Friday, July 21, 2017

Erika Mitchell's Take the Bai Road: A Book Review

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With book two of her Bai Hsu series, Erika Mitchell picks up right where the previous installment, Bai Tide: A Bai Hsu Mystery, ended. Seemingly blackballed and punished for his North Korean operation from Take the Bai Road, Bai finds himself flung into an off books operation that threatens both his life and his career as he is sent to investigate a new Ghost Cartel that has set up shop in Mexico.

Here, Mitchell places her operative in the center of Mexican drug cartels following a mysterious shipment. Between gunfights, car chases, and lies, Bai follows a shipment that reaches all the way from North Korea into the inner confines of the US Government. A fight on a freighter leads to a terrorist plot and covert government infiltration, ideas that come easily to the author. While some ends remain loose, Mitchell creates a satisfying and complex story that stretches the limits of her spy’s abilities and twists and turns at nearly every stop.While I typically dig into the inner workings of plot in my reviews, such actions would spoil the overall plot in this instance.

As in her previous installment, Mitchell keeps the pace moving. The pages fly by as Bai goes on one adventure after another and the world lines up for him time and time again. One minute he is gunning down pursuant drug dealers only later to seek solace and use them as a cover of sorts.  That said, he faces a limitless list of challenges and seemingly escapes with little to no damage. Yet, for a spy novel, such facts are to be expected. For a quick, fun read, give this one a look.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Naomi Novik’s Victory of Eagles: A Book Review

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Naomi Novik’s Victory of Eagles details the consequences of Temeraire and Laurence’s choice to save the French dragons as Empire of Ivory came to an end. With the war in full bore and the French invading England, Temeraire languishes in the breeding grounds while Laurence is a deckhand on the very ship he captained before being chosen as Temeraire’s captain. Each misses the other and Laurence awaits the hangman’s noose once Temeraire can be fully pacified.

But with the invasion, Temeraire refuses to sit idly and leads his breeding ground compatriots into the field in order to make a difference. At the same time, Laurence is commissioned as a prisoner captain and begins searching for dragon steed. Thus the adventure begins, once that will result in dragon rights, mass retreats, epic battles, and a final showdown with Napoleon himself. As always, Novik dazzles, and the shimmer turns the pages with reckless abandon.  

Douglas J. Wood's Presidential Conclusions: A Book Review

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Presidential Conclusions, by Douglas J. Wood, finishes up the three part Samantha Harrison series. Much like the novel’s predecessors, Wood places terrorism front and center for the novel. Unlike in previous editions, the reader seemingly spends more time with the terrorists than the political protagonists themselves. While Presidential Intentions set the scene by establishing Harrison as an icon and Presidential Declarations sported a terrorist attack that ravaged Washington DC, the nation’s government, and tested Harrison’s resolve, in this edition Harrison is firmly entrenched as the nation’s president. Outside of this fact, Harrison has begun a crusade to redraw country lines and subdivide the Muslim world.

Beyond this peace creating drive, Harrison seeks council in former presidents. By creating a presidential council of sorts, she activates former Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Clinton. While Obama is blacklisted from the novel by Wood’s obvious political prejudices, Harrison seeks council in these former political leaders and even uses them as political pack mules at times (which knowing their real life personas, is surprising at times). Yet the plot fixates on terror, the jihad, the evil of evil in the author’s mind. He creates an elaborate terror program, one tied to the attacks that took place in 2019, and then uses foreign extradition and torture to extract knowledge. Perhaps more than the other two novels, Wood’s political slants appear, yet he still crafts Harrison as a political moderate. In her, the country gets a leader they can trust even if they do not love her.

That said, Wood crafts a fitting conclusion to his series here. While Amanda Harrison still lacks character development, she plays her role well. Watts’ loss is savage and unpredictable, a great story telling twist, but the reaction rings contrary both to what society and Harrison herself had been set up to yield. Torture is dealt with, but not with love or hate, but with an antiseptic feel. Terror, torture, bombings, they happen in this world, and Harrison is tailor made to deal with their plights.