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text 2017-08-09 04:19
Improving
One Grave at a Time - Jeaniene Frost

Cat and Bones are actually communicating, which adds to the action better than random reactions based on guesses and assumptions. I like that the villain of the piece, Kramer, was someone most people would have hated if he was still alive today. Having most of the characters decry Kramer's actions but some applauding him (well, just one but I don't see how more could have been shoved in without making it top heavy) makes it just more relatable. Some attitudes never change, despite the overall progress of humanity.

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review 2017-08-07 00:26
In Bitter Chill (Ward)
In Bitter Chill - Sarah Ward

Recommended on some book discussion board or other, this is one of the few debut crime novels I've read. Usually a writer will be well-established before they penetrate my fog of apathy about literary fashion! In this case, though, I'm very glad I invested the time.

A current case triggers the re-opening of a 1970s cold case. A second current case reinforces the need to go back to the old one. Unusually,  however, one of the victims of the cold case is still kicking and a major character in the present of the novel. Also somewhat unusually in my recent crime-novel-reading experience, the flashback POV is very sparingly used, and the reader stays pretty much in synch with the knowledge owned by the modern-day investigators. Those investigators are of two types: the police, trying to comprehend two recent deaths of older women, and Rachel, the survivor of the 1970 double kidnapping (in which the other victim is long missing and presumed dead.)

All right, I don't want this to be a spoiler review, so I'll just mention that not only is Rachel's profession of genealogist a very good piece of characterization, but it's highly germane to the eventual solution of the mystery behind the violent acts in the crimes past and present.

The detection team, featuring (at least for this case) a woman named Connie and a man named Sadler, who are almost certainly going to play a game of will-they-won't-they in sequels, didn't actually interest me all that much. But they are fairly well delineated, and in no way objectionable, so I'm sure they'll carry future novels just fine, especially if they're as well plotted as this one.

I plan to read more by Sarah Ward.

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review 2017-08-07 00:22
And Furthermore (Dench)
And Furthermore - Judi Dench

"Do not consider this an autobiography. I have neither the time nor the skill to write one," warns Dame Judi right at the beginning of her introductory remarks. She points to the 1998 biography by John Miller, and it is that same John Miller who has the "as told to" credit on this book. That said, "And Furthermore" is chatty and not obviously ghost-written in tone, and the assistance to its celebrated author seems to have been chiefly rendered in keeping names, dates and projects straight. Unlike a later-in-life memoir with a similar title, Lauren Bacall's "And Then Some," this book does not confine itself just to the years since the last biographical outing, but instead covers off, in an orderly and comprehensive, if fairly superficial way, all of Judi Dench's long life. There is a solid emphasis on her performing rather than her personal or emotional life, though of course she talks a bit about major events like the passing of her much-loved husband, Michael Williams. The narrative is mostly anecdotal, sometimes funny but not exclusively so, and very generous to her co-workers in theatre, film and television. She also reveals a somewhat surprising penchant for misbehaving on stage or set - practical jokes and the like.

Dench, if she is generally apt to suppress criticism of other people, makes no secret of her dislike for certain material. She loathes "The Merchant of Venice," for instance. And even at the distance of more than 40 years, she has no hesitation in pronouncing a minor play from French, "Content to Whisper," "the most terrible play known to man."

The names are not so much dropped as just wonderfully, gloriously omnipresent. Judi Dench has worked with everyone from Gielgud onwards. She can say of two productions of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "What was so uncanny for me was hearing Rachael Stirling as Helena, the part her mother Diana Rigg had played with the RSC when we did it before." She knows and has worked with all the British classical actors who have crossed over to Hollywood celebrity - Ian McKellen, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Irons, Kenneth Branagh, Daniel Craig, you name 'em. A little to my surprise, she also has a solid resume in musicals; she was only prevented by a rehearsal injury from being in the original London cast of "Cats" and she played big houses in "Cabaret" and "A Little Night Music."

Judi's right though, in a way. This is an autobiographical work, but it's not "the autobiography" or "the biography." Like many actors, she shies away from analyzing or even watching her own work. And, likeably enough, she doesn't indulge in a lot of introspection, at least not for public consumption. I shall probably end up trying Miller's 1998 biography in hopes for more insights to add on top of this entirely amiable work.

Oh yes, there's a decent collection of photos from her collection too, including some in colour. Definitely a keeper.

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text 2017-08-06 06:27
Late nights
Joyland - Stephen King

I finished this at 2:30 this morning. I'm not sure if I was up late because it was a good book, or if it was a good book because I was up late. Either way, it's a good book. There's only a touch of the supernatural, a ghost only certain people can see and two characters with "the Sight". The rest is murder and coming of age. Having read some of King's other non-horror books, I will say that the man is a great storyteller no matter the medium, even though he's had a couple missteps (Gerald's Game and the Talisman, I'm looking at you).

All in all, standard King fare. Readable, relatable, engrossing and engaging. Not sure I can come up with much more alliteration so I'll just leave this right here.

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review 2017-07-29 16:59
The Realm of Last Chances ★★★☆☆
The Realm of Last Chances - Steve Yarbrough

Are there any “literary” novels that aren’t grim and depressing? If so, I haven’t found any yet. My takeaway from this one is that

everybody is hiding something, the only people who aren’t judgmental assholes aren’t interesting enough for character exploration but instead are simply receptacles for the interesting people, and since everyone is guilty of violating at least one rule of ethics or someone’s trust, then we shouldn’t judge each other for that kind of stuff, only for having tacky or popular tastes in entertainment and/or conservative politics. Oh, and all sins are fairly equivalent: academic dishonesty, cheating on your spouse, embezzling from your employer, giving someone a (deserved or undeserved) beating that hospitalizes them, armed robbery, or being a swinger.

(spoiler show)

In spite of these flaws, this is a well-written story with interesting characters and plot.

 

Hardcover, purchased from Half Price Books on the recommendation of the now-defunct podcast Books On The Nightstand.

 

Previous Updates:

7/22 – 27/288pg

7/24 – 82/288pg

7/25 – 96/288pg

7/28 – 199/288pg

 

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