Sunday, October 25, 2015

Review: The Warrior's Path

The Warrior's Path The Warrior's Path by Louis L'Amour
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel picks up with Sackett's sons, mainly Kin. It stretches far and wide, from New England to Jamaica and into the hills of Carolina. In doing so, we see a little of what the early settlement of the Americas was like.

The story follows fairly standard lines: it's a little bit knight-errant; a little bit western; and a little bit adventure. Kin and Yance are much like their father: honorable, swashbuckling, and smart. And they find the women to match. Like their father, loyalty and integrity inspire great friendships.

I would have liked a little more with Henry and the Catawba. Interesting characters that were not utilized or developed enough--at least here.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Review: Portrait of a Spy

Portrait of a Spy Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Daniel Silva is easily one of best spy-thriller novelists out there. Gabriel Allon is a character of great depth and integrity. I thoroughly enjoy these novels; they never fail to entertain and engage me. This one is no different; I was even moved to tears towards the end. That said, there is a certain formulaic aspect and it is getting harder to believe the set-ups that keep bringing Allon back into the espionage world. But that is standard for the genre and it’s quite minor.

One of the things Silva does very well is humanize his villains. By that, I don’t mean what is sometimes meant: that he makes them morally gray or mixed good and bad. They are evil; there is no question. By humanize, I mean he doesn’t just put them out there as caricatures or mysterious monsters. They are people with real motivations and traits but they have chosen the path they are on.

Silva also avoids caricatures of Muslims and Arabs; they are just as often heroes/good guys in the books (as is very much the case here) as they are the bad guys.

I hope and wish there are few Allons out there for real; I’d feel a lot safer. Hell, just one would be good.

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Review: Einstein: His Life and Universe

Einstein: His Life and Universe Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Between the way Isaacson puts together the story of the life and Edward Hermann's reading of it, this was a wonderful listen. I do think it might have been better to read--the science was hard to follow on the audio at times. Reading those sections would have helped. That said Hermann is so fantastic at bringing the words alive, that I felt like I got to know Einstein. I even shed tears when he died. Isaacson does a great job with balancing the human being with the icon: I feel like I got a good picture of who Einstein was and how he approached life. I have always respected and admired him (who doesn't?) but I do so even more -- warts and all. Einstein's independence and individuality shine through; his love of and willingness to fight for individual freedom is sincere and deep (I wish he would he have seen that such freedom is just as important in the economic as the scientific sphere, but no one is perfect and given the time period I don't fault him to much there).

I was fascinated by his early interest in Judaism and then how that faded but then returned in a fashion later in life. His battles with antisemitism both in Europe and the US were intriguing. The FBI under Hoover was disgrace in the way they treated Einstein.

All in all, I recommend this highly, though I think reading it rather than listening might be better.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Review: A Dance with Dragons

A Dance with Dragons A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Martin is a like your college girlfriend(or boyfriend as the case may be). He entices you, thrills you, keeps teasing you, makes you so mad and angry, frustrates you, disappoints you, and yet you can't stay away and want more.

Book 5 returns to my favorite characters. Book 4 was too focused on secondary characters and story lines. Here we get the main characters. It moves with a much quicker pace and moves the world forward. Yet, not fast enough. There is just too much dilly-dallying; too many different story lines. Let's get Dany on those dragons and off to Westeros to save the world already!!

This world is terrible. It is dark and ugly and mean. The few bits of promise, integrity, and honor get snuffed out in awful ways. Yet....there is this persistent sense of hope underlying it all and that's what keeps me coming back.

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