All Tucked Inn (Audiobook) by Mindy M. Shelton, Tia Sorenson

All Tucked InnAll Tucked Inn

by Mindy M. Shelton, Tia Sorenson (Narrator)
Series: Elizabeth Burke, #1
Unabridged Audiobook, 5 hrs 46 min.
2016

Read: September 18 – 20, 2017


Lizzie Burke lives with her widowed mother and younger brother in her mother’s B&B, which is near the college she starts when we meet her. She makes a few friends on the first day of classes, and things seem to be going pretty well. Until one of her new friends goes missing — and many (not Lizzie) assume she’s been killed. Especially when another girl goes missing not too long after this. Now, as Lizzie and her friends are Criminal Justice majors, I assumed they’d start investigating things on their own, meddling with the official investigations, and get the killer themselves. But nope. They’re just on the sidelines, worrying about their friend and the others — until things happen, forcing them to action.

Meanwhile, Lizzie deals with several guys expressing various degrees of romantic interest in her. All of whom are creeps of the first order. Seriously, she’s like a magnet for them. Hopefully before the next book in the series, Lizzie takes a long, hard look at herself and comes up with some basic standards — or decides not to date until she gets her Master’s. I wasn’t sure what to think of Lizzie for most of the book really, she was pretty passive as protagonists go. But once she started actively doing things, I liked her a lot.

The tone is light and optimistic — there’s some good relationships established between Lizzie and her family, as well as her new friends. It’s basically a cozy with a few very dark and non-cozy chapters thrown in. I think the serial killer’s POV chapters could be stronger and more nuanced — but man, it’s hard to get that right if you’re not Thomas Harris or Val McDermid. Mostly, it’s a bunch of nice people watching something horrific happen in their midst and trying to keep going, and most of that is something I can really get behind.

But I did have a few problems, and I’m only going to talk about them because I think that the book as a whole demonstrates that Shelton has the good to lose them in future books — and, they all took me out of the moment, ruining whatever illusion she’d built with her storytelling.

The police (and/or FBI) procedural aspects were horrible — FBI doesn’t have detectives, they wouldn’t do a press conference that way, there’s no need to get college kids pouring through public records when there are literally people at police stations and/or FBI offices that have access to the same information (and more) who can get it faster. There’s some other spoiler-y problems, too. On the one hand, the problems don’t destroy the story, but man, they took me out of the moment, out of the story long enough to make me wonder about why the author couldn’t take a moment in revision to fix things like that.

My biggest problem was that I successfully identified the killer when they first showed up — chapters ahead of the first abduction, and I never had any reason to question that identification. Which would be one thing if I thought I was supposed to make that identification, but I don’t think I was. The various herrings weren’t just red, they were crimson, maroon, and fire truck red.

The writing itself was okay — there was one moment that Shelton did a really nice job showing that X was attracted to Y, and then followed it up with telling us X was attracted to Y, absolutely ruining the moment. There were a few more things like that — it’s almost as if Shelton doesn’t trust herself or her readers (or both). Another moment that really stuck out to me was where she described someone’s nickname as “a funny nickname” before describing where it came from — no one gets other kinds of nicknames that aren’t just abbreviations of their names. There aren’t depressing nicknames, memento mori nicknames, etc. Just tell us its a nickname, describe the incident and move on — better yet, say R is called S because . . . and let the reader supply “nickname” and “funny” to it. Most of all, trust your readers — they’re pretty clever.

A few other niggling problems — the chronology at a point or two is hard to follow; Lizzie says a lot with looks, which is fine if that’s how she is, but maybe the sentence structure could change a little when she does it? The other part that was hard for me was trying to figure out when this took place — and yes, it’s possible that the year was given in the opening seconds of the book and I missed it. But almost no one used call phones (and one who did, flipped it closed), students used pencils and paper in class — yet it seemed to be fairly contemporary otherwise. There were enough references to CSI to make it post-2000, but I’m not sure how much so.

Sorenson did an all right job with the narration — although I’m pretty sure she missed a pronoun or two, and at one point she read a word that doesn’t exist — I had to rewind and listen to the sentence 5 times to figure out what she actually said and then translate it into English. Maybe it was a typo in her copy and she just rolled with it, or maybe she just bobbled the word. Either way, that’s just not good.

Yeah, I had a lot of negative(ish) things to say, but I still recommend the book. This book did its job — it entertained me just enough to keep going and it introduced me to some characters I’d like to spend some more time with (and most of them survived), even if I wasn’t crazy about a lot of their choices/actions throughout the book. I am really very curious about what Shelton is going to do with this series, how is she going to put Burke in the middle of another criminal investigation — will she have learned something from this experience that will help her?

Disclaimer: — I received a copy of the audiobook from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. Which may not have gone as well as she hoped. I appreciate the book, and the interaction with her (she’s pretty funny), but the opinions expressed where fully mine.

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3 Stars

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The Shadow of Christ in the Book of Job by C. J. Williams

The Shadow of Christ in the Book of JobThe Shadow of Christ in the Book of Job

by C. J. Williams

Paperback, 96 pg.
Wipf and Stock, 2017

Read: August 27, 2017


Just some quick thoughts on a quick read…

Williams begins this brief book with a chapter on typology, what is it and why should we use it. Essentially, his definition of a type is: a living prophecy concerning God’s promised (centering on Jesus) for the benefit of God’s people throughout the ages. Which is a pretty handy definition, made more so by the rest of his discussion.

That accomplished, Williams applies it to the book of Job, and its central figure. Essentially, he gives a chronological survey over 10 chapters showing the typology involved. I found these chapters refreshing in their perspective, and instructive for how to look at other biblical texts in the same light. The last chapter, “What the Book of Job Means Today,” applies it to the Christian reader, what can his takeaway be from the book as he seeks sanctification, which was pretty helpful.

This is not a commentary on Job (I’d love to read one in this vein, especially by Williams), he’s brief by design. I think he could’ve been slightly less brief without making the book inaccessible or too involved. This brevity frequently frustrating — he’ll give an idea in a sentence, or disagree with a thought in a sentence, that could easily have been a paragraph (the latter was more annoying to me). Just a little more development of some of these ideas would’ve greatly improved the book.

A helpful way of seeing how typology can be faithfully utilized, as well as a reminder of the character of our Lord seen in the lives of His saints. A good use of an hour or two of your time.

—–

3 Stars

Prayer by Ole Hallsby

PrayerPrayer

by Ole Hallesby

Papberback, 176 pg.
1994 (originally 1931), Augsburg Fortress

Read: September 3 – 10, 2017


The section from Calvin’s Institutes on prayer is fantastic, Wistsius’ book is incredibly helpful, Luther’s little A Simple Way is pretty good, as is Matthew Henry’s Method, but none of them have been as much help as this little book by Norweign Lutheran Ole Hallesby (at least that’s my guess, I’ve had years to chew on those others, only a couple of weeks for Hallesby). I heard of the book briefly on an episode of Christ the Center this summer, and then they devoted an entire episode to it later — I was halfway through the book when that second episode was posted, thankfully, they didn’t say anything that spoiled the ending. If not for those podcast episodes, I probably would’ve gone my whole life without ever hearing of this book. That would’ve been a shame.

He doesn’t set out to write a comprehensive book on the subject, or a systematized theology of prayer, but to present “a few simple rules for the benefit of souls who are fainting at prayer.” It’s not much of a rule book, thankfully, as much as it wants to be — more like a collection of helpful suggestions.

Hallesby describes two things that make up the attitude of prayer — helplessness and faith. Faith that Jesus can and will answer our prayers and a realization that we are helpless and need him to even pray. What he writes about helplessness is worth the price of the book alone. I think it’s changed the way I pray already. I would quote a bit of it here — and I started to, but I wasn’t sure where I’d stop. So let me just encourage you to grab the book.

I also really appreciated his discussion of how we “think we must help God to fulfill our prayer,” by giving Him lists of suggestions for how to and times when He can answer us. Instead, we are to faithfully pour out our need to Him, and then trust that He will answer as He sees best. I’d really never thought of it in those terms but we really can end up trying to tell God the best way to go about helping us — which flies in the face of our admitted helplessness in a given situation.

Hallesby covers the work of prayer, the struggles we may have in it, some suggestions for how to learn to pray better, as well as giving some answers to common questions about prayer (that seem to be the same questions I hear others having almost 100 years after this book was written, probably questions believers had 100 years before that, too). Throughout the book, you get a strong sense of a pastoral heart behind the words and advice, which makes it all much easier to heed.

It’s not a perfect book by any means — most of my problems have to do with the fact that I’m not a Lutheran, nor a Pietist. So, anything that leans too heavily on those traditions/characteristics are obviously going to at least raise my eyebrows, but on the whole those aspects of the book are quibbles. For example, his definition of prayer involves letting God help us, or his aversion to pre-written prayers (that one has many allies in my own tradition, so it is more of a note than anything). More substantial concerns are his utter lack of reference to — much less use of — the Psalms or the Lord’s Prayer. A book on prayer that doesn’t even touch on those is mind-boggling. None of these concerns or quibbles detract too much from the book — and they’re certainly outweighed by the help the book gives.

Pound-for-pound, the best book on the subject I’ve read. Easy to read, encouraging, convicting and insightful. Highly recommended.

—–

4 Stars

Saturday Miscellany – 9/23/17

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:

    A Book-ish Related Podcast Episode you might want to give a listen:

  • SYFY25: Origin Stories Podcast with Neil Gaiman — thanks to very effective YouTube advertising, I tried a couple of episodes of Syfy’s Origin Stories podcast. I thought this one with Gaiman was just great.

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and welcome to Web Development (probably not the name he goes by), mitchavanza33, bigpetetafemd75 and One Stop Literary Services for following the blog this week.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer (Audiobook) by Leigh Bardugo, Mozhan Marno

Wonder Woman: Warbringer Wonder Woman: Warbringer

by Leigh Bardugo, Mozhan Marno (Narrator)
Series: DC Icons, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 11 hrs. and 55 mins.
Listening Library, 2017

Read: September 12 – 15, 2017


So this YA Wonder Woman novel starts off on Themyscira, where 17-ish year-old Diana is struggling to find her identity in the shadow of her mother. In this novel, Themyscira is populated by more than just ancient Amazons, they’ve been augmented by women throughout history who, while dying in battle, call upon a female god. They are then transplanted to Themyscira as a sort of feminist Valhalla.

Diana rescues a young woman from a boat explosion she witnesses, bringing her to the island (but not letting anyone know about her). This starts to destroy the island and the women who live there — and Diana receives quite the prophetic word about this girl. She’s a descendant of Helen of Troy, and like her ancestor, her mere existence promises to bring war throughout the Earth. Unless Diana can bring her to a certain place in the next few days. So Diana grabs a certain lasso, a couple of bracelets and takes off.

Basically, what ensues is a Rick Riordan-esque journey to get Alia to the goal. Sure, they start with a heck of a detour to New York City — which is pretty fun detour for the reader. While in NYC, they pick up a little entourage to accompany them. There are people who are trying to kill the Warbringer (not realizing there’s a way to cure her) before World War III erupts and a few minor figures from Greek mythology show up to make things more difficult.

There’s some really good interaction between Diana, Alia and Alia’s BFF (name escapes me). The action scenes are pretty good. The big twisty reveal wasn’t. There seemed to be some inconsistency about how familiar Diana was with things in the modern world, but on the whole, the book worked well enough I could ignore that. What worked in this book, worked really well. The things that didn’t work, also didn’t ruin anything

As far as the audiobook part goes — Marno does a fine job. Initially, I thought she sounded too much like Hillary Huber, but the more I listened the more I decided I was silly for thinking that. I do think that she could put a little more excitement in her voice during the combat or chase scenes (see the aforementioned Huber for an example), it really didn’t seem matter what was going on in the scene, her reading was the same. But aside from that, I had no complaints.

I’m not saying that i loved it, but I’d absolutely read/listen to the sequel that’s hinted at in the last chapter. Good story, interesting characters, and a pretty good narrator. All the elements for an entertaining 12 hours are there — a good way to spend some time, and a promising beginning to this new series. Although, the next is Batman, and so you have to guess that the third will be everyone’s favorite Kryptonian Boy Scout — hopefully they move beyond DC’s Trinity soon, I’d quite enjoy something like this about The Flash, Green Lantern, etc.

—–

3.5 Stars

IQ by Joe Ide

IQIQ

by Joe Ide
Series: IQ, #1

Hardcover, 321 pg.
Mulholland Books, 2016

Read: September 18 – 19, 2017


The book opens with a criminal in the making, and a very slapstick-y incident. But even while grinning about that, you get the sense that this character isn’t going to be good for more laughs. He’s not — but thankfully, we don’t have to spend a lot of time on him, because Isaiah Quintabe (a.k.a. IQ) finishes his blossoming criminal career. Which is very effective way to introduce Isaiah, the unlicensed investigator, and his world to readers.

After this, we spend some more time with our modern-day Sherlock of South Central LA. He needs money, not another case that he takes on in return for some homemade cookies or something, he’s got a couple of big bills heading his way and requires cash to take care of things. His need for an infusion of cash forces him to align himself with a former friend (there’s a very good reason for that “former”) with a tie to a well-paying client. The client is a famous rapper who is convinced that someone is trying to kill him — he happens to be right, I should add, which makes the book a lot more interesting. (obviously, an investigator looking into a paranoid delusion isn’t going to be as action-packed as one looking into a person actually trying to kill someone). This investigation will bring Isaiah and Dodson into the not-as-lucrative-as-it-used-to-be music industry, into marital problems, petty jealousies, and a whole lot closer to pit bulls than at least one of them wants to be. The case is at once a showcase for Isaiah’s talents and something almost too complex for him.

We also get a series of flashbacks to the events that set Isaiah on this path, how he honed his natural abilities and inclinations to become the man he his — an unlicensed PI that helps out people in his neighborhood, many of whom wouldn’t turn to the authorities. So often with a Sherlock-type character, we just get the finished product — the Great Detective at the height of his powers, knowing all sorts of arcane information. But Ide shows us how Isaiah gets this information, how he earned it, improved his reasoning and observation skills. Also the why behind it all — why didn’t Isaiah take his genius into something that would make him more money? Why does he stay where he is? The flashbacks also show us Dodson and Isaiah meeting and falling out.

The two stories intertwine and are pretty equally intriguing, which is a real bonus.

There’s what seems to be an authenticity to the world Ide portrays — honestly, what do I know about the realities of LA? But it sure feels real, so either way, I guess Ide did his job. The characters — all of them, the good, the bad, the creepy, the slimy and everyone else are wonderfully conceived and executed. The crimes depicted are varied sophisticated (making them worth Isaiah’s time) — and at least one method of assassination is something I’ve never seen before. Ide does a great job of balancing the moods at work, the grim, the hopeful, the silly and all points in between.

There’s a passage in this book that is one of the best brief pieces of writing I’ve read this year, period. As I reread it (at least 5 times), I kept thinking of the Fiction Writing professors I had in college that would’ve made us study it for at least one class session. It’s during the “origin” portion, where Isaiah’s Geometry teacher is explaining inductive reasoning — these four paragraphs give you a strong character, setting, tone, a minor character (and even a brief storyline), a good idea what she looks like, her past, her relationship with her husband — and you get a good working definition of inductive reasoning, too! It’s really great.

This year (most recently, last week), I’ve also talked about another modern Sherlock — Victor Locke. How would I compare the two of these? There’s some similarities, and more than a few differences. At the end of the day, Victor Locke is a lot more amusing and entertaining. Isaiah, on the other hand, I could believe was real (I know he’s not, don’t worry). Isaiah is driven, he’s brilliant, he’s proud, he’s haunted, he has no obvious addictions (phew! wonderful change), he’s a bit more grounded than your typical Holmes-type. Dodson is the least John Watson-y Watson-figure you’ve ever seen, more of a hindrance than an assistant. Thankfully, also he’s not a narrator, and I’m not sure I could’ve handled a book from his point-of-view. It’s hard to summarize, but he works really well in this role.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end, with not a dull moment in between. Isaiah Quintabe is a keeper, and I’m already counting the days until his next book.

—–

4 Stars
2017 Library Love Challenge

The Western Star by Craig Johnson

The Western StarThe Western Star

by Craig Johnson
Series: Walt Longmire, #13

Hardcover, 295 pg.
Viking, 2017

Read: September 15 – 16, 2017


In the last novel, An Obvious Fact, Johnson plays with lines and themes from Sherlock Holmes while letting us get to know that very important woman in Henry Standing Bear’s life while Walt solves a murder. In this book, Johnson plays with Murder on the Orient Express while letting us get to know that very important woman in Walt’s life while Walt solves a murder. It struck me while reading that as large a shadow that Martha Longmire cast over the books (particularly the first few), we really don’t know much about her. We don’t learn that much about her, really, but we see her interact with Walt and Henry — and you walk away with a much better sense of her as a person, not her as the giant hole in Walt’s life.

How do we get this sense? Half of the novel takes place shortly after Walt returns to the States after his time in the Marines, and he’s been employed by Lucian as a deputy for a couple of weeks. Lucian is attending the annual meeting of the Wyoming Sheriff’s Association, and he brings Walt along. This meeting takes place on The Western Star, a passenger train. Shortly after boarding, Walt meets one Sheriff who is convinced that one (or more) of his fellows is murdering people across the state (sort of a Dexter-vibe to the motive), and he needs someone with fresh eyes and a lack of knowledge of the Sheriffs to help with his investigation. This would be Walt, naturally.

Meanwhile, in alternating passages/chapters set in the present, Walt is in Cheyenne for a highly politicized parole hearing (that becomes something a little different) to keep this particular killer behind bars. Johnson’s very good about not tipping his hand about the killer’s identity until Walt uncovers it. While doing so, he stays with Cady and his granddaughter, and annoys some pretty powerful people in the state.

I found the Walt on a Train story entertaining more than intriguing, but the final reveal was well done and made me appreciate it all the more. But while I wasn’t that into the mystery, I really enjoyed watching Deputy Walt and Sheriff Lucian do their thing. It was sad watching Walt’s idealism surrounding the societal/cultural changes that the 60’s promised come into contact with the cold reality that humans take awhile to change. I was really intrigued by the present day story, on the other hand, and wished they could get into more of the details about the case, but it’d have been hard to do while keeping the identity of the killer under wraps.

The events that are revealed after the reveal (in both timelines) will leave fans unsure what to do with themselves until Walt Longmire #14 comes out. I have some thoughts about what that book will end up being, but I’ll hold on to them for now. But it’s going to be something we haven’t seen before.

But this book? Very entertaining, illuminating and the whole time, it slowly but surely reels you in and sets you up for the biggest emotional moments that Johnson has penned to date. Johnson earned the 5th star for me in the last 13 pages.

—–

5 Stars
2017 Library Love Challenge