Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"Homefall" by Chris Bunch

Years ago I read a sci-fi trilogy called the Last Legion. I liked it a lot and even got my best friend to read them. More recently, I was at a used book store that had the fourth book in the series. It never occurred to me that there would be a fourth book, and so was totally shocked when I saw it. This is that book. I read it immediately.

Summary: First, a little bit about the trilogy. It follows two recruits, Garvin Jaansma and Njangu Yoshitaro, of the Confederation Legion who are sent to the outer edge of the known galaxy to a quaint star system known as Cumbre. On their journey the transport is attacked and they barely survive and make it to their destination. On Cumbre it becomes clear that they were the last people to have any news from the capital Centrum. All communication and trade with the Confederation stops leaving Cumbre to fend for itself. Each book is a war, first there is a civil war on Cumbre, then aliens attack, then a neighboring star nation. Throughout the books it is just assumed the Confederation is gone and forgotten, but this fourth book finally addresses the issue. Garvin and Njangu are given command of a special expedition discover what happened to the core worlds. Their commanders had already tried sending drones to Centrum, but all were mysteriously lost. The two soldiers decide to disguise themselves as something everyone loves: a traveling circus! Collecting up performers and a big ship, the Circus Jaansma blasts off on an adventure. They jump world to world investigating the fall of the Confederation and getting tangled up in local politics. These circus/soldiers struggle to keep their identities secret as they piece together clues to answer their biggest questions.

What I Liked: It gave me a chance to revisit a favorite series of mine and see again some loved characters I had missed. It also had a lot of intrigue and spycraft which is exciting. I also found it comical when these ultra-violent soldiers were confronted with subtle politics, like a bull in a china shop.

What I Didn't Like: Bunch glossed over some stuff, making it feel like he was rushing through the book, not really savoring the story. Also, I suspect some of the scenarios would have ended differently in real life, assuming we had the technology.

Rating: I recommend the whole series for some fun military sci-fi action.

Also Read By This Author: The Last Legion, Firemask, Storm Force.

Reviewed By: Nick

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn

"Gone Girl" was suggested to me by a dear college friend so I picked it up at the library on my way home from work.  Two days later I had finished the book with a look of sinister glee on my face.  The story was excellently crafted, the characters were well developed and plot was sinister.  Check it out!

Summary:  Nick Dunne and his semi-famous wife Amy don't get along.  In fact, you could say the brilliant couple has been fighting off and on for the last year of their marriage.  And Amy is winning.

On the Dunne's five year anniversary, Amy disappears in what looks like a struggle.  Nick, with no alibi, shortly becomes the number one suspect in the investigation.  As the police take a closer look at Nick, they come across some significant---and damning---evidence that suggest Nick and Amy aren't all they appear to be.

What I Liked:
  • Told in alternating chapters (first Nick, present day, then Amy, past diary entry) the format of the story adds to its appeal.  The mystery unfolds piece by piece and the layers of suspense build as the reader tries to figure out whodunit simultaneously with the characters.
  • The whiplash way in which the characters reveal themselves.  My opinions of Nick and Amy changed rapidly from chapter to chapter.  I experienced a range of emotions as the characters unfolded; mostly shocked, appalled, resigned.  Flynn has a way of crafting characters that are unbelievably believable!
  • The plot could have been ripped from the headlines of today's news outlets.  Did anyone else think "Nancy Grace"?
  • The ending:  I feel that the main characters got exactly what they deserved.

What Drove Me Nuts:
  • The characters made me SO UNCOMFORTABLE.  I wanted to reach into the pages and slap Nick silly multiple times.  Amy....well....lets just say I was happy leaving Amy in the book.
  • There was no good guy.  The only "good" characters were secondary.
  • The ending:  I feel that while the characters got what they deserved, it still wasn't the right ending.  I won't ruin it here, but I suspect I'm not alone in this.
Rating:  Must Read

Also Read by this Author:  Nothing yet, but I'm going to add "Sharp Objects" to my reading list!

Reviewed By:  Tami

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Thankless in Death" by J.D. Robb

I am a Nora Roberts addict, so when I heard that she had a futuristic murder mystery series penned under the name J.D. Robb my heart nearly exploded.  I've been a fan of the "In Death" series from the first book and give it my full fledged recommendation.

Summary:  On the eve of Thanksgiving 2060 Lieutenant Eve Dallas catches a double homicide that should be easy to solve.  She knows who the murder is and why he committed the crime.  What she can't find is the man himself...and it looks like he's got a taste for killing and is going to strike again soon.  Can Eve find the bad guy before another innocent life is taken?

What I Liked:  You can't talk about an installment of the Eve Dallas "In Death" series without first exploring why the series in general is so good:

  • The main character, murder cop Eve Dallas, is a bad ass bona fide hero.  She kicks ass, takes names, finds the bad guy and saves the day.  Every time.  She also has just enough flaws to keep her likable.
  • Her romantic interest, Roarke, is gorgeous, rich, powerful, Irish and has the good sense to know his lady is fully capable of handling her shit without his interference.
  • The supporting cast of characters are well thought out, brilliantly described, and totally likable.
  • The series doesn't shy away from crime at its worst.  Even when the murder scenes are hard to read and the villains are truly despicable, they add to the story.
  • The author describes 2060 in detail, from outfits to technology to fashion.  I can only hope to some day wear air skids as I send a memo cube to my uptown honey.

But I digress, on to what I liked about the book:  This was a new take on an "In Death" story.  Instead of trying to figure out the killer's identity, Eve knows "who did it" from almost the beginning of the book.  The big challenge this time around it to catch up to the killer, to get inside his head, and to figure out who he's going to kill next before he accomplishes the deed.  The premise felt fresh and I enjoyed it immensely.

What Drove Me Nuts:  I love the dynamics between Eve and her family and friends, but this installment offered little insight into Eve's personal life.  The author falls back on Eve's fights with her husband to show Eve's emotional side, and the fights often feel cliche and repetitious this far into the series.

Rating: I liked it!  Fans of Nora Roberts and light mystery will get a kick out of this series.

Other Books Read by this Author:  The whole series!  For a complete listing read more here.

Reviewed by:  Tami

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Rocket Men" by Craig Nelson

This book appealed to me because I am becoming very interested in space travel and colonizing other worlds. I didn't know a lot about the Apollo program before this book and wanted to know more. I borrowed it from the library and started listening to it with Tami, but she quickly lost interest.

Summary: This dense, 17 hour audiobook has everything you could want to know about humanity's journey to the moon ... and everything you didn't. This is a detailed account of the Gemini, Mercury and Apollo programs, including a deep look at the origin of rocket science. All the big names get a part, including Goddard, Von Braun, James Webb, Kennedy, Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins and plenty more. It goes into the politics of World War II, the cold war and domestic support for space exploration. It talks about rocket science and surviving in space. It goes into the lives of the astronauts and uses a lot of quotes from primary sources. It delves into the fears of the NASA employees and what they did to minimize the dangers. This book is a truly comprehensive look at our trip to the moon.

What I Liked: This taught me everything I know about moon trips. I feel like I can talk intelligently about NASA history now that I have finished this book.

What I Didn't Like: It felt a lot like a history lecture, and not a particularly great one. It had a whole heck of a lot of quotes, which are awkward in an audiobook. I glossed over parts of it without really listening.

Rating: Tami didn't make it past the second disc. If you are really curious about the moon missions it is a good choice, but if you are ambivalent,  avoid this book.

Other Books Read By This Author: none

Reviewed By: Nick