Sunday, January 5, 2020

Going dark?

I'm tired of fighting with Google's opaque systems. Once again, they are reporting that my payment method isn't working. I think this is three years in a row, now. I'll probably copy and paste all of my old reviews into my Goodreads account and give this work up. No time for blogging any more, and I have even less time for the frustration of dealing with Google.


Friday, December 20, 2019

Can't fight the feeling

Yeah, I continue to read at a fair pace, though perhaps not as much as I'd like.

Read the latest Reacher book by Lee Child over Thanksgiving. You gotta love his approach to problems.

Found the first two books in the Vatta's Peace series by Elizabeth Moon, and gobbled them quickly, then decided I had to go back and re-read the start of the affair, the Vatta's War series of five books. In the middle of that at the moment.

Read House of Assassins, by Correia. Way too much time has passed since Son of the Black Sword...really struggled to get back into the intrigue of the saga.

Re-read a Spider Robinson anthology. He used to be one of my top authors, but his output has slowed to a halt, since his last book came out in 2009.

The latest Jane Yellowrock, the latest Monster Hunters, the latest Alex Verus, October Daye,
SPI Files...

Some Mira Grant zombie stuff.

Binged on the final three Murderbot books, by Martha Wells.

A few bits of Anita Blake apocrypha.

A few other unremarkable items, but those are the highlights.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Still kickin'

In case anyone out there is worried, yes I am still reading away at more or less my usual pace, I just seem to have no time nor energy to blog much about the books after running a sandwich shop seven days a week. All creativity flees.

I did a massive re-read of nine of the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs after reading the latest one, Storm Cursed, out a month or so ago.

Discovered the Jackaby series (historical fantasy detective stuff) by Ritter, and am currently reading the conclusion in The Dire King.

Keeping up with Bujold's Penric and Desdemona stuff.

Read the "Sweep" series by Ilona Andrews, and found it reasonably entertaining, with a bit of a different take on vampires and werewolves. Also read the latest in Andrews' Kate Daniels series, Magic Triumphs.

Read a few of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne. They started out to be entertaining, but around the third one I just lost interest.

Wild Country, in The Others world by Bishop, was very tasty.

Some miscellaneous other novels by "new" authors, but nothing that grabbed me enough to actually pay good money to follow up.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Death and Relaxation by Devon Monk

I've enjoyed some of Monk's earlier work, so I thought I'd give this "new" one a try. The town of Ordinary, Oregon is, of course, filled with various supernatural creatures, living more or less in harmony with humans, but it also is home to vacationing gods, like Odin, Thor and Heimdall. While in town, they are required to set aside their god powers, which is where the Reed family comes in. The Reeds have, for ages, taken care of the transfer of god powers for safekeeping, and/or in the unfortunate event that a temporarily mortal god is killed while in town, they find a new vessel for the power.
At present, the Reed family in Ordinary solely consists of three sisters, all of whom work for the police department, with the eldest, Delaney, serving as chief, as her deceased father. So when Heimdall's body washes up on the beach, she not only has the responsibility to investigate his murder, but must carry the burden of his power until she is able to find the human who is destined to become a god.
Not Monk's best work, but semi-amusing.

Monday, April 1, 2019

The Great Library Series, by Rachel Caine

Seem to be on a YA kick here. Perhaps it's a result of more of the genre being made available for free via Overdrive than the adult stuff, which the funding folks probably figure we can afford to pay for, while the teens can't (being too busy getting tattoos, and bling for their iPhones).

This one has been a fun ride. The premise is that the Great Library of Alexandria was saved, rather than destroyed, and that the librarians have been the sole arbiters of what knowledge the human race is allowed to read and have. Enter a world of black market book smugglers, anarchists called The Burners, and where the invention of the printing press has been suppressed more than once. Nearly non-stop action.

The Atlantis Grail Series by Vera Nazarian

Just a brief mention here of the Atlantis Grail series, which I found via Overdrive at my local library. Reading these young adult novels set in an SF world where Earth is about to be destroyed, and space travelers from Atlantis, who left when the city was destroyed in the dim mists of history, have returned to "rescue" the most worth teens on the entire planet before a massive asteroid strikes, has been mostly delightful.

I've coined a new three letter acronym. You've heard of PNR - Paranormal Romance. This is SOR - Space Opera Romance, and in this case, sub-genre YA - Young Adult.

Just a fun ride without a ton of political lecturing, and a tolerable portion of teen angst.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Jamaica - No worries

As my wife and I decided before we left to disconnect as much as possible from the Internet while we were away (it's harder to do than you might think), I didn't produce daily posts while we were there, so this is mostly my scattered impressions of Jamaica and the Couples Tower Isle all-inclusive resort.

Staying at an all-inclusive resort, it was difficult to get a firm picture of the "real" Jamaica, as we didn't have to get out and mingle with folks on the street in the towns and cities, never shopped at a grocery store or "native" shopping center, and only interacted with Jamaicans whose main job was to make the tourists happy - tourism is the country's #1 income producer, ahead of bauxite mining and agriculture. And a very finely tuned money machine the tourism industry is, with no effort spared to part the hapless visitor from their cash. In an utter about face from what I've seen in other places, the resort gift shop was actually the most economical place to buy souvenirs of all sorts - even prices at the duty-free shops in the airport were up to triple the prices we saw there. I was simply amazed, as well, at the number of shops and restaurants in the Montego Bay airport - attempting to get every last penny out of those soon departing the country.

Despite the crass commercialism of it all, our interactions with Jamaicans were unfailingly positive and polite. Everyone offers a cheerful greeting and parting, a friendly smile, and mostly exhibit an attitude of "No problem, mon".

A small island with over 3 million inhabitants, Jamaica is a country of stark contrast - amazing ocean view villas stand side by side with tin shanties, sleek luxury cars roll down the coastal highway, while schoolchildren in uniforms walk on the road's shoulders, and five star restaurants vie with jerk shacks for trade. A tropical paradise for visitors, it may seem a prison to those who will never get an opportunity to rise above manual labor or a place in the tourist service industry.

This was our first stay in an all-inclusive resort, and it may very well have spoiled me for any other type of vacation. From the moment we got past customs, the Couples organization saw to our every need. Red Stripe beer flowed freely in the Couples airport lounge, as we waited about a half hour for the rest of the afternoon's guests to arrive, and then we and our luggage were whisked away to a bus for the two hour ride to Tower Isle, where we were greeted with rum punches and welcoming smiles, and our luggage was whisked away to our ocean view room.

From that point forward, the only thing we had to pay for was a pedicure and full body massage at the resort spa (and there are packages available where those services are also included). Full body massage - drooling incoherent relaxation! Worth every penny. Every meal at all every one of the six restaurants on property was included - from snacks and smoothies to burgers and jerk, to five start dining experiences and boundless buffets. I won't describe all of the food available, but will note a few new experiences.

Jerk chicken, pork and sausage, of course, were tasty, smoky, spicy and truly delicious. The smoked marlin, akin to smoked salmon, which I discovered on the lunch buffet the first day, became a daily staple for me - just wow! Curried goat - surprisingly good, but watch out for the bones - they roast the WHOLE goat. Sorrel fruit juice, tangy and very refreshing - probably filled with antioxidants. Desserts were daintily portioned, which made it far to easy to succumb to multiple temptations. Creme Brulee was available daily - killing me slowly.

Room service menu available 24/7 for no extra charge. We only indulged the first morning, since I wasn't sure I was going to endure until the restaurants opened, given my tendency to wake early, even on vacation. Other than that it was the Patio buffet every morning, and most lunches, unless we wanted a particular item such as the marvelous gazpacho soup at the Veggie Bar, or to grab a quick bite at the Pool Grill, where you can make yourself a frozen yogurt cone or a plate of nachos, and grab a quick soda or (great grapefruit flavor) Ting soft drink while dripping from a swim or a round of pool volleyball. 

The ambiance of the Bayside restaurant was like nothing we'd ever had, and both the Verandah and Eight Rivers restaurants provided a five star multi-course elegant experience. Here's an area where you could get tempted into paying a little extra if you want something off of the "imported" wine list. The Dom Perignon champagne I can understand, but I had a good laugh at the Kendall Jackson California vintage for $50 a bottle and the Kim Crawford New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for $45 (I have a bottle in my wine cooler at home that was $9.99 at Costco). The party at the table next to us at Eight Rivers bought two! The house reds and whites from Frontera winery in Chile were perfectly acceptable as the all-inclusive options.

Customize your mini bar in the room. Whatever you need would be stocked daily in your fridge. This was really a waste of time for us, as there was so much free booze flowing at the bars, from Red Stripe beer to blended drinks to tropical concoctions like the Bob Marley and the Deep Blue Sea - all FREE! Top shelf liquor? No problem, Mon! No extra charge for the good stuff. Love a shot of Rum Cream in your coffee? The bartender will hook you up with a generous glass to take back to the room and keep in your fridge for a delicious addition to your morning pick-me-up.

My wife and I are pretty moderate drinkers, but I'm afraid too long a stay here might turn us into serious lushes. From mimosas and Bloody Marys on the breakfast buffet to late night brandies around the pool, the alcohol flows freely and abundantly.

Tons of activities included, from golf to tennis to waterskiing, paddle boarding, sailing Hobie Cats, playing bocci, volleyball on the beach (standing joke was "losers buy the drinks") or in the pool, ring toss, trivia games. Take a tour on a glass bottom boat, hop a ride out to the au naturel Tower Isle, party for the afternoon on a catamaran, climb Jamaica's famous Dunn's River Falls. There's a game room with board games, pool table, ping pong and a library, a nicely equipped gym, a piano bar singalong, martini parties on the rooftop.

It's really hard to remember (might have something to do with the free booze) all of the things going on, and we didn't even hang out for the late night festivities. We did hear a fantastic steel drum band one night, and the beach party on Monday had some amazing island drummers, dancers, jugglers and acrobats.

We got a couple of hour long painstaking and patient tennis lessons from Collin, the pro. Enjoyed private water ski shots in a calm cove one morning before the late night revelers awoke with Captain Marvin. Had a wonderful guided nature walk around the grounds with Robby. Enjoyed a cooking class, preparing fish with coconut sauce with Chef Bibbibbib (don't ask me). Entertainment director Alex was a charmer.

Bottom line, Couples all-inclusive resorts are money well spent if you really want to relax and enjoy yourself, headache free - aside from the hangovers.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Back again...more or less

Finally, after a number of rounds of going round in circles with Google's convoluted systems for administering web sites, I lucked into a way to get to the area where I could set up a new payment method for my annual fees for, and it looks like the blog will be around for 2018, at least.
Coincidentally, on the same day, I set up my new website for the sandwich shop swag marketing. Eventually, it should have a way to place online cheesesteak orders during working hours, as well, but that's a project for another weekend or two.

Anyhow, with regard to my readings, I just took back a couple of books on making gelato that I was studying in order to add a gelato shop to my place for the summer, The Art of Making Gelato by Morgan Morano and The Ciao Bella Book of Gelatos and Sorbettos by F.W Pierce. Good material, but still more research is needed to get to the point of production.

I recently read Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach, which turned out to be a pretty interesting story about a mercenary soldier finding excitement and mystery on a tramp freighter, which led me to pick up the second book in the series, Honor's Knight, which gets pretty twisty in an out-of-the-frying-pan fashion. Also picked up a book called something like the Idiot's Guide to Business Plans.

Hoping I can get some book blogging done this year.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Weber publishes another tome

Looks like Through Fiery Trials has finally arrived. I think the last one I read in this series was Hell's Foundations Quiver. Not sure how many I have missed in between now. Great series, just simply too overpowering at times. Might be something to binge read after I retire, when he may have finally completed the saga.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Fall Back?

I'd really like to feel motivated to blog again about the books I am reading. Yes, though the blogging stopped, the need to read is a monkey on my back that never quits screeching at me, and I still consume a couple of books each week. At the very least, any of my readers who are still paying attention will get some travel blogging to read in February when we take our annual vacation to warmer climes - Jamaica this year.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Note to Self

Just a reminder to myself about a YA series I began to read long long ago, and just discovered on Overdrive at my library. Listing them here so I can check them out in order and see how they stood the test of time.
The Pit Dragon Chronicles
  1. Dragon's Blood (1982)
  2. Heart's Blood (1984)
  3. A Sending of Dragons (1987)
  4. Dragon's Heart (2009)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Costa Rican Impressions

I had long been wanting to go to Costa Rica to visit. Most of the people I have known who have gone there have raved about the experience, so I my expectations were high.

Now, I may have selected the wrong location in Costa Rica to visit; the beach town of Tamarindo, though my wife and I also booked some tours that took us away from there, and it was a fair drive from the airport in Liberia, so our impressions might be indicative more of the Guanacaste region than the whole country - but I was somewhat disappointed with my trip, and probably will not ever return.


The Good

The Costa Rican people, or Ticos, were extremely friendly and helpful wherever we went. We had no negative interactions with any of them, really.

The food was very good; we never had a bad meal. For the most part, the selections made great use of fresh local produce and fruits, and at least allegedly, of locally caught seafood, though we saw no evidence of a fishing port or productive fishermen nearby, so for all we know it could have been frozen elsewhere and shipped to Tamarindo.

Our favorite place to eat was the NOI Bistro, which had fantastic ceviche. The Flying Bull was delicious, but upscale in ambience and price. The Shrimp Hole was very good and far more casual. The Green Papaya was fun. La Esquina had awesome pizza and a play area for kids. The Breakfast Grind was good, with tasty breakfasts and machaca burros and quesadillas and the cleanest restroom in town.

Speaking of fruit, we feasted every morning on fresh papaya, avocados, pineapple, a variety of bananas, melons and mango. The avocados were perfectly ripe - the entire bin at the store, not merely one or two out of dozens - and of "jumbo" size, creamy texture and smooth rich flavor.

The fresh squeezed orange juice offered in many local restaurants was wonderful, and the "lemonade" made from fresh squeezed limes and cane sugar was like nothing I'd ever tried before. The same concoction, spiked with the local casique liquor and with a splash of club soda, was called a Guaro Sour, and was very good, too.

We also encountered a Golden Sangria drink at the Night Market on Thursday which was spectacular.

The apartment where we stayed was clean, quiet, comfortable and well-equipped.

WIFI was everywhere, in every restaurant or bar where we spent time, and usually of sufficient bandwidth

The weather was absolutely perfect, sunny and warm. The only downside was a near constant gusty wind. On the flip side, the humidity made us shower several times daily, especially after walking back from the downtown/beach area to our apartment.

Although I had stocked up on insect repellent wipes, we didn't have any major issues with mosquitos. The only pests that got to us were some fleas that either made the jump from the horses we rode, a stray cat stropping our legs, or some tall grasses on a path we walked to our apartment.

Excursion highlights - ziplining, watersliding, "contrabando" moonshine made from sugar cane, sunset on the catamaran, coffee made in a sock, "dinosaurs" in Filadelfia.

The Bad

I had always heard that the cost of living in Costa Rica was very low, but this simply wasn't true for groceries, even locally grown produce and fruits. In Tamarindo at least, without renting a car for transportation there was no way to get to a larger supermarket than the handful of mini mercados that seemed to service the tourists. The most egregious price-gouging was for a tube of sunscreen, which was sold for a minimum of $20 US, and on up from there. Other than that, most prices seemed comparable to stateside, and the shelves were filled with U.S. products for the tourists.

Personally, we enjoy "going native" at the local stores, on our travels, and that seemed a little more difficult to do than in other locales. The only farmers markets were on Saturday mornings, aside from the "Night Market" mentioned elsewhere in these impressions, so we never got the chance to shop small, really.

The rest of the souvenirs and goods available around town seemed to be either made in India or China, and we never really found much that we could be certain was made in Costa Rica by Ticos or indigenes, apart from some cool pottery we saw on one of our tours.

The "street" vendors were ubiquitous and annoying. Every five minutes, if you were sitting on the beach, someone would walk up to you and try to sell you something - usually the same something they had tried to sell you just a little while ago. The goods ranged from knockoff "native" pottery to sunglasses, whistles, jewelry and "coco pipo" (coconut with a straw to sip the milk), to weed, blow and "I can get you anything you want". So much for peace and quiet on a tropical beach. You couldn't walk anywhere without someone trying to get you to ride in their taxi, join their excursion, buy something they barbecued, etc. This started the moment we left Customs at the airport.

Costa Rica is one of the richer nations in Central America, but poverty is all over, the streets are often unpaved or in poor repair, there are no shoulders to the roads, and certainly no sidewalks. Trash is scattered everywhere and no one seems to care enough to stoop and pick it up, despite all the ECO propaganda in the country.

We weren't the only ones to report that many of the toilets in even the best locations were not able to handle flushing toilet paper, but required that used paper be placed in a wastebasket. This is a shocker to most Americans. Also, we were totally unable to find any public restrooms (outside of bars and restaurants) or changing rooms near or on the beach.

The Curious

While Costa Rica is also touted as being a wonderful place for wildlife viewing, I didn't find it particularly productive in that regard. We booked a "river safari" in the Palo Verde National Park and wildlife refuge. The boat never went more than about 200 yards either up or down the Tempisque River in the refuge, and while we saw a few creatures new to us, like capuchin "white faced" monkeys, several species of heron, a pygmy kingfisher, a scarlet macaw, some bats, and a few skittish crocodiles, the "volume", so to speak, was far far less than I had expected. The guides were very pleasant and helpful, but quite frankly I see far more wildlife from my balcony at home most days. On our other excursion, we saw a few toucans and a parrot. I had really been expecting a ton more wildlife, but perhaps that's only available in other areas of the country.

The largest iguanas I have ever seen were not found in the wild, but in a public park in the village of Filadelfia. Most of them were over six feet long, fat and happy. I was given to understand that they feast on the leftover fruit from the outdoor markets, and are the unofficial mascots of the area.

Costa Rica has its own problem with illegal immigrants from Nicaragua, who "do the jobs Ticos won't do". Unemployment there is said to be near 40%. I felt sorry for our Nicaraguan gardener at the apartment, until it became obvious that he was attempting to scam us out of cash with his stories.

Liberia's International airport is about half the size of Boise's airport, and seems to handle a ton of traffic.

We were hard pressed to find any authentic Central American music. Everywhere we went, American Top 40 music from the 60s through 80s was blaring.

P.S. Blogger is misbehaving. If you want to see some of our photos, just check my facebook page.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Philly Cheesesteaks for the Win!

So, on Friday I will have been in business at Surfer Sands, in Long Beach, Washington, for two weeks. It's been a lot of fun, with its share of challenges - the first day I was open, we had a huge windstorm and power failure just as I was getting ready to bake our fresh hoagie rolls. I found an old manual scale to weigh the dough instead of the electric one, then zipped home and got my Coleman generator to keep the proofing oven heating. We opened right on schedule and had a very good day!

I've had a couple of sellout days already; when we run out of the fresh-baked bread, we have to close. Today's sellout was right at our normal closing time, so it worked out perfectly. Our main draw is the Cheesesteak sandwiches, and we have several standard varieties, plus a lot of popular variations, like the Bacon Lover's, Garlic Lover's and a spicey one called the South End.

Love the challenge, and am having the time of my life!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Darkness Falls

For those few remaining readers out there.

I'm fairly certain this blog is going to go down at some point. G-Suite has twice now been unable to process my domain registration renewal payment, and I am quite frankly sick and tired of their lack of any human beings in the support system. Reaching the screen where one can update payment methods is so convoluted that I have simply given up on it. If I get sufficiently motivated at some point, I will perhaps approach another hosting company about transferring the blog, but it's doubtful, as my transition into business owner is eating up all of my available time.

Thanks for your support over the last seven years.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Forgiveness: A Journey to the Center of the Hurt by Robert E. Marshall

My son loaned me this book, and he in turn got it from his sister, who probably got it directly from the author, a personal friend and her family's pastor. I've heard him teach a number of times, and shared time with him and his family on occasion, so the funny thing about reading his book is that I "hear" the narration in my head in his voice, which has a distinctive and homey southern feel. An odd effect.

I don't particularly feel that I have any traumatic incidences of being hurt by people in my past, for which I need to practice forgiveness, but still this book has made me pause to think about those sorts of issues, and to consider whether I have forgiveness issues when it comes to the smaller "offenses" against me. What was it Thoreau said about "the unexamined life"?

Anyway, a good book on forgiving and being forgiven.


Just so y'all know that I'm still alive and well.

I'm still reading, but I just haven't felt motivated to write about what I've read.

I was in the IT business for about ten years, and after careful consideration, decided that life is too short to keep doing something I no longer enjoyed. The only thing I'll miss there is the friendships made.

I decided to return to doing something I loved -  being a chef.

Since last fall, I've been looking into some possibilities, and this week I'm finally inking a deal to buy a small sandwich shop on the beach.

Let the adventure begin!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Relentless by Karen Lynch

A Book Bub freebie, with an intriguing title, this book was a pleasant surprise, for the most part.

Sara is an orphan who lives with her uncle, near Portland, Maine. A side note - every time they mentioned Portland in the story, I thought of Portland, Oregon - not the same thing - ah, well. Her mother disappeared when she was eight, and her father was murdered brutally shortly after that, so she went to live with her uncle Nate. Somehow or other Sara discovered that her father was killed by a vampire; I don't recall that it was ever explained how she figured that out.

Sara also discovered that she is able to heal animals - and non-humans - and has befriended a young troll named Remy, who sets her up with plenty of non-humans to heal. She is also best friends with two young werewolves, Peter and Roland, but she doesn't know that they are shapeshifters at first; this story brings her to the point of revelation of that little tidbit. When the three of them go to a club in Portland to hear a friend's band, they have a run-in with a vampire, who really really likes the taste of Sara, and becomes obsessed with capturing her. She is rescued by Nikolas, a mohiri (half human/half demon race that has as its mission the killing of vampires) who claims that she is a mohiri, too, and wants her to come live with her new-found relatives and be trained to fight vampires.

The rest of the story is about Sara's fight against fate and fight against the darker powers of the supernatural world. A pretty good read - might be worth buying some of the other books in the series to find out what becomes of Sara and friends. PG-rated, too (just for violence).

Monday, January 23, 2017

Death at La Fenice

When one of the music world's top conductors dies during intermission of La Traviata during a performance at La Fenice in Venice, Commissario Guido Brunetti is given the investigation, and a mandate to solve it quickly, by his very political boss, Patta. Brunetti rapidly discovers that, like many wildly successful, temperamental perfectionists, the conductor has many who might be angry enough to kill him, but he also has a turbulent and murky past, dating back to his connections with the Nazi party during the second world war.

This is the first book in the series, so I was already familiar with the main characters, but it was interesting to see how Leon skillfully introduces us to Guido's political and ineffective boss, Patta, his wife and children, and his wealthy in-laws, as well as some of his colleagues and allies in the struggle against crime.

A very methodical investigation of the maestro's past and present associates eventually leads the good dottore to an unexpected conclusion, and justice is oddly done.

The Empire's Corps by Christopher Nuttall

I've had this book on my radar for quite a while, listed on my wish list on Amazon, and when it dropped in price to the point where I felt I could take a risk on a new (to me) author, I bought the Kindle edition. I was not at all disappointed.

Christopher Nuttall tells a very entertaining tale of Captain Stark and his understrength band of Imperial Marines who are exiled for the crime of being too competent to the planet of Avalon, which is experiencing the results of the Terran Empire's decaying strength. They bring along the family of a dissident professor who has written a book that has been banned by the Imperial Senate, also now exiled to Avalon.

When they arrive they find that the well-intentioned but perhaps not very competent planetary governor is facing a triple threat from bandits in the countryside, radical insurgents called the Crackers, and treason within his own planetary Council. It is Stark and his company's job to defend his government from all adversaries, and it's not going to be easy.

A well-told, fast-paced tale, with plenty of sequels already written. What's not to like?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Split Second by Douglas E. Richards

A new author to me, prompted by a freebie on BookBub, I believe, Doug Richards tells a story about what could be the physics discovery of the century; a way to harness dark energy. Nathan Wexler is the brilliant mind behind the discovery, but very early in the course of the story he and his fiancee, Jenna, are kidnapped and when the kidnapping goes sour, he is murdered, leaving her to escape and try to find out why he was killed, and by whom.

She enlists the aid of  a former Army Ranger turned private investigator, to help her discover the criminals - there are two groups competing to steal Nathan's research - and get justice.

There's a pretty good section on the nature of time, from a scientific and philosophical standpoint; the sort of thing that many of us beat into the ground in late-night dorm room bull sessions, but perhaps more cogently and soberly laid out.

Unfortunately after a while, things bog down in the maneuvering between the two groups trying to capture Wexler's research and exploit it, and I didn't care enough about the characters at that point to find out what happened to them or their time machine.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Monster Hunter Memoirs: Sinners by John Ringo and Larry Correia

Either of these authors, on their own, can twist a pretty darned good yarn, but when Ringo gets the opportunity to write in Correia's world...look out! I have definitely noticed that the gratuitous sex for which Ringo was known in his Ghost series is only mentioned here, and never explicit, which may be a sop to Correia's morals and sensibilities, but it doesn't take much away from the story.

Chad "Iron Hand" has to leave Seattle suddenly, a few steps ahead of vengeful trailer park elves, and gets reassigned to MHI in the Big Easy, New Orleans. Monster hunting in New Orleans is an order of magnitude crazier than most other places in the country, which is a pretty good summation of the city in a number of ways, but the amount of "hoodoo" going on seems to bring out more, bigger, badder beasties.

From swarms of giant poisonous frogs to carnivorious crawdads, Chad and the MHI team really earn their PUFF bounties. Chad acquires a gentleman's gentleman, buys a home, and both gains and loses new friends over the course of the book, including a centuries-old vampire known simply as Jack, who seems to have a proprietary interest in the city, and may prove to be an uneasy ally against the recent invasion of zombie-come-latelies.

I'm not certain whether it will come to a climax in the next installment, but there's definitely the groundwork laid in this book for a confrontation with some deeper force or forces causing the monster outbreaks in New Orleans, where the combination of amateur and professional conjurers has made it far easier for the supernatural to gain entry.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Stoke the Flames Higher by Peter Grant

I've been waiting for the fifth book in the Maxwell saga for quite a while now. Peter Grant had some health issues for a while that slowed its publication down, and then when I finally got it for my Kindle, I had a rather large TBR pile, but I finally got around to it the other day, and was very pleased with the story. Grant continues to refine his craft and delivers a very tight, gripping novel.

There's a very good scene that begins the book which sets up (or reminds us, anyway, if we've been away from the series too long) Steve's martial arts skills - he receives his fifth dan belt in Karate. So, we don't find it improbably later on in the story that he is able to overpower and disarm professional thugs. Steve's band of covert operatives get a new assignment ferrying a diplomatic party to a planet where a fanatical religious sect is fomenting a revolution, and is also exporting their brand of guerilla warfare to a neighboring planet, where one of Steve's best friends is posted with his space Marines, so Steve is hoping to be able to mix a bit of personal pleasure with business this trip.

Things turn out to be closer to catastrophe than anyone thought, and when things hit the fan, Steve has to rescue his diplomats from the rebels in the middle of a coup attempt, get off planet, and warn his friend about a devastating surprise attach which is on its way.

Still lots of upside to go in this series, though Grant has begun branching out into other genres, including Westerns, and has a couple of Fantasy proposals on the table for this year. I read a couple of rough draft excerpts - I think they're gonna be fun, too.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Second Life of Nick Mason by Steven Hamilton

Hamilton definitely does a good anti-hero story. By all rights, Nick Mason isn't the kind of character most of us would empathize with, growing up rough and getting into a habit of crime with a small gang of petty thieves through his teen years. He tries to go straight when he marries the love of his life and has a daughter, but the lure of one last big score is too much for him to pass up, and when the job goes bad, a friend gets killed, and he lands in prison for twenty years, everything he wanted is now lost.

The story picks up after Nick has spend five years in jail, when a crime lord who is also behind bars picks Nick to be his outside man, and arranges for the evidence that convicted him to be tainted, so that he is released early, on the condition that Nick will do whatever the boss commands. The boss's business associates back home are getting out of line, and a group of corrupt cops are grabbing a piece of the action, so Nick's assignments involve killing people who are betraying the boss.

Like I said, not exactly the kind of hero I'd pick, but somehow Hamilton makes it work, and makes us root for Nick, perhaps in the slight hope that there is redemption somewhere to be found, and that he can eventually break the chains that bind him to the crime lord and finally go straight. A dark tale, but engrossing and well written.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Death and Judgement by Donna Leon

The story follows the case of a murdered lawyer, with impeccable credentials and a list of A-list clients, as Commissario Brunetti methodically works his way to a conclusion. We see a bit of fun development of Leon's minor characters, like the administrative assistant, Elettra, who seems to have a talent for moving an investigation along with her contacts in the Italian phone company, saving Brunetti the time and trouble of obtaining an un-obtainable warrant.

The trail leads into the seamy underside of the sex trade, where hordes of women from South America and Eastern bloc countries are lured to Italy with the promise of a great job, only to betrayed into prostitution and effectively white slavery once they arrive. Again, the official justice system in Brunetti's country doesn't deliver, but Brunetti finds the anwers he's looking for and the perpetrator meets an untimely end.

The theme of all of these stories seems to be about corruption and abuses by the rich and powerful, and it's all expressed with a particularly Venetian sense of fatalism.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ash by Jaymin Eve and Leah Stone

A slightly different take on the monsters. Vampires were created when bats with a virus bit humans, and are the usual stronger, faster, bloodsucking night dwellers. When they breed with human women, the male offspring are called Ash, with many of the same abilities as vampires, including the need to drink blood, but who are able to move around in daylight. An uneasy truce with the humans has been reached, and the Ash live in Hives located in major cities. The place of this story is Portland, Oregon.

Charlie is a college student who believes herself to be human, but one day she makes the terrifying transformation into a creature which is not supposed to exist, a female Ash. She is taken into the Hive and submitted to "the culling". There are too many Ash created each year, so they must earn their way into the existing vacancies in each hive by fighting each other to the death. With the help of the chief enforcer of the Portland hive, Ryder, and a powerful vampire sponsor, Charlie gets through the culling and is admitted into her new life.

But there are mysteries surrounding her origins and what abilities she might have, so she is drawn into conflicts with larger political implications.

A quick and fun read.