Monday, August 29, 2022

read: Blowback (3 stars)

BlowbackBlowback by James Patterson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First-time Patterson reader here. I was looking forward to sampling this popular author. I was a bit disappointed. After a clunky first third full of overwrought physical and background descriptions of even minor players, this book got down to business and had me hooked, even with a stunningly unbelievable plot (no matter how many comparisons are drawn to TFG). What I find hard to reconcile with reality in thriller plots are any conspiracies that involve more than a couple of conspirators and any criminal mastermind that has seemingly unlimited access to reliable minions. At least this story relied mostly on the latter.

The important characters, mainly the key protagonists, did finally come to life (somewhat in spite of their introductions) and helped me keep everything straight in the labyrinthian plot. And the stakes and action were ramped up very effectively to keep me turning pages. Ultimately, I have to agree with others that the outcome is as forgettable as most TV movies. Seemingly important plot threads did not live up to their promise. And the stakes, while onerous, didn't seem and more long-lasting than any non-lethal gunshot wound in a TV Western.

My TBR includes a couple of other Patterson titles. I still look forward to reading these. But I can only recommend this title as a disposable beach read.

Disclosure: Thank you to Netgalley and Little, Brown for providing a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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Saturday, July 23, 2022

read: Fox Creek (4 stars)

Fox Creek (Cork O’Connor, #18)Fox Creek by William Kent Krueger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I'm only a few books into the Cork O'Connor series and enjoying it immensely. The stories are rich in characterization and plot. The Northern Minnesota settings and Native American culture provide unique and absorbing details. When the opportunity arose to jump into the latest book, I was a little hesitant, fearing I might miss needed background. But I needn't have worried. This volume easily stands alone.

The mystery that the author weaves in Fox Creek takes the reader deep into the Boundary Waters region and beyond. There are plenty of twists and turns and as many as four simultaneous plot threads calling for attention. But the writing is clear and riveting and suspenseful. I never felt lost.

I recommend this book and series to any readers that enjoy good mystery, suspense or outdoor adventure.

Disclosure: Thank you to Netgalley and Atria Books for providing a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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Monday, May 2, 2022

read: Reading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry Into the News (4 stars)

Reading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry Into the NewsReading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry Into the News by Jeffrey Bilbro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A thoughtful examination of how to approach the news of the world with a Christian perspective. The author starts with a quote from Thoreau: "Read not the Times, read the Eternities." and breaks down what that means from three angles: Attention, Time and Community.
Each section looks at the flawed assumptions and attitudes most modern readers bring to their consumption of news (and social networks) and contrasts that with writing from deep thinkers like Thoreau, Merton, Augustine, Auerbach and Dante. All of this sounds rather stuffy and scholarly. But the author is brief, direct and readable and also offers practical tips (liturgies) in a chapter at the end of each section. Recommended.

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Thursday, March 3, 2022

read: The Kaiju Preservation Society (5 stars)

The Kaiju Preservation SocietyThe Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't need to describe what this book is about. It says exactly what it is on the cover and most of the other reviews and the back cover blurb will give you some additional details. What I will do is tell you why I enjoyed this book and why you might, too.

Picture yourself on the couch flipping channels on a Saturday. 350 or so channels of sports, talking heads, old sit-coms and movies you didn't care to watch when they first came out. But wait. Go back. Is that Godzilla? The actual 1956 Godzilla with Raymond Burr? Cool! It's almost over. But you watch anyway. Flip, flip, flip. There's Silent Running! The 1972 eco-flick with cute robots and Bruce-effing-Dern saving the trees in a space ship. Flip, flip. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. "Captain! There be whales here." You get the picture. That's this book. And I loved every page.

Disclosure: Thank you to Netgalley and Tor Books for providing a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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read: The Lightning Rod (4 stars)

The Lightning Rod (Escape Artist, #2)The Lightning Rod by Brad Meltzer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the first book in this series and couldn't wait to get my hands on this follow-up. Maybe it was just me, but it took a long time to warm up to the story and the characters. Perhaps I had been spoiled by the first book, which had the added revelations about the military mortuary at Dover Air Force Base and the U.S. Army's artist-in-residence. This one didn't grab my attention as quickly or firmly.

Eventually, I did get into the story and warmed to the characters again. And the mysteries are so abundant, the reader does not dare look away for fear of missing some important detail. A conspiracy thriller like this can feel familiar and risks falling into cliché and cardboard characters. Somehow, Meltzer manages to walk that tightrope and not fall off, keeping the reader guessing right up until the end. I gave The Escape Artist five stars and this one four. I look forward to where the author takes these characters next.

Disclosure: Thank you to Netgalley and William Morrow for providing a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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Monday, February 21, 2022

read: The Silent Sisters (4 stars)

The Silent Sisters (Charles Jenkins #3)The Silent Sisters by Robert Dugoni
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the third book in the Charles Jenkins spy series and it seems to wrap up the story of the Seven Sisters, deep-cover moles from the Cold War that need extraction from Russia. The last two women have gone silent and the CIA needs to find out why and get them out, if possible. They turn again to Charles. He's barely survived his previous two forays into the country and is now on a Russian kill list. Surely another mission is pushing his luck too far. Except this mission calls for his very specific type of vintage spy craft.

Off he goes to do his duty. All seems to be going almost too well when he gets involved in a confrontation in a bar and makes a tactical error, putting him on the run from not only Russian agents, but a relentless Moscow police detective and a Russian mafia family. It will take all of his skills and allies old and new to find and extract the final two sisters to America. Dugoni keeps the story driving at a frantic clip and keeps the twists coming. Recommended!

Disclosure: Thank you to Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer for providing a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

read: A Thousand Steps (5 stars)

A Thousand StepsA Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Smooth as butter. That's how this book went down for me. Having been a teen in Southern California in the 70s, the echoes of 60s were always there, especially around the beach cities where this story is set. Without even getting into the plot or characters, I have to applaud the author's evocation of the times and places. He brings them to life in a way that will appeal to those of us that remember it, as well as those who have not.

In the middle of that scene, the 'stoner' 60s, we find teenaged Matt, bombing around the streets and beaches on his bicycle trying to make a life for himself without much support from is mom, his dad out of the picture, his older brother in Viet Nam and then his beloved older sister goes missing. Add in a dead girl found on the beach who's scarily similar to his sister and we're off to the races with a suspenseful story that never seems to cut Matt a break. The police don't seem to be much help. The hippies at the local head shop are helpful, but shady. And that's just the beginning of Matt's woes.

Matt is an immensely likable character. Amazingly resilient and resolute in his quest to uncover the mystery of where his sister is. He doesn't give up. But he will grow up. This is a highly entertaining book.

Disclosure: Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge Books for providing a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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