Reviews of the books I've read

A list of all the books I've read this year. For these reviews, this is my book review scale:

burn Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.
mock This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.
don't Don't read this book.
desert If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.
fan If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.
worth This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.
strongly I strongly recommend this book
amazing OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.

Post date:

Hell is Empty

Book Notes

Walt Longmire, Book 7

Of surprise to no one, including me, I enjoyed this book. I am very much enjoying Johnson's writing style, complete with historical references, literary quotes, and quick-witted responses.

This book was a bit different, in that the bad guys, well, were all bad guys. The actual deaths in this book were, well, righteous deaths, in self defense and by someone with intent to kill. There's one very major plot device that was entertainingly obvious, but acceptable, in the book. When I became aware of it early on, watching for the device to repeat itself made its appearance that more entertaining.

In this book, Walt nearly freezes to death. Again. You'd think that after nearly freezing to death saving the Cheyenne Nation the year before, he'd be less likely to put himself in the situation to do so again. But that's the thing about fictional characters: they can be larger than life, and survive.

And sometimes, you need someone larger than life to inspire you to do better in yours.

This, as all of the Longmire books, is highly recommended.

Related, at the end of the book is a list of character inspired books to read. I am uncertain if I'll read them all, but it's an interesting list:

  • From Walt: The Grapes of Wrath, Les Miserables, To Kill A Mockinbird, Moby-Dick, The Ox-Bow Incident, A Tale of Two Cities, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Three Musketeers, Don Quixote, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, anything by Anton Chekhov.
  • From Henry: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Cheyenne Autumn, War and Peace, The Things They Carried, Catch-22, The Sun Also Rises, The Blessing Way, Beyond Good and Evil, The Teachings of Don Juan, Heart of Darkness, The Human Comedy, The Art of War
  • From Vic: Justine, Concrete Charlie, Medea, The Kama Sutra, Henry and June, The Onion Field, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Zorba the Greek, Madame Bovary, Richie Ashburn's Phillies Trivia
  • From Ruby: The Holy Bible (The New Testament), The Pilgrim's Progress, Inferno, Paradise Lost, My Antonia, The Scarlet Letter, Walden, Poems of Emily Dickinson, My Friend Flicka, Our Town
  • From Dorothy: The Gastronomical Me, The French Chef Cookbook, Last Suppers: Famous Final Meals From Death Row, The Bonfire of Vanities, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Something Fresh, The Sound and The Fury, The Maltese Falcon, Pride and Prejudice, Brideshead Revisited.
  • From Lucian: Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Band of Brothers, All Quiet On The Western Front, The Virginian, The Basque History of the World, Hondo, Sackett, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Bobby Fisher: My 60 Memorable Games, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Quartered Safe Out Here
  • From Ferg: Riders of the Purple Sage, Kiss Me Deadly, Lonesome Dove, White Fang, A River Runs Through It, Kip Carey's Official Wyoming Fishing Guide

One reader additionally added: "I really like the postscript listing of these books, and I decided to try my hand at this game, looking for something to do with mountains, outdoors and great prose. And for titles not already mentioned by Johnson. Here's what I came up with: The Ice Palace (Tarjei Vesaas), The Book of Ebenezer le Page (G B Edwards), Butcher's Crossing (John Edward Williams), Trustee From the Toolroom (Nevil Shute), The Prince of Tides (Pat Conroy), High Fidelity (Nick Hornby), The Shipping News (Annie Proulx) (and "meh"), Far Far The Mountain Peak (John Masters), Himalaya Tigers (Fritz Rudolph), an Ansel Adams photo album"

Interviewing Users

Book Notes

THIS is a fantastic book to read to learn about how to interview someone for research, whether it's market research, user research or design research. If you're starting out in the area of interviewing users, or need to understand how to structure interviews, read this book, by Steve Portigal, published by Rosenfeld Media.

The book gives an overview of the interviewing process, including a warning about being sure you're looking for what the client really wants, which may actually just be validation for something already done (the "gaining insights" versus "persuading the company" dichotomy), as well as a very specific roadmap on how to prepare and conduct user interviews. I love the reference to satisficing, a term given to "good enough" solutions where yes, the pain point exists, but the pain is less annoying than the effort to fix it. How many products are there that solve satisficing (satisfying + suffice) problems? I'd say TONNES and WAY TOO MANY. And likely, "not a product to build a company around."

The book has helpful information on building a rapport with an interviewee, documenting the interview, asking question and optimizing the interview. There are parts on how to ask questions, how to prepare for an interview, and what to do when adjusting the interview with the not-quite-perfect-fit interviewee.

The book's only lack is in the "how to analyze the interview data," yet even that isn't bad. There's an overview on how to start analyzing provided, along with references for other books to read. The analysis of interview data a whole other book, so I'm unsurprised the topic wasn't fully covered here, and nor would I have expected it to be.

Interviewing Users is a great book. If I had to start interviewing people for gaining product or market insights, I would happily reread this book and use it as a guide.

The Closers

Book Notes

Harry Bosch, Book 11

Okay, so this book should likely be the end of the Bosch series. He is back from retirement, because, as Connelly comments, no private detective ever solves a murder case, and Connelly wanted to keep writing this character. Of course he did, he already killed off MaCaleb, who sucked anyway (as a written character, I'm sure he was a lovely person in real life). Bosch makes Connelly money, of course Connelly wanted to keep the story line going.

Right, so, back from retirement, and working a cold case from 17 years prior. I'll give the ending away: IT WASN'T A BAD COP. I know, shock, right?

What this book did have, as a complete turn around from the usual Bosch books, was a leadership that supported him and closure. I suspect this book is a turning point in the Bosch series.

I enjoyed this book, even if I had identified the bad guy when he was first introduced to the plot. Recommended if you are a Bosch fan (yes, keep reading if you're already on the way).

Two books left until I have read all the Bosch books up to the one I bought in error.

Junkyard Dogs

Book Notes

Walt Longmire, Book 6

This is one of the shorter Walt Longmire books so far. It was also different, in that the BIG CRIME (yes, still a murder) doesn't happen at the beginning of the book. The introduction by Johnson gave away some of the plot, which was a little disappointing, but the book was still a fun read.

One of the things I like about Johnson's writing is that he doesn't make Longmire out to be some super human who can take four bullets to the chest then stand up and beat the crap out of the bad guy. The injuries Longmire has sustained over the previous 5 books are a factor, and he keeps being beat up. Of course, Longmire still finds the bad guy, but he's moving far more slowly than before.

I also like how Johnson makes references to history in a passing way, like to the 6000 torches from Rome to Capua. The casual references amuse me, often having me off to figure out what they refer to. I'm enjoying it.

This book, and the series, is recommended.

The Narrows

Book Notes

Harry Bosch, Book 10

I listened to this book instead of reading it. Surprises no one. What surprised me about this audio book was the production of it. In particular, the MF annoying sound "enhancements" in it. The producers of this book should not be allowed to produce another book if their style includes adding annoying music to a book.

In reading this book, though it was book 10 of the Harry Bosch series, I feel like I've missed some book between 9 and 10. There were references to previous events that I know I hadn't read, and I've been reading the Bosch series straight through.

As mentioned in my In Progress notes, Connelly, the author, thought mixing the first person (Bosch's) view point with the third person omniscient (everyone else's) was a good thing. I think it was a cop out. Was a half-hearted literary attempt at cleverness that failed.

If you're a Bosch fan, keep reading. If you're not, start with the first book to see if you like them.

In Progress notes
Okay, book 10 in the Harry Bosch series. This one has some FBI agent in it, according to the first chapter. It's also written in 3rd person omniscient, where we hear the thoughts of all of the characters. Which is weird, because the Harry parts are in the first person. The dichotomy is annoying. As annoying as the literary cheating is, nothing compares to the tear-my-hair-out run-around-screaming annoying musical "enhancements" the audiobook producers have added to the beginning and ending of each chapter. HF, annoying.

This might become book one of the two bad books in a row that would cause me to stop reading a series. Gah.

Lost Light

Book Notes

Harry Bosch, Book 9

Okay, I liked this Bosch book. While there was ANOTHER BAD COP (because, really, what's a Bosch book without bad cops?), the plot mystery wasn't obvious. There were a couple plot twists, which were good. I think at some point I should be annoyed that Harry ALWAYS GETS THE KILLER, but suspension of disbelief is part of reading these books. That, and, well, maybe we're supposed to be following only Bosch's successes and not the likely hundreds of failures in the previous 28 years of being a cop.

The story is the first of Bosch not as a cop, but as a private investigator. He's still able to get information through his connections, and there's a 9/11 twist to the story. I also might find it annoying at some point that all of Bosch's theories are correct. Maybe we're supposed to believe he's that good? Is anyone really that good?

For this book, if you're already a Bosch fan, this one is worth reading. If you're not a Bosch fan, eh, yeah, you could read this one if you like the Los Angeles Detective Crime Drama Law & Order type of story.

In Progress summary:

Okay, Bosch, book nine. He's left the LAPD, Hollywood Homicide Division, that's fine. The book has shifted to first person, though. Not _really_ sure how I feel about that.

Reading, though. Maybe we'll see ANOTHER BAD COP. Or not.

The Dark Horse

Book Notes

Walt Longmire, Book 5

You must enjoy the book THIS MUCH to continue reading. Fortunately for this one, not a problem. The mystery is good. There was one part that took a little more suspension of disbelief than normal, but, hey, let's go for it. I have to say, I'm a bit delighted that the bad guy is not a bad cop.

Recommended.

Another Man's Moccasins

Book Notes

Walt Longmire, Book 4

Yep, still enjoying the Longmire books. Would be rather hard not to enjoy them, with the wit of the characters. In this one, the dead body comes from OUTSIDE of Wyoming, so whoo! not another person dying in the county. Who would have thought so many people could die in such a small place anyway?

The format of this one is a little different, in that it has a number of flashbacks to Vietnam (the reference of which is coincidental to Bosch, who was also in Vietnam, but with a much different experience), and an intertwined storyline. Two mysteries for the price of one!

The ending was satisfying. I'll keep reading this series and recommending it.

Kindness Goes Unpunished

Book Notes

Walt Longmire, Book 3

Completely unsurprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Given the number of deaths in the last two books, I was seriously concerned where Johnson was going to go with this book. There are only so many murders that can happen in a small population space before people begin fleeing, moving out, going to safer places. The previous two books had six murders in total. If this book had had another one, well, okay, I'd still suspend disbelief, but I'd become very frustrated with the triteness of it.

Fortunately, not the case. Unfortunately, Walt's daughter is injured when he and Henry are visiting in Philadelphia. And what do you know, MORE PEOPLE DIE. Kinda the point, though.

I'm finding these books addicting. I've been reading them as I walk and run on the treadmill, which means I've been walking a lot more than I had last month. Between Longmire and Bosch, I am having a delightful time reading through the series.

This book is, as expected, recommended. As of this writing, I am, of course reading the next one.

Death Without Company

Book Notes

Walt Longmire, Book 2

Okay, book two of the Walk Longmire series, and it was as delightfully entertaining as the first one. I am thoroughly enjoying these books. In this book, there were three murders. Coupled with the three deaths in the previous book, you would totally expect anyone in the area to hightail it out of there for safer grounds. And a joke is even made about Longmire retiring and fast, before there are any more. The characters are fun to read about, the banter witty and the Gavriel-Kay style of not telling the reader everything going on, but letting said reader read between the lines to understand, all totally enchant me with these books.

You can read about the plot elsewhere, or just pick it up and start reading it. I liked these first two books enough to keep reading, and maybe seek them out in hardcover, if they've been published in that form.

I may have also actively stayed up until after midnight finishing this book, which I haven't done since Harry Dresden or Harry Potter. So...

Recommended.

City of Bones (Bosch)

Book Notes

Harry Bosch, book 8

This would be the second "City of Bones" book I've read. No, I did not reread the Clarisse something or other YA book again.

I'd been eagerly reading through the various Bosch books to get to this one, so that I could watch the pilot of the Amazon/Netflix/I-don't-remember-where tv show, Bosch, which is a combination of this book and Concrete Blonde. Unsurprisingly, I will continue reading the Bosch series, as I enjoyed this one. The last book would have been book 1 of the "two sucky books and I'm done" requirement to stop reading a series, but this book redeemed the series.

This book did not have a bad cop as the bad guy. Well, sorta. There's still a couple bad-cop incidents but HEY, LET'S HAND WAVE OVER THAT PART, because really, any group in an us-vs-them and in power is going to have bad seeds in the ranks. The book included the classic Bosch elements of the dame, Los Angeles (though post my era), the distrust from other cops, mystery and tragedy. There was a twist, and FINALLY Bosch doesn't get it right the first time. I didn't get it right the first time I guessed the twist, either, which was great.

The ending is a bit of a cliff-hanger, so I'll be starting up the next one, just after I finish a couple more of my already started books.

The Cold Dish

Book Notes

I think that Book Riot might be the death of me. I have to admit that "death by books" wouldn't necessarily be the worst way to go, though perhaps being pummeled to death by books might be. In this particular case, the article Five Female Characters Who Are Way More Awesome in Books started off with Katee Sackhoff as Victoria Moretti in Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire series. Katee Sackhoff. Starbuck. Sackhoff. In another tough-as-nails role? Yeah, sign me up.

And, holy moly, this book is fun. I came for the character and stayed for the wit. Johnson's writing style is as fun as Butcher's style in the Dresden series. Johnson also has the writing style of showing, not telling. I am a huge fan of this style, and consider it a sign of a better writer. The book is written in first person, and done well. We aren't privy to thoughts of the other characters, but are shown small details, sometimes in odd places, just as we all do in real life.

The book is set in Small Town, Wyoming. I haven't looked up the town or county to see if they actually exist. An unpleasant young-ish man is murdered. While the sheriff (who we follow in the first person) is solving his murder, one of the victim's fellow miscreants is also murdered. The sheriff is now taxed with protecting the victims' other fellow miscreants, while now solving two murders, which are linked. We learn of the sheriff's history in this book, the first of a currently-11 book series, which isn't unusual for a first book.

The supporting characters are entertaining, and yes, Vic is great. I'm looking forward to watching the series. More importantly, I'm excited to read the other 10 books in the series. I've already started book, two.

How to Make Sense of Any Mess

Book Notes

I had Abby Covert's book, How to Make Sense of Any Mess, open in one of my tabs since it was published. I thought about reading it, lingered on buying it, and finally just purchased it last week. It arrived, and I read it quickly.

Abby describes the book as "a book about information architecture for everybody." I would argue the title is more accurate about making sense of any mess than her description is. The steps of "Identify, State, Face, Choose, Measure, Play, Prepare" she has are accurate in fixing any mess, if you adjust them slightly. Consider:

  • Identify the mess
  • Determine what you really want from this mess
  • Face reality
  • Choose a direction that takes you to your goal
  • Track how far you've come
  • Reflect on what you really want, if this goal is still worth the effort
  • Adjust (actually adjust) the way you're going (not just prepare to adjust)

More words, same idea. I like how Abby presents the ideas and provides a roadmap. I COMPLETELY disagree with her definition of hypertext, and wonder if her ideas of the hyper* come from a non-technical, didn't-start-with-the-web-from-its-infancy perspective, such that it may be more accurate to younger/non-technical people than I think it should be.

I recommend this book as a guidebook for groups. I can see this being a starting point for teams beginning a clean-up project, and plan on using the suggestions Abby provides for cleaning up this site (yay! a group of one!).

A Darkness More than Night

Book Notes

"Harry Bosch," book 7

I finished A Darkness More than Night, book seven in the Harry Bosch series, tonight. To call this book a Harry Bosch book is a bit disengenous, since it really was book two of Connelly's Terry McCaleb series. I didn't bother reading the first McCaleb book, Blood Work, choosing to watch the move which starred Clint Eastwood, and to read the summary on Wikipedia instead. A big *shrug* on that one.

The book, in and of itself, is classic Connelly, with the surprising twist that THE BAD GUY IS NOT A COP. Can you believe it? No, I can't either. The plot alluded to a number of other incidents and cases in Bosch's past, with Bosch being set up for a murder he didn't commit, but didn't prevent either. Given the murder was of a man who was also a murderer and had walked on a technicality, we are presented with a moral dilemma that no one would ever want to face.

Okay, so, the bad guy isn't a cop, but you know what? BOSCH IS STILL A SUSPECT, STILL HAS THE FBI AND IA ON HIM and, good lord, after nearly 30 f------ years of living with that, only a fictional character could survive. 30 years of a hostile work environment where EVERYONE you work with thinks you're dirty, even though the beloved reader would NEVER THINK SO? It has to be extremely wearing.

Yeah, so, book seven of the Bosch series. Good enough I'll read another one. Might have been okay to skip, given that it's a essentially a McCaleb story.

Fear Street 9: Stepsister

Book Notes

This book came up as a Book Riot book, just as I started reading Book Riot posts. I promptly bought a number of the books from that first list, but this book has been moving from to-do list (yellow card) to to-do list (another yellow card) to to-do list (give it to the PA to buy for me). In a fit of insomnia last night, I opened up my ebook copy and started reading. I had read R.L. Stine years ago when reading his books were age appropriate, though found them inferior to Christopher Pike's works (and learned JUST TODAY, that Christopher Pike is a pseudonym for Kevin Christopher McFadden, who used the Star Trek captain's name - always wondered about that one). Given the recommendation that Fear Street #9: Stepsister was the best of the Fear Street series, I read it. The "you'll read it in 35 minutes" was fairly accurate, though it took me more like an hour, reading on the jostling bus on a small screen.

THAT ALL SAID, it was okay. The style of writing was very, um, juvenile? The sentence structure was monotonous, the plot predictable and the twist anticipated. I found all of the characters unlovable, uninteresting, and, well, to be honest, unbelievable. The mom who doesn't want anything bad said about anyone or anything, to the point of disbelieving her daughter who's been almost killed twice? The stepdad who is such a wet noodle that we have no idea why the mom is even interested in him? The omniscient main character who is so determined to blame her stepsister for everything wrong that she is unable to function even slightly rationally? There were enough clues to understand where the author was going with the plot, fortunately.

If I were 10, I might have enjoyed this book. Related: I'm not 10. It was an okay book for the bus ride to work this morning. I'll move back to reading Madame Bovary for the ride home.

9 books in 20 days, with the four I've started and haven't finished yet.

Angel's Flight

Book Notes

Harry Bosch, book 6

Oh, look! Another bad cop! In this case, however, we don't know which cop is the bad one. It's this one, no it's this one, no, no, no, it's that one. In reality, this is one of Connelly's better books, in that the bad guy isn't obvious. Well, that, and we didn't have to sit through a boring trial. While the end had a slightly meh part to it, Angel's Flight had enough twists, mystery and action to make it enjoyable. I'd recommend this Bosch book for readers of Connelly's work or crime mystery fiction.

Unrelated to the book, ooooooof, eight books in 12 days. That's a lot, even for me. I'd guess something is going on with me and my life, since that much reading usually indicates I'm avoiding something or I'm doing a lot of physical labor that allows time for my mind to wander or, as is this case, listen to an audiobook.

Trunk Music

Book Notes

Harry Bosch, Book 5

Oh, look! Another bad cop! I swear this is going to be how I start every Bosch book, because that seems to be how every Harry Bosch book ends. This one has the very, very obvious bad cop, even if he doesn't end up being THE bad cop. Well, that's not actually correct, because there are a couple bad cops, that don't ever end up being THE bad cop. It's just weird.

The bad cop was just one of the now-classic Bosch elements: bad cop, IAD on Bosch's ass, the dame, Los Angeles. We have a newly introduced Kima Greggs, who was the black woman detective in The Wire, though her name is Kiz Rider in the Bosch series.

Did I mention the mob in this book? Yeah, because the mob would totally let all of this go, right? Yeah.

I'm enjoying the books. I'll keep reading. Not sure I'll keep up this pace, though: 7 books in 11 days.

Last Coyote

Book Notes

Harry Bosch, Book 4

Okay, now things are getting absurd in this series. Seriously, how the f--- does a cop manage to get a 100% close rate when he's investigating murders that are 30+ years old? I mean, COME ON, how f---ing stupid were people 30 years ago that THEY MISS THE OBVIOUS? Oh, wait, THEY WEREN'T STUPID. There were, of course, cover-ups and shameful acts and people-who-need-to-confess.

Upside, the book wasn't boring like Concrete Blonde was.

Oddly, no tunnels.

I enjoyed this book, too, even if the level of suspension of disbelief was a little high. Coyotes talking to people who haven't had peyote and 30 year old case solved, my foot. Doesn't happen unless the killer confesses on his deathbed.

Concrete Blonde

Book Notes

Harry Bosch, book 3

Okay, this is the third book of the Harry Bosch series, and, well, the most boring and predictable of the three. The previous ones weren't boring, so having to listen to this one at 3x speed to get through it was surprising. The main plot point of the story is Bosch is being sued in civil court for the wrongful death of the Dollmaker from four years previously, a plot point mentioned many times in the previous two books, giving us lots of court scenes and predictable characters: the tough plaintiff lawyer, the bumbling city lawyer, the asshole judge. The plot does give us a way to understand the plot of the Dollmaker murders without having to read about the past, which was a good history fill-in that I liked. The misdirections in the plot, though, were boring enough to be eye-rolling with the obvious clues for the reader to figure out they were immediate misdirections.

My worry is that in three books, I've figured out Michael Connelly's style and the remaining 11 Bosch books will be boring past two. The upside is that the area of Los Angeles that the books take place in, as well as the time, are all familiar to me, making the old books a trip down memory lane.

5 in 7 days

Black Ice

Book Notes

Harry Bosch, book 2

Like Bosch book 1, I've had this book in audio format for two and a half years. I better have bought these on a steep discount, given how long I've had them and not read them. That said, I enjoyed this book, too. Similar to the first book, it had tunnels, bad cops, stupidly annoying and bumbling IAD officers (they can't possibly be this awful in real life), Los Angeles circa-my-era, the dame, and Harry Bosch in his hard-boiled detective glory.

I enjoyed the book and I'll keep reading them until I've read two in a row that suck. So far, this one is good enough to keep going.

Four books in five days. Maybe I should have set last year's 52 books in a year for this year instead.

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