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.

2 Stars
I just couldn't connect with this SF(?)/Fantasy(?)/Weird Science(?) Comedy
The Meifod Claw: A Comedy - J W Bowe

I'm going to keep the synopsis-y part of this vague because the blurbs for this book are pretty vague, and to a great extent, so is the book. This takes place in Wales, it involves a former sailor now confined to a wheelchair and a mostly abandoned farm-house (it fills up after a chapter or so), his niece, his nephew (who pretty much owns the house and funds everything in the book) and his nephew's friend -- who dropped out of a master's level physics program to take part in the hi-jinks that occur. Oh, at some point a dog is introduced -- he doesn't seem to add much to anything, only serves to derail the progress of the plot for a bit, but he seems like a cool dog, and I'm a sucker for cool dogs.


The guys have assembled at this abandoned farm to work on a project and the niece/sister drops in every now and then to "tsk" at them and examine the books. When they're not working on the project -- and frequently as an aid to working on the project -- the uncle, nephew and friend get high, drunk, stoned, and wasted, at the same time. There are probably a few other nearly synonymous terms I could throw in there, too.


I'm honestly not sure if the project is supernatural in nature (there's a salt circle involved, but it doesn't seem to do anything, and I'm not sure anyone believes it ought to), based in some sort of physics/"fringe" science (there's a lot of talk that indicated that), or some sort of combination thereof. Frankly, I'm not convinced that the novel is all that certain of the nature of the project. I know a whole lot more of the drinking and drug habits of the characters than of the reason they're together. The nephew is the Visionary, the friend is the brains behind things (although there's very little time that I can tell you that he's doing anything), and the uncle is the guy who lives in the house.


I do know that one of the side effects of this project is that it is some sort of miracle-grow product for plants -- which means that the marijuana they use and sell to finance this project is larger, higher quality, etc. than one should expect. There is some contact with supernatural/spiritual entities, some with alien life (or they're all three), a government agency and someone who'd done the same kind of work as these three earlier (and hints that they're not alone).


I got frustrated with this novel quickly, but stuck with it hoping it'd change my mind (or that I'd at least figure it out), but the way that the story was told got in my way. Every time someone makes a decision, or gets a new piece of information, relaying that information/acting on the decision is put off for a day and a half (at least) for alcohol and recreation pharmaceutical use. During that day and a half any number of things can be said/happen that delays the relaying/acting. It is so infuriating. Maybe it'd have been better if the results of the binge-drinking, acid use, cocaine snorting, etc. were amusing or interesting, but I doubt it.


There was every reason in the world for me to get into this book, and I just couldn't. Maybe it was my mood (I don't think so, I wanted a book just like this at the time), maybe it was something else outside the book, so that I should recommend this to you all. But I'm pretty sure it was the book this time -- if you've read this and disagree with me? I'd love to hear why. I wouldn't mind changing my mind.


Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

Saturday Miscellany -- 2/17/18

Slim pickings this week in the crop of 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 Love Letter to Mass Market Paperbacks -- probably my first (and most enduring) love is celebrated in this piece from BookRiot
  • Why Bother Reading More? -- I'm not sure why this older post from Confessions of a Readaholic showed up on my feed this week, but it's worth a read/reread.
  • Jane’s Long-Running Series -- Faith Hunter shares her secrets to writing a long-running series. This should be interesting for readers of Hunter; non-readers of Hunter who like to see how someone does it anyway; and aspiring authors wanting tips.
  • Fahrenheit author Ian Patrick's debut novel Rubicon has been optioned by the BBC -- Rubicon has been languishing on that corner of my Kindle where great looking Fahrenheit Press books go to languish and gather virtual dust since it came out -- it looks great, I've heard great things about it -- this probably couldn't happen to a more-deserving book.
  • Edmund Wilson on Crime Fiction -- Edmund Wilson was a notable literary critic in the mid-20th century or so. Here's a couple of pieces he wrote decrying Detective Fiction. They're so bad that they're fun to read. "Why Do People Read Detective Stories?" and its sequel "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?"
  • 20 Quirks & Strange Habits. The Weird Side of Famous Writers -- a nifty infographic from Jack Milgram -- thanks for this one, Jack!

  • The Plea by Steve Cavanagh -- The second novel about Eddie Flynn, the con man turned actual lawyer, was published in hardcover in the US this week (it came out in the UK 2 or so years ago, but we're catching up).
  • Where Night Stops by Douglas Light -- A fast-paced and effective crime thriller. Here's what I had to say about it.

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and welcome to Jakirra Ballard, Beardy Book Blogger (welcome to the book blogosphere, by the way -- love the beard, too), A D Solomon, spacefaith1 (thanks for the follow, but not linking to that banner pic, sorry) and Alicia Reads for following the blog this week.


3 Stars
A quick read about a Ride Share Driver
Uber Diva: Hot Tips for Drivers and Passengers of Uber and Lyft - Charles St. Anthony, Marcella Hammer

This is a combination of memoir of a Lyft/Uber driver, and a guide to starting/surviving/thriving as one in a tough market. A memoir/guide written by a humorist, it should be stressed, so there's plenty of humor infused throughout. That right there sounds like a winning book -- and <b>Uber Diva</b> almost was one.


Sadly, it came across as a pretty good first draft or a series of short blog posts. Every chapter -- almost every paragraph -- could've used just a little more. A little more detail, a little more context. A few chapters read like a thorough outline rather than actual prose -- just a series of bullet points along a theme. A little more expansion, a little more time spent with each idea and this would've been a whole lot of fun. As it is, <b>Uber Diva</b> is frequently worth a chuckle or wry smile to oneself, but it's never enough to satisfy.


I'm not crazy about St. Anthony's organization, either -- I'm not sure it ever made that much sense. Particularly, the jump from his opening to the rest just didn't work for me, it was a jarring tonal shift. The first chapter would've fit better as a closing or penultimate chapter, if you ask me.


There's a lot to like here, but it feels undercooked. It's enjoyable enough -- especially, I bet, for Lyft/Uber drivers -- but it could've been so much better. A little more revision, a little expansion and I bet I'd be talking about a good read, rather than one that's just good enough.


<i><b>Disclaimer:</b> I received a copy of this from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.</i>

4 Stars
What follows Darrow's Rising?
Iron Gold - Pierce Brown

<blockquote>. . . We didn't prepare for this."

“How do you prepare for a kick in the balls?” I say. “You don’t. You suck it up.”

"That supposed to inspire me?. . . </blockquote>

Darrow's words about the mission he and the Howlers are ill-prepared for also apply to readers of Pierce Brown books. At some point, you have to suck it up and keep moving. I typically considered Brown's writing to be full of gut-punches, but Darrow's anatomical metaphor applies, too. Yeah, we love the books, and Brown makes sure the experience is almost as harrowing for the readers as it is for the characters.


After President Snow dies, after Tris finishes with the Factions, after The Matrix reboots, after The Emperor Dies and the teddy bears sing, "Yub nub, eee chop yub nub," what happens? (well, thanks to J. J. Abrams, we have an idea about that last one) <b>Iron Gold</b> lets us see what happens 10 years after the events of <b>Morning Star</b>.


The Republic is still at war, trying to finish off the remnants of the old order -- the Senate isn't rubber stamping Darrow's requests and that is proving problematic. The people are tired of the bloodshed and want the focus to move to strengthening the fledgling government. Driving Darrow to a last-ditch and dramatic gesture. The lives of the Reds on Mars is technically better, they're technically free, but things aren't much better -- in fact, they may be less safe. Criminals on Lune are doing well, but those who served during the War are still trying to deal with the trauma they survived. Meanwhile, on the far end of the solar system, some exiles from Lune are looking to regain some prominence. Brown jumps around from story to story, between various perspectives, surveying the wreckage of the Society and the birth of the Republic.


Each character is as well-drawn, and fully developed, as sympathetic as those who came before in the series -- even those who are critical of Darrow/the Republic (if not downright opposed to it). This is a more complicated world than the one we last saw. I'm going to keep things pretty vague and not go further than this, because half of the joy of this book is in the exploration.


Jumping from perspective to perspective, between storylines that have almost nothing to do with each other make for a lesser novel than the previous books in the series. When I was following a character -- their story was gripping, I was interested and invested -- but the instant the perspective shifted? It was all about the new story/perspective and I pretty much forgot about the previous. Darrow's story was the exception, but I attribute that to my long-standing connection to Darrow, Sevro and the rest. I loved the conclusion of Darrow's story -- because of what it means for Darrow and the rest, and what it means for the next book in the series (saga?).


I'm glad we got this look at the aftermath of the Rising -- if we were going to get anything at all -- it seems right for things to be this way. I wasn't as invested in this novel as I was in the previous ones, but I'm just as invested in this world. I hope the next one will grab me better, but until then I wait on tenterhooks and with hope that Darrow and the rest will deliver the goods. This is not the place to jump on the series -- go back toe <b>Red Rising</b> and start from the beginning, it's worth it. For those who've been with man from his harrowing beginning through his even more harrowing and devastating triumphs, this is a must read.


<a href="" target="_blank"><img class="aligncenter" style="border:none;height:auto;width:300px;" src="" alt="2018 Library Love Challenge" /></a>

3 Stars
A cow samples grass from other sides of the pasture, is it greener?
The Fed-up Cow - Peta Lemon, Maria Dasic Todoric

Hilda's a cow -- a cow who is bored, fed up actually, with being a cow. From her vantage point, the life of a sheep, a pig, or a hen is so much better and more interesting than life as a cow. She samples each before coming to a conclusion -- and learning a lesson about accepting who you are. The story is told in a rhyming verse that should appeal to younger readers/listeners.


Todoric's art is engaging and entertaining -- it tells at least half of the story on its own. Which is perfect for this age group, a child can follow the plot and "read" the story on their own without needing to actually read anything.


A cute story, charmingly told with attractive art. Pretty much what the doctor ordered.


Disclaimer: I received this eARC from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

4.5 Stars
A killer concept in a novel that lives up to it.
Smoke Eaters - Sean Grigsby

Really, the case for you (or anyone) reading this book is simply and convincingly made in 13 words:

Firefighters vs. Dragons in an Urban Fantasy novel set in a futuristic dystopia.

I'll just wait here while you open another tab to put in your order. There's really nothing more that I need to say, is there? What if I throw in robot dogs?


Since you're here anyway, I'll talk a little more about the book. In the early 22nd century, dragons show up (technically, come back) and everything changes over night -- cities burn, non-urban areas burn, geography changes, societies change, political/governmental realities change. And so on. Where there are dragons, there's fire; and where there's fire, there are firefighters. A special division of firefighters soon develops -- Smoke Eaters -- who specialize in dragon fighting, while the rest take care of fires, saving lives and property, etc. You know, the basic everyday hero stuff.


One such hero is Captain Cole Brannigan. After decades of fighting fires, he's a week away from retirement when disaster strikes and he finds himself without his air supply in a dragon smoke-filled room, which it turns out that he can breathe. Which means he's one of a select few people naturally immune to the stuff and is basically pressed into service as a Smoke Eater. Instead of commanding a squad and their respect, he's a trainee -- worse, a trainee who used to be a fire fighter. I'm not really sure I get the level of antagonism that exists between the two groups, but it's pretty intense. No one respects his expertise, his experience, his perspective. He's tolerated at best -- and that's really only because of the whole smoke immunity thing.


I cannot stress how much I enjoyed this dynamic -- stories about someone learning their way through a new reality, or new abilities, etc. are a staple of the genre. But a fully-realized adult, in a long-term, stable marriage (as stable as they can realistically come), successful already and sure of his place in the world being thrown into a new situation like this is unique. Cole spends as much time fighting his instincts about assuming leadership roles (and assuming people will follow) as he does trying to understand his new teammates and duties. Naturally, his perspective and experience will prove important to understanding a new challenge facing the Smoke Eaters.


I'm not going to get into everyone else, because this is Cole's story, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's the most interesting character (he probably is, though, your mileage may vary). The rest of the characters aren't quite as well drawn -- mostly because we see everyone through Cole's eyes -- but most are close enough that you don't notice.


I should probably mention that when he's not writing about fire-breathing lizards, Grigsby's an actual firefighter. So he knows his stuff -- when he says fire behaves a certain way, it's not because he's read a lot about that or watched Backdraft a few dozen times (well, both of those may be true, but neither is the primary reason he can say that fire behaves a certain way). The authenticity about this kind of thing shines forth and adds a layer of reality to this novel. He knows guys just like Cole -- and probably most of the other firefighters and Smoke Eaters -- he knows the devastation that fire leaves behind (both to structures and people), and what it takes to keep pressing on in the face of that.


There is a lot more that I want to try and cover, but this is one if those books that if I said everything I wanted to, it'd take a week to write and an hour to read - so let me wrap this up (man, I didn't even talk about Grigsby's Canada...the book is worth a look just for that). This is full of action, and some of the ways a gentleman of Cole's age keeps up with the action are pretty smartly conceived, but there's some thinking involved, too. Still, you'll be kept leaning forward in your seat. It's a good story; with great, developed characters; a wonderful concept; all executed like a seasoned pro was behind it all. There are some little details that will make you chuckle as you read them (the misunderstandings of barely remembered 20th century culture, for example). Smoke Eaters is going to be one of the best UF reads you find this year.


Disclaimer: I received this eARC from the good folks over at Angry Robot via NetGalley in exchange for this post and my honest take on the book -- thanks to both for their generosity and this rockin' read.

4 Stars
One of the strongest collections of stories I've read in years.
Like a Champion - Vincent Chu
The man across from Henriette read a book. It was a very big book, a Hunger Games or Game of Thrones kind, with a sword and flame and chess piece on the cover. Dean had never read such a big book. The man was on the very last page and Dean felt guilty suddenly for spying on him during this personal moment, but he did not stop. It was not often, he reasoned, that he would get the opportunity to observe another person at the exact moment they finished a book, a big one at that. But, after the last page, the man, without so much as a satisfied nod or pensive stare, shut the thing and immediately put in his iPhone buds. This disappointed Dean.

That's just one of any number of paragraphs throughout these stories that don't advance the plot, reveal or describe much in the way of character -- but man, the little bit of flavor they add to the story makes it worth it. And don't you just want to shake the man who finished the book by the shoulders and ask what is wrong with him? The guy appears for one paragraph, and I have a strong reaction to him. With short stories, you don't typically get to do that kind of thing the way you can with novels, because every word has to count -- and typically, that's what Vincent Chu does, but every now and then, he stretches a bit. Typically, like the best short fiction writers, Chu gets his bang for his buck when it comes to his words -- tight, economical prose that strikes just the right tone each time.


But I'm getting ahead of myself. Like a Champion is a collection of eighteen short stories featuring all sorts of people -- underdogs in one sense or another -- getting a taste of victory. Some of this victory is very short-lived, some is quite Pyrrhic, but it's there. The stories are varied in tone, in voice, in setting, in types of character -- and that's such a strength. Some will make you smile, some laugh, some are sad, some are tragic, some are somber, all are incredibly human.


There's a lot I could talk about -- if I could, I'd spend a few hundred words on "Squirrels", the fourth story in the collection. I don't know why, but that one sealed me appreciation for this book, and it stands out as a high point for me. There's just something about it that worked for me, the same kind of thing that lead me to write three papers for three separate courses in college about one Updike short story. There were a couple of other stories that I could point to that were as as outstanding, but I'll stick with "Squirrels" -- a story about one man's childhood basketball triumph in the midst of defeat -- because I enjoyed it more.


With one exception (at least one that I noticed, I might have missed others), these are independent of each other. The two stories that are connected are so different in tone and subject matter that it takes you by surprise when you notice the connection -- but it really works (and the connection is of a lesser importance, that not much changes if you don't make the connection). It was a nice little touch, I would've liked a part three, however.


I'm not crazy about Chu's depiction of older characters. Maybe if I only got one of the stories in this collection featuring an older character -- I wouldn't have commented. Or if I took a few more days to read this than I did, it wouldn't have stood out to me as much, but when you get the same note or two being played so often with elderly characters it sticks out.


I don't usually spend much time talking about the publisher of the books I post about, but when it comes to some indie presses, I should. A couple of months ago, I know I posted a link to a profile of 7.13 Books in a Saturday Miscellany, and before that I talked about another short story collection they put out. And come to think of it, I have one more book from them on my schedule in the coming weeks. If Like a Champion is indicative of what they are publishing (and it seems to be), there's something in the water there, folks, keep an eye out for their books.


Like with every collection -- be it full of short stories, essays, poems -- there are some in this collection that don't work for me -- two because I didn't get what he was going for; a couple that I'm pretty sure I got what he was going for, and just didn't care for it. And I'm very sure that many people will get those I didn't and will like the ones I didn't care for -- and even dislike the stories that I enjoyed, and maybe even someone's nuts enough to not care for the ones that filled me with joy. There's enough variety in these to appeal to all sorts of tastes -- and that's a compliment, Chu's nothing if not versatile. But on the whole, this is a great collection of short stories, full of compassion, humanity, and talent. You'd do well to grab this one.


Note: I received a copy of this eARC in exchange for my honest opinions as expressed above.

Saturday Miscellany - 2/10/18

Forgive me a minor rerun from Twitter/FB a couple of days ago (in case you follow me there, if not, check out those handy buttons on the side) -- on Tuesday, I made a joke about wanting to come down with the flu do I could catch up on reading (namely, finishing Iron Gold by Pierce Brown and reading Blood Binds the Pack by Alex Wells -- literally no idea when I can fit that one into my schedule). Then Wednesday night/Thursday morning, I got sick. So sick I couldn't focus on print -- I dabbled on social media off and on, but that was about all the concentration I had. Blargh. I'm on the upswing, I think, but just know that this post has taken me three sessions to complete. Just that kind of week. Hope you all stay healthy this flu season.


Somehow, I managed to get a good sample of 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:

  • Blood Binds the Pack by Alex Wells -- Witches (of a sort), a biker gang (of a sort), interstellar corporate greed and corruption (of the typical dystopian sort), and some of the more intriguing characters I met in 2017. Can't wait to get into this one.
  • Suicide of the West by Jonah Goldberg -- The subtitle sold me on reading this: "How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy"

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to awritersramblings446569187, Somya Gujjar, LFBooks, andrea bindi and rimpytoor for following the blog this week.

3 Stars
A little shallower, but more enjoyable
Faith Volume 2: California Scheming - Jody Houser

This picks up right after the stories in Volume 1 -- Zephyr establishes herself more strongly as a presence in LA, her alter ego Summer makes some more friends, and Faith goes out on a date to a comic con.


I've already had to return this to the library, so I can't remember character names -- sorry. Faith's a major fan (has had recurring romantic dreams about) this super-hero/action film star who's some sort of amalgamation of Chris Evans/Chris Pine/Chris Hemsworth. I don't know if Faith's obsession with goes back before the limited series, but it's well established. Faith does meet him in this collection, and . . . I was disappointed. That story felt too rushed, too hurried -- at the same time, I'm not sure what else could've been done with it -- and the brevity of the interaction between the two served the story. Still, I felt cheated after all the build-up.


That's actually a recurring theme for me when it comes to this collection -- I thought the story telling was a bit more shallow in this collection than the previous, but somehow I enjoyed these stories more. Unlike the limited run, there are a variety of stories being told -- some about Faith, some about her super-heroing, some about her social life as Summer -- so given the width and breadth of the scope, they couldn't get down too deep. Still, I want more depth; I want richer, more developed characters -- but I want them to be as fun as this collection.


Is that asking too much? Yeah, probably. Still this was fun. It made me like the characters more and want to spend more time with them -- which sounds pretty good to me.

I don't think I have anything to say about the art here that I didn't already say about the previous collection -- there's some good stuff here.


Fun characters; shallow, but entertaining stories; spiffy and attractive art -- this collection has everything you'd want. This is a series to get into.


2018 Library Love Challenge

3.5 Stars
Brief, comprehensive, helpful.
A Blogger's Manifesto: A Modern Day Guide to Blogging - Aman Mittal

This is a short "how-to" book for people who want to/have recently started a blog -- Mittal covers the basics from getting started, some basic writing advice, how to grow an audience -- and even a little about monetizing (for those who want to).


Mittal himself is a book blogger, so he writes from experience. He also spends some time focusing on how to not just to run a blog but a book blog. Discussing review policies, author interviews, book tours and more. But a lot of his advice even here is easily transferred to other types of blogs.


There's a lot in here I responded to just because of the book blogging aspect -- his plans for shelving, talking about ordering that one extra book to get free shipping, etc. I am jealous of the fact that he has a month's worth of content prepared in advance -- I think it's pretty clear here that if I have something to publish, it's up -- I've tried to get a few days to a week in advance, but a month? That's insane (and I'm so jealous). Mittal's such a book blogger that not only does he make frequent references to books to read, he includes three lists to help bloggers with their writing, thinking and marketing.


Yeah, there were a few too many typos/editing mistakes for my liking. Oh well, it took almost no effort to guess what Mittal was going for, and didn't detract all that much from the book.


Brief, but comprehensive; helpful; all in all useful -- this is a good book for the asprirtional blogger, or the experienced blogger needed a quick refresher on some basics to reinvigorate their blogs. Well worth the time.

3.5 Stars
A compelling thriller that I have some issues with
The Bomb Maker - Thomas Perry

Oh man . . . this brings me back to the conflict I felt trying to discuss Sarah Pinborough's Behind Her Eyes. This is a heckuva read until it's not -- but we'll get to that in a bit.

I know precious little about Bomb Squads, and have read precious little about them. I think Crais' Demolition Angel is the only other book with a Bomb Tech in it for more than a few pages that I've read. So I was pretty excited to give this one a shot -- incidentally, I do think there are areas of overlap between this book and Crais' that'd make for interesting reading. Sadly, it's been about 15 years since I read Demolition Angel, so I won't be writing that. Still, my main point is that there's not a lot written about Bomb Techs, and that seems pretty strange, because this kind of thing makes for some great tense moments -- the kind of thing that thriller readers love.


(feel free to fill up the comments telling me how wrong I am and that there are dozens of great examples of Bomb Tech/Bomb Squad literature out there)


What we have here is a guy, never given a name, or dubbed with one by the media that we'll call "the bomb maker." We know nothing about him at the beginning, and learn only a little about him later on -- for some reason, he's decided to kill off every bomb tech in LA. And he does so by making bombs designed to sucker the Bomb Techs into doing X or Y, which will both set off the bomb itself. In his first attempt, he kills half the division -- 14 of 28, including the commanding Captain.


What's the LAPD to do? Thankfully, one of the Deputy Chief's knows a guy -- the last guy to command the Squad still lives in town, running a high-priced security firm. So the Chief recruits Dick Stahl to come back and help the LAPD through this time. Stahl knew most of the people that died, trained many of them himself and would like to help get some justice for them and prevent others from joining them.


So begins a great cat-and-mouse game. The bomb maker is pretty smart and knows how Bomb Techs think, so he fools them into setting bombs off. Stahl doesn't know much about the guy beyond that, so he goes out of his way to overthink the bombs and finds the tricks that were included and thinks around them. Some of the squad start to think like him, and others don't. You can guess how that works out for all involved. The bomb maker sees how Stahl is figuring him out, and steps up his game, making bombs that are more clever and more devastating.


This aspect of the book -- which really is the bulk of it, thankfully -- is just great. Perry could've given us another 100 pages or so of it and I wouldn't have complained.

There's a little bit romance between Stahl and someone, which complicates things and could've bery easily annoyed me because it seems so extraneous. I think the way Perry dealt with it and used in to tell his story ended up working, but I'm not going to argue with anyone who was bothered by it (I easily could've been). But for me, when you add these complications into the cat-and-mouse thing, it just makes for a better read.


Which is not to say that this book doesn't have its share of problems. We get a lot of backstory on a couple of incredibly minor characters. There's one character whose sole purpose is to find a bomb and call the police, yet we get a lot of detail on the career she gave up, why she did so, and what that costs her to this day, just to have her find a bomb. I liked the character (what we got of her anyway), her part of the book was well-written, but it seems silly to get that much detail on someone who disappears almost immediately. It's like on award shows when they introduce a minor celebrity just so they can come on stage to introduce the award presenters. It's just pointless. Perry does this kind of thing more than once here, meanwhile we don't get a lot of information about most of the Bomb Squad members we do get to see do things. It makes little sense, adds little, and ultimately detracts from the suspense he's building. I don't get it.

One thing for sure, I add mostly as an aside, between the mysterious bad guy in Silence and the bomb maker here, I'm sure that Thomas Perry can write a great creep. Not just a bad guy with no respect for life or property or whatever, but a real cad who should never be allowed near a female. I'm not suggesting that describes all of his characters, just some of them -- just the fact that the paid assassin is a step-up for Sylvie Turner (also from Silence) compared to the previous guys she was serious about says something about the kind of creep Perry can write.


I'm going to get close to a spoiler or two here, so feel free to skip this paragraph. If you're still here, in the last 40 pages (less than that, actually, but let's keep it vague), this becomes a different kind of book. It feels like Perry realized what his page count was and wanted to keep it below 375 so he had to bring the cat-and-mouse thing to an end. The action kicks into high gear, and the very intelligent thriller throws out the intelligence and becomes a couple of action sequences. Well-done and compelling action sequences, but a very different feel from the rest of the book. He also switches from giving us too much detail (like the life story of the lady who found a bomb) to giving us almost no information to help wrap up the closing events of the novel. I won't even begin to talk about the last four pages, the final chapter almost doesn't belong in the book -- it does give us a teeny bit of resolution, but again, feels like a different book than what had come before. My kids can testify to this, I was yelling at the book during the final few pages, because I just didn't get what Perry was up to.


This was a solid, smart, compelling thriller about the kind of characters you want to read about -- smart professionals, acting for the public good and for the sake of their teammates up against smart professionals out to do wrong. I had a blast with most of this, and could forgive the tangents he went off on, up until the end. I did, generally, still like the end, even so. I still recommend this and think you'll like it -- I just wish Perry'd landed it better. It was almost a 4-star book, possibly more, but that ending . . .


If you have -- or eventually do -- read this, let me know what you thought of it. I'm really curious to see what others thought.


2018 Library Love Challenge

Saturday Miscellany -- 2/3/18

Only a few odds 'n ends over the week about books and reading caught my eye. You've probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

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

January 2018 Report: What I've Read/Listened to and the little I've written

My numbers aren't as strong as I hoped to kick off this year, particularly the writing. I honestly don't understand why it's so low -- on the plus side, I've slept more lately than usual (unscheduled sleep, mostly, but that's beside the point). Still, plenty of entertaining reads, which is the important thing. Anyway, on to the more interesting stuff...Here's what happened here in January.


Books/Novels/Novellas Read/Listened to:

Operation: Endgame Simple Genius Heirs with Christ
4 Stars 2 1/2 Stars 3 Stars
Love Story, With Murders Laughing Eyes All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault
4 Stars 2 Stars 4 Stars
Beneath the Sugar Sky Paddle Your Own Canoe (Audiobook) Where Night Stops
5 Stars 2 Stars 4 Stars
Faith: Hollywood & Vine God without Passions: a Primer The Falls
3 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars
Orphan X The Unbelievable Story of How I Met Your Mother Faith: Hollywood & Vine
3.5 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars
Profane Fire at the Altar of the Lord Silence The Dying Place
3 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars
The Bomb Maker            
3.5 Stars            


Still Reading:

Volume 9: Sermons to the Church Sanctification Like a Champion

The few books I've managed to post about:


Book Challenge Progress:

Angel's Guilty Pleasures Simple Genius by David Baldacci, Scott Brick All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault by James Alan Gardner Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living by Nick Offerman The Falls by Ian Rankin Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry (link to come)

Laughing Eyes by Haya Magner, Miri Leshem Peli Where Night Stops by Douglas Light The Unbelievable Story of How I Met Your Mother by Preston Randall Profane Fire at the Altar of the Lord by Dennis Malley All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault by James Alan Gardner Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living by Nick Offerman God without Passions A Primer: A Practical and Pastoral Study of Divine Impassibility by Samuel Renihan Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz Silence (Audiobook) by Thomas Perry, Michael Kramer

Laughing Eyes by Haya Magner, Miri Leshem Peli Where Night Stops by Douglas Light The Unbelievable Story of How I Met Your Mother by Preston Randall Profane Fire at the Altar of the Lord by Dennis Malley Operation: Endgame by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

✔ Read a self published book: Profane Fire at the Altar of the Lord by Dennis Malley


How was your month?

3 Stars
Meeting Faith/Zephyr
Faith, Volume 1: Hollywood & Vine - Pete Pantazis, Jody Houser, Dave Sharpe, Stephanie Hans, Joe Quinones, Andrew Dalhouse, Michael Spicer, Francis Portela, Marguerite Sauvage

I knew practically nothing about Faith/Zephyr before picking this up. I knew that Valient had put out a comic starring a full-figured female super-hero -- which seems as unlikely as Superman developing a tolerance for Kryptonite. So when I saw it this collection on the Library shelf, I had to grab it. I had a little bit of a learning curve about this hero/her powers/backstory -- but Houser's script made it easy to catch up (or at least feel caught up).


The characterization -- of Faith as well as her coworkers, allies and foes alike -- worked well. I dug her secret identity -- which is not the same as her real name, which apparently everyone knows (as well as her super-hero identity, Zephyr). Yeah, the fangirl nature of Summer Smith is a bit shallow, but I like the intent and in time, I can see Summer being the kind of character I can really get into. This collection focuses on Faith getting used to her new life in LA and establishing Zephyr as the city's hero. This brings her into contact with web journalism, a reality show, and SF TV show starring actual aliens (not that anyone knows that).


The only false note, for me, is that while Faith is a clearly overweight person, the book ignores it. As someone who shops for varieties of XL, I appreciate that -- and her size makes no difference to her powers or ability to be a hero. But she lives in L.A., Faith is featured on a Pop Culture Listicle site, etc. I cannot believe that it doesn't get more mention. The idea that in image-conscious LA a large woman can go about her business boldly without having to deal with that commentary is harder for me to swallow than the idea that a large woman can fly using the power of her mind while taking on extraterrestrials and other baddies.


I dug the art -- it served the story, was attractive, and was very dynamic. The dream/fantasy sequences by Sauvage were great, too. Both Portela and Sauvage captured the feel of the story and characters well.


All in all, this is a comic as charming as the protagonist -- light, fun, and just what the doctor ordered.


2018 Library Love Challenge

3 Stars
A strong thriller hampered by iffy narration.
Silence - Thomas Perry, Michael Kramer, Tantor Audio

Jack Till is a retired LAPD homicide detective turned P.I. Six years ago, he helped a woman named Wendy Harper vanish from the face of the Earth. She'd been horribly beaten and was afraid that next time she wouldn't survive, and neither would her loved ones. But now, for reasons unknown, someone has framed her former business partner/fiancé for her murder. It's clearly a trap set for her, but the only way to prove his innocence is to prove that she's still alive.


Even though Till knows the tricks he taught her to disappear, he doesn't know how she applied his lessons or where she might have gone. It takes some ingenuity, tenacity and luck, but he eventually does. It then takes a lot more of the same to get her back to LA to demonstrate that she habeas her own corpus.


Meanwhile, Paul and Sylvie Turner, ballroom dancing aficionados and professional killers, perpetrated the frame and are on Till's trail as he looks for Wendy (or whatever her name is now). They flirt, bicker and kill their way across California and beyond in their efforts kill Wendy.


The narration jumps between the perspectives of Till, Paul and Sylvie for most of the book -- with a little bit of Wendy's and, eventually, the man who hired the Turners. Perry makes some interesting choices about whose perspective we see some events through, giving us Till when you'd expect a Turner (and vice versa). Not only do we see the current action from their perspectives, we get a pretty detailed backstory for Till, the Turners and their boss -- interestingly, almost everything we learn about Wendy, we learn from her disclosures to TIll, so we only see her from his point of view.


I really got into the story, and found the Turners pretty interesting -- ditto for Till. The focus was on the Turners enough that if you told me that Perry'd written a sequel about them, I'd believe it (he did write one about Till). I never managed to get as invested in the backstory (or the current-story) about the man who hired the Turners. There's some good twists, some smart reveals, and just good action moments.


I found the dialogue stiff, awkward and occasionally painful -- the interior monologues of the various POV characters could also grate my nerves. I'm honestly not certain if that's Perry's issue or Kramer's. Thankfully, the story was strong enough that I could put up with the problems I had.


Kramer's got a huge list of credits, and is clearly beloved by many. But man . . . I found him tolerable at best, and frequently annoying. There's a lot of problems that I had with the book that I'm attributing to his narration -- I may be wrong about that, but I think if I'd been reading the book, I'd have overlooked and/or not had many of the problems that I did.


A strong story, with enough tense moments to satisfy any thriller reader, Silence is something to try, but probably only in text-form.

4 Stars
Chilling, gripping, completely unexpected
The Dying Place - Luca Veste, Jonathan Keeble

this is for the text version of the book, BookLikes won't let me add the non-audio edition for some reason...



You can't choose the last words you ever say to your child -- and that's what they are, no matter what age -- as they leave the house. Off to school, off out with friends. Off to work, or on a date. You don't think of them as last words. Just another part of the ongoing conversation, the never-ending role as a parent.


But at some point, they will be the last words you say to your child, and for too many parents in these pages, those words come a lot sooner than anyone expected or wanted. Which is just part of what makes this novel so effective and devastating.


So often (arguably, too often) in books about mass killers, the killers are depicted as geniuses, psychopaths, sociopaths, or a combination of thereof. The villains of this book (without giving too much away, I think) are regular people -- people you pass by every day, see in stores, say hi to walking down the hall at work, or maybe even chat with a bit by the coffee pot. They're hard-working, responsible adults -- vote, pay taxes, help their neighbors, maybe raised a few kids. But life has dealt them one too many band hands and they make some horrible choices in response. And then things spiral out of control.


The victims aren't the easiest to sympathize with -- at least on the surface -- they're young men, technically adults, but kids really. Petty criminals -- felons-in-training, on the whole -- loiterers, drug users, public drunks, vandals. Not the kind of criminal you stay awake at night worried about, but you certainly don't want your kids turning out like them or your daughters dating them. On the whole, men who could profit from a good mentor, like the folks in the previous paragraph.


That's more spoiler-y than I tend to go around here, but that's just the first 50 pages. One of these ne'er-do-wells shows up dead on the steps of a church, bringing Murphy and Rossi into the story, investigating this murder and eventually understanding that there's more going on. This particular murder victim has been missing for months, but given his frequent delinquency, no one other than his mother, took his disappearance as anything to be concerned about. The reader, by this time, knows that he'd been kidnapped by our fine, upstanding citizens for the purpose of (re)educating him and redirecting his life -- up until it was ended, and he wasn't the only one being (re)educated in this fashion. The question is, will Murphy and Rossi catch up to the reader's information in time to stop them before another young man is killed?


Pretty much at this point, the reader can plot the rest of the book and do a pretty good job of it. What the reader won't be able to do is pace it like Veste does -- it seems like he breaks several Basic Thriller 101 rules on that front. More than once I muttered, "What, he's doing that now? Already?" (and once or twice the opposite -- "he finally got around to this?"). He may have broken pacing rules, but he did so in a way that worked. Which is really all that matters, right?


It's the characterizations that bring this home -- Murphy and Rossi dealing with their demons as well as the mystery surrounding the missing and then murdered victim; the kidnapped men/boys; as well as the kidnappers. He doesn't dive too deeply into the various kidnapper's frame-of-minds, just enough that we understand what they did and why -- and how they reacted to the chain of events they set in motion. We get a little deeper when it comes to the victims -- which allows us to empathize with them.


But Veste also makes us looks at what the people around these victims thought of them and their families (mostly their mothers) both before and after these boys became victims. It's at this point that society at large fails. Veste doesn't fall into the trap of trying to fix societal ills, but man, he makes you think long and hard about your attitudes about some people. The fact that he does that while telling a chilling crime story is all the better.


There's more to be said about some of this, it's a very ambitious work -- I have many more notes about things I intended to talk about, but I think I'm going to stop here so the focus stays on the vital stuff. Veste tapped into something powerful here, and that overshadows a lot of the nuances I could talk about (and outweighs the few nits I want to pick). From the wrenching opening pages to the guy-punch of a conclusion, The Dying Place is a gripping police procedural featuring characters you can't help but like and root for, even while the world around them comes apart at the seams.