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 - 12/16/17

When I posted Thursday about my lack of posting this week, I wasn't sure what else to say, but for those who are curious about distractions of this past week --read this from my other blog.

 

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

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

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/12/16/saturday-miscellany-12-16-17
Review
3 Stars
Flawed, but worth a read
Life And Death Behind The Brick And Razor-Code Red Diamond - Isaac Alexis MD

<blockquote>I wanted to use science to heal people and simultaneously teach them about how their bodies functioned and how to properly take care of their bodies. I also wanted to make a difference in the lives of people who traditionally did not have access to care to begin with. So I chose correctional medicine. It had its challenges but also opportunities to save many lives. In my opinion, it also had areas that seriously needed to be addressed.</blockquote>


Years after this decision, Dr. Alexis has turned to writing, using his experiences and point of view, to discuss some health tips and suggestions to help teens through some hot-button and pressing issues.

 

After a quick autobiographical chapter, the chapters revolve around the treatment of one particular patient, and then using that patient's particular diagnosis (or lack thereof) and struggle as a launching point for health tips and/or discussion of some of the struggles that young people (or everyone) go through related to STDs, Drug Abuse, Gang Membership, etc.

 

There is so much energy, so much care, conviction, expertise behind this book that it's a shame I can't heartily endorse it. There's a lot of heart here, and I admire that. But it's just not that well written. Maybe it'd be more correct to say that it wasn't that well-edited and re-written.

 

First of all, it needs a thorough editorial pass on basic grammar. But it needs some work on structure, too. Within the various chapters, things can seem to be randomly organized with a lack of transitions, or foundation for some of what he's talking about. That page count of 100 pages should be 150 at a minimum -- he really needs to flesh out everything just a bit. He's got the material, he just needs to work with it a bit more so his readers can better understand both his experiences and perspective. The nature of the facility he works at -- and its relation to other prisons and hospitals, is a good example -- I think I have a decent idea how all that works out, but it takes using information from all parts of the book to come up with my guess; that shouldn't be, I should've been given a one or two (or more) sentence description of that so I can appreciate his struggles to provide adequate care.

 

Now, what he doesn't need to give us more of us medical jargon -- often he'll unleash a couple of paragraphs of almost non-stop medical terminology. This is not a bad thing, but I think he could help the non-informed reader a little bit more than he does with some of those streams of terminology. What I eventually decided is, the book reads like a transcript of someone telling stories about his life to a new friend, people just sitting around a table swapping stories. The hopping around, the unclear writing, and so on come across just the way people talk. If you think of it that way, the book is a lot easier to take.

 

If you can find some way (my suggestion or something else that works for you) to overlook/make your peace with Alexis' style, you'll probably enjoy this book. You can even appreciate the book without that -- it's just harder. Alexis writes from conviction and passion -- with a healthy dose of morality. There's a lot to be gained from this book. I liked <b>Life and Death Behind the Brick and Razor</b>, but it woulnd't take much to make me like it sooo much more. He has important things to say, I just wish the book did a better job of providing the platform.

 

<i><b>Disclaimer:</b> I received this book in exchange for this post and my participation in this tour -- I appreciate the opportunity, but my opinion remains my own.</i>

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/12/15/life-and-death-behind-the-brick-and-razor-code-red-diamond-by-isaac-alexis-md
Review
4.5 Stars
The word "riveting" doesn't do this book justice.
Closer Than You Know: A Novel - Brad Parks

When you read a book about a dog -- from Marley & Me to Where the Red Fern Grows -- you've got a pretty good idea what's going to happen near the end. Same goes for a Nora Ephron movie. Or a Horror flick. But you still read or watch them, and you cry, or laugh and "awww", or jump in your seat when you're supposed to. Even on repeat reads/viewings. But when done right, those things just work. Similarly, think of a roller coaster -- you may stand outside the fence watching the thing go around the track while standing in line (some lines give you plenty of opportunity to study), and armed with that study, as well as the your own eyes, you know that track is going to drop from in front of you in a couple of seconds -- or the coaster is about to hit the loop -- that doesn't stop your stomach from lurching when it does.

 

Why do I bother with that? It's a thought that kept running through the back of my mind while reading Closer Than You Know. By the time I hit the 10% mark, if you'd made me write down what I expected to happen -- the reveals, the twists, the story beats, etc. -- I'd have gotten an A. I'm not saying I'm smarter than the average bear or anything, anyone who's read/watched a handful of thrillers would've been able to, too. And it worked. It absolutely worked. How Parks pulls it off, I do not know, but he does. He's just that good.

 

And all the stuff that I didn't guess? Oh, man, it was just so sweet when Parks delivered it, there were a couple of scenes that just left me stunned. And, I should rush to note, the way Parks made a couple of reveals that I'd seen coming from the start were so well done, it was like I hadn't called the shot.

 

In his previous stand-alone, Parks said that he wanted to write about the thing that scares him the most -- his children being kidnapped. Closer Than You Know taps into a very similar fear -- Child Protective Services taking your child from you, leaving you to the mercies of the machine where you're presumed guilty. This time instead of "the bad guys," faceless criminals, taking someone's kids, this time it's the forces of justice, of law and order, taking the child -- they're celebrated for it, they're doing it "for the best interests of the child."

 

What's worse is that no one will tell Melanie Barrick why her infant son had been taken from his daycare. Melanie spent most of her childhood in the Foster Child system, and most of that time in the worse situations that system has to offer. This isn't the stuff of nightmares for Melanie, mostly because I don't think she has enough imagination for her subconscious to cook this up. And then she's arrested for possession of cocaine and paraphernalia suggesting distribution -- a felony that will guarantee she's about to lose her little Alex for good.

 

Melanie is a "good person" -- she's one of the success stories that we don't see as often as we'd like from the Foster Child system. She worked to put herself through college; has a great, supportive husband; a lousy job (but with benefits) -- but one that will help her family get somewhere; and is a devoted, doting, loving mother. The kind of person we all want to think we're surrounded by, but fear we probably aren't.

 

From this point on, it's a cyclone for despair as every part of her life -- her job, her husband, her brother, her friends, her finances, her sense of privacy and security -- is affected, is under siege during this ordeal. Can Melanie maintain her hope, maintain her innocence, maintain her conviction that she'll hold her baby boy again?

 

In charge of prosecuting "Coke Mom" (the press is always so quick with these nicknames), is Amy Kaye. Amy Kaye could easily be the protagonist in any legal thriller, she's just the kind of character you want to read in that kind of thing. She's smart, dedicated and driven -- at the moment, she's primarily concerned with a serial rape investigation that she's doing pretty much on her own. Amy starts to make progress for the first time in years when she's put on this prosecution (largely for political reasons) -- which she's more than willing to do, but she hates to take away time and attention from the rape investigation. What really makes this difficult for Kaye is that Melanie is one of the most recent victims in this investigation.

 

So basically, things are not going well for these two women. There are occasional moments where there is hope, where there is a hint of humor, or life for them and it's just enough to get you to let your guard down before the gears turn again and life gets bad. Melanie seems to be a living embodiment of Murphy's Law -- things just never go her way in this book. As she notes herself, addicts talk about hitting rock bottom -- she isn't like them, she keeps finding new bottoms. It's during this part of the book, where the gears keep grinding away, where the Justice System seems most like a machine, and least like a method for determining (not presupposing) guilt, that things will really get to you. That stomach lurching I mentioned earlier? That image came from somewhere. It feels so real, it feels like this is something that actually happened to someone that Parks spent hours interviewing. I don't know how you read these parts of the book and not get demoralized -- but unable to put the book down, because you just have to, have to know what happens next.

 

As I've said before, I've been a Brad Parks fan since the first time I read his debut novel -- and I miss Carter Ross, the star of his series. The bad thing for me reading Say Nothing and Closer Than You Know is that these are so good, he's going to spend years doing books like this and I don't know if he'll be able to get back to Carter. On the other hand, I can't complain really if he's putting out reading that's this compelling. Yeah, I said the book was largely predictable -- and you'll likely find it the same. But you will be wrong about some things and you won't know how he'll show you that you're right. Think of a NASCAR race -- we all know that it's basically a series of guys going fast and turning left -- but it's how they go fast and turn left that makes all the difference. Parks delivers the goods -- the word riveting doesn't do this book justice. It's compelling, riveting, gripping, exciting, and will make you rethink so much of what you may believe of the Criminal Justice and Child Protective systems. You will laugh, you will be stunned (in good and bad ways), you will give up hope for this poor mother.

 

And you will hate when the book ends -- as much as you breathe a sigh of relief as you know you have some degree of closure.


Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Dutton Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this.

Review
3.5 Stars
Penny White's back for more Fantastic adventures
The Cult of Unicorns - Chrys Cymri

Sure, all I know about the life of an Anglican priest comes from this series and Paul Cornell's Lychford novellas, (oh, and one series of Grantchester) and maybe Fantasy fiction isn't the best source, but man, being a priest in a small village/town in England seems to be lonely and horrible -- especially around Advent. Which is where we find Penny White -- running on fumes, bouncing from obligation to obligation -- with barely enough time for her grieving brother, her gryphon partner and her snail shark (never mind the duties in the parallel world of Daear) -- not to mention casually dating a police inspector and a dragon. Throw in a murder mystery and . . . wow. How does she sleep?

 

Before we get to much of that Penny and her brother, James, go to Lloegyr for the trial in the death of James' girlfriend. It is quick, decisive, decidedly alien (as it should be) and adjudicated by a panel of 3 unicorns. Apparently, Unicorns are impossibly fair, honest and just so they make the perfect judges. No one, not even the dragons would dare protest what the unicorns decide. Penny can't help but note how almost everyone she sees reacts strangely to unicorns -- she'd probably do the same, however, if she weren't so dragon-obsessed. When bodies start showing up on Earth with what seem to be unicorn-caused injuries, Penny seems to be the only one who is willing to follow the evidence. At the same time, maybe it's just me, but it didn't seem that Penny was too bothered by the murders -- and certainly didn't seem to spend too much energy investigating them. (although, that might have more to do with the obviousness of the culprits and the difficulty getting anyone else on board with it).

 

James is not handling the grieving process too well -- not that anyone does -- and I was less-than-impressed with the way Penny was dealing with him.. It really seemed out of character for her. I think it points to a slow-build of a problem for Penny and her dual callings. In the first book, we got hit over the head with the concern that she'd be too focused on the other world too much to do a decent job on Earth, and while it was only brought up once or twice here, I think it's easy to see that the danger was real. I like how it seems that Cymri is moving this problem to the back burner, just so it can keep growing as a problem while being subtle about it. Professionally/vocationally, things are not going well for Penny, and I think this will continue for awhile.

 

While writing about book 1, I was worried about an impending romantic triangle -- and I like the way that Cymri dealt with it here, much more than I assumed I would when we left it off. I'm not sure I'm ready to breathe easily about it yet, but I have hope (I also haven't read as many romantic triangles this year as I have in years past, maybe my tolerance for them will increase). Actually, I liked just about everything about the romance angle in this book. Especially Morey's.

 

The Murder plotline (and the aftermath) serves as the narrative hook for the book, but doesn't seem to occupy as much of the time as you'd think. Where The Temptation of Dragons introduced us to this reality (or dual-realities, I guess), this one explores it -- with a greater emphasis on Earth. We really spend very little time on the "other side." Which was okay, really. I imagine that won't always be the case (glancing ahead at the blurb for the next volume, it looks as if I'm right).

 

I'm not sure what else to say at this point, but I'm pretty sure I've been less thorough than I intended. I enjoyed The Temptation of Dragons and The Cult of Unicorns kept all the charm and wit about that, but grounded the characters and their actions better (or at least more firmly). And really, that's about all you can hope for from a series -- you keep everything you liked in the previous installment and build on it. Cymri nailed that, which serves to make me plan on getting to book #3 faster than I did this one.


Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for this post -- thanks so much for this book.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/12/11/the-cult-of-unicorns-by-chrys-cymri
Saturday Miscellany - 12/9/17

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:

    This Week's New Releases I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon:
  • A Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter -- the third installment of the Nell Ingram series is just great. I had a lot to say about it recently.
  • The Defense by Steve Cavanagh -- Cavanagh's debut novel about a con man turned lawyer is out in paperback here in the States -- a great series to jump on at a decent price.

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

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/12/09/saturday-miscellany-12-9-17
Review
5 Stars
Funny, devastating, horrifying -- this thriller has it all.
Briefly Maiden (Ali Dalglish Book 2) - Jacqueline Chadwick

Vancouver Island’s Integrated Major Incident Squad has been called out again, and Ali Dalglish is brought along to consult -- she's official now, after the success of the case in <b>In the Still</b>, she got her credentials transferred to her new country. So she can help Inspector Rey Cuzzocrea with his profile of the murderer and get paid for it (which is probably useful after the recent disintegration of her marriage).

 

There's a series of murders (not a serial killer, technically) in the perfectly pleasant little city of Cedar River (at least for most of the residents). They're gruesome, clearly motivated by anger, with a sexual component. Ali and Cuzzocrea quickly note evidence of a pedophilia ring associated with the deaths. Which adds a level of complexity and tragedy to the crime -- and makes it difficult to care much about the victims. While no one on the VIIMIS wants to help the killer with their campaign, they want to catch her(?) to help her recover from what they think must've happened to her(?). The obstacles standing in their way are not the typical or expected kind, and make this difficult case even more difficult.

 

As before, Ali is brilliant -- not just when it comes to criminology, she's just smart -- she's witty, she's a font of trivia, and has a vocabulary that you just want to bask in (and borrow!). <i>[Note: I'm not referring to her "blue"/"adult"/"4-letter" vocabulary, which is enough to put off some readers]</i> Her emotional life is a mess, she's in a slightly better place after the breakup of her marriage, but not that much. There's some decent character growth at work here, too. She's just such a great character I don't think I can do her justice here.

 

It would have been very easy to make this a story about Ali, the brilliant psychologist helping out a bunch of cops who are fairly clueless (yet high-ranking and successful). But Chadwick doesn't do that. The members of the Squad are capable -- more than capable -- and while they needed the perspective and expertise brought by Ali, there's a good chance they'd have eventually put a lot of the pieces together on their own. For example, Superintendent Shaw would be easy to depict as a stuffed-shirt, unimaginative, by-the-book, and blind to anything that isn't obvious -- and most writers would depict him that way (I can't help but think of Irwin Maurice Fletcher's editor, Frank Jaffe, frequently when Shaw shows up) -- but at one point he actually puts things together that no one else on the Squad did (most readers will be faster than him, but we have better information). Ali's not blind to this either -- yeah, she has an ego about her own expertise, but she is ready (if not always eager) to acknowledge when her teammates do good to work.

 

There were a few mis-steps, but when you're doing so much right, you can afford a few of those. The one that I don't understand is how little her friend/neighbor, Marlene, was used. Yes, her contribution was essential, but if Marlene had stayed home, Chadwick could've found another way to get those results. If you're going to bring her along -- <i>use her</i>. Her brief appearances were fun or pivotal, but there just weren't enough.

 

I've spent some time over the last week trying to describe Chadwick's writing style, because it's so specific and so original. At one point, I decided that "aggressive" was the best adjective -- it's in-your-face, it grabs you by the scruff of your neck and shoves your nose into the text, daring you to even consider your Real Life responsibilities (family, eating, work, etc.) so it can smack the back of your head like Leroy Gibbs. But it's also inviting, enticing, so you're sucked in and love it -- you want to wallow in the experience, desperate to find out what happens while not wanting to walk away from reading book for the foreseeable future. She's entertaining and fun while writing about some of the most depraved and horrible things you've ever read -- while never making the depravity or horror into anything other than evil and wrong.

 

<b>Briefly Maiden</b> is not a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts -- but when the sum of its parts is so great, it can seem to be. If it was just Ali's acerbic brilliance and skewed (skewering?) sensibilities pushing this story, it'd be something I'd tell you to read. Chadwick's style is something to behold, no matter the subject. If it was just the heart-breaking and horrifying crime story, I'd give this a high commendation. If it was just for the inevitable but shocking conclusion, I'd say this was well worth your time and money. If it was just Ali's vocabulary, you'd be smarter for having read it (I learned a few terms/words, and I bet you will, too). You put all that together, plus a few other points I should've made and didn't (for whatever reason), and <b>Briefly Maiden</b> is one of the most effective (and affective) novels I've read this year. Stop reading this and go grab it -- and <b>In the Still</b>, if you haven't read that yet.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/12/07/briefly-maiden-by-jacqueline-chadwick
Review
4 Stars
More fun, danger and murder with Slim and Anci searching for a missing dog.
Red Dog: A Slim in Little Egypt Mystery - Jason Miller

“And for sixty-flve dollars, too.”

 

Anci rolled her eyes. “Oh, I <u>know</u>. Usually, you get kicked in the head for free. Why not try it for money this time? Besides, this is your chance to do a good deed, pile up some karma.”

 

“You can’t eat karma, darlin’..”

 

“No, but it can eat you.”

 

I really can't decide what part of these books I like best -- Slim's dogged determinism when it comes to finishing what he's started, Jeep's almost-superhuman capabilities (he's Hawk + Joe Pike, with a better romantic life while not as tied to reality), or Anci. Okay, that's a lie. It's Anci -- she's smart, she's insightful, she's sweet, she's got an attitude that just won't quit.

 

In this book, Anci takes time out from critiquing <b>The Hound of the Baskervilles</b> to convince Slim to take a case for a couple of odd strangers that show up on their doorstep. They want him to find their dog for him. They're pretty sure where the dog is, but they don't think they could retrieve her.

 

Slim takes the case, and within hours he's cut off part of a man's body, had several threats made against him, and discovers a dead body. Oh, he finds the dog, too. But that doesn't matter, because he's arrested before he can return the dog.

 

Things go haywire from there -- Slim's still bound and determined to find the dog while he clears his name (or vice versa). The hunt for the dog and the real killer takes him to all sorts of places he probably shouldn't go -- many of which make the coal mining he left behind seem like a safe alternative to his current job. I hate to say this, but it's in the publisher's description (and on the cover image), but one of the places that Slim shouldn't go is to dog fights. His reaction to them is visceral, and you almost feel it as much as he did as you read.

 

The characterizations are as deep and wonderful as before (including a couple of characters that'd make Flannery O'Connor balk), the evil that Slim confronts is very dark and twisted, and Slim's voice is deadly serious one minute, and seamlessly laugh-out-loud funny without giving the reader a sense of whiplash. There's some violence -- brutal stuff -- yet it's Slim's brain that does most of the work. Basically, it's the whole package.

 

The Bonus Story About Those Danged Chickens, "Hardboiled Eggs," was a hoot -- not strong enough to work as a part of the novel, but it tied in well (and best read after the book) and was nice example of Anci and Slim working together.

 

I hope there's more to come in this series, because I just can't get enough. Miller's style is great -- the prose is smooth and fluid, so much so that you don't realize just how dark and twisted the events are until it's too late because you're having too much fun reading. Take some time to visit Little Egypt and you'll see what I mean.


<img class="aligncenter" src="http://angelsguiltypleasures.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/2017LibraryLoveChallenge05-400x400-angelsgp.png" alt="2017 Library Love Challenge" style="border:none;height:auto;width:200px;">

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/12/06/red-dog-by-jason-miller
Review
3 Stars
An Interesting Look at a Road not Taken for Rankin's Rebus
Death Is Not the End: A Novella - Ian Rankin

I used Goodreads' ordering of the Rebus series to determine when I read this novella -- other sites might have led me to read this before Dead Souls, as it was published. I might have gotten more out of this book if I'd read it in that order, but it might have hurt the novel. I'm not sure.

 

Basically, this is one of the subplots of Dead Souls -- Rebus' looking for the missing son of a people he knew in school -- in its original form. It'd be modified, expanded, and given a different ending in the novel. There's a subplot, mildly related, involving organized crime and gambling -- in much the same way that other crimes were associated with the missing person's case in Dead Souls.

 

It is interesting to see how Rankin wrote something, and then came back a couple of years later and repurposed it. But that's about all I have to say for this. It was interesting -- but the version in the novel is better. The subplot didn't do much for me, either. It was okay, but it really didn't seem necessary.

 

The completist in me is glad I read it, but I think I'd have been okay with missing it, too.

 

2017 Library Love Challenge

Saturday Miscellany - 12/2/17

Running a bit late today . . . okay very late today. Mrs. Irresponsible Reader had me far away from my keyboard and wifi signal for most of the day. Still, got a couple of things I want to encourage you to read . . . So here are the odds 'n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You've probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week's New Releases I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon:
  • The Squirrel on the Train by Kevin Hearne -- It's the second of Oberon's Meaty Mysteries! Which I liked a lot -- listened to most of the audiobook today, too -- which was also very entertaining -- the Force is strong with Luke Daniels.
  • Briefly Maiden by Jacqueline Chadwick -- the follow-up to this year's fantastic In the Still. It's dark, twisted, and so much fun while telling a tragic and horrifying story. I checked in on that Thursday -- sooo good. I'll expand on that in a couple of days.

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and welcome to annebonnybookreviews, thehuntandpeckblog, Richard Klu, and The Cable Denning Fan Club for following the blog this week.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/12/02/saturday-miscellany-12-2-17
November 2017 Report

I had a pretty good month, it seems. I gave out a whole lot of 4 Stars -- which means I read/talked about a whole lot of good books. Good way to spend the penultimate month of 2017. Here's what happened here in November.

Books/Novels/Novellas Read/Listened to:

Communication Failure The Squirrel on the Train Moshe Comes to Visit
4 Stars 4 Stars 2 1/2 Stars
Righteous Meddling Kids The Freedom Broker
4 Stars 3 Stars 3.5 Stars
Paradox Bound The Rat Tunnels of Isfahan Dead Souls
4 Stars 3 Stars 4 1/2 Stars
The Hidden Face Breaking Bad 101 Artemis
4 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars
Faith. Hope. Love. Shadow of Calvary Blood Rites (Audiobook)
4 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars
Deep Blue Trouble All Hands on Pet! Suspect (Audiobook)
4 Stars 3 Stars 5 Stars
Curse of the Coloring Book The Midnight Line A Serpent's Tooth (Audiobook)
3 Stars 4 Stars 3.5 Stars
Red Dog Bedlam      
4 Stars 4 Stars      

Still Reading:

A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized A Plague of Giants Between Wittenberg and Geneva
Talking to the Dead (Audiobook) Briefly Maiden      

Reviews Posted:

 

How was your month?

Review
4 Stars
Poor Lori Anderson suffers through another great read. Her pain is our gain.
Deep Blue Trouble - Steph Broadribb

I really could just say, "You know that book that I (and just about everyone else) was so excited about a few months back? Well, the sequel is out now, and it's just as good, if not better. Everything I wrote before still applies." That'd be cheating, and not 100% accurate, but close enough I could do it with a clear conscience.

 

But let's see if we can give it a bit more justice...

 

When we left Lori, she was agreeing to work with an FBI Agent to bring someone in, in exchange for this, he'll help exonerate JT from the crimes he's been accused of. Lori has brought this particular escaped con in before -- Gibson "The Fish" Fletcher, a thief and convicted murderer -- and Agent Monroe assumes that should give her a leg up. This hunt takes her from coast to coast (and coast to coast), and even across the border. I'd like to think that her career before these last two cases was a whole lot more benign, because what she goes through in the couple of weeks recorded in these two novels is probably more than most people go through in their lives.

 

Lori brings a PI she worked with before to track Fletcher in to help with some background, and Monroe hooks her up with a group of bounty hunters that he has experience with. Lori and her PI get along well, and work together even better. The bounty hunters, on the other hand, just don't seem to want to work with Lori. The contrast between the people she's allied with in this hunt is striking and helps the reader get a real grasp of Lori's character. Every other character in this book deserves some discussion -- well, most of them do -- but I can't do that without ruining the book. Let me just say that I'd be glad to see everyone that survives this book intact in the future -- and maybe even some of those that don't.

 

This case is primarily Lori using her brain (and her PI's) to get her man -- yeah, there's some fisticuffs, some gunplay -- but this is about Lori being smarter than anyone else in the case. Similarly, in Deep Down, Lori takes some real physical punishment, but this time the punishment is more mental and psychological -- she doesn't escape without some serious bruising (at least...), but primarily it's the emotional stress and punishment she's given while on the hunt for Fletcher that will take its toll.

 

In Deep Down the threat to Dakota was obvious and immanent -- this time out, it's more abstract, theoretical. Lori's used a little money she just made to send her to camp. But if Lori can't keep JT out of prison (or worse), getting him as a donor to help treat Dakota's leukaemia is going to be near impossible. This is a nice change -- you can't have Dakota in constant peril, nor can you have Lori constantly distracted by her. Don't get me wrong, I don't want her to disappear, or be conveniently occupied all the time, but the reader needs it occasionally.

 

As for JT? Well, being in prison in a state where one of the major crime lords has a hit out on you isn't exactly easy. We don't get the flashbacks to his training Lori as much, but Lori is constantly returning to his lessons for guidance -- so his presence is felt throughout the book, even if he's locked up the whole time. That training is what ultimately helps her -- even if she has to ignore a good chunk of it, naturally, watching her decide when to ignore his training is painful, because she picks bad times and ways to do so. Lori is keeping something from JT -- which is going to come back to bite her. I get why she's doing it, and can sympathize -- but I know she's a fictional character and I know what usually happens to fictional characters who do this kind of thing. Am truly hoping that Broadribb is going ti zag here when we all expect her to zig -- but even if she zigs, I expect the execution of it to be better than my imagination.

 

It may seem like a little thing, or at least a strange thing to comment on in a post like this -- but I really appreciated the way that Broadribb worked in a recap of Deep Down Dead to the opening pages here. It's a lost art anymore, and I just wanted to take a second and say way to go.

 

One minor criticism: it was much easier to tell that this was a book written by a Brit writing an American.

 

This was a fast thriller, with a story that propels you to keep reading -- you'll read more than you should per sitting, because you just can't put it down. Broadribb writes like a seasoned pro, with panache and skill. Lori remains one of my favorite new characters for this year, and the rest of the cast of characters are just about as good. I can't wait to see what Broadribb puts poor Lori, JT and Dakota through next.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/29/deep-blue-trouble-by-steph-broadribb
Review
3 Stars
An uneven book about a Vet dealing with his ghosts from Vietnam.
Curse of the Coloring Book: A Novel Inspired by a True Story - Howard L. Hibbard

Herald Lloyd is an attorney whose life is falling apart -- he's drinking to excess regularly, his wife/business partner is continually threatening to leave, and he's committed a pretty obvious bit of malpractice while being uninsured -- which will pretty much ruin his practice and family. All of this can be traced back to his drinking, he's self-medicating to deal with recurring nightmares, flashbacks and stress related to his time serving in Vietnam (all of which are probably exacerbated by the drinking in a wonderful loop). We know that because he tells everyone that he's dealing with his symptoms just fine on his own in just about every conversation he has. Because what says "dealing with" better than constantly talking about how you're dealing with it?

 

The novel focuses on the actions that take place in 1988, where Lloyd deals with crisis around his malpractice and his efforts to dodge the repercussions of it. The characterization of everyone is shallow, the writing is stiff, the dialogue is cringe-worthy, the plot is predictable (yeah, it's based to some degree on actual events, but the presentation of the plot is predictable).

 

The book's saving grace (and, at times, the only thing that kept me reading) were the flashbacks to Lloyd's time in Vietnam. They (by my entirely unscientific reckoning) make up about sixty percentage of the book They were still too-frequently sloppy and self-indulgent with cringe-worthy dialogue. However, there was a life to them, something you could build a novel on (thankfully, because that's just what Hibbard was trying to do). Seriously, give me a novel based on this material alone, and my take will be much more encouraging. There's a great mix of types of material -- comic, dark comic, horror, slice of life, friendship, loyalty -- just about everything you could ask for when Lloyd thinks about (willingly or not) his friends, subordinates, commanders, antagonists from his years in Asia.

 

There's quite a lot of material featuring flashbacks to a week of R&amp;R Lloyd spent with a prostitute. His wife, Thea, didn't enjoy him reliving that so often -- and who can blame her? -- and I didn't either. Calling them "gratuitous" feels like a tautology, honestly. I'm going to stop there because this threatens to take over this post, and no one wants that.

 

I'm going to give this a 3 Star rating because the Vietnam material was so strong (minus the stuff with the prostitute), the 1988 material on its own wouldn't even get 2 from me. A good editorial pass or two would've helped things tremendously -- I appreciate what it seems that Hibbard was going for here, but good intentions don't make good books. Good writing does, and there just wasn't much of that here.

 

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

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/28/curse-of-the-coloring-book-by-howard-l-hibbard
Review
4 Stars
A buck gets ten that you'll love this
The Midnight Line - Lee Child

“But this particular guy won’t talk to me?”

“I would be surprised.

“Does he have no manners?”

"I wouldn’t ask him over to a picnic.”

“What’s his name?”

“Jimmy Rat.”

”For real?”

“That’s what he goes by.”

“Where would I find Mr. Rat?”

"Look for a minimum six Hariey-Davidsons. Jimmy will be in whatever bar they‘re outside of.”


Three days after Make Me, Reacher hits the road -- and a few hours into that, he's already trying to track someone down. That conversation leads to the following:

There was a bar in a standalone wooden building, with a patch of weedy gravel for parking, and on the gravel were 7 Harley-Davidsons, all in a neat line. Possibly not actual Hells Angels as such. Possibly one of the many other parallel denominations. Bikers were as split as Baptists. All the same, but different.

 

(don't worry, I'm not going to tell the whole story in this detail, I just really enjoyed the writing here).

 

Reacher goes into the bar and then has a pleasant chat with a member of the local law enforcement community and a productive chat with Mr. Rat. In between those chats he may have engaged in a physical confrontation with the owners of those motorcycles, I'll let you guess what happened there. It was fun to read, I assure you. What led to him looking for Jimmy the Rat? Pretty simply, he saw a female West Point class ring in a pawn shop window. That's not an easy thing to earn/deserve. Reacher figures that there's got to be an interesting story behind such a ring ending up in a pawn shop -- and maybe some fellow alumnus needs a hand, one that he can give. Jimmy the Rat is just the first link in a chain of indeterminate length back to this graduate.

 

Because he's not an idiot, Jimmy points Reacher in the right direction: a laundromat in Rapid City. Also, because he's not an idiot, before Reacher is on his way, Jimmy calls in a warning to that laundromat. Jimmy's a rat, but he's a survivor, too. This laundromat is owned by a guy named Scorpio, who is absolutely not Rapid City PD's favorite small-business owner, if they could, they'd shut him down. This warning phone call, they hope, will be the harbinger of something -- his downfall, or something to give them enough ammunition to arrange his arrest and downfall. Either way, the PD is fine.

 

Reacher has a quick conversation with Scorpio, who also points him in a direction. Reacher interacts a bit with a member of the local PD about him, as well -- pointing out something that someone should've noticed already. There's a PI who's also pretty interested in Scorpio, but Reacher doesn't get to chat with him, at least not then. When he turns up in Wyoming a few hours behind Reacher, on the other hand . . .

 

Reacher ends up with one of the stranger ad hoc teams he's had to track down this woman -- and the extra-legal steps he has to take to help her aren't in his normal wheelhouse. But you go the extra mile for some people, and it's definitely in-character and understandable for him to do what he does. There's some interesting introspection early-on that I'm not used to seeing, and hope we get more of.

 

Here's a major weakness to me (normally, I'd shrug this off, but Child gets held to a higher standard): too many people don't know what "Bigfoot" is. If this took place in the UK or France or something, I could buy it. But in South Dakota? Sorry, not buying it.

 

The Midnight Line features more female characters than your typical Reacher novel -- and none of them are damsels in distress. Yeah, most of them need a little help -- but so do the males. Reacher's life is even saved by one of the women. These are all strong, confident and capable women -- not that the Reacher novels have ever been lacking in that regard, we just don't normally get that many of them at once.

 

I don't keep a spreadsheet or any kind of detailed notes on these things, but this might be one of the least violent Reacher novels ever. Make no mistake, Reacher has not turned into a pacifist and when he needs to punch, elbow, kick or headbutt (so soon after the concussion tests? tsk.) he does so very effectively, but I just think his count is a bit low this time).

 

Also, thanks Andy Martin, "Reacher said nothing." now jumps out at me every time it shows up. How it never jumped out at me before, I'll never know -- but wow.

 

I really enjoyed this -- it didn't blow me away in the same way that Make Me did, but very little does. It was a lot better than Night School, however. Reacher's knight-errant act is as satisfying as ever -- maybe even moreso in this conclusion that features more details on his acts of compassion than his violence (the last violent act happening "off-screen," although we get to see the aftermath). It was a fast read, full of action, great scenery and believable bad guys. I can't think of much else to say -- Reacher fans should love this, people new to Reacher should finish this with a desire to plunder the back-list, and everyone will start counting the days to #23.


2017 Library Love Challenge

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/27/the-midnight-line-by-lee-child
Saturday Miscellany - 11/25/17

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:

    (typically slow for a holiday week here, so . . . )This Week's New Release That I'm Excited About:
  • The Hidden Face by S. C. Flynn is scheduled to release today, so that counts, right? I think there's a strong chance you can grab it for pretty cheap, too. A good book at a good price. Jump on it. In case you missed what I said about it yesterday, just click here.

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and welcome to Mr and Mrs NW, abokrose and LizScanlon for following the blog this week.

 

Review
4 Stars
A fast, clever, intro to a fantasy trilogy.
The Hidden Face - S.C. Flynn

There's so much of the world-building, the overall mythology and political structure of this book that drives the plot and is given in bits and pieces to the reader, that I'm having a hard time knowing how talk about it without taking away anything from your experience in reading the book.

 

Essentially, you've got Dayraven, returning to the Emperor's court from being a political hostage for 15 years -- he's pretty smart, a better than average fighter, and the son of a legendarily great warrior. He's been returned to the court at a pivotal time, and he's also supposed to be meeting his former teacher for reasons he doesn't understand, but seem possibly more important.

 

One of those reasons is to be teamed up with Sunniva, a woman making her way through the world disguised as a man to make it easier for her to move freely as she searches for her missing father. I really liked her -- from her memories of a childhood where she'd get bored playing the way the other kids wanted to, so she'd make up her own stories of battle and gallantry, to her dealing with her phobias, to her grit, determination, and compassion. She's not much clearer on why she's been teamed up with Dayraven, but jumps in with both feet, certain that it's the right thing to do.

 

They have puzzles to solve, clues to piece together -- which lead to fights with mercenaries, legendary criminals, a conspiracy or two, and others, while they're trying to piece together more of the clues which should point the way to the Fifth Unmasking. Don't worry, you'll find out what that means as you read the book. On the one hand, none of this story is new to you -- you've read all these elements before. But the way that Flynn has assembled them, and the way he executes them are pretty novel and are interestingly entertaining.

 

When we first meet the Emperor, I wasn't sure how I was supposed to feel about him -- whether he was supposed to be funny, if I was supposed to pity him, or something else entirely. If you react similarly, hang in there, and you'll learn that both reactions are wrong -- and you'll likely end up really liking the Emperor.


There's a very Sméagol-y character, a few clearly villain-ish characters, and a pretty cool mercenary to round out the cast. All in all, especially by the time we get to the end of the novel and we understand them all pretty clearly, are as strong a collection that you can ask for.

 

Flynn does do something that it bugs me so much when Fantasy authors do -- he uses words/names/ from English/our world to mean something alien in their world. FOr example, the kingdom of Faustia results in the adjective "Faustian." Which is used a lot, and each time I had to remind myself that he didn't mean anything like what is usually meant. It's pretty distracting. Particularly in the opening chapters there's a sentence or two of dialogue that made me roll my eyes. But it's not something that detracts too much from the story or, really, makes up that much of the dialogue. My most significant area of criticism is the way that Flynn unspools the mythology for the reader -- I think he could have done it a little faster and clearer to get the reader on board with the theology/government of this world. Is it possible that I was being particularly dense this day? Yes. Is it possible that other readers will pick up on things a lot better than I did? Yes. But I don't think so -- I think it was Flynn trying to avoid an info-dump and to dole out the information to the reader at his pace. Which I absolutely endorse, I just think he could have done it a smidge faster.

 

I'm not sure, but I can't think of many fantasy novels that I've read lately that are as short as The Hidden Face. This isn't a selling point or a word of warning, I'm just saying this is short, and fast paced. Flynn crams a lot of story into this book and does it well. You don't feel rushed, or that he's cutting corners -- you don't get the impression he's doing anything other than telling his story until you stop and think of everything that happens in 350 pages, a good deal of it is what I expected in book 3. I'm not sure how he pulls that off, honestly.

 

This is a strong, fast and gripping fantasy novel. I cannot wait for the sequel -- it's pretty clear where it'll start, but I'm not really sure what to expect the story to do after that, and that really appeals to me. The Hidden Face, isn't perfect, but it's good -- you should give it a try.

 

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for my honest opinion, for which I'm grateful, but not so grateful that it colored my thinking.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/24/the-hidden-face-by-s-c-flynn
Thanksgiving 2017

Happy Thanksgiving/Turkey Day/Thursday

(depending on your location/preference)

When I think about all the great things that have happened around the blog and behind the scenes this year leaves me at a loss for words, let me list a few things I'm thankful for -- a very incomplete list, I assure you:

  • The readers of this blog, the authors who've corresponded with me/provided books for me to read/encouraged me -- even promoted this here project (seriously, Nathaniel Barber and Darrell Drake have done almost as much to advertise my work as I have). There are publicists, publishers, etc. I've been working with this year who've especially made things great -- I'd mention some of you by name, but I'd inadvertently miss one I meant to include and would feel horrible nd cause offense.
  • Books
  • Authors!
  • Books
  • Coffee (and other beverages both caffeinated and adult)
  • Books
  • Time to read
  • Books
  • Easily finding an appropriate image for this post for a change
  • Audiobooks and talented narrators
  • The Nampa Public Library (and The LYNX! Consortium) -- and their generous grace period /li>
  • Books
  • Goodreads, WordPress, NetGalley, BookLikes
  • Books
  • Evernote
  • Books
  • Authors!
  • Authors!
  • My supportive, understanding and encouraging wife and kids who do a pretty decent job pretending to care when their old man drones on and on about what he's reading.
  • Again, all of you who read, follow, like, tweet, comment, email, etc. this page -- you have no idea how much every little bit is appreciated.