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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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.

Baked Goods to the Rescue

Warped is offering number three from Meantime Stories by Syingen and Pedersen. Why “Meantime?” because you read these stories in the meantime. Meantime of what? That is up to the reader who downloaded the book. This very short story can distract you from routine tasks, so you can read it in the meantime while formulating the national defense budget for small nations. Or whatever.

In the ancient times of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, creation was explained to us with the number 42. For non-lovers of math, this culinary explanation may be more fulfilling. There are two and one-half main characters plus Ada to explain what is going on with this story. Captain Lisa Henderson, commanding, and Second Pilot John Bang must deal with a crisis. We will ignore Passenger Liaison Officer Robert Decker. His character is not developed, and he complains too much anyway. The 3500 passengers are just filling.

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Just Bouncing Around

When Dean Koontz appears on my reader radar, I track and follow. The read will always be some degree of amazing. That is true of Ricochet Joe, a short story that manages to pack philosophy, fantasy, weird humor, a fast-moving story, and possibly a sense of despair at the end. The despair component is up to you. Some readers might see it as hope. Everything Koontz writes is up to reader interpretation. The work necessary to perform the interpretation is what captures reader interest.

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Choose Sides, Choose Carefully

Converted, the second story in the Meantime Series by Svingen and Pedersen deals with religion. Why would that surprise anyone? But this was in a time when religion ruled everyday lives a lot more than in modern times. Following the correct deity was no laughing matter. Surprisingly, the correct deity was whatever one the King followed. So, depending on where you lived, under the rule of which King, your religion was prescribed. Unless the King changed his mind, then you would be issued a new prescription.

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You Can Go Home Again, It Ain’t Easy

This is a reviewed copy from the author.

Many have heard of the term “nuclear family.” Without reference to the Hermit Kingdom, it is generally known that collections of nuclear stuff can achieve critical mass with explosive results. Material scatters everywhere. That is what happened in Idabel Allen’s novel Rooted. Readers did not witness this explosion; we will join the decimated family as a group with its fewest members in the beginning chapter of the novel. After the explosion, after a few years, the same scattered material may begin to coalesce. Allen will relate the painful process and problems with this “coming together.” As Allen points out “It all comes from the root. And Grover McQuiston was the root of it all.” (loc56-57).

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Lame Story With Tacos

Despite the self-deprecating title, this is the third edition, published in 2015, of Dan’s Lame Novel by Dan C. Rinnert. The first edition was published in 2012, the second in 2013, then there was a stumble with no edition published in 2014, a further support to the claim of being lame.

There can be little critical comment about any breaking of rules of good writing because Rinnert preemptively criticizes himself. In a foreword, wisely written after completion of most of the novel, Rinnert identified most writing canon that he had blown up (pun intended) and proudly proclaimed that he had the right to do so. The warning for the reader is “You have been warned that this is a lame novel, read it at your own risk.”

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