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Book Review

September 22, 2018 - September 28, 2018

‘Shadow Tyrants’ is latest Clive Cussler suspense thriller


 Jeff Ayers

Almost 2,000 years ago, an emperor avoided a coup and entrusted nine Scrolls of Knowledge to nine individuals to ensure that none would use the information for nefarious purposes ever again. These Nine Unknown Men’s descendants still maintain the materials, but there are factions inside the group that want to aggressively pursue change for the betterment of mankind and the world.

Juan Cabrillo and his team are pretending to be pirates adrift at sea to infiltrate a vessel they know is hiding deadly nerve gas. What they don’t realize is that the mastermind behind the bioweapon has hidden the materials, and he’s working with others on a bold attack that will do more damage than a mere toxin can.

The Nine Unknown Men uncover betrayal from within, and soon even the survivors of the rebellion don’t know whom they can trust. The crew of the Oregon has to save the world again, but on more than one front and possibly without the high-tech weaponry they regularly use. This mission will test them more than anything they have ever confronted.

Cussler and action-adventure fans will love this latest Oregon Files novel. New characters to the team are most welcome, and the sheer insanity of the story line will keep readers guessing about what’s going on until the last page of the book. Chapter one has the pacing of the climax of other thriller novels, and the pace from that fast start does not let up until the end.

“Shadow Tyrants” is one of the better entries in Cussler’s world. (AP)

September 15, 2018 - September 21, 2018

A wild journey through time, complete with a surprise ending

Ann Yao

In his latest book, the author of Mango Rains takes on a new genre, one which he has successfully conquered in his first try.

In Paul Millard’s Time Travel Chronicles I: Fat Tony’s Diner, the first book in Daniel M. Dorothy’s new trilogy, protagonist Paul Millard inherits a large sum of money from a former employer. He then, quote: “did what any self-respecting, formerly indigent, income tax challenged ex-lobster sternman would do: (he) went on a spending spree.” He bought an expensive vehicle, threw wild parties, bought land and houses, and despite advice from other newly rich people “to rent, not buy anything that flies, floats or fornicates,” he bought a large boat.

After growing up in a poor family, it becomes obvious Paul had no idea how to handle that much money.

His first wakeup call came when a woman was beaten by her foreign husband at one of his parties. When the attending doctor assumed he was responsible, Paul realized there was a whole world of people who could put this money to much better use. It was time to funnel his remaining inheritance into good causes.

He donated to medical research in cancer and Alzheimer’s, but his big commitment was made to building and supporting a shelter for abused women and children, run by the doctor who attended the victim from his party.

It didn’t take long for him to realize the remaining inheritance would not be sufficient to keep the shelter running, so he enlisted the help of his lawyer to raise funds, but about the same time William Vrill the Fourth showed up at one of the shoreline parties. The great-grandson of a German mad-scientist, William was convinced he could build a portal through space-time.

A late night, porch-sitting, slightly alcohol and herb induced conversation convinced Paul if such a device could be built, maybe he could use it to go back in time to raise enough funds through smart investing to keep the shelter running in perpetuity. Without telling anyone, he made the jump and quickly learned that things don’t always develop to according plan.

Along the way, Paul experiences what some might describe as Forrest Gump moments, including meeting some of the most well-known personalities, both good and bad, of their time. He falls in love, gets mixed up with gangsters, the government thinks he might be a spy, and the local police believes he’s an outlaw, which leaves him no choice but to try and find a way to escape.

Dorothy does a good job developing his characters, and how he subtly shows the maturing process Paul Millard goes through along the way.

Fat Tony’s Diner is a fun read that takes readers on a wild journey through time, complete with a surprise ending. Filled with foreshadowing and red herrings, it’s a must read for anyone who enjoys a good book. Readers will be greedily anticipating the next volume in the trilogy, and we hope it comes out soon.

September 8, 2018 - September 14, 2018

‘Judas’ exposes harrowing family life of crime boss

Christina Ledbetter

Astrid Holleeder had a choice to make. She could continue living as a virtual slave to her brother, Willem Holleeder, or she could risk her life and help the Dutch police take him down. She chose the latter. Written from her place in hiding, “Judas” is Astrid’s story of deception, turmoil and — ultimately — courage.

Willem “Wim” Holleeder is best known for his rap sheet. Involved in the 1983 kidnapping of the CEO of Heineken brewing company, he kept a tight reign over his family both from within and outside of prison. While Astrid avoided criminal life and became a lawyer, Wim forced her into the position of his confidant, legal adviser, chauffer and messenger. For decades Astrid led a precarious existence, wanting nothing to do with the threats that her brother forced her to relay, yet knowing he possessed the connections to have enemies killed over even the slightest of betrayals.

“Judas” adds history and emotion to a story previously reserved for news broadcasts and police reports. Astrid takes readers into her childhood home and paints a grisly picture of her and her siblings’ distorted upbringing. Her account then turns to her adulthood and eventually moves to her time serving as a double agent in efforts to put her brother behind bars for life.

Originally written for a Dutch audience familiar with the backdrop, readers may find themselves feeling their way through the dark as many scenes unfold untethered to context. In the same vein, at times, conversations float about unanchored to setting or descriptors.

With to-the-point prose and a precise focus on dialogue and timelines, “Judas” presents a matter-of-fact account of Astrid’s relationship with her brother while remaining a stark statement about how one familial tie can strangle so many lives. (AP)

September 1, 2018 - September 7, 2018

Orphan’s tale spans globe but is syrupy

Kendal Weaver

Any parent would be proud of Birendra, the 8-year-old boy who is the central character of “Bindi,” the debut novel of Paul Matthew Maisano.

Born in India, Birendra is bright, sweet and thoughtful, despite fateful events that take his family from him. He is so kind and good in the face of adversity, however, that his story, despite interesting twists, is often too saccharine.

Birendra’s story, set mainly in 1993, shifts among three locales — the coastal Indian town of Varkala where he was born and becomes an orphan, west London where his married aunt lives and well-to-do Hollywood where his adoptive mother resides. All are rendered by Maisano with convincing and informative cultural and descriptive touches.

The narrative also is built on troubling events, including the deaths of parents and the breakup of families and relationships. One of the main characters — Birendra’s Aunt Nayana, the twin sister of his mother — is drawn with depth and complexity. An academic achiever in west London, she moves from an adulterous affair to the verge of an emotional breakdown.

All of this helps give dramatic substance to the story of an orphaned boy on a journey around the globe. But too many scenes move slowly with simplistic events and dialogue; they seem written for readers about Birendra’s age.

These include scenes with Madeline, the rich, self-absorbed single woman from Hollywood who adopts Birendra on a sudden impulse, and her brother, Edward, a much-needed adult male figure in the boy’s new life in America.

A novel about an orphaned boy on an uncertain trip across continents has much to recommend it. But this boy is smart and kind at the start, in the middle and at the end of the book. This is good for Birendra, but not the novel. (AP)

Weekly Update

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

‘Shadow Tyrants’ is latest Clive Cussler suspense thriller

A wild journey through time, complete with a surprise ending

‘Judas’ exposes harrowing family life of crime boss

Orphan’s tale spans globe but is syrupy