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 - 6/23/18

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 thisischechewinnie and vibealittle for following the blog this week.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/06/23/saturday-miscellany-6-23-18
Review
4 Stars
DC Fiona Griffiths solves a impossible crime or two in this compelling read
This Thing of Darkness - Harry Bingham
I think police rules matter and I’ll try to abide by them. But the dead matter more. Their rules are sacred and they last for ever.


For a change, Fiona Griffiths is making a serious, concerted effort to act the way that a Detective Constable is supposed to -- crossing Ts, dotting Is, using warrants, court orders, rules of evidence, and so on -- I'm not saying she's successful at it, but she made an effort. Sure, she had to set the rules to the side in the beginning, and the had to put them in the dustbin towards the end -- but during that middle part? She came awfully close to being a proper DC from Planet Normal.

 

So, Fiona is assigned to help out in Evidence Collection -- going through all the gathered evidence, cataloging, tracking, documenting the chain of custody, etc. for a major sexual assault case. She has no use for the lead investigator -- and the feeling is mutual -- but she's quite skilled at this sort of thing, so she has to stay on the case. Meanwhile, she's also studying for the Detective Sergeant's exam (or she's supposed to be) -- her superiors have very high expectations for her. Oh, and she's been given a stack of cold cases to leaf through to keep her mind engaged. Two of this stack of cases catch her eye -- and because she's Fiona Griffiths, it turns out that her curiosity was piqued by cases that turn out to be more than anyone expected.

 

In one case, some very valuable art was stolen from the second floor of a home -- all the security was located on the first floor, and there's absolutely no indication that the first floor was accessed at all. Yet (with no obvious sign of break in), the second floor was picked pretty clean. There's also an accidental death as the result of a fall from a rocky path near a cliff where a man who'd been drinking was walking at night. It's not long before she's able to demonstrate one solid explanation for the break-in, why it happened the way it did; she's able to demonstrate that the accidental death wasn't one, and is able to identify similar crimes. From there...well, things get complicated.

 

On the one hand, what Fiona and her colleagues uncovers is one of the most outlandish, hard to believe schemes I can remember in crime fiction. On the other hand, I just know that there are probably actual crimes that make this look pedestrian, and it wouldn't surprise me if there are real life analogues to the crimes in this book. Also, when Fiona starts putting pieces together and explaining things to her superiors, it all makes sense in a way that you can't believe you didn't figure it out a dozen pages before her.

 

Naturally, this book puts Fiona in a couple of very difficult situations -- and both make what she's gone through before seem somewhat tame. Part of this takes place on a fishing boat in the Atlantic -- I make no bones about it, I need to be on land. I cannot handle being on anything in the ocean for longer than...4 minutes. Reading those portions of this book were pure horror for me. I'm not going to slap a Trigger Warning on this or anything, but you might want to consider popping a Dramamine. Watching Fiona endure these extremes, while keeping her wits (mostly?) about her, planning her way out of them, and dealing with her mental health issues -- it makes for great reading. Pure and simple.

 

Meanwhile, Fiona is making strides in her personal life, growing as a person -- finding her relationships with her exes evolve and mature. Forging new relationships, realizing how to recognize attraction to someone, forging friendships, etc. She is getting closer to her goal (whether or not she'll ever reach it, I don't know, but she's closer) of a "normal" life. Also, thanks to the mentorship and guidance (frequently firm) of her superiors, she's advancing at work. Sure, she spends a lot of time stuck processing evidence -- but that just adds fuel to her creative fire when she is investigating and coming up against brick walls. Also, the last chapter features some of the most overtly "fun" writing in the series -- and that's due to the relationships with her superiors developing the way they do.

 

It would've been very easy for Bingham to crank out a few books about the quirky and charmingly unbalanced Fiona acting like a maverick cop, investigating on her own and finding ways to justify everything for the brass. Instead, we see Fiona wrestling with her condition, making progress (and then regressing) with it -- yet finding ways to integrate professionally and personally with others.

 

Not only that, but Fiona makes significant progress on the two ongoing investigations she's been handling on her own since the first book -- there's been some incremental progress when it comes to tracing her personal history, and her campaign to learn more about those who were tied to the ringleader in Talking to the Dead in the last couple of books -- but she makes strides greater than I really ever wondered if she would in this book -- and I know she's not done yet.

 

That reminds me -- this novel revisits (in at least some small way) the victims and perpetrators of the cases in the firs three books in the series. Not many mysteries do that, but Bingham makes sure that Fiona can't shake the ghosts of the cases she's worked -- no matter how they resolved.

 

There's really very little that Bingham and Fiona don't do well in this layered novel -- whether we're dealing with one of the many criminal investigations, her personal grown, or just understanding herself better, this book does a great job with everything. I am always forgetting how much I like these books, and just how good Bingham is -- I'm not sure why it's something I need reminding of. The balance of mystery, thriller, and character study is really outstanding. Obviously, if you watch Fiona's growth from the get go, you will appreciate what happens in these pages better. But this would work as a jumping on point, too.


Definitely recommended.

Review
3.5 Stars
A Gripping, Fast Read about a Would-Be Murderess
Go Home, Afton - Brent D. Jones

I have some potentially, slightly spoilerly thoughts in paragraph #9. Feel free to skip that, to help, I'll write my conclusion first and then add that on as a post-script of sorts. Deal? Okay here we go:

 

I learned over time that the murderess without blood on her hands has a lot in common with a heroin-addicted streetwalker. Both crave a fix, and both are willing to do just about anything to get one. And the longer she has to wait, the more dangerous and erratic her behavior becomes.

 

Afton Morrison, our narrator, has a problem -- she has this drive to kill someone. Multiple someones, actually. She's not a female take on John Wayne Cleaver, though. She's really at peace with the idea (as much as you can be). She wants her targets to be deserving (in a Dexter kind of way), and she wants to get away clean, so she can do it again. This isn't your typical take on a Children's Librarian from a small town public library, but, hey -- maybe it should be. She's found her first victim, follows him, knows his habits, is sure he's the right guy and is all set to make her move. . . but can't seem to find him when the time comes.

 

Meanwhile, she's got to play supportive and attentive little sister to her brother who's having trouble with his love life. She's an unwilling mentor to a would-be over-achieving high school student. Plus, Afton's finding herself with new and unexpected interpersonal connections -- none of which she has time for, because he's got to go kill a man. As soon as she finds him.

 

Also, other complications ensue -- Afton may have a well-conceived plan, but she's going to have a really hard time sticking to it once other people get involved.

 

I like Afton -- as much as you can like someone like her. Her brother's great, ditto for all the other complications in her life -- good characters, and (generally) good people. I hope we can find out more about Afton and most of the secondary characters (there's a couple I'll ignore for now for spoiler reasons).

 

The writing could be tightened up a little bit. A couple of errors fixed -- and I'm going off of an ARC, it's possible they will be in time for the publication. I think some of the language used by a some of the characters (see Peter, a fellow librarian, in particular) goes over the line -- he can be a creep, but when you make him that much of a creep, he becomes a liability. "Can we just spend time with the would-be murderess? I don't feel quite so dirty reading about her." But on the whole, the storytelling itself is strong enough that it makes up for whatever deficiencies one may find in the text.

 

A personal note to Mr. Jones: If you don't stick to your schedule on the following installments, so I have to wait to find out what happens, I'll...I'll, I dunno. Tweet nasty things about your mother. Just sayin' -- I need to find out.

 

A fast, fast read that grabbed me from the first chapter and wouldn't let me go until the end. And even then, it left me wanting more -- soon. Thankfully, Jones has his 4-part series scheduled to wrap up this October. Go Home, Afton is as entertaining as it is intriguing with a protagonist you want to get to know better (even if she's someone you'd like to see locked up in a treatment facility for at least a few years).

 

So, Afton is a great unreliable narrator. She's not trying to be one -- which is the best part. She's reporting things to us as she sees them, but she can't trust what she's seeing and hearing. Which makes the reader pretty sure they know what's going on most of the time -- but they can never be totally sure.Thankfully, Afton is pretty up front about this. Neither she nor Jones are trying to play games with the reader. I can get behind that.

 

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for my honest opinion. The ensuing addiction was just a bonus.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/06/18/go-home-afton-by-brent-jones-a-gripping-fast-read-about-a-would-be-murderess
Saturday Miscellany - 6/16/18

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 annhwkns77, Allie Sumner and lindsayjohnna for following the blog this week.

Review
4 Stars
Many things happen -- some even positive -- in this very strong entry to the season.
Assassination - Malka Older

I take it all back -- every hesitation I've expressed over the last couple of weeks -- this episode fixed everything.

 

Well, no, not really. But man, it's close enough to justify a little hyperbole. This has none of the weaknesses or shortcomings of the last couple of episodes -- there's some good action, the plot moves forward, there's some great character moments and the reader isn't left wondering about what's going on. There's one character's action that you can't be positive about, and there's something that happens in the closing paragraphs that you can't know everything about -- but you will soon into episode 10. But those are different from being aware that there's a lot going on and you don't get to see or know about it.

 

This takes place in the shadow of the events of last week's episode, kicking off mere hours later, and carries you at a great pace through the next events.

 

Adechike and Ojo have a confrontation about their nation's actions (and some of Ojo's) and I found myself rooting for the junior warden -- not something I'd have expected even a week ago. Michiko's investigation bears some fantastic fruit. Takeshi learned more than he expected to -- and possibly kicks off another sub-plot (who doesn't want one so close to the end?). And the other wardens find themselves forced to react to the embryonic war.

 

This far into the series, it continues to be difficult to talk about the events without ruining things for people who have yet to start the series, so hopefully this was enough. This was a very strong entry -- the strongest since episode 4 or 5, and one that bodes well for the end of this season.

 

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/06/15/born-to-the-blade-1-9-assassination-by-malka-ann-older-many-things-happen-some-even-positive-in-this-very-strong-entry-to-the-season
Review
4 Stars
A Comedic Fantasy Tells a Good Story While Playing with Too-Familiar Tropes
Kill the Farm Boy - Delilah S. Dawson, Kevin Hearne

Ugh. I wish the eARC didn't say I needed to hold off any quotations until I could compare it with the final copy -- or maybe, I wish I had noticed that very tiny print before I got half a draft of this finished. On the other hand, I was having trouble narrowing down which of my lengthy options to use, because, if nothing else, this is one of the more quotable books I've read in the last couple of years.

 

Kill the Farm Boy is a comedic fantasy, a satirical look at fantasy and even a parody of the genre. But what makes it effective is that for all the comedy, there's a decent story and some solid characters throughout. It's be easy for it to be a collection of jokes, with no story; or a tale full of character types, not characters. But Dawson and Hearne avoid those pitfalls.

 

The titular farm boy, Worstley, is going about his typical day, full of drudgery when an inebriated pixie shows up to announce that he is a Chosen One -- one who is destined to save, or at least change, the world. To demonstrate her power, the pixie gives one of his goats, Gustave, the power of speech. The goat isn't too happy about being able to speak, but since he was destined to end up in a curry in a few days, decides to travel with the newly appointed Chosen One, his former Pooboy. The pixie, having Chosened Worstley, disappears. Worstley the Pooboy (hey, Taran, worse things to be called than Assistant Pig-Keeper, eh?) and Gustave head off on a quest for glory.

 

Despite the book's title, we don't spend that much time with Worstley -- instead the focus shifts (for good reason) to a band of hero--well, a group of companions. There's Fia -- a fierce warrior from a distant land, who just wants to live a life of peace with some nice roses -- and some armor that would actually protect her (not that there's anyone who minds seeing here in her chain-mail bikini). Argabella, a struggling bard who is cursed to be covered in fur -- she's basically Fflewddur Fflam and Gurgi combined (last Prydian reference, probably). Every adventuring party needs a rogue/thief, this one has to settle for the klutzy and not necessarily bright, Poltro, and her guardian, the Dark Lord magician, Toby (though some would only consider him crepuscular), of dubious talents. I can't forget Grinda the sand witch (no, really), Worstley's aunt and a magic user of considerable talent.

 

There are no shortage of villains -- and/or antagonists to this party. There are some pretty annoying elves; a hungry giant; Løcher, the King's chamberlain and mortal enemy of Grinda; Staph, the pixie behind the Chosening; as well as several magical traps, Lastly, there's Steve. We don't meet him (I'm betting it'll be in Book 3 when we do), but throughout these adventures we how much this world, and our heroes lives, have been turned upside down my the worst Steve since one (allegedly) unleashed the preposterous hypothesis that Jemaine was a large water-dwelling mammal. Steve . . .

 

The writing is just spot-on good. Dawson and Hearne have taken all these various and disparate themes, tropes, characters and surrounded them with a lot of laughs. There's some pretty sophisticated humor, some stuff that's pretty clever -- but they also run the gamut to some pretty low-brow jokes as well. Really, these two are on a tight comedic budget, no joke is too cheap. The variation ensures there's a little something for everyone -- and that you can't predict where the humor will come from. I will admit that early on I got annoyed with a few running jokes, but I eventually got to the point that I enjoyed them -- not just in a "really? they're trying it again?" sense, either.

 

For all the comedy -- Kill the Farm Boy hits the emotional moments just right. There's a depiction of grief towards the end (spoiler?) that I found incredibly affecting and effective. There are smaller moments -- less extreme moments -- too that are dealt with just right. Maybe even better than some of the bigger comedic moments. This is the reward of populating this book with fully-realized characters, not just joke vehicles.

 

I have a couple of quibbles, nothing major, but I'm not wholly over the moon with this (but I can probably hit sub-orbital status). There was a bit about a fairly articulate Troll being taken down by a female using (primarily) her wits that could've used a dollop or five of subtly. Clearly they weren't going for subtle, or they'd have gotten a lot closer to it. But it bugged me a bit (while being funny and on point). Secondly, and this is going to be strange after the last 2 posts -- but this seemed to be too long. Now, I can't imagine cutting a single line, much less a scene or chapter from this, but it just felt a little long. I do worry that some of Poltro's backstory is too tragic and upon reflection makes it in poor taste (at best) to laugh about her -- which is a shame, because she was a pretty funny character until you learn about her.

 

This is probably the best comedic/parody/satire fantasy since Peter David's Sir Apropos of Nothing -- and this doesn't have all the problematic passages. I've appreciated Dawson's work in the past, and you have to spend 30 seconds here to know that I'm a huge Hearne fan, together they've created something unlike what they've done before. Well, except for their characteristic quality -- that's there. I cared about these characters -- and they made me laugh, and giggle, and roll my eyes. This is the whole package, folks, you'll be glad you gave it a chance.

 

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

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/06/15/kill-the-farm-boy-by-delilah-s-dawson-and-kevin-hearne-a-comedic-fantasy-tells-a-good-story-while-playing-with-too-familiar-tropes
Review
3 Stars
Pretty much everything goes wrong for everyone
Refugees - Malka Older

Argh. I just don't know what to say here -- clearly, this should've posted on Friday, but I only got one sentence down that I didn't delete. This is only posting today because I didn't let myself cut anything. This episode is too short, I think. When I consider everything I want to complain about, it all boils down to length (I'm not even seeing page counts on Amazon/Goodreads for the last couple of these). I do think the episode length is a legitimate problem, but at the same time, it's part of the design of the series, so I should just shut up about it.

 

Which is just a long way of saying, I think I liked this episode, but I'm not sure -- it sure didn't satisfy my need as a reader to get a chunk of story big enough to appreciate what's happening around these characters. I'm not saying these need to clock in at 250 pages or anything. Just 10-20% more?

 

Which is a crying shame -- because there's real opportunity in these pages for Michiko and Kris to get something done (both to help their people and the readers who like them as characters), but there wasn't time. Ojo doesn't seem like the same man anymore -- which is completely understandable, but I'm having to do too much surmising to get to my understanding. I did like Adechike's portion of this episode -- that was really well done.

 

Oh, and Lavinia continues to be just the worst person in this world. but that's not a surprise, really.

 

The action here revolves around this world preparing for the looming war -- I get why the characters don't know what actually happened to set off the conflict, but it'd be cool to let the readers in on the secret. There's preparations for war -- both in getting fighting forces ready, and refugees from affected/soon to be affected areas streaming into Twaa-Fei. Which is going pretty horribly -- between the stress that an influx of refugees brings to an area and a healthy dose of subterfuge on someone's part.

 

Speaking of Twaa-Fei, I'd have preferred to see more examples of this compact on between the nations working (however well it actually functions) before seeing it on the verge of collapse. It's hard to appreciate just what they're close to losing without seeing it more.

 

I'm still in this 'til the end, I think I'm still enjoying this -- but I feel the authors are holding out on us, which bothers me. I'm trusting they'll win me over (again) soon.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/06/11/born-to-the-blade-1-8-refugees-by-malka-ann-older-pretty-much-everything-goes-wrong-for-everyone
Review
5 Stars
'Scuse me while I unleash my inner fanboy
Brief Cases (Dresden Files) - Jim Butcher
Being a wizard is all about being prepared. Well, that and magic, obviously.


Generally, when I start a book, my question is: how much am I going to like this? (Occasionally, the question is: I'm not going to hate this, am I?) But there are a few authors that I ask a different question with: How much am I going to love this book? Jim Butcher is probably at the top of the latter list, and the answers are typically: a lot, a considerable amount, and WOW, SO, SO, SO MUCH. I make no bones about it, I don't pretend to be anything like objective. I know he's not everyone's cup of tea, and I'm not looking to convince anyone to give him another shot (but I'm willing to give it a shot if someone wants me to), but for many, many reasons, I'm an unabashed and unashamed Jim Butcher fan and Brief Cases gives several reasons why I continue to be one.

 

Incidentally, I started this collection assuming the answer would be "a lot." It ended up being on the other end of the spectrum of love. I'll explain that shortly.

 

This is not a novel (alas!), it's another collection of short stories and novellas, like Side Jobs. It's been awhile since I've read or thought about that collection much, but I believe that this is a stronger batch on the whole. I've only read "Cold Case" from Shadowed Souls before, so this was a lot of new material for me -- and I enjoyed it immensely. It was great spending a few days in the pages and world of probably my favorite ongoing series.

 

Five of the twelve stories here were told from the point of view of a supporting character in the series. Anastasia Luccio told "A Fistful of Warlocks” about a little adventure she had in Dodge City, which opened the collection on a fun note; we got to know "Gentleman" John Marcone a little better than we wanted to in "Even Hand," (which doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the story). Molly got to shine in "Bombshells" and the aforementioned "Cold Case." And Waldo Butters' opening lines to "Day One" -- the tale of his first adventure as a Knight -- will go down as one of my favorite opening lines of 2018. I really got a kick out of all of these -- "Bombshells" and "Day One" were probably the most effective for me, but I'm not going to complain about any of the rest. Actually, after reading "Day One," I figured I got most of my money's worth just for that one.

 

Which leaves us with seven others from Harry's perspective -- there are the three Bigfoot stories that were published in various collections and then in Working for Bigfoot. I've been kicking myself for a while for being too budget-conscious to get that collection when it came out, yet unable to bring myself to get the e-book. Thankfully, I have them now -- and they were great. Not worth the $80 that used copies seem to go for now, but still pretty good. I really liked the characters in these stories and would gladly see them again. “Curses,” was a lot of fun; “AAAA Wizardry,” was a good story that I'm glad I read, but I can't say it was great; and “Jury Duty” was okay, but had its moments.

 

Which leaves us with "Zoo Day" -- the only original piece in this anthology, a novella about Harry taking Maggie and Mouse to the Zoo. And it was great. Just great. I know I've got a healthy dose of recency bias working here, but I think in 5 years if you ask me for my favorite pieces of Butcher writing that it will be in the Top 10 -- maybe Top 5. Watching Harry try to figure out how to be a good dad, while watching Maggie try to not drive him away, while Mouse just wants the two of them to understand each other . . . it just melts your heart. Yes, there's still supernatural and dark things afoot -- many of which we've never encountered before that could really mess things up for all three of these characters (and the rest of the Dresden Files cast, come to think of it) -- and there's at least one scene that creeped me out in a serious way. But mostly? I just loved the characters interacting with each other. My "Day One" affection and excitement remain intact, but they pale compared to what I thought about this novella. My notes (again, recency bias may play a role here) read, "A little slice of perfection. I didn't know a 50 page story could make me so misty-eyed and so happy all on its own." But it did, and I feel the heart-strings being tugged again as I write this.

 

Simply, this was a joy for me, and I imagine most Dresden Files fans would feel the same way. If you haven't read Jim Butcher's books about a Wizard P.I. yet, and have somehow read this far into the blog post, you really, really should. This collection isn't the place to start -- but it's a great place to hurry up and get to.

 

Loved it, loved it, loved it.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/06/11/brief-cases-by-jim-butcher-scuse-me-while-i-unleash-my-inner-fanboy
Saturday Miscellany - 6/9/18

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:

  • Brief Cases by Jim Butcher -- New collection of short stories from The Dresden Files. I started this Wednesday and cannot believe that I haven't finished it yet. I will be expressing my deep love for this soon.
  • The Puppet Show by M. W. Craven -- introducing Washington Poe. I heard a review of this on the latest Two Crime Writers and a Microphone episode. Sounds great, sounds creepy and with great lead characters.
  • Free Chocolate by Amber Royer -- I've been seeing raves about this for so long, I can't believe it's only been released now -- a Space Opera with a sense of humor about a Galactic struggle to control the Earth's chocolate. Of all the reasons I've seen for going to war lately, I've gotta say this ranks at the top.

Lastly, I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to glenn van nostrand and T.Jaye for following the blog this week.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/06/09/saturday-miscellany-6-9-18
Review
3.5 Stars
A tale of self-defense, an old flame and a truckfull of dogs
Rescued - David Rosenfelt

At an early age, Andy Carpenter discovered that he couldn't hit a curve-ball and therefore had to give up on his dreams of playing in the majors and fall back to following in his father's footsteps and becoming a lawyer. His father, a lifelong prosecuting attorney, probably wished for something else, but for the many people that he's defended in court, they wouldn't have it another way.

 

This is the seventeenth novel in this series -- I've talked here about nine of the previous sixteen. There's part of me wondering just what I could possibly have to say about this one that I haven't said at least once before.

 

Andy Carpenter is called to a nearby rest area -- a truck containing sixty-one dogs was discovered with the driver shot. Andy and Willie were called out to help the police retrieve the dogs and care for them. The police are really not happy to see him there -- Andy Carpenter at a crime scene? Not a welcome sight. But then he's called away, there's a prospective new client waiting for him at home.

 

Not that surprisingly, the potential client was also at that rest area earlier in the day. He actually tells Andy that he shot the driver -- in self-defense, mind you. Sure, there's a history between the two -- Kramer (the client) had assaulted the victim and threatened to kill him, in fact. But that was years ago, and he had no current reason to. He just needs some help with the inevitable arrest. Andy believes him -- he has to. Kramer is Laurie's ex and she vouches for him -- so much so that Andy pretty much has to take the case for her sake.

 

Honestly, Andy really isn't that interested in helping tall, hunky and dangerous Kramer -- ex-Military, ex-police, ex-licensed investigator. But it's not long before he starts to believe that there's something more afoot. And what was the deal with all the dogs?

 

All the regulars are along for this ride -- Pete Stanton brings the law and order, we get a little more about the fun side of Hike that was introduced in the last book, Sam and his hacking crew dig up plenty of information, Marcus is his typical imposing self, Tara is as loyal as ever -- and Andy gets a lot of courtroom time in. There's a new prosecuting attorney for him to face off against -- I liked her, and would like to see her against Andy again.

 

I don't think it's much of a spoiler here, because it's pretty much the default in this series, but there's a conspiracy behind the murder and they men behind it have decided to frame Kramer. This is one of the better -- or at least one of the more grounded -- conspiracies featured in these books. Up to a point, some of it was pretty hard to swallow -- it just went a little over the top for my taste (but many of them do in this series). Also, this one features the best code names this side of Reservoir Dogs. Still, it was one of the more clever solutions that we've been treated to lately.

 

A thought about the series as a whole at this point: I would appreciate it if Rosenfelt would shake things up a little bit -- I'm not talking about killing Hike or splitting up with Laurie or anything -- just dial down the super-criminals a bit, maybe spend some more time with the client again. But there's little reason for him to do that -- the series moves like clockwork and is reliably entertaining. I only say this because I'm a fan -- Rosenfelt is in danger of becoming a parody of himself (at worst) or just putting out cookie-cutter books (at best), I don't want Andy Carpenter to become a Stephanie Plum.

 

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy the book -- because I did. Andy, Sam, Pete, Vince, Laurie, Tara and the rest are old friends that I enjoy getting together with every few months. Rosenfelt's latest demonstrates what's been true for years -- this series is at the point where you can reliably count on each book for an entertaining read, a puzzling mystery, some good comic moments, a nice dog or two and maybe even a tug on the heart strings. They're still charming enough to win over a new reader (and any of the books serve just fine as entry points) as well as satisfying the long-term reader. Rescued delivered just what I expected and left me satisfied -- satisfied and ready to read number 18.


Disclaimer: I received this eARC from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this, it was a real pleasure.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/06/08/rescued-by-david-rosenfelt-%e2%98%85-%e2%98%85-%e2%98%85-1-2-a-tale-of-self-defense-an-old-flame-and-a-truckfull-of-dogs
Review
4 Stars
A thrill-ride that will stay with you long after the action ends.
Rubicon - Patrick O'Brian
. . . there’s no money in policing unless you cross the line.


But that doesn't mean that Sam Batford isn't going to try.

 

Batford is an undercover police officer who's after a kingpin of some repute and his guns and drugs importing. DCI Klara Winter is a no-nonsense head of a task force going after the same kingpin, Big H, more directly -- phone taps, applying pressure to associates, interrogations, etc. Batford is assigned to her task force to supplement their intelligence. Neither want this assignment, and work to undermine it immediately. They do actually help each other out -- but it's almost despite their best efforts. Their mutual dislike, distrust and antagonism is one of the more interesting dynamics that I've run across lately.

 

We see most of the novel through Batford's eyes, with the occasional glimpse from Winter's perspective. It doesn't take much to get a strong sense of Winter's personality and thought process. Just from the volume, the reader ends up seeing things Batford's way -- whether or not they should.

 

Batford infiltrates Big H's organization -- at least to a degree -- for one job. A large one, no doubt, one that would secure Winter's career (and would do his own some favors). Like most undercover officers (especially in fiction), he cuts many legal and ethical corners to do so. There's some question -- as there should be -- whether or not Big H really trusts him, and the constant testing, evaluation and insecurity makes for great reading -- it's an atmosphere you can almost feel through the words.

 

So Batford is doing what he can to get enough information to take down Big H, to gain his trust (and therefore access), to disrupt the flow of drugs and guns -- and mostly to stay alive. If he can find a way to make a little money while he's at it . . . well, he might as well. Winter just wants enough evidence to make some arrests -- and maybe some headlines -- so she can get the budget to keep her team working.

 

This is not a book for the squeamish -- there are a few scenes I know that would cause some of my friends and readers to throw the book down in disgust (the same scenes will cause other friends/readers to fist pump their excitement -- I'm not sure which of these bothers me more). There's one scene in particular that made me think of the dental scene from Marathon Man (I've never watched the movie just in case they nail that scene from the novel).

 

There were two . . . I don't want to say problems for me, but things that kept me from going over the moon with Rubicon: Batford works his way into this assignment by worming his way in to the trust of one Big H's associates while they're in Bali. Do Metropolitan Police Undercover Officers really get to globe-trot the way that Batford does? Is that a bit of Artistic License? Is it a sign of just how far outside the lines that Batford colors? Does it tell us that he's not just a Metropolitan Police Officer? It's a minor point, I admit -- and it's really easy to accept as kosher (but that doesn't mean I don't wonder), because watching Batford's machinations there is fascinating.

 

Secondly, Batford displays a very particular vocabulary -- I'm not sure if it's London slang, or Ian Patrick-slang. I could believe either. I will admit that there were periods that the slang got in the way of the story. That's probably on me -- and some of it is Shaw's two countries separated by a common language phenomenon. With a little bit of work, and a small amount of guesswork (and a willingness to go back and revisit a passage later), it was all accessible enough and perspicuous.

 

There's a lot about this book that I'm not sure about -- I've been chewing on it for a couple of days, and it's going to take a few more at least. Patrick's characters take a little chewing, I think. It'd be easy to put Batford in the "murky anti-hero" category and move on -- but I'm not sure he fits there; I'm even less sure where Winter fits -- she's not the straight-laced cop you're at first tempted to label her, nor is she just the figure that makes life difficult for our anti-hero to do what he wants (although she functions pretty well that way). But even if/when I decide how to categorize these two -- then I have to decide what I think of them as these characters -- are they good people? No. That's easy. Are they good fictional beings in their particular roles? My gut says yes, and my brain leans that way, but I'm still working on that.

 

Either way, I'm enjoying chewing on the novel and these ideas -- and I'm definitely getting my money's worth out of this book, just having to think about it this much.

 

There is part of this evaluation that's easy -- the writing? Gripping. The pacing? Once it gets going, it's a runaway train that you're just hoping you can hang on to long enough to get through to the end. The narrative voice is as strong as you could ask, and even when you're thinking this cop might be more deserving of a being handcuffed on his way to a long incarceration than his targets, you'll need to hear his singular perspective on the events around him.

 

Strong writing (some of my favorite sentences of the year are in this book), characters that demand thinking about, a plot that you can't wrap up in a tidy bow -- this isn't your typical thriller. Whether it's your cup of tea or not, it's one that you won't forget easily.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/06/05/rubicon-by-ian-patrick-a-thrill-ride-that-will-stay-with-you-long-after-the-action-ends
Review
3.5 Stars
Not as good as its predecessor, but a heckuva fun read/listen
Trouble Makes a Comeback - Stephanie Tromly

After the explosive ending of Trouble is a Friend of Mine, life has settled down for Zoe -- so much so, she may have achieved "normalcy." Her grades are good, she's got a nice job, she's dating the backup QB (maybe not the brightest guy, but he's nice), and even has a couple of friends. The biggest stress in her life is the SATs just around the corner (she's over-prepared but doesn't believe it). Her mother's got a new live-in boyfriend, and other than all the health food he's insisting they eat, things are good on that front, too -- better than they've been in years.

 

Which means, it's time for Digby to come back to town and muck everything up. And boy howdy, he does a great job of that.He's got a lead on his missing sister, and he wants Zoe to help. Oh, and he's pretty sure there's a drug ring afoot at her school, and he might as well take that out while he's at it.

 

The drug story runs just like you'd think it would -- maybe a bit too conventionally, really. But it does it's job -- giving Digby, Zoe and the rest an easier target than the quest for his sister. And is good for enough laughs and tension that it feels like more than just a distraction from the "real" story.

 

That story, the hunt for clues to his sister's fate is huge. We learn so much more than we did in the first novel -- and find out that so much that Digby thought he knew wasn't quite right. In the end, this task feels out of the reach and capabilities of these two -- even if it's inevitable that they'll get somewhere that the police, FBI, and other professionals never did.

 

I may not have done myself a favor listening to this so soon after the first novel -- I may have liked it better with a cool-down period. Still, I just don't think it's as good. Which is strange, the story's more focused, there's less stage-setting needed -- we know almost everyone already, the situation is clear, etc. But the story wasn't as gripping, I kept waiting for something to happen -- and when it did, it seemed too easy. Plus, the whole "high school story" thing -- romantic relationships, etc. -- was more significant to this book. None of this made it a bad book, just a "less-good" one. Still, plenty of fun, and I really want to get the sequel, which can't be a bad thing, can it?

 

Nevertheless -- I enjoyed the novel (and McInerney is a big part of that) -- I laughed, I had fun, I enjoyed the tension, and might have even gotten wrapped up in the emotional moments. A strong sequel that does an admirable job of setting up a sure-to-be knockout final book in the trilogy.


2018 Library Love Challenge

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/06/04/trouble-makes-a-comeback-audiobook-by-stephanie-tromly-kathleen-mcinerney-not-as-good-as-its-predecessor-but-a-heckuva-fun-read-listen
Review
4 Stars
A great thriller to kick off your summer (and/or a Russo novel gone awry)
How It Happened - Michael Koryta

The rain had tapered off overnight and given way to a gorgeous day, the sky and sea competing for the deepest blue, a light wind pushing off the water, temperature nearing eighty. The air was scented with ocean breezes and pines and held only the faintest trace of humidity. A quintessential Maine day, more suited to July than May.

 

If you weren’t looking for a drug addict and self-confessed murderer, it would be a day to treasure.

 

This is one of those that comes down to the set-up. Because it's executed practically flawlessly, and if you're in for a penny, you're in for the whole pound -- and it's a heckuva ride. You won't want to get off until the end, and then you'll be able to breathe for the first time in seventy pages or so. If you've read Koryta before, you have an idea what things'll be like -- and you'll be right. If you've not read him before, you probably will make arrangements to familiarize yourself with him soon after finishing this.

 

So, what is the setup? FBI Agent/expert on eliciting/evaluating confessions from criminal suspects, Rob Barrett returns to the small Maine community of his childhood summers to investigate a missing persons case/potential double homicide. After weeks of work, he finally gets a seemingly reliable confession from Kimberly Crepeaux to what happened to the missing young people. It's a harrowing confession, I have to say -- I've read novels with less tension than her recounting of what happened that night. Kimberly is a drug addict, jailhouse snitch, and all-around unreliable person -- everyone in town knows this. But Rob believes her (and you will, too).

 

But there are a couple of problems. Problem one: Mathias Burke is the man that Kimberly says is the murderer. Mathias is a go-getter of a young man, and has been since he was a kid -- the dictionary might as well feature his picture under "industrious." No one in town can believe anything Kimberly says about the way he acted that night -- even the non-criminal aspects of it. None of it is characteristic of him. Problem two: the bodies aren't where she says they were. In fact, they're found miles away and seemingly killed in a different fashion, with the fingerprints and DNA of someone not Mathias Burke present.

 

So much for Kimberly's confession -- and Rob's career. He's shipped out to a field office in Montana, probably for the rest of his career.

 

But Kimberly sticks to her story, and convinces the father of one of the victims, Howard Pelletier, to believe her (and fear for her safety from Burke). Howard's wife died when his daughter, Jackie, was young. He became the most devoted single father in history, and in time, she reciprocated. The story of Jackie and Howard would be enough for a novel, were it not for the murder. Howard's insistence that Rob pay attention to Kimberly again and his need for answers brings Rob back for one more try at finding out how it happened.

 

Pretty good hook, eh? And like I said, once it's set, Koryta reels the reader in just like the seasoned pro he's become.

 

A strange thought occurred to me this weekend: this could very easily have been a Richard Russo novel -- I'm not sure who the protagonist would've been -- maybe the cafe owner or something. But Rob, returning to his childhood stomping grounds (however temporarily), Howard and Jackie would've easily have been fixtures -- ditto for Mathias Burke (and even Kimberly, come to think of it). Mathias would be a major player, really -- not the protagonist, but a lead character for sure, his troubled youth, his Horatio Alger-ish work ethic/success story, the way that this silly FBI interloper messed up his life, etc. The tangled lines connecting all these people would be seen more clearly, and traced back a generation or two, making everything more complex. Actually, the more I think about this, the more I want to see Russo write his take on these elements. Anyhow, this isn't a Richard Russo novel -- this is a Michael Koryta novel. So, it won't be anywhere near as funny, the psychology will be presented in starter light, the tension level will be much higher, and the sense of right and wrong will be much less murky.

 

A knockout of a read -- a great thriller to kick off your summer with.

 

2018 Library Love Challenge

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/06/04/how-it-happened-by-michael-koryta-a-great-thriller-to-kick-off-your-summer-and-or-a-russo-novel-gone-awry
Saturday Miscellany - 6/2/18

It's the last week of the month (or it was...), plus the holiday -- which always makes for a short post for me. Still,there's some good stuff here (including, but not limited to, one that I forgot to post last week). Without further ado, 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:

  • Why crime fiction is booming -- There's a lot of good insight here, particularly this line: " Good crime fiction is necessarily a reader-centred experience, because it only works if the reader is willing to engage with it – other genres can see the author be (for want of a better word) pretentious, and focus on what they want to get out of it. In crime fiction, the author wants a reader to try and solve their crimes."
  • An Audio Addict's Guide to Audiobook Mysteries -- I haven't listened to any of these, but I've read some of the novels and agree with her take on them, and she's right about George Guidall (his Longmire work is great).
  • The Brothers Goldberg: Tod Goldberg interviews Lee Goldberg -- probably the best Lee Goldberg interview possible -- even if you're not a Goldberg reader, this is worth a read.
  • 10 Small Press Books to Read this Summer -- some good TBR fodder.
  • A facebook post from Jim Butcher -- in response to readers thanking him for saving their lives. Honestly, if I ever met the man, I'd be tempted to say something like that to him, too. This post was just great.

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

 

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/06/02/saturday-miscellany-6-2-18
May 2018 Report

Despite starting off pretty rough, this ended up being a pretty good month -- some fantastic works, a lot of good ones, but yeah, some let-downs, too. Things were fairly productive, too -- all in all a good month, and the next month promises to continue that trend (phew!).

 

So, here's what happened here in May --

Books/Novels/Novellas/Short Stories Read/Listened to:

Fault Lines Old Black Magic Baby Shower
3 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars
The Roaring Twenties Benedict Arnold Theophany
3 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.5 Stars
Reluctant Courage Not Talking Italics Gables Court
1 1/2 Stars 5 Stars 1 Star
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone The Gauntlet The Fairies of Sadieville
5 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars
How to Be a Perfect Christian Proven Guilty The Assassin of Oz
4 Stars 4 1/2 Stars 3.5 Stars
The TV Decective Trouble is a Friend of Mine Trade Deal
4 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars
Flame in the Dark Fleshmarket Alley Trouble Makes a Comeback
4 Stars 4 Stars 3.5 Stars
Sixth Prime Spiraling The War Outside My Window
2 Stars 3.5 Stars 5 Stars
How it Happened The Ship of the Dead Dreadnought
4 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars

Still Reading:

Volume 1: The Glory of Christ Jesus and His Enemies Rubicon
Any Other Name            

Reviews Posted:

Book Challenge Progress:

Angel's Guilty Pleasures
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Audiobook) by J. K. Rowling, Jim Dale
  • Trouble is a Friend of Mine (Audiobook) by Stephanie Tromly, Kathleen McInerney
  • Fleshmarket Alley by Ian Rankin
  • Trouble Makes a Comeback(Audiobook) by Stephanie Tromly, Kathleen McInerney (link to come)
  • How it Happened by Michael Koryta (link to come)
  • Ship of the Dead (Audiobook) by Rick Riordan, Michael Crouch






I've really gotta get going on this one...

How was your month?

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/06/01/may-2018-report
Review
3 Stars
Things continue going from bad to worse
Dreadnought - Cassandra Khaw

I don't know what to say here without spoiling -- this series isn't making it easy for me to write about it.

 

As bad as things looked last week -- there were plenty of avenues that were easy to see for things to work out. Not necessarily easily, but possible. It's still possible now, I'm sure, but it's not easy to see how. There's so much distrust in the air that even people who need to be working together won't. In fact, everyone's going out of their way to make it more difficult and less likely to work with each other.

 

Well, almost everyone. Kris and Michiko seem to be acting like themselves -- although, since we've met them their behavior has basically been summarized by "try hard, ask a lot of questions, and be somewhat confused," I'm not sure that it's that helpful. The rest -- whether it's internally imposed, or naturally occurring, doesn't matter -- are stand-offish, distrustful, and taking steps to isolate themselves.

 

The carefully constructed peace is in grave danger -- the questions that need to be answered are: who started and/or is continuing to orchestrate the events that kicked off this unraveling? Who is gaining from all of this? If the answers to these questions are discovered, does anyone have the ability (singly or as a group) to effectively push back? I have my suspicions, but I'll have to wait and see.

 

This was well done, and an installment that had to happen -- but it's hard to really judge this until we get more of the picture. I liked it enough, I'm glad I read it, but I'm not sure just how good a job this episode did. But I'm looking forward to seeing where things go from here so have a better idea.

Source: http://irresponsiblereader.com/2018/06/01/born-to-the-blade-1-7-dreadnought-by-cassandra-khaw-things-continue-going-from-bad-to-worse