Category Archives: Book Review

A year in books

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I read a lot of books.  A lot of fiction.  I read books on my kindle (either on my iPad or on my actual Kindle Voyage e-reader), and I listen to a LOT of audiobooks on Audible.  I walk and/or run (usually walk) about 5 miles a day, and most of those days I am listening to audiobooks. I read audiobooks in the car. I will occasionally re-read books I really like. This year, I re-read almost all of the Michael Connnelly, Harry Bosch books; and in anticipation for this summer’s conclusion to Stephen King’s Mercedes Killer trilogy, I re-read the first two.   I also read a lot of books though Netgalley, which provides me with pre-publication copies in return for fair reviews. I am currently reading many of Robert A. Heinlein’s “juvenile” or YA “speculative fiction” novels (a.k.a. science fiction).  Heinlein is truly one of a kind.

As I sat tonight in a long meeting, I made a list of everything I read this year. I was impressed with it. And the year still has 24 days left.

Here is the list.  It is not in order, and includes print and audio.
Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
Robert A. Heinlein, Farmer in the Sky
Frederick Backman, A Man Called Ove
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or What Ever Happened the Party of the People
Ted Chiang, Arrival (Stories of your Life MTI)
Megan Miranda, All the Missing Girls
Blake Crouch, Dark Matter
Harlan Coben, Found
Harlan Coben, Seconds Away
Harlan Coben, Shelter
Harlan Coben, Live Wire
Michael D White, Stop and Frisk: The Use and Abuse of a Controversial Police Tactic
Joan Jacoby, The Power of the Prosecutor: Gatekeepers of the Criminal Justice System
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Dima Zales, Haven
Dima Zales, Limbo
Dima Zales, Oasis
Shadi Hamid, Islamic Exceptionalism
Alexandra Oliva, The Last One
Heather Gudenhauf, Missing Pieces
Lisa Lutz, The Passenger
Sylvain Neuvel, Sleeping Giants
Robert Dugoni, Her Final Breath
Jonathan Kellerman, The Murderer’s Daughter
Peter Cline, The Fold
Neal Stephenson, Seveneves
Greg Iles, The Bone Tree
Chuck Grossart, The Gemini Effect
Emily Bleeker
Philip Roth, American Pastoral
Nicole Van Cleve, Crook County: Racism and Injustice in America’s Largest Criminal Court
Avi Melamed, Inside the Middle East: Making Sense of the Most Dangerous Region of the World
Michael Connelly, Angle of Investigation: Three Harry Bosch Stories
James Hankins, The Prettiest One
Jonathan Rhynhold, The Arab-Israeli Conflict in American Political Culture
Martin Gaylord, The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gaugin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks
Greg Myre, This Burning Land: Lessons from the Front Lines of the Transformed Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Joe Hart, The Last Girl
David Baldacci, Absolute Power
Michael Connelly, The Wrong Side of Goodbye
Robert A. Heinlein, Citizen of the Galaxy
David Baldacci, No Man’s Land
Frederick Pohl, Gateway
Harlan Coben, Home
John Scalzi, The Dispatcher
Robert Dugoni, The 7th Canon
Robert A Heinlein, Time for the Stars
Liz Moore, Heft
David Baldacci, Hour Game
David Baldacci, The Escape
D.M. Pulley, The Buried Book
Harlan Coben, Hold Tight
Gregg Hurwitz, Orphan X
Brad Emanuel, The Last Tribe
Kendra Elliott, Targeted
John Scalzi, Agent to the Stars
David Baldacci, Split Second
Stephen King, End of Watch
Stephen King, Finders Keepers
Stephen King, Mercedes Killer
Tim Tigner, Flash
Harlan Coben, Fool Me Once
Michael Connelly, The Overlook
Michael Connelly, The Narrows
Michael Connelly, Echo Park
Michael Connelly, Lost Light
Michael Connelly, The Poet
Michael Connelly, City of Bones
Michael Connelly Angels Flight
Michael Connelly, Trunk Music
Michael Connelly, The Concrete Blonde
Michael Connelly, The Last Coyote
Michael Connelly, The Black Ice
Michael Connelly, The Black Echo
David Baldacci, The Last Mile
Harlan Coben, Fool Me Once
Robert Dugoni, The Conviction

Book Review: The Last Tribe

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I was extremely leery about this book. What?  Another post super-flu end of the world novel?  Really?  How original could that be?   Brad Manuel’s The Last Tribe looked like yet one more in a long procession of books that came before.  I could not have been any more wrong.

Yes, the book brings to mind a lot of other works:  The Passage, Station 11, King’s masterpiece The Stand, I am Legend, World War Z, The Walking Dead, The Dog Stars, Divergent, The Maze Runner, The Planet of the Apes, and on and on.  AND yes, I have read many of them.  There is something about the genre that is always interesting.  But when I first saw The Last Tribe I was pretty sure this would just be another take on the same formula. And in the first chapter, I was convinced that this was going to be a book that had zero originality.

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I’ll say it again. I  could not have been more wrong.

 

The Last Tribe does not have zombies.  It does not really have many “bad guys.”  There are no evil forces at work.  What it has is perhaps unique to the whole genre.  Humanity.  The book tells the story of a group of survivors, several of whom, quite miraculously, are from the same family.  It tells how they come together, and ultimately create “the last tribe.”  The book has incredibly strong character development.  It has several protagonists, and over 700 pages, you come to cheer for all of them.

 

Brad Manuel has created a world that you do not want to leave.  He has created a world in which humanity triumphs.  A world in which people use knowledge, determination, and sheer will-power to not only survive, but to thrive.  It is a good guys survival story.

 

I don’t want to spoil the story.  I just strongly recommend you buy the book, or the audiobook (Scott Brick, one of the great audio performers of the day narrates it, over 22 hours!).  And then set some time aside, as once you start, you won’t want to put it down.

 

I am just hoping there is a sequel.

Review: All the Missing Girls

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All the Missing Girls has everything in the contemporary whodunit novel, and follows many of popular books of recent years, like Gone Girl, and The Girl on the Train (hmmm… a recurring girl theme), but then flips everything.

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All the Missing Girls, by Megan Miranda (out in print tomorrow), does one thing completely different.  It tells the story in reverse.  The story takes place over 15 days.  There is a brief preface.  Then It jumps 15 days later.   And each chapter is a day.  In reverse. Each day reveals more of the story, but the problem is you have to tie it all together.  Is this just a gimmick to sell books, or is it a novel plot device that works?

Probably a little bit of both.  I found myself frustrated through much of the book, as I was having t
o store information away, trying to figure out each day’s events. Yet, as it came to a conclusion (and the book does come to a conclusion), it got easier and easier.   But I wanted to go back and re-read the whole book.   Yet, I didn’t do that, because, to be honest, there are too many good books out there to read, and nowhere enough time, and while I enjoyed the book, I didn’t enjoy it so much as to spend another couple days re-reading.

Does this plot device work?  Yes.  Do I want to see it in future books?  Not really.  Will the book be the next Gone Girl?   I doubt it.  But is it worth the time?  Yes, I think so.  All the Missing Girls provides the recreational reader who wants to view the reading experience as a kind of puzzle, with a unique opportunity.

I read an advance copy sent from Simon & Schuster.  The book is out on Amazon and at your friendly bookstore, this week.

Book Review: Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter

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Next month, Blake Crouch’s new science fiction thriller Dark Matter will be released.   Crouch is known for his “Wayward Pines” trilogy, currently adapted as a Fox TV series.  Dark Matter is a stand-alone novel which draws on a fairly common thread in science fiction — quantum physics and the multiverse.

What if you could in effect go back in time and change a decision that you made 15 years ago?   What if you could live an entirely different life based on the choice you didn’t make?  What if everything you cherished was taken away in an instant?  Would you fight to get it back?   Blake Crouch’s new book uses science fiction to explore just such questions, drawing on the premise of multiple universes, and even Schroedinger’s Cat, on a fast-paced romp.

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This is a book designed to be read in one or two sittings.  For me I started it, and found myself almost half-way through it before I realized it. When I returned to it, I just kept reading, well past my normal bedtime, to finish it.   Every once in a while you find the book you don’t want to put down.   Dark Matter is just that book.

That said, once you figure out what is going on, there is still some physics to grapple with, and you need to be paying attention.  But that is true of almost every book that uses this type of plot device. Is the book truly original?  Probably not.  Does it make it any less enjoyable?  Definitely not.   And compared with the ending of the Wayward Pines trilogy, which left me frustrated, and so mad, that I wanted to throw my kindle across the room, this book resolves itself nicely.

I received a pre-release copy of this book from Netgalley.com. 

 

 

Book Review: In the Clearing

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I received an advance copy of Robert Dugoni’s forthcoming third novel in the Tracy Crosswhite series, In the Clearing.   I’ve read all three of the books, all prior to publication, and think that the third entry is a considerable improvement over the second novel,  Her Final Breath which left me disappointed, and felt like it did little to advance the development of the recurring characters.    This novel is more similar to the introduction to the series, My Sister’s Grave as Detective Crosswhite investigates a cold-case murder (which had been viewed as a suicide) that had some minor similarities to the detective’s own personal story, namely the murder of her own sister.

 

In the Clearing is a quick read. 51tCw4-LuyL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_ It has a great start, and hooks the reader in.  The premise is that a friend of  Tracy Crosswhite, a sheriff in a fictional Washington town three hours from Seattle, wants to re-open a case that her father, the now deceased former sheriff had investigated 40 years earlier.  A teenage Native American girl was found dead in a river, and it was attributed as a suicide.  The then young deputy sheriff investigated the case on his own, but never was able to prove the case.   Tracy is brought in to re-examine the case.

My criticism of the book is that there were times when it was very confusing, as the book would go from Tracy Crosswhite investigating a current murder case in Seattle, to flashbacks from 1976 of the Sheriff Deputy, to contemporary investigation of the cold-case.   It jumped around that way, and required a lot of focus on the part of the reader.   But this is a minor criticism.   In the end, the story has a clear resolution, and was an enjoyable read.    I’d recommend it, but I’d say start with the bestseller My Sister’s Grave, if you haven’t read the series before.  There is a LOT of references to both prior novels.

In the Clearing is available on May 17.    I reviewed this for Netgalley.com.   

 

 

Review: The Last One

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I occasionally review books for NetGalley.com, a service that provides pre-publication books for review purposes.  I recently received a copy of Alexandra Oliva’s forthcoming debut novel, The Last One,  due out by Random House this July.  The description of The Last One was intriguing:

For readers of Station Eleven and The Passage comes a dazzling and unsettling novel of psychological suspense. In Alexandra Oliva’s thrilling fiction debut, survival is the name of the game, as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself—and one woman’s mind and body are pushed to the limit.

So I requested the book, and my request was approved.   I’ve been a fan of Survivor since the show began 15 years ago.  I have read Station Eleven, and the Passage, and a wide range of post-world-comes-to-and-end-as-we-know-it books, and thought the concept was  worth giving it a read.  Imagine you are a contestant on a reality show, not on some island in the Pacific, but somewhere in a forested part of the U.S., and on your own to survive in the wild.  BUT while you are playing “the game,” a super-flu or some other sort of contagion strikes.   Since the game’s producers are constantly throwing obstacles and challenges at you, would you think it was a part of the game, or real.

This is the premise of The Last One.   As a Survivor fan, I loved the game description, and the confessionals, and the real sense of what it would be like to be in “a game.”  As a fan of the post-apocalyptic books, it provided a totally different spin.  The book goes back and forth from telling the story of the game, in one chapter, to focusing on the experiences of the one woman “Zoo” (named that by the show’s producers because she worked with wildlife), “post-game.”  Yet, she doesn’t realize she isn’t in a game anymore.

The back-and-forth is sometimes frustrating.  I really wanted more of Zoo’s story, but the writing was strong, and it was the type of book you fly through.  I also occasionally thought, “come on, you have to realize this isn’t a game anymore.”  I was about 80 percent through the book (remember, I have a pre-publication copy, sent on kindle, and no page numbers) and thought the author is  never going to resolve this satisfactorily.  I was completely wrong.   It was a fun book, and will be a great summer beach or pool read, once it comes out in July.    I look forward to more from Alexandra Oliva.

Book Review: Kellerman’s The Murderer’s Daughter

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This is new for me – writing book reviews.  But I am participating in NetGalley.com as an early reader of forthcoming novels, and the first book I read through the program was Jonathan Kellerman’s The Murderer’s Daughter, which will be out later in August.

I have not read a lot of Kellerman’s work, but was familiar with the Alex Delaware mystery series.  This was a stand-alone novel, although with a cameo tie-in to the author’s famous detective.  The Murderer’s Daughter tells the story of a successful psychotherapist with a disturbing past.   Grace Blades is an extremely talented young woman who survived the deaths of her drug-user parents, and navigated the foster care system until she found a family who was able to nurture her special talents.    The novel uses flash-backs, starting in the past, with her birth, and going back and forth from present day for most of the story, revealing to the reader, bit by bit, more of Grace’s back-story.

The author’s use of flash-backs could be seen as tired, but in this book it actually works quite well, as it ties in with the actual mystery that drives the book (which I won’t reveal, as it is too hard to not create a spoiler).

I am not convinced that the ending of the book was as good as it could be.  It felt in some ways like the author was running into a page limit, and wrapped it up a bit too quickly.   That said, I’d read a second book in the Grace Blade series, if it is a series.

4.2 / 5.

 

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