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.

Quarter 2: #ARMEDWITHABINGO Check In

I forgot to do a March Check-in, so I haven't talked about this Reading Challenge since December. I'm not doing too bad—I've got 2 Bingos and am not that far from others/clearing the board. My other challenges aren't doing so well, to be honest—but I'm not terribly worried about any of them. For this Bingo Card, several boxes could have many entries, by and large, I went with the earliest book I read that would fit (for the 1 or 2 of you who wonder how this sausage is made).


Here's my Board:


For the less-graphically inclined (also, those who might want to read the categories...), here's the list with links to whatever I might have written about the book.



  • An Anthology or Poetry Collection


  • A Book in the Middle of a Series


  • ✔ A Book from the Last Decade (2010-2019)—Burning Bright by Nick Petrie


  • ✔ A Book with Multiple POVs—The In Between (Audiobook) by Michael Landweber, Brittany Pressley (Narrator), Mark Boyett (Narrator)


  • A Book that a Friend Recommends


  • ✔ A Book that has a Number in its Title—Hi Five by Joe Ide








  • ✔ A Book about Friendship/Family Back to RealityBack to Reality: A Novel (Audiobook) by Mark Stay & Mark Oliver, Kim Bretton (Narrator)


  • ✔ A Fantasy/Science Fiction—Highfire by Eoin Colfer


  • ✔ A Book by an Indie Author—Not Dressed by Matthew Hanover


  • A Book with a Beautiful Cover


  • A Book You Saw Someone Else Reading




  • A Book Which Was a Gift/Borrowed



  • A Book You Meant to Read Last Year




3.5 Stars
A Charming Look at One Girl's Pursuit of Happiness
Anna - Laura Guthrie
I knew this should have been a happy thing. Maybe happiness just didn’t feel like how I thought it ought to feel. It certainly seemed a small reward for such a lot of chasing by so many people in so many different times and places. But if Dad seemed to think it was worth chasing as hard as he did, for as long as he did, and in the many different ways that he did, then there must be something to it.

Anna is a thirteen-year-old girl with Autism Spectrum Disorder (she identifies as Asperger's syndrome), we meet her on a bus bound for her mother's house in Scotland. Her father has recently died (under circumstances it takes us a while to learn), and after a brief period in Foster Care, she's on her way to live with her mother—a woman she has had no contact with for over a decade.


It takes no time at all for the reader to see that Mom wasn't ready to take custody—in any sense. Anna's confused by her new reality—as anyone would be, exasperated by ASD. She wanders around the neighborhood meeting people. There's a varied and colorful cast of characters that we're introduced to—of various ages, social levels, professions. Anna's interactions with them tell us plenty about her as well as them all.


Anna's a delightful girl with her own particular way of looking at the world. It's a pleasure to see things through her eyes and watch the way her mind works. The people she surrounds herself with—both by circumstance and choice—are almost as fun and rewarding to read about. For example, her mother learns how to be a mother—actually, she learns how to be Anna's mother—and finds some healing for the circumstances that led to her separation from Anna and her father.


Happiness is the theme—and not a subtle one—of the book. Anna's focus on it is one of the first things we encounter when we meet her and she doesn't let us lose sight of it. She sees a lot of different ways that happiness can be found/expressed, but her goal (something her father taught her) is to find it in all circumstances. This perspective is catching, and her new friends and family start to do it—I think I spent a bit more time looking for it while I read the book, too.


An unexpected highlight for me was the way Guthrie used Christians and Anna's mother's church in this book. This is not Christian Fiction—and bears none of its hallmarks. But it is filled with solid, believing, Church-going people. Not morally perfect, hypocritical or judgmental, or any of the too typical ways that Christians are generally depicted. But people of faith, who've made mistakes, sinned against each other, and have found/are finding restoration—and along the way, are aided by the others in the church. I also liked the church services—the way Anna's mother explains them to her brought a huge smile to my face. There's no preaching to the reader involved, but we get to see faith in action and its effects.


I have two, related, complaints with the book. The first is that the book is just too short—this is really more of a backhanded compliment. I think each member of her extended family could've used more time, more character development. Maybe it's just because I enjoyed spending time with all of them—and it's clear that we only get the highlights of the relationships in the novel. But I think it's a little more. If scenes had been given just a little more space to develop, I think it'd have been a little stronger of a novel.


The second complaint is along the same lines—it was too rushed, too compact. It felt like Guthrie knew where all the plotlines were supposed to resolve and didn't want the book to go beyond a certain page count. So, the material we get in the last 10% of the book feels like it should've been given at least twice (maybe three times) the number of pages.


This is a charming read, full of heart, humor and love. It's not what I typically read—but when I find this kind of book, it makes me happy. I hope this sounds like the compliment it's supposed to be, but Anna feels like it'd be the kind of thing to introduce to your older MG/younger YA reader if you want them to grow up into a Fredrik Backman reader—the same kind of collection of interesting characters, an idiosyncratic protagonist, and a heartwarming feel. Guthrie's not in Backman's league—yet—but I can see her getting there. I'd enjoy reading more by her in the future, and in the meantime, I'm glad I got to read this—and recommend it to anyone else.


My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the novel) they provided.

Love Books Group

3.5 Stars
LaCrosse's Good Deed Goes Very Punished
Burn Me Deadly  - Alex Bledsoe, Stefan Rudnicki

One night, riding outside of town on a routine job Eddie LaCrosse comes across a woman in pretty rough shape. She's naked, bruised, cut and burned—many of the burns look skillfully inflicted, as are all the rest of her injuries. Whoever worked her over knew what he was doing. A damsel in a lot of distress and after a brief conversation, Eddie offers to help her get away from whoever did this and protect her.


Then he's struck from behind and wakes up as someone's captive—she's there, too. Not long after that, he wakes up again, at the bottom of a cliff, barely alive. The damsel didn't fare that well. Once he's patched up well enough to move and think, Eddie sets out to find out who she was, who killed her—and nearly him—and get a little revenge.


His search puts him in the way of one of the strongest criminal figures in his neck of the woods (a man that Eddie would've been happy never to have crossed paths with) and a government official trying to stop his investigation. Then an old friend of Eddie's is killed, and that may be related to his case. Which sends him off into several other directions—including a new dragon-worshiping cult that's somehow tied to the crime boss.


Eddie scoffs at the idea behind this cult—who, in his enlightened age, still believes in dragons? Eddie's skepticism (that word's too mild, but I can't come up with a better one) seems out of place for someone reader know has known both a deity and a man who has lived centuries. Whether or not he's right to disbelieve, the worshipers seem more than a little out to lunch, and are clearly easily manipulated. 


There are a few good fight scenes, some good character growth and development since the last book (noteworthy because Eddie seemed to be dead-set against growth and development at the beginning of that novel). Liz, the courier we met at the very end of the first novel, is still around and is a huge part of Eddie's life. We get a taste of that, but not as much as I'd have liked (for good reasons, I should add, I'm not saying that Bledsoe wasted her).


I think this might be a better novel than The Sword-Edged Blonde—the story's a bit tighter, Eddie doesn't engage in any casual cruelty, the characters are better developed (just a bit). But I don't like it as much (each of the three or so times I've worked through the). There's a missing je ne sais quoi to this, however, that restrains my enthusiasm. Do I recommend it on its own merits? Yeah. Do I recommend it as a necessary installment in this series? Definitely—read them all.


I've only re-read the first two novels up to this point, when I move on to book three in a month or so, it'll be the first time I revisit it, and I'm really looking forward to that. It's possibly the best of the series—at the least, I remember it being a step above this.

4.5 Stars
A Serial Killer Hunt Goes to the Dogs
The Finders - Jeffrey B. Burton

One of the worst things about the way this Spring got away from me is that I've been unable to get to this book until now—from the synopsis, this was so far up my alley that it might as well have been titled The Finders: Meet HC's New Favorite Series. But the important this is that I got to it now, and that subtitle would've been pretty much correct. I can't imagine there'll be a new series this year that'll top this for me.


I've kind of tipped my hand there, haven't I? It's a good thing I don't pretend to write suspense, eh? Still, having established what I think about it—what about you—is this something you should read? Probably, yeah.


It's called the "Mace Reid K-9 Investigations" series, and the novel pretty much starts with the K-9 part, so I will, too. We meet a golden retriever puppy on one of the worst days imaginable for a young dog (or person). She's soon adopted by Mason Reid (call him Mace) a dog trainer who has a few Human Remains Detection dogs, in need of one more. This pup takes to HRD in a way that surprises Mace, she's more than a natural. I absolutely adore this dog. Mace does, too. He's in a pretty bad place when he meets this girl, and she's just what he needs to get out of it.


The other members of this pack would probably be as endearing if we'd got enough time with them—I'm going to leave their names out because Mace's names are so fun that you'd best read them (and the reasoning behind them) for yourself, I don't want to take that from you. There's a German Shepherd (Mace's descriptions of him are wonderful) and two trouble-making Collies.


There is a section where Mace describes the process that the dog goes through when scenting—probably not as technically correct as what Cat Warren gave in her book (adult or young reader's version*)—but as gripping (if not more so) and entertaining—and it really gives you an idea what's going on (as best as we can understand) during that process. Burton could've given us two or three more passages along those lines in this book and I wouldn't have complained at all.


* Either or both of which I recommend to anyone interested in this novel.


So, yeah, Mace is our narrator, he's got a great voice. You pretty much feel like he's a close friend telling you a story right away, and sitting around watching his dogs play while drinking cheap beer and eating pizza (preferably non-Hawaiian) sounds like a great way to spend an evening. He's funny, self-deprecating, smart, and driven (especially when the health and well-being of one of his "kids" is on the line). If I wasn't talking about an eARC waiting final revisions, this post would be littered with quotations--he is oh so quotable. His affection for his dogs and dogs in general, is right up there with Bernie Little, Andy Carpenter and anyone gutsy enough to try to feed and care for Clifford the Big Red Dog. Even if the plot was blah and the writing uninteresting, I'd have enjoyed meeting Mace (thankfully, that's not the case).


There are four cops in this book that Mace interacts heavily with—an unusual number, to be sure. Two are uniformed officers and two are detectives. Mace's relationship with each varies a little bit, but they're the kind of cops you want to believe fill our police forces. I don't know if all four of them will return in future volumes—but I'd be happy to see any or all of them again. I'll hold off on further discussion of them for the future when we get to know them a little bit more (assuming that's the case).


After Mace and his retriever find the remains of a serial killer's latest victim, something goes very wrong. This compels him to take a more active role in the hunt for the killer. Between his dogs, desperation, and a healthy portion of beginner's luck, he has remarkable success at that. Which ends up putting a target on his back—creating a need for more luck, his dogs, some more desperation, and the help of his police acquaintances/friends.


The plot moves pretty quickly—there's a time or two that your credulity might get stretched a bit further than you'd like. But if you roll with it, Burton'll reward you. The book moves quickly—even more than I realized a few times. Which isn't to say that anything feels rushed, it doesn't, you're on a roller coaster that starts quickly and doesn't let up. There were a couple of reveals that I didn't see coming, some plot twists I wouldn't have expected—in retrospect, I felt I probably should have seen it all, if I wanted to do something silly like stop reading the book to analyze and predict what's coming rather than just buckle in and read it.


So here's the thing about serial killers in fiction—I'm pretty much over them. I think I've been over-exposed to them, and by and large, I don't react positively to them. That's not to say I can't enjoy a Serial Killer novel if the plot is well done, the other characters are well executed, and so on—but I'm almost always apathetic about the killer himself/herself anymore. But this one? Initially, it seemed like this was going to be one of those books that I liked despite the killer. However, by a little after the mid-way point, the killer had won me over and had got me interested. I can't explain why without ruining the whole thing for you, so I won't. But color this jaded reader interested.


It's possible that I'm rating this a little higher than it deserves. If I was being entirely objective, I'd probably take off a half or maybe a full star from my rating. But this isn't an objective piece, or an objective rating—this is about how much I enjoyed this, how it appealed to me, entertained me and made me want to read on. For that, it scored really high for me.


A strong and fun central character, a collection of interesting police officers, a compelling serial killer, a well-paced plot, and four wonderful dogs. I can't think of anything else this book could deliver for me. I when I wasn't on the edge of my seat, flipping the pages as quickly as I could, I was reading as slowly as possible so I could relish the scenes with Mace and his dogs doing their thing. Now that Burton has established Mace's world and characters, I can't wait to see him explore it some and build on this really strong foundation.


Highly recommended. I won't pretend to assure you that you'll enjoy it as much as me, but I can't imagine anyone not liking this book.


Disclaimer: 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.


20 Books of Summer

Saturday Miscellany—6/20/19

This week...I've had zero energy for anything, it seems. Work hasn't been particularly hard, but the days have been very full—so much so that I just haven't had time to do any of the surfing needed for this post, little reading, and writing? Feh. It took three days to get yesterday's 7 (brief) paragraph post finished. In the grand scheme of things, does that really matter? No. Won't even matter in a week (but it wouldn't surprise me if I'm saying the same in 7 days). But for the moment, it's bugging me. Hope your week has been better.


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 Spencer Quinn on the Chet and Bernie Fandom—One of my favorites (probably starting an ARC of his latest Thursday) about his fans. If you're not one of his fans, you should reconsider.
bullet The Making of Wild Sign’ An Alpha & Omega novel—Dan dos Santos talks through the process of making the next cover in the Briggs series. I always find this kind of thing interesting.
bullet How to write an important book!—Good things for Serious Novelists everywhere to note from the Orangutan Librarian
bullet Can Books Really be Funny? Appreciating the Humor of Terry Pratchett—While I feel pity for Black Sail's Joe having to ask this question (and the answer he arrives at), it's a good post. Is he alone? Am I some sort of a freak for audibly laughing/chuckling at books?
bullet Tips for Battling Reader’s Guilt—NetGalley-centric (it's from NetGalley's blog, so...), but the tips are applicable outside of it.
bullet What We Read – Are Older Titles Worth Exploring—On the one hand, this post from Way Too Fantasy could've ended after the first paragraph and have been worth sharing. On the other, the rest of it is just as good.
bullet Why blog tours are b******* and I won’t do them anymore—I'd demur from several of these points, but I wouldn't say any of them are flat-out wrong.



This Week's New Releases That I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon:
bullet How the Wired Weep by Ian Patrick—a tale about a Police Informant, his handler and the Crime Ring they're targeting by one of the best around. I should be starting this no later than Tuesday, and am wondering if I shouldn't have rearranged things so I could be mid-way through it by now.
bullet American Demon by Kim Harrison—Harrison returns to her beloved UF series with one of its stronger installments. I recently had some pretty positive things to say about it.


Lastly I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to San, Anketsu, benjamingohs, Umairah @ Sereadipity, writingfest and Elaine Howlin for following the blog this week. Thanks for checking this place out, don't be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?


The Friday 56 for 6/19/20

The Friday 56This is a weekly bloghop hosted by Freda's Voice


The Friday 56 Grab a book, any book.
The Friday 56 Turn to Page 56 or 56% on your ereader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
The Friday 56 Find a snippet, short and sweet.
The Friday 56 Post it











from 56% of:

How the Wired Weep


How the Wired Weep by Ian Patrick

He turns back as Sienna comes over with more drinks and some food. ‘Here, eat this,’ she says. Ben looks at the house burger and fries. His pupils widen. He’s unsure at first.


I know he’s thinking this is all some psychological ploy to make him talk. In a way it is but it was genuinely presented and both of us hope he’ll eat rather than give up the information. He will tell me. He knows I’m interested. It all sounds good. Not for the potential victim but with any luck the whole thing can be nipped in the bud before the victim gets whacked. We hope.


‘OK…OK…here’s the deal,’ Ben says as he leans across and grabs the plate.


WWW Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Between the Scylla of Tuesday and the Charybdis that is Thursday, we find ourselves at Wednesday, making it time for WWW Wednesday!



This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived on Taking on a World of Words—and shown to me by Aurore-Anne-Chehoke at Diary-of-a-black-city-girl.


The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Easy enough, right?
What are you currently reading?
I'm reading Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why by Alexandra Petri, Imaginary Numbers by Seanan McGuire (finally!) and am listening to Out of Range by C. J. Box, David Chandler (Narrator).

Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is WhyBlank SpaceImaginary NumbersBlank SpaceOut of Range


What did you recently finish reading?
I just finished Jeffrey B. Burton's The Finders and Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek, MD and T. J. Mitchell with Tanya Eby (Narrator) on audio.

The FindersBlank SpaceWorking Stiff



What do you think you’ll read next?
My next book should be Muzzled by David Rosenfelt and Captain's Fury by Jim Butcher, Kate Reading (Narrator) on audiobook.

MuzzledBlank SpaceCaptain's Fury


Hit me with your Three W's in the comments! (no, really, do it!)

Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag

Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag


I thought this would be a fun little tool to use to look back over the first part of 2020. I saw this one over on One Book More's blog, and it seemed to have been created by Moon Creations.


What is the best book that you’ve read so far in 2020?


King of the Crows

King of the Crows by Russell Day.

No doubt about it. Epic in scope, but with personal story at its heart. If I really start talking about it, I won't shut up. I talked about it a little here.



What has been your favorite sequel of the first half of the year?

That's a tough call, there've been a few. But I think I'm going to go with:

Burning Bright

Burning Bright by Nick Petrie

As I said here, I should've read this shortly after I read The Drifter in the summer of 2018. The third in the series, Light It Up is coming soon.



Is there a new release that you haven’t read yet but you’re really excited for?



Broken by Don Winslow

Winslow's The Border stands between Broken and me--so hopefully, I can get to this novella collection by September.



What is your most anticipated release for the second half of the year?

er, um...that's a good question. I should probably say Betty by Tiffany McDaniel, because her debut novel was sood and I frequently have pretensions about being all literary and hoity-toity, proving that being an English Major wasn't just a passing fancy. But if I'm being completely honest, there's no contest:

Peace Talks Battle Ground

Peace Talks and Battle Ground by Jim Butcher

(it's not cheating to say that--it was one book that was split into two...). I'm a rabid Dresden fanboy and we've been waiting so long!



What is your biggest disappointment so far?


Blood Storm Magic

Blood Storm Magic by Jayne Faith

The Ella Gray series in general. I really enjoyed the way this series started, and while I never figured these would be in the Toby Daye/Harry Dresden league, I didn't expect that I'd get to the stage where I was disappointed in them, but I hit there. I haven't even posted about it yet, guess I spoiled that one, eh?



What is your biggest surprise so far?



Highfire by Eoin Colfer

Highfire. I never expected Colfer to write a novel about a Dragon for adults--if anything, I expected something along the lines of Screwed or Plugged. So that's surprise number one. Surprise number two is that the dragon is a Drunken, Netflix-binging, Lousiana swamp-dwelling, crotchety one. Funny and full of heart--entertaining from snout to tail.

Runners-Up: The Audiobooks Back to Reality by Mark Stay & Mark Oliver, narrated by Kim Bretton and The In Between by Michael Landweber, narratoed by Brittany Pressley and Mark Boyett.



Who is your favorite new to you, or debut, author?


Darynda Jones, author of A Bad Day for Sunshine


A Bad Day for Sunshine

Darynda Jones has several novels published already, and I don't think I'd heard of any of them until I was finished with this intro to her new series. She's the favorite new to me author and the book has a couple of strong contenders for favorite new characters of 2020, as I stated here.



Who is your favorite fictional crush from this year?


The Finders

Elvira from The Finders by Jeffrey B. Burton

I've never gotten into the whole Book Crush thing--I'm already in a long-term relationship. Still, I have to admit, as happily committed as I am, there's something about Vira, the tough, spirited, brilliant Golden Retriever with a troubled past that just makes me want to make her part of my pack.


But please, no one tell this girl that I said that:
This Girl



What are 6 books that you want to read by the end of the year?

Other than Betty, Peace Talks, and Battleground, right? Five upcoming releases and one book I'm tired of beating myself up for not having read yet (not unlike Burning Bright above, I should have read the Cartmel book in the Fall of '18)

Annihilation Aria Dead Perfect A Killing Frost
Last Stand in Lychford Next to Last Stand The Run-Out Groove

Annihilation Aria by Michael R. Underwood, Dead Perfect by Noelle Holten, A Killing Frost by Seanan McGuire
Last Stand in Lychford by Paul Cornell, Next to Last Stand by Craig Johnson, The Run-Out Groove by Andrew Cartmel



As usual, I'm not tagging anyone in this—but I'd like to see what you all have to come up with.


4 Stars
This Romance/SF is a Wild Ride!
Crossing In Time - D. L. Orton, Micah McDonald

Typically, when I post about an Audiobook, I close with a discussion about the narrator(s). But I'm going to start with it this time because Levine and deWard did such a great job, they're the highlight of the experience for me.*


* This is not a slight against the novel. They were just that good.


In my experience, when there is a male narrator and a female narrator—the female will read all the narration and dialogue in the female character POV chapters, and the male will read all the narration and dialogue in the male character POV chapters. But here, deWard reads all the female dialogue, no matter the narrator (and vice versa). That's a nice touch, and once I got used to it, I really appreciated it. Particularly, it helped the conversations between characters feel like conversations—there was a little bit of talking over each other, and so on. And when the two laughed together? That was either fantastic work by the narrators or by the editor (or both).


Levine, particularly when he was narrating the main male protagonist, sounded like a guy recounting a story from his past to a friend—and I could've listened to him all day. deWard was almost as good (the main female protagonist character was never as relaxed, so it would be out of character to sound that way—so it may be unfair to compare like that). They both made all the characters come alive (even the few I'd rather hadn't)—and made the experience richer.


This is a Romance/Science Fiction story. It's heavy on the romance (too heavy for my taste) and the SF is a wild, multi-dimensional/time travel story with the fate of the human race (throughout the multiverse) hanging in the balance. Orton typically balances the focused story on the central romance and the wider, all-humankind story really well—but she has a tendency to over-focus on the love story. That's going to delight many readers/listeners, but it was a stumbling block for me. Both are told with heart and humor (not getting in the way of drama), that will suck you in and not let you go.


I don't really know how to summarize the setup of the book in a paragraph or two—and the Book Blurb gives away a bit too much (but really is an entertaining blurb), so I'm not going to get into it more than I did in that last paragraph. Just trust me on this—if you like the feel of what I'm describing, give this a shot.*


* Or, fine, read the Spotlight where I've copied the Blurb.


The characters—from minor to major—are wonderfully drawn and fully-developed. There are a couple of characters that are technically allies to the protagonists (and humanity in general, but function largely as antagonists. And man, I really didn't like them at all—just as I wasn't supposed to. But those that you were supposed to like? I just wanted to spend more time with them all—the point-of-view characters in particular.

There are some wonderful dogs throughout the book, and I fully expect that they'll be pretty important before the trilogy ends. For those of you who prefer felines, there's one of them, too—and the inclusion of the inferior pet doesn't hurt things at all.*


* Man, I hope that comes across as tongue-in-cheek.


As I said, this is the beginning of a trilogy and ends in a way that practically demands moving on to the next volume as soon as possible (which is easy as the entire trilogy is published)—while not really a cliff-hanger, it sure works like one.


This was a fun novel—even if it's not really my cup of tea. I'd probably give it a 3-3 1/2 Stars, a fun read that I'd recommend...but that narration knocks it up to 4 (maybe I should give it a 4 1/2), a strong recommendation from me.


There's a little too much romance in this Romance/Science Fiction for my taste—but it's a compelling and entertaining read full of wonderfully drawn characters. I strongly recommend the audiobook, but if that's not your thing, I expect the print edition will almost be as good.



My thanks to The Write Reads for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

Saturday Miscellany—6/13/20

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 Donna Tartt on the Singular Voice, and Pungent Humor, of Charles Portis—a great tribute to the late author of True Grit.
bullet Just Read the Book Already: Digital culture doesn’t have to make you a shallow reader. But you have to do something about it.—Technically a review of one book, but it's a lot more.
bullet How Publishers Determine When to Release Hardcover Books in Paperback
bullet There’s No Hype Machine for Selling Literature to Dudes—Some interesting thoughts about men and literature.
bullet The Linguistic Case for Sh*t Hitting the Fan: Idioms have a special power to draw people together in a way that plain speech doesn’t.
bullet The Top 10 Worst Book to Movie Fantasy Adaptations—I've watched a frightening number of these and I won't disagree with their inclusion here.
bullet Audiobooks: Are They For You?—Bookidote's Lashaan discusses his attempts to get into audiobooks.
bullet 8 Bookish Awards for the First Half of 2020—Black Sail Books looks at the first half of 2020
bullet The Act Of Multi-reading and Four Tips To Get You Started—In case this is a goal for you. I do this from time to time, but I've never thought about cultivating it as a skill. This would probably do the trick, though.


A Book-ish Related Podcast Episode (or two) you might want to give a listen to:
bullet Remember Reading?—I stumbled onto this podcast looking back at classic children's books this week and have listened to a handful of episodes—it's a lot of fun when they're talking about the classics. When the conversation turns to the writing/books of the guests, I tend to lose interest (probably wouldn't if children's lit was a focus of mine). But I still recommend giving this stuff a listen.

This Week's New Releases That I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon:
bullet The Ghosts of Sherwood by Carrie Vaughn—The first in Vaughn's duology (that I hope ends up expanding) about Robin Hood's children. I wrote about it a couple of days back.

Lastly I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome tojohnnyholidayesq, Being Zab, Chris Green Reads!, Frankie | Chicks Rogues and Scandals, Turtle Quotes and Jacob Collins 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., i.-iv.

Fridays with the Foundling

Tom Jones Original CoverI sat my laptop down after I'd started this post, and Windows decided that when I said I wanted to install updates later, I didn't mean a half-hour later after I stopped working for a couple of minutes. I lost a couple of paragraphs of this—my reconstruction might be a little rough. We'll see.


We start Book VIII with the typical digression from the story. This time, we get "A wonderful long Chapter concerning the Marvellous; being much the longest of all our introductory Chapters." He really believes in truth in advertising, it's a long chapter. A long discussion about the "marvelous," or supernatural in fiction. It's pretty interesting but has as little to do with the novel as any of the other first chapters. I'd love to take the time and work through the allusions and footnotes (added by the editor of my edition), because that'd be a fascinating study.


We return to Tom's room as he continues to recover—the Landlady shows up and introduces herself to Tom. Thanks to some intelligence from the Lieutenant, she pretends to know Sophia. Which gets Tom to open up to her about his life—she quickly learns that he's no gentleman at all, but a broke castout. Which pretty much means that she's done with him. As Fielding notes:


for the lower sort of people are very tenacious of respect; and though they are contented to give this gratis to persons of quality, yet they never confer it on those of their own order without taking care to be well paid for their pains.


(that's horribly cynical, but...probably holds more than a kernel of truth)


The doctor comes back and argues with Tom about his treatment (getting a little more lampooning). Afterward, he talks to the landlady and discovers that Tom can't pay him, either. Which (not surprisingly) gets him very angry. He argues with Tom some more and gets shooed off.


Which brings us to the barber—Fielding puts him on the same level as barber from Don Quixote and The Arabian Nights. He's a jolly sort, given to quoting philosophers. He tells Tom it's crazy to join the army with head injury he's sporting. The Table of Contents tells me we're going to get more of him soon.


Not a lot happens again, but (like last week) it's all about the way that things are told. It's fun and I'm looking forward to seeing what the barber's really about.

3.5 Stars
McEvoy's out to clear his name and catch a twisted killer
Fair Warning - Michael Connelly

Veteran reporter Jack McEvoy is no longer on the crime beat, he's no longer hunting serial killers or anything of the sort. He's doing consumer watchdog reporting for a website. One night after work, he's approached by two LAPD Detectives about a former one-night stand, Christina Portrero, who has been murdered. The detectives take an almost instant disliking to McEvoy and he's soon a Person of Interest.


I groaned once figured out what was going on initially (it's in the book blurb, I really should pay more attention to things like that). Series protagonists being suspected of murder almost never works for me. The stakes don't feel real. But Connelly abandons this fairly quickly, and his being a person of interest really only serves to get McEvoy interested in the case. Because there's no way he's going to wait for the police to clear him—he's going back to his strengths to clear his name, and maybe uncover the truth.


McEvoy quickly discovers a handful of murders throughout the country that seem to match Portrero's. But the link between them eludes him for a while—and once he begins to get an idea, it's so outlandish that it seems near-impossible. Teaming up with another reporter at the website, he dives in—defying the police. He also recruits Rachel Waling (now in the private sector) to help build a profile of the killer.


McEvoy isn't too far into this investigation before he comes alive—he seems content with his work (maybe not the income from it), but it's not the same as this kind of work. Working with Walling doesn't hurt his enthusiasm, either.


This would just not have worked as a Bosch or Ballard story, it possibly could've worked as a Mickey Haller story—had he been representing someone like McEvoy. But why go to that much trouble when you've got Jack in your back pocket for just this time? (also, we've already got a Haller novel slated for later this year).


One of the advantages of Connelly having invested so little into the character is that the peril he faces when the killer focuses his attention on McEvoy (or Walling)—there's a strong sense of peril. I'm not worried about Ballard or Haller (although I can see the appeal of letting Bosch go out in action, rather than retiring), so even when things get threatening, you don't really worry too much. But McVoy? Come on, the dude's totally expendable and therefore the danger is real.


The initial set up just left me cold, but by the time that had been resolved and the team was fully into the investigation? I was hooked. Hooked in the "please don't bother me with anything short of medical emergency" sense. That didn't stop my family from interrupting me, but it did result in me glaring at them frequently.


This isn't Connelly at his best—it's not even the best McEvoy novel. But man, it's gripping. It's exciting. I had a great time reading it and am glad Connelly brought McEvoy back (and leaves the door open for more).


20 Books of Summer

3.5 Stars
A Compelling Look at Why We Do What We Do
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business - Charles Duhigg,  Read by Mike Chamberlain

In Part One, Duhigg sketches the science behind habit by looking at a case study of someone who made radical changes to their health and lifestyle by choice, and one who made similar changes as a result of a disease that damaged his brain and removed choice from the equation. It was simply fascinating as he both related the cases and explored the science behind it.


Part Two shifts to the habits of organizations—how some megacorporations changed from within because they intentionally created institutional habits, which then spill over (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not) into the lives of their employees. Alcoholics Anonymous also serves as an example of intentional change here. The section's last chapter focuses on how companies can study the purchasing and browsing activities of customers to predict and manipulate spending habits. Some of this last chapter is truly disturbing and makes me want to read Qualityland again—and make more people read it.


In Part Three, his focus is on "Societies" and he shows how the Montgomery Bus Boycott illustrates the ideas he's been describing—and how Rick Warren's Saddleback Church is an intentional use of the same ideas (quick digression: I have less respect for Warren's ecclesiology now, although some of what bothered me could be an unbeliever's description of his actions and theory rather than Warren's). The last chapter discusses the case of someone with night terrors who commits a crime and a gambling addict's actions—are either responsible for what happens when their behaviors are mandated by habit rather than a conscious decision? I found this last chapter problematic and a bit simplistic in the way it dealt with the ethical questions. But it's still very thought-provoking.


As far as the audiobook-ness of this goes, it was okay. Chamberlin did a fine job with the material he was given. Yeah, occasionally, I felt like I was listening to a super-long podcast episode, but I'm not sure that's a flaw. And if it is, it's probably due to the text, not a problem on Chamberlin's part. Like with a lot of Non-Fiction audiobooks, it's hard to separate the authorial "I" from the voice saying "I," so I have this cockamamie impression that I've gotten to know Duhigg a little bit. Am I the only one who has that problem?


The subtitle is "Why We Do What We Do..." and that's what this book is about. Somewhere along the line, I'd gotten the idea that there'd be a little more "here's what to do with this information" to the book. But that was wrong—Duhigg sketches it in an appendix, but it's just a sketch. Yes (as he says himself), it's not that difficult to use a lot of what's covered (particularly in Part One) on your own. I'd have preferred a little more application to go with the theory, but that wasn't his point, so I shouldn't quibble.


This is a fascinating book. That's all I have to say on that front. But I'm not sure what to do with the information. I'm not against learning things to learn them, but this seems to be begging for practical applications—in personal or business life. But I just don't know how. Maybe that's because I lack the imagination to apply it, or maybe it's a shortcoming from the book in not doing a better job in pointing to it. I'm leaning to the latter, but expect it's the former.


2020 Library Love Challenge

4 Stars
Oo-de-lally, I had fun with this
The Ghosts of Sherwood - Carrie Vaughn

“Can you tell how the mood is from here? How the journey went?”


“I won’t know how it went until I see Father’s face,” she said. “And see if he smiles or frowns?”


“No. And see if his smile is glad or wicked.” Her father would be smiling in any case.

That right there? That's the line that sold me, I love that take on Robin Hood—between screen and print, all you can find lately is earnest, serious, Robin Hood as populist rebel with almost all the fun sucked out of it. Vaughn's Locksley contains those elements, sure—but he's also the outlaw in search of adventure, who enjoyed what he was doing. Always smiling--it's just a matter of what kind of smile he wore.


We rejoin the Earl after the signing of the Magna Carta (which he was instrumental in getting that rascal King John to sign). He's had to do the unthinkable—bowing the knee to John after Richard's death—in order to protect his lands, his friends, and his wife. With Marian's help to contain his impulses*, he's become a responsible member of the nobility, doting father, and law abiding citizen.


* To be fair, Marian misses the adventures, too. But she's not at that stage in her life anymore.


All that other stuff? Well, he's content to leave that to the bards and storytellers. So much so that his own children aren't sure how much to believe, "Everything about Father is stories."


At least, that's what his eldest daughter, Mary, says. But after she and her siblings are kidnapped, they'll all get a better idea just what their father is capable of.


That's all I'm going to say about that. This is very much a "pilot episode" of a novella. We meet the kids—Mary, John, and Eleanor—catch up with a couple of the Merry Men, see where Robin and Marian are in their lives and so on. Vaughn balances that with the kidnapping story.


The kidnapping is a quick and almost-too-neat story solely because of the space she has to tell it. If Vaughn hadn't had to establish so much in these 112 pages, you get the feeling that the kidnapping wouldn't have been resolved quite as neatly.


My sole complaint—and it's a big one—is that this is a novella, and not a collection of novellas/short stories. I just needed more of everything—the kids, Robin, Marian, the other members of Robin's band. This is a great introduction to this world and these characters, with a little bit of drama. But having been introduced, I want to read the next one. Or, the next five or so.


But no. Tor is making me wait until August for the second one. Which is simply unfair.


While my tongue is firmly in my cheek above, there is a kernel of truth to my gripe—I'm 97% sure that this thing has legs and that I'm in for several more (even if it's currently slated to be a duology, but I'm hoping that changes), but I'm going to have to wait to really commit until August when The Heirs of Locksley is scheduled to be released. But in the meantime? This was a quick and fun read, full of promise, and one I heartily recommend.

Down the TBR Hole (7 of 24+)

Down the TBR Hole

I got on a roll after #6 and ended up putting this one together right afterward. I was surprised by a couple of my decisions here. When I first looked at this list I thought I knew what I would keep/cut, but by the time I finished writing about them, I switched my answer. Some good looking books survived—there are a couple here that I'm tempted to jump on today. Still, as of this post, I've cut 15% off the Goodreads shelf. Not bad at all.

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


  1. Order on ascending date added.


  1. Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books.


  1. Read the synopses of the books.


  1. Decide: keep it or should it go?


  1. 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)

The Authorities The Authorities by Scott Meyer
Blurb: "Sinclair Rutherford is a young Seattle cop with a taste for the finer things. Doing menial tasks and getting hassled by superiors he doesn’t respect are definitely not “finer things.” Good police work and bad luck lead him to crack a case that changes quickly from a career-making break into a high-profile humiliation when footage of his pursuit of the suspect—wildly inappropriate murder weapon in hand—becomes an Internet sensation.But the very publicity that has made Rutherford a laughing stock in the department lands him what could be the job opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to work with a team of eccentric experts, at the direction of a demanding but distracted billionaire. Together, they must solve the murder of a psychologist who specialized in the treatment of patients who give people “the creeps.”"
My Thoughts: Nunc hoc in marmore non est incisum
Verdict: It's Meyer. Why am I waiting?
Thumbs Up
Home Home by Matt Dunn
Blurb: A Londener returns to the home he left 18 years ago (without looking back) to help out his aging parents and is confronted with his past.
My Thoughts: I'm going to say no to this now, but Dunn's work the kind of thing I'm trying to make myself read more of, so I may come back to this.
Thumbs Down
Mad Men Carousel: The Complete Critical Companion Mad Men Carousel: The Complete Critical Companion by Matt Zoller Seitz
My Thoughts: I've read some of Seitz’s pieces about various episodes (of this and other shows). The guy is a great writer and he knows this show. Would probably be a heckuva read, but if I read this, I'm going to have to rewatch the show, and I'm just not up for that kind of committment right now (as attractive as that sounds)
Thumbs Down
The Gray Man The Gray Man by Mark Greaney
Blurb: A CIA operative-turned-hitman on the run from former allies.
My Thoughts: Every time I see one of the books in this series at a bookstore/Costco/whatever, I think "Oh, good the new one! I'd better pick it up." Before remembering I've never read any in the series. How strange is that? It's probably just my thing, but...I can't seem to muster the enthusiasm.
Thumbs Down
The Custodian of Marvels The Custodian of Marvels by Rod Duncan
My Thoughts: The first two books in this duology-turned-trilogy were really good. The only reason I didn't read this one is that my library never added it to their collection and I have a strange mental block about buying only the third in a series. ("Just buy the first two while you're at it," Duncan/Angry Robot say.)
Thumbs Down
The World's Strongest Librarian The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne
Blurb: "Josh Hanagarne couldn’t be invisible if he tried. Although he wouldn't officially be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome until his freshman year of high school, Josh was six years old when he first began exhibiting symptoms. When he was twenty and had reached his towering height of 6’7”, his tics escalated to nightmarish levels. Determined to conquer his affliction, Josh tried countless remedies, with dismal results. At last, an eccentric, autistic strongman taught Josh how to “throttle” his tics into submission using increasingly elaborate feats of strength. What started as a hobby became an entire way of life—and an effective way of managing his disorder."
My Thoughts: I'd forgotten all about this book. Sounds fascinating. Probably fits into this group of books, too.
Thumbs Up
The Thorn of Emberlain The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch
My Thoughts: I'll believe it when I see it. I'm not going to complain or bemoan or curse Lynch for the delay here (see also: Rothfuss, Patrick). If this ever sees the light of day, I'll be there in a heartbeat. If not, I'll relish the first three in the series.
Thumbs Up
Crush Crush by Phoef Sutton
Blurb: "Caleb Rush, a. k. a. Crush, is the toughest, coolest bodyguard/bouncer in Los Angeles, a man who lives strictly by his own moral code, which doesn’t exactly hew to the standards of US law. When Amelia Trask, the wild daughter of a scruples-free billionaire tycoon, comes to Crush for help, his quiet life roars into overdrive, and he has to use his wits, brawn, martial-arts training, and knowledge of the Russian mafia to stay alive and clean up the mess that young Amelia has created. Crush is a rollicking, page-turning ride through LA, full of action, suspense, memorable characters, and a sly wit."
My Thoughts: I seriously don't understand why I haven't gobbled this up yet.
Thumbs Up
Don't Eat The Glowing Bananas Don't Eat The Glowing Bananas by David D. Hammons
Blurb: "It’s hard to find a decent brunch in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. But that’s all Henry Rosetta wants from the world. That, and not to be eaten by nomadic cannibals. Henry has traveled the nuclear bomb-blasted highways critiquing the finest radioactive eateries and cataloging his experiences...Henry must help the people of New Dallas and learn the great secret of how the world ended. And maybe get a taco along the way."
My Thoughts: This looks strange and wonderful and I wish I knew how I stumbled across it. Still, I don't see myself making time for it at this point. Alas....
Thumbs Down
The Sugar Frosted Nutsack The Sugar Frosted Nutsack by Mark Leyner
Blurb: "Ritualistically recited by a cast of drug-addled bards, The Sugar Frosted Nutsack is Ike’s epic story. A raucous tale of gods and men confronting lust, ambition, death, and the eternal verities, it is a wildly fun, wickedly fast gambol through the unmapped corridors of the imagination."
My Thoughts: Love Leyner's prose. Love the voice. He's challenging, provactive and insightful. I'm sure this would be a great read. But for some reason, the idea of reading anything by Leyner feels like homework. And I'm just not that interested feeling that way.
Thumbs Down


Books Removed in this Post: 6 / 10
Total Books Removed: 36 / 240

Anyone out there read any of these books? Did I make the right call—or the wrong call—with any of them?


(Image by moritz320 from Pixabay)

4 Stars
Harrison Comes Back to The Hollows Without Missing a Step
American Demon - Kim Harrison

First off, I want to talk about two things that Harrison did that really have nothing to do with the plot. First, in the last chap of The Witch with No Name, we're treated to a glimpse into Rachel's future, twenty-five years after that novel. At the time, I said we could've lived without it, but it was a nice way to say goodbye to the series. Now, it seems all the more ingenious of her to do. Twenty-five years provides several opportunities for Harrison to spin new tales. I don't know if it was purposeful or not at the time, but it sure worked out well.


I was a little intimidated about coming back to this series after such a long breakHarrison's novels were typically stuffed (occasionally, overstuffed) with plotmultiple storylines tying the novels together. There was just no way I could remember them allmuch less remember all the various characters. The preface to American Demon consists of a portion of Rachel Morgan's Inderland Security file, sketching out her escapades as well as her associates. It's a wonderful refresher course in all things Rachel Morgan and did enough jogging of my memory that I was ready to dive in.


Anyway, what about the novel itself? It's been a few months since the events of The Witch with No Name and those events have caused ripples throughout society (both the supernatural and mundane) as well as the in the lives of the series' characters. Trent's struggling with his bank balance and his relationship to the rest of the elves (although Rachel seems to be having more difficulty with both than Trent is), Rachel and Jenks are struggling to put their church back together, Ivy's dealing with her new reality (and the city is looking for a new Master vampire), Rachel's trying (not too successfully) to cope with the changes to her abilities, and...that's just a taste. As much as things seemed wrapped up, life (even fictional life) isn't that clean. Unlike my usual M. O., I'm not going to get further into the plotfans don't need it, and new readers won't appreciate it without Rachel explaining what it all means.


Harrison manages to bring back every major, and many minor characterseven working in mentions to the major dead characters from the past. It may just be fan-service to let all the cast make an appearance, but it was done so smoothly, so organically, that it really doesn't matter.


At the same time, Harrison brings in some new faces (and most seem like they'll around for a while)there's a new elf, a new vampire, a new demon, and a whole new supernatural species. Each of them moves the series in a new direction and add aspects to the ongoing storylines that are very satisfactory. I can see Harrison adding one of these characters per novelbut all of them at once. She's more than shaking up the status quo, she's making a bold move forward for the series.


If I'd fallen into a coma shortly after reading The Witch with No Name and had just woken up in time to read this, I wouldn't have known that Harrison spent anytime away, much less that she'd start a new series that was entirely distinct from The Hollows. For example, in this age of TV continuationsfans of the originals can easily tell the difference between the series that went off years ago, and the new episodes that aired recently. I assumed the same would be true herenot that the book would be bad or anything, just a little differentand I couldn't have been more wrong.


By the way, since I expect some will asksure, this is a decent jumping-on point. A lot won't make sense, but you'll be entertained enough to shrug that off and keep going both with this book and those that are waiting in the wings. You'll be given enough reason to go back and read the previous volumes.


From wrapping up a series very nicely with one book to telling a complete story in the next while setting up 4+ (depending on how you count them) multi-book arcs in the next is a pretty nice trick. This could've just been a nice little reunion, but Harrison has done more than thatshe's breathed new life into this series as well providing some solid entertainment. Welcome back to the Hollows, folks.


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


20 Books of Summer