Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"Hitch-22" By Christopher Hitchens

I selected this audiobook because I have watched Christopher Hitchens debate many people on television and youtube, but had not read any of his books. 

Summary: This is a memoir in which Hitchens reflects on all the stages of his life and the people and places that played a major role. Interestingly, this is mainly focused on his professional and political life, avoiding much of the personal. He describes his relation with his parents, who he oddly refers to as Commander Hitchens and Yvonne. He talks about growing up as a student at a British boarding school and becoming politically awakened. As a young adult he quickly becomes very active in the worldwide socialist movement and visits many countries as part of solidarity actions, including working on a farm in Cuba. He also got an early start at his lifelong profession of writing. Hitchens wrote articles for his entire adult life and was able to participate in the grand discussions that surround major political events and catastrophes. He argued strongly with people on the right and on the left, trying to push forward his own idealist views of a better world.

He was uniquely positioned as an established liberal who supported the war in Iraq. He made several trips to the country and was convinced that Saddam Hussein had to be taken down, which put him at odds with the anti-war movement that surrounded him. He also became famous as one of the Four Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse for speaking strongly against religion. He was active in many causes throughout his life and he discusses them with a precision that convinces me he kept a detailed diary.

What I Liked: I learned a lot about Hitchens' life before youtube and how he established himself in the political and journalistic spheres as someone worth listening to. It gives me a lot of context in understanding his positions in various debates and made me think about my own positions.

What I Didn't Like: Hitchens was married at least once, and had at least one kid, but beyond that I know almost nothing about his personal life after reading this book. It makes him feel incomplete.

Rating: Not for the average reader. Great for political science majors or fans of Hitchens.

Also Read by this Author: None.

Reviewed by: Nick

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"The Last Boyfriend" by Nora Roberts

Part two of the Inn Boonsboro trilogy brings the Montgomery brothers to the punch out phase of construction, a step closer to solving the mystery of Lizzie and the undeniable connection between Owen Montgomery and long time family friend Avery McTavish.

Image via Amazon.com
Summary:  Avery McTavish has loved Owen Montgomery since she was a little girl.  She even declared him her first boyfriend before her age hit double digits.  As most young crushes do, her infatuation faded into the background as she worked her way through college and the opening of her own restaurant, Vesta, on the town square.  However, now that Avery sees Owen every day as he works on the Inn, her feelings are starting to rekindle, and she's not sure how to take the next step...or if she even should.  Centered around the final phases of construction on the Inn, "The Last Boyfriend" matches super organized and controlled Owen with the spontaneous and fun loving Avery.

What I Liked:  I really liked this story and have to admit its my favorite of the series.  Something about one of the title characters being spreadsheet obsessed really gave me something to relate to.  Who wouldn't love a gentle giant with an obsessive need to make lists and ensure everything is as prepared as can be?

As the reader, I can definitely tell that Nora Roberts feels that the soul of the series resides within the Montgomery brothers, as one of the predominant themes is the connection between family, those of blood and those we choose.  And I like that.  I often wish I saw more of my own siblings so I really enjoy reading about brothers that are obviously best friends well into their thirties.  Maybe its because I'm a new mom to a baby boy, but the obvious love the and closeness of the Montgomery family really hit a tender chord in me.

I also rather liked Avery, although I'm usually annoyed by Robert's "bouncy, spontaneous" female leads.  While Avery was prone to dancing in place (yuck) and over-enthusiasm (blech), Avery's personality had a solid core based in hard work and determination that came through loud and clear, which gave her more substance than I expected.

Overall I thought the story hit all the right notes for a romance:  the main focus of Owen and Avery's evolving relationship was interwoven with between fascinating and heartfelt side stories that touched on Clare and Beckett, the expanded Montgomery family and Lizzie's history with the Inn.

What Drove Me Nuts:  I still think the ghost story is totally unnecessary.

Rating:  By far my favorite of a series I thoroughly enjoyed.

Also Read By This Author:  I've read almost all of Nora's books, and a full book list can be found on her website.  I've reviewed:  The CollectorShadow SpellDark WitchThankless in DeathConcealed in Death, The Next Always

Reviewed By:  Tami

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"Shadows in Flight" By Orson Scott Card

I selected this audiobook because I have already read eight books in this universe and really love the main character, Bean. 

Summary: This is this fifth book in the Ender's Shadow series and takes place about 400 years after the events in the first four books. Bean is flying through space with three of his children at near light speed, so that they will age slower than their friends and relatives back on Earth. Without this intervention, they would surely die in their twenties as everyone else grew old. They spend much of their energy researching their peculiar and rare genetic disease which makes their minds and bodies grow at the a constant pace. Their brains are perpetually learning like an infant, becoming geniuses at toddler age, but the constant growth means they will not stop in adulthood. Bean, in his twenties, is at the edge of death as his heart struggles to supply blood to is enormous body, even at 1/10th Earth's gravity. These four adventurers discover an ancient Formic ship and explore it to learn all kinds of new things about their one-time enemy. This story spends a lot of time exploring the inner thoughts and vocal debates between the four travelers.

What I Liked: This book takes the time to answer some of the lingering questions from the other eight books and develops more background on the Formics. Card really did make an interesting and exciting world which is a treat to read about.

What I Didn't Like: This is a low tension book, compared to the earlier Ender's Shadow series, and it felt shorter (and apparently is shorter). On a different note, I should say that Orson Scott Card has expressed many political views that I personally find distasteful and disrespectful, and makes me hesitant to give him money.

Rating: I recommend the whole series from Ender's Game to this book, though this is not the most exciting of the series.

Also Read by this Author: Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind, Ender's Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, Shadow of the Giant, The Memory of Earth, The Call of Earth, The Ships of Earth, Earthfall.

Reviewed by: Nick