Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Cabal, by David Hagberg

This was an interesting novel.  But it has two flaws.   For the first half of the book, the plot was too complex; had a tough time navigating it, and it felt as though there were references to a prior novel.   Only now do I see that it is the 14th in a series featuring the same main character.

The second flaw was that far too many innocent people were killed off.   Yes, it is fiction, but that doesn't mean it has to flow like a bad Hollywood shoot 'em up movie.   A reader relies on the author to not arbitrarily kill off near -key characters willy nilly, especially in the absence of meaningful plot advancement.   Mr Hagberg lacks art.

Betrayed, by Robert Tanenbaum

This was an adequate suspense novel.   The author, a trial lawyer, makes the courtroom scenes seem realistic.  Unlike the rest of the book.   What ever happened to suspense thrillers that reeked of realism?   And, while I'm at it, what ever happened to character development, plot advancement, and interesting dialog?   I fear Mr Tanenbaum just phoned this one in.

Five Lessons, by Ben Hogan

This brief text represents golf great Ben Hogan's simple and clear advice for good golfing.   It covers grip, stance, and the swing broken into two parts.   The problem, though, is that I need far more than a next generation Kindle to make good use of this book:  I need a device that feeds the lessons direction into my body and mind.   Because until then, successfully executing the excellent advice is not coming so easily.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

101 Things You Need to Know, by Tracey Turner & Richard Horne

This book, I didn't realize until I picked it up from the library and started reading it, is optimized for middle -schoolers.   With chapters like, "what makes farts so smelly."   That said, it was still fun for me to read; mostly science facts presented in a light hearted way.

Primeval, by David Golemon

The good news:  this novel was interesting enough that I read it to the end.   The bad news:  well, just don't bother with this book if reality is important to you.   Oh, I can live with the usual spy novel problem:  how is it the President seems to know every master spy by name and personally involve himself in their work?

Realistically, I just don't see President Obama worrying himself this way (unless he was outing the agent to the NY Times).    But what really has me cranked up is not this problem, nor the abundance of Yeti living in north west Canada, nor the secret life of Amelia Earhart - it is, rather, the factual errors.  

In particular, the narrative that has someone using the safety on a Glock pistol.   These are so easily avoided by a bit of research!   (Glock handguns have three safety mechanisms -- trigger safety, firing pin safety, and drop safety -- but no external safety latch.)  

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tao: the Pathless Path, by Osho

Let's get the author's bio out of the way first:  yes he was a nut, yes he was deported from the USA for trying to poison an entire city, yes he made a living as a controversial guru -- whose collection of Rolls Royce cars would hardly mark him as a Taoist.

But that shouldn't reflect on his writing.   And it doesn't -- you'd never know the author's capitalist preferences from this text.

But, you might conclude that the best route to success at Taoism is to be homeless.   I can't figure out if that's an accurate notion or a side-effect of the author's -- well, let's call it perspective.    The literary critique is straightforward:  it is a great idea to teach Taoism through parables, but Osho uses each parable as an argument against Confucianism.   So rather than building up Taoism, he exerts energy tearing down Confucius.   This is both exhausting and annoying.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Medium Raw, by Anthony Bourdain

This book is food porn.  And I'm really not in the target demographic:  I like to eat, sure, but I'm not into cooking in any meaningful way, and I don't care about chefs one way or the other.

Two fun little chapters, though, are worth mentioning.   It seems Mr Bourdain works hard to convince his young daughter that Ronald McDonald is a bad person who abducts children, to program her to avoid the fast food restaurant.  He even suggests wrapping horrible food in McDonalds' wrappers to get the message through.  Yikes, but funny.

In another chapter, he describes his frustration with factory provided meat, particularly hamburger, and bemoans the model that allows all sorts of horrible  e-coli -friendly junk to make it into the pre-made burger patties at the local grocery.

Is the book worth reading for these two amuse-bouches?  Nah.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Man From Beijing, by Henning Mankell

This was a long meandering confusion of a mystery / political novel. Much of it was well written, some of it was a confusing political statement. But what bugged me was the plot. Even at the end, I couldn't get it to tie together.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson

I wasn't a fan of the second book in the trilogy, but this final novel is simply excellent. It held my attention throughout. How unfortunate that we won't be able to read more of Mr Larsson's writing.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Prayers for the Assassin, by Robert Ferrigno

This novel has a really interesting plot line: after a series of nuclear explosions around the world, blamed on Israel, the USA has become a splintered nation. The bible belt (Texas through South Carolina) is a Christian stronghold, and most of the rest of the country is an Islamic republic.

The book's hero is a retired Fedayeen who helps his girl friend to tell the world the truth about the explosions and their real source. The book depicts the good parts -- and (to a free thinking -minded American) the very bad of this imagined future, but is not a position paper.

It turns out that there is a predecessor book to this one, and a follow-on, making this a trilogy. Credit to the author's writing skills that I didn't know there was a prior book until after completing this one and doing some research on Amazon.

The few love scenes were awkward, and the author would have been better off omitting them. But other than that this novel kept my attention throughout and I recommend it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Think of a Numb3r, by John Verdon

This is an unusual twist on a murder mystery: the hero is a retired police detective. That he's haunted by person demons isn't a new concept, but the book is far more melancholy than most. The book lingered in my thinking long after I put it down. I recommend it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Whiplash, by Catherine Coulter

For much of this book I was annoyed at the poor writing, particularly the dialog. Then I got a bit annoyed at the ridiculous plot stretches, but compared to some other books I've read recently, maybe I was overreacting. The plot, though, wasn't half bad, and it is what kept my interest to the end.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Prophecy, by Chris Kuzneski

The good news: things move along fast in this suspense novel. The less good news: the writing is a touch sophomoric, and I suppose it isn't even reasonable to have expected any credibility to the plot.

Absolutely an acceptable airplane book though.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Rules of Betrayal, by Chrisopher Reich

This is better written than its predecessor in the series, but shares the problem of stretching plausibility. Having said that, it too meet the criteria for a good airplane book: it kept me engaged throughout the flight.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Buddha or Bust, by Perry Garfinkel

Did it worry me that the blurbs on this book's dust jacket were polite but ambiguous, no one risking their personal credibility to suggest that is it worth reading? No, of course not! First off, it was borrowed from the library - no economic loyalty to the author. Secondly, it was vacation reading - if it was really bad, I'd just have another drink.

Now that you have an idea of my expectations: it was alright. But I wouldn't recommend it; nothing particularly insightful, entertaining or noteworthy here.

The Bradbury Report, by Steven Polansky

The concept is a future state in which clones exist to provide spare parts for their "originals." Although no one actually sees the clones, an underground protest group exists. A clone somehow makes it out of their compound and is united with its original.

You'd think perhaps that with this as a premise you could enjoy a really good novel. Think again: this book was about nothing.

Foreign Influence, by Brad Thor

This follows the "Navy SEAL turned spy tortured by relationship concerns" formula. If you're on a mini-holiday sitting at the water taking a break from fishing, it is just about perfect.