Friday, January 1, 2021

Reviews of Books Read In 2021

 My index of all interviews of the last ten years up until 2018 is here

My list of all 2018 reads is here

My list of 10ish favorite books read in 2018 is here

My list of 2019 reads is here 

My list of 2020 books is here


 2021 Book #1 - Hi Five by Joe Ide, this is the fourth book in Ide's series about a fascinating character named IQ, a private investigator who solves crimes and other problems. One of the plugs on the book cover flap, by Wilder Davies of Time magazine, accurately sums up the books this way: "Joe Ide's IQ novel are an electrifying combination of Holmesian mystery and SoCal grit."

In this book IQ is being blackmailed into helping a man he despises: Angus Byrne, the biggest arms dealer on the West Coast. If IQ does not help Angus' daughter, Christina - the number one suspect in the murder of her boyfriend, of which she is the sole witness and it doesn't help that she has multiple personalities, none of whom saw the whole thing - than Angus will injure IQ's girlfriend so she will never play her violin again, ruining her career. IQ rises to the challenge but it's not easy interviewing each personality and trying to piece together what exactly happened.

The book has lots of good twists and turns and intriguing characters but, overall, I was underwhelmed. I was a big champion of the early books in the IQ series but this one was missing something and I can't quite identify what is is. It's still a good book - I give it an 8 - but I gave past books in the series 9's. 


Book #2 - Bombshell by Stuart Woods. I have a theory, which seems to generally be true based on past readings, and that is that when best-selling authors start taking
on co-writers, the quality of the books go down. This book is a good example of that. This book is the fourth book in his Teddy Fay novels with Parnell Hall as the co-writer.
I predicted most of the plot twists before they happened and some of the story was just too implausible to accept
I interviewed Stuart back in 2010 - and enjoyed the interview and the book the interview was promoting,
Santa Fe Edge. That said  I give Bombshell a 6 - i found it more of a bomb than a bombshell. 


Book #3  - Black Ice by Andrew Lane. This is the third book in the Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins series, an excellent Young Adult series written in conjunction with the estate of
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I find this a fun series, seeing a young Sherlock still learning many of the skills he will become famous for having in later life, such
as being so gifted at deducing information. In this book Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's older brother, has run into some problems, including being accused of murder. The book
has good character development and some excellent plot twists. I give the book an 8.

Book #4 - The Sentinel - This is the latest Jack Reacher thriller by Lee Child but it's cowritten by his younger brother, Andrew Child.  

If memory serves Andrew is going to continue the series for a while without Lee. It will be interesting to see what, if anything changes with Andrew doing Reacher novels by

As the novel gets going Reacher sees a man about to walk into an ambush and Reacher being Reacher he just had to stop that. The man he helps, Rusty Rutherford, the town's former IT manager, claims he's innocent but seemingly everyone in town blames him after a cyberattack locked up the town's data. Rutherford wants to clear his name and in trying to help him Reacher runs into all kinds of trouble as bad guys are trying to hurt or kill them.  

There's plenty of fighting, Lee Child is great at describing choices made in fights, plot twists and all kinds of other hijinks. This is far from the best Jack Reacher novel so i'm only giving it a 7

Book #5 - Invasion of Privacy by Christopher Reich- Good techno thriller about the aftermath after a FBI agent is killed and his wife suspects she's being lied to about what really happened. She's right - she is being lied to and woe to those who stand in her way. I've never heard of the author before but he definitely shows promise plus the book has plugs for the author from James Patterson and Lee Child. The book caught my attention
because it's based in Austin, TX, where I live so that meant I both felt a connection to it plus watched for any geographical errors, of which I spotted none. The book has lots of good plot twists. I give it an 8.


Book #6 - The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. This book is absorbing, excellent, engaging and fascinating.

 Book #7  -  While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams. I picked this up both because it was written by Stacey Abrams, for whom I have a  lot of respect and admiration.

The first 80 pages drove me crazy: It seemed like every chapter introduced a new character and/or introduced information that didn't seem to clearly connect to the information the reader already knew.

Put simply the book grew increasingly confusing and convoluted. As I'd heard it became more clear after page 80. 

I found the last 50 pages the most interesting and was satisfied with the ending. That said I
will not be recommending this book to anyone. 6 out of 10

 Book #8 - Next To Custer's Last Stand by Craig Johnson. I'm a big fan of Johnson's series of books about Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire (the basis for the Longmire tv series) so it was inevitable that I read this, his latest book in the series. Longmire is asked to do some investigating when, after a veteran dies, they find he has a million dollars and lots of books about art. The sheriff begins investigating what sounds like a possible art heist involving the famous Custer's Last Fight painting, copies of which were distributed to bars all around the nation.

As usual there's fun banter between Walt and others in his department, great plot twists and character development. I give this book an 8.

Book # 9 - Fair Warning by Michael Connelly. Connelly has multiple series going the best of which feature Harry Bosch. In  this one, though,  reporter Jack McEvoy, who was featured in the Poet and the Scarecrow, is back in an exciting new book with lots of good twists and intriguing characters. 

The novel begins with a woman picking up a guy and bringing him home but after sex he kills her.
Jack gets visited by police because he too had a one night stand with her so he's a suspect... but, over objections of his editor and the police, he jumps on the story which leads to his discovery that she is part of a larger group of women who were killed in the same brutal way. Plus, all of the victims submitted information to the same genetics  company. Now cleared by the police and with his editor's approval Jack follows the story where it takes him, and we the readers follow eagerly along too. I give it an 8.

Book #10 The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz I picked up this book after hearing some buzz about it because of the book's concept: A creative writer teacher learns of a plot a student has planned for his book, and he is shocked to find the plot is so good it'll be a best-seller, Oprah Book, etc., as the student brags.
When this teacher learns his former student has died without publishing the book, he uses said plot and writes a book which, yes, becomes a best-seller, Oprah Book, etc. All's going great until the teacher is contacted by someone saying they know he stole the book's plot and that person gets increasingly under his skin as he races to find out who that person is.
The book does indeed have a good plot - as does the stolen novel itself, chapters of which are shared with the readers - but things don't get really moving and wild until the last 120 pages or so.
I would give this book a 7.
Book #11 - The Revelators by Ace Atkins, part of his Quinn Colson novels. I'm a big fan of Atkins, enjoying both this series and his books about Spenser, as he continues the series famously written by Robert Parker, and have enjoyed interviewing him about both.
As the latest book in the Quinn Colson series begins, Quinn, county sheriff, has been beaten and shot and while recuperating learns the governor has installed a new sheriff. The same governor who ordered Quinn killed. Something stinks to high heaven. Quinn and his best friend, Boom, along with friends who are a U.S. Marshall and a federal agent, investigate what is going on. Now there's always mischief and a major criminal element going on in this county so there's plenty to investigate.
As usual with Atkins books there's great dialogue, good plot twists and fascinating characters. I give it an 8.
Book#12 - Below Zero by CJ Box, part of his Joe Pickett series. In earlier books we learned about April, whom Pickett's family adopted. But in later books April's birth mother wanted her back. The last time Joe saw April she appeared to have been killed. And yet, after six years, Joe's oldest daughter, Sheridan, starts getting texts from someone identifying herself as April. This prompts many questions but Joe and Sheridan try to locate April, which is no easy task.
As with most Pickett books it's a rollercoaster ride with lots of plot twists, good dialogue and interesting characters.
I give it an 8.
Book #13 - The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly. I'm a big fan of Connelly but I prefer his books about Harry Bosch to the ones about the Lincoln Lawyer. But this Lincoln Lawyer book had a great premise which made me decide to give it a try, and I'm glad I did because it's a fascinating book with lots of good suspense and plot twists.
That premise? Mickey Haller, called the Lincoln Lawyer because he works out of his Lincoln, is pulled over and cops find a dead body in the trunk of his Lincoln. Haller is soon in jail, charged with murder, while trying to plan his legal defense, which means trying to figure out who put the man, who we learn was a prior client, in the trunk and shot him dead. Who framed him and why?
Harry Bosch helps the defense as they plan their legal case and try to answer these questions. It's a tough case with lots of surprises.
It's a good book and you should check it out. I give it an 8.
Book #14 - The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny is the latest in her excellent series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. This book is set at a time when the pandemic is over.
Gamache is ordered to provide security for a lecture at the university by a visiting professor of statistics. What at first sounds like a non-event becomes quite the opposite as Gamache realizes the professor is espousing morally repugnant and polarizing opinions, which, as he feared, draws a wild crowd and someone shoots at her. While she is not hit this kicks off a wild story about this professor, Gamache and all our usual characters and personalities.
This book was harder to read, in parts, than her other books but it's still a good story. I give it an 8.
Book#15 -
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran. I forget where I first heard of this book but it was enough of a rave for me to write it down as a book to read. Upon getting the book I saw Sue Grafton's blurb: "I love this book. Absolutely love it. This is the first fresh literary voice I've heard in years." And it's true, I love the story and characters and they are very original. Alafair Burke blurbed: "Not your mother's girl detective, Claire DeWitt is a cool blend of Nancy Drew and Sid Vicious. Sara Gran has pulled the traditional female sleuth into the twenty-first century with a novel that's smart and hip, dark and funny."
As the book begins we meet DeWitt and learn that she's working on a case involving a missing New Orleans DA who went missing during Katrina.
We learn part of what makes her both unorthodox - she uses the I Ching, omens, prophetic dreams and mind-expanding drugs - and successful at what she does. The plot lines and plot twists are great but what I liked even more was the dialogue and the characters.
I recommend this book and give it a 9. It is the first in a series and I I hope to read more in the series.
Book #16 - State of Terror by Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny.
As I've written in this space I'm a long time of Penny, particularly her Inspector Gamache series, of which I've read all. I wasn't totally sure what to expect with this book, a successful attempt at a political thriller.

It was quite a jump in style from Penny's usual series but while a different beast I still quite enjoyed it. I always read books with co-writers and wonder who wrote which part.

Some political thrillers are filled with predictable plots, one-dimensional characters and terrible dialogue. That is not the case here. with interesting characters, great plot twists and good dialogue.

If you want to read a good political thriller check this out. I give it an 8. 

Book #17 - Nowhere To Run by C.J. Box. I'm a fan of Box's novels about Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett, of which this is a part. Some of his books are more dark, some more light. This one is dark.
Pickett has been hearing rumors of strange, bad things going on in the mountains of Baggs, Wyoming, where he is serving his last week as the temporary game warden. Being who he is he can't leave without checking out the reports of looted camps, slashed tents, butchered elk. What he finds will shock him and the readers.
The book's final showdown is one for the, well, for the books. I give this an 8.