Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken

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A must read, especially if you watch Fox News……..   ****

With humor and first hand knowledge Franken pulls back the curtain on the misdirection used by pundits, commentators, so called news analysts, and in particular Bill O’ Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter. In today’s political climate this book is even more of a must read.

While addressing the way the ‘right’ uses partial facts, selected quotes, and false information, this book is a reminder to all of us to check the facts as best we can before making decisions about who is telling the truth, regardless of the source.

Although written in 2003, the lies and the liars that tell them are, for the most part, still around and have actually increased in number. If there was ever a book that prompted deeper reading into what is truth, it is this one.

This one gets four stars.

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Night School by Lee Child

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Lesson learned…..   *

After reading and reviewing  Make Me by Lee Child, I had promised myself it would be the last Reacher novel I would read.  When I heard about Night School and the story being about Reacher when he was still in the Army, I decided to give it a try.  Surely it would be different. Unfortunately, I should have kept my promise.

This book definitely qualifies as Child’s worse to date. There may be one as bad coming in the future, but this reviewer will not be reading it.

Child wrote this at a second-grade level. Short sentences, minimum description, and repetition. If you eliminate the repetitive prose, this would be a novella. It reads almost as bad as, “See Dick run, see Jane run too”. Maybe he was just honoring his pen name, Child.

Child also moves the reader from one scene to the next by ending with a date or time, then starting the next section with the date or time in the next location.  This is fine once or twice, but is overdone to the point of absurdity.

Night School has all the elements of the formula used in previous Reacher novels. Reacher fights four guys, then later eight guys. He makes love to one of the central characters. He is able to figure things out more quickly than those around him. And of course he bucks authority.

There are too many plot holes to mention here but the worst was the idea that the government could lose track of ten items that become the central part of the book. I won’t spoil it by saying what they are but just know by the time you get to that part the bad writing has already spoiled it.

If I were reviewing this for lazy, bad writing it would get five stars, but since that is not the criteria, it gets one star, and that is being kind.

 

 

The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham

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The Ferry to Nowhere…….    **

 

This is the third book by Michael Robotham and it falls short of the first two. Alisha Barba is resurrected and the novel is written in first person from her viewpoint.

First person narration can be fun to read and is difficult to write. Robotham shows he has yet to master the technique.  His attempt at first person made this a tedious read. This was surprising since his first two books had first person viewpoints also, and were fine. The repetition of “I” in this one was overdone.

In addition, there were too many loose threads left hanging. One example, when Alisha is picked up by the British equivalent of homeland security, she is suddenly released without a clear reason. Certain scenes were unbelievable and Alisha kept doing what I would call stupid things. She put herself in dangerous situations that contradicted her cop instinct. After a long description of her karate expertise, she is later overpowered by someone she should have been able to defend against.

There is a detailed description of human trafficking, as well as the prostitution in Amsterdam. While some of this is needed for the story, too much space was devoted to both.

There is no real mystery, no real twist, and no suspense. The ending is cliche.

This one gets two stars, should have been one but I added one for effort.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Four Cigars

 

When this movie started, I felt like it was going to be a cheesy version of the Star Wars franchise.  It builds slowly, the acting is mediocre, and there is a comic book feel. Then Han Solo and Chewbacca appear and in the words of Harrison Ford, I felt like I was home again.

From this point on the movie picked up its pace and I began to feel the tension I remember from the Star Wars film of 1977. By the end, this film had redeemed itself in my eyes, and the last scene with Mark Hamill was perfect.

While this is one of the best episodes since the first film, it did have its weak points. The character of Kylo Ren felt like a cheap version of Darth Vader. His helmet was not menacing, I wasn’t sure if he was going to reach for a light sabre or a welding torch.

The scene where Rey is fighting Kylo and tunes into The Force, had a Disney feel to it. As a matter of fact, in one of the scenes where the Resistance fighters are getting ready, one of the characters that goes by looked just like Happy, one of the seven dwarfs.

Another funny flaw was when Rey lands for the first time at the base, two pilots go running by as if heading for a fighter. But as the camera pulls back they run past the last plane and it looks like they are just going to run off into the sunset.

In spite of all that, this film was able to take me back in time and make me feel like it was 1977 once again.

This one gets four cigars!

The Suspect by Michael Robotham

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Not bad for first novel….  ***

 

After seeing a tweet from Stephen King praising Robotham’s Close Your Eyes, I decided to check out this author. Since Robotham writes a series about the character Joseph O’Loughlin I wanted to start with the first book.

The Suspect is a good read, fast paced, and although predictable, it is a good suspense novel. The protagonist, O’Loughlin, is a psychologist who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. This makes for an interesting and unusual story line.

Robotham’s style is humorous, complex, informative, but at times suffers from over writing. A better editor would have cleaned out some of the unnecessary passages, making this a tighter read. The ending stretches the boundaries of believability but with a twist that satisfies the reader.

I will be reading the rest in this series and hopefully will find one that, like Stephen King, “I can’t put down.”

This first one gets three stars.

 

The Girl In The Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

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Kudos to Lagercrantz……  ****

Originally I was not going to read this book. The series by Stieg Larsson was so good, I thought there was no way another author could do justice to it. I was wrong.

David Lagercrantz, with his own style, captures the essence of all the characters Larsson created. This is a well crafted novel with a story line that kept me turning the pages. Lisbeth Salander is portrayed as we all know her, and staying true to form, keeps her distance until she is forced to act.

Lagercrantz tells the story through multiple viewpoints, a multitude of characters, and a detailed account of hackers, autism, and security issues. He masterfully weaves all of these together to give us another good look into the world Larsson created.

My only caveat would be to read the other books first before approaching this one.

This one gets four stars.

 

A Sudden Light: A Novel by Garth Stein

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A not so bright light…..  ***

 

Some novels make you say “Wow”, some are not very good, and some fall in between.  This would be an in between novel.

The writing is good from a technical viewpoint. The characters are bland and one dimensional. The story is predictable and there are no surprises.  The main character, Trevor, is telling the story of what happened when he was fourteen.  The problem is that his interaction with his father, which is one layer in the story, doesn’t ring true.  Much of his conversation with his father is beyond what a boy of that age would say.

Serena, who is Trevor’s aunt, is supposed to be a femme fatal but Stein doesn’t develop her to the extent he could have.  The family history is the backdrop for this story but also adds too many layers to the novel.  We learn about the timber industry, boat building, and what gay relationships were like in the early 1900’s. All of which is fascinating but not gripping.

This is one of those books that when you finish it you say, “okay, what book am I going to read next?”.   This one gets three stars.