Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Read: "Hick" by Andrea Portes

Read: Hick by Andrea Portes, 2007, 9781932961324.

After finishing this the other night I was looking up author information and saw a blurb that LJ or SLJ recommended this as a top book for high schoolers. What?! This is one of the best titles around? It was okay and some aspects were quite good but the story just petered out in the end.

Thirteen year old Luli lives outside Lincoln, NE and has two drunks for parents. After the bartender at her parents' favorite hangout swaps spit with her when giving her a ride home Luli figures that her looks and body can get her what she wants. When her father ups and leaves and her mom takes up with a guy who looks "like a peeled worm" Luli grabs her mom's hidden cash and hits the road.

Her first night our Luli gets kicked out of a truck by a creepy driver, Eddie. Asleep in a ditch she wakes in the dark to Glenda taking a piss next to her. She hitches a ride with Glenda, pulls a crime crime with her, and sees Glenda as role model.

Luli ends up getting tricked by the same creepy driver as before, who - wow! what a coincidence - has a bad history with Glenda. Eddie kidnaps Luli, ties her up in a cabin and over several days alternately rapes her and says sweet nothings.

Portes does a very good job showing a lonely and abandoned 13 year old girl's thinking and rationale. Luli is an interesting character and the home scenes and worries over family were well done. Everything else is second rate. Glenda (the Good Witch of the Road) as the drunken and experienced con-woman and seducer. A road trip to self-discovery. Multiple coincidental meetings. Glenda and Eddie killing one another with the same gun in the same stupid, stupid, stupid scene you see in every fucking crappy tv show and b-movie. Luli going to California to stay with the hippie chick mom of the guy her rescues her from the cabin where she was imprisoned.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Listened to: "Lullaby Town" by Robert Crais

Listened to: Lullaby Town by Robert Crais, 1992, downloaded from

I read a review about a recent Crais novel that compared his Joe Pike character to Parker. That was a poor comparison but the novel was fairly decent.

LA detective Elvis Cole is asked by a big-time movie director to find the director's ex-wife and their son. The incredibly, and comically, self-absorbed director dumped the wife shortly after the kid was born and now is looking to reconnect. Cole quickly finds her in Connecticut running a small town bank. But, she refuses to admit her original identity and tells Cole to take a hike. The ex-wife is under the thumb of a New York mob family and being forced to launder money for them. Cole decides to help her out. The director shows up and screws things up.

All in all a pretty good story that moves along and kept my interest. Some of the characters like Pike and the mobsters were cliched. Pike always wears mirrored sunglasses, rarely speaks, and never smiles. Mobsters who talk in Italian and say "capiche?"

Since the book was written in 1992 no one uses cell phones. Cole has to hunt down phone booths. He and Pike also seem to have unlimited finances for last minute airfare, being away from paying clients, hotel stays and car rentals. They also easily travel with guns and never fear getting caught for carrying concealed. Pike brings a short barreled shotgun on the plane from CA to NY and then CT without worry. Then, after two big gunfights with plenty of dead bodies Cole and Pike get off scot-free through the assistance of an ex NYPD cop friend. Bullshit.

Read: "Money Shot" by Christa Faust

Read: Money Shot by Christa Faust, 2008, 9780843959581.

Very good. Another Hard Case Crime novel.

Angel Dare is retired from porn and running a porn modeling agency. An old producer friend asks her to come out of retirement and do a quick scene since the friend is in financial straits. Since she is In the midst of worrying over her approach to 40, getting offered to screw the newest big dick, and feeling really horny she takes the job. She is then tied up, tortured, thrown in a Honda's trunk, and shot.

Angel lives, escapes from the trunk, and gets help from a former cop who works as a security escort for her agency. Since Angel's Sig was used to murder her old producer friend has to hide from the police. Angel gets a crew-cut, dyes her hair blonde, straps down her boobs and acts like a dude.

Faust writes well and the porn setting is great. Dare has been in porn for about twenty years and talks a lot about the industry and the people in it. Faust skips over the usual nonsense plot points regular novels have. The story focuses on Dare and her attempts to get revenge but Faust does not dwell on the criminal conspiracy or try and make it overly complicated. Faust does screw the security guy but there is no romance, instead he tries to skips out on her with her cash. When Dare has the chance to shoot an unconscious man in the back of the head she does so; no endless philosophical worries before or after.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Read: "Farther Shore" by Matthew Eck

Read: Farther Shore by Matthew Eck, 2007, 9781571310576.

A literary novel and a quick read at 173 pages.

A six man reconnaissance unit of the 10th Mountain Division is in Somalia (unnamed), in "The City", calling in fire missions on the outskirts of town. The fire missions are intended to scare the warlords into compliance. Observing from atop the tallest multi-story building in town the soldiers kill a couple people coming up the stairs through flash and shrapnel grenade booby traps. In the dark the soldiers could not tell that the culprits were kids. The unit goes to the soccer stadium for a helicopter extraction but the aircraft are shot up and to leave. The unit has to escape on foot, hunted as child-killers, and slowly loses members along the way.

"Lean yet lyrical" story of modern war. "Fast paced moving [story] of the fog of war". According to some interviewer on Barnes and Noble at least. Yech. The author even refers to metaphor in the book during the interview.

One of those coming of age, Heart of Darkness journey, crazy guys along for the ride, moral ambiguity novels. But, it was well written and a good story. Eck is from Kansas. Story "loosely inspired" by service in Africa.

There is a Matt Eck real estate agent who works in Sedgewick County, I wonder if he is related. No links to the author off the real estate page.

Listened to: "Lincoln Lawyer" by Michael Connelly

Listened to: Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly, 2005, downloaded from

Above average, I stayed entertained and was interested in hearing about the legal process from the defense side. The narrator did pretty well but a couple character voices were annoying.

Mickey Haller is a defense lawyer in Los Angeles County. He bought four Town Cars a few years ago to get the fleet price. With a client working as a driver to pay off his legal fees Haller spends a lot of time in his car going from location to location. His second ex-wife works his phone lines and determines if prospective clients will be paying clients. Haller is a successful attorney and but has to a lot of expenses and is always worried about money. He advertises far and wide and has a lot of fixed, monthly expenses he has to take care of. But, he believes in what he is doing and feels his unenvied and looked-down on job is essential to keep the legal machine working.

A bail bondsman who -unethically - forwards clients to Haller - who unethically accepts them - lets Haller know about a "Franchise" client. A Franchise is not just a paying client but a well-off client who will pay the A Level fees Mickey wants to charge. With invoices for pre-trial, trial and appeal work Mickey can make a strong and steady living off that kind of client. Turns out the guy did tried to rob the woman who accused him, the guy is a serial rapist, the guy did murder the woman one of Mickey's older cleints took a murder plea for, and the guy is a sociopath who threatens Mickey and his first ex-wife and the daughter. Nothing new there.

The character of Mickey is neat. He talks a lot about the legal process and methods used to defend a client. Connelly does a great job of setting up and slowly unveiling Mickey's grand plan to ethically defend the bad guy for the rape but also set him up to be caught for the previous murder. A surprise twist of the client's crazy mother is also well set-up. Connelly gives the bail bondsman as a red herring in the search for bad-guys but I did not bite on that.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Read: "Robot Dreams" by Sara Varon

Read: Robot Dreams by Sara Varon, 2007, 9781596431089.

Graphic novel with no dialogue or description. Took about 15 minutes to get through.

Dog sends away for do-it-yourself robot kit. Takes Robot to dog beach. After swimming and sunbathing Robot is rusted stiff. Dog leaves robot on beach. Robot dreams of escape and dog ahngs out with different friends. Robot picked up by kid, sold for scrap, bought by Raccoon who is making a radio. Robot parts turned incorporated into radio and stays with Raccoon. Meanwhile, Dog buys new robot kit, makes Robot #2 and while walking down sidewalk is spotted by lovelorn Robot who tunes into a nice tune to play as Robot #2 and Dog go by.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Read: "House to House" by David Bellavia

Read: House to House: an epic memoir of war by David Bellavia, 2007, 9781416574712.

Good book. Decently written and earnest in tone and telling. This is the second Fallujah book I've read, On Call in Hell was the first.

In the Author's Note Bellavia writes that he "faithfully retold" everything that happened and that "conversations presented in dialogue form have been re-created from my memory of them but are not intended to represent a word-for-word documentation: rather, they are intended to invoke the essence of what was said." As I was reading I was wondering if he was writing the truth and not exaggerating or making things up. I decided to believe him until I hear otherwise. I saw him speak on C-SPAN about some of the things covered in the book and believed him. Of course as a former theatre major he is also a trained actor.

Bellavia was an Army Staff Sergeant for the 1st Division during the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004. His Bradley-riding infantry unit joined the Marines in attacking the city. Bellavia does real well in describing the physical hardships of constant battle, disease, fatigue, destroyed buildings, the risks of the rubble, and the resultant injuries all those things gave the soldiers. He explains some tactics and maneuvers that were a mystery to me.

Bellavia's love for his fellow soldiers and his intense pride as a infantry sergeant are constant themes. The group dynamics of the squads and the different leadership styles and personalities of the NCOs and officers is very interesting. Bellavia's dual fear and admiration for his Command Sergeant Major was neat to read about.

1-Resupplying ammunition must be a constant task - those dudes were ripping through ammo belts on their SAWs and 240s.
2- Why the hell, by that far into the war, did it take so long for the Army to got optics, lasers, and night vision to combat troops? Bellavia had to trade around and borrow to get things.
3- The Chaplain was a good dude.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Read: "Not Quite Was I Was Planning" edited by Smith Magazine

Read: Not Quite Was I Was Planning: six-word memoirs edited by Smith Magazine, 2008, 978061374050.

I reserved this after a recommendation in the back of either Booklist or Library Journal. Good thing it only takes 20 - 30 minutes to read because it is mostly crap. Many of the writers fit a lot of whining into six words.

Some of the lines were interesting and quite emotional. But not so interesting that I am going to look them back up.