January 31, 2016

Shadow Moon by George Lucas and Chris Claremont

Title:  Shadow Moon
Author:  George Lucas and Chris Claremont
Pages:  452
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Bantam, 1996
Series:  The Shadow War, Book 1

Synopsis:  In Shadow Moon, war and chaos have gripped the land of Tir Asleen. An ancient prophecy reveals one hope: a savior princess who will ascend to the throne when the time is right.  But first, a Nelwyn wanderer must face forces of unimaginable malevolence and dangerous, forbidden rites of necromancy that could bring back a powerful warrior from soulless sleep.

Review:  Since this series was written as a sequel to the movie Willow, I so wanted to love this book.  I didn't.  The beginning was really good.  After that....well, I liked it some of the time, but some of it was just plain boring.  There were a couple of times I nearly gave up on it all together.  I kept waiting and waiting for it to get really good again, but it just never did.  It's a shame.  I had to really work to finish this book and I will not be completing the series.  It's just not good enough to bother with.  I do not recommend this trilogy.

Rating:  2.5 / 10

January 29, 2016

The Friday 56 and Book Beginnings #5

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice and Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader.  Visit their links to learn more.
Title:  Shadow Moon
Author:  George Lucas and Chris Claremont
The Beginning:  In the middle of the night, Willow Ulfgood rode the back of a dragon.

The Friday 56:  A Great Hunt numbered thirteen.  Thorn prayed they didn't face that many; if they did, they had no chance.

Comment:  This is the first book in the trilogy written by George Lucas as a sequel to the movie Willow.  It's very promising so far.

January 28, 2016

The Street Lawyer by John Grisham

Title:  The Street Lawyer
Author:  John Grisham
Pages:  452
Genre:  Legal Thriller
Publisher:  Island Books, 1999
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  He gave up the money. He gave up the power. Now all he has left is the law. — Michael Brock is billing the hours, making the money, rushing relentlessly to the top of Drake & Sweeney, a giant D.C. law firm. One step away from partnership, Michael has it all. Then, in an instant, it all comes undone. — A homeless man takes nine lawyers hostage in the firm's plush offices. When it is all over, the man's blood is splattered on Michael's face -- and suddenly Michael is willing to do the unthinkable. Rediscovering a conscience he lost long ago, Michael is leaving the big time for the streets where his attacker once lived--and where society's powerless need an advocate for justice.

But there's one break Michael can't make: from a secret that has floated up from the depths of Drake & Sweeney, from a confidential file that is now in Michael's hands, and from a conspiracy that has already taken lives. Now Michael's former partners are about to become his bitter enemies. Because to them, Michael Brock is the most dangerous man on the streets...

Review:  This story is impossible to put down.  It's also eye-opening.  The plight of the homeless is starkly told with plenty of heart-wrenching detail -- the soup kitchens, the shelters, the streets.  Michael is now one of a rare breed, a lawyer who works for next to nothing, giving free legal help to the poorest in our nation....in our nation's capitol.

The lawyers in the 14th Street Legal Clinic in Washington, DC include Michael, the main character, a WASP Ivy League graduate; Sophia, a Hispanic woman who is aggressive and very capable; Abraham, a Jew who is a genius at working to change legislation; and Mordecai Green, the loud, brash black man who grew up in the toughest neighborhoods and knows all the right people.  And, yes, I mention the races and religions on purpose.  It is, unfortunately, an important detail in the story of the homeless and those who work to help them.  Mordecai quickly became my favorite character.

This is an absolutely fabulous story, with twists and turns, laughs and tears and plenty of thrills.  It's a fast read and I highly recommend it.

Rating:  10 / 10

January 26, 2016

Teaser Tuesdays #4

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by A Daily Rhythm.  Visit the link to learn more.
Book I'm Reading:  The Street Lawyer by John Grisham
Teaser:   "Four dead kids and their momma, living in a car.  They find them a mile from Capitol Hill, where they're in the process of reforming welfare to send more mothers into the streets."  (page 125)

Comment:  So far, this is another of John Grisham's impossible-to-put-down legal thrillers.  I'm enjoying every moment.

January 25, 2016

Forge of Heaven by C.J. Cherryh

Title:  Forge of Heaven
Author:  C.J. Cherryh
Pages:  405
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  EOS, 2004
Series:  The Gene Wars, Book 2
This one held surpises. Like the desert. Like the sea. This one broke the rules wisely. Like him. Like Hati.
Synopsis:  At the far edge of the galaxy, tiny Concord Station holds a unique place in the universe - the one place where humans from Earth, the strange Outsider worlds, and the extremely powerful, alien ondat all coexist, bound together to the fate of the fragile world below. Scarred by vicious nanotechnology unleashed by the powerful ondat, this lone desert planet acts as the crucible to determine whether there can be peace between the far-spanning empires of the universe, or unending, unstoppable war to rival even the cataclysmic Gene Wars that once devastated untold galaxies.

The fate of one man could decide the future of human and alien alike ... and the ondat are watching.

Review:  This book took me a week to read.  A week!  It is a good book, a great story, and very original, but it was not an easy read.  So much technology and so many societal changes make for a difficult journey in some places.

Still, the planet is awesome.  The characters are wonderfully written.  Marak and Hati are still around, thanks to the near-immortality they got from the nanisms they were given by Luz (who is also still around).  The Ila is still playing her little self-centered games.

The new characters on the scene, in the Concord Station, are what make this story really special.  Procyon and his sister, Ardath, are two very unique individuals.  The ondat are alien and completely unknowable and scary, but not aggressive.  While I don't know that I believe our society will ever be like the one described in this book, it's impressive but also very sad.  Genetically altering your looks has become almost as easy as getting a haircut.

It would seem the answer to most of my questions is this -- humanity discovered how to easily genetically alter themselves.  Some people thought this was a great idea, others didn't.  Some people thought it would be a great way to open new worlds to colonization, others disagreed.  Thus, The Gene Wars were fought.  The end result has effectively left planets where this genetic altering was used (like Marak's) in a state of exile.  No one is allowed on the planets and no one is allowed off.  Entire governmental agencies have been created to keep the 'no longer human enough humans' contained.  Earth and the closest colony planets want very little to do with the outer planets and nobody wants anything to do with the 'contaminated' (and, according to the more paranoid, contagious) planets.  In this future, we can add to our long list of -ism's a brand new one - speciesism.

Rating:  7 / 10

It's Monday! What Are You Reading #4

It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by The Book Date.  Visit the link to learn more.
Last Book I Read:  Hammerfall by C.J. Cherryh -- I loved this.  Great science fiction!
Book I'm Reading Now:  Forge of Heaven by C.J. Cherryh -- This series is keeping me guessing until the very end.  I'm almost done and can't wait to discover the answers!
Up Next:  I'm still deciding, but I think I'm going to try The Street Lawyer by John Grisham.  His books are always fast reads and full of thrills!

Blogging from A to Z

I've never done a blogging challenge and I'm taking the chance this year.  Sign-ups started today.  

The challenge is to blog for 26 days in April, each day for a different letter of the alphabet.  I've already chosen my theme.  I'm excited and nervous and pretty much scared to death that I can't do it.  Or that I will do it, but nobody will read it.  But, I think it'll be fun and a real learning experience, so I'm gonna try!  

January 22, 2016

The Friday 56 and Book Beginnings #4

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice and Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader.  Visit their links to learn more.
Title:  Forge of Heaven
Author:  C.J. Cherryh
The Beginning:  Grozny was where Lebeau Street mingled with the Style, where the low haunts of Blunt Street flowed into the Trend and rubbed shoulders with the rich and carefree.

The Friday 56:  (from page 56)  He was tired of fighting his parents' taste.  There were greater problems in the universe, and the parentals he was convinced wouldn't remember next month what gift he'd gotten them this year or last, as long as it didn't scare them or offend them.

Comment:  This sequel to Hammerfall is really a great science fiction story.  Many of my questions have been answered and I have faith that the rest of the answers are coming.

January 19, 2016

Teaser Tuesdays #3

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by A Daily Rhythm.  Visit the link to learn more.
Book I'm Reading:  Forge of Heaven by C.J. Cherryh
Teaser:  The original Old Ones not only had learned Outsider science, they had a personal memory of the Hammerfall:  that was one thing.  The Ila, oldest of all, had the memory of the Gene Wars and the Landing, and had originated the nanisms that had reshaped the ecology, a life span that staggered the mind even to contemplate.  (pages 39-40)

Comment:  So far, this has turned out to be an awesome science fiction series.  I'm excited to find out what happens next!

January 18, 2016

Hammerfall by C.J. Cherryh

Title:  Hammerfall
Author:  C.J. Cherryh
Pages:  390
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  EOS, 2001
Series:  The Gene Wars, Book 1
"I have set my seal on Kais Tain," the Ila said, "and have all persons therein under that seal. Write it!"
Synopsis:  Marak has suffered the madness his entire life. He is a prince and warrior, strong and shrewd and expert in the ways of the desert covering his planet. In the service of his father, he has dedicated his life to overthrowing the Ila, the mysterious eternal dictator of his world. For years he has successfully hidden the visions that plague him -- voices pulling him eastward, calling Marak, Marak, Marak, amid mind-twisting visions of a silver tower. But when his secret is discovered, Marak is betrayed by his own father and forced to march in an endless caravan with the rest of his world's madmen to the Ila's city of Oburan.

Instead of death, Marak finds in Oburan his destiny, and the promise of life -- if he can survive what is surely a suicidal mission. The Ila wants him to discover the source of the voices and visions that afflict the mad. Despite the dangers of the hostile desert, tensions within the caravan, and his own excruciating doubts, Marak miraculously reaches his goal -- only to be given another, even more impossible mission by the strange people in the towers.

According to these beings who look like him yet act differently than anyone he has ever known, Marak has a slim chance to save his world's people from the wrath of the Ilas enemies. But to do so, he must convince them all -- warring tribes, villagers, priests, young and old, as well as the Ila herself -- to follow him on an epic trek across the burning desert before the hammer of the Ila's foes falls from the heavens above.
"These are the makers," Luz said. "The Ila understands. Now you know what she knows. The makers flowed out into the pool and the beasts she had brought drank, and bred, and changed as the Ila directed. The beasts changed, and men changed to fit this land."
Review:  I'm not exactly sure what has happened yet to Marak and the other people who suffer from the madness, but I'm pretty sure it has something to do with genetic engineering.  These people see such horrible visions and hear voices to the point that they almost cannot lead normal lives.  But, they are somehow the answer to a far worse problem.

The Ila, their goddess and ruler, somehow peopled this planet with what seem to be humans, only slightly altered to be able to exist in the harsh environment.  Now, more of the Ila's people have come and changed some of the people yet again into the mad ones, to try to stop the entire civilization from being destroyed.

The ondat are the Ila's enemies and they are going to wipe out all life on the planet, except in one very small corner of the world.  This is where Marak must lead all the people and their self-centered and egotistical ruler.  And, time has run out.  The planet is being hit by space debris sent by the ondat and the hammer is coming.  The hammer is a planet killer and it's just days away.  

This was a really good story.  It left me breathless in some places.  I could see the Lakht and the Holy City and the tower and everything else as if it were real.  It was not, however, an easy read by any means.  Much re-reading of paragraphs was necessary.  The story is told from Marak's point of view and he does not understand what has happened to him and his people.  So, little is actually known of what has happened to cause all this chaos, even at the end of the book.  I'm glad there's another book in the series and trust that it will answer many of the questions.

Meanwhile, Marak and his wives Hati and Norit are great characters.  And there are many others, too numerous to mention.  The setting is realistic and the threat to the planet believable.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

It's Monday! What Are You Reading #3

It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by The Book Date.  Visit the link to learn more.
Last Book I Read:  The Door to December by Dean Koontz --- so scary and thrilling!  Impossible to put down!  I loved it!
Book I'm Reading Now:  Hammerfall by C.J. Cherryh --- a very original dystopian science-fiction novel!  Not sure where the story is heading, but I'm going to find out.....
Up Next:  Forge of Heaven by C.J. Cherryh -- the sequel to the book I'm reading now!  Because I have to see how it all ends up!

January 15, 2016

The Friday 56 and Book Beginnings #3

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice and Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader.  Visit their links to learn more.
Title:  Hammerfall
Author:  C.J. Cherryh
The Beginning:  Distance deceived the eye in the Lakht, that wide, red land of the First Descended, where legend said the ships had come down.

The Friday 56:  (from page 56)  But she went veiled, and disconsolate, and brooded.  Marak shared a tent with her and never had seen her face.

Comment:  Great story and great science fiction.  I love this author!

January 13, 2016

The Door to December by Dean Koontz

Title:  The Door to December
Author:  Dean Koontz
Pages:  510
Genre:  Horror / Thriller
Publisher:  Signet, 1994
Series:  Stand Alone

"It's like...the window to yesterday."
Synopsis:  Little Melanie had been kidnapped when she was only three.  She was nine when she was found wandering the L.A. streets, with blank eyes.  What had become of her in all those years of darkness...and what was the terrible secret, clutching at her soul, that she dared not even whisper?

Her loving mother and the police desperately hunted for the answer.  they needed Melanie to get to the bottom of the most savage scene of carnage the city had ever seen.  And they would do anything to save her from whatever dreadful force or thing had invaded her young life.  But first they would have to save themselves from a rising tide of terror....and from an icy evil howling through.......THE DOOR TO DECEMBER.

Review:  This was a fast paced, horror-filled trip, taking you to the depths of what humans will do to one another to get what they want.  It forces you to ask yourself -- do you believe in psychic abilities and if you do, do you really know what powers you are tapping into?

Melanie's mother Laura, who hasn't seen her daughter in 6 years, is desperate to know what her ex-husband has done to their child.  He was a research scientist who was obsessed with the occult.  It becomes increasingly obvious as the novel proceeds that he used his young daughter as the subject of a long and painful experiment.

But now, all the people who were directly involved in the experiment are being killed brutally.  It seems no one, including Melanie, is safe from the nameless presence that came from beyond the door.

I think this is my favorite of the books that this author has written.  He's written quite a few good books (and some not-so-good ones too), but this one is just impossible to put down and so scary.  I loved it!

Rating:  9 / 10

January 12, 2016

Teaser Tuesdays #2

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by A Daily Rhythm.  Visit the link to learn more.
Book I'm Reading:  The Door to December by Dean Koontz
Teaser:  "And that's how he freed me," she said seriously.  "You are, when you no longer fear pain, when you learn to love pain, then you can't be afraid of anything anymore."  (page 304)

Comment:  Oh so scary and good!  I have no idea how it's going to end up and I can't wait to find out!

January 11, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading #2

It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by The Book Date.  Visit the link to learn more.

Last Book I Read:  The Prince of Darkness by Sharon Kay Penman -- a great historical mystery!
Book I'm Reading Now:  The Door to December by Dean Koontz -- *very* scary horror / mystery.  I can hardly put it down it's so good!
Next Up:  Hammerfall by C.J. Cherryh -- I'm ready for some good Science Fiction and this author is one of my favorites!

January 9, 2016

Prince of Darkness by Sharon Kay Penman

Title:  Prince of Darkness
Author:  Sharon Kay Penman
Pages:  327
Genre:  Historical Fiction / Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley, 2006
Series:  Justin de Quincy, Book 4
Justin's hesitation was barely noticeable. "I serve at the queen's pleasure," he said.
Synopsis: Justin de Quincy hastens to Paris at the request of his former lover only to discover that she was acting on behalf of his nemesis, Prince John. The prince has been implicated in a plot to kill his brother, King Richard, and wants Justin to prove the incriminating document false.

Realizing that John's suspected treachery may also risk the welfare of the woman he serves, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Justin reluctantly agrees to help. But his investigation unravels a sinister conspiracy that might change the course of English history.

Review:  Ever since reading this author's 900+ page book The Sunne in Splendour years ago, I've known she was one of the foremost writers of historical fiction set in the Medieval period.  I read book three of this series way back in 2008 and was a little afraid I'd be lost.  But, these stories are so easy to get into and the characters so memorable, that I had no trouble at all.

Justin de Quincy is the 'Queen's man'.  The Queen being Eleanor of Aquitaine.  Her son, Richard the Lionheart, is the King of England (although he's being held for ransom).  Another of her sons, John, wants to be sitting on that same throne.  The conspiracy and mystery surrounding the false accusations against John and the murder of an innocent woman take Justin to well over a dozen places and into danger and intrigue at the highest levels.

My favorite part of reading Ms. Penman's work is knowing that the majority of the characters were real and the places existed as she describes them.  Her research alone must be incredibly time consuming.  I learn so much about this time period from her books and since I truly love this era, it's always a pleasure.  And she takes such care with her writing, it seems these people live and breathe and love on her pages.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

January 8, 2016

The Friday 56 and Book Beginnings #2

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice and Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader.  Visit their links to learn more.
Title:  Prince of Darkness
Author:  Sharon Kay Penman
The Beginning:  They came together on a damp December evening in a pirate's den.  That was how she would one day describe this night to her son.

The Friday 56: (from page 56)  Bennet was as tall and thin and supple as a mountain ash; he had the gaunt, lean look of a man who'd often gone to bed hungry.  That had indeed been true in his hardscrabble youth, for he and his older sister, Molly, had been accursed with a downtrodden drudge of a mother who'd sadly vanished from their lives, and a mean drunkard of a father who'd sadly stayed.

Comment:  This author is one of the best at historical fiction.  This story has captivated me.

January 7, 2016

Hanging Judge by James Axler

Title:  Hanging Judge
Author:  James Axler
Pages:  314
Genre:  Action / Adventure, Sci-Fi
Publisher:  Gold Eagle, 2014
Series:  Deathlands #116

Synopsis:  In the Deathlands, the game of survival offers no reprieve. There's nothing to win in nuke-blasted America except the chance to fight another day. Still, Ryan Cawdor and his fellow travelers hope for sanctuary somewhere. Until they find it, they face each dawn as if it's their last. Because it just might be.

Justice is a damning word in what used to be called Oklahoma, thanks to a sadistic baron known as the Hanging Judge. Crazy, powerful and backed by a despotic sec crew, the judge drops innocents from the gallows at will. When Jak narrowly escapes wearing his own rope as a necktie, a rift among the companions sends them deep into the mutie-infested wilderness outside the ville. Separated and hurting, time is running out for the survivors to realize they're stronger together than they ever could be alone before a ruthless madman brings them to the end of their rope.

Review:  Set in the Deathlands, which used to be known as America, about 100 years after a world-wide nuclear holocaust, these books usually have everything:  mutations, almost non-existent civilization, violence, and mysterious technology left over from before the nukes fell.  However, James Axler is a house name used by Gold Eagle for this series.  In other words, many different authors have written these books over the course of time.

This, unfortunately, was just not a very good book and I blame the author.  It was a good premise for the story, but far too much time was spent on the violence, the guns and the mutants.  The emotions that the story should have engendered were lost in all the chaos.  I've read 116 of these books now.  I expect the violence and etc, but I also expect a good story to go with them.

I'd planned on reading seven more of these books this year, but after dragging myself through this one, I just don't think I can.  I know the next book isn't written by the same author.  It doesn't matter, especially not since I know he *did* write two more of the books I do have.  I just can't do any more of these right now, not with the way I feel cheated by this one.  I have too many other books I've been dying to read to waste my time right now.  I've revamped my planned reading list.  If there's time left at the end of the year, maybe I'll try again.  For now, I've had enough.

I'm so very sad to note that this same author has also written the very last book for this series.  I'll still read it, since I'm invested in this series.  I only hope he does a much better job.

Rating:  1.5 / 10

January 5, 2016

Teaser Tuesdays #1

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by A Daily Rhythm.  Visit the link to learn more.
Book I'm Reading:  Hanging Judge by James Axler
Teaser:  But then the whitecoats and the generals blew up the world.  Epidemics, natural and man-made, had chilled billions -- more than the bombs and the quakes and the riots and the starvation. (page 135)

Comment:  I'm disappointed in this book so far.  I'm hoping it gets better.

January 4, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #1

It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by The Book Date.  Visit the link to learn more.

Last Book I Read:  The Fall of Atlantis by Marion Zimmer Bradley -- My first book of 2016 and it was great!

Book I'm Reading Now:  Hanging Judge by James Axler -- I've been so looking forward to reading some more from this series, but this (so far) isn't one of the better stories in this series.  Hopefully, it makes a turn around.

Next Up:  End Program by James Axler -- I refuse to give up on what has been, for almost 15 years, one of my favorite series.....especially not now when they've decided to stop writing them!

January 3, 2016

The Fall of Atlantis by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Title:  The Fall of Atlantis
Author:  Marion Zimmer Bradley
Pages:  502
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Baen Publishing, 1987
Series:  Stand Alone
"There was a prophecy, long ago when I was still young -- A child will be born of a line first risen, then fallen; a child who will sire a new line, to break the father's evils forever."
Synopsis:  A wounded Atlantean prince...a deadly battle between Dark and Light...and the sisters Deoris and Domaris, whose lives are changed utterly by the magic involving them. These are the elements of "The Fall of Atlantis", Marion Zimmer Bradley's epic fantasy about that ancient and legendary realm. — On one side stand the Priests of the White Robe, guardians of powerful natural forces which could threaten the world if misused. Ranged against them are the Black Robes, sorcerers who secretly practice their dark arts in the labyrinthine caves beneath the very Temple of Light. Caught between are Domaris and Deoris, daughters of the Arch-priest Talannon, trapped in a web of deadly sorcery-the same forbidden sorcery that could bring about the fall of Atlantis.

Review:  This book was a great first choice for the year!  It was almost impossible to put down and the 500+ pages went by like a breeze.  There really is no one better at historical Fantasy than this author.  She proved that to me in her Avalon series and in this book, she proves it again.

It becomes clear at the end of the story that Atlantis will eventually be destroyed, but it was not their fault.  Another land, far across the ocean, used magic that caused a cataclysm that would reach the island nation of Atlantis and sink it beneath the waters.

Meanwhile, there were so many rich and varied characters and so many breathtakingly real places that this story drags you unwittingly into complete belief -- belief in magic and belief in Atlantis both.  No "real" places are ever mentioned, so I was left wondering where was this magical part of the world?

I found myself so drawn into the light and dark sides of this story and so in love with the main characters, Domaris and Deoris, that I was actually upset that I'd finished the book so quickly.  I didn't want it to be over.  Every part of their lives was imbued with magic and mystery.  Their religious beliefs were firmly rooted in this mysterious link with the gods and magic.

My only complaint is that so much of the darkness seemed to revolve around the use of women for sex and power.  But, even that couldn't dissuade me from genuinely loving this story.  The dark priests were so dark sometimes, it made the light magic seem that much brighter, which I'm sure is what the author intended.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

January 1, 2016

The Friday 56 and Book Beginnings #1

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice and Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader.  Visit their links to learn more.

Title:  The Fall of Atlantis
Author:  Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Beginning:  At the sound of sandaled feet upon stone, the Priest Rajasta raised his face from the scroll he held open on his knee.  The library of the Temple was usually deserted at this hour, and he had come to regard it as his peculiar privilege to study here each day undisturbed.

The Friday 56: (from page 56)  ....the emotion he sensed between Micon and Domaris was a fragile and lovely thing to hold such seeds of grief.

Comment:  This is my first book of the new year and I've already begun it.  So far, I'm loving it.
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