Irresponsible Reader

Irresponsible Reader

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

Saturday Miscellany - 10/20/18

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:

  • In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin -- Yeah, if I stick to schedule, it'll be April before I get to this, but book 22 in John Rebus series is out.
  • Deck the Hounds by David Rosenfelt -- the second Christmas adventure for Andy Carpenter is almost as strong as the first -- and better than most of the recent non-holiday reads. Here's my post about it.
  • The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi -- I thought the first volume of this series was a lot of fun for a book about an apocalypse in progress -- this should be good.
  • Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda -- I'm not the Hamilton-phile that the rest of the Free World seems to be, but there's something about Miranda that I really like. Should prove to be a fun read.

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Equipping, Williwash, and angelgwapaxd for following the blog this week.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/20/saturday-miscellany-10-20-18
Review
4.5 Stars
A Murder Mystery as Fun as The Buggles' Song
Video Killed the Radio Star - Mr. Duncan R MacMaster

(or the cover by The Presidents of the United States of America, either will work)

 

“I fear we will never be mistaken for the Algonquin Round Table.”

 

“We’ll have to work on our witty repartee,” said Molly. “I plan on taking a course on banter, ripostes, badinage, and persiflage.”

 

“Even persiflage?”

 

“Especially persiflage,” said Molly. “There is nothing worse than sub-par persiflage.”

 

“You might need to get a sub-par persiflage lanced.”

 

“We’ve hit the nonsense phase of the night earlier than usual.”

 

“I like nonsense,” said Kirby, “it distracts me.”

 

Kirby Baxter just wants to live a quiet life out of the spotlight: hanging out with his girlfriend, Molly, when he can; restoring a car with his valet/bodyguard/etc.; and drawing his comics. And now that the excitement about the murder he solved at Omnicon dying down, he's on the verge of doing that. But the mayor of his hometown knows Kirby, and has no shame in extorting his cooperation with a small problem that he's having.

 

You see, one of the town's major landmarks -- an old, abandoned mansion -- is in dire need of upkeep and remodeling. And a reality show full of C-List celebrities (maybe D- or E-list) have recently set up shop to do that work. But the city's having second thoughts and they want Kirby and his über-perception skills to find a reason to shut down production and send them packing to disrupt another locale.

 

Kirby visits the production, talks to the cast and producers, looks around and comes up with a lot of observations and conclusions -- and could cause a lot of inconvenience and embarrassment for everyone involved from those observations -- but he can't find what the mayor wants. That accomplished, he gets back to pursuing his best life now -- which lasts just a few hours. Because before he can start to collect from the mayor for the work, one of the celebrities is found dead.

 

So, it's back to the mansion for Kirby, this time to act as a consultant ot the local police as they investigate this suspicious death. Which is soon followed by another. And an attack on another cast member. And . . . well, you get the idea.

 

It's nice that MacMaster didn't repeat the whole "Kirby has to win over a skeptical and antagonistic police officer" thing -- this time, thanks to most of the force having grown up with him, they all accept his talents and skills -- an expect him to deliver.

 

The cast of the reality show, "Million Dollar Madhouse," is filled with the typical collection of has-beens, almost-weres, and celebs trying to stage a comeback. Initially, I rolled my eyes at each of them, but the more time I spent with them, the more I appreciated and enjoyed them. In particular, the Kardashian-esque character totally won me over. Like in the previous book, there's a large cast of characters that MacMaster juggles expertly -- there are so many suspects to the murders, as well as witnesses for Kirby and the police to wade through.

 

Almost every serious suspect has the same defense -- they didn't want the initial victim dead. They wanted him to make a fool out of himself on national TV, possibly seriously injuring himself with a power tool. Some would follow that up with some other form of revenge -- but if he's dead, no one could get the revenge they wanted. It's not ideal, but it's an honest defense.

 

Gustave was slightly less super-human this time out -- but he's still in the Ranger/Hawk/Joe Pike nigh-impossible stratosphere. As much as I like everyone else in this series, it's arguable that Gustave is MacMaster's best creation -- not just the character, but how MacMaster uses him.

 

I did miss Mitch. But was glad to see Molly and Kirby talk about him -- and even make a joke he wasn't around to make himself. It's probably good that he wasn't around -- it'll mean when we see him again, it'll be easy to appreciate him without worrying about over exposure.

 

In the place of Mitch, we have Molly's assertive and cunning cousin -- she runs a gossip-website and wheedles her way into the investigation in order to land a story big enough to put her and her site on the map. Kirby clearly vacillates between finding uses for her and finding her distracting.

 

Molly and Kirby are cuter together than they were previously, and I could watch the two of them banter any day. It seemed harder to incorporate Molly into the story this time, and hopefully it's easier for MacMaster in Kirby #3, but as difficult as it was it was absolutely worth it.

 

I'm not sure exactly what it is about MacMaster's writing that works so well for me, but it does. Just before I started writing this, I started to draw some parallels between these Kirby Baxter books and Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game and The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel). I didn't have time to fully flesh this idea out, but Raskin's work definitely was formative for me and if the comparison hold up, that could explain a lot. The mix of humor, real emotions and complex mystery is the sweet spot for me and MacMaster consistently hits it. It's not easy, there are precious few who try -- and fewer that succeed. This is the third novel I've read by him and it seals the deal, I'll buy everything he writes as soon as I can without really looking at what the book is about.

 

I was a little worried that this book wouldn't live up to A Mint-Conditioned Corpse, and I don't think it did -- but I don't know what could have for me. I'd enjoyed the other so much that it's almost impossible to live up to -- and the reality show setting didn't do anything for me -- they just leave me cold. The fact I'm rating Video Killed the Radio Star as high as I am is all about how effortlessly charming and entertaining this seems. Effortless always, always, always equals blood, sweat and tears -- or at least a lot of work. This must've taken a great deal of labor, and it was absolutely worth it. A clever mystery, clever dialogue, and very clever characters in a funny, twisty story. The Kirby Baxter books are must reads, no doubt about it. Give this one a shot -- I don't see how you can't enjoy it.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/19/video-killed-the-radio-star-by-duncan-macmaster-furiousdshow-%e2%98%85-%e2%98%85-%e2%98%85-%e2%98%85-1-2-a-murder-mystery-as-fun-as-the-buggles-song
Review
0 Stars
Toby Daye's shattered world gets another blow -- can she survive?
Night and Silence - Seanan McGuire

I was sure I wrote this up already. How did I take over a month to get this up? Something is wrong with me . . .
---

“Um, this IS Toby,” sald Quentin. “We’re always about to die. When we’re not about to die, we’re still about to be about to die. She’s like a Rube Goldberg machine whose only job is generating .life-threatening situations.”

 

What a difference a book makes -- at the beginning of The Brightest Fell, Toby was happy, her life was looking good, she was relaxing -- and then trouble struck. At the beginning of this book, she's probably in the worst straits she's been in since getting out of the fish pond. Toby and her loved ones are still reeling from and dealing with the repercussions of that last novel ("not dealing with" might be more accurate, but why quibble?). Jazz is messed up in ways that are hard to fathom; her relationship with mentor/champion/sponsor, Sylvester, is in shambles; and worst of all, her fiancé is a shattered version of himself, barely able to be in the same room with her.

 

And then the other shoe drops (at this point, you might be thinking we're talking about an Imelda Marcos-sized collection, as many of these have dropped): her very human daughter, Gillian has been kidnapped -- and her father and step-mother are accusing Toby.

 

Yeah, kidnapped again. But this time it's worse (and the last time was no walk in the dark). If anything is going to prove to be the straw that breaks the camel's back -- this could be it. Toby, May, Quentin -- and some other allies band together to find the girl before something happens to her that will make the last kidnapping look pedestrian.

 

Sylvester is around for a lot of this novel -- I was afraid he wouldn't be. Sylvester has long been one of the -- maybe the -- best part of the series, and to see him in this state? It took so much away from this book. I know that's the point, and I want to stress I'm not complaining -- but man...it sucked. A lot of the emotional beats to this part of the story seemed to repeat themselves -- and I wondered if it was a little filler. I decided that as often as Toby was reassuring Tybalt that they could work through things and get him better, McGuire was reassuring the reader that Sylvester could be recovered. I'm not sure it's the case, but I'm going with that explanation.

 

This book has the best use of May since . . . well, probably since we met her in this form. Usually, May is too much in the background for my taste. But not in this novel. She's strong, she's emotional -- she's a major player in the events of this novel. We need to see her as active as she is here more often.

 

The debt that Toby keeps incurring to the Luidaeg is getting huge. Aunt or no, she can't keep going like this forever, and at some point the sea witch is going to collect. This is going to be horrible.

 

Along the way, we learn a great deal about Toby's human family -- some of which will make the reader's jaw drop, all of which will make Toby reconsider things -- and like so much of what we've learned the last couple of books, what we've "known" before wasn't necessarily right.

 

This isn't the strongest Toby Daye novel, but an "iffy" Toby novel is still rocking by other series' standards. This was a strong, satisfying read -- as troubling as it was. And the next one isn't going to be much easier to read -- but I know it'll be worth it. I don't know that this is the book to jump on the series with, but it might work. But I can assuring long-term readers that this will scratch that itch just fine.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/18/night-and-silence-by-seanan-mcguire-toby-dayes-shattered-world-gets-another-blow-can-she-survive
Review
4 Stars
A Gripping Thriller, A Touching Father-Daughter Story, a Special Kind of Crime Novel
She Rides Shotgun: A Novel - Jordan Harper

This is one of those books where you want to sit and talk about it for a couple of hours -- recapping and dissecting the events, analyzing, and speculating about what happens after the book ends; or you don't want to say anything beyond "just read it, I don't want to ruin anything for you." I could absolutely relish the former, but I'm going to hew closer to the latter. Harper's better to read on this than me, anyway.

 

So, here's the official blurb to keep me from slipping:


<blockquote>Eleven-year-old Polly McClusky is shy, too old for the teddy bear she carries with her everywhere, when she is unexpectedly reunited with her father, Nate, fresh out of jail and driving a stolen car. He takes her from the front of her school into a world of robbery, violence, and the constant threat of death. And he does it to save her life.

 

Nate made dangerous enemies in prison—a gang called Aryan Steel has put out a bounty on his head, counting on its members on the outside to finish him off. They’ve already murdered his ex-wife, Polly’s mother. And Polly is their next target.

 

Nate and Polly’s lives soon become a series of narrow misses, of evading the bad guys and the police, of sleepless nights in motels. Out on the lam, Polly is forced to grow up early: with barely any time to mourn her mother, she must learn how to take a punch and pull off a drug-house heist. She finds herself transforming from a shy little girl into a true fighter. Nate, in turn, learns what it’s like to love fiercely and unconditionally—a love he’s never quite felt before. But can their powerful bond transcend the dangerous existence he’s carved out for them? Will they ever be able to live an honest life, free of fear?

 

<i>She Rides Shotgun</i> is a gripping and emotionally wrenching novel that upends even our most long-held expectations about heroes, villains, and victims. Nate takes Polly to save her life, but in the end it may very well be Polly who saves him.</blockquote>

 

The thing to remember about Nate -- he might be trying to be a good father, he may want to be a good father and act a certain way for Polly. But he's not a good guy. He's not a paragon of virtue, he's not a reputable citizen. He's a criminal -- and not an entirely successful criminal, with almost zero parenting skills. But man, he wants to try. Expect some heroics, but remember he's no Nick Mason, Jack Reacher or the like.

 

Polly? I don't know what to say about her. If you can read a few chapters of this and not fall in love with this little girl, want to adopt her and protect her from all this madness? Something's broken in you. She'll win your affections, you'll root for her, you'll pity her, you'll hope she survives this all intact.

 

There were a couple of other stand-out characters -- I'd get into them, but it doesn't matter. Your appreciation for this book comes down to this: what do you think about Nate and Polly and what they go through?

 

This is a tense thriller, with more than your typical emotional moments for the genre. Harper delivers both with equal skill and aplomb. As horrible as so much of this plot was -- this was a real pleasure to read, from cover to cover.


---
I first heard about this novel -- and author, come to think of it -- on <a href="http://twocrimewritersandamicrophone.libsyn.com/episode-thirty-three-jordan-harper" target="_blank">Episode 33 of <b>Two Crime Writers And A Microphone</b></a>, you might want to check it out.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/17/she-rides-shotgun-by-jordan-harper-a-gripping-thriller-a-touching-father-daughter-story-an-atypical-crime-novel
Review
4 Stars
A Delightfully Charming and Fun Time-Travel Epic Kicks Off
Just One Damned Thing After Another - Jodi Taylor
Thinking carefully is something that happens to other people.


I lost my notes to this book, which is annoying me greatly. So I'm going to be a bit more vague than I want to be.

 

I could tell from the first couple of pages that I was going to have a great time with this book -- our narrator is Dr. Madeline "Max" Maxwell, a specialist in ancient history. She is charming, engaging, brash, and funny. She's a few more things, too, but let's leave it there. Essentially, she's a delight -- it almost doesn't matter what setting you put her in, what story you tell with her -- I'm in.

 

Thankfully, Taylor puts her in a crazy novel, one perfectly suited for her. When we meet her, Max is being recruited by a former mentor to join St Mary's Institute of Historical Research, a very strange research facility. These historians get their hands dirty in their research in the ways that no other facility on Earth can manage -- they have time machines to take them to whatever point in time they're studying so they can see ad experience history first-hand.

 

Sounds great, doesn't it? But things go awry -- in spectacularly bad fashion. But, for these Historians, where there's tea, there's hope. Using wit, sheer determination, and a little luck Max and her new colleagues will have to find a way to meet these new and dangerous challenges.

 

There's a lot more action and fighting than you'd think given that the book is about Historians and the Technicians who work with them. There's a lot of humor, some pathos, a little love -- and a little more sex than I'd prefer (thankfully most of it happens "off screen," but not all of it). The plot is impossible to summarize well -- it bounces around from point to point like a ball in a pinball machine. This is not a complaint, this is a description. Months will go by in a paragraph (or less) and then things will slow down for the events of a day or two. These are Time Travelers, after all, they can squeeze a lot of activity into a short period of time.

 

There are some other great characters here, too. Max has wonderful, loyal and capable allies (who happen to be interesting to read about); she has fantastic antagonists -- the kind of characters you can relish your annoyance/anger/moral superiority over; her friends are interesting, he love interest is about as fun as you could ask for, and is charming enough in his own right.

 

I wish I'd had the time to write this up when the book was fresher in my mind -- or if I'd not lost my notes. This book deserved a bit more from me. Basically, this book -- between characters, circumstances, plot and tone is what I'd hoped for from the Tuesday Next books. I have no idea if Taylor can keep up the freshness of the voice, the zaniness of the plot, and the engaging quality of the characters (particularly Max) -- it'll be tough to do. But I'm looking forward to finding out. I had a blast reading this one, and can't imagine that Taylor's charm wouldn't win over at least 87% of those who give this a try.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/16/just-one-damned-thing-after-another-by-jodi-taylor-a-delightfully-charming-and-fun-time-travel-epic-kicks-off
Saturday Miscellany - 10/13/18

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:

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/13/saturday-miscellany-10-13-18
Review
5 Stars
A Few Thoughts about the Audiobook of Changes
Changes - Jim Butcher, James Marsters

Spoilers to follow. This isn't one of my typical posts, so my typical rules don't apply.

 

After starting a few months back, I've pretty much stopped posting about listening to the <b>Dresden Files</b> audiobooks -- there are only so many ways to say, "I'd forgotten how much I like this story" and "Wow! James Marsters did a fantastic job!" Not only does it get dull to read, it gets pretty dull to write. (okay, there is a challenge on finding a new way to say it, but . . . I'm too lazy to find that enticing).

 

But I listened to <b>Changes</b> this week and how can I not talk about that?This is one of my favorite novels ever -- Top 10, Deserted Island Must-Have kind of thing -- highs, lows (and things lower than lows), laughs, tears, anger, shock, joy. <b>Changes</b> has it all (at least for those who've been with Harry for a few books -- preferably 11).

 

Listening to the book was a great way for me to experience it again -- if for no other reason, I couldn't race through it and accidentally skim over things in my haste to get to X or Y plot point.

 

It's silly as I've read everything that comes after this a couple of times, but seeing all the compromises and deals Harry made as his life is dismantled piece by piece really hit me hard. Yet, Harry makes his choices freely and for the best reason imaginable. All for Maggie. The ramifications of his choices and agreements are wide, huge and so-far we don't know all of them -- and Harry'd do it all again, and there's not a fan in the world that would blame him.

 

And Marsters? He gets better and better with every book -- and this was fantastic. I loved where Mouse got to "talk" -- it was the next best thing to reading it for the first time. And, when he got to those lines? You know the ones I'm talking about:

 

And I . . .

 

I used the knife.

 

I saved a child.

 

I won a war.

 

God forgive me.


I had to hit pause for a couple of minutes before I could keep going.

 

Sometimes as a book blogger, you get wrapped up in numbers, ratings, book tours, promotion, and all the other stuff -- but every now and then it's great to remember what it is about fiction that gets you into it in the first place. This treat by Butcher and Marsters did just that for me -- I was entertained, I was moved, I was a little inspired.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/12/a-few-thoughts-on-changes-by-audiobook-by-jim-butcher-james-marsters
Review
3.5 Stars
Sunny Randall's Back in this Promising Reintroduction
Robert B. Parker's Blood Feud  - Mike Lupica

I have a complicated relationship with Sunny Randall. Readers of this site have been frequently exposed to my love for Robert B. Parker's Spenser and Jesse Stone novels, both by Parker and the continuations by Ace Atkins and Reed Farrel Coleman (let's overlook Michael Brandman's contributions for the moment). I enjoyed his stand-alone works, and I thought the first couple of Virgil Cole & Everett Hitch books were fun (I haven't tried the Robert Knott continuations). Which leaves us with Sunny.

 

Sunny Randall, the story goes, was written to be adapted into a film series for Parker's chum, Helen Hunt (incidentally, I've never been able to envision Helen Hunt in a single Sunny scene, but that's just me). She's a private investigator; a former cop; part-time painter (art, not house); emotionally entangled with her ex-husband, but can't live with him; lives in Boston; and enjoys good food. But she's totally not a female Spenser -- she doesn't like baseball, see? I've read all the books -- some multiple times -- and while I enjoyed them, I've never clicked with Sunny the way I have with others. Including every other Parker protagonist. Most of her novels are mashups and remixes of various Spenser novels, entertaining to see things in a different light -- but that's about it. Frankly, the most I ever liked Sunny was in the three Jesse Stone novels late in Parker's run (but both characters are better off without each other).

 

So when it was announced that Mike Lupica would be taking up the reins of this series I was intrigued but not incredibly enthused. I only know Lupica from having bought a few of his books for my sons when they were younger. I didn't get around to reading any of them, so he's really a new author for me. And sure, I was a little worried about a YA/MG author taking the reins of a "grown-up" series. But not much -- if you can write a novel, you can write a novel, it's just adjusting your voice and language to be appropriate for the audience.

 

Enough blather -- let's talk about Blood Feud. Since we saw her last, Sunny has had to move, Richie (her ex-) has gotten another divorce (giving them the chance to date or whatever you want to call it) and has replaced her late dog, Rosie, with another Rosie. Other than that, things are basically where they were after the end of Spare Change 11 years ago (for us, anyway, I'm not sure how long for her, but less time has passed you can bet).

 

By the way -- does anyone other than Robert B. Parker, Spenser and Sunny really do this? Your dog dies, so you go and get another one of the same breed and call him/her the same name? Is this really a thing?

 

Then one night -- Richie is shot. It's not fatal, but was done in such a way that no one doubts for a moment that it could have been had the assailant wanted it to be. For those who don't know (or don't remember), Richie is the son of an Irish mob boss, although he has nothing to do with the family business. He's given a message for his father -- his shooter is coming for him, but wants him to suffer first. This kicks off a race for the shooter -- Sunny, the Burke family and the police (led by Sgt. Frank Belson) are vying to be the one to find the shooter.

 

Before long, the violence spreads to other people the Burkes employ -- both property and persons are targeted by this stranger. It's clear that whoever is doing this has a grudge going back years. So Sunny dives into the Burke family history as much as she can, so she can get an answer before her ex-father-in-law is killed. Not just the family history -- but the family's present, too. As much as the roots of the violence are in the past, Sunny's convinced what the Burkes are up to now is just as important to the shooter.

 

Richie's father, Desmond, isn't happy about Sunny sticking her nose into things. Not just because of the crimes she might uncover -- but he really wants to leave the past in the past. But as long as someone might come take another shot at Richie, Sunny won't stop. This brings her into contact with several criminal figures in Boston (like Parker-verse constants Tony Marcus and Vinnie Morris) as well as some we've only met in Sunny books.

 

There are a couple of new characters in these pages, but most of them we've met before -- Lupica is re-establishing this universe and doesn't have time to bring in many outsiders, but really just reminds us who the players are. Other than the new Rosie, I can't point at a character and say "that's different." He's done a pretty good job of stepping into Parker's shoes. Not the pre-Catskill Eagle Parker like Atkins, but the Parker of Sunny Randall books, which is what it should feel like (( wouldn't have objected to a Coleman-esque true to the character, just told in a different way). I think some of the jokes were overused (her Sox-apathy, for one), but it wasn't too bad. Lupica did make some interesting choices, particularly toward the end, which should set up some interesting situations for future installments.

 

The mystery was decent enough, and fit both the situations and the characters -- I spent a lot of the novel far ahead of Sunny (but it's easier on this side of the page). I enjoyed the book -- it's not the best thing I've read this year, but it's a good entry novel for Lupica in this series, a good reintroduction for the characters/world, and an entertaining read in general. If you're new to this series, this would be as good a place to hop on as it was for Lupica.

 

I want better for Parker's creation (but I think I'd have said that for most of Parker's run with the series), and Lupica's set things up in a way that we could get that in the near-future. He's demonstrated that he has a good handle on the character he inherited, the question is, what can he do with her from here? I was ambivalent about this series coming back, but I can honestly say that I'm eager to see what happens to it next.

 

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

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/12/blood-feud-by-mike-lupica-sunny-randalls-back-in-this-promising-reintroduction
Review
5 Stars
Things get Intense in the Ongoing Conflict between The Faceless Man and The Folly.
Lies Sleeping - Ben Aaronovitch

I've got to say, I'd much rather be talking about this book in detail with someone else who had read the series than talking about it in spoiler-free form, so much of what I feel strongest about with this book cannot be discussed. Aaronovitch has outdone himself this time -- it's the best book of the series thus far, and that's no mean feat.

 

It's easy -- far too easy -- when thinking about this series to think of the lighter aspects -- the humor, the heart, Peter's growing pains, the snark, the pop culture references, and whatnot. That's typically where my mind goes, anyway. But time after time, when picking up the latest novel, or even rereading one, I'm struck by how carefully written, how detailed everything is, how layered the text is -- and I feel bad for underestimating Aaronovitch. Not that I have anything against breezy, jokey prose -- but there are differences. Nor am I saying these books are drudgery -- at all -- the stories are fun, the voice is strong, and the narration will make you grin (at the very least, probably laugh a few times, too). In Lies Sleeping part of that care, part of the thoroughness of this novel is how there is a tie -- character, event, call-back, allusion -- to every novel, novella, comic arc involved in the Rivers of London up to this point -- if you haven't read everything, it won't detract from your understanding of the novel -- but if you have read them all, if you catch the references -- it makes it just that much richer.

 

So what is this novel about? Well, after years of chasing The Faceless Man (and The Faceless Man II), Peter Grant (now a Detective Constable) and Nightengale have his identity, have several leads to follow to track him down -- or at least his supporters and accessories (willingly or not). Better yet -- the Metropolitan Police Force have given them the manpower they need to truly track him down and interfere with his funding and activities.

 

During this operation, Peter, Guleed and Nightengale become convinced that Martin Chorley (and, of course, former PC Lesley May) are preparing for something major. They're not sure what it is, but the kind of magic involved suggests that the results would be calamitous. How do you prepare for that? How do you counter the unexpected, but dangerous? There are two paths you follow: thorough, careful, borderline-tedious policework; and bold, creative, innovative thinking. The two of those employed together lead to some great results -- and if Peter Grant isn't the embodiment of both, he's . . . okay, he's not perfect at the former, but he can pretend frequently (and has colleagues who can pick up the slack).

 

Not only do we get time with all our old friends and foes -- we meet some new characters -- including a River unlike anyone that Father or Mama Thames as yet introduced to. Mr. Punch is more involved in this story than he has been since Midnight Riot, but in a way we haven't seen before. Most of the character things I want to talk about fit under the "spoiler" category, so I'll just say that I enjoyed and/or loved the character development and growth demonstrated in every returning character.

 

There's more action/combat kind of scenes in this book than we're used to. I couldn't be happier -- Peter's grown enough in his abilities and control to not need Nightengale to bail him out of everything. Nightengale and Peter working together in a fast-paced battle scene is something I've been waiting to read for 7 years. It was worth the wait.

 

As I said before, Lies Sleeping is the best and most ambitious of the series -- the richness of the writing, the audacity of the action, the widening scope of the novel, the Phineas and Ferb reference, the epic battle scenes, the growth in Peter, Bev, and Guleed (and maybe even Lesley), the ending rivals Broken Homes' -- all add up to a fantastic read. Yeah, I'm a fanboy when it comes to this series, and Lies Sleeping made me a happy fanboy. I have no idea how Aaronovitch moves on from this point with these books, but I cannot wait to find out.


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

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/10/lies-sleeping-by-ben-aaronovitch-things-get-intense-in-the-ongoing-conflict-between-the-faceless-man-and-the-folly
Review
3 Stars
A gripping thriller featuring a uniquely disqualified hero
Dead Blind - Rebecca Bradley

There are two gripping stories in this novel -- the primary one isn't the crime story (odd for a work of crime fiction), but it is the better executed of the two. Which isn't a slight to the secondary story, at least not intentionally.

 

Let's start with the crime -- DI Ray Patrick and his team are investigating an international organ smuggling ring. Every time I've run into this kind of story -- in print or on TV -- it has always been effective. Something about the idea of harvesting organs from people (who may or may not survive the process for at least awhile) to transplant into people who may or may not survive (given the less than ideal facilities for such activities) has always disturbed me. Then when my son was diagnosed with renal failure and we were told he'd need a kidney transplant, these kind of stories became more nightmarish for me. So yeah, basically, this was right up my alley.

 

Thankfully, he'd received his kidney a couple of weeks before I read this one, so it didn't end up costing me sleep. Incidentally, the facts and figures about transplants, the need for them and the lack of donors, etc. all lined up with everything we'd been told. Yes, there are differences in protocols between the two medical systems, but on the whole, what Patrick and the rest learned matched what I'd learned. When it comes to thins kind of thing in novels, I'm always wondering how much the author fudged and how much came from research -- I'm happy to say that Bradley got this right.

 

So this story -- from how the ring operates to how Patrick and the rest investigate is very satisfying.

 

Which leaves the primary story. Patrick comes back to work from a nasty automobile accident, mostly recovered from his physical injuries. But that's not the only injury he sustained. Patrick now is dealing with prosopagnosia, aka "face blindness." Through some clever guesswork, and a whole lot of luck, he's never revealed it to anyone other than his ex-wife (so she can help him with his kids). Now back at work, Patrick is attempting to hoodwink everyone into thinking he's okay, because he doesn't want to risk not losing his job.

 

On the one hand you want to see him pull off his silly scheme, on the other, you want to see him be the man of integrity everyone thinks he is and be honest with his colleagues and friends. Especially when Patrick's inability to discern or remember faces jeopardizes the investigation.

 

Watching Patrick try to remember people via other means while trying to lead an investigation, and deal with the ramifications of the disorder in his personal life gives the book its emotional weight. And it delivers that in spades.

 

Patrick's team is full of some pretty well-drawn characters, which also applies for the other people in his life -- grounding the more outlandish flavorings of the other stories. I enjoyed the read and found it gripping -- looking forward to seeing more from Bradley.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/09/dead-blind-by-rebecca-bradley-a-gripping-thriller-featuring-a-uniquely-disqualified-hero
Review
3.5 Stars
An All-Ages SF that is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser
Voyage of the Dogs  - Greg Van Eekhout

★ ★ ★ 1/2 (rounded up)
This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.
---

Of course, the humans couldn't go alone. There had to be dogs. Because wherever humans went dogs came along. Like rats, only more helpful. Dogs would herd livestock. Dogs would keep watch against the unknown. And, more importantly, dogs would keep the human crew company during the long spaceflight, and on their new home, far away from Earth.

 

But first they had to get there.


I guess this is technically a "Middle Grade" book -- but forget about that. Call it All-Ages instead -- that way, adults and YA readers and . . . everyone can enjoy this SF guilt-free. I should also include this line from The Big Idea post Van Eekhout wrote on Scalzi's blog: "Spoiler: I don’t kill off any of the dogs in this book. Why not? Because I’m not a monster, that’s why not." It's important to get that out of the way.

 

Let's start with this: the rationale to bring dogs along on a spaceship. It's brilliant. It also points to one of the biggest problems with Starfleet, the Colonial Battle Fleet, the Serenity, etc. A lack of animals. Sure, NCC 1701-D had pets (not that we saw them often), but they were sealed up in cabins. And Firefly's episode "Safe" had cattle, but that was an oddity. The animals aboard Laika are there for purposes -- like the main character, Lopside. He's there to hunt rats -- where there are humans and cargo, there are rats. Something small and fast -- and with a good nose -- is needed to hunt rats down.

 

The book will do a better job explaining the roles of the other three dogs and what advances in breeding have led to dogs being capable of being more than the dogs we have today -- while still remaining dogs -- to become Barkonauts.

 

These poor, brave dogs go into the hibernation state just before the humans do to complete the voyage to a nearby star system as part of human exploration and colonization, the first mission like this humanity has tried. But when the dogs wake up, they notice something's wrong -- part of the ship is missing, as is the crew.

 

They're too far into the mission to turn around, too far away for a rescue mission to reach them. At this point, Lopside and the others have to try to salvage what they can and limp along to their final destination.

 

Lopside is a terrier mix, he's brave, he has (understandably) abandonment issues -- which are not helped at all by the absence of the humans. He's a little scatter-brained (like a good terrier) and he's incredibly loyal and has a great heart. The other barkonauts are as well-drawn and lovable.

 

Van Eekhout is clearly a dog-lover and it comes out in his characters. He's also a pretty good story-teller, because even with that spoiler, I was invested in the outcome and really wasn't sure how he was going to pull things off in a way that was satisfying and that wouldn't reduce semi-sensitive 5th-graders across the globe to quivering balls of tears (a lesson Wilson Rawls could've used, I have to say -- no, I'm not still torn up about Old Dan and Little Ann, why do you ask?). He does succeed in that -- although some might get a bit misty at a point or two. It's a fun and creative story, and takes some oft-repeated SF tropes and deals with them in a refreshing way.

 

Ignore the stars -- I can't bring myself to give it more, I don't know why. Pay attention to what I have said above and this: read the book. It'll warm your heart, it'll make you make you a little sad, it'll give you something to grin about -- and it tells a good story, too. What more do you want?

 

2018 Library Love Challenge

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/08/voyage-of-the-dogs-by-greg-van-eekhout-an-all-ages-sf-that-is-a-sure-fire-crowd-pleaser
Review
4 Stars
A Mix of Common Sense, Cynicism, Self-Aggrandizement, Clever Writing, and a Great Narrator
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life - Mark Manson, Roger Wayne

I'd seen this book around, and let my eyes slide right off given the title. Clearly, it wasn't for me. Then a couple of months ago, I heard it referenced in a couple of podcast interviews (no, I don't remember who talked about it -- but at least one of them said something thoughtful about it) and my cubicle-mate listened to it at the same time and seemed to enjoy it. So I figured I'd give it a shot. I'm very glad I did, really.

 

I'm also glad that HarperCollins' website gives such a thorough blurb about the book, which will save me so much time -- so let's take a moment to read what they said:

In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be "positive" all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

 

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. "F**k positivity," Mark Manson says. "Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it." In his wildly popular Internet blog, Manson doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected modern society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up.

 

Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—"not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault." Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.

 

There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.

 

Sure, some of that is overblown -- its point is to sell you the book, right? But, by and large, that's a good summary of the book's highlights. Manson's point isn't to stop giving a f*ck period, it's to give fewer f*cks in general and to make sure the f*cks you give are for the right/important stuff in life. That's pretty basic, but pretty easily ignored advice: everything seems important, but not everything is. Focus on the important stuff, care about that, and let the rest go -- if it works out, great. I'm not sure if this is different from Carlson's book Don't Sweat the Small Stuff -- but it probably has more laughs and profanity.

 

Manson is entirely too impressed with himself (or at least he comes across that way), and he never convinces me that there's a reason to heed his advice over anyone else's. But on the whole, what he says makes a lot of sense. Do I think that ultimately, this is all a house of cards that won't stand intense scrutiny? Yup. But I think that of every bit of man-made advice -- Manson's is more amusingly delivered than most, and won't get the devotee into too much trouble if they apply this recklessly.

 

Roger Wayne's narration elevates the entire thing -- there's not a moment that I don't confuse his voice for Manson's. It felt like I was attending one of the most intense self-help seminars in history and that Manson got going and just wouldn't stop (not that anyone tried to make him). Wayne added voices (his Disappointment Panda voice is the best character I've heard in an audiobook since Luke Daniel's take on Hearne's Oberon), flair and a sense of passion to the text. When Manson approached poignancy, Wayne made it all the more so. Fantastic work.

 

I'd probably give this 3-stars if I'd read the text -- amusing, thought-provoking, with some good advice. But, you add in Wayne's narration? I've got to bump it up to 4. Seriously, he's just that good. This isn't a book for everyone (I know several readers of this blog that should avoid it just for the language), but for those who are capable of sorting out the wheat from the chaff -- this is a fun and potentially helpful read.


2018 Library Love Challenge

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/08/the-subtle-art-of-not-giving-a-fck-audiobook-by-mark-manson-roger-wayne-a-mix-of-common-sense-cynicism-self-aggrandizement-clever-writing-and-a-great-narrator
Review
4 Stars
A Child Abduction Sets Off a Disturbing Chain of Events
Burning Secrets - Ruth Sutton

For a book that clocks in at 264 pages, Sutton packed in a lot of story. I'm having difficulty deciding what to focus on, I've got to say. If only all authors could present a guy with such problems . . .

 

This book starts off with a child abduction -- a child, Helen Helsop, that we get to know a little bit before she's abducted. Immediately I groaned, because the last thing I wanted to deal with is a book about a little girl getting snatched and then dealing with whatever abuse is looming. Without spoiling much, let me assure you -- nothing like that happens. This is not that kind of kidnapped child story. This doesn't mean that she's been taken for benign or even beneficial reasons, however.

 

Helen hasn't been living at home -- she's been staying with family in town so she can attend school. Because theirs is a farming community -- predominately, or at least heavily, a dairy and cattle area, and this is 2001 -- the height of the Foot and Mouth crisis. I'll be honest, as an American in a pre-social media age, I didn't have a strong grasp on the effect this had on smaller farmers -- I just never was exposed to it. I got what it meant on the national/industry front, but didn't think much more about it. If I had, it would've been obvious just how much this would decimate a community, an individual family, and why this was such a horrible crisis. Anyway, back to Helen -- she hasn't had a good time of it in this temporary home and is easily persuaded to leave. It's hours (of course) before anyone notices that she's missing, and even then, most of her family doesn't believe she's actually missing.

 

Before that, thankfully, the police are called in -- we focus on DC Maureen Pritchard -- a well-known fixture in the community (not as well-known as her father, however) and the newly-arrived DS Anna Penrose. There's a little professional jealousy between the two -- Pritchard envies another woman in a position she was denied and Penrose would love the acceptance and respect her fellow officers seem to have for Pritchard. But largely, they can put that aside to focus on Helen. It's obvious from the start that the foster family and Helen's actual family are both holding back from the police, but it's hard to tell if it's germane to the case, or if it's just things that no one wants to share with outsiders.

 

This is all so compellingly told -- the layers that Sutton is working on are something to behold. She's excellent at revealing more and more about Pritchard and Penrose while they're uncovering more about Helen's life and whoever took her. You could make the case (I think you'd be wrong, but you can make it) that the mystery in this novel takes a back seat to the drama surrounding the women and their superiors. Initially, probably because we meet her first, I was pulling for Pritchard to solve the case, rescue the girl and save the day to put Penrose in her place. But soon, I just wanted the two of them to knock off the nonsense and just work together -- preferably by being open with each other about what's going on. I won't say if I was ultimately satisfied in that desire, but I can say that Sutton deals with their relationship in a way that is absolutely believable and realistic -- a very satisfactory job.

 

The greatest impediment to the search for Helen isn't the fact that the family is hiding something(s), the difficulty in tracking down a person of interest, the cleverness of the kidnapper, finding a particular van in a decent size, getting a straight answer out of scared kids with overbearing/concerned parents interfering (for nefarious reasons or unintentionally), or any of the other absolutely understandable and inevitable roadblocks. Instead, it's Detective Inspector Stanley Bell -- he's too focused on the budget and on impressing his DCI, not that we can forget his obvious misogyny and blatant racism. It'd have been easy for Sutton to leave him as a buffoon, an obstacle, a foil for Pritchard and Penrose -- but she doesn't, there are times when he seems to be a perfectly capable police officer. But those times are the minority -- it is fun to watch his subordinates play him to get their way, Penrose learns from Pritchard's example quickly on this front.

 

If I tried to talk about the kidnapper, I'd spoil it -- if I tried to talk about Helen's family, I'd fail. I can't summarize what Sutton did there (I was reductionistic enough with the police -- and I'd still be reductionistic if I'd included everything I wanted to say about them) -- I've known men like her father and older brother. I could feel their pain, their frustration -- with their life in general, even before Helen's abduction, which just seemed like the next-to-last straw for them. Between Foot and Mouth, general hardships (physical and financial) related to this lifestyle, too much alcohol, and a wife who wants more than all this -- it's just too much for people to take.

 

The depiction of Helen is really strong, as well -- she is a scared twelve year-old doing the best she can in a horrible circumstance. At some point the police don't understand why she did X in a situation. I wanted to yell at them, "because she's a scared little kid!" Of course, she's not going to act like a rational adult. (The other thing I had a hard time buying was that given the emphasis the officers put on local knowledge, was that it was the outsider who understood the importance of getting his cows milked to a dairy farmer)

 

I've gone on too long, and haven't said nearly enough. So let's hit the important things as I try to wrap up.As I said at the outset -- this is not a typical kidnapping novel. Every assumption you make early on in the book will prove to be mistaken, but it all feels organic, it all seemed natural. This isn't one of those books where you can see the author moving pieces around to achieve her ends. I have no doubt she did -- but I couldn't see it. There's some good action, some very clever policework, and a strong psychological-thriller bent to parts of this as well. There's a strong Perry Mason-esque quality to the strategy the police employed at the end, which I appreciated. Burning Secrets ticks almost every box a mystery-fan will have on their list.

 

This is a novel about family secrets, family problems -- all families, on some level, I'm sure. There are strong threads about options various women take to take care of their families and themselves -- what lengths they may go to, what shortcuts they may take, what hard choices they may make -- to secure happiness, health, or survival. This is a novel about change -- individual and societal -- how difficult that is. But none of these themes detract from a heart-stopping and heart-breaking story about a kidnapping and the consequences radiating from it. All in less than 300 pages -- not a bad feat.

 

I have no idea if Sutton intends to write more about these characters (there's every reason to think she will, given her track record) -- but I'd love to spend more time with them. If Penrose and Pritchard can turn their détente into some sort of working understanding, or better, a real partnership, they'd be a fantastic combination (for drama, they'd still be interesting if they don't form any closer relationship, but it wouldn't be as fun to read). Sutton does have a pretty hefty backlist, and I should try to dive in -- and you should, too. Start with this, though, it'll whet your appetite for the rest.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/05/burning-secrets-by-ruth-sutton-a-child-abduction-sets-off-a-disturbing-chain-of-events
Saturday Miscellany - 10/6/18

Yup. It's late -- but still Saturday. Spent some quality time with the Mrs. instead of with my laptop. But that's over, priorities back to where they usually are. Here are the 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:

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/06/saturday-miscellany-10-6-18
Review
4.5 Stars
Tromly (and Digby & Zoe) saved the best for last.
Trouble Never Sleeps - Stephanie Tromly

This picks up right on the heels of Trouble Makes a Comeback leaving Zoe and Digby (and their friends) to deal with the social fallout of the events of that party. Then and only then can they start to decide how they're going to deal with the deal Digby was offered: steal some top-secret research data in exchange for information on his sister's whereabouts. Sure, it's technically treason and will likely end up destroying Digby's life as well as the lives of Felix's family.

 

Meanwhile, there's a complication to the caper in the last book -- Zoe left something tied to her in the evidence collected by the police. The repercussions of that caper are also in danger of hurting some of the students they set out to save.

 

Both stories are good uses of the characters, and were strong stories on their own. While I have enjoyed Digby's schemes and how they work out (or how they almost do), but I had a hard time swallowing his plan (or how it was carried out) for the non-high school caper. By the way, it took several tries to stay away from spoilers in that sentence.

However, once I decided to not care about how outlandish it all was, I enjoyed reading it.

 

The key to this book -- series, really -- are in the characters and their interactions. Not just Zoe and Digby (but nothing's more important, or better, than that), but Zoe and her mom, Zoe and her friends/frenemies/enemies at school, and Digby's strange interactions with everybody. I don't know if Tromly hit that better this time, or just as well has she had before -- either way, the dialogue sings and you believe it. These relationships are complicated and real and they make the books come alive.

 

I should probably add that the reason I didn't listen to the audiobook (unlike the last two) is because my library didn't have a copy, unlike the last two. It's not a reflection on Kathleen McInerney's work -- it was good for me to see that it was Tromly's words and not just McInerney's great narration that hooked me, though.

 

It's hard to talk about this book in any kind of depth without spoiling book 2 and ruining things here. So I'll stop now. It's a fun adventure, with laughs, tension, and all the warm fuzzies you could ask for.

 

The trilogy started off strong, stumbled a bit and then more than recovered with this one. It's the strongest of the series easily -- and sticks the landing (which I worried about, not because I didn't think Tromly could do it, it's just easy to miss). I'm going to miss Zoe and Digby. I'm so glad that I found this series this year -- it's been a blast to listen to and read. Great characters, strong character arcs over the trilogy, a good overall story, with some great smaller stories in the individual books. This series is going down as one of my favorite YA series ever.

 

2018 Library Love Challenge

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/04/trouble-never-sleeps-by-stephanie-tromly-tromly-and-digby-zoe-saved-the-best-for-last
Review
4 Stars
An Impressive Array of Short Fiction
Scoundrels Among Us - Darrin Doyle

The trouble I often have when talking about collections of short stories is just how to do talk about the collection as a whole. After tossing around some ideas, I think the easiest way to sum up my reaction to these stories is with his simple question: What was he thinking?!?!

 

Now sometimes I asked that question incredulously, sometimes in awe, sometimes in confusion, sometimes in bafflement, sometimes all of the above. But I kept asking it. Some of these are incredibly short, some are on the longer side -- told from a variety of perspectives and in a variety of tones. So beyond my one question, I don't know how to address them collectively. I won't go into detail on them all individually (that's just too many), but let's take a look at some that stood out.

 

The collection starts with "Insert Name," a story about the struggles of nonuplets growing up and then transitioning to adulthood in a very unexpected way. It impressed me, and made it clear that this wasn't going to be a run-of-the-mill short story collection. By the time I got to the sixth entry, "Dangling Joe," I knew a couple of things -- Doyle's mind doesn't work the way most people's does, and that I needed to toss out every expectation I had when I started each story. Whatever I was starting was going to be different from what had come before, and I needed to be ready for that.

 

The highlight of the book is “If the Invisible Man Dies and Nobody Sees it, Does He Really Die?” This is impossible to describe, but brilliant. He does so many things in this story -- in addition to telling a compelling story -- that I can't sum it up easily. Give me 15 pages or so, and I'd be willing to give it a shot. It's one of the best things I've read this year.

 

My notes on "Twilford Baines, Buck Hunter Unbounded" were simple, "that's really good." I just re-read it to see if I could expand on that, and no, I really can't. It's a story about a man hunting deer, who is forced into some concentrated self-reflection, and it's really good. Re-reading it tempted me to push this off another day to re-read most of the stories, actually.

 

"Slice of Moon" was a great read, but personally frustrating. I think if you read it, you'll agree. I can't think of anything else to say without ruining it. If not for "Invisible Man," it'd be my favorite story in the collection (given how annoyed he made me with it, however, maybe it was more effective than "Invisible Man,").

 

I invoked Flannery O'Conner recently, and hesitate to do it again, however, I'm compelled to. Except for the explicit sexual content (which wasn't really necessary), "Reborn" could've come from the pages of <b>Everything That Rises Must Converge</b>. It was powerful and strange and I'm glad I got to read it.

 

Were there some in this collection that didn't work for me? Yes. There were some real clunkers -- but there was nothing I wasn't glad to read. As usual, some of the stories that didn't work for me will work for you. And the one's that sent me over the moon won't do much for you (you'll be wrong most of the time there -- especially if you don't love “If the Invisible Man Dies and Nobody Sees it, Does He Really Die?”). One thing I think everyone who picks this up will agree is: Darrin Doyle is a great writer and you should read his stories. You'll probably also ask yourself "What was he thinking?" more than once. Go grab it.

 

<i><b>Disclaimer:</b> I was provided with a review copy of this collection in return for my honest thoughts and this post -- which I appreciate.</i>.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/04/scoundrels-among-us-by-darrin-doyle-an-impressive-array-of-short-fiction