Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What I'm Reading Now - The Kill Room by Jeffery Deaver

Yes, I read lowbrow, best-selling, by the numbers junk once in a while. I'm not afraid to admit it. And while he's not Dan Brown or James Patterson-style bad, Deaver can be a bit formulaic in his writing. That's all right. Sometimes you don't need to think too much about it - just enjoy it.

Although there is a proviso: if I'm reading a Jeffery Deaver book, it must be a Lincoln Rhyme novel. I've tried reading some of his other recurring characters and couldn't even finish the book, but I sort of like Rhyme; he's got a bit of Perry Mason to him. A bit mean, a bit uncaring and, obviously, in a wheelchair, Rhyme is pretty unconventional as a mystery novel hero, so there's that. Deaver does have issues with making everyone in his novels, heroes and villains alike, just WAY too smart and perfect, but hey, it's still fun.

And as a writer, it's informative to look at how Deaver crafts a novel. He's notorious for throwing in false leads and numerous surprise endings and seeing how he sets the reader up to buy into the premise (or not, at times) is very useful.

If you're looking to start with Jeffery Deaver, The Bone Collector is by far the most well-know Lincoln Rhyme novel, although I'd recommend The Coffin Dancer or The Empty Chair instead.

By the way, if you're curious what I thought of the last book, head back to that post - I'll add on a short review of each book when I'm done reading.

And I'm Done Update:

So the absolute worst thing that can be said about a thriller/mystery novel is that the novel was, well, a bit boring. And so it was with The Kill Room.

I think Deaver fell into what I like to call the CSI: Sheboygan trap. Shows like CSI and Law and Order and NCIS like to "borrow" plot lines from time to time from real world headlines. They take a notorious actual case and turn it into a notorious fictional TV case. That's all well and good (if lazy), but the problem is: we already know the story. We've already read about it on the internet. We've seen it on the news. How can we be enthralled with it when it's the third or fourth time we've gone through the story?

And that's The Kill Room in a nutshell. In broad terms, it's about an American government agency killing possibly innocent citizens in other countries using drones. Well, you either care about that issue or you don't, but either way, it's sure not the first time you've heard about it. I got the feeling Deaver sort of mailed this one in.

Onward and upward.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What I'm Reading Now - Countdown City by Ben Winters

Wow, just found this at the library and I'm so excited! So Countdown City is a sequel to The Last Policeman. If you haven't read The Last Policeman, get on that immediately!

If you're curious, here's the super-condensed version of the plot of The Last Policeman. Hank Palace is a young cop in New Hampshire. He's investigating a murder that many of his peers think is just another suicide - one of the millions in the past few months. Why so many people killing themselves? Oh, there's a giant asteroid headed toward Earth. It's been determined that it will indeed strike the Earth in a few months and pretty much end life for everyone on the planet. So...yeah.

What an amazing premise for a novel! And what a thought provoking premise. What would you do? Would you go about your job, like Hank, or would you head down to a sunny beach to await the end? Would you renew your values to your wife and family or would you take the opportunity to break morals and laws now that the punishments really don't matter? Would you fight to find a solution right up to the last minute or take the easy way out and commit suicide at some point?

I mean...wow. Ben Winters does a very nice writing job in The Last Policeman. There are end of the world details that show Winters was really pondering the psychology of such a situation. I'm hoping Countdown City is as well written. It sounds like it will be the second novel in what will eventually be a trilogy.

I'll let you know what I think once I've finished reading.

And I'm Done Update:

Good read, although I didn't think the plot moved as well as the first book, The Last Policeman. Trilogies are interesting things, especially when the author announces it immediately upon publication of the first book. Too often, I think, you get a great first book, a second book that just treads water, then an explosive third book (often much longer) that tries to wrap everything up. For examples, see The Passage and The Twelve by Justin Cronin (third book still to come) or the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. While I enjoyed Countdown City, Catching Fire and The Twelve (certain parts of The Twelve very much), I felt all three of them suffered a bit from holding back for the third book in the series.

That said, Countdown City was enjoyable, although I found the main crime to be solved by Hank Palace in this one to be a bit banal in the end. Of course, maybe that's the point. Even with the world coming to an very destructive and brutal end, humans can't help but be humans...a bit small-minded, selfish and banal, right to the very end.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Northwest Running and Triathlon Calendar - 2014 and Beyond

As you may have heard, since I said it in the last post, I am not continuing to write up the Northwest Running and Triathlon Calendar for The Two R's. It took a metric boatload of time every week to write it and I'm just taking a break from it. Maybe it will come back at some point and maybe it won't. I'm not sure.

I started to compile the calendar on The Two R's because there just isn't a good, comprehensive, Northwest calendar out there. As you'll see...

If you need to find a race, try one of these:

-RaceCenter NW
Good mix of races from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

-Northwest Runner
Almost exclusively Washington State races

-Willamette Valley Road Runners Calendar
Mostly Oregon, obviously, but also some Washington, California and Hawaii

-Eclectic Edge Racing Calendar
Races put on by EER, mainly in Oregon

-3 Rivers Road Runners Calendar
Mainly Washington races in the Tri-Cities area

-Running in the USA
Choose races by any state in the USA

The problem with all of these, and pretty much any race calendar, is they're mostly by submissions from race directors, or they're just for races put on by one particular group. I've yet to find a good compiler site. There isn't a truly comprehensive site for Northwest racing. That's what I was trying to accomplish with my calendar.

Good luck out there.

No, The Two R's is Not Dead

It's still kicking. Barely.

So here's a comment I just posted onto the last post, in case you missed it:

Yeah, it's been a while. I keep meaning to write up some kind of explanation, even though I don't have much of one. Yes, I'm not going to be updating the blog as much, though I will post at times. Yes, I'm trying to work on other (more worthwhile?) writing. Yes, my rib injury really lingered and took me away from running for weeks and sort of got me depressed, but I'm getting back to running now and getting excited about trying to get back into decent running shape. So...

I definitely will continue posting interesting, to me, thoughts and articles on my own writing and running as well as others writing and running. I am for sure taking a break from trying to compile the Northwest Running and Tri calendar. I hope some people were using it and finding it helpful, but it took a ton of time to complete every week and I'm hoping to use that time differently.

Talk to you soon. Get out there and run.