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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Second to None by Alexander Kent

Genre: Historical Fiction, Nautical Fiction

Setting: At sea and and in England during the summer of 1815.

First sentence: The midshipman stood beneath the cabin skylight, his body accepting the heavy motion of the ship around him.

This novel is the twenty-fourth of the author's Richard Bolitho series.  This series currently runs to thirty books.

In this series we have followed the exploits of the main character of the series, Sir Richard Bolitho.  We have followed his career from midshipman to Fleet Admiral.  Watched his glory at in battle, his duty to his country, and his unfortunate troubles with love.

Then, finally at the end of his illustrious life, a single French bullet robs him of life and love.

Now, the author follows the life and career of Sir Richard's nephew Adam Bolitho.

The war with France is over.  There are sailors and officers who have never known a time of peace.  the British Navy turns its attention to the pirates and slavers of North Africa.

Captain Bolitho and his crew are part of the fleet tasked with ridding the Mediterranean from the North African corsairs.

In between the naval sea battles, Adam Bolitho continues to have a complicated love life.  His first great love was the wife of one of his close friends.  Unfortunately, she died in a terrible cliffside accident.

Now, Adam has found another great love.  She too is the wife of another man.

Sprinkled between battles and love, the author gives us a glimpse of the rest of Sir Richard's "little crew".

This was an okay book.  It advanced the plot lines, and gave us a peek into the past .


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sword of Honor by Alexander Kent

Genre: Nautical Fiction, Historical Fiction

Setting: In England and on board a British Navy vessel.

First sentence:  Vice-Admiral Sir Graham Bethune put down his pen and waited for the elderly Admiralty clerk to gather up the letters and dispatches he has signed.

This novel is the twenty-third in the author's Richard Bolitho series.  The series currently runs to thirty books.

It is 1814.  The war with Bonaparte and France is over.  Admiral Sir Richard Bolitho has recently returned from his duty commanding the British squadron patrolling the American coast.

Now, he has been ordered to Malta to command the British fleet in the Mediterranean.

In their excitement at winning the war, the Admiralty is quickly downsizing the size of the fleet.

The Admiralty believes that the only enemy left in the Mediterranean are Muslim traders.

Bolitho is well aware that, no matter what the truth of the situation, it will be left to the lowly sailors to fight and die to defend their country.

I liked this book.  The author has an easy to read style that makes the pages fly by.

Once again, I encourage readers to read the books in order.  Doing so will enable the reader to follow Bolitho's life from midshipman to Admiral.


Friday, June 2, 2017

The Cross of St. George by Alexander Kent

Genre: Historical Fiction, Nautical Fiction

Setting: 1913, At sea in the Atlantic Ocean

First Sentence: The Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth, usually a place of noise and constant movement, was quiet as the grave.

This novel is the twenty-second  book in the author's "Richard Bolitho" series which currently runs to thirty volumes.

The war with France, after lasting about twenty years, will soon be over.  The war with the United States is costing many British and American sailors' lives.  Soon Britain will be at peace for the first time in a generation.

Admiral Sir Richard Bolitho can sense the end of hostilities.  In his heart he begins to question the need for more bloodshed.

Why should more sailors die just to win a battle in the middle of the ocean?

What will happen to the Navy sailors when their services are no longer needed?

Already there are many disabled sailors forced to beg for a living.  And there is a generation of men who only know life as it is lived upon a British man-o-war.

Duty requires that Bolitho's squadron attack and destroy American Navy vessels on the high seas.  Yet, Bolitho understands that there is no honor in paying a large butcher's bill just to win a relatively meaningless victory.

I liked this book.  In Bolitho the author has created a realistic character.  Bolitho has attained high rank, yet he still struggles to balance duty and honor.

I suggest that you read the books in this series in order.


Monday, May 22, 2017

For My Country's Freedom by Alexander Kent

Genre: Nautical Fiction, Historical Fiction

Setting: In England and at sea during the War of 1812.

First Sentence: Lady Catherine Somervell reined in the big mare and patted her neck with a gloved hand.

This book is the twenty-first in the author's Richard Bolitho series which currently runs to thirty novels.

Once again Sir Richard Bolitho has been called to duty.  War with the United States is imminent.  Sir Richard, now an admiral, has been tasked with the assignment to take the war to the American Navy.

Sir Richard, his nephew, and the members of his "little crew" go off to sea to define king and country.  The little crew is the group of sailors and officers who always seem to be at hand when Bolitho goes to sea.  Not only must they leave the country they love, they must leave the people they love.

In this novel there is great love, secret love, and tragedy.

The author does a good job of providing the exposition needed to understand the story.  However, I strongly suggest that, if you are interested in this story you should read them in order.

This novel was a great addition to the Bolitho saga.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau

Genre: Children's Literature

Setting: Earth, two hundred years after the catastrophe.  About two years after the people of Ember came to the surface.

First Sentence: Around the middle of the twenty-first century, when it seemed that a great catastrophe was about to engulf the world, an underground city was built as a last refuge for the human race.

This novel is the fourth in the author's "Books of Ember" series.

The builders of Ember realized that after two hundred years underground the Emberites would need to have some help restarting above ground life.

So the builders decided to give the people of Ember some help.  Outside of the city they built a vault. In the value the builders placed a valuable piece of technology (the diamond) along with the instructions for using it.

Unfortunately, someone not of Ember discovered the technology first.

Meanwhile, life goes on in Spark. Spark is where the people of Ember and the People of Spark learned to live together.

Life is hard and dangerous.  Eventually our main characters, Lena and Doon, are reminded of all of the things they had in Ember.  They decide to return to Ember to see is there are any things left that might help the people of Spark.

They find that a family of roamers have taken up residence in the underground city.  The roamers are using books from the library to fuel their fires.  And they are looting the city for items they could use or sell.

Eventually, the roamers are chased off.  Lina and Doon learn how to use the diamond.  And, the people from Spark salvage what they can from the underground city.

With the items they recover from Ember, life becomes a little bit easier.

In the end the author provides a wistful happy ending, and a tie-in to the third book of the series.  It is a weak and unimportant connection.

I liked this book.  It is very much like the first two.  I suggest reading the books in order.

P.S. I keep thinking about all of the boats the Emberites used to escape from Ember.  They could have made a killing in the boat business!


Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Prophet of Yonwood by Jean DuPrau

Gender: Children's Literature

Setting: On earth, in the not to distant future.

First Sentence: On a warm July afternoon, a woman in the town of Yonwood North Carolina, a woman named Althea Tower went out to her back yard to fill the bird feeder.

This novel is the third in the author's "Books of Ember" series.

This novel is a prequel. the action takes place years before the City of Ember was sealed.

This story follows Nickie Randolph.  She is a young girl who is exploring the small town of Yonwood.  Many years in the future, she will be among the colonists who move into Ember in order to preserve a group of people from the ravages of an oncoming war.

But for now, Nickie is learning about how people get along with each other.  Yonwood is the home of Althea Towner.  She is an old woman who has been having visions of the future.

She communicates with the outside world through a woman named Brenda Beeson.  Since Althea is not very coherent, Brenda tries to interpret her utterances. This leads to a string of odd pronouncements. In the end, Nickie discovers the truth of Althea and her visions.

Throughout the book, there are a few hints about the future and inter-dimensional travel.  But these are few, and don't really affect the  story.

This book is pretty much a stand alone novel.  None of the hints about the future are vital to understanding the story.  And Ember itself is not introduced until the last pages of the book.

An OK story.  But for me, a disappointment.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau

Genre: Children's Literature

Setting: In a desolate village, years after a devastating war.

First Sentence:  Torren was out at the edge of the cabbage field that day, the day the people came.

This novel is the second in the author's "Books of Ember" series.  This series runs to four novels.

This story begins immediately after the main characters Lina and Doon learn how to leave Ember.  Ember had been founded over two hundred years ago.  The founders wanted to ensure that a group of people would survive the oncoming global catastrophe.

Living in a cave has kept them alive.  But the Emberites have no knowledge of the surface.

Fortunately, there is a small village near the entrance of the cave.  The people there are barely scraping by.  Imagine how the people of the town would react when a large group of people arrive and ask for help.  There are just so many things the Emberites don't understand.

How will the people of Sparks and the people of Ember get along?

I liked this book.  The author had an interesting story to tell about the two groups of people.

One thing kept nagging at me while I read.  Why don't they go back to the cave?  Surely there are some things in the cave that would be helpful.  Perhaps, the answer to my question will be found in one of the other books in the series.