Friday, December 22, 2017

read: The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell (4 stars)

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell: A NovelThe Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell: A Novel by Robert Dugoni
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I heard that Robert Dugoni, one of my favorite thriller authors, had a different sort of book coming out, I had to have a look at it, too. The rich characterizations in his plot-driven thrillers have kept me enthralled for many an hour. I figured he could pull off a more character-driven story. He does.

I give this story four stars, which on is supposed to mean "I really liked it" (on my personal scale it means "I would recommend it"). I ultimately did like it. As expected, the characters and settings are richly drawn. The prose is crisp and clear. The dialog and action are realistic. On the other hand, Mr. Dugoni is never kind to his characters and in this character-driven story he's positively brutal. Saying too much about that would ruin the story. Suffice to say that anyone who had to deal with elementary school bullying will be squirming during the early chapters.

As the saying goes, it gets better. Sam and his few friends grow up and cope. Life continues to throw hardship at them and they deal with it. They don't always make the best choices. But they keep going. They wrestle with meaning and faith and love. They have extraordinarily ordinary lives. I do recommend this book.

Disclosure: Thank you to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for providing a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

read: Lost (And Found) In Space (4 stars)

Lost (And Found) In SpaceLost (And Found) In Space by Angela Cartwright, Bill Mumy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The cover says 'A memoir in photographs'. That's exactly what it is. Light on prose. Abundant with rare photos. And full of memories from the two youngest members of the 'Lost in Space' cast. More than likely, only fans will enjoy this. That's exactly who they wrote it for.

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

read: Travel as a Political Act (4 stars)

Travel as a Political ActTravel as a Political Act by Rick Steves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rick Steves' thought-provoking ramblings about politics and travel are well summed up by a quote from Mark Twain he includes in the last chapter, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." Don't be narrow-minded. Read this book and consider broadening your views and expanding your tolerance. Travel and meet people you wouldn't normally meet. You don't even have to leave the country (but, if you can, you should).

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

read: Typhoon Fury (4 stars)

Typhoon Fury (The Oregon Files, #12)Typhoon Fury by Clive Cussler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another rip-roaring adventure, well-researched and well-told.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Ain't Happening

This was my 13th attempt at NaNoWriMo. It is now my 3rd instance of not finishing (see 2009 and 2013). I have mixed feelings about this, as usual. I'm obviously disappointed. This is something I look forward to and boast about and enjoy. Mostly I'm relieved. What are this year's excuses?
  1. I became a grandfather. We spent a week focused on family. As my wife keeps reminding me, I have the best excuse ever.
  2. Statistics don't lie. In previous years, I've hit flat spots in production and had to pull out all the stops (including some 6K and 8K word days) to succeed. But this year, I had a full week of no output. And when I did get back into it, production it was not matching what I needed to push the curve to the top. I was only achieving a normal pace.
  3. Basically, I had 30% of my words and was 60% into the month. That looks like I was halfway there. But look again. I needed to produce 70% of my words in only 40% of the month, with more holidays and family time in the mix. I can write pretty quickly. But I've never been one of the NaNoWriMo overachievers that cranks out 50,000 words (or even 25,000 words in a single week).
  4. The words were not flowing. Even though I was writing in a world I thoroughly enjoy and thought I had a good story concept, that's all it was, a concept. And even that had kept shifting as I did my planning in the previous weeks. I had the protagonist. But no antagonist. I didn't have enough of a specific situation. I tried to write my way into it, like I usually do. But things were not really clicking. And my analytical brain kept me from just doing a worthless word dump (believe me, I tried). Hence, not enough words per day.
  5. Besides the grandfather thing, other life and commitments were piling up and I was getting too stressed out to completely enjoy my writing time. 
On the good side:
  1. I still love the world I was writing in. I will finish this story. This year's NaNo project is the third book in what I think is a trilogy. I do know what basically has to happen. I just need to break down the story better before I write.
  2. My attempt to write my way in revealed holes in my world-building for the entire series that need to get repaired. I will continue to work through that during the rest of the year and then get back into writing production (I promise) after the first of the year.
  3. 10 out of 13 ain't bad, ya know. I read that only 30% of those that attempt NaNoWriMo actually 'win'. I've beaten those odds. And I will again.
So, pass the remote and bring on the turkey. I have some shows to get caught up and some holidays to enjoy. I should get back to the gym, too.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

read: Rogue Wave (4 stars)

Rogue WaveRogue Wave by Boyd Morrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A gripping, enjoyable, disaster-movie read. The author does an admirable job of creating tension and excitement from the very beginning, while holding back enough mystery without making it feel like a cheat. Yes, there are way too many coincidences that keep the main characters in the center of all of the action. But that's what readers want and it all feels plausible. Recommended. But not just before you plan a trip to Hawaii.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

read: The Catcher in the Rye (3 stars)

The Catcher in the RyeThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Just some run-on ramblings about some teenager wandering around Manhattan after he gets booted out of a crumby prep school for about the third time. I never read the thing in high school and all. And it's supposed to be some kind of classic. I guess to a jaded adult it just seems kinda outdated and phony. But I wouldn't argue with you if you wanted to say you loved it. I really wouldn't. Ugh.

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