Read Books This will provide a list of the books I've read with a brief review. Users are blocked, contact me for access. I welcome discussions, but I'm tired of spam.

December 9, 2023

Les vacances du petit Nicolas by Jean-Jacques Sempé and René Goscinny

Filed under: Adventure,Humor — Tags: , , — Randolph @ 4:51 pm

Nicolas, a young child and first-person narrator, goes on a couple of vacations, one with his family and another to a summer camp. The book is funny and light with a great interplay between the different characters, I enjoy the interaction between his parents. On these vacations Nicolas meets new friends and annoys new adults with his inimitable style.

Each chapter stands on its own pretty well and build into the stories.

A fun and light read, the drawings are nice and a good addition.

November 8, 2023

Negative Return by Jessie Kwak

Filed under: Science Fiction — Tags: , — Randolph @ 4:27 pm

Manu Juric is a bounty hunter, or ostensibly a hit man. He is a bounty hunter of mediocre skills who gets hired to take smaller targets, usually by killing them. He has a talent for reading people and enjoys explosions. He gets a break, a hit on a major crime boss, Jaantzen.

He botched the attempt on Jaantzen’s life and through circumstances, he ends up working for Jaantzen on a heist. Manu’s work on this heist and a through a myriad of twists and plot turns is the focus of the book.

This book is part of a 3-book set by Jessie Kwak set in the Durga System. The books are different stories set in a unique socio-political environment.

The book is decent, but I found the setup unbelievable. For a bounty hunter/hit man, is seems almost incompetent and it is difficult to see why anyone would hire him for this job. Then when he as a kill shot on his target, he tries to show off which leads to his botched attempt, which seems very unprofessional. Then why Jaantzen spared his life and had him join is his team is also questionalbe, arguably he wanted Manu’s people-reading skills, but to know that he would have to have those skills himself and the problems would not have occurred.

Once you get past the problems, the book is ok. It’s a quick read, so far I’ve enjoyed the others more.

October 27, 2023

The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare by Lilian Jackson Braun

Filed under: Mystery — Tags: , — Randolph @ 1:33 pm

This is the seventh book in The Cat Who series, Jim Qwilleran and his cats are settling into their mansion in Pickax. Jim had turned his mansion into a part-time museum, he is living in quarters behind the mansion above the garage.

This time, the town newspaper, running with outdated equipment and processes is having trouble when the owner dies and the only source of news in the town is threatened. Qwill, being a newsman doesn’t want that to happen, he starts looking into things, including the death. Koko, as usual, knows more than Jim and starts knocking Shakespeare books of the shelf trying to communicate.

There isn’t much of a mystery beyond the investigation of the man’s death, the book ends with a fire in the mansion, I guess to be continued. This wasn’t one of the better in the series, but it is light and fast.

October 20, 2023

Dad Jokes by Slade Wentworth

Filed under: Humor — Tags: , — Randolph @ 1:28 pm

What’s to say? It’s a collection of dad jokes, some of them will actually make you laugh. It’s worth a quick read. Go to the library and read it while you’re in the checkout line.

October 14, 2023

Three Nights in August by by Buzz Bissinger

Filed under: Nonfiction,Sports — Tags: , , — Randolph @ 1:05 pm

This is a detailed analysis of the three-game baseball series in August 2003 between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. It is told through the eyes of Tony La Russa and delves into many details of baseball that are invisible to most fans. The author goes into Tony’s thoughts on the strategy for the game going beyond just the play-by-play thoughts. He describes the psychology of player selection, both the egos and goals of the players and the opposing lineup. He looks into the player rituals, revenge hit-by-pitcher strategies, if he can afford to hurt a player’s ego.

It does go into pitch-by-pitch commentary at times, discussing how the game and the psychology changes at each point, what options La Russa is considering and what counters he anticipates.

The writing is ok. But the author does repeatedly use bad metaphors to emphasize points at times, I’m not quite sure he knows what his target audience is, but it did kind of remind me of some baseball announcers I’ve heard.

Overall I enjoyed the book, it is a good read for the baseball enthusiast.

September 15, 2023

Skinwalkers by Tony Hillerman

Filed under: Mystery — Tags: , — Randolph @ 12:33 pm

This is the seventh book in the Leaphorn/Chee mystery series, I’m filling in books I didn’t have originally and it does not disappoint.

Jim Chee is investigating some unsolved and seemingly unrelated homicides that have happened around the reservation, then there is an attempt on his life. There is no evidence of a correlation, leading Leaphorn to consider come illegal activity Chee may be involved in.

Leaphorn is dealing with his wife’s health, dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, and needs surgery for a brain tumor.

Chee’s studies as a medicine man lead him to believe that a skinwalker, a mythical figure who can shape-shift into another man or animal, is involved. If a skinwalker can force a piece of bone into a person, the person will die unless he can kill the skinwalker first.

The correlation to the deaths comes back to a clinic and fraud. Stopping to avoid too many spoilers.

It is one of the more interesting books in the series.

September 1, 2023

Gun, with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem

Filed under: Humor,Mystery,Science Fiction — Tags: — Randolph @ 3:51 pm

This is a science fiction-mystery-noir-humor story with a hard-boiled detective, I think I missed a category.

The setting is poorly defined and that is part of the reader’s exploration. Conrad Metcalf is a detective, a private inquisitor in a world where (not-private) inquisitors spy on people doling out or removing credits. Drugs are commonplace and. tailored, people use them to create moods, to forget, to enhance experiences, it seems endless and very personalized.

Society has created intelligent animals, educated babies and a few gadgets. These are revealed slowly through the book.

At the beginning, the book felt like a detective noir story, it read like a Raymond Chandler story. Conrad is approached by a man panicked, being framed for a murder and no means of payment and low on credits. During the investigation, he encounters kangaroo muscle, holographic houses and a few others.

The extensive use of drugs made me feel like the whole book is a drug-induced illusion. The author reinforces this by making use of bizarre idioms and metaphors that get increasingly peculiar as the book goes on.

The title is a reference to a gun that plays music whenever it is drawn, something to do with advertising.

The book started off amusing and new but started to get old toward the end. It ended just in time.

August 15, 2023

Deviant Flux by Jessie L. Kwak

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Randolph @ 3:32 pm

This is a sci-fi action story with a bit of intrigue. This is part of a series, I don’t know any recommended order but the author suggested they can be read in any order.

After the destruction of her world and the loss of everyone she knew, Starla goes to Maribi, an asteroid station run by a strong-handed cartel, seeking any of her family. After finding her cousin, Mona, she is rapidly pulled into a political conflict.
Despite being a science fiction story set in the distant future, the technology is seamlessly worked into the story and takes a back stage. It works well.

August 5, 2023

From Dream to Reality: How to Make a Living as a Freelance Writer by Jessie L. Kwak

Filed under: Writing — Tags: — Randolph @ 3:20 pm

This is a perspective on becoming a freelance writer based on Jessie Kwak’s experience. It covers a lot of material, all at a fairly high level. Useful for someone trying to decide if this is the right path to take and to get started, but you will want to supplement it with more detailed material.

August 3, 2023

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Filed under: Adventure — Tags: , — Randolph @ 2:43 pm

I have to say that this book is disappointing in many ways.

The setting is interesting and has a lot of potential, but this author could not carry it off. The writing is decent and at times good, but the storytelling and the characters are a problem.

The story takes place on Mars in a highly stratified society where mobility isn’t possible, even when some believe it is. The protagonist, Daro, is just about perfect except for his anger and foul language, yet no one really faults him for this. He is chosen by the Sons of Ares to be transformed by genetic engineering and training into a gold, the top strata of society, stronger, smarter, faster reflexes, better in every way. He is not the type of person who would be likely to succeed at this, nor the type the Sons of Ares would select.

There are opportunities for strong symbolism usage which the author started but didn’t play with. One is dance. His people dance to celebrate life and to forget their problems. Dance was important in the early parts of the book, then almost forgotten. The other was the allusion to Roman mythology, sometimes Greek. The leaders have taken on the persona of Roman gods, the secret organization which helps him is the Sons of Ares, yet this isn’t really explored.

Whoever edited the book for continuity and content didn’t do his job, if there was anyone who tried. The author seems to write from the beginning to the end of the book without going back for edits, on several occasions the author writes himself into a corner then uses a plot device to write himself out when going back and adding a relevant scene or two could have handled the problem.

Another editing fault is that, after his transformation, Daro is constantly explaining his ability to leap or run due to Mars’ lower gravity, tell the author it is 38%, not 37%, having lived his entire life on Mars Daro would have nothing else to compare it to, that is all he knows. He should attribute any changes to his genetic engineering.

His female characters are either plot devices, such as his wife, who adores him, yet seems to withhold important information, specifically about his world being a lie, then reveals it all at a single event and pointlessly sacrifices herself to further the plot. He talks about women being fighters and leaders, but doesn’t demonstrate it through the story other than a single woman-on-woman battle.

I can go on, issues include: using conflict as a way to improve the species when they have genetic engineering, pacing of the book is too fast at important points, leaders not noticing that their game is fixed, leaders not using armies or other force when their Olympus is invaded, military tactics that just don’t make sense or were used in the middle ages and now unknown to these people with vast computers, how Daro could possibly have learned what he needed – the Sons of Ares could not have known.

Don’t waste time on this book.

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