The Publisher Says: Finn is a veteran MI6 operative stationed in Moscow. In the guise of an amiable trade secretary, he has penetr...moreRating: 3.5* of five
The Publisher Says: Finn is a veteran MI6 operative stationed in Moscow. In the guise of an amiable trade secretary, he has penetrated deep into the dangerous labyrinth that is Russia under Vladimir Putin to discover some of its darkest secrets, thanks to a high-level source deep within the Kremlin.
The youngest female colonel in the KGB, Anna is the ambitious daughter of one of the former Soviet Union's elite espionage families. Charged with helping to make Russia strong again under Putin, she is ordered to spy on Finn and discover the identity of his mole.
At the dawn of the new millennium, these adversaries find themselves brought together by an unexpected love that becomes the only truth they can trust. When Finn uncovers a shocking and ingenious plan—hatched in the depths of the Cold War—to control the European continent and shift the balance of world power, he and Anna are thrust into a deadly plot in which friend and foe wear the same face. With time running out, they will race across Europe and risk everything -—career, reputation, and even their own lives— to expose the terrifying truth.
My Review: I enjoyed this read more than I expected to, and less than I should have. It's a very, very scary and plausible tale of a plot to use the West's greed to bring it down. After all, Marx wrote, “The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope.” He was a prescient thinker, was Marx.
I'm not going to go into the bits of the story because the spoilers would be epic. And also, the story told is either instantly obvious...the New Russia is a viciously capitalist and socially Darwinian funhouse mirror of the West's nastiest, least admirable qualities, and will therefore succeed in out-competing the West...or completely incredible, as to a triumphalist Teabagger idiot.
I'm on the instantly obvious side, obviously, and that's why I enjoyed the book more than I expected to. Russia's manifold social problems are all traceable to its insanely lopsided wealth distribution. That should ring an entire cathedral's worth of bells for anyone in the USA. If it doesn't, then the Teabagger idiot triumphalism is likely to obscure the evidence of a calculated takedown of Western economies.
Anyway. What didn't work well for me was the narrative structure of the book, with its reported-not-experienced quality, and the fact that the main characters were sketched more than drawn. I need to feel some sense of connection, positive or negative, to the people who are taking me on the journey that is a book. Here, in Anna and Finn, I felt I was being told a bit about the people in a not-very-close friend's long, detailed story. That was, I think, a result of the all-flashback narrative structure. The past can enhance the present in a story, there is no doubt, but the past doesn't enhance the past with anything like as much intensity. It simply becomes more flashback.
Overall, in the scheme of things, is this a thriller I'd recommend to a fellow subway rider? Maybe not, since it's so slow-paced. But for me, and those like me who lean to the political left, it's got a lot of confirmation-bias appeal. The fact that the author makes a very strong point of thanking Russian sources who need to remain anonymous is telling. And unsurprising.
Whoever sent this book to me, a person who's been very open about being incestuously abused by my mother when I was a teen: YOU ACTED IN VERY POOR TAS...moreWhoever sent this book to me, a person who's been very open about being incestuously abused by my mother when I was a teen: YOU ACTED IN VERY POOR TASTE. If you meant it as a joke, it's not funny. If you meant to be hurtful, all you did was dredge up memories of how tough it was to forgive the old lady before she died.
But forgive her I did, and no amount of distasteful reminders will cause me anything like the pain of being such a shitheel no doubt causes you.(less)
New Review! ASK NOT: A Nathan Heller Thriller is Max Allan Collins' usual top-notch thriller-writing. Third in his JFK trilogy, it's got everything:...moreNew Review! ASK NOT: A Nathan Heller Thriller is Max Allan Collins' usual top-notch thriller-writing. Third in his JFK trilogy, it's got everything: Murders, mobsters, CIA honchos, and the Beatles in Chicago. Exciting reading even if you don't remember where you were on That Awful Day.
Black Lawrence Press published THE TIDE KING by Jen Michalski, a well-published veteran of the small press world, which I review for The Small Press B...moreBlack Lawrence Press published THE TIDE KING by Jen Michalski, a well-published veteran of the small press world, which I review for The Small Press Book Review today.
High-quality prose, a creative idea, and lots of lovely images. Check it out there, since I'm not posting full reviews here. It's a good strong book, a modern retelling of The Picture of Dorian Gray, adding a multi-generational spin. (less)
THIS BOOK HAS TOO IMPORTANT A MESSAGE NOT TO POST IT IN FULL HERE.
Rating: 4* of five
The Publisher Says: In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads...moreTHIS BOOK HAS TOO IMPORTANT A MESSAGE NOT TO POST IT IN FULL HERE.
Rating: 4* of five
The Publisher Says: In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar’s Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia’s streets and in the skies above.
Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend’s murder, an event that haunts him still. As he investigates, he discovers the many ways in which his own life and his friend’s family have been shaped by his country’s recent violent past. His journey leads him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare.
Vásquez is “one of the most original new voices of Latin American literature,” according to Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, and The Sound of Things Falling is his most personal, most contemporary novel to date, a masterpiece that takes his writing—and will take his literary star—even higher.
I received this ARC from the publisher as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program
My Review: To every rule its exception: This book is praised highly by a writer whose work I abhor, Jonathan Franzen; and ordinarily that means I will avoid the book so as not to read even a Pearl-Rule 46pp of something I'm bound to hate.
Ha ha ha, rules. I liked this book a lot. Well, "like" is a weird word for the emotional resonance of the book. I responded to the book like a tuning fork responds to a smack.
The fact is that I am a fan of Latin American literature because, like this book and author, most of the translated works are political and tendentious in their natures, and so are the authors. So am I. So it's usually a good fit.
This story, which feels as personal as the blurb suggests it actually is, made me very uncomfortable, as I watched Colombia's descent into warlord rule and civil failure. I suspect I'd feel the same fearful anger if I were to visit Montana or Idaho or Wyoming, places that white supremacist/apocalyptic christian cultists have claimed for themselves. When nutball extremists take over a place, it's a failure of civil authority, and that is a crime. The net effect is the same as the drug cartels' takeover of Colombia in the 1970s or the current failure of civil authority in Mexico today or the Cascadian separatist movement here.
These are not positive developments, they have tremendous costs in personal misery, and they are much to be deplored. Vásquez does his deploring by focusing tightly on the emotional and psychic costs of civil failure to a small group of friends, Antonio's friends and his good self. It's a sad, sad chronicle of horror and rage. And it's wrapped in beautiful words expressing solidly grounded truths:
Adulthood brings with it the pernicious illusion of control, perhaps even depends on it. I mean that mirage of dominion over our own life that allows us to feel like adults, for we associate maturity with autonomy, the sovereign right to determine what is going to happen to us next.
Translator McLean has done a marvelous job of making poetry in the English, and while I haven't read the original Spanish text, I can only say that she is unlikely to have made such handsome bricks without good, abundant straw.
If I must pick a nit, and I must, it's that the structure of the novel is a tad more complex than is strictly speaking necessary to tell the author's very involving story. It's not hard to follow, but it's just artificial enough to pop the reader out of the narrative flow. That's almost never a good thing. (Okay, it's never a good thing, but I've learned not to make absolute statements because some little twidgee or another will come along and say something tiresome about my opinions and frankly I'm over it.)
I hope, that issue aside, that you will all race out to your local bookeries and procure copies of this book. It's got something important to say to us in the USA about the incredibly high cost of allowing dissent to become dissolution. Colombia failed its citizens, and their agony only slowly passes. Mexico is mid-failure, and is much closer to us. And yet we allow our own idiot rebels a far freer hand in obstructing and undermining our governmental institutions and shredding our social fabric in the name of some illusory "right" they assert that they have to do this to us all.
Read the book. Learn the cost. The price of the right wing's version of freedom is too goddamned high, and Vásquez knows it first hand. Please listen to him.
I am so very happy to be back in the Woosterverse! Sebastian Faulks, of august reputation and titanic talent, is here shown at his...moreRating: 3.9* of five
I am so very happy to be back in the Woosterverse! Sebastian Faulks, of august reputation and titanic talent, is here shown at his wittiest best and his most playful.
As always, I'm unwilling to post a review or give a star rating that a site which censors its users' reviews can then monetize. My review is at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud. The novel's not perfect, but it's as welcome as spring rain and a wonderful gift idea for anyone you know who might need to laugh.(less)
The Publisher Says: Modern-day Somali pirates have been capturing merchant ships for ransom. Suddenly, in a move that rattles the...moreRating: 3.8* of five
The Publisher Says: Modern-day Somali pirates have been capturing merchant ships for ransom. Suddenly, in a move that rattles the world's economies, giant oil and liquid natural gas tankers are mysteriously taken off Arabia and Africa, far out at sea in the darkness of night. Held for record ransom demands, these ships are taken to strange new pirate hideouts along the North coast of Somalia. When pirates fire on the responding international task force ships and aircraft, the world watches as an entirely new type of war at sea begins.
I requested a copy of this title from the author. He provided it understanding my review would appear here.
My Review: Tom Clancy's death in October 2013 opened the field for military thriller writers for the second time in his career. After he published The Hunt for Red October in 1984, military thrillers were once again on the readerly radar of many many men. Clancy dominated the field he had opened for almost thirty years.
Rest in peace, Mr. Clancy. Your successors are lining up to entertain the men, women, and boys of the world with tense, exciting, well-wrought storylines of high-stakes chases, maneuvers, and back-stage politicking. Here's one of the first to come out of the gate, and it's a strong contender for a place on the military thriller reader's Holiday present list.
Don't kid yourself...it's a novel, but it's not a farrago or a fanciful conceit. Branco took a very real and worsening concern for the shipping industry, piracy based in the lawless failed state of Somalia, and ratcheted up the stakes. I suspect it's only a matter of time before the book is seen as predictive instead of entertaining. If, that is, the events haven't already played out like this, only with more silencing oil poured over them.
When Jason Stewart, commanding the USS Farragut, is ordered to look into the status of a supertanker full of liquified natural gas en route from Nigeria to Mumbai, the plot kicks into high gear and doesn't stop. Alternating sections of the story are told from the major points of view...the pirates, the motivating malefactors, the loyal henchrats...seldom staying with us long enough for the reader to become inured to the action.
Back and forth, cat and mouse, and all told in a spare, clipped narrative voice that feels more like it's overheard than written for an audience, there's just barely time to get in the swing of Lt. (jg) Christine Johnson's duty shift before we're aboard a pirated vessel and experiencing the terror of a crewman about to die, and before that becomes squicky we're in a plush Moscow office listening to a very, very ruthless and unpleasant man give orders that appall the reader who rejects Ayn Rand as a moral guide.
Navy veteran Branco can be relied on for accuracy, and savvy world citizen Branco can be relied on to "get" the power dynamics of world-straddling military forces both pro and con. There is not a jot of doubt about who is doing wrong here, but there is not a hint of lazy, demonizing anticharacterization at work either. Everyone here has a motivation for acting in a particular way, and it's never simplistic.
I am obligated by my inner elitist to mention the intensely annoying lapses in observing the conventions of standard punctuation (e.g., when mentioning a city, one must use the formula "City Name, State Name," and not "City Name, State Name" and then bang on with the sentence!), and I for one do not welcome sentence fragments or dependent clauses plopped in my dialogue without commas to set them off, and don't even get me started on the series or Oxford comma so blithely ignored throughout...but overall, as witness my rating, not even these cavils led me to stop reading (a frequent occurrence, even in well-told stories) or to smack the author upside the head with a single-star rating (less frequent occurrence, as it's more or less the nuclear option when a story is poorly told).
I liked the story. I was excited to see what happened next. I'd say that any reader who laments the loss of Tom Clancy's military thriller creation machine should celebrate this Veteran's Day by ordering a copy of Bob Branco's book and sinking into a satisfied haze of acronyms and action.
***UPDATE there was a major influx of sock puppets one-starring this book. Please, even if you hate seeing it, give the actual reviews a "like"***
I'm...more***UPDATE there was a major influx of sock puppets one-starring this book. Please, even if you hate seeing it, give the actual reviews a "like"***
I'm rating others' contributions to the book, not my own.
If resistance is futile, like I've been told over and over again by people who're bored or impatient with protest reviews and continued commentary against being surveilled by the site owners here, then what exactly is the point of this book?
Resistance isn't futile. The Borg can't be beaten by force, so hide among them and trip them up.
Demand transparency. Okay, they're going to collect data, which is fancy talk for watch your ever mouseclick and cursor twitch. Demand to know what they're doing with the data, and what data they're collecting, and what criteria they're using to evaluate that data.
Being a citizen makes demands of you. Shirking them because it's not fun or it's boring means nothing except you'll get what you deserve...less and less.(less)
******THE PAPERBACK PUB DATE IS TODAY! ONLY $16 LIST PRICE!******
And worth every dime of it.
New Review! I give 4.8 happy stars of five to THE TELEPORT...more******THE PAPERBACK PUB DATE IS TODAY! ONLY $16 LIST PRICE!******
And worth every dime of it.
New Review! I give 4.8 happy stars of five to THE TELEPORTATION ACCIDENT by Ned Beauman. Bloomsbury Walker publishes the paper edition this coming Tuesday. It's a must-buy holiday self-gift!
This novel was longlisted for the 2012 Booker Prize, and I see why. Beauman's linguistic playfulness and inventive use of tropes in ways both satirical and satisfying to trope fans is amazing when one considers his revolting youth. (He is under thirty, which I consider an affront to God. No one born after Man left the Moon for the final time to date should understand the world Beauman builds with deft and dextrous motions. Ain't natural.)
Anyone who's paid me the slightest bit of attention over the years knows I'm a fan of Tentacled Americans. They're delicious. The...moreRating: 3.75* of five
Anyone who's paid me the slightest bit of attention over the years knows I'm a fan of Tentacled Americans. They're delicious. They're delightfully ookie. They're probably the closest things I'll ever have to soul mates: They don't like their own kind, regard other species as prey or enemies, and possess a deeply misunderstood intelligence.
All I lack is six more arms. Which is why I enjoyed OCTOPUS!: The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea by Katherine Harmon Courage so much.
Posted today! My review of FOLLOWING TOMMY by Bob Hartley (his real name! AND he's set the novel in Chicago!). It's a solid, entertaining,...moreRating: 3.5*
Posted today! My review of FOLLOWING TOMMY by Bob Hartley (his real name! AND he's set the novel in Chicago!). It's a solid, entertaining, short novel about a time the USA was in serious upheaval on every imaginable front.
This book was a Goodreads Giveaway from WR Films Entertainment Group
As such, I owe my review to them here.
Rating: 3.5* of five
It's an amazement to me...moreThis book was a Goodreads Giveaway from WR Films Entertainment Group
As such, I owe my review to them here.
Rating: 3.5* of five
It's an amazement to me that Louis Masterson, born Kjell Hallbing, is pretty much unknown in the US. His character Morgan Kane, violent gambling sociopathic killer, is the perfect expression of a Western hero. I can only guess American publishers in the 1970s were reluctant to bring a Norwegian author's translated works to a market that was moving away from Westerns as a primary entertainment source.
I don't read in Norwegian, so I don't know if the translation is faithful or not. I can say that the plot is the reason to read the book. It's a revenge story, setting Kane against multiple enemies after he loses a rigged poker hand and is wiped out. He's not mad because he's lost a lot of money...$10,000 was a huge fortune for most folks in the nineteenth century, more money than most would earn in a decade...he's wounded in his vanity because he was set up.
The twists and the turns of his plot to revenge himself are unrealistic, and the details of Texas are pretty much not accurate (I'm being polite, the banks of the Brazos were "almost beautiful" oh dear), and there are some what-the-heck moments like a woman smelling of hibiscus flowers...what? she washed her hair in hibiscus tea or something?...but the reason I kept reading was simple. It's a revenge story set in Texas! This is Western-watching and -reading Nirvana. And the bodies of the baddies pile up with agreeable celerity, I must admit.
The movie shoot-'em-up made from this is a-gonna be a hoot. The production is completely locked down, no one associated with it is talking, and there isn't even a release date for the film that I can find. The fun will include Kane making Bond look sensitive and wimpish around women, too.
All in all, a testosterone-fest and a great chance to make the cash registers ring with twenties from every lonely Clint Eastwood-in-the-movies fan alive. Well spotted at last, Hollywood!
The Publisher Says: In which a young girl named Mallow leaves the country for the city, meets a number of Winds, Cats, and handsom...moreRating: 4.5* of five
The Publisher Says: In which a young girl named Mallow leaves the country for the city, meets a number of Winds, Cats, and handsome folk, sees something dreadful, and engages, much against her will, in Politicks of the most muddled kind.
My Review: How can anyone not fall a little in love with characters like Valente's? Don't ask me, I am one of the smitten. Since I don't support censorship-ridden sites, you'll have to read my review at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud. I hope you will.(less)
I had a spirited chat with a fan of this book. She (naturally) stated I was behaving in a sexist manner and implied, with dark to...moreRating: 2.75* of five
I had a spirited chat with a fan of this book. She (naturally) stated I was behaving in a sexist manner and implied, with dark tones of voice, that I was probably a racist too, because I don't think this is a particularly good book, and *certainly* don't think it's Booker-worthy.
The Publisher Says: NBC is putting Charlie Jane Anders’ Six Months, Three Days into production and we could not be more excited! T...moreRating: 3.5* of five
The Publisher Says: NBC is putting Charlie Jane Anders’ Six Months, Three Days into production and we could not be more excited! Tor.com published the Hugo award-winning novelette in 2011.
My Review: "O wad some Power the giftie gie us/To see oursels as ithers see us!" --Robert Burns
That quote has always chilled me. I don't want to see myself as others see me, thanks. Burns's point is that we should not wish for that, ever, because the burden of knowing what another person thinks, sees, feels is quite impossibly heavy and unbearable. Think of how many times in this good life you've wanted not to know what you yourownself thought, felt, saw.
Imagine the painful self-censorship that someone like this has to use simply to navigate life! Stifling honest response, hiding sincere reaction, leaving so much unsaid, unexpressed.
My review is at my blog. I don't post full reviews here anymore because I have no further trust in a place that can censor speech that offends some, without warning, and then keep mum about what they've done in spite of being called out on it.
What they did to someone else, they can and will do to me. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but like relationships, the one unbreakable rule is: What happened last time will happen again without a lot of work on both sides to make sure it doesn't.(less)
Books like this, humor from 40 years ago, show me that there is in fact nothing new under the sun. Some people have always felt, as I do, that the world makes no sense, that up is in fact down, and the best we can do is cope.
“You need to win elections, and that’s how you actually change stuff. I was working for the U.S. Senate after the 1994 election,” Coulter said. “Thing...more
“You need to win elections, and that’s how you actually change stuff. I was working for the U.S. Senate after the 1994 election,” Coulter said. “Things were going gangbusters. … And yet, the government got shut down in the end of 1995. … It really, really hurt Republicans.”
From The Daily Caller website. As much as I loathe this bag of baboon shit called Coulter, I have to say she's completely correct in this instance, and it gives me some small measure of hope that Murrikins isn't styeeeooopud enough not to see the harm these Rethuglikins is a-doin' to us ALL.(less)