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  • The Rooster Bar

  • By: John Grisham
  • Narrated by: Ari Fliakos
  • Length: 10 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 13,172
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,761
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 11,745

Mark, Todd, and Zola came to law school to change the world, to make it a better place. But now, as third-year students, these close friends realize they have been duped. They all borrowed heavily to attend a third-tier, for-profit law school so mediocre that its graduates rarely pass the bar exam, let alone get good jobs. And when they learn that their school is one of a chain owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator who also happens to own a bank specializing in student loans, the three know they have been caught up in The Great Law School Scam.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Story=Terrible

  • By Amazon Customer on 11-04-17

Just didn't care what happened to these guys

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-08-17

There are some good things in the "The Rooster Bar", enough of them that I read the book right to the end in the hope that it would be worth my time. It wasn't.

"The Rooster Bar" starts well. John Grisham quickly got me immersed in the pressure cooker lives of four for-profit Law School students, groaning under a mountain of debt and with little prospect of getting a job that would enable them to pay it back. He used the instability and obsession of the most charismatic of the four to lay-out the "Great Law School Scam" without making it feel like a clumsy infodump and then added a trauma to hook my emotions and make me care.

I relaxed and waited for some kind of clever and cathartic revenge to be extracted in a sort of "The Firm 2.O" way.

Grisham kept my attention and my emotional involvement by adding in a plot about how ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) the Storm Troopers of Homeland Security works.

This felt real and got the point across without sounding preachy. The shame of failing to treat people with dignity was made clear.

After that... well, the whole thing fell apart but slowly enough that I never quite gave up hope.

My main problem was that I didn't like and couldn't bring myself to care about the two emotionally distant, testosterone-driven, arrogant and amoral white boys who were positioned as the heroes of the piece.

Their reaction to having let their greed ensnare them in a potentially life-ruining scam was to scam everyone else. They commit crime after crime to make money, sustained by a sort of frat-boy belief that guys like them will never suffer the consequences of their actions. They were called Todd and Mark and I couldn't really tell them apart except that one (I can't remember which) was more willing to help a friend in trouble.

It seems that I was supposed to be cheering for these two would-be alpha male lawyers to out-smart the authorities, get revenge on the bad guys and ride off into a Tequilla-sustained sunset. Personally, I'd have been happy to see them both take their punishment.

Todd and Mark are the moral vacuum at the heart of this book. They're clever, resourceful, hard-working, brave but ruthless and willing to break any law to get their own way.

I could have lived with the moral vacuum if the book had ended with a great reveal or a clever, Mission Impossible slick finish but It didn't. Instead, it slid gently to a stop as it ran out of momentum and I ran out of sympathy.

  • Skipping Christmas

  • By: John Grisham
  • Narrated by: Dennis Boutsikaris
  • Length: 3 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,310
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 745
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 746

Best selling author John Grisham ( A Time to Kill, The Brethren) returns with a new tale for modern times, offering a hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that have become a part of our holiday tradition.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Simple Pleasures!

  • By Lisa on 03-02-08

Redeemed itself at the end but only just

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-15-15

“Skipping Christmas” is a short novel ( 3hours 42 minutes / 256 pages ) yet, by the time I was halfway through, I was tempted to skip the whole thing.

The book is about the tribulations of the Kranks, a middle-class American couple in their fifties, who decide that, as their daughter is away from home for the first time, they will skip Christmas and spend the money on a cruise instead.

I struggled in the first part of the book because Luther Krank is so hard to like. He is a man who resents spending money on Christmas but doesn’t dare stop because his neighbours will disapprove. He is shallow, cowardly, seems to have little emotional connection to family or friends, is unconsciously racist and complacently privileged. Krank’s motives for skipping Christmas are venal and hard to embrace. The way he treats his neighbours as he executes his plan is unpleasant and childish. After a while, I began to realise that, if he got what he deserved, there would be no happy ending.

Even though it was first published in 2001, it feels more like something from a 1970’s sitcom. The neighbours are ruled by what others might think of them. The women plan charity events but don’t have a job. The men play “my salary is bigger than yours”. Christmas parties are a licence for married Partners in the firm to get drunk and grope “the homeliest secretaries”. When a daughter in one of the families declares her intent to marry a foreigner, her parents are relieved that his skin is not as dark as they expected. Surely this can’t be modern-day suburban America?

There is a twist in the second half of the book that rescues the story from completely failing and redeems at least some of the characters but this is not “A Wonderful Life” but rather “A Life Slightly Less Awful”.

It didn’t fill me with Christmas cheer but it did make be very glad that I don’t live in the Krank’s neighbourhood.

  • The Christmas Train

  • By: David Baldacci
  • Narrated by: Tim Matheson
  • Length: 7 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,947
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,491
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,497

Disillusioned journalist Tom Langdon must get from Washington to L.A. in time for Christmas. Forced to take the train across the country because of a slight "misunderstanding" at airport security, he begins a journey of self-discovery and rude awakenings, mysterious goings-on and thrilling adventures, screwball escapades and holiday magic.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • On A Whim For Fun

  • By Patti on 09-25-07

Are all David Baldacci's books this bad?

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-12-15

"The Christmas Train" is the first of four books I've bought to try and read myself into the Christmas spirit. It didn't go so well.

The start of the book was so sickly sweet, I thought it might raise my blood sugar enough to push me over into type two diabetes. I persisted because it's a Christmas book and a certain amount of schmaltz was to be expected and I hoped things would get better when the book go into its stride.

The book never got into its stride. It stumbled along from scene to scene, clumsily structured and underwritten.

David Baldacci seemed to be trying to do some kind of homage to Mark Twain but ended up simply emphasizing the gap between Twain's storytelling ability and his own.

I could have forgiven the cardboard characters in the supporting cast and the inept attempts at some kind of magical realism, and the over-long info-dumps and pro-Amtrack propaganda that sat in this under-cooked Christmas Pudding of a book, as indigestible as a sixpence, if only the main character, Tom Langdon had been worth caring about. Instead I got an implausible, inconsistent, cipher of a man who, it seemed to me, was a self-absorbed, immature, manipulative, prankster who didn't seem up to the task of being the romantic lead.

The book is narrated by Tim Matheson. He did the dialogue reasonably well but the prose dragged him down with its mediocrity no matter how much seasonal cheer he tried to inject.

The only thing that made it worth trudging through the slush of this book for seven hours were the insights into the, to my European eyes, peculiar attitude of Americans to passenger trains. I use trains for long journeys all the time. These days, the high-speed, high-tech trains are a viable competitor to planes for many business trips, yet here they were presented as a dying anachronism. Still, given how bad the rest of the book was, I'm not sure I can rely on this information.

This was my first David Baldacci book. I assume, as the book cover declares him to be a "Number One International Bestselling Author", they can't all be this bad but my experience of "The Christmas Train" doesn't encourage me to find out.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Pines

  • By: Blake Crouch
  • Narrated by: Paul Michael Garcia
  • Length: 8 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 10,320
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,350
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 9,365

Wayward Pines, Idaho, is quintessential small-town America — or so it seems. Secret Service agent Ethan Burke arrives in search of two missing federal agents, yet soon is facing much more than he bargained for. After a violent accident lands him in the hospital, Ethan comes to with no ID and no cell phone. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but something feels…off. As the days pass, Ethan’s investigation into his colleagues’ disappearance turns up more questions than answers. Why can’t he make contact with his family in the outside world? Why doesn’t anyone believe he is who he says he is? And what’s the purpose of the electrified fences encircling the town? Are they keeping the residents in? Or something else out? Each step toward the truth takes Ethan further from the world he knows, until he must face the horrifying possibility that he may never leave Wayward Pines alive…

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Well done story

  • By Linda B on 08-28-12

slow, frustrating, dark and ultimately pointless

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-18-15

I bought this book because it was being hyped (and reduced in price) by audible and Fox have made a series from it called “Wayward Pines” so, why not?

“Pines” is competently written and well narrated. It just didn’t do it for me.

Other than being persistent, dangerous and extraordinarily tough to kill, the main character is not very interesting. I really didn’t care what happened to him.

The town of Wayward Pines is spooky and the “What the hell is going on here?” question kept me moving through the chapters.

The more I read, the more violent and depressing the whole thing became.

I’ve seen “Pines” compared to “Twin Peaks”. I don’t think the comparison stands. In the end, “Twin Peaks” was a series of cool scenes that made no sense. “The owls are not what they seem” – who cares? “Pines” does make sense. There is a compelling, if somewhat far-fetched, premise that explains everything.

The problem I had was that, while the premise explained everything, it justified nothing: not the actions of the main villain, certainly not the actions of the delightful citizens of Wayward Pines, not even the ultimately pointless struggle of the main character. This is not one of those occasions where the truth will set you free. I found the whole thing anticlimactic.

I could have lived with that, except that Blake Crouch put me through scenes of extreme violence and cruelty to get me to this, for me, unsatisfactory outcome. Crouch writes well enough that I will remember those scenes, even though, in retrospect, I understand them as exploitative.

Still, he’s not to blame for me reading the scenes, nor how I reacted to them.

There are two more books in the series. Someone must love them. Probably the same people who enjoyed “Prison Break” and “The Sopranos”.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Kitty Goes to Washington

  • Kitty Norville, Book 2
  • By: Carrie Vaughn
  • Narrated by: Marguerite Gavin
  • Length: 8 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,525
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,102
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,101

The country's only celebrity werewolf, late-night radio host Kitty Norville prefers to be heard, not seen. But when she's invited to testify at a Senate hearing on behalf of supernaturals, her face gets plastered on national television. Kitty has been in hot water before, but jumping into the D.C. underworld brings a new set of problems---and a new set of friends and enemies.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Kitty Series

  • By G Reinhardt on 08-02-10

Kitty gets tangled with a Senate Committee

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-18-15

“Kitty Goes To Washington” rolls straight on from “Kitty And The Midnight Hour” but with a change in pace and tone. Kitty seems a little more certain of herself than she did in the first book. She has left her home and her pack and taken her radio show, “The Midnight Hour” on the road across America. She is starting to build a life for herself in the human and the supernatural world.

The plot revolves around what happens to Kitty when the Christian Fundamentalist, supernaturals-are-an-offence-againt-God Senator that we met in the last book, summons her to testify at a Senate Committee which is allegedly investigating state-sponsored research into the super-natural.

Of course, all is not what it seems. The Senator has an evil plan and Kitty is at its centre. This plot premise could have produced a political thriller with Kitty cast as the heroine, saving the world with her awesome werewolf powers. Thankfully, Carrie Vaughan avoids this and continues to present Kitty as a young woman, recovering from a trauma but becoming reconciled with who and what she is and is gaining confidence from the popularity of her show. Kitty goes to Washington with no political or social agenda and does not see herself as leading anything.

She quickly discovers that this I’m-just-a-talkshow-host stance is not credible in Washington, where everyone expects something of her. This shows the nature of Washington but it also makes Kitty reflect on what role she should play and what it means to be a supernatural.

In Washington, Kitty finds a club that offers a haven for shape-shifters, allowing association without the restrictions of a Pack and promoting good music, good food and good company. Although the freedom and the pleasures this affords, especially in the form a Brazilian were-panther who becomes Kitty’s lover for a while, initially appeals to Kitty, as the book progresses she finds that she cannot adopt the passive, don’t-get-involved, live-for-moment way of life. Her loyalties, sense of duty and belief in doing what she can to make things better, pull her in a different direction.

While at the club, she meets with, solitary, taciturn, old werewolf that everyone believes is an ex-Nazi. When he finally shares his bleak story with her, Kitty is pushed further along the road of thinking that being a werewolf does not obviate the need for choosing how you will live but perhaps makes the choice more pressing.

One of the things I liked most in the book was the new vampire that Kitty meets. It was refreshing, almost startling, to meet a vampire who is not a narcissist but rather has a desire to protect and nurture. Kitty’s relationship with the vampire, testing limits, earning respect, building a mutual loyalty and obligation, speaks to many of the things that Kitty needs that the shapeshifter club does not provide.

“Kitty Goes To Washington” continues with a number of the characters from the previous book: we discover the true nature of the mysterious cult-leader who claims to be able to “cure” supernaturals, we meet Kitty’s “Deep Throat” research scientist and understand what he wants from Kitty, we see how far the Senator is willing to go for his cause and we see Kitty starting to build a network of friends and supporters.

Although more thoughtful than the first book, “Kitty Goes To Washington” has a least three strong action scenes that have major plot consequences. The political aspects of the book a credible and all the more threatening for that. Like politics in real-life, the day-to-day can seem a little anti-climatic but the issues are real and the stakes are high.

As with the first book, I enjoyed Kitty’s talkshow. It opens up the book, adds some humour, but also shows how these shows can take on a life of their own when they provide a space for the voiceless to be heard.

By the end of this book, it is clear, even to Kitty, that she cannot be just a talkshow host any more. She is a symbol, an ambassador, a target and may become a leader.

  • Kitty Takes a Holiday

  • Kitty Norville, Book 3
  • By: Carrie Vaughn
  • Narrated by: Marguerite Gavin
  • Length: 8 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,232
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 893
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 899

After getting caught turning wolf on national television, Kitty retreats to a mountain cabin to recover and write her memoirs. But this is Kitty, so trouble is never far behind, and instead of Walden Pond, she gets Evil Dead.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A great escape...Kitty takes a holiday!

  • By Helen on 02-13-10

Kitty holiday goes from cursed to worse

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-18-15

I love the Kitty Norville books but I HATE the covers. They are everything the books aren’t: clichéd, wannabe-glamorous, vapidly sexual and totally unoriginal. If I wasn’t reading the audiobook version, I’d have to add a “Don’t judge me by my cover” sticker to the front. Why do the publishers do this?

Sigh.

Underneath the cover is another good read in the Kitty Norville series about the werewolf host of “The Midnight Hour – the talk show that isn’t afraid of the dark or the people who live there.”

Except, in this novel, Kitty is taking a break from her show so she can write an autobiography, hence the “Kitty Takes A Holiday” title.

I like the way Carrie Vaughn adapts move titles for her books, it’s inclusive some how, inviting the reader to a peer-to-peer relationship based on a common culture. Or that could be nonsense that I make up when my over-used brain takes time off to write book reviews.

Don’t be mislead, this isn’t a jolly jaunt to the seaside. Kitty’s holiday starts off feeling like a self-imposed exile that isolates her from her fans and the energy and focus her show gives her.

Kitty is so bored by the countryside and so blocked in her writing that she ends up calling in to a newly established rival to “The Midnight Hour” and pretending to have a problem to discuss.

Then things get worse: curses, corpses, and a creature with glowing red eyes and very evil intentions.

“Kitty Takes A Holiday” is darker than it’s predecessors. Humour is only an accent colour here, the main palette of the book is much more sombre: power and what you or who you are prepared to sacrifice to get it; hate and fear and how they blind you, and twist you and lessen you; Irredeemable, insatiable, life-destroying evil and the strength needed to confront it and the power of belief to change not just what we see but who we become.

There is more violence and death and this book and the consequences for everyone involved are more severe. Kitty learns more about why Cormac hunts and kills werewolves and has to consider whether she can endorse the violence he brings with him everywhere. Kitty also starts to understand that her public status as a werewolf makes her a target for those who fear her power or abhor her unnatural status.

I think Carrie Vaughn took a risk by having Kitty so depressed, disempowered and unsure of herself for large parts of this book but it more than paid off in terms of making Kitty into a more rounded person who understands her own nature and is finally able to choose her path rather than just react to the actions of others.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Raising Steam

  • By: Terry Pratchett
  • Narrated by: Stephen Briggs
  • Length: 12 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,712
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 2,484
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,484

The new Discworld novel, the 40th in the series, sees the Disc's first train come steaming into town. Change is afoot in Ankh-Morpork. Discworld's first steam engine has arrived, and once again Moist von Lipwig finds himself with a new and challenging job.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • So much more than funny

  • By David on 04-15-14

Good but...

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-18-15

This ought to have been a wonderful read: the fortieth Discworld novel, featuring Moist von Lipwig and Commander Grimes coming to grips with the invention of the steam train and revisionist Dwarf terrorists, challenging the Koom Valley Accord.

Big themes are brought to the table: how subversion whispers in the dark, spreading fear and denying truth; how there is something magical and dangerous about a new technology; how the men who tinker endlessly and obsessively can become a bigger threat to the status quo than any terrorist and how, in the end, love is a greater driving force than steam.

And yet, this wasn’t a great Terry Pratchett book. Something was missing.

Perhaps is was the righteous anger of “Thud” where the only sane way to win the war was to cancel the battle

“What kind of creature defines itself by hatred?”

Or the irrepressible, maniacal optimism of “Going Postal” where a tyrant puts a criminal in charge of the Post Office because of the criminal sees the world differently

“If you kept changing the way people saw the world, you ended up changing the way you saw yourself.”

Or perhaps it was the mysterious absence from the Watch of Captain Carrot, the world’s tallest dwarf.

Or maybe it was just that this is first time I’ve listened to a Discworld book rather than reading it for myself and the flat narration detracted from the experience.

Whatever it was, it left me disappointed.

It also left me determined to go back an re-read the Discworld books that filled me with joy and tears and a practical human politics: “Guards, Guards, Guards,” “Witches Abroad”, “The Night Watch”, “Small Gods”, “Thud”, “Going Postal”, “The Truth”.

  • Relic

  • Pendergast, Book 1
  • By: Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child
  • Narrated by: David Colacci
  • Length: 13 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 8,798
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,852
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 6,890

Just days before a massive exhibition opens at the popular New York Museum of Natural History, visitors are being savagely murdered in the museum's dark hallways and secret rooms. Autopsies indicate that the killer cannot be human. But the museum's directors plan to go ahead with a big bash to celebrate the new exhibition, in spite of the murders. Museum researcher Margo Green must find out who - or what - is doing the killing.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Non-Perishable

  • By Snoodely on 05-26-10

1990’s horror/thriller about a beast in the Museum

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-18-15

“Relic” was published only twenty years ago but it reads like it’s from at least a decade earlier – less “Jurrasic Park”, more “Poseidon Adventure”.

“Relic” is based on a complex idea on how a monstrous creature might evolve but the exposition of the idea is clumsily done. Most of the book reads like a “Monster In The Basement” slash/horror piece except without the exploitative gore.

It was a fun as a leisurely “remember when they wrote books like this?” read, but wouldn’t really count as a thriller today: the pace is too slow, the build up goes on for too long, one of the main action sequences happens off-stage, and there are too many characters.

It does have some good “Saturday Matinee” moments: there is a rude, cowardly, stupid FBI Special Agent to hiss and boo at; an urbane Southern Gentleman, FBI Special Agent to cheer for (although, if you do, he’ll look modestly away and say “I did nothing particularly praiseworthy), a rough but brave NYPD Lieutenant to save the day; venal academics who suppress the truth and pay the price for it and brave, politically correct academics (an older prof in a wheel chair and his young, female grad student) who pursue the truth and save the day. Finally, there is The Creature. It’s a well thought through Creature, probably the best thing in the book, but it still screams werewolf meets lizard man.

The structure of the book creaks: there’s a slow opening in Africa, then another opening in New York, that explains everything that happened in Africa, then the main action when The Creature attacks, then a “Six Weeks Later…” section to wrap up the odds and ends, then an Epilogue that finally (but still slowly) explains the plot and set up a the sequel.

Oddly, one of the things that sticks with me about the book was how annoyed I was at the fictional New York Natural History Museum’s lack of care of the items its patrons had pillaged throughout the world. It seems absurd to me that artifacts stolen from the Sioux, the Inuit and the Navajo would be labelled “Anthropology”, but that’s the kind of dissonance that makes reading period books interesting.

Another minor irritation was the authors’ use of “shined” instead of “shone” and “knealed” instead of “knelt”. Why would an editor let that usage pass, except in direct speech?

“Relic” was made into a not-bad creature feature called ” The Relic”. The plot remained much the same, the number of characters was reduced and, for reasons I don’t understand, the action moved from New York to Chicago.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand

  • Kitty Norville, Book 5
  • By: Carrie Vaughn
  • Narrated by: Marguerite Gavin
  • Length: 7 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 988
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 716
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 715

Already the alpha pair of Denver's werewolf pack, Kitty and Ben now plan to tie the knot human-style by eloping to Las Vegas. Kitty is looking forward to sipping froufrou drinks by the pool and doing her popular radio show on live television, but her hotel is stocked with werewolf-hating bounty hunters.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Renewed my Vows in Vegas Right After Reading this!

  • By Ali on 01-30-12

Kitty opts for a Vegas wedding

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-18-15

I’m a big Kitty Norville fan: she’s witty and brave and the books have serious content, delivered with a light touch. Normally I’m cheering for Kitty to win the day and sad that there are no more pages left to read. Yet with “Kitty And The Dead Man’s Hand”, I found myself going “Is that it?” and “What was Kitty thinking”.

The story seemed promising enough: Kitty and Ben, already mated for life as an Alpha pair in a werewolf pack, decide to make things official in the human world and get married. To avoid the fuss of a big wedding, Kitty decides to get married in Vegas and her boss uses this as an opportunity to get her to do her radio show live on TV. He also books Kitty and Ben into a hotel that is running a gun show, complete with silver bullet carrying bounty hunter. Add in a magician who reads H P Lovecraft, a Vampire Master only interested in partying and a bizarre tribe of werecats and it should have been quite a ride.

Instead, I found it unsatisfying.

I’ve been to Vegas a few times, I even renewed my wedding vows there, and I thought Carrie Vaughn caught the atmosphere of the place well, so that wasn’t the problem.

I think the problem was Kitty. She’s on her own for most of the book for various reasons, even though she brought Ben and her mother and father to Vegas with her. She stumbles around getting into trouble and mostly waiting for someone else to get her out of it. She gives little thought to her family and only a little more to Ben. Her relationship with the BDSM-loving werecats didn’t convince me. The way two of bounty hunters reacted to her was also hard to swallow. The marriage, when it did finally occur, seemed crass and narcissitically self-indulgent.

Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood, or maybe I didn’t get the appeal of all those bare-chested young men, but I just couldn’t settle in to this book. In every other book, Kitty has grown and developed. In this book, she seems to take a holiday from herself.

Oh, and I still don’t have a clue what the title means.

Anyway, I hope I get the real Kitty back in book six.

  • White Plague

  • By: James Abel
  • Narrated by: Ray Porter
  • Length: 11 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,084
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,004
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 997

In the remote, frozen waters of the Arctic Ocean, the high-powered and technically advanced submarine U.S.S. Montana is in peril. Adrift and in flames, the boat - and the entire crew - could be lost. The only team close enough to get to them in time is led by Marine doctor and bio-terror expert Joe Rush.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • I think I feel a fever coming on....

  • By Matthew on 01-16-15

Arctic Military Thriller with a twist or two

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-06-15

When I started "White Plague", I expected something along the lines of "Ice Station Zebra" or "Deception Point" - secrets, betrayal and super-power rivalry set against the unforgiving Arctic climate. All those elements are in "White Plague" (although the super-power rival to the US is now China rather than Russia) together with the idea of one brave man solving a puzzle that will save the world, but the book goes beyond all that by focusing repeatedly on the moral dilemma of choosing whether the survival of the many justifies the death of a few.This was little more depth than I expected from a military thriller and it made the book much more interesting.

"White Plague" centres around the mission of US Marine Colonel and bio-weapons expert, Joe Rush, to rescue a US Submarine that has been crippled by fire and is now on the surface in the Arctic ice.

Inevitably, Joe is a troubled man: haunted by his past, divorced, sleepless, isolated and a few days away from leaving the leaving the Marines. I almost groaned at all this because it sounded so clichéd. Fortunately, the character of Joe Rush is rounded-out not only by the action in the Arctic but by vividly described flashbacks to his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of the book I understood and believed in, Joe Rush. I can't say I liked him much because, while he was admirable and brave and heart-sore, he still seemed to have "insensitive asshole" as his default setting. Still, my dislike of him is a tribute to how well written the character is.

Whatever his faults, I was glad to see that Joe Rush didn't suffer from the blind patriotism of Jack Ryan or Jack Bauer, who are both disturbing examples of men who will do anything to anyone if they perceive them as a threat to the USA. Joe Rush holds himself accountable for his actions and constantly questions the moral basis for own decisions.

"White Plague" is full of difficult moral decisions: for Joe Rush in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Arctic; for an Airforce General, asked to do an unspeakable favour for the President, through to the advisors to the President and the President himself. All of these dilemmas come down, in different ways, to one question: would you personally kill a small number of people to save a large number of people. The answers are varied, thoughtful and never easy.

There's some good writing in "White Plague", particularly the descriptions of the Arctic conditions, the vivid images of the what it feels live to ride in Humvee in hostile territory, or walk into an apparently deserted village in hostile territory and the remarkable clear view of being on-board a large, unfamiliar ship. Unfortunately there is also a tendency towards cliché, which is disappointing when it's clear that James Able can do better. The book would have been better if the female lead had not had have a frail beauty as well as being an internationally known Arctic explorer, an athlete and a designer of submarines, or if the Senator on-board had not has such a tendency to bullying through unoriginal verbal bluster. I also thought the ending had too much wish-fulfillment for a novel that had, up until then, seemed to understand political reality.

"White Plague" left me wondering why anyone joins the military and puts themselves in line for such hard moral decisions.

Oh and my favourite quote in the book is "Politics is Hollywood for ugly people."

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