UCLA Beach Volleyball: Court 6

For those of you wondering–those of you who know anything about college beach volleyball, that is–yes, there’s only five pairs who play for each time. But sometimes there’s a leftover court–the furthest away, of course–and you give your freshmen or such an opportunity to play a meaningless match against the leftovers from the other team. It’s like the exhibitions after everyone’s done scoring in gymnastics.


UCLA Beach Volleyball: Court 1

Can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I went down to Santa Monica for UCLA Beach Volleyball; I remember it was on St. Paddy’s Day, and luckily I did not get pinched. Took over a thousand shots, and plenty of them were just too good not to share, so I organized it by court, and even then I’ll have separate categories, like serving and funny hair and such.
But for now let’s start where it always starts, on Court 1 with Nicole and Megan McNamara. Since you’ll likely need help telling them apart, Nicole is the lefty—making her my fave—wearing #13, and Megan is obviously the righty sporting #31. If they’re not wearing their numbers and not hitting a ball, I don’t even try to tell them apart. . .


Book Reviews: Murders and Syria

“Here I am trying to be mad at you, and you come out with the truth. Is that any way for a boyfriend to act?”
“Mmmm, I think so. . .”
“Oh, right.”

Secret Crimes
Third in a great series of British detective novels, this one takes Sophie Allen to new places, forcing her to concentrate on her job more than ever due to the events of the previous book, which left her wracked with guilt over how she’d treated her absent father, if only in her head. (I was expecting something like this, but not to this extent.)
Oddly enough, that part of the story was spot-on, and it was the plot that was a bit of a letdown this time. As always there are great moments of detective work, this time with more behind-the-scenes stuff, as it were. For example, it was kinda weird seeing the witnesses’ point of view of the detectives, but definitely interesting. But for once this author didn’t give his readers a fair shake; the bad guy seemed to come out of nowhere, and while that might happen in real life investigations, it’s not good to not leave a trail of breadcrumbs for the reader to figure it out on their own.
So definitely not satisfied with how this story turned out, not up to the standards of the previous two. Still love the characters, not as much the story/plot.

History of the city which was one of my favorite in the Middle East, now pretty much destroyed in three years of civil war.
The first quarter of this book is a history of the city, strangely zeroing on specific eras rather than providing an overall view. But after that it’s all first-person historical accounts. One is an entire chapter on food, while another is a long piece on farming.
The bad part is that the author included entire chapters, where a lot of the writing had nothing to do with Aleppo; a little editing would have been welcome, but then I guess it would have been an even shorter book. Some of the historical accounts hardly mention the city, could have happened anywhere. At least the first section offered context. These records might be understood by a historian, but there’s so much there that’s not because it was written about an age I have not studied.
It occurs to me that this author did a lot more work reading rather than writing or editing. He chose what the reader would see, but like being a DJ doesn’t make one a musician, this doesn’t make one a writer.
The last section, another big chunk, is notes, bibliography, and index.

Blood Defense
With the resurgence of OJ Simpson stuff in the media, most people have heard of Marcia Clark, who has now become an author and a very good one. This is my first of her books, but now I feel like going back to read the previous ones because this one hit the right spot with me.
A young, semi-famous actress is killed in her home along with her roommate. The protagonist is a first-person young lawyer who left the public defender’s office to go private. From some of the cases she works on and others referenced, you can see this might not have been a good idea, but she hopes defending the cop accused in this case will change that.
This was a long but surprisingly easy read. Definitely enjoying the main character; I do love a snarky lady, at least in fiction. At three chapters in I made a note that the writing was top notch, though nothing I hadn’t seen before. And then came the huge twist!
It’s funny that she has criminals of all walks owing her favors, seemingly very loyal to her; even racists in jail look out for her. There are a lot of little legal tidbits strewn throughout, most of them interesting and unusual for someone not in that area of the legal profession, or at all.
If I had some negatives, one would be that there might have been too many characters; I had to go back to check who Chas was. The other, much bigger problem–to the point where it cost half a point on its final grade–was the ending. As I always say, a mystery writer has to leave breadcrumbs of clues for the reader to at least attempt to figure out who the killer is; in this case the bad guy came out of nowhere.
The only mystery left is what she did with DeShawn’s heroin. . .

Guaranteed to Bleed
This is a mystery set in 1974, second in the series. I haven’t read the first one, and it looks like that matters, because the protagonist’s husband was killed and there’s plenty of references to it that had me in the dark. Like many amateur investigators, she’s a magnet for dead bodies, finding one underneath the stands at a high school game, then later having another shot in her backyard. Because of all that, she’s familiar with the police investigator, as well as a lawyer her overbearing mother is determined to set her up with.
Unlike most, she doesn’t set out to find the killer. In a nutshell, her motivation is: “A boy was dead and it was up to me to carry out his dying wish. I couldn’t afford to feel guilty about how I went about fulfilling that wish.”
The only things that really scream 1974 are the phones and the attitude towards gay relationships and cross-dressers, although come to think of it those last two might not be all that different today. “Who was I to judge? My late husband had engaged in much stranger things than dressing like a woman.”
There’s was one point I didn’t like, when the housekeeper gets an emergency call and leaves her all alone; a little too obvious that something’s gonna happen, and of course it does. Other than that it’s a serviceable mystery if you have a high tolerance for dramatic teens, overbearing mothers, nosy neighbors, and country club politics.