Todd’s Review of Targets of Revenge (Jordan Sandor #2) by Jeffrey S. Stephens

9781451688726_p0_v1_s260x420After reading the first two books in Jeffrey S. Stephens’ Jordan Sandor series, Targets of Opportunity and its prequel Targets of Deception, I knew I was in for a great third addition to the series.  Some foreshadowing in Targets of Opportunity lead the reader to believe that there is a large showdown looming between Jordan and the man responsible for his plight.  I’ve always been interested in spy/thriller books in general, and I knew going in to this book that I’d enjoy it, but little did I know that I would be reading the best book in the series!

Targets of Revenge begins with Jordan crashing a glider into the jungle along the coast of Venezuela, hot on the trail of a man known as Rafel Cabello, who goes by the moniker Adina.  He was the mastermind of the deadly terrorist attacks from the previous two books, notably the downing of a jet in the Gulf of Mexico and the death of one of Jordan’s best friends, Kurt Zimmermann.  Now that Jordan finally was able to place a name behind all of the attacks that have caused him such pain over the last year, he finally sets out to kill him.  After landing the glider, Jordan discovers a small lab in the jungle that houses not only Adina’s hideaway, but a hastily constructed lab that contains a cocaine refinery operation as well as something much deadlier: anthrax.  Although this finding puts his original plan to exterminate Adina on hold, Jordan is able to escape with crucial information that hopefully will uncover Adina’s purpose for the manufacture of such a deadly toxin.  The trail then leads him to Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt, where he meets with a Russian drug lord who is involved in the operation.  After surviving a harrowing SCUBA related assassination attempt, Jordan then heads to Russia, and finally, New York City, where he discovers Adina’s deadly plan.  Now out of time and options, Jordan must stop Adina at all costs before it is too late.

As I’ve stated earlier in my reviews of Stephens’ works, I enjoy how much he plays up both sides of the spy/thriller coin when crafting his stories.  He gets into the geo-political aspects of the story, explaining the diplomatic relationships between the US and various other nations without getting too complex.  On the other hand, there is more than enough action to go around, balancing out the diplomatic aspects of the story.  In Targets of Revenge, it seems that Stephens has tipped the scales more towards the action side of things, as the pace escalated quickly from the beginning and didn’t let up until the end.  To be honest, I had a blast reading all the action and it was a great respite from everything I’ve been doing for work and school recently.  It was like taking a reading vacation, and Stephens did a great job at pulling me in at the beginning and keeping up the pressure.  Sandor is a great character, and he’s got a good combination of diplomacy and a good old-fashioned bravado that mixes well and makes him incredibly likable.  I’m happy to say that I have no regrets in giving all three of these books 5 stars each, they definitely deserved them.

5 out of 5 Stars

Targets of Revenge by Jeffrey S. Stephens
Gallery Books (2013)
Hardcover 441 pages
ISBN: 9781451688726

Special thanks to Gallery Books for my review copy!

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The February Roundup!

February proved to be a month for catching up.  When January ended I was two books behind the pace I needed to meet my goal of 120 books for the year.  As of the end of February, I’m completely back on pace! Woo-hoo!! (I read 12 books in February, bringing my total to 19 for the year.)  Two things directly contributed to my ability to get back on pace:  1.) An INTENSE blizzard that wound up dumping 40″ of snow onto my town, making it the hardest hit in the tri-state area. 2.) The weeks I spent sick with a sinus infection and possible case of bronchitis.  Together, these two things equated out to a ton of time spent in the house and reading.

20130210_133339The blizzard was one of the most insane things I’ve ever witnessed.  Todd’s car (a VW Passat) was completely covered in snow, so much so that we couldn’t even see it! It was super difficult to dig out.  Regular plow trucks were no match for the record-breaking amount of snow we had and kept blowing transmissions due to the weight and amount of snow they had to push.  Commercial construction trucks and the National Guard had to come in and help plow streets enough for emergency vehicles to pass through.  Plows couldn’t get to the apartment building that Todd and I live in for almost three days.  Thankfully we didn’t lose power and had enough heat, books, and snacks to keep us occupied.  It’s been almost three weeks since the storm hit and we still have MOUNDS of snow everywhere. We’ll be lucky if it’s melted by April.

On the book front, February was a month filled with releases I was eagerly awaiting.  I was able to read the final book in Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, Sever, as well as Sarah MacLean’s newest addition to her Scoundrel’s series, One Good Earl Deserves a Lover.  Add to these Marie Force’s newest Gansett Island book, Waiting For Love, Rachel Van Dyken’s The Wolf’s Pursuit,  Nancy Kelley’s Loving Miss Darcyand Maya Banks’ Rush, and you can tell I did a lot of “new” reading.

Speaking of “new” reading… if you remember, last month I did a joint review of Beth Revis’ final book in the Across the Universe trilogy, Shades of Earth, with Sam.  Well, I found out that Beth was coming to Connecticut (WAHOO) with something called the “Breathless Reads” tour.  Penguin (her publisher) organized the tour for her and several other YA authors to come out to indie bookstores all across the US and speak about their books.  Luckily the bookstore that they came to in CT was R.J. Julia (my favorite)!  Todd and I jumped at the chance to attend and man are we happy we did.  Not only were we able to see Beth (and get our books signed), but we were able to listen to four other YA authors (Fiona Paul, Morgan Rhodes, Elizabeth Richards, and Jessica Spotswood) and get introduced to some new books we’re excited to tell you about.  Todd wrote more about the event here, as it was the first one he’d attended where he knew one of the authors.

Looking forward to March, I have lots of books to read (I’m asking myself why I’m even writing that sentence as it’s the story of my life each month.)  I’m hoping to get caught up on reviews over the next two weeks.  I have some GREAT reads to tell you about that you’ll hopefully find as interesting as I did!  Todd’s reading Targets of Revenge by Jeffrey S. Stephens, Adam’s reading Game of the Gods by E.J. Dabel, Sam’s reading Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason, and Christine’s reading A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan.  So, lots of new and unique stuff coming at you from across the genre spectrum.

Until next time….happy reading!

The January Roundup!

Guys, my life was so boring this past January.  I have no idea why I was only able to finish seven books.  The only big thing that really happened to me was transferring jobs.  I moved from my company’s accounting department to their sales and operations department.  It’s a happy transfer for me, as I’ve been with my current company for five years.  I’m looking forward to all the new challenges my new position will hold!  On top of training for my new position I’ve been training the person taking over my finance responsibilities.  All this coupled with putting away Christmas decorations, our bowling league starting, and just organizing life for the new year has left me fairly tired at night.

IMG_20130126_151407I will share with you quickly that Todd and I went to NYC last month to meet up with our college roommates Kate and Marc, as well as staff blogger Adam.  We did a trip to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to see Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Munch’s pastel version of The Scream.  It was absolutely extraordinary to finally be able to see Starry Night in person.  It’s been my favorite painting for as long as I can remember, yet it’s taken me this long to see it (crazy, I know).

As for my reading pace, I’m two books behind where I should be for the year.  I’m confident I’ll be able to pick up the pace in February.  My top reads of January are a tie between Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and Shades of Earth by Beth Revis.

Looking ahead, I’m working on reviews of The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory, Dragonfly in Amber (the second book in the Outlander series) by Diana Gabaldon, and some joint reviews with my buddy Kelly from Reading With Analysis.  Todd’s working on Targets of Revenge by Jeffrey S. Stephens and Breaking Barriers by Peter Altschul.  Jess has a review of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn posting next week and Sam’s working on a review of The Bracelet by Roberta Gately.  We’re keeping busy and reading lots of books to share with you.

Let us know how your January shaped up!

Todd’s Review of Targets of Deception by Jeffrey S. Stephens

Targets of Deception Jeffrey S StephensAfter reading Targets of Opportunity, the first in the Jordan Sandor series (you can read my review here), I was excited to see what would happen next for Jordan.  Interestingly enough, the next novel to come out was actually a prequel to the first, and it offers us a peek into the life of Jordan before Opportunity.  As an ex-CIA field agent, we get to see how Jordan dusts off his old (and sometimes rusty) skills and gets back into the game full time.

We begin with Sandor and an old friend, Dan Peters, driving down a country road in upstate New York.  They are en route to talk to a man named Jimmy Ryan, who claims to have important information that he needs to relay to Peters and Sandor, who is posing as a journalist.  Their serene car ride is interrupted by gunshots, as Peters and Sandor are shot at by two men who have been pulled over by a state trooper, who lies on the ground, shot as well.  Sandor is able to escape unscathed, and he manages to save Peters and the trooper in the process.  All this is for naught, however, as it comes to light that the two men were on a mission to kill Ryan before he could talk, and those associated with these men end up killing Peters in his hospital room.  What’s more, Sandor begins to learn more about Ryan, whose real name is James McHugh.  Sandor learns that McHugh, an ex military officer from Vietnam, was involved with a man named Vincent Traiman, who trained fighters for al-Qaeda in Libya before 9/11 and was an ex-CIA agent who had betrayed his country.  McHugh realized that the very people he and Traiman waere training were killing his military comrades, and he decided to leave Libya without alerting the attention of Traiman and his associates.  Now on the run, McHugh wanted to pass on information about Traiman’s deadly operation and a new scheme he was planning that would put all of America and her allies at risk.  With his death, it is now up to Sandor to discover Traiman’s plans and uncover the truth.

I have to say, this prequel to Targets of Opportunity is just as exciting as the first work.  Stephens has a way with the plot that makes reading his works super exciting.  The inital crack of action drew me in right away, and the slow build to the exciting finish had all the great drama and character development of a great action movie.  Sandor has the intelligence smarts of Jason Bourne and the cocky swagger of James Bond.  As I stated in my review of Stephens’ previous work, I really enjoy how Stephens’ knowledge of politics and the quasi-military aspects of Sandor’s background really enhance the story.  His inclusion of specifics on Middle East / US relations, especially post-9/11, were great and informative.  They fleshed out Traiman’s character, and made the threat that much more creditable.  In all, it read like the smart spy thriller that I knew it would be.  I can’t wait for Targets of Revenge to see what mess Jordan can get into next!

5 out of 5 Stars

Targets of Opportunity by Jeffrey S. Stephens
Pocket Books (2012)
Paperback 432 pages
ISBN: 9781451688672
Special thanks to Pocket Books for my review copy!

The November Round Up!

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First snow of the season!

11 months down, 1 to go! 177 books down, 23 to go to meet my third reading goal of 200 books for the year!  I have to tell you that I’m shocked at how fast this year has gone.  This past month our days were filled either being with/helping family or beginning to prepare for the holidays. (We also got hit with our first snowstorm!)

As many of you are already aware, Hurricane Sandy came rip-roaring through NY, NJ, and CT earlier in November.  The amount of damage and destruction left behind was absolutely shocking.  Mother nature’s power is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  I’ve got family in NY and NJ so it was interesting to see and hear the stories of how the same storm hit all of us yet did different things to our states.  Being where we are in CT, Todd and I were fortunate to have minimal damage.  Downed power lines and trees scattered our town, but that was the extent of our damage.  Closer to the shoreline there was a ton of flooding, fires, weeks without power, etc.  My parents in NJ lost their power for several hours but were lucky to get it back so quickly. My sister and brother-in-law live in Manhattan and had no power for 5 days.  They and their menagerie of animals wound up going to my parent’s house to stay so that they could have access to heat and water.  My aunt on Staten Island unfortunately fared the worst.  Her home was evacuated at the beginning of the storm, and upon her return found water in her basement up to the ceiling. The several feet of water took a few days to drain and that’s when we got to work.  We began tearing her basement apart, bringing up all the furniture, appliances, and other odds and ends that were down there as it all needed to be trashed.  We then proceeded to gut the entire basement literally down to the studs.  Framing, molding, heating baseboards, dry wall, etc.  It all came down.  At this point construction workers were able to come back in and begin working, beginning with putting up the drywall for all the new walls.  My aunt has a new ceiling, new framing for closets, and has picked out new appliances and cabinets.  Cable, internet, and power have all been restored as well.  Thankfully things are looking up for her personally, but the island is still an absolute mess.  I urge all of you to participate in any clothing, supply, or food drives taking place near you for Sandy victims.  There are still homes with no power, people with no food, and construction going on everywhere.  The cars that were flooded and totaled by the insurance companies are still being towed away.  It’s truly a very sad sight and any and all help is truly appreciated.

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Thanksgiving with my in-laws!

Not all of November was a downer, though. Todd and I spent Thanksgiving with both of our families where lots of good food was consumed.  My mother-in-law makes this fantastic jello dish that comes from a recipe from her grandmother.  It has celery and apples in it and a great sauce on the side (it truly is fabulous!)  My grandmother makes my other favorite Thanksgiving dish, rice and sausage stuffing.  She throws in craisins and it is just a heavenly dish!  There is almost never any left (of either dish) once Thanksgiving dinner is over.  I think in 2013 I’ll have to fight for these dishes to get made more often, and not just at Thanksgiving.

To recap my reading in November, I completed another 10 books.  My favorite of the ten was a historical fiction novel called In A Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener.  That novel has quickly restarted my love of reading about the Tudor period of British history all over again.  I’ve found myself gearing up to read a good amount of historical fiction novels in December.

Looking forward, December will be a lot of catching up for me.  I’m working on getting all the reviews I have to finish by year-end up, along with what challenges I’ll be participating in for 2013!  Todd’s working on his review of Targets of Deception and has some author interviews in store! Adam’s working on a review of the film Lincoln and a review of the historical fiction novel Tragedy and Triumph (he’s excited about December since both of his review items relate to the Civil War!)  Sam’s in the process of reading an illustrated sci-fi/fantasy novel Elfhunter, and Charlie has film reviews of The Hobbit and Lincoln coming as well.

It looks like we’re going to have a busy and productive month!  Until next time, happy reading!

Todd’s Review of Targets of Opportunity by Jeffrey S. Stephens

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When I saw that one of the bylines on the back of this book said “Move over Jason Bourne, I want Jordan Sandor”, I knew I had to give this novel a try.  What a great choice that turned out to be.  Stephens’ sophomore novel in the Jordan Sandor series carries us around the globe, visiting Iran, North Korea, St. Barthelemy, Washington D.C., and the Gulf of Mexico all in hot pursuit of a terrorist cell that poses a grave threat to the US.  It’s a quick and exciting read that made my pulse quicken and rapidly turn the pages.  I’ll definitely add Stephens to my list of authors to follow-up and read more of!

We are first introduced to Jordan Sandor after a series of events leads to the defection of a leading terrorist of the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps), Ahmad Jabar.  Having had previous dealings with Jabar, Sandor is brought in to question him and learn more about what Jabar has to offer in return for political asylum.  Moving on information from Jabar, as well as a highly placed agent in the DPRK (North Korea), Jordan and a crack team of three additional special forces agents infiltrate the DPRK to learn as much as they can about a suspected terror pact between North Korea and Venezuela.  After a particularly rough time in the country, Sandor barely makes it out in time to discover that the wheels are already in motion for a deadly plot to attack American soil, spearheaded by a Venezuelan named Adina.  To make matters worse, two of Sandor’s men remain under capture in North Korea, and a female North Korean agent who aided him is now at risk after Sandor was forced to escape the country with her.  Will Sandor be able to attack all of these problems before it’s too late?

I love a good spy novel just as much as the next guy, but what I really enjoyed about Stephens work is the great attention to technical detail as well as the political discussion that he interjects into his work.  You get a sense that he has throughly researched all the weapons, armaments, and other details that make the book great.  His understanding of the diplomatic relations between North Korea and the rest of the world is thought-provoking, and his character Sandor is an awesome way to introduce some good old-fashioned badass attitude into the normally complex and not always fair relations that exist between the United States and countries known to harbor terrorists within their borders.  All in all, Sandor is definitely a man you would want in your corner, and he always seems to say the things that one would want to say but would never have the guts to do so.  James Bond-like comparisons aside, he does enjoy a good martini, but does specify that the only ingredients other than Grey Goose are a twist of lemon and a few shavings of ice.  Nice.  So, if you’re in the mood for a good international chase around the globe without leaving the comfort of your living room, give this a try.  They don’t come any more badass than Jordan Sandor.

5 out of 5 Stars

Targets of Opportunity by Jeffrey S. Stephens
Gallery Books (2011)
Hardcover 432 pages
 
Special thanks to Melissa over at Gallery books for sending me a review copy!