Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Kraken Project, by Douglas Preston

This was a strange book.  The heroes don't get much development.  One is Shepherd, a genius programer who built an AI system for NASA; it went nuts and escaped.  Shepherd runs too.  Another is Ford, who is a former CIA agent, and works for the President who oddly enough bothers himself worrying about finding Shepherd.   There may be more character development of the software program, Dorothy, than of the human characters.   In spite of all this, I enjoyed the book.

The Kraken Project (Wyman Ford Series)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Gun Metal Heart, by Dana Haynes

I enjoyed Mr. Haynes' prior novel in this series so much that I was eager to read this, the next episode.  If anything, it was even more fun.   The series features the recurring main character Daria, the freelance spy, and John, the former CIA analyst.   It is not necessary to have read the earlier book to follow this one; there are references to Daria's recovery from injuries and to her relationship with John, but the novel is pretty much free standing.

Here, Daria continues to be chased by the CIA as she seeks to stop a Serbian mercenary group from doing violence and upsetting what little stability exists in the Balkans.

A very enjoyable novel.

Gun Metal Heart

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ice Cold Kill, by Dana Haynes

This fast paced suspense novel features hero Daria, a former Israeli agent who now lives in Colorado doing private security work.   She's an adrenalin junkie and likes action.  Asher is a brilliant bad guy, who Daria had imprisoned four years earlier.   John is an intelligence analyst for the CIA who becomes a hero.   Sure there are some plot holes, but that's the name of the game in this genre.  I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading Mr. Haynes' next one too.

Ice Cold Kill

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Skin Game, by James Butcher

This is the 15th of Mr. Butcher's planned 20 volume series, "The Dresden Files."   I've only read two of the novels, and so I predictably get a bit lost in some of the convolutions of plot.

Here's the deal, as best I can construct it:   Dresden is a wizard who lives in Chicago.  He's a good guy. He becomes the Winter Knight, which I guess was explained in volume 14 (which I read but which did not make much of an impression on me I guess, because I'm still unclear about it, other than it makes him the Warden of an island on which bad para-normal things are imprisoned).   He works for Mab who is a bad guy but seems to be better than alternatives for whatever it is that she keeps in balance.  His friends have a variety of talents (like wielding magical swords), and his collection of friends include spirits in balls and special dogs.    His enemies form a longer list and range from horrible to just yucky.

In spite of not following say 25% or more percent of what was going on, I enjoyed the book.   Dresden was a bit less annoying a character than he was in volume 14.  The plot kept moving forward well.   So I suppose I'll keep reading the series.

Skin Game: A Novel of the Dresden Files

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Red Room, by Ridley Pearson

This novel continues the story of John Knox and Grace Chu, private security operators.  It is notable that the main characters in this book have no idea of what is going on for much of the story -- neither does the reader.  This is not a positive attribute.   In fact, even on the last page I was struggling to figure out what had happened.

The plot advances, however slowly, and it is complex -- to the extent that I understand it.

So do I recommend this book?  Not really, although it was impressive to have kept my attention to the end in spite of my confusion.

The Red Room (A Risk Agent Novel)

Friday, August 22, 2014

On Scope, by Jack Coughlin

This novel starts off rough: the author tries to use as many adjectives as he can fit into a sentence in some parody of descriptive writing.  Fortunately that awkwardness abated after a few pages, except for some instances of repetitiveness.  Overall, Mr. Coughlin would benefit from a better editor.

The genre is "extreme jingoism, forget about civil liberties or even the Constitution, special forces operators are going to kill bad guys as they see fit."   The good news is that Mr. Coughlin included key female operators as characters and gave them every bit the capabilities as the men.  The plot was a bit cookie cutter, but interesting enough to read to the end.  This isn't a champagne read, but it is like cold light beer on a hot day.

On Scope: A Sniper Novel (Kyle Swanson Sniper Novels)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Abomination, by Jonathan Holt

Mr. Holt refers to this novel as the first in a trilogy and I look forward to reading the next installment. The setting is Venice, and from the detailed descriptions of the city I can't decide if I'm eager to go there or happy to avoid it at all cost.   Three heroes are introduced:  Carabiniere Captain Kat Tapo, US Army 2nd Lieutenant Holly Boland, and strange mathematician and computer programmer extraordinaire Daniele Barbo.   All three end up in Venice and come together in a beautifully orchestrated intertwined plot.

The story is credible; this is dramatic fiction not a shoot-em-up mass market suspense novel (and I enjoy those too).  The writing is great, the plot, the character development - simply outstanding.  Highly recommended.

Boland gets involved due to a Freedom of Information Act request by a woman who is later found murdered, hence Tapo's participation.  Barbo plays a role for two reasons: he built the massive multi-player environment in which several informants communication for anonymity, and because his long term mentor, Gilroy is a former CIA agent in Italy who is also involved in the situation.  That situation being a conspiracy including the Catholic Church taking offense to women who claim to be priests, private military contractors, and NATO.   But really, it does all come together.

The Abomination: A Novel (Carnivia Trilogy, The)

Buddha's Brain, by Rick Hanson

Imagine you're curious about "new age" concepts of meditation or positive imaging, but you're an analytical empiricist for whom touchy feely books about Buddhism or meditation feel too far out.  Then this book is for you.   Dr. Hanson is a (PhD) neuropsychologist, and his co-author Dr. Mendius (MD) is a neurologist.  Their book takes an approach of mapping a physiological and neurological view of the brain to behavioral changes that can benefit the reader.

The introduction of concepts like breath awareness and meditation are so subtle that I can't imagine anyone would be put off by them.

My only objection is the authors' promotion of supplements (vitamins) at the end of the book; recent reputable studies[1] imply that there is no value to using any of these.

[1] Guallar E, Stranges S, Mulrow C, Appel LJ, Miller ER 3rd. Enough is enough: Stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements. Ann Intern Med. 2013 Dec 17;159(12):850-1. Erratum in: Ann Intern Med. 2014 Jan 21;160(2):143. PubMed  PMID: 24490268. Retrieved from

Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Plague, by Victor Methos

With the right editing, this might be a good novel.   As is, the plot jumps around quite a bit.  The book did keep my interest though I was not pleased with the ending.   Plot spoiler follows, if you plan to read the novel, stop here. I doubt many discerning readers will be encouraged to stop.

The hero is Dr. Samantha Bower, who works for the CDC and makes irrational and poor decisions.   Some of the other supporting characters are interesting, but - did I mention that everyone dies at the end?

Plague - A Medical Thriller (The Plague Trilogy Book 1)

Primal Origin, by Jack Silkstone

In this first volume of Mr. Silkstone's series, a wealthy young businessman in the Emirates decides to fund a group of former military special forces ops to build his own vigilante organization.  Presumably targeting terrorists that otherwise are off the table for government intervention due to political reasons. The group's name is the acronym PRIMAL, hence the title.

Given that description, this book is everything you would expect.  Sketchy plots, impossible saves, and a general disregard for the law.

PRIMAL Origin: A Novella (The PRIMAL Series Book 1)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Nostradamus File, by Alex Lukeman

I'm on a roll, going through all the books in Mr. Lukeman's "Project" series.   See my prior posts for context.

The Nostradamus File (The Project Book 6)

The Tesla Secret, by Alex Lukeman

I'm on a roll, going through all the books in Mr. Lukeman's "Project" series.   See my prior posts for context.

The Tesla Secret (The Project Book 5)

The Seventh Pillar, by Alex Lukeman

I'm on a roll, going through all the books in Mr. Lukeman's "Project" series.   See my prior posts for context.

The Seventh Pillar (The Project Book 3)

The Lance, by Alex Lukeman

After reading volume seven of Mr. Lukeman's series about a small US spy organization called the Project, I decided to read more of his books.   I'm not sure why I started with number two, this one, but I'll get to the first volume eventually.

This isn't literature; it is fast moving adventure / spy writing.  Forget credibility and artistic turns of phrase.  But you do get a well paced plot and just enough character development to keep it interesting.

The main character is super spy Nick Carter.  His boss is Elizabeth Harker who is portrayed as sane and competent.  Carter inevitably has a girl friend as a team member, Selena Connor.  Stephanie is the mandatory computer genius / hacker.  Ronnie is the mysterious American Indian and Lamont the obligatory black man.

Sounds trite, yes?   Perhaps, but I'm going to keep reading this series.

The Lance (The Project Book 2)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Kinder Than Solitude, by Yiyun Li

The writing is good but this novel just isn't my cup of tea.   Ms. Li represents real literature (as opposed to the usual rot that I read), so I'm a bit distressed that I didn't like it.  But that's the way it goes.

Part of the problem for me is that I dislike books that shift back and forth in time, as this one does.   I also found myself ambivalent about learning who among three one-time friends poisoned Shaoai long ago, leading to her death many years later.   But there's much more to the story than this mystery; it is about the feelings of two Chinese emigres to the USA.

Kinder Than Solitude: A Novel

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Catch, by Taylor Stephens

I enjoyed the last book of Ms. Stephens, and expected this one to be good too.  It exceeded my expectations.

The hero is Vanessa Michael Munroe, a professional fixer, sometimes assassin, and all around tough lady.  She's working in Africa and finds it easier to pass as a man than deal with the misogyny.

In addition to being exceptional with a knife, Munroe has a savant's ability to pick up new languages very quickly.   Well, most novels in this genre invent special capabilities for their heroes, and these are more believable than many others I've read.

It is pretty clear that this is a volume in a series about Munroe, and because it was a while since I read Ms. Stephens' prior novel, I felt a bit disconnected.  But this was a fleeting problem.   The big attraction of this book is the quick moving plot and the interesting writing.   This is not a novel to start late in the evening because you might not get to sleep on time.

The Catch: A Novel

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Damage Control, by John Gilstrap

I've really taken to Mr. Gilstrap's novels.  This is another in his series featuring hero Jonathan Grave, a former special forces operator who now runs a private security company.   His specialty (when not saving the USA from forces of evil) is recovering kidnap victims.

In this story, Grave finds himself in a hostage rescue gone wrong in Mexico, with Cartel bad guys doing their thing, and our hero doing the usual.

Quite fun.

Damage Control (A Jonathan Grave Thriller)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Ajax Protocol, by Alex Lukeman

I've jumped into Mr. Lukeman's series with book seven, but haven't felt any ill effects.   The hero  is Nick Carter; he and his team of operators are part of the "Project," an uber-secret spy force that reports directly to the President.

This is pretty good for what it is.   In this genre, the nature of things is that whatever you need is conveniently supplied by the author.   Need an island?  One of the operators owns one.  Need a flight to a restricted military location?  Someone has a buddy willing to break the law.    Personally, I find it grating, but as mentioned, it is the norm.

Anyway, in this volume, a group of fascists within the US government seek to kill the sitting president and take over the country along with committing a range of violent domestic and international terrorist acts.   Carter, his girl friend Selena (also on the team), and his boss Harker, all try to save the day.

Bet you can guess the outcome.

The Ajax Protocol (The Project Book 7)

Out of the Black, by Evan Currie

I'm just going to repeat myself.  There's not much to say, and I've been staying up way to late at night to finish the books in this series, of which this is number four.

I've been reading Mr. Currie's novels in rapid succession because as soon as I complete a volume I'm eager to keep going to learn what happens next!  As of this writing, this is the last volume in the series; when there are more, I'll read them.

As I've said before, the net of the story line is that the hero, Weston, continues to defend the Earth and its allies from an evil alien race focused on destroying them all.

Out of the Black (Odyssey One Book 4)

Homeworld, by Evan Currie

I've been reading Mr. Currie's novels in rapid succession because as soon as I complete a volume I'm eager to keep going to learn what happens next!  This is volume three.

As I've said before, the net of the story line is that the hero, Weston, continues to defend the Earth and its allies from an evil alien race focused on destroying them all.

Homeworld (Odyssey One Book 3)

The Heart of the Matter, by Evan Currie

This is the second book in Mr. Currie's Odyssey series; I quite enjoyed the first one and this was just as good.

There's really no point saying much about the books in this series except that the hero, Weston, continues to defend the Earth and its allies from an evil alien race focused on destroying them all.

Tough to put down.

The Heart of Matter (Odyssey One Book 2)

Friday, August 1, 2014

In Cold Blood, by Mark Dawson

This book is spin off from a series about a character named John Milton; in this volume, the main character is Beatrix Rose and we don't hear from Milton at all.

Let me cut to the chase: I'm not running to get the other books in the series.   If one of them shows up for free on Kindle, I will get it to read on an airplane.

Okay, if you're still interested:  Rose is an assassin.  She's angry with a bunch of former colleagues who betrayed her, killed her husband, and kidnapped her daughter.  Now, reunited with the child, she's out for revenge.

In Cold Blood (Beatrix Rose Book 1)

A Better World, by Marcus Sakey

I enjoyed the prior book in Mr. Sakey's "Brilliance" series; this was even better.

The concept is that brilliants, about 1% of the world, have come into the public eye.  Think X-men, or the movie Lucy.   The government doesn't want to treat them well.  The hero is Nick Cooper, a brilliant who worked for the government to shut down (or kill) brilliants, but who now is somewhat more sympathetic.

Bad actors in the White House are pushing the President towards a civil war.  The suspense line is, can Nick save the country?   I'm ready for book three.

A Better World (The Brilliance Saga Book 2)

Threat Warning, by John Gilstrap

Having enjoyed Mr. Gilstrap's prior book, I decided to try this one out.  It is one of a series that features hero Jonathan Grave, a former special forces operator who now runs a private security company when he's not saving the USA from evil, directly for the President, gratis.   You get the picture: it has all the trite supporting characters, from the extraordinary hacker assistant to the tacit support of the Director of the FBI.

Yet, this was surprisingly not bad.  The concept is that a group of religious fanatics in the US deliver a wide ranging set of terror attacks on Americans and set up Islamic groups to take the fall.   Graves of course saves the day.

Threat Warning (A Jonathan Grave Thriller)

Mythical, by CE Martin

In this first of a series of retro pulp action thrillers, Colonel Kenslir is a super-soldier imbued with special powers.

He's hunting a shapeshifter when things go badly enough to sort of kill him, and give him amnesia.  Two helpful teenagers become tag alongs in what may be the worst case of endangering innocent civilians imaginable.  Then end up important to the plot advancement by the end of the novel -- the "#1" in the subtitle implies that they'll have a continued role.  Sadly I'm probably going to miss finding out what happens as this just so slightly misses my interest cutoff.

Mythical (Stone Soldiers #1)

Dancing Bear, by Oren Sanderson

This novel was surprisingly good; the cover image doesn't do it justice at all.  The story is told from the point of view of David, a security guard at the Israeli Consulate in Boston.   David's an odd duck to begin with: he has a law degree and works in a position that doesn't take advantage of his education.  He seems misplaced in the world.

One day a woman comes in asking to see the consul.   She claims knowledge of a spy ring.  The consul refuses to see her, is eager to be rid of her.   David is smitten with her, and gets involved with her as they leave the office together.

At this point, things get complicated.  No spoilers here, but the ending is super.

The writing is a hair close to awkward; difficult to tell if it is author insuring David's voice is clear or too strict guidance from a writing class.  But it doesn't get in the way of character development and a complex, interesting plot.

Worth reading for sure; seems to be available only on Kindle.

Dancing Bear: Espionage & Conspiracy Thriller (Political Suspense and Mystery Book 1)

Into the Black, by Evan Currie

This is the "remastered" version of Mr. Currie's first novel in his Odyssey series; that means, apparently, that it's been edited.   From comments I've read, don't bother with the prior version.   Both are Kindle -only.

Having said this, this was a terrific novel:  interesting, exciting, and a plot line that looks capable of holding up a series.  The hero is Weston, the captain of the Odyssey, Earth's first big time spaceship. He runs into a friendly alien race, and an unfriendly one.

This could make for a fun film.   Highly recommended, if space travel's your thing.

Into the Black (Odyssey One, Book 1) [Remastered Edition]