spoiled it.

This book picks up a few weeks after the events of the last book. This means prohibition is in full swing and the threat of a mob war lingers. Even with the threat to Feirie gone, Feirie has not let Nick go and still meddles. Nick returns to doing what he does—dealing with Feirie trespassers—and avoids Claryce, which is one of my issues with the book.

Nick is fifteen hundred years old. He would have seen many strong women in that time, and attitudes toward women go up and down throughout history. Indeed, he thought highly of his own Cleolinda from his mortal life. However, he treats Claryce no different than many men of the time treated women. He’s not telling her the whole truth, he’s trying to protect her and keep her out of danger, and he’s taking some choices from her about when she can help or not. I get it. He doesn’t want to lose Claryce, nor Cleolinda’s reincarnation. It annoys me because I take it as a lack of trust on his part that she will do what she can and not try to do too much.

Claryce is trying to clear up some business from her former employer, including selling old properties. One person interested in those properties has Nick on edge and worried that Claryce is going to be pulled into his world again. Here is my spoiler and what it did to me. Unfortunately, I recognized the buyer’s name, and if you do not recognize it, I suggest you not Google it. The first half of the book is finding out the identity of the buyer and because I knew, it made the book a tougher read than it should have been. This is one of those times when the author’s use of detail works against him.

badge4v5Once that was done, though, this was a great read. The same details that were spoilers for me do pull me into the story later. His use of slang via Fetch helps immersion, as does his use of the everyday terms for appliances back then. I’m still fascinated by the realm of Feirie that the author has created and how it works. I want a bit more detail but not so much that the mystery is gone!

Even with the spoiler, I give this a solid four. I don’t think it would have gotten a five because Nick’s attitude toward Claryce still grates on me, but this is a good book.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations

For another 1920’s urban fantasy, check out Ari Marmell’s Mick Oberon series.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Saturday Short: Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown

Welcome to Saturday Shorts, in which we review shorter works such as short stories, novellas, middle-grade books, and graphic novels. Both kids and adults will love today’s illustrated book that’s got a twist on the most famous science fiction movie series: Star Wars.

darth-vader-and-sonTitleDarth Vader and Son
AuthorJeffrey Brown
SeriesStar Wars: Darth Vader and Kids
Publish Date: Jan 1, 2012
Genre: Humor
Source: Purchased/Received as gift

Publisher’s DescriptionWhat if Darth Vader took an active role in raising his son? What if “Luke, I am your father” was just a stern admonishment from an annoyed dad? In this hilarious and sweet comic reimagining, Darth Vader is a dad like any other except with all the baggage of being the Dark Lord of the Sith.

Celebrated artist Jeffrey Brown’s delightful illustrations give classic Star Wars moments a fresh twist, presenting the trials and joys of parenting through the lens of a galaxy far, far away. Life lessons include lightsaber batting practice, using the Force to raid the cookie jar, Take Your Child to Work Day on the Death Star (“Er, he looks just like you, Lord Vader!”), and the special bond shared between any father and son.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

Though I’m not a crazy fan about Star Wars (shock and awe, I know, but p.s. it’s not that I dislike it, I’m just not a super fan!) I adored this book. It takes a cute spin on what it’s like to be a parent by giving common dad vs kid moments a Star Wars theme. Like for example, “are we there yet?” and “where do babies come from?”

badge4v5Each page is full of sweet illustrations that will appeal to both the child reader and the adult one. Cheers Star Wars parents, this book is for you!

Rating: four stars.

Percy_Procrastinator_100Percy Procrastinator says…

This is a fun book! It takes many of the iconic scenes from the six movies and asks, what would have happened if Luke was a kid being raised by Darth Vader? For Star Wars fans, there are then fun scenes using the Catina, sarlacc, Cloud City, and many others. For parents, it’s a look at how kids can ask the really tough questions without realizing it. Or how they don’t understand your job and just want to spend time with you.

badge4v5All in all very humorous and a quick little read.

Four stars.

Wild Card by Jim Butcher

Welcome to Saturday Shorts, in which we review shorter works such as short stories, novellas, middle-grade books, and graphic novels. Today we’re reviewing the fifth original story in the Dresden files graphic novels, Wild Card. Dresden is back! It’s a quick adventure and makes me want more new books to come out or to re-read old ones! I will take what I can get and this only slightly disappoints!

wild-cardTitleWild Card, Book 9.2
AuthorJim Butcher
SeriesJim Butcher’s Dresden Files
Publish Date: October 26, 2016
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files saga continues in this original and in-continuity graphic novel, featuring a never-before-told story set after the bestselling novel White Night and graphic novel Down Town! A bizarre double murder draws the interest of Chicago’s only wizard-for-hire. But as Harry Dresden begins his investigation, the clues lead to troubling conclusions about the possible perpetrator, and set him on a path that will place him in the middle of a conflict between the city’s three most powerful factions—a conflict that could engulf all of Chicago!

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Percy_Procrastinator_100Percy Procrastinator says…

I seriously could not read this fast enough. I love the adventures of Harry Dresden, and anything new is like an oasis in the long desert between book releases. The art is top notch and gives us a great take on the characters from the book. The bad guy is fun and works well as an agent of chaos. He’s out to amuse himself and doesn’t care what mortals get hurt in that pursuit. The fact that he could end the peace in Chicago of the main powers only heightens the bad guys fun! Of course, Harry can’t stand for that and works with Molly, Murphy, Butters, Thomas, and even Lara and Gentleman Johnny Marcone to rid his city of the menace.

badge4v5In the end, though, as much as I enjoyed it, I can only give the book a four. Maybe it was a four and a half but it is rounded down. The ending let me down. It fit the villain well, and I can see him being fine with putting everything online to the roll of the dice, but it misses the mark for me with Harry. I wanted to see that he had an edge, a trick, or something that pushed the odds into his favor because there was too much at stake to leave it up to as much chance as he did. I’m sure I will read it again and again, as I do with the rest of Dresden, but the ending will remain the weak point for me.

Our reviews in this series…