Required Reading

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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.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Pawn by Timothy Zahn


I’ve always enjoyed Zahn’s work.   He writes a good story and his characters show moral strength.  This book deals with a street smart girl who finds herself on a space ship.

Nicole is a street waif from Philadelphia.  Her character is browbeaten and physically beaten by the gang she is associated with.   The story allows her to develop some self esteem and begin to be the person she has hidden inside.

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 sequel.  

A few of the Zahn’s I have read:
Pawn's Gambit by Timothy Zahn
Judgement at Proteus by Timothy Zahn
The Domino Pattern by Timothy Zahn
Odd Girl Out by Timothy Zahn
The Third Lynx by Timothy Zahn
Night Train to Rigel by Timothy Zahn
Cobra Alliance by Timothy Zahn; Book 3 of the Cobra War
Dragonback Bargain by Timothy Zahn

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, May 7, 2019

The Gordian Protocol by David Weber and Jacob Holo


The note that this is a standalone novel makes me wonder if that is in response to the backlash of the multiverse series that Weber stopped several years ago without  bringing it to any conclusion.  I know I was highly annoyed that I read three books that just stopped with no wrap up.   I read on several forums others who were also frustrated.   This book makes it clear that it is a stand alone regardless of the fact the way it ends sets up a logical sequel at least it was wrapped up.   Enough ranting, this book deals with a multiverse and time travel.  The last couple of books I read by Weber were wordy and not a lot of action so I will attribute the success of this book to Holo.  There is plenty of action and excitement with a solid but knotty plot.

I enjoyed the paradoxes and the settling of same with regards to time travel.   I also appreciated the sentiment regarding the dangers of unbridled bureaucracy.  The characters were often amusing and I liked the way AI was portrayed.   In particular the hurt feelings on the part of the time machine.

This was an entertaining book and 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.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

This was a sleeper.  I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it and SURPRISE, I did! In 1954 there was a plethora of UFO sightings.   A small town in France was one location where UFO’s were seen.   Pierre Chauveau is ostracized by his neighbors for his claims to have seen a UFO, then he disappears.

I will say if you like science fiction you will enjoy the book.   I can’t say more without revealing too much of the plot.  Keep in mind it is a very short book so even a brief plot reveal may ruin it for you.

There are interesting characters with generational aspects.


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, April 27, 2019

Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp


This is an older novel that held up well for the second time I read it.  Padway inexplicably finds himself thrown back to Roman times where he strives to hold back the dark ages.

The original version of this story is circa 1939.  Since then I have read many similar stories.  BTW I did not read it in 1939, although I ain’t dead yet, I ain’t that old yet.  The story line holds up well and the author points out the many difficulties in trying to modernize without having a previous infrastructure.  

The amoral, extremely moral and lethally inclined populace is a shock to the modern man.   His rare close encounters with the fairer sex nearly convince him to remain celibate. 

A good story and 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.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep



The second book in a new series taking place in Bellonan, a country with shape shifting and magic.  Evie, a poor Cinderella type of relative lives in the palace of her aunt, the queen.   Evie is tested by Morta and the bastard brigade.   Strength of magic determines so much in Bellonan and Evie still appears to have none.   Evie is forced to defend the kingdom that has denied her existence.

Estep has polished her skills since I read her early Spider works.  She has crafted a kingdom and its neighbors and populated them with colorful characters.   She develops the Evie character and shows the success of determination and courage.

Evie’s personality seems to project what it means to be a Winter Queen.   She finds herself trying to find allies against the predations of Morta by visiting Andvari.  The antipathy of Andvari seems over the top considering the fact that all the Blairs but Evie have been killed.   A surprising secret about the powers of a Winter Queen come into play.  That secret and the interplay with Sully, her Andvarian on and off again paramour add zest to the story.  What Prince is being protected and by whom?

I am enjoying the series.

An interesting book, well written and very entertaining.


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 17, 2019

Endgames by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Modesitt is a philosopher.   He hides it behind his works of fiction but in his works he explores relationships, economic systems, the dangers of power and more.  This book follows up with the Rex of Solidar.   Charyn is a very young Rex who do to assorted tragedies and treacheries ended up as Rex.

The friction between High Holders and Factors is exacerbated by both religious upheaval and labor force problems.  Charyn’s efforts to evoke change seem to penalize everyone, himself included.
Modesitt tends to be wordy but he provides a truly in-depth character study along with philosophic underpinnings for actions and decisions.


This was an enjoyable read.  

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 12, 2019

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

A new series taking place in Bellonan, a country with shape shifting and magic.  Evie, a poor Cinderella type of relative lives in the palace of her aunt, the queen.   Her cousin, Vasila, her closest friend or is she?   Strength of magic determines so much in Bellonan and Evie appears to have none.   Evie is forced to defend the kingdom that has denied her existence.

Estep has polished her skills since I read her early Spider works.  She has crafted a kingdom and its neighbors and populated them with colorful characters.   She develops the Evie character and shows the success of determination and courage.   I was somewhat surprised that rage fueled hatred seemed to be more important than a stalwart, cool and pragmatic approach to victory.  


An interesting book, well written and very entertaining.


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 7, 2019

Spark by Sarah Beth Durst


I’ve read several of Ms. Durst’s books which are listed below.  I have enjoyed everyone of them.  I particularly like this one as it is a youth focused book.   Mina is quiet and has not found her voice.  She and Pixit, her lightning dragon discover that their idyllic existence may be based on the suffering of others.
Durst does a super job expressing the unease and insecurities of a young girl.   Many children feel inadequate or up to their tasks.  Durst shows that reticence and quietness are not shortcomings but just traits.  Traits that do not have to define your existence.   In the book she shows Mina’s growth and how you can maintain your identity and break out of your shell simultaneously.  
Mina’s care for not only those like her but for those who seem totally foreign demonstrates that accepting others, hearing their voices and acting in support of their needs is exemplary.
This is a good book to read, regardless of your age.
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.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Outcasts of Order by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

This will be the 31st Modesitt I have reviewed.   I don’t doubt that I read some before I started by blog.   I have to say I am never disappointed.   This is another novel  set in the Recluce environment.   Beltur, identified as a mongrel, in the Mongrel Mage is the focus of this book.  After serving his nation, perhaps too well, in the war, Beltur finds his success and strength engender fear and jealousy in his community.   Beltur is forced to make a change.

Modesitt is a philosopher.   I don’t know that he has ever identified himself as such but his topics and musings certainly indicate that he writes far more than entertainment.   This book deals with discrimination in many forms.  Fear and a climate of intolerance provide some of the settings.   The plight of the poor and uneducated is addressed and society’s obligation to an under-represented segment of the populace is highlighted.  Sound familiar?  Picked up a newspaper recently? You know the paper version of the digital newsfeed.

If you can handle deeply intricate character studies, Modesitt is not for you.   He provides insight to the character’s motivation as well as their insecurities and fears.  


Another excellent, thought provoking book by Modesitt which 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.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Bennett has crafted his own planet with new rules.   An exceptional job, he has created a whole different way of impacting the world. Sancia, a street urchin and thief, is the focus of the plot which involves world wide war.

Bennett ascribes personality in surprising places.  I particularly enjoy the anthropomorphizing of some of the scrived objects.   I have to wonder if some of the social imbalance and societal woes weren’t plucked from today’s news and skewed to fit the story line.   Haves and have nots are always going to lead to conflict, particularly when the imbalance is dramatic.   As I write this, the scandal of the moment is the recognition that the haves are using their wealth and influence to secure admission to prestigious colleges for their progeny.  One wonders what rock you live under if you didn’t already realize that scruples and immense wealth seldom go hand in hand.  

As much as digression is my hallmark, I have to say I really enjoyed Bennett’s book and hope to read the ensuing novels to see what will happen next.




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, March 22, 2019

Voices of the Fall edited by John Ringo and Gary Poole

As often as I say I am not fond of short stories, I find myself reading them.  This is another book that is related to John Ringo’s series Black Tide Rising which is a zombie apocalypse series.

It is always interesting to see how different authors put their spin on someone else’s work.   They maintain continuity with Ringo’s premise but provide outlooks that are often refreshing.


I’ve found that pretty much anything Ringo is involved with is a good read. 

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