Some random book thoughts for March 2014

With a couple days delay, and with me half paying attention to the NHL’s trade deadline, we’ll rush into an unfortunately sparce blog posting for March. Because of lots of things going on (including TotalCon) I didn’t have a whole lot of time for reading and only got through two books. Luckily, they were both pretty good.

The first was The Corpse-Rat King by Lee Battersby. For those that might think that the cover of a book isn’t important, let me tell you that the cover of The Corpse-Rat King was the only reason I picked the book off the shelf. It’s an odd color, with fairly plain imaging, but next to all the glossy covers of the other books on the shelf it really stood out. The title is also eye-catching, enough so that I grabbed the book and read the back. I try to avoid spoiling any of the good parts of books, but as this is on the back I feel it’s OK to mention…

Marius don Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the corpse of the King of Scorby and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers and is transported down to the Kingdom of the Dead.

Just like the living citizens, the dead need a King — after all, the King is God’s representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are.

And so it comes to pass that Marius is banished to the surface with one message: if he wants to recover his life he must find the dead a King. Which he fully intends to do.

Just as soon as he stops running away.

Let’s be honest, after reading that how can you not be curious as to what the story is? Of course I was, and bought the book. It took until early February to grab it off the to-read shelf, and I was hooked right away. The story of Marius and Gerd is a “buddy” story, and those really have been played to death…errr…well, they have been now at any rate. You see, with both main characters in the book dead it leads to some amusing scenes. Somehow Battersby makes it all work by being so over the top it doesn’t seem like it’s over the top at all. The ending is perfect for the story, and fits right in with the rest. It wasn’t forced or, as I like to call it, “contrived”, it was simply the logical conclusion to a well thought out story.

I tweeted to Battersby when I finished the book that it was the weirdest story I had ever read, and I loved every minute of it. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, The Marching Dead, at some point in the near future. I gave The Corpse-Rat King four out of five on Goodreads because they don’t do half grades, but it’s really a 4.5 of 5 in my opinion. Well worth checking out.

The second book was The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu, the sequel to The Lives of Tao. The book picks up a few years ahead from where the former ended, and is a pretty straight forward good guys (Prophus) vs bad guys (Genjix) story with the assorted story points you’d expect from such a story. Chu breaks from the oft suffered “second book syndrome” by just continuing along the style and story points of the first book, while adding a good amount of background material that not only fleshes out The Deaths of Tao but also gives more body to The Lives of Tao.

Chu also avoids the trap that many newer writers fall into by not spending a huge amount of time recapping the first book. When it needs to be done, he does it, and in a quick manner that makes it feel like part of the current action. Lengthy recaps are one of my pet peeves, and Chu gets a passing grade for doing it right.

It was an interesting ending, and not what I was expecting. There has been a third book announced (The Rebirths of Tao) for release at the end of December, so you can bet I’ll be there getting it soon after it hits the shelves. Like The Lives of Tao I gave The Deaths of Tao a solid four out of five on Goodreads. Another one worth grabbing if you can.

I also just noticed that both The Corpse-Rat King and The Deaths of Tao are from the same publisher, Angry Robot. A look at their list of book shows I have read a lot of their stuff and have many on my to-read shelf. Their quality is pretty high, so I’m going to need to check out some of their stuff I’ve not seen before.

After a few months of not grabbing anything new it was a good month for finding stuff. I didn’t realize I had missed Trinity Rising by Elspeth Cooper until I saw the release date for her third book (I don’t recall the name of the 3rd), but that was quickly rectified as Barnes & Noble had a copy. The new Robert Asprin book Dragons Wild was also picked up, but that may end up in my wife’s to-read pile as opposed to mine. In the hardcover remainder section I found three, One Rough Man and All Necessary Force by Brad Taylor, and Kinsey and Me by Sue Grafton. I was tempted to buy the Grafton book when it came out, but I was certain it would be remaindered so I just held off until recently.

For new stuff two look interesting, Talus and the Frozen King by Graham Edwards and The Lascar’s Dagger by Glenda Larke, but as longtime readers will know there’s always a chance I’ll stumble into something else while I’m out.

In some blog news, this will be the last “random book thoughts” in this format. Starting with the book I’m reading now, Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young, all the books I read will have individual posts instead of grouped together as I have done in the past. The reason is a writer friend mentioned that while I don’t really consider my blurbs about each book to be reviews they really are, and many writers aren’t interested in linking to posts the way I write them; that they would be more apt to link to individual posts about their book. So we’ll go that route for awhile and see how it goes.

There will still be “random book thoughts” postings, but I’m not yet certain how they’ll look and beyond what I’ve bought and looking to buy what it will contain. But I have a whole month to work on that.

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 October 2013

Looks like this is going to turn out to be a very long post, so let’s get right to it…

As I mentioned in last month’s posting 13 Million Dollar Pop by David Levien was the next up from the “to-read” shelf. Just like two of his earlier detective books books, City of the Sun and Where The Dead Lay, 13 Million Dollar Pop is a pulp-style story featuring detective Frank Behr. This novel is a little different in that Behr is no longer working on his own but is instead working for a top level detective/investigation agency. With plot points reminiscent of John Grisham’s The Firm Levien weaves and interesting story centering around a failed attempt on the life of someone Behr was assigned to protect. While the book probably won’t win too many awards it was an enjoyable read.

Next came The Keepers of the Library by Glenn Cooper, which is the third book in an (at least as far as I can figure out) unnamed trilogy centering on an ancient hidden library. It is a very good series that is unlike anything I’ve read before. The first two books, Secret of the Seventh Son (AKA Library of the Dead) and Book of Souls are pretty much “must reads” to understand what is going on in The Keepers of the Library because they whole theme of the trilogy is set up in the first half of the first book. Cooper tells a great tale here, and I’m hoping his other novels get released in the US soon.

Third up was Dan Brown’s Inferno, a book I wasn’t planning on reading for some time as I don’t buy Brown’s books in hardcover. I was lucky enough to arrange a “trade” of sorts with a friend who had purchased it. He took several of the paperbacks I’d already read and lent me his copy of Inferno. A “win” for both of us.

Like all of Brown’s books Inferno is about as improbable a story as you can get, but he still hooks readers in with his great high-paced storytelling style. Despite a glaring math error (saying what it is will spoil the book) Inferno still delivers on multiple fronts. His plot twist that sets up the finale might not hold up well on a second reading when one can read the story knowing the outcome, but it doesn’t detract from the book so much that it fails. Fans of Brown will not be disappointed with Inferno.

One of my much anticipated September purchases, W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton, interrupted the book I had started and the 23rd book in the “Alphabet series” featuring Kinsey Millhone was the best one yet. Grafton has really hit her stride the last few novels and despite writing for the same main characters for so long is still able to keep it fresh and manages to add so much more information about each of them without contradicting herself and her previous books. What’s really amazing is there has been no real duplication of major plot points in the 23 books except for the ones that were intentional. That in itself is an incredible feat. I gave it five stars on Goodreads.

The book I was briefly reading after Inferno that was interrupted by W is for Wasted was A Blight of Mages by Karen Miller. It’s the prequel to the four released books in Miller’s “Kingmaker, Kingbreaker” universe, and despite knowing where the book had to end up it was a great story told by Miller. Looking at many of the reviews afterward I think people really missed the key component of the story: that someone treated as a god in the later books actually lead a significantly “less than a god-like” life while they were alive. The only negative about the novel was brought up on a blog post I forgot to bookmark so I can’t reference it (sorry to whomever it was) that said like the other four books in the series A Blight of Mages could have (and maybe should have) been broken into two books. There was a lot more story to tell that Miller glossed over, and a second book would have been great for those things.

The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu was a book I picked off the shelf when it was released just because the cover caught my eye, and the details on the back sounded interesting and amusing so I bought it. The Lives of Tao is a very good story, but I can tell you for certain the blurb on the front by Myke Cole “…laugh-out-loud funny…” is absolutely untrue. There is nothing in the book that is laugh-out-loud funny, and I’m hoping that people looking for something like that and not getting it don’t overlook how good The Lives of Tao really is. It’s nothing new by any stretch of the imagination and has a well used plot device, but it’s a very good start to what could be a decent series.

After finishing The Lives of Tao I was in a little bit of a quandary. I didn’t want to start a long book because a couple days later a book I really wanted to read, King Breaker by Rowena Cory Daniels, was being released and I didn’t feel like doing what I did with A Blight of Mages and putting down one book for another so I was reluctant to start anything. As luck would have it while looking for something in some boxes still left unpacked from our move a year ago I stumbled into Casca: The Mongel that somehow ended up in a box with some other odds and ends. The book, like many of the others in the series before it, was credited to Barry Sadler (yes, that Barry Sadler) but was ghost written by others. It’s a very short book and I figured it was perfect for the time I had.

While I remember the other “Casca” books as being pretty good this one was downright terrible. Perhaps they were all this bad and in my youth I just thought they were good, but for whatever reason Casca: The Mongel is one of the worst books I’ve read in a long while. I gave it two stars, mostly because I did recall liking the earlier books. It should have been one star, but I can’t see anyone purposely going out to get the book over that one extra star so I’ll just leave it as it is and move on.

To make matters even worse, when I went out a week ago last Tuesday to get King Breaker my local Barnes & Nobel didn’t have it on the shelf yet and no one there could answer to me if they even had copies in the store (more on that later). So after ordering King Breaker I again was faced with what to grab next. I had recently picked up a few remaindered “Star Trek” paperback to have in the car in case I needed an “emergency book”, so I grabbed one of those. Weight of the Worlds by Greg Cox is an incredibly average book. It’s a stereotypical Star Trek original series story that brings nothing new to the table. After finishing it I could see why it was remaindered. Unless you’re a die-hard Star Trek fan don’t bother with this one. Of course if you are you likely already have it. I just hope you didn’t pay full price.

For books I picked up last month there was the previously mentioned W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton. Because I was unable to get neither King Breaker by Rowena Cory Daniels nor Swords of Exodus by Larry Correia & Mike Kupari on the day they were released I ordered both from Amazon. The real winner there is N.K. Jemisin, as for me to get to the $25 level for free shipping I went off my “get from Amazon when you need to” list and picked up A Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun. As soon as I mash the “publish” button I’ll be starting King Breaker.

The list of stuff I’m looking forward to this month is pretty short, so far just being Chu’s sequel to The Lives of Tao called The Deaths of Tao. Last month Hunter of Sherwood: Knight of Shadows by Tony Venables was on my “look at” list, and as I didn’t get a chance to I’ll likely look for it on Friday.

Until next time…