Friday, December 27, 2013

Worst Case by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

I just finished my first James Patterson book, Worst Case, and I can see why he is so popular. The fast pace and immediately likable characters take the reader from start to finish on a wild ride to conclusion. The characters are likable and the plot takes small changes in direction to give a peek into the main characters life. While the characters are superficial at best they are fun and work well for the pace and story telling style. The main hero, Michael Bennett, is the proud foster father of 10 children and a widower. He is joined by FBI kidnapping expert Emily Parker and sparks are immediately evident. While the two work to chase a kidnapper of wealthy teenagers throughout New York City Michael's nanny, Mary Catherine, becomes jealous of Emily Parker. All the while Michael racks his brain to understand why two kidnapped teens were killed, one was let go, and one was never found. Adding to the story telling is his grandfather, Seamus Bennett, a Catholic Priest who is always available to advise on matters from forgotten birthdays to biblical text interpretation. The villain certainly drives the story and the book being split between the villain and Michael's perspective assist in keeping the action moving. The culmination of the action happens inside the New York Stock Exchange, the epicenter of finance in the United States. I recommend Worst Case for a vacation, a flight, or any spare time and a readers desire for a fast and fun read.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Final Sacrament by James Forrester

Final Sacrament lived up to every possible expectation that the previous two books of the trilogy set the reader up for, Sacred Treason and The Roots of Betrayal. Although not everything the reader hopes for may happen the story brings closure and vindication for the hero, Clarenceux. Mr. Forrester, or Ian Mortimer, breathes such wonderful life in telling the story set in 16th century England that you nearly feel there. His descriptions of people, architecture, the weather, and common life give the reader a sense of living the story. While the tale revolves around Lady Percy's schemes to extract revenge on William Harley, or Clarenceux, the plot involves several characters that add depth and deliver small side stories bringing color and texture to what could have been a very one dimensional story. Providing real human emotions, reasons, and interactions that drive people to commit murder or worse provide deep and gray characters. No single person is the "bad guy" and no single person is the "good guy," yet every character's shade of gray does stray close to one end or the other at times. James Forrester delivers in another incredible story that is worth every minute.

The King's Deception by Steve Berry

Steve Berry provides another wonderful piece of action, intrigue, and risk set against a historical backdrop. Cotton Malone is once again pulled into a high stakes game of intrigue only this time his son, Gary, is directly in the line of fire. While doing a favor for the CIA under the assumption that it fits with his travel with his son Cotton is asked to deliver a teenage boy to British authorities. From the moment he is greeted by the officials Cotton knows something is up. The fast pace, historical mystery surrounding Elizabeth I, and the wonderful immersion into London all thread together to weave a great story. Although this isn't the normal Cotton Malone adventure where he and perhaps Cassiopeia Vitt face insurmountable odds and solve centuries old mysteries this book brings together father and son and addresses the more personal side of Cotton. Cotton and the CIA agent, Blake Antrim, resolve some past issues while Cotton renews contact with an old MI6 acquaintance. The book also introduces the reader to a new heroine with a mixed past, Kathleen Richards. Perhaps Mr. Berry has more up his sleeve for Cotton, or a spin-off entirely. Either way she is a great addition as a protagonist and the book is a solid piece of fun and action!

Another layoff from Blogging

It seems life always keeps getting in the way of hobbies! In any case I've finally completed so many house projects that I may have time to write more on the books I read. I have read three books recently; The King's Deception by Steve Berry, Final Sacrament by James Forrester, and an academic book for school, Paul Argenti's Corporate Communication. I will go into the two works of fiction separately however I will say that Mr. Argenti's book was one of the better resources I've while working towards a degree in Management and Leadership from Liberty University. The case studies were real, tangible, and clear. Despite the obvious need for effective business communication and all the self-evident communication practices Mr. Argenti is able to educate on finer points of corporate communication. He provides insight and education on corporate communications departments, integration of corporate communications planning with the mission and business plan of a given organization, and how to build and plan for various corporate communication events. Additionally, he brings to focus how to synthesize the message required for an action via the corporate channels and display the difference between general communication, business communications to consumers externally, and internal corporate campaigns. The book is not too long or wordy and delivers interesting cases and anecdotal messages to support the messages being delivered.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Inferno by Dan Brown

Its been two months since I last posted however I did finish at least one book (not counting another school text). I found Dan Brown's Inferno to be less than spectacular. In fact I was disappointed. After being lead through a series of wild turns and action events I (the reader) learned that the whole series of events was staged and totally irrelevant. If the group staging all the false action had come forward with the facts from the get go the entire story is wrapped up very quickly. All in all I found the story forced as if Mr. Brown felt compelled to write another historical mystery akin to The Da Vinci Code but lacked a real plot or solid story line. All in all I was disappointed in the story, but I remain hopeful that the next Dan Brown brings back the good story telling that only he can.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Fort Bernard Cornwell

As expected this audiobook was an amazing story shedding light on a little known piece of American Revolution history. The author did an excellent job of describing the life conditions and situations faced by both Americans and British forces. As a member of the military I picked up on the complete failure of command in a joint environment. This is truly a great study in early joint operations as we understand them and their shortcomings.  Well worth the investment to listen to or read this book. 

The Roots of Betrayal, Book 2 of James Forrester's Claranceux Series

I finished The Roots of Betrayal in June and again was impressed with the wonderful descriptions of medieval England. James Forrester, or Ian Mortimer, has an amazing understanding of English cultural history and an uncanny ability to translate that culture into words. You feel as if you are there with Claranceux in his home or on the streets and as a reader you relate to each character on a social level. This is a wonderful book and I look forward to the third and final of this trilogy. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Fort by Bernard Cornwell

I am not through this book yet, however I am listening to it while driving to and from work and on the elliptical machine. If you love history, particularly the American Revolution this is a tremendous story of the Penobscot Expedition. For military buffs this story also details a joint operation gone wrong and is a good teaching resource for young military officers trying to understand the joint concept. Many notable figures from history are involved in the Penebscot Expedition including Paul Revere, Sir John Moore, Peleg Wadsworth, Dudley Saltonstall, Solomon Lovell, Francis McLean, and Sir Henry Clinton. The majority of the action occurs on a peninsula in what is now Castine, Maine. Then it was known as Majabigwaduce and considered part of Massachusetts. Bernard Cornwell does a wonderful job of creating characters that relay human nature and the emotions of war. I highly recommend this book.

Sword of God by Chris Kuzneski

Chris Kuzneski delivers another fun Payne and Jones story in Sword of God. The content can be touchy, or even controversial to some readers, however the story still delivers just read it with a grain of salt. The tale starts on the island of Jeju in Korea, beautifully described as the Korean Hawaii. The beauty is corrupted by the find of a torture chamber inside a cave by a small and curious boy from a local village. In typical Payne and Jones fashion the action builds from there bringing the reader on a fun, and fast paced adventure culminating in Saudi Arabia at the holy city of Mecca. The typical quips and euphemisms Payne and Jones are known for are ever present as well as the simplified references to military operations and lifestyle. Mr. Kuzneski writes fun action stories and this one is no exception. Although this story trespasses in the somewhat taboo topics of Islam and the Quran it does present positive characters and negative characters from all walks of life. Of interest is the potential find of original pages that the Quran was built from. All in all a fast read, somewhat violent, and not to be taken seriously.

The Columbus Affair by Steve Berry

Steve Berry did it again! He wrote an excellent story mixing history and adventure alongside religion and geography to paint an incredible tale. Starting mere moments before the lead character, Tom Sagan, takes his own life Mr. Berry takes on a journey through Jamaica, Vienna, Prague, Cuba, and back to Blue Mountains of Jamaica to unearth ancient Hebrew relics and the real Christopher Columbus. Tom Sagan is saved by Zachariah Simon and is drawn into a quest to find Hebrew Relics attempting to save his estranged daughter Allie from torture or worse. Sagan has to acknowledge his shortcomings as a father and public failures ending in a tumultuous fall from grace as an esteemed journalist in order to find reconciliation with his daughter, the memory of his deceased father, and his personal past. This is not a Cotton Malone thriller but does exist on the same plane. For reference see Mr. Berry's short story, The Admiral's Mark. Mr. Berry proves through research, attention to detail, and inclusion of the human element that he is among the preeminent writers of our time and can write in a series or stand alone flawlessly. If you are interested in history and a great story Steve Berry is a can't miss!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It Seems Like Forever

I last posted on March 1st. Twenty-One days later my wife and I welcomed boy number three into the world. It has been quite a roller coaster since then! We decided with some help and time off (I was home for over two weeks) I could remodel the kitchen. With a newborn!! I admit not the smartest decision but the price was right (20% off the whole kitchen including granite), I was off and we did have help. Well several snags later (and some hard lessons learned about IKEA kitchens) and the kitchen is almost done. In the midst of the baby and the kitchen I took my next course for my grad degree. Now that may have been the bigger mistake. I don't know how many people have ever taken business finance but I never had before this course. And I've never been particularly mathematically strong. The bottom line here, I will be re-taking this course. Despite the hectic pace I managed to finish two books! I finished Steve Berry's "The Columbus Affair" and Chris Kuzneski's "Sword of God." Look for their posts individually. And I will add my comments on "Fundamentals of Corporate Finance 7th edition" by Brealey, Myers, and Marcus. This is not the book for a business finance newbie.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sacred Treason by James Forrester

I just finished the first of a series of books that occur in 16th century England featuring Mr. William Harley, a Herald holding the title of Clarenceaux King of Arms. I found the historical detail and language compelling, at times researching heraldic titles simply to increase my understanding of the history I was reading. Mr Claranceaux, as our hero Mr. Harley is called throughout the book, finds himself entangled in a perceived plot to overthrow the Queen of England, Elizabeth I when presented with a chronicle written by an old friend, Henry Machyn. At the time England was still struggling with a national conversion to Protestantism, thus the religion of the sitting monarch has bearing on the plot. Mr Claranceaux, being of the old religion, or Catholic, was identified by the villain to be the mastermind behind the plot as the Queen was Protestant and many sought to return England to Catholicism. The story takes a much deeper turn rooting itself in the story of Anne Boleyn and the potential illegitimacy of Elizabeth's reign alongside deep rooted spite for past personal transgressions. Despite the religious overtones I found the book wonderfully written, characters realistic, and the ending perfect in that it was not a perfectly happy ending but more true to imperfect human resolutions.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sign of the Cross by Chris Kuzneski

I recently finished another Chris Kuzneski work, "Sign of the Cross." The reason for reading more Payne and Jones is simple, they're fun! Despite the somewhat corny dialogue the bond between the two main characters is clearly deeper than blood. The name of their previous military affiliation seems contrived however the unit described is well within the realm of possibilities given the joint nature of armed forces and the coordination between military and civilian entities under DSCA (Defense Support to Civil Authorities) operations. All that aside, it really is a fun read through history. Payne and Jones find themselves detained in Spain for unknown reasons, however it becomes apparent that a group with influence on the Spanish law enforcement agencies and knowledge of the pair are behind the detention. Coerced via the detention to assist the agents purporting to be representative of the CIA, the heroes engage in a cross-european adventure chasing a Professor presented as an international thief. Along the way the two learn the truth about the Professor, his assistant, and their "CIA" representatives. Payne and Jones discover some curious facts about the story of Christ's Crucifixion, the Roman Emperor Tiberius, the Catholic Church, Tiberius' General Paccius, and Pontius Pilate. All the while Payne and Jones along with Detective Nick Dial of Interpol lead the reader from Kronborg Castle in Denmark to Orvieto Italy, Tripoli, Libya,the Forbidden City in China, and Boston, Massachusetts in a chase of Benito Pelati. Despite the book blending in with the many other historical religious adventures saturating the market this book stands out due to it's main characters and their bond. AS stated above, it's simply fun! Don't take it too seriously.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Plantation - Chris Kuzneski

I finished another Chris Kuzneski book today, The Plantation. It's another Payne and Jones story by Mr. Kuzneski. Jon Payne and David Jones served together in an ultra elite military organization called the MANIACs, or Marine Army Navy Intelligence Air Force Coast Guard. The group is comprised of the best Special Forces operators and tacticians from all the military, intelligence and homeland security branches. While somewhat simplistic as opposed the Magellan Billet of Steve Berry/Cotton Malone fame the group serves as a catalyst for the camaraderie and unspoken bond between the two main characters defining their ability to execute deadly missions together with little or no planning at all. However if you are a true student of tactics, wartime operations and missions, and military planning this is not likely the book for you as it does not delve into tactical decision making or Special Forces type procedures. The Plantation is Mr. Kuzneski's first published novel and debut's the main characters, Payne and Jones. The story begins with several abductions, one being the girlfriend of Mr. Payne who just happens to be an ex SF commander and CEO of a major corporation out of Pennsylvania. He pairs with his best friend, his former second in command, David Jones who now runs a detective agency from space within Payne's corporation. The two track down the abducted girlfriend by identifying a tattoo and learning the license plate of the van that drove off with the girlfriend. The story takes the pair to New Orleans where they stumble across an obvious enemy in an amazing coincidence of acquaintance in former NFL player Levon Greene. It is painfully obvious that Greene is playing the two fro the outset when he conveniently disappears to use the bathroom while the two heroes press a local tattoo artist for info on the tattoo after Greene begged to be a part of the action. When our heroes firearms don't work, acquired by Greene for them, they fail to consider Greene as an enemy again. This running theme of failure to notice the obvious works against readers who thrive on accuracy and detail however Kuzneski's story is more a fun fast paced adventure that uses simple drivers such as the MANIACs and disregard of the obvious to keep the story going. In fact even after the shooting at the tattoo parlor the New Orleans police release Payne and Jones without ever bring them to a police station. The end result is the discovery and destruction of a secluded island being used as a plantation similar to pre-Civil War times, where white slaves are being put to work and viciously abused by their new captors after their abductions. Payne and Jones, with the help of a local named Bennie Blunt (another obvious actor playing a part to mislead, in this case the plantation owners)do a great job of destroying the operations on the island but do not save all the captives or get to Greene and his lone surviving conspirator, Octavian Holmes. Using a hard drive found on the island Payne and Jones are able to track Greene, Holmes, and the rest of the captives to Nigeria where they are intended to be sold. Once again they successfully destroy a compound and save some more captives and are lead to the final battle wherein the eventually have an almost anticlimactic final face off with Greene and Holmes ultimately freeing the remaining captives including Payne's girlfriend. Of course the raid in Nigeria occurred with the complete active MANIACs team, all of whom survive. In the end the superficial nature and out of place dialogues and jokes don't detract from the fast paced and fun. If you have a flight and get stuck in an airport this may be a great way to pass the time.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Fallen Angel by David Hewson

I just finished another wonderful story by David Hewson, The Fallen Angel. The story places Nic Costa in the middle of a family as it struggles to survive while dealing with tragedy, internal secrets, and outside pressures. While Mr. Hewson continues in his tradition of plot hints and beautiful descriptions of Rome this book shows his long term ability to develop characters and group dynamics beyond a single book. This story is an excellent murder mystery leading the reader on while dropping hints and teasing clues about the very different conclusion of the book. The parallels to the central character, Mina Gabriel, to Beatrice Cenci, serve as both plot driver and historical reference. I look forward to more David Hewson, Nic Costa, Agata Graziano, Teresa Lupo, and the rest of the gang from the questura in the centro storico of Rome. I'm just waiting for the breakout Silvio di Capua story!