Category Archives for Books

Jack Reacher Short Stories

 

Oh dear God, what have you done? There’s fiction and there’s fiction…..

I enjoy reading the Jack Reacher books, I have read them all. The good and the not so good and then this one. This one is No Middle Name the short stories book, which has 12 mini stories about Jack over different parts of his life. Now peoples definition of what constitutes a ‘short story’ will differ, but 4 pages in places….. Really?

Jack Reacher Short Stories My Thoughts

 

Too Much Time

The first is called Too Much Time and a more recent Reacher is his usual post military, roaming across the States self. Witnessing a bag snatch he helps pursuing police offices catch the thief. A straight forward incident, easily dealt with or so you’d thought. Soon Reacher finds himself on route to jail, awaiting to be arraigned in front of the judge. Needless to say he is involved in a fight in the jail, after taking out the biggest guy there, who was meant to kill him, he solves the case all on his own and points the fingers at corrupt cops.

This isn’t such a bad story, it’s a more typical type scenario for Jack.

 

Second Son

So in the second he’s still a kid, although the biggest in his age group, but he does the noble thing of protecting a girls honour, helps the MPs solve a potential security breach when important documents go missing. Not sure personally how many times professional investigators are helped close a case in the manner this thirteen year old did. As well as beating up the local bully, who wanted a tax for using the road to the beach, here Jack does further than breaking the defeated kids arm. Modern day you’d have social services and law enforcement involved, for sure. One thing I’d also say is a person with this type of brutal, mentality who carried out as many pre meditated assaults on others, would not get into military service.

This sadly isn’t a great read, it’s an insight into a kid who himself is a bully who obviously has issues at an early age.

 

High Heat

Third story sees Reacher as a sixteen year old, flying to New York City on his own from the Pacific. It’s set in the 1977 heatwave where people are suffering all across the city & even Reacher breaks a sweat too. Here he rescues a woman who has just been slapped in public, a noble thing to do indeed. Turns out she’s an FBI agent and the guy is a Made Man, in one of the local crime families. (If you’re not sure what that means, you really do need to watch Goodfellas as Billy Batts in the movie is a Made Man). So this teenager beats up this crime boss, just to teach him a lesson (as a kid would do). Not content with that he later helps the law enforcement agencies take him down, once again after beating him up in an office. Not content with beating the Mafia, he also solves an ongoing investigation involving a serial killer, which the police haven’t been able to do.

As believable really as the Wizard Of Oz meets a flying saucer. This is just pure fantasy hence my earlier comment stating that ‘ there’s fiction and then there’s fiction’

 

 

Deep Down

Deep Down is story number four and is Reacher back as a young MP on assignment in Washington DC. This actually is quite a good read, as he’s undercover trying to suss which of 4 army officers is leaking secrets to a foreign government. What is interesting is all 4 of these officers are West Point fast tracked with huge career opportunities awaiting. Also all are female! His initial observation after reading personnel files are one particular name stands out. However after she is killed, he needs to look again at the remaining trio.

This storyline is good, if anything it could have been made into a standalone book and the plot expanded more. Enjoyable and believable!

 

Small Wars

Small Wars is the fifth short story. Starts out well with another high flying female Lt Col as one of the focal characters introduced at the beginning. Then when she’s shot in cold blood, triple tapped by Reachers brother, Joe this one fizzles out quickly. Looking for a huge guy, who has a firearm that uses 9mmrounds and drives a vehicle with Firestone tyres isn’t easy. The other thing is he has size 15 shoes. Now this is the main thing, did you notice I said “he has size 15 shoes” and not size 15 feet?

Again, this is one to not get too excited about.

 

James Penney’s Secret Identity.

Anyone who has served, there’s this unwritten Brotherhood code, where you look after former service people. Thanks to the advent of social media there are plenty of groups and pages where men and women who have left military service can reunite and also meet new friends. Now there are a couple of questions coming up here.

  • How likely would you to believe a guy who said he served in xxxx unit, without actually substantiating it?
  • Would you risk your job, your rank and career as a military police officer to give this fugitive a fake id to help him escape justice?

Well this is basically the outcome of the book titled as above;

The guy is laid off at the factory he’s worked at after 17 years, he’s living alone but still paying the mortgage and loans on furniture that his wife left him with years before, when she left. In a fit of rage he decides to unburden himself from the mortgage debt and sets fire to his house. Sadly this spreads to other properties downwind and after the forensic investigator announces it was arson his life unfolds.

Fast forward a little till he’s hitching on the side of the road, along comes Reacher as the driver, as the officer investigator in the MPs. He explains as part of his investigation he’s apprehended a guy who has Russian made, fake IDs which are top quality. So to help the guy evade arrest at the civil police checkpoint, Reacher gives him a set of these fakes IDs. Waved through the checkpoint by the police, the fugitive is free to go and evade justice. Unbeknown to him, the guy Reacher has arrested is actually dead in the trunk of the car. So instead of returning the body as part of the investigation, he dumps him over the side of the road……

 

Once again, this is more fluff than filler and nothing to write home about.

Everyone Talks

Onto the next one. Everyone Talks is story 7, a whole 18 pages of it.

A rookie police officer is sent to the hospital to see a gunshot wound patient. The patients possessions are loose change, a couple of bucks, an out of date passport, a current ATM bank card and a foldable toothbrush.

There’d been no 911 emergency calls, nobody had reported any gunshot wounds to the police, so how had Reacher been shot? So, after arriving via Greyhound Bus, Reacher wanted food and coffee, so headed into the first place he found. Noting a large, thug looking guy at the bar, that nobody made eye contact with, Reacher sucked back on a bottle of Rolling Rock beer and observed all that was happening. Into his second beer and the bar owner arrived. Shortly later he hands the goon sat at the bar a white envelope, clearly filled with notes – protection money!

Needless to say, Reacher confronts the guy, offers him chance to tell him who he works for or tell him who he works for after he’s had both legs broken. Kubota was the name of the boss, as Reacher explained to the cop. The cop organized a search warrant through a friendly judge and the police went en masse and raided Kubotas house. They found loads of money and ledgers, but not a gun that could have shot Reacher. So the policewoman happy with her first big bust, went back to interview Reacher, to ask who shot him.

As she saw the female doctor ( who was the bar owners sister-in-law ) she found Reachers bed empty. When she asked the doctor about the gunshot wounded Reacher, the doctor said there’d been no gunshot victim, as the files would confirm………

A very short, Reacher needing his fists and not his brain, type scenario. At lest this time taking on the gangsters, he wasn’t a 16 year old kid.

 

Not A Drill

So story number 8, called Not A Drill, sees Reacher the civilian hitching a lift with a guy and 2 females in a hippy camper van, heading out to a tiny village so the couple can hike and explore, while the other female drives the camper to meet them at the end of the trail. Queue a couple of mentions of ‘blacktop’ and the coffee shop where Reacher can drink strong coffee till his heart’s content. He pays for a cheap room for himself and is planning on moving on the next day, until the military arrive and cordon off the woodland and trail start. So with Henry & Suzanne out on foot, it’s up to Reacher and Helen to go and rescue them, starting out from the kayak dock into the woodland.

Eventually, they discover 2 backpacks, so push on deeper exploring the dense undergrowth. Reacher is alerted by a faint noise, a mobile phone digital camera being used. They find Suzanne with Henry, stood over a dead body, taking photos. Reacher concludes the person in the orange prison suit jumped or was thrown from an aircraft, case closed? Then he’s advised  Suzanne isn’t just a drippy hippy do-gooder but she’s also active on human rights issues and also on the dark web.

The body is of a prisoner from Guantanamo Bay either on his way to Canada to ease numbers there or being returned. With claims on the dark web that government people were throwing prisoners out of aircraft, as a means of disposal, this looks like proof enough. Naturally, as they were hunting proof and found it, they become the hunter with the American troops out searching the woods….

Did they get away in the end? Obviously, Reacher did, but the others….. Conspiracy theorists might enjoy this one. Again this is another which could easily be made into a full-length book, or dare we suggest film ( but without Tom Cruise as the lead role ). It has the opportunity to get pulses racing thanks to the Gitmo aspect, the hidden shadowy government agencies and more.

 

Maybe They Have A Tradition

So if you haven’t given up hope, we’re now onto short story number 9.

Winter in New York City, jazz music and a 6ft tall blonde, Dutch air hostess, maybe Reachers Christmas has come early? A few hours later he’s in London, in a snowstorm trying to get to Cambridge from Stanstead in a taxi. When the taxi driver refuses to drive any further due to deep snow and blizzard conditions, yours truly decides to get out and walk, as he’s seen what looks like lights in a house, way off in the distance. Reachers thinking is that the homeowners will welcome a total 6ft5” stranger and feed him seeing as it’s Christmas.
I know what you’re thinking here, but let’s move forward with this, shall we. So Reacher struggles through the driving, freezing snow until he comes to the country pile known as Trout Hall. The door is opened by the lady of the house, asking if he’s a doctor or policeman. Seems there was a precious piece of jewellery gone missing and the step-daughter is having a baby.

Reacher borrows the old colonels’ binoculars to see if he can see either of the expected visitors on the route. In the distance he manages to see where there were tracks in the snow, so he goes out to find who it is. Here the policeman is with the doctor, he’d been looking for her after finding her car abandoned. Reacher carries the doctor to the old hall, with the policeman bringing her bag.

Nothing much else to say, Reacher gets some food, some baby is born on Xmas day and the case is closed as the step daughter hid the jewel as she didn’t want the step-mother wearing it.

A lame, pointless waste of 12 pages in all honesty. At least he wasn’t wearing flipflops or beach shorts, but he might as well been. So after eating, he left….. Really? Had the snow melted? Had the weather cleared up enough? Or did the aliens come and abduct him?

 

 

Guy Walks Into A Bar….

An often used introduction to a joke. Well it could be said 7 pages is a bit of a joke. Back in NYC, in a music bar and the young half drunk Russian girl with a stack of notes on her table, watching a young Russian guitarist on stage, under the gaze of her bodyguard. Other side of the bar, 2 Russian thugs sat watching the same girl. Is this a kidnap about to happen? Reacher reads all the signs and as she totters to the bathroom, the 2 guys follow her inside, so Reacher follows too.

Hard to believe in all his years, he’s never set foot in a womens toilets, but that’s his claim. Anyway the kidnap/attack never happened, Reacher had got it all wrong. The bodyguard had never moved, seems his principal was the young lad playing guitar.

Then it clicked, this was a honeytrap, she was going to get the guy away from his minder and driver, so the 2 thugs could kidnap the young lad. Not on Reacher’s watch, was it going to happen!

To be honest here, 7 pages isn’t enough to read while on the toilet. I’ve seen longer tasters of upcoming books. I’ve read longer magazine articles on the best place to holiday in 2019 or the latest cooking utensil you need to order from JML direct.

 

 

No Room At The Motel

4 pages of my life wasted, I mean seriously WTF is going on here?
Reacher gets a cheap motel room, that’s 11 out of 12 left. Goes to a fast food joint to eat, comes back to find a pregnant woman almost ready to drop in tears. Reason is there are no rooms left, so they are going to have to sleep in their car and risk freezing to death. Reacher offers to swap and gives them his room. Instead of bedding down in their car he asks a truck driver if he can hitch a ride.

Upside is no mention of blacktop, no fist fights and no murders. But seriously, how the hell can this be considered a short story? Remove the drawing on the first page and this could be condensed by another 25% into 3 pages. This is nothing short of a piss take of the nativity and ‘ no room at the inn’.

 

 

The Picture Of A Lonely Diner

Last and by no means least, story number 12. Which makes it over 10 pages, if that’s any consideration.

I hesitated to even start this, so checked the number of pages before deciding if I should even bother. When the previous 2 stories were 7 and almost 4 pages long in total, life is too short at times. It’s like having a beer and then another and each getting progressively worse, there comes that point when you ask is it worth venturing on?

Anyhow, yes I did venture on. Sweet Jesus, what another crock of shit. Outline of this is Reacher gets off the subway, sees police tape across the exit stairwell, so walks down the platform to the other exit. Here he sees police ‘do not cross’ tape once again. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to him, so he crosses the line, goes up the stairs and sees the streets empty of people, vehicles and everything.

Venturing down the street in this no-go zone, he sees a police car blocking off another street in the distance, then he sees a female stood all alone, with a phone in her hand. Now had this been a backwater town, this could be seen as a possibility, but alas this is NYC. The female is an FBI agent, but she’s also the agent in charge. Now as you’d expect with this being NYC, on a normal day tens of thousands of pedestrians would be walking, cars by the hundreds would be gridlocking the road system, but not today. Here Reacher finds the only person for blocks and decides to get cute with her, with his mouth. You could put money on 99.9% of people being arrested on the spot for actually crossing the cordon, let alone the snarky replies to her questions. Also there would be dozens of not hundreds of law enforcement officers on the streets.

Turns out the guy sat in the park on his own is an FBI office worker, who has been leaking information to the Russians. He was meant to be meeting him but his handler was killed in a car crash. Instead it’s been decided the guy is to be bumped off by snipers in the park. Reacher decides to evade all the non existent law enforcement presence, goes to the guy and offers to walk him out so he can be arrested. Guy declines, Reacher walks off and in the distance soon after he hears several muffled gunshots.

So what happened to every single person inside all these buildings? Were they all removed? Did they all have any recording devices taken off them? We know in modern society, a street brawl will be recorded on mobile phones and shared on social media, a car crash the same. So thousands of people cleared off the streets of NYC, isn’t going to be recorded by anyone still in the buildings? You’re telling me there wasn’t some blogger or news reporter who dared to evade the police force and try to sneak closer for photos?

So last seen walking away, Reacher probably thumbed a lift onto the Mars probe to investigate the Red Planet or somewhere else just as believable.

As someone who has bought read and mostly enjoyed all the Jack Reacher books, including Midnight Line, I have to say this was a waste of money. I bought this and Midnight Line together to take on holiday. Midnight Line to read on the plane if there weren’t any movies worth watching, this book to take when sat out in the sun around the pool. As it was the film selection on the plane was good, so the book wasn’t read. This was read when around the pool. However had this particular set of ‘short stories’ been read there, it would have probably ended up in the pool.

Disappointed does not describe how deflated I was with this book. If you want my honest opinion, don’t be fooled by the Reacher name for this, it’s not worth buying.

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The Illustrated Quick Cook Cookbook – Review

Fried Rice with Shrimps and Chicken Recipe: The Illustrated Quick Cook Cookbook – Review

I have eaten this is Thailand and loved it, so when I found this recipe I had to give it a go. Life isn’t just about takeaways and fast food, believe it or not. I actually enjoy cooking, have done for many a year. It’s not just about the eating, if food looks good it can be enjoyable to make.

The Illustrated Quick Cook cookbook has a collection of more than 700 sweet and savoury recipes with 1000 photos of finished recipes, step-by-step recipes and techniques.It is definitely for the busy cook who prepares daily family meals and for entertaining.

The recipes are well organized, easy to follow with preparation and cook times. Some recipes also have a ‘cheat’ stamp suggesting substitutions for some ingredients. There are also a couple of pages of useful information on measurements, ingredients, and equipment tips.

Recipe Chooser Section

The Recipe Chooser section at the beginning of the book is a visual reference to fast and easy recipes for meat, fish and vegetarian dishes that can be made in 15-30 minutes (including preparation and cooking time).

Everyday Section

The Everyday section includes quick and easy recipes for meat, chicken, lamb, pasta, vegetarian and desserts for everyday family meals such as Chicken Caesar Salad, Sticky Pork Ribs, Pan Fried Shrimp, Olives and Tomatoes and Potato Gnocchi.

Food For Friends Section

This section is a collection of seasonal recipes, Simple Starters, Big-Pot Gatherings, All-In-One Roasts, Barbecue, Freeze Ahead Desserts, Indulgent Desserts and Cakes and Bakes.

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Illustrated Quick Cook: Over 700 Quick Recipes, Easy Entertaining, After-Work Ideas
  • DK Publishing Dorling Kindersley
  • Heather Whinney
  • Publisher: DK
  • Edition no. 0 (06/02/2015)
  • Paperback: 544 pages
Every cook should own a copy of the Illustrated Quick Cook cookbook. The recipes are made with wholesome ingredients within 30 minutes for everyday family cooking. With over 700 recipes to choose from, certainly some recipes will be included in the busy cook’s recipe repertoire.

Fried Rice with Shrimps and Chicken Recipe

The following recipe is one I enjoy, sometimes I add a few splashes of hot pepper sauce to liven it up.

Fried Rice with Shrimps and Chicken in the pan

Prep: 15 mins.

Cook: 40 mins.

Cooling: 30 minutes–1 hour, or overnight

Special equipment: wok

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 2lb (900g) basmati rice
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1lb (450g) (shelled weight) uncooked shrimps or prawns, chopped
  • 4 large boneless, skinless chicken fillets, cut into 1in (2.5cm) strips
  • 15oz (425g) pancetta, cubed
  • 8oz (225g) white mushrooms, diced
  • 3in (7.5cm) piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely sliced
  • 8oz (225g) frozen peas, defrosted
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • bunch of scallions, finely sliced
  • small handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Fried Rice with Shrimps and Chicken on a plate

How to Make the Fried Rice with Chicken and Shrimp

  1. Rinse the rice well, then place ina large saucepan. Pour boiling water over rice, and add a pinch of salt. Cover, bring to a boil, and cook for 15–20 minutes, or until done. Drain well and set aside to cool completely for 30 minutes–1 hour.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok over a high heat, add the shrimp, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook for 10 minutes, or until pink. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Heat another tablespoon of the oil in the wok, add the chicken, season, and stir-fry for 10 minutes, or until cooked and no longer pink. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Heat another tablespoon of the oil in the wok, add the pancetta, and cook over a medium-high heat for 6–8 minutes, or until crispy and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Wipe the wok out with paper towels, then heat another tablespoon of the oil in it. Add the mushrooms and ginger, and stir-fry for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms start to soften. Add the peas for the last minute or two. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Heat the remaining oil in the wok, then pour in the eggs and cook gently, stirring them around the pan, for 1 minute. Take care not to overcook them. Add the rice, stir well, then stir in the shrimp, chicken, pancetta, mushrooms, and peas. Add the soy sauce and mirin and cook for 5 minutes, stirring all the time. Transfer to a large shallow serving dish, top with the scallions and parsley, and serve.

Cook’s Notes

The rice needs to be completely cold before you add it to the wok. Ideally, cook it the day before and chill in the refrigerator until required.

Illustrated Quick Cook: Over 700 Quick Recipes, Easy Entertaining, After-Work Ideas is available in the UK, this link will automatically redirect you.

Author: Heather Whinney

Publisher: DK Publishing, Inc.

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The Whistler – John Grisham

The Whistler John Grisham

Centred around a Florida Board on Judicial Conduct investigator and her associates, who were tipped off about a high powered judge who was not on the level. What should have appeared to be a straight forward investigation, took twists and turns and became a deeper, darker case than expected. The investigators found themselves in deeper than imagined and were not just dealing with a judge who had been named in a sexual harrasment case – far from it.

the whistler john grisham

When you have unarmed investigators being threatened by armed bad guys, it’s dangerous enough. Yet the whistle blower does not want the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct team to bring in the FBI or local police in case they too are involved, then this is a harder case to investigate. Irrespective of this, the whistle blower is determined to get justice served on the judge and assciates.

The Whistler: A Novel is set in the Sunshine State, which has a small team of investigators and this case was picked up by Lacy Stoltz, an investigator with 9 years on the job. Generally she’s found most of her cases are more than often incompetence by the judge in question as opposed to corruption.

So when this case starts to unfold, Lacy is suddenly looking at the once in a lifetime major case that can make or break people. The Whistler John Grisham book is great, especially if you’re flying across to Florida on holiday.

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The Whistler: A Novel
  • This book includes an excerpt from Camino Island, John Grisham's next book!
  • John Grisham
  • Publisher: Dell
  • Edition no. 0 (07/11/2017)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
As the book says; dangerous is one thing, deadly is another. Order here for swift delivery.

This book was hard to put down it enthralled me throughout. The down to earth investigators, very normal people who were tracking down jetset lifestyle criminals, but in a believable story. Yes I am a fan of Grisham and his legal based novels. I was reading his books long before the movies were made.

Camino Island Next On The Reading List

So after I finished The Whistler, there was a taster of Camino Island. Like a sucker I sat with my coffee and started reading that.

Needless to say Camino Island grabbed my attention straight off. Yes it started off slowly and then picked up the pace. When you are looking at art theft, murder, double cross and this is just in the taster, then you know it’s going to be good.

You can order Camino Island by clicking this link and sit back and wait for it to be delivered to you.

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Camino Island: A Novel
  • John Grisham
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • Edition no. 0 (03/06/2018)
  • Paperback: 336 pages

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Who is Jack Reacher?

No suitcase. No destination. No middle name. No matter how far Reacher travels off the beaten path, trouble always finds him. Feel bad for trouble.

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