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 - 4/29/2017

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:

    A Couple of Book-ish Related Podcast Episodes you might want to give a listen:
  • On the latest Crime Time Podcast, Lee and Eddie end the show with the beginning (I hope) of a discussion on writers focusing on the gory parts of murder scenes -- particularly featuring female victims.
  • This week's Two Crime Writers and a Microphone has an interview with novelist, and first-time Crime writer, Harry Brett. Brett also teaches in MFA programs and hearing his thoughts on the genre is thought-provoking (and the kind of thing I want to shove down the throats of all my "don't you read real literature" friends?).

    There was only one New Release This Week that caught my eye, but next week has a bumper crop -- don't despair:
  • A Rare Book Of Cunning Device by Ben Aaronovitch and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith -- an audio-only Peter Grant/Rivers of London short story. I listened to it yesterday and thought it was pretty fun.

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and welcome to passmethatbook (am sure with a moniker like that there's a blog attached, but I didn't get a URL with the follow notification) and Tannat for following the blog (in one form or another) this week.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/04/29/saturday-miscellany-4292017
Review
3.5 Stars
This is how you launch a PI series
Down Don't Bother Me - Jason    Miller
She was about my age, early forties, though I had to look at her hands to tell it. She was good-looking, too. Good-looking is putting it mildly, maybe. I looked around vaguely for a priest to strangle. She was tall and lean, with the kind of green eyes a lazy novelist would describe as "piercing." Her copper hair was pulled back from her face with a strip of brown cloth. I imagined that its more honest self was touched here and there with gray, but that was just a guess. . . . I put down the picture. She looked at me and it and frowned the kind of desperate, exhausted frown that turns the room upside down and shakes the sympathy from its pockets.

Yeah, the spirit of Raymond Chandler is alive and well in the Midwest.

 

I first heard about Jason Miller through this episode of Mysterypod and thought his conversation with Steve Usery was fascinating. I finally got the chance to read his first book this week -- We spend the first 3 and change pages with Slim in a coal mine in Little Egypt, Illinois. There were so many things in those pages I just didn't understand -- but somehow, Miller still created a fantastic sense of place. Claustrophobic, dark, dirty, and dangerous. I was hooked almost immediately. Then we started meeting people -- and it got better.

 

Slim works in the Knight Hawk -- one of the remaining coal mines in the area -- he's known for tracking down a couple of people that no one else seemed capable of finding, and was willing (and able) to get violent as necessary. More importantly, Slim's a single father to a 12 year-old named Anci. He's dating a teacher and has a best friend named Jeep, who's sort of a Joe Pike-figure.

 

Matthew Luster is the owner of the Knight Hawk -- and probably just as ethical as you'd expect. Just as rich, too -- at least by small-town standards (and then some). He talks Slim into looking for a newspaper photographer who went missing about the same time as the reporter he worked with was found dead inside the mine. Roy Beckett, the photographer, is married to Luster's daughter -- and it doesn't really seem like they're really close. Why Luster wants him found is a bit murky, too -- primarily, he seems curious about the story that Beckett and the photographer are working on.

 

The top contender is a blossoming meth trade in Knight Hawk and another mine in the area. But there's an environmental group making noise, too. Throw in Beckett's reputation as a womanizer, and you have any number of potential reasons why he's scarce. Slim makes a token effort in tracking him down -- when bodies start piling up, and bullets fly near Slim, his girlfriend and daughter. Which just makes him buckle down and get to work.

 

Overall, it's a pretty standard PI tale from this point out. Entertaining enough in and of itself, a solid story that will keep mystery fans reading. But what makes this book shine and stand out is Slim and his perspective -- like any good PI novel, it's about the narrator primarily. And Slim is, right out of the gate, right up there with Spenser, Walt Longmire, Patrick Kenzie, and so on. Right there, Miller's given people a reason to enjoy this book and come back for a sequel or three.

 

But it gets better -- the way most of these people talk. I loved it -- I'm not saying Little Egypt is full of Boyd Crowders, but it's close. A ritzy-subdivision's security guard, one of Beckett's mistresses, Slim, and others -- I made notes to quote them all, but I won't -- just a sample of the dialogue (and narration, which is pretty much just internal dialogue):

  • That old man is so bad, they'll have to come up with a new definition of the term just so ordinary bad men won't get all full of false piety.
  • You ever see one of these Taurus Raging Judge Magnum things? . . . I know it sounds like a gas station prophylactic, but let me tell you, it's enough gun to kill the Lincoln on Mount Rushmore.
  • ...the public defender system is a good thing--but you got the feeling that, in this guy's hands, you could walk into to donate to the policeman's fund and end up tied to a metal table.

Anci, I have to say, is the coolest kid in Crime Fiction today -- that's not saying a whole lot, I grant you. But she is. I like Maddie Bosch, but she's no Anci (and outside of Bernie Little's and Andy Carpenter's sons are okay, too -- but we don't get that much time with them). She's smart, she's brave, she's vulnerable, funny, well-read . . . and more mature than Flavia de Luce (and doesn't seem to go looking for trouble). All without being too cute and therefore annoying -- she's a kid, but an important part of Team Slim.

 

The novel ends making it clear that there are more stories about Anci and Slim to tell. There's another novel and a short story in this series -- hopefully with more to come. I had so much fun reading this and totally dug this one and can't wait to read the others. Give this a shot, folks. 2017 Library Love Challenge

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/04/28/down-dont-bother-me-by-jason-miller
Review
4 Stars
A wonderfully written novel that I have mixed feelings about
The Best of Adam Sharp - Graeme Simsion

If my life prior to February 15, 2012, had been a song, it might have been “Hey Jude,” a simple piano tune, taking my sad and sorry adolescence and making it better. In the middle, it would pick up—better and better— for a few moments foreshadowing something extraordinary. And then: just na-na-na-na, over and over, pleasant enough, but mainly because it evoked what had gone before.


That's the first paragraph, and I'm betting 80% of reviewers will be quoting that -- how can you not? You get a sense of Adam, his musical taste, how much music means to him/the way he thinks -- and you get the novel's mood. In the next few pages, you get an idea what Adam's life is like in February 2012 -- his relationship, his relationship with his mother, the nostalgia (and maybe more) he feels towards a country he lived in while he was young and his first great (greatest?) love.

 

Then we end the introduction with this paragraph that pushes us into the novel:

 

No matter now. I would soon have more immediate matters to occupy my mind. Later that day, as I continued my engagement with the past, scouring the Internet for music trivia in the hope of a moment of appreciation at the pub quiz, a cosmic DJ—perhaps the ghost of my father—would lift the needle on the na-na-na-nas of “Hey Jude,”say, “Nothing new happening here,”and turn it to the flip side.

“Revolution.”

 

On the flip side is an email from The One Who Got Away ("got" isn't necessarily the best term -- "slipped away", "blindly walked away from", "made the greatest mistake of your life with" -- come closer). Angelina was a night-time soap actress that Adam had an affair with while he lived in Australia while working on a contract job in 1989. Over the next couple of chapters Adam reminisces about his time with Angelina -- it's a heckuva love story. It's an even better doomed-love story since we all know it's coming to an end, and he's able to tell it that way.

 

This email is the first communication she's attempted since she informed Adam that she was getting married before he had a chance to come back.

 

We also get a compressed history of Adam and Claire (his might-as-well-be wife), their 15+ year relationship -- the ups, downs, and obvious commitment. Even if the romance is largely gone, there's something strong under-girding their bond. Right? Maybe? Probably? And I do mean compressed -- their decade and change is given less space than the few months Angelina and Adam have. We also see what's going on in the Spring of 2012 with their relationship, and how this new email correspondence fits in with Adam's life.

 

Part II of the book is focused on what happens when Adam and Angelina reconnect in person for a few days months later. Which is really all I can say about that. Well, it takes almost the same amount of space as the first part (ecopy, so I can't do page counts, so these are just estimates) -- so it's obviously a lot more detailed.

 

I loved Part I -- totally. The feel of it, seeing the changes for the better that Adam goes through thanks to the confidence boost that emailing Angelina gives him. Watching his relationship with Claire improve at the same time. All the while enjoying the 1989 story, too, sharing that feeling of nostalgia and more with him. It's just so well done.

But Part II? I had serious problems with. I cannot detail them without ruining the book for you all. But people just don't act the way most (if not all) of our primary characters do here. There are just too many psychological, emotional, spiritual and moral problems with what happens, how people react (both in the heat of the moment and in the cool light of day) -- people, real people, just can't do this and survive in any meaningful fashion.

 

We also do meet Angelina's husband, Charlie, and I have so many conflicting opinions about him -- on the one hand he appears to be good guy, generous, gracious (and other positive adjectives that don't start with "g") . . . but he's dishonest with everyone (possibly including himself), manipulative, cold, calculating . . . I want to state that he's not physically or mentally abusive, because my description of him almost sounds like it. Things would be less murky if he was.

 

Angelina is equally troubling -- both in how she acts toward Charlie, her children and Adam. I'm not incredibly certain that I'm pleased with the way she treats herself (or if she's true to her chosen vocation or character). I can understand a lot of how Adam comports himself, but at some point, I needed him to call the whole thing off (anyone else could've, but it wasn't in their character at the moment).

 

The whole thing at the point became the car wreck you pass by on the Interstate and try to not gawk at.

 

I can't find the exact quotation, but Nora Ephron said something about Sleepless in Seattle not being a love story, but a story about movie love (Rosie O'Donnell's character says something similar in the film). About the only way I can handle huge portions of this book is thinking of it in similar terms -- Part II isn't about actual love, romance/commitment between two human beings -- but it's about love in fiction, romance/commitment between two fictional characters. If I think of Adam and Angelina (and Charlie and Claire) as actual people, I feel a mix of pity and repugnance for all involved (well, no repugnance for one of them, but I'll leave it at that) -- along with a strong desire to get a pastor and/or psychologist to their doorsteps. But if I think of them as fictional characters -- which, I guess is what they are, as much as one doesn't like to admit that -- I can feel that revulsion and sympathy and just hope that they're able to have decent lives.

 

But the writing? Simsion's craft here is what kept me going through my distaste -- and what's going to compel me to give it a higher rating than I initially thought I would. Everything I thought/hoped he was capable of after The Rosie Project is on full display here -- and, honestly, Adam Sharp is probably a better novel than it's predecessors. Yes, there are comic moments, but this isn't as funny as the Rosie books, so don't look for a similar experience. But the emotional palate is richer, more varied -- deeper.

 

The use of music throughout -- as Adam's refuge and outlet, the way that he bonds with people, and the songs used for various purposes -- is just dynamite. Well, almost dynamite -- Cher's "Walking in Memphis" rather than Marc Cohn's? Really? (both in the playlist and novel) One of the problems with musicians in novels who write their own material (Alex Bledsoe's Tufa, Andy Abramowitz's Tremble, Hornby's Tucker Crowe, etc.) who use other's songs, is that you have to imagine the music, imagine the skill, imagine the feeling. But with Adam (or Doyle's The Commitments) you can take a shortcut through that and know exactly what feelings, sounds, rhythms, and so on are to be conjured up (Simsion gives us the exact album version sometimes so we can't get it wrong). I'm sure there are articles to be written about the music here and how it serves, propels, shapes the plot -- but I don't have that kind of time.

 

Oh, I can't forget to mention -- the official playlist for this is killer. I wish I'd have had an Internet connection available while I was reading it, I'm sure it'd have been a bonus. It's definitely helping while I write -- but there's some good stuff there for just good listening.

 

I was genuinely excited to read this book -- while I wasn't especially taken with The Rosie Effect, I loved The Rosie Project -- I'm pretty sure it made my Top 10 that year, and I recommended it to everyone I could think of online and in person. So when a new book by Simsion was announced -- and not another Rosie book -- I preordered it, and jumped on the opportunity when I saw it on NetGalley. And then that Introduction hooked me hard. Part I was wonderful. But man . . . I just couldn't handle Part II. Which leaves me in a pickle when it comes to this post, you know?

 

I admired this book more than I enjoyed it -- though I need to stress I really enjoyed parts of it. I'd love to heartily recommend this, I wish I could -- but I can only do so with reservations. There's so much I object to going on in these pages that I can't, while I can respect Simsion's work -- and I know this book achieved everything he wanted. I'll give it 4 Stars on merit, not my own enjoyment.

 

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work -- I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

Review
4 Stars
Peter Grant ain't afraid of no ghost
The Furthest Station - Ben Aaronovitch

He asked if we were really ghost hunting, and I said we were.

 

“What, like officially?”

 

“Officially secret,” I said because discretion is supposed to be, if not our middle name, at least a nickname we occasionally answer to when we remember.


This novella hit the spot -- a short, but fully developed, adventure with our friends from the Rivers of London series -- full of action, a bit of snark, and seeing Peter in his element (and far out of it, too). Would I have preferred a full novel? Sure -- but if I can't have one, this is more than adequate.

 

Peter Grant, apprentice wizard and Police Constable, is investigating several reports of a ghost terrorizing people on the Underground during the morning commute. Naturally, even when interviewed immediately following a sighting the witness would only be able to remember details for a few moments before they forgot and/or rationalized them away. Which makes it pretty difficult to ask follow-up questions. As Peter continues to investigate, he ends up finding a very non-supernatural crime that he needs to deal with, even if he goes about it in a pretty supernatural way. While there's little in this series that I don't like, but Peter doing regular policework is one of my favorite parts.

Along for the ride (and looking for trouble) is his cousin, Abigail Jumara, acting as a summer intern for the Folly. Honestly, I barely remembered her when she shows up here -- but I eventually remembered her, and I was glad to see her back. I'm not necessarily sure that I need to see her all the time, but seeing more of her would definitely be pleasant.

 

In addition to the subplot about Abigail's future, there's a subplot revolving around another personification of a river -- not one of Mama Thames', either. I enjoyed it, and thought it fit in nicely with the rest of the novella, while giving us the requisite dose of a body of water.

 

There's not a lot to sink your teeth into here -- but the novella length doesn't leave you wanting more (like a short story would). It's good to see the Folly involved in smaller cases. Not just the serial killing, major magical threat, etc. kind of thing -- but the "smaller" stuff, too.

 

For any fan of the Folly/Peter Grant/Rivers of London series, this is one to get. It'd even make a pretty good introduction to the series for someone who hasn't yet discovered this fun UF series.


Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Subterranean Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both, I needed something like this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work -- I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/04/25/the-furthest-station-by-ben-aaronovitch
Review
1.5 Stars
A bloated mess of a book that can't figure out what it is
Traveller - Inceptio - Rob Shackleford

There's part of me that wants to go off on this novel describing all the problems I had with it -- the uninspired writing, the bland characters, the unnecessary plotlines, the preposterous nature of so much of the story -- after all, I did spend days stuck in this mire. But I just don't care enough -- and it'd just be mean.

 

So let me keep this brief, something Shackleford could try. There are few sentences that couldn't be at least 1/3 shorter -- the novel as a whole could be 1/3 shorter and would be much more effective. On any number of episodes of The Once and Future Podcast host Anton Strout has talked about young writers over-sharing their world building -- this is a perfect example of it. I can't tell you how many pages are devoted to the accidental invention of this time machine -- how much drama surrounds it, how questionably the term "research" is tossed around, etc. -- and beyond the fact that a time machine that can only transfer people 1000 years to the past and back is accidentally created, we don't need any of it. Nothing else in the first part of the book (I'm guessing 200+ pages) devoted to that matters. At all.

 

The worldbuilding is the best part of the book, and it's overdone. That's all I'm going to bother with on this one -- it's just not worth it. This was clearly a labor of love, but sadly, not an affection that I can share at all.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for this post.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/04/25/traveller-inceptio-by-rob-shackleford
Review
3.5 Stars
A fast-paced and fun modern Holmes.
The Accidental Detective (Victor Locke Chronicles) (Volume 1) - Michael RN Jones

I have this section of my Kindle, a corner area, where I put Fahrenheit Press titles to gather dust after I buy them (I imagine the drive like a big patch of land -- I know that's not how things work, but I like it). Only Jo Perry and Charles Kriel have managed to avoid that area (Duncan MacMaster's Hack never ended up there, because FP gave it to me to read -- his other book, however . . . ). There are a handful of books there, and on adjacent plots, that I was going to actually read in January of this year, but well, that didn't work. Maybe by July? (feel free to pause for laughter here).

 

I bring this up because The Accidental Detective was purchased on release and placed their next to the other titles and was only FP's releasing of HER: The 1st Victor Locke Story back in March that got me to read this one so quickly. I didn't realize at the time that HER was the first story in this collection, I thought it was more of a prequel to this novel. Whoops. Still, HER was a fun story and I had to find out more about Victor Locke and his buddy, Dr. Doyle quickly, so I was able to rescue this from FP corner.

 

Essentially, this is a short story collection -- or a very episodic novel, depending how you want to look at it -- about a convicted hacker and his formerly court-mandated psychologist solving mysteries. The stories are very much in the updating-Sherlock Holmes vein. Basically, the stories are a Sherlock-like update featuring a Holmes (Locke) with a demeanor more akin to Elementary's Holmes while living a Mr. Robot lifestyle (at least early Season One Mr. Robot -- look, don't go examining these comparisons too far, all right?). Some of the ways that the Locke stories are updates of/tributes to/etc. the Holmes canon are obvious, some are subtle, and some are blatant -- and all work wonderfully. I've read most of the Holmes stories and all the novels at least once, but I'm not an expert by any means; still, I'm familiar enough to catch most of them without work. I laughed hard at this version of Mycroft in his first appearance.

 

All that's background -- now to the book itself, HER kicks off the collection with Locke (and his not-sidekick Doyle) being drafted into working for the FBI. The story doesn't end the way the FBI agents would like, but it seems to give Locke the idea that he could do more of this detecting thing. Unofficially, of course. So he goes looking for further opportunities like this. Most of his work is for friends and acquaintances from his neighborhood, but he does get pulled into doing some work for the police.

 

Locke's personality pretty much demands that he will have conflict with whatever authority/official-types he encounters, but, like every good Sherlock, most will recognize his talents and let him get away with it. Doyle is more than a sidekick and chronicler of his adventures, but he's no Joan Watson. Yet. I don't think Brown will leave him in his current role. Doyle is brilliant, he's a great observer of people and things, he thinks and talks fast and doesn't suffer fools gladly (unless he likes them).

 

This doesn't mean that he won't have a blind spot or two, that he can't use some help from others occasionally, either. He usually knows when he needs the help, too.

Few of the stories result in any public success -- Locke gets the solution, but sometimes he can't do anything with it, or has to keep it under wraps. I love this -- it's be so easy to make him some publicity-seeking type. Or someone who doesn't seek it, but gets it nonetheless. But Jones lets his hero have public failures pretty regularly, keeping him as a struggling detective, not a superstar of deduction.

 

Fast-paced, clever, charming, funny, clever, and I should repeat clever. I thoroughly enjoyed these stories and gobbled them up pretty quickly. I know Volume 2 is on the way, and it won't end up in the dusty and ignored FP corner. You should go grab this one if you're a fan of Holmes or any of his modern incarnations. Even if you're not a fan of Holmes, you might find yourself changing your mind after reading Jones' take on the character.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/04/24/the-accidental-detective-by-michael-rn-jones
Review
4 Stars
A fitting conclusion to this great series
The High King: The Prydain Chronicles, Book 5 - Lloyd Alexander, James Langton, Listening Library

Arawn-Death-Lord has managed to get his hands on Dyrnwyn, Gwydion's sword, which has emboldened him to move his forces to launch an all-out assault on the Kingdom of Prydain. Gwydion and his allies move quickly to assemble the forces necessary to stand against him -- basically, it's an Armageddon-type situation, and all hands are needed.

 

Taran is sent to the Free Commots, where he spent so much time recently to gather their support -- and he does so, almost without trying to, becomes the leader of the assembled forces (such as they are) of the rather libertarian people. Before you know it, Taran's leading his band into battle at the side of Gwydion and the other warleaders. It's a stretch to believe, but at this point, you go with it. The forces marshaled against the High King are strong enough to make this an uphill battle, but when treason rears its ugly head and the forces of Prydain are divided against themselves, it really seems that all hope is lost. Eventually, Gwydion and his forces head off on a last-ditch effort to stop the Death Lord, while Taran, his companions, allies, followers and Glew take on a vital, but smaller task that will allow Gwydion's hail Mary to work.

 

And frankly, that whole treason storyline bugs me -- not just because it's evil, but because it's futile, stupid, and pointless. I think this was Alexander's biggest error in the series. It serves no real purpose but to stack the odds against the armies of Prydain.

 

Finally, we get final battles -- The Death Lord and his forces are defeated (spoiler, children's fantasy written in the 60's features good guys winning); the future of Prydain is settled; other Tolkien-esque things take place as is fitting in the conclusion to a fantasy series (actually, Tolkien was probably following the same older rules and tropes as Alexander, but we now associate them with Tolkien, not his predecessors).

 

Taran finally grows up into what Alexander's been holdig out for him all along -- it takes the whole novel, but it happens. Gwydion is probably the least interesting he's ever been here, which is a shame. Eilonwy? Oh, Eilonwy -- she's just so perfect (as a character, probably annoying in real life -- still, someone you want in your corner). I loved everything about her in this book. I wish Gurgi had a little more to do, and that Glew had far, far less. Fflewddur Fflam remains <b>the</b> unsung hero of this series -- the sacrifices he makes, the efforts he makes, his wisdom, etc., are all overshadowed by his comedic use. What he goes through moved me more this time through than any of the deaths. As an aside, the first time I saw a picture of Lloyd Alexander, I shouted -- Fflewddur! I don't know if it was intentional, or if I just had a strange imagination, but he looks exactly like a Fflam.

 

Oh, and there are many, many deaths -- mostly nameless soldiers on both sides, but there are quite a few named people, too. Some get great heroic moments, others are just named in a list of the fallen. I remember the first time I read this book being very upset by just one of them -- it was quite possibly the first time in my young life that anyone other than a dog, an ailing elderly person or a villain had died in a book I read. I still get sad when I read that particular one, but it doesn't get to me as much.

 

James Langton's performance here is consistent with what he's done for the last few books. If you liked him before, you'll like him now. If not . . .

 

I remember liking this more than I did, even just a few years ago when I read this with my kids. Still, a great way to wrap up this series -- Alexander ties up everything that needs tiring up, he rewards all the surviving characters in a fitting way and sends our heroes off on new adventures. There's still a bit of fun, a little adventure, and character growth throughout, with all things ending up just where they need to satisfy readers. It's really easy for adult-me to see where kid-me fell in love with the genre thanks to this series. Still, a fitting conclusion to this series -- which I still recommend for young and old (primarily the young).

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/04/24/the-high-king-audiobook-by-lloyd-alexander-james-langton
Saturday Miscellany - 4/22/16

Another long week -- so this is late again. Hopefully back to normal last week. Maybe even with more things to read for you here. Still, here are the ddds '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:

    This Week's New Release that I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon:
  • Lois Lane: Triple Threat by Gwenda Bond -- not only does this look good, but it reminds me that I never got around to reading Double Down last year. Oops. YA Lois Lane is back in action -- and maybe gets to meet SmallvilleGuy in the flesh.

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and welcome to roamingwanderlusts for following the blog this week. 

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/04/22/saturday-miscellany-42216
Review
3.5 Stars
Reacher's in a hot town, summer in the city
High Heat: A Jack Reacher Novella - Lee Child, Dick Hill, Random House Audio

Ahhh, finally -- an actually satisfying shorter Jack Reacher story. It's longer than the others I've tried -- a novella, not just a short story. That's probably a lot of it, but there's something more to it -- just don't ask me what.

 

Reacher's on summer vacation before his senior year -- pretty much fully grown, has a good head on his shoulders, and is as arrogant and invincible feeling as most teenagers (he's just big and tough enough to back it up). He's visiting NYC for the day before going to visit his brother at West Point.

 

It's 1977, a summer in NYC known for two things: incredible heat and Son of Sam. Both have an impact on this story (no, Reacher doesn't stop the killer or anything -- phew). Reacher flirts with some college girls, breaks up a fight with a mobster and an undercover FBI agent, survives a blackout, spends some quality time with one of the college girls and helps the FBI agent out -- while engaging in a few solid fights.

 

The action takes place in one night -- probably 14 hours or so, but Child manages to cram a lot into those hours. Is it realistic? No, not even by Reacher standards. Is it compelling -- yup. Will it keep you interested? Oh, yeah.

 

Dick Hill sounded to me like he as having a lot of fun reading this one -- which is fitting, it's probably the most "fun" Reacher story I've come across (well, maybe the Reacher/Nick Heller story in FaceOff is a little more so). He does his typical job, satisfying in his delivery, keeps you engaged, doesn't wow with technique.

 

It's a fun story, nothing to get excited about, but something that Reacher fans will enjoy, in a complete-feeling story. Good enough for me.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/04/20/high-heat-audiobook-by-lee-child-dick-hill
Review
3.5 Stars
Rebus takes a bite out of crime in London
Tooth and Nail - Ian Rankin

She drives home the knife.

The moment, she knows from past experience, is a very intimate one. Her hand is gripped around the knife's
cool handle and the thrust takes the blade into the throat up to the hilt until her hand meets the throat itself. Flesh upon flesh. Jacket first, or woollen jersey, cotton shirt or T-shirt, then flesh. Now rent. The knife is writhing, like an animal sniffing. Warm blood covering hilt and hand. (The other hand covers the mouth, stifling screams.) The moment is complete. A meeting. Touching. The body is hot, gaping, warm with blood. Seething inside, as insides become outsides. Boiling. The moment is coming to an end all too soon.

And still she feels hungry. It isn't right, isn't usual but she does. She removes some of the clothing; in fact, removes quite a lot of it, removes more, perhaps, than is necessary. And she does what she must do, the knife squirming again. She keeps her eyes screwed tightly shut. She does not like this part. She has never liked this part, not then, not now. But especially not then.

 

Clearly, this is someone who needs to be stopped. And The Powers That Be have brought John Rebus from Edinburgh to London to help the hunt for the Wolfman (yeah, those who tagged the killer with that moniker may have made some assumptions). Thanks to the events in Knots & Crosses, many (who don't know all the details) believe that Rebus is somewhat of an expert in Serial Killers. He knows he's not, but no one asked him -- he was just told to show up. It's not long before this case gets under Rebus' skin and he's no longer in London to kill a couple of days as a show of support for the local police, but he's off to catch a killer.

 

George Flight is the detective who's serving as Rebus' contact -- and is leading the investigation. Rebus notes that he's a better policeman than he is -- meticulous, detailed, going through things step by step. Which isn't doing him a lot of good at the moment, he needs something more. Enter Rebus. By and large, Flight's the only one that wants Rebus' help -- his superior, another detective on the case, and the press liaison are pretty united in their lack of interest in bringing in someone from "Jockland" to meddle in the crimes of the big city.

 

As Rebus arrives in London, another body is discovered, so he shows up at the crime scene with his luggage, from there, they head to an autopsy -- rushed, no doubt given the likelihood that this is another Wolfman victim. The autopsy scene -- the sights, sounds and smells -- is one of the best (possibly the best) that I've seen along these lines. It felt real, it felt disgusting, it felt sad. Between this and the opening paragraphs (quoted above), I'm again reminded that Rankin knows what he's doing when it comes to writing. He nails this stuff.

 

While he's in town, Rebus visits his ex-wife and daughter -- things go poorly there, as one would expect. Things go worse when his daughter's boyfriend comes around. When Rebus is able to connect said boyfriend to a career criminal . . .

 

I'm no expert on this, but I've read more than a few serial killer novels, it strikes me that 1992 was still pretty early in serial killer fiction-terms, and it shows. Both in Rebus' attempts to draw the killer out, as well as Flight's attempts to catch him. We also get to see both detectives trying to understand the serial killer -- or at least how to apprehend one. Flight's more old-school in his approach and is pretty disdainful of Rebus' efforts to get inside the head of a serial killer. Which is not to say that this particular killer isn't destructive, sick and really creepy.

 

Rebus is spurred on to this track because of who he is -- but the attractive psychologist, Lisa Frazer, who wants to help him out certainly doesn't hurt. It could be argued by some (including some characters in the book) that Rebus is far more interested in pursuing her than the Wolfman.

 

Rebus mostly stumbles around, indulging his infatuation with Frazer, looking for his daughter's boyfriend, and occasionally chatting with Flight about the case. Now eventually, enough things happened that allow Rebus to put things together and figure out the identity of the Wolfman (sorta like when Wilson made a stray comment to Dr. House that got him to make the right diagnosis). Sure, it was clever, but hard to believe.

 

Early on, I thought this might be the book that turned me into a Rankin fan, not just some guy reading these. It came close, but I just couldn't totally buy the ending and the way Rebus solved the case. But man, Rankin can write. I'm not totally sold on what he's writing, but I'm really enjoying the craft. I was hooked throughout, but that ending just didn't work.

 

2017 Library Love Challenge

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/04/19/tooth-and-nail-by-ian-rankin
Review
3.5 Stars
Nearly Historical Hilarity
Dave Barry's History of the Millennium (So Far) - Patrick Frederic, Dave Barry

Back in high school, I worked at a public library (shock, right?), and I kept shelving this book -- Dave Barry Slept Here, and eventually succumbed and took it home -- several times. I fell in love with Barry's humor, and read him a lot over the next decade -- every book, as many columns as I could find, etc., etc. But I eventually stopped, for no good reason that I can think of (it's probably not Harry Anderson's fault) -- and have really only read his novels since then.

 

Still, when I saw this audiobook on the library's site, it was an automatic click -- without even reading the description. This is essentially a reprinting of his "Year in Review" columns for the first few years of this millennium and a review of the previous 1,000 years of human history.

 

It was hilarious. Just that simple. There's nothing more to say, really.

 

In the beginning Frederic played it straight -- which surprised me a bit, but I liked the effect. A serious reading of Barry's goofiness worked remarkably well. Later on, Frederic seemed to loosen up -- he even did a couple of decent impressions. I really enjoyed his work on this.

 

Yeah, the humor's a bit dated, but funny is funny. This is a great look back at the early part of the 21st Century (and before). I laughed a lot, remembered a few things, and generally had a good time with this.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/04/19/dave-barrys-history-of-the-millennium-so-far-audiobook-by-dave-barry-patrick-frederic
Review
3.5 Stars
Not your typical YA Vampire Story
Black Fall - D.J. Bodden

Honestly? I really wasn't that interested in this book -- Bodden followed me on Twitter, and I followed back -- I saw that he had a link to NetGalley for this book, so I clicked and checked it out. It seemed like a perfectly nice book and one that probably had an interesting take on teenaged vampires, but I really wasn't in the mood for that, so I closed the window. Or so I remember it. The next day, I got an email saying that I'd been approved for the book. Not wanting my NetGalley percentage to take a hit, I threw it on to the Kindle and made room on the schedule. So, let the fact that I wasn't all that interested in this book in the first place put a certain spin on what I'm going to say here.
---

Jonas Black is a typical sixteen year-old, with a very driven girlfriend (who's pretty much mapped out the next few years of their lives), a decent home life, a couple of invested parents, and so on in NYC. Which makes him not that typical, I guess -- but he's the kind of kid people think of as "typical." When we meet him, however, he's reeling from the unexpected death of his father, and his mother doesn't seem to be acting all that normal at the funeral.

 

Not long after that, strange things start happening to Jonas -- he blacks out unexpectedly, his mother's behavior gets even stranger, lastly he and his mother are attacked at home, and rescued by someone unlikely (leading to 2 very large men escorting him to school). He's able to pin his mother down and she explains to him that she's a vampire, as was his father -- and he is, too. There was a problem with my download and so the conversation where his mother describes the experiment that made him into the vampire he is (born, not made) and whatnot. Thankfully, I don't want to get into details anyway, because I'd probably get it wrong. I really appreciate that Jonas isn't a Chosen One kind of character -- more of an Engineered One. But even at that, I don't think anyone planned on him tackling things that he did at this stage of his life (I'm semi-prepared to be proven wrong in future books).

 

So, while juggling school and his girlfriend, Jonas is basically enrolled in a self-defense course for vampires (there's more to it than that, but . . . ) where he meets some other vampires and a reticent werewolf. He befriends/is befriended by a vampire, Eve, about the same age -- but who knows what she's doing -- and wants to get to know the werewolf, Kieran. While I'm largely on the fence about the older vampires Jonas meets -- I really like Eve. Kieran and the other werewolves are cool -- and not just because I prefer lycanthropes to vamps. Before long the three of them -- and a small army of others -- find themselves in the middle of an effort to put a stop to a demon's schemes.

 

Bodden's vampires are pretty interesting -- I like some of the tweaks he makes to the standard profile. Ditto for his werewolves. His entire supernatural taxonomy and how it relates to the world is pretty well-realized and elaborate. I was pretty impressed by it, and am curious about it as well. I'm not saying they're drastically different (vampires don't glow or anything), but Bodden's vamps aren't the same as Hunters's, Butcher's, Briggs', etc.

 

A word of warning: There's. Just. So. Much. Exposition. I get it, really -- Jonas needed to be introduced to this world, and acclimatized really soon for his own safety. Which was mighty convenient, because it helped the reader learn about The Black Year's take on vampires, werewolves, lichs (is that the proper plural form? lichen doesn't seem right), specters, hunters, etc. On the whole, Bodden did a decent job blending character moments and infodumps, merging what we need to learn with keeping things moving. Still, it frequently felt like this was a guide to the supernatural world more than a novel -- he might as well have named a couple of characters Ryan and Esposito.

 

I was engaged enough to keep going, but at a certain point, I'd just about given up hope of really enjoying the book, and just put my head down to plow though and get it over with so I could move on. I was surprised a little later to find out that I was invested in the fate of these characters, and was really getting a kick out of Bodden's work. I can't point to what it was that got me there, but it probably had something to do with Kieran. I do want to stress that it was after the 50% mark, so stick with it if your experience is like mine. By the time I was finished, I was ready for book #2 (...and probably 3....and most likely 4).

 

I will not say that this is the best thing since sliced bread, but it's a fresh take on many UF staples from a YA point-of-view, with compelling characters, a well-built world, and a solid plot (especially when it gets around to moving).

 

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from the author via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- I appreciate the read.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/04/17/black-fall-by-d-j-bodden
Saturday Miscellany - 4/15/2017

Just 3 things in the odds 'n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. Only 3? I guess everyone's doing their taxes or something (I was sure I had more things in the queue, but . . . ) You've probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week's New Releases I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon (and one I forgot about last week):
  • Betrayed by Karen E. Olson -- Tina Adler -- hacker turned fugitive turned . . . well, we'll see -- is back for her third adventure. Really looking forward to this one.
  • Black Fall by D, H, Bodden -- the first of the Black Year series -- a YA Urban Fantasy that impressed me. Hopefully you'll see a post about it early next week!

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and welcome to nzfnmblog and writerlady for following the blog this week.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/04/15/saturday-miscellany-4152017
Review
3 Stars
A fun, breezy superhero(ine) adventure.
Heroine Complex - Sarah Kuhn

A few years back, the city of San Francisco was visited by trans-dimensional demons -- they were unable to stay long before being driven back, but in their wake certain individuals were left with superpowers. Some powers were impressive, others were . . . well, let's just say less-so. Most didn't use their powers much, but some heeded the call of Ben Parker and used their abilities to serve the common good. Chief among them was Aveda Jupiter -- who spends her days defending SF from further demon incursions as well as more mundane menaces.

 

Aveda is helped in her quest for justice (and good PR) by a fighting coach, a scientist studying demons and a PA. Her PA, Evie Tanaka, is her childhood best-friend and the only one who can weather her mood swings, demands for affirmation and schedule with good humor and grace (at least externally).

 

Events transpire, and Evie has to pose as Aveda at an event -- and things go awry in a pretty significant way. Demons attack (while displaying some new characteristics that require a new long-term strategy for battling them) and Evie demonstrates a super-power of her own. In the next few weeks, Evie has to continue the ruse while learning how to use (and hopefully lose) her own power and learning how to adjust to a newfound confidence, level of esteem, a change in her friendship with Aveda, and even a love life -- while trying to beat back the invasion force once and for all.

 

I'll be honest -- the plot was okay, but almost entirely predictable by page 50 or so. But name the super-hero story that's not, right? Especially origin stories. What matters is how Kuhn told the story -- with heart, charm, and wit. So that you aren't getting to various story beats saying, "Yup, right on time," (or whatever unintentionally pompous thing you say to yourself when you get to a point in a book like this), rather you're saying, "Oh, I like how she did that," or "that's a great take on X."

 

The characters and the relationships between them are the key to this -- none of them act their best, none of them are really hero-material, all of them ring true. These could be your friends (not my friends, mind you -- there's not enough book talk, and a whole lot of things that happen outside of a house), or at least the friends of someone you know. If, you know, your friends are known for dressing in leather, beating up inanimate objects inhabited by pan-dimensional beings, and fending off the prying and gossiping eyes of a fashion/lifestyle blogger.

 

I don't think I've done the best sales job on this, but I'm not sure what else to say. Heroine Complex is light, breezy and fun -- a quick and enjoyable read with characters you want to spend time with. A great way to kill a couple of hours -- I'm looking forward to Book 2.

 

2017 Library Love Challenge

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/04/13/heroine-complex-by-sarah-kuhn
Review
4 Stars
How many roads must Taran wander down before . . .
Taran Wanderer (The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 4) - Lloyd Alexander, James Langton

The one question that's plagued Taran all his life is just who is he? Who is his family? Is there any chance at all that his family is some sort of nobility? This last question has taken on a new level of importance to him as he has realized that he's in love with a princess and can't do anything about it without that nobility.

 

Dallben can't answer the question for him -- but he allows Taran leave to go try to find the answer himself. I've never understood just how Taran can pull this off -- there's practically no birth records in Prydain (I can't imagine), it's not like he can get blood tests done -- and he doesn't really interview anyone, just meanders around.

 

Still, he visits various corners of the kingdom -- visiting friends old and new, dipping his toe in all sorts of trades and vocations. He renders aid, and gets aid. Fflewddur Fflam shows up and spends a good portion of the novel traveling with him (Gurgi remains a constant companion). There's a confrontation with a wizard, a regional armed conflict to try to settle, a mercenary band to deal with -- as well as other woes.

 

He learns a lot, he matures a lot, and maybe even gets a dose of wisdom. It's not your traditional fantasy novel by any sense, but it's a good one.

 

As for the audiobook? Everything I've said about the other books in the series -- Alexander's introduction and Langton's performance -- holds true for this one.

 

The most emotionally rich of the books, the most thoughtful -- particularly for those of the target age. Good, good stuff.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/04/13/taran-wanderer-audiobook-by-lloyd-alexander-james-langton
Review
4 Stars
A knockout introduction to the toughest female in crime fiction
Deep Down Dead - Steph Broadribb

Crime Fiction blogger turned novelist, Steph Broadribb's debut novel, Deep Down Dead is the story of a bail enforcement agent (bounty hunter) making a pickup that will change her life in a fairly dramatic way. Lori Anderson couldn't be in worse financial straits -- her daughter's medical bills from Leukemia (currently in remission) treatment are so far past due that future treatment is in jeopardy, and they're about to get evicted from their home. So when the bondsman she works for offers her the largest amount she's ever been offered for a job, she has to jump at it.

 

It's supposed to be a simple midnight run, go pick up the fugitive from another agent not licensed in Florida (or he'd drop off the fugitive himself) and deliver him to the police herself. Almost immediately, problems start (none that deter Lori from the cash reward waiting) -- her sitter has plans, so she has to take her daughter, Dakota, with her. Secondly, the fugitive in question is her former mentor, JT -- the one who taught her everything she knows, who's inexplicably got a criminal record now. Then when she arrives at the pickup, the agent she expects isn't there -- instead three very aggressive ruffians (best word I can think of) are there and decide to rough her up a little.

 

Things really go downhill from there -- before Lori knows it, she's got bigger problems than getting her money. She has to deal with a criminal enterprise running from one of the state's largest amusement parks; a mob with a long-standing grudge; corrupt law enforcement officials; and being a suspect in violent crimes. This is intertwined with the story of Lori and JT's past association, how he saved her life and set her on the path that she's on now.

 

By the time I got to a whopping 12% my notes started using the word "brutal." This was like if Pierce Brown took a crack at writing Stephanie Plum. Most of the time the violence (gun play or hand-to-hand) was brtual, but not overwhelming -- just heightened enough to fit a crime novel.

 

You like Laurie almost instantly, Dakota will charm you and grab your heart, and you'll even appreciate JT (maybe more . . . ) and his crusade -- at the very least, you'll get the connection between he and Laurie. The villains are evil, no two ways about it -- but not in the mustache-twirling way, just in the kind of evil that we like to pretend doesn't exist in this world.

 

It's not just in her characterization, but it's in her plotting, pacing and interweaving the stories of present and past that Broadribb displays more skill than your typical debut novelist. This lived up to every expectation I had from the interviews, reviews, etc. that I've heard and read, which was a relief. I sorta feel like I've been giving too many 4 Stars lately, like I've been overly generous, so I tried to rate this lower. But I just can't -- this is a 4 Star book, easy -- and with a little more experience under her belt, Broadribb (and Anderson) will be knocking out 5 Star reads regularly. I can't wait to see what's next.

 

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Trafalgar Square Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this entertaining and almost traumatic experience.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/04/12/deep-down-dead-by-steph-broadribb