Posts Tagged ‘Military’

Best New Books of 2014: Kerri H’s Picks

December 15, 2014

I read everything… fiction, nonfiction, short stories, young adult fiction. Happy books, sad books, disturbing books, thought provoking books. I try to round out my reading experience each year with a variety of genres and themes.

RedeploymentRedeployment by Phil Klay
This is an important, thought-provoking, disturbing and humbling collection of stories. They are written by a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Iraq during the surge. Each story is told from the viewpoint of a different character… a chaplain, a Foreign Service Officer, a Mortuary Affairs Marine and many others. Descriptions evoke the grit, stench, claustrophobia, nonsensical situations, and collateral damage both physically and emotionally found in twenty-first century war.

Best to LaughBest to Laugh by Lorna Landvik
You will laugh at the quirky cast of characters and fun storyline. Candy Pekkalo is living a non-descript life in Minnesota when her cousin calls to see if she would like to sublet her Hollywood apartment. Once there, Candy thrives. She meets a diverse group of neighbors who become family, and works an odd, yet interesting, assortment of temp jobs. She even succeeds in the male dominated stand-up comedy world of the late 1970’s. You’re going to have fun living Candy Pekkalo’s life vicariously.

Dept. of SpeculationDept. Of Speculation by Jenny Offill
If you’ve ever experienced infidelity, bedbugs, motherhood, or feel like your brain goes from one random thought to another… this book is for you.  Written from the perspective of “the wife” it’s a collection of random thoughts and famous quotes.  It sounds disjointed, but it flows together perfectly.  It’s also about teaching college students, ghost writing, general discontent and hope.

JackabyJackaby by William Ritter
This young adult novel enraptured me. I read this fast-paced mystery with evidence of the supernatural in two nights.  In 1892, Abigail Rock arrives alone in New England from Ukraine via a boat from Germany. She’s in need of a job, room and board. After applying to an advertisement for an investigative assistant, she begins working for the eccentric R.F. Jackaby. Together they investigate a series of murders. This is a funny, rollicking read about a serial killer. I know it seems strange to call a book about a serial killer funny; but trust me, there are some hilarious scenes and dialogue in the book. This is the first book in a series. I anticipate this will be the next big young adult series.

Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
An autobiography in verse which resonates with readers is an amazing feat! Jacqueline Woodson elegantly portrays her childhood; evoking the love her family poured on herself and siblings. She perfectly distills the reality of the civil rights movement and her experience being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. These poems merge to form a fluid and beautiful story.

Best New Books of 2014: Melissa O’s Picks

December 10, 2014

This is my favorite blog post of the year; a chance to review my favorite new books of 2014. It is hard to narrow it to only five, but here are my selections. I love both fiction and nonfiction, especially those with lots of thrills and edge of your seat action! You never know what I might stumble across to share with you!

Destroyer AngelDestroyer Angel by Nevada Barr
Anna Pigeon is a park ranger. We think hats, nature lovers, and a big smile right? Not this park ranger. She is fierce and not someone you want to make mad. Anna and her friend Heath, a paraplegic, and Heath’s teenage daughter set out on a canoe trip with Leah and her teenage daughter. Leah designs outdoor equipment and she has a new design to make the outdoors more accessible to the disabled. This is supposed to be a trial run and a nice little vacation. Some bad guys decide to abduct Anna’s friends. Not a good idea. If you have read other Anna Pigeon books you don’t want to miss this one. If you haven’t, hold on and prepare for a wild ride.

HackerHacker by Ted Dekker
Nyah Parks is a hacker and she is in big trouble. Some bad people want her dead. Not a bad start to the newest Ted Dekker novel. He is known for his suspenseful, sometimes scary inspirational fiction. This tale starts off with a bang and hurtles forward from there. Computer technology, political cover-ups, murder, and a child’s desperate love for her mother cause Nyah to take steps that stretch our level of belief. We have heard that our brains are like a biological computer. Hacking computers is one thing, but how far would you go to save the people you love?

Denali's HowlDenali’s Howl by Andy Hall
Andy Hall more than remembers the events that occurred in Alaska in 1967; he was there. He was a child, the son of the park superintendent at Alaska’s Mount McKinley, also known as Denali. Twelve young men set out to climb the mountain, only 5 returned. This is an amazing story of survival, man vs. nature, and mountaineering. We learn not only what happened on the mountain, but also the struggle of those who tried to save them. Hall is now a journalist and he spent years tracking down the true story of this tragedy. Through survivor accounts, radio transmissions, and buried documents he has produced a gut-wrenching, white-knuckled read you cannot put down.

UndetectedUndetected by Dee Henderson
I fell in love with Dee Henderson’s books long ago and her newest series does not disappoint. Naval warfare, romance, and family are intricately entwined as we are pulled into the life of Gina Gray, an ocean researcher. Gina is a genius and her discoveries shatter what we thought we knew of ocean science. Now she finds herself fleeing a broken relationship and seeking solace with her brother, a submariner. There she meets Mark Bishop, a friend of her brother and a nuclear submarine commander. He also happens to be a widower and newly open to the idea of love again. Now she is wrestling with whether she should continue to develop her new ideas, and will her knowledge save those she loves or destroy them?

Artemis AwakeningArtemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold
Welcome to the pleasure planet Artemis. At least it used to be. This former playground for the wealthy has been lost for centuries. Long after the war that shattered the galaxies, archaeologist Griffin Dane sets out to rediscover its mysteries. And he does, but not quite in the way he had planned. Now he is trapped on a primitive planet with no way to escape. All living things on this planet were bioengineered to better serve their wealthy guests. Rescued by a huntress, Adara, and her psych-linked puma, Sand Shadow, Griffin must solve the mystery of Artemis if he has any hope of surviving. This is a wonderful new book by the author who brought us the Firekeeper series. She is a master of writing stories involving humans bonded with animals. Technology, lost civilizations, and a pretty despicable bad guy all make for some amazing science fiction.

Greatest Hits: One Jump Ahead by Mark Van Name

January 10, 2014

We kicked off the new year with The Book-A-Day Blog’s most popular posts of 2013! Today is the last day of this feature for 2013 books.

One Jump Ahead by Mark Van NameI first met local author Mark Van Name several years ago at an author panel at a local Barnes & Noble and as I listened to him speaking (including a somewhat disturbing story from his youth spent in a para-military youth group) I thought that this is a guy I would like to hang out with.  He seems pretty laid back, he’s very friendly and loves to talk about Sci-Fi, so what’s not to like?  I bought One Jump Ahead, had it signed, and introduced myself as a local librarian.  We’ve since hosted Mark at several author panels at several different Wake County Public Libraries, and he even helped us with our writing series be recording this video on finishing your novel.

In addition to his writing career, Van Name runs a technology assessment company, based here in the RTP area and had published over a thousand computer related articles.  He’d also had several short stories published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including The Year’s Best Science Fiction.  The year following its publication, One Jump Ahead won the Compton Crook Award for best new Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror novel at the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention.  It’s the first in the Jon & Lobo series and is the story of Jon Moore, a retired warrior enhanced with nano-technology within his body, and his partner, Lobo, an artificially intelligent ship complete with a personality that more than occasionally irks Jon. The two seek some R&R on the lush and pristine planet Macken, but Jon is tricked into kidnapping a girl thinking that he’s returning her to her father.  This is just the latest event in a plot involving two mega-corporations battling for control of the planet’s “jump-gate.”  (The jump-gates are what allow humanity to travel quickly between the stars – entering a jump gate in one area and ending up somewhere else in the galaxy entirely.  No one is sure if they are a natural phenomena or artifacts from an  alien race.)  Jon naturally must set right the wrong he accidentally committed, enlisting the help of some of his former comrades in arms. Throughout this action packed story we learn a bit about Jon’s background and the sorry life of a mercenary as he shows that it takes brains even more than brawn to prevail.  I also loved the fact that it was Jon who came up with the brilliant plan to defeat the bad guys, and not the super-intelligent sentient ship, Lobo – proving that man can surprise even machines, at times.

The other books in the series include Slanted JackOverthrowing HeavenChildren No More (Mark has donated all of his proceeds to the charity Falling Whistles, which helps real child soldiers in Africa), and No Going Back; he is currently working on the next book in the series: All the Worlds Against Us.

Mark also has a blog that is really quite cool and worth checking out – it covers a wide variety of topics – from his writing, his life and family, to music & movie reviews, from all kinds of food, to the UFC, the State Fair and much, much more.

Find and reserve this book in the library catalog.

One Jump Ahead by Mark Van Name

September 27, 2013

We’re pleased to re-run this book review from a few years ago in anticipation of the author visiting our libraries again soon.

One Jump Ahead by Mark Van NameI first met local author Mark Van Name several years ago at an author panel at a local Barnes & Noble and as I listened to him speaking (including a somewhat disturbing story from his youth spent in a para-military youth group) I thought that this is a guy I would like to hang out with.  He seems pretty laid back, he’s very friendly and loves to talk about Sci-Fi, so what’s not to like?  I bought One Jump Ahead, had it signed, and introduced myself as a local librarian.  We’ve since hosted Mark at several author panels at several different Wake County Public Libraries, and he even helped us with our writing series be recording this video on finishing your novel.

In addition to his writing career, Van Name runs a technology assessment company, based here in the RTP area and had published over a thousand computer related articles.  He’d also had several short stories published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including The Year’s Best Science Fiction.  The year following its publication, One Jump Ahead won the Compton Crook Award for best new Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror novel at the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention.  It’s the first in the Jon & Lobo series and is the story of Jon Moore, a retired warrior enhanced with nano-technology within his body, and his partner, Lobo, an artificially intelligent ship complete with a personality that more than occasionally irks Jon. The two seek some R&R on the lush and pristine planet Macken, but Jon is tricked into kidnapping a girl thinking that he’s returning her to her father.  This is just the latest event in a plot involving two mega-corporations battling for control of the planet’s “jump-gate.”  (The jump-gates are what allow humanity to travel quickly between the stars – entering a jump gate in one area and ending up somewhere else in the galaxy entirely.  No one is sure if they are a natural phenomena or artifacts from an  alien race.)  Jon naturally must set right the wrong he accidentally committed, enlisting the help of some of his former comrades in arms. Throughout this action packed story we learn a bit about Jon’s background and the sorry life of a mercenary as he shows that it takes brains even more than brawn to prevail.  I also loved the fact that it was Jon who came up with the brilliant plan to defeat the bad guys, and not the super-intelligent sentient ship, Lobo – proving that man can surprise even machines, at times.

The other books in the series include Slanted JackOverthrowing Heaven, Children No More (Mark has donated all of his proceeds to the charity Falling Whistles, which helps real child soldiers in Africa), and No Going Back; he is currently working on the next book in the series: All the Worlds Against Us.

Mark also has a blog that is really quite cool and worth checking out – it covers a wide variety of topics – from his writing, his life and family, to music & movie reviews, from all kinds of food, to the UFC, the State Fair and much, much more.

Mark Van Name will appear with other Speculative Fiction authors at West Regional Library on October 1 and at North Regional Library on October 8; visit our website for more details, including which other authors will also appear.

Find and reserve this book in the library catalog.

Black Cross by Greg Iles

July 29, 2013

bookcover.phpIn January 1944, Winston Churchill asks two very different men to participate in a mission that must remain secret not only to the Germans, but to his American allies as well. Mark McConnell , an American Doctor working in Britain, is a committed pacifist. Jonas Stern is a determined German Jew whose original mission was to convince the Allies to bomb the Extermination camps.

The British have discovered that the Germans possess a nerve gas which is so virulent that it will stop an invasion force in its tracks. This threat must be neutralized before the planned landings in Normandy take place. With the support of a crack British demolitions team, McConnell and Stern will target a top secret German concentration camp where the nerve gas is being perfected in hideous experiments on the inmates. Their goal is not only to destroy the gas and the men who created it, but also the entire population of the camp as an object lesson to the German High Command. The British only have a small supply of their own nerve gas, but they hope to bluff the Germans into thinking they are capable of wholesale retaliation against any German use of poison gas.

The mission begins to unravel as soon as the support team hits the ground. Wearing the uniform of the hated SD, Stern infiltrates the camp to make contact with an informant. Black Cross takes the reader inside the Concentration camp, the chilling, sadistic Doctor in charge of the “experiments”, a young Jewish widow, the resourceful Block Leader of the women’s barracks; and a “snitch” who turns out to be nothing of the sort. The German officer in charge of the camp, who has served at the front, despises the Doctor and the sadistic and vicious Camp Sergeant Major. One of the most fascinating aspects of this book is the portrayal of the society within the camp, with its hierarchies and survival mechanisms. Too often it is easy to view the prisoners in the camps as a multitude of faceless victims, but Iles’s characters provide a human dimension that brings the horrors of the camps to a personal level.

The plot becomes very convoluted, with many twists and turns. The middle of the book bogs down a bit with philosophical meanderings that may put off readers who are primarily looking for action, but the ending is worth the wait. Nothing is as it seems, and there are no stereotypical heroes here. Choices are made, for good or bad, as in real life. It is not exactly a casual read, and rather lengthy at over 600 pages, but “Black Cross” will appeal to readers who like historical and military fiction, with a substantial dose of suspense.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Earth Unaware by Orson Scott Card

October 5, 2012

I didn’t discover Ender’s Game until my early 20s, when we found each other and fell in love.  After that, I read the first two sequels in the series (Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide) which I enjoyed, but didn’t want to get sucked into an epically long series (now 14 books long) when there are so many other wonderful books to read. Until, that is, I heard that Orson Scott Card was writing a prequel to my beloved Ender’s Game, covering the time directly before the Formics arrived in our solar system

Earth Unaware follows three separate stories; that of the ship El Cavador, home to a family of Venezualan free-miners, which becomes closely intertwined with the story of a corporate ship captained by Lem Jukes, son of the notorious (and incredibly wealthy) Ukko Jukes of Juke Limited, and finally, that of Wit O’Toole, head of the Mobile Operations Police (MOPs) an “elite international peacekeeping force,” as he seeks new recruits for his team.

When an object is picked up on El Cavador’s radar moving very fast and toward Earth, the residents of the ship know two things; that whatever it is can’t be human, and that it could change the future of human civilization as they know it. Their long-range communication devices are down thanks to a recent skirmish with Lem Jukes’ ship, which is now, ironically, the only one that El Cavador is close enough to spread the news to.

Earth Unaware tracks the actions of both ships as they try to relay word of the alien ship to Earth, and of the MOPS, as they attempt to anticipate the unexpected and to prepare for anything. If you’ve read Ender’s Game, I think you know what’s coming…

Find and reserve this book in our catalog

Shavetail by Thomas Cobb

July 20, 2012

Shavetail presents a realistic and riveting look at life in an isolated Army outpost in the Arizona Territory during the war against the Apache. Thomas Cobb’s portrayal of camp life as boring, dirty, and brutal is probably very close to the reality. Cobb has done his research, and it is a delight to see his inclusion of historical sources at the end of the book.

The characters are quite compelling. Ned Thorne, the 17-year-old recruit running away from his past is a fine protagonist. When he finds the diary of Mary, a settler abducted by the Apache, her voice adds another dimension to the story. Captain Robert Franklin is heroic and action-oriented, which contrasts oddly with his bouts of depression. His lifelong friend Lieutenant Austin is more interested in publishing reports of new species of flora and fauna than soldiering, and is weirdly solicitous of Franklin. Donovan the trader shrewdly anticipates the wants and needs of his clientele, and shows up like clockwork on payday with his liquor and prostitutes to relieve the soldiers of their money. The mule driver Obediah Bricker is sadistic and cunning, a veritable master of manipulation with a philosophical bent. I find the preoccupation with the odd relationship between Franklin and Austin a bit tedious. Austin’s ramblings remind me of Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. I would rather have seen more about the camp and activities of the soldiers instead. Yet the sheer unpredictability of the story makes up for this.

What seems to be a straightforward rescue mission to find Mary ends up as a Western “heart of darkness” sort of foray, with the elusive Apache leading the soldiers into a strange encounter with a Mexican patrol that ends in a burst of numbing violence. The ending is surreal and unexpected. Shavetail is an exceptional and entertaining read, especially for someone with an interest in the time period.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Dauntless by Jack Campbell

July 17, 2012

This is one of the best Military Sci-Fi / Space Opera books that I’ve read in quite some time! It’s filled with excellent science behind the fiction, great characters, and concepts. Author John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, has a regular feature called “The Big Idea” where authors of new SF books explain the big concepts behind their books. I kept imagining Jack Campbell (whose real name is John G. Hemry) explaining the “big ideas” in Dauntless; there are at least three that seem obvious to me:

1) Captain John “Black Jack” Geary is rescued from hibernation sleep in a survival pod in deep space after a century of drifting. He was the hero of the battle at the very beginning of the now century old war, and the memory of him (everyone believed he died heroically fighting off the Syndicate) has grown into myth and legend. Now, circumstances are such that he must lead the Alliance fleet in a time vastly different from what, to him, was just weeks or months ago. Geary has quite a lot to adjust to, and also tries to re-introduce some ideas and practices from his era.

2) Campbell is the first SF author I’ve ever read to write about the relativistic effects of light travel and distance from other ships, stars, planets, etc. In other words, what one “sees” from the ship is minutes or hours old based on far away one is. We know that the light reaching the Earth is about six minutes old, so if a big, powerful spaceship was that far away, we wouldn’t know that they had launched weapons at us until six minutes after the fact. The same is true for communication between ships. Campbell does an excellent job of handling this complication in a very intelligent, yet understandable, manner.

3) Even in the far future, when humankind has spread amongst many hundreds of star systems and has developed two different methods of faster than light inter-stellar travel, our greatest enemy – the one we’ve been fighting for over a century – is still … mankind. The Alliance is made up of those star systems ruled democratically and the Syndicate worlds are those ruled by dictators who control their population through fear. There are a few brief, vague hints that there may be non-human intelligent life out there, but there has never been any proof and never any encounters – at least not on the Alliance side. I also enjoy the fact that in most military sci-fi, including this one, the main characters do not relish war or killing for its own sake, and mourn those lost in battle.

I’m definitely hooked on the Lost Fleet series of military sci-fi, and can’t wait to see what else Campbell does with “Black Jack” Geary and the rest of the “lost” Alliance fleet as they try to make their way home from deep inside Syndic space. In a way this book reminds me a bit of the Battlestar Galactica re-boot TV series. It’s a whole fleet ships, searching for home, with a tired, war-weary commander and a civilian Co-President representing the Alliance government.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Way the Crow Flies by Anne-Marie MacDonald

July 12, 2012

A sweet, dark, rich novel set in the Cold War era of rural Ontario, Canada and told through the eyes of Madeleine McCarthy, an eight year old To Kill a Mockingbird Scout-like character.

Madeleine is a smart, precocious child whose Royal Canadian Air Force father Jack is transferred from Germany to the barren Centralia Air Force Base, not exactly a plum posting. Jack is assigned to the base to watch a Soviet defector who is secreted into the United States to work on missiles, but Jack’s mission is undercover.

The amazing thing about this novel is that the structure is not static – it starts as a slow and innocent narrative, an almost idyllic portrayal of life in the 1960’s, as Madeleine describes rural military base life, her drop-dead gorgeous mother Mimi’s antics, and her protective older brother Mike. The plot darkens with the discovery of a child’s body in a barren field; with that, the novel becomes a becomes a twisty, labyrinth of secrets.

Madeleine hides from her parents a teacher who steals her innocence. Her father has his own secrets that threaten to destroy his family as well as national security. The ending, related through Madeleine’s adult eyes, is riveting and unexpected. Ultimately, this is a compelling novel about secrets, relationships, and coming of age violently in a topsy-turvy world.

Learn more about author Anne-Marie McDonald.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove

February 23, 2012

All fiction asks “what if?” (What if a boy named Huck Finn ran away with a slave named Jim and sailed the Mississippi?)  Science Fiction and Fantasy do this to an even greater extent (What if a scientist was able to re-animate a human corpse using lightning?) Within Sci-Fi & Fantasy the sub-genre of Alternative History takes actual events from History and asks what if they had happened differently (What if Hitler’s Germany had won World War II?) Harry Turtledove is considered the master of Alternative History and in this novel he asks: “What if The North rises again – in the stunning saga of the Second Civil War?”

It’s been a generation since the South defeated the North in the Civil War, and a disgraced Abraham Lincoln now roams the United States preaching the gospel of socialism. Meanwhile, the Confederate States have purchased territories from the Empire of Mexico. This would extend the CSA’s rule from the Atlantic to the Pacific and the United States decides that they should not be allowed to expand, and thus begins the Second Civil War. Many familiar names appear as the story unfolds: George Armstrong Custer patrols the frontier of Kansas using the new fangled Gatling guns against the Indians; General Stonewall Jackson is the supreme military commander of the Confederate forces and directs the Battle of St. Louis; Frederick Douglas is a journalist from Rochester, New York who travels to the dangerous border covering the war; J.E.B. Stuart leads the CSA forces in the newly annexed south-west territories; and Samuel Langhorne Clemens is the editor of a newspaper in San Francisco with a loving wife and two children. The characters are all as vivid as one could hope for and the action of the war – both on and off the battlefield – moves the story along keeping the reader wondering what “happened” next.

I’m a huge Sci-Fi & Fantasy reader, but have never been much into Alternative History for some reason. Also, I must admit that I have been reluctant to try Mr. Turtledove due to my own preconceived notions. You see, being from the North, I was never very interested in a story in which the South won the Civil War. I now freely admit how wrong I was – this novel was thoroughly enjoyable! If you like Historical Fiction, then chances are good that you’ll enjoy Harry Turtledove’s exploration of “what if” there were a second Civil War in the 1880s. I listened to this book on audio, and while it took me a while to finish it (21 CDs), I enjoyed listening to the talented and prolific George Guidall. (As of this writing, there’s even an excerpt from this audio book on George’s website!)

One of the hallmarks of great fiction (speculative, or otherwise) is that it makes you stop and think – and maybe even reconsider what you thought – about the given subject. How Few Remain certainly made me reconsider my views of the historical figures and events surrounding the Civil War.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.


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