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Review: The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton & James Patterson

The President Is MissingThe President Is Missing is the literary equivalent of a blockbuster action film — better when you sit back, turn your brain off, and just go along for the ride.

President Jonathan Duncan faces attacks from all sides. As he faces impending impeachment hearings in Congress, Duncan is made aware of an attack on the United States that will send our nation back to the stone age. Duncan is forced to go rogue to try and take down the threat before it comes to fruition and to ferret out who in his inner circle is leaking vital information to his enemies.

Promising “insider secrets only a president could know,” The President Is Missing is less a political thriller and more a political fantasy. At multiple points, you can’t help but wonder how much Bill Clinton would have given to shake off the threat of impeachment by going John McClain to save our country from an attack and then riding that to astronomical approval rating.

And that may be the biggest thing that holds the novel back from being a “bubble gum for the brain” thriller. I kept looking for clues as to which author wrote which part of the novel.

This novel also reminded me why I’ve stopped reading James Patterson novels. His novels feel a bit formulaic and rushed to press. And that’s how this one ends up feeling as well. Staccato chapters, quick pacing so you don’t have to ponder the implications of things as the develop, and a lack of room for any substantial character development add up to a disappointing novel. The final third of the book piles on absurd twist after absurd twist until I felt like crying, “Enough already.”

The President Is Missing feels like a missed opportunity. With a former president co-authoring and able to offers insights into the office and what might really happen if our president vanished for a significant length of time, the novel instead is told mostly from the first-person perspective of Duncan, thus negating the title early and often. I’m not sure what I expected, but this one didn’t fit the bill.

 

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Review: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

Space OperaIf you’re coming to Catherynne M. Valente’s Space Opera with visions of it being this generation’s Hitchhhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you may be disappointed.

But, if you can put those expectations to the side, you’ll find a charming, funny, witty novel that takes shots at not only the tropes of science-fiction, but also singing shows and multiple genres of music.

In the wake of the last galactic war, sentient species decided to conduct their battles in a more civilized manner — a singing competition. Each year, the species enter a contestant into the battle and the universe watches as they vie for universal supremacy.

This year, the Earth has been invited to join the contest — and it’s an invitation we can’t refuse. The only living musician deemed worthy of the talent show is burned out rocker, Decibel Jones. As our planet’s musical savior, Dess has to do well or else the Earth faces bitter consequences.

Valente pulls few of her punches and there are sequences of Space Opera that are hysterically funny and worthy of comparison to Douglas Adams. However, there are a few stretches in the novel that feel like Valente is working too hard to set-up a joke and then deliver a few extra punchlines for the reader’s amusement. I found myself, at times, wondering when we’d just move past the witty asides and humorous observations and get to the actual business of the talent content.

And while I wouldn’t say I was disappointed by Space Opera, I can’t say that I’m exactly sold on it. As I said, there are patches of utter brilliance and fun but there are a few moments when the novel gets bogged down a bit by trying too hard to be funny.

 

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Review: The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

The Perfect MotherPaired together by their due dates, the May Mothers have quickly become each other’s best friends, confidants, and support group in the early days and months of parenting. After seven weeks of no sleep, dirty diapers, and trying to be the perfect mother, the group decides they need an evening out. That is especially true for single mother, Winnie.

After making arrangements for child care for Winnie’s son Midas, the group heads out to a local bar on the fourth of July to feel like grown-ups again. But things soon take a tragic turn when baby Midas vanishes from Winnie’s apartment and sets off a media firestorm. Turns out Winnie is the childhood start of a hit series about dancing and the circumstances of Midas’ disappearance threaten to expose not only her secret, but secrets of all the May Mothers. Continue reading

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Re-Visiting Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player OneWith the movie finally hitting screens and since my sf/f bookclub picked it for our next book, I’ve revisited Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. This time around, I decided to give the audio version a whirl. And while Wil Wheaton is spot-on in bringing the book to life in audio, I still found myself coming away from the novel feeling a bit satisfied.

While most of the geeky 80’s references hold up fairly well, I couldn’t help but feel like this book with all style and no substance the more I listened. While I enjoyed the references, I found myself yearning for something more to the novel that what I walked away this time. This time around, the novel reminded me of books I read based on several InfoCom games (they gave us Zork and other interactive text games back in the day). They were fun, but not necessarily all that filling. And in the end, they left me wanting to go back and play the games again rather than continue reading the novel.

Ready Player One feels like it’s all style and little substance here. And this time around, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a bit too predictable for its own good. (Some of this could be that I’ve read it before, but honestly I’d forgotten a lot of the specific story points in the seven or so years since I last read it). I’m not sure if this says more about me as a reader or the novel itself. Or it could be a bit of both.

I was struck this time by the predictable nature of the plot, the lack of any real depth for the characters, and the glaring lack of any strong, female characters in the book.

Again, I can’t say that I didn’t love it back in the day. I did. But I probably should have let my memory continue to cheat into remembering how much I’d enjoyed it then. Instead, I’ve come away feeling that this novel was one that had so much potential that just wasn’t realized.

If you want to visit my original review of the book, you’ll find it HERE.

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Review: Victor Boone Will Save Us by David Joel Stevenson

Victor Boone Will Save UsThere were times reading Victor Boone Will Save Us that I couldn’t help being reminded of The Tick. Both stories take the tropes of the superhero genre and deconstruct them a bit. But while The Tick goes for the funny bone, David Joel Stevenson uses Victor Boone to tug on the heartstrings.

Victor Boone is everything a superhero should be — good looking, dressed in spandex, able to fly, and seemingly impervious to just about anything criminals can throw at him. But what the world doesn’t know is that Victor doesn’t actually have any more power than the rest of us. The powers comes from Robby, an introverted friend of Victor. Robby does the heavy-lifting, Victor takes the credit. That is, until Victor is killed in a bank robbery, leaving Robby at a loss as to what to do next.

Things aren’t help when an old friend from college begins to dig into the death of Victor and Robby’s connection to it. Showing up at his place, the friend begins to ask some uncomfortable questions. It doesn’t help Robby’s shyness that she’s one of the prettiest and nicest smelling journalists he’s ever met. Continue reading

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Review: What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

What She Knew (Jim Clemo #1)While spending a normal Sunday evening at the local park, Rachel Jenner allows her son Ben to run ahead to the tire swing. Upon arrival at the swing, she finds no trace of Ben. Things escalate when Ben’s clothes are found and the police begin a search to find the missing boy.

What unfolds over the course of the next week quickly evolves into a nightmare not only for Rachel but also for the police officers assigned to the case. Rachel and the police are put under the microscope by social media with every move they make being questioned, debated, and dissected in the court of public opinion. Things aren’t helped when Rachel decides to go off script of broadcast appeal to whomever has kidnapped her son.

At each turn, the pressure builds and builds with the reader knowing the case had negative ramifications for all parties involved. The prologue lets readers in on the fact that something bad happened in the course of the investigation and there were negative outcomes for many of those involved. But just how negative is something that is kept hidden until the final chapters. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet by Gerry Davis

Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet: 1st Doctor NovelisationFor some reason, I missed reading Gerry Davis’ adaptation of his and Kit Pedler’s script for “The Tenth Planet” during the height of my reading and collecting the Target novels. It could be due either to that fact that I didn’t appreciate the William Hartnell serials as I do now during my initial viewing of Doctor Who or it could be that this one just didn’t show up at my local bookseller.

A pivotal story in the history of Doctor Who, “The Tenth Planet” features two huge firsts — the debut of the Cybermen and the first time the Doctor regenerated.

You’d think that for a story this pivotal to the long-running history of the show, the Target novelization would be more to write home about. Continue reading

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