Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Feed, by Mira Grant

There are a lot of novels about a post apocalyptic world filled with zombies.  This is the best one I've read.

The concept is this:  many years after the appearance of zombies, the world has adapted to the dangers they present, and folks just deal with it; life goes on.   Meanwhile, mainstream journalism is recognized for being slanted and tainted by propaganda (which, by the way, it already is in our non-fiction real world, thanks to folks like Rupert Murdoch and probably his equivalents on the other side of the aisle). So bloggers have become mainstream reporters.

The novel follows the siblings Georgina and Shaun as they join a presidential campaign as fully accredited press, and the things they learn.  It isn't even really a "zombie book" so much as a great novel that happens to take place in a world with zombies.

Highly recommended, and I'm eager to read the sequel .

Feed (The Newsflesh Trilogy)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Girl Jacked, by Christopher Greyson

I made it all the way to 37% of this mystery novel before giving up.   It wasn't that it was horrible so much as it was uninteresting; both the story line and the character development.  This novel is tedious.

The concept is sound:  Jack, our hero and a policeman, looks for a missing girl - the sister of his best friend from high school.   Jack is completely unlikeable: his is borderline incompetent and drinks to excess.

Girl Jacked (A Jack Stratton Mystery)

Wolfkind, by Stephen Melling

This should have been a good novel:  an assassin is at large, and our hero will infiltrate a crime syndicate to find and eliminate the bad guy.   I made it 10% of the way through before stopping; this book is unreadable.

Why is that?  The writing is just too difficult to get through.   Here are some samples:
"Familiar resentment of her father seeped into her thinking and reawakened feelings she had tried so hard to repress."
"Sinking into his seat, Joshua gazed into the depths of his beer glass.  Tiny bubbles floated through the golden liquid to the surface, bobbed there a few seconds, then popped.  Many of his inhibitions seemed to pop along with them, become gas and air.  Tormented by the desire to tell his secret, Joshua gazed fixedly at the old man."
"He tossed the scrapbook aside and lay back on the bed, staring at the ceiling. A spider's web of cracks radiated from the light fitting. For the first time in his life the ceiling above him was not his own. This unsettled him in a way he found hard to define. Intensified his feeling of alienation. He rolled onto his side and stared at the wall, thinking about the handgun and poisoned load at the bottom of his bag. Before long, his eyelids grew heavy and he fell asleep."
And so did I.


The Storm Protocol, by Iain Cosgrove

This is a poorly written novel.   My chief complaint is that the book is set primarily in the USA.   But the author is clearly, obviously not American.   As a result, it is full of dialogue, spelling and jargon that one would never see in the USA.  Which, when put in the mouths of American characters, simply doesn't work.

I made it 37% of the way through this book (according to my Kindle ) before declaring it to be unreadable.

The Storm Protocol

Slow Burn Infected, by Bobby Adair

After finishing the first of Mr. Adair's series, I decided to go for more.  I was on vacation, and it could have been the margaritas making the decision for me.  But here I am.

This novel continues the story of Zed, the "slow burn" zombie who hasn't (yet) lost his human behavior.   Zed and his associates continue to stumble around the Austin, Texas area, dealing with a variety of unpleasant problems.

At the end of this volume I was fatigued with the whole thing.   Zed isn't a particularly likable hero, and it started getting boring.  So I'm not going to bother with volume three ; dedicated zombie genre fans may have more energy than me.

Slow Burn: Infected, Book 2

Slow Burn Zero Day, by Bobby Adair

Yet another zombie book.   Our hero is Zed who learns about the zombie outbreak when he catches his step-father killing his mother.   Zed dispatches the step-father, but is himself infected.  Yet Zed is one of a small number of "slow burn" zombies, who retain human characteristics in spite of the infection.

The writing isn't great: Zed is a weirdly developed character and none of the character development is particularly well done.  And yet, I found myself caught up in this enough to download the second volume.  Go figure.

Slow Burn: Zero Day, Book 1

Seal Team 13, by Evan Currie

The concept here is that mysterious supernatural forces exist, and over time have increased their malevolent presence.   A small set of US military special forces types have survived encounters and are pulled together to deal with X-Files -like events.

Many action novels make the same mistake as Mr. Currie did in this book:  they feel compelled to make their main character, the action hero superstar, behave like an arrogant jerk.   That is quite off-putting to me.

SEAL Team 13 (SEAL Team 13 series)

The Grendel Affair, by Lisa Shearin

What an amusing, weird novel.  Reminds me of Ghost Busters, but with more attitude.   Our hero is Mac, a former tabloid journalist who now works for SPI: Supernatural Protection & Investigations. This is because Mac is a seer; she can see monsters that others can't.  SPI exists to keep the monsters under control so that normal folks aren't affected by them, and most of their staff (unlike Mac) are themselves some sort of para-normal type.

This is light hearted fun, big on action and somewhat silly.  Well, maybe quite silly.  But fun.

The Grendel Affair: A SPI Files Novel

Vatican Waltz, by Roland Merullo

This is a strange book, awkward to read.  The entire novel is written in the first person, as a narrative by the hero, Cynthia Piantedosi.   Cynthia is a first generation American of Italian descent, with an extreme devotion to the Catholic Church.

Cynthia perceives a spiritual calling, perhaps a message from her God, and she pursues this by traveling to Rome to chat with a couple of Cardinals of the Church.   Unknown elements seek to harm her.

At the end, there is an unexpected (and completely unsatisfying) twist.   It feels as thought there's a sequel coming; I won't read it.

Vatican Waltz

Barkeep, by William Lashner

The hero of this novel is Justin Chase, a law school graduate who tends bar because the horror of finding his mother murdered took him over an edge from which he never returned.   Unable to engage with others, Justin pretends that his Zen practice is stabilizing (oddly, it is built around his reading of the Book of the Dead).   Justin's father was convicted of the murder.   Now, someone brings information to Justin which implies that his father was not the murderer, and Justin follows a trail of interaction that leads to the unfulfilling denouement.   Characters are poorly developed and shallow in description.

The Barkeep

Reviver, by Seth Patrick

The concept of this novel is that "revivers" can re-animate a recently dead corpse just long enough to let loved ones say goodbye, or in the case of a violent death, to learn the identity of one's murderer.   The hero, Jonah Miller, is a troubled, naive, somewhat damaged young man.

This isn't a great book, and I'm not going to strongly recommend it, but if the notion sounds appealing, I'd say it is worth a look.

The Reviver

The Housewife Assassin's Handbook, by Josie Brown

I got sucked into this odd series because it was free on Kindle.  Much to my surprise, it was really fun to read!   This is the first volume of a series, and my overall view is that if I can buy another episode for 99 cents or so, I'll do so.  Right now it is $3.99, which is just outside my value assessment.   Pretty fun read though, and for light reading, worth recommending.  But emphasis on the word "light!"

The Housewife Assassin's Handbook (A Funny Romantic Mystery) (Book #1: Housewife Assassin Series)

The Mindbender, by Keith Lawson

This was not an enjoyable book, nor was it particularly well written.

The concept:  a person who can control others through their thoughts.

Potentially interesting, but not well executed.

The Mindbender

Girl Fights Back, by Jacques Antoine

This might be a young adult genre; it doesn't matter because it was fairly interesting.  The hero is Emily, a 17 year old high school student who is also a martial arts prodigy.  Sometimes it seemed as though the author was trying to make Emily into a super hero rather than a talented human.

And, at the Kindle price of -- free! -- I have only good things to say about this novel.   Plus, I really like a book with a strong female lead character.

Girl Fights Back (Emily Kane Adventures)

Noble Intentions, by LT Ryan

This novel was interesting enough, but not really well written.  I come across this fairly often, which prompted me to use a new tag:  airplane-reading.   As in, just good enough to keep me amused during a trip and likely to leave the paperback on the plane for the next bored traveler, but not good enough to give the book to someone I know.

Noble Intentions: Season One (Episodes 1-5)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Transcendental, by James Gunn

This novel was mildly entertaining, but the good parts were separated by far too much boring and colorless writing.   The hero is Riley, who shares a space trip with a variety of alien species all headed toward some mysterious place at the edge of the galaxy to achieve transcendence.   Some of the folks on the ship want to subvert the mission and kill some or all of the passengers.   A few of the aliens share their background stories. The ending was abrupt.  I really can't recommend the book.


Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 Best of Lists

In 2013, seven books made it on to my best of the year list.   Surprisingly, only two were fiction and even more surprisingly, five were non-fiction (out of just 18 - what a batting average!).

Best fiction of the year:
Best non-fiction of the year:
As usual, I like to keep track of the numbers -- just because.    In 2013, of the 111 books I read, fiction significantly outweighed non-fiction at 93 to 18.   And, as usual, I'm ending the year with a huge stack of books on my desk and on my Kindle, looking forward to lots more reading in 2014.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion

This is a terrific novel.   I laughed out loud a few times (in a coffee shop over a pot of tea, hid my laughter as a cough but still got odd looks from those of the other clientele who weren't wearing ear buds).   An absolute delight to read, and I'm not even going to summarize it here.  Just take it from those who've read it (all those positive Amazon reviews are accurate this time).

(And, as of this writing, it is only $1.99 in the Kindle edition, which you can read on any tablet or computer with a free Kindle app; this makes it really a no brainer.)

The Rosie Project: A Novel