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Jonathan Arnold

Joined 9 months ago

Avid reader of non-fiction and fiction, including mysteries, sci-fi, and classics.

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Review of 'The power broker' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

Wow, what to say about this book? 1,200 pages about a bunch of long dead megalomaniacs, led by Robert Moses, a tunnel visioned urban planner who, if it wasn't big highways ploughed right throw New York City, he was hardly interested. It tells the story of how he screwed over a city I don't care about by ignoring non-whites and mass transit, while being the shadow government behind New York City politics for more than 50 years. An unelected bigot, beholden no one and completely on his own.

And, despite the fact it took me over 2 years to read it, I enjoyed every page of it. One of the reasons for the delay was because it was a library book and it was under such demand, I never could renew it. I finally bought my own copy (which I will donate to my library now), so I wasn't at …

Seven of Infinities (2020, Subterranean, Subterranean Press) 3 stars

Vân is a scholar from a poor background, eking out a living in the orbitals …

Review of 'Seven of Infinities' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

This book tells the story of Vân, a young scholar and teacher, and Sunless Woods, a mindship who is actually a master thief looking to retire. Their paths cross when a murder happens and they proceed to unravel the mystery, while also unraveling each of their secrets as they become entangled themselves.

Pretty interesting little book (only about 175 pages), with plenty of lyrical writing and some solid world building in such a short number of pages. I am particularly drawn to multi genre books, and this one flits from one (mystery) to another (romance) to another (crime), all the while set in an Asian influenced far far future.

There were some great lines and I wish I had been reading the ebook version so I could have highlighted them. Some powerfully romantic and some with serious insights. I loved how each of the protagonists had some deeply hidden secrets …

Last Argument of Kings (The First Law, #3) (2008) 4 stars

Review of 'Last Argument of Kings (The First Law, #3)' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

The last book of the First Law trilogy, it is mostly about the climatic battle for, hmm, not sure, the capital city, Agrimont(?). Logen has a big battle as well, then heads south to help out. Glotka battles palace intrigue and tries to stay out of the crosshairs of Bayaz, the crazy(?) mage. Jezal gets promoted and whines about it a lot. And Commander West does the best he can to steer military strategy.

To be honest, this book was a bit of a grind. As you can see, it took me a long time to finish. The first part wasn't too bad but then the giant battles started and to me it just dragged on and on. There were the usual Grimdark touches of bizarre deaths and strange doings, but it wasn't enough to keep me interested.

So I am docking it one star for, once again, the overuse …

Review of 'Billion dollar whale' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

What a whirlwind story of greed, corruption and money. A shadowy Malaysian siphons off literally billions of dollars from a "sovereign wealth fund", making sure to grease the pockets of the Malaysian politicians giving him the money. This book documents his rise and slight fall, documenting some seriously crazy conspicuous spending of Jho Low, from the biggest party ever seen in Las Vegas(!) to an ostentatious beyond belief yacht, literally the 7th largest in the world.

The best quote in the book comes from Jordan Belfort, the scumbag portrayed in The Wolf of Wall Street. A group formed by Low bought the rights to the book and got Scorcese and DiCaprio involved in the project and threw a hugely ridiculous launch party that was completely over the top. It was so crazy it even rang hollow to Belfort, who told his wife "anybody who does this has stolen money. …

The Crossing Places (2010) 5 stars

Review of 'The Crossing Places' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

First book in the Ruth Galloway series (currently up to 14 books!), The Crossing Places tells how Ruth, an archeology teacher at a small English university, gets involved in a murder / disappearance investigation. Some bones are uncovered and she is called it to try and date them. Although they turn out to be thousands of years old, she nevertheless gets involved in the ongoing investigation, as ties to her past get dredged up.

I really liked this heroine and the story. As a slightly overweight single woman, living with 2 cats out in the middle of nowhere, she is a real antihero. She is confident in her specialty, but full of doubts in many other areas. She shows some surprising strength and is fun to be with. The writing is solid and the story interesting, with plenty of twists and turns. I am anxious to give the next one …

Review of 'The circle' on 'Goodreads'

No rating

The 3rd book, but first chronologically and recommended as the first book by the author, in the Dan Lenson series, which tells the story of a naval officer from the start of his career. I imagine he is like a Forrest Gump of the modern naval battles. The Circle is set, I think, late in the Vietnam War era, or just after maybe?

But I abandoned this book after about 200 pages. It is a solid, maybe too solid, military fiction book and, to be honest, it is not the kind of book for me these days. My Want To Read list is well over 2,000 books now, and I have 4 books checked out from the library, so it is time to cut bait. But if military fiction, and naval fiction in specific, is your thing, I'll bet this would more than scratch your itch.

Review of 'High Dive' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

This book tells the fictional story of a real event - the attempted assassination of Margaret Thatcher by blowing up a Brighton hotel by the IRA. The author does an amazing job of blurring fact and fiction, although I certainly am not the most expert at this 1984 world shattering event. He focuses on the people, on both sides, and their often mundane experiences as they head towards this crescendo of violence.

So many fascinating turns of phrases and such interesting writing overcame my general dislike of novelistic retellings of known events. Heck, even I knew that Thatcher did not get assassinated. But he told the story at such a personal level, the actual event faded into the background. I am not sure I followed all the strands of the story but I sure had fun trying.

The Girl Who Died (Hardcover, 2021, Minotaur Books) 3 stars

Review of 'The Girl Who Died' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Una is a 30ish substitute teacher in Reykjavik who decides to change things up and become a teacher "at the edge of the world", a small (less than 15 people) village on the eastern tip of Iceland. Battling loneliness and depression, she tries to make the best of things, despite the emotional coldness of most of the other inhabitants and the small matter of a ghost living in the attic with her. When a death happens, the townsfolk close ranks against her and she struggles to make sense of things.

Not too bad really. Una was an interesting character and her sense of foreboding and confusion is expertly charted. Although it is kind of funny to think of this "remote" spot being a 4 hour drive from the capital of Iceland. I would say don't read the forward by the author, as it gives some details of the place that …

The Secret Talker (Hardcover, 2021, Harpervia, HarperVia) 4 stars

Review of 'The Secret Talker' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Hongmei is the Chinese wife of a caring American professor who gets lured into an email exchange with someone who seems to know her every move. (S)he touches some raw nerves and get Hongmei to open up, spilling her deepest darkest secrets from her time growing up in a small village far from everywhere in China, including the gruesome story of over 200 girls being slaughter during World War 2 by the occupying Japanese force.

We get a real insight into a confusing woman's mind, as she struggles with her perceive infidelity. Her story is pretty engrossing and told in an interestingly circular fashion. She hates her weakness but also enjoys it. The whole story (a very short 160 page book) is kind of a meditation on holding conflicting views, especially about oneself.

There were some moments of humor and some real eye opening moments. I am pretty sure I …

Review of 'Man on the Street' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Jimmy Mullen is a homeless veteran of the Falklands War, who is obviously still suffering from PTSD many years later. He thinks perhaps he saw and heard a murder but doesn't want to get involved. Until a couple weeks later, when he catches the plea of the daughter of a missing man, who hasn't been heard from since approximately the time of the incident Mullen overheard. An ex-miltary cop, he helps the woman out and tries to unravel what he overheard and who was involved.

It is a great premise for a mystery. As a homeless man, he is kind of invisible but he can also draw the ire of the local constabulary. And that makes it even tougher to get heard when it looks like one of them is part of this.

However, he refuses to deal with his obvious PTSD and bad stuff just keeps happening to him, …

Devil in a blue dress (1991, Pocket Books) 4 stars

Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins has few illusions about the world--at least not about the world …

Review of 'Devil in a blue dress' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

So I finally read the first book in this long running Easy Rawlins mystery series. Easy just got laid off from his auto factory job in the late 1940s and took some "easy money" to try and find a white girl for someone. Of course, things are what they seem and pretty soon he is enmeshed in all kinds of double and triple crosses, as well as in the crosshairs of the LA police.

Of course, the big hook is that Easy Rawlins is a black man, trying to make it in the virulently racist America of his day. And Mosley doesn't sugarcoat it. In fact, it got a little overwhelming for me a few times. Of course, as a middle aged white guy, there is no way I could even imagine the troubles a black in the 40s would run into, but it also means it can get a …

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (Hardcover, 2020, Tor Books) 4 stars

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in …

Review of 'The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

very long intricate book about Addie LaRue, who makes a deal with Luc (the devil?) so she can escape an arranged marriage in the early 1700s. In exchange for her soul at some time in the future, Addie become forgettable. No, I mean really well and truly forgettable - as soon as she is out of sight of a person, she is completely forgotten. And also, she is immortal.

So the story follows Addie into the present, with many flashbacks and flash forwards. Luc periodically shows up to ask for her soul, but she refuses to give in.

A very interesting conceit, pretty well pulled off. It is kind of funny how she gets by. Even going to sleep will make some forget her, so she gets the "who are you?" treatment from the morning after quite often.

So I liked it but thought it went on extra long. Probably …

Pygmy (2009, Doubleday) 2 stars

Pygmy -- a young adult from a totalitarian state, disguised as an exchange student -- …

Review of 'Pygmy' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Palahniuk has to be one of the strangest writers around. I don't even know what to say about this book, other than it is profane, violent, X-rated, funny, crazy, indescribable. Told in a fractured English dialog (so well narrated by Paul Michael Garcia!), it tells the story of Agent 67 from an unnamed authoritarian regime, slipped into the Midwest as an exchange student, but indoctrinated against the United States as an evil empire and with his fellow exchange students planning a huge terrorist strike.

Pygmy offers up crazy interpretations of Midwestern evangelical life (well, maybe not so crazy!) and describes his indoctrination into his belief system and how the evil Western empire of the United States needs to be toppled. But he does it in an incredibly naive and open eyed way, where you just have to laugh so many times. He gets himself into strange predicaments and ends up …

When a kind old candy store owner (Uncle Mo) goes FTA (failure to appear) after …

Review of 'Three to Get Deadly' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Third book in the long running Stephanie Plum series, this one finds Stephanie trying to track down Mo, beloved elderly owner of a local candy store. Soon she finds herself enmeshed in several deaths of local pushers, training Lula, a crazy co-worker and both fending off and seeking out the attention of Morelli, the hot looking cop from her childhood.

Pretty much what you might expect from a Stephanie Plum book - funny, action packed and full of local color. I particularly enjoy how she keeps running into old friends and enemies, including hated school teachers and weirdos from her high school days. And Grandma Mazur is a hoot. Maybe too much so, but I love her.