Monday, July 24, 2017

The Winner Is... (Eyeshield 21 #31) ★★★★ ½

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: The Winner Is...
 Series: Eyeshield 21 #31
 Author: Riichiro Inagaki 
 Artist: Yusuke Murata
 Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Sports Manga
 Pages: 192
 Format: Digital Scan


The final 5 minutes between the Devil Bats and the Dinosaurs. The Dinosaurs make a touchdown and kick the ball for a 7point lead. Now there is only 2 minutes on the clock. Kurita MUST face, and overcome, Gaou if he is going to open a path for Sena to run through. Sena makes the touchdown and so the Devil Bats are only 1 point behind.

Their choice is to kick the ball for 1 point and go into overtime or to try for a 2 point conversion by running the ball and winning the game. With Hiruma's fractured arm, Sena's worn out body and the rest of the team utterly exhausted, the Devil Bats don't have a hope in hell [ha, “Devil” bats & “Hell”, get it?] of winning in overtime. So a 2 point run it is. Hiruma does his tricky stuff and Kurita and Gaou faceoff for the final showdown and the Devilbats win.

The rest of the volume is Sena and Monta and Suzuna scouting out the competition for the Christmas Bowl. And what they find is an All Star Team with a female quarterback [at least, I think she's the quarterback, it was hard to tell if that was what was said]. And not only that, their running back receiver is the son of the man who inspired Monta. Fighting against his idol's son might more than Monta can bear.

Hiruma is aware of ALL the dynamics and has asked various members of the defeated teams to help train the Devil Bats.

My Thoughts:

Excellent. A fantastic volume.

Kurita's battle against Gaou was great. It was everything he'd fought for and cried for and trained for and in the end it was Kurita's experience AND strength that overcame Gaou. That was a pleasure to see.

The end of the volume with the 3 characters scouting out the opposition was kind of weird. The opposition was so confident that they gave them their play book of 1000 plays. I'm still a bit confused if the girl who carried luggage around was the quarterback or not. Sadly, reading this on an 8in tablet made some of the text rather small and hard to read. I'm getting older and diabetes sure isn't doing my eyes any favors. After this series, if I read any more manga or comics on a tablet, I'm going to have to buy myself a 10-11in tablet. So part of me is hoping that she is, because that'll add a really weird mix into the game. But on the other hand I don't want that to happen. No woman should be placed in that situation, period.

I don't know if the emotional punch I experience from this series is deep enough to stand up to a re-read. Honestly, I'd rather not find out. I think that I'll read this, enjoy it immensely and move on. But my goodness, this initial read is SO GOOD!

★★★★ ½ 


Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Destiny of the Sword (The Seventh Sword #3) ★★☆☆ ½

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: The Destiny of the Sword
 Series: The Seventh Sword #3
 Author: Dave Duncan
 Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Fantasy
 Pages: 370
 Format: Digital Edition


Wally unites the swordsmen, captures a top wizard and realizes that The World needs both of them. So he hammers out a peace deal between them. In the process though his protege Nnanji rockets up through the ranks and by the end of the book is a Seventh Level Swordsman himself.

Nnanji is charismatic, is willing to kill, can delegate, has a brother who can scheme like nobody else, a wife that is ambitious and an unshakeable belief in Wally. So of course, he is on the road to becoming the first Emperor of The World.

And Wally gets all butthurt and starts whining about democracy and slinging terms like psychopath and fascist and dictator. Thankfully the little god has a talk with him and Wally accepts that he'll have to play second fiddle to Nnanji from now on.

My Thoughts:

This was a decent story right up until Wally starts whining about Nnanji supplanting him. He was all 21st century ideals in the first book but had gotten over that in the second and in this book. Up until that point. Then it was a one chapter tsunami of weak willed bs.

It ruined everything up to that point for me.

The story is wrapped up satisfactorily thankfully. This was originally a trilogy and then years later he wrote a 4th book, The Death of Nnanji. I will not be reading that.

★★☆☆ ½

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Don Quixote (Classic) ★★★☆ ½

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Don Quixote
 Series: ------
 Author: Miguel de Cervantes
 Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Classic
 Pages: 1120
 Format: Paperback


Don Quixote has a lot of books on knight errantry. He has read them all and in the process gone quite mad, bonkers, round the bound, off the rails, etc, etc. He is crazy.

He is convinced that he is a Knight, that one of his tenants, Sancho Panza is his squire and that the love of his love is Dulcinea Toboso, a village woman who he has never seen, only heard her name. Quixote thus accoutres himself in knightly style and sets out on adventures.

He has many adventures, misadventures, friends and family try to bring him to his senses and in the end he gives up his knightly ways, admits he was crazy and dies in bed.

For more a more indepth look at what actually happens, ie Chapter by Chapter, please check out my various Don Quixote Update Posts.

My Thoughts:

There is so much I want to say about this book. So please forgive any erratic jumping around as I potentially go from random thought to random thought.

I can see why this is a Classic. Cervantes writes amusingly, wittily and tells some good stories. The interactions between Quixote and Sancho ring so true as do their interactions with the various people they meet. And therein lies my first, and biggest issue.

The side stories. This book is divided into Part I and Part II. Part I is chock full of characters that Quixote meets telling their own, long, convoluted and pointless stories. In one or two cases, those side stories end up splitting off into yet a third story. A story within a story within a story. It became frustrating to read. Someone who I can't remember, told me that those side stories represented various forms of writing back in the 1600's and that Cervantes included them to show that indeed, he was a master writer. It makes sense. However, as much sense as it may make, it does not make for an enjoyable read. When I am reading a book entitled Don Quixote I expect to read about the titular character. Thankfully, in Part II there are very few sidestories and the adventures of Quixote and Sancho proceed apace.
My other main issue was the continued madness and stupidity of both Quixote and Sancho. In part it is amusing, funny and chuckle worthy. But when it crashes over me the reader chapter after chapter after chapter, it becomes tragic, not comedic.

In short, while I am not a fan of abridged classics, I WOULD recommend that Don Quixote first be read that way to get the meat of the story. Then the reader can read an unabridged version to wallow in all the unnecessaryness of it all.

I was reading the Oxford World Classics edition that used the Jarvis translation and was edited and annotated by a E.C. Riley. Riley's notes were absolutely useless to me as a casual reader. There were many instances where I would have appreciated some context about the culture that would have explained something but nope, nothing. Then there will be Greek Name Alpha and Riley will spend 3 paragraphs going off about the history of said Greek and how Cervantes saw it ONCE in Village X and that is why Greek Name Alpha was included in the story. It felt like the focus of the notes were supposed to be scholarly but came across as pretentious and pointless. It was a frustrating experience and by Part II I just ignored the annotations.

The thing is, this WAS funny. How can you not laugh when Sancho puts some curds into Quixote's helmet [which is actually a barber's basin] and Quixote claps the helmet on his head and thinks his brains are leaking out because of the curds? Most of the humor is of that sly kind, poking fun at Quixote, at Sancho, at the people they meet.

I would recommend this book just to see how people thought and acted 400 years ago. But get a different edition than this one, one that will explain some of the cultural things that mean nothing to us now.

I started this book in November 2016 and finished it in July 2017. That is 8 months. I could have read it a lot faster but my note taking necessitated taking it slow. I don't in any way feel that my time was wasted or that my updates were negated. It was nice to just slowly punt down the river of this book and enjoy the scenery. Of course by page 700 I was over the scenery and ready to exit the boat.

To wrap up. I enjoyed this even while being frustrated at parts but I don't know that I'll ever read it again. 2000 and now 2017 just about seems enough.

★★★☆ ½

Thursday, July 20, 2017

New Frontiers (Expansion Wars #1) ★★★☆ ½

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: New Frontiers
 Series: Expansion Wars #1
 Author: Joshua Dalzelle
 Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
 Genre: SFF
 Pages: 274
 Format: Digital Edition


Humanity has survived the Phage. Unfortunately, the old Confederation breaks apart due to various members involvement in attracting the Phage. At the same time that humanity is fracturing apart, 2 new alien species suddenly appear. One wants to be a partner with humanity. The other was in thrall to the Phage and worshipped it. So they want to destroy the creatures that killed their god.

Celesta Wright, Jackson Wolfe's protege, has been sent out to explore and then in a joint military venture with the allied aliens against the genocidal ones. Problem is, it turns out the two alien races are in league and it is a vast trap to destroy humanity's space fleet capability so that we can be gobbled up at leisure.

Bucking command and taking risks, Wright saves the fleet and on her return finds that Jackson Wolfe has been reinstated in the military, against his wishes. Politicians are playing their games even while humanity is once again facing extinction.

Where's a good Theocracy when you need it?

My Thoughts:

This was a worthy successor to the Black Fleet trilogy.

Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy it quite as much. There were several instances of people just doing stupid things. It wasn't just the politicians either.

The space action reminded me a lot of the space battles in Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet series. Sometimes I miss the zam zoom space lasers of Star Wars'esque battles. “Physics” is only SO enjoyable.

Since this is going to be a trilogy and not an unending series, Dalzelle had better get the story in gear and move things right along. This book felt like setup for another set of hostile aliens to fight humanity. Better be good.

★★★☆ ½

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Beyond the Shadows (Night Angel #3) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Beyond the Shadows
 Series: Night Angel #3
 Author: Brent Weeks
 Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
 Genre: SFF
 Pages: 699
 Format: Digital Edition


The kingdom is safe now that the Godking is dead. Ha. The godkings various sons are duking it out to see who will rule in his stead and once that is determined, the winner is coming back for some real vengeance. At the same time another kingdom is taking advantage of the chaos to annex a large of chunk and they've brought troops to back up their claims.

Logan won't take the kingship since he pledged his oath to Terah Graesin but she is the worst possible thing to happen. Kylar must kill her to allow Logan to ascend the throne. He must do it in such a way though that it doesn't look like Logan asked him to do it.

Kylar is still linked to Vi and both Elene and Vi are in the Sisterhood. Who want to use Kylar, somehow. Superpowerful magical swords are involved, as are near immortal creatures and a host of millions of undead. Elene gets possessed by Khali but for the purpose of containing it [as it is a fallen angel] so Kylar can kill her with the magic swords and thus truly destroy Khali.

It all comes together in one HUGE battle is so stupendous that I'm not going to even try to describe it. Kylar saves the world at great cost and everyone is sad at Elene's sacrifice and Vi still wants to jump Kylar's bones.

The End.

My Thoughts:

Good stuff!

My only complaints are as follows. The profanity still sticks out. Seeing the F word is just jarring. It doesn't fit. Second, the amount of history we're deluged with from Durzo Blint is a bit much for one book. I'd really liked to have seen a prequel trilogy following his adventures in his various personas.

Other than that? Rock'em Sock'em Robot success!

True love. Magic swords. Magical killer creatures that are unstoppable. Hordes of undead that aren't all human sized shamblers. 2000 women who can control magic? Aes Sedai anyone? That really stood out to me this time. It just seemed a very blatant ripoff where as back in '09 I didn't even make the connection. Either way, I enjoyed it this time around.

The storyline dealing with Dorian Ursuul, the prophet and son of the Godking, was wicked hard to deal with. He sees the future, gives up his gift because of what he sees and then ends up becoming something just as bad as his father ever was. Since he was introduced as a character who wanted to only do good since the beginning, that fall from grace was just brutal! Weeks really digs into what it could cost to see the future.

The violence is not ratcheted down any either. There was one scene where I just put my kindle down and had to catch my emotional breathe. Kylar was bound on a water wheel to kill him for him killing the queen. His own friend Logan, who became king of that action, was the one who had to pass sentence. Logan also knows that Kylar heals super quick, so the water wheel will take days. He breaks a table leg off and just smashes Kylar's arms and legs so that he'll die. A friend having to execute his best friend, having to physically destroy him, it was intense. I had ALL the manly feelz.

While the writing definitely shows that this trilogy was Weeks' first go, it is in no way sub-par. It just isn't as nuanced as experience will make him. Heck, comparing this to the latest Light Bringer Novel, Blood Mirror is a good exercise in watching someone grow their literary wings.

It would be cool if at some point Weeks returned to this universe, but at the rate the Light Bringer novels are coming out, I don't see that happening any time soon.


Monday, July 17, 2017

That Hideous Strength (The Space Trilogy #3) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: That Hideous Strength
 Series: The Space Trilogy #3
 Author: C.S. Lewis
 Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
 Genre: SFF
 Pages: 394
 Format: Digital Edition


The NICE Institute begins to take over Britain. Ostensibly a mere research company that is out to better humanity, NICE is actually controlled by the bent eldila of our own world. They have begun the conquest of Earth in earnest, which means the total destruction of everything. Just like the moon is lifeless, they desire the Earth to be so.

Opposing them, or more accurately, gathered together against them, is Ransom and a small group of nobodies. Housewives, old professors, maids, even one man who doesn't believe in the eldila.

NICE is bent on resurrecting Merlin, the last descendant of Atlantis. With his knowledge of mystical powers and NICE's control of technology, it looks like their plan cannot fail. What they don't count on is that Merlin might not be the evil warlock they assume him to be or that the eldila from the unbent worlds will stand idly by.

But God works in mysterious ways and evil always destroys itself.

My Thoughts:

I really needed this read.

Storywise, it was just kind of ok. In all honesty, there wasn't much going on. Most of what happens is revealed between a husband who is trying to join NICE and his wife who is drawn into Ransom's circle. But we don't meet Ransom until almost the end, he doesn't play much of a part besides being a cripple and even Merlin, when he joins them, only casts a babel spell on the badguys. This is NOT an action book.

This was a book where the principals of warfare according to Christianity were in the fore. You didn't have Ransom and Company assaulting the NICE headquarters with shotguns and shooting everything with rocksalt or dishcleaner water, ala Supernatural. What you had was people doing almost nothing except the tiny little bit they were told to. That is so contrary to common sense, and even that issue is addressed, that it was fantastic.

It is good to be reminded that I am not responsible for taking down evil, Evildead style. It doesn't work that way. It is good to be reminded that God is in control, that He is responsible and that He has a plan already in motion and all laid out in Revelations.

While this was explicitly Christian, it wasn't in the same vein as something by Frank Peretti. You didn't have spirits duking it out with swords while flying around. In fact, Lewis does his best to show just how much we cannot understand about the creatures not of this world. A little confusing but like I first said, refreshing.

When you are battered and worn, sometimes you just need to cling to the truth.

On a non-review note, I FINALLY understand the old cover. It never made sense to me before. Now that I've read this again, it makes total sense. It isn't necessarily the kind of thing I can just type up and explain out of the blue, but if you read the story, you'll understand too.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Memories of Ice (Malazan Book of the Fallen #3) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Memories of Ice
 Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #3
 Author: Steven Erikson
 Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
 Genre: SFF
 Pages: 945
 Format: Digital Edition


The Pannion Domin is a threat both martial and magical and it will take the combined forces of the outlawed army of Dujek Onearm, former High Fist of the Malazan Empire, and their former enemies in the guise of the combined might of Caladan Brood's army and the sorcerous might of Anomander Rake and his floating city of Moonspawn.

At the same time, Silverfox [the fully grown woman encompassing the souls of 3 other mages] has called the T'lan Imass together again for the first time in over 300,000 years. She is the physical embodiment of an Imass magician and has the power to reverse the oath the Imass took in their war against the Jhagut. She refuses and this has fallout for her personally and for the forces of Dujek and Brood who were counting on the Imass to counter the undead forces of a race thought to be extinct, the K'chain Ch'maile.

All through this, the gods continue their own war. The fallen/broken god has declared war on the pantheon and he wants to destroy them all for bringing him to this world. Fenner, the god of war, has fallen and a new risen god, Treach the Tiger, has ascended. Old lost gods are finding their thrones and each god is choosing for or against the broken god. And amid the total destruction and war on the souls of the men themselves, it is revealed that this part of the story is but a small part of the overall narrative.

Now THAT is depressing.

My Thoughts:

First thing I noticed was that with this 3rd read, I was able to not focus on all the shiny little bits and put the story together as a whole. In previous reads I found a huge disconnect from the leadup to the battle of Capustan to the final showdown at Corel. This time around there was no disconnect and the story naturally flowed without any jarring. It was really nice to UNDERSTAND the slightly bigger picture.

Erikson shows once again that he is a freaking master of writing. The battle scenes were incredible. Vivid, intense and brutal. You can feel the slippery blood, the complete exhaustion, the fear and the adrenaline rush. The interactions between characters was excellently done as well. There was NO cardboard, only flesh and blood come to life on paper. What's more, everyone was “distinct”. They weren't archtypes, or ideas, or variations on a theme. They Were People.

And that leads into the start of my issues. With the characters being so real, the hearbreak and despair and utter desolation that they one and all suffer is wrong. In previous reads, I was taken up with the story, trying to figure out how everything fit together. In being focused on that, the emotional side of things were glossed over. Not this time. The death of main characters hit hard. They weren't alone but had made connections, so when those threads were cut, it was like a spiderweb quivering all over. No on person was ever alone in their anguish or loss. It hurt to read as it was so real to me.

The second, and far bigger issue for me, was the wholesale injection of existential philosophy in a huge way. Existentialism is one of the most depressing philosophies, in my opinion. In small doses, it provides a way for men to show their true grit against completely overwhelming odds. However, in larger doses, it can overwhelm the reader with utter despair and destroy your psyche.

It is probably apparent which happened to me.

By the end of the book I was dreading every instance where I saw italicized walls of text. That meant that some character was thinking and every thought of every character was nothing but despair and hopeless angst. It wore me down.

On my first read through of the whole series, it took me until Book 8 to feel this way. Since then, I've had some “experience” with the hard side of life and reading about despair and suffering isn't theoretical anymore. Reading about suffering isn't so fun once you've had a taste of it yourself. I think I'm going to be taking an extra cycle before dipping my toes into this series again.

More specifics about the story itself can be found in my Memories of Ice Readalong Updates.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Instinct (Chess Team Adventure #2) ★★☆☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Instinct
 Series: Chess Team Adventure #2 
Author: Jeremy Robinson
 Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Action/Adventure
 Pages: 365
 Format: Digital Edition


A rogue Vietnam General comes across a super plague that he weaponizes. He uses it against the President of the United States and that sets the stage for the Chess Team. They are sent in to find a cure [as the plague has the potential to wipe out mankind within 2 years] but of course nothing can go easy, or they wouldn't be the Chess Team.

They run across a Vietnam special forces who are dedicated to wiping them out. They come across monstrous, devolved neanderthals who are all female and who eat humans and rape men to continue their race. They also come across a lost scientist who has started his own race of neanderthal/human hybrids and who wants the plague to succeed so his “children” can rule the world.

That is a lot to overcome. Plus the burden of saving the whole world. Phhhh, just a day's work for the Chess Team.

My Thoughts:

This was easily on track to being a 3.5star adventure. Then the author started talking about shoving guns down the throats of Fox News anchors and calling them fear mongering haters, or something close to that. That tanked this for me. It makes me suspect the author is a dickwad and someone I'd gladly punch in the face. But rather than give in to my baser instincts to hunt him down and beat him to within an inch of his miserable life, I chose to let it go. You don't see ME threatening to KILL anyone just because I don't LIKE them. Beatings are VERY different from killing.

On to the book then.

Pretty good adventure and action. The devolved neanderthals and their Lost City of Blah, Blah, Blah and how they used to be Masters of Humanity was a bit much for my taste in conjuction with the whole Plague Wiping Out the Whole World thing, but hey, it's better to have too much adventure than not enough.

Lots of fighting, lots of guns and stuff. What I expect and what I like in a military action/adventure story. And Bishop, the guy who got super human powers in the last book, he gets his head ripped off, regenerates and comes back badder than ever. And gets a “magic” crystal so he doesn't go all ravening zombie anymore. Quite convenient that. I guess the neanderthals were good for something.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

This Is American Football (Eyeshield 21 #30) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: This Is American Football
 Series: Eyeshield 21 #30
 Author: Riichiro Inagaki 
 Artist: Yusuke Murata
 Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Sports Manga
 Pages: 200
 Format: Digital Scan


Sena takes over being quarterback for a couple of plays and allows the Devilbats to make a touchdown. Kurita is just sitting around numbly from his failure to protect Hiruma and it takes his apprentice getting the stuffing beaten out of him to bring back his fierce, protective spirit.

Hiruma comes back in the game and no one can tell, except Sena and Musashi, if he's ok or faking it. Either way, Hiruma gets in the heads of the Dinosaurs and really messes them up. So much so that the score is tied at 35-35 with only 5 minutes to go in the final half.

My Thoughts:

Much better than the previous volume. Gaou is stopped by Komusubi, who gets the heck beaten out of him time and time again. Just when it looks like he's done for, Kurita finally wakes up and realizes it is up to him to protect the whole team from Gaou. And he does. Gaou's power drives are stopped cold and the Devilbats begin to make inroads.

Hiruma coming back was something else. It was supposed to show his grit, his determination, his pure will power. But my only thought was, “grow up kid, you have your whole life ahead of you. Don't waste it by destroying yourself right now”. Back in my teens or even 20's I would have been eating up Hiruma's attitude with two spoons! I guess I'm mellowing.

I kept wondering if they were going to end this game in this book but as soon as the page came up all dramatic about “Only 5 Minutes Left!!!” I knew another volume was on the way. Sure enough, 3 pages later the volume ended. It didn't actually bother me, which surprised me. I think it is because it brought home to me that I am nearing the end of this series. Only 7 more volumes to go!


Monday, July 10, 2017

Sungrazer (Outriders #2) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Sungrazer
 Series: Outriders #2
 Author: Jay Posey
 Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
 Genre: SFF
 Pages: 448
 Format: Digital Edition


A secret asset of the UAF (United American Federation) has gone missing. This asset has stealth capability, can capture, render and output enemy data AND it can perform kinetic strikes, which are almost untraceable.

It is up to the Outriders to find this missing asset, recover it and prevent a war from breaking out between Mars and Earth. Unfortunately for them, someone within the Mars Federation WANTS war. So not only do the Outriders have to prevent war, they have to do so secretly because the very existance of the asset is enough to start the war.

During this time Mike Pence, the sniper who died and underwent The Process in the last book reveals to Lincoln that he's having memory problems and that The Process might not be quite all that the brass say it is. Which of course means that Lincoln dies near the end of the book and goes through The Process himself. Which in turn leads to the revelation that the big bad enemy lady from the first book not only has access to a form of The Process herself and uses it, but she uses it to replicate herself and put herself in multiple positions of power in various Martian city states.

My Thoughts:

Now that I knew I was not going to be reading a Duskwalker style story, which is what I was expecting with the first Outriders book, I was able to read and accept this for what it was. Military SF. It makes a big difference if you know what you are getting into, even vaguely, when starting a book. This was on my “High Priority” collection on my kindle and so I read it as soon as it came out.

This was just as good as the first and nothing stood out either better or worse. Only a couple of issues which I'll touch on quickly and even those didn't really let me down. More of quibbles.

Lincoln is able to tell what Amira Wright is feeling by invisible muscle twitches in her eyes or mouth. Once, I can live with. But it happened at least 3 times and was annoying. There were stretches of unnecessary description that really felt like padding. Finally, the revelation that the evil lady replicates herself wasn't bad, but considering how information greedy Mars is [they make googles seem like your blind, deaf, dumb and DEAD uncle], it seemed improbable to me that no one else had noticed this on Mars and made an issue of it.Unless there is a secret Cabal on Mars who run everything, kind of like in X-Files Season 10 where there is a secret Cabal who run Earth and aliens are just a fake distraction.

Now to the good stuff. Several riveting instances of infiltration, fighting and exfiltration. Not huge gun battles, but tense enough that I felt pumped up after reading them. I like that feeling. The revelation about possible problems in The Process of replicating the Outriders when they die opens up whole vistas of possible paranoia and government conspiracy. I can just see one of the team going haywire in a future book and having to be hunted down by his own team mates. Now THAT would be awesome.

The revelation of clone lady, with its attendant problems, also opens up possible plot lines. Who is funding her replication? Is it the same process, do the replicants think alike, can they think in unison, etc? Is she the mastermind or is there a Martian conspiracy? Or...ALIENS?!? I am so hoping for aliens at some point myself. United States Secret Forces versus the godless, murdering, horribly bestial aliens.
* sings the national anthem *

Man, sometimes I write better plot ideas in my head than actual reviews. Of course, it would take great skill to write that without me lambasting the author for being a talentless hack who couldn't write an original plotline if their life depended on it. Authors just can't win with me :-)


Friday, July 07, 2017

Starship's Mage (Starship's Mage #1) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Starship's Mage
 Series: Starship's Mage #1
 Author: Glynn Stewart
 Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
 Genre: SFF
 Pages: 337
 Format: Digital Edition


Damien Montgomery has graduated from the Mage Academy. Unfortunately for him, every other graduate is a family member of the ruling family and they get all the prime picks of starships to be mages of. At the same time, a freighter, the Blue Jay is ambushed by pirates and it is only by the sacrifice of their mage that they escape. That mage was the youngest son of the System Governer. Who then blacklists the freighter and it's Captain, David Rice.

Thus is born a most convenient pairing. Unfortunately, Rice is running from organized crime, as he got the son of a crimelord killed. The mob is pursuing the Blue Jay and only by illegally modifying the runes does Damien save the ship and the crew from yet another ambush. This tampering gets him thrown in jail. The crew of the Blue Jay break him out when they find out that a Hand of the Emperor has been assigned to strip Damien of his magic.

Now on the run from Imperial Forces, the Mob and bounty hunters, the Blue Jay must figure out a way to survive. Unknown to them, the Hand is actually wanting to recruit Damien for his ability, not strip his magic.It all comes to a head when two opposing Crime Lords and the Imperial Fleet collide.

Damien survives and comes under the tutelage of the wise and benevolent Mage King of Mars.

Now isn't that cute?

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this quite a bit. So I'm going to lead with my complaints and then end on a good note.

Stewart shows his big government love and goes all starry eyed at how wonderful and benevolent the Mage King and his Hands are. The Imperial Worlds that all accept the Mages are keystones of civilization while the few worlds that won't allow mages on them are corrupt, backward horrors. There is one world that was based on Libertarian principals and Stewart really shows his contempt for personal freedom there. Everyone carries a firearm and children begin training at a young age and Stewart manages to convey his utter horror at such a thing. My goodness, imagine a whole world where people are actually trained in how to use guns?!? I'm in shock. Just think, they might resist the Benevolent oversight of a Government that knows better than them. I'm having heart palpitations just thinking about such a travesty. And the romance. Damien gets involved with a crew member and then at the end when he's off on his merry way to become the protege of the Mage King, it is like “hey,nice knowing you. Goodbye”. It would have been better if there had been no “romance” than something like that.

Once you get past that, things are pretty smooth sailing. This was originally a 5 part serial, so each part is a complete story that tells its tale while propelling the overall arc. It was like 5 rather long chapters. It worked out really well but it also convinced me that I am right in avoiding serials. I need the one long story narrative for me to keep interested.

Ok. The fighting was good stuff! The Blue Jay was the underdog the whole time so they had to get creative. Damien was the major force behind that, but other crew members handled creative thinking as well. From personal gun battles on space stations to major ship engagements, Stewart kept me very well entertained.

The whole “magic” thing just kind of “was”. It ws vaguely explained as eugenecists from long ago messing around with genes and human atrocities committed. From their experiments came the Mages. Magic came from Super Science. Just go with it. It is not a major point of the story so the less time you think about it, the better.

I am looking forward to the rest of this series. Because come on, does it get much better than Mages making Starships jump through space? The only thing that would have been better is if Damien invents himself a light sword. I'm hoping that happens later.

On an unrelated note, my reviews are getting longer, much longer. I apologize to my future self and to anyone else who happens to read these.



Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Blackstaff (Forgotten Realms: The Wizards #1) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Blackstaff
 Series: Forgotten Realms: The Wizards #1
 Author: Steven Schend
 Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Fantasy
 Pages: 320
 Format: Digital Edition


Khelben Arunsun, better known as the wizard Blackstaff and chosen of Mystra, “began a great work” and now he will be “certain to complete it”. With the help of an apprentice, a dead apprentice, a former apprentice who is now an evil lich, a rogue and a host of veritable potentates in the magic community, Blackstaff will unleash The Killer Storm that could wipe out all of Faerun and channel it in such a way as to bring back an ancient city that has been buried for 12 Millennia.

Of course, Blackstaff has to manipulate almost everyone, find out that he's the expectant father of twins and then sacrifice himself “because of reasons” to complete the city raising ritual.

Nothing makes one's life more complete than dying for “reasons”.

My Thoughts:

While Khelben is the ostensible main character, as he's the titular Blackstaff, it turns out that some nobody apprentice named Tsarra Chaadren is actually the main character. She gets part of her friend's soul when a magical test goes wrong because of an attack and then at the end she has to take on Blackstaff's memories and become the new Blackstaff. No pressure. I didn't like or dislike Tsarra because she was such a nobody. She might have been an up and coming nobody, but she was still a nobody.

In the same vein, the rogue Raegar Stoneblade [oh my bloody phrackingness, WHO comes up with these names?!?!] is as bleh as she is. Him and Tsarra falling in love was predictable as was his “you killed my friend so I'm going to get you” schtick against the villain.

Which brings us to the Lich. Priamon “Frostrune” Rakesk. At least Frostrune is a cool name. He does a good bit of manipulating of the others and things seem to be going his way. Of course, he's putty in the hands of Blackstaff, so his eventual eternal torment [because you can't die if you're already dead] in the hands of an evil underlord came as no surprise.

Storywise, this was one of the more decent ones that I've read recently. It gives me hope for the next 3 books in the The Wizards tetralogy. It was also nice to just read a standalone story. These “vaguely related by one idea” kind of books in the Forgotten Realms [The Citadels, The Cities or The Rogues
for example] are so hit and miss that it is a real crapshoot if you are going to get a decent one or a stinker. Thankfully, this was one of the more decent ones.

I think it helped that I had read The Archwizards Trilogy relatively recently and while not really liking it, it did introduce me to Blackstaff, the Phaerim and other such characters so that I didn't go into this blind. Also, Arilyn Moonblade and Danilow Thann are mentioned, who I met in the second The Harpers book. It is tying little pieces like that together that help in my enjoyment of the overall Forgotten Realms books.



Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Calling on Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles #3) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Calling on Dragons
 Series: Enchanted Forest Chronicles #3
 Author: Patricia Wrede
 Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Fantasy
 Pages: 274
 Format: Digital Edition


Morwen the Witch, and her 9 cats, are trying to help out Cimorene and the King of the Enchanted Forest. Wizards have stolen his magic sword which makes the Enchanted Forest vulnerable. So Morwen, Cimorene, the magician, Kazul the King of the Dragons and an enchanted bunny that eventually turns into a flying, blue, ghost donkey [seriously!] all set out to recover the sword.

They are successful but upon their return to the Enchanted Forest they find that the King and his castle have been put inside a super powerful shield spell by the wizards and only the magic sword can cut through it. Unfortunately, only a direct heir to the king can wield the sword. Cimorene is pregnant, so all they have to do is wait for the kid to be born and grow up enough to use the sword.

No problemo!

My Thoughts:

This was fun. Just like the other books, it is definitely middle grade, but it is well written that even a young virile man like myself can enjoy it.

I liked this better than the previous book and I suspect that is because Wrede writes from a female main character perspective. Killer the rabbit, who through an ongoing reaction to various magics, ends up as a blue, flying, ghost donkey, alternated between an annoying prat and an extremely funny foil. I think he would have been funnier if he hadn't had so many lines.

The cats were great little snippets of personality here and there. They exuded “catness” in everything they said and did. I'm guessing Wrede owns cats.

My only grouse comes from a more adult perspetive. Those pesky wizards. Instead of just melting them, and having them reform after a couple of days, why not let the dragons eat them wholesale OR have Mendenbarr [the king of the Enchanted Forest] hunt them down with his magic sword, assassin style.

She could even have him be on the cover of another book as this dark broody guy in a hooded cape with lots of glitter. You know, the kind of cover that seems to be on most of the YA crap out there these days. Or he could be this huge buff guy with no shirt and long hair kissing some buxom lass with half her clothes gone. I would title that one: “Mendenbarr: King Of Love” with a byline, “he KNOWS how to use that sword”. Surprisingly, Wrede never even ASKED for my input in any form for these potential spinoff novels. I would have totally split the royalties with her. But hey, not everyone recognizes genius when they see it.

In closing, this was a good light read that I have NO regrets about re-reading.