Thursday, March 15, 2018

read: True Blue Murder (2 of 5 stars)

True Blue Murder (African Violet Club Mysteries #1)True Blue Murder by Elise M. Stone
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted to like this goofy little cozy mystery set in a senior citizens' residence in a small town near Tuscon, Arizona. My beloved Arizona settings came across as true to life. The descriptions and interactions of the wide variety of distinct characters seemed spot on. But the overall story was disappointing and fell flat.

The best word I can find to describe most of the prose is pedestrian. The action and relationships came across as stiff and clumsy. Then there's the uncompelling mystery, with an unlikable victim and a complete lack of suspects capable or inclined to have done it. This forced the author to end the story with a completely invented perpetrator and what amounts to a fanciful motive. The 'clues' that were supposed to support these inventions were unconvincing.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

read: Gun Church (2 of 5 stars)

Gun ChurchGun Church by Reed Farrel Coleman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I can only give this 2 stars because, even though I could tell the writing was extraordinary, I cannot say I would recommend it to anyone who wasn't predisposed to enjoying this sort of thing. I did not find it entertaining.

I didn't particularly enjoy the first-person narrator. He was just too meandering and self-centered. This might be the point, since he's this self-destructive, washed-up writer. He's still not someone I wanted to spend 500 pages of my life with. Maybe I'm dense. I didn't get the literary references that were no doubt sprinkled through out. It even felt a little 'overwritten' to me. Also, repetitive. Five chapters in and he's still calling someone "St. Pauli Girl" (not to her face, thankfully) even though he knows her name and is constantly sleeping with her. I got it after the first two or three times. But I don't get why she keeps throwing herself at him. Maybe it's part of the gun church plot. Maybe it's author-worship. It's just inexplicable at this point.

The gun church of the title makes an early appearance and then disappears. If it had reappeared earlier, along with some more interesting characters and some actual plot, I might have hung on and finished the book. It was intriguing. Moving on to something I do enjoy.

Notice that this is all just my reaction. There are plenty of 4 and 5 star reviews. This might be the sort of thing you'd like, if you like this sort of thing.

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

read: The Escape Artist (5 of 5 stars)

The Escape ArtistThe Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of those books that keeps you guessing right up until the end, when you tell yourself "I should have seen that coming." But you won't.

Brad Meltzer loads up the story with distinct and interesting characters and keeps up a magician's patter of interesting facts to distract you as he spins a complex tale. It's a mystery wrapped in a thriller wrapped in tragedy. And it works.

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

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

read: Over Your Dead Body (4 of 5 stars)

Over Your Dead Body (John Cleaver, #5)Over Your Dead Body by Dan Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm really liking this Audible series. The narrator is really good and the story is pretty spellbinding. This one is a little different in that the demon is not really discovered until late in the book. The pace is a might leisurely up until then. But then it sticks the landing.

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

read: The 5 Love Languages (4 of 5 stars)

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That LastsThe 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This may not be the ultimate guide to saving your marriage. But it could be a good starting point for a discussion with your spouse. Or it could be an inspiration to rethink how you are relating to your spouse. Or it could be a good reminder to revive some behaviors that you've allowed to become stale. No book on relationships can cover all the bases or be the balm that heals all wounds. But this one is pretty clear and direct and well-motivated.

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Monday, February 5, 2018

read: Moving Mars (4 of 5 stars)

Moving MarsMoving Mars by Greg Bear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent hard science fiction set about 150 years from now. Humans have expanded into the solar system and haven't really changed that much. Mr. Bear does a great job of telling a multi-threaded story from a single viewpoint. There are very few info-dumps, usually to explain politics and history. Most future technology is simply taken for granted. The big exception is a major advance in physics that drives the story. Amazingly, even tech that was far-fetched when the book was written 25 years ago is still pretty speculative so that the story does not feel dated.

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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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