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.

(a belated) Saturday Miscellany -- 4/20/19

An unexpectedly long (good) day -- after a very unexpectedly long and full week results in this being posted when it's no longer Best I can do...

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:


  • Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman -- I've read a lot about the Gene Wolfe following his death this week -- almost all laudatory. This -- written years ago -- might be the best.



  • Speaking of which, Champions of Indies --is a good post -- even if it's pretty much a thinly disguised advertisement for Still a good post, and is a service I don't mind showing advertisements for.



  • Hey, did you know that next Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day? I'm sure you did, it just seems like a good time to mention it.






  • No Country for Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne -- the second in The Tales of Pell a funny, funny fantasy novel with a lot of heart and other stuff. I'm tired, that's as good as you're going to get from me...if you want moreread my full post about it.


  • Going Dark by Neil Lancaster -- an undercover cop infiltrates a Serbian mob. Written by a former covert specialist Detective Sergeant -- looks so good.


  • Differently Morphous by Yahtzee Croshaw -- an offbeat-looking fantasy novel about the hunt for a magical serial killer.


Lastly, I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Ciidagale Raad, KayCKay and BookaholicBrittany
for following the blog this week.

3 Stars
A Sweet Novel (with some pretty big problems)
KA-E-RO-U Time to Go Home - B. Jeanne Shibahara

Every so often I get a book that I struggle writing about. I know what I want to say about it, but I'm worried that my point will get lost. So, stymied, the file sits blank on my screen for a couple of days while I hem and haw. I've been doing that for most of the week about this book (and afraid it was going to happen last week). Hear me out.


There are so many things that I'd typically complain about in a book -- casual disregard for grammar, sentence structure, mechanics; characters that behave like characters in a book, not people; a plot that makes sense to no one (well, part of it, anyway). Really, this is not a good novel.


But . . . dang it, there's something about this book that I liked. It's like a long, meandering Sunday drive -- or walk in the woods -- you take a windy road/path to nowhere in particular -- occasionally stopping at a scenic overlook or wandering from the route for a bit before resuming. You don't get anywhere fast, you may hit a bumpy/rocky patch, but overall you count it as a pleasant afternoon.


So Meryl's a Vietnam widow (it's pretty unclear when this happens -- other than her son is an adult now) comes into possession of a flag that belonged to a fallen Japanese soldier from the War in the Pacific. She's pushed to go to Japan (where her son teaches English) to return the flag to the soldier's family. She ends up going on the trip and finds the freedom and ability to move on from her husband's death.


The love story is ludicrous. Actually, there are a couple of them (three) -- and they're all ridiculous, and old Disney cartoons do a better job depicting love. They're not the actual heart of the book -- but man, they get all the attention. The heart of the novel is this simple story of the return of this flag to what's left of the family of this soldier.


When the novel focuses on that story? It's a real winner. I can believe those people, I can believe those reactions. I can believe it-- and I want to read it (not just put up with it). In addition to this, the looks at Japanese culture are great -- on the whole, this novel doesn't focus on the parts of Japanese culture usually featured in books/films.


We spend way too much time with characters -- pages and pages -- just for them to appear for a paragraph or three in the story. As interesting as these journeys into backstory may be, by the time we get back to the story for them to disappear just drives me crazy.


To put it in the kindest way I can: this is a very idiosyncratic with a charm that is its best feature. It's sweet. The historical and cultural insights are great (and almost worth the effort alone). If you give this book a chance -- and a lot of leeway -- it'll win you over.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinion, I think it's clear that my opinion wasn't that swayed by it.

3.5 Stars
The Reports of Her Death are Greatly Exaggerated.
I Want You Gone - Miranda Rijks

There is just so much about this book that I can't say here without ruining it. I can talk about premise, but I can't talk about the plot much beyond that. As for characters? There's really only one I can talk about. I really can't talk about the minor issues I had without ruining a lot. Really, Rijks went out of her way to make this book almost impossible to talk about. Let's see if I can figure out a way to say a little something, shall we?


Estate agent Laura Swallow gets a phone call from her daughter interrupting a first date -- Mel's away for her first term of University and checks her mom's Facebook and sees that she's being reported as dead. So instead of the phone calls she's been making bewailing her loneliness, how hard it is being at school, etc., she calls to make sure Mom's okay. Obviously, this casts a pall over the date and they call it a night.


The next day, Laura comes into work and discovers that her death is being reported in the newspaper, too. The description of her life in the death notification is unfavorable to say the least. It's about as far from the laudatory and hagiographic words usually used as you can imagine. Laura starts to expect that this isn't a misunderstanding, but there's something malicious to all this. It doesn't take too long for things to get worse -- there's someone clearly out to ruin whatever's left of Laura's life while trying to convince the rest of the world that she's dead. Before long, it gets dangerous enough to be Laura that no one could help but wonder if the stories about her death were just a little early.


Laura doesn't know who to suspect -- her ex-husband? her ex-husband's new significant other? the doctor she just started dating? a creepy client? Someone else? Laura doesn't know what to do to find out. The reader will be a bit more objective and will have a longer suspect list that'll include some friends that Laura can't bring herself to suspect. Now at various points I could make a good case for any of the suspects being the person behind it all. But it turns out that my first guess was right -- although there were enough red herrings that I had to keep guessing.


The characters are pretty well drawn and developed -- obviously Laura more than the rest. Some of the other characters we get to know nearly as well, but not all of them. Laura's still recovering from her sister's death and her divorce, the events of this novel both accelerate the recovery and set it back. All in all, half the fun of this book is getting into her mind. I can't say that I understand every choice she makes (actually there's a few I can't begin to understand), but it's fun watching her make them.


I'm not convinced I buy the reactions her boss had to the whole situation -- and I can't imagine anyone having the take on the vandalism on her car that her boss and others did have (that one in particular chafed). But that's pretty much the only false notes as far as characters go, and it did propel the plot. As far as the other characters go are concerned, pretty much anything I say would risk giving something away -- so I'll leave it at that. Even if you guess who's behind everything, getting their motive right will be trickier, and you're apt to second guess yourself a few times.


Rijks draws you in pretty quickly by Laura's likeability and the strangeness of her circumstances, and then she keeps drawing you in more and more as things get stranger and more dire. If you're not leaning forward a little bit during the last couple of chapters, you're made of sterner stuff than I.


A great, twisty story that'll keep you guessing as it entertains. It's just what you want in a psychological thriller -- creepy, atmospheric, with a good story with a protagonist and antagonist that you can dig your teeth into. It's the kind of book that'll keep you gripped and may make you lose a little sleep right up until the end, well worth your time.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from the author for my participation in the Book Tour, but my opinions are my own.



Saturday Miscellany -- 4/13/19

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 Occidentally Orthodox (who may not like a lot of what I post, but I hope he comments) and whovinawrites for following the blog this week.

5 Stars
A Fantastic, Moving, Fun Tale of a Grieving Widower
A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman

[His wife] often said that "all roads lead to something you were always predestined to do." And for her, perhaps, it was something.


But for Ove it was someone.

I've been fully intending to read all of Fredrik Backman's books after I read My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (3 years ago), but there were a couple of things holding me back. 1. I loved My Grandmother so much that I didn't want something to eclipse it; 2. I didn't want to be so disappointed in one of his other books that it tainted my memory of My Grandmother. I finally told myself to get over it and just read him -- what did I really have to lose?


That was obviously the right call -- this was just fantastic.


If at this point, you haven't heard of this book and decided if you're going to read it or not, I'm not likely to persuade you. It's sold about as many books as a person not named James Patterson, J. K. Rowling or Steven King should be able to expect. There's been a movie made of it in Sweden and Tom Hanks is working on a version, too. This book is practically a phenomenon, and in the years since it's publication, the author, Fredrik Backman has practically become an industry. So, if you haven't read it by this point, there's probably a reason, I'm not going to convince you otherwise. Nor do I think I can contribute much to the discussion about the book beyond what's already been said. But I'm still driven to talk about it a bit.


Ove is a recent widower who has decided that it's time to join his wife, and attempts to kill himself by various means in order to do that. But like an aged (and more dedicated) Lane Meyer, he can't complete the deed. Something always interrupts him -- generally, it's the fools and incompetents that are his neighbors needing his help. Somehow these people have reached adulthood without learning how to back up a vehicle towing a trailer. bleeding a radiator or any number of things. So he stops what he was doing, helps his whatever neighbor needs it (complaining about it and insulting them all the time) and tries again the next day.


Ove's struggles with the neighbors and his botched attempts to end his life are interspersed with his life story -- his troubled childhood, career, early years of his marriage and the tragic end of it. The writing here is incredibly effective -- and Backman doesn't even try to hide his emotional manipulation -- he essentially calls his shots sometimes -- and it works. He plays whatever tune he wants and the reader dances to it. Try to get through the paragraph where Ove thinks about missing holding his wife's hand unmoved, I dare you. I was teary at least once before the midpoint of the work -- and about a half hour after finishing the book, I had to go back and re-read the last few pages with dry eyes so I could be certain I read what I thought I read.


Ove in his cantankerousness, his particular and peculiar way of approaching life -- and in his grief -- is a fantastic character. But I think that his neighbor, a Muslim immigrant mother of three, who deices that her angry old neighbor needs a friend (whether he wants one or not) and then becomes that friend (which he definitely doesn't want) is an even better character. Parvaneh is smart, kind, fun and loving -- and as stubborn as Ove. Next to his wife, she's the best thing to happen to him. There are plenty of other great characters (the overweight computer tech who lives on the other side of Ove is a fine example).


I laughed, I cried, it moved me, Bob.


One of the easiest 5-Stars I've ever given. If you keep putting off reading this -- knock it off, read the book.

2019 Library Love Challenge

3 Stars
A Veteran Detective Faces Fresh Challenges
Death Before Coffee (Mike O'Shea #2) - Desmond P. Ryan

Detective Mike O'Shea is a detective with a couple of reputations -- many know him as a cop's cop, one who gets the job done right. Everyone knows him as one of two detectives who were on the hunt for a prostitution ring (that specialized in underage girls) and one particular runaway teen that came thiiis close to breaking the ring before his partner was killed and he almost was, too. The killer got away and O'Shea was left with a cloud over him. No matter what he's done since, all his achievements are colored by that failure.


We join O'Shea as he's transferred to a new platoon, with a new partner (Ron Roberts, who can't seem to cope with the idea that he's not in traffic anymore - he's the only cop that I can remember in Crime Fiction who seems to think that's a good place to work). Before they can really get a feel for each other (beyond previous knowledge and inherent prejudice), they're called to the scene of a homicide. A one-legged man was beaten to death and dumped in a residential area.


The uniform on scene is not the shiniest star that the Academy has produced, but O'Shea and Roberts get things started enough that when the Homicide team shows up the investigation is well under-way. DS Amanda Black is tough, smart and driven and directs this investigation like her career depends on it.


We follow -- O'Shea and Roberts through the preliminary stages of the investigation, through some hiccups caused by overzealous colleagues up to the hunt for their prime suspect. We also get a few scenes with just Black. Those are insightful, but feel pretty weird -- there are so few scenes without O'Shea involved that anytime he's not "on screen" it feels strange.


Along with this hunt, O'Shea continues to deal with the investigation that made his reputation -- as much as he can while staying off the radar of his superiors -- a suicidal retired cop, and his family. His marriage is all but over, but his siblings, son and mother are a very present realities for him. We could've gotten more time with his son for my taste (and probably O'Shea's, now that I think of it). This all takes place over the course of a few days and O'Shea seems almost as in need of a good night's sleep and a good cup of coffee as he is in getting resolution to any of his cases.


The novel is well-paced and it takes no time at all to get sucked into the story. This has all the hallmarks of a solid crime novel and police procedural. O'Shea is the kind of old school detective that readers love, Roberts has a lot of potential as a character and Black could easily dethrone O'Shea as the series' focus (I'm not suggesting she will, but she's written in a way that it could happen without anyone complaining).


I do have a few issues with the book, naturally. Things that detracted from my enjoyment, things that kept me from being over the moon with is (and it had that potential), but nothing that ultimately was that problematic.


This is the second of a intended six-book series and really reads that way. Can it be read as a stand-alone? Yes, but it'd be far more satisfying as part of a series (well, I expect it would be, anyway). There are some aspects of the timeline that I'm not convinced I can buy, but maybe with some context I could. Similarly, while this book and the main plotline do have definite conclusions, it feels like Ryan just presses "Pause" on so many other things it's a little annoying. I'm not talking cliffhangers (minor or otherwise), it's more of a "well, we're done talking about this for a bit" kind of feel. Whether it pushes you to the next book is irritating, probably depends on the reader.


That last idea probably ties in to the realism vibe Ryan is going for. Which is great -- to a point. We all like the idea of something realistic, no matter the genre, really At least we all say we do -- but aren't so much of us really looking for types of satisfaction that reality can't provide? Especially in crime fiction -- we want the kind of resolution not available in our lives. Ryan's depiction of himself as a realistic writer works against him as much as it works for him. He has a little note to the reader before the novel assuring the reader "I'm an ex-cop, I've done this stuff, this is how it is." Pretty much insulating himself from criticism of a lot that goes on in the book unless you're prepared to bring an armload of research to bear. That note actually prejudiced me against the book, it reeked of someone who "doth protest too much," and just set my teeth on edge. Show me your realism, show me your authenticity and convince me of it -- don't boast about it. It took me a long time to shake that bad first impression, but I do think I was able to push past it -- but I'd have liked O'Shea and the rest a lot more if I hadn't had to.


Ryan has a strong voice and uses it to give the right details to provide a very compelling read -- it's fast, gritty and with characters that'll stick with you after you've moved on to your next read. Was it as good as it could have been? No, but not because of an inherent weakness, just because Ryan didn't do enough with his strengths -- but he's got four more books in this series to fulfill the promise. I had a good time reading Death Before Coffee and I bet you will, too.


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided -- including the book, which did not influence my opinion.


4 Stars
A Funny, Fresh Take on a Police-filled Portal Fantasy
Breaking the Lore (Inspector Paris Mystery #1) - Andy Redsmith

Inspector Nick Paris is your all too typical cynical, bitter, hard-drinking, chain-smoking police detective, and his world is being rocked. The latest corpse he's been brought out to see and investigate the circumstances around the death is that of a fairy. The tiny, impossibly good looking, humanoid with wings kind of fairy. While still trying to wrap his mind around how that was possible, a crow (named Malbus) flies into his house demanding, demanding a smoke and talking to him about the murdered fairy. Not long after this, he's visited by an elf and a rock troll (Tergil and Rocky).


And that's just Day One of his new reality.


Essentially, there's a connection between our world and the world of all these magical beings -- a portal of sorts that those who desire to can travel between the two (or people and animals can stumble through unintentionally). For all sorts of great reasons, the magical creatures/folk kept their existence from humanity -- and let what humans know fade into myth and legend. But something's happened in their world, and those who are over here have to come seeking help (in terms of political asylum) and possibly even letting humanity in on what's going on around them.


This is a little beyond Paris' typical caseload, but he and his Superintendent, a no-nonsense woman named Thorpe, respond very well to these new challenges -- dragging other officers and even the army along with them. They are obviously relying on the advice and guidance of the magical creatures -- Tergil in particular (although Malbus makes sure his input is heard, too). They also recruit a local supernatural expert -- Cassandra, a self-styled witch that no one in the police would've given any credence to if not for this new reality.


As fun as Paris, Tergil and Malbus are, Cassandra is a delight. She's wise, insightful, and has a fantastic sense of humor -- she might be harder for Paris to cope with than fairies, dwarves, and trolls. I shouldn't forget Paris' Sergeant Bonetti -- he's loyal, strong, brave and probably not as mentally quick as he should be. He's also the target of near-constant mockery from his superior. I'm not sure why he puts up with the abuse, but I found myself laughing at it. When the fate of multiple worlds is on the line, it's these few who will stand strong in Manchester, England to keep everyone safe.


I can think of as many reasons that this is a lousy comparison to make as I can to make it -- but throughout Breaking the Lore I kept thinking about Chrys Cymri's Penny White books. There'll be a big overlap in the Venn diagram of Fans of Penny White and Fans of Inspector Paris. I'm sure there are other comparisons that are as apt, or more so -- but this is the one that I kept coming back to for some reason.


I had so much fun reading this book, Redsmith has a way with words that makes me think it really doesn't matter what story he decided to tell -- I'd want to read it. He was able to express the seriousness of the situation, while never stopping (either narratively or through the characters) the quips, jokes and sense of fun. There's an infectious charm to the prose and characters that easily overcomes whatever drawbacks the novel has. I'm not saying this is a novel filled with problems, it's just that I woudn't care about most of them thanks to the voice.


Now, Redsmith's wit does have an Achilles' heel -- puns. Redsmith is an inveterate punster, and will hit you with them when you least expect it. Now me? I love a good pun -- and I hate them at the same time. Maybe you know what I mean. I cackled at pretty much all of them (frequently audibly), but I hated both myself and Redsmith for it. You know those, Pearls Before Swine strips where Rat beats up Stephan Pastis because of the very carefully constructed pun? Yeah, this book is a series of those moments (but he rarely gives the setup Pastis does, usually it's a quick sucker punch).


There are many other points I'd intended to make, but I think I've gone on long enough. This novel is silly, goofy, intelligent, charming -- with a fresh take on a great idea. You'll find yourself enjoying Paris, Cassandra, Malbus, Tergil and the rest. I can see a few different ways that Redsmith takes Book Two, and I'm looking forward to seeing which one he picks (probably none of my ideas). But before that happens, I'm just going to relish the fun that Breaking the Lore was and encourage you all to go buy and read it for yourself.


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

Awkward Moments in Book Blogging

This weekend I received a request to review an indie published book from the author. His name rang a bell, so I assumed I knew him from twitter or had read him before.


Yup. I had read him before. The same book, actually, two years ago. Clearly, record-keeping isn't his strong suit. But, that's no big deal. I figured I'd hit him with the URL to my original post, say something jokey in response, and call it a day.


But, I hated the book -- gave it 1 1/2 stars. My post on it was sketchy, because to really get into what I thought of the book, I said, "it'd just be mean."


So, yeah, I think this'll be one of those emails I forget to reply to...

3.5 Stars
Jason's Woes Follow (and Grow) in his new Small Town
Dispatches from a Tourist Trap - James  Bailey

 Sometimes lately I feel like life is a chess match, and no matter how hard I look at the board I can’t see the next move. Or maybe I think I see it, but really I don’t. Like my pawn is sitting there, all ready to put the other king in check, and somehow my queen gets swiped and two moves later I’ve lost the game and my pawn is still waiting there, impotent and useless.


So Jason mother's Janice continues her bad decisions when it comes to men -- she leaves her husband for a new guy, who happens to be the dentist she's started working for. We met him in The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo, and they clearly didn't waste time resuming whatever it was they had back in high school. Janice has moved herself and Jason to her parents' house, enrolled Jason in a school filled with very friendly people, and tried to move on with her life.


Jason realizes full-well that his choices are a life with his grandparents and a much smaller school, hours away from his friends and girlfriend; or life with Rob, near them. As much as he doesn't want to be in Icicle Flats, he knows it's the better choice available. But he complains the whole time about it -- this is good for readers, Jason complaining makes for an entertaining read. This time, he's not just complaining in emails, he's set up a blog, too. I was wondering how the blog was going to work instead of the emails -- it's actually a really good move, allowing Jason to tell longer stories without the emails being too long.


Which is good -- because he has long stories to tell this time. There's a literature club he's involved with at school that's discussing books that ruffle the feathers of many, which leads to all sorts of trouble. There's a flirtation with pirate radio. A camping trip that is fantastic to read about (and probably not a lot of fun to live through). A disastrous experiment with eBay. And basically, a bucket-load of culture shock. Also, after a few short weeks of dating, Jason's first real relationship becomes a long-distance one. High school relationships are bad enough, throwing in a few hour bus-ride into things is just asking for trouble. So yeah, between emails and his blog -- he's got a lot to write about, and his friends have a lot to respond to. Somehow, they make it through the school year more or less intact.


Jason feels incredibly authentic -- immature, self-centered, irresponsible, but he's got his moments. He can put others before himself, do the right thing because it's right -- not to stay out of trouble; But man, he can be frustrating the rest of the time. There were a lot of opportunities along the way here for him to be a better friend, a much better boyfriend, son and grandson; and he missed almost all of them. He comes through when necessary, don't get me wrong and he's not a bad guy -- I just wish he'd grow up a bit faster. Which again, means that Bailey has nailed his characterization, this his how people his age should be.


I'm less than thrilled with Bailey's approach to religious characters in these two books. I'm not questioning that there are people like the characters he depicts running around everywhere and that the situations would've played out a lot like they did here (but some of it pushed believability). I just would like a small indication that there were some sincere people trying to do the right thing in the middle of all this.


Having talked about The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo just two weeks ago, it feels hard to talk about this book beyond some of the plot changes -- this feels like the same book, just with new problems. Which is pretty much the point, right? I still like Jason (as frustrating as he can be), his girlfriend is fantastic, I want good things to happen to Drew. Jason's already complicated life is about to get a lot worse, which should prove very entertaining for the rest of us. A strong follow-up in this series.

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge


Saturday Miscellany -- 4/6/19

Seriously, if Real Life would just shut up for a minute and let me focus on my blog/prep for my blog, it'd be nice. And I'm not talking about huge, important things like -- my kid had life saving surgery, or I was distracted by the tragic events unfolding in [insert important sounding city], or whatever. It's just been busy and I find myself very tired lately. I really look forward to compiling these weekly posts, and the last few have just seemed . . . empty?


I don't know, maybe it's just me -- I do like what we have for this week by way of the odds 'n ends about books and reading that caught my eye. You've probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:



  • Vonda N McIntyre obituary -- I won't say I was the biggest McIntyre fan in the world -- I barely read any of her stuff. But I bought two novels in high school by her, and read them an unhealthy amount of times. She perhaps shaped more of my impression of Kirk, Spock and McCoy than anyone else (including Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, and Roddenberry). Seeing her death announced this week hit harder than it should've for someone I haven't read in decades.




  • My Time on West Thirty-Fifth Street -- one writer's fictional and real experiences with Nero Wolfe, and Archie Goodwin (one of the best paragraphs on Archie ever written!). I will not stop posting about Wolfe and Goodwin until everyone who follows this blog reads them. And then I still won't, because you'll want to read more about them.




  • You Die Next by Stephanie Marland -- To be honest, I groaned when this showed up on my Kindle Thursday because I'd just finalized my reading schedule for the rest of the month and we feeling pretty good about life. I have no idea when I can fit it in, but I really want it to be now. Anyway, this follow up to last year's My Little Eye is gonna be great.


Lastly, I'd like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Madam Mim, Sonam Tsering and indianeskitchen for following the blog this week.

4.5 Stars
A Funny, Nostalgic, Touching Novel about Maybe Finding Lost Loves/Dreams/Friendships
Postgraduate - Ian Shane

". . . you did a bad, bad thing.”


“Then why are you helping me?”


“Because that’s what friends do. Someone needs to stand next to you when the world falls down around your ankles, and the other starting players seem to be leaving you one by one. You’re still my boy, but I question your decision-making skills.”


We meet Danny Jackson on one of the worst days of his life -- the day his marriage legally ended (it was over long before). Danny's quick to assure us that he's had worse days, and not just because he doth protest too much (no matter what it looks like at the moment). He's 44, about to be kicked out of his house, in a job he hates (many reasons are bigger than being forced to use Comic Sans, as bad as that is) and really has no idea what the rest of the year will bring -- much less anything after that.


One of the many accommodations Danny made to get along with his wife was to trim his 4,000+ CD collection down to 150, and now that he finds himself without a real home or family and a strong need to fill up his time so he can't dwell on that he starts rebuilding that collection -- not with current music, either. But with the songs and albums that defined him at that age where music is so important to define, mold and express one's identity -- college. Before long, Danny's investing some real money in stereo equipment as well as CDs. At one point a neighbor/friend from the apartment building says something about Danny having enough of both to start his own radio station.


This idea sparks something within Danny and he sets to do just that -- not a real radio station (or even a pirate station), but an Internet radio station modeled on the one he learned all about Radio on in college, "The L." While putting in the work necessary to launch an Internet station, Danny starts dreaming and scheming. I was honestly a little surprised to see how much work was involved, but after reading this I realize that's just because I know so little about radio (even online) and hadn't given it any real thought before.


He doesn't just want to launch this passion project, he'd like to bury the hatchet with a bunch of people from his college days -- and what better way to do both together than by launching the station in their old studio while they're all returning to say goodbye to a mentor as he prepares to retire. Danny's already speaking for the event, so that part will be easy. He trusts the others will be there, too -- getting them to go along with his plans will be the trick.


Danny doesn't know what kind of audience his online version of "The L" is going to have, but he figures there's some audience -- he'd listen to the kind of station he'll be launching, why wouldn't others his age? So kicks off (and then some) this story of friendship, lost loves, abandoned dreams, the love of music, and the attempt to recapture what we've lost (through fault of our own, or not). While we follow Danny's rebuilding in 2017, we also get (in alternating chapters) the story of how the magic was assembled back in the day, and how it primarily fell to pieces (Danny had a significant roll in that, it turns out).


Danny's glory days really were that (until they weren't) and it was a lot of fun reading about them -- especially when Sam's on the scene. His 44th year wasn't that great for him (it did improve from that inauspicious start), but it was almost as much fun to read, especially when Sam's on the scene. Sam's the one who got away from Danny, the love of his life, etc. She's close to idealized, but Shane's careful not to let Danny do that to her (more than anyone would in memory).


The focus of the novel is (rightly) those two, but Danny's friendships with Marty -- the Program Director of the L -- and Tom are easily as important. The novel could've worked almost as well with the Danny/Tom relationship as the center instead of Danny/Sam. Tom was Danny's high school friend who came to college with him and developed a radio show with him, both planning to keep doing radio together after college. One of my few problems I have is that I think we needed a bit more of Tom early on. I know he's Danny's partner, and the emotions both have toward each other (in the 90's and 2017) indicate that, but he always seems to be playing second fiddle to Sam or Marty. Marty's sort of the older brother figure to Sam, Danny and Tom -- down for a good time as well as advice, and is just cool to read.


Mindy, Marty's co-host, is a character I could've used a little more of, too -- just because I really liked her. The narrative nowhere needs more of her, but I just liked her and wanted more. The professor, Dr. Black, they assemble to honor is a perfect mentor figure. Even Angela, the adulterous ex- that derailed Danny's career, is a pretty well-designed and used character -- but she's about the only one in the book I don't want to see more of.

I don't mean this next sentence as a negative, no matter what it sounds like. There are few narrative surprises for the reader -- by a certain point, you know pretty much how each storyline is going to go. This doesn't mean that there aren't surprises (pleasant and otherwise) for the reader, but it's not that kind of story. You may not know exactly where Plot X will land, but you'll know the ZIP Code for it early on. And that's fine -- the pleasure's in the journey, and Danny ending up where you know he will is just a satisfying confirmation.


If you like Danny, you'll like this book. I'm not sure why you wouldn't like Danny, but I have to admit it's possible. I think we clicked almost instantly, I was definitely on board in the first couple of pages. It's possible you may not like Danny as a person, but would like his voice (well, Shane's voice), I suppose. That should carry you through, too.

On his website, Shane talks about the impact Aaron Sorkin has on his writing -- when you get to passages like this, it's pretty obvious:


“Why didn’t you tell us?”


“I didn’t think you’d find out.”




“Did you have any idea before today?”




"Then it’s a mystery to me as to why I’d think that."


I can't help but hear that last line in a Richard Schiff voice. But the book doesn't only read like the work of a Sorkin-devotee. It has the general feel of Hornby, Tropper, Norman, Weiner, Russo (in his lighter moments), Perrotta, etc. The writing is engaging, catchy, welcoming. Shane writes in a way that you like reading his prose -- no matter what's happening. It's pleasant and charming with moments of not-quite-brilliance, but close enough. Unlike Sorkin, Shane's style doesn't draw attention to itself, if anything, it deflects it. It's not flashy, but it's good. I could've easily read another 400 pages of these people without breaking a sweat.


You know how maybe the best thing about Zach Braff's Garden State was that killer soundtrack? That's almost the case here. Shane has assembled a great playlist on Spotify to go with the novel -- stuff that Danny refers to in the book, and stuff he'd listen to. I've been introduced to a lot of music that I probably should know through it. Most of what I've written in the last week (and some of what I've read) has had it as a soundtrack, and that'll likely hold true for a while longer. I'm embarrassed to admit how little of it I knew going in -- Danny, Tom and especially Marty would be ashamed that someone who went to college in about the same time as they did wouldn't know this stuff. Maybe I should've listened to more college radio. Unlike, Garden State, Postgraduate can be read without it (and without knowing the music), but this is a great touch. If for no other reason than there's going to be a couple of songs you're going to be curious about after reading about them, this is a great resource.


How much did I like the book? Despite being given a copy (which I'm very grateful for), I bought one. I might give a few away. Danny feels like an old friend, the world is comfortable and relaxing to be in (I should stress about 87.3 percent of what I know about radio comes from this book, so it's not that). This belongs in the same discussion with the best of Hornby and Tropper -- it's exactly the kind of thing I hope to read when I'm not reading a "genre" novel (the problems with that clause deserve their own post, but you all know what I mean). There's an eleven year gap between Shane's first two novels, after reading this you can only hope that his third will arrive much sooner. While I wait for whatever's next, you should go read Postgraduate. You'll feel better than James Brown if you do.

3 Stars
A Great Crime/Espionage Premise is Squandered in a Novel that Doesn't Know What It Wants to Be.
The Fourth Courier - Timothy Jay Smith

It's 1992 and the countries (and people) that were behind the Iron Curtain are still trying to adjust to the new world order, which is a mind boggling idea, really. It's something I haven't thought much about since the early 90's -- and even then, I doubt I gave it much serious thought. But that's the every day surreal life of the people in this novel -- most are from Poland, some are from Russia, some from Serbia (oh, yeah and a few are from the States -- but they're not my focus at the moment). This alone makes The Fourth Courier different enough to take a glance at.


There've been a few unidentified men -- with indications that they might be Russian -- found murdered and mutilated (not necessarily in that order) in Warsaw. The last one showed traces of radioactivity (there's a chance the others did, too -- but the evidence is gone), and people start to worry about what's afoot. It's so worrying that the FBI sends someone (Agent Jay Porter) over to help the police investigate. The change in political realities is affecting the way the police operate, like every other aspect of society, but at least the basics are the same. Porter teams up with a Warsaw detective, but he also teams up with a CIA agent based in the US Embassy.


The CIA agent is focused on what these (possible) Russians are doing in Warsaw before being mutilated. Probably not at all coincidentally, a Serbian general visits the city the day before the bodies are found. There are several possibilities he's looking into -- the most benign involve narcotics trafficking, the worst involves small nuclear explosives.

The book is pitched as being this hybrid murder mystery/espionage novel in post-Cold War Poland -- and when it is, it's an interesting read. But I'm not convinced that's the book that Smith really wanted to write -- I'm sure it's not the one he wrote.


Jay Porter is in the early stages of divorce back home, and one of the first things he does when he lands is to hit on an attractive woman working for the airline. They go on a few dates, he spends the day with her parents, sister and brother-in-law. She's recently been divorced, too, but given the housing situation and economy, her ex-husband still lives with her and their adult son in the same apartment they shared while married. To say theirs is a complicated relationship is an understatement -- and Porter's only been in the country for a couple of days.


But that level of complication pales in comparison to the Serbian general. His sexuality/inclinations are beyond complicated -- and several layers of which are peeled back for us to examine as we try to figure him out. We also get into the sex life of a ranking police official, a criminal with ties to the police, the general and Porter's lady friend, the CIA agent, a complete stranger on a train and an ex-Soviet scientist. All of which is far too detailed for my (admittedly reserved) taste (although I've endured worse), many of which are gratuitous (one or two are useful for revealing character, but could've been dialed down and still achieved the same result).


If you ask me (and I guess, that's kind of what the point of this blog is -- and Smith did ask me, I have the emails to prove it), this is what he wanted to talk about: in the midst of the Cold War ruins to talk about these people -- the romances, the sex (there's a difference), the friendships, the shattered lives and psyches trying to reestablish themselves the way the countries were. It's just that every now and then he remembered he was supposed to be writing the murder mystery/espionage novel and would go run off and deal with some of that plot before getting back to the stuff he wanted to talk about.

More power to him, by the way -- it's hard to come up with a reason to get all these characters in a book in the first place. But having decided to tell the story about multiple murders and spies and whatnot, he could've acted like he cared a bit more about that.


The big espionage plot was pretty lazy and was resolved in an equally easy way. The murder mystery was resolved in a pretty unsatisfactory way and the investigation mainly happened "off screen." At one point someone attempts to frame a suspect for the killings -- it's possibly the worst, most obvious frame job that I've read. Inspector Gadget would've picked up on it without Penny and the Brain needing to help. When the psychological ground for the mutilation was revealed, I almost quit reading -- it was just too easy.


I did not, for one single second, believe any of Porter's reactions to what was going on in the US regarding his family. I could buy his banter with his secretary. I could accept his emotions in Warsaw (although some of it was a stretch), but not his emotional backstory. I thought the general's backstory was a bit over-wrought, but I could buy it. And I really had no problems with any of the Polish characters' emotional lives or backstories -- they all worked really well. If the supposed main stories were half- as well-developed as the personal/psychological/sexual stories/motivations/plotlines were, I'd be a lot more enthusiastic in my recommendation.


Before anyone goes off on me, saying that I just want the police procedural, or a crime novel that's not about anything beyond the murder, a glance around this site should disabuse you of that idea. I enjoy Crime/Thriller novels that have something to say about things that aren't the crimes in question -- but before I'll listen to anything else you have to say, you need to give me a Crime/Thriller that's worth paying attention to.


Smith can do subtle, he can do nuance, he can show rather than tell. But most of the time when given the opportunity to do any of that, he seemed to choose the opposite. There's enough skill in Smith's work that I'm going to give it 3 pretty unenthusiastic stars, but this book could've been so much better. It just didn't live up to the promise of it's very strong premise. If he'd stuck with the premise, he probably could've pulled off something clever and compelling. If he'd told the story he seemed to really want to -- it wouldn't have been my cup of tea, but it would've been good read. Instead, we're left with this pile of unfulfilled potential.


Disclaimer: I received this eARC from the author and Skyhorse Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to all for this opportunity.

March 2019 Report

20 Books, 6258 pages (finished -- a few were started earlier, and I've never done that page count before, and now I feel tired), an average of 3.8ish (my indecision on a couple of titles is stopping me from having a hard number -- but I have to write my way to a conclusion on those). Overall, a decent month here. I hit a couple of hot streaks -- there's a few books here that will be in contention when I do the Best of 2019 lists, but man, there's a couple I wish I hadn't read. You take the good, you take the bad, and now you have the same song stuck in my head that I do.


So, here's what happened here in March.


Books/Novels/Novellas Read/Listened to:

My Lovely Wife Slow Horses And Drink I Did
3.5 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars
Killing State Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Audiobook) Rogue Superheroes
4 Stars 5 Stars 4 Stars
Who Killed the Fonz? No Country for Old Gnomes Mama's Gone
4 1/2 Stars 4 1/2 Stars 2 Stars
The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo Crossline Lingering
3.5 Stars 3.5 Stars 4 1/2 Stars
Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles A Local Habitation Postgraduate
3.5 Stars 3.5 Stars 4 1/2 Stars or 5 Stars
Fletch’s Fortune (Audiobook) The Fourth Courier Water Week
4 1/2 Stars Still Deciding 3 Stars
Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1: Anthropology The Prayers of Jesus: Listening to and Learning from Our Savior      
5 Stars 4 Stars      


Still Reading:

Rediscovering the Holy Spirit            



I really don't like being this flaky.

5 Stars 2-3 2 1/2 Stars 0-1
4 1/2 Stars 4-5 2 Stars 1
4 Stars 3 1 1/2 Stars 0
3.5 Stars 5 1 Star 0
3 Stars 3-4    
                                                 Average = 3.8ish


Reviews Posted:


TBR Pile/Mound/Heap:

Physical Books: 5 Added, 1 Read, 29 Remaining

E-Books: 1 Added, 0 Read, 20 Remaining

Audiobooks: 4 Added, 2 Read, 6 Remaining


Book Challenge Progress:

2019 Library Love Challenge

2019 Library Love Challenge

  1. Slow Horses by Mick Herron
  2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling, Jim Dale (Narrator)
  3. Who Killed the Fonz? by James Boice
  4. Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles by Thomas Lennon, John Hendrix (Illustrations)

While I Was Reading 2019 Challenge

  • Didn't have time to do anything here. (again . . . but things are planned)
LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

#LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

  1. And Drink I Did: One Man’s Story of Growing Through Recovery by Jay Keefe
  2. Killing State by Judith O’Reilly
  3. Rogue Superheroes by Matt Cowper
  4. Mama’s Gone by Leopold Borstinski
  5. The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo by James Bailey
  6. Lingering by Melissa Simonson (link forthcoming)
  7. Postgraduate by Ian Shane (link forthcoming)
2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

  1. Killing State by Judith O’Reilly
  2. Mama’s Gone by Leopold Borstinski
  3. Slow Horses by Mick Herron
  4. Who Killed the Fonz? by James Boice
  5. My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
  6. Fletch's Fortune by Gregory McDonald, Dan John Miller (link forthcoming)
  7. The Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith (link forthcoming)
Humor Reading Challenge 2019

Humor Reading Challenge 2019

  1. No Country for Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
2019 Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge

2019 Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge

  1. Reformed Dogmatics: Anthropology by Geerhardus Vos, Richard B. Gaffin Jr. (Translator) (link forthcoming)


How was your month?



4.5 Stars
A Touching and Creepy Tale about a Couple that will Always be Together in Electric Dreams
Lingering - Melissa Simonson

Typically, when I just quote the official blurb, it's because I'm feeling lazy -- or I don't like the book and don't want to spend energy coming up with my own synopsis. But this time, it's because I just like this so much:


Death doesn't have to be the end.


With Lingering, your departed loved ones are only ever a phone call or text message away.*
Say all those things you should have said. Get their advice, hear their comforting words. Let them celebrate your achievements and soothe your fears like they used to.
Everyone is welcome, and consultations are always free.


*Some conditions may apply. Please call our office for details.

That's all Simonson said when she pitched me the book. And it absolutely worked. Now, maybe it's because of what people typically try to get me to read, maybe it's because of what I was reading at the time -- I don't know why, but I took this to be a supernatural/urban fantasy/beyond the grave thing. It's not there in what she said about the book, but that's the impression that I walked away with.


It couldn't be further from the case, actually. In this case, the grieving client gives Lingering access to the dead person's social media, texts, emails, etc. and then using the kind of social engineering that Identity Thieves dream about, come up with an approximation of the dearly departed. Obviously, the more data given them, the better the approximation will be.


When Ben is approached by a strange woman while he's visiting his fiance's grave about five months after she was murdered, he obviously has no idea what he's in for. This stranger wants him to be a beta user for Lingering's services. Not only was his fiancé a prolific texter, she was a fashion blogger and vlogger -- so there was a lot of data to use as a source. After weeks of texting back and forth -- in which the software was able to imitate Carissa pretty well, they move on to voice calls, and so on.


Lingering is made up of one engineer/developer and his girlfriend who's in charge of recruitment and the business side of operations. We don't get to meet other clients, but they do exist (or at least did -- maybe they only have one beta at a time -- it doesn't matter). The engineer is a creep, and is clearly invested wholeheartedly (and maybe unhealthily) in this project. The recruiter, on the other hand, isn't as invested, but does believe in the project (or at least her boyfriend). Their involvement in this story keeps it from being your typical "Boy meets AI/Computer Simulation of a Girl" story.


Because in many ways this is that kind of story -- with the added twist of Carissa being the victim of an unsolved murder. But for anyone who's watched Her, Ex Machina, or even Electric Dreams most of this story goes just like you anticipate. The Lingering duo add in some interesting complications, as does the murder investigation looming over portions of it. Simonson tells this familiar(ish) story in a compelling way, with a hint of menace mixed into star-crossed love. It's tense, taut and heartfelt.


As the reader knows -- and Ben does, too -- he's not talking to Carissa. In his own words, it's "a machine pretending to be Carissa." But that doesn't stop him from sort of falling for her, and for the reader to wonder if there's a way for it to work out for them. Even as the reader and Ben both feel the wrongness inherent in it all. A feeling that's compounded as more about Lingering is shown to Ben.


Just with this, I'd recommend the novel. But that's not what makes this book a keeper.

Simonson gives us a protagonist that you can't help but feel for. The woman of his dreams, a woman out of his league that somehow truly loved him, his friends and family (well, maybe not his mother -- but she wanted to), the woman he would die for was stolen from him in the worst possible way. They have a big fight, he storms out and hits a bar for a couple hours only to come back to discover her body.


Ben plunges into depression and grief -- the only good thing to come out of things immediately is that Carissa's cat suddenly decides she doesn't hate him. His work suffers, his friendships and family relationships do, too (we'll come back to that in a minute). He eventually finds a friend in his grief -- Joe's wife died from cancer around the same time as the murder and the graves are near each other. As the two men visit the graves they eventually visit each other and establish a mutual support system (that involves a lot of alcohol).


While we get to know Ben, we get to know the (real) Carissa and those in his life. We can see the devastation that Carissa's murder has left in everyone's life. His grief is real, and his efforts to move on aren't that successful (they are half-hearted at best, too). Yes, Ben has a secret crutch helping him -- but this really could be diving into work, substance abuse or something else -- in a sense Simonson could've used anything here to give Ben a reason to keep going, she simply chose a machine pretending to be a person.


Joe doesn't have Lingering, and he doesn't seem to have much of a support network, either. He has Ben and alcohol. And memories. Many, many memories. As wrong as Ben's "relationship" with cyber-Carissa is, he does seem to be functioning better than Joe, and the reader has many opportunities to see that. But man, Joe's experiences are genuine, his pain is real. Ben's got something keeping him from those experiences, and you can't help but think how bad this is for him.


One of the many people almost as devastated by Carissa's death was his young cousin, Kylie. I'm sure we're told her age, but I don't remember -- I'm going to guess 8. Young enough that Goosebumps and Baby Sitters Club books are age-appropriate, but maybe a little advanced. She's a good enough reader that they aren't really her speed anymore, though. She calls Ben her uncle (he's too old to be a cousin in her view). The two of them have a very close relationship, and Kylie will spend time at Ben's house after school and the two of them make regular runs ot the library and read together frequently. While there's almost nothing in this book that I didn't like -- my favorite parts involve Kylie.


Early on, they find themselves at a Library book sale and Kylie talks him into buying her The Art of War as well as Little Women (they only tell mom about one of the purchases). Throughout the book the two will read Sun Tzu together, Ben helping Kylie understand (and apply!) the classic. He picks up a handy tip or two from the old warrior/philosopher, too. Those scenes are priceless -- warm, cute and insightful. Kylie's a great addition to the book and humanizes Ben in ways that nothing else can. If Simonson needs a side project, an edition of The Art of War annotated with commentary by Ben and Kylie would be an insta-buy from me.


Thanks to watching Ben with Dexter (Carissa's cat), Joe, his friends and, most importantly, Kylie you learn to care about him and his loss. You understand what he's missing in his life and the degree it's affecting him. So when things happen with Lingering and cyber-Carissa, you care about that. It's not just some dopey guy being taken in by a computer generated fraud (that he signed up for, don't get me wrong) -- it's this character you care about risking everything for some clever software.


The writing was excellent -- I don't think I had a negative note anywhere. The closest came when Ben was trying to box up Carissa's clothes and I said something about how hard it was to read. The grief is real and palpable throughout the book, and really strong in others. All the characters are well drawn and developed -- even those we spend only a few paragraphs with. The merging of the SF-ish elements with the story of Ben trying to recover from the death is really well done and adds shades and nuances to both, making the novel stronger.


Simonson took a lot of care about the appearance of the book, too. Which is important (maybe more so for a self-published book than one put out by one of the bigger houses). That's an eye-catching and fitting cover -- but even the graphic elements dividing up the text aren't run of the mill and are attractive (I read a book a couple of weeks ago that went for an atypical graphic element, but I couldn't tell what it was -- nor could other readers that I talked to). I really appreciate it when people go to the extra trouble that someone clearly did here.


I'm not sure if this is really Science Fiction, but it has some SF elements. There's a touch of a thriller about it, too. But I wouldn't categorize it there. Maybe just General Fiction? But it feels too genre-adjacent for that. Eh, just categorize it as a read for people who like good things.


I can't think of anything else to say here, really. This is an excellent read that totally sucked me in and wouldn't let go. I spent a lot of time thinking about it between reading sessions, and have mused about it frequently since I finished, too. I guess you could say it's lingering on in my mind. But you shouldn't, because that's just lazy word play, and we're all better than that here. Just go read the book, okay?


Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion.

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

Saturday Miscellany -- 3/30/19

Another week of slim pickings . . . odd. Is it just end of month malaise? But there's some good stuff here nonetheless. 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:


  • The Best Bookstores in All 50 States -- according to MentalFloss. I've posted similar lists in the past, but who can resist a new version -- especially if you are curious about nearby bookstores. I can sign off on 2 of the 3 Idaho bookstores mentioned.








  • S3E06 Ben Aaronovitch and James Swallow of Book Off! ("A literary podcast with a difference...")This is the first I've heard of this podcast, but it's a cool concept and I'll take any excuse to listen to Aaronovitch (and I need to track down Swallow's series).





  • Ruff vs. Fluff by Spencer Quinn -- Quinn gets controversially inclusive here by having a cat as one of his protagonists in his new MG series. This is likely pretty cute, and I am curious how he'll handle a feline lead, but is only a placeholder in my mind until we get a new Chet & Bernie book this summer.


  • Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss by sRajeev Balasubramanyam -- I wish I could remember how this ended up on my radar, but it looks like it'll appeal to the Maria Semple, Fredrick Bachman, etc. side of me. Probably you, too.


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

3.5 Stars
Out along the edges, Always where they burn to be
Crossline - Russ Colchamiro

Marcus Powell is a test pilot -- not something you think about much anymore, but SF and adventure tales have started with them long enough to strike a classic chord. You're instantly put into a certain frame of mind -- and then when you see he's on the launching pad, well, it almost guarantees a good time. Since he hits space very early on in the book, you know things are going to get interesting right away.


Because the next thing you know, he's zipping around the outer parts of our solar system and then he finds himself in a parallel universe on a world that's remarkably like our own -- yet is very different. Thankfully the language -- and slang -- is largely interchangeable so Powell can get along just fine. But the differences are very striking and could get him in serious trouble/danger.


Back on Earth -- as Powell is bouncing around that other planet, we get to meet a pilot from the parallel world that came to Earth. As much as this is Powell's book, I found this guy a lot more interesting -- but we get his story told mostly in summary form, while Powell's is told to us in much more detail. So you'd expect that he'd be the one that readers get into. Now, I do -- Powell's a great character, and if we didn't get the other pilot's story, I'd have been very content to read about him.


While Powell runs around that other planet, trying to figure out how to get home we get to see the societal turmoil that covers the North America-ish place. We meet a wise man who has visions, some dedicated warrior women (and men), an incredibly creative baker, and a disturbed killer. You know, the usual. As Powell aligns himself with one warring faction, he finds himself in a different kind of danger than he's used to as he tries to find his way home. On Earth, the danger is largely off-screen and the battles take place in the boardroom and the weapons are money and influence. While Powell has to deal with explosives, bullets and knives. Both types of warfare can result in fatalities


On Earth, we also see what goes on with Powell's wife and daughter as they deal with Powell's absence. His wife was less than supportive before he launched, and that's haunting her. His daughter, who shares something in common with the wiseman on that other world, never loses hope. It's hard to know if that's because she's young and naive (5 or so) or if it's because she knows more than you'd expect. I had more fun reading about Powell's daughter than I have with pretty much any character this month, she's simply a delight. The granddaughter of a Native American seer (of sorts), this little girl knows things she shouldn't anf has a certainty about things she has no business knowing about. She's the embodiment of precocious, basically. Her mother is a caring and very outspoken teacher, the two of them together make a formidable team.


Everywhere you turn, the motivation driving the characters is family -- protecting, avenging, trying ot live a life worthy of them, trying to hold on to, trying to get back to, trying to provide for . . . This is at once an incredibly believable driving force for a character, and incredibly relatable one. It's a great way to get your reader on the side of every major character. It's easy to forget the human element in a SF adventure -- the advanced science, the fantastic technology, the wormhole creation, etc. can easily become the focus. But Colchamiro doesn't let that happen, what keeps his characters moving, what keeps them going on -- it's all realatably human.


I'll admit, I don't think I got all of the mystical/spiritual/supernatural aspects that Colchamiro brought to the table. I think that's largely on me, and there are going to be readers who love that part (and I thought it an interesting approach to take_. Similarly, there's a little plot element makes no sense to me at all. It's brought up early on when Powell launches that is returned to a couple of times, and then comes back in a pretty serious fashion in the closing pages, and drives the last action scene. It could be cut entirely and make no difference to anything (except the aforementioned action scene would have no justification and would have to be cut -- which would be an improvement). There's no reason for it, it doesn't help the characters or the plot at all. Maybe it played a decent role in an earlier draft, but not now. Here's the nice thing about it -- it's so extraneous that you can just ignore it and the story doesn't suffer at all. I'm being vague here, I know. My point is (or it was supposed to be) is that there are some problematic parts of the book -- but there's enough right going on here that it doesn't matter.


That aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I had plenty of fun with it. Colchamiro kept things moving well, he surprised me a couple of times and got me grinning and cheering. I found myself very invested in what happened with both pilots and wanted them to find what they're looking for. Strong action, strong characters, a compelling take on the multiple worlds idea -- and a whole lotta fun throughout. I can't point to every part of this book that makes it appealing -- most of it is in the intangibles. As frustrating as that might be when writing about a book, while reading it? It's hard to ask for more.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author and Lola's Book Tours, which I appreciate. The opinions expressed are my own -- especially the seventh paragraph.