Books

  • The Worried Man by Lisa M Lilly (Book Review)

    The Worried Man Book Cover The Worried Man
    Q.C Davis
    Lisa M. Lilly
    Mystery
    May 1, 2018

    The night before they plan to move in together, Quille finds the body of the man she loves dead in his apartment.

    Police point to his failed medical career and past alcoholism as evidence of suicide or accidental overdose. His ex-wife agrees.

    Marco’s son insists his father was stable, sober, and excited about his future with Quille.

    Suspicious of the police based on bitter experience, Quille vows to find the truth and help Marco’s son. Using her skills as an attorney and former stage actress, she investigates a world filled with fraud and corrupt Chicago politics.

    The closer she gets to the truth, though, the less likely she is to survive to tell it….

    The Worried Man Book Review

    The Worried Man by Lisa M. Lilly is the first book in a series about Quille/Q.C. Davis, an attorney in Chicago, whose boyfriend commits suicide on the night before they move in together. The book is anchored in Quille’s POV headspace as she mourns her lover, deals with the stress of handling his estate, and holds on to the hope that he didn’t kill himself. She takes up the task of not-so-quietly investigating either what could have triggered his alcoholic relapse–or who staged a potential crime scene to look like a suicide.

    Quille, as a young female attorney, is a very relatable character. She’s copes with the only tools she has– a keen eye for details that just seem off, her knowledge of the legal/political ties that Marco (her boyfriend) may have been tangled in, and her network of friends lending what they can (fellow lawyers and several close friends from her acting days).

    Lilly does a fantastic job showing the frustrating process of Quille’s investigation. Nothing is ever easy! As someone who’s worked in local government, I related to how Quille does her best to keep a smile on her face (despite the deep sadness she’s working through) while navigating red tape and people who don’t particularly feel like helping her out. The Worried Man weaves in a lot of secrets, many that Quille didn’t know about Marco, and we go on a journey as she tries to unravel which of these led to his death. The author demonstrates that no matter how well we know someone, people are complex. There are very plausible reasons why they would try to keep certain details of their life locked away, as Quille discovers.

    I generally stray away from mysteries, because I get frustrated and want to skip to the end! But the pace of The Worried Man, while slow in spots, did keep me engaged. With both a slice-of-life perspective on Quille’s day-to-day and the fascination of watching possible leads rise and fall… Quille’s persistence to find just one more lead left me rooting for her the entire time.

    The Worried Man is perfect for those who love a mystery anchored in reality (malpractice suits, political machinations, legal layers) with a heroine who is complicated, stubborn, smart, and struggles with her pursuit to prove that her boyfriend didn’t leave a loving son and herself behind.

    * * *

    I want granted a digital ARC of The Worried Man in exchange for an honest review. The Worried Man will be released on May 1, 2018 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

    If you would like me to review your book, you can email me or contact me on GoodReads.

  • Iron Cast by Destiny Soria (Book Review)

    Iron Cast Book Cover Iron Cast
    Destiny Soria
    Amulet Books
    October 11, 2016
    336

    In 1919, Ada Navarra—the intrepid daughter of immigrants—and Corinne Wells—a spunky, devil-may-care heiress—make an unlikely pair. But at the Cast Iron nightclub in Boston, anything and everything is possible. At night, on stage together, the two best friends, whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art, weave magic under the employ of Johnny Dervish, the club’s owner and a notorious gangster. By day, Ada and Corinne use these same skills to con the city’s elite in an attempt to keep the club afloat.

    When a “job” goes awry and Ada is imprisoned, she realizes they’re on the precipice of danger. Only Corinne—her partner in crime—can break her out of Haversham Asylum. But once Ada is out, they face betrayal at every turn.

    Iron Cast Review

    Iron Cast that takes place in an alternate 1919 Boston, where certain creative types (poets, musicians, artists, etc.) are seized by an affliction called hemopathy. Hemopaths are adored and feared. From creating realistic illusions by tricking minds with charged poetic language or even plucking objects out of paintings, the gifts are easily exploited for crime.

    Ada and Corrine are close friends and powerful hemopaths who use their double-edged gift working cons on unsuspecting civilians. They raise funds for the Cast Iron nightclub, a sanctuary for them in an era where their talent has been outlawed. Iron Cast anchors its magic against the majesty and social conflict of its pre-American Prohibition historical backdrop. This strikes especially for Ada, as a young black girl who isn’t afforded the same privileges outside the Cast Iron that Corinne is, hailing from an affluent family.

    I absolutely loved the beautifully indulgent language Soria uses. She make us feel like we’re alongside the characters, feeling their unique talents come to life from the softest poem, to the subtlest shift in appearance, from the loudest performances, to the monstrous illusions (especially in the desperate, dark moments of the story). I found myself buried into the book, captivated by just how much an underground society of artists are willing to risk to to continue their craft even when all odds have been stacked against them.

    While the novel starts slow, the build-up is worth it when the pieces come together. Soria is a fantastic writer and the twists tugged at my heart. The ending was also more satisfying than I anticipated. If you want to dive into a world where artists are infected by magic, working among gangsters and fleeing from a deadly police force, Iron Cast is your read. It weaves a wonderful world of suspense, magic, gorgeous writing, well-rounded female characters, and a few sucker punches along the way.

  • Mafia III: Plain of Jars Review + Meeting the Authors!

    Mafia III: Plain of Jars

    (Don’t read this summary if you want to go into Mafia III: Plain of Jars blind.)

    Mafia III: Plain of Jars

    Teaming up with his CIA handler,  John Donovan, Lincoln Clay leads a secret mission to take down a communist warlord on the edge of the legendary Plain of Jars in Laos. But he can’t do it alone. First, he has to win over the people of the village of Vang Khom, including the beautiful Sho. Then he has to form them into an army that can defeat the warlord’s superior forces, using nothing but his street-honed wits combined with the guerrilla tactics he’s learned in the jungle. Victory seems to be finally within his grasp when he is betrayed by one of his closest allies, leading to a wild chase and an epic confrontation out among the ancient monuments, where his former friend becomes one of the first to discover what grim fate awaits those who cross Lincoln Clay.

    Book Preview

    AKA: How Our Favorite Murder Husbands* Met

    As I’ve already discussed, Mafia III was one of my surprise gaming hits of this past year. It had fantastic writing, fun gameplay, complex characters (Lincoln Clay and John Donovan in particular!), and the political climate (Civil Rights Movement, dealing with racists, etc.) was very topical. I wanted more content, but the game wasn’t well-received due to some minor issues (that were later amended). Which meant fans like myself have been sitting idly by and wondering if there was going to be any additional content beyond the additional DLC (Faster Baby!, Stones Unturned, Sign of the Times).

    I’ve played through the entire game twice (working on a third in the future to get my platinum), and wanted more from the world: What about more war stories that show how Lincoln and Donovan met? Why not some stuff after Lincoln’s canon ending (ruling New Bordeaux with all 3 under-bosses working together)?

    Well, the fandom gods have been merciful and there is a Mafia III book out!

    Meeting the Authors

    Facebook’s creepy algorithm caught wind of my interest and showed me an ad from the official Mafia page that they had a dang NOVEL that had just released! (They’re also doing a giveaway on the publisher’s site, heads up!) On top of that, the book’s authors (Marsheila Rockwell and Jeff Mariotte), were scheduled to attend Tucson Comic-Con as guests! It was like the universe had shined down upon me as a Mafia III fan. 🙂 After confirming on Rockwell’s FB that they would be attending on Sunday (Rockwell and Mariotte are a married author power couple), I made plans to get the book in time to get signed by both of them.

    I made it about 7 chapters on the way down to Tucson (my husband was driving), just at the part where Lincoln meets Donovan. Using Brick Cave Media‘s awesome booth as a landmark, I made my way around the corner. Marsheila was there, and told me Jeff would be back soon. I said that I had the Mafia III book for them to sign, and she was excited to see it. She explained that they hadn’t received their copies from the publisher yet, and my copy was the first one they had seen in the wild. Awesome!

    Meeting the Authors

    Mafia III: Jar of Plains team Marsheila Rockwell and Jeff Mariotte (Photo from Rockwell’s official FB page)

    Great Writing Team to Tackle Lincoln’s Mafia III Prologue Story

    Some authors just kind of sign and let you go on your way without engaging. Jeff and Marcy were the opposite — they were interested to see what I thought about the book so far, as a fan of the game. I, conversely, was really curious about how they got to learn about the world as they wrote the book. How did they research the era, the characters, etc.–and they explained a lot behind the process, from watching the YouTube clips of dialogue and cutscenes to get a feel of the characters and finding more in-depth collective knowledge from the Wiki. They also did a lot of research into the era and military stuff, to cover operating in the middle of the Vietnam war coupled with the Civil Rights Movement at home (which they go into a little bit with Ellis in New Bordeaux).

    It took a few drafts of notes from the liscencer to hash out what direction the book should go. They also explained their take on some of the characters. They wanted Donovan to be more lawful-evil, the way the game highlights his darker moments in the name of “doing it for his country,” and I appreciated that they picked up on that from their research!

    It was just wonderful to know that the book was in good hands and not just rushed through, the way some other video game properties have been handled.

    Mafia III: Plain of Jars Review

    For those who haven’t played the game, Mafia III features a bi-racial protagonist, Lincoln Clay, who returns home to New Bordeaux (the game’s New Orleans) from Vietnam War. Lincoln, the adopted son of the leader of the black mob, goes on a vengeance spree with his war buddy, a CIA operative named John Donovan, after the ruling mafia kills his family and leaves him for dead after a successful heist. Mafia III: Plain of Jars covers how exactly Lincoln made his way through the Vietnam War on a Special Forces team before the game’s events, trying to find a semblance of belonging in a place of death and darkness.

    Mafia III: Plain of Jars kicks off with Lincoln as a private, right in the heat of the action in the jungle and doing what Lincoln does best–thinking fast and acting fierce in the heat of battle. His attitude draws the attention of his superior officer, starting a series of events and actions that gets him special training to run covert ops in a joint DOD/CIA collaboration that starts his friendship with CIA agent John Donovan. As we know from Mafia III, Donovan is the perfect handler and intel man for Lincoln, precisely because he is willing to break rules without a shred of guilt and has no issue helping Lincoln with civil warfare. Mafia III: Plain of Jars expands upon how this relationship developed.

    Impressions

    The story starts a little slow, building upon Lincoln’s POV as he works to gain his footing in Vietnam. For those who aren’t used to war stories, it takes a little adjustment. I was able to pluck some extra Vietnam War knowledge from Allen, whose dad served and flew Hueys. Stick with it! It’s a slow burn as the book works into what propels him to meet and work with Donovan, but once things get rolling the wait is ABSOLUTELY worth it.

    As a fan, there is a kick-off moment that expands upon some game POV that really delighted me. Honestly, after the initial world-building of Mafia III: Plain of Jars, the game tie-in moments are really fun. More like “Oooooh, the authors totally caught that Lincoln tends to do XYZ in game and found a way to expand upon it and make it part of his character development!”

    High Expectations Met

    Honestly, I had high expectations after how solid the writing and characters in Mafia III were, and Mafia III: Plain of Jars was a pleasant surprise.  Game novels can be hit and miss, but the writing flows well and feels well-researched. There are some bits that may seem redundant to veteran Mafia III players, such as some tidbits from Lincoln’s boyhood in New Bordeaux and being raised by Sammy and Father James, but I think it helps the readers who never finished the game or simply want to revisit those integral pieces to Lincoln’s evolution. It was also great seeing those in a new light, and tying them into Lincoln’s experience in Vietnam.

    The only item that appeared random to me was that Ellis (Ellis!) had some POV in the novel. I wasn’t expecting that, but Rockwell explained to me that Ellis was a way of fleshing out the novel with some of the Civil Rights Movement, which played a prominent role of the era and game. The moments are short and sweet, the primary focus of the novel is definitely Lincoln/Donovan.

    Cover Art

    Joe Jusko did a beautiful “pulp cover” style design for the Mafia III: Plain of Jars novel. It also ties into the art book style very nicely!

    Verdict: Highly Recommended

    Remember that excited pit in your stomach when Lincoln survived his coma, went to the burned-out husk of his childhood home, and you thought “oh, man, shit is going to go DOWN” when he pulled out his survival knife and cleaned up for urban warfare? Mafia III: Plain of Jars builds directly off of this. Lincoln has a history the game only showed us glimpses of, through Donovan’s hearing and Lincolns tactics/body language, and we finally get to see more through his own eyes.

    The novel holds up wonderfully for Mafia III fans and those new to the series who like the era/Vietnam war stories, especially for those who want enjoy how Lincoln and Donovan’s friendship developed before the events of the game!

     

    *If you played the game you know why I call them that. 😛 It’s our inside joke as we played.

  • Alien: Out of the Shadows (Audiobook Review)

    Allen and I desperately needed an audiobook to fill the silence of our road trip to SDCC this past weekend. I realized that I have been neglecting my Audible account, and had 5 credits available. Whoops! In order to meet a middle ground (we have different tastes), I decided to learn towards an Alien movie-verse book that had a performance cast– Alien: Out of the Shadows.

    Impressions

    Alien: Out of the Shadows occurs between Alien and Aliens and answers some questions about what took place behind-the-scenes. Additionally, it features how Ash, the Weyland-Yutani loyal science officer/android, wont surrender his objective of obtaining a sample of the alien.

    During Ripley’s slumber on the Narcissus, something directs her off-course and not directly to Earth, putting her in reach of a mining operation that is neck-deep in trouble with aliens. On top of this, there are collisions with some of their vehicles, making a quick escape unfeasible. Instead of waking up on Earth to unite with her daughter, poor Ripley has to walk from one trauma to another; realizing that she’s been sleeping for 37 years, and discovering that she just can’t escape these acid-blooded murder machines. With the expertise she developed in Alien, Ripley assists the miners the best way she can. It’s not easy with a Machiavellian android who wont leave her alone, but she and the miners have hope of finding a way back home in the abyss of space.

    The audiobook has some stellar performances. All of the voice actors are distinct, and the sound effects are top-notch! To fill in gaps of confusion, Ash does “mission reports” at the end of each chapter. He keeps the reader apprised of where his current objects of manipulating the situation to get his sample (including how Ripley stands, mentally and physically, in the face of more trouble).

    Overall, we enjoyed the story and managed to finish the book on our trip. The adventure does have it’s slow bits (for character development), but we grew attached enough to the characters to feel tension when they were in death traps and dire situations. If you’re a fan of this franchise, I definitely recommend a read!