Saturday, January 1, 2000

2010 Book Reviews

Actually this is more like a book list, as I definitely fell down on the reviewing in 2010. A good many of these are one or two line reactions reconstructed a year later.

1. Breaking Point by Steve Perry ('Tom Clancy's' Net Force series)
This was one of my father's freebie barn finds, and I must admit that my expectations were not high. However, I have read some SF by the same author, so I figured I'd give it a shot. I must admit that I hadn't expected it to be slow. This could be a lesson in how not to plot a thriller. The good guys have almost nothing to do. So while the bad guys run around plotting, we follow various members of the good guy team-- on a camping trip with his girlfriend (irrelevant), another is in the middle of a custody issue with his daughter- which isn't just irrelevant, it's not even resolved, simply abandoned without mention when the same character's love interest comes back into his life. We spend a bunch of time on a couple of kids going to a boomerang tournament, which I thought was pretty cool...except that the boomerang tournament had nothing to do with the plot. And neither did the kids. We get the good guys bumbling around, stumbling over the bad guys' trail more or less by accident- and so incompetently that the only reason the bad guys are stopped at all is that they fight each other. Wow. I kind of expect the next book to be all these characters getting fired and finding fulfillment in fast food service. But that's okay, I won't be reading any more.

2. Inside the Outbreaks by Mark Prendergast
This is a survey of the activities of the Epidemic Intelligence Service, a division of the CDC. Fantastic story- or, I should say, stories, since the book flits from case to case without ever pausing for long on any one thing. It suffers from not having a central character or characters to focus on, but the constant switching from one story to the next has its own relentless compulsion. The group is fairly small and has been tasked with investigating everything from polio outbreaks to anthrax, from Legionnaires' disease to occupational heath hazards. Individuals and small groups have been deployed overseas, under the most appalling conditions, helping fight malaria, ebola, smallpox and tuberculosis in the developing world. Fascinating in its scope, horrifying in the amount of suffering depicted, admirable in the dedication of the people, and educational as to the scope and danger disease still poses. You'll find this a compelling read, though you'll want frequent breaks to stop thinking about it. Also to wash your hands.

3. Living Hell by Catherine Jinks
Another one for the growing category of really pointless YA. It starts out looking like SF, turns into horror. Summary- bad things happen. People die. Things get worse. In the end, things are still terrible. Why would a kid want to read this? Why would anyone? No idea.

4. Iorich by Steven Brust
A very pleasant excursion into back to Adrilankha, with appearances by most of our old favorite characters. It's well paced and a great improvement over other recent books in the series, but it's still somewhat weakly plotted, and could have given the main character more to do. Certainly do not start here (start with Jhereg, the first written, though not the first chronologically in the series, and a fabulously fun story), but if you're a fan of the series, this is a better book than we've seen in some time.
5. Two Balls or Less Jenny Hill
Yarn! Balls of yarn. Get your minds out of the gutter. It's a knitting book.

6. Fledgeling by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Set in the Liaden universe, it's a fun coming of age story. I expect

7. The Yarn Harlot Casts Off by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Knitting humor- if you're a knitter or know a knitter, you'll find it hysterical.

8. Terracotta Warriors by Jane Portal
This is the book that went with the touring exhibition of Terracotta Warriors from China. Fascinating, gorgeous photos, but I wish it had been longer.

9. Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow by James Rollins
Yet another effort by a mainstream writer to cash in on the YA fantasy market. It's a better effort than many, but the author hasn't really internalized the rules of the genre. I'd give it to a tween, but wouldn't expect it to wow an adult fantasy fan.

10. The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy by Charles R. Morris
Well written and interesting, this is a must read for anyone with an interest in how businesses went from cottage industries to megacorps. And an education for anyone who seriously thinks that deregulation is good for anyone except the obscenely wealthy.

11. Brain Thief by Alexander Jablokov
A near future Boston is the setting for this thriller by Alexander Jablakov.

12. Blackout by Connie Willis
13. Telzey Amberdon by James Schmitz (reread)
14. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
15. Changes by Jim Butcher
16. The Five Greatest Warriors by Matthew Reilly
17. The Lost City of Z

18. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith
19. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
20. TnT: Telzey and Trigger by James Schmitz
21. Skirmish by Melisa Michaels (reread)
22. First Battle by Melisa Michaels (reread)
23. Blind Descent by James Tabor
A rather unevenly written account of deep cave exporation. The book was structured as a comparison of two teams of spelunkers each trying to prove they had found the world's deepest cave. Unfortunately the author was clearly more interested and devoted the lion's share of the narrative to the more colorful of the two explorers. It would have been a better book if he'd either balanced it more evenly, or just written the whole book about the one he found more interesting. Still, fans of real life exploration and adventure will find it intriguing.

24. Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein
A fascinating and rather repulsive look at a journalist's experiences doing crime reporting for a Japanese newspaper. Adelstein provides a vivid window not just into a culture I know little about, but into the underworld of that culture. Well written and compelling, but not for the squeamish.

25. Saltation by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Sequel to Fledgeling, this book ties the story more firmly back into the Liaden series.

26. Pilots Choice by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Another entertaining entry in the Liaden series. Not really the place to start.

27. The Lights of Zetar by Wallace Moore
Pulpy pulp fantasy of the pulpiest sort. If you like that sort of thing.

28. The Amber Room by Steve Berry
A thriller.

29. Without Remorse by Tom Clancy
It's Tom Clancy in his late period. If you've read him, you know what he's like. If you haven't, go read 'The Hunt for Red October', it's much better.

30. Unnatural Exposure by Patricia Cornwell
A later book in Cornwell's Scarpetta series. Readable enough, and decently crafted, but I wish I liked the main character better.

31. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
An interesting book about social phenomenon.

32. Crystal Soldier by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
A prequel set early in the Liaden universe.

33. Long Time Gone J.A.Jance
A later book in the J.P. Beaumont series. This is the only one I've read, so no doubt I missed a lot.

34. Point of Origin by Patricia Cornwell
A later book in Cornwell's Scarpetta series. Readable enough, and decently crafted, but I wish I liked the main character better.

35. City of Bones by Michael Connelly
A later book in Connelly's Harry Bosch series. I enjoyed the police procedural parts more than the character's relationship difficulties.

36. Deception Point by Dan Brown (reread)
37. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy (reread)
38. Enigma by Robert Harris
An entertaining thriller set at Bletchley Park (site of the British codebreaking effort) during WWII. Very enjoyable.

39. Bullard of the Space Patrol by Malcolm Jameson (reread)
40. The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy (reread)
41. Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy (reread)
42. Executive Orders by Tom Clancy
The most enjoyable part of this book was rereading the early Clancy to get me back in the mood. Like most of Clancy's later books, it could have used an editor with a machete to cut out the kudzu. Like the completely irrelevant subplot of the guys with the cement mixer which has absolutely no effect on the story as a whole. You also need to be willing to tolerate a whole bunch of Clancy's 'well, if people would just do things my way, everything would be so much better'. However, the icing on the cowpat, was the part where in the climax of the book, they solve everything by doing something that was proposed in an earlier book, but dismissed as completely impractical. Not recommended.

43. Rat Race by Dick Francis
44. Bonecrack by Dick Francis
45. Decider by Dick Francis
46. Shattered by Dick Francis
47. Straight by Dick Francis
48. Knockdown by Dick Francis
49. Proof by Dick Francis
50. Smokescreen by Dick Francis
51. Wild Horses by Dick Francis
52. What Mrs. McGillicudy Saw by Agatha Christie
53. White Wing by Gordon Kendall
54. The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer
55. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

56. The Dark Crusader by Alistair MacLean
A deservedly forgotten thriller by a man capable of much better work.

57. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

58. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
59. A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire
60. Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie
61. The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie
62. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
63. Mouse and Dragon by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee
64. Thirteen at Dinner by Agatha Christie.
65. Peril at End House by Agatha Christie.
66. Murder in Retrospect by Agatha Christie.
67. An Overdose of Death by Agatha Christie.
68. Dexter by Design by Jeff Lindsay
69. WWW.Watch by Robert Sawyer

70. A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink
71. Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie
72. The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie
73. A Holiday for Murder by Agatha Christie
74. Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie
75. Never Pick Up Hitch-Hikers by Ellis Peters
76. Murder in Three Acts by Agatha Christie
77. Murder on the Atlantic by Steve Allen
78. The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie
79. The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
80. Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie
81. The Labors of Hercules by Agatha Christie
82. Murder at Hazelmoor by Agatha Christie
83. Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie

84. The Truth of Valor by Tanya Huff
85. Beyond World's End by Mercedes Lackey
86. Valor's Choice by Tanya Huff
87. The Better Part of Valor by Tanya Huff
88. At Home by Bill Bryson
89. The Fire's Stone by Tanya Huff
90. Cryoburn by Lois Bujold
91 Komarr by Lois Bujold
92. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

93. Smoke and Shadows by Tanya Huff (reread)
94. Smoke and Mirrors by Tanya Huff (reread)
95. Smoke and Ashes by Tanya Huff (reread)
96. Blood Price by Tanya Huff (reread)
97. Blood Trail by Tanya Huff (reread)
98. Blood Lines by Tanya Huff (reread)
99. Blood Pact by Tanya Huff (reread)
100. Blood Debt by Tanya Huff (reread)
101. Grimspace by Ann Aguirre
102. Balance of Trade by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee

103. The Disposable Man by Archer Mayor
104. Your Brain on Food by Gary L. Wenk
105. Needled to Death by Maggie Sefton
106. The Spider vs. The Empire State by Norvell Page
107. Secret Sanction by Brian Haig
108. Mortal Allies by Brian Haig

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