Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard (Book Review)

Get Shorty (Chili Palmer, #1)Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: crime, thriller, spoof, satire, noir, Hollywood, plot-twists-and-irony, this-is-the-stuff-right-here

Things about this book I really liked:

1. I kept hearing Sheryl Crow singing, “This is the movie of the screenplay of the book about a girl…” The story-within-a-story-within-a-story of this book is like an Escher drawing.

2. The story goes that Get Shorty was Leonard’s revenge on Hollywood culture in general and Dustin Hoffman in particular. After Leonard did endless rewrites of a proposed script for his book LaBrava at Hoffman’s insistence, Hoffman ultimately bailed on the project, leaving Leonard unpaid for all his work. Get Shorty is all sly and smiley about it, but it’s still exactly why you don’t piss off writers. They will put you in a book. I have no particular dislike for Dustin Hoffman, but it all makes me happy.

3. The good guy is a mob-connected shylock. I like antiheros.

This is Elmore Leonard doing what he did best: Insanely good dialogue, one-of-a-kind characters who stay with you, a run-for-the-money romp, and corkscrew twists you don’t see coming. Good stuff.

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The Passage by Justin Cronin (Book Review)

The Passage (The Passage, #1)The Passage by Justin Cronin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: abandoned, post-apocalyptic, horror, supernatural, monsters-and-such

This book isn’t quite getting me there. But I didn’t set out purposely to read it, don’t feel like I was drawn in by false hype, so there’s room for forgiveness. My husband found it abandoned on a depot bench while he was waiting for my train and grabbed it for me because I love books. I’ve found some good books in bus seats and the like – a tattered copy of the I Ching comes to mind – but this one was a bust.

It started out well, even if it was a very Stephen King-ish mashup of The Stand and Firestarter and The Dead Zone, even it was very trope-ish with the magical child, the father-figure-protector, the psychic black holy woman. I was enjoying it. Then about a third of the way in – bam, that world is gone and we’re rocketed forward a hundred years or so, leaving behind the well-drawn characters struggling through the military-virus-fuckup-apocalypse to build a new world. WTF? I liked those characters. I wanted to see where they went, how they pulled it all off. And I could have kept with it and even put up with vampires from anyone other than Anne Rice, if the new setting and the new characters had been as compelling, but they weren’t. The new characters are numerous yet two-dimensional, and the pacing is bogged down. I put the book aside after an evening’s reading and never cared enough to pick it up again. (To be fair, I had an Elmore Leonard novel on deck and it’s tough to compete with the Duke.)

Which is not to say that Justin Cronin is utterly unskilled as a writer, because he’s not. He can create a realistic setting, can turn an evocative phrase. Other people loved this book. Perhaps I’d like one of his non-genre novels.

I will leave this on another metro bus, that it may continue its journey and hopefully find its way to someone who can appreciate it.

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Robert B. Parker’s Killing the Blues (Book Review)

Robert B. Parker's Killing the Blues (Jesse Stone, #10)Robert B. Parker’s Killing the Blues by Michael Brandman

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: accept-no-substitutes, money-grab, threw-it-against-the-wall, nope-nope-nopity-nope, abandoned

“Okay, everybody, quiet, focus, stare at the flame, hold each other’s hands…good…good…I feel a spirit here with us. Spirit, who are you? Who are you here for?”

” I’m getting R…O…B…Robert? Robert. Yes? Robert B. Parker…oh my God… Robert B. Parker!”

“How are you Mr. Parker? Knock once if you’re resting in peace, knock twice if you’re spinning in your grave.”

knock

KNOCK

~~~

I knew that Killing the Blues was the first Jesse Stone novel written by a substitute author after Robert B. Parker’s sudden death. And I did have my doubts. I came into this book steeling myself against a quite-possibly-unpleasant dose of not-RBP, although I was also hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

Not only is this not-RBP, which is forgivable because the writer is not, in fact, RBP, but it’s not even quality not-RBP, which is not forgivable. And I’m not saying I wanted someone to pretend to be RBP and succeed only in being a pale imitation, no no. I would be even more derisive than I am now. But someone of RBP’s godlike stature deserves a decent writer to carry on with his characters and his world, and that is not what we have. This is simply not very good writing at all. This is clumsy, all telling and no showing, like fan fiction written by a high-schooler. Jesse and Molly are cardboard standups of themselves, and I didn’t make it to Suit. I only made it through the first chapter.

Really, this is even worse than Whatshisbucket pretending he’s Stieg Larsson. Money grabs that exploit the exemplary craft of dead writers piss me off. But I have only myself to blame. After Go Set a Watchman and The Girl in the Spider’s Web, I swore I would not read any more of them. Live and don’t learn, that’s me.

RIP, RBP. You made it look easy. You are missed.

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Artemis by Andy Weir (Book Review)

ArtemisArtemis by Andy Weir

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I adored The Martian. I loved it so much I neglected important things like a research paper with a looming deadline and clean socks and sleep, because I couldn’t put it down. So at the same time I looked forward to reading Artemis, I dreaded it. I knew that The Martian was going to be a tough act to follow.

And I was right. The storytelling is just as good, but Jazz Bashara is no Mark Watney. I see the free-wheeling spirit, the principled criminal, the grudge-nursing, heartbroken, sarcastic introvert with the heart of gold, but the “Pants on fire!” “You take that back!” type of exchanges she often had with people were a turnoff. She carried her flip and biting remarks too far and I spent a lot of time wanting to knock her on her ass–fairly easy to do in 1/6 gravity. It felt like Weir was trying to put the spirit of Mark Watney into a female character, and it came off forced.

Still, it’s a good enough story. The science is made interesting and is simplified enough for my non-science brain to follow. I love heist stories. I think Weir gave us a realistic portrait of what life on the Moon would really be like physically – a lot to get used to and much less romantic than we tend to think of it. The pacing is good, the characters are good, and the setting is excellent. It’s an entertaining read, and I might be rating it higher if I hadn’t had the amazingness of The Martian to hold it up against.

Bookshelves: outer-space, futuristic, the-big-heist, adventure, heroine-kicking-ass

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Stranger in Paradise by Robert B. Parker (Book Review)

Stranger In Paradise (Jesse Stone, #7)Stranger In Paradise by Robert B. Parker

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So. I like Jesse and his department and I love Molly and Suit, and I like Paradise and the people in it, and the mysteries are entertaining, and I love RBP’s writing. But I cannot stand Jenn. I cannot stand Jesse’s obsession with this bimbo. I. Can’t. Stand. It. She annoys the living crap out of me every time I read one of these books. And every time I finish one, I’m sure that’s the last one I’ll read because I cannot take one more page of Jenn, and then I turn right around and check out the next book, hoping this time it’s what I want it to be.

Huh. Just like how Jesse is with Jenn.

Did you do that on purpose, RBP? Nice one. But it’s still pissing me off.

<checks out the next Jesse Stone novel against her will>

Bookshelves: detective, popcorn-reading, love-hate-relationship, mystery

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Book Review)

Ready Player One (Ready Player One, #1)Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So, here’s the thing. I didn’t care all that much for the 80’s, with the exception of Mario, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and MTV actually playing music videos. I had thin, flat hair that wouldn’t go big no matter how much hair spray I used. I don’t care for loud colors, can’t stand sitcoms in general, and I never got into hair band music. I lived my teenage years in the 70’s, playing Dungeons and Dragons and listening to better music and wearing cooler clothes, although I will admit that avocado green appliances were fuuuugly.

But this book is still just awesome. Willy Wonka meets The Matrix is right. It’s not the writing, which sometimes falls a little flat and is prone to telling rather than showing. It’s not the characters, who are standard (80’s) issue hero-cleverly-disguised-as-poor-geeky-orphan-kid, staunch-and-funny-best-friend, and super-hot-wicked-smart-love-interest. It’s obviously not the absolute saturation of 80’s pop culture with constant references to movies I’ve never watched and video games I’ve never played and comic books I’ve never read. What it is, is a grim dystopia, the year 2044, the world suffering a 30-year great depression due to damage from climate change, various nuclear altercations, and the widespread, abject poverty caused by unchecked capitalism. This dismal life is saved only by the OASIS, a virtual reality consisting of thousands of worlds and any type of magic and technology you could dream up, free for anyone to access, a gamer’s paradise and general escape from the desolation of real reality, and I can totally be down for that. If I had a billion dollars, one of the first things I’d get is a holodeck.

All of this makes a rollicking good tale, the worldwide free-for-all hunt for an Easter egg inside an incomprehensibly huge virtual reality/MMO game that will give the winner the entire Bill-Gates-ian fortune of the man who invented it. It’s a page-turning romp that may not be literary brilliance but is still written competently enough to get you there. I couldn’t put it down.

(It’s worth noting that I almost didn’t read this book, as it’s adored by a lot of the same people who love Ender’s Game, which pretty much nauseated me with its utterly unlikable Gary-Stu-little-shit of a main character and its disturbing number of scenes centered around naked prepubescent boys in the group shower. What is wrong with you, Orson Scott Card? Fellow bookaholics, if you’ve been avoiding Ready Player One because you threw Ender’s Game into the wall as hard as I did, trust me. They don’t compare.)

Bookshelves: cyberpunk, my-dystopia-utopia, nerdgasm, sci-fi, fantasy, ya, coming-of-age, reading-in-airports, futuristic, five-stars-means-i’ll-read-it-again, defying-gender-roles, lgbt-inclusion

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Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey (Book Review)

Persepolis Rising (The Expanse, #7)Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: sci-fi, space-opera, giant-interstellar-battle-cruisers-playing-chicken, outer-space, futuristic, action-with-a-body-count, this-is-the-stuff-right-here, hot-off-the-press, multiple-povs

From now on, I will be referring to my phone as a “hand terminal.”

These books are so good.

If you’re just tuning in, this is the seventh book in the Expanse series. The first is Leviathan Wakes. Start there, and read them all. You’ll be glad you did.

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