Short Reviews: Books

Can’t believe how much I’ve read since getting the Kindle. . .

Wasteland–Keith Crews

It’s the story of a mafia hitman caught in some kind of wild west purgatory, forced to relive certain defining moments of his life, making him think he can change them. I’m actually feeling a little sorry for Angelo Marchetti, though not too much; he’s a killer, pure and simple. If anything, I feel sorry for Bianca. Even if it took out all those gangsters–and missed the big target–she deserved better. The important takeaway from here is, while I hate gangster movies and books, I did enjoy this long enough to finish it, and will read the sequel. . . someday.

Dead Barchetta–Kathryn Lively

The Rush references were the fun part; otherwise it’s an okay mystery with a sometimes smart and sometimes really dumb protagonist; a couple of his choices put me off. Rock Till You Drop is the sequel, and both were what I call pleasant diversions, but nothing more. Some day I’ll read them again. . .

Babylon Confidential–Claudia Christian

I’m not good at reading painful stuff. Couldn’t get past 20 pages of David Morrell’s “Fireflies,” the only such journal I’ve been able to finish is Neil Peart’s “Ghost Rider.” More than anything, though, I couldn’t RELATE to the things Claudia puts herself through, especially the alcoholism. Some of her other choices in life were baffling too; I can cut her some slack for being too young to know any better the first few times, but after a while it seemed she just couldn’t learn from her mistakes. It’s sad because she’s always been one of my favorite actresses, even though I never watched Babylon Five.

Solo: A Memoir of Hope–Hope Solo

I found this intriguing because I know quite a few of the characters. I sat next to Hope’s mom and grandma at a few games, and there was no indication of her mom being an alcoholic or her grandma so religious; they were just nice people. Regardless of their skill at soccer, Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambauch were always among my least favorite players, and for me it’s kinda funny to see someone else agree, though apparently Abby has changed. I spent many a game behind the opposing team’s net, taking photos, so a lot of stuff going on here was hilarious to me.

Codename: Aphrodite–Charles Faddis

This is a spy thriller that takes place in Greece, with a protagonist whose wife was killed in a terrorist attack some years ago. Now he’s got a chance to catch the terrorists and get his revenge, but I found myself not liking the guy. His informant in the terrorist gang when he was hunting them in the past is Aphrodite, who is a much more interesting character, though I don’t think much of her being in love with the main guy. As usual, the funny helper ends up getting killed. . .

Aleph–Paolo Coelho

I don’t know if I was disappointed in this in general or because I’m used to Coelho’s high standards; this is nowhere near The Alchemist or my fave Witch of Portobello. It’s basically a semi-autographical travelogue, an author on a book tour going through Russia with a waif he picked up, while also occasionally traveling through the Aleph, which I’ll let you discover for yourself.

Master of Disguise–Tony Mendez

I’ve read all of his previous books, especially enjoying Spy Dust, so it was fun to delve into another part of the CIA’s Tech Squad. Includes a chapter on Operation Argo, the true story of the rescue in Iran that became the movie. Fascinating to those who like this kind of stuff, possibly not as much if you don’t.

Solar Island–Rick Chesler

The third entry in the Tara Shores series, following Wired Kingdom and KiDNApped. Tara is a taciturn FBI agent, first in El Lay and then Hawaii, who finds herself involved in strange crimes, or more like strange circumstances. In the first a murder takes place on a whale’s webcam–yep, it’s as awesome as it sounds–and the second deals with a secret code hidden in DNA, though it’s basically a typical murder/kidnapping mystery. In this third story she has to infiltrate a floating solar-power-gathering island that claims to be its own country, to get evidence on the megalomaniac owner. Could have been much better with a few diagrams of the place; the descriptions were too hard to follow. On the other hand, Tara is getting more likeable with each book.

 Frozen Heat–“Richard Castle”

The fourth installment from Castle is pretty much standard with the first three; as always, it’s most fun when something from the TV show pops up. Just like Beckett on the show, Nikki’s mother’s murder is a main point, though the book had a far different take on it. {And, having now seen the epi where we meet Castle’s father. . . perhaps it was the same writer. . .}

Eurostorm–Payne Harrison

I’m a huge Payne Harrison fan. . . having said that, this book is nothing like his previous tomes. After tackling a space shuttle hijacking, a war in Antarctica, a plot to take over the British government–his best book, the awesome Black Cipher–and a strange airplane crash in Colorado, he now writes about the Chunnel Eurotrain being taken over by terrorists, a fairly straightforward thriller; the reason he wrote it, which is pretty obvious, is for all the cool gadgets he came up with for the troops to retake the train, or conversely keep the terrorists from losing.

The Witling & Tatja Grimm’s World–Vernor Vinge

Been hearing the name Vernor Vinge for so many hears, possibly decades, but never made the effort to get his stuff. Through a freak accident I ended up with two of his books, in perfect condition for being over 20 years old. The first takes place in a world where humans have developed a form of teleportation; the weird ones in this society are the ones who can’t do it. The prince in line for the throne is one of the exceptions, and when other humans land on this planet for the first time–without the power, of course–he joins them on a quest to get back to their wrecked ship, to wait for a rescue. But as usual royal politics get in the way. The other tome takes place in a water world where the people love to read, enough so that publishers inhabit giant barges that sail all over to bring literature to the masses. Into this world comes a strange young girl who is obviously light-years ahead of the normal humans. In a series of short stories where she grows increasingly Machiavellian, ultimately leading to civil war, she rules the world and brings its inhabitants kicking and screaming into the modern age. . .

Corpse in the Kitchen–Sarah J. Mason

In the mode of Agatha Christie, though better, it’s a very proper murder with some strange suspects, including one that has. . . an inflatable sheep! You may not be able to sleep tonight; at the very least you’ll have to count something else. . .

Tracker–James Rollins

This isn’t a novel, rather a short story, but because it sets up a big book and I really liked it a lot, I’m including it here. James Rollins has a string of bestsellers to his credit, notable the Sigma series, and with this story he introduces some new characters, most importantly a war dog and its handler. The dog’s point of view is quite amazing, and leads right into the novel Bloodline, which is also highly recommended, though it might be a bit hard to understand if you’re not familiar with the previous books in the series.

The Third Man–Graham Greene

I have this giant book of Graham Greene and I’m just now realizing I’ve never read one of my fave movies. At least I didn’t have to listen to the zither as I read. Oddly enough, I liked the movie better than the book.

Semper Mars–Ian Douglas

I was expecting some stuff on fighting on Mars, but there was so much more: archaeology, international politics, evolution. . . and a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of Japanese customs and language. And beer cans as explosives!

The Man Who Knew Too Much–G.K. Chesterton

Another classic I hadn’t read yet, this one more in the Sherlock Holmes arena. Like Tatja, it’s a series of short stories featuring one character who always seems to be around when someone is killed, and figures out whodunit much like Sherlock; he even has an older brother who works for the government. For him, though, his crime-solving abilities are a burden. . .

50 Ways to Hex Your Lover–Linda Wisdom

Part mystery, small part thriller, part romance, and most importantly funny as hell. Like a lot of my favorite protagonists in the El Lay mystery genre, we have a female redhead, this time a 700-year-old witch, who drives scumbags and gets rid of curses for a living. Back into her life comes her old lover, a vampire, to renew their love/hate relationship while they search for an evil actor who actually found a way to kill vampires and get their power.

;o)

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