"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
Fifteen years reviewing books, audiobooks, graphic novels, movies and music!

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

THE WALK-IN by Gary Berntsen and Ralph Pezzulo



Published in 2008 by Crown Publishing

Matt Freed is summoned on very short notice to Bucharest to interview a member of Iran's intelligence community. He was unrecruited, meaning that he is a "walk-in" - literally someone who walked into the embassy and offered information that the American government would want.

Freed has been asked to talk to this man because he is an expert on Iranian politics and he speaks the language. He is also an extremely capable intelligence operative. The interview yields valuable and very scary information. Freed starts to act on it and soon discovers that there may be more to this situation than he has been led to believe. He starts his own investigation and becomes convinced that this may be a double cross. His superiors disagree and it becomes a race against time with Freed working against foreign governments and his own...


This is a middle-of-the-road spy novel. The action was good but sometimes the narration needed to be made more clear as the action moved from person to person. The supporting characters were never really fleshed out so they always seemed to be fairly arbitrary in their actions because they were faceless uniforms or suits, depending on the bureaucracies they served. This is a book that would have been much better if it had been expanded.

I rate this novel 3 stars out of 5.

This novel can be found on Amazon.com here: The Walk-In.

Friday, September 22, 2017

LINCOLN'S GIFT: HOW HUMOR SHAPED LINCOLN'S LIFE and LEGACY by Gordon Leidner



Published in 2015 by Cumberland House
273 pages including end notes and a bibliography

Lincoln's Gift: How Humor Shaped Lincoln's Life and Legacy is an excellent short biography of our sixteenth president with a special focus on his legendary storytelling abilities. When one considers who integral Lincoln's humorous stories were to his successes both as an attorney and as a politician, I felt that this biography is one of the few biographies or histories that gave me much of a sense of Lincoln as a man.

Leidner wisely chooses to provide a lot of detail about Lincoln's life before he became a national figure - these stories give the reader a feel for the man long before he became president and give a frame of reference for his reactions and his stories while he was in office.


Very few of his stories are truly laugh out loud funny, but he often told humorous or rustic tales to make his point or distill a complicated idea into something very simple. A classic example of this is when Grant explained how he planned to coordinate all five Union armies to press the Confederate forces at the same time. Grant knew that this would make it difficult for the Confederates to adequately confront an individual Union army because concentrating Confederate forces to defend one front meant moving troops away from an advancing Union army on some other front. Lincoln compared the plan to how hunters work together to prepare game and said, "Those not skinning can hold a leg." (p. 195)

Lincoln's Gift is an enjoyable biography. It is not too heavy into Civil War minutiae but is deep enough to give the reader a glimpse into what he may have actually been like. I rate this biography 4 stars out of 5.

You can find this book on Amazon.com here: LINCOLN'S GIFT: HOW HUMOR SHAPED LINCOLN'S LIFE and LEGACY by Gordon Leidner.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

LAST HOPE ISLAND: BRITAIN, OCCUPIED EUROPE, and the BROTHERHOOD THAT HELPED TURN the TIDE of WAR (audiobook) by Lynne Olson



An Exceedingly Well-Written History

Published in April of 2017 by Random House Audio
Read by Arthur Morey
Duration: 18 hours, 46 minutes
Unabridged

Winston Churchill (1874-1965)  and Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970)
As Europe collapsed before the Nazi onslaught several governments-in-exile retreated to the United Kingdom in an effort to support their struggling underground resistance movements and to remind the world of their plight. Some brought a lot of soldiers (Poland), some brought money, some brought civilian ships and some brought not much more than a loud voice and the will to use it.

This was not an easy alliance. The UK was xenophobic and stunned at the rapid fall of France and many of the governments in exile were being ripped apart from their own internal politics. Misunderstandings, patronizing attitudes and differing agendas make everything more difficult.

When America and the Soviets joined the war the UK shifted its attention away from the governments-in-exile to its new, much more potent allies and those new allies had different agendas. Those new agendas often did not match those of the governments-in-exile. President Roosevelt was surprisingly indifferent to them and the Soviet Union was only interested in gobbling up as many of them as it could.

Olson begins her history with the stories of how each country fell to Nazi Germany and their government's reacted. Most fled, but not all did. France did both with both Vichy France and Charles de Gaulle claiming supremacy. These stories are extremely well told and quite gripping.

The middle part of the book deals with Britain's intelligence or outright military operations in the conquered countries. 
 Interestingly, the UK's intelligence service thought that it was brilliant, but the reality was far from that. If you have seen the old TV show Hogan's Heroes, the reality is that the UK was far more like Colonel Klink than like Colonel Hogan. Truly embarrassing and idiotic mistakes were made for years on end.

The end of the book is very moving as it features the return of the different governments and what happened when they returned. For some, they were hailed as heroes, some were derided and some just disappeared behind the Iron Curtain.

Lynne Olson has a real talent for writing history and the reader, Arthur Morey did an excellent job as well. This was an informative, entertaining and often very moving history.


I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: LAST HOPE ISLAND: BRITAIN, OCCUPIED EUROPE, and the BROTHERHOOD THAT HELPED TURN the TIDE of WAR (audiobook) by Lynne Olson

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

THE REMNANT (audiobook) by William Michael Davidson



Published in June of 2017 by Dancing Lemur Press LLC
Read by Michael Burnette
Duration: 9 hours, 19 minutes
Unabridged

In a future America, religion is nearly a thing of the past. A man-made super-flu not re-wrote the genetic code of its victims, nullifying the combination of genes that allow human beings to express religious belief. The government actively hunts down anyone who was immune to the changes through a combination of an elaborate spy network and implants installed in people's brains at birth that allow the government to track people.

Colton Pierce is a pompous, clueless "extractor" who works for the Center for Theological Control. He apprehends religious people and sends them to an island where they live out the rest of their lives in quarantine. That is until now - the government plans to kill them all off, a move that Colton supports until his son gets caught up in a raid and will soon be sent off to the island...

I had two serious issues with this book:

#1 Is faith really a genetic thing? 
For a book that intends to be sympathetic to religious faith, it rests on a premise that is unfriendly to religion. It claims that religion is not a matter of conscience, it is a matter of simple genetics, like having blue eyes or curly hair.

#2 If it is a genetic thing and if the government has the ability to detect and eliminate that gene, why don't they genetically test babies when they are installing the implants into their brains and just imprison them then? This would remove the need for having to hunt them down.


The reader, Michael Burnette did a stellar job of reading for the Colton Pierce character. But, the book as a whole suffered from internal logic problems that meant it just could not hold itself together, no matter how well it was read.

I rate this audiobook 2 stars out of 5.

Note: I received a promotional copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: The Remnant.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

BROKEN (Corps Justice Daniel Briggs #3) (audiobook) by C.G. Cooper



Published by Tantor Audio in February of 2017.
Read by David Colacci.
Duration: 6 hours, 23 minutes.
Unabridged.

Daniel Briggs is a former sniper, a war veteran who is struggling to incorporate himself back into society. He suffers from PTSD in the form of anger control issues. Until recently, he copes by drinking, although in this book he has put the bottle aside. He also copes by drifting from job to job and place to place, avoiding deep connections.

While in Seattle, working at a fish market, Briggs encounters an elderly woman wandering the streets with an 8x10 photo of her son, a war veteran who disappeared when he returned. Briggs decides to look into the situation and soon discovers that there are a lot of missing veterans and this is part of something much larger then he had ever imagined.

The Daniel Briggs character is reminiscent of Lee Child's Reacher character and fans of Reacher might want to check this series out. I liked the Briggs character but the actual conspiracy that he confronts was too over the top for me. Plus, the plot twists were a little too twisty for me as well.

David Colacci's voice was perfect for Briggs - gravelly, but not over the top.

I rate this audiobook 2 stars out of 5.


This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Broken by C.G. Cooper.


Friday, September 1, 2017

THE AMERICAN SPIRIT: WHO WE ARE and WHAT WE STAND FOR (audiobook) by David McCullough



Published in April of 2017 by Simon and Schuster
Read by the author, David McCullough
Duration: 4 hours, 13 minutes
Unabridged

David McCullough
This is a collection of speeches delivered by the two time Pulitzer Prize winning author. The topics vary in length and topic but are all bound by two common themes: American history and the importance of knowing that history.

I listened to this collection as an audiobook over a period of about a week and found it to be quite enjoyable as I walked the dog every evening. The speeches are usually not too long and not too short, informative, interesting.

McCullough has re-recorded these speeches for this audiobook and his voice does show a little age, but it is still a wonderful voice to listen to and his delivery, combined with his words help make this an enjoyable audiobook. 


I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The American Spirit.