Irresponsible Reader

Irresponsible Reader

I read widely and voraciously, with little discipline (although I have my bouts). And then I write about it -- sometimes a little, sometimes more (not sure how often I get to "a lot", so let's go with "more" instead). I'm a Mystery junkie and have been since I can remember, I love Urban Fantasy, I can't pass up good Science Fiction or Fantasy, I've been known to dabble in Chick Lit ('tho, honestly, I'm more comfortable in "Lad Lit"), even a decent Western will do the trick.

Saturday Miscellany—10/12/19

Yeah, I've been quiet this week, I've been running on fumes for most of it, I'm not sure why. Given the number of Book Tour Stops I've got scheduled for next week, I'll be a little noisier (or, I'll have a few tour organizers and authors not speaking to me).

 

But that's for another day (at least Tuesday). For now, here are the odds 'n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You've probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

  • Look Both Ways:
    A Tale Told in Ten Blocks
    by Jayson Reynolds—a novel told in ten stories about what happens after the school bell rings and people walk home. There's also a bus falling from the sky that no one notices.

 

 

 

Lastly, yesterday I posted a couple of things with a new bullet style (in case you're one of the 2% that noticed), today, I'm back to ol' reliable. What do you think—are those others too much for a post like this? Would it just make things too noisy?


Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2019/10/12/saturday-miscellany-10-12-19
A Couple of Thoughts on the 40th Anniversary of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The first Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book was published 40 years ago on October 12, 1979.



Just a couple of thoughts in response to this...I don't want to blather on. (if you want to see me blather on about the series, click here).

 

bullet 40 Years? Wow. Sure, a lot of it is dated, but most of it feels so fresh that he could've written it within the last year or two.
bullet Yeah, that's the original cover—that's a long way from the smiling planet logo I'm used to seeing (and have tattooed on my arm).
bullet On a related note, someone—multiple someones, actually—thought that cover was a good idea.
bullet 40 years later, it's still the benchmark. How many works from that era are still that important? (maybe some cinema)
bullet Okay, that's actually all I've got—it's just cool to note big anniversaries like this. So, now we have.

 

Have you read this series? Got any thoughts/memories to share?

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2019/10/12/a-couple-of-thoughts-on-the-40th-anniversary-of-the-hitchhikers-guide-to-the-galaxy
Review
3.5 Stars
A Funny and Accessible Guide to English Usage
Have You Eaten Grandma?: Or, the Life-Saving Importance of Correct Punctuation, Grammar, and Good English - Gyles Brandreth

...you don't need to understand all the intricacies of English grammar to be able to communicate well. I use a computer, but I have no idea how it works. I have a wife, but I have no idea why she stays. I take statins, and while the doctor did explain that they inhibit the HMG-CoA reductase—that rate-limiting enzyme of the mevalonate pathway—all I need to know is that they should help lower my bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of a heart attack.

 

This book can change your life. For the better. Enjoy.


I've tried a few times to post about this, and it's always come out as a mess. So, as I usually do in these circumstances, I'm just going to start with the official blurb:


For anyone who wants to make fewer (not less) grammar mistakes, a lively, effective, and witty guide to all the ins and outs of the English language, reminiscent of the New York Times bestseller Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

 

Our language is changing, literary levels are declining, and our grasp of grammar is at a crisis point. From commas to colons, apostrophes to adverbs, there are countless ways we can make mistakes when writing or speaking. But do not despair! Great Britain’s most popular grammar guru has created the ultimate modern manual for English speakers on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

In this brilliantly funny and accessible guide to proper punctuation and so much more, Gyles Brandreth explores the linguistic horrors of our times, tells us what we’ve been doing wrong and shows us how, in the future, we can get it right every time. Covering everything from dangling participles to transitive verbs, from age-old conundrums like “lay” vs. “lie,” to the confounding influences of social media on our everyday language, Have You Eaten Grandma? is an endlessly useful and entertaining resource for all.


That's just what you get—a funny and accessible guide to grammar, punctuation, and the English language in general (at least in its present form). That's a distinctively British English, it should be noted, but even those of us who've abandoned vestigial "u"s thanks to Noah Webster can profit from it.

 

A few highlights:
bullet The entire section on the semi-colon is pretty entertaining (and helpful); the entire section covering punctuation makes the entire book worth the purchase price (or library checkout) and the read.
bullet The joke opening his section on the colon is both painful, of questionable taste, and laugh-inducing.
bullet His summary history of the Exclamation Point does in one paragraph, what Shady Characters would do in a page (not saying one approach is better than the other, I enjoyed both books. That paragraph, in particular, made me think of Houston's book).
bullet Brandreth gives a stirring defense for the correct use of the much-abused apostrophe, culminating with:


Give up on the apostrophe, and you’re giving in to chaos. Without the apostrophe, there’s linguistic anarchy. The apostrophe is the symbol of our cause—the mark we need emblazoned on our banners. If we go weak or wobbly in our defense of the apostrophe, we are on the slippery slope to incomprehensibility and confusion.


bullet Brandreth begins his section on the usage of brackets/parenthesis with:


What the British call “brackets,” the Americans call “parentheses”—when they are round brackets, that is. What the Americans call “brackets” are what the British call “square brackets.” It doesn’t cause as much confusion as the meaning of the word “fanny” on either side of the Atlantic, but it serves to underline the truth of the observation made by Oscar Wilde more than 130 years ago: “We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.”


Which points to one of the great distinctives of this book—Brandreth spends a lot of time explaining/illustrating the differences in the English used on both sides of the Atlantic. He later devotes an entire chapter to British vs. American English (part of which found its way to a Saturday Miscellany post in August). It includes a wonderful table for finding equivalent words/phrases/spellings.


The Brandreth Rule is: when in Rome, do as the Romans do—speak English. And if you’re British, do so with a British accent and spell your English the British way. That isn’t always easy—particularly if you haven’t worked out how to opt out of American English autocorrect when using Microsoft Word.


(there are a handful of Brandreth Rules scattered throughout the book, but this is my favorite)
bullet I appreciated that more than once he got to the point where he had to say (paraphrasing), "I don't know why this is why it works this way, but it does, just live with it." Once he said to use the rule or you'll "look an ignorant oik." Which might be my favorite phrase of 2019, "oik" is likely my favorite new vocabulary word. I have to work it into more conversation/writing.
bullet The Scrabble help might be the most turned-to part of the book for most readers.
bullet The tips for increasing word power are fantastic.

 

I actually could keep going, but I've gone on longer than I thought I would when I started.

 

I had a blast while reading this—I honestly don't expect everyone will, though. If you're not a language-nerd, aspiring grammar Nazi, or an old-school English teacher, you probably won't enjoy it as much as me. However, if you enjoy quality humor and could use some help with your writing—you will appreciate it. It's handy, it's helpful, it's entertaining—and how many grammar guides can say that? It's the kind of thing that my college-bound daughter could use on her dorm bookshelf (and will probably find), and I know more than a few people who find themselves writing reports and the like for work who could use something like that. If you need help, might as well have a good time while you're at it—and Have You Eaten Grandma is just the thing.



2019 Library Love Challenge

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2019/10/11/have-you-eaten-grandma-by-gyles-brandreth-a-funny-and-accessible-guide-to-english-usage
Review
4 Stars
The thing about murder victims is . . .
Ghosts of You - Cathy Ulrich

This collection of 31 pieces of flash fiction shouldn't work. This is probably not the sentence that the author and her publicist want me to start with, but hear me out. It shouldn't, but it does.

 

Why shouldn't it work? For starters, each story has essentially the same title. "Being the Murdered _____." Earle Stanley Gardner got away with it, as did Lilian Jackson Braun—but I can't see how anyone else does. Add Ulrich to the list.

 

Secondly, each story starts with the same sentence:


<blockquote>The thing about being the murdered [word/phrase from title] is you set the plot in motion.
</blockquote>

 

Outside of "Once Upon a Time," that should not be done (it's arguable that it shouldn't be done there, either). But it does work.

 

From these nearly identical launching pads, Ulrich spins 31 incredibly distinctive tales about what happens after various women are murdered. I should probably clarify a bit, about what I mean about the various women (and the blanks above). These stories focus on people like the murdered Girl, Wife, Lover, Homecoming Queen, Babysitter, Mother, Extra, Jogger—mostly the kinds of women you read about/see in the beginning of a murder mystery. Ulrich also goes for some unexpected types, e.g.: Politician, Mermaid, Muse, Chanteuse (she probably deserves extra points for using that word in the Twenty-First Century), and Taxidermist.

 

Their murders change the lives of those around them, those who knew them, knew of them, investigated their deaths both immediately and for years to come.

Now, as the word "plot" in the topic sentences indicates, these are primarily reactions to/depictions of/commentaries on the way that the homicides of fictional women are portrayed in Crime Fiction (or even "Literary" Fiction), TV, Movies, etc. I think it has a lot to say about those depictions, but I think there are a lot of weaknesses to Ulrich's approach, too. Too often, her critiques are overgeneralized, inflammatory and outdated—while retaining a kernel worth chewing on.

 

Thankfully, the book is about more than that (or I'm not sure I'd have bothered to finish it). I frequently felt like my reaction to the stories was not what it was intended to be. When she's telling a story (as abbreviated as they are), describing human reactions to situations that "tragic" doesn't quite begin to apply to—these pieces shine. For someone who shuns self-help books, I've read a lot about grief in the last couple of years—these stories contain some of the best portrayals of it in all its varied expressions—that I can remember. If your heart doesn't break a little at least twice while going through this collection, you need to go listen to some community singing in Whoville, so they can help yours grow.

 

Beyond that, there's the obvious strength of the economy of words here—these stories are lean, without a wasted word, and are pound-for-pound some of the most effective stories I've read this year.

 

As with any collection, there are stronger pieces and weaker pieces—some that will satisfy some and other readers will be stupefied by or indifferent to the same ones. I do think there's a better hit to miss ratio in this collection than I'm used to. For what it's worth, "Being the Murdered Bride", "Being the Murdered Student" and "Being the Murdered Mama" were the high-points for me.

 

While these are all very different (Ulrich almost never plays the same note twice), I don't recommend reading too many in one sitting (I limited myself to three at a time, for example)—beyond that, you risk robbing them of their impact.

 

I heartily recommend this collection that works far better than it should. It'll cause you to stop and think, stop and feel, and hopefully change your perspective on a few things.

 

<i><b>Disclaimer:</b> I received this eARC from the author via <a href="http://thenextbestbookblog.blogspot.com/p/tnbbc-publicity.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Lori @ TNBBC Publicity</a> in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this.</i>

<a href="https://astoldbytina.net/2018/11/announcing-the-2019-letsreadindie-reading-challenge.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img class="aligncenter" src="http://www.hcnewton.com/irrreader/2019letsreadindieSM.jpg" alt="LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge" /></a>

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2019/10/08/ghosts-of-you-by-cathy-ulrich-the-thing-about-murder-victims-is
Saturday Miscellany—10/5/19

A brief one this week—but such is the joy of being miscellaneous, right? Here are the odds 'n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You've probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

  • Murder in Montague Falls by Russ Colchamiro, Sawney Hatton, and Patrick Thomas—a shared universe collection of short stories. I've been seeing Colchamiro talk about this coming for months now, looking forward to dipping into it.


Lastly, I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Mohit Malviya, jackiesreadingcorner, and Patrick Lynn for following the blog this week. Don't be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?


Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2019/10/05/saturday-miscellany-10-5-19
Timely and Compelling
Justice Gone - N. Lombardi Jr.

I've mentioned before here that after I decide to read a book I forget what its about (if I even know) to keep myself coming from being disappointed by preconceived notions. It worked this time, I really had no idea what it was about when I opened it on my Kindle last week.

 

Which made the opening pages, featuring the killing of an innocent and compliant veteran by the police, as shocking as they could've been. But they also led me to believe I was in for a grim, adult version of The Hate U Give. So when that story took a hard turn a few chapters later with the murder of some of those police officers, I was reeling as much as Lombardi could've hoped for.

 

That sensation kept repeating at each new phase of the action in Justice Gone—"Oh, so this is what the book is about." Until I finally got that the book was about all of these things—not just one or two themes. It was actually pretty effective in that way, more than I might have thought possible in the abstract. It's difficult to enumerate them without revealing too much, so I'll be vague here—the central question is about the place of (and possibility of) seeing justice in our current politicized climate given the high level of suspicion of the police (and their suspicion of the general public) coloring everything, and apparent interference by government officials (especially those elected to office) on criminal investigations and prosecutions.

 

Sadly, in the mix of all those themes and ideas, the incident that set all of the rest in motion is forgotten about when not overshadowed by the events that spiraled from it. I wish Lombardi had been able to keep the focus on it while telling the other story, because that really is something tat needs to be told. Not that the rest doesn't, don't misunderstand. It's just we've all seen several variations of the rest of the novel, and haven't seen nearly enough of that.

 

One thing I really appreciated was the focus on the jury's deliberation toward the end of the novel. Lombardi's not afraid to introduce new characters—twelve of them, in fact—as the book wraps up. Occasionally, a legal thriller will take a peak inside the Jury Room, but never to this extent. Now I wonder why not.

 

Lombardi does slip into melodrama more than a few times. He gets out of it pretty quickly and easily, but it's there. His characters could all use a little more work to not be so forced, and be a little more believable—except for the accused, I never had a problem with him. But Lombardi's a good enough story teller that the problems with the writing and characters are swept under the carpet and ignored as long as you can focus on the story unfolding.

 

It's a book that feels timely and important—the kind of thing that will spark reflection on the part of the reader, and hopefully discussion. Justice Gone is the kind of compelling novel we need more of.

 


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2019/10/03/justice-gone-by-n-lombardi-jr-timely-and-compelling
Review
3.5 Stars
A Twisty, Quick Paced Hunt for a Murderer/Kidnapper to Rescue a Child
Cradle to Grave - Rachel Amphlett

This was my first time reading Rachel Amphlett and I wasn't sure what to expect—I'll cut to the chase now, I really enjoyed it, and Amphlett impressed me from the first chapter on.

 

The first chapter features some good character moments and a well-drawn figure for characters whose sole purpose is to find a dead body and get the police involved. A lot of authors wouldn't have bothered with making these characters so fleshed-out. Many wouldn't have bothered with showing the discovery of the dead body. I liked this touch.

 

When the police arrive and look at the dead body, almost impossible to identify, it looks like this could be a long investigation. But one of the instigators notices all the children's belongings in the vicinity and quickly realizes that a child should be at the scene. They have to make a quick decision, do they treat it as a homicide, or a kidnapping. They (wisely) decide to treat it as a kidnapping (while searching for signs of the former). Not only are they hunting for a murderer, they're probably trying to prevent any harm coming to the child.

 

Not that they'd be taking their time with a murder inquiry, but missing child adds n element of intensity and immediacy to their search for the killer. Which makes the whole novel more tense and fast-paced. As introductions to a series/author go, this was pretty intense.

 

One thing I appreciate about UK procedurals (in distinction from the US-based) is the trust for the method and procedure. With US procedurals, there's an urgency to an investigation—a strong sense that the longer the investigation takes, the less likely it is that they'll arrest anyone. It feels (at least to me) the opposite with good UK procedurals. There's a trust in the system, that the gears of police work will eventually establish the guilt of someone as long as the gears keep turning. It's almost like they longer things go on, the more certain they are that they'll catch the responsible party. That's certainly the case here, yet, it's well-balanced with the scramble to save the child.

 

Another thing about UK procedurals is the way the whole team is involved in the investigation—it's not (for example) Det. Bosch, and maybe his partner, barreling through things, with the occasional assist from someone else in the office or a forensic specialist. There are all sorts of officers, of all ranks and assignments running around, making contributions to the overall effort. It's probably a whole lot more realistic, a whole lot more believable—but it comes at a cost. There are so many people running around, that it's hard to keep track of them all, hard to get to the point where you can get a feel for most of the characters—and it's likely that you'll confuse a couple with each other. This isn't a criticism of Amphlett, I've had the same problem when it comes to other UK procedurals that I've read. Maybe it's just me. It just takes a few novels before I can get a feel for anyone beyond the character the series is named after. That's definitely the case here. I have a decent sense for Kay Hunter, and the beginnings of a sense for one or two others on the team, but that's all. Ask me again when book 10 comes around (or if I get to some of the backlist), and that'll disappear.

 

I did like the characters, and think I could grow to be fans of a few of them—but that'll take time (and the ability to differentiate them easily). I could tell they weren't just interchangeable names, that there were individual characteristics and drives behind them. And none of them served as Detective Exposition or Detective Comic Relief—which is a big plus to me.

 

Now, when it comes to the witnesses, family of the victims, and suspects? I thought Amphlett did a good job with them all—colorful in the right ways, believable, and did a good job of moving the plot forward (also, police interactions and reaction to the witnesses were handled very nicely).

 

One thing I truly appreciated about this is just how wrong the police frequently were—and not in little ways, either. Justifiably wrong given the information they had, I should stress. But as soon as they realized they were heading down the wrong path, they quickly fixed it. They didn't spend a few dozen pages in self-recrimination, they didn't get a time-consuming talking to from their superior, or anything like that (although that might be forthcoming...). Instead, they regrouped, shook off the error and acted on the correct information right away. Sure, most procedurals (mystery novels in general) feature some wrong theories, some half-baked notions that have to be discarded. But this seemed to have a larger than usual—and more believable—quantity and quality of errors. But they dealt with them appropriately. I wish I saw more like that.

 

Was this a perfect book? No, in fact, I was annoyed more than once or twice with either the writing or the plot. But they were all minor annoyances, and nothing worth listing and nothing really took me out of the moment while I read. Better yet, the strengths quickly canceled out the problems/doubts I had. This was a quick, compelling read that did all the right things for a procedural. Entertaining, twisty, and engaging. This won't be my last Amphlett.

 

My thanks to Tracy Fenton for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) provided.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2019/10/02/cradle-to-grave-by-rachel-amphlett-a-twisty-quick-paced-hunt-for-a-murderer-kidnapper-to-rescue-a-child
September 2019 in Retrospect: What I Read/Listened to/Wrote About

7,577 pages over 25 books, most of those good books, too—not counting the ones I haven't decided on, I'm looking at a 3.63 average, can't complain about that. Sure, there was a 2-star, but it only took me a day to get through, so it wasn't that bad. Also, this was a month of small additions (and smaller subtractions) to Mount TBR. Yay for restraint? It was a pretty good month, basically. I felt like I was behind most of the month, but I don't think that was really the case. I've got big plans for October, hopefully in a month, I'm feeling as bullish about it as I feel about this month.

So, here's what happened here in September.

 

https://wordpress.com/stats/irresponsiblereader.com

Faith vs Faithfulness: A Primer On Rest The Editor Dachshund Through the Snow
3 Stars 4 Stars 4 1/2 Stars
Bloodline The Blade Itself Gluten Is My Bitch
3 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars
Irony in the Soul Fletch Reflected The Unkindest Tide
3 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars
Have You Eaten Grandma? Sea This and Sea That Appetite for Risk
4 Stars 3.5 Stars 3 Stars
The Chain Before They are Hanged Relief by Execution
4 1/2 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars
The Princess Beard I'm Sorry...Love, Your Husband Hire Idiots
3.5 Stars 2 Stars 3.5 Stars
Land of Wolves Cradle to Grave My Plain Jane
4 1/2 Stars Still Deciding 3 Stars
Grace Worth Fighting For Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society Justice Gone
5 Stars 4 Stars Still Deciding
Ghosts of You    
Still Deciding    




Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 5:Ecclesiology, the Means of Grace, Eschatology Last Argument of Kings  


5 Stars 1 2 1/2 Stars 0
4 1/2 Stars 3 2 Stars 1
4 Stars 7 1 1/2 Stars 0
3.5 Stars 3 1 Star 0
3 Stars 7    
    Average = 3.63


 

 

 

  • Brotherhood of the Worm by M. T. Miller: A little Sam & Dean, a little more Van Helsing, a lot of Monster Killing

 

  • The Swallows by Lisa Lutz: Hilarious and Harrowing Account of Destroying the Status Quo because the Status is Not Quo

 

  • The Editor by Simon Hall: Even after the best of intentions lead to disastrous consequences, there’s hope.

 

 

  • Heaven on Earth by Thomas Brooks: A Classic Examination of and Exhortation to Assurance of Faith

 

 

 

  • Bloodline by Pamela Murray: Entertaining and complex

 

 

 

 

  • The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire: The Luidaeg takes Center Stage in this Water-filled Adventure

 

 

  • The Chain by Adrian McKinty: Move Over, Stanley Milgram, The Chain is here

 

  • Relief by Execution by Gint Aras: Reflections on Societal Woes from a Different Angle on the Holocaust

 

  • Hire Idiots by Professor I.M. Nemo: A Sharp Satire Wrapped in a Murder Mystery

 

  • The Princess Beard by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson: An Adventure on the High (and Joke-Filled) Seas of Pell

 

 

  • Land of Wolves by Craig Johnson: Longmire's back home and hunting for killers (human and animal alike)

 



Physical Books: 4 Added, 2 Read, 29 Remaining
E-Books: 0 Added, 0 Read, 24 Remaining
Audiobooks: 0 Added, 1 Read, 2 Remaining

2019 Library Love Challenge

2019 Library Love Challenge



  1. The Chain by Adrian McKinty

  1. Land of Wolves by Craig Johnson

  1. I’m Sorry…Love, Your Husband (Audiobook) by Clint Edwards, Joe Hempel

  1. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, Steven Pacey

  1. Gluten Is My Bitch: Rants, Recipes, and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free (Audiobook) by April Peveteaux

  1. Have You Eaten Grandma?: Or, the Life-Saving Importance of Correct Punctuation, Grammar, and Good English by Gyles Brandreth (link forthcoming

  1. Before They are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie, Steven Pacey

  1. My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows, Fiona Hardingham (link forthcoming



While I Was Reading 2019 Challenge


Nothing this month.
LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

#LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge



  1. Hire Idiots by Professor I.M. Nemo

  1. The Editor by Simon Hall

  1. Bloodline by Pamela Murray

  1. Irony in the Soul: Nobody Listens Like the Dying by Pete Adams

  1. Appetite for Risk by Jack Leavers

  1. Cradle to Grave by Rachel Amphlett (link forthcoming

  1. Ghosts of You by Cathy Ulrich (link forthcoming

  1. Justice Gone by N. Lombardi, Jr. (link forthcoming

  1. Faith vs Faithfulness: A Primer On Rest

  1. Relief by Execution by Gint Aras

  1. Sea This and Sea That by Jeremy Billups


2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge



  1. Hire Idiots by Professor I.M. Nemo

  1. The Editor by Simon Hall

  1. Dachshund Through the Snow by David Rosenfelt

  1. Bloodline by Pamela Murray

  1. Irony in the Soul: Nobody Listens Like the Dying by Pete Adams

  1. Fletch Reflected by Gregory McDonald, Dan John Miller(link forthcoming

  1. Appetite for Risk by Jack Leavers

  1. The Chain by Adrian McKinty

  1. Land of Wolves by Craig Johnson

  1. Cradle to Grave by Rachel Amphlett (link forthcoming

  1. Ghosts of You by Cathy Ulrich (link forthcoming

  1. Justice Gone by N. Lombardi, Jr. (link forthcoming


Humor Reading Challenge 2019

Humor Reading Challenge 2019



  1. The Princess Beard by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson

  1. I’m Sorry…Love, Your Husband (Audiobook) by Clint Edwards, Joe Hempel

  1. Hire Idiots by Professor I.M. Nemo


2019 Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge

2019 Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge



How was your month?

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2019/10/01/september-2019-in-retrospect-what-i-read-listened-to-wrote-about
Review
4.5 Stars
Longmire's back home and hunting for killers (human and animal alike)
Land of Wolves - Craig Johnson
It’s hard to think of a place in Wyoming where the wind doesn’t reign supreme; where the sovereignty of sound doesn’t break through the parks of the Bighorns with a hoarse-throated howl. I sometimes wonder if the trees miss the wind in the infrequent moments when it dies down, when the air is still and the skies are a threadbare blue, thin and stretching above the mountains. Needled courtesans—the lodgepole pines, Douglas firs, and Engelmann spruce—stand at the edge of the great park like wallflowers awaiting the beseeching hand of the wind to invite them to the dance floor. And I can’t help but wonder that when the sway passes and the trees are still, do they pine for that wind; do they grieve?


Ahhh...it's good to be back in Absaroka County.

 

Walt starts off investigating the death of a sheep—probably at the hands, er, teeth of a wolf. This wolf is likely from Yellowstone and kicked out of his pack. Now that he's probably/possibly killed a sheep, it certainly appears to be open season for him soon. Oddly, there's no sign of a shepherd for this dead sheep, which gets Walt and Vic to go looking.

 

Sadly, they find the shepherd hanging from a tree—possibly the loneliness of the Wyoming wilderness got to him, or maybe he was killed. Neither case looks easy to wrap up, which means that it's time for Walt to get back to focus more on the job and less on recovery from the horrible injuries (physical and mental) sustained in Mexico.

 

Walt is largely ready for this kind of thing, he needs something to focus on. He has to first deal with a labor and wildlife advocate who knew both the wolf and shepherd, and she doesn't trust Walt's approach to either. There's also the shepherd's employer—a member of the same family that left then-Sheriff Lucian Connally without a leg. There's a populace worried about the presence of wolves in the area (ignoring the fact that there's only one that's been seen). Also, Henry adds the possibility that this wolf is actually a messenger from the spirits with a vision for Walt. Lastly, the entire Sheriff's department wonders how long it'll be until Walt does something to endanger his life—and just how bad that'll be.

 

Most dramatically, a computer is installed on Walt's desk, "the slippery slope to a cell phone." Despite this intrusion of the 1990's into his life, Walt perseveres.

 

This brings Walt back to Absaroka, he hasn't spent a novel here since 2015's Dry Bones (it doesn't feel like it's been that long), and the citizens are aware he's spending a lot of time away. We see the old regulars, which should make long-time fans happy. But best of all, the story is classic Longmire—an exploration of Wyoming's past and future just as much as it is the past and future of the characters (regulars and new to the series).

 

Early on, Walt's on an unexpected hike and it's taking it's toll:

 

I pushed off the tree and started back at a slow pace, wondering if I ’d ever pick up the step I'd lost in Mexico. Maybe that was the way of things; sometimes you paid a price and never get to make another deposit into your account and eventually you are overdrawn. Lately, I’d been feeling like I was standing at the counter, the cashier always closing the window in my face.


That neatly summed up my fears about the series in general, particularly how it'd work after Mexico. If the series was going to continue in the vein of Depth of Winter, I'd have a hard time sticking around. But I'm happy to say that while the effects of Mexico linger, and will continue to be felt for some time, I'm not going anywhere. There were repeated signals throughout this novel that the status quo shouldn't be taken for granted when it comes to any of these characters (except maybe Henry, he'll only change when he wants to), but the same things that have been drawing readers to Walt Longmire for 15 books are still at the character's and series' core.

 

Leaving the state of the series aside, this was one of my favorite installments in the series (sure, I might be extra generous given my fears after Depth of Winter). The characters shone—it's one of Sancho's best outings, and Vic was just great. The story was compelling, a great mix of a drama and comedic moments, and the mystery was satisfying (maybe a little easy to suss out for the reader, but Johnson hit every beat correctly). I'm already counting the days until #16.

2019 Library Love Challenge 2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2019/09/30/land-of-wolves-by-craig-johnson-longmires-back-home-and-hunting-for-killers-human-and-animal-alike
Saturday Miscellany—9/28/19

This has been a strange week, I kept running out of steam in the evenings and was honestly and pleasantly surprised to find that I'd played around on social media enough to actually have anything to post today. How I got anything written this week is beyond me. I did do more reading than I expected to—still, I have a need to be reading 5 books right now rather than writing anything (and I don't mean reading a chapter or two and then switching, I literally mean reading 5 simultaneously). When I say that I overcommitted for Sept./Oct. I really mean it. (and that's not counting the two books I pre-ordered months ago that arrived in the last 10 days and are sitting ignored on my shelf).

 

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this list of odds 'n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye—I did:

 

 

 

 

  • Celebrity Book Clubs Are Actually Selling Books—This is an interesting phenomeon, not one that has much of an influence on a reader like me, but it's interesting to see. Also, I'm not a Sportsball guy at all, but I do know who Andrew Luck is. Glancing at his book club picks over the last few months, I think I might check back on it from time to time, I like his taste.

 

 

 

 

  • Author-pay in Tacos per Copy—In response to a tweet about selling ARCs, Kevin Hearne breaks down how authors get paid by the taco (scroll down to see audiobooks and used books)

 


 

 


 

  • Fallen by Benedict Jacka—the tenth in the Alex Verus series is out now, and I'm hoping I can squeeze it in soon. Incidentally, I like the fact that the US covers are starting to be multi-colored. I can't give an abbreviated single-sentence synopsis, because I like walking into these without any idea what's going to happen. It's enough that it's a new Verus.

 


Lastly, I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Aqsa haleem, OwlBeSatReading, and bryan_lunsford for following the blog this week. Don't be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?


Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2019/09/28/saturday-miscellany-9-28-19
Review
3.5 Stars
An Adventure on the High (and Joke-Filled) Seas of Pell
The Princess Beard - Delilah S. Dawson, Kevin Hearne

Readers of Kill the Farm Boy (the first installment in the Tales of Pell trilogy) may have been wondering about what happened to Princess Aurora/Snow White-esque figure, Princess Harkovitra*. Well, she wakes up, and finds herself in the position she's always wanted—a chance to start over. She leaves her name and home behind, hitching a ride with our old acquaintance Morvin on his way to start a new life himself.

 

*Then again, maybe you're like me, and figured she was like Worstely and that her only purpose was to kick-start the novel and hadn't thought of her since.

 

They're not the only ones looking for a new start. We also meet a swole centaur prone to over-compensation, seeks to reach a mystic temple that will heal him of (what he considers) his emasculating magical abilities. A pariah elf is looking for the opportunity to do something more meaningful than swindle tourists. And we also pick up with one of the newly liberated dryads from No Country for Old Gnomes, who needs a way to get to her chosen law school, Bogtorts.

 

All of these new starts require the characters to travel somewhere inaccessible to foot/horse/carriage traffic. Enter the Clean Pirate Luc (a.k.a. Filthy Lucre), who happens to be a one-eyed talking parrot. He needs new crew members and is willing to let these travel to their intended destinations in exchange for labor. Even if the result is something incongruous, like a centaur swabbing the decks (thankfully, that's a funny image—a great thing for a comedic fantasy). Except for Morvin, who has other plans that involve less of the high seas.

 

The pirate ship ends up being just the thing to take our characters from quick adventure to quick adventure, creating opportunities for bonding and character growth. It's different enough from the land-based pilgrimages of the past two novels to keep things feeling fresh, while allowing the same kind of vibe to permeate the book. I'm not the biggest fan of pirate/ship-based adventures, but when they're done well, they are a lot of fun. And who doesn't like a good Melville-based joke (or several)?

 

Not just Melville-based jokes, but there's more than a couple of The Princess Bride riffs (in case the title didn't tip you off). Which seems timely, given the resurgence in interest in William Goldman's classic thanks to some nonsense about remaking the movie. I could be wrong, but this seems to be the jokiest of the three (I'm pretty sure my notes/list of great lines is longer than normal). Not that the others were joke-light, but this seems more focused on them and less focused on the story. Which makes it less successful as a novel in my opinion. But that's in comparison to two really strong and effective novels, so I'm not saying it's not a good read—it's just a not-as-good-as-I-wanted read. If this was the first Pell book I'd read, I'd rush out to get the others (particularly, if a charming and insightful blogger had said the others were better than this one). I started chuckling within a page and didn't finish until the end. Sometimes I did more than chuckle.

 

I'm not complaining a bit about the number of jokes, the character names alone are hilarious and make the book worth reading. It just takes away some of the impact of the story and the characters—or it distracted the authors from making them as compelling as they could have been. It's kind of a chicken vs. egg thing.

 

Each of these characters gets an opportunity to find themselves, find their inner-strength, true desires, real self—whatever you want to call it. It turns out that some of them were right all along, and others just needed the fresh perspective that extreme circumstances can bring.

 

I didn't connect with this one as much as I did the ones before, ditto for any of the characters. But I expect that my experience isn't typical—The Princess Beard will resonate with some more than the others did. Either way, the reader will enjoy the ride. It's exciting, it's affirming, it's a hoot.

 

I'm going to miss Pell, and hope the authors decide to dip their collective toes back into the land from time to time in the future. If not, at least we get the beginnings for these beautiful friendships.

 

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine via NetGalley in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this entertaining romp.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2019/09/26/the-princess-beard-by-kevin-hearne-delilah-s-dawson-an-adventure-on-the-high-and-joke-filled-seas-of-pell
Review
2 Stars
Would-be Humorous Essays on Marriage, Parenting, and Family
I'm Sorry… Love, Your Husband: Honest, Hilarious Stories From a Father of Three Who Made All the Mistakes (and Made up for Them) - Joe Hempel, Clint Edwards

The "Short Synopsis" for the book is:

 

In this inspiring and unconventional book of essays, Clint Edwards sheds light on the darker yet hilarious side of domestic life.


Which sounds pretty good, and is what led to my checking this book out. In the same vein, my "Short Response" is: nope.

 

The "Full Synopsis" is:


Marriage and Kids are No Joke

 

He may not win Father of the Year, but Clint Edwards has won the hearts of thousands—including the New York Times, Scary Mommy, and Good Morning America—thanks to his candor and irreverence when it comes to raising kids, being married, and learning from his mistakes.

 

Clint has three children: Tristan (the know it all), Norah (the snarky princess), and Aspen (the worst roommate ever). He describes parenting as "a million different gears turning in a million different directions, all of them covered in sour milk." In this inspiring and unconventional book of essays, he sheds light on the darker yet hilarious side of domestic life.

 

Owning up to all his mishaps and dumbassery, Edwards shares essays on just about every topic fellow spouses and parents can appreciate, including: stupid things he's said to his pregnant wife, the trauma of taking a toddler shopping, revelations on buying a minivan, and the struggle to not fight the nosy neighbor (who is five years old).

 

Clint's funny, heartwarming account of the terrifying yet completely rewarding life of a parent is a breath of fresh air. Each essay in I'm Sorry . . . Love, Your Husband will have you thinking finally, someone gets it.


Which brings me to a "Fuller Response" (I'll keep my "Full Response" up my sleeve). Those of you who are too young to remember the 1991–1999 Prime Time hit, Home Improvement, may not appreciate this, but I kept thinking of it as I listened to this book. In almost every episode, Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor does something that exasperates and/or disappoints his wife, messes things up with his kids or coworkers in the first act (generally it's family, but occasionally it's friends/colleagues). Things get worse during Act Two, leading Tim to get some advice from his wise neighbor, Wilson, and then implement this advice to patch things up with whoever he's in trouble with and become a better father/husband/friend/colleague. Along the way, America laughed at Tim's foibles and follies—and at some good comedic moments that had nothing to do with the main plot—and then had their hearts warmed by the ending. That equation worked well for 203 episodes (eh, probably 170 or so, really).

 

Every essay in this collection reminded me of that outline—except for the comedy. There's no fictional Tool Time TV show to entertain, there are no actual laughs (maybe 3 bits that made me grin in the 4.75 hours), just frequently preachy lessons about how to become a better man/husband/father (most of which are repeated at least 3 times in the book, almost word-for-word).

 

The descriptions of his three kids that show up in the synopsis are repeated throughout the book, which is good—because otherwise, I wouldn't have known this about them. He doesn't show this at all in his essays.

 

Hempel does a fine job with this. My problems with this aren't about him, it's the content. I can't say his narration is great, but it might have been. Everything's colored by the content.

 

The amount of mild and casual profanity from someone who mentions church as often as he does was a little incongruous. Maybe today's Mormons are just different from the ones I grew up surrounded by. This isn't what led to my low rating, it's just something that chafed a little while I listened to this (and really, it's the only thing that stuck out to me about the book as a whole). My objection along these lines is that the phrase, "it was a d*$# move" gets tired as a constant evaluation/summary of his actions. If that's all he can say, maybe he should focus a bit more on the writing and a little less on the self-improvement.

 

In the end, it wasn't the triteness, it wasn't the preachiness, it wasn't the redundancy of these essays that turned me off (although none of that helped). It was that there was nothing in the essays to make me interested. It was just dull. I didn't laugh, I didn't get inspired, I wasn't entertained. It just was. The only thing that got me through the book was a lack of options that day and a need for something to listen to at work. I'm sure Edwards is a nice guy and a swell father, but he's just not funny or insightful. Or if he is, he's left it outside this book.

2019 Library Love Challenge


Humor Reading Challenge 2019

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2019/09/26/im-sorry-love-your-husband-audiobook-by-clint-edwards-joe-hempel-would-be-humorous-essays-on-marriage-parenting-and-family
Review
3.5 Stars
A Sharp Satire Wrapped in a Murder Mystery
Hire Idiots - Professor I.M. Nemo

'...Kakistocracies seem to be taking over everywhere.' ...

 

'They’ve turned schools into factories. Fill out the form, mark the dot, memorize the same things. At the rate real learning is being undercut, soon we’ll be an idiocracy.’

 

‘Can we blame the internet?’

 

This was a very clever book. The more I think about it, the quicker I come back to that point. There's a lot more to think about and write about when it comes to Hire Idiots, but the core of it all has to be the cleverness of it.

 

The novel begins with the murder of an aged college professor—there are not exactly a lot of suspects. He's largely estranged from his family; not particularly liked by his colleagues (but no one really rises to active dislike or enmity); he holds an endowed chair—in English—at a small, obscure Liberal Arts college, so it's not as if his death is going to benefit anyone, or be noticed by anyone outside his department, really.

 

Before the police can really get the investigation underway, the entire college (including those who did notice his death) are distracted by a shakeup at the top of the administration. The president is removed following a financial scandal. The Board doesn't name an interim and begin a search for a new successor, rather they appoint a figure-head chancellor and a Chief Operations Officer. The COO brings in a Chief Academic Officer, a host of Vice Presidents, and a consulting group to help them (assuming the latter can ever figure out the name of the college). These people couch their ideas in a lot of positive spin and corporate-speak, but what it all boils down to is that programs, departments, and staff are going to be cut—except, of course, in the Business and Criminal Justice areas.

 

Then an active shooter arrives on campus and ends up taking over an entire building. Instead of letting the police apprehend him, the new corporate leadership removes them from campus and lets their security team deal with the situation, resulting in (for starters) a media blackout. Can't have current and prospective students thinking this is an unsafe place to study and/or spend tuition/fees/etc. money anywhere else.

 

Where most mystery novels—no matter how cozy they are—would focus on the murder and/or the takeover of the building, Hire Idiots focuses on the responses from the faculty to the new administration and the impending cuts, with a focus on one of the murdered professor's closest acquaintances and his response to the administration, his observations of the rest, and his crush on the detective heading up the murder investigation. I'd estimate 85% of the novel is about the shakeup, 6% about the professor's personal life/response to everything; 5% on the shakeup story and 4% on the takeover.

 

That's not a criticism, that's a description—primarily so you don't spend a lot of time, like me, wondering "is this actually a Crime Novel or did I mis-remember something?" Yes, it is, but it's not going about anything the way you'd expect.

 

The bulk of the novel is a satirical/prophetic look at the state of the American higher education (noting repeatedly that British education is further down this path), taking inspiration from the line from William Blake (the focus of the scholarship of our primary character):

 

Degrade first the arts, if you'd mankind degrade;
Hire idiots to paint with cold light and hot shade.


As such, it is pretty devastating and too close to the truth for comfort.

 

Like any good satire, there are a couple of scenes that are delightfully and bizarrely absurd. When the Theater Department joined in the Faculty protest and their contribution went awry, I laughed loud enough to draw stares from my family. I won't spoil it, but when you read that bit, you can just imagine me cracking up.

 

Some of the characters are better-drawn than you frequently see in satire, which is wonderful. I really grew to like a few of them, and appreciated what Nemo was able to with them (although character and character development really didn't seem as important to the novel as did everything else).

 

On top of that—or on the side, anyway—you've got a nice little puzzle of a murder that at once is clever, and not meaty enough to sustain an entire novel (hence, the rest) and the strange little business about the building takeover. I'm still not sure really get what Nemo was going for there (although, I'm convinced that it should be obvious to me, and I'll feel sheepish when it finally occurs to me), but I enjoyed it.

 

My one complaint is the length—I think we needed a little more of everything. It all felt just a little under-developed. Not enough to make me dislike the book, just enough to keep me from being fully satisfied.

 

A clever, clever read that will entertain as it makes you worry about the future of formal education. On the surface, Hire Idiots is a fun read, with some very sharp-witted lines. As a bonus, it'll get you to use "Kakistocracy", which is just a fun word.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2019/09/25/hire-idiots-by-professor-i-m-nemo-a-sharp-satire-wrapped-in-a-murder-mystery
Review
0 Stars
Move Over, Stanley Milgram, The Chain is here
The Chain - Adrian McKinty

The house is musty and empty. A thin layer of dust coats the kitchen surfaces. No one has been in here since early September. She closes the kitchen door behind her and explores the home.

 

Three uninteresting levels and a very interesting basement with brick walls and a concrete floor and nothing in it but a washing machine, a dryer, and a boiler. The house is held up by a series of concrete pillars and she could, she thinks in disgust, chain someone to one of those pillars. She checks out the little window above the dryer. She’ll cover that with a board she’ll get from the hardware store in town.

 

Rachel shivers With a mixture of fascination and revulsion. How can she think about this sort of thing so glibly? Is that what trauma does to you?

 

Yes.

 

It reminds her again of the chemo days. The numbness. The feeling of plunging into the abyss and falling, falling, falling forever.


How do I add anything to the discussion about The Chain? How do I say something that hasn't been said by (seemingly) everyone this side of the English Channel? Honestly, how do I say anything about this book that left me speechless, reeling, and nigh-despairing multiple times? How can I say anything meaningful about this book without giving anything away?

 

In order: Probably can't. Forget that. Good question—very carefully and with a focus on brevity, I guess. Here goes.

 

A lot of this first paragraph is well-known, this book has been talked a lot about. But even knowing this, I wasn't prepared for the first few chapters as McKinty put flesh on the premise.

 

Rachel O'Neill, nearly a year into remission, is on her way to see her oncologist about some blood test results. It can't be good news that he's making her come in for, right? On her way, she gets a phone call that will change her life—her daughter has been kidnapped. To get her back, she has to do a few things: 1. Pay an almost impossibly high ransom (note the use of "almost"); 2. Kidnap some other child; and 3. Wait for that child's parents to kidnap someone and then Kylie will be released unharmed. If Law Enforcement (of any kind) is involved or any of the three steps are violated, Kylie will die. If not, she'll be free to go straightaway. It's clearly understood, but not really stated (immediately, anyway)—once Kylie is home Rachel will do anything the Chain tells her to do in the future—or . . .

 

That's pretty much the high point of the book for Rachel. The first part of the book concerns itself with this horrible scenario. What corners will she cut? What laws (actual written laws, or the understood conventions of society) will she bend and break? What lengths will she go to in order to save her daughter? In the end, she takes all the necessary steps to secure her daughter's release, because what other choice does she have? And as she thinks as she stalks a potential kidnapping victim:

 

She looks at her watch. Not yet five o’clock. This morning when she woke up, she had been a completely different person. As J. G. Ballard pointed out, civilization is just a thin, fragile veneer over the law of the jungle: Better you than me. Better your kid than my kid.


(I should point out, she's not being pretentious, nor is McKinty taking liberties to force allusions into the character. Rachel's a philosophy instructor, that's how she thinks—a brilliant bit of characterization because she can retreat to thoughtful insights as a way of dealing with the stark reality she finds herself in)

 

During this part, while Kylie is (rightly) terrified, I generally actually felt worse for Rachel than her daughter. Which I hope doesn't say something horrible about me—I think it says more about where McKinty puts the reader: smack-dab in the middle of Rachel's perspective while seeing Kylie from the outside.

 

The second part of the book picks up months later, showing us the fall-out of the encounter with The Chain in the lives of those we met in Part One. For good reasons as well as convention, this is something that Crime Fiction does too rarely. It's not just a murder, it's the shattered lives of those close to the victim that will not fully recover; it's not just a burglary, it's the loss of a feeling of personal security that takes people years to come to grips with; and so on. McKinty allows us to see the repercussions of all the choices made and actions taken by Rachel (and The Chain regarding her).

Which is just devastating, really. Again, the panic and terror that assaulted her in the first few minutes after receiving the phone call is the high point for this poor mother.

 

We also get a little—not exhaustively, but enough—backstory concerning those running The Chain in this part. McKinty doesn't make any effort to glamorize them or explain away their evil. Yes, there might have been things in their pasts that shaped them, but they chose this atrocious path knowing full well what they were doing.

 

I don't want to talk too much about the book or the characters—I'll end up ruining something if I do. We get to know Rachel pretty well—she's intelligent, caring, and tenacious. She's also tired, emotionally worn out after the medical and personal events of the years immediately before this. You can usually say this about the victim of crime (in reality or in fiction), but she really didn't deserve any of this. It's easy to second guess what she does, the compromises she makes and what she abandons. But it's impossible not to empathize with her.

 

On the cover, there's a quotation from Don Winslow, calling this "Jaws for parents." Before he wrote Say Nothing, someone gave Brad Parks some advice that he should write about what terrifies him the most. I don't know if anyone gave McKinty that advice or something like it, but it sure reads that way. I can't imagine there's not a parent alive who can read this without worrying about their kids, and reconsidering how closely to track their movements and activities.

 

Before executing her kidnapping plan, Rachel says:

 

“But even if it all goes right, . . . it’ll still be absolutely terrible.”


For her, that's true. For the reader? It's absolutely false. The tension is dialed up to 11, the pacing is relentless, the stakes are high enough that the reader should make sure their blood pressure prescriptions are filled. The Chain is as compelling and engrossing as you could want. It's a near-perfect thriller that doesn't let up. If you haven't read it yet, you need to fix that pronto.

 

2019 Library Love Challenge 2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2019/09/23/the-chain-by-adrian-mckinty-move-over-stanley-milgram-the-chain-is-here
Saturday Miscellany—9/21/19

Been a busy, busy day, just now had time to sit down and list off the odds 'n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You've probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • How do you write negative reviews?—I've shared a handful of "should you write a negative review" posts over the years, I think this is the first to ask "How". Important question.

 

 

 


 

  • Land of Wolves by Craig Johnson—I'm looking forward to seeing how life is doing for Walt back in Wyoming. After the (IMHO) less-than-successful Depth of Winter, I think this could be a turning point for the series.

 

  • System Failure by Joe Zieja—The Epic Failure trilogy concludes. I'm expecting to laugh a whole lot when I start this (hopefully Wednesday). Some of the best humorous SF, I've ever read.

 

  • A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie—the generation after The First Law seems to be just as messed up as their forefathers. Gotta be a blast.

 

 


Lastly, I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to agnieszkaweiner
(say that fives times fast) and Bill for following the blog this week. Don't be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?


Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2019/09/21/saturday-miscellany-9-21-19
Review
3 Stars
An Unusually Realistic Thriller
 Appetite for Risk Read - Jack Leavers


It's 2004, Saddam Hussein is out of power and the focus is shifting to rebuilding Iraq (few have any idea of the insurgency just around the corner), which sounds great to John Pierce. He's a former Royal Marine trying to support his wife and two kids. He's done the typical security/investigations work, but that isn't really satisfying to him. He does have a few good contacts in or related to Iraq and decides to try to build a business there.


<blockquote>I intended to provide consultancy services to international companies, using local support and knowledge to help them win a share of the reconstruction contracts. Iraq needed everything after the West had sanctioned and bombed it to a ruin over the previous decade.</blockquote>


It's not a safe place to be at the moment, but it seems to all that stability is just around the corner, and even after an eventful first trip that might dissuade some from following that path, we're told:


<blockquote>Despite the risks, there was never any real doubt I would go back. The siren call of adventure was drawing me inextricably to Baghdad. Now I’d started down this road, I remained determined to see where it would lead, hoping desperately that success would be quick to arrive.</blockquote>


The book follows Pierce's endeavor to find that success from January 2004-December 2005. We travel with him to various locations in Iraq (and surrounding nations) and back home in England. As with most fledgling businesses, there's a lot of ups and downs, signs of success and trouble alike—when you consider the risks involved in trying to start something in Iraq in 2004-05, the typical struggles of a new venture pale in comparison.

 

Quite inadvertently, Pierce gets the attention of both British and American intelligence and they secure his aid with little regard to the effect that'll have on his livelihood.

It's hard to think of this as a novel—it really doesn't read like one. It reads like a memoir. It may be fiction, but it reeks of authenticity and bears few of the marks of a thriller (or any other kind of novel). This is both a fantastic achievement and a frustration for a reader who expects certain kinds of things from a thriller.

 

The level of detail is intense—I wouldn't have thought I'd ever learn anything about how one goes about finding contacts or establishing working relationships in the middle of a war, relying largely on translators and practical strangers to help navigate through the city/populace. On the one hand, it was intriguing and I quite enjoyed being exposed to this kind of thing. On the other hand, there were large stretches where it seemed like nothing was happening—like the dominoes were being set up and instead of knocking them down, the line kept getting longer and more twisty.

 

I never got bored, but I spent a lot of time wondering "where is this going?" While not every detail or anecdote ended up paying off, enough did to justify reading it and again, the level of detail made it really seem like you were reading the recollection of someone who'd been there. And while the initial 50-60% of the book could be called slow (after the initial chapters, anyway, which dropped the reader into a tense situation before backtracking a few months to establish things), once things picked up, they really picked up.

 

I don't know that I ever really made any emotional connection to Pierce—I was pretty unmoved by his marital or financial woes or triumphs. I still wanted to keep reading about what he was going through, but any trouble or danger he encountered didn't grab me (other than as an obstacle to whatever he was trying to accomplish). I don't know if this is something Leavers was trying to accomplish, or if it's the sign of a new author—I tend to think it's due to the non-fiction-y feel of the work, and I rarely get that connected to actual people I'm reading about.

 

I think I'm safe when I say that you haven't read a thriller like this before—it's a slow burn, but it's consistently interesting and you certainly feel the imminent threat constantly around Pierce. Once the action kicks into a higher gear, it's a pretty fast read, but you've got to work a little before then. It's a satisfying read, and one that will reward the time you put in. I recommend it for someone open to an atypical read where the suspense comes from sources you're not used to encountering (and a few that everyone is used to).

 

<i>
My thanks to <a href="https://damppebbles.com/damppebbles-blog-tours/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">damppebbles blog tours</a> for the invitation to participate in this book tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.</i>

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2019/09/19/appetite-for-risk-by-jack-leavers-an-unusually-realistic-thriller