Monday, January 25, 2016

Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology (4 stars)

Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses AnthologyShadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These are some pretty good stories. Be aware, though, that there are only four of them. The bulk of the book is for writers - first drafts, transcripts or brainstorming and critique and the like.

I haven't yet read through the supplementary material, though I've listened to a bunch of it on the Writing Excuses Podcast. Good stuff.

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

read: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (5 stars)

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreMr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm giving this book 5 stars, not because it's so perfect, but just because it's so fun. Also, the audio book voice performance is sensational. The story follows the misadventures of down-on-his-luck, recently laid off tech-drone Clay, who finds a job to tide him over at an odd little bookstore in San Francisco.

He doesn't understand any of the owner's weird rules for 'selling' books, nor the few odd customers that occasionally appear during his graveyard shift (and they are about the only customers). And how does the store even stay in business? Then things get mysterious and weirder and some sort of secret society is involved. Clay is thankful that he at least finally meets a girl and she's relatively sane, despite working for Google. What follows is an suspenseful adventure exploring the collision of the old knowledge of the printed word and the new digitized world and a search for balance between the two.

If you like books and stories and mysteries, you should find this one utterly charming.

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Monday, January 4, 2016

read: Last of the Independents (4 stars)

Last of the Independents (Vancouver Noir)Last of the Independents by Sam Wiebe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very solid, very hardboiled, modern detective story told in classic first-person. The author does a fine job of laying out a couple of compelling mysteries and showing the dogged determination and sometimes inventiveness of a young private eye in solving them. The detective does come across as a little too experienced and world-weary for his stated age and background. But I just visualized him as older. This is one of several rough edges exhibited by this first novel, but none detracted from the story. Very enjoyable, if you like your stories dark and gritty and your detectives morally ambiguous.

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Friday, December 11, 2015

read: Ashley Bell (4 stars)

Ashley BellAshley Bell by Dean Koontz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If the purpose of a book like this is to be unsettling, then Ashley Bell is a big success. I had to set it aside for a time. The descriptions of someone facing brain cancer hit too close to home for me.

When I picked it back up, so did the story, careening forward with a well-told and bizarre tale that seemed to be happening in two completely different worlds. Actually, three worlds, because key portions of the story are told in flashback. The author made it easy to keep track of the timeline, all the various characters and made it all interesting with a deepening mystery for the main character to solve.

This was my first Koontz. It won't be my last.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

read: Death Before Decaf (3 stars)

Death Before Decaf (A Java Jive Mystery, #1)Death Before Decaf by Caroline Fardig
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm obviously not in the intended demographic for this book: wrong gender and probably too old. Yet I didn't struggle at all reading it through to the end. There was a pretty decent mystery, some suspense and likable characters. The first-person narrator's voice was just snarky enough and never whiny. I think the comparisons being make to Evanovich's Stephanie Plum are pretty apt.

There are some rough patches. Every so often, a sentence would make me go 'huh?'. But it did not stop the story and I moved on. I also thought a few more clues needed to be dropped about actual murderer. They were a bit of a surprise.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and I can easily recommend this book to anyone in it's intended audience.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review.

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read: Failure Is Not An Option (4 stars)

Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and BeyondFailure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Gene Kranz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this. As a child of the Space-Age, I grew up with Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. I thought I knew a lot about these programs, but Gene reveals some backstage drama and even some mission peril that I did not previously know about. There were some points where the litany of names became a little tiresome. But the space program was built by real people and they deserve every shout out. Recommended.

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

read: The Scam: A Fox and O'Hare Novel (3 stars)

The Scam: A Fox and O'Hare NovelThe Scam: A Fox and O'Hare Novel by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A fun, light and quick read. Though not quite as fun and a little more light than the previous volume in the series. An on the nose call-out in the middle of the book compares events to 'The Sting', 'Ocean's 11' and 'The Thomas Crown Affair', though I would throw in 'Remington Steele' and 'Burn Notice' for the added romantic 'tension' and quick pacing.

You've still got a Federal agent working both sides of the law paired with an art thief who's supposed to be helping her pull cons on behalf of the United States government to nab criminals that are beyond the reach of normal investigations. This time around her combat skills are ramped up to Jason Bourne levels and he's got international connections that are worthy of James Bond. They bring in several of their usual cohorts to scam a casino owner who'd using his gambling operations to help mobsters, pirates and terrorists launder their money.

This paragraph is lifted from my review of the previous book: Just like a television movie, none of the story makes any sense when submitted to any scrutiny. The capers are paper thin. The characters are cardboard flat. Real motivation is missing in action. And yet, like a television movie, it's fast-paced, colorful, and eye-catching.

Pick this up for a read on a plane trip or sitting on the beach and the minutes will fly by.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review.

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