BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bea's Ranty Review of Targets of Revenge by Jeffrey S. Stephens

Publisher: Gallery Books
Series: Jordan Sandor #2
Format Read: Print book
Source: I received both a print ARC and a finished hardcover free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Buying Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  The Book Depository

Blurb from goodreads:
COUNTRY FIRST. All the bureaucratic scolding in Washington cannot stop resourceful CIA Agent Jordan Sandor when he’s hungry for revenge. This time he’s on the hunt for the cold-blooded sociopath known as Adina, whose indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people, including Sandor’s close friend, represents man at his worst.
Mobilizing a team of skilled and dedicated agents to carry out his secret operation, Sandor flies in the face of his superiors’ stern warnings—ultimately crash-landing in the heart of the Venezuelan jungle. Armed with little more than a combat knife and a deadly automatic weapon, he infiltrates Adina’s camp and discovers that the ruthless terrorist is smuggling not only cocaine into the United States, but also a deadly substance that could cost tens of thousands of lives.
Sandor develops intel that leads him to Egypt and then Moscow as he fights to prevent this disaster, but after he lands on Interpol’s list of international fugitives, the truth becomes clear: Adina’s evil web extends to the far corners of the globe. Meanwhile, someone Sandor trusts could very well be feeding the agent dangerous lies as he struggles to stay on Adina’s trail.

More focused than ever, Sandor refuses to end his perilous mission, even after he has been taken captive. In the end, when he uncovers the realities of Adina’s deranged plan for a catastrophic assault on New York City, Sandor has no choice but to risk his life to protect his country’s safety and freedom.

Bea's Thoughts:

In 2011, I read and reviewed the first book in this series, "Targets of Opportunity". Looking back at my review, I didn't love the book but it had some good parts. I didn't like the hero, Sandor, and I wish I had re-read my review before agreeing to review this one when the publisher contacted me. I said in that review that "Sandor is more of a cardboard thriller hero - rogue and rule breaker, check; ladies man, check; only man who can save the world, check; a loner, check; a true blue American patriot who sees the world in only black and white." That's still true and Stephens has ramped it up in this book to the point that Sandor is a caricature. He has no depth or complexity but is a cartoon; he is also self-righteous, arrogant, and condescending, and I don't find any of those qualities attractive. Moreover, the politics and morals that Stephens has Sandor espouse are simplistic, condescending, and jingoistic. Sandor is the kind of patriot who makes patriotism into a dirty word. I don't remember him being so obnoxious in the first book and I don't think I've changed drastically in a year and a half but this book just made me want to pull my hair out.

Moreover, Sandor is not any better than the villain, Adina, who is making a return appearance from the first book. Both believe that they are right; both believe the ends justify the means; both have no qualms about breaking laws, torturing people or committing murder; both are utterly intolerant of people whose beliefs differ from theirs; and both refuse to answer to anyone else. The storyline is simplistic and the politics made me rant while reading; there were times I wanted to throw the book across the room but I didn't want to scare the cat or break the window.

"Targets of Revenge" is an action/adventure and it fits solidly into the genre. Ignoring for a moment the many things that infuriated me, the book is decently written, if you're willing to forgo characterization. There are no gaping plot holes, the editing is adequate, and the story moves pretty quickly. There aren't any real twists or turns and I thought the storyline was less plausible than in the first book. If you are looking for something where you can turn your brain off and enjoy reading "Rah rah, America can do no wrong" books, you might like this one.

Now, let's go back to Sandor's utter lack of appeal as a hero, and I don't think he's a hero even if he does succeed in his mission. I do prefer my heroes/protagonists to be at least somewhat likable or relatable. BUT, if the author takes that unlikable character and digs deep, takes the reader inside the mind of the character so we get to know and understand him, then I can accept a less likable hero/protagonist. I may even find I come to like him. If this had been written as a psychological thriller, an examination of the differences, if any, between the hero and the villain, it might have been a good book. But what we get is a fairly standard political thriller with a particularly unlikable hero.

I rarely hate a book but this one....well, it's the second time I've tried this author. I'm done now. He won't get a third chance. The older I get, the more willing I am to DNF a book. However, I agreed to review it for the publisher so I made myself finish it. I am very glad I didn't pay for it; it's bad enough I spent time on it.
I know I shouldn't confuse the author with his characters but I admit to not feeling very friendly towards Stephens after reading this book. Whether or not there's any of Stephens in Sandor, I simply can't accept the BS that gets dished out in this book. I don't like Sandor's morals or behavior; I can't stand the politics espoused (you're poor because you don't work hard enough; the government has no responsibility to you and you deserve no help whatsoever, etc.); the main character Sandor is an obnoxious ass; and given that there's very little difference between Sandor and Adina, the main thing that makes Sandor the hero is that he is an American and Adina is not. Having tried two of these books now, I'm done. They simply are not for me.

The publisher sent me paperbacks of the book one and the sequel and both an ARC and finished hardcover of this book. I will be donating them to my local library. I was going to do a giveaway but it always feel wrong when I hold a giveaway for a book I disliked; "here, I didn't like this book so I want you to have it." :D At least my library can add them to their collection or sell them at their next used book sale and earn some money from them.

Now that I've ranted about the book, check out the trailer below for a completely different take on it. Since it's the book's trailer, basically an advertisement, you'll hear how wonderful the book is. *rolls eyes*

If you have read the book, or you end up reading it, please share your thoughts below. I saw that it has many 3, 4 and 5 star reviews on goodreads. I'm convinced I read a different book. :D Do you like it? Why or why not?



  1. I am sorry that you didn't enjoy this, but at least you tried the author again. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Jenea @ Books Live Forever

  2. I'm glad that you gave the author a second try. Now you can honestly say that you don't like this series, or his style.
    I think that this is a pretty honest review, you point out what you don't like while saying that it's what YOU don't like without saying things like "the author can't write", and you point out the things that you did like.
    You mention that the plot takes the protagonist around the world, how was Stephen's world building? Descriptive? Bland?
    Thanks for the review, Bea!

    1. Hmm, I didn't give much thought to the world-building so I guess it was good enough. There's not a lot of description re the traveling but I also don't expect that in this genre. There could have been more so I guess it was bland. But, in terms of the events, agencies, etc. it was pretty believable except for some of the twists and turns.

  3. Rant on hun, rant on! Goodness. Yeah he doesn't sound like a hero I'd want to get to know at all. I've found a couple over the past few months where the hero was...questionable morally and really not a good guy but the way it was done you actually really ended up loving them despite their major flaws. Will definitely say away from this one though. Thanks for the heads up!!


    1. Yes! If the author had done that, I'd have liked the book better. But we are presented this obnoxious hero and were just supposed to accept and love him.


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