"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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Friday, April 29, 2011

The Civil War: Strange and Fascinating Facts by Burke Davis

Fun to read, but be warned...

...you had better be up on your Civil War basics before attempting to read this book. It assumes that the reader is well aware of the main battles, campaigns, personalities and relative strengths and weaknesses of both the North and the South.

Union General William Tecumseh Sherman
As the title suggests, the book is primarily a collection of facts and oddball "did you know?" type of stories that are not really intended to re-tell the story of the Civil War but are mostly aimed at  people who know the story fairly well and are looking for some new stories (in my case, these are new stories I can use to bore my wife in new and different ways with the Civil War).

There's bound to be something new in here for everyone but the hardest of the hard core Civil War aficionados. Well-written, breezy, although oftentimes disjointed and random.

This book is also published under the titles Our Incredible Civil War and The Incredible Civil War by the same author.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Civil War: Strange and Fascinating Facts by Burke Davis.

Reviewed December 2, 2005.

A Heartbeat Away (audiobook) by Michael Palmer

A political thriller for people that don't know much about politics

Read by Robert Petkoff
11 hours, 42 minutes.

The premise behind A Heartbeat Away is simple and brilliant:  What if terrorists released a biological weapon into the House chamber during the President's State of the Union Address - the one time when just about everybody who is anybody in the Federal government is all in one room together?

The follow through, however, is not so hot.

Palmer's characterization of how a President would deal with this sort of problem shows that Palmer does not understand the one thing that all presidents are - they are politicians. They know how to collaborate, get things done, work with people they cannot stand to get their programs enacted. Even the most difficult President can schmooze and get people to work with them. 

The president in A Heartbeat Away, James Allaire is the most politically tone deaf character I have ever seen. He manages to make the whole thing look like an attempted coup (although most of the Congressmen and women  are placid, like a herd of sheep - I had to wonder if Palmer had ever watched Meet the Press even one time. Those people live to argue. They all think they are the expert of almost everything and just about everything is some sort of scheme)

Anyway, the entire government of the United States is present except for the Designated Survivor - the cabinet member who stays away just in case there is a terrorist act and becomes president. You may remember the many references to Dick Cheney being in an "undisclosed location" during the Bush 43 administration and you then know that Cheney was the Designated Survivor.

A State of the Union address
They are all exposed to WRX3883, a bio-weapon created by the order of the president (who is a "man of the people" despite his dictatorial ways - we see no evidence of this in the book but the author tell us that he is so I guess he is. Oh, he is also a medical doctor - I guess he did not take that Hippocratic Oath thing too seriously, huh? Do no harm unless you're creating a bio-weapon...) and the President does not cede power to the Designated Survivor. Instead, because he is an expert on everything, he goes about working on a secret plan to try to get a cure made, while he lies to everyone and says it is just the flu and everyone is on lockdown on the penalty of death. And - they need to sit down in their assigned seats. Now! Then, a beat down by the Secret Service starts, including a pistol whipping of someone in the upstairs gallery.

The president brings an epidemiologist out of prison where he had been held without trial for 9 months to find the cure in exchange for a pardon. Throw in a number of simplistic characters including a crusading journalist, an evil priest, evil corporate bad guys, an overly-ambitious politician with religiously-tinged political views and a whole lot of talk about the evils of animal testing and you get the idea. This is politics if Michael Savage and Michael Moore ran the two parties.

As I was listening to the audiobook I was wondering where the first family was. They were exposed to the virus in the first pages of the book while sitting in the gallery. They must have taken the order to sit down in their assigned seats very seriously because they don't show up again until the end of the book. Where are they while the president is worrying if his exposure to the bio-weapon is affecting his judgment? Where are they when gunfire erupts, when people start to die of the disease? No where to be found.

This book had all the hallmarks of a contract-filler. There are parts that are actually quite entertaining, but the political story at the center of it all is clumsy, unrealistic and frustrating.

I rate this audiobook 1 star out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: A Heartbeat Away by Michael Palmer.

Reviewed on April 29, 2011.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Time for the Stars (audiobook) by Robert A. Heinlein

Published by Blackstone Audio
Duration: 6 hours, 36 minutes
Narrated by Barrett Whitener

Robert A. Heinlein’s Time for the Stars is a true bit of science fiction history and, in a way, embodies all of the “cool” stuff that made me such a fan – a bit of physics, adventure, young people off to explore unseen worlds, and some newfangled technology.

Heinlein (1907-1988) first published Time for the Stars in 1956, during a time period when he had a contract with Scribner’s to produce books that were young people friendly. They were aimed at young adults, although I enjoyed it as well. It is the memoir of the space travels of Tom Bartlett, who is also one half of a very talented set of twins.

The premise of the book is simple enough. The Earth is too crowded and a research corporation called the Long Range Foundation has invested in several ships to seek out new planets that humans can inhabit. There are already colonies throughout the solar system but they are too expensive and can only hold a limited number of colonists. The Long Range Foundation’s specialty is making investments in things that no corporation or government will invest in because the pay-off will be too long in coming to justify the investment. In this case, these spaceships will explore for decades and may not find anything useful.

Robert A. Heinlein 
The trick with all of these ships will be communication. The ships and their radio waves will travel slower than the speed of light and the process of finding a new planet, describing its location and the requirements to colonize it will take entirely too long. Instead, the Long Range Foundation has found that some very few people, especially twins, are actually telepathic and can be trained to speak to one another with their minds. They have also discovered that this telepathy is instantaneous – it is faster than the speed of light and the communication problem has been solved.

Pat and Tom Bartlett have this telepathic ability and are chosen to participate. One twin gets to go and one has to stay behind to relay the messages to the Long Range Foundation here on Earth. Several ships, all named for famous explorers, are outfitted with crews of about 200, including several telepaths. Tom Bartlett’s ship is the Lewis and Clark.  What happens is the classic physics discussion question in which one twin travels at near light speed while the other remains on Earth. Time travels much for slowly for the twin in the spaceship (in this case, the ratio can get as extreme as 250 days on Earth is equal to one day on board the space ship).

Of course, as the twin on Earth ages technology and culture on earth keeps on changing. One of the best things about the book is Tom Bartlett’s growing frustration with the change of language on Earth, especially slang, as he travels. The book itself is 55 years old. The language and style of Heinlein was probably very current, but now it is, in and of itself, a bit of a time traveler. This actually helps the storyline because Tom sounds a bit anachronistic with his banter and his conversational style, his ideas about fashion and his attitudes towards the proper roles of women – it reinforces the fact that at the end of the story, Tom Bartlett has indeed become a man outside of his own time.

There is plenty of low complexity discussion of physics, adventure, the nature of duty, danger, an acknowledgement of the value of scientific research for the sake of research and a fact that no amount of research will replace the actual men and women who have and will continue to put themselves at risk for the sake of exploration.

Veteran narrator Barrett Whitener does a great job of creating a voice for Tom Bartlett – a young, naïve-sounding voice that captures Bartlett’s enthusiasm, lack of self-confidence and wonder. There are a variety of accents involved in the story and they are handled well. Most interestingly, Whitener is able to make the identical voices of the identical twins sound just a bit different by changing their attitudes and pacing.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Time for the Stars.

Reviewed on March 23, 2011.

Atlantis and Other Places: Stories of Alternate History (audiobook) by Harry Turtledove

Tantor audio
Read by Todd McLaren
14.5 hours

Called a “Master of Alternate History” by Publishers Weekly, Harry Turtledove continues on that track in Atlantis and Other Places with a set of 12 short stories. Topics and eras range from pre-history to the Peloponnesian War to the Byzantine Empire to World War II and two stories set in modern times. All of these stories have appeared in other publications.

This collection begins and ends with two stories about Atlantis, a topic he has explored more deeply in a trilogy. “Audubon in Atlantis” is the first story that Turtledove published about Atlantis. The famed 19th century naturalist John James Audubon has traveled to Atlantis to catalog some of its unique wildlife. Turtledove introduces his alternate world, including basics of the history of Atlantis and he introduces the House of Universal Devotion, a religion that is most analogous to the Mormon Church in regular history. Turtledove’s focus on laying down the ground rules for makes the first half of the story a bit tiresome. It does pick up once Audubon is in the field.

Harry Turtledove
The last story, “The Scarlet Band” is chronologically Turtledove’s last story about Atlantis. In the story, Athelstan Helms and Dr. James Walton, the world famous detective duo (modeled after Holmes and Watson), are summoned to Atlantis to investigate a series of murders of prominent citizens who have been openly critical of the House of Universal Devotion. It is a fine ending to the collection, even if the murder is a bit too easily solved.

As in any collection, the quality varies. “Bedfellows” is a tiresome story once the gimmick is understood in the first minute, but it goes on for another 10 minutes. “News From the Front” is an alternate history of World War II told through headlines and snippets of editorials.  Roosevelt is savaged in the press for failing to foresee the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s will to fight sags so low that it ends up suing for peace, much like the Japanese Empire had hoped in their original plans for the war in our timeline. The premise is interesting, but the headline/editorial format loses its punch and it tends to drag.

On the other hand, “Catcher in the Rhine” and “Someone is Stealing the Great Throne Rooms of the Galaxy” are both quite fun. “Catcher” is a play on J.D. Salinger’s famed character Holden Caulfield. Caulfield is visiting Germany and he gets caught up in a bit of magical time travel. Turtledove captures Caulfield’s voice perfectly. “Throne Rooms” is a pure comic bit of science fiction (and the only story in the collection that is not alternate history – it is set in the future). A giant sentient hamster is sent by the Star Patrol to investigate a series of thefts of throne rooms (and their accompanying antechambers) providing plenty of laugh out loud moments.

“Farmers’ Law” and “The Genetics Lecture” are middle of the road stories. The former is a straightforward murder mystery set in a rural village in the Byzantine Empire and the latter is a Twilight Zone-esque very short story (about 6 minutes long) that, unfortunately, telegraphed its punch line.

“Uncle Alf” is set in France in 1929. But, in this world, the German Empire has won World War I and a 40-year-old Hitler is part of the German army occupying France. He is dedicated to rooting out socialism and in seducing his 21-year-old half-niece through a series of letters. The story is told through those letters. Although the incestual seduction aspect of the story is based on strong historical supposition, that fact does nothing to ease the creepy feeling that pervades the whole story.

The three strongest stories are all quite different from one another. “The Daimon” is set in the Peloponnesian War and the only difference is that Sokrates decides to participate in the invasion of Syracuse. In history, this campaign turned into a disaster, but Sokrates is able to offer advice to Alkibiades, the mercurial fair-haired young general who led the invasion. This advice causes Athens to win the entire war and, in the process lose their democracy to a tyrannical Alkibiades. Sokrates lives long enough to regret his advice as Alkibiades consolidates the Greek city states under his power in order to launch an invasion of Persia like Alexander the Great did nearly a century later. Those who are familiar with the Peloponnesian War will especially appreciate the ironic comments and situations that arise in this story.

“The Horse of Bronze” is a simple story of centaurs discovering men, but it is so much more. If you are a fan of Aristotle or enjoy thinking about the concepts behind his “Theory of Forms” (Turtledove introduces the theory in the earlier story “Daimon”) you will enjoy this story of the arrival of men in a world filled with Centaurs, Nuggies, Satyrs, Sirens and Sphinxes.

“Occupation Duty” is set in modern day Gaza. The story is about troops going on patrol in an armored personnel carrier in a hostile, conquered territory.  However, this is not about Israel and the Palestinians. Instead it is the “Philistinians” and the Moabites. In this history, Goliath beat David and Israel is nothing but a distant, ancient memory. The fight scenes are first rate and the irony of the same fighting going on in the same territory for the same reasons with different nations is quite good. Throw in a solid description of a world with no monotheistic religions and a tantalizing peek at this new world’s politics and I found myself wishing he had fleshed this story out into a novel.

Todd McLaren’s narration of these stories was exceptional. He delivers a variety of voices and tones – everything from American southern accents to a variety of British accents to Hitler’s German accent. He even catches Alkibiades’ famed lisp and you can hear the treachery in his voice as he crushes his opponents. Very impressive and enjoyable work throughout.

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Atlantis and Other Places.

Reviewed March 21, 2011.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life (audiobook) by Armand M. Nicholi

Fantastic. A most interesting book.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
The Question of God is a fascinating book. I heard it is an audiobook. I listen to audiobooks as an interesting diversion during my commute to work and I found this book to fit the bill perfectly. It is narrated wonderfully by Robert Whitfield.

Fans of Freud have complained about the book because they think that Lewis comes out of these debates much stronger than Freud. I agree. But, I do not think Freud was disparaged or misrepresented in these "debates."

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
Large, generous quotes from both men are the main feature. Both men speak for themselves with Nicholi adding relevant supporting information with occasional discussion of his own research. The arguments flow naturally and I cannot recall a time when the discussion seemed forced.

Lots of biographical material is included as well. The reader (or, in my case, the listener) does not need to be an expert on either Lewis or Freud to enjoy the experience.

The audio version lasts about 8 hours.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: The Question of God
Reviewed on March 14, 2009.

Dreams from the Monster Factory: A Tale of Prison, Redemption, and One Woman's Fight to Restore Justice to All by Sunny Schwartz

While not perfect, it is thought-provoking and a quick read

Sunny Schwartz
Sunny Schwartz is a Chicago-born lawyer who has worked in the San Francisco jail system for 30+ years. This book is a combination of a personal biography and professional recommendations for our nations over-worked, overcrowded and floundering jail and prison systems.

Schwartz is not a hand-holding, excuse-making prisoner advocate. She notes several times that she wants criminals to be punished. She notes: "I completely understand the objections and utter impatience people have with criminals. They have hurt us, our pocketbooks, our souls." (p. 197)

However, practical experience does offer some hard-won wisdom and Schwartz does have some things to suggest that might very well improve the behavior of our prisoners (remember most will become ex-prisoners some day and it would be nice if they were more in step with the rest of us). She focuses on an anti-violence program that is based on Restorative Justice, a program that's been bandied about for more than a decade. However, the team in the San Francisco jail system seem to have found something that works for some of the men and makes them less likely to return to jail due to violent crime.

This book is a quick read because it does not go into any great detail. Rather it is a general introduction to their program and how they decided to go to it. It is interesting, informative and a great place to start any serious discussion of jail and prison reform.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Dreams from the Monster Factory.

Reviewed on March 17, 2009.

Fireproof by Eric Wilson

A great read 

No, I don't live in a cave, but I have not seen the movie, nor have I picked up any of the study materials. My wife read the book and recommended it to me. I'm an avid reader but I was really not looking forward to it.

Why not?

Well, let's face it - there's some poorly made/written stuff out there that only sells because it's family friendly or because it is "Christian". So, I reluctantly picked this one up.

Boy, was I surprised. I was hooked from the first chapter and shot through this book in less than 48 hours. I've reviewed hundreds of books on Amazon.com but I am hardly a speed reader - more like a dogged one.

Eric Wilson
The relationship between the husband and wife characters, Caleb and Catherine, is on the rocks but seems realistic and is not overly romance novel-like. The firefighting scenes are exciting and well-done. Sure, you can see the end coming from 100 miles away but it was still well done.

I did roll my eyes at the "prize" scene at the end of the book - it was too much for my taste, but still a good book nonetheless. Well worth my time.

****Addition - May 1, 2009*****
I have now seen the movie and can definitely say that the book is better. The movie is good, but the book is better.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

Reviewed March 20, 2009.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Character Connections by Robert A. Baggett, Ed.S.

School counseling based on character education with a Christian flavor

Published in 2008.

It has become the flavor of the month in many schools to teach character education. As a teacher in a school corporation that purports to teach character but does not go beyond banners and slogans in the official school letterhead in our effort I found this book to be enlightening.

Baggett is quite open with his religious beliefs throughout the book, which is appropriate - his character is greatly shaped by it. He stresses that it cannot be overtly expressed in his role as counselor at school, but it is present.

Baggett sells the concept of the role of character education in schools quite well. He demonstrates the lack of character in schools and the larger society, identifies several areas that need to be addressed and lays out some general ways to address them along with references to how to address more specific needs.

Throughout the book he includes literally hundreds of inspirational quotes that correspond with each chapter.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Character Connections.

Reviewed on April 10, 2011.

The List by Steve Martini

Good vacation book

Written in the wake of the Milli Vanilli music scandal , Steve Martini's The List features an unsuccessful female author (Abby Chandlis) who has written a book that under a male pen name (Gable Cooper) in order to make the book more marketable.

So far, no big deal. Lots of authors use pen names. Several female romance authors have used pen names to write detective books and thrillers. In this case, the author actually hires a person to portray himself as the real Gable Cooper - not just in public appearances, but also in all negotiations with the agents, the publishers and Hollywood studios interested in turning the book into a movie. The reason she goes through such elaborate steps is her belief that male authors, especially handsome, charming ones, are marketed much more aggressively.

Steve Martini
The problem comes in the man chosen to portray Gable Cooper. He is a loose cannon, a frustrated author and, even worse, the real author comes to believe that he may be trying to hijack her book for himself. When the only people who knew about the Gable Cooper pseudonym start to die the real author finds herself in the middle of her own real life action thriller.

The List is a great beach or vacation read - it is not too complicated but the characters are sufficiently interesting to keep the reader involved. Throw in a little romance and a whole lot of danger and it fits the bill.

On a confused note, this is the second Martini book I've read this year and the second Martini book with a title that has nothing to do with the book. What list?

I rate this book 3 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The List.

Reviewed on April 10, 2011.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Roar by Emma Clayton

There's a lot of meat to this "tween" novel. Quite enjoyable and discussion-provoking

Emma Clayton
The Roar is a more "kiddie" book than I normally read. This one is aimed at the tween crowd (the book says down to grade 3 but I can't really imagine anyone under the age of 10 getting into it) and I found it to be quite compelling despite being aimed at the younger set and the occasional clunky simile and/or phrase. The Roar has a sequel called The Whisper, which is soon to be published.

The book is set in a dismal future in which religion is gone (not really mentioned but people say, "My odd!" rather than "My God!") and the environment has been destroyed by mankind to kill of the animals. 45 years before the story an animal "plague" caused all of the animals to attack people in a crazed frenzy. So, people retreated to just a few countries (UK, Canada and a few others), became part of a highly stratified society with lots of urban poor forced to live in nasty, poisonous slums and the government wiped out all of the animals by laying waste to the environment and making it a giant desert.

Well, that's the official story anyway.

Potential spoiler alert****************************

What we have here is an excellent book for a classroom discussion of the need to investigate for oneself, the dangers of totalitarian government and the dangers of oligarchy.

You also get some Adam and Eve religious themes and a few jabs at the modern environmental movement. Some may read it otherwise but I couldn't help but notice that the main bad guy is a government minister named Mal Goreman (Al Gore?) who helps to manipulate the media to convince everyone that the animals were dangerous and uses the TV and schools to push his agenda (if you have kids, open up their science books, literature books, math books, foreign language books and any other bit of reading material and see how much "saving the world" has permeated them - I have no problem with recycling, anti-pollution efforts and helping save endangered species but...give it a bit of a break already. Just today I was flipping through the channels and saw commercials for "Green Week" special programming and some NOVA special about glacier melts and multiple PSAs about saving energy in just a few minutes - the media blitz is on). Everyone lives in slums in poverty rather than touch nature, which has to be protected for the enjoyment and use of the enlightened elite.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon here: The Roar

Reviewed on March 22, 2009

Hitler Youth: Growing Up In Hitler's Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

"What can happen to a people whose youth sacrifices everything in order to serve its great ideals?" - Adolph Hitler, October 1932

4 CDs
4 hours, 27 minutes
Read by Kathrin Kana

Susan Campbell  Bartoletti's Hitler Youth demonstrates how the Nazis separated children from the parents, their churches and their senses in an effort to make them loyal to the German state and Adolph Hitler.

Starting with the story of a member of the Hitler Youth who was killed in a bloody street fight with Communist youths, Bartoletti shows the chaos in the streets that enabled Hitler to take over Germany. She also details every step that the Hitler Youth took to monopolize the lives and the attention of its young people in order to completely dominate their lives and their loyalties. The reader is introduced to a number of former members of the Hitler Youth and we are told generalities of how the Hitler Youth operated and the specifics of how these actions affected these young people.

Step by step, the schools, churches and families are infiltrated in order to allow the German state to control these young people through seemingly benign activities such as school, weekend outings, rallies and a sense of belonging to a larger purpose.  Did it work? We hear the disturbing story of a young woman who turned her parents over to the police for being critical of the Fuhrer. Another former member notes: "I was carried away by it all."

As World War II progresses and Germany starts to lose, thousands of Hitler Youth became air raid wardens. Some operated air raid bunkers and others were taught to operate Anti-aircraft guns. Others operated giant searchlights and still more were involved in body recovery efforts after air raids. Later, others were brought directly to the front lines, given rudimentary training and put into the fight. Some were so young that they were not given the cigarette ration given to regular soldiers - instead they were given candy!

This book offers a dramatically different take on the Nazi movement and World War II. Listening to this audiobook gave me a whole new reason to loathe the Fuhrer, the Nazis and too much concentration of power in the hands of the state. This is a disturbing, difficult and important book.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here:  Hitler Youth

Reviewed on April 9, 2011.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Painted House by John Grisham

The unabridged audiobook is excellent

Published by Bantam Doubleday Audio in 2001
Duration: 12 hours, 7 minutes
Read by David Lansbury

I am not a giant fan of Grisham's latest legal thrillers but I am becoming a fan of his non-lawyer books, such as Bleachers and A Painted House. Grisham's non-legal novels are wonderful "slice of life" views of rural/small town America.

"A Painted House" is a rite of passage novel about a 7 year old boy (Luke Chandler) growing up on an Arkansas cotton farm in 1952 with his parents and grandparents. His uncle is off fighting the war in Korea.

It is the beginning of the two month long picking season and his family hires some hired hands to help pick the cotton. They hire a combination of "hill people" (poor whites from up in the Arkansas hills) and Mexicans who are literally trucked into Arkansas in the trailer of a semi as if they were cattle.

John Grisham
Luke learns a lot during this season, including about love, baseball, violence, cruelty, sacrifice, bravery, family pride, television, hard work, floods and failure. If you have worked on a family farm at any time this book will bring back a flood of memories. I was reminded of my grandparents, the massive Sunday meals, putting up hay, shoveling soybeans, riding on the tractor and plenty more. I doubt Mr. Grisham will ever read this, but I'd still like to thank him for refreshing those memories.

The audiobook is about 12 hours in length and is read very well by David Lansbury who gives distinct and realistic voices to everyone. I especially enjoyed the grandmother's voice - it reminded me of plenty of the older ladies' voices at my church as I was growing up.

Kudos all around.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: A Painted House by John Grisham.

Reviewed March 27, 2009.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

1942: A Novel by Robert Conroy

Some really good parts but...

Published in 2009 by Ballantine Books

 1942: A Novel follows up on a simple "What if?" from history. What if the Japanese actually invaded and conquered Hawaii rather than simply attacked it on December 7, 1941?

Conroy's book is very strong up until the point where the Japanese invade. The premise of the book is historically strong, the strategies seem logical, the personalities of the real historical figures are consistent with what we know of them nowadays.


Once the invasion happens, Conroy indulges in exploring the depravities of the Japanese secret police with too much vigor. Yes, I know that the Japanese were brutal, cruel, heartless conquerors that literally raped cities like Nanking, China. He shows a similar brutality in the invasion of Hawaii, which is fine and appropriate - there is no reason to assume the Japanese would have acted any better in Hawaii than they did in China, Korea and the Philippines. But, Conroy insists on showing one brutal act after another - multiple rapes, guttings, hands chopped off, heads chopped off, genitalia mutilated and so on.

It becomes a parade of atrocities and, in my opinion, the story starts to drown in it all, which is too bad because it started so well.

I rate this book 3 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: 1942: A Novel.

Reviewed on March 27, 2009.