Wednesday, May 20, 2015

No Fortunate Son, by Brad Taylor

Mr. Taylor works the genre of special operator / kill lots of people / work on the edge or flat outside of the law / good guys always win in the end novels.

In this one, heroes Pike and Jennifer save a diverse group of hostages from Irish terrorists masquerading as Arabs.

Entertaining fast read for a very rainy day.

No Fortunate Son: A Pike Logan Thriller

God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy, by Mike Huckabee

I didn't deliberately search the library's stacks for this book, and I didn't know much about Governor Huckabee when I picked it up. I vaguely recalled that he had a show on Fox News, which almost disqualified it (because I associate that network with a lot of shouting and anger and looseness with facts). But we're in our second continuous week of rain in Central Texas, and I decided to not be so picky.

Bottom line: I'm pleased that I read this book. I do not agree with all of the things that Huckabee does. But he is a good writer and the book was a fast and interesting read.

Huckabee divides the country into two camps.  He calls one bubble-ville, meaning the reality distortion field that surrounds the elite residents of Washington DC, New York, and Los Angeles. Huckabee views the wealthy and powerful liberal base of those cities as being out of touch not only with the rest of the nation but also with the average person in their own towns. The other is bubba-ville, meaning the rest of the county if that were defined by the Andy Griffith or Mayberry RFD television shows. In these places people are kind, friendly, religious, industrious, inventive. In Huckabee's view they seem (although he didn't explicitly say) white and Christian.

I'm not sure how realistic his view of the country is. Its pretty close to what I've seen in many parts of Texas, but there's also crime, poverty and despair in many parts of Texas as well. Things aren't black and white. But I don't believe reviewers should get bogged down in this: I suspect that Huckabee was primarily going for the contrast between the "big coastal city elitists" and "regular buys."

I certainly agree with every word he writes about politicians: he wants tight term limits on Congressmen and Senators and his contempt for our recent Congress matches that of most everyone I know. Similarly, I agree with most of what he writes about political correctness in speech, that more attention is paid to the meta-topic of the wording than is paid to the accuracy or efficacy of the message.  He does a great job articulating the silliness of the phrase "assault weapon" and pointing out that most folks who use the term disparagingly have no hunting experience.

It is weird to me that someone who is so eager to reduce the federal government's role in our daily lives, and so opposed to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is so eager to legislatively limit the rights of women to manage their own bodies and health. "I'll get the government out of your lives except into your most personal and difficult private health decisions."

On the other hand, he is opposed to sending the US military around the world to enforce our particular view of what is right -- a case where he's closer to President Obama's views than to say Senator McCain's.

So this book made a big impact on me. Huckabee doesn't seem likely to get the Republican nomination to run for the presidency. He's neither sufficiently radically right wing (think Paul Ryan), sufficiently willing to do whatever pollsters tell him to do (think Mitt Romney), sufficiently frighteningly insane enough (think Ted Cruz), or flat out wacky enough (think Sarah Palin) to excite the big money contributors. Pretty much the same reasons that John Huntsman failed -- he came across as sane, competent and willing to compromise with Democrats to do the right thing. But if Huckabee did get nominated, and he ended up as president, I'd be optimistic. And even though his political views are completely opposite to those of Secretary Clinton, he seems -- at least on paper -- far more honorable and trustworthy than she. And he sounds like he'd be a lot more fun to hang out with.

God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Retribution, by David Hagberg

I nearly put the book down after the first few pages; it seemed unlikely to be good. But I kept going. And I was surprised. No, it wasn't good, but it did get more readable. I was astounded to learn, after I finished reading, that this is the 18th in Mr. Hagberg's series featuring the same hero.

Here is the good news: the depictions of government bureaucrats and politicians in the US and elsewhere seem spot on. Now the bad news: zero credibility in the antics of our hero, a mid-50's former director of the CIA named McGarvey. McGarvey is a bit long in the tooth to be the action hero, and nothing about his actions feels believable.

Meh. But, with the right hero figure, it could have been not bad.

Retribution (McGarvey Book 18)

Priceless, by Shannon Mayer

The para-normal mystery with female hero genre seems to require the lead character be annoyingly anti-social and to be very smart but do very foolish things. Check, check, and check.

The hero here is Rylee. She can find lost children by reaching out to them psychically. But of course it isn't a simple and straightforward process. She's hassled by other para-normal types, and by a normal (i.e., human) FBI agent who suspects her of ... something.

My review in one word: meh.

Priceless (A Rylee Adamson Novel, Book 1)

White Jade, by Alex Lukeman

This is the first volume in Mr. Lukeman's "project" series. I read several of the books (starting in the middle) last year before I came across this one. Which is just as well, because I'm not sure I'd have kept going if I had started here.

This novel introduces here Nick Carter, a confused former special operator. He works for the Project, a counter terrorism unit reporting to the President. Another key character, Selena Connor, is also introduced; she conveniently is a polyglot, great shot, strong and of course, beautiful. Are things sounding predictable yet?

White Jade (The Project Book 1)

Pack of Strays, by Dana Cameron

This is the second in Ms. Cameron's "fangborn" series featuring Zoe Miller. Fangborn refers to a race of vampires, oracles and werewolves of whom Zoe just recently (in book one) learned she was a part.

There's quite a bit of para-normal going on here (well I mean even beyond what you might expect from a book about werewolves).

The novel was interesting enough, and well written; if this genre is your cup of tea I expect that you will enjoy this series.

Pack of Strays (The Fangborn Series Book 2)

Kage, by John Donohue

This is another mystery featuring Connor Burke. Burke is a professor whose real interest is his martial arts training under the mysterious Yamashita. The premise of Mr. Donohue's series is that Burke gets caught up solving mysteries that put him in peril which he survives using his martial arts training.

In this novel, Burke is hired to investigate the writings of a Tucson-based author who claims mystical sources with little in the way of citation. He blunders into a hornets' nest of gangs and police.

I liked the novel well enough but do not rank it as high as its predecessor, Sensei.

Kage: The Shadow A Connor Burke Martial Arts Thriller

Boundary Crossed, by Melissa Olson

In this first of a series novel, Ms. Olson introduces Lex: former Army sergeant, daughter of a successful business family with many close relations, currently underemployed. Lex discovers that there is a world of vampires, werewolves and witches, and that she is a particularly dangerous (as in the kind who gets murdered) witch herself.

Reading the next volume isn't high on my list, but if I came across it at the right price I'd get it because Ms. Olson is a fairly good writer and the plot line is interesting.

Boundary Crossed (Boundary Magic Book 1)

Cooch, by Robert Cook

In this first volume of a series of spy / military thrillers, Mr. Cook introduces his main character, Alejandro Mohammed Cuchulain.  It is typical for most books of this genre to portray their heroes as brilliant polyglots with extraordinary skills. With this introductory book Mr. Cook gives a credible back story to his stereotypically super-hero star.

Cooch (The Cooch series of national security thrillers Book 1)

Think Like a Freak, by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner

This is a shorter, faster to read and lighter version of the authors' wonderful Freakonomics text. Since everyone should read at least one of the authors' books and since this is so much lighter weight a read it might be the better suggestion for most folks. So read it!

Okay, you want to know why. Because it explains through clear writing and stories why one must test any important assumption - even when one believes the answer is well known. Which is, after all, the core of good science. And, as the authors demonstrate, good business as well.

Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain