Thursday, September 4, 2014

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer: Read This If

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer is an audacious but ultimately successful worst-case-scenario novel a la The Circle - though darker and funnier and more complex. It's really not genre-able, but it is a great deal of fun. Techno-dystopia-lite? Ish? It is a book that lives up to its title.

We've got corporate conspiracies at the highest level; global corruption; awkward 30-somethings, each lost in their own way; secret rebel groups with crazy protocols; government infiltration; and, of course, unlikely heroes. Also: no one seemed to have chosen the moniker Lee K. Bottoms. Or Claire Voyant. Maybe in the sequel?

I think I'm having trouble writing about this one because I'm afraid to give anything away. I really want to write about the end, but that would just be cruel, wouldn't it? It also reminded me somehow of Infinite Jest, at least the first 300 pages, which is all I managed to read before wandering off into another novel. It might have been all the addiction stuff.

Either way, you should make this your next read. Or, well, read this if:
  • You're looking for a novel that is both character and plot driven. 
  • You like fiction that can't be easily classified. 
  • You don't entirely trust all this information "sharing" and wonder how it might play out. 
  • You like wordy, evenly paced thrillers. 
  • You've had "Airstream Driver" stuck in your head lately.
  • And really, you can't go wrong with a title like Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Can you?
Don't ready this if:
  • You are absolutely no fun. 
  • You fully trust every site and technology to which you "give" your information. Wait, scratch that. That's a reason to read this.
  • You believe the government/aliens/they/the bats is/are out to get you. This will only fuel that fire.
  • You are looking for a very fast, very easy read. This one's complicated - you should probably pay attention or you'll be easily lost.
  • You need everything explained to you fully, and all threads tied together neatly at the end, which is not open-ended.

*Thanks to Netgalley and Mulholland Books for my ebook copy, though I also enjoyed the audio. And the physical copy I checked out of the library. Apparently I need to read in all formats. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith: Read This If

There is no doubt about it: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith, AKA JK Rowling, is a tightly written piece of detective fiction. While lengthy, the tone and pace were just right to keep me engaged. I did switch back between the text and the audio versions - on that note, the narrator, Robert Glenister, is fantastic.

Cormoran Strike is your typical disillusioned detective in many ways - he's gruff, smart, down-on-his-luck, and walks just this side of the moral line. But he's also a one-legged, giant veteran, unhealthy and as such not terribly attractive. His accidental side-kick, Robin, is your typical 25-year old beautiful smart blonde. Not classically beautiful, but girl-next-door pretty. She comes complete with a jealous fiance. (I may have felt something more could have been done to make her character interesting, but...alas. Maybe later. I did have to quell the eye-rolling the juxtaposed duo induced, but I did grow to appreciate both characters in the end, despite the stereotypical implications).

Whatever your opinion on pretty girls and not pretty boys, you should read this if:
  • You can't get enough of Tana French novels - this isn't as gritty, maybe, but it was similarly compelling.
  • You're looking for a good cold-weather novel - either because it's winter, or because you need to cool off from the heat wave through which you're currently suffering.
  • You're an Anglophile, and admire London, specifically.
  • You've been on a Hall & Oates kick lately, with "Private Eyes" being one of your go-to songs.
  • You loathe the Paparazzi despite never having been famous yourself.
Don't read this if:
  • You don't read books over 300 pages. 
  • You are in a lighter, more whimsical mood. 
  • You're looking for an adult version of Harry Potter.
  • You expect your mysteries to double as thrillers, moving at an unpleasantly neck-breaking speed.
*Disclaimer: While I enjoyed the first 3 Harry Potter books that I read, I never made it to book 4 because it was in hard cover at the time, and it was the size of a law text book. I did not want to lug it all over the city on the subway. So. Too bad there were no books back then.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh: Read This If

I admit, I requested The Weight of Blood purely based on its title. Well, okay, not purely - its title coupled with the fact that it's set in the Ozarks, a nearby region that's always intrigued me. What do people do out there, anyway?

Apparently, a whole lot of nothing good. That's not to say it's all bad, but the meth and other trafficking are rampant among those that have too much control in the communities. The Weight of Blood is a powerful debut novel by Laura McHugh, a self-described insider-outsider. Those from the Ozarks don't like outsiders, and outsiders can never understand native Ozarkians, not really. Lucy, the main character is also a little bit of an insider-outsider herself, having been born to a mother from Iowa (might as well be France) and a father native to Henbane, the small town in which Lucy grows up after her mother disappears mysteriously when Lucy is only a year old.

The novel opens with another mystery, the murder of one of Lucy's high school friend/acquaintances, a girl that had disappeared a year earlier. What follows is intense like a hot, humid Midwestern summer - slow, lurid and burning.

You should pick up this novel this summer if:
  • You're looking for an atypical read perfect for the waning heat of summer.
  • You like well-paced and -plotted reads. 
  • You like mysteries but are not necessarily a fan of the crime fiction genre. 
  • Your have been listening to "Cruel Summer" on repeat for days. 
You may want to skip this if:
  • You have some trigger issues (trigger warning). 
  • You can only be pulled in by Dan Brown pacing.
  • You prefer to remain blissfully unaware of what might be happening outside your urban fortress.
  • Your soundtrack to Grease is stuck on "Summer Nights."
 *Thanks to Netgalley and Random House for a complimentary ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell: Read This If

If you've been having a little Gatsby withdrawal this summer, The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell may be just the novel to quell your roaring 20s thirst. We've got speakeasies, bobbed hair and self-entitled young adults with a dash of murder, and (here's where the similarities depart) possibly a side of Fight Club, but that's up for debate. (Any takers?) 

Rose is a self-righteous, uptight and rather clueless young woman working as a typist in a New York City police precinct. As such, she's privvy to gruesome details of all sorts of heinous crimes. Life continues along, until the glamorous Odelie joins the complacent group of typists, raising havoc with her mysterious, confident, modern nature. Rose, despite herself, is easily drawn into Odelie's bootlegging, back alleyed, money-is-no-object world, and gets to know a side of herself she can barely admit to having.

Overall, it's a quick, captivating read, even if ambiguous in the end - but that can be half the fun, right? 

You should read The Other Typist without further ado if:   
  • You feel you should have been born a century earlier.
  • You're looking for something that resembles noir but isn't quite.
  • You like unique takes on familiar subject matter. 
  • You don't mind strong, possibly amoral, female characters. 
  • You prefer The Third Man to The Thin Man. Or not. Perhaps your in a The Third Man kind of mood.
You should not read this if:
  • You prefer your novels to be lighthearted and wrapped up with a neat little bow at the end.
  • Your misogyny has got you down.
  • "Moody" should describe your cantankerous coworker but never novels or films.
  • You just can't imagine a world without the internet. 
  • You've never even heard of The Third Man or The Thin Man
I did have the pleasure of meeting Ms. Rindell at a lovely event in, as luck would have it, an old city police station, and she's just delightful. I'll be looking for her next book, which is rumored (by her) to take place in the village during the beatnik era. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Half Marathon: Run this if

You may have noticed I've been a little MIA and sporadic with the posting. (One day, every post will not start with a similar sentence, I swear!) Well, it's been a rough winter, and when I wasn't working (or whining about work or snow or ice), I was mostly training for this half marathon thing I just did, and then too tired to concentrate much on reading or blogging. (Lame, I know.) A year ago I could barely run a 5K - what on earth made me sign up for a half marathon?? I have no idea. Probably just to see if I could really do it. (The answer is: Yes, I can. Woohoo!) Or maybe just to have a goal to work toward. Or maybe because it seemed like a worthier goal for raising money for the wonderful Stray Rescue. (If you are a softie for rescue critters, you can still donate even just a small amount over to the right! It'll be live until the end of April. No pressure at all; it's the place that united us with our ridiculous canines and they are really a fantastic organization.) Or maybe just so that I could officially be "a runner." (I now proclaim myself "officially" a runner.) 

I was not very fast, but I was much faster than my what now seems pitiful 5K last year, and this was more than 4 times as far, and with wonderful IT band issues to boot! I say that as if it's a good thing... it's not. Now for the stretching and foam rolling and exercising to get the leg back into form so I can... keep running. I'm already planning my next half. 

So, should you, dear reader, sign up for a half marathon as well? I don't know. Ask your doctor, as they say. And stuff.

Run a half marathon if:
  • You're looking for some good 'me' time or some social time - it's great to train both alone and with groups. Note: Long runs can be easier with a group. 
  • You need another 'r' to fight having the body of a heavy reader - that is, the idea of an R&R weekend appeals to you in the reading & running sense.
  • You've a playlist already geared to 170-190 bpm to get your cadence just where it should be. 
  • You like listening to audiobooks while exercising. You'll have plenty of time to listen while training.  
  • You just need something to keep you sane. 
  • You want to see what all the fuss is about. 
  • You are not totally and completely repelled by the possibility of removing your shoes to discover that your toes have been bleeding and some toenails may not be sticking around for the summer. (Ladies, apparently you just paint the nail bed, and voila! Sandals anyway.)
Do not run a half marathon if: 
  • Your doctor said no, don't do it. 
  • You think you can just grab any pair of sneakers and go with no plan. You're likely going to injure yourself. 
  • You are afraid of dogs and pedestrians.
  • You are not willing to risk, ahem, runner's trots. 
  • You don't want to get addicted to races. The entrance fees really start to add up after a while... it might eat into your book budget!
  • Your doctor said no, absolutely under no circumstance are you to do any amount of running.

At any rate, go me! Ha. Kidding. But really, I never thought I'd ever run that far, continuously. And no, I am not (currently) thinking about a full. That just seems completely insane. 

Hope all is well, and I'll be back w/ more reads shortly! 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

For Immediate Release: Books to Remain Closed Until Further Notice

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, NEW MEXICO: A terrifying phenomenon is sweeping the nation: books everywhere, when opened, spill their guts - literally. That is, literature-ally - after a book is opened, the words actually float off the pages and scatter into the air, never to be retrieved again. 

The anomalous book behavior seems to have begun sometime in waning hours yesterday evening. "I didn't know what was happening!" said 9-year-old Timothy Sassypants of Big Stone Gap, Virginia. "I opened my history text book, and nearly choked on the words as they sprang into my mouth and everywhere!" 

Sassypants eventually managed to spit out the offending words, but, tragically, they were gonners. Chapters of his history reader were left completely blank. "I don't think Mr. Sideeye is going to believe me when I tell him why I couldn't finish my homework." Until, that is, Mr. Sideeye opens a book for himself. 

Everything from classics to trashy fodder to dictionaries is susceptible to this text loss disease - except, interestingly, user manuals and the Bible. Textualists and librarians have begun experimentation to see how they might replicate this immunity and inject it into susceptible books. 

Librarian Ms. N. O. Sinabuk of Cripple Creek, Colorado, has locked the doors of the town's library in an effort to save the books from the curious and the devious. "They'll not have the chance to witness the text-floaty-craze from our precious books," she said. "Someone's got to protect the books until they can get this thing under control."

Some theorize that this text-annihilation book disease was developed by an underground book-banning organization. Others speculate a higher power is at the heart of this "letter flood." 

Whatever the cause, dear readers, if you care about books, keep them closed for now. "Experts" hope to have this issue resolved in the near future. Some even say it is likely similar to the 24-hour flu, and we can expect book life to return to normal by tomorrow. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Last year, I wrote about the wonderful novel The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards. This year, I have the opportunity of offering you the chance to win a copy! If you have not yet read the book, you should. I am re-posting last year's review below. Please enter by 11:59pm Monday, March 3rd. Only those with a US street address are eligible. Winner will be notified by March 5, 2014.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Originally posted April 11, 2013:

Kristopher Jansma's debut novel, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, is anything but unchangeable. The chameleonic narrator is about as unreliable and changeable as they come, or, at least, that's what he'd have you believe. He insists that he is a liar, a teller of tall tales, and someone other than himself. He'll never tell you his *real* name (or will he), or the names of his trio of friends - which keep changing from one chapter or story within a story to the next. He seemingly seamlessly (say that ten times fast) slides in and out of various characters, from student to writer to journalism professor to plagiarizer for hire to editor, but always he is a writer, or he would be if only he could write something he recognizes as real, and good, and true. Although, he does believe there is an art to - and a hunger for - lying:
The truth is that I actually have the greatest respect for those fantastic liars. Someday I'd like to teach a class entirely about them. "Late Great American Fakes." My humble thesis will be that America no longer desires truth, only the reasonable facsimile thereof. Like battered lovers, we're willing to settle. Our sense of values still holds us to dismiss that which we know, outright, to be blatant lies, but we avoid the truth with equal intensity. We wish to remain in the gray interregnum of half believe, when at all possible. 
Of course, as he later admits, most of his lying is really to himself, and he wonders how much he can change, and how much he has changed, if at all. He muses about such capabilities when he comes across the son of his former lover, his to-date lifelong obsession. The boy is the same age as the narrator when he wrote - and lost - his first book.
Someday he'll see that he can't have one without the other. He can't know he is the same unless everything around him has changed. It's like black spots on black fur - you can't see them, but they're there, all the same.  
He'll think he's moving in zigzags, getting anywhere but where he meant to go. But there are edges to the board, and someday he will reach one, and it is only then that life will place a true crown onto his head. It's only then that he'll be able to turn around and see for the first time a glorious path back from where he came. 
The leopard and chess motifs pepper the novel, and this quote nicely brings them all together.

I'd definitely recommend reading this if:
  • You enjoy contemporary novels that play with form. 
  • You don't mind it when your narrators might be lying to you. 
  • You covet explorations of the hazy lines between perception, truth, fiction, and lies. 
  • Your current theme song could be "You Can't Always Get What You Want." 
Don't read this if: 
  • You are easily confused and believe everything the media tells you.
  • You like your plots and characters to be pretty straight-forward. 
  • You don't like novels that make you think about stuff.
  • You love How I Met Your Mother and hate Mad Men.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Night Film by Marisha Pessl: Read This If

What a trip! I just finished Night Film by Marisha Pessl, and it was a fantastic novel with which to start the year - a good fall/winter read. I read Special Topics in Calamity Physics last year, and I thoroughly enjoyed that novel, too, but this is a much different type of mystery.

Without further ado, read this if:
  • You are looking for a unique and compelling page-turner with intellect and some depth. 
  • You enjoy novels in which a city, here, New York, is a major character. 
  • You are looking for a read that matches the weather, and you live where it is winter now, and winter where you are is cold and grey or brown. 
  • You are a fan of quirky characters and caricatures and intricate plot lines. 
  • You've had Prufrock whispering in the back of your head somewhere since that fateful day in high school.
  • Sometimes your theme song is "A Night Like This" by The Cure. 
Pass on this for now if: 
  • You are looking for a slow-paced saga about quilting. 
  • You can't read yet another story centering on a stunningly beautiful genius misunderstood girl because without the whole beauty thing no one would give a damn. In fact, most of the women with multiple appearances are apparently drop dead gorgeous. Except the ones that are cartoonishly ugly. There really is no in-between. 
  • You can't help but think New York needs to get over itself already. Or the people that live there need to stop acting as if it's a badge of honor to 'survive' New York. It's a city. It's 'survivable.' People come and go. Talking of Michelangelo. 
  • You would just die if the smartphone app doesn't work seamlessly. 
  • You need everything wrapped up and tied neatly with a bow at the end. 
  • Your current theme song is "Walking on Sunshine."
Despite my few misgivings, I would completely recommend reading this novel as soon as you have the chance. It might even make a good book club read, honestly. There is plenty of fodder for discussion. 
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