Quick Review of 84, Charing Cross Road

I don’t often recommend nonfiction, but I wholeheartedly recommend this. Helene Hanff was an American writer in New York in the post-World War II era. She wrote to a London bookstore, looking for classics. This book is a collection of the wonderful correspondence exchanged over the next 20 years.  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52850170-84-charing-cross-road


Dumpster Diving for Werewolves

Tatiana Lang guessed the predawn temperature was in the forties. It would warm into the sixties later, but right now, laying naked behind a dumpster and splattered with crusted blood, it was downright cold. That was the downside of being a werewolf: when the moon set her dense fur vanished and she was left with only her skin to protect her from the elements. At least she’d found the relative shelter of the dumpster before she returned to human form.

She’d raised to one knee when the sound of an approaching car made her freeze. Chances were slim the car would stop at this hour, but even if it did, most likely someone would toss in their trash and leave.
Tati crouched against the sticky, stinking, greasy metal container and waited for the car to pass.

It stopped.

Well, nuts.

A car doored opened and Tati heard someone get out.

Toss your trash and leave, she thought.

“Ms. Lang, please come out,” a woman said.

What the—

Tati looked down at the dried blood on her hands and chest. How in blazes did she know?

She turned her head and glanced at the dark line of trees twenty yards away. She could make a break for it. Why hadn’t she stayed in the trees to transform?

“Here,” the woman said, and a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt landed three feet away.

Tati’s thoughts raced. How could anyone know she was here and that she needed clothes?

“His name was Angel Velazquez. That’s his blood on your chest. The authorities will find his body very soon, so If I were you I’d get in the car.”

Tati stood up. The first rays of dawn flashed on the windshield of a soccer mom-style minivan with dark-tinted windows. Standing beside the van was a slender woman in a tan jacket with an Advent Industrial logo.


“Bloody hell,” Tati said, shaking her head. “Am I late for work?”

It’s Tough Being A Wolf

“You can change if you like, you humans. Stop drinking, stop using, go to a 12-step process. It’s so easy. But every full moon, I change. I become the wolf and I kill. There’s no 12-step program to quit being a werewolf. There’s no quitting what I am.”

Tati nodded to the bottles on the floor. “I drank all that: a quart and a half of vodka, a fifth of Scotch, I don’t know how much beer. I must have passed out cold about midnight. I don’t remember any of it.”

She picked up the only unbroken glass on the table and hurled it against the wall. It shattered, ricocheting shards everywhere.

“I can’t remember getting blind drunk, but I can tell you that the full moon rose at seventeen minutes after one. When it did, I was nearly to the woods. The moon came over the edge of the valley and I felt myself transforming into the beast. I felt the booze in my system metabolize in an instant and I felt alive and powerful. The anger and the vodka and the meth were gone, replaced by the single-minded certainty that I was the master of the forest – and that I would kill.”

Quick Review of Craig Johnson’s The Cold Dish

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You need a certain languid frame of mind to appreciate Craig Johnson’s first Longmire novel. The language is exquisite and Johnson captures the atmosphere and personality of small-town Wyoming. This was clearly a labor of love for the author. On the other had, to read this book you can’t have anywhere to be. The pacing is glacial. Halfway through the book Longmire doesn’t have any solid suspects and doesn’t seem to mind much. Johnson spends so much time building in background to every character and situation that not much manages to happen. Sure, it’s wonderfully colored and the relationships between the characters show a depth that the current Netflix incarnation of the series can’t hope to reach. I just wish it moved along a little more quickly.

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Quick Review of Sixteen Ways to Defend A Walled City

I wish K. J. Parker could make up his mind as to whether this story is fantasy or a pseudo-history. His story features a not-quite Roman empire and the wrong-race engineer who saves the city from his [SPOILER] best friend. Yeah, all of that. As stories go, it was fine. Orhan, Colonel of Engineers, narrates the history of his defense of The City, which is Not-Rome. He’s a great character and a great unreliable narrator.

My gripe is that the author injects his 21st Century “new atheism” late in the story as an aside, lambasting the “freak cult who believes the king of the Gods sent his eldest son down to earth to die for the sins of the people.” Again, Parker needs to decide what kind of story he’s writing. Even for snarky Orhan, the diatribe was out of place and probably out of character.

Parker is a good author, but the odd screed just pulled me out of the story.


Quick Review of Alastair Reynolds’ The Prefect

The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When Alastair Reynolds is on, his work is amazing. He is an undisputed master of hard science fiction. Unfortunately he was not on for this one. The Prefect–the name of the book was changed from Aurora Rising–is mind-numbingly tedious. Changing the name didn’t help. From the beginning of this story, he introduces unappealing characters that I find it hard to care about. Tom Dreyfus is a pseudo-cop involved in rooting out voter fraud, bad AIs, augmented humans, and other future-y stuff. Bad things happen, who cares.

In his Revelation Space future history universe, Reynolds has created a sweeping epic spanning millions of years. The problem is that each of the stories is a snippet and there’s no coherent arc unifying the vastness. He’s published stories covering events happening in the next few hundred years, then some several million years in the future, back a few millenia, and so forth. He addresses some interesting and even amazing concepts in a nebulous setting with bland, lifeless characters. I want to like it all, but it just doesn’t come together for me.

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Quick Review of “Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View”

Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View by Elizabeth Schaefer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m sure that on some planet far away there are original, entertaining stories that enthrall and entertain. This is not that planet. This is a collection of trite fan-boy fiction that adds nothing to Star Wars lore. The “From a Certain View” should give a clue that these are retellings of Star Wars vignettes from differing perspectives: Jawas finding the R2 unit, storm troopers aboard Leia’s ship, Sand People, etc., blah, blah, blah. What it really translates to is, “There’s nothing new here.” Don’t waste your time or money.

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