The first time I heard of this book, I was in a bookstore browsing and found the hardcover copy of this book on the bargain rack. I couldn't for the life of me figure why it was there, as it sounded extremely intriguing. Unfortunately I was feeling indecisive that day, and I left the book on the shelf. Regretting that I hadn't bought it, I was pleased to find the audio version through Audible.
The authors did a remarkable job of bringing to life people from all groups involved with and affected by the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, the Bataan Death March, and the ultimate Allied victory over Japan. Through various parts of the narrative, we hear the perspectives of enlisted and officers from both sides.
The treatment of the American and Filipino P.O.W.s was appalling, both in the passive forms of neglect and the active forms of torture, abuse and murder. Many of the descriptions will turn your stomach in disgust and anger. Yet the story was much more complex than that. I found it truly awe-inspiring to hear in the same vignette about the abominable actions of Japanese captors, and the selflessness, grace and good will of the Filipino civilians. There is a description that will really take your breath away of children running past armed guards into the columns to hand sugar cookies to the prisoners.
Yet, the authors do not paint the Japanese as evil, heartless monsters, but rather illustrate the conditions that led to such extreme actions. The mythos and history behind Imperial Japan and its push to expand is explained, as well as the brutal military training process. The actions of the captors against their prisoners is shocking, but it becomes much less surprising when you learn how the Japanese military treated its own troops. There are moments of sheer horrifying cruelty and violence, and moments of surprising benevolence, such as Japanese guards silently slipping food and quinine to suffering prisoners. Some of the feelings of the Japanese troops are revealed, as well. The loss of life on their side during the engagements on the Philippines was pretty staggering; to suddenly have the "enemies" responsible for the deaths of many of one's comrades must have been an irresistible opportunity for vengeance for some. At the same time, we hear about the decline of morality among the American prisoners. Under such harsh conditions, some soldiers forgot about looking out for anyone but themselves, resorting to theft, bullying and even physical violence against one another.
I think more than anything this book is a statement about the extremes of human nature revealed by the cruelty of war. Nothing about this book is simple or black-and-white. I believe this is an important piece of history to learn about, and this book presents the story in a very human way that challenges pre-conceived notions.
I'm not sure how to put this... let's see... here goes... if you want a good solid scare, read this book NOW. Fans of horror will probably agree that it's not often a book (or movie) comes out that really gets to you at a primal level. Many times, a story will have a few shocking or frightening parts, laced with a lot of rote, formulaic silliness. And that's ok, there is a place for horror archetypes. But, to find a book that really gets your heart racing and your stomach churning, yet you still can't stop reading, is a rare thing indeed.
I am sure that this is a fantastic read in print as well, but Corey Brill really brings the story to life.
The less said about the plot, the better. The author feeds you just enough information as you go along to foreshadow the ultimate events of the book, popping back and forth between different characters, documents, and interviews/articles. What I will say is that this book gives a respectful nod to the core scares and ideas from "It," "Lord of the Flies," and "Alien," but manages to still be completely and horrifyingly original. The creatures are enough to make anyone squeamish, and the survival story is gripping, but at the end of it all, the scariest part is what humans can and will do to one another.
Be prepared to have your emotions (and your sleep) seriously tampered with. You will not forget these scouts any time soon.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across the movie "Into the Electric Mist." I really enjoyed the film and figured it must have been based on a book. Imagine my surprise and excitement to find out that, not only was it based on a book, but a book in a rather long series!
I was thrilled to find "The Neon Rain" on Audible, and finished in two days. I was a bit apprehensive about the narrator, as I was not a fan of his recent recording of Stephen King's "Doctor Sleep," so I was relieved to find that Will Patton's style was quite suited to the character of Dave Robicheaux.
I don't like to discuss plot points in a review, but I will say that this was a pretty action packed read. There are many levels to the story, and the author aptly weaves together the current events, local history, and Robicheaux's own past in Vietnam and his struggles with alcoholism.
The characters, while not all hugely developed, are written with a lot of personality and detail, so that you feel like you have met them in person. The dialogue is sharp and funny, with phrases like "It was like having bread mold for neighbors..." that stand out in my mind and make me laugh upon recalling them.
Burke incorporates descriptions of New Orleans and the bayous that bring the setting to life. The book is filled with colorful images and local twists that make it that much more intriguing than a crime novel set in Anytown, USA.
A few parts are a bit hokey or slightly less than convincing. There are a few characters who lean heavily toward stereotypes, although not without accuracy. The romance element seemed to develop implausibly quickly. It's not that the reader cannot see how Dave would fall for the beautiful, empathetic classical musician... it's just that so little time elapses between meeting and declarations of love that it doesn't quite jive, particularly with how much more depth his character has.
I immensely enjoyed this quick, wry-witted and quirky crime novel, and since the audio version of book two is abridged (boo!! hiss!!) I am eagerly awaiting the transfer of the paperback to my library. Even with the few flaws, I think this was a great book with captivating style and would highly recommend it.
It was something of a coincidence that I ended up reading this book at the same time as I was re-reading Bram Stoker's "Dracula."
One of the books featured a maniacal elder, who used intellect and cunning to manipulate the people around him. This creature controlled every thought and aspect of their lives, and effectively created a legion of terrified slaves, who would in turn perpetrate violence and wreak terror on future generations.
The other book was about a vampire.
It is in jest that I minimize the frightening story and ideas Bram Stoker put to paper so many years ago. Yet, in truth, the real-life actions of Warren Jeffs and his followers are far more terrifying than anything I have come across in reading any fiction.
The hideous, unabashed greed, meanness and predation that underlie Jeffs' every action are truly sickening. As bad are the lengths to which his followers have proven themselves willing to go, whether through active participation in the evil, or through handing over their most vulnerable family members to be brutalized and inculcated into the cycle of abuse and incest.
Sam Brower's investigative take on the FLDS is engaging and well-composed. As he is a member of the mainstream LDS faith, it can hardly be said that he was unfairly prejudiced or ignorant of the subjects of his study. Since I read and enjoyed Jon Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven" a few months back, it was fascinating to delve even deeper into the culture that set the scene for the Lafferty murders. In addition, the developing relationship between the two authors added a really interesting perspective. Initially unsure of one another, the two men ended up being strong allies in the crusade to bring down the shroud of secrecy surrounding this criminal group.
The narrator gave a solid reading, true to Brower's words and powerful story without being melodramatic. It was easy to imagine that the private investigator/author was telling the story in his own voice.
The subject matter of this book is quite heavy and quite disturbing, and perhaps that is what we need as a society to ensure that such atrocities are not allowed to take place while we uncomfortably look the other way.
After seeing so many reviews praising this book, I was excited to start "14." To say I was sorely disappointed is a bit of an understatement. By the time I realized that the book was not going to improve, it had become a chore I felt obligated to complete since I was so far in.
To sum the experience up, I felt as though I were reading the work of an overly confident high school honors english student. The ideas and the elements of a great story are there, but it would take a lot of work to get it to all come together. Unfortunately, I don't think Clines had someone to sit down, read the manuscript and tell him to cut out about 80% of the story, throw it on the floor, jump up and down on it, burn it, then rewrite it. And then rework the salvageable 20%. What made it to print was the rough idea of a good story, translated into a boring, immature and poorly composed novel.
The plot crawls along at a slug's pace for most of the book, without doing much to raise the stakes or to engage the reader in the characters' explorations. The "clues" to the mystery of the Kavatch building are either painfully obvious or so obscure that they leave the reader wondering why they were even included. The scenes of "action" are colorless and dry, with emphasis on droll details. Reading these scenes is more like watching someone alphabetize their CD collection than watching someone trying to avert the apocalypse.
The character development is nonexistent in several cases, and lackluster in even the most important characters. Forgive me, but if I'm expected to stick with these people for the equivalent of 306 pages, I expect more than name and job title. If the building's residents had been better rounded, I could have dealt with the "Sunday drive" pace of the action. Unfortunately, the relationships that form are formulaic, shallow and predictable. They interact in the way that a teenager would imagine a bunch of hip 30-something misfits in LA would interact, not in the way that actual adults relate to one another.
The jokes and dialogue are repetitive and corny. The characters' incessant Scooby Doo references come off like an annoying inside joke made by a clique of co-workers you don't quite get along with. Also, if I heard the phrase "It's very steampunk" used one more time, I was ready to track down the author and whack him with the heaviest harcover H.G. Wells book I could get my hands on.
I will give the author credit, he did have a few very cool ideas with great potential. Unfortunately, he did not follow through in a way that made this book engaging or worthwhile.
I picked this book out looking for a quick and engaging read, and was pleased to get just that.
"Isolation Ward" is told from the point of view of Dr. Nathaniel McCormick, a CDC officer with an attitude equal to his brain power, both of which have a tendency to get him into trouble. I enjoyed his snarky side comments and disaffected viewpoint on the medical establishment throughout the book. I'm sure this comes across on paper but was made all the better, by narrator Scott Brick's embodiment of the character. While this is not a piece of literature with complex character development, there is just enough detail and witty dialogue to round out the cast and keep things interesting.
The story starts with an outbreak of an unknown hemorrhagic virus in the special needs population of Baltimore, MD. I found the setting intriguing because usually epidemic stories begin in some hugely populated and trafficked setting... airports, casinos, movie theatres... not within a fairly insulated population living in group homes. This was a very clever choice by the author which becomes an important part of the "web" later in the story. The plot ends up going much deeper than the story of the disease, into a hidden world of medical experimentation and interpersonal intrigue. I certainly didn't foresee the source of the disease.
This is a fast-paced, smart book that will keep you reading, and can even be thought provoking at times when it delves into medical ethics. If you're looking for a decent "page-turner," I would certainly recommend it.
This was an unusual read for me; I almost always prefer to read the book before seeing its film adaptation (yes, I'm one of those people!) But I tend to be way behind the crowd on ultra-popular series (STILL haven't touched Harry Potter, for example,) so I had only minimal knowledge of the book when I stumbled upon the newly released film at Blockbuster. I figured for a $2 rental charge, what the heck, I'd give it a shot. I ended up watching the movie twice in one weekend and promptly purchasing the book on audio.
This suspenseful, intense and intelligent book far exceeded my expectations. I found it to stand apart from its "genre" in a number of ways. In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to put one label on it. On one level, it is a white-collar crime novel; on another, a thrilling psychological roller coaster; on another, a bold statement about gender roles in society. The backdrop of racketeering, extortion and money laundering and the ethical conflicts surrounding journalism make this much more than your run-of-the-mill cops and criminals mystery. In fact, the plot revolves around those dealing with crime outside of the law enforcement circle. Larsson adds another layer of intrigue with a decades-old unsolved missing persons case, which becomes far more complex than anyone anticipates.
Finally, the book is a very strongly-stated opinion piece on the treatment of and role of women in modern society. The original Swedish title was "Män som hatar kvinnor" or "Men who hate women," which, when altered to the English language title I think exemplifies the phrase "something gets lost in translation" better than anything else I've ever seen. One aspect of the book that did survive translation was the statistics on violent sexual crimes against women in Sweden, which appear as epigraphs at the beginning of each section. These sobering quotations lend some perspective in the midst of a work of fiction. There are all kinds of women in this book, from the unusual but brilliant Lisbeth to the ferocious and hateful Isabella to the mysterious Harriet. Larsson prompts us (or often pushes us) to think about why these women became the people they are. Even though these are resilient, smart, moral women, they are as easily victimized by violent and controlling men as those less fortunate and weaker minor characters who appear in the story. I thought this was an extremely interesting point of view to be expressed so sincerely by a male author.
In conclusion, I have noticed in reading some negative reviews that the style and content of this book made many readers uncomfortable, to which I would reply: good. Although I did not find Larsson's writing to be gratuitous or especially graphic as compared to other crime writers, I did feel it has much more impact. If the themes and events in this book did not make you both disturbed and outraged, then you need to go back and re-read it. This is an important piece of modern literature, and I am looking forward to reading the next book.
Have you ever finished a story and wished desperately for a sequel, even though there was no sensible way one could exist? That was how I felt upon finishing "Matterhorn." I was so attached to the characters by the end, I just didn't want to let them go off into the unknown.
The story of the Marines in Bravo Company is extremely captivating. There are twists and turns a-plenty; on several occasions I was driving along with my hand over my mouth, almost holding my breath from the suspense
What really made the book for me, however, was the characters. It was a unique cast in that there was no real "good guy" or "bad guy," just a lot of men in a terribly difficult situation, trying to do the best they knew how. Everyone's motivations and desires were different, and that is reflected in their actions throughout the book. There is a great deal of clashing between those motivations, desires and ideals, and while some of the characters seemed to hate one another at different points in the story, I found it impossible to hate any of them. None of these characters is perfect; they all possess good and bad qualities. Some are smarter than others; some have sharper fighting instincts. Some are impeded by their lack of experience or education, some are handicapped by having too much. Some are weighted down by bigotry from their upbringing; others are blinded by their resentment of the status quo. It is these shortcomings, in combination with the men's loyalty, bravery and humor that make them incredibly appealing and human. I wanted the best for each of the characters, even when they did something foolish or misguided or mean. It hurt every time the company lost a man in the fight.
Bronson Pinchot's narration was probably the best I've listened to. Don't be put off by the dramatic-reading style, even if you don't usually go for that. I was astounded by his vocal range and ability to give each character a truly unique voice, respective of their race, age, ethnicity, rank, education, and even where they were raised. He didn't even screw up the two characters from Boston, which is amazing. Pinchot's characterizations were perfect and really rounded out the already amazing characters.
I will absolutely read this book again and would highly recommend it. In fact I have been trying to get any of my family, friends or co-workers to read it so we can discuss it! Just make sure you have about 21 hours of free time set aside, because you will not want to break away from the story.
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