Required Reading

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Thursday, October 31, 2013


Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Phoenix Transformed by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory

This is book three of the Enduring Flame trilogy. I think it may be the best of the three. The previous two books are The Phoenix Endangered and The Phoenix Unchained . This book wraps up the trilogy quite nicely but leave the door open for future books.

It seems like many fantasies are also coming of age stories. Harrier and Tiercel are still age young at the end of the story but experience wise they are thoroughly jaded. The angst that the two go through is practicality painful. The poignant introspection reminded me a bit of Feintuch's Seafort's series. I kept hoping the authors would cut the kids some breaks.

The introduction of some new characters and the growth of some of the tribes' folks adds to the flavor of the brew. This is an excellent fantasy.

I highly recommend.


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Double Human by James O’Neal

The Human Disguise was the first book in this series.  This too is a cop book set in a near, possible future.  Tom Wilner is a cop trying to maintain order in a dystopian future south Florida.   He is ex-military facing bio-engineered diseases and possible aliens.   His priorities change dramatically when his family is threatened.   In this second book, he continues to try and enforce a radically changed legal landscape.

The Hallecks and Simolits play a smaller part in this book.   The aliens are referred to but don’t really play into the story.   The current events aspect of the book is just as frightening as the first book.   The ramifications of thrusting our values and ideas into foreign cultures and the ensuing violence are altogether too real.  Equally, the ramifications of a collapse of the economy are certainly highlighted by the current self centered egotism on our elected and not very representative officials.  

A near future characterized by an uncaring government and bureaucratic morass doesn’t seem all that unlikely compared to current events today.

Wilner and Besslia are likeable characters, the Hallecks and Simolits are figures of curiosity but hardly likeable.

The book is entertaining a combination of cop book and vigilante justice. 

I recommend the book. 


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Shadow Blizzard by Alexey Pehov

Shadow Prowler was the first book in the Chronicles of Siala.  Shadow Chaser was the second.   Pehov may be well known in his native Russia but I had never heard of him until I read these books.   I think the quality of that book will insure that Pehov will be known far and wide as well as in Russia.   Shadow Harold, a master thief, finds himself enmeshed with the establishment to save the world as they know it.   This book finishes the story and gets the band of misfit compatriots further along in their journey. 

The imagination of Pehov has to be read to be believed.   The gamut of scenery and beings and animals is beyond broad.  Saying the descriptions are colorful is doing them severe injustice.   The imagery is practically poetic.   Then there is Harold.  I can safely say I have no recollection of a protagonist named Harold.   Harold visualizes himself as the ulltimate pragmatist but has a very broad streak of conscience much to his verbal dismay. 

Shadow Harold, an enjoyable rogue continues as the main protagonist.  However other characters such as Kli-Kli, the jester, become more important as the story progresses, this final book reveals a surprising fact about Kli-Kli.   Harold, a master thief of exceptional skill and a healthy interest in avoiding heroics, finds himself changing and to his horror perhaps even becoming heroic.  

The philosophic under pinning’s are more fully explored in this third volume.  The term Shadow Dancer is clearly explained as well as leaving doors open for future works.

I can only hope the person who translated one of my books for me does as masterful job as Pehov's translator. This trilogy should end up regarded as one of the classics.

I highly recommend the book and the series.

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations

Friday, October 18, 2013

Vampires Don't Sparkle Except On eBay!

Auctioning Copy of Vampires Don't Sparkle! Signed by 5 True Blood Cast Members for Cancer Research

Seventh Star Press is offering a very special, one of a kind collectible for True Blood fans with a Seventh Star Press theme, and I hope many of you can help spread the word about this.  What they have to offer is a copy of their anthology Vampires Don't Sparkle! from editor Michael West (features some top, award-winning horror writers in the genre like Gary A. Braunbeck, Tim Waggoner, and more) that was signed by five members of the True Blood cast.  100% of proceeds from this eBay auction go to Cancer Research ( and a portion of the anthology's regular sales go to cancer research too, I should mention)

As far as the signatures, they include Michael's and the following True Blood Cast members:
Rutina Wesley, who plays Tara Thorton
Sam Trammell, who plays Sam Merlotte
Jim Parrack, who played Hoyt Fortenberry
Janina Gavankar, who played Luna Garza 
Jessica Clark, who plays vampire god Lilith

the link for the auction is here and it will run for another 9 days, ending on October 26:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

BulletProof Scavenger Hunt

 I agreed to be involved in this scavenger hunt and then promptly had computer issues.  I've found that some of my emails have gone astray.  My apologies to all involved. I am trying to get my new Win8 up and functioning and then move everything over to the new box.  In the meantime here are the other blogs participating in the BulletProof Scavenger Hunt.

Blog Participants:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Elysian Fields by Suzanne Johnson

This is the third book in a urban fantasy coming of age of a young wizard.   It is set in post-Katrina New Orleans where boundaries have thinned between here and the beyond.   The immortal historic dead, vampires, wizards,

elves, mers and zombies populate the pages of Johnson’s books.   This is a romantic urban fantasy or a fantasy with romantic overtones, I’m not sure which.  

DJ, Drusilla Jaco, is the newest and most experienced Sentinel tasked to keep the paranormals in line in New Orleans.  Alex, and Jake his cousin are shape shifting enforcers with pseudo FBI credentials enforcing the rules.  This story finds a former mer enemy now an ally in DJ’s fight with a historic undead serial killer. 

There are fun characters as well, such as Jean Lafitte, the pirate.  Johnson has a great imagination and has crafted a “believable” paranormal environment.   This book deals with rifts between the Beyond and New Orleans and the political maneuvers between factions.  Oh and DJ finds herself wrapped up in Elfish funny business while trying to learn how to use Charlie, her staff.   There are more politics in this book than the previous.   It is an excellent series and as much as it pains me to say, perhaps a little romance doesn’t hurt the story.  

I recommend the book.

Web sites:
This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Phoenix Endangered by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory

This is book two of The Enduring Flame Trilogy.  I enjoyed The Phoenix Unchained which was volume one.   This picks up with the perils of Harrier Gillain and Tiercel Rolfort, apprentice port master and future clerk, continuing in their clueless manner.   Facing unimaginable danger and the death of the world as they know it, they stumble blithely along trying to identify exactly who they are.  

Teens, in general, struggle with identity so it is hardly surprising that a pair of boys finding themselves embroiled in magic prone situations is clueless.   In all fairness, their unwillingness to accept the strangeness of their new life demonstrates a believable connection to reality.   These two are highly likeable which again demonstrates what I feel is Lackey’s greatest strength and that is to build characters that you become passionate about. 

Unbeknownst to me is that The Enduring Flame Trilogy is set in the same world as The Obsidian Trilogy and The Dragon Prophecy.  I enjoyed the Crown of Vengeance which is volume one of The Dragon Prophecy.   Needless to say, I will be reading them as well.

As you would expect in volume two of a trilogy, the boys are closer to their goal but haven’t made it yet, midway seems apt.   The only constants to the tale are the boys and their foe.  

The setting is as rich and well done as you would expect from Lackey. 

I highly recommend.

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Farthing by Jo Walton

An alternative history where the United Kingdom makes peace with Hitler is the setting of this novel.   A murder that may conveniently enhance a political movement’s goals occurs at Farthing Castle. 

The author spins her history off of ours in the dark days of World War II.   Winston Churchill is driven out of office and peace is negotiated with Hitler.   The U.S. is thoroughly isolationist in this book which helps to drive the UK to peace.  

The story focuses on a young couple, she from the “Farthing Set” and he from a “despised” Jewish background.   The UK is decidedly anti-Semitic and the marriage brings Lucy into conflict with her family. 

This reads very much like what I consider a British mystery.  I’m not sure what that exactly means but to me it is a detailed, very character oriented story with the plot secondary to the characterizations.  This portrays the naivete of politics when making peace with fascism means becoming fascists.

Web Site:

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Guest Post by Steven S. Long , author of Thunder on The Battlefield

I love all types of Fantasy, but there’s a special place in my heart for the subgenre known as “Swords and Sorcery.” The combination of action, tightly-paced stories, and weird magic has an appeal for me that other types of Fantasy often can’t live up to. So I read a lot of S&S, and have tried my hand at writing more than a few S&S stories. I’m always trying to think of intriguing characters and situations for S&S tales, so I was excited to hear about the Thunder on the Battlefield anthology and determined to do my best to win a place in its pages.

I expected (and hoped!) that the anthology would feature a lot of stories with the usual Swords and Sorcery protagonists:  strong warriors; wily rogues; tough barbarians; and so on. I figured that one of the best ways to attract editor James Tuck’s attention would be to come up with a main character for my story that wasn’t like the usual run of S&S heroes. I thought about it for a long time, and finally hit on an idea that appealed to me:  write an S&S story in which the protagonist is a priest.

In Swords and Sorcery, priests are usually presented as villains, or at least as dislikeable. Sometimes they serve dark, evil gods and intend to destroy Our Hero as part of their plot to take over the kingdom, or the world. In other cases they’re simply venal and corrupt — men who use their position and power to enrich themselves while mouthing religious platitudes. But they’re almost never shown as sympathetic characters, much less as protagonists. (For that matter, I think this is true of other Fantasy subgenres as well.)

I’m not a particularly religious person myself, but I thought that a story featuring a priest as its hero would definitely make for a different sort of S&S fiction. So I got to work. Since this was a Swords and Sorcery tale, I needed a hero who was a man of action. Thus, a cloistered man of god (similar to Brother Cadfael from Ellis Peter’s novels, perhaps) wasn’t really what I wanted. Instead I envisioned a crusading priest, one carrying the word of his god to the enemy at a point of a sword, laying down harsh punishments for sin, and putting himself squarely between his “flock” and the evil outer darkness that threatened them.

I liked that image a lot, so I expanded on it. I had a blank section on the map of one of my worlds where I could put the realm he came from:  an empire, sort of like a more advanced Roman Empire, that was expanding into the barbarian lands to the north, converting the natives by conquest. That meant plenty of enemy gods and lurking, ancient evils (and their worshippers!) that my character, Valgard, could oppose. All that created a vivid picture in my mind, one that compelled me to write a story.

But S&S isn’t just about Swords — there’s Sorcery in there too. So I decided Valgard, as a special crusader for Heliarus the sun god, would have a few minor magical powers. He could create light and flame around his hands, could sense evil, could grant blessings to aid the followers of Heliarus, and so forth. That in turn told me that priests of other gods — including the evil gods — might have divinely-granted powers of their own.
Where Steven S. Long's story will be found.

With all those facts in mind, my story, “The Two Fires,” practically wrote itself. An ancient, evil god arises in the northlands in the wake of the imperial conquest, and the Temple of Heliarus sends Valgard to find out what’s going on and deal with any threats. After encountering uncooperative military commanders, natives both hostile and helpful, and other colorful denizens of the region, Valgard at last tracks the dark cult to its hiding place. With a troop of imperial soldiers at his back he attacks, confronting the evil high priest personally. They pit their magical powers against one another, and thanks to his willpower Valgard triumphs, freeing the land and its people from a terrible shadow.

As usual it took a few passes through the story to ensure that it flowed properly and made sense to the reader, but in the end I was very happy with the final result. Even more importantly, the editor of Thunder on the Battlefield liked it, and thus “The Two Fires” found a home in the second volume of the anthology, subtitled Sorcery. I think it’s a great story, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Blood and Steel, Legends of La Gaul by Steven Shrewsbury

Gorias LaGaul, a barbarian’s barbarian,  is back and as I said in my review of Thrall and Overkill , he would kick Conan’s butt.  If you are looking for traditional heroes you may want to look elsewhere.   This is a short series of short stories about Gorias’ escapades.

I repeat from previous reviews, Gorias is a protagonist that I can identify with in many aspects.   Pragmatic to a fault he is accepting of his age and doesn’t let it stop him from doing what he wants to do.   I’m not sure I can identify with his ruthlessness but it certainly is effective.  He has skewed soft spots that pop up with surprising frequency.   He is a much, much larger than life character.  That is what makes him so entertaining. 

One of the stories, provides a little background on how Gorias got to be who he is when you meet his father.  I'm not all that fond of short stories in general but these were close enough to being relative to the books that they were enjoyable.   Gorias’attitude is amusingly brutal. However I suspect that in a time similar to that in which the story is set, that type of brutality would have been common. Mr Shrewsbury does a great job of creating an environment where a barbarian as grisly  as Gorias can flourish.

Action runs amuck as well as libidos, the easily offended may want to pass on this book.  For the rest of us who enjoy rollicking good humor and raucous action this is a book for the must read shelf. 

I highly recommend the book.

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.