Book Review: The Lost Eye of the Serpent by Jeremy Phillips

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Title: The Lost Eye of the Serpent
Series: The Rose Delacroix Files: Book One

Author: Jeremy Phillips
Publisher: Limitless Publishing

Publication Date: August 6, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Historical, Young Adult

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the-lost-eye-of-the-serpentThe Lost Eye of the Serpent
The Rose Delacroix Files Book One
Jeremy Phillips
Limitless Publishing, August 2016
ISBN 978-1-68058-747-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

It may sound crazy, but Jonathan Delacroix is certain his sister Rose really is Sherlock Holmes…

Girls are not detectives. But in the summer of 1893, in the small western town of Hope Springs, Rose Delacroix is bound and determined to prove them all wrong. When the famous Emerald Serpent Jewels are stolen from the Delacroix family hotel and the blame lands solely on her older brother Bill, Rose recruits Jonathan as her Watson-like counterpart to solve the case.

Proving your brother innocent is difficult when the evidence keeps stacking up against him…

Before Rose and Jonathan can properly start their investigation, another robbery is committed. The rusty revolver purported to have once belonged to Wild Bill Hickok has been stolen from the general store and found hidden amongst her brother’s belongings. With Bill in jail, and the owner of the Serpent Jewels planning to sue the Delacroix hotel, Rose knows she has to find a lead, and soon.

A witness comes forward claiming they saw Bill steal the jewels, but Rose isn’t about to be bullied into ignoring the facts…

Rose and Jonathan must put their sleuthing skills to the test or witness their family fall to ruin due to…

…the lost eye of the serpent.

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Book Reviews: Books 1 and 2 of the New World Series by G. Michael Hopf

The EndThe End
 Book 1 of the New World Series
A Postapocalyptic Novel
G. Michael Hopf
Plume, January 2014
ISBN 978-0-14-218149-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

What would you do to survive?

Young Gordon Van Zandt valued duty and loyalty to country above all, so after 9/11, he dropped out of college and joined the Marine Corps. This idealism vanished one fateful day in a war-torn city in Iraq. Ten years later, he is still struggling with the ghosts of his past when a new reality is thrust upon him and his family: North America, Europe and the Far East have all suffered a devastating Super-EMP attack, which causes catastrophic damage to the nation’s power grid and essential infrastructures. Everything from cell phones to cars to computers cease to function, putting society at a standstill.

With civilization in chaos, Gordon must fight for the limited and fast dwindling resources. He knows survival requires action and cooperation with his neighbors, but as the days wear on, so does all sense of civility within his community—and so he must make some of the most difficult decisions of his life in order to ensure his family’s safety. 

Rarely have I been so conflicted about a book and I fear it won’t get any better with the second novel. At its core, this is a strong post-apocalyptic story with tension running higher and higher with every day that passes after the EMP attack but, sadly, the plot can’t make up for the flaws in most of the characters.

Put simply, the women are useless unless overrun with power madness and the men are overbearing bullies, manly men who always know best. There are exceptions, of course, Sebastian and Jimmy being the most obvious, but Gordon, as likeable and dependable as he can be, knows no boundaries to his superior knowledge. Then there’s the President of the United States who is an uncontrollable hothead and, like Gordon, will listen to no one else’s opinion. And the women? Apparently, not one is capable of lifting a finger for her own survival, much less anyone else’s, unless someone dares to threaten her child and then Mama Bear comes out. Where are all the women we see around us every day who are perfectly capable of going on supply runs, wielding a weapon with accuracy, coming to the defense of others, driving a vehicle, for heaven’s sake?? Samantha’s only roles, apparently, are to look after Hunter and Haley (perfectly understandable) and whisper sweet nothings into Gordon’s ear while Mindy is the stereotypical HOA witch. Only Simone seems as though she could be somewhat useful but her role is very limited.

And this is the source of my conflict—I think the plot is really good and gives a good picture of how society would fall apart in such a situation but the characters are SO hard to care about. I understand that someone like Gordon who has a military background and experience with hostilities might be best suited to lead others in the quest for survival but it’s difficult to overlook his trigger-happiness and his inability to EVER admit he might be wrong. President Conner is easier to understand because he’s been thrust into a frightening situation he never thought could happen but it’s even more terrifying to contemplate how unwilling those surrounding him are to confront him when he insists on action that will bring our destruction even faster. Perhaps Lt. Colonel Barone is the easiest of the main characters to understand as I have no doubt some military leader somewhere would mutiny and attempt to “rule”.

When all is said and done, the story is interesting enough to keep me reading so I’ll move on to the next book, The Long Road. Maybe these people will start to grow on me. At the very least, I want to see what will happen with Sebastian, Gordon’s brother, who’s trying desperately to get back to his only family.

 

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.

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The Long RoadThe Long Road
Book 2 of the New World Series
A Postapocalyptic Novel
G. Michael Hopf
Plume, January 2014
ISBN 978-0-14-218150-8Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

The End was just the beginning of the new world…

Only six weeks have passed since a super-EMP attack devastated the United States, but already, life has changed dramatically. Most of America has become  a wasteland filled with starving bands of people, mobs and gangs. Millions are dead and millions more are suffering, with no end in sight.

For Gordon, Samantha, Sebastian, Cruz and Barone, the turmoil and chaos they dealt with in the early weeks after the attack will seem trivial in comparison to the collapse of society that plays out before their eyes. Uncertainty abounds as they all travel different paths in search of a safe place to call home. The only thing that is definite is that The Long Road will take its toll on all of them.

In The End, the EMP attack happens on December 5, 2014, and the small band under Gordon’s leadership leaves San Diego on January 6, 2015 . How is it possible that both the author and the publisher could fail to notice that the dates in this second novel are wrong all the way through? The first one concludes in January 2015; the story continues in January 2014 (after the introductory chapter with Haley) and it is not a flashback. I could understand an error getting past all eyes one time but this was previously self-published so it’s had more than just the publisher/author round of proofing. Chapter after chapter, the error goes on and that pulled me out of the story more than anything else could. It’s just sloppy and makes me feel that neither the author nor the publisher cared enough to correct it which is certainly easy enough to do in the digital editions if not the paperback and surely I’m not the first reader to notice this. (Note: I didn’t just get an uncorrected copy—the sample on Amazon is the same.)

Another dating issue occurs on January 16th when a mention is made that one of the groups has been camped out for eleven days but they had just reached that spot on January 8th.

Faction leaders—Lt. Col. Barone, Bishop Sorenson, Rahab, Cruz, Pablo Jaurez, Gordon—all must be in control and all are victims of madness to varying degrees except for Cruz, who is just very weak, and Bishop Sorenson. He is a kindly man, too kindly for the circumstances, but it was a relief to find one person in a position of leadership who truly cared for other people.

The one person who is consistently an honorable man is Sebastian and perhaps he and the bishop represent the minority that would be trying to survive with decency while all the others are the types we would most likely encounter in a post-apocalyptic world. Rahab is the scary monster living under the bed but Barone and Jaurez are the men truly to be feared. Gordon, the supposed hero of the story, is frightening if only because he is so deadly and can’t control himself. His impulses, as often as not, lead to terrible consequences.

This part of the story covers just 10 days which I also found disappointing and, quite honestly, far too many pages are devoted to those 10 days. Still, with all my negative feelings about this book and its predecessor, I am completely caught up and need to know what will happen next; despite everything else, this is the hallmark of a good story, to be compelled to read on. I’ll be picking up Sanctuary as soon as I can.

 

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

Book Review: A Fistful of Collars by Spencer Quinn

A Fistful of Collars
Spencer Quinn
Atria Books, September 2012
ISBN 978-1-4516-6516-1
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Hoping to bring some Tinseltown money to the Valley, the mayor lures a movie studio to town to shoot their next production, a big-budget Western in the classic tradition. The star is none other than ruggedly handsome—and notoriously badly behaved—Thad Perry. When the mayor decides that someone needs to keep an eye on Thad so that he doesn’t get into too much trouble, Bernie and Chet are handpicked for the job. The money is good but something smells fishy, and what should have been a simple matter of babysitting soon gets more complicated—especially when they discover that Thad has a mysterious connection to the Valley that nobody wants to talk about. What kind of secret could Thad have left behind when he went to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune? The only people who might know the answer have a bad habit of turning up dead before they can talk.

As Bernie’s relationship with his longtime girlfriend Suzie goes long-distance, and Chet’s late-night assignations appear to have resulted in an unexpected dividend, it’s all our two sleuths can do to keep Thad and his motley entourage of yes-men, handlers, and hangers-on in their sights. Worst of all, Thad is a self-proclaimed cat person, and his feline friend Brando has taken an instant dislike to Chet.

Books featuring animals, particularly dogs and cats, are very popular with many readers. Especially in the mystery field, they appear as major characters, talking among themselves and sometimes to their favorite humans and frequently they sleuth with vim and vigor. Do readers find this entertaining? A lot of us do but there are also many who wouldn’t read one of these books  under any circumstances. Usually, it’s because they don’t like the aspect of the animals acting like humans.

And then there’s Chet.

Chet and Bernie make an unusual pair of detectives and, yes, Chet does contribute to their investigations but not through supernatural or Beatrix Potterish means. Chet is a K-9 school flunkee so he “knows” a bit about detective work but he is, in fact, a dog and his sleuthing generally involves him pursuing normal dog routines, such as following scents. What makes Chet different in the mystery novel arena is (1) his close bond with Bernie and (2) his narration of the story.

Seeing and hearing the story through Chet’s eyes and voice is fun, especially when he ruminates on the strange ways of Bernie and other humans and offers his observations on life during the investigations, not to Bernie but to the reader. The enticing things that distract him at any given moment, squirrels and burgers and so forth, add to the charm and his devotion to Bernie (and Bernie’s devotion to Chet) is completely natural.

Is this a gripping, intellectual thriller? No, not at all, but the puzzle and the resultant inquiries are engaging. Add in the pleasures of Chet’s and Bernie’s partnership and the reader will enjoy a few hours of pure entertainment with more than the occasional smile. I’ve had fun with every Chet and Bernie Mystery so far and A Fistful of Collars is another good one.

Oh, and you don’t want to miss Brando the cat.

(Psst. Check out Quinn‘s new short story, A Cat Was Involved, to finally learn how Chet failed K-9 school.)

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2012.

Book Review: The Dog Who Knew Too Much by Spencer Quinn—and a Giveaway!!

This review originally ran in December 2011. The paperback is out now and,

if you leave a comment below, you’ll have a chance to win a copy.

The Dog Who Knew Too Much
Spencer Quinn
Atria Books, September 2011
ISBN 978-1-4391-5709-1
Hardcover (eARC)

Chet and Bernie of the Little Detective Agency are on the case again, this time in search of a little boy who has gone missing from a wilderness camp up in the mountains. The boy’s mom, Anya, had hired Bernie as a bodyguard because she thought her ex might snatch the child but it doesn’t take the detective duo long to discover that something much more sinister is going on. There’s no doubt that Devin is missing but evidence of bullying leads to questions of camp management. Chet and Bernie set out with the trail guide to find Devin but Bernie then begins to see signs that the camp’s director and the trail guide are not being entirely forthcoming and perhaps criminal activity is afoot.

Chet is the next to disappear and Bernie is arrested and charged with murder after a body is found in an abandoned mine. It’s up to Chet to escape his kidnappers—which he does in typically clever Chet fashion—and find a way to rescue Bernie with a little help from Bernie’s almost-girlfriend, Suzie.

The Dog Who Knew Too Much is the fourth in the series and the first to have a real, nail-biter mystery—the first three were wonderful, eminently readable books but a bit lightweight in the suspense arena.The charm of a Chet and Bernie mystery, though, lies largely in Chet’s interpretations of the world around him and that’s no less the case in this installment: when Anya says she used to wish time would stop and the only thing left of the sandwiches she, Bernie and Chet have been eating is the crust of one egg salad sandwich, Chet pegs her as a risk taker.

And just who is that puppy who looks suspiciously like Chet?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2011.

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Leave a comment below to enter the drawing for a

paperback copy of The Dog Who Knew Too Much

by Spencer Quinn. The winning name will be drawn

on the evening of Tuesday, August 21st.

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Look for the next installment in the Chet and Bernie series,

A Fistful of Collars, coming September 11, 2012.

Book Review: Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn

Thereby Hangs a Tail
Spencer Quinn
Atria Books, September 2010
ISBN 9781416585862
Trade Paperback

It’s a dog’s life in the desert with plenty of treats to eat, javelinas to chase, fellow pooches to befriend…and don’t forget murder. View the world through a dog’s eyes and watch him get excited about taking on a new case with the smartest human in the room. Spencer Quinn comes out with another winner with the second in the Chet and Bernie series.

Chet and his owner Bernie Little are hired to protect Adelina Borghese’s prizewinning pooch, Princess. After Chet steals Princess’ treat, they are summarily fired. However, soon after, both Princess and her owner disappear. Then Bernie’s on again off again girlfriend, Suzie Sanchez, a reporter, also disappears after a desperate phone call. The trail leads to an old ghost town where Bernie is arrested and Chet is knocked out. Chet gets separated from Bernie and begins his own adventure. Discovering first Adelina’s dead body, then finding Princess, he subsequently runs into two hippies who sell him to a man bound to take Chet to Alaska.

Who killed Adelina? Where is Suzie? Where did Princess disappear to for the second time? How do a strange acting sheriff and his deputy in the next county tie into the case? Chet and Bernie track down the clues.

As with the first book in the series, the POV is first person, or rather, uh, dog… Quinn does an excellent job of unfolding the case while showing both Chet’s intelligence and his lack of knowledge in certain areas such as human language, memory on certain cases, and his inability to realize when he’s done something because it’s instinctual. Apparently, even though this is only the second book in the series, Chet and Bernie are veterans of investigative work with Chet remembering a lot of previous adventures. I love the humor and Chet’s quirks. I so wanted to read the first book and when I had the chance to buy the second I took it. I will definitely be buying the third and fourth books in the this series and hope there will be plenty more.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, January 2012.

Book Review: The Dog Who Knew Too Much by Spencer Quinn

The Dog Who Knew Too Much
Spencer Quinn
Atria Books, September 2011
ISBN 978-1-4391-5709-1
Hardcover (eARC)

Chet and Bernie of the Little Detective Agency are on the case again, this time in search of a little boy who has gone missing from a wilderness camp up in the mountains. The boy’s mom, Anya, had hired Bernie as a bodyguard because she thought her ex might snatch the child but it doesn’t take the detective duo long to discover that something much  more sinister is going on. There’s no doubt that Devin is missing but evidence of bullying leads to questions of camp management. Chet and Bernie set out with the trail guide to find Devin but Bernie then begins to see signs that the camp’s director and the trail guide are not being entirely forthcoming and perhaps criminal activity is afoot.

Chet is the next to disappear and Bernie is arrested and charged with murder after a body is found in an abandoned mine. It’s up to Chet to escape his kidnappers—which he does in typically clever Chet fashion—and find a way to rescue Bernie with a little help from Bernie’s almost-girlfriend, Suzie.

The Dog Who Knew Too Much is the fourth in the series and the first to  have a real, nail-biter mystery—the first three were wonderful, eminently readable books but a bit lightweight in the suspense arena.The charm of a Chet and Bernie mystery, though, lies largely in Chet’s interpretations of the world around him and that’s no less the case in this installment: when Anya says she used to wish time would stop and the only thing left of the sandwiches she, Bernie and Chet have been eating is the crusts of one egg salad sandwich, Chet pegs her as a risk taker.

And just who is that puppy who looks suspiciously like Chet?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2011.

Book Review: To Fetch a Thief by Spencer Quinn

To Fetch a Thief
Spencer Quinn
Atria, 2010
ISBN 978-1-4391-5707-7
Hardcover

Bernie Little and his 100-pound dog, Chet the Jet, are partners in the Little Detective Agency.  A bit odd, one might say – unless one has ‘met’ Chet in either or both of his two prior appearances, Dog on It and Thereby Hangs a Tail.  If one has encountered Chet previously, it is not at all odd – Chet has both natural instincts and other abilities gained through Bernie’s tutelage that make him an invaluable asset.  When last seen, they had been hired to find a tiny show dog named Princess, which they successfully accomplished, of course.  This time around the missing “person” is another four-legged one:  Peanut, an African elephant [the largest ones in the world, apparently], and, incidentally, its trainer, a man with a reputation as the greatest, if not also the most humane, elephant trainer in the circus world.  [Both of them had been working in a family-owned traveling circus.]

Bernie is ex-Metro PD and a Vietnam Vet; Chet is an almost-graduate of K9 school, the ‘almost’ factor the result of an unfortunate incident on the very last day of school.  [In this entry, the reader is filled in on the day on which and the manner in which Chet and Bernie first met and got together.]  And as Chet keeps reminding us, they make a great team.

The immediate question is:  How does one hide an African elephant? Apparently, no one had seen anything amiss, or seen either Peanut or her trainer leaving the circus grounds.  Matters get more serious when the trainer’s dead body is found, the manner of death being as much a mystery as anything else:  He was fatally bitten by a snake not indigenous to any part of the United States.  A sub-plot deals with Charlie’s ex-wife and her impending marriage to a man who seems to have no interest in settling down with one woman, and Bernie fears his adored son may have an unstable household in his future, which cannot be allowed.

I am the first to admit that I am not enamored of books with talking animals, especially ones that solve crimes.  Chet is an absolute exception to that general preference, he is such a charmer, and a terrific and professional detective as well, as we find out yet again. This was such a welcome change from the spate of serial killers in my recent reading [good as they might have been]!  Chet, and the novel, are completely captivating, and the book is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2010.