Title: Blood and Sand
Author: C.V. Wyk
Performer: Brittany Pressley
Length: 8 hr, 58 min, 58 sec
Series: Blood and Sand, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by MacMillan Young Listeners
Review: I really enjoyed the first half of this book because I thought the author did a great job introducing the time period, setting, and characters. The second half of the book is where she started to lose me. I would say that this book is more strongly categorized as historical fiction rather than fantasy. I typically enjoy both genres immensely, but I hesitate to even call this fantasy. It’s more like unrealistic historical fiction. The only thing that could qualify this series as fantasy was how preposterous the fight scenes were in the second half of the book. One scene in particular, the most pivotal in terms of driving the direction of the story, was a monumental disappointment because quite frankly it made no sense. The fallout of this particular scene was equally disappointing. A lot gets thrown at you at the end, and the puzzle pieces just fit together too perfectly to be realistic.
All criticisms aside, I think that Wyk is a talented writer and I enjoyed enough things about this book to continue with the series when the next book is published.
Finally, I thought the reader for this eAudiobook had a nice voice, but in my opinion wasn’t well suited for this particular book. I’ve heard her narrate other books and liked those performances far more than I did this one. Perhaps this is because I did not care for the character voices and accents she chose for some of the main characters, particularly Attia.
Title: End of Days, the Assassination of John F. Kennedy
Author: James Swanson
Page Count: 398
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2013, William Morrow
Format: Printed, paperback
Review: ‘Does this guy only write about assassinations?’ my coworker asked when I told him about James L. Swanson’s books. And yes, yes he does. And he does it well. End of Days is a compelling read and had me on the edge of my seat despite knowing what happened. I grew up hearing about JFK’s assassination from my parents and later in documentaries but this is the first book I sought out to explain it. That’s probably because I loved Swanson’s book on Lincoln’s assassination (review for Manhunt), so I already knew his writing style and the level of research he puts into his work (which is a lot, by the way).
Much like his book on Lincoln, he wrote this full of historical facts but made it so it read like a novel. You don’t find yourself inundated with a bunch of dates and names; instead, he integrates it all into the narrative so smoothly.
I highly recommend this book, and one of the biggest pluses for me is that it doesn’t go into any of the conspiracy theories. He mentions some of them at the end, but only to acknowledge that they exist. I thought that was a good call on his part.
Title: Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer
Author: James L. Swanson
Page Count: 442
Publishing Date/Publisher: January 2007, Piatkus Books
Review: This book was thoroughly researched and extraordinarily put together. Swanson was able to detail the assassination of Abraham Lincoln to the minute, putting the reader in the heart of the terror. Even though I knew what happened, and that Lincoln obviously died, my heart still pounded in my chest reading the lead up to that pivotal moment in American history.
Before I read this book, I thought I knew a good amount about the assassination. As soon as I started reading I knew I was wrong. I had a bit of knowledge about the other attempts during that night after watching a short documentary on it, but the level of detail, as mentioned before, was so astounding that I realized how much I didn’t know. Thankfully, Swanson filled in the gaps and now when I talk about it with friends (grad students have weird conversations, just… accept this), I get oddly passionate about it. Which is sad, but I’m with like-minded people who don’t judge me (too much).
Bottom line: it’s an easy read, one that flows like a novel, makes the facts easy to digest, and captures the reader from the first page. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.