February 27, 2015

January / February 2015 TBR Challenge Wrap Up

Goal:  50
Completed:  6

The date the book was added to my TBR is in parenthesis.

January / February
1.  The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King (10/18/2014)
2.  Hunters of the Red Moon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (2/27/2008)
3.  Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult  (5/26/2008)
4.  Children of Chaos by Dave Duncan  (9/18/2008)
5.  Mother of Lies by Dave Duncan (2/22/2009)
6.  Dark Rivers of the Heart by Dean Koontz  (9/12/2008)

Favorite of these?  Children of Chaos.  I love to find an unexpectedly great new author.


February 21, 2015

Dark Rivers of the Heart by Dean Koontz

Title:  Dark Rivers of the Heart
Author:  Dean Koontz
Pages:  487
Genre:  Thriller
Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1994
Series:  None
"..But I've always walked the line, walked that goddamned line.  It's a mean mother of a line, straight and narrow, sharp as a razor, cuts right into you when you walk it long enough."
Synopsis:  A man and a woman - she is a figure of mystery; he is a mystery even to himself - meet by chance in a Santa Monica bar.  Suddenly - first separately, and then together - they are fleeing the long arm of a clandestine and increasingly powerful renegade government agency:  the woman hunted for the information she possesses, the man mistaken as her comrade in a burgeoning resistance movement.

The architect of the chase is a man of uncommon madness and cruelty, ruthless, possibly psychotic, and equipped with a vast technological arsenal: untraceable access to the government's electronic information banks, its surveillance systems, weaponry, and material. He is the brazen face of an insidiously fascistic future. And he is virtually unstoppable.

But he has never before come up against the likes of his current quarry. Both of them - survivors of singularly horrific pasts - have lived hidden, nomadic, solitary lives. Both have learned to expect "savagery as surely as sunrises and sunsets." Both have long been emboldened by their experiences to fight with reckless courage for their own freedom. Now, they are plunged into a struggle for the freedom of their country, and for the sanctity of their own lives.

Once again, in Dark Rivers of the Heart, Dean Koontz has given us an electrifying thriller, a feat of the imagination that steers us just along the razor edge of a familiar, terrifying reality. It is the work of a master suspense storyteller writing at the pinnacle of his form.

Review:  The most terrifying part of this story is that it could so easily be true.  Asset forfeiture laws exist.  I'm fairly sure secret agencies exist within our government.  I'm positive that cover-ups take place regularly within the government, the military, the police forces, and etc.  It is not so far fetched to believe, given the right motivation, that any one of these authorities might come after innocent citizens, just to keep an especially explosive secret from becoming public knowledge.

As with most of the work by Mr. Koontz, this was fast-paced and hard to put down.  There were several intertwining story lines and all of them held my interest.  The only possible downside to what is a very good book is its age.  Some of the high tech described in the story is pretty much old and outdated news now.  We are so far past dialing into a modem that some of the technology in the story seems almost quaint, although some of it is still more advanced than the average reader would own.  And some of it, I surely hope doesn't really exist.

That aside, it was a fun read and well worth the time.  It left me feeling a little less safe in our civilized society and made me think hard about what could - and has - happened in this country.

Rating:  7.5 / 10

February 7, 2015

Mother of Lies by Dave Duncan

Title:  Mother of Lies
Author:  Dave Duncan
Pages:  348
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  2007, Tor Books
Series:  Dodec, Book 2
"Mother Xaran is goddess of blood and birth, death and the cold earth. Death is not always evil. It can be a release, or a judgment. Birth is also Hers, because without birth there could be no death; without death we could not have birth, else we should fill the world, shoulder to shoulder."
Synopsis:  The past fifteen years have not been kind to Celebre, the greatest city on the Florengian face of a dodecahedral world. Its walls have been breached and its Doge humiliated by the evil Bloodlord Stralg; all four of its heirs kidnapped and taken over the Edge to Vigaelia; its Dogaressa forcibly impregnated by Stralg and--when her husband’s health begins to fail--left to rule over a city teeming with Stralg’s troops. And if you think Stralg is bad, wait until you meet his sister Saltaja, a fanatic who sees no human cost as too great to keep the Hrag dynasty in power and her goddess--evil Xaran, the Mother of Lies--appeased.

But there are a few great hopes for the future of the city: the Mutineer, Marno Cavotti, who will not stand to see his hometown destroyed and is massing a powerful liberation movement mere inches beyond Stralg’s grasp. And the four heirs of Celebre--each with god-given expertise in their respective fields of artistry, combat, wisdom, or death--are wending their way back over the Edge to their birthplace. Of course, even as Marno and the Celebre children are working towards the common goal of defeating the Hrags, they’re all painfully aware that once that hurdle is crossed only one of them can wind up on the throne.

Continuing the storyline set out in Children of Chaos, Mother of Lies is a fierce, kinetic romp that will keep readers guessing until the last blow is dealt.

Review:  While not quite as good as the first novel of this series, this book was still very good.  There was plenty of action, several new characters, and plenty of suspense.  I am sorry to say, though, that yet another of the supposedly strong female characters fell to 'true love' and became less than she was.  Although Fabia did not turn into quite the complete idiot that the female character in the last book did, she seemingly became nothing more than a wife and mother towards the end, unable to make decisions without her new husband.  She was my favorite character, with plenty of strength and determination, so it was a shame.

The promised discussion of the planet and its odd shape took place in the appendix.  It would seem that the world is actually 12-sided.  Even though the author admits this is impossible, he goes on to explain the weather and seasonal changes brought on by the shape, using some pretty technical terms, most of which went a little over my head.  It doesn't bother me though.  I'm happy enough to believe in his strange world, with its fantastic landscapes and intriguing people.  We never do get to see any of the other realms.  I wonder if he had intended to write more books about the other faces of the world and just never did.

I'm sorry that he didn't.  I'd have read them.

Rating:  8 / 10

February 1, 2015

Children of Chaos by Dave Duncan

Title:  Children of Chaos
Author:  Dave Duncan
Pages:  421
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  2006, Tor Fantasy
Series:  Dodec, Book 1

Synopsis:  On a dodecahedral world in thrall to the tyrannical, war-obsessed Hrag dynasty, no one could stop the Bloodlord from sending troops to Florengia, invading its major cities, and offering them a choice between strict colonial rule or immediate and total destruction. When the doge of Celebre was faced with this ultimatum, he gave his children up as hostages so that the rest of Celebre might live. Thus the four young Florengians were taken back over the Edge and scattered across the Vigaelian face.

Fifteen years later, when Celebre suddenly takes on crucial political significance, one of the siblings must return home to serve as Celebre’s puppet ruler and the others must be eliminated so that there are no rival claimants to the throne. It’s going to be tough enough finding each other, let alone deciding whether enough kinship remains after fifteen years apart that the siblings care enough to help each other out of their respective predicaments. If they’re feeling particularly altruistic, the Celebres might even take on the bonus round: trying to save Dodec from the culture of death and war imposed on it by its evil warlords.

One thing’s for certain: the Celebre children are going to have a lot of adjusting to do . .

Review:  This is a new author for me and I wasn't sure what to expect.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The characters are all well written.  The story line is unlike anything else I've ever read and, especially at the end, is hard to put down.  There are plenty of strong (and sometimes evil) women in leadership roles.  Although, I will admit, one of my favorite female characters is now a drooling idiot because she's fallen in love.  Other than that, the author has done a good job at creating believable people in his writing.

Life on Dodec is fairly primitive - think medieval times.  There is much of the worst of humankind:  war, slavery, torture, mistreatment of the poor and women, and an upper class with no real thought for the people who actually do the lion's share of the work.  The warrior class has completely taken over and cowed an entire civilization.  But then, there are the ones who see that things have gone badly wrong and are trying, against horrible odds, to remake their world.

The gods (and there are many) are evident in the lives of the people.  It is in no way a religious book, rather a civilization where each person has a direct relationship with their chosen deity or deities.  The gods are very, scarily real.  And the price the people sometimes pay for their chosen god is very high.  The religion has no real comparison in our world.  The story was not preachy by any means.  I wouldn't have finished it if it was since I cannot stand to be preached at in fiction, but the gods are so much a part of the lives of the characters that it is impossible to separate from the story.

The geography of the planet is something of a mystery to me, although the author promises this will be better explained in the sequel.  A world shaped like a 12-sided die is patently impossible.  The foreword did mention to keep in mind that our ancestors believed Earth was flat, so perhaps their beliefs about their world are equally incorrect. Whatever form it takes on, the twelve realms are separated by mountain ranges that make interaction and regular trade difficult.  We are only introduced to 2 of these realms in the story.  A map in the front of the book makes mention of the rest.  Perhaps the sequel will do more.  I plan to start finding out tomorrow.

Rating:  9 / 10
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