Thursday, August 24, 2017

YA Story: "City of Angels" by Kristi Belcamino

YA Story: City of Angels by Kristi Belcamino, 2017, 9781943818433.

Belcamino sometimes ends up in my Facebook feed. Belcamino lives in MN and writes mysteries so I figured to give a novel a try. Well, I was expecting an modern day adult crime novel set in Minnesota. Nope. It's a YA novel set in 1992 Los Angeles. Well, those false expectations were my own faulty and the novel was a pretty decent YA novel. I was hoping for more adult than young. So it goes.

17-year-old Nikki Black left Chicago for Los Angeles by tagging along with her brand new boyfriend. Boyfriend is in his twenties and works in the film industry. He brings Nikki to Famous Director's house in Malibu. Nikki finds out Famous Director has some violent kinks and that Boyfriend is there to help Famous Director film Nikki for a private feature. A very private feature. A tie-down-Nikki-and-film-her-rape feature. That's not good.

Nikki bolts and as she escapes their evil clutches she finds 12-year-old Rain. Pink haired Rain was a captive in Famous Director's Malibu beach house and they both escape into the night and end up in downtown Los Angeles. They find a room in a cheap residential hotel and Nikki constantly thinks Boyfriend and Famous Director are out to catch her.

Nikki makes friends in the hotel with a mix of artists and musicians and finds waitress work at a neighboring restaurant. There is the usual YA grab bag of 'exotic' characters - meaning musicians, poets, a former model, street people, a drunken cop, celebrities - and Nikki having to face life as a lonely adult. Rain runs away after a fight with Nikki and Nikki spends the rest of the novel trying to find Rain - who Nikki is sure was kidnapped.

Things happen with sputtering and stalling love affairs. Danger. Scary adults preying on children and teens. Nikki stuck blaming herself for family deaths when she lived in Chicago. Nikki going it alone. Nikki accepting help from her new friends. A Scientology-like church that Nikki is convinced is involved with Rain's disappearance. Mystery murders. So on. So forth.

Don't get me wrong. I liked the book as a YA novel. But, I kept reading the story as an adult novel - which it isn't. Belcamino wrote this for teens. The characters are struggling with young person problems and look at things through a young person's eyes. I just wasn't too keen on that as I read.

1. Belcamino wrote some neat observations on people and character motivations. But, I forgot what they were.
2. As I type the air blowing in from outside smells kinda like cooked turkey.
3. This is the only Belcamino print copy available in the library catalog. There are two ebooks from her adult series. I just searched Baker and Taylor for some other print books and it says City of Angels is out of stock. B&T are sold out with 42 copies on order.  I presume that means the book is selling well, good for Belcamino.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Done: "The Card Catalog" by The Library of Congress

Done: The Card Catalog by The Library of Congress, 2017, 9781452145402.

I do not see many corporate author headings. I'm surprised no main editor is listed. I put this on reserve for some reason I cannot recall. Maybe I felt I should read for library reasons.

Kind of a mini-coffee table book. I would type down the book's dimensions but, curiously enough, the LOC cataloging-in-publication data does not list dimensions. In a book about cataloging no less.

Anyhoo. The book has plenty of nice photos of old books, old cat cards, and other ephemeria. The text is a brief history on libraries and how library records were organized. From listing of title and author to the first methods of categorizing by subject.

Keep in mind that most libraries were stand alone institutions with their own record schemes. There was sharing of information among some institutions but finding information could be difficult. The printing press meant some standardization started by listing title, author, publisher, place of pub., and subject matter were easy to find in the front pages.

Records went from bound books listing collections to initial attempts of using playing cards as cat. cards.  All the way to the ultimately unwieldy size of card catalog collections that necessitated digitization.

The book was interesting enough to me, I don't know if you will care.  The text itself is a pretty fast read as long as no one is interrupting you and you don't mind holding a book with odd dimensions as you lay in bed.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Listened To: "8th Circle" by Sarah Cain

Listened To: The 8th Circle by Sarah Cain, 2016. Overdrive download.

I was thinking this was kinda so-so as a novel. But, I just read this last line in the Kirkus review: This dark debut isn’t for everyone, but it’s great for what it is: tight, well-crafted, and nasty. It nails the noir. Well, they liked the novel more than I did.

The book wasn't bad but the story did not offer anything new - investigative reporter discovers sex crime conspiracy among the wealthy and powerful - and I never felt like I had to know what would happen next. I thought the book was decent but average.

Anyway. Danny Ryan has been in mourning and seclusion for the past 18 months after his wife and young son died in a car wreck. Ryan won a Pulitzer a few years ago for his reporting in Philadelphia and became a famous columnist in the city. Still under 40 years old Danny has been shut up in his big house and doesn't have to work after his wife's millions went to him. One night a car crash in a neighboring duck pond. The driver is Danny's pal and also the son of the newspaper editor. The driver has also been shot, says "Inferno" to Danny, and dies. Well. Dang. That's odd.

Police ask questions. The buddy is buried. An intimidating caller tells Danny that the caller wants a "package" the dead guy gave Danny. Danny got no package. Things happen. Danny discovers Inferno ties into a serial killer case that his abusive, alcoholic, and now dead father investigated with Philadelphia PD. Local cop investigating Dead Buddy's death is a former FBI guy who also investigated Inferno. Inferno leads to expensive sex clubs that also - apparently - deal with child rape and murder. Inferno has ties to people Danny knows, including his former father-in-law who is a U.S. Senator.

Basically, Cain gave us the full list: investigative reporter, sex crimes, murder, violent family past, dead son, dead wife, mysterious and beautiful woman, sex clubs, sociopath serial killer who was in a mental hospital, rich and powerful politicians, rich and powerful man protecting his killer son, plaster faced political wives, so on, so forth.

Like I said, the book isn't bad but it's about average. Cain has skill because I did keep rolling along with the story but I wasn't compelled to listen.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Finally Got To: "Once A Warrior" by Anthony Neil Smith

Finally Got To: Once A Warrior by Anthony Neil Smith, 2014, 9781499714012

I'm sitting at a table in the elementary school gym during picture day for the local school district. We are signing up people for new cards, replacement cards and 'Read Away Your Fines' cards. There have been no takers and I have no other work I can complete using my laptop. So, here you go.

This is the second novel featuring Mustafa and his son Adem. Mustafa immigrated from Somalia as a boy and his son Adem was born in MN. The first novel had college kid Adem embracing Islam and traveling with his best friend back to Somalia to join an Islamic movement. Before leaving the U.S. Adem and that friend murdered a small town Police Officer. Adem's father and the murdered woman's boyfriend traveled to Africa to find Adem and his pal.

-- Interrupted to sign people up for library cards. Good. --

Adem did not thrive with the Islamist nuts in Somalia and ended up taking on the pseudonym of Mr. Mohammed and became a lead ransom negotiator for Somali pirates.  Adem fell in love with a local woman before his own rescue. The woman's face was later burned with acid, she was left in Africa,  and Adem now pines for her. You don't need all this info to read the second novel but there you go anyway.

The second novel starts four years after Mustafa and Adem's return from Africa.  Adem has just graduated college and wants to take a religious pilgrimage to the East. Mustafa is not happy with that. Mustafa's wife, WhatsHerName, is not happy with that. The government will likely not be happy with that. But off Adem goes because he wants to rescue his acid burned would-be girlie friend.

Meanwhile, Mustafa takes a call from the African cousin who helped Mustafa rescue Adem four years ago. The cousin requests Mustafa find the cousin's daughter who has disappeared from Kenya and is now in the Twin Cities as a sex slave. Mustafa quits his job at Target and goes back to the violent street gang he founded, and then left, years ago. Now Mustafa is overthrowing the current gang leader to use the gang as a tool in his search to find Missing Girl.

Many things happen. Mustafa overthrows the young man currently in charge of the South Side Killaz and Mustafa pretends he is the heartless crook he used to be. Adem is played like a fiddle and repeatedly hoodwinked by African pirates, the CIA, and other nefarious types. Mustafa's secret plan to use the gang to find Missing Girl puts him back into violent street work he no longer wants. By finding Missing Girl Mustafa will also be ruining one the gang's main incomes - a sex slavery ring. Adem continues to believe his bullshit fantasy of rescuing Burned Girl, bringing her to the U.S., and showing her how awesome he is.

Both characters are tossed on the seas and spend time reacting when their plans are ruined.

Smith's characters are usually unsettled and shifty. They may have steady jobs and loving families but they are always a hair away from fucking things up or just bailing on life. They are generally untrustworthy and out for themselves. Mustafa is a bit of a change from that because he is driven by family loyalty and love rather than narcissistic issues.

1.  The ending leaves Adem's future up in the air.  I don't know if Smith is going to do a third novel or not. He gets rightfully bummed after spends months of work on a novel to get tepid sales.
2. Some things are a stretch: The niece ending up in Twin Cities where Mustafa lives. The CIA with it's all seeing agents everywhere. The FBI and CIA so forgiving of Adem's previous work as pirate negotiator. Adem not being recognized as the famous and infamous Mr. Muhammed.
3. Smith's most recent novel Castle Danger: woman on ice came out two days ago. Take a look, I have the book on my Kindle but am working on a back log of other books.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Heard: "Deadman's Road" by Joe R. Lansdale

Heard: Deadman's Road by Joe R. Lansdale, 2010, the edition says it was available in 2014. I'm not sure if the 2014 date is a pub date for the audio or the date available through purchase with Overdrive.

Several novellas of Reverend Jedidiah Mercer who travels wild west Texas fighting demons and other evil creatures. Not much to say. There are episodes of Jedidiah fighting evil around the state with vampires, cave trolls, and other deadly beings from hell.

Mercer has been cursed by God to travel the west wreaking Old Testament style justice. Mercer is not happy with God for forcing the job upon him. But, since Mercer was once caught having sex with Mercer's own sister he kinda understands the punishment.

Lots of filthy people. Six gun blasting. Dead horses. Wanton women. An angry Jedidiah Mercer who quickly kills when suspecting danger. Booze. Dust. Danger. So on. So forth.

The real interest in these stories is that Lansdale writes them. If you like Lansdale we'll like this. I liked this.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Withdrawn Novel: "Kiwi Wars" Garry Kilworth

Withdrawn Novel: Kiwi Wars Garry Kilworth,

No one checked this novel out so I had to weed it. I've 2-3 others in the series so I bought this used copy. Comparable to the Sharpe series by Cornwell where Kilworth has Fancy Jack Crossman going from the Crimean War to India to New Zealand.

The books go fairly fast and a lot of what does on in the stories is us reading about soldiering at the time. Kilworth does not go into elaborate plots or mysteries. We get a good dose of historical doings and the author does not focus on personal drama.

Fancy Jack Crossman, British Army mapmaker and spy, is sent to New Zealand in 1862 to help fight an insurrection by the native Maori. Crossman is great as a spy and scout and the three soldiers who report to him don't get along all that well but are successful at their work. The unit reports to a Colonel (hell, maybe it was a Major, I don't recall) and mapmaking is mostly a cover story to hide their real job of gathering intelligence on the enemy.

Crossman and Co. land on the North Island of New Zealand as the English settlers and native Maori are warring over land. The English started coming over several years ago and Maori did not mind. But, now that the English are buying or taking land the Maori are getting pissed off. The Treaty of Waitangi was supposed to settle land disputes and sovereignty but did not quite work out. Since there is not much in the way of inteliigence gathering in this slowly simmering battle Crossman and Co are sent out to make maps.

Things happen. Crossman pines for his wife but gets a Maori girlfriend. Both Crossman and one of his soldiers are lost in the bush. His no-goodnik Private discovers that his no-goodnik brother is now a wealthy no-goodnik in New Zealand. Crossman and a Maori scout go on a 2-week trek through the bush.

Fun stuff.