Tour’s Books Blog

December 31, 2013

New Year’s Quickies

Well, another year has passed and a few hundred more books have been read.  I figure I’ll just take this last chance to do a few quickie reviews and wish everyone a happy, healthy, safe 2014.

This is the 6th book in the King and Maxwell series, and the one that the TV series was loosely based on.  You can tell it was written with an eye to TV or movie conversion, much like many of Michael Crichton’s later books, but it’s still a good read and better plotted than a lot of his books lately featuring a teenage client who seems trapped in a web of lies that his father initially helped build, and his father, trying to get back to his son and find out who set him up to die and what the hell was going on.  And naturally, there’s no better way to get Maxwell involved than to tell her to back off.

Baldacci blows hot and cold on his books, but this one hits the mark.  I give it a B- (3.8*) and recommended read for thriller fans – but try and buy the ebook.  At $15-16 for the hardcover, it’s a bit steep.

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This being the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, who better than Bob Lee Swagger to look into conspiracy theories about The Third Bullet.  An unwilling Swagger is waited out by the window of a writer who had been investigating the assassination, she asks him to look into his murder and see if it’s possible it was related to his research on the assassination.  Swagger refuses her again and again, but the one thing the widow has in abundance is patience – and a clue that probably only Swagger would understand – a bicycle like tire track on a rain coat found at a different building.  So the man who said no, suddenly changes his mind and gets involved.

Followers of the series will like the way the ending of this books ties in with Point of Impact.  In a series that has ranged from excellent to awful, The Third Bullet comes in at the high end with a solid B- (3.7*).  To his credit, Hunter did not twist the facts of the actual shooting, which makes the plot more interesting.  The usual unlikely death defying events for Swagger stresses the reader’s credulity, but otherwise a solid outing.  A must for Swagger fans.  I got the book free thru an online book swapping site in hardcover.  Borrow it, buy the ebook, or wait for the mmpb.

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A new entry in the paranormal romance genre, Dragon Awakened is book 1 The Hidden series.  Like other paranormal series, this one is set in the ‘normal’ world, but must remain ‘Hidden’ to survive humans.  This is the story of of an assassin dragon who gets an assignment he ends up questioning and in the end pays for his act of compassion.  Fun, fast paced, the two protagonists, Ruby Salazaar and Cyntag Valeron are likable and entertaining.

Dragon Awakened is a fast, easy read with enough meat to be entertaining, but devoid of any innovation or surprising plot twists.  My score is C+ (3.2*) and a pleasant way to pass your time for a few hours, but only if cheap or free.  I paid $5.40+tax from an online book store.  I certainly wouldn’t pay more than that.

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In The Art Forger, Barbara Shapiro wrote an interesting study in human nature enmeshed in the closed and clannish art world weaving in the theft of the paintings from the Isabella Stanley Gardner Museum, art forgery as its own art form, historical looks at the artists ‘Bella’ collected and her disdain for ‘impressionist’ art, and how a struggling artist copes with moral quandaries and ‘Faustian’ bargains – and rationalizes her choices.  It’s stories within stories within stories, like Russian nesting dolls, taking semi-disgraced artist Claire Roth on a path she never expected to walk – and finds her inadvertently discovering a well hidden secret of the art world.

The changing time frames and POV’s are mostly smooth, and I found the ‘letters’ by Mrs Gardner lively and interesting – and my favorite part of the book in many ways.  The mystery was more predictable than I expected.  The art world is neatly skewered and pretty accurate.  The details on the whole painting process will bore some interest others.  Me, I wavered between the two, but leaned toward bored.  The brief cover synopsis pretty much covers the whole plot.  Characters are flat and two dimensional and dialogue uninspired, which seriously detracted from an interesting plot.

My score for The Art Forger is C+ (3.2*) because the writing itself was largely tedious and saturated with the type of pretensions that annoy the crap out of me.  I bought The Art Forger from Book Outlet, a site that sells remainders, for under $3.00 on sale.  It’s current price for the same trade size on Amazon is $11-12.  It was interesting enough for a fast read and as intro to the art world few see, but buy a remainder or used copy.

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