Monday, November 25, 2019

Blue Moon (Jack Reacher, #24)Blue Moon by Lee Child
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I went back and forth about a rating for this book. On the one hand, Lee Child's Blue Moon is well written and moves quickly, but on the other hand, I feel like he's out of ideas. This certainly isn't the first Reacher book that doesn't hold up to critical thinking. Just starting with the odds of one man, even a very perceptive one, always wandering into these major criminal happenings is enough to make the stories ridiculous.

Add to that the fact that whatever compunction Reacher had about killing seems to have disappeared, and it's really too much. Yes, Reacher always was very dangerous when provoked, but now it feels like the killing is what he wants. Not an "I kill if I have no choice" hero but a "come on, give me an excuse to kill" vigilante. There's a big difference. In this book, he even kills an unarmed man who, while repulsive in his actions, isn't a violent criminal. He just executes him. Is this where we've wound up?

I didn't go with one star, because, as I said at the start, it moves quickly and is well written. But I can't go more than two stars, because we've gone from a thoughtful righter of wrongs to the Terminator, set loose in unnamed towns where he magically stumbles upon huge organized crime syndicates that he, with the help of a few friends, is going to annihilate.

Maybe Lee Child needs to do some prequel work. Go back and let a younger Reacher be an MP officer again and investigate military crimes. At least that wouldn't be so far-fetched.

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The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - CityThe Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City by David Lebovitz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I grabbed this book, because I love baking and love Paris. So what could be wrong?

Well, the author doesn't say much about his work as a pastry chef, except for keeping some Parisians happy with American-style brownies. (He does share recipes, but that's not the same.) Regarding Paris, wow, he loves to complain! More specifically, about Parisians.

My experience, over the course of all our trips to Paris, has been that the turnover of generations (my first trip there was 38 years ago) has mellowed the Parisian demeanor. In 1981, I found Parisians to be as unfriendly as they were reputed to be. During more recent visits, however, I found them to be much more friendly and helpful. You wouldn't know it from this book.

Perhaps it's the author's own approach to them, or perhaps it's the more nuanced perspective of someone who's there full-time, but his description of life in Paris wouldn't have encouraged me to visit the City of Light if I hadn't been there already.

Two fun subjects, baking and one of the world's greatest, most beautiful cities, and still this book was hard to get through.

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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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