Monday, October 22, 2012

Short and Sweet Review: Open Season by CJ Box

This book is the first in Box's Joe Pickett series. Joe is a Game Warden in Wyoming and he's underpaid, under appreciated, living in a house he doesn't own with his devoted pregnant wife and two little girls. And a dog (who I personally felt needed more character development...but I'm a dog person).

Joe's the right guy for this job-aside from the pay and lack of appreciation he really loves what he does. Unfortunately, the bad guys don't. They are worried that Joe will discover their little secret and blow the possibility of BIG money pouring into the area and their pockets.

I'm not giving away anything here by telling you the secret involves an endangered species-every section starts with a part of the Endangered Species Act. The reader knows what's going on-up to a point-before Joe does, but once he starts figuring it out we are rooting for him before the bad guys get him-or his adorable family!

Downsides? They are there but I chalk them up to this having been Box's first book. I'm hoping others in the series will have benefited from an editor's gentle but firm touch. The segments from the Endangered Species Act are kinda long and I'm thinking many readers brush past the legalize to get on to the story. I'd have shortened those to just the most salient points.

A lot of time is spent early on setting the scene...sometime more than is necessary, and Box has a tendency to over explore Joe's inner turmoils... occasionally repeating points previously made. As a result, the book starts off a little slow-but don't let that stop you. Once the author gets rolling it's a great ride with classic overtones of Honest Cop vs. The System.

I'm betting by the time you come to the end you'll be looking forward to reading  #2 in the series. I know I am.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Shell Keeper/Quote Outtakes: Chapter 7

I mean to lead a simple life, to chose a simple shell I can carry easily--like a hermit crab. But I do not. I find the my frame of life does not foster simplicity. 

Gwen meets with her friend Terrie, the manager of the Green Valley ShopCO (think Costco or Sams Club). Gwen's finance's have led her to seek out someone who can help her pinch a few pennies on supplies for her bakery and Terrie is just the person.

During their meeting we learn a couple of interesting things. The first is that Gwen's reputation as 'nice' was well earned and follows her still. That nice side earned her a personal debt as far as Terrie is concerned, and now Terrie is happy to help Gwen collect it.

We also discover that Terrie has a little inside skinny on Del's ex-husband. It turns out his reputation for fooling around on the side of his marriage may also have been well earned. As a result, Gwen takes Del's claims, and her situation a little more seriously...which will benefit Del in the next chapter!

I felt this quote reminds the reader that even though most of us wish we could live simpler lives, as so often is the case, life is complicated. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Short and Sweet Review: Fool Me Twice by Robert B. Parker...sorta

Just as with the sad demise of Dick Francis, I grieved not only the loss of a great literary talent,  Robert B. Parker, but the loss of the stories he might have written. But also, as with Dick Francis, someone came along to pick up the gauntlet and carry on. And I'm thrilled he did!

Over the years I've read just about every Spenser novel Parker produced-and that's a considerable amount! Oh yes, that includes those oldies but goodies with bell bottoms and afros! But Spenser, Hawk and Susan are memorable characters and I hope to read the newest installment, The Ranger, written by Ace Atkins, very soon.

First, however, I dove into Michael Brandman's latest take on Parker's Jesse Stone series. Now, to be honest, this is not a series I'd ever read. I'd only seen it on TV via the movies with Tom Selleck. But Selleck co-produced those with Brandman, who also wrote several of the screenplays. It only figured that he'd be the guy to pick up where Parker left off.

A little research has led me to believe that the time lines in the books vs. the movies differ, and I'm finding it odd that Jesse has a cat in the book and a Golden Retriever in the movies. He never seemed like a cat guy to me, though I wished he'd petted that dog more often!

So, let's cut to the chase-did I enjoy Fool Me Twice? A resounding YES! Did Brandman channel Parker well? Pretty close...though I agree with some reviewers that his version is a little more on the soft side, but he's got the staccato dialogue down!

The plot is actually three stories that don't really interconnect, but that's okay. Jesse is the Chief of Police in the small Massachusetts town of Paradise and, as such, it makes sense he's juggling more than one case. So the reader, along with Jesse, tracks the killer of an actress who was starring in a locally filmed Hollywood production, while sorting out fraud at the local water department, while taking a personal interest that intervenes in the wayward path a young local girl's life has taken. All local, all in Chief Stone's sights, and all undertaken in the way only Parker-and now Brandman can write it.

Pretty well done, after all. I still grieve the loss of the master of this sub-genre, but the apprentice lives.

(photo courtesy of Amazon)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Shell Keeper/Quote Outtakes: Chapter 6

In a growing relationship...the original essence is not lost but merely buried under the impedimenta of life.

In chapter 6 the reader gets to know Gwen a little better. For me, she is the center of this book. Everything comes together around Gwen and spirals out, like a shell, from her. (fyi, the next book centers on Claire-who will definitely be a fish out of water in Colorado's wine country!)

Gwen's back-story involves a divorce followed by starting over, with her son, Jeff, in her Blue River bakery. Jeff has left for college and Gwen is struggling with empty nesting, among other things. 

The one thing she doesn't struggle with is her relationship with her husband, Andy; clearly these two are a good match. But we also learn a little more about the impending strike, and the pressures and choices both Gwen and Andy are facing. 

And I can't forget Cammi, a local college student who works part time at Gwen's bakery. Cammi's priorities don't always include arriving for work on time, but she's a good soul. Her ongoing efforts to learn Spanish bring mixed and sometimes silly results. Claire even questions just what kind of class she's taking!

By the end of this chapter the reader understands how accurately Anne's quote defines it. Gwen and Andy have a good relationship, but it's clear their plates are very full of the impedimenta of life.