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—7/25/20

If you're reading this here, I guess congratulations are in order (for both of us). I've lost track of the posts that I tried and to get on this site this week (and I can't seem to see more than 2 or three posts from anyone else, either)...I'm having a hard time believing it's worth it anymore. Can I simply encourage people to follow The Irresponsible Reader or check me out on Goodreads? (I'm lurking in the Goodreads Outpost, too).


on with the links. Odds n ends about books and reading that caught my eye this week. You've probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

bullet The New Era of Book Launches—Social Distancing Edition

bullet Growing Up Surrounded by Books Could Have Powerful, Lasting Effect on the Mind: A new study suggests that exposure to large home libraries may have a long-term impact on proficiency in three key areas

bullet What 100 Writers Have Been Reading During Quarantine—interesting mix of writers and books

bullet There Have Always been Fantasy Novels For Adults – Article by Author Ryan Howse—I saw so many tweet reactions to this stupid article, “Finally: A Grown-up Fantasy", and figured there'd be at least one good longer response. Howse knocks it out of the park (others may have, too, but I only saw this one—and it's enough)

bullet 5 Things I’ve Learned in 5 Years of Blogging—Bookidote's Lashaan has been blogging for 5 years now, and drops some wisdom (and Looney Tunes .gifs) to celebrate.

bullet Glossary for the Bibliophile—"a nifty list of words for all you book lovers out there"

This Week's New Releases That I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon:

bullet Annihilation Aria by Michael R. Underwood—It's been two years since I've had anything from Underwood to talk about. He's back with the first book in a Space Opera series, "an adventure of galactic subterfuge, ancient alien lore, a secret resistance force, lost civilizations, and giant space turtles." Here's his Big Idea about it.

bullet The Sin in the Steel by Ryan Van Loan—This looks like a lot of fun, a fantasy about "dead gods, a pirate queen, shapeshifting mages, and a Sherlockian teenager determined to upend her society."

Lastly I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome toNewDogNewTricks, francescocat, penelopeburns, tensecondsfromnow, and beyondthecryptsandcastles who followed the blog this week. Don't be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?

4.5 Stars
Family Complicates Everything
Peace Talks - Jim Butcher

Ever since the Red Court had taken my daughter, I'd been reeling from one disaster to the next, surviving. This entire situation was just one more entropy barrage hitting my life, forcing me to scramble once again, maybe getting me killed. (Again. Technically.)


Things were different now. I was a part of Maggie's life. And she might need me to walk her down an aisle one day.


Maybe it was time I started getting ahead of this stuff.


Maybe it was time to get serious.


What's Peace Talks About?

So, as per usual, there are a lot of balls in the air here—Harry has to juggle getting used to being an active and involved father, there's a budding romance, there are his duties as a Warden, his duties as Winter's Knight, his duties as Warden of Demonreach, and then...Thomas is in all sorts of trouble, there's a threat to remove Harry from the White Council of Wizards, there's something brewing with Chicago P.D., and then Baron Marcone is hosting a convocation of the Unseelie Accord signatories—requested by the Fomor—to hash out differences.


And that's what I can say without spoiling anything.


Now, since their appearance, the Fomor have been a fantastic antagonist for everyone—really. I think even the Denarians pale in comparison to the threat they pose to humanity. So this meeting is a major happening—and promises to go very, very ugly. Which is why Carlos shows up to enlist Harry to help provide security and be an emissary to Winter. Mab wants Harry there as her Knight and—here's the kicker—to help fulfill a debt by granting two favors (no questions asked) to Laura Wraith during the summit.


There's just so, so much that can go wrong. And much of it does. And then other, worse, things happen. At one point*, I thought about closing the book and walking away—probably following Mr. Tribbiani's example and putting it in the freezer. Skin Game would make a good, albeit inadvertent, series finale.


* If you're curious, it's around the time that Murphy starts to do something brave, foolish, short-sighted, and entirely in-character with a saw.


In the midst of all this—Harry does what he normally does. He tries to save the day, and along the way take care of those most important to him. Maybe the order there should be reversed, for accuracy's sake.


Underneath a lot of the issues he's facing are family issues, and they all complicate every other bit of what Harry's up to in this book. Harry's never really had much of a family, and while he's pretty used to dealing with a brother now. His relationship with his grandfather, Ebenezer McCoy, could use some work (we get an idea how much work is needed in this book), and it's clear that he's new to the fatherhood thing. But when you combine the three? Harry's just not ready for that. Particularly when you throw in some conflict between members of his family. This alone may be Harry's greatest challenge. These things distract him, they sap his emotional and mental energy, they stop him from thinking clearly—and they give him a reason to keep going and to make sure that no one can hurt those he loves.


There's one major clue to the myriad problems that he's facing, one big question that he's not asking...and if I'm right about this, Battle Ground is going to be worse than expected.


Two characters noted for their wisdom and approach to life even more than they are for their power and abilities to fight (which are significant enough to take note of), give Harry some advice partway through the book. I hope, hope that Battle Ground ends with him taking that advice. I fear he won't, and that his choice will make his life a lot harder.


What about the Characters?

There are just so, so many here. Almost every regular is at least name-dropped, if they don't actually put in an appearance (although I can come up with a list that of those that aren't mentioned without much effort). And I don't want to ruin anything for any reader that hasn't had the chance yet. I enjoyed seeing unexpected faces—even when their presence boded ill—and the expected faces were good to see, too. (Although, I really could've lived without seeing Red Cap again)


The effects from a lot of what happened in the short stories from Brief Cases show up in these pages—to an extent that I don't remember from Side Jobs. I hope everyone's had the time to read Brief Cases, because he doesn't explain a lot of those things. I loved that.


I miss Bob.


And then there's stuff like this:

Home, like love, hate, war, and peace, is one of those words that is so important that it doesn’t need more than one syllable. Home is part of the fabric of who humans are. Doesn’t matter if you’re a vampire or a wizard or a secretary or a schoolteacher; you have to have a home, even if only in principle—there has to be a zero point from which you can make comparisons to everything else. Home tends to be it.


That can be a good thing, to help you stay oriented in a very confusing world. If you don’t know where your feet are planted, you’ve got no way to know where you’re heading when you start taking steps. It can be a bad thing, when you run into something so different from home that it scares you and makes you angry. That's also part of being human.


But there’s a deeper meaning to home. Something simpler, more primal.

It’s where you eat the best food because other predators can’t take it from you very easily there.


It’s where you and your mate are the most intimate.


It’s where you raise your children, safe against a world that can do horrible things to them.


It’s where you sleep, safe.


It’s where you relax.


It’s where you dream.


Home is where you embrace the present and plan the future.


It’s where the books are.


And more than anything else, it’s where you build that world that you want.

When Butcher, via Dresden, says this kind of thing—where he taps into something universal (or close enough) about humanity. Something that will resonate with every reader. Butcher's ability to capture these thoughts and feelings, to put the ineffable into concrete terms like that is ultimately what draws readers to him more than his flawed heroes, snappy dialogue, and action does.


(and then three pages later, he has someone utter some pablum about the nature and power of faith that reminds me that as much as I love this guy, he's not perfect)

There are a couple of other things I wanted to talk about, but I can't figure out how to work them in, so I'll pass on them for the moment—this is getting too long. It's time to wrap up.


So what did I think about Peace Talks?

While reading this, I had to keep stopping to remind myself to treat this as just another book. To try to think of this as merely the next book in a beloved series (just a little delayed). I wanted to treat this as An Event. We've waited so long for this*, you've got the whole 20th Anniversary of The Dresden Files thing, the fact that this novel was originally so big they had to split it into two, and everything we know/anticipate/fear about what's about to happen thanks to the story, "Christmas Eve"—it's really hard to keep it all in perspective. There's a real sense in which it's difficult, if not impossible, to live up to the hype—and that's not really fair. As An Event, I think it falls a little short (but maybe if we think of Peace Talks/Battle Ground as the Event, maybe it won't). But as the sixteenth novel is this beloved series? It delivers. It made me happy.


* And I get Butcher's explanation for that, but it does tend to raise expectations.


Peace Talks is everything the Dresden fan wants—it's packed with action, the cracks are wise, the choices are hard, the victories are Pyrrhic (and small), the (many) enemies are daunting, and the stakes really don't get higher. While it clearly started life as the beginning of a longer book, Peace Talks is a complete novel, it doesn't end on a cliffhanger—but, I tell you what, if we didn't have a hard release date on Battle Ground I don't imagine the fan-base would be quiet. In the meantime, I'm spending the next 71 days with bated breath.

Saturday Miscellany—7/18/20

Let's see if BookLikes likes me today....


Small collection this week—just didn't have a lot of online time (literally, ISP went down twice and I lost a couple of days of surfing). C'est la vie, eh? On the plus side, I appreciate saving the time, it's a family holiday here—the second anniversary of my son's kidney transplant, and we have a little celebration planned.


A lot of my time has been on the tech side of this blog the last couple of weeks (I didn't realize that would entail so much "how do I get access to the Internet?" time), but most of the effort was made by a friend, who took over for my stumbling efforts in moving to a self-hosted blog—and did a lot more than I realized needed/should be done. Still, if you see something out of whack, it probably is (especially the categories/menus—am working on that, but it's going to take a while), and I likely haven't noticed. Please mention it.


Now, on with the links.

Odds n ends about books and reading that caught my eye this week. You've probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:
bullet How Do You Translate a Comic Book Into Audio? Ask Neil Gaiman—that's a question I've asked frequently. This (at least, I'm not sure about some of the other comic-to-audio treatments) is a pretty cool answer.
bullet HBO to Develop Drama Series Based on Quinn Colson Novels by Ace Atkins—As long as the Colson material is treated with more respect that Atkins' Spenser material was, I'm very excited about this.
bullet Speaking of Colson and Atkins, Ace Atkins on 10 Years of the Quinn Colson Ranger Series—a nice little interview from Mystery Scene
bullet The Great Fantasy Debate series concludes with: Is a Degree from Hogwarts Worth It? with authors Pierce Brown and Naomi Novik
bullet A Beginner’s Guide to Audiobooks—there's some really good advice for people looking to get into (or more into) this format.
bullet 10 steps to posting a book review—A Rambling Reviewer breaks it down...yeah, 10 steps for each. No wonder they take more time than I realize
bullet Fantasy Worlds I Would Love to Live In…—Pretty sure my list wouldn't look like this (Hyboria never seems like a fun place to be), but this is a fun list

This Week's New Releases That I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon:
bullet Peace Talks by Jim Butcher—I'm currently trying to figure how to post something about Dresden's long-awaited return. Fans are rejoicing all over about this (for good reason)
bullet The Revelators by Ace Atkins—the tenth Quinn Colson novel promises to be explosive.
bullet Venators: Legends Rise by Devri Walls—came out in ebook and audio (narrated by Daniel Thomas May) this week, paperback to follow.

Lastly I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Morgan, who followed the blog this week (also, the first to use my new widget, which I was afraid wasn't working). Don't be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?

Down the TBR Hole (8 of 24+)

Down the TBR Hole There are more books involved with this one for reasons you'll see, which is part of I cut more on this dive down the hole than usual (also, there's a bit of cheating, too). Hopefully, someone out there finds these somewhat interesting, I find composing them rather cathartic.


This meme was created by Lia @ Lost in a Story—but Jenna at Bookmark Your Thoughts is the one that exposed me to this, and as my Goodreads "Want To Read" shelf is scarily long, I had to do this.


The Rules are simple:

  1. Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  2. Order on ascending date added.
  3. Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books.
  4. Read the synopses of the books.
  5. Decide: keep it or should it go?
  6. Keep track of where you left off so you can pick up there next week! (or whenever)

What distinguishes this series from the Mt. TBR section of my Month-end Retrospectives? Those are books I actually own while Goodreads contains my aspirational TBR (many of which will be Library reads). The Naming of the two is a bit confusing, but...what're you going to do? (Click on the cover for an official site or something with more info about the book)


Sidekick Sidekick: The Red Raptor Files - Part 1 by Christopher J. Valin Blurb: The Sidekick to his city's greatest hero has to go solo to save the day, and his partner. My Thoughts: I've got too many unread Indie-pubbed Super-Hero books in my possession already, as fun as this looks, I need to cut it. Verdict: Thumbs Down
Mash Up Mash Up by Joe Klingler Blurb: "When a suspect dies on his watch, failure pushes Alaskan detective Qigiq to San Francisco--the land of magical technology--to regroup. His new fast-driving partner, Kandy Dreeson, calls at dawn: a beautiful avant-garde violinist is at the station freaking out about an Amazon box--and her missing roommate. Thus begins the hunt for a killer who leaves behind a torrent of body parts, videos of heinous crimes, and deadly explosions. Qigiq and Kandy enter a world of cybercrime he doesn’t understand--but is determined to master. Dodging attempts on their lives with each new bit they decipher, they grow ever closer to a dangerous force that trades money for murder, and music for privacy. Closer with each Amazon delivery. Closer with each new victim." My Thoughts: Klinger was one of the first authors to reach out to me to ask me to read their stuff--and was maybe the second to agree to a Q&A. So shortly after that, I went out and bought some of his other work. It looked fun at the time, still does. I got too busy to read those two books then, and need to make time for them now. Verdict: Thumbs Up
RATS RATS by Joe Klingler Blurb: "Summer greets the land of the midnight sun as a lone rider races across the last American wilderness, delivering on a promise he made long ago. He has many names, but the world only knows a shadow called the Demon. Soon to be drawn into the Demon's world, Claire Ferreti, an Army sniper, sips sake in Washington, DC with her lover, a young, ambitious General whose geosecurity specialty remains classified. When a boy finds a small machine, Claire embarks on a a black-ops mission that leads to a test of skill, a clash of ideologies, and her unconscious body lying in a typhoon-ravaged jungle. In that instant she becomes the hunted, the Demon's tool for survival, and an unforeseen threat. As the General pursues them into a labyrinth of cyber-secrets, political necessity and financial reality collide like a fireball piercing steel." My Thoughts: See above. Verdict: Thumbs Down
Absence of Light Absence of Light by Zoë Sharp My Thoughts: I missed this novella between Die Easy and Fox Hunter. A mistake I should rectify, and soon. Verdict: Thumbs Up
Killer InstinctRiot ActHard KnocksRoad Kill Killer Instinct; Riot Act by Zoë Sharp; Hard Knocks by Zoë Sharp; Road Kill by Zoë Sharp My Thoughts: I could be wrong here, but when First Drop came out in the states, the first three of these weren't available--and I don't know that Road Kill was published here before Second Shot was--I looked for everything I could get my hands on (ordering from overseas wasn't really a thing I considered), and I honestly wasn't aware these existed until years later. I just thought that Charlie showed up in First Drop with this complex backstory that we learned about in allusions and bits and pieces. Which was cool. Then a couple of years ago, I saw that these were a thing and slapped them onto my Goodreads list. And while I typically don't get it when people do this, I don't think I'm going to go back and see Charlie's early years (as curious as a I am), because I like my Head Cannon. Verdict: Thumbs Down Thumbs Down Thumbs Down Thumbs Down
Kindred Spirits Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell My Thoughts: I've been a big Rowell fan in the past, but her recent work--the Marvel comic or the Simon Snow YA books (I thought the Snow stuff was the weakest part of Fan Girl and have no interest in pursuing it)--has so not appealed to me, that I think it spilled over into this short work about a girl waiting in line for a new Star Wars movie. Probably something I'd like, I just need to remember to read it. Verdict: Thumbs Up
Why Bother with Church Why Bother With Church?: And other questions about why you need it and why it needs you by Sam Allberry My Thoughts: The title says everything you need to know about it. Allberry's a clever, concise writer, so this should be good. I've read one or two others in this series (by other authors), and it should be a short, punchy read. Also, my wife's read it twice and owns it. Just need to take an hour some day. Verdict: Thumbs Up
Open Season Open Season by C.J. Box Blurb: The first in Box's long-running series about a Wyoming Game Warden who keeps stumbling into murder cases. My Thoughts: This is so, so, easy. I listened to the audiobook last year, so I can remove this from the "Want to Read" list. (this feels a little like a cheat, but I think I'll get away with it). Verdict: Thumbs Down
Days of Tao The Days of Tao by Wesley Chu My Thoughts: There is no reason at all that I haven't read this. I'm a fan of the Tao series. I liked Cameron Tan. This is a short novella that I own. I've just got to take a day. Verdict: Thumbs Up
Barsk Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen Blurb: Genius-level, sentient elephants in the far-flung future. My Thoughts: I think Kevin Hearne talked about this in a newsletter, and it sounded good. It probably is good, but there's probably a reason I left it untouched for 4 years. I'd probably like it, but not love it, so in the interests of the chopping block it goes. Verdict: Thumbs Down
Where All Light Tends to Go Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy Blurb: A country-noir tale about the son of a meth cooker trying to get out from his father's shadow to be with the woman he loves--far from home. Verdict: This one hurts, I feel like I'm turning my back on something good. But I'm going to be honest, I'm just not going to get to it. Thumbs Down
The Two of Us The Two of Us by Andy Jones Blurb: "Fisher and Ivy have been an item for all of nineteen days. Both of them have been in relationships before, and this time around, they know something is different—they are meant to be together. The fact that they know little else about each other is a minor detail. But over the next year, a time in which their lives are irrevocably altered, Fisher and Ivy discover that falling in love is one thing—and staying there is an entirely different story." Verdict: Again, a tough choice, but I don't see myself getting around to it. Thumbs Down

Books Removed in this Post: 10 / 15

Total Books Removed: 46 / 240


Anyone out there read any of these books? Did I choose wisely? Or did I choose poorly?

(Image by moritz320 from Pixabay)

0 Stars
Water, Water Everywhere and a Murder, too
Of Mutts and Men - Spencer Quinn

Bernie meets the man destined to his new best friend—a hydrologist who seems to share many of the same opinions as Bernie when it comes to water usage in Phoenix. I don't think we've managed to get a novel where Bernie hasn't complained about the waste of water in the area (except maybe those two when they were back East), "we only have one aquifer." It appears that Wendell has need of a P.I., too—the two make arrangements to meet the next day to discuss it.


But when our dynamic duo shows up at Wendell's worksite office, they find him murdered. Which puts the kibosh on the bromance. Bernie naturally begins investigating—spurred to action after meeting the Sheriff's Deputy in charge of this case, if nothing else—who is one of the sorriest excuses for a law enforcement officer that I've read this year. Some quick detective work leads Bernie to a suspect—not one that he believes really did it, but he still feels compelled to hand him over to Deputy Beasley.


This was a mistake as Beasley locks in on the suspect and ignores any other possibilities. But the more that Bernie looks into things—if only to find out why Wendell wanted to hire him—the more he's convinced the suspect is innocent. Only no one—including the deputy, and the suspect's own defense attorney—will listen to him.


We Need to Talk About Chet


What is there to say about Chet the Jet? He's the same loveable, heroic champ we've come to know and love. For those who don't know—Chet's our narrator, Bernie's partner, and a 100+ pound dog. Other than a couple of sentences showing a more libidinous side to Chet than we're used to seeing, he's exactly what we've come to expect. Don't read anything into me not having a lot to say about him—he's the best dog in fiction (for my money), but there are only so many ways you can say that.


But We Can't Forget Bernie (or Anyone Else)


On the other hand, I think I've given Bernie short shrift over the years—it's easy to focus on Chet. But Bernie's more than just the guy who complains about wasting water while making horrible investment choices. He's a top-notch P.I., but like most fictional P.I.'s, his principles, independence, and lousy business sense keep him from being much of a success. His residence and devotion to Chet are most of what separates him from Elvis Cole, for example (sure, Elvis has his cat, but he doesn't take the cat with him on cases).


I felt more connected to Bernie in this novel than usual—I'm not sure if that's a reflection on me or Quinn's writing. Bernie's outrage at the treatment of the suspect (some directed at himself for getting the Deputy looking at him) drives him more than any desire for a fee or to discover what Wendell wanted.


In addition to the case and the machinations of the principles involved, there's a lot going on in Bernie's private life. He doesn't deal well with most of it, which isn't a surprise, dealing well with personal relationships isn't his trademark. It seems to affect him more in this novel than I'm used to seeing him—both positively and negatively (although, there's a lot of negative in this novel—all around).


In case you can't tell, I can't put my finger on what's different this time—but Bernie seems more human, more real, less "merely the guy who Chet is devoted to" (although he absolutely is that). Quinn puts him through the wringer in many ways here, and the novel is better for it.


It's not just with Bernie, I think that this novel has some of the most subtle and rich character work in the series (last year's Heart of Barkness) headed in this direction (growth prompted by The Right Side?). The villain of this novel is the most complex and compelling foe for these two. Beyond that, there were so many characters that showed up for a scene or two—five or six pages total—that were just dynamic. Even Malcolm, the husband of Bernie's ex-wife, Leda makes a couple of positive contributions! He's rarely been much beyond an antagonist for Bernie, a competitor for the paternal role for Bernie's son—and here he's in such a better way, I almost liked him.


Don't Forget the Kleenex.


There are three—maybe four—scenes in this book that "hit you in the feels." One only took two or three sentences to deliver the punch, and could easily be missed. But the emotional core of this novel is shown in a couple of others (some readers will be torn up by them, others will be satisfied—either reaction is warranted).


But there's one scene—it has only the most tangential tie to the plot—that will (or ought to) devastate you. I'm honestly not sure why Quinn included it, but I am so glad he did. You'll know it when you read it, I'm not going to say anything else about it. Chet was still his goofy self, but even he came across differently in it. The book is worth the purchase price for it alone.


So what did I think about Of Mutts and Men?


I've said it before, I'll say it again, I've been a fan of this series since maybe the third chapter of the first book eleven years ago. And I'll be a fan until Quinn moves on. But there's something different about this book. Still, I'm going to try to thread the needle here—this is not my favorite book in the series. However, I think it's unquestionably the best book so far. I'm not crazy about some of the longer-term arc events here—hey're the smart move by Quinn, I'll defend them, but I didn't like them.


Still, there's a good mystery, you get the wonderful partnership of Chet and Bernie, probably the best use of Bernie yet, and a new depth to Quinn's writing—it's precisely what the doctor ordered. New readers will have no problem jumping in at this point, returning fans have to be pulling on their leashes to get to this. Highly recommended.


Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Macmillan-Tor/Forge via NetGalley in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this. Also, sorry that I didn't get this posted sooner, I really did try.


20 Books of Summer

5 Stars
I do not have enough superlatives in my repertoire to do justice to this novel
The Curator - M. W. Craven

‘Sean Carroll’s a kite enthusiast,’ Bradshaw said after Nightingale had ended the call. ‘He’s not a dork.’


Poe grunted. He had a problem with ‘enthusiasts’. As far as he was concerned, on the ladder of weird interests that eventually escalated to criminal behaviour, enthusiasts were only a rung below Obsessives, and he’d seen first-hand what obsessed people were capable of...

Yup, this case is strange enough that Poe is driven to consult a kite dork—sorry, enthusiast—that's just how desperate he is for a clue. Not only has Poe seen first-hand what obsessed people can do, he's frequently the obsessed person in question--he can make Harry Bosh look laid-back.


What's The Curator about?

It all starts around Christmas—two severed fingers are found in a public location with no indication how they got there. Tests show that one finger was removed from the victim while they were alive, the other after they were dead. Two more sets of fingers show up in equally public, yet hard to access places. Clearly, there is a creative, disturbed and clever killer at work. The local police waste no time in calling in Washington Poe—this is up his alley, near his home, and the replacement for Detective Superintendent Gamble knows they need his assistance. With Poe comes his DI, a very pregnant Stephanie Flynn, and Tilly, everyone's favorite analyst.


Racing against the clock—the last thing anyone wants is another pair of fingers showing up—Poe and Tilly do all they can to figure out what the victims have in common, or what would make them a target. And what "#BSC6" could mean—it was left at each scene, and even Tilly is stumped by it.


They catch a break or two, and Poe makes the most of it. Before long, they're able to make an arrest, Tilly is able to do things with that evidence that even Poe didn't know she could do—solidifying the case they have against their suspect—who begins confessing to crimes no one knew about. But he won't confess to the killing.


And then there's a phone call from a crusading FBI Agent to Poe. And suddenly, everything that Poe thought they'd established about the killer is thrown out the window.

From that point on, I couldn't believe what I was reading. It was surprise after surprise after surprise. The twists didn't stop coming—I'm pretty much at a loss for words. Is there a word that means "more than intricate"? If so, I need to learn it so I can describe this novel. Craven doesn't cheat when it comes to his twists and reveals—it's all there in the book for you to find. But you probably won't, because Craven's smarter than almost all of his readers.


What about the characters?

The real draw to these books are Poe and Tilly. Everything readers liked about the before is back. Their camaraderie is as strong as ever and the reader can feel it radiating off the page, who needs a friendship of your own if you can live vicariously through theirs?


In The Puppet Show, Poe was trying to find his footing again after being reactivated. In Black Summer, he's fighting to protect his reputation and career. Here? Poe's just a man on a mission, with no distractions or hindrances in his way. Poe unleashed is a great thing to behold.


As much as Poe's a local legend among Law Enforcement, it won't be long until Tilly's as much of a star (if not more). Watching her win over a bunch of jaded, cynical cops by being her brilliant, socially awkward self was so much fun. (her interaction with a representative from the Ministry of Defense might have been more entertaining, but not by much)


I don't want to take away anything from DI Flynn—her role in this is pivotal, but her role in the investigation isn't as large as it has been before, making her more of a supportive character than usual. Her condition, and Poe's protective instincts (despite Flynn's objections), won't allow for anything else.


Detective Superintendent Nightengale is a no-nonsense woman. She's clearly a good officer, a good manager. She wants to do things by the book, but she's clever enough to give Poe and Tilly all the latitude she can for them to do a more effective job than the by-the-book route, just in case. I'm sure that eventually,, she'll run out of the patience required to deal with this team—but that's a plot complication for another day (and one I look forward to).


Estelle Doyle, the pathologist we met in Black Summer is back and just as wonderful. I know it'd be pushing things to have her play a larger role in these books than she does, but the few scenes we have with her are just not enough to satisfy.

Neither space or time permit me to discuss the other standout characters—on both sides of the law. I would like to talk a bit about the eponymous Curator, because the Curator is the kind of character that you want to sit around discussing for a couple of hours. Obviously, I can't do that here.


So what did I think about The Curator?

In addition to the plot and characters, there's real pathos, real tension, real heart—and even some real laughs. I'm not sure I breathed enough in the last seventy-five pages, it's probably good that I wasn't hooked up to an oximeter, the alarms that it would have sounded would've been really distracting. As usual, this is given to us via Craven's crisp and compelling prose. Combine those characteristics with a top-notch mystery? And you've got a book that deserves all the accolades the first two books in this series has received, and then some. As good as The Puppet Show and Black Summer were (two of the best books I've read in the last two years), The Curator is better.


It was two days after I finished this before I could start another book—three before I could start another novel. That is rare for me. But I needed some time to recover/come down from this one. Pick an element—plot, atmosphere, character, pacing, complexity, twists—Craven nails it all. This is an exceptional work. It's pointless for me to say anything else, why try to gild the lily?


20 Books of Summer

Saturday Miscellany—7/4/20

I did come across some fun things to read this week, bu I've got no podcasts (a couple of videos, though), no new releases to talk about, this is going to be quick. Which I guess is good, because I don't see a lot of my US readers all that interested in spending time today in reading this post (, maybe given the peculiarities of this year...).


Happy Independence Day to you in the U. S., and happy Saturday to the rest of you. Odds n ends about books and reading that caught my eye this week. You've probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

bullet How to Fit Reading into Your Stay-at-Home Life

bullet Flipping hell: book designers lament Waterstones' back-to-front displays—Waterstones made (IMHO) a pretty smart move when it comes to book displays right now, but...yeah, I can see where designers would be miffed.

bullet This tweet from Kevin Hearne did two things: 1. Taught me the term "ink drinker" (buveur d'encre) for bookworm (although one of the comments to his tweet contests that), and 2. led me to finding this list: Names for people who #read a lot—I like the Welsh (and one of the Swedish) name a lot, too.

bullet 7 Ways You’re De-Valuing Your Books

bullet Me and my detective by Lee Child, Attica Locke, Sara Paretsky, Jo Nesbø and more—authors on living with their creations for years

bullet The Stories Behind 15 of the Best Names Famous Writers Gave to Their Pets bullet Mallory O'Meara (@malloryomeara)—tweeted the best idea I've heard this year.

bullet The Doctor will see you now with Ian Patrick—a half-hour chat with the inimitable Ian Patrick about his new book (that i recently gushed over), his work with the police and...probably some other stuff (I haven't had time to finish it yet)

bullet The Great Fantasy Debate: Is It Better to Have a Career in the Empire or the Rebellion in Star Wars? with authors Pierce Brown and Tochi Onyebuchi

bullet The Greatest Book Blogging Myths I’ve Encountered: Some Confessions And Thoughts On What We Think Blogging Is And What It Actually Is

 bullet 22 Problems only true Audiobook Fans understand...

bullet Things I Look For In Reviews—Some good stuff here. Over the last year or so, I've wondered a bit about my propensity for "large bits of text" and people being "much less likely to read a review that’s just a bunch of paragraphs together in regular font with nothing to break it up," since that's what I tend to slip into. But adding in graphics or other headers? That's another time investment, and I'm not sure how that'd affect my flow. (okay, this has stopped being about the post and all about me, which is not what this is for...still, readers, I'm open to comments/suggestions)

bullet Fantasy: My Genre Breakdown—The Book in Hand blog gets all taxonomic on Fantasy. Also, I should hire Sam to organize my Goodreads shelves.

Lastly I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome toEd A. Murray who followed the blog this week. Don't be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?


The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding: BOOK VIII., xi.-xv.

Fridays with the Foundling

Tom Jones Original CoverSo, we left Partridge and Tom seeking shelter in a stranger's home—The Man on the Hill (I kept mentally substituting "The Fool on the Hill" from Magical Mystery Tour, which made this difficult). We're told he has an interesting life (the fact that he's known by a title and not a name is a tip-off).


So, for reasons I'm hoping I'll understand eventually, Fielding treats us to five chapters of this guy telling his life story. It's an interesting tale, frequently interrupted by Partridge being amusing (and a little annoying). Tom draws some parallels between TMotH's life and his own, which may lead to some introspection and maturity.


But, let's be serious, it probably won't.


0 Stars
Happy: Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine - Derren Brown

Several weeks ago, I put a hold on this book from my Library. I was looking for some good Non-Fiction and this seemed along the lines of something a doctor was recommending. Also, the subtitle made me think I'd like it. I knew nothing about Brown or his expertise, but it seemed like a decent premise.


I guess I should start off with the Book Blurb ('cuz you don't want me summarizing this one)

Everyone says they want to be happy. But that’s much more easily said than done. What does being happy actually mean? And how do you even know when you feel it?


Across the millennia, philosophers have thought long and hard about happiness. They have defined it in many different ways and come up with myriad strategies for living the good life. Drawing on this vast body of work, in Happy Derren Brown explores changing concepts of happiness – from the surprisingly modern wisdom of the Stoics and Epicureans in classical times right up until today, when the self-help industry has attempted to claim happiness as its own. He shows how many of self-help’s suggested routes to happiness and success – such as positive thinking, self-belief and setting goals – can be disastrous to follow and, indeed, actually cause anxiety. This brilliant, candid and deeply entertaining book exposes the flaws in these ways of thinking, and in return poses challenging but stimulating questions about how we choose to live and the way we think about death.


Happy aims to reclaim happiness and to enable us to appreciate the good things in life, in all their transient glory. By taking control of the stories we tell ourselves, by remembering that ‘everything’s fine’ even when it might not feel that way, we can allow ourselves to flourish and to live more happily.


This was a snarky summary of pop psychology and pop philosophy, criticizing in others the same methods it embraces. I stuck with it for a while, trusting I could wade through the (willfully) ignorant dismissal of "Religion" (interestingly, the only example of Religion I encountered was Christianity (broadly considered)), and reductionistic history of Philosophy on to something useful. Actually, I'd have been okay with a quick dismissal of Christianity—but coming back to it time and time again, just to dismiss it as unworthy of engagement, got on my nerves. Also, the spleen-venting over The Secret went on far too long, and come on, it's low hanging fruit. But in the end*, I just found myself resenting the endeavor and decided his neo-Stoicism wasn't worth it.


* And by end, I mean, roughly the 25% mark.

2020 Library Love Challenge

June 2020 in Retrospect: What I Read/Listened to/Wrote About Template

In this month that ended before I realized it had begun, I somehow finished 23 works with a total of 6,881 pages (or the equivalent). I DNF'ed one book, but the rest had an average rating of 3.8. As usual, I didn't write as much as I wanted to--which didn't bother me until I saw how many things this month didn't get covered. I'm sure I'll get them done pretty soon, but, it made me wonder what I was doing.


Still, a pretty good month here. Hope you had one, too.

So, here's what happened here in June.
Books Read

Burn Me Deadly Wait for Signs American Demon
3.5 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars
Crossing in Time Fair Warning The Power of Habit
4 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.5 Stars
The Ghosts of Sherwood Anna Luck and Judgement
4 Stars 3.5 Stars 4 Stars
The Finders Working Stiff Out of Range
4 1/2 Stars 3.5 Stars 3 Stars
Imaginary Numbers Muzzled Why Would Anyone Go to Church?
4 1/2 Stars 4 1/2 Stars 3 Stars
Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why Captain's Fury How the Wired Weep
3 Stars 5 Stars 4 1/2 Stars
The Fangs of Freelance Looking for Rachel Wallace WONDER TWINS VOL. 1: ACTIVATE!
3 Stars 5 Stars 3 Stars
The Hope of Israel Of Mutts and Men Happy
4 Stars 4 1/2 Stars DNF

Still Reading

Tom Jones Original Cover Institutes of Christian Religion vol 1 Brief Cases
The Curator    


5 Stars 2 2 1/2 Stars 0
4 1/2 Stars 4 2 Stars 0
4 Stars 6 1 1/2 Stars 0
3.5 Stars 5 1 Star 0
3 Stars 6    
    Average = 3.8

TBR Pile
Mt TBR January 20

"Traditionally" Published: 19
Self-/Independent Published: 4

Genre This Month Year to Date
Children’s 0 (0%) 2 (2%)
Fantasy 3 (13%) 18 (15%)
General Fiction/ Literature 1 (4%) 8 (7%)
Horror 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Humor 0 (0%) 1 (1%)
Mystery/ Suspense/ Thriller 8 (35%) 48 (39%)
Non-Fiction 4 (17%) 8 (7%)
Science Fiction 2 (9%) 11 (9%)
Steampunk 0 (0%) 2 (2%)
Theolgy/ Christian Living 2 (9%) 9 (7%)
Urban Fantasy 3 (13%) 17 (14%)
Western 0 (0%) 0 (0%)

Review-ish Things Posted




  • American Demon by Kim Harrison: Harrison Comes Back to The Hollows Without Missing a Step


  • City of Hate by Timothy S. Miller is not a book I should have read, but maybe you should.




  • Fair Warning by Michael Connelly: McEvoy’s out to clear his name and catch a twisted killer






  • The Finders by Jeffrey B. Burton: A Serial Killer Hunt Goes to the Dogs


  • Anna by Laura Guthrie: A Charming Look at One Girl’s Pursuit of Happiness


  • Muzzled by David Rosenfelt: One of Andy Carpenter’s Twistiest Cases Yet






  • How the Wired Weep by Ian Patrick: Patrick’s Latest Crime Thriller Does Not Disappoint


Other Things I Wroteotherwriting
Other than the Saturday Miscellanies (6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th), I also wrote:










How was your month?


20 Books of Summer 2020: June Check-In

So, BookLIkes isn't cooperating with me today, so I can't post about the book that I'm very exicted about today. (sigh) Hopefully tomorrow. In the meantime, I can do this:


20 Books of Summer

Here we are at the end of June, one-third of the way through the summer, and I'm roughly one-third of the way through the challenge. That worked out nicely. I've made one substitute because I had some trouble getting my hands on the one non-fiction book that was on the list. And, hey, I just read a non-fiction book, so might as well put that one in. Otherwise, I'm on track for finishing the list as originally conceived.


✔ 1. Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why by Alexandra Petri
2. The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold
3. Screamcatcher: Dream Chasers by Christy J. Breedlove
✔ 4. The Finders by Jeffrey B. Burton
✔ 5. Fair Warning by Michael Connelly
6. One Man by Harry Connolly
7. The Curator by M. W. Craven
8. The Ninja Daughter by Tori Eldridge
9. The Rome of Fall by Chad Alan Gibbs
✔ 10. American Demon by Kim Harrison
11. A Blight of Blackwings by Kevin Hearne
12. Betty by Tiffany McDaniel
✔ 13. Imaginary Numbers by Seanan McGuire
14. Curse the Day by Judith O'Reilly
✔ 15. Of Mutts and Men by Spencer Quinn
16. Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin
✔ 17. Muzzled by David Rosenfelt
18. Bad Turn by Zoë Sharp
19. The Silence by Luca Veste
20. The Border by Don Winslow


20 Books of Summer Chart June

5 Stars
Classic Spenser: The Judas Goat by Robert B. Parker
The Judas Goat - Robert B. Parker

Classic Spenser


...I looked at my situation. If they were going to shoot me, there was little to prevent them. Maybe they weren’t going to shoot me, but I couldn’t plan much on that.


“You can’t plan on the enemy’s intentions,” I said. “You have to plan on what he can do, not what he might.”


A boy cleaning the tables looked at me oddly. “Beg pardon, sir?"


“Just remarking on military strategy. Ever do that? Sit around and talk to yourself about military strategy?”


“No, sir.”


“You’re probably wise not to."


We start with Spenser calling on Hugh Dixon. The word "rich" seems inadequate to express the wealth that Dixon seems to possess. Nowadays, he could probably hire a private security firm to do what he needs—maybe he could've in 1978, too. But he's done his research and has decided to hire Spenser instead because he knows Spenser's integrity and priorities are what's kept him "in the minor league."


We're given a great description of Dixon:

Full front, his face was accurate enough. It looked the way of face should, but it was like a skillful and uninspired sculpture. There was no motion in the face. No sense that blood flowed beneath it and thoughts evolved behind it. It was all surface, exact, detailed and dead.


Except the eyes. The eyes snarled with life and purpose, or something like that. I didn't know exactly what then. Now I do.


The eyes snarled with a need for revenge. That's pretty much all that's keeping Dixon going. A year before, he, his wife and daughters were in a London restaurant that was bombed. Dixon lived, although he almost died and lost the use of his legs. The rest of his family did not. He wants Spenser to do what the London police have failed to do—find the terrorists responsible and bringing them to justice—either by apprehending them for the police or killing them. Dixon remained conscious during the attack and has detailed descriptions of the personnel involved. Spenser agrees, after insisting that he doesn't do assassinations—unless forced out of self-defense, he won't be killing anyone. It's all okay with Dixon, but you get the clear impression that he'd prefer they died.


Spenser makes travel arrangements (including learning how to bring his gun into London), says goodbye to Susan, and leaves that night. Dixon's London-based lawyer introduces him to a Scotland Yard inspector who worked the case. There's a group called Liberty who claimed responsibility for the bombing. They're small-time, right-wing, and draw their membership from around Europe—they're likely based in Amsterdam, but that's conjecture. Which really doesn't give Spenser much to work on.


So he tries a little something to draw them out. It results in two of them dying and Spenser being shot in the, ahem, "upper thigh." It also gives Spenser a lead to some others. While he calls Susan to tell her what happened, he also asks her to do him a favor—get word to Hawk that he could use some help (this both relieves and worries Susan, she wants him to have backup, but hates that he needs it).


From here, Spenser and Hawk follow leads for Liberty to Copenhagen and Amsterdam. They even have a brief confrontation with the leader of Liberty, a man named Paul. Paul's not one of the men directly involved in the death of the Dixons, however. Spenser and Hawk determine that Liberty has something planned for the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, and decide that even though the job is done, they need to stop Paul.


On the one hand, it's hard to believe that security at the Olympics is as lax as it appears, then again 1976 was a different time. Through a combination of luck and good guessing, there's a final confrontation with Paul and one of his top associates that ends in a nine-page fistfight between Spenser, Hawk, and a giant of a man named Zachary. This fight blew my preteen/early teen-aged mind when I first read it, and became the standard by which I judged all similar scenes in fiction (there's one in Lee Child's Persuader that reminded me of this one—although, Reacher didn't have anyone fighting on his side).


While there is some deduction at work, this is largely Spenser as vigilante, not as a private investigator. On the one hand, I prefer the P.I. On the other hand, it's a good story and it demonstrates another side of Spenser that we don't get to see much of early on. And like the rest of these first twelve, it's hard for me to engage my critical faculties.

In addition to the globe-trotting and the intense action scenes, we get Spenser's typical narration when it comes to describing places (one of my favorite elements of each book) and people. Spenser's wit and compassion both get to shine. It's just a fun read. The scene that results in his upper thigh wound is one of my favorites in the series—combining humor, tension, and action.


But the thing that struck me the most this time through is that what seems to really interest Parker—more than Spenser, more than this revenge story, or anything else—is Hawk. We met him in the last book, but we didn't get that much time with him, just a handful of scenes. But he's all over this novel.


Spenser calling Hawk to come help represents a turning point in the series. It's not an automatic thing yet, but from here on out, it's more common for Spenser to call up on Hawk for help than not. The self-sufficient, independent operator develops a real dependence. It's a real boon for the reader, for as fun as Spenser's interior monologues are, having him banter with Hawk becomes a reliable highlight. There might be other, earlier, writers who've had a relationship like this, but I'm not aware of them (and would like to be). In Spenser and Hawk, we get the template that Elvis Cole and Joe Pike follow, or Patrick Kenzie/Angie Gennaro and Bubba Rugowski, or Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear, or Joe Pickett and Nate Romanowski, among others. The outsider, the friend/ally that the mostly lawful protagonist can rely on when there's a need for something outside the law.


From Promised Land, we know that Hawk and Spenser fought on the same card in their youth; we know he's stylish (I guess); that he's respectful of Susan; he's an enforcer, a leg-breaker, for whoever is paying for him at the moment; and he has some sort of code that reminds Spenser of his (with significant differences in Spenser's mind, but not so much in Hawk's).


Here we learn a bit more, he can disappear into a crowd, despite his flashy clothes and is almost infallible when tailing someone. Shortly after arriving in London, the two have some drinks while Spenser catches Hawk up on what's going on and notes:


He showed no sign that he drunk anything. In fact in the time I'd known Hawk I'd never seen him show a sign of anything. He laughed easily and he was never off balance. But whatever went on inside stayed inside. Or maybe nothing went on inside. Hawk was as impassive and hard as an obsidian carving. Maybe that was what went on inside.


Later, when Spenser is in Boston to update Dixon, he leaves one member of Liberty with Hawk, as they use her as a source of information on the rest of the group. When Susan asks if that's safe to do, Spenser replies:


“Hawk has no feelings,” I said. “But he has rules. If she fits one of his rules, he’ll treat her very well. If she doesn’t, he’ll treat her any way the mood strikes him.”

“Do you really think he has no feelings?”


“I have never seen any. He’s as good as anyone 1 ever saw at what he does. But he never seems happy or sad or frightened or elated. He never, in the twenty-some years I’ve known him, here and there, has shown any sign of love or compassion. He’s never been nervous. He’s never been mad.”


“Is he as good as you?” Susan was resting her chin on her folded hands and looking at me.


"He might be," I said. "He might be better."


“He didn’t kill you last year on Cape Cod when he was supposed to. He must have felt something then.”


“I think he likes me, the way he likes wine, the way he doesn’t like gin. He preferred me to the guy he was working for. He sees me as a version of himself. And, somewhere in there, killing me on the say-so of a guy like Powers was in violation of one of the rules. I don’t know. I wouldn’t have killed him either.”


“Are you a version of him?”


“I got feelings,” I said. “I love.”


“Yes, you do,” Susan said.


Part of this conversation will repeat throughout the series—is Hawk better than Spenser? Are the two versions of each other (this was touched upon already in Promised Land)? Does Hawk feel?


Hawk will contend that the two of them are more similar than Spenser will admit, but in The Judas Goat and in countless other books, he will note that Spenser's abundance of rules helps him to deny that similarity, over-complicates Spenser's life, and one day will get him killed. There are times when Spenser agrees to all of that (even the last), but those are the only terms upon which he can live his life, so that's how it's going to have to be.


Exciting, amusing, tense, and we get to delve for the first time into the character that's arguably Parker's greatest creation. The Judas Goat really has it all. If only so I had an excuse to read this one again, I'm so glad I started this little project this year. It will serve as a decent jumping-on point, for those who want one, and it's a great spot to return to for long-term fans.

Saturday Miscellany—6/27/20

How is it the end of June already? Seriously...something's just not right about that. Not much to blather about this week, so let's just cut to the links! Odds n ends about books and reading that caught my eye this week. You've probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

bullet I've been seeing a lot about some Goodreads alternatives lately, The Story Graph—"A site for readers to track their reading and find books that perfectly suit their mood." It's in beta now, I've seen screenshots of some of their graphs, and it looks appealing. Giving it a shot. Any of you try it?

bullet The other I've seen noise for is BookSloth—"Our mission is to help readers discover their perfect book with our personalized recommendations app." I'm not so hot on the app part, as you all know, I tend to go on a bit when I talk about a book, and the two just don't mix. Still, giving it a whirl.

bullet 12 SF must reads for grimdark fans—This is a pretty cool list, I'm not sure The Diamond Age is all that grimdark-ish, but it's something that more people need to read.

bullet "I decided just to write stories": Rex Stout on his Mystery Fiction—this is a very nice post about Stout moving from "literary fiction" to Mystery--where he found success. (I've tried his pre-mystery stuff, and wow did he make the right move). There's a nice thread about the continued snobbery he encountered throughout his career and how he responded to it. Even for non-Stout readers, this is a good read for people fed up with

bullet Are We Only Capable of Writing Liars?: An author reflects on an attempt to write a truthful narrator.

bullet The Evolution—and the Future—of the Private Eye: Cheryl A. Head on the authors and books ushering PI fiction into the 21st century.—I'm a sucker for a good P.I. novel, and I could live off of this list for a month or two (and am tempted to)

bullet The Great Fantasy Debate: Which Game of Thrones House Would You Marry Into? with authors Jim Butcher and Tochi Onyebuchi

bullet When your job is book blogging but your community wants you to take on every single thing not book blogging—Bookish Enby takes a bold stance (largely one I share, but don't feel the same impetus to advertise)

bullet How to write a book review in 30 minutes—if only it were that easy. I'm actually envious.

bullet If I Was…—Bookaholic Bex answers several creative "What If" questions bullet Recommending Books Based on Spam Comments—great concept

bullet Why I read—This is a good post. I think I would share a lot of these reasons, if I examined the idea. Maybe I should (although it's also tantamount to asking "why I breathe")

Lastly I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome toCathy746books, Kiara McCabe, educater34 MSc, NickMay and NewDogNewTricks for following the blog this week. Don't be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?


The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding: BOOK VIII., v.-x.

<img class="aligncenter" src="" alt="Fridays with the Foundling" />


<a style="float:left;padding-right:20px;" href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="" alt="Tom Jones Original Cover" border="0" /></a>So our friendly and fairly educated barber, Benjamin, comes back to chat with Tom—he's heard some gossip about him and would like to confirm it. Tom tells his side of the events, and sure, he reflexively tells the story in a way to make him look better—as people do—but isn't really dishonest about any of it (although he instinctively withholds Sophia's name for a bit). The two get a little more chummy, ad Benjamin offers to loan Tom some books during his convalescence (proving that he's a gentleman of great value, even of the discussion of books goes nowhere).


Tom calls him back the next day, because he needs a little blood-letting, after the firing of the surgeon. While he comes back, Benjamin reveals to Tom that he's the man who was suspected to be his father. He swears he wasn't, but as followed the news about Tom and is quite impressed with him. Tom wants to make things up to him for all the trouble his hack of parentage has caused Benjamin. The barber says that's not necessary, he'd just like to be a traveling companion for Tom and his adventures.


We're told by the narrator, that Benjamin has an ulterior motive—he wants to patch things up between Tom and Allworthy, and to do so in a way that Allworthy is so overcome with gratitude that he reintroduces him to society.


The two begin their travels and eventually come across the home of someone they learn is called The Man of the Hill, one night while in need of a warm place to say. Tom saves him from a mugging and the two are given some shelter for the night.


This section is filled with interesting characters, odd conversations, and Tom getting the wool pulled over his eyes (even if it's sort of for his benefit). It's not the best this book has given, but it's an interesting read, so I'm not going to complain. We seem to have more of the same in the wings, so that should be good reading for the foreseeable future.

3 Stars
Laughing So You Don't Cry at the State of Our Country
Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why - Alexandra Petri

Like I do so often, when it comes to non-fiction, I'm going to cheat on the summar part and quote from the official blurb:

These impossibly cheerful essays on the routine horrors of the present era explain everything from the resurgence of measles to the fiasco of the presidency.


In Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why, acclaimed Washington Post satirist Alexandra Petri offers perfectly logical, reassuring reasons for everything that has happened in recent American politics that will in no way unsettle your worldview.


In essays both new and adapted from her viral Washington Post columns, Petri reports that the Trump administration is as competent as it is uncorrupted, white supremacy has never been less rampant, and men have been silenced for too long. The “woman card” is a powerful card to play! Q-Anon makes perfect sense! This Panglossian venture into our swampy present offers a virtuosic first draft of history—a parody as surreal and deranged as the Trump administration itself.

I'd say that this is some of the most vicious political satire I've read, but then I remember all the P. J. O'Rourke that I've read. Not to mention Christopher Buckley. Or Jonathan Swift. Or William Langland.... Okay, so maybe I should abandon that idea... I am safe in saying that it's satire from America's political Left that could give ORourke a run for his money (although her pieces are shorter than I remember him able to do, therefore punchier).


I am not a Liberal*, and have problems with a lot of the politics underlying these essays. However, most of these essays don't have particular positions or policy's in their sights. They're primarily focused on personality, corruption, competency and the culture the current administration fosters. So while I'd differ from her on vital points, I was able to find more to agree with in these pages than not.


* Not that there's anything wrong with that.


There were a couple of pieces I was personally offended by, but largely I could write up differences in belief, conviction or understanding to a difference of opinion that are worth discussing—and even when I couldn't I can admit that most of her points would be largely valid from Petri's worldview. But none of that rendered any of these essays unreadable (there were two that came close for me, probably not for many others). In fact, I think there was only one of the 50+ essays that I didn't find a point or two that made me smile or chuckle.


Some pieces work wherever you end up on the political spectrum—like, "You May Already Be Running" (how an elected official finds themselves running for President without deciding to), "Raising Baby Hitler" (rather than using a Time Machine to kill baby Hitler, going back in time to raise him differently). The piece about what she'd call a moderate Republican (I'd consider an actual conservative, not a Trump Republican) looking for someone else to stand up to the President was wonderful and haunting.


I don't recommend reading more than 3-4 a day, I think they'd lose their impact if you went much further (I knocked off six on one day without meaning to, and I regretted it).


This is a refreshing read, it makes you think as well as grin. If you happen to agree with Petri on most of the issues, you'll enjoy it more than others will. But frankly, a funny piece is a funny piece, even if I disagree with some/all of it. And that kept me turning pages. I enjoyed this, I recommend it, it'll unsettle you, it'll make you think, and it might provide a little relief just seeing someone eruditely make the same points you wish you could.

4.5 Stars
One of Andy Carpenter's Twistiest Cases Yet
Muzzled - David Rosenfelt

Wow. Andy Carpenter #21. That's pretty mind-boggling, I've got to say. The way that Andy's been ramping up the retirement talk over the last couple of books, I can't help but wonder how many more are in store—but I have to expect we'll get a few more. Rosenfelt's army of dogs takes a lot of food. The more the merrier, I say—especially if there are more like this one in the wings.


Andy's contacted by a friend also in the dog rescue biz—she's come into possession of a stray and has been contacted by the owner to retrieve the dog. Which sounds pretty straightforward and good up until the point where she tells Andy the owner's name. He's the victim of a triple murder a few weeks ago when his boat was destroyed by a bomb of some sort. Yeah, you read me right—the victim. Except he clearly escaped and after being on the run for his life a bit, has decided he can't run off without the dog. So he risks life and limb to be reunited with his pet. At this point, the reader (and everyone who knows Andy) realizes that if this man needs legal help, Andy will be his attorney. Andy needs some convincing, however.


And Alex Vogel is going to need Andy's help—if he wasn't one of those killed, the police would like to know, why wasn't he? The explanation that makes the most sense to them is that Alex Vogel made and detonated the bomb, killing his friends. The motive is a little shaky, but that's beside the point.


Alex gives Andy one possible reason that he'd be targeted, and while he doesn't buy it, he has nothing else to go on, so while Andy tries to come up with an idea of his own, he spends a lot of time exploring that. In a long-running series like this is, it's the little differences that really stick out and keep things fresh. It took Andy a <i>painfully</i> long time to come up with an alternative theory of the case. And while I found it frustrating that he was so slow, I appreciated that Rosenfelt let things go that way. I also admit that it's not fair for me to judge, as the reader has access to some third-person narration portions of the novel that Andy doesn't.


Whether looking for flaws in the Prosecution's case, running down Alex's theory, or trying to find an alternative, Andy and his regular band (which includes <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The K Team</a> now) are as fun as always. The narration is clever, the humor is witty, the case complex, the herrings are red, the dogs are adorable—all the elements of a solid Andy Carpenter novel are there.


As I was mulling over this book this week, I'd mentally drafted a paragraph thinking about this one in the context of the series as a whole. At some point, it seemed pretty familiar, so I looked up what I said about <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><b>Dachshund Through the Snow</b></a>, the twentieth novel in the series. I'd said pretty much the same thing about that book as I wanted to say about this one. It doesn't say much for my originality, but it says something about Rosenfelt.


I've read them all—some twice—and while I've never read a bad Andy Carpenter book, there were a few that were simply "fine" (that's not a complaint, I'll take a fine book over a lot of others), but there's been a resurgence in the last five or so, particularly in the last two. In both of them Rosenfelt has done something I couldn't/didn't see coming, breaking his tried-and-true formula. Rosenfelt has no reason to do that at this point, he could keep churning out these books and his fans (including me), would keep gobbling them up. But he's taking risks, he's doing relatively daring things (while remaining true to the world he's created).


I really liked this book on its own merits, I loved it in the context of the rest. Does that mean a new reader has to read the other twenty before this one? No—any of these novels are a good jumping on point, you'll end up wanting to read some/all of the earlier ones though. A smart legal thriller—great stuff out of the courtroom, and amusing antics in it (I'll never tire of reading Andy cross-examining a witness). <b>Muzzled</b> is one of the best in this great series.


<i><b>Disclaimer:</b> I received this eARC from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this. As always, my opinions remain my own.</i>
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<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img class="aligncenter" src="" alt="20 Books of Summer" /></a>