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.

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

It's hard with work right now, but given COVID-19, Sheltering at Home—and a (no kidding!) Earthquake in Idaho (of all places)—man, I need books to escape to and lose myself in. So I'm pretty glad that despite everything going on in the world and my life, I somehow managed to finish one more book than last month—18—with 4903+ pages (one was an Audible Original, so I have no idea what the page count would be) with an average rating of 3.94. Not too shabby, eh?


So, anyway, here's what happened here in March.

Books Read

False Value The In Between Avenge the Dead
5 Stars 4 1/2 Stars 3 Stars
The Starr Sting Scale Everyday Prayer with John Calvin Dead Wrong
3.5 Stars 3 Stars 4 1/2 Stars
The K Team Joker The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
3.5 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars
The Awful Truth About the Sushing Prize The Immortal Conquistador Back to Reality
3.5 Stars 3.5 Stars 4 Stars
Smoke Bitten The Identity and Attributes of God With All Your Heart
4 Stars 5 Stars 4 Stars
Paradise Valley Mortal Stakes Funny, You Don't Look Autistic
3.5 Stars 5 Stars 3.5 Stars

Still Reading

Tom Jones Original Cover Institutes of Christian Religion vol 1 A Bad Day for Sunshine


5 Stars 3 2 1/2 Stars 0
4 1/2 Stars 2 2 Stars 0
4 Stars 5 1 1/2 Stars 0
3.5 Stars 6 1 Star 0
3 Stars 2    
    Average = 3.94

TBR Pile
Mt TBR Mar 20

"Traditionally" Published: 12
Self-/Independent Published: 6

Genre This Month Year to Date
Children’s 0 (0%) 1 (2%)
Fantasy 0 (0%) 7 (13%)
General Fiction/ Literature 0 (0%) 3 (6%)
Horror 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Humor 0 (0%) 1 (2%)
Mystery/ Suspense/ Thriller 9 (50%) 20 (37%)
Non-Fiction 1 (6%) 3 (6%)
Science Fiction 2 (11%) 5 (9%)
Steampunk 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Theology/ Christian Living 3 (17%) 4 (7%)
Urban Fantasy 3 (17%) 11 (20%)

Review-ish Things Posted


  • House on Fire by Joseph Finder: Out for Vengeance, Heller Takes on a Pharmaceutical Giant


  • Venators: Magic Unleashed (Audiobook) by Devri Walls, Daniel Thomas May: This Introduction to a Fantasy Series Continues to Entertain on my Third Time Through



  • Avenge the Dead by Jackie Baldwin: Past Mistakes and Crimes Come Back to Haunt Dumfries




  • The Starr Sting Scale by C.S. O’Cinneide: Gritty, Violent, Full of Heart. You’re gonna dig this one!


  • False Value by Ben Aaronovitch: Peter Grant Gets a New Job and a Great Series Gets Better


  • Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten: A Detective Struggles to Prove She Made the Right Arrest with Lives on the Line


  • The In Between (Audiobook) by Michael Landweber, Brittany Pressley (Narrator), Mark Boyett (Narrator): When the Unthinkable Happens, What’s a Parent to Do?


  • The K Team by David Rosenfelt: A New PI Trio Takes a Bite Out of Crime


  • Joker by Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo (Illustrator): One night in Gotham and the tough guys tumble





  • Back to Reality: A Novel (Audiobook) by Mark Stay & Mark Oliver, Kim Bretton: A Parallel Universe/Body Swap Story Story Full of Laughs and Heart





Other Things I Wroteotherwriting
Other than the Saturday Miscellanies (7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th ), I also wrote:








How was your month?


Dryad Teas Inspired by the Dresden Files

And Now for Something Completely Different


This is not what I typically post about, but it sort of fits.


I'm not a big tea drinker—but I dabble from time to time, and we're in the middle of another attempt to drink more (health benefits, no sugar, etc., etc.—oh, and it tastes good, too). While I'm playing around with this blend and that, someone posts on one of the Dresden Files Fan Facebook pages a link to Dryad Teas' Dresden Files inspired teas (and then someone posts about another company's varieties, too!). I have to be honest, my mind is boggled, how do you come up with tea blends based on fictional characters? Sure, I can see a Picard-branded Earl Gray variety or something that Lady Mary or Count Grantham might drink; but thinking about a character and coming up with a tea blend based on them? I wouldn't know where to start—and I'm freakishly impressed (and incredibly curious about it).


Anyway, I ordered some samples from Dryad's Dresden teas, and thought I'd share a thought or two about them.




Inspired by the amazing 'Dresden Files' book series by Jim Butcher, this blend is a thought provoking mix of peach and apricot with deep undertones of black tea.

I'm not sure that this says, Karrin Murphy to me. It does make me think of her house—left to her by her grandmother, and I don't think she re-decorated it much (I'm ready to be corrected on that front). In the end, it was too fruity for me. It smells great, though, and tastes very pleasant.



Bob the SkullBob the Skull


...this blend is a delicious mix of genmaicha and citrus. Notes of raspberry and lime pair with the depth of the genmaicha to create a light blend with promise, fitting for Bob the Skull.

Another one that I'm not sure about—it's too floral, and too mild for me to drink regularly. I'm also not a big green tea guy. But there's something about this blend of flavor that is very, very pleasant. I would absolutely drink it again (I'm not sure I'd buy it though). I think they drew too much from Bob's love of Romance novels when they came up with the blend. (just a wild guess)







...this blend is inspired by Dresden. Smoky and spicy, the text of "The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault." explains the character perfectly. This tea is no different.

Now this? This was my cup of tea.* Going from that quoted line, it's smokey, dark, deliciousness. I tried to explain the flavor to my wife by saying it's like "a tea made from pipe tobacco, but it tastes good." She told me I shouldn't ever tell anyone that. I tried explaining it to a friend, who is also a Dresden fan, by saying "Imagine the ashes of the building that was on fire (but wasn't his fault), made into a tea, that somehow tastes good." She didn't tell me that I shouldn't repeat that description, but her expression pretty much did.


Basically, I don't know how to describe how things taste--this was strong, smokey, bold, full of flavor. I'd drink this by the gallon.

* Had to be done.


Anyway, check out Dryad Teas. Even if these don't appeal, they have a lot of geeky teas/accessories.


5 Stars
Classic Spenser: God Save the Child by Robert B. Parker
God Save The Child  - Robert B. Parker

Classic Spenser

He hunched the chair forward and wrote a check on the edge of my desk with a translucent ballpoint pen. Bartlett Construction was imprinted in the upper left corner of the check—I was going to be a business expense. Deductible. One keg of 8d nails, 500 feet of 2x4 utility grade, one gumshoe, 100 gallons of creosote stain. I took the check without looking at it and slipped it folded into my shirt pocket, casual, like I got them all the time and it was just something to pass along to my broker. Or maybe I'd buy some orchids with it.

A nice bit of description, a bit of wit and a Nero Wolfe reference. Not a bad start.


I'm not certain, but I think this was the first Spenser novel that I purchased, and I'd read a handful before then (my then local library started with book 3). It was a new copy (an extravagance for me then), and justing by the state it's in, I may have to buy myself a replacement copy after one or two more reads. Actually, it may not survive another whole read (that back cover is holding on by strength of will).


Which is just a long-winded way to say that it's not like I read this with fresh eyes.


Roger (call him "Rog") and Marge Bartlett have come to Spenser for help finding their fourteen-year-old son, Kevin, who has seemingly run away from home with the clothes on his back and his pet guinea pig. He's been gone a week, and the local police haven't been able to do much. Spenser assures them that unlike the police, the only thing he has to focus on his hunting for Kevin—not breaking up fights, ticketing speeders, arresting drunks, etc.—"Also, maybe I'm smarter than they are."


During their initial consultation, we see that the couple is also a bit more focused on other things than Kevin. Marge is sure to work in references to her acting and cooking classes, she's a self-described creative person who has to express it. Rog seems a bit more focused on the bottom line (which he might need to be, since Marge seems to spend money like it's going out of style). By the end of the book, my impression is that Rog is trying to do the right thing for his family, has some real concern over Kevin, but maybe doesn't know how to show it. Marge is too self-involved for my taste and doesn't come across very well (and has some other problems I won't get into). But when the chips are down, both will selflessly and reflexively react to help their son. Their daughter, Kevin's younger sister, is practically ignored throughout and I always feel bad for her. We'll see an echo of this couple (with significant variations) in Promised Land in a couple of months.


The Bartletts live in Smithfield, which a fictionalized version of Lynnfield, MA. There are some pretty good reasons that Parker probably had to change the name in this novel, but as Spenser spends time in almost every novel since in Smithfield, I wonder if he ever regretted it.


Police Chief Trask is this close to being a tough-guy cartoon of a cop. He's far more concerned with making sure that Spenser knows that he's running the show than he is in anything Spenser has to say on their initial meeting (and he doesn't improve much after this). He's done some checking on Spenser and the two banter a bit about Spenser's record. Well, Spenser banters and Trask tries to push him around, anyway.


Before Spenser can do too much on his own to find Kevin, a very strange looking ransom note shows up. Which brings the Massachusetts State Police, in the person of Lt. Healy, into things.

Healy I knew of . He was chief investigator for the Essex County DA"s office. There were at least two first-run racketeers I knew who stayed out of Essex County because they didn't want any truck with him.


Healy said, 'Didn't you used to work for the Suffolk County DA once?"


I said, "Yes."


"Didn't they fire you for hotdogging?"


"I like to call it inner-directed behavior," I said.


"I'll bet you do." Healy said.

Healy is tough, smart and ethical—and has little respect for Trask. He and Spenser work together pretty well, and Healy will appear or be mentioned in another dozen Spenser novels before making regular appearances in the Jesse Stone books.


From this point, things get strange—the ransom note is just the beginning, and a strange kidnapping will evolve into a murder case, a drugs and prostitution ring, and . . . well, more things. As with The Godwulf Manuscript the climactic fight involves two people who have no business engaging in hand-to-hand combat. Unlike last time, Spenser's not sidelined for this fight and gets involved as well—it's one of my favorite fight scenes in the series. Parker shows off his knowledge of and affinity for boxing here. Spenser's motive for engaging in the fight isn't necessarily pure, and I kind of like how honest Parker and Spenser both are about that.


As nice as that scene is, that's not the end of the story—and whatever victory Spenser enjoys, it's empty. Which is a nod to Spenser's noir lineage and something that will show up again and again in the series.


While we're introduced to Spenser in the previous novel, it doesn't feel quite like a Spenser novel. But God Save the Child does. The same flavor, pacing, and approach to the story that are here are in almost every thing that Parker does with the character from this point forward. The character will evolve from novel to novel, but the series really starts here.


Possibly the biggest reason for that is that it's in these pages we meet Susan Silverman. She's the guidance counselor at Smithfield High School and after the Assistant Principal demonstrates that he's useless for giving Spenser any insight into Kevin, she's who Spenser turns to. Spenser's described quite a few women prior to this, but from the first paragraph, Susan's different.

Susan Silverman wasn't beautiful. but there was an intangibility about her a physical reality, that made the secretary with the lime-green bosom seem insubstantial. She had should-length black hair and a thin dark Jewish face with prominent cheekbones. Tall, maybe five seven, with black eyes. It was hard to tell her age, but there was a sense about her of intelligent maturity which put her on my side of thirty...When she shook hands with me, I felt something click down the back of my solar plexus.


I said hello without stammering and sat down.

Parker's not quite as blatant about it as Henry Fielding is about Sophie (for those who've been reading my Fridays with the Foundling series), but he's fairly obvious in the way he portrays Susan in this scene (not to mention the several that follow) that she's different. Exceptional. She ends up being the love of Spenser's life and shows up in every book hereafter. But for now, they're just meeting, but there's a spark between the two of them and Spenser soon asks her to dinner.


I had just finished washing my hands and face when the doorbell rang. Everything was ready. Ah, Spenser, what a touch. Everything was just right except that I couldn't seem to find a missing child. Well, nobody's perfect. I pushed the release button and opened my apartment door. I was wrong. Susan Silverman was perfect.


It took nearly forty years of savior faire to keep from saying "Golly."...


"Come in," I said. Very smooth. I didn't scuff my foot; I didn't mumble. I stood right up straight when I said it. I don't think I blushed.

During their date, Susan makes the following observation about Spenser,


So, sticking your nose into things and getting it broken allows you to live life on your own terms, perhaps.

Spenser is impressed with this insight—and it's a recurring theme for the two of them to talk about for the next few decades—with each other or when Susan tries to explain Spenser to others. The choices he's made in his life—relational, vocational, lifestyle, what have you—are all about living life on his own terms. There's a lot to be commended in this approach, and some problems (in two books we meet a more extreme version of someone living this way...but that's for another day). Another frequent thing that comes up in their conversations appeared for the first time when they met.

"Why do you want to know?" [Susan asks]


"Because it's there. Because it's better to know than not to know in my line of work."

If I had a quarter for every time the two of them said this (sometimes he does the set up), I'd be able to buy my replacement copy of this book.


It's not just because they say the same things in almost every book (wow, it sounds dull when I put it that way—it's not, at least not for several years), it's the effect that Susan has on Spenser that changes the series. It made Spenser stand out from the rest of the genre's tough guys. I could go on and on about Susan or Susan-and-Spenser, but I'll hold off on it for now.


As chapter two begins, we're treated to four long paragraphs (about two pages in my edition) describing the route between Boston and Smithfield, with commentary from Spenser on the scenery, traffic, businesses, etc. that he comes across. This is something that Parker excels at—and doesn't do nearly often enough (but at least once a book). I've never been in that part of the world, I defiantly can't go to the version of that area that existed in 1974—but I walk away from this description feeling like I know the area.


As far as recurring characters go (other than Healy and Susan), Frank Belson makes a quick appearance, and we meet Henry Cimoli—who runs the Harbor Health Club, Spenser's gym. Henry's importance will ebb and flow (as will the frequency of appearances) over the rest of the series, but he's a constant enough presence that it's good to meet him for the first time here.


There's a lot more that could be mined from these pages, but this has gotten too long. I may pick up a strand or two in the future, but we'll see. God Save the Child seems to be a story about a runaway (or a kidnapping?), but really it's about a young man struggling to understand his place in the world, parents who aren't sure how to parent, and a detective starting to change his place in the world. There's a lot of wit, some good social commentary, some decent detecting, and a great fight scene—all expertly and (seemingly) effortlessly written. That's a reductionistic way to look at it, but that's a Spenser novel in a nutshell. I loved revisiting it, and can't wait to get to the next book.


Saturday Miscellany—3/28/20

I wanted to start with that,, that's exactly where I am. (although I know not all of us book nerds can do that, I'm so sorry for them that their typical escape isn't working--hope that passes than the crisis does).

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 8 Ways To Support Your Local Bookstore While Quarantining—3rd straight week that I've started with something like this, but at least this week it's from a different source (and I'm not planning on stopping this streak...)
          bullet When Libraries Close, It Feels Like the End of the World
          bullet Digital Library Cards—My local library has started this, which is a great idea. Have yours been doing something similar? Or equally helpful?
          bullet How to Catalog Your Book Collection—I know at least one person who's taken the opportunity of sheltering to tackle this project.
          bullet Quarantine Book Club: It's been impossible for me to read lately. Then I got in the bathtub
          bullet The Guardian has some handy posts this week: Tackle that to-be-read pile: the books to try if you're self-isolating: From Nora Ephron to Thomas Mann, here are 12 books to entertain, challenge and inspire if you’re confined at home due to Covid-19; Got 150 hours? Great audiobooks to listen to on lockdown; and Let's move to Mars: the best books about our future in space (for those ready to get off this crazy planet)
          bullet As does Read it Forward: 9 Books to Escape Into While You’re Stuck at Home: As you're practicing social distancing, we've got your quarantine reading list right here.
          bullet Reading YA Books May Increase Empathy and Integrity—I've read (and linked to) this claim for reading in general before, but this is the first time I've seen it focused on one type of reading.
          bullet Sorry, but “you read too much YA” isn’t an insult
          bullet How Do You Define Genres : SciFi, YA, Fantasy, etc.—Nunc hoc in marmore non est incisum
          bullet 6 books I had to be talked into reading (that I’m so very glad I read).
          bullet Hyped Books I’ll Never Read – Spring Cleaning My TBR
          bullet Congratulations, You’re Moving In With A Reader!—closing things off with a little bit of levity (like anyone's moving in with anyone right now...)

This Week's New Releases that I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon:
          bullet The K Team by David Rosenfelt—the Andy Carptenter series has spun-off a promising new PI series I blogged about it last week.
          bullet The Last Human by Zack Jordan—a space opera about the last member of a species that the rest of the universe decided was too dangerous to be left alone.

Lastly I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to J.R.Spiker, Caffeinated Reviewer (my first non-p0rnbot follow from Bloglovin' in months!!), Odah Ebubechukwu Nelson, ontheshelfbookblog, and Rajesh khanna for following the blog (in one format or another) 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 IV., ix.-xiv.

Fridays with the Foundling
Tom Jones Original Cover

A couple of bonus chapters to catch up...


We start off with Molly's mother and sisters attacking her for being with child—an illegitimate child. Molly points to the hypocrisy of her mother—Molly's oldest sister is 1 week younger than her parent's marriage. Mom is having none of it. Her parents are trying to push her into Service at the Western's, but she refuses and in the end, her mother will take the position. Molly's refusal is because she's convinced that her "Gentleman" will provide for her and the child much better.


The next night, Tom dines with Sophie, Squire Western and the local Parson. The Parson goes on about Molly and her condition, going on about the Bastard she's carrying. Tom leaves the meal in a haste, prompting Squire Western to opine that Tom's the father. This shows Sophie her true feelings about Tom while the Parson regrets the way this will lower Tom in Allworthy's view.


Molly is about to be taken to a house of correction over her pregnancy when Tom claims the child as his own and begs for mercy from Mr. Allworthy. Allworthy relents and sends her home to her parents, lectures Tom and then goes off by himself for an evening of "melancholy Contemplation." He's a man of high morals and is horribly disappointed in Tom's actions—but


whatever Detestation Mr. Allworthy had to this or to any other Vice, he was not so blinded by it but that he could discern any Virtue in the guilty Person, as clearly indeed as if there had been no Mixture of Vice in the same Character. While he was angry therefore with the Incontinence of Jones, he was no less pleased with the Honour and Honesty of his Self-accusation. He began now to form in his Mind the same Opinion of this young Fellow, which, we hope, our Reader may have conceived. And in balancing his Faults with his Perfections, the latter seemed rather to preponderate.

Nevertheless, Square takes this opportunity to twist and spin these events to convince Allworthy that Tom has only been Black George's friend in order to corrupt Molly, and succeeded to stamp "in the Mind of Allworthy the first bad Impression concerning Jones."


Sophie is now battling with herself, resolved not to have anything to do with Tom any more and to stop loving him—she falls for him again and again every time she sees him. So she tries to avoid him, even coming up with a plan to visit her Aunt.


But Fortune, who had other Designs in her Head, put an immediate Stop to any Proceeding, by introducing an Accident, which will be related in the next Chapter.

What brings her to this accident? Well...


Mr. Western grew every Day fonder and fonder of Sophia, insomuch that his beloved Dogs themselves almost gave Place to her in his Affections; but as he could not prevail on himself to abandon these, he contrived very cunningly to enjoy their Company, together with that of his Daughter, by insisting on her riding a hunting with him.

While hunting, her horse got a little whiled and she was almost thrown from it. Tom arrives in the nick of time and catches her before she falls (and is likely trampled). He breaks his arm doing so, but shrugs off the injury.


Sophie stops fighting her feelings for Tom and Tom realizes that he has some for her.

There's a whole lot of words involved in progressing things just a hair—but the best parts of this book isn't so much about the story, but about the way that Fielding is telling it. As such, there's a whole lot to enjoy in this part of the journey. Nothing as enjoyable as in some weeks, nothing as dull as in others—just a lot of pleasantness. Works for me.


4 Stars
A Parallel Universe/Body Swap Story Story Full of Laughs and Heart
Back to Reality - Mark Stay, Mark Oliver, Kim Bretton

Oh, boy... how do I talk about this? I thought about calling this a bundle of joy, but that means something else. A bundle of audio joy, maybe? This was just so much fun that I want to start with that. If you're looking to have a good time, this is a book for you.

If you read the Book Spotlight I just posted, you've got a good idea about the plot (and if you haven't read the Spotlight, why not?). But for the sake of completeness here's the gist: connected by something across the multiple parallel universes, two versions (one 18 and one almost 2 decades older) of one woman swap bodies for a few days. The older version works in PR, is the mother of a teen who can't stand her, with marriage problems. The younger version is a pop star on the verge of breaking through in the '90s. If they don't swap back, there's every sign that they won't survive in this new world. But how can they do that?


That sounds sort of intriguing, I hope. But the book never really feels like that kind of Fringe-inspired take on a Back to the Future/Freaky Friday mashup, because of the voice, the style and approach of Stay and Oliver—which is characterized by humor and heart. It's like early-Rainbow Rowell/Jennifer Weiner/Emily Giffin/Sophie Kinsella. These are strong women in very strange circumstances, surrounded by interesting characters responding to unbelievable situations.


We meet Jo on a night out with people from the office, which turns into an alcohol-fueled karaoke sensation (Jo has a fantastic voice, but a lot of stage fright). I enjoyed this chapter so much that I probably could've written 3-4 paragraphs about it alone and would've read an entire book about this woman's life (especially because what happens to her in the next couple of chapters deserved a complete novel to see her respond to). It took me a little longer to get invested in "Yolo" (the 90's version), but I came around and started rooting for her, too.


I am not the target audience for this (note the authors I mentioned above—some of which I only know through my wife's description). And there were a few times I asked myself why I was listening to this—each time, I decided I was enjoying myself enough that I didn't care if this was my typical read or not. There's just a hint of SF, a dollop of Time Travel (more like jumping between parallel universes), and a healthy amount of "women's commercial fiction." This is a recipe for a wonderful literary dessert.


I'll frequently (maybe too frequently?) talk about an audiobook narrator bringing the text to life. And Kim Bretton does that. But she does more than that—she fills it with life. Dynamic, energetic, vibrant...are just some of the adjectives that spring to mind. I was very happy when I just looked over her other audiobook credits and saw a couple of titles I was already thinking about—if she's doing them, I'm giving them a try. (although, if I never hear her do another American male accent, I'd be more than okay).


Funny, sweet, amusing, heartfelt, laugh-inducing, touching, comic, imaginative—and did I mention humorous? This is 606 minutes of pure entertainment. I really encourage you to put this in your ear-holes. It'd probably work almost as well in print—Bretton's great, but she has to have something to work with—but in audio? It's close to a must-listen.



My thanks to Overview Media for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.


Down the TBR Hole (3 of 24+)

Down the TBR Hole


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?


Here we are with another 10 books to choose the fate of. I'm forcing myself to be ruthless with this project. Mostly. (I really don't want to)


(Click on the cover for an official site or something with more info about the book)

Shall We Gather Shall We Gather by Alex Bledsoe
Blurb: "When one world brushes another, asking the right question can be magic…"
My Thoughts: That's it. That's the whole blurb. Which actually makes me really curious. Also, it's in the Tufa series, so I have to read it.
Verdict: No brainer. Also, I bought it this weekend to force my hand.
Thumbs Up
The Guts The Guts by Roddy Doyle
My Thoughts: What is wrong with me. There's a sequel to The Commitments that was published four years ago and I haven't touched it? This has gotta end soon.
Verdict: Have to keep this.
Thumbs Up
Dogtripping Dogtripping: 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure by David Rosenfelt
Blurb: Subtitle pretty much says it all.
My Thoughts: Rosenfelt talked about this some in his Lessons from Tara which was great, and made the book sound like a must-read.
Verdict: Rosenfelt + dogs? Duh.
Thumbs Up
Stay Stay by Allie Larkin
My Thoughts: I wish I remembered how this ended up on the list. Looks like a rom-com about a woman trying to get over a guy, so she buys a dog and then falls for the vet? Or something like that.
Verdict: Probably cute enough, but it's not really speaking to me.
Thumbs Down
The Bastards and the Knives The Bastards and the Knives by Scott Lynch
My Thoughts: So apparently this book didn't get published, plans changed, etc., etc.
Verdict: Seems pretty obvious, no?
Thumbs Down
Other People's Weddings Other People's Weddings by Noah Hawley
Blurb: A romance between a wedding photographer and a caterer, exploring loss, recovery, and I'm guessing, love.
My Thoughts: A few years back, I decided I needed to read the Hawley novels that I'd missed. So that's how this one ended up on the list. Would probably enjoy it, but I have to admit to myself that I'm just not interested enough to track it down.
Verdict: Sorry, Mr. Hawley.
Thumbs Down
The Punch The Punch by Noah Hawley
Blurb: Hawley's version of This is Where I Leave You, but not as light?
Verdict: Again, I'd probably enjoy it, but I have to admit to myself that I'm just not interested enough to track it down.
Thumbs Down
Death Watc Death Watch by Jim Kelly
Blurb: The disappearance of one sibling is followed by the murder of another 18 years later. But what's the connection?
My Thoughts: I remember really enjoying the interplay between DI Peter Shaw and DS George Valentine as they investigated the crime in the first novel. No idea why I didn't continue.
Verdict: Gotta get on it.
Thumbs Up
What Fresh Hell Is This? Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This? by Marion Meade
Blurb: A biography of Dorothy Parker.
Verdict: 'nuff said. Why haven't I read this yet?
Thumbs Up
The Rules for Disappearing The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston
Blurb: A YA novel about a teen daughter in Witness Protection with her father—who refuses to explain why they're in the program.
My Thoughts: Intriguing concept—good enough/popular enough to justify a sequel, too.
Verdict: Intriguing, but not enough to get me to move forward.
Thumbs Down


Books Removed in this Post: 5 / 10
Total Books Removed: 12 / 240

That's an average of 4 books per entry. That's not going to trim this down too quickly if I don't get stricter (still, 40% down is better than nothing).


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


(Image by moritz320 from Pixabay)

The Inside and Out Book Tag

The Inside and Out Book Tag


It's been a while since I've done a Book Tag post, they're fun enough I really should do more...


I have no idea where this came from, Duck Duck Go didn't help much and the blogs I've seen this on (The Strawberry Post and The Tattooed Book Geek) don't know, either. So props to whoever came up with this, and here we go with The Inside and Out Book Tag (alternatively titled: Are You a Philistine and/or a Monster? Plus a couple of other questions Book Tag)


1. Inside flap/back of the book summaries: Too much info? Or not enough?

I don't need a lot, just enough to pique my attention. Often (and I frequently mention this when I post about a book) publishers put too much information on them. Just give me a hint about the premise and a flavor for the tone—that's all I really want.


2. New book: What form do you want it in? Be honest: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback or Hardcover?

A decent-sized paperback (not Mass-Market) is probably my favorite, but I tend towards HC or eBook lately. Nothing against MMPBs, really, I've only bought 2 or 3 a year for the last couple of years (if InCryptid ever makes the jump to HC, then it'll only be Stephanie Plum books—which I refuse to buy in HC).


3. Scribble while you read? Do you like to write in your books; take notes, make comments, or do you keep your books clean, clean, clean?

What kind of monster do you think I am? No ink (or graphite!) should come into contact with my books after the printer is done with them. That's why we have notepaper.


4. Does it matter to you whether the author is male or female when you’re deciding on a book? What if you’re unsure of the author's gender?

Unless it's an author I've read before, I frequently don't remember the author's name until I've written a post about them (and even then, honestly, I'm not great at it). So gender? Fuhgeddaboudit. I can't be bothered. It matters not to the ability of the author, matters not to this reader.


5. Ever read ahead? Or have you ever read the last page way before you got there?

As I'm not a philistine, no. Why would you do that? I'm not being rhetorical here, why would someone do that?


Okay...not true. In Choose Your Own Adventure books, I did read ahead. Even then, I knew that was a dumb way to read them, but I hated to commit to a course until I had read the first paragraph or so of two options...


6. Organized bookshelves or outrageous bookshelves?

I try, I really try to be organized. And if I had 5 more bookshelf units, I could be. At least for a month :)


So, yeah, outrageous bookshelves/stacks next to shelves.


7. Have you ever bought a book based on the cover (alone)?

Alone? I don't think so. I may have checked a book out of the library based on the cover alone.


But numerous covers have led me to read, and re-read, backs/inside flaps.


8. Take it outside to read, or stay in?

Generally, the only time I think of taking one outside, it's too hot to do so and I only last 10 minutes. But when the weather is right, or I have decent covering overhead, I really enjoy being outside and reading.


3.5 Stars
Metaficton, Murders, and Tom Cruise, Oh My!
The Awful Truth About The Sushing Prize  - Marco Ocram
With notable exceptions—among whom I would include you, my friend—writers are the most egotistical of all humans. The desire to be published is a desire for attention. When one writer draws less attention than another they suffer a humiliating insult to their psychological ego centres.

After compiling last Saturday's Miscellany post, and thinking about this book, I've decided that I really should have read The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker before starting this one. Just what I've gleaned online about this book makes it seem like Denis Shaughnessy Marco Ocram was fairly influenced on it for at least the backstory and a couple of the character names for this present novel. I'm curious about how much more than that I'd have picked up if I'd read Dicker before the palindromic Ocram, but it's not a necessary pre-requisite.


I have, however, read Mark Leyner's Et Tu, Babe, which this novel also reminded me of. I'm pretty sure I haven't come across anything in Crime Fiction that I could compare to Leyner before, so that's saying something.


The Ocram that's the narrator of The Awful Truth About the Sushing Prize, like the protagonist Leyner, is a mega-selling author and celebrity, master of multiple disciplines. One thing that Ocram can do that Leyner couldn't* is he can shape the course of the novel—or a scene he's in the middle of—because he's writing his reality. Which I hope makes sense. (Think of the movie Stranger than Fiction, but Will Ferrell's character is calling the shots).


* As I recall, anyway. It's been a couple of decades since my last re-read.


In an attempt to get out of watching sports with his friend, the Chief of Police Como Galahad, Ocram invents a body down at the port. The two go to investigate and end up in dealing with criminals from around the globe in a scheme that defies reason (but makes a lot of sense when the details are revealed).


Most of the book is truly outlandish and implausible, but it fits this tour of absurdity better than you could imagine.


The weakness of this book comes from its strength and premise, the novel is so clever and adheres so much to the conceit that it gets in the way of telling a good story with some depth to the characters. It's still a decent story with amusing characters—but I think if the writer had pulled back a little from his commitment to the premise it'd be a better novel. Of course, if he had, I'd probably complain about him pulling his punches. So take this with a handful of salt.


"I heard six shots. You didn’t get him with any of them?”


“No, but they think I hit his car.”


“Good shooting. Next time I need to hit a barn door from ten paces I’ll ask you along for advice.”


“It’s easy to be sarcastic, but don’t forget I’ve never used a gun before.”


“That’s true. At least you worked out which was the shooty end. Could have been messy otherwise.

The humor is sometimes as subtle as a sledgehammer attacking a watermelon. Then within a sentence or two, something will be slipped in so cleverly that I had to re-read it a couple of times to make sure that what I thought was funny was supposed to be. I generally preferred the latter, but some of the obvious jokes were so well done that I don't want to knock the frequent lack of subtlety. I've gone back to this next line so many times over the last couple of days, and still chuckle at it:

He’s meant to be one of the most intelligent people in the world. An autodidact too.”


“He can spout as much about cars as he likes...

The metafictional aspect of the novel is largely used for humorous ends—although sometimes it's a tool to progress the plot, too. Sure, sometimes it's used for loftier ends (à la Leyner's work), but the emphasis here is for entertainment value. Which saves it from becoming a self-indulgent, pretentious mess rather than being what it is: self-indulgent fun. Here's a few lines (I could produce many more) as illustration:

Which left the agency driver—just as I’d suspected when I made him up.


It was the oldest plot twist in the book (so far, anyway). I wagged my head at the thought of how predictable it all was.


Back in the car park, I made a convenient continuity error and climbed into my black Range Rover, hoping my readers wouldn’t remember that I’d left it at a burnt-out warehouse three chapters ago.

There are a couple of instances where the author switches from past tense to present because the events being described are so intense. I found myself grinning while reading each time it happened. It's a delightfully inspired choice.


I chuckled, I looked up a couple of words, I wondered about the author's sanity and really enjoyed myself while reading this. Sure, I wanted a little more depth, a little more reason to connect with any of the characters or the story—but I knew I wasn't supposed to. The Awful Truth About the Sushing Prize is an impressive novel, clever and amusing—and if you can embrace the absurdity behind it, you'll be glad you read it (and you'll probably still enjoy it if you don't fully get on board with the absurdity, but you'll have to work harder for it).


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

Saturday Miscellany—3/21/20

In the words of @Fred_Delicious, "what’s the most annoying thing that’s happened to you this week? for me it’s the global coronavirus pandemic".


So let's try to distract ourselves for a moment, all right? (although, looking over my open browser tabs, I'm going to end up talking about it a lot...hmmm, maybe I should re-write that intro)


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 Let's start with the good news: Amid Pandemic, and Sales Skyrocket—Yay! Indie shops get a boost!
          bullet And the bad news: Emily Powell on bookstore’s future: ‘I am doing everything within my power to keep Powell’s alive’—truly depressing.
          bullet Independent Bookstore Day Has Been Postponed—because what hasn't?
          bullet Narnia to Wonderland: Oxford’s Story Museum brings kids’ books to life—a cool place to visit, if, y'know, you could visit places now.
          bullet How to Support Indie Bookstores During COVID-19—I posted a very similar article from We Are Bookish last week. Still a good idea.
          bullet We Are Bookish remembers the authors, too: How to Support Your Favorite Authors When You Can’t Go to Events
          bullet And one more from that blog: 2020’s Virtual Bookish Events—this should be helpful
          bullet Paterson’s David Rosenfelt launches a new series and talks dogs with New Jersey Authors—Ahead of next week's release of The K Team
          bullet Lee Child: Not “The Man"—Lee Child on a PBS show I've never heard of before (if you're familiar, hit me with must-watch episodes in the comments)
          bullet Book Riot lists 20 Must-Read Feel-Good Fantasies
          bullet The 19 Best Crime-Solving Writers in Fiction, Ranked—I enjoyed this more than I probably should have (it also gave me something to think about for one of Monday's posts...stay tuned)
          bullet Fun Things to do at Home that go with Audiobooks—a good start for a have any you'd add?
          bullet How Can We Get Others to Read?—Bookidote's Lashaan suggests some drastic measures to correct "people not picking up a book for whatever reason they got." Also, Robert DeNiro gifs.
          bullet No, it’s not YA—The Orangutan Librarian tackles one of my pet peeves.
          bullet My top 5 tips to interact with the book blogging community—(I really need to pay more attention to #2)
          bullet 10 Biggest Disasters for Any Bookworm—I think I've fallen prey to all of

This Week's New Releases That I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon:
          bullet Lenny by B.R. Stateham—the tried-and-true story of a military vet turned local law enforcement. Put this one in a Texas border town facing a narcotics cartel, add in the Fahrenheit 13 spice, and this is guaranteed to be a great read.
          bullet Last Couple Standing by Matthew Norman—a couple goes the extra mile to save their marriage when all their friends divorce. Norman's third novel promises to continue his winning streak.
          bullet Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs—Mercy's on the hunt from an escapee from Underhill, the fae's abandoned prison.
          bullet Agatha H and the Siege of Mechanicsburg by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio—It's been four years since the last novel about Agatha Heterodyne, I hope I can remember enough of it. Fun steampunk fantasy novels (and comics, which I gave up trying to catch up on ages ago).

LastlyI'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to beyondthecryptsandcastles, Uniquely Portable Magic, and Daniel MacKillican for following the blog this week. Don't be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?


(I don't have a source to link this to, wish I knew, but...)

4 Stars
A Few Quick Thoughts about The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Audiobook) by Stuart Turton, James Cameron Stewart
The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - Stuart  Turton
Too little information and you're blind, too much and you're blinded.

If I said everything I wanted to here, I'd blind you with too much information.

In the interest of A. Time and 2. Not wanting to overwhelm you with anything but mostly III. I don't want to take away the impact that reading/listening to this would bring to you. So...I'm going to be brief.


Let's start with the publisher's description:

The Rules of Blackheath


Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.


There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.


We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.


Understood? Then let's begin...




Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others.


For fans of Claire North and Kate Atkinson, The 71/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a breathlessly addictive novel that follows one man's race against time to find a killer—but an astonishing time-turning twist means that nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

When I grabbed this audiobook, I remembered less than 1 percent of what I'd read about it. I just remembered bloggers loving it. Also, it was on Chirp, know, cheap, and I needed something to listen to. So without even reading the blurb again, I grabbed it.


What a mind-bending book. I've seen comparisons to Clue (the movie, not the game), Agatha Christie, Groundhog Day, and Quantum Leap—I'd add Knives Out. Those comparisons are all apt. Add those things with some incredibly brilliant writing—there are sentences here that justify the expense and/or time involved just to hear/read them. Throw in a clever, clever book and it's a real winner.


It's sort of a fantasy. It's a very old school mystery. It's impossible to encapsulate. The themes explored include:
bullet Identity
bullet Memory
bullet Vengence
bullet Corruption (inner and public)
bullet Forgiveness
bullet Redemption


Stewart's narration was pretty solid—occasionally I wondered about his choices for female voices—but all in all he kept me engaged and entertained.


I thought the book dragged a bit from time to time, but it's hard to think of anything Turton really could've cut/rearranged to help that--and the large portion that didn't drag made up for the rest easily. To say that the plot is intricate is to undersell it, I don't remember the last book I read that was quite this intricate and well-constructed. It's truly impressive, thoroughly entertaining, and completely provocative.


Listen to it, read it, whatever...put it on your list and you'll be glad you did.

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

Fridays with the Foundling
Tom Jones Original CoverI love the title to Chapter V so much, "Containing matter accommodated to every taste." Chapter titles are such a lost art (and one I too often ignore even in good books).

To say the Truth, Sophia, when very young, discerned that Tom, though an idle, thoughtless, rattling Rascal, was nobody's Enemy but his own; and that Master Blifil, though a prudent, discreet, sober young Gentleman, was at the same Time strongly attached to the Interest only of one single Person; and who that single Person was the Reader will be able to divine without any Assistance of ours.

Kinda says it all, doesn't it? Alas,

as to Design upon her Person he had none; for which we shall at present suffer the Reader to condemn him of Stupidity

He treats her well, and seems to regard her with more respect than any others, but he doesn't think of her "that" way. Still, he's able to use her regard for him to get Sophia to persuade her father to hire Black George as a game keeper.


Then we get some explanations for why Tom is guilty of Stupidity regarding Sophia—while admiring him for treating her well and not trying to take advantage of her for her father's money. Part of the reason for it is Black George's second child, Molly. Molly is described as a good person, good looking, but less than ideally feminine—demonstrated in part by the way she pursues Tom. To Tom's credit, for modesty's sake, he avoids her.


There's some more back and forth with Thwackum and Square about Tom and his morality, I'm not going to get into the details, it's pretty much the same song, different verse. Technically, Tom's wrong and they're right, but his motives and inclinations are admirable and that's what Allworthy focuses on. I'm not saying it's not good reading, but it's getting a bit repetitive.


Fun stuff, I like the way the narrator is so besotted by Sophie that he's condemning Tom while conceding he's right about the way he treats her.

4 Stars
One night in Gotham and the tough guys tumble
Joker - Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo

That's what he is, I guess: a disease that infected Gotham City...


...of which there is no cure.

The Joker is inexplicably released from Arkham and he quickly discovers that he's broke. And well, he might be insane, but he's not crazy enough to let people get away with that. The Penguin, The Riddler, Two Face, etc. are to blame. As far as he's concerned anyway.


With the help (at least presence) of his new henchman, Johnny Frost, Joker sets off to get his property back, to get a little revenge, and generally wreak havoc. You know, as you would if you were the Clown Prince of Crime.


That's really all I'm going to say—it's bloody, it's depraved, it's dark, it's twisted. It's not revolutionary, it's not a reinvention of the Joker. It's a good story about the character that's been a favorite of readers for decades.


Oh, sure, the Dark Knight puts in an appearance—but it's at the end, and he's not even brought up for most of the book. Then he's there and things go the way they usually do when he shows up.


The art? Hoo-boy. It's something else. It's...visceral is the best word I can come up with it. Even if you don't like it, I don't see where you can't have a strong opinion of it—I find it striking, memorable...and visceral.


I really enjoyed this one and highly recommend it to any comic reader, or anyone who wants to see what the world of Batman can look like in the original medium instead of film.


2020 Library Love Challenge

3.5 Stars
A New PI Trio Takes a Bite Out of Crime
The K Team - David Rosenfelt

After 20+ books (and counting!) in a series, what's an author to do? Well, if you have the dog food bills that David Rosenfelt must have (seriously, check out the photos on his website or Facebook page of the dogs he and his wife shelter), you create a spin-off. I found myself comparing the books a lot in the paragraphs that follow—I won't make a habit out of it as the series progresses, but I kept comparing them as I read, so that's how I think of the book. I hope it doesn't get too tiring.


In 2019's Dachshund Through the Snow, we met Former Paterson NJ police officer Corey Douglas and his German Shepherd partner, Simon Garfunkel. At the end of that novel, Corey had decided to join forces with Laurie and Marcus to form a detective agency. This is their first case—and what a way to start!


Longtime Andy Carpenter antagonist, the harsh, yet fair, Judge Henry Henderson (aka Hatchet) hires the team to look into a blackmailer trying to pressure the judge into something. He doesn't know what the blackmailer wants yet, but he knows there's enough to damage (probably fatally!) his career. The arrangement they enter into means that Andy won't be able to try a case before Hatchet again—which bummed me out, he wasn't a constant presence in those novels, but a frequent one—probably the only judge's name I recognized. I enjoyed watching Andy squirm around the judge.


But now, it's Hatchet's turn to squirm. The blackmailers (well, potential blackmailers—he's quick to note they haven't actually broken the law yet), have some manufactured evidence to make it look like he's crooked. He's not, and has enough of a reputation and goodwill to weather the storm. Probably. But the hint of scandal would taint his record and probably force him off the bench.


So, Corey, Laurie, and Marcus get to work—looking into cases the judge presided over and could be alleged to have influenced. Before long, the threats get more real and bodies start appearing (or, disappearing, in some cases). And well, that's really all I can safely say. But fans of the Andy Carpenter books will be familiar with the way things play out—and new readers will be entertained by it, too.


Marcus doesn't do much more (especially on the dialogue front) in The K Team than he does in a typical Andy Carpenter book, he's basically an unintelligible superhuman (yeah, the jokes about the protagonist's inability to understand him are of the same genus as the ones in the Carpenter novels, but they're a different species coming from Corey—I was surprised at how refreshing that was). I think he probably gets a little more space devoted to him than he typically gets, but he does basically what we're used to seeing. There are a couple of exceptions, including what I believe is the longest hand-to-hand fight scene we've seen from him.


Even Laurie isn't featured as much as I expected. Actually, that's an understatement. I assumed that this would be Laurie's series with a couple of sidekicks—or maybe an equally Laurie and Corey series with Marcus showing up to do his thing every now and then. Maybe a third person kind of thing alternating between focusing on each character. But no, this is first person from Corey's POV—so we get a lot of Laurie, but most of what she did was off-screen, only teaming up with Corey for bigger moments or to discuss what they'd done together. It's not what I expected, but I can live with it (I just wish she'd get to shine a bit more).


So, Corey...we get to know him a bit better here than we did in his first appearance, obviously. He's single—deliberately—and very devoted to Simon (but not the same way that Andy is to Tara), they worked together and are now shifting to a new career together. Corey's a bit more willing to leave Simon out of some of the action than say, Bernie Little is (eager, occasionally, for Simon's safety). He's a movie buff—a little bit of a nerd about them, it seems—and I look forward to seeing this more. He's good at his job, still a straight arrow (the kind of cop he was), but is discovering that he's more willing to color outside the lines than he thought. I'm looking forward to getting to know him better.


The humor is a similar style to the one employed in the Andy Carpenter books, but it's not Andy's voice in a different body. Corey is distinctive, but fans of the one will tend to enjoy the other. That's half the point (maybe 70% of the point) of a spin-off, right? Similar, but not equal—that applies for the voice, the humor, and the story.


If you've never read an Andy Carpenter book, don't worry. Just think of this as the good idea it is—a team of PI's working together instead of a lone operator with an occasional side-kick. A trio is so rare in the PI fiction biz that I can't wait to see it at work more in future installments. I enjoyed this enough that I'm ready to read the next two at least. There was so much set-up to The K Team that Rosenfelt almost had to shoe-horn the plot around it. This was a good intro to the series, but I'm looking forward to seeing what Rosenfelt has in store for the team now that he's been able to establish things.


Disclaimer: I received this eARC from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this.

4.5 Stars
When the Unthinkable Happens, What's a Parent to Do?
The In Between - Brittany Pressley, Michael Landweber, Mark Boyett

The author also participated in a Q&A with me.

A couple of years ago, when mystery writer Brad Parks wrote his first stand-alone thriller, in more than a couple of interviews I heard/read him talk about the struggle getting going. A friend gave him some advice to "write the book that scares you," which would likely scare his readers. He ended up deciding that as a parent, the thing that scared him the most was something involving trauma to one of his kids. Which resulted in at least two different novels (Say Nothing and Closer than You Know), both of which provided me with a level of fear I don't usually get from thrillers. I couldn't stop thinking about that anecdote and those two books while I listened to this, did someone give Landweber similar advice?


We start off meeting Lillian, who works in the PR department of Teleportation Services International. She's taking her son's class on a tour of TSIsomething she and his teacher had arranged to help him deal with his anxiety about their upcoming trip via Teleportation. Cole is shy, nervous, and not really assured by this exercisealthough the rest of his class has a blast (and it sounded pretty fun to me, too).


Then we meet her husband, Jackson. Jackson is one of the few drivers around in 2047his clientele is primarily made up of the elderly who won't trust self-driving cars (and, yeah, it occurred to me that I'd be one of his client base on both of those counts) and those whose mental health or anxiety issues won't allow them to trust the cars, either. He augments this income by teaching super-rich teens how to drive the smattering of sports cars still around so they can go on joyrides.


TSI gives one employee's family a month a free week's vacation to anywhere in the worldand then milks their experience for publicity. They've picked Tokyoand none of the family have ever teleported before. This will be a new experience for them all. Lillian steps through the portal in Omaha and stumbles out in Tokyo (the first trip is typically difficult on the destination side). There's a strange delay that worries her, but before long, Jackson comes out in worse shape than her. But where's Cole?

No one has an answer. Cole is missing and no one has an explanation. No one can even begin to hazard a guess about what happened.


Not at all surprisingly, Lillian and Jackson are devastated. Heartbroken. Inconsolable. And their individual reactions are so different that they can't even be there for each other in this time.


Lillian, whose own childhood was marked by tragedy, directs her grief into work. If she can be busy, she can cope. Quickly, her energies are directed into investigating (on her own) what happened that day, and what can be done to prevent it from happening againand maybe finding a little vengeance along the way.


Jackson's reaction is two-fold. First, he's an alcoholic who hasn't taken a drink in six years. He's not in recovery in any sense, he just stopped drinking to be a father. With Cole gone, he returns to the bottleany bottle. Before taking that first drinkand after ithis question was, "My son is missing, why isn't anyone looking for him?" For Jackson, Cole isn't dead, he's lost. Jackson knowshe can't convince anyone, but he knowsthat he saw somethingsome place?in between Omaha and Tokyo. He spends his days going back and forth between the two cities, trying to find that In Between again, before crawling back into a bottle.


They haven't just lost their son, they've lost each other. The love is still there. But they just don't understand the other's reaction. She can't cope with his drinking or his denial. He can't understand why she's given up on Cole. While he hunts for Cole and she hunts for an explanation, they're both burdened, distracted and shaped by this other pain. It is heartbreaking to watch their marriage crumbleas with the Parks thrillers, what happens to Cole is terrifying to this parent. But that feeling was frequently overshadowed by my reaction to his parent's relationship.


Now that I've gone on longer than I intended to about the plot (not that I'm cutting any of it), let's talk about the setting. This is not quite a post-apocalyptic world, but it's one where the apocalypse could be just around the corner. Environmental changes have impacted coastal cities around the worldmany of what we know as coastal cities no longer exist. We all know that the Midwest gets hit by huge storms throughout the year, their frequency and intensity have grown. There are changes to transportation (air travel as well as the automobile changes mentioned above) in efforts to reduce pollution. New--and deadly--flu strains crop up with a regularity that makes them seem routine, and everyone knows how to react when one comes along.


There's a lot that could be said about the government (governments?) in this future. Not that Landweber talks about politics at allbut there's a tremendous lack of civil liberties on the one hand, and yet a very laissez-faire stance when it comes to TSI (at least as evidenced by TSI who really only seem to care about customer perception, not any kind of reulatory oversight). There's a benevolent totalitarianism at work when it comes to the storms (and reactions to them) in Nebraska, as well as the medical response to new flu strains.


I want to stress here that these environmental and health elements are just parts of the story, and the government observations are only my impressions, and nothing I could really provide footnotes about. Landweber doesn't take the opportunity to get on a soapbox about any of it, they're just part of the world he's describing. Much in the same way that someone writing a book set in 2020 would talk about current cultural trends, technologies or current events. He doesn't indulge in any real explanation of his world-building, there are no big info dumpsit's all just the setting.


This is an Audible Originaland I should talk about the audio aspect of this. It's a gripping listen and wonderfully performed. As you may have guessed Brittany Pressley narrates the chapters from Lillian's point of view, and Mark Boyett takes Jackson's. I don't think I'd heard anything by either of them beforebut I'll keep my eyes peeled for their names when I browse for audiobooks in the future. They truly did wonderful jobs. They got the emotion of the moment, the tensionand occasional moments of fun, joy, or reliefas well as giving a real sense of the characters. It didn't happen often, but even when a character usually only seen in a Lillian chapter showed up in a Jackson, you could recognize them (and vice versa)which was nice. Landweber wrote a great story but Boyett and Pressley brought it to life.


The last time I listened to an Audible Original, I had trouble with a couple of the SF-y terms usedmostly because I couldn't be sure exactly what the narrator was saying (e.g., was that a "d" or a "b"or a "g"in the middle of that word?) It wasn't that I couldn't understand the narrator, they were just terms the author invented that was hard to get my head around. Landweber didn't do any of that, which was a reliefalthough there were a couple of Japanese names I wouldn't be able to repeat (in print or voice), but I knew what Pressley and Boyett were saying.


Another pair of books that came to mind while I was listening to this were Mike Chen's novels. Like Chen, Landweber creates a wonderful Science Fiction world, and then tells a gripping family drama. Yes, the science fiction elements are thereand are incredibly well-executedbut the heart of this novel is about parenting, marriage, love. Fans of Chen would do well to check this book out. Fans of this book should give Chen a chance.


I read and enjoyed Landweber's last novel, Thursday, 1:17 PM, but this is a much better showcase for his talents (not to knock his earlier work). There's so much to commend about this Audiobook that I have only begun to scratch the surface (truly, I can think of a half-dozen characters I should've profiled*, a couple of themes I could have talked about, and other plotlines I should have addressed). There's something for everyone in this bookan element of a thriller, some great SF Technology, some conspiracy elements, the environmental setting, some media commentary, some Big Business critique, a lot of focus on people with anxiety issues and/or mental health diagnosis, ethical quandaries, parent/child stories, and a touching love story, too.


* There's a hacker character that I'm going to kick myself for not talking about, for example. He's one of the most entertaining characters I've encountered this year—Top 3 for 2020.


Get this into your ears, folks, you won't regret ityou may not like it as much as I did, but I can't imagine you won't like it.


Disclaimer: I received this audiobook from Audible in exchange for this post and my honest opinion. Thanks to them for the book and Laura Blackman for approaching me.

Saturday Miscellany—3/14/20

I crashed hard last night minutes before I was supposed to write my Fridays with the Foundling post (which means I didn't do the reading for next week's, either). But apparently, I needed it.


Anyway, here are the 

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 9 Ways to Support Your Independent Bookstore During Coronavirus—Yeah, I agree, many of the ways Americans are reacting to this are silly. But small businesses (and those who work for them) are getting hit hard. If I talked about things other than books, I'd talk about helping them. But I don't. So, here, go help a bookstore.
          bullet Need cheering up right now? Try reading a romance novel: Bestseller Milly Johnson calls the genre ‘aloe vera on anxious lives’ – and it has kept me going sometimes. Here are my favourites to swoon over—I won't be doing this, but I appreciate the approach.
          bullet How Flawed is Acceptable?—I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get the same result as this Book Riot piece does, but it's a good thing for people to talk about
          bullet When Not to DNF—This Book Riot piece, on the other hand, I think is a pretty good approach.
          bullet Why Slow Reading Is Perfectly Okay: The author of Do Nothing calls for enjoying words as a luxurious meal, rather than a hurried buffet.—Sure, as someone who can't stop obsessing about how much/little I read in a month, this may seem hypocritical, but Headlee is on to something here. I should probably try her book...
          bullet Jeremy Billups—I've talked about his children's books (click here), and now you can read them for free (before buying them and helping the guy out, is what I'd recommend).
          bullet Did I miss the announcement that this is Historical Fiction Week? I kept stumbling across things about it, like: Adventures in Historical Fiction: History is Everywhere (And Full of Surprises)
          bullet And: How historically accurate does historical fiction have to be?—Personally, I like extremely accurate, or not at all. The stuff in the middle annoys me.
          bullet And again (sure, same blogger, but...) Some Fun Alternative History I Actually Like
          bullet BOOK TROPES—A Fangirl gives her Personal Opinions...most of which I agree (especially the Miscommunication bit...). However, when done really, really well, I won't complain about any of these.
          bullet Where I’ve Been—the Tattooed Book Geek took a breather recently and talks about it here.

A Book-ish Related Podcast Episode (or two) you might want to give a listen to:
          bullet The Guardian's books podcast featured Ben Aaronovitch on Rivers of London—great interview

This Week's New Releases That I'm Excited About and/or You'll Probably See Here Soon:
          bullet Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten—Her arrest led to his conviction and imprisonment already, so why are his victims dying now? I blogged about it yesterday
          bullet Madam Tulip and the Serpent’s Tree by David Ahren—Derry and Madam Tulip dip their toes into a pop musician's life and find a whole lotta trouble. I blogged about it Monday
          bullet The Starr Sting Scale by C.S. O'Cinneide—A retired(?) hitwoman helps the police. I talked about it on Tuesday.
          bullet Sixteenth Watch by Myke Cole—"The Coast Guard must prevent the first lunar war in history". Cole brings his real-world experience in the Guard to SF in what looks to be a great read. I couldn't even to begin to guess when I'll talk about this.

Lastly I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to imyril, KetoJENic Vibe, Shreya Roychoudhury, tiffosaur, *Flora*, posssumpapaya, and Shayleene MacReynolds for following the blog this week. Don't be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?