Category Archives: Reading and reviews

Before She Was Helen – review

Solid four stars out of five. Warning: there is discussion of rape and a serial rapist, although not graphic.

Clemmie – or, as her neighbors know her, Helen – lives in a sleepy, sort-of retirement community called Sun City. Her next door neighbor Dom texts her every morning to let her know he’s ok. Except today: no text.

Clemmie has a key to Dom’s place – in case of emergency, and something her friends and neighbors do not know. She heads next door into Dom’s place, calling out for him. She doesn’t find him, but she does find a door in the garage that leads to the other attached villa, presumably owned by neighbors who are rarely seen.

Telling herself that she’s just checking for Dom, she enters the third (very empty, almost unlived-in) villa and sees a glass dragon sculpture that she thinks is so beautiful that she takes a picture and texts it to her nephew.

So begins Before She Was Helen, a character-driven mystery set in a limited community area.

Her text puts into a motion a grand mystery: the creator of the dragon is hunting for money stolen from him and tracks down Clemmie/Helen, Dom is missing, no one knows much of anything about the ghost neighbors, Clemmie’s friend Joyce is kicking out her boyfriend (who has been taking money from her checking account in bits and pieces), and all the other neighbors join in the fun when a body is found in Dom’s golf cart, in his garage.

There’s another story as well: Clemmie’s life before she became Helen, as the title suggests, in the 50s. It involves Clemmie being stalked and raped repeatedly by a man, her becoming pregnant tanks to her rapist, and giving up the child to an adoptive couple. When she moves from place to place, trying to escape him, he always finds where she is living and shows up. At one point, he rapes her roommate when he turns up but doesn’t find Clemmie. The rapist is later found dead. The case went cold in the past, and in the present, Clemmie’s nephew texts her that the case is being reopened, adding another worry to her pile.

The book moves fairly seamlessly between the present and the past, both eras containing complex mysteries to be solved: in the present, who among Clemmie’s neighbors are involved in drugs/dealing, and who killed the young man found in Dom’s garage? In the past, how did Clemmie finally escape, and who killed the stalker/rapist?

While none of the characters are very deeply presented beyond Clemmie, I still found it an enjoyable read and was wondering how all the pieces would be tied together, or indeed, if they could be. Answer: yes, they could be, and were.

As noted, this is a character-driven novel: there are no big action sequences or gory scenes beyond some blood in a knife fight that involves the artist and one of Clemmie’s neighbors. If you are looking or gunfights and foot (or golf cart) chases, you won’t find that here. But if you’re looking for a good read of how one woman reinvented herself and how she manages to get through the webs small town communities can weave, this is the book for you.

Thanks to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for the advance reading copy.

Into the Fire (Orphan X)

Into the Fire (Orphan X) by Gregg Hurwitz

A fantastic entry to the Orphan X series.

The Nowhere Man – aka Orphan X, aka Evan Smoak -is having a bit of an existential crisis and is on the outs with Mia, the lovely Assistant DA raising a son alone. But he still picks up the phone when Max Merriweather calls him.

Max’s cousin Grant, an apparent crackerjack forensic accountant, has entrusted Max (who is the schlub of the family) with an envelope to be opened if something happens to him.

It does.

The envelope contains spreadsheets that appear to be the workings of a money laundering organization. And it is, to a certain extent, but it’s also much larger than that.

Evan agrees to help Max, telling himself that this is the last mission. And what a mission it is. After chopping off the head of the operation – or so he thinks – Evan is pulled back in when another head pops up. Then another. And another. Each step he takes is in direct conflict with Mia, for reasons I won’t go into for spoilery reasons.

There are tons of dead bodies along the way, tense moments with Mia, and a bait dog saved from a dogfighting ring Evan gives to Joey, hacker extraordinaire and an able partner for Evan on the back end of things. She also presents some comedic moments as Evan gets drawn more deeply into the giant conspiracy and the higher ups bound to it by the steely woman in charge.

While there are some things IT-related that people who work in IT may roll their eyes at, that isn’t really anything new for this series, and the suspension of disbelief isn’t that difficult to do in favor of everything propelling the story forward.

There’s a surprise at the end that is a true surprise, and one I wasn’t expecting. Assuming the Nowhere Man keeps his boots on, and with the parameters set in place toward the end, but before the surprise, the next book (assuming there is one, and I truly hope there is) should be quite interesting.

Thanks to NetGalley and Minotaur Books for the reading copy.

 

Day two of the rest of your life

Far too much football and stuff going on to post yesterday.

But from today forward, I’ll be posting daily – mainly to get in the habit of doing it, and also to vaguely complain about shit. I’m kidding. Sort of.

I’m anticipating the good outweighing the bad, although the first quarter will still be migration city, like living on the LA freeways during rush hour for three months.

There are half a dozen books lined up for me to read and review, so I’m using that as my break time to get my head out of the servers for just a short while. Since I read so quickly, I’ll also need to line up the next six, as I’ll finish this first batch by midweek, even with work being nutty. I love Kindle Unlimited and ARCs (advance reading copies), There’s something to be said for being a voracious reader and being able to put together 500-ish words in a review with a short turnaround time for books coming out in just a few months. I’ll admit I’m amazed at some of the stuff that gets published, though, in the very same way I’m amazed that Lifetime can make the same movies over and over (and over and over) and get rave commentary from its base. Someone very cynical could likely create their own cottage industry on the formula for those movies. i wonder how much they pay…..

That’s it for now. i have someone’s PHP script to check and books to read. Until next time, peeps: be well.

Intentions: 2020

People ask “What are your resolutions for the new year?”

I stopped making resolutions a long time ago, and for a long, long time now, greeting the new year has not been anything like turning a corner. It’s just more of the same, with a new date stamped on the calendar. For the past four years, I’ve either been sick, or getting over being sick, at the turn of the new year.

This year, thanks to losing my voice (primarily) and sense of smell via a total laryngectomy, I am healthy (mostly) heading into the new year. Since I’ve been relatively healthy since the end of April, when I had the Big Op, and now, I’ve had time to think about what I’d like to do in 2020. I say relatively, as I’ve had a couple of instances of what my docs call minor pulmonary infections, and what I call lung snot. Fortunately, modern medicine has graced us with antibiotics for these things.

As some of you know, I had wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo in November, as I had a brand new, quite exciting idea to write, back in early May, after I got out of the hospital with a hole in my neck. I knew most of the story, and over the next couple of weeks, I fleshed it out in my head and was confidant that a few other things I needed for it would come by the time November rolled around.

Then, the end of June came, and with that, one of our largest vendors announced a complete and total change to their licensing. That in turn required us to make a huge decision: to stay with it, or make a change of our own. Those of you who are clients will know this already, but we chose the latter.  This resulted in an equally huge, and quite sudden amount of work necessary on our part to implement the changes we needed to make.

There is an upside to this, as there is with almost everything: it knocked us out of a bit of complacency, and also resulted in other changes we decided to make in order to make things more efficient and to adjust a couple of our business models.

“What does this have to do with anything, Captain?”

A lot. Because it knocked NaNoWriMo out of the water, and except for a few days’ break here and there, we’ve been steadily implementing the changes we decided to make. When there are hundreds of servers involved, and all the work is hands on to do the migrations and replacements, it means everything else is on hold, because almost every waking hour is devoted to getting this finished. It also means 16-18 hour workdays, every day, with the exception of those few breaks.

Another group of the changes has been at the datacenter level, and we’ve been physically working on those as well – the work is physically demanding (the servers weigh 35-40 pounds each, depending on the model), hot, and dirty – kind of like the gardening I do. It’s interesting how this one change from one vendor has resulted in other changes, like ripples from the boulder they dropped in the water.

While we are still getting through the changes, I expect we’ll be finished by the end of the first quarter 2020. I had decided to not do any gardening in 2020, to give myself and the beds a rest, but I realized that I’d at least need to do tabascos (peppers) as the hot sauce I made back in 2016(?) is almost gone, and the plants I put in back in spring of 2019 were gnawed on by deer and didn’t produce much of anything worthwhile.  That led to the realization that we also need cayenne and paprika powders for culinary use, so I need to grow some of those as well, since we’re almost out.

I may toss a couple of cukes in, just for the fam/friends and their salads. And if I’m doing that, I might as well do a few tomatoes (not not over a hundred of them, as I usually do), as well as a couple of other low maintenance items: lettuce, carrots, and so on.

At the end of the day, I do still need to get exercise, and gardening is good for that. I’m just paring it back a bit instead of going full bore out there. So that’s one intention for the new year.

Next up: the bees. I lost colonies in 2019, some because I wasn’t paying attention to them (laryngectomy and recovering) and others for unknown reasons (they had plenty of bees, food, and so forth). I have four in the beeyard. I know two at least will make it through our “winter” with some feeding, and I have four packages coming in the screen. I am changing how they’re set up, though, and will move the two on the wooden stands to sitting on cinder blocks, as the bees on the blocks have done so much better – all the losses we from hives on the wooden stand. My intention for the bees is to better manage them in 2020, since my major health issues are presumably behind me.

Next up: reading. I’ve read 64 books in 2019, and expect to finish another one today for a total of 65 of the 70 I had planned. I want to read more in 2020, and I’ll be setting a goal of 75 for the coming year – nothing crazy, like going from 70 to 100. When people set these types of goals, they can often set themselves up for failure by setting a new goal that is too far above whatever the previous level was. If you’re a couch potato and set a goal of running three marathons in the coming year, that’s probably not going to be realistic. My advice: set something reasonable, and make it concrete. Don’t say you’re going to “lose weight”. Say you’re going to lose 10 pounds in the next 60 days. That’s more reasonable. So, 75 books for 2020.

Next up: food. My intention is to cook for my mom and brother (and one sister who lives nearby, if she wants to come along) more often in 2020. “But Captain,” you say, “didn’t you just tell us to set concrete goals?” I did, thanks for noticing. This one largely depends on my brother’s schedule, though, so it has to be a little fluid. I’m aiming for at least one meal a week for them. That will get me back into the kitchen, where i love to work, and will also feed them, something I also love to do. Everyone wins.

Next up: mind/body. My intent is to continue doing my heavily modified yoga routine. There are things I cannot physically do and never will be able to do, but I can do a lot, and an increase in flexibility and strength is the goal. I’ve also been half-assededly meditating, and that needs to change into an every day thing as well, and that’s my goal: at least five minutes a day, at some point in the day (probably before I finally throw in the towel and go to bed).

Next up: writing. This is the big one. My intention is to write every day, at least two pages a day (to start). This will be difficult, just as it was in 2019, at least for Q1, minimum, since the work that currently pays the bills will still be taking up a huge amount of time. But I’m hopeful by Q2, with a reduced garden load during the season, and a lessened focus need on “work work”, I’ll be able to actually get time in. At this very low rate of writing, I should be able to finish a book at the standard length for my primary genre (mysteries/thrillers), in about four months – doable, and not terribly stressful since there’s enough stress in my life already.

I’m sure there will be other, transitory, things that pop up – life is like that – but These are the things I’m consciously focusing on for the coming year.

That’s all for now. I hope your holidays were grand and the coming year brings you all you want. Until next time, peeps: be well.

Review: Big Magic

Edit: this was supposed to go up yesterday, but clearly I need to focus more and have more coffee before trying that function (and check to make sure it ran).

I finished Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame). Over on GoodReads, I gave it three stars, because as far as self-help/pump-you-up  books, it’s ok. I’m not really a believer in the “the muse touched me”, “the universe talked to me”, “I can’t not write” stuff. Especially the latter, and not because I can’t stand double negatives – but because of course you can not write. It’s called not writing, and billions of people do it (or not, as the case may be).

Gilbert is heavy into the touchy-feely thing about being an artist (of any kind), and is also (strangely to me) apparently a fan of telling people just ho hard pursuing your art can be and how you will never make money and how MFAs suck and are unnecessary, pointing out that there has never been a Pulitzer (or maybe Nobel, this is how much it stuck with me) awarded to a writer who had an MFA. Who cares, was my first thought. My second thought was that while I may not have a use for an MFA myself, some people like that, and why shouldn’t they pursue them?

She also loves to drop (famous person) references and their little chats and so forth. My attitude as I rushed through the last hundred pages that when this came up in the last third, I was literally shouting “DON’T CARE!” at my Fire Tablet.

There’s some rah-rah, you can do this material, but I think if you just watch her first TED talk, you’d get the same “you can do your art!” material in less than twenty minutes.

That’s it, the short and sweet (for a change!) of it for this book.  I’m also reading Red Sparrow, but it is so poorly written I’m having a tough time getting past 5% on it. In the meantime, I’m cleansing my reading palate with Virginia Woolf (Mrs. Dalloway) and Mark Greaney (Mission Critical, a continuation of the Gray Man series).

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Where Angels Fear – book review

Thanks to NetGalley and bookouture for the advance ebook copy for review.

According to the tag, this is book five in a series featuring “Detectives Kane and Alton”. I’ve not read the previous four, but I’ll have a comment on this in a bit.

There’s a serial killer on the loose, picking off targets on a stretch of road with little to no cellphone coverage, and not enough traffic for witnesses to be a factor. As the book opens, the prologue has two young women stopping to see if someone whose car has its flashers on needs an assist, as a blizzard is moving in. But the “stranded” motorist isn’t as stranded as they appear, and attacks the girls. The driver gets a whack with an axe, and the other girl flees into the snow, spending the night out in the freezing cold.When the morning comes, she finds that her friend the driver has vanished.

The book then pops over to Sheriff Jenna Alton suffering from a cold or virus, and Deputy Kane in the same house, caring for her. It is not clear what their relationship is just from that series of scenes; I suppose this is something explained in the books previous to this. This is the point where the first couple of problems I have come in.

First, the tagline calls Kane and Alton “detectives” but their titles are Deputy and Sheriff, respectively. This may seem like a minor point, but I selected this based on them actually being detectives, not people with other titles who happen to investigate crimes detectives would ordinarily look into.these things. The second (again, probably only an issue to me), Alton is higher ranking than Kane, so why is her name not first in the tagline?

On we go into the story, where the next problem crops up: the info dump. Kane is injured and walks with a cane, and w get about a half page of telling us what happened to him. A little further in, we have had about a dozen people introduced since the prologue. Too many!

The story moves on in a rather straightforward and at times tedious manner. There’s a tidbit that pops up that also strains credulity: the Sheriff was apparently an agent who helped bring down a cartel, along with Kane, and was basically sent into witsec. An undercover agent given a job of being a Sheriff, a high-profile job, regardless of how small the area is?

As the story goes along, the bad guy makes an appearance, doing fairly nasty but also a little too work-requiring: does the guy not have an actual job?

I had a lot of trouble getting through this. The characters, while interesting, were not terrible deep. There was also an absolutely annoying habit the author had during the dialogue sections: the characters were always doing something and talking. Nobody ever just said “said” or “replied” or “asked”. They smiled or shrugged or raised an eyebrow or glanced or gaped or rubbed their chin or grimaced or stood or waved their hand or did (something) in consternation, like frowned or knitted their brows, or lifted their chin as an example. In one paragraph, the main character shook her head, sighed, shrugged, and glanced. They can just say something to say it without an associated action. It really took me out of the reading.

We then have another abduction (actually two) and get scenes of what the bad guy is doing to the people he’s taken, and why he’s taking them.Things pick up from here as the chase is on, but then one of the deputies does something that would be very silly, given that we now know the guy he’s talking to has to be a suspect in the kidnappings and murders. The fight scene between the deputy (Rawley) and the bad guy is, I think, the best part of the book.

Overall, the plot is okay, and holds itself together well enough, and the readability is fine, too, if you can get past all the things people do while they’re talking, instead of just talking, and the number of characters dumped in at once at the beginning. However, this did not keep me interested enough to go back and read the previous entries in this series.

Two stars out of five.

A Matter of Will – book review

Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas&Mercer for the electronic advance copy. This book is slated for release this summer.

Before I go in, a side note: this is an uncorrected proof. I’m not sure if whoever edits these titles reads the feedback, but please, for the love of anything you hold holy, correct the instances of “shelf company” to “shell company”. I’ve never read anything else by this author, so have no comparisons to earlier works of his.

Will Matthews is a not-so-successful broker (or “wealth manager”) at a finance company – so unsuccessful that he gets dumped on by his boss on an almost daily basis and worries he will be fired at any moment. Enter Sam and Eve, who he meets at a hockey game. Before he knows what has hit him, Sam is sweeping Will off his feet, taking him to lavish dinners, tuxedo-required parties, and parking tens of millions of dollars with him for investing. He basically buys Will a ten million dollar apartment, and makes him sign off as a director of or participant in various shell companies.

Meanwhile, Gwen is a young attorney added to the team defending a Hollywood star, who has allegedly killed his wife. Will and Gwen meet up via a dating app, have a dinner, and another date. They wind up as a couple – it’s true love for both of them.

There’s no real way to go through the rest without spoilers, so I’ll leave it at: everything is not as it seems, and soon after that, Will and Gwen have to start thinking about their very survival, both professionally and personally.

The good: it’s easy enough to read. The author doesn’t wander off into incomprehensible jargon associated with his own profession (law) when some courtroom/lawyer scenes come up. Will is given a fairly good backstory. There’s some infodumping, given as dialogue instead of a wall of text.

The bad: I’m sorry to say I found it to be a weird mashup of The Firm and Wall Street and When Harry Met Sally. Will is so naive as to be implausible, and apparently it doesn’t sound any alarms to him that some random guy he meets wants to invest a fortune with him. .Even worse, the first 50% of the book is very dull throughout this. Not once does Will question anything, and the first half is just Will and Gwen going about their respective businesses.. It looks like the author couldn’t decide on what kind of book it should be, so included everything, and that swamped the entire book. Also: using the actual John Yoo in this? Not good.

The remainder of the book involves some murders, a bit of cat and mouse, and asks the reader to believe that the kingpin of a gigantic criminal organization would tell even the new nominal leader of it about plans, the evidence being held over their head, or allow that person to remain alive, knowing that person is not all in and is hesitant about roping in another young broker, among other things. We then get swept over once more to the legal bit playing out on Gwen’s side, which does nothing for the story. She, too, winds up appearing to be a tad too naive, and the ending is simply far too convenient, wrapping up all the details.

If this book were by an as yet unpublished author, and they submitted it as it is, that author would remain unpublished. It would be fine as a plane or beach read, but I would not recommend it.

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.