Thursday, September 4, 2014

Some Mini-Reviews (I heard your collective cries of glee when you saw the word "mini")

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King.
Laurie has written a bunch of books, including 3 series, some standalones, and even a couple of anthologies.  But her most popular series is the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books.  And The Beekeeper's Apprentice is the 1st one (written 20 years ago) out of 12.  I liked it.  Will I read more?  Probably not.  But that's more a function of just too many other books to read.  Would I recommend it?  I would.

Book 1 starts in 1915 with Mary, age 15, meeting Sherlock, who has retired to the English countryside and raises bees.  What follows is about 4 years, including time during WWI, where Mary becomes Sherlock's apprentice.  It's a very clever premise, and it's done well. I have to say that there were quite a few emotional moments for me.  In fact (I made a note of this), I teared up 3X in the 1st 20 pages!  Laurie does a really good job of making you care about not only Mary and Sherlock, but also about Dr. Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock's housekeeper/cook, and even Sherlock's brother, who is a policeman.

P.S.  There's a moment late in the book when Sherlock calls Mary "Russ."  I enjoyed that because some people call me "Russ."  I guess that's not so surprising since both Mary and I have the same last name.

Pandemic by Yvonne Ventresca
This is a YA I read only because C. Lee McKenzie, the master of the YA's, suggested it to me.  And it's good.  She's no C. Lee, but the book is entertaining, and I would recommend it to the YA set (as opposed to Lee's The Princess of Las Pulgas, which I would encourage any- and everybody to read - in fact, you will find Princess on my recommending table Sunday mornings at Recycle Bookstore).  The book centers on a high school girl, Lilianna, who, less than a year earlier, was molested by a beloved teacher at the school.  She has become withdrawn and has gone from model student to loner.  Now, all of a sudden, some kind of contagion attacks the school and surrounding area.  It's not really a spoiler alert to tell you that people are dying left and right, many of them very close to Lilianna.  Now, she must work closely with other kids, and a few adults, to protect their loved ones and provide a service to their community.

I'm not a big apocalyptic, lots-of-people-die kind of guy.  But within that framework, Yvonne does tell a good story, and it does center on high-schoolers.  That certainly means it should do well with the YA crowd.

The Catch by Taylor Stevens
This is an interesting one for a couple of reasons.  The Catch is Taylor's 4th book in the Vanessa Michael Munroe series.  I read the 1st one, The Informationist, several years ago.  I thought it was okay but did not intend to read any more.  Then a funny thing happened.  I signed up for Taylor's blog and ended up having a personal email relationship with her.  Mostly for that reason, I decided to give her series another try.  Her publisher, Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, sent me an ARC, and I read it (obviously).  So what did I think?  It was better than #1.  I don't know if I will read #5, but I might.

What's it about?  It's a little tough to explain.  I'll quote part of the book's jacket:  "Vanessa Michael Munroe, chameleon and information hunter, has a reputation for getting things done-often dangerous and not quite legal things-and the adrenaline-fueled work has left her with blood on her hands and a soul stained with guilt.  Having borne the burden of one death too many, Munroe has fled to Djibouti, Africa, where her only responsibility is greasing the wheels of commerce for a small maritime security company-until her boss pressures her to join his team as an armed transit guard on a ship bound for Kenya."

Each of her 4 adventures runs along the same themes (like most series) and takes place somewhere in Africa.  BookPage says:  "If you are a fan of Jack Reacher, Lisbeth Salander, or Nina Zero (don't know her), you need to check out Vanessa Michael Munroe."  I'll leave it to you whether this sounds like something you want to read.  I can't highly recommend it, but I definitely think that a fair amount of you will like it.



  1. I know a lot of people who love Taylor Stevens' work so I'll probably try one of her books before it's all over with.

  2. Good plan. I'll be interested to hear what you think.

  3. Thanks for reading and reviewing Pandemic! I appreciate it. And I'm a fan of The Princess of Las Pulgas, too. :)


    1. Yvonne, I will be happy to read any of your future novels and follow with a blog post.

  4. Not all of Stevens' books take place in Africa. Buenos Aires for 2 and Europe for 3. It felt like the series came home when 4 went back to Africa.

  5. Whoops, my bad. I only read 1 and 4, and they both took place in Africa. I made an assumption. And you know what they say about people who assume...