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reviewed The real Frank Zappa book by Frank Zappa (Picador)

Review of 'The real Frank Zappa book' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Someone on social media shared a clip of this guy on CNN’s Crossfire in the 1980s, and it opened my eyes to what an awesome individual he really was. All I remembered was making fun of his choices of child names—turns out that’s just one more way in which he was way ahead of his time. His breezy, freewheeling memoir grinds many axes (most with good reason!), but also incorporates delectable specifics about how music works, the practical considerations of recording and producing music so it sounds its best, and fantastic details about his creative inspiration and the economic and contractual logistics of a recording career. Zappa would have had an easier go of things in today’s music marketplace (he literally invented the iTunes Music Store at a time before widespread internet access was available, but couldn’t get the financial backing) but he had a semi-successful career doing things his …

Mike Brooks, Hélène Collon: Dark sky (Paperback, 2021, FLEUVE EDITIONS) 4 stars

Review of 'Dark sky' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Unfolds cleverly, with each new twist of the knife reeling you in without feeling too forced. Brooks splits up hits characters, but manages to make that more kinetic, rather than dragging things down or getting confusing—a rare feat. The ending is abrupt, and a bit of a mishmash, but it’s the middle of a trilogy, so he may have wanted to launch into the third book with a lot of threads still active.

Patton Oswalt: Zombie spaceship wasteland (2011) 4 stars

Review of 'Zombie spaceship wasteland' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

Oswalt has always been a thoughtful storyteller—among the many strengths of his comedy is his ability to take you on a journey, rather than tossing out wisecracks and observations. His prose is strong and evocative, and it’s interesting that episodes of memoir are interspersed with “comedy bits” full of out-loud laughs—no rhyme or reason, apparently just stuff that came to him that would work better in a book than onstage.

reviewed Killing Floor by Lee Child (Jack Reacher (1))

Lee Child: Killing Floor (2006, Jove) 4 stars

Ex-military policeman Jack Reacher is a drifter. He’s just passing through Margrave, Georgia, and in …

Review of 'Killing Floor' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

I can see where its “hard boiled” style might grate for some, but I mostly enjoyed it (or didn’t particularly notice); I just got pulled along by its rhythm. The detective plotting is strong—revealing the right details and insights at the right times—and I like the Reacher character, even if the movie version is totally different (in his own excellent way).

Review of 'Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Painfully poignant from the start—more so in light of his passing, but it foresees the end of his life so clearly that it almost doesn't seem like it was written without any knowledge we now have. His candor is refreshing, and brings focus to the mundane aspects of rehab and recovery that are easily overlooked. The idleness; the inefficacy; endless time for introspection, especially during moments where it’s not welcome. It’s an exhausting story, heartbreaking and infuriating, as I’m sure it was for him throughout. But I welcomed the chance to understand a little bit better.

Mike Brooks: Dark Run (2015, Penguin Random House) 4 stars

Review of 'Dark Run' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

It has drawn comparisons to Firefly, and those make sense (especially with a glance at the crew roster), but it’s in no way derivative. Brooks defines appealing, distinct characters well, and they mesh brilliantly as a team. The plotting is great, the dialogue and interplay are fun, and the scenarios and world-building are compelling. The gritty, hard boiled tone doesn’t overstay its welcome, and the action is well written.

reviewed Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells (The Murderbot Diaries, #6)

Martha Wells: Fugitive Telemetry (Hardcover, 2021, Tor.com) 4 stars

No, I didn't kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn't dump the body …

Review of 'Fugitive Telemetry' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Fun and exciting, taking the form of a murder mystery for an interesting change of pace. It’s well plotted, and the development of Murderbot continues to be deeply charming, especially its relationship with Indah and all the ways they’re more alike than they think

Neil Gaiman: Don't Panic (1988, Pocket) 4 stars

'It's all absolutely devastatingly true -- except the bits that are lies' Douglas Adams

Don't …

Review of "Don't Panic" on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

A sweet and witty biography, assembled with clear affection for Douglas Adams. It’s eye-opening how much of his signature creation, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, was a matter of continually reworking prior material, and how unlikely any of it was to be carried off, considering Adams's deadline-averse writing style and the inflexibility of the production schedule.

John Scalzi: Starter Villain (2023, Doherty Associates, LLC, Tom) 4 stars

Inheriting your mysterious uncle's supervillain business is more complicated than you might imagine.

Sure, there …

Review of 'Starter Villain' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Unfolds a novel and intriguing premise with Scalzi’s dependable wit (and identical character voices). There’s a somewhat unsatisfying lack of villainy despite all that goes on, even though the rogues’ network that’s explored instead is filled with delightfully absurd details. For once, I wish this story had finished with a few more loose ends than it did.

Harold Pinter: No man's land 2 stars

Review of "No man's land" on 'Goodreads'

2 stars

I’ve enjoyed other Pinter works, and the acclaim for this one is mighty, but I have to admit it missed me entirely. The absurd rambling is a lot more palatable when it's coherent, at least (e.g., the speech to start Act 2). When the characters are interrupting themselves repeatedly with contradictory information, it's just a mess.

Patrick Stewart: Making It So (Hardcover, 2023, Gallery Books) 4 stars

The long-awaited memoir from iconic, beloved actor and living legend Sir Patrick Stewart!

From his …

Review of 'Making It So' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

His work, while impressive, has never drawn me in as a particularly devoted fan, but his personal character has always impressed me, and his thoughtful warmth pervades the writing…at least for the first half. As time goes on, the pace accelerates, and many details are glossed over as it begins to feel like a list of accolades and accomplishments, with some fun showbiz moments peppered in. He begins with reflection and insight into the challenges in his family of origin; I wish the last part could have given as much care and respect to the two marriages he destroyed and the daughter he alienated.

reviewed Exit Strategy by Martha Wells (The Murderbot Diaries, #4)

Martha Wells: Exit Strategy (2018) 4 stars

"Martha Wells's Hugo, Nebula, Alex, and Locus Award-winning, New York Times and USA Today bestselling …

Review of 'Exit Strategy' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Wells details Murderbot’s tactical decision-making and describes software programming throughout the story in a way I find very enjoyable, but often wonder how it plays for readers with less of a software background. Nevertheless, she balances it well with combat and also Murderbot’s gradual emotional development. It’s an excellent wrap-up for the novella series, with possibilities for the future.

John Scalzi: The Human Division (2013) 4 stars

B Team leader Lieutenant Harry Wilson counters hostile alien forces, angry humans and unpredictable elements …

Review of 'The Human Division' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

As an episodic work, it’s a bit more meandering than the others in the series, but also more intriguing in the balance, with more of an opportunity to focus on character. There’s an interlude with Hart Schmidt (an interstellar diplomat) spending some time among family that creates an interesting slice of life. The larger universe has been established so thoroughly that it provides this sort of opportunity for a deeper exploration of certain facets farther from the spaceships and laser battles.