Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cemetery Dance, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

I inexplicably decided to read the novels in this series that I'd missed, between #8 in 2008 and #15 just recently. This is #9, the first in my gap period. The good news is, I won't have to figure out which title is #10, because I'm cured. This book was that bad.

In this volume, our hero, Pendergast, is not yet quite as insufferably obnoxious as he becomes in time. His colleague Constance is absent, in Tibet. In her place is NYPD detective D'Agosta, who may be less incompetent than he seems, but certainly isn't the detached and objective investigator one might hope for.

The story line: zombies. Warning, spoiler coming! They weren't really zombies. You'd have figured that out for yourself anyway, right?

I skipped many pages in reading this book just to make it through. Uninteresting detail. Well, uninteresting everything. I read most of the pages, and that was probably unnecessary.

Just say no.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Off the Grid, by CJ Box

The last time I read one of Mr. Box's novels was in 2009, so I thought it was time to give him another shot. I'm glad that I did. This is a modern western; Wyoming's environment and wildlife feature as much as the bad guys do. There's a good message about the 4th Amendment in light of US government spying on citizens, and exciting action. My only complaint is the last page, which sets up the next novel with a worrisome event.  I may well skip that one.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Crimson Shore, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

My dislike for this novel began at page two. The hero, Pendergast, is implied to be a 19th century aristocrat in a 21st century setting, brilliant, with a Sherlock Holmes vibe. The tone continues throughout, with the hero's arrogance and hauteur dripping through the dialog. What an unlikeable main character, and his associate, lead character Constance, is just as bad. Back to page two, where Pendergast, an FBI special agent, asks Constance to look something up -- and can't recall the word Google even as he remembers "a large mathematical number." Oh for heaven's sake! That's just silly. And what exactly would be a large, non-mathematical, number? Sigh.

After a few more pages, I vaguely recalled the characters. Indeed, I'd read another of the authors' books in this series in early 2008. That was the eighth in the series, and this current novel is the 15th. The writing seems to have gone downhill in the intervening years. But at least the authors are able to keep the plot moving forward enough to be engaging. I kept reading.

Really there are two books here. The first 75% of the novel is a mystery and satisfactorily (if not quite weirdly) solved. Then the other part. Really confusing, but perhaps if I had the context of those missing six volumes it might have made more sense. A cliff hanger, a mysterious evil presence, bad things happening. Yikes.

I'm curious enough to read the next book - clearly there will be one.

As mentioned, I disliked this novel. But still, I'm considering that the books I've missed are probably available at the public library for free... Gosh, I hate getting sucked in by such miserable characters and ham-fisted writing.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Spy Games, by Adam Brookes

This is apparently a sequel to the author's prior novel; I haven't read it and I do not believe it mattered. The book is good, it kept my interest with great character development. On the other hand, the style was a bit choppy, taking the perspective of each of three heroes. There's journalist Magnan, who was caught working with British intelligence in China and is now working in Ethiopia. There's Patterson, a former soldier and handler for intelligence operatives. And there's the mysterious Yang, about whom nothing is clear: for whom does she work (possibly Chinese spies), why does she have her own narrative thread in the book, why wasn't her role tied up at the end and how does she connect with anything?  That's a flaw in the book, although not fatal. Still a good spy story.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Living with a dead language, by Ann Patty

Ms. Patty's memoir is about her choice to learn language as an adult; she had retired from the book publishing business and was without a hobby to fully occupy her mind. She wove in auto-biographical stories that transformed the whole: Ms. Patty gave herself purpose, and found new friends and interests. This is a short, enjoyable book.

This would have been a better book had Ms. Patty's editor kept her from a horrible indulgence. Out of nowhere, suddenly on page 165, she says the modern day equivalent of the Abecedarians (who were truly odd and perhaps favored ignorance) are "...Fox News watchers, much of the Republican Party." Holy cow! I'd expect well mannered members of any political party would be annoyed at this sort of random nastiness. Shame on you, Ms. Patty. For me, it took a four star rating down to two stars.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Cargo: A Leine Basso Thriller, by DV Berkom

I found this on BookBub as a limited time free Kindle download not realizing that it is the fourth in a series by Ms. Berkom. Fortunately there were no gaps, it seems one can jump in without a problem.

The good news: I enjoyed this well enough. The less good: I'm not going to bother to find volumes one through three to catch up on what I missed.

Our hero is Leine, a former assassin who now works for an agency fighting human trafficking. She is distracted from her day job to do a favor for a friend whose daughter went missing in Thailand. In the course of finding this kidnapped girl, Leine is herself abducted and shipped to Africa. En route she meets a quasi-reformed poacher, Derek, and they team up to save the day.

I suppose if I were to write this sort of book I too would give my heroine a mysterious agency backstory so that she could rely on former contacts to resolve any plot problem that would otherwise be disasterous for the hero. There were several of these moments, where credibility was sacrificed to get past narrative problems.

Well, I'm going to spoil this for you: she makes it out at the end. Well, it is a series.

Wild-born: PSIONIC Book One, by Adrian Howell

This is the first volume of what turns out to be a young adult series that is absolutely appropriate for old adults. The writing is quite good. Our hero is Adrian, the narrator of the story. As we enter this book, Adrian is 12 years old. He discovers he has telekinetic abilities, his family is horribly disrupted, he is kidnapped, saved, kidnapped, saved... well you get the gist.  There's no major spoiler in pointing out that he survives these events, given that is is a series.

As is often the case, this first book was free on Amazon Kindle (perhaps for a limited time); as is seldom the case, it was actually quite good. I am definitely planning to read the next volume, once it arrives at a public library or is on sale.

Fool Me Once, by Harlan Coben

This novel kept me reading to see what was going on, but I didn't love it, and I really disliked the ending. The hero is Maya. She is a military veteran who was forced to end her career when a video leaked of her violating rules of engagement to rescue her colleagues. Now she's stateside, a flying instructor, a terrible mother to a  two year old, and married to a successful businessman.

Her sister had been murdered some time ago. And at the start of this novel, Maya's husband is murdered as well. She investigates both murders and things get complicated.

This is a spoiler-free safe space: the hero is not likable, doesn't make great decisions, and the ending makes her even less likable. In fact, no one was likable in this novel; tough to buy into a story when there's zero empathy for the characters. The plot was a bit convoluted, more so than necessary.

I do not recommend it.


Monday, June 6, 2016

The Temporary Agent, by Daniel Judson

Our hero is Tom, a former Navy Seabee who apparently has a special forces operator level of fighting skill. He was severely injured in Afghanistan and owes his life to a Marine, Cahill. Tom works at a job for which he's overqualified at a low wage, in some sort of fugue. He's dating a very smart capable lady who is also underemployed, a waitress at a diner.

Out of the blue, Tom is contacted by his former CO and asked to find Cahill.

All sorts of plot confusion and mayhem result.

The plot is very interesting. The writing is okay but sometimes awkward; since Mr. Judson is an award winning novelist and this isn't his first try, I assume it is a deliberate device.

I'd read another of Mr. Judson's books, but I'm not rushing to browse Amazon to find one.

Harmony Black, by Craig Schaefer

Our hero, Harmony, is an FBI agent who is also a witch. Consequently, she works for a secret sub-section of the government (Vigilant Lock) which addresses occult threats, eliminating the problem without the exposure a court of law would draw.

She has, of course, a troubled past: her sister was abducted by a bogeyman when Harmony was a child. So, of course, she faces this same villain now that she's in this FBI program.

This was surprisingly interesting: well written and enjoyable. While some of the plot was predictable, it was still a fun read.