Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Finished (E-Reader): "All the Light We Cannot See" - Anthony Doerr

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I was very happy to find "All the Light We Cannot See" - my daughter read it as a self-selected book for Grade 12 English, and my wife and I read it subsequently.

The book is based around WWII, and follows two main characters - a young, blind girl from France, and a young German boy.  As you can guess, the German boy gets drafted, and is identified as very handy with radios, so he ends up scanning for spies across occupied Europe.  The young girl and her father are forced to leave Paris and live elsewhere through the German occupation.

The story is told well - very short chapters keep the storylines moving by sequencing each chapter to a particular story arc.  There are also some jumps in time, where the story is not told entirely sequentially.
Doerr's book does a great job of describing the same events from the different perspectives, and manages to tell a wartime story without very much referencing of the war itself - you hear rumours from the townsfolk about how the war is going, you see the gradual loss of lifestyle even if direct warfare does not run through your living room.  Both main characters are portrayed realistically and both are treated respectfully - you can respect the hardships the German inductee goes through and the hardships living under occupation experienced by the young woman and her family with no need to play the situations off against each other - both were taken from "normal" life and subjected to incredible situations at a very young age.

A great read and a highly recommended page turner.  I'm going to look for more titles from this author.

Finished (E-Reader) - "End of Watch" - Stephen King

I used to read Stephen King, as fast as I got the cash together to buy second-hand copies of his books while I was in high school.  Lately, I've read some of his newer books (e.g. "22/11/63").

His newer books, compared to my "king memory" are less horror books and more novels that have an odd twist to them - no killer dogs or evil clowns.
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#3 - Bill Hodges Trilogy
"End of Watch" is the third (and final) book of the Bill Hodges trilogy.  The basic storyline is of a young man who is fascinated with pushing other people into suicide - he runs a car through a crowd of people, killing several, and then plays a sadistic game of taunting the owner of the car used in the killing until she commits suicide ("Mr. Mercedes").  He also plans to commit suicide at a concert and take as many with him as he can ("Finders Keepers").  The end of that story results in him becoming brain damaged and comatose for a number of years.

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#1 - Bill Hodges Trilogy
End of Watch has him discovering that he can inhabit people, even though his own body is damaged.  He uses this "power" to, again, coerce suicides, and plans to complete, or continue his mass murder plan from book 2.

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#2 Bill Hodges Trilogy
All in all, each story stands alone, and enough reflection is provided to allow non-sequential reading of the stories.  All three books were fast and interesting reads, though maybe not as haunting as I recall his older works (though I was also much younger at that time).

Finished (E-Reader) - "Duty and Honour" - Grant Blackwood

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I have been a fan of Tom Clancy for many years, particularly the mainline Jack Ryan stories (e.g. Cardinal of the Kremlin, Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games...).  However, as Tom Clancy has died, Grant Blackwood has taken over the writing of the Jack Ryan books.

I must say that I look forward to reading this series, but have been somewhat disappointed that the depth of the stories seems lacking in the Blackwood versions over the prior Clancys.  What I liked about the Clancy books was that they'd take you "behind the scenes" and you'd get a feeling of understanding what the world looks like from an undercover CIA operative, or a retired special forces guy working for an undercover spy agency.
The Blackwood "Ryan" books seem to lack that level of depth, and move more toward a simple villain chasing story with lots of "Hardy Boys" level of lucky escapes ("Good think the gun jammed, or I'd have had it").

I was also able to run through the book pretty quickly, which removed some of the pleasure of "living with" the characters for a while.

This won't stop me from reading the next one though.