All posts by jcloose

Hank Green — A Beautiful Foolish Endeavor

“…Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton, 1887

Let me first say that I’m an eighty-year-old woman who loves to read most fiction genres. I receive my books from the local library Books by Mail program. Most are not specific requests and they cover a wonderful variety of subjects and styles. Second, I almost didn’t start this novel because it’s a sequel to a book I haven’t read, and reviews indicated it was aimed at a young audience with a theme about social media, which I avoid.

But I loved this book (even without reading the previous installment). It’s not only about the abuse of money and power, it’s about humanity, encompassing our worst and best traits and in between.

Don Winslow — Broken

Six novellas in one book. Some better than others.

Broken (2**): Way too dark for my taste. A story about a cop family and a gang, each seeking revenge on the other. The only saving grace was the ending.

Crime 101 (4****): A dedicated cop looks for a thief he’s convinced has committed several robberies, although no one else seems to agree with him. The thief is planning a multi-million dollar heist before he retires. Both are interesting characters in this somewhat humorous story.

The San Diego Zoo (4****): Hilarious story about a young cop who tries to do the right thing, but keeps getting into trouble for stepping over the lines. And there’s a chimp who escapes the zoo with a gun. Picture it!  🙂

Sunset (4****): Great characters—a bail bondsman whose business is tanking, a washed-up surfer/addict who runs out on his bail, a surfer/bounty hunter chasing his friend, and more. Several characters are getting older and dealing with it in different ways. I understand many of them have appeared in previous novels, but this book is my first taste of Winslow’s writing.

Paradise (2**): The drug trade underside of Hawaii combines with a picture of surfing. (Winslow has surfing in all the stories.) In Paradise, his characters are a bit thin. The plot makes me think of a big wave, starting calm and building to a crescendo.

The Last Ride (3***): Some reviewers labeled this story political, but I feel it’s a strong character study of a border patrol agent fighting a broken system. I would give it 4 stars except the ending crushes my heart.

Adrian J. Walker — The Human Son

*SPOILER ALERT*

Fascinating and well written, but in my opinion a few things don’t quite add up. The story has good concepts and questionable ones.

An intriguing concept—Erta, genetically modified, superior homo sapiens, created to save the earth from the destruction caused be humans. Humans have died out. The Erta have promised to bring back the human race when their purpose is complete. Five hundred year old Ima, who was programmed to clean up earth’s atmosphere, is assigned the task of raising the first human child.

Good: Ima maturing emotionally and becoming more human along with her human son, Reed. She even appears to go through some of the behaviors of puberty along with her son.
Questionable: How could Ima live so long without evolving emotionally, then in the relatively short time develop emotions, curiosity, and question what she has been told and believed all her life?

Good: A true villain, Caige, (every good story needs a villain) who wants to keep the earth free of humanity. He meddled with Reed’s genetics to make him weaker physically and less intelligent than Ima’s design. There are also lesser villains, some appear friendly in the beginning, and some who appear mean and evil at first but turn out to be allies.
Questionable: How did such an evil and emotional being, Caige, develop when all Erta are designed for the purpose of cleaning up earth with no emotional connections?

Good: A picture of a mother with zero experience or education on taking care of an infant or raising a child. A good mixture of head, heart (and heartache), and humor.
Questionable: Why would a race built around superior logic, education, and programming neglect educating the mother? (Possibly because she was meant to fail?)

Good: Full of interesting characters.
Questionable: Why do we even need Ima’s sister?

Good: The idea of transition at the end of the Erta’s existence.
Questionable: How do a people who are supposedly programmed for logic fall into an emotional “religious” belief? Why do they need this? I guess it adds to the plot.

Good: Ima’s journey through emotional maturity.
Questionable: Why the phase with alcohol addiction? Wouldn’t her perfect immune system see alcohol as poison and mute its effects?

I found other questionable ideas in the story, but overall it was engaging and kept me reading, wanting to know what would happen next. The ending was both good and frightful. It felt a bit like it was the beginning of a series.

Sara Paretsky — Dead Land

I’ve only read one other Paretsky novel, Shell Game, which I gave three stars—middle of the road. With Dead Land, I connected with the protagonist, V.I. (Vic) Warshawski, and found her determined and focused on solving the mysteries surrounding friends and family. Previously I found her too angry at the world, scattered in her investigation and her life, and making foolish mistakes. With this story, she seems to have reason behind her decisions, even when her moves are reckless and dangerous. She isn’t filled with anger and even has a sense of humor.

A side character, Coop, is interesting. Even though we see little of him, he’s a major character in the story. I love his dog, Bear.

Even though it twists and turns and has some almost unbelievable connections, the plot of Dead Land makes sense, where Shell Game didn’t. Paretsky connects greed and corruption in Chicago politics with greed and corruption in Chili, all revolving around a famous woman musician, first homeless then missing on the streets of Chicago. She’s another major character we see little of, but we learn a lot about her.

The settings in Chicago and Kansas are both well covered, making me feel the heat in the streets and the muddy rain in the flooded fields.

Although a bit too long, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

William Kent Krueger — Sulfur Springs

This novel gives us a look at the mess at our southern border. Cork O’Connor and his new wife, Rainy, go to Arizona to find her son Peter, who is involved with a group trying to help refugees from Central America. Every time they get a lead on where to look for him, the drug lords and/or the lawmen appear. Who is tipping them off?

A well-written story with a good plot and engaging characters. The coverage of the drug wars and the immigrants escaping through the border wall with Mexico keeps tension high.

Only the second Krueger novel I’ve read, both are about Cork’s children or step-children. He has an interesting family.

Dean Koontz — Devoted

I’ve read Dean Koontz in the past with mixed feelings. Some are excellent and some I haven’t finished due to lack of interest. This one is somewhere in between. The differences in Koontz’s writing styles makes me wonder if he uses ghostwriters, or if he has multiple personalities.

Devoted is a mix of fantasy, suspense, genetics SF, horror, psychological thriller, paranormal, and maybe a “shaggy dog story” without the humor. It’s the story of an intelligent dog, Kipp, and an autistic eleven-year-old boy, Woody, who has never spoken a word. The boy screams a psychic cry for help that is picked up by “The Wire,” a telepathic communication network for a group of dogs. Kipp comes to the rescue.

My biggest problem with this book is the characters all appear to be seen from the point of view of the dog. All the people are either very bad (haters, liars, greedy, etc.) or unbelievably good (loving, truth-tellers, sympathetic, loyal, etc.). The good people have no bad characteristics, and the bad have no good. And of course, all the dogs are noble.

The best part of the book is the hopeful ending.

William Kent Krueger — Desolation Mountain

I would call this a character-driven, political intrigue novel. It’s my first foray into a William Kent Krueger book. I found some of the characters interesting, but not all. Cork O’Connors’ son Stephen, who has visions, is struggling to know who he is. More than a hundred-year-old “healer” Henry is in touch with the world and the spirits. Bo is a very conflicted character. Cork’s young grandchild (toddler?) Waaboo has far too much insight. But Cork worries his way through the story, and there’s no character growth, except possibly that he learns to accept that Henry can take care of himself. Some of the minor characters are interesting, but most are background noise—especially the women.

The plot is a bit over the top. It jumps around a lot, and people keep chasing around trying to find out what’s happening and to save people in trouble. Then toward the end, we get a lengthy explanation from the villain when there’s no reason for him to be telling it.

The story kept me reading to the end, so I give it three stars.

Heather Graham — The Stalking

The story mixes a stew of many genres—mystery, paranormal (ghosts), FBI agents, serial killer, and romance. It also throws in some New Orleans culture and history for a bit of spice. But it could use some editing. The dialog sometimes drags, the characters are a bit flat (almost everyone is beautiful), and I guessed the villains early in the book.

The Stalking is the first novel I’ve read by Heather Graham. I wouldn’t go out of my way to find more. But I did enjoy the quick light read.

Lars Kepler — The Rabbit Hunter

My first taste of Lars Kepler, I found The Rabbit Hunter a dark and grisly novel, too much so at times. I mostly enjoyed the plot, but it did get sidetracked from time to time, with issues not necessary for the story. The characters held my interest, but the two main ones were thinly sketched. Maybe because they’ve been around through several books. More effort was spent on the chef and his son, and the killer.

The pace moved fairly slow in the beginning, probably because either the authors or the translator (English translation) wrote too much passive, not active. It picked up as the story progressed. The ending was an obvious plug to try to get you to read the next book.

I always find it fascinating when two or more writers collaborate. This husband and wife team work together seamlessly.

Harlan Coben — The Boy From the Woods

Wilde, who was found living in the woods thirty-some years ago and has no memory of how he got there or where he came from, makes an intriguing character. He lives off the grid in an Ecocapsule home in the woods, with extreme security. He has little social contact in his life, except for the family (son, wife, and mother) of David, who befriended Wilde when they were boys, and Wilde lived in the woods. David died in an automobile accident.

Hester Crimstein, David’s mother and a high profile lawyer and TV personality in her 70s, is another interesting character. She’s a small feisty bombshell. All the characters are well defined; most have good and bad sides to their lives and personalities.

The plot centers around Wilde and Hester searching for two missing children. Are they kidnapped or runaways?

There are several underlying themes in this book—political scandal, teen peer pressure, bullying, innocent man in prison, looking for lost family, and more. Cohen weaves it altogether seamlessly.

This is the first Harlan Cohen novel. I will look for more.