Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Below are a few (somewhat) brief, $.02 opinions about several books I've read (or listened to) recently but don't and won't have time to review in full. Their appearance here has nothing to do with merit, many I enjoyed as much or even more than those that got the full court press. I hope you'll consider one or two for your own TBR stack.

Who Let the Dog Out? by David Rosenfelt

I love this series. It's fast, fun, humorous, and a great palate cleanser from the gritty stuff I usually cram into my eyeballs. Andy Carpenter is a reluctant defense attorney now that he's independently wealthy. He loves his wife, Laurie (a former cop, currently his investigator, tougher than he is by a long-shot) and his Golden Retriever, Tara (a man with good sense), and is good to his friends (a great cast of recurring characters). Of course, Andy always finds himself a case somehow during the course of the book, and it's fun to watch him maneuver both in and outside the legal system.

In the twelfth entry to the series, someone breaks into the Tara Foundation, the dog rescue organization Andy started with former client Willie Miller, and steals a particular dog. The theft leads to Andy's case and all hell breaks loose (it's a formula, but a good one). For me, the plots of this series are secondary to the characters, dialogue, and humor. The cast has become like an old couch with a highball of bourbon sitting next to it. A good, comfortable fit, and I enjoy all the time I spend with them. However. Ahem. This is going to sound horrible. I love kids. But now that Andy and Laurie have adopted a young boy (handled in prior installments), it drags the story down a bit. They can't work a case together without worrying about who is taking care of their son. I TOLD YOU IT WAS GOING TO SOUND HORRIBLE. Still a fun read, but I'll be curious to see how the family situation is handled in the future.

The Wave, by Susan Casey

Susan Casey is becoming one of my go-to non-fiction authors. Granted, her works are right in my wheelhouse: Devil's Teeth (about great white sharks out at my local Farallon Islands), Voices in the Ocean (about the world of dolphins, just came out 8/4), and the one I just listened to, The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean. The title pretty well nails it, this is a look at freak waves, how they come about, the destruction they can wreak, their environmental causes and impact, and, crazily enough, how some nutjobs seek them out and surf them.

Casey spends a great deal of time with infamous tow-surfer (using jet skis to gain enough speed to be able to surf giant waves - i.e., up to 100 feet high) Laird Hamilton. Which is fascinating from several perspectives. First, if you want to learn about waves, there are few better sources than good surfers. Second, there are some fantastic (and horrific) surfing stories. As an ocean nerd, I loved this book, and the narration was quite good. It did, however, make me laugh inside every time the narrator said "tow-surfing" (which was A LOT, natch), because I kept hearing "toe-surfing" (because I'M FIVE). No fault of hers, the book is written for adults. If you're curious about giant waves, and what they mean with respect to both sport and our future environment (scary!), this is your book.

I'm a Stranger Here Myself, by Bill Bryson

After many years apart, I have reunited with Bill Bryson. Last year I was blown away by One Summer: America, 1927 on audio and have decided to fill in the missing works. I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away, is a series of columns Bryson wrote after he and his family returned to the U.S. to live (hence the informative subtitle). Written in 2000, the pieces are still funny and many still relevant. I enjoyed some more than others, but only skipped a few. For me, Bryson is at his finest when sarcastically describing a process. For example, his bits on filling out tax forms, renting a car, and setting up a new computer had me laughing out loud. Overall, these column pieces are a fun and insightful look at American life from the somewhat unique perspective of someone born here but returning after a long time away. If you've not read Bryson before there are works I'd recommend more on the whole, but since this book provides a wide range of short subjects, it's a great way to introduce yourself to the author. I always find Bryson smart and entertaining, often with a unique take on things. The audio is quite good, though I was disappointed to learn this one is not narrated by Bryson himself. He narrated One Summer and was fantastic.

Eeny Meeny, by M.J. Arlidge

This is the first in a new British procedural series and it received quite a bit of publicity. I was intrigued by the premise and a supposedly kickass female protagonist, so I gave it a go. I was of two minds, and it actually gave me plenty of discussion points/issues and I should have done a full review, but time/life. The premise has been done before (472 Saw movies for starters), but it's my kind of premise so I really didn't care. Basically, two people are drugged and put in an environment (locked room, empty pool, whatever) with no way out. Nothing with them but a gun and a cell phone with enough power to get one message from the killer. The only way out is for one person to kill the other.

Investigating are Helen Grace and her team, which is a bit of a mess and where I started to have problems. The way Helen dealt with an alcoholic co-worker was...I don't even have a word, and she was genuinely unprofessional in several areas. If that was her "thing," i.e., she's a troubled cop and acts unprofessionally, that would be one thing. But I had the sense she was supposed to be some supercop. I wouldn't want to work with her. Besides that, the story is serviceable and moves at a rapid pace. I liked the short chapters (not in a bad way, I love being able to read "just one more" easily). I did have some issues with the end, which felt a bit like a rabbit out of a hat, but overall this held my interest. It did have one of the more disgusting scenes I've read in a while (which I'm also not sure was possible in the time-frame it happened, so it felt like it was there just to gross the reader out), and I read some gritty work. I'm not sorry I read this, but I don't think I'll be moving on in the series.

Is it just me or are these $.02 pieces getting longer? I'mma have to work on my wordiness. Yeah, not the first time that thought has crossed my mind.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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