Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ray's Reviews: Codex Born by Jim Hines and The Chocolate Book Bandit by JoAnna Carl

Two recent books are mostly set in Michigan but differ widely in style and concept. One's a contemporary urban fantasy involving magic and an unlikely hero while the other is a cozy mystery showcasing a busybody heroine.
Both utilize libraries as a significant part of the plot; dead bodies abound.

“Codex Born”, by Hugo-Award winning author Jim C. Hines (DAW Books, $24.95), is the sequel to his highly entertaining novel, “Libriomancer”, which introduced researcher Isaac Vainio.

A part-time librarian in the small Upper Peninsula town of Copper River, Vainio's earlier adventures were great fun.
This time out, the hero has considerably more problems, beginning with his investigation of a murdered wendigo, discovered by a pair of werewolves.

He's joined by his dryad girlfriend, Lena Greenwood, his pet fire-spider Smudge and a specialized psychiatrist, who make startling and deadly discoveries.

Vainio is a libriomancer, able to access magic out of books, but even his talents have limitations. Soon Vainio and his associates are on the run, struggling for survival against a vengeful enemy.

There's lots of fast-paced action as the conflict intensifies, with Vainio utilizing many literary sources to battle determined foes.

It's best to read “Libriomancer” first, to enjoy the context and understand Vainio's dilemmas. The exceptionally-talented author, who lives in Holt, has left the gates wide open for more exciting sequels.

“The Chocolate Book Bandit”, by JoAnna Carl (Obsidian, $22.95), is the 14th book in her popular series starring Lee McKinney Woodward, business manager for the Ten Huis Chocolade, a luxury chocolate shop located in the small Michigan town of Warner Pier.

Woodward's been offered a position on the town's library board. She goes to a meeting at the historic building to see what's happening.

Shortly after the meeting starts, it's interrupted by the screams of a clerk who's discovered the lifeless body of Abigail Montgomery at the bottom of a stairwell.

Montgomery was a retiring library board member; of course other members of the board, including the handsome new library director, are all likely suspects.

Woodward investigates; she's facing relationship challenges with her husband, but is determined to solve the case.

While there aren't many scenes in the chocolate shop, Carl does provide interspersed pages of entertaining and tasty chocolate trivia.

JoAnna Carl is the pseudonym for mystery author Eve K. Sandstrom.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, 
has reviewed novels by Michigan authors regularly since 1987.

Find these books and other great Michigan titles
at the Curious Book Shop, an independent 
book shop in East Lansing, founded in 1969.

Curious Book Shop
307 East Grand River Avenue
East Lansing, Michigan

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on November 24, 2013.