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WEB MONKEY'S LITERARY CORNER
We Can't Live on Cinema Alone. We can, but reading makes us seem more well rounded as individual apes.
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, book 7 in the Harry Hole Series. Not sure what all the fuss is about. Harry Hole is a drunk cop for various and sundry reasons. He's a good detective. Aren't they all. A woman disappears. The police are called in. A new addition to the force brings with her some baggage and some intel on numerous missing women over the years and what they have in common with each other and the possible motive for their disappearances. The police get on the wrong track to the killer "Snowman" 4 times before they get it right. Many people die in the meantime. There is no suspense, no thrill, no big reveal as to the killer's identity because this poorly written knock-off of other better psycho killer books, because we already know who it is after the first few pages. Very disappointing in the who dunnit/why dunnit department. Because this is a Norwegian author Team Apeonaut was expecting a well written journey into the dark heart of this killer. Instead it was pedestrian drivel. Too bad.
The Killing School by Brandon Webb. Highly entertaining and informative book covering our snipers and the schools they must survive to become the best of their kind. Webb covers every major sniper event from Somalia to Afghanistan and everywhere in between. He records the longest shots ever made in the world of snipering, he recounts tales of heroism, bureaucracy, death and danger. Each surviving sniper offers his interpretation of the events surrounding his time in service. Amazing. Well worth reading.
Highlander: The History of the Legendary Highland Soldier by Tim Newark. This exhaustively researched book is a wonderful look into the past and the ferocious warriors that helped make England an empire all over the world. What a history lesson. The author combed through diaries, letters, and journals found in the archives in Scotland and places around the world. Everywhere the Scots went. From the Massacre at Glencoe, the defeat at Culloden, Waterloo, Crimea, Dunkirk, D-Day up to the present day incursions this book covers all their adventures. It was nice seeing the family name written about during the Jacobite Revolution in Scotland! This book is a must read.
Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen. Very disappointing historical fiction about Edgar Allen Poe's supposed affair with Fanny Osgood and her own reluctance at being Poe's child-bride's confidant. Team Apeonaught hoped this story was as well written as Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund (excellent tale of the wife of the fictional Captain Ahab) but alas, it was not. It was pap of the worst kind masquerading as a scandalous tale of Poe, his cousin-wife trapped in a child-like state by illness and Mrs. Osgood, a woman trying to make her living as a writer in a time of male dominated literary circles. Mrs. Osgood is forced into undesirable circumstances when her philandering painter husband leaves her and the children penniless. She must move in with friends and goes to soirees with the elite trying to keep up appearances. The author bandies about names of real people in an effort to add realism to the tale of forbidden desire. This book is repetitive with its whining "woe-is-me" narration and whiny antagonist. Meh. Could have been so much more had an air of mystery or musings for Poe's tales been woven into the tale.
The Shores of Tripoli; Lt Putnam and the Barbary Pirates by James L. Haley. Another rip-roaring tale (supposedly the first in a new series) of adventure of America's struggle for naval supremacy, the political scheming that goes in the background, foreground and mid-ground and the fighting men caught in the web of governmental deceit and lassitude and cultures so unfamiliar that young American's have no idea what to make of them. This tale stretches from 1801-1805 and has America's fledgling navy crossing the ocean to the Mediterranean to protect merchant ships against the dangers of the Barbary States. The story centers around one young midshipman and his adventures and meteoric rise in rank during a battle with pirates from Tripoli. Diplomats have America paying tribute to Muslim rulers for access to Mediterranean ports for trade. And so the cycle began before any cries of indignation could be heard. The actual history is well researched and the fiction interwoven with those events is action packed, fast, and rife with a sense of de ja vu as the story unfolds. Things never change. The descriptions of the ships of the line, the creation of and regulations for Naval and Marine engagements at sea and at war or quasi-war, the political aspect for dealing with the Muslims, ransoming and or rescuing Western hostages jump off the pages with alacrity. Hopefully book 2 in the series will be just as fun and fast to read.
The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine. An intergenerational tale of entangled family trees, mayhem, rich vs. poor, landowners vs tenants, love, duty, betrayal, madness, dark secrets and redemption. The tale starts in 1944 at an estate auction, bonfire and fond childhood memories. Switch to 2010 where the heir to the family island and mansion is found and comes to town with ideas of turning the run down mansion into a grand hotel. The story alternates between 1910 and 2010 weaving a tale of desperate longing, learning acceptance for things that cannot be changed, mental cruelty, stolen moments, wild birds and mythic selkies and who the bones belong to that are found under the floorboards of the mansion. The heir pieces together family history one piece at a time from old letters, photos, inhabitants memories, paintings and tries to set things right with the people who live on the island even though her beau wants to ravish the island with a golf course, helipad and spa and destroy the bird sanctuary that covers the island. Fortunately our weak heir falls for the engineer who surveyed the damage to the mansion and found the bones in the first place. When the family laundry is finally aired everyone goes off happily except the developers. The imagery of the Hebrides islands is stark and gloomy with intermittent storms, gales, flood tides. The house can only be reached when the tide is out, kind of like the house in "Woman in Black". There are always secrets waiting to be told.
Iron Dawn by Richard Snow. An in-depth, penetrating and fascinating tale of the Monitor and the Merrimack and the political, personal and global machinations that brought about their existence, their trials and tribulations and their ultimate battle that changed modern warfare at sea and how ships of the line were built and used. The many people whose names have all but disappeared with time struggle with professional and personal demons to build their dreams. A war that divides a fledgling nation, the people chosen to lead and the men with the dreams of inventions that will pioneer death and destruction charge toward an ultimate and deadly confrontation at Hampton Roads. The author conjures up all the self-doubt, self-aggrandizement and self-fulfilling of the men who tore apart and then rebuilt our nation and started the greatest naval power on earth for the times. Too bad history is no longer taught in American schools. This is a fascinating look at life and politics in the 1860s. A must read that is educational and entertaining. If you studied the Civil War, this will bring to life the people and the times that tore us apart and mostly brought us back together.
Ice Station Nautilus by Rick Campbell. An Indy 500 fast read. Dry track perfect day fast. 300 pages of submarine nonsense with the additional torture of a lead female character that doesn't know if she's a hero, a victim, an idiot or worse. The Russians launch their newest deadliest submarine. The Americans want to know what its carrying in its missile tubes. Political machinations prevent transparency at every level of government. A pursuit under the polar ice is undertaken. A collision between to behemoth subs happens, both sink. America races to the rescue, Russia races to destroy and obfuscate. Spetnatz and Seals duke it out on the snow and in the water. Scientists and various other good people just doing their jobs are captured and killed. Two more subs are sent to the scene, torpedoes are fired, boats and men are lost. Realistic poison air and flooded compartments action but sub-par (no pun intended) submarine thriller. In a word Ridiculous.
Predator One by Jonathan Maberry. Not one of the better Joe Ledger stories. It took almost a year to get through. Drones overtaken by the remnants of the 7 Kings sweep through America trying to destroy our way of life. Joe and the DMS are thwarted at every turn. Members of the team are seriously hurt, killed or worse have family members hurt or killed. Morale is at its lowest point and only the determination to escape a captive's living hell by the creator of the computer programs that have taken over the US's military infrastructure and any kind of device with a computer brain does the DMS figure out how to solve and stop the destruction. This story was neither exciting, entertaining nor compelling to read. Maybe the next installment will redeem the author.
Brilliant Beacons A History of the American Lighthouse by Eric Jay Dolin. What an enjoyable lesson through time discovering the how and whys of our magnificent lighthouses and where they are today in the safe navigation in today's technologically advanced world. Strategic prizes in war, means to rule the seas of trade, safe passage for peoples from around the world, this book tells the tale of the colonies evolving from backwater to industrial nation to global super power starting with the Boston Light, our first light house to Sandy Hook lighthouse the first lit with IOV. Federalism vs. centralized government, the bureaucracy that hamstrung then fed the lighthouse boom. Tales are told of the keepers, the families of keepers, the designers and builders of some of our most recognizable icons, how lighting the towers improved from torches to Fresnel lenses to today's LEDs. Women actually hired as keepers were paid the same as their male counterparts. Who knew. Fascinating journey to lighting our coasts, waterways, and islands and lighting our way in the world.
Collecting the Dead by Spencer Kope. Fast paced. Humorous. Mystical. A special unit of the FBI tracks people...missing people, dead people, killers. Mostly dead people. The human bloodhound tracks people by the "shine" they leave at the scene of the crime. Sometimes he finds the victims alive, sometimes not. His gift has helped the FBI capture 17 serial killers. "Steps" Craig works hard to find a killer of extraordinary ability and cunning and has to triumph over evil when the killer discovers the team's names and addresses. With the help of some dedicated law enforcement good mostly triumphs over evil. Hope Spencer Kope writes a sequel.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Odd tale of a man tormented by crazy memories of his weak youth during his mother's funeral. Having gotten away from the wake, he wanders to the house at the end of the lane and memories of a bizarre universal event come flooding back to him of 11 year old Lettie who saved him from creatures wanting to harm and ultimately end the world. Lettie and her family are untold number of years old from somewhere unknown protecting the world from bad things when they can. Beasties turn nannies into grasping bitches, parents into uncaring monsters, mysterious deaths into murder and mayhem. Entertaining visuals in the mind's eye.
The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse. Set in England in
1912 the tale centers around St Mark's Eve where ghosts appear and let
the living know who will die next. Prominent people disappear
The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly. Action filled-check. Strong take-charge characters-check. Bad, greedy, officious people at the top that cause the trouble-check. Clever pop-culture references-check. Over the top and just this side of disbelief suspension-check. The Great Zoo of China has many things to make a great adventure story. Not unlike the movie Jurassic World TGZOC is a wonderland of creatures thought never to have existed in reality but because all peoples of the planet have a version of them, they might have had to be real and being greedy humans they modify genetic material and think they can control it. . VIPS and animal experts are invited to the zoo to see the wonders and all hell breaks loose. Many people die, many buildings and resources are destroyed, and animal science is turned on its ear. Once the story action starts it does not let up until the end when the heroes get back to their lives and the story simply sputters to a halt. A quick and fun read. Not as good as his military thrillers, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Midnight Assassin by Skip Hollandsworth. Midnight Assassin is the well researched but not necessarily well-written story of the State of Texas' first serial murderer, still identity unknown to this day. The small town of Austin held tight its brutal night secrets when servants and society women alike were butchered in their beds, homes and own backyards for nearly a year. Many people of color were singled out for the heinous crimes but as the murders continued on moonlit nights no one knew how to stop it. Suspects arrested and put on trial proved to be more problematic than having actually caught the real killer. Sex scandals were uncovered. Misappropriation of funds from city coffers were brought to light. Austin was quite cosmopolitan! Unfortunately the reporting and the conclusions drawn about the murderer weren't sufficient enough to make the Midnight Assassin as well known as our all time favorite Jack the Ripper.
The Yard Book 1, Black Country Book 2, Devil's Workshop Book 3 by Alex Grecian. Darn...out of order. Scotland Yard's Murder Squad Series. Developed to solve murders only. Detectives and Constables working in tandem along with a Coroner to discover means, motive and opportunity of some of London's most brutal deaths. In the time after Saucy Jack the police find themselves buried under mountains of open murder cases. The Yard: London is still on edge after the Ripper murders but the city grinds on. A child murderer is discovered, police are murdered to cover the act, a new inspector works hard to solve the case. Then bad things happen when it is discovered that Jack the Ripper was caught and kept in some catacombs and tortured for a year by a group of politicians who think they know how to rehabilitate evil. Devil's Workshop: Jack escapes during a prison break and all hell breaks loose. Many people die and the inspector's wife has twins that are cooed over by none other than Saucy Jack himself. Fun, descriptive, not too repetitive. Filled with action, mayhem, early forensic techniques. Book 2...Black Country a rather convoluted and boring story that has the Inspector and the Sgt going to the Midlands to solve a multiple disappearance/murder and mayhem case. The Black Country is filled with all kinds of unlikeable people and the police are so ineffectual you wonder why they are there in the first place. The old coal mine system is systematically swallowing the town. People die and no one seems to really care. The potential for great mystery, procedural police work and Victorian atmosphere are here. Grecian just needs some polish.
The Blue Girl by Alex Grecian. A Murder Squad short story. Constable Pringle (brutally murdered in "The Yard") is put on the case of a drowned young woman who the coroner determines is a young, missing bride. The groom seems non-plussed about his missing bride and is stunned when Pringle solves her murder. It's a quick read fairly well executed. Pretty good detective work.
Night of the Cobra by Jack Coughlin. So sad. As with many authors of strong, exciting, politically incorrect characters, Jack Coughlin has fallen into the trap and sent a beloved character spiraling into old age, retirement, and easy outs. Too bad. Kyle Swanson is a hell of a sniper. He has saved countless lives on the battlefield and off. He has also taken more lives than he or the Boatman can remember. He is good at his job. This time he is now working for his patron as a day job and the CIA at night. He brought a young boy and his grandmother to America from Somalia. The boy is now an FBI agent. Together they must team up to kill the Cobra. A bad man bent on setting America on fire with terror acts then going home to Somalia and ruling that country as their warlord supreme. Cobra targets malls and diners in middle America. Kyle forces him to flee back to his own country where is his captured and macheted to death by Somalia's democratic president and the FBI agent. It's all a little trite and a little bread crumby. At the end everyone goes to work for the patron and the CIA. Hardly worth the effort.
I, Ripper by Stephen Hunter. Another great writer caught in the morass of meh. The book is basically broken into 3 stories. Jack the Ripper's told in diary form, the young reporter who is out to make a name for himself by discovering the Ripper's identity told in first person and Mary Kelly told in letters home to her mother, though you don't know until the end it's Mary Kelly as they use the Irish spelling of her name. The 3 stories swirl around each other never quite jelling and diluting the brutality of the Ripper tale. Humdrum and no fun. Mr. Hunter, shame on you.
Done in One by Jerkins & Thomas. A tasty police sniper story about a sniper and his new spotter, the sniper and his wife, the sniper and a former sniper, the sniper's wife and one of her students, her student and her first novel, a rogue sniper brutally killing people to make a point, the sniper and the rogue sniper having a final showdown. The one weak link is that the true evil perpetrator is alluded to early on and it is no true surprised when revealed. Not bad and fairly quick to read.
Havana Storm by Clive Cussler. Team Apeonaut has to give up on Dirk Pitt. The author has allowed him to become too old, too grounded and too wishy-washy. Dirk Pitt used to be a man of action, no holds barred ladies man who always got the bad guy with the help of his stalwart companion Al Giordino. Now several books in to new story lines that are weak, repetitive and filled with his twin, adult children, Dirk is a mere shadow of his former self. He is now married and the head of NUMA. The admiral is the Vice President of the USA and wants to use his office to save people, like Raul Castro, from assassination plots. Bad guys want to discredit the US and Cuba and are digging up the ocean floor in an effort to mine uranium for nefarious purposes. Of course historical artifacts are involved, the destruction of the Maine which ostensibly started the Spanish-American war plays a major role in the shenanigans, but overall the characters are tired and flacid. Shame on you Clive Cussler. You destroyed an action figure.
Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry. Joe Ledger and the DMS are under fire and under siege again by disgusting flesh eating zombies. Not just any old zombies, but people in varying stations of cognition and dementia. This time the trouble comes from within the DMS itself in the form of power mad Artemisia Bliss (stupid name) who constructs a plan to totally wipe out the DMS including Joe, wreck the world and make tons of money in the process by selling horrible bio-weapons to the highest bidders. The DMS team is so blinded by its superiority they can't see that they've been masterfully played as their resources are stretched beyond limits while battling the flesh eaters and trying to discover who is trying to burn the world. Nice idea but every chapter read the same, for 500 + pages. Team Apeonaut hates books like that. Concurrent and diverging storylines are ok, but they need to be plausible and important to the end game. Shame on you Jonathan Maberry. Joe Ledger used to be kick ass.
The Abominable by Dan Simmons. The title could mean several things. As this "found manuscript" tale is one of climbing Everest immediately one should think of Yeti. As the story unfolds it becomes clear that it is not legendary creatures but man that is abominable. This story is long and detailed yet rich and technical in its development of main characters, time period, world events and mountain climbing techniques of the late 1920's and early 30s. Murder, lies, mayhem, intrigue, British Intelligence, German undercover agents, patriots, zealots, faithful Sherpas, British veterans, French freedom fighters, Mongolian bandits, Tibetan monks, tea plantation fortunes, Winston Churchill and Adolph Hitler all make for a wonderful tale of man's inhumanity to man and the nature of patriots. The mountain climbing scenes and equipment available and used are depicted so well it makes you wonder how anyone made it to the top of the world's highest peaks in those days. Oh wait. They were manly men made up of guts, courage and ego. They needed nothing but a rope, some tennis shoes and tenacity. The author also brings into play the inventions and improvements in climbing equipment to add excitement to the climbing adventure. We find dead bodies of previous climbers, mummified by the dry cold climate, people fall into crevasses and become pulped messes of brain matter, splintered bones and torn clothing and we sit through blizzards and nearly die of frozen mucous balls in our throats. Non-stop action except when scenes need to be set and explanations made this book has something for everyone. Well worth the time spent to be immersed.
Cibola Burn by James S A Corey. Book 4 in the Expanse series. Well, it's a big book. It has the same characters. Once again hell opens up and threatens settlers on the 1000 new planets after the Gate was opened. Civilians and Corporations are at odds nearly killing themselves in trying to settle and rape the resources of these planets. Once again Holden and his crew are sent in as mediators when the UN fails. Dead Detective Miller reminds Holden that the galactic civilization that stood on the busiest planet is dead and something even bigger and meaner killed it. Unions fight using terrorist tactics. Corporations utilize militaristic tactics then things get really ugly. Many people die. Naomi gets kidnapped by Miller's old partner. Amos is nearly killed and that really pisses him off. But through a long, only sporadically interesting jumping around to the different characters do you finally get to an ending that should have made everyone happy in the galaxy. Only problem is the author's left it open for a fifth book. They should have stopped at one book.
Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves by Matthew Reilly. After the last debacle Scarecrow and crew are in the Arctic on a science mission that should keep them out of trouble until an old Russian plane with an old Russian scientist inside crashes near their sight and sets off non-stop action between Scarecrow and his band of soldiers and civilians and the Army of Thieves lead by a CIA operative who predicted the rise of China and fall of America and is ready to set off a deadly chemical in the atmosphere to set the world on fire. Many people die or get horrible injured during the operation. Scarecrow and his crew do what has to be done in order to triumph regardless the cost. Everything explodes. Lots of ammo is expended. What a ride. Too predictable.
On Scope by Jack Coughlin. Not best in the series. Too predictable and more than a little cliche. Kyle and Trident go on a hunting mission with Presidential approval after 6 Marines are slaughtered in Barcelona, Spain. Spain is on the brink of financial collapse. Europe will bail them out but at a cost Spain deems too high. In steps Muslim extremists with money and power and a promise to let Spain be whatever it wants as long as the country can be used as a base for radicals to launch world chaos. Trident goes around assassinating members of the extremists board of directors until the son of a leading Arab member wants to out the Tridents and kill them all. DUring a set more hokey than the hokey pokey they spring a trap to kill the guy at the wedding of one of Trident's newest members, Coastie. Kyle gets the better of him and all's well that ends well. Fast paced and violent but with too much story and not enough technique.
Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar. Fascinating story about 9 hikers in Russia who lost their lives under mysterious circumstances. Their bodies were recovered and returned to their families for burial but the actions of 1959 Russia made the families wonder if there was something more sinister at work...UFOs, secret police, military, wild beasts. No one could say definitively why 9 healthy university students ran out of their tent in a snowstorm underdressed and seemingly disoriented. If Donnie Eichar had been a better author this would have been a dynamite true life mystery. He covers the basics of their story, who they are and where they are from, through their journals, photos taken along the hike, and testimony from the sole survivor, but there is no good reason for the author to have the slightest interest in what really happened 55 years ago in a far off inhospitable land. Donnie continues to weave the tale while hiring a guide to take him to where the hikers were found. Nothing really can explain what happened until he discovers that scientifically they could have been mentally disrupted by natural sound harmonics caused by a freak storm hitting their tent on the domed face of a perfect amplifying mountain. The hikers were freaked out by the crazy sounds, made nauseous and mentally unstable and fearing for their lives ran out into the freezing night to die horribly pointless deaths. It is a sad true story that ended in the deaths of 9 people, but if the science is correct, what a crazy way to go. Worth the time to read.
Sniper's Honor by Stephen Hunter. Stalingrad. The worst fighting of WWII and the eastern front. A female Russian sniper with over 100 confirmed kills is sent a mission of the highest priority by the highest command. Then disappears from history. Bob Lee Swagger is aging crankily when he gets a call from his Washington Post buddy Kathy Reilly. What starts with a simple question, what is a Mosin Nagant 91 with PU scope begins an adventure through history to find the remarkable beauty who was sent to kill the man who invented the holocaust but who in turn was erased from the world. Swagger wants to solve the mystery because he respects her ability, and feels in his gut that she made her shot and should get some of her due. Russian mafia chases after them, Uncle Sam chases after them, guns blazing as they get close to the truth. The truth is a rather banal tale of betrayal, jealousy, power hungry underlings and devotion to duty and the motherland. Fast paced, a little predictable but a nice ride. Worth the read.
Stoker's Manuscript by Royce Prouty. This is a jaunty little tale of due diligence in the rare manuscript authentication business, orphans returning home, murder and the oldest family in Transylvania. An authenticator of rare papers, writings and documents is hired by a party in Romania, where he happens to have been born and orphaned, to procure by any means the last known copy of Bram Stoker's original manuscript for Dracula and all notes pertaining thereto. Much to the authenticator's horror and dismay, Dracula's son and brother are vying for the same object as it reveals the true location of their brides' suspended bodies. Though he is accused of murdering two people, almost loses his own brother, loses a few key allies in the fight against the undead, Joseph Barkeley valiantly devises a plan with the help of a priest, a slave to the undead and a couple of gypsies to rid the village of the ancient evil. Many twists and turns and near death experiences keep Joseph on the path to righteousness. A fast read, for the dead travel fast and lots of fun for those who like a twist on the vampire lore of Vlad the Impaler. Monkey thumbs up
Inquisitor's Key by Jefferson Bass. Not the best Body Farm story. Too farfetched and trite Miranda gets Dr. B to France under mysterious and somewhat leading circumstances. They find an old skeleton that could be the bones of Christ. They discover how the Shroud of Turin may have been created. Other old bones indicate that the Shroud may have been a recreation of the dead Christ for the Church and their continued adherence to the story of the resurrection. Bad guys want to sell the bones, Miranda and Dr. B are threatened, kidnapped and beaten for their participation, hit-men, bad cops and greed keep everyone guessing until the ending. Biggest problem, you know when you first meet the Irish priest, he's a bad guy, you also know the French detective is a bad guy, the archeologist is a bad guy, it makes no sense how poorly plotted the book is. Hopefully the next book is better.
Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough. Jack the Ripper is running rampant through WhiteChapel. Coincidentally, a hungry demon sleeping and waiting in a river in Poland is awakened and swallowed by a tepid Englishman who then takes the demon to London via Paris blazing a bloody trail of dismembered and beheaded people. Scotland Yard and the doctors involved in the Ripper cases now have a different kind of terrifying and bloody spree killer on their hands and must open their minds to infinite possibilities especially where demon possession is in the house. A crazy priest arrives to kill the demon and one doctor realizes he must kill the host as well, a person he knows and at one time respected. Relationships get tangled. Opium is involved in transcending the earthly plain and people with visions are essential to the plot in finding a way to kill the ancient evil. fast paced and rather enjoyable. Worth the read.
Carnivore by Dillard Johnson. This reader doesn't know what to think about this book. The book is a great read about certain things that did happen in Iraq during the opening engagements of the war in 2003. Fast paced, full of danger and typical military BS, the author spins a heck of a tale of derring-do by his unit and himself. The backlash against the author is amazing. Upon reading several reviews (something team Apeonaut seldom does) it seems 99% of the military personnel who have read the book say Dillard is full of shit and none of his exploits ever happened or were performed by other people. Who knows. It's a great read and would make a helluva movie. Or a series...like Generation Kill....
Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff. Fascinating and probably little known or thought about series of air disasters in Greenland involving the US military and Coast Guard during WWII. The story is broken into 2 basic plots. First starting in 1942 a cargo plane crashes into the Greenland ice cap. Four days later the B17 searching for the cargo plane crash site is lost in a storm and crashed too. The entire crew managed to survive the crash for 148 days of living hell. Then a second rescue attempt is made and a Grumman Duck is launched from a Coast Guard vessel. It too is lost in a storm and vanished. Another B17 crew finds the first B17 crew and drops supplies on them for months to help them survive. A land rescue attempt is made and men die in crevasses. Then another base camp is set up with more broken down equipment and the men are now spread out over the continent. In the worst showing of American know-how to rescue these men and the best in what America used to be with the absolute courage of the stranded men who survived everything Greenland could throw at them this story is about heart and the bond of military men. Absolutely amazing. The second part of the story is the modern/present day expedition to Greenland to find the Duck and bring home the men for proper burial and honors. The problem with the second portion of the story is the whiny, bureaucratic, money grubbing, whack job dreamer boring can we or can't we get money, equipment and support to see if we can find the Duck. If it had been written as an amazing story of courage with a last page of "and yes, in 2012 we found the Duck and ..." that would have been much better. Highly recommend this book
American Gun by Chris Kyle. A succinct, folksy stroll through American history via 10 of its most (in)famous guns: The Kentucky Rifle, The Spencer Repeater, Colt .45, Winchester 73, 1903 Springfield, M1911 Pistol, Thompson Submachine Gun, M1 Garand, .38 Special, M16 Rifle. Kyle started writing the treatment before his untimely and pointless death. The book was finished by thoughtful friends and is a nice tribute to one helluva sniper and a pretty good story-teller. Kyle writes entertaining anecdotal tales for each of the weapons and explains their long journeys into production and usage throughout the US. Highly recommended if you like any kind of firearms. A different side of history that they don't teach in school.
Time to Kill by Jack Coughlin. Muslim Fundamentalists are at it again and this time they want to fold unstable Egypt into the country of Iran. There's a bloodbath at a soccer game. Egypt fires missiles into an Iran registered ship in the Red Sea and Iran sends elite troops to a small Egyptian resort town and from there things get really interesting. Kyle Swanson's adoptive parents are threatened, an accountant is murdered in his home and nothing makes sense until Kyle goes to Egypt to unravel the mystery of the duplicity the Iranians embroiled in and throw a big Marine monkey wrench in the revolutionary works. From the moment he smells trouble to the inexperienced special agent who is partnered with him Kyle has his hands full of trouble. Fast paced and full of explosive action this is a nice fast read and a good entry in Kyle's repertroire.
Deck Z The Titanic Unsinkable Undead by Chris Pauls & Matt Solomon. It's 1912 and a German scientist has seen the unthinkable. A village overtaken by a fast acting plague and his military overlords wanting to use the plague to conquer the world. Having taken an infected villager alive to his lab Dr Weiss studies the virus and its effects he discovers that this could offer up a cure to all the world's plagues. He also realizes that the military must not get their hands on it. He plans to escape to America with the toxin. (Doc, you know that would never work the way you want it to). He boards the Titanic bound for New York in hopes of eluding foreign agents. That doesn't work so well either. He is tagged by an Agent. The toxin is taken from him and and released on the ship. Until the Titanic hits the iceberg and mercifully sinks with all undead hands it is a mad dash for containment and survival and making sure that no one that is contaminated leaves the ship. The first use of the word "zombie" and the first SOS go hand in undead hand. The book is a fast rip-roaring read with the Captain a hero to the end, the man dressed as a woman in the lifeboat revealed and sent overboard and the deadly toxin sent to the bottom with the ship...until fast forward 100 years...
Abaddon's Gate by James S.A. Corey. Book 3 of the Expansion series and by far the weakest. Jim Holden and crew are back in action trying to clear their names, keep their ship, get their job back, oh and save the known and unknown universe while they are at it. Dead Detective Miller is back to torment Holden with riddles regarding the gateway at the end of the universe built by the proto-molecule. This time the bad guys aren't corporations or politicians but humanity itself and its greed and hubris at thinking it has the right to conquer and control space. More new characters are introduced to the core characters who have been here since the start. A simple revenge plot by Julie's sister is hatched against Holden for his part in the genesis of the proto-molecule and Julie's death. This plot leads to war ships, religious ships and science vessels all vying for entry through the gate to the great beyond and the capture of Holden and his crew. Ships blow up, people are murdered and general mayhem ensues. This book was plodding and distracting with very little coherent action to tie everything together.
Extinction Machine by Jonathan Maberry. Joe Ledger is back and the world is damn happy about that, if they knew about it and what he and his team had to go through to save it. Alien technology from the 40s has been used by the government to reverse engineer all the cool technology of today. Greedy and corrupt people want to use that technology to exploit global weakness and gain wealth and power beyond imagination. The aliens are still around and want back their instruction manual. The story winds around the people in charge of the alien conspiracy, the DMS and their search for these people and Joe Ledger and his knack for pissing off people and getting the job with the most amount of damage possible. Plus Joe has a cool combat dog named Ghost. Lots of the good guys are killed or seriously injured which makes Joe all the more determined to solve the problem. Quickly paced and entertaining.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It's not as easy as it looks. How great an opening is that!? Ivan the gorilla was taken from the Congo and given to a random guy. After growing too big for the house the guy puts Ivan in a concrete cell at the mall and gives him a TV to watch while paying customers ogle the gorilla. Ivan's best friends are an old elephant named Stella and a homeless dog named Bob. These three friends know their lives suck at the mall but they make the most of their time together. Ivan sits around thinking about TV and food. His real passion is art and when the janitor's daughter gives him crayons one day a whole new world opens up for him. His pictures are sold in the gift shop to help make ends meet for the motley crew. One day a baby elephant named Ruby is deposited which gives Stella someone to tend and love and be fearful for. As Stella dies she begs Ivan to promise that he'll get Ruby out of the mall before she too ends up like Stella. Baby Ruby is full of questions about life in the mall and her new friends. Ivan realizes that she needs to get out. He devises a plan to draw a picture of Ruby in a zoo with other elephants. After a few tries the janitor's daughter realizes what Ivan is doing, she gets the media and concerned citizens involved in the rescue attempt. A happy ending for everyone as Ruby is sent to the zoo. Ivan is studied by primatologists and eventually sent to the zoo and Bob is adopted by the janitor's daughter. This is the sweetest most entertaining novel told from a gorilla's point of view you will ever read.
Wolfhound Century by Peter Wiggins. Not easy to describe. Fantasy world with stone angels and giants and sentient black rivers. Blobs like hairballs that turn into giant creatures. Russian system of secret police and corrupt politicians. Anarchists everywhere and a "war" with foreign nationals that aren't really foreign. A small town policeman with a piece of angel stone embedded in his forehead is sent to the capitol to deal with terrorists, what he finds instead is a corrupt and stinking system where no one is what they seem. Too many made up words and a disjointed storyline make this a fairly tedious read. The giants living in the swamps who "know what's coming", the angels fighting the war that never ends and a young woman who thinks her father is an anarchist but is in reality a mix of swamp gas and twigs sets out to disrupt the entire system. The cover art is pretty good. The story not so much. Maybe someone with an imagination that likes fantasy and made up words will find this enjoyable.
Caliban's War by James S A Corey. A little slow out of the gate Caliban's War picks up with Holden and crew tooling around in their Martian ship trying to keep the peace for OPA and their boss Fred Johnson. The crew dynamic has changed because Naomi (Holden's lover) doesn't like his shoot first ask questions later attitude that has developed since his near death experience with the protomolecule and Miller's death/rebirth on Venus. One convergent story is of war on Ganymede and the political ramifications thereof, and of a sole surviving Marine with camera footage that proves someone has created a super soldier from the protomolecule and the turmoil that footage causes with the politicians from all the systems, Earth, Mars, Belt. The Marine is "hired" by the UN representative and together in their own ways find out which political entity created the new monsters that could now threaten the entire universe and the fates of all humanity. Politics in any venue screw everything and anyone in reality or science fiction. Holden's gang is roped into helping a botanist from Ganymede find his kidnapped daughter who could possibly be in the clutches of scientists using immune deficient children as petrie dishes for the protomolecule. Once the Marine and Holden's group get together the action and fun begins then the story really takes off. The character's are pretty richly developed and the action is explosive and realistic. An enjoyable read if you keep at it. We'll see how it all ends in Abaddon's Gate.
Leviathan Wakes by James S A Corey. This is a well written, fast paced novel set in outer space. An outer space where Mars, the moon and the Asteroid belt have been colonized. Two seemingly unrelated storylines converge to make one big bang at the end tying up all the loose ends. In one line you have Jim Holden, a former naval officer turned ice miner in the rings of Saturn making a standard run through the asteroid belt. His ship comes upon a derelict ship. Turns out that ship was merely bait so Holden's ship could be destroyed. The implications are Mars wants to start a war with Earth and the Outer Planet Revolutionaries. Jim and crew discover a secret that has every government agency gunning for them. The other line is a broken down, drunken police detective named Miller looking for a missing, presumed kidnapped daughter of some rich industrialist. Turns out she was on the derelict ship at one time and contaminated with some nasty brown goo from a galaxy far far away. After a lot of shooting, blowing up of things in space and death, Holden and Miller meet up, swap stories, work together, find the girl, the goo and a government conspiracy so ballsy and despicable it freezes the blood in their veins. There are space battles, riots, civilian casualties by the millions, love, hate, failure and redemption all rolled into one satisfying tale of two unlikely heroes trying to save humanity from itself. Captain Chuckles suggests this book enthusiastically and can't hardly wait for Book 2: Caliban's War.
One Shot by Lee Child. Webmonkey chose the 9th novel in the series to start the Jack Reacher adventures because of Tom Cruise. The movie was a blast and was created from major plot points from the book. The paring down of the book to make the movie made perfect sense. True, Jack in the novel is a beast of a man, giant, blond and big. Cruise is none of that, but he is a big enough actor to fill Jack's shoes. Quickly paced and well written, One Shot is the tale of a former Army sniper arrested for the 5 seemingly random killings on a bright shiny day. The evidence is good, air tight and stinks to high heaven. Jack is called in by the accused himself to prove that he was not the shooter. Misleading trails, bad clues and murder lead Jack to the truth. Webmonkey looks forward to reading the rest of the series as Jack is a no nonsense kind of guy who wants to be left alone to live each day as it comes, but if you mess with him, be prepared for hot, brutal vengeance to be rained down upon you.
Fatal Dive solving the WWII mystery of the USS Grunion by Peter F Stevens. WOW. What a tale. July 1942 the USS Grunion ships out on its first and last war time mission. On her voyage she rescues some crew from a torpedoed transport ship and drops them in Panama. They continue on their way to Pearl Harbor than back across the ocean to the Aleutians to patrol and destroy any Japanese military they find in and around the US coastal zone. The Grunion sinks and damages 3 ships then vanishes. Japanese witnesses report they saw bubbles circle back to what must have been the Grunion, they heard a thud and saw a long piece of metal shoot into the air and then brown sludge. The families of the Grunion's crew are never told anything other than they sub is missing and presumed lost. The 3 sons of the sub's captain grow up without a dad, become successful in their own lives but have never forgotten the fact that their mother never knew what happened to their father or the crew. She wrote letters to the Navy department and got little to no information over the years. The sons as they got older decide they need answers and are now in positions to get them from any source. Obtaining obscure government documents and by lucky happenstance a page of a Japanese war log book in an antique store in the middle of nowhere and obtaining the help of a Japanese man with access to Japanese WWII military documents, the sons decide it's time to go look for the Grunion and their father. In 2007 they begin an incredible journey even though Bob Ballard and most every other renowned oceanographer/explorer tell them they are completely nuts and it will never work and they'll never find the sub. Fortunately one son is wealthy beyond measure and gets an Alaskan crab boat captain to refit his boat with side scan sonar. They have a plan, they scan the area indicated in Japanese documents and find a promising hit. then spend another fortune to get an ROV driven in from the east coast to go down and film what turns out to be the USS Grunion missing 50 feet of bow (what the Japanese heard get hit by the Grunion's own circle returning MK 14 torpedo). They know it's the Grunion because of the propeller guards still in place as the Grunion left for patrol before the orders were given to remove those on all submarines. In 2008 the US Navy agrees that they have indeed found the Grunion. She turns out to be the first but unacknowledged sub sent to the bottom by her own rotten torpedoes during 41-43 period. Amazing story. The grunion's bell was found in a scrap heap in Pearl Harbor. The "sub ladies" found relatives of EVERY crew member to let them know the Grunion had been found and their loved ones were now someplace known to them. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHZ_I3OiWNE
Hellcats by Peter Sasgen. Epic war yarn about a final submarine mission into the Sea of Japan just weeks prior to the dropping of the atomic bombs that ended the war. 9 subs go in, 8 subs return. The story meanders through the operationally defective MK14 torpedoes, the previous losses of several boats to Japanese anti-submarine defense, the development and implementation of FMS and sonar to detect floating mines, and the meat of the story, the Captain of the Bonefish, the only boat lost during Operation Barney, Lawrence Edge and his love for his family and his deep desire to survive the war. The story follows him and his crew as they scour the Pacific for Japanese merchant ships to stop the flow of materiel to the home island in an effort to shorten the war. Was the Bonefish literally thrown away with the war all but over and won by the Allies? Captain Edge's wife kept searching for answers in the aftermath of victory when everyone else seemed to have forgotten about her husband and his men. After almost a year of searching, captured Japanese records showed that his vessel was depth charged by 3 patrol boats in the deepest part of the sea. Far beyond the reach of rescue. Sent into the dark and eternal patrol more than likely on a pointless mission that proved of little benefit. A fast-paced, well written tale that submarine enthusiasts should enjoy.
Hedy's Folly by Richard Rhodes. Not so much an eye opener into the invention and patent of remotely radio controlled torpedoes as a love letter covering Hedy's journey from pre-WWII Austria and marriage to a munitions manufacturer for the German war machine to her Hollywood movie career, her many marriages and her affinity for invention. The author covers more in the story about Hedy's inventing partner, George Antheil than Hedy herself, but the story is intriguing non-the-less. No one really knew she invented the pre-courser to wireless technology until someone found her original patent and got her official recognition before her death in 1999. An interesting bit of historical fluff with some twists and turns worthy of the best in old time Hollywood movie plots.
Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard. A collection of 9 short stories covering a wide spectrum of subjects but all with one theme. Might makes right even when it's wrong. These stories also cover a wide time period. There is a story of the old west with an outlaw who helps a woman held captive by Indians find her place in the world again. One is a tale of Teddy's Rough Riders in Cuba and the black man that saved his troopers going up San Juan Hill and the white captain getting the medals. A Hollywood stuntman goes home to the farm after his girlfriend dies and finds that his dream girl has gotten into trouble with some bad folks and has leased his grandfather's farm to said ruffians. Karen Sisco is dating a bank robber. She ends up having to shoot him in the ass. Raylan Givens goes home again and ends up taking out the white trash. the stories are fun, fast, gritty. Reading them is a pleasure.
Raylan by Elmore Leonard. A fun dramatization of the first season of Justified. Gritty, well written and laconically paced the story follows Marshal Givens as he tracks the criminal element in his hometown. People he grew up with are still into drugs, weapons, robbery, murder and regular down home stupidity. It's fun and though the story is a twist on the series, it's as familiar as that hat.
Dropped Names by Frank Langella. Elegant and eloquent, this Jersey boy dishes on the Hollywood luminaries that we know or think we know. Covering his 50 years of acting in movies and on Broadway and his crossing paths with some of the most famous names in the stars universe, Langella often times paints sad, pathetic, glorious, righteous, childlike, irreverent but always gentlemanly pictures of the names he drops. Anyone who loves the idea of stars, entertainers, famous personalities should read this lovely trip down one man's memory lane. He says it all but leaves you wanting more as some anecdotes bring tears to your eyes. Well worth reading.
The Sherlockian by Graham Moore. What should have been a grand tale woven between Conan Doyle's time and the present day Baker Street Irregulars convention, was in reality a boring, dry narrative of a wimp trying to prove he's as smart as Sherlock and smarter than the police when it comes to solving the case of a clueless murder and a missing Doyle diary. The characters aren't worth rooting for and even the depiction of Doyle as the basis of the Holmes story doesn't save this tale. This book should have been tossed over the Reichenbach Falls.
Larry's Kidney by Daniel Asa Rose. the names were changed to prevent lawsuits but the story is about Daniel's estranged cousin Larry who is dying of kidney failure and is on a list of 74,000 other Americans waiting for said organ. Larry decides to go to China who had been known to be the transplant country of the world...allegedly killing off dissidents for their organs and selling them for ridiculous prices to rich westerners. This story follows them on the journey to China, the colorful and sometimes helpful people they meet along the way, the government spies and the medical professionals who for a price will save Larry's life. Throw in Kentucky Fried Chicken Chinese style, a mail order bride who is very different from her profile but is very helpful in Larry's survival, kidnap taxi drivers, former Red Chinese guards dancing waltzes and you have an incredible tale that would make an Oscar winning movie if someone could get it made. fast, funny and well written. that Larry, what a piece of work
Sealab by Ben Hellwarth. A lucid, well detailed tale of the men who wanted to live and work at the bottom of the ocean. At times too technical and more than slightly long-winded in the narrative, Hellwarth tries to weave a tale of daring middle-aged men who at the cutting edge of self contained underwater breathing apparatus try to convince the government that living and working underwater is the Earth's only hope for survival as we over-populate and under feed it. Many of their experiments had to be carried out in secret, on their own time away from their day jobs. These scientific explorers and adventurers made it possible for future generations of underwater explorers to know and understand the dangers of diving in depths far beyond man's levels, saturation tables to keep them safer, gases that can be breathed under enormous pressures and the effects of staying in a tin can underwater for months at a time and the effects thereof. We have known less of our own inner space than we ever did of outer space. Pretty good read.
GLOCK the rise of America's Gun by Paul M Barrett. Another example of America falling behind in technology and industry. This book has enough intrigue to be a spy novel, high finance through shell companies shenanigans to give Uncle Sam tax palpitations, murder for hire, enough sex appeal to sell a "plastic" gun to American law enforcement and military and enough lawsuits to clothe all the lawyers in the known world. Gaston Glock, the Austrian door hinge maker who eavesdropped at the right place at the right time at the end of WWII built a gun from the ground up without any preconceived notions of what he should be doing. Making a gun that would become a verb in the urban lexicon, Glock made millions scheming and dreaming or being the biggest and most successful gun maker since the invention of the hand gun. Fast paced and full of characters GLOCK weaves a story that is fascinating, horrific and pathetic all at the same time. Well worth reading.
Master of War by Benson Bobrick. A wonderful, well written book on the brilliant military career of the Rock of Chickamauga. General George H Thomas of Virginia, a graduate of West Point and a friend or classmate of many of the Civil War generals was a brilliant tactitian, a man who knew how to build, train, arm, supply, inspire and lead armies. He was a man who never retreated, who always held his positions, who WON every battle he was a part of and who never sought glory for himself but only the survival of his troops and their ability to fight a war with dignity and honor and not the "total" war that Drunk Grant and Insane Sherman wanted to wage. He knew how to use his men wisely. He was never impulsive in battle. And in his ability to win he overshadowed those with political leanings who then did everything in their power to diminish him to Lincoln. Excellent read and valuable history lesson.
Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry. What starts as a simple revenge plot by a prison doctor (with a past of course) against the monsters of the world who destroy the innocent, a condemned serial killer gets injected with some nasty parasites in a tetrodotoxin sludge designed to keep him conscious in his coffin while they are consuming him. Sounds pretty miserable and ingenious. Unfortunately for everyone in the small town of Stebbins the serial killer is sent to the funeral home in town at the request of his whore aunt where he wakes up, bites a few people turning them essentially into mindless flesh eating creatures that can only be killed with a shot or heavy blow to the brain pan. Hmmm, looks like a zombie, walks like a zombie, must be a zombie. Unfortunately these poor souls are still in there, they just can't speak and they have an insatiable desire to consume meat...the police and a local journalist team up to find out what the hell is going on while the government (knows what exactly is going on) plan to sterilize the town. Yes, children, that means kill everyone infected or not. During all the action, turmoil, sarcasm, hatred and unspoken feelings the small town of 8000 is decimated leaving only 800 or so alive and uninfected. In a classic journalist with a hot story of government abuse and the proof to back it up vs the government who would rather disappear a small town rather than admit a mistake at the very last minute are things brought to a stalemate. Or not...the end of the story sets up nicely or typically for a sequel.
Running the Maze by Jack Coughlin. Our second favorite sniper Kyle Swanson is back with a vengeance and on an assignment he doesn't understand or want until it is proven to him that something is rotten in Pakistan. The doctor brother of a female Coast Guard sniper is slaughtered near a bridge in Pakistan and when she starts to ask questions bad things happen. Enter Kyle and his team to sort out the problem. What they find is the high tech underground facility for the new leader of the world terror organization. Kyle and the Coastie go into Pakistan to investigate, get evidence of who is behind all the trouble and shut them down. In an uncharacteristic move Kyle takes her with him and lets her be his back up. That girl's got skills is his final assessment. The action is ramped up as they fight a covert battle of wits with the money suppliers, the weapons suppliers and the insane architect of the facility. Lots of unbelievable action in this one. But it's a fast read and enjoyable.
Fragment by Warren Fahy. What starts out as a floating reality show "Sealife", a long range research vessel filled with scientists and TV crew answers a distress beacon coming from a tiny blip in the vast ocean. What they find is an ecosystem vastly different from anything anyone has seen before. The scientists in turn begin a life and death struggle determining how this system survived the millenia as the earth was forming and species that we know today were evolving and how the hell do they get off the island alive and without letting any of the life forms leave the island. The book is filled with bad scientists, corrupt stupid people, government agents with closed minds and real scientists who want to understand and explore and explain the existence of said ecosystem. Lots of mayhem ensues in this fast paced if somewhat repetitive narrative. It's filled with harrowing escapes, near death experiences and good old fashioned happy endings. Worth the read.
Heat Rises by Richard Castle. By far the most repetitive of the Nikki Heat books, but entertaining none the less. A priest's bondage murder, a police captain's disgrace, a promotion in the works, an unspoken love becomes spoken, shootings, beatings, laundered money, freedom fighters, and a freak cold storm to hit New York all add up to one thing when Nikki's needed, Heat Rises to the occasion.
Five Greatest Warriors by Matthew Reilly. We can only hope this quest to save the planet from the second coming of the dark star has come to a definitive end. Jack West Jr and his gang finally have most of the puzzle pieces to build the "machine" to save the planet. Forces of evil from several disparate sources are competing with him to complete the task. Some want the world destroyed , others want to save it and reshape it to fit their own ideals. A giant scavenger hunt, researching ancient texts out the wazoo, killing, capturing and or torturing anyone who gets in the way Jack's own father and step-brother turn out to be his biggest obstacle. Repetitive action scenarios and repetitive "oh he's dead, now he isn't cliffhangers" take any of the fun out this "thriller". But it's a quick read and it's far better than the previous Six Sacred Stones...which are put to good use in this installment.
In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. Not as interesting or well written as Devil in the White City, but an informative bit of American History none the less. FDR assigns William Dodd, a mild mannered, somewhat naive and boring professor as America's first ambassador to Hitler's Berlin in 1933. He is there when the first reports of harassment and discrimination toward Jews begin to surface. He constantly writes letters to the State Department detailing such incidents and because no one in the State Department likes him, they ignore him and condescend to him. Dodd has taken his family with him on this journey. His wife and son are pretty much what you would expect, but his daughter is basically a slut and an embarrassment. She meets everyone, including Hitler and is almost recruited by the Soviets to be a double agent. Had Dodd been a more likable fellow who knows how his reports would have been handled up the political food chain. America mostly wanted Germany to repay its previous war debts so turns a blind and prejudiced eye of its own to the Jewish problem. It wasn't until we were drawn into the war that the hand wringing and breast beating made us look like saviors of the world.
Project Azorian. The story of the sunken Soviet K129 submarine, the CIA, the construction and use of the Hughes Glomar Explorer (that darn thing is still in use today) and the US plan to raise all or part of the sub in secret to gain knowledge of Soviet weapons and codes during the Cold War. The amazing part is that it was actually kept secret for the 7 years it took to find the wreckage, build the salvage vessel and stay on station under the collective noses of the Soviet navy. This is a great story...worthy of Hollywood storytelling at its finest. Definitely worth reading
Tough Without a Gun The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart by Stefan Kanfer. What an enjoyable read. An in-depth story of Bogart's life beginning with his privileged yet unloved upbringing, his expulsion from every school, his discharge from an unremarkable career in the Navy, his start on Broadway and the journey to Hollywood screen idol/icon and founding member of the original Rat Pack to his horrible death from esophageal cancer at a relatively young age. Bogart was kind of a prick, but he was loyal to friends, he secretly gave help to charities and people in need and cut a swath through Hollywood that will never be cut again. If you think about it, no one has ever said he's another Bogart. He is the stuff of myth and legend. Fascinating.
Ronald Reagan The Notes. The man was The Great Communicator. A man who loved America and what she used to stand for. A man who tried to keep America on track. Everywhere he went Reagan wrote on a 4x6 card ideas, poems, jokes, human interest, founding fathers wisdom, political gems that he could later use in his speeches and wow the audience. the man had an uncanny ability to chose the right quote or anecdote for the situation. Excellent read and insight into our 2nd greatest president.
Handling the Undead by John Lindqvist. The recently deceased are coming back to life for some inexplicable reason. Nice starting premise. Some people begin to experience clairvoyant moments. Unfortunately the book quickly devolves into a repetitive and rather lengthy and boring treatise on why the dead are back. In addition, the reader has to endure the family issues arising from the "reliving" members of their families being reintroduced to the family dynamic. The story goes so far as to have Sweden's political groups urge lawmakers to approve rights for the "reliving." These undead are boring, unfrenzied and not driven by a desire for brains. All they need is to be set free spiritually. Life is for the living. This book is definitely a let down after Let the Right One In.
The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry. Joe Ledger and the DMS jump right back into a shit storm caused by a secret society bent on destroying the world with Ebola. After being misdirected by a London hospital bombing that kills over 4000 people the DMS with the help of their amazing computer system and an informant piece together the real objective and after a series of devastating loses for the DMS close in on the culprits. The enemy from The Dragon Factory reappears and is more obsessed with ruining and ruling the world than ever. Traitors within our own government keep the terrorists two steps ahead of Joe and his team. Joe Ledger must pull out all the stops to get ahead of the bad guys and save the world. Fast paced, well written and entertaining this is a welcome addition to the Joe Ledger series. Plus Joe has a cool dog named Ghost.
An Act of Treason by Gunnery Sergeant Jack Coughlin. A tired old story of years of dedicated service in a company that doesn't appreciate your work and an opportunity to betray your country for heinous amounts of money set against the backdrop of the war in Afghanistan. Throw in the Taliban, imams, the CIA, crooked politicians and Marine sniper Kyle Swanson and you have a mostly exciting story of friendship and betrayal. American soldiers are ambushed in the mountains of the 'Stan. One is beheaded the other two are used as collateral in a deadly game of political cat and mouse. Kyle is sent on a mission that he feels stinks from the beginning and when all hell breaks loose and civilians are killed en masse, Kyle knows he is in big trouble. His mentor has set him up and and gone to great lengths to see that he is captured and killed as the responsible party to the bombings. All in all it's slow to start and fast to finish. It's a good read, but far below the standards we expect of our Marine Snipers.
The Ark by Boyd Morrison. A sleeping prion discovered on Noah's Ark is poised to be weaponized by a madman bent on cleansing the world and starting over. A beautiful archaeologist (is there any other kind) seeks the help of a trouble shooter (handsome, strong, former seal, lonely and a widower) who was known by an old family friend. In a frenzied globetrotting one step behind the bad guy adventure they discover his secret lair and genetically altered race of super soldiers and slaves and the source of the deadly prion that disintegrates people and in a madcap race against time save the world. Whew. Let's not forget the romantic cruise. Real critics call it fast-paced and thrilling. TA found it rather tedious as the action was repeated in every other chapter. meh. Not as fun as Jack DuBrul or Matthew Reilly.
Hell Island by Matthew Reilly. This book is the result of an Australian book reading initiative to get people into the library. It could be no more than 110 pages. Reilly packs one helluva jaw breaking whollop in this slim adventure. Shane Schofield and his elite team are part of an experiament. Basically they are dropped in the middle of a meat grinder on board the soon to be decommissioned Nimitz anchored at a small island in the middle of nowhere. After losing most of the elite fighting forces sent in with him, Shane realizes what's going on and what is at stake and is able to turn the tide on the arrogant scientists and the killer, man-eating gorillas with machine guns. Only 6 Marines are left to be picked up after the exercise if completed. Now this is action packed.
The Bone Thief by Jefferson Bass. This story continues strands of the story from Bones of Betrayal but focuses mainly on mutilated buried bodies, contaminated tissue implanted into people who then die, a body parts broker and Brockton's discovery that the woman he trysted with in BOB is pregnant with his child and a murderess. Budgets are tight, jobs are cut and the FBI wants Dr. Brockton to use his Body Farm to trap bad guys. It almost costs him his life. A rip roaring little thriller from start to finish Bass never disappoints.
Dead Zero by Stephen Hunter. Once again Bob Lee Swagger, now 64, sore and tired is asked by his king to serve yet again to find the truth about a sniper mission gone wrong in "the 'Stan" to kill a high ranking tribal leader who has now become a valuable American political asset. The story is rich and layered with unknown "contractors" who are also on the trail of the sniper they were to have killed in the desert. A joint CIA and FBI task force led by two old friends of Bob Lee's, Susan Okada and Nick Memphis only serve to keep Bob Lee asking the questions as to why a dedicated Marine sniper would try to complete a mission even on US soil, who may have set up the team for ambush, why the Afghan leader wants to be a friend to the US at this time. Something is beneath all the layers, a conspiracy at the highest levels and with his slow, methodical sniperly intuition Bob Lee figures it out again. Lots of action, lots of thrills, some deprecating Southern humor and an exploration into family ties. A great read from start to finish. Bob Lee is far more interesting at 64 than poor Dirk Pitt has become at 50. Hope Bob Lee goes out with a bang and not a whimper. If this is any indication, it will be a .50 cal bang!
Crescent Dawn by Clive Cussler. Better than the last 2 Dirk Pitt novels combined, Crescent Dawn still falls short of Dirk's adventures of 20 years ago. As usual some historical disaster occurred, NUMA is investigating some natural disaster or other for a country near where the historical disaster happened. In this story a couple of historical events become enmeshed so Dirk and Co. have to solve the mystery of both in order to prevent some whacky Ottoman Empire descendents from setting the world on fire by blowing up Jewish and Arab holy places. The descriptive narrative is repetitive in many chapters regarding how something works, how Dirk moves, how the bad guy escapes. Of course at the end Dirk prevails and saves the world in the last 2 pages.
Dog of Winter by Kem Nunn. Basically this is the story of an insane surfing legend, his wife who thinks she is a witch, a washed-up photojournalist, two self-absorbed young surfers in search of the ultimate ride, Native Americans who want violent confrontation with the outsiders to their community, and a tribal council official who's only purpose it seems is to fall in love with the wife and watch everything fall apart. Harmon, the insane legend, wants them to go on a fools errand to find the great 30 foot cold water wave spot in Northern California known as Heart Attacks. The washed up photographer is hired by a magazine to take pictures of the event. This ends up being a pointless tale of 4 men who mistrust each other on a road trip to this mystic spot. The first real day of surfing gets a young Indian boy killed in the process and starts a chain reaction of vengeance, rape, murder and overall bad attitudes. You keep reading hoping there will be final point in it somewhere and the only winner is the legend dies a legendary death and the photographer gets a ton of money to recompense the family of the dead boy. And the money did not come from the photographs. The witch disappeared into the wilderness with an old woman in a motor home. Not even the surfing details were interesting in that there are so few about them on the water. It's mostly about bravado and tall tales.
The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry. A slow starting sequel to Patient Zero. Joe Ledger and his DMS team face an unknown terror on the viral level after the Vice President seizes power and tries to have Joe's team eliminated. 3 divergent stories swirl around genetics for monetary reasons, genetics for master race reasons and the government agency that keeps us all safe from all things genetically created for nefarious purposes. Once the plot is established however and the 3 stories begin to converge Joe and his team are lead on a crazy, bloody and dangerous mission to save the world from the "Extinction Wave" that dates back to the NAZIs. Help is given by an unexpected source and the team must rely on it's training and instincts to survive. Pretty good once it takes off.
Atlantic by Simon Winchester. More interesting than The Man Who Loved China but far less entertaining than Krakatoa, Crack in the World or the Philosopher and the Madman put together Atlantic tells the story of, the Atlantic ocean and all its incarnations. Winchester waxes poetic about his own journeys across the ocean and at the core of the book writes a loving biography of the body of water that eventually connected the known world. He explores the Viking, Portuguese, Spanish and Irish crossings of many centuries ago to the more current travails of the World Wars, pollution, over-fishing, luxury liner crossings connecting the old and new worlds before the advent of flying. Winchester obviously researches everything thoroughly before he writes and he does tell a fascinating and educational story. But this book reads more like a text book and less like a passionate adventure into the briny deep.
The Gun by C J Chivers. WOW! Primarily this well written exposition follows the idea, invention and world wide proliferation of the AK-47 and the man generally linked to its creation, Mikhail Kalishnikov. Generally this book covers the invention of automatic weapons; machine and sub-machine guns starting with the Gatling Gun. The chapters devoted to the United States late involvement in the development of such weapons, its most notable failure being the 1966-67 versions of the M16 issued to our Marines in Viet Nam, to the denial that the AK47 was a weapon to be worried about are at once depressing and thought provoking especially since it took the US about 20 years to acknowledge the fact that the AK47 is the true weapon of mass destruction. The Soviets at first wanted a weapon for homeland defense, spent years, money and material developing a weapon that would work under any condition. In later years as the world and governments changed they realized they could make fortunes selling the AK to like minded countries. Stockpiles can still be found around the world in countries that are not West friendly. The US was beset by profiteers, unscrupulous, mostly non-military business men putting on airs trying to develop a similar weapon for money not defense of our homeland. Chivers' narrative is unbiased and well researched. A great read for any history/weapon buff.
On Hallowed Ground by Robert M. Poole. A moving portrait of the humble beginnings of the Lee Mansion in Arlington to its rebirth as the national cemetery for our honored war dead. Robert E Lee and his family live on the beautiful acreage in the Greek inspired plantation mansion. When the Civil War breaks out Lee must decide whether to stay with the Union or go with Virginia if she leaves the Union. We know Lee's story, but his family is forced to leave their home, the Federal Government basically steals it out from under them even though Mrs. Lee tries to pay the taxes on it. Ownership of the property during and after the Civil War is hotly contested. In the meantime Union General Meigs envisions a national cemetery for war dead, thus beginning the traditions, funeral rituals, dog tags to make identification of the war dead easier and more accurate, the Old Guard to carry, the caskets and fold the flags, the Tomb of the Unknowns, President Kennedy's eternal flame, the bridge to the mall, the position of the Pentagon. This is an absolutely loving portrait of all the back door, back stabbing, political machinations from the very first official burial of Pvt. Christman to President Kennedy's unexpected funeral. This book is full of every detail a person who has any interest in American military history. Wonderful!
Naked Heat by Richard Castle. Season two's fictional novelist writes another fictional novel that is rip roaringly fun. Our favorite NYC detective Nikki Heat works on the case of a murdered gossip columnist. There are a lot of people in the gossip monger's web of trash and Nikki must wade through it in hip boots to solve the crime. Fun, quick and witty.
Warlord by Ted Bell. By far the slowest starting of the Alex Hawke adventure series. Alex is devastated by Anastasia demise in the previous novel. Everyone around him is worried about his health. He just wants to die. Then the Prince of Wales who helped raise him needs help finding out who is targeting the royal family for death starting with Lord Mountbatten through a meticulous and time consuming plan for revenge. Alex needs all his friends in America and Europe to solve this puzzle, save the royals, make MI6 look good and kill all the bad guys in extreme fashion. Ted Bell also paints an horrific picture of Arab fundamentalists coming into this country illegally, committing some crime, getting thrown into prison and spreading radical Muslim theology to the disenfranchised youth of all races to be suicide bombers upon their release from jail. It's not fiction.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. PPZ is quite a disappointment really. Good thing we read DoD first. PPZ relies way too much on Jane Austen's originally dull story and just throws in a few zombies for novelty's sake. Too bad. It's not fun or entertaining. It's just dull with zombies. On the whole The Bennett clan was far more interesting when they first started to learn the deadly arts so they could fight and kill zombies in DoD. Now 4 years later the girls a little older meet Mr. Darcy and a handful of ninjas to hone their skills get the man of their mother's dreams, get married and be the epitome of English gentility. Almost as painful to read as Jane Austen's tome.
Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith. Written in the style of Jane Austen, DoD conjures up the time of the unmentionables, the dreadfuls, the undead, Zombies! The story happens 4 years before Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. We meet the young Bennett sisters who are trained by their father and his karate master in the deadly arts so they may better protect themselves, their family and their country from the newly dead risen from their graves. Even the old dead are rising again. But in training for this task the girls are shunned by polite society that prefers not to think of the undead at all until it is almost too late and the undead are feasting on the gentry. This isn't the first time there have been undead in England. Mr. Bennett is a veteran of the Dreadfuls plague some years past. Written so convincingly these characters could be Miss Austen's own in this clever, irreverent and entertaining read. We are also treated to arranged marriages, illicit affairs and secret loves. This is a great read and we can hardly wait to read PPZ.
Patient Zero A Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry. This is one rip snorting good time in the world of man-made plagues that cause people to turn into flesh eating zombies. An elite team of soldiers struggles with the realization that someone wants to destroy the United States and all infidels with this virus. Joe Ledger is a regular Joe...no pun intended. But he possesses an almost supernatural ability to see what a problem is and annihilate it. He is recruited by this super secret government agency to lead a team into the mouth of hell to discover who is behind the plague and how they can stop it. Fast paced. Full of action. A great read. Can't wait for Dragon Factory and King of Plagues.
By The Sword a Repairman Jack novel by F. Paul Wilson. It's a good think Jack is coming to the end of his story arc. What started out as an interesting idea about good and evil in the world's grand scheme has become boring and repetitive. By far this entry is the lamest. A stolen samurai sword supposedly nuked in Hiroshima has the power of good and evil depending on who is wielding it comes to NY and causes mayhem. Dawn, the teenager carrying the baby that will change the world shows she is a true spoiled brat and causes the deaths of several people. Jack and Gia's relationship is still screwed up by the near fatal accident he caused and Gia's painting the end of the world.
Billionaire's Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace. A rather dry tale, no wine pun intended, about a bottle of Lafitte purportedly owned by Thomas Jefferson and lost for a couple hundred years. We meet the auctioneer who likens wines to women and the obsessive collector who discovered the bottle. The story asks the questions was it really forgotten in a Paris cellar, did it come from a NAZI bunker or was it the best fake since the Hitler Diaries. A story filled with wine eccentrics, rival auction houses, Jefferson-era France and his own beloved Monticello. A wine mystery that is never truly solved. Kind of like Year of the Comet without the cute romance.
Halsey's Typhoon by Bob Drury & Tom Clavin. Bull Halsey was one of our WWII heroes. He had massive successes. In 1944 MacArthur plans his return to the Philippines and needs Halsey's 3rd Fleet to protect him. During this operation Halsey embarrasses himself by following a Japanese decoy fleet. In a vain attempt to acquit himself in the eyes of his superiors he keeps his fleet on station during one of the worst typhoons in recorded history. Halsey decides his fleet needs to refuel and replenish, the typhoon hits and over 170 ships of the line are destroyed, capsized, damaged, over 900 men go into shark infested waters floating alone or in small groups for 3 days battling dehydration, hunger, sharks, weather and exhaustion. Ultimately 800 perish. One of the captains of this task force disobeys orders and keeps his crippled ship on station performing grid pattern searches rescuing nearly 100 men. One of the most daring and amazing true stories of heroism. The navy investigated and found everything covered under act of god. Halsey's career and reputation remained intact. Awesome book well worth reading. And President Gerald Ford was a hero in this story as he served as a Lt (jg) on one of the damaged ships that managed to survive the storm.
Clean Kill by Jack Coughlin. Another rip-roaring entry in the Kyle Swanson Marine sniper pantheon. A top secret peace conference brokered by the Brits at an old Scottish castle is attacked by "terrorists". Several people are killed and injured including dear friends of Kyle's. The evil machinations of an old enemy of Kyle's and the Russians, who are not our friends, will be discovered in the deaths of top placed leaders in the Arab world. Kyle and his team will be let loose by the President of the US to seek out the bad guys and blow them to hell. Oh, and he has to secure 5 nuclear warheads from Saudi Arabia before the bad guys can get them. Fast paced, detailed, exciting and so real it's scary. This is a great read for any weekend at home.
Bones of Betrayal by Jefferson Bass. Another fast-paced forensic frolic at the Body Farm in Tennessee. Dr. Bill Brockton and his posse are called in when a man is found dead in a frozen swimming pool. From the moment Dr B loses his chainsaw to the discovery of highly radioactive materials being used to kill people who worked on the Manhattan Project a wild tale of love, revenge and national security is told. Many of Dr B's friend are injured by the radioactive materials which makes him all the more anxious to solve the mystery. Fun, detailed and touching Bones of Betrayal is an entertaining read.
Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson. During the U. S. Weather Bureau's infancy men of vision studied how weather could effect the lives of people living in the US. Hubris kept many American weather men from noticing that weather half way across the planet could effect weather in their own backyards. This story is about one such man, Isaac Cline, who thought he was an expert in hurricanes. That is until September 8, 1900 when the city of Galveston, Texas where he lived with his family was demolished by a hurricane that was first identified by meteorologists in Cuba. The bureaucrats in Washington had imposed rules on the Cuban weathermen and would not listen to their reports as they thought they were inferior. In addition to lives lost, property damaged and reputations ruined, the rules governing weather reporting was also changed for the better. Fascinating story.
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. This is a GREAT vision of how awesome Abe Lincoln really was (and still is?). The story starts with his rough childhood, his mother's death at the hands (fangs) of vampires, his father's drunken tales of doing business with vampires and his own near death by vampires. He is saved and educated by an old vampire in the ways of defeating the blood suckers, who as it turns out, have fled Europe and taken up in the South using the slave trade as a means of a constant supply of food. Vampires in the North form a "Union" and recruit Abe to help them defeat the South. In a crazy yet logical twisting of historical facts (was John Wilkes Booth a vampire?) the tale spun here is witty, touching, gruesome and fun. Abe truly was a great man and vampire killer. From his birth to his un-death Lincoln was destined to be great. A rip snorting fun read.
Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton. Published one year after the author's death, this book should have remained unpublished. Richly researched but written with a college student's imagination Pirate Latitudes is the story much better told in movies such as Captain Blood, Sea Hawk, Black Pirate, Black Swan, Crimson Pirate and Pirates of Capri which are all embellishments of the pirate mythos. Fortunately this is a quick read and harmless. The tale of the governor of Jamaica asking a privateer of some repute to go to a Spanish stronghold and relieve them of one of their treasure galleons. This book has big storms, reefs, treachery, jungle treks, explosions and damsels in distress. More befitting a romance novel than a novel from the guy who brought us Jurassic Park.
Echo Class by David E Meadows. A classic gripping 1967 cold war world on the brink of destruction story. US forces use ASW techniques to chase Russian subs out of their zones near the Philippines. A deadly game of cat and mouse keeps crews on both sides of the cold war on edge and on their toes. A quick, exciting read full of details historic and otherwise.
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett. an enjoyable and fascinating look into the world of collecting rare books legally and otherwise. Bartlett, with the help of a book detective forms a strange bond with a book thief. This guy is so good it took years for anyone to realize they had been ripped-off. A mad con artist uses credit card numbers stolen from people at Saks 5th Ave where he pretended to work. He would order books over the phone and once the charge went through disguise himself and pick it up. He fervently believed he did nothing wrong even when caught several times and sentenced to jail time. He believed he should have an empire of wonderful books. Easy and pleasant read.
I Sniper by Stephen Hunter. #6 in the Bob Lee Swagger series. Bob Lee is getting a little long in the tooth for these crazy, murder filled adventures. This time however, one can understand why he goes through all the agony and torture when a former Marine sniper is accused of going round the bend and killing 4 people with no seeming connections. Nick Memphis of the FBI allows Bob Lee to work the case when some things just don't add up. What happens is a convoluted mystery that Bob Lee unravels with the help of several people all willing to see that justice is served for an old Marine. Bob Lee, like Dirk Pitt is getting a bit old for this shit, so one hopes the writer will write some prequels before Bob Lee is so old he can't hit the broad side of a barn. Fast paced and entertaining.
Heat Wave by Richard Castle...shameless plug and tie-in to an outrageously fun television show. Nikki Heat, a fictional cop based on a fictional cop in a TV show as portrayed by the fictional writer in the TV show. The book: A journalist gets permission to ride along with detectives to see how they work to solve cases. The TV show: a novelist gets permission to ride along with cops for his next book project. The premise...the writer is often another set of eyes and ears offering a different perspective on the crimes they work together and because of his connections in town can sometimes actually be of help to the cops. Highly entertaining. The book is fast paced and a fun read. If you like the show, you'll love the book.
Tom Cruise Unauthorized Biography by Andrew Morton. Good thing this book was loaned to us. Andrew Morton did nothing more than regurgitate information about Tom Cruise that has been floating around for years. The information he provides is supposedly confirmed by former friends and classmates of TC and he is an ungrateful SOB for using them has stepping stones to stardom and not thanking them or making them part of his entourage. Morton appears to want to indict Scientology more than anything. He should have just tried to write a book about that. Anything Morton wrote about could have been read in one of the rags at the check out stands.
Escape from the Deep by Alex Kershaw. Amazingly tragic tale of one of our most legendary submarines, USSTang, in WWII and the crew that sailed her into the history books. She killed over 100,000 tons of Japanese vessels. Then on one fateful night one of her own torpedoes reversed course and struck her. All but 9 crew perished. Depending on how you look at it, these 9 men were saved from drowning by the Japanese only to be transported to one of the most brutal of their prison camps. Daily torture and near starvation were their steady companions from Oct 1944 until their liberation Aug 1945. Their ordeal in the camps changed them profoundly in many different ways. The captain was awarded the Medal of Honor and the crew Distinguished Service medals. That is the least our government could have done for those men and what they survived. An amazing tale of duty, honor and brotherhood.
Sniper Ace From The Eastern Front to Siberia by Bruno Sutkus. Amazing tale of a man born without a country pressed into service in the German Army during WWII and becoming the best sniper in history and the scourge of the Russian Army. Following orders and killing any and all assigned targets Sutkus helped protect his frontline troops against Russian assaults by scaring the crap out of the Soviets. Sutkus was angry that the Americans had allowed the Soviets to overrun Eastern Germany. He was also angry that the German government denied him citizenship because his father was the bastard child of a Prussian blue blood. Bruno cheats death several times during the war on the Eastern Front, no easy task. He is wounded a few times and allowed to convalesce before being sent back to fight. He is awarded some of Germany's highest awards given to snipers. After the war Bruno elects to be banished to Siberia with the woman he loves and turns out to be an outspoken trouble maker. Several times he is arrested and beaten for telling the Soviets their commune system sucks. He proves on more than one occasion how to work the land smarter so it will yield more for the collective. In 1971 he is finally allowed to relocate to Lithuania. And in 199o he was finally allowed to re-enter Germany. A truly amazing tale of an amazing man.
Intrepid Epic Story of America's Most Legendary Warship by Bill White. This lady went through hell and back from the day she was launched in 1943 to fight in the Pacific to the days she was used as HQ for Ground Zero rescue teams in 2001. The Fighting I has a history to be envied. Her aircraft are instrumental in the battles to sink the Japanese Yamato and Musashi, to barely surviving the first kamikaze attacks, then a refit to be an anti submarine attack vessel during the Cold War to another refit to serve as "back-up" during the Viet Nam war at Yankee Station where she kicked everyone's asses and earned decoration upon decoration for being the best of the best even though she was beginning to show her age then being refit again to return to anti-submarine duty. Today she is a grand old lady allowing millions to visit her every year to learn that the price of freedom isn't free and sometimes you need a flat top to throw stones at the enemy's front door. This is an awesome read. Thought provoking and emotional on every level from the first hand accounts of the veterans who worked on her during her illustrious service career. Will have you weeping tears of gratitude for her and her many crews.
American Gunfight The Plot to Kill Harry Truman by Stephen Hunter. The crazy but true story of two Puerto Rican nationalists who think that assassinating Harry Truman will be the best thing for their island paradise. A fascinating shot by shot account of the events leading up to 38.5 seconds of flying lead, confusion, bad security tactics and Truman standing in a window in his underwear making himself the perfect target of opportunity had anyone been paying attention. It's also the story of good Samaritans, family ties and chain of command. How could something like this have happened? This incident helped change the way the Secret Service did their collective jobs. Absolutely riveting.
The Terror by Dan Simmons. The factual tale of the doomed Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage is intertwined with conjecture, mystery, the supernatural, sheer horror and Eskimos. A very long read (955 pages) that takes a bit to get into turns out to be very satisfying in the end. Written at times like a journal and ship's log by various members of the crews the Terror and the Erebus tells the tale of leaving England, getting frozen in the ice for 3 years, trying to walk to freedom and cannibalism. And don't forget the giant supernatural white beast, that is not a polar bear, that kills quite a few people. There are also indigenous peoples who trade with and avoid like the plague the white men. Well worth the time and effort.
Meaning of Everything by Simon Winchester. A wonderful
journey through the 71 years encompassing the creation of the Oxford
Tale of Two Subs by Jonathan McCullough. The Sailfish and the Sculpin. Sister submarines during WWII forever intertwined in death and heroism. Amazing story of the men who volunteer for the silent service and the sacrifices they all must make. The Sculpin is depth charged by the Japanese and is forced to surface leaving the crew no choice but to abandon ship. They are captured by the Japanese, tortured and taken to a POW camp via aircraft carrier. Weeks later the Sailfish finds a Japanese carrier and torpedoes it. Little do they know men of the Sculpin are on board. Meticulously researched and dramatically told this is an amazing read.
Titanic's Last Secrets by Brad Matsen. The Shadow Divers explore the wreck of the Titanic in order to discover the real reason she sank so quickly with such loss of life. The things they discover about Harland and Wolff shipbuilding operations during the construction of the Olympic, Titanic and Britannic. They find inconsistencies in ship building records, witness statements, and rescuer statements. They recreate the time period in colorful detail from the moment the hull is laid to the moment they find an old guy who takes care of the HW archives and tells them what they have discovered is correct. HW used bad judgment in building Titanic and covered up their misdeeds and culpability in the deaths of the passengers in a massive conspiracy to save the company from financial ruin. An amazing tale. Well worth the read.
Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin. A CSI in the time Henry II. Henry has been stabbed in the back by the Catholic Church for killing Thomas Beckett. Children in his town of Cambridge are being murdered in a heinous fashion and the Jews (who bring in a lot of revenue for Henry) are blamed. Henry and the King of Salerno bring in a Mr. Fixit Jew and a female doctor (unheard of in England) and her Arab body guard to solve the dastardly deeds. The doctor has been trained in the art of dealing with the dead and discovering what the person died of. There are Crusaders returning home, lots of religion and a disparity in the classes that Henry refuses to see until it is almost too late. A tale of an early serial killer, his follower and the children who suffer at their hands. It is also a love story. A fast, entertaining well written novel that is enjoyable from first page to the last.
MEG: Hell's Aquarium by Steve Alton. Book 4 in the MEG series, the Taylors and their institute are besieged by animal rights activists who want the Megalodons set free, horrible accidents in which the sharks eat co-workers and tourists and Arabs who want to hire their equipment and services to deep dive the Philippine Sea to capture giant prehistoric sea life for the new aquarium being built in Dubai. And did we mention Lana Wood gets eaten? Jonas Taylor turns down the Arabs but his young son goes instead to train submersible pilots for the project. There he falls in love and let's just say things don't go well. A fun, fast read filled with rampaging sea beasts doing what they do best. EAT!
The Great Mortality by John Kelly. A descriptive and entertaining journey through the black plague years. Beginning in 1347 the author carefully recreates the crowded and filthy conditions that bring about the plague's humble beginnings in Europe and Asia that in five years time wipe out 25 million people. A natural disater that basically ended the "old world" and started the "new world." People began to look at cleanliness, food storage and cooking and living arrangements in an entirely new way. Well worth the read if you like to understand about the human condition.
The Dracula Dossier. This is a more than imaginative and original if not repetitive narrative of the possible events leading to the invention of the Jack The Ripper letters to the police and the writing of Dracula by Bram Stoker. This is a mix of historical figures, real people and chains of events that could have brought them all together. A lot of research went into the writing of this novel of intrigue, madness, devil worship, friendship and murder. Bram is tangled up with an American who is evil through and through and is ultimately suspected in the Ripper murders. The places and people however involved have familiar names that work their way in Stoker's only novel to have survived in public memory. It's fun, chilling and carefully recreates the time period. A great read.
H. L. Hunley. Wonderful tale of the dream of underwater warfare and the development of the Hunley for the Confederate States of America by private citizens. The story details its trials and it's first 2 sinking disasters and the subsequent deaths of the first 14 crewmen. The Hunley gets a new 7 man crew and heads toward the Husatonic. It sinks and the Hunley disappears. The rest is history until Clive Cussler and a group of his explorers find the Hunley in 1995 and have to wait 5 years for the government and South Carolina to decide who owns the vessel before giving anyone the coordinates so it can be raised. Wonderful pictures are included in the text. The story doesn't end with its resurfacing. The conservation and identifying the remains of the crew through DNA and some personal artifacts are explained and are a fascinating journey through time. Excellent read for anyone with an interest in our history.
Bone Yard by Michelle Gagnon. A little repetitive in its narrative Bone Yard spins a fanciful yarn about the discovery of a mass grave found on the Appalachian Trail covering several states. A jurisdictional brew ha ha ensues until the FBI is called in to run a task force to identify the deceased and to profile the killer(s). An amazingly talented serial killer is on the loose and a copy cat trying to one up him is on the loose as well. As the plot unfolds and friendships and working relationships are forged the trail comes to a head when a police officer's son is taken by the killer. Pretty good in it's forensics details and jurisdictional procedures. A decent read.
Dead Shot by Gunnery Sgt Jack Coughlin. Another wonderful sniper novel starring Kyle Swanson, the best Uncle Sam and the Marine Corps every produced. Picking up where Kill Zone left off, Kyle's fiance has been murdered and Kyle left for dead. Uncle Sam does the next best thing, they make him dead in all the data bases so he can continue to kill selected targets without interference. A new and deadlier threat than the world has ever known surfaces in the Middle East (where else?). Terrorists have developed a targeted bio chemical weapon. It is used in London to great effect, then it is used on American soil, thus pissing off the wrong people. Kyle and his team must go on the hunt to find the bad guys and stop them before they end the world as we know it. Kyle gets to use all of his training in this rip roaring action packed thriller. Well worth the read.
The Descent by Jeff Long. Hell on Earth...hell under Earth. Through a series of related unrelated events mankind has discovered a species of hominids that live deep in the bowels of the earth. They have existed from the beginning of time and through the ages they have captured, tortured, killed and mutilated people and used them as food, clothing, tools, slaves or breeders without having been discovered until now. Turns out there really is a hell and a guy that's Older than Old who very well could be the devil. A nun discovers an unknown language, a mountain guide is captured by and escapes from the underground and helps the military explore the underworld. A giant corporation bent on ruling the world develops a plague to spread down in the underworld and sends in teams of mercenaries and scientists to do the dirty work. It's gruesome, gory and sad at many turns and twists in the story. It neatly leaves things open for the sequel...The Fall. Pretty good story.
Bloodline A Repairman Jack Novel by F. Paul Wilson. Jack's erstwhile family has survived an horrific encounter with the Others and the lizard critters. Now Jack has been asked by a wealthy woman to investigate the much older man that her 18 year old daughter is dating. A twisted tale of rape, incest and mutant anger genes sends Jack on a violent death filled journey to learn the truth about the man, the daughter, the mother and himself. The Others are still alive and well and still bent on taking over the world. Jack is quite a bit less effective in this story than he has in past novels. Too bad.
Devil's Bones by Jefferson Bass. Dr. Brockton finally cleared of the murder of his beloved Jess starts moving on with his life. Then the man responsible for everything escapes custody and begins a methodical campaign of terror against Brockton and his colleagues. Plus a socialite murder has to be solved, the investigation into a Funeral Home that doesn't actually cremate the bodies but dumps them in a junk yard needs to be completed and the tests made on various dead bodies at the Body Farm need to be made and studied. Many characters from the previous two books show up and make it like one big happy family that watches each other's backs and is always there to help. Satisfying ending. Enjoyable read.
The Ice Diaries by Capt. William R. Anderson. Absolutely fascinating story of the Nautilus, our first nuclear powered sub written by her second Captain. It's the tale of the dedication and determination of the men who dreamed of nuclear power, designed, built and ultimately sailed her under the North Pole to open the true Northwest Passage. Captain Anderson weaves a great tale of the courage and excitement of being the first sub to make all the way under the top of the world. Anderson recounts his first meetings with Admiral Rickover and learning he will have something to do with nuclear powered subs. He recounts his excitement and his dream to become the captain of the Nautilus and his dream of going under the North Pole. A feel good story of something positive we did before the Cold War got hot.
Six Sacred Stones by Matthew Reilly. Another in the series of super soldier Jack West Jr. and the quest to save the earth from destruction by the Dark Star. Unfortunately this is the tale of another good author gone bad like Clive Cussler who also destroyed his great fictional creation. Nonstop action for our troop of heroes sends them on a wild goose chase for the six stones that will save the world and sends them on a race against time against the forces of human evil. Blah blah blah. The first Jack West story was good but this one not so much. Reilly should stick to writing Shane Schofield novels.
American Lightening by Howard Blum. WOW! What a great book! A fascinating true look at the Union labor v capitalists wars of 1910. America in those days was having growing pains. Wealth and power collide with the people who want it. The Crime of the Century takes place when the LA Times building is bombed and 21 people are killed. What follows is an intricate story of Billy Burns the detective (and first director of the Bureau of Investigation) whose agents find the bombers and bring them back to LA for trial, DW Griffith and his almost single handed creation of Hollywood, his common man movies and his Birth of a Nation and Clarence Darrow and his fall from grace for defending the bombers. The book delves a little into each man's personality and what makes him tick. A rich tapestry of the LA aqueduct/Owens Valley water scandal is woven and big names are dropped. It is absolutely tasty and wonderful. Once you start you can't put it down. Highly recommended.
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. A single love story that spans the ages. Unfortunately what it turns out to be is a repetitive narrative plodding back and forth from the middle ages to the present and boils down to faith or blind faith. The author's so so writing skill makes it difficult to invest the time it takes to read the book. Too bad, we like Gargoyles.
The Man Who Loved China by Simon Winchester. A new novel from the guy who brought us Professor and the Madman, Krakatoa, Crack in the Edge of the World and The Map that Changed the World. This is the tale of the life long love affair with China of Cambridge scientist Joseph Needham. Needham's Chinese mistress convinces him to learn about her country and at his death he had written 17 volumes on the secretive Chinese revealing that they lead the world most of time by centuries in the invention of modern conveniences. Needham went on many dangerous and exciting journeys to all corners of war torn China beginning in 1937. He learned the language and open the eyes of many "westerners" to the strange and magical world of the "celestials". Winchester is a master storyteller and all of his books are highly recommended.
Arctic Drift by Clive and Dirk Cussler. By far the WORST Dirk Pitt novel in history. A real disappointment for any true fan of the hero and the series of books. Dirk is reduced to a pencil pusher. His grown children take up too much of the book, a tale of global warming and of course corrupt politicians. Will the US and Canada go to war with each other over the Northwest Passage. Can a cure for green house gasses be found before we destroy the planet. Who gives a crap. Where's the action, the life and death peril, the camaraderie? It's in about 5 pages and it's ludicrous. Dirk and Al should just retire and move to a senior home. Who stole my pudding would be the title. So so sad that our favorite action hero has been castrated by poor writing, a wife, two grown boring children and a desk job.
TSAR by Ted Bell. Uber-operative Lord Alex Hawke is at it again. The story picks up the thread from his last deadly encounters in the Amazon with Alex recovering in a quaint cottage in Bermuda. He meets a lovely Russian woman on the beach, she thinks him to be poor and pays him to pose nude for her art show. Her father is a bad bad bad man who wants to rule the world. Alex's friends are called into action to save the world from oblivion. High tech meets greed, back door deals and terrorists. Alex falls in love, makes a baby and then kaboom. End of the world. Fast paced and believable action. Fun read.
Iron Coffin by Commander Herbert A. Werner. Werner, a former U-Boat commander, writes a compelling tale of life aboard German U-Boats and the Battle of the Atlantic during WWII. Beginning with the victorious U-Boat years 1941-42 to the final disastrous years when the tally was 28,000 U-Boat men disappeared beneath the waves. This is a brutally honest memoir of life on and off the boats and how the men, their families and their loves were affected by the iron coffins. Werner served on 5 subs and was one of the only surviving commanders at war's end. After being a POW he came to the States and became a US citizen. Fascinating descriptions of new equipment invented but never utilized that could have saved many German submariner's lives, detailed battles with the Navies of the West and the sinking of amazing tonnage. Absolutely mezmerising.
Night of Thunder by Stephen Hunter. The new Bob Lee Swagger novel finds our aging Marine sniper trying to discover who tried to kill his daughter on a backwoods country road one dark and stormy night. Pretending to be a weak old man Swagger finds himself tangled up with good old boys, Nascar, law enforcement, inbred religious fanatics and someone far worse. Bob barely gets to shoot but he does hunt and in a spectacular finish gets to fire off a .50 cal to bring down a helicopter. Fast paced and short this is a fine addition to the Swagger myth.
Broken Window by Jeffrey Deaver. Art Rhyme is arrested for a crime he says he didn't commit. The evidence is overwhelming. His cousin is asked by Art's wife to prove his innocence. Art's cousin is Lincoln Rhyme famous forensics specialist who helps the NYPD solve their most grizzly crimes. Linc discovers through the course of the investigation that a) his cousin may be innocent and b) the theft of computer generated personal information of every citizen in the city is how the murderer is framing innocent people of the heinous crimes he is committing. A little tedious at times but still an intense thrill ride worthy to be in the Lincoln Rhyme collection. Deaver also paints a scary "Big Brother" picture of how data collection agencies know everything about everyone at any one time.
Ghost Force by Patrick Robinson. A preeminent author of military action/thriller/dramas, Robinson once again brings the world to the brink of destruction (this time over oil...go figure) and once again has the might of the U. S. Seal Teams triumph over badness. The Brits have been wiped off the Falklands by an aggressive Argentine military force (backed by Russians). Because this can be construed as territorial and not about oil, the US can only intervene covertly. A Seal Team leader is brought out of retirement to lead the operation onto the Falkland Islands to convince the Argentines that they need to give back the oil fields to Exxon and BP. Pretty slow in the beginning chapters with all the geo-political build up, but once the Teams show up to blow the crap out of things it gets pretty exciting.
Kill Zone by Gunnery Sgt. Jack Coughlin. Kill Zone is a fast-paced high octane political thriller. A Marine sniper is reprimanded for doing his job too well. During the time he is on forced vacation a Marine general is kidnapped by "terrorists" make empty demands that make no sense. High ranking officials recall the sniper to mount a daring mission to rescue the general and failing that to kill him to keep his knowledge out of enemy hands. The story turns out to be a great little conspiracy theory that's not far from reality concerning the privatization of the American military complex. Fortunately for us our sniper hero is pretty damn good at his job and the bad guys are sent packing...in body bags. Well worth reading.
The Man Who Made Lists by Joshua Kendall. An often times dry and clinical look at Peter Mark Roget and his obsession with categorizing everything in his world and the creation of Roget's Thesaurus. Beset by mental quirks that would institutionalize lesser souls Roget found out at an early age that he could give himself a modicum of relief from daily depression and obsessive compulsive disorder among other things by writing down every word pertaining to everything that could possibly be defined. Roget was stuck at an early age taking care of his depressive mother. This left an indelible mark on his future behaviors as a physician and scientist. If you like words and their origins this book is worth the time. You won't look at the thesaurus the same way again.
Scorpion Down by Ed Offley. Well written and researched accounting of the sinking of the USS Scorpion 40 years ago. The author uncovers a massive conspiracy of mutual silence between the US and the USSR at the height of the Cold War. The author also ties into the story the North Korean capture of the Pueblo, the Walker spy ring and the sinking of the Soviet K129 submarine. A fascinating scenario in which our navy and the Soviet navy agree to disagree over the sinking of two of their submarines that could have brought us to a nuclear war. Well worth reading if you have any interest in military history/mystery/conspiracy.
Shooter by Gunnery Sgt. Jack Coughlin USMC. We're just glad he's on our side. This is the fascinating autobiography of the Marine Corps' best sniper. This story follows him through the current Iraq war. It follows his quest to make a mobile sniper unit capable of leap frogging over and providing cover to regular ground units and his every day existence as a true warrior. He is held back by incompetent non-combat tested officers and only when a tough Major says jump does Coughlin's idea come to fruition. He's a leader's leader. He forms the best mobile sniper team anyone could have imagined. He tells tales of things we've heard in the news, the good, the bad and the downright ugly and he tells of things even the reporters didn't report on. Being overseas takes a toll on his family life. When he returns to the world his wife asks for a divorce. Well worth the time spent reading. His next book Kill Zone is in the cue...
The Devil's Gentleman by Harold Schechter. Written by true-crime historian Harold Schechter this is a tale of a notorious, sensational New York City murder in the 1890s, the fascinating forensic science of an earlier age, and the explosively dramatic trial that became a tabloid sensation at the turn of the century. Death was by poison and came in the mail. Forensic studies suggested cyanide as the cause of death; handwriting on the deadly package and the vestige of a label glued to the bottle pointed to a handsome, athletic society scamp, Roland Molineux. Molineux’s subsequent indictment for murder led to two explosive trials, a sex-infused scandal that shocked the nation, and a lurid print-media circus that ended in madness and a proud family’s disgrace. What powerfully dark motives could drive the wealthy scion of an eminent New York family to foul murder? Schechter brings alive Manhattan’s Gilded Age: a gas lit world of elegant town houses and hidden bordellos, chic restaurants and shabby opium dens, a city peopled by men and women fighting and losing the battle against urges an upright era had ordered suppressed. The Devil’s Gentleman is an insightful, gripping work well worth the time spent reading.
Torpedo by Jeff Edwards. WOW! Thrilling, realistic, technologically accurate and scary from beginning to end. A nuclear accident in Germany and a Bio terror attack in London put the US on high alert. The German Chancellor breaks the NATO arms embargo by sending 4 high tech submarines to a nasty Middle Eastern country that is definitely not West leaning. The Brits want blood and the US doesn't want World War III started. Back room political shenanigans and the courage of one naval captain are all that stand between us and oblivion. Fortunately the author didn't make the US all conquering and all invincible. Severe losses are experienced by all sides involved in the deadly chess match. What a terrific read!
Flesh and Bone by Jefferson Bass. Our favorite bone detective is successfully framed for murder and must use everyone and everything at hand to clear himself and get his life and reputation back. Several cases are revolving around him at the same time and as it turns out everything is related to his case. Diabolical in its execution you know who the bad guy is, but he plays such a minute roll you really don't know until the end. Quick fun read.
Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff. Let's face it, the title of the book is what enticed us to get it! The story is of Jane Charlotte, arrested for murder, who tells the police a fantastic story of a super secret organization that fights evil in the world and of which she is a member. Quite frankly, the police thinks she's nuts and send her to the psych ward for evaluation. She spins an often bizarre and totally hard to believe tale of surveillance, magic guns, Mandrill bombs, and evil twins that wreak havoc in her life. Things go from bad to worse as she explains her tale and digs her own grave deeper and deeper. A fast and fun read. Pretty clever and original in content.
Sink the Shigure by C. Cameron Cooke. A WWII novel of a submarine captain who's lost everything and ends up pursuing the Japanese battle ship that destroyed his life. Bursting with minute details of naval/submarine life, maritime tactics and how easily it is to be lost at sea this book conjures up the golden era of the military. Life aboard the sub is anything but professional. The men are past the breaking point. Suspicion, criminal activities and back-stabbing run rampant on what should be a cream of the crop crew. There is also a secondary covert operation revolving around an SAS officer with an agenda of revenge of his own. Things don't go well for anyone involved. Quick, energetic read on the high seas.
The 47th Samurai, a Bob Lee Swagger novel by Stephen Hunter. Not exactly where you would expect to find Bob Lee Swagger, Marine Sniper extraordinaire, but a debt of honor must be repaid and Bob Lee finds himself immersed in Japanese culture and the way of the Samurai to avenge the murders of a man whose father was killed on Iwo Jima by Bob's father. Sinister forces swirl around Bob Lee as he struggles with getting to the bottom of the heinous crime. No snipering is involved but he watches every samurai movie ever made and learns the way of the sword in a short period of time that suggests movie treatment. The story has a happy ending which is ok, but tied up a little too neatly. A good read but not the place I want my sniper to go.
Thunderstruck by Erik Larson. A fascinating tale of murder
most foul and the first use of wireless technology to apprehend the
suspect. The story begins in 1894 when the likes of Lodge, Hertz and
Edison were working on electricity, sound waves and currents, and a 20
year old Marconi trying to get backers to fund his own idea of wireless
technology. This is a story of convergences. Marconi is
reviled as a "foreigner" by the staid British upper crust scientific
community, but he never quits making bigger and bolder strides in antennae
sizes and locations of the wireless sites in Europe, Canada and on board
ships at sea. During the time he working on his inventions and
starting a family of his own, another man, Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen a
purveyor of patent medicines marries a woman of questionable character who
henpecks him to distraction. In public they pretend to be happy, but
she spends his money like it was going out of style and forces Crippen to
change jobs frequently, get them bigger homes to live in and entertain
guests in extravagant style. As Marconi's device gains some
financial support and technological advances, Crippen falls in love with a
typist in his office building and she with him. Through an intricate
series of deceptions, the wife disappears, the
Havoc by Jack DuBrul. Philip Mercer, our very favorite rock hard geologist is thrust into the thick of international terrorism and the search for the tomb of Alexander the Great in this rip roaring action novel set against today's geopolitical climate of greed and fundamentalist hatred of the West. Mercer goes to Africa to search for a metal that supposedly doesn't exist and gets involved in a wild and crazy adventure that spans the globe and involves secret societies and corrupt government officials. And he finds love along the way too. A quick and entertaining read from one of our favorite authors.
Rise To Victory by R. Cameron Cooke. The war on terrorism reaches new depths in this thriller about a courageous sub captain and his ready for shore leave crew. So close to their home port after a long tour the sub gets emergency orders to go back out to sea and rescue an important US citizen from the clutches of bad rebels/terrorists. This citizen is of course, part of a much bigger geo political sub plot. No pun intended. The writing is good and informative on the inner workings of life on a submarine, the action is intense and the sub captain is tough and decisive in a tight situation, the author portrays most of the crew as back stabbers and slackers with no sense of duty or honor and the politicians in charge are the usual assholes whose only job it is to CYA in case of a debacle. The sub crew gets involved in local island rebellion and a renegade high tech sub. Not everyone makes it out alive.
Kamikaze by Michael Slade. The creative writing duo of father/daughter Canadians Jay and Rebecca Clarke bring us a story of revenge, retribution and Atomic bombs. They also bring back our favorite Mounties of Special X to solve the crime. The story weaves back and forth between the attack on Pearl Harbor, the internment of Japanese Canadians, the violence against white prisoners of war, the Yakuza and a family of American patriots. Fast paced but detailed, Michael Slade puts on a good show. eh.
Seven Deadly Wonders by Matthew Reilly. From the man who brought us the Shane Schofield books comes a book with more action than you can shake a stick at. Multinational teams of professional soldiers representing America, Europe and Australia race to find the capstone to the Great Pyramid of Giza. Following ancient texts with the aid of a 10 year old Oracle the good guys race all over the ancient world traipsing through quicksand, falling boulders, traps, flying spears and deadly enemy forces to get the most amazing power in the world. Non-stop action and mayhem. Personally, Team Apeonaut thinks too many of the good team died for no real reason, but the ending was satisfactory. A good read.
Carved in Bone by Jefferson Bass. A tasty little who-dunnit set in Tennessee. An anthropologist who works at the university at the Body Farm, a place to study human decomp, and is well known and respected by students and law enforcement officers is called in when the mummified remains of a human are found in a cave in a remote mountain community. The plot thickens when he discovers that everyone is related to everyone else and that blood is thicker than water. After many mis-adventures, mis-directions and mis-anthropes get in his way, he solves the mystery of the mummy in the cave and garners new friends and admirers. Well paced, entertaining and a quick read. Can't wait for Flesh and Bone.
Midnight Mass by F. Paul Wilson. Not up to his usual standards, but it was ok. Vampires have taken over the world and a few pockets of humans try to resist. Vampires and people die horrible deaths. Religion and belief play heavily on the vampire mythos and why they have power over us and them. A defrocked priest, his lesbian atheist niece and a num who straps bombs to herself are our last best hope for survival. Funny side note...the dust jacket says the priest's name is Dan...in the book it's Joe. I just find that humorous. Anxiously waiting for the next Repairman Jack novel.
Treasure of Kahn by Clive Cussler. Dirk Pitt is almost back in fighting shape. About damn time. The story spends less time on his grown children and more time on an improbable adventure with his lifelong friend in tow. Evil Mongolians disrupt the world's oil supply in an attempt to ruin the West in general and gain back territory China annexed years ago. The truth behind the explosions and sabotage is actually very basic, greed and the search for the wealth of a world conqueror. Where is the burial place of Kublai Kahn? Dirk and Al get lost in the desert, ride a camel and get to drink sour goat's milk. Not bad for a day's work. Dirk has lost some of his appeal now that he is older, in charge of NUMA and married. But what can one reader do. Borrow it from some fan's library.
Spy by Ted Bell. Our intrepid British hero Alex Hawke discovers a link between Muslim extremists and the Mexican re-invasion of the US. Bell spins quite a chilling yarn that isn't too far from current day realities. Hawke reunites with many of his old friends to uncover a plot to bring the US to it's knees. Action packed and fast paced this thriller leaves you wanting more. Well worth reading.
The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl. I had rather hoped this would be another wonderful mystery that revolved around Edgar Allan Poe in some fashion. Instead what I ended up with was repetitive, ponderous, overly flourished balderdash. EAP is buried in an unmarked grave. Everyone thinks he was a bum. A young lawyer nearly ruins his reputation and his life trying to prove that EAP's life wasn't a drunken waste and that his literary efforts are important. He turns sleuth and encounters spies, assassins, corrupt slavers and police who don't care about the circumstances surrounding Poe's demise. I had hoped Pearl learned something from the ponderous Dante Club, which could have been fun. But I was wrong. If you don't mind repetition this book is for you.
Giraffe by J. M. Ledgard. A beautifully written tale of a great inhumanity done to some gentle giants whose only footprint in history was to be born in Africa, get captured by a bunch of Czechs in 1971, be taken by barge to the CSSR and after four years in the Czech zoo be slaughtered by the Communist Party in the name a national security. The tale is told in first person narrated chapters by various characters starting with the man sent by the Party to study them, by the zookeeper and the girl who loved them, the man who was recruited to shoot them, and the butchers who were recruited to dispose of the bodies. The tale was kept quiet from the people, the international press, and the OIE for political reasons. These beautiful creatures were rescued from oblivion by accident while this author was researching the story of how 49 giraffes were disappeared by the Communist Party and how the people involved were changed or not in relation to their actions in the drama. Fascinating and word reading.
Cold Moon by Jeffery Deaver. Another clever sociopath vs. clever criminologist. The Watchmaker is out killing a seemingly random bunch of people in particularly brutal ways. But that string of crimes only scratches the surface. A tale of police corruption all the way to the top, murder of innocent people, large amounts of money, home grown terrorists and misdirection comes to light. Linc and his team of professionals pull out all the stops to figure out what exactly is going on and who is the next target. Red herrings galore surround the investigation at every turn. Pretty good mystery.
The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard. A languorous thriller centering around West Point and it's cadets in 1830. A cadet is murdered and his heart removed. The military brings in a civilian policeman to investigate. Events conspire to bring together the policeman and a young cadet named Edgar Allan Poe to solve the ever increasingly tangled mystery that involves multiple murders and mutilations, Poe's poetry, diaries written in secret codes, epileptic fits and satanic rituals commanded by dead relatives. Beautifully written to evoke the era and the state of the human condition at that time. The author knows how to use language to weave an intricate and at times delicate murder mystery. Well worth reading.
Contest by Matthew Reilly. This is a departure from the master of the military themed action books. A doctor and his daughter as well as beings from 6 other planets are teleported to the New York Public Library by beings unknown for a contest that will decide their fates. If you win you live. Die you lose. Each contestant has a guide from the unknown beings to assist them in the little rules of the contest. Cheaters never prosper as they all learn when one of their number breaks the rules in flagrant fashion. The doctor has to use his brain to save himself and his daughter. A little slow to start but once the contest is in full motion things move along at a brisk pace. It is a monster fest a la Aliens vs. Predators type contest with lowly humans thrown in for contrast. Quite entertaining.
Area 7 by Matthew Reilly. This rip roaring, totally implausible actioner pits the finest marines against the finest rangers (who are now mercenary traitors) and a team of assassins from South Africa in a race to save America and the world. Shane Schofield and his merry band of Marines protect the President, contain a deadly virus, save a little genetically created boy, saves the day and gets the girl. This one keeps you turning the pages.
Planets by Dava Sobel. Waxing romantic about the Solar System, Sobel has written another book with passion. It is a less satisfying read than Longitude and Galileo's Daughter, but it is entertaining and educational. Planets is a journey of discovery of the celestial bodies that make our universe and the people who "discovered", named and studied these bodies. She postulates how and why the planets were named, how they affect our daily lives, the creation of the Oriental and Occidental horoscopes, tidal pulls on our emotions, sunspots and the cosmic wonder in general. Not a novel per se, but an essay on the beauty around us if we care to see it. Pleasant to read.
Vertical Dive by Michael DiMercurio. The French screw up again and we have to save their collective butts, again. During a NATO exercise they lose to religious extremists the most advanced attack sub on the planet. The US sends two of it's best subs and sub drivers to clean up the mess. These captains have appeared in several previous books and their characters are well known and developed. Except for a few pages of maudlin dead wife/her spirit is talking to me crap, the book is a great, fast paced, energetic read.
Perfume by Patrick Suskind. A novel approach to the inner workings of the mind of a serial killer. (no pun intended). A interesting tale of a creature born in a fish stall amid the foul debris of 18th century France. Amid squallor, and indifference Jean Baptist, a hideous child with no smell of his own, hones his skill as a master mixer of scents. This guy can detect any scent in the world and reproduce it. He can out-mix the master perfumers of France with his nose. He also has this twisted dream of making the perfect scent by collecting and distilling the innocent smells of 25 young girls. The build up to his heinous crimes is pretty good, but the ending comes too quickly and gets resolved almost comically. Which is too bad. It's a fun little story. A movie is in the works. Could be fun if they do it right.
The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre by Dominic Smith. What starts out as a fascinating history lesson into Louis Daguerre's discovery of how to fix images to silver and copper plates by the use of mercury vapors languorously turns into a tale of lost love and madness brought on by chemical poisoning. Nostalgia and a vibrant account of nineteenth century Paris drive this tale of a man driven to capture for eternity his own private doomsday list. An inventor, an artist and a man not of his surroundings, Daguerre saw things very differently from those around him. This is a wonderful read and is highly recommended.
The Twelfth Card by Jeffery Deaver. A ruthless hit man baffles the usually unflappable forensics expert, Lincoln Rhyme. In order to solve a case from today, he has to solve a case from 140 years ago. This is one of the most satisfying Rhyme novels in years. The intertwining past and present crimes and the effect these crimes could have on the Constitution are ingenious and treacherous. Rhyme and his crew take wrong turns, come to the wrong conclusions and get mislead, but ultimately they solve the all the crimes. An exciting read.
A Crack In The World by Simon Winchester. Clocking in at little more than 400 pages this is a book filled with the rich history of California and it's earthquake disasters. Most prominently it deals with the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and it's aftermath. Rich in archival witness accounts of the event and the aftermath this book is a quick and entertaining read. Highly educational and informative as to the nature of the planet's ever changing surface. The author covers plate tectonics and earthquakes throughout the earth's history and how these events came to be measured and recorded for posterity. Plus this book has the greatest dust jacket ever invented. Take it off the book and it unfolds into a reprint of the Examiner headlines from April 19, 1906: Earthquake and Fire: San Francisco in Ruins.
Pirate by Ted Bell. Until Dirk Pitt gets off his retired ass, Lord Alex Hawke will have to save the world from evil Chinese war mongers and the French! Pooey! This is a rip roaring adventure spanning the globe. It has intrigue, suspense, terror, high powered weapons, high powered gadgets, friendships forged under fire and near death experiences. And of course the world is saved for capitalism and democracy. Bell's other books include Hawke and Assassin.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Fascinating and bleak look at our world today and where it might be heading, primarily through cloning, pharmaceuticals, bio engineering and controlling the masses through fear and social distortion. The tale is narrated by a lone human named Snowman. The picture he paints is not a pretty one as to how the world destroyed itself. He has been on his own for awhile except for the children of Oryx and Crake. We find out through Snowman's story who they were and their relationship to Snowman and the world as it has become and who might have caused it's downfall. A vast wasteland of dead cities and dead people is the backdrop for a tale of survival, madness and hope. This is a very entertaining read and worth checking out. It's not as farfetched as the dust jacket might lead you to believe.
Scarecrow by Matthew Reilly. This author may be the savior of the military/action genre. Far more entertaining than the last 2 Dirk Pitt novels put together. And I love Dirk Pitt. The largest bounty hunt in history is afoot. 15 of the world's best warriors are on a list with a bounty of nearly 20 million dollars on each head. The hero of the book Shane Schofield has the most on his head. Someone really wants him dead. Lots of things blow up...abandoned Russian bases, submarines, supertankers. Lots of weapons are discharged...small: Desert Eagles, medium: MP-7s, large: ICBMs. This book has it all including beheading by machete, katana and guillotine. Oh yeah, don't forget the tiger sharks! Plus it has an international flavor utilizing military/mercenary forces from all over the globe. A great fun read. Other entertaining books by Reilly: Ice Station, Area 7, Temple
The Wind Chime Legacy by A. W. Mykel. This bullet fast and cleverly plotted mystery/espionage thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat. America's top agent is tasked to safeguard the armed computerized heart of the U.S. defense system. He is set up by his own team and his cover blown. Dealing with the KGB and the Pentagon the hero runs for his life and to buy time for a world on the edge---of---destruction. Great entertainment. Probably only available in the library or from someone who owns it. 1980
The Salamandra Glass by A. W. Mykel. This is an awesome twisted spy thriller. Fast paced, complex and realistic by any standards. One trained killer is all that stands between the free world and a group of evil men bent on destroying it. What started with the French Resistance (see, the French again) and grew into an international terror group is now a nightmare for the protagonist who starts his adventure searching for his father's murderers. This is an amazing book and well worth reading. Probably only available at the library or from someone who owns it. 1983.
Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. This is one disturbing tale of survival. It is touted as being a "true" autobiographical tale. If it is actually true, then it is truly amazing this guy survived to adulthood to make money off his memoir. A story of a young gay boy deserted by his parents at the tender age of 12. Nearly compulsive in his own neatness Augusten is tossed to the wolves of Victorian squalor, turd divination and bible dipping. Having a mother who was psychotic and a father who just didn't give a shit this boy learns to live in two worlds...the one with his now lesbian mother and the other with the psychiatrist who has been "treating" her. The time he spends with the psychiatrist's family in their fetid trash filled house of shit spewing babies, cats that crap everywhere and eating food off the floor is revolting. His first lover is a pedophile who lives in the family's shed. This kid's parents should have been shot and / or sterilized for putting him through this. If they were so dysfunctional they should have given him to child protective services or something. He might not have survived that, but then we wouldn't have had to read about the sheer madness to which he was subjected during his formative years. I suppose it is a fascinating and well written story and only in America can one make money from their own misfortune.
The Bone Parade by Mark Nykanen. Not a new story by any means,
but well written and entertaining. This is the story of a world
renowned artist. However his talent is not God given, it is purely a
function of his psychotic behavior.
The Secret Lives of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. SO the powers that be say to me, Norbert you need broaden your literary horizons. You're too intense, too violently inclined. Get in touch with your genteel side. Read this book. A wonderful novel about mothers, daughters and the power of unconditional love. It is a languid tale set in South Carolina in the 60's. A time of vast and violent changes in America. The young white daughter of a violent peach farmer and her black housekeeper run afoul of the law and her father and run away to Tiburon, SC. Providence leads them to a loving family of bee keeping black women and they start to live their lives for the first time. They learn the truths about themselves and the runaway girl comes to grips with an awful secret she has been living with for as long as she can remember. It's sweet and bittersweet just like the different kinds of honey the bees produce. Overly descriptive of things best left to one's mind, but nicely written. On a personal note, I would have been happier had this been The Secret Lives of Africanized Killer Bees. Oh well, maybe I'll write that book!
The Loch by Steve Alten. Zach Wallace descendent of Sir William Wallace of Scotland drowns as a boy of 9 under bizarre circumstances in Loch Ness. 17 years later as a renowned scientist he drowns again while searching for giant squid in the Sargasso Sea. He then is summoned home to Scotland by the father he loathes and is tricked into searching for Nessie and be damned if he doesn't drown again. This book is filled with action, drama, family tragedy, amazing science, myths and legend surrounding the Loch and it's famous inhabitant and a great history of the land that is Scotland. This is a sit down and read straight through adventure into the pines of the highlands and the freezing depths of the Loch in search of redemption, love and forgiveness. Plus Nessie eats the hell out of a lot of people!
Havana by Steven Hunter. Another Earl Swagger novel. This time Earl is enlisted by the government to protect a randy congressman in pre-Castro Cuba, then later the CIA enlists him to assassinate Castro before he can come to power. Full of action, drama, heroics, tactics and some great shooting. If you love great sniper/military/police stories read all the Earl Swagger novels and the novels about his son, Bob Lee Swagger. Besides, you have to love the name...Swagger.
Make Love* *the Bruce Campbell Way by Bruce Campbell. Some might think this is a work of fiction. A mere fancy sprung from the mind of one of our generation's greatest B actors. Not so Monkey Boys! This is a breath stopping while you are laughing so hard, tear producing, pants wetting, drink snorting and chokingly funny tome about a B actor realizing his dream to be cast in an A movie. Our hero researches his upcoming role in so much detail that he nearly derails himself and the movie. Self deprecating and full of bullshit you'll be glad you read this...all opposable thumbs up! If you loved this you must read:
If Chins Could Kill, Confessions of a B Movie Actor by Bruce Campbell. Our hero's achingly funny and informative autobiography on his humble beginnings in the movie biz and his journey to being the King of Bs. Anecdotes and great pictures of movie shoots and secrets of the trade revealed in a humorous manner.
Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund. This book was inspired by a brief passage in Melville's own Moby Dick where Ahab speaks passionately of his young wife at home in Nantucket. Young Una Spencer leaves her rotten father in Kentucky for the harsh but peaceful life at a New England lighthouse island. Disguising herself as a boy she earns a berth on a whaler and gets her first glimpse of Ahab. Theirs is a marriage full of not being together for most of the time. Being a captain of some note, Ahab has a wonderful home on Nantucket, a home that Una takes care of perfectly. While on her own she gets involved in the issues of slavery, women's rights and religious beliefs. She loved Ahab immensely but he wasn't her first husband or her last. Well written and evocative. Full of spectacular visuals of the golden age of whaling in New England.
Beethoven's Hair by Russell Martin. This is a first class history and a fascinating story of forensic science. It's a wonderful tale of a well cared for lock of Beethoven's hair that tells of his life, Nazi persecution during WWII and the amazing world of forensic science. This lock of hair makes journeys unbelievable and lives to tell the tale when DNA is at a point where it can tell us why Beethoven went deaf and how he died. It's marvelous and engrossing. Think The Red Violin.
Beowulf a new translation by Seamus Heaney. Our favorite Scandinavian hero who saves the Danes from the invincible monster Grendel. Easy to read and understand. I suppose one might read some parallels into this story of the first millennium of meeting the evil, conquering it and then living with the aftermath. It is usually easier to seek forgiveness than to ask permission.
Captain Bligh's Portable Nightmare by John Toohey. A vivid telling of Captain Bligh's amazing and some would say impossible voyage from the middle of the Pacific to Java and salvation. Based on extensive research into the mutiny on the Bounty and the man who was Bligh, it's a tale of extraordinary seamanship, mapmaking skill, the true failure of the Bounty expedition and why Bligh was tossed into a 23 foot launch with 18 loyalists. Fantastical tale of bravery, survival in the face of insurmountable odds and the aftermath.
Longitude by Dava Sobel. For more than 200 years the question of Longitude plagued scientists and their patrons. In 1714 England's parliament offered 20000 pounds to anyone who came up with a device or method for accurately measuring longitude. A man named John Harrison spent the better part of forty years coming up with a clock that would keep precise time at sea, a device now known as the chronometer. Vividly details of the time and what it must have been like for this tortured man to come up with his device. Wonderful read.
The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. Well researched and wonderfully written, this is the tale of two geniuses. In 1857 the compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary is begun. The overseeing committee discovers that one man has submitted 10000 definitions. Upon further investigation it is discovered that the submitter is a Civil War veteran and an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane. This is a great story of words. Other fascinating stories by Simon Winchester are The Map That Changed the World and Krakatoa The Day The World Exploded.
Meg Primal Waters by Steve Alten: Meg and The Trench were great first novels by this author. Megaladons are found to be surviving in the Marianas Trench and not unlike Jaws decide they like the taste of human flesh and hunt them down all over the oceans for a tasty snack. This one is what you might call a pot boiler. It has action, sex, violence, stupidity and really freaking big sharks. Quick to read and fun to boot. I'd read the first two books before reading this one.
Deception Point by Dan Brown: Not as good as Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons. But it's full of political intrigue, romance, adventure and far fetched action. NASA needs a win and the current President fighting for re-election needs a win, but something is rotten in the Arctic. It's a quick read so you don't get hung up on the big picture.
Voyage of the Grey Wolves by Steven Wilson: The end of WWII is in sight. The Nazi high command tries something desperate to ensure their victory by sending out a legendary sub captain in a radical new submarine. The Brits have someone just as legendary to combat this new threat. The North Atlantic was never as bloody as when these two bitter enemies engage. Great detail involving training and life aboard the U Boats.
October 22, 2017