Tag Archive | fiction

Book Review: The Charlemagne Pursuit

The Charlemagne Pursuit, by Steve Berry

This is another in the series following Cotton Malone, a former Justice Department agent, who owns a rare book shop in Copenhagen.  But somehow he keeps managing to get pulled back into the adventures he tried so hard to leave behind.

The Charlemagne Pursuit (Cotton Malone, #4)

Malone brings it upon himself this time, as conversations with his son lead him into a new desire to learn the truth behind his father’s death in 1971.  He knows that he died in a submarine accident in the North Atlantic, but what went wrong?  

Malone asks his former boss to get him a copy of the still classified file, which leads him on a pursuit he never expected.  His father, in fact, did not die in the North Atlantic, but instead while on a mission in Antarctica.  But why?

Malone learns that as he is trying to learn why his father died, there are powerful men who want to ensure that the secret never comes out.  His pursuit to find out the truth leads him to uncover the ancient secrets that his opponents don’t want him to know.  

As usual, this is a fast paced book with several twists and turns.  Unfortunately, I feel like this novel sort of fell flat on the believability index.  It was disappointing, because I never really bought it since the story is just a bit outside of the realm of reality.  That said, it was still an interesting read.  

3 stars.

Book Review: Bones

Bones, by Jonathan Kellerman

Bones is a murder mystery; the story of the search for the murderer of a woman with a bright future.  She is a musical prodigy, working as a tutor for a rich family whose son possesses the same bright talent.  She is discovered murdered in a bird marsh in Los Angeles.  The investigation uncovers several additional bodies buried in the marsh; they are all local prostitutes.

Bones (Alex Delaware, #23)

Detective Milo Sturgis calls in assistance from psychologist Alex Delaware; the different types of victims are providing a challenge.  Together, the two of them, along with assistance from a new detective in training, must find the killer.

It was an interesting murder mystery, full of twists and turns, where you never quite know who did it.

3 stars

Book Review: The Alexandria Link

The Alexandria Link, by Steve Berry, read by Scott Brick

This was another book in Steve Berry’s series featuring Cotton Malone, a retired Justice Department Agent who moved to Copenhagen to open a rare book shop.

The Alexandria Link (Cotton Malone, #2)

In The Alexandria Link, Cotton Malone is drawn into the chase when his son his kidnapped.  The kidnappers want information related to a previous case Malone worked on, and that only he possesses.  Making sure his son is safe will require him to revisit the previous case, and make sure what has been hidden remains that way.

And what is that secret information?  Well imagine for a moment that the Holy Land as named in the Bible is not actually in Israel and the region of Palestine?  What if Israel, as created after World War II, is not actually located where today’s version of the Bible says it is?  And along those lines, how would you prove it?

The adventure sends Cotton Malone on a search for the lost library of Alexandria, the huge research library of the ancient world, that was supposed to have been located in Alexandria, Egypt.  The library was said to have contained scrolls of the Old Testament prior to their translation into modern languages.  And those scrolls would hold the key to whether the location of the Holy Land, as described in the Bible, was within the modern state of Israel.

But why would that matter?  Because…  Modern day Christians, Jews and Muslims all make claim to the Holy Land.  But if it were in the wrong location, what do that do to the already tense situation?  Would an all out war ensue?

Berry’s writing style keeps the reader engaged throughout the whole book and his creative interweaving of history and hypothetical scenarios makes you think.  Plus, Scott Brick is one of the best narrators out there!

4 stars.

Book Review: Bright Shiny Morning

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey

This was an unusual choice of audio books among my Dad’s collection, in that it was not a thriller.  Perhaps my mom chose it. I read James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces years ago before the controversy about him making up the story and then selling it as a memoir.  That hubbub seems to have died down.

Bright Shiny Morning

This novel, if you can call it that, details a series of stories about people in Los Angeles.  The down and out, the rich and famous, the ones who are trying to escape their pasts and build a new life.  The downtrodden and abused, the up and coming, the ones who have nothing but hope in LA. 

In between the characters’ stories, Frey details the history of Los Angeles, its fun facts, its troublesome violence, its natural disasters.  Honestly, no book has ever made me want to visit a place less than this book.  I’ve been to LA, and don’t really see the appeal, but this really solidified that I cannot understand why anyone would want to live there.  The only thing it has going for it is sun. 

Still I found myself interested in the stories, and intrigued by Frey’s unusual writing style, which frequently annoys readers based on his reviews.  The narrator, Ben Foster, is excellent.  He narrates with different accents, and changes his pitch, tone, speed and volume to vividly portray the stories in the book.  However, if you are looking for a happy ending, there doesn’t seem to be one in Los Angeles.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

4 stars. 

Book Review: Empire and Honor

Empire and Honor, by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV
So what would happen if in the waning days of World War II, some German officers and troops escaped from the crumbling Reich?  What if they made their way in German U-boats to a neutral country, where they could rebuild and try again?
Empire and Honor
Empire and Honor explores this very premise, that officers from the Third Reich made their way in U-boats to Argentina, with cash and uranium for nuclear weapons. And Americans working for a new intelligence agency are charged with finding these defectors.
I really wanted to like this book.  I enjoy World War II history, and am intrigued by the theories that there were German officers who escaped from Germany at the end of the war to make a new life, and wait for a new opportunity to bring the Reich to life again in Argentina.  The book started out so promising, with stories of the refugees trying to cross the German border at the end of the war.  With stories of the fledgling secret intelligence agency of the US Government.  With stories of the Germans who were helping the allies.  And stories of romance.
But ultimately this novel never got off the ground for me.  Stories ended in mid-air, never to be picked up again.  Characters were not distinguishable from each other.  Characters became focused on petty grievances instead of the big picture of saving humanity.  And how the hell did Juan Peron fit in?  Yes, the later President of Argentina.  The point of his character was vague, and his story line was one that dropped off mid-story.  It was confusing and annoying.
I ended up wondering why this audio book was 16 CDs, because it seemed like they could have wrapped it up in 4. 
2 stars. 

Book Review: Deception Point

Deception Point, by Dan Brown

I hadn’t read Dan Brown since I read the DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons almost 20 years ago, but this was among my parents audiobooks.

Deception Point is a political thriller, with plenty of action, deception (hence the title) and murder…

Deception Point

Rachel Sexton works in the National Security Office of the President, writing briefs for the President on various topics of national security.  Until one day she receives a call from her boss, letting her know that she’s been summoned by the President.  She is taken in a White House helicopter to begin the most bizarre and dangerous 24 hours of her life.

As it turns out, NASA has discovered a meteorite, buried deep within the ice of the Milne Ice Shelf in the Arctic.  It’s incredible all on its own, but then she learns that this meteorite has the potential to be the biggest scientific discovery NASA has ever made…  But why has Rachel been summoned to see a mysterious meteorite in the Arctic?

Like other Dan Brown novels, this one is fast-paced, leading the reader down multiple twists and turns, and barely letting you catch your breath before the next plot twist comes along. 

It held my interest, and I appreciated the scientific discussion that is present throughout the book, but it didn’t have the same allure as the DaVinci Code.  My biggest disappointment was that I found myself not being satisfied with the motive of the villain in the end; it wasn’t clear why that character was the one behind it all…

That being said, I still found it to be an easy, interesting read. 

3 stars. 

 

Book Review: Edge

Edge, by Jeffrey Deaver

Officer Corte is in an interesting line of work. He works as a “shepherd,” a term created by those who work in his under-the-radar government organization. He is charged with protecting people whose lives are at risk due to being targeted by a “lifter” or “hitter.” Euphemisms that essentially mean people who are hired to kidnap people in order to extract information, or kill them.

Edge

Corte has been assigned to guard the Kessler family, consisting of a police officer, his stay-at-home wife, their daughter and the wife’s sister.

The book contains a series of plot twists, and the reader never quite knows who is being targeted and by whom. The bad guys go to huge lengths to get their target, including kidnapping and torturing innocent bystanders to make them do the dirty work.

I have never led a life that would lead me to needing protection by these agents, but I found myself fascinated by the intricate dance they do to move people to safety and make sure they are still alive to get to their depositions, or court dates, or whatever other thing is so important that they not attend.

Nobody in this family is who they seem, and the plot progresses as Corte tries to discover who wants the Kesslers, and why.  The book has its share of gunfire, explosions and other things that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat until the very end…  I listened to the audio version, and the narrator, Skip Sudduth, was excellent!

4 stars.

Book Review: The Utopia Experiment

The Utopia Experiment, by Kyle Mills

Can you imagine if someone invented the next phase in technology; a cell phone but WAY more.  A device that can read your brain waves, in order to give you an incredible experience.  Apps that appear in your field of vision and can be manipulated with your thoughts.  A device that corrects your vision and hearing, and gives you a sensory experience unlike any other.  And oh, did I mention that your nightly insomnia can be miraculously eliminated?  

The Utopia Experiment (Covert-One, #10)

Dr. Christian Dresner has invented just such a device.  It has potential capabilities for people with disabilities that can only be dreamt of.  And he’s created a military version that the U.S. will have exclusive rights to that will allow for U.S. military dominance and will hopefully bring peace to the world.  

Dr. John Smith is assigned to explore its military usefulness.  He thinks it is great, until an old friend, Randi Russell, shows up with information and a gut feeling that something deeply sinister is going on…

Kyle Mills wrote a fast paced novel that held my attention from start to finish.  His way of explaining complex technological innovations made it easier to grasp the concepts that were responsible for the premise of the novel.  

I was intrigued by this novel.  Parts of it seriously blew my mind, in terms of imagining the next horizon of technology and the dark purposes it could be used for.  My brain regularly got off on tangents about the power that the tech industry has over us.  There are some troubling parallels to things that are happening in the world today.  For someone with bad intentions, I shudder to think…

4 stars. 

Book Review: The Weight of Water

The Weight of Water, by Anita Shreve

The outer shoals of Maine, is one of the most inhospitable places in the United States.  But the fishing is incredible.  So John and Maren Hontvedt, newlyweds, make their way from Norway to make a new life in America.

The Weight of Water

They live for five years on Smuttynose Island, part of the state of Maine, but actually closer to Portmouth, New Hampshire.  It is a remote outcropping with barely any soil, only a couple permanent residents, and few summer visitors.  The Hontvedts along with a few family members and an employee, build a life in their new, harsh home.

One day Maren, her old-maid sister and her beautiful sister-in-law are home alone when tragedy strikes.  After two brutal murders, only one woman is found alive, hiding in a sea cave, frozen to the core in her nightdress, clutching her dog for warmth.  The year was 1873.

In the present day, Jean Janes is on assignment as a photographer, to document the island and the little that remains of the murder site, for a magazine article on the murders.  She goes with her husband Thomas and five year old daughter, along with Thomas’ brother Rich and new girlfriend Adaline.  The five of them are traveling on Rich’s sailboat, trying to enjoy a vacation while Jean completes her assignment.  Little does Jean know that her story is heading for its own tragic ending.

Shreve’s novel goes back and forth between Maren’s life in the period of time leading up to the murders, and Jean’s present day life and troubled marriage.  Shreve weaves the story skillfully, and makes good use of the true story of the Smuttynose murders; although her ending diverts from the historical account.

It is a quick read, following Anita Shreve’s typical storyline on a woman experiencing a challenging relationship issue.  I enjoyed the book from beginning to end.

4 stars.

Book Review: Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic, by Sophie Kinsella

My therapist suggested that I read a humorous book – apparently something didn’t sit well with her when I mentioned I was reading the book about Ted Bundy – so I promised that I would read something fun next.  I picked this one off the shelf, a book that I won in a giveaway a decade or so ago and never got to.

Confessions of a Shopaholic (Shopaholic, #1)

Becky is a journalist in the financial sector, writing about retirement funds, bonds, stock splits and all things finance related.  So you would think that she’d know what she was talking about and practice what she preaches.  Except Becky’s own finances are an absolutely mess, and she’s in debt up to her eyeballs due to her inability to stop shopping… 

Becky comes up with all sorts of harebrained schemes to make more money, including marrying a millionaire and winning the lottery, along with other less traditional ideas.  The problem is, she grossly overestimates how much she can earn and underestimates how much she spends. 

It is intended to be a light-hearted story of a young woman learning to survive in the world, and of course there is a happy ending as all of Becky’s dreams come true. 

For me though, ugh, she was annoying.  It really drove me nuts to see how she spent money, with no regard for her ballooning credit card balance.  Doesn’t she dream of an early retirement?  Doesn’t she understand that designer clothes are no better than clothes that cost a fraction of what she paid?  I am my father’s daughter, and overdrawing my account is simply a no go.

Clearly this homework assignment backfired. I’ll have to more carefully consider my next “humorous” book.

2 stars.