kuzumel - Reviews

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The Absent One (aka Disgrace) (Department Q, Bk 2)
Review Date: 8/25/2013


Hmmmm... I am SHOCKED ... SHOCKED ... at the antics and diviant entertainments of the Danish superrich. ;-)

About one third of the way into the book, you know who the players are in this book, and given it is a mystery-detective story, you can guess how it will end. But dispair not. The story is in the writer's skillful pen (by way of our British translater).

First, the expected ending is suspenseful as our intrepid dectetives must escape the deadly situation and catch the bad guys.

Second, the PATH to the ending held many unexpected twists and turns as you learn the about the past events that led up to the present.

Third, Afler-Olsen not only further develops Carl and Assad, but drops Rose into the basement as another underutilized misfit troublemaker shunted into Department Q. The basement is becoming a very cultural county fair as they doggedly dig out obscure clues from the mountain ranges of bureaucratic records and news stories that lead to the villian(s).

Last, something rumbles in Denmark as the police bureaucracy undergoes yet another round of unexpected changes. In other countries, you can't get rid of the spoiling apples from the upper echelons. But in Copenhagen, they hop out of the barrels on their own!

I am reading the 3rd book and just put myself down for the 4th. The Scandinavian mysteries have their own definitive style and flow apart from the English, Japanese, Chinese, and American detectives. So far its been 2 out of 3 gloomy Scandinavian protagonists for me.


After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall
After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall
Author: Nancy Kress, Marty Halpern (Editor)
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 11/11/2014


Given its initial publication date during 2012, this novella is in keeping with the flurry of Incan END-OF-THE-WORLD stories that probably flooded the Sci-Fi magazine market during 2012. That said. It won the Nebula "Best Novella" category in 2034 - so a big thumbs up from the Sci-Fi Writers Assn.

Some of her best work is about civilaztion transformations / paradigm shifts. So in keeping with the best tradition of Sci-Fi's social commentary, this novella looks at how humans might view the end of the world as we know it - from before, during and after.

Some readers might view it as pro-green, but if you're into archeaology or math theories, this is really a story about what happens when a complex system moves out of one stable pount and approaches a new one. Complexity Theory says that massive systems take a a long time to disrupt - with each one pulling out another underpin.

BTW. this is not really fiction. The last two times we ran into this scenario, the huge Yellowstone and Indonesian supervolcano explosions 600.000 and 70,000 years ago brought the human species down to less than 100 people suriving in just a few places. The last Ice Age has nothing on these two events - as this story illustrates.

--
Kuzu


Allegiant (Divergent, Bk 3)
Allegiant (Divergent, Bk 3)
Author: Veronica Roth
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 227
Review Date: 3/19/2015


First of all, I have NOT read the first two books. In fact, I did not plan to read this one either until I read all disappointed reviewers who complain about the alternating voices, overly complicated plotline, and the ending. So I borrowed this out of couriosity about just how bad the writing and storyline might be.

I disagree with a lot of the complaints.

First. This is more a book about thinking, feeling and choosing, not just survival and/or action scenes. If you were presented with the bigger world than you grew up with, how would you react? What if you were NOT different than everybody you know? What is really good or bad, if you knew you were different than what outsiders labeled you? These are all questions every human must answer at some point in ther life.

Second. Tris is just sixteen years old. She grew up believing and living by very simple rules taught to her by her parents. OK, so she's a Divergent and capable of all the other traits. But that doesn't mean she KNOWS what she's capable of, much less understands all the possible paths to choose from. She still in the first 6-months of her relationship with her boyfriend, and as a teenager, her biological urges tied with the neurological changes are going to make her feel rather than deduct an answer to the problems she faces. Her small, very well defined world - even with the Factionless in power - has just been demolished by a whole series of NEW realities and "facts" beyond the wall. So she deals with the most immediate crisis. And Tobias has to deal with the consequences of her choices, as well as his own.

Third. The nitpickers should just write down under "suspension of belief" and get on with the deeper elements. This is far enough in the future that no one questions where the energy comes from. - anywhere in that world So this must mean that it is very renewable or production is very self-sustaining. Either way, knowing the Dauntless has survelliance cameras everywhere, Jeanine has a car or the trains run at all helps the story along. But knowing where the electricity comes from to run the cameras, train (or car) is a distraction. After all, do we question how the cars fly in Blade Runner, or how we get aspirin from willow bark?

Fourth. Tobias has even more things to adjust to than Tris. So self-doubt is going to be very logical for someone who was the "strong one" in their relationship. And Roth needed to establish Tobias' voice for this book because the Divergent/Insurgent world is no longer the main reality they find themselves. They represent two different reactions to the new "factions" of the outside World. Besides. He allows Roth to continue the storyline to the end.

--
Kuzu


Apprentice in Death (In Death, Bk 43)
Apprentice in Death (In Death, Bk 43)
Author: J. D. Robb
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 40
Review Date: 9/27/2016


Our usual crew is back on the job for a mostly satisfying turn in 2060 NYC. The running tie joke continues. Someone's got a girl friend, maybe? The birthday party has a hoot of a guest list. Mavis appears, but seems to be demoted from very present bestie to best friend with a separate life. Whitney wants his own DLE . Oh. There's a serial killer on the loose who's proving to be an excellent sniper.

The Homicide squad, Morris, and the Crime Scene crew take front and center stage in this latest installment of the In Death series. Roarke really should get a desk in her squad room, because he's talking like one of the cops. You know halfway through the book who the bad guys are. The rest is spent trying to stop and capture them.

This feels like a decently written police procedural, with a little token socializing at the end to bring in all the ancillary characters who didn't have an excuse to appear in the rest of the story. It definitely was written by a ghost writter - one who nearly mimics Nora Roberts. But that hard, driven, suspenseful writing style that characterized the J. D. Robb persona is just not as present, unlike NR's mainstream books that stiil sound like her style. It's not to say that this writer is bad or off the reservation like ones from two to three years ago. It's just that the intwining of the non-cop secondary characters with the Dallas' professional life is not as tight as it used to be. The grays are fading from her world, becoming lighter or darker.


The Black Banners: 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda
The Black Banners: 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda
Author: Ali H. Soufan
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 1/22/2012


This very readable book starts at a trot and takes off from there. I didn't want to put it down. I even found the redacted sections amusing and bureaucratically idiotic. Mr Soufan writes about his first hand experience with Al-Qaeda. You find out how it evolved, where the cash came from, and why Islamic NGO's and charities are so suspect. You'll also get a quick and thorough summary of how Islamic extremism started and its interpretation of the Quran and regional history. Mr. Soufan presents both sides of the arguments, and (later) how Al-Qaeda recruits and trains their members.

He does get on a soapbox about the debate between "traditional" versus "extreme" interrogation methods. We get a first-hand look at how it evolved from classroom theory through "revising on the job" to "preferred method of amateurs" that fulfilled Al-Qaeda's propaganda about Americans.

If you have not read the 9/11 Commission report or just heard the 1-minute headline, then the last third is a concrete example of the paranoid compartmentalization that prevented the FBI and INS from arresting the conspirators or blocking their entry into the country.

I found myself, in turn, agreeing and arguing with Mr. Soufan about his opinions on Intelligence and security agencies in other countries. But it is encouraging to know that some competent and dedicated people exist everywhere - even if they're in the minority. I wish he'd spent a few more pages describing why Americans are the scapegoats (besides invading Saudi Arabia).


Blood in Her Veins: Nineteen Stories From the World of Jane Yellowrock
Review Date: 3/1/2016


If you're a Jane Yellowrock fan, and you have not read all (or any) of the 17 short stories previously published, then you're in for a treat. These are the tales that fill in the stories often referenced in the books - like Rick's first full-moon, how her apprenticeship began, when Molly and Big Evan discovered Angie's powers, or what happened after Jane resigned as Leo's Enforcer and rode off for Ashville.

The 2 new novellas cover a stand-alone story about what happens after a vampire prince marries a witchy princess, and a story about Angie Baby's rebellion against her parents' bindings.

I liked all 19 stories, some more than others. But telling some of the back stories from Rick, Beast, and Molly's viewpoints really also helped me learn more about those characters. All that was missing were stories from the Younger brother's perspective.


Blood of the Earth (Soulwood, Bk 1)
Blood of the Earth (Soulwood, Bk 1)
Author: Faith Hunter
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 23
Review Date: 3/1/2016


Before you read this book, read the short story where Jane meets Nell and drags her out of her isolation. *I* found "Off the Grid" in the recent short story collection - "Blood in Her Veins" - that has all of the Jane Yellowrock short fiction published up to "Shadow Rights" (April 2016).

The Nell presented in "Off the Grid" is intriguing. This book picks up right after the events of "Off the Grid". So I won't have to wait long to find out more about Nell's adventures.

The current rating is for the short story and the introduction Faith Hunter has set up to this new series.


Born of Fury (League, Bk 7)
Born of Fury (League, Bk 7)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 21
Review Date: 7/24/2014


This was better than the past couple of books in this series. However, she needs a better editor since the tome could be about 25% less and still tell the same story.

This is a story of a family outing that went to h### literally. Big, bad Hauk is stuck with two squabling teenagers on an Andarian coming of age rite for his nephew. First, Thia (Nyk's dating age daughter) arrives for a wilderness camping trip with a retinue of trunks in tow. Then a whole bunch of bounty hunters starts shooting at him. That begins a series of escallating skirmishes that leads to a turning point in the overall arc of the League series. There is no big battle scene like some earlier books. Just a few smaller ones to interrupt important conversations.

I liked the plotline. I wish the editing had been tighter (unless she contracturally had to fill out 600+ pages). The second half is one big reunion party, as all our past heroic couples make their appearence for Hauk and Sumi. Which just leaves me with a coupla questions. How did so many royals end up on the street or the League? And when will kids stop coming out of the wood work?

Tune in for the next episode of the Sentella versus the League ...


Bound Together (Sea Haven, Bk 6)
Bound Together (Sea Haven, Bk 6)
Author: Christine Feehan
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 33
Review Date: 11/16/2016


Removed plot synopsis now that the book is out.

Well, the "Sisters of the Heart" concluded with the climatic showdown between the powers at Sea Haven and the evil forces of the despicable villian. It was great seeing the Drakes again.

But ....

Feehan had Viktor bring along a new group of deadly (but redeemable) assassins and thiis storyline felt more about introducing THEM than exploring the stereotypically grim eldest Parenski brother.

For me, the series ended, Yay! I don't expect to go onwards with this new series, just because I think it will be the same old thread, but different characters.


The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After
The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After
Author: Julia Quinn
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 51
Review Date: 7/18/2013
Helpful Score: 2


I guess these short stories would be served better after reading the original books. Jumping back into the respective Bridgerton marriages after a few years away was not unlike seeing your old band-mates on the street, after 10-years. A couple of these stories were forgetable. A couple will make you LOL (the Mallet of Death, anyone?). And the remaining four allow JQ to explore different techniques, with mixed results. The best part was the short novella about Violet's sourtship and marriage, with a nice wrapup of all the main story lines.

About half of the stories were already published a few years ago, as e-editions. So only four of the siblings were new.

Newcomers might appreciate the basic plots and situation - although veterns will laugh more often. But these are better reads if you know the personalities involved.

So the 3.5 stars is mainly for Violet's story, and the 5 stories I thought held up well in this stand-alone context.


Brotherhood in Death (In Death, Bk 42)
Brotherhood in Death (In Death, Bk 42)
Author: J. D. Robb
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 40
Review Date: 2/11/2016


Hmmm... The writing style kinda resembles J. D. Robb but not quite gritty or terse enough (dialog). The difference was enough to bother me while reading the book. However, I guess I am getting used to the multiple personalities that are ghost writing her recent "In Death" books. Interestingly, the short stories are still flavored J. D. Robb.

That aside, the story line was interesting as we get to know the Mira family considerably better than before. The cast of characters narrows down to Dallas, Roarke, Peabody, the Homicide squad, and the Miras, with brief appearances by MacNab, Feeney, the upper brass, Nadine, and Summerset.

This is definitely not the book as the intro to this series. The pacing is uneven. The most humorously quirky sidekicks are NOT present, much less Bella (who's turning one!). Dallas has really mellowed since the first ten books (which was part of what made her such an fascinating protagonist).

It not so badly written that I gave up on this series. But this is definitely not one of the keepers for me.


Calculated in Death (In Death, Bk 36)
Calculated in Death (In Death, Bk 36)
Author: J. D. Robb
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 70
Review Date: 3/26/2013
Helpful Score: 4


OK. Who wrote this book? Because it definitely does NOT read like any other in the 'Death' series. I read the whole book and reread the previous two just to make sure I was not dreaming my reaction. (And I've followed Dallas from the very beginning!) So what stars I gave are for the plot points and NOT the writing.

The premise reflects Robb's usual plot line. However, it reads like she gave the description to a lackey and went on vacation, or she would have caught the differences. The pacing is very different. The behavior does not fit (or even evolve from) past behavior. And the dialogue reads cruder (in more ways than one) and choppy.

The short of this review is ...

Unless Robb/Roberts has a split personality we've never encountered before, be prepared for someone else's writing style with our usual crew.


Changes (Dresden Files, Bk 12)
Changes (Dresden Files, Bk 12)
Author: Jim Butcher
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 81
Review Date: 11/3/2010


Probably the best one yet. A warning, though. You might want to wait until the next book is out before reading this one. This as one of the best cliffhanger endings I've ever read (or seen since Babylon 5's Season 4). Also, you'll want a clear few hours to read the book. The action starts in Chapter 1 and does not let up through the surprise ending.


Chinglish: Found in Translation
Chinglish: Found in Translation
Author: Oliver Lutz Radtke
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 10/9/2012


I first saw this book at the English bookstore in Beijing after 3 weeks encountering many signs just as badly - if not more - mangled than the examples here. In fact, what makes this book even funnier is that we sometimes cannot reverse the translation to get the original Chinese version of the warning.

In short. If you have traveled anywhere in another country, you will enjoy this book. The Chinese get picked on for this, but Japan is just as bad (well 10 years ago), and I'm sure some of the former Soviet Union ***stan's have the same examples.


Cold City (Repairman Jack)
Cold City (Repairman Jack)
Author: F. Paul Wilson
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 6
Review Date: 2/4/2013
Helpful Score: 1


I got hooked on Repairman Jack from his very first solo novel more than ten years ago. By that time, Jack is already the loner with an underground word-of-mouth business 'fixing' situations. For fans reading this AFTER the conclusion of 'Nightworld' this might be a letdown, since this Jack is pretty innocent and unaware of what's to come. He's not yet suspicious or very cynical about the system or people.

However, this book explains how Jack meets The Lady and her dog, Abe, and Carlos, along with some of the other cast of characters that occasionally show up, later in the series. He learns how to drop off the grid. The conspiracies are present, and he unknowingly intersects with their plans.

I'm not sure why others have rated it as average, but if it's the plot line, then the apparent coincidences might be the cause. This may be good or bad, but FPW might be trying to show that the forces of Fate continues to influence our hero's destiny.

We'll have to see in the next two books.

Hey. At least we continue to get Repairman Jack stories!


Cold Reign (Jane Yellowrock, Bk 11)
Cold Reign (Jane Yellowrock, Bk 11)
Author: Faith Hunter
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 17
Review Date: 3/8/2018


It's like, you're cleaning up your house (or city, in this case) for the VERY IMPORTANT VAMPYRES and the dirt won't stay in the dust bin or keeps crawling out from under the rug! Then your unwanted guests arrive a little too early, while the dead won't stay dead.

That's just a minor spoiler to this exhausting book. I read it overnight. And between my lack of sleep and the non-stop series of crises I need some rest before the European vampyres arrive.

Can't wait for the next book.

That was the fan speaking. As the more level-headed bookworm, Cold Reign was pretty much all action and little introspection. This was not the case in the earlier books of the series. So I have a feeling that the publisher wants Ms. Hunter to draw out the series as long as possible, and some less than solid plot twists were thrown in as filler.


The Collector
The Collector
Author: Nora Roberts
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 72
Review Date: 9/20/2014
Helpful Score: 1


Lila, Ash, Julie, and Luke make up our cast of heroine, hero, BFF, and best buddy. I want Lila's job - especially if dogs like Earl Grey pop up in the nick of time to charm a ditzy socialite and foil a kidnapping attempt. However, Lila is handy to have around. I wanna meet the person who can diassemble a LoJack, tackle a faux paint job, and still spend only 2-3 hours a day writing a novel.

This book really renews my faith in Nora Robert's writing and at least this editing staff! The story line flows at her usual style. The dialogue fits with the upper crust New Yorkers that populate this book. I appreciate a likable art gallery manager, and her sinfully decadent bakery owner. I like Ash and his wonderfully confusing clan of step's and half siblings and assorted relative from his parents' marriages. We only get to meet a few of them, but s few of them seem interesting enough for their own (short?) stories.


Come Sundown
Come Sundown
Author: Nora Roberts
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 28
Review Date: 9/20/2017


When the most original characters are the horse and the kidnap victim - in a Nora Roberts novel - then you know they've started on the bottom third of her barrel. NR pounded out too many books out for her publisher to print every year, so there's a backlog somewhere.

One star is for the writing and the plot - at least you can tell it's actually NR writing the words.

One star for Alice's narrative - which is real enough to deserve her own short story or novella.

One and a half for Sundown, because he's a major personality who made the story funnier and provided some of the plot points.

Yes. I enjoyed it. But I was happy to return the library book.

Kuzu


Concealed in Death (In Death, Bk 38)
Concealed in Death (In Death, Bk 38)
Author: J. D. Robb
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 65
Review Date: 4/4/2014
Helpful Score: 1


Ok. This reads like at least Nora participated in the editting of the drafts. The flow is still not quite the same, but it is not as glaringly different as the previous three books.

The plot chugs along and I guessed whodunit by the middle. However there is lots of developments amongst the usual cast fo characters, so I didn't mind the less gripping pacing. The humorous interludes play well. Dallas seems to be delegating some of the detecting work to her staff, especially Peabody - although Baxter seems tamer/calmer than usual. And we get Mavis and Leonardo doing more than the usual " warm body" cameo.

This is not one of the hardboiled, "Dallas on a steamroller" mysteries that hooked me at the series start. So I did put it down a few times - but never for more than a few hours.


A Conspiracy of Faith (Department Q, Bk 3)
Review Date: 9/1/2013


This book was not quite the same pace as the earlier two. But the storyline kept me coming back. The plot exists as 3.5 separate threads: Dept Q, the various victom's families, and from both Mia (0.7) and her villianous husband (0.8). Because of these separate lines, the pace keeps changing, interrupting the flow - sometimes at inopportune moments. There are many amusing and intriguing scenes, among which Assad and Rose figure prominently. Like the last book, Disgrace (or The Absent One, depending on country), where we learned about the nefarious habits of the filthy rich, this one uncovers hidden lives of the many insular villages populated by only members of small Christian splinter groups that dot the countryside of gloomy Denmark. Things are indeed strange with the Danes.

One of the best parts of this book is the further developments inside Department Q's staff and the increasing cast of unofficial members who help out in various ways. The evolution of this informal support network within is something we often do not see in most detective series. They either work with the system, or the network is already in place. The trace evidence and documents experts are not the usual ones we meet. And Hardy needs to be brought back into police work, like Lincoln Rhyme. He's already behaving like a consulting dectetive anyway.

I have one complaint. The English translation is not as good as itcould be. I don't mind the bits of British terms and names. However, the choice of words, phrases, and sentence structures took something away from the original Danish version - not that I read Dutch, but I done some translation work and recognise the symptoms.

In the end, I still like Department Q stories. Enogh that I will read the fourth book.


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