Friday, January 31, 2014


by Laura Hillenbrand
398 pgs

Reading Unbroken now and writing about it makes me feel a little like a person who decides to show up at a party after everyone else has left and the host has already cleaned up and gone to bed--I know I'm little late. Nevertheless, people have been telling me to read it for quite some time, including a coworker, who talked about the book frequently and would describe it in great detail whenever he did. I finally decided I needed to read it now before he ruined the whole book for me.
It's both an inspiring and gut-wrenching account of Louie Zamperini's ordeals surviving World War II. Louie, grew up in Torrence, California and made a name for himself nationally as a runner, qualifying for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. By all accounts, if the war hadn't altered the course of his life, he likely would have been the first man to break the 4-minute mile. 
He was assigned to be a bombardier on a B-24 in the Pacific during the war and survived when his plane went down while on a routine search mission in May of 1943. Louie, along with two other survivors of the crash spent a record 47 days drifting west in a life raft, with little to no provisions and the constant threat of circling sharks.
Louie and one of the other two survived long enough to be found by Japanese forces after drifting about 2,000 miles into Japanese-controlled waters, and was interred in POW camps until the war ended. The book describes the horrors he and others survived there at the hands of his guards.
I won't go into details on what he endured. Suffice it to say, he experienced physical and mental abuses at levels that very few men could have survived. His story gives an insight into the depths of cruelty mankind can inflict on itself as well as the levels of endurance and resiliency it's capable of possessing.  
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Yard

by Alex Grecian
422 pgs  (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad #1)

The Yard is set in Victorian England shortly after the Ripper killings inexplicably stopped. As a result of its inability to catch the Ripper, Scotland Yard has created "The Murder Squad"--a twelve-man unit of officers dedicated solely to investigating murders and dealing with a new type of killer represented by Saucy Jack--the serial killer.

Walter Day, the newest detective hired at the Yard is assigned to investigate the grizzly murder of one of the Yard's own officers. Day teams up with Dr. Kingsley, who is using new types of methods such as fingerprinting and trace evidence analysis to identify killers and solve crimes. When another officer shows up dead and apparently by the same killer, Day and his team realize that there's a new serial killer on the loose in London.

I've read lots of books that pulled me in on the first page. But many times my interest in the story faded as I got further into the book. That wasn't the case with The Yard. Grecian maintains a great pace and incorporates multiple subplots as the story progresses. The characters got more and more interesting as things progressed and I learned more of their backstory as well. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Yard. I usually have pretty set times of the day that I read at, and most of the time I'm pretty content to limiting my reading to those times. But The Yard was the type of book that had me picking it up and reading it anytime I had a few free moments. The next book in the series, The Black Country is out already and the third one, The Devil's Workshop will be out this May. I'm looking forward to reading both.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Lies of Locke Lamora

by Scott Lynch
499 pgs

The Lies of Locke Lamora is Scott Lynch's debut novel that begins his Gentlemen Bastards series, which will eventually include seven novels along with some possible novellas. The more books the better as far as I'm concerned. The next two books in the series Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves are out, and just like I'm doing with George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, I'll be trying to pace myself in reading the books as slowly as I can, waiting for him to finish writing the rest of them. 

The central character is Locke Lamora, a quick-witted criminal who grows up an orphan on the streets of Camorr, a medieval Venice-like fantasy city. Locke's life as a thief begins under the tutelage of the Thiefmaker, a Faginesque character who takes Locke under his wing when he is very young and teaches him the art of distraction and misdirection while other young boys relieve their targets of their valuables. The Thiefmaker soon realizes that Locke's abilities and mind for grander-scaled operations are too much for him and he sells Locke to Chains, the leader of the Gentlemen Bastards. Chains recognizes Locke's potential and begins teaching him the skills he'll need to pull off the types of cons and heists that take months of planning and engineering to pull off and which result in much more significant hauls.

When Chains dies, Locke becomes the leader of the Gentlemen Bastards and becomes known as the Thorn of Camorr, an infamous criminal and master of disguise who preys on the wealthy and the entitled of the city.

This was a very enjoyable book and a promising start to a series that has the potential to become a favorite of mine. Lynch has built an intricate and highly-engaging world and placed in it his central characters, a group of likable thieves who try to pull off an Ocean's Eleven type heist. There are elements of fantasy in Lynch's world, but to describe the book as a fantasy book doesn't really feel accurate. With elements of adventure and crime fiction, it's a genre-bending story that readers of a wide variety of different genres will enjoy.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Hot Kid

by Elmore Leonard
387 pgs

When Carl Webster was 15 years old he bought an ice cream cone at the local drug store in Oklahoma and ended up coming face to face with a notorious outlaw who came in to rob the store and who also decided to steal Carl's ice cream cone while doing it. A few years later Carl becomes a U.S. Marshall and quickly gains some notoriety for taking down some well known criminals and doing so with some flair.

Jack Belmont is the son of a wealthy pecan farmer who made millions of dollars from oil that was discovered on his property. Jack refuses his father's efforts to get him to work for him and eventually take over the family farm and instead turns to a life of crime, becoming a famous bank robber in Oklahoma and Kansas.

The two men's paths are destined to cross.

Leonard sets his story in the heartland of America during the 1920's and '30s and in true Leonard style uses his characters' dialogue almost exclusively to tell it. There's not a very intricate plot in this one--you know where the story is headed almost as soon as the two main characters are introduced, but the true enjoyment for me in reading one of Leonard's books is almost always in the way he lets his characters tell the story for him.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆