Thursday, June 22, 2017

Erika Mitchell’s Bai Tide: A Book Review

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Erika Mitchell’s Bai Tide: A Bai Hsu Mystery follows an action packed mission of CIA operative Bia Hsu from the confines of a San Diego Prep School to the inner annals of North Korea. While Bia’s journey commences with running along the beaches of California, he is later seen sprinting through the North Korean winter in his bare feet in an effort to avert nuclear war. One need go no farther in order to state the depth of the premise and the room for an entertaining narrative.

When I was asked to review this piece, I jumped on it for two reasons: first it was fiction and most of what I receive is non-fiction, and second a spy novel sounded intriguing. Mitchell does a strong job of keeping up the mystery, blowing up her CIA operative in the opening pages (he’s fine almost the next day minus some burns) and plunging him into an investigation riddled with action, mystery, and murder. While Bia endures a high degree or trauma, he survives on, gets to the crux of the dangerous plot,

When one reads a spy novel, a certain sense of reality must be abandoned, but Mitchell executes the premise fairly well. It is not unbelievable that a school full of uber elite children may have spies and body guards embedded with them, nor is it beyond a stretch of the imagination that someone would try to infiltrate the school. That said, how such a school would stay in business after multiple employees were murdered and a student was kidnapped is another story. Realism aside, Alan Broccoli (Bia’s alias) works hard to thwart and solve the problem and protect his assets. Mitchell is at her best when she focuses on the game plan of her mystery and pushes forward.

Things go wrong for Bia, but Bia is a spy, a hero of sorts, and will thus succeed. The reader, knowing that success is imminent need not fret over survival, but rather become enraptured as to how and why. Mitchell executes this plan and in doing so creates a satisfying read for those looking for a fun, quick novel.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology: A Book Review

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Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology combines the often hard to digest and find mythos of the Nordic cultures into an easy read that dazzles the mind. Gaiman encapsulates the poetics in this modern rendition, writing snappy dialogue that rings of comic book style, and in doing so he draws a new generation of readers into the rise and fall of Odin and his fellow Aesir. Gaiman avoids a preachy, tutorial tone and instead opts to adopt a casual tone. Magic happens, the gods create, adventure, and destroy. In the end, they are destined to fall and the world will renew, but before that happens, one must witness their exploits. The chapters are short, the racy bits are dealt with in a child friendly manner, and Loki, is well, Loki. That said, give it a read and enjoy the ride.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Douglas J. Wood’s Presidential Declarations: A Book Review

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Douglas J. Wood’s Presidential Declarations is the sequel to his 2014 novel Presidential Intentions, and is the second book in the Samantha Harrison trilogy. While I did not stumble onto this novel on my own and was asked to review the series by Wood’s press team, I found this text to be a worthy sequel that built upon the foundation that Wood established with his freshman effort.

In terms of plot, the novel follows Harrison’s life starting two years post 2016 presidential election, starting with Harrison’s failure to win her state’s senate seat. In the wake of an uncertain future, Eric Cantor, now the Governor of Virginia, nominates Harrison to a recently vacated House seat. Yet, within in weeks of reentering Washington as a lawmaker, Harrison finds herself appointed to the post of Secretary of State for the very president that beat her in the 2016 presidential race. Eyes set on 2020, Harrison struggles to occupy her role for the country while holding on to her political aspirations.

At this point, Harrison enters a twisted and at times entrancing political thriller. Her role places her in danger, sticks her into the hands of Hamas, and allows her to assume control of the country when a terrorist attack decimates Washington D.C. and leaves President Clinton incapacitated. Bombs explode, terrorists are detained, and life goes on. As Vonnegut would say, “So it goes.”

At times, Wood dazzles, especially when he tosses politics aside and focuses on story telling. Instead of debating the success of Obama or Bush era policies, Wood is at his best when he presents a situation, crafts a response, and finally leads both Harrison and the fictional version of the United States through the case study. The bulk of the novel rests in the story, yet these political debates resurface when they hasty 2020 election occurs. That said, holding with Wood’s style, the chapters start with a smattering of politically centered statements, each drawn from Harrison’s political campaigns. At times these segments did well to further characterize Samantha Harrison, but at others they served to distract and delay the true narrative.

While Presidential Intentions darts throughout Harrison’s history, Presidential Declarations follows a linear path through pre, during, and post crisis America. This choice allows one to settle in and enjoy the narrative without working to determine when and where it is coming from. That said, the writer in me cringes from time-to-time as Amanda remains a relatively flat and underdeveloped character and Watts, who is fully flushed out in book one, is reduced to largely a stage prop in this incarnation. In the end, the novel stands as a satisfying sequel to a promising debut.