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

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Red Room, by Ridley Pearson

This novel continues the story of John Knox and Grace Chu, private security operators.  It is notable that the main characters in this book have no idea of what is going on for much of the story -- neither does the reader.  This is not a positive attribute.   In fact, even on the last page I was struggling to figure out what had happened.

The plot advances, however slowly, and it is complex -- to the extent that I understand it.

So do I recommend this book?  Not really, although it was impressive to have kept my attention to the end in spite of my confusion.

The Red Room (A Risk Agent Novel)

Friday, August 22, 2014

On Scope, by Jack Coughlin

This novel starts off rough: the author tries to use as many adjectives as he can fit into a sentence in some parody of descriptive writing.  Fortunately that awkwardness abated after a few pages, except for some instances of repetitiveness.  Overall, Mr. Coughlin would benefit from a better editor.

The genre is "extreme jingoism, forget about civil liberties or even the Constitution, special forces operators are going to kill bad guys as they see fit."   The good news is that Mr. Coughlin included key female operators as characters and gave them every bit the capabilities as the men.  The plot was a bit cookie cutter, but interesting enough to read to the end.  This isn't a champagne read, but it is like cold light beer on a hot day.

On Scope: A Sniper Novel (Kyle Swanson Sniper Novels)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Abomination, by Jonathan Holt

Mr. Holt refers to this novel as the first in a trilogy and I look forward to reading the next installment. The setting is Venice, and from the detailed descriptions of the city I can't decide if I'm eager to go there or happy to avoid it at all cost.   Three heroes are introduced:  Carabiniere Captain Kat Tapo, US Army 2nd Lieutenant Holly Boland, and strange mathematician and computer programmer extraordinaire Daniele Barbo.   All three end up in Venice and come together in a beautifully orchestrated intertwined plot.

The story is credible; this is dramatic fiction not a shoot-em-up mass market suspense novel (and I enjoy those too).  The writing is great, the plot, the character development - simply outstanding.  Highly recommended.

Boland gets involved due to a Freedom of Information Act request by a woman who is later found murdered, hence Tapo's participation.  Barbo plays a role for two reasons: he built the massive multi-player environment in which several informants communication for anonymity, and because his long term mentor, Gilroy is a former CIA agent in Italy who is also involved in the situation.  That situation being a conspiracy including the Catholic Church taking offense to women who claim to be priests, private military contractors, and NATO.   But really, it does all come together.

The Abomination: A Novel (Carnivia Trilogy, The)

Buddha's Brain, by Rick Hanson

Imagine you're curious about "new age" concepts of meditation or positive imaging, but you're an analytical empiricist for whom touchy feely books about Buddhism or meditation feel too far out.  Then this book is for you.   Dr. Hanson is a (PhD) neuropsychologist, and his co-author Dr. Mendius (MD) is a neurologist.  Their book takes an approach of mapping a physiological and neurological view of the brain to behavioral changes that can benefit the reader.

The introduction of concepts like breath awareness and meditation are so subtle that I can't imagine anyone would be put off by them.

My only objection is the authors' promotion of supplements (vitamins) at the end of the book; recent reputable studies[1] imply that there is no value to using any of these.

[1] Guallar E, Stranges S, Mulrow C, Appel LJ, Miller ER 3rd. Enough is enough: Stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements. Ann Intern Med. 2013 Dec 17;159(12):850-1. Erratum in: Ann Intern Med. 2014 Jan 21;160(2):143. PubMed  PMID: 24490268. Retrieved from

Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Plague, by Victor Methos

With the right editing, this might be a good novel.   As is, the plot jumps around quite a bit.  The book did keep my interest though I was not pleased with the ending.   Plot spoiler follows, if you plan to read the novel, stop here. I doubt many discerning readers will be encouraged to stop.

The hero is Dr. Samantha Bower, who works for the CDC and makes irrational and poor decisions.   Some of the other supporting characters are interesting, but - did I mention that everyone dies at the end?

Plague - A Medical Thriller (The Plague Trilogy Book 1)

Primal Origin, by Jack Silkstone

In this first volume of Mr. Silkstone's series, a wealthy young businessman in the Emirates decides to fund a group of former military special forces ops to build his own vigilante organization.  Presumably targeting terrorists that otherwise are off the table for government intervention due to political reasons. The group's name is the acronym PRIMAL, hence the title.

Given that description, this book is everything you would expect.  Sketchy plots, impossible saves, and a general disregard for the law.

PRIMAL Origin: A Novella (The PRIMAL Series Book 1)