This novel follows the lives of two fortune-less sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Elinor represents the times picture of sensibility: polite in all society and able to keep her emotions to herself when around others. Marianne, on the other hand, is headstrong, loves freely and openly and lets the entire world know it. The difference between the women, as Marianne says, is that Marianne conceals nothing and Elinor reveals nothing. As both women go through love and loss, Elinor must act as the social front for Marianne’s emotional roller-coaster, concealing her own pain and suffering. But, like all Austen novels, both women get what they truly need in the end.
Ted Mason reported to USS CALIFORNIA as a radioman in the U.S. Naval Reserve at a time (1940) when life on battleships, in their waning days as the backbone of the fleet, revolved around conducting drills, competing in athletic rivalries with other battleships, and keeping the ship in spit-and-polish condition. It’s rare to find a narrative focusing on the experiences of a junior petty officer in the pre-war Navy, but what makes Mason’s book so gripping is his description of events on board USS CALIFORNIA during the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.
Assigned to the maintop during General Quarters, he had a bird’s eye view of the attack, which he survived by jumping overboard when the order was given to abandon ship; had his General Quarters station not been outside, he likely would have died, as did his best friend (another radioman) and the chief petty officer who mentored Mason (and who ultimately saved Mason’s life by assigning him to the mainmast). Although the book opens with a chapter on the 40 hours or so prior to the Japanese attack, Mason then takes the reader back in time to his Navy schools and sea duty experiences prior to December 1941, and does not return to the morning of the attack until end of the book. This was highly effective in holding the reader’s interest.
Battleship Sailor provides a valuable glimpse of life as a bluejacket in the west coast Navy in the months leading up to U.S. involvement in WWII. It should appeal not only to anyone interested in learning more about shipboard life in the days of teak decks but also to those who wish to read a first-hand account of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In The Hunt for Red October, a new Russian nuclear sub, the Red October, is attempting to defect to the United States during the Cold War. The United States wants to help her, but the Russians wants the sub destroyed before it can reach the hands of the “imperial enemy.” Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst gets dropped into the middle of all of this. The story constantly jumps back and forth between the subs, the White House, Moscow, and other places that are involved in the race to find the sub.
The novel is fast paced and Tom Clancy packs every chapter with overwhelming naval details. For me, the book offered a fascinating insight into the backward tangle of politics between the US and Russia during the Cold War.
Just by reading this title, you’re probably thinking “How could a coffin be in fashion?” We’re not talking about something used to hold dead bodies during burial. It’s actually referring to a person named Coffin, John Coffin specifically. Coffin’s a detective at Scotland Yard. And, although the latest baffling case isn’t his to solve (three vanished boys have been found murdered) he becomes directly and emotionally involved. In fact, the case just kind of falls into his lap as all three bodies have been found buried underneath the floors in his house, which he had just purchased from a woman named Rose Hilaire.
There are four main suspects in this case: Uncle Mosse, who was the previous owner of the house and died in it; Rose Hilaire, the woman who sold the house to Coffin and the owner of Belmodes (where a cupboard has been uncovered which was full of one of the victim’s blood) who also suffers from blackouts and has a vivid nightmare of seeing one of the boy’s being murdered; Steve Hilaire, son of Rose who mysteriously had the boots of Ephraim Humphreys (the latest boy to be murdered) in his gym bag; and Gabriel, a clothing designer working for Rose who would try just about anything to push Rose out of the way to own a factory like Belmodes. The case is full of twists and turns, in which nothing and no one is as they seem. The book keeps you guessing until the very end, which may surprise you.
Overall, I thought this book was enjoyable and easy to read. It was not the best mystery book I ever read, but it was a great way to pass the time.
Recently, Time magazine published a list of the 100 best novels. But the praise of professional critics hardly matters to the book-reviewing readers at Amazon.com. A compilation of the best of the worst… about the best.
The following are excerpts from actual one-star Amazon.com reviews of books from Time’s list of the 100 best novels from 1923 to the present. Some entries have been edited.
A Game of Thrones is the first of the seven planned novels in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. The book is set in medieval Europe-type fictional land where seasons can last for years, even decades, and follows three story-lines that develop with one another. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of eight principal characters.
It’s hard for me to describe any of the plot, because so much happens and there are so many characters involved. I was a bit wary to start the book, as it’s not something I would choose for myself (it was recommended to me), but I ended up really enjoying it despite my initial reservations. I was engrossed in the characters early on, and it became a great escape from a monotonous day during downtime at work. I recommend this for anyone who’s willing to take on a little challenge by engulfing themselves in a completely different world for a little while each day, and anyone who’s ready to be introduced to lots of well-developed characters and an intricate plot.
Review Submitted by: Jordan Gaines
Daughter of the Regiment: Memoirs of a Childhood in the Frontier Army, 1879-1898 by Mary Leefe Laurence; edited by Thomas T. Smith is Mary Leefe Laurence’s autobiography of her childhood as the daughter of an infantry officer who served in the U. S. Army from 1862 until 1901. As a child, Ms. Laurence lived at eleven different Army installations, most of them frontier posts in Texas and Kansas. She writes affectionately of her time at each installation, the challenges of moving frequently, and the young officers and enlisted men who coddled her as a child. She corroborates numerous aspects of life in the U.S. Army in the late 1800’s, including the notoriously slow promotion rates for officers and the old Army custom that permitted newly arriving officers to displace a lower-ranking officer’s family from their post quarters simply by virtue of seniority.
Ms. Laurence wrote her manuscript during the mid-1940’s but it languished in oblivion until it was discovered in the early 1990’s by Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Thomas Smith, a U.S. Military Academy history professor who found it while he was rummaging through a stack of documents awaiting cataloging at West Point. Preparing the manuscript for publication was apparently a labor of love for LTC Smith, who, in addition to an excellent introduction, wrote almost 50 pages of highly detailed end notes and a very extensive bibliography. When he corrects or questions some of the factual assertions made by Ms. Laurence, he seems apologetic in doing so.
I generally dislike reading a book with my right index finger constantly sandwiched in the back of the book for end notes, but I would have not recommended this book without them.
In anticipation of watching the HBO mini-series The Pacific, I decided to read Robert Leckie’s Helmet for My Pillow and E. B. Sledge’s With the Old Breed, the two WWII combat Marine memoirs on which the series was based. I elected to read Helmet for My Pillow first because Leckie focuses on Marine operations in the Pacific in 1942-44, whereas Sledge focuses on 1944-45.
Leckie enlisted in the US Marine Corps on the day following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Assigned to the famed 1st Marine Division, he participating in its first three major amphibious operations: Guadalcanal in 1942, Cape Gloucester (New Britain) in 1943-44, and Peleliu in late 1944. In addition to writing about combat operations, Leckie also wrote of boot camp experiences, rest and recreation time in Australia after four months of jungle warfare on Guadalcanal, numerous hospitalizations for malaria and war-related injuries, (he was evacuated from Peleliu after suffering a severe blast concussion), and even his time as a “brig rat.”
Having written sports stories for his local newspaper while he was a teenager, Leckie returned to journalism after the war and worked for the Associated Press and several newspapers. Some of his prose is so rich in imagery that it is evocative of Grantland Rice’s writing. For example, in describing an incident where he came across a hand which was no longer attached to its owner, he wrote,
“The hand is the artisan of the soul. It is the second member of the human trinity of head and heart and hand. A man has no faculty more human than his hand, none more beautiful nor expressive nor productive. To see this hand lying alone, as though contemptuously cast aside, no longer part of a man, no longer his help, was to see war in all its wantonness. . . .”
Those who have never read memoirs of combat in the South Pacific may find themselves appalled by the savagery described in Helmet for My Pillow, yet that was simply the nature of island jungle warfare in WWII. The book’s only weakness is the scarcity of dates, which forces the reader to rely on other sources in order to peg the timing of events.
This book is a collection of short stories, not written together, but chosen because in some way or another they intertwine. The most common theme throughout all the stories is the difficulty of writing. How do you write a new story when everything has already been said? That’s the question that Barth tries to tackle with these stories which consciously show the reader the difficulties of the writing process. The collection also contains some stories that are retellings of classic Greek mythology and literature (such as the Iliad) from different points of view.
I think that these stories are excellently crafted and worth reading, but you have to be prepared to work to get through the story. Barth does everything in his power to break away from the conventional short story and he succeeds. This book is not for everyone, but only for those who are ready to venture into the fun house.
Most of these probably aren’t available in USMAI yet, but worth looking out for.
2010 has already been a strong year for fiction lovers, with new novels by the likes of Joshua Ferris, Don DeLillo, Ian McEwan, Lionel Shriver, Jennifer Egan, and David Mitchell. Meanwhile, publishing houses offered up posthumous works by Ralph Ellison, Robert Walser, and Henry Roth, and the font of Roberto Bolaño fiction continued to flow.