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The Innocent – A Novel by David Baldacci

September 20, 2014

The Innocent (Will Robie,#1)The Innocent by David Baldacci
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Innocent

This is the first book I have read by David Baldacci, but it will not be my last! The Innocent (Will Robie #1) is a novel/book I could not put down. I finished it very quickly. I listened to the Audible Edition.

The story of an American who kills baddies around the world, that’s Will Robie’s job, and he’s the best. It also is the story of an assassination that he is assigned that doesn’t feel right and he couldn’t do. It is also the story of the daughter of the woman he was to have assassinated, Julie Getty. And all the families and soldiers’ stories from a squadron from the first Gulf War.

This story is so intricate, fully developed and amazing. It is a must read. There are several wonderful reviews online.

Amazon review by Susan Tunis has this to say about Robie:

The novel opens with Will Robie. We learn that he is “an inch over six feet and a rock-solid one hundred and eighty pounds”, that he is one day shy of his 40th birthday, and that he is a professional killer. But this is no thug off the street; this is a man with a rich interior life, a moral center, and more than a little going on upstairs. Therefore, it’s not too surprising when we soon learn that Robie is employed by an unnamed federal agency to carry out “sanctioned assassinations.” In his own words:

“Sometimes he went after people intent on global menace, like Rivera or Talal, or sometimes he simply went after a problem. You could take your pick of labels, but in the end, they all meant the same thing. His employer decided who among the living and breathing would qualify as a target. And then they turned to men like Robie to end the living and breathing part. It made the world better, was the justification.”

Except this time, he’s being sent after a different type of target–a woman, an American, a mother. At the crucial moment, Robie refuses to fire. It doesn’t smell right. Someone finishes the job with a long-range sniper shot, and it looks like they’ll finish Robie as well if he doesn’t run.

Blogcritics Book Review by The Dirty Lowdown:

Having established himself as the premiere writer of “conspiracy in high places” thrillers in 1996 with his first novel, Absolute Power, which was made into a hit movie starring Clint Eastwood, David Baldacci has now written over 20 novels and remains the master of that subgenre. In The Innocent, the author remains at the top of his game.

More in both reviews. Don’t miss this book. It is a must read.

I am so glad that I finally got around to reading this wonderfully woven story! I will be reading much more by David Baldacci!

Audible link to The Innocent: A Novel by David Baldacci

View all my reviews

Freedom TM by Daniel Suarez

July 21, 2014

Freedom™ (Daemon, #2)Freedom™ by Daniel Suarez

Freedom™ and Freedom™ – I have read both the audiobook and what they are calling the hardcover book* of Book 2 or the 2nd book in the Daemon books.

Freedom(TM) was amazing, and the culmination of the Daemon story. It was the story of how the people on the Darknet made use of the Daemon technologies to do good, to create cooperative sustainable societies on the ashes of the failed societies before it, and what that meant to, and could mean to, the masses of the world.

And there must be a bad guy right? Or two… It is also about how the powers that be (corporations and paramilitary) infiltrated the Darknet and used it against itself and how no one alive — on either side — saw what was coming…

I will leave it there. This is a must read book after Daemon. Don’t give up after Daemon because it left you hanging, or because Daemon was a slow starter. There is a reason they broke the two books out like they did. This one moves much faster than Daemon did right from the start and never lets up.

Graphic violence is still quite in evidence in this book as it was in Daemon, but from a different angle, so be prepared for that.

As background: Daemon and Freedom(TM) were originally self published as a single book and it did very well among those in the geek community due to it’s awesome technology and understanding of the online virtual worlds, but when the books were commercially published, the book was broken into two books. It has worked out well enough. The second book really does just continue where the first book left off.

The entire story is amazing. Such great imagination based on tech that has been discussed in research papers and what can be done with it all that amazing tech (some good/some bad), but some of which has not seen light of day even if it’s technically possible. Some is possible but still theoretical. Daniel Suarez has taken it to the next level technically, politically and societally.

Here’s my original article of the combination of Daemon and Freedom(TM) on my blog:

Daemon and FreedomTM by Daniel Suarez – MyPassionIsBooks Blog

Here’s Book 1: Daemon by Daniel Suarez


View all my reviews

* Thanks @ross549!!

Flowertown by S. G. Redling

July 13, 2014

FlowertownFlowertown by S.G. Redling

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Wow, what to say. This book was a gift from a good friend of many years, and a fellow goodreads friend, Mr. Anderson. Mr. Anderson said I want to send you a gift of a Kindle ebook, but you have to promise you will read it. I love books and had no problem at all promising to read it.

What I found was I couldn’t put it down till I finished (unless I really had to).

This is where this story starts:

When Feno Chemical spilled an experimental pesticide in rural Iowa, scores of people died. Those who survived contamination were herded into a US Army medically maintained quarantine and cut off from the world. Dosed with powerful drugs to combat the poison, their bodies give off a sickly sweet smell and the containment zone becomes known simply as Flowertown.

Seven years later, the infrastructure is crumbling, supplies are dwindling, and nobody is getting clean. Ellie Cauley doesn’t care anymore….

Much more in the goodreads review.

Flowertown was first and foremost a thriller in a very real sense and although this book has a bit of a dystopian setting due to the bio hazard spill and aftermath, the world at large is still what most would class as ‘normal’ and uninfected by this bio hazard.

There were fears being pushed in the ‘normal’ press that maybe some folks were getting out of Flowertown somehow, or some Flowertown residents where not coming back after going through the horrible detox program just to be allowed a weekend pass to see friends and family, and thereby more people were potentially being exposed to the toxins outside of Flowertown. Some real scare tactics were being used on the people both inside and outside Flowertown.

The people that survived being exposed to this very dangerous biohazard were at first asked, than later required to remain isolated, and eventually a fenced and burned perimeter was between Flowertown and the rest of the outside world. Over the years Flowertown became all there was for those inside.

Our heroine Ellie and her friends have a very strange life; and they all have their own way of dealing with it, or escaping from it.

Even so, there are even stranger things going on behind the scenes that has cut into even Ellie’s constant self medicated escape from reality, and this small group of friends must find out what it is before it’s too late for them all.

This is an in-depth story that comes out more and more as the story progresses. As I noted earlier, I found it very hard to put this book down even when I really had to do so at times. Which was more often than I would have liked.

In the fiction realm, I absolutely love thrillers and books that have dystopian settings with people fighting the system, and hopefully beating the odds, if possible.

I read the Kindle eBook version while listening to the Audible audiobook version. Because I owned the Kindle version (thanks Mr Anderson), I was able to get the Audible version for $1.99.

View all my reviews


NOTE: I linked to both the Audiobook version and the Kindle version.

Darkness Rises – Immortal Guardian Series – Book 4 by Dianne Duvall

June 26, 2014

Darkness Rises (Immortal Guardians, #4)Darkness Rises by Dianne Duvall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Darkness Rises, Book 4 is about Etienne, one of the brothers and sister and the lady he falls in love with. Krysta and her brother have been working together (Krysta luring and killing vamps) and her brother watching her back, but a another vampire, but not a vampire at the same time, saves her life and even appears to be stalking her.

Oh, and the private soldiers are back trying to snag Immortal Guardians! And Etienne is almost caught while trying to save Krysta. They are all in danger! Didn’t Seth and David take care of all this before? Is there something else going on? Is there a traitor in the ranks?

So much in this book, so many twists and even some things left for the next book it seems.

I love every book of the Immortal Guardian Series. This one is no different in that regard. But, it is wonderful to find all new angles coming up for each book, and even glimmers of future books as well — maybe the last of the Lisette and Zack maybe?

Also, so far Kristen Potter has again done a wonderful job on narrating this book published by Tantor media. I did get it from Audible though.

BTW: I really like the image for the book better than the audio version. Wish they had used the same one for both.

View all my reviews

As I noted above, I actually have the ebooks and audiobooks and have read them both ways. Here’s the audiobook versions from Audible which I felt were the best way to read them:

Darkness Dawns: Immortal Guardians Series #1 (Sarah and Roland’s story)

Night Reigns: Immortal Guardians Series #2 (Amy and Marcus’ story)

Phantom Shadows: Immortal Guardians, Book 3 (Melanie and Bastian’s story)

Darkness Rises: Immortal Guardians Series, Book 4 (Krysta and Etienne’s story)

The ebooks I got from both Kindle ebooks and B&N Nook ebooks over time.

Can’t wait for the other’s stories!

I have read most of Dianne Duvall’s Immortal Guardian books here at in the fantasy, romance, paranormal fiction. Will also have to check out other books that Kirsten Potter has narrated because she has done a great job on the Immortal Guardian Series books. Hopefully she will continue to do them Dianne Duvall and Kirsten Potter do very well together. I have read the first 4 books in ebook and audiobook versions. Well worth reading for anyone that enjoys paranormal romantic fantasy.

A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin

May 31, 2014

A Kiss Before DyingA Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What do three college age daughters of a copper magnate and a handsome young man have in common? Could it have something to do with another handsome young man who doesn’t give up! And who is whom?

This is an intricately woven thriller! And no stone is left unturned.

I have to say, I read this book every free minute I could find, and then some!

I will be looking at other books by Ira Levin. He has become one of my favorite storytellers.

This was one of several of exceptional books by Ira Levin. Movie lovers will know his works – including this one A Kiss Before Dying as well as, Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives, etc. He is also very well known for his award winning play, Deathtrap. Levin’s best-known play is Deathtrap, which holds the record as the longest-running comedy-thriller on Broadway and brought Levin his second Edgar Award. In 1982, it was made into a film starring Christopher Reeve and Michael Caine.

I had seen all of the movies based on his books, but this is the first of his books that I have read.

A Darkling Sea by James Cambias

May 16, 2014
A Darkling Sea by James Cambias

A Darkling Sea by James Cambias

A Darkling Sea by James Cambias sounds like it will be a very good SF book by an author I have not read before.  I always like to read about not only the books I read, but also the authors. Here’s some summary information about James Cambias:

James Cambias (also as James L. Cambias) is an American science fiction and fantasy writer and tabletop game designer, whose stories have been nominated for the Nebula Award and the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. Cambias was a nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2001.

Born and raised in New OrleansLouisiana, he received a degree in the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine from the University of Chicago. He currently lives in Western Massachusetts with his wife and two children.

His early writing focused on role-playing games, particularly adventures and support material for Space 1889. His first role playing book was published by Iron Crown Enterprises in 1994, and he has written or contributed to books for Last Unicorn Games, Hero Games, and Steve Jackson Games, including Star Trek: The Next Generation Role-playing GameGURPS MarsStar Hero, and GURPS Space. He is one of the founders of Zygote Games, and the co-designer of the gameBone Wars: The Game of Ruthless Paleontology, based on the Bone Wars of the late 19th century.

His first professionally published fiction appeared in 2000. His work as been published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionThe Journal of Pulse-Pounding NarrativesCrossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary FantasticAll-Star Zeppelin Adventure StoriesHellboy: Odder Jobs, and several Year’s Best anthologies. He is the author of the 2014 novel A Darkling Sea about the encounter between humans and two species of sentient extraterrestrials.

James Cambias brings a diverse skill set and knowledge base to his writing. I really look forward to reading some of his books, particularly A Darkling Sea:

When it comes to stories about contact between alien races, you have Star Trek‘s Prime Directive of non-interference on one hand, and willingness of the Culture of Iain M. Banks to apply a little force to help a civilization on the road to what it considers the right path. Somewhere in between lies the dilemma facing the three species colliding in James L. Cambias’s A Darkling Sea.

What brought this book to the surface for me was ESR’s review:

Review: A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias – ESR’s Armed and Dangerous Blog

While most life on Earth is powered by chemical energy captured from solar radiation, deep in our seas there are entire ecologies powered by volcanism – specifically the hot water issuing from hydrothermal vents. Hot mineral-rich water supports a food chain based on chemosynthetic bacteria and archaea; it extends upwards in complexity through giant tube worms, clams, limpets and shrimp. These animals live miles further down than sunlight ever reaches, in an extreme of pressure and frigid temperatures that would kill any surface life in short order.

In recent years planetary astronomers have come to believe that beneath the icy surfaces of some of our gas-giant moons there are dark oceans of liquid water. Tidal forces acting on the moons power volcanism; Europa, in particular (the smallest of the four “Galilean” moons of Jupiter) is suspected of having its own hydrothermal vents. Exobiologists think it is relatively likely that life has evolved around them.

James Cambias’s A Darkling Sea (Tor) transplants the Europa scenario to Iluvatar, a moon in a solar system roughly half way between future Earth and the homeworld of aliens called the Sholen who are attempting to limit human interstellar expansion. A peace treaty with the Sholen constrains human scientists living in a seafloor habitat beneath the ice. They chafe to make contact with the intelligent arthropods at the top of Iluvatar’s foor chain, but are forbidden from contaminating their culture.

There is so much more in the review by ESR. Certainly got me interested in wanting to read James Cambias’s A Darkling Sea

More info:

A Darkling Sea by James L Cambias (Published by TOR 2014) –

James L Cambias –

A Darkling Sea by James Cambias – Amazon where it garners 4.5/5 stars

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Tor Books (January 28, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765336278
ISBN-13: 978-0765336279

Starred Review at Amazon:

Strongly reminiscent of Robert Silverberg from the late 1960s and early 1970s, this SF novel is set on a distant world, Ilmatar, whose native species are being studied by human scientists. The Sholen, the dominant alien species in that area of space, have allowed the humans access to Ilmatar, but under strict rules, which include the requirement that they absolutely must not have any contact with its sea-dwelling residents. When a human gets too close to a group of Ilmatarans and is killed by them, the Sholen send a team of investigators to the planet; the incident not only threatens the diplomatic relations between humans and the Sholen but also could lead to all-out war. The author tells the story through the eyes of three characters: Rob, a member of the human exploration team and witness to the incident; Broadtail, an Ilmataran who has been declared an exile from his community after he took the life of another Ilmataran; and Tizhos, an unconventional Sholen who’s concerned the incident will cause her government to shut down all contact with Ilmatar. Like Silverberg, who developed fully realized alien societies in such novels as Downward to the Earth (to which this novel bears some thematic resemblance), Cambias makes the Sholen and Ilmataran people and cultures as real as the more familiar human component. Beautifully written, with a story that captures the imagination the way SF should. –David Pitt

What others are saying about the James Cambias’ A Darkling Sea:

“An impressive debut by a gifted writer.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“An exceptionally thoughtful, searching and intriguing debut.”
Kirkus, Starred Review

“Like Silverberg, who developed fully realized alien societies in such novels as Downward to the Earth (to which this novel bears some thematic resemblance), Cambias makes the Sholen and Ilmataran people and cultures as real as the more familiar human component. Beautifully written, with a story that captures the imagination the way SF should.”
Booklist, Starred Review

“A stunning debut! Alien races to rival Larry Niven, world-building to rival Hal Clement, and lots of rip-roaring adventure. James Cambias will be one of the century’s major names in hard science fiction.”
Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Red Planet Blues

“Fast-paced, pure quill hard science fiction…. Cambias delivers adroit plot pivots that keep the suspense coming.”
Gregory Benford, Nebula Award-winning author of Timescape

“This is great fun—traditional science fiction but with today’s science. And I love the aliens.”
Jo Walton, Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award-winning author of Among Others

“The best story about an alien race and its environment that I’ve read in a long time. Cambias is in the same league as Hal Clement.”
Vernor Vinge, Hugo Award-winning author of A Fire Upon the Deep

“Cambias’s exploration of truly alien politics is fast, fun, and packed with characters you’ll cheer for. It’s exciting to welcome an exuberant new voice to the ranks of hard science fiction!”
Karl Schroeder, author of Ventus

“A compelling read.”
Michael Flynn, author of On the Razor’s Edge

“A fascinating exploration of alien lives at the extreme edges of an alien world.”
Brenda Cooper, award-winning author of The Silver Ship and the Sea

OK, now I just have to read this book! And some others listed here too! 😉

Thanks ESR! Always love to be directed to a new author, particularly a good SF/Fantasy writer, and a good book by that author.

Pines by Blake Crouch

May 4, 2014

Pines by Blake Crouch (Wayward Pines Series – Book #1) – Audible

Brilliance Audio Production

Pines (Wayward Pines Series (Book #1) by Blake Crouch - Brilliance Audio - got it from Audible

Pines (Wayward Pines Series (Book #1) by Blake Crouch – Brilliance Audio – got it from Audible – click on the image to go to the goodreads page for this audiobook.


WhisperSync is available for the book.

I gave Pines a 5/5 Stars (technically a 4.5/5 Stars but they don’t have 1/2 points at Audible and goodreads). I purchased it because it really sounded interesting on the Audible Daily Deals.

This was a book that was so captivating right from the start, but I had no idea where it was going for a long time! The book sucked me in, the narrator sucked me in, and I wanted to find out what the heck was going on! This book was way too interesting and puzzling to put down. When I finally got to the point where things were coming together, and we as the reader finally find out what is going on … things just fell into place like tumblers.

The narration by Paul Michael Garcia was fantastic.

Anyone who enjoys a good suspense, mystery, thriller, science fiction, fantasy story would likely enjoy the book. I know I did.

I don’t want to tell too much about this book because it really would take away from it if you knew ahead of time. I thought the way I read it was best. I just read what was on the Audible website about it when it was on the one of the Daily Deals and here’s what I read about it on here:

Wayward Pines, Idaho, is quintessential small-town America — or so it seems. Secret Service agent Ethan Burke arrives in search of two missing federal agents, yet soon is facing much more than he bargained for. After a violent accident lands him in the hospital, Ethan comes to with no ID and no cell phone. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but something feels…off. As the days pass, Ethan’s investigation into his colleagues’ disappearance turns up more questions than answers. Why can’t he make contact with his family in the outside world? Why doesn’t anyone believe he is who he says he is? And what’s the purpose of the electrified fences encircling the town? Are they keeping the residents in? Or something else out? Each step toward the truth takes Ethan further from the world he knows, until he must face the horrifying possibility that he may never leave Wayward Pines alive…

I just finished this today and I had to write about it today! Enjoy!

Here are some more audiobooks by Blake Crouch, and his website: 

Influx by Daniel Suarez

April 21, 2014

InfluxInflux by Daniel Suarez

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Daniel Suarez out-did himself with Influx! What an amazing story. It has so many elements of science fiction and science fact, as well as science probable! The story is very intricate and the characters are very well developed.

I don’t want to give away too much but suffice it to say that people (including our hero, Jon Grady) who have invented or discovered disruptive scientific technologies are disappearing and or being killed by a group of religious nuts who are apparently killing people brilliant people who are on the cusp of a major breakthrough in technology around the world. There is also a secret governmental organization created in the 50s/60s that has something to do with all of this as well.

I totally enjoyed this book! It’s long, but it is very well written and hard to put down!

Thanks so much Daniel Suarez! I hope you have your hands in the making of the movie so they do it well. I can’t wait to see it!

I listened to the audiobook version of this book from Audible and it is well worth getting!

Written by: Daniel Suarez
Narrated by: Jeff Gurner
Length: 13 hrs and 45 mins
Format: Unabridged
Release Date:02-20-14
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Program Type: Audiobook

View all my reviews

Also available from Amazon here.

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult (February 20, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525953183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525953180
Influx by Daniel Suarez - click iamge to go to his website

Influx by Daniel Suarez – click image to go to his website

May also like to visit Daniel Suarez‘ website here where Daniel Suarez has the following to say about the book:

What if human civilization is more advanced than you know?

In his latest SciFi thriller New York Times Bestselling author, Daniel Suarez, depicts a world where the future has already happened…

INFLUX Story Synopsis & Preview Chapters…

Imagine that scientists and researchers have already achieved major technological breakthroughs that could transform billions of lives—but they’ve done so in a world where the open exchange of ideas is viewed as dangerous and major technological advances are carefully managed. All to prevent the social disruption that radically new technologies bring… ..

“The characters (even the not-strictly-human ones) are vivid, the pacing is perfect, the villain is capital-E evil, and the author’s near-future world is so well developed that you completely buy even his wildest speculations. A magnificent tour de force. ”
Booklist on Influx (starred review)

“Suarez once again mixes science and fiction perfectly.”
Publishers Weekly on Influx (starred review)



Gabriel García Márquez Rest in Peace

April 19, 2014

Gabriel García Márquez, Conjurer of Literary Magic, Dies at 87 – NYTimes

Gabriel García Márquez, the Colombian novelist whose “One Hundred Years of Solitude” established him as a giant of 20th-century literature, died on Thursday at his home in Mexico City. He was 87.

“Each new work of his is received by expectant critics and readers as an event of world importance,” the Swedish Academy of Letters said in awarding him the Nobel.

Gabriel García Márquez in 2002 - Wikipedia

Gabriel García Márquez in 2002 – Wikipedia

Rest in Peace, Gabriel García Márquez.

I only heard much about his books after he had passed away, but I am glad that something good could come of his passing. Otherwise it might have been much longer before I heard about his works, especially One Hundred Years of Solitude.

From the Wikipedia article:

Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez (American Spanish: [ɡaˈβɾjel ɣarˈsi.a ˈmarkes]About this soundaudio (help·info); 6 March 1927 – 17 April 2014) was a Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist, known affectionately as Gabothroughout Latin America.

Considered one of the most significant authors of the 20th century,  he was awarded the 1972 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature.[1] He pursued a self-directed education that resulted in his leaving law school for a career in journalism. From early on, he showed no inhibitions in his criticism of Colombian and foreign politics. In 1958, he married Mercedes Barcha; they had two sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo.[2]

García Márquez started as a journalist, and wrote many acclaimed non-fiction works and short stories, but is best known for his novels, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985). His works have achieved significant critical acclaim and widespread commercial success, most notably for popularizing a literary style labeled as magic realism, which uses magical elements and events in otherwise ordinary and realistic situations. Some of his works are set in a fictional village called Macondo (the town mainly inspired by his birthplace Aracataca), and most of them explore the theme of solitude.

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Wikipedia:

One Hundred Years of Solitude (Spanish: Cien años de soledad) is a 1967 novel by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez that tells the multi-generational story of the Buendía family, whose patriarch, José Arcadio Buendía, founds the town of Macondo, the metaphoric Colombia.

The widely acclaimed book, considered by many to be the author’s masterpiece, was first published in Spanish in 1967, and subsequently has been translated into thirty-seven languages and has sold more than 30 million copies.[1][2][3] The magical realist style and thematic substance of One Hundred Years of Solitude established it as an important, representative novel of the literary Latin American Boom of the 1960s and 1970s,[4] which was stylistically influenced by Modernism (European and North American) and the Cuban Vanguardia (Vanguard) literary movement.

Many thanks to those who translated the book into English so I could have an opportunity to read it.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez


When I get this book, I will have to edit this to review One Hundred Years of Solitude. I am excited about reading it. I wonder if anyone has done an audiobook version of it yet? Will have to go and look into that…

Yes! One Hundred Years of Solitude is available on as well as a second entry for Gabriel García Márquez called, García Márquez in 90 Minutes. They are both in my Audible wish list.

I have also added One Hundred Years of Solitude to my goodreads to-read list.

Rest in Peace, Gabriel García Márquez.

A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin – a Commentary

April 8, 2014

Dazzling, Powerful, Breathtaking, Giant, Monumental, Magnificent, Extraordinary, Ambitious, Brilliant, Vivid, Gripping, Poignant, Intense, Superb, Rousing…



  • Publisher: Avon Books (May 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380715899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380715893


Above are just a few of the superlatives used to describe this book by those obsequious gnomes who live in those small cubicles in newsrooms and magazine publishing houses the world over. They’re paid to make pronouncements such as these in response to their supposed personal experience with the author’s work sitting on the desk in front of them.


I’ll not be so bold as to say that I can sit and read a book of this magnitude and then find words sufficient to actually describe the emotions I felt while reading it and as the back cover closed for the last time. My poor command of the language is such that I could not even approach Mark Helprin’s artistry with words, light, shadows, music, and colors in order to describe his art here in this place. I would feel like I were drawing distorted stick men in an attempt to describe the colors and vibrancy of Leonardo’s Last Supper.

It will ever be beyond my artistry to describe such art.


Using my meager skills, though, I would like to, in some meaningful fashion, try to show you, dear reader, even a small glimpse of the beauty of this story and how it affected me as I read it and possibly forever afterward. Yes, it’s one of those books; one of the rare ones that is ever so much more than just an entertaining distraction from the pressing issues of every day life.


I’ve read a lot of books since becoming literate at a very young age; thanks to my mother, who spent time and effort in teaching me how to read and instilling in me her own love for books. After reading a book such as Helprin’s A Soldier of the Great War, I actually feel very sorry and sad for those who don’t read books. They will never know what they’re missing. Never.


In all my years of reading, there have only been a very few books that really, really touch that deep, secret place in my soul; that place where fears, loves, regrets, past joys reside and are occasionally re-experienced in poorly preserved and fading memories. This book took me to that place. I’ll bare my soul here and admit that I actually cried after closing that back cover. The tears had been working their way to the surface during the last 20 pages or so.

I haven’t cried in 15 years; the last time being two or three days after my mother died. I have not cried often since I was a child. It isn’t manly to cry, supposedly. Plays hell with the big burly biker image, too. 😉


About this book, though…

Helprin has used a fine brush on a vast canvas to paint a portrait of life, death, love, hate, fear, joy, and any other emotion you could possibly experience in a lifetime. He managed in just over 700 pages what it took an old man sitting and dying on a hillside in Italy nearly 75 years to accomplish. Using words that border, and often cross over into, the realm of artistry he fashions a tale so deep and vast as to literally suck the reader into the life it’s describing.


The life is that of Alessandro Giuliani, an Italian fellow, a professor of aesthetics from Rome who one day begins a bus ride that will become a journey of personal reminiscences, a mentoring of a young traveling companion, and a profound understanding of life and death which culminates on a sunny hillside in peaceful rapturous splendor.


Alessandro tells the boy Nicolo of his life and loves; of his horrors and losses; and of his understanding and feelings on beauty and art, particularly his appreciation of Giorgione’s La Tempesta. All this takes place as the two companions walk along roads and across fields and hills on the way to their destination. The bus ride didn’t work for Alessandro and Nicolo as they had initially planned. Isn’t that just like life?


I read many reviews of this book to try to get a feeling for how others would describe it. I did not find any review that even came close to what reading the book made me feel; neither do my own poor choice of words, as predicted, even begin to elicit from you the feeling I felt while reading this book. It’s just going to be something you’ll have to experieince for yourself.


Books are subjective things ultimately. You may not get past the first 20 pages before you decide the book is not for you. That’s the way it goes sometimes. No reviewer can ever fully transfer his own feeling on reading a book to his readers. It’s an exercise in futility. It’s like me trying to explain to you how delicious the salad I had for lunch was or how much it hurt when I hit my thumb with the hammer the other day. No. Words are poor substitutes for experience.


Get this book. Experience it for yourself. That’s all I can say.






Image credits: generic book cover – Avon Books paperback version


This article is being published simultaneously on My Passion Is Books blog – all rights reserved by the original author. Copyright authority is that of Nocturnal Slacker v2.0 – V. T. Eric Layton.

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