Some random book thoughts for February 2014

Just like in my January post I write this one as a snowstorm rages on outside my window, with several unfinished posts in my queue. One of my goals should be post actually finish some of them so there’s more than one or two postings a month here. Alas, the best laid plans…

I stated off last month with The Spirit War by Rachel Aaron, the continuation of her “Legend of Eli Monpress” series. Unlike the first three books of the series The Spirit War is a huge tome in the trade paperback format. When I asked Miss Aaron via twitter if the book (and the next) was ever going to be released in mass-market edition she said it wouldn’t be because they were the size of a phone book. And then she actually apologized for that. Well, I’m the one that was sorry in the long run because I waited so long to read it.

Unlike many longer books there isn’t a ton of wasted space in The Spirit War. It’s pretty full of new content, with just enough rehashing of the first three books to help remind readers what transpired and to help new readers along with the plot. The story is a good one, moves at a decent pace, and while the cliffhanger is telegraphed a little bit it does set up the next book very well.

And the next book, Spirit’s End picks right up where The Spirit War ends, almost as if the two are one very long book. If you tried to read Spirit’s End without at least reading The Spirit War you’d be totally lost. The story takes a bit of a turn in Spirit’s End, but all of the major plots (and most of the minor ones) are tied together nicely in the inevitable ending confrontation that includes all the major characters still alive. It’s a well thought out ending, and one that could very easily have happened given the circumstances. Only I didn’t like it very much.

The book (and series) is great, but the final conclusion wasn’t what I was hoping for. Rachel Aaron went out of her way to avoid the stereotypical fantasy ending but I think strayed off the path a little too far. It’s not like the ending doesn’t make sense, it most certainly does. It just didn’t do it for me. I gave both The Spirit War and Spirit’s End five stars on Goodreads and they absolutely deserve that, but I have lots of questions about what possibly happens next (which I won’t share here because it would spoil the previous books). Of course, a sixth book might answer those questions…

Then in a complete changing of the gears I went away from the fantasy genre to Empire and Honor, the seventh book in the “Honor Bound” series by W.E.B. Griffin. The previous book, Victory and Honor, was basically half a book as it rehashed the first five books multiple times and jumped so far ahead in the time line World War II was essentially over. In Empire and Honor the war is indeed over, and it deals with the dismantling of the OSS in both Europe and South America. The plot moves along OK, but nothing really happens for most of the book. It’s just contrived occurrence after occurrence heading in no real direction until the last 40 pages or so. The final encounter of the book is a total letdown, and in fact ends basically in the middle of the action, such as it was, as if several pages are missing.

Griffin’s son, William E. Butterworth III, has taken over many of Griffin’s series and is listed as co-author, but it’s pretty clear that Griffin has very little to do with most of the current running series. Reading the older books you can see the current writing style is close but the content is far from Griffin’s heyday. It’s a shame too, because it’s alienating many longtime readers.

The next book I picked up was The King’s Deception by Steve Berry, but after being just a couple pages in I accidentally left the book in my car as my wife went off to work one morning. Looking for something quick to read I grabbed Allegiance in Exile by David R. George, a “Star Trek: The Original Series” pulp-style novel, off the to-read shelf. This was the last of the $1 paperbacks I had bought recently, and with the other two being pretty bad I wasn’t expecting much other than it being a time killer.

I was surprised at how good the book was. I mean, it was really good. It didn’t have much in the way of the standard ST:TOS crap that was in the first two books contained (other than McCoy not liking the transporters, which I always find amusing) and really delved into Sulu as a character as opposed to a caricature. It was a good, well developed story that was never as “over the top” as many of the Star trek novels are. It looked at things a little differently than those books, and his treatment of Captain Kirk as a regular person as opposed to a larger than life hero was refreshing.

Then I got back to The King’s Deception, which like most of Berry’s books uses historical facts and twists them a tad to come up with modern stories relating to those twists. The King’s Deception deals with the Tudor era of the British monarchy, and specifically with the end of the reign of Henry VIII and on to the Elizabethan era. Without spoiling the plot, the story weighs heavily (and mentions and credits) a book by Bram Stoker entitled Famous Impostors. I already knew of the story Berry’s book was based off of, but it didn’t hurt my enjoyment of it.

One thing I really enjoy about Berry’s books is he clearly indicates what is real history and what he fictionalizes in his writer’s notes at the end. I’ve often times gone back and reread some of the chapters in his book armed with the knowledge now that something there is fictionalized. It’s a testament to how good a writer he is by the fact that many times I can’t tell until he mentions what’s not real.

January is traditionally a slow month for new stuff, and I didn’t find anything interesting to pick up. The list for science fiction/fantasy for February doesn’t look all that promising either. I probably won’t get much reading done this month as hockey and TotalCon take up much of time free time. Right now I’m reading The Corpse-Rat King by Lee Battersby. More on that next month.

Until next time…


Some random book thoughts for January 2014

I’d been hoping to get to completing a few posts I stared over the last month or so, but other commitments and the pesky holiday season got in the way. It’s amazing that I get a lot of time off from work between Christmas and New Year’s and still manage to not have enough hours to get anything I want done. So with the remnants of a raging snowstorm taking place outside my window here’s a look at my book thoughts for January.

As I mentioned last month the book I had just stated was Sir Apropos of Nothing by Peter David as I waited for an opening my schedule to grab Clancy’s new tome. For those unfamiliar with Peter David’s work, to call him “odd” would neither be a negative nor an insult. His sarcastic wit and dry sense of humor spring forth in everything he writes, and Sir Apropos of Nothing is full of both. His take on the fantasy genre is exactly what you’d expect from him, and the plot twist at the end is unexpected and extremely humorous, fitting the book perfectly.

Finally, after several failed attempts I was able to pick up what might be the final Tom Clancy written “Jack Ryan” novel, Command Authority. It’s a shame that Clancy passed when he did–not that any time is a good time–because in this book he finally got his fastball back and Command Authority was reminiscent of his earlier Ryan books. It was fast paced without the action being forced, and didn’t rely on gimmicks nor phony plot twists to keep the story going. It was vintage Clancy. I’m hoping Mark Greaney, who co-wrote the book, will be able to continue the “Jack Ryan” series as he seems to have a good feel for the characters. It won’t be the same though.

Up next was The Woad to Wuin, the sequel to Sir Apropos of Nothing, and while it was a good book David missed the mark on a lot of stuff. He was poking fun at sequels, and the opening chapter is an absolutely great take off of The Lord of the Rings that is legitimately laugh-out-loud funny. Unfortunately, the rest of the book misses the mark a little. There are some scenes that will make you chuckle, but about a third of the way through the book takes a wild turn and just stumbles after itself from that point forward. The ending is predictable. The Woad to Wuin suffers from what a lot of other books do; the author sets the bar so high in the first book it’s almost impossible to reach it in the second book. And in The Woad to Wuin, David doesn’t. It’s still good enough to recommend though, just make sure you’ve read Sir Apropos of Nothing first.

The next two books I read were Sanctus and The Key by Simon Toyne. I grabbed them both because I’m a sucker for the “Church is hiding something” genre that has popped up since The Da Vinci Code was a big hit. In Sanctus Toyne follows most of the formula, although in his story the main location is a mountain called “The Citadel” in the fictional City-State of Ruin in South Eastern Turkey, as opposed to puicking real sites and then assigning fictional meanings to their locations. For most of Sanctus Toyne really doesn’t do anything new, he just tells the well know story of “they’re hiding something and we’re going to find out what it is” a little differently than others. The key, no pun intended, is what the “Sacrament” the Sancti of the Citadel are hiding. That truly is what makes Toyne’s story different.

The Key is a direct sequel of Sanctus, picking up just days after the events at the end of the first book take place. The Key follows the standard formula a lot closer than the first book, but that’s mostly because of the paths Toyne has set for his main characters. There’s a third book, called The Tower, which is not in paperback yet but I am anxiously waiting for its release.

Just before the new year kicked off I started The Spirit War by Rachel Aaron, so undoubtedly I’ll have more on that book next time.

Other then the Clancy book I didn’t buy anything else in the month of December as I decided, as I usually do, to generally avoid stores at all costs. On New Year’s Day I did swing by the book store are picked up The King’s Deception by Steve Berry and Empire and Honor by W.E.B. Griffin. Neither of those will be on the to-read shelf very long. As for new stuff coming out, I’m going to take a look at Dragon’s Wild by Robert Asprin. Other than that I didn’t see anything that was a “must buy”, but I do always seem to find something.

Until next time…

Some random book thoughts for March 2013

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.