Tuesday, August 06, 2019

A war story to rival the best of Tom Clancy

Red MetalRed Metal by Mark Greaney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Red Metal is one of the most entertaining books I've read in quite some time. If you're not interested in reading about battles, then it's not for you, but if you like books like Tom Clancy's better works from his early days, such as The Hunt for Red October or Red Storm Rising, then you'll like this. In fact, speaking of Red Storm Rising, I'd even say Red Metal is similar but an even better novel. The battle and technical details are on par with that book, and the plot moves even better, with a more satisfying conclusion, even though it also creates a bit of a cliffhanger.

I've had mixed feelings about Mark Greaney's prior work. Some I've liked a lot while others were just okay, but this hits it out of the park. I'm really anxious to see what comes next! One thing I found amusing is the prominence of Lieutenant Colonels in this novel, considering that Mr. Greaney's co-author is one. The US Marines also take a lead role here, but I couldn't help but notice the importance that particular rank played in the different theaters of operation. I will also give them credit for having respect for members of the service from other countries. Too many novels of this genre treat allies and enemies like their armed forces are comprised of cowardly idiots. Here, there's respect for the skills and sacrifices of fighting men and women in general, and that's something I was very happy to see.

This really is a terrific novel, and even at roughly 650 pages, I tore through it in no time, doing all the things I shouldn't, like staying up way too late to see what happens next. Well done, gentlemen!


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Saturday, July 27, 2019

Too Much Is Not EnoughToo Much Is Not Enough by Andrew  Rannells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've enjoyed Andrew Rannells' work on TV and the stage. Most recently, we saw him on Broadway in The Boys in the Band, and I was very impressed with his performance. He's clearly very talented.

Having enjoyed his acting, I was hoping to enjoy this book. Happily, I wasn't disappointed! So many memoirs by people I've liked on stage or screen turn out to be either boring or way too self-absorbed. Not so in this case. Rather, Mr. Rannells shows a lot of introspection and honesty as he takes us from his childhood up to his first time in a Broadway show.

I liked his insights on what it means to struggle to find your way in the acting world, as well as his discussion about growing up gay and trying to find his way to some semblance of sanity in dating. Many of us know these struggles, and his memories ring true, even if some are sad to relive with him.

My respect for Andrew Rannells grew with the reading of this book, and the book itself was interesting and enjoyable to read!


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Monday, July 22, 2019

Total Mayhem (Jonathan Grave #11)Total Mayhem by John Gilstrap
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Total Mayhem certainly kept me riveted, and that's the main point with a book read for entertainment. I went through its over 400 pages in a day and a half. I started reading Saturday evening and finished at 3am Monday morning. That's another sign--that I stayed up way too late reading.

I was just a little disappointed in this particular book. I've read plenty of Mr. Gilstrap's work before, so I pretty well know what to expect, but authors in this genre can get a little too cavalier with human life and I feel like he turned that corner here. That may sound silly, since the whole concept is that Jonathan Grave runs a company that, among other things, deals with violent criminals bent on hurting innocent people. It just felt like this particular installment was looking for ways to take innocents and bring them to horrible ends, whereas the other installments generally had a feel, at least as I remember them, of saving innocents from wanton destruction.

That disappointment aside, I tore through this book. So if you want a good guys versus bad guys type of novel, go for it.


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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Ship of the Line (Star Trek: The Next Generation)Ship of the Line by Diane Carey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wow, there are some harsh reviews of this book, and I really think they're uncalled for. Was this the best Star Trek novel I've ever read? No. It wasn't even the best Diane Carey Star Trek novel I've ever read. There were some little pieces that were strangely out of place and personal to the author--you'll see if you read it--and parts could have fit together better, but those weren't fatal flaws.

This book followed the interactions of the crew of the Enterprise after the destruction of the Enterprise-D, as seen in the movie Star Trek Generations, as well as a major part of the book following Captain Morgan Bateson, first encountered in the ST:TNG episode Cause and Effect.

Granted, it's hard not to read the book and be hearing and picturing Captain Frasier Crane--not the author's doing, of course--but I actually found the character rather well developed. He's a man out of place and time, trying to take his experience as a Starfleet captain and make it work decades after his time. He's dealing with a difficult situation largely of his own creation, but he's also a man of integrity who admits his mistakes and respects those around him, even those who disagree with him strongly. I actually found his character admirable if frustrating at times.

We also have a crossover between other characters from the different generations of Star Trek, and that was enjoyable, too. With that said, I saw two major flaws to this book. One is that it rehashed too much of the original series, literally reciting some scenes word for word. Most people who would read a Star Trek novel are serious fans, so I'd think most, like me, know those scenes intimately. No need to rehash them line by line to make the connection to other, relevant observations being made by Captain Picard.

The second thing is that the biggest turning points of the novel, including the final big battle, felt rushed as compared to the rest of the book. This key part got short shrift and was resolved a bit too easily.

For all of that, I enjoyed this book. Not perfect, but it was an enjoyable read. I was tempted to give it a higher star rating, because I think some of those 1-star rants of prior reviewers are borderline malicious. But that's not what this site is supposed to be about, so I won't weight my rating. Goodreads says 3 stars means I "Liked It" so that's what I selected, because I liked it!


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Friday, July 05, 2019

Swift Vengeance (Roland Ford #2)Swift Vengeance by T. Jefferson Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So many crime procedural/detective novels have twists that might make a reader roll his/her eyes. The bad guys magically escape a well-planned effort to corner them and take them into custody--or take them out--or the real bad guy would turn out to be someone you never suspected. That can build suspense or provide an interesting surprise, but it rarely looks like real life.

Happily, Swift Vengeance unwinds logically and without any silly twists. I won't say too much, so you can enjoy the book, but I found the reality of it refreshing. I'll definitely be looking for the next novel in the series!


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Sunday, June 09, 2019

A great book! Highly recommended!

The Border (Power of the Dog, #3)The Border by Don Winslow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Don Winslow is a great author. At times, his stories can be brutal, but he deals with brutal subjects. In this trilogy, as in The Force, which I recently read, he's dealt with criminals and the drug trade. Brutality is an unfortunate reality of that world, and he doesn't sugar-coat it.

Even so, he manages to keep some glimmers of hope alive in his work. He also builds great characters and makes them relatable, so we're fully invested and along for every bit of the ride. The Border is the best kind of book, in that I didn't want to put it down and plowed through it as quickly as the rest of my life and schedule would allow, and I was sorry to reach the end.


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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

A very well written book

A Gentleman in MoscowA Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not entirely sure how to describe A Gentleman in Moscow, except to say it's a very well written novel about a member of the Russian aristocracy who manages to survive the Revolution but finds himself confined to a sort of house arrest in perpetuity. Considering the scenes I now know this book to contain, I wouldn't have expected to enjoy it as much as I did. A Gentleman in Moscow is proof, however, that what matters more than the subject matter is the skill of the author. Clearly, Amor Towles knows how to write a novel that moves well, filled with well-developed characters to whom the reader will feel a real connection.


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