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Operation Barbarossa: Nazi Germany's War in the East, 1941-1945
Operation Barbarossa: Nazi Germany's War in the East, 1941-1945
by Christian Hartmann
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The war reads a little chilly here., 6 Oct. 2013
Operation Barbarossa has many strengths to offer over its 200 plus pages. However, for the many strengths it does have there are a few weaknesses as well. After reading this book I was quite pleased with the historical data presented, it is thorough and well laid out. I also enjoyed the writing as it was easy to read and at times felt a little bit like a novel. However, the book lacks a proper linear presentation. In most stories, whether fiction or nonfiction, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. Here in Operation Barbarossa the beginning is backed up by facts that happened years later, and events that happened near the end are mixed with events that happen in the middle. For me, I read the book with some difficulty because events were laid out as if the author needed to prove the validity of events by other events that happened later on. This telling takes away from enjoyment of learning what happened as it happened, and made the book more of an argument for the author's purpose for writing it.

Over all the book is a good historical retelling, but in the end I didn't experience the war, but rather was educated about it. Perhaps I would have rather been talked to rather than talked at.

*I received this book in ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Darth Plagueis: Star Wars
Darth Plagueis: Star Wars
by James Luceno
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Paper Tigers, 26 Sept. 2013
Over the last decade I have had a love/hate relationship with James Luceno's writing. At times I have found his work to be brilliant, and at other times I have found his writing to be uninspired and muddled. Upon reading the beginning of this book I was quite taken by just how well written an imaginative the story surrounding Plagueis was. I was surprised how well Luceno had laid out the character and how well the story had worked in a linear telling, something Luceno rarely does in his books. But as the story progressed, and after Palpatine was introduced, I was shocked on just how quickly the books solid story turned into sand and flowed through my fingers.

After Plagueis found Palpatine, a telling that was thin at best, Luceno parts from Plagueis's story to focus on the larger plan, a larger plan that centers around Palpatine. Little time is spent as to how Palpatine learns the Force from Plaqueis, and even less time is spent on grasping the connection the two men have to each other. In my opinion Luceno fails in bringing light to the wisdom and experience that Plagueis has to offer as both a Master and a teacher. Instead, we as readers, are exposed to a more simplistic telling of Palpatine's rise to political power.

The main bulk of this book focuses on the study of how Palpatine fits into the world around him. Every once and a great while we are exposed to scenes that ring familiar to what we know of other Sith stories but, for the most part neither Sidious nor Plagueis are great examples of the Sith we know and love. Darth Bane, and the teachings left by his reign, are spoken too often, however, neither of our Sith Lords completely fall into the Sith mold. As I read this book I often thought of both Lords as book smart but never street smart. Rarely are we exposed to either of them being mad or even taken by the power of the dark side. Rarely do either lash out when failure rises. Rarely do either bathe in the power of the dark side.

In the end the book's true purpose is to wrap up threads left from stories past. Scenes read like cliff notes as grand story arcs from other books and comics are horribly skipped over without either a brief description of events that happened, or the impact those stories had.

With all this considered the book reads as a long winded diatribe of internal analysis and shallow plotting. The characters, formed by experiences that are not addressed in this book, read like paper tigers as their power seems convenient and contrived. With scenes missing only Star Wars fans that have a vast understanding of the larger EU library will be able to follow the scenes skipped over. New fans, or those who haven't read that many books or comics, will be lost and confused. I, myself, have a good understanding of stories past and was able to process most of the plot points addressed, but even I still walked away from this book bitterly disappointed.

In conclusion, I feel that this book was overly hyped and under delivered. The classic feel gained by the Darth Bane chronicles was left void after the first fifteen percent of this book. Characters were left dangling in the wind blown by stories long since past. And after three-hundred pages the main characters of the book were left void of any real lasting impact.

Perhaps this book's only silver lining as that the audiobook's narrator has enough talent to deliver a better telling. But in the end the book lacks entertainment, enjoyment, and a competent ability to stand on its own.

Kenobi: Star Wars
Kenobi: Star Wars
by John Jackson Miller
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kenobi lite, but character heavy., 28 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Kenobi: Star Wars (Hardcover)
Over the last few years I have been continually disappointed by some of the Star Wars books that have come to market. I have found them to be too focused on the big players and too void of alternative viewpoints and perspective. After all, how many times can we read about Han, Luke, and Leia saving the galaxy from another super-weapon? But unlike those books, what Kenobi offers is a well balanced, fresh take on an old story that had plenty to offer but was never explored. Now, John Jackson Miller has opened the door to a Jedi's past that has had fans wondering about since the late 1970's.

We have all been wondering who exactly is Obi Wan Kenobi at his core, and what was his life like in the desolate wastelands of Tatooine as he watched over our young soon-to-be hero Luke Skywalker? So with those questions in mind lets walk through some of what the book has to offer, shall we?

Without providing too many spoilers lets first talk about the setting that Kenobi opens with. We know Tatooine to be a harsh environment that has little to nothing to offer its inhabitants, and most readers would find that to be a difficult stage to let the characters act upon. But what Tatooine offers is an opportunity to allow the harsh conditions to become a character in their own right. Tatooine itself is portrayed as evil villain bent on killing off those who would attempt to tame her, and at every opportunity she strikes out to slay her opponents. With duel suns beating down, and barren lands void of water, those who struggle against her must struggle tooth and nail to stay alive under her constant environmental bombardment. But where some would struggle against these inherently harsh conditions, others will strive and make the planet's weapons their own.

And that is where another villain enters the picture. From the first page JJM exposes the readers to a new insight on an old foe, an insight that we have not quite seen before. In other franchise incarnations the sandpeople have been portrayed as mindless savages willing to tear flesh from bone on a whims notice. But what JJM strives to do is make them a foe that is both competent and sometimes sympathetic to the reader. The sandpeople, too, have been adversaries to the twin suns and harsh sands of Tatooine, but having been born into these conditions they have adapted and overcome the wrath of the planet, even making their struggle against the two suns part of their heritage. Now a new enemy has presented themselves to the dessert warriors, and this new enemy has taken from the sandpeople far more than just their land. This enemy has taken what makes the sandpeople who they are and what makes them so fierce. At their core the sandpeople are a tribe of tradition and honor, and now this new enemy has taken too much, something must be done or the warrior race will face extinction, their existence only a historical footnote in the planet's unending timeline.

This new enemy comes in many shapes and forms; Human, Rodian, and even Hutts too, but as they consume more and more land they become spread out and weakened by their distance to each other, and this presents an opportunity the sandpeople can not ignore. JJM sets the two foes on equal footing as they confront each other on the field of battle. Each opponent is painted as one should be, with purpose and heart. After all one does not fight for nothing, there must be a reason, a reward worth risking a life for. And in this book John Jackson Miller gives the reader a reason to care about the outcome, a reason to cheer both sides onto victory. But with any victory there must be sacrifice, and as the continuing battles between sandpeople and settler rages on, both sides experience the sting of loss and the heartbreak that comes with the death of a loved one.

But as the book continues on all is not what it seems. What makes an enemy an enemy is painted with a broad brush, and lines that separate friend from foe are sometimes painted over. And as the end quickly approaches the story comes full circle in a way that makes the book stand high above some that have come before it. Characters are presented with incredible depth. Villains are presented as truly dangerous foes, and given enough heart and reason to become favorable to the reading experience. And as the last page meets the readers eye all the threads created by JJM are tied up into a neat little bow and presented to the reader as if it were a gift of extraordinary wealth. And as someone who read every word on every page, I can attest that this book is one that fans will cherish for some time to come.

With the characters well established we can now turn to the writing. Overall the pace of the book is steady, if not a little slow in parts, but given JJM spends quite a bit of the book building incredible characters one should expect that the larger picture can sometimes be delayed. I found JJM's writing to be very smooth and easy to follow. The story was entertaining and the way the characters were laid out made me really feel for them as they went through their troubles. I really liked how JJM created threads that were similar to threads we have seen before, but made them original enough so that the reader doesn't pick up on it until the end. I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction between all the characters and thought that the way they connected on so many levels really made them real. I also thought the humor within the book added another layer to the way the characters came off.

Overall I enjoyed every page of this book, even the slower aspects. I continually found myself saying "It would be awesome if this happened next." and then it would with JJM's own little twist to make it that much better. This is a book I will definitely read again.

A great book that offers new perspective and a meaningful story, too. Five Stars.

*I received this book in ARC (Advanced Review Copy) in exchange for an honest review.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 4, 2014 2:50 PM BST

Crucible (Star Wars (Del Rey))
Crucible (Star Wars (Del Rey))
by Troy Denning
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is not the passing of the torch we were promised, 9 July 2013
Months before the scheduled release of Crucible a lot of news was floating about the interwebs and much of it was quite explosive. Who would have thought that George Lucas, the gatekeeper to the Star Wars franchise would ever sell off his most prized possession, and to Disney too. Well, he did and his decision to do so is what is bringing episodes VII, VIII, and IV. But George's decision to sell off Star Wars was not the only big news to be whispered about, big news was also impacting the literary branch, too. Now that Fate of the Jedi had wrapped up a new layout was to hit readers, and that was to be the end of the large scale series and a reintroduction to stand alones. So, here we are, a new stand alone, so lets delve in.

Over the last few decades Star Wars fans have been exposed to expansive story arcs laid out by The New Jedi Order, The Legacy of the Force, and The Fate of the Jedi. And as one would expect, those books have had quite the impact on the Expanded Universe. But with all large story arcs some loose threads are left dangling in order to open new doors later on, and some are just left dangling. This is where Crucible comes in. The first "Big Three" (Han, Luke, Leia) book since the climatic end of the Fate of the Jedi series attempts to advance some leftover plot points from stories past and also present a fresh new story to boot. But in the end does Crucible deliver what it promised? Well, lets find out.

I must admit that when Crucible was first announced I wasn't all that excited for it. Given Fate of the Jedi had worn me out with its drawn out storylines and pretty lackluster entertainment value, I wasn't all that excited to read another Big Three book, so my expectations were pretty low going in. Now, after reading the book, I can honestly say that the book has lived up to those expectations, and here's why. After reading hundreds of Star Wars books and comics I know that every installment is not a true stand alone, every book, or comic, is closely tied to events that have happened before or after the events featured in that book's tale, so I knew this book would be no different. What I wasn't prepared for was that this book would be so incredibly twisted in on itself that I would not know the book's true purpose until the last few chapters. Here's what I mean.

]]]Minor and unspecific spoilers ahead[[[

In the beginning of the book we are taken on a new adventure with Han and Leia being drug into a new threat against their close friend Lando. A new enemy has arisen in the aftermath of Abeloth, and this new enemy is smarter and wiser than we have seen in the least that is what we are told in the book synopsis. What we are really given is an attempt to introduce a brand new enemy with incredible intelligence to weave us a web of intrigue and suspense. However, the book never delivers what it promises. In actuality we are delivered an enemy that is much more tic-tac-toe than chess, and is so weak that even with the help of the most dangerous villains the EU has to offer they cannot help them succeed in their plot to rule the galaxy...or even their little corner of it.

What the book does deliver is a few new creatures and characters that are quite imaginative. However, once again the book doesn't deliver here either. These new beings, driven by a blend of technology and organic materials, are so underused that by the end of the book when the story calls for them the reader has already lost interest, at least that is what happened for me.

I was really interested in this new creation and wanted so much to see how Denning was going to spin them into the story and how he was going to use them to build suspense and drama, but in the end this avenue was never taken and the new beings tale was crushed by chapter after chapter of Luke, Leia, and Han running around not doing a whole bunch.

While reading the book I took notes as to what I liked and didn't like and will address them here.

First, I wrote down that the book doesn't play to Troy Denning's strengths, and it really doesn't. I know a lot of readers have their own opinion of Denning's work and sometimes I agree with both sides of the argument, but I was a big fan of his Abyss novel in the Fate series. I found his exploration of the Force to be very entertaining and was looking forward to seeing some of that work in this book...I still have images of his lake of fallen Jedi/Sith featured in Abyss. However, we see none of this until the last chapters of the book, maybe the last three or four chapters. To me this was very unfortunate. Not only do we have to wait until the very end to see this aspect, but we have to wait to the very end of the book to find out what the book is truly about.

Second, the lack of alternative perspective was very disappointing. In this book we are introduced to new characters and reintroduced to old ones too. Not only are we not shown their trials and tribulations from their perspective, but we are not given any real narrative perspective to their issues either. A large thread from Karen Traviss's work was left over after her departure and reintroduced in this book, however, we never see any new advancement to that story arc and in the end nothing is resolved. In fact the only resolution to that thread is Luke talking to the others about how he wonders what happened to them...pretty lame.

Third and finally, for a book that is pretty watered down and lacking of any real depth it can be quite confusing at times. Characters are hard to track as first and last names are switched from paragraph to paragraph. Sometimes a character is called by their first name in one paragraph and then their last in the next. Normally this wouldn't be so bad, but when the character list is this long, and characters are not always who they seem to be, keeping track can be difficult at times.

In conclusion the book isn't horrible, but it isn't all that great either. To me it felt a little bit like a glass of Kool-aid that has been left out on the counter for about a week. When you go to drink it you get ninety percent water at first and then ten percent sweet sugar at the bottom. The book just felt weak and uninspired, and in the end that is what really bothers me about it.

I would never tell a reader not to read a book, and I won't start here, but for me this book was not Denning's best...far from it.

P.S. The epilogue contains a huge cliffhanger that may leave some fans wondering if this new story arc will lead to a transition from EU storyline to movie storyline.

Note: I received this book as an Advanced Review Copy (ARC) in exchange for an honest review
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 3, 2014 5:13 PM BST

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