Tuesday, May 15, 2018

THE TRIALS OF APOLLO The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan

The Burning Maze
Rick Riordan

            The Burning Maze is book three in Rick Riordan’s The Trials of Apollo series. In book one, The Hidden Oracle, Apollo fell to earth in the form of Lester Papadopoulos, a mortal teenager with acne, and began to investigate why the oracles have fallen silent (see review dated October 22, 2017, In book two, The Dark Prophecy, Apollo headed west to Indianapolis and continued his investigation of the oracles (see review dated November 4, 2017,

            Now, in book three, Apollo continues his journey even farther west. In The Burning Maze, we join Apollo, as Lester, in California as he faces the third of the evil triumvirate of immortal former Roman emperors and rescues another oracle. Parts of the labyrinth are on fire, and the destruction from these fires is extensive. As in the prior books, Apollo is assisted by some of our old friends, demigods and others. But, with each subsequent book in the series, the evil is increasing, and the odds are worsening.

            I love Rick Riordan’s books, and The Burning Maze does not disappoint. It is quintessential Riordan. As much as I enjoyed the book, however, one of the best things, in my opinion, was my discovery at the end of this book. For some reason, I thought The Burning Maze was book three of a trilogy. I was a bit surprised, therefore, to reach the end of the book and to be left hanging. But, then I turned the page and found that book four is coming in the fall of 2019!

Friday, May 11, 2018

THE SECRET CHORD by Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks

            The Secret Chord is the most recent book by Geraldine Brooks, the 2006 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In this historical novel, Brooks tells the story of David, King of Israel. She traces David’s life from shepherd to warrior to king.

            Brooks tells David’s story through his prophet/loyal servant, Natan. Because of this, the picture of David that emerges in The Secret Chord is not just that of a successful, powerful king. Natan knows all, and we see the entire David: we see the parent who is blind to the shortcomings of his sons; we witness the transformation to the wise king; we learn of the music that is pervasive throughout his life.

            The Secret Chord is well written. At the beginning, it moved slowly, but before long, the pace picked up. Also, I found it a little difficult at first to sort out all the wives and sons and other family members. But, the entirety of the book is cohesive, well-presented, and informative. This was my first experience reading Geraldine Brooks, and I am looking forward to reading more of her work.

Friday, April 27, 2018

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
David Grann

            I listened to the audio version of David Grann’s book, Killers of the Flower Moon. It is an excellent, interesting book.

            The Osage were treated poorly by the whites. They were herded off to some nowhere land in Oklahoma. But then, oil was discovered on Osage land – and, the Osage maintained the mineral rights. As a result, the Osage became very wealthy. But then, Osage members were being murdered. Mollie Burkhart’s sister was shot; other members of her family were poisoned. Other members of the tribe were also murdered. Investigations were undertaken, but the murders were never resolved. J. Edgar Hoover eventually resumed the investigation with his nascent federal police, and it was this FBI investigation that finally began to unravel the truth.

            It is difficult to believe that Killers of the Flower Moon is nonfiction. It is difficult to believe that such egregious conduct on the part of authorities actually happened. It is difficult to believe that there are such heinous, vile people in the world who not only would do such unconscionable things to other people, but who also get away with such reprehensible conduct while maintaining appearances of respectability. Although Killers of the Flower Moon deals with these awful difficulties, and in this manner is unpleasant, it is well written, fascinating, and a “must read”.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Jesmyn Ward

            Jojo, 13, lives with Mam and Pop and Leonie and baby sister Kayla. Leonie is his mother; Mam and Pop are her parents. His father, Michael, is in prison. Leonie and her family are black; Michael and his family are white. His uncle, Given – Leonie’s brother – had been killed by one of Michael’s relatives. And, they live in rural Mississippi. As we follow Jojo and his family, we learn the backstory of the characters, witness Michael’s release from prison and Mam’s battle with cancer, and experience the many tensions that pervade this book.

            Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing is the 2017 National Book Award winner. There is not much that I like about this book. I do not like the characters, the story, or the writing. I read one review of the book wherein the reviewer noted that he/she did not like the “magical realism and fantasy” found in the book; those are the parts that I did like.

            I keep trying to understand my knee jerk negative response to this book, starting from the animal slaughter at the beginning through the end of the book. I keep trying to understand this book’s acclaim. I suppose the facts that the book engendered such a strong negative response in me – and that I have continued wondering why I have had this reaction – demonstrate why it is deserving of such acclaim. But, it was not a pleasant experience.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

TWISTED PREY by John Sandford

John Sandford

            Twisted Prey is the twenty-eighth book in John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport series. In this book, Davenport continues his work as a U.S. Marshal.

            U.S. Senator Porter Smalls was in a car accident in which his companion died. Investigators concluded it was an accident; Smalls insists it was attempted murder. So, Smalls calls the one investigator he trusts, Lucas Davenport. Marshal Davenport travels to Washington D.C. to investigate. Both Smalls and Davenport suspect that Senator Taryn Grant was once again behind the plot against Smalls. In addition to the appearance of Davenport’s nemesis, some old friends also appear in the book, such as Rae and Bob, the marshals we met in Golden Prey.

            Anyone who may have followed my reviews of Sandford’s books knows of my ambivalence toward them. Although some of the more recent books in the series have been decent, there were a few books before those that were mediocre. I love Davenport and Virgil Flowers, so I continue to read those series – but then I am faced with this frustration when I attempt to review the books.

            And, that frustration continues with Twisted Prey. The writing leaves a lot to be desired. For example, the dialogue is choppy – it feels rushed, as if it is in outline form and needs to be fleshed out. As I was reading Twisted Prey, I kept thinking “if only Sandford would hire me to help with the writing….” Twisted Prey is decent, but it could be great. While reading this book (only 28 books into this series), I started to suspect that Sandford does not care. He has some good characters, and his plots are usually solid – I get the feeling that the writing itself is not that important to him.

            So, once again, my opinion is mixed. Davenport is a great character, and Twisted Prey contains a solid Sandford plot; the writing is mediocre. I will continue to read the Davenport series – though I think it is a shame that he is publishing decent, mediocre books when they could be great.