Category Archives: heart

Martha Wells — Fugitive Telemetry

Murderbot Diary #6 follows an almost standard closed room (an isolated section of Preservation Station) murder mystery plot line. Muderbot works as a consulting independent private investigator (SecUnit or security bot) working with the police (security system and space station personnel). But the imaginative SF setting and the grumpy, paranoid, snarky, and protective personality of Murderbot set the story steps above a normal murder mystery.

The story starts with an unidentified victim with unknown who done it, how, why, and even where was the murder committed. Murderbot is limited in his investigation because of an agreement he’s made not to hack the station’s systems.

As always, I’m fascinated with Murderbot, the SecUnit who wants to spend its time absorbed in media and is disgusted by humans but can’t overcome his urge to protect them. Wells is extremely creative with characterization (mainly with Murderbot but also with other characters) and her world-building settings are definitely “out of this world.”

Great SF series. Martha Wells has a terrific imagination. She creates a cyborg character who is more human than some people I know. She’s good at world-building, plotting, characterization, and keeps my attention throughout. She writes with the three H’s — head, heart, and humor.

Having read #1 through #6, I’m looking forward to more. I understand that Wells has at least three more Murderbot books in the pipeline.

Lee Child and Andrew Child — The Sentinel

Browsing through reviews of The Sentinel, I see a number of readers think Reacher has lost some of his personality being co-authored by Lee Child and his brother Andrew. I didn’t feel that way. Reacher might be a little older, a little mellower, but he’s still the same loner with a wanderlust that keeps him traveling throughout the country. He’s still a magnet for people in trouble and can’t resist jumping in to help. He continues to have the unbelievable ability to win every fight no matter how many opponents he faces. And he still travels with only a toothbrush. He did have a phone for a short time in this story, but he gave it back in the end.

I like Reacher’s personality—positive and upbeat, helpful in the extreme, no greed, no depression, no guilt. The two Child brothers have maintained that temperament. And I see humor in the exaggeration of character traits, especially the villains, and in Reacher’s deadpan dialog. It’s not laugh-out-loud humor, but it’s there.

I will keep reading more Reacher books as long as they keep publishing.

Lisa Gardner — Right Behind You

Lisa Gardner is one of my favorite authors. She writes intriguing psychological thrillers with fascinating characters that keep me involved. Right Behind You is no exception. Gardner gives us an in-depth look at thirteen-year-old Sharlah and her seventeen-year-old brother Telly, foster kids living with two different families. They were split up eight years earlier after Telly killed their father to protect them.

There are other interesting characters as well—Sheriff Shelly, Tracker Cal, and of course Quincy and Rainy—all of them working together searching for Telly who they suspect of a “spree” murder of four people, beginning with his foster parents. Besides working with the sheriff, Quincy and Rainy are Sharlah’s foster parents.

Strangely enough, two dead characters also caught my imagination—Telly’s foster mother Sandra, killed along with her husband Frank, and Sandra’s mob boss father who died of cancer. Sandra and her father hadn’t spoken in thirty years until shortly before he died.

Even though I figured out an important plot point early in the book, there were enough twists and turns to keep me involved, and enough unanswered questions to keep me reading.

An underlying theme of this story is family—what makes it work and what tears it apart. Although the parents of both foster kids were idealized to the point they were hard to believe.

Overall a great read.

Martha Wells — Network Effect

I read this as a stand-alone, not having read the first 4 Murderbot novellas. Maybe if I’d read them, I would have given it 5 stars instead of 4, because I was a little confused from time to time.

I love SecUnit Murderbot and the transport AI ART and their quirky “relationship,” full of the dreaded “emotions.” Lots of humor there. Murderbot attempting to learn to be a person while despising humans always gave me a laugh.

Martha Wells writes very well, but her use of parentheses drove me crazy until after a few chapters I learned to ignore them.

Great read. Maybe I’ll read Murderbot 1 through 4 (and then 6?).

Candice Fox — Gathering Dark

Another good read from Candice Fox, but I prefer her books set in Australia. I read plenty of crime fiction books with LA as a backdrop. I’d much rather read the unknown to me settings in Australia where my imagination can take flight.

As they are in Fox’s other books, the characters are strong but quirky; many are mean and nasty. There are so many “bad guys” in this story it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of who’s who. All the cops are shady and twisted, some even criminal. Even Jessica Sanchez, the protagonist, pulls some very bad stunts in revenge on her partner after he fails to back her up on a call. Blair Harbour, the other main character, is only a year out of prison for killing her neighbor. She tries to be good but doesn’t always succeed. Blair’s friend “Tweat” (Blair is trying to help her find her daughter) is a thief and a liar.

I’m not sure if some of the outrageous and improbably situations the characters found themselves in were meant to be humorous, but they made me laugh.

Ray Bradbury — Dandelion Wine

One of my favorite books of all time.

Dandelion Wine draws you in with all your senses—the smell of cut grass and the sound of the lawnmower, the heat of an August day, the pattern of green leaves against blue sky, the feel of running barefoot and the comfort of new sneakers, the dark earthy aroma of a ravine, the taste of Grandmother’s abundant meals, and on and on… Add the excitement of learning you’re alive and the sadness of the loss of friends and relatives, plus so much more to wrap your mind and feelings around. Bradbury’s elegant prose makes me feel young and alive.

I pulled this book off a back shelf recently to re-read for the fourth or fifth time—the first time I read it as a teen sixty-something years ago. It’s one of very few books I like to re-read. It’s filled with life and death, inquiry and imagination, the delights and sorrows of youth. But what sticks with me over the years is the JOY of being alive.

Lisa Gardner — Before She Disappeared

I’m a fan of Lisa Gardner, and Before She Disappeared is another well-written, character-driven mystery. I wouldn’t call it a thriller as advertised. Also, it’s called a “stand alone” novel, but my instincts tell me we will see more of protagonist Frankie Elkin.

Frankie is a white, middle-aged, recovering alcoholic, skinny wisp of a woman, who inserts herself into a Haitian neighborhood in Boston to find a missing teen girl. She stands out like a spot of bleach on dark cloth. She travels around working as a bartender, but her purpose in life is finding missing persons. She has found fourteen people but all after they died. Her passion is to bring one home alive.

Gardner defines her characters in detail and gives us insights to even minor players. I found Frankie courageous, tenacious, sometimes very likeable, sometimes totally irritating. Others in the story—Frankie’s boss, her Boston police connection, her AA friend, the missing girl’s family, the villains, and more—were all interesting personalities. Even the feral cat, Frankie’s roommate, has a personality and brings a touch of humor to a dark story.

The plot held my interest with twists and turns, but was somewhat slow in the beginning. Having lived in and around Boston most of my adult life, I loved the setting even though I’m not that familiar with Mattapan. Even though the neighborhood in the book is poor and sometimes violent, Gardner builds a feeling of community togetherness.

A very good story. Only my irritation with Frankie’s reckless actions and her obsessions with her past kept me from giving it five stars.

V.E. Schwab — The Invisible Life of Addie Larue

“Ideas are wilder than memories.”

Ideas—art, creativity, invention—can breed and grow and outlast memories and lives. Addie Larue makes a deal with Luc (short for Lucifer) and trades her soul for freedom. In 1714 she fights against forced marriage, against a life spent in her village as wife and mother tied to the will of others. She wants to see and experience the world. But in exchange for freedom she not only promises Luc her soul when she becomes tired of life, she’s cursed with not being able to leave a mark or to be remembered. She can’t speak her name. If she takes pen to paper, the mark disappears; if she builds a pile of stones, the stones move back from where she took them; when people leave a room and return, they don’t remember her. She is immortal, does not injure or become ill, remains forever young. But through the years she learns to implant ideas, and the idea of her lives on through music and art.

The story timeline jumps between NYC in 2014 and Addie’s past. She is a bright light experiencing joy and pain, discovery and loss, beauty and horror. The only consistent individual in her life is Luc, until 2014, when she meets Henry who remembers her and her name.

I’m not usually a fan of fantasy. Monsters and magic don’t intrigue me. But this is a book about the meaning of life. There are interesting characters, history, romance, mystery… I found it fascinating. I recommend it to all, fantasy lovers or not.

Rebecca Serle — In Five Years

I’ve read some reviews by people who are disappointed that this is not a “love story.” But it is a different kind of love story, not a romance novel, not sexual love, but the story of the love between two very different women who are lifelong friends. Dannie, a lawyer, is organization personified, planning every moment of her life in advance. Bella, an artist, is a free spirit, living and enjoying life as it happens.

The plot is unique (at least to me). Dannie has a realistic dream, a premonition, where she wakes up five years into her future in a different apartment with a different boyfriend—a different life. She spends the next five years determined to make her planned future happen, not the one in her dream. The story ends with a twist, which I like.

This novel is full of love, laughter, anger, heartbreak, and tears.

Walter Mosley — Blood Grove

Mosley is a descriptive writer—settings, characters, actions—all are vividly detailed. You can see them in your mind’s eye. His characters are never one-dimensional. He digs deep and finds good and bad in heroes and villains alike. He describes LA of 1969 so well that you feel as if you’re living there.

In this story, Easy Rawlins is almost accidentally drawn into uncovering a complex plot of theft and murder when he sets out to find a missing girl for a PTSD veteran. Even after the young vet is murdered, Rawlins can’t let it go. He wants to finish the job, and if he doesn’t untangle the mystery, he could end up dead like his client.

The only thing that kept the novel from being five stars for me was too many characters to follow, even though each one felt distinctive.