Saturday, September 13, 2014

Codex, by Lev Grossman

Our hero, Edward, a successful money manager in New York, is on a brief vacation prior to relocating to London for his firm.  He gets caught up in looking for an old manuscript.  Mayhem ensues, so very slowly that a snail could outpace it.   Confusing, boring, uninteresting; I finished it out of sheer stubbornness.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Act of War, by Brad Thor

As usual, Mr. Thor uses the novel as a platform for his political ideology.  But it is forgivable in this fast paced and quite interesting book.  It felt a bit rushed at the end, but overall, held up.

Act of War: A Thriller

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Taken, by Benedict Jacka

This is the third book in Mr. Jacka's series featuring Alex Verus, a mage who can see somewhat into the future and who solves problems for the good guys.  I'd previously read the second book and liked it enough to keep going.   And I'm pleased that I did because Mr. Jacka's writing has gotten noticeably better.  This novel was a delight.  For those of you who haven't read any of his books yet, I suggest just starting with this one.

Taken (Alex Verus Book 3)

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Lincoln Myth, by Steve Berry

This novel features Mr. Berry's recurring character, Cotton Malone. The concept is that President Lincoln made a deal with the Church of Latter Day Saints to hide information; a current US Senator and senior member of the Church seeks to reveal this information in order to push through the ability for several states to secede from the Union; the current President doesn't want this to happen; Malone has to save the day.

On the other hand, based on the story line, the readers may well be in favor of this fictional secession. I didn't enjoy the book much. So much I didn't that I'm not really motivated to say more about the novel in this post.

 I will no doubt read Mr. Berry's next novel, but I'm comfortable in recommending that others not bother wasting their time with this one.

The Lincoln Myth: A Novel (Cotton Malone Book 9)

935 Lies, by Charles Lewis

This is a must-read book.   Mr. Lewis is an impartial, non-partisan journalist, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, his idea of investigative reporting is to show people the truth even if it embarrasses government officials - or the corporations whose ad dollars pay for newspaper or TV station payrolls.   His book gives detailed examples of both government lies and corporate coverups.

After you read this book, you'll bookmark the public integrity website for at least weekly updates, and you'll probably want to make a (tax deductible) contribution to them as well.

A couple of examples from the book might intrigue you.   Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971.  It "...unequivocally revealed government deception and incompetence." leading to the Vietnam War.   The short story, for those of you who've forgotten that war, is this.  President Johnson told Americans in August of 1964 that US ships in the Golf of Tonkin had been attacked by North Vietnam.  A sequence of attacks on US vessels led to Congress passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which allowed the President to go to war without actually going through Congress to "declare war" on North Vietnam.
The Pentagon Papers showed that it was all lies.  Prior to enemy hostilities, the US had been in violation of North Vietnam's ", air space, and territorial waters, including consciously planned, aggressive military provocations."  The claimed attack on the US destroyer Maddox did not actually happen at all.   58,300 US military were killed in action during Vietnam.  Over 150,000 were wounded in action.  All because of President Johnson's (and his associates') lies.

The US Attorney General put pressure on newspapers to not publish the Pentagon Papers.  Eventually the NY Times gave up in fear of government lawsuits and persecution, and stopped publishing excerpts -- which allowed the Washington Post to step up and keep the story going.  This won the Post the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

At this point, President Nixon was working to discredit Mr. Ellsberg, using the same team that would eventually be disclosed as the "plumbers" behind Watergate, and ultimately lead him to resign from office (prior to being removed by impeachment).

Now lest we all think this is just a history lesson, please consider the Edward Snowden leaks of NSA materials.   The leaks reveal all sorts of illegal actions on the part of US government agencies.   (Just like the Pentagon Papers.)  Yet the focus is on Mr. Snowden (who might enjoy being compared to Mr. Ellsberg).  You know what they say about history repeating itself?

Just one more historical parallel.  Recall how the Pentagon Papers showed that it was the then President's lies that got us into a war that needlessly took service-men's lives?  Mr. Lewis also writes about how then President George Bush got the US into a war through at least 935 false statements about the national security threat posed by Iraq.

Among the big lies: there were no WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) in Iraq.  There were no links to al Qaeda in Iraq.  (Much better links to al Qaeda were in Saudi Arabia, but close relationships with the Kingdom apparently led to no mention of this from the government.)
"The carefully orchestrated campaign of untruths about Iraq's alleged threat to US national security from its WMDs or links to al Qaeda (also specious) galvanized public opinion and led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."
The bad news about Mr. Lewis' book is that it might make you feel depressed.  The good news is, at least you'll understand the reasons why you simply can not trust newspaper, radio or television news, as Mr. Lewis goes into detail to explain the pressures put on publishers and station owners by both government and private industry.

935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America's Moral Integrity

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Cursed, by Benedict Jacka

This is the second book in Mr. Jacka's series featuring Alex Verus, a mage who can see somewhat into the future and who solves problems for the good guys.   The library didn't have the first volume, but I figured I'd jump right in.

If you're familiar with James Butcher's series, "The Dresden Files," then you'll see similarities.  Make no mistake though: Mr. Butcher is the master, and Mr. Jacka is - at least in this episode - still the apprentice.

While not fabulous, it was interesting; I'm going to read the next book in the sequence.

Cursed (Alex Verus)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Kraken Project, by Douglas Preston

This was a strange book.  The heroes don't get much development.  One is Shepherd, a genius programer who built an AI system for NASA; it went nuts and escaped.  Shepherd runs too.  Another is Ford, who is a former CIA agent, and works for the President who oddly enough bothers himself worrying about finding Shepherd.   There may be more character development of the software program, Dorothy, than of the human characters.   In spite of all this, I enjoyed the book.

The Kraken Project (Wyman Ford Series)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Gun Metal Heart, by Dana Haynes

I enjoyed Mr. Haynes' prior novel in this series so much that I was eager to read this, the next episode.  If anything, it was even more fun.   The series features the recurring main character Daria, the freelance spy, and John, the former CIA analyst.   It is not necessary to have read the earlier book to follow this one; there are references to Daria's recovery from injuries and to her relationship with John, but the novel is pretty much free standing.

Here, Daria continues to be chased by the CIA as she seeks to stop a Serbian mercenary group from doing violence and upsetting what little stability exists in the Balkans.

A very enjoyable novel.

Gun Metal Heart

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ice Cold Kill, by Dana Haynes

This fast paced suspense novel features hero Daria, a former Israeli agent who now lives in Colorado doing private security work.   She's an adrenalin junkie and likes action.  Asher is a brilliant bad guy, who Daria had imprisoned four years earlier.   John is an intelligence analyst for the CIA who becomes a hero.   Sure there are some plot holes, but that's the name of the game in this genre.  I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading Mr. Haynes' next one too.

Ice Cold Kill

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Skin Game, by James Butcher

This is the 15th of Mr. Butcher's planned 20 volume series, "The Dresden Files."   I've only read two of the novels, and so I predictably get a bit lost in some of the convolutions of plot.

Here's the deal, as best I can construct it:   Dresden is a wizard who lives in Chicago.  He's a good guy. He becomes the Winter Knight, which I guess was explained in volume 14 (which I read but which did not make much of an impression on me I guess, because I'm still unclear about it, other than it makes him the Warden of an island on which bad para-normal things are imprisoned).   He works for Mab who is a bad guy but seems to be better than alternatives for whatever it is that she keeps in balance.  His friends have a variety of talents (like wielding magical swords), and his collection of friends include spirits in balls and special dogs.    His enemies form a longer list and range from horrible to just yucky.

In spite of not following say 25% or more percent of what was going on, I enjoyed the book.   Dresden was a bit less annoying a character than he was in volume 14.  The plot kept moving forward well.   So I suppose I'll keep reading the series.

Skin Game: A Novel of the Dresden Files