One standout non-fiction read this month, one classic cop novel, one utter disappointment and a few thing that fall in-between.
That’s 58 books read so far in 2017. You can find me on Goodreads to check out the full list.
Righteous by Joe Ide
After randomly discovering the first IQ book last year (cold pick off the library shelf) and being blown away by the character, I was very excited to pick up the second entry in the series. Maybe my expectations were a bit too high. There is a lot going on in this book and it takes a lot of set up. It’s almost overstuffed with plot and secondary characters (not unusual for a sophomore book) and it doesn’t lead the reader by the hand recounting anything from the first book.
I spent the first 30 pages trying frantically to remember what exactly happened in the first book, then the next 50 pages just getting to know all the new players. It wasn’t until the second half of the book when we spend more time with IQ and Dotson that I remembered what I liked so much about the (far simpler) first book.
Ultimately, I enjoyed this book, but it wasn’t easy. I like where it ended up and I’ll be interested to pick up the next one.
Zero Day by David Baldacci
I mean, he had to know, right? There is no way you write a thriller about a hulking, lone protagonist in the military and not know about Child and Reacher. I’m continuing my Baldacci kick and read this first in a new series about a military investigator named John Puller (even the name is similar!) and I was just constantly struck by the very,v ery close similarities to Reacher.
Once I stopped worrying about it, I mostly enjoyed this facsimile about a conspiracy around a closed military base in a rural town. Puller is a little more human, a little less didactic and the plot is a little less linear (or believable) than the average Reacher book, but it’s a good way to pass some time while waiting for the real thing.
Dead on Arrival by Matt Richter
Stephen King and Michael Crichton’s names are all over the blurbs for this book with the plausible (at least in the world of thrillers) science-tinged with apocalypse plot. It’s a good a thumbnail comparison. He’s not quite at King’s level in writing the everyman character, but he’s better than Crichton at delivering the science.
I’ll remember this book mostly for the two protagonists, each well drawn, and the believable and the searing commentary on the way our digital screens have invaded so much of our lives. Both of those turmped the actual plot about a potential world-wide virus.
It’s my first time reading Richter (a former science writer for the NYTs) and it reminded me a lot of another reporter turned novelist, Daniel Suarez. I might try more of his books when the mood strikes for something like Crichton.
Two Kinds of Truth by Micheal Connelly
The latest Bosch book from Connelly delivers again. It’s amazing after 20 plus books with this character that Connelly is still finding ways to keep his detective (and his readers) invested in his series.
This time Bosch is still working cold cases as a volunteer in the tiny San Fernando PD and like the past few books, the plot revolves around two unrelated cases and does a good job of showing how cops are often juggling multiple investigations. The two cases also let Connelly highlight different aspects of Bosch’s personality, sending him undercover into a “pill mill” operation and delving back into his past to show how close to (or over?) the line he used to go to stay on his mission.
His half brother Mickey Haller gets a few cameos and it will be interesting to see where that relationship goes after the conclusion of this book. Is there anyone better writing cops and cases than Connelly?
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
The standout read this month was Amazon’s recent #1 book of 2017, Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. Unwieldly title aside, this is an incredible book that tells an amazing story of the systematic murders of the Osage Indians for mineral rights, that, if it were fiction, would be almost too diabolical to believe.
I’ve read a lot of history and for whatever reason (and there could be plenty) this brutal, sad and chilling portion of American history had never come up. I walked around the house for three days while I read it just outraged, flabbergasted and heartbroken, but perhaps not surprised, at the lengths humans will go for money and avarice.
A truly shocking story, but very well told. If you enjoyed this and haven’t read Grann’s Lost City of Z, I highly recommend that, too.
No Middle Name by Lee Child
While waiting for the library to fulfill my request for The Midnight Line, I picked up this collection of Reacher short stories. I’d read a few of them in the past when they appeared in other magazines or as Kindle shorts, but quite a few were new to me and one, the longest and best in the book, was new for this collection and brings back Reacher’s big brother (and Neagley!).
Many of the stories are from Reacher’s time in the military and I always enjoy this glimpses we get into his past professional life. Like all short story collections, some are better than others or resonate more, but these all carry the Reacher characteristics: brutal logic, violence and Reacher coming out on top.
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
After reading her Shades of Magic trilogy, I went back and read this earlier standalone which reads like a cross between The Magicians, X-men and Count of Monte Cristo. Or, put another way, it’s a book about precocious college kids discovering power, falling out and then plotting revenge. It was original, pulpy, fast-paced and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Rooster Bar by John Grisham
Well, I fell for it again. After coming away disappointed by the last two Grisham books, I swore I’d take a break. So what did I do? Went right out and go the latest from the library. This time, I sort of hate read it for 100 pages and then put it down. At least in the past two books, the plot was moving, it was just being told in a way I didn’t really like. In this one, nothing had happened in 100 pages! And it was being told in a way I didn’t like.
I’ll have to go back and look at earlier Grisham, but Grisham today, likes to tell, tell, tell stories and keep everyone at arm’s length. He never illustrates or shows a character doing something. He just states it.
There are pages of plot with no dialogue. The characters appear to exist, when he remembers, to push along the plot or give you lectures (in this case about the dangers of for-profit schools). There is no way to engage with the characters or the plot. You are on the outside and you are listening. Maybe this works for some people. It does not work for me and I finally realized it.
The Smack by Richard Lange
About half way done with this one and it reminds me a lot of James Crumley’s novels. On the plot/character scale, this one veers far toward character. I’m more of a plot guy, but so far the writing is so good and the plot is ticking along just enough that I’m sticking with it.
Up next on the TBR pile:
Ragdoll by Daniel Cole
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (re-read)
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke