Review: Broken Genius

There’s nothing like a widget that could be used to rule the world to build a book around.

Look, it wasn’t terrible. It just wasn’t very good, not to me. Drew Murray novel features wunderkind Will Parker, formerly the CEO of a tech startup, who goes to work for the FBI after he makes a mistake in one of his programs that leaves a young woman dead.

That’s my kind-of-unbelievable-thing number one. Number two was the Fukishima Unicorn, the previously mentioned widget that could be used to control everything, which has gone missing after the 2011 tsunami that took out most of Fukishima. I suppose if you’re going to go big, you might as well go BIG.

Parker is called in on a case involving a dead guy at a comic convention. Also turning up is Dana Lopez, a detective with the local police department (and who I bet would share a bed with Parker before the book was over). Decker, a buttoned down FBI agent is Parker’s partner on the case. Clues start building, and eventually it’s discovered that the dead man had (at some point) the Unicorn, which technically still belongs to Parker’s old company. But there are other people after it: Russians, a Chinese hacker named Dragoniis, and a couple other mysterious bidders. To up the stakes, the dead man’s daughter is taken hostage, which brings in the requisite “guy who failed previously has a chance at redemption” part of the story.

I won’t go into a lot of detail about how the teams tracks down the bidders and the killer – pretty standard thriller/mystery story there, with some chases and SWAT teams and hunches.

It was ok. I didn’t particularly care for Parker, as i found him a tad too full of himself, and some of his thoughts (repeated “Gross.”, for instance) seemed to be more something a teenager would say, versus a billionaire whiling away time working for the FBI in cybercrimes. I think it also bugged me that this is yet another entry in the field of “million/billionaires working for peanuts in law enforcement and who can also use their own resources/money/companies to push the story forward”.

Overall, it wasn’t unreadable. It sounds like faint praise, but if you’re into tech, as I am, you might want to take all the IT stuff with a giant grain of salt and just enjoy a murder mystery/saving the world thriller that takes place at ComicCom.

2.5 stars out of 5.

Review: A Deathly Silence (DCI Helen Lavery #3)

A cracking good mystery.

A Deathly Silence is book three in a series where I’ve not read books one or two. I rarely do that, because there’s often backstory that either doesn’t make its way into a later book cleanly (i.e., the author does big infodumps) or the later books cannot be read as a standalone (i.e., it’s just a continuation of a cliffhanger in the previous book).

I’m quite happy to say that this can be read as a standalone, and Jane Isaac has a deft hand at including enough information from previous happenings to let us know what went on before and how that shapes the current book.

DCI Helene Lavery, currently on leave to recover from incidents in the previous book, where she was injured and a fellow officer killed, is called back early to work a case. A young woman – and a police officer, at that – is found murdered in an empty factory/warehouse, tortured before a fatal slit of the throat.

Questions abound: why her? Why here? Who had access?

There are a lot of people in this book. If you’re not good at keeping track, it might be helpful to jot a couple of notes here and there. Those include: two boys, playing in the factory, who found the body but didn’t report it. Their mothers – and in the case of one boy, his sister as well, plus their father (who is in prison, and who is named but never appears in the book). A next door neighbor who recently went through cancer treatment and who exchanged a lot of texts with the victim, as well as her husband. The victim’s husband, also a police officer. His ex-girlfriend. The victim’s friend who is possibly more than a friend, and her brother. An ex-con with sadistic, sexually driven tendencies. Plus all the assorted officers in homicide, management, medical examiner and technician, and the crew who monitors the organized crime outfits.

The story is great. There isn’t a lot I can give specifics on, for spoilery reasons, and that’s one of the reasons the story is quite a good read. There is a great combination of action and thinking/conversation, and the clues (bar one that only makes an appearance at the end) are spun out, gathered by the reader as the police work the crime and the associated crimes that arise after it.

The only thing I’d have to nitpick about would be some curious sentence constructions, where a sentence rings a bit oddly because it should have been part of the sentence before it. Instead, it’s a bit of a dangler, completing the thought of the sentence previous to it. But that and the clue at the end are very, very minor things: the former because the thought still comes across, and the latter because we know by that point toward the end (or way earlier, in my case) who the killer is.

Overall: five stars, not a rating I use often.

Now I’m off to get the first two in the series.

Review: The Ninja Daughter (Lily Wong #1)

Warnings: rape, domestic violence

The Ninja Daughter is (apparently) the first in what will be a series from author Tori Eldrigde, about Lily Wong, a badass young woman of Chinese-Norwegian descent. After her younger sister is raped and murdered, she turns into a vigilante, and also works helping abused women (and their children) get away from their abusers and to a shelter.

The book opens with Lily strung up on a hook by a Ukrainian mobster who is trying to get information out of her. It won’t be spoilery to say that she manages to get out of her predicament and manages to kill said mobster in the process. The “ninja” in the title is on full display here. When she makes it back to the shelter, she is stunned to learn that the woman and child she’d rescued from the dead Ukrainian’s boss have returned to the boss’ house.

Afterward, Lily is drawn into the case of Mia, who seems to need protection against a man named J Tran. She isn’t being paid for this: she simply shows up at the courthouse where Mia has lost her case against him, and Mia agrees to have Lily keep an eye on her.

What follows is a romping story as Lily tries to discover just who J Tran is, and why he would be after Mia in the first place. There are payoffs, conspiracies, more Ukrainian mobster, gang bangers, human trafficking, drugs, affairs, a fair bit of humor, a mysterious and dead, but drop-dead (no pun intended) handsome stranger who is also an assassin, and more dead bodies as the story moves along. As far as the story goes, it’s a bit like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels, with a little more gore. While this book was suggested as a thriller, it definitely falls more into the mysrom category, at least for me. The ends tie together in an okay fashion, although the teaming up at the end was a little stretching it for me.

I do love series characters. The only issue with many first books is information. That is to say, at times, authors tend to try to cram too much backstory into the first book, which can slow the pacing of the story in the (book’s) current day. I found that to be the case from time to time in The Ninja Daughter (side note: I think the title would be better as just Ninja Daughter – no “the” necessary, since she’s the only one in this story). We get quite a bit about her father’s parents, her mother’s past, more than a few colloquialisms on the Norwegian side of the family, and so on. While at times these lend an authentic feel to the story, as when Lily is ruminating on the comfort brought on by the quilt her Norwegian grandmother made, there are other times when it goes on a bit long and we have to get wound up for the next part of the adventure. We also get more than a couple reminders that Lily is, in fact, a kuniochi – a ninja – something we know already, from the title and from the previous mentions of the same thing.

That aside, I did like it, and it would be a great beach or plane/train read.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Review: The Fiercest Enemy

Detectives Jack Murphy and Liddell Blanchard are loaned out to the FBI and head out to a rural town to help the local investigate a series of murders, all of which have occurred in March, and all with the same general circumstances.

Possible spoilers here on out.

This is the ninth book in the Jack Murphy series by Rick Reed, himself former law enforcement, but only the first that I have read. I had no issues reading this as a standalone, as there were instances where a bit of information was passed along regarding events in previous books. The author’s knowledge about how police departments work is, of course, good, but I think this book tries far too hard at the buddy cop stuff between Murphy and the much, much larger, former football player turned detective Blanchard, whom Murphy calls Bigfoot. There is a lot of banter between Murphy and Blanchard that is supposed to be humorous but which got old fast, squabbling between the two Chiefs (one male, one female – obviously their fighting means they’re secretly in love with one another) in the neighboring counties Murphy and Blanchard are sent to, and a handful of times where the author seems to think readers won’t understand something, like “G-man” referring to Federal agents.

“Rosie said, “Follow me G-men.” [sic]
Jack smiled at her use of the old moniker for an FBI Agent. ‘G-man’ was underworld slang for anyone working for the government. It meant government man.

There is a passage where one law enforcement characters tells another that they must “have some tall” to get a piece of information, and the author informs the reader that “tall” means pull or influence – why not just say “pull”, then?

At the beginning, we’re told via a couple pages long expositional speech by Angelina Garcia, the computer whiz who can apparently hack into anything, that the murders all occurred in March, as noted above. As an aside here, I can deduce that the writer may be a fan of the TV show Criminal Minds. The computer guru on the show is called Garcia by the agents of the BAU. Her full name is Penelope Garcia. The IT whiz in the book covers the last name, and the female Chief’s daughter is named Penelope.

Another annoyance I have with some writers is when they will have a piece of information be given to the reader in some way (such as in a summary given by the IT whiz), then repeated, and then given again, spelled out for both another character and the reader.

“Five murders in seven years,” Jack mused. “One seven years ago, two more at five years, one at three years, and one that just happened. All in March.”
“March is important to the killer,” Liddell said.
“Something got this guy started killing. Whatever it was must have happened at least seven years ago in March. Most of the serial killers we’ve dealt with needed symbolism. Sometimes they were sending us a message, sometimes they were sending it to other possible victims.”

Writers, don’t treat your readers like they’re stupid.

The plot revolves around two very small PDs and the two on loan agents figuring out the common connection between the victims of what they correctly believe is a serial killing, following the more than ample clues, and nabbing the bad guy(s) in the end. There is a secondary, personal lives story running through, because Murphy and his ex-wife are getting remarried, and Blanchard and his wife are expecting a child.

The number one villain is not really a surprise, although I have to credit the author for not introducing the villain three pages before the end, as I have the misfortune of seeing in some other books. There is one villain that is introduced but whose identity as it relates to the main villains and the deaths does come in just before the end, which is a bit of cheating, as there’s no hint at all that the person is anything or anyone other than how they are introduced earlier.

Overall, it’s a serviceable serial killer novel, with the action taking place in a rural area filled with closed out coal mines.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington for the advance copy.

NOC, NOC

Who’s there?

Har har. I crack myself up, truly.

Another wee hours visit to the NOC to deal with someone’s server, and then again this afternoon to move a couple PDUs and set up a few more servers. This is my life right now: sleep (well, maybe), work work work work work, eat at some point, sleep.

What seem to be the only interruptions are trips  to visit doctors. Two more this month, one of which is back to the neurologist to try botox injections for these terrible headaches/migraines I’ve been having, and for a muscle on the left side of my face that keeps spasming and locking itself down, hard. It’s all very painful, and I hope it works. Certainly my liver would be happier if I wasn’t guzzling (figuratively speaking; it all goes  through the tube) Tylenol and ibuprofen.

The weather here is seriously weird. We’ve had exactly one overnight where we got a freeze, and that just to 30F, although we’ve had two handfuls of days where the highs were only around 60F or so. Now, we’re back in the 80s and the air conditioning keeps coming on now and again – it’s supposed to be in the mid-80s until Friday, an entire week of unseasonably warm temperatures here.

Speaking of temps, I’ve found that thanks to a combination of being sick for years and some of the meds I have to take, when it’s warm outside, I have some issues. I need to get myself acclimated to the heat again, especially because I intend to go back to gardening in 2021.

It appears the Titans went to Baltimore ready to play tonight. It helps that Derrick Henry is a beast and Lamar Jackson is not looking like an MVP tonight.

Just some random thoughts banging around in my head. Now: off to finish all the software installs on the new servers. Until next time, peeps: be well.

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.

A quarter of cleanup

The first quarter of 2020 is going to be a cleanup quarter. We’ve been busting ass for six months making our changes that are a result of our vendor’s changes, and boy, how I would love to be done with this by the end of Q1.

We’re also rearranging things at the NOC; another batch will be done tomorrow, and then this weekend a biggie (even though it only involves one switch). I can hear it now: the plaintive cries of people wondering what happened because they didn’t read any of the announcements we posted ahead of time.

It’s fine. We’re used to it.

Thus far, my primary exercise in the new year has been hauling servers around and taking inventory – necessary but tedious things. But I know the maxim is: do the hard thing first. This is the hard thing right now, and the sooner it’s done, the sooner we can move along back to our usual, quiet support levels, and the other things we (I) want to do.

I keep thinking about the garden, and growing peppers, and telling myself to just grow some tabascos in buckets. That way, I don’t have an excuse to go hog wild out there, and while we can buy cayenne and paprika powder at the store, my mom is not a fan of the actual Tabasco brand. She says it has a bit of a metallic taste at the end. So, I think I’m going to slow my roll on getting caught up back in the great outdoors and not letting the gardens or myself rest, and just set up a bucket brigade – peppers, versus water.

I do have some bamboo plants I would like to get in the ground this year, though. I could focus on digging some holes and working in some good soil. Maybe that will quench the need to get my hands really dirty in the great outdoors. I got them oh, maybe four months ago? All but one have generated new growth. They grow incredibly fast, which is good, because the house going up on the lot diagonally to us is not just large, but toward the front of the property, and I’d rather not be looking at that when out on my front porch. Every other house in this limited development, including mine, sits back from the road. Not a fan of where they’ve placed it, although I suspect the neighbor to his west (the eastern lot is not yet developed) is even less of one. Who knows, maybe I’ll start a bamboo trend in the neighborhood. It’s clumping bamboo, not spreading, so never fear, dear readers: I am still a good neighbor in that regard. Next up is blocking out the neighbor to my south along that fenceline so I don’t have to look at his heavy timber trucking equipment when I’m out at the bees or in the rear garden.

First things first, though, and that is to get all the tech stuff that needs to be done, done. It’s been a weird six months, but the one good thing is that I had the Big Op a month and a half before that vendor got crazy. If I’d had to deal with this while immediately recovering from that, it would have been a nightmare.

Forward, ho! And until next time, peeps: be well.

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.

 

In the wee quiet hours

“Nothing good happens at 3 AM.”

Probably not entirely true, but it seems to be the time – thereabouts – when shit happens in IT.

Case in point: yesterday. I was winding down for the day, somewhere around midnight-ish, dealing with some guy who was dithering on a backup restore after one of his developers apparently hosed something. He ultimately decided against it, as whatever it was got worked out. Shortly thereafter, after about 1:15 in the morning, one of the servers just went offline. Poof!

We’ve seen this from time to time over the years, where the primary NIC (that’s network interface card, for those of you who do not speak Geek)  shuts itself off. There are a variety of fixes, or possible fixes for it, as with anything. Usually, rebooting the thing bring it back online. That depends on the PDU (power distribution unit, AKA, fancy power strip that allows remote reboots) working. We have probably six that need to be replaced, as they are errored out and do not work for anything other than just plain old power – hence the fancy power strip moniker I’ve given them. This, alas, was one of them.

So I had to haul myself to the NOC at 1:30 in the morning, only to get there and find that the errored PDU just shut off the outlet. And only that one outlet. Easy enough to fix by swapping it to another, working PDU. Then the drive home. In bed by 4. Up again by 8. Work work work. It really puts a crimp in your day.

Some days are like that in IT. Just so anyone who thinks it’s all glamorous and files transfer in nanoseconds and no one ever makes a typo and who may think IT is just super cool and easy money doesn’t get any wrong ideas about it all.

That’s it for now. Until next time, peeps: be well.

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.

Reflections on gardening, cooking, and life