D.E.A.R. Day (Drop Everything And Read)

Today is the 103rd anniversary of Beverly Cleary’s birth, and drawing inspiration from Ramona Quimby some years ago, a group of people started commemorating her birth with a focus on families reading together. Which is just a cool idea. There’s a pretty good website with details and activities here.

I don’t really know if I can get my family to come together and read as a family anymore — but I can at least encourage them all to do it on their own. But for those of you who have younger kids (or more compliant teenagers), take a half-hour today and read together.

If you’re like me, or single, or just not into spending time with your family — it’s still a decent way to spend 30 minutes.

Just Drop Everything And Read

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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Henning Koch (Translator): A Fantastic, Moving, Fun Tale of a Grieving Widower

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove

by Fredrik Backman, Henning Koch (Translator)


Hardcover, 337 pg.
Atria Books, 2014
Read: April 2 – 3, 2019

[His wife] often said that “all roads lead to something you were always predestined to do.” And for her, perhaps, it was something.

But for Ove it was someone.

I’ve been fully intending to read all of Fredrik Backman’s books after I read My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (3 years ago), but there were a couple of things holding me back. 1. I loved My Grandmother so much that I didn’t want something to eclipse it; 2. I didn’t want to be so disappointed in one of his other books that it tainted my memory of My Grandmother. I finally told myself to get over it and just read him — what did I really have to lose?

That was obviously the right call — this was just fantastic.

If at this point, you haven’t heard of this book and decided if you’re going to read it or not, I’m not likely to persuade you. It’s sold about as many books as a person not named James Patterson, J. K. Rowling or Steven King should be able to expect. There’s been a movie made of it in Sweden and Tom Hanks is working on a version, too. This book is practically a phenomenon, and in the years since it’s publication, the author, Fredrik Backman has practically become an industry. So, if you haven’t read it by this point, there’s probably a reason, I’m not going to convince you otherwise. Nor do I think I can contribute much to the discussion about the book beyond what’s already been said. But I’m still driven to talk about it a bit.

Ove is a recent widower who has decided that it’s time to join his wife, and attempts to kill himself by various means in order to do that. But like an aged (and more dedicated) Lane Meyer, he can’t complete the deed. Something always interrupts him — generally, it’s the fools and incompetents that are his neighbors needing his help. Somehow these people have reached adulthood without learning how to back up a vehicle towing a trailer. bleeding a radiator or any number of things. So he stops what he was doing, helps his whatever neighbor needs it (complaining about it and insulting them all the time) and tries again the next day.

Ove’s struggles with the neighbors and his botched attempts to end his life are interspersed with his life story — his troubled childhood, career, early years of his marriage and the tragic end of it. The writing here is incredibly effective — and Backman doesn’t even try to hide his emotional manipulation — he essentially calls his shots sometimes — and it works. He plays whatever tune he wants and the reader dances to it. Try to get through the paragraph where Ove thinks about missing holding his wife’s hand unmoved, I dare you. I was teary at least once before the midpoint of the work — and about a half hour after finishing the book, I had to go back and re-read the last few pages with dry eyes so I could be certain I read what I thought I read.

Ove in his cantankerousness, his particular and peculiar way of approaching life — and in his grief — is a fantastic character. But I think that his neighbor, a Muslim immigrant mother of three, who deices that her angry old neighbor needs a friend (whether he wants one or not) and then becomes that friend (which he definitely doesn’t want) is an even better character. Parvaneh is smart, kind, fun and loving — and as stubborn as Ove. Next to his wife, she’s the best thing to happen to him. There are plenty of other great characters (the overweight computer tech who lives on the other side of Ove is a fine example).

I laughed, I cried, it moved me, Bob.

One of the easiest 5-Stars I’ve ever given. If you keep putting off reading this — knock it off, read the book.

—–

5 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

Death Before Coffee by Desmond P. Ryan: A Veteran Detective Faces Fresh Challenges


Death Before CoffeeDeath Before Coffee

by Desmond P. Ryan
Series: Mike O’Shea, #2

Kindle Edition, 245 pg.
Copper Press Publishing, 2019
Read: April 9 – 10, 2019

Detective Mike O’Shea is a detective with a couple of reputations — many know him as a cop’s cop, one who gets the job done right. Everyone knows him as one of two detectives who were on the hunt for a prostitution ring (that specialized in underage girls) and one particular runaway teen that came thiiis close to breaking the ring before his partner was killed and he almost was, too. The killer got away and O’Shea was left with a cloud over him. No matter what he’s done since, all his achievements are colored by that failure.

We join O’Shea as he’s transferred to a new platoon, with a new partner (Ron Roberts, who can’t seem to cope with the idea that he’s not in traffic anymore – he’s the only cop that I can remember in Crime Fiction who seems to think that’s a good place to work). Before they can really get a feel for each other (beyond previous knowledge and inherent prejudice), they’re called to the scene of a homicide. A one-legged man was beaten to death and dumped in a residential area.

The uniform on scene is not the shiniest star that the Academy has produced, but O’Shea and Roberts get things started enough that when the Homicide team shows up the investigation is well under-way. DS Amanda Black is tough, smart and driven and directs this investigation like her career depends on it.

We follow — O’Shea and Roberts through the preliminary stages of the investigation, through some hiccups caused by overzealous colleagues up to the hunt for their prime suspect. We also get a few scenes with just Black. Those are insightful, but feel pretty weird — there are so few scenes without O’Shea involved that anytime he’s not “on screen” it feels strange.

Along with this hunt, O’Shea continues to deal with the investigation that made his reputation — as much as he can while staying off the radar of his superiors — a suicidal retired cop, and his family. His marriage is all but over, but his siblings, son and mother are a very present realities for him. We could’ve gotten more time with his son for my taste (and probably O’Shea’s, now that I think of it). This all takes place over the course of a few days and O’Shea seems almost as in need of a good night’s sleep and a good cup of coffee as he is in getting resolution to any of his cases.

The novel is well-paced and it takes no time at all to get sucked into the story. This has all the hallmarks of a solid crime novel and police procedural. O’Shea is the kind of old school detective that readers love, Roberts has a lot of potential as a character and Black could easily dethrone O’Shea as the series’ focus (I’m not suggesting she will, but she’s written in a way that it could happen without anyone complaining).

I do have a few issues with the book, naturally. Things that detracted from my enjoyment, things that kept me from being over the moon with is (and it had that potential), but nothing that ultimately was that problematic.

This is the second of a intended six-book series and really reads that way. Can it be read as a stand-alone? Yes, but it’d be far more satisfying as part of a series (well, I expect it would be, anyway). There are some aspects of the timeline that I’m not convinced I can buy, but maybe with some context I could. Similarly, while this book and the main plotline do have definite conclusions, it feels like Ryan just presses “Pause” on so many other things it’s a little annoying. I’m not talking cliffhangers (minor or otherwise), it’s more of a “well, we’re done talking about this for a bit” kind of feel. Whether it pushes you to the next book is irritating, probably depends on the reader.

That last idea probably ties in to the realism vibe Ryan is going for. Which is great — to a point. We all like the idea of something realistic, no matter the genre, really At least we all say we do — but aren’t so much of us really looking for types of satisfaction that reality can’t provide? Especially in crime fiction — we want the kind of resolution not available in our lives. Ryan’s depiction of himself as a realistic writer works against him as much as it works for him. He has a little note to the reader before the novel assuring the reader “I’m an ex-cop, I’ve done this stuff, this is how it is.” Pretty much insulating himself from criticism of a lot that goes on in the book unless you’re prepared to bring an armload of research to bear. That note actually prejudiced me against the book, it reeked of someone who “doth protest too much,” and just set my teeth on edge. Show me your realism, show me your authenticity and convince me of it — don’t boast about it. It took me a long time to shake that bad first impression, but I do think I was able to push past it — but I’d have liked O’Shea and the rest a lot more if I hadn’t had to.

Ryan has a strong voice and uses it to give the right details to provide a very compelling read — it’s fast, gritty and with characters that’ll stick with you after you’ve moved on to your next read. Was it as good as it could have been? No, but not because of an inherent weakness, just because Ryan didn’t do enough with his strengths — but he’s got four more books in this series to fulfill the promise. I had a good time reading Death Before Coffee and I bet you will, too.

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided — including the book, which did not influnce my opinion.

—–

3 Stars

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Death Before Coffee by Desmond P. Ryan

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the second entry in the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction Series, Death Before Coffee by Desmond P. Ryan. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit.

Book Details:

Book Title: Death Before Coffee by Desmond P. Ryan
Publisher: Copper Press Publishing
Release date: February 8, 2019
Format: Paperback/Ebook
Length: 245 pages

Book Blurb:

By 2:27 on a Thursday afternoon, the one-legged man from Room 8 at 147 Loxitor Avenue has been beaten to death with a lead pipe. Twenty-eight minutes later, Detective Mike O’Shea is testifying in a stuffy courtroom, unaware that, within an hour, he will be standing in an alleyway littered with beer cans and condoms while his new partner—the man who saved his life thirteen years ago—flicks bugs off of a battered corpse with a ballpoint pen. When a rogue undercover copper prematurely hauls in the prime suspect, Mike blows a fuse, resulting in an unlikely rapport developing between him and the lead homicide detective sergeant, a woman known for her stilettos and razor sharp investigative skills. At the end of his seventy-two-hour shift, three men are dead and Mike O’Shea is floating in and out of consciousness in an emergency room hallway, two women by his side.

Death Before Coffee, the second book in the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction Series, weaves a homicide investigation through the life of an inner-city police detective intent on balancing his responsibilities as a son, brother, and newly single father with his sworn oath of duty. When faced with death, Mike is forced to make decisions that stir up old memories, compelling him to confront his demons while fighting the good fight.

About Desmond P. Ryan:

Desmond P. RyanFor almost thirty years, Desmond P. Ryan worked as a cop in the back alleys, poorly-lit laneways, and forgotten neighbourhoods in Toronto, the city where he grew up. Murder often most unkind, assaults on a level that defied humanity, and sexual violations intended to demean, shame, and haunt the victims were all in a day’s work. Days, evenings, midnights–all the same. Crime knows no time.

Whether as a beat cop or a plainclothes detective, Desmond dealt with good people who did bad things and bad people who followed their instincts. And now, as a retired detective, he writes crime fiction.

Real Detective. Real Crime. Fiction.

Desmond P. Ryan’s Social Media:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website ~ Amazon Author Page

Purchase Links for Death Before Coffee:

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US ~ Kobo


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

Breaking the Lore by Andy Redsmith: A Funny, Fresh Take on a Police-filled Portal Fantasy

Breaking the LoreBreaking the Lore

by Andy Redsmith
Series: Inspector Paris Mystery, #1

eARC, 321 pg.
Canelo, 2019

Read: April 3 – 5, 2019


Inspector Nick Paris is your all too typical cynical, bitter, hard-drinking, chain-smoking police detective, and his world is being rocked. The latest corpse he’s been brought out to see and investigate the circumstances around the death is that of a fairy. The tiny, impossibly good looking, humanoid with wings kind of fairy. While still trying to wrap his mind around how that was possible, a crow (named Malbus) flies into his house demanding, demanding a smoke and talking to him about the murdered fairy. Not long after this, he’s visited by an elf and a rock troll (Tergil and Rocky).

And that’s just Day One of his new reality.

Essentially, there’s a connection between our world and the world of all these magical beings — a portal of sorts that those who desire to can travel between the two (or people and animals can stumble through unintentionally). For all sorts of great reasons, the magical creatures/folk kept their existence from humanity — and let what humans know fade into myth and legend. But something’s happened in their world, and those who are over here have to come seeking help (in terms of political asylum) and possibly even letting humanity in on what’s going on around them.

This is a little beyond Paris’ typical caseload, but he and his Superintendent, a no-nonsense woman named Thorpe, respond very well to these new challenges — dragging other officers and even the army along with them. They are obviously relying on the advice and guidance of the magical creatures — Tergil in particular (although Malbus makes sure his input is heard, too). They also recruit a local supernatural expert — Cassandra, a self-styled witch that no one in the police would’ve given any credence to if not for this new reality.

As fun as Paris, Tergil and Malbus are, Cassandra is a delight. She’s wise, insightful, and has a fantastic sense of humor — she might be harder for Paris to cope with than fairies, dwarves, and trolls. I shouldn’t forget Paris’ Sergeant Bonetti — he’s loyal, strong, brave and probably not as mentally quick as he should be. He’s also the target of near-constant mockery from his superior. I’m not sure why he puts up with the abuse, but I found myself laughing at it. When the fate of multiple worlds is on the line, it’s these few who will stand strong in Manchester, England to keep everyone safe.

I can think of as many reasons that this is a lousy comparison to make as I can to make it — but throughout Breaking the Lore I kept thinking about Chrys Cymri’s Penny White books. There’ll be a big overlap in the Venn diagram of Fans of Penny White and Fans of Inspector Paris. I’m sure there are other comparisons that are as apt, or more so — but this is the one that I kept coming back to for some reason.

I had so much fun reading this book, Redsmith has a way with words that makes me think it really doesn’t matter what story he decided to tell — I’d want to read it. He was able to express the seriousness of the situation, while never stopping (either narratively or through the characters) the quips, jokes and sense of fun. There’s an infectious charm to the prose and characters that easily overcomes whatever drawbacks the novel has. I’m not saying this is a novel filled with problems, it’s just that I woudn’t care about most of them thanks to the voice.

Now, Redsmith’s wit does have an Achilles’ heel — puns. Redsmith is an inveterate punster, and will hit you with them when you least expect it. Now me? I love a good pun — and I hate them at the same time. Maybe you know what I mean. I cackled at pretty much all of them (frequently audibly), but I hated both myself and Redsmith for it. You know those, Pearls Before Swine strips where Rat beats up Stephan Pastis because of the very carefully constructed pun? Yeah, this book is a series of those moments (but he rarely gives the setup Pastis does, usually it’s a quick sucker punch).

There are many other points I’d intended to make, but I think I’ve gone on long enough. This novel is silly, goofy, intelligent, charming — with a fresh take on a great idea. You’ll find yourself enjoying Paris, Cassandra, Malbus, Tergil and the rest. I can see a few different ways that Redsmith takes Book Two, and I’m looking forward to seeing which one he picks (probably none of my ideas). But before that happens, I’m just going to relish the fun that Breaking the Lore was and encourage you all to go buy and read it for yourself.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Canelo via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 Stars

Awkward Moments in Book Blogging

This weekend I received a request to review an indie published book from the author. His name rang a bell, so I assumed I knew him from twitter or had read him before.

Yup. I had read him before. The same book, actually, two years ago. Clearly, record-keeping isn’t his strong suit. But, that’s no big deal. I figured I’d hit him with the URL to my original post, say something jokey in response, and call it a day.

But, I hated the book — gave it 1 1/2 stars. My post on it was sketchy, because to really get into what I thought of the book, I said, “it’d just be mean.”

So, yeah, I think this’ll be one of those emails I forget to reply to…

Dispatches from a Tourist Trap by James Bailey: Jason’s Woes Follow (and Grow) in his new Small Town

Dispatches from a Tourist TrapDispatches from a Tourist Trap

by James Bailey

Series: The Jason Van Otterloo Trilogy, Book 2

Kindle Edition, 253 pg.
2019
Read: April 1, 2019

Sometimes lately I feel like life is a chess match, and no matter how hard I look at the board I can’t see the next move. Or maybe I think I see it, but really I don’t. Like my pawn is sitting there, all ready to put the other king in check, and somehow my queen gets swiped and two moves later I’ve lost the game and my pawn is still waiting there, impotent and useless.

So Jason mother’s Janice continues her bad decisions when it comes to men — she leaves her husband for a new guy, who happens to be the dentist she’s started working for. We met him in The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo, and they clearly didn’t waste time resuming whatever it was they had back in high school. Janice has moved herself and Jason to her parents’ house, enrolled Jason in a school filled with very friendly people, and tried to move on with her life.

Jason realizes full-well that his choices are a life with his grandparents and a much smaller school, hours away from his friends and girlfriend; or life with Rob, near them. As much as he doesn’t want to be in Icicle Flats, he knows it’s the better choice available. But he complains the whole time about it — this is good for readers, Jason complaining makes for an entertaining read. This time, he’s not just complaining in emails, he’s set up a blog, too. I was wondering how the blog was going to work instead of the emails — it’s actually a really good move, allowing Jason to tell longer stories without the emails being too long.

Which is good — because he has long stories to tell this time. There’s a literature club he’s involved with at school that’s discussing books that ruffle the feathers of many, which leads to all sorts of trouble. There’s a flirtation with pirate radio. A camping trip that is fantastic to read about (and probably not a lot of fun to live through). A disastrous experiment with eBay. And basically, a bucket-load of culture shock. Also, after a few short weeks of dating, Jason’s first real relationship becomes a long-distance one. High school relationships are bad enough, throwing in a few hour bus-ride into things is just asking for trouble. So yeah, between emails and his blog — he’s got a lot to write about, and his friends have a lot to respond to. Somehow, they make it through the school year more or less intact.

Jason feels incredibly authentic — immature, self-centered, irresponsible, but he’s got his moments. He can put others before himself, do the right thing because it’s right — not to stay out of trouble; But man, he can be frustrating the rest of the time. There were a lot of opportunities along the way here for him to be a better friend, a much better boyfriend, son and grandson; and he missed almost all of them. He comes through when necessary, don’t get me wrong and he’s not a bad guy — I just wish he’d grow up a bit faster. Which again, means that Bailey has nailed his characterization, this his how people his age should be.

I’m less than thrilled with Bailey’s approach to religious characters in these two books. I’m not questioning that there are people like the characters he depicts running around everywhere and that the situations would’ve played out a lot like they did here (but some of it pushed believability). I just would like a small indication that there were some sincere people trying to do the right thing in the middle of all this.

Having talked about The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo just two weeks ago, it feels hard to talk about this book beyond some of the plot changes — this feels like the same book, just with new problems. Which is pretty much the point, right? I still like Jason (as frustrating as he can be), his girlfriend is fantastic, I want good things to happen to Drew. Jason’s already complicated life is about to get a lot worse, which should prove very entertaining for the rest of us. A strong follow-up in this series.

—–

3.5 Stars
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