Irresponsible Reader

Irresponsible Reader

I read widely and voraciously, with little discipline (although I have my bouts). And then I write about it -- sometimes a little, sometimes more (not sure how often I get to "a lot", so let's go with "more" instead). I'm a Mystery junkie and have been since I can remember, I love Urban Fantasy, I can't pass up good Science Fiction or Fantasy, I've been known to dabble in Chick Lit ('tho, honestly, I'm more comfortable in "Lad Lit"), even a decent Western will do the trick.

Review
4.5 Stars
A jaw-dropper of a winner with Nell and the PsyLED team.
Flame in the Dark (A Soulwood Novel) - Faith Hunter

This was posted as part of a Book Tour Stop that included a Q&A with Faith Hunter -- drop by and check it out!

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Rookie Agent Nell Ingram and her PsyLED team start this novel in a multi-agency investigation into an attack on a political fundraiser -- with a focus on one family in particular. There's no obvious paranormal aspect to the attack, so PsyLED isn't in the lead, but there's enough to keep them hanging around the investigation. If for no other reason than the local vampires are interested in what's going on. Soon, other attacks occur, making it even clearer that one family is the target. As the team starts to investigate that family, more questions are raised and secrets are revealed. But it's a long while before the secrets and questions lead to anything useful for preventing further loss of life.

 

The presence of the vampires is a nice bonus -- they were present a little in Blood of the Earth, but not really in Curse on the Land. Nell's still struggling to make up for a faux pas in her initial exposure to the vampires -- and a couple of them seem to be enjoying her discomfort. I enjoy seeing Hunter's particular brand of vampires running around without Jane and her stakes, as long as she doesn't return to this particular well too much in this series, the Vamps' presence will be a plus.

 

The PsyLED case itself is a little on the tepid side -- it's far easier for readers to figure out what's going on than it is for the characters, and that always hurts the stories somewhat. But -- wow. What's actually going on when the team finally puts all the pieces together? Wow -- just wow. It makes putting up with their earlier slowness utterly worth it (also, the reader won't be as correct as they thought they were for a long time). Basically, if you find yourself getting annoyed with this story, your patience will be rewarded. Probably more than rewarded.

 

Speaking of patience, Nell needs to exercise a good deal of it with her family, who are still struggling with understanding just what's going on with her (and they don't know it all!) and her move for independence from the cult she's left. It's clearly, and understandably, difficult to continue to distance herself from the ways and practices she was raised in, while trying to strengthen the ties with the family members still in the church. Meanwhile, the church does seem to be trying to change their practice -- moving to orthopraxy, without much of a move towards orthodoxy. That kind of thing isn't really going to work in the long run -- but then again, Hunter's not writing a realistic account of a movement in a religious group -- so it's not anything to get worked up over. Anyway, Nell puts her foot down on a couple of fronts and draws on some of what she's learned in working with others, to be able handle her family in a way that hopefully gets through to them. She's also making some smart moves regarding her sister, Mud/Mindy, who seems to share a lot of abilities and inclinations with Nell. I can't wait to see what Hunter's got up her sleeve with this.

 

While this is really Nell's book (and series), there's a great ensemble of characters here. Particularly in the PsyLED team. I'd have preferred a better use of the team, and for the second book in a row, I wondered why Hunter didn't use some of the characters as well as she did in the first book. Maybe this is just me asking for more for Tandy to do.

 

There's some satisfying development on the Brother Ephriam/foreign entity in Soulwood front (that'll make sense to readers of the series), and regarding the "Vampire Tree." Which just might be the creepiest floral entity I've ever read about -- and it's creepier than a lot of fauna, too. I'm particularly glad about the Brother Ephriam development, I was afraid that things were going to go on too long with that without any real shift in the status quo.

 

There's also a stronger look at Nell's romantic life here -- her taking the first steps in exploring a real romantic relationship (in contrast to that marriage she was in), and maybe even getting her first "Improperly Proper Kiss." There's just enough romance story allow the reader to see her grow in this way (in addition to all the others she's growing in), just one more step towards her fulfillment -- but not so much that it's the novel's focus.

 

One of the pluses (and minuses) about this series all along has been how hard it is to simply say what Nell Ingram is. With most UF you can summarize things briefly: She can see dead people, he's a wizard PI, she's a skinwalker vampire hunter, he's the world's oldest living druid, she's a changeling PI, she's a ridiculously named werewolf who has a radio talk show, and so on . . . Nell's a, um. Well. There's magic, and powers over growing things, but no real spells, per se. See what I mean? This is a pain when trying to describe it to others, or even in knowing what to expect from her stories. And Hunter takes full advantage of this, she'll have Nell do whatever at any point in time, and as long as it sort of relates to what she started off doing in Book 1, you buy it. By the same token, I can imagine that might be too much of a blank slate for Hunter -- there are no well-established strengths/weaknesses/tropes to play with. There are things that Nell does here that just blows me away -- and that has a lot to do with Hunter creating this magic creature/race on her own.

 

When I say that Hunter takes full advantage of this -- I should say I thought she had been for the past two books -- she really lets loose with it this time.

 

Let me try to sum up this rambling post: this is a slow burn of a novel -- it puts down roots and grows like Nell's plants, and eventually blossoms into something that's great to look at. Be patient with it, watch the growth, and you'll be rewarded. Because when things get going -- they really get going, and it's almost too much to take in. I vacillated a lot about what to rate this -- I argued myself into 4-Stars and then into 5 and back into 4 and so on a few times. but because I really don't place too much weight on the stars, really, I just stopped and split the difference. For those who've been around for the previous two books this is a must read -- if this was going to be the last in the series, it'd be a decent way to leave (thankfully, Soulwood isn't a trilogy); for Yellowrock fans who haven't tried this series yet, you'll appreciate it; and if you've never tried either -- take a dip into this world, but I'll warn you: you'll end up reading all the others.

 

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this. Thanks also to Let’s Talk! Promotions for the opportunity to take part in this book tour. My opinions about the book remain my own.

 

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/22/flame-in-the-dark-by-faith-hunter
Review
5 Stars
This Heist Story on the Moon should earn Weir more fans (if that's possible)
Artemis: A Novel - Andy Weir

"You all right? You look kind of pale."

I was about ready to puke. Lying to Dad transported me back to my teen years. And let me tell you: there's no one I hate more than teenage Jazz Bashara. That stupid bitch made every bad decision that a stupid bitch could make. She's responsible for where I am today.

"I'm fine. Just a little tired."

We'll get back to older-than-teenaged Jazz Bashara in a minute, I just wanted to start with that . . .

 

Can you imagine the pressure that Andy Weir was under following the success of The Martian? Just knowing that whatever he put out would be compared to that phenomenon would cripple most people. Proving that he has the Right/Write Stuff, he was able to put the pressure aside and give us Artemis. I'd like to say I'm not going to compare the two, but why lie to you?

 

Artemis is the first city on the Moon -- made up of 5 domes with levels of living quarters under the surface (by the way, we get some nifty maps in the front of the city and its environs), a small city (for now) that's primarily a tourist destination. There's a great pseudo-currency set up to handle things, and a history and raison d'être for Artemis -- just part of the wonderful job of world-building that Weir did. Papers should be written about how well he did here, by people who have more time than me. Not only did Weir do a great job of building this world, but he introduces it very well -- showing us what he created while introducing us to Jazz Bashara, so we get to know them together. A lot of Hard SF comes across as slow, ponderous, and unapproachable -- Weir manages to avoid all that and actually entertains.

 

It's not as essential to like Jazz as it was Mark Watney to enjoy this book, but it's close. She's a young woman of Saudi descent who grew up on Artemis, and rebelled against the high hopes that her father and teachers had for her and became a petty criminal. Primarily Jazz is a smuggler -- getting those creature comforts for residents of the Moon that just can't get past Artemisian security. She's crafty, wily, angry, and uses profanity in an incredibly creative way (we don't have to endure most of that, we're just treated to the occasional profane neologism, e.g., "fusamitch"). I think you can still think she's an annoying little twit who should be arrested and enjoy the book -- but it's so much easier to just like her.

 

Once we meet Jazz and are treated to some pretty cool world-building, Artemis stops being so much a SF novel and focuses on being a Heist/Caper/Thriller (in a hard SF setting). One of Jazz's regular customers approaches her with a job that she can't turn down -- it'll make her rich, allow her to pay off all her debt and leave her with a lot of money. She almost has to take the job. Being a heist/caper novel, you know things will get off to a good start and then things will go horribly awry. That's exactly what happens. The fun is watching things go awry and then watch her (and her eventual allies) react.

 

Artemis is a pretty small city and it doesn't take too long for word to spread that she was behind the Big Thing (even if she denies it every chance she gets). The company she tried to interfere with is not the kind of group you want to interfere with, they're not really that concerned with things like "criminal law" when it comes to protecting their investments. Nor it doesn't matter if the small law enforcement force is small -- so small there's only one man -- if that one man starts investigating you the instant something wrong happens. The list of "the usual suspects" doesn't necessarily begin and end with Jazz, but she's sure a large component of that list.

 

So Jazz is on the run from her victims, the fuzz, and she's still needs to finish the job. Meanwhile the body count starts to get higher and the pressure is mounting. We're told that young Jazz had a lot of potential -- she might even technically be a genius -- and in watching her think on her feet, adapting to the catastrophes that keep befalling her and her schemes we get to see just why that was said about her. I don't think it's wrong to see shades of Slippery Jim diGriz here (but she's not nearly as experienced, or as devoted to crime, as The Stainless Steel Rat).

 

There are other characters, this isn't just the Jazz show -- she interacts with other people (allies, enemies, antagonists, potential victims, friends -- a father that I'm not sure what group he belongs in) -- again, compare to Watney. This is done really well -- there's a spark to all of them, they're all well-rounded and fleshed-out. The emotions are real and relatable, the setting might be as alien as you can get for most of us -- but at the end of the day, people are people and we all want pretty much the same things.

 

One thing we all know that Andy Weir does well is the science. And I'm not just talking about the big things like how to construct a lunar city or how to power it, etc. There's all the little touches, like:

Lunar dust is extremely bad to breathe. It's made of teeny, tiny rocks, and there's been no weather to smooth them out. Each mote is a spiky, barbed nightmare just waiting to tear up your lungs. You're better off smoking a pack of asbestos cigarettes than breathing that shit.


or the 4-second lag time for Internet traffic to route down to Earth and back before you get your search results., or the efforts of Jazz's bartender friend to successfully reconstitute whiskey.

 

I feel like I could keep going (I've only used half of my notes at this point), but my point's been made, why belabor it? This SF/Thriller/Heist with a lot of heart and a lot of laughs is not just a great follow-up to The Martian, but a great read period. One of my favorites of the year, and I'm already looking forward to rereading it soon.

Review
3 Stars
A handy tool for some DIY pet care
All Hands on Pet!: Your How-To Guide on Home Physical Therapy Methods for Pets - Pt Susan Davis

This is not the book you typically see me talk about -- and when I was approached to give it a read and review, my initial response was to give it a pass. But we adopted an 11 year-old dog this Spring, and I've been thinking a lot about canine health. Which makes me right in the target audience for this book, actually.

 

I sort of have to assume that the medicine and science behind this book is right and/or responsible. Because really, unless the book called for the use of Windex to treat common maladies or something as useless as "mild doses of physic to work on the bowels," there's zero chance I'll be able to suss out the problem. Instead, I can talk about a couple of things: is it useful? Can it be understood by lay readers?

Yes, to both, thankfully.

 

Yes, you have to be a dedicated reader -- focused and concerned -- to get through a little of the language. But what pet owner with an ailing companion isn't focused and concerned? Yes, there was a lot of what Davis talked about that was Greek to me, but if I had a dog/cat/lizard/whatever that had a problem along the lines she was talking about; or had received [technical term X] as a diagnosis, I'd know right where to go. Part of the problem for me at the moment, is my old girl isn't a prime candidate for Canine Hip Dysplasia, so it was hard to connect to those pages -- it's not a book to read cover to cover. It's a resource. But from what I can tell, she gives some pretty decent sounding advice for working with puppies to head off that problem.

 

Not only some pretty decent sounding advice, there's some handy photographs with good diagrams added so you know just what to do. There are plenty of nice anecdotes and illustrations from Davis' casework throughout the book to anchor the instructions. Both of these features cannot be overstressed as valuable.

 

My favorite part comes from Chapter 8, "Embracing the Warrior Mentality at Home," discussing the attitude and approach that pet owners should take when helping their ailing/injured pets. I wish this chapter -- or at least the initial sections of it -- had appeared earlier in the book. I just think it would've flowed a little better. But I'm glad it was there.

Was I able to get something to help my girl? Maybe. I definitely know where to look if it comes to it. I can see this as a valuable tool in the toolbox for every pet owner.

 

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

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/21/all-hands-on-pet-by-susan-e-davis-pt
Review
4.5 Stars
Wherein I have little to say about an
Dead Souls - Ian Rankin
For the best part of an hour, Rebus had been trying to blink away a hangover, which was about as much exercise as he could sustain. He'd planted himself on benches and against walls, wiping his brow even though Edinburgh's early spring was a blood relative of midwinter. His shirt was damp against his back, uncomfortably tight every time he rose to his feet.


This might actually be the high point for Rebus in this novel -- at least as far as the way he feels goes. The bad news is, this is from Chapter 1. Clearly, Jack Morton's influence has clearly ended. Rebus is moments away from doing something he'll regret almost instantly and that will have ramifications on everything he does for the foreseeable future, some of which will likely haunt him for more than that.

 

Which almost seems par for the course, I realize as I type that.

 

Anyway, Dead Souls focuses on crimes against children and what that can do to them -- not just at the moment they're victimized, but years later. There are also unintended (and fully intended consequences of crimes against adults throughout the book -- Rebus' own hands aren't entirely clean here. Rebus' actions in the opening pages cast enough of a shadow on him that his very brief involvement on another case is used by the defense to cast a shadow on the police's investigation. He's also tasked to investigate the apparent suicide of a police detective, informally, anyway. His main task is to work with Siobhan Clarke and a rookie to be a very obvious police presence to a convicted multiple-murderer, recently released and deported from the US back to Scotland. They really can't do anything other than be visible for a few days until money runs out on the operation, but no one who knows this killer has any doubt that he'll strike again, and the police are trying to discourage that. Unofficially, Rebus makes things uncomfortable for a pedophile in his new home -- an act that will not go well and will spiral out of control -- and he's helping an old girlfriend look for her missing son.

 

Confused? Yeah, sure, I am -- and I wrote that summary. Somehow, Rankin is able to take all that mess and assemble it into a novel that actually makes sense -- with all of these stories being tied together, not just with over-lapping themes, but in reality in some sort of 6 degrees of separation fashion -- even excluding DI Rebus. It's really very impressive watching how Rankin weaves every strand of story and character in this novel -- it always is, but this web seems more intricate than usual.

 

The other police in this novel interest me -- I won't go down the list, but those who can't see why he cares about something, those who can't understand why he'd do something with so little regard to consequences are on one end -- the other end is filled by people (like Clarke) who know exactly what kind of man he is, and without approving or participating in the less-than-savory aspects his methods, can use him and them for good.

 

...he wondered why it was he was only ever happy on rewind. He thought back to times when he'd been happy, realising that at the time he hadn't felt happy; it was only in retrospect that it dawned on him. Why was that?

 

There's very little light in this novel, there's introspection, there's despair, there's hatred, fear, prejudice, and opportunists taking advantage of all of that. But somehow the book never seems slow or ponderous -- just Rebus chugging along, doing his thing. There's also some strong action -- some we see as it happens, but most we hear about after the fact (years or days alter). If you stop and think about how many criminal seem to "get away" with their crimes (as defined by not being charged/tried), it's not that satisfying. If you think about the book in terms of Rebus (and through him, the reader) understanding what happened and why -- it's satisfying, not really cheerful, but satisfying in that regard.

 

The souls that are dead here have been killed by various means and methods over time -- some realize that's what they are, some haven't a clue -- some come to realize it in these pages (and some try to revitalize themselves). By and large, they're dead souls walking, and seem intent on taking others with them. The question is: is DI Rebus among them?

 

I'm really not sure if I've said anything worthwhile about the book -- it's impressive, immersive and will not let you go -- even days after finishing it. I don't know that this is a bad one to be your first Rebus novel -- you may be willing to cut him more slack for his questionable actions if you've got a history with him than you would be otherwise, however. For me, this is just further proof that Rankin is one of the best and is getting better (or was, at this point in his career anyway)


2017 Library Love Challenge

Review
3.5 Stars
Perfect for fans of Zoe Sharp and/or Taylor Stevens and/or Kick Ass women in Thrillers.
The Freedom Broker (A Thea Paris Novel) - K.J. Howe

Thea Paris is such a cool character -- she's like a combination of Charlie Fox and Vanessa Michael Munroe -- but with a very different load of emotional baggage. When she was a child, her brother was sleeping in her room to help her make it through a hard night when he was kidnapped. She's spent the following decades convinced that the only reason he was kidnapped is that the abductors thought he was Thea. Yes, he eventually made it back safely, but he was (obviously) never the same, and Thea used that to fuel her mission in life. Her father is the tycooniest of American Oil Tycoons, and she could've easily rested on his laurels, or followed in the family business.

 

But no, Thea is in private security, with an emphasis on K&R (Kidnapping and Ransom). She's the one negotiating with kidnappers/their representatives to get a ransom paid and the victim returned to his home/family/nation/company. When that doesn't work, Thea will lead the extraction team doing what they can to bring te victim home. She's one of the best around. She is not perfect, and we see that right off, but she gets the job done well.

 

Which is good, because on the verge of one of the biggest deals of his life, Thea's father, Christos, is kidnapped. It's up to her, some allies and friends to bring him home. There are several candidates for the kidnapper's identity -- there's the Chinese oil corporations competing with her father, there are representatives of the African nation that kidnapped her brother all those years ago, there's an arms dealer that has rumors flying, too. In the midst of this hunt, secrets will be revealed (many Thea will regret learning), and virtually everyone in her life will end up divulging something dark and hidden.

 

One more thing about Thea -- she's diabetic. Which is an interesting character trait -- I can't think of another action hero with something like that: a real physical condition that requires maintenance, but is manageable and will not ordinarily cause anything more than inconvenience. Sure, it does give us what I'm calling Chekhov's glucose monitor (not a spoiler, that's what I put in my notes when it was first mentioned).

 

I liked the other characters, too -- but it's hard to talk about most of them without getting too heavily into the plot. So let's just say there are a few people I'm really looking forward to seeing again, and a few that I enjoyed enough this time out, but am very glad they're in no position to show up again. Just about everyone has a believable motivation -- no matter what side of the law and/or morality they fall on -- which is just great.

 

Howe's prose is tight and the pacing is great. There's a few times that Thea has the same thought over and over -- which is probably realistic, but it seems repetitive (and possibly not trusting the reader enough) to read her conclude "X may have done Y" in a chapter, and then "Y may have been done by X" in the next. But it's nothing to get too worked up over, I didn't think. Howe does seem to have a "everything including the kitchen sink" approach to story telling -- the number of things that go wrong during Thea's search for her father, and the number of opponents and obstacles in her way is seemingly endless. I love it, every time you think she's on a roll and things are going to start going her way, a problem that the reader should've seen coming (but almost never does) shows up to derail things again. Sure, eventually, that comes to an end -- the book doesn't go on forever -- but not until Howe's good and ready for it to end. She's probably getting a new kitchen constructed to hurl at Thea in the next book.

 

There's a great mix of action and intrigue, putting clues together and smacking heads, emotional growth and uncovering the past. Like it's protagonist, The Freedom Broker isn't perfect, but it gets the job done well. Sign me up for the upcoming sequel, too.



2017 Library Love Challenge

 

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/15/the-freedom-broker-by-k-j-howe
Review
4 Stars
A wonderful book about one of the best TV shows ever made.
Breaking Bad 101: The Complete Critical Companion  - Alan Sepinwall

So, I'm pretty sure I don't need to explain what Breaking Bad is, do I? One of the greatest TV dramas of all time, Mr. Chips turns into Scarface, et cetera, et cetera. This book is a collection of brief essays about each episode, a critical companion, fan resource, and all around handy book.

 

Most of these chapters started out as episode recaps on Alan Sepinwall's blog generally posted a day or two after the original airing -- a couple were written just for this book because he didn't recap each episode in season 1 and a later episode deserved a better recap (for reasons Sepinwall explains) -- although the original version is included as well. He does take out some of he speculation and whatnot from the original posts to provide a nice, clean look at each episode. It's more than just an episode recap, he looks at the arcs, the acting, writing, cinematography; in just a few pages he gets to the heart of the episode and helps you see all things that Gilligan et. al. were doing. The real gems are the footnotes and sidebar pieces that dive in a little further to the nitty-gritty details -- why was this decision made, where'd actor X come from, and so on. Seriously, fantastic footnotes.

 

This is a quick and wonderful read if you do it start to finish -- or you can just thumb through, stopping at random points to read up on an episode. The book works both ways. I imagine the best way to read it is with a remote in one hand, a DVD/Blu-Ray disc in your player and the book in the other hand. Watch an episode, read the chapter -- skipping around in the episode to re-examine shots/sequences, etc. I haven't done that, but man, I'm tempted to.

 

A few other things worthy of note: Damon Lindelof wrote a very amusing foreword; Max Dalton provided 12 black and white illustrations that are just perfect; the dust-jacket design is great; but more than that, the actual cover is even better; and lastly, the whole book is so well-designed and pleasing to the eye, it's nice just to look at without reading. I don't mention those kind of things enough, and need to get better about it.

 

Now, I've been a fan of Sepinwall's recaps/writing since the days he posted about NYPD Blue on Usenet. I also read all these posts from Season 2 on within a few hours of their original posting (I didn't start watching until after the season 1 finale -- so I read all of those in a couple of days, still pretty fresh). So I was pretty predisposed to enjoy this book, but I'm pretty sure I would have anyway.

 

Sepinwall is a fan of Breaking Bad, most of the stories, most of the performances, etc. But he's a thoughtful fan, not a mindless one -- he is critical of some things, this isn't just someone being a fanboy. I heartily encourage fans of the show to pick this up -- or people who've been meaning to watch it, but haven't (this book would be a much better companion than your friends who will be patronizing about you finally getting around to watching it).

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/16/breaking-bad-101-by-alan-sepinwall
Review
4 Stars
A rousing adventure through history
Paradox Bound: A Novel - Peter Clines

Sanders is a typical American small-town, so typical, I felt like I grew up there. Thankfully, unlike Sanders, the place I grew up in has moved on, Sanders has not. There's still a Video Rental Store there, for crying out loud. Those who work with computers, or want to have much of an idea about contemporary pop culture, have to move away -- or at least commute.

 

Eli Teague is just such a person -- but before he commutes to his IT job from his apartment above the Video Rental Store, he grows up in a pretty typical way. With one exception: twice while growing up, he encounters a young woman dressed incredibly oddly while working on an old Ford Model A, which seems to be fueled by water. They spend a little time conversing each time -- typically leaving Eli more confused than he'd have thought possible -- then she drives off and disappears. This instills in him an obsession with historic cars, that spills over into American History in general.

 

As an adult, he encounters her again and inadvertently puts her in danger. He abandons everything he knows in an effort to save her from this and ends up joining her on a hunt through history. Harry (this mysterious woman) travels through history -- she's not a time traveler, she'll be quick to point out, she travels in history. She's not crazy about bringing Eli along with her, but literally has almost no choice in the matter.

 

Harry . . . she's a great character, and I would've appreciated a lot more focus on her, and getting to see much more of her past. Maybe not getting to actually helps, because it makes the reader more curious about her -- but I'd still have rather had a better look at her life before Eli became a regular part of it. She's tough, loyal, cunning -- but no superhero, just a strong person.

 

Short of spoiling the whole thing, this is one of those I have to be very vague about the details, but then why should you read it? I'll leave it to you to read the book to get more about the hunt they're on, but I'll just say that it's a great idea, a wonderful concept. The other hunters (and allies) we meet are interesting, but man, I'd love more of all of them -- there's some great historical cameos, too. Naturally, we need an opposing force to make things more tense -- and we have one of the creepiest around in these pages. They're not evil, not corrupt, not anything but driven (and with a skewed way of looking at things).

 

There's a nostalgic, hopeful tone throughout -- despite the sharp critique of the stats quo in America. There's an evident wit behind the words, too, but this isn't what you'd call a funny novel. I do think that Clines and I would differ a bit on some of the ways he interprets parts of the national character/psyche, but I can appreciate what he was going for (that's one of those things that'll make more sense after you read the book). The characters -- whether we like them or not -- are very human, very relatable, and pretty sympathetic. Clines has again taken some tropes, concepts, ideas that we're familiar with -- some we know very well, but skewing them just a hair and resulting in something we haven't sen before.

 

I expected this to be a pretty good read after The Fold a couple of years ago, but I wasn't expecting something as fresh feeling as this (but with the skill of someone who's written a few novels). There's a dash of civics lessons, some cultural commentary, and a lot of hope -- things you don't always get in light(ish) SF. I "bought into" this book much more quickly than I did The Fold, I'm not sure if that's because Clines earned my trust in the previous book, or if there's something more accessible about this one -- either way, it's something for the "Plus" column.

 

Give this one a whirl -- you'll be glad you did.

 

2017 Library Love Challenge

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/17/paradox-bound-by-peter-clines
Saturday Miscellany - 11/18/17

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

    A couple of Book-ish Related Podcast Episodes you might want to give a listen:
  • Hank Garner's The Author Stories Podcast had two strong episodes this week: Episode 260: Andy Weir was great -- he talked about a novel he had to shelve, his one problem with The Martian movie, and the genesis of Artemis.
  • Episode 262: Janet Evanovich -- I've actually never read/heard an Evanovich interview before (that I recall, anyway). This was great to hear.

    This Week's New Releases I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon:
  • Artemis by Andy Weir -- Can Weir follow The Martian with anything but a let down? I finished this last night, and my answer is YES! Also: Phew!! Basically, it's a heist novel set in the first city on the Moon. And it's great.
  • Deep Blue Trouble by Steph Broadribb -- Lori Anderson, the wonderful single-mom/bounty hunter from Deep Down Dead (and possibly my favorite new character this year) is back for more. I'm pretty sure I knew this was coming out this week, but I'd forgotten it, so seeing it show up on my Kindle really screwed up my reading schedule for the rest of the month. How much do I care? Not one whit.
  • Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant -- None of Seanan McGuire's alter ego's books have appealed to me yet (beyond being written by one of the best around). This one just might get me to give Grant a shot. For those more open to the horror or SF-Horror type of read, you should probably consider this one.

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and welcome to theartdive and M.L.S.Weech for following the blog this week.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/18/saturday-miscellany-11-18-17
Review
3 Stars
A fun horror adventure tale
Meddling Kids: A Novel - Edgar Cantero

This post is about the audiobook edition of this book which I'm too lazy to add.

 

Going to be brief here, this is one of those books that's all about the concept, if it's up your alley, you'll like the book.

 

The Blyton Summer Detective Club was a group of kids who met up on school breaks in a small Oregon town from their various homes/schools who solved mysteries à la the Hardy Boys, Three Investigators, Nancy Drew and most importantly, Scooby and the gang. Time after time, they'd uncover the solution to a mystery plaguing the community -- usually resulting in finding a man in a rubber suit, explaining everything. Meddling Kids asks the question: what if the solution to the mystery wasn't (just) a man in a rubber suit? What if the kids stumbled on to something actually mystical, real monsters, etc.?

 

Following their last case, the gang's lives went in separate ways -- mostly downhill. Incarceration, mental health treatment, academic struggles, addiction, and so on. Finally, more than a decade later, the Detective Club reunites to return to the scene of their last triumph to see just what they missed (or suppressed).

 

Cantero's execution of this premise was spot-on, early on he left the satirical component/pop culture commentary behind (pretty much), and just told the story, using that as a foundation. Really not much more to say then that.

 

Kyla Garcia's narration was pretty good. A time or two I had a little trouble following it, but I think that's reflective of the text -- which doesn't seem like the easiest to translate to this medium (not a slight on Cantero or Garcia's talents there). On the whole, though, she did a fine job bringing this book to life and I'd enjoy hearing another book she narrated.

 

An entertaining celebration of the genre, a rousing adventure, and a pretty creepy story. Pretty much all you could ask for.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/14/meddling-kids-audiobook-by-edgar-cantero-kyla-garcia
Saturday Miscellany - 11/11/17

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

    This Week's New Releases I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon:
  • The Midnight Line by Lee Child -- In the wake of Make Me (which still gives me the heebie jeebies), Reacher goes on a hunt to indulge his curiosity (and we all know he's going to end up doing a lot more)
  • Communication Failure by Joe Zieja -- this funny follow-up to last year's Mechanical Failure will get you laughing at the brink of Interplanetary War. It's great, as I discussed here.
  • Bonfire by Krysten Ritter -- Ritter's first novel is a suspenseful, solid read. Here's what I wrote about it last month.
  • The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt -- another comedic space opera this week -- sounds like a pretty good trend.
  • A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford -- it's a cute premise, and different enough from the typical UF that it looks worth a try.
  • A Burdizzo For A Prince by Mark Rapacz -- J. J.'s a hitman on the run from his former colleagues after he dishes out some justice on the boss' son. Look up the word "Burdizzo" and you'll get an idea why J. J. probably doesn't want anyone to catch him.
  • Heather, the Totality by Matthew Weiner -- It's Matthew Weiner, what else needs to be said?

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/11/saturday-miscellany-11-11-17
Review
4 Stars
IQ in Vegas (baby!) and dealing with ghosts from his past in another dynamite read from Ide
Righteous (An IQ Novel) - Joe Ide

Isaiah Quintabe is back with a couple of dynamite cases. IQ ended with Isaiah stumbling upon the car that killed his brother. So about half of this book is devoted to Isaiah's renewed efforts to find the man who killed his brother. He quickly concludes that Marcus was not killed in an accident, as he'd believed and the police had included. Rather, it's pretty clear to him that Marcus was targeted by the driver. So now, Isaiah starts digging -- he finds more suspects than he'd prefer, and he starts to have some questions about Marcus's lifestyle/livelihood.

 

That story alternates with an actual paying case -- Marcus' girlfriend (and the object of Isaiah's teenaged affections) comes calling for Isaiah's help. Her little sister, a gambling addict, and her equally addicted boyfriend are in trouble -- they've got a Loan Shark gunning for them, and have resorted to some freakishly stupid lengths to get the money they need to get him off their case. These lengths have made them the target of some of the nastiest, deadliest, coldest criminals you've ever read. So, Isaiah and Dodson head to Vegas to help them. Dodson is fairly assertive here, not wanting to be relegated to sidekick and PR status, but to been seen as an equal to Isaiah -- more of an Elementary's Joan Watson than Doyle's John, without the student-vibe (or Dr. Eric Foreman to Dr. House . . . ugh, there are just too many versions of Holmes to walk an unbeaten path). Which is not to suggest that Ide's blossoming partnership here is just a retread or a rehash, Dodson just reminds me of Joan a little. There's a dynamic between these two that you don't often see in detective duos, outside of police shows where two are forced to work together -- a mix of partnership, antagonism, respect, and rivalry.

 

So why does Isaiah bring him along? Because he's growing as a person, realizing that he needs social connections, other people in his life -- he has a new dog, but that's not enough. There's even a longing for something like Dodson's new family. His work, his trying to make something out of the wreck his life became after Marcus' death -- that's not enough (nor is it finished) -- he wants people around, and Dodson's the first step.

 

There's a couple of criminals wandering around Vegas making life horrible for several people that I'd love to see again -- [spoiler] we won't, and they got what they deserved -- but man, I enjoyed them so much. All the "bad guys" (and, wow, were there a lot of them) were much more than your typical mystery novel baddies (even really well-written ones!). They were fully fleshed-out, individuals, with believable (and contradictory) self-interests and motivations.

 

As compelling as the baddies are, Isaiah is better. And in this book (like IQ) we see one of the ways that Ide is superior to Arthur Conan Doyle. In A Study in Scarlet, we see Holmes as the successful version of himself -- on the verge of being a legend, really. Like Athena fully formed, emerging from Zeus' skull. But IQ is still learning, still fallible -- yes, he's achieved a large measure of success and notoriety, but he's still making mistakes. He's good, but he needs more discipline, more patience, less ego, etc. In Righteous, as in IQ, we get the equivalent of Miller's Batman: Year One and Barr's Batman: Year Two. He'll get to the point where his mistakes are more rare and less obvious, no doubt -- but he's not there yet. Combining this aspect of the character and the nascent social life and you've got a lot of fodder for character growth.

 

I've recently started reading (for those who don't read every post) the John Rebus books, plugging my way through the 30 years of history of the character. I've received various encouragements from long-time Rebus readers to stick with it, the best is yet to come (not that I was in any danger of dropping it), and that I was reading something special. I can easily see myself giving similar encouragement to someone just starting these books in a decade or so. Isaiah is one of those characters that I can see myself reading for years to come. Between Isaiah and Dodson as characters, and Ide's style and skill -- this series is one to read.



2017 Library Love Challenge

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/10/righteous-by-joe-ide
Review
3 Stars
An atmospheric, visceral read that'll leave you demanding more.
The Rat Tunnels of Isfahan: Scorpions and Silk – Book One (Volume 1) - Alejandro de Gutierre
I wasn't crazy. Not like most of the tortured souls I shared the prison with. Some wandered, muttering and bumping into walls. Some sat unmoving for hours, staring into a darkness even the desert sun couldn't penetrate, their eyes seeing but not seeing, ears hearing but not listening. And a sad few would break; they would weep, and rock, and cry out. These were the broken: shuffling from place to place, barely eating, barely drinking, numbly watching the flesh drip from their bones, oblivious to the blood slowing in their veins.


We know very little about the central (practically only) character in this novella -- he's a prisoner, somewhere in Persia, sometime long ago. That's about all that we know -- for that matter, that's about all he knows. His imprisonment has left him so psychologically shattered that he can't remember anything about himself. He has children somewhere, he thinks.

 

We see him struggle to survive, struggle to get free, struggle to convince himself that he's not crazy, and return to/rebuild his life. I don't know much about him, but I like him, and I want to see the best for him.

 

I don't think it's possible for the word "visceral" to show up more in my notes for a 75-page novella than it did here. You feel this story as much as you read it -- the almost-alien creepiness of a scorpion, the isolation, the fear, the rat chewing on a toe -- all of it, de Gutierre puts you right in the mind of his amnesiac (his having no name helps there).

 

Until this story spools out a bit more -- maybe volume 2, maybe until the end -- I'm not sure what I think of the story, plot or characters. I can tell you that I want to know these characters better, I want to find out what happens to them, but that's as far as I can say on that front. So, I'm left with de Guiterre's writing -- which is just what this story needs. He knows what he's doing, and has got me hooked, even if I don't have a clue about what he's doing. This atmospheric, visceral read will leave you demanding more, soon.

 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novella from the author in exchange for my honest opinion -- and I'm glad he gave it to me, because I wouldn't have heard of it otherwise.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/10/the-rat-tunnels-of-isfahan-by-alejandro-de-gutierre/I wasn't crazy. Not like most of the tortured souls I shared the prison with. Some wandered, muttering and bumping into walls. Some sat unmoving for hours, stari
Review
3.5 Stars
The most unusual steampunk I've read
Bodacious Creed, A Steampunk Zombie Western (The Adventures of Bodacious Creed) (Volume 1) - Jonathan Fesmire

This is a strange, fun genre hodgepodge of a book. When Fesmire approached me about reading this book, I figured it'd be something like Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century, just set further south. A good mix of steampunk tech and an Old West setting, maybe with a Zombie wandering around as a vague threat, 300 pages later and we'll be done. Wow. I couldn't have been more wrong.

 

U. S. Marshall James "Bodacious" Creed is a one-man crime-fighting machine (figuratively speaking) -- he comes to Santa Cruz in search of Corwin Blake, a notorious killer. While searching for Blake he sees plenty of evidence that there's a greater criminal enterprise running through town, but he only has eyes for Blake. Not long after this, Blake guns Creed down. Creed awakens a couple of weeks later, stronger, unsure of what's going on, but with the same drive to protect the citizenry of Santa Cruz and to put Blake behind bars or six-feet under. Creed's appearance has been altered and his appearance alone makes criminals and non-criminals fearful (like the Gotham Knight will in a few decades). He becomes a one-man crackdown on crime.

 

How did Creed wake up? Well, that would be the purview of Anna Lynn Boyd -- owner of a bordello and restaurant. She's also a scientific genius on par with Tony Stark, her improvements to technology have propelled the California tech industry to unrivaled heights (including robotics of a steampunk sort). She's been experimenting with some medical technologies and the murder of a hero like Creed provides just the opportunity she needs to test her breakthroughs.

 

You take that setup, add in a love interest for both of them, some loyal friends (old and new), some less-than loyal friends, a crime syndicate (before crime syndicates were cool), questionably capable law enforcement officials, and a rival scientist -- and you've got yourself a heckuva read. It's exciting, fun, pretty well paced with some very clever turns of phrase (the occasional bit of clunkieness and awkward phrases are easily forgivable).

 

The Steampunk and Western genres blend nicely -- as seen in Dawn's Early Light by Ballantine and Morris, and suggested in a Priest book or two. The time frames for both overlap -- it's just that Westerns are typically dustier than Victorian dramas. I spent a good deal of this novel doubting the "Zombie" tag -- sure, you've got Creed walking around, but that was more of a Frankenstein's Monster kind of thing. Although, there was a reference or two to something strange in New Orleans. -- but at a certain point, the tag became fitting and appropriate, and despite my aversion to Zombies, I really liked what Fesmire had to say about them. His is an interesting take that should prove more interesting in future installments.

 

Beyond what I suggested at the beginning, I really didn't know what to expect from this book -- but whatever it was, I was wrong and pleasantly surprised to be so. This is one of those books that will not change or life or the way you look at anything, but you will surely enjoy reading it. Which is exactly what I needed when I read it, I encourage you to do the same.

 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion. Honest, not timely, this is 2-3 weeks late -- sorry about that, Mr. Fesmire.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/08/bodacious-creed-by-jonathan-fesmire
Review
4 Stars
Surpasses it's predecessor and sets up a killer (and hilarious) conclusion
Communication Failure (Epic Failure Trilogy) - Joe Zieja

So, Captain Rogers has escaped with his life after saving the 331st Meridian Fleet from a takeover from almost all the droids on board, now he's been made acting admiral and is faced with a potentially bigger threat: the Thelicosan fleet -- the very fleet that Rogers' ships are to keep on their side of the border -- has informed him that they are about to invade. Given the size of the fleets facing off, this is an invasion that will not go well for the 331st.

 

So how is this would-be con-man, former engineer, and current CO going to survive this? He hasn't the foggiest idea.

 

Clearly, for those who read Mechanical Failure (and those who haven't have made a mistake that they need to rectify soon), whatever solution he comes up with is going to rely heavily on Deet and the Space Marines (the Viking/Captain Alsinbury and Sergeant Malin in particular) will be heavily involved. Malin has taken it upon herself to help Rogers learn some self-defense (even if that's primarily various ways to duck), the Viking is questioning every decision her new CO is making, and Deet is continuing his exploration into human behavior/consciousness (he's exploring philosophy and spirituality at the moment -- which is pretty distracting). Basically, if Rogers is looking for a lot of support from them, he's going to be disappointed.

 

It turns out that the Thelicosans didn't intend to send that message at all, what they were supposed to communicate was very different, actually. But before Rogers and his counterpart can find a way to de-escalate the situation, shots are fired, milk is spilled, and events start to spiral out of control. Which isn't to say that everyone is doomed and that war is inevitable, it's just going to take some work to keep it from happening. There are forces, groups, entities -- whatever you want to call them -- hawkish individuals who are working behind the scenes to keep these cultures at odds with each other, hopefully spilling over into something catastrophic. Which is something too many of us are familiar with, I fear -- and something that someone with Zieja's military background is likely more familiar with. The Thelicosans and Meridians discover who these people are -- and how they are attempting to manipulate the fleets -- and the big question is how successful they'll be.

 

We focus on three Thelicosans, but spend almost as much time on their flagship (The Limiter) as we do the Meridian flagship (Flagship). Grand Marshall Alandra Keffoule is the commander of the border fleet -- at one time, she was a star in the special forces, and now she's been assigned to the border fleet as a last chance. She fully intends on taking full advantage of this opportunity to make history and restore herself to her position of prominence in the military. Her deputy, Commodore Zergan, has fought alongside her since the special forces days and is now trying to help her rebuild her reputation. Secretary Vilia Quinn is the liaison between the Thelicosan government and the fleet. Quinn's development through the book is a lot of fun to watch -- and is probably a bigger surprise to her than it is to the reader, which just makes it better. Thelicosan culture is saturated in science and math, and is full of rituals that are incredibly binding and incredibly difficult for outsiders to understand. In many ways, the culture is hard to swallow -- how a society develops along those lines seems impossible. But if you just accept that this is the way their society functions, it ends up working and stays consistent (and entertaining).

 

Lieutenant Lieutenant Nolan "Flash" "Chillster" "Snake" "Blade" Fisk, the best pilot the 331st has is a great addition to the cast -- yeah, he's probably the most cartoonish, least grounded, character in Rogers' fleet -- but man, he's a lot of fun (and I think it's pretty clear that Zieja enjoys writing him). think Ace Rimmer (what a guy!), but dumber. Mechanical Failure's most cartoonish character, Tunger, is back -- the would-be spy/should-be zookeeper finds himself in the thick of things and is well-used (as a character) and is well-suited to his activities. Basically, I put up with him in the last book, and enjoyed him here. I'd like to talk more about Deet and the other characters here -- I've barely said anything about Rogers (he develops in some ways no one would've expected) -- but I can't without ruining anything, so let's just say that everyone you enjoyed in the previous installment you'll continue to enjoy for the same reasons.

 

Mechanical Failure didn't feature a lot of world-building outside life on the ship. Zieja takes care of that this time -- we get a look at the political situation between the various governments, and the history behind the four powers. Which isn't to say that we're drowning in details like George R. R. Martin would give us, it's still breezy and fast-paced. Still, there's a handle you can grab on to, some context for the kind of madness that Rogers finds himself in the middle of.

 

One of my personal criteria for judging books that are heavy on the humor in the midst of the SF or mystery or fantasy story is judging what the book would be like without the jokes. The Hitchhiker's Trilogy, for example, would fall apart in seconds (and few rival me for their devotion to that series). Magic 2.0 would hold up pretty well, on the other hand. The Epic Failure series would be another one that would hold up without the jokes. I'm not saying it'd be a masterpiece of SF, but the story would flow, there'd be enough intrigue and action to keep readers turning pages. However, you leave the humor, the jokes and the general whackiness in the books and they're elevated to must-reads.

 

There are too many puns (technically, more than 1 qualifies for that), there's a series of jokes about the space version of The Art of War that you'd think would get old very quickly, but doesn't -- at all; and Rogers has a couple of bridge officers that make the pilot Flash seem subtle. Somehow, Zieja makes all this excess work -- I thought the humor worked wonderfully here, and I think it'll hold up under repeated readings.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can't wait to see where Zieja takes us next.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book ARC from the author, and I can't thank him enough for it, but my opinion is my own and wasn't really influenced by that act (other than giving me something to have an opinion about).

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/07/communication-failure-by-joe-zieja
Saturday Miscellany - 11/4/17

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

    This Week's New Releases I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon:
  • Siege Line by Myke Cole -- you may have surmised from the above, that Cole's new book is out. This is the third in the prequel Reawakening trilogy, and should be a blast.
  • Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly -- Bosch is back, with a new case and a blast from the past.

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

 

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/04/saturday-miscellany-11417-2
Review
4 Stars
Oberon & Co. Solve a Tricky Doppelganger Murder
Oberon's Meaty Mysteries: The Squirrel on the Train - Kevin Hearne

Can the magic of The Purloined Poodle be recaptured? Yes -- maybe even topped. For many, that should be all I need to write. If that's the case, you're fine -- go ahead and close this, no need to finish this.

 

If you're still here, I'll write a little more -- While on a trip to Portland to go sight-seeing, er, sight-smelling, Oberon, Orlaith and Starbuck get away from Atticus (er, I mean, Connor Molloy) while chasing after a suspicious-looking squirrel. That's a tautology, I realize, if you ask the hounds, but this was a <i>really sketchy</i>-looking squirrel. Anyway, this brought the group into the path of Detective Ibarra. She happens to be at the train station investigating the odd murder of a man who looks just like Atticus.

 

Naturally, that gets him interested and investigating things as best as he can. Thanks in no small part to the noses of the hounds, Atticus and an old friend are able to uncover what's going on to help Atticus' new friend make an arrest.

 

It's a whole story in Oberon's voice, I don't know what else I can say about the writing/voice/feel of the book. That says pretty much everything. From Oberon's opening comparison of the diabolical natures of Squirrels vs. Clowns to Orlaith's judgment that "death by physics" "sounds like justice" to the harrowing adventure at the end of the novella, this is a fine adventure for "the Hounds of the Willamette and their pet Druid!"

 

There's a nice tie-in to some of the darker developments in the Iron Druid Chronicles -- that won't matter at all if you haven't read that far, or if you can't remember the connection. This was a good sequel that called back to the previous book, and told the same kind of story in a similar way -- but didn't just repeat things. Just like a sequel's supposed to be, for another tautology. I smiled pretty much the whole time I read it (as far as I could tell, it's not like I filmed myself). I don't know if we get a third in this series given the end of the IDC next year. If we do, I'll be happy -- if not, this is a great duology.

 

<i><b>Disclaimer:</b> I received this eARC from Subterranean Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this.</i>

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/03/the-squirrel-on-the-train-by-kevin-hearne