Conan The Invincible

By Robert Jordan

https://www.amazon.com/Conan-Invincible-Robert-Jordan-ebook/dp/B005CW6POQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1523447527&sr=8-1&keywords=conan+the+invincible%2C+jordan

Plot

Conan is ensnared by the charms of the wily and beautiful Karela, who is secretly the Red Hawk, fearless leader of a crew of brigands. She leads Conan to face the awesome challenge of the serpentinely evil necromancer Amanar.

My Analysis

Well, there’s a bit more to the plot than this. Conan set out on this adventure to steal some valuable gold pieces. As with all Conan stories, his plans for quick thievery goes awry and he’s forced to save his life many times.

Jordan does a good job of writing the Conan character in the flavor of Howard. There are supernatural monsters and a magician and beautiful voluptuous women and kings and sword fights and words like thaumaturgy.

The action is fierce and overwhelming, but not so much Conan can’t handle everything that comes his way.

I think Jordan holds true to the character and the narrator-who has read many Conan stories-does a good job of bringing the characters to life.

My Rank:

Purple Belt

The Strain

By Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan

https://www.amazon.com/Strain-Guillermo-Del-Toro/dp/0062068253/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1523016529&sr=8-1&keywords=The+strain%2C+del+toro

Plot

At New York’s JFK Airport, an arriving Boeing 777 taxiing along a runway suddenly stops dead. All the shades have been drawn, all communication channels have mysteriously gone quiet. Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of a CDC rapid-response team investigating biological threats, boards the darkened plane—-and what he finds makes his blood run cold.

A terrifying contagion has come to the unsuspecting city, an unstoppable plague that will spread like all-consuming wildfire—-lethal, merciless, hungry . . . vampiric. And in a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, an aged Holocaust survivor knows that the war he has been dreading his entire life is finally here.

In one week, Manhattan will be gone. In one month, the country. In two months . . . the world.

My Analysis

I’ve seen this book out there for a while and was interested in reading it. Yes, it’s a vampire story, but I think this was presented in a different way that kept me interested. It didn’t jump right into the vampy stuff, but gave some background information on a leading character, left some questions open, but presented a couple of issues not explained.

After things get started, there are several scenes and a subplot to introduce more characters to the mix to show how life affects them. That’s fine and most vampire/zombie/monster stories have them. The action was pretty good.

The narrator started bothering me after a bit. I liked his low-key delivery, but somewhere past the halfway point, I thought maybe a bit more emotion could have been put into the narrative.

One of the issues I had was how the pawnshop owner knew an old enemy had arrived. If it was explained how, by looking at a news report of a plane mysteriously sitting on a tarmac, that the guy knew the vamp king had arrived, I missed it.

I also thought the elderly man who initiated the transportr of the vamp to the States didn’t get enough attention. I wanted to see more of him.

This is a trilogy, so I’ll be interested in continuing with the story to see how it plays out.

My Rank:

Blue Belt

The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches

by Alan Bradley

https://www.amazon.com/Dead-Their-Vaulted-Arches-Flavia/dp/0385344066/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1521940839&sr=8-1&keywords=the+dead+in+their+vaulted+arches

Plot

On a spring morning in 1951, eleven-year-old chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce gathers with her family at the railway station, awaiting the return of her long-lost mother, Harriet. Yet upon the train’s arrival in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia is approached by a tall stranger who whispers a cryptic message into her ear. Moments later, he is dead, mysteriously pushed under the train by someone in the crowd. Who was this man, what did his words mean, and why were they intended for Flavia? Back home at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ crumbling estate, Flavia puts her sleuthing skills to the test. Following a trail of clues sparked by the discovery of a reel of film stashed away in the attic, she unravels the deepest secrets of the de Luce clan, involving none other than Winston Churchill himself. Surrounded by family, friends, and a famous pathologist from the Home Office—and making spectacular use of Harriet’s beloved Gipsy Moth plane, Blithe Spirit—Flavia will do anything, even take to the skies, to land a killer.

My Analysis

Although I’ve enjoyed the Flavia novels, they are starting to get a bit…much. And a bit…slow. I like the Flavia character, her mischievousness, her love of chemistry, and her love of mystery. All well and good, but this seemed to drag in places. I mean it took about half an hour or more (on the audio version) to develop a roll of movie projector film. Then I guess I never caught the connection of the contents of the film to the whole plot. I may have missed it.

I realize that Flavia and family were dealing with a traumatic event but the story kept moving away from the mystery-seemingly-and by the time the connecting point came around, I was either lost or had to work hard to put it together.

The ending was interesting and the baddie received the proper due. This one may have been the last in the series…so far, since some major changes came at the end. I don’t know, I haven’t looked up the order of the stories.

I have several more Flavia novels to read or listen to and I hope that I have enough time between them to be refreshed and ready to listen again.

My Rank

Green Belt

Double Whammy

by Carl Hiaasen

https://www.amazon.com/Double-Whammy-Skink-Book-1-ebook/dp/B003ZK58U4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1521723451&sr=8-1&keywords=double+whammy%2C+hiassen

Plot

R.J. Decker, star tenant of the local trailer park and neophyte private eye is fishing for a killer. Thanks to a sportsman’s scam that’s anything but sportsmanlike, there’s a body floating in Coon Bog, Florida—and a lot that’s rotten in the murky waters of big-stakes, large-mouth bass tournaments. Here Decker will team up with a half-blind, half-mad hermit with an appetite for road kill; dare to kiss his ex-wife while she’s in bed with her new husband; and face deadly TV evangelists, dangerously seductive women, and a pistol-toting redneck with a pit bull on his arm. And here his own life becomes part of the stakes. For while the “double whammy” is the lure, first prize is for the most ingenious murder.

My Analysis

This book is full of the goofiest characters I’ve read about in a long time. I knew it was going to be humor filled, but the sheer farcical nature of this book is over the top. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but I had to stop trying to analyze and put things in their proper perspective and just go along with everything.

This story reminded me of the Tim Dorsey novels, with Skink in a parallel role to Dorsey’s Serge character. Decker didn’t match Serge’s partner Cole, but the adventures Skink and Decker get into just had a Dorsey flavor. Plus, it was set in Florida, so there is always a chance Skink and Serge will one day meet. I think Florida would be lost to a sinkhole if that happened.

This one has a lot going on with several over the top baddies (the guy with the dog head on his arm is almost asinine). I also enjoyed the faux preacher and his healing performances.

The latter part of the book with the fishing tournament went-almost-as expected and everybody received their just due.

The narrator made the book fun with the voices and left the reader (listener) to use the imagination to see the scenes. They were fun, humorous, and the exaggerated characters just added that much more life to the story.

My Rank:

Purple Belt

Full Black

by Brad Thor

https://www.amazon.com/Full-Black-Thriller-Scot-Harvath/dp/1416586628/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1521161230&sr=8-1&keywords=full+black%2C+thor

Plot

Born in the shadows and kept from heads of state, some missions are so deadly, so sensitive, that they simply don’t exist. When one such mission goes horribly wrong, only former Navy SEAL Team 6 member turned covert counter-terrorism operative Scot Harvath can carry out an audacious plan to prevent one of the biggest terrorist threats the United States has ever faced: complete and total collapse. But as the identities of the perpetrators are laid stunningly bare, Harvath will be left with only one means to save America. Unable to trust anyone, he will be forced to go FULL BLACK.

My Analysis

A thriller that, unfortunately, could be all too real. Good bad guys with some ideas and plans that could very well be played out in the real world.

There is a lot going on here so I had to keep focused and wait for the different scenes to connect. The action is concise, Harvath is determined and unstoppable when he wants something, and the book never lets down.

There is plenty of background information on the characters, so I wasn’t left wondering where someone came from or why one believed as one did.

I’ve enjoyed all of Thor’s books and have plenty more to listen to. Start the series anywhere and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

My Rank:

Blue Belt

The Eugenics Wars, Vol 2

by Greg Cox

Plot

In the twentieth century, an international cabal of scientists launches the Chrysalis Project, the development of an artificially enhanced breed of humans, while Gary Seven, an undercover operative for an advanced alien species struggles to neutralize the threat while watching the children of Chrysalis, including the brilliant Khan Noonien Singh, grow to adulthood.

My Analysis

Well, this picks up with an adult Khan ready to take over the world in1994…or destroy it. It also deals with Kirk’s decision whether to recommend a planet for inclusion into the Federation. A planet involved with human enhancement.

While the audio book was abridged, I did get the flavor of the book and it’s nice to see previous characters from the television series come into play. Gary Seven and Teri Garr as Roberta.

This has the intrigue of a political thriller with some sci fi thrown into the mix. As a ST fan, I enjoyed it as I have enjoyed most of the sci fi novels. I think it tells a compelling and complete story of how Khan became one of the best baddies of not only Star Trek, but in many genres. You can see subtle hint of Fleming and Ludlum stories in here. It’s not overwhelming, but it does bring them to mind.

Good read, good story and I’ll be eager to finish the trilogy.

My Rank:

Blue Belt

Theodore Boone: The Activist

by John Grisham

https://www.amazon.com/Theodore-Boone-Activist-John-Grisham/dp/0142423092/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1520354904&sr=8-1&keywords=theodore+boone+the+activist

Plot

Theodore Boone is back in action! As all of Strattenburg sits divided over a hot political and environmental issue, Theo finds himself right in the thick of it. The county commission is fighting hard to change the landscape of the town, and Theo is strongly opposed to the plans. But when he uncovers corruption beneath the surface, no one—not even Theo—is prepared for the risks—and potential harm—at stake. Torn between his conscience and the law, Theo will do whatever it takes to stand up for what is right.

My Analysis

Okay, this is the first Boone novel I’ve read, and I didn’t know anything about it until I started on it. Which means I didn’t realize it was for a YA or NA market. I mention this because I may not have picked it up had I known beforehand.

Richard Thomas (John Boy of The Waltons) is the narrator and he does a good job. So no fault there.

I thought the plot pretty standard and the story itself a bit blasé with the line of the story veering away from the plot regarding the bypass issue.

There is a bit of courtroom drama and some of Boone doing what a adventurous kid with a mission would do.

I’m sorry though, I must put in the enjoyability factor here and say this just wasn’t my cup of tea. I almost stopped listening halfway through because I didn’t the story was going anywhere. I did finish it and it ended as I expected.

Theodore’s parents, as characters, didn’t impress me and, in fact, didn’t seem too supportive of their child.

I probably will not listen to another Boone novel. I like Grisham, but this series doesn’t do anything for me.

My Rank:

Green Belt

Ring In The Dead

by J. A. JAnce

https://www.amazon.com/Ring-Dead-J-Beaumont-Novella-ebook/dp/B00BOQGFWQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1520033534&sr=8-1&keywords=ring+in+the+dead%2C+jance.

Plot

One day, at the end of Beaumont and Pickles’s shift, a stop at the Doghouse restaurant quickly turns deadly. Not feeling well, Pickles steps out into the parking lot for a breath of fresh air and stumbles into a crime in progress. Suffering from a heart attack, he is found unconscious, with a dead woman on the ground nearby and the murder weapon in his hand.

With Pickles under investigation from Internal Affairs, it’s up to the new kid on the block, J. P. Beaumont, and his friends on the force to find out the truth.

My Analysis

This is a novella about an early Beaumont case and one of his early partners. It shows the determination of a newbie homicide investigator and how, even after being treated poorly by the partner upon first meeting, Beaumont remains loyal to the job and will go to bat for a brother in blue.

Since this is a shorter story, the clues and the detection come quickly. There are elements of previous J.P. stories here, references to past problems.

I’ve enjoyed previous Jance Beaumont stories featuring Beaumont. It’s been difficult reading other main characters from her. I liked Beaumont from the beginning and want to read those novels I’ve missed.

This one has little action. Most of the story is told in flashback, but that isn’t bad I just wish there could have been more meat.

My Rank:

Green Belt

The Wrong Side Of Goodbye

by Michael Connelly

https://www.amazon.com/Wrong-Goodbye-Harry-Bosch-Novel-ebook/dp/B01BU1ITMI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1519991289&sr=8-2&keywords=the+wrong+side+of+goodbye

Plot

Harry Bosch is California’s newest private investigator. He doesn’t advertise, he doesn’t have an office, and he’s picky about who he works for, but it doesn’t matter. His chops from thirty years with the LAPD speak for themselves.

Soon one of Southern California’s biggest moguls comes calling. The reclusive billionaire is nearing the end of his life and is haunted by one regret. When he was young, he had a relationship with a Mexican girl, his great love. But soon after becoming pregnant, she disappeared. Did she have the baby? And if so, what happened to it?

Desperate to know whether he has an heir, the dying magnate hires Bosch, the only person he can trust. With such a vast fortune at stake, Harry realizes that his mission could be risky not only for himself but for the one he’s seeking. But as he begins to uncover the haunting story–and finds uncanny links to his own past–he knows he cannot rest until he finds the truth.

At the same time, unable to leave cop work behind completely, he volunteers as an investigator for a tiny cash-strapped police department and finds himself tracking a serial rapist who is one of the most baffling and dangerous foes he has ever faced.

My Analysis

Bosch is back and nothing has changed. Still stepping over the line, getting in trouble, and seeking justice. The ‘private investigator’ case he accepts is pretty standard fare and actually works out with what one might expect. The plot on this part of the book doesn’t hold much surprise.

The case he helps on as a reserve officer is also pretty standard with an attempt at a surprise, but not really.

So, one would think that I wouldn’t have enjoyed this pretty typical retooled plot. But it’s Bosch and I’ve always enjoyed his stories. Sure, this one doesn’t hold much thrill or surprise, but I do like his style and the detective/deductions he has in every book. There’s a bit of action and intrigue and at least in this one, the good guys win and Bosch gets a second chance at doing what he loves.

My Rank:

Blue Belt

The Fall

by John Lescroart

https://www.amazon.com/Fall-Novel-Dismas-Hardy/dp/1501140663/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519136545&sr=8-1&keywords=the+fall%2C+lescroart

Plot

The Fall is a riveting novel of legal suspense featuring lawyer Dismas Hardy and his daughter Rebecca who become involved in the case of a pretty inner city girl who plunges to her death from an overpass into traffic below But did she fall or was she pushed Late one night a seventeen year old African American foster child Tanya Morgan falls from the overpass above San Francisco s Stockton tunnel landing on the windshield of a car driving on the street below She is killed instantly But did she fall or was she pushed Homicide has recently been accused of dragging its feet in identifying suspects in cases where the victims are African American so the case becomes front page news by the end of the investigation s first day Rushing to produce a convictable suspect inspectors focus their attention on a naive and idealistic young man named Greg Treadway Greg is a middle school teacher with the Teach for America program and a volunteer as a Court Appointed Special Advocate CASA for foster children where his client is Tanya s twin brother Shawn At first the only thing connecting him to Tanya s death is the fact that they shared a meal earlier that night But soon enough elements of that story seem to fall apart and lawyer Dismas Hardy s daughter Rebecca finds herself drawn into the defense of young man who is perhaps not all that he had originally appeared to be With signature suspense and intricate plotting John Lescroart s newest novel puts Dismas and his only daughter in the middle of one of his most complex and thrilling cases yet

My Analysis

This took a bit to get into, and I was a bit disconcerted at first to have Dismas not be the main character. He shows up enough to give support to his daughter.

The case is a good one and the trial started long before I thought it would.

I did think the subplot that ultimately tied in with the main plot was late in coming and because it was so, I was a bit confused as to why the story was veering off on this tangent. I thought this story line might have worked better coming earlier.

The narrator did a good job with pacing and voices.

Of course, there’s not much action since this is a legal mystery rather than blowing up things. Still, the mystery part was pretty good, and the ending was halfway expected, though not hoped for by me personally.

Still a good Lescroart novel.

My Rank:

Purple Belt