Burning Everything At Both Ends

Watched Too Long by co-authors Ann Voss Peterson and J. A. Konrath is a fourth book in the Val Ryker series. Ann Voss Peterson is the sole author of the Val Ryker trilogy. In this cooperative writing effort, J. A. Konrath brings in situations and characters from his novels Webcam and Rum Runner but assures us that all novels are standalone stories.

This novel is too funny and humorous to review. Many times, a reviewer will mention that a novel is a laugh-out-loud experience. While I may chuckle occasionally, I usually do not laugh out loud. But I did so with this novel. The humor starts on page one with the introduction of the absurd name of Jet Row. I laughed out loud through pages one and two. Although Jet is not the main protagonist, he will burn himself into your memory.

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Changing Life Directions

This collection of Glenn McGoldrick stories, Horseshoe Bend (& other Dark Teesside short stories) emphasizes the word dark. These are darker than other stories I have read by McGoldrick. They are also, and this is not a negative criticism, not as subtle. Three stories in the collection have themes centering on a word that appears in the first one, “Bend.” As in “around the bend” signifying a change of direction. The three-word phrase also might relate to insanity and the reader might want to keep this in mind when determining the lens used to examine these tales.

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I Know Jack

Whiskey Sour by J. A. Konrath appeals to the love of alcohol in me. Not that I drink a lot, I have my standards. I never drink more than there is. The second appeal of J. A. Konrath novels is how he makes fun of himself by making fun of everything. Look at this subtitle: A Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels Mystery. Konrath could have left out the word in parentheses and left the reader to get the joke even though it might have been delayed. By putting in “Jack” Konrath is saying to the reader “Yeah, you would have gotten the joke, but I want to get on with the story, so I left this clue.” Also, he skillfully avoids the charges of faux ultra-feminism that might be leveled if he had stayed with only “Jacqueline.” This novel is full of fun referrals that are humorous, many times at the level of a pun, and items the ungenerous might call snarky. My kind of fun reading.

I could have “bought” this book for the grand price of USD 0.00. I would have then received an offer to get the audiobook at USD 1.99. By using Kindle Unlimited, I got the book for free (yeah, I know, it went into my ten-book queue) and was able to get the audiobook for free. There must be some sort of formula to figure out how much I saved but I don’t do math. I read. And sometimes I listen. With this novel, I did both and there is even synchronization between the media.

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For the audio presentation, narrator Susie Breck has just the right voice for the hardboiled, no-nonsense, 40-year-old female protagonist.

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There is a killing from the outset. We don’t have a name for the killer other than “The Gingerbread Man.” In the first few chapters, we will learn about the investigators. Herb Benedict, Jack’s partner loves food above anything. A person who can still think about food after viewing gory crime scenes and (later) while overcoming tongue lacerations is a true food addict. Jack will also frequently remark on Benedict’s fashion sense. Konrath immediately introduces his sense of humor (fast food … Pizza express) in the early chapters. The serial killer will appear and share demented strategies in chapters three and five.

The killer has a mission, one of revenge, against a specified group of people. The killer has a number in mind. Once that number of people are dead, the Gingerbread Man will go away. What is the connection between the victims? That is what will take Lt. Jack a long time to figure out. Her attempts will attract the killer and cause a slight change in plans as the killer decides to kill Jack as well as members of his favorite subset.

Readers have an idea from the outside how the book will end but getting there is fun and worth investment of reader time. Lt. Jack takes an almost unbelievable amount of physical punishment from repeated scrapes with the killer. It made me want to dig my Kevlar vest out of the closet. I find the Konrath style of mixing gore, mystery, and humor quirky and entertaining. I gave this a five-star Amazon rating, something I do with most Konrath writings but not with some of his collaborative writing. I will look at some of those in later reviews.

Finding a Mom for Samantha

Claire and Logan Keller had made an important decision; they would adopt a child. Logan was looking forward to proceeding with a graduated step-by-step process that would include investigations by social service agencies and complex, time-consuming legal proceedings. Claire was looking to get things done as quickly as possible. When Sylvia Tran from Children’s World Adoption Services contacted the couple with adoption candidate Samantha, Claire was thrilled. She was amazed that the procedure could go so fast. Samantha would move into the Keller home within three days. Logan was instantly suspicious. Things couldn’t possibly move this quickly through legal means. Logan wanted to investigate the agency and Tran. In an emotional heart vs. brain confrontation, the more emotional Claire won, and Logan gave in, per usual. Social services visited the Keller family home in the morning (to plant surveillance equipment), a lawyer appeared the same day, and Samantha moved into her new room at the Keller home within the three-day period desired by Tran. The Adoption by Greg Meritt tells the story of strange adoption procedures that are not as they appeared to be.

This was a novel recommended to me on an Amazon review site. It is for sale on as a Kindle download for USD 3.49 or it can be read free with a KU subscription.

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Personal Wartime Experiences

In this volume of the series Threads of War, Volume II, Jeremy Strozer looks at war as it is played out in ways we don’t generally think of. Each story has two parts. The first is a factually based account of an incident that happened. The account is referenced for those who want to investigate further. The second is a story of humans trying to exist in a hostile environment that is war. The stories are fiction as thoughts and feelings are ascribed to people who did not survive. Those experiences exist in Strozer’s mind and the author brings them to life in a very entertaining way.

I give the novel five Amazon stars in part because of the pleasing structure and way of presentation, in part because of the referencing which accompanies factual accounts, and finally for the interesting fictional presentations which lend human coloring to a dehumanizing experience.

Following are my immediate comments and reactions to each story.

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Who Loves Bruno?

Look Fast or Die Slow by David Six is the second book in the Bruno & Salvanian series. The first one, In the Time It Takes to Blink impressed me so much that I decided not to read this one right away. The pace of the first book was so fast and dense with action that I wanted to put some space between books one and two. It is a bit like not wanting to read a book of jokes from beginning to end, the edge is just not there; as a reader I become jaded. Coming back to this novel after a breather was good. In my opinion, this book is just as great as the first one. There is one huge coincidence which I will not describe that I am sure will annoy some readers as being too much of a … coincidence. I had no problem with it. This is one of the few novels to which I give five Amazon stars.

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Fictionalized Facts

At first, it looks like there is a certain arrogance in the title and subtitle of this work. Threads of THE WAR by Jeremy Strozer has the last two words capitalized indicating that this war was truly “the war to end all wars.” While that was the popular sentiment describing WWI, veterans of later wars and different forms of sacrifice might take issue with the presumption made by this title. Just in case the reader misses the message, the subtitle claims this work is a collection of historical short stories that are personal truth-inspired flash fiction of “The” 20th century’s war. Putting those possible claims aside, it is valuable to read the author’s introduction. Strozer has a different definition of “The War,” one that stretches from 1898, powers through WWI and WWII, and concludes with the residual after effects that still flare up around the world today.

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