Thursday, May 10, 2018

Finished Lawrence Sanders’ (Vincent Lardo’s) ‘McNalley’s Bluff’

Among several other novels, Lawrence Sanders wrote seven books featuring Palm Beach detective Archy McNally. Then Sanders died and Vincent Lardo picked up the McNally series with nine more. McNally’s Bluff is the sixth one of those.

Per Goodreads:
When self-styled impresario and former human cannonball Matthew Hayes rents a luxury villa on Palm Beach's famed South Ocean Boulevard, the locals roll their eyes. But when he scuttles the traditional backyard accoutrements of swimming pool and tennis court in favor of a grand garden hedge maze modeled after the one at Hampton Court, the South Florida smart set can't wait for their invitations to the gala opening of the Amazin' Maze of Matthew Hayes. 
The big night arrives and gasps of wonder and delight are replaced by those of horror, as Hayes's ladylove, Marlena Marvel, in the role of Venus, is discovered at the center of the maze, very dead indeed. The authorities are stumped, as Hayes's carnival background gives rise to a number of possible suspects - and the huge crowd at the unveiling included its fair share of questionable characters. Or are there other forces - and more devious minds - at work? And Hayes's flair for the dramatic only complicates a mystery that has more false leads than his Amazin' Maze. It's up to Archy McNally to see through the scam and catch a killer.
Goodreaders give it a 3.7 of 5. I gave it a  6 of 10 on the Haugenometer. The characters were entertaining, but the conclusion to the mystery was a bit forced. It also seemed the author resorted too often to  “let me give you a recap” of what’s happened so far, because it was getting a little too twisty and turny. If your mystery is too complicated to follow, don’t write it; at least not for simpletons like me.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Almost Cinco de Mayo link-o

In a world that I barely recognize anymore, it's good to have books. Books are good and orderly, the words are black, the pages white, the pages are numbered consecutively, the planets align. You can pick a genre you like, step outside from time to time, but always come back and know that Koontz will Koontz and Grisham will Grisham.

But in the real world now, where Boy Scouts aren't boys, where Tom Brokaw is a horndog, lettuce can kill you, Cliff Huxtable is a rapist, and Kanye West makes Kim Kardashian look like the brains of the family, I'm tossing in my cards, chomping on the popcorn and rolling my eyes at this sci-fi show called life - while reading a book.

I just ordered 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson. Maybe he can make sense of it all.
Happiness is a pointless goal. Don’t compare yourself with other people, compare yourself with who you were yesterday. No one gets away with anything, ever, so take responsibility for your own life.
One of the rules for men should be: If you don't act like your stuff don't stink, it won't be big news when it does.

Another rule should be: Read the links Haugen provides you:

** If for some crazy reason you actually want to stick around this earth longer than you normally would, here are five habits that can add more than a decade to your life.
The five healthy habits were defined as not smoking; having a body mass index between 18.5 and 25; taking at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, having no more than one 150ml glass of wine a day for women, or two for men; and having a diet rich in items such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains and low in red meat, saturated fats and sugar. 
** Here's some good timing for this author whose “definitive biography” on Bibi just came out this week: Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu.

** This guy wades into dangerous territory to show (using science) that teachers are not underpaid. Unleash the hounds on him!
Most commentary on teacher pay begins and ends with the observation that public school teachers earn lower salaries than the average college graduate. This is true, but in what other context do we assume that every occupation requiring a college degree should get paid the same? Engineers make about 25 percent more than accountants, but “underpaid” accountants are not demonstrating in the streets.
** The word police are at it again and, boy, am I in troublllllle.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

So this made my day …

We get some weekly papers at work, including the Hill City Prevailer. A co-worker was going through them today and she asked: “What’s your dad’s first name?” (Actually, she emailed the question even though my office is 10 steps away.) I emailed back: “Joseph.”

A minute later she brought this clip to me.

Almost 40 years later and 350 miles away, he must’ve made quite the impact on Lorena.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Finished: 'The Devil Knows You're Dead'

The Devil Knows You’re Dead is the eleventh book in Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder series of 18. But I still have no idea what the title means.

According to Goodreads:
Scudder is back, tracking a killer through the alleys of Hell’s Kitchen and mapping the darker regions of the human soul. 
Glenn Holtzman sits on top of the world, watching the sun set from his penthouse… half and hour later he’s just another statistic, gunned down in a phone booth on Eleventh Avenue. When the cartridge casings of the fatal shots turn up on a well-known local Vietnam Vet the whole of the Big Apple knows it’s an open and shut case. But not Scudder – this Yuppie lawyer has skeletons in his closet and Matt can hear them rattling.
One guy reviewed this and nailed it on the head when he suggested that most crime novels have a detective investigating a crime and you get some personal details of him in the periphery. Here you get the main story being about the detective’s personal life with the crime he’s investigating kind of in the background. Because, you can’t have a crime novel without a crime.

As such, the personal dilemmas Scudder deals with throughout this are very enthralling, but the conclusion to the criminal investigation was kind of a dud and came out of the blue.

Still, good book. The Haugenometer gave it a 7+ of 10, Goodreaders a 4 of 5, and Amazonians a 4.3 of 5.

Published in 1993, it received the prestigious Shamus Award for Best P.I. Hardcover Novel.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Finished: Void Moon, Coward's Kiss and a biography

What do Michael Connelly, Lawrence Block and Mother Teresa have in common? I finished their books this past week.

See, it isn't that I haven't been reading. It's that I haven't been blogging about reading. And usually I'm not one of those weirdos who read two or three books concurrently. Circumstances made me do it.

I was reading Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a Personal Portrait, as a nod toward some more appropriate Lenten reading than my usual murder and mayhem books. I was just about finished with it when my mother-in-law showed up. I was really enjoying it, and knew she would it. So, being one of her four favorite son-in-laws, I let her read it while I was going on vacation, in a blatant attempt to move up out of the number three spot on her list.

It's a revealing look at Mother Teresa's life from the first-person view of Father Leo Maasburg who accompanied her on her travels for many years. It soothed my soul and reinforced my belief in prayer. So my "thoughts and prayers"go out  to all those who mock those words.

But then I needed a short novel to read on the plane during a trip to whacky Florida. So I chose Block's Coward's Kiss, a splendid tale of murder with more twists than a Disney World roller coast. (And, no, I didn't go to Disney World. Try snorkeling at Key Largo, visiting Hemingway's old home in Key West, with a jaunt up to Fort Meyers and Clearwater for some spring training baseball and beach ogling.)

I gave it a 6+ on the Haugenometer.

Upon my return to the hinterlands, I dug into Void Moon, another top-notch, unique thriller by Connelly, who I'm a late-comer in appreciating and who is fast becoming one of my favorite authors.

It isn't a Harry Bosch novel, which he is most famous for, but features a female burglar with a lot on her mind and a big moral choice to make at the end. It was a most-excellent stand-alone novel.

I gave it a 7+ on the Haugenometer.

Sorry for no links to these books and authors, but I'm feeling lazy tonight. Use your own Google machine for a change.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Finished: Taylor Caldwell's 'On Growing Up Tough'

I hit up my dad's pile of Classic books and authors for a quick read and settled on Taylor Caldwell's "On Growing Up Tough." It's a cross between a memoir of her childhood and forays into essays on modern (1971) society's demise.

The Union Leader newspaper called it "Must reading for the weakly loafers and cry-babies who moan about America and how tough it is to make the grade." But I read it anyway.

There were great chapters and total clunkers. She was a prolific author and sold millions of copies but never, in my mind, had one famous classic. She just churned out popular book after popular book.

In this book she repeatedly recalls her tough childhood, likes to brag about her strict upbringing (too many times), and relates how her mom and dad used to smack her around. And that's what, she thinks, made her tough. Maybe it did, but I don't think the smacking around made her tough. It made her cynical and mean (a mid-20th century Ann Coulter).

However, I found myself marking up the book like crazy. At times it read like it could've been written today with chapters on men being feminized, liberal media, welfare recipients and allusions to "the Establishment."

But at other times she was very poignant. She praises a color-blind society, sticks up for all races; she speaks of her admiration of policemen; and criticizes do-gooder hypocrites and "plastic" phoney people. There was also quite a bit of humor though hidden in deep sarcasm.

It was hard for me to like her though. She comes off as hyper cynical and self-righteous.

Chapter titles ranged from "The Child-Lovers" to "What Happened to American Men?" to "T.L.C. - Keep Your Paws Off Me."

I struggled with a rating on this one, but ended up with a 7 on the Haugenometer, because it made me think and such of mix of shocking attitudes softened by deep thoughts and caring. I ended up feeling kind of sorry for her more than anything. It was kind of fascinating actually.

Among her quotes that jumped out at me:

- On a liberal aunt of hers, who "had a deep passion for the poor, from whom she was very careful to keep far, far away."

- On her grandmother, who said "Never trust anyone who weeps for the poor, unless they're damned poor themselves."

- "Children are tough little animals, not tender blossoms."

- "I was taught to have an independent and searching mind, to scorn weak tears, to detest dependency on the part of anybody, to be brave and to endure. To sin was intolerable. To defend oneself was demanded at all times."

- As a child, for one day, she decided to be a saint and when her father was struck by her odd behavior, her mother said "Just ignore her."
"But it was impossible to ignore me. That's what is wrong with saints, I've discovered. You can never ignore them, whether you want to or not, especially when social workers, puritan busybees, psychiatrically-oriented school teachers, child psychologists, community directors, censors, and other dreary people come in their guise."

- "Remember this: The strongest sign of decay of a nation is the feminization of men and the masculinization of women."

- "The American insanity for Loving Everybody is ruining my good temper and delivering my stomach to enormous bouts with acidity."

I don't quite do her justice with these quotes, as there are entire chapters that offer a more endearing and thoughtful portrait of her; but I'm too lazy to quote entire chapters.

I recommend reading it. She was an interesting woman.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Finished: Parker's 'Hundred Dollar Baby'

Robert B. Parker is considered the "Dean of American Crime Fiction" and for good reason. He published 70 novels, 40 of them featuring detective Spenser.

I've read 13 of them, including the 34th Spenser novel, Hundred Dollar Baby, published in

From Goodreads:
When a mature, beautiful, and composed April strides into Spenser's office, the Boston PI barely hesitates before recognizing his once and future client. Now a well-established madam herself, April oversees an upscale call-girl operation in Boston's Back Bay. Still looking for Spenser's approval, it takes her a moment before she can ask him, again, for his assistance. Her business is a success; what's more, it's an all-female enterprise. Now that some men are trying to take it away from her, she needs Spenser. 
Spenser is a tough, but thoughtful, character. He is quick with a quip, dotes on his psychiatrist girlfriend and loves his dog. My kind of guy. He's a deeper character than many fictional detectives and seldom fires his gun.

This one kept me off balance with some nice plot twists and an ending I didn't see coming. Dang him.

Goodreaders give it a 3.8 of 5. The Haugenometer gave it a 7 of 10.

Now I'm going to try to squeeze in a Taylor Caldwell novel from my dad's library of classics before I dive into some Lenten reading to soothe my soul.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Finished: Koontz's 'The Whispering Room'

The Whispering Room is the second in Dean Koontz’s Jane Hawk series – the first being The Silent Corner. I actually liked it a little better than the first.

A summary from Goodreads:
In the wake of her husband's inexplicable suicide--and the equally mysterious deaths of scores of other exemplary individuals--Jane picks up the trail of a secret cabal of powerful players who think themselves above the law and beyond punishment. But these ruthless people bent on hijacking America's future for their own monstrous ends never banked on a highly trained FBI agent willing to go rogue--and become the nation's most wanted fugitive--in order to derail their insidious plans to gain absolute power with a terrifying technological breakthrough.
Driven by love for her lost husband and by fear for the five-year-old son she has sent into hiding, Jane Hawk has become an unstoppable predator. Those she is hunting will have nowhere to run when her shadow falls across them. 
The thing I liked about Whispering Room is it expounds more on what is causing these suicides and what the goal of the bad guys is. It also brings in a small-town sheriff, his family, and a school teacher, which better grounds the book rather than it being just some high-flying FBI-CIA-espionage-thriller.

In this second book, I also became more enamored with the main character, Jane Hawk. She is a little more real. She likes her vodka, loves her son and is vindictive as hell. So what’s not to like?

It got a little funky for me with a plethora of characters being introduced. For I’m a simple man and like being able to count the characters on one hand. But that’s no biggie. I just have to concentrate a little harder.

At first I wasn’t clear if this was a new series by Koontz or if it is a trilogy. Apparently it’s the latter, which explains my main gripe with it: That the story doesn’t end when the book ends. Sure, a few threads are eliminated, but the problem persists and apparently we have to wait for another book to see how Jane kills all the bad guys, saves her son and the world. Rest assured, she will.

Goodreaders give it a 4.3 of 5 and Amazonians a 4.6. On the 10-point Haugenometer, I went with a 7-.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Finished: Martel's 'The High Mountains of Portugal'

Yann Martel’s The High Mountains of Portugal might be the most fascinating book I’ve ever read.

It’s kept me up at night thinking. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up. I’ve been babbling to co-workers about it and boring my family with excerpts out of the blue. It’s a combination of Mark Twain’s humorous travelogues, C.S. Lewis spirituality and Edgar Allan Poe’s macabre madness.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s weird. Judging by reviews, some people hate it. Others love it.

Now I’m a guy who reads 90 percent murder/crime mysteries. Nothing too deep, just Jack Reacher cracking skulls and Gabriel Allon shooting terrorists. going along for the ride kind of stuff. I’m not an Oprah-list hoity-toity reader. But this book is more of the latter. It has analogies about analogies within dreams surrounded by grieving minds driven to despair. But it’s fun, the twists are incredible, the shocks are, well, shocking. But it comes together. It’s a thinker. And if I can do it, so can you.

What I don’t get is why Yann Martel isn’t celebrated more outside the fine literature world for the genius mind he has. CNN should be doing two-hour specials on this guy. I’d watch The View for the first time if they had him on. But instead we get phony scientists like Bill Nye being celebrated as some kind of genius, and king of flop movies, George Clooney, testifying in Congress like he’s an expert on Sudan; while intelligent, imaginative thinkers like Martel are relegated to C-SPAN 7 and the Journal on Canadian Writers with Weird Hair and relative anonymity beyond the book world.

This is an interesting well-rounded review of Martel and his works. He’s not without his critics but no writer worth his salt is.

I’ve been lacking a knock-out book for quite some time and frankly really needed one. Martel delivered again. Read it. I gave it a 9 of 10 on the Haugenometer.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Finished: Block's 'In the Midst of Death'

Kicked the year of with one of Lawrence Block's 60 novels: "In the Midst of Death." It's the third of his famous Matthew Scudder series.

Bad cop Jerry Broadfield didn't make any friends on the force when he volunteered to squeal to an ambitious d.a. about police corruption. Now he'saccused of murdering a call girl. Matthew Scudder doesn't think Broadfield's a killer, but the cops aren't about to help the unlicensed p.i. prove it -- and they may do a lot worse than just get in his way.
The main character is a recovering alcoholic and former cop.
It has been suggested that Scudder's struggle with alcoholism is in part autobiographical; while Block has repeatedly refused to discuss the subject, citing AA's own tradition of anonymity, in a column he wrote for Writer's Digest, Block wrote that when he created Scudder, "I let him hang out in the same saloon where I spent a great deal of my own time. I was drinking pretty heavily around that time, and I made him a pretty heavy drinker, too. I drank whiskey, sometimes mixing it with coffee. So did Scudder."

This book was published in 1976. Block is now 79 and still going strong. He's very active on social media and has a very interesting email newsletter. He was also best friends with one of my other favorite authors, the late Donald Westlake. Seems to me the 60s and 70s were a great age for mystery writers where guys like them churned out tons of pulp fiction often times under fake names depending on the specific genre or series. I'm currently reading a Westlake novel written under the name of Richard Stark.

Amazonians gave this a 4 of 5, but I wasn't quite as high, giving it a 6 on the Haugenometer.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Roth 5 from '07

My friend and co-worker, Wes Roth, is an occasional contributor to this blog (one of the top 5 Haugen blogs worldwide). He has unleashed his top five books from 2017.

Wes is a voracious reader but of a different ilk than I. He reads a lot of non-fiction and religious books. Wes’s reading was more heavy on the religious side this past year (and next) due to the fact that he’s taking some theology classes through Biola University and because he enjoys them and grows through them.

Here are his top books from last year, with his full Goodreads reviews at the links:

#1 by a mile was my daily devotional by Charles Colson: How Now Shall We Live?

As of right now, "Second to my Bible, this devotional and my notes and prayers will be my most important book to keep close to me and refer to it regularly in my walk with God" as a counter-cultural Christian.

#2 is "The Benedict Option" by Rod Dreher.

"For example, in the chapter on 'A New Kind of Christian Politics', Dreher argues that Christians should "get started with the antipolitical politics of the Benedict Option. Secede culturally from the mainstream. Turn off the television. Put the smartphones away. Read books. Play games. Make music. Feast with your neighbors. It is not enough to avoid what is bad; you must also embrace what is good." (pg 98). I have taken some of his suggestions to heart and made some great changes in my life this year.

#3 is "Evicted" by Matthew Desmond.  
Having grown up nowhere near the level of grinding poverty that Desmond shares in 'Evicted', this book really opened my eyes to the never-quite-get-out of pit of poverty in America--in this case, Milwaukee. And I never understood how there could be "profit from poverty." Every American should read this book.

#4 is As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God by Eugene H. Peterson

"As Kingfishers Catch Fire" is a wonderful collection of sermons and teaching by a longtime follower of Jesus and preacher of the Word. I will refer back to this book many times in the years ahead in my study of the Bible. His sermons are incredible to read and reflect on, then to apply to my life. I have gone back to this book, again and again, this year.

#5 is The President Will See You Now: My Stories and Lessons from Ronald Reagan's Final Years by Peggy Grande.  

This is a fantastic addition to the Reagan "canon" about a top aide who worked for President and Mrs. Reagan, post-presidency.  I also got to know her personally and was intrumental in bringing her to South Dakota this year for the Pennington County Lincoln Day Dinner.  This is a wonderful, endearing biography of the 40th President and his wife. I literally cried at the end (only two books have done that). 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Finished the year with a loser

I finished the reading year with a dud. It was my 27th book of the year. Would've been nice to finish on a nice round number like 26, but my desire to read overpowered my OCD.

If the title of the book is accurate, “Losers Live Longer”by Russell Atwood, then this book will live for centuries.

It was published by Hard Case Crime which is famous for its detective noir and good noir at that. How this slipped through the cracks I don’t know.

The plot was forced. The main character was a dud. I felt nothing for him. The author tossed in an odd sex scene out of the blue and a couple other comments that seemed totally out of the flow. And he ended his chapters with weird attempts at deep thoughts or something that were just dumb.


It gave me a chance to close my eyes and forget.
Sweet forget, how I missed you.

I turned away from it and walked east, following my shadow, a long narrow stain spilling out in front of me.


As you can tell, I didn’t like the book. Gave it a year-low 5 on the Haugenomter, out of 10.  Going back to one of my old faithfulls, Lawrence Block, to start 2018. He's never let me down.

My lunch hour

This is how a high-roller like myself spends his lunch hour: Everybody’s Bookstore and some pepperoni pizza.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Lindy was a jerk but the book was good

True to my plan, I read another biography – this one on Charles Lindbergh. There’ve been a ton written about him, but I went with “Lindbergh A Biography” written by Leonard Mosley in 1976.

The only things I really knew about Lindbergh previously were that he flew across the Atlantic that his kid was kidnapped, and he was supposedly an American hero. I certainly didn't realize what a big deal he was at the time.

What I learned in this book is that he was actually a pretty rotten person. He was a racist, sexist, anti-Semite. He was also a hypocrite with little self-awareness.

In 2003 (two years after the death of his wife) it was revealed that, beginning in 1957, Lindbergh had engaged in covert sexual affairs with three European women, with whom Lindbergh fathered seven more children, none of whom learned of his true identity until a decade after his death in 1974.

One of the many parallels between then (1927 when he did his flight) and now are the accusations of "fake news." Yellow journalism was alive and well back then. Totally made up stories about him would appear on front pages of newspapers just to sell copies. As such, he grew to hate the media. Eventually, that was a major factor in him moving to England, where they were pompous enough people to not think him so special.

As he later became a PR tool of the Nazis by touring their aircraft facilities in Germany, it was that distrust in media that kept him from believing the published reports of the evil Hitler was doing. So he was branded a Nazi sympathizer and things spiraled down from there. He fought publicly with FDR. Was fond of fascists, but hated communists. He was an odd duck.

He was the kind of guy who was a genius with mechanical things but pretty much a stupid dork when it came to relating to people.

It was a fascinating history lesson written around this guy who I didn't like much. But I'm a smarter man than before I read the book, so mission accomplished.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Finished: Lee Child's "The Midnight Line"

Lee Child turned out another good, clever Jack Reacher novel in The Midnight Line.

As I've mentioned before, a book set in places I'm somewhat familiar with always endears itself to me. Much of this book took place in my hometown of Rapid City, so you know I was liking it. Even forays into Wyoming territory I'm familiar with added to its allure.

But you could set a novel taking place in my basement and it would still have to deliver a clever plot and intriguing characters to make it legit. This one did. How Child can make his 22nd Jack Reacher storyline so unique and interesting is beyond me.

From Amazon:
Reacher takes a stroll through a small Wisconsin town and sees a class ring in a pawn shop window: West Point 2005. A tough year to graduate: Iraq, then Afghanistan. The ring is tiny, for a woman, and it has her initials engraved on the inside. Reacher wonders what unlucky circumstance made her give up something she earned over four hard years. He decides to find out. And find the woman. And return her ring. Why not?

So begins a harrowing journey that takes Reacher through the upper Midwest, from a lowlife bar on the sad side of small town to a dirt-blown crossroads in the middle of nowhere, encountering bikers, cops, crooks, muscle, and a missing persons PI who wears a suit and a tie in the Wyoming wilderness.

The deeper Reacher digs, and the more he learns, the more dangerous the terrain becomes. Turns out the ring was just a small link in a far darker chain. Powerful forces are guarding a vast criminal enterprise. Some lines should never be crossed. But then, neither should Reacher.

It's a 7+ out of 10 on the Haugenometer, pretty much in line with the 4.3 of 5 by Amazonians and Goodreaders a 4.2.

A couple quotes I marked:

“You threatening me now?”
“More like the weather report. A public service. Like a tornado warning. Prepare to take cover.”  
“Billy was a hardscrabble country boy, maybe forty years old, lean and furtive, like a fox and a squirrel had a kid, and spent half the time baking it in the sun, and the other half beating it with a stick.”

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Link-oh-rama time

Haven’t had a link-oh for a while so let’s give it a go with some interesting stories you may have missed:

*** The weird story of feet washing ashore in Canada.

*** The year-end best book lists are hitting the interweb. Here are Amazon’s best books of 2017. Again, I just missed the cut.

*** And there’s this 5-star ebook that didn’t make any “best of” lists, because of the Russians.

*** I really liked this column about one-thingism and trying to live a well-rounded life.

*** Good report on Minnesota's newest champion.

*** I love Barnes & Noble, but agree with this. WSJ: ‘There’s too much stuff in the stores,’ says Barnes & Noble CEO

*** The top 10 books of 2017, according to the NYT Book Review

*** The top selling e-books for each of the last 10 years on Kindle.

*** Craig Sager was a flamboyant reporter of the NBA and died of leukemia. His wife, Stacy Sager, tells his story, with some advice for reporters: Listen.

*** Well at least she won this vote.

*** And there’s this 5-star ebook that didn’t make any “best of” lists, because the system is rigged! Rigged I tell ya!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Finished: 'Merry Christmas, Alex Cross' - ugh

Fittingly, I recently finished James Patterson’s “Merry Christmas, Alex Cross.” (FYI, a bunch of JP books are on sale for $4-5 on Amazon right now.)

It was a little much for me, kind of out there and strained credibility. But it was Alex Cross, so I finished it. It was kind of like Patterson didn’t have time to write a full novel, and didn’t want to release a novella, so he took two short stories and jammed them together back-to-back. It was really quite odd.
It's Christmas Eve and Detective Alex Cross has been called out to catch someone who's robbing his church's poor box. That mission behind him, Alex returns home to celebrate with Bree, Nana, and his children. The tree decorating is barely underway before his phone rings again--a horrific hostage situation is quickly spiraling out of control. Away from his own family on the most precious of days, Alex calls upon every ounce of his training, creativity, and daring to save another family. Alex risks everything--and he may not make it back alive on this most sacred of family days. Alex Cross is a hero for our time, and never more so than in this story of family, action, and the deepest moral choices. MERRY CHRISTMAS, ALEX CROSS will be a holiday classic for years to come.
It's no classic. It's the opposite of a classic, the most forgettable book Patterson has written. If you skip a Cross book, skip this one. I only gave it a 5 out of 10 on the Haugenometer, but the James Patterson worshipers at Amazon somehow manage to give it a 4.3 out of 5.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Finished: 'The Last Kind Words Saloon'

I picked up Larry McMurty's TLKWS off the bargain rack at the Wall Drug Book Store on my most recent trip to Wall. He's best known for Lonesome Dove, which I've never read (because it's never been on the bargain rack).

This was a good quick read I enjoyed a lot, though I'm not really sure what the plot was except to follow Wyatt Erp and Doc Holliday around while they wise-cracked and got drunk. Hey, doesn't take much to entertain me some days.

From Goodreads:
 In this "comically subversive work of fiction" (Joyce Carol Oates, New York Review of Books), Larry McMurtry chronicles the closing of the American frontier through the travails of two of its most immortal figures, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Tracing their legendary friendship from the settlement of Long Grass, Texas, to Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Denver, and finally to Tombstone, Arizona, The Last Kind Words Saloon finds Wyatt and Doc living out the last days of a cowboy lifestyle that is already passing into history. In his stark and peerless prose McMurtry writes of the myths and men that live on even as the storied West that forged them disappears. Hailed by critics and embraced by readers, The Last Kind Words Saloon celebrates the genius of one of our most original American writers.  
Among the better lines:

"Nine out of ten statements Doc made were nonsense, but it was dangerous to stop listening because the tenth statement might be really smart." Could've been describing me.

"Hold on, I'll just go borrow that shotgun from Wells Fargo," Doc said. "Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it."

I gave it a 7- on the Haugenometer.


Before this I read Janet Evanovich's Explosive Eighteen, but it doesn't deserve it's own post. I really liked her first seven books of the series, but then tired of them, but kept picking them up and reading them in hopes of recapturing that. But it hasn't happened and I don't know why I didn't quit sooner, but should have. This is my last one. Promise.

They're all just the same. Her main character, Stephanie Plum, hasn't changed in the entire series. The characters haven't changed. No growth, no difference. No more.

I gave it a 5.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

I saw it in color and loved it

Wifey and I attended the Jamey Johnson concert last night at the Deadwood Mountain Grand. We both loved it.

I'm not very good at writing reviews but do it anyway.

Johnson didn't talk much, just played music nonstop for almost two hours, and there's nothing wrong with that. Preferable in most cases.

A couple songs in, after "High Cost of Living," he said: "First time in Deadwood. Didn't know there'd be so many of ya." Long pause, then: "What if we suck?"

They didn't.

He has such a deep, rich voice, it's incredible. The sound mix was perfect, as we were able to hear all his words over a large band. Between back-up vocalists, the guitars, two drummers and a trio of instrumentalists, there must've been a dozen of them.

He tossed in a tribute medley to George Jones and two songs and a shout-out to Tom Petty. He also brought his dad on stage for a song (bottom photo).

You can usually tell when a band is having fun and feeding off the crowd (they were) and at one point while the crowd was singing along to "In Color" the lights were turned on so Johnson could see how large the crowd was. It was packed. He smiled and turned to his guitar player with a grin. They dimmed the lights and cranked it up again.

My 20-year-old texted to ask how the concert was. I told him and added: "He speaks to me." The kid "lol"d to that, but Johnson does and the concert turned this fan into an even bigger fan.

Best 25 bucks I ever spent.