Tuesday, October 12, 2021

read: Litani (4 stars)

LitaniLitani by Jess Lourey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a dark story. Thankfully, Jess Lourey built it around Frankie, the tough-as-nails 14-year-old protagonist who shines a light into every corner she explores. She has just lost her loving father and been sent to live with the mother that cut off communication with her years ago for no good reason.

On her first day back in the small town of Litani, her mother sends her outside 'to play' with the other 'children'. but her first encounters with the children are not fun. As she explores further, she (and we) discover that the town is sick, with a twisted history that casts an ominous tone over everything and everyone.

I don't really enjoy reading stories like this one. You know, the usual trigger warnings: kids in danger, Satan worship, creepy adults. Who do you trust? On the other hand, Jess Lourey is crafting such interesting stories, inspired by (gulp) true stories, populated with interesting characters and masterful plots that it's difficult to stay away. And once you start reading, you daren't put it down or look away.

So here we are. A book that creeped me out and I can only recommend to the more adventurous or tolerant of my friends. Yet, I will probably vote for it as one of the best books of the year.

Disclosure: Thank you to Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer for providing a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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read: Fan Fiction: A Mem-Noir: Inspired by True Events by Brent Spiner (4 stars)

Fan Fiction: A Mem-Noir: Inspired by True EventsFan Fiction: A Mem-Noir: Inspired by True Events by Brent Spiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As the author, Brent Spiner, points out, this is not a memoir. It's a mem-noir - a fanciful whodunnit inspired by some real-life incidents. But it's not real-life. And that's a shame, because I really want to know which of the nicknames for himself and his Next Gen co-stars are really used: Dorny (Michael Dorn)? Burt (LeVar Burton)? Also, although they're obviously no longer shooting, where did they gather for drinks at the end of the week?

I found the writing to be engaging, lighthearted and entertaining. To label this 'noir' is not really that applicable, even when the fictionalized Brent is portrayed as getting a bit depressed and paranoid, it's shrouded in humor and self-deprecation. On the other hand, this is not quite the madcap adventure I had hoped for. It's not entirely over-the-top and not always funny. But it does provided a bit of mystery and diversion. Recommended for fans of Star Trek and celebrity.

Disclosure: Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for providing a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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Sunday, August 15, 2021

read: Private Investigations: Mystery Writers on the Secrets, Riddles, and Wonders in Their Lives (4 stars)

Private Investigations: Mystery Writers on the Secrets, Riddles, and Wonders in Their LivesPrivate Investigations: Mystery Writers on the Secrets, Riddles, and Wonders in Their Lives by Victoria Zackheim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was not what I was expecting. Maybe I didn't read the cover blurb closely enough. I just saw the names of some favorite authors and how they 'cope with the perplexing world and what keeps them up at night.' What I got were those same authors, and more, telling some of their most personal stories and how those stories made them into the writers they have become. Well done, intriguing and worth a read (or two).

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Friday, July 30, 2021

read: The World Played Chess (4 stars)

The World Played ChessThe World Played Chess by Robert Dugoni
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It seems that no matter what Robert Dugoni writes, he nails it. His mysteries and spy thrillers are top-notch. His mainstream The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell was uncomfortably compelling. Now his historical look at the Viet Nam war and its impact on various lives hits the same sweet spot of character and story and setting.

For someone that missed the draft by only a year or two and went to high school in California, it also feels personal. I wasn't a jock, didn't go to a private school, didn't work construction and wasn't a soldier (or marine). But I was a contemporary to all that in time and space and felt all the feels that Mr. Dugoni put into this work. Much of this ground has been covered before. But Dugoni gives it a fresh perspective. I am still thinking about the three men and how their lives intersect in 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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Sunday, June 6, 2021

read: Grave Reservations (4 stars)

Grave ReservationsGrave Reservations by Cherie Priest
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am surprised at how lighthearted the latest book from Cherie Priest is (although the cover should have been a giveaway). It's much more cozy mystery than any of her other paranormal genre fiction (I've been a fan since Boneshaker and even Bloodshot). It's so light, I almost thought I wouldn't like it. But the characters and situation grew on me. And what mystery there is needed to be solved. I stuck with it and was not disappointed. I look forward to further adventures with Leda and Grady.

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

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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

read: Murder by Other Means (4 stars)

Murder by Other Means (The Dispatcher, #2)Murder by Other Means by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How can a story involving so much murder be so enjoyable and borderline humorous? You make sure that very few of the victims actually die. That's the improbable conceit of the story and the author makes it work. The audio book of the first Dispatcher novella is sitting in my Audible queue (the pandemic really messed up my listening habits). But this was thoroughly understandable and entertaining without that introduction.

As with most stories from John Scalzi, the value is in the writing. The snappy dialog and colorful characters whisk you along for a pleasant ride full of twists and turns and a totally believable outcome (ignoring the previously mentioned improbable conceit). Highly recommended for a few hours of entertainment.

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

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Friday, May 7, 2021

read: Project Hail Mary (3 stars)

Project Hail MaryProject Hail Mary by Andy Weir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Just to be clear. I loved The Martian. I got wind of a little while before it got really popular (thank you, Writing Excuses podcast!), got my book club to read and discuss it and devoured it in no time. I also liked Artemis (not as much as The Martian; but apparently more than many other readers).

When I heard about Project Hail Mary and Peter Weir's return to gritty, science-based storytelling and interstellar setting, I knew I had to read it. It had to be my kind of book. Then, I started reading and felt very let down. A first-person account of waking up out of a coma, confused and in a closed room didn't pull me in. I almost gave up before the main character finally started having flashes of memory about who he was and what he was supposed to do. His recollections of Earth and the other characters brought some actual life, albeit stick-figured, cliché-ridden life, to the stage. I stuck with it.

When Rocky showed up, I was as charmed as anyone. And I've got to hand it to Mr. Weir, he came up with some intriguing science-based mysteries to unravel during the second half of the book. The entire story gave me flashbacks to stories from the middle of the previous century, and not always in a good way. There were a few nice modern touches and genuine effort was made to avoid too much handwavium. But I still feel like there was plenty of that.

I give the first half of the book 2.5 stars and the latter 3.5 stars for an average of 3 stars and some hope that the next book from the author is more well rounded and modern.

Disclosure: Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Ballantine Books for providing a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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