Monday, July 16, 2012

Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader - Volume IV

Well, as I told you last week, I now have Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader, Volume IV.  What?  You say you didn't know there were Volumes I, II, and III?  Where have you been?  If you are interested in catching up, or you want a refresher course, you can find the first 3 volumes on February 19, 2011, February 18, 2012, and April 7, 2012.

Here we go:

David Baldacci - The Innocent.  I recently reviewed this, so I don't have to go into any detail.  But, as I mentioned in the review, this is 1 of my 3 favorite Baldacci's.  The other 2 are The Camel Club, which is in Volume II, and...

David Baldacci - Wish You Well.  I'm including this with an asterisk.  I absolutely loved this book.  The story centers around 2 young urban children who are sent to live with their grandmother in a very rural, backwoods location in West Virginia.  This is a big departure from his other books, which are mysteries.  The reason for the asterisk is that it is a very polarizing book.  I know many people who loved it and a few who didn't like it all.  The second group will be outraged that it is included.  I say to heck (this is a g-rated blog) with them.  It's my blog!

Sam Eastland - The Eye of the Red Tsar.  This is book 1 of 3 (I just read book 3, but I don't know if he plans on writing more).  The story takes place in Tsarist Russia shortly before the tsar is deposed (and subsequently murdered, along with his whole family).  Pekkala is the tsar's top security man.  This chronicles Pekkala's gulag sentence and, some years later, how he hooks up with Stalin.  It's a good story and a fun read.

James Clavell - Tai Pan.  This is his 2nd book (written in 1966), after Shogun.  It takes place in 1842 and is centered on the 2 largest shipping companies in the Far East.  The owners of the 2 companies (the top guy is the Tai Pan, or "big shot") spend the entire book trying to destroy each other.  It is an epic novel.  Although it's not as good as Shogun, it's still better than most everybody else's books.  It's a poor man's version of World without End (Follett).  It's not Shogun but still makes my top 50.

Steve Berry - The Romanov Prophecy.  Berry recently wrote The Columbus Affair, which I will be reviewing soon.  It was his first stand-alone since The Romanov Prophecy.  In between, he wrote 7 books about a single character - Cotton Malone.  I enjoy that series, but his stand-alones (the other one being The Amber Room, his first book) are better.  The Romanov Prophecy takes place in the present.  The Russian people want to bring the tsar back after a number of failed leaderships following the downfall of the Communists.  It is discovered that there is an actual Romanov still alive.  That, obviously, creates a power struggle.  On top of all that, there is an American lawyer who is involved in the Russian political process.  I thought this was a super clever idea.

Dean Koontz - Strangers.  Of his 40+ books, this one and Lightning (Volume II) are the best.  Strangers is definitely science fiction-y, but it is an excellent story.  There are a number of people with strange maladies who end up coming together in the Nevada desert.  The first 2/3 of the book develops the individual stories.  So, when they get together, it makes for a terrific climax (this is very similar to The Plot, by Irving Wallace, which is also in Volume II, but which wasn't science fiction).

Christopher Reich - The Patriots Club.  This is one of 4 books Reich wrote in which the hero is a finance type - accountant, Wall Street trader.  The other 3 are The First Billion, Numbered Account, and Devil's Banker.  All 4 are good, and you could start with any of them.  Unfortunately, after writing 5 books (the other was The Runner, which took place in post-war Germany in 1945), he started a series about Dr. Jonathan Ransom and his undercover wife, Emma, which I don't like nearly as well.  In fact, in book 2 of the series, he used the term "just then" so many times that I felt compelled to write him an email and point it out to him (you all know how shy I am!).  Well, to his credit, he responded.  He said that he didn't realize that he had used it so often.  When his 3rd book in the series came out, he only used "just then" 3 times.  I wrote him another email and congratulated him.  Unfathomably, he didn't respond.  Go figure.

Transfer of Power - Vince Flynn.  This is book 1 of 12 in the Mitch Rapp series.  Most everybody knows about this series.  It starts out strong, and every book is a good read.  Mitch is an ex-special forces kind of guy who works as a clandestine operative for the government (what literary figure doesn't these days?). He's another James West (from the Wild, Wild West).  Flynn even throws us readers for a loop by making books 11 and 12 about how Mitch started out.  Anyone who likes mysteries with he-men will like these books.

Daniel Silva - The Kill Artist.  This is another book 1 of 12 (his stand-alone, The Unlikely Spy, is in Volume I).  Gabriel Allon is an Israeli James West.  Besides starting out as a Mossad-like operative, he is also a world-class art restorer.  Yes, you read that right.  His stories usually include some kind of art restoring project.  It's pretty cool stuff.  Gabriel has gone through a personal tragedy which comes into play in every book.  I saw Daniel Silva a few years ago when he was on book tour.  He does an enormous amount of research.  In fact, one of his Allon books takes place in Russia, and his research included spending several weeks on location.  It was interesting to learn his take on what he saw.  He said that no matter what they call it, the modern-day KGB is alive and well and is stifling dissent - to the tune of assassinations of a lot of journalists.  Very interesting stuff.

Brian Haig (Alexander Haig's son) - Secret Sanction.  This is book 1 of 6.  The protagonist is Sean Drummond, who is a JAG - Judge Advocate General - which means he's a military attorney.  The stories all relate to a military murder mystery.  The books are very well-written; the plot is always interesting, and Sean is very funny.  You will enjoy the stories and appreciate the humor.

Michael Palmer - Oath of Office.  I've already done a review of this one recently too.  Palmer has written 17 novels.  Most of them have been medical mysteries which take place in Boston.  The last couple centered on Washington D.C.  I have enjoyed these last 2 (the other one was A Heartbeat Away) more than the first 15.  Dr. Lou Welcome is a 42-year old doctor who lost his license (and marriage) due to drugs and alcohol.  He now works part-time for the Physician Wellness Office as a case worker for doctors who have some form of mental illness.  He ends up investigating the incidence of bizarre behavior among a number of doctors and how it relates to genetically modified food.  Along the way, he is allied with the president's wife, who is, herself, a doctor.  Once again, Palmer creates a story that is timely.

John Jakes - The Bastard.  This is book 1 of 8.  I absolutely loved this series.  The story starts in the late 1760's and ends in the first decade of the 20th century.  This is historical fiction at its finest.  The protagonist, Philip Kent (born Phillippe Charboneau) leaves England for the colonies because he has been denied his birthright.  Of course, American history is woven into Philip and his descendants.  I have had one person tell me he thought book 1 was just fair, but all historical fiction buffs will eat this up.

W.E.B. Griffin - Semper Fi, The Lieutenants, By Order of the President.  These are all book 1 for 3 fantastic military series.  The first one is The Corps (10 books) and takes place during WWII.  The 2nd is Brotherhood of War (9 books) and goes from WWII through the Vietnam War.  The 3rd is the The Presidential Agent (7) and is modern-day.  They're all 3 excellent series from the first book through the last book.  In fact, The Presidential Agent series is ongoing.  Griffin has written 3 other series - Honor Bound (pretty good), Men at War (fair), and Badge of Honor (a police series - I read book 1 and didn't like it - stopped).  Griffin is not for everybody, even though it's included on this list.  I would recommend you read book 1 of any of the first 3 series mentioned above and decide for yourself.

Wow was this long-winded.  Sorry about that.  I hope something catches your eye.

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