Mark Terry

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What I've Been Reading

November 14, 2012
Here are the last 10 books I've read.

The Secret Soldier by Alex Berenson
Espionage. This one deals rather strongly with the House of Saud, which was an education, for sure. Berenson's pretty damned good and this is no exception.

The Butcher of Anderson Station by James S.A. Corey
This is actually a short story. James SA Corey is a pseudonym for two writers and so far they've had two novels out together, LEVIATHAN WAKES and CALIBAN'S WAR. This short story provides some background on one of the recurring characters and backstory on one of the events that introduces him. If you're into Science Fiction, I recommend all three.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
I'm slowing re-reading the series. This is actually my least favorite of the books, but it has its moments, certainly.

War Lord by David Rollins
A Vin Cooper thriller. This one goes all over the place, but the setup is fairly interesting. Vin, who is an Air Force special investigator, is on leave when he's "hired" to look into a possible kidnapping. Well, sort of. His now-dead partner's sister's friend, who is a showgirl in Vegas (got all that?), has a boyfriend who is former Air Force, but now works for a company that ferries jets around the world. I.e., people buy a private jet and it needs to be flown to wherever they are. Except he's apparently disappeared. And the girlfriend gets a FedEx box with a severed hand in it with the boyfriend's AF ring on the finger and a note indicating there's a ransom ... except the ring is his, but the hand isn't ... Anyway, this gets Vin all tangled up in an international case that involves a possible missing nuke, a psychopathic arms dealer and a bunch of other stuff, all told with a great deal of humor. Loved it.

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
This MG series involving Greek and Roman demigods continues. I didn't think it was quite as good as the previous book in the series, THE SON OF NEPTUNE, but I still think it's one of Riordan's best books in his 3 or 4 series for kids. In this one, seven of the demigods, some Roman, some Greek, must team up on a quest to get to Rome to prevent Gaia from returning and, um, destroying everything. No pressure. Has a fantastic cliffhanger ending and Riordan does a terrific job of really letting us get to know the kids with all their various strengths, weaknesses, and concerns. Excellent.

Mad River by John Sandford
Reliable as always, this is a Virgil Flowers novel. This one is essentially about a trio of spree killers running around Minnesota killing people, seemingly just because they can. Virgil is heading up the investigation and hoping they can track them down before they murder more people. Very, very good.

Dick Francis' Bloodline by Felix Francis
Hmmm. Felix is taking over for his late-father, Dick Francis. All the elements are there - horse racing, first-person narrative, the feel, for the most part, is the same. In this case, the main character is a racecourse announcer and TV personality whose twin sister is a jockey. After an argument she seems to commit suicide. Felix handles the post-death grief and guilt thing quite well, which  doesn't exactly make for an enjoyable read. Then the plotting starts getting out of control, and there is at least one murder too many, and the whole thing wraps up in a way that I sort of threw my hands up with a, "Thank God this is over," sort of feeling. I've been reasonably pleased with the books Felix wrote with his father, and thought the one prior to this was fairly good, but I really didn't care for this book overall. It definitely had a less-than-the-sum-of-its-parts feel to it.

Extraction by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston
A short story, and a fairly creepy one at that. A different spin on the tooth fairy, that's for sure. Enjoyed it.

Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva
Good, as usual. Another novel featuring Israeli spy/assassin/art restorer Gabriel Allon. In this one he ends up working to track down a jihadi mastermind by using a billionaire heiress from Saudi Arabia, with things going pretty much to hell and staying there. I didn't think it was Silva's best work, but it's good, and, like Alex Berenson's THE SECRET SOLDIER, delves into Saudi Arabia's problems with jihadists. If you're into espionage, recommended.

Robert B. Parker's Fool Me Twice by Michael Brandman
Okay. Parker had essentially 3 series going on. Spenser, which was a classic. Sunny Randall, which has disappeared, and Jesse Stone. Since Parker's death the Spenser novels have been picked up by Ace Atkins. The last one, LULLABY, was pretty damned good and I'll stay open-minded about Atkins. It's not quite Parker, but it's close. Now, honestly, I had gotten pretty tired of Jesse Stone before Parker died and had skipped the last couple, but this sounded interesting. Unfortunately, Brandman, who is better known as a TV writer for the Jesse Stone TV movies, is not Parker. Or Ace Atkins. And frankly, I thought this book sucked. The basic plot was okay. Three plots going on, two of which are fairly inconsequential - a 17-year-old girl who is troubled and spends a lot of time texting and driving - a water commissioner who is faking higher water meter readings and sending the extra money to international water charities - and the primary plot, a movie is being shot in Paradise and the star's methhead husband is on the way to kill her. Mostly the problem was Jesse Stone, who in Parker's books was a brooding, complicated, flawed character. In this book he's a brooding, dour, asshole. His focus on the girl does, as a number of people tell him, border on harassment, the water subplot is a bore, and the way Jesse recommends Crow to act as a bodyguard makes no sense. So he's all law-and-order when it suits him, but is willing to disregard it when it doesn't. I don't recommend it and I won't be reading any more in this series.

Redshirts by John Scalzi
A re-read, because I was getting so frustrated by Fool Me Twice that I wanted something that didn't piss me off. SF, of a sort. Andy Dahl is a new science officer on the spaceship The Intrepid, where some really weird stuff seems to be going on. Primarily, he and others have noticed that any away team that has the captain, the science officer and the astrogator on it tends to suffer high casualties in very strange and dramatic ways. This book is a riot. It's not perfect, but it's very funny, and the three "codas" at the end give it a lot of power. Highly recommended, whether you like SF or not.


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