09 December 2017

King's reincarnation tale needs less stitching and more plot

The Dust of 100 Dogs - A. S. King


I don’t know about you, but I don’t always check the published reviews of a book before buying it or checking it out of the library. Oh, sure, I’ll briefly scan the reviews at “the River,” but I know better than to trust most of those people, anyway. Perhaps had I should have looked more closely at Barnes & Noble’s page for The Dust of 100 Dogs (by A. S. King), though. Instead of glowing reviews from the NYT or even "People," there are blurbs from The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star and "VOYA" (not the financial company – “Voice of Youth America” magazine). The best the site can come up with is the throwaway line from "Booklist," which calls it “An undeniably original book.” When you come right down to it, though, that description might very well have been followed by “that is unfortunately almost unreadable.”

No, that’s probably not fair: the book is readable and, for that matter, seems pretty much original. My problem with it is more that it’s dreck… and here’s why:

In the middle of the 17th century, Irish lass Emer avoids Oliver Cromwell’s scourge only to be sold to a rich Parisian as an aging dandy’s wife. She escapes that fate only to be shipped to the West Indies as… well, probably not a wife. Instead of becoming a “sporting lady,” Emer instead reinvents herself as a fearsome pirate. Until, that is, she falls victim to a voodoo spell cast by the minion of her arch-enemy The Frenchman: she is destined to live a hundred lives as a dog before she is once again born in human form.

And that’s how young Saffron Adams, 20th-century Pennsylvanian, remembers where the dread Emer’s booty is buried. Oh, and she manages to remember each of those 100 lives as a dog, which means she is far too smart for her own good.

     Upon coming of age, Saffron/Emer returns to the remote bay in Jamaica where she buried her treasure, only to find it occupied by a modern-day version of The Frenchman (and his minion). What happens after that is… predictable.

Right up front, let’s get this out of the way: The Dust of 100 Dogs is sold as YA fare, but only if you want the local chapter of Book Burners United beating down the door. There are sex scenes, rape scenes, and plenty of gore – Emer’s “signature” is to pop an eyeball out of her victim with her cutlass. Don’t like “dirty” words? It has plenty of the f-, s-, and a-words. Drugs? Got ‘em. Disrespect for adults? Got it. Drinking? Got it. About the only thing that’s missing is masturbation.

As for the 100 lives spent as a dog? Saffron supposedly remembers them all, though she seems to have gone through them as a sort of canine version of Forrest Gump, showing up in interesting places time after time. Perhaps that’s why elementary-school Saffron is so well-read in history and geography, though that would presuppose that during her lives as dogs she was paying more attention to what was going on than any of my dogs ever have.

In short, The Dust of 100 Dogs is clumsily plotted and full of plot holes. Although the protagonist is a young adult, the content’s probably not suitable for most YA readers. Oh, and instead of details of those 100 lives as a dog, King instead expends page after page discussing Emer’s embroidery.     

No, I'm not buying it… and I'm not giving it five stars, either. But two stars? That’ll do.
copyright © 2017 scmrak

25 November 2017

“Stop That!” I Said to Myself

Before It’s Too Late – Sara Driscoll


Ever heard the joke about the guy who goes to the doctor and tells her, “It hurts when I do this”? The punchline, of course, is that she says, “Well, stop doing that!” Ba. Dump. Bump. I could say the same thing of the Sara Driscoll F.B.I. K-9 series: “It hurts when I read this; so maybe I should stop.” But I didn’t…

I read book two, Before It’s Too Late, and I’m… not sure why. It’s probably because I didn’t have anything else to read (the latest Virgil Flowers novel wasn’t out yet), and it might be because I really, really love Labrador Retrievers and the K-9 in question is a black Lab named Hawk. More likely both. But anyway, about the book:

F.B.I. K-9 handler Meg Jennings is obviously the target of a serial whackaloon: he kidnaps women who look like her (“black Irish” features) and then sends a coded message addressed to Meg, a message that consists of cryptic clues to where he’s hidden the kidnapped woman. Oh, and the woman isn’t dead yet; he’s killing her slowly by asphyxiation. Creepy dude…

18 November 2017

Maybe the Accounting is Right, but the Plot? Fuhgeddaboudit...


Exit Strategy - Colleen Cross




Every day a list of books shows up in my email inbox from a place called BookBub. Most of these ebooks are available at fire sale prices; a couple a week are even free. I have to admit that I try to avoid any titles accompanies by a blurb bragging about the number of five-star reviews at GoodReads, but every once in a while I pick up one of the freebies just to see if the rest of the series is worth buying (or borrowing from the library).

That’s why I have a copy of Exit Strategy, subtitled “Katerina Carter Fraud Thriller Series 1”: I got it free. And I’m here to tell you, it was worth every penny…

01 October 2017

This Geek Girl Adventure Reads More Like Stephanie Plum

No One Lives Twice - Julie Moffet


If you listen to the news at all, you probably know that women are underrepresented in the tech sector (not to mention often subjected to unpleasant working environments). In the literary world, however, a few “geek girls” have made their appearance. One that recently came across my e-reader was Lexi Carmichael, whose first adventure was 2010’s No One Lives Twice.

Lexi, who works for the NSA, first realizes she’s embroiled in something strange when not one but two suspicious dudes demand that she fork over the papers her best friend Basia sent her. "What papers?" she wonders... Well, it turns out that Basia had sent her the papers, she just hadn’t gotten ‘em yet. But all the papers are is a generic contract with a little coded message at the bottom of one page, the word “Acheron” in a simplistic code. Which, of course, geeky Lexi figures out immediately. Those papers start Lexi on a hunt for Basia and her Polish-born cousin that will take her across the Atlantic and force her boyish (i.e., flat-chested) body up against those of not one, not two, but three different hotties.

13 September 2017

Capri's Homage to Reacher is a Bit of a Reach

Diane Capri - Don't Know Jack


    For Special Agent Kim Otto, the hunt begins with a phone call in the wee small hours of the morning. Actually, it began earlier with the delivery of a “burner” cell phone and a slim file on her target… but the real action starts with that phone call. She’s ordered onto a flight from Detroit to Atlanta, where she wll meet her “second,” Special Agent Carlos Gaspar out of Miami. Their orders are to head to the town of Margrave, Georgia, to pick up the long-cold trail of their target… Jack (no middle) Reacher.
Just why the two are looking for Reacher isn’t readily apparent. As far as Otto can tell, he’s a paranoid killer who’s been off the grid for fifteen years now, and her unnamed “boss” has decided it’s time to bring him to justice. The notion that he’s a bad guy just goes to show you that these two feebs Don’t Know Jack.

Otto and Gaspar stumble into a bizarre murder scene and cryptic clues about counterfeiting and a high-level DC coverup involving hookers, mistresses, or both. They’re helped, albeit reluctantly, by superfox MILF Chief of Police Beverly Roscoe Trent, who just happens to have a gorgeous – and tall – 15-year-old daughter named Jacqueline, or Jack for short.

The “boss” continues to send them willy-nilly around the mid-Atlantic region to talk to people, and – for some unknown reason – they end up in Washington’s most renowned brothel where Otto – for some unknown reason – has an unstated relationship with the madam.

They solve the murder, of course, but their target stays just out of reach…

Diane Capri’s first fan-fiction novel in homage to Jack Reacher, Don’t Know Jack is filled with references to Killing Floor (the first novel in Lee Child’s 22-episode Reacher series), including references to “Kliner” counterfeit C-notes and an interview with the detective who originally arrested Reacher, Lamont Finlay. Child himself wrote the afterword for the novel (at least the ePub version I read). Capri’s style is similar, although – unlike Reacher – Otto doesn't ever get around to making the beast with two backs with the male lead.

Capri’s novel progresses nicely, especially if you’re a fan of the Reacher series, for about thirty-six chapters. At that point, Otto has tracked a missing woman into Marion Wallace’s DC “party house,” where suddenly it’s as if you’ve shifted into a different book. Sure, the two are still looking for Reacher, but all of a sudden they’re referring to the mysterious voice on the telephone by his surname, instead of as “the boss.” Otto seems surprised that Wallace doesn’t seem to recognize her, even though they have some unstated history that appears to involve Otto’s ex-husband (who’d only been mentioned once or twice before). The shifts are, quite frankly, puzzling.

     As a mystery, the novel is pretty pedestrian, and seems mainly interesting for its tie-in to the Reacher series; not to mention the Tom Cruise movie that was released later in the year. The shift from an omniscient, omnipotent boss to “Cooper on the top floor of the FBI building” is unsettling, in particular because in subsequent “Hunt for Reacher” short stories the boss becomes once again anonymous. Were it not for that flaw, I’d have rated this slightly above average, but that’s too glaring for my tastes.
copyright © 2017 scmrak