Book Reviews: Sherlock, Unabomber, and Nazis

Did that ad say “shed pounds while you walk” or “she pounds while you walk?” Cuz I wanna know what she’s pounding. . .

The Misadventure of Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock and Watson battle Moriarty, with Sherlock marrying Irene Adler though not knowing whose side she’s on. And John has a girlfriend not named Mary.
First, the characterizations. This sounds like Watson, though he’s a bit more snarky than usual. The problem is this rarely sounds like Sherlock, and definitely doesn’t act like him. Even if he was playing Irene, and there’s no evidence of that at the end, it’s too weird. The wedding reception feels like it’s right out of the series, but other than that I didn’t like this story or the writing very much; I caught myself reading without really reading, just because at some points it got quite boring. The best part was the fun use of the audio wax cylinder, what had to be modern tech for the time.
Ugh, ends in a cliffhanger. . .

Every Last Tie
Supposedly the story of how the Unabomber’s brother turned him in, but despite it being a thin book there wasn’t that much of that. Most is family background, how Ted became alienated from the family as his (probable) mental illness took hold, and so on.
Some moments were of particular interest to me. Ted Kaczynski went to Harvard on a scholarship at sixteen; that’s as obvious a warning sign as you’re gonna get. I also found it funny that the play Antigone is mentioned, since I’d never heard of it until a few months ago, when I saw it.
But the most telling note is: “So strong was his opposition (to pleading insanity) that he preferred the death penalty over allowing his defense attorneys to present mental health evidence.”
The last quarter or so of this already small book is afterward, which I looked forward to but found just as disappointing, if not more. It goes through mental illness and jails, as well as mass shootings. While necessary in general, it has nothing to do with the topic. It’s so rambling most people would likely give up before it gets to the reason for it.

Toxic Love
A choose-your-own-adventure erotica with an intriguing premise: in a world devastated by war, the lead character—who wants to be an famous actress, of course—is found to be immune to the gas that killed off so many people. This will make her very rich, if she’s okay with becoming a baby factory to make more immune humans. She falls in love with one of the immune guys just at the time he’s tired of having to sleep around.
There’s some great ideas here, especially the main one, but the writing, despite the humor, did not resonate with me. The execution should have been better; some of the interactions were just silly. The dinner with Joaquin was the most fun chapter; if only the whole thing could have been that good. It was simply all over the place; tighter would have been better. I’ve read a few of these choose-your-own-path books and the shorter ones, usually less than 100 pages, have been better than longer entries like this one, which clocks in at 187 pages.

The Bleiberg Project
Jay’s long-lost father dies, then his mother’s killed. Now they want to kill him, and his long-time boss—who isn’t what he seems—helps him escape by giving him a cute bodyguard and sending him to Switzerland to dig up stuff on why everyone’s getting killed.
“When I sprinkle two pills into my palm, I feel better already. I toss them back and swallow them dry—water’s for pussies.” This tells me all I need to know about the main character. It’s not that he’s a badass, which he thinks he is but is far from; it’s the arrogance. His snarky humor at times goes jackass, but since he receives just as much as he dishes out I’m okay with it.
Like most plots dealing with Nazis, eugenics is involved. There’s a good Superman and a bad Supergirl, though I found his identity easy to figure out. There’s also a side plot that is timely nowadays: a drug company causing a pandemic because they have the antidote, and who cares if a lot of people die.
About halfway through it occurred to me how strange the opener was. The book starts in the past and occasionally goes back, but in the prologue there’s a character that’s completely fleshed out, enough so that it’s easy to assume he’ll be the protagonist. . . and then he gets killed. And the story’s not in solving his murder or anything of that sort; he’s simply done and we move on. Very strange.
This was originally written in French. Parts are in first person, then switch to other points of view; it got confusing a couple of times, especially when it switches within chapters, but oddly enough not that bad on the whole.
This book was far from perfect, but I enjoyed parts of it. There’s something about stories that involve a reluctant hero who has to grow up and find what he’s capable of.


Book Reviews: Wildcats, Hockey, Nazis, and Road America

One of my favorite sentences ever:
Hell for him would be seeing his enemies piled high with naked cheerleaders.

Eye Of The Drone Vol. 2
Not nearly as sinister as the title suggests. This is a graphic novel about a couple of kids with a pet lynx and falcon going around the world looking for all 36 types of cats in the world, starting in Russia. This is the second volume in a planned series of 8, each taking place in a different part of the world.
Before it starts there’s a really funny image of a frog in common teenager position looking at a tablet. But this is definitely not a story with humor, in fact it seems deadly earnest. This is not one of those stories where I can say you can read it without needing to peruse the first one, because the backstory to their mission and why they’re drawn like early computer game animation stills is never explained. And it does need explaining, for at one point one of the humans says, “We’re 3-D. We don’t have to follow the rules that apply to fleshly people.” And no one in universe has a problem with talking animals, especially a lynx walking through the station and boarding a train. Then there’s the evil corporation against these environmentalists, the chief bad guy sporting a scar on his face, of course.
There are other touches that made me a bit annoyed, though I should temper that with the knowledge than the kids for which this is intended won’t care. A lot of stuff is left out; at one stop they look for a place to stay, at the next it’s not even mentioned, just goes from “Let’s sleep” to “Next morning.” And it’s highly unlikely those police officers in northern China speak English so well. Things liven up toward the end, when they’re joined by a mischievous redheaded fairy, or soporific butterfly, depending on her mood. And of course the story doesn’t end cleanly, but at least you’re told there’s gonna be six more volumes.
There are educational asides on some pages, plus a cat appendix, photos, links to Facebook, and so on at the end. There’s no doubt as to the earnestness of the author in trying to get her message across, and again I state that it will be great for kids, but I still think it could have bene done better.

The Hockey Saint
College hockey player who lives with his grandmother gets a partial scholarship, named assistant captain, and finds out where his idol lives. Quite an opening chapter. From there he meets his hero, who takes him to surprising places, as long as he doesn’t tell. There’s a conspiracy by the rival team to get the goods on the hockey star, and the kid has to decide which side to pick.
Each chapter comes with a recommended song list; I didn’t try it, but the one song I did know, Rush’s Limelight, was well chosen.
It’s a nice story, with an upbeat ending. But it’s hard to believe a guy this secretive would open up and spill all his secrets to a teen fan. This is more like a kid’s fantasy, especially the hero’s redemption at the end.
The artwork is fine, nothing special but definitely good enough. As long as the reader has no illusions about it being far from reality, there’s a lot to enjoy here.

The Brandenburg Quest
Named after the protagonist’s surname, this tells the story of a young man in Germany who sees an American movie about WW2 and learns things he wasn’t told in school. He goes off to interview a bunch of former Nazis—finding them rather easily, it seems—trying to figure out if one of them in particular, who was rumored to have died at the end of the war, actually escaped and is planning to take Germany into the Fourth Reich.
Written as a screenplay, oddly enough; it fails in that there are no acts, just one similar interviewing scene after another. It’s interesting to find out that German schools did not teach the truth about World War 2 well into at least the 1970s; I think this book takes place in 1986, according to something mentioned, but not sure. So for all the time were kids told the Holocaust was a lie, if they ever heard about it at all?
There’s an early mention of the main character going off to Munich and checking out the Glockenspiel; I love that place, so it made me smile. But that was the only happy moment I had. This might be okay as a book, but unlike the comments at the beginning it would never make a good movie. Too much repetition—most of the story is the protagonist interviewing one former Nazi after another—and very little action. If some Hollywood producer got his hands on this, he would add a lot of James Bond action scenes to it anyway.

Braking Points
Female racer once again gets involved in a murder investigation, is suspected and has to clear her name, all while handling a boyfriend, a crash on the course that injures a popular driver, rabid fans, crappy journalists, and old friends.
This is the second in the Kate Reilly series, though it’s the third one I’ve read. This one starts at Road America, which is one of my favorite courses. Like the other books, the murder mystery is okay but really isn’t the point. Considering the author’s job in real life, this is meant as a treatise on the difficulties faced by women in the racing world today, and in a broader perspective all the workforce.
Once again I thoroughly love Kate as a character. It’s cute how girly she gets about joining Twitter, and there’s something satisfying about the occasional tweets; not so much hilarious or noteworthy, more like humanizing her. Sadly there’s also a lot of internet crap sent her way, so much so that she has to hire publicity specialists. The author always gives Kate a lot to handle off the track, but this time it might have been too much, as we’re introduced to her jerk cousins who will show up in later books as well as all those mentioned above.
There’s a lot of racing scenes in this one, even more so than the others, and this time it’s not all fun for our heroine. Usually the track is the place where she can get away from all her problems, but in this case bad things happen just as often as the good, although the good does make for a happy ending.