Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Listened: "Victory conditions" by Elizabeth Moon

Listened: Victory Conditions by Elizabeth Moon, 2008, download.

Last in the series and, therefore, the end of my love hate relationship with this Vatta's War series.  Thank goodness.

Ky Vatta is now admiral of a space navy fighting the space pirates led by Turek.  Several solar systems have banded together their local or regional military and privateer vessels and appointed Ky as Admiral.  Meanwhile the Vatta family's interstellar shipping business continues and expands into ansible production.  Ansibles provide instantaneous communications across space, regardless of distance.  Ansible had been the monopoly of the ISC corporation but a Vatta figured out how to make portable ansibles and those ansibles do not violate patent.

Rafe Dunbarger now runs ISC and still pines for Ky.  Rafe has to rebuild the company after turmoil and murder caused by a now dead executive.

More political intrigue.  Moon's universe has planets with a lot of different beliefs and behaviors.  I am still annoyed at how whole planets are homogenous in their behavior and language and have a single government  But, never mind that.  Image is important.  Facial expressions, posture, speaking tone and cadence are all analyzed by Vatta and other characters.

Class and wealth are important on every planet.  Moving from one level class to another causes suspicion.  Families are large and members are expected to be loyal.  Trade and profit are driving forces.

Admiral Vatta leads a fight agsint pirates.  The pirates escape. Vatta has to organize, refit and train her navy.  A final battle defeats Turek.  Rafe and Ky finally come together and do the dirty deed in a completely uninteresting romantic subplot.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Quick: "Though I haven't Been to Baghdad" by Margaret Rozga

Quick: Though I Haven't Been to Baghdad by Margaret Rozga, 2012, 9780984462971.

Committee book.  Poetry.  Better than most.

Mom teaches English at UW two-year campus.  Mom has son in Army.  Son gets deployed to Iraq.  Mom writes poems. Son gets deployed to Afghanistan.  Mom writes more poems.  Son returns.  Mom writes more poems.

I really liked some of these poems. Others were bleah or boring.  I cannot list titles of the ones I liked because I already passed along the book.

Rozga writes about the tension of being at home with a kid in combat.  She worries.  She wonders if he will come back with both legs.  Superstition stops her from sending him a new laptop to watch movies on, "If I don't send it he will live."  Rozga travels to an Army funeral.

A couple poems detour into normal life when Rozga's son asks her grammar questions when he becomes responsible for report writing.  It's an odd break from her life normalcy of tension and worry.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Heard: "The Birdman" by Mo Hayder

Heard: The Birdman by Mo Hayder, 2001, download.

Are serial killer novels worn out?  Have they been overplayed?  Yes.  But this is from 2001 and Hayder did a good job.  Spoilers follow.

Caffery is a newly promoted British cop.  He has a girlfriend he is sick of, lives in the house his parents sold Caffery when they abandoned him, and is obsessed with proving his neighbor killed Caffery's older brother 20 years ago.

Caffery is called to an industrial building site when a body is found.  Then a couple more bodies are found.  All the dead people are murdered women with amateur surgical work, unexplained injuries, and small birds sewn into their chests.

Caffery is an up-and-comer.  Caffery has his supervisor's trust and that super admires Caffery's brains.  But, not in a zombie way.  When a second inestagtive tewam is called in for manpower help Inspector Diamond gets involved.  (INnspector Diamond is such a weasel he knocks my fingers off the home keys.)   Diamond is a suck-up and flatterer.  Diamond is a racist weasel and his focus on a black man as murder suspect throws roadblocks in front of Caffery's line of investigation.

Caffery's super wealthy girlfriend is trying to change Caffery.  Caffery starts hankering for a fomer stripper he meets while running investigative interviews.  Caffery's main partner on the team is a big galoot.  Big Galoot is also quite sharp but a joker.

We meet the murderer who has a sexual hankering for dead women.  Murderer flashbacks us though his life and the overdose death of a woman in his bed that brings Murderer's unrealized sexual cravings to the surface and starts Murderer murdering with murder.

Things happen.  Tension happens.  Cafferys dumps his girlfriend with emotional trauma action.  Caffery boinks Ex-Stripper.  Murderer is found out.  Murderer commits suicide.  But wait!  Murderer had a murderer pal, Murderer Two.  Murderer Two kidnaps a woman, tortures woman, operates on woman, but does not kill woman.  The search is on again!

Ex-Stripper and Ex-Stripper's roommate are abducted by Murderer Two.  Murderer Two goes out to Blur-land.  Caffery, Big Galoot, and the British version of a SWAT team head out to the country after Murderer Two.  Murderer Two murders Ex-Stripper's Roommate.  Murderer Two murders Big Galoot.  Caffery is only one to see Ex-Stripper - wrapped in plastic an hanging from a meat hook is still alive.

Caffery goes home and destroys the belongings he kept about his brother's disappearance - the remains of voluminous files and an old tree house - and goes to see Ex-Stripper at the hospital.

1.  The title is because Murderer Two would put the small birds into the dead woman to simulate the sound and feel of a beating heart.
2.  Glenmorangie love.
3.  Minimal cell phone.
4.  Sex work.
5.  British cop lingo and acronyms.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Quit Listening: "Thirteen Hours" by Deon Meyer

Quit Listening: Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer, 2008 (2009 translation), OverDrive download.

Another try at a Meyer audio and I still cannot keep track of all the non-English names.  South Africa has umpteen different languages and I cannot keep any of them straight.  I'm fine when I read the stories but I lose track of all the characters with audio versions.

This starts out pretty good with Cape Town police detective, and recovering drunk, Ajdklake getting a call to a murder scene.  Ajsdjladkjklajd is now mentoring new detectives and a freshly murdered white woman - a foreigner no less - promises pressure and trouble.  Meanwhile, some gal from Purdue or IU is on the run from bad guys.

I'll read the print version later.

Heard: "Biloxi Blues" by Neil Simon

Heard: Biloxi Blues by Neil Simon, 2008 (release date, live performance was 2007), OverDrive download.

I've watched parts of the film version.  I mainly watched the flick because of Christopher Walken but also for Matthew Broderick.  I've wanted to see some live theater in either Madison or Milwaukee but still have not gotten around to for all the usual reasons.

Eugene Morris catches a train from Fort Dix, New Jersey to basic training in Biloxi, MS.  Like most people Eugene is not a great fit for the U.S. Army but he makes do.  Other platoon members are better soldiers.  Other platoon members are worse soldiers.  Eugene goes through the mandatory melting pot of World War Two Army life.

Eugene's Sergeant is insane - probably from from a battle head injury.  A couple other recruits are dickheads and hate Jews.  One recruit is gay, gets caught, gets jail time.  Another recruit, Arnold, is Jewish and stubborn.  Arnold says he is fighting Army nonsense and institutional cruelty.  I think Arnold was just a contrarian because that was in his nature.  But, I live with a 7-year-old that argues about everything so my judgment is colored.

One of Eugene's goals is to end his virginity.  Eugene is successful with a local prostitute.  Eugene meets a Catholic girl at a dance.  Eugene and Catholic Girl have chaste romance, Eugene falls in love, Eugene is shipped out.

Eugene sent overseas and is injured in English vehicle collision.  Eugene gives epilogues of other characters: wounded, missing in action, so on, so forth.

1.  How much has the stage production changed?  The film version differs in a several ways.  A notable exception are the character epilogues at the end.  I remember the film version ending with the war ending before any recruits are deployed overseas.
2.  This recording has a brief interview with Simon after the play ends.  I was going to write something about what Simon said but now I cannot recall what. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Listened: "Plugged" by Eoin Colfer

Listened: Plugged by Eoin Colfer, 2011, OverDrive download.

Fun stuff.  Lots of humor. Violence.  Some sex.  Characters with character.  Fun dialogue.

At 2011 Bouchercon (the only one I've been too) there was a party hosted by Random House with an open bar.  I drank lots of free Dewar's that night.  That open bar party segued into a group reading by several authors.  Each writer picked a line or two - the emphasis was on a very, very, very, very short excerpt.  Colfer read a piece from this.  Afterwards, I went over and asked him how to pronounce his name.

Daniel McEvoy is a former Irish soldier working as a doorman at a low-rent casino in New Jersey.  Dan has some PTSD from two United Nations tours in Southern Lebanon patrolling between the Israelis and Hezbollah.  The work in Lebanon was not pleasant and often violent.  Dan fled to the States - his mother's native country - after he was discharged.

Dan is a big ugly guy.  Dan is hot for one of the casino waitresses.  The casino waitresses wear bikinis and some turn tricks.  One nitwit customer licks Waitress's butt.  Dan solves the issue (without violence) and later on Waitress is murdered.  Dan goes to visit his pal, Zeb, who is an unlicensed doctor.  Dan finds a local mob guy in Zeb's office.  Mob guy makes murder move and Dan does dirty deed of death.  Dan is having a bad day.  Dan is angry about dead Waitress, cops suspect Dan in the murder, Dan killed local mob boss's main man, where is Zeb?

Things happen.  Colfer gives a roller coaster of events with cops involved, crazy neighbor of Dan, Dan hearing Zeb's voice in his head, cops involved in crime and murder, Dan cannot help but mouth off, so on, so forth.  Suffice to say Dan goes through a lot and talks a lot about his past.

1.  Fun stuff with only one slow part.
2.  Colfer has another adult novel but I'm not sure if McEvoy is in that story.
3.  I'm trying to think of a read-a-like.  A reviewer compared this to Elmore Leonard.  Maybe Steve Hockensmith.   Or Gischler.
EDIT 4: Wednesday evening I was selecting items to buy from OverDrive and saw that a sequel to this, Screwed, released a few days ago.

Listened: "Joe Ledger Files" by Jonathan Maberry

Listened: Joe Ledger: the missing files by Jonathan Maberry, 2011, OverDrive download.

Short stories featuring Maberry's Joe Ledger character.  There are four or five Ledger novels out and these stories fill in the spaces around those novels.  Some fun stuff with Ledger fighting terrorists and zombies and evil scientists and supernatural events and an international assassin.

I think the narrator, Ray Porter, really chews up the scenery during these stories.  Ledger's irreverent views come through strong.  This is opposite to what AudioFile thinks.  OverDrive lists the AudioFile review and that says, Porter's performance is calm and understated, almost stern, yet often inflects emotions integral to Joe's fears, compassion, and sense of personal loss.  I enjoyed Porter's narration but disagree that it is understated.

1.  A focus on gear and gadgets.
2.  The story set in Pine Deep, PA was fun.
3.  One story was Ledger's initial teaming with Ghost the Wonder Dog where Ledger and Ghost go after an assassin from one of the novels.
4.  The overall run time was only four hours.  I was disappointed there was not more.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Quick: "Ghosts of Belfast" by Stuart Neville

Quick: Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville, 2009, 9781569476000.

I zipped through this one.  With the library renovation we had to pack away most of the adult fic and nonfic.  I filled a big wooden cart, loaned from the movers, for temp shelving.  I went through the stacks to grab a selection of titles and caught this one.  Anthony Neil Smith did his usual "this is fantastic" online mention for Neville's Ratlines so I tried this out and liked it.

I read reviews for Ghosts when it came out.  The reviews were good but the main character sees ghosts.  The mention of ghost kept me away because it sounded schmaltzy or half-assed-ghost-story-ish. 

Gerry Fegan is a former IRA soldier.  He did twelve years in the Maze and was released with the Good Friday agreements.  He now has a no-show job courtesy of the IRA and has spent the last five years drinking like a fish.  Gerry was a shooter, bomber, and all around soldier for the IRA.  Gerry has blood on his hands.  Gerry has blood on his mind.  Gerry's guilt has manifested itself as the "ghosts" of the twelve people he was responsible for killing. 

Heck, Gerry has always seen "ghosts".  The novel never explains if this is a mental illness but Gerry recalls talking to his mother about it as a child and his mother getting super angry at him.  Since then Gerry has always ignored those visions.  Now The Twelve follow him everywhere, are vividly real, and never speak.  The Twelve do scream in pain and horror though and Gerry is going nuts from it.

Gerry is at the local pub when an IRA politician and Gerry's overseer comes in.  One of the men ghosts makes pistol motions with his hand at the boss's head.  Gerry figures the ghost will disappear if Gerry kills the IRA guy.  Gerry does.

Gerry kills another IRA guy and is suspected by IRA bosses  Gerry goes to the IRA funerals and is hot for one of the dead guy's nieces.  A British undercover is tasked to find out who killed the IRA guys.  Gerry and Undercover have a history that includes murder.  More things happen.  Tension rises.  Niece had married a Brit and was ostracized but protected by her uncle.  Since Uncle is dead the Niece is told to take her daughter and leave Northern Ireland.  Gerry wants to protect the Niece.  Gerry is on the run. Gerry is helping the Niece and her daughter.  Gerry kills more people.  Gerry finds a resolution for himself and the Niece.

1.  Everyone time I read the author's name I think of Neville Shute.
2.  This was first published overseas with the title The Twelve.
3.  I was published overseas as a robot.  Bzz whirr whirr click-click.
4.  I read novels about drunks and am always glad I am not one.  If I have more than a couple drinks in the evening I wake up feeling rotten.
5.  Many bad, bad dudes.  Dudes with no reservations about torture or murder.  Dudes who run dog fights.  Dudes who bomb children and make excuses.  Dudes who import drugs and underage prostitutes.

Listened: "Last Kind Words" by Tom Piccirilli

Listened: Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli, 2012, OverDrive download.

The only thing I dislike about Piccirilli's work is that is name is very difficult for me to spell.  I am very glad to hear his cancer treatments have been successful so far.  His initial diagnosis was dire.

This was another good one by Piccirilllllli.  Another Piccicrillili exploration of themes like family, anger, and guilt.

For the last five years Terrier (Terry) Rand has been hiding out under an assumed name as a hand on a CO ranch.  Terry split from Long Island after his girlfriend had a miscarriage and his brother Collie went nuts and murdered several people during a one night kill spree.  Terry gets a call that Collie wants to talk to him before Collie is executed.  Terry hates Collie.  Terry drops everything and drives back home anyway.

The Rand family is made up of thieves, burglars, con men, and gamblers.  The extended family lives in a big house on a couple acres in Long Island.  The house is half living space and half hidey holes of decades worth of stolen loot.  The family is tight - two uncles, grandad, and Terry's nuclear family all together - but don't talk about some things.  They don't discuss emotional issues.  They don't talk about Collie and his bloody murder spree.

Terry meets Collie in prison.  Collie says, "I beat the old lady to death, I stabbed the clerk, and shot the whole family - even the 9-year-old - but I didn't murder the teenager."  Terry wonders if Collie is just running a scam.  Is Collie just tormenting Terry for a last time?  Is Collie telling the truth and a serial killer is on the loose killing young brunettes?

Terry is conflicted.  Terry is guilty.  Terry is fearful of hereditary mental illness, Alzheimer's,  that has struck his grandfather and is showing symptoms in his two uncles.  Terry's obsessive love the girlfriend he left who has since married Terry's old best friend and had a daughter. Terry's 15-year-old sister has a loser boyfriend.

Picccirrirlirrli gives a tour of Long Island and the bent life of crooks.  Picriilii gives us tough guy talk by guys who want to be tough.  Terry points out foolishness and lies - he can read people like a skilled gambler and con man.  People die.  Terry resolves Collie's cry of innocence.  Much family sadness by Terry.  Terry loves Collie but can never figure him for the murders and hopes Collie goes to hell.  Terry looks to be pulling his own life together.

1.  More muscle car love.
2.  Driving to drive.
3.  Brothers and death.
4.  Gunfights don't happen much in Piccirliliri books.  Differences are usually up close and personal with fists and knives.
5.  A smart and nice dog.
6.  Terry refers to "doing the funky stuff".