Monday, December 8, 2014

The Game by Tom Wood

The Game (Victor the Assassin, #3)The Game by Tom  Wood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Victor the assassin is back; the first antihero protagonist. The Game starts off simple enough with Victor tasked by CIA to take out another of his brethren from his profession. Victor being the apex predator that he is completes his assignment with elan in spite of some of his plan gone awry.

Thinking on his feet is a Victor trait - we see some of the highly rated situational awareness shown by Victor when he sniffs out people on his tail, a highly professional tailing unit of 8 people. Being in the most dangerous profession and being the apex predator of that profession for more than 10 years is a hallmark of a person who is relentless in his pursuit of observing life around him just so that he can wake up the next day. Not as glamorous as envisioned eh?

Sabotaging his stakeout, Victor is given a new assignment by the boss leading his failed stakeout - the mission to audition for the role of his last contract to infiltrate and foil the latest plot. Post his audition Victor shifts base to Iceland, identifying a new base to lay low and modifying it to be a bunker above ground.
Victor wins his audition and then meets his team - a psychopath he encountered in Belgium, a sniper, a remorseless killer, a broker and his moll. The plan is for Victor to blow himself for kingdom to come to assassinate the SVR chief. A plan Victor has a problem with as it involves Victor being dead. An idea Victor staunchly opposes.

Victor being his resourceful self finds a way out of the mess and proceeds to rain hell on all those who conspired to bring forth his destruction in true Victor style.

Our antihero also shows a small albeit significant glimpse of his humanity when he sets forth to save/rescue innocents trapped into this plot due to Victor masquerading as someone else.

My respect for Tom Wood as a writer is growing by leaps and bounds. What started off as an experimentation with the antihero genre is now a successful franchise with each book coming out better than the past and each dealing out a small morsel of information about our favorite antihero.

The plots are good, the suspense is good enough and the action is the best, every action and reaction given by Victor is thought about and his ability to think on his feet is explained.
I would rate this one a solid 5 star. There are not many imperfections in this story and what there are can be explained as a flaw of being human

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Act of War by Brad Thor

Act of War (Scot Harvath, #13)Act of War by Brad Thor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brad Thor is back and is on top of his game. The Hidden Order was a let down for me in terms of what I expected from a Brad Thor novel, but with the Act of War Thor delivers with the pace, style and panache that we all have come to expect from him.

Act of War is a take on the asymmetric warfare that is the current and the future of global warfare. The new age of war where WMDs and soldiers don't count for much, where the wars will be fought for technology or rather dealing with the lack of it. It is a frightening reality one which may be sooner upon us than later. In the cacophony of all the opinions, diatribes and shouts over the Islamist ideology, the over aggressiveness and resurgence of Russia there is one nation which is quietly accumulating more and more power and is not afraid of wielding it ruthlessly to protect its interests. CHINA.

The wannabe sole superpower is working overtime to cut the influence of America across the globe and is not afraid to use audacious tactics and asymmetric techniques to counter US's military and technological might. This is the premise that forms the core of Act of War. Scott Harvath is facing a new nightmare in the form of a plot by China to take over the United States completely without firing a single shot of bullet.  An audacious plan involving jihadis inside America and right mix of targets in the American countryside, Harvath races across time and across the globe always one step behind the Chinese in trying to unravel the schemes.

Backed by an authoritative President who from authorizing a SEAL team into North Korea to figure out what it is that the DPRK is training Chinese soldiers on to giving the carte blanche to Harvath and the Carlton Group to use any force necessary to prevent the attack from happening, the Act of War moves from scene to scene, action to action seamlessly and keeps the reader engaged into its action.

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Jaya by Devdutt Patnaik

Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the MahabharataJaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jaya - An Illustrated retelling of Mahabharatha came into my hands with a lot of recommendations and a lot of air time courtesy of my friends.
Mahabharatha is a story that every Indian kid knows and every Indian has a take on what the book signifies to them.
Devdutt Patnaik has collated the various events in and around Mahabharatha into a collections of lessons with each lesson ending with what Patnaik feels is the pros and con's of the lesson.
While the overall content of Mahabharatha is know to all, Patnaiks take homes at the end of every chapter is good food for thought.
He makes good points comparing both the greatest itihasas of India the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha and strives to draw the parallel between their teachings.
I would give it 2.5 stars for a somewhat different take on an old Hindu text.

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The Third Secret by Steve Berry

The Third SecretThe Third Secret by Steve Berry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After a long time, I'm reading a book on something other than the usual run of the mill stuff like terrorism, jihad and global destruction.

Steve Berry's The Third Secret is a political intrigue set in a place where politics, greed, ambition and narcissism runs rampant - all in the name of service to GOD - The Vatican.

The last known monarchy with allegiance worldwide in the form of a billion followers. The Pope or the Holy See governs the smallest kingdom in the world with the biggest spiritual influence. His policies and dogma bridge the Heaven and the Earth and that it itself is a powerful lure almost a clarion call for the underlying web of politics, greed and pure unbridled ambition.

The plot is set around the revelations made by the Madonna in Fatima. Specifically around the Third Vision - the secret of which has haunted Popes for decades and has been the subject of a lot of controversies.

The human hubris and our assumption that we know and understand what GOD wants for his people better than even GOD is a central theme for the book. Berry deals with controversial topics like Women empowerment, women priests in the clergy and the freedom to choose when to bring life on earth - the touchy topic of abortion which brings out vociferous sentiments in the people.

Tying all these together is Father Colin Michener, the Pope's personal secretary who is entrusted with finding and deciphering The Third Secret and bringing it to the notice. The stumbling roadblock for this happens to be Cardinal Valenendra the powerful Secretary of State with ambition, cunning and ruthlessness enough to scheme for becoming the next Pope.

Father Michener deals with his own demons in the form of his love for Katherine Lew and his choice made years ago to serve the Lord. The pace of the book is good, Berry lays out good that the Church can do given enough resolve and faith.

Overall I would give the book 3.5 stars. The intrigue and the web that Berry weaves is good to keep the reader engaged in the story. The imposition of divine and the visions of the Madonna are explained well and the reader is left to form his own view as to weather or not to trust the visions. The secret can be guessed early if one reads into the characterizations of the leads well enough, it is not as explosive as one expects. A nice read IMO for a laid back day.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Job by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Job (Fox and O'Hare, #3)The Job by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A lover of con games and heists will really, really love the new series by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg starring Nicholas Fox -  conman extraordinaire and Kate O'Hare - FBI bulldog with the bit between her teeth. They have played the cat and mouse game against each other for a long, long time before circumstances force them to team with each other to bring down the biggest, the meanest and the baddest a**h***s on the planet.

Written in the form resembling a TV Series an ability held in abundance by Lee Goldberg a TV producer himself, the pairing of Evanovich and Goldberg has the premise to deliver an explosive and really enthralling series which they deliver on excellently.

The Job is the third book in the series following The Chase and The Heist which continues to team up Fox and O'Hare this time to flush out a blood thirsty Colombian Drug Lord who has interest in Spanish sunken treasure.

Fox, O'Hare and team device an elaborate con to not only get the drug lord arrested but also strip him of all his assets.

The chemistry between the lead pair of Fox and O'Hare is explosive. O'Hare is enticed by Fox, but knowing that he is a career white collar criminal always stays her attraction to him. Fox has no such compulsions and uses the situation to his advantage w.r.t O'Hare.

The collaboration between Evanovich and Goldberg is tremendous and the hopes from this pair is sky high to keep delivering in the same vein. I am a fan!!!

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The Enemy by Tom Wood

The Enemy (Victor the Assassin, #2)The Enemy by Tom  Wood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Hunter was Tom Woods debut and what a debut it was. Wood gave us Victor - an anti-hero, an assassin. One of the best in the business, Victor has changed his name and face so many times that he no longer remembers how he looks like originally. The man who keeps extremely low profile but has a 100% success rate. The Hunter left us with Victor exposed for the first time and to the CIA nonetheless.

Roland Procter recruits or rather strong arms Victor to work for him and he keeps Victor on a very short leash. Victor used to working alone and not trusting anybody chaffs under the new restrictions placed on him by Proctor but knows that until the situation resolves itself he has no choice but to do as said.

Victor is used to take out underlings of two rival arms suppliers in the hopes of triggering a arms wars between the two leaving the CIA to do the mop up in the aftermath, but plots within the plots comes dangerously close to exposing Victor, even putting him the cross-hairs of assassination himself as a hit team is sent out to take him out while on an assignment.

When compromised Victor does what he does the best, make the best of the situation and find his way out of the mess.

Victor continues to find himself into impossible situations, courtesy his new CIA employer. With tremendous amount of situational awareness and his ability to take insane amounts of hurt and still be capable Victor manages to turn a hopeless situation to his advantage.

The Enemy is a fitting followup to The Hunter. It also leaves us with a amazing and tantalizing chess game between Victor and his CIA handler. Tom Wood is an amazing new find and one to look out for.

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The Sign by Raymond Khoury

The SignThe Sign by Raymond Khoury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my 2nd Raymond Khoury book that I picked up. I could not bring myself to finish his first one "The Last Templar", one of the few rare instances that I could not finish a book. I try not to give up on a book knowing the effort that the writer puts into writing one. But I just could not finish the 1st one. So it was with trepidation that I picked this one hoping that I would be able to make through this one at least.

It was better than The Last Templar, but not by much. The plot is the same old -- mavericks trying to force the society to change for the better, but the change gets out of hand when people with their own agendas get into the scheme and hijack it for their own benefit.

The main leads again battle tremendous odds and come out swinging to salvage the situation and all come out as winners except for the bad guys who end up dead. No surprise there.

I would give The Sign 2.5 stars out of 5. Since GoodReads does not allow me to rate a book 2.5 I am rounding it out to 3.

It will be sometime I think before I would pick up another Raymond Khoury book. It may be best seller but as I have found out it does not suit my palate.

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Reading Frenzy - 12/03/2104

I like to read..... a lot!!! Things being hectic in my recently with a shift to new location for job, health concerns back home and general life getting in the way, I have not been able to read as much as I would like to.
I have been a traditional geek, given the choice between a vigorous activity and curling up with an action/adventure thriller, the thriller would win hands down every time. So me not getting my daily fix of reading is like a smoker on withdrawal symptoms....
Suddenly I had some time on hands and nothing pressing to occupy my time and viola!!! I am back to reading and not just plain simple reading but on a reading frenzy... In the last 4-5 days I have read completely at least 4-5 books and I have made a dent on a couple of others which have been long on my reading list and I must say that I am absolutely enjoying every minute that I get to spend with my books.
So what people can expect from me in the following days is the reviews for the following books:
1. The Enemy by Tom Wood
2. The Job by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
3. The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly
4. Hidden Order by Brad Thor
5. The Rider of Garuda by Ashok Banker
6. The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi
7. Jaya by Devdutt Patnaik
8. Act of War by Brad Thor

These are the books that I have finished in the last 4 - 5 days and those that are in my reading pipeline are:
1. The Miracle Strain by Micheal Cordy
2. Sanctus by Simon Toyne

I have not yet decided on my reading order. So the to read list may change a bit as I post my reviews.

But I am going to have an great few days ahead reviewing at least 8 books and what can I say other than "I am lovin it"!!!

Signing Off

Monday, November 3, 2014

Reading List - 2nd Nov 2014

Reading List - 2nd Nov 2014
You have good days and you have bad. This week was exceptionally bad as I have made absolutely zero progress on my reading list and I am yet to blog my review for The Sign. Here's to hoping that this current week works out better than the last.

This weeks reading list is as follows:
  1. Troll Mountain by Matthew Reilly
  2. Choose to Lose: The 7-Day Carb Cycle Solution by Chris Powell
  3. The Enemy by Tom Wood
Pending Reviews:

  1. The Tournament by Matthew Reilly
  2. The Sign by Raymond Khoury

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Reading List - 26th Oct 2014

Reading List - 26th Oct 2014
An update to the reading list I started last week.

This weeks reading list is as follows:
  1. Troll Mountain by Matthew Reilly
  2. The Sign by Raymond Khoury -- Completed (Review to be posted soon. Working on it)
  3. Choose to Lose: The 7-Day Carb Cycle Solution by Chris Powell
  4. The Enemy by Tom Wood
In addition to The Sign I will also be posting reviews of The Tournament by Matthew Reilly that I finished reading before 18th Oct 2014.

Reading List - 18th Oct 2014
I am planning on putting up my reading list every week just to keep track of what I am reading and how many books I have finished. I will also mark the completed books and reviews status (if any).

This weeks reading list is as follows:
  1. Troll Mountain by Matthew Reilly
  2. The Sign by Raymond Khoury
  3. Choose to Lose: The 7-Day Carb Cycle Solution by Chris Powell
  4. The Enemy by Tom Wood
I will add more books to this list if I finish any of the above in this week and pick up a new one to fill it in.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Reading List - 18th Oct 2014

I am planning on putting up my reading list every week just to keep track of what I am reading and how many books I have finished. I will also mark the completed books and reviews status (if any).

This weeks reading list is as follows:
  1. Troll Mountain by Matthew Reilly
  2. The Sign by Raymond Khoury
  3. Choose to Lose: The 7-Day Carb Cycle Solution by Chris Powell
  4. The Enemy by Tom Wood
I will add more books to this list if I finish any of the above in this week and pick up a new one to fill it in.

Dongri to Dubai - Six Decades of the Mumbai Underworld by S.Hussain Zaidi

Dongri To Dubai: Six Decades of The Mumbai Mafia Dongri To Dubai: Six Decades of The Mumbai Mafia by S. Hussain Zaidi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

S. Hussain Zaidi's coverage of the Six decades of Mumbai Mafia - Dongri to Dubai chronicles the rise and the power of the Mumbai Mafia in general and the D Syndicate in particular. Zaidi tells the story about the rise of the Muslim Mafia first led by Haji Mastan and Karim Lala to later conquered by Dawood Ibrahim who changed the way mafia operated in India

The most wanted man in India and a designated global terrorist, Dawood still leads a life of luxury and wealth in Karachi, Pakistan. His network of informants, people and good is still the best in business and works loyally for him.

It was his networks logistical support and insights that allowed 6 men to hold Mumbai hostage. The book gives a overview of how the cartel operates.

A page turner for sure, but I feel it still does not give the due to the Mumbai Police which in spite of bureaucratic hurdles, political pressure and internal back stabbing still managed to bring down the influence of underworld and the D-Company in particular over the years in all forms of daily life.

The Police fought an herculean battle and overcame tremendous odds sometimes using extra-judicious methods to make the Maximum City safe again for the people.

A good one time read. I like the fact that Zaidi does not look at Dawood through rose tinted glasses and does not eulogize the gangster as the Bollywood films are wont to do...

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Shell Game - Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg (Fox & O'Hare 0.25)

The Shell Game (Fox and O'Hare 0.25)The Shell Game by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A small, tiny prequel. This one sets the stage for the rivalry between Fox and O'Hare. This novella describes why Kate O'Hare wants to catch Nicholas Fox so desperately.

A cute filler between the books, how Evanovich and Goldberg set up the anticipation for their upcoming books with a small tidbit filling in the back-story between Fox and O'Hare is a smooth and smart marketing gimmick, it helps keep the interest up in the books and around the characters.

Anticipating the next release from the author duo in the series - The Job

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The 6th Extinction - James Rollins (A Sigma Force Novel)

The 6th Extinction (Sigma Force, #10)The 6th Extinction by James Rollins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In his latest Sigma Force book, Rollins has a lot to deliver, with the Guild (A Sigma adversary since the very first book) now smashed and gone for good, the Sigma Force is now without any adversaries. So what could be better than a mass global destruction, an Armageddon whose countdown has started... The only catch is nobody is aware that the countdown has started.

James Rollins has always amazed me as a writer who can take multiple events from the history and string together a believable tale of conspiracy, destruction and sheer terror out of it. The fact that’s scary is it is almost plausible. The line between truth and fiction blurs and as a reader you are left wondering what is truth and what is fiction.

The 6th Extinction does something similar, the plot starts off in the year 1832 with Charles Darwin – the scientist who gave us the theory of evolution embarking on a voyage to the Antarctica and happening to chance across a map made by the primitives on the island describing an uncharted and previously unknown mysterious land.

As the voyagers turns to map and glorify themselves by discovering an unknown and unclaimed piece of land for themselves, they encounter something sinister and horrendous, so much so that they decide to destroy all the records of landing on the mysterious island and all knowledge of what happened on it… all the pieces except for an ancient map showing the unclaimed land as Darwin cannot bring himself to destroy it… A map which…..

Current year April 27th a very chilling and clear message comes from a secret US testing site in the mines outside of Bodie an old ghost town in California, “This is sierra, victor, whiskey. There’s been a breach. Fail-safe initiated. No matter the outcome: Kill us . . . kill us all.”

What ties Charles Darwin to a small ghost town in California, the Sigma Force team heads out on the quest? Led by Painter Crowe and Lisa Cummings from Bodie, Kathryn Bryant co-coordinating all activities from Washington D.C and Commander Gray leading the action from Antarctica, the team battles outstanding odds, trying to unravel the threads of a plan to create a new Eden – A Dark Eden.

The novel tackles the real schism currently found in the environmental movement: between old-school conservationists and a new breed of ecologist, between preservationists and synthetic biologists, even between those who want to stop this pending extinction and those who welcome it.

Genetic experimentation is a truth, which continues without a lot of oversight is also a frightening reality. With all the progress happening in technology, using computers and advanced programs to decode billions of bits of data, it will not be long before somebody working on bio-experimentation stumbles upon something that will open a new age Pandora’s box, one I am afraid that we will not able to close in time….

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Valhalla Prophecy - Andy McDermott

The Valhalla Prophecy (Nina Wilde & Eddie Chase, #9)The Valhalla Prophecy by Andy McDermott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of the better efforts from Andy McDermott, the archaeologist and bodyguard wife & husband pair of Nina Wilde and Eddie Chase are back in their newest effort on the trail of the legendary Valhalla. The 'eitr'  from the pits of the snake Migard has the potential to wipe out the entire planet with its toxicity. In an interesting twist on things, the Soviets are the good guys this time around ready to stop anybody from weaponizing the eitr going as far as to even launch a nuke at the location once found.

The book moves back and forth in time, with Eddie Chase's past actions catching up with him. For the first time Eddie seems to know more than Nina about the Viking legend of Valhalla and the has experienced the horrors of the eitr firsthand in the countryside of Vietnam while on a mission to rescue a group of foreign aid workers. Eddie tries to sabotage the discovery of the second eitr pit and this puts him on crossroads with Nina who is trying to find the pit before the Americans can find it. Also details about Eddie from the Vietnam mission causes Nina to see her husband in a new light, not liking what she finds out about him.

The pace of the book is decent, again it is not a roller coaster, but some of the stunts pulled by Eddie seem outrageous and impossible. Well the ending is predictable in the sense that Nina & Eddie manage to thwart the Armageddon, but the twist in the tale comes when it is found that Nina has been splashed with the eitr just before it was completely destroyed leading to health complications as there is no cure available for the eitr.

With this end McDermott has set the stage up well for the next book in the series which will take Chase & Wilde on another crisscrossing journey of cryptic clues, legendary quests and riddles with the objective of curing Nina also playing a significant part in it.

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Longest Ride - Nicholas Sparks

The Longest RideThe Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A tale of two love stories set in different times intersected by fate.

Luke & Sophia meet during a bull riding event and connect with each other. As they grow closer to each other and love blooms between them, their relationship hits a road block in the form of Luke's stubbornness to give up his bull riding career in spite of his life threatening injuries.

Parallel to this we have the love story of Ira & Ruth set in another time spanning across 75 years of courtship, marriage and togetherness.

These two stories are told from three viewpoints: Ira's, Luke's & Sophia's. Ira is in an accident and reminisces about his marriage to Ruth while awaiting help. His memories of their life together are aided by the spirit of Ruth encouraging Ira to hang on when he wants to give up.

Luke & Sophie meanwhile struggle with the emotions and their feelings for each other mixed with Luke's stubbornness about his bull riding career to help clear the debts that his mother owes to the banks on their ranch. As Luke struggles with his inner demons about returning to the bull riding circuit after his horrendous injuries and Sophia struggles to make him see sense, Ira shares his feelings on the art that he collected over the years with his wife and what it means to him. While the monetary aspect of the art was tremendous for Ira the memories that each canvas holds about Ruth is worth much much more.

The book moves at a sedate pace between both love stories leading to a fitting climax.

This was the only 2nd book by Nicolas Sparks that I have read. For a guy who almost never reads love stories, I enjoyed this one.

I particularly loved Ira's story, the depth, the love and the feelings that he had for his wife even after 9 years after her death was the clincher for me. I am ending this review with my favorite quote from the book: "If there is a heaven, we will find each other again, for there is no heaven without you".

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Pros & Cons - Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

Pros and Cons (Fox and O'Hare, #0.5)Pros and Cons by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Janet Evanovich introduces us to criminal extra ordinaire Nicolas (Nick) Fox. A con man of international reputation who is driving ex-navy marine, current FBI agent Kate O'Hare mad...

Kate has made it her life's mission to capture Nick and has come close on many occasions only for Nick to pull the impossible and escape.

What will happen in this cat and mouse game? Will the long arm of the law finally catch the extremely lucky thief or will the con man extraordinare continue his extravagenza ... the plot continues in The Chase....

The book was an interesting glimpse into an upcoming series of books involving Fox and O'Hare . Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg have done a marvelous job of grabbing a readers interest in a new upcoming book series with this small novella. How they manage to retain it is what the The Chase will tell us.

The book reminded me of con-job TV serials like Hustle, Leverage, but the one it most resembled uncannily was The White Collar. The similarity between Nick Fox and Neal Cafferty is eerie and Kate O'Hare resembles a feminine Peter Burke with her approach towards the law and what is right and wrong....

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