Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"Death Masks - Book 5 of the Dresden Files" by Jim Butcher (published 2003)

So, you're upset that the series about the Wizard named Harry is over. Well actually it isn't. Okay so this Harry's last name is Dresden, he lives in Chicago and he advertises that he is a "Wizard for Hire," but hey, he is a wizard. Oh yeah, he also has attitude. In his series "The Dresden Files," Jim Butcher has created not only a great character in Harry Dresden, but he has also reinvented the mythic and magical. In earlier books we learned their are different types of werewolves and the faery world is not so friendly.

In this book 5 of the series we join Harry, once again, in the middle of life:

Harry Dresden, Chicago's only practicing professional wizard, should be happy that business is pretty good for a change. But now he's getting more than he bargained for.
A duel with the Red Court of Vampires' champion, who must kill Harry to end the war between vampires and wizards...
Professional hit men using Harry for target practice.
Harry gets hired to find the missing Shroud of Turin.
A handless and headless corpse the Chicago police need identified and it seems only Harry could do it.
Not to mention the return of Harry's ex-girlfriend Susan, who's still struggling with her semivampiric nature. And who seems to have a new man in her life.
Some days, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed. No matter how much you're charging.

So it's Harry's life but with all that action it ain't boring.

The book starts off with Harry appearing on a "Jerry Springer" type TV show (hey it's Chicago), he only agrees to the appearance because another magical person needs to pass a message to Harry, but cannot afford to risk being seen with Harry. After all Harry did start the war between the Red Court Vampires and White Council Wizards. On the show are not only 2 representatives of the magical realm but 2 people to ridicule magic. One is a Catholic Priest and the other...well it turns out to be a major player from the Vampire's Red Court.

These other two "guests" also have something for Harry. After Harry's magical aura destroys the studio equipment, a hazard with Harry being a wizard; electronics quit around him, the vampire challenges Harry a duel to the death. This duel will end the war and all threats of violence against Harry's friends and family. The priest is there to hire Harry to find the recently stolen Shroud of Turin. After telling the vampire he'll think about it, Harry and the priest leave the studio only to be confronted by Chicago's head of the crime syndicate, Gentleman Johnny Marcone's hit-men.

The men shoot at Harry and he and the priest barely escape with their lives in Harry's beaten down VW Beetle. And this is only the first chapter. The action continues and never stops throughout this fifth edition of "The Dresden Files." Harry later teams up with the Knights of the Cross to fight the ultimate demons "Denarians," fallen angels that can manifest on earth.

What leads to an ultimate battle and some great fun. All throughout this book we are constantly treated to Harry's great wit and sarcasm. Do yourself a favor and start reading this series now.

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posted by Gil T. @ 8:51 PM Comments: 0

Monday, April 28, 2008

"The Second Horseman" by Kyle Mills (published 2006)

Way back in October, 2007, I discovered Kyle Mills by reading his book "Darkness Falls." His writing style is one that keeps you on the edge of your seat and anxious to turn the page. His genre is government thrillers. Most of his books feature a returning character, FBI Agent, Mark Beamon. Actually 5 of his 9 books have Agent Beamon. The other 4 fall within the same genre but with little twists here and there. In my "fanboy" lens I created about Kyle Mills ( ), I state, "Tom Clancy, look out Kyle Mills is on the scene." Because I believe that you can easily count his work up there with Tom Clancy.

This book, "The Second Horseman," does not have the character of Mark Beamon but does have a great lead character in the guise of Brandon Vale, a career thief, the best there is. One of the great things Kyle Mills is that every single character in his book has depth and that depth is shown through both a good side and a bad side. So Brandon Vale, the thief, has the bad side, his attitude to life and his humor offsets the bad with some good.

The story starts out with Brandon in prison on some trumped up diamond heist charge. Sure he was framed for this one, but he's not exactly innocent. But, for some reason when it comes to time for lights out a guard takes Brandon out to the gate, gives him a cell phone and says go. Confused, Brandon stares at the guard, the guard then takes his nightstick out and proceeds to knock himself out. Brandon then realizes something is awry. He then makes for the woods bordering the prison. He then is led to a change of clothes and a house via calls on the cell phone.

It turns out that Brandon's last job was merely a cover as Brandon cased Las Vegas. After all, how does Vegas keep all that money from just piling up? It turns out Brandon had almost all the plans figured out as to how to heist the money leaving Vegas and heading for the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco. About $200 million would be good money, for anyone. It would also be good money for the government, supposing they wanted to buy some black market nukes to get them out of terrorist hands and not have to keep records of the money or the nukes. Also $200 million would be good for purchasing same nukes and destroying a middle eastern country.

So what turns out to be a mix of Oceans 11 and a Tom Clancy novel Kyle Mills delivers an action thriller which first takes us through a "fun" heist releiving Vegas of some funds and then saving the world through government double crosses.

Some great action and very fun dialogue in this book, so be prepared to be thrilled, entertained and kept on the edge of your seat when you read "The Second Horseman" by Kyle Mills.

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posted by Gil T. @ 7:50 PM Comments: 0

Thursday, April 24, 2008

"Big Ideas for a Small Planet" new series on Sundance Channel

Tuesday nights are going to get greener starting in May on the Sundance Channel. May 6th the Sundance Channel launches it's new series "Big Ideas for a Small Planet." This series not only points out the problems with sustainability, global warming and related topics it also proposes solutions and the solutions are pretty simple. Oh, yes and for big business, also profitable. And to top it all off not only do they propose solutions the series focuses on companies that are actually taking steps in promoting sustainability and making profit.

Episode one will cover Fashion. The episode talks about how we live in a throw away society and how that fills landfills and doesn't just go away. The fashion and clothing industry is guilty of this by creating fashions that go out of style before they even hit the market. This episod focuses on a company that creates fashion that not only looks good for the long run but uses recycled materials and organic cotton to create the really nice looking clothing. They don't stop there the company ,called "Nau" (pronounced "now"), also have storefronts that keep minimum inventory and employees so store heating/coolin/lighting aren't factors and the massive shipping to stores is kept to a minimum by delivery to customers.

One of the things I was surprised to learn is the aspect of organic cotton. I had assumed (wrongly) that cotton is natural fibers and therein was organic. But the cotton industry must spray pesticides, use massive machinery to harvest, then the cleaning and bleaching process has many chemicals. Organic cotton uses none of these and reuses its water waste in the treatment of cotton.

All this and more in just one 30 minute episode. The series promises to be a great source of information and success stories. I've only seen the first 4 episodes and let me tell you in those 4 episodes I learned a lot about environmental issues and the best part is I saw hope for the future. I saw companies and individuals taking positive steps in cleaning and maintaining mother Earth.

In one episode on recycling they spotlight the "Dump" in Sonoma Valley, California. This is not your average dump. They recycle metals, glass and plastic. The "organic" waste goes into a compost from which area landscapers and gardeners come and collect because of the rich fertility. They have their own garden, using their own compost, in which all the employees benefit from. They have a reusables in which items are sold that are still useable but have been tossed out. And to top it off the garbage that does get put into the "dump" isn't a total waste. They pump the methane gas produced by the garbage and generate electricity. Profit.

So as you can see this series not only shows the problem but offers WORKING solutions.

Definitely a must see for all Tuesdays @ 9pm Eastern and Pacific on the Sundance Channel.

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posted by Gil T. @ 8:32 PM Comments: 0

Friday, April 18, 2008

"Immortal in Death" by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts)

One of the things I have found to be the best aspect of the " Death" series of books (of which this is book 3 of 30) is the depth of the characters. Sure, when you create a series of books you have more "time" to develop characters but J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts had the characters developed from book one. So what is it that makes these characters pour out of the pages and come to life? I think I have figured it out...dialogue. Not only is their dialog realistic it can range from sad to funny and sometimes all in the same line. That is the depth of humanity. So how can that be carried in a book about a cop from 2058 with some great sci-fi gadgets and the ability to solve any case? Again I think I have discovered another answer...the writer J.D. Robb is a pseudonym for Nora Roberts. So, while J.D. Robb writes great sci-fi detective stories, Nora Roberts is the actual writer, and she's a romance writer. So the human factor to these books comes from the love and romance. Love of the job, love for one another and love for friends and love for lovers. There is where the depth comes from.

That being said let's talk about this book in the series. "Immortal in Death" I'm going to have to say (at least at this point...I haven't read them all, I'm jumping back and forth from the newer books to the older books) is the best book in the series. This one is where all the characters really meld and bonds are created. On top of that this book has a great mystery, and some great action in finding the murderer(s).

In this book Lt. Eve Dallas (homicide detective for NYPSD) is getting ready for her wedding to Roarke. That's pretty much all the name he uses and all he needs. He owns practically everything on the planet and most off planet ventures have his hands in them, and the practical cop, Dallas, has some nervousness about that. Not only does she not want him to think she's marrying for money, she also, due to a tragic childhood, is not sure about her own ability to love.

With that in place Dallas' weasel, (police snitch) Boomer, is found dead. Not just dead but he is found severely beaten to death. In his apartment is found an unknown drug and the data on the manufacture of this drug. Dallas wants this case and wants to solve it now. At the same time her best friend, musician Mavis Freestone, has a boyfriend that is a fashion designer and wants to design Dallas' wedding dress. Where is she going to find the time? As she does find time the designer, Leonardo is visited by his ex-girlfriend who immediately commences to attack Dallas physically because she thinks Dallas is his new girl.

This ex-girlfriend is later found beaten to death and Dallas' best friend Mavis looks to be the prime suspect. Another case for Dallas to take but this time it's personal. She knows Mavis couldn't do such a thing. With all odds against her Dallas soon finds the two murders are connected by this unknown drug. What looks to be a new illegal substance ready to be launched on the world and the distributors are models, actors and producers this becomes a media frenzy.

The detective work begins, the mystery becomes completely entangled and with what actually turns out to be a great twist in a whodunit this book delivers a great punch that will captivate you from page one.

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posted by Gil T. @ 10:41 PM Comments: 0

Friday, April 11, 2008

"Raising Atlantis" by Thomas Greanias published 2005

There are many myths / folklore / stories throughout time that speak of a great flood that covered the Earth and there are just as many stories and myths that speak of an advanced island civilization that sank into the ocean. The most common myth of the island of Atlantis. But no one has uncovered real proof.

Thomas Greanias writes a great piece of thriller fiction in Raising Atlantis that explores one of the "what if" aspects of Atlantis. That is; What if Atlantis were Antarctica?

In Antarctica an earthquake swallows up a team of scientists and at the same time a large split in the ice uncovers a Pyramid larger than any other in the world and yet built to the same ratios as all the other world pyramids. Dr. Conrad Yeats is trying to escape the Peruvian police as a U.S. Special Forces helicopter approaches him and the soldiers coming out of the chopper offer him a getaway but that getaway consists of coming to Antarctica and help his dad General William Yeats.
Seeing the chance to escape Conrad takes the opportunity but regrets having to face his dad (they've never seen eye to eye since Conrad is adopted and the General will not give him info on his blood parents). Dr. Conrad Yeats is pretty much a rogue archeaologist. He has a reputation of not preserving the finds only publishing the results. Some countries will no longer allow him access.

In Malaysia former nun Serena Serghetti's personal helicopter is nearly shot down by the Malaysian government police. They begin disassembling her personal craft while telling her she needs to get out of that country, her saving grace is that the Vatican wants her, more specifically, the Pope has requested an audience with her. Rather than facing imprisonment by the Malaysians she goes to the Vatican to find what a Pope would want with a Environmental Freedom Fighter, linguist and former Catholic Nun.

They all want Atlantis, the secrets to God are to be found but at what expense?

Once the exploration of the Pyramid begins the Earth is in an upheaval. The machinery in the pyramid begins turning the Earth on it's axis and what is now Antarctica will soon return to the tropical region turning the other sections of the world into an ice age that will destroy nearly all human life.

The discovery of the pyramid and its workings and the ultimate use of the pyramid is a great clue searching adventure reminiscent of Dan Brown's "DaVinci Code." This book is a thrill a minute. I will warn you the book has a pretty good cliff hanger ending, but the sequel "The Atlantis Conspiracy" will be out this month.

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posted by Gil T. @ 10:21 PM Comments: 0

"The Good Guy" by Dean Koontz published 2007

Tim Carrier is in his favorite bar, run by his friend, enjoying the simple bar chat. Known for "nursing" his beers he's there actually just to take up space and relax. he's approached by a man with a manila envelope. The man talks about how Tim is early and that he recently went skydiving with his dog. Tim seeing this as not your normal bar chat fare chats back with the man. The man then slips Tim the envelope and says there's $10,000 in the envelope, half now and half when she's gone. The man then makes a hasty retreat out of the bar.

Tim opens the envelope and finds a photo of a woman who is "easy on the eyes" and an address on back. Also, as stated $10,000 in wrapped hundred dollar bills. Tim realizes he's just been confused in a murder for hire. Another man then walks into the bar and sees the envelope and approaches Tim. The man tells Tim he's early and Tim tells the man he changed his mind. The man doesn't let this happen and Tim says I'll still pay you half and removes the photo from the envelope and passes the money along to the man.

Tim then leaves and gets set to call the police to tell what has happened. At this point he sees the man get into a car and place an emergency police beacon on the top of the unmarked police car and drive away. Realizing the stranger may be a cop, Tim then decides to take matters into his own hands.

Tim goes to the woman's house and explains how she is in danger. Then the action never lets go. Constantly running away from what turns out to be some sort of shadow government murder for hire Tim and the woman, Linda, begin running for their lives just to be a few steps ahead of this assassin. As the story progresses we find that Tim also has a secret and that secret is what helps him stay ahead of this psycho killer. But in something a little different from most of Dean Koontz's books this secret is not a dark secret but one that leads to a very heroic ending for the book.

Great action to be found and mysterious characters throughout the book keep you on the edge of your seat and constantly turning pages. I'm going to venture to say this is one of the best if not THE best Koontz book I've read.

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posted by Gil T. @ 6:45 PM Comments: 0

Monday, April 07, 2008

"Glory in Death" by J.D. Robb

"Glory in Death" is the second book written in the " Death" Series, originally published 1995. This series is written by J.D. Robb which is the pen name for Nora Roberts. The series started as a side idea/venture Nora Roberts had where she would write about a Kick-butt-take-names get-justice-served cop in the future. Due to contractual agreements with her publishing company she had to write these under a pen name. This series of books (now about 30 books in the series) is a break from the typical Nora Roberts romance fiction. The series follows New York Homicide Detective Lt. Eve Dallas as she fights for the victims and gets the mystery solved. The catch is that the first book is set in the year 2058 (with the latest in the series taking place in 2060) and being set in the future there are all sorts of great sci-fi gadgets to enhance the story and entice the not-into-romance reader.

This book is the second in the series and opens with the murder of a prominent female District Attorney. Then the murder of a famous actress. The two women have something in common and that is Lt. Dallas' extremely rich boyfriend, Roarke. In fact Roarke has a lot in common with many of the books in the series, but this link could tie him into the murders in a way that makes the investigation difficult for Lt. Eve Dallas.

Dallas soon deduces that what else the victims have in common, is fame. So to reach out to the killer she and prominent reporter Nadine Furst, set Eve up as bait by focusing on her on the news stories. This however ends up with Nadine's assistant being the next victim by mistaken identity. But Eve doesn't give up.

The nice thing about this book and the series is the characterization J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts) uses. These are everyday people and their lives (in spite of having the sci-fi futuristic feel to them) seem normal and lure the reader in. This is the book where Roarke asks Eve to marry him. This is also the book where we meet Peabody a uniformed officer that becomes Dallas' aide and later partner.

This book, as well as the entire " Death" series, features lots of action, lots of thrills and great reading, with characters that come to life from the future.

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posted by Gil T. @ 8:09 PM Comments: 0

Friday, April 04, 2008

"Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography"

If you haven't yet read any of the books in the "Series of Unfortunate Events" you really should. In fact you should before you pick up this book and try to make sense of it. (If any sense can be made of this book.) The Series of Unfortunate Events books cover the adventures of the Baudelaire orphans as they discover that their parents were members of a secret volunteer society known as "V.F.D." This organization was actively helping people in secret. How or what is never revealed. One day a schism occurred.

Well the books are written by the mysterious Lemony Snicket. He's following the Baudelaires adventures and keeping track in the books...But who is Lemony Snicket? To find that answer pick up this book and read it cover to cover. It is a fun read and keeps the same mysterious style and humor found in the "Series of Unfortunate Events" books. No, this book will not answer the question as to who Lemony Snicket is, but it will entertain you to no end.

This book is a great companion to the series and even sheds some light on some of the events that occurred in the books. There's a section on disguises that pretty much describes every character in the series. Most o f the book is written as clandestine communique between Snicket and various agents. One such agent (whether good or bad is never quite clear) disguises himself as a cow and travels around trying to find information on Monty Montgomery's reptiles. This section had a laugh out loud moment that I always loved with this series.

The agent disguised as a cow writes:
"Approached a married couple who apparently own the 'Prospero' to ask if any reptiles had recently boarded the ship. Couple alrarmed by talking cow, refused to participate.

Saw signs indicating there was a dairy nearby. Did not approach due to fear of being milked."

Great Stuff here.

If you are a fan of the series you have to own this book. It also features a reversible dust jacket so no bad guys can tell you are reading. The reverse side of the dust jacket is for a fictitious book called "The Pony Party!" by Loney M. Setnick (an anagram of Lemony Snicket).

Which reminds me, the book is filled with anagrams and references to many famous authors. Figuring some out is even more fun.

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posted by Gil T. @ 8:41 PM Comments: 0

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

"Fade" by Kyle Mills

If you are into action thrillers where the good guys and bad guys have a fuzzy line dividing them, then Kyle Mills has written a book just for you. Throw in some political drama, topical plots and you have the gist of the book "Fade." But there is so much more.

One of the things I love about books is when the authors create characters that are not only believeable but also have depth and the character of Salam al Fayed, Fade to his friends, has that and more. A little background on Fade; he's a former Navy SEAL who later went on to work for the CIA and to do some "under the radar" assassinations, for the good ole U. S. of A. During one of those missions Fade got a bullet in the back. He survived but the bullet is lodged near the spine and he will soon die or become paralyzed as the bullet moves. The problem is at the time it happened it could have been operated on, but Uncle Sam's great wealth wouldn't pay for the "experimental" procedure. So Fade was left on his own. He went down to Columbia to do some work for the drug-lords. This was the kind of work the U.S. Government, trained him for. He earns some big money assassinating competing drug-lords. When he has enough money he comes back to the states to get that operation. However, the bullet is now covered in so much scar tissue that an operation is out of the question. Too late for Fade. Now Fade lives the life of a hermit, waiting for the bullet lodged near his spine to paralyze him. The last thing he wants to hear is that his country needs him—least of all from his ex-best friend Matt Egan, whom he holds responsible for his condition.

Enter today, and a secret department of Homeland Security is recruiting agents to work undercover in the Middle East and the director wants his second-in-command, Matt Egan, to bring aboard his old friend Fade. Matt and Fade went on several missions together in the CIA. Matt, at the cost of his job, even fought for Fade's operation, to no avail. Also when Fade went to Columbia, Matt covered up those records so the government would never know.

Fade seems perfect for the job. An ex-Navy SEAL, the son of Syrian immigrants and speaks perfect Arabic. When the director of Homeland Security goes around Egan and tries to "persuade" Fade to join the team, they inadvertently start the bloody war that Fade has been waiting years to fight. A war that the government, with all its resources, may not be able to win.

Fade kills several police officers in what he thinks is the government coming after him. When Fade discovers the error the chase is on. Will Egan be able to find his friend-turned-fugitive before Fade can take the ultimate revenge?

The action in this book is non-stop and Kyle Mills throws in several humorous sections especially with the cynical and sarcastic attitude by Fade. The book also has a very nice surprise ending, that actually leaves the reader feeling good, even with the destruction in Fade's wake.

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posted by Gil T. @ 9:08 PM Comments: 1