Mark Terry

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What I've Been Reading

What I've been reading lately.

THE HOUSE OF HADES by Rick Riordan
Another stellar outing from Rick with his various demigods teamed up to defeat the titan Gaea from returning. I found the parts with Percy and Annabeth trudging across Tartarus to be the most effective, especially the part when they came upon some, uh, witches, I suppose is the easiest description. Whenever they killed one of the witches, a curse that had been aimed at Percy or Annabeth by monsters they had killed over the years, befell them. So at one point Annabeth killed one of the witches and she was blinded and convinced that Percy had abandoned her alone in Tartarus. Really a terrific book.

STORM FRONT by John Sanford
A Virgil Flowers and what a fun one. A professor of archaeology who is also a minister is working an archaeological dig in Israel, and he apparently steals and smuggles a relic out of the country back to Minnesota. Virgil is supposed to team up with an Israeli agent with the Israeli government, but things spin wildly out of control. The minister, who is dying of cancer, intends to auction off the relic, which has the potential to be, at the very least, a propaganda tool for anti-Israel people, and has the potential at some level to totally undermine Israel's claim to the Holy Lands. So the potential buyers include Hezbollah and some Turkish mobsters, as well as some questionable Israelis.

MUSE OF FIRE by John Scalzi
A short story about a physicist who is either nuts or has discovered Haestia living in the flames. Rather creepy and dark, but good.

BLOOD BROTHERS by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell
Also a short story, this revolves around the Sanguinistas, or whatever they're called, the vampire cult of the Catholic Church. It's a setup for their upcoming novel, the second one in the series. I loved the first novel and am looking forward to the second. This was an interesting short story, although the narrative structure was a little weird.

An espionage novel taking place primarily in Azerbaijian. The main character is a former CIA Station Chief, Mark Sava, who is now a college professor. But when a former agent of his is arrested and he is called to help, he gets dragged into a very complicated plot against the US involving a possible nuclear warhead and oil, oil, and more oil. It's the first book in the series and I'll definitely read the second one. Some of the transitions between chapters left me with a raised eyebrow and a, "How did they get there so easily ?" response, but a terrific debut.

ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card
The movie looked interesting and despite Card's abhorrent politics, I decided to read the book and make up my own mind. It's good. Probably not as great as everyone makes it out to be, but I thought it was fairly involving, at least up until the end. I didn't like the epilogue much and the big surprise wasn't much of a surprise, but from talking to people about the book it seems to have enough in it and written in such a way that people bring their own issues to a discussion of its themes. Some people claim it's an anti-war novel (I don't think so); some people claim it's a good psychological portrait of an abused child (I can see that); some people claim it's all about technology, etc.

HARDCORE by Larry A. Winters
I'd heard about this book on JA Konrath's blog and thought it sounded interesting. Basically the main character is a former porn starlet. She left the business a couple years before. Her sister was still in the business and apparently commits suicide. Returning to California for the funeral, she begins to question the suicide story, thinking someone murdered her sister, and since she can't get the police to cooperate, she investigates. I liked this quite a bit, actually. The view on the porn industry was interesting and very matter-of-fact, the mystery is actually pretty good, and the main character was pretty convincing. However, apparently Winters plans it to be a series, with the character teaming up with an FBI agent (one of my issues with this book, actually), and I'm fairly skeptical about that setup. But as a one-shot (so to speak), it was quite good.

MURDER AS A FINE ART by David Morrell
Okay. Wow. I've long been a Morrell fan, although I haven't read any of his stuff in a couple years. So when I heard the guy who typically wrote espionage-type thrillers had written an historical thriller/mystery taking place in 19th century London, I was intrigued. David's a big researcher, so it's a good fit. He uses a lot of different narrative devices here, including epistolary style as well as an occasional omniscient narrator that gives the book a decidedly different feel. It's very layered and atmospheric and I enjoyed the hell out of it. Learned a lot, too. Highly recommended. [He's just finished a sequel and I'll be on it like a pike on a minnow when it comes out].

Yeah, I know. You might have heard of this one.

CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins
Being somewhat ambivalent about THE HUNGER GAMES, both the book and the movie, I had put off reading this. But my wife recommended I did, so I did, and I liked it, possibly more than the first book. So I'll read the third book. It's an odd book, though. Much less detailed than the first book, probably because she's setting up the bigger picture for the third book, MOCKINGJAY. Which I'll read fairly soon, I would imagine.

I must confess, when Felix was writing books with his late father, Dick Francis, I thought the books were generally pretty good. Then Felix's last book that he wrote by himself (the first he wrote by himself), I really didn't like, especially the ending. So I wasn't sure I was going to read this. But I sampled the first chapter, found it compelling, so I bought it. And I read it. And it's good. It revisits one of the few characters Dick Francis wrote about more than once, Sid Halley, and I find that Felix does an excellent job of writing in a style and voice very similar to his father's. I also admit, he really nailed the "don't make life easy for your main character" thing. It occurred to me that I really had no idea how he was going to unravel the story at the end, and I was pleased with how he did it. Recommended.