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review 2021-05-26 10:29
CRAZY FOR THE COWBOY by Cindy Spencer Pape
Crazy for the Cowboy (Love at the Crazy H) - Cindy Spencer Pape

Ree has inherited her great uncle's bookshop. Moving to Wyoming she packs up his things but decides to stay and reopen his store. She meets the sheriff under very interesting circumstances. Both have pasts that they need to deal with in order to move into a life together.

 

I enjoyed Ree and Fitz, the sheriff. I liked how Ree makes decisions and moves forward to make them happen. She is starting over and makes a few mistakes but she has a good heart as does Fitz though he tries to hide it. The secondary characters are good especially Lily, Harry, Jack, and Singing Bird. Fitz's family is large but welcoming to Ree.

 

I hope there are more stories at the Crazy H.

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review 2020-08-25 21:46
The New One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
The New One Minute Manager - Ken Blanchard,Spencer, M.D. Johnson I’m not entirely sure how to rate this book. The text is incredibly short: about the length of a magazine article. The takeaways are even shorter; much of that short text is a parable about a young man learning the ways of the one-minute manager. That said, I got this book from the library so I’m inclined to be generous regarding the amount of actual content, and there is something to be said for expanding on a simple idea at a little more length in order to fix it in readers’ minds. The takeaways are basically this: Goals: Employees need to know what their goals in their positions are, so that they can figure out for themselves whether or not they’re succeeding without having to wait for infrequent performance reviews. The manager and employee should figure out together the employee’s goals, which should be written down with timelines in a short form that’s easy for the employee to review regularly. (I’m having trouble figuring out how to implement this one in my workplace due to the nature of our work.) Praising: Managers should try to “catch people doing something right” and offer specific praise when they see it to make employees feel good about themselves. People with confidence and who like their jobs do better work, so focusing on people and focusing on results shouldn’t be a choice between two different goals. Also, you shouldn’t wait until people are doing something perfectly before praising them any more than you’d wait until a kid has learned to talk before praising their attempts. (I need to work on this but at least the how-to is obvious.) Redirects: When people do something wrong, the authors suggest that you discuss it with the person as soon as possible; confirm the facts and review the mistake together; tell the employee how you feel about the mistake and pause for a moment for them to be concerned; and then express that you know their work is better than this, have confidence in them and think well of them as a person. Then, let it go. (All this seems challenging to do, but probably a good idea. I haven’t tried it yet.) Overall this seems to me to pack some good advice that goes beyond what you’d expect from the brief page count, though yeah, it is really short. Hopefully I’ll be able to figure out how to use it.
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review 2020-07-26 23:58
Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 (The Last Lion #1)
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 - William Raymond Manchester

Before he became the face of the dogged determination in World War II and the voice of inspiration for the British people, Winston Churchill was a scion of a noble family looking to make his mark and coming close on many occasions.  The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 is the first volume of William Manchester’s biographical trilogy which deals with Churchill’s early life and his adventurous political career until he was shunned by power and entered the political wilderness.

 

A scion of the ducal Marlborough family, Winston Spencer-Churchill was the eldest son of a second son and his American wife.  Before even getting to Winston’s birth and life, Manchester paints the social, cultural, and political landscape he would be born into, be indoctrinated to believe in, and defend his entire life.  Throughout his life, Winston would use the connections of his parent’s friends and acquaintances to advance himself early in his career while a boon to his military and early political careers it hardly made up for the fact that both his parents were aloof to his existence even for the times of the British upper class.  Manchester relates Winston’s school misadventures and horrible academic record for the classical education expected off one of his station, but while he failed to understand Greek or Latin his “remedial” studies of English year after year would serve him the rest of his life as a journalist, author, and speaking in Parliament.  While he served in wars in the frontier of the Empire, first in India then in Sudan, and afterwards in South Africa he initially went there as a “journalist” but used his military rank to join battles or was recruited by the commander on the spot to lead men.  Upon the completion of the Boer War, during which he was taken prisoner and escaped, Winston entered politics in his eyes to take up his late father’s torch.  Once on the floor of the House, Winston’s speeches were events to be listened to and to be written about in the papers.  His familial connections got him in touch with the high circles of the Conservative party, but the issue of Free Trade and his own “radical” views on issues made him become a Liberal and soon found him apart of the new government the party form and would be until after the events connected with Gallipoli during the First World War resulted in him taking to the trenches on the Western Front.  After a return to a position in the Government, Winston soon found him edging away from the Liberal Party that was dying in the face for the rise of the Labour Party and soon returned the Conservatives to be among their new Government.  Yet the same tensions that made Winston leave the Party in the first place were still there but with more animosity but it was the issue of India sent Winston still a Conservative into the political wilderness that many of his political adversaries believed him to be finished, especially at his age.

 

In nearly 900 pages of text, Manchester not only details the first 58 years of Winston’s life but also the times he lived in while slowly setting things up for the final volume for the events in which he is most well-known to the public today.  There seems to be a bias by Manchester towards Winston that does make it through to the page instead of a little more balanced writing in places, however Manchester does not shy away that Winston’s views and words around the India issue essentially were racist even though at the time it was common thought by many in Britain.  Manchester gives balanced view of Winston’s relations with the working class while at the same time revealing why Labour and the press said he was against them.  The account of the Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaign that is always blamed on Winston is given fully fleshed out including what actions Winston were accountable for and those he was not and why it was he that the failure was attached to.

 

Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 reveals the times and environment in which Winston Churchill was brought up and how they shaped him as he entered politics and attempted to rise to power.  William Manchester gives a full picture of a young then middle-aged politician whose life was a roller coaster that influenced the British Empire its domestic and foreign affairs, but never held ultimate power and seemed never to.  If one wants to know Churchill this book is a great place to start.

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review 2020-07-08 04:34
Water, Water Everywhere and a Murder, too
Of Mutts and Men - Spencer Quinn

Bernie meets the man destined to his new best friend—a hydrologist who seems to share many of the same opinions as Bernie when it comes to water usage in Phoenix. I don't think we've managed to get a novel where Bernie hasn't complained about the waste of water in the area (except maybe those two when they were back East), "we only have one aquifer." It appears that Wendell has need of a P.I., too—the two make arrangements to meet the next day to discuss it.

 

But when our dynamic duo shows up at Wendell's worksite office, they find him murdered. Which puts the kibosh on the bromance. Bernie naturally begins investigating—spurred to action after meeting the Sheriff's Deputy in charge of this case, if nothing else—who is one of the sorriest excuses for a law enforcement officer that I've read this year. Some quick detective work leads Bernie to a suspect—not one that he believes really did it, but he still feels compelled to hand him over to Deputy Beasley.

 

This was a mistake as Beasley locks in on the suspect and ignores any other possibilities. But the more that Bernie looks into things—if only to find out why Wendell wanted to hire him—the more he's convinced the suspect is innocent. Only no one—including the deputy, and the suspect's own defense attorney—will listen to him.

 

We Need to Talk About Chet

 

What is there to say about Chet the Jet? He's the same loveable, heroic champ we've come to know and love. For those who don't know—Chet's our narrator, Bernie's partner, and a 100+ pound dog. Other than a couple of sentences showing a more libidinous side to Chet than we're used to seeing, he's exactly what we've come to expect. Don't read anything into me not having a lot to say about him—he's the best dog in fiction (for my money), but there are only so many ways you can say that.

 

But We Can't Forget Bernie (or Anyone Else)

 

On the other hand, I think I've given Bernie short shrift over the years—it's easy to focus on Chet. But Bernie's more than just the guy who complains about wasting water while making horrible investment choices. He's a top-notch P.I., but like most fictional P.I.'s, his principles, independence, and lousy business sense keep him from being much of a success. His residence and devotion to Chet are most of what separates him from Elvis Cole, for example (sure, Elvis has his cat, but he doesn't take the cat with him on cases).

 

I felt more connected to Bernie in this novel than usual—I'm not sure if that's a reflection on me or Quinn's writing. Bernie's outrage at the treatment of the suspect (some directed at himself for getting the Deputy looking at him) drives him more than any desire for a fee or to discover what Wendell wanted.

 

In addition to the case and the machinations of the principles involved, there's a lot going on in Bernie's private life. He doesn't deal well with most of it, which isn't a surprise, dealing well with personal relationships isn't his trademark. It seems to affect him more in this novel than I'm used to seeing him—both positively and negatively (although, there's a lot of negative in this novel—all around).

 

In case you can't tell, I can't put my finger on what's different this time—but Bernie seems more human, more real, less "merely the guy who Chet is devoted to" (although he absolutely is that). Quinn puts him through the wringer in many ways here, and the novel is better for it.

 

It's not just with Bernie, I think that this novel has some of the most subtle and rich character work in the series (last year's Heart of Barkness) headed in this direction (growth prompted by The Right Side?). The villain of this novel is the most complex and compelling foe for these two. Beyond that, there were so many characters that showed up for a scene or two—five or six pages total—that were just dynamic. Even Malcolm, the husband of Bernie's ex-wife, Leda makes a couple of positive contributions! He's rarely been much beyond an antagonist for Bernie, a competitor for the paternal role for Bernie's son—and here he's in such a better way, I almost liked him.

 

Don't Forget the Kleenex.

 

There are three—maybe four—scenes in this book that "hit you in the feels." One only took two or three sentences to deliver the punch, and could easily be missed. But the emotional core of this novel is shown in a couple of others (some readers will be torn up by them, others will be satisfied—either reaction is warranted).

 

But there's one scene—it has only the most tangential tie to the plot—that will (or ought to) devastate you. I'm honestly not sure why Quinn included it, but I am so glad he did. You'll know it when you read it, I'm not going to say anything else about it. Chet was still his goofy self, but even he came across differently in it. The book is worth the purchase price for it alone.

 

So what did I think about Of Mutts and Men?

 

I've said it before, I'll say it again, I've been a fan of this series since maybe the third chapter of the first book eleven years ago. And I'll be a fan until Quinn moves on. But there's something different about this book. Still, I'm going to try to thread the needle here—this is not my favorite book in the series. However, I think it's unquestionably the best book so far. I'm not crazy about some of the longer-term arc events here—hey're the smart move by Quinn, I'll defend them, but I didn't like them.

 

Still, there's a good mystery, you get the wonderful partnership of Chet and Bernie, probably the best use of Bernie yet, and a new depth to Quinn's writing—it's precisely what the doctor ordered. New readers will have no problem jumping in at this point, returning fans have to be pulling on their leashes to get to this. Highly recommended.

 

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Macmillan-Tor/Forge via NetGalley in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this. Also, sorry that I didn't get this posted sooner, I really did try.

 

20 Books of Summer

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2020/07/07/pub-day-post-of-mutts-and-men-by-spencer-quinn-water-water-everywhere-and-a-murder-too
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review 2020-06-14 11:17
'Thereby Hangs A Tail - Chet and Bernie #2' by Spencer Quinn - Highly Recommended
Thereby Hangs a Tail - Spencer Quinn

The perfect way to relax? Let Chet give you a dog's eye view of him and Bernie cracking a case involving murder, abduction, hippies, sheriffs and showdogs in the California desert.

 

 

I first met Chet and Bernie, the dog and human team that make up The Little Detective Agency, in 'Dog On it'. I had a great time. I was impressed by Spencer Quinn's humour and by his ability to tell a detective story from the point of view of a very believable dog who has a tendency to forget details like why they're chasing someone but will always remember anywhere with a good smell or the possibility of food.

 

I listened to the audiobook version of the first book and I'd have liked to have read the rest of the series that way, but no audiobook version is available in the UK so I tried 'Thereby Hangs A Tail' as an ebook and I'm glad to say that the humour comes across just as well.

 

'Thereby Hangs A Tail' has all the things you'd want from a cosy mystery: a relentless, slightly quirky PI, a suspect-rich environment ranging from ageing hippies, shady sheriffs, biker snipers, Las Vegas big shots and Italian Counts; an insight into the competitive dog show world and the spectacular scenery of the California desert, including a falling-apart Ghost Town.

 

What makes it exceptional, and a lot more fun is that the story is told entirely from Chet's point of view. What could be more life-affirming than being inside the head of a dog who wakes up each day feeling tip-top, loves riding shotgun in Bernie's Porsche as they chase after bad guys, is proud that he and Bernie (always the smartest human in the room) wrap up a lot of cases, even if the details of most of them are a little fuzzy and is always on the lookout for bad guys, frisbees, tennis balls and discarded food.

If you're a dog person, you'll recognise Chet and you'll smile. If you're not a do person, take the time to meet Chet and your life might get better.

 

I love how Spencer Quinn imagines Chet's thoughts. How he lets Chet get distracted while staying enthusiastic. How Chet loves stories but forgets details after a while, especially when the details are unpleasant. How Chet can lose himself in the pleasure of a long stretch. Most of all, I like Chet's view of the human world. Here's his view on wine:

'Wine smells are pretty interesting—even humans are on to that. I love when they stick their little noses in the glass and go on about blackberries and chocolate and lemongrass—trust me, they haven’t got a clue.'

And here's his take on Baseball:

'We drove toward the sun, through a few neighborhoods a lot like our own, then past a baseball field with a kids’ game going on. I didn’t understand baseball, but it always looked like fun, and the ball itself I loved. Who’d have guessed what the insides were like?'

I recommend this book if you're looking for a few hours spent in the company a great dog and his clever human, solving a decent mystery and having a lot of fun along the way.

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