Thursday, October 11, 2018

An Irish Doctor in Love and At Sea by Patrick Taylor

I'm ten books into this series, but this one is my favorite in a while. 

While we revisit some of the same old haunts, in this book we get our first real look at the wartime love story of young Dr. Fingal O'Reilly and his nurse Diedre. We learn a lot about why the old doctor sometimes acts the way he does, and also that it may still be possible for personal growth.

There's a lot of the war in this book, and I didn't mind it at all. I always think it's interesting to get a non-American view of the European action, and the HMS Warspite sees some action that keeps the doctor hopping.

In the modern story arc, brother Lars gets a job that seems to be leaning into a fresh angle for future books, and there's a new Donald Donnelly dog scheme (and as they would say, it's a real corker!). Barry spends most of the book lurking darkly about the periphery, stewing about his absent fiance.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Reservoir Tapes by Jon McGregor

Since I just read Reservoir 13, I had to check this one out too - it's a continuation of the story, in the form of chapters interviewing specific community members about what they remember.

These are mostly characters we met in the novel, but now they each get to stretch out over an entire chapter each, telling their stories. Each is a stand-alone, but together they link up and tell us more about the community and the girl that went missing.

Without having read Reservoir 13, I think you can enjoy this as a series of short stories. With the previous book, it acts as an expansion and enhancement of a place you already know.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Mort by Terry Pratchett

Death takes an assistant: a bumbling kid from nowheresville with no real talent. When he's given a to-do list and a bit of responsibility, things don't go quite right because Mort falls for the supposed-to-die princess and alters the plan. But destiny isn't joking around.

It's a Shakespearean-style story with lots of twists, and fate, and love (or not). Pratchett is always very funny, but giving Death his own story - and mid-life crisis - allows a special kind of dark comedy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved by Kate Bowler

When a professor of religion gets cancer, there's some introspection. You may enjoy that, or not.

But the main reason to read this, anyway, are two appendices at the back: "Absolutely Never Say This to People Experiencing Terrible Times: A Short List" and "Give This a Go, See How It Works: A Short List."

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

Every action in a small town issues ripples that reverberate farther and longer than one might imagine; in this book, the disappearance of a teenage girl affects the next 13 years of the village's seasonal cycles.

We've become accustomed to every event in a book leading to the next big reveal, which gives this book a strange, eerie electricity because nothing ever happens. Chapters are years, and paragraphs are generally months. It's a stream-of-conscious retelling of things, with no real emphasis put on more or less important events: the birds migrate, trees bud, the well gets decorated, kids go to school (or not), dogs are walked, marriages begin and end, and sex is had.

Which isn't to say it it's boring - I really enjoyed the ebb and flow of life in this small English village. It's a peaceful read, and I found it a relaxing wind-down at the end of my day.

This book was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2017 (which eventually went to Lincoln in the Bardo).

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Con Artist by Fred Van Lente

You see lots of strange things at Comic-Con, and typically all the blood and gore are stagecraft. When a publishing exec dies dramatically in a bloody slide down the front staircase, however, the San Diego con kicks off like no other.

Our hero, fading comics artist Mike M, is a suspect (although he's innocent) and it looks like if he doesn't try to solve this, he may get railroaded. But he's also interested in networking (drinking) and drawing (making money) while he's in town. There's a lot to do, while avoiding trouble at every turn.

The con's like a circus come to town, and it both amplifies and exacerbates the drama of the story: When everyone's a monster or a hero, who can you trust?

I enjoyed this book - it's a fluffy bit of pop culture with a decent mystery element. There's a fun mix of real and fake comics, and true fans will have fun sorting out which is which.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

Two outlaw brothers set off to gold-rush California in search of a man they're contracted to kill. But nothing's ever as easy as it seems.

Eli and Charlie Sisters are "brand-name" famous for their work; all they have to do is introduce themselves, and people blanch. But Eli has had enough, and is considering what his next life could look like: husband, shopkeep?

In the meantime, they're hunting down a man with a chemical formula that makes panning streams for gold child's play.

This is a dark comedy, that contrasts with flashes of shocking, stark violence. It's a remarkable, unforgettable novel and one of the best I've read in quite a while.