Friday, February 01, 2019

Well, that was a disappointing way to end this trilogy

The Kremlin's Candidate (Red Sparrow Trilogy, #3)The Kremlin's Candidate by Jason  Matthews
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Such a disappointing third book to close out this trilogy. Some will defend the repeated body blows this book delivers to readers who felt invested in these characters, saying it's more realistic than what the author might otherwise have written. I understand that, but this isn't non-fiction. It's fiction, and entertainment is a big part of why we're reading it. So to turn such brutality loose on characters we'd come to know and admire (I won't say which ones, so I don't spoil things) seems unnecessary and cold. As I read the parts I have in mind, I couldn't believe the author would do this.

Yes, people in service to their countries can get hurt and can die. We all know that. But again, this is entertainment. Good guys versus bad guys. Jason Matthews had visited death upon good characters before, but there's almost a sense of betrayal in reading The Kremlin's Candidate, and I'm sorry I didn't stop after the first two books. If you loved Red Sparrow and Palace of Treason, you may want to stop there and hang on to the good memories of those books.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

A great spy novel! One of the best I've read!

Palace of Treason (Red Sparrow Trilogy, #2)Palace of Treason by Jason  Matthews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you like spy novels, you should read the Red Sparrow books. I enjoyed the first book, Red Sparrow, and Palace of Treason is even better! This is the continuing story of Dominika Egorova, Nate Nash and their colleagues (who themselves are interesting, rich characters). They're both smart and dedicated but also flawed, doing things they know they shouldn't do, but we cheer them on as they fight evil and corruption.

Jason Matthews knows how to build tension and develop his characters. The tension never feels contrived, and there's a real connection to these people we want to see succeed but are so afraid won't be able to overcome the obstacles and enemies in their way.

Palace of Treason is one of those special novels. I wasn't sleeping well anyhow, but it probably didn't help that I was so drawn into this story. It was almost 4am when I put the book down. On top of the quality of the characters and well-developed suspense, there's the fact that the story sounds like non-fiction stories of espionage I've read. Jason Matthews has gone to great lengths to make his stories not only exciting but believable! (His lengthy career with the CIA probably helps.) I'm already grabbing the third book of the trilogy! Can't wait to continue reading!

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Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley StartupBad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John Carreyrou shares the story he worked on for The Wall Street Journal, putting it together in a compelling book about a young woman who was smart but apparently a sociopath. She lied and was willing to hurt pretty much anyone, as long as she got rich and was lauded as a trailblazer. The scariest part wasn't that someone like her exists; it was that she got so many accomplished, powerful people to support her and defend her, even in the face of clear evidence she was lying, cheating and endangering the lives of countless others.

This is the story of the founding, rise and eventual fall to earth of a company known as Theranos. Started and headed by Elizabeth Holmes, with help from her secret boyfriend and now-indicted co-conspirator Sunny Balwani, Theranos promised to be able to replace lab tests that currently require the drawing of blood from a vein with much easier finger sticks. As it became clear the technology for such an approach didn't exist--and the necessary volume of blood for many important tests wasn't there to make them possible from a simple finger stick--rather than admit defeat or change their approach, Holmes and Balwani engaged in repeated deceptions and did their best to destroy the lives and livelihoods of anyone who tried to bring honesty and integrity to what was going on. Happily both Holmes and Balwani now are under indictment, but the trail of destruction they left is sad and should be a cautionary tale.

Bad Blood is an excellent book, both because the underlying story is so extraordinary--mostly in terrible ways--and because John Carreyrou is a good writer, bringing the skills of a reporter who knows how to tell a good story!

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