Vacaville, California USA | Member Since 2004
This book is probably my all time favorite memoir, though I admit I've read relatively little of the genre. It presents a rich portrait of life in late 1950's West Virginia that is simultaneously colored with nostalgia and lamentation. Ultimately though, there is a mostly happy ending that will leave the reader satisfied and with some lasting observations to ponder.
When I first read this book while still in school almost a decade ago, the part that grabbed my attention was the unifying narrative of the BCMA. The observations about the community were interesting, but rather removed from my experience, as was the complicated family dynamic. Now, though still somewhat foreign, and perhaps for that reason, the author's experiences struggling with his parents and the atmosphere of uncertainty that shaped the lives of everyone in his West Virginia mining town are just as if not more intriguing. The book while being nominally about something else, manages to explain the mechanics of mining, and life as a miner. If you didn't go to a high school where the only three likely outcomes for a boy were becoming a miner, a soldier, or going to college on a football scholarship, I think you would find these details enlightening.
The power of an education in science and math is something else this book illustrates wonderfully, and is a lesson I wish I'd heeded as a younger man. We can't all be engineers of course, but it seems like more couldn't hurt.
Tom Stechschulte seems to have a voice purposefully designed for nostalgic contemplation. It is at once deliberate and subtly emotional. In short, it feels like the perfect vehicle for the author's recollection. This is not a performance in which characterizations really jump out at you, but it isn't meant to be.
I would recommend this book to anyone.
It seems that with every passing installment I go through the same cycle of trepidation leading up to the release of the latest entry in the Bloody Jack series. It continues through the beginning of each book, tempered by my reacquaintance with Katherine Kellgren's impeccable portrayal of Jacky and her world, but simmers as Mr. Meyer follows the same formula of high times, overconfidence, duplicitous scheming, Jacky's moral undoing and at least a few instances of irrational behavior re the ongoing "romance" between our plucky protagonist and Mr. James Fletcher. The latter returns to prominence, and advances the argument I think that this series is beginning to outstay its welcome: as his angst over Jacky's wildness and resulting behavior are truly beginning to feel contrived to the point of being utterly silly. Generally, I suppose, both characters are aging but not growing up.
What redeems this book for me is the sheer fun that is had along the way. There is a lot of suffering on Jacky's part but many ridiculous misadventures and hijinks. How much this can carry the book may vary from person to person depending on how tired they are of Jacky's shortcomings. I for one thought I was at my limit with #11, but found myself finishing this morning, willing to go on at least one more adventure with Jacky Faber. All the same, I hear the dates of letters in this book and think that the War of 1812 is drawing ever closer and surely this series cannot go on very much longer.
Highlights this time around are encounters with for profit fire-fighting companies of the early 19th Century, the early women's suffrage movements, anti-immigrant bias and more illicit substances.
The wonderful characterizations and emphatic reading of action sequences that has won Katherine Kellgren so much acclaim for this series remains very much in evidence, and is well worth disregarding any misgivings about going forward for series regulars. Go ahead on one more adventure with Jacky and her friends, hear songs sung and visit Jacky's Boston once more for old time's sake.
I read all four MHI books in a flurry of credit usage one week, and thought I'd dislocate something kicking myself as they were put on sale over and over again in subsequent months. The truth though is that I thoroughly enjoyed them then and am sure (with the possible exception of Alpha) will again.
One who notices such things may wonder at how the books appear to be getting shorter and shorter. I think this represents a fair measure of how the author has improved at tightening up his plotting and really developing a good pace that keeps you engaged and wanting to continue until there's no more book for you to plow through.
The monsters remain creative and the framework of the story allows for us to run into all sorts of new baddies without having to endure loads of travel scenes, probably the only good thing that can be said about the monsters coming to you. We also get little glimpses at some of our favorite characters' origins and how they've grown. Lastly, we get more hints that we're in for one heck of an endgame, with some more players making themselves known before the main event.
Anyone who may have wandered off after Alpha is strongly encouraged to give this one a try, particularly as we return to Z's stellar first-person narrative.
For going on half a decade, I've looked forward to each entry in first the Lost Fleet and now the Beyond the Frontier series. And every time I've harbored some little dread that this next one will be the one where it just cannot match what came before. That was particularly true when the war with the Syndics came to an end and some of the mystery of the Enigmas was done away with. But then came Invincible, which delivered two new alien races and space combat with truly intimidating adversaries who happened to be really cute, and the First Alliance Fleet and its commander proved up to every challenge.
Now, starting back at Midway with a standoff with a Syndic flotilla, Admiral Geary must tackle a new sort of fighting, one where is superiority in numbers and firepower are no substitute for sharp wits and decisive action. What's more, the duplicity of the Syndics seems to reach new lows, just as the Alliance's biggest trump card against the crumbling empire seems to be worth far less on the way back than when the fleet left Alliance space. Happily, there are more humorous breaks in the action, largely involving marines, quirky fleet engineers and Dauntless's rather...enterprising senior Master Chief. On the dramatic front, the author continues to delve into the psychological realities of naval crews and marines left to serve seemingly unending tours of duty fighting a war under unimaginable conditions and then faced with the sudden prospect of going home and having to live a "normal" life, or not, as the fleet's requirements dictate. And if tension verging on mutiny in the fleet weren't enough, political maneuvering back home is just as bad as was hinted in Invincible.
So with two hostile alien races, Syndics that won't realize they've lost, a fleet pushed beyond its limits, and politicians on every side ready to stab him in the back, Geary learns the Dancers will only negotiate after he takes them somewhere you'd least expect. Along the way, the author reinvents a few nautical traditions and throws in any number of technical details and character development that really help bring the Dauntless and those aboard her to life. And the additions to the universe that result as well as the revelation of just why the Dancers have come along with the fleet will make you wish it were May of 2014 already.
As the ninth book following Geary's adventures and the tenth book in the universe, Guardian remains remarkably fresh and does quite a lot to build a foundation for many new adventures. Forgoing yet another epic space battle after another, the author instead makes our hero confront a number of tactical puzzles involving enemy boarders, doomsday devices, and enemy ships that won't fight. Most surprisingly of all, it even managed to rekindle my interest in Midway enough to seriously look forward to the next Lost Stars novel.
There are a few editing goofs in the audio production, typically involving ship's names mysteriously changing mid-scene that isn't really a big deal. And though some pronunciations seem to have changed from one book to another, narration remains top notch. This is an easy recommendation, and yet another reason to pick up the series if you haven't already.
About a year ago, I wrote a very positive review of A Rising Thunder. Remembering that feeling of surprised enjoyment prompted me to disregard the more negative reviews and my own reservations and proceed cautiously into this latest Honorverse entry. And despite understanding and agreeing to some degree with many of the complaints with this release, I am fairly satisfied.
As has been noted before, this is the second half of A Rising Thunder, broken off because that book had just become monstrously long. The break is not chronological though, but instead focuses on what some of our (or somebody's) favorite characters were doing during the same time period, much like George R.R. Martin's A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, if that reference helps anyone. Like I said, it means we get more time with characters left out of the previous story. Unfortunately, you may end up feeling as I did about halfway through, that you're being treated to a whole bunch of B plots. I don't know if they were all their originally, or if they were added to fill in the story when it was spun off, but there are several elements like the one cited by another reviewer about the kids whose dad is in prison and start a resistance movement that just kind of....is there. Another similar set of characters is introduced and never heard of again. I guess it's meant to introduce tension, but just comes off as sloppy or downright lazy. There are also many discussions of dispatches from around the galaxy to inform you of things going on during A Rising Thunder that might confuse you if you haven't read that book recently or recall its events too clearly; I had to consult a summary at one point when the characters had gone on for a few minutes and I just got tired of guessing exactly what they were talking about. While I'm at it, the Alignment POVs have to be the most annoying thing to have come along in these last few Harrington novels. They were so much more interesting when they were an unknown quantity, they now just seem completely ridiculous, trotted out to bemoan their thwarting by our heroes, only for one of them to remind the others of some codename project we've never heard of that makes them rub their hands in anticipation.
So why rate it as highly as I do? There are a few interesting character moments, particularly for some of the junior RMN officers. Personally, I've always had a soft spot for a certain GSN lieutenant who gets in a few good scenes. Also, there are some good battle scenes on the ground and in space. I always worry that hearing about SLN ships getting blown up will get old, but it hasn't yet... And not that it matters, but Weber throws in some OFS people that aren't total jerks, which given the number who are that and worse, is sort of refreshing.
I can understand the complaints about the narration too, but given the book's origins it would have been Johnson reading these segments originally anyway had the author had his way. The same understanding goes for issues with how little the book advances the overall plot, given that we're essentially dealing with a companion novel rather than a sequel or even a standalone spinoff thanks to publishing concerns. That's a heck of a thing for me to be saying, since I suspect we should all be wishing for the editor to be winning more battles with Weber, not fewer.
I seem to recall whole campaigns from the first war with Haven that were far more significant to the overall plot than almost everything in this book that were only touched on in briefings or other such conversations. So the bottom line I think is that given the way Weber recaps so much of what's happened in previous novels, you might actually be able to skip this one. If you like the characters currently serving in this part of the galaxy, there should be enough for you here. Otherwise, I'm sure the next proper sequel will have three or four chapters in which the universe's main characters discuss the significance of the events contained here, presumably with at least one disastrous assumption over what it all means for the strategic picture on the part of the League, the Star Empire, Mesa, some star nation we've never heard of, or all of the above...and maybe that'll contain more of what people turned to Shadow of Freedom for and found lacking.
I liked Partials enough to download Fragments as soon as I'd finished it. I liked Fragments enough to almost wish I hadn't
, dooming myself to a long wait for the third book.
Any reservations I may have had over Partials's plot were simply swept away by my enjoyment of Fragments. The story pays off the promise of Partials, showing us with greater depth and breadth the world we'd gotten only tiny glimpses of before. We have open warfare, an epic cross-country journey and some really tough choices to be made. All the while, our characters are having to grow up and fill roles they'd never expected to fall to them. And the lengths to which our heroes must go get a little more drawn out the farther they go, particularly when they are confronted with the choices others have made to save their side in the war.
Julia Whelan's performance continues to impress, improving if anything since Partials came out last year. The advent of multiple points of view means we're in other characters' heads, and the narration helps give life to the thoughts of various characters, doing particularly well I thought with Marcus's snarky fatalism.
Whereas Partials introduced the players in broad strokes and showed them making their tentative first moves, Fragments is all about setting up the sides' endgame plays. If we're lucky, the third book will give us something really spectacular.
I wonder if something like The Brotherhood of War could be written today. Begun over thirty years ago or thereabouts, it candidly but often light-heartedly tells a tale that begins where and when the author served, Germany immediately after World War II, and follows the personal and professional lives of a very diverse cast of characters as they rise through the ranks in the aftermath of the Second World War. During this time, the very nature of war was thought to be changing, though no one quite knew how.
Despite war and the profession of arms forming the core of the story, combat makes up very little of the narrative. Instead, we come to know the characters through the way in which they conduct their lives; the degree to which they play the army's political games, the passion with which they pursue the women they love and the degree to which they remain faithful, and ultimately the bond that links them as fellow officers. Along the way, we get a colorful depiction of life in the post-war army.
As we watch them grow, we see the army transform to meet the challenges of the new Cold War. We see this in the advisory duties two of our new lieutenants in this first volume, as well as the hints that the airborne legions that stormed into Normandy may soon be a thing of the past. Later installments would deal with the advent of army aviation and the rise of the army special warfare community.
These new unabridged editions are quite good productions. Dove's reading thankfully imparts a great deal of humor and self-awareness but also can bring seriousness and drama where appropriate.
Across nine volumes starting with this one, the army's triumphs and tragedies forms the backdrop for the drama of some extremely memorable personalities, and some of Griffin's best characters. This is why after all these years, technical errors, typos and continuity problems aside, the series as a whole remains a favorite and an easy recommendation for anyone remotely interested in a good story about soldiering. For the price, you simply can't go wrong.
I've returned to the seemingly bottomless well of young adult post-apocalyptic fiction several times since Hunger Games. There have been some real gems, some passable adventures, and some that will haunt my nightmares not for their gruesome imagery, but their terrifying lack of quality.
Among the books I've not been tempted to try, but which are pretty well rated and I must therefore assume are good books not written for me, are those dystopias in which A loves B but must marry C because of X, or some variation with thwarting of love being the paramount horror of the fictional society. And that does seem like something very tragic and conceivably worth the fighting and dying over that inevitably ensues. The world of Partials though, in the circumstances it places humanity and the means they adopt to combat them seems far more troubling, more unsettlingly compelling. With only a few tens of thousands of people left and not a single child having survived more than a week in the past dozen years, the government makes pregnancy mandatory. It seems unthinkable. But the author I think does a good job of creating a world in which this harsh reality is accepted, particularly with one observation about the loss of family when something like 99.996% of all mankind is wiped out: the protagonist wondering if any voter would have approved these measures if they knew their own child would have to live with the results.
So this is the world in which our hero Kira finds herself. And apparently she's more of a self-starter than a lot of other people. Despite some rather presumptuous first steps, she soon becomes the sole voice of reason, arguing for a real effort to find a cure for humanity's problems and a lasting solution to the threatened conflict that has loomed over society for the last generation. And like most calls for peace in such stories, they must be backed up by a willingness to trek into the wilds where mysterious enemies reside, and harsh confrontations with forces that cling to the status quo. The story may not be original, in its mechanics but the execution is well handled and enough fun is had along the way to make it worthwhile, even I think for most of those already knowing what they're getting into.
Some have complained about the flat portrayal of adults in this series, but it strikes me that in a story set so close to the events of the end of the world as it were, one could reasonably expect the generational divide we see, with people who came of age before the change far more conservative and cautious and less willing to take risks, having witnessed the end of the world after all.
I do not believe I have encountered Julia Whelan's work before. Her character voices, particularly for the young people are lively and distinct and all are easily identifiable. She employs emotional accents quite well to bring depth to the characters and some changes in pacing for things like action sequences that help draw the listener in. There are occasional noticeable hiccups in sound quality that I attribute to edits and re-records, but nothing too bad.
One of the previous forays into post-apocalyptic fiction I referenced at the start was Bick's Ashes trilogy, whose first installment ended on such a dramatic cliffhanger that I couldn't help but despise and admire her for the way it drove me to read the sequel. Partials gives its listeners fairer treatment, allowing you the opportunity to walk away from this one with a feeling of completion with an invitation to come back for more. And I have to say, that even as just set up for its sequel Fragments, Partials wins a strong recommendation.
Once someone has delivered a huge setpiece battle that culminates in the vanquishing of an Old One, it seems hardly fair to ask them to just turn it up a notch one more time for the next sequel.
This is why I can understand the different approach to Alpha, as well as the desire to tell Harbinger's origin story with as little intrusion as possible. Unfortunately, the result is somewhat darker than the previous installments, without the ensemble cast of the whole MHI team to lighten the mood. Instead, we have bumbling MCB agents, a crew of hapless psychopaths trying their hand at monster hunting and a newly turned werewolf that can't get over how the change will mean no more need to diet. Tipping the scales the other way, way over the other way, is a far more concentrated story taking place over about a day in an Upper Peninsula town beset by werewolves and some other supernatural baddies. This A plot seems to have far more in common with the series B movie source material than the world-saving heroics of previous outings, including improvisational weaponry that leads to incredible levels of gore.
As one would expect with a book where every chapter is prefaced by a story from Harbinger's past, even the narration seems to be grimmer. With the series venturing into third person narrative, thankfully not the case in Legion, we get to drop in on other people's headss and Wyman does a great job bringing them all to life.
This entry isn't one I'm bound to go back to again and again for entertainment. It is important set up for the big picture events that seem like they'll be steering the plot from here on out though. So if you're invested in the characters, it's a must read.
Id like to begin by saying I have purchased The Lord of the Rings, and fully intend to read it one day. I came to the fantasy genre by way of Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, which this certainly is not. And let me say, as much as I loved those hefty tomes, I couldn't be any happier about it.
What we have here is a far more straight forward narrative with good guys and bad guys and some people in the middle who'll break one way or the other as the plot requires. It is full of action, people doing the right thing, a touch of intrigue and a dash of romance. It isn't that complicated but it is well-developed and most importantly, it is a whole lot of fun. And when I say it isn't complicated, I don't mean the author hasn't taken his time building this world. You will find plenty here worth your time, particularly a good sense of humor and characters you can't help but cheer for.
This first installment relies heavily on plots involving linear journeys and fairly direct conflicts but does throw in enough twists to keep things interesting, which sets up the characters and overall setting for a much grander adventure. I was incredibly impressed by the narration, particularly the characterization of the two heroes from the sample alone and am not surprised that it has since garnered an Audie nomination.
It's hard to express just how much I enjoyed this entire series. I can only hope the author continues to put out such great stories and finds the right vocal talents to bring them to life.
How do you follow up defeating an entity of unspeakable evil and unimaginable power that's been waiting five centuries to end the world? You take on his boss.
This sequel hits the ground running right where Monster Hunter International left off. The threat introduced in that book's epilogue makes itself immediately felt with a really powerful adversary going right at our heroes. And after a humorous detour through the Mexican criminal justice system, we're off to watch MHI do what they're best at, figuring out the bad guys game and beating them at it just in the nick of time. This is accomplished through the inventive use of high explosives, high-velocity silver bullets and clever or not so clever insults. This time around, Correia ups the scale, literally, on the action sequences, bringing about what has to be one of my favorite confrontations with a big bad in recent memory, involving an elephant.
Along the way, several characters will have their backgrounds fleshed out, including MHI's two favorite agents from the Monster Control Bureau, and MHI's history is filled in with a few insidious twists and turns.
The narration continues to impress with Oliver Wyman delivering Pitt's amiable tough guy wit in addition to as broad a collection of nationalities and supernatural creatures as you could ask for.
If you enjoyed Monster Hunter International, just look forward to more of that in every way.
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