Monthly Archives: October 2014

Book Review: Invincible (Piercing the Veil #2)

Invincible by C.A. Gray

Invincible (Piercing the Veil #2) by C. A. Gray is the integration of modern science into a fantasy novel. Gray has a degree is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor who, in her spare time, teaches college level chemistry, sings, takes part in theater, and writes. The Piercing the Veil series is listed as Young Adult, but it is a great series regardless of the reader’s age. I thought I had outgrown fantasy novels decades ago, but this series made me reconsider.

About a year and two hundred books ago, I reviewed Intangible, the first book in the Piercing the Veil Series. I remembered the story of Peter, Lily, and the mysterious penumbra. I wondered if the year delay between books would mean going back and reviewing my notes from the first book. However, starting Invincible everything came back to me. There is a seamless pickup from the first novel and it is done without a long introduction. There are subtle reminders built into the story that will help remind the reader of previous events.

The second book in a series tends to be more difficult to review simply because the plot line was established in the first book. Without giving away the first book, the review of the second is usually problematic. So to prevent spoilers of the first book, I will write in rather broad terms, which will keep the story safe, and the review short. As much as I liked the first book,Intangible, it is bettered by Invincible. Simply, if the reader liked Intangible, Invincible only gets better.

Throughout the story there is a blend of two different worlds and realities. Gray also uses a clever mix of physics that separate the worlds: Classic Newtonian physics in one world and a mix of quantum mechanics and magic based on the Ancient Tongue. The separations of the worlds are clear and believable in the story as is the reality of each world.

The characters are expanded and continue to develop. Their places and their roles emerge and become clearer. The interactions between characters are natural and the teen rivalries and testing the limits of authority come into play. There is even that awkward interaction between Peter and Lily as emotions and rivalry come into play. Information hinted at in the first book is fully developed here with a complete history of the ancient tongue and the story of the Shadow Lord and the Child of Prophecy are explained.

As with most fantasy novels the driving force behind the story is a pending battle between good and evil. Invincible does an excellent job of developing and expanding the story presented in the first book. As a second novel in the series, Invincibledoes a remarkable job of keeping the story going and creating even more interest than the first book. Many second novels tend to be filler or a lull in the story separating and a stimulating first book and an exciting finish. Gray’s second book is more action packed and thrilling than the first novel. It is not simply a continuation, but the acceleration of the story.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: Dry Heat

Dry Heat by Steven Eggleton
A couple years ago I saw this book as a Goodreads give away and entered to win it. I didn’t win it. It kind of bothered me that my library didn’t have it and neither did Alibris. So I waited and didn’t forget about it. One day I stumbled across the e-book when looking something else up and bought it. I don’t know what drew me to the book. Maybe it was Tucson on the cover reminding of a friend who used to live there. I am not sure.

I picked this book the other day and read it in two sittings. I think if I would have remembered something about the book other than the Tucson Inn on the cover I probably would have forgotten about it. It was not what I was expecting.

Vincente is almost your perfect example of a Gen X slacker stereotype. He doesn’t live to get high, but rather gets high to get the will to live. The world is screwed. You work for slave wages with some glimmer of hope that you will get ahead only to find yourself working harder for someone else to get rich. It’s a losing battle. Vincente works in the deli at a grocery store making enough money for rent and dope. His outlook is bleak. There are the rich who keep getting richer. There are the wage slaves like himself and then there are managers. Managers think they have it good. Really they no different than the wage slaves, except they have a gold vest instead of a green apron.

There are a few times the author does nail the store meetings. The owners compare new competition to the Nazi blitz on Europe and can work a crew of part time, minimum wage, no benefit workers into a frenzy of loyalty. Some of the observations Vincente makes are very clear and very real. He is not bitter to be bitter, but bitter because he knows.

I liked the story. Vincente is not always likeable, in fact, sometimes he is easy to hate and he knows this. One thing that bothered me was one of Vincente’s girlfriend’s father was known as ” The Colonel” because he was a colonel in the navy. The navy is the service without colonels; that rank is called captain. Good story. A bit on the bleak side, but realistic.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

A quick, informal review of a “fun” read…

This is a book all the cool kids have read, and I have heard very good things about it. So, in my down time from my regular reading I bowed to peer pressure and read it. I am not a video game person. The closest I got was being a mediocre Asteroid player on Saturday night hanging out and the pizza place with high school friends. Honestly, I get annoyed by people, not kids, but adults, at work talking about World of Warcraft as though it was real life. I started this book with the idea of probably not finishing it. I, however, was quite surprised.

The 1980s theme running through the book hooked me. The story itself was ok, not great, but ok. It actually read like a typical 1980s action or fantasy movie. Not a great story but good special effects that made it better. Think, Iron Eagle — a terrible story, but great flying scenes. What I did like about the book was all the 1980s trivia both on the surface and hidden in the text. The television shows, movies, and music references were all great. The music references were great and I particularly loved the slam on a band that rhymes with “slam.” “I loathed that song with every fiber of my being” also. There were several, and I probably missed many, references hidden in the story (Easter eggs?). References Airplane, Brazil, and even Duncan Donuts added into the story.

References to the 1980s and 1970s run through the story. I had forgotten about the TV show Riptide. The text game Colossal Cave is mentioned as well as a Zappa-ian place to get your starship repaired. My personal apathy for video games is only matched by love of AD&D. When you are a poor, low ranking Marine in the 1980s, AD&D is cheap entertainment, and you get to kill things…perfect game for a Marine. AD&D is represented in the book along with some of my favorite childhood shows — Johnny Socko and Ultraman. There are just so many things I had forgotten about in this book that made it a fun read for me. I was pleasantly surprised.Thanks for the memories.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: The Yanks are Starving: A Novel of the Bonus Army

The Yanks Are Starving by Glen Craney

The Yanks are Starving: A Novel of the Bonus Army by Glen Craney is a novel set in the pivotal decades of the opening of the twentieth century. Craney is a graduate of Indiana School of Law and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. As a member of the Washington Press Corps, he covered the Iran Contra Trial for Congressional Quarterly magazine. Previously Craney practiced trial law.

World War I is my favorite period of history to read about because so much of what the twentieth century became can be directly tied to the war. From standing armies, communism, mechanized warfare, alliances, and the rise of the United States are a result of the war. By the end of the century the Serbs would draw Europe into limited fighting, Russia would become a country again, and artificial borders created after the war would vanish. It was the beginning of the modern times. Initially, I was expecting a short novel covering that single page in history books about Hoovervilles and McArthur facing off against the WWI vets protesting in Washington DC. Admittedly, this incident is barely mentioned in history books and probably has escaped most American’s historical memory. There is a reason for this. Not only is it part of the deep depression, it is also a national embarrassment. Probably the first in a long line. I remember the treatment Vietnam veterans received coming home and how problems reintegrating into society were ignored. I also remember Gulf War Syndrome being called a hoax, and I don’t seem to see many “I Support the Troops” flags or car magnets any more. The Bonus Army was the first of many lessons in the disposability of military veterans after they served their purpose.

I was a little surprised to see this book had nearly six hundred pages to cover a single event. The surprise, it turns out, was very pleasant. The Yanks are Starving covers three decades through the eyes of eight major characters and a few supporting ones. There are supporting characters like a young Eisenhower, Smedley Butler, George Patton, and James “Big Jim” Reese Europe. Of the main characters, Herbert Hoover is a compassionate man who reminds me much of Jimmy Carter both as during and before his presidency. Douglas Macarthur is shown on a personal side much different than his image in World War II and Korea. There are two common working class characters Joe Angelo and Walter W Waters who are drawn together by WWI. Anna Raber, a Mennonite, experiences WWI as a nurse in Europe. Ozzie Taylor, a black street musician, and Pelham Glassford, a West Point plebe, round out the sexes, races, and classes of America.

Reading advance praise for the book I saw a glowing review by a Marine veteran. As a Marine veteran myself, that peaked my interest since Marines are mostly interested in Marine Corps history. I found out quickly the Marines had their role in this story. The book opens with Smedley Butler in China during the Boxer Rebellion and the Marines role expands through the last major character in the novel Floyd Gibbons, a reporter from the Minnesota Star. It was only last year I found out about Floyd Gibbons. He is responsible for immortalizing the second most important Marine Corps’ event after the raising of the flag at Mount Suribachi — The Battle of Belleau Woods.

One problem I typically find in historical fiction is that the author will take an event and choose and discard events that he wants to include and exclude from history. Basically uses what he needs to fabricate a good story. In the end, many novels end up no more accurate than a “based on a true story” television movie. Craney manages to keep history honest and, although a few characters are fictional and conversations cannot be verified, there is little need to fact check his work.

As I mentioned above the history is accurate, but it is the storytelling that pulls you in. The writing, flow of the story, and characters make The Yanks are Starving very difficult to put down. Craney does an outstanding job at bringing the history to life and keeping it alive. There isn’t that usual long dry spot in the middle of the novel that the reader feels obligated to trudge through. The Yanks are Starving is event and character driven. When some of the characters are having down time the reader is quickly switched over to another character or group of characters, and there is no filler in nearly six hundred pages of the novel.

Although the book centers around mostly the army and army veterans, there is enough Marine Corps in this book to keep any Marine veteran reading. I will admit to being drawn into this story and thoroughly enjoying it, although I usually avoid military novels that do not center around the Marines. This is also much more than a military book. It is about American classes, race, the sexes, and the role of government and the military. It is also a story about threats to America, real or imagined, and the changes in American culture. Craney has written an outstanding social and military historical novel of the United States covering the crossing over from the nineteenth century mentality into the twentieth century. Simply put, an outstanding novel.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review