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Bobbewig (New Jersey, USA)
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The Cairo Affair
The Cairo Affair
by Olen Steinhauer
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Mixed Feelings!, 20 Mar 2014
This review is from: The Cairo Affair (Hardcover)
I have been a fan of Olen Steinhauer since hist first book. Having now finished his newest book, The Cairo Affair, I have very mixed feelings about it. My overall feeling is that it is just an 'okay' read.

On the plus side, typical of a Steinhauer book, is that his characterizations in The Cairo Affair are top-notch, with all of his characters (of which there are many) being fully developed and come across as very "real" people. What they are not, however, are likable; which, as a result, made me not care very much about what happens to them. Also, typical of a Steinhauer book, is a very descriptive sense of place, making me feel that I was right there in whatever location the characters are in.

For me, these plusses were offset by the following weaknesses, which resulted in my opinion that The Cairo Affair is okay enough to finish but not good enough to recommend that you rush out to read.

One weakness is that the plot, which almost from the onset, starts off with a bang (literally), never creates enough of a sense of excitement or suspense to make The Cairo Affair much of a page-turner. As a matter of fact, I, at times, found myself being bored with the book; to the point that on a couple of occasions I thought about giving up on it. A second weakness is that Steinhauer tells the story from the perspectives of a number of different characters who are all involved with each other, which tended to make too much of the story seem repetitive. In addition, Steinhauer has the story jump around too much between the present time and about twenty years or so ago, which, for me, tended to make the slow pace of the book even slower and, at times, a bit confusing.

I hope this review is helpful in deciding if The Cairo Affair is a book you'll want to read.

I received an advance ebook of The Cairo Affair from NetGalley and the publisher in return for an honest, unbiased review.


The Counterfeit Agent (John Wells 8)
The Counterfeit Agent (John Wells 8)
by Alex Berenson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just Okay -- And Several Notches Below The Early Books In The Series!, 9 Mar 2014
In The Counterfeit Agent, John Wells is asked by his former CIA boss to undertake a freelance, private mission. Without going into detail about the plot, it involves the threat of nuclear war between the US and Iran, with Wells being charged with using his unparalleled skills, including his ability to go undercover as an Arab, to try to uncover if the threat is real, or made to look real by another "player."

The Counterfeit Agent is the seventh book in the John Wells series, which has become very formulaic. While it is moderately entertaining, it is far less interesting, suspenseful, well-plotted, and as much of a page-turner than most of the early book in the series. As a matter of fact, it wasn't until its last 40 or 50 pages that The Counterfeit Agent generated any real thrills -- and then the book just ended without any "conclusion!" That is, to be continued in the sequel to follow in about a year or so.

Further on a comparative basis, The Counterfeit Agent falls considerably short in terms of dimensionalizing his main character and particularly his supportive characters; to the point that readers who have not read most of this author's previous books might feel they don't know the characters well enough to care much about what happens to them.

After my, at best, moderate satisfaction with The Counterfeit Agent and steady decline in satisfaction with each book in this series, Alex Berenson has now dropped from being one of my "don't miss" authors to "a let's wait and see what others think first" authors.


By Jack Higgins - The Death Trade
By Jack Higgins - The Death Trade
by Jack Higgins
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 Stars -- Typical of Books By Higgins, The Death Trade Is Very Formulaic But Fun!, 21 Feb 2014
I have been an on-and-off again fan of Jack Higgins since his excellent thriller, The Eagle Has Landed. Though The Death Trade is not anywhere near as good as The Eagle Has Lande and many of his early books, it is still an enjoyable read.

The Death Trade is fast reading and loaded with several several intriguing characters. Some are villainous, some are heroic, but most are quite interesting and involved in exciting scenarios.

The plot is right out of today's headlines; dealing with the Iranian nuclear program and its possible effects on world events. The main players include a brilliant but troubled scientst, a megomaniacal billionaire, terrorists of all shapes and sizes and, of course, the small but highly trained and efficient anti-terrorist group working directly under the British Prime Minister.

The story unfolds with breakneck speed and builds to a thrilling climax. I recommend this novel to the typical Higgins fan and to anyone else interested in a very heavily plot-driven exciting and suspenseful tale that spans such world hotspots as Afghanistan, Syria, Iran the Saudi Arabian Desert and, of course, Paris and Great Britain.

Is The Death Trade great literature? Definitely not. Does it follow the formula Higgins has used in most of his books? Without question, yes. Does it have more than its share of cliches? It does. If you can overlook or, at least not be bothered too much by these factors, I'm pretty sure you'll find The Death Trade to be a fun, entertaining read.


Gone Girl
Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.50

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 1/2 Stars -- Well Worth Reading!, 7 Jan 2014
This review is from: Gone Girl (Paperback)
I won't spend time summarizing the plot of Gone Girl, as this is provided in the Amazon Book Description. I'll just say that Gone Girl opens on the occasion of Amy and Nick Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Amy disappears under very disturbing circumstances. Amy and Nick were the golden couple when they first began their courtship. They were soul mates to the degree that they could complete each other's sentences and guess each other's reactions. They are smart, charming, gorgeous...and, oh yeah, narcissistic, selfish and cruel. You could say they complete each other -- in a very dangerous way.

I have to admit I put off reading Gone Girl for a long time because, being a hard core thriller lover, I didn't think it would be a book for me. It was only due to my wife's as well as a male friend's insistence that I give it a try that I caved in and read it. Now, having completed it, I have to say that I enjoyed Gone Girl very much and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys not just a good mystery filled with twists and turns, but a book that excels in its character development and narrative stye -- that alternates between Amy's and Nick's perspectives.

It's been quite awhile since I've read a book whose main and supportive characters are so richly developed. I should point out that almost all of them are deeply flawed, making many of them hard to like. However, whether you like them or not, I doubt if you'll find any of them to be uninteresting. Further, Flynn has a way with words and a descriptive style that are heads and shoulders above most almost all of the other authors I've been reading.

While I found Gone Girl to start slowly and continue to build slowly throughout most of the first half of the book, I enjoyed all of it. If the idea of the pace being somewhat slow in the first half of Gone Girl is making you skeptical about reading it, please put your concern to bed as its second half moves at a brisk pace and is packed with surprises.

I deducted 1/2 star from my overall rating because of the ending, which I found to be a bit abrupt and vague. Despite this criticism, I consider Gone Girl to be a book well worth reading; and I've already purchased Gillian Flynn's two previous books, Dark Places and Sharp Objects.


The Dogs of Christmas
The Dogs of Christmas
by W. Bruce Cameron
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 Stars -- A Nice, Entertaining Holiday Tale...But Far Below Cameron's A Dog's Purpose and A Dog's Journey!, 22 Dec 2013
This review is from: The Dogs of Christmas (Hardcover)
The Dogs Of Christmas is a charming holiday tale that explores the power of love, trust and a basket full of puppies. However, if you go in expecting this book to be even close to the caliber of Cameron's A Dog's Purpose and it's sequel, A Dog's Journey, you are more than likely going to feel that this book, while entertaining, did not meet your expectations.

I won't describe the plot of A Dog's Christmas, as this is very nicely provided in the Amazon Book Description above. Instead, I'll describe why I thought it to be a likable book but not one I'd recommend that you rush out to be buy -- unless you are a major dog lover with a strong need to read a nice uplifting story during this holiday season.

On the plus side, Cameron does a nice job in describing the joy a dog and a new litter of pups can bring to a person's life, as well as conveying the importance of animal rescue and adoption. However, where the book fell somehwat shot for me pertained to Cameron's development of his human characters -- and particularly of the main male character. To me, the humans in this book were pretty thinly developed and, thus came across as flat with little personality. As a result, while they were serviceable to the story, I never really came to care a lot about them. As a matter of fact, while I admire the main male character for the love he showed to the dogs, I thought of him mostly as a bit of a jerk.

I hope you find this review helpful in deciding if it is a book for you.

Happy Holidays!


Identical
Identical
Price: 3.49

0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just Okay...At Best!, 9 Nov 2013
This review is from: Identical (Kindle Edition)
I won't take up your time by providing a summary of Identical, which you can get in the Amazon Book Despription. Rather, my review will focus on why I felt that Identical was at best an okay read (i.e., acceptable enough to finish but definitely not good enough to recommend).

Overall, I generally find Turow's books to start of slowly and gradually build to a point where they become hard to put down. My experience with Identical differed from the norm for me in that not only did it start slowly, it remained a slow read to its very end. Identical's slow pace, however, is not where my disappointment is primarily focused. My primary sources of disappointment pertain to the following:

...While Turow spends a large portion of Identical's length on character development, I never came to like or dislike any of the characters enough to care one way or the other about what happens to them;

...I found much of the book's plot to be convoluted and, to an even greater extent, unbelievable;

...I never came to be very interested in nor surprised by what what Turow intended to be a surprise ending.

In net, 2 1/2 stars generously rounded up to 3 stars.

I received a free electronic copy of Identical from NetGalley and its publisher in return for an honest, unbiased review. I hope this review is helpful in deciding whether or not it is a book you'd be interested in reading.


The Iggy Chronicles, Volume One: A Chet and Bernie Mystery eShort Story (The Chet and Bernie Mystery Series)
The Iggy Chronicles, Volume One: A Chet and Bernie Mystery eShort Story (The Chet and Bernie Mystery Series)
Price: 0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 Stars-- Lovers Of The Chet And Bernie Series Won't Want To Miss This Short Story But It's Really Very Simplistic!, 13 Sep 2013
The Iggy Chronicles,Volume 1 is a cute 23-page short story that features Iggy, Chet's best friend, and, of course, Chet and Bernie helping to solve a case of missing personal property from patients at a local hospital.

For loyal fans of the Chet and Bernie books, which I am, The Iggy Chronicles,Volume 1 is likely going to be a short story they will want to read. However, while I enjoyed it (because I enjoy every thing about Chet and Bernie), I doubt that reading The Iggy Chronicles, Volume 1 will motivate most non-readers of the series to begin doing so. Let's be honest, the story is only 23 pages long and it is very simplistic. How much "meat" do you think can be packed into a story of this short length to "whet the appetite" of non-readers sufficiently enough to become readers of the series?


A Murder in Auschwitz
A Murder in Auschwitz
Price: 1.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent -- Don't Let The Fact That This Book Is Self-Published Dissuade You From Reading It!, 10 Sep 2013
A few months ago the author, J.C. Stephenson, emailed me to request that I accept a free copy of his self-published book, called A Murder In Auschwitz, in return for an honest review. I don't usually accept invitations of this type for two reasons: (1) Because what is often being asked for when accepting a free book is not "an honest review" but "a favorable review," and I'm not the type of person who'll say anything other than what I truly feel about a book in my review; and (2) I have a tendency to believe that a book that has to be self-published isn't going as good as a book published by a well-known publishing house.

Despite my above-mentioned reasons, I recently decided to read A Murder In Auschwitz rather than reading a book from some "proven" author sitting on the top of the mountain of books I have waiting to be read. My main reason for doing so is due to its intriguing title and plot, which can be read about in the Amazon Book Description above. I particularly liked knowing that the author chose to tell his legal thriller set in Germany (and subsequently in Auschwitz) while alternating between the years of 1929 and 1944.

Having now finished this book, I have only very high praise for it; and, as such, highly recommend it to anyone interested in historical fiction during this period in history, legal thrillers, books with very well-developed characters, and a narrative style that enables the reader to feel that they are "right there" experiencing everything the characters are experiencing. A Murder In Auschwitz is a book that I found very difficult to put down due to the emotional impact and nicely woven surprises it provides. And, while the well-written chapters that take place in Auschwitz are very emotional and realistic, they (thankfully) do not dwell on their gruesomeness. Despite the awful period and places in which the book is set, Stephenson's book is more than a good work of historical fiction and a good legal thriller. It, for me, is an excellent tale of the powerful love a man has for his wife and children and what he is willing to do to hold on to that love -- even if only for one more minute.

Why all of the big publishing houses passed on publishing A Murder In Auschwitz is a mystery to me -- perhaps a bigger mystery than the one provided in the book itself -- as it is one of the better books I've read recently.

4 1/2 stars rounded up to 5 stars!


The English Girl (Gabriel Allon 13)
The English Girl (Gabriel Allon 13)
by Daniel Silva
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.60

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 1/2 Stars -- Once Again A Silva Book Is Worth Its Weight In Gold!, 10 Aug 2013
In the thirteenth thriller in the Gabriel Allon series, Silva has the art restorer/supposedly retired spy-assassin involved in investigating the kidnapping of a young woman who is a rising star in Britain's governing party -- and who is also to mistress of the Prime Minister. This investigation, which Allon is quietly handling as a personal favor to the Prime Minister in order to try to avoid a scandal that could destroy his career, leads Allon, and eventually his usual team of Israeli Intelligence operatives, on a mission that will take them to Marseilles, Provence, London and,finally, to Moscow. Typical in all books in this series, Allon and his team devise intricate, down-to-the minute plans laden with risk throughout the complex, multi-layered mission. Also reminiscent of most books in this series, the plot in Silva's The English Girl seems to be ripped from today's newspaper headlines. And, of course, consistent in a Silva thriller, his latest book is one of slow-building but non-stop tension and suspense that will likely make the reader anxious to turn the pages to find out what happens next.

In the absolute, I enjoyed The English Girl very much and consider it, as I have all of the other books featuring Gabriel Allon, to be very engrossing, well-researched and well-written. However, on a comparative basis, while I enjoyed The English Girl, my level of enjoyment was somewhat lower than in some of the earlier books in this series. In small part, this is due to the action that occurs being not quite as intense. The larger factor contributing to my comparative drop in enjoyment is that, after reading all thirteen Gabriel Allon books, the successful formula on which Silva has based his series is "showing some age lines" and the development of his main and key supporting characters need some freshening up. Silva obviously feels the same, as he strongly leads his readers to believe in The English Girl that he has important changes planned for Gabriel Allon (as well as for some other characters often part of this series) in his next book.

Despite these comparative criticisms, I still consider Silva to be the "gold standard" of thriller writers -- although the quality of the gold may now have depreciated a bit from 18k to 14k. For me, there has never been a risk involved in reading a Silva book, with the only unknown being whether the book will be very good or excellent.


The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood
The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood
by Jane Leavy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.88

5.0 out of 5 stars Leavy Hits A Home Run In The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood!, 7 July 2013
Simply put Jane Leavy's biography of Mickey Mantle had me engrossed from beginning to end. It is a book I'd recommend to baseball fans in general, and particularly those who grew up in the 1950's and 1960's when Mickey Mantle was more than an excellent baseball player, he became an American Hero -- the All-American Boy.

What Leavy does very well is fill her book with interesting and insightful facts about Mantle's life from his childhood in Commerce, Oklahoma through his rise to fame as one of America's greatest baseball players, to his post-baseball career and, finally to his death at the too-young age of 63 (which is over twenty years longer than he ever expected to live). Based on Leavy's telling of Mantle's life, which she based on the milestone dates in "the Mick's" career and does so without judgment, the reader gets a no-holds-barred understanding of what brought this one-time golden boy to become one of America's quintessential tragic heroes. Leavy tells all of the deeds that defined Mantle, and rigtfully so, as one of baseball's best; as well as why, in the time of innocence in which he played, he was able to cavort in his personal life in a way that ultimately brought shame and destruction to himself and to his relationship (or lack thereof) with his wife and children.

Sadly, while the book helped to reinforce my perception of Mantle as a great baseball player, it served to severely change my image of him from being one of my boyhood heroes to essentially a "strikeout" as a husband and father.

Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to this well-written, insightful book. I think you'll be glad you did. As a matter of fact, I was so impressed with Leavy's skills I've ordered her previous biography of Sandy Koufax.


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