Love Story, With Murders by Harry Bingham

Love Story, With MurdersLove Story, With Murders

by Harry Bingham
Series: Fiona Griffiths, #2

Kindle Edition, 449 pg.
Sheep Street Books, 2016

Read: January 4 – 8, 2018

For me, these things aren’t only about finding the killers, but about giving peace to the dead. It’s not primarily a question of justice. The dead don’t care about that. The murder investigation, arrest and conviction are just part of the funeral rite, the final acts of completion. Gifts I bring the dead in exchange for the peace they bring me.

The peace of the dead, which passeth all understanding.

DC Fiona Griffiths continues her efforts to act normal, maybe even feel normal, getting along with her boyfriend and staying out of trouble with her superiors. Basically, things are going as well as they possibly can following the events of Talking to the Dead. But we know that’s going to come to an end, otherwise, this would be a really dull series. It comes to an end when Fiona and a colleague stop off on their way home to look at a case of illegal rubbish. In this particular case, the rubbish is a body part in a chest freezer. It’s a significant enough body part to make the detectives sure they’re looking for something more serious than illegal rubbish.

Over the next few days, the police are able to find some more of the woman, as well as start to understand how long ago she was killed and dismembered — which leads to an identification. Shortly thereafter, the police find pieces of a fresher corpse in the same area. While most detectives look for connections between the victims and hunt for clues to identify the killer, Fi begins learning more about the victims as individuals (not that she’s alone in this, it’s just she’s alone in her approach), what their lives were like, and what would lead someone to kill them. Fi investigates things in a way no other fictional detective — private or police — does. I’m not sure I can express it clearly, but when you read it, you’ll notice. When she starts to put the pieces together about what was going on the whole time, I was flummoxed — it’s nothing like where I expected things to go.

Aside from that are the relationships with her boyfriend, family and fellow police officers. The romance between Buzz and Fi is very strange, but sweet. She’s dealing with a different superior for these investigations. It’s not just Fi up to the same antics with a different boss — similar antics, yes, but Fi understands herself better now, and is able to do what she does in a way that her superiors are able to accept and use. As for her family? I’m not even going to try to talk about it.

Some people are better as corpses. They’re easier to like.

On the one hand, I really like watching Fi’s subconscious at work, making the connections, deductions, and guesses she needs to be making to solve the crime/find what she’s looking for, while she interprets it as “the dead” talking to her. Well, that’s one way to read it, anyway. It really could be that there’s something on the verge of supernatural going on. I like the hint of ambiguity that Bingham has given this world and Fi’s understanding of what’s going on.

I was, I don’t want to say surprised, but it was something like it by the ending. Maybe I’ve just been reading too many Mysteries lately with pretty ambiguous endings, but this one had a very satisfying ending with most of the loose ends tied up. This doesn’t mean that everything ended happily (for want of a better term), but that Fi’s fully able to satisfy her curiosity and need to know (at least about those things that came up in her professional life — her personal life is only slightly more settled by the book’s end than it was when it started).

A murder mystery — with, yes, a love story — that had some fantastic character moments, a really strong puzzle, all very well told. Fiona Griffiths impresses again. This is the best kind of sequel — the same kind of things that filled the first book in the series, but seen differently by everyone (including the protagonist) and with different results — Fi’s grown a bit (I want to stress “a bit,” she’s still basically the same person, which is good, I don’t want everything to be “normal” for this character), and is building on the events from the previous novel, not just repeating them. I’m truly annoyed with myself for waiting so long to get back to this series, and will not make the same mistake.

—–

4 Stars

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Pub Day Repost: The Questionable Behavior of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone

Yeah, this is a strange time for me to post, but I felt like Dahlia challenged me to. You’ll get it when you read the book.

The Questionable Behavior of Dahlia MossThe Questionable Behavior of Dahlia Moss

by Max Wirestone
Series: Dahlia Moss, #3eARC, 352 pg.
Redhook, 2018
Read: December 21 – 22, 2017

I am so glad that this eARC asked me not to quote anything from the book until I could check with the published version because by the time I hit 5%, I’d already come up with a handful of candidates of quotations to start this post with, and I didn’t want to have to choose.

Literally picking up where The Astonishing Mistakes of Dahlia Moss left off — with Emily Swenson asking Dahlia to be an industrial spy. She’s being sent to serve as a Temp in the offices of a game development company — they’re best known for a really simple game, the kind you play in line at the DMV or something, it’s relaxing. Still, it’s a gaming company and a pretty successful one at that — it’s the kind of place Dahlia should work (if she wasn’t becoming a detective). There’s another company about to buy them out, but they need some more information — there are rumors of problems in the office, are they true? Could they look at the existing code for the new version so someone can see why it’s delayed?

Dahlia jumps at the assignment — which is good, because otherwise the novel would be a very short, and pretty dull, story. She shows up for her first day to find, well, chaos? Chaos seems to be an understatement. She starts to acclimate pretty quickly and is behaving more professionally than just about anyone in the office. If Dahilia is the standard of professional behavior, that tells you everything you need to know about the rest. Oh, and then Dahlia finds a dead body. Now in addition to her Industrial Espionage work, there’s maybe a murder for her to look into in her spare time.

The problems she faces staying staying incognito: The detective in charge of investigating the murder/suspicious death knows about her from Shuler. There’s a reporter sniffing around — and scheduled to tour the company — who’s written about her exploits. Her friends can’t stop saying things to her coworkers about her being a detective. And, well, she’s just not that subtle of an investigator — she largely pulls it off, but that’s primarily due to the company being in turmoil and no one having a lot of attention to devote to the question “why is our temp asking all these questions?”

Part of the fun of these books has been watching Dahlia flail around, unsure what to do next. There’s less of that here — she’s learning. I’m not suggesting that she’s transformed herself into Kinsey Millhone or Joan Watson, but there’s something about her that’s less flailing. Maybe because she has some pretty clear objectives this time out. I liked that hint of growing skills. Not bad for someone with a recent concussion.

Now, to the rest of the cast: the people in the office, by and large, feel like characters from other series. Gamers, SF geeks, cosplayers . . . those seem like people Dahlia interacts with. Responsible adults with steady jobs? Nope — which serves the plot. There’s a knitting circle that feels like what Dahlia’s crowd will become in 30 years, and her interacting with them feels a bit more fitting.

The book is just as amusing as its predecessors, I literally laughed out loud a few times — not at big comic moments, but at a line of dialogue or a quip Dahlia makes. The big comic moments worked for me, but not as effectively. As always, half the fun is from the very odd circumstances that Dahlia finds herself, but the other half of the fun is the way Dahlia narrates things, the metaphors, pop culture references, etc. Yeah, I thought the Mad Men references were a little too close to each other — but I appreciated both of them so much, I didn’t care (also, pairing Joan Holloway with Della Street? Perfect). One of the things that the writers behind MST3K always said that when they go for super-specific references that are obscure, they know that not all viewers will get the joke, but those that do will love it. There’s a half-chapter in this book (and a couple of call-backs to it later) that I could swear was written just for me. And, yes, I loved it (I didn’t give the book a bonus 1/2 star because of it, but I thought about it).

There’s some maturing — at least indicators that maturing and responsibility are on the horizon for ol’ Dahlia. It reminded me of Lutz’ The Last Word in that respect, but I had a lot more fun with this The Astonishing Mistakes than I did with Izzy Spellman’s swan song (not that this is necessarily the end of Dahlia’s adventures, though it’s always seemed to be marketed as a trilogy). It’s good to see that trajectory with Dahlia (and, honestly, her roommate).

Other than that, there’s not much to differentiate this from the other two books in the series (as far as the writing goes, not the stories): the writing itself is fun, as is the story, a good mix of serious subject matter and comedic moments (none that detract from the tragedy of murder or anything). There’s some good character moments and a decent mystery, too. If you haven’t read any of Dahlia Moss’ adventures, you should grab one and dive in — this one will work just as well as the first or second. In the end, you’ll want to read all three.

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

—–

4 Stars

Operation: Endgame by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Operation: EndgameOperation: Endgame

by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, #6

Kindle Edition, 370 pg.
Imagine That! Studios, 2017

Read: January 2 – 3, 2017


Eliza and Wellington continue their pursuit of Jekyll. They start things off with the most exciting opening to one of these novels since we first met the duo in Phoenix Rising. From there, they get in a little official trouble, and get sent packing. They’re brought off of their suspension because Jekyll is leaving a path of corpses throughout Europe to draw them in. Yeah, it’s terrible, but it’s a fun story. While on the hunt, the couple make a new friend who I’d enjoy getting a book/series of her own, frankly — but first she’s a whole lot of fun to read and helps Eliza and Wellington out a bit, too. About halfway through the book (maybe a little longer), this story takes the turn it needs to and fully explores what Jekyll and Father Books were up to. This takes everything up a notch and really helps sell this finale. I can’t go further without ruining the book — but from here out this is the best thing that Ballantine and Morris have done yet.

Meanwhile, we continue the subplot of Agents Bruce Campbell and Brandon Hill chasing the House of Usher around trying to find out more/stop Operation: Ragnorak. Following their exploits in Russia last time, they’re primarily in the US and Italy for this book. They cross paths a few times with the always entertaining (for the reader, not the Ministry’s agents) Sophia del Morte. This was probably my favorite use for these two agents yet (although, I really did like the Russia stuff), and I thoroughly enjoyed everything but the very end of this storyline. I found the conclusion to this particular storyline disappointing — and maybe I’m supposed to, maybe we’re going to see the actual conclusion to it in the spin-off series (or in one that hasn’t started yet). I’m not saying that there wasn’t an ending to this, but it felt off somehow, like there’s more to be said.

This installment probably did a better job of tying the entire series together than the previous books did — not that there were continuity problems (at least not that I noticed), but books 2-5 built on each other and little else. Operation: Endgame helps you see the way that book 1 led to something in 3 and 6, etc. Which is probably easier to do when you know that you’re bringing everything to a close. The other two main stories (particularly the Books and Braun) also had a sense around them that this was it — do or die time, and no, “Oh, rats, they got away! I guess we know what we’re doing in the next novel!” It gave a heightened urgency, a heightened sense of import to everything that happened — or maybe it was the other way around. Or maybe it’s just me, because I knew it was the last book so that. I don’t think so — I think I’m going to credit Ballantine and Morris for writing that way.

A minor gripe: this really could’ve used one more copy-edit pass — there were too many sentences missing a word, and that kind of thing.

Operation: Endgame did everything it needed to do: it told a compelling story and it brought a series to a satisfying end. Not every series finale can do both, so it’s always a relief when one does (especially when it’s a series you really enjoy). I enjoyed the book on its own merits — a fun chase through, well, most of Western Civilization for Books and Braun; some nice stuff for Campbell and Hill — some chuckles, a little romance, a lot of excitement, some goofy Steampunk tech. The kind of thing that these Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences books have been delivering for years. I also enjoyed the book as a finale — the story of these two agents is over, but it’s not done in such a way that there’s nothing more to be done in this world. The door’s open for more adventures for the surviving characters, the Ministry as a whole, etc. but there’s no need for it — which is a nice bonus. I’ve got the first novel in the spin-off series (and hope to get to it soon), so I know we don’t have to say goodbye to everyone, just Eliza and Wellington (which is bad enough). If you haven’t read any of this series, I really do recommend it from start to finish.

—–

4 Stars

My Favorite Fiction of 2017

Is he ever going to stop with these 2017 Wrap Up posts? I know, I know…I’m sick of them. But I’ve already done most of the work on this one, I might as well finish…Also, it was supposed to go up Friday, but formatting problems . . .

Most people do this in mid-December or so, but a few years ago (before this blog), the best novel I read that year was also the last. Ever since then, I just can’t pull the trigger until January 1. Also, none of these are re-reads, I can’t have everyone losing to my re-reading books that I’ve loved for 2 decades.

I truly enjoyed all but a couple of books this year (at least a little bit), but narrowing the list down to those in this post was a little easier than I expected (‘tho there’s a couple of books I do feel bad about ignoring). I stand by my initial ratings, there are some in the 5-Star group that aren’t as good as some of the 4 and 4½-Star books, although for whatever reason, I ranked them higher (entertainment value, sentimental value…liked the ending better…etc.). Anyway, I came up with a list I think I can live with.

(in alphabetical order by author)

In The StillIn The Still

by Jacqueline Chadwick
My original post

Chadwick’s first novel is probably the most entertaining serial killer novel I’ve ever read. Without sacrificing creepiness, suspense, horror, blood, guts, general nastiness, and so on — she gives us a story with heart, humor and humanity. The second novel, Briefly Maiden is arguably better, but I liked this one a teensy bit more — and I’m genuinely nervous about what’s going to happen in book 3 (not that I won’t read it as soon as I possibly can).

4 1/2 Stars

The Hangman's Sonnet Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet

My original post

How do you possibly follow-up 2016’s Debt to Pay, especially with that ending, without dramatically altering the Jesse Stone flavor? I’m still not sure how Coleman did it, but he did — Jesse’s dealing with Debt to Pay in a typically self-destructive way, but is keeping his head mostly above water so he can get his job done, mostly by inertia rather than by force of will. Reflexes kick in however, and while haunted, Jesse can carry out his duties in a reasonable fashion until some friends and a case can push him into something more.

Coleman’s balancing of long-term story arcs and character development with the classic Jesse Stone-type story is what makes this novel a winner and puts this one on my list.

4 1/2 Stars

A Plague of GiantsA Plague of Giants

by Kevin Hearne

This sweeping — yet intimately told — epic fantasy about a continent/several civilizations being invaded by a race nobody knew existed is almost impossible to put into a few words. It’s about people stepping up to do more than they thought possible,more than they thought necessary, just so they and those they love can survive. It’s about heroes being heroic, leaders leading, non-heroes being more heroic, leaders conniving and failing, and regular people finding enough reason to keep going. It’s everything you want in an epic fantasy, and a bunch you didn’t realize you wanted, too (but probably should have).

5 Stars

Cold ReignCold Reign

by Faith Hunter

My original post
Hunter continues to raise the stakes (yeah, sorry, couldn’t resist) for Jane and her crew as the European Vamps’ visit/invasion gets closer. Am not sure what’s more intriguing, the evolution in Jane’s powers or the evolution of the character — eh, why bother choosing? Both are great. The growth in the Younger brothers might be more entertaining — I appreciate the way they’ve become nearly as central to the overall story as Jane. I’m not sure this is the book for new readers to the series, but there are plenty before it to hook someone.

5 Stars

Once Broken FaithOnce Broken Faith

by Seanan McGuire
My original post

Poor planning on my part (in 2016) resulted in me reading two Toby Daye books this year, both just excellent, but this one worked a little bit better for me. Oodles and oodles of Fae royalty and nobility in one spot to decide what they’re going to do with this elf-shot cure leading to a sort-of closed room mystery (it’s just a really big, magical room) with peril on all side for Toby and her found family.

5 Stars

A Monster CallsA Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness
My original post

There were so many ways this could’ve been hacky, overly-sentimentalized, brow-beating, or after-school special-y and Ness avoids them all to deliver a heart-wrenching story about grief, death, love, and the power of stories — at once horrifying, creepy and hopeful.

4 1/2 Stars

Black and BlueBlack and Blue

by Ian Rankin
My original post

Rankin kicked everything into a higher gear here — there are so many intricately intertwining stories here it’s hard to describe the book in brief. But you have Rebus running from himself into mystery after mystery, drink after drink, career-endangering move after career-endangering move. Unrelenting is the best word I can come up with for this book/character/plot — which makes for a terrific read.

5 Stars

SourdoughSourdough

by Robin Sloan
My original post

This delightful story of a programmer turned baker turned . . . who knows what, in a Bay Area Underground of creative, artisanal types who will reshape the world one day. Or not. It’s magical realism, but more like magical science. However you want to describe it, there’s something about Sloan’s prose that makes you want to live in his books.

Do not read if you’re on a low carb/carb-free diet. Stick with Sloan’s other novel in that case.

4 1/2 Stars

The Hate U Give (Audiobook)The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas, Bahni Turpin (Narrator)

My original post

This was a great audiobook –and I can’t imagine that the text version was as great, I just didn’t have time for it. It’s the story about the aftermath — socially, personally, locally, nationally — of a police shooting of an unarmed black male as seen through the eyes of a close friend who was inches away from him at the time.

I think I’d have read a book about Starr Carter at any point in her life, honestly, she’s a great character. Her family feels real — it’s not perfect, but it’s not the kind of dysfunctional that we normally see instead of perfect, it’s healthy and loving and as supportive as it can be. The book will make you smile, weep, chuckle and get angry. It’s political, and it’s not. It’s fun and horrifying. It’s . . . just read the thing. Whatever you might think of it based on what you’ve read (including what I’ve posted) isn’t the whole package, just read the thing (or, listen to it, Turpin’s a good narrator).

5 Stars

The ForceThe Force

by Don Winslow
My original post

There may be better Crime Fiction writers at the moment than Don Winslow, but that number is small, and I can’t think of anyone in it. In this fantastic book, Winslow tells the story of the last days of a corrupt, but effective (in their own corrupt and horrible way), NYPD Task Force. Denny Malone is a cop’s cop, on The Wire he’s be “real police” — but at some point he started cutting corners, lining his pockets (and justifying it to himself), eventually crossing the line so that he’s more “robber” than “cop.” Mostly. And though you know from page 1 that he’s dirty and going down, you can’t help get wrapped up in his story, hoping he finds redemption, and maybe even gets away with it.

But the book is more than that. In my original post I said: “This book feels like the love child of Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities and Nicholas Pileggi’s Wiseguy. You really feel like you understand how the city of New York is run — at least parts of it: the police, elements of the criminal world, and parts of the criminal justice system. Not how they’re supposed to run, but the way it really is. [Winslow] achieves this through a series of set pieces and didactic pericopes.”

A police story, a crime thriller, a book about New York — oh, yeah, possibly the best thing I read last year.

5 Stars

There were a few that almost made the list — almost all of them did make the Top 10 for at least a minute, actually. But I stuck with the arbitrary 10 — these were all close, and arguably better than some of those on my list. Anyway, those tied for 11th place are: <

Skyfarer by Joseph Brassey (my original post), Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb (my original post), Briefly Maiden by Jacqueline Chadwick (yes, again) (my original post), The Twisted Path by Harry Connolly (my original post), Bound by Benedict Jacka (my original post), The Western Star by Craig Johnson (my original post), The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire (see? Another Toby Daye) (my original post), The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh (my original post), Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells(my original post).

Saturday Miscellany — 1/6/18

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:

  • The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry — a great looking thriller about a bomb maker targeting bomb technicians.
  • The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce — is on the other end of the spectrum — a sweet looking story about music, love and healing.

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and welcome to Thomas Neil, JW Bowe, Mar G.-Amorena and Wolfe Butler for following the blog this week.

My Favorite 2017 New (to me) Characters

A few weeks ago, I started to describe someone as one of the best characters I met this year. Which got me to thinking about and honing this list. I’m limiting myself to characters I met this year, otherwise I don’t think there’s be much room for anyone — Spenser, Hawk, Scout, Harry Dresden, Toby Daye, Ford Prefect etc. wouldn’t really allow anyone else to be talked about. These might not be my favorite people in their respective books (although most are), but they’re the best characters in terms of complexity, depth and story potential I doubt I’d like most of them in real life (and can’t imagine that any of them would enjoy me), but in novels? I can’t get enough of them.

(in alphabetical order by author)

  • Aimee de Laurent from Skyfarer by Joseph Brassey (my post about the book)– she’s smart, she’s driven, she’s compassionate, she’s powerful, she’s fallible. She also flies around in a spaceship and does magic.
  • Lori Anderson from Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb (my post about the book)– She’s more than Stephanie Plum without the Lucy Ricardo DNA. She’s a tough lady, a dedicated mom, and more. This bounty hunter will impress you with her guts, get your sympathy with her plight, and make you cheer as she bests her opponents (I should probably add “make you wince as she takes some brutal beatings).
  • Ali Dalglish from In the Still by Jacqueline Chadwick (my post about the book)– Ali is a certified (and possibly certifiable) genius. She’s a criminal profiler working in Vancouver, BC after nearly a couple of decades away to raise her kids. But when a serial killer’s victim is found near her home, she’s drug back into the professional world she left with the investigation. She has the most creative swearing this side of Malcom Tucker, a fantastic and fast mind, a jaded look at life, and a sense of humor that’s sure to please. Early in In the Still, she asks questions of a police officer in a public forum and pretty much ruins the poor guy — it’s one of the best scenes I read all year. If you can read that far in the book and not become a Ali fan at that point, there’s something wrong with you. If I was ranking these, I’m pretty sure she’d be #1.
  • Nick Mason from The Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton (https://wp.me/p3z9AH-2NI)– A convicted non-violent criminal gets released early from an Illinois prison only to find himself in a different type of prison to work off his debt for being released, making him lose the “non-” in front of violent. He’s a great character, on the verge (always on the verge) of redemption and falling further.
  • Dervan du Alöbar from A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne (my post about the book is forthcoming) — I could’ve named about half of the point-of-view characters from this book, but Dervan eked out a win. He’s a widower in mourning. A former soldier, wounded in duty, turned scholar, turned . . . well — that’s a long story. There’s something about his coming to grips with the new reality, his new vocation, his self-awareness and growth in his personal life just really clicked with me. He’s basically an unqualified fantasy hero, forced to step up and play a role in saving civilization (which actually describes many people in this book, but that’s for another day).
  • Isaiah Quintabe from IQ by Joe Ide (my post about the book)– South-Central LA’s answer to Sherlock Holmes. We meet IQ early in his career and, via flashbacks, see him begin to develop the gifts that will make him the super-detective he’s destined to become. He’s such a great take on this character, I can’t believe no one beat Ide to the punch.
  • Anci from Down Don’t Bother Me by Jason Miller (my post about the book) — yeah, her dad, Slim, is the series start and protagonist. He’s the one that goes trough all the hardship, the beatings, the investigative moves, not his 12-year-old daughter (who isn’t a young Veronica Mars clone, or Rae Spellman). But Anci is the heart and soul of the books — she’s why Slim goes to work in this field, and why he comes back. She’s smarter and wittier than any 12-year-old has any right to be (but believably so), she’s Slim’s conscience, and his reason for doing what he does.
  • LeAnne Hogan from The Right Side by Spencer Quinn (my post about the book)– comes back from Afghanistan after near-fatal injuries, and isn’t fit for the civilian life she’s thrown back into. She begins to deal with her grief and anger while hunting for the child of a dead friend with the help of a stray dog. She’ll break your heart.
  • John Rebus from Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin (my post about the book)– Wow. How do I sum up Rebus? 2017 was the 30th anniversary of Rebus’ creation and the first year I read him. He’s a wonderful, complex character. He smokes too much, he drinks too much, he ignores the rules and regulations (and maybe even the laws) in his ongoing effort to forget about himself and his life by pouring himself into his work. Tenacious with a capital “T”, he may not be the smartest police detective you ever read, but he makes up for it through not giving up (although he’s pretty smart — especially when not drinking).
  • Hob Ravani from Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells (my post about the book)– Tough does not begin to describe this biker. She’s all about surviving on this planet that’s not at all conducive to survival — from the environment, to the economics, to the politics — there’s just nothing on the planet that wants her or her fellow Ghost Wolves to survive. But somehow she does.

My Favorite 2017 Non-Fiction Reads

Like every single year, I didn’t read as much Non-Fiction as I meant to — but I did read a decent amount. These are the best of the bunch.

(in alphabetical order by author)

Luck Favors the PreparedLuck Favors the Prepared

by Nathaniel Barber

My original post
Nathaniel Barber has a real gift at taking embarrassing (mortifying?), frustrating, and/or inexplicable episodes from his life and turning them into amusing tales. Some of the best descriptive passages I read this year — no matter the genre. I won’t promise you’ll like every story in this collection of short autobiographical pieces, but you’ll like most of ’em — and you will find something in the rest to appreciate. Fun, heartwarming, and disturbing — sometimes all at once.

4 Stars

How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at OddsHow to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds

by Alan Jacobs
My original post

As Carl Trueman asked Jacobs, how do you give this book to someone with that title? It’s a shame you can’t give it as a gift without implicitly insulting someone, because this needs to be given to everyone you know — especially everyone who spends any time online. Entertaining, convicting, convincing, challenging. This is as close to a must read as I came across last year (maybe in the last two).

4 Stars

Reacher Said NothingReacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me

by Andy Martin

You know how many times I’ve tried to write about this book? I read it back in January and am still enthused about it. Part literary criticism, part author biography, part fan letter — Martin follows Lee Child through the writing of Make Me, and delivers one of the most enjoyable reads from last year — easy. It’s like the one of your favorite DVDs with a fantastic set of commentaries and special features, but somehow better (for one thing, it’s not like Martin’s drowning out the best scenes with his blather). It reminds me of talking about Child/Reacher with a good friend (which I do pretty frequently) — but Martin’s more erudite than either of us. Just so much fun.

5 Stars

Henry: A Polish Swimmer's True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to AmericaHenry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America

by Katrina Shawver
My original post

Unlike the Jacobs book, I do know how to give this to people — and I have. The writing could be sharper — but the story? It’ll reshape the way you think about the Holocaust — not by lessening the horror, but by broadening your view. This story of survival is one that will stay with you.

4 Stars