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 December 2013

So off we go on December’s book thoughts…

After a couple of starts and stops (some of which I described last month) I finally had time to restart King Breaker by Rowena Cory Daniels. It’s the conclusion of the “King Rolen’s Kin” series and picks up right where the third book, The Usurper, ends. It was three years between the release dates of the books and it was worth the wait. The ending is almost anticlimactic, with the final battle between the two main protagonists taking less than a single page. Looking back on the entire story the “winner” really doesn’t win anything he wants, which is what the four book series is ultimately about. Daniels ties up most of the lose ends of the story very well, although it wouldn’t take much for a new series taking place afterward to emerge. One can only hope…

Next up was Swords of Exodus by Larry Correia and Mike Kupari. It’s the continuation of the story they started in Dead Six, and while it contained much of the same flavor as the first book it was nowhere near as good. It was a no better than the average action-adventure story, and when you consider how good Correia’s other series are it really missed its mark. The plot was little more than an excuse to write about multiple killings by the heroes and brought absolutely nothing new to the table. To be blunt, I expected better from Correia.

Having finished Swords of Exodus I was looking for something quick to read while I waited for Tom Clancy’s final book, Command Authority, to come out (more on that below), so I grabbed Devil’s Bargain by Tony Daniel off the to-read shelf. It’s one of those Star Trek Original Series pulp-style novels so I knew it would be nothing but light reading. I laughed throughout the book, which is not a good thing considering it wasn’t written to be a comedic novel. It pretty much hit on every Star Trek cliché you could come up with: it mentioned Khan, it had Spock mind-melding with the Horta multiple times, and of course Captain Kirk having sex with a beautiful if only marginally alien woman. The only thing missing was Scotty yelling that The Enterprise “cannea take much more of this”, although I’m betting the original draft of the story contained that as there are two places where that would have fit perfectly. It could have been worse, I guess.

The book I just stated today was Sir Apropos of Nothing by Peter David, because after looking at my schedule for the upcoming week or so I don’t know when I’ll make it to grab the new Clancy tome. That’s the only book I know of that I’ll be buying this month, although one never knows what I might find. In November I finally grabbed The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu, but still have not picked up Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach (aka Rachel Aaron). That one might get pushed off into the new year.

Other books I picked up last month were Himmler’s War and Rising Son by Robert Conroy, and A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin. I also bought a couple omnibus editions and The Ninth Circle by R.M. Meluch, which are the books of his “Tour of the Merrimack” series. The to-read shelf is started to grow wildly again. I guess I could pick worse things than books to be addicted to.

Until next time…

Some random book thoughts for November 2013

This is going to be a relatively short update as I only read a single book in October because I was so busy finishing up some other projects I didn’t have much time to read and, perhaps more embarrassingly, I misplaced one of the books I was reading.

In last month’s update I posted that as soon as I mashed the “publish” button I would be starting King Breaker by Rowena Cory Daniels, and that’s exactly what I did. And the few pages I read were awesome (as I expected, Daniels is a great writer) but I was drawn away from the book by some other things that came up and I put the book on my desk to continue a little later. Only it was four days before I would be able to pick it up again, and it was then I noticed it wasn’t on my desk anymore.

I searched high and low for King Breaker, but it was nowhere to be found in my house. One of the problems I was having searching for it was I was certain where I left it and didn’t take anything out of the house, like a bag or briefcase, that I could have absentmindedly tossed it into. Add to that I had some deadlines for projects going and it turned into a complete mess.

After a couple weeks of searching I hadn’t given up, but when I saw The Black Box had been released in mass market paperback I picked it up and started that book knowing like the other Michael Connelly novels it would be a quick read so even if I found King Breaker I wouldn’t have two books going at the same time like I had in September. The Black Box is a lot like the other Bosh novels, and I say that not as a negative but as a good thing. After so many novels using the same setting keeping it fresh can’t be easy, but despite using some of the same hooks from earlier books Connelly comes up with a very good story. With the passing of so many of my favorite authors there’s a good chance I’ll be “upgrading” Connelly to one of the few authors I buy hardcovers for. But alas, after reading The Black Box I still hadn’t located King Breaker.

Finally getting frustrated I gave locating it my full attention and spent almost four hours doing nothing but looking for it, and I eventually found it in the box of paperbacks I had already read. That box was in my basement, which means that for some reason without realizing I was doing it I carried that book down the stairs to my game room and dropped it into that box. It had to be me because my wife generally does not go down there and never (and I mean never) brings books down there. So once again, as soon as I finish up all the ongoing projects I have to do King Breaker will be up again.

I didn’t buy much last month because I didn’t really have time to go looking for anything. I did finally pick up Hunter of Sherwood: Knight of Shadows by Tony Venables and a couple by Terry A. Adams, The D’Neeran Factor (which is an omnibus edition containing Sentience and The Master of Chaos) and Battlegroud (the sequel to those two books). I have not picked up The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu yet, but I’m hoping to grab that this week sometime.

As for stuff scheduled for release in November the only one that is on my list is Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach (aka Rachel Aaron). Of course there’s always a chance I’ll stumble into other stuff. Heck, it’s probably likely.

Until next time…

This post is about nothing (and everything)

I was culling through some of my unfinished posts deciding what was worth finishing and what wasn’t and should be deleted. I pretty much deleted them all. Many of them were things I wanted to say about certain subjects that I just never got around to finishing or are no longer news items and posting about them now made little sense.

The one post that I read, edited a little, and then almost posted was about how much it stinks to know you’re reading the last book in a long series. It’s timely for me because I’m doing that right now (King Breaker by Rowena Cory Daniells, the fourth book in her “King Rolen’s Kin” series), but everyone knows the letdown you get when you arrive at the end knowing there won’t be any more. Not really enough there for a blog post other then naming a whole ton of series ending books. Plus, like I said, we’ve all been there so there’s not much more to say.

Another was a follow-up on the shows I was DVR’ing this fall and which new shows I liked, but to be honest the book is still out on most of them. I’ve already given up on Hostages. It’s terrible. The Blacklist is already getting repetitive and we’re only a handful of shows into the season, but NBC has ordered a whole season worth so I’ll probably keep watching. But all in all not a whole lot to post about there either.

I had a pretty good post asking why there are so many people writing reviews for classic novels. I’m sure their thoughts on books like Great Expectations and Moby Dick were wonderful but I questioned why. I decided against posting it because while it was an amusing piece who am I to tell people what they should and shouldn’t blog about. I did save a few of the quips though and will use them for something a little more appropriate.

Both my Red Sox and Patriots had great comebacks last night, but if that was something you cared about you’d already seen the highlights and read enough fan reaction, so even if I were really wanting to blog about it I don’t think I could bring anything new to the events, so I probably won’t bother.

Worthy of a mention is Rachel Aaron, author of the “Eli Monpress” series, has another series starting on November 5th with a book called Fortune’s Pawn. Because the book is so different from the Monpress books she’s writing under the name Rachel Bach. You can preorder through links to the major online retailers on on her official site. I loved the first three books in the “Eli Monpress” series and have the last two on my to read shelf, and as soon as I know I have enough time to finish them both I’ll be starting them.

Maybe next time I’ll find something more specific to blog about…and then will actually finish and post it!

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.