I seem to fit in the same demographic as many other reviewers of this book. I first read it about 40 years ago when it was released and then saw the made-for-TV movie. In the intervening years I had forgotten how well Herman Wouk wrote (as of today he is still alive but no longer writing) and how well drawn and compelling the main characters of the book are.
The story, of course, is that of a naval family drawn into the start of World War II up to the point of America's entry into the war. As a vehicle for telling the story of the period up to the Pearl Harbor attack the main character, "Pug" Henry, ends up being assigned to posts that have him, or members of his family, at important places during important times. Thus we get to see vignettes of Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Joesph Stalin and Adolph Hitler as well as those around all of them.
The characters are compelling, the events were real, the story well-drawn and important and the family large enough to have members scattered around the globe and seeing events from many different perspectives. This is a first class book, extremely well read and highly recommended.
I have read three biographies of Winston Churchill, one of them (by William Manchester) was itself three volumes, so I was not sure there was much about his life that was there to be learned and had some hesitation about buying this book. But Boris Johnson, who is himself an interesting politician with an even more interesting background, has written a book which is not a biography but a book about what made Churchill capable of being the one man who saved Western Civilization from the horrors of Nazi Germany. Thus Mr Johnson looks at the things that made Churchill who he was and how those characteristics contributed to the one person who was essential at a truly pivotal moment.
But Mr Johnson has created a canvas of more than just World War II and looked at Churchill’s contributions in The Boer War, World War I, World War II and the period leading up to the start of the European Union and shown how, at each point, Churchill’s contributions were essential to Britain’s victories or were ignored by those in power resulting in decisions that left Britain far worse off than it could have been. Indeed, while Churchill and World War II are at the core of how people remember Churchill Mr Johnson spends a great deal of time covering Churchill’s work on behalf of the working poor in the UK, his efforts to improve the living conditions of the poor throughout the British Empire, his efforts to secure a united and peaceful Europe after the war and much, more more. As part of this we are treated to many stories and anecdotes, both true and false, about Churchill’s life, we look at what helped make him the person he became and how the world we are living in today is largely his legacy. The book is amusing at times, sorrowful at others but always interesting.
The book is not an academic approach but is clearly a work of admiration for a truly great man and Mr Johnson makes the case that there was no one else who could have taken Churchill’s place, at least during World War II, and that had he not been who he was the world we live in today would be very, very different. The book is narrated by Simon Shepherd who does a very good job. Highly recommended for those with an interest in recent British history.
Frankie Machine is a mafia killer and he is called "The Machine" because, when given an order to kill someone, he just does it like a machine. No questions. No excuses. He just does the job. So why am I cheering for this thoroughly bad guy to get out of this mess alive?
Well, I suppose it helps that he has only been asked to kill other mafia types. And I suppose it helps that he has a normal sort of family. And I suppose it helps that he has retired and is trying to live a normal life. But, most of all, I suppose it helps because Don Winslow has written a thoroughly enjoyable edge of your seat sort of book where Frankie, who has become a target for other mafia killers, is trying to stay alive long enough to find out why they are out after him. He is retired. He is out of the business and trying to live a normal life. Frankie, The Bait Guy, is on the run and, with his ex-wife, his daughter, his girl friend and his acquaintance in the FBI he might just have a chance.
Mr Winslow has given us an excellent book that is part mystery (why are they out after him), part thriller and part love story, all in just the right amounts and Dennis Boutsikaris does just as good a job at narrating as Mr Winslow did in writing. I will certainly be looking for more of Mr Winslow's books in the future.
Jo Walton has given us a brilliantly thought out alternative to the existing post World War II world that we know. England has replaced Churchill with an appeasement minded Prime Minister, has struck a deal with Hitler, the war in western Europe has ended and 8 years later Hitler is still fighting in Russia. England, like all independent powers on the periphery of the Third Reich, has slid into a milder form of fascism and is trying to accommodate itself to the new reality. It is both horrifying and easily believable.
This volume, the second in the series, involves the police, under an independently minded, but politically compromised, inspector trying to determine what was behind the explosion of a bomb in a London area residence. This book, like the first, tackles the story through the eyes of two separate individuals whose fate are eventually intertwined. In this case we have the story through Inspector Carmichael’s eyes and those of the lead actress in a new version of Hamlet that is to be staged. How the two tales come together and how the mystery is solved constitutes this book.
As with the first book in this series the characters seem real, the story progresses logically and nothing that takes place seems unreasonable. The chain of evidence from the bomb to the plot that drives the book is forged one link at a time and it is all so real that this could have been a history rather than a novel. All of the participants are inevitably drawn into their actions by small incremental choices and nothing seems like an unreasonable stretch. The reader is left with both the horror of the created world and the feeling that, without someone like Churchill, all of this could have happened. I was drained at the end of the book by the horror of a world that could easily have been and by the fates of those involved in this book and I needed to keep telling myself that this was a novel and not real.
I did not review the first book in this series because I was also left horrified by the world presented by the story and did not know how to properly explain how both wonderful the book was and how horrible the created world felt but, with the second book, I felt I needed to put something down on paper. Both of these books are simply wonderful, splendidly narrated and will leave you disquieted and uneasy. They certainly did leave me that way. I will buy and read the third volume but I must give myself some time first.
I have read many of Mr Forstchen’s books and generally enjoyed them so, when I saw this book, I naturally added it to my wish list and, when I wanted something light to read, I bought it. The book purports to be a novel about the building of a space based platform allowing humans to both inexpensively bring objects into space and to collect unlimited solar power for distribution on earth, both worthy goals, but the story was a considerable disappointment to me.
First of all the book does not feel like a novel, but rather like a sales brochure for a set of ideas. The characters are comic book simple and one dimensional - either completely selfless, generous and kind or selfish, undeserving and evil hearted. It feels as though there are no real people in this book. Second, the situations in the book also do not feel real. While the underlying concept is probably scientifically sound and within reach of people in the next 20 or so years, the idea that a couple of people could produce the core functionality with the funds generated mostly by one individual seems wishful thinking at best and the idea that the hidden “lie” behind the first effort would not raise a legal ruckus and shut down the project just feels unreasonable. But, of course, the investors, all very wealthy people, are all selfless and willing to give and give and give, even when lied to. It is all a very pretty concept, but I would like to know what planet Mr Forstchen thought he was writing about.
There is more. There seems to be very little of the tension that often makes books interesting. There is virtually no question about what is going to happen, when it is going to happen and how it will be resolved. If this book had been included between the covers of a glossy brochure as a sales promotion for the idea of limitless power from solar cells, the elimination of Global Warming and the end of having to boost rockets into orbit I would understand how simplistic it felt. As it is I do not.
Grover Gardner does the narration and I believe it is impossible for him to do anything other than an outstanding job narrating anything, including this book, but I have always felt that his narration is best suited for books involving historic events - The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, The Civil War and so on. Wasting his talent on a book like this felt like having James Earl Jones do the voice-over for a cartoon - just a waste of his time and talent. So, in spite of his wonderful narration I cannot recommend this book.
It is easiest to think of this book as containing two parts. The first part, an overview of the English Civil War, covers the period from just before the start of the First English Civil War through the Restoration of Charles II and, of necessity, mentions some Royalist and some Parliamentarian victories, the capture, incarceration and trial of the King, the seizure of power by the Army, the formation of the Rump Parliament, the Commonwealth and the Restoration of Charles II after the death of Cromwell. All of this is necessary so as to set the stage for the real tale of this book - the fate of those who most involved with the trial and death of Charles I and especially those whose names were on the King’s Death Warrant and those directly involved with his beheading. Thus this book becomes very personal in regards to what happened to the people referred to as the “Regicides”.
All Civil Wars are full of tragedies but in this book we see those tragedies through the fates of those most heavily involved in the events, both Royalist and Parliamentarian as well as by those scrambling to save their lives by betraying their friends, colleagues and acquaintances. As an American I was not familiar with most of the names of those involved and worried that I would lose track of who was who, who did what and who fought for which side but Mr Spencer was always prepared to let the reader know who each person was whenever it was necessary. While the book is wonderfully written and filled in a large blank space in my knowledge of English history, some parts of it were difficult to listen to. Many of those involved were Hung, Drawn and Quartered and Mr Spencer is, at times I believe, a bit too complete in his descriptions.
Some things shine clearly in this book. One was the perfidy of some of the Parliamentarians who backed the war against the King and, when the Commonwealth became unpopular, not only agitated for the Restoration of Charles II, but sat in judgement of those who did their bidding during the war. Another was the willingness of the Army to decide for itself who should and who should not sit in Parliament. And still others were the thirst for revenge by Charles II and the Royalists upon those who they said “murdered” the King, even to the point of tracking them down both in Europe and in the Colonies, the willingness of those in power to violate the law and their promised word concerning amnesty as well as to browbeat those who sat in the Juries judging the defendants and, of course, the shameful tale of Cromwell’s corpse. In the end what sticks in my mind are the small victories of some of the “Regicides” who managed, in the end, to escape the hunters and assassins and those in Switzerland and the American Colonies who ignored the large promised rewards and helped to protect the fugitives, many of whom were, after all, only guilty of following Parliament’s orders. If you are a fan of Oliver Cromwell this book may not be to your liking.
Mr Spencer has written a very good book which will stick with me for a long time and my view of the entire English Civil War, Commonwealth and Restoration has changed due to the excellent writing and splendid narration of Tim Bruce. If you are interested in British history this book is a welcome addition to that subject.
I don’t know precisely what I expected when I bought this book - perhaps the story of an investigation involving different approaches with the British and American methods at odds creating some tension, perhaps conflict between the supervisory government branches of the FBI and Scotland Yard, perhaps something else. What I did not expect is what I got. One dimensional characters who belong in comic books, not in written novels.
We are asked to believe a lot in this book. We have a Scotland Yard investigator who ignores the orders of his superiors with impunity, who has logical and investigative leaps that would make Sherlock Holmes look like a beginner and who apparently can read minds, an FBI agent who can look at a room after a crime has been committed and know what happened and how the crime took place and various other assorted investigators who can break into secure computer facilities without any trouble, sophisticated criminals who don’t bother to secure their computer information and miraculous escapes from bullets, explosions and the like. It is a wonder that, with all of the talents of the investigators in this book, the crime was not solved by the third paragraph.
This story might make a good comic book or, as I believe they are now called, a decent graphic novel, but I cannot recommend it as a serious or even light criminal novel.
I picked this book up as a Daily Deal and found, much to my surprise, that there was an interesting plot with good writing and very well done narration. Ex-FBI agent must find the history of a mysterious book by following clues hidden in a mysterious poem. It might sound familiar, but what make this plot different are what the mysterious book is, when it was written, what information it contains and how that information could possibly have been known when the book was written. That is what makes the plot both intriguing and worth following.
The writing is quite good and the plot (or at least the object for the search) is unique and about a quarter of the way through I was interested enough to look up other books by this author thinking that they might also be entertaining light reading. My first disappointment was finding that this is actually the second book in a series (the first, on Audible, is Secret Of The Seventh Son), although it is not marked as such on Audible, and the entire plot of the previous book is described as the characters in this book go through the process of finding the information they are seeking. Once you have read this book you will almost certainly have no interest in the previous book since all of the mystery will be gone. And, because finding the secret is the core of interest my feeling is that the previous book would have been more interesting than this one.
The second disappointment is that the main character, a seasoned, although retired, FBI agent, suddenly starts doing stupid things. While I do not wish to give any of the plot away it seems clear that an ex-FBI agent should know better than to talk on open phones when he believes that he is being followed by government agents who will do anything to stop him. It could not have been more odd if he had hung signs in the windows saying what he just found and what he was going to do next. The concept was so strange that I really lost interest from the second or third (of tenth) time he acted like a naive civilian.
Still, the plot is unique (or, at least, unique-ish) because of the contents of the book, the writing is good and the narration is first class. Still, had I the chance to do it over again, I would have read the first book in the series first since the telling of the events of the first book in the second lets some of the air out of the suspense.
So, a decent read with those two caveats.
When I reviewed the first book in this series I said that I wondered why I enjoyed it so much and decided that it was because of the wonderful character development along with an interesting and believable storyline. The second book in the series introduced new characters but the essential “whole-ness” of the story and of the characters remained with the new characters integrating seamlessly into the narrative and with one of them becoming a new main character. As with the first two books most of the story was character development and storyline, not battles.
The last book in the series picks up at the cliff-hanger of the end of the second book and is fully the equal of the other two books in the series in all of those particulars that made the first two books such a great pleasure to listen to. The characters are three dimensional and real, the story introduces us to the aliens and to their society as well as to some of the seamier side of humanity, all of the events that occur are reasonable and I found the story so enjoyable that I was reluctant to listen to too much at a time because I did not want to reach the end.
I have listened to quite a few first and second books in a series in this genre but few have been as interesting and none has enticed me into the story as much as this one. Somewhere after the finishing the second book in the series I started to look for other books by the same author feeling that if he could do this well with this series perhaps another series by him would be well worth listening to. I loved this trilogy and I ended up caring about the people, glad for their triumphs and sorry for their failures. The characters and society of the book are British with all of the traditions of the Royal Navy and, for me, that just added to the overall flavor and taste of the book.
All three books were narrated by Ralph Lister who did a consistently good job. Names and pronunciations were constant throughout all three books which added to the pleasure of listening. Highly recommended for anyone interested in stories of first contact, human and alien understanding and misunderstanding and of the unfortunate results of mistaken actions.
George Marshall, as Chief Of Staff of the US Army during World War 2, was central to the planning, coordination and scheduling of the activities of not only the US military but also, in coordination with the British General Staff, to that of the British and, having read a great deal on the war, I was interested in knowing more about both him and his actions prior to, during and after the war. In particular I was interested in knowing how he, a relatively little known officer in the early 1930s, came to be picked as Army Chief Of Staff over his colleagues, more information about his reputed “little black book” listing the names of those officers he thought both competent and incompetent, his relationship with the British Army General Staff and the Russian political leadership and his actions as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense after the war. Having read a great deal on the war itself I was familiar with most of his actions during the war and was thus more interested in the periods immediately preceding and following the war.
General Marshall’s life and early military career are covered, although not in much detail. Marshall’s life was full considering his rise through the military, his actions to prepare the US for the war, his actives during the war and his public life after the war and this book, at only 15 1/2 hours, is really too short to give much detail. Eisenhower’s recent biography is more than 28 hours, McArthur’s more than 31 hours, William Manchester’s 3 volume Churchill biography is more than 130 hours and FDR’s is more than 32 hours. By comparison this is a short biography and so can not cover much in detail.
In particular I was disappointed in the book's coverage of the period prior to US entry into the war since it did not go into much detail and I did not get most of my questions answered. The book is more complete in its coverage of General Marshall’s actions during the war and very informative about his actions as Secretary of State and of Defense and gives a great deal of information on his thoughts and actions during the Berlin Airlift, the declaration of independence of Israel, the start of the Korean War and other important events.
Although some of the details in the book are inaccurate or, at least, misleading (General McArthur was ordered out of the Philippines by the President, he did not “abandon” his men, Hitler had no treaty obligation to declare war on the US after Pearl Harbor and I have never seen any other author speak of the French Foreign Legion soldiers as being 2nd or 3rd class troops. John Keegan, in his book on World War 2, refers to them as some of the few first class troops in the Western armies.) I generally found the book to be interesting, if a bit short of detail. Some parts, like the discussions of his family and life long friends, were reasonably complete. Other parts, like his rise through the officer ranks, his interactions with those he later appointed to high position and why he rose in rank so quickly in the late 1930s left a great deal to be desired.
So, in general, I found the coverage of the book to be spotty. Marshall’s early Army life is not covered in much detail, there is a great deal of detail about his participation in World War 2, but that coverage is mostly duplicated in any book covering US participation in the war and his time serving as Secretary of State and, later, of Defense, covers his participation in highly public events and was very informative. Johnny Heller’s narration is adequate although his gravelly voice is, at times, a bit annoying. On the whole 3.5 stars.
I bought this based on my fond memories of the Ellery Queen mysteries on TV. I always thought they were intelligently written, reasonably well scripted and smartly done and hoped that the books would be the same.
There were two things that struck me about this book in particular. One was that the language and social attitudes were very dated with both words and ideas that are now considered at the very least archaic if not something worse. The second is that the mystery itself was as well constructed as I remembered the TV shows to be with all of the needed hints provided along with a lot of red herrings. All in all it was fun although at times a bit tiring trying to deal with the old language.
While I was able to guess what was going on and who, in general, was the villain, the mystery was deep enough to make me stop and think about who it might be for some time before I came to a reasonable conclusion.
The book is well read and I enjoyed it, but I do not believe I will buy any more. One was enough to satisfy my curiosity.
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