Despite having more than a handful of half finished postings, many that will probably never see the light of day, it looks like I’ve wasted enough time once again for a new month to roll around. So as we rumble into May here’s my random book thoughts since the last time. You should grab a beverage before starting, this is a pretty long posting.
While I don’t get a ton of comments on the blog about my book posts there are quite a few made on a couple forums I visit and from my friends, and apparently I made a joke last month when I posted “I have no idea which book I’m starting next”. After mentioning I had grabbed the latest “Spenser” novel anyone that knew me knew that Lullaby was jumping right to the top of the list. I buy very few authors in hardcover, and for some reason Robert Parker never made it on to that short list. Parker probably should have been considering that every single time a new “Spenser” novel comes out in paperback it becomes the next book up to read. So while I honestly was unsure if Ace Atkins’ first “Spenser” book was going to be next it seems everyone else knew it would be. And, as you have guessed by the picture above, it was.
For the record, the official name of the book is Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby. That is the first and last time I will ever refer to the continuing “Spenser” series using Parker’s name in the title. I get that the estate wants to keep Parker’s name on the books (obviously it will sell better), but find a better way. Seriously, it’s a dumb idea to include his name in the title.
Now, allow me to state the obvious: Ace Atkins isn’t Robert Parker. I’ve never read anything by Atkins before, so I really had no idea what I was about to see. I was pretty sure it would be an attempt to emulate Parker’s style, which is really what the whole “Spenser” series is. In the first part of Lullaby Atkins writes a decent story but really misses the mark in the “flavor” of Spenser. It was almost like in the beginning Atkins tried too hard to be Parker. If I had been Atkins’ editor I would have suggested the first third or so of the book needed a complete rewrite. It was decent mystery, but poor “Spenser”.
The middle portion of the book, which Parker generally used to get into Spenser’s private life as the detective spun his wheels on the current case, was significantly more in Parker’s style than the first part. The ending was classic Parker, with everything tied up neatly–or as neatly as Parker wanted it tied up–very quickly at the end. All in all it was a decent “Spenser” novel, and I won’t hesitate to get the next one (called Wonderland).
Up next was the two books of “The Fisherman’s Children” series by Karen Miller, The Prodigal Mage and The Reluctant Mage. The series is the continuation of the “Kingmaker, Kingbreaker” series, set a few years after The Awakened Mage ended. I’ve had both the “Fisherman’s Children” books on my shelf for a long while now and I have no idea why it’s taken me this long to finally read them. Miller, who also writes under the name K.E. Mills, is an outstanding writer that doesn’t get near enough credit in the fantasy genre. Born in Canada but raised in Australia, you can add Miller’s name to the ever growing number of fantasy writers from Down Under that should be your “must read” list. You won’t be disappointed.
Over this past weekend I started The Black Echo, the first of many books by Michael Connelly. More on that next month.
Before I get into what I’ve picked up since the last update I want to mention that the fourth book one of the better series currently going and one of my personal favorites, “The Psalms of Isaak” written by Ken Scholes, is being released on June 18, 2013. The book is entitled Requiem, and picks up where the series left off in Antiphon. The publisher has put the e-book for the first installment, Lamentation, on sale for $2.99 until June 18th. Details can be found right here on Tor’s blog. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy.
So for new stuff, my two trips to Barnes & Noble netted three books. In my first trip I grabbed The Wise Man’s Fear, the second book in Patrick Rothfuss’ “The Kingkiller Chronicle”. It’s the first $9.99 mass market paperback I’ve ever bought, but at 1100+ pages and the first book, The Name of the Wind, getting so many positive reviews from friends I unhesitatingly picked up a copy. My second trip was last Friday, and seeing Crucible of Gold was out in paperback I quickly snagged one off the shelf. It’s book seven in Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire series”, set in the Napoleonic era with each side having dragons. An odd concept, but it works. A couple years ago Peter Jackson optioned the series, but there hasn’t been any real news that I can find on that front lately.
While scanning the new releases rack for science fiction/fantasy I saw an odd looking cover (and we all know that I have bought books just because the cover intrigued me). The Lives of Tao was the name of the book, and reading the back cover it’s a goofy concept that made me chuckle. So into my stack it goes. Just now I wandered over to author Wesley Chu’s website and found his post about the book’s release. It contains a little foul language, but you can feel his excitement in in the post. After my trek to the bookstore I had to go to Target for a couple things and saw they had The Last Refuge, the third book by Ben Coes, on the shelf at 25% off so that made three new books for the day.
Late in April I was doing a Google search looking for something related to “Tatnuck”, which is the section of Worcester, MA that I grew up in and have recently moved back in to. While doing that search I ran into the website for the Tatnuck Bookseller, which when I was a kid was near my house and was the first bookstore I regularly went into alone without one of my parents being with me. It was funny that despite being just a kid the folks that ran the store treated me like any other person that read books and really gave me an appreciation for good books. Stuff they talked about back then I still reference today some 30+ years later.
When I was in my late teens the bookstore outgrew its building and moved into a refurbished factory building on the same street but much farther down the road. I didn’t get there as often, but it was still a “family” type store and many of the great relationships I had at the old location continued. After a while they opened a second location in Westborough, MA, but soon after the economy took a downturn and when faced with closing one of their stores for me the unthinkable happened–they closed the one here in Worcester. With no way to get out to Westborough they soon fell off my radar as there were still lots of options to buy books.
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago and those memories were refired by my search, so my wife and I made the trek out to Westborough (not that far, actually) to take a look at the store. Still called “The Tatnuck Bookseller”, most of the store isn’t books anymore. They had lots of cool stuff, but the front two-thirds was what I would call “gift” type merchandise. I don’t mean that in a negative way because my wife and I bought some stuff from that part of the store. (Folks will not be shocked I bought a sign that reads “Life is a game, HOCKEY is serious”. I’ll take a picture once I finally hang it). The books are in the back, and the racks were a mix of hardcovers and paperbacks. I was shocked to see 13 Million Dollar Pop by David Levien on the shelf as it was a mass market paperback that came out some time ago. I read the first two of Levien’s stories featuring detective Frank Behr, so that was an easy grab. It was then that I noticed paperbacks were 10% off, so when I finally hit the science fiction/fantasy rack I grabbed The Book of Joby by Mark J. Ferrari and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. They were books I had passed on earlier because I’m stubborn and don’t like to spend $8.99 on a paperback. Like $8.09 is that much different…
Checking out the new releases list for May all I saw that interested me was The Eighth Court by Mike Shevdon, which is good because after adding seven books to my stack, including two tomes of greater than a thousand pages, I could use a break to catch up a little. Because someone asked a few days ago I counted my “to read” books: 201. Some people might think that’s a problem. I certainly don’t.
Until next time…
I was figuring with my March post being so late in the month I wouldn’t have much for an April post and wasn’t certain I’d even bother with one, but as I have a few minutes and did actually buy some books there’s no reason to not put up a quick post.
I just finished (and I mean just finished) the fifth of Dan Brown’s books, The Lost Symbol, and all five were pretty decent reads. Deception Point, which I mentioned last month I was in the middle of, is one of two books Brown has written that don’t feature Robert Langdon but contain Brown’s plot styling of having the events of the book take place over a very short time, usually 24 hours or less. The base story is a little far fetched, as is the plot wrap up at the end, but as with all of Brown’s books it was entertaining. That’s pretty much all I ask for in a book.
After that was The Da Vinci Code, which just about everyone has either read or seen the movie. It was an OK story and I was entertained, but to be honest Angels & Demons was a far superior book. The Lost Symbol was also entertaining, but compared to the others missed the mark a little. Two of the major plot points I guessed very quickly, which really turned the book into a “look for clues that I’m right” quest as opposed to being about the story. Not to spoil the ending, but I also guessed the building Langdon was taken to near the end of the book. It was way too obvious, especially for anyone that had read the other two Langdon stories.
A couple weeks ago I had an afternoon off from work and headed to Barnes & Noble, mostly to grab The Marching Dead by Lee Battersby and to see what else was out. Lullaby, Ace Atkins’ first installment in Robert Parker’s “Spenser” series, was out in paperback so I grabbed that. I also saw Power Down, Ben Coes’ first book, was reprinted in a special $5.99 edition. I grabbed that and then found his second, Coup d’Etat, on the remaindered hard cover table.
I have no idea which book I’m starting next, so you’ll need to turn un next month to see what it is. Yeah, not much of a cliff hanger, but we make due with what we have. The April list for new science fiction didn’t have anything that popped out at me so I’m not thinking there will be anything new in that genre for me this month, and I’m still looking for a site that lists new releases on other genres. If anyone knows of one let me know in the comments section. Until next time…
This month’s random book post is a little later than usual, so we’ll get right to it. One book that jumped to the front of my “to read” list, mostly because I borrowed it, was Crossing the Line by Derek Sanderson. The former Boston Bruins forward is well known for his issues with alcoholism while he played and the book, based on the author’s notes, probably contains many stories that had to be retold to Sanderson to refresh his memory. I was hoping for more hockey stories than it contained, and considering how open Sanderson has been in the past about his addiction there seems to be some glossing over (and maybe some internal denial) about how drinking affected his playing. Like a lot of autobiographies I’ve read I was left wanting more from the book. I do recommend it though.
The next books I read were the first three books in “The Legend of Eli Monpress” series by Rachel Aaron. The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, and The Spirit Eater (the omnibus edition is pictured above) are really, really fun reads that I absolutely recommend that everyone pick up. The series is lighthearted without getting caught up in joke telling, but there are also darker elements to the stories to keep hardcore fantasy readers engaged. The next two books in the series, The Spirit War and Spirit’s End are both available in trade editions and I’m hoping they’ll both be out in mass market editions soon.
I then went in a completely different direction and decided to read the five books Dan Brown has out. The first is Digital Fortress, which is about the National Security Agency’s code breaking supercomputer called TRANSLTR, and its ability (or inability) to crack a code. The story is pretty simple in nature, but it’s well written and a decent read. Brown’s second book is Angels & Demons, which was fantastic. It’s a well paced thriller that takes place during a papal conclave, that I read while a papal conclave was just beginning. The book is very different from the movie, so if you’ve seen the movie you should pick the book up.
I’ve just started his third book, Deception Point, so I’ll have more on that next month. As funny as it sounds, Brown’s best selling book is the very well known novel The Da Vinci Code and I might be the only reader on the planet that doesn’t own a copy. I’ll be off to Annie’s Book Stop (a second hand book store in my area) to pick one up. There isn’t any chance they don’t have one or five, is there?
I have not bought any new books since last time, although I did have a copy of Age of Voodoo by James Lovegrove in my hand but I decided to put it back. It’s $8.99 at Barnes & Noble and looking at the book I just couldn’t pull the trigger for how short the novel was. If you want my money Mr. Lovegrove make the novel worth what I’m paying. On my radar for March is The Marching Dead by Lee Battersby. I have Battersby’s first, The Corpse-Rat King, on the shelf right next to me. It probably won’t be next up after the Brown books, but it will probably be soon.
So this weekend was the 27 installment of Total Confusion, the game convention I’ve been going to for, well, 27 years. It was an weird convention for me because due to an odd confluence of events I was only able to make it Saturday afternoon and evening as opposed to my normal Thursday through Sunday attendance, and many other long time attendees were not there for a variety of reasons. (For some reason my buddy Scott thought his honeymoon was more important than gaming, I’ll need to have a talk with him about that next time I see him).
On top of my already reduced schedule the early week weather forecast was calling for a huge snowstorm Saturday evening which looked like it was going to cut my available time even further. Luckily the arrangements I made to have someone else run my Saturday night game wasn’t needed.
I arrived about noon and check in at the convention was easy, mostly because by that point everyone was already registered and after 27 years they all know me pretty well. I went right to the miniatures room where I met up with the Battletech people I usually hang with. The afternoon game was run by Mike, but I spent most of the game “casually disinterested” as I walked around the table and game room catching up with people. At one point during the game I was going to miss my turn, but the players on the opposing team saw me taking pictures of some stuff so they took my turn for me. They probably did better than I would have.
Later in the game when my team really started to need to pay attention we raised our alertness level to “moderately engaged”. It didn’t help, we lost. Eh, it wasn’t that important anyway.
I spent the two hour dinner break catching up with more people, including Wes Carpenter, one of the founders of the convention and one of the very few (three, we think) that has been around since the first year. It’s great talking to Wes, and the funny thing is I should get to do it more often since we live less than five miles apart, but it’s just one of those things that never gets to happen I guess.
My wife and I also went into the dealer’s room to see what was going on there, and after making our yearly purchase from the folks at The Dragon’s Lair I wandered about the game dealers looking at all the new cool boardgames that have come out recently. There were a couple I was thinking about, but the retails on some of these games are pretty high so unless I absolutely have to have it I generally pass. And I don’t absolutely have to have any of them. (Although I did look one up on Amazon and it was 38% off there, so maybe over the summer).
The evening slot was the game I was running, and in my event I took a different course and decided to challenge the players by setting a scenario in conditions the players would not be used to: darkness. When players are forced to use their mech’s spotlights different tactics come into play, and one team figured it out a little quicker than the other and they we the victors. Our hour ride home, which we expected to be in the snow at some point, was uneventful as it was rain until we were within a mile of our house.
I’m already making plans for next year, and hopefully everything will be back to normal and I’ll get the four days in again.
I mentioned above taking some pictures, and here are a few of them…
This is Mike M.’s Battletech event. He always has cool 3D maps.
This is Circus Maximum, a board game that the convention has morphed into a miniatures game using Legos. It’s a pretty cool game, although the players were far too quiet this year.
This is Car Wars, which every year is run on Saturday night and I keep saying I’m going to try and I never do. On Friday night they had a massive game where it was cars taking on an 18 wheeler full of weapons. Kind of bummed I missed that.
This was some sort of a game where the players were hunting King Kong. The picture does not do the table any justice, it was incredibly cool looking. The best part of this game was a young man, maybe aged 10, that would throw his arms up in the air like he just scored a Stanley Cup winning goal every time he was successful during his turn.
I have no idea what either of these two games were, nor were there really anyone playing them, but they looked cool so I took a picture of them.
The following pics are all of Warhammer 40k games. I know nothing about the game other than they have really cool set ups.
As I kind of figured would happen when I saw the list of new releases in Science fiction for January, for the first time in a very long while I didn’t buy a single book in a month. I finished The Red Wolf Conspiracy, the first book in the “The Chathrand Voyage Quartet” by Robert V.S. Redick and am now reading the second book in the series, The Ruling Sea. It’s an interesting series that combines lots of political intrigue with an odd style of magic, with these odd tangents that Redick has thrown in that always seem to come together in some very unsuspecting ways. Oh, and some animals talk. I won’t tell you why, but it works. And I couldn’t figure out why the Ixchel were fearing giants no one else could apparently see. The reason why snuck by me for awhile. I won’t tell you what that is either.
After The Red Wolf Conspiracy I jumped into Covert Warriors, the seventh book in W.E.B. Griffin’s “The Presidential Agent” series. The last two books of the series, along with a couple from his other series, were obviously not written by him but were instead penned by his son William E. Butterworth IV. Having read many of Griffin’s novels I am very familiar with his writing style, and while Butterworth comes close it’s just not the same. You can add the fact that Griffin’s normal manner of writing consists of a large story arc captured in a single novel and several smaller arcs that run through the entire series. Covert Warriors, along with Victory and Honor from the “Honor Bound” series, read like half a book with many recap scenes used as filler instead new material driving the story. But I’ll keep buying them anyway…
The next book I read was The Columbus Affair by Steve Berry. The book falls outside his normal “Cotton Malone” series, but follows his standard theme of taking a historical event from the past and having his characters searching for the particular item/fact about the event that has been lost to mankind since. Berry is never going to win a Pulitzer, but his books are fun and have all been pretty good reads. Each one is well researched, and contain a complete “Author’s note” in the back to explain what is real and what Berry fictionalized for the novel.
It looks like another lean month for book buying as only one novel on the February release schedule, Age of Voodoo by James Lovegrove, caught my eye. I’ve also been loaned a copy of Derek Sanderson’s autobiography Crossing The Line, so that will probably be next to be read. It’s still possible I may stumble into something I don’t know is coming out, but it’s looking like I may get my to-read shelf down a little.
I know what you’re thinking…”what’s this hockey stuff doing on his non-hockey blog?”. Well, I’m going to tell you. Both the lists of active former Worcester Sharks and San Jose Sharks ended up on Sharkspage, but while I posted the IceCats list there last season it didn’t seem like it belonged. So, since this space is all mine I decided it belonged here.
Below is a list every former player for the Worcester IceCats still playing pro hockey, and where they are playing this season. The teams that are listed are the highest level a player had played this season. Back-up goaltenders and other players that were signed but did not appear in games are not listed. When you consider the last IceCats game was played in the 2005-2006 season, there are still a lot of guys playing. This list is accurate as of Sunday, January 27, 2013.
Jason Bacashihua – Straubing Tigers (DEL)
Christian Backman – Vastra Frolunda HC (SEL)
Lubos Bartecko – Prague Lev (KHL)
Radim Bicanek – Brno Kometa (Czech)
Brendan Brooks – Iserlohn Roosters (DEL)
Ed Campbell – Quad City Mallards (CHL)
Ivan Ciernik – Hannover Scorpions (DEL)
Dale Clarke – Tappara Tampere (SM-liiga)
Daniel Corso – Minsk Dynamo (KHL)
Greg Day – Graz EC (Austria)
Jon DiSalvatore – Hershey Bears (AHL)
Brian Fahey – Chekhov Vityaz (KHL)
Trevor Gillies – Chekhov Vityaz (KHL)
Mike Glumac – Mannheim Eagles (DEL)
Michal Handzus – San Jose Sharks (NHL)
Ernie Hartlieb – Florida Everblades (ECHL)
Jochen Hecht – Buffalo Sabres (NHL)
Bryan Helmer – Springfield Falcons (AHL)
Jeff Hoggan – Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)
Barret Jackman – St. Louis Blues (NHL)
Aaron MacKenzie – Denver Cutthroats (CHL)
Jamal Mayers – Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
Jay McClement – Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
Mike Mottau – Toronto Marlies (AHL)
Ladislav Nagy – Modo Hockey Ornskoldsvik (SEL)
Jaroslav Obsut – Moscow Spartak (KHL)
Phil Osaer – Cardiff Devils (EIHL)
Robert Petrovicky – Brno Kometa (Czech)
Jame Pollock – Nuermberg Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers (DEL)
Libor Prochazka – Kladno (Czech)
Erkki Rajamaki – Ilves Tampere (SM-liiga)
Ryan Ramsay – Ritten Renon (Italy)
Tomaz Razinger – Ravensburg Tower Stars (2.GBun)
Marty Reasoner – New York Islanders (NHL)
Arvid Rekis – Riga Dynamo (KHL)
Bryce Salvador – New Jersey Devils (NHL)
Curtis Sanford – Yaroslavl Lokomotiv (KHL)
Peter Sejna – Rapperswil-Jona (Swiss-A)
Shayne Toporowski – Quad City Mallards (CHL)
Sergei Varlamov – Donbass HC (KHL)
Patrick Wellar – Hershey Bears (AHL)
Alex Westlund – Heilbronn Falcons (2.GBun)
Dennis Wideman – Calgary Flames (NHL)
Jeremy Yablonski – Chekhov Vityaz (KHL)
After finally managing to finish Land of the Burning Sands by Rachel Neumeier I went right into Who I Am by Pete Townshend of The Who, and it was an interesting look back at his own life through his memories. As with most autobiographies, I wonder how much of what Townshend recalls is really how things actually occurred. I would have preferred Townshend write a memoir like David Crosby did in Long Time Gone, where Crosby pens his recollections of incidents while having others also write about those stories from their points of view. Not so surprisingly, Crosby’s drug-hazed memories seldom told the whole story. Who I am is still a great book though, but it could have been better.
Once I finished Who I Am I did a complete change of gears and read Steelhands by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett. They’ve written an odd series called “The Volstovic Cycle” that at times I’m not certain I’ve liked, and yet every time a new book is released in paperback I unhesitatingly buy it. Steelhands is by far the best of the four, making me actually care about some of the newer characters as much as I did about many of the older ones, and it nicely wraps up the two major story lines from their book. It will be interesting to see what direction, if any, they take the series now with very few loose ends left to untangle.
In an oddity, Jones and Bennett have the absolute worst web presence of any “major” authors, with an official site that hasn’t been updated in years. They have a tumblr blog, which someone should whisper in their ears is a poor way to inform potential fans about their previous works. They also have a facebook page, which again is not a good substitute for a professionally run website.
As I mentioned in last month’s posting one of the books I was waiting for Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector. Clancy is one of the very few authors whose books I buy in hardcover, usually on the day it comes out. It, of course, jumped right to the top of the “to read’ stack and Threat Vector didn’t disappoint. Clancy has lost a little on his fastball since the days of The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising, but with some input from co-author Mark Greaney Clancy again hits the mark with Threat Vector.
In talking about Threat Vector a friend mentioned something about the reviews on Amazon (which if you read my post about Amazon you know I never read) that claimed that most of the “5 star” reviews were likely phony reviews from bots. While I may be a phony, I’m not a bot. Five stars.
The last book for 2012 I read was Spellbound by Larry Correia, which is Book II of “The Grimnoir Chronicles”. If you’re not reading this and his “Monster Hunter” series, you should be. Both are well written series that push the limits of what “standard” modern fantasy novels work upon. Set in the pulp fiction era “The Grimnoir Chronicles” adds an interesting twist to magic and how people come about having powers. I don’t want to give anything away because it might ruin the series to know what’s really happening, but check out the first book Hard Magic and then Spellbound. You won’t be disappointed.
Right now I’m reading The Red Wolf Conspiracy, the first book in the “The Chathrand Voyage Quartet” by Robert V.S. Redick. I’m about a third of the way through, and so far it’s pretty good. I already have the second book, The Ruling Sea, so it’s a pretty good bet I’ll be continuing with the series. Before I get to the second one I have Covert Warriors by W.E.B. Griffin and The Columbus Affair by Steve Berry to get to. Both I just purchased and jumped them ahead in the “to read” pile.
I saw the list of expected science fiction/fantasy novels for January, but nothing really caught my eye. It’s always different when you can pick up the book and actually look at it though. I still haven’t rediscovered listings for future releases in other genres, so I’m hoping to be surprised over the next few weeks.