Provided for Review: Highfire by Eoin Colfer

In the days of yore, he flew the skies and scorched angry mobs—now he hides from swamp tour boats and rises only with the greatest reluctance from his Laz-Z-Boy recliner. Laying low in the bayou, this once-magnificent fire breather has been reduced to lighting Marlboros with nose sparks, swilling Absolut in a Flashdance T-shirt, and binging Netflix in a fishing shack. For centuries, he struck fear in hearts far and wide as Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie—now he goes by Vern. However…he has survived, unlike the rest. He is the last of his kind, the last dragon. Still, no amount of vodka can drown the loneliness in his molten core. Vern’s glory days are long gone. Or are they?

A canny Cajun swamp rat, young Everett “Squib” Moreau does what he can to survive, trying not to break the heart of his saintly single mother. He’s finally decided to work for a shady smuggler—but on his first night, he witnesses his boss murdered by a crooked constable.

Regence Hooke is not just a dirty cop, he’s a despicable human being—who happens to want Squib’s momma in the worst way. When Hooke goes after his hidden witness with a grenade launcher, Squib finds himself airlifted from certain death by…a dragon?

The swamp can make strange bedfellows, and rather than be fried alive so the dragon can keep his secret, Squib strikes a deal with the scaly apex predator. He can act as his go-between (aka familiar)—fetch his vodka, keep him company, etc.—in exchange for protection from Hooke. Soon the three of them are careening headlong toward a combustible confrontation. There’s about to be a fiery reckoning, in which either dragons finally go extinct—or Vern’s glory days are back.

This book was provided for review by the author and the kind people at NetGalley. Thank you!

The copy of Highfire reviewed was an Uncorrected Proof provided by NetGalley. Any changes done after distribution were done at the discretion of the author and the publisher.

Being from the state of Louisiana, I am always interested in books (and movies and TV shows) that are set in this state. I almost always find myself comparing the fiction with the truth. Sometimes the two are so far apart as to be laughable and sometimes the two are actually quite close. When this happens, it is always a pleasant surprise.

Highfire is one of those books where fact and fiction are fairly close. At least when it comes to South Louisiana. And while Colfer does take a few small liberties (dancing alligators) for the most part his portrayal of this little corner of the world is pretty accurate.

Thankfully, Colfer sets the scene in the bayou backwaters around the city of New Orleans. It is much easier to fudge things here since the waterways are constantly changing. What doesn’t change is how the people there live and Colfer seems to get this mostly right. He does not try to make any one character sound too ridiculous or have a bizarre accent that no one down here has. There is a certain cadence to South Louisiana speech that Colfer did try to capture in the first part of the novel and it did not feel natural. Thankfully, the prose shifted away from that later on.

The characters that inhabit Highfire are all unique. It is very easy to cheer for Squib and Vern. Likewise, it is very easy to jeer at Sheriff Hooke. There is one particular character I would have liked to see more of before their departure – not named here because of spoilers. They provided a good dose of humor in to what could have become a too heavy story.

I really enjoyed reading Highfire by Eoin Colfer. Because this is a fantasy with a dragon, the action does go over the top in some scenes. Yet it is done in a way that is also kind of believable. The end is also left open with the understanding that we might once again visit the bayous of South Louisiana and a vodka swilling dragon. I certainly hope so.

Provided for Review: Ten Days Gone (A.L. McKittridge #1) by Beverly Long

They know exactly when he’ll strike… They just have to find him first.

In all their years working for the Baywood police department, detectives A.L. McKittridge and Rena Morgan have never seen anything like it. Four women dead in forty days, each killed ten days apart. With nothing connecting the victims and very little evidence, the clock is already counting down to when the next body drops. A.L. and Rena will have to act fast if they’re going to find the killer’s next victim before he does.

But identifying the killer’s next likely target is only half the battle. With pressure pushing in from all sides, a promising breakthrough leads the detectives to Tess Lyons, a woman whose past trauma has left her too damaged to appreciate the danger she’s in. Unwilling to let another woman die, A.L. and Rena will put everything on the line to keep Tess safe and end the killer’s deadly spree once and for all–before time runs out again. 

This book was provided for review by Netgalley. Thank you!

Trigger Warnings – mentions of abuse (physical and sexual), mention of animal death,

While I do enjoy reading the occasional murder mystery, police procedural novels haven’t always been my cup of tea. Some of the ones I’ve read over the years have been rather dry and never seemed to hold my interest. When I saw Ten Days Gone available on Netgalley, I decided to take a chance on it. And I am quite glad I did.

Ten Days Gone follows Detectives McKittridge and Morgan as they race against time to find a serial killer lurking in their mid-sized Wisconsin town. The killer has already taken the lives of four women, each murder spaced exactly ten days apart. With no clear connection between them, the two detectives are in a race against time to try and determine who the next victim will be.

Like many book and television police dramas, Ten Days Gone starts in the middle of the action. The fourth victim has just been found and we the reader join the two detectives as they must try and find what joins this new person to the previous victims. Like many television police dramas there is a good deal of talking, of going over evidence and discovering new clues. This book is very conversation heavy. It relies more on the detectives as well as other characters talking – either on the phone or in person – to convey information. Many writers use a “show, don’t tell” approach where with Ms. Long, the opposite approach is used.

Ten Days Gone is certainly not for every reader. It is a dark book, one that deals with subjects that might not be comfortable for some. Those readers who do enjoy a well paced thriller that will keep you guessing until the end would likely enjoy this book. I personally liked the characters very much and will be keeping an eye out for further books in the series.

Warlock Holmes – My Grave Ritual (Warlock Holmes #3) by G.S. Denning

As they blunder towards doom, Warlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson find themselves inconvenienced by a variety of eldritch beings. Christmas brings a goose that doesn’t let being cooked slow it down; they meet an electricity demon, discover why being a redhead is even tricker than one might imagine, and Holmes attempts an Irish accent. And, naturally, Moriarty is hanging around… in some form or other. 

My Grave Ritual by G.S. Denning is the third book in the ever popular Warlock Holmes series. In it, Denning once again takes the much loved Conan Doyle stories and gives them a macabre and monstrous twist that would do horror authors like H.P. Lovecraft proud.

Much like the original stories, these are also told from the point of view of Dr. Watson. One story however is from the crayon scribbled journals of Warlock Holmes, giving us an insight in to the mind of such a unique character. Funnily enough, aside from how the story ends, Denning’s version strays very little from the original Doyle version.

While some characteristics of both Holmes and Watson have been switched around, one thing does remain true. And that is how highly Holmes and Watson regard one another. How much each man cares for the other, both as a friend and as a work partner.

So far I have been greatly enjoying reading the adventures of Warlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. Mr. Denning has done a lovely job of giving us readers a new version of these characters while still staying true to what makes them unique. I look forward to reading further stories of these two and seeing what kind of mischief and mayhem they get in to next.

Provided for Review: Chuck Steak by Casper Pearl

This book was provided for review by the author. Thank you!

Meet Chuck Steak. His insides are well done. He’s a cop, but not just any. He’s the best. Hasn’t been one like him since the ‘90s. Won’t work with partners and disregards the collateral damage his boss is always screaming about.

Chuck Steak is USDA Prime badass, so having a bomb planted inside Mia, his secret, longtime girlfriend who’s been dreaming of marriage for almost a decade, should be just another day at the office. The problem is, an elusive villain challenges Chuck to deliver Mia’s dream wedding within a week’s time, or she’ll blow.

Overwhelmed with “girly tasks”, Chuck’s forced out of his action-heavy comfort zone and into scenarios which require words instead of bullets. One results in the loss of his right hand, and when it’s replaced with a black hand, this white cop (now .65% black) encounters a new kind of villain: racism.

With time against him, Chuck will have to find a non-violent way to convince the love of his life and her disapproving family that this isn’t another publicity stunt—that after all of these years, it’s finally time to ditch the legacy he’s been slaving over in favor of the family she’s always dreamed of. All while overcoming unexpected hurdles like his own department and their trigger-happy mentality toward minorities, backstories, a feminist gang, incredibly friendly Muslims, dementia, depression, gender equality, and trying to maintain action-orientated roots in an increasingly politically correct world.

Any person who grew up watching movies in the 1980’s and 1990’s will easily recognize a character like Chuck Steak. He’s a man’s man – the lone wolf who doesn’t work well with others and consistently ignores any one who tries to tell him what to do. The only person he shows any kind of softness with is a woman who is the love of his life and when her safety comes in under attack, he moves Heaven and Earth to get to her.

Reading Chuck Steak reminded me of every one of those movies I watched when I was younger. Pearl has taken practically every cliche and maxed them out as far as they can go. One would think this would make a book that is practically unreadable, but somehow it works. There were plenty of times I found myself rolling my eyes as I recognized one trope or another. Yes, it does get ridiculous during some chapters, but for me that’s what made it an enjoyable read.

Characters and plot aside, Pearl has an excellent grasp of storytelling. There were only a handful of times where the story became a bit disjointed and that generally happened in the jump from one chapter to another. Otherwise, his prose is smooth while still keeping the hectic pace that many action movies have.

The way Chuck Steak is set up, it looks to be the first in a series and according to Goodreads there is a second book. If it is just as frenetic and fast paced as the first one, I can see it becoming a popular series.