Thursday, September 26, 2019

Sunny: "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" by [unknown]

Sunny: It's always sunny in Philadelphia: the 7 secrets of awakening the highly effective four-hour giant, today : Charlie, Mac, Dennis, Sweet Dee, and Frank wrote this book by [unknown], 2015, 9780062225115

Don't read this if you've not seen the television show because much the text is inside and recurring jokes from the television show. Those jokes will fall flat, make no sense, or be missed without seeing the program. Especially since much of the humor depends on the main characters being somewhat despicable.

Anyway, if you enjoy the show this is pretty fun. After so many seasons and episodes I easily imagined the show's characters reading the text.

Recurring themes include:
1. Bird Law.
2. Dee as a flapping bird.
3. Alcoholism.
4. Possible sex crimes.
5. Rat catching.

I could not find any real author names. There is not way to tell if the show's creators, producers, writing staff, or hired guns wrote this.

Gagnon: "Kidnap & Ransom" by Michelle Gagnon

Gagnon: Kidnap & Ransom by Michelle Gagnon, 2010, 9780778328261 (pbk).

Fourth novel in a series with FBI Special Agent Kelly Jones. I read Boneyard a few months ago and enjoyed it. Boneyard was number two in the series and volume three gave Jones a traumatic amputation (via hand grenade) of her leg just above the knee. Jones has been on leave - with a black mark because of shenanigans - from work and slowly rehabbing as she lives with her boyfriend in New York City.

Jones has been in a emotional pit for about eight months. She hates that she is not working, is physically incapable of meeting her two-legged performance, guilt for her survival in novel #3, ashamed of her leg, and wrapped up in a few pre-existing emotional and behavioral issues.

Meanwhile, her boyfriend Jake Riley has been a longish term fiancee and struggling to get along with a very unhappy Jones. Riley recently started up a kidnap negotiation and rescue company (Kidnap and Ransom, K&R). Jake's estranged older brother, Mark, just retired as a commando and took a job with a competing company. Mark then gets ambushed and kidnapped in Mexico City. Jake has to go to the rescue and Jones demands to go along. Tagging with them is Jake's combative business partner WhatsHerName.

Anyhoo. Mark was down in Mexico to rescue his company's founder, Cesar. That man, Cesar, is famed for his negotiating skills and success and was taken hostage by the Zetas. Jake and Jones and WhatsHerName get involved with that as well.

Things happen. People are violent and Jake and Jones are not happy about the free flowing violence and torture employed by K&R people in the field. WhatsHerName dislikes Jones. Jones is hyper conscious of her stump and her limitations while trying to prove otherwise. Mark and Jake have been estranged. Other K&R people do not trust them. Many Mexicans are treated horribly and murdered.

I enjoyed this a fair bit and the story kept me very engaged until the last 50 pages or so. For each sitting I kept reading this longer than most recent books. But, at about 3/4 of the way through Jones pursues a second plot line that by itself would have been compelling. That plot line pulls in a serial killer from a previous novel. Adding that guy in made the the story too long for me. Paperback page count was over 411, I have no idea of the word count.

1. All the kidnap stuff is driven by money and greed. How much of it is traceable to the criminals who started off feeding the United States's drug needs?
2. It's neat to read about the ransom and negotiation business. Outside of that Russell Crowe movie a few years ago I've not run across many fictional portrayals. Gagnon does not go into a bunch of details of the work. There is more chasing bad guys and fractured personal and romantic relationships.
2. Fucking library catalog does not deliver alternate results for the ampersand symbol when I search "kidnap and ransom" rather than "kidnap & ransom". Damn thing. I suppose that is a problem with the bib record but I would have thought the system software would automatically include a search for "and" when searching "&".

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Missed Another: "Spook's Tale" by Joseph Delaney

Missed Another: Spook's Tale: The Spook's tale and other horrors by Joseph Delaney, 2009 (for version I had), downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

Damn. I was deleting old audiobooks from my phone and saw I did not write any notes on this. Three short stories featuring characters from The Spook series. Let me figure this out...

The online book description reminds me they are stories about:

  • Spook as an Apprentice
  • Alice when she helped Thomas Ward by infiltrating a witch village
  • Grimalkin when she started to be a witch assassin

That's about it. I do recall some of Alice's story because it filled in missing information from one of the novels when Thomas was able to sneak her out of the village.

EBook: "Locked Doors" by Blake Crouch

EBook: Locked Doors by Blake Crouch, 2010, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

I read Crouch's Wayward Pines trilogy and enjoyed the stories. The TV series was also well done and neat-o. Those Pines books were published only a couple years after Locked Doors and Crouch's writing skills made impressive improvements.

Locked Doors was kinda "Meh" because the main character spent the first quarter of the novel thinking back on events from previous books to set-up the current story. After all those long character introductions and back stories were complete the novel started to move along.

But, while I'm complaining I might as well not hold back: 1) Crouch's writing was overly flowery at points. 2) Something else I forgot about, but I am sure it was important. - Oh yeah, at least one superfluous character. Coulda' either dropped that guy.

Anyhoo. Suspected serial killer Andrew Thomas is hiding out in the Canadian wilderness. The previous novel had his lookalike brother and his brother's pal raping and kidnapping and murdering and setting up Thomas for the fall. Thomas ended up killing those two but was unable to clear his name and hit the road. But, Thomas became mega famous because he was already a successful novelist and was then known as a vicious serial killer. He has to hide himself well to avoid arrest.

Things have been going ok for him for Thomas over the past two to three years. He wears a thick beard, avoids people, and lives outside a tiny, forest town where people are not nosey. Things go wrong when Thomas finds out his brother's Murder Pal survived and just killed off a few of Thomas's former neighbors and a former girlfriend.  "Oh, shit" thinks Thomas "I better go after Murder Pal. And I know where to find him!"

Things move along after Thomas heads to the Carolinas and a couple barrier islands, a young police detective gets involved, bad guys are super awful, so on, so forth.

The front end and back end of the novel even things out I suppose. I doubt I will try the subsequent novella. Since Wayward Pines was fun I will eventually get to reading Crouch's two most recent novels, Dark Matter and Recursion. I don't know what those stories are about. Look it up yourself.

1, I have trouble typing Crouch. I keep typing Corouch.
2. Damn. I have trouble typing toruble.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Restaurant Audio: "Bread and Butter" by Michelle Widgen

Restaurant Audio: Bread and Butter by Michelle Wildgen, 2014 (original print date), downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

Wildgen came out to the library two or three years ago for an author visit. I ended up really enjoying the excerpt she read. And that is saying something because I not only don't give a rat's ass about cookbooks, cooking shows, and food novels but I look down on them. Why do I look down on them? Because I don't need a reason, Bub. And because I just don't. So there.

Anyhoo. Three brothers grow up about 45 minutes outside Philadelphia. The two older brothers, Leo and Britt, end up in the restaurant business and run a successful high-ish end restaurant in their home town. Harry is the youngest by about seven years. After a few peripatetic years as a student, beginning scholar, and cook in a remote restaurant he is back home and looking to start his own restaurant.

The story covers one year as Harry opens his restaurant, Leo and Britt fall in love, Harry gets manic and depressed, and Wildgen writes interesting details about restaurants and restaurant work. The characters were fine but they never did anything that much interested me. The restaurant details were enlightening. Of course that detail would mean nothing with crappy characters. The characters were not crappy, I just didn't much care what they were going through.

That's about all. This is literary fiction and sort of a domestic drama (I suppose). I certainly stayed engaged enough to finish, but the business side of the story was most interesting. Hiring people, sometimes frequent staff turnover, the planning needed for menus and decor and supplies, the skill needed to quickly prepare and cook meals, one reason booze is a great money maker is that it needs minimal prep work, the incredibly long hours worked by owners or managers.

1. A pal of Wildgen's (Susanna Daniel) came over to the library 1-2 years previous to Wildgen's visit and one person showed up to hear Daniel. One person! We invited Daniel for a Friday night reading and the weather that night sucked. The was a constant drizzling rain, it was dark, it was the opening of deer season, and there was a competing downtown event of wine and shopping and wine marketed at women.
2. Dang, I just checked the Wisconsin Digital Library and although there is a reading list of Wisconsin Born and Read for WI authors the list is lacking a bunch of fiction writers who live in WI. Wildgen, Daniels, that lady up North, the famous guy from Milwaukee, the thriller writer from Milwaukee, that lady on the Library Board over in Delavan. (Pewaukee? Muskego? One of those libraries.)
3. There is an ebook edition of Aztalan: mysteries of an ancient Indian town with a three week wait. Aztalan State Park is about two miles away and I've still not read this book since it came out in 2005.

More Sound Waves: "The Secret Place" by Tana French

More Sound Waves: The Secret Place by Tana French, 2014, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

Another amazing piece of work by French and set in Dublin, IE. French is so great at developing each person's motivations and point of through and using their past experiences to further illustrate. She is equally strong when the characters are interacting and the police are cueing off nonverbal communication. The interrogation scenes in the book were excellent.

French's previous novels have had a thing for childhood trauma and group dynamics. The focus is always on a police investigator and the adult police officers dealing with crimes that foment memories their own childhood trauma.  Secret Place adds is set in a private girls school and bounces around POV from cops to teenage girls. It's kinda like French and Megan Abbott wrote a book together.

Anyhoo. Stephen Moran, who was a smaller part of the last French novel, Faithfull Place, is at his cop desk when Frank Mackey's teen daughter shows up unannounced and shows Moran a bulletin board posting that was hanging at her boarding school. A murdered boy from a neighboring school was found on the grounds of Holly Mackey's all-girl school about a year ago. That investigation dried up and Moran really wants to join the murder squad. Unfortunately for Moran the Murder Squad top kick hates Moran's guts.

"Welllll, if I walk across the hall and take this bulletin board posting that says 'I know who killed him' I can get a gold star and have an in with Murder." He does that and is reluctantly invited on a visit to the school with the lead investigator, Antoinette Conway. Conway does not want Moran along; bringing Moran to the school is a kind of thank you.

The investigation kicks off again with as Conway and Moran start questioning students and staff. There are plenty of POV changes and flashback to the few months right before the murder. We get:
- Teen angst
- Teen drama
- Teen romance
- Teen caddishness from the boys school
- Teen queen bee bullshit from a couple girl students
- Police department politics and backbiting
- Scheming by Moran to stay involved in the investigation
- Scheming by Frank Mackey who is being himself. I.E. Mackey is in the running for Asshole of the World.
- Lots of group dynamics
- Fleeting fantastical elements where the girls are telekinetic
- Class issues and accents
- Money and power and class that drives behavior and resentment

The mystery of who killed the boy never drove my interest until later in the book when French gets closer to the reveal and a confession. The stories are all about the characters and those people dealing with their stresses and desires. My attention did wander a bit in the middle of the book. I think this was because there was not as much dialogue. French's dialogue is so damn good I wanted it back.

1. Mackey is a great character and a real piece of work. He is a very successful police officer and ready to stab anyone in the back. Mackey is the prime example of the old old comparison that cops and crooks are psychologically very similar. He constantly gathers information and then threatens anyone with that information. He dispenses favors and then twists ears when calling in markers. He will twist the story to fit his purposes and since he is a very persuasive talker he can easily ruin a cop's career.
1. The present day investigation covers all of one day.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Gischler, Again: "No Good Deed" by Victor Gischler

Gischler, Again: No Good Deed by Victor Gischler, 2018, 9781250106698.

I've read most Gischler novels and many of his comics. I don't associate his work with sex scenes. I think of humor, slacker and incompetent lead characters, human bad guys, and a few cars. I was reading through one of the sex scenes in this novel and realized he does have sex scenes in most of his novels. Huh.

I enjoyed the book. I enjoyed the story. I enjoyed the characters. I enjoyed most everything and I don't really want to give a plot summary.

Anyhoo. This is a Good Guy Meets Mysterious Woman and Is Pursued by Bad Guys novel. Francis has a boring job and a lame girlfriend who just walked out on him. On his way to work Francis sees a suitcase atop a dumpster and the case is spilling out a lot of women's fancy underwear. Francis is intrigued, sees a business card in the case, and figures "Eh, may as well help" and drops the case off at the former girlfriend's former workplace, a diner, since it is on the way.

Once Francis gets to work he sends an email to the address on the business card and trouble begins. The bad guys were watching the email account and show up. Mysterious Woman also shows up. Fisticuffs ensue, gunfire ensues, chasing ensues, rescues ensue, so on, so forth.

Summary: It's a Gischler which means it is well worth your time and money. Just give it a try.

1. Gratuitous self-love reference to a Gischler authored fantasy novel.
2. Many shotgun killings.
3. SPOILER:      We all knew she had a child before the reveal, right?  SPOILER

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Wisconsin Guy: "How Not To Be Wrong" by Jordan Ellenberg

NonFic Audio: How Not to Be Wrong: the power of mathematical thinking by Jordan Ellenberg,

Math guy writes mathy stuff about math.

I started this on the drive back from KS in August. I finished up listening while I walked the dog and walked back and forth from work. There was a lot of neat stuff in here where Ellenberg applied mathematical thinking and rigor to math problems and non-math problems. I took a couple notes along the way. Let me check...

1. An everyman's guide to statistics and probability and how they work in everyday life and how a mathematician's thoughts about proofs can drive strong critical and deductive thinking skills in people.
2. The topic of waste and government waste. If you can save $1,000,000 why not save $100,000? Or $10,000? Because what is the cost of reaching that deduction? Several times Ellenberg addresses how things are measured or quantified. How do you quantify aggravation or happiness? Or quantify good will when working with a customer or citizen?
3. Ellenberg knows his stuff. That is not surprising considering his enthusiasm for his work and the fact he is a PhD teaching at a major university (UW-Madison). He brings up some historical info on mathematicians and famous problems that were neat to hear.
4. "The Cult of Genius".
4.A. Throughout the book Ellenberg writes about famous math problems, their solutions, and the geniuses who remain famous decades or centuries after death. Later in the book he emphasizes the many, many, many mathematicians who are doing work and collaborating every day and gives an example of a major breakthrough that was completed after years of work but many people publishing work that was then built upon and built upon.
4.B. When gravitational waves were discovered in 2016 my brother mentioned how our father's black hole project was part of the history. Thousands of people working over years to complete multiple projects that led to a discovery.
4.C. The Big Time Genius gets all the press and praise and math students may think, "Why bother? I'll never be brilliant like that." Ellenberg points out this dynamic in a single classroom. "That one girl in the front row gets everything right, I can never be that great." Ellenberg points out that people need to work at math. The bullshit about the natural math genius is really just bullshit. One or two come along every few decades but everyone else is working, working, working. Lightning bolts of inspiration come from work not Zeus's hand. Mathematicians have to keep thinking, keep trying, and keep learning.
4. D. My wife and I have spoken about this where are children - who do very well in math - are going to run into trouble eventually and they will need to learn to not let frustration drive them off course.
5. Math is constantly evolving. Math is always changing. Advancing. Pushing new frontiers.

1. Gratuitous Housemartins references which I greatly appreciated.

Amlingmeyers: "The Double-A Western Detective Agency"

Amlingmeyers: The Double-A Western Detective Agency by Steve Hockensmith, 2018, 9781790516162.

A glorious return of the Amlingmeyer brothers. My only problem with this novel: I love the narrations of all the previous novels and short stories. I did not realize how important the voice of William Dufris is to the audio versions.

Well, the absence of Dufris did not matter much because I really enjoy Hockensmith's stories. I just read slowly and imagined Dufris reading Big Red's narration.

A recap: Old Red and Big Red Amlingmeyer are brothers from Kansas. Old Red left home to cowpunch and when the rest of the family died in a flood his younger brother Big Red rode out West to join him. Old Red is a very taciturn fellow and illiterate. Big Red is big and tall and very loquacious. Big Red started reading aloud to Old Red at nights and Dr. John Watson's stories about his work with Sherlock Holmes were an immediate favorite to both. Ever since then Old Red has been a faithful acolyte-at-a-distance of Holmes and the Holmesian method.

After a few adventures and novels the brothers have teamed with Diana Crowe and her father, The Colonel, who used to work as railroad police. The brothers and Diana used to be at odds but are not colleagues and sorta friends. The new detective agency - seen in the title - is headquartered in Ogden. Unfortunately they don't have any paying clients. As the firm's chief investor the Colonel is therefore in charge, so he sends Old and Big and Diana off for a paying job to catch rustlers in Colorado (or some state)

Anyhoo. Hockensmith always pairs his plots and continuing characters with Western history. Same as James Benn (whose new book came out this past Tuesday) puts his main guy in the midst of World War Two mayhem. The Reds this time are walking into a town divided by racism and a range war. The town is literally divided down main street with Anglo on one side and Hispanic on the other. The Reds were hired by an Anglo rancher but before they can make contact they end up backing a local Hispanic store keeper against a gang of Anglo ruffians. Oops, those ruffians were co-workers-to-be.

Well, they can scratch that job but Old Red does not much care since he refuses to work for bullies.They end up meeting the town Marshall and then Hockensmith finagles the Reds to meet the local Hispanic Bigwig Rancher (HBR). When the Marshall is murdered on the HBR's land her son is accused of murder. The Reds sell their services and get to work.

Sticking some characters into a divided town and having them mostly try to play the middle is not a novel novel plot. I didn't care. Because it is a fun way to tell a story. HBR and family don't much like the Reds and the son accused of murder would just as shoot the Reds than let them prove his innocence.

Diana and Old Red continue to bicker and argue and Hockensmith leaves Big Red bullheaded over the romantic attraction between Old and Diana. Big Red still can't stop talking either. He gets on Old Red's nerves all the time and started getting on my nerves. There are fisticuffs. Dead bodies. Scoundrel bad guys. Frustrating characters (both Reds). And horses.

I've really enjoyed this series.

1. This is a print on demand paperback with a July, 2019 date printed in back.
2. I recall Hockensmith being dropped by his publisher. What a horrid decision that was. I quickly checked his website and did not see mention of that. This may be self-pubbed.

Bond: "Forever And A Day" by Anthony Horowitz

Bond: Forever And A Day by Anthony Horowitz, 2018, 9780062872807.

One of the novels I picked out for summer vacations. I have a few more left and should bring them back except no one else has placed a hold on them and they are not brand new.

This story is something of an origin story with Bond on his first assignment as a 00 agent. There were only three (four?) 00 agents and the most recent 007 has been murdered on assignment in the South of France. Bond has been an undercover and had a couple try out missions where he committed two assigned murders. Now he has been promoted to continue the investigation, find his predecessors killer, and avenge the agent's death.

What proceeds is different than the film versions. I suppose this is obvious but all the film stories with slam-band car chases, fistfights, and plots to destroy the world have not been in many Bond novels I have read. This story goes right back to some Fleming plots where Bond is not fighting SMERSH. Bond is investigating a heroin ring.

Rather than go undercover Bond flies to France under his own name - after all his immediate and deceased predecessor went undercover and was found out anyway. He starts following the few remaining clues and searching the dead man's apartment. While there he is ambused by a CIA guy, clocks the guy, then makes friends.

Bond gets help from CIA and meets up with the sexy Sixtine. A former British wartime spy with the British SOE, Sixtine holds a grudge against Limeys over wartime activities. But, Bond and her have drinks, make nice, have sex, and work together. Sixtine has been getting romantic with a multi-millionaire from the States. That multimillionaire's film production factory has been ordering chemicals from a company with links to the local French crime kingpin. Plus, the chemical company's dockside warehouses are a stone's throw from where the previous agent was found dead.

Anyhoo. Things move along and this was fun. The book is set in 1950 or '52-ish (I don't recall a specific year but this is not too long after WWII and the Korean War was ongoing). Horowitz gives us a period piece and adds in some cultural mores. There is some daily sexism.There is an allusion to the bad guy being homosexual and Bond being repulsed when Bond is tied up and the man strokes his face. I recall some xenophobia from M but maybe I imagined that - besides modern M is always a bit of a priggish asshole. No racism. No religious bigotry.

I recall some unpleasant reading from early Fleming novels when it came to racism and sexism. I read a Bulldog Drummond novel a few years ago that was set after WWI. Man, that was some something else.