Monthly Archives: September 2023

The Stepfamily by Bonnie Traymore

The Stepfamily (Silicon Valley Series #1)The Stepfamily by Bonnie L. Traymore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Laura is the stepmother to two children from her husband Peter’s first marriage. His first wife died by suicide more than ten years ago. Or was it suicide? That’s the first big mystery. Then there are tensions at work for both Laura and Peter with a financial crime lurking in the past. Then it looks like someone cut the brake line on Laura’s car. Is someone out to kill her? This doesn’t even touch on the possible frictions and resentment a stepmom can face from children still loyal to their mother.

The author does a good job of ramping up the suspense. It is properly subtitled “A psychological thriller.” I enjoyed the book enough to recommend it. Having said that, it suffers from some self-published book flaws like poor proofreading. I also didn’t like the chick lit vibe, e.g. the constant descriptions of female characters’ outfits and even toenail color (plum). I did like the local references as I live in the area. Chef Chu’s is the best Chinese restaurant around.

The author shows a good deal of knowledge about tech startups and Silicon Valley culture and business, but she is clearly not up to speed on police procedure or investigative matters. That’s why I say it’s a psychological thriller, not a detective novel. She refers to the the Santa Clara County Police as investigating the case. Sorry, no, there is no such agency. If a crime took place outside a city, it would be investigated by the county sheriff, otherwise by the police agency for that city. Los Altos Hills, Laura’s location, uses Los Altos Police for most detective work although the sheriff’s office might assist on a possible homicide. Worse, though, is the private eye she conjures up who seems to have magical powers to find out anything. As a retired FBI agent and attorney, I can tell you it doesn’t work that way. For example the P.I. searches for someone using facial recognition. How? That requires a network of hundreds or even thousands of cameras, very sophisticated software and hardware, and a series of good photos of the person sought. He had none of that and neither does any law enforcement agency in the county. He also found out about an affair from years ago with no indication that either of the lovers told him about it, or for that matter, any explanation at all of how he did. Admittedly, I’m a bit picky about that stuff because of my background, but these eye-rolling mistakes have the effect of taking the reader out of the credibility of the story. There’s also a major timeline error at the very end. Even so, I found myself engaged with the story and continually wanting to read the next chapter. At least she stuck to the old rule, “write about what you know.”

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Trends – Soccer vs. Tennis

Soccer is generally more poplar in the United States than tennis. Google searches on the two words usually favors soccer by a big margin. However, with Coco Gauff winning the U.S. Open recently, tennis has stepped into the spotlight. It’s interesting to see where tennis has broken through to Americans.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and TomorrowTomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book about people, not plot. The main characters, Sadie Green and Sam Masur, are young brilliant people with a fascination for games. They grow up and found a successful video games company. They love each other, but are not partners, not of the romantic sort, at least they don’t seem to be in the early going. The author leaves that unanswered until the end. They fight; they reconcile. There are moments of triumph and joy and many tragedies and mistakes. Sam’s college roommate, Marx Watanabe, takes on the role of Sam’s protector and big brother and later game producer. He is as much a main character as Sam and Sadie. Many others, mostly from the game company, fill out the roster. The backstories on all the characters and their parents are fleshed out as separate short stories with the overarching novel. In a way this can be considered a high concept book. It is about story-telling, about life and love and grief.

Much as I enjoyed the book, it left me just a little disappointed, or perhaps more accurately, unfulfilled. I’m used to murder mysteries and spy novels and science fiction. I miss the plot. I like the idea of a goal being set and worked toward, whether it’s solving the murder, escaping a peril, or successfully creating a post-apocalyptic social order. The author writes beautifully and the characters are interesting. I think the author is a frustrated game designer herself. She certainly invents a number of them throughout the book and they’re fun diversions. But the book is more like taking a bus tour through lovely landscape just to enjoy the leisurely pace and all the visual treats, but ending up at the beginning, rather than running a marathon through that same countryside with a clear goal in mind. I had to fight off snatches of boredom here and there to reach the end, but I’m very glad I read the book.

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