ARC REVIEW: Ochoco Reach – by Jim Stewart

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Title: Ochoco Reach
Author: Jim Stewart
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Crime
First published: September 1st 2015
Finished reading: October 26th 2015
Pages: 296
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“We are all the composite of our stories. It is who we are. Our stories carry the tracks we leave during our lifetimes. The most important of those tracks are in the hearts of our friends and our enemies.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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When I was approached earlier this month to read and review Ochoco Reach, the cover and blurb immediately appealed to me. The mystery/thriller genre is one of my favorites and both war on drugs and USA/Mexican border stories have always interested me. With its fast pace, interesting plot and well written prose, it is easy to say I really enjoyed this novel by Jim Stewart. The main characters are well developed and I especially liked the Native American elements and the dynamics between Mike, his brother Daniel, his dog Bucket and Willy. Mike can come over as a bit of a Rambo-clone at some points, but his character has a lot more depth than Sylvester Stallone. Ochoco Reach is what you call an action-packed pageturner where the main character has to rescue his client from a cartel boss: a guarantee for some very interesting action and shooting scenes. There are some unexpected plot twists as well, making this a very entertaining read and perfect for those who enjoy the genre.

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Mike Ironwood is a freelance investigator and has just agreed to investigate some suspicious movements at a beautiful stranger’s family cattle ranch. Both the case and the woman named Willy are intriguing, and Mike soon finds himself more than involved in the case. When things turn more and more ugly and federal investigators seem to be involved, Mike smells trouble… And his fears come true when Willy is kidnapped and taken to Mexico. Mike is determined to rescue Willy, a woman that is no longer just his client but also the woman he is falling in love with… And he asks his brother Daniel for help. Will they be able to find Willy on time and rescue her from the cartel jefe?

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Ochoco Reach is a well written and very entertaining read filled with action, (gun)fights and the right dose of emotions. The plot and Native American/spiritual elements made this story into something quite original and the many plot twists kept me interested until the very end. If you are looking for a good mystery/thriller read, I would definitely recommend this novel!

BOOK REVIEW: The Dark Wind – by Tony Hillerman

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Title: The Dark Wind
(Navajo Mysteries Series #5)
Author: Tony Hillerman
Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Thriller
First published: 1982
Finished reading: December 10th 2014
Pages: 290
Rating 3,5

“Then, as he thought it through all the way, through from the east, the south, the west, and the north, and back to the east again, just as his uncle had taught him, he saw that it might help. Everything must have a reason. Nothing was done without a cause.”

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It’s not the first time I read a book by Tony Hillerman. I read Hunting Badger last year and I remember enjoying the Native American elements in that novel. The Dark Wind is no exception; the same Native American elements makes this novel stand out from other treasure hunt stories. It is quite easy to understand this story without reading the previous books of the Navajo Mysteries series; I haven’t done so myself and I didn’t feel I was missing important information. The Dark Wind is an entertaining, although sometimes a tad slow read that gives you a glimpse of how things work in the Native American community. And exactly that cultural information makes this novel worth reading.

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Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police has been transferred to a new area just as things get complicated. A dead body that shows signs of Navajo sorcery has been found on Hopi land… And as Jim Chee is investigating a chain of strange attacks on a windmill, an airplane crashes close to the crime scene. The crash turns out to be drugs related, and things make a turn for the worse when the shipment of cocaine vanishes without a trace. Chee is convinced everything is connected, but his boss doesn’t want him to get involved in the federal investigation. But they get to him anyway, and soon Chee is not only determined to figure out what really happened, but also trying not to get killed in the process…

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The Dark Wind was an interesting read full of cultural references, and these Native American elements made up for most of the flaws. The pace is a bit slow at points and not all scenes and characters are actually believable… But all in all Hillerman managed to write an entertaining novel that is worth reading, especially if you are interested in the Native American culture.

BOOK REVIEW: American Gods – by Neil Gaiman

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Title: American Gods
(American Gods Series #1)
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fiction, Mythology, Science Fiction
First Published: June 19th 2001
Finished reading: May 26th 2014
Pages: 592
Rating 4,5

“There’s never been a true war that wasn’t fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.”

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I actually finished this book two days ago, but with the flue eating my brains during the last few days it’s hard to get any words on paper. But I’m going to give it a try… American Gods was recommended to me some time ago, and I’m always glad to find new authors and titles I haven’t heard of previously. And I must say I’m pleasantly surprised with the writing skills of Neil Gaiman. He’s able to both create a fantasy world you get sucked into and still giving us actual facts about different religions, cultures and myths without slowing down the story. Gaiman tries to explain that ‘nobody is really American, or at least not originally’, and that there is no limit to the amount of old and new Gods roaming the vast lands of America. Although he makes it clear through the words of the main character Shadow that it’s a ‘bad land for Gods‘… The story might get confusing sometimes, since it switches between the adventures of a man called Shadow and the stories of the different Gods and cultures that exist in America. But American Gods still is highly enjoyable.

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We start following Shadow when he is about to be released from prison. Instead of going back home to his wife Laura, he is told she died in a car crash together with his good friend (who she was having an affair with). A mysterious man called Wednesday then offers a job to him he cannot refuse, and soon he learns that Wednesday is a whole lot more than just mysterious. He is actually an ancient God called Odin the All-Father. He is on a mission to recrute old Gods for an epic battle between the old and new Gods of the internet and everything wired, and asks Shadow to help him.

They then start a road trip where they encounter all kinds of ancient cultures, myths and Gods from different places around the world people brought with them when they settled down in America. Shadow is forced to start believing, since a lot of strange things seem to happen as he is following Wednesday. His dead wife doesn’t cease to show up various times throughout the story for example, still quite dead and taking up the role as his protector various times. The new gods try to win Shadow to their side, sometimes with brute force. Shadow remains loyal to Wednesday though until the end. Even when he starts seeing the whole truth…

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I know it’s a kinda crappy summary of such a complicated book, but I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot. There are a lot of events that change the story and will change the way you read the book, and I don’t want to spoil the fun. The best advice I can give is to just pick up your own copy of American Gods and start reading. If you ask me, it is definitely worth it. It’s an interesting story, well written and you can probably describe it both as a fantasy story and a informative way of learning about the different religions, cultures and myths that exist in throughout America. Definitely recommended!

Hunting Badger – by Tony Hillerman

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Title: Hunting Badger
(Navajo Mysteries Series #14)
Author: Tony Hillerman
First published: November 1st 1999
Finished reading: August 12th 2013
Pages: 318

When I started reading this book I realized that I had read it once before already some years ago. Still I decided to continue reading since it’s an easy reading story where Tony Hillerman mixes police business with old Native American traditions. When three men rob a casino, kill some men in the process and then flee the area. A huge man hunt starts. The FBI gets involved, but it’s the Navajo Tribal Police that solves it in the end. Sergeant Chee and retired Leaphorn see where the FBI don’t see, and use old Native American folklore stories to hunt their prey. Stories talk about an Ute called Ironhand, also called badger in shape-shifter stories, who can disappear and appear in the mountains…

It’s an ok story, but in my opinion some characters and parts of the stories lack development. All in all a nice one to read, but definitely not challenging.