Monthly Archives: April 2015

An Irish Murder Mystery With A Twist! 

RedStarReviews is happy to bring you a special guest review by FrenchFryWife

The Likeness by Tana French 

Tana French made a splash with her debut novel In the Woods, which circles two mysteries and ends with raising even more questions. It is the first in French’s multi book set, which is (awesomely) titled The Dublin Murder Squad Series. The Likeness picks up shortly after ITW and follows Cassie Maddox, a previous undercover detective who now works domestic violence. She is called to a crime scene that normally wouldn’t involve her unit because of a highly unusual find: the murder victim looks exactly like Cassie and has an ID card with her old undercover alias.

 

Realizing an amazing opportunity to (literally) walk in the victim’s shoes, Cassie’s former boss Frank Mackey convinces her to impersonate “Lexie Madison” in an attempt to solver her murder. The police claim that Lexie made a miraculous recovery at the hospital and doesn’t remember much from the evening of the attack. Cassie returns to the house shared by Lexie and her four roommates, a motley crew of grad students who are the main suspects. Cassie falls easily in step with her new lifestyle and begins digging through Lexie’s world to find information leading to her tragic death. It’s not long before the line between Cassie and “Lexie” blurs, putting the murder case and Cassie’s life in danger.

 

First off, you must know that it’s not required to read In the Woods before starting this book because all the major plot points are discussed. However, if you enjoy rich character development and back story, I highly recommend it. I really enjoyed The Likeness because it weaves through shady pasts and mind games. At first I found myself wondering which of the roommates were lying, but later found myself much more interested in why. The odd group of friends can seem at once fiercely loyal and inseparable. Then, like a light switch, they are guarded and vague with each other.

 

For a good portion of the story, there is much more psychological play than real action. It may seem slow for some readers but I liked falling down the rabbit hole with Cassie. The one true problem I had was suspending belief for the basic premise: the idea that a total stranger, no matter how talented, could replace another person so convincingly that even the people who saw her every day would not know.  Frank holds a boot camp of sorts and in just a few days, Cassie masters Lexie’s cadence, accent, laugh, and dry humor. To be fair, she falters a few times but Cassie recovers with quick thinking. To be more fair, my favorite movie is about a theme park with dinosaurs so I will not begin casting stones.

 

The Likeness is that special type of book where I was hungry to know the truth but didn’t want the story to end. I look forward to continuing French’s series and meeting more quirky, authentically Irish, and sometimes homicidal characters. If you are looking for a murder mystery with layers of psychological intrigue, I highly recommend The Likeness. 

  

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Rocketship To Nowhere (My thoughts on the Hugos)

If you aren’t a fan of SciFi books then you may have never heard of the Hugo Awards before. They are a very prestigious and coveted award amongst SciFi writers and typically the Hugo Award winners list is comprised of excellent books to read. We’re  talking Arthur C Clarke, Frank Herbert, Ann Leckie, Isaac Asimov, Ursula K Le Guin, Neil Gaiman, the list goes on and on with excellent writers. And right now the Hugo Awards are under attack.

 

This year the Hugo Awards have been tainted by a group of very militantly political people who apparently feel that minority writers (women, people of color, LGBTQ people, etc) and stories that feature minorities have won too many Hugos in recent years. So they have banded together, named themselves the Sad Puppies, come up with a way to game the system and get their books and books of authors that they feel share their particular political views to be nominated on all of the categories available.  

 

It is worth pausing for a moment to discuss the Hugo Awards and who gets to vote on them. Basically the members of the WorldCon convention are able to nominate and vote on who should win. You don’t have to actually attend the convention as you can buy voting rights for $40.00 so essentially anyone who is interested in voting on the Hugo Awards can for a nominal fee. Through the years this has lead to a wide variety of works obtaining nominations and (I feel) a very fair representation of what is popular and of interest to SciFi fans being nominated for and winning the awards. Normally I would give greater consideration to a Hugo Award Winner’s work than I would otherwise. A link to the Hugo Awards website describing the history of their voting process is here: http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-history/a-short-history-of-the-hugo-awards-process/

 

Now fast-forward back to the present. This militant political group (the Sad Puppies) has decided to try and game the system by taking their slate of suggested works to their fans and to people of same political bent as they (whether they are SciFi fans or not) and having them buy a voting membership just to push their own political views upon SciFi. The primary leaders of this movement have a few historical feuds with other members of the SciFi writing community. Much has been made about this elsewhere and the only perspective I bring is as an outsider looking in. That perspective doesn’t favor the individuals attempting to hijack the Hugos. 


Overall this is a very sad situation. Multiple authors whose works are worthy of consideration and actually were nominated have decided to withdraw their stories from this year’s Hugo’s so as not to be tainted by the controversy and to keep from being associated in any way with these Sad Puppies. I respect that sacrifice by them very much. I also understand any author that chooses to remain on the ballots and attempt to give the voters choices other than the Sad Puppies nominees. It is a difficult situation to be in for an author. 


I’ve mostly stayed on the sidelines observing the back and forth between the Sad Puppies and the SciFi community as a whole. However I feel it worthwhile to use my (small) platform to speak out against this and say that while the Sad Puppies may be observing the letter of the Hugo laws they are trashing the spirit of those laws. I am truly saddened by this event and wish that this disgracefully immature behavior by the Sad Puppies was not taking place. 


My protest, small though it may be, is to consciously avoid purchasing, reading, reviewing, or supporting any of the works that the leaders of the Sad Puppies have created or will create. They can (and have) flung around their arguments and justifications and after looking over them I find them to be lacking and find their actions reprehensible. As such I intend to not provide them with any financial aide or positive publicity. 


In the end as a lifelong SciFi fan, reader, and reviewer my only power I have is my money and my platform. And people who think this is the way to behave will have neither. 


My hope is the the Hugos return to what they are truly meant to be and are again the prestigious awards for deserving authors that they have been in the past. My hope is that shameful acts such as those orchestrated by the Sad Puppies fall by the wayside. My hope is that seeing Hugo Winner posted upon a worthy work will again mean something positive about the quality of the work. 


For further reading upon this issue here is a link to Susan Grigsby’s blog about it. She does a wonderful job breaking it all down: http://m.dailykos.com/story/2015/04/13/1376743/-Freeping-the-Hugo-Awards 

 

  

 

 

A Bright Star, An Incredible Book

For my first Stars In The Sky review highlighting independent authors and their works I selected The Crown Of Stones Magic Price by C.L. Schneider. I am thankful that I did. 
The characters are beautifully flawed and fully realized. The conversations are fluid and move the story along. The action is fast paced and well described. The magical system is understandable and interesting. The world is well constructed and rich with the unexplored vistas of ancient history that you desire in a first class fantasy novel. 
So you have all of the elements needed to weave together an enjoyable and engaging story, the question that remains: Is the author able to weave all of these elements together into a story that you want to read? 
The answer is an unhesitating yes. A resounding yes. I tip my hat to C.L. Schneider and say thank you for an excellent story and for setting so high of a bar for my search for quality independent stories. 
Ian Troy is a tortured and gifted soul. Blessed or possibly cursed with powerful magical abilities and a legacy of destruction and death. After spending years of his life trying to distance himself from who he is and what he has done he is brought face to face with these things and pushed beyond his limits to endure. He is one that can cause empires to rise and fall with his choices regardless of if he wants to be a part of it or not. 
You’ll find yourself enjoying the characters, hoping for the best while fearing what might come next. This story is a fine addition to any collection with its eye catching cover and name, and is a fantastic book to read. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the storyline and anything more this author chooses to write! 
The Crown Of Stones Magic Price by C.L. Schneider is the first of the Stars In The Sky series of reviews, and it is a very bright star that is well worth your notice. Be on the lookout for my next independent author review in May!