Required Reading

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fallout by Harry Turtledove

Atomic bombs have been exchanged.   The world after WWII is much different in this alternate reality.    The world is at war again and it is the war that Douglas McArthur feared, where the USSR and China are fighting the US and it's allies.   This book appears to be a compilation of stories from those who are fighting the war and those who have survived the atomic bombs.

Turtledove provides insight to how those who dropped the bombs feel and how those who have survived the bomb are struggling to exist.  

Tankers, survivors on both sides, pilots and bar keeps all have stories in this book.   That is it's strength and it's weakness.   It reads very disjointed and there are way too many characters to keep a train of thought as to who is doing what.

I love Turtledove's characterizations, the life that he brings to them but this book was a struggle to read.

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.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bitter Bite by Jennifer Estep

An excellent urban fantasy.  I haven't read any Estep for over five years.  I enjoyed her first books and was one of her early reviewers although I am sure she has no recollection of  that.  She has become quite successful and exceeded any need to directly address small time bloggers such as myself.   I was privileged enough to be offered this book at no charge for an honest review.  

Superficially this is just another action adventure in the urban fantasy genre. There is plenty of action and adventure but the underlying loyalty and honor are what make Jennifer Estep’s books stand out. Her characters aren’t two dimensional. She provides depth and background. The emotions and character of the cast are what made this book appeal to me.   This story involves her adopted sibling, Finn and his reunion with his mother. 

Gin Blanco is darker than ever.   She expresses glee over the demise of a foe.   She was a bit over the top in her enthusiasm for mayhem for my taste.   Too much revel for pain and too little regret for consequences.  But  it is fantasy so....

The story loses a bit as there is no back filling for how the Spider ended Mab and ends up the head of the underworld element in Ashland.   Otherwise a good story, packed with action, magic and familial experiences.

I highly recommend this book!

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.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden died in the last book or did he?  Harry's demise seems to have been exaggerated.  He wakes to find himself the Winter Knight and beholden to the seemingly psychotic faerie queen Mab. 

You would think that the plot of Harry Dresden standing as the last of the Maginot line between utter disaster and implacable foes would get boring after awhile.   NOT!
Butcher is never boring.   Sometimes the action comes close to sublimating the plot but boring is never the result. 

Once again I find that the characters are the best part of Butcher’s tales.  Don’t get me wrong, his plots are excellent and his story telling sublime but his characterizations are terrific.

Harry Dresden is the classic anti-hero.   He over compensates with humor and self deprecating manners but he is still a character that earns loyalty even, on occasion, from his enemies.  

The soul searching and ego demoralizing plays a large part, once again, in the function of the plot.   Butcher emphasizes human will and the ability to chose the right path.  
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.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Nethergrim by Matthew Jobin

This is billed as a YA book but I am pretty darn far away from that age and I really enjoyed it.   Jobin takes three teens and places them in a perilous situation and allows the reader to enjoy watching their personal growth.  

The Nethergrim is a world class boogieman defeated years ago.   When animals and children begin to disappear the locals of Moorvale begin to wonder the Nethergrim was actually killed.   .  Edmund, the main protagonist, is a dreamer and a reader in a village that admires neither.   He admires Katherine who is a strong, warrior like female and whose strong, warrior like traits are no more appreciated than his own dreaming and reading.   The third unlikely protagonist is Tom, a slave who is a good friend to Katherine and Edmund.  

When members of a group of child kidnapping bolgugs (goblin want-to-be) are slain by Katherine,  Edmund's unrequited love object, the village is roused to action.

The rest of the story is how the three friends rise to more than their aspirations to seek out the kidnapped kids and face the dreaded Nethergrim.

This is the first book in a series and very well done.

I highly recommend.

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.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Road to Hell by David Weber and Joelle Presby

This is book three of the Multiverse series, Book two which I reviewed back in 2010 was Hell Hath No Fury by David Weber and Linda Evans. Evan’s and Weber’s portrayal of two unique civilizations on a road to conflict progressed to the actual conflict itself.  This book deals with the aftermath of the initial confrontation.   Arcana base magic technology challenges Sharona’s psychic talents and their science based technology. The multi-universal aspect is that both civilizations have discovered portal to alternate earths that have no populations until they confront each other.   My review back in 2010 closed with a concern that the series might never be finished.  David Weber made it pretty clear six years ago that a third book was not on his calendar.   Seeing his name on this book and not Linda Evans make me wonder if she was the stumbling block or Weber was.   Regardless it was a well done book but... since it was six years since the 2nd volume it was really hard to get up to speed.   I read a lot of books and in six years I have read an average of 100 books a year of scifi/fantasy and a like number of general literature.   So I had a lot of trouble getting up to speed on the story. 

Since the last review was six years ago,  I will indulge in some repetition.

David Weber and Linda Evans do a superb job in describing two dissimilar cultures and those cultures’ idiosyncrasies. As they alternate back and forth from culture to culture you find your sympathies vacillating as well. The beauty of their work is that you truly find things that are both laudable and stimulating for each culture. They are being drawn into conflict by serendipitous contacts and malicious behavior in spite of their root similarities.

The contrast of opposing technologies is interesting. What makes the book great is the emotional undertones. The ability to evoke strong emotions regarding the characters is rare. I cared for Emperor on Sharona and his family and loathed the Arcana villains. This book adds a laudable Duke of Arcana and some thoroughly despicable Sharona villains.  

This was an excellent follow up to book 2 and I have no idea if a future book is in the works.  There may something worse than a woman scorned and that is a deeply involved reader scorned which is how I felt six years ago.

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.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden is plunged into a nightmare heist by psychotic faerie queen Mab. 

The continuity of this series is based on Harry being put in untenable situations and the creative ways he escapes them.   Harry is faced with death or dealing with his most hated enemy.   As a member of a seriously dysfunctional team, Harry and friendenmies are invading a domain that people are dying to get into.

Harry is forced to recognize his own arrogance, his reluctance to enter into relationships and what it means to be a father.  This volume provides more personal growth  for the character than any I can remember.

I also enjoy references to outside literature, movies and music.  Butcher has obviously read many of the same  books I have, has imbued his love of the force into his character and loves the good against evil nature of Star Wars.   I never met Butcher but if  I did, I am reasonably sure that we share a similar moral yardstick.

As all of his books, (I have endeavored to read them all.)  Butcher gives us characters we can related to, hate, love and despise.   Character likability is criticized by some but I still contend it is a major factor on how much likability is in a book.  A character can be liked due to it's insidious nature or it's inspiring nature.   Butcher gives us a wide range.   (yes I am a FAN)

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.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Temptation of Elminster by Ed Greenwood


Mystra, Elminster's personal lover and god has made him her chosen and sent him on another quest.  Mystra is trying to spread magic and I assume assuage her own personal power but that is not explicitly obvious.   A wealth of disjointed characters are introduced in this volume.

Disjointed is the operative word in this book.  It is almost a collection of vignettes on magic it's benefits and abuses.  Character after character is introduced, most of deplorable personal mores.  

I still like the Elminster persona as abused as he is by his goddess lover but this book was a struggle to read.   Admittedly the last few pages ties all of the apparently disconnected pieces together but the lack of continuity provided a lot of literary frustration.

I have one more of the series to read and only can hope it is better than this one.   

Web Site:  none I could fine but here is his Facebook link.

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