Some random book thoughts for September 2013

With the unofficial end of summer just behind us we’ll jump right into this month’s random look at all of the books I’ve read since my last update. I guess by definition looking at something specific isn’t random, but that’s the motif I use here so we’ll just have to go with it.

As I ended last month’s post I had just started Crucible of Gold, the seventh book in Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” series. The first five books of the series were really, really good and I gave each of them a four out of five rating on Goodreads. Unfortunately, just as her sixth book Tongues of Serpents missed the mark so did Crucible of Gold.

All fiction is contrived, that’s sort of the whole concept of “fiction”. But while Novik was able to have a rational basis for the actions of the characters in the first five books the last two were really about placing Captain Will Laurence and Temeraire in situations that didn’t really match what had come before. It was as if Novik had a bunch of cool ideas for stories but had no way to logically place either of them in the locations she wanted the action to take place. And for me that really detracted from the story.

Based on the ending of Crucible of Gold it appears Novik has done it again in the next installment, Blood of Tyrants. That won’t be out in paperback for a long while, but as I’ve hung on with the series this long I will undoubtedly be buying it. Who knows how long it will sit on the to-read shelf though.

I then moved on to the second book on the “Wayfarer Redemption” series, Enchanter. Just like the first book in the series I gave Enchanter five out of five on Goodreads because that’s the maximum it can be given. I’m kicking myself for not having read this series earlier. I bought both The Wayfarer Redemption and Enchanter years ago, an educated guess says it was in the fall of 2002. I got them at BJ’s Wholesale Club, along with the first two books in Jacqueline Carey’s “Kushiel’s Legacy” series, Kushiel’s Dart and Kushiel’s Chosen, off a paperback remainders table.

I started Carey’s books within a couple weeks (my to-read shelf was very small back then, just about always under 15 books) and my wife started reading Douglass’ series. I picked up the next two books in the series soon after and my wife raved about them, but for some reason despite seeing them sitting on the shelf all this time I never got around to reading them.

After reading Enchanter my plan was to read Power Down by Ben Coes and then jump right back to the third “Wayfarer Redemption” novel, but I was absolutely sucked in by Coes and his protagonist Dewey Andreas. Without a doubt Coes is not yet in the class of Brad Thor or Vince Flynn, but in Andreas Coes has created a superhero–literally missing only the cape–whose actions are so over the top and implausible that it reads more like a science fiction novel than thriller/action-adventure. And I loved every single minute of it.

Coes keeps the action up in Coup d’Etat, where Andreas–who technically isn’t even in the employ of the US or its agencies–is sent into Pakistan to topple their government. Oh yeah, and he has less than 48 hours to accomplish this. The story continues in The Last Refuge as Andreas is once again thrust into an unbelievable situation involving Iran, a kidnapped Israeli commando, and a nuclear weapon. That almost sounds like the beginning to a bad joke, but what it turns out to be is a page turner.

A fourth novel by Coes is out in hardcover, Eye For An Eye. It will be a long time before it hits a paperback release, but if Coes keeps the pace up like he did in the first three it will be worth the wait.

With the Coes three out of the way it was back to Douglass’ “Wayfarer Redemption” series and the final book in the first trilogy, Starman. This book is a little different from the first two as all the plot lines begin their convergence into a single story where eventually the Starman takes on his evil half-brother Gorgrael. What’s surprising about the novel is many things that seem like fantasy to the characters turn out to be reality, and vice-versa. Like the other two books it’s incredibly well written and once again I gave it five out of five. Starman is a great ending to a great story, a story that took nearly 2,000 pages to tell. And even down to the last page Douglass holds her readers’ attention.

It’s a shame that Douglass left us far too early because I suspect she had lots more great stories to share. And if I’d only started those books sooner I could have let her know how great they were.

And just before post time I finished The Last Man by Vince Flynn, another great author that was taken from us at a far too young age by cancer. From the press releases it sounds like this may be his last book as The Survivor, which was supposed to be released this fall, is incomplete. Presuming Flynn left notes about the ending of the book the number of thriller/action-adventure writers of his caliber is very, very small and I can’t see any of them taking the time to finish his book. It appears that the bad guys may have finally found a way to kill Mitch Rapp.

Sitting on my desk waiting to be cracked open is 13 Million Dollar Drop by David Levien. The first two by Levien, City of the Sun and Where The Dead Lay, were well done pulp-style crime novels featuring detective Frank Behr. Levien’s main character is a stereotypical detective working through his own flaws while solving crimes. We’ll see how 13 Million Dollar Drop works out next month.

After not buying a book for two consecutive months I more than made up for it in August by adding 13 books to the collection. I just about never order books from Amazon, but because I couldn’t find copes of some stuff elsewhere I decided to just bite the bullet and buy them online. I got the last two of Douglass’ second trilogy under the “Wayfarer Redemption” banner, Pilgrim and Crusader. Last month I mentioned my twitter conversation with Rachel Aaron about the last two books of the “Eli Monpress” series not coming out in mass market editions because they were so long, so The Spirit War and Spirit’s End both arrived from Amazon in the trade paperback format. Aaron wasn’t kidding, these books are HUGE.

A stop at BJ’s yielded four books; the previously mentioned The Last Man, Neil Young’s autobiography Waging Heavy Peace, and two by Simon Toyne, Sanctus and The Key. At Barnes and Noble I bought the first two in Mark Lawrence’s “Broken Empire” series, Prince of Thorns and King of Thorns. In another stop I saw a large amount of remainder paperbacks and grabbed three of the recent “Star Trek: The Original Series” novels, which I may leave in the car for when I need to kill some time waiting somewhere.

September sees four books being released that I’m looking for. King Rolen’s Kin: King Breaker by Rowena Cory Daniels hits the shelves later this month and that will be a “must buy” for me. The rest of the series has been outstanding and I have little doubt this one will be great too. Once again Larry Correia hooks up with Mike Kupari for the second book in the “Dead Six” series Swords of Exodus. If you’re into the kind of books I read and are not reading Correia’s “Monster Hunter” and “Grimnoir Chronicles” series, you should be. It’s some of the best stuff out there.

In the mystery genre Sue Grafton has W is for Wasted coming out in hardcover next week. Grafton is one of the few writers that I buy in hardcover, so that will likely never hit the to-read shelf and will be next up after whatever I’m reading when it comes out. One other new fantasy book looks cool, Hunter of Sherwood: Knight of Shadows by Tony Venables. It’s not a guarantee I’ll be buying it, but I most certainly will be lifting it off the shelf for a closer look.

Until next time…

Some random book thoughts for August 2013

It’s funny when people talk about the summer months being the time they get a lot of reading done because, at least so far, the exact opposite has been true for me. After flying through the run of all the Michael Connelly books this spring I turned my attention to my biennial run of the seven seasons of The West Wing, which cut into my reading time somewhat.

In my last book posting I has just started The Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglass. I rated the book five stars on Goodreads because I couldn’t rate it any higher. The book, the first of a six book series that’s broken into two trilogies, was so incredibly well written it was easy to visualize every single action that takes place in the book. The book sat on my “to read” shelf so long my wife, who rarely reads the same books I do, has read the first four books of the series and said each one gets better than the one before it. I probably should have just run right into the second book of the series, Enchanter, but a few books at the top the shelf drew me in, so on to them I went.

I started reading Brad Thor’s books before anyone knew who he even was, and even though he’s not in the class of a Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn his thrillers are great page turners that have all been top notch. Black List is Thor’s twelfth novel, and while none of them would be considered Pulitzer or Nobel type fiction each has been a fun read. This one might be his weakest book, and it does take a significant amount of time for Thor to get around to explaining why everything is happening, but the non-stop action more than makes up for the slowness of the final plot developing.

Next up was Monster Hunter Legion, the fourth book in the “Monster Hunter” series by Larry Correia. The world the book is based on is a simple one–it’s right here, right now. The big problem is all those monsters you’ve read about since childhood are real but most people don’t know it because the governments of the world hide the existence of them. That’s where the monster hunters come into play. They’re contractors that kill these monsters to collect the PUFF (Perpetual Unearthly Forces Fund) and to keep the regular citizens safe.

It’s a great idea for a series of books, and while a little over the top they’ve all been really good. The one issue Correia is having with the series is the first book, Monster Hunter International, was such a great read that the other three that have come out in the series pale in comparison. I gave Monster Hunter Legion an easy 4/5 on Goodreads, but graded on a curve against the first book Legion would struggle for a three. I’ll still keep grabbing them as they come out (and you should too if you aren’t) but it will be interesting to see of Correia can come up with a story that was a good as the first book.

Now I’m on Crucible of Gold, the seventh book in Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” series set in the Napoleonic era where both sides have intelligent dragons. It’s a well thought out series, and despite wishing that Novik had kept the action in Europe she’s had Temeraire and William Laurence traipsing around the globe. Crucible of Gold begins with them in Australia, which at this point in history is a penal colony they’ve been exiled to because of Laurence’s conviction for treason against the Crown. As the book begins the Crown has come calling on Laurence to reinstate him to the Air Corps for an important mission. Laurence has some doubts. We’ll see how it turns out as the book moves along.

If you scan through last month’s posting you’ll see I forgot to add in the books I was looking forward to seeing released. Turns out that wasn’t an issue because there wasn’t any. For the first time in a very long while I picked up absolutely nothing in my trips to the book stores of the area. A list of science fiction/fantasy books for August shows that may happen again this month.

There was some news in the book world I can share though. There’s a huge download on Tor.com of some great short stories. It will only be up for a few more days, but it’s well worth the time to check it out. After waiting for the last two books of the “Eli Monpress” series by Rachel Aaron to be released in mass market editions I decided to tweet at the author to see if/when they were coming out. Aaron shared with me that because of their size they wouldn’t be released in paperback. I laughed at her line “This was partially my fault, I wrote them too long for MMPB format”. I guess I’ll forgive her and it looks like it will be the trade format for those two.

Until next time…

Some random book thoughts for July 2013

After a delay because of a week’s vacation and it being way too hot and humid to even think about blogging, here in the midst of a thunderstorm I finally can get a few thoughts posted. I unfortunately have no update on the two love birds I mentioned in a second posting last month. During my several trips to the bookstore I didn’t see either of them so I have no idea if it developed into anything yet. Maybe next time I’ll run into one of them, although odds are I won’t be asking them.

I finished my run through Michael Connelly’s books, which you can read about why I read them all and my thoughts on his first 15 books in last month’s posting. I posted that I had just started The Lincoln Lawyer, and like all of Connelly’s books before that one it was a pretty straight forward story with a nice twist at the end. For the record I figured out who the murderer of the second victim was fairly quickly but it didn’t ruin the story.

After that came Echo Park and The Overlook, two more featuring Connelly’s main protagonist Harry Bosch. After retiring and heading off on his own Bosch is one again a member of the LAPD operating out of the Open-Unsolved Unit looking at cold cases in Echo Park. The Overlook is an interesting story almost outside the usual Connelly timeline as it was originally published in sixteen installments in The New York Times Magazine. Connelly cleaned up some of the chapters and added some content for the book release. The Brass Verdict is the second Mickey Haller book, and again nothing new but a decent read. The Scarecrow, which features reporter Jack McEvoy and FBI agent Rachel Walling closes out the storyline started 13 years earlier in The Poet.

In the next four books Connelly the alternates storylines, with Nine Dragons and The Drop both featuring Bosch and The Reversal and The Fifth Witness featuring Haller. Nine Dragons is a change for Connelly as many of the pivotal parts take place in Hong Kong. The Drop continues the Bosch storyline, although for the first time Connelly has Bosch solving two separate mysteries. The Reversal is a departure for the Haller character as he works as a prosecutor in the novel instead of being his usual defense attorney. The Fifth Witness is a great read, and in my opinion is Connelly’s best book in a long while. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s a very good story.

After so many mysteries there was no way my next book was going to be anything but science fiction/fantasy, and The Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglass was the one I grabbed. That book has been on my “to read” shelf the second longest of any series (one day I’ll mention what books have been there the longest), and after sitting there for so long it was time to finally crack it open.

There’s a funny story about the title, as the book is only called The Wayfarer Redemption here in the US. It’s called Battleaxe in every other part of the world, but as is often the case the title was changed during the publishing over here. To make matter a little more confusing, the first three books of the series are referred to as “The Axis Trilogy” while the second three books are called “The Wayfarer Redemption”. That means in the US The Wayfarer Redemption is not in the series in which it’s named for. Go figure.

In a sad note, Douglass passed away from ovarian cancer in September of 2011.

Being on vacation I made several trips to bookstores, and walked away with what many would think is way too many books. As I mentioned last month The Keepers of the Library by Glenn Cooper came out in paperback, so that was an easy grab. I also picked up Monster Hunter: Legion by Larry Correia. If you’re a science fiction fan and you’re not reading that series you should be. Off of Barnes & Nobles remainder rack I picked up the trade paperback of “The Videssos Cycle”, which reprints The Misplaced Legion and An Emperor for the Legion by Harry Turtledove.

In other trips I picked up The Hammer and The Blade and A Discourse In Steel by Paul S. Kemp and The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. Just moments before posting this I grabbed the latest out in paperback by W.E.B. Griffin, The Spymasters. All of those, plus what I already have, should keep my busy for quite some time.

Until next time…