December 31, 2015

Running From the Deity by Alan Dean Foster

Title:  Running From the Deity
Author:  Alan Dean Foster
Pages:  280
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Ballantine, 2006

Synopsis:  In the outer depths of the universe lies the Great Emptiness, behind which lurks something dreadful -- something that is now raging straight for the Commonwealth.  To avert catastrophe, Flinx must find a conscious planet-sized weapons system and, using his heightened mental powers, coax it into joining the battle against the behemoth from beyond.  So Pip and Flinx sail their little spaceship into the unknown, only to be forced down for emergency repairs on planet Arrawd,  home to primitive sentients and therefore off-limits to space travelers.  But rules never applied to Flinx.  Upon his arrival, Flinx is besieged by hordes bent on worshipping him as a god.  Escaping this fate will be as impossible as fulfilling his dire mission.  What's a deity to do?

Review:  I knew I had time for one, last book this year.  I decided to go with something that I knew would be a fun, easy read.  This latest installment of the Pip and Flinx adventures was just the ticket.  These books all have pretty much the same formula:  Flinx gets into trouble, comes very close to dying, and then gets away in the nick of time.

It doesn't matter though.  The books are still good.  Flinx is a lovable young man even if he is a bit of a troublemaker.  The aliens are always different and unusual.  The planets are well-described and fairly believable.  Flinx's ship is awesome and Pip is a flying dragon.  What's not to love?

It ended in a bit of a cliff-hanger, but they usually do.  I probably won't have time to visit with these characters for a while, but the books aren't going anywhere and I know I'll get back to them eventually.

Rating:  7.5 / 10

December 29, 2015

Legal Age

My challenges keep growing.  I now have 22, which means I am now officially in the Legal Age category of challenges.  But, so many great people have so many great ideas and I just can't seem to resist.  I'm also realizing I could *almost* do an A to Z challenge for my challenges!

I'm a little nervous.  Including my personal challenges, the most challenges I've taken on are 10 in 2011 -- and I didn't finish all of them.  Almost, but not quite.  Seriously, I wonder......will I be able to find time to read when I have so many challenges to keep up with?  And can I possibly complete them all?  I actually think I can.  Thank goodness for spreadsheets.  I am, I hope, finished with finding new, irresistible challenges (although there's another one I'm keeping my eye on!).

I recommend this free software for your spreadsheet needs -- WPS

December 25, 2015

Annual End of Year Survey 2015

6th Annual End of the Year Survey - 2015 Edition
Hosted by Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner

Number Of Books You Read:  As of today, 55.  I'm hoping to read a couple more.
Number of Re-Reads:  1 - The Gunslinger by Stephen King (for about the 10th time!)
Genre You Read The Most From:  Fantasy

1. Best Book You Read In 2015?  Oh no, I can't pick just one!  The Martian by Andy Weir, Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?  The Dreaming Place by Charles de Lint.  Not one of his best by a long shot.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  Dissolution by C. J. Sansom.  It's so rare I find historical fiction (or a mystery) that draws me in like this one did.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?  The Martian by Andy Weir

5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?
Best Series Started:  The Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn
Best Sequel:  Betrayer by C. J. Cherryh
Best Series Ender:  Mystic Empire by Tracy & Laura Hickman

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?  Melanie Rawn

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?  The Innocent Man by John Grisham - absolutely great non-fiction / true crime

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?  The Last Juror by John Grisham - Thrilling and impossible to stop reading, especially the last 1/2.

9. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?  I'm not doing any re-reads next year.  I have too many books on my TBR I haven't read yet.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?  Memory & Dream by Charles de Lint - I loved this artwork, it went perfectly with the story.

11. Most memorable character of 2015?  William Blakely (from Blockade Billy by Stephen King)

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?  And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2015?  The Pact by Jodi Picoult

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read?  Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez.  It sat forever, with me assuming I'd be disappointed.  Was I ever wrong!

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?
"His canine mind knew that on the other side of that light was a paradise of unending mountains of liver-flavored treats and things in constant need of being peed on and slow rabbits." -- Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez
16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?
Shortest:  Blockade Billy by Stephen King (132 pages)
Longest:  Skybowl by Melanie Rawn (760 pages)

17. Book That Shocked You The Most:  Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult.  The ending shocked me so badly that I'm still in denial.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)  (OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)  Bren & Jago from the Foreigner series.  Inter-species relationship that is so romantic in an alien kind of way.  
19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year:  Richard & Door from Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously:  Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.  I'm seeing a pattern here.  This book is the answer to many questions.

21. Best Book You Read In 2015 that You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:  I didn't read any books based solely on a recommendation.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?  Rohan from Melanie Rawn's awesome Dragon Prince and Dragon Token trilogies

23. Best 2015 debut you read?  The Martian by Andy Weir - it actually came out in 2014 but it's a debut and I read it in 2015

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?  This is a toss up between The Foreigner series by C. J. Cherryh and the Dragon Prince / Dragon Token series by Melanie Rawn.  Equally great settings, it's like you're *there*.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?  Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez.  I've never read such a great story that was so darn funny too.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?  Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult.  This novel left me feeling bruised and broken.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?  The Warrior's Tale by Allan Cole and Chris Bunch.  This story was so completely fabulous.  It was by far the best of the series it went with....and one of the better Fantasy books I've read in a long time.  It's not a huge surprise to me that it turned out to be my favorite book for 2015.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?  Okay, again, Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult - crushed doesn't even begin to describe how I felt after finishing it.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015?  From a Whisper to a Scream by Charles de Lint - some evil never dies indeed....

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?  Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston.  How many ways can you mess up a murder investigation and how many people's lives can you ruin?  It was a true story, which just made me more angry.

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015?  Whatever I Think Of!  Jamie joined so many great challenges that I couldn't resist!

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?  My favorite is The Warrior's Tale by Allan Cole and Chris Bunch.  Runners-up -  Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman or Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult....there are others I'm fond of too, but with these I found myself with plenty to say and the right words to say my thoughts with.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?  This one.  Or the one I wrote when I found out one of my favorite series has been cancelled (Farewell to Deathlands).

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?  Is this a meme?  If so, I'll say this one.  If not, I did a meme called All About my TBR that I enjoyed.  I don't do events to speak of.  I just love reading and can't help blogging about it.  

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015?  Finishing Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge 2015.  It's taken me three tries, but I finally got it right.  It's the last challenge I had to finish in 2015 and this is the first year since 2011 that I finished all my challenges.  Goes to show, time does heal all wounds.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?  Learning how to put my blog posts on Pinterest had me in knots for 3 or 4 days.  But, seriously, this has been a turn around year for me.  I knew I had to keep up with my blog and finish my challenges this year or give up.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?  Since I have almost no followers and since those I do have aren't active anymore, I don't get many comments, but my Farewell to Deathlands post has had the most visits, with one of my posts about 2016 Challenges a close second.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?  I wish my whole blog got a little more love lol.

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?  I found Bookbub this year.  That's been fun, although I still don't like e-books as much as 'real' books.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?  YES, all of them!!!!!

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2016?  The next book in the Deathlands series, Hanging Judge.  Now that there'll be no more, I really want to read what few books are left.
2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2016 (non-debut)?  Sovereign by C. J. Sansom - his novels make me feel like I'm there, in the past, solving a mystery.  

3. 2016 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?  As far as I know, the only debut novel I plan to read next year is A Case of Need by Michael Crichton but it was published in 1968 so I'm not sure it applies, especially since I'm not 100% sure it was his first novel.  He used several pseudonyms.

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2016?  Again, Deathlands.  I plan to read 7 or 8 of these books next year.  I'm completely looking forward to it.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2016?  Finish all of my challenges and maybe get some new followers now that I have figured out Pinterest and have started being more active in the community of book blogs.

6. A 2016 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:  I don't get any books before they're released, so none.

2015 Challenges Complete!

As of today, I completed the last challenge on my list.  I've successfully read more pages (finally!) than last year - granted, so far it is only 259 more pages, but that counted to finish off the Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge 2015.

I'm sure I'll manage to squeeze in at least one more book this year and I'll keep tracking my pages and book count for the 2016 challenge that starts in January.  I've cleared off my page count on the sidebar though.  If you want to see my pages for 2015, you'll have to follow the above link because that's where I put it.

But for now, I can take a deep breath.  I did it!

Horns by Joe Hill

Title:  Horns
Author:  Joe Hill
Pages:  370
Genre:  Horror
Publisher:  William Morrow, 2010

Synopsis:  Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples. — At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it "all," and more--he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin's death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. .

Now Ig is possessed of a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look--a macabre talent he intends to use to find the monster who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It's time for a little revenge. . "It's time the devil had his due. . ."

Review:  I can't remember the last time I had such a hard time keeping interested in a book.  There were parts that were really pretty good, but they were then followed by parts that nearly put me to sleep.  Several times, I thought about just quitting and reading something else.  But, I kept at it, thinking it might get better.  Unfortunately it didn't, not really.  I just didn't care for this one, even though I really wanted to.

The ending was fine and tied the story up neatly, but it wasn't very much better than the rest of the book.  This is the second novel by this author that I've read and while I liked Heart-Shaped Box better than this one, it still wasn't absolutely fabulous and, like this book, the ending was just too neat and pat for my tastes.  I won't be going out of my way to read another of his books any time soon.

Rating:  2 / 10

December 24, 2015

The Martian - The Movie

The movie The Martian, based on the book The Martian by Andy Weir, is thrilling, humorous and so darn good.  At just under 2 1/2 hours, they stuck pretty well to the original story.  There were a couple scenes missing and some of my favorite quotes left out, but the story was fundamentally the same.  Except, they did add a little bit about what happened to the main characters after the main story was done.  That was a nice touch and tied things up nicely.

It had me on the edge of my seat, and then disgusted, and then laughing until I cried, usually all within just a few minutes.  That, indeed, was just like the book.

Matt Damon was incredibly good, as were many of the other actors.  I was surprised how many faces I recognized.  It was a great job at a movie made from a book and I'm so glad I bought it instead of rented it.  Ten stars.

December 20, 2015

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Title:  Neverwhere
Author:  Neil Gaiman
Pages:  385
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Publisher:  Avon Books, 1998
"As an expert in the termination of bodily functions, I must beg to differ. You are neither of you dead. At a guess, you are both very drunk."
Synopsis:  Richard Mayhew is an unassuming young businessman living in London, with a dull job and a pretty but demanding fiancee. Then one night he stumbles across a girl bleeding on the sidewalk. He stops to help her--and the life he knows vanishes like smoke.  Several hours later, the girl is gone too. And by the following morning Richard Mayhew has been erased from his world. His bank cards no longer work, taxi drivers won't stop for him, his landlord rents his apartment out to strangers. He has become invisible, and inexplicably consigned to a London of shadows and darkness--a city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, that exists entirely in a subterranean labyrinth of sewer canals and abandoned subway stations. He has fallen through the cracks of reality and has landed somewhere different, somewhere that is Neverwhere.

Review:  An incredible novel.  There's London Above, where 'normal' people live.  And there's London Below, also known as Underside, where the people who fell through the cracks in the world live.

Richard winds up a resident of London Below, going on a quest to help Door, whose life he once saved in London Above.  They need to find out who killed her family.  They are assisted on their quest by the Hunter, Door's bodyguard; the marquis de Cabaras, who owed Door's father a favor; and the bird-loving Old Bailey.

Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup are two of the creepiest killers I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.  They have been hired to make trouble for Richard and his group.  That should be child's play to the two who were responsible for many far worse things, including the Black Plague.

There are talking rats, an angel and many other wondrous and strange creatures and people inhabiting Underside.  There is a Beast to be slain and Floating Markets to visit.  All in all, I want to move to London Below immediately.

Although I didn't know it initially, this was Mr. Gaiman's first novel.  I've already read StardustInterworld and The Graveyard Book and loved them all.  This book is even better.  It has adventure, humor, thrills and plenty of great urban Fantasy.  I do not have the words to say how much I loved this story.

Rating:  10 / 10

December 17, 2015

Farewell to Deathlands

I have read 115 books from the Deathlands series.  It all began about 14 years ago when I found 6 or so books with vivid cover artwork and promising synopses at a Friends of the Library book sale.  Thus began a search to find the books that came before and after those few books I was lucky enough to stumble across.  Little did I know I would be reading and loving them so many years later.  But, sometimes you luck out like that.

Set in the Deathlands, which used to be known as America, about 100 years after a world-wide nuclear holocaust, these books have everything:  mutations, almost non-existent civilization, violence, and mysterious technology left over from before the nukes fell.  In the Deathlands, you can trade bullets for just about anything.

I found out today that the last novel in this series was published in November of this year.  The. Last. One. Ever.  I have 8 Deathlands books on my TBR.  3 more, including the last one, I haven't gotten yet.  And then, there are no more.

I will miss Ryan, J.B., Jak, Doc, Krysty and Mildred more than I can begin to tell you.  I've spent countless hours being thrilled by their stories and growing attached to them as characters.  I've laughed, cried, been grossed out and been scared silly.  I've loved them.

I've often called this series 'my secret vice' because, I'm ashamed now to admit, I didn't think most people would consider these stories 'quality' literature.  After all, they were serial Sci-Fi and might not be considered 'serious works'.  I was wrong to care what some book snob might think.  The truth is that my life will be less interesting once they are gone from it.

So, as my farewell, I share here the definitive website for all things related to this series and a cover artwork that I really loved (although there were many others I loved, too).  I've never tried the Outlanders series, published by the same publishing house, Gold Eagle, and written by some of the same authors who contributed to this series.  I guess now I'll have to....I just wish I didn't have to..

December 15, 2015

Cabal by Clive Barker

Title:  Cabal
Author:  Clive Barker
Pages:  377
Genre:  Horror
Publisher:  Poseidon Press, 1985

Synopsis:  A fabulous journey through the mind of the master of dark imaginative fiction, Clive Barker. The nightmare had begun!  Boone knew that there was no place on this earth for him now; no happiness here, not even with Lori. He would let Hell claim him, let Death take him there. But Death itself seemed to shrink from Boone. No wonder, if he had indeed been the monster who had shattered, violated and shredded so many others' lives. And Decker had shown him the proof -- the hellish photographs where the last victims were forever stilled, splayed in the last obscene moment of their torture. Boone's only refuge now was Midian -- that awful, legendary place in which gathered the half-dead, the Nightbreed!

Review:  This book actually contains five stories:  Cabal, The Life of Death, How Spoilers Bleed, Twilight at the Towers, and The Last Illusion.  Ranging from the undead to Indian curses to deals with the devil, these were all full of horror in their own way.

It's unfortunate though.  There was also an awful lot of gratuitous sex (usually inappropriate and violent) and some really awful language.  I understand this is horror and being horrified is part of reading this genre, but I can be scared without being disgusted.  Since this author wrote one of my very favorite Dark Fantasy novels, Weaveworld, I'm just a little disappointed.

The sometimes lack of taste aside, these stories were all good and original.  I think I liked Cabal the best of the group, but all of them had their attractions.  At any rate, it was a really fast read, very hard to put down in some places, and definitely not for the faint of heart.

Rating:  6 / 10

December 12, 2015

Challenges and Spreadsheets

Well, I went and did it again.  I joined another challenge, bringing my grand total to an even dozen.

I'm excited about the Monthly Motif Challenge!

But, I had to spend quite a while, making up a spreadsheet to see what books I could read to most effectively finish all of my challenges.  I can do it, but it wasn't an easy task, figuring out a way to complete all the challenges without expecting to read 200 books!

All of the challenges are fun, but I really think 12 is enough.  Unless, of course, I find one that will fit in with the books I've already decided on reading!  I think I'm giddy over the fact that it really, really looks like I'm going to complete all my challenges this year -- only 1,123 pages to go to complete my very last challenge -- and I still have almost 3 weeks!

The Last Juror by John Grisham

Title:  The Last Juror
Author:  John Grisham
Pages:  487
Genre:  Legal Thriller
Publisher:  Dell, 2004

Synopsis:  In 1970, one of Mississippi's more colorful weekly newspapers, The Ford County Times, went bankrupt. To the surprise and dismay of many, ownership was assumed by a 23 year-old college dropout, named Willie Traynor. The future of the paper looked grim until a young mother was brutally raped and murdered by a member of the notorious Padgitt family. Willie Traynor reported all the gruesome details, and his newspaper began to prosper.

The murderer, Danny Padgitt, was tried before a packed courthouse in Clanton, Mississippi. The trial came to a startling and dramatic end when the defendant threatened revenge against the jurors if they convicted him. Nevertheless, they found him guilty, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

But in Mississippi in 1970, "life" didn't necessarily mean "life," and nine years later Danny Padgitt managed to get himself paroled. He returned to Ford County, and the retribution began.

Review:  This book is sent in Clanton, Mississippi, the same town from A Time to Kill which is one of my favorite Grisham stories.  This story actually happens before that one, but I was still pleased to revisit several characters I recognized:  the arrogant District Attorney, Rufus Buckley; the mean, drunken lawyer, Julien Wilbanks; and the divorce lawyer, Harry Rex Vonner.  I also noticed that Clanton itself had changed very little between 1970 when this book began and 1979 when it ended.  But, small towns are like that.

The main character is actually the editor of the local newspaper.  But the main story line surrounds the arrest, conviction, prison sentence and eventual release of a rapist and murderer.  Towards the end, I knew the newly-released murderer was not the one shooting jurors.  And I knew who was doing it.  There were clues if you looked for them.  It didn't in the least detract from the book.

I couldn't put it down, especially not during the last half.

Rating:  9 / 10

December 10, 2015

More Reading Challenges 2016

Okay, last three...Did I say three?  I meant last four.  Really.  I mean it.  Unless another one shows up I can't resist, of course.  But, who can resist a challenge that is all about completing the challenges you already signed up for??  Or one that's all about reading more??  Or one that lets you make up your own rules?  Or one where I get to make a map?

Reading Challenge Addict

Corinne Rodrigues

December 9, 2015

All About My TBR

I found this list of questions at The Wormhole and thought it looked like fun.  It's actually a good way to finish out the year.

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
I use the Book Collectorz software and have for years.  It's easy to use, easy to update and syncs flawlessly between my computer, my tablet and my phone.  I also use it to keep track of the books I've read and the books I want to read  (

Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?
I rarely read an e-book.  I love 'real' books too much.

How do you determine which books from your TBR to read next?
My TBR is around 70% Science Fiction or Fantasy.  So, choosing all depends on my mood.  I decide what to read next by what sounds good at the time.  Or what will help me with one of my challenges!

A book that has been on my TBR the longest?
The Merlin Effect by T.A. Barron has been on my TBR since November of 2007.  At first it was because I wanted to get the other two books that went with it.  Now, I just keep finding other books I'd rather read.  I wish I didn't have to admit there are probably a dozen books from 2007 on my TBR.

A book you recently added to your TBR?
Polestar Omega by James Axler.  The Deathlands series is one of my secret vices and I'm always watching out for new ones I haven't read yet.

A book on your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?
None.  There are some that I was initially attracted to because of the cover.  But I read the synopsis too.  Unless there are dragons on the cover.  Then, all bets are off.

A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?
Never say never, but I'm not sure I'll ever get around to Gone With the Wind or its sequel Scarlett.  I got them at a thrift store and felt like for the great price, I should at least give them a try.  Gone With the Wind being a classic and all that.  But they are going to be a huge investment of time.

An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?
I'm not sure I understand the question.  I have dozens of books I *want* for my TBR that aren't published yet....In fact, I have just over 300 books on my 'Wish List', mostly published, some not.  I try very hard not to look at that list too often since my shelves are already over-full.

A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?
Since most of my friends read romance or cozies, I get very few recommendations that I'd actually read.  The last book I read that was recommended to me was The Passage by Justin Cronin.  The librarian in a nearby town recommended it.  She was right.

A book on your TBR that everyone has read but you?
Wow, I doubt there are very many.  Maybe one of the ones by Jodi Picoult?  Or War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells if we're talking Science Fiction lovers.

A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?
Someplace to be Flying by Charles de Lint, but it'll have to wait a little while longer.

How many books are on your TBR shelf?
271.  Add in the 31 that I've read already but want, someday, to read again and you'll understand why I am not getting any new books if I can help it!

December 8, 2015

Blockade Billy by Stephen King

Title:  Blockade Billy
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  132
Genre:  Horror / Suspense
Publisher:  Scribner, 2010
"Bloh-KADE!  Bloh-KADE!  Bloh-KADE!"
Synopsis:  Even the most die-hard baseball fans don't know the true story of William "Blockade Billy" Blakely. He may have been the greatest player the game has ever seen, but today no one remembers his name. He was the first--and only--player to have his existence completely removed from the record books. Even his team is long forgotten, barely a footnote in the game's history.

Every effort was made to erase any evidence that William Blakely played professional baseball, and with good reason. Blockade Billy had a secret darker than any pill or injection that might cause a scandal in sports today. His secret was much, much worse ... and only Stephen King, the most gifted storyteller of our age, can reveal the truth to the world, once and for all.

Review:  There were two novellas in this book -- Blockade Billy and Morality.  Both were horrifying in their own way.

In Blockade Billy, you meet William Blakely, the player who will do anything to win.  Anything.  In Morality, you find a happily married couple who take on a priest's dying wish....after all, the money is good.  The price?  Higher than they imagine.

There are no monsters here.  Well, actually, there are.  They just happen to look just like you and me, perfectly human.

I loved Blockade Billy.  It was chilling and awful and showed the underbelly of baseball in all its glory.  It touched on mental illness, murder and greed.  As much as I didn't want to, I actually ended up liking poor Billy.  I don't think he could help what he was.  Morality wasn't as good, but still a pretty good read.  You knew, just knew, the story wasn't going to end well.  You just didn't see why until the sad, bitter end.

This one's a keeper.  It's small enough to not take up too much room on my shelves.  And I may want to revisit old Billy again.  I'd probably have given this book a solid 10 if Morality had been left out or been just a little better.

Rating:  9 / 10

December 7, 2015

The Coelura by Anne McCaffrey

Title:  The Coelura
Author:  Anne McCaffrey
Pages:  165
Genre:  Science Fiction / Romance
Publisher:  TOR Books, 1987

Synopsis:  Casting aside her duty as the heir to the Ambassador of her world, Lady Caissa refuses to marry a man she despises and flees into the Forbidden Zone, where she meets a handsome injured man and sets a world-changing series of events in motion

Review:  This is a repeat of an oft-told tale, only this time it's told on another planet.  Beautiful, self-centered princess goes somewhere forbidden and meets a mysterious, handsome man.  She immediately falls in love with him, only to find out later he is actually a prince.  The twist?  The Coelura, a species native to the planet, is in jeopardy and the prince and princess must save getting married.  Ugh.

I love Anne McCaffrey and when she does Science Fiction or Fantasy, she is one of the best.  She is the original Mother of Dragons.  I just have so little patience for romance, especially an unlikely and silly romance between two characters that barely know each other.  This was a thankfully short and quick read.  It had really nice pen and ink illustrations, which were one of the saving graces for this book.  The society was somewhat interesting, if a bit too worried about fashion and appearances.  It will not go anywhere near the top of my list of great tales.

Rating:  2 / 10

December 6, 2015

Betrayer by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Betrayer
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  328
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  DAW Books, 2011
"Be careful, Nichi-ji.  I want you back.  I want you all back.  One is quite adamant on that point."
Synopsis:  The civil war among the alien atevi has ended. Tabini-aiji, powerful ruler of the Western Association, along with Cajeiri his son and heir, and his human paidhi, Bren Cameron, have returned to the Bujavid, their seat of power. — But factions that remain loyal to the opposition are still present, and the danger these rebels pose is far from over.

Review:  There were so many new and interesting characters in this trilogy that is part of the larger Foreigner series.  But, it doesn't matter how many new characters come along, my favorites are always the same:  paidhi Bren; Banichi and Jago, Bren's bodyguards; and Illisidi, the aiji-dowager.

While his bodyguards would never understand it, Bren loves them and would give his life for theirs.  This directly conflicts with their need to protect him, so Bren keeps this mostly to himself out of respect for their man'chi, their loyalty to him.

Illisidi is the grandmother of the current aiji and she is so much fun, although I'm fairly certain she would stamp her cane at me and call me pert for saying so.  Her temper and wisdom are unequaled and very few would dare to cross her or even disagree with her unless it was unavoidable.  But, I see, under her tough exterior, a female with unbelievable strength, loyalty and honesty.

This book had so much excitement and political intrigue that I could not put it down.  All in all, a great ending to a great trilogy.

I am sad to report that I have to wait for another two books to come my way before I can revisit these old friends and revisit the incredible, beautiful and realistic Atevi world.  However, I do notice that the e-book and paperback versions are not expensive.  Since I have no intention of waiting another 5 years, that may be my recourse.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

December 4, 2015

Deceiver by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Deceiver
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  355
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  DAW Books, 2010

Synopsis:  The civil war among the alien Atevi is over.  Tabini-ajii, dynamic ruler of the Western Association, has reclaimed his former power, and once again resides in the capital.  But factions that remain loyal to the opposition are still present, and the danger that these rebels pose is far from over.

Review:  I do love these books, but it's taken me an entire week to read this one.  There is so much going on and so many alien references that sometimes it forces me to re-read a page again (and again) just so I don't miss anything.  Added to that, I spent quite a bit of last weekend working on finding challenges and fixing up my blog, instead of reading.

I'm starting the next one tomorrow, though.  I have to know how this trilogy finishes out.  No more distractions.  I am so close.....

But, back to the book.  Bren has managed to get himself in a dangerous situation once again.  But this time, the entire fate of the aishidi'tat rests on his ability to persuade one rebel to rethink his stance.  I'm sure it'll all come out right in the end, I'm just not sure how.

Jago, Bren's lover and bodyguard, is the perfect female character.  Sure, she's not human, but she's Atevi and far more human that some humans I know.  She's also strong and tough and kind and smart...and, really a wonderful character.  The Atevi have no word for love or friendship, but they have man'chi, a kind of instinctual drive of loyalty for a leader, and her man'chi is to Bren.  Sounds cold, but it's not.  It's passionate in a completely alien way and I love it.

I wish I was there and could meet Bren, Jago and Banichi and ride a mechieta through the countryside.

Rating:  9 / 10  

December 3, 2015

8 Is Enough

If you're old enough to get the reference in the title, I'm right there with you!  But, seriously, 8 challenges is enough.....especially since my personal challenge is actually 3, bringing the grand total to 10.  I love all the challenges, but I need to be careful.  I don't want to bite off more than I can chew.  I'm so happy to be in such a good place in my life.  I don't want to set myself up for failure.  So, this is it.  And I'm gonna finish them all!!
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