Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Emperor’s Tomb by Steve Berry

A review from an Amazon Vine book of

This is one of series of books featuring Cotton Malone and Cassiopeia Vitt. Generally I have found that most series authors find ways to introduce recurring characters so that you know something about them. In this case there was only a bit of personal history given which at times made you feel at a disadvantage although the book can be read as a stand alone book in the series.

I have never read this author before and the copy I was reading was the uncorrected proof which I hope will go on to get some major flaws repaired before actual publication. I found the story interesting and there was a lot of history about China that I enjoyed learning about, but I found many scenes in the book to be totally implausible.
The biggest scene that I had trouble believing in was a shoot out in a museum in Antwerp. Several different factions were chasing each other, shooting each other, and fighting each other in a closed museum at night. Oh, and by the way, the building was on fire. I have always heard and believed that when a building is burning it is hard to see as everything is dark and smoky, it is hard to breath unless you are down near the floor, the atmosphere is hot and nasty and a normal person’s instinct is to get out of a burning building as quickly as possible. Not these guys. They were all so committed to their cause that they all kept fighting, shooting, etc. while the building and room all around them was going up in flames. Apparently the normal problems associated with a fire did not bother these folks except of course for the one guy that burned up in front of them. Come on, get your characters fighting in a way that is believable!

Even the premise of the book at the beginning was hard to believe. Cassiopeia receives a plea from some one she owes a favor to that his son has been kidnapped in China and would she please go rescue him. With no background on this lady, one would wonder what special talents does she have to rescue 4 year old boys from kidnappers in China? She doesn’t speak the language, she has no permission to get into China, she has no idea where the boy might be, etc. So after she is captured and is given some water torture she brings her friend Cotton into the picture as he is an ex-spy and can maybe help. At times the conversations between Cotton and Cassiopeia and the others in the book reminds me of the dialog in a grade B movie especially the Russian spy and his poor English skills and manner of talking.

For content this book does reveal some truly unique forms of torture. There are also many characters in this book, most of which you can’t tell whose side they are on. You may gain some insight into the internal workings of the Chinese political machine, assuming the author got those parts correct. It was an interesting book but not one that will inspire me to keep trying to find this authors others books to read which is the sure sign from me that I like a book and an author.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Ave Steinberg is a book I read and reviewed for the Amazon Vine Program. It is an interesting look into the life of those prison workers that feel caught in the cracks. They certainly aren't the inmates, but mostly they don't feel like part of the guard force either.


At one point in my nursing career, I worked three years as a prison nurse. Being a civilian employee at a jail or prison is a very unique experience so I looked forward to reading this book. This is an autobiographical work by Avi Steinberg who ended up working as a librarian in a large Boston prison when all his other job options had run out. He became one of several librarians who worked along with a trustee detail of prison inmates. While there he learned to walk carefully, and at times not so carefully, the tightrope between being friendly to the inmates as opposed to being friends with the inmates—there is a huge difference! He also had to learn how to deal with the prison staff of guards and other civilian employees in an institute that was state run with all the many nuances working a state funded job can throw at you.

He found that he had to learn many things that had nothing to do with librarianship. Learning what is contraband and what isn’t. Intercepting notes that the prisoners had left in books. Dealing with deaths of inmates he had come to care for. His story is told in a very humorous manner and yet was sensitive to his surroundings. While some parts of the book, I was honestly wondering where the guards were, I felt that the feelings about his work there was very real and honest. It is hard to see that nice friendly inmate face on a daily basis and yet know that you can’t trust him or be his friend. He even recalls being mugged by an inmate while out of work. That is always the strangest feeling when you bump into someone you only basically saw behind bars or finding yourself behind them in line at the movies. If you are interested in prison life from a different point of view, you should enjoy this book. I know I did.