Monday, March 20, 2023

read: Her Deadly Game (4 stars)

Her Deadly GameHer Deadly Game by Robert Dugoni
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's no wonder that I will pick up any book that Robert Dugoni writes. He had me hooked with his David Sloane courtroom dramas, kept me going with the Tracy Crosswhite detective series, intrigued me with his Charles Jenkins spy adventures and pierced me to the heart with his standalone alone novels. Now he's back in the courtroom with a new lawyer and another impossible case.

This one is a classic locked-room mystery. A woman is shot. All of the clues say she must have committed suicide. Except she's an invalid and could not possibly have done it without help. The police are convinced that the husband must have done it. With a bit of circumstantial evidence and apparently strong motive, they arrest him and he's put on trial. Enter our lawyer, Keera Duggan. Everything is obviously stacked against her and her client. His life is on the line. But so is her reputation and the family law business. Dugoni knows how to pile on the complications and complicated relationships. Bit by bit, Keera and her team chip away at the evidence, uncovering the truth and some allies that may or may not be trustworthy.

The plot is complicated. But the writing is not. Dugoni keeps the reader grounded in the story and the characters at every turn, even when information is found that flips everyone's understanding of what happened. Recommended.

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: Travel by Bullet (The Dispatcher #3) (4 stars)

Travel by Bullet (The Dispatcher, #3)Travel by Bullet by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

John Scalzi understands that many people read fiction largely for its entertainment value. He gets me. This latest novella featuring Tony Valdez, The Dispatcher, is yet another entertaining story that I dispatched in just a few days (see what I did there?). Tony lives in an odd, parallel universe where almost everyone that is killed comes back to life, restored to some previous level of health and in a safe place. Tony is also our first-person narrator and he's just likable enough (despite being essentially a paid assassin, a dispatcher) and snarky enough to keep us engaged as he works his way through the latest mystery that came his way.

This one begins with the arrival of another dispatcher at the emergency room of the hospital where Tony works. Mason's in bad shape and dying, having jumped out of a moving car and gotten run over, and would seem to be a good candidate for a dispatch. But he refuses the services of the on-duty dispatcher and asks for Tony. He just wants Tony to be with him, as the closest thing to a friend he believes he has. After Tony hears Mason's story, he whispers a suggestion to Mason and suddenly dispatches (kills) him. Mason disappears and we're off to the races to discover what secrets they shared and why Mason is on the run.

Scalzi keeps the story lively, deftly introducing a wide variety of characters from all manner of social strata and brings the story to a quick and amazingly satisfying resolution. Even though this is the third entry in the series, reading the previous stories in unnecessary. Recommended.

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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Wednesday, November 9, 2022

NaNoWriMo 2022 Week 1 - A Quick Review

On the plus side, I am managing to write every day and have managed to push the story forward in what could be interesting ways.

On the other hand, I have not been able to build any kind of momentum yet.

Yet, I remain hopeful and invested in the process. I am enjoying the time I have been able to spend on the project.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

NaNoWriMo 2022

Yes, I seem to be participating in NaNoWriMo again this year. September and October were crazy with travel and other things, which is my excuse for being even less prepared than usual this year and getting off to a crazy slow start. Only 2,129 words so far.

Days 1 and 2 were especially slow (578 words and 293 words, respectively), since I had very little story in mind and no conflict at all. An actual story idea clicked overnight and I was off to the races this morning, adding over 1200 words in just a couple of hours. Then it was off to run errands and I'm beat and will pick it up again in the morning.

I'm pretty sure there is nobody reading this blog, other than me. So, there is nobody else to be shocked that I'm actually writing a post that isn't a book reaction or an end-of-year reading summary. But I'm pretty sure I don't want to be a daily contributor to the mess that is Twitter these days. And Facebook is still not blog or a microblog. So here we are with what I have available.

Monday, August 29, 2022

read: Blowback (3 stars)

BlowbackBlowback by James Patterson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First-time Patterson reader here. I was looking forward to sampling this popular author. I was a bit disappointed. After a clunky first third full of overwrought physical and background descriptions of even minor players, this book got down to business and had me hooked, even with a stunningly unbelievable plot (no matter how many comparisons are drawn to TFG). What I find hard to reconcile with reality in thriller plots are any conspiracies that involve more than a couple of conspirators and any criminal mastermind that has seemingly unlimited access to reliable minions. At least this story relied mostly on the latter.

The important characters, mainly the key protagonists, did finally come to life (somewhat in spite of their introductions) and helped me keep everything straight in the labyrinthian plot. And the stakes and action were ramped up very effectively to keep me turning pages. Ultimately, I have to agree with others that the outcome is as forgettable as most TV movies. Seemingly important plot threads did not live up to their promise. And the stakes, while onerous, didn't seem and more long-lasting than any non-lethal gunshot wound in a TV Western.

My TBR includes a couple of other Patterson titles. I still look forward to reading these. But I can only recommend this title as a disposable beach read.

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

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Saturday, July 23, 2022

read: Fox Creek (4 stars)

Fox Creek (Cork O’Connor, #18)Fox Creek by William Kent Krueger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm only a few books into the Cork O'Connor series and enjoying it immensely. The stories are rich in characterization and plot. The Northern Minnesota settings and Native American culture provide unique and absorbing details. When the opportunity arose to jump into the latest book, I was a little hesitant, fearing I might miss needed background. But I needn't have worried. This volume easily stands alone.

The mystery that the author weaves in Fox Creek takes the reader deep into the Boundary Waters region and beyond. There are plenty of twists and turns and as many as four simultaneous plot threads calling for attention. But the writing is clear and riveting and suspenseful. I never felt lost.

I recommend this book and series to any readers that enjoy good mystery, suspense or outdoor adventure.

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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Monday, May 2, 2022

read: Reading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry Into the News (4 stars)

Reading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry Into the NewsReading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry Into the News by Jeffrey Bilbro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A thoughtful examination of how to approach the news of the world with a Christian perspective. The author starts with a quote from Thoreau: "Read not the Times, read the Eternities." and breaks down what that means from three angles: Attention, Time and Community.
Each section looks at the flawed assumptions and attitudes most modern readers bring to their consumption of news (and social networks) and contrasts that with writing from deep thinkers like Thoreau, Merton, Augustine, Auerbach and Dante. All of this sounds rather stuffy and scholarly. But the author is brief, direct and readable and also offers practical tips (liturgies) in a chapter at the end of each section. Recommended.

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