Tuesday, January 11, 2022

read: A Thousand Steps (5 stars)

A Thousand StepsA Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Smooth as butter. That's how this book went down for me. Having been a teen in Southern California in the 70s, the echoes of 60s were always there, especially around the beach cities where this story is set. Without even getting into the plot or characters, I have to applaud the author's evocation of the times and places. He brings them to life in a way that will appeal to those of us that remember it, as well as those who have not.

In the middle of that scene, the 'stoner' 60s, we find teenaged Matt, bombing around the streets and beaches on his bicycle trying to make a life for himself without much support from is mom, his dad out of the picture, his older brother in Viet Nam and then his beloved older sister goes missing. Add in a dead girl found on the beach who's scarily similar to his sister and we're off to the races with a suspenseful story that never seems to cut Matt a break. The police don't seem to be much help. The hippies at the local head shop are helpful, but shady. And that's just the beginning of Matt's woes.

Matt is an immensely likable character. Amazingly resilient and resolute in his quest to uncover the mystery of where his sister is. He doesn't give up. But he will grow up. This is a highly entertaining book.

Disclosure: Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge Books for providing a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

read: The Apollo Murders (4 stars)

The Apollo MurdersThe Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tell me a story about an Apollo mission, even a fictional one, and I'm there for it. This book does that and ups the ante by wrapping it in a murder mystery and international intrigue. I already knew Colonel Hadfield could write. Now I know that he can write a thriller that keeps me turning pages. What really shines through for this space geek are all the mission details that made it all seem plausible. Recommended.

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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

Cherie Priest's latest is more lighthearted than her previous stories (the cover gives it away). More of a cozy mystery than her other paranormal genre fiction (I've been a fan since Boneshaker and even Bloodshot).

Leda is an inconsistent psychic, whose talents run more toward Klairvoyant Karaoke than actual psychic readings or even acquiring more clients for her new travel agency. But when she acts on a premonition and saves Detective Grady's life by suddenly rebooking him onto a flight that doesn't explode, he becomes a believer and enlists her to help with a hard to crack cold case. In return, he helps investigate the unsolved murder of her fiancé Tod and the combination proves both effective and entertaining.

The cast of characters is consistently quirky and the pace is quick. The mysteries aren't all that complicated. But they beg to be solved. 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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