Monday, August 4, 2014

Monthly Reading List: July

I is for Innocent (Kinsey Millhone #9) Sue Grafton
Once again, Grafton delivers.
Kinsey Millhone is back at it—and this time, an exoneration is in order.
Did David Barney actually kill his wife and get away with it? Her ex-husband Kenneth Voight seems to think so, and is filing a suit against Barney. In a ritzy community like the one Isabella Barney lived in, the secrets are many, the gossip is boundless, and the facts are few. There is only a few weeks before the statute of limitations runs out on Voight—and Kinsey. Can the snarky, savvy investigator get to the bottom of the mystery before the deadline?
Also includes a lively glimpse into the family life of Henry Pitts by way of an unexpected visit by his brother William. Highly entertaining; another winning installment.

The Hit (Will Robie #2) David Baldacci
The job of a government hit man is never through. The minute he finishes one job, it's on to another. This time, the agency is after one of their own, an assassin as good as—if not better than—Robie himself. It's a race, killer against killer, and all is not as it seems. I love the way Baldacci crafts his characters in a very realistic manner, with a keen sense of pacing and detail.
The development of both Robie and Reel is stellar in form. Two killers with the similar skill set, tracking each other and making hits that leave the ignorant victims and witnesses with their heads spinning, thinking a traceless ghost has done the impossible. Only--Baldacci is so meticulous with his descriptions that the reader knows exactly how it was done, and we are left in awe of individuals with finely-honed skills.
Also highly entertaining is to read the acknowledgements at the end of each book and find out that one of the things Baldacci does is name characters after charity donors who request it! And the characters are always amazing. Well played, sir!

Orders from Berlin (Inspector Trave #3) Simon Tolkien
Yet another thrilling case, among Inspector Trave's first!
This case takes the reader back to Inspector Trave's days as a detective during World War II. What looks like an unfortunate accident claiming the life of a simple old man spirals into a tangled web of subterfuge, espionage, fraud—and assassinations. Things are happening at home and behind enemy lines, and the more information he gets, the more Inspector Trave discovers details that don't add up. Who was Albert Morrison, and what is the meaning of the note in his pocket? What is Alec Thorn really up to, and what does all this have to do with Prime Minister Churchill, of all people?
Tolkien continues his astonishing trend of following, in the crime novel genre, the footsteps laid down by his grandfather in the epic-fantasy genre. The details, the politics, the mystery, the clues... everything makes for a stellar story that keeps you reading till the very end!

The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova
Very fascinating story, full of gripping historical narratives superimposed over one woman's search to find her missing father.
A young woman follows her father as he is obsessed with the legends surrounding Vlad the Impaler, and keenly driven to find the truth when his professor and very dear friend goes missing, right in the midst of discovering a strange, ancient book printed with nothing but a singularly-designed dragon. Death and destruction follow the book... and through letters written by other connections with the professor, the father and daughter realize that every time the book is given, someone in the vicinity dies of wounds suspiciously like those inflicted by a vampire--but do they really exist?

Kostova follows the example of predecessor Bram Stoker in crafting painstakingly real "historical documents" that fuse horrific fantasy with credible reality. I was spellbound the entire time--not unlike a vampire's thrall. Well done!

Patriot Games (Jack Ryan #1) Tom Clancy
An intense mystery with many moving parts and lots of excitement to be had!
This was my first Clancy novel and it did not disappoint. 
Jack Ryan, PhD, is just the history teacher at the Annapolis Naval Academy, on a holiday with his wife and daughter. Then his simple life literally blows up when a grenade explosion thrusts him in the middle of a terrorist attack on the Royal Family. From then on it's a roller coaster of terror intelligence, a matter of knowing the cell they are up against, of knowing who to look out for, and never knowing where or when they will strike next.
The level of detail Clancy puts into his conversations and the way he simplifies complicated technical maneuvers into layman's terms make the story come alive in an epic race to discover what is really going on behind the scenes. Ryan is a compelling character, intent on protecting his family against ruthless killers who do not hesitate to achieve their goals.

King of Thorns (Broken Empire #2) Mark Lawrence

All the wiles of a Shakespeare villain in a teenage warrior traversing a world that throws time completely backwards at every turn.
The more I read it, the more I realize that this series is like crack: so many features that would automatically go on my "bad" list... but soo phenomenally irresistible! I don't enjoy: excessive violence, antiheroes, anachronisms, vulgarity, or tales of sheer revenge on characters that I shouldn't really care about.

The Broken Empire series has all of that... and yet it consistently defies my every attempt to put it down. Yes, the antihero is a 15 year old boy--but he has managed to reclaim his kingdom, and so is no longer a prince, but still on the run. He leads with all the cunning and bloodlust of Richard III, yet the depictions are chillingly straightforward and disturbingly well-written. As for anachronisms--really, there aren't any. I have been totally hoodwinked by the "medieval" setting of this novel, duped into thinking this book was cliche.
In your average book that deals with kings and horses and knights and vagrants, the setting becomes an assumption, a byproduct of the characters. Lawrence defies long centuries of "tradition" by giving us a setting that uses the medieval references--but then you realize that this boy king is wearing an "ancient" device called a wristwatch, and that the structure they're calling "Tall Castle" is actually a glass-and-steel skyscraper, and at one point he passes by a building printed with the incomprehensible words from a bygone age that make no sense in the present era, "No Overnight Parking." What is this sorcery? Ordinarily I would not stomach a book that seems to rival "Game of Thrones" for body count... but by jingo, I have to find out what happens!