Widgets Book Review

Stuff I’ve Been Reading #1

By Nick at September 08, 2012 07:33
Filed Under: Software Development, Unit Testing, General, Book Review, Stuff I've Been Reading

What I've Been Reading

By Nick at January 28, 2012 01:34
Filed Under: Book Review, General, Personal

Book Review: Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

By Nick at January 29, 2011 11:37
Filed Under: Book Review

I haven’t done a quick review on a book for a while, but it hasn’t been because I wasn’t reading.  I’ve actually been re-reading two of my favorite books by Ken Follett, The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End .  I’m a big historical fiction guy, and historical fiction doesn’t get much better than these two.  They are excellent and educational reading – the latter begin one of the main reasons I like historical fiction.  I know more about medieval life and building cathedrals than I ever thought I would after reading these two.

But that’s not the book I’m reviewing now.  I mention them because the response of the literary community to Follett’s release of the above books was “shock and surprise”.  I guess that is because they quite different from the spy/thrillers that he had written before.  The response couldn’t have been because they didn’t think Follett had it in him, because clearly he does.

So Fall of Giants should come as no surprise.  It’s a great read and masterfully done -- exactly the kind of book I love to read – sweeping epic tales of five different families from five very different places and backgrounds that interrelate with each other as they are “swept up” in the tumultuous events in Europe before, during and after the First World War.  Along the way you see familiar events unfold – the Russian Revolution, the Battles at Marne and Somme, and something I wasn’t really aware of, the direct military support of the Russian White army after the end of the “Great War”.  The characters are richly drawn and the cross paths with real historical characters like Woodrow Wilson, Lenin, Trotsky, and David Lloyd George.  Along the way we see coal miners struggle for better working conditions, women fight for the vote, and the Russians overthrow the Tsar. 

Follett clearly has moved beyond being a “mere” suspense novelist, and I for one am very happy about that.  Fall of Giants is the first in a trilogy, with the second book covering the Depression and The Second World War, and the third dealing with the Cold War.  I for one am anxiously awaiting the next book in the series, due in 2012.

Book Review: Gone for Soldiers

By Nick at August 09, 2010 15:26
Filed Under: Book Review

A number of years back, I read – and was deeply moved by --  The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.  It vividly tells the story in novelized form of the men that fought at the Battle of Gettysburg, a seminal battle in American history and a turning point in the war.  The book brought to life the battle and the men who fought it, and I truly enjoyed it. 

Michael Shaara passed away before he could write more of his unique novels, and his son Jeff has taken up the mantle.  The Killer Angels was so well done and so interesting, I soon completed the Shaara family Civil War trilogy by reading Jeff’s prequel, Gods and Generals and sequel, The Last Full Measure .  In them, you’ll get the full tale of the men that fought on both sides of the Civil War. 

The American Civil War in general, and the Battle of Gettysburg in particular, pitted many old friends and former comrades against each other.  If you really want to get a feel for these men, you need to know how they were bonded together in the Mexican-American war, and Gone For Soldiers tells that tale.  Focusing much attention on then Captain Robert E. Lee and General Winfield Scott, we follow the army from their initial landing in Mexico to their conquest of the capital, Mexico City.  Along the way we meet many of the men familiar from the America Civil War – Ulysses Grant, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Joe Johnston, James Longstreet, and the flamboyant George Pickett.  In the typical Shaara fashion, we see into the minds of the leaders and how their strategies were formed, as well as the hard reality of battle. 

One of the last acts of America’s unofficial policy of “Manifest Destiny”, the Mexican-American War was controversial at the time, but has since faded to obscurity for the average American.  However, a reading of the excellent Gone For Soldiers will remind and educate the reader about this war that, to a very large degree, made America what it is today.  I recommend it, along with the entire Civil War trilogy.

I’m now determined to read all of Shaara’s books, covering the American Revolution as well as World Wars I and II. 

Book: Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley

By Nick at July 25, 2010 13:29
Filed Under: Book Review

I just got finished reading Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley.  A lot of mysteries are very formulaic and methodical.  Starvation Lake is not one of those mysteries.  Instead, it a very well written tale, spun with care.  Small details that you think nothing of at the time come into play later.  Gruley weaves the present and the past together to draw a story that  puts you firmly into the small town of Starvation Lake, Michigan.  Augustus “Gus” Carpenter is the Assistant Editor on the local paper and hockey goalie for his team in the local men’s league.  He’s also the guy who years ago let the state championship game get away, disappointing the whole town.  When his beloved and long dead coach’s snowmobile washes up on a lake different from the one where he supposedly drowns, the question begin.  By the time it is over, you know everyone in town, how they were affected by the stunning loss from years ago, and how they were affected by the mysterious coach. 

If you want a mystery that has as much literary flavor as suspense, I’d recommend it.

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The views I express here are entirely my own and not necessarily those of any other rational person or organization.  However, I strongly recommend that you agree with pretty much everything I say because, well, I'm right.  Most of the time. Except when I'm not, in which case, you shouldn't agree with me.