Monday, June 30, 2008

Blood Noir, by Laurell K. Hamilton

If you're thinking of reading this, let me help: just say no!

It is primarily a painfully long sequence of vampire porn. Now I'm not opposed to the occasional gratuitous sex scene within a well plotted novel. Ah, but that's the rub - a plot.

In its 352 pages, there might be as many as five pages that advance a plot line. Maybe.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Unlikely Heroes, by Ron Carter

Since I don't usually read history, I was surprised that I enjoyed this book. It is odd, in that it is a collection of essays about historical figures, but amplified by fictional detail and dialog, in the spirit of Schama, but on steroids. Kind of a Readers Digest vibe though.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Laws of Simplicity, by John Maeda

Maeda is a professor at MIT and associate director of the MIT Media Lab. This is a worthwhile little book whose target audience is probably folks who do product design (hardware or software). I particularly liked the first four of Maeda's 10 laws; you can read about them on his web site at

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Nothing to Lose, by Lee Child

I like the Reacher series, by Lee Child. This one wasn't his best work though.

Blue Smoke and Murder, by Elizabeth Lowell

This was an enjoyable suspense novel. The heroes are associated with a security firm which is, apparently, the subject of several other books by this author. I won't go out of my way to look for them, but this was a decent read.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

City of Thieves, by David Benioff

I keep reading - even though many, perhaps most of the novels I read aren't very good, or are good but not great, and almost never fantastic. I keep reading because I know that eventually I will happen upon another wonderful book, a novel so interesting, well written and effective that finding it will make slogging through the chaff worth while.

City of Thieves is one such novel.

Brilliant writing. Compelling characters. Terrific story line.

Clearly in my top ten for 2008.

Black Out, by Lisa Unger

This book was interesting, frustrating, then even more frustrating. The narrative style was to intersperse scenes from different times: future, present, past. The plot was - well, that's where the word frustrating comes in.

I didn't enjoy this book very much, but it was well written.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Quiver, by Peter Leonard

This is an excellent, suspenseful novel. I look forward to reading more of this author's work.

Sail, by James Patterson

I enjoyed this more than any other of James Patterson's books. Probably because it wasn't about the "women's murder club" and because while there were murders (well it is that sort of novel), they weren't of the annoying, "kill off the main characters' close friends and family" variety.

A good read.

Too Close to Home, by Maureen Tan

After my prior experience with Ms. Tan's "bombshell" press, I promised myself never again. But it turns out I'd already requested this book from the library. And when it arrived, well how could I not read a library book ordered just for me?

With a (thank heavens!) very low "romance" quotient and plenty of plot (albeit predictable), this was a fast and reasonably enjoyable read.

21: Every Day Was New Year's Eve, by Peter Kriendler

I participated in a business event last night at the famed 21 Club in New York City, dining in the wine cellar. Which piqued my interest to learn more about the history of the restaurant, hence this book.

It turns out that 21 started life as a speakeasy - that is, a bar during prohibition, the time between the 18th amendment which outlawed booze and the 21st which brought it back (well, legally that is) in 1933.

To protect against raids by federal agents, 21's founders built their wine cellar with a hidden door to withstand searches. There's quite a bit of history, amusing anecdote and plenty of namedropping in this book. If you're at all interested in NY City history, it is a fun read.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Whale Season, by N. M. Kelby

This book was a disappointment and it was painful to read too.

It was billed as being in the genre of Carl Hiaasen's fun and quirky south Florida novels.

Bah. Not even close.

Only my stubborn obsession to finish what I started kept me going past the 8th page.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Perfect Cover, by Maureen Tan

Because I enjoyed Ms. Tan's other novels, I decided to read everything she wrote. That was before I realized what the "Silhouette bombshell" series (of which this book is a member) is all about: "... stories with action, emotion and a touch of romance, featuring strong, sexy heroines who speak to the women of today." Yikes.

Still and all, not that much romance in this one, and a pretty good read. Hey, I'm allowed to like strong, sexy heroines, aren't I?

Okay, but no more of these bombshell books. It just isn't macho.

Phantom Prey, by John Sandford

This was an okay mystery novel. It featurs a recurring policeman as the hero, one who's been around quite a while in Mr. Sandford's books.

The thing is, after the last novel I read, the writing in this one seems just so pedestrian.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Art Thief, by Noah Charney

I really liked this book. I found the characters to be amusing caricatures, much of the dialog simply delightful, the details about art fascinating and the plot, although convoluted, tied up nicely at the end.

And then I read the reviews on Amazon. Oh my, what cruelty.

"With its flat characters, overly technical exposition and a plot implausible even in the wake of The Da Vinci Code, art historian Charney's debut disappoints." -- Publishers Weekly

Now wait just one minute! I liked the characters, the technical details and the complex plot!

My advice: ignore the nay sayers and their reviews. This book is excellent.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Host, by Stephanie Meyer

It really bugged me to read the author's biographical note on the inside back cover of this book and learn that it is "... her first novel for adults." Because I really liked her three other (kids?) books. A lot. In fact, more than I liked this one.

Why? Well, I like vampire novels far more than science fiction novels. That's what this is - although it isn't publicized in bold font on the book's cover.

Having said that, it wasn't bad. On the contrary, well written and interesting all the way through. Just not my favorite genre.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Spy, by Ted Bell

In spite of my disappointment with the last Ted Bell novel I read, I gave this one a shot. I'm glad I did.

Not to mislead: this book is far from great. Mostly, it is just far better than the last. That brings Mr. Bell's writing all the way up to below average.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Run Jane Run, by Maureen Tan

I really enjoyed Ms. Tan's prior book, and had high expectations for this one. Which were well met. A very enjoyable read, although not quite as good as the first.

Assassin, by Ted Bell

The author used up his full allotment of adjectives in this book. Here's the first paragraph:

"The late afternoon sun slanted through the tall windows opening onto the Grand Canal. There were silken peacocks in the velvet draperies and they stirred in the salty Adriatic breeze. These warm evening zephyrs sent sun struck motes of dust swirling indolently upward toward the valuted and gilded ceiling."

As the action picked up so did the writing. That takes us to the next problem with this story: the ridiculous credibility gaps. The hero is portrayed as a super man, knows all political leaders, has infinite money, can shoot through the eye of a needle at 1,000 yards, and best armed men twice his size with his bare hands. Sigh.

I like a spy / action novel. But it is best if it stays within the genre and doesn't slide into the fantasy realm. This book positively leaps out of credibility, and thus, out of my interest.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

L.A. Outlaws, by T. Jefferson Parker

A pleasure to read, a great action / suspense / mystery novel. Sort of. From a criminal's point of view. I didn't, however, enjoy the ending.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Volk's Game, by Brent Gehlfi

This novel, set in Russia, features a criminal who is the hero albeit not such a nice fellow. While I could do without the gore, it is a very good book with very strong writing.

The Whole Truth, by David Baldacci

This is not Mr. Baldacci's best work. In fact I was nervous about starting it after just the first page of prologue, which included this dialog:

"Dick, I need a war."
"Well, as always, you've come to the right place..."
"But you have to sell it. You have to make them believe, Dick."
"I can make them believe anything."

The problem, you see, is that this is the sort of opening I'd like to read in a Chris Buckley novel - where I can be certain the theme will be humorous. The problem is, this theme in a non-humorous setting, hits just too close to home with the events of the past several years, ala Frank Rich's book, "The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina."

But I went for it, based on liking Balducci's other books. In the end, this one was okay. But just only okay.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Quantico, by Greg Bear

It took me many pages to realize I'd read this book before. Since I was on a long flight, and had exhausted the other paperbacks I had with me (see prior four posts!), I kept reading.

It is an okay FBI story, mystery, with some action.

The Side Effect, by Bob Reiss

A very good, suspenseful mystery / action / suspense / intrigue novel.

AKA Jane, by Maureen Tan

Good fun with an interesting female spy as the hero. Definitely want to read the other books in Ms. Tan's series.

Nerve Damage, by Peter Abrahams

A convoluted attempt at suspense. Nothing but frustrating.

Killing Fear, by Allison Brennan

The writing was repetitive. Slow character development. I don't plan to bother to read the next volume in the series.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Judas Strain, by James Rollins

This is an action / adventure / geek book. Or at least is supposed to be: the hero works for an arm of DARPA, has a doctorate in something, and is supposed to be an intellectual James Bond. Well, not quite. But the action / adventure part is there. As is conspiracy theories ala Dan Brown, odd religious ties, and all that kind of stuff.

This is a continuing series featuring the same heroes and villains. And yes, I'll keep reading Rollins' books.