Category Archives: Reading and reviews

Review: Desolation Mountain

Cork O’Connor and his family are back in Desolation Mountain, the newest release in the series by William Kent Kreuger. A plane carrying a senator and her family goes down in Tamarack County. Cork and son Stephen – who has had the same, recurring vision about an eagle being shot out of the sky by a young boy and an egg falling from it – end up at the crash scene. Various locals, including two tribe members who were the first to report seeing the plane go down, and Sheriff Marsha Dross and her people are at scene, but told to either go home (in the case of the locals) or back to their station (in the case of the local law enforcement). The official government entities, spooky quasi-government entities, and a private investigator known to Cork but with a hidden agenda are all present. Then the locals who were at the scene start vanishing and Cork realizes there’s more afoot than meets the eye. He, Stephen, his son-in-law Daniel, and some other men start their own investigation, racing to find the truth and the abducted locals.

I’ve noticed of late that a number of the books I’ve read seem to be written with an eye toward the big screen. I don’t know if it’s just me or that really is the case, but this seemed to be yet another one, in my eyes. A convoluted story, a bunch of characters, spooky military people: it could easily be adapted for the screen.

At stake in the book is the reopening of an iron mine in the area, with half the locals against it for the obvious environmental reasons, and the other half in favor for the obvious economic reasons. It’s clear that Very Big Interests want it opened, and that’s probably why the plane was shot down.

But none of it makes sense – except Stephen’s recurring vision, which he relates to Henry, the Ojibwe midi who is his mentor. I’m going to put the next part in spoilers.

 

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS…

 

The vision opened the book, and as soon as the plane went down, I connected the dots. It wasn’t particularly difficult to understand the egg was the flight recorder and the boy an actual boy who witnessed it. It was, as usual, nice to watch Cork & Co. run around, putting everything together, getting into run-ins with the military people, etc., but it wasn’t as an immersive experience as previous books have been.

It also strains credulity to think the media, both domestic and foreign, whouldn’t have been all over this event. But in the book, you’d think they barely existed: they weren’t crawling all over the mountains, they weren’t camped out in a situation room set up by the local SO or FBI or NTSB. Nothing. In addition, the cheesy, mean, mission-centered military guy and his equally rigid and seemingly psychopathic bitch of a second in command were just over the top.

And that bitch brings up another issue I’ve also been noticing more lately: in books like this, or Steve Hamilton’s Dead Man Running, the women are not characters in the same sense that Cork (in this instance) is: they exist to be ball-breaking parodies of their tough guy male counterparts, or victims of crimes, or to hang around and do things like cook meals or take care of people, or as a means to give information so the author doesn’t have to info dump. This book has them all. It doesn’t bother me in the sense of “I’ll never read another book by this author” way, but it does bug me. And there was no mention at all (not that I recall) of Cork’s other daughter. Not even a call after seeing the news?

I’ve been wondering when Kreuger was going to kill off Henry, and I suppose the ending of this book means that will be coming sooner rather than later. That’s too bad, as he’s become such an essential part of these stories that I’m not certain they can be as good as they are without him in them as a grounding point.

 

END OF SPOILERS…

Overall, if you’ve read to #16, you’ll read this on at #17 – it’s almost an inevitability if you’re anything like me. Perhaps you’ll like it more than I did, and I hope you do.

Moderately recommended.

Review: Dead Man Running

I’m going to be in the minority here, but I really did not enjoy this book.

It is a bit of a departure for Alex McKnight, heading out of Paradise, MN because a serial killer wants to talk to him – a serial killer unknown to him either by sight or name. Martin Livermore promises to lead the FBI and local authorities to proof of his crimes, but only if Alex McKnight is there. Once there, it’s clear that while Alex does not know Livermore, Livermore knows plenty about him, from his minor league baseball days to his work as a Detroit cop and the incident that caused him to leave the force and return to Paradise.

OK, that’s fine – sometimes you have to go along with the premise to get into the story. Sometimes it pays off. This time, however, it did not.

Probably spoilers ahead, so….

HERE BE SPOILERS

That investigators get in deep with criminals of all sorts is not a newsflash. But this one simply became more and more unbelievable as the book went along. There are also some of the usual cliches/tropes, which we’ll get into.

Livermore leads various law enforcement personnel (and Alex) into the desert in Arizona, and subsequently through what amounts to a small canyon. Alex has his doubts about the whole thing, but of course, the FBI guys say they have to go through with it, even if they are still suspicious that Alex knows something about Livermore when he says he doesn’t.

The team gets shredded by armaments Livermore has embedded into the wall of the small passageway/canyon thing. But not Alex. Just before everything fires, he’s taken to the ground by one of the FBI agents because Livermore stops, turns around, and looks at him. Said look apparently is enough for the suspicious FBI agent, who effectively saves his life, taking him out of the line of fire, while getting killed himself.

We then go on to hit all the usual tropes: Alex goes to the scenes of the various killings, picks up on and interprets the supersmart killer’s codes or symbols, supersmart killer playing not just the long game, but the looooong game, having picked out Alex as his ultimate target years ago because of something that happened decades ago, bringing back Alex’s ex-wife into the picture to act as bait, etc.

Speaking of the ex-wife, the whole book is devoid of women except as victims in the main story. They are either already dead, killed while the supersmart killer plants clues for Alex to follow so Alex ends up either tripping a napalm(!) trap that kills one woman or sleeping in a room below where supersmart killer has merrily drilled through the floor above Alex’s hotel room so he gets covered in the woman’s blood as supersmart killer tortures and kills her, or a current victim (the ex-wife).

From the outset, it was difficult to put aside disbelief. As each woman dies, or after Alex stumbles across another clue, it got harder and harder.

Alex is also not himself in this book, compared to all the previous ones. In this one, he’s laser -focused on tracking down the killer. That’s fine, and would be completely believable if he wasn’t such a bumbler without a lick of sense at times, which is how he is in all the previous books. He does get shot at and injured a couple of times here, so at least that is somewhat in tune with the previous books, but that isn’t enough. Here, Alex is dour, and apparently able to grasp the psyche of a serial killer he’s never met and knows nothing about, unlike the FBI, who can’t seem to figure things out if he isn’t there.

The end: let’s talk about that. I know people get obsessed by things or people. But getting obsessed with a person you met, once, decades ago, barely spoke to? That’s the connection between Livermore and Alex: he’s pissed off because Alex married Jeannie, claiming Alex “stole” her because she wasn’t immediately enamored by Livermore when he spoke a few words to her when they were thirteen and she was sitting on the dock at her grandparent’s house. That’s is – that’s the “twist”, such as it is.

Livermore abducts Jeannie, ties her up n an elaborate fashion. Alex shows up, and instead of taking appropriate precautions, knowing what he’s dealing with, just walks right into the Livermore house. He gets knocked out and then handcuffed to a sink via the plumbing under it. Livermore, of course, plans all sorts of tortuous things for Jeannine when she doesn’t act the way he wants. Conveniently, he leaves Alex handcuffed to the sink and takes her down to the basement, where he stores the bodies and bones of his victims.

Naturally, Alex manages to get loose, stumbles down to the basement, and thanks to help from Jeannie, who manages, somehow, to stab Livermore in the back just as he’s about to kill Alex, strangles Livermore with the handcuff chain as he turns to Jeannine, the knife sticking out of his back.

END SPOILERS

And that’s it. That’s the end. Alex goes back to Paradise, fields a call or two from Jeannie. I suppose this means she’ll be popping up in another book. If she does, her fate will probably not be a good one.

This book had none of the humor of the previous books in this series. It started dark and got darker, and the usual characters only make an appearance in the beginning and at the end. We’re left with a completely different Alex hauling himself around chasing a serial killer who is, of course, smarter than anyone else, ever, and leaves no forensics except those he intends to leave.

Not recommended, unless you always read every book in a series.

Review: Bad Blood

I’ve been a user of GoodReads in a half-assed kind of way of the last several years. I read – a LOT – and sometimes it just felt like a bother to put the books in so they could be rated.

That was before Amazon bought the company.

Now that they have a handle tool to connect to your Amazon account to pull in all the books you have purchased, unless you get a book via another means, rating something you’ve read via a purchase or Kindle Unlimited is much, much easier.

Not so easy was getting my Amazon account linked with the primary GR profile I had set up. Because over the years I would forget that I had set one up, I’d create another. In the end, I wound up with three GR profiles, and none of them would connect to my Amazon account.

But thanks to the efforts of Sofia C. in their support department, I was able to get my accounts merged AND get Amazon linked to the one profile I now had. Sweet!

Of course, this comes with another round of rating things, and I realized when looking at the list of purchases (or Kindle Unlimited reads), that it was going to take awhile to do the ratings, for two reasons: one, because there are just so many of them. Two, because the details of the ones I’ve read relatively long ago have faded a bit from the brain.

I’d like to do reviews, but that takes being organized enough to put my thoughts down in a coherent way that the review would be worthwhile, and there would be quite a number of them to write. I may do it, maybe not, but I figured I would go ahead and a drop a review here of Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (not an affiliate link) by  John Carreyrou.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a sucker for a well-written business book, especially if the book is about an implosion at a company. For instance, I have read many books about the collapse of Enron, and books about the failures of Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns during the housing bubble crash, and about the failure of AIG, something thought impossible.

In Bad Blood, Carreyrou, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal takes a look at Theranos, the management team of which promised to be revolutionizing the way blood tests were drawn and processed, via their proprietary system of sliding pipettes of miniscule amounts of blood – gathered from a fingertip lancet – which were then put in a cartridge and then slid into a box for processing by the machinery in that box.

Carreyrou does a terrific job of using firsthand accounts from people inside and out (mainly out) of Theranos and describes the rather toxic environment it must have been to work there: paranoia, suspicions, blatant lies from management, and probably a dash of psycopathy thrown in. Remember: these devices were supposed to work to give people information about their health. As the book makes abundantly clear, and as people who had been at Theranos make clear, the boxes didn’t work, and never had worked to do all the tests the founder and CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, told everyone who would listen that they would. Toward the end of the book, he switches over to first person, describing how he put the pieces of the story together for his article.

It is a bit difficult at times to keep up with all the people introduced in the book, but don’t let that deter you if you’re interested in reading accounts of businesses torpedoing themselves because of their vaporware.

Overall, I would give it five out of five stars.

If you’re not interested in business-related books, I hope you are reading something.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

When editors retire

And can’t quite leave their job behind. At least that’s what I’m assuming based on the pages of David Drake’s Servant of the Dragon paperback that mom and the younger bro brought back when they went to drop stuff off at the thrift store as we declutter some things around the homestead.

Now, I will not be reading this book; I’ve read some of Drake’s military SF in the past – the Hammer’s Slammers series, if you know of them – but I couldn’t get into others, for whatever reason.

So why am I talking about this book?

This is why.

The entire book is marked up this way, with pointers to pages where the current POV (point of view) character’s tale picks up again, to underlines of “like”, to the “red” markings for past tense verbs.  From time to time, I’d find a notation of “M=x” at the top of a page. It wasn’t until I happened on the third one that I realized the Nameless Editor was counting the number of times Drake used the word “mumurred”. It just so happens that this word also counts as a “red”, ending as it does in “red”. The Nameless Editor also found instances of “red” backwards – appearing as “der” in a word – and alliterative sentences

the marking for one of which looked like something from The Lord of the Rings:

Nameless Editor also picked up continuity errors:

Nameless Editor also noted repeated word use on a single page. Fittingly, this one tied into the “red” obsession, being another color.

He – I’m assuming Nameless Editor is a he – made notes of other repeated usage, like a character’s quarterstaff being “seven feet long” and another “tall thing” being seven feet tall:

He also inserted some commentary about where young, giggling girls should be put in relation to the book.

I’ll comment here and note that page 613 isn’t a page: it’s the inside of the back cover. Nameless Editor has a sense of humor.

After going through the entire book, Nameless Editor had this to say:

I’m not wading through the verify that count, but based on the number of pages that have been marked in some fashion, I’m guessing it’s pretty accurate.

I have no idea who Nameless Editor is, but he surely amused me by doing this.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

How to spend a holiday

Here’s the first day of my “holiday weekend”. For those of you outside the US, today is Memorial Day here. Some years ago, it would signal the official beginning of summer for us here, and we’d have a giant party and feed  a bunch of people. The kids (and some of the adults) would go swimming and everyone else would just be visiting with one another. That hasn’t happened in years now because we had a falling out with one group of relatives, and of course I’ve been sick on and off for over two years.

But here’s my day.

0730 Up, take care of the dogs, check their food and water, check the weather

0800 Breakfast and work

0915 Out to gather grass clippings from the beeyard and septic mound to add to my new compost pile

0945 Break for hydration and “work” work

1015 Out to sow the second round of green bean seed

1040 Break for hydration and work

1045 Weeding

1310 Break for lunch and work

1520 Wake up from falling asleep in my chair

1540 Feed bees and do inspections

1800 Bring in empty bottles and pulled hive bodies, put away tractor, detach wagon, close up shed, make shake with skyr added, meds

1815 Sit down at desk for feeding and work, empty camera memory card to computer

1825 Actually start feeding after playing with the dogs

1838 ACTUALLY start feeding after taking pictures and video of the dogs

1840 Realize just how much my back hurts now that I’m sitting down

1930 Back outside to bag weeds I turned up earlier today, before Alberto pays us a visit

2100 Back inside, treats for the dogs, refill their food and water

2110 Back to the beeyard to close the hive where I left the top propped open a bit, so there’s no chance of getting rain in there

2120 Make a shake, mix my meds, and taking care of business

2221 Power goes out, right when I’m making a response to a ticket, and Alberto hasn’t even arrived yet. Read on my amazon fire to wait it out

2249 Power comes back. Start the tedious task of booting up my system and then getting all my apps started once more, my screen layout in place, and get back to work

At some point doze off in my chair again

2340 Wake up, get some formula and some kefir, set up for another feed, do some more work

Doze off here and there

0130 Have an itching episode on the left side of my neck. Desperately try to scratch an itch that can’t be scratched; down a slug of benadryl before I wind up drawing blood.

0200 Bed

In other news, Alberto may be paying us a visit. Not in person, but from some of his hangers-on, the outer bands and what moisture he draws up from south of his center.

What a mess

We’re going to get some of it tomorrow, and possibly Monday, as well.

This is why I needed to take care of things I took care of today. Wandering around not doing anything in particular is a recipe for disaster here: you have to focus on what needs to be done (a TON of stuff) and how to prioritize it (take care of the bees before anything). And that’s how it went. It was a VERY productive day at the ranch. Tiring, but worth it.

I have a mound of horse poop (courtesy of a neighbor) in the southeastern area of the property that is heating and composting itself, but I wanted something nearer to the front (north) area gardens, so I started a compost pile there as well. It started off with kitchen scraps, paper, some leaves, downed branches I broke down. But now, it also has the grass clipping I mentioned up above, to get a better mix of green/brown material. This is how it looked after that work yesterday.

How the weeded row where the shelling peas and lettuces were, after getting through another weeding session – I literally worked until dark today, which was almost 9 PM.

How it looked in the dark after I had to stop because it was getting too hard to see,  so I had to head in.

Another long, busy day in the books. Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

 

Lazy Sunday

It rained.

Not enough to create any major issues or flood any part of the property. Enough to give all the plants what they need. And just enough to make it a pain in the ass to do anything in the gardens. There are many things that need to be done – as there always are – but Mother Nature was apparently sending me a message. Got it.

Since the outside world could wait until tomorrow – where would it go, really? – I spent the day doing work work and reading. I read two today: another in the Cork O’Connor series by William Kent Krueger, and the first of another series by Inger Wolf, a Danish author.

Those of you who read the olde blogge know that I had also been reading the Alex McKnight books by Steve Hamilton as well, switching between those and the Cork O’Connor books. I finished the last (for right now) of the McKnight series last night. He has another coming out in a few months. Overall, I’d say the books are worth reading, although there are some uneven notes in the series – that is, some strain credulity a bit too far. One of the books was just silly and not very good, but I did finish it, as I finished all the rest. On average, on a scale of five, I’d rate the series at about a 3.5. The McKnight character is just sometimes a little too stupid for someone who was previously a cop (in Detroit) for eight years. The supporting characters and the setting are all well drawn, and except for the really unbelievable plot in one of the books, are generally grounded and not complete idiots.

The Cork O’Connor books are good, with several I’d give a five star rating. There are a few instances where the stories get iffy, but on the whole, Cork isn’t an idiot blundering his way through whatever circumstances the stories contain. The next one on my Fire is number eleven, Northwest Angle, and based on the description hearkens back to events in a previous book. As I’ve not yet started it, I don’t know that for certain, but if it is, it should be interesting.

The other book I read today is Dark September by Inger Wolf. The start is good: a dead woman, in the woods, naked and spreadeagled, with a bouquet of hemlock on her chest. The main character is Daniel Trokic(s) (TRO-kitch), a Croatian-Danish homicide investigator. The description on Amazon gives an s to his last name, but in the book, there isn’t one. The formatting for the ebook is good except for transitions. There are many where the first sentence of a new paragraph is jammed up against the last line of the previous one, and there is no indentation. This made some sections of the book confusing. None of the characters are really fully formed, in my opinion, and the Lisa character – joining homicide after working in cybercrime (pedophiles, child sexual abuse) – seems a tad hysterical toward the end. There is also a good dose of saidisms at the end, with “shouted”, “spat”, etc. Tip for authors: if you put an exclamation point at the end of something, that’s a pretty good indicator that the character is shouting. You don’t have to tell us, and you especially don’t need to have them say something else and tag that with another saidism (like spat).

The story itself is not very engaging. It read like someone was talking it out – that is, reading it was like listening to someone saying, “This happened, then this happened, then that…” and so on. The author also tosses music group names into the mix, but does not describe some of them, so it is not apparent what kind of music Trokic actually likes unless you know those groups or feel like looking them up. The ending was rather abrupt, and (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER) there is no way the main character would be out, working, with what would probably be a grade four concussion, after getting banged in the head badly enough to need stitches. He also tends to be the cliched one man show kind of guy, going off to do things without informing his team about what he’s doing or where he’s going. He also tends to turn off his cell phone, which is just not believable for someone in charge of a team investigating not one, not two, but three murders. Although the series is tagged with Trokic’s name, I’d say only about half of the chapters are following him around. The others have Lisa as the main viewpoint character.

On a scale of five, I’d give this one a two. My default rating when I’m doing reviews is a one, just for writing the thing. If the writing isn’t truly atrocious, I’ll give another. If the story holds together enough, that garners a higher rating. This one book, I’ll rate at a 2.5. The story is there, and it does pin together somewhat even when people are doing stupid things. The next book in the series (for English markets, I believe) is Frost and Ashes. I say this because the description of the book says it’s book three, but the title and tag say two. Whatever the case, the three books that are available in the series from Amazon are on Kindle Unlimited, so the only investment I’ll be making is the time to read them. We shall see if book two holds together enough to go to book three.

For now, though, it’s back to Cork. Until next time, peeps: be well.

Reading

I’m sure people already know this, but I’m a voracious reader, and always have been. Throughout high school and even after graduation, I was deep into science fiction and fantasy even more. For a time after high school, I thought I would write fantasy. I had ideas for stories to tell in the worlds I’d created. I started a few, but never finished, and gradually drifted away from that realm and into mysteries.

We had a bunch of Agatha Christie’s work in the house when I grew up, John B. McDonald, Robert Ludlum, Robin Cook, etc. – the spectrum of the mystery/thriller genre. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized those were the kinds of books I really wanted to write: puzzles. I love puzzles and always have, and ruminating on things now, I realize that every piece of literature really is a mystery at heart.

Will the lovers in that romance novel finally be together at the end? Or will they meet some tragic ending, like Romeo and Juliet in their play? Will the crime be solved? Or will it go cold, waiting for the right person to pick up the case? Will the main character in that literary novel find the thing they are seeking, whether it is a lost relative or a greater understanding of themselves or the world at large?

I’ve read two books in two days, both with series characters, and both the first book in their respective series. I do like to find series, because you (usually) get to see the evolution of the characters over time. The first series is by Steve Hamilton, and features Alex McKnight. The second is from  William Kent Kreuger and features Cork O’Connor. Both series are set in the upper Midwest. I’d say I recommend both, and although both had first novels in the series that were good, I like to hold on to recommendations just in case things go horribly awry deeper in, frustrating me for having to go find another character to read about. And of course, it reminds me that anyone can write and get through the process.

Now – over a span of decades “now” –  my head is filled with ideas for mystery/thriller novels, featuring various characters. I struggle with writing their stories, the little niggling self doubt creeping in, trying to convince me I am not now and never will be a good writer, thanks a douchebag from my younger past. I tell myself his voice is not one I should listen to, because my adult self sees the egotism, insecurity, and manipulation are his failings, not mine. It’s difficult to shut out that voice, but I am resolved to kick that asshole to the curb and write the things I know I can, and that people want to read (as I’ve had people tell me they want the rest when I give them samples). I can do this. And I can say to others who have gone through similar experiences: WE can do this. it is possible. And what could be more satisfying than showing the ghosts from our pasts that we did what they said we could not?

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Best laid plans

The actual quote behind “best laid plans” is from Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, in his poem “To a Mouse: On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough“, written in 1785:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
          For promis’d joy!
This comes toward the end of the poem. Of course the phrase has morphed over the years, and by now all one has to say is “Best laid plans…” in order to allow others to understand that something has gone awry.
Coincidentally, and probably not of interest to anyone but me,  but John Steinbeck took the title of his book “Of Mice and Men” from that very same poem.
I wasn’t sure where I was going with this – it’s been several hours since I began this post before getting bogged down in work, but I think it’s going to be a twofer: one, writing progress. Two, dealing with assholes.
The first bit should probably be called lack of progress. I should have known better than to even attempt to believe Tuesday would cut us a break and not be insane, as they normally are. So yesterday, no writing, to bed at about 4AM this morning. Back up at 8:30 as my sister and the Soul Eating Baby came over, and of course, work work work. It’s pretty quiet now, so I’m going to get some writing in after I post this. “Why not do it before you post this?” you may ask.
Eating. Plus, getting warmed up before writing. (Note: this has not worked, as that very sentence was left hanging while dealing with someone’s DNS issue.) Summary: no writing yesterday, no writing today. It’s quite annoying.
Second bit: assholes who don’t pay their bills for five months beginning late LAST year, and who were termed early THIS year, having the audacity to show up a year later whining about their stuff, claiming that they were thisclose, on the cusp, on the edge, almost about to write a no doubt best-selling book and need that one domain for it, and why is that no longer theirs and what have I been paying you for.
You know what that gets you? A timeout. Also a bullshit notice, internally, because look, if you’re serious about your stuff and you have been around for years, and you’ve been billed the same way, at the same time, every month for years, it might occur to you to wonder a bit about how it’s odd that no charges from us have appeared. Or that the site was suspended. Or that the domain wasn’t working. Or, you know, you might show up a lot sooner than a whole YEAR LATER, asking what the issue is. That is, if it was actually important, and not some magically coincidental lie. Because we’ve read THAT book before. And it blows.
So there you have it. Another day in paradise. Until the next day in paradise, peeps: be well.

Random

I just saw an ad for the Winter Olympics.  I suppose that makes sense since the opening is exactly three months from now.

There are few things that bother me more than ungrateful people, and that means to anyone. If someone helps you with something, a simple “thanks” will do loads to improve their day. If everyone was a tad more free with expressing their gratitude for something – anything – the world would be a better place. Even if it starts with just a small corner of it. It’s why I always thank the people at Publix for whatever they’ve done, and mean it. Mindlessly blurting out anything from “thanks” to “have a nice day” to “thank you for your service”  doesn’t mean anything. It may just be because I’m a writer that I think these words and the way they are given to others should matter just as much as anything else people think are important. Or I may just be cranky. Who knows?

I’m not feeling particularly insightful or profound right now, thanks to the latest bout of pneumonia I’ve managed to get, and I did think this was going to be very random (like the fact that the Seahawks are wearing neon green uniforms that make them look a lot like the Oregon college team and their ever-changing, eye-popping unis).

 

Walmart will never convince me that they have some cheerful, personal shopper for you who will go gather All The Things, bag them up, and take them to your car. Or that they’ll have a bunch of xmas-festooned clerks keeping an eye on the lines and opening a new checkout when the lines are starting to snake back into the store. And I wish they would stop using music I like in their ads.

A cool front is making its way to us. The winds are swirling around on the front and back porches, giving a deep voice to the wind chimes as they move with the wind, bumping into one another.  Even when the wind has let up, their tones continue until the last vibrations of the chimes have run their course.

I’m always casting about to find new things to read, especially mysteries and more especially mysteries with series characters. This means that I read a lot of blurbs and reviews on Amazon during my hunt, and sometimes the things they suggest are not strictly mysteries, but more like thrillers. I’m not averse to reading those, and today while searching I found an author with more than a dozen books in three series, featuring the usual thriller-type main character: ex special forces or spy, very nearly indestructible, who prefers to work alone, usually pissed off at their previous employer and betrayed by their fellow agents or their employer, or both. Reading through the material on them, I found three that were pretty much the plots of movies – ex spy gets insulted or otherwise chewed out by a dumbass sheriff in a small town, takes to the mountains and has to be hunted down (Rambo). Or, ex spy finds a young boy who has witnessed a murder, sees the crooked cop in a picture as the ex spy is about to go to the police, and the ex spy takes the kid and hides out in a nearby community that prefers their own company to the world at large (Witness). Or, ex spy is pregnant, betrayed by her team and her handler, gets left for dead, recovers, vows revenge, heads off to Hong Kong, and starts taking out the other members of the team, and even uses a samurai sword at one point. Did I mention she has lung cancer, a year to live, does all the murderous rampage, is actually named Beatrix, and finds her kid? (Kill Bill). I know that there is nothing terribly new or original under the sun and writers are basically rewriting all the stories all the time, but when a lot of the scenes in the books are exact replicas of scenes in the movies, that’s a bit too close.

And I guess I’ll wrap up with this. I hear some nyquil calling my name. Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

The big C and its effect on the human body

Well, rancherinos, it’s been another glorious week of remembering the always-there aftereffects of a couple of bouts of cancer and the attending treatment (namely, chemo and radiation) that churn up in the wake of that horrible ship that passes through your life.

This past week – technically, last weekend, I suppose – I started feeling a bit “off” and then got a horrid, watery cough, and then started coughing up some crap out of my face and we decided it was xray time. My back to school gift was apparently a raging case of pneumonia. Everybody else got pencil boxes (does anyone remember those?) and I got this. Rip off.

Still, I saw my doctor, I got an xray, and I got my antibiotics without spending a dime: thanks to February’s adventure, I blasted through my out of pocket limit before this year really got rolling, and that’s a good thing, since this is the third serious bout of pneumo, two of which involved hospital stays.

What have I been up to? Beyond hauling myself out to feed the bees and working, not much. I have definitely been doing nothing to clean up the gardens, which are desperate to be cleaned, because one, it’s way too hot here right now, two, my energy reserves just are not back to where they need to be, and three, did I mention it’s fucking hot? It is. I’ve also not been writing much even though the attitude is there to do it – fighting off things that make you cough almost uncontrollably every ten minutes, which then take you another five to recover from are not really conducive to that. It’s made worse by coughing fits that threaten to swell the throat, and with someone with an already limited opening, can cause a tinge of panic that there’s going to have to be a 911 call in there somewhere. Fortunately, I’ve been concentrating on staying calm after the fit passes and letting things get back to as normal as they can be.

On the plus side, I’ve been reading more books this year, and just finished one that made so little sense, plot-wise, and took away from a series character everything that made him what he is right up to that book, that I almost didn’t finish it. But I did because I am apparently a glutton for punishment. I’m now back to the Lucas Davenport series by John Sandford (currently reading #11), which I left off late last year because it was time for a break from that series. I’m having a hard time finding another series to have on my list that I would like to read – the ultra-jingoistic right wing nutjob novels are not my thing, and some series I found intriguing only have a couple of books in them, which I could read in a day – I read incredibly quickly, which is why libraries were always my thing when I was young and why Kindle Unlimited is fantastic for me now: I can read quite a number of books without bankrupting myself.

The downside to Kindle Unlimited is while there are tons of bad self-published books out there in general, KU is absolutely a giant mountain of them. This is not a ding against self-publishing. It’s where I’ll be starting at first because I don’t want to wait out the usual timeframe it takes to find an agent, and then for that agent to find a publisher, and then for that publisher to get the goods out the door. Do I want some traditionally-published work at some point? Sure, why not. They have budgets and editors and cover designers and PR people that I do not. But if I can show an agent/a publisher that I have a track record and a platform (I hate that fucking term, let me tell you), I think that would help in getting to the traditional route.

College football started today, in the same way restaurants have soft openings: a handful of games, spread throughout the day, not a whole lot of gotta-see games, although OR State versus CO State turned from a neck and neck game into an obliteration by COST thanks to turnovers by ORST.  Later tonight: Stanford (ranked team) versus Rice, from Australia.

And lastly, the weight thing: I’ve been trying to put on some weight in order to improve my overall quality of life and increase my “reserve” (as the medical people say) and to get the feeding tube removed, and have been pounding that as much as I can. I’m now hovering around 100 pounds, something I consider not too bad, considering that I left the hospital back in February at 92 pounds.

Today? Raining, off and on, making it a lousy day to get things done outside even if I were able to do it. Nope, hanging out, doing work stuff, reading in the breaks, and right now getting a shake and coffee down the hole in my face to keep those intake calories going.

So there we have it, folks. Battles being fought between the evil forces of infection who want to kill me and the white hat of modern pharmacology. Seems to me the good guys are once again winning this round.

Until next time, peeps: be well.