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Tag: "adventure"

Review: The Heist by Daniel Silva

[ 2 ] September 14, 2014

51LEPFYYjRLReviewed by Caleb Shadis

The Heist is the 14th Gabriel Allon book and I enjoyed this one even more than the last couple I’ve read.  Some of the books, especially the ones with Ivan, can get a bit on the gruesome side with very detailed accounts of all the nasty things people can do to each other. This one skips over most of the gore and it’s much more an international spy thriller–James Bond meets Mission Impossible.

Gabriel has been collecting a large list of ‘friends’ whose sense of right and wrong and what laws to abide by vary greatly. This time around he gets them all to help him pull off the worlds biggest heist. He started it all because his friend Isherwood happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Julian Isherwood went to a villa in Italy to discuss the sale of some artwork and what he found was artwork of a different kind. The man he went to see had been beaten to death by professionals. This put Julian in a bad spot and it was used to get Gabriel to look into the matter. Apparently the dead man was a fence for priceless stolen paintings, and the rumors were he was selling a very sought after piece, which might have had something to do with his demise. Someone has been buying up all the stolen artwork they can lay their hands on and this is a common way for the rich to hide money for safekeeping.

Gabriel gets all the criminals he has had associations with together to put on a sting like none other. The first order of business is to try and identify this mysterious buyer.  To do so, Gabriel needs a very tempting piece of artwork and the easiest way to get a stolen painting to sell is to steal one.

While I like all of the Gabriel Allon books I have read, this is one I’ve enjoyed reading the most.  I don’t mind the dark ones, with the gruesome details of death and torture, but this one proves Gabriel doesn’t need it. I do like how each book in the series targets people and places to showcase the terrible things governments and other groups do to people because they can. Silva is trying and I believe succeeding in bringing to light many atrocities that have and continue to happen around the globe.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Sniper’s Honor by Bob Lee Swagger

[ 0 ] August 31, 2014

18668498Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

I found Sniper’s Honor to be a very good read. I do tend to enjoy a book that tells a story of the past and the present in tandem. Here we have Bob Lee Swagger, a rather famous contemporary sniper who learns about Milli Petrova, a WWII Russian sniper who killed Nazis and then disappeared. We get the two stories in parallel–Bob trying to find out what happened to Milli and Milli’s story.

Swagger’s friend Kathy Reilly, a reporter for the Washington Post, sent him an email asking about an old Russian sniper rifle. It peaks Bob’s interest, especially when she mentions it’s in relation to a Russian sniper who disappeared from all the records. A beautiful woman sniper.

Swagger decides to hop a plane and go help his friend do a little snooping to see if between them they can find out what happened to Milli. After they meet up and start poking around, Bob is surprised when a car almost runs him and Kathy down in the road. That’s when he starts wondering if someone was still trying to hide whatever it was that happened to Sergeant Petrova.

What we learn is that she was betrayed by someone in her own government to the Nazis. Stalin sent her to assassinate a man that a high ranking Nazi spy couldn’t afford to have killed. So he betrayed her and did his best to erase her from the record books. This makes Bob and Kathy’s job much more difficult.

I really enjoyed reading this book. There was a lot of good information about snipers in general as well as Russian WWII snipers in particular. I also enjoyed learning about some of the battles that happened on the Russian side against the Germans. Most history classes I’ve had focus on the Western European battles. They leave the Russian side as mostly throwing lots of troops at the Germans to win by extremely superior numbers, like trying to breach a wall of a fortified city. I liked the story on both ends, and I thought it was very well written. It was certainly very engaging and I plan to be reading more Bob Lee Swagger books in the future!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Irenicon by Aidan Harte

[ 1 ] August 18, 2014

irenicon_jkReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Irenicon is a strange book and it took me some time to get into it. I think part of my problem was the write-up/blurb about it. The question posed was, “What would have happened if Jesus Christ had died as an infant?” Which made me think the author was going try for an alternate history or a big game of “what if?” Well, this is a fantasy based on alternate history and it has plenty of ‘magic’ in it (not sorcerers and witches casting spells–it’s much more subtle but it’s there). So the mention of Christ being slaughtered in a purge as a child is not the meat of the story.

The story is centered around the town Rasenna, Italy. The year is 1347. Rome is no more and Concord is the current power in the region. The ruling class are called the Engineers and at their head are the Apprentices. The engineers were formed by Bernoulli, and he cast down the church and replaced the nobility. A couple decades earlier, the Engineers used a terrible weapon against Rasenna that broke the town.

Sofia Scaligeri is the last of her line, and she is the heir to Rasenna. Her family ruled before the wave and she will inherit when she turns 17, less than a year away. After the Concordians attacked the town with the Wave – killing a large swath of Rasenna including most of the Scaligeri family – the city was never the same. The river divided the town in more ways than one.

Giovanni is an Engineer who is sent to Rasenna to build a bridge across the river before the 12th legion comes in the fall. Spanning the river with iron and stone won’t be his only challenge. Getting the citizens on both sides of the river to cooperate on the project will be an even bigger challenge. Stone and iron are easy to manipulate into the shape you want but stubborn people are much more difficult. The clock is ticking, and Concord isn’t very forgiving of those who hinder its goals.

As I said, it took me a little bit to get into this book mostly because I misunderstood what kind of book it was. However, once I did get into it, I found it to be very interesting and I had a hard time putting it down. There is a lot going on, lots of plots within plots and I think I will be keeping my eye out for the next book in the series.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Jo Fletcher Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Time and Again by Jack Finney

[ 1 ] August 5, 2014

imagesReviewed by Colleen Turner

When I typically think of time travel stories I think of someone sitting in some sort of machine that they manipulate to transport themselves to some other time and place. But what if all we needed was our own mind to escape to the past? What if each and every one of us, the imaginative individuals who can believe beyond belief that they are in another time, actually put ourselves into a kind of hypnotic state and then open our eyes and actually find ourselves there? And what might we do with that sort of power and the ability to change events of the past to alter the events of the future? These are the unusual and thought provoking questions answered within Jack Finney’s Time and Again, a novel written almost forty five years ago but just as intriguing and fitting for our modern times. With Si Morley as our guide, every lover of escapism can go back in time to 1882 and navigate the many joys and problems that arise from placing ourselves in a time and life we might not belong in.

Si Morley, a sort of every-man, is working as an artist in a New York city agency like every other predictable day when he receives a visit from a stranger who offers him a very peculiar but compelling offer: to join a top-secret government project, a project he has to agree to join before even knowing what it is about or what he will need to do. Agreeing to further testing of his abilities, he discovers that he is uniquely qualified to participate in a program exploring the possibility of time travel, something believed to be possible if the unique individual is able to place themselves in an environment that has gone unchanged since the time in history they wish to travel to and by completely believing they are in fact living in that past time. Si agrees to the project if he can specifically go back to 1882 New York to witness the mailing of a letter that has long been a mystery for his girlfriend’s family. With the project board’s approval Si is trained, outfitted and uniquely placed to best allow him success in transporting himself back to New York City in January 1882. And off to the past he eventually goes.

Under strict orders to be only an observer and not interact with the inhabitants of this strange yet oddly familiar New York, never to make his mark on the people or events in case his interactions could cause disastrous changes to the future, Si finds it nearly impossible to not become entangled with the very real, very captivating people he encounters. But when his feelings for one woman, connected to the mystery of the letter he originally traveled to this time and place to uncover, grows beyond mere observer, he will have to choose for himself what he will need to do to ensure her safety and happiness. And whether he should stay in this marvelous world of the past or go back to his own time.

Time and Again truly is one of the most unique and thought provoking books I have read in quite a while. The detailed and extensive time spent on how the program proposes time travel would work and the intricate and detailed training and work that goes into bringing that plan to fruition makes it seem completely plausible–and this is coming from a very rational and skeptical person like me! On the downside this very detailed and descriptive nature – not only with the details of the program but with Si’s exploration of 1882 New York, street by street – makes the story plod along in parts, slowing it down at times to the extent that my eyes began to glaze over with details.

The mystery behind Si’s girlfriend’s envelope, its cryptic note and the people and events that occurred after the envelope was sent was very fun to follow and I can honestly say I didn’t see the truth behind them coming. While I thought I had an idea where the actions were taking me and tried to account for what sort of consequences might come about from Si’s involvement in the unraveling of the mystery I enjoyed the tiny twists and shocks as they presented themselves.

Finally, the drawings and pictures dispersed throughout the story were absolutely lovely! I found they helped flesh out the story and characters for me and made for a wholly unique reading experience. While I found the romance between both Si and his modern day girlfriend and Si and the woman he falls in love with in 1882 very lukewarm, the individual character development was very detailed and the pictures attributed to each person made them feel very real and allowed me to feel more invested in their situations.

Time and Again is a love story of sorts to the imagination and to every reader’s ability to “travel” to whatever time and place their books take them. While I adored going along with Si on his adventure to the past I believe the journey’s retelling would have benefitted from some trimming. That being said, I am still very excited to read the sequel to this book and to see what other adventures Si might go on.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Apocalypse by Dean Crawford

[ 1 ] August 4, 2014

Apocalypse_scnReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Apocalypse is the third book in the Ethan Warner series. This is a fast-paced book with a lot of action. It reminds me a lot of Dan Brown and Steve Berry–plot holes and poor physics included. While I enjoyed reading most of the book, the single biggest problem I had with it was the poor physics. Crawford tried putting in a ‘reasonable’ amount of ‘science’ to explain how someone would be able to ‘see’ into the future. I couldn’t swallow any of it–most of all the explanation on how it worked. The physics explanations in the ending were absolutely horrible.

Ethan and his partner Nicola Lopez are private eyes in Illinois. They are trying to catch a rather nasty piece of work who skipped his bail and represents a fairly large payday for the duo. When the fugitive tries to run and smash Ethan into the guard rail, Ethan pulls a stunt that almost gets him arrested. The only thing that saves Ethan’s butt is his old friend Jarvis who just happens to show up with some important credentials and whisks Ethan and Nicola off for another adventure to save the world.

We then find out that a man named Charles Percell is wanted for questioning in the murder of his wife and daughter. Charles knows who killed them and tells the police that the same man will kill him as well in less than 24 hours. Percell also tells the police (over the phone) several predictions that come true right in front of the detective’s eyes. Before he hangs up, he tells the detective to find and work with Ethan Warner. And time is of the essence.

Warner, Lopez and their DIA handler Jarvis (they are sometimes contractors to the DIA), are sent to Florida to ‘deal’ with the situation.

If you like fast-paced books and don’t think much about the plot this can be a fast read that can be very fun. But the more you think about what you read the harder this book is to be believable. There are so many questions that can be asked that would have a better answer than the ones given. Occam’s razor is not used here. Even though I’m pointing out the negatives I still mostly found this book to be fun and like Brown and Berry, I’m sure I’ll try another one when I need some light entertainment.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Touchstone. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Kill Switch by James Rollins & Grant Blackwood

[ 4 ] July 9, 2014

book-review-the-kill-switch-by-james-rollins--L-6e9jwMReviewed by Marcus Hammond

James Rollins and Grant Blackwood bring their different talents together in The Kill Switch to build a suspenseful, fast paced, and scientifically intriguing novel. Both authors have different backgrounds and that diversity helps make each character, whether major or minor, relatable and the plot highly enjoyable.

The story’s central characters are Tucker Wayne, a former Army Ranger, and his military dog, Kane. After losing one of his team of military training dogs in a firefight, Tucker opts to use his and Kane’s training for private security. As the book opens, the duo is tracking would-be assassins for a wealthy Russian businessman. Tucker and Kane are, however, propositioned by a secret, Black Ops division of the American government known as Sigma to escort a Russian scientist to the United States. Reluctantly, Tucker agrees, thus beginning a treacherous and action-packed adventure that spans Russia, South Africa, and the United States.

The pivotal aspect of the novel is that the scientist Tucker is escorting has uncovered the existence of a primordial plant that could act as both a genetic enhancer to all plant-life as well as a weapon of bio-terrorism. Due to his research, a rogue Russian general who desires to use the plant for its more sinister applications begins hunting Tucker and his charges.

Rollins and Blackwood do an amazing job of balancing each aspect of this story. While the concept of a plant that holds the genetic code of the very first plant-life on the planet and its uses is incredibly complex, the authors explain it in simple terms. This is not to say that they dumb it down, however. Tucker usually prompts the explanations revolving around the uses and dangers of the plant, so Bukolov describes the scientific aspects in terms a layman will grasp.

Another aspect that is very well done is the relationship between Tucker and Kane. For many that don’t know about the realities of military dogs and their trainers the interactions between Tucker and Kane may seem unrealistic. The authors, however, represent the relationship in an intimate and realistic way. At specific points, the authors actually pull the reader into Kane’s mind as he responds to Tucker’s commands. This helps provide perspective and shows that Kane’s relationship to Tucker is one forged in intense training, trust, and animal instinct.

The detailed and emotional relationship constructed around Tucker and Kane alongside the intense action that spans continents makes this a quick, yet unforgettable ride. The relationship that Rollins and Blackwood forge between Tucker and Kane open up the possibilities for more adventures in the future that should be just as exciting and well-written.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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