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.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Living with a dead language, by Ann Patty

Ms. Patty's memoir is about her choice to learn language as an adult; she had retired from the book publishing business and was without a hobby to fully occupy her mind. She wove in auto-biographical stories that transformed the whole: Ms. Patty gave herself purpose, and found new friends and interests. This is a short, enjoyable book.

This would have been a better book had Ms. Patty's editor kept her from a horrible indulgence. Out of nowhere, suddenly on page 165, she says the modern day equivalent of the Abecedarians (who were truly odd and perhaps favored ignorance) are "...Fox News watchers, much of the Republican Party." Holy cow! I'd expect well mannered members of any political party would be annoyed at this sort of random nastiness. Shame on you, Ms. Patty. For me, it took a four star rating down to two stars.