Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dark Heir by Faith Hunter

 Drat! I was really hoping that my review of the previous novel in Jane's story would have contained enough information that I didn't feel like this one was gonna be full of spoilers, but it was not meant to be. 

There is a major emergency at vamp HQ when an ancient vampire (probably the one of the first created, if vamp legends are correct) whom Leo has been holding captive, is helped to escape by traitors within Leo's clan. When Jane attempts to stop him, he blasts her with a massively powerful spell which puts her out of business for a while, and also leaves her with a semipermanent connection to him through her link to the evil artifact, the blood diamond.

The vamp leaves a trail of bodies across the city of New Orleans, including a massacre in a night club which riles up the local populace and police. To some extent, this plays into Jane's hands, as she feels responsible for a) not having killed him upon discovery, and failing to stop his escape, and b) failing to kill the traitorous vampiress who freed the monster when she had the chance a few books back.

The European vampires are still scheduled for a visit, and killing the ancient one, who has been merely presumed missing for a couple of centuries, would cause serious international consequences, if word got out. The witches are still scheduled for a conclave with the leaders of the Mithrans, as well, and these events could affect that rapprochement, too.

Jane must use all of her allies to defeat this ancient monster, including the leader of the witches in New Orleans, Lachish, and her friend Molly, the werewolf Brute, a whole host of Leo's scions, and her lover, Bruiser. The main things that happen here, from a plot arc standpoint, are that she finally embraces her nature as Warrior Woman, who must fight evil for a cause, while allowing the monsters a chance at redemption when possible, and finally accepting the fact that she's accumulated a bit of "family" in Eli and Alex Younger. She also manages to collect a couple of new magical artifacts along the way.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mini Meet

Traveling seems, for me, to put a serious dent in my blogging output, unless of course I can blog about travel, or perhaps take the time to blog about blogging. This post does both. 

I've always wanted to attend one of the blog meets that I read about in other folks' blogs, but it seems that the concentration of bloggers out in the Northwest is a little thin, and perhaps they're just not as sociable as the bloggers back East and down South, so most days it's a little hard for me to travel to one. 

But when I got the opportunity to fly to Virginia to visit my son's family, especially my five-week-old granddaughter, I mentioned to Murphy's Law that I was going to be in the area, and he was kind enough to invite me out a hidden bunker in an undisclosed location...

Not really, just a private gun club near a small town in West Virginia, to wound a few targets with him,  Proud Hilllbilly and their friend Bruce.

Not only did he give me a couple pointers that may improve my shooting markedly, but we had a bit of time to grab a burger and brew at a local joint called Glory Days that prepared the juiciest medium rare burger I've had in a while, and to shoot the breeze for a while with a couple of my favorite bloggers, and their friend Bruce (When are you gonna start blogging, Bruce?)

One thing that didn't even cross my mind until I crossed the Shenandoah River on my way back towards Quantico was to take some pictures of the area. I felt like I'd inadvertently driven right into a John Denver song, as I passed through horse farms and what seemed like an endless stream of wineries, old stone houses and lovely vistas. I really need to convince my wife we need to take a winery tour out there so I can get some pictures when I'm not focused on following the GPS' twisted directions. 

Besides, I need to return ProudHillbilly's spare magazine I forgot I stuffed in my cargo pockets.

Friday, May 15, 2015

How to Live on Mars by Robert Zubrin

 I've read a few books written by expats, telling others how to live successfully in a foreign land, so I can be pretty sure that it's true that this is the most useless book for expats I've ever seen. Not because it contains inaccurate information. No, quite the contrary. It's perfectly accurate, but it's Mars! You can try to be a stranger in a strange land if you like, but it will be a very long time before you can book passage there.

Like most attempts at humor, I think Zubrin finds it difficult to maintain the level of levity past the few chapters, and the book devolves into a much more serious discussion of how to obtain oxygen, water and other resources from the Martian environment, the most versatile type of transportation, habitat, and power supply, and other survival issues.

He draws on a wealth of knowledge which I believe he has obtained as a scientist working for NASA, and pokes a bit of sarcastic fun at bureaucracies along the way. I'll probably pick up one of his more serious works about space faring and planet settling one of these days before the Martian cruise lines start running.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Long Time Until Now by Michael Z. Williamson

Williamson takes a break from his Freehold and mercenary stories here to play around in the time travel genre. While he is quite capable of spinning an interesting read out of nothing, while his characters attempt to build a civilization in the Stone Age. I'm not certain he's really brought anything new to the genre that hasn't previously been offered by Twain's Connecticut Yankee, Frankowski's Conrad, Flint's Ring of Fire, and Weber's Safehold stories.

A U.S. military convoy in Afghanistan bumps into some sort of temporal anomaly and are transported into Paleolithic times, where they must attempt to stay alive and preserve what civilization and technology they have brought with them.

Some other groups get displaced from their own timelines into the area and the story, as well, including a Roman legions which gives them a great deal of trouble before being cowed into a reluctant cooperation. Does this story by any chance tie into one of the Misplaced Legion stories by Turtledove?

There was a point, at the end of the book, when I thought the entire story was a "shaggy dog" for the entire purpose of making fun of the bureaucracy (such as the EPA) response to people who return from time travel to the past, like, "please fill out this form telling us how many endangered species members you killed while you were there." Pretty much all of the species from the Paleolithic era would now be extinct, so everything they killed was "endangered".

One of the things this book does is to experiment in multi-POV like crazy, and it somehow oddly works. After a short time to establish the setting and story line, Williamson jumps from one character to another, multiple times within a chapter.

If you enjoy reading about the types of workarounds they figured out to achieve a level of technology that provided at least a few of the comforts of home, with only sticks and rocks on hand to begin with, you'll probably enjoy this one. It's also good to be reminded every once in a while just how "nasty brutish and short" our lives would be without modern medicine, hygiene, agriculture, domesticated animals, and so forth. The good old days weren't all that good, merely old, after all.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop

 How often do you find yourself reading a book which is told from the "monsters" point of view so skillfully that you find yourself rooting against the humans. Or, in this case, the humans who want to drive the Others, the terra indigene from the continent.

The core plot in this book revolves around the sudden appearance of Monty's daughter, Lizzie, by herself on a train from the city where she has lived with her mother, Elayne, since Monty moved to Lakeside. Elayne has had a falling out with her boyfriend, one of the leaders of the Humans First and Last movement, after catching him sleeping around, but is killed when she tries to leave town with evidence of some of the bad things he has been up to. His partners in crime believe that Lizzie has or knows something that will implicate them,and so they try several times to take her back.

The cassandra sangues, having been forced out of the "homes" where they once were exploited, are having a difficult time surviving in the outside world. Some of them are simply giving up, others getting hit by cars, and even those who reach the few refuges which the Others have established are often overwhelmed by their new lives and end up killing themselves. Meg and her friends begin to try to put together an "Idiot's Guide" to caring for the prophetesses to distribute to the new caretakers.

There are, of course, some good veiled political and social issues in this book. The human media spouts the propaganda that Humans First spokespeople feed it without questioning, and it is relentlessly Other-phobic, while on the other hand Orwellian in its assumptions that only the human government can properly care for the poor, disadvantaged and mentally unstable cassandras, these "troubled children".

The battle lines are rapidly being drawn as Humans First - supporting businesses refuse to hire or to do business with the humans who do business with or associate with the Others. There are secret handshakes and special identifying pins that the HFL'ers wear. Simon Wolfgard begins to prepare living arrangements for some of "his" humans who are being ostracized and harassed.

The humans, for the most part, are still far too unaware, despite recent events, that the Others with whom they interact are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ancient powers that truly rule the Earth, and who can wipe out humanity in the blink of an eye, should they choose to end the experiment.

Another great book in Bishop's series. Looks like there's a fifth one in the works, too. This should be fun!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Born in Blood by Kate Paulk

With all due respect to Kate Paulk, who is really quite a good writer, this book was a bit of a ripoff. After reading Impaler, I wanted to read the prequel, which surely would tell the tale of how Vlad ended up as a blood-drinker, and explain the source of his malady. So I bought Born in Blood, which covers the time period when Vlad and his brother were hostages to his father's good behavior in the court of the sultan Murad.

First, the "book" turns out to be only 44 pages long, in Kindle format. Second, the book begs all of the important questions and just jumps in at the point when Vlad first reaches his breaking point and displays inhuman strength and appetites. Third, it ends at the death of his father, so we don't get to see any of the story from the point when he is set free, albeit as a commander in the Sultan's army, to the point when he is able to return to his homeland, marry, sire children, etc.

I suppose I'll have to pay for another installment of Paulk's books to find out...well, you know what Paul Harvey used to say.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Dark Lightning by John Varley

Looking over Varley's bibliography, I believe I have owned over 80% of what he has written and read all but two of his novels over the years. Surprising that I only have a couple of reviews up, but most of my reading took place long before I started this blog. Titan, of course, was a HUGE novel, back in 1979, and when he followed it up with Wizard and Demon in the same story line, I followed right along. So many great books.

Like many other authors, however, Varley is getting a bit long in the tooth, and doesn't seem to have anything truly groundbreaking to share these days. Dark Lightning is mostly more of the same in the Thunder and Lightning series, written in a definite homage to Heinlein - the twin girls' mother's name is Podkayne, for Pete's sake, and their father is Jubal. I mean, really?  The whole thing has the flavor of a Heinlein juvenile from the Golden Age (more or less), but it builds very very slowly before it finally gets interesting and adventurous, at which time the twins, Cassie and Polly (Cassandra and Pollyanna - which is a wonderful word play based on their predominant attitudes about life), display the usual hyper-skilled capabilities that Heinlein's female characters always used to, and double-handedly put down a mutiny on the spaceship headed off to colonize a New Earth.

Plenty of interesting speculations on the field of physics and the nature of dark matter create the "science" basis for this fiction. An amusing read, but definitely wait for the paperback.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs

 For a number of years now, we've all gotten to see things from Mercy Thompson's point of view, or even Charles and Anna's, in Briggs' world, but this collection of shorts gives us the opportunity to get to know some of her "minor" characters a bit better, too.

Briggs tells us the story of how Samuel and Ariana met and fell in love, which includes a good bit of backstory on the origins of the Marrock, as well. We get the tale of how a Chinese vampire rescues a fairy princess from a group of jealous rival lesser fae, and how a Chicago vampire learns to live with the ghost of the husband she slew when she first awoke, hungry and mindless.

We experience the meeting of Tom the werewolf and Moira the witch (does it seem like there's a lot of cross species mating going on these days?) and tag along as they rescue Tom's brother from Moira's father's coven. There is, of course, the obligatory Charles and Anna short, and a ghost-hunting tale about Mercy that takes place after Night Broken., plus out takes from that  story and Silver Borne.

There are others, too, all delightful, and easy to finish in delicious bites that won't keep you up all night trying to finish another Briggs novel.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Planet Run by Keith Laumer

 I have been reading Keith Laumer for just about as long as I can remember reading science fiction. This book has always been one of my favorites, so when I was packing up boxes of books to send to my library-owning partner, Larry, I held it back to savor one more time.

The setting: The planet Corazon, discovered decades ago, has been under quarantine until the present day, when the Planetary Survey has released it for a "Run". Every hornswoggling, backstabbing, swashbuckling son-of-a-gun in the Galaxy will be there to try to claim the best land for himself, or for the interests which he represents. Captain Henry, formerly of the Survey, was along on the voyage which discovered Corazon. He is now retired, living a life of ease on Aldorado, enjoying watching his great-granddaughter, Dulcie, grow into a young woman. It has long been rumored that he found a treasure trove of precious jewels on Corazon, bolstered by the fact that he occasionally sells a perfect specimen to finance his quiet life, and Dulcie has been seen wearing a necklace of precious stones on special occasions, not the sort of thing a retired spaceman could afford on his own.

Senator Bartholomew of Aldorado thinks he has the means to blackmail the captain into undertaking one last planet run, with the fact that Henry returned to the planet several times, illegally, the last time returning just barely too late to save his wife from a terminal illness the treatment for which the gemstones in his possession could have paid. But Henry turns the tables and puts his own twist on their agreement. Bartholomew's nephew, Larry, who has a bright future in Aldoradan politics, is a bit of a fop, but Dulcie is quite taken with him. Captain Henry decides he's either going to make a man out of the boy, or break him in the process, and tells Bartholomew that he'll undertake the run, if Larry goes along with him to help, and if the proceeds are split between Larry and Dulcie 50/50.

So Henry and Larry go off on one of the greatest adventures of all time, rootin' tootin' and shootin' their way through the claim-jumpin' lily-livered villains and varlets. It has a great surprise ending, too.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

 This must be a lucky post...I have previously written thirteen reviews of Briggs' novels, so this breaks that unlucky total...phew!

As an effectively immortal shape shifter, Charles is cautious in the attachments he forms with mortal humans; it's painful to see friends die while you remain young. Come to think of it, it's painful to watch friends die when you age right along with them, too. But that's beside the point. Charles has formed few mortal friendships in his lifetime, but his longest lasting friend, a Navajo horse breeder named Joseph, is dying, so he and Anna take a trip to Arizona to, in effect, say "goodbye" to his old friend, while Anna is meeting Joseph and his family for the first time.

It's a "blended" family. Joseph's father, Hosteen, is a werewolf, who is angry that his son has never let Charles or himself "turn" him, so he would live longer. And it turns out that Joseph's daughter-in-law, Chelsea, is a witch, at least by blood, though she has never studied the art to become a practitioner. Anna and Charles' trip also serves a second purpose. Charles wants to buy Anna something special for her birthday, and hopes to buy one of the Arabians which the family breed, show and sell. So, the "meat" of the plot gets seasoned with little interludes of them trying out riding horses, discussing horse breeding and the market for show horses.

Shortly after they arrive, Chelsea is attacked by a fae spell which forces her to attack her children. She resists in the only way possible, by attacking herself instead, and by the time help arrives in the form of our favorite couple, she is so close to death that the only way to save her is to "turn" her into a werewolf, as well. This causes all kinds of fun new challenges within the family dynamics, and some opportunity for Anna to shine with her calming Omega powers.

When the immediate danger is over, Charles and Anna team up with a pair of Cantrip investigators, plus their old friend, FBI agent Leslie Fisher, to hunt down the fae who attacked Chelsea, and who has been abducting children and killing them since nearly the beginning of recorded history. Lots of good action and adventure. Another worthy episode in the Alpha and Omega books.

This one kept me up past my bedtime several nights in a row. Had to force myself to put it down to accommodate an early morning work schedule the first two, but finally succumbed to temptation and finished it off late last night.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Fifth Sorceress by Robert Newcomb

 This book came highly recommended by a personal friend, so it is with deep regret that I found myself unable to get into it. It took me two nights just to read 70 pages, as compared to the next book I picked up, where I read 120 pages the first night, the gripping nature of the story being that good. Even discounting the fact that it was from an author I knew and loved, with characters I knew and loved, that's still a huge difference. Sorry, Aaron.

The story didn't "grab" me, and it had a couple of early flaws that I couldn't get past. We are given access to the inner thoughts of one of the major characters, a wizard, and those thoughts contained far too much foreshadowing of the amazing future in store for the prince whom I assume was going to be the protagonist for at least the first few books in the series. Clumsy.

The other thing was, in a realm that has been peaceful and prosperous for the last three hundred years, ruled by the council of wizards and a benevolent king, the wizard and the princess encounter a horrendous monster left over from the last war (did I mention three hundred years ago?) within a few hours ride from the capitol city. GMAB! Bored and prosperous nobility should have long hunted all dangerous creatures into extinction. Probably eventually going to be explained away by the resurgence of EVIL POWERS, but still...

Ah well.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

 This is a charming little story, which perhaps illuminates a bit of the world and thinking of Patrick Rothfuss, at least as it relates to The Kingkiller Chronicles. It's only unfortunate that it doesn't move the plot along, nor does it satisfy most folks' desire to hear what's next in the saga. This is a story about a week in the life of Auri, a strange little waif who lives in the abandoned spaces of the magical university. She has a very odd way of seeing things and thinking about them, and spends her days immersed in a very rich and revealing thought life. I think you'll find it amusing, if you need a break from actual narrative to read something more poetic.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Resilience by Andrew Zolli

 Why things bounce back. A good theme for a book, and it was rather interesting, jumping from resiliency in people who have been through stress and crises, to organizations and ecosystems. A lot of critique here of bureaucracies' inability to deal realistically with situations outside of the normal.

Unfortunate that my concentration is shot these days. I only took note of one passage, which I found intriguing.

"All individuals become accustomed to some acceptable level if risk - a risk temperature - so when they are required to reduce risk in one area of their life, they will find themselves, consciously or unconsciously, increasing other risks until they are back in their risk temperature comfort zone."

Monday, April 6, 2015

Coming Home by Jack McDevitt

 McDevitt has a talent for taking two seemingly unrelated plot lines...and keeping them unrelated. Chase and Alex are contacted by the heir of a former archaeologist to assess and possibly arrange the sale of an artifact her relative left on a closet shelf which dates to the Golden Age of space exploration, and which possibly provides a link to the whereabouts of the long lost contents of the Huntsville Space Museum.

At the same time, Chase and Alex are involved with the people who are trying to find a way to rescue the crew and passengers of a space liner stuck in a space warp, which only surfaces into real time once every five years.

Both tales are deftly interwoven without ever affecting the other, a quality rare in today's fiction, you know.

Other than that, and a somewhat surprising ending to the treasure hunter's tale it seems a rather lackluster performance from McDevitt. He's always a good writer, but it was a push to finish.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Daughter of the Sword by Steve Bein

 Barnes and Noble was running a special on this book, and it seemed like a good opportunity to check out a new author, so I snagged the ebook. I have to say, though it wasn't my usual fare, I found it interesting enough. This book begins the saga of Tokyo Detective Mariko Oshiro, who struggles for respect in the male-dominated world of Japan's police force.

While investigating a burglary attempt, she meets Master Yamada, an elderly sword master who intrigues her, and over the course of the book, takes her under his wing to teach her the art of the sword. One of Yamada's former pupils is a Yakuza who has decided to make a big move into the drug business, and he intends to steal a valuable sword which Yamada possesses to trade for his big cocaine stake.

The thing that makes this story really interesting is how Bein interweaves the story of three ancient swords, forged by Master Inazuma centuries ago, with the modern tale. Each of the swords has its own powers and personality, and they have been deeply involved in Japan's history.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Stand Against the Storm by Peter Grant

 Of all of the books I have read recently, this is probably the one which I most regret having neither the time nor energy to review properly. Peter Grant (whose blog I follow religiously) had mentioned the delay in getting this book published that had been caused by having to tear the whole plot apart and start again almost from scratch. Bravo, Peter! The delay was worth it, and your extra effort paid off.

Just as Steve Maxwell finally has a plan to return the jade knife artifact to the tong, he is unexpectedly called away to serve a term of duty on a peacekeeping mission on a backwater planet, with all of the usual B.S. that sort of mission involves, given the types of limitations that politicians and diplomats love to impose on the peacekeepers.

Hampered by restrictive rules of engagement, Maxwell must use initiative to accomplish his mission and, for the most part, keep his superiors happy. The planet has served as a penal colony for generations, and one of its most recent cohorts of prisoners includes the crew of a Dragon Tong ship which was caught smuggling. Steve seizes the opportunity to employ skilled workers of the crew and to make use of his tong connections, getting them released to his supervision by the planetary government, so he can get his strongpoint constructed quickly.

A great story, wish I could do it justice.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

More Audio book

I did a bit better job of selecting audio books for a road trip this time. The Rant Zone, by Dennis Miller, was a series of short takes from his HBO show that covered the gamut from insurance companies to God. They were, at times, laugh out loud funny, and definitely kept our interest, though his profanity-laced screeds were at times offensive - so not for the family road trip.

My other pick was The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown, third in his series about Robert Langdon. I couldn't remember if I had already read the book or not - it turns out I had, but I still found it interesting and engaging. The audio version actually made it easier to distinguish between some of Brown's "true" history, and that which he made up out of whole cloth.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Hope may finally be dawning.

Friday evening, we had four friends come over and help us move furniture out of the old house, then unload two pickup loads at the new townhouse. Back to the old place to spend one last night there, and on Saturday morning (as Tolkien once said) "they have begun to arrive", as a procession of friends came by and helped us with the last of the heavy stuff. We loaded two very large trailers full, plus the beds of three pickup trucks, and trundled across town to unload much of it at the new place, and the remainder at our rented storage (which I'm really going to have to work hard to clear out before too long).

And still, and yet, we are not done with the move. I need to finish clearing out the garage of tools and miscellany after church today, then we'll do a final cleaning and some touchup painting, and should be ready for the closing of the deal on Friday.

Friday, March 20, 2015

America: Imagine a World Without Her by Dinesh D'Souza

Heh. I have an old colleague whose last name is D'Souza. When I first typed the title this post, I had his name as the author of this book, rather than Dinesh D'Souza. The mind works in mysterious ways.

D'Souza does a pretty good rebuttal of the Progressive view of America, as quoted below,

"According to the progressive critique, America was found in an original act of piracy; the early settlers came from abroad and stole the country from the native Indians. Then America was built by theft; white Americans stole the labor of African Americans by enslaving them for 250 years. The theft continued through nearly a century of segregation, discrimination, and Jim Crow. The borders of America were also extended by theft; America stole half of Mexico in the Mexican War. Moreover, America's economic system, capitalism, is based on theft since it confers unjust profits on a few and deprives the majority of workers of their "fair share." Finally, American foreign policy is based on theft, what historian William Appleman Williams termed "empire as a way of life." America's actions abroad are aimed at plundering other people's land and resources so that we can continue to enjoy an outsized standard of living compared to the rest of the world."

As an unabashed, patriotic, white cismale American capitalist, I can say for my part that he was pretty much preaching to the choir while he demolished these premises one by one. Without Western capitalism and Judeo Christian values, not to mention technology and modern medicine, far more of the people on planet Earth would still be living lives "nasty, brutish, and short".

I wish I had the energy to do a more thorough discussion. It was a very good read.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Around the Web

A book review over on Pajamas Media.

More audiobooks

So, we're still not doing too well on choosing audiobooks to keep us entertained and awake on long car trips. Our most recent attempts were An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin, which was at its very best an education in the world of art auctions, and at its worst, a modern Valley of the Dolls. We gave up after a half dozen chapters.

The other selection was A Good Fall by Ha Jin, a collection of short stories by an acclaimed author. Acclaimed and $5 will buy you a cup of coffee. The stories were very odd, and after just two of them we turned it off.

Hoping to fare better on our next trip.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Still too quiet

Life continues to interfere with blogging, and even with reading, for that matter. Might get a couple of short posts up late in the week.

In case you've been wondering what's going on, it's been a winter of real estate madness. We've lived in our current home, an old Victorian built in 1932, for 19 years, and accumulated 19 years worth of "stuff" along with our memories. So, when the house sold after a short time on the market, we have spent hundreds of hours "triaging" what stays in our lives and what needs to go away, and have rented a storage shed and searched for and rented a townhome in the last few weeks, then taken load after load to various destinations. Many mornings on the way to work I stop at the storage place with a pickup truck full of boxes, and in the evenings this week we've been madly packing boxes and hauling them to the new place we'll be living in after this weekend.

Things should settle down some after we close on the house at the end of the month, though that may be a foolishly optimistic thought, as I already have some oral surgery scheduled for the first week in April, and I'm sure other events will fill my days. To add to the fun, I'll be covering work responsibilities for a colleague who is going home to India for a month, starting the 25th.

Hmm...might be a while before the next lengthy review gets posted.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Madness in Solidar by L.E. Modesitt

 Once again, the story jumps time periods by four centuries, to a time when the Collegium is in decline, a Rex who is considered to be mad rules Solidar, and the passing of the old Maitre has left his replacement, Alastar, blindly attempting to figure out the political scene so that he can create order from chaos.

Did you ever notice how some actors, no matter what role they are playing, end up playing themselves, over and over again? Hugh Grant, the prototypical bumbling, oblivious, yet well-meaning Englishman, comes immediately to mind. It seems to me recently that all of Modesitt's leading men in the Imager series have begun to sound alike, and their lady love foils, who all seem to be highly intelligent, strong-willed, and with personalities that anchor or reign in the protagonists, Rhen, Quaeryt, and Alastar, begin to blend together into one archetype, as well.

The Rex wants to raise tariffs. The High Holders and factors oppose him. The army supports him against the High Holders and wants to see the power of the Collegium eliminated. There may also be a coup or two in the wings.

Modesitt is such a good writer that he can make the tale enjoyable and entertaining, despite the fact that nothing really all that new happens here.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ford County by John Grisham

I recently picked up the audio book of Ford County, hoping it would keep me entertained and awake on a long trip. The most enjoyable audio book I ever listened to was Playing for Pizza, by Grisham, while several others by other authors nearly put me to sleep - a bad thing on the interstate.

Ford County is a series of vignettes describing life, or perhaps low life, in a rural county down South. At best, they displayed a dark humor, and for the most part were terribly depressing to listen to, though Grisham is a masterful writer. The only one that had a "happy" ending involved a "hero" that one could barely cheer for, as he is a lawyer who robs his clients, divorces his wife, abandons his children, and runs away from all his problems.

If you like to be darkly amused by stupid and bad behavior, you'll enjoy these, but I finally had to turn it off and listen to the radio instead.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Low Midnight by Carrie Vaughn

I just got the joke in the title of this book - the showdown doesn't happen at High Noon, but...Low Midnight. A little slow.

Cormac Bennet is finally off parole, and this story switches to his narrative, instead of Kitty's. A nice change, one would think.

Cormac and his resident ghost travel to the hinterlands of Colorado to speak with the aunt of the witch who gave Kitty her books of spells, hoping that she can help translate the code in which it is written. The aunt decides to test Cormac by setting him a hundred year old mystery to solve regarding a pair of dueling sorcerers in the Wild West. Along the way, Cormac encounters some low lifes from his past, and that of his bounty hunting father's.

A somewhat anticlimactic battle eventually occurs when the thugs get in Cormac's way, and the overall plot arc of this series moves minutely forward. The underlying theme still remains, as it does in most female written urban fantasy these days, about the importance of relying on your friends, and slowly realizing how important they are to you.