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A race of psychics prepare for the apocalypse.

The Faithful

Thomas & Mercer, 2015, 480 pages

FBI agent Josh Metcalf believes he has uncovered a decades-long conspiracy involving missing children. His obsession has led him to compile hundreds of cases. All involve children rumored to have psychic abilities - and all have no witnesses, no leads, and no resolution.

Meanwhile Rowan Wilson, a meteorite hunter for NASA's Spaceguard Program, is losing her grip on the past. Memories of the childhood she thought she'd had are vanishing, and dark recollections of kidnappings, mind control, and an isolated mountain ranch are taking their place.

When Rowan's shadowed past converges with Josh's research, they uncover a deadly plot to reshape humanity. With the world's survival dependent on stopping a vast network of conspirators, can they decipher - and expose - the truth in time?

A moderately entertaining thriller ruined by unnecessary soap opera.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.

Book Review: Farthing, by Jo Walton

A British manor mystery with a veneer of alt-history.


Tor books, 2006, 319 pages

One summer weekend in 1949 - but not our 1949 - the well-connected "Farthing set", a group of upper-crust English families, enjoy a country retreat. Lucy is a minor daughter in one of those families; her parents were both leading figures in the group that overthrew Churchill and negotiated peace with Herr Hitler eight years before. Despite her parents' evident disapproval, Lucy is married - happily - to a London Jew. It was therefore quite a surprise to Lucy when she and her husband, David, found themselves invited to the retreat. It's even more startling when, on the retreat's first night, a major politician of the Farthing set is found gruesomely murdered, with abundant signs that the killing was ritualistic.

It quickly becomes clear to Lucy that she and David were brought to the retreat in order to pin the murder on him. Major political machinations are at stake, including an initiative in Parliament, supported by the Farthing set, to limit the right to vote to university graduates. But whoever's behind the murder, and the frame-up, didn't reckon on the principal investigator from Scotland Yard being a man with very private reasons for sympathizing with outcasts and looking beyond the obvious. As the trap slowly shuts on Lucy and David, they begin to see a way out - a way fraught with peril in a darkening world.

In which gay old England bends over for fascism.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.

Book Review: The Stranger, by Albert Camus

French existentialism in Algeria.

The Stranger

Vintage International, 1942, 123 pages

Albert Camus' The Stranger is one of the most widely read novels in the world, with millions of copies sold. It stands as perhaps the greatest existentialist tale ever conceived, and is certainly one of the most important and influential books ever produced. Now, for the first time, this revered masterpiece is available as an unabridged audio production.

When a young Algerian named Meursault kills a man, his subsequent imprisonment and trial are puzzling and absurd. The apparently amoral Meursault, who puts little stock in ideas like love and God, seems to be on trial less for his murderous actions, and more for what the authorities believe is his deficient character.

In which some guy you don"t care about kills some other guy you don"t care about.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.
The comic misadventures of Samuel Pickwick, Esq., in Dickens' first novel.

The Pickwick Papers

Originally published in 1837 in serialized form; 801 pages

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (commonly known as The Pickwick Papers) is the first novel by Charles Dickens. The book became the first real publishing phenomenon, with bootleg copies, theatrical performances, Sam Weller joke books and other merchandise.

Written for publication as a serial, The Pickwick Papers is a sequence of loosely-related adventures. The novel's main character, Mr. Samuel Pickwick, Esquire, is a kind and wealthy old gentleman, and the founder and perpetual president of the Pickwick Club. To extend his researches into the quaint and curious phenomena of life, he suggests that he and three other "Pickwickians" (Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, Mr. Augustus Snodgrass, and Mr. Tracy Tupman) should make journeys to remote places from London and report on their findings to the members of the club. Their travels throughout the English countryside provide the chief theme of the novel.

Its main literary value and appeal is formed by its numerous memorable characters. Each character in The Pickwick Papers, as in many other Dickens novels, is drawn comically, often with exaggerated personalities. Alfred Jingle provides an aura of comic villainy. His misadventures repeatedly land the Pickwickians in trouble. These include Jingle's elopement with the spinster, Aunt Rachael of Dingley Dell manor, misadventures with Dr. Slammer, and others.

Even Dickens wasn"t at his best in his first book.Collapse )

Verdict: I have been a Dickens fan for years, and I have never not enjoyed one of his books, but The Pickwick Papers isn't my favorite. Being his first novel, it doesn't have as much of the brilliance of prose that characterize his later books, and being a big collection of serialized adventures, it goes on and on with only a few recurring storylines. Worth reading for Dickens fans, but I can only rate it 6/10, as it's a very thick book for a relatively small amount of substance.

Also by Charles Dickens: My reviews of A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Bleak House, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations.

My complete list of book reviews.
The First Marines on Peleliu and Okinawa.

With the Old Breed

Presidio Press, 1981, 326 pages

With the Old Breed is a modern classic of military history AND has been called "one of the most important personal accounts of war that I have ever read," by distinguished historian John Keegan. Author E. B. Sledge served with the First Marine Division during World War II, and his first-hand narrative is unsurpassed in its sincerity. Sledge's experience shows in this fascinating account of two of the most harrowing and pivotal island battles of the Pacific theater.

On Peleliu and Okinawa, the action was extremely fierce. Amidst oppressive heat and over land obliterated by artillery shells, the combat raged ferociously. Casualties were extreme on both sides, and by the time the Americans had broken through at Okinawa, more than 62,000 Japanese soldiers were dead. Against military policy, Sledge scribbled notes and jammed them into his copy of the New Testament. Those notes form the backbone of what Navy Times said "has been called the best World War II memoir of an enlisted man."

One of the best "War is hell" books.Collapse )

Verdict: With the Old Breed is highly recommended for anyone who is interested in World War II history, but especially for anyone who find war memoirs interesting and would like to know what war looks like to someone who's just another rifleman, not a general or a destroyer captain or a pilot, but a Marine whose job was to hack through jungles and shot and get shot at until the shooting is over. Read this book, and be grateful you will never have to go through that. 10/10.

My complete list of book reviews.
Thank you, everyone for your understanding and encouragement regarding my lack of writing. I did mean what I said about not having "quit" - it's just on an indefinite hiatus. In the meantime, writing book reviews at least has me writing something, and I do enjoy those too. So I'll try to resume those.

Collusion Stolen Souls The Final Silence

Violent Irish potboilers - the Jack Lennon seriesCollapse )

Verdict: Stuart Neville's Belfast noir series is gritty and hardboiled, sour like whiskey, violent like Belfast, tough like the Irish. I enjoyed all four books, though the first was the best, and by the fourth it was starting to show some signs of wear common to most detective series. The writing is tight and the plots never went off the rails, so it is a good series for connoisseurs of crime thrillers.

Also by Stuart Neville: My review of The Ghosts of Belfast.

My complete list of book reviews.

Where I'm at

A few people have PMed me* to ask if I'm dead or have abandoned writing, etc.

I am not dead. I have not, exactly, abandoned writing.

The same situation I have alluded to earlier in a very non-specific manner has not changed. And unfortunately, isn't likely to change in the near future. And I just can't manage to get any real writing done until there is a resolution.

(No, I'm not unemployed or terminally ill, but I just don't want to discuss real life issues.)

Sorry to be so vague, and I'm sorry I've been disappointing you for years (!) now. I really have not lost interest in writing, or finishing AQ. But it's best if you just assume there is no prospect of seeing the next volume any time in the foreseeable future. I genuinely and sincerely do want and intend to finish it someday. I just can't tell you when.

I've been avoiding LJ or even writing new book reviews because I feel so bad about not giving any news of progress on AQ. I might try to start posting book reviews again (I suppose a few people actually like those), but every time I do, I can't help feeling like I'm just disappointing all the folks who wanted to see an AQ update.

I do think about AQ every day (seriously), and now and then, I manage to add a few paragraphs, but I don't want to lead you on and make another promise about finishing it by the end of this year or at any point in the future.

* Speaking of which - agogobell, your LJ settings are on full privacy mode, which refuses all messages, so I can't reply to you.

Book Review: Dawn, by Octavia Butler

An alien race saves humanity, for its own reasons.


Warner Books, 1987, 248 pages

In a world devastated by nuclear war with humanity on the edge of extinction, aliens finally make contact. They rescue those humans they can, keeping most survivors in suspended animation while the aliens begin the slow process of rehabilitating the planet. When Lilith Iyapo is "awakened", she finds that she has been chosen to revive her fellow humans in small groups by first preparing them to meet the utterly terrifying aliens, then training them to survive on the wilderness that the planet has become. But the aliens cannot help humanity without altering it forever.

Bonded to the aliens in ways no human has ever known, Lilith tries to fight them even as her own species comes to fear and loathe her. A stunning story of invasion and alien contact by one of science fiction's finest writers.

Alien sex and metaphors.Collapse )

Verdict: Dawn is a very interesting novel, and while I found some parts a little predictable (like almost all the other humans inevitably proving violent and untrustworthy), and the prose was sometimes so plain as to be dry, I will probably continue the trilogy. 7/10.

Also by Octavia Butler: My reviews of Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents, and Fledgling.

My complete list of book reviews.
Book four in the Frontlines series about a war against aliens is rather lacking in aliens.

Chains of Command

47North, 2016, 386 pages

The assault on Earth was thwarted by the destruction of the aliens' seed ship, but with Mars still under Lanky control, survivors work frantically to rebuild fighting capacity and shore up planetary defenses. Platoon sergeant Andrew Grayson must crash-course train new volunteers - all while dulling his searing memories of battle with alcohol and meds.

Knowing Earth's uneasy respite won't last, the North American Commonwealth and its Sino-Russian allies hurtle toward two dangerous options: hit the Lanky forces on Mars or go after deserters who stole a fleet of invaluable warships critical to winning the war. Assigned to a small special ops recon mission to scout out the renegades' stronghold on a distant moon, Grayson and his wife, dropship pilot Halley, again find themselves headed for the crucible of combat - and a shattering new campaign in the war for humanity's future.

Time to go nuke some traitors.Collapse )

Verdict: Chains of Command is not a good entry point into the series - start at the beginning. But this one won't let you down, even if it lacked some of the climactic moments of previous volumes. 7/10.

Also by Marko Kloos: My reviews of Terms of Enlistment, Lines of Departure, and Angles of Attack.

My complete list of book reviews.
The (kinda) former supervillain adds a few more lines to his character sheet.

Secrets of a D-List Supervillain

Self-published, 2014, 196 pages

Cal Stringel may be dead to the world at large, but a select few know that he's still alive and in control of the most powerful suit of battle armor ever created. He's part of a rogue superteam taking the world by storm and changing the dynamic for both heroes and villains alike. With change comes resistance, and those holding control and power are not ready to just hand it over without a fight.

For the former D-list supervillain, it's time to break out the spare synthmuscle, charge the massive railgun pistol, and bring the pain. With his new team, he thinks he can take on the world, but is Cal biting off more than he can chew? He must deal with sanctioned hero teams and power-mad bureaucrats on one side and the major supervillains of his world on the other.

As Cal and his allies ready themselves to face friend and foe, he will also have to deal with his relationship with Stacy Mitchell, also known as the Olympian, Aphrodite. Separated for more than a year, they've only just reunited and are faced with the prospect of being on opposite sides of the coming conflict. Can they find enough common ground between the secrets and half truths to sustain their fledgling relationship, or are they doomed like the last time to crash and burn?

Still fun, but not as solid as the first book.Collapse )

Also by Jim Bernheimer: My review of Confessions of a D-List Supervillain.

My complete list of book reviews.

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