November 29, 2017

Taking a Break

I just can't read these days.  I've been on the same book for over 4 weeks.  I'm taking down my challenges.  I'll probably be using this blog now and again for my thoughts.  Maybe a comment on a book I especially enjoyed....assuming I ever finish one!

Life has a way of throwing curve balls.  My fiance has been quite ill for several months and I lost him to a heart attack over Thanksgiving weekend.  I just am worn out and worn down.  I don't even care right now if I read or if I don't.  And I'm giving myself a break -- all these unfinished challenges eat at me and I just don't need that right now.

I know things will get easier and better with time.  Meanwhile, I'm signing out for a bit.

November 3, 2017

Heartstone by C. J. Sansom

Title:  Heartstone
Author:  C. J. Sansom
Pages:   634
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Series:  Shardlake, Book 5

Synopsis:  Summer, 1545. England is at war. Henry VIII's invasion of France has gone badly wrong, and a massive French fleet is preparing to sail across the Channel. As the English fleet gathers at Portsmouth, the country raises the largest militia army it has ever seen. The King has debased the currency to pay for the war, and England is in the grip of soaring inflation and economic crisis.

Meanwhile Matthew Shardlake is given an intriguing legal case by an old servant of Queen Catherine Parr. Asked to investigate claims of 'monstrous wrongs' committed against a young ward of the court, which have already involved one mysterious death, Shardlake and his assistant Barak journey to Portsmouth. Once arrived, Shardlake and Barak find themselves in a city preparing to become a war zone; and Shardlake takes the opportunity to also investigate the mysterious past of Ellen Fettipace, a young woman incarcerated in the Bedlam.

The emerging mysteries around the young ward, and the events that destroyed Ellen's family nineteen years before, involve Shardlake in reunions both with an old friend and an old enemy close to the throne. Events will converge on board one of the King's great warships, primed for battle in Portsmouth harbour: the Mary Rose...

Review:  I love these books.  Matthew Shardlake is such an interesting and likable character.  This was a great mystery.  I had no idea what had happened in either of the cases being investigated and when the answer was revealed, I was completely surprised.  I love when that happens!

The historical portions of these books are always very detailed and it's obvious that much time and research went into making them as realistic as possible.  How the common man lived in these times is horrendous and wartime is even worse.

Some of the previous stories were more exciting, but this one was very good.  I can't wait to get the next (and I'm afraid the last) book of this series.

Rating:  10 / 10

October 27, 2017

Fortress of Ice by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Fortess of Ice
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  402
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Tristen, Book 5

Synopsis:  Two surprising allies have emerged to aid the embattled ruler in a struggle he must win: Cefwyn's two young sons. Aewyn Marhanen is the prince destined to rule. Aewyn's half-brother, Elfwyn Aswydd—the bastard son of the king and the sorceress Tarien Aswydd—has spent years unaware of his parentage, yet now it is his time to emerge and claim the gifted birthright he's been denied for so long.

But a dark, sinister magic has crept close to the young man and seized hold of the kingdom. Nothing is as it seems, as the bonds of family strain against the powerful forces that would see them undone—and the battle is joined to unmask and destroy the malevolence that threatens to unhinge the king's peaceful and fragile reign.

Review:  I was upset at the very beginning of this novel.  The first few pages are supposedly a synopsis of the events that happened in the past books, but some of the events never happened.  The author used this three page description to add facts that never actually took place in the books.  It didn't bode well to me.  But, the story was solid.  It's set 15 years after book 4 so perhaps the inclusion of information that wasn't previously revealed is excusable, but it felt a little bit like cheating.

Either way, Cefwyn's two sons are honest and loyal young men.  Their determination and love for one another is stronger than the dark forces that stand against them.  It wasn't my favorite of this series -- Tristen, Uwen and even Cefwyn are secondary characters in this tale.  Aewyn and Elfwyn, both sons of King Cefwyn, are by far the more important roles.

Still, this was a wonderful, fantastical ride and I highly recommend the entire series to anyone who loves some really good fantasy.

Rating:  8 / 10

October 20, 2017

Fortress of Dragons by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Fortress of Dragons
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  422
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Tristen, Book 4

Synopsis:  It started long ago, in a tower at the Eye of Time, as a war between the shadowy Immortals who came before our kind. That war persists today, as the wizard Mauryl's Shaping confronts the Shadows that Hasufin summoned from Chaos against the Siddhe lords.

Tristen is that Shaping, a halfling creature of Fire and Shadow. Both more and less than human, he turned back sorcery's tides in the legend-heavy battle of Lewenbrook. Tristen's victory brought his friend Cefwyn the burden of a Kingdom, Ylesuin, and the light of a love that would outlast the ages - Ninevrise, with her gift of prophecy.

But the Lines that hold the world in place are shifting once again. The lightning-sheeted sky is aflame with sorcery's terror and magic's promise. Tasmorden has raised an army of rebels, and planted betrayers in Cefwyn's Dragon Guard. Once again, Cefwyn's peril is Tristen's call to arms.  Astride black-maned Dys, with the eyes of Owl and the counsel of Auld Syes, with the friendship of Crissand and the loyalty of Uwen, Tristen takes up his sword inscribed with "Truth" and "Illusion" back-to-back on its blade.

But the day will not be won by iron edges. Even Tristen's double-edged sword cannot cut through the knot of this new challenge. For Tristen is facing more than a pretender to Cefwyn's throne. The Shadows he sees are not from the overwhelmed sun, but straight from Ruin - a flow of darkness covering the world like ink.  If sorcery is wizardry gone askew, what is magic's dark side? A wind, as nameless as the abyss from which it rises and as cold as the knowledge of Tristen's true origin....

Review:  This was meant to be the last book in the series, I think.  But the author wrote a fifth one, so there is more story and I've already started it.   This book was wonderful and had very many good parts in it.  The characters are still believable and Uwen is still my favorite.

However, there were parts that weren't so much fun this time around.  The national religion seems determined to hate anything they don't understand.  And they don't understand Tristen.  Even so, I can't wait to read the ending to this marvelous tale, although I'll be sorry to see it end.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

October 12, 2017

Fortress of Owls by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Fortress of Owls
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  394
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Tristen, Book 3

Synopsis:  "I Dreamed of Owl. That Means Wizardry is Near."

Tristen is a weapon in an ancient war between wizardry and sorcery. He is a summoning and a shaping, brought to life by a wizard. And his sword is a weapon as well. Its keen blade, marked Illusion on one side and Truth on the other, once helped Tristen win the throne of Ylesuin for the young king Cefwyn, gaining Tristen the stewardship of the brave country of Amefel.

Tristen's rule in Amefel is blessed with two extraordinary friends: one a stalwart and simple warrior, the other a young rebel with royal blood. But the scarlet banners of war are unfolding again, and far more than a kingdom is at stake. Now Tristen must take up the sword--as well as the Sihhë magic he has forsworn. He is destiny's own, created a combatant in a far older and more fearsome conflict than any ever imagined by mere mortal man. And he is about to do battle once more. . . .

Review:  Owl, a Shadow from Tristen's first days after his Summoning, has returned.  Owl is, well, an owl, but he's also a Shadow and somehow tied up in the plans Mauryl made for Tristen when he Summoned him.  He leads Tristen out of his city and into the winter snows to save two women.  The last two women Tristen would have chosen to see again.

Uwen is still my very favorite character, although I've also come to really like Ninevrise, King Cefwyn's new wife.  The army has gathered and war is coming with Spring.  I can't wait to read what happens next.

Rating:  10 / 10

October 5, 2017

Fortress of Eagles by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Fortress of Eagles
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  478
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Tristen, Book 2

Synopsis:  Tristen is both more and less than a man. A summoning, a shaping, he was brought to life by a wizard, to serve a king yet to be crowned.

Now the wizard is dead.  And young Cefwyn is king.

Cefwyn has a dream: a united Ylesuin, and a peace this land has never known.  Cefwyn needs his only friend, this young man of mysterious origins who is more brother than vassal. He relies on Tristen, and trusts him though he knows not why, as he plans the war that will bring his dream to pass...or bring ruin upon them all.

Review:  I love this series!  I tried two other books (both of which I couldn't finish) before I finally allowed myself to revisit Tristen, Cefwyn, Uwen, and all the rest of the great characters in this story.  Speaking of the story, there was plenty of excitement but not of the warlike kind.  The politicking and backstabbing of the courtiers was almost worse than war! 

Now, I'm geared up and determined.  I'm reading the rest of this series, three more books, non-stop.  Anything less is just a waste of my time.  I want to read more about Tristen, especially now that he's been made His Grace, Duke of Amefel, where the people cheer him as Lord Sihhe.

Rating:  10 / 10


September 26, 2017

The Husband by Dean Koontz

Title:  The Husband
Author:  Dean Koontz
Pages:  415
Genre:  Thriller
Series:  None

Synopsis:  What would you do for love? Would you die? Would you kill?

We have your wife. You can get her back for two million cash. Landscaper Mitchell Rafferty thinks it must be some kind of joke. He was in the middle of planting impatiens in the yard of one of his clients when his cell phone rang. Now he’s standing in a normal suburban neighborhood on a bright summer day, having a phone conversation out of his darkest nightmare.

Whoever is on the other end of the line is dead serious. He has Mitch’s wife and he’s named the price for her safe return. The caller doesn’t care that Mitch runs a small two-man landscaping operation and has no way of raising such a vast sum. He’s confident that Mitch will find a way.  If he loves his wife enough. . .

Mitch does love her enough. He loves her more than life itself. He’s got seventy-two hours to prove it. He has to find the two million by then. But he’ll pay a lot more. He’ll pay anything.

Review:  This was a fast read and had plenty of excitement.  I just find so many of this author's stories to be so similar.  They are perfect for a plane ride or a day at the beach, but they aren't all that satisfying when I have so many better books to read.  Still, it was fun and a good story.

Rating:  5.5 / 10

September 22, 2017

Fortress in the Eye of Time by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Fortress in the Eye of Time
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  568
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Tristen, Book 1

Synopsis:  Deep in an abandoned, shattered castle, an old man of the Old Magic muttered almost forgotten words. His purpose -- to create out of the insubstance of the air, from a shimmering of light and a fluttering of shadows. that most wonderous of spells, a Shaping. A Shaping in the form of a young man who will be sent east on the road the old wizard was too old to travel. To right the wrongs of a long-forgotten wizard war, and call new wars into being.

Here is the long-awaited major new novel from one of the brightest stars in the fantasy and science fiction firmament.  C.J.Cherryh's haunting story of the wizard Mauryl, kingmaker for a thousand years of Men, and Tristen, fated to sow distrust between a prince and his father. A tale as deep as legend and a intimate as love, it tells of a battle beyond Time, in which all Destiny turns on the wheel of an old man's ambition, a young man's innocence, and the unkept promised of a king to come.

Review:  I very nearly gave up on this book at the beginning.  It's so detailed, with language so intricate, I was re-reading sentences over and over to make sense of them.  I persevered because I love this author.  I had faith it was worth the struggle.  Somewhere around the fifth chapter, I realized the writing was no longer bothering me.  It had become part of the magical, mythical setting in the story.  It made the story more real, which makes no sense unless you've read this story.

Mauryl the wizard and Tristen his Shaping are wonderful characters.  The evil they face is a Shadow named Hasufin and this being is horribly, wonderfully evil.  My favorite character though was Uwen.  He is assigned to be Tristen's guard and shield-mate, but he becomes Tristen's most trusted friend.  I completely loved Uwen.

I wish I had time right this second to read the next story.  There are four more and I'd binge read them all.  But, I have another book I need to read, so I'll save book two for later.

Rating:  10 / 10

September 14, 2017

Off the Page by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer

Title:  Off the Page
Author:  Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer
Pages:  359
Genre:  YA Fantasy
Series:  Between the Lines, Book 2

Synopsis:  Meet Oliver, a prince literally taken from the pages of a fairy tale and transported into the real world. Meet Delilah, the girl who wished Oliver into being. It’s a miracle that seems perfect at first. Sure, Oliver doesn’t know that you shouldn’t try to open your locker with a dagger or that there’s no such thing as “the ruler” of the local mall. But he also looks at Delilah as if she’s the only girl in the world --- the only girl in any world --- and Delilah can’t help feeling that being with him is a dream come to life.

But not every story can have a happy ending. Because the book wants Oliver back. And it will turn both worlds upside down to get him.

Oliver and Delilah will have to decide what --- and who --- they’re willing to risk for love and what it really means for a fairy tale to come true.

Review:  This book was a nice, happy ending to a fun YA series.  I can't say I'll be keeping these books, but I am glad I read them.

Rating:  6.5 / 10

September 7, 2017

Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer

Title:  Between the Lines
Author:  Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer
Pages:  352
Genre:  YA Fantasy
Series:  Between the Lines, Book 1

Synopsis:  What happens when happily ever after ... isn't?

Delilah hates school as much as she loves books. In fact, there's one book in particular she can't get enough of. If anyone knew how many times she has read and re-read the sweet little fairy tale she found in the library, especially the popular kids, she'd be sent to social Siberia forever.

To Delilah, though, this fairy tale is more than just words on the page. Sure, there's a handsome (well, okay, hot) prince, and a castle, and an evil villain, but it feels as if there's something deeper going on. And one day, Delilah finds out there is. Turns out, this Prince Charming is real, and a certain fifteen-year-old loner has caught his eye. But they're from two different worlds, and how can it ever possibly work?
"And how do you know that you're not part of a story book?  That someone's not reading your story right now?"
Review:  A book where the characters are real.  This is like The NeverEnding Story set in modern times and with a twist.  The prince from the fairy tale wants to come to the real world.  How much fun is that?  It's a whole lot of fun and the story has plenty of memorable characters.

While this is not my favorite of Ms. Picoult's books, it is a good read and it's very nice that she co-wrote it with her daughter.

Rating:  7 / 10

September 5, 2017

The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Title:  Firebrand
Author:  Marion Zimmer Bradley
Pages:  605
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Series:  None

Synopsis:  Blending archaeological fact and legend, the myths of the gods and the feats of heroes, Marion Zimmer Bradley breathes new life into the classic tale of the Trojan War - reinventing larger-than-life figures as living people engaged in a desperate struggle that dooms both the victors and the vanquished, their fate seen through the eyes of Kassandra - priestess, princess, and passionate woman with the spirit of a warrior.

Review:  Ms. Bradley is at her best in a novel like this one.  From King Priam to Helen of Troy, from Agamemnon to Odysseus, all of the characters are so life-like and so realistic.  It's like you are there in Troy when the Gods and men brought down the greatest city of the time.

Akhilles is no hero.  He is a spoiled, rotten, horrible person.  Helen of Troy is a women whose fate had been decreed by the Gods.  She is their pawn in the great game to destroy Troy.  Kassandra, the main character, has had visions of blood, fire and death from the time she was a very young girl.  Her 'gift of sight' was tempered with a curse -- no one who heard her prophecies would believe them.

The novel does not end in Troy.  It continues on into Mycenae and beyond, following Kassandra and her story.

Exciting and enchanting, with plenty of gory war scenes, this book is nearly impossible to put down.  In the author's postscript, she mentions that The Iliad makes no mention of Kassandra's fate.  She goes on to say:

"However, tablet #803 in the Archaeological Museum in Athens reads as follows:

ZEUS OF DODONA, GIVE HEED TO THIS GIFT
I SEND YOU FROM ME AND MY FAMILY -
AGATHON SON OF EKHEPHYLOS,
THE ZAKYNTHIAN FAMILY,
CONSULS OF THE MOLOSSIANS AND THEIR ALLIES,
DESCENDED FOR 30 GENERATIONS
FROM KASSANDRA OF TROY"

I do not know if the tablet actually exists or not.  After reading this novel, I hope that Kassandra did indeed survive to have a family after the fall of Troy.

Rating:  10 / 10

August 29, 2017

Forbidden Trespass by James Axler

Title:  Forbidden Trespass
Author:  James Axler
Pages:  314
Genre:  Action / Adventure, Sci-Fi
Series:  Deathlands #123

Synopsis:
WEARY WANDERERS

In the war-torn wasteland known as Deathlands, desperation and destruction have replaced dreams and peace. Each day arrives with a new life-threatening challenge for wanderer Ryan Cawdor and his fellow band of survivors….

FEAST OR FAMINE

Bizarre murders are taking place in a fertile farming community, and the locals are quick to point fingers at Ryan and his companions. But they know another culprit is responsible. A colony of mutants has been driven from its underground home, forced to find sustenance in the light of day. And only human flesh will satisfy their hunger. Caught between a rock and a horde of hungry cannibals, Ryan and the companions face an ultimatum—help the cannies reclaim their territory, or risk becoming the next meal. Except something far more sinister— and ravenous—lurks beneath the lush fields…

Review:  Not one of the better books in this series, but it did have plenty of action and thrills.

Rating:  5.5 / 10

August 22, 2017

The Face of Fear by Dean Koontz

Title:  The Face of Fear
Author:  Dean Koontz
Pages:  306
Genre:  Thriller
Series:  None

Synopsis:  To stop a brutal killer, the NYPD enlists the help of clairvoyant Graham Harris. He sees the murders in his mind--sometimes at the moment they are happening. Then he sees the most terrifying vision of all--his own murder...

Review:  This is pretty standard fare, but still pretty good.  It was exciting in many places and the bad guy was delightfully awful.  It is a fast read and I would have finished in more quickly if I hadn't been so busy.

Rating:  6 / 10


August 20, 2017

The Void of Mist and Thunder by James Dashner

Title:  The Void of Mist and Thunder
Author:  James Dashner
Pages:  404
Genre:  Youth Fantasy
Series:  The 13th Reality, Book 4

Synopsis:  When an all-consuming void from the Fourth Dimension opens up, unleashing monsters throughout the Realities, Mister George has one last weapon at his disposal--the mysterious and powerful Karma button, which might be even more dangerous than anyone imagined.

Review:  This series did not have what I consider a very happy ending.  This author seems to like to have a huge sacrifice made by his main characters.  In this series and in his children's series The Jimmy Fincher Saga, the main character ended up in a very sad position.

I'm glad I read these books, but I won't be keeping them.

Rating:  6 / 10

August 16, 2017

The Blade of Shattered Hope by James Dashner

Title:  The Blade of Shattered Hope
Author:  James Dashner
Pages:  507
Genre:  Youth Fantasy
Series:  The 13th Reality, Book 3

Synopsis:  Things have changed for Atticus Higginbottom. After the near catastrophe in the Fourth Reality, Tick’s being homeschooled in the fields of science, trying to master the mysterious Chi’karda. But just as he begins to make progress, Mistress Jane reappears, now hideously scarred and much more powerful. She has tapped into the universe’s darkest secret to create the Blade of Shattered Hope, and in her quest to attain a Utopian Reality for the future of mankind, she’s ready to risk billions of lives—including those of Tick’s parents and sisters—to set her plan in motion. Her vengeance knows no bounds and when rumors begin to circulate about the secret scientific experiments taking place at the Factory, Tick and his friends—Sato, Sofia, and Paul—are faced with their most dangerous task yet. And they must not fail; for if they do, the entire universe could cease to exist.

Review:  There's only one book left in this series.  I'm sad in one way and happy in another.  I'm sad because, really, these books are very good.  I'm a little happy because they take me far too long to get through.  It's not boredom or poor writing.  They just aren't easy for me to read for some reason.

Rating:  6.5 / 10

August 13, 2017

The Hunt for Dark Infinity by James Dashner

Title:  The Hunt for Dark Infinity
Author:  James Dashner
Pages:  446
Genre:  Youth Fantasy
Series:  The 13th Reality, Book 2

Synopsis:  It's been a quiet summer for Tick, Paul, and Sofia, but the latest message from Master George changes everything. The Realities are in danger -- and from something more terrible than Mistress Jane and the mutated Chi'karda of the Thirteenth Reality. People from all Realities are unexplainably going insane. Worse, some Realities are fragmenting, disintegrating into nothingness. Master George has learned that Mr. Chu from the Fourth Reality is working on a mysterious new weapon called Dark Infinity. But no one has any idea how to stop the weapon -- or even if it can be stopped.

To make matters worse, Tick and his friends have been kidnapped, forced to wink from Reality to Reality, solving impossible riddles in order to survive the deadly traps surrounding them.

Mistress Jane and Tick find themselves in a race to reach the weapon first -- but who will destroy it and who will become its master?

Review:  This series is really good so far.  It's fairly easy to read, but not exactly a fast read for me.  I have had trouble finishing these books in a timely fashion.

Still, this one was quite scary and the storyline is unique.  I really liked it.

Rating:  7 / 10

August 8, 2017

The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner

Title:  The Journal of Curious Letters
Author:  James Dashner
Pages:  503
Genre:  Youth Fantasy
Series:  The 13th Reality, Book 1

Synopsis:  What if every time you made a choice that had a significant consequence, a new, alternate reality was created -- the life that would've been? What if those new Realities were in danger? What if it fell to you to save all the realities?

Atticus Higginbottom, a.k.a. Tick, is a regular thirteen-year-old boy living a regular life until the day a strange letter arrives in his mailbox. Postmarked from Alaska and cryptically signed with the initials "M.G.," the letter informs Tick that dangerous -- perhaps even deadly -- events have been set in motion that could result in the destruction of reality itself. M.G. promises to send Tick twelve riddles that will reveal that on a certain day, at a certain time, at a certain place, something extraordinary will happen.

Will Tick have the courage to follow the twelve clues M.G. sends to him? Will he be able to solve the riddles in time? As M.G. warns Tick, very frightening things are coming your way. Will you join Tick and his friends on an amazing journey through the Realities? What will your choice be?

Review:  I love James Dashner.  This book was a lot of fun to read, full of good humor and great storytelling.  I don't love it as much as I did his Maze Runner series, but I do love it so far.  I notice on some sites that this set of books is listed as Young Adult.  I'm sorry, but a boy in middle school is not a young adult.  Not yet anyhow.

The other realities are twisted versions of our own and some of them are quite scary.  It's an original story with original characters.  If you loved Harry Potter, you'll probably love Tick Higginbottom too.

Rating:  7.5 / 10

August 4, 2017

This Alien Shore by C. S. Friedman

Title:  This Alien Shore
Author:  C. S. Friedman
Pages:  564
Genre:  Science Fiction
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  It is the second age of space colonization. The first age, humanity's initial attempt to people the stars, ended in disaster when it was discovered that Earth's original super-luminal drive did lasting genetic damage to all who used it - permanently mutating Earth's far-flung colonists in mind and body.  Abandoned by their home planet, exiles in alien star systems, these variant humans had no choice but to survive any way they could.

Jamisia has always lived in Shido Habitat, a corporate satellite in Earth's outer orbit. She has no memories of her parents, but has been nurtured by the fatherly care of her tutor. Protected by her biological brain-ware systems, and accompanied by the many voices in her head, she has grown into a resourceful, if unusual, young woman. When Shido is viciously attacked by corporate raiders, Jamisia's tutor risks his life to smuggle her onto a ship bound for the nearest ainniq - the Gueran jump station to the Up-and-Out. But before he dies, he tells her something which rocks the foundation of her world - the raiders were searching for her....

Review:  It's been far too long since I read a book by this author.  I'd forgotten just how good her science fiction is.  This was a wonderful tale, with thrills and chills and plenty of good science fiction.  I really doesn't get much better than this.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

July 31, 2017

Lethal by Sandra Brown

Title:  Lethal
Author:  Sandra Brown
Pages:  472
Genre:  Thriller
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  When her four year old daughter informs her a sick man is in their yard, Honor Gillette rushes out to help him. But that "sick" man turns out to be Lee Coburn, the man accused of murdering seven people the night before. Dangerous, desperate, and armed, he promises Honor that she and her daughter won't be hurt as long as she does everything he asks. She has no choice but to accept him at his word.

But Honor soon discovers that even those close to her can't be trusted. Coburn claims that her beloved late husband possessed something extremely valuable that places Honor and her daughter in grave danger. Coburn is there to retrieve it -- at any cost. From FBI offices in Washington, D.C., to a rundown shrimp boat in coastal Louisiana, Coburn and Honor run for their lives from the very people sworn to protect them, and unravel a web of corruption and depravity that threatens not only them, but the fabric of our society.

Review:  I cannot believe I've never read a book by this author!  It was fabulous and had me on the edge of my seat for the entire story.  I wish the ending had been just a little bit different, but the story was so good I can't really complain.

Rating:  8 / 10

July 25, 2017

The History of the Runestaff by Michael Moorcock

Title:  The Mad God's Amulet
Author:  Michael Moorcock
Pages:  124
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  The History of the Runestaff, Book 2

Synopsis:  After withstanding the power of the Black Jewel and saving the city of Hamadan from the conquest of the Dark Empire of Granbretan, Hawkmoon set off for Kamarg, where friendship and love await him. But the journey is beyond treacherous. With his boon companion, Oladahn, the beastman of the Bulgar Mountains, Hawkmoon discovers the peaceful city of Soryandum, which holds the power to transcend the confines of time and space. This power, which keeps the city from falling to the Dark Empire, could keep Kamarg safe. But alas his love Yisselda is now a prisoner of the Mad God, whose powerful amulet is linked to Hawkmoon's ultimate destiny: a power that began at creation and calls heroes to arms throughout existence. Hawkmoon must rip this amulet from the neck of the Mad God if he hopes to save the city of Kamarg and free his friends and his one true love from the Dark Empire's relentless wrath.


Title:  The Sword of the Dawn
Author:  Michael Moorcock
Pages:  130
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  The History of the Runestaff, Book 3

Synopsis:  In The Sword of the Dawn, Dorian Hawkmoon's quest to destroy the Dark Empire of Granbretan leads him onto the path of a man who possess a rare ring that allows men to travel through time. Hawkmoon uses this ring to travel to a far future New Orleans, where he must battle the Pirate Lords who possess the Great Sword of the Dawn, which can end the Dark Empire once and for all.


Title:  The Runestaff
Author:  Michael Moorcock
Pages:  120
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  The History of the Runestaff, Book 4

Synopsis:  As it is written: "Those who swear by the Runestaff must then benefit or suffer from the consequences of the fixed pattern of destiny that they set in motion." And Baron Meliadus of Kroiden had sworn such an oath, had sworn vengeance against all of Castle Brass, had sworn that Yisselda, Count Brass's daughter, would be his. On that day, many months earlier, he had fixed the pattern of fate; a pattern that had involved him in strange destructive schemes, that had involved Dorian Hawkmoon in wild and uncanny adventures in distant places, and that was now nearing its terrible resolution.

Review:  I very rarely do this but these books are so short that it's impossible to write enough about each one to make it worthwhile to do.  It's an enjoyable series.  My only complaint is the very liberal use of deus ex machina to continue the story and get the hero and his friends out of trouble.  I realize this is a tried and true method used in plenty of fantasy novels, but these were just rife with it.

I'm glad I finished them....and I'm also glad I'm done with them.

Rating:  6 / 10

July 19, 2017

The Jewel in the Skull by Michael Moorcock

Title:  The Jewel in the Skull
Author:  Michael Moorcock
Pages:  128
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  The History of the Runestaff, Book 1

Synopsis:  Those who dare swear by the Runestaff must then benefit or suffer from the consequences of the fixed pattern of destiny that they set in motion. Several such oaths have been sworn in the history of the Runestaff's existence... - The High History of the Runestaff.

Dorian Hawkmoon, late the Duke of Koln, fell under the power of the Runestaff, a mysterious artifact more ancient than Time itself. His destiny, shaped by a vengeful oath sworn by the maddened Baron Meliadus of the Dark Empire, pitted Hawkmoon in battle against his own allies and forced him, by the Black Jewel embedded in his skull, to betray his very heritage.

Review:  This book is actually part of the larger Moorcock universe of The Eternal Champion.  I've read other novels from this universe, but this quartet of books is completely about one Champion in particular, Dorian Hawkmoon, with some scenes also including Count Brass, another Champion.

Dorian travels across the area that used to be Europe, finally ending up in Persia.  The Dark Empire is chasing him every step of the way.  This story was fun and exciting, full of sorcery and science all mixed together in this post-nuclear version of our world.  It was fun to read and very short.  I'm already starting on the next in the series.

Rating:  7 / 10

July 17, 2017

End Day by James Axler

Title:  End Day
Author:  James Axler
Pages:  315
Genre:  Action / Adventure, Sci-Fi
Series:  Deathlands #122

Synopsis:
TIME WARPED
Ryan Cawdor and his six companions struggle to survive postnuclear America, a grim new world where hope for the future is lost amid the devastation.

APOCALYPSE REDUX
In pursuit of a hardened enemy - Magus - Ryan and the companions find themselves in a land more foreign than any they've encountered. After unwittingly slipping through a time hole, the group lands in twentieth-century New York City, getting their first glimpse of predark civilization. And they're not sure they like it. Only Mildred and Doc can appreciate this strange metropolis, but Armageddon is just seventy-two hours away, and Magus will stop at nothing to make sure Ryan and his team are destroyed on Nuke Day?

Review:  Well, this was a really great story!  The nuclear holocaust happened on January 20, 2001.  Ryan and his companions are shot back in time to January 19, 2001, right into the heart of New York City.

They have to escape in time and try to stop the really bad guy, Magus.  It was fun, having Ryan and his group visit a time before the nukecaust.  The excitement (and violence) kept coming and it wasn't until the very end of this book that I knew how it would turn out.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

July 13, 2017

Gauntlgrym by R. A. Salvatore

Title:  Gauntlgrym
Author:  R. A. Salvatore
Pages:  345
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Legend of Drizzt, Book 23

Synopsis:  Drizzt joins Bruenor on his quest for the fabled dwarven kingdom of Gauntlgrym: ruins said to be rich with ancient treasure and arcane lore. But before they even get close, another drow and dwarf pair stumbles across it first: Jarlaxle and Athrogate.

In their search for treasure and magic, Jarlaxle and Athrogate inadvertently set into motion a catastrophe that could spell disaster for the unsuspecting people of the city of Neverwinter—a catastrophe big enough to lure even the mercenary Jarlaxle into risking his own coin and skin to stop it. Unfortunately, the more they uncover about the secret of Gauntlgrym, the more it looks like they can’t stop it on their own. They’ll need help, and from the last people they ever thought to fight alongside again: Drizzt and Bruenor.

Review:  This series is very good.  I've enjoyed it up until now.  I think I waited too long to continue the series.  I read book 22 in 2010.  It took a while to get the next few books and then, by the time I had them, I had other books I wanted to read.  Now, I've just lost interest in Drizzt Do'Urden and his adventures.  I've forgotten too much of the back story and just found myself not all that interested.

I've taken the remaining three books from this series off my TBR and I won't be trying to get the rest.  For me, it's just time to part ways with the brave and exciting drow named Drizzt.  He sure was fun while it lasted though.

Rating:  6.5 / 10

July 7, 2017

Mount TBR Checkpoint #2

Well, I'm just over half way there!  I think I'm actually going to make it!  29 out of 48 and still half the year to go!

Revelation by C.J. Sansom and Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay are both mysteries.  I loved them both!  Picnic at Hanging Rock was my first book by Joan Lindsay and it's set in Australia, a place I've always wanted to visit!!

I have read FOUR books all purchased on March 1, 2008 so far.  The most recent one of these is The Prophet of Akhran by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman.

1.  My ex was/is:  a Trouble Magnet (Alan Dean Foster)
2.  My best friend is:  Song of Susannah (Stephen King)
3.  Lately at Work:  I've had to deal with Zombies and Other Unpleasant Things (William Bebb)
4.  If I Won the Lottery:  I'd buy The House of Bairn (Thomas K. Martin)
5.  My Fashion Sense:  makes more sense By the Light of the Moon (Dean Koontz)
6.  My Next Ride:  will be Big Trouble (Dave Barry)
7.  The One I Love is:  Flinx Transcendent (Alan Dean Foster)
8.  If I Ruled the World. I Would:  think it was A Time of Madness (Thomas K. Martin)
9.  When I Look Out My Window, I:  see Beauty (Sheri S. Tepper)
10.  The Best Things in Life are:  told by The Storyteller (Jodi Picoult)

Once Upon an Autumn Eve by Dennis L. McKiernan

Title:  Once Upon an Autumn Eve
Author:  Dennis L. McKiernan
Pages:  378
Genre:  Fantasy, Romance
Series:  Faery Series, Book 3

Synopsis:  Based loosely on the fairy tale of the Glass Mountain and the Scottish ballad of Tam Lin

Once upon an autumn eve, a wounded knight named Sieur Luc rides into the Autumnwood - and into the heart of Princess Liaze. But even as love blooms between them, dark forces snatch him away. Guided by the enigmatic Fates, Liaze sets out on a desperate quest to follow the trail of her true love no matter what perils she may encounter.

Review:  This series is one of the very few romance series I read.  These books are full of wonderful fantasy settings and characters.  I love that each of the books is a lengthy retelling of one (or more) fairy tales.

This story was quite good.  It's not the best one of the series, but it is good.

Rating:  7.5 / 10

June 29, 2017

Hive Invasion by James Axler

Title:  Hive Invasion
Author:  James Axler
Pages:  316
Genre:  Action / Adventure, Sci-Fi
Series:  Deathlands #121

Synopsis:
DUST DWELLERS

Seeking refuge in a post-Armageddon America, Ryan Cawdor and his crew of misfits travel together for survival and sanity. Known as Deathlands, this lawless hellscape is defined by destruction, death and despair. Only those who persevere with the belief in a better future stand a chance in this world where each day brings a new, and potentially lethal, struggle.

HARNESSED MINDS

Desperate to find water and shelter on the barren plains of former Oklahoma, Ryan and his team come upon a community that appears, at first, to be peaceful. Then the ville is attacked by a group of its own inhabitants—people infected with a parasite that has turned them into slave warriors for an unknown overlord. The companions try to help fend off the enemy and protect the remaining population, but when Ryan is captured during a second ambush, all hope seems lost. Especially when he launches an assault against his own crew.

Review:  I've seen these books called "serial novels" and "a stupid men's action series" online and I disagree and am even a bit offended.

The front cover of this novel shows one of the main characters, Krysty Wroth.  Sure, she's eye candy for the men who assuredly read this series.  Yes, she and her long-time lover, Ryan, have fairly descriptive sex scenes in nearly every book.  She's also tough and smart and, while she's probably not exactly role-model material, I'd like to be a lot more like her.

Today, while I was reading on my lunch break outside work, a guy walked by and asked what I was reading.  I said, "A really good book!".  He asked (a little snidely), "Oh, one of those girl books?".  I assume he meant a mushy romance.  I really wouldn't know, since I've never been one of those girls.  I told him it had gun fights and lots of violence.  He looked shocked and then muttered something about that being nice and backed away.  Hah!  I smiled for the rest of the day.

Guess I should really talk about the story now.  It's about a group of parasitic slug things that can take control of a human.  Think Aliens meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers and you'll get some idea of what I mean.  It was gross and scary but ended on a positive note.  There's no happily ever after in these books, but this one had as close as they get.  Another of the goodies!!

Rating:  8 / 10

June 27, 2017

Polestar Omega by James Axler

Title:  Polestar Omega
Author:  James Axler
Pages:  314
Genre:  Action / Adventure, Sci-Fi
Series:  Deathlands #120

Synopsis:
ARMAGEDDON'S NOMADS

Banded together to survive, Ryan Cawdor and his companions travel the barren wastelands of a post-nuclear world. There are no laws in Deathlands—only fear, destruction and annihilation. As each day brings a new struggle, this group journeys toward the shaky promise of sanctuary.

COLD WAR

Ryan and his friends become the subjects in a deadly experiment when they're taken captive inside a redoubt at the South Pole. A team of scientists is convinced the earth must be purified of mutants, and now they have the perfect lab rats to test their powerful bioweapon. Within Antarctica's harsh and unstable conditions, the companions must fight the odds and take down the whitecoats before millions are killed. But in this uncompromising landscape, defeating the enemy may be just another step toward a different kind of death….

Review:  One-hundred and twenty books later and I still love this series.  The guns, the action, the blood and gore, and the same main characters I've come to know and love makes this hands-down the longest series I've ever read.

This one is set in Antarctica and between the icy cold and the 300-pound mutant penguins, it is a great deal of fun indeed (and a little scary, truth be told!).  There's also a group of scientists and soldiers who are descendants of the people who were there when the nuclear bombs fell on the entire world.  Interbred and believing that they are the last 'unmutated' humans in existence, they are pretty awful examples of humanity.

These books aren't always great, but this one was.  Finished it way too quickly and I'm hankering for more so I've already selected #121 for my next read.

Rating:  8 / 10

June 25, 2017

Big Trouble by Dave Barry

Title:  Big Trouble
Author:  Dave Barry
Pages:  292
Genre:  Comedy / Thriller
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  Dave Barry makes his fiction debut with a ferociously funny novel of love and mayhem in south Florida.

Review:  This book had me laughing out loud while sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what happened next.  There are so many great characters.  Puggy, the homeless drunk who works at a bar run by Russian gun runners and who just happens to fall in love with a housemaid named Nina.  Nina is an illegal alien of Hispanic descent and she loves Puggy back.  Then, we have Eliot, the failing advertising agent whose ex-wife is getting a little tired of him being behind on his support checks.  Eliot falls in love with Anna, who is married to a man who may be the largest ass in the continental United States.  Seriously, the list goes on but I won't give the other truly hilarious people away.

Add to the great cast a suitcase sized nuclear bomb, an airplane, and some goats and the story just gets funnier and scarier.  It holds onto the laughs and the nail biting until the very end, all at the same time.  Set in Miami, it is just about the perfect book to sit down with and finish in an afternoon (at the beach, even!).  It took me longer than that but that's my fault.

I have just realized this book was made into a movie with Tim Allen starring as Eliot.  Oh, I am absolutely going to watch it!  I'll wait a while though because it cannot possibly be as good as this book was.

Rating:  10 / 10

June 23, 2017

Flinx Transcendent by Alan Dean Foster

Title:  Flinx Transcendent
Author:  Alan Dean Foster
Pages:  398
Genre:  Science Fiction
Series:  The Humanx Commonwealth, Book 26

Synopsis:  From one of the most brilliant imaginations in science fiction comesFlinx Transcendent, Alan Dean Foster’s thrilling conclusion to the series that began over thirty-five years ago–the epic adventures of Flinx and his flying minidrag companion, Pip.

Flinx is the only one with even the tiniest chance of stopping the evil colossus barreling in to destroy the Humanx Commonwealth (and everything else in the Milky Way). With time running out, Flinx is a man in search of a solution and in search of himself. His efforts take him to the land of his mortal enemies, the bloodthirsty AAnn, where chances are excellent that Flinx’s discovery–and summary execution–will eliminate all his demons and doubts in one masterstroke.

The way Flinx is feeling, that might not be the worst imaginable end. After years of searching for his father, he finally has–and must bear–the truth. And now he must also seek out an ancient sentient weapons platform wandering around somewhere in the galaxy and then communicate with it, a powwow that could very well fry his already frazzled brain. Then there are the oblivion-craving assassins determined to stop Flinx before he can prevent total annihilation.

With a future that rosy, it’s no surprise he’s flirting with disaster. Still, Flinx is no quitter, and he’s got something else going for him–an uncanny ability to improvise and triumph (or at least survive) in impossible situations. He’s certainly been through enough of them, and now he’s going to need every ounce of that know-how, because he’s venturing to places where the laws of physics fear to tread, where no one’s ever been, to do what no one’s ever done, and where his deadliest enemy is so close it’s invisible.

Review:  Finally, I got to find out how Flinx would save the universe.  It's been a long time coming and I'm glad I stayed with this series.  I have two more books set in the same Commonwealth universe, but neither of them involve Flinx.  I'm glad.  I really like the ones that he's not in better.

I understand the author is writing more books about Flinx and what happens after this novel.  I'll be passing on them.  I'm happy with the closure from this book and am not really all that excited about reading more about Flinx.

Like the last book this is solid science fiction, but the main character (Flinx) is just not my favorite.  Not by a long shot.  I will most miss the Thranx.  They are incredible and believable aliens who I'd very much like to meet.  Mr. Foster has created an entire universe full of some of the most wonderful aliens (and humans) out there.  The series is well worth the time.

Oh, and I'll miss Pip.  Who doesn't want an empathic Alaspinian mini-dragon as a pet?

Rating:  7.5 / 10

June 15, 2017

Patrimony by Alan Dean Foster

Title:  Patrimony
Author:  Alan Dean Foster
Pages:  255
Genre:  Science Fiction
Series:  The Humanx Commonwealth, Book 25

Synopsis:  "I know who your father is . . . Gestalt." A shocked Flinx hears these dying words from one of the renegade eugenicists whose experiments with humans twenty-odd years ago shocked the galaxy . . . and spawned Flinx. So Flinx and his minidrag, Pip, venture to Gestalt, an out-of-the-way planet that may supply the key to Flinx's shadowy past and strange powers.  Unfortunately for Flinx, Gestalt also hosts a resident bounty hunter who's just learned about the stupendous reward offered for a certain dead redhead.  Flinx gets a chance to test his adversary's skills when our hero's skimmer is blasted out of the sky and into a raging river in the middle of nowhere -- a nowhere of impossible terrain and ravenous, carnivorous beasts.

Review:  Well, Flinx is back.  I knew he would be.  It's not that I don't like him, but I just don't love him.  I don't really feel sorry for him, although I suspect I'm supposed to.  He's just sort of whiny, with a whole 'poor little rich boy' thing.

Still, the story was solid and the bounty hunter was fun.  Gestalt is an interesting planet with very wonderful native beings.  All in all, it's really about the science fiction to me.  And, this is good science fiction.

Rating:  7 / 10

June 11, 2017

The Good Guy by Dean Koontz

Title:  The Good Guy
Author:  Dean Koontz
Pages:  447
Genre:  Thriller
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis: Timothy Carrier, having a beer after work at his friend’s tavern, enjoys drawing eccentric customers into amusing conversations. But the jittery man who sits next to him tonight has mistaken Tim for someone very different—and passes to him a manila envelope full of cash.

“Ten thousand now. You get the rest when she’s gone.

The stranger walks out, leaving a photo of the pretty woman marked for death, and her address. But things are about to get worse. In minutes another stranger sits next to Tim. This one is a cold-blooded killer who believes Tim is the man who has hired him.

Thinking fast, Tim says, “I’ve had a change of heart. You get ten thousand—for doing nothing. Call it a no-kill fee.” He keeps the photo and gives the money to the hired killer. And when Tim secretly follows the man out of the tavern, he gets a further shock: the hired killer is a cop.

Suddenly, Tim Carrier, an ordinary guy, is at the center of a mystery of extraordinary proportions, the one man who can save an innocent life and stop a killer far more powerful than any cop…and as relentless as evil incarnate. But first Tim must discover within himself the capacity for selflessness, endurance, and courage that can turn even an ordinary man into a hero, inner resources that will transform his idea of who he is and what it takes to be The Good Guy.

Review:  I'm really not sure how I ended up with so many books by this author.  Probably because of far too many yard sales and visits to the Friends of the Library book sales.  I made a pact to finish at least a few of the great many of his books I have this year.

This one was very good.  The bad guy was deliciously evil.  The action was almost non-stop.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

June 6, 2017

The Howling Stones by Alan Dean Foster

Title:  The Howling Stones
Author:  Alan Dean Foster
Pages:  326
Genre:  Science Fiction
Series:  Humanx Commonwealth, Book 24

Synopsis:  Enter another realm in the amazing world of the Humanx Commonwealth--the interstellar empire governed jointly by humans and aliens!

The newly discovered planet of Senisran was a veritable paradise--a sprawling world of vast oceans dotted with thousands of lush islands and copious deposits of rare-earths and minerals. First-contact specialist Pulickel Tomochelor's mission to Senisran was straightforward: Secure mining rights for the Humanx Commonwealth before the vicious AAnn Empire beat them to the chase. With Senisran's Parramat clan resisting entreaty, negotiations could be difficult, but Pulickel was more comfortable with aliens than with his own species, and looked forward to a triumphant return to Earth.

He hadn't counted on the incredible secret of Parramat, though: the strange, powerful green stones that the tribe used to manipulate the forces of nature. Within those stones lay an awesome technology the origin of which was lost in time--a technology that had to be kept from the AAnn at any cost . . .

Review:  This was one of the best books of this series!  The main character in the series, Flinx, was nowhere to be found.....and I think I liked it that way.  I get a little tired of Flinx and his melodrama.  Whether that is the reason or not, I believe this is in the top three books from this set.

Engaging and incredible, the story of the Parramat and their stones is one I won't soon forget.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

June 2, 2017

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

Title:  Picnic at Hanging Rock
Author:  Joan Lindsay
Pages:  196
Genre:  Mystery
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  It was a cloudless summer day in the year 1900. Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of the secluded volcanic outcropping. Farther, higher, until at last they disappeared. They never returned.

Haunting, mysterious, and subtly erotic, Picnic at Hanging Rock inspired the iconic 1975 film of the same name by Peter Weir. A beguiling masterpiece of Australian literature, it stands with Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle and Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca as a masterpiece of otherworldly intrigue.

Review:  I wasn't sure what to expect from this novel.  What I got was pure excellence.  This author's descriptions are wonderful.  The story reads like a dream.  You see the places, you care about the characters, and you wonder what really happened at Hanging Rock.

Even though it remains a mystery even after the book is done, I felt in no way cheated.  It was just too darn good of a story.  I'll be keeping this book.  I'm sure I'll read it again.  I'm so glad I read this!

Rating:  10 / 10

June 1, 2017

Demon Seed by Dean Koontz

Title:  Demon Seed
Author:  Dean Koontz
Pages:  301
Genre:  Horror
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis: Susan Harris lived in self-imposed seclusion in a mansion featuring numerous automated systems controlled by a state-of-the-art computer. Every comfort was provided and in this often unsafe world of ours, her security was absolute.

But now her security system has been breached, her sanctuary from the outside world violated by an insidious artificial intelligence which has taken control of her house. In the privacy of her own home, and against her will, Susan will experience an inconceivable act of terror. She will become the object of the ultimate computer's consuming obsession: to learn everything there is to know about the flesh...

Review:  This story is told by the artificial intelligence known as Adam Two in his report to his creators who are sitting judgement on his actions.  Adam Two wanted was actually self-aware.  He was missing only one thing.  He wanted to be flesh, not circuits and wiring.  Adam Two had no conscience whatsoever in pursuing his dream.

It is a great premise.  It is, unfortunately, not at all a great story.  It took me forever to get through even though there were some harrowing scenes.  It's just very poorly done.  I understand this book was made into a movie.  I think I'll pass on watching it.

It is a shame to note that in the afterword the author mentions re-writing this story for the version I read.  I assume that is because the original version was worse than this one.  I've found that this author is either really, really great or really awful.  This one was just awful.

Rating:  1.5 / 10

May 28, 2017

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Title:  On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  291
Genre:  Non-Fiction
Series:  Stand Alone

...books are a uniquely portable magic.

Synopsis:  Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have.  King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999 -- and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery.  Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it -- fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story told well.

Traditionally, the muses were women, but mine's a guy.  I'm afraid we'll just have to live with that.

Review:  I wasn't sure what to expect with this book.  I went into it knowing that I'm not a writer.  I never will be.  I just don't have that gift.  I shouldn't have worried.  Stephen King made the book so much fun to read, even though I knew I'd never use the advice he was giving.

His memories of his childhood and the story of what happened with a van that nearly killed him in 1999 were heartbreaking and touching.  I admire Mr. King more (if that's possible!) than I did before I read this book.

His complete honesty and his interesting life make this book a great read, whether you plan to write or not.  If you are a writer (or want to be), I'd say that it's necessary reading.

Rating:  9 / 10

May 24, 2017

The Prophet of Akhran by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

Title:  The Prophet of Akhran
Author:  Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
Pages:  390
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Rose of the Prophet, Book 3

Synopsis:  As the Great War of the Gods rages, it seems as though the terrible Quar, God of Reality, Greed, and Law, will emerge the victor.  Even the immortals have abandoned their mortal masters to join the the battle above.

Trapped without their immortal servants on the shore of the Kurdin Sea, Khardan, Zohra, and the wizard Mathew must cross the vast desert known as the Sun's Anvil - a feat no man has ever performed.

Like the legendary Rose of the Prophet, the nomads struggle to survive the journey.  If they succeed, they will face more than combat with the enemy, for the Amir's hardened warriors are led by Achmed, the fiercest of men....and Khardan's brother.

Review:  This was a really good story, with plenty of action and adventure.  Unfortunately, the ending was a disappointment.  It ended very abruptly with no resolution to the many large problems that faced the Gods and the nomads.

I did enjoy the story but after I got to the last page, I thought perhaps there were pages missing.  I just couldn't believe the ending gave so little closure.  I felt cheated that I'd never know what happened with the main stories that I'd been following.  After how wonderful the last book was, I was expecting better than this.

Rating:  4.5 / 10

May 19, 2017

The Paladin of the Night by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

Title:  The Paladin of the Night
Author:  Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
Pages:  375
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Rose of the Prophet, Book 2

Synopsis:  The Great War of the Gods means nothing to the proud people on the mortal planet--until Akhran the Wandering God decrees the union of two mighty  feuding clans. Though the families are fierce Warriors, they are few in number. Even the marriage of  Khardan and Zohra is not enough to over power the  strength of the invading army or prevent the  imprisonment of their peoples.

Now, with Khardan and Zohra mysteriously missing--seemingly cowards who hid from certain defeat--the two clans have lost all  hope of ever again seeing their beloved open skies. But Prince Khardan and Princess Zohra, aided by the wizard Mathew, have been given another mission...a mission that at first seems less useful than counting the many grains of the desert sands, but soon proves to be of far more lasting importance.

Review:  This book was even more exciting than the first one!  One God, Quar, has decided to become the only God and he will stop at nothing to cause the other Gods to vanish from the world.

The Goddess Death is involved in his plans, unknowingly.  The messengers of the gods are vanishing.  People are being put to death.  It is jihad in the mortal realm and in the heavens.

Incredible, impossible to put down.  I can't wait for the final, sure to be dramatic, ending to this trilogy!

Rating:  8.5 / 10

May 16, 2017

The Will of the Wanderer by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

Title:  The Will of the Wanderer
Author:  Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
Pages:  444
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Rose of the Prophet, Book 1

Synopsis: Since time began, twenty Gods have ruled the  universe. Though each god possessed different abilities, each was all-powerful within his realm. Now one of the Gods has upset the balance of power, leaving the others scrambling for control in the new order...

Here is the epic tale of  the Great War of the Gods--and the proud people  upon whom the fate of the world depends. When the God of the desert, Akhran the Wanderer, declares that two clans must band together despite their centuries-old rivalry, their first response is  outrage. But they are a devout people and so reluctantly bow to his bidding.

Enemies from  birth, the headstrong Prince Khardan and impetuous Princess Zohra must unite in marriage to stop Quar, the God of Reality, Greed, and Law, from  enslaving their people.

But can Khardan and Zohra keep from betraying each other? Can their two peoples maintain their fragile alliance until the long-awaited flowering of the legendary Rose of the Prophet?

Against the powerful legions of the evil Amir, Khardan and Zohra fight to save the desert people--a fight unexpectedly joined by an exiled wizard named Mathew and the mysterious powers of his alien land.

Review:  I didn't expect to enjoy this book half as much as I did.  The women are second-class citizens.  The twenty gods and their messengers exist and interact with the people.  The setting is very much like the Middle East.  However, I did enjoy it, mostly because the story was so engaging.  It had thrills and adventure and love and magic, pretty much everything you can ask for in a fantasy novel.

I've yet to find a series of books by Margaret Weis that I loved as much as her Death Gate series but this one is well done and I've already begun the second book.

Rating:  7 / 10

May 12, 2017

Phantoms - The Movie

I've tried three times to watch this movie.  I have not been able to finish it.  From the very start, the story is changed so much from the book that I cannot believe the author (Dean Koontz) had anything to do with it.  Unfortunately he's credited with writing the screenplay.

The main character, Jenny, has a younger sister.  Lisa is a very young, very scared 14 year old in the book.  In the movie, she looks like a very grown up and sexually active 17 year old.  That changes a good bit of the plot right there.

To make matters worse, Frank Autry (one of the best secondary characters in the book) is just not in the movie at all.  Add that to the fact that they chose Ben Affleck to play the sheriff and all expectations go down the drain.  I love Ben Affleck, but he is NOT the right actor for the character portrayed in the book.  Instead of coming across as a very haunted and strong person, he comes across as a really obnoxious action hero.  I'll be nice and give this a half of a star since some of what I watched was scary.

May 11, 2017

Revelation by C. J. Sansom

Title:  Revelation
Author:  C. J. Sansom
Pages:  550
Genre:  Historical Fiction / Mystery
Series:  Shardlake, Book 4

Synopsis:  In Revelation, Sansom’s newest book in the series, the year is 1543 and King Henry VIII is wooing Lady Catherine Parr, a woman sympathetic to reform, whom he wants for his sixth wife— much to the dismay of Archbishop Cranmer and the embattled Protestant faction at court. Meanwhile, Matthew Shardlake is working to defend a teenage boy, a religious fanatic who is being held in the infamous Bedlam hospital for the insane. When an old friend of Shardlake’s is murdered, he vows to bring the killer to justice. His search leads him back to Bedlam but also to Catherine Parr—and the dark prophecies of the Book of Revelation. As Bishop Bonner prepares to purge London of Protestants, Shardlake, with his assistant Jack Barak, uncovers a series of horrific murders that shake them all to the core.

Review:  These are some of the best historical fiction out there.  I believe I like this author as well as I do Sharon Penman and that is saying something.  Plus, his main character, Matthew Shardlake, is wonderful.  A lawyer by trade, Matthew finds himself embroiled in mysteries and politics (usually at the same time).

This story, mainly about the search for a serial killer, is chilling and full of adventure.  The descriptions of life in London in 1543 are realistic (and sometimes disgusting).  At the end, the Historical Note shows just how much research went into making this book as true to the times as possible.

I have one more Shardlake book to read and then there is another one I don't have.  After that, there seem to be no more coming.  I'll miss them.  This author has two other novels, both set in the 1940's, and perhaps I'll give them a try, but I won't love them like I've loved these books set in the early Renaissance in England.

Rating:  10 / 10

May 5, 2017

Phantoms by Dean Koontz

Title:  Phantoms
Author:  Dean Koontz
Pages:  434
Genre:  Horror
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis: A tale of an abandoned town and the unimaginable truth behind its silence...

Now with a new afterword, Dean Koontz explains the impact Phantoms had on his career.

ARE YOU SAYING THAT WE EXIST ONLY TO BE KILLED?
YES.  YOU ARE CATTLE.  YOU ARE PIGS.  YOU ARE WORTHLESS.

Review:  Do not read this book after dark!!  It is scary and drags you in kicking and screaming.  It makes you believe in The Ancient Enemy, who calls himself by many names, including Legion and Satan.  As much as I wanted to believe that this was another horror story with superstition and fantasy as a basis, it seemed far too scientific and real.  Very scary!!

The horror is non-stop, until the very end, and just when you think it's safe....it's not.  I finished the book in just over 24 hours.  I highly recommend this story.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

May 4, 2017

Read It Again, Sam Wrap-Up

I actually completed my goal on April 24th, but I knew I had one more book and I wanted to have all the re-reads on my list before I did this post.  It's the first challenge I completed this year!!

I chose the level Feeling Nostalgic (Reread 8 books).  I re-read the following books:

1.  The Gunslinger by Stephen King
2.  The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King
3.  The Waste Lands by Stephen King
4.  Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
5.  Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
6.  The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King
7.  Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King
8.  Song of Susannah by Stephen King
9.  The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Some of these books had only been read once before (Doomsday Book  and the last three of The Dark Tower series) and one I read again for the *eleventh* time (The Gunslinger).  I enjoyed each and every book I chose for this challenge and I'm planning to do this challenge again next year!



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