Saturday Miscellany—1/18/20

I’ve been knocked out by a nasty cold this week (which seems to be returning) and couldn’t focus enough to read anything for a horrible three days. I don’t think anything I posted suffered from lack of focus (but I had to do a lot of re-writing to make them coherent). Thankfully, I recuperated enough that I could focus on the best thing that Steph Broadribb has written (see this space on Monday…I think).

While I couldn’t read, I could surf a bit and this ended up as one of the longest entries in this series that I’ve compiled (I believe). But there was a moment today when I thought this would be my shortest post yet–my browser and Pocket decided to stop cooperating (as they’re under the same corporate roof, this is doubly problematic). I prevailed, sort of, but I’m beginning to wonder if I need to find an alternative. Suggestions to replace Pocket, anyone?

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:

  • A Beginning At The End by Mike Chen—A SF Family Drama set 6 years after a global pandemic changes everything.
  • The Wild One by Nick Petrie—Peter Ash brings his brand of action to Iceland. I honestly can’t remember if I’ve ever read anything that takes place there, this should be a great way to fix that.
  • Burn the Dark by S. A. Hunt—I’ll be honest, I don’t know if I’ll have time to get to this, but it’s a fun concept: “a YouTube celebrity gone-viral with her intensely-realistic witch hunter series. But even her millions of followers don’t know the truth: her series isn’t fiction.”

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to aloysius5, writingeatingwalking, Dora , Hâf, Susan, and Shell-Shell’s for following the blog this week. Don’t be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?

WWW Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Welcome to WWW Wednesday!

This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived on Taking on a World of Words—and shown to me by Aurore-Anne-Chehoke at Diary-of-a-black-city-girl.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Easy enough, right?

What are you currently reading?

Technically, I’m not reading anything, because I’ve had this cold-ish thing for three days and haven’t been able to read (driving me crazy). But if I was, I’d be reading Deep Dark Dead by Steph Broadribb and am listening to Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson, Tavia Gilbert (Narrator).

What did you recently finish reading?

I just finished Seanan McGuire’s Come Tumbling Down and A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearn and Luke Daniels, Xe Sands (Narrators) on audio.

What do you think you’ll read next?

My next book should be Wizard Ring by Clare Blanchard and some sort of audiobook. I’m not really sure what, but I’m just looking forward to reading anything.

Hit me with your Three W’s in the comments! (no, really, do it!)

Do I Have That? Booktag


I saw this over on Way Too Fantasy a couple of months ago and thought it looked fun (and promptly ran out of time to get to it). It’s harder than it looks (at least it was for me), but I enjoyed the challenge.

1. Do you have a book with deckled edges?

The Complete Novels of Jane Austen

I know that I have more, but this is the first I could find. (and yes, I looked rather strange pulling books off the shelf to run my fingers along the pages to check)

2. Do you have a book with 3 or more people on the cover?
Kings of the Wyld

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

The book that continues to be out of my grasp–couldn’t write up a post on the paperback, couldn’t write up a post on the audiobook. Love the book, just can’t articulate why. BTW, the French cover is even better than this very cool one (and would also qualify for this category if I owned a copy).

3. Do you have a book based on another fictional story?


Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
/ Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

Couldn’t decide, so, a twofer. Loved Fuzzy Nation, should probably give it another whirl, actually. Haven’t gotten around to Jane Steele yet, don’t ask me why, I couldn’t tell you.

4. Do you have a book with a title 10 letters long?
In The Still

In the Still by Jacqueline Chadwick

Scrolling through Goodreads “Read” page, counting letters. How did you spend your Saturday afternoon?

5. Do you have a book with a title that starts and ends with the same letter?
Armada

Armada by Ernest Cline

Tricksy one. Thankfully, this came up on that Goodreads page pretty early. Well…not late, anyway.

6. Do you have a Mass Market Paperback book?
Look Alive Twenty-Five

Look Alive Twenty-Five by Janet Evanovich

Do I have an MMP? They’re only about 50% of my Fiction shelves. This was my latest.

7. Do you have a book written by an author using a pen name?

Deep Down Dead
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith / Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb

The first one felt like cheating, so you get another twofer. By the way, these are all great no matter what name they go by. Read anything by Robert Galbraith, Steph Broadribb, J. K. Rowling, or Stephanie Marland (except The Casual Vacancy, why do that to yourself?)

8. Do you have a book with a character’s name in the title?
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eponymous titles are rarer (at least on my shelves) than I expected. But I’ve got this one, at least.

And just thought of another just before I hit “Schedule” (but sticking with the original post).

9. Do you have a book with 2 maps in it?

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

This was tough. I tend to ignore the maps in fantasy novels (when I’m not constantly referencing them, that is). This may have been the hardest to find.

10. Do you have a book that was turned into a TV show?

Angel’s Flight by Michael Connelly

I went with this one because it’s the basis of my favorite season of Bosch to date.

11. Do you have a book written by someone who is originally famous for something else? (celebrity/athlete/politician/tv personality…)

The Road to Mars by Eric Idle

One might say I have too many, thankfully, I’ve had pretty good luck with them. This is a gem.

12. Do you have a book with a clock on the cover?

Fated by Benedict Jacka

Figured a time-travel novel would be the way to go, but…nope. Had to think outside the box to get this one.

13. Do you have a poetry book?

The Pocket Book of Ogden Nash

Yeah, I’ve said that poetry isn’t really my thing. This is probably the only one I own.

14. Do you have a book with an award stamp on it?

The High King by Lloyd Alexander

Yes, and I hate the stupid sticker, ruins the cover image. The first one that came to mind was The High King by Lloyd Alexander. The conclusion to the series that turned me into a Fantasy fan.

15. Do you have a book written by an author with the same initials as you?

Ummmm…er…no? Can’t even think of one…Did Huey Newton (no relation, despite what you may read on Twitter) write a book? Harriet Nelson? (can’t think of another well-known H.N.)

16. Do you have a book of short stories?
Planet Grim

Planet Grim by Alex Behr

Behr liked what I said about the eARC of this enough that she sent me a hardcopy. It’s got a special place on my shelf because of that bit of generosity. Cool stories, too.

17. Do you have a book that is between 500-510 pages long?

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

This made me so grateful for years of spreadsheet keeping (and a search function).

18. Do you have a book that was turned into a movie?

The Martian by Andy Weir

(if I’d gone with The Hobbit would I get 2 extra points?)

19. Do you have a graphic novel?

Scott Pilgrim – Scott’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Such a fun little read.

20. Do you have a book written by 2 or more authors?
No Country for Old Gnomes

No Country for Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne

Yeah, I posted about an eARC, but I have the hardcover, too.

By reading this, you’ve been tagged (probably should’ve warned you earlier, oops). Am very interested to see what you come up with!

Saturday Miscellany—1/11/20

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:

  • Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire—It took less than a paragraph (maybe less than a sentence) for me to fall in love with the latest Wayward Children book. Jack and Jill are back and worse than ever? More to come on this one!
  • Deep Dark Dead by Steph Broadribb—Bounty Hunter Lori Anderson is going to get beat up (I’m betting) in a whole new city! The ebook came out in the UK this week, but for some reason, it won’t release until next week in the U.S. (it takes awhile for the electrons to cross the Atlantic, I guess). It’s the next novel I tackle (assuming it doesn’t get held up in e-customs?).
  • Born in a Burial Gown / Body Breaker by M. W. Craven—the first two books in his Avison Fluke series have been updated, revised, and re-released in the world. Not a new Washington Poe/Tilly Bradshaw, but probably the next best thing. Don’t take my word for it, see what Noelle Holten, the Crime Book Junkie, has to say.
  • QualityLand by Marc-Uwe Kling—a satire about life run by algorithms—I’ll do a better job describing it after I’ve read it. I hope. Go click the link in the meantime. (I’ll confess to a moment of panic about this release this morning, until I found the email saying the blog tour has been rescheduled for next month, and I wasn’t actually four days late with my posts (and even further behind in reading it)).
  • The Heap by Sean Adams—”Blending the piercing humor of Alexandra Kleeman and the jagged satire of Black Mirror, an audacious, eerily prescient debut novel that chronicles the rise and fall of a massive high-rise housing complex, and the lives it affected before – and after – its demise.”

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to penelopeburns, TL Wright, and Mugilan Raju for following the blog this week. Don’t be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?

My Favorite Crime/Mystery/Detective/Thriller Fiction of 2019

Once I settled on dividing this chunk of my reading out for its own list, I knew instantly half of the books that’d make it before I even looked at my reading log. After my first cut (which was pretty hard), I had 20+ candidates for the other 5 spots. Whittling those down was difficult, but I’m pretty comfortable with this list. That doesn’t mean the other 90 or so books I read in this family of genres were bad—most were really good and worth the time (sure, a handful should be missed, but let’s forget about them). But these are the crème de la crème.

Not all of these were published in 2019—but my first exposure to them was. As always, I don’t count re-reads, or almost no one could stand up to Stout, early Parker, etc. and my year-end lists would get old fast.

I should say that I was a little worn out by the time I composed a lot of this and ended up borrowing heavily from my original posts. Hope you don’t mind reruns.
(in alphabetical order by author)

Deep Dirty TruthDeep Dirty Truth

by Steph Broadribb

My original post
Lori is kidnapped by the same Mob that wants her dead, giving her basically two choices—do a job for them or else they’re coming for JT and Dakota. Nothing about this book went the way I expected (beginning with the premise), it was all better than that. I had a hard time writing anything about this book that I hadn’t said about the first two in the series. Broadribb’s series about this tough, gritty bounty hunter (who is not close to perfect, but she’s persistent, which is easier to believe) started off strong and remains so.

4 Stars

ThirteenThirteen

by Steve Cavanagh

My original post
One of the best serial killer antagonists I can remember reading. A breakneck pace. An intricately plotted novel. An already beloved protagonist. Genuine surprises, shocking twists, and a couple of outstanding reveals make this fourth Eddie Flynn novel a must-read (even if you haven’t read any previous installments).

5 Stars

Black SummerBlack Summer

by M. W. Craven

My original post
It’s hard to avoid hyperbole in a Best-Of post like this, it’s harder still when talking about this book. But I just did some math, and Black Summer is in the top 1% of everything I read last year—the writing, the plot, the pacing, the tension, the protagonists, the villain(s), the supporting characters are as close to perfect as you’re going to find. The first note I made about this book was, I’m “glad Craven gave us all of zero pages to get comfy before getting all morbid and creepifying.” It’s pretty relentless from there—right up until the last interview, which might elicit a chuckle or two from a reader enjoying watching a brilliant criminal get outsmarted. It’s dark, it’s twisted, and it’s so much fun to read.

5 Stars

An Accidental DeathAn Accidental Death

by Peter Grainger, Gildart Jackson (Narrator)

My original post
Grainger’s DC Smith couldn’t be more different than Craven’s DS Poe if he tried, and these two books feel so different that it seems strange to talk about them at the same time. What’s the same? How easily they get the reader invested in their protagonists. How easily they get you plunged into their world and caring about what they care about. Grainger has a nice, subtle style (with even subtler humor) that made this novel sheer pleasure to read (well, listen to, in this case).

4 Stars

Dead InsideDead Inside

by Noelle Holten

My original post
When I was about halfway through this novel, I wrote, “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 not an easy read thanks to the characters and circumstances, later I wrote, “This isn’t the cops dealing with a larger-than-life genius serial killer—rather, it’s the everyday reality for too many. Just this time tinged with a spree killer making a grim circumstance worse for some. It’s a gripping read, a clever whodunit, with characters that might be those you meet every day. As an experience, it’s at once satisfying and disturbing—a great combination for a reader. You won’t read much this year that stacks up against Dead Inside and you’ll join me in eagerly awaiting what’s coming next from Holten.” I can’t put it better than that.

5 Stars

Deception CoveDeception Cove

by Owen Laukkanen

My original post
I heard someone describe this as Laukkanen writing fan-fic about his dog Lucy. Which is funny, and pretty much true. From the setup to the execution and all points in between, Deception Cove delivers the goods. Anyone who read just one of his Stevens and Windermere books knows that Laukkanen can write a compelling thriller with great characters. In these pages, he shows that in spades—you take a couple of characters that could easily be cardboard cutouts and instead makes them three-dimensional people with depth, flaws, and a relatability—and throw them into a great thriller. What more could anyone want? A wonderful dog. Guess what? He’s got one of those, too. Leaving the reader wanting little more than a sequel.

4 Stars

HackedHacked

by Duncan MacMaster

My original post
Duncan MacMaster is a new (for me) go-to author if I need someone to break me out of a gloomy mood because of books like this. Clever, well-plotted, and filled with more laughs than some “Humor” books I read this year. It also features what’s probably the best secondary character from 2019. Take out the humor (for the sake of argument here, don’t you dare do that really) and this is still a smartly-plotted and well-executed mystery novel. Adding in the humor makes this a must-read.

4 1/2 Stars

The ChainThe Chain

by Adrian McKinty

My original post
There was enough hype around this that I can see where some of my blogger acquaintances were let down with the reality. But McKinty’s breakout novel absolutely worked for me. The tension is dialed up to 11, the pacing is relentless, the stakes are high enough that the reader should make sure their blood pressure prescriptions are filled. The Chain is as compelling and engrossing as you could want. It’s a near-perfect thriller that doesn’t let up. Winslow calls it “Jaws for parents.” He’s right—I can’t imagine there’s not a parent alive who can read this without worrying about their kids, and reconsidering how closely to track their movements and activities.

4 1/2 Stars

Black MossBlack Moss

by David Nolan

My original post
This is one of those books that the adjective “atmospheric” was invented for. There’s an atmosphere, a mood, an undercurrent running through this book. Hopelessness surrounds the so many of these characters. Wretched also works to describe the feeling. You really don’t notice the time you spend in this book, it swallows your attention whole and you keep reading, practically impervious to distractions. Yes, you feel the harsh and desolate atmosphere, but not in a way that puts you off the book. The mystery part of this book is just what you want—it’s complex, it’ll keep you guessing and there are enough red herrings to trip up most readers. As far as the final reveal goes, it’s fantastic—I didn’t see the whole thing until just a couple of pages before Nolan gave it to us. But afterward you’re only left with the feeling of, “well, of course—what else could it have been?” And then you read the motivation behind the killing—and I don’t remember reading anything that left me as frozen as this did in years. There’s evil and then there’s this. This is a stark, desolate book (in mood, not quality) that easily could’ve been borrowed (or stolen) straight from the news. Nolan’s first novel delivers everything it promises and more.

5 Stars

The Power of the Dog The CartelThe Power of the Dog / The Cartel

by Don Winslow

My original post about The Power of the Dog, The Cartel should be up soon.
There’s simply no way I can talk about one of these without the other, so I won’t. This is a fantastic story about a DEA Agent’s obsessive drive to take down one of the most powerful, deadly and successful Mexican Drug Cartels around, as well as a devastating indictment of the U.S.’s War on Drugs. Despite the scope and intricacy of the plot, these are not difficult reads. Despite the horrors depicted, they’re not overwhelming. In fact, there are moments of happiness and some pretty clever lines. Which is not to say there’s a light-hand, or that he ever treats this as anything but life-and-death seriousness. They’re not easy, breezy reads— but they’re very approachable. I don’t know if there’s a moment that reads as fiction, either—if this was revealed to be non-fiction, I would believe it without difficulty. I will not say that he transcends his genre to be “Literature,” or that he elevates his work or anything—but I can say that Winslow demonstrates the inanity of pushing Crime Fiction into some shadowy corner as not worthy of the attention of “serious” readers.

5 Stars

Books that almost made the list (links to my original posts): Flight of the Fox by Gray Basnight, Who Killed the Fonz? by James Boice, Killer Thriller by Lee Goldberg, Going Dark/Going Rogue by Niel Lancaster (can’t pick between the two), You Die Next by Stephanie Marland, The Killing State by Judith O’Reilly, Dead is Beautiful by Jo Perry, Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin, Paper Son by S. J. Rozan, and How To Kill Friends And Implicate People by Jay Stringer.

Saturday Miscellany—1/5/20

For some entirely predictable reason, most of what I saw this year was a look back at 2019 or a look ahead to 2020, so you’ll see a real theme to these 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:

  • What’s Happening In 2020?—Michael Connelly’s Facebook page gives his fans plenty to look forward to.
  • The Best Books of 2019: Debut Fiction—from CrimeReads, some of these look really good. I only read one of these, Magic for Liars, and while I wouldn’t have put it on this list, it’s worth your time. American Spy keeps popping up on my radar, not sure why I haven’t tried it yet.
  • The #damppebbles Top Ten (sort of!) of 2019—Second only to my whim, Emma’s responsible for a lot of what I read last year, so it’s not surprising that I think this is a great list. I’ve only read her top pick, but have heard nothing but raves about the rest. And her top pick? She’s absolutely right.
  • My Top 20 Books of 2019—The Tattooed Book Geek shows us all up with a Top 20 that looks fantastic.
  • Raven’s Yearly Round Up 2019 and Top 10 Books—Raven Crime Reads finds some of the best-looking stuff.
  • Char’s Horror Corner lists her Top Ten Novels of 2019, Ten Story Collections/Anthologies of 2019, and Top Ten Novellas of 2019—she reads a lot of stuff that I wouldn’t (and probably vice versa), but when we happen to read the same thing we usually end up echoing each other’s thoughts. So if you like your fiction a bit further on the creepier/horror-ish side than I do, you’ll love these lists.
  • If you’ve plundered the above lists (and what I posted the last couple of weeks) for TBR material, you’ll want to read Find More Time to Read—from Sarah Anne Carter and Super Readers Share Their Best Tips to Read More in 2020—from the Goodreads blog
  • Book Stress—This post seems like a good thing to bear in mind after everything else I’ve posted so far. Also, I’m glad that The Read Writes link to his blog this week, if for no other reason than I love the blog design.

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

  • Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg—a new series from Goldberg about a rookie homicide detective learning the job. It’s waiting not-so patiently on my Kindle and I’m tempted to skip a couple of things so I can get to it faster.
  • A Beginner’s Guide to Free Fall by Andy Abramowitz—I’ve been waiting since 2015 for something new from Abramowitz, and this family drama looks like it’ll be worth the wait.

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Lou des Anges, Don Jimmy Reviews, and Žygimantas Krungolcas for following the blog this week. Don’t be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?

2020 Reading Challenges and Other Plans

I don’t have a lot of reading plans for this year, but I’ve got a couple of things I want to tackle.

First, I’m going to finally read Tom Jones (more on this tomorrow).

Secondly, I’m going to re-read the first twelve Spenser novels by Robert B. Parker—I’ve been wanting to re-read the series for a while now, and I’m going to force it this year. I used to read the entire series over a three-day weekend each year, but once I got married, my wife seemed to want me to interact with her for those 3+ days, and I only sporadically read individual volumes since then. It should actually work out pretty well this way, I do one a month (should have no problem fitting that in) which allows me to cover the best of the series, ending with a transition point to the series.

Thirdly, I’m part of the Book Blogger Novel of the Year Award Panel. You’ll hear more about that later.

And that’s about it—otherwise, it’s just read whatever seems interesting that I can get to.

I’m tweaking my approach to Reading Challenges this year. Bookstooge asked in a comment section a few months ago why I did these things* and it got me thinking about it—I’m tired of just doing the “How Much of X Have You Read?” Challenges—they really don’t do anything for me other than getting me to track stuff that I don’t need to. I prefer the ones that make me think of book selection differently than I usually do—preferably the ones that have some sort of interaction between participants.

* Yeah, it may take me longer than it should, but I do try to respond to everything.

The two exceptions to this are the Goodreads Challenge, which takes no effort at all and the Library Love Challenge—yeah, it’s largely a “how much” challenge, but there’s good interaction over on Goodreads, and I like the idea of celebrating Libraries anyway.

So, here’s what I’m going to be up to:

Library Love ChallengeThe Fourth Annual Library Love Challenge
Hosted by Angel’s Guilty Pleasures & Books of My Heart.



The Third Annual While I Was Reading Challenge

Ramona Mead’s got some great categories this year, and while the Facebook group isn’t super-active, it’s an interesting little group. I’ve had plenty of fun with this challenge the last two years and figure I’ll keep it going.


2020 TBR Reading Challenge
2020 TBR Reading Challenge

I saw this one while blog hopping recently, and it looked like fun. Similar to the above, but it’ll stretch me in different ways.

I’m supposed to tag 5 people to go along with this…hmmm….Okay, I challenge kerrimcbooknerd, Witty & Sarcastic Book Club, happytonic, Kelly Curtis, and brainyjaney. You all should give this a shot.


#ARMEDWITHABINGO
#ARMEDWITHABINGO

Similarly, I saw this on Twitter a week or so ago and it also struck a chord.

So, some fun ways to track reading and think about what I’ll read, and some moderate goals. Leaving 2020 for a lot of “whatever seems like a good idea at the time” kind of reading.

All this needs to be taken with a grain of salt, obviously. Maybe a salt lick. Remembering all too well the poet’s lines:

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!