THREE WISHES by Liane Moriarty

Chick lit.  Not bad.  A little forced, but readable.  (Geez, do I sound pretentious, or what?)

It is about three sisters — triplets, thirty years old.  Sort of triplets, as the books is careful to keep reminding us.  Two from the same egg, one from a different egg. The different one is really different, especially in looks, with wild red hair.

The three sisters each have their own special character.  Per the blurb:  Lyn has organized her life into one big checklist, juggling the many balls of work, marriage, and motherhood with expert precision, but is she as together as her datebook would have her seem? Cat has just learned a startling secret about her marriage — can she bring another life into her very precarious world? And can free-spirited Gemma, who bolts every time a relationship hits the six-month mark, ever hope to find lasting love?

It is just the typical chick lit kind of story about decent people and the life stuff that happens to them.  What made it really annoying for me was that sprinkled throughout the book were little vignettes, observations by outsiders, bystanders, passersby,  presented as a memory of that bystander, or a postcard written to someone about what they observed, etc.  Really, just so precious I could hardly stand it.  Yeah, like you are going to write home from your vacation about some triplets you saw.  Gimme a break.

So I am not going to actually give this a rating.   Some genre fiction is really only pass/fail.  If it isn’t awful, then it exists as a satisfactory member of its genre.  This passes.

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THE BROKEN SHORE by Peter Temple

A wonderful read in the police procedural/crime thriller genre,  primarily because it is really all about the characters, the crimes under investigation being of less interest.  Well, of less interest to me, anyway.  It is also about corruption, political and in law enforcement; it is dark and depressing in the way that sometimes life is dark and depressing.

This is a stand alone novel, written by an awarding winning Australian writer, set in the state of Victoria, Australia. But it is peppered with references to other times, other cases, other characters, so that it makes one think that this is a sequel.  But it is not.  I found it a very interesting way to tell a story.  Other people found it distracting and hard to follow.   See, that’s what happens in genre writing.  People get to expecting a formula, and if the work on offer does not conform to the formula, it is condemned for being hard to follow.  I loved it.  So there.

Detective Joe Cashin is recovering from his injuries at his hometown in South Eastern Australia. He is there to run a one-man police station and is rebuilding the wreck of a home begun by his grandfather.   Joe is flawed, maybe even broken, as are so many of the homicide detectives in fiction today.  Gone are the happy, witty, cheerful investigators of yore, like Lord Peter Whimsy,  or Miss Marple, or any of a number I could name.  Today is the day of the detective who is a real person with a disgusting job, who sees too much, has to deal with too much of the world’s filth, and juggle the corruption of his (or her) own police department, the city bureaucracy, his (or her) ignored family.

Want some quotes?  OK.

It would slam you against the pocked walls in the Kettle, slam you and slam you until your clothes were threads and you were just tenderised meat.  It was called the Broken Shore, that piece of the coast.

Someone told him once that the first sailors to see the coast called it that [Broken Shore] because of hte massive pieces of the limestone cliff that had broken away and fallen into the sea.

And a couple of little pieces of philosophy for you:

Cashin thought that there was no firm ground in life.  Just crusts of different thicknesses over the ooze.

And

‘I’m down here for as long as it takes.’  There was truth in this.  There was some truth in almost anything people said.

The book deals with racism (yes, Australia has racism), and the furry question of who is really guilty, — you know, typical crime story stuff, but done in a way that makes it a novel that for me transcends its genre.  For me, it seemed more of a novel built around a murder mystery structure, than the other way around.  Make sense?

 

MY HONOR FLIGHT by Dan McCurrigan

A … hmmmm….. delightful is not really the right word ……  touching …. yeah, that’s it, touching…. first person account of a soldier’s  experiences in Europe  during WWII.

Well, sort of first person, in that this is a novel, and a beautifully written one at that.  The premise is that a young soldier, soon to be deployed to Afghanistan, accompanies his great grandfather on a sponsored trip to visit the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C., an ‘honor flight’.   During the flight, the old man recounts to his great grandson his experiences in Buzz Company, a group of misfits and leftovers from other companies, brought together to form their own unit.

The ‘memoir’ has tales that are funny, and heartbreaking, and poignant.  Lots of action, lots of characters we come to love, and mourn,  just all around a fine work, helping us to remember and appreciate our soldiers from an older war, from a time when war meant protecting your country, not destroying another country for what seems to be no apparent reason other than oil reserves.

I remember reading a couple of memoirs from the First World War that I found on Project Gutenberg.  This novel has the same feel and flavor as those accounts of an even earlier war.

Golly, we suck as a species.

Honor Flight — Our Mission: To transport America’s Veterans to Washington, DC to visit those memorials dedicated to honor the service and sacrifices of themselves and their friends.

Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. We transport our heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans – World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill.

Of all of the wars in recent memory, it was World War II that truly threatened our very existence as a nation—and as a culturally diverse, free society. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 WWII veterans die each day. Our time to express our thanks to these brave men and women is running out.

PUSHING UP DAISIES by Rosemary Harris

A fun little mystery starring garden designer Paula Halladay, who left a media career to start a gardening business.  When she takes on the job of restoring the local rundown manion’s garden , which has been left by the last owner to the town’s Historical Society, she discovers a mummified body of a baby in the back garden.

Turns out there are lots of secrets in this little town, and some fun characters to go along with it.   And another body.  Well, heck, we can always do with another body, right?

Low key, well-written cozy mystery, no competition for Agatha, so she need not turn over in her grave (see what I did there?).  One of those sweet books to read in between War and Peace and  À la recherche du temps perdu.

Well, crumb.  That was a short review.  OK, how about a quote or two:

If con is the opposite of pro, is Congress the opposite of progress?

And a little piece of trivia for you,

Did you know that Good and Plenty candy is the oldest branded candy in the United States?   1893.

And one more:

Bach Original Flower Remedies.  Dr. Edward Bach had been a general practitioner in London in the 1920s.

Hahaha.  Well, turns out that Bach Original Flower Remedies are solutions of brandy and water—the water containing extreme dilutions of flower material developed by Edward Bach, an English homeopath, in the 1930s. Bach claimed that dew found on flower petals retain imagined healing properties of that plant.  Systematic reviews of clinical trials of Bach flower solutions have found no efficacy beyond a placebo effect.

See ya later.  Going to go weed my planters.  Hope my cat didn’t poop in them.

NIGHT MUSIC by Tobias Cabral

A pretty spiffy sci fi about Mars.   MARS, people, MARS.  I do so love books about Mars.  OK, so it’s not quite as good as Weir’s The Martian,  but darn good in its own right.

Following a rapid expansion of the manned space program due to the discovery of a potentially catastrophic Earth-crossing comet, Zubrin Base has been established on the Red Planet to oversee the capture of the rogue object. During final preparations for a second expedition, however, contact has been lost with the outpost. Pilot Seth Boaz finds himself re-tasked for a rescue mission.

OK, I lifted that from the basic plot blurb.  Sometimes I am lazy.  Other times I am even lazier.

This was a good hard sci fi tale.  Realistic, if you feel that establishing a primitive settlement on Mars is realistic, lots of interesting stuff about biology, and chaos theory, and science-y stuff like that.   While the crew are on their flight to the Mars base, they detect a kind of wave that seems to hit Mars.  I admit to having kind of been distracted by the doorbell while reading this section, because I had it on audio text-to-speech while I was quilting, and forgot to hit pause, so it just droned on while I got the mail from the mailman and I didn’t bother to go back, because, as I said, lazy…..

When this second excusion gets to within viewing distance of Mars, they see that it has dramatically changed.  The canals seem to have come alive with some kind of lights, there are clouds, there also seems to be no more red dust, the whole planet is covered in ….. something.  An even closer inspection reveals a large clear area around the now silent base settlement, and the rest of the planet covered in what looks like water.

Seth and his female copilot take a four seater on special mission to investigate, and find …..

Hahaha.  You thought I was going to tell you, didn’t you.  Pfffft.  Not a chance.  Really good story, so if you are a Mars buff, or a sci fi reader, you will have to read this yourself.

Although it is a stand alone, more or less, it leaves a lot of leeway for additions to what is apparently intended as a series.  The second is titled Night Work.   I gotta snag me that next volume, because, let’s face it, Elon Musk is not going to get us to Mars for it to have much impact on my lifetime.

Side note:   I really dislike the way we are scrunging up the language by turning nouns into verbs, especially when there are perfectly good verbs already.  Like the word re-tasked.    Tasked is bad enough, but to compound the sin with re-tasked just makes me want to sob.

LANDFALL by Joseph Jablonski

A salty tale, along the Joseph Conrad lines.  No.  It isn’t.  I lied.   It is less about the sea and sailing than it is about the people who sail upon the briney.  Well, maybe that is also true about Conrad’s work.

Jake Thomas is now a retired merchant mariner.  He writes fiction, mostly sea tales,  but his story is all about when he was a 19-year-old cadet on his first voyage.  It was 1969, the Vietnam war was still raging,  and the old freighter he was on was ferrying supplies around the Pacific Rim.  During a month-long stop at Subic Bay in the Philippines for repairs and loading, he is encouraged to go off to the debauchery and corruption of the area’s red light district in the jungle, where he indulges in sex, drugs and maybe even rock n roll.  He contracts some illness, perhaps mosquito-borne,  and the prostitutes with whom he is living fear they cannot save him, so call on the wife of a nearby missionary who has nursing skills.  She comes to take care of him, and it’s Elmer Gantry meets Graham Greene.  She is a sexually frustrated, feisty gal and even though there are twenty years separating their ages, they have a fine old time.

Turns out that the missionary and his family are to be traveling back to California on the same freighter, much to the delight of the now-well young man, who foresees several weeks of hanky, not to mention panky, on the agenda.  However, those dreams are thwarted by the aggressive and peculiar first mate. VERY peculiar.

The night before arriving at the San Francisco port, the woman is found dead.

As the book opens, her now grown children come to Jake to ask what he knows about what really happened on that fateful voyage.  The kids were only 12 and 8 at the time.  They only know what they were told. They ask him to write a narrative about it, and will pay him a large sum to do so.  And thus ensues a tale of moral depravity, youth, corruption, and includes a ship captain whose loyalty to duty and his ship is heartwarming, in an Apocalypse Now kind of way.

It is an examination of human frailty, loss, and the excoriation of government policies and actions.  Yeah.  All of that.

A really great book.  It has everything…. stupidity, human nature, love, hate, and large scary animals.  What’s not to like?

 

A WITNESS ABOVE by Andy Straka

A nifty detective  story featuring  falconry!   Yeah, really.   The protagonist is a former New Rochelle, NY, police officer who, along with his partner and a third officer, get booted from the force for shooting an unarmed kid as part of a robbery call.  They swear the kid had a gun — it was a dark place between cars, but when they investigated, there was no gun, only a lead pipe.  Another officer was shot and killed before they arrived as backup on the scene.

Fast forward twenty years to Charlottesville, Virginia, where Frank is training as a falconer under the mentorship of his former partner.  He works as a P.I. when he is not flying his red-tail hawk.   He is in a remote mountainous area and when his bird loses the rabbit she was after, he follows the rabbit in case it is injured and he would need to put it out of its misery.  He stumbles over a dead body — that of a teenage boy.  He sees a wallet partially hidden in the brush and picks it up with a couple of sticks, because I guess he didn’t learn squat working crime scenes in New York, sees a dollar bill partially sticking out with a series of numbers written on it…. numbers that coincidently, are the phone number of his daughter.   He takes the bill, puts the wallet back, collects his bird, and returns to where there is cell phone service and calls it in.

So, what are you guessing?  Drug dealer?  You get a smiley sticker if you guessed drug dealer.  And what has this kid got to do with Frank’s daughter?   And her exotic dancer bff?  And that shooting back in New Rochelle? And the nice lady prosecutor?

Some pretty good twists and turns here, and as I recall, this is the first of a series, so more falconry stuff to follow.  Although, really, sad to say, the falconry has much less to do with it all than  we might have wished, since the only thing we …. and I am using the Royal We here …. know about falconry is what we read in historical novels set in England back in medieval times.

Good mystery, good charactersd, all in all, happy me.