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Review: Tibetan Cross by Mike Bond

23151517“Big business, war. The biggest. You know, one of the poorest kept secrets about Nam was we got into it to protect the CIA–their drug smuggling rings out of the Golden Triangle.”

“No, I don’t believe that.”

“You ask any guy who worked in Air America, the CIA freight line, in the sixties, and he’ll tell you about the tons of heroin they shipped out every month, out of Laos and Cambodia and South Vietnam–Hell, on river patrols we’d sometimes bring a boatful (spl) of the shit right down the Mekong. The CIA put it on planes and sent it Stateside, kept the locals high and mellow and made the CIA billions of bucks they spent on actions Congress or the generals wouldn’t go for.” Alex kicked a stone from the trail. “When we split Nam, the CIA lost its major source of funding, baby.” – Conversation between Alex and Cohen, Tibetan Cross – Mike Bond

 

“For me that was the final turnoff, about the States …”

“What?”

“That we’re a society based on war, that we can’t exist economically or psychologically without someone to hate.”

“That’s why we invented the good old Commies. Those folks I was fighting in Nam had never even heard of Communism. They were defending their homeland from aggression, same as any American would.” – Alex, Tibetan Cross – Mike Bond

 

It seems like I would learn. I really don’t like Mike Bond’s writing style. It is too choppy, too terse, for my tastes. And then there is the “comic book” brutality – the hero takes damage that is, literally, too much to be survived – and then jumps up and runs away like nothing has happened. Clive Cussler, James Rollins and others write ‘kick-ass’ heroes – but even they wouldn’t find this amount of brutality against their heroes survivable. Bond is one of the most testosterone driven thriller writers out there, which is fine in and of itself, but come on, Mike. Can we have a little realism at some point?

This is the third Mike Bond book I have reviewed and, again, it seems like I would learn. I am never happy with them, but I get sucked in, because his overall story concepts are exceptional, and his research on the actual political and military history and up-to-date happenings is beyond reproach. It is terribly frustrating! I want to enjoy the intrigue, but the bad case of testosterone poisoning means that I wind up skimming the story instead of enjoying it.

Beginning in Nepal, this book resurrects the war between China and Tibet just after the Vietnam War. Our heroes are leading a photographer/journalist and several Sherpa to Mustang – the former Kingdom of Lo, hidden in the rain shadow of the Himalaya in one of the most remote corners of Nepal. Only, things are not really what they seem, of course, in this shattered land, where starvation, murder, and incredible brutality is carried out by the Chinese against the poor and defenseless lands of Nepal and Tibet. And the Tibetans and Nepalese fight back in any way they can – with a little help from the “friendly” CIA. . .

“It is difficult to fight tanks and planes with stones.”

When Cohen escapes from the slaughter of his friends and traveling companions, including his best friend Alex, he treks alone cross-country in a desperate attempt to reach Katmandu (also Kathmandu) before he is captured and killed by the same weapons runners who killed his friends. The trip is brutal and harsh, but his arrival brings yet more death to those he knows and loves.

I am become death, the destroyer of worlds. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

Drugs, guns, human trafficking, and rivers of blood all wend their way through Bond’s work. As I stated previously, l am always left disappointed in Bond’s books, and still I come back for more, skimming for the realities of the story and trying to dismiss the ridiculous “heroes”. Be that as it may, it calls for a strong stomach as well as an ability to retain an open mind about just how twisted and sick the US, and their CIA lapdogs, really are – the misery they have wrought across the world. Would that Bond could see his way to dropping the testosterone levels – it would certainly make his books more approachable by a larger reading audience.

I received this book from the publisher in return for a realistic review. Five stars for the military and political research. Minus a star for bad writing. Minus another star for sheer testosterone poisoning and unrealistic character development.

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Review: Centaur Of The Crime by Michael Angel – Audible.com Edition

centaurDayna Chrissie is the lead Crime Scene Analyst for the LAPD, and from the perspective of a former crime scene analyst, I found myself breaking out in laughter at just how apt our first introduction to Dayna is. Michael Angel really “gets it.” CSI may be “sexy” to the television watching public – but it really isn’t sexy in real life!

As Dayna arrives at the crime scene where we first meet her, she cracked me up right away. First, we have the idiotic politico, Deputy Chief McClatchy, whose response to the murder in question is to send beat cops swarming all over the crime scene, stomping any possible evidence into the ground, and telling the “scene techies” to “Hurry up, we’ve got real work to do,” is spot on, and her response to him, which has him running for a puke bucket, is hysterical. Then there is her description of her crime scene wear; ‘the overall which assures that her hips stay slim and the cottage cheese stays off her thighs,’ because, damn those things are hot, and her “Stompy Gothic Boots of Doom” (They wouldn’t win any awards on the fashion runway. But they would keep corpse juices out of my socks.) Angel caught my attention right away. If you can make me laugh and identify with the main character that quickly, you have my attention. And Angel never lost it.

This particular scene is an odd case, to say the least. Peculiar clothing is only the start. Besides bullet wounds, there is a huge, charcoaled hole in the middle of his chest and Dayna has no idea how it was caused. Add that to “python-like” patterning all over his face and upper body, well, he is a puzzle wrapped inside a riddle, forensics wise.

Oh, but this isn’t the oddest thing. Oh, no. For Dayna finds an odd gold coin inside the body – a gold coin that transports her to another world. Oh, and what a world! I was tempted to say that Centaur of the Crime could be described as Alice in Wonderland Meets CSI but that is doing Dayna a disservice. She is a strong, competent, take-no-crap woman (hey – if you are a woman in a police position, you have to be all those things – just breathing the testosterone in air can cause unwarranted beard growth!) But she is also kind, understanding and very, very intelligent. A balanced character that I couldn’t help but admire.

Pulled into another world to solve the murder of a king, Dayna takes the transition well. She doesn’t go hysterical and flighty when she realizes she is surrounded by centaurs and “The Parliament” (wait till you meet these creatures – they are wonderfully written) and tasked with an investigation that no one here thinks can be done. Especially not by a woman from another world.

I loved this book. The fantasy aspects, the world building, as well as the creative development of the species and their various aspects. I have read what I would call “modern-day day fairy tales” before, and this one is at the top of my list of favorites. Enough so that I am dying to see the second volume, The Deer Prince’s Murder, come out on Audible. I am also adding some of his other works, especially The Detective and the Unicorn, to my Audible library.detunicorn

Of course, a narrator can make, or break, an Audible recording. In this case, I was very disappointed by the narrator, Katrina Carmody. Narrators should understand that they are creating a piece of performance art with every book that they read, and Carmody does a less than acceptable job. As another reviewer, Busy Reader from New York New York put it in their Audible.com review: The pacing was terrible, the characters all sounded the same (with the exception of one character, which had an Irish accent, which would have been fine except that she used this accent for the Hispanic character, who otherwise didn’t have accent); she mispronounced very basic words, sometimes used the wrong words which changed the meaning, and even left words out (I checked with the e-book). Where was the director?

Drove. Me. NUTS. Yes, I have heard worse, but she is far, far from the best. How can a professional narrator care so little for her work product? And how can the production company expect to retain business when their offering is so poorly done?

Other than the disappointing narration, I would highly recommend Centaur of the Crime to anyone who loves a good fantasy novel with centaurs, griffins, and other fantasy creatures. And if you also like procedurals, Angel has a good grasp on that aspect also, so it is all good! Highly recommended.audible

 

About Michael Angel

michaelMichael Angel’s worlds of fiction range from the unicorn-ruled realm of the Morning Land to the gritty ‘Fringe Space’ of the western Galactic Frontier. He’s the author of the bestselling Centaur of the Crime – where C.S. Lewis meets CSI. His books populate shelves in languages from Russian to Portuguese.

Michael currently resides in Southern California. Alas, despite keeping a keen eye out for griffins, centaurs, or galactic marshals, none have yet put in an appearance on Hollywood Boulevard.

 

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