The Unbelievable Story of How I Met Your Mother by Preston Randall

The Unbelievable Story of How I Met Your MotherThe Unbelievable Story of How I Met Your Mother

by Preston Randall
Kindle Edition, 40 pg.
BookRix, 2016

Read: January 20, 2018


Daniel Zurenski is 40 (or so) and lives in the same basement room he’s been in since he moved out of the crib, he has an okay job (not that many coworkers are aware he exists, but the job is okay), and is pretty out-of-shape. He seems to be an all-right guy who maybe has a problem with emotional eating, zero love life, and a less-than-healthy attachment to his mother. He’s on a little bit of a fitness kick at the moment — he ran a 5K with people from his office a few weeks back and now finds himself signed up for the city marathon.

But before he can get there, comedy strikes. Poor Daniel. But ultimately, good for Daniel (see the title, you know it’s going to have a happy ending). But before the good, comes a lot of . . . well, things he can laugh about later — and the reader can laugh at now.

Before we get to that, however, we have to get through some more character introductions, which are really just ways for Randall to set up some dominoes to knock over when the time is right. This is done pretty well, at a certain point, you understand just what he’s setting things up for, and the details approach overkill. But stay with him — they’re really not that bad, and everything he sets up has a purpose. Once he starts knocking over dominoes, it’s all worth it.

The humor is gross, quite simply. And very slap-sticky. But if you can handle the gross, and enjoy the slap-stick, it’s really well done (not the easiest thing in the world to pull off, either). And then after the slap-stick comes the title event, which is nice. I think the epilogue-esque material could lose a couple of paragraphs and be better off for it, but that’s a minor quibble.

It’s short, it’s cute, it’s more narratively satisfying than another recent work with a similar title. Randall’s short story is worth the time, give it a shot.

—–

3 Stars

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Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz

Orphan XOrphan X

by Gregg Hurwitz
Series: Orphan X, #1

Hardcover, 354 pg.
Minotaur Books, 2016

Read: January 17 – 18, 2017


Wow. Just wow.

I firmly believe, and have said so repeatedly here, that it’s not the novelty of an idea that makes a book worth reading, it’s the execution. But for some reason, because I’ve seen/read this story (at least what one can tell from the blurb) so many times, I put off reading it. That was stupid. There’s a reason some stories, some ideas are told so many times: when done well, they are great.

That’s what we’ve got here. Evan Smoak is an Orphan (he’s also an orphan, but that’s not all that important). From a pretty young age, he’s been trained as an off-the-books special operative for the US government, with a tie to only his handler. No other connection whatsoever to any covert agency, budget, oversight. Nothing can possibly go wrong with that, right? At some point he runs into another Orphan and is struck by the differences between the two — clearly, Evan’s training involved the cultivation of a conscience and a modicum of ethics. This splash of humanity gets this human weapon into trouble and he leaves the program.

But it’s not like he’s got a backup plan for his life, he’s trained for only one thing, so he becomes The Nowhere Man. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find him…maybe you can hire, well, the A-Team. Because The Nowhere Man can’t be hired. If he helps you, all he asks is that you find someone else in trouble and give them his phone number. Evan goes on for some time like this, helping people who can’t help themselves, getting some justice for those who are let down by the system, etc.

Until one day, things go pear-shaped when meeting a new client, and suddenly Evan finds himself (for the first time in his life) the hunted.

About the same time that his professional career is blowing up (almost literally), he finds himself having a personal life. Until now, Evan’s lived a pretty monkish life — free from personal ties, anyway. A lonely existence to be sure. and he starts to have friends? Not surprisingly, at all, this adds some complications to his already pretty complicated week.

This is an exciting read, fast-paced, energetic, incredibly violent — the fight scenes are great. This is essentially a Jason Statham movie in text form (although Statham always looks like someone who could star in an action flick and Evan doesn’t). It’s fun, it’s impossible to take seriously, (but I can’t imagine that Hurwitz expects anyone to). Evan’s The Punisher without the anger, The Equalizer without the age, Jason Bourne without the memory issues, James Bond without the government backing/British accent, John Wick without the dog or criminal record.

Okay, it’s clear I don’t know what to say about Orphan X at this point . . . this is a fun read, I’m glad I finally got around to it, and I’m looking forward to the sequels. If you like action flicks, give it a shot.

—–

3.5 Stars

2018 Library Love Challenge

Where Night Stops by Douglas Light

Where Night StopsWhere Night Stops

by Douglas Light

eARC, 252 pg.
Rare Bird/Vireo, 2018

Read: January 12 – 13, 2018

She smells of lemons and warm cinnamon and isn’t very pretty. Sliding onto the barstool next to me, she says, “Can I sit here?”

The bartender, the woman, and me — we’re the only people in the bar. She can sit anywhere. It’s not just a seat she wants.

I study her a moment then catch the bartender’s eye, the order is placed without a word. Whatever the woman wants. Alcohol, like long marriages, has a language of its own, one not composed of speech.

Now, that’s how you start a novel.

So, our narrator is orphaned the night after his high school graduation — however odd it may feel to call someone on the cusp of adulthood an orphan, he is one (and the back of the book says so). Suddenly his college dreams, plans for the future are gone, as is his past (other than memories). He finds his way from Iowa to Seattle and takes up residence in a homeless shelter. The closest thing he has to a friend there sets him up with a way to make some money — more than he’d been able to scrape together from an under-the-table gig at a gas station.

It’s obviously not above-board, but it’s good money. What else is a kid with no ties to society, no dreams, no means and nothing better to do? We bounce back and forth between the opening scene (and what follows) in the bar and his burgeoning criminal career. He bounces all of the globe playing small roles in what are likely significant crimes. The resulting story is a combination of tragedy, comedy of errors and Bildungsroman. All of which leads up to a concluding scene that is at once unexpected and the only appropriate thing that could’ve happened.

As a reader. you’re never impressed with our narrator’s choices. You may understand them, but it’s hard to be behind them. Especially because after a certain point, our young man makes a giant mistake. The reader knows this — and has to hope that whatever he does, he figures out his mistake or gets out of this life soon.

The plot’s decent and will carry you along well enough. But it’s not why you will stick with this book (at least not primarily), it’s Light’s writing. In the middle of all this, there are sentences like, “Walking the empty night street, my kidneys rattled with anxiety.” I’m pretty sure this is biologically nonsensical (I haven’t bothered to check with my son’s nephrologist, but I was tempted to), but that doesn’t stop it from being incredibly effective — you know precisely what Light’s going for there, and in the moment, your kidneys felts a little weird. There’s something to his writing that made me stop every so often to re-read a sentence or paragraph or passage — not because I missed something or didn’t understand what was happening, but because Light captured a moment, an idea, or phrase in such an engaging way that I didn’t want to move on.

I’m not sure if this is a very literary thriller, or a literary novel playing with thriller tropes. Nor am I sure that I care, but this is the kind of book that can appeal to both target audiences. It’s a good example of either genre, and a better example of why the distinctions are specious. There’s an interesting crime story here; a character study; a look at what happens to someone who has no connection to his future, society, or his past — oh, and it’s a good read, too.

Disclaimer: I received this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion about the novel, I appreciate the opportunity, but it didn’t influence the above.

—–

4 Stars

All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault by James Alan Gardner

All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's FaultAll Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault

by James Alan Gardner
Series: The Dark and the Spark, #1

Paperback, 382 pg.
Tor Books, 2017

Read: January 9 – 10, 2017

…paranoia is our friend. Paranoia is our sunscreen, our condom, our duct tape. Paranoia tells the truth nine times out of ten, and the tenth time is when you weren’t paranoid enough. We will never correctly anticipate what flavor of shit will hit the fan, but we can calculate the trajectory and attempt to avoid the splatter.

Let’s start with the title, shall we? Straight off you know this book is going to be action-oriented, heavy on the explosions and most likely offbeat in style.

This is one of those books that it almost doesn’t matter how good the novel itself is, because the set-up is so good. Thankfully, let me hasten to say, the book lives up to the setup. So here’s the setup: it’s a parallel universe to ours, exactly like it (down to the certainty of the existence of Elton John), but in the 1980s Vampires, Werewolves, etc. admit their existence and sell their services — what services? Being turned, in exchange for exorbitant rates, so that the newly supernatural could enjoy their riches and powers for extended lifespans. Before long, the 1% are essentially all monsters in some way (literally so, not just depicted as monsters in print, on film or in song). The haves are supernatural, the have-nots are human — literally, these groups are two different species.

Yeah, the imagery isn’t subtle. It’s not supposed to be.

A couple of decades later, Sparks show up — Sparks are, for lack of a better term super heroes. They battle the forces of Darkness, so are obviously called Light (both groups have a tendency to be a little on the nose). There’s a pseudo-scientific explanation/excuse fr the way their powers work (contrasted to the magic of the other side). Fast-forward to the present, four college students/housemates are in an almost-deserted engineering lab building on campus when one of the labs blows up. This results in these four being turned into Sparks and they are immediately compelled to defend their city and combat a scheme launched and directed by Darks.

While doing this, they need to come to grips with this new reality for them, their news powers, their new identities, and so on — not to mention coming up with costumes.

This book features THE (triple underscore) best explanation of/justification for simple masks being an adequate disguise and/or the efficacy of removing a pair of eyeglasses to hide a superheroes identity.

The writing is crisp, the characters are fully fleshed out and the kind of people you want to spend more time with. I’m not going to get more into it than that, because you really need to experience the relationships (and many other things) by yourself.

This looked like a fun read, and it is a blast (no pun intended, but fully embraced), but it’s more — there’s heart, humor, some meta-narrative, and strong super-heroic and magical action. I really liked this one — it’s one of the best super-hero novels I’ve read in the last few years and the sequel can’t get here fast enough. Grab a copy today and thank me tomorrow.

—–

4 Stars
2018 Library Love Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge: First-Reads!

Okay, I decided to up by Reading Challenge Game in 2018.

The next one I’m talking about is one I’m really looking forward to tackling.

(text stolen from the sign-up page)
Do you remember the feeling when you read the first book by your favourite author? Yes well, its for that feeling that I have come up with this challenge. Also, there was a time when I would only stick to the books written by authors I had previously read and enjoyed. But soon I realised that I was missing out on a lot other books. So, readers & bloggers, come together to this challenge that will make you pick up books by authors that you haven’t read before! You never know, you just might find another author to love and follow.

Points to Know:
1. Read & Review as many books as possible, by authors that YOU haven’t read before.
2. You do not have to be a blogger to participate. However, you have to post a review on some site in order to participate. It can be on Goodreads and/or Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble and/or Smashwords.
3. If you are a blogger link up your permalink to the review posts. If you aren’t a blogger, then link up the permalink to your reviews from whichever site you have chosen to post the review on.
4. The books can overlap with other reading challenges.
5. Books read may be any form (audio, print, e-book).
6. Post your links to your reviews each month to share with other participants.
7. The challenge runs from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018. Its never too late to Join In!

Sign Up Here. I’m at least going for the Lover level, maybe the Expert.

I’ll be tracking my reads here or you can see the posts about the books here.