What I read last year (2015)

As I do every January, here’s a recap of everything I read last year. With multiple projects going on last year taking time away from reading and blogging my page count is way down from 2014, and there aren’t any reviews/comments about the vast majority of these books. Because this blog won’t exclusively be about books anymore that means my “Random book thoughts” postings will go back to being what they once were, brief reviews of what I read last month. Those postings will (probably) return at the beginning of February.

The Soldier Spies (W.E.B. Griffin) …415
The Fighting Agents (W.E.B. Griffin) …438
The Saboteurs (W.E.B. Griffin) …497
The Double Agents (W.E.B. Griffin) …463
The Spymasters (W.E.B. Griffin) …447
Hazardous Duty (W.E.B. Griffin) …448
Orr: My story (Bobby Orr) …290
Chasing the Bear (Robert Parker) …169
Silent Night (Robert Parker) …230
Act of War (Brad Thor) …358
Dragons Wild (Robert Asprin) …360
Dragons Luck (Robert Asprin) …369
The Ascendant (Drew Chapman) …510
The Edinburgh Dead (Brian Ruckley) …354
The Burning Room (Michael Connelly) …388
Monster Hunter: Nemesis (Larry Correia) …502
Cheap Shot (Ace Akins) …370
The Rebirths of Tao (Wesley Chu) …508
Runner (Patrick Lee) …385
Rasputin’s Shadow (Raymond Khoury) …517
Dragons Deal (Jody Lynn Nye) …385
Blood of Tyrants (Naomi Novik) …500
Dragons Run (Jody Lynn Nye) …406
Across the Face of the World (Russell Kirkpatrick) …721
Top Secret (W.E.B. Griffin) …541
One Rough Man (Brad Taylor) …417
All Necessary Force (Brad Taylor) …383
Enemy of Mine (Brad Taylor) …534
The Widow’s Strike (Brad Taylor) …518
The Polaris Protocol (Brad Taylor) …534
Days of Rage (Brad Taylor) …515
X (Sue Grafton) …403
In the Earth Abides the Flame (Russell Kirkpatrick) …670
The Right Hand of God (Russell Kirkpatrick) …687
Red Sparrow (Jason Matthews) …563
The Falcon Throne (Karen Miller) …706
Requiem (Ken Scholes) …398
I Am Pilgrim (Terry Hayes) …791
The Lies of Locke Lamora (Scott Lynch) …722
The Assassination Option (W.E.B Griffin) …478


Week in review, week ending 2/15/15

In a feature I started a few months ago, and then stopped a couple weeks ago, my “Week in review” postings begin once again, this time on Monday morning as opposed to Sunday afternoon. For those that are new to my “Week in Review” postings, the following is a list of the blog posts I made last week, a few of the posts from people I follow that I thought were pretty good, and then lastly other posts I’ve stumbled into that folks might like to take a look at. Presuming I did it right all links will open new windows/tabs. Usually I link back to the previous “Week in review” post, but we’ll start fresh today.

From me this week there was…
On Monday I posted my Some random book thoughts for February 2015, Wednesday saw the continuation of my top 5 movie countdown with My top 5 favorite westerns: #2 The Shootist, and Friday saw my review of Hazardous Duty by W.E.B. Griffin, the lowest rating I’ve given a book since I started reviews here.

From the folks I follow…
The Credible Hulk takes a look at Comic Book History: Batman: The Killing Joke. If I had to list my top ten comics ever, Batman: The Killing Joke easily makes that list. Plus it’s Alan Moore and Brian Bolland, it almost had to be great.
Not The Baseball Pitcher has a music video of 2Cellos & Lang Lang: Live and Let Die. Those 2Cellos guys really rock it.

Some stuff I stumbled into…
Polinankbooksreview has a nice review of Dan Brown’s Inferno.
The Grimdark Review has a Interview: Mark Lawrence- What’s Next?. I have Lawrence’s Broken Empire Trilogy sitting on my to-read shelf.

Not a lot of “stumbled into” stuff this week because I avoided everything even remotely related to Valentine’s Day or 50 Shades.

Links do not indicate an endorsement of the ideas presented, only that I thought the posting was worth taking a look at.

Random Review: Hazardous Duty by W.E.B. Griffin

This review contains mild spoilers.

Book Name: Hazardous Duty
Author: W.E.B. Griffin (with William E. Butterworth IV)
Series: #8 in the ongoing “Presidential Agent” series
Format(s): Hardcover/Mass market paperback/audiobook/eBook
Genre(s): Thriller
Original Release Date: December 31, 2013

Rating: 3/10

Before I started my run through all of the series written by W.E.B. Griffin that I hadn’t read yet the latest “new” book of his I’d read was Empire and Honor, which was the latest in the “Honor Bound” series set during World War Two in South America. That book was a major disappointment because in its 670-odd pages there was a significant amount of flashback scenes that made it just about half of a new book. I was hoping in Hazardous Duty Griffin and his son, who has obviously taken over writing all the books, would get back to what made all the Griffin books so good.

They didn’t. Instead what we have in Hazardous Duty is a book where there is virtually no hazardous duty. What the whole book breaks down to is main protagonist, Colonel Charley Castillo, doing nothing but spending tax dollars dodging his assignments. Literally nothing else happens that matters in the book. I rated it a three out of ten instead of lower because what is there, a touch of political intrigue and an interesting history lesson that could have taken ten pages but instead lasts about a quarter of the book, was written rather well. It just goes to show that this could have been a good book had Griffin and Butterworth bothered to try to write one.

Usually the cover of a book is at least marginally representative of something in the plot, but I can’t recall a single scene where that cover image would come into play. Reading the back of the book a reader would note that because the story allegedly includes Somali pirates that type of boat would likely be used by the good guys. Only there’s hardly anything about Somali pirates in Hazardous Duty. The blurb on the back also mentions Mexican drug cartels. Not too many of those in the story either.

There is an author’s note at the end by Griffin saying he wrote the book is the same style as his “M*A*S*H*” books. I think that note was written just to excuse how bad the book is because not once did the thought of this being anything like his “M*A*S*H*” books came to my mind. Hazardous Duty is nothing but a plotless money-grab of a novel. Griffin should be embarrassed his name is associated with the book.

If you’re someone that needs to read every single book of an author or a series then I’d say go ahead and buy the book second-hand somewhere to save some money. If you’re just looking for something good to read, look elsewhere.

Some random book thoughts for February 2015

Well, we’ve once again hit a new month and I still don’t have a clue what I’ll be writing about each month in my “Random book thoughts” monthly posting. Now add to that I had to take a quick vacation from blogging due to almost five feet of snow falling over the last two weeks (and as I post this it’s snowing again) and then a huge back-up of other things going on and what we’re going to get is, well, me just typing and seeing what I mash out when I’m done. It’s worked well the last few months so hopefully the trend continues. For those that care, you can read last month’s thoughts right here.

Despite doing this blogging thing for a long while I’m still trying to find a schedule that works for me and attracts more readers. If there was such a record for most followers with the least amount of page views I’m betting I’d be in the running. I’m averaging about 15% of my follower total as page views, and that seems incredibly low to me. When you figure in almost no comments I’m thinking I must be doing something to drive people away, but for the life of me I can’t figure what it is. While my goal is to eventually figure it all out in the end I really just write this for myself, so even if just one other person reads and likes it I guess I’m doing OK.

What’s odd to me is over on the sports blog I started in January I have no followers that don’t look like spammers but my page views are through the roof just from Facebook and twitter links. Again, not many comments on the blog but many via social media. Go figure.

I finally finished my run through W.E.B. Griffin’s books now that I’ve completed all his “Men at War” series and then topped it off with the latest in the “Presidential Agent” series Hazardous Duty. I’ll have a review of that book up shortly, along with a review of some of the other series of Griffin’s I finished but didn’t write individual reviews for. In the menu on the right you can see from the Goodreads widget I’ve read a few books since I last posted, and I will have reviews of all of them coming up. I’ve wandered back into the fantasy genre for the next few, and foresee a long run of those coming up. Of course that might change in two weeks, because that’s how I do things.

As I type this I’m thinking my usual summer of picking one writer and reading all their stuff might be an issue in page views. It’s cool to finally catch up on an author I hadn’t read before or was way being in their books, but perhaps readers here don’t want to keep hearing about it. May have to figure out some stuff for the warmer months to keep people interested.

While there was nothing new in the science fiction/fantasy genre I was looking for I did stumble into a few books (shocking, I know) in January. I picked up Runner by Patrick Lee, Rasputin’s Shadow by Raymond Khoury, and Act of War by Brad Thor. I also got the two Robert Parker “Spenser” books I didn’t have, the young adult story Chasing the Bear that was given to me by my buddy Stan, and when I mentioned I didn’t have Silent Night either he said he had a copy and lent it to me.

For new stuff in February I know Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia is a “must buy”, but I also saw listed Elementary: The Ghost Line by Adam Christopher, which is based off the TV series of the same name. I really like the show and I’m tempted to buy the book too, although the track record of books based on TV shows is poor at best. I won’t be making many treks to the bookstore this month because of a few projects going on and TotalCon at the end of the month. I’m sure I’ll still find a way to add stuff to my collection.

Week in review, week ending 1/25/15

For those that are new to my “Week in Review” postings, the following is a list of the blog posts I made over the last week, a few of the posts from people I follow that I thought were pretty good, and then lastly other posts I’ve stumbled into that folks might like to take a look at. Presuming I did it right all links will open new windows/tabs. In case you missed it, here’s last week’s post.

From me this week there was…
On Monday I asked What makes a good character? and Wednesday saw the continuation of the countdown of my five favorite westerns with #3 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. WordPress ate my Friday post, so that will make an appearance sometime later. I also had a couple posts over on 210Sports.

From the folks I follow…
Blondewritemore has a humorous list of Useful tips on how to survive being married to a blogger. I need to send that link to my wife…
The Talkative Writer (AKA Karen Miller) has a feature called Spotlight on … Terry Pratchett. For some reason I was hesitant to add her posts to my links before. No idea why. Now that I have take some time and look at her older posts. Some great stuff there. (I should add a link to her blog to the menu on the right too).
Drunken Dragon Reviews looks at one of sci-fi’s great books, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. Classic story that still reads well today.
The Credible Hulk has Comic Book Bios: Barbara Gordon (Batgirl I / Oracle). I have a very nice copy of Detective Comics #359. I’m a huge Carmine Infantino fan.

Some stuff I stumbled into…
Lizzyreadsbooks talks about The authors who write really awesome female characters. Good list there.
OKPotato has Top 5 Female Protagonists: Pantheon Candidates. Check out their #1. My readers will see something familiar.

Links do not indicate an endorsement of the ideas presented, only that I thought the posting was worth taking a look at.

What makes a good character?

I started this post as “What makes a good hero?” with the idea that I would do a follow-up later this week called “What makes a good hero?”. The only problem was that as I started typing I realized that the posts would be almost identical, and then not very long at that. To me what makes a good hero also hold true for villains, and it’s something that for me is really important for every character in any fiction story: they have to be believable.

If I can’t believe in what a character is doing, good or bad, than for me that’s not a good character. It annoys me to no end when an author can’t have characters doing logical things based on what the character has done previously. I see that as a sign of a lazy author. It’s as if they had a story idea but couldn’t come up with a reason why a character would do that action, so they just have them do it for some random reason. Even the most evil person doesn’t do things randomly, there’s always needs to be a reason for what they’re going. Just doing stuff to do stuff is poor writing in my opinion.

Authors having characters do (or think) things for no apparent reason is unfortunately pretty common in the mystery/crime genre. Suddenly out of the blue the protagonist will make this jump in logic that reveals the antagonist in what turns out to be a rushed ending that rarely follows the path the author was originally taking. You’ll see that the established writers rarely fall into that trap, and very often an author’s first book, which has likely been rewritten numerous times, seldom has that problem. But in the second book it creeps into the plot an awful lot.

So now I ask you, what in your mind makes a good character?

Week in review, week ending 1/18/15

For those that are new to my “Week in Review” postings, the following is a list of the blog posts I made over the last week, a few of the posts from people I follow that I thought were pretty good, and then lastly other posts I’ve stumbled into that folks might like to take a look at. Presuming I did it right all links will open new windows/tabs. In case you missed it, here’s last week’s post.

From me this week there was…
Monday I had A look back: “Kushiel’s Legacy” by Jacqueline Carey, Wednesday saw My top 5 favorite westerns: #4 The Magnificent Seven, and Friday another one of those “question” posts with ‘Bout This Blogger. I also had a couple posts over on 210Sports.

From the folks I follow…
Thoughtfultomes has her Top 5 Pirate Novels. I’ve only read two of her choices (#1 and #3), and liked them both.
Blondwritemore has The power of a ‘Chick Flick’ film. My wife loves every movie listed there, so that must mean something.
The Credible Hulk with his Top 5 Let Downs of 2014. I never gave thought to such a list. May be a back-burner thing for this year. He also has a great post Comic Speculation – The Fall of the Industry. I used to buy ton of comics, but haven’t bought any in years.

Some stuff I stumbled into…
No time this week for stumbling into stuff, hopefully I’ll do better next week.

Links do not indicate an endorsement of the ideas presented, only that I thought the posting was worth taking a look at.

‘Bout This Blogger

Was sent this list of questions by a friend via email, and despite me asking when people send me stuff to include where it came from this one didn’t include the original site. If this was your list let me know and I’ll happily add a link to your blog/post.

1. Why did you start blogging?
I started blogging a very long time ago when I was covering the first American Hockey League team to call my city its home, the Worcester IceCats. I used to make longish posts on a couple for hockey forums when I was approached by a friend to write for his site. I did that, and pretty much from that point on I’ve had at least two different blogs I wrote for. Right now, I have three: this one, Sharkspage.com where I cover the Worcester Sharks, and on New Year’s day I started 210Sports which is all sports.

2. What’s the story behind your blog’s name?
It’s “Random thoughts of 210Darryl” because that’s what it was originally going to be; just a spot where I blogged about whatever crossed my mind. From lack of posting about anything else it sort of morphed into a blog where I wrote solely about books, but now I’m heading back toward the “Random” part with posts about movies and eventually it will likely settle on mostly entertainment based stuff.

3. How many designs have you been through since you started blogging? (Pictures! We demand pictures!)
On WordPress I’ve had two. The current one I use is called “The Big Brother Theme”. I just scrolled through the free themes trying to figure out which one my old one was, but I couldn’t find it. I remember the font being a lot smaller and in general the theme being a lot “blockier”. I like this current one so odds are good I’ll be sticking with it. 210Sports uses the “The Penscratch Theme”. I like that one a lot too.

4. Have you ever switched blog platforms? What made you move? If you haven’t ever changed…why?
For the “free” sites, I switched once. My wife and I had a blog on Blogger, and when we virtually stopped blogging there I switched to this one on WordPress, where unless something drastically changes I’ll be staying. For the hosted blogs I’ve written for they were whatever the owner was using, although almost all of them have switched to the WordPress platform.

5. How long does it take you to write a post? What’s your postly process like?
It really depends. Lots of times I just start writing and see what I end up with. I usually have a half dozen unfinished posts in the draft folder, and then edit them slowly into something I eventually either post or discard. The easiest posts are my “week in review” ones, where I just copy the links of stuff I liked over the week. As a whole a post here takes a few days from start to posting, although it’s 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there.

6. Have you ever been super nervous about a post? Why? What was it?
No, not really. I post what I want and if no one likes it, that’s fine. But I always figure if I was interested enough to write it folks somewhere will be interested enough to read it.

7. Do you have a blogging schedule?
In theory it’s Monday/Wednesday/Friday/Sunday here, and Tuesday/Thursday plus the occasional “special” post over on 210Sports. On Sharkspage it’s postgame, usually the morning after. I don’t get all bothered if I miss a day because something came up, but I do get annoyed with myself if it’s just laziness that caused me to miss a day.

8. Do you tell people In-Real-Life about your blog? Their reactions?
Everyone knows. I post links on my Facebook and Twitter pages, and talk about it whenever anyone asks. In fact, as I noted above, this post and a few like it were emailed to me by friends knowing I’d likely use them in a posting. I am careful not to bother people about blogging that I know wouldn’t be interested.

9. Top ten blogs you read/comment on the most! Go! Go!
There’s a partial listing in the right margin. That list changes every so often, so make sure to take note of the new ones!

10. If you could change/improve things about your blog, what would they be?
I get lots of comments on Facebook and Twitter but very few on the actual posts here. I guess the one change I’d like is to have those comments show up here. I’ve noticed that no one seems to like to be the first to comment, but once there’s one several often follow it.

A look back: Kushiel’s Legacy by Jacqueline Carey

This posting contains no spoilers.

With Tor Books rereleasing the original Kushiel trilogy in the trade paperback format starting Tuesday (January 13) with Kushiel’s Dart, I thought this would be a good time for me to point out how important this series was to me as a reader. As I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that before picking up both Kushiel’s Dart and Kushiel’s Chosen by Jacqueline Carey I generally didn’t read books by female authors. It wasn’t that I refused to for some made up reason I’d come up with to justify that fact, I just didn’t. At that point in my reading I read mostly thrillers and “harder” science fiction, and even today those are two genres dominated by male authors.

I clearly remember the day I bought those two books too. My wife and I were at BJ’s Wholesale club doing some shopping and I always spent time looking at the books they had. Back then they had a huge selection of not only best sellers but other stuff that bookstores would consider “stock”. Looking through the stacks of newer stuff I’d grabbed a couple things, and as I moved down the tables I saw they had stacks of stuff that were just tossed together. On top of one stack was The Wayfarer Redemption and Enchanter by Sara Douglas, and the stack next to it was Kushiel’s Dart.

I have no idea why I picked Kushiel’s Dart off the stack. The cover, while gorgeous, is not something that at the time indicated it would be something I’d like to read. And yet, I did pick it up and read the back. What it said had me hooked:

The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good…and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission…and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair…and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.

Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel’s Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.

It went right into my cart. Kushiel’s Chosen was under it in the stack, so I grabbed that one too. Then I picked up the two Douglass’ books and added tem to the cart. I then spent a half hour (or more) going through all the piles of books, but nothing else made it into my cart that day.

I soon learned there was a third book out for the series in hardcover called Kushiel’s Avatar, and as I like to read series all together I put the two I had on my to-read shelf (which at the time was really just a shelf, it was not the bookcase filled list it is today). Within a few days of Kushiel’s Avatar coming out in paperback I started the series. I couldn’t put them down.

Kushiel’s Dart is a tough read, I believe mostly because Carey didn’t have the experience of writing novels to know some of the things she could have done better. It’s still a very good book, and the lessons she obviously learned writing it are clearly evident in Kushiel’s Chosen and Kushiel’s Avatar. Those three books, called the “Phedre Trilogy”, rank up there with the best fantasy stories ever written.

The second three books are called the “Imriel Trilogy”, and without spoiling any of the plots of the first three books cover events that (obviously) take place after the first trilogy, and continue along the plotlines of the first three books centering around Imriel instead of Phedre being the main character. They are every bit as good as the first three. The (so far) final three books are refereed to as the “Moirin Trilogy”, and while good they don’t approach the first six books in quality. They’re set far in the future from the other two trilogies and in my opinion lost a lot of the magic the first six books had. Despite that fact if Carey announced a new trilogy in the universe I’d unhesitatingly purchase it.

I highly recommend this series, and now with the rerelease of the books they’ll be easy to find. The new covers look a lot more like 50 Shades of Grey as opposed to the same flavor as the older covers, which I suspect will cause some consternation from fans of the series (to say why will spoil some of the plotlines), but the new covers are fine with me. It will, hopefully, get more people to enjoy this series.