Books Read 2017

December 2017
The Experiment by John Darnton
 This book began slow and seemed simplistic but then it got going and I got engaged.   Skylar is on an island, and lives a simple controlled life in a cult.  But what kind of cult is it.   Routinely he and and the other Gemini's as they are dubbed are subjected to tests and vaccines and even operations by the Elder Physicians. Sometimes the young Geminis die and their deaths attributed to disease.  Raisin, one of Skylar's friends, begins to question what is going on and so does Skylar's girlfriend, Julie.  Raisin disappears and just as Julie discovers how to use the lab's computer and discovers the password, Skylar finds her dead in the operating room in the basement of the Lab.  He goes on a rampage and races off and eventually escapes the island.  Meanwhile, Jude is on the mainland and investigates a strange murder case.  The victim has been badly mutilated.   When he is told the name of the victim, by a friend in the FBI, but then finds that victim alive and well but paranoid, Jude is drawn into a mystery that soon engulfs Tizzie, his new girlfriend, and a seemingly long lost twin of his own, fresh off the mean streets of NY.  But how could Jude have a twin and not know it and why does his twin, Skylar, appear younger than he is and why does he stare at Tizzie, as if he knows her. Does this have any relation to Jude's upbringing, in an Arizona cult?

Four Stars
Angels Flight  by Michael Connelly
  Another Detective Harry Bosch adventure!  You know I like these Bosch books.  This time he's called in to the politically sensitive murder of a civil rights lawyer who specializes in suing the LAPD.  The city will explode when the news comes out, even though Howard Elias, the murdered attorney, is making a mint off these cases, even when he loses them.  People will think a cop killed him, since he was about to sue the LAPD again.  This client was allegedly abused by the police, including by a former partner of Harry's during interrogation involving the murder of a little white girl, whose parents were very wealthy and connected.  Harry's team includes two blacks and that's one reason they want them on the case.  This disgusts Harry and his partners.  The case twists and turns and eventually Harry must unravel the cold case of the murdered little girl, too, to figure out who killed Howard Elias and why.  It all comes out and justice of a sort is served in the end.

Five Stars
November 2017
Rising Sun by Michael Crichton
  I did not enjoy this book much.  I was expecting a Sci Fi twist, even as the pages turned, but in the end, there was not a hint of anything other than a crime drama.  A crime drama with a message, that is.

  As is sometimes the case in Crichton books, the plot is not the author's main message.  In this book, Crichton is expressing horror over foreign interests buying up business's, land and even universities, in America.  The book was written in 1992 and his beef is with the Japanese.  I wonder how he'd feel now about China, and how much of America they own.   The plot involves a dead girl, found on a boardroom table, during the grand opening of an expensive and expansive Japanese development.  The Japanese corporate owners have already messed with the crime scene as the liaison, who gets extra money from the Japanese specifically, to do this job, is requested to help with the investigation.  But how exactly was he chosen for that job and is Japanese business practice so thorough and patient that they could have found something in the liaison's past to use to influence an investigation much later?  Crichton sounds the alarm with lots of information, as is his way, on the back message of the book, and if half of it is true, how foreigners operate to buy American businesses and influence, its a bit scary.

Two Stars.  
October 2017

Prey by Michael Crichton
  I got hooked on Michael Crichton books a couple months ago when I found a pile of them at a garage sale, 4 for a buck.  I like his imagination and its not like I haven't imagined some of the things he has formed stories around.  Like Prey.  Prey is told in the first person, that being Jack, a hands off ex tech manager, who quit because of the corruption he uncovered in his company.  Now he's a stay at home dad and his wife, Julie is a tech super star, with a company doing strange and possibly very dangerous work.  And Julie is changing.  Is she having an affair?  Is she on drugs?  Is she endangering her own life, her children's lives?  Suddenly Jack is offered a job with his wife's company, Xymos, at its production lab, way out in the desert.  And they want him now!  NOW!  His sister has arrived, convinced Jack needs her and that Julie is having an affair so she takes cares of the kids as Jack takes off for the unknown.   All his old team is there, from the company he quit, including Mae, a highly efficient bioengineer.   He quickly learns all is not what it seems and a deadly nanoparticle swarm, that is evolving fast, has been released, out there, in the desert.  And its reproducing itself.  And killing!   Why?  Because the manufacturer units, also micro and also released into the desert, work with bacteria, to reproduce the nanoparticle swarms.  So yup, they need flesh, for manufacturing.  That's not good, if you're a human in the area.  Can Jack destroy the swarms and who really is Julie now?  I liked the book.

Four Stars
Sleep Walk by John Saul
  A teacher suddenly experiences hallucinations and several massive strokes.  She is taken off to a strange complex, The Cottonwoods, in the canyon, to spend her final days of life.  Judith Sheffield is hired to replace the fallen teacher.  She grew up in Borrego.  It's like a homecoming for her.  She moves in with her aunt and uncle Rita and Max Moreland.  But there is trouble brewing at the refinery that Max owns. It's going under and Max is under pressure to sell to Unicom, who vows to keep the plant open when Max too suddenly experiences a massive stroke and dies.  Meanwhile, Judith has taken up with Frank Arnold, the union boss, and is trying to help his angry 16 year old son, Jed, whose deceased mother was an Indian.  They go up to see his grandfather, who sees visions from the smokehouse or kiva, where he spends much of his time.  Jed too begins to experience visions when in the kiva, of soaring with an eagle across the valley, that once was untainted by a belching refinery with its river dammed.  But when Frank too suffers mysterious strokes and the teenagers are forced into vaccinations that are carefully recorded, Judith takes action, and steals a vaccine, sending it to be analyzed.   Is everything going on in Borrego related to Unicom and Greg Moreland, Max's nephew?  Read the book and find out.  Nice mystery!

Four Stars
September 2017
Timeline by Michael Crichton
  Another fantastical tale by Crichton, this one too features graduate students who must fight for their lives.  This time, they're working a dig uncovering medieval ruins when their professor is called off to Arizona to the secretive organization funding their operation.   When he vanishes, the students themselves are called to Arizona, to help retrieve the professor, but from where?  Or rather, from what time in history?  The organization has developed a machine that travels through other universes to other times.  But will they find the professor? Will they themselves make it back to their own time?   This is a fast paced story, but I did not enjoy it as much as Micro, the last book I read by Crichton.  

Three Stars
Micro by Michael Crichton
  I found more Crichton books at a garage sale and grabbed all I could find.  Four for a buck, can't beat that.   Micro is quite imaginative, as I would expect, although the plot otherwise seems built so Crichton could elaborate the sub story, that of seven graduate students caught in the micro world.  Yes, they got shrunk!  And how they try to survive this new dangerous land as half inch tall micro humans.  Their tiny size and mass allows them super powers, in a way, of running fast, jumping and carrying heavy objects.  The story of the students adventures as they navigate a research rain forest in Hawaii in a life and death battle with bugs that want to eat them, as they try to get back to the laboratory where they were shrunk in the first place, to resize.  If they don't, they die, of the micro bends.  The lab company is run by a certifiable psycho, intent on world domination after creating micro bots that can be programmed to enter the bloodstream of any enemy, and slice their arteries from inside out.  The graduate students are there as possible job recruits.  However, Peter, one of them, is convinced Vin Drake, the company CEO, has killed his brother.  When he announces this during their company tour, all seven students are attacked by Drake and shrunk in the company's secret latest invention.  The students, although scared, being scientists, have knowledge of the natural world that will help them survive the threats of being small.   Who will live and who will die?  And how will they die?  Read the book!  I enjoyed the perspective:  viewing insects and other tiny organisms as if in their world!!!

Four Stars
August 2017
Congo by Michael Crichton
  I enjoy Crichton's books for his detail about subject matter and his fantastic imagination.  Congo is no different and builds a story of an expedition mounted into the volatile Congo region, with its dripping dense dangerous rain forests.  The expedition is wiped out and when a talented tech expert at the firm who sent the expedition, pulls a still off the expedition's last transmission, and manipulates it into an image of a gorilla, everything changes.   They're after blue diamonds in a lost city, whose inhabitants were known to have mined them.  But who is really guarding that crumbled city near the top of a volcano and who trained them to be what they have become?   A second expedition is mounted and tech expert Karen Ross will lead it.  She takes along a gorilla expert, with his signing gorilla Amy.  What will they find?  Will they even survive?  The book, like many of Crichtons' is full of detail on every aspect of his story.  I would expect nothing less of this author, and if there was less, I'd toss the book in the trash.

Four Stars
The Closers by Michael Connelly
  Once again Harry Bosch is back at work, doing what he has always done best, and now, finally, with a cooperating boss.   One plot Connelly plays in his books is the difficulty of working in a bureaucracy, with politics and money, unions and cop gang mentality involved.   Bosch's work ethic is the stuff of legends and he's back with his former partner, Kiz Rider, who helped bump him back, solving cases.  His first open unsolved case has come back with a DNA hit.  But what paths will this lead take them down and who will try to build roadblocks to solving the case and why.   Connelly is at his best again in my favorite series of his books, spinning yarns about Detective Harry Bosch.

Four Stars
Final Jeopardy by Linda Fairstein
  Not a bad mystery but tedious in tangential detail through out.  Slow going, but good ending.  Protagonist is Alexandra Cooper, a rich girl, who chose to prosecute sex crimes, something her family can't understand.  But with her side funds, she can at least live the good life when off work.  But who killed her shallow self infatuated movie star friend Isabelle, while Isabelle was using Alex's house on the Vineyard, no less.  And was Alex the killer's real target?  Well, you'll find out if you read the book.  Just don't give up along the way.  There's not a lot to the actual plot hence all the fattening of the book with other info, that becomes severely annoying in places.

3 stars

May 2017
Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk
 I enjoyed Survivor, but not like I'd enjoy a crime drama or thoughtful book.  It was a fast read, kind of felt cheap afterwards, felt like much of it was a writer showing off a fast wit and creativity, with cutesy ideas, but without much depth.   This tale begins with a cleaning man who answers his own suicide prevention hotline and is eventually fleshed out as a former cult member.  All the members killed themselves, except the worker bees, sent out in the world as children to earn money by slaving away, to send back to the cult.  They're not to have sex or anything fun.  The book clearly points out the hypocrisy and silliness of people and our world.  Did I care what happened to these empty characters in the end?  Not one bit.  The writer is from Oregon and it didn't help my estimate of the book that he stole the ending directly from Oregon history.  I.E. the D.B. Cooper style plane hijacking with subsequent wonderment if the man survived.

Two stars
Without Fail
  Jack Reacher is an independent operator with a secretive history.  He's a roamer, a free lancer, unemployed officially, but is often called upon to help solve impossible situations.  In this story, Reacher pairs up with his deceased brother's ex lover, a secret service woman, who is obviously still in love with Joe, creating an awkward collaberation.  M.E. Froelich is in charge of protecting the Vice President elect and someone is sending ominous threats.  They are going to kill him.  Reacher is first hired by Froelich to probe for weaknesses in their defense of Armstrong, the soon to be VP of the US.  Reacher and his colleage, a deadly force in her own right, Neagley (she goes by her last name), breach secret service security on Armstrong three times in a few days.  Froelich is dismayed.  She and her supervisor finally decide to tell Reacher and Neagley why they needed the security audit, that there is a real threat, that could be partly from inside the Secret Service.  Then they ask them to help find the perpetrators.  There is heart wrenching loss but in the end, Reacher and Neagley discover the truth and exact justice for all.

Three Stars
The Conspiracy Club by Jonathan Kellerman
  The plot is well constructed and characters diversive, interesting and well rounded out within the text.  I would label this a nerd mystery.  It's short on action and gore.   I liked it.   An insecure psychologist finds his way through the horror of a girlfriends brutal murder, in which he is considered a suspect.  But as more bodies are found, he becomes determined to find the real killer, as he continues to see patients, struggling with their own horrors, at the hospital where he works.  With a little help from a mysterious, well educated curious retired pathologist and four of like minded friends he will ultimately face his fears and grief over Joceln's death and find her killer.  

Four Stars 
April 2017
Certain Prey by John Sandford
  I find Sandford's Prey books entertaining.  He creates colorful killers.  In Certain Prey, an aggressive sociopathic attorney decides she needs the wife of a real estate man out of the way so she can have him. He's not that bright but he's good in bed. She hires a "hit man" through a drug dealer she once defended to kill the wife.   The hired killer gets the job done, but complications arise, requiring further collaberation between the hit woman and the attorney, who takes up killing also and decides she likes it.  Will Lucas Davenport be able to stop them both?   Hmmm.  Better read it to find out.

Four Stars
Invisible Prey by John Sandford
   This is a fast paced complicated plot murder mystery.  I enjoy Sandford's books because of his attention to detail and complicated plots with interesting complicated characters.  I can run the book like a movie as I read.   I'll just say I couldn't put it down and loved the characters!  Lucas Davenport in the end solves the crimes with the help of DNA off the mouth of a protective dead pitbull named Screw.

Five Stars
March 2017
The Whole Truth by David Baldacci
  This fast paced drama features Baldacci's character Shaw.  He has no first name.  He is an orphan, recruited into a secret security organization, that pays him for his skills.  On the other end of the good guy bad guy scale there is Nicolas Creed, who thinks the world needs an arms race.  Oh and by the way, he would profit immensely from that arms race since he runs the biggest arms production company in the world.  So how to get the world's countries, not the little Muslim conflicts, the big ones, America, China, Russia, into a frenzy of fear, buying up arms.  He hires a perception manager to get things rolling.  Meanwhile, Shaw is head over heals in love and about to propose to his girlfriend.  This is a new thing for Shaw, the perpetual loner.  She works at a research think tank in London, funded by the Chinese.   And then tragedy strikes.  A needle sharp strike team enters the think tank and kills everyone.  Shaw is devastated at the death of his beloved.   An out of work, dyfunctional alcoholic reporter happens to be in the area, after following Shaw, and gets drawn into Dick Pender's plot.  He's going to use her to put out the story on the strike that he wants the world to believe.  But Katie James is no pushover, despite her problems.  She won't be playing along and instead teams up with Shaw to get to the root of the problem.  That root would be Nicholas Creel, who may not survive the ire of a has been reporter and Shaw, whose beloved is now dead.

Three Stars
The Eye of God by James Rollins
  The Eye of God is a nonstop fantastical save the world from a meteor strike caused by a shift in time/space brought about by dark energy story.  Sigma Force is split up, at the beginning, with Gray and Kowalski off in Macau, with Seichan.  They've gotten a lead.  Seichan is trying to find her mother.  But, when meeting their contact, the three realize they've been sold out.  The north Koreans have a bit of a grudge against Seichan and want the Americans too.  They are attacked and Seichan is captured.  Now what?   Gray is not leaving Seichan to be tortured in N. Korea.  So, they go after her, and in epic fashion only possible by Sigma Force, they get her out.  They're needed elsewhere!  In Rome, meanwhile, Monsignor Vigor Verona is getting a visit from his neice.  Rachal has received a package containing strange relics and she needs the advice of her uncle, who is more like her father.  And in California, the rest of Sigma Force is watching a strange and dangerous occurence.   Their satelite has crossed the tail of a comet carrying a strange energy, and, that flashes a photo of the future somehow, across the live stream.  The future shows the east coast in smoking ruins.  And the time stamp is only four days away.  How could this be?   How do the relics now in Rome, sent to Vigor by an old friend, thought dead, now in a remote area of Mongolia, relate to the comet visible in the sky and the alleged end of the world coming in just a few days?   This is a fast paced outrageous tale that is very entertaining to read.

Four Stars
The Drop by Michael Connelly
  The Drop is another open/unsolved unit detective mystery with my favorite character of Connelly's books---Detective Harry Bosch.  Who couldn't like this gruff, to the point, no bullshit relentless pursuer of bad guys?  Connelly's Bosch series books are full of details that make the plots intricate and the books hard to put down.
  Harry in "The Drop" is working two cases, an open unsolved case where a drop of blood on a young woman murdered 20 years before has come back with a DNA match.  But the problem is the match is to a convicted sex offender who was only 8 years old at the time of the young woman's murder.  Harry must track down this man, in a treatment center, to get to the bottom of this murder and what he finds will not only solve this one case but shock the world.
  The second case is a political request from a councilman who has long butted heads with Harry and the entire LAPD!  Seems his son has nose dived off a balconey face first.  But...was it a suicide or a was it a murder?  Harry is tasked with finding the truth.  But why was he put on the case?  More politics?

Four Stars.
February 2017
Mystery by Jonathan Kellerman
  Mystery is not only the name of this Alex Delaware/Milo Sturgis character detective story, but also one of the names the young blonde victim of a murder had gone by.  She was found with her face blown off, two weapon wounds, side by side.  This mystifies detectives.  Were there two killers who killed her at the same time, execution style?  Why was she killed?   Alex gets some subtle clues from a former Madame, who pimped whores.  She is dying of cancer, and wants Alex, a psychologist, to help her young son cope with her imminent death.   This "mystery" involves elderly lust, young girls, and cons, that turn bad.  The perp, in the end, may be playing out scenes from her old career, as a two bit movie star.

As always, its the banter and habits of the two leads, along with Robin, Alex's wife, that make the book interesting.  

Three Stars
January 2017
Alone by Lisa Gardner
This is the first book I've read by this author.  It started out as if it was another he man macho detective or cop, who would single handedly out fight out think out shoot, everyone else on earth and who is an expert on absolutely everything.
But after the first act of violence, committed by a SWAT officer when called out on a domestic scene, the switch to character studies and a more complex twisted plot made me look back to see if the book was woman written, by chance. It was.
The wife of the man the Swat guy shoots, turns towards the shattered window, through which the fatal bullet flew to kill her abusive husband, and mouths "thank you".  "Wtf?" Bobby, the officer involved, thinks.
Bobby's life quickly spirals down.  He feels guilty for killing a man, conflicted about the scene, and his fellow officers, seem out to get him, with the help of the dead man's father, a very very powerful judge, with his own twisted secrets.  And who was the wife, the woman, with the sickly child, whose husband he just killed?  Will the deadly psycho, from her childhood, make a reappearance?

Decent read, I thought.
Four Stars

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

  I enjoy John Steinbeck.  I'll admit he's a favorite author.  I read the book slowly because I didn't want it to end.   I didn't particularly care for how it ended.   The book is about the Joads.  Tom has been in prison for killing a man who was trying to kill him.   That's where the story begins, after a chapter describing the way things have become.  The dust bowl has begun.  Sharecroppers are being forced off the land they have farmed for lifetimes as banks take the land and the houses over and tractors replace horses and plows.  Tom Joad is out on probation and making his way home, through the old roads and trails.  He runs into an ex preached, Casey, on his way home, and they take up together.   But when he gets home, there's no one there at all.  He doesn't know where his family has gone.  The house is over run.  Along comes someone he knows, sneaking out of the fields, who tells him what's going on and where his family is, and that he's hiding out and they better too, because the deputies come along and arrest you, if you're there, on your own land.   It's not yours anymore, you see.  Bank has it.
   Well Tom finds him family and they're in the midst of leaving, for California.   They're with his grandparents whose house has been taken too.  His brother Al is off tom catting.  Al is good mechanic.  They have sold everything of any value to cobble money to get an old car.  Al's worked it over.   They pile on, Casy goes too, So does RoseofSharon, Tom and Al's sister, who is pregnant and Connie her beau.  So do Ruthie and Wilford, the kids, grandma, grandpa, ma, pa and Tom and Al and Noah, another brother.  All on one old truck.
  The rest of the story is of their struggles just to get to California and their growing concern as they hear stories from other migrants, that California is not what they've been told, in the pamphlets urging them to go because there is work there.  Grandpa dies along the way, then grandma.  Noah wanders off refusing to go further.  And when they get to California, to their astonishment, they are harassed by crooked deputies and good christian townspeople who burn the migrant camps and arrest and beat them.  Good book with many parallels to today.  They can't get fair wages that they can live on when they do find work.

Five Stars

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