military

Review: Grunt by Mary Roach

Grunt by Mary Roach, ARC, Oneworld, November 2016, 285p.

4 out of 5 stars.

Grunt is a book about war unlike any other I have encountered – and I’ve certainly read my fair share of war books. Mary Roach goes behind the science and technology of modern soldiering, and the issues and advances that scientists are making for the men and women on the front line. This is not a book for the faint hearted, it is full of blood, gore and swearing and doesn’t shy away from some hard truths about the US Defence Force. Grunt is a book for those curious about how uniforms come to be, what happens when you take shrapnel to your, uh, nether regions? Do soldiers get travellers’ diarrhoea like the rest of us? What is life aboard a submarine like?

Roach, of course, has investigated and researched all these topics and more and written a brilliant non-fiction book that is very accessible. Much of the research is communicated by descriptions of her conversations with people in the military, and her experiences while researching. Sometimes Roach throws in a reference from a medical or scientific journal, but most of her evidence takes the form of interviews with experts and those who are actually experiencing the technology and science – the grunts. This makes this book very easy to read and digest, but not something I would be reaching for as a reference text. Its value is purely entertainment, and on that score, it delivers.

Grunt is richly and at times, darkly humorous. There were quite a few times that I was laughing at a dead body or something that may have killed someone – most of the book is framed in a humorous fashion, with quips and hilarious facts accompanying the science and evidence. Grunt is also the first book that I felt physically ill reading (I don’t recommend eating BBQ meat while reading Chapter 9: The Maggot Paradox). I imagine some men would also feel a bit delicate reading through chapters 4 & 5, both of which deal with damage and recovery from injury to the male groin. Entertaining and informative for a woman, but when I read a couple selected paragraphs to my boyfriend, he promptly asked me to stop and made pained wincing facial expressions.

A could of years ago I added Roach’s book Stiff, which is all about the science of dead bodies, to my Goodreads TBR. I’m not sure when I removed it, but I certainly didn’t read it, but I will now be adding that back onto my TBR – Grunt sold me on Roach’s style and approach to writing and science. I’m looking forward to working my way through her back catalogue of weird and wonderful books full of strange and surreal facts. And I’ll be buying Grunt as a Christmas present for a family member who loves war non-fiction and has a really twisted sense of humour. I want to see his reaction to chapters 4 through 5. I might also put a putrid scratch and sniff at the start of Chapter 10: What Doesn’t Kill You Will Make You Reek.

Thankyou Oneworld publishers for the review copy. This book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

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Weekly Review Spree 15/3/15

Fire Force Matt LynnFire Force – Matt Lynn – 3 stars – Paperback from library

Fire Force is the second novel in Matt Lynn’s Death Force series, following the exploits of a group of mercenaries headed by Steve West. I found this book to be interesting, with a plot line that isn’t too common in action novels, but the action sequences were very much the same as what you read in other books of this genre. The characters in this series are excellent – I love Dan and Nick the best, and it’s fun to actually not like the main protagonist, who I find to be hypocritical and annoying. The writing in this series is pretty average, and there was even a grammatical error on the cover of the copy I read, but I don’t read action novels for well put together literature, I enjoy them for the plot.

22395145Endangered – C.J. Box – 4 stars – Kindle edition

I’ve been waiting for this book to be released since reading the last Joe Pickett novel, Stone Cold. I really do love this series, and after each one I wonder how C.J. Box is going to make the next book interesting, because there have been 14 books in this series prior to Endangered. As I was reading this book, I kept thinking that there was something different about Endangered, and it wasn’t until I finished that I worked out what it was. Usually the main conflict in Joe Pickett novels arises from Joe’s job as a Wyoming game warden, or from the community of Saddlestring itself, but in Endangered the conflict and action occur because of issues within Joe’s family – I’m usually the reviewer lamenting the lack of involvement of families in novels, so it was so nice to be able to read a story where the ‘big bad’ was not naughty for hurting the environment, or the people of Saddlestring, but rather, Joe’s family.

I’m a massive fan of Joe and Nate’s relationship, and this book hurt me so much. I won’t elaborate too much because I don’t want to ruin what happens, but let’s just say that this isn’t one of those books where Joe and Nate pair up and take on evil with shotguns and Nate’s awesome Special Forces background… but it is still satisfying. So satisfying.

As always I will be pre-ordering the next Joe Pickett book as soon as it comes available for pre-order on kindle. And I’m not going to consider that there won’t be another one because there has to be, or else I’ll to riot. If you haven’t read any Joe Pickett, you really should start – go read Open Season, the first of bunch. You won’t regret it. Or maybe, you will regret having to spend all your time catching up, it is a BIG series and highly addictive.

24190989As the Crow Flies – Damien Boyd – 3 stars – netgalley copy

As the Crow Flies was an enjoyable, fast paced read. There was an interesting murder enquiry to follow and DI Nick Dixon has the makings of being an interesting character. There was quite a bit of rock climbing vocabulary in this novel which completely lost me, but I decided to push through that and I am glad I did.

The plot was tight – I didn’t guess the ending at any point of the novel, although I did work out some parts, I never figured out who killed Nick’s friend Jake. It came as a shock when it was revealed. As the Crow Flies is fast paced, and a short novel of only 200p, so there was only the single main plotline with no intersecting subplots, which I would have preferred to have.

The only thing that was missing from this novel was strong characters – as there were so few pages, and most pages were dedicated to furthering the plot. I struggled to remember people’s names, and when I did remember them, I wouldn’t be able to tell you much about them besides their relationship to Nick Dixon. I feel like the author could have given more time (and pages) to developing the characters, maybe some more dialogue between characters about their lives, or even using more description when setting scenes.

Overall I enjoyed reading As the Crow Flies and will certainly be picking up the next book in the series.

17559237 One Way Trip by Scott McEwen with Thomas Koloniar – 4 1/2 stars – hardback from library

One Way Trip has been sitting on my TBR list for over a year (and I borrowed a copy from the library two months ago that has been sitting on my shelves!), and I am so glad that I picked it up to read, because it is one of the best books I have read in this genre. The hero in this book, Gil, certainly is an interesting creation, blending the cowboy aesthetic with the tough as nails Special Forces soldier, and it works so well. Often I find it hard to connect with American characters in these novels, because I don’t share the over the top patriotism for America as they seem to always be written with. I get that it’s a good hook for patriotic Americans, but for an Australian who has studied Middle Eastern History and often doesn’t agree with American (and Australian) policy in that region of the world, I find it hard to get through political rhetoric. One Way Trip definitely does have some things that make me cringe – a love of the word Haji and a general “America good, everyone else bad” disposition, but it comes across more as believable attitudes of soldiers rather than political and racial posturing by an author.

The storyline of One Way Trip was interesting, I liked the aspect of rescuing a downed pilot who was injured and had been raped. It was interesting to think on some of the issues that this raised, for example, would the Special Forces community be as desperate to rescue the hostage if it was a man? I also liked the way that politics, the media and the military were all interlinked and affected one another. Often in military fiction the media and politics don’t seem to make much of a difference to the soldiers, whereas in One Way Trip, they were affected by outside forces.

The ending, with the final battle, was one of my favourite scenes so far this year, with some very touching and interesting moments. Certainly not believable – but I read these novels like most people read fantasy – ‘Hey, its not real, but isn’t it cool?!’ I’ve already put the next book in this series on hold at the library, and I can’t wait to get my filthy little hands on it – I want to catch up with Gil and see how he’s going with everything that happened!

Other bookish/non-bookish stuff

I’ve got a very busy week coming up this week, I’ve got two assignments and two tests to study for, and I’m already bogged down in my coursework. I’m going to spend Wednesday and Thursday getting caught up with everything. So this week I am going to limit myself to reading two novels – and only the second one once my course reading is done.

We’re also getting our carpets cleaned, which means lots of furniture moving, which does not bode well with my joints. But the BF said he would do most of it, and I just need to do things that require two people. I’m hoping my body can survive the process, but last week I spent two days doing some autumn cleaning and I almost DIED.

I’m currently reading “Breaking Creed ” by Alex Kava, and so far, enjoying it. It’s nice to read about men and their dogs, and I’m already liking the Ryder Creed character. I might need to go hunt out some more of Alex Kava’s books, because I’m certainly enjoying his one!