Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ear Noises: "Skin" by Mo Hayder

Ear Noises: Skin by Mo Hayder, 2009, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

The third Ryan Caffery novel I've listened to. Or maybe the fourth, I cannot recall. Doesn't Hayder also write horror novels? This series has had some very unsettling scenes of murder and abuse but Skin does not have as much of the others.

This novel takes up only a few days after the end of the previous novel, Ritual. In Ritual Caffery is integral to catching a small group of men in Bristol, England who killed people and used their body parts to sell for witchcraft. Caffery worked with police diver "Flea" and the two of them lead this novel as well.

Caffery is still seen as a hotshot detective recently arrived from London. His squad is searching for a missing celebrity, a football player's wife. At the same time Caffery identifies the possible murder of a woman whose death is called suicide. Caffery is forced to work the missing person case but thinks the suicide/murder may be related to the murders in the last novel.

Flea is still a driven person but the last novel's focus on the lasting trauma over parent's diving deaths takes a backseat to her idiot and feckless brother. Feckless Brother borrowed hr car a week ago and tore into her driveway one night with a cop on his tail. Feckless was boozed up and Flea claimed she was the driver to keep him out of trouble.

But, a few days later Flea realizes the Eau de Corpse in her workplace is not from poorly cleaned gear but is from her car parked next to the building's air intake. Turns out Feckless ran over Missing Celebrity and killed her. Feckless stuck the body in the car trunk and pretended it never happened. Fucking ass.

Super protective Flea is trying to protect her brother and find a way to deal with the body. Caffery is lying to his boss, finding out someone has been following him, and kinda wants to get closer to Flea.

Hayder's skill is in taking all these story lines and having them overlap but never quite meet. Unlike many novels where different story lines meet together at a story’s climax and denouement Hayder has those many connection miss. Characters know things and act in ways that would solve serious personal and legal issues for others, yet know one knows this. Hayder gives us a bigger emotional oomph when a criminal goes free, a cop misses a clue, or a victim dies alone because of those missed personal connections.

Celebrity AutoBio: "Thanks for the Money" by Joel McHale

Celebrity AutoBio: Thanks for the Money: how to use my life story to become the best Joel McHale you can be by Joel McHale with Brad Stevens and Boyd Vico, 2016, 9780399575372

I checked this in at the circ' desk and decided to read it myself. This is a standard celebrity autobio of the humorous and self-deprecating style.  McHale talks about the acting roles that made him famous, growing up, information on his family, dyslexia, hair implants, required snogging of costars, time requirements for work, so on, so forth.

The kind of book you would never read unless you were a fan of the actor or just wanted to read stories about how nuts and awful Chevy Chase acts towards co-workers. I greatly enjoyed watching McHale on Soup and the current Netflix version The Joel McHale Show With Joel McHale so I read the book. It was kinda long.

The dyslexia was interesting to read about but McHale does not go into much detail. He writes about working around the reading in school and college and how he never had too much trouble until he had to read from a teleprompter for the Soup show.

He says he did A LOT of push-ups before filming a shirtless scene for Community. I presume he did more than just that.

He mentions several times how Community was picked up by Yahoo! online and claims that Community killed that online service. Nicely done, McHale.

McHale has made a professional name for himself by regular casting as a smarmy, self-obsessed prick. He uses that persona for the book.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Chance Listen: "Frontier Grit"

Chance Listen: Frontier Grit: the unlikely true stories of daring pioneer women by Marianne Monson, 2016, from Wisconsin Digital Library.

I was showing a library customer how to use the Wisconsin Digital Library. I logged into my account to show her how to check an item out and I randomly selected this book. I figured I may as well listen to the book since I had it checked out.

Several tales of frontier women. The foreword describes that "frontier" is not limited to a physical boundary or territory but every one of these stories involves the western U.S. But, the women are not all settlers. There is a variety of hotelier, doctor, artist, novelist, etc.

A couple stories were not so interesting to me. Here are the ones I recall:

1. A former slave whose family are sold off before the war and she is near 40-years-old when the war ends. She spends years looking for her family and finally hears that her husband and some children already died but cannot locate her one missing daughter. She makes plenty of money as a cook and hotel owner and spends 50 years searching for her daughter with constant newspaper adverts and telling most people she meets about her search. She makes trips to southern states and helps out other former slaves who are also on the road and looking for their own relatives.

She ends up owning businesses in Denver and is retired when a former Denver resident in Omaha sends a letter to her. He says was in the Council Bluffs, IA post office and hears the name of a woman and met someone of her description. The man asks and, sure enough, it's the daughter. The mom jumps on a train and they are reunited.

2. Wallace Stegner's novel Angle of Repose won a Pulitzer Prize but he plagiarized about 10% of the novel. Stegner used the work and personal papers of Mary Hallock Foote who lived in several mining towns in the West. In fact Stegner told Foote's surviving relatives that he would not incorporate several aspects of Foote's life but instead based a character on her and stole her own words from the papers the family shared with him. 

3. The tale of an Oregon suffragette.  The Suffragette established her own successful newspaper in Oregon and was a staunch, vocal, and enthusiastic suffragette. Her younger brother, however, was not. Her younger brother ran The Oregonian newspaper. The Oregonian had a larger circulation and more influence and the borther would editorialize against women's suffrage. After years of disagreement the brother said he would not write anything against an upcoming statewide vote on suffrage. Before the election the brother then took a long vacation, was incommunicado, and The Oregonian's stand-in editor published multiple screeds against the proposed changes. The brother was a dick.

1. So many people moved all over the damn place and never or rarely saw their family again. They would leave Iowa or Vermont and move from Western state to Western state as they chased gold deposits or new land.
2. So many people went bust, rebuilt their financial lives, and went bust again. This would happen over and over as storms and fires would destroy homes and businesses. But, in some boom towns you could quickly be flush again by providing services. One woman offered $1 meals served off a wood plank in a mining town and quickly earned enough to dig her family out of financial hole.
3. The story of a famous wagon driver who was a woman secretly living as a man. The book author theorizes on why she may have done this and continued to do so. Hell, my thought was she did not want to be raped and murdered.
4. Not much violence in these stories. I do not recall any shoot-outs, cattle rustling, silver mine stabbings, etc. The only exception might be Mother Jones and labor strife.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Read: "Into the Fire" by Elizabeth Moon

Read: Into the Fire by Elizabeth Moon, 2018,9781101887349.

You know how you've been reading a series for a while and then there is a big gap between novels? And the series is Science Fiction so every damn novels builds on and refers back to events in previous novels? And how you start reading the latest novel and think, "What the hell is she talking about? I don't remember that"? Well, rejoice. Because this is not a sign that you may be getting dementia. No. This is an instance of, "Fuck, I did miss a book in the series. She had one published in '17."

Oh, well, all that does not matter to anyone completely unfamiliar with the Vatta's War series because you're better off starting the series from the beginning. Vatta's features heroine Ky Vatta; beginning from her resignation at her home planet a military academy to running a tramp delivery space ship to organizing and commanding a space fleet created to defeat a pirate fleet. I had a love/hate relationship with the previous books in the series. I ended up enjoying this one more than those books and I wonder if that is because I read this instead of heard the audiobook.

Vatta is back on her home planet after a shuttle crash landed in a remote continent of the planet. That crash landing and survival - from the last book - exposed how that remote continent has been secretly mined and owned by another business family.

Keep in mind that the entire series of novels is built on very clannish organizations. Vatta Transport is a family business with a range of cousins and in-laws that run the business. Those people are often vetted by their family relationships and their family history. "His great-grandfather served in the opposition 80 years ago? We better take a real close look at him."

Now that opposing business family's leader is planning to overthrow the government and punish the Vattas based on a decades old feud. He's been setting up things for years within allies in the government and the military. He poisons Ky's great-aunt who is the Rector of Defense and has legally finagled Ky to lose her citizenship and be under threat of either prison or deportation from the planet.

Moon does not focus on fights, battles, and techno-Gee-Whiz Space Guns.  Moon focuses on espionage, management and command-level decisions. How will Vatta pull together disparate groups? Or pull together a group of cadets? Or determine who is loyal and who is a mole or sleeper for the rebellious group? Or find out who they hidden opposition is when she is unable to leave her secured home? How will Ky do all this with a handful of people for direct action?

I enjoyed the novel. The were some blank spots when Moon references previous novels but I just glossed over that and expected those answers to come later on.

1. I suppose Moon has created a more realistic human "universe". Here in the U.S. we do not rely on large and extended families of 100s or 1,000s of people. So many parts of the rest of earth are clannish and family based and she has taken that reality and used it to build her novels worlds.
2. Moon establishes some complex relationships among the family members - like among siblings and cousins who grew up together - who have lifetime long arguments and behaviors that get in the way of agreement and progress.
3. Paranoia is a standard and needed tactic to forestall the plotting of others.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Totally Forgot: "In The Woods" by Tana French

Totally Forgot: In The Woods by Tana French, 2007. download.

Regular readers of this blog - which means no one - will recall I had to stop listening to this novel because my damn phone broke. I was unable to recover the audio files off the SD card and had to quit the novel.

Well, a few months ago my renewed hold for this book finally came in. After a lot of fast forwarding and rewinding I was able to find close to the last place I was listening and I could finish the novel.

Recap: Irish copper is called to the scene of a teen girl's murder. The murder is near the woods where the same copper went missing about 20 years previously with two childhood pals. Copper was discovered catatonic with terror, his shoes soaked in human blood, and his two pals missing and never found again.

Copper recalls little to nothing of his time before his childhood abduction and the probable murders of his mates. But, the current day crime scene location has a couple clues suggesting a possible connection to the Copper's kid case. There is a big problem though: Copper has told no one but his close partner that he was that missing child 20 years ago. After Copper was found his parents moved away and, for Copper's safety, sent 11-year-old Copper to an English boarding school with a new name.

We follow Copper around in his search for the modern day murderer. The search turns into a parallel search for answers from Copper's childhood. To determine a link to the past crime Copper has to try and figure a few things out. He remembers almost nothing from before the abduction.  Copper has lived as if he was born a full grown 11-year-old. He has not questioned his past because his memory was buried or lost. His memories start to resurface as he re-investigates his own abduction.

Copper's personal and professional life start turning bad as he works to keep his secret from the police - his career could go straight in the garbage - and facing up to the memories and feelings that he begins to recall. He also starts to understand himself much better. How irrevocably his life was changed 20 years ago and the things he had taken by that crime: a normal childhood, possible lifelong friends, the ability to maintain a loving and romantic relationship, his emotional distance from his parents, so on, so forth.

Copper does live his life fairly well. He is, after all, working successfully in a demanding job, has friends, works well with others, manages his finances, visits with his parents. But, Copper is also only half-formed.


Things happen and we discover the killer of the recent killing and are left with plenty of questions about what happened 20 years ago.  A very good novel. Good narration.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Quit: "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison

Quit: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Overdrive download.

The audio quality was poor and I could not hear the narrator. This was a big bummer because the narrator is Joe Morton - JOE FREAKING MORTON!

I had to give up after only 10 minutes or less.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Shoot-Em-Up: "Warning Order" by Joshua Hood

Shoot-Em-Up: Warning Order by Joshua Hood, 2017, 9781501108280.

Second novel by Hood featuring Mason Kane, Super Commando Killer Dude. The first novel with Kane had Kane set-up by a group of rogue Army Special Forces dudes to look like a traitor as the rogue group tried to start a war (or an assassination or something, I don't recall exactly). Kane was cleared of the charge but his name and reputation are still mud with most people. He is now working as a Super Duper Commando contractor in Syria with assignments from the DOD and CIA.

Kane and his best pal Zeus are in Syria with three other guys on a suddenly assigned mission to raid a bad guy's safe house in an effort to help a U.S. undercover agent. The undercover agent, Boland, is a long time pal of Kane's and Kane is eager to assist. When Kane and Co. kill everyone and secure the safe house Kane discovers that the ISIS bad guys have hacked into the feed of a Predator drone and have stockpiled Stinger missiles and set-up AA guns. Uh-oh.

Kane calls in a warning but he is too late. The two inbound helicopters full of Super Duper Commando Dudes are shot down. Boland is left without assistance and kidnapped by Main ISIS Bad Guy. Kane and Co. respond to the crashed helicopters and go after the missing Boland. Kane is too late and Boland is spirited away and beheaded.

Kane is angry. Kane is upset. One of his best pals is now dead and he suspects malfeasance by his superiors. In this case malfeasance means, Plotting to put the U.S. back in to Iraq by plotting against the Army by using ISIS and killing anyone who gets in the way. Well, Kane is correct and he goes after Main ISIS Bad Guy as other characters pursue the conspiracy.

The novel has a great beginning with plenty of action and an introduction of main character. The book slowed down at other times. The strength of the story is with the soldiers and not the cabal of politicians and generals in D.C. They cabal is working with Main ISIS Bad Guy who promises a small attack but sinks a nuclear aircraft carrier (no mean feat).

The conspiracy stuff is okay, and it fits the genre, but was the weaker half of the story.

1. Search and Destroy series is a good name because Kane is a hunter/killer. He has plenty of brain power but his strength and interests are shooting and stabbing. Kane just gets caught up by the schemes of others and has to work his way out.
2. Gratuitous name dropping of knife name brand, JK Knives. JK uses O1 steel which is supposed to be a decent steel but I have not owned any knives with it. O1 is a tool steel and I don't think it is stainless, let me check... yep, not stainless.
3. Gratuitous HK rifles.
4. Gratuitous Toyota trucks.

Listen: "Dodgers" by Bill Beverly

Listen: Dodgers by Bill Beverly, 2016.

Four teenagers from Los Angeles are told by a crime lord to drive to Wisconsin and murder a witness living there. Things happen as the quartet traverse White People Country, fight among themselves, kill the witness, and get separated.

East is 15-years-old and "runs the yard" for a drug house. He and the people in his charge are the lookouts and keep people from hanging around the outside of the house. When East's profitable drug house is raided a 10-year-old neighbor girl is shot and killed during a gun battle. East - who is no stranger to street crime trauma - is emotionally shocked.

East's boss if Finn. Finn is some sort of relative to East but the relationship is unclear to East. East has not been Finn's protege exactly but East has been given some plum jobs over the years and moved up a little at a time. East is sent to visit Finn - often times this kind of visit is an invitation to the visitor's murder. But, Finn wants East to take on a murder-for-hire. East will travel with: East's younger and estranged brother Ty, 12-years-old. With 17-year-old computer kid Walter. With UCLA drop-out Michael, who will be in charge.

East's mother is an drug addict and East already moved out of her apartment and into a "bedroom" made up of a large cardboard box on the dirt floor of another building's crawl space. Ty left even earlier when Ty was 10-years-old and Ty has been mostly unknown to East. Ty has always been stubborn and ignored others. East cannot understand Ty and is unable to communicate with Ty. Mainly because Ty refuses to talk to most everyone.

Anyhoo. East shows up at his designated spot and two of Finn's bullying heavies confiscate any papers, weapons and phones of East and the other three. The henchmen then give out fake IDs, cash, a mechanically sound but ugly minivan, and directions to Wisconsin. Finn shows up for a final word of instruction to the four which includes Finn putting a pistol to East's head. A loving man, that Finn.

The gang of four hit the road with Ty glued to a handheld video game and Michael constantly talking, cracking jokes, and ribbing the overweight Walter. Michael ignores the standing order of avoiding all hotels, restaurants, surveillance cameras or anything else that can tie the group to a location. Instead Michael insists on taking a nighttime detour to Vegas. Things start to fall apart as the croupier tells Michael he cannot use cash, Michael gets his back up, the underage East and Walter are told to leave the casino, the mnivan is getting towed, so on, so forth. In the end East stands up to Michael and expects Michael to pound the hell out of him. The pounding begins and East is saved when Ty pulls a hidden gun and tells Michael to pound pavement.

More things happen as we follow the story through East's eyes. They have trouble along the way with a gun buy, an attempted robbery in rural Wisconsin, murdering the witness and the witness's teen daughter, and East shooting an unrestrained Ty in the chest when Ty attempts a carjacking at a gas station.

East and Walter keep running but Walter uses the last cash to fly home and East keeps running. East ends up in Ohio working at a paintball range under an assumed name until Ty finds him and tells East he has to return to L.A. and take over from Finn.

The novel is a tough listen because the main characters are all teenagers sent on a murder. On one side I wanted East to be okay and succeed. But, he is out to commit murder and has little to no thought about it. That lack of thought is something he too wonders about. Ty is only 13 and appears the most experienced crook and also seems to have already learned the art of assassination.

What's it all about? What's the message behind all this? I'm not sure. East the narrator is not reliable. In the end we learn how clueless East can be: Finn is actually East's father, East has been unknowingly groomed for takeover, the whole assassination trip was a reason to get East out of L.A., East has been a dick to Ty, etc. East does not always see subterfuge. Ty has a sensitive bullshit detector and gets the group out of trouble several times. If East sees something that is 'off' he'll likely let it ride and just think on it.

I was left wondering as the end of the book came up and the media player on my phone looped around to the beginning again. I was busy and could not get to my phone and as the book restarted I heard the introductory quotes. The first quote was from The Fugitive Blacksmith and I wondered if Beverly was connecting East's journey with that of an escaped slave.

Is that Beverly's point? East is escaping modern slavery of gang life? His absent father is like a slave owner? Maybe, I don't know. This is literature so you can make up all sorts theories. Heck, the only reason I give that theory thought is that East ended up in Ohio. East could have tried Canada but he has no passport.

1. I end up trying to figure out what East wants. Where does he want to go? Or do? Hell, East is 16-years-old and never left Los Angeles before. He doesn't know what he wants except to stay alive and avoid the police. Everything is new to him: cold weather, white people, deciduous trees, mountains.
2. That the whole exercise - a freaking murder mission - is just a reason to have the kid leave town is insane.
3. The murder of the witness and the witness's daughter are down by Ty. East did not want the girl shot. That shooting brings back the death of the 10-year-old girl in the beginning of the novel. Shortly afterward East ends up shooting Ty in the chest during Ty's attempted car jacking. That shooting is all told third person by the carjacking victim. We don't know what East is thinking as he tries to kill his kid brother. From our point of view - East's point of view - we've seen Ty acting out of control. But, was he? Maybe was Ty was the logical driven one.
4. Wisconsin!

Took A While: "Out of Cabrini" by Dave Case

Took A While: Out of Cabrini by Dave Case, 2006, 1594143781.

When I was in middle school my parents started subscribing to the Chicago Tribune. I read the paper most every day and mainly focused on the comics (two full pages!) and the Mike Royko columns. I'd read the rest of the paper depending on the day. Of several articles I  still recall, one was a profile of the Cabrini Green housing projects. The reporter detailed how incredibly dangerous and run down the high rise building were. How the Police Officers willing to work there were always on high alert. How the buildings were controlled by the gangs. How the drug trade and violence ruled the day.

So, when I saw the reviews for this novel back in 2005 or 2006 I was ready to read it. Doing so took me 12 years but I finally got to the novel.

Stacy Macbeth is on a mobile squad of Officers that work the Cabrini-Green buildings. They work in pairs and teams on different cases. One of those cases was the leader of smaller gang in Cabrini who just got out of prison, Alonzo Huggins. Huggins is a gang enforcer and upon his return from prison was gifted several pounds of cocaine for his loyalty. Huggins is not only a stone killer but he also enjoys beating up his longtime girlfriend. She ends up calling Macbeth and Huggins after less than 24 hours of freedom Huggins is arrested with a firearm. But, the cops don't find the dope in the car.

Well, Huggins wants his dope back. Huggins calls his lackeys from jail and sends them to the city car auction to buy the forfeited car, But, a businessman with an inside line pays a bribe to get the car before auction time.  The gangbanger lackeys start killing their way to the drugs and murdering witnesses on the way. A freeway collision caused by the gangbangers has the other driver, a City security guard, looking for the gangbangers to pay the car damage. Stacy starts looking for the missing security guard.

All the strings lead together to death and destruction, plenty of bodies, the smell of gunpowder, and distraught relatives.

The novel does not go into great detail on the characters. Stacy is fleshed out quite a bit but the meat of the story is in the chase and the long process of a police officer working a case. Stacy will ask questions, ask questions, ask questions, and ask questions. Stacy doesn't have much of a life outside of work anyway.

The bad guys are a bit one dimensional but you end up knowing more about the main Lackey who is under the stress of satisfying Huggins's demands, dealing with massive stress, keeping his troops in line, so on, so forth. 

An decent novel but not fantastic or anything. It's a shame Case has not put any other books out.