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30 September 2009

Sphere of Influence (Mark Beamon #4)

Sphere of Influence by Kyle Mills is the fourth book in his series featuring FBI agent Mark Beamon.

Mark Beamon has done so well as an investigator with the FBI that he has been promoted to the Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office. He hates being the SAC. He misses the challenge of an investigation and is dreading the inspection that will analyze every thing done out of his office for the last year.

When a tape is released to the media showing a rocket launcher somewhere in the US desert, Laura Vilechi is assigned to find it before the threat can be carried out. She asks Mark for his advice and he gratefully jumps into the investigation. In fact, at one point he is so deep into the investigation that he is working for one of the most powerful criminals in the world.

Mills writes a complex, mesmerizing thriller that will have readers skipping work to finish the book. Beamon is a lovable wreck of a character with a sharp mind that picks up what others miss. This series is a must read for suspense fans.

Mills, Kyle. (2002). Sphere of Influence. New York: G.P. Putman's Sons.

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27 September 2009

Payback (Boy Soldier #2)

Payback by Andy McNab and Robert Rigby is the second book in the Boy Soldier series.

Danny and his grandfather Fergus are hiding in Spain. Someone within British Intelligence wants them dead. But when their cover is blow they find one person on the inside willing to help them.

Once back in England they have one chance to clear Fergus's name. If they fail they will have to live the rest of thier lives on the run.

This series is similar to Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series and Robert Muchamore's CHERUB series - teens as spies.

McNab, Andy and Robert Rigby. (2006). Payback. New York: Speak.

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23 September 2009

Hate List

Hate List by Jennifer Brown is a compelling look at school violence and its aftermath.

At the end of her junior year of high school, Valerie Leftman thought things were going well. She had a boyfriend and a small group of friends who helped her battle all of the mean people in high school. In order to vent her frustration she began to write down the people and things she didn't like. When her boyfriend Nick found it, it became their hate list.

Nick used the hate list as a guide for whom to shoot in the school lunch area Valerie's (and everyone else's) world changed. At first she did not understand what was happening. When she did she tried to stop Nick - and was shot herself.

Four months later - after a summer of physical therapy and counseling - Valerie is returning to school. Though she was not a participant in the shooting, not everyone thinks she is innocent.

Jennifer Brown captures the emotions of being a teen who is put into a situation too complex to deal with. She creates a realistic picture of life after a tragedy. Hate List is an excellent book. For another thought-provoking look at the aftermath of school shootings, watch the film Home Room.

Hate List belongs in the catergory of intense, provocative group of YA novels that have something important to say or teach about a difficult subject along with books like Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak.

Brown, Jennifer. (2009). Hate List. New York: Little, Brown & Company.

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21 September 2009

Remote Control (Nick Stone #1)

Remote Control by Andy McNab is an espionage thriller by an author who knows what he is talking about - McNab is a retired British covert operations soldier.

Nick Stone is used to putting his life on the line for his country. He has been working in British anti-terrorism against the IRA for years. When a job ends in Washington DC, and he can't get a flight out for a few hours, he decides to catch up with old friends.

Kev, retired from British Intelligence and now working with the DEA, lives in suburban DC with his wife and two daughters. When he hears from Nick he invited him for dinner. The whole family will be happy to see uncle Nick.

But when Nick arrives he finds his friend dead in the kitchen. He searches the house and finds that seven year-old Kelly is the only survivor of the attack. Nick must do whatever he can to protect Kelly from whomever is after them.

This fast-paced thriller will capture reader from the first page. McNab's narrative is detailed and action packed.

McNab, Andy. (1997). Remote Control. New York: Ballantine Books.

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18 September 2009

Rage: A Love Story

Rage: A Love Story by Julie Anne Peters addresses the problem of abuse in teen relationships in the story of two young women who fall for each other.

Johanna has had a rough life the last few years. Her sister moved away and her mother died. She is not really interested in school though she is just a few weeks from graduating. She is only excited about two things - her job at the hospice where her mother died and Reeve Hartt.

Reeve's life makes Johanna's look like Disneyland. As their lives begin to intersect, Johanna wants to help Reeve in any way she can. Reeve is a complicated character whose many layers make her both fascinating and frightening to those around her.

Peters captures the feelings of first love - desperation and ache - in a way that is both familiar and like watching a slow train wreck. She does not mirror a stereotypical look at abuse, but create two characters who are complex, who have flaws, and who are in tough situations that do not excuse their behavior but attempt to explain it.

Peters, Julie Anne. (2009). Rage: A Love Story. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

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The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is a book that people usually love or hate.

Holden Caulfield has just been kicked out of another boarding school. He has a couple of days left before Christmas break when he will return to his parents in shame.

But Holden does not want to wait to leave. He decides to leave early and spend a couple of days in NYC before he goes home. He does not want to arrive before the letter from the school.

I can see why this book is a classic and how the writing style - written as if Holden is talking - would appeal to teens.

Salinger, J.D. (1951). The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

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17 September 2009

An Incomplete Revenge (Maisie Dobbs #5)

An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear is the fifth Maisie Dobbs book. The series has a similar feel to Agatha Christie mysteries and takes place in England in the early 1900s.

When Maisie is asked to look at the village surrounding a farm that may be purchased by the Compton Corporation, she thinks is will be a fairly straight forward assignment.

It so happens that her assistant, Billy Beale, and his family go to that very village in Kent each hops-picking season. She plans to meet him there and instead of a quiet village, finds a web of lies and arson that seems to encompass the whole town.

The dynamic of the town, changed by the arrival of pickers from London as well as a group of Roma (Gypsies), is private and suspicious of outsiders. It seems the villagers never go over a Zeppelin attack during the war.

Winspear writes a great story that winds its way through layer after layer of mystery as Dobbs reconstructs what happened in the village - something that could make even the vicar lie about the past.

Winspear, Jacqueline. (2008). An Incomplete Revenge. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
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15 September 2009

The Atlantis Prophecy (Atlantis #2)

The Atlantis Prophecy by Thomas Greanias is the second book in his Atlantis series - part Indiana Jones, part historical fiction/legend, part science fiction.

Four years after the events in Antarctica, Archaeologist Conrad Yeats is informed that the body of his father has been discovered. At the funeral, when the tombstone is revealed, Conrad know his father is sending him a message.

The stone is an obelisk with code on all four sides. With the help of Dr. Serena Serghetti, a Vatican linguist and environmental/human rights activist, Conrad must decipher his father's code before the bad guys.

Though his is practically the same plot as the first book, the change of setting to Washington DC and the inclusion of US history makes this an entertaining book. Fans of Dan Brown will enjoy the secret societies involved.

Greanias, Thomas. (2008). The Atlantis Prophecy. New York: Pocket Star Books.

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10 September 2009

Rash

Rash by Pete Hautman is a dystopian future of the USA, now called the USSA, where there are so many safety laws it is required to wear a helmet to go for a walk.

Bo's family has its share of members who are in prison. Of course, with the new laws it is easy to end up there. The country functions due to the work camps that produce everything that keeps the country viable.

When Bo gets in trouble due to his temper, he may be going to a work camp himself. His father is the south shelling shrimp and his brother is in Arizona patching holes in the highway.

Hautman, the winner of a National Book Award for Godless, creates an extremely regulated future where civil liberties have been replaced with safety laws. He creates an unusual dystopia where the people are protected within an inch of their lives where dangerous sports such as football have been outlawed, most hard surfaces are padded, and it is a misdemeanor to hurt the feelings of the people around you.

The Federal Department of Homeland Health, Safety and Security is the future created out of a time when people are so paranoid about germs that they carry hand sanitizer with them at all times. This is a great book that takes some trends today and exaggerates them. Pete Hautman is a delight to read.

Hautman, Pete. (2006). Rash. New York: Simon Pulse.

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09 September 2009

Raising Atlantis (Atlantis #1)

Raising Atlantis by Thomas Greanias is a science fiction thriller that includes both one possible future and the origins of human life on Earth.

Dr. Conrad Yeats was once a cutting edge megalithic archaeologist - an expert on the pyramids an other large scale ruins. After a few mishaps with local governments and the destruction of ancient sites, the only job he can find is on a TV show that looks for signs of aliens in the ruins.

Dr. Serena Serghetti is an ex-nun and language specialist who had dedicated her life to fight human rights violations around the globe.

When a secret US military installation in Antarctica discovers something buried under the ice, Conrad is requested by the General in charge. Having no other choice, Conrad goes to Antarctica to investigate.

When the Vatican finds out about the discovery, they send Dr. Serghetti to oversee, not in her capacity as an ex-nun who still occasionally works for the church, but as her role as a member of the Australia-Antarctica Preservation Society.

What they find under the ice will be the most important discovery of the century - but it may also trigger the melting of the ice cap that will flood much of the world.

This first in the series of sci-fi thriller is along the lines of books by James Rollins, Lincoln Child & Douglas Preston, Benjamin E. Miller and Dan Brown.

Greanias, Thomas. (2005). Raising Atlantis. New York: Simon & Schuster.

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Janes in Love (Plain Janes #2)

Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg is the sequel to The Plain Janes.

The members of PLAIN still want to create public art, but Jane is starting to feel like all of her ideas get people into trouble. Soon all but one member of the group is doing community service.

To try another track, PLAIN appeals to city council for permission to create an art installation that everyone can enjoy. The council, most of whom think that PLAIN is a group of young terrorists, deny their request.

But art cannot be stopped. Jane will find a way not only to create public art but find funding to begin larger projects. After all, there are some people in town who thing the art they create is beautiful.

Castellucci, Cecil. (2008). Janes in Love. New York: Minx Comics.

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07 September 2009

Bar Code Tattoo

Bar Code Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn is a look at the future of corporations - when one of them has bought all of the others and is on its way to controlling the world.

In 2025, the President of the US is a puppet for AgroGlobal, the corporation that owns patents to virtually all food grown on the planet. Their latest plan - already in place in China, Japan, and Europe - is to have people get a bar code tattooed on their wrist. The code is attacked to a file with all information about you.

The idea is that it would be easier than carrying ID and credit cards, medical files would be instantly available, etc... In reality it would not only allow AgroGlobal/the government to track you every move, and there more in the file than the public is aware of...

When some people seem to go crazy trying to remove the tattoo from their arms, Kayla is sure she does not want one. With her seventeenth birthday a few weeks away, she will be pressured to get one by almost everyone around her - except for a small group of students at school who refused to get a tattoo. Will they be able to resist? What will they do when the law making it mandatory is passed?

This book looks at many of today's technologies and trends and follows them to a dystopian future where personal freedoms are still being taken away from citizens of the US. Interestingly enough, the Nazi system of tattooing Jews and other prisoners in WWII was only mentioned once.

Weyn, Suzanne. (2004). Bar Code Tattoo. New York: Point.

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06 September 2009

CATCH-22

CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller is a classic worth reading. (Though to be honest I have enjoyed most of the classics I have talked myself into reading.)

Yossarian is a bombardier in the US Army. He has been at war long enough to reach the number of bombing runs required to go home - except his commanding officer keeps raising the number to keep everyone flying.

The book opens with Yossarian in the hospital. He has a pain in his liver but he does not have jaundice. He has a fever but not too high. The doctors keep monitoring him because at this point they cannot treat him. But Yossarian is not sick, he is trying to avoid the war.

Other than being ill, the only way to be grounded is to be labelled crazy. Unfortunately, due to the nature of a catch 22, if you asked to be grounded you are sane because you fear for you life and if you are crazy but flying, hey we can use all of the help we can get, it is war after all.

Heller's look at war and bureaucracy, while hilarious at times, make readers think about the war machine and wonder how any side could ever claim to have won. Heller takes a subject and twists it enough to have readers laughing out loud but thinking about the impact war has on the lives of all affected.

Heller, Joseph. (1961). Catch-22. New York: Simon & Schuster.

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04 September 2009

Catching Fire (Hunger Games #2)

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins is the second book in the Hunger Games.

This sequel is a fast-paced thrill from cover to cover - each chapter leaving the reader more tense than the last. Unfortunately, I cannot say much about it without spoiling the ending of the first book. So, if you have not read The Hunger Games do so before reading this post!


It has been almost a year since the last Hunger Games. Life in District 12 is back to normal for most, for Katniss and Peeta it is better. They have the money to provide for their families. Due to the winner being from 12, each family in the district gets a care package of food and supplies each month - so really, all are better off.

Katniss is not looking forward to the upcoming tour she is required to do as winner. She does not miss all of the make up, clothing, and fuss she has to be subjected to.

This year, being the 75th year of the Games, which commemorate the failed uprising of the people and their reliance on the Capital, is an even bigger year for the contestants. Each quarter of a century there is a Quarter Quell instead of the regular (still brutal) Games.

When the rules for the Quell are announced, everyone is shocked that the Capital could be so cruel. It may be that the leaders have gone too far this time. Will there be a revolution? If so, how will it help those trapped in the Quell, fighting to the death?

Collins, Suzanne. (2009). Catching Fire. New York: Scholastic.

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01 September 2009

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller #1)

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is the first book in his Kingkiller Trilogy. Fans of George R.R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice series will love it.

Kvothe is a legend. There are so many stories about him it is hard to tell what is true and what is exaggeration. What nobody knows about his is that he is hiding in a small village running an inn and using the name Kote.

When a chronicler comes to town he recognizes Kvothe. After some bargaining Kvothe agrees to tell his story so that it may be written down accurately. It will take three days to tell and the first day comprises the first book.

Kvothe is a Edema Ruh who was raised in his family's traveling band of performers who entertained all over the land while traveling in their Gypsy-like wagons. He was taught the beginnings of Sympathy (magic) from a man who traveled with them for a time. His dream was to get to University and study the thousands of books in the Archives.

This first book follows Kvothe's life through his time at University - a place that could be described as an adult version of Hogwarts. I cannot say much else without spoilers, but fans of Tolkien, Nix, Martin and LeGuin will love this book. My only complaint is that the second book has not yet be published.

Rothfuss, Patrick. (2007). The Name of the Wind. New York: DAW Books.

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