The Never Game, by Jeffrey Deaver

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This book is the first novel in a new series by Jeffrey Deaver, introducing Colter Shaw who is a “reward-seeker” who just travels looking for missing persons to help find. A college student is missing in Silicon Valley and he takes the job. The investigation takes him into the heart of Silicon Valley and the billion-dollar video gaming industry.  After the second victim is murdered it appears that an attempt to play for real the video game called The Never Game where the player has to survive after being left abandoned is acted out in real life.

The game provides clues: “You have been abandoned.” Colter finds the missing girl abandoned in an old building.

Another clue is to “Escape” if you can.” The game The Whispering Man is identified as the model for the crimes where the victim is left with five random objects left in a dangerous remote setting.

The victim is expected to use the objects left to escape “Or die with dignity.” In the investigation we meet eccentric game designers and dangerous gamers.

The Never Game brings uses the gaming industry to weave a unique plot that twists and turns and likely will serve to make Colter Shaw and interesting star in the new series by Jeffery Deaver.

Quotes

"She believed not in divine salvation but in the proposition that we poor mortals are fully capable of saving ourselves, if conditions and inclinations are right, and the evidence of this potential is found in the smallest of gestures, like the uncertain resting of a large hand on a bony shoulder."

"I've often said that there's no such thing as writer's block; the problem is idea block. When I find myself frozen-whether I'm working on a brief passage in a novel or brainstorming about an entire book-it's usually because I'm trying to shoehorn an idea into the passage or story where it has no place."

"My books are primarily plot driven but the best plot in the world is useless if you don't populate them with characters that readers can care about."

"Generally my typical books have lots of twists and turns a big surprise ending and then usually another surprise at the end and ideally, as in Garden of Beasts, we get to the very end and we find at the last few pages that there's yet another surprise."

Sula, by Toni Morrison

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As children growing up, Nel and Sula’s family life and circumstances are contrasted. Even though they were best friends growing up, one is shown as evil and the other as good. Morrison uses the differences to show how they becomes blurred with their friendship interdependence.

Nel comes from a stable home, that has many social conventions. She is unsure of the type of conventional life he mother Helene wants for her. Her grandmother had worked as a prostitute when she was younger and when Nel learns of this it just makes her more concerned about her mother’s influence.

Sula's lives with her grandmother Eva and her mother Hannah, both of whom are seen as eccentric. They open their doors to boarders and have three boys that although not adopted are part of the family.

Sula and Nel grow apart during their teenage years and after high school, Nel chooses the conventional role of wife and mother. Sula goes a different direction becoming independent and turning her back on social convention. She leave the home in the Bottom, a black neighborhood in Ohio, looking for independence. She has many affairs, some with white men, but she eventually find that people everywhere still lead boring lives and after being away for 10 years returns.  

lives a life of fierce independence and total disregard for social conventions. Shortly after Nel's wedding, Sula leaves the Bottom for a period of 10 years. She has many affairs, some, it is rumored, with white men. However, she finds people following the same boring routines elsewhere, so she returns to the Bottom and to Nel. On Sula’s deathbed she tells Nel she has no regrets saying:

“‘You think I don’t know what your life is like just because I ain’t living it? I know what every colored woman in this country is doing.’‘What’s that?’ ‘Dying., Just like me. But the difference is they dying like a stump. Me, I’m going down like one of those redwoods. I sure did live in this world.’”

Morrison’s book is a pioneer in establishing a black feminism. Her characters show that all black women are not the same. The interesting characters made the book come alive.


Quotes

“It was on that train, shuffling toward Cincinnati, that she resolved to be on guard—always. She wanted to make certain that no man ever looked at her that way. That no midnight eyes or marbled flesh would ever accost her and turn her into jelly.”

“The narrower their lives, the wider their hips.”

“Her once beautiful leg had no stocking and the foot was in a slipper. Nel wanted to cry—not for Eva’s milk-dull eyes or her floppy lips, but for the once proud foot accustomed for over a half century to a fine well-laced shoe, now stuffed gracelessly into a pink terrycloth slipper.”

HUMANS BOW DOWN, by James Patterson & Emily Raymond

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The Great War ended. The human race lost and the machines one.  The robots are replicas of humans in every way, except they lack feelings and emotions. Over time, these same robots evolved into something of better suited to be a replacement for humans called Hu-Bots.  

The Hu-Bots require all humans to bow down when asked or be killed.  They must serve their new masters or be banished to the Reserve where the landscape and environment is unforgiving and where it is a crime just to be human. It doesn’t seem really clear what the Hu-Bots really expect from the humans since they still have their own robots doing the work.

The evil leader of the bots is planning to first capture all the humans in the Reserve and make them bow down but then he also wants to eliminate every human.

The humans are just referred to by number and Six is a very determined woman who lost her parents in the Great War and whose brother and sister are in a prison. She has a trusted partner, Dubs, and they are running for their lives. They discover a secret that may help them free the humans.

It seems odd that the most interesting character is Hu-Bot, MikkyBo. She undergoes a moral awakening and her struggles are interesting. The book seems to lose something about halfway through. It isn’t clear why the Hu-Bots look at things the way they do, and the plot seems to narrow into a last-minute revelation of the Bot’s leaders’ motive. No explanation as to why it took so long to come out.

James Patterson and Emily Raymond’s book, Humans Bow Down, is a genre change for Patterson with the dystopian world in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives.  (Rated 2 star out of 5)

See BJ’s Favorite Authors for more on James Patterson

Bowing Down Quotes

"I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else's whim or to someone else's ignorance." ~ Bell Hooks

"And once I knew a meditative rose That never raised its head from bowing down, Yet drew its inspiration from the stars. It bloomed and faded here beside the road, And, being a poet, wrote on empty air With fragrance all the beauty of its soul." ~ Henry Abbey

"Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children." ~ Khalil

"Painful for a person is rebellious independence, only in loving companionship with his associates does a person feel safe: Only in reverently bowing down before the higher does a person feel exalted." ~ Thomas Carlyle

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Lessons From Lucy, by Dave Barry

The Simple Joys of an Old Happy Dog

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Dave Barry is 70 years old, the same age in dog years as Lucy his 10 year old dog, so he has started thinking more about how much time he, Dave, has left. He said: “If our lives were movie credits, we’d be way down at the bottom, past the assistant gerbil wrangler. If our lives were Cheez-It bags we’d be at the stage where you hold the bag up and tilt it into your mouth to get the last crumbs. In other words: the end Is in sight.” Stephen King said of the book “If you have grown old along with Dave, who is now seventy, you will want to read this book.”  King is also in his seventies and a good friend of Dave, but his advice is still good.

The first of the seven life lessons he learns is the to “Pay Attention to the People You Love (Not Later. Right Now.).” Lucy lives in the moment. She does have moods and even gets mad. When the garbageman comes, she “objects vociferously—she cannot believe we allow this to happen—he is taking our garbage,” but as soon as he leaves, Lucy has forgotten him and moves on to the next moment in her life. Barry tries to apply this lesson but finds it hard to be present, rather than looking at his phone.  

Another lesson he learns from Lucy is “Don’t Lie Unless You Have a Really Good Reason, Which You Probably Don’t.” Lucy doesn’t lie as we learn when she knocked down the Christmas tree. She greeted the family when they came home “whimpering and flattening herself on the floor in the yoga position known as Pancake Dog.” Barry takes a lesson from this but thinks he is doing ok with this lesson.

The last lesson in the book was an add on inserted after the epilogue and tells a touching story of the Barry families recent near tragedy. It adds some meaningful depth to the book.  

The book is one of Barry’s best.

Quotes

"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic."

"Everyone has a right to be stupid. Some just abuse the privilege.”

"Your hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that, as far as chocolate is concerned, there is no need to involve your brain."

"Proofread carefully to see if you any words out."

"The Democrats seem to be basically nicer people, but they have demonstrated time and again that they have the management skills of celery. They're the kind of people who'd stop to help you change a flat, but would somehow manage to set your car on fire. I would be reluctant to entrust them with a Cuisinart, let alone the economy. The Republicans, on the other hand, would know how to fix your tire, but they wouldn't bother to stop because they'd want to be on time for Ugly Pants Night at the country club"

"I had no shoes and I pitied myself. Then I met a man who had no feet, so I took his shoes.

"Although golf was originally restricted to wealthy, overweight Protestants, today it's open to anybody who owns hideous clothing."

The Postcard Killers by James Patterson & Liza Marklund

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Jacob Kanon, a New York City police investigator travels to Europe to hunt down the murderer of his daughter Kimmy who has killed young couples in Paris, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, and Stockholm. In Sweden Kanon joins up with journalist Dessie Larsson who has gotten a postcard from the killers.  For each of the murders a postcard has been sent to the local newspaper.

The two young attractive killers stalk other young couples almost following a script and coaching their victims back to their hotel room to kill them.

The plot twists and turns and holds you but slows down a little at the end.

See More about James Patterson at Favorite Authors Tab click here

James Patterson Quotes

"Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you're keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls...are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered."

"Your mind creates your reality. If you expect nothing, you open up the universe to give you options. If you expect the worst, you usually get it."

"Stop trying to write sentences and start trying to write stories."

"You see, one of the best things about reading is that you'll always have something to think about when you're not reading."

"For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin -- real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life."

 

Bad Luck and Trouble, A Jack Reacher Novel, by Lee Child

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Bad Luck and Trouble is what Jack Reacher finds when he starts hearing about the death of old friends. One with two broken legs is pushed out of a helicopter 3000 feet over the California desert in the middle of the night. Others on the former elite ex-army investigators are also being hunted down when Reacher is tracked down to help.

Finding him is no small feat as he has nothing but the cloths on his back and a ATM card and no address constantly wandering.  Frances Neagley who served with him in the old elite team finds him by putting an anonymous deposit to his bank account which Reacher automatically analyses the amount. The deposit of $1030 which Reacher recognizes as their old army code, 10–30, for urgent help needed.

Reacher and Neagley find that 3 of the old team of 5 are missing but the others work together to find out what has happened. The team trusts each other but the twists and turns of the plot keep us on the edge of our seats to the very end.

See Favorite Authors for more on Lee Child click here

Quotes

“You do not mess with the special investigators.”

“Slippery slope. I carry a spare shirt, pretty soon I'm carrying spare pants. Then I'd need a suitcase. Next thing I know, I've got a house and a car and a savings plan and I'm filling out all kinds of forms.”

“Now they broke my toothbrush, I don't own anything.”

“We investigate, we prepare, we execute. We find them, we take them down, and then we piss on their ancestors’ graves.”

“Facts were to be faced, not fought.”

“You tell a lot of lies, Ms. Berenson,” he said. Berenson said nothing. Neagley said, “She’s Human Resources. It’s what they do.”

Yondering, by Louis L'amour

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Yondering is a collection of short stories by Louis L'Amour, published in 1980. Unlike his traditional Old West subject matter, Yondering contains a mix of adventure and character studies, primarily set in the first half of the 20th century.

The best way to understand why L’Amour would write the type of stories in Yondering is to read his book The Education of a Wandering Man that starts with him dropping out of school at age 15 becoming a wandering young man. He first became a hobo on the Southern Pacific Railroad, then a Cattle Skinner in Texas. He even became a world traveler, merchant seaman, based in Singapore. He made a living anyway he could. He worked as a hired hand, cowboy, and even as a prize fighter. He traveled the rails, lived in hobo camps, and learned while listening to men around the fires in the evening teaching him to be a natural storyteller.

Yondering tells stories that likely had there setting in early travels before L’Amour settled on western plots. It contains two stories that are set in the World War 11 time period and others in oceans and cities and mountains throughout the world

L’Amour said about the stories: “I have collected some of these in Yondering. They are glimpses of what my own life was like during the early years. Those were the rough years; often I was hungry, out of work and facing situations such as I have since written about.”

The stories are interesting. They bring the time and places into real focus and represent some of his best work. Your left wishing, he had written an entire book rather than just a short story.



Quote by Louis L’Amour

"When I die, remember that what you knew of me is with you always. What is buried is only the shell of what was. Do not regret the shell, but remember the man. Remember the father."

"Up to a point a person’s life is shaped by environment, heredity, and changes in the world about them. Then there comes a time when it lies within their grasp to shape the clay of their life into the sort of thing they wish it to be. Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune or the quirks of fate. Everyone has the power to say, "This I am today. That I shall be tomorrow."

"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning."

"There are good men everywhere. I only wish they had louder voices."

"The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast, and you miss all you are traveling for."

"Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more."

Long Road To Mercy, by David Baldacci

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FBI special agent Pine’s twin sister, Mercy, was taken from the room they shared as young children.  “It’s seared into Atlee Pine’s memory; the kidnapper’s chilling rhyme as he choase between six-year-old Atlee and her twin sister, Mercy. Mercy was taken, Atlee was spared.” The story starts with Agent Pine going to visit the killer in the supermax prison ADX in Florence Colorado, but her home base is in the remote parts of the Southwest.

Atlee has never stopped searching for her sisters’ body and the survivor’s guilt has led her to spent her life hunting down those who hurt others.  She has just been assigned to investigate a case in the Grand Canyon when a mule is found dead with strange carvings on its body, and its rider missing.

The search for the missing rider takes her across country and involves a plot that is a threat to the entire world by a monster she had never considered.

This is the first book in David Baldacci’s new Atlee Pine thriller series. A good start.

Quotes

“Justice. It wasn’t about the greater good. It was about what was right and wrong on an individual basis. Person by person. Because if you neglected the people, the idea of a greater good was a pipe dream created by those whose idea of the “greater good” almost always tended to favor themselves and people like them.”

“For me, the Canyon isn’t just a tourist destination. It’s a living, breathing place. It has a dozen plants that live nowhere else.

“She’d heard that the author Margaret Mitchell had never lived in a place with more than one bedroom for a simple reason: She had never wanted houseguests.”

“narcissist. People often discounted narcissism as relatively harmless because the term sometimes conjured the clichéd image of a vain man staring longingly at his reflection in a pool of water or a mirror. However, Pine knew that narcissism was probably one of the most dangerous traits someone could possess for one critical reason: The narcissist could not feel empathy toward others. Which meant that the lives of others held no value to a narcissist. Killing could even be like a hit of fentanyl: instant euphoria from the domination and destruction of another. That was why virtually every serial murderer was also a narcissist.”

See more on David Baldacci in BJ’s Favorite Author Section


The Husband, by Dean Koontz

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"We have your wife. You can get her back for two million cash".

“Landscaper Mitchell Rafferty thinks it must be some kind of joke. He was in the middle of planting impatiens in the yard of one of his clients when his cell phone rang. Now he’s standing in a normal suburban neighborhood on a bright summer day, having a phone conversation out of his darkest nightmare.”

The caller is the kidnapper and tells him to look across the street just at a man walking his dog just as the man gets shot in the head. The murder tell Mitch the kidnappers are serious and that he is being watched.

The police come when the police is called about the murder, but Mitch is afraid to tell them anything and then has to speak with detective Sandy Taggart and finds that he is being treated like a suspect. When he gets home, he sees that the house has been staged to look like there was a fight and can see that he is being framed for killing his wife.

The plot twists and turns and is another masterpiece of plotting by Dean Koontz.

See more about Dean Koontz at BJ’s Favorite Authors

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Quotes

“A man begins dying at the moment of his birth. Most People live in denial of Death's patient courtship until, late in life and deep in sickness, they become aware of him sitting bedside.”

“She can put her life in Mitch's strong hands and fall at once into a dreamless sleep. In a sense, that is what marriage is about-a good marriage-a total trusting with your heart, your mind, your life.”

“The secret is not to think, we think in words. And what lies beyond the reality we see is a truth that words can't contain, the secret is to feel.”

“Love scrubs the worst stains clean. Anyway, there can be no retreat in the face of evil, only resistance. And commitment.”

 

Reading Like a Writer, by Franc.ine Prose

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Francine Prose’s book Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them, presents mostly a good case for the value of reading.  She also raises a question: “Can creative writing be taught?” Even if she had not come right and said no it cannot, there is no real evidence presented that suggest that it can be taught.

Prose has nothing kind to say about writing workshops but doesn’t hesitate to mention that she has taught them and suggests that today’s students are different, asking us to imagine “Kafka enduring the seminar in which his classmates inform him that, frankly, they just don’t believe the part about the guy waking up one morning to find he’s a giant bug.”

Prose may have felt this example suggested something about the importance of being believable, but when Kafka really did write about waking up as a bug it was interesting and insightful.

The had eleven chapters. 1. Close Reading, 2. Words, 3. Sentences, 4. Paragraphs, 5. Narration, 6. Character, 7. Dialogue, 8. Details, 9. Gesture, 10, Learning from Chekhov, 11. Reading for Courage.

I did not like the book and felt the author was not really “entertaining and edifying” as some reviews suggest. I read this because I try to read books on how to write occasionally to make sure that I am gaining everything I can from what I read but this book did nothing for me in reaching that goal. I did like the quotes the author has used shown below and they put across much of what she must have intended for this book.

Quotes

“Words are the raw material from which literature is crafted.”

I have always found that the better the book I’m reading, the smarter I feel, or at least, the more able I am to imagine that I might someday be smarter.

Like most - maybe all writers-, I learned to write by writing, and by example, and by reading books.”

“Language is the medium we use in much the same way a composer uses notes, the way a painter uses paint.”