A handful of reviews

I've been side-tracked from blogging by real life recently, so thought I'd ease back into it with a handful of reviews of books I've been working through.

Necropolis by Anthony Horowitz - 4/5 stars
I started reading the Gatekeepers/Power of Five series because I'd tried Horowitz's Alex Rider books, finding his new series to be more adult -(or at least YA)oriented.
As the series has progressed, the stories have become less about strange things happening in our normal world and more about the supernatural taking over our world, so this book features a bizarro-world Hong Kong with evil creatures possessing most of the population. As the climax suggests the heroes are about to snatch victory from near defeat, Horowitz spins things again to set up a cliffhanger leading to Oblivion as the final in the series.

Oblivion by Anthony Horowitz - 4/5 stars
Beginning with a time travel twist worthy of Fringe and featuring a series of shifting points of view, Horowitz wraps up the series with a long-awaited apocalyptical (literally) final battle in Antarctica, betrayal and redemption, and a well-foreshadowed but still effective sacrifice.
The foreshadowing, where a character actually reads his life story so he knows what happens next, seems a little forced, but the story still works as a well-planned and executed series where seemingly small events in the earlier books have consequences later on. It's reminiscent of Harry Potter in that sense and well worth a read.

Serenity - The Shepherd's Tale by Zack Whedon, Joss Whedon - 4/5 stars
The long-awaited backstory of one of Firefly's more mysterious characters was panned by many fans upon release, seemingly for telling a story they expected but not one they wanted. As a result, I've skipped it for a while but finally got it from the library.
I enjoyed that it was told backwards, in a series of ever-more-historical flashbacks, as it allowed for a series of reveals that would have been less dramatic if told forwards (the comic equivalent of Pulp Fiction?). The reveals give some of the reasons behind Book's eventual stint on Serenity and the moral choices he took amongst his more immoral, but always lovable, shipmates, but there's a sense that Joss had a lot more waiting if we were ever lucky enough to see Firefly become a 7-season hit. It's also great just to read some Whedonesque dialog again that I found myself smiling at certain turns of phrase.

SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden by Chuck Pfarrer - 4/5 stars
This is the second account of the OBL mission I've read in the last couple of months, so I can't help but compare it to Mark Bowden's one. Bowden's was more focused on the intelligence side, where Pfarrer (himself a former SEAL Team Six member) is all about the operators, giving a history of the SEALs, overview of SEAL training, accounts of disputes between the special ops and FBI/CIA sides of the story and, finally, the actual take-down itself as told to him by some of the participants (although it doesn't perfectly line up with the recent Esquire article by OBL's actual shooter).
SEAL Target Geronimo proves to be an entertaining read for those into real life special ops stories, conspiracy theories (he has a take on the WMD hunt and aftermath I hadn't read before) while giving me some useful research material for my current work-in-progress novel, Black Storm.

Secret Language: Codes, Tricks, Spies, Thieves, and Symbols by Barry J Blake - 2/5 stars
I picked this up thinking it would be something like Simon Singh's excellent The Code Book but discovered it's more like Blake's Masters Thesis on language, complete with academic-style footnotes, random diversions and uninspiring writing.
Blake clearly has thought a lot about language, but this book covers a range of disparate topics (spy codes, origins of words, pseudo-scientific accounts of words/phrases hidden in the bible, internet/text speak) in a very once-over-lightly style that made it hard to stick with - and in fact I skimmed a few of the duller sections.
It may be worth a read if you're a linguistics major who wants a quick tour of topics discussed by others, but head for Sing's book if you want a more enjoyable beginner's guide.

The Blood Gospel by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell - 4/5 stars
I've enjoyed Rollins's Sigma Force series so thought I'd give his new collaboration, and first of a series with Cantrell, a try. It takes the typical high-tech mixed with historical Rollins mix, adds in a heaping helping of vampires, Nazis, Da Vinci Code-esque interpretations of Christianity as the source of supernatural events (Lazarus = the first vampire, the titular book being a gospel written by Jesus himself, and a nice twist at the end about who's pulling the bad guys' strings), and romance.
Another good, fast read.

Code - Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs - 3/5 stars
Another originally adult-oriented thriller writer who has started a YA series, Code is the third in the Virals series starring Tory Brennan (Tempe's niece) and her team of scientists' kids who are infected with a virus that give them wolf pack-like super powers.
This time around they're sucked into a life-or-death game prepared by "The Gamemaster", who is planting high-tech puzzles and bombs around Charleston. As the virals (seemingly) accidentally stumble into the plot while geocaching, they find themselves and their families targeted in an increasingly deadly series of threats. Oh, and Tory has to figure out who she goes to the Debutante Ball with and how to stop the boys in her life feuding, while her dad's girlfriend tries to move into her house, just to add to the pressure.
A fun YA read, which also has a twist of betrayal to explain some of the coincidences. I'd have given it 4 stars but it feels just a little too much like an evil comic book villain's puzzle box plot I'll kill people, but I'll do it with riddles to make it just that bit more twisted to be taken as seriously as the Tempe series.

Next time, some non-Potter J.K. Rowling and some retro-Reilly.