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