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review 2019-07-24 02:44
Inside Box 1663
Inside Box 1663 - Eleanor Jette

This was another read that was inspired by my recent read of Box 1663 by Alex Sorel. There were so many details in Sorel's book that made it feel real to life, and I was curious how close it would come to someone who actually lived in Los Alamos during the Project years. 


This book is a treasure for those seeking more info on the Manhattan Project. It's a little on the dry side, but it's packed full of day-to-day details that really helped me to understand what these people had to endure, on top of the stress of their very secret mission. There were constant housing shortages, power outages, a serious lack of adequate laundry facilities (eight machines for the whole town!), constant demands to conserve water; the commissary wasn't adequately supplied, there was constant threat of fires to the overheated apartments and in the Tech Area where the final components of the bomb were being tested and assembled; there were rattlesnakes on the trails, bears in the mountains, and hair snakes coming out of the drains and clogging the shower heads!


What really drove home the isolation they felt while living in Los Alamos was the constant use of "Outer World" to describe everywhere outside the base. Their mail was censored, both going out and coming in, they were followed around town by G2 when they left base, and their news came from whatever they could get their hands on.


I don't know if I could have endured those conditions - especially those people unfortunate enough to live in the trailers and share one latrine with eighty other trailers. No thank you! Yet these people did endure, found ways to make life manageable and enjoyable. I have mixed feelings about what these men and women accomplished there, but there's no doubt that they overcame insurmountable obstacles (courtesy mainly of poor government planning; what else is new?) to achieve it.

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review 2019-07-22 05:06
Los Alamos: 1944-1947
Los Alamos: 1944-1947 (NM) (Images of America) - Toni Michnovicz Gibson

This photographic history of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos was compiled by the son and daughter of John Michnovicz, who was a photographer for Project Y. He was part of the group of photographers that captured the daily life of the men and women who worked and lived in Los Alamos and nearly all the photos in this book were taken by him. 


I was inspired to read this after reading Box 1663 by Alex Sorel and this was such a fun supplement to that book. The photos were well organized and highlighted the area in and around Los Alamos, the people who worked there and how they managed to live through those stressful years with good humor despite constant housing shortages and the pressure to create the atomic bomb before our enemies could. 


I enjoyed the various tidbits, for exampled, the SED boys who still looked like scientists even in uniform and who were so bad at soldiering that they couldn't keep formation and would wave at friends. Morale was vastly important during the Project years, and there were various entertainments, from sports games, to hiking, to dances, to radio programs, to pranks and fake "awards". I'm not convinced though that the Tech Area punch (made from fruit punch and ethanol) was in any way good, but desperate times, I guess. LOL.


If you're interested to learn more about the men and women who worked on this project, this is a good place to start. 

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review 2019-07-09 05:52
Box 1663

Box 1663

Written by Alex Sorrel



Set in the final years of the Manhattan Project, this story follows Nick, a young Army photographer recruited to work on Project Y in the remote Box 1663 at Los Alamos, NM. On the way, he meets Ian, a British scientist who is also joining the project. Secrecy is a way of life, as is low water pressure, rations and bad food. Sorel paints a vivid picture of what life was like for the men and women who lived cheek to jowl in this remote desert location while racing to create a weapon that would end the war - and bring in a new age.


Nick is a very likable guy for the most part. He's approachable, loves talking and connecting to people and enjoys photography, even if his job on Project Y doesn't give him much opportunity to use his artistic side. He befriends his assistant, Alice, who is a delightful character, and tries his darnedest to get closer to the elusive Ian.


I didn't quite get why Nick was so interested in Ian so quickly, since Ian was so distant and barely spoke to him. But as Ian came a little more out of his shell as the book went on, it was clear they just clicked and when Ian allowed himself to relax, they had a good friendship. Nick was a little pushy in his pursuit for Ian for my tastes, considering how reserved Ian was. That kind of attitude can very easily trigger my irritation and outright dislike, but Nick never neared that line, and after we learned more about Ian's past, Nick gets much better about that.


One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was that Ms. Sorel didn't try to modernize her characters. They're products of their times, with the attitudes prevalent then. Her use of language - using the jargon of the times - and prose gave the story an authentic flavor that many historicals lack. These characters - both real life ones and fictional ones - are working on an horrific project - a "necessary evil" - and she both humanizes them while also showing the terrible consequences of what these people unleashed on the world. 


There's also a quasi-mystery involving people who attack Nick and try to get his photos of the classified materials he's documenting, and this was the weakest part of the story for me. While one thing did manage to surprise me, it was pretty clear who the participants in the espionage were. And for being a war-tested Army lieutenant, Nick's not very good at assessing threats and reacting to dangerous situations throughout the majority of the book. It's not entirely unrealistic, but he should've been more cautious after the second attack. I guess he's just not genre savvy. ;)


This was a great debut novel by Ms. Sorel and I hope it won't be her last. Despite being self-published, it's much better edited than many professionally published books I've seen in M/M (looking at you, DSP), with a bare minimum of typos and grammar issues. The writing in very readable and sucks you right in, and Sorel manages to avoid some of the more common tropes in the genre when it comes to the romance. 

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review 2019-04-17 05:30
The Defiant Hero (Troubleshooters #2) (Audiobook)
The Defiant Hero - Melanie Ewbank,Patrick Girard Lawlor,Suzanne Brockmann

2.69 stars, rounded up.


Sometimes you want cheese, and it's just the right amount, and you're in cheese nirvana:



Other times you want cheese, and it's just too much, and you end up with all the regrets:



This was a little of both.


Clearly, a story about terrorism, child abduction and a mother in peril just isn't meaty enough to carry the plot of an entire book all by itself, doncha know. Nope, this thing needs some filling. Lots and lots and lots of filling. So much filling that you pretty much lose sight of the plot entirely for huge chunks of the book. Because who cares about terrorist plots when romance is in the air, amirite?


So, you have a story wherein a little girl and her great-grandmother are abducted by extremist terrorists (not just your run-of-the-mill terrorists,

but thank God they're also somehow amateurs)

(spoiler show)

, and held in custody until you, the girl's mommy, bring them a terrorist from an enemy cell so they can kill him. Then, and only then, will your daughter and grandmother be released. Do you: A) immediately call the FBI and inform them of this terrorist threat and tell them everything you know upfront to give them the best opportunity possible of saving your family as quickly as possible, or B) follow the terrorists' exact instructions, hoping on dumb luck and the gullibility of some guy you knew once a few years ago, and go along with the terrorists' plan because obviously, even though they're terrorists, they're totally trustworthy and will follow through with their promises if you deliver what they want, all the while acting like the epitome of the stereotypical hysterical woman? If you're smart, you choose A. If you're Meg, you choose B.


She chose B so hard, y'all.


And she's a mom, I get it, but she set womanhood back by at least a few centuries with her hysteria. I mean, she called in John because she knows him and trusts him. But then she doesn't trust him and is constantly lying to him and badgering him about how untrustworthy he is even though he

A) came at her beck and call, B) helped her get out of the embassy, C) came after her sorry ass after she ran away again to help her even though it could end with him court-martialed and imprisoned, and D) didn't once try to get the upper hand, even though he very easily could, because he was giving her every opportunity to not be a dunderhead. But he's not trustworthy. Uh-huh. Sure.

(spoiler show)

And John Nilsson was every corny movie action hero ever. Bonus points for stripping atop a car hood, in the rain, while hanging on with at least one hand the whole time, while the car is in motion. He must have godlike powers to accomplish that feat.


And then there's Alissa Locke. She was set up as a really cool character in the previous book. The first woman who even stood a chance of getting into the SEALS but had to settle for the prestigious job of an FBI sharpshooter instead. And here, we find out that she doesn't know how to track her targets or how to keep her targets from spotting her, doesn't know how to dress for a sweltering hot day in D.C. even though she lives there, and doesn't understand how alcohol works. But have no fear! A man's here to show her the ropes! And what a man he is! A condescending, patronizing, sexist Texan redneck, complete with a cowboy hat and a high opinion of himself. Of course, she must have him!



But Sam's a classy guy. Really. He is.

He'd NEVER have sex with a clearly intoxicated woman incapable of giving informed consent. ... Oh, but wait. He did. Never mind!

(spoiler show)


I just didn't understand this subplot. Why was it here? I certainly hope I'm not supposed to be rooting for these two to get together in the future. And the whole stupidity in the motel room was ... well, stupid. It was like something out of a 80s sitcom with the stupid handcuffs and the abuse of chocolate syrup.


Then both of these couples having sex at the stupidest times - unprotected sex at that. Is it really that difficult to control your hormones? I don't get it. Well, Meg and John I get; that was about comfort. But Alissa and Sam ... ugh.

(spoiler show)


Then there's Amy and Eve, in the hands of their captors, and Eve spends the entire time telling their sole guardian (why were these guys not on rotation?) about her love affair during WWII. Which is actually the only thing that happens in this book that makes a lick of sense. Getting your captor to see you as a human being is goal number one for anyone who has been abducted. It's your best hope for escape or release, and it can work. So go for it! But my lord, did I so not give a crap about her story.


Once again, this is a dual narration, and I believe all the books in this series are. Patrick Lawlor is the better of the two. He's much more natural than Melanie Ewbanks, who can sound a little too technical at times. Still don't like getting two sets of voices for the same characters, and their various accents were almost painful to listen to. Still, Lawlor was at least fun to listen to at times.


Thankfully, I was in the right mood for cheesy and stupid, even if I did find a lot of it frustrating.

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review 2019-03-08 03:47
The Lines We Leave Behind (Audiobook)
The Lines We Leave Behind - Eliza Graham

This took awhile to get going, and it took me a few days to really get into the story. It did help after I speed up the playback to 1.3X, the fastest I've had to listen a narrator.


We meet Maude while she's being treated in a mental institution after the end of WWII. We don't know why she's there, and neither does she, so we follow along with her as she recovers her memories and figures out what happened to her - and it is messed up, yo.

There's also some interesting details about Yugoslavia/Croatia/Bosnia during the last years of WWII and how the political landscape there eventually led to the Yugoslav/Croatian war in the 90s as we learn more about what Maude did during her war mission.


I can't really say more than that without giving away things. I do like that not everything gets answered, because they wouldn't be, given Maude's circumstances. We're given just enough to paste things together in a way that makes sense, but we'll never know some things for certain, but that's all right. This isn't a mystery where the details are essential to the whole, but a tale of the human spirit to prevail over great adversity.

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