Monday, January 16, 2017

Ghosts of War, by Brad Taylor

Another in Mr. Taylor's series featuring his unsympathetic, unlikable, annoying hero, Pike. I keep reading these books in spite of how much this character irks me.  Because I like the action, I guess.

Well, surprisingly, he was a touch less despicable in this novel. Yay. Small joys. Let's face it: I read these for the action, they are cowboy stories plain and simple, not fine literature. This one is better than the other of Mr. Taylor's novels, so I'm pleased as punch.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Stiletto, by Daniel O'Malley

Only when I looked up the title to link to its Amazon page did I learn that this terrific novel is a sequel; it was perfectly fine as a stand alone read. It is also a weird take on things.

There are supernaturally powered people working for the British government in their defense. Our hero, Odette, however is a normal human. And a surgeon of sorts. Bas as to the normal part: she's a member of a group of scientists (Wetenschappelijk) founded in the late 15th century. These folks are really into seemingly unnatural human augmentation. Which they foolishly shared with their King's governor-general in 1677 leading to the command that they invade the British Isles. Where upon the augmented folks were completely routed by the supernatural defenders. And nearly wiped out.

Which brings us to modern times, in which the scientists decide to join forces with the supernaturals. Odette is a part of the diplomatic mission.  Oh, and another, splinter group, wants to kill them all.

This is just a terrific story.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Frost Line, by Linda Howard

This could have been a pretty good book. Sadly, note my use of the modal verb indicating possibility but not reality.

The concept is cool enough: the figures of Tarot cards inhabit some plane of existence, along with Hunters who freely traverse these planes. The card Strength is accidentally summoned by a child in need who has accidentally come across a special Tarot set. She shows up and seeks to help the child.

A Hunter, Caine, is sent to help Strength make her way back, and other Hunters are dispatched by a more troublesome figure to capture the deck and perhaps do away with Strength.

Okay, once we're past that setup, things get interesting. Strength and Caine team up to help the child and fight their enemies. This would have been an enjoyable story line.

But no. The authors at this point decided to minimize plot development in favor a placing their book in a romance genre as well. Yada yada yada.

Not worth reading, but it might be a good stepping off point for a talented suspense writer to take the possibilities further.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Living with a SEAL, by Jesse Itzler

This is a terrific, fast -reading book. The background is that Mr. Itzler (a successful, wealthy entrepreneur who is also a distance runner) entered a team race where runners take turns over a 24 hour period. He saw an individual running the race as a one-man team, doing over 100  miles, and was intrigued. (It turns out this person is a Navy Seal who doesn't want his name used, so Mr. Itzler refers to him only as SEAL throughout the book.) Net is, Mr. Itzler hired SEAL to train him for a month, living with Itzler and his family.

This book documents the training. Wait! Don't go -- this isn't a fitness training book! It is more of a journal, a peek into the life of a billionaire family through this experience. But it really isn't that either, it isn't really voyeuristic at all. I guess I don't know how to describe it except to say that I laughed out loud five times while reading. That's a lot for a 251 page book about doing pushups and running.

I recommend this for anyone, athlete or not, because it was just plain amusing. Oh, language warning: there is some foul language used, but no other concerns about reading it aloud to your toddler at bedtime.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Books

I read only 74 books in 2016, down year-to-year. Split 27% non-fiction, 73% fiction.  I either need to focus more on my reading or re-set my annual objectives as I'm clearly under the multi-year moving average.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

They Call Me Supermensch, by Shep Gordon

Mr. Gordon is an entertainment manager who got his start handling Alice Cooper, and is also known for representing famous chefs. In this auto-biography, he emphasizes his notion of treating people well, striving for win-win deals, and paying back kindness.

The book is very engaging and it was great fun to read. But I have one complaint, something that nagged at me about this book until I finally figured out exactly what it is.

Mr. Gordon, a lifelong cannabis user, talks quite nonchalantly about his pot (and other drug) use in his book. The thing is, in many parts of the US, including Hawaii where Mr. Gordon lives, its (non-medical) use is illegal.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not opposed to cannabis. I just find it very upsetting that wealthy or famous folks like Mr. Gordon can flaunt their use of cannabis when literally millions of Americans are arrested for the same thing. For example, according to the ACLU, "Despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana." []

It seems as though a privileged class of elites, like Mr. Gordon, Snoop Dogg, Willy Nelson, and the like, can be quite public about their use of cannabis and flat out ignore the laws, but millions of normal folks who use cannabis risk incarceration and even felony prosecution.

This imbalance seems unfair. Whichever way the public pushes on legislation, I'd just like to see fairness and equity in the enforcement of the law. So, if you're anti -cannabis, then insist on equal prosecution of Hollywood types. And if you're pro -cannabis, then fight against the current laws that lead to so many arrests: 8.2 million according to the ACLU, between 2000 and 2010, which were 52% of all drug arrests, and of which 88% were for simple possession. []

If Mr. Gordon wrote about all the sit ins or protests or lobbying efforts he'd organized to correct this imbalance, I'd feel a whole lot more impressed by him. Reading about him smoking a joint in his hot tub to help him come to inventive new ideas wasn't all that sympathetic.

Is this a big deal? According to 2013 FBI data; in Texas alone, 70,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession. As Texas State Representative Joe Moody says [], these arrests can destroy young people's' futures. "... if you had a financial aid grants those could be off the table for you, federal student aid is definitely off the table, getting a job is going to be extremely difficult because those criminal background checks are going to show up... Renting an apartment. Anything a young person is needing to be doing to kind of get on their feet to get their life going, all those things can be derailed by a minor conviction.”

My over-reaction to this political topic affected my view of what was otherwise a very good book, which I still recommend.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Beautiful Demons Box Set, by Sarra Cannon

Let's say you find a set of three books on Kindle on sale for -- free!  You have to go for it, right? Well, this deal just wasn't worth the price. My bigger mistake was to read through them all. Just don't do it.

If you must know, the hero is Harper, a high school girl with of course uncontrollable yet extraordinary powers. She ends up at a home for girls who keep getting kicked out of foster homes, and attends a new school. Where the team name is the Demons, and she joins the cheerleading squad which comprises a number of extraordinarily powered girls. Oy vey.

Gone Bad, by JB Turner

You'll love this novel if you prefer cardboard cutout characters in trite situations and both heroes and villains doing silly and/or improbable things.

The hero is Joe, a former special forces operator who is recruited to contract to the US government to capture bad guy Hunter who just escaped from Leavenworth.

If you find yourself with an injury and must rest on a sofa either medicated or drinking heavily or both, and you can find this book for free on Kindle, and you don't have the energy to find any other book to read, then it is okay.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Deceptive Cadence, by Kathryn Guare

Let's cut to the chase: I'm not recommending this novel.

Our hero Conor is a musician, recruited by MI6 to travel to India to find his brother and bring him back to London. Backstory: the brother destroyed Conor's career by letting him take the blame for criminal activities. The writing was not clear enough that I understood what was going on very well. Or perhaps it was just disbelief. And Conor is a bit of an oaf as spies go, but Ms. Guare didn't seem to intend that as an amusing touch to the story.

A Hidden Fire, by Elizabeth Hunter

You might think a novel that involves an old vampire and a young librarian would be hokey or overly romantic, or just plan horrible. But in this case you'd be quite wrong. A well written, interesting book that could cross genres out of the supernatural and be just as good.