Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Finished: Lee Child's 'Night School'

Last night I finished the newest installment of Jack Reacher: Lee Child’s novel titled “Night School.”

I’m thinking of changing the way I rank books. Instead of 1-10, it might be more accurate to just list the days it took to read the book. With rare exception, the best books are hard to put down. I plowed through this one in two nights. It was one of the better Reacher novels in a while.

From Goodreads:
It’s 1996, and Reacher is still in the army. In the morning they give him a medal, and in the afternoon they send him back to school. That night he’s off the grid. Out of sight, out of mind.
Two other men are in the classroom — an FBI agent and a CIA analyst. Each is a first-rate operator, each is fresh off a big win, and each is wondering what the hell they are doing there.
From Langley to Hamburg, Jalalabad to Kiev, Night School moves like a bullet through a treacherous landscape of double crosses, faked identities, and new and terrible enemies, as Reacher maneuvers inside the game and outside the law.
This is the 21st Jack Reacher book. Wow, time flies when you’re kickin’ butt. In this one, kind of a prequel to the others, Reacher is still in the Army. I found it refreshing at a time when the series kind of needed a reboot.

Goodreaders give it a 4 of 5, B&N’ers a 3 of 5. I give it a solid 7 out of 10 or a 2 on the days-to-read scale.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Finished: Donald Westlake's '361'

Finished Donald E. Westlake’s hard-boiled crime drama “361.” It was the dark, mean, greasy-grimy gopher guts kind of stuff I like. It doesn’t contain much, if any, of the humor Westlake is best known for in his hilarious Dortmunder Gang novels.

The men in the tan-and-cream Chrysler came with guns blazing. When Ray Kelly woke up in the hospital, it was a month later, he was missing an eye, and his father was dead. Then things started to get bad.

It’s a short read, which I like. One of Westlake’s first novels, just punches you in the gut and doesn’t apologize. Lawrence Block, a BFF of the now deceased Westlake, said it’s the first book where he saw Westlake get “his voice.”

In between pages I happened to watch the movie Sicario (ft. Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro). It seemed fitting as Del Toro’s character’s wife and daughter were murdered and his total no-conscience pursuit of the killers reminded me of Westlake’s character. Just flat-out stone cold messed up in the head guys bent on vengeance. The thing with his eye is ingenious writing.

I gave it a 7- of 10. Goodreaders give it a 3.6 of 5.

I implore you, if you haven’t read Donald Westlake do it. Maybe don’t start with this one. But do one.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


This is kind of a big deal for my neck of the woods. Author Amity Shlaes will be speaking at the winter graduation at S.D. School of Mines.

While I generally find authors to be boring, pretentious speakers, there are exceptions. She might be one, or maybe not. I’ve heard that her book on Calvin Coolidge, cleverly named "Coolidge," is pretty good if you’re into non-fiction biographies of dead presidents.

*** It’s getting to be the end of the year so the “best books of 2016” lists are coming out.

Here’s Goodreads best books of 2016.

And the Boston Globe weighs in with their faves. I notice “The Only Rule Is It Has To Work” shows up on a lot of lists. Might have to check it out.

This book also looks interesting: “Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel.” Not that I'm looking, but if this writing thing doesn't work out ...

*** Bill Gates and his top five books of 2016. It includes one from the science list below: The Gene.
In The Gene: An Intimate History, physician and Pulitzer-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee offers a rigorously researched, beautifully written detective story about the genetic components of what we experience as the self, rooted in Mukherjee’s own painful family history of mental illness and radiating a larger inquiry into how genetics illuminates the future of our species.
*** The greatest science books of 2016 by brainpickings. “When Breath Becomes Air” looks interesting.
That tumultuous turning point is what neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi chronicles in When Breath Becomes Air — his piercing memoir of being diagnosed with terminal cancer at the peak of a career bursting with potential and a life exploding with aliveness. Partway between Montaigne and Oliver Sacks, Kalanithi weaves together philosophical reflections on his personal journey with stories of his patients to illuminate the only thing we have in common — our mortality — and how it spurs all of us, in ways both minute and monumental, to pursue a life of meaning.
*** A good first-hand account of Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis, hopefully our next SecDef.

This, from the Military Times in 2013, gives a good retrospective on his career and some of the stories that define it.

*** This gal’s making some waves lately. My daughter and Tomi interned together in Rep. Kristi Noem's Rapid City office.

*** Castro lovers might be wise to read this, which means they won't. Dude was kept in a dark cell naked for eight years.

*** Belated happy birthday to C.S. Lewis. Here's some stuff you might not know about him.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Finished: Robert Parker's 'Silent Night'

They call Robert B. Parker the Dean of American Crime Fiction. He's most famous for his 40 novels featuring private detective Spenser. Many people know of the TV series Jesse Stone, with Tom Selleck, but don't know it's based on Parker novels. He shows his versatility as a western writer as well, with Appaloosa to his credit.

Unfortunately, he died in 2010.

Fortunately, his agent kept his spirit alive by finishing the Spenser novel he was working on at the time of his death.

And I just finished it. I'll call it my Christmas read "Silent Night," though it probably has a few too many murders in it to be considered real Christmassy. It is set during the Christmas season though and loosely uses a drug dealer as Scrooge.
It's December in Boston, and Spenser is busy planning the menu for Christmas dinner when he's confronted in his office by a young boy named Slide. Homeless and alone, Slide has found refuge with an organization named Street Business, which gives shelter and seeks job opportunities for the homeless and lost. Slide's mentor, Jackie Alvarez, is being threatened, and Street Business is in danger of losing its tenuous foothold in the community, turning Slide and many others like him back on the street. But it's not a simple case of intimidation — Spenser, aided by Hawk, finds a trail that leads to a dangerous drug kingpin, whose hold on the at-risk community Street Business serves threatens not just the boys' safety and security, but their lives as well.
I liked it. I love RBP. Sad to know there won't be any new novels of his, but happy to know I've got about 30 left to read.

I gave "Silent Night" a 6+ on the Haugenometer. Goodreaders gave it 3.8 and B&Ners a 3.5 on their 5-point scales.