August 2015 Report

So, here’s what happened here in August.

Books Read:

Spell or High Water The Loveliness of Christ Enjoy Your Prayer Life
3 Stars 5 Stars 3 Stars
God's Love The Redeemers Veiled
2 Stars 4 1/2 Stars 4 Stars
Go Set a Watchman Texts from Jane Eyre Seconds
? ? ? ? ? 3 Stars 3.5 Stars
Mercy Revealed Underground Hell is Empty
3 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars
Hostile Takeover The Van Canon Revisited
4 Stars 4 Stars 4 1/2 Stars
Provoke Not The Children
3 Stars

Still Reading:

The Christian In Complete Armour Indexing: Reflections A Well-Ordered Church

Reviews Posted:

How was your month?

Saturday Miscellany – 8/29/15

Only two posts this week, and three half-written drafts. That’s primarily due to: The Van by Roddy Doyle being harder to write about than I expected, a higher-than-normal level of short-attention span from me, and my daily schedule’s shifted recently and I’m sleeping more. Which is good for me, bad for writing.

But who cares about that? Here are the odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • X by Sue Grafton — among other things, this answers the question I’ve been asking for years (even before I started the series), “What ‘X’ word is she going to use?”. I’m sure there’s a decent mystery novel involved, too. #24 is here, folks.
  • Randoms by David Liss — A Cline/Scalzi-ish YA SF adventure. Looks pretty cool.
  • Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea — this looks like a lot of fun, wish I’d seen the release of the first in this series last year. Time to catch up.

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and welcome to Lagniappe Literature for following the BookLikes version of the blog this week.

Hostile Takeover by Shane Kuhn

Hostile TakeoverHostile Takeover

by Shane Kuhn
Series: John Lago Thriller, #2

Hardcover, 246 pg.

Simon & Schuster, 2015

Read: August 24, 2015


John Lago is back, folks — and he picks up right where he left off, with some of the most adrenaline and testosterone-fueled writing you’ll come across this year. That may not be your cup of tea.

Hostile Takeover is one of those sequels I didn’t think needed to exist. Seriously, who was dissatisfied with where things ended up for Lago? It was narratively sufficient as it was — but as the opening lines of this book could’ve literally been the next page in The Intern’s Handbook, it’s hard to complain.

So, John decides to tie up two loose ends: 1. Alice and 2. HR, Inc. He marries Alice and the two take over HR but it doesn’t take too long (at least not many pages) before both of those go wrong — they break up and she kicks him out of the company (not really spoiler material, folks, it’s in the Jacket Copy). John switches to Plan B, the complete destruction of both. Which is not the most mature of plans, you’ve got to admit.

Which is the bulk of the book — John going undercover again, John trying (and/or being the target of) elaborate assassination schemes, great fight scenes and enough munitions used to make Michael Bay choke. All delivered in that movie-obsessed, rapid-fire (no pun intended) narration that won over so many fans before.

I thoroughly enjoyed, have used already, and will continue to do so, Lago’s comments on the movie Fletch. It was that line that reminded me how much I liked the first book.

Did I enjoy this as much as The Intern’s Handbook? Nope. Only because it didn’t blow me away with it’s freshness. But it’s a worthy sequel, as good as it’s predecessor and leaves me wanting more. An intense, fast read — buckle up and enjoy the ride.

—–

4 Stars

Hell is Empty by Craig Johnson

Hell is EmptyHell is Empty

by Craig Johnson
Series: Walt Longmire, #7

Hardcover, 312 pg.

Viking, 2011

Read: August 21, 2015

Where Junkyard Dogs started off with a chuckle inducing bang, this one starts slower, and makes it clear early on that creepy and foreboding are going to be the order of the day.

We join Walt and Deputy Santiago ‘Sancho’ Saizarbitoria as they’re transporting three felons to meet up with a prison transport and a FBI team. Two of them are pretty hardened guys, guys who scare people like me — but the third? He’s the kind who scares people like them. He goes by the name Shade, and right away, he fixates on Walt in a pretty unhealthy way. And you know that the rest of the novel is going to be about this.

Turns out, Shade is going to help the FBI locate his first victim’s remains, they’re somewhere around where the meet up is to happen. Naturally, the remains are in Absaroka County, so Walt and Sancho get to spend more time with Shade and the FBI. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going to happen — Shade’s going to escape, he’s going to kill many law enforcement officials, and Walt’s going to have to save the day. Johnson telegraphs this (there’s no way to avoid it), and even though you know it’s inevitable, you still watch it through half-opened eyes.

Oh, naturally, there’s a record-setting winter storm about to hit, too. Can’t forget that.

As standard, boiler-plate as much of this sounds, Johnson makes it work. It’s taught, it’s gripping, with just the right mix of tension, determination, and humor. It will keep you turning the pages, needing to know what’s coming next. Even as most readers are going to have the whole thing pretty-well mapped out in their heads from the beginning — it’s how Johnson executes this so well is a testimony to his skill and the reason that you’ll keep turning those pages as fast as you can.

Vic and Henry are almost absent through this book — and Cady’s appearance is token at best. But Johnson uses their brief appearances to their most. This novel is about Walt’s struggle against Shade and against nature — both seem to be focused on killing him.

Sancho, who is really becoming my favorite non-Walt character in the series is around more than those other three combined; although after the introductory chapters he’s off-screen until the end as well. Before then, he not only makes amusing contributions to a very dark book, he’s an important part of the plot. After his recent near-death experience and career crisis, Sancho’s taken to trying to expand his horizons and catch up on the Liberal Arts education he skipped over. So he had those who did get that education to compile a reading list for him — a copy of which is included as an Appendix. It’s a good list and would be helpful for most people — and gives us a nice look into the personalities of those that compiled the list.

In the acknowledgments, Johnson talked about how difficult this novel was to write — and I can see why. But, as we have come to expect form him, when he set his mind to it, he pulled it off. A gripping tale of man against nature, man against man, man against himself, told with Johnson’s signature style and wit, with one foot in Dante and the other in Indian folklore. Not an easy task, but one well done.

—–

4 Stars

Saturday Miscellany – 8/22/2015

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:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • Hallow Point by Ari Marmell — who-hoo! Mick Oberon’s back.
  • Zero World by Jason Hough — SF Spy-Thriller? Sign me up. Check out this great graphic review from Kevin Hearne.
  • Last Words by Michael Koryta — the beginning of a new series from Koryta is good news, anyway, but this one looks particularly strong.
  • Zeroes by Chuck Wendig — This Hacker/Cyber Espionage adventure looks good. But it’s by Wendig, so I’ll either dig it or hate it, no matter what it looks like. Still, the writing will be great.
  • Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by soandso — A follow-up to last year’s Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, which I’ve flipped through, but haven’t actually read much of. Nicely written and gorgeous. Bonus — big and heavy enough to kill an intruder if used correctly.

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and welcome to E.S. Wesley, G. E. Gallas (who could probably improve my Seconds post), and Kent Wayne for following the blog this week.

212 by Alafair Burke

212212

by Alafair Burke
Series: Ellie Hatcher, #3


Hardcover, 368 pg.
Harper, 2010
Read: February 25 – 26, 2015
It’s a law that in detective novels if you have two completely unrelated crimes being investigated, that one of the things the detectives are going to discover before all the pieces fall into place is that the crimes are completely related — one is very likely the cause of the other.* So, in 212 we start with Crime A, and then move onto Crime B — and sure, there’s a chance that A was just to reintroduce to this world, maybe show how Ellie and her partner are just frustrated in general, and maybe set them up for something. Maybe A is there simply to remind us all that she’s human and vulnerable and not perfect.

We leave Crime A for B. It doesn’t take too long before it’s clear that B is going to be the focus of the novel, and that frankly, you’d like the novel to be short, because you don’t want the perpetrator walking even fictional streets for long.

Right away, I started to wonder just how she was going to the the two crimes together, and by page 93 I was pretty sure that the theory I’d been percolating would be correct, and I was feeling a little clever. Which lasted a while, until Burke showed me that I was no where near to the right path. For my ego’s sake, I’m just assuming that an early draft matched my thinking but then she had a brain storm to make everything better.

As usual, this is nicely plotted, well-paced, filled with likeable (when they’re supposed to be) and relatable characters. Also typically, Burke nails a lot of the little moments. It’s this kind of thing that elevates this over other similar novels. For example, when the parents of the central victim are notified of her death, Burke’s description of the scene is striking. She captured the moment perfectly (at least, as I imagine it’d play out). Ellie’s speculation about the future of their marriage? Icing on a tasty cake.

There is one hefty Coincidence Ex Machina essential to the plot that stretches credulity, but somehow Burke pulls it off.

My other quibble with this is that Ellie acts too much like a super-cop for someone so young. I’m not denying that she’s got good instincts and that she should be given more credit than she frequently is. But Ellie isn’t Harry Bosch, she shouldn’t treat J. J. like Bosch does his partners. I’d really like to see her work with J. J. a bit more, take advantage of his experience more. I like Ellie, I think in a few years she would be NY’s equivalent to Bosch and then could be excused for treating her partner like an assistant (although, she’s mostly too nice to do that — another problem I have with this treatment — and no one’s ever accused Harry of being nice).

My complaints do nag at me while I read — but Burke’s plotting and voice are strong enough that I can push them aside until I’m done enjoying the book. Could this book be better? Could the series? yes and yes. But there’s little in the world that can’t.

A quick, enjoyable read — solid work that’s a little better than it needs to be.

—–

* The Law of Interconnected Monkey Business talked about in the Gideon Oliver novels, applies in a special way to all mystery novels.

—–

3.5 Stars

Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

SecondsSeconds

by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Hardcover, 323 pg.

Ballantine Books, 2014

Read: August 14 – 15, 2015


This is a story about Katie — a pretty successful young chef, with a personal life in shambles (are there any chefs in fiction whose extra-kitchen life aren’t in shambles?), on the verge of opening her second restaurant while handing over the reins of her first. She’s been given a gift — from a source she doesn’t understand — to undo the events of one day, to rewrite history — just one, there are rules. After one not-that-terrible-but-certainly-regrettable day, she decides to use it.

Katie’s as surprised as the next guy when it works (assuming, of course, the next guy isn’t in a work of fiction). And she finds a way to break the rules. And does fixes another bad day, and another, and another and soon she’s like the guys in Richard Curtis’ (IMHO underrated) About Time, tweaking and massaging the details of the past to make her present perfect.

However, like I said, there are rules. And we all know what happens when you break the rules concerning magic. Or time travel (ask Marty McFly how things were going for him during The Enchantment Under The Sea dance). Now, actually, I thought emotionally and character-wise were richer and more interesting before the wheels come off Katie’s machinations, but it’s here where things start to count.

If I was a better judge of visual art, I’d have the vocabulary to express this next point. So apologies for that, if I’m confusing here — well, that’s what comment boxes are for. I’m not knocking in any way, the penciling here (or in other works) when I think of O’Malley’s people as cartoon-y, like children (occasionally very adult looking children) doing very non-childlike things. To me, the artwork here in O’Malley’s signature style, isn’t a fit the way it was with Scott Pilgrim. There’s a darkness to the story, a flavor to it that seems at odds with the art. Which makes the art more effective — these are twisted forces that should happen to people that look like they were drawn by Lan Medina or Peter Gross, not the fun and innocent-ish looking characters we meet in these pages. It’s more jarring, unnatural, in O’Malley’s hands.

Very entertaining, a good follow-up to his magnum opus — a different direction, feel, and populated by people with a different set of issues. Did I heart this as much as Scott Pilgrim? No. Because it’s not the kind of story I prefer. Is there anything wrong with it? No. It’s just it didn’t strike the same chord with me, mostly because O’Malley was going for a different chord. Worth your time.

—–

3.5 Stars