23 Following


The Demonologist - Andrew Pyper The story and the slowly revealed backstory explains the existence of evil in the world in an internally consistent way, but for me the premise was not convincing so that the fear inducing aspects were not so effective. I am afraid that the explanation remains more than a stretch.
No Way Back - Andrew Gross Topical and entertaining, but just OK.
Red Star Falling: A Thriller - Brian Freemantle Surprising in many ways, intricately plotted, primarily a story of intra-organizational conflict within British Intelligence, compounded with conflict with an amazingly adept Russian intelligence organization, and a comically inept American Intelligence team that makes an oxymoron of 'intelligence team'. And internal conflict in Charlie Muffin right up to the surprising self-realization denouement. So convoluted and Machiavellian that it is a difficult read, but satisfying none the less.

The Whiteness of the Whale

The Whiteness of the Whale: A Novel - David Poyer Truly a thriller, with vivid descriptions of the seas and weather in Antarctica. The author's background is prodigious and lends tremendous verisimilitude to his descriptions of the place and the privations experienced by the crew of this sailboat in extremely hostile conditions. The physical difficulties are so overwhelmingly horrible, that I found myself concluding that all of those involved must truly be crazy, and the character development and backstory development was not adequate to the task of explaining why the crew would subject themselves to this tortuous trip.

The captain and crew put themselves in harms way to "save the whales" by interfering with the phony research activity that allows the Japanese whaling fleet to violate international agreements and slaughter whales, and harms way includes not only the violent weather and seas, but also the murderous captain of one of the killer ships that is part of the whaling fleet, who has previously rammed a similar boat trying to interfere with the whaling slaughter, leading to the drowning of several of their crew.

Puzzling philosophical and moral conundrum in that the captain and crew of the sailboat are willing to risk their lives and the lives of their crewmates but only some of the crew are finally willing to take the lives of the whalers who have tried to kill them by ramming their sailboat. Finally all but one of the crew is killed in a continuing confrontation with a wounded sperm whale, in the process firing an explosive tipped projectile into the wounded sperm whale after the whale repeatedly rams their sailboat each time they use their auxiliary engines, which send out acoustic noise similar to the noise of the whalers' ships. In the effort to save the whales, the sailboaters have been willing to risk the lives of their companions, themselves, and the whalers, but in the final confrontation with the wounded sperm whale only one of their number sacrifices herself swimming to the whale in a vain attempt to pull out the harpoon and getting bitten in half for her trouble, while the remaining crew fights for their lives and kill the whale while losing all but one of their number, with no discussion of further sacrifice before striking the fatal blow to the whale. This endangered animal, possessor of the largest mammalian brain on the planet, does not seem to show gratitude for the sacrifices of the sailboat crew, members of the alien species that is exterminating is cetacean brethren and its own species, and so is killed for its ingratitude.
King's Mountain: A Ballad Novel - Sharyn McCrumb This novel gives an interesting backstory to the Southern Mountain culture that forms the backdrop to the Ballad series. The author makes the history come alive thru her descriptions of the places and lives of the participants, and there is an appealing touch of other-worldliness to the ambiguous but eventually accurate foreshadowing offered by one of the characters. I would have been more satisfied if this character would have been further developed and explained.

In a bit of what seems to be unintentional irony, the story continually emphasizes the resistance to authority and fierce independence of the Carolina Overmountain Men, while their actual success in resisting the threats of the British commander is totally due to their banding together with their like minded fellow frontiersman in common cause, subverting most of their independence to a set of appointed militia officers who make decisions by discussion leading to common agreement. Pity that their descendants can't seem to emulate this performance in Washington, D.C., in the current era.
The Mayan Secrets - Scott Brick, Clive Cussler, Thomas Perry Interesting background material, likable characters, but slimmed down to simplistic and cartoon-like action.

Light of the World: A Dave Robicheaux Novel

Light of the World: A Dave Robicheaux Novel - James Lee Burke Lots of beautiful descriptions of Montana, lots of action, Dave and Clete are outside the boundaries much of the time, but the characterizations are over the top, and many loose ends are left.
Robert B. Parker's Damned if You Do - Michael Brandman This was not up to the level of the previous novel in the series and far off the standard when Robert Parker was writing these. Not a police procedural, not a mystery in that Stone's connections to the mob boss allows him to find the perpetrator(s), and the secondary plot is resolved by Stone's working his connections to the infrastructure in the town, seems realistic, prosaic, and an example of selective enforcement to punish the bad guys that is satisfying in that the bad guys are bad and deserving, but unedifying in all other ways.

Nets out as a story of a corrupt town, with a corrupt police chief operating at a tangent from the his political bosses to satisfy his personal feelings, hard to like the story or the characters.
The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic - Emily Croy Barker This book is a well thought out fantasy, that explores the implications of an alternate world, accessible with great difficulty or occasional luck from this world. The start of the book is a familiar look at a graduate student in literature whose life experiences are not going well. After a particularly sad episode where she meets her ex-fiance at someone else's wedding, just after she has been effectively put on notice by her thesis advisor, and after the ex has announced his impending wedding, but not to her, she inadvertently walks thru a portal to the other word, and into an enchanted and enchanting garden. Could be a tremendous improvement on her messy life in our world, except . . .

The rest of the story is a fun read, and I enjoyed the many twists and turns. Yes, clearly could be the first of at least one more episode, perhaps several. I am looking forward to them.

In one of the reviews posted here, this book is compared unfavorably to Lev Grossman's The Magicians. About which one of the Goodreads commenters remarks " A miserable book about miserable people being miserable while doing miserable things" I enjoyed entering a world where likeable people were doing interesting things and enjoying their accomplishments.
Bad Monkey - Carl Hiaasen More than laugh out loud funny. But the roach patrol assignment as a restaurant inspector leads to gross out descriptions that might cause the reader, as it did the protagonist on the assignment to lose weight.

Very enjoyable descriptions of the Florida Keys, very strange and wonderful characters, and wonderful food but watch where you eat!
Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East - Scott Anderson Very timely book, the product of years of research, and many are reading it now, in the midst of the civil war in Syria, and the debate over the level of our involvement. Anderson comments in the Epilogue, ". . . what might have happened if the United States had risen to the opportunity presented at the end of World War I? In all probability, not quite the golden age some might imagine." And then he goes on to enumerate the complexities of the various Arab cultures, etc.

The book provides an enthralling look at many of the key actors in the events in the Middle East, both individuals, peoples, and nations, that during and immediately after the 1st World War led to the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and to the shape of the countries and the boundaries that we continue to live with today. This intriguing story is enhanced by following the period thru the activities of Lawrence, William Yale of Standard Oil of New York, Aaron Aaronsohn master agronomist and committed Zionist, and Carl Prufer PhD German scholar of Egyptology diplomat and master spy. The accomplishments in their various spheres and the personal risks and their indefatigable commitment are all astonishing.

The back story of Lawrence's education, his research in Syria in support of his thesis, his incredible feats of endurance and observation before his tour of duty with the British effort in WWI, set the stage for his later accomplishments. During the six years before 1914, Sarajevo, Gavrilo Princip and Archduke Ferdinand, Lawrence had toured France by bicycle reviewing medieval fortresses, then toured Europe the next summer doing the same thing, finally touring Syria on foot, this time investigating the ruins of Crusader fortresses as well as noting water sources, little know pathways, finally spending time in an archaeological dig at Carchemish in Syria, all the while becoming familiar with the land, the culture of the people in out-of-the way rural areas, the language, and extending his ability to get by with little food in inhospitable conditions while performing astonishing feats of endurance and honing his skills of observation, all setting him up for his work in WWI in Arabia. The account of his war years is an enthralling adventure story, hard to keep remembering that he did so much in 4 years. In the end, the author makes the case that these years took a terrific toll on him psychologically, all this accomplishment by 29 years of age, leading to a short ten years of self abnegation and solitude before his death at 39 years of age.

For a summary of events and relationships between Syria and the US over the last 37 years take a look at the following short article by Juan Cole: http://www.juancole.com/2013/09/syria-least-helpful.html entitled "When Syria was a US Ally" A similar story can easily be told about our relations with Iraq/Saddam Hussein, from the time when we supplied satellite images and the sale of precursor chemicals for chemical weapons to support Iraq's war with Iran to our later war with Iraq; our successful support of the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran; our onetime support of Mubarak in Egypt followed by our tardy support of his overthrow; our troubled relationship with Qaddafi folowed by rapprochement followed by our support of his overthrow. Reading this account, the realpolitik and incompetence of the British and French governments are astonishing, until you compare them to our performance over the last 70 years.

Not hard to understand why thoughtful people in the region with some memory of their history and the history of much of the actions of the West in the area might be more than a bit distrustful.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics - Marisha Pessl Thank goodness for Goodreads, by reading some of the extremely funny and pointed comments I was able to relieve my guilt at reading only a very small part of this book before quitting in disgust.
The Lonely Silver Rain (Travis McGee Series #21) - John D. MacDonald An enjoyable revisit to the last novel of MacDonald's series, an unintentional valedictory, as it was followed by his unexpected death. Recently having revisited the first two novels of the series where I had found the dialogue and attitudes of the characters dated and off-putting, both of these factors were very different by the publication of this, the 21st novel in the series, in 1985.

An interesting mystery, enjoyable characters, thrilling action, and Travis risking all to satisfy his need to avenge the death of his client and friend at the start of the story, and giving his all to care for a significant other that he was unaware of, by the end of the story.
Unseen - Karin Slaughter Hard to characterize this, as a mystery or as a police procedural, or as one of the other reviewers commented, ChickLit. Seemed to be too much the latter for my taste.

I have run into a significant minority of police procedurals where a major part of the story consists of the spouse/significant other/family/friends complaining about the time demands and risks that the officer's occupation places on them. Makes me wonder what world these fictional folks live in.
The Abomination: Book One of the Carnivia Trilogy - Jonathan Holt Very enjoyable, interesting characters, each flawed in their own way, lots of references to current events, and events of the recent past, nice blend of cultural and technical issues. And well written, so that I was quickly engaged, concerned for the fate of each of the characters, who were likable and exasperating in turn.

I see the many comparisons to Dan Brown and Inferno, and like many of the other reviewers, I found that this novel compared more than favorably, a thinking person's thriller with a touch of technology, cultural controversy, and political intrigue. I am looking forward to the follow-on story.
Emotionally Weird - Kate Atkinson Funny, a long commentary on the nature of fiction, a send up of post-modern literary criticism, and a mystery story with a surprising ending. Very good.