Audio Book: Good Clean Fun

by Nick Offerman
Read by the author
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Content: There’s some mild swearing. It’s in the humor section (I think) of the bookstore.

This is, basically, Nick Offerman’s homage to Offerman Woodshop, his woodworker’s collective in L.A. It’s a portrait of the craftspeople who work there, as well as those people Nick has come across in his “career” (the acting just pays the bills) as a woodsmith.

So, no, it wasn’t the best book to 1) start reading Nick Offerman (I think I’m going to try Paddle Your Own Canoe next) or 2) listen to in audio. That said, Nick is delightful to listen to read a book (not as delightful as Neil Gaiman), and there were lots of delightful anecdotes about Nick’s colleagues, as well as his opinions about working with your hands (pro: I felt justified, since I really enjoy canning) and the joy of working with wood, specifically.

I do have to say that while listening to this, I kind of wanted to learn how to build things (not a new desire for me; I should have taken shop class). I enjoyed Offerman’s enthusiasm for the art of woodworking, and his sense of humor. Even though I wish it has more of a narrative, I still found it enjoyable to listen to.

Audiobook: The Princess Diarist

princessdiaristby Carrie Fisher
Read by the author and Billy Lourd
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Content: There’s about a dozen f-bombs and other mild swearing, plus  some talk of sex (but nothing graphic). It’s in the Biography section of the bookstore.

I downloaded this to listen to on audio soon after Carrie Fisher died, thinking that I might as well find out what everyone’s been talking about (well, maybe not everyone, but people I trust) when it comes to her writing.

First of all, she’s a delightful narrator. She’s sardonic and funny (not just in the writing, but also READING the book), and I loved listening to her gravely voice reminisce about her experience in making Star Wars. And while the gossip (of sorts) about her and Harrison’s affair was interesting, it really wasn’t, for me, the highlight of the book. (In fact, the actual diaries, which Billy Lourd reads, were kind of, well, lame.) No, the highlight was Fisher. I’m sure I would have enjoyed this book in print, but hearing her read this was like sitting in a room and listening to her reminisce. It was delightful and fun, and while not perfect, highly enjoyable.

Probably much like Ms. Fisher herself. (I imagine anyway.)

Driving Heat

drivingheatby Richard Castle
First sentence: “The last thing Nikki Heat expected when she received her promotion to captain of the NYPD was how much the proud expression on Rook’s face in the audience would make her want him.”
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Others in the series: Heat Wave, Naked Heat, Heat Rises, Frozen Heat, Deadly Heat, Raging Heat  (Yes, I really have read the whole series.)
Content : Loads of f-bombs (though less than other books, I think), plus some tasteful sexytimes. It’s in the adult mystery section at the bookstore.

I realized, at some point while reading this, that I don’t actually remember much of what happened in the 7th season of Castle (not its best season) and I waited a lot longer before getting around to this one, so I really didn’t pick up on all the show references in the book. Which means, I was forced to take it on its own merit.

Nikki Heat has been promoted to captain and has to deal with the new pressures that come with that job. It doesn’t help that she catches a high-profile case right off the bat: the murder of a police psychologist, Lon King. HER psychologist. It’s not an easy death for Heat to deal with, especially since King had been helping her deal with her feelings about her impending marriage to Jamison Rook.

But, things aren’t always as it seems, and soon one murder turns into five (and the entire NYPD gets hacked)  as Heat and Rook try and solve this case.

Y’know, on its own merit, these still aren’t bad. The mystery was complex enough that I didn’t quite figure it out (though it did leave out one crucial piece of information, I think, in order to fully solve the mystery)  but it wasn’t super out of left field when they finally figured it all out. The plotting’s good, the writing’s not half-bad (I’ve read worse), and aside from a few editing mistakes (c’mon editors, get your act together. I know you’re trying to churn these out but, take a deep  breath and double check your work), it really is a halfway decent (if pulpy) mystery series.

Raging Heat

by Richard Castle
First sentence: “Nikki Heat wondered if her mother hadn’t been murdered what her life would have been.”
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Others in the series: Heat Wave, Naked Heat, Heat Rises, Frozen Heat, Deadly Heat
Content: These aren’t for the younger fans of the TV show. Grisly murders (though not terribly descriptive), off-screen sex, and lots of f-bombs puts it squarely in the adult mystery section at the bookstore.

I don’t know if I have anything new to say. I still enjoy these books for their own sake; although this one had highlights from both season 5 AND 6, it’s really it’s own beast. The mystery had me guessing, as Heat and Rook wandered the streets of New York and Long Island looking for the murderer of a Haitian immigrant. It was a pretty messy mystery, with lots of characters involved (both on the murdered end — there ended up being 4 or 5, I think — and as the murderers) and while I probably could have figured it out, I didn’t. I just sat back and thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns.

I also enjoyed the tension between Rook and Heat as they tried to balance life, work, and romance. If you follow the show, you’ll figure out where the book character’s relationship is going, but it’s a satisfyingly bumpy ride. (I especially enjoyed it when Heat lost her cool and dumped a bottle of Tequlia in Rook’s lap. He really did deserve it.)

All I can say is I’m glad the show’s back on, so I can get a preview of the next book.

Deadly Heat

by Richard Castle
ages: adult
First sentence: “NYPD Homicide detective Nikki Heat double-parked her gray Crown Victoria behind the coroner van and strode toward the pizza joint where a body waited.”
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Others in the series: Heat Wave,  Naked HeatHeat Rises, Frozen Heat

I’ve always kind of thought that you couldn’t pick up these books without having first watched the show. But, after finishing this one, I realized that really the only frame of reference you need is Frozen Heat. It picks up almost directly where that one leaves off, and ties most directly into it, giving us some nice loose ends all wrapped up.

Nikki knows who actually killed her mother. What she doesn’t know, is who called the shots. And that’s something she’s determined to do, even though the Department of Homeland Security Agents Bell (who happens to be Jameson Rook’s ex) and Callahan keep getting in her way. In addition, she’s faced with a serial killer, nicknamed Rainbow, who is playing games with her. And yes, she’s next on his list.

She’s also getting flack from her incompetent commander for juggling two cases, something which Nikki resents. But, determined as she is, she (and Rook, of course) doggedly persevere, and manage to solve the crimes in the end.

Much like season 5, this was a bit lighter, but also like Frozen Heat, it’s really it’s own beast now. I recognized a few plotlines from the season, but mostly, that’s not what I was reading this for. No, now I’m invested in Nikki Heat the character (not Nikki Heat as a reflection of the way Stana Katic plays Kate Beckett… man, that’s confusing!), and her own personal journey. And this one, I think it’s safe to say, is a pretty decent mystery. I suspected the end, though the clues were there, and if I had been paying attention I would have figured it out. I also liked the way the two storylines intersected in the end, and how they helped each other resolve. I liked that both Nikki and Rook had a chance to shine.

I’m sold on this as a series now, which means I’ll be sad if the show ever ends and these disappear. Unless, of course, the ghostwriter decides to keep it up. In that case, I’ll keep reading them.

Heat Rises

by Richard Castle
ages: adult
First sentence: “The thing about New York City is you never know what’s behind a door.”
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Nikki Heat is investigating the murder of a local parish priest, found at an S&M studio (is that what they’re called?). The investigation takes her in all sorts of directions, but then she’s called off the investigation, on the orders of her precinct captain. It’s nothing, he assures her. Which only makes her — and her lover, companion, sometimes partner, Jameson Rook — more suspicious. And since Nikki Heat doesn’t give up, she ends up digging into things she really shouldn’t have.

I’m realizing that the books really do follow not only the plots from the season (yes, this one has elements from Castle season 3 episodes), but also the mood. Which means, this book wasn’t as fun as either Heat Wave or
Naked Heat. Not to say that there wasn’t fun moments (like the passing Firefly reference? Cracked me up.) in the book. There were. It just wasn’t as fun as the previous two. (Also: not as sexy or foul; they really pulled back on the language and the sex was entirely off-screen.) It’s still good brain candy, and it was gratifying to see Nikki do so much entirely on her own. She really does rock.

Oh, and if you’ve seen the entire season 3, there’s a nice twist on the ending in the book. Which means, of course, that there will be a fourth. And yes, I will read it. (Hopefully, considering the way season 4 is going, the next book will be more fun to read overall.)

Naked Heat

by Richard Castle
ages: adult
First sentence: “Nikki Heat pondered red lights and why they seemed to las so much longer when there was no traffic.”
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Oh, you knew this review was coming.

Yep.

I figured, since I’ve already caved into the publicity machine that is ABC, and the meta-ness of it all (and am really kind of finding it all fun and games), what the heck. Why not read the second one?

Besides, it’s a really good book to read when I’m on the elliptical at the gym: engaging, but not hard to follow.

As far as the book itself: I think it holds up better than the first book as a novel. Sure, it’s still in-jokes from the series (the book opener is lifted pretty much straight from the season 3 TV opener), and the basic plot lifts from a few episodes of season 2 Castle. The murder is of a gossip columnist, which ends up being a triple murder/suicide. There’s some nice twists and turns in the plot, and the outcome didn’t really become obvious until nearly the end. It was plotted much more evenly as well; it was more character- and plot-driven, and relied less on the reader knowing the background of the show. This is a book I could see non-Castle fans picking up and actually liking on its own terms. That’s not to say there isn’t the jabs and in-jokes (in fact, what made me laugh the hardest was the moonlighting profession they assigned to Jameson Rook. Too, too perfect).

Additionally, it’s much less about wish-fulfillment on the part of Castle, the character, and more about getting the story across. In other words, Nikki comes off as more of a real character this time — she’s smart and resourceful (and remember that episode where Castle has Alexis duct tape him to the chair? That’s important.) and while she does a lot of saving Castle’s butt (coming to his rescue at least twice), they’re also working more as a team than they did in the first book. The sex is dialed way back (though there is a couple of scenes; they are just briefer and less “steamy”), and it’s more about building an actual relationship between the two characters.

So, the discussion I ended up in with Hubby was about whether or not there will be more. On the show, they’ve kind of abandoned Castle’s premise for following Beckett around, and — if I remember right — he’s not done much writing this season. So, is ABC going to keep churning out the Nikki Heat books if there’s no reference to them in the show? Hubby seems to think that they could put out as many as they like independent of the TV show, but I think that the books lose much of their charm if you divorce them from the fun of the weekly episodes. Either way, I’ll probably keep reading them until they stop being brain candy.