Required Reading

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

Captain William Laurence and Temeraire are back.  They are battling Napoleon in defense of the U.K. but are doing so in Russia.  

Laurence is handicapped in this book due to an unforeseen accident.  Temeraire, a Celestial Dragon is beside himself over Laurence’s handicap.  

Laurence’s good will toward dragons serves him well in negotiating with both Chinese and Russian dragons. 

A lot of territory and new characters are introduced.

I apparently missed a couple of books between this one and the last one I read featuring these two Hornblowerish figures.  This book reads well as a stand alone but I would recommend reading the series in order.



I enjoyed 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, September 14, 2019

Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson



This book portrays war as brutal and dehumanizing.   A former earth colony is a thorn in a restrictive United Nations of Earth behind.  The contrast between a free society and the restrictive regime characterizes the plot.

Freehold is a planet of free thinkers and open mindedness.   Earth has become a restrictive planet with personal freedoms repressed.   Williamson details a lot of philosophy by example in this work.   Pacelli is an honest woman trying her best when she falls afoul of a conspiracy far above her pay grade.

Williamson does a good job showing the angst that is faced in being totally uprooted and planted in a society that seems familiar but isn’t.

Plenty of action and an excellent read.

I 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, September 9, 2019

Kingmaker by Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes


This is the third book of a trilogy, the first being Spymaster which I might add, I thoroughly enjoyed.   I also enjoyed Privateer which was the second volume.  Thomas the potential king finds the path to ruling a rocky road.  

As I mentioned in the review of Privateer, the plot is complex.   A lot of characters with conflicting agendas.   The reality of politics, compromise and concession forces Thomas and his loyal friends into partnership with previous foes.

Kate and Dalgren find themselves in situations where conscience plays a huge part of their behavior.
There is plenty of action, deceit and betrayal as well as a tiny bit of romance.  The authors successfully and satisfactorily wrap up the trilogy.  I look forward to more books from this pair of authors.


The relationships between characters provide much of the interest to this book.  Friends become enemies, enemies become friends and subordinates forget to subordinate. As an added bonus there are plenty of strong female protagonists so this trilogy would be an ideal gift for young women to encourage them to follow their dreams.

The book was delightfully complex, interesting and captivating.

I highly recommend the trilogy. 

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, September 4, 2019

Privateer by Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes


This is the second of a trilogy, the first being Spymaster which I might add, I thoroughly enjoyed.   Well nothing changed with the second volume, I loved it as well.   The plot thickens for the man who doesn’t want to be king who is engaged to someone who is in love with his best friend.  While that is complicated, the man who doesn’t want to be king is in love with a person of questionable antecedents.  Said questionable person is best friends with a dragon who has issues of his own.   Now this may sound cumbersome but it comes together beautifully in a book full of action and intrigue.

The complex and confusing loyalties and goals demonstrated by the authors may seem on first blush to be true fantasy.  However, consider for a moment the complexity of the U.S. government doing back door negotiations with a socialist dictator want-to-be while decrying socialism from the highest platform at home.  As complex as this plot is, you can follow it if you pay attention unlike realities current events.

The dragon, Dalgren, plays a large part in the first half of the book but seemingly disappears in the second half.   I was a bit disappointed that he had such little word time in the second half but I am known to be inordinately fond of dragons.

The relationships between characters provide much of the interest to this book.  Friends become enemies, enemies become friends and subordinates forget to subordinate.

The book was delightfully complex, interesting and captivating.



I highly recommend the trilogy. 

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

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Untimed by Andy Gavin

This is a time traveling tale of a boy and his unwashed time traveling girlfriend.  They are chased by clockwork travelers who are trying to either change the timeline or maintain it but Charlie and Yvaine aren’t sure which.
The author does paint a graphic portrait of Dickens England.  The romanticized view is more popular than the squalor and corruption view which is more accurate.

My favorite character was Aunt Sophia who saves the day on occasion.

The story was well paced and provided little conflict for the paradox viewpoint.


I enjoyed 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.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The First Protectors by Victor Godinez

Ben is a medically discharged Seal with a boat load of guilt.   A load of guilt that regardless of the source is crushing his spirit.   Ben finds himself the unwitting and unwilling recipient of an alien gift and suddenly discovers he is once again a warrior.

Warrior and soldier have different meanings and Ben is a warrior and a protector.   Aliens have destroyed another race and possibly other races.  They have turned their targeting systems toward Earth and Ben is the only one who can stop them.

This book is action and then more action. 

It highlights self-sacrifice and personal courage as well as loyalty and duty.

It was a hard to put down and can’t wait for the next one book.


I recommend 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.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Shadow of Empire by Jay Allan


Arkarin Blackhawk is a mercenary and a smuggler operating in the Far Stars.  The Far Stars are just that, far from the tyrannical empire that appears to have made Blackhawk the man he is. Blackhawk has a crew of extraordinarily loyal misfits who excel at mayhem.   Blackhawk has lifted each and every one of them out of an untenable situation and earned their undying loyalty.   Blackhawk is tasked with finding his friend’s daughter, Astra, who has been kidnapped.  

Blackhawks sordid past is referred to but never back storied so we have nothing but inferences as to how his body and character have been built.  He spends a lot of time agonizing over his past sins with no reference to what they were.    His crew doesn’t care who he was before only that they owe him their lives and they stand stalwartly behind him.

This is a space opera that was a delight to read and I look forward to the second volume.


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, August 14, 2019

Spymaster by Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes


Home Run!  I really enjoyed this book.  I know the correct order is to give a brief, non-spoiler overview of the book and then delve into the techniques and characters without giving away the plot.   Never being consistently correct has been the hallmark of my life.  

This story takes place in a world where dragons are respected citizens in some countries and monsters in others.  The mode of transportation between countries is characterized by balloons.   Think wooden ships with sails but also with balloons and air screws which are similar to propellers.  Within a country various fantastic beast are used for transport.  The mood is a mix of medieval society, Victorian era and steam punk leavened with magic.

Kate or Captain Kate is the main protagonist who incidentally is somewhat amoral.   She has her own code of ethics which differs from society’s code.  Kate has an inordinate loyalty to her crew who helped to raise her when her father brought her on his ship.

Dalgren is her best friend who also happens to be a dragon.

This story was well crafted and although I am not familiar with Krammes work, I go back to the Dragon Lance and Darksword series with Weis.


I really enjoyed this book and am gong to start the second volume in the trilogy today!

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, August 9, 2019

Crush the King by Jenifer Estep

This is the next book in the Crown of Shards series.   I enjoyed Kill the Queen and Protect the Prince which preceded it.   Evie who has dodged assassination in every book decides to go on the offensive against her enemy King Maximus.

The book is characterized by loyalty and love by Queen Everleigh and fear, hate and loathing by King Maximus and his minions.  Evie will do anything to protect her people and her nation.   


Maximus will do anything to maintain his power and terrify his people including his blood relatives.
Esteps portrayal of Queen Everleigh is not just rose petals and vanilla.  She shows that even good people can be driven to do things they abhor to save things they love.

I enjoyed 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.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang

This is a powerful book.   It is an alternate world China in flames.  China is despised as barbaric by the Hesperians.  The manner in which this alternate China is treated is vaquely similar to the time of the Opium Wars.   The characterizations of the warlords, the shaman, smugglers, aristocracy and Hinterlanders all meld together in a powerful montage of treachery and despair.   The destruction of a country for economic benefit and religious intolerance is accompanied by a pantheon of repressed gods.

This is the second volume in the Poppy War series.  The author follows the Cike who are touched by the gods and provided occult like powers.   They story is their fight allied with the Dragon Warlord, Vaisra,   to overthrow the evil Empress.   Vaisra claims to be the champion of the people and wants to establish a republic.

The motivations of the main characters are layered and deceiving.  About the time you think you have a handle on who is going to do what you discover that another layer is emerging that is contradictory to what you imagined.   

Kuang is an artist painting a Esch/Picasso.   There are times you are sure you recognize what is being painted and know what direction it is taking and then…

The perception of what is being fought for or against changes as you read. 
This book makes you ponder the roots of conflict and economics.

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, July 26, 2019

Balance of the 12 by Ania


This was an interesting book for a variety of reasons.   The marketing of it is excellent.   It comes in a cool box and with a necklace bookmark.   You are predisposed to like it.   The story is of 12 races and their impact on each other that must be kept in balance.

The plot is worthwhile.   The idea of balance is laudable.   My first reaction on starting to read the book was not good.  I hate the font.   I seldom if ever use the word hate in a review but I HATE the font.   It makes the book a struggle to read.   H and W are not easily identifiable.   I think the font was a marketing idea and I have to say it bombed for me.

The book feel is good.  The cover feels different than any book I own.   The story was okay.   It didn’t captivate me and it felt like it was YA focused.   If that is the case then good focusing, if not then maybe a miss.   I really wanted to like this book and yet found myself luke-warm about it. 

There were good characterizations and lots of innovative ideas but, for me it wasn’t a grabber.



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, July 16, 2019

An Apprentice to Elves by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette


This story presents elves in a different light than the fair haired, pointy eared elves of Lord of the Rings.  Elves do live underground in this book and Tin, an elven smith has a human apprentice, Alfgyfa.   Alfgyfa is silver-blond and of the Northmen.   Specifically she grew up in a wolfheall which is a wolf centered hall of those who have wolf brothers.    The story focuses on interracial tension and the invasion of Rhean troops.   Rheans show all the characteristics of Romans.

The relationship between Tin and Alfgyfa is mildly tumultuous.   The long lived elves have a very conservative outlook.   Alfgyfa on the other hand is impulsive and inventive.   The inevitable clashes occur.  

If you have read my previous reviews, you are aware I have a deep and abiding fondness for anthropomorphism so I loved the wolf/man bond.   The invasion of the Rheans and the results provide the meat of the plot.

The characterizations were very well done.  I liked the recognition that intolerance and fear of difference can be overcome.  Would be a better world of we could transport some tolerance and overcome some prejudice in the real world.


I enjoyed the book and recommend 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.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Growing Things and Other Stories by Paul Tremblay


I find it odd that I am not fond of short stories because, so far, all my own work is short.   Regardless of that fact, this was a compilation of Tremblay’s work.  The stories most prevalent theme was some sort of Armageddon.  

The author does not provide a lot of details as to the reason for the various dying societies but instead focuses on the people it affects.  

The darkness of the book is belied by the title but when reading the title, the nature of the growing things is yet to be discovered.

The acceptance of duck feeding was, perhaps, the most succinct depiction of societal end that I have ever read.

The stories are well written but I can’t say I liked 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, July 6, 2019

The Sum of Her Parts by Alan Dean Foster


 
I have never been disappointed with a Foster book.  His plots are always thought provoking.   I still have unpleasant visions whilst on an airplane due to Into the Out Of although it has been decades since I read it.  This book is about a physician and a Meld (body modification human being) who are traveling across a desert to find the solution to a mystery.  This is the third book in a series.  

Dr. Ingrid Seastrom and Whisper are well developed characters whose personalities feed on each other for Foster’s trademark buddy humor.   They encounter a wide variety of beings as they trek through a supposedly impassible and uninhabited desert with the assumption they are dealing with corporate malfeasance. 
   
The conclusion reached surprised them.

I enjoyed the book and am going to track down the two previous in the season although this book stood well as a stand alone.


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

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy 4th



Politicians come and go,
Political parties wax and wane.
The strength and spirit of our nation is our acceptance of others. 
A refuge for all, a caring for the less fortunate.
We the people means All of the people!
If we are to survive the current divisiveness of our nation we must not forget our country’s basic truths and what and who we pledge to be, our pledge is to the nation
not to politicians, not to consumerism, not to race or religion but our 
Pledge is to the principles of our Constitution and our Bill of Rights.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Monday, July 1, 2019

Spine of the Dragon by Kevin J. Anderson



This is a very good book but…But isn’t always bad.  The plot is excellent.   I’m going to guess that it will be a long series as there are a wealth of characters introduced.  The but is based on the fact that I frequently regret starting a series until it is complete.   I never finished the vaunted Wheel of Time series because I thought I might die of old age before it was completed.  Then I read that Robert Jordan had passed away and felt guilty that I had gotten so frustrated.   This series has a wealth of potential.   The idea of warring creators of man returning as man is attempting to destroy himself in war leaves enormous potential for tales.   I only hope that it doesn’t take too long.

Anderson does a good job showing how revenge and grief can lead to more grief.   Utho demonstrates that grief marinated to hatred and narrow-minded vengeance can overwhelm friendship and common sense.  The wealth of characters and parallel stories were a smidge difficult to keep track of.  

My advice to Anderson, as if he wants or even needs it, would be to make sure he does a thorough back story on the next volume.  This book was an excellent read but it is left wide open at the end.   I suspect the panorama of the plot is so extensive that Anderson had no choice but to leave everything open.
   
I enjoyed the book and hope the sequel is not too long in coming. 

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, June 26, 2019

Spotlight on Balance 12 by Ania

AUTHOR WEAVES MYTHOLOGY FROM WORLD CULTURES INTO BREAKTHROUGH SCI-FI/FANTASY NOVEL
Mankind is only one of the twelve races, born of the twelve energies that created the universe. When the Balance that holds the races and the universe in harmony is threatened, two are chosen to restore it. Told through dual timelines that weave together mythologies, religions, and existential theories from all over the world, Ania’s breakthrough sci-fi/fantasy title, Balance of the 12 (Amazon, July 23, 2019), takes readers on a journey across time and space.

Billions of years ago, the Great War threatened to destroy the universe by annihilating the Balance between the twelve races. The attempt is thwarted by the Visionary Reader and human Protector at a great cost, but their sacrifice has since allowed the races to live in harmony. Until now. With another war looming on the horizon, Samuel, a human, and Jane, a Reader, are the only ones who can stop the war and restore peace. In a riveting tale both fantastical and futuristic, myth and reality collide in a fight for the greater good and the lives of all.

Ania is a translator, author of Balance of the 12, and mother of twin girls. She has spent the past decade studying philosophy and now holds a degree in the field, working especially in the philosophy of politics and existentialism. Watching her children grow up has inspired her interest in human nature, perception, and learning systems. A passionate traveler, her work is influenced by the different locations she travels to and the cultures she encounters

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

Monster Hunter Vendetta by Larry Correia


This is an action junkie book.   Correia starts with his peddle to the metal and then punches it right through the firewall.   Owen Pitt, Z, accountant turned monster hunter, finds himself facing the destruction of the world, again.

The plot of the book appears to be centered around how much mayhem can be wreaked.   The forces of evil, currently led by a guy appropriately named Hood, are plotting to darken the world and cruelly subjugate the world to evil tyranny.

Correia has an imagination that is awe inspiring.  He comes up with monsters galore for the Monster Hunters and Feds to destroy and be destroyed by.

If you don’t have enough caffeine in your life, read this book and it will fire you up for your day.

I enjoyed 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, June 21, 2019

River of Night by John Ringo and Mike Massa


This is the eighth book in the Black Tide Rising series.  Smith, the SAS banker, needs to get to a safe haven.   He discovers a variety of obstacles.   This book details the trip.
Zombies appear to be the least of the problems in this book.   It appears that the post apocalypse world is fraught with successful sociopaths.  Smith and his crew face a ruthless leader who is cleansing an area of zombies and anyone who he sees as a threat to his dominance.   In addition, a demented bureaucrat is intent on forming a new society based on the worse values of political correctness.
As in all Ringo books there is a wealth of action.   The highlights of the book for me are the humanistic factors.  Loyalty, justice and hope are imbued throughout the book.  
I enjoyed the book although the action is best read earlier in the day as it does tend to get you fired up.

BLACK TIDE RISING SERIES:
Under a Graveyard Sky
To Sail a Darkling Sea
Islands of Rage and Hope
Strands of Sorrow
Black Tide Rising
The Valley of Shadows


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, June 16, 2019

The 19th Bladesman by S.J. Hartland


This is a sword and sorcery story with vampires (ghouls).   It starts slow but progressed and ended up as a memorable book.   It involves young men with inflated egos and dismaying faults discovering their fragilities.   A very old man with a youthful appearance spends the book battling his need and desire to care.  

The characters were well done and the author didn’t portray them as one dimensional.   He showed their insecurities as well as their strengths.   I would have preferred the king and his advisor had names that were no so similar as I often mis-identified them.   Kaell and Ari were both likeable characters doomed to duty and prone to ignoring the chain of command.   Interestingly as I write this it occurred to me that all of the women in the book were treacherous.  At least I can’t think of any that weren’t.

Give this book a chance, it jumps around a bit and can be confusing, Azenor and her dead boyfriend being a prime example. 

I liked 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.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Boundless by R. A. Salvatore

This is a Drizzt Do’Urden centered book.   I’ve read some of those years ago.  This one is not captivating. I often find if there is a lengthy character list in the front it is indicative of boundless confusion.   Frankly I found this confusing.

I am a fan of fantasy but I just could not get into the book.   Before I was retired I used to give a book 50 pages before I abandoned it.  Now that I am retired I go for 100 pages and if it hasn’t grabbed me by then, alas, I quit.


I quit on this one. 




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

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Tyranny Of the Night by Glen Cook


The Black Company by Cook was one of my all-time favorite series.   This book had similarities but was far more confusing.  A child, taken from their family and trained as a warrior is the main character.  He is tasked by his capricious ruler to infiltrate an enemy.   

The book reeks of dark magic and evil people.  Else, the slave warrior, is very pragmatic but also confused.   His infiltration is confusing because the enemy keeps changing.  Accidentally Else discovers a way to kill the sorcerous creatures of the night and this puts a target on his back.  The target seekers are demi-gods who want Else’s knowledge destroyed.   Interestingly enough, Else does not seem to extrapolate his experience into a broader threat.

The number of characters and the alliances of same are mind boggling.   I found my self glossing over sections because I wasn’t sure who was supposed to be friends and enemies.   Perhaps that was Cook’s intent.   I don’t know.

I do know that although I liked the book, I certainly didn’t like it nearly as well as ANY of the many Black Company books.


I will read the sequel as I am a glutton for punishment and I hope to discover that Cook becomes less verbose, more intent on the plot and less intent on introducing a new character or enemy on every page. 

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, June 1, 2019

The Hound of Justice by Claire O’Dell

This is a book in the Janet Watson Chronicle, a follow up to A Study in Honor.   Janet Watson is a surgeon injured in the war.   She finds herself embroiled in politics due to her friendship with Sara Holmes, an agent so sometime from some part of the government.   Dr. Watson is drawn into the intrigue by her desire to see justice done to a corporation who caused the death of so many soldiers.

O’Dell provides an in-depth character study of Dr. Watson.   Watson suffers from PTSD as well as guilt over what more she should or could of done in the attack that took her arm.   Dr. Watson is also looking for love and struggling to find those she can trust. 
 
The idea of a new Confederacy and a return to wide spread bigotry based on color is repugnant.   Dismayingly the headlines seem to indicate that racial and religious bigotry are alive and disgustingly well in a shockingly large splinter of society.   O’Dell addresses this and foreshadows a future that could be unless our society rejects the messages of hate that have been promulgated lately.


This is an entertaining book that provides serious food for thought. 

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, May 27, 2019

The Mage-Fire War by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.


This book follows the Outcasts of Order.   Beltur and Jessyla have taken up residency in Haven by grace of the Duchess.  They are expected to bring order (pun intended) to Haven, a lawless and seemingly ungovernable community.  

Modesitt writes a great story.   In this book he shows how determination and wit can overcome brawn and witlessness, impulsiveness and rancor.   Beltur and company must find a way to overcome daunting odds to defeat the Duke’s troops and protect their community.

Modesitt spins a plausible tale while showing that karma really can bite you in the butt.

I am a Modesitt fan and I loved this 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.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Knight by Timothy Zahn


Knight is the sequel to Pawn.   I’ve always enjoyed Zahn’s work.   He writes a good story and his characters show moral strength.  Nicole has grown a great deal since Pawn.  She is becoming the actual protector of the Fyrantha and sees the need to confront the Shipmasters.

Zahn has done a good job in developing the character of Nicole.   She is becoming confident and discovering she does not need to be a pawn.   Humans are prisoners but although they have pacifistically defied the Shipmasters they are increasingly put into the position where pacifism may be impossible.

Zahn creates a great mini world within the Fyrantha, an alien warship/AI struggling to stay alive.
I enjoyed the book and look forward to the next book in 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, May 17, 2019

To Clear Away the Shadows by David Drake

To Clear Away the Shadows by David Drake
This is another book in the RCN series.   Cinnabar and the Alliance are currently not fighting.   A recommissioned cruiser, the Far Traveller is tasked with surveying.  

This seemed like more of a collection of short stories than a novel.  There was little continuity to events as they happened.   However, the premise of a star ship visiting different environments does lead to a lack of continuity.  The search for the Archaic Spacefarers is the primary theme for continuity and that is tenuous at best.

The discovery of artifacts could have been pursued and led to a more interesting plot.  Harry Harper was a likable character who demonstrated a bit of a lack of self-confidence.  Rick, on the other hand, seemed confident in all areas including womanizing.   I would have liked to seen Joss given a bigger part in overall events.


The book was okay.  

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