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review 2018-04-16 11:28
Animal Kingdom: A Natural History in 100 Objects
Animal Kingdom: A Natural History in 100 Objects - Jack Ashby

A gorgeous publication, and it started off strong for me, as the first entry is the platypus.  But I have to admit to a whole lot of skimming; the writing is dry and the author uses the book to fly the flag for the Grant Museum of Zoology at every opportunity.  There's also a mind numbing number of entries involving worms.  Now, I like reading about worms if the writing is engaging - I've read an entire book about earthworms (5 stars!) - and the author's aim to fairly represent animals that make up a huge part of evolutionary history, is logical.  But there's only so much information one can take on-board about all the wormlike creatures in the history of the world before falling asleep.

 

It's a worthy book, but could have been more engagingly written.

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review 2018-04-07 22:32
Audio/Book Review of The Dragons of Dorcastle (The Pillars of Reality, Book 1) By Jack Campbell
The Dragons of Dorcastle - Jack Campbell

The first book in a thrilling new epic fantasy saga by Jack Campbell, the New York Times best-selling author of The Lost Fleet series!

 

For centuries, the two Great Guilds have controlled the world of Dematr. The Mechanics and the Mages have been bitter rivals, agreeing only on the need to keep the world they rule from changing. But now a Storm approaches, one that could sweep away everything that humans have built. Only one person has any chance of uniting enough of the world behind her to stop the Storm, but the Great Guilds and many others will stop at nothing to defeat her.

 

Mari is a brilliant young Mechanic, just out of the Guild Halls, where she has spent most of her life learning how to run the steam locomotives and other devices of her Guild. Alain is the youngest Mage ever to learn how to change the world he sees with the power of his mind. Each has been taught that the works of the other's Guild are frauds. But when their caravan is destroyed, they begin to discover how much has been kept from them.

 

As they survive danger after danger, Alain discovers what Mari doesn’t know – that she was long ago prophesized as the only one who can save their world. When Mari reawakens emotions he had been taught to deny, Alain realizes he must sacrifice everything to save her. Mari, fighting her own feelings, discovers that only together can she and Alain hope to stay alive and overcome the Dragons of Dorcastle.

 

Review 5*

 

This is the first book in a fantastic epic fantasy series called The Pillars of Reality. I absolutely loved it!

 

Mari is a fantastic character. I love her determination to do the right thing, even at the cost of her own life. She is an eighteen year-old mechanic... Sorry, Lady Master Mechanic as she loves to correct all her Guild elders who insist on dropping the honorific, even though she has attained it by qualifying as the youngest Lady Master Mechanic since the Guild was first formed. When the caravan/convoy she is travelling in is attacked, she finds herself travelling with a mage who was hired by the caravan to protect it as it travelled to Ringmon where she has a Guild contract to repair a mechanical device. As danger threatens, Mari finds herself torn between doing what is right, and her growing feelings for Mage Alain.

 

Mage Alain is also a fantastic character. I liked him a lot. He is seventeen years-old and one of the youngest Acolytes to achieve Mage status. He has been taught from a young age not to show or feel any emotions and that the world he lives in is an illusion, where nothing is real. When the caravan he's been contracted to protect comes under attack, he finds himself drawn to Mari, feelings long forbidden returning to the surface. As he begins to see through the illusion to the truth that had been kept from them, he realises that Mari is the woman prophesized to unite the people of Dematr. Can he protect her long enough to fulfil it?

 

I purchased this book in audio format in 2015 when it was recommended to me on Audible due to my listening and browsing history. I am kicking myself for not listening to it sooner. I kept putting it off for some reason unknown to me. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it at the time. Who knows? Anyway, now I'm seriously annoyed with myself for missing out on listening to this story, which is narrated by MacLeod Andrews. He does a fantastic job in bringing the story to life. Even Alain, who's voice is meant to be flat and emotionless comes across with subtle hints. You would think that Alain's voice would be monotonous, but it's not so. I love the way he brings all the characters to life with different accents, inflections and tones. He even makes the women's voices sound perfect for each character. As for his narration, he read the story clearly and concisely, and his pacing was perfect. I would definitely listen to more books read by this narrator.

 

This story introduces us to the world of Dematr. It is a mass of contradictions. There are two great Guilds who hold all the power over the common folk - The Mechanics and The Mages. These Guilds have held power for centuries and refuse to relinquish their hold and reject change of any kind. However, this is slowly strangling the world, making it harder and harder for the Mechanics especially as their technology is regressing. This story has a steampunk feel to it, with machinery being steam driven at times - trains for instance. Though there are some more modern items such as far-talkers (walkie-talkies to you and me), torches using batteries, and rifles and pistols that are decidedly more modern-day. Mages use energy from the land around them and some of their own energy to make spells. These spells can be used in various ways - from hiding oneself to creating a dragon.

 

This book is told through the eyes of both Mari and Alain and I found myself completely hooked from beginning to end. I was fascinated by how different the Guilds were, but also struck by how similar they were too. I loved getting to know the two main protagonists and watching (in my minds eye) the story unfold as I listened. I have no idea why, but as I listened to Mage Alain talking and thinking, I had a sudden picture of Richard Dean Anderson as he played Colonel Jack O'Neill in SG1 - with a dry wit and deadpan face. If they ever decide to make this book into a movie or TV series, I would hope they could find someone like that to do Alain justice. Anyway, back to the book. I found myself an emotional wreck near the end. I think my heart broke, it definitely felt heavy at any rate. However, the audiobook version (I can't speak for the book version) has a preview of the second book in the series and I am now looking forward to reading/listening to The Hidden Masters of Marandur as soon as I can.

 

Jack Campbell is a new author to me. I've never read or listened to any of his other books. However, I may have to add him to my favourite authors list, as he's found a fan in me. I love his writing style, which is fast paced and descriptive, and the flow of the story is good too.

 

Although there is no mention of any scenes of a sexual nature, I do not recommend this book to younger readers under the age of 15 due to some violence. I do, however, highly recommend this book if you love dark or epic fantasy, steampunk or action/adventure and supernatural/paranormal romance genres. - Lynn Worton

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text 2018-04-07 16:17
[Book Review] White Fang & Call of the Wild: Why London isn't a good writer.
White Fang - Jack London
The Call of the Wild - Jack London

Well, well, well. Here we have two books that are classics, as well as absolute disappointments. The only reason I ever picked up a Jack London novel is because they are assigned in 7th and 8th grade honors English. And let's be honest, they are terrible. Why they're classics is a mystery to me. I do know that COTW was one of the first really commercial books (besides things like the Bible or etc.) and had lots of positive uproar. However, that was back then. This is now. Writing has evolved, people have changed. This book should NOT be a classic. Books like Dracula or Murder on the Orient Express are creative enough and written well enough to be a good choice to read now. Absolutely none of London's books are this way, I am upset that in the education system, they believe a 170 page novel about a dog/wolf thing that's written terribly is a good thing to assign to the gifted students in exchange for books like The Great Gatsby or To Kill a Mockingbird, that, in my school, even if you're an honors student, don't read until 10th/11th grade, and by then you aren't being challenged enough. Not that you were to start with, anyways. 

 

Now, in both White Fang & Call of the Wild, the writing is terrible. Sure, London uses some big words and goes into detail of one thing for three whole pages, but it doesn't make any sense! I'm fine with a paragraph of detail for something that's important, but you don't need more than 2-3 sentences to describe a tree, for goodness' sake. If you take out all of the unseeded filler, you're left with a 50 page book, that isn't worth a read anyways. Also, the plot development is terrible and the actions of each character don't seem to have a reason or explanation. It goes from one scene to another with little to no transition. The dialogue, also, is horrendous. I understand that people used to talk like they do in London's novels, and that's not on him, it's more on the people that make the revised editions before sending them out. They leave it there, and it just seems like a bunch of illiterate characters talking. If the people speak like that, why can the dogs think in perfect English?

 

Now, the plots are fine. The development is fine in the beginning, but by the time London gets to the end of the book, you can tell he was done with it. It's rushed with little to no detail, and comes to an abrupt end. A long beginning, short end, and boring middle does not make an acceptable classic book. 

 

Now, with Jack London's history. I know that the books are more lifelike as he actually experienced many of the things he writes about, but he was never an author. His books were so bad that they got rejected for years by many publishers and magazines, until he finally got COTW published. It was a hit, and so was White Fang, but many of the others he wrote never really got popular. Even though they were famous, though, they were not good. Like the last two Divergent novels, or the couple Harry Potter books that didn't quite live up to the name. But anyway, Jack London was never a writer. He even claimed once that he was not good at reading or writing for a while before he actually wrote his first few short stories.

 

Anyway, if you have the choice, I wouldn't read these. They're a snooze-fest. Unless you want to read them because their classics or you actually have enjoyed London's work. Though, some of his short stories are better than his books.

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review 2018-04-07 05:21
A Reason to Believe (Audiobook)
A Reason To Believe - Jack LeFleur,Diana Copland

Still just as good as the first time I read it way back when I was first getting into M/M. I always worry that those "older" reads won't live up to my initial impressions of them, but this one does. It's even been long enough that even though I remembered the gist of mystery (the motive mostly) I didn't remember the whodunit, so it was fun to try to figure it out all over again. 

 

Kiernan is fun and full of energy, and he's such a great balance to Matt, who is more even-tempered and still grieving the loss of his last boyfriend. It was a bit on the insta-love side, the story takes place in barely a week, but they go through enough and actually talk to each other about things instead of just lusting after each other (which they really don't do much of, actually). It makes their connection feel more real, instead of the shallow "he's so hot I MUST have him" nonsense you get in a lot of other romances. 

 

Sheila and Aiden weren't as annoying as I remembered them being, even if they are a little too gushy over the guys finding love. 

 

The narrator is pretty good. He did sound a little "the number you have called is not in service" at times, but when he was reading dialogue, he really got into all the characters and shined.

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review 2018-03-29 05:48
An encyclopedic treatment of Victorian railroads
The Victorian Railway - Jack Simmons

Jack Simmons book is nothing less than an encyclopedia of Victorian railroad history presented in a narrative format.  Using a thematic rather than chronological format, he addresses practically every aspect of the topic, from the machinery and use of railways to their representation in literature and their management of public relations.  Within them he provides a clear overview of the people, places, and technologies that created and directed the development of Britain’s railroad network.

 

The author of over a half-dozen more specialized books on railroad history, Simmons brings an impressive breadth of knowledge to his topic.  Much of this is clear from his writing, which with his confident and comfortable tone conveys an easy familiarity with his subject.  Yet like an encyclopedia entry his coverage is often brief as he passes from subject to subject, leaving the reader wanting to learn more.  This is especially true in terms of his illustrations, which while numerous are nowhere near sufficiently so for his text, leaving readers to track down pictures of the images and places he mentions for themselves.

 

None of this, however, detracts from the overall utility of this book.  Well written and deeply researched, Simmons’s book is an excellent guide to understanding Victorian railroads and the role they played in the history of their time.  Readers will find it an enlightening resource, one that they can enjoy from cover to cover or by selecting the chapters that sate specific needs.  Either way, it is one that people interested in the subject will want to keep on their shelves for many years to come.

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