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
5 Stars
I run out of superlatives and can't stop talking about this Mystery that filled me with joy.
A Mint Condition Corpse - Mr. Duncan R MacMaster

This is one of those times that I liked something so much that I just blathered on for a bit, and I'm not sure how much sense it made. The first and last paragraphs are coherent, I'm not really sure the rest is...
--

Is this the best-writing I've encountered in a Detective Novel this year? Nope. Is this the most compelling, the tensest thrill-ride of a Mystery novel this year? Nope. Is this full of the darkest noir, the grittiest realism, the starkest exposure of humanity's depths? Good gravy, no! This is however a joy to read; full of characters you'll want to spend days with, that you'll want to have over for Thanksgiving dinner just to lighten things up and distract you from Aunt Martha's overcooked yams and dry turkey; a completely fun time that's very likely most I've enjoyed a book in 2018. It is escapist. It is silly. It is clever.

 

Think Monk at it's best. Psych at its least annoying. Castle at it's most charming. Moonlighting season 1 -- I'm going to stop now.

 

So Kirby Baxter is a comic book writer/artist who breathed new life into a stagnant character which led to the revitalizing of an entire comic book company (not quite as old as DC, nowhere near as successful as Marvel -- and somehow hadn't been bought out by either). He was unceremoniously fired just before he became incredibly well-off (and investments only improved that). Following his new wealth, a thing or two happened in Europe and he gained some notoriety there helping the police in a few countries. Now, he's coming back to North America to attend OmniCon -- a giant comic con in Toronto -- returning to see a mentor rumored to attend and maybe stick his toe back in the industry that he loves.

 

While there we meet his colorist and friend, Mitch -- a diminutive fellow, convinced he's God's gift to the ladies (most of whom hope he comes with a gift receipt), and just a riot to read about. Molly, a fan, former coworker and friend of Kirby's who wears her heart on her sleeve (it's not her fault if people don't notice it). That needs to be better. Erica is many a dream-come-true -- an impossibly good-looking model and would-be actress who is sincere and sweet. Her assistant Bruce is a pretty good guy, too. Her best friend and former mentor, Andi is almost as too-good-to-be-true, and married to a renowned DJ who is providing some of the entertainment at OmniCon. There's comic dealers, a film director, a crazy actress, Kirby's former boss, and so many other colorful characters that my notes include a joke about a cast the size of Game of Thrones.

 

And then there's Gustav. Words I don't know how to describe Gustav. Imagine having Batman as your Jeeves. He's a valet/driver/bodyguard that Kirby picked up in Europe, combining the cool and lethal factor of Spenser's Hawk, Plum's Ranger and Elvis' Pike (except he makes Pike seem chatty). I'd include Wolfe's Saul Panzer, but Saul isn't the lethal type that the rest are -- but Gustav has the effortless magic about him that makes Saul a winner. If the rest of the book was "meh" and Gustav was still in it? I'd tell you to read the book.

 

At some point, a corpse shows up -- and like the comic book world's answer to Jessica Fletcher, Kirby identifies the death as a murder -- not the accident it appears to be to many. For various and sundry reasons -- starting with him being correct, and continuing on to the incidents in Europe -- Kirby is roped into helping the police with the investigation. Also, like Fletcher, he's uniquely gifted to help the police in these circumstances. He's smart, he has a eidetic memory, can catch a tell or a microexpression like nobody's business. You throw him into a consulting role with the police, with his friends along for the ride and I'm telling you, you've got the most entertaining mystery novel I've read this year.

 

This book's look at comic conventions reminded me of A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl. But where this one is played for laughs, Proehl was serious -- but both show an appreciation for, an affection for the culture that surrounds the cons and the people involved. After reading this, I was ready to buy tickets for the OmniCon.

 

It's a funny, fast, romp -- a very contemporary take on a Golden Age-mystery. Lots of twists and turns, more crimes than you think are happening and more villains than you can shake a stick at. I thought (and still do) that Duncan MacMaster's Hack showed that he was an author to keep an eye on -- this is better.

 

A Mint-Conditioned Corpse hit the sweet spot for me -- a convergence of so many of my likes told with just the right tone (another one of my likes), while maintaining a pretty decent whodunit at the core. I probably smiled for the entire time I spent reading it -- well, at least the last 90% once I started to get a feel for things -- at 8% I made a note about Kirby "I'm really going to like him," and a few paragraphs later, I wrote "I already really like him" about Mitch. And I was right about Kirby, and kept liking Mitch -- the rest of the characters are about as good as them, and the story is as good as the people in it are. Is everyone going to enjoy this one as much as me? Nope. But I can't imagine someone not having a ball reading this. Probably the 5-Star-est 5-Stars I've given this year.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/08/16/a-mint-conditioned-corpse-by-duncan-macmaster-i-run-out-of-superlatives-and-cant-stop-talking-about-this-mystery-that-filled-me-with-joy
Review
3 Stars
The most rootin' tootin' shoot 'em up about accountants you've ever seen
Death and Taxes - Mark David Zaslove

I'm not sure I can go this book justice with a hand-crafted synopsis, I'll just copy and paste from Zaslove's site (slightly different than the Goodreads copy as of this date):

 

Death and Taxes follows Mark Douglas, an ex-Marine turned IRS agent, who, along with auditing the weird and the profane, also spearheads weekend raids with his locked-and-loaded gang of government-sanctioned revenuers, merrily gathering back taxes in the form of cash, money order, or more often than not, the debtor’s most prized possessions.

 

Things turn ugly when Mark’s much-loved boss and dear friend Lila is tortured and killed over what she finds in a routine set of 1040 forms. Mark follows a trail dotted with plutonium-enriched cows, a Saudi sheik with jewel-encrusted body parts, a doddering, drug sniffing, gun-swallowing dog named The Cabbage, a self-righteous magician with a flair for safecracking, a billionaire Texan with a fetish for spicy barbecue sauce and even spicier women, and an FBI field agent whose nickname is “Tightass.” All of which lead to more and bloodier murders – and more danger for Mark.

 

Enlisting his IRS pals – Harry Salt, a 30-year vet with a quantum physical ability to drink more than humanly possible; Wooly Bob, who’s egg-bald on top with shaved eyebrows to match; Miguel, an inexperienced newbie with a company-issued bullhorn and a penchant for getting kicked in the jumblies – Mark hunts down the eunuch hit man Juju Klondike and the deadly Mongolian mob that hired him as only an angry IRS agent can. There will be no refunds for any of them when April 15th comes around. There will only be Death and Taxes.


This is hyper-violent (not that filled with blood and guts, really -- there is some), a lot of guns, bombs, more guns. Sometimes played for comedic effect, sometimes it's the good guys vs. the bad guys. Sometimes, it's a little of both. It never got to the overkill point for me, probably because this felt more like a cartoon than a "realistic" thriller.* What was overkill for me was the hypersexualization of every woman under the age of sixty. I didn't need to hear that much about every woman's physical appearance -- there are more gorgeous women with perfect (sometimes surgically enhanced) bodies in this guy's life than an episode of Miami Vice.

 

But man, is this funny. There are sections -- sometimes a sentence or two, sometimes several paragraphs long -- that are the literary equivalent of a shot of espresso, they are so taught with action, cultural references, and humor that you just revel in them. This reminds me a lot of the John Lago Thrillers by Shane Kuhn -- I think Kuhn shows more discipline in his plots and characters, but on the whole, these two are cut from the same cloth. The same energy, a similar style, similar sense of humor -- and frankly, that stuff is catnip to me. I think the plot got a little convoluted, a little confusing -- but it was worth working through.

 

Am I planning on reading Tales of a Badass IRS Agent, #2? Yeah, I will be keeping an eye out for it. This is a heckuva romp, and will entertain anyone who gives it a shot.
--
* Really, what thriller is realistic?

 

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion, which you see above.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/08/16/death-and-taxes-by-mark-david-zaslove-the-most-rootin-tootin-shoot-em-up-about-accountants-youve-ever-seen
Review
3 Stars
Fine's a good word for this novel about a lonely woman.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

I steeled myself as best I could, and, with teeth gritted, using only one finger I typed:

 

C U there E.

 

I sat back, feeling a bit queasy. Illiterate communication was quicker, that was true, but not by much. I'd saved myself the trouble of typing four whole characters. Still, it was part of my new credo, trying new things. I'd tried it, and I very definitely did not like it. LOL could go and take a running jump. I wasn't made for illiteracy; it simply didn't come naturally. Although it's good to try new things and to keep an open mind, it's also extremely important to stay true to who you really are. I read that in a magazine at the hairdressers.

 

I went into this expecting the next Where'd You Go, Bernadette -- it's "quirky," "wacky" "hilarious" "warm and funny" "warm and uplifting", Honeyman is the next Fredrik Backman, etc. I did not find it. I'm not sure I laughed at anything -- I might have smiled at something sweet, but nothing more amusing than the above quotation. Do I think I'd have liked it more if it had been funny? Probably not. I probably wouldn't have read it, however, if I hadn't thought it was. This is not a bad thing, not every book has to be funny. I'm just saying I went in expecting a chuckle, a wry smile, something amusing and didn't get that.

 

Instead I got a sad, but ultimately nice story about a poor, lonely, shy and socially awkward woman dealing with her personal (and repressed) demons the best she could -- which really wasn't all that well. I didn't find her amusing, I pitied her. I felt bad for her. I got annoyed when people made fun of her. And I wanted her to figure her life out so she could be an amusing character.

 

Eleanor is 30, has been doing the same job as a finance clerk for a graphic design firm since she got out of university -- she goes to work, talks to her "mummy" Wednesday evenings, gets a frozen pizza, some wine on Fridays and knocks off two bottles of vodka each weekend (spread throughout Saturday and Sunday so that she's "neither drunk nor sober"), then repeats the cycle. it's not much but it's her life and she's fine with that.

 

Her life goes in that way with very little variance for about a decade, until she's befriended by an IT worker, Raymond, in her company. Through him, and other accidents, she meets people. She also does things like get a smartphone, go online for things non-work related, and sorta cyber-stalks a musician. Shortly before meeting Raymond, she'd attended a concert of some local bands (won tickets in a drawing at work) and became infatuated-at-first-sight with a singer -- in the way that a thirteen year-old girl does when encountering NKOTB/'NSync/One Direction/insert your time-appropriate band. Eleanor's childhood was such that she delayed this stage until now. On the one hand, I thought this was a great instigation for Eleanor's life to change, but man, I kept cringing every time the story came back to it.

 

Minor, very minor, spoilers: Her social life is the best it's ever been, things are picking up at work, but there's this delayed adolescence thing lurking -- all the while she's having problems with mummy. Things go horribly, horribly, horribly awry -- but then there's a chance for her to put her life together again, and maybe discover what went wrong in her very bad childhood, so that she can have a better adulthood.

 

The characters are well-drawn, well-executed, and pretty realistic. The situations -- all of them -- ring true. Honeyman can write really well. I thought the story moved well, and the reveals, the twists, the heart-warming moments (and the tragic ones) were all spot-on. I just didn't enjoy the book that much, it wasn't bad, it wasn't great. It, like the title character, was completely fine.

 

Your mileage may vary -- and judging by reviews (professional and otherwise), sales, and attention this book is getting, there's a great chance you'll think I'm out to lunch on this. I may be.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/08/15/eleanor-oliphant-is-completely-fine-by-gail-honeyman-fines-a-good-word-for-this-novel-about-a-lonely-woman
Review
3 Stars
A Gripping and Eventful Follow-Up
See You Soon ,Afton - Brent Jones

Argh. I don't know how to talk about this -- it's so much the second quarter of a story that I'm not sure what to say. Still, I feel compelled to try.

 

This picks up right after the events of Go Home, Afton and continues the story. It's almost as good -- probably about as good, but since we know this world a bit now, there's not as much of the joy of discovery. That's the only negative to getting the story told in novella-length chunks instead of one big book, this part isn't the next good part of the whole. Still, that's part of the fun of this kind of story-telling, too.

 

I'm not crazy about developments and the reveal in the last few chapters, but I'm not sure I get all that Jones is trying to accomplish. I'm prepared to change my mind about it. Even if he doesn't convince me that this is the right way to go, I can still see myself enjoying the story as a whole.

 

There's a crispness, a rawness to the writing that I really appreciate. I'm really enjoying the characters of Afton, her brother and the social circle that she's found herself with (for lack of a better term), and am looking forward to seeing what happens next.

 

Basically, I liked this. You should read the first book in the series, and this one, too.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/08/15/see-you-soon-afton-by-brent-jones-a-gripping-and-eventful-follow-up
A Trip to Powell’s: The Mothership Called Me Home

So, on this little sabbatical to while my son does his initial recuperation, I've done some good damage to my TBR pile (the literal, I've purchased TBR pile, not the "I wanna read" mountain), particularly the hard copies -- I've knocked off 12 of them in the past few weeks. And then we made a mistake, we went to Powell’s City of Books -- a very fitting name, btw. Somehow I've managed to live in the Pacific Northwest my entire life and have never been there.

 

I honestly felt a little overwhelmed, the place was so big. I spent over an hour there, and didn't get to browse nearly as much as I should have. I'm not complaining, I'm just stating. Honestly, I was tempted to walk out in the first 5 minutes and go find some tiny little hole-in-the-wall shop. I'm glad I didn't, it's an awesome collection of books, clearly run by people who know their product and how to sell it. If you've never been, and have the opportunity, take advantage of it.

 

I indulged, but not as much as I could have:

So I've knocked off 12 hard copy books and I walked out of Powell's with a decent stack -- 7 books replaced those. I know there are 8 in the picture, I may have math struggles, but come on. The other is for my son (I still may end up reading it, who are we kidding). I got a nice assortment of new, used, and remaindered -- by the way, who takes a signed Don Winslow to a used bookstore? I know who left a used bookstore with one. There were 6 left on the shelf through will-power -- plus who knows how many I could've added had I just wandered around aimlessly for another hour. Now, I've got to get to work reducing ye olde TBR pile . . .

Review
3.5 Stars
A Woman on the Run from the Law, Her Past and her Present
The Passenger - Lisa Lutz

I tried to look calm and collected as I gathered my things under Ruth's watch, but I could feel this all-over shiver, a constant vibration of nerves that I had a hard time believing no one else could see.

 

"You in some kid of trouble?" Ruth asked.

 

"No trouble, I said. "I just found a place to stay, long-term."

 

"Don't fool yourself," she said. "It's all temporary."


Tanya Dubois' husband died in a stupid household accident. She wasn't heartbroken by this, but she wasn't pleased about it. Especially once she realized that while it was an accident, it was one that would at least get the police to take a good look at her while they were deciding that. So she tried to cover things up, only to realize very quickly that she couldn't, and that be starting to try, she'd made things look less like an accident. So the police would look even harder at her than they would've before. This would be a real problem for her because, technically speaking, Tanya Dubois' doesn't actually exist. So she grabs her dead husband's truck and as much cash as she can get (hitting up a few ATM's while she's at it to get more) and splits.

 

She trades in the truck for something else, trades in her (dyed) blonde hair for something shorter and brown, a wardrobe change and became a new person -- she says "I looked like so many women you've seen before I doubt you could've picked me out of a lineup." Which is a pretty telling way of talking. She's also able to make a phone call and demand a new name, new identification and some cash. By the time she arrives in Austin, she's Amelia Keen.

 

Amelia meets a bartender named Blue, who sees through her right away, but isn't going to try to turn her in or anything. Mostly, she wants to know where she got such a great passport. Not that either woman tells the other what brought them to the name and place they're at, but they know that something similar as brought them to this point. Neither trusts the other, but in one way or another, to one extent or another, they need each other. At least for a little while -- maybe longer.

 

At some point, for reasons you should discover for yourself, she leaves Austin and heads west. Then she has to leave that one behind and head elsewhere -- eventually, she covers a pretty decent amount of ground, and involves herself in some pretty interesting situations -- becoming both a hero and a villain on multiple occasions. All the time proving what Ruth said above, "It's all temporary." Well, except one thing -- the past. That's forever, as Tanya/Amelia/etc. learns.

 

Scattered throughout the book are emails between a Ryan and a Jo -- starting years before the Tanya's husband's tragic fall, but eventually catching up to the present time. These provide us with a good idea of the life that was left behind by the woman who lived as Tanya and Amelia and so many others all without coming out and telling us that led to her leaving.

 

Something about Blue made me think of Alice Morgan from the first series/season of Luther (yes, I know she's in more than that, but keep that vision of her in your mind) -- and that image stuck, I don't care what Lutz said she looked like or sounded like -- I heard and saw an American version of Alice when Blue was around. Not the murder her own parents vibe -- but the charming, dangerous, potentially duplicitous and erratic, while friendly and helpful vibe. (wow. Could I have qualified that comparison more? Probably, but I'll hold back)

 

I never had a good handle on Tanya/Amelia/etc., primarily because I don't think she did either. We (the readers, and I think she herself) got close to something real with Debra Maze -- but she had to abandon that one quickly (too quickly, I liked that existence for her, as doomed as she and the readers knew it was).

 

There are plenty of other great characters, great moments through the book -- some horrifying, some tense, some . . . I don't know what to say. There's a Sheriff from Wyoming -- he's not Walt Longmire, but they'd probably get along just fine -- who is probably my favorite non-Tanya/etc. character in the book. We don't get enough of him, but I'm not sure that more of him wouldn't have hurt the story overall. There's another bartender who is nothing like Blue, and probably one of the better people we meet in The Passenger, some depraved folks as well -- one family that you cannot help but feel horrible for.

 

There's a good number of twists along the way, a reveal or two that are really well executed -- one I didn't see coming (not only didn't see coming, I didn't even consider as an option). In general some pretty good writing and story telling.

 

I've been trying to get to this for years -- and every time I get close (close = it's one or two down on my list), I have one of those "Squirrel!" moments, and forget all about it. Well, I finally got to it -- and was honestly underwhelmed, maybe it was the mental build-up. It didn't have the Lutz humor, that's for sure -- even How to Start a Fire had some good chuckles. But that's okay, she doesn't have to be funny to be good (see the non-funny moments in How to Start a Fire). I also think Karen E. Olson's Black Hat series handles the woman running from her identity and past better (at least in a way that captures the tension and the fear better). Which is not to say, at all, that this is a bad book -- it's not. It's also not as good as I think Lutz is capable of.

 

Oh, and the story behind Tanya/etc.'s tattoo? I loved it. Should probably give the book another half-star just for it.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/08/14/the-passenger-by-lisa-lutz-a-woman-on-the-run-from-the-law-her-past-and-her-present
Review
3.5 Stars
Deputy Kopp faces her biggest challenges yet -- a new Sheriff and an Uncertain Future
Miss Kopp Just Won't Quit - Amy Stewart

So it's been roughly a year for Constance Kopp working as the ladies' matron for the Bergon County Jail. In that time she has investigated crimes, tracked down murderers, sought justice for women of all walks of life, and put her life on the line more than a few times. She's gained nationwide notoriety, and caused more than a few scandals at home. About now, some of those scandals are coming back and are in the forefront of local elections.

 

Because of New Jersey law, Sheriff Heath, Constance's boss and chief defender, cannot run for another term of office without taking one off -- so no matter what, after Election Day, Constance will have a new boss. Heath's former Sheriff is running for the position again, and is the expected winner. He finds the idea of a female deputy silly, and while he won't take Constance seriously, he'll probably leave her alone. His opponent is a current detective in the Prosecutor's office who has been opposing Constance's position and person since Day 1, he's essentially running a campaign against Heath (even if Heath isn't the opponent), and Constance is the easiest way to do that. Clearly, the future isn't bright for Deputy Kopp.

 

While this is going on, Constance makes a couple more headlines -- she runs down a burglar single-handedly, she jumps into a river to apprehend a potential escapee under their custody when another deputy is injured. Constance has to take a woman to an insane asylum, after her husband and doctor get a judge to commit her for a while. This isn't the first time this has happened to the woman, and it seems clear to Constance that this woman is as sane as anyone. So Constance attempts to find out what's behind this commitment so she can free this woman. She's very aware of the trouble that this could cause for herself and for Sheriff Heath, she tries to do this under the radar. Under the radar isn't something that comes naturally to her, and her results aren't stellar (but better than one would expect).

 

The story was a bit flat, honestly. A lot of things seemed to be foregone conclusions (not necessarily the way that various characters saw them working, either). The one case that she really gets herself into is really pretty tidy and doesn't take a lot of effort -- although she does take plenty of risks. So really, the novel isn't about Constance sinking her teeth into a case, into helping a woman through some sort of problem, or any of the usual things. This is primarily about Constance worrying that she'll do something to jeopardize Sheriff Heath's Congressional campaign by giving his opponents something to harp on, while contemplating her future in the jail under the upcoming term of office for either candidate. Which is fine, really -- it's just not what I've come to expect from these books -- I expected the case of the poor committed woman to take the bulk of the attention, so the problem is my own. But it comes from being conditioned by the previous books.

 

Constance's sisters have a background role in this book -- Fleurette in particular, she's around frequently, but she plays a very small role. I appreciate that she seemed to have her head on straight and wasn't the cause for trouble (inadvertently or purposely). Norma seemed to primarily be a conduit for comic relief in this novel. But it never feels right to laugh at her, she's the most practical, she's the only realist in the family -- it's her blood, sweat and tears that's kept the family going. On the other hand, her obsessive nature does lead her into some strange preoccupations.

 

This is not to say it's a bad book -- Stewart is probably incapable of writing a bad book. Miss Kopp Just Won't Quit feels very different than the others in the series (although, really, each has felt different than the others), and it left me feeling dissatisfied. Still, it was an entertaining and compelling read. The ending is likely the best the series has had thus far -- we just have to go through some meandering passages, and some dark times for our favorite Deputy before we get to it. I don't know what comes next for Constance Kopp (I'm deliberately not consulting anything to tell me, either) -- but it's going to be very interesting to see what Stewart does next.

 

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/08/14/miss-kopp-just-wont-quit-by-amy-stewart-deputy-kopp-faces-her-biggest-challenges-yet-a-new-sheriff-and-an-uncertain-future
Boise Longpig Hunting Club - Nick Kolakowski

I also did a Q&A with the author, if you'd like to check that out.
---

Jake Halligan is a bounty hunter -- more in the Lori Anderson/JT mold, than a Stephanie Plum-type -- in Boise, Idaho and the immediate environs. He's got a kid, an interesting relationship with his daughter's mother, and a sister that . . . well, you just have to meet her. But think Bubba Rogowski without the size and clinical diagnosis.

 

Jake's a Vet, having served in some of the worst conditions Iraq has to offer. He's smart, he's careful -- he has people he cares about, so he has to be -- and he has a conscience. It doesn't stop him from doing his job, but it can stop him from enjoying it. Early on in the novel, we find Jake after a rough week at work -- and a less-than-friendly exchange with the local police -- on the whole, his life is looking pretty good, even if Janine (his ex-wife, fiancé and mother of his child) made him pay a social call on some neighbors. When they get home, Jake finds a dead woman in his gun safe. This plunges Jake into a hunt for a killer -- as well as an explanation. He'll find both, and probably wish he didn't. It's a violent, nasty hunt full of crazy characters, drug dealers, Aryan assassins, corrupt police -- and people who are even worse than them.

 

Along for the ride are Janine -- I can't say enough about Janine as a character. From her attitude towards a house without books, to her hidden strength and anxieties -- and all points in between. Then there's Frankie, his sister -- she's cocky, funny, and vicious -- she's the biggest gun dealer in Idaho, not even close to legal, and the law can't touch her. The law can't even find her. She's surrounded by associates/employees who are almost as colorful as she is (some even more so) -- and is definitely the person you want at your side (or back) in a firefight.

 

Which is good -- because they're going to find themselves in a few.

 

Kolakowski has a great way with his characters -- they're real, they're human -- and they're larger than life in a way that you'll absolutely buy, as well as enjoy. When the action starts, it is gripping and exciting -- you'll keep turning pages. When there's a lull in the action, you can bask in the character moments. I'm not really sure what else can I say beyond that. This is the whole package, you get to spend time with interesting people being interesting, and when they take a break from that, it's because fists or bullets are flying -- or maybe something explodes.

 

My one gripe -- and it's not much of one, before we get back to me saying nice things. The ending is abrupt. I'm not sure if I can think of a well-known book/movie to compare it to. You're just reading along, hoping that Jake, Frankie, Janine and the rest survive this mess and then before you really realize what happened, it's over. You know who survives -- and who doesn't -- and the book ends with very little wrap-up (actually the wrap up happens before the ending -- that remark will make sense when you read it). Kolakowski had a story to tell and he didn't drag out the ending, much like his protagonist would approach things, I expect. He got the job done and moved on. I would've preferred a little more time after the main events are over -- there are things I want to know about the immediate aftermath. There aren't loose ends left untied, I'd just like to see what they look like after they're taken care of. You can make a strong case that this is the way to end a book -- when things are done.

 

It's not often that I can evaluate an author's use of geography -- I know that Robert B. Parker and Dennis Lehane have tweaked Boston, I understand that Butcher goofs re: Chicago's neighborhoods, etc. but I don't know that reading the books, I learn that later. It's rare when I've been somewhere a book has been set -- a little bit with the Mercy Thompson books (but I'm better at noting pronunciation on the audiobooks that no resident would recognize), I noted that Wesley Chu fumbled a smidge Eastern Oregon in the third Tao book, and that Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping was creative with the facts, etc. But by and large, this book takes place in the area I've lived in most of my life, so I feel that I can actually comment. -- and Kolakowski nailed it. Not just the details, but he's got the feel, he's got the atmosphere, the attitude toward change and the out-of-state money that's bringing the change. he's changed business names and whatnot, but I can still recognize them -- I love seeing this kind of detail brought to life. I'm trusting that his depiction of local crime is hyperbolic, however.

 

I'm a little worried that it's as accurate as the rest, actually . . . but we'll move on.

 

There's a visceral feel to this novel and these characters -- people in places most don't think about showing skills, interests, and circumstances that you don't normally associate with that area. Just a guy trying to make a decent life for his family and himself, who finds himself in dangerous situations. I couldn't help but think of Jason Miller's Slim in Little Egypt series while reading his. Jake's far more capable than Slim, and is far less likely to end up on the wrong end of a beating. But there's a very similar ethos in the books, and fans of one should grab the other right away.

 

I'm not going to belabor the point any more, I think it's clear that I enjoyed the heck out of this -- it's fast, it's energetic, it's fun. Go grab a copy of it.

 

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for my honest opinion, which I greatly appreciate.

Saturday Miscellany - 8/11/18

Hey! I'm back -- I think. We've moved into a different place for the remainder (probably) of our time away from home -- a Ronald McDonald House. It is great -- by the way, absolutely worth tossing your coins (or bills or checks) into the boxes while getting some fries and whatnot -- anyhow, their WiFi seems pretty stable, and there are no immediate plans to update it (I think it was a bad job of installing new hardware that killed things at the last place -- the poor hotel staff didn't have a clue what to do with so many angry customers). I should be okay for the foreseeable future. Thankfully, I was still able to pull together a few 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:

 

  • In the Stacks: Author's Enhanced Edition by Scott Lynch -- a revised and expanded version of his short story.
  • See You Soon, Afton by Brent Jones -- the second of four novellas about Afton Morrison, everyone's favorite librarian/would-be-murderer.
  • In Truth and Claw by Ari Marmell -- the fourth Mick Oberon novel, and the second reminder that I need to read the second Mick Oberon novel (also, #s 3 and 4) -- bought it years ago, just need to, you know read it. A Fae living in 1930's Chicago and working as a PI. I mean, come on, who doesn't want to read that?

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Leah's Bookish Obsession and Johnny for following some form of the blog this week.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/08/11/saturday-miscellany-8-11-18
Review
4 Stars
Three distinct and entertaining voices take you on a tour of Glasgow's underbelly
Ways to Die in Glasgow - Jay Stringer

Inside the front door of the building, I checked the directory, looking to see which floor the firm was on, only to find that they used all of it. The recession hadn’t reached this far up the street. The reception area was decorated in muted shades of black and tan. Anything that didn’t share that colour scheme was made of glass. A woman who was far too young and far too skinny greeted me. She took my name and waved me into a large waiting area.

 

She didn’t whisper that she was a child slave or beg for help.

 

She didn’t ask if I could sneak her a cheeseburger.


So we are just dropped into the action here, no background, no setup, no idea who this guy narrating things is -- the very definition of in media res, and, come to think of it -- we are also dropped into the very definition of coitus interruptus. In this particular case the interruptus takes the form of a couple of guys trying to kill our narrator. Somehow, Mackie (the narrator) escapes -- though injured -- and seeks shelter at his Uncle's place -- which turns out to have been recently tossed by persons unknown (the people that came after Mackie?), and his Uncle Rab is nowhere to be found. Mackie gets patched up by his therapist and the two head out to search for Rab.

 

Once that's underway, we jump back a couple of hours in time to meet our second narrator, Sam Ireland. Sam's a newish Private Investigator who made a little splash in the news recently and is working enough to keep going, but not enough to pay rent on the office. So the office is now her apartment. It's her father's firm, but he's in a retirement home and Sam's trying to keep it alive -- with a little help from her brother. Sam's got an appointment with a potential new client, who insists on very strange meeting times (e.g., 11:23) -- it's the law office described in the quotation above. They'd read about her in the papers and wanted to hire her for some things, but first they want a test run -- they'd like her to deliver some legal papers to a local celebrity author. As Sam says "...a Glasgow celebrity. . . is one way of saying dangerous." He's writing true crime memoirs now, and there's a problem with his latest book so they need to serve him with papers -- but can't find him, can Sam? For the price they're willing to pay, yes, yes she can. The celebrity's name? Rab Anderson.You begin to see the fun here.

 

It turns out that our third narrator, DI Lambert, also has a vested interest in finding Rab. But there's the tiny little thing called a job that is interfering. There's a suspicious death that he really wants to write off as a suicide, but the guys from the Lab won't let him. He also has connections to our other narrators. He's a friend of Sam's and will occasionally bend a rule or two to help her with some information. He'd also arrested Mackie some years back on a pretty serious charge.

 

The novel is told bouncing back and forth through each of these narrators (sometimes the same scene is retold from a different perspective) -- there's a little bit of shifting back and forth through time to keep everyone at about the same point, but it's easy to follow. Each of these narrators has a great and distinctive voice -- you really don't need the chapters to tell you who is "speaking" you get it within a sentence (not that I mind the help). I could easily read an entire novel from one of their perspectives -- Lambert's wouldn't be as entertaining as either Mackie's or Sam's, but it'd still hold up. Bringing these three voices -- from radically different backgrounds, education, age, experience, vocation -- but all representing Glasgow. Mackie's a great, great character -- he's the first we get to know in this book, and in many ways, he's the heart. But Sam's the star -- she's stubborn, reckless, clever, and resourceful. That doesn't quite make up for the fact that she's a small woman with little ability to defend herself -- but she frequently has her large brother along to offset that.

 

One of my favorite parts of John Wick was how we're dropped into this extensive underground world with relationships, rules, alliances and whatnot -- as the film goes on we grow to understand them. Something very similar is at work in this novel -- we don't have a point of entry character, really (Sam's close), we have nothing really to get us oriented in this reality other than what happens when the characters interact and what we learn from that. This is a rich world full of many colorful, dangerous people. It's not long before we move beyond the hunt for Rab and dive deep into the murky waters surrounding him, Mackie and Lambert -- and hope that at least someone is able to survive before Sam gets drug under as well.

 

That metaphor may have gotten away from me. But oh well . . .

 

This is a violent book -- make no mistake. It's a visceral blood bath at times -- and its disturbing. But honestly? The hard scene to get through had no blood, no guns, knives or anything. It was a chapter where a father thinks about the trouble his daughter is in and what he can do to help her -- it's a couple of pages long, helps build the tension, it deepens the mystery, and just breaks your heart. Give me a dozen bloody corpses any day over that.

 

If there's one thing I've learned from Kate McCall and Sam Ireland, it's that daughters should not take over their father's PI business unless they're ready to learn a lot about their father that they didn't want to know. It's possible that's true for daughters taking over any business of their father's -- I'm not sure, I should probably read more about them, but I don't recall a lot of novels being written about daughter's taking over for their father's CPA firm or pizza parlor or dry cleaning business. There's a pretty big difference between these two ladies (there are plenty of similarities, now that I think about it, too). Kate is surrounded by oddballs, eccentrics, and actors up for anything who are generally good-natured and willing to help her. Sam is surrounded by people she can't trust, people she shouldn't trust, a brother who has to be harassed into helping her out, a maverick cop, and a whole lot of shady characters -- all of whom (except the brother and probably the cop) would be just as likely to drop her in a grave as they would be to lend her a helping hand.*

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am definitely coming back for more from Stringer. It's twisty, it's violent, it's got a lot of heart, it'll put a smile on your face and get you to come back for more. Check out this unique look into Glasgow.

 

* This isn't to knock McCall & Co. -- I actually rather enjoyed the book, and plan on reading the rest of the series soon. It was just a parallel I thought of when reading this.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/08/06/ways-to-die-in-glasgow-by-jay-stringer-three-distinct-and-entertaining-voices-take-you-on-a-tour-of-glasgows-underbelly
Saturday Miscellany - 8/4/18

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:

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to http120111324 (which is one of the stranger monikers I've come across online, which isn't a bad thing), Clarissa, and Jenn for following the blog this week.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/08/04/saturday-miscellany-8-4-18
Review
3.5 Stars
Kat Stone — and her wonderful wigs — are back
The Blue Kingfisher - Erica Wright

So, Kat Stone, private investigator, is trying something new -- she's being herself. No disguise, no wig, no fake name (well, most of the time). There's no need, the person she was hiding from has found her. He hasn't done anything about it -- but there's no need to go to extra effort. But she's not used to just being Kat Stone anymore -- and that's going to take a little work.

 

One morning, Kat finds a body -- a body in horrible shape in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge. While waiting for the police, she recognizes the body -- the maintenance man from her apartment building, Tambo Campion. The police are quick to dismiss the death as a suicide, but Kat's unconvinced. Why would someone trying to kill themselves miss the water so completely?

 

This, of course, isn't enough. So she ignores paying customers for a bit to launch her own investigation, trying to find more evidence. She doesn't necessarily have to find the murderer, she just needs more evidence to get anyone in the NYPD to take her seriously enough to investigate his death. She plunges into Tambo's life -- partially driven by guilt that she didn't pay him enough attention in life. It turns out that Tambo is a kingfisher, someone who finds jobs for people who aren't in the country legally or who are wanting to stay off-the-radar, for a fee. This alone provides several avenues of investigation. But there are others, too, don't get me wrong. All of these take her into all sorts of corners of NYC society -- and gives her an excuse to dabble in different identities.

 

The NYPD requirement of "more evidence" is a trigger of sorts for her. It reminds her of the constant refrain from her superiors during her undercover days at the NYPD. They always wanted more evidence -- even when she becomes concerned for her own safety, they say she hasn't done enough, she needs more evidence to bring down Salvatore Magrelli. Between the Magrelli knowing where she is now, and this requirement, Kat spends a lot of time ruminating on the times she felt most threatened by Magrelli -- and the things she didn't provide enough evidence on. While she has several other things going on in her life, these are the thoughts that dominate her attention.

 

As interesting as the murder case is, obviously, it's the Magrelli (past and present) stories that provide the major emotional hook for this novel. Even while she's meeting with success at Kat Stone, even when she finds evidence of a crime -- multiple crimes, actually. She can't get out of the shadow of her past or the threat of the present.

 

I failed to get around to reading the first book in this series, after reading The Granite Moth, which really bugs me, so I can't really comment between the ties between it and this book, but I'm reasonably certain there are some. Characters from The Granite Moth show up here and events from it are discussed as well, which is always nice, too many PI novels ignore what happened before. I don't know (but I can't imagine) that too many people from The Blue Kingfisher will show up down the road, but I'll be happy to see any of them that do. But several events from this book will show up soon.

 

I remembered liking Kat Stone - I didn't remember how much or why I did, and I'm very glad I got to rediscover her. Kat is clever, very clever when she's not distracted. She's resourceful. She may not have the skills of Lori Anderson or even Charlie Fox when it comes to weapons or hand-to-hand, but she's got a mental toughness that's hard to beat. And I really hope to see how she moves forward -- because there's just no way that what comes next is going to look too much like what's come before, and I'm very curious about that. The New York she travels in isn't the one I'm used to seeing (it's not so different that I don't recognize it) in Crime Fiction, and the way she sees the world is a fresh perspective.

 

The writing in this one -- and this is not a knock on The Granite Moth -- feels more disciplined, the plot more controlled. I took it as a sign of growth, that whatever Wright intended to accomplish in this book was clear to her and she executed things to that end. I'm almost more curious about what she'll do next than what Kat will do next. Almost.

 

This isn't a criticism, this is more of a wonderment: There is a lot of time spent on Kat's affection for New York City. Do people spend a lot of time doing that, really? Thinking about how much they love/appreciate the town they live in (assuming they do)? Her leaving town was brought up once -- indirectly -- but it wasn't like anyone was really suggesting that to her -- and even after she made it clear that it wouldn't happen, there it is again, her love for NYC. I could see it fitting in if people were actively trying to get her to move, or if she'd just returned after some time away (on a job, in self-appointed exile, etc.) -- but given her situation, it felt forced. Now, I liked the way she expressed it, and I can understand her affection (theoretically, anyway, I've never been there). It just seemed out-of-place and/or unnecessary.

 

This is a good, satisfying PI novel with a protagonist that you will definitely enjoy. Like its predecessor, it's a decent jumping on point for a new reader, and a welcome return to the world for someone who's met Kat before. I'm eagerly awaiting the next book in this series already.

 

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

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/08/03/the-blue-kingfisher-by-erica-wright-kat-stone-and-her-wonderful-wigs-are-back-for-more-danger
July 2018 Report

I've had a little time on my hands lately, so I've gotten a few more books read than usual -- but fewer audiobooks. The downside to a reading burst is that it's difficult to keep up with the posts about what you read. Oh well . . . worse problems to have. So, here's what happened here in July.

 

Books/Novels/Novellas Read/Listened to:

Doctor Who: Christmas Invasion Needle Song My Lady Jane
3.5 Stars 5 Stars 4 Stars
Planet Funny The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes Besieged (Audiobook)
3.5 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars
Marked An Obvious Fact (Audiobook) The Day That A Ran Away
4 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars
The Death Pictures Heaven on Earth Small Favor (Audiobook)
3.5 Stars 3 Stars 4 1/2 Stars
Nightwolf Arsenal Colorblind
4 Stars 3.5 Stars 4 1/2 Stars
Lessons From Lucy The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet True Fiction
5 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars
Ophelia Immune Ways to Die in Glasgow The Puppet Show
3 Stars 3.5 Stars 4 Stars
Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time Between the Shade and the Shadow A Mint Condition Corpse
3.5 Stars 2 Stars 5 Stars
The Passenger Boise Longpig Hunting Club Just One Damned Thing After Another
3.5 Stars 3.5 Stars
(maybe more..)
4 Stars
Picket Town Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine      
3 Stars I'm not sure yet      

 

Still Reading:

The Holy Spirit Dear Mr. Pop Star Scoundrels Among Us
The Life and Theology of Paul            

 

Reviews Posted:

 

Book Challenge Progress:

Angel's Guilty Pleasures

My Lady Jane (Audiobook) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows, Katherine Kellgren

Planet Funny by Ken Jennings

Besieged (Audiobook) by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels

An Obvious Fact (Audiobook) by Craig Johnson, George Guidall

Planet Funny by Ken Jennings

Doctor Who: Christmas Invasion by Jenny T. Colgan

Arsenal by Jeffery H. Haskelll

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Ophelia Immune by Beth Mattson

Ways to Die in Glasgow by Jay Stringer (link to come)

The Puppet Show by M. W. Craven (link to come)

Between the Shade and the Shadow by Coleman Alexander

Boise Longpig Hunting Club by Nick Kolakowski (link to come)

Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor (link to come)

Picket Town by Chris von Halle (link to come)

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (link to come)

Nightwolf by Willie Davis

Arsenal by Jeffery H. Haskell

Ophelia Immune by Beth Mattson

Between the Shade and the Shadow by Coleman Alexander

Boise Longpig Hunting Club by Nick Kolakowski (link to come)

Picket Town by Chris von Halle (link to come)

Nightwolf by Willie Davis Needle Song by Russell Day

A Mint Condition Corpse by Duncan MacMaster (link to come)

Another month with nothing for this one...not feeling good about it.

 

How was your month?

Review
3 Stars
An Age-Appropriately Creepy SF for the MG reader in your life
Picket Town - Chris von Halle

Amanda is bored. Every day is the same -- her life isn't bad, she actually likes it. But she wants more. She's not sure exactly what it is that she wants -- but it'll be found outside the city limits of New Pines (she calls it Picket Town). She and her friend Sam spend their days after school playing a computer RPG, eating with their families, playing the game some more and repeating the whole thing the next day.

 

Then something starts happening -- some of the kids in town come down with some sort of bacterial infection that requires them to be hospitalized while a cure is worked on. Amanda starts to wonder if everyone is going to be okay -- no matter how often she's assured that the grown-ups have everything under control. She wants to strike out, she wants to learn something -- and on the way home from school, they pass the same sign forbidding them to enter the forest that they walk by every day. But this day, this particular day she decides she's had enough -- and then she convinces Sam to come with her. They climb over the fence and explore the forest. This is the most thrilling thing they've ever done. Right up until the point that they find a what appears to be a flying saucer (well, a saucer that's landed). Pretty much everything they've ever known ends right there. What follows is exciting, dramatic, and unexpected (well, at least for the target audience -- Middle Grade -- adult readers will have a pretty good chance of seeing what's around the corner, most of the time).

 

I wasn't so sure that I was going to enjoy this at the beginning, I'm not sure why, it just didn't seem like it clicked. But it honestly didn't take long before it reminded me of the better SF I read in grade school, and I was in it for the long haul. Although, honestly, I'm not sure any of the books I read when I was that age would've gone where von Halle took this. That's a compliment, by the way, it may not look like one.

 

I'm not crazy about the conclusion, I have to say, as much as I liked almost everything that came before. There's a good twist to it -- and I really liked it. But the ending itself? I don't know -- it relied too much on a big info-dump, and then the reveal for Amanda and Sam could've been executed a little better. But I think those are quibbles, and I really don't imagine that there's a Fourth Grader out there that'll say the same thing.

 

This isn't a MG novel that transcends the label and that'll appeal to adults -- in other words, not everyone is J.K. Rowling. I'll give you a moment to digest that revelation. This <i>is</i> a MG novel that knows its audience and that will deliver what it wants. Were I in that audience, I'd be re-reading this a few times. I'm not, so I'll tell people to give it to someone who'll appreciate it more.

 

<i><b>Disclaimer:</b> I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion, given above.</i>

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/08/01/picket-town-by-chris-von-halle-an-age-appropriately-creepy-sf-for-the-mg-reader-in-your-life
Review
3 Stars
The feminist Zombie Book you didn't know you were missing
Ophelia Immune - Beth Mattson

We come into this world sometime into the Zombie Apocalypse -- or at least Outbreak, it's tough to say. Most of our information is given to us second or third-hand through the narration of a young girl. Actually, it's probably more like 52nd or 53rd-hand. North America (who knows what the rest of the world is like) is filled with people traveling from camp to camp trying to make it just another day. Some families drive from camp to camp, others have to risk walking.

 

These camps, by the way, have fences around them -- including overhead. Because at night -- the Zombies come. And if you aren't in a camp, you'd better hope you're at least in a car, because you've got nothing else to stop them than whatever weapon you might have.

 

Ophelia lost an older sister to the infection, and then her parents had a couple more kids (for people who never leave their car, this is quite the interesting proposition) that she has to look after. At some point, her family is able to get pretty far north (Canada somewhere), where at least in the cold winter, the infected can't move. They have a house, they start to make a life for themselves -- and then disaster strikes.

 

The title of the book is <b>Ophelia Immune</b> and there's really only one way to find out if she's immune, so this isn't really a spoiler -- she gets bitten. But she doesn't become a mindless people-eating machine. She gets the strength, she gets the ability to carry on while wounded (details are in the book), but she keeps her brain, her personality. Sadly, anyone who looks at her won't see that unless they get to talk to her.She runs from her family, finds her way to a city and tries to survive. Along the way, she encounters people selling young women -- girls -- to join polygamous families "for their protection." She finds corrupt Rangers, who are to protect people from the infected. And much worse. She also finds some scientists, who are happy to experiment on her blood -- actual infected blood is hard to find, blood of an immune person? Priceless.

 

I told Mattson that I didn't like Zombie stories -- by and large it's the truth, too. And I didn't like most of this book, because it was a really good Zombie story. It had all the elements and was downright creepy and disturbing. At a certain point, the tenor and focus of the book became something more -- it was still creepy and disturbing with mindless ex-humans wandering around eating humans, don't mistake me -- but it shifted. I liked a lot of that.

 

Next to M. R. Carey's Melanie, Ophelia is the most interesting Zombie I've ever encountered (well, maybe Gwen Dylan . . . ). She's naive, she's innocent -- which is just strange to say -- and idealistic. If you give her half a chance, she'll win you over. It's hard to judge the other characters -- because Ophelia's perspective is pretty strange, and you only see them from hers. But there are some good people, and some horrible humans in this world. So many horrible ones that you start rooting for the infection, really. But the rest of them, like Ophelia, give you hope.

 

Mattson's writing itself is clear, strong and effective. I'd prefer if she buried the ideology under a couple more inches of narrative, plot and character - but that could just be me. I would definitely check out her next offering.

 

I'm the wrong person to ask really if you should read this book. If you like Zombie stories, yeah, give this one a shot -- I doubt you've read anything like it. If you don't? Ehhhh, think about it anyway, you probably haven't read anything like it before.

 

<i><b>Disclaimer:</b></i><i> I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion -- and I warned her ahead of time that this was an uphill battle. </i>

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/07/31/ophelia-immune-by-beth-mattson-the-feminist-zombie-book-you-didnt-know-you-were-missing
Review
4 Stars
A charming, earnest and frequently delightful space opera that pretty much matches the hype.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - Becky Chambers
We are all made from chromosomes and DNA, which themselves are made from a select handful of key elements. We all require a steady intake of water and oxygen to survive (though in varying quantities). We all need food. We all buckle under atmospheres too thick or gravitational fields too strong. We all die in freezing cold or burning heat. We all die, full stop.


Ohhhh boy. One of yesterday's posts was easy -- I state the premise, say the book lived up to the premise, and there ya go. A finished post. Today? I'm not sure I could succinctly lay out the premise in 6 paragraphs, much less say anything else about the book. It's deep, it's sprawling, it's fun and full of heart. What isn't it? Easy to talk about briefly.

 

So I'm going to cut some corners, and not give it the depth of discussion that I'd like to.

So you know how The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy starts off with the Vogon Constructor Fleet constructing a hyperspace bypass right through our Solar System? Well, if the Vogons were the megacorp doing that, the crew of the Wayfarer is your mom & pop-level company doing the same kind of work. But there are no Vogons, and it's not a hyperspace bypass they're constructing, but the metaphor works -- the Wayfarer is building/cutting/creating ways for spaceships to make it from point A to point B faster -- I'll leave the detailed explanation to Sissix or Kizzy to explain when you read it (I think it was Kizzy, but I could be wrong -- my copy is in another state, so it's hard for me to check things like that).

 

The Wayfarer is made up of a mix of species -- including human (some of which were raised on a planet, others not), the others? Well, they'd fit right in with the customers in the Mos Eisley Cantina (with names like Sissix or Kizzy) -- too difficult to explain, but they're all radically different from pretty much anything you've seen or read before. Chambers' imagination when it comes to their physiology, culture, mannerisms, beliefs is just astounding. Really it's fantastic. And the crew is a family -- when a new crew member joins, they're greeted with "welcome home." And that's just what they mean.

 

This new crew member is Rosemary Harper, our entry point into this world, too. She's never been off-planet before, doesn't understand the science behind the work they do, really only has textbook knowledge of most of the species they run into. As she learns, so does the reader. Phew. Essentially, the plot is this: the captain of Wayfarer gets a chance to make history and make more money than he's used to -- he jumps at it, but his crew has to take a freakishly long trip to get to the (for lack of a better term) construction site (see the title). This long trip is filled with dangers, encounters with family members no one has seen in ages and old friends. And pirates. Even when they get to the construction site, the challenges are just beginning and everyone on board is going to be put through the wringer just to survive.

 

In the midst of all this is laughter, love, joy, pain, sorrow, and learning. Rosemary becomes part of the family -- by the actions of the crew bringing her in, and through her own reciprocal actions. Now, many parts of this book seem slow -- but never laboriously slow -- it's the way that Chambers has to construct it so that we get the emotional bonds between the characters -- and between the characters and the reader -- firmly established, so that when the trials come, we're invested. I was surprised how much I cared about the outcomes of certain characters at the end -- it's all because Chambers did just a good job building the relationships, nice and slow. The book frequently feels light -- and is called that a lot by readers -- but don't mistake light for breezy.

 

I want to stress, it's not laboriously slow, it's not boring. It's careful, it's well-thought out. It's your favorite chili made in the slow cooker all day, rather than dumping the ingredients in a pot an hour or so before dinner. It occasionally bugged me while reading, but by that time, I was invested and had a certain degree of trust for Chambers -- and by the time I got to the end, I understood what she was doing in the slow periods and reverse my opinion of them.

 

I frequently felt preached at while reading this book. There were agendas all around and these characters did what they could to advance them. Most of the speechifying and preaching worked in the Wayfarer Universe, but not in ours. When I read it, I had no problem with it -- but the more I think about it, the less I agree and the more annoyed I get. The opening quotation was one of the themes pushed, another had to do with family and/or brothers -- but the best lines about those involve spoilers or need the context to be really effective, so go read them yourselves. I don't want to get into a debate with the various characters in the book, so I'll bypass the problems I have with just the note that I have them. But in the moment and in the context of the novel, the writing behind the characters' points/values, the emotions behind them are moving, compelling and convincing -- and that's what you want, right?

 

It is super, super-easy to see why this won buckets of awards -- and probably deserved most (if not all) of those awards. This is one of the better space operas I've read in the last few . . . ever, really. It's easy to see why it got the hype and acclaim it did, and while I might not be as over-the-moon as many readers are with it, I understand their love. I heartily enjoyed it, and can see myself returning to this universe again soon.

 

As far as the star rating goes? I've vacillated between 3-5 a lot over the last week or so (including while writing this post), usually leaning high -- so take this one with a grain of salt, it's how I feel at the moment. (that's all it ever is, really, but I'm usually more consistent)

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/07/31/the-long-way-to-a-small-angry-planet-by-becky-chambers-a-charming-earnest-and-frequently-delightful-space-opera-that-pretty-much-matches-the-hype