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andyluttrull

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Sharing my love of books as long as I can...

Currently reading

New Earth
Ben Bova
Progress: 86/384 pages
The Civil War, Vol. 1: Fort Sumter to Perryville
Shelby Foote
Progress: 50/810 pages

Book #880 - 353,971 Pages Read

Racing To The Finish - Dale Earnhardt

I love NASCAR and while he was driving, Junior was my favorite driver, so naturally I gravitated towards this book. I kept my expectations in check before I read it, not really expecting a work of Shakespeare or Jules Verne, but this book really surprised me. It was informative, honest, well-written, and really had a "page-turner" feel to it. It also explains a lot of things that fans like me wondered about him during certain times late in his career. I would highly recommend it for people who like autobiographies, or even partial autobiographies, of athletes or others in positions of high visibility, as it is much better written than anyone would expect.

Book #879 - 353,762 Pages Read

Privateers - Ben Bova

Going back more to the roots of The Grand Tour, Bova describes how Dan Randolph wrestles control of mining for certain ores in space out from the dominant Soviet empire. This is kind of the forbearance of Randolph setting up his Astro Manufacturing company where he will begin to help explore and colonize the solar system in future novels. Bova's earlier works in this series tend to be better written, so this one falls into the very good category...fun to read.

Book #878 - 353,379 Pages Read

Empowered - Celina Summers

The subject itself begged for this book to be written, so reading this was enjoyable and very interesting, but the writing itself was good, not great. Nevertheless, chronicling what led up to and created perhaps the most disorganized and dark year in Tennessee Volunteer football made for an eye-opening experience while taking this in. Tom Mattingly's contribution in the beginning about the history of Tennessee football, while it had some interesting notes, was sporadic and disjointed in my opinion. The book really picks up though with Summers interviews with key donors to the school and its athletic department, then moving on to discussions with print and radio journalists, along with players and fans reactions. Summers best writing was the latter third of the book, covering the narrative of the later months of 2017, when everything literally fell apart. The main subject of the book is described in this portion, where the fans literally had had enough of the incompetence in Knoxville and with the power of social media, shut down an ill-advised attempt at hiring a certain coach with a checkered past. The most eye-opening part of the book, to me, was the afterword by Dr. John Staley, Jr., where he discusses what could have been considered criminal actions by the coaching staff during the 2017 season. Worth a read for any Tennessee fan....

Book #877 - 352,956 Pages Read

Knife of Dreams (Wheel of Time, #11) - Robert Jordan

Took me a while to read this one...I would read some, put it down for a few months, read some more, etc. I was really glad to see that storylines that have been buzzing around for 5 or 6 books now are finally starting to come together with a sense of closure. Perrin finally finds Faile....Mat and Tuon establish their relationship and his place as a leader of the Seanchan...Rand starts kicking ass (finally), but at a price to be explored later. The point is, this was Jordan's last work before his death, and you can see here that he is starting to bring this monster saga to a close. I am looking forward to reading Brandon Sanderson's adaptation of the last 3 books based on Jordan's notes and recordings, but this one was a welcome move forward in a saga that has been mired for several volumes.

Book #876 - 352,195 Pages Read

Altered Carbon  - Richard K. Morgan

I saw the series on Netflix and thought I would try the book. The book is somewhat different from the series, but they basically have the same premise. I thought the book was much better (as usual)...it kept the story tighter and allowed the author to construct a dark, future, dystopian world that allowed strong characters to flourish in this intriguing story. The idea of digitizing the human consciousness and allowing it to be placed in different "sleeves" (bodies) was both fascinating and terrifying at the same time. Definitely not for kids, this one will probably go down as one of the classics as time goes on, surely propped up by the mainstream success of the Netflix series, but absolutely able to stand on its own.

Book #875 - 351,820 Pages Read

Moonwar - Ben Bova

Picking up fairly recently after the events of Moonrise, the citizens of Moonbase continue to live and operate their colony while fighting (politically and ultimately physically) the forces of the U.N. back on Earth, which is trying desperately to shutdown their base due to their fear of nanotechnology, among other motivations. This is an excellent tale of how the people of Moonbase use their wits and courage to repel the bigger and stronger forces of the U.N. Peacekeeping soldiers to survive and eventually live on their own on the moon as an independent nation. The conclusions of this book ultimately set in motion many of the future tales of Bova's Grand Tour, which makes this book a real critical pivot point in this saga.

Book #874 - 351,319 Pages Read

What Stands in a Storm: A True Story of Love and Resilience in the Worst Superstorm in History - Gillian Cross, Rick Bragg

I heard about this book from a podcast I listened to recently, entitled 'Tornado Talk'. I thought it sounded interesting and decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised by one of the best books I've ever had the privilege of reading.

Slowly laying out a story that the author claimed "needed to be told", Ms. Cross has put together a book unlike any other I have read among similar genres. This book focuses on what has been called the worst tornado outbreak this country has ever experienced (4/27/11), surpassing even the infamous "Super Outbreak" (4/3/74). I was very, very impressed with the amount of research done, making the science understandable and basic, yet not oversimplified for laymen purposes as is found in so many other similar publications.

It is here that Ms. Cross begins to bring the human stories into the developing dangerous situation: a woman and her budding meteorologist-to-be son in Smithville, Mississippi; an experienced meteorologist in Birmingham who would spend literally all day in front of the cameras saving countless lives with his repeated warnings; college students in Tuscaloosa preparing in various ways for the worsening weather; a family in Cordova, Alabama frantically trying to survive. I bring these examples up because this may be the most ingenious way I've ever seen an author combine these stories with the scientific explanation of how that fateful day unfolded. The tension is palpable; the dread is real, and when the worst finally happens, the stories are really only beginning.

The second part of the book deals with the aftermath of the devastation. It is no less tense than the first part, but along with that it becomes literally, emotionally gut wrenching in parts. No spoilers, but I must mention the part of a particular search and rescue worker who volunteers her services along with her search dogs that literally had me bawling.

Whew.....Ms. Cross then does an outstanding job of slowly bringing hope back into the situation: descriptions of emergency rescue personnel along with other heroes, hundreds if not thousands of volunteers descending on Tuscaloosa to help any way they could, emotional reunions of victims with their rescuers, and people slowly getting on with their lives with hope for the future while dealing with the constant but receding pain.

Highly recommended....well done, Kim Cross, a truly magnificent effort.

Book #873 - 351,035 Pages Read

The Force Awakens (Star Wars) - Alan Dean Foster

From one of the best SW novels I have read (Rogue One) to one of the worst (this one). I noticed two major flaws with this book: Foster basically wrote the book almost verbatim from the screenplay and he also wrote it as a dumbed down young adult novel. The former is the reason I typically don't read books adapted from screenplays (SW movies being the exception, a tradition of mine). The latter caught me by surprise....I expected a more intelligent, mature approach to this book than something written by past authors in the SW Young Adult series. If you've seen the movie, you have experienced enough with Episode VII...don't bother with this book. It will take your enjoyment of this installment of the saga back a notch. Also as a sidenote, this novel apparently wasn't proofread very well.....a bevy of grammatical and spelling errors awaits the reader. Annoying as hell.....

Book #872 - 350,775 Pages Read

Moonrise - Ben Bova

This is an early entry in Bova's Grand Tour, and one of the better ones at that. Paul and Joanna Stavenger are desperately trying to keep their vision of colonizing the moon alive while many on Earth (as well as members of their own family) are doing their best to sabotage this mission. Bova again mixes drama with hardcore science fiction to create a suspenseful story about the future of mankind's exploration of the moon as well as the solar system. I really enjoyed this one.

Book #871 - 350,358 Pages Read

Ghosts Of The Tsunami - Richard Lloyd Parry

I visited Japan in 1990, 1994, and 1998 for business. Each time I went, I had a greater appreciation and interest in the people and the culture. I suspect this went a long way into my interests in the catastrophe that killed an estimated 20,000 Japanese people on March 11, 2011, when the fourth largest earthquake ever recorded exploded off the coast of northeast Japan in the Tohoku region. Millions felt the quake, but the initial damage and casualties were remarkably light in this coastal area. The tsunami arrived about 45-50 minutes later.

I've seen the videos. Imagine the ocean inexplicably swelling and growing, reaching heights of over 120 feet in some remote coastal villages. Imagine fleeing to the nearby hills, watching your entire town and potentially thousands of people being swallowed up and swept away by an unforgiving, black, incompressible wave of liquid death. This book focuses in on the village of Kamaya, located near the mouth of the Kitakami River where it empties into the Pacific northeast of Ishinomaki.

A group of children and teachers at Okawa Elementary School in Kamaya felt the earthquake that day. Per protocol, the kids and teachers exited the building and dutifully lined up neatly in the school courtyard. They heard the tsunami warnings. What followed was confusion and a lack of urgency and correct decision making that proved lethal. The doomed group left the courtyard for what they thought was "higher ground" somewhat closer to the river. After the tsunami arrived, only 4 kids and 1 adult survived by actually running to a nearby hill.

Richard Lloyd Parry has detailed the actions and decisions of several families involved in this tragedy, from before to during and after the quake and the tsunami. He vividly and accurately describes the horror they experienced and the gut-wrenching aftermath of searching for their lost children, as well as their journey to find the truth of what actually happened that day at Okawa Elementary School. Parry also layers the book, to me at least, with an underlying sense of dread that this is but one of thousands of stories that occurred on that day when the seas swallowed the northeast coast of Japan, but for some reason this story seems to stand out among the tragedies.

In closing, this book is not for everyone...it is dark. But if you really want to get a sense of what some of the people of Japan went through during and after this geological event, I highly recommend this. My only criticism is Parry closed the book with spiritual comments of people being possessed by the "ghosts" of this event. This seemed a bit out of place for this book.

Book #870 - 350,089 Pages Read

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Alexander Freed

Hands down, the best Star Wars novel I've read to date...this would have been great even without the movie. It's rare for me to read a book after seeing a movie it is based on, but I have a tradition of doing that with Star Wars movies/novelizations Freed succeeds tremendously by very strong characterization, and bringing the screenplay plot to life in novel form with immense tension. If you have read any SW novels over the years, this one is a must for your library.

Book #869 - 349,767 Pages Read

Use of Force: A Thriller (The Scot Harvath Series) - Brad Thor

I always enjoy Brad Thor books, and since the death of Vince Flynn, he has really become my go to author for kick-ass thrillers. Scot Harvath is called upon to track down potential terrorist acts based on intelligence gathered by others. The acts could potentially be on U.S. soil, so it becomes a race against time and enemy forces as Harvath joins fellow marines he can rely on to help stop the threat. As always, these books move quickly and get right to the heart of the story. This copy is special to me also, since Mr. Thor signed it for me.

Book #868 - 349,407 Pages Read

Die Trying - Lee Child

Jack Reacher finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time as he gets swept up in the kidnapping of Holly Johnson, FBI agent and daughter of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A radical faction hell-bent on seceding from the US and creating their own country is using Holly as ransom, and it becomes Reacher's responsibility to not only escape, but to stop the inevitable. Lee Child writes a fast-paced, well-penned story with a lot of impressive technical detail and well-developed characters. This one was a joy to read.

Book #867 - 348,855 Pages Read

Allies  - Christie Golden

Probably the best of the Fate Of The Jedi series so far...this one seems to start moving along the plot nicely, as well as add more depth to key players in this series: Luke, Ben, Vestara, Daala, etc. Han and Leia just seem to be bit players here; hopefully they will be more prominent in future installments. The plotline of the alliance between Jedi and Sith moves along here also, and still has a lot of details to flesh out in the future as well. I think the issue of Abeloth and the journey into the Maw has more to reveal as well, but it began to get very interesting in the last third of the book. The Ben/Vestara dynamic seems to be setting up as the key for this series.

Book #866 - 348,449 Pages Read

Farside - Ben Bova

The race is on between the nation of Selene on the Moon and the International Astronautical Authority to build a series of telescopes to view a discovered object several light years away that could potentially harbor life with similar conditions to those on the Earth. When the mirror being constructed for the telescope on the moon is accidentally damaged, the director decides to use nanotechnology to repair the mirror, saving time and money. What follows is one accident after another as the Farside installation tries to simultaneously build the mirror and deal with the potential of the site being shut down due to dangerous conditions. This is somewhat shorter than Bova's previous works dealing with this subject in similar situations, but no less enjoyable as it seems Bova is setting up for novels and stories that will begin outside our solar system. The Grand Tour is expanding.....

Book #865 - 348,082 Pages Read

Backlash  - Aaron Allston

I'm starting to think that all the novels in the Fate Of The Jedi series really comprise one big novel in 9 parts, as this one just picks up where Abyss left off and continues the plot points along similar paths without really going anywhere. Still an enjoyable read, and slightly better written as Allston has proved himself to be one of the better EU writers, but the reader won't learn much more than revealed in the previous 3 in this series, save for a few actions scenes if you're into that sort of thing.