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Jonathan Arnold

Joined 1 year, 11 months ago

Avid reader of non-fiction and fiction, including mysteries, sci-fi, and classics.

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Candice Fox, Candice Fox: Crimson Lake (2017, Forge) 4 stars

Review of 'Crimson Lake' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

A good series opener, telling the story of a convicted murderer and a man charged as a child rapist, who loses everything, combining to try and solve the disappearance of a local author in Cairns Australia. Lots of interesting story lines and more mysteries than you can shake a pen at!

Told from the point of view of Ted Conkaffey, Sydney cop and imprisoned for raping a child. He was the last one witnessed near her and thus loses everything - wife, fellow cops, everything. So he heads to a small place near Crimson Lake hoping to lose his past after he gets let out when the charges are dropped, but everyone still thinks he is guilty. He teams up with a woman recently out of jail as a convicted murderer, so yeah, they make quite the team. And each of them works on the other's case while working on …

Kurt Vonnegut: Mother Night 4 stars

Mother Night is a novel by American author Kurt Vonnegut, first published in February 1962. …

Review of 'Mother Night' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

This relatively straight forward and relatively serious novel tells the story of a Nazi propagandist awaiting trial in Israel for crimes against humanity. But he says he is an American spy, passing along coded messages in his virulent broadcasts. He tells his story with emotion and detachment even. He tries to figure out if he can separate out his words from his true feelings and did the hateful things he said, in the end, destroy his soul?

A very interesting book, more "normal" than other Vonnegut books I have read. Howard W Campbell Jr is a complex character, trying to come to grips with what he said and what he did. A fairly short book, despite its nearly 300 page official length, as there is plenty of white space and short chapters. But definitely a page turner, with some profound thoughts on love, estrangement and self delusion. I really enjoyed …

Review of 'The Commanders' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

A long detailed and, of course, depressing account of the US involvement in Afghanistan. Very detailed and pretty opinionated, it makes for a pretty good read on the disastrous intervention.

As I said, Loyn is not afraid of offering up his opinions on strategies and the leaders of the effort. I can't vouch for either his "facts" or his opinions, but one thing becomes immediately obvious even to this all too casual observer - this was doomed to failure pretty much from the beginning. Everyone from the top down approached this as a short term thing, which, in the end, resulted in a more than 20 year involvement.

The turnover was hard to track. And each year, the American commander had completely different ideas on how to approach the conflict, which led to an entirely discombobulated strategy, if you could even call it that. Mostly money right down the toilet, …

Jenna Blum: Woodrow on the Bench (Hardcover, 2021, Harper) 4 stars

Review of 'Woodrow on the Bench' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

I don't know what to say about this book. Heart wrenching and wise. Honest and searing. Hard to read and hard to put down.

As an owner of two very old Lab mixes, Ms. Blum certainly knows how to describe those mutts. From diving fearlessly into the ocean waves to fetch a ball, to never stopping a fetch session, to being fiercely loyal, she knows her Lab mixes. I have never done anything harder than put down our Lab mixes and seeing that time coming up for her brings tears to my eyes just writing this.

So that's the only reason I am hesitant about recommending this book. I literally had to put it down a couple times because I couldn't take it any more. Still, it is worth it. She does a great job at describing life and love and taking care of an older dog, even if I …

Adrian McKinty: The Chain (2019, Mulholland Books) 4 stars


Review of 'The Chain' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

One of my favorite authors decided to write a book for the American market and yeah, it was pretty cool. It tells the story of The Chain of kidnappers, playing on the fears of any parent, as they force parents to kidnap another child to get their child back. Told in a propulsive fashion, using local Boston landmarks as locations, it moves fast and leaves no prisoners.

It was fun, even if it wasn't as interestingly personal as the amazing Sean Duffy series. I could total sympathize with mother who would do anything to get her daughter back, even if it included kidnapping another kid. And how it so wrecked both her and her daughter. He did a very good job with the local northeast Massachusetts descriptions and kept the story moving along.

There was some magic computer work, which always gets me a little disappointed. And there seemed to …

Martha Wells: Network Effect (2020) 4 stars

WINNER of the 2021 Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards!

The first full-length novel in Martha …

Review of 'Network Effect' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

The 5th book in Murderbot's series, and the first full length novel, it tells the story of Murderbot getting kidnapped by ART, who we first met in book 2, Artificial Condition. Murderbot's relationship certainly veers all over the place, but it is always funny. Murderbot helps rescue ART's crew and maybe begins more adventures with ART.

I have to admit finding it a bit harder than usual getting thru this book. Maybe the novella length is perfect for Murderbot. It seemed like about the same amount of things happened in this full novel as happened in the previous novellas, but it just took longer for things to happen. Don't get me wrong, Murderbot was still pretty damn funny. Their observations of human interactions, and their growing disgust at their own, are truly inspiring. And coming across (creating?) another "rogue" SecUnit is pretty fun too.

But there were a lot of …

Zac Bissonnette: The Great Beanie Baby Bubble (Hardcover, 2015) 4 stars

In the annals of consumer crazes, nothing compares to Beanie Babies. With no advertising or …

Review of 'The Great Beanie Baby Bubble' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

An interesting and fun read, but really depressing. I mean, no one comes out well in this story of the Beanie Baby craze of the early 1990s. Not the ridiculous collectors, the frenzied marketing or, most especially, anyone associated with Ty Inc, including (or most especially) Ty Warner, the crazy eccentric who started the whole thing.

It was an interesting view of a mania. I didn't have much to do with it, as I didn't have kids at the time, although we were part of the earlier baseball card craze, which was nowhere near as inflamed but still got pretty crazy. But there isn't a single person to root for in this story and, like the other bubbles we have seen (Internet bubble anyone?), everyone thinks "this one will be different" and they never are.

Still, a good read, with some crazy personalities. He covers the start of eBay and …

Jonathan Ames: A Man Named Doll (Hardcover, 2021, Mulholland Books) 3 stars

Review of 'A Man Named Doll' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

A short book about Happy Doll(!), an ex-Navy guy, ex-LAPD, trying to make a living as a private investigator and bouncer at a house of ill repute. It opens with him getting into a fatal brawl and then getting involved in something mysterious, having to do with his old friend who needs a kidney transplant.

Interesting little book, only about 200 pages, but it covers a lot of ground. I love the dark depressing story of Doll, who is depressed, suicidal and realistic, more than willing to let drugs help him make it thru the day. Some pretty funny and droll turns of phrases and it went pretty quickly.

But even then, there were some lulls in the action. I mean, if you cut out all the driving described in the book, you might lose another 50 or 75 pages! And wow, does the guy get the crap beat out …

Review of 'The Friends of Eddie Coyle' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Eddie is a small time crook facing some hard times, taking the fall for a failed booze heist. He has been getting guns for some friends involved in armed robbery and the feds are leaning on him to turn snitch. He gets entangled with another gun dealer and gets on the radar of all the wrong people.

Set in the Boston area, with all kinds of landmarks (mostly gone these days) featuring prominently, so there is a great local feel. A book heavy with dialog, realistic, tough, heavy dialog that rings true thru and thru. He's not afraid to drop you at the start of a chapter right into the middle of the discussion either. A real crime noir classic indeed.

I saw the movie first and I am not sure if that was a good idea. Don't get me wrong, the movie is almost slavish in its devotion to …

Zadie Smith: NW (2012) 4 stars

NW is a 2012 novel by British author Zadie Smith. It takes its title from …

Review of 'NW' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

The only way I can describe this book is exuberant. Full of life, humor and a realistic view of people and places. Telling the story of some folks in northwest London, in particular, two life long friends Leah and Natalie. Both have their insecurities, but cover them up as best they can, even to their bestie.

I can see why, perhaps, some folks might not like it though but because of why I really like it. It tells its story in a variety of ways, reminscent of Stevenson's Baroque trilogy. Internal dialogs, normal story telling, flow of consciousness, a screenplay, you name it. It takes a bit of work but the payoff is well worth it.

Natalie's chapters did get a bit tiring after a while. She has a serious case of imposter syndrome and has a hard time figuring out who she is and what she is. And sadly …

Review of 'Belushi' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

What a fantastic book! It, obviously, tells John Belushi's story, a meteor of talent burning out by the age of 33. Not an overwrought, sensationalist book like some (look at you, hack Woodward), but a heartfelt and honest story of a man probably on the spectrum somewhere. Hard to believe he died almost 30 years ago. His talent is so infused and full of life force he feels like we lost him yesterday.

It is told via interviews with all kinds of people, from relatives to co-stars. His widow Judy interviewed a few folks right after his death (do I have to say untimely death?), but the project was too painful so she shelved it for 20 years. She unearthed the tapes and brought on Colby to help out and they created a real masterpiece. The interviews tell his story in a lively and passionate way, doing a great job …

Andrea Wulf: The invention of nature (2015) 5 stars

From the Prologue...

When nature is perceived as a web, its vulnerability also becomes obvious. …

Review of 'The invention of nature' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

You might say "Who needs a nearly 500 page biography of Alexander von Humboldt?" Or, even more likely, "Who the heck is Alexander von Humboldt?" As Wulf's title alludes to, Humboldt was a polymath, a scientist who was more at home in nature than in the lab and writing instead of researching. And his views of nature as a holistic thing, including the works of man, as well as just how destructive man can be, was hugely influential at the dawn of modern science. His works influenced an amazing array of writers and scientists, from Henry David Thoreau to Charles Darwin.

Humboldt lived an amazing life. Early in his 20s, he made an epic trip across South America, measuring, writing and thinking about the world around him. An amazing story and he wrote several hugely influential books when he got back. Amazingly, despite writing these in the very early 1800s, …

Anand Gopal: No Good Men Among the Living (Hardcover, Metropolitan Books) 4 stars

Told through the lives of three Afghans, the stunning tale of how the United States …

Review of 'No Good Men Among the Living' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Anand tells the story of the disastrous Afghanistan "war" thru the eyes of the people who are living it. Going from the beginning of the war (and some eye opening descriptions from before it), until 2013, it is a really hard to process view of the short sightedness of the whole effort. In fact, it is so incredibly bungled I find it nearly impossible to believe the stories of incompetence and idiocy of the occupying forces. His claim is that the Taliban was pretty much out of Afghanistan just months after the first invasion in 2001 and from then on, the battles were just imaginary.

The war lords we backed would just pick out their enemies, claim they were Taliban, and watch the American forces crash up against them. We would randomly grab, or allow to be grabbed, forces against the currently backed warlords, ransom them off, and then just …

Michael Koryta: The Ridge (2011) 4 stars

Review of 'The Ridge' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Audry Clark and her husband want to open a big cat sanctuary in the wilds of eastern Kentucky. But there are some real weird things around them, including a crazy guy who has a lighthouse(!) in the middle of the woods. Blue flames, car crashes and falling deaths from a bridge to nowhere add to the mystery. Deputy sheriff Kevin Kimble wants to figure out what is going on, but he has his own demons to deal with, as well as his own secrets.

A pretty interesting little read, as you can see by my less than a week of reading time. It moves fast, has some interesting and creepy ideas and doesn't over stay its welcome. Some of it might not really make the most sense, and there is definitely at least one loose thread that doesn't get tied up, but I really enjoyed it. There are some real …

Susanna Clarke: Piranesi (Paperback, 2020, Bloomsbury Publishing) 4 stars

From the New York Times bestselling author of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, an …

Review of 'Piranesi' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

A book that is very hard to describe and even harder to forget. Clocking in at only about 250 pages (quite the turnaround from her last book, [b:Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell|14201|Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell|Susanna Clarke||3921305], which has over 1,000), it tells the story of Piranesi, a man wandering / exploring in a huge labyrinth. He carefully journals his travels, tides and statues. Oh the statues! And twice a week, he meets with The Other, the only other being he knows, to see what the plans are. But gradually his situation become clearer to him and he begins to wonder about his place of "entrapment".

Wow. Just wow. It took a bit for me to get into the book, but much like the main character, I quickly became surrounded by the labyrinth itself and his meticulous descriptions. I am sure the character must be named after Giovanni …