A Chain of Thunder by Jeff Shaara

A Chain of Thunder by Jeff Shaara, Ballantine Books 2013, volume 2 of The Civil War Western Theater, historical novel (fictionalized)

Continuing with Shaara’s Civil War books, which I read in ebook format. Last week I reviewed A Blaze of Glory, about the battle of Shiloh. This time, it’s Grant’s campaign against Confederate General John Pemberton, leading to the South’s loss of the citadel of Vicksburg.

As the war in the West turns badly for the South, the Union knows the one great barrier to their control of the Mississippi River, considered critically important, lies at the Confederate bastion of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Protected by high embankments, and a formidable presence of Confederate artillery, the Confederate forces there under the command of John Pemberton, are confident that Vicksburg is a citadel that cannot fall. But Federal commander Ulysses Grant believes otherwise.

So Grant launches an overland campaign that avoids a direct frontal assault on the town from the river, and instead, maneuvers his army downstream, crossing from Louisiana into Mississippi where the Confederates are too weak to make an effective stand. Instead of pushing directly at Vicksburg, Grant employs an audacious strategy, slicing quickly through the Mississippi countryside toward the capital city of Jackson.

Pemberton’s superior, General Joseph Johnston arrives in Jackson and sees Pemberton’s situation in Vicksburg as hopeless. Thus he holds his own forces back from the fight, allowing Grant the freedom to focus all his energies on Vicksburg itself. Johnston’s reluctance to engage Grant, and thus offer relief to Vicksburg, is one of the most controversial decisions of the war.

The story is told primarily through the voices of Union General William T. Sherman, and, returning from the first volume (A Blaze of Glory), the young private from Wisconsin, Fritz Bauer. On the Southern side, the story is told through the eyes of Pemberton himself, as well as a young civilian woman in the town, Lucy Spence, who serves her cause the only way she can, by volunteering for nursing duties in the makeshift hospitals,

Like the first novel, this book is excellent. Next week I’ll be going on to the third book.

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current reading: Child of the Daystar by Bruce O’Conner

Child of the Daystar by Bruce O’Conner, ebook, Lulu Publishing, 11-16-2015, 280 pages, fantasy, Wings of War series, book 1 of 4.

In the mood for fantasy, which you may recall I said in this blog in January that I planned to read more of, I turned to this, the first of a four volume fantasy series in ebook format.

Raz I’Syul Arro is a male atherian, a sort of giant humanoid lizard, but of the rarest variety because he has wings. As an infant, he is rescued from slavers by a nomadic clan living in the Cienbal desert. The clan adopts and raises him as human, teaching him human language and in particular to keep his savagery in check.

However, following the death of his adopted “parents” he vows revenge, becoming a ruthlessly efficient killer for hire, bent on vengeance and murderous retribution against all slavers that he can lay his hands on. He is known as the Monster of Karth (one of the Fringe Cities of the desert) and is stronger, faster, more ferocious and more agile than humans, adding his tail, claws and teeth to his sword, dagger and armor.

While there are battles, sometimes somewhat gory, the best aspect here is Raz I’Syul Arro’s personality. Also the world building, the mostly desolate desert and rock world, is well done.

There is a secondary plot, which will no doubt meld with the first in the next books, involving a peace-centric cult, one of whose members Raz saved in a battle.

I enjoyed this quite a bit, and intend to get back to the series soon.

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Fantasy | 12 Comments

A Blaze of Glory by Jeff Shaara

A Blaze of Glory by Jeff Shaara, Ballantine Books 2012, the Civil War in the West (Book 1), Paperback, 480 pages

I’ve had a passing interest in the American Civil War. I learned what was taught in school – the west coast perspective – and I  read “The Red Badge of Courage” but that was about it.

However in 1990 I watched with great interest Ken Burn’s The Civil War enjoying the insights and presentation, and learned a lot from it. A few years later I borrowed it from the library and re-watched it.

Then I read Bruce Catton’s Centennial History of the Civil War, which covers the causes of the war, and the battles of Bull Run through the final surrender.

I liked the books, and later I wanted more. I came across The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, about the Gettysburg battle, and liked it a lot. Then my friend Dave Lewis suggested I try the books by Jeff Shaara, Michael’s son, and I got them in ebook format.

I’ve just finished reading the first of four in his Western Theater Tetralogy: A Blaze of Glory about the Battle of Shiloh. Like The Killer Angels, the book is written from the viewpoints of several people involved, on both sides of the conflict, both famous and a few characters added to give the story a more personal flavor. One of these is a foot soldier, carrying a single shot musket, who is on the front lines of this cannon-musket-bayonet battle. It was a bloody one, and our character was on his belly in the famous peach orchard fight.

This book is very well done. I’ll be going on to the second book, which is about the battle and siege of Vicksburg  next week.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 11 Comments

current reading: The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney, William Morrow trade paperback, February 10, 2015, 464 pages, mystery, P.I.

I read strong reviews – extremely positive in every way – on this, and several people had recommended this one, so after a long wait I got a copy from the library.

The plot – “Twenty-five years after a devastating shooting and the unrelated disappearance of a teenage girl, the survivors of both events struggle to find out what really happened so they can move on with their separate lives.”  – from Kirkus Reviews.

It’s much more involved than that, and depending on your viewpoint as a reader, it’s either a straight P.I. story, or a noir story, or both, or a novel of obsession, or maybe all three. While others found the book compelling, I found it off-putting. To me, after a while, the level of obsession went beyond reasonable to nonsensical. I found myself thinking, and occasionally saying out loud, “Oh come on!” So I’ll recommend the book based on all the great reviews and other positives (I did like the sense of place), but for me, it was a “meh”.

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 14 Comments

Daylight Savings: Bah!

No, thanks. Don’t need it, want it, like it. It’s ridiculous. I want regular time, all the time. It’s idiotic, unneeded.

Bill Crider didn’t like it and neither do I.

Posted in Books & Reading | 5 Comments

Friday Book: The Case of the Substitute Face by Erle Stanley Gardner

When Perry Mason meets Mrs. Carl Newberry on a vacation cruise, she is a woman desperately interested in saving face. For she and her husband are newcomers to the ranks of the rich, and they’re sparing no expense at helping their daughter, Belle, make a successful splash in the right social circles.

But Mrs. Newberry suspects that her husband embezzled the company he worked for and their new-gotten fortune is illegal. She turns to Mason for legal advice, and mentions during the interview that a signed portrait of their daughter, who looks quite similar to a well-known movie star, has been stolen from her suitcase. When Mr. Newberry dies suddenly and his wife is left holding his hefty money belt, Perry wonders if his grieving client is really a black widow. . . .

This is a good, very enjoyable Mason novel, and there are enough twists and reveals to keep any Mason fan satisfied.

The Perry Mason television show broadcast this as episode 31 on May 10, 1958 titled “The Case of the Substitute Face” with the plot slightly rewritten but substantially the same. For example, the cruise ship is coming from Vancouver, not Hawaii.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery | 12 Comments

Current Reading: The Man Who Read Mysteries

The Man Who Read Mysteries, The Short Fiction of William Brittian by William Brittian, Crippen & Landru 2018 short story collection

This light, easy, set of short stories by Brittan, which appeared in Ellery Queen’s Magazine over a span of decades will entertain readers interested in clever plot points.

The book is divided into two parts, The “Man Who Read” stories, and the author’s Mr. Strang stories.

contents:

  • Introduction: The Best of Britten

The Man Who Read stories:

  • “The Man Who Read John Dickson Carr”
  • “The Man Who Read Ellery Queen”
  • “The Man Who Didn’t Read”
  • “The Woman Who Read Rex Stout”
  • “The Boy Who Read Agatha Christie”
  • “The Man Who Read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”
  • “The Man Who Read G.K. Chesterton”
  • “The Man Who Read Dashiell Hammett”
  • “The Girl Who Read John Creasey”
  • “The Men Who Read Isaac Asimov”

The Mr. Strang stories:

  • “Mr. Strang Gives A Lecture”
  • “Mr. Strang Performs An Experiment”
  • “Mr. Strang Takes A Field Trip”
  • “Mr. Strang Versus The Snowman”
  • “Mr. Strang, Armchair Detective”
  • “Mr. Strang Interprets A Picture”
  • “Mr. Strange Takes A Tour”

What have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 11 Comments

FFB: Purgatory Ridge by William Kent Krueger

Purgatory Ridge by William Kent Krueger, Atria 2001 hardcover, mystery, Cork O’Conner series #3.

This is the third book in the Cork O’Conner series, and as much as I liked the first two, this may be even better.

* This book begins as Karl Lindstrom’s lumber mill explodes in the early morning hours, killing Ojibwe elder Charlie Warren. Lindstrom has planned to cut “Our Grandfathers”, a grove of old-growth white pines sacred in tribal lore. The local Native Americans are up in arms over Lindstrom’s plan.

As word gets out, conservationists have descended on the town, eager to save the 300-year-old trees. When a person identifying himself as the Eco-Warrior, soldier of the Army of the Earth, claims responsibility for the bombing, the Native Americans are suspected of collusion as Cork’s wife, Jo, attorney for the tribe, protests their innocence. The quest to identify the Eco-Warrior bomber ultimately focuses on a young outsider, Brent Hamilton, and his zealous mother, who was crippled in a similar bombing. But the number of suspects widens to include the editor of the local newspaper, who has a grudge again Cork and is rumored to be the commander of the secret militant Minnesota Civilian Brigade.

Two kidnappings occur. Karl Lindstrom’s wife, Grace Fitzgerald, is abducted, and Cork’s wife and six-year-old son are also taken as the Eco-Warrior demands $2 million for their safe return.

*some of this summary from Publisher’s Weekly

My take: Smart, suspenseful, with beautifully crafted characters and setting, this is a fine mystery novel, not to be missed.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 3 Comments

current reading – nada

Slow going lately, plus some computer problems, so this will have to do for current reading this week.

But don’t let that keep you from sharing what you’ve been reading!

Posted in Books & Reading | 11 Comments

NEW! That Old Scoundrel Death by Bill Crider

That Old Scoundrel Death by Bill Crider, Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mysteries (Book 25), Minotaur Books February 19, 2019, hardcover 288 pages.

Published today, I got it about 4:00 p.m. His last book and the final Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery. That’s both sad and exciting.

note: I haven’t started it yet, I want to finish the book I’m 2/3 into, though I’m not sure I can wait.

Posted in Books & Reading | 8 Comments