In Medias Res: A Beginning At The End by Mike Chen

As the title implies, I’m in the middle of this book, so this is not a review, just some thoughts mid-way through.


A Beginning At The End
A Beginning At The End

by Mike Chen

Book Blurb:

Six years after a global pandemic wiped out most of the planet’s population, the survivors are rebuilding the country, split between self-governing cities, hippie communes and wasteland gangs.

In postapocalyptic San Francisco, former pop star Moira has created a new identity to finally escape her past—until her domineering father launches a sweeping public search to track her down. Desperate for a fresh start herself, jaded event planner Krista navigates the world on behalf of those too traumatized to go outside, determined to help everyone move on—even if they don’t want to. Rob survived the catastrophe with his daughter, Sunny, but lost his wife. When strict government rules threaten to separate parent and child, Rob needs to prove himself worthy in the city’s eyes by connecting with people again.

Krista, Moira, Rob and Sunny are brought together by circumstance, and their lives begin to twine together. But when reports of another outbreak throw the fragile society into panic, the friends are forced to finally face everything that came before—and everything they still stand to lose. Because sometimes having one person is enough to keep the world going.

I’m a couple of chapters shy of the halfway point, but I’m pretty excited about this book and want to get something out there about it—also, I have to take a break because I forgot about a book tour I have next week, and I really should read that book first.

So, like last year’s Here and Now and Then, Chen uses SF trappings to tell the kind of story that you don’t normally associate with Science Fiction (especially if you’re an anti-genre fiction snob).

I’m a chapter or two past a Speed Dating scene. On the one hand, it’s like every other Speed Dating scene you’ve seen from TV or the movies and/or read before. On the other hand, this is after most of the population of the earth is gone and people are trying to rebuild a facsimile of their lives in the midst of tragedy, so you’ve got the awkwardness, the insanity of the whole speed dating thing, and people dealing with unspeakable trauma at the same time. Chen makes this feel incredibly familiar and incredibly alien (yet relatable) at the same time, mildly humorous and miserable, tinged with hope and despair. And that’s just one scene. The book is full of stuff like this.

At its core (I think), this is a novel about how our past defines us, even after the apocalypse. Two characters here want to redefine themselves from the pre-pandemic lives, and somehow still can’t (at least not totally). Two characters need to redefine themselves from their post-pandemic past, and can’t seem to find the will to. It’ll take no time at all before you’re invested in these characters—you’ll want what the former two want, and hope that the latter two can somehow make things work.

Also, you’ll find you have some pretty strong feelings about Moira’s father. And they won’t be at all positive. But that’s all I’m going to say about that.

I have a few ideas where the stories are going/may end up, yet I’m reasonably certain that Chen’s ideas are better. Regardless, these are all building toward a satisfying pay-off or three. Maybe late next week I’ll have a chance to talk about this more, but for now, let me say I’m digging this and expect that about 80% of the people who read this blog on a semi-regular basis will, too.

In Medias Res: Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

As the title implies, I’m in the middle of this book, so this is not a review, just some thoughts mid-way through.


Fleishman Is in TroubleFleishman Is in Trouble

by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

This is going to be a tough one to write about when I finish, unless the last half is significantly different than the first (a possibility I’m open to).

It’s not the writing. The prose is delightful, there are turns of phrase that I’ve stopped to re-read. Brodesser-Akner has a sharp wit and an equally sharp eye for observation/social commentary.

But man, I’m just not enjoying this book at all. I don’t like the protagonist (I admire the lessons he gives his residents at the hospital)—and he’s easily the most likable character in the book. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve almost DNF’d this.

Here’s why I’m sticking with it—I’m curious. Partially to see what the fuss is about (if I can). But more than that, I’m curious about the ending—I’ve heard it’s a killer. And there are two things I want to see where Brodesser-Akner is going with (we might get the answers to all 3 simultaneously). I may not enjoy the book but she’s doing everything right to get me to keep reading. Still, I’m afraid this is going to end up being in The Best of Adam Sharp or The Heart of Henry Quantum territory, however–well-written books that I only remember suffering through.

Has anyone out there read this thing? Any encouragement for me?

In Medias Res: Dead Inside by Noelle Holten

As the title implies, I’m in the middle of this book, so this is not a review, just some thoughts mid-way through.

It’s been so long since I’ve done one of these, I’d forgotten it was a thing I do. Whoops.


Dead Inside
Dead Inside

by Noelle Holten

Book Blurb:

When three domestic abuse offenders are found beaten to death, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she is facing her toughest case yet.

The police suspect that Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood – who is connected to all three victims – is hiding a dark secret. Then a fourth domestic abuser is brutally murdered. And he is Lucy’s husband.

Now the finger of suspicion points at Lucy and the police are running out of time. Can Maggie and her team solve the murders before another person dies? And is Lucy really a cold-blooded killer?

I’m at the 55% mark — and I’m hooked. Holten’s got this way to get into your head. While I’m loving every second of this book, I’m having a hard time shaking the bleak outlook on life and humanity that seems to be part and parcel of this novel.

Seriously, read a few pages of this book and see if you’re not willing to replace humanity as the apex predator with something careful and considerate — like rabid pit bulls or crack-smoking hyenas.

This is a slow build of a book — given the blurb, I figured the bodies would have piled up by now, but they haven’t (much). Slow, but things are happening and the story telling is gripping – pulling you further and further in with each chapter. I don’t have a clue who the killer is, but I think the motive is clear (but, honestly, if it’s something else, I’d be impressed that she did such a great job faking out the reader). I’ve got a list of candidates for the killer, and could make a case for each one — but again, I halfway expect Holten to shock me.

Unless everything falls apart in the next 40% or so, this is probably going to end up as one of the best Mystery/Crime Fiction novels of 2019.

In Medias Res: Briefly Maiden by Jacqueline Chadwick

as the title implies, I’m in the middle of this book, so this is not a review, just some thoughts mid-way through.


Briefly Maiden
Briefly Maiden

by Jacqueline Chadwick

Ali Dalglish, the best criminal profiler this side of Will Graham or Tony Hill, with a Tarantino twist is back. She’s not an amateur like she was in In the Still, and has a couple of more cases under her belt.

Then she’s called in to help with what seems like a lay-up of a case. Which is the biggest signal to a reader that this will be horrible — and boy howdy, this is. I’m at 49% and this is already one of the darkest, most twisted books I’ve ever read. And somehow, don’t ask me how, Chadwick has me loving this — I’m not getting a kick out of the depravity, mind you — but Ali and her interaction with her team and everyone else, I just can’t get enough of. But man . . . this book will eradicate any lingering suspicions you might have had about the reality and force of human depravity.

Actually, that reminds me: I could use a lot more of Marlene (Ali’s friend/assistant/Watson-y figure).

At this point, I’m sort of rooting for the killer — at least who Chadwick is making us think is the killer. The victims/intended victims thus far could be the primary antagonists in a book from just about every other crime series. I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out one of the mysteries — I’m fully prepared to be proven wrong, though.

Anyway, I’ll finish this tomorrow, so you can expect to see a full post early next week. But you should really read this book — and its predecessor, if you haven’t yet. I practically guarantee that you’ll love it.

Author Interview with Life Outside the Box’s Marilyn R. Wilson

As part of our Tour for Life Outside the Box, here’s a few questions with Marilyn R. Wilson (as prvoded by iRead Book Tours):

At every single interview I am given pieces of gold – wisdom that this person has acquired on their own unique journey. All have had a profound effect, but if I have to pick just one it would be the words of William Orlowski. I repeat them every time I face a challenging day. “There is no secret, just do and be brave.”

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
When I was young. I often thought it would be cool to write science fiction – my favorite genre at the time. But that was back pre-computer when you had to write everything by hand or type it on an old style typewriter. Unfortunately I had a mind that raced and very little patience. Today’s computers, word processing programs and the internet have made pursuing writing so much easier. Add to that the number of online e-mags and writing sites you can now submit to and you have winning combo. Whether you do books, blogs or just share on social media writing sites, anyone who is interested in expressing themselves through words can find an outlet.
How do you pick who to interview?
People know I love a unique story and are always sending me leads. Then there are those I meet at events or read about in articles. There is honestly never enough time. I could interview someone new every day for the next year and there would still be other stories calling me. I do tend to be drawn to people 35 and up. There are exceptions, but in general I like a story with a lot of life experience behind it and for most people that takes living a few years. The soup has to be cooked.
IOnce you have an interview, what is next?
I record every single interview to help with accuracy, so the first step is the slow process of transcribing these audio files. I used to do it myself, but no longer have time. I now use the services of several transcribers on Once I have a typed transcript of the interview, then the writing process begins. For a magazine submission, I use just a bit of bio material and then move on to whatever the focus of the article is. For the chapters in my Life Outside the Box series, it takes 2-3 days to write out each 5,500 word story – one chapter – followed by 2-3 days of editing. Ten chapters are needed for a new book.
What 3 things would you like readers to know about you?
  • My first love is interviewing. To book interviews, I had promise to write. Over time I’ve come to love writing, but interviewing is still my first passion.
  • I struggle with self-doubt. Getting started on any chapter/article is always a struggle for me. One thing that helped was being told writing is a gift. You don’t need to make it happen, you need to get out of the way and let it happen.
  • I am an avid reader. One relaxing holiday in Hawaii I actually read an entire book every day for 15 days. Believe it or not, I still walked, snorkeled, cooked. went sight-seeing and more. But when all spare moments are spent book in hand, you can go through a lot. While I love print books, when I’m on a reading binge like this my e-reader is my best friend. There are lulls when I don’t read at all, but reading is my favorite way to relax and let go at the end of the day.
How do you promote your books?
Promotion is what I enjoy the least as it takes so much time away from what I actually love to do – interviewing and writing. In today’s market, being visible in the media and on the internet are equally important. I maintain a Twitter account, an Instagram account, a Facebook page, a Goodreads Author page and an Amazon Central Author page. Then a bit of time each week is spent reaching out to bloggers, radio hosts and digital TV hosts to book interviews. I also keep an eye out for any chance to speak at an event. They are a great way to share what I do with a larger audience. I could spend all day every day on promotion and marketing. I’ve had to learn the hard way how important it is to assign a set amount of time each week and keep to it.
Do you have another book in the works?
Yes. Right now I’m working on a second book in my Life Outside the Box Series. I am hoping for a spring release date, but there is still lots to do. After that is finished I have four more titles I would like to develop. All are being released under my own imprint, Real People – Real Lives Press. If interested, readers can add their email address to my list on my website. Information will be released here first. I’ll also be using this avenue to let readers know about giveaway contests where they can win free books.
Do you have a favourite quote from one of your interviews?
At every single interview I am given pieces of gold – wisdom that this person has acquired on their own unique journey. All have had a profound effect, but if I have to pick just one it would be the words of William Orlowski. I repeat them every time I face a challenging day. “There is no secret, just do and be brave.”

In Medias Res: The Asset by Shane Kuhn

as the title implies, I’m in the middle of this book, so this is not a review, just some thoughts mid-way through.


The Asset
The Asset

by Shane Kuhn

This is not the Shane Kuhn you know. Well, sort of. This is a standalone thriller about Airport/Airplane Security, Terrorism, and the USA’s efforts to keep the friendly skies, well, friendly. It’s not as fun and funny as The Intern’s Handbook or Hostile Takeover (or whatever they’re called in your part of the world). BUT it is just as well-written and suspenseful — and a little easier to believe, actually.

There are hints, suggestions, indicators, and other things pointing to an immanent terrorist attack on the U.S., and not enough people are taking the situation seriously. At least, least that’s the point of view of Kennedy, the security expert and protagonist, who is taking it very seriously. Taking place over 64 days (not a spoiler, that’s literally the 2nd line — although, there could be some action that takes place after that). Will Kennedy be in time to stop it? How will he? this is a pulse-pounder, a nail-biter, a “oh, crud — do I really have to go to work tomorrow? Do I actually need to sleep before then?” kind of book.

I think I’d prefer it to be harder to believe than the other two books, come to think of it.

I’m almost at the mid-way point of the ARC (with thanks to Simon & Schuster and Shane Kuhn) and I’m telling you now, you want to pre-order this, get on your library’s wait-list, or whatever (legal) thing you do to get your hands on a book. It comes out on July 12, you want to be ready for it.