Friday, September 23, 2016

Book Review: Blackout by David Rosenfelt

A Quick Read with Some Suspense…but a Bit Trite

Blackout is the story of New Jersey state police officer Doug Brock, who in the course of an unauthorized investigation into notorious criminal Nicholas Bennett, is shot, falls from a balcony hitting his head, and goes into a coma.  When he awakens, he has amnesia, and so, he must relearn whatever made him such an irresistible target…while hopefully, saving the day before getting shot again.

Gun battles.  Dangerous knowledge about notorious criminals.  And yes, even some romance.  Blackout has a lot going on, so you won’t be reading long without encountering another challenge to be met and conquered.  And consequently, it seemed that the pages flew by; a couple of nights, and this one was back to the library.  Blackout also has a nice touch of humor, with a series of ‘lost my memory’ quips: ‘This is the best sandwich I’ve ever had.  Of course, I don’t remember having any sandwiches before yesterday.’  If there was any downfall in the humor, it was that Rosenfelt might have stuck with this basic formula a bit too long.  It was somewhat stale by the end…at least as long as you don’t get amnesia half-way through the book and get to enjoy it anew.

But my more general concern about the story was that, despite the continuous flow of events and characters, it felt somewhat trite.  The loose cannon detective with a death wish.  The trusty partner, faithful to a fault.  The jilted lover that our hero only wants after she is gone.  And even the twists – one was foreshadowed, one was predictable, and a third seemed like the end of about 20% of every TV police show.  I guess in bringing together so much well-worn territory, perhaps Rosenfelt created something unique.  But the tension was never fully there for me, because in its parts, it seemed to move to an inevitable conclusion.
Overall, the predictability of the story was mostly offset by the pace, making Blackout worth a couple of your reading nights.  Just don't expect to be laughing all the way through.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Book Review: The Simple Truth by David Balducci

The Simple Truth is anything but simple – in the telling anyway

The Simple Truth is the story of Rufus Harms, who recovers his memory 25 years after being convicted of killing a young girl.  That memory, however, proves his innocence, touching off a series of events involving smuggled documents and clandestine meetings, chases and gun battles, tense emotional drama, and yes, more murder.
Balducci does a good job, keeping the tension and suspense high.  While those seeking to aid Harms in clearing his name are known, only gradually do we learn of the forces united against him…often at considerable cost to the heroes.  Character development is good, as Rufus Harms comes to life.  The characters of John Fiske, a former cop and current lawyer, and Sara Evans, US Supreme Court clerk, however, are a bit murkier, as their love story, in particular, seems strained in the context of the ongoing action.  And the pacing is excellent, as the story flows from family arguments to murder to courtroom debates seamlessly and relentlessly.

To me, however, the most thought-provoking aspect of the novel was Balducci’s characterization of the US Supreme Court.  Who knows how accurate it might be, but it rings of truth, where relatively young clerks yield considerable power, justices horse-trade for votes for their favored causes, and justice for the case takes a back seat to setting enduring precedent.  The action kept me tense enough; this additional layer was gravy.

So, for fans of legal thrillers and murder mysteries, The Simple Truth will keep you on the edge of your seat to the final page…and maybe long after.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Walking for Words, Annual Report

This is my third installment under the title of “Walking for Words.”  The premise for posting about hiking in a writing blog is that much of what goes into my books comes to me during my daily walks and periodic hikes.

And so, now it’s time for my ‘annual report.’ 
It’s not exactly like I started jogging/hiking/walking on Sept. 8th in some past year.  I grew up hunting, hiking, camping, and fishing.  But my annual ‘ambulatory year’ ends on Sept. 8th, because that is the day (three years ago) when I stopped taxing my memory with the requirement that I record and reset my pedometer each evening and replaced these actions with, as you probably guessed, technology.  My approach happens to be a Fitbit, but just about any wearable device that automatically records daily steps (at a minimum) and syncs with your phone and/or computer would work.
So, how was my 2016 ambulatory year?  Not bad.  Over the three years of Fitbit recording, I’ve totaled 13,762,557 steps, which is an estimated 7,990.73 miles.  In 2016, I logged 4,490,729 of those steps. 
Now that’s not all hiking, unfortunately.  It includes everything from some fairly strenuous mountain hikes to wandering over to the frig to forage for a snack.  And my morning strolls in search of caffeine probably account for something like 1.6 million of those steps each year – 7,000 or more steps a cup, several hundred days a year.  It adds up.
A few of the highlights for 2016.

Several hikes in Sedona, AZ.  When you’re staying in a cabin practically in the shadows of Cathedral Rock, you have lots of opportunities. 

Some hikes in Washington state, including one of our all-time favorites – Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge and a round trip between the National Park Inn near the entrance of Mount Rainier National Park and Paradise Inn some six miles away and 2700 feet higher.  Lunch at the half-way point never tasted so good.

And a hike in the Mount Denali State Park, Alaska.  It wasn’t up Mt. Denali – I didn’t list mountain climbing as one of the activities that added to my steps for a reason!  It was on the Little Coal Creek trail, which gave us great views.  And since the locals were saying they had hardly seen the mountain in two months, due to rain and cloud cover, we were lucky indeed.
Well, with all that – the great scenery, wildlife, and yes, sore muscles – I should have memories to cover another book or two.  Of course, I’ll need to keep going, just to work out the details.
Happy Writing,

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Book Review: The Scorpion by John A. Autero

Where Your Politics May Influence Your Reaction

The Scorpion is the story of a government cover-up and the efforts of three friends to reveal the truth about it to the public.

The book has good pacing and action.  Right from the first chapter, the reader is placed into a suspenseful and rapidly evolving situation.  Character development is good, as you get a solid feel for the traits and dispositions of each of the friends, both through the story and by way of anecdotes from their past.  The latter form of familiarization, however, continued well into the novel and after a while, it seemed somewhat distracting to the main plot.  Similarly, noting that the main figure drove with his hands at 10 and 2 to illustrate, I assume, his careful nature, became somewhat redundant by the end of the book.  But overall, the characters seemed realistic and quite believable.  And as is often a plus for me, the author dips his literary toe into some advanced technologies, including two that are primarily extensions of current research and a third that is more futuristic, substantially adding to my enjoyment of the yarn.

My primary concern about the book involved what seemed to be an internal disconnect in the plot.  Specifically, the cover-up described in the book involved a project that had consumed ‘trillions of tax dollars,’ implying a long-term, manpower intensive project.  It also involved technology that would be easily discoverable by the public at large.  And yet, it was secret, attesting to the measures the government must have taken to keep it hidden during development and deployment.  The friends, however, learned of the situation when computer equipment from that project was discarded and was being sold on eBay or dumped in public landfills…without being erased.  It was this disparity between portraying the government as both extremely efficacious most of the time and as incompetent as the Keystone Cops in this specific case that troubled.  I suppose it’s possible…but it would be unusual.

Finally, a word to the potentially interested reader.  Depending on your political leanings, you may characterize the primary protagonist as a patriot, bringing governmental corruption to light, or an anarchist, undermining solid public policy.  In the case of the cover-up in this specific story, the governmental corruption being revealed was clearly one of self-centered and morally bankrupt behavior.  But in the main protagonist’s musings about what to do, much more controversial topics are mentioned, e.g., the government’s right to require people to wear seat belts.  Depending on your leanings, you may or may not have difficulty getting behind the main character as a folk hero.

So, for readers who enjoy tales of governmental conspiracies, laced with high tech undertones, and the efforts of others to bring these excesses to light, you will find a good story in The Scorpion.
I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Laurel Heidtman’s Countdown to Indie Author Day

One of my good virtual friends and author, Laurel Heidtman, is doing a countdown to commemorate the inaugural Indie Author Day, October 8, 2016.  She is featuring one Indie Author each day…and today, September 2nd, is my 15 minutes of fame (

Why do we support each other like this?  Well, it’s not like one story or writing style fits every reader.  And besides, who else is going to sympathize with our struggles?  Misery loves company…

Drop by her website and virtually meet a new Indie Author every day.  Celebrate the diversity we introduce into the reading ‘gene pool’ and maybe discover the next great American author.

Happy writing,