The Longest Ride was an enjoyable read. It is what I would describe as a "comfortable" read. It is not going to knock you off your feet as say, The No...moreThe Longest Ride was an enjoyable read. It is what I would describe as a "comfortable" read. It is not going to knock you off your feet as say, The Notebook or Message in a Bottle, but if you are a Nicholas Sparks fan, it contains all the characteristics one comes to expect from his books. The Longest Ride has excellent character development, a great story line, and of course, the plot twist or "jolt" at the end. Perhaps the greatest strength of The Longest Ride, is that Sparks spends a great deal of time shaping and developing the relationship between the two main characters, Luke and Sophia. That's why I like Nicholas Sparks. He has a way of connecting two totally disparate individuals who despite their differences, fall in love. Here we have Luke, a bull riding Cowboy, and Sophia, a sorority girl majoring in Art at Wake Forest, who meet and fall in love. Their journey, and how they fall in love is, of course, the meat of The Longest Ride. If your looking for a Fifty Shades of Grey type book, steer clear of The Longest Ride...as well as all of the books Sparks has written.
The Longest Ride is actually two stories which are intertwined. On the one hand, you have Ira and Ruth, and on the other, Luke and Sophia. Their stories, one of a past relationship, the other of a current and developing relationship, form the bulk of The Longest Ride. Sparks does an excellent job of unspooling each story in a more or less parallel fashion until the climatic ending. At that point, the paths of Ira and Ruth, Luke and Sophia, finally intersect. I found this ending to be a pleasant, if not a somewhat milquetoast conclusion.
A major source of disappointment and irritation to me is Sparks' insistence on tragic endings in most of his novels. Thankfully, his "formula" in The Longest Ride is not typical, nor does Sparks resort to a ham-handed, cheesy metaphysical presence as he did in The Best of Me. With that said, I would have liked to give The Longest Ride at least four stars, but I could only muster three. There just wasn't the "pop" that many of his previous books have. Kinda like a soft drink that still tastes good, but the carbonation is somewhat flat.
The Longest Ride is a solid three stars and I recommend it to any fan of Nicholas Sparks.(less)
The Black Box was a great book! In this latest Harry Bosch novel by Michael Connelly, Bosch is back on the trail of a twenty-year old cold case in whi...moreThe Black Box was a great book! In this latest Harry Bosch novel by Michael Connelly, Bosch is back on the trail of a twenty-year old cold case in which a young female foreign war correspondent is murdered during the height of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. Bosch had originally been assigned the case as a young detective twenty years earlier, but because of the riots and the numerous deaths and murders that occurred at that time, he had not been able to do a thorough investigation...something that has haunted him during that entire 20 year period.
Thinking that the cold case was hopeless, Bosch learns that a murder weapon in the course of another investigation is, in fact, the same gun which killed the young woman those twenty years before. As Bosch digs deeper, he begins to uncover a conspiracy which began the night the woman was murdered.
As Bosch closes in on solving the twenty-year old cold case, he finds his direct supervisor as well as the Chief of Police both putting obstacles in his way. Both want his investigation stopped and stopped immediately. Refusing to back down, Bosch incurs their wrath and soon finds himself the object of an internal investigation.
One of the things that I really like about Michael Connelly's books is that he always keeps me guessing until the end. The Black Box is no exception, and he has another great climax and fantastic finish.
The Last Man was another great thriller by Vince Flynn. So far, I have read every book written by Flynn, and I have yet to read a bad novel. They are...moreThe Last Man was another great thriller by Vince Flynn. So far, I have read every book written by Flynn, and I have yet to read a bad novel. They are all fast-moving, fast-paced action thrillers.
In The Last Man, the CIA's top-counterespionage agent in Afghanistan has mysteriously disappeared in an apparent bloody kidnapping. Because this particular agent has intimate knowledge of among other things, the names of covert agents in Muslin countries such as Pakistan, Mitch Rapp is called in to determine what happened to the agent and track him down before he is forced to reveal the names and locations of the CIA's covert assets.
As is usual with Flynn's story-lines, Rapp's efforts are hampered by power-hungry U.S. officials, corrupt foreign agents, sadistic government officials, and religious fanatics...and of course, the clock is ticking! Rapp must solve the mystery of the disappearance of the counterespionage agent before he reveals the identities of U.S agents and they are killed!
Also as usual, Rapp's methods are straight forward and violent, and the body count rises with each turn of the page. The Last Man builds to a heart-pounding climax, and it includes a "twist" which I found very satisfying.
I liked The Last Man, and if you are a Vince Flynn fan, you will not be disappointed. Four Stars for The Last Man!(less)
The Reversal was a good, albeit, not a great book by Michael Connelly.
In The Reversal, defense attorney Mickey Haller is approached by the DA to prose...moreThe Reversal was a good, albeit, not a great book by Michael Connelly.
In The Reversal, defense attorney Mickey Haller is approached by the DA to prosecute a convicted child killer who after 24 years, has been released from prison. This is because the review of DNA evidence would seem to indicate that the child-killer is in fact innocent. It would seem a straight forward release from prison would be the natural result, but as with most of Connelly's books, it is much more convoluted as everyone from the District Attorney on down to Haller himself thinks that (less)
The Help was a delightful, thought provoking book. Set in early 1960's Jackson, Mississippi, it is actually the story (told in first person), of thre...more The Help was a delightful, thought provoking book. Set in early 1960's Jackson, Mississippi, it is actually the story (told in first person), of three different characters; Skeeter-a twenty-something white female whose parents are well-to-do cotton farmers; Aibileen-a black maid and nanny for a white family; and Minny-a tart-tongued black maid with five children and an abusive, alcoholic husband.
The Help chronicles the lives of these three people through the turbulent times of the segregated south and the birth of the civil rights movement. Their paths cross, and inexplicably, despite the wall of segregation, all three women find themselves collaborating on a book which records the stories of black maids and nannies and what it is like to work for rich, white families.
The Help is at times touching, as Skeeter recounts the close, loving relationship she had with her own maid, Constantine; at times heart-rending as Aibileen tries to instill a sense of self worth and esteem in Mae Mobley, the toddler she is nanny to because her mother, Elizabeth, thinks she is too fat and ugly and therefore shows her little love; and finally, The Help can be cruel, as Minny loses not only her job but her ability to find a new job based on a lie spread by the manipulative and vindictive character Hilly Holbrook. It has been quite awhile since I have come across a character in a book that is as vile and distasteful as Hilly.
Kathryn Stockett does a masterful job of describing the south that existed in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963. The "verbage" used by Aibileen, Minny, and the other maids, the attitudes about race and race relations, and the documented and sometimes violent history of civil rights, all were weaved together in The Help.
Three things stand out for me in The Help. The first was how Stockett was able to essentially tell three different individual's stories and integrate them seamlessly into one novel. That was no easy task. The second was balancing an authentic and accurate portrayal of the period that The Help was based upon, such as the vernacular used by poor blacks in the south and the attitudes toward race that existed at this time. It was a fine balancing act, and could have easily come across as patronizing on the one hand, or too "preachy" on the other. Finally, Stockett gave what all good writers do...a human feel to her characters and to their story. Skeeter, Aibileen, Minny, despite their differences in class, status, and race, still shared many of the same wants, desires, hopes, and dreams.
And that really is the point of The Help. When you boil it down to the basic complexities of life, race becomes irrelevant, and there really isn't that many differences between us.
Running Blind is yet another excellent Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child. This novel veers a little off the usual formula Child has established for his...moreRunning Blind is yet another excellent Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child. This novel veers a little off the usual formula Child has established for his Reacher books, but that in no way detracts from this page-turning story. The body count isn't as high, the violence isn't as brutal, and the action isn't as fast or as furious as we have come to expect with Jack Reacher novels. In it's place, however, Child has crafted an intelligent "whodunit" mystery that will leave you guessing until the very end.
In Running Blind, Reacher is recruited (very much against his will) by the FBI to help capture a serial killer whose apparent targets are all women who at one time had been victims of sexual harassment while in the military. The FBI thinks that they have a spot-on profile of the serial killer. Reacher, on the other hand, not only believes they are dead wrong, but that they are being deceived by the serial killer into following false leads...while in the meantime, other women continue to turn up dead!
Each of the dead women died mysteriously with no marks or visible clues as to how or why they died. In fact, there is no forensic evidence period! What's more, it's as if each of the dead women actually let the killer into their homes and willingly participated in their own deaths! In each and every case, not one single piece of evidence was recovered that could have led to the killer or that might have explained the women's deaths.
You see where this is going, don't you? Reacher, murdered women, an invincible serial killer, and a clumsy government law enforcement bureaucracy? Reacher breaks every rule, goes his own way, and manages to solve the mystery all the while he is thumbing his nose at the FBI. This is what I mean by a page turner!
There is a twist at the end, and one that I certainly didn't see coming. That was just added spice to an already great read.
Four very enthusiastic stars for Running Blind.(less)
This was a GREAT book! The Drop was fast-moving, and punctuated with plot twists that kept me eager to turn to the next page. Connelly has a gift of d...moreThis was a GREAT book! The Drop was fast-moving, and punctuated with plot twists that kept me eager to turn to the next page. Connelly has a gift of depicting characters that make his books such great reads...not the least of which is Harry Bosch, the consummate gumshoe detective.
In The Drop, Bosch has not one, but two cases dropped (no pun intended) in his lap. One involves a cold case murder from 1989, while the other is a politically explosive case involving the suicide of a city councilman's son. When further investigation reveals that murder rather than suicide may be the real cause the councilman's son's death, all hell threatens to break loose. As pressure builds on Bosch to solve this mystery as quickly as possible, the cold case murder goes from being a routine investigation, to one that is far more complex...and possibly involving a serial killer.
This is my 3rd Michael Connelly novel to read(The Lincoln Lawyer and The Narrows are the other two), and two of the three have been Harry Bosch books. So far, I have yet to read a "bad" Connelly novel, and I would rank The Drop as the best of the three.
I don't give a five star rating easily, but I have to say The Drop is richly deserving. Five stars!!! (less)
Black List starts fast and doesn't slow down until you turn the last page. It does what a good book is supposed to do...keep you turning pages because...moreBlack List starts fast and doesn't slow down until you turn the last page. It does what a good book is supposed to do...keep you turning pages because you can't put it down.
I've got to say that of all the Scot Harvath books Brad Thor has written, I think I enjoyed this one the most. What I like least about Thor's novels are those occasions when his characters get on a soapbox and "preach". It's not that I don't agree with Thor-I despise weak-kneed liberal politicians as much as he does-I just think it distracts from his books and slows them down. In Black List, very little preaching is evident, and Thor lets his writing do the talking for him...as it should be!
In Black List, Harvath narrowly escapes not one, but two assassination attempts...only to discover that most if not all of the members of his super-secret organization have been killed and taken out. On the run, Harvath learns that it is his own government that has sanctioned his assassination. With cold ruthlessness, Harvath is determined to find out who it is and make them pay...with their lives.
I've read all of Thor's novels and this is a good thriller. As I stated earlier, I think this is one Thor's best. Four stars! (less)
Clive Cussler has always written fast-paced, interesting thrillers, and he is one of a handful of authors in the action/adventure genre who I really n...moreClive Cussler has always written fast-paced, interesting thrillers, and he is one of a handful of authors in the action/adventure genre who I really never tire of reading. Somehow, he manages to keep his novels fresh even as he uses the same formula time and again (a historical incident involving bad guys as a prologue, then a flash forward to the present where somehow, the historical incident becomes ensnared with present-day bad guys and the National Underwater Marine Agency, or NUMA characters). Unfortunately, like James Patterson, Cussler has farmed out more and, more of the novels he releases. Like Patterson, Cussler provides the synopsis, and another author writes the novel. Whenever you see Cussler's name paired with another author's name in smaller print, you can be assured the name in smaller print is the person who actually wrote the novel. I will give this to Cussler however; he does pick authors who are faithful to the Dirk Pitt NUMA series and the personas he has created. Most, if not all, of Cussler's books over the past 5-10 years have been spin-offs from the original Pitt/NUMA novels, and again, most have been written by authors other than Cussler.
The Devils Gate is the ninth book in the NUMA series featuring Kurt Austin and Joe Zavalla as the main characters. In this novel, Kurt and Joe stumble across a plot by a African dictator to use a scientific breakthrough in particle beam technology to create a weapon capable of mass destruction. With ships, aircraft, and even cities vulnerable to total destruction, Kurt and Joe leap into action, ably helped by a beautiful Russian agent.
A good, fast-moving read and one worthy of the Cussler NUMA franchise. Three very solid stars! (less)
Gideon's Sword was a fun read, and as long as you don't take it too seriously, I believe it to be a enjoyable one as well. After reading some of the m...moreGideon's Sword was a fun read, and as long as you don't take it too seriously, I believe it to be a enjoyable one as well. After reading some of the more negative reviews, all I can say is one must keep in mind it is, after all, a work of fiction...and therefore deals in the realm of the possible not necessarily reality.
Gideon Crew witnesses the horrific death of his father at the tender age of twelve. Later, as a young adult, his mother makes a deathbed confession that Gideon's father was framed and then murdered to keep certain damning knowledge his father had obtained a secret. Vowing revenge, the next ten years of Gideon's life is devoted to clearing his father's name and bringing the main perpetrator in his father's death to justice.
Gideon succeeds in spectacular fashion, and in so doing, comes to the attention of a secretive organization that contracts work for the U.S. government that is definitely off the books. Recruiting Gideon for a project involving the death of a Chinese scientist and a world-changing technology the scientist has in his possession, Gideon is instantly plunged into a world of danger, deception and espionage.
Cleverly written, Gideon's Sword is fast-moving and has a definite twist at the end that I didn't see coming. Where Gideon's Sword fails is that it tries to do too much and mixes several genres. Is it a thriller? Mystery? Action & adventure? I think that is why some of the reviewers have rated it so poorly. If you want a straight thriller, then for example, most readers might prefer James Rollins or Lee Child. Instead, Gideon's Sword comes off as a thriller "lite".
Robert E. Howard is the Father of swashbuckling Sword & Sorcery, with his creation, Conan the Barbarian, the defining character of the genre. "The...moreRobert E. Howard is the Father of swashbuckling Sword & Sorcery, with his creation, Conan the Barbarian, the defining character of the genre. "The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian" is the 2nd compilation of Howard's short stories and novelettes I have read (the first being "Conan the Barbarian released in 2010). Although this anthology contains some of the same stories, it has the added bonus of numerous illustrations by artist Mark Schultz, and I found it to be a very good read. If you are a fan of Conan the Barbarian, or if sword and sorcery is a genre that appeals to you, you will like this anthology.
A solid 4 stars for "The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian".(less)