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The Eden Prophecy: A Thriller

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This is my first Graham Brown book and it will not be my last. If his others are as good as this one, I'm hooked!"The Eden Prophecy" tells of a cult that wants to use a biological weapon to destroy humans. It sounds like it's not a very original idea, but once you get into some of the religious aspects of it, as well as how it's to destroy humans, it's quite original.In the story, we follow Hawker, a former CIA agent who's trying to get back into the good graces of the US intelligence world, as well as Danielle Laidlaw, an NRI (National Research Institute) operative, as they track those who have abducted and killed a former friend of Hawker's. This friend, Ranga Milan, was a geneticist with some unseemly views. Unfortunately, it appears as though a few recent biological attacks have Ranga's fingerprints all over them. Hawker and Danielle must try to find out the truth as well as hunt down those who wish to take Ranga's discoveries worldwide. Mixed into all of this is a subplot where seeds from the Garden of Eden must be found to complete the biological weapon.SORT OF SPOILER ALERT: My only real disappointment in the book is that much of the end is based on events of previous a book(s). You certainly get hints of earlier adventures and that's OK. It really made me want to check those out. But once we got near the end, much of the motivation of some of the characters is based on prior events. This didn't really take away from the end, but I feel like had I read the earlier books, the end of "The Eden Prophecy" might have had a bigger impact on me. But this is by no means a reason not to read the book. If anything, start with "Black Rain" (like I wish I had). It would be nice if the book indicated that it included recurring characters and/or was a part of a "series."
The Geneva Decision: Sabel Security Thrillers, #1

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I was asked by the author, whom I do not know, to read and review his book based on previous reviews I'd posted on Amazon. I'm afraid I couldn't get through 100 pages of "The Geneva Decision." Pia Sabel is a former world-class soccer player who's been given control over her father's apparently elite security company. Yet she has little to no experience in security. To open the story, she and her team are in Switzerland at the request of a banker, who's interested in hiring Sabel Security. At a party the banker is hosting, Pia spots a person and immediately identifies him as an assassin. Sure enough, he kills the banker, but she uses martial arts moves to bring him down. She and her team commence to investigate an accomplice who got away, because apparently the Swiss police are incapable boobs--the country suffers a very small homicide rate so they're completely perplexed as to what to do. On top of all this, the widow is still interested in hiring Sabel Security.I found myself having to re-read several passages because names would show up out of nowhere with little to no explanation of who these people were. After struggling with this for nearly 80 pages, I gave up.Kudos to Seely James to writing a book. It just happened to be one I didn't enjoy.
The Conjuring Glass: The Phoenix Girls, Book II

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I don't generally read young adult fiction, but given my love of the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series, I thought I'd request book one of "The Phoenix Girls" through LibraryThing.com's Early Reader program. I'm afraid it wasn't quite to my taste.The story starts the tale of young Penny who's ripped from her home in San Francisco because of the death of her mother, whose past is cloaked in mystery. She finds out her godmother in Washington state will adopt her. Penny befriends Zoe and the two girls discover a place full of magic, find buried wands, and begin trying to learn to use them. Meanwhile, children begin disappearing from their little town and Susan, Penny's godmother, thinks it may be the work of Penny's father, who appears to Penny to be a traveling magician. Mix in a cryptic speaking fox named Ronan and you've got, well, a rather big mess. Other than the mystery of the missing kids, book one seems to primarily be a set up for the next books. I thought it was rather slow and meandering. Maybe to the target audience, it's really good. But not for this 42 year-old man.
Frozen Solid: A Novel

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"Frozen Solid" is a very tight thriller, with a wonderful setting--the South Pole.Hallie Leland, a microbiologist, has been sent down to the South Pole in a last minute arrangement because of the sudden death of a former colleague who was doing important research down there for the NSF. It doesn't take long before Hallie discovers that her friend was murdered. But since most of the "Polies" have been down there for many months, and are all a little crazy, she's not sure who to trust. It also doesn't help that two other women die right before her eyes in a very bloody manner not long after she arrives.In the meantime, we meet three scientists/doctors in India who are planning a population control experiment called Triage...and of course this experiment is taking place at the same facility at the South Pole.To go along with all of this, a discovery has been made below the ice that could change the world--a near-pollution free fuel source. Unfortunately, this wasn't explored more (and might make for a great sequel).In many places, "Frozen Solid" felt very much like a Michael Crichton novel. The only problem is that some of the scientific jargon isn't explained much, if at all. Crichton was the master at always having a character who needed terms and concepts explained. Here, Tabor could have used a character tasked with PR or communications to ask the questions we as readers might ask. Nevertheless, the concepts aren't too difficult to understand and make for some chilling (no pun intended) reading.The best part about the book was the setting. Living in a completely isolated, wickedly frigid environment like the South Pole must be extremely difficult. Tabor's descriptions were fantastic and really helped you "see" the bleakness of the area.Overall, "Frozen Solid" was a great, quick read. I want to thank LT's Early Reviewer program for allowing me to win it.
Gathering Blue

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"Gathering Blue" was a big disappointment, especially based on how fantastic "The Giver" was. Wikipedia says "Gathering Blue" is the second in a "loose" quartet in "The Giver" series. If by "loose" Wiki means "has absolutely nothing at all to do with the previous book," then they'd be right. Sure, both are set in dystopian communities, but that's nothing unique.In "Gathering Blue," we follow Kira, whose mother recently died and whose father was killed by beasts when she was little. Kira has a badly twisted leg so she's seen by the community as a waste--with at least one member who wants her banished. But the town elders have something else in mind for Kira. She, like her mother, has a talent for sewing. So her talents are put to use by fixing, than adding to, a ceremonial robe that tells the story of civilization. Meanwhile, she meets a boy whose purpose is to carve a staff that a chief elder uses during the annual ceremony where the story of civilization is told to the townsfolk. This recall of history is the only link to "The Giver" and it's not a very strong link at that.The writing isn't bad, it's just that there's nothing very unique here. The community in "The Giver" was more more terrifying in a Big Brother way, but here, we really only see extreme poverty and squalor. Sure, people are suffering, but there's not a sense of impending or overreaching evil in this one.I am so disappointed with "Gathering Blue," I'll not read the final two books unless I find out they are much more aligned with the first book.
The Giver (Essential Modern Classics)

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Wow."The Giver" is one of the most terrifying, cruel, yet hopeful books I've ever read.Twelve year-old Jonas lives in a world of Sameness. Every need is taken care of, everyone is employed, being educated, or being taken care of. It's a world of uniformity and plainness. "Family units" consist of a set of parents, one boy, and one girl, each assigned to the adults when the children become Ones. There are no surprises, nor pain, a little emotion.Soon, however, Jonas realizes there's more to life than he ever thought possible. He is chosen as the Receiver. His training includes learning things only one other person in the community knows. And that person is the Giver. My 13 year-old son, who had to read "The Giver" for school, encouraged me and my wife to read it. It's a quick read, which is why I'm offering very little in terms of plot. But is brevity is packed with many emotions.
The Affair: (Jack Reacher 16)

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This is the second Jack Reacher book I've read and I enjoyed it better than the first ("Killing Floor"). The story was tight, the dialogue well done and witty, and the characters were nicely fleshed out."The Affair" is about a murder that's occurred outside a high security army base in rural Mississippi. An MP is sent to the base to investigate in case the culprit is a solider, but Jack Reacher, an MP himself, is sent to oversee the police investigation as well (since the murder didn't actually occur on base). Little does he know that the local sheriff was a former Marine MP, so she recognizes what she's dealing with in Reacher. This is a well-written who-done-it that keeps you guessing until the end.My only real complaint was the violence Reacher commits during the investigation. He took steps that seemed unnecessary and others seemed ok with it. This didn't seem plausible, but I think the story was good enough to allow me to give Child a pass on this.
Just Jack

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I received "Angelguard" by way of LT's Early Reviewers program. Of course, for me to have received it, I must have requested it. Big mistake. The dialogue in the book is way melodramatic and the plot, so far as I got, was silly.I must confess I only got through about 40 pages. There are good spirits protecting humans, and demons who try to influence humans to perform evil. So apparently humans have no control over anything...their either lucky they have an "angelguard" or unlucky if there's a demon influencing them. Why only some humans had guards I've no idea...I've read several other Christian-based books via the ER program and have had pretty good luck with them. But not this one. The writing is just bad.
Foreign Influence: A Thriller

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Another solid thriller from Brad Thor. Like most books in this genre, you must suspend some belief in terms of the technology used and the punishment characters can withstand. But if you like Vince Flynn, Thor's books will be right up your ally.In this one, Scot Harvath must help stop a string of terrorist attacks that have already hit Rome and are coming to other European countries as well as the United States. Meanwhile, we follow an attorney and Chicago cop who are looking for a hit-and-run suspect who severely hurt the lawyer's client. Needless to say, the two plot lines are intertwined. This time around, Harvath has a group of black op women (all beautiful, of course) helping him out. If nothing else, this is a nice change of pace from the standard male-driven narratives of this genre.
Diamondhead

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Wow. This book was bad (and I don't mean baaaaad, but bad)! I'd warn you of of spoilers, but read Amazon's description and you can figure out what happens. And that's only part of the problem. There are many more:Author Patrick Robinson obviously has great respect for Navy SEALS and has done a lot of research about them. But protagonist Mack Bedford's abilities are so overblown and cartoonish, it's hard to take him seriously. He's pretty much described as Superman without the cape. He's bigger, badder, stronger, faster, more ruthless than...well, anyone. Absurd. And just because Bedford was a commander in the special forces, doesn't mean he can devise what ends up being a totally foolproof plan to take out a heavily protected person, complete with multiple disguises, superhuman feats, and horrendously unbelievable coincidences.For what is such an obvious plot line and result, it takes a helluva long time to get there. This is in part because of all the wasteful description of food preparation and news stories Robinson litters the story with. As to the latter, the reader is treated to two rather long reporter investigations into the crime. Problem is, we already know everything the reporter's uncovering, so there's absolutely no reason for it to be there. Robinson's portrayal of how the story is covered around the world is ridiculous too. Sure, the US media would cover it, but it wouldn't be wall-to-wall as he describes it. The audio version suffers from typical melodramatic male narration (which seems to be typical of audio books). Here, Charles Leggett delivers mundane sentences like he's amped up with adrenalin. To his credit, however, he does a slew of accents quite well.Diamondhead is awful. Don't read--or listen--to it.
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