The Night Fire ~ by Michael Connelly

I enjoyed the last Connelly book I read, Dark Sacred Night, so much I picked up his most recent within a week. Harry Bosch, the main detective in the series for many books now (22?) is retired but keeps his hand in and has an unofficial partner, Renee Ballard. Renee works as a detective on the night shift (aka the “late show”) where she was assigned due to filing (deserved) sexual harassment charges against her supervisor.

The Night Fire
by Michael Connelly
2019 / 416 pages
read by Titus Welliver and Christine Lakin
Rating: A++ / crime procedural

Although Harry is muckiest holder than Rekey, they make a good team; they’re both loners

and workaholics and don’t necessarily operate within all the department rules. They work closed cases after hours. Another familiar character turns up as a case goes to court, Mickey Haller, Bosch’s half-brother from The Lincoln Lawyer. This is perhaps the overarching plot line but there are several to choose from.

As usual in the later books of the Harry Bosch series there is a lot going on, many cases to follow with lots of characters and procedures. Two of the cases usually rise to the top though. Connelly writes very nicely, developing characters and plots simultaneously and keeping the energy of the novel going while maintaining high interest in procedures. This one is another winner and Connelly, at 63 years, maybe has another 10 or 15 years of writing in him. I’m looking forward to it.

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My Sister, the Serial Killer ~ by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Ayoola and Korede are sisters living with their widowed mother in Lagos Nigeria. The boyfriends of the beautiful and spoiled Ayoola, a fashion designer and model, have tragic ends – she kills them. But Korede, the head nurse at a local hospital, cleans up the messes well. In Lagos girls and women have to protect themselves some way – right? Besides, sisters stick together.

My Sister, the Serial Killer
by Oyinkan Braithwaite
2018 / 228 pages
read by Adepero Oduye  – 4h 15m
Rating 8 / crime (not mystery)

The book is funny after you get into its darkness and realize the humor. The motives of each woman are worth thinking about.

I recommend it if you want a short enjoyable book which reads pretty fast.

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Quichotte ~ by Salman Rushdie

I’ve had a kind of love/hate relationship with the works of Rushdie for a long time. Now I think I’ve gone into a more “watch and see what he comes up with next” mode. This is neither “I hate it” (Shame) nor “I love it’ (The Satanic Verses), but rather somewhere in the middle like The Enchantress of Florence.

Salman Rushdie
2019 / 396 pages
read by Sasha Rotermund – 15h 38m
rating – 8.75 / contempt lit fiction

As is evident from the title the gist of the book is a take-off of Don Quixote by Cervantes. A man has a great quest to find his love and in this case must pass through seven valleys.

Quichotte is the invented drug salesman of Dr. R. M Smile, a drug salesman and a writer of books. As it turns out Quichotte’s life turns out to be a kind of mirror of Smile’s. But then Quichotte invents an “imaginary” son who develops a character of his own and in that way we get stories within stories which include troubled sisters and a lot of travel and other complex back-stories. Finally there’s the story of Sancho himself who wants to be a “real boy.”

If you like Rushdie you’ll enjoy this although it’s a bit over-the-top even for him. If not, don’t bother. Fwiw, my favorites:

  1. The Satanic Verses
  2. Midnight’s Children
  3. The Golden House
  4. The Empress of Florence
  5. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights
  6. The Moor’s Last Sigh
  7. (others)
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Silence ~ by Shusaku Endo (A+)

This had been in my TBR pile for quite along time (and on my bucket list for much longer) and I just finally got around to reading it. It felt like I knew the story already so I may have seen the film or read a summary somewhere a long time ago.

First published in 1966, it’s now considered a classic of Christian fiction and it’s been made into films as well as for the stage. Endo, a Christian himself, won a prestigious Japanese literary award for it.

by Shusaku Endo
1966 / 258 pages
read by David Holt 7h 39m
rating 10 / hist fict – classic Christian

Based on the true story of the Christian oppression in Japan in the 17th century Endo dramatically describes the torture and violent prohibition of Christianity. The soul of the protagonist, Sebastião Rodrigues, is also tortured.

Endo is a powerful writer and this book makes a huge impact. It’s well worth reading but it’s quite graphic.

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The Dutch House ~ Ann Patchett

This was such a cool book to read right now. I was so hesitant about it because it seemed so hyped and that often doesn’t work so well for me. But a couple of friends recommended it and I took a chance and the book really was enchanting, compelling, like the fairy tale its been compared to.

The Dutch House
by Ann Patchett
2019 / 352 pages
read by Tom Hanks 9h 53m
rating: 9.25

Two children, Maeve and Danny Conroy, end up with a wicked step-mother when their rich father remarries after the children’s mother leaves them. That was back in the 1950s and the tale follows the two as they are kicked out of their home, a huge old mansion, to make room for the stepmother’s children and Dad says nothing.

There are plenty of twists in a nicely done plot but the really good part is how well the major characters are drawn. Reading groups will love discussing the motives of each one. And then there will likely be the old perennial “Is the house a character?” as well as “What are the various symbols used in the book?”

This may very well go on my list of best books of fiction this year.

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Olive Again ~ by Elizabeth Strout

Olive is older than she was when we left her to her crotchety retirement in the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine where everyone seems to know her, the retired high school math teacher. That was in the book Olive Kitteridge. Now she’s also widowed and grieving. But there’s a guy named Jack who’s hanging around – with Olive’s blessing. Olive is an anachronism in her own life and she almost lives in the past – not quite.

Olive, Again
by Elizabeth Strout
2019 / 293 pages
read by Kimberly Farr 12h 14m
Rating: 9 / literary fiction

Crosby and it’s citizens have other things going on. There’s Kayley Callaghan a 15-year old who lives with her newly widowed mother is cleaning houses and makes some illicit money on the side. And there’s Suzanne who has lost her parents and other things, too many other things. And there’s Bernie who hears people’s secrets, and does his lawyering. Even Bob and other Burgesses (The Burgess Boys) show up. The novel is about loss and secrets including infidelity and death and families and small towns. There are other spotlighted characters – they have personal problems and secrets which are, generally to an extent, shared as human problems and behavior, often troubling.

As with Olive Kitteridge the book is a series of vignettes or spotlights on this or that character, but Olive wanders through the lives of almost everybody while she has her own messy life going on – and opinions about everything 

It’s mostly a gentle novel about gentle people dealing with very difficult personal subjects. It’s a wonderful book.

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Likewar ~ by P.W. Singer / Emerson T. Brooking

This book was on my wish list before it went on a very nice sale a few weeks ago and I jumped on it. It got multiple awards and rave reviews such as:
“A compelling read… LikeWar…is not a warning about tomorrow’s war — it’s a map for those who don’t understand how the battlefield has already changed”—Washington Post.

Likewar: The Weaponization of Social Media
By P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking
2018/ 421 pages
read by George Guidall – 11h 21m
Rating: 9.25
(both read and listened)

The book is crammed with a LOT of information dealing with all matters internet, from ISIS to Russian Trolls and the Ukraine, but the emphasis is political leading and how it’s like war – at this point parts of the internet are actually engaged and an additional weapon of war via all manner of internet activities from Facebook and Twitter to the dark web. What China is doing is also briefly covered.

One interesting thing is that there are 100 pages of notes which, for the most part, include hyper-links to online sources. Because the book was just released in 2018 most of them are probably still available.

The book could likely have used a different narrator but Guidall did okay.

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Dark Sacred Night ~ by Michael Connelly. (A+)

Wow! Although I got in on the game a bit late, I’ve followed Harry Bosch series since Book 1. As usual I started in at Book 3 or 4 and skipped around until I decided to go back to Book 1. That was in about 1998 or so. It occasionally took a year or two to get to the next book, but I did it. I may be missing one or two, but I’ve got 20 Connellys in my Audible library plus the latest one on my wish list. That’s his total in the Harry Bosch series. That said, I have some books which are by Connelly, but not in the Harry Bosch series. (I know I’ve got at least a couple of the Mickey Haller series books.) I’d have to do some serious sorting to find the ones I’m missing from the Harry Bosch series.

I wasn’t too happy when Connelly added Rene Ballard to the series protagonists. She seemed awkward and clumsily developed at a first. But now in her third book this sharp, loner woman detective is great and with Bosch playing a retired cop doing part time work in the cop-shop, the series works just as well as ever.

Dark Sacred Night
by Michael Connelly
2018 / 449 pages
read by Christine Lakin, Titus Welliver
Rating: A / crime procedural

Also, this book ties into the last two books in other ways related to the plot so it’s good to read them in order, although not really necessary. It just makes it more interesting to know a wee bit about the crime which was committed 9 years prior.

This book ties into the last two books in other ways related to the plot so it’s good to read them in order, although not really necessary. It just makes it more interesting to know a wee bit about the crime which was committed 9 years prior.

Yes, Harry is still investigating the brutal death of Daisy Clayton, a 15-year old runaway whose body was left naked in a trash dumpster. Her mother, Elizabeth Clayton, has been very much a presence in the last couple books.

Harry Bosch, the protagonist, is a dark kind of character, a loner cop who is divorced (and his ex- was murdered) with one child, Maddie, who is now away at college (Maddie has grown up in the last several books.) Rene Ballard is not quite as dark, but she’s alone too, except for a grandmother somewhere in the L.A. area. She has a dog and boyfriend of sorts and works out at the gym.

The tension is expertly drawn out and the actual graphic violence is there but not overly so. There are plenty of victims – mostly female. The focus in the Bosch novels is on the procedures. Bosch somehow doesn’t think they have to apply to him while Ballard is not as temperamental (hot-headed and proud) as Bosch, but does her own thing when she deems it necessary. They’re a good match.

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The Substitution Order ~ by Martin Clark (A)

I am so ready for a legal thriller and this book had been on my radar for a couple months. The preview sounded good and I took a chance.

It starts out suspenseful, very suspenseful. After chapter 1 nothing was safe for Kevin Moore, an ex-lawyer who is on probation and separated from his wife because he made some important life errors. He’s now recovering from cocaine addiction and working as the manager for a sandwich shop in addition to living at a friend’s house and showing up for the mandatory urine testing.

The Substitution Order

by Martin Clark
2019/ 352 pages
read by David Aaron Baker
rating – A / legal thriller

I was hooked from the first pages and it kept me up – a page-turner – until it didn’t. Somewhere, imo, the tension slacked off.

The thing is that someone has picked up on his predicament with the law and is using it for his own benefit.

He’s visited by a guy who wants him to work on some big insurance fraud scam and there’s a threat behind his words. Kevin refuses. Later he’s busted for breaking his probation and it’s serious as well as a set-up. Trouble seems to follow Kevin and the reader wonders what is going on.

But he’s a bright boy and an excellent attorney. He’ll find a way.

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Lakota America ~ by Pekka Hämäläinen

I read Hämäläinen’s Comanche Empire back in about 2010 due to reading Empire of the Sujmme Moon by S.C. Gwynn and wanting to know more about that tribe. It was fabulous and I wanted to know more so I read the Mandan book, “Encounters at the Heart of the World” by Elizabeth Fenn and that continued to increase my interest in Native American history. (I’ve read various books since Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and maybe prior.)

Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power
by Pekka Hamalainen
2019 / 544 pages
read by Joe Barrett 17h 34m

I don’t know what it was about Comanche Empire but I did enjoy it more. This one was just as good in terms of research, and writing but there seemed to be more information but the subject was such that it felt jumbled for awhile – unclear who the Lakotas were. That may be true to life, though, what with nations, tribes, families-kin lines, smaller informal groups, allies and others.

The Lakotas were a huge tribe which was busily growing while the US was moving West. This was the tribe of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.. Hamalainen covers their story from the first we know of them, through Custer and on to Russell Means at Wounded Knee into the 21st Century with the pipeline project and Donald Trump.. 😦

Another thing which makes comprehension a bit more difficult, (he says he did it to make the Lakotas “unfamiliar,”) is to use the Lakota language for some names and places. There is a glossary but for instance, “Wasicus” is white people. It might be a good idea to find places mentioned via Google or something. (The maps and graphics are excellent but not always quite enough and there are not a lot of them. maps.)

For me it was much better in the early chapters and the last half . The middle section seems to consist mostly of a lot of small battles mostly between Indian tribes for scarcer resources or, more toward the end, against the Americans for autonomy. and living space. .

There is a lot of information today that wasn’t around when I was in college and studying this stuff in the early 1970s. Actually, there’s been a growing amount of Native-centered historiography since Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1971) or the movie “Dances With Wolves” (1990). There have been many sources used other than the journals of US military men. Hamalainen uses them and the telling is in the copious Notes section.


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The Elephant in the Brain ~ by Kevin Simler, Robin Hanson (5)

I read this for the All-Nonfiction group and I wasn’t terribly impressed although parts were interesting It seems like this book is comprised of a lot of things I already knew on some level, but had never really thought about.

And the layout is rather different from most books, too. The first six chapters serve as the main material, the “text” so to speak, while the last eleven chapters that opening material is used on various subjects like Laughter, Art or Medicine, The authors actually encourage the reader to skip around in Part 2 and read what they’re more interested in.

The Elephant in the Brain
by Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson
2017 / 397 pages
read by Jeffrey Kafer – 10h 26m
rating: 5 (mixed) / psychology

I suppose it’s interesting to read about as written by a couple of guys who have researched it and given the subject of motives a lot of thought. Yes, it’s basically about motives in many ways they work with and without our knowledge.

I’m not sure what I expected – I think the next step, maybe, “Physician, heal thyself.” Or what an “examined” life looks like? Anyway, after that 6-chapter set-up, the book goes into the following topics listed by chapter. I read all of them with breaks in between:

7. Body Language
8.  Laughter – X
9. Conversation – X
10 Consumption 
11. Art
12. Charity  X
13. Education
14. Medicine
15. Religion x
16. Politics
(Those marked with an X were more interesting and I might not have completely finished a couple of the non-X’ed. )

Bottom line? This book gets a lot of high ratings on Amazon, Audible and Goodreads. It just didn’t work for me.

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Permanent Recored ~ by Edward Snowden (9.5*)

*I’m going to start sticking the rating in the heading so you know first thing.*

Before reading this book I had a certain amount of respect for Edward Snowden without co-signing everything he did several years ago. I followed the story as it unfolded and read something by Glenn Greenwald, one of his journalist accomplices, for more about how Snowden left the US and got to Moscow. So I first eyed this newly released book with quite a lot of interest but it was laced with suspicion – What story is he trying to sell us about his adventures? How much does Russiaa have to do with this? How can we believe him now?

Permanent Record
by Edward Snowden
2019 / 340 pages
read by Holter Graham – 11h 31m
rating: 9.5 / memoir

The first part was fascinating about how Snowden got involved with computers and the internet at a very young age He was born into an old American family of career civil servants. In 1983, when he was only 10, there was a computer in his home and the internet came along only 2 years later. His dad encouraged him and he was hooked and it cost him his high school diploma.

I remember this era of the 1990s fondly. I only caught the end of the computer/internet freedom – (I got online in 1996) so much of the reading pleasure was a kind of nostalgia (although I was considerably older than 12!) Snowden’s father was a very bright military man interested in technology and apparently assisted his engagement and learning quite a lot.

The title is multi-layered. First it’s from something told to him as a freshman in high school student. After a bit of trouble and too much honesty, a teacher warned him he was creating a “permanent record.” Another source for the title is what the internet can be said to create – a “permanent record.”

The thing about this book is that it’s a memoir first, so it’s his side of the story as he chooses to tell it. There don’t seem to be any glaring missing pieces, but you never can tell. After reading it I feel like I know Snowden a lot better and like him, even though I don’t necessarily agree with his views which seem to be a bit paranoid and libertarian with his insistence that privacy is a basic human right. (Russia is more where he “landed” than anywhere he wanted to go.)

He never approaches the questions of How much privacy are we entitled to and when? What is privacy when you’re walking down a public street? – (Snowden is a bit of a fanatic, but I get annoyed when Amazon/GoodReads sends me a notice that I’ve finished my Kindle book so what’s next? Maybe I should buy paper books only from brick and mortar stores without cameras and use cash only?).

It was Arab Spring which energized Snowden. He was 27 years old and now having epileptic seizures (as did his mother) and on the verge of a nervous breakdown due in part to the stress of his awareness and ideas.

It was a kick to read about his girlfriend-now-wife, Lindsay Mills. They’d been together 7 or 8 years prior to these events. I hadn’t known that at all. Thanks to the media, I’d bought into a very negative idea about her. She seems to have been very supportive even if she didn’t know exactly what he was up to.

I understand why he released the information about the US government collecting data on virtually all US citizens (via a variety of technologies, methods and sources), I have a problem with why he released the military secrets although the extent of public scrutiny may have been seen as a military secret – I’m surer it was.

Bottom line I’m very glad I read it and I recommend it if you’re interested in Snowden. The book is very nicely written with an excellent structural tension, and it’s well read by Holter Graham.

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