My Summer Reading List

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In case you were concerned, the weather cooperated on the 4th and we got to see the entire show including the fireworks. Unlike last night, we had mostly adults around us so no repeat of screaming children. It was hot and humid but it is July but we were mostly in the shade and it was a good night.

I mentioned talking about some of my disappointing summer reads so that’s what I’m going to do here. This keeps with the tradition recently of this blog careening from topic to topic without a true them to tie it all together. Just whatever randomly pops into my mind. And I hate to use this analogy but it makes this blog very much like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.

In all seriousness, I sometimes just get into moods where there’s lots of thoughts rotating around in my head and I find this a good way to just get some of them out. So when I feel inspired, you get lots of posts.

A couple of things to mention about me and books. My twin preferences are thrillers and young adult (either dystopian or fantasy worlds). I have this thing where I can read a passage and start to feel what I think the character would feel so books can sometimes have a strong impact. As a result, I’m not a fan of things that have extreme violence or things that are overly dark and depressing for long periods of time. I hate it when characters are put in hopeless situations and left to suffer there until some plot point gets them out.

I’m going to limit this to two books although I’ve got four in my recent reads. One was pretty decent so I’m not going to discuss it. The other was supposed to be something of a mystery/thriller but the main character was so unlikable that I ended up not caring what happened to her.

The first book was Crazy House by JAMES PATTERSON (and Gabrielle Charbonnet). I chose to write the title this way because that’s how the cover was presented. James Patterson is a very prolific author but I strongly suspect that Gabrielle did most of the hard work and he may have just offered a suggestion or two. But he’s better known so you put his name in big letters. I mean it worked for me. This is actually an older book which first came out in 2017 and I had a lot of other more interesting prospects so I didn’t get around to it when it first came out.

Short plot summary. It takes place in a future version of the US (called the United) where the country is divided into “cells” and life within the cells is tightly controlled. The book centers around twin girls who live in a cell primarily set up for farming. There is the stereotypical “good” and “bad” twin and the “bad” one is doing something against the rules and ends up in a jail in another cell. The good one (with friends) leads a rescue and we find out that the people running the prison are actually the good guys who are trying to train kids to take on the real power who don’t live in cells but rely on the cells to provide everything. (Pretty much lifted from The Hunger Games)

Many complaints with this book. First, it was clearly written to require a sequel. As such it violated the standard course of a trilogy. In the first book, our protagonists are supposed to have some kind of victory over the big evil. In the second book (which tends to be darker), we see that the victory was short lived and more is required for the happy ending. The third book should give us that happy ending. In this case, the first book just kind of ended at a point where the two girls are now ready to take on the big evil but nothing really happens.

The big problem is that the bulk of the book takes place in the prison where the prisoners are subjected to some really inhumane stuff. (Remember that these are all teens and it becomes much darker). Everyone is on death row and kids are randomly selected to be executed in front of the entire prison. There are beatings and staged fights and all kinds of violence done to this kids. It is far too dark and hopeless and you aren’t provided any context about why it is there or who’s really running it so it all just seems random and goes on for far too long. In the end, you suddenly find out that the prison is run by the good guys (they tried some subtle hints so it wasn’t a total shock). But by then, you’ve really worked up a good hate for the people who run the prison so can you really now root for them as the good guys. Only if you believe that the ends do justify the means.

There are the obligatory romances because it is a YA book but both are forced (one almost literally) and not very interesting. Also, the main premise of the book seems silly. That type of training would likely just produce a whole lot of kids with serious PTSD and not elite soldiers. In the end, they blended together so you didn’t have a “good” or “bad” twin but neither one of them was really interesting enough to carry the story.

The second book is out but it will not make my future reading list. One and done for this series.

The other book was more disappointing. It was Backlash by Brad Thor. Since this just came out and I don’t know what you like to read, I’m not going to get into a lot of detail. I’ve read most of his other books and they are all in the thriller genre. The main character is the classic ex Navy Seal super secret agent who often becomes a one man army taking out lots of bad guys in an attempt to solve a problem – usually keeping a terrorist from doing something unthinkable.

Now, you have to read these types of books with some suspension of belief. You know the main character is going to be put into a lot of impossible situations and he’s always going to come out. So I know that going in. I know there is going to be a big body count although most of the deaths are kind of video game style. The dead are always bad guys. The leaders never have any redeeming qualities and most of the henchmen aren’t developed enough so that you care that they are dead. Pretty clear case of good vs evil which isn’t a bad thing from my point of view. I mean if you are going to read a story like this, you want to root for the main character.

All I’m going to say is that the set up for this story was so implausible that it just put a damper on the entire thing. Clearly the story was designed to fit a world view that he has and was kind of wish fulfillment in how it ended. So, right away, I’m like not able to get on board his bus. I just couldn’t suspend reality that much.

One other problem with books like this is the romantic life of the main character. Since these aren’t YA novels, the guys are typically loners because they spend all their time in the field fighting bad guys. When they introduce a female character, it always seems like they are the type who complain about the guy being away all the time (even if he is saving the world). That’s a story arc that can’t last very long so these characters simply don’t last long in series like these. But I think he took the cheap and easy way out in how he wrote out this character. All designed to provide the maximum possible revenge motivation for our hero and to make you root for him even more.

But the biggest problem for me was the endless number of action scenes. (Wait, its a thriller, didn’t you expect this). Well, yes, to an extent I did. The whole point is to put our hero in impossible situations and then sit back and watch him get out of it. Here’s the problem though. This guy is the basis of all of Brad Thor’s novels. He’s not going to kill this character off. So when you go on for pages and pages about the danger and peril, it becomes a bit tedious for me because you know he’s going to get out of it.

The one part of the book I will reveal will illustrate this. In the beginning of the book (after getting out of two impossible situations), our hero is attacked by a pack of wolves. The author notes that our hero notices that the alpha wolf is missing (foreshadowing). Later, he is attacked by the same pack and, again, the alpha wolf is missing. In both of those cases, he fends them off by shooting a couple which causes the remaining ones to run off. As I read this, I just knew there was a third attack coming, and, of course, there was. This time the alpha was there and bit the hell out of our hero. But, because he’s superman, he fights off the wolf and kills it with a knife.

Now this is going to make me sound a little crazy but I wasn’t a fan of him killing all the wolves. I mean they aren’t evil creatures even if they were trying to make dinner out of our hero. Just stick to killing mercenaries and other bad guys. And the other point is that we didn’t need three wolf attacks in the book. That was just a little excessive and silly. It was boring when we got to the third.

There were other places where there were random things placed at just the right spot. Just like magic. Again, you expect some of this in a story like this but it kind of felt he relied on these plot devices a little too much in this story.

There were parts of the story that were good. But what I found myself doing was skimming through some of the actions sequences to just get to the end where you knew the hero was going to be fine. Its like a movie that is nothing but car chases where they have to keep making them more interesting than the last one. It gets old after awhile. At least for me.

But since I had time before the concerts on both Wednesday and Thursday, I’ve finished the book. So I’m out of reading material. I’m not on a good streak through so I’m kind of leery about picking the next book. I will have to find something though. I like to read and I’ve got a lot of extra time now and reading on the deck is such a relaxing thing to do. Hopefully, I’ll have better luck with my next choice.

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