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.

Review
4 Stars
A human story about a holocaust (and more) survivor
Henry: A Polish Swimmer's True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America - Katrina Shawver

Looking for something for her Arizona Republic column, Katrina Shawver found and interviewed Henry Zguda, a octogenarian, who'd been a competitive swimmer in Poland who'd spent three years in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. The interview struck a chord with her and she soon returned to his home to propose they write a book about his experiences.

 

This book is the result of a series of interviews Shawver conducted with Henry, her own research (including trips to the original sites), and some letters, photographs, etc. that Henry provided (some of which Henry pilfered from Auscwitz' records some time after the war!). We get an idea what life was like in Poland before Hitler invaded and began to destroy the nation and its citizens -- then we get several chapters detailing his life in the camps. Following that, we get a brief look at his life in Poland after the war and when the Communists took over, followed by his life in America after that -- meeting his wife and living a life that many of us would envy. The bulk of the book is told using transcripts (with a little editing) of interview tapes with Henry, so the reader can "hear" his voice telling his stories. Shawver will stitch together the memories with details and pictures, as well as with bits of her trip to Poland and the camps there. We are also treated to a glance at the friendship that develops between Henry, Shawver and Henry's wife through the production of the book.

 

More than once while reading it, I thought about how much I was enjoying the read -- and then I felt guilty and wrong for doing so. This was a book about someone who lived through Auschwitz and Buchenwald, how dare I find it charming and want to read more (not for information, or to have a better idea what atrocities were committed). I've watched (and read the transcript) Claude Lanzmann's Shoah (for one example), and never once thought about cracking a smile. I certainly never wanted to spend more time with the subjects. This is all because of the way that Shawver told Henry's story, and Henry's own voice. I did learn a lot -- I should stress. For example, there was mail back and forth between the prisoners and family (for those that were willing to give the Nazis an address for their family), Henry at one point looks at some letters from prisoners online, checking not for names, but numbers he recognizes. Or the idea that there were light periods in the labor duty -- not out of mercy, compassion or anything, but because the guards got time off, and there was no one to make the prisoner's work.

 

The subtitle does tell us that it's a story of friendship -- several friendships, actually. Without his friends, Henry's story would have likely been much shorter, with very different ending. It's easy to assume that others could say that because of Henry, as well. There's also the story of the brief friendship of Henry and Shawvver, without her, we wouldn't have this book. There were some moments early on that I thought that Shawvver might be giving us too much about her in the book, but I got used to it and understood why she chose that. In the end her "presence" in the book's unfolding helps the reader learn to appreciate Henry the man,not just Henry the historical figure.

 

This is a deceptively easy read, the conversational tone of Henry's segments, particularly, are engaging and you're hearing someone tell you great stories of his youth. Until you stop and listen to what he's talking about, then you're horrified (and relieved, sickened, inspired, and more). Shawver should be commended for the way she kept the disparate elements in this book balanced while never undercutting the horrible reality that Henry survived.

 

This is something that everyone should read -- it's too easy to hear about the Holocaust, about the concentration camps, and everything else and think of them as historical events, statistics. But reading this (or books like it), helps you to see that this happened to people -- not just people who suffered there -- but people who had lives before and after this horror. If we can remember that it was about people hurting people, nothing more abstract, maybe there's hope we won't repeat this kind of thing.

 

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

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/10/18/henry-by-katrina-shawver
Review
3.5 Stars
A Great Intro to a Great Series
Open and Shut - Grover Gardner, David Rosenfelt

I honestly can't believe I've talked to little about Andy Carpenter and David Rosenfelt here -- it works out, when you look at timelines and whatnot, I've been reading him a long time before I started blogging. Still, it's hard to believe since it's one of my favorite series, and has been going for so long. Yeah, maybe the series is getting too long in the tooth, but for something to get to book 16+, it's got to have a pretty solid foundation, right? That foundation is <b>Open and Shut</b>, where Rosenfelt introduces the world to Andy Carpenter, dog lover extraordinaire and pretty decent defense attorney.

 

Carpenter is a hard-working lawyer, taking on many cases that don't pay much, but do some good. He's obsessed with New York sports and his golden retriever. He's going through a divorce -- and has started dating his investigator. He's got a great sense of humor, is known for a hijink or two in court, and seems like the kind of guy you want in your corner. His father is a big-time D. A., the kind of Prosecutor that people hope/assume theirs is -- honest, hard-working, tough on crime. So it shocks Andy when his dad asks him to take on a client for a retrial on a murder case -- a murderer his dad put away and his currently on Death Row.

 

Andy goes ahead with the case, not sure that he should. But it doesn't take long before he starts to believe in his client's innocence. About that time, things get interesting and maybe even a little dangerous.

 

Almost all the elements that go into a typical Andy Carpenter novel are here -- even if they're just being introduced at this point. The jokes are fresh, the clichés have yet to be developed. It's a good mystery with some good non-mystery story elements. And, best of all, some really fun courtroom moments -- not just antics on Andy's part, but some good depictions of legal/trial strategy and the like. I've been thinking lately that the latter Carpenter books have been giving the courtroom short shrift, and seeing what Rosenfelt does here just solidifies that thinking.

 

Gardner's narration didn't blow me away or anything, but it was good work. I can easily believe him as Andy's voice and can see him really growing on me (not unlike George Guidall and Walt Longmire). He'll keep you engaged in the story, and deliver a line or two in a way that will bring a smile to your face.

 

Give this one a whirl, folks -- text or audio -- you'll enjoy yourself.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/10/16/open-and-shut-audiobook-by-david-rosenfelt-grover-gardner
Review
3.5 Stars
Amusing Audiobook about a murder at an amusement park
Tilt a Whirl - Chris Grabenstein

Danny Boyle grew up in Sea Haven, NJ -- a tourist trap of a town on the Jersey Shore. He likes the life -- hanging out with the friends he's had since high school, goofing around, eating and drinking more than he should. He's got a nice Summer gig -- working as a Part-Time police officer. The downside is his partner -- John Ceepak, an Iraq War vet and former MP. He's so by the book, he might as well have written it. The Sea Haven chief served with Ceepak and offered him a job when he was done with the Army. After an incident (IED-related), Ceepak can't drive anymore -- which is where Danny comes in.

 

It's not an ideal working relationship, but Danny can put up with Ceepak's eccentricities well enough. Until one day their pre-shift breakfast is interrupted by a girl covered in blood, standing in the middle of the street screaming. Ceepak jumps into action, and Danny tries to keep up. The girl takes them to the local amusement park, to the Tilt-a-Whirl ride, where her father lies shot dead. They'd snuck in before the place opened and had been held up by some junkie hiding near the ride. Or so she reports later. Her father owns half the real-estate in NY and NJ (or so it seems), sort of a would-be Trump, so his murder is big, big news.

 

Ceepak and Danny have to deal with media attention, annoying lawyers, gang members possibly trying to go straight, local politics, a Crime Scene Investigator that's more of a hindrance than a help, and Danny's inexperience if they're going to solve this murder and let Sea Haven get back to what it does best in the summer -- taking in every tourist dollar that it can.

 

The book is told with a light touch -- Danny's a smart-aleck and is (truthfully) too immature for his job; which is bad for the populace of Sea Haven, good for the reader/listener. But the lightness never gets in the way of the seriousness of the initial murder, and the crimes that follow.

 

Woodman is exactly the narrator that this book needed -- he's able to sound the right age for Danny, the right attitude, everything (apparently, he does a lot of YA Audiobook work, that makes sense to me). Until I heard Woodman, I hadn't thought what a challenge it might be to get just the right narrator for this. Thankfully, I noted that with a strong sense of relief, because man...he was so good.

 

The Ceepak books were one of those series I fully enjoyed, and had forgotten how much I had liked them since I (apparently) finished the series. This audiobook helped me remember how much I missed reading them. If you haven't gotten around to them, you should -- either as an audiobook or text -- Ceepak and Boyle are some of the most entertaining police officers around.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/10/16/tilt-a-whirl-audiobook-by-chris-grabenstein-jeff-woodman
Saturday Miscellany - 10/14/17

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 Long Day in Lychford by Paul Cornell -- The Witches of Lychford are back -- it wasn't my favorite, but it's still soemthing you should read (plus the first 2). Here's my $.02 on the novella
    • Drawing Dead by JJ DeCeglie -- Fahrenheit Press' latest offering features a drunk, gambling addicted PI in hock to the mob. Probably not the feel-good book of the year, but it has all the makings of a gripping read.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/10/14/saturday-miscellany-101417
Review
3 Stars
A solid first mystery/suspense novel
Bonfire - Krysten Ritter

When you grow up in a place called Barrens, you want to get out -- especially if it's an area with limited job options, a struggling agricultural industry, and nothing else to commend it. Although, the name alone would probably justify wanting to get out even if the economy and culture were richer. But as is the case with too many small towns like this, few manage to get out. Abby Williams headed for Chicago two days after she graduated from high school, went to college and law school, becoming an associate at an environmental firm -- and only sometime after that did she return.

 

She returns with her friend (a gay black man, who tends to stick out in the small, rural Illinois town), a first-year associate and a couple of students to investigate some claims about the water in the local reservoir. The town's only major employer is called Optimal Plastics, which has been dogged by rumors of shoddy environmental practices and health problems for years -- including before they came to Illinois -- and the team is going to see if they can make these rumors and concerns stick this time.

 

As they dig into records, tests, regulatory reports and whatnot, Abby notices something. Optimal Plastics is clean. Absolutely clean -- on paper, there's never been a company so clean and responsible. Which just seems impossible, no one is this perfect. Abby smells blood in the water and goes on the attack.

 

At the same time, in a small town, you can't help but run into people you don't want to see again -- which is pretty much everyone from High School. The girls who used to torment her, the guy she had a large crush on, the people she wasn't so sure about. It takes mere moments for her to get embroiled (or re-embroiled) in the same relationships, problems, gossip that she'd escaped from. From "the old crowd" (that was never Abby's crowd), she gets her insight into Optimal Plastics -- all the good they've done for the town, the numbers of people they employ, the money they pour into the schools, and so on. So much good that no one wants to take a good look into them, the price is potentially too high.

 

This reminds her (not that she needed the reminder) of some problems potentially tied to the company back when she was in high school -- girls that seemed inexplicably sick. What else could it be from? She's told time and time again by her friend that what happened over a decade ago doesn't matter,what matters is what the company is doing now. Abby's not convinced, and keeps digging at this -- even if she agrees with him, the ghosts that haunt her will not allow her to let it go. Abby becomes more and more focused on this aspect of the investigation -- flirting with and maybe crossing the lines into obsession.

 

Oh, and did I mention her father? As you may have picked up from the fact I mentioned earlier that she hadn't returned to Barrens since high school that she's not that close to anyone there -- including her father. The exploration of and changes to their relationship is one of the more emotionally satisfying storylines in the book.

 

I'm from a small town, I get the feeling of never actually escaping from it -- returning to the same place you left. But I'm willing to bet that even readers from larger towns/cities can relate to this. You can take the girl out of High School, but you can never take High School out of the girl, I guess. Ritter deals with the emotional realities and hazards like a pro -- there's not a beat that seems false or forced. The manner in which Abby makes connections, interweaves her look into what happened years ago with what's going on right now is great (for the reader). The secrets she uncovers are chilling and unthinkable -- yet entirely believable.

 

Would I have liked to have seen more with her colleagues reacting to Barrens, helping her follow the leads she's interested in, or just interacting with her at all? Absolutely -- but I'm not sure how Ritter could've done that without more effort than it's probably worth. Could she have done more with her Chicago-friend sticking out in Barrens? Yup, but it might have distracted from the overall plot (but if she's going to remark on it as often as she does, she should do something on it -- it comes across as urban snobbery). I think that's almost something I could say about everything in the book. I don't know that I needed a lot more of everything, but I think every bit of the story, the characters, the mystery, etc. could use a little bit more development, a little more space. Not much, just a little bit.

 

I liked Abby almost immediately -- from the fairly disturbing Prologue, on through to her struggles in town and questionable choices, you root for her and hope that she finds an element of peace. Her coworkers are great. It's hard to decide what you think about some of her old high school friends right away, and probably best no to decide too much about anyone in town until The Reveal at the end.

 

The writing is crisp and compelling -- Ritter has some really nice turns of phrase as well. There's a couple of times that Abby is drunk and/or the influence of alcohol plus other things that were just excellent. Abby's inability to keep her perceptions in line, to have a coherent recollection about everything she experiences through this time -- that's just excellently executed.

 

I won't say that it's one of the best books I've read this year -- if there's a plot point here that you haven't seen, I'll be surprised. If there's a character, character arc, or anything like that you haven't seen before, I'll eat my hat. Does it matter? Nope. The way that Ritter tells the story, how she treats the characters and shows them to the reader -- how she executes things, that's the key. It all worked really well, I was thoroughly entertained, even held in suspense. Even if in retrospect I decided that I'd seen it all before, I didn't see a lot of it coming -- or I'd seen story elements X and Y a few dozen times, I hadn't seen them combined the way Ritter did. This is a solid first novel, and I hope there's at least a second on the way.

 

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

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/10/13/bonfire-by-krysten-ritter
Features some of the best writing I've seen in 2017
Planet Grim - Alex Behr

I've been dreading the day when I had to write about this book for a month or so now -- I just don't know that I'm up to it. While I can't say that I enjoyed every story, there was something in each of them that impressed me. I'd do better discussing this book over a beverage with someone who's read the stories rather than in the abstract.

 

In a few sentences -- at most a couple of paragraphs -- Behr gets you into a world with fully realized characters, completely different situations -- many of which you've never even thought about before. You will be disturbed, moved, saddened, surprised, fascinated, and occasionally, struck by a darkly comic moment.

 

I want to stress the "dark," -- Planet Grim is probably underselling it. There's not a lot o flight to be found in these pages. I'm not suggesting that you'll end up depressed at the end of every story, but you won't be chuckling or uplifted. These are real people going through some pretty real problems and situations. It's hard to slap a genre tag on these -- there's the barest hint of SF (but not really, you'll see); these would all nicely fit in with a noir novel (without the knight errant); technically a lot would fit in "Women's Fiction" (but . . . no); so I guess you stick it in the "General Fiction" section, but hopefully that doesn't mean you overlook it.

 

A piece of advice: do not read more than two or three of these stories in one sitting. Actually, I think the volume of stories in this collection is the biggest problem with it. If there were seven of these stories in one volume, I'd probably be raving about it and demanding more. As it is, I was a little overwhelmed -- there's just too much to deal with (which is why it took me 5 weeks to get through it).

 

I've said it before here, and I'll probably say it again, I"m not a huge short story guy. A few more collections like this could change me. There's not a dud in the batch -- there are a couple that I think I didn't fully appreciate (or even "get") for one reason or another -- but there's not one that's not worth a second or third read. Alex Behr can write, period. If you give her a chance, she'll convince you of that. I can't say that I enjoyed this book, I don't know if I liked it, but man, I was impressed with it, I'm glad that I got to read it, and I know it's some of the best writing I've come across this year.

 

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/10/12/planet-grim-by-alex-behr
Review
3 Stars
Things get political (but stay magical) in Lychford
A Long Day in Lychford - Paul Cornell

Lychford's apprentice witch (not that anyone knows that), and owner of Witches, a magic shop (not that many take it seriously), Autumn has had a bad day. So bad, that a police officer has dropped by the next morning to interrupt an impending hangover with questions about it. She had a fight with her teacher and employee that left both fuming and ready to consider ending the relationships, and then she went to a bar not-really-looking for a fight, but ready for it when it showed up.

 

But when you're one of three women responsible for protecting the borders between our world and the rest, and you're pretty magic-capable, your bad days can have pretty catastrophic consequences. Without getting into the details, she messes up the borders, the protections -- the magic that keeps all the things and people and whatevers out of our world that we're not equipped to deal with (in any sense).

 

Meanwhile, Judith is dealing with the aftermath of the fight with Autumn in her own way. Which boils down to being crankier than usual, and then dealing with the fallout from Autumn's error. Judith is primarily concerned with problems that the other two aren't aware of and have little do to with magic. There were a line or two that I <i>think</i> were supposed to be spooky or creepy in her POV sections that really were just sad (my guess is that Cornell wrote them to work on both levels, but they really only served as the latter for me).

 

Lizzie got put on the backburner for the most part in this book -- not that she's absent, but she doesn't have that much to do. Which is fine -- she can't be the center of each entry in this series, but I'd have preferred to have seen a bit more from her. I enjoyed the references to Lizzie's Fitbit, it was nice to have just the hint of lightness in this otherwise grim story. Actually, the other thing that came close to fun in this book also came from Lizzie's POV. She's not the typical source for that, and it's nice to see that she's capable of it.

 

I wish these were longer -- I know it's supposed to be a series of novellas, but this one in particular makes me want for more -- more development, more plot, more character interaction. I don't think I noticed it as much in the previous installments, so maybe it's something about this one. Still, this is a good story and time spent in Lychford is always rewarding.

 

In the end, this served primarily to set the stage for <b>Witches of Lychford</b> #4 -- and maybe more. Yes, the story was interesting, and it was good to have this look at Autumn, and the whole Brexit tie-in was interesting, but this just didn't work for me quite the way the others did. I have high hopes for the next, it's not like I'm done with this or anything, I just wanted more.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/10/11/a-long-day-in-lychford-by-paul-cornell
Review
4 Stars
Am I allowed to call this thought-provoking?
How to Think - Alan Jacobs

I haven't read any of them, but over the last few years I've seen a pretty good number of books about human thinking processes -- how it works, how it can/can't be changed, and how this can/may/should change the way we approach decision-making, etc. (it's not that I'm uninterested, there's only so much time). Unlike me, Alan Jacobs has read many of these -- and one thing he notes, that while these books are great on the <i>science</i> of human cognition, there's also an <i>art</i> to it. Enter this book.

 

The sub-title is "A Survival Guide for a World at Odds." Now, while it's clear that our society is quite divided, I honestly don't think that the world is really all that much more divided than we've been before -- even in this society. However, I think it's safe to say that we're much more open and aggressive about the divisions that exists, and far less inclined to listen to the other side(s). Jacobs' writing can help his readers bridge some of the divisions with those they interact with (not every one will want to, I'm sure, but they could try if they want to). I almost think that this book could be called <b>How to Disagree</b> instead, because so much of the book (but not all of it) is about how to disagree with others like civil, empathetic, adults, looking to change minds (or have our own be changed); not simply to attack someone or win an argument.

 

Jacobs begins by showing what strategies, devices, etc. we all already use in our thinking (taken largely from common sense/experience or all the science-y books mentioned above), and then as we're aware of these, he shows how we can improve them. Building on ideas from one chapter to the next and showing how something we learned already can inform what he's discussing now, these are not individual essays, but a cumulative case. I find it difficult to give examples for just that reason -- his is a carefully laid out argument, and summarizing some of my favorite components would do little justice to those parts and not work that well out of context. So, I'll keep it vague. He addresses how the idea of "thinking for oneself" is impossible, how it's problematic to have an "open mind" always, the importance of waiting, of not having to address everything, and how it's vital to keep a diverse selection of thoughtful people in your life.

 

Jacobs doesn't only draw from social sciences and philosophers (but he does, and frequently -- in an accessible way), he cites and draws from Robin Sloan, Walter White, C. S. Lewis, George Orwell and many others. He does so in a way that illustrates his points, strengthens and furthers his arguments. (I point this out, because I just finished a book that seemed only to do this kind of thing to lengthen chapters -- no light was added, just space taken up). While readers from High School on up can feel as if the ideas are stretching their minds, the writing will not -- Jacobs (as always) is good at convincing the reader they can handle bigger ideas.

 

Frankly, I wish this book (or one much like it) was required reading for anyone wanting a social media account -- I've been telling all sorts of people to read it for a few days now, and I probably won't stop anytime soon. <b>How to Think</b> is helpful, insightful, entertaining, wise, and -- dare I say? -- thought-provoking. Go get it.

 

<i><b>Disclaimer:</b> I received this copy from a Goodreads Giveaway.</i>

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/10/10/how-to-think-by-alan-jacobs
Review
3.5 Stars
She's an Actress, not a PI, but maybe...
McCall & Company: Workman's Complication - Rich Leder

Kate McCall is an actress struggling to make it -- she's had a few dozen jobs to support her acting (and her son while he was growing up), and is now a building manager, dog walker and off-off-off Broadway actress (I'm probably leaving off a couple of "off"s there). One recurring gig has been helping her father, a private investigator, from time to time.

 

When Jimmy McCall is murdered he leaves his agency to Kate -- which she doesn't want, she's not a P.I. ,she's an actress -- just ask her. Nevertheless, she's driven to see if she can't figure out what led him to the building he was killed in. Before she knows it, she's lying to the police about what he was working on that might have led to his murder, as well as getting pretty deep into the investigation herself.

 

Meanwhile, her father's lawyer sends a prospective client to her -- Teddy Barkowski is a general contractor who is being sued by someone who fell off some scaffolding and injured his back. Kate doesn't want to take this case, but honestly, the money woos her. Soon she agrees, with internal reservations, to look at the case. After meeting Barkowski's wife and kids, she's all in -- there's no way that she'll let this guy and his lawyer hurt the family. Easier said than done, really -- this is one tough nut to crack.

 

Thankfully, Kate's not alone -- she has two great sources to turn to for help. She's got the actors, producers, writers and the rest from her theater to pitch in, playing various roles to try to help her get information about the workman's compensation case. Not only that, many (if not all) of the tenants in the building she manages are friends with Kate and each other. She calls the apartment the House of Emotional Tics and to say that it's populated by a collection of strange characters, is an understatement. With a variety of particular skills (many of which are legal to exercise), Kate calls upon them to help with her investigation of her father's death.

 

Her son, an assistant DA in the city and the homicide detective she starts dating, aren't nearly as supportive of her new career. In fact, they're downright discouraging. I wasn't a fan of almost all the interactions with her son -- but his last appearance in the novel won me over. The love interest-detective, on the other hand, I thought worked very well.

 

This is a light/comedic mystery novel -- but it is a mystery novel with strong PI stories, both of which could've been told without the comedic elements and made a pretty good novel. But they do work better the way that Leder told them. Basically Kate's Stephanie Plum with actual skills, or David Ahern's Derry O’Donnell with a bit more maturity, success in theater, and no psychic abilities. The first-person narration is amusing and crisply written, there are more laughs than tense moments -- but all the elements work together and balance each other out well. Occasionally, the goofiness that accompanies the people from the D-Cup theater or the House of Emotional Tics threatens to interfere with the narrative, but it never does -- and usually ends up supporting the detective stories. In the end, Kate's large collection of sidekicks are more like the team that Fox & O'Hare use than Stephanie Plum's coworkers/family/friends -- they aren't inept, but they can actually accomplish most of what they set out to do (and when they don't, it's not because they're jokes -- it's because they got beaten fair and square).

 

I've compared this to Evanovich enough, how does this compare with Rich Leder's work? Well, I quite enjoyed Let There Be Linda, and I can say that this isn't the same kind of book. Linda frequently felt out of control, in a good way, mind you, but you could argue that Leder took a handful of whacky ideas and threw them together in a contained space to see what would happen when they combined with each other. This was just as funny (sometimes more so, sometimes not as much), but felt controlled -- there was one strong narrative and a few others that supported it. Characters that were more grounded (note, I said more grounded, not grounded), and some emotional depth to the story/storytelling. I'm belaboring this point to underline the differences in the books because I think it demonstrates Leder's skill, and because I know that Linda's style can be off-putting for some, and I don't want those people to think that this book should be avoided.

 

When the reveal of the murderer happened, I was a little annoyed with myself for not catching the clue that tipped her off. I will admit, I noticed the same thing she did, but shrugged it off, assuming it was a problem with the editing. But, naturally, the folks at Laugh Riot Press don't make flubs like that -- it was a genuine clue and I didn't run with it. Beyond my annoyance with myself for not figuring out the murderer, I rather enjoyed the reveal -- and Kate's ultimate triumph in the other case, too.

 

A very satisfying, entertaining novel -- really funny with real emotion -- that introduces you to a cast of characters that you want to spend more time with -- thankfully, there are two more books in the series and I hope to return to them soon. Give this one a shot, folks.

 

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

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/10/03/mccall-company-workmans-complication-by-rich-leder
September 2017 Report

My numbers were a little off -- which surprised me, really, I thought I had some busy weeks. But, oh well, I seemed to really like almost everything (average rating of 3.99 this month). Maybe I'm getting soft. Or I'm just reading a lot of good books.

 

Anyway, here's what happened here in September.

 

Books/Novels/Novellas Read/Listened to:

The Blue Curtain Black and Blue The Brightest Fell
2 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars
Prayer Hell is Empty The Spirit Mage
4 Stars 3.5 Stars 4 Stars
The Song of The Swan Wonder Woman: Warbringer The Western Star
4 Stars 3.5 Stars 5 Stars
A Little Book on the Christian Life IQ All Tucked Inn
4 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars
Travels and Travails of Small Minds The Whole Christ Night Broken (Audiobook)
3.5 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars
Flame in the Dark Sourdough The Hunger Angels
Not sure yet, at least 4 Stars 4 1/2 Stars 3.5 Stars

 

Reviews Posted:

How was your month?

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/10/02/september-2017-report
Review
3.5 Stars
Slim's back in action...
The Hunger Angels: A Slim in Little Egypt Short Story (Slim in Little Egypt Mystery) - Jason Miller

Taking place sometime after Dead Don't Bother Me, Slim's night of Scrabble with his daughter, Anci is interrupted by his friend, Jeep and a former co-worker, Snake.

Don't you just love the names of these characters?

 

Anyway, since leaving the coal mines, Snake has made a little money here and there, and has a few rental properties now. His nicest place is being rented by the nicest young couple, but Snake has family that needs it, so he has to evict the nice folks. Which is where Slim and Jeep come in. Because when Snake visits the house, its overrun with bikers and met and all sorts of property damage. The local law stops by everything looks fine and the housewife is as pleasant as Snake thought.

 

So now, Slim and Jeep need to do two things: 1. See if things are really as bad as Snake thinks, or if the police are right (well, I should say, confirm Snake's version) and 2. Serve the tenants with an eviction notice. All of which goes just as easily as you'd expect. Excitement and sleuthing ensues.

 

The best part of this story is Anci -- her relationship with her father is wonderful and it's the kind of thing you want to read more of. Like Spenser and Hawk at their best, or Lydia Chin and Bill Smith, you just want to read pages and pages of their conversations. It took about 6 sentences from Anci for me to note, "Oh yeah, that's why I loved her." Slim's easy to like, too -- I've got notes aplenty about some of his lines, but I won't quote any because the story is so short, I don't want to ruin anything for you. Great dialogue, great Chandler-esque narration, and lot of action. That's all I need to be satisfied.

 

This is listed as 62 pages, but I'm guessing at least 20 of those are promotional pages for the 2nd novel -- it's so hard to guess at Kindle length. It was long enough to justify reading, and short enough that you can breeze through it.

 

I've been nagging myself lately to get around to Red Dog, and getting this short story only served to make that a more pressing desire. Which I'm pretty sure was most of its purpose -- I've got to spend more time with Slim, Anci and the rest in Little Egypt. Read this and you'll feel the same way.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/10/02/the-hunger-angels-by-jason-miller
Saturday Miscellany - 9/30/17

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:

    A Book-ish Related Podcast Episode you might want to give a listen:
  • Mysterypod with Ace Atkins -- Atkins talks to Stephen Usery about his latest Quinn Colson and Spenser novels, and race relations in the South and Boston.

    This Week's New Releases I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon:
  • Paradox Bound by Peter Clines -- looks like a fun time travel novel through US history.
  • Horizon by Fran Wilde -- which serves as a good reminder that I've inexplicably not read Cloudbound.

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and welcome to nishlovepink, foodlove16, Scarletpiper, georgederringer and youngadultallegiance for following the blog this week.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/09/30/saturday-miscellany-93017
Review
4.5 Stars
A book as tasty as the name suggests
Sourdough: A Novel - Robin Sloan

Two years ago, I read Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, loved it, and spent 5 months trying to figure out how to talk about it. Last year, I listened to the audiobook, loved it, and spent 6 months trying to figure out how to write about it. I failed both times -- and I'm not sure that I figured out how to talk about this book, but at least I got something posted. Short version: if you see a book by Robin Sloan somewhere, read it.
---

There's a version of this where all I do is talk about how this is similar to/different from Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore -- but I don't want to do that. Let me just say up front that if you liked Mr. Penumbra's, you'll dig this. If you didn't like it, you will dig this -- and you probably were having a bad day or weren't paying attention when you read Mr. Penumbra's (or you were created by the Tyrell Corporation). So let me sum up: you will dig this book.

 

This is the story of Lois Clary, a computer programmer working on ways to help robots redefine the concept of work for the future. It sounds like a dreadful place to work -- intellectually rewarding, maybe; challenging, yes; but between the hours, the pay and the culture? No thanks. The work is demanding enough that they don't have time to eat/prepare food, many using Slurry, "a liquid meal replacement," for several meals each week.

Slurry was a nutritive gel manufactured by an eponymous company even newer than [the company Lois works for]. Dispensed in waxy green Tetra Packs, it had the consistency of a thick milkshake. It was nutritionally complete and rich with probiotics. It was fully dystopian.


Into her overworked and nutritive gel-sustained existence comes a menu for a small cafe that delivers. Their specialty is a spicy soup and a spicy sandwich. The sandwich is made on sourdough bread, and you get an extra slab with the spicy soup. This sourdough is a special thing (you may have guessed that based on the title). This becomes her new favorite food, and what she eats when she's not consuming the gel.

 

She develops a semi-relationship with the brothers behind the soup/sandwich, and when they have to leave the country, they give her a part of their sourdoughs starter and a lesson on bread preparation (Lois doesn't cook, and doesn't come from a family that did). The starter has specific instructions that reminded me of what's given when someone buys a mogwai -- and just as important. Before she knows it, Lois is baking for herself, to give to others, and even to sell. She's building a brick oven and really branching out socially (and keeping up with her work, too) -- in this, Lois starts to enjoy life and work. I'm pretty sure this is the first time since school (if not ever) that this is true for her.

 

As she gets more involved with bread making, Lois makes friends, she travels a bit, meets new people -- discovering three strange little subcultures along the. She also carries out an email correspondence with one of the brothers as he pursues his dream. That's all I'm going to say about the plot -- there is more to it than I said, but not much.

There's something like magical realism at work throughout this, but I wouldn't call it that. Mostly because, it's weird science, not magic. But it's probably not real science, just science the way we'd like it to work. Not so much so that this is Fantasy or Science Fiction, just... I don't know what to call it. Whimsical science?

 

It's the way that Sloan tells the story that makes it worth it -- there's a spark to his writing that makes you want to read it. Lois' world is our world, only better (and maybe a little worse), filled with interesting people doing interesting things. There's a humanity in the narration, in the action that I can't get enough of (ditto for his other work). There's a humor throughout, but it's not a funny book. But man, it'll make you happy just to read it. I loved being in this world -- it almost didn't matter what happened to Lois and her starter (not that I didn't enjoy it), just reading Robin Sloan's prose is good enough for me. I've got a list of 10 quotations I wanted to use here that I couldn't come up with a way to force into this post, and I think I could've easily let the size of that list double.

 

A book that will make you think, that may inspire, that will make you smile -- that will make you want carbs (no joke -- it required Herculean effort on my part each time I read a chapter or two not to call my son to tell him to bring home a fresh loaf from the bakery he works at), Sourdough is a gem.

2017 Library Love Challenge

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/09/29/sourdough-by-robin-sloan
Review
3.5 Stars
one of the strangest novels I've read this year
Travels and Travails of Small Minds - Daniel Falatko

“I feel like I’m stuck in a mystery novel written by an unhinged individual, Amy.”


There's a lot of truth to that lament Nathan makes to his girlfriend, Amy. In the same conversation, she had a different take on it:

“Mystery Englishmen? Ever-evolving eccentric casts of characters? Intricate layers of plot involving absolutely nothing? Two unaware and wayward employees leading the story? Nathan, you are living in a Wes Anderson film. And I’m not sure if I like it. You’re definitely more Life Aquatic than Rushmore at this point.”

There's a lot truth to that, too. At the same time, neither of them is quite right (and please, don't go looking for a Wes Anderson/unhinged mystery writer kind of book, you won't get it. But you may get something that appeals to someone who'd like that kind of book). Just these commentaries on Nathan's life during this novel shows you just how strange this is.

 

I don't want to say there isn't a plot -- there is one; nor do I want to say that it's not important, or nonsensical -- there is a good amount of sense and it is a pretty good story; but compared to the experience of spending time with Nathan, his friends and colleagues, as well as those he meets over the course of the novel outweighs the story.

 

You've got Nathan; his girlfriend, Amy; his boss Dr. Behr, an elderly gentleman who just might be the living incarnation of "eccentric"; his coworker, Edward, who has spent far too many years working for Dr. Behr; and Nathan's neighbor, who seems to do little other than use recreational pharmaceuticals. Throw in the study of a beatnik novelist of dubious quality, the attempted illegal eviction of a young woman, and some strange British citizens, and then step back and watch the lunacy begin. There's a real estate deal at the core of this -- which allows Falatko to indulge his fixation on NYC rental properties (and seals my conviction that I'll never move there) -- the sheer number of things that are wrong with the deal and that can go wrong with it. And here we are, proof that I can't talk about this book in a way that makes a whole lot of sense.

 

This is a funny book, but not a comedy. It's absurd in the best sense. It's a wild ride, with a very human -- and relatable center. Relatable might not be the best word, because I can't imagine that any reader will have an experience like it. But even at the strangest moments, you'll find yourself nodding with Nathan's actions and reactions, saying to yourself, "yeah, I can see why he'd do that." Even the conclusion that the plot careens to -- for most of the book you'd say that wouldn't work at all, but by the time it happens, it seems pretty perfect.

 

The illustrations are a nice touch -- I don't know that I needed them, and I don't know that they really added all that much. At the same time, I enjoyed them. At what point was it decided that only kids could use a picture every now and then in their books?

 

I wasn't a fan of Falatko's previous novel, Condominium, but I thought it did display an element of talent. Travels and Travails put a lot more on display, and kept me entertained and engaged (and frequently smiling) throughout the novel. Although, I should note that I also spent a good deal of time wondering what I'd just read and why -- but I was having such a good time that I really didn't care about the answers to those questions. You won't read many books like this one, but you'll wish you could.

 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion and participation in this book tour. I just wish I had something more coherent to say about it.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/09/26/travels-and-travails-of-small-minds-by-daniel-falatko
Review
3 Stars
Lizzie meets every creepy guy in VT & a serial killer
All Tucked Inn; An Elizabeth Burke Thriller (Book #1) - Mindy M. Shelton

(this is about the audiobook, which isnt an option at the moment on BookLikes)

 

Lizzie Burke lives with her widowed mother and younger brother in her mother's B&B, which is near the college she starts when we meet her. She makes a few friends on the first day of classes, and things seem to be going pretty well. Until one of her new friends goes missing -- and many (not Lizzie) assume she's been killed. Especially when another girl goes missing not too long after this. Now, as Lizzie and her friends are Criminal Justice majors, I assumed they'd start investigating things on their own, meddling with the official investigations, and get the killer themselves. But nope. They're just on the sidelines, worrying about their friend and the others -- until things happen, forcing them to action.

 

Meanwhile, Lizzie deals with several guys expressing various degrees of romantic interest in her. All of whom are creeps of the first order. Seriously, she's like a magnet for them. Hopefully before the next book in the series, Lizzie takes a long, hard look at herself and comes up with some basic standards -- or decides not to date until she gets her Master's. I wasn't sure what to think of Lizzie for most of the book really, she was pretty passive as protagonists go. But once she started actively doing things, I liked her a lot.

 

The tone is light and optimistic -- there's some good relationships established between Lizzie and her family, as well as her new friends. It's basically a cozy with a few very dark and non-cozy chapters thrown in. I think the serial killer's POV chapters could be stronger and more nuanced -- but man, it's hard to get that right if you're not Thomas Harris or Val McDermid. Mostly, it's a bunch of nice people watching something horrific happen in their midst and trying to keep going, and most of that is something I can really get behind.

 

But I did have a few problems, and I'm only going to talk about them because I think that the book as a whole demonstrates that Shelton has the good to lose them in future books -- and, they all took me out of the moment, ruining whatever illusion she'd built with her storytelling.

 

The police (and/or FBI) procedural aspects were horrible -- FBI doesn't have detectives, they wouldn't do a press conference that way, there's no need to get college kids pouring through public records when there are literally people at police stations and/or FBI offices that have access to the same information (and more) who can get it faster. There's some other spoiler-y problems, too. On the one hand, the problems don't destroy the story, but man, they took me out of the moment, out of the story long enough to make me wonder about why the author couldn't take a moment in revision to fix things like that.

 

My biggest problem was that I successfully identified the killer when they first showed up -- chapters ahead of the first abduction, and I never had any reason to question that identification. Which would be one thing if I thought I was supposed to make that identification, but I don't think I was. The various herrings weren't just red, they were crimson, maroon, and fire truck red.

 

The writing itself was okay -- there was one moment that Shelton did a really nice job showing that X was attracted to Y, and then followed it up with telling us X was attracted to Y, absolutely ruining the moment. There were a few more things like that -- it's almost as if Shelton doesn't trust herself or her readers (or both). Another moment that really stuck out to me was where she described someone's nickname as "a funny nickname" before describing where it came from -- no one gets other kinds of nicknames that aren't just abbreviations of their names. There aren't depressing nicknames, memento mori nicknames, etc. Just tell us its a nickname, describe the incident and move on -- better yet, say R is called S because . . . and let the reader supply "nickname" and "funny" to it. Most of all, trust your readers -- they're pretty clever.

 

A few other niggling problems -- the chronology at a point or two is hard to follow; Lizzie says a lot with looks, which is fine if that's how she is, but maybe the sentence structure could change a little when she does it? The other part that was hard for me was trying to figure out when this took place -- and yes, it's possible that the year was given in the opening seconds of the book and I missed it. But almost no one used call phones (and one who did, flipped it closed), students used pencils and paper in class -- yet it seemed to be fairly contemporary otherwise. There were enough references to CSI to make it post-2000, but I'm not sure how much so.

 

Sorenson did an all right job with the narration -- although I'm pretty sure she missed a pronoun or two, and at one point she read a word that doesn't exist -- I had to rewind and listen to the sentence 5 times to figure out what she actually said and then translate it into English. Maybe it was a typo in her copy and she just rolled with it, or maybe she just bobbled the word. Either way, that's just not good.

 

Yeah, I had a lot of negative(ish) things to say, but I still recommend the book. This book did its job -- it entertained me just enough to keep going and it introduced me to some characters I'd like to spend some more time with (and most of them survived), even if I wasn't crazy about a lot of their choices/actions throughout the book. I am really very curious about what Shelton is going to do with this series, how is she going to put Burke in the middle of another criminal investigation -- will she have learned something from this experience that will help her?

 

Disclaimer: -- I received a copy of the audiobook from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. Which may not have gone as well as she hoped. I appreciate the book, and the interaction with her (she's pretty funny), but the opinions expressed where fully mine.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/09/25/all-tucked-inn-audiobook-by-mindy-m-shelton-tia-sorenson
Saturday Miscellany - 9/23/17

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:

    A Book-ish Related Podcast Episode you might want to give a listen:
  • SYFY25: Origin Stories Podcast with Neil Gaiman -- thanks to very effective YouTube advertising, I tried a couple of episodes of Syfy's Origin Stories podcast. I thought this one with Gaiman was just great.

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and welcome to Web Development (probably not the name he goes by), mitchavanza33, bigpetetafemd75 and One Stop Literary Services for following the blog this week.

 

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/09/23/saturday-miscellany-92317