Saturday, August 27, 2016

Book Review: Personal by Lee Child

Maybe A Challenge Too Far?

Personal is one of the Jack Reacher series, for those readers of Lee Child who might be reading this review.  And as such, the main protagonist, Reacher, takes on nearly impossible odds, using his considerable analytic and street-fighting skills to…well, if I tell you the outcome, you won’t need to read the book, right?

In the first third or so of the book, I thought this might end up being my favorite Reacher story of all time, and I have read a lot of them.  But by the end, I can say it was OK, but certainly not top of my list.  As always, I enjoyed the action.  The way Reacher analyzes each brawl, punch by counter-punch, is always interesting.  And as always, I greatly enjoyed the way he dissected the situation, finding patterns and conclusions where I might have seen half of them (giving myself the benefit of the doubt).  And as is often the case, Child left a final twist that I had pretty much overlooked…until Reacher laid it out.  It was a typical Reacher story, well done…for the most part.

My quibbles are small, but concerning.  First, the initial text, and the dialog in particular, was terse.  He kept mentioning the ‘Socratic Method’ in these quick-hitting, back-and-forth exchanges.  Initially, it seemed OK, but as the plot unfolded, it seemed to be more meandering, less pithy, and as a result, the story became a bit tedious.  Later, as the tension built, it seemed that Child transitioned to longer, more complex prose and dialog.  I am not sure if this is a specific technique to show or produce a feeling of urgency, but it seemed to help some.

Second, Reacher always faces long odds.  It’s part of his appeal – to pull off victories in the face on nearly insurmountable obstacles.  But in this case, the opposition seemed so broad, varied, and capable – well, it stretched the bounds of credibility just a bit too much.  Obviously, this is a fine line, but one that Child seemed to cross in the case of this story.
So, if you're a Reacher fan, or a fan of action thrillers where analytic skills and street smarts are pitted against Herculean challenges, you'll get enjoyment from Personal.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Book Review: 251 Things to Do in Tofino: And it is NOT just about Surfing by Kait Fennell and 9 others

The Appendices Say It All

When the opportunity to review this travel guide came along, I responded as I often do when faced with important blogging and book reviewing decisions.  I thought, ‘Why not.  Haven’t done that before.’  And I’m glad I did.

First, let me say that this book is definitely appropriate if you are going to or thinking of going to Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.  On the other hand, it’s probably not helpful if you aren’t going there…and it might even upset your well laid plans, because you’ll probably be tempted if you read this guide.

Numerous other reviews have, rightfully, lauded the book’s fun nature and extensive detail, so let me take a different approach to this review.  Personally, I believe you can get a feel for the book (and the area) by looking at the topics in the appendices.  This is where the authors provide the names, phone numbers, and websites of the Tofino businesses.  But surely, you say, there is more to the book than the town’s commerce…and there is, including some of the locals describing what Tofino means to them.  But bear with me, if you will, because in addition to an appendix on restaurants (of course), you will find appendices on Bear Watching, Bicycle and Scooter Rentals, Bird Watching, Campgrounds and Hostels, Canoeing, Sea Kayaking, Sport Fishing, Surfing and Stand Up Paddle, and Whale Watching.  And somehow, the authors still found the need for an appendix called ‘Other Activities.’ 
Let’s face it.  If you like the splendor of the outdoors, and more specifically, the temperate rainforest variety, you’ll probably love Tofino.  And the book will give you everything you need to make that happen.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Progress Review: Retroscape of a Future Mind

I read somewhere that an author’s primary online presence (i.e., my blog) should be blatantly obnoxious self-promotion.  I’m tempted…but then, even I do not want to read, ‘wrote 1,327 words today, but deleted another 2,653 in order to give YOU, the reader, the thrill of your reading life…’ 

But I do occasionally succumb to the urge to provide a progress review, like today.

Currently, Retroscape of a Future Mind is a complete draft of some 84,209 words, and awaiting the first of usually at least two clarifying and extending edits before it goes to Beta readers.  As such, it’s nearly 14,000 words longer than either of the first two books at this point, but I tend to believe that this one will not swell as much under these edits as the previous novels.  The other two grew by about 12,000 words at this stage.  We’ll see.

The countdown clock on the tab for this book is still showing completion around January 2017…which may be about right, or a bit too early.  One of the determining factors on timing is whether or not I participate in the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, which is November.  I have to think I probably will, not because I believe I can write anything decent in a month, but just to have the experience of it.  I mean, don’t you wonder about things like this?  I do.  

Then, assuming whatever I turn out in a month is not total garbage, a big assumption, I’d have a fourth book at the first draft stage, i.e., about where I am on book #3 right now.  But that probably pushes Retroscape until March or April…which is still OK.  That would be a book release in a year, rather than 9 months.

We shall see.  But in the meantime, I’m enjoying the ride, and maybe – just maybe – I’ll pen something you can enjoy as well.

Happy writing…and reading,