Category: "Books: Read"

Fool's Assassin - Robin Hobb

July 10th, 2014

FitzChivalry -- royal bastard and former king's assassin -- has left his life of intrigue behind. As far as the rest of the world knows, FitzChivalry Farseer is dead and buried. Masquerading as Tom Badgerlock and married to his childhood sweetheart, Molly, Fitz now leads the quiet life of a country squire.

Still, he remains haunted by the disappearance of the Fool, who did so much to shape Fitz into the man he has become. But such private hurts are put aside in the business of daily life -- until the appearance of menacing, pale-skinned strangers casts a sinister shadow over Fitz's past...and his future.

Now, to protect his new life, the former assassin must once again take up his old one...

Robin Hobb introduced us to FitzChivalry Farseer and the Fool nearly 20 years ago and they've been through a lot since then. If you haven't read the Farseer trilogy, where we first meet Fitz and the Fool, or the Tawny Man trilogy where their journey continues, you MAY start with this book; there is enough recap to bring you up to speed. If you have read any or all of the earlier 6 books, you are nostalgic for books read long ago and maybe a little grateful for the review since it has been so long.

I read the Farseer trilogy years ago and enjoyed the story and its characters. I have not yet read the Tawny Man trilogy, though I own it and plan to read it. Of another Hobb series, I made it through two books of her Rainwilds Chronicles. I neither enjoyed the story nor the characters. I commented after book 2 of that series that Robin Hobb is capable of so much more than this. And now she has proved me right.

Unabashedly, I loved this book. In nearly 700 pages, not much happens here, but I savored every word Ms. Hobb wrote. The details were subtle and deliberate and the book was beautifully written.

The elephant in the room is how obvious the book's big plot twist was to the readers, yet Fitz, uncharacteristically, was blind to it. It earned an emphatic, "Well, duh!" from me, but did not disrupt my overall enjoyment of the book.

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I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review of it. I am under no obligation to provide a favorable review and any praise is deserved. I am honest in all of my reviews and will not compromise myself for a free product.

Brisingr - Christoper Paolini

April 11th, 2013

Oaths sworn . . . loyalties tested . . . forces collide.

It's been only months since Eragon first uttered "brisingr," the ancient language term for fire. Since then, he's not only learned to create magic with words-he's been challenged to his very core. Following the colossal battle against the Empire's warriors on the Burning Plains, Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have narrowly escaped with their lives. Still, there is more adventure at hand for the Rider and his dragon, as Eragon finds himself bound by a tangle of promises he may not be able to keep.

First is Eragon's oath to his cousin, Roran: to help rescue Roran's beloved from King Galbatorix's clutches. But Eragon owes his loyalty to others, too. The Varden are in desperate need of his talents and strength-as are the elves and dwarves. When unrest claims the rebels and danger strikes from every corner, Eragon must make choices-choices that will take him across the Empire and beyond, choices that may lead to unimagined sacrifice.

Eragon is the greatest hope to rid the land of tyranny. Can this once simple farm boy unite the rebel forces and defeat the king?

Pressure is mounting. The Varden can only advance so far into enemy territory before war is declared. They can only hope that as each day passes Murtagh and Thorn will not attack. Eragon and Saphira are sufficient defense when they are around, but they cannot me everywhere at once and they are needed elsewhere.

Let's get this out of the way. This series should have been over in three books. There is plenty of superfluous story line that could be edited out of this book. I will concede that Paolini did a decent job keeping most of the boring parts from becoming the last part I read before giving up. I will even suggest what to cut out...Roran. To this point, Eragon's cousin hasn't brought any value to these books. He is a wild card and a cowboy and he is contrary to all of the values Paolini has tried to instill in Eragon.

With that out of the way, I am still entertained with the path that Eragon walks. I am intrigued. I want to know what happens. I am more than willing to read another book to see how this plays out. But I'm glad there is only one more book because I am ready for closure.

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The Sleeping Doll - Jeffery Deaver

April 2nd, 2013

The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery DeaverWhen Special Agent Kathryn Dance -- a brilliant interrogator and kinesics expert with the California Bureau of Investigation -- is sent to question the convicted killer Daniel "Son of Manson" Pell as a suspect in a newly unearthed crime, she feels both trepidation and electrifying intrigue. Pell is serving a life sentence for the brutal murders of the wealthy Croyton family in Carmel years earlier -- a crime mirroring those perpetrated by Charles Manson in the 1960s. But Pell and his cult members were sloppy: Not only were they apprehended, they even left behind a survivor -- the youngest of the Croyton daughters, who, because she was in bed hidden by her toys that terrible night, was dubbed the Sleeping Doll.
But the girl never spoke about that night, nor did the crime's mastermind. Indeed, Pell has long been both reticent and unrepentant about the crime. And so with the murderer transported from the Capitola superprison to an interrogation room in the Monterey County Courthouse, Dance sees an opportunity to pry a confession from him for the recent murder -- and to learn more about the depraved mind of this career criminal who considers himself a master of control, a dark Svengali, forcing people to do what they otherwise would never conceive of doing. In an electrifying psychological jousting match, Dance calls up all her skills as an interrogator and kinesics -- body language -- expert to get to the truth behind Daniel Pell.

But when Dance's plan goes terribly wrong and Pell escapes, leaving behind a trail of dead and injured, she finds herself in charge of her first-ever manhunt. But far from simply fleeing, Pell turns on his pursuers -- and other innocents -- for reasons Dance and her colleagues can't discern. As the idyllic Monterey Peninsula is paralyzed by the elusive killer, Dance turns to the past to find the truth about what Daniel Pell is really up to. She tracks down the now teenage Sleeping Doll to learn what really happened that night, and she arranges a reunion of three women who were in his cult at the time of the killings. The lies of the past and the evasions of the present boil up under the relentless probing of Kathryn Dance, but will the truth about Daniel Pell emerge in time to stop him from killing again?

Kathryn Dance is good at reading people. She worked as a jury consultant then moved into public service earning her living from the California Bureau of Investigation. She is primarily an interrogator, but has to step in and step up as lead investigator in the search for a dangerous man named Daniel Pell, who has escaped from prison. Dance is the expert in kinesics, using her skill to discern the truth when people lie. Pell is the expert in manipulation, using his skill to coerce people to bend to his will. He is dangerous and she needs to put him back behind bars.

The Sleeping Doll is CLASSIC Jeffery Deaver. Some of his more recent works have surely disappointed (avoid The Bodies Left Behind), but he is back to true form with this one. This book is wonderfully reminiscent of Peter Kincaid in Deaver's The Devil's Teardrop where Kincaid's expert knowledge in forensic document examination is needed in the search for a man they call the Digger.

Jeffery Deaver teaches, fascinates and intrigues as he writes. The way he weaves the artful science of kinesics (reading body language) into this story is impressive. I have always touted the depth of Mr. Deaver's research as his biggest strength. "The devil is in the detail," as they say, and Deaver goes the extra mile for his readers.

What a great book.

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Speaking from Among the Bones - Alan Bradley

March 19th, 2013

Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan BradleyEleven-year-old amateur detective and ardent chemist Flavia de Luce is used to digging up clues, whether they’re found among the potions in her laboratory or between the pages of her insufferable sisters’ diaries. What she is not accustomed to is digging up bodies. Upon the five-hundredth anniversary of St. Tancred’s death, the English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey is busily preparing to open its patron saint’s tomb. Nobody is more excited to peek inside the crypt than Flavia, yet what she finds will halt the proceedings dead in their tracks: the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist, his face grotesquely and inexplicably masked. Who held a vendetta against Mr. Collicutt, and why would they hide him in such a sacred resting place? The irrepressible Flavia decides to find out. And what she unearths will prove there’s never such thing as an open-and-shut case.

The lovely Flavia de Luce. I've heard so much about her over the past few years, it was past time to join the masses and read one of the books about Alan Bradley's young, science-loving, mystery-solving darling.

I believe I will fall under immediate scrutiny for starting with this, the fifth, book. I wanted to know if you could join this series at any point. I firmly believe that, in any series, you will gain depth and shading from knowing the full story from the beginning. But there may be a variety of reasons why a reader starts later than book one. I started with book five and I was certainly not lost; this book can stand alone. I could tell, as I read, that there was something bigger than just this one plot line at work, but I was at no disadvantage for not being caught up. It just means I am all the more excited to read the rest of the books.

I must admit that I found the story in Speaking from Among the Bones to be a little light. I felt that the entire thing needed some meat on its 'Bones.' Everything moved quickly as if I were led by the hand through a museum at a brisk jog. There were a few moments I would have liked to savor, but on we went. Yet I was still able to enjoy myself; it was still beautiful art that went by so quickly.

Flavia is a delightful serial protagonist. She is incredibly unique and I am glad that I have started reading these books. Now, if you will excuse me, I have more "Flavia" to read.

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Rise of the Evening Star - Brandon Mull

October 16th, 2012

Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon MullAt the end of the school year, Kendra and her brother Seth find themselves racing back to Fablehaven, a refuge for mythical and magical creatures. Grandpa Sorenson, the caretaker, invites three specialists -- a potion master, a magical relics collector, and a mystical creature trapper -- to help protect the property from the Society of the Evening Star, an ancient organization determined to infiltrate the preserve and steal a hidden artifact of great power. Time is running out. The Evening Star is storming the gates. If the artifact falls into the wrong hands, it could mean the downfall of other preserves and possibly the world. Will Kendra learn to use her fairy gifts in time? Will Seth stay out of trouble?

Last year Kendra and Seth learned of magical creatures that inhabit Fablehaven, the sanctuary protected by their grandfather. Now, at the end of the school year, that world of magic has invaded Kendra's class at school. Who can they trust? Who can help them get back to Fablehaven? The Society of the Evening Star brought the fight to Kendra and Seth's hometown and is relentless in its efforts infiltrate the sanctuary.

I had a few gripes with the first book in this series but I have none of those same gripes again. In fact, nothing stands out to me except that this is a fun, light and entertaining book that does justice to the series and makes me want to keep reading. I look forward to book three.

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Eldest - Christopher Paolini

September 25th, 2012

Eldest by Christopher PaoliniEragon and his dragon, Saphira, have just saved the rebel state from destruction by the mighty forces of King Galbatorix, cruel rule of the Empire. Now Eragon must travel to Ellesméra, land of the elves, for further training in magic and swordsmanship, the vital skills of the Dragon Rider. It is the journey of a lifetime, filled with awe-inspiring new places and people, each day a fresh adventure. But chaos and betrayal plague him at every turn, and Eragon isn't sure whom he can trust.

Meanwhile, his cousin Roran must fight a new battle back home in Carvahall -- one that puts Eragon in even graver danger.

Will the king's dark hand strangle all resistance? Eragon may not escape with even his life...

The book begins in the aftermath of the great battle. Eragon has proved himself a hero and everyone wants him as an ally. He quickly learns that there is as much strategy in politics as there is in war and he cannot wait to begin his trek to Ellesméra where his training as a Dragon Rider will continue. Back home and a world away, the simple folk of Carvahall must band together to protect their own way of life because Galbatorix's thugs set out to find Eragon's cousin Ronan.

At first, the drama was so forced that Eldest was hard to read. Once Eragon was finally on his way to Ellesméra, the author found his stride and the book regained its balance. From there, this just becomes an engaging and entertaining story. The side story involving Ronan was, at times, a pleasant distraction. I was told that this book was incredibly slow, but I never felt that way. I think this book is very different from Eragon (book 1), so it is hard to say which is better; each has merit. Eldest was a fun read and kept me interested in this series. I look forward to Brisingr (book 3).

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The Admiral's Mark - Steve Berry

September 11th, 2012

The Admiral's Mark by Steve BerryEight years ago Cotton Malone was an agent for the Justice Department, handling the toughest and most sensitive international investigations. But sometimes things became intensely personal. In his latest eBook original short story, New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry lays out just such a tale—one with shocking historical implications.

Cotton Malone never cared for the shady dealings of his brother-in-law, Scott Brown. But when Scott dies while scuba diving, Cotton’s wife and her grieving sister demand more than just a secondhand police report. So Malone heads to Haiti. There, beneath crystal clear waters, he learns that Scott found the sunken wreckage of the Santa Maria, the fabled flagship of Christopher Columbus, and he paid for the discovery with his life. Setting out to piece together what happened, Malone quickly realizes that he’s not the only man there with questions. An Israeli intelligence agent is in top secret pursuit of what Scott died trying to protect. And a sinister Austrian with a hidden agenda has no qualms about killing for the mysterious prize. On the hunt for something that has been lost for 500 years, Malone is suddenly enmeshed in a deadly cat and mouse game being played across the north shore of Haiti and beneath the Caribbean Sea—and he’ll have to fight just to get out of there alive.

The Admiral's Mark is the short story Steve Berry released to coincide with his full-length novel The Columbus Affair.  Berry has been using these short stories to set the tone for the novels and introduce important characters.  While The Columbus Affair is not a Cotton Malone novel, Cotton is in The Admiral's Mark.

When Cotton's brother-in-law, Scott, dies in a scuba-diving accident, Cotton puts his negative personal feelings for Scott aside and heads to Haiti to investigate.  Other persons of interest that Cotton encounters in Haiti are an Israeli intelligence agent and a mysterious Austrian man who confirm Cotton's fear that Scott was involved in some scheme on the island and that his death was no accident; he was murdered under water.  

The Admiral's Mark is less than 50 pages, so when they say "short story," they mean it.  It is certainly a quick read, but it just isn't Steve Berry's best story line.  

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The Well of Ascension - Brandon Sanderson

September 5th, 2012

The Well of Ascension by Brandon SandersonThey did the impossible, deposing the godlike being whose brutal rule lasted a thousand years. Now Vin, the street urchin who has grown into the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and Elend Venture, the idealistic young nobleman who loves her, must build a healthy new society in the ashes of an empire.

They have barely begun when three separate armies attack. As the siege tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.

It may just be that killing the Lord Ruler was the easy part. Surviving the aftermath of his fall is going to be the real challenge.

There are many challenges to face after you overthrow a man who has ruled for a thousand years, as Vin and Elend are finding out after their unlikely victory against the Lord Ruler. It is also very idealistic of Elend Venture to think that the people, who have been oppressed for so long, have any interest in participating in a parliamentary government. Many think that to restore the balance of power, the only real option is to crown another ultimate, single ruler. Three men who follow that line of thinking have come to be heard, and each brought his army. Vin believes that she can save the way of life they have fought so hard to win if she can find the source of the Lord Ruler's power, the Well of Ascension.

I was concerned that after such a complex first book that there just wouldn't be enough left in the author's tank. I was wrong. Boy was I wrong. There is a lot going on in this book and I had to stop periodically through the book to wonder if it would all come together. Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I was this impressed by a book. Brandon Sanderson wrote a book where everything had a place; everything belonged and nothing was left to chance. Sanderson masterfully crafted a sequel that was even better than its predecessor.

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One Big Thing - Phil Cooke

August 30th, 2012

One Big Thing by Phil CookeWithout a clear sense of identity, vision, and purpose, all of us tend to wander aimlessly from plan to plan, from project to project, from hopeful beginning to unfulfilled promise.

It need not be so. You hold in your hands a roadmap for a different, better path. From start to finish. One Big Thing will guide you with:

Practical strategies to help you find your true purpose -- and share it with the world

Keys to discovering the difference between a mere job and a passion-fueled dream

Tools for cultivating the focus necessary to rise above scattershot mediocrity and excel at your true calling

Up-to-date parallels and deftly mined case studies from the field of branding

Ideas for deflecting "what if?" questions that threaten to derail your destiny

Insights for connecting your calling to a cause bigger than yourself

Reassurance that pursuing a single-minded dream makes perfect sense -- despite how crazy it might look to everyone else

Intuitively, we know that faking it won't work; we must discover our unique, highest-and-nest pursuit. And it must be linked to who we are and what we value most.

Phil Cooke invites you to encounter the wisdom that he has shared with major organizations and the hundres of thousands that follow him through his blog at philcooke.com. His aim? To ignite the creative spark that can become a flame when you grasp the core of who you were meant to be...your one big thing.

Phil Cooke breaks down the now-cliché book about career freedom into more manageable pieces. Find out what you're good at, exploit those strengths and outsource your weakness. Brainstorm what you like and even what you don't like to help narrow the field. Other books focus on pushing you to start once you have the idea. This book helps you look inside yourself to find the idea.

I read One Big Thing after I had already read The $100 Startup and The 4 Hour Work Week (both books that I recommend reading). One Big Thing arguably should be first on your list chronologically because it encourages you to find your path and makes it feel more attainable. Worry about starting your business and then cutting back on your hours later.

Cooke seemingly humanizes this process whereas some other books make it seem like something that only happens to other, super people. He has great insight and shares it on many other topics as well. This is a quick read, which will benefit you over time as you plan to read it over and over.

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The Columbus Affair - Steve Berry

August 24th, 2012

The Columbus Affair by Steve BerryHe was called by many names—Columb, Colom, Colón—but we know him as Christopher Columbus. Many questions about him exist: Where was he born, raised, and educated? Where did he die? How did he discover the New World?

None have ever been properly answered.

And then there is the greatest secret of all.


From Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author, comes an exciting new adventure—one that challenges everything we thought we knew about the discovery of America.

Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Tom Sagan has written hard-hitting articles from hot spots around the world. But when a controversial report from a war-torn region is exposed as a fraud, his professional reputation crashes and burns. Now he lives in virtual exile—haunted by bad decisions and the shocking truth he can never prove: that his downfall was a deliberate act of sabotage by an unknown enemy. But before Sagan can end his torment with the squeeze of a trigger, fate intervenes in the form of an enigmatic stranger with a request that cannot be ignored.

Zachariah Simon has the look of a scholar, the soul of a scoundrel, and the zeal of a fanatic. He also has Tom Sagan’s estranged daughter at his mercy. Simon desperately wants something only Sagan can supply: the key to a 500-year-old mystery, a treasure with explosive political significance in the modern world. For both Simon and Sagan the stakes are high, the goal intensely personal, the consequences of opposing either man potentially catastrophic. On a perilous quest from Florida to Vienna to Prague and finally to the mountains of Jamaica, the two men square off in a dangerous game. Along the way, both of their lives will be altered—and everything we know about Christopher Columbus will change.

Eight years ago, Tom Sagan's career as an investigative journalist came to an abrupt end around allegations of fraud.  He knows that the allegations are false, but despite his talent for uncovering the truth, he was never able find any evidence to prove his own innocence.  When he cannot take his ruined existence any longer (literally has gun in hand), a well-timed knock at the door disrupts Tom's plans.  Zachariah Simon, the man-who-knocked, is a very powerful man who believes that something he needs can be found only if he has Tom's help.  Zachariah turns out to be a very dangerous man who will stop at nothing to locate a treasure that has been lost for centuries and, if it is found, would have incredible political and historical impact.  What was that secret cargo that sailed with Christopher Columbus?  And will Zachariah Simon's blackmail attempt be enough to get Tom Sagan to help him find it?  

For a man (arguably) worthy of an eponymous holiday, there are many mysteries that still surround Christopher Columbus.  Author Steve Berry chose to take advantage of how little is actually known about Columbus with this novel.  Berry typically writes historical fiction and is well-known for his serial character Cotton Malone.  The Columbus Affair is not a Cotton Malone book.  

I have read other books by Steve Berry, though only a few.  I liked his other work, but The Columbus Affair was a little flat.  I found that too much of the history (the actual history combined with the fictional history created by the author) was simply repeated over and over.  The story moved slowly because every time it was set to progress, the same details were hashed out yet again.  The characters were all pitiable and despicable for their own reasons, but none was likable.  It is always hard to really enjoy a book when you don't have someone you like.  Berry is talented enough to have still made this book entertaining at times, its just not his best work.  

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