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!

The October Round Up!

I can’t believe it’s time to write yet another round up post.  October wasn’t super packed with stuff, so I got a lot of good reading time in.  The highlight of the month though was definitely heading to my favorite bookstore, R.J. Julia, and seeing Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis discuss their newest book Invisible Murder.  The book is the second in their Nina Borg chronicles, the first being The Boy in the Suitcase (which I reviewed here).  Hearing them discuss the research that went into the book, their travels through Hungary, and the tragic stories of what life is like in Hungary for gypsies was harrowing.  I’m excited that I have some background on the real life instances that parts of the book are based on.  It’ll only add that much more to my reading of it.

Me and two of my best friends Kate & Ashley!

We also participated in our second read-a-thon of the year!  Todd and I made it through an hour longer than our first read-a-thon and completed more books as well. We considered it a success and are already looking forward to the next one in the spring.

Besides the read-a-thon our month was spent celebrating our birthdays and Halloween!  Our birthday celebration consisted of Todd, me, and 12 of our friends hitting up downtown New Haven for pizza and beers.  Following dinner we took the group saki bombing!  Those unfamiliar with the term – you take a glass and fill it about halfway with beer (preferably Japanese beer) and then balance a shot of hot saki on top.  You bang the table, let the shot drop in the beer, and then chug down the rest. (Sounds gross but is actually really delicious!)  It was a fabulous celebration and I can’t wait till next year!

Our Halloween party was as always a ton of fun.  Todd’s home-brewed pumpkin beer was a huge smash. (Such a smash all 5 gallons was drunk in one night!)  Everyone went all out on their costumes this year! (Todd and I were newsies) I’m already anticipating how we’re all going to top ourselves next year.

October was a fantastic reading month!  I met my second reading goal of the year of 160 books and have decided to up the goal to 200 books by year-end.  As of today I’m at 176, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can make it through 24 more before year-end.  I completed 19 books in October with my favorite being The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley (my review is here).  Great great great book.  I really hope y’all will add it to your to-read piles.

The staff has been diligently working on getting through a whole slew of books this month. Adam’s been reading the historical fiction novel Deal With The Devil Part II and recently posted his review for it.  His next review is for a young adult mythology book, Pantheons.  Todd’s been reading a new thriller novel Targets of Deception and the fiction novel Believe Like A Child.  Christine’s been reading a short story/poetry anthology called Everblossom.  Jess is reading the memoir Taking Flak, while Charlie’s been working on a review of the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  I do also want to inform all of you about the addition of another staff blogger for the Reflections team, Sam!  Sam’s been working on a young adult dystopian thriller, The Tube Riders.  You can find out more about Sam and her reading tastes on The Staff page!

Let us know what you read last month and what books we should be adding to our to-read piles! As always, happy reading!