What I've Been Reading
1. 50 Shades of Alice in Wonderland by Melinda Duchamp
Yeah, erotica. Melinda Duchamp is a pseudonym for Joe Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson. Cashing in on the spree of erotica left by the 50 Shades of Grey books. I haven't read much erotica and I read this one because, well, like Joe and Ann, I was interesting in cashing in on 50 Shades of Grey and I thought I might try my hand at writing erotica (that's my story and I'm sticking with it). I may get around to writing some eventually, but I have noticed that all my ideas for erotica have, well, plots. Anyway, this is pretty well done, it succeeds at what it's trying to accomplish, which is to say, it is arousing and entertaining. It's also quite funny, which was unexpected, although given Joe had a hand in it, maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. So, if you're into erotica, especially kinky erotica, you might enjoy this. If you don't, you probably won't.
2. A Dance With Dragons by George RR Martin
What is this, the 5th book in the series? It's enormous and complicated and brilliant and frustrating, but he does seem, to some extent, after extending his characters and locations around the world, to be contracting his story lines in anticipation of the remaining 500,000 or so words in the series. I enjoyed it, but the first two books, to date, are my favorites. And it's long.
3. The Empty Quarter by David L. Robbins
Robbins got reasonably well known for writing historical thrillers and a year or so ago made a shift to thrillers featuring a team of Air Force Pararescue officers. (Yeah, same branch as Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, only no flying wings). On the plus side, it's very exciting and deals with a kidnapping/rescue of a Saudi princess. On the negative side, the PJs (that's what the pararescue teams are called) have a lot of characters and they're pretty broadly drawn and hard to tell apart. On the other hand, the portrayal of the jihadist in the book is pretty brilliant.
4. The Golem of Hollywood by Jonathan Kellerman & Jesse Kellerman
I love Jonathan Kellerman, so my hopes for this book were really high. It's kind of a mix of police procedural and Hasidic mysticism and at some levels makes no sense whatsoever. It's all rather compelling in its own way--both Kellermans can write, that's for sure--but it's a very, very weird mix that also includes an alternating narrative from Biblical times (Cain and Abel) and the 1800s Vienna.
5. Twelve Days by Alex Berenson
I would not recommend reading this book unless you had read the prior book, The Counterfeit Agent. His series follows a former CIA agent, John Wells. In The Counterfeit Agent he's tracking some mysterious deaths that leads him to a sort of private intelligence network run by a billionaire who's intentions are to start a war between the US and Iran (topical, huh?). In Twelve Days, Wells, who has identified the billionaire and the head of the network, has 12 days to try and stop the US from going to war with Iran that's pretty much started by an antiaircraft missile shooting down a jet. Both books are brilliant and I highly recommend them.
6. Hit by Ann Voss Peterson & Joe Konrath
In talking to Joe about these books, the Codename: Chandler series, (because I was (and am) considering writing something in the series) featuring a sexy female spy, Joe describes them pretty much as alternating between action and sex scenes. It's sort of accurate, although there was a lot more action than sex (there was plenty) in this book. The main character is given the assignment of assassinating a sleazy mogul, but she ends up in a massive chase scene in Chicago, then Vegas, while otherwise having a LOT of foreplay with the mogul's sexy bodyguard who is also, apparently, a spy. The book isn't exactly deep, but it was a lot of fun. Very light, almost campy.
7. The Lost Starship by Vaughn Heppner
Way in the future, Earth and its extended grouping of planets, is having encounters with a seemingly superior race of humans dubbed the New Men. Captain Maddox, of Earth Watch Intelligence, is given the mission of going into a very dangerous part of space to try and find a mythic lost starship that may still be functional with technology that could help battle the New Men. In order to do so he has to pull together a team (whether they want to or not) and stay at least one step ahead of the New Men and corrupt parts of Earth's military to find the ship and bring it back to life. It was fun. Not great SF and I don't particularly find Maddox that interesting a character, but Heppner brings a lot of military SF tropes together in a reasonably entertaining way, as long as you don't think about it too much. I bought the second book in the series and will get around to reading it eventually.
8. Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
Several times, over the years, I mentioned that if I had an opportunity to write a movie or TV tie-in, I would want to write one about what Obi-Wan Kenobi did on Tattooine (and Magnum PI, but that'll probably never happen). Well, that chance is gone, John Jackson Miller did it already, and the way it's set up, he probably didn't have too many other adventures afterwards. It takes place very soon after Palpatine overthrows the government and slaughters the Jedi. Obi-Wan, now going by Ben Kenobi, is trying to get settled and figured out a way to keep an eye on the baby Luke Skywalker without annoying the child's aunt and uncle, who really don't want him around. Also, he's afraid that if he stays too close, someone will associate him with the child and word will get back to the Emperor. Meanwhile, he keeps getting into trouble bailing people out of problems at a trading post at the nearest oasis. No matter how hard he tries, he keeps getting sucked back in. There's also something of a love interest, at least on her part. The book is terribly well done, feels a little bit like a western, and is rather sad and melancholy. If I had written the book, at least 10 or 15 years ago, there would have been more adventure (there's plenty), but probably less melancholy. Miller gave a lot of thought to what happened to Obi-Wan--all his friends and colleagues and everybody he ever regarded as family in his life killed--and how he was dealing with it. I'd recommend this book.
9. Rusch to Glory: Adventure, Risk & Triumph on the Path Less Traveled by Rebecca Rusch with Selene Yeager
Nonfiction, a memoir. Rebecca Rusch is currently a mountain bike champion, 4-time winner of the Leadville Mountain Bike Race, and before that, a lot of adventure races. On the one hand, she's crazy. On the other, she's quite inspiring, taking on physical and mental and emotional challenges. Selene Yeager is better known as a freelance writer writing about bicycling and fitness, which is partly why I bought the book. I liked it a lot.
10. Inside Man by Jeff Abbott
Another book in the Sam Capra series. Once a CIA agent, Sam's wife was a traitor, and in the earlier books he managed to sort of clear his name and then become affiliated with a mysterious intelligence group calling itself The Round Table. Mostly they want Sam to own and operate a series of bars around the world (good gig if you can get it) that act as safe houses for their group. While working in a bar in Miami, a friend gets shot and Sam digs into why, which tangles him up in all sorts of intrigues and trouble. As usual, Abbott's a good writer and the action scenes are terrific. The problem with this particular books is there are many, many opportunities for Sam to say, "Screw it, not my problem," and go back to running the bar and seeing to the welfare of his infant son. So Abbott has his work cut out for him on that front. I enjoyed the book overall, although there are a lot of plot threads that Abbott apparently felt needed wrapping up that, perhaps, were better left dangling. I don't want to give too much away, but it seems to me that if one of the things motivating a character is a tragedy in his past, it's okay to leave it as a tragedy rather than to tie it into the ongoing conspiracy. Otherwise, good book.