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:

A Short Guide to a Happy LIfe

Book Notes

Reads in like 10 minutes.

An expensive book for those 10 minutes of reading if you buy at the full price, so buy it for $0.01 on Amazon (and pay like $4 for shipping) or visit a used book store, which you should be doing anyway, to buy it.

Reminds me of the Last Lecture, to be honest. Another reminder that life's too short, best to enjoy oneself, cherish the small moments, find joy in small things, do good, do well.

As the saying goes, the teacher comes when the student is ready, so this book seemed to have been more of an impact than it would have had I read it in college. Though, really, in some form I did read it in college, it's saying the same thing we hear over and over again:

Life's short. Do good. Be true to yourself. Focus on what matters. Surround yourself with people you love and who love you.

Same stuff.

Still, recommended.

I think this review is as long as the book.

And today's the day I give up on the things that weren't working anyway.


Book Notes

This is book 4 of the Harry Hole series.

Okay, be completely (and by "completely" I mean 100%) unsurprised that the next book I read is a Harry Hole book. It's pretty much all I'm reading these days. So close to 104 books for the year, which would be twice my goal of one book a week. Go me.

This Harry Hole book had the feeling of deja vu. So much so that I had to reread a number of chapters just because I felt I had already read the chapter and wanted to reread it just to confirm that the feeling of "I've totally read this book before" wasn't valid.

In this book, Harry is set up.


And likely about time.

By which I mean, the man has totally set himself up to be screwed by jealous and less moral coworkers.

Tom Waaler is a major character in this book, how he is a complete an total asshole and BAD COP (whoops, spoiler alert). Seriously, if you've been reading this series, that Tom is a bad guy isn't a revelation. He plays an important role in the previous two books. And yeah, he's an asshole. Takes advantage of someone else setting up Harry.

I enjoyed the book, again with the caveat "as much as I can enjoy anything with murder in it." Hate people taking advantage of other people, hate the willful destruction of other people, hate the fucking unfairness in this world. Go Harry! it gets better.

Related: OMG writing book reviews when drunk is AWESOME. Sober Kitt, you should try this more often.

Or maybe not.

Working for Bigfoot

Book Notes


Another Dresden book!


At least Butcher keeps his fans somewhat happy between Dresden books. Unlike some people *cough* GRRM *cough* *cough*

This one is a collection of three novellas, each longer than a short story, none able to stand on its own, all previously published. The theme of the stories is Bigfoot (-ish, he's one of the Forest People, with a tremendously strong aura) and his son, who seems to get in a lot of trouble.

What I like about this book, aside from DRESDEN (duh), is that it spans many of the books we've already read and loved about Dresden, and follows the life of a kid, Irwin Pounder, as he grows from elementary school to college. We see some of the cases that Harry takes between the big stories we read about in the novels.

And the jokes are pure Dresden / Butcher. Enjoyed the book, wish for more.

The Redbreast

Book Notes

This is book 3 of the Harry Hole series.

Book ONE HUNDRED for the year! Given my goal was to read 52 books this year, a feat I accomplished in June, I have to say that I have crushed that goal. Harry Hole was a significant part of that crushing: this is the seventh book I've read in the ten books of the Harry Hole series. While I prefer to read series in order, this one happens to be readable in any order, with lots of details filled in by reading earlier books. I kinda like that I didn't read them exactly in order. Even if I didn't really like the first book, I do like the series and the tragic character of Harry Hole.

This book has a different writing structure than most of the other Harry Hole books, in that it tells two stories intertwined, with the merging of the two plot lines at the end with a resolution for both of them. One of them was the story of a soldier from Norway who fought on the Eastern Front during World War 2. On the wrong side. Except there wasn't a correct side in the trenches until after the war and atrocities were revealed, and even then, the bottom of the totem pole does what he was told to do, did what he needed to do to survive.

As with the rest of the Harry Hole books, there is the path Nesbø leads us down, and the actual solution to the mystery, the actual person doing the series of murders of persons who fought on the Eastern Front. A few of the murders didn't quite fit, which of course leads the police down the wrong path, which makes things interesting and confusing.

I'll finish the series, likely this year at this rate. Maybe. Four more books this year and I've doubled my reading goal for the year.


Book Notes

And now, to no one's surprise, I'm going back to read the five Harry Hole books I didn't read. Starting at book five likely wasn't the best decision, since I was fairly "meh" after reading it, but I found that I missed the character, so I'm going back to read the books I had missed.

This is book 2 of the Harry Hole (hō-lay? hol-lee? hōl!) series. Again, Harry is on the other side of the world. Again, he is solving an odd murder. Again, there are so many twists and turns and what the hell, I am so confused moments, that, yes, I enjoyed the book (minus the murder and the brutality parts).

The book takes place mostly in Thailand. There are a number of actions that Harry does that are referred to in passing in later books that I'm glad I read this book. I suspect I missed a lot of other references, having no context for them when I read the later books.

As with the Harry Dresden and Harry Potter books, I recommend this Harry series if you like Scandinavian crime mysteries and can stand gruesome descriptions and horrific acts. I tended to skip over the dark parts, without loss of continuity.


Book Notes

After not finishing a book for three weeks, I'm happy to have finally finished one. Unsurprisingly, it's a fiction book, and doubly unsurprising in the sf/fantasy genre.

Neverwhere is one of the older Neil Gaiman stories, which makes me surprised I haven't read it yet. Though, really, upon thinking about it, not really that surprising. I suspect if I had realized it was the novelization of a BBC television show, I wouldn't have read it in the first place.

Which is good that I didn't know, as I somewhat enjoyed the tale of Richard Mayhew, and the mystery surrounding the appearance of Door on the sidewalk in front of Richard one evening. It's a cute storyline, though, in this case, I think I'm more inclined to recommend watching the series, it's not very long, over reading the book, which is also not very long. Things are lost in translation, with very few times the translated medium being better than the original.

So, yeah, watch the series instead, but read this if you enjoy Gaiman's works and really prefer words over a world pre-imagined for you.


Book Notes

Okay, this is the latest book (that would be book 10) in the Harry Hole series. Based on the ending, I feel this should be the last book in the series. I'm not the author, and I understand the lure of keeping a franchise alive, yet this one feels like a great place to end the series.

True to Nesbo's style of writing the Hole series (ha, I crack me up), there are a lot of twists and turns and deliberate wording causing misdirections. I was confused a bit with some of the characters, but figured them all out in the end. Unsurprising, this book was about THE POLICE, and had a large bit of house-cleaning in it (another reason why this could be the last book: a lot of the different plotlines are wrapped up, cleaned up, and squared away).

I really liked how a number of details from previous books wrap back around in this book. The details are still details, not major plot points. They are subtle enough to make this book stand on its own (without the Dresden repeating of everything), but stand out if you've read the previous book recently (like finished it about an hour before starting this one).

So, with this one, I've read five of the Harry Hole books. Given I've read the last three, and know much of the plot points of the previous ones from details gleaned from those last three books, I'm likely going to skip the rest of the Hole books.

Despite my luke-warm first book review, I have to say that I now recommend this series.

Update: Okay, yeah, going back to read the missing Hole books, two, three, four, six, and seven. Seven is being turned into a movie, and I know some of the deets from book 8 and 9, but I really like Nesbo's style of NOT HAVING THE FIRST GUESS BE THE RIGHT ONE. Everything is a twist and deception, which makes the books hard to follow and a surprise to read. I'm going to read the remaining five because of this.


Book Notes

Second to last of the currently published Harry Hole books, which is to say, book nine, and I read this one quickly. Not really sure I intended to read this one as much as I did, I avoided some of the conference this weekend to read it, but read it and read it fast, I did.

The ending, holy crap. Totally had me emotional and upset. I was glad there was another Harry Hole book to immediately begin reading. If I had had to wait a year for it to be published, I'm not sure I would have read the next one (yes, I would have read the next one).

This one has Harry returning from Hong Kong, this time to defend Oleg, Rakel’s son. Again, in Nesbo's style of using pronouns and just enough description to paint a picture in your head, playing with your prejudices and expectations to have you paint the wrong picture, only to have a clearer picture painted later providing a different interpretation, this book has a number of twists and turns and unexpected huh? moments.

Last book, Harry almost died. In that one, it seemed to be a lucky but plausible escape from death. In this one, Harry, surprise, almost dies, but ehhhhhhhhhhhhhh, no, it's not really a plausible escape from death. Just a clever plot twist that, okay, works.

I still very much enjoyed the book. The ending had me overwhelmed. Worth reading.

The Leopard

Book Notes

This book is number eight in the Harry Hole series. As such, I really need to put links to the whole list at some point. After reading The Bat, book one of the series, I sought this book out from (you guessed it) the stack of books from Mom. I will finish that stack of books. Really.

This book starts out confusingly, from the perspective of the first victim of HEY NO SURPRISE a serial killer. It takes awhile to understand the particular method of death, mostly when it happens again. I wasn't particularly able to "see" this book the way I could see the previous one, given this one is back in Norway, and not Sydney (of course). There are a number of life path changes that happened as a result of the previous book in the series, which I hadn't read, so yeah, I was confused a bit.

This one has Harry in Hong Kong, using opium instead of alcohol to numb himself. Why he's there is the subject of the previous book, which is also the first Hole book to be turned into a movie, so I might have to read it at some point. He is convinced to return to Norway, works on the case, has a number of strange romantic twists (complete with confusing real-world "Is she interested? I can't tell" moments), and several "we caught the bad guy NO WAIT WE DIDN'T" endings. You know the actual ending only because you read the last page.

Nesbo is vague enough with his descriptions and his use of pronouns that you're never really sure who is who in the books. This is one that I'm uncertain could be translated into a movie for that reason. The ending was a little surprising to me because of the use of pronouns, and that, like real life, the first guess is not always the correct answer, so I have to say, I'll be reading the remaining books in this series pronto.

This series is recommended.

The Bat

Book Notes

Okay, really now, this book surprised me completely.

It is the first Harry Hole series. The first Harry Hole I read, turns out, was book five in the series. Which meant, there were four books of character development that I completely missed out on. Which is surprising, given that this book was also in the stack of books from Mom. WHEN AM I GOING TO GET THROUGH THAT STACK? I swear, that woman has defined my reading for this year, and likely next.

So, this book, the first Harry Hole book, actually acknowledges the odd name, though most people in this book pronounce Harry's last name as Holly and Holy.

The book takes place in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, which I found ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTFUL, as I started reading it when I was in Sydney. It made the story more interesting to me in the way the Harry Bosch series was engaging: I knew the area. I knew what the spaces looked like, I walked along the places, watched people in the different locations. I hadn't really realized how much that connection appeals to me.

This story also gives us a large part of Harry's background, which also made the character more interesting to me.

The plot is that Harry flies to Sydney to look into the death of a Norwegian citizen. Amidst a whole bunch of other deaths, a serial killer is discovered in investigation, and boom, now we have a plot. There were a number of Australian cultural references in the book that went along with the museums that Mom and I were visiting as I was reading the book, that made the story have a stronger impact.

I enjoyed the book, and am looking forward to the other Harry Hole books in the stack from Mom, unlike how I was after the previous Hole crime mystery thriller I read.


Make Me

Book Notes

The latest in the Jack Reacher series, which means I'll read it. I have been enjoying the Reacher series, pretty much non-stop. I did try not to buy this book, opting for the library checkout, but became too impatient and just bought it. I suspect at some point I'll grow tired of the same-ish plot and same-ish highlights and the fact that REACHER ALWAYS GETS HIS MAN (no, not a correctly parallel sentence), but I'm not there yet. Enjoyed this one.

The basic premise of the book is the same as all other Reacher books, he's wandering without any destination, this place sounds good, he stops, and hey! what do you know? MYSTERY. He follows the clues, someone dies, likely someone else dies, and possibly another person dies, but that isn't a guarantee in all the Reacher books. There's a woman and he hooks up with her. In the end they part. Well, except for the love of his life lasted TWO whole books earlier in the series.

SPOILER: this one might last another book, too. We don't know, but it seems that it might be somewhat happening that way.

Part of me wonders when I will grow tired of Reacher always figuring things out. Another part of me is glad I'm not there yet.

If you like Reacher books, keep reading. This one is fun, with a clever mystery and a lot of Reacher Luck™.

Small Wars

Book Notes

Okay, really, anything by Lee Child that has Jack Reacher in the book I will most likely read. No, that's not right, I will read. Mom has tired of Reacher, how EVERY book he has a new woman to f---, screw, eh, have sex with, and that's rather tiring. I can't say I blame her for not wanting to read the books, they are very much of the same plot flavor.

I, on the other hand, am still enjoying them. This one, Small Wars, as a short novella (Kindle Single, short story actually), was no exception. I read it on the flight from Sydney back to San Francisco, which was the longest flight I've been on since the flight to Sydney. This, and Make Me, the latest full-length Reacher book, kept me entertained on the way.

This book goes back to Reacher's career beginning, which means, of course, that Joe Reacher is still alive. Having been recently been reading Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole series, I pretty much assumed that any action in the book was a misdirect of the actual events. Turns out, nope, what you read is what you get, except the WHY is what is important in this book. We follow along in the plot, and, of course Reacher figures everything, which I really can't understand how amazing he is, given he never makes a mistake.

Best part of the story is that we meet Frances Neagley when she is much younger. Totally great.

I enjoyed this book, but I'm enjoying all the Reacher books, so, yeah, I'll keep reading.

The Rosie Project

Book Notes

Mom and I were wandering around Sydney after Web Directions, and wandered into Dymocks, a bookstore and stationery store, because, you know, paper. I was tired and winding down from the stress of speaking and giving a workshop, and I just wanted to be around paper. Thing is, I don't need more journals, so I pretty much just wandered around, picked up a few classic books, oogled over the fantastic number of well-bound classics, put the books and journals I had picked out back, and let her know I was ready to leave.

Mom, on the other hand, found The Rosie Project and told me I had to read it. Mom is often soft spoken about her book suggestions, so her enthusiastic recommendation meant a buy from me.

Wow, books are expensive in Australia. Oucharoo.

I started reading that evening as I was brushing my teeth, and it didn't take long for me to realize why Mom had recommended the book. It is a hysterical read, mostly in the way the fundamental source of the humour is never mentioned. The protagonist has difficulty meeting women, as he takes everything said as exactly literally, so decides to try a questionaire to weed out poor mate matches. As mentioned, hilarity ensues.

Worth the read. Highly recommended. Can't say I'm thrilled that Jennifer Lawrence has been chosen to be Rosie in the movie adaptation, but I prefer books anyway. Worth the expensive Australian price I paid for the book.

Way into Darkness

Book Notes

And done. With this book read, I have finished the three book series, The Great Way, by Harry Connolly.

Have no fear in reading these books: the protagonists have a happy ending despite repeated eye rolling certain deaths and stunningly fortunate good luck. Except for the parts of complete unbelievability, because, really, a world of magic with the ability to create matter out of thin air (but really just a transporting of material from one dimension to another) and intelligence without mass, and the ability to transmute living creatures, and conquering alligators or an underwater wooden structure that sinks, isn't totally unbelievable, I enjoyed this book the best of the three.

The cover STILL has a depiction of a white girl representing the black girl who was actually IN the book. Still annoys me.

What also slightly annoyed me was the repeated "and here is where I die" thoughts followed by "oh look I'm still alive and have incredible human endurance and haven't pooped once since the series began" parts. I got over those annoyances.

I really really really like Harry Connolly's Twenty Palaces books. I don't know what happened with this series. It was difficult to read. Felt like a different author entirely.

Invisible Murder

Book Notes

Another one of my Mom-bought books, this one continues the story of Nina Borg, a medical activist who helps people in dire (think human trafficking) situations. I had previously read the Boy in the Suitcase, I thought last year, but didn't have it on my year-end list, so either I missed it, or read it in the previous year. I'm a bit puzzled about when I read it, but it was fairly recently.

I hadn't overly liked the Boy in the Suitcase, so I was a bit surprised to be reading this one as a continuation of that character and that plotline. Given that this is a series of Mom-books, I shouldn't have been surprised.

This book starts out following two brothers, one a bit reckless, the other who is mistaken for him and has to pay for his brother's sins. A few crazy mistaken-identities later, and we have a gypsy-looking kid from Hungary, travelling across Europe to track down his brother, and Nina trying to save a number of very sick children, and a kidnapping, and a huge mess of her kid's life, though really, said kid is just being a teenager.

I'm not a fan of this character, nor of this series. It wasn't a bad book, nor was it poorly written, I just don't like the genre. If this genre is to your liking, totally worth reading.

Way into Magic

Book Notes

Okay, in for a penny in for a pound with this series. I didn't really like the writing style of the first book, but apparently I became used to it in the second book because it didn't bother me as much as it did in the first book, I'm not sure what it is about this series of books so far, but I am finding them more than a little difficult to finish reading. And somewhat frustrating with the deux ex machina happening.

Phooey, I hate the autocorrect on the ios devices, especially when it corrects two words back after I've confirmed it was correct and moved on.

So, the book. Instead of the kabillion characters, the story lines have reduced to two, Cazia and Tejohn. To my complete and total unsurprise, bad things happened in the journeying, foreign creatures are strangely cool with humans, both others are utterly hostile, our heroes escape time and time again from likely death and absolutely certain disfigurement and captivity yet manage to escape both physically and mentally unharmed. It's kinda painful to read.

I'm doing a poor job of explaining my difficulties with the book.

How about the cover of the book has the main female character on it, AND SHE IS WHITE. She's described as "dark-skinned" in the book. Talk about completely and totally pissing me off at that point. Put a black woman on the cover if the character is a black woman. More power to you, too.

Time passes oddly, things I expect to take days take hours and other things I expect to take hours take weeks, it's weird.

And it was okay. I read quickly. There wasn't any plot repeat that series often have, for which I was thankful. I suspect the three books are just one long book broken into three parts for easier publishing.

I have one more book to read in this series. I'm invested enough to to keep reading. If you like Harry Connolly's work, read the series. If you don't know him as an author, read the Twenty Palaces books instead. Those are fantastic.

Little Drummer Girl

Book Notes

Having read the Spy Who Came in From the Cold recently, I kinda knew what to expect from this book, also by LeCarre. It was going to be a spy book, full of twists and turns and, if it's good enough, an ending like No Way Out. Knowing kinda, sorta what to expect, I read this book anyway, another on the ever-shrinking stack of Mom-selected books.

Aaaaaaaaaaaand, despite having read the previous LeCarre book, I didn't really like this one. I'm not really a fan of spy books, I guess. Yeah, the technology can be interesting, but the deception, use and abuse of others, and the violence-done-to-others parts of the spy way of life just does not appeal to me. Maybe I'm getting soft in my old age (no, I have always been anti-violence, anti-abuse, anti-use people), but this type of story just does not appeal to me. I'm rather glad this is the last of the unread LeCarre books in my stack.

This book's plot revolves around a series of murders of Jewish people, and the infiltration of an Israeli intelligence group into a Palestinian militia group. Not that you get that from the first 30% of the book. Instead, it's all about an abused actress who is AMAZING apparently in her skills, and human enough to be susceptible to a dashing man's charm. Shock.

Eh, I finished the book. The last 1/4 was interesting. The first 3/4 I had to trog through. If you like spy books, this one will probably be interesting. If you don't, eh, don't read.

The Way Into Chaos

Book Notes

This book, The Way Into Chaos: Book One of The Great Way (Volume 1), is the first of a three book series. It was written by Harry Connolly, who wrote about the Twenty Palaces series, which I think was recommended by Jim Butcher, and which I really liked. I vaguely recall being a little thrown off by Connolly's writing style in the Twenty Palaces novels, but I had read them just after I had read a few Dresden books, and, well, anything is going to seem odd after reading them (because they are awesome).

Which is a slight lead-in to the fact that I struggled with this book. I really wanted to read this book for the sole reason it was written by Harry Connolly (given the number of Bosch books I read, I feel specifying Harry (ANOTHER HARRY!) and not Michael is important here). I enjoyed the Twenty Palaces books, I like Connolly's writing.

I couldn't stand the writing in this book.

I've experienced this before, where I couldn't stand the writing style of a book and kept reading. Eventually the style becomes okay and I can finish the book. Happened in this one, too. I finished the book, but man, I am not excited about it. I'll keep reading the series and see what happens. Until then, neither not recommended nor recommended.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

Book Notes

Okay, another book of Mom's. I feel this is one of those "classic" books I should have already read already, along with some Lovecraft (check) and Dostoyevsky (check). So, through this slog of a month (holy moly, barely any books this month, and yet I am right on schedule with my original goal of one book a week - goals are weird sometimes), I finished this one just as the month was ending.

Holy crap, the ending of this book.

This book is worth reading for the ending alone.

The book, aptly titled, is about a spy who came in from the cold, which is to say, he'd been a spy in the post World War II, East vs West Berlin, Cold War not-quite-around era. A large part of the spy's network had been killed off, with the protagonist, Alec Leamas witnessing the death at the beginning of the book of his last spy, who almost got out of East Berlin.

So, for Alec to retire, he needed to do one more job, one more before he could come home, a final clean up job. It meant defecting, so he did. In the process he fell in love.

Such things never end well in the spy world.

There were many references to George Smiley, which I vaguely recall as the hero in a series of spy books that a high school classmate of mine really liked and devoured. I suspect, as a result, that this is an offshoot of that series, tangential to the series, maybe a wrap up.

I enjoyed the book, as far as spies doing spy things and the uncomfortable secrecy and the people being cruel to people sort of things involved in those spy things can go. If spy thrillers are your thing, and you haven't already read a bunch, this is a good one to start with.

But that ending. Wow.

The Devil's Star

Book Notes

Oh, good lord, when is the list of books from my mom going to end? I swear, I've read more of her books this year than I have of mine. No, wait, that's not quite true. Feels like it, though.

And what is it with all the Harry books? Harry Dresden. Harry Potter. Harry Bosch. And now, Harry Hole.

I am not kidding on that name. The main character's name is Harry Hole. Just let me die of laughter now.

He's a detective. The plot is set in nominally Oslo. There are deaths and they are murders. At least there isn't any Mab. Or tunnels. There is a BAD COP, though, so maybe this is just a Norwegian Bosch tale. No, wait, no tunnels.

This book was a fast read. I know that Mom enjoys Nesbo's work. I also know there are Stieg Larsson comparisons. Blah blah blah. Right. Fast read, somewhat interesting. This Harry is, as just about every other Harry also is, flawed in ways that adversely affect the outcome of his life. He's an alcoholic. He obsesses. He makes mistakes. In the end, he solves the murders, and I really didn't see who-did-it coming, so there's that.

Not recommended, not not recommended. If it's on your night stand, go ahead and read it.

Updated: This is book 5 of the Harry Hole series. If you read them in order, they are great, and more recommended than if you jump into the beginning of the series.