Monday, May 23, 2011

The Associate

The Associate by John Grisham

It's been years since I read a book by Grisham. I used to really enjoy them and then he lost his way. He started writing books like A Painted House,  Bleachers, and one about pizza. So I stopped. I bought The Associate because I was out of town, I had finished the book I brought, and it was cheap. So I bought it and tried him again. Fortunately The Associate  represents a return to the Grisham that I liked.

It's about Kyle McAvoy, a Yale law student who is about to graduate and  plans to use his J.D. for good for a few years, representing the homeless and others who normally couldn't afford a lawyer. But others have different plans for Kyle. A major lawsuit is about to be filed between two companies vying for a major government defense contract and someone wants Kyle to get a job with the law firm representing one of those companies so that he can steal files associated with the lawsuit. You see, Kyle has a skeleton in his closet - an incident that occurred years ago at a frat party, which is being used to blackmail Kyle into getting the job and finding a way to get access to the files.

The story is quite reminiscent of The Firm which is not necessarily a bad thing. It's classic Grisham style and pace. For me, Kyle wasn't a likable character. I didn't really care how things turned out for him. I understand Shia LaBeouf will be playing him in the movie being developed which works for me, since he's an actor that I don't really care for as well.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Emperor's Tomb

The Emperor's Tomb by Steve Berry
(Cotton Malone series #6)

Cotton Malone is back in Berry's 6th installment featuring the former operative for the Justice Department. Once again he is dragged back into the world he was trying to leave behind when he retired and opened up an antiquarian book store in Amsterdam.

This disruption to his life begins when an anonymous note is delivered to him that contains a web address. When he goes to the website he finds that it's a live feed showing the frequent associate in his adventures, Cassiopeia Vitt, bound and being tortured. The man torturing Cassiopeia instructs Cotton to bring him the artifact Cassiopeia entrusted to him and the feed ends. Cotton has no idea what the man is referring to but knows that Cassiopeia's life depends on him figuring out what's going on and rescuing her.

Cotton's efforts take him to China, where in internal power struggle is taking place between two men vying to become the country's next premier. They're each trying to obtain possession of a sample of oil that was obtained over two thousand years ago. This oil may provide the country with the ability to end its dependence on foreign oil and ultimately solidify the country's role on the world stage.

I enjoyed The Emperor's Tomb. It was neither better nor worse than Berry's other books. I would like to see him write some more stand-alone books to break things up a bit. But his books are always fun reads and worth the time.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I mentioned in another post that I'm not a big epic fantasy reader. Well, I'm starting to question that image I have of myself. The Name of the Wind is the first in Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles series and it is a fantastic series opener. The book itself is a doorstop at 660 pages but it took me less time to read it than it has many books half its size. It's a quick moving story with a great cast of characters and it has the depth that I'm starting to appreciate with epic fantasy.

It's the story of a man named Kvothe, whose parents are members of a troupe of magicians, storytellers, and other types of entertainers who travel from city to city. Kvothe is a prodigy of sorts. He's just a young boy as he begins telling his story, but he's advanced for his years. He's quick to learn and has an insatiable appetite for knowledge. One evening, after Kvothe had been wandering around as his parents prepared dinner, he returns to find his parents and everyone else in their troupe murdered. He has a brief encounter with their killers and comes to believe that they are the Chandrian - a group previously believed to exist only in myths and legends.

So begins Kvothe's quest - to discover the truth behind the legends and gain the skills he'd need to avenge his parents' deaths. His journey takes him from the life of a street urchin, fighting daily for his survival, to that of the youngest student ever to be accepted at the University - a Hogwarts-esqe type of school that teaches those who attend the power behind the names things are given. The book ends after just one day of Kvothe telling his tale to a scribe, day two picks up with The Wise Man's Fear, which is on my bookshelf right now. We'll see how long I can hold out before picking it up. My goal is to wait until publication of the third book has been announced.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Monday, May 9, 2011

Night Watch

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
(Discworld series #29)

Sam Vimes, commander of Ankh-Morpork's City Watch, is chasing a killer named Carcer during an intense storm. During the pursuit, both Vimes and Carcer become the victims of a magical accident that transports them back in time 40 years. If Vimes wants to return to his rightful time and rejoin his wife who's expecting their first child, he must make sure things happen the way they originally did 40 years ago.

That becomes very unlikely when Carcer murders John Keel, the Sergeant responsible for training Vimes to be a good copper 40 years ago. Now Vimes has to take on the identity of Keel and train his younger self, uh himself.

Night Watch is Pratchett's 28th story which takes place on Discworld, a flat world that rests on the shoulders of four elephants which in turn are standing on the shell of A'Tuin, a giant turtle swimming through space.

The books have ranged from good to fantastic and Night Watch is one of the best so far. I thoroughly enjoyed the chance Pratchett gives with this one to see what many of his characters were like 40 years ago.

As always, Pratchett's humor is there, but it's no longer the primary reason I read his books as it once was. With each successive book, it's more apparent just how brilliant he is. On the surface his books are lighthearted fantasy novels. But deeper down, they're amazingly insightful social commentaries. They're the types of books that should be read by everyone.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gideon's Sword

Gideon's Sword by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

I'm sure this doesn't come as a shock to those who know me, but I'm not the type of person who likes to chat with the person sitting next to me on a plane. I pull out a book and expect the person next to me to understand what that means - not interested in getting to know you nor do I want to see any pictures of your children/cats. Recently I made an exception to that rule. I got on a plane and the guy sitting next to me was reading Gideon's Sword. I've read all of the the Preston & Child books and was intending to read this one as well. So I asked him if it was a good book. He shook his head and said it wasn't very good. I then noticed how far into the book he had read. He was on page 4. This man was obviously an idiot. How can you decide by page 4 whether a book is good or not? Further evidence for the soundness of my small-talk policy.

So I finally got around to reading Gideon's Crew. Page 4 came and went and I resisted the urge to determine how many stars the book was going to receive. Overall it was as good as the coauthors' other books. I enjoyed the departure from the Pendergast books. I understand it's the beginning of another series the will feature Gideon Crew and based on this first book, I'll follow that series as well.

Gideon Crew witnessed his father's murder at the age of twelve. He spent the next twenty years of his life acquiring the skills he would need to avenge his father's death and clear his family's name. Now in his thirties, having taken down those behind the murder and having fulfilled his life-long goal, his unique skills set has brought him to the attention of a covert U.S. agency who present him with a job offer he can't refuse.

Gideon finds himself tasked with intercepting a Chinese national who is scheduled to enter the country that night possessing a technology that will revolutionize the world and will ultimately elevate China's position in it to the indisputable leader going forward. Gideon must find that technology, steal it, and turn it over to his handlers. But when the man is run off the road and killed as he departs the airport, Gideon realizes that his job is going to be much harder than he planned.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆