Saturday, August 27, 2016

Skinner, by Charlie Huston

This novel was difficult to read as Mr. Huston's writing style was just unpleasant. Seemingly endless amount of deliberate absence of clarity. The plot was interesting though. Not a great book.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Foreign Agent, by Brad Thor

This is the best of Mr. Thor's books that I've read in a long while. It features recurring hero Scot Harvath, as the ex Seal special operative who is encouraged to disregard the law in pursuit of the nation's enemies.

In this novel, Harvath is uncharacteristically nuanced in his thinking about what to do about his girl friend who is relocating to Boston. Should they break up? What is the future of his career as an operative?

Less nuanced is Harvath's activities in his day job of creating mayhem. The plot mapped well to current events. ISIS does much harm, although the twist here is that they are being manipulated by the Russian Federation as a means to encourage the US to get more serious about fighting ISIS.

Overall this book has the right mix of believability, action, character development, and plot. Sure, there are lots of magical moments that allow the good guys to prevail, but that's normative in the genre.

This is a current best seller, for good reason.

Hostage Taker, by Stefanie Pintoff

Ms. Pintoff's writing style randomly intersperses different characters perspectives and experiences in alternating chapters. I found that a bit off-putting, but got used to it quickly enough. More importantly, I frequently felt as though this was a sequel to a prior book and it would have made so many things clear if only I'd read it.

Okay, to the story. Our hero is FBI agent and hostage negotiator Eve Rossi. We find her on an extended personal leave where she's been traveling to places frequented by her deceased step-father and former CIA agent. A hostage situation at New York City's Saint Patrick's Cathedral brings her back to work.

It turns out that Rossi's gig is a secret unit wherein she uses a team of ex-cons and other non- law enforcement personnel to do background work and such. So she brings her old team back together to help her solve the current problem.

There was a nice twist at the end, although it could have used a few more pages of exposition.

Overall not unpleasant although often confusing. Would make for a fun television series.

His Father's Eyes, by David Coe

This book started off so slowly that it was only my lazy reluctance to pick another choice off my shelf that kept me going. Fortunately, the story got a bit better. It is a para-normal kind of book, which is to say, the hero, Justis, is a weremyste. What's that? It is quite unclear to me. I can't help but think that had the author written this as a suspense story feature real (i.e., not weremyste) characters, it would have been just as good. Perhaps better.

It seems there was a prior book featuring our hero, but I didn't feel as though that was the cause of my occasional confusion. Justis is a private detective, former police officer, in Phoenix. He comes from a family of weremystes, and the key information to impart about this characteristic is that it inevitably leads to early onset dementia. Justis' dad, who plays a role in the story, suffers from this.

So there are bad guys who are good, bad guys who are bad, helpful cops, and confused cops. I can't really explain the plot line.

If you're into this genre you might enjoy Mr. Coe's book.

Money: Master the Game, by Tony Robbins

Having just watched "I am not your guru" on Netflix (a documentary about a Tony Robbins seminar), when I saw this book at my local public library I thought I'd give it a go. Is Robbins the financial advisor as much the salesman / rah rah / personal consultant type as Robbins the life coach appears to be?

The answer is yes, and more importantly, don't read this book.

It is painfully long, filled with lots of fluff and excitement, little useful information, and too much bad information. You can do so much better than this.

Read this instead: "The 5 mistakes every investor makes and how to avoid them," by Peter Mallouk. This is much more useful, accurate, and credible.

If you are or want to be a "serious" investor, then read "DIY financial advisor," by Wes Gray, Jack Vogel, and David Foulke.  This book is simply outstanding.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Survivor, by Vince Flynn

It seems that Mr. Flynn is deceased, and Kyle Mills has taken over the late Mr. Flynn's "Mitch Rapp, superhero spy" franchise.  In this episode, the 12th in the series, our hero is arrogant, behaves quite unlawfully, and is of course effective at saving the world from evil. No need to describe the plot, one either likes this kind of stuff or doesn't. I'm not enamored of it.

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.