October 21, 2014

The Mysteries of the Amazon Revealed

The title of this post makes it sound like I'm about to write an expose or an article for a major newspaper. :-P

The Lost City of Z focuses on the mystery of Colonel Percy Fawcett's disappearance in 1925 as well as the myth that there was an ancient civilization which he called 'Z' that was as yet undiscovered in the heart of the Amazon. I've talked before about the rhythm of a story that covers multiple time periods. This book handled the jumps extremely well. Grann covered Fawcett's explorations into the Amazon (prior to his last trip) which made him into a world renowned expert on the area and the Indians that inhabited it. He also discussed the various disastrous rescue attempts that were made. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the entire book (for me at least) was the author's journey researching the man and the myth. For anyone interested in the history of exploration and/or the Amazon this book is a must read. (A/N: I have to admit that the ending fell a bit flat for me after the buildup but this isn't enough for me to dissuade you guys from giving it a go.)

You might remember when I reviewed Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Well, my next read is a prequel to Treasure Island entitled The Adventures of Ben Gunn by R.F. Delderfield. Did I just blow your minds? Were you unaware that this even existed? I have a dear friend (and frequent reader of the blog) to thank for sending this my way (literally in this case). This is the story of the man named Ben Gunn in his own words (as written in narrative form by Jim Hawkins) as he explains how he came to become a pirate. I don't know about you guys but I bet this is going to be one doozy of a story. Ahoy, mateys! (You know I had to do it.)

October 10, 2014

Gotta love a good adventure story (especially when it's true)

Reading Operation Mincemeat has just convinced me that there are 1. Many more spy novels out there that I have yet to read (example: Ian Fleming) and 2. My obsession with World War II is completely justified because it was so convoluted, intriguing, and shrouded in secrecy (many of these secrets remain today). As the title suggests, this book focused on a singular operation which in itself was just a piece of a much bigger operation entitled Operation Husky (attached to another called Operation Barclay + others that were mere decoys). If nothing else, once you've finished reading this book you come away with an appreciation for the skills and ingenuity of those involved in fighting a war which for the majority of its duration seemed absolutely impossible to win. The taking of Sicily, however, proved to be a turning point in the war and Ewen Montagu and his team had a hand in the victory because they pulled off what many still believe to be the greatest feat of deception ever. If you've ever read The Man Who Never Was or seen the film version of it then you're aware of this story...except it's not the entire story because Montagu was censored by the British government (you'll see why when you read Operation Mincemeat). Sufficed to say, if you've ever fancied yourself a spy then you should read this to find out just exactly what that means. Hint: It's a lot more bureaucracy than James Bond has led you to believe.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann has been on my TRL for a while now. It's the story of a man's quest to figure out what really happened to Percy Fawcett and his expedition party. This question has haunted hundreds of people who have tried to discover the truth by following the clues left behind by the man into the very place that seems to have swallowed him alive. In 1925 Fawcett and his team (including his 21 year old son) set off on a quest to locate the lost city of El Dorado, aka Z. Now it's David Grann's turn to be enthralled by the mystery as he seeks to discover just what happened to Fawcett and his team and maybe find El Dorado himself...

October 4, 2014

It always comes back to death and WWII with me

I practically sped through The Removers by Andrew Meredith. As I had suspected (and you probably did too based on the synopsis), this is a memoir fraught with melancholy. After his world was turned on its head at the age of 14, Andrew was adrift without purpose...that is until he found that he was quite good at the business of death. (I made that sound like he was an expert assassin but in reality he was ensconced in the world of corpse removal and cremation.)  For twenty years, this was his livelihood and it seemed that even when he moved clear across the country he couldn't escape it. Was this his destiny? Was the ability to remove himself emotionally from all that went on around him what made him the perfect fit for dealing day in and day out with mortality? Will he rise like the phoenix out of the ashes of cadavers to find himself formed into something utterly unrecognizable from his former self?  What exactly is his former self? To find out the answers to these questions and to learn more about what some might think to be a morbid profession, take a crack at this book.

Because apparently I'm obsessed with WWII and death, I've decided to read Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory by Ben Macintyre. As I mentioned in a previous post regarding Alan Turing, Britain was a major player in the intelligence game during the war. This particular book focuses on a strategic plan to fool the Nazis into thinking that the Allies would be entering Italy through Greece when in fact they would be coming in through Sicily. The problem was that it was known to all parties that Sicily was the most logical choice for an entry point so the ruse had to be very, very good. It was a multifaceted plan but one of the key elements was Operation Mincemeat. The plan was cooked up by two intelligence offers who had very little in common: Ewan Montagu & Charles Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley if you're wondering). The plan was to drop a dead body disguised as an officer with falsified documents that would hopefully be turned over to the Germans. Does this sound like a James Bond movie? Well, that's because it was originally thought up by Ian Fleming himself. Yeah, now you're getting why I had to read this book aren't you?

Author's Note: I've read another book by Ben Macintyre and if you're interested in reading about that one you can go here.

October 1, 2014

Pasta Prayer Passion Or Alternate Title Alliteration

In my last post, I was already enthusiastic about the prospects of Eat Pray Love and I have to say that my expectations were completely fulfilled. I found myself smiling while I was reading and nodding my head at the nuggets of wisdom she gleaned along her journey of self-discovery and enlightenment. This is a book which will lighten your heart and your spirit. It will also make you want to pick up and immediately begin traveling on your own spiritual pilgrimage. I've been telling anyone and everyone that they need to read this book (and now I'm telling you!).

I didn't even realize until just this moment that my next book is also a memoir (oops?). The Removers by Andrew Meredith is the story of how Andrew's life came completely undone when he was 14 years old. This is the year that his father lost his job due to a scandal and his life was totally altered. Not long after, he joins his father in a new business venture: corpse removal. O_O

I kept these brief for 2 reasons 1) I really want you to read Eat Pray Love and I don't want to spoil anything and 2) I feel like if I go any further with a preview of The Removers I'm likely to spoil this one too. :-D

Let me know if there's any books out there you'd like me to review!

September 28, 2014

Movie and book tie-ins: Embrace them!

Basically, I love a good tie-in whether it's a film based off of a book or a book that was written based off of a movie. Book tie-ins are a great way to delve further into the characters and learn more details about scenes that are blink-and-you-miss-them. In this post, I'll be looking at both variants.

For starters, let's take a look at Star Trek Into Darkness which was written after the movie of the same name was released. For die-hard Trekkie fans, this is definitely a book that you want to pick up. It was so good that I never wanted it to end. For those who haven't seen the film (or who aren't really into Star Trek at all), this is the story of how one man came into his own when pitted against a ruthless adversary who by all accounts was unbeatable. James Tiberius Kirk is the newly appointed Captain of the USS Enterprise but at this stage he's definitely still wet behind the ears and he makes mistakes which come with very big consequences. At the same time, the reader is introduced to a character with motivations that are not immediately apparent and it is uncertain exactly what type of a person he actually is  (his identity is in question as well). There is conflict, intrigue, heroism, tragedy, and courage on every single page.  Go forth and read it!!

I was feeling a bit introspective after reading Star Trek Into Darkness so I picked up Eat Pray Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. I had watched the film a few years ago and thought it was deeply moving and therefore picked up the book on which it was based. However, at the time I was backlogged with books for school (remember those days, guys?) and it got relegated to my bookshelf. I am so glad that I'm reading it now. I can already tell that I'm going to have to pick up some more of Gilbert's works. Her writing really speaks to me. This is actually her story of how her life transformed through faith in God and in herself. She traveled for a year to immerse herself in three very different cultures in order to discover what it was that she really wanted from life and how she could be happy. This was after a lot of personal tragedy in her life had made her re-evaluate everything and she was basically starting over from scratch. It's not a depressing book though. No, it's actually uplifting in all the best kind of ways. She spent four months in each place where she focused on completely different things. In Italy, it was all about pleasure aka food. In India, she turned her attention to God. In Indonesia, I think you can guess what she focused on. ;-) I'll be updating you guys with my progress soon!

September 22, 2014

Doctor Who Haul Pt 2: The Review

I'm going to try to do this without giving any spoilers which means these will most likely be quite short. Let's get this party started! ::confetti floats through the air::

Doctor Who: Enemies of War by George Mann
The (Great) Time War rages on and entire planets are destroyed in the crossfire. The Time Lord who no longer believes he deserves the moniker 'The Doctor' crash lands on a planet ravaged by the Daleks. He meets a member of the resistance named Cinder and the two of them race against the clock, i.e. the Time Lords (see what I did there?) back on Gallifrey and the Daleks, to stop mass genocide. For those of you who wanted more background on the War Doctor that was introduced in Day of the Doctor then this one is definitely for you.

Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror by Mike Tucker
A quiet English village set in the present day is re-visited by the monsters of WWII. (Yet another book which mentions Alan Turing and his exemplary code-breaking skills by the way.) The Doctor and Clara land in Ringstone but they initially think that they've arrived at the wrong point in time...that is until they see the dead body caught in a giant spider's web. What exactly is going on in this little town that could create larger-than-life insects and arachnids? It might take more than just a bit of cleverness to work this one out (in fact it might take a little bit of time travel). If you're scared of bugs then I would recommend you stay far away from this one. :-D

Doctor Who: The Blood Cell by James Goss
I have to admit that I found this one rather chilling. I suppose that's because the entire story takes place in a prison that was built on an asteroid far out of reach of any neighboring civilizations. The Doctor is Prisoner 428 and he is definitely causing a ruckus amongst the Guardians and especially with the Governor himself (the Warden). He insists on escaping his cell and wandering wherever he pleases. Even when the Custodians (creepy faceless robots) are dispatched to dissuade him (I'm being delicate here) from breaking the rules, he persists in saying that there is something very wrong inside the prison. Actually there's something very sinister indeed occurring within the walls which keep everyone out...and everyone (and everything) inside.

Doctor Who: Silhouette by Justin Richards
An adventure with Jenny, Madame Vastra, and Strax (plus The Doctor & Clara)!! I do have to say that these are absolutely brilliant characters that I'm happy to see in a book adaptation. They have so much versatility and they're so different from one another that it keeps the story moving along at a wonderfully brisk pace. In this book, there are mysterious murders being committed throughout Victorian London and at first they don't seem to be interconnected except for one thing: the victims all visited the Carnival of Curiosities. What does origami, rage, and a man with a silver topped cane have to do with one another? Ah but you'll have to read this one to find out!!

So there you go! I hope that this kind of formatting worked for you. I had a lot of fun immersing myself in the Doctor Who Universe for the last week to read all of these. :-) Next up is another sci-fi adaptation but of a film this time: Star Trek Into Darkness by Alan Dean Foster. If you've ever read a book based off of a film (such as Star War) then you know that a lot of details are fleshed out in the novel which make the entire world seem more tangible and real. I'm hoping for that in this book. I read the adaptation for the first movie in the new universe franchise and it was really good so I have high expectations for this one. Stay tuned for that review!

September 16, 2014

Doctor Who Haul Part 1

I recently acquired 4 of the newest Doctor Who novels (one of which was mentioned in my last post). As per usual, when I get my hands on Doctor Who novels I tend to go on a bit of a binge and so...I'm just going to read all four of these really quickly and review them for you all in one big post.

A quick little blurb on each of them to whet your appetite.

Doctor Who: Enemies of War by George Mann
The War Doctor faces not only the Daleks and their newest weapons but also his own people in his quest to put an end to the Great Time War once and for all. However, he doesn't have to face them completely alone. He has a new companion named Cinder and she's determined to stay by his side no matter what dangers they face. She might change her mind when she sees exactly what the Daleks are creating...

Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror by Mike Tucker
The Doctor (#12) and Clara land in a sleepy little village town called Ringstone in Wiltshire. At first, The Doctor believes the TARDIS made a mistake and landed them at the wrong time in history. However, it quickly becomes apparent that the past has caught up to the present when giant insects and arachnids start terrorizing the villagers and all means of escape are cut off by massive spider webs...

Doctor Who: The Blood Cell by James Goss
When will people learn that there's really no point in trying to keep The Doctor locked in a cell? The most dangerous criminals are sent to a prison housed on an asteroid far removed from all colonized worlds. The Governor starts to suspect there is more than meets the eye regarding this 'Doctor' who keeps trying to escape and he might be right because after his arrival the murders begin...

Doctor Who: Silhouette by Justin Richards
When mysteries which seem to have no connection whatsoever (a locked room murder, a boxer killed by an undertaker, The Carnival of Curiosities, and a rich industrialist) end up being inextricably linked who could possibly put all of the pieces together? This is a case for The Doctor, Clara, Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax! Is anything really what it seems?

Are you guys ready?