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Phil in SF

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Funny You Should Ask (EBook, 2022, Dell) 4 stars

Then. Twenty-something writer Chani Horowitz is stuck. While her former MFA classmates are nabbing high-profile …

Can a regular person and a celebrity fall in love?

4 stars

A romance that does a good job exploring what it means to be a celebrity (the love interest) and what it's like to have one's life dependent on celebrity (the main character). Chani Horowitz is a writer who specializes in celebrity puff pieces. Gabe Parker is the celebrity she's had a crush on since she was young. Chani is assigned to interview Gabe. At that point in her life she's a decent writer but not really a good interviewer, and the interview itself goes sideways. However, she manages to pull out a decent article based on a weekend spent with Gabe. Because Gabe is, of course, smitten with Chani.

The book jumps between that interview, the piece Chani wrote, and a second interview 10 years later, after Chani's career has taken off and Gabe's has taken a downturn. The parts 10 years later are much more interesting to read. By …

The Terraformers (EBook, 2023, Tom Doherty Associates) 4 stars

From science fiction visionary Annalee Newitz comes The Terraformers, a sweeping, uplifting, and illuminating exploration …

Mixed feelings

4 stars

Content warning Mild spoilers

Running Blind (EBook, 2007, Jove) 4 stars

Jack Reacher is back, dragged into what looks like a series of grisly serial murders …

Another decent Reacher

3 stars

The story points out the absurdity of many crime fiction coincidences, but also relies on major coincidences. Almost as if the author is telling the reader, "yes, I know this is absurd, but we all enjoy this convention."

Tripwire (EBook, 2007, Jove) 3 stars

Ex-military policeman Jack Reacher is lying low in Key West, digging up swimming pools by …

Reacher is fallible

3 stars

Jack Reacher is an ultra-competent former military policeman, but now drifts around the US solving crimes. If you have a problem, no one else can help, and if you can find him, maybe Jack Reacher can help you. That's the opening line for the A-Team, but it fits Jack Reacher.

Anyhow, Jack Reacher starts off this episode in Key West where a private detective has found him. After denying that he's Jack Reacher, he finds the P.I. dead on the side of the road, missing all his fingers.

What sets this one apart from the previous Jack Reacher books I've read is that Reacher has a crisis of confidence partway through. He's made mistakes. And in this case, he may not be able to save all the appropriate characters. Sure, we know Reacher's gonna make it; there are quite a few books still to go in the series. But for …

Malice (EBook, 2014, Minotaur) 3 stars

A reserved police procedural

3 stars

For a book about passions and someone's motivation for murder, the narrative operates at a distance from the emotions of its characters. Fairly early on, detective Kyoichiro Kaga divines from the clues (Sherlock Holmes style) who the murderer is. Much harder to suss out is the murderer's motive, and the reader is taken through several iterations of the question "but what is the real reason behind what they did?" 3.5 stars for an inventive form and drawing power to keep me interested in the layers being uncovered. But demerits for the emotion of the text not being in line with the emotion of the characters.

Haunting of Tram Car 015 (2019, Doherty Associates, LLC, Tom) 4 stars

Cairo, 1912: The case started as a simple one for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments …


4 stars

What if Egypt was quickly modernizing in the 1910s and also djinns and other spirits were real? One djinn seems to be haunting team car 015 in Cairo's overhead public transportation system. Agents Hamed and Onsi have been dispatched by the ministry to solve the problem.

Hamed is stuffy, but trying to be okay with modernization. Onsi is English educated and fits in better, but is a rookie agent.

They're charming, and the world Clark has created is interesting and has lots of potential.

Emperor of Ruin (EBook, 2023, Orbit) 4 stars

Nearly all world building loose ends tied up

4 stars

Content warning Mild spoilers

The Poison Squad (EBook, 2018, Penguin Press) 4 stars

From Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times-bestselling author Deborah Blum, the dramatic true story …

Solid history of early food regulation in the US

4 stars

I found myself fascinated by the chapters covering Harvey Wiley's early investigations and efforts. Once the book became about the political machinations after the law was passed, i became less interested. Business applying secret pressure to get regulations eased is a well trod tale