Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Silver Stone by Joel Rosenberg

The Silver Stone (Keepers of the Hidden Ways)
Review written December, 1999
Here's another one where far too much time had passed since I read the first book in this series. I think the third one is actually out in the bookstores, so the fault is strictly my own. However, I was lost through much of the book, because I couldn't for the life of me recall "what had gone before."
Nevertheless, I've always enjoyed Rosenberg's style, and this book was no exception. I started reading his stuff back when he first published his Guardians of the Flame stuff, and have eagerly devoured anything he's published. I'd suggest, however, that you read the first book in the series, The Fire Duke, before starting on this one.
Again (I guess), we follow the adventures of Ian Silverstein, aka Silver Stone as he is drawn into the mythical world of Tyr na nog, where Norse mythology plays a very important part in the tale. Odin tricks Ian and his companions into undertaking a quest, which is not exactly what it seems to be. He's supposed to deliver a message to the Sons of Tyr asking them to back off from the precipice of war upon which they're poised.
However, some of the Sons think that Ian is the Promised Warrior, who will lead them to victory and dominion over the entire land. Others don't believe he's the promised one, and most of Ian's challenges on his quest revolve around this conflict.
Actually, the whole story is a little shallow, but it kept me entertained for a few hours. Ian's companions are all somewhat one-dimensional, in my opinion, just a great bunch of guys and gals - doing the right thing whatever the odds.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Teaching the Pig to Dance by Fred Thompson

Teaching the Pig to Dance: A Memoir of Growing Up and Second Chances
What do a former senator and former rock star, Pat Benatar, have in common? They both stayed classy and refused to dish up nasty gossip about their colleagues in their autobiographies. Thompson's book wasn't exactly what I was expecting when I spotted it on the library shelves. I thought Fred would use some ink to talk about his failed presidential campaign and really hammer home some conservative talking points, but instead he spent his time talking about how growing up in a small town formed his personality and ideals.

Thompson grew up in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, where he enjoyed the simple pleasures and got into the minor scrapes and scraps that are familiar to most of us in flyover country. His grandparents moved there around the time of the Great Depression, and adopted the philosophy that hard work and a bit of luck were enough to get by on, in our land of opportunity.

While not a spectacular student, Thompson did well enough in his classes to get accepted at law school, and when he graduated he hung up his shingle with a partner, performing small town law, mostly defending DUIs and handling divorces and wills. Whenever opportunity knocked, he took on the challenge, and eventually was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served for eight years. He also began a career as an actor in movies and on tv, playing a prosecuting attorney on the series Law and Order. In 2000, he threw his hat in the ring in the presidential primaries, but was eliminated fairly early from being a contender.

This is the kind of book where you feel like you're sitting around the fireplace in Thompson's family room, while he relates a few anecdotes, sprinkled with a wry humor, and a self deprecation that's quite charming.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Silent Strength of Stones by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

The Silent Strength of Stones (A Chapel Hollow Novel)
Review written December 1999
This is the first novel I've ever read by Hoffman, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. I picked it up around bedtime, and ended up staying up a bit late just to finish it. I supposed it qualifies as a juvenile fantasy novel, but it contains enough depth to be satisfying to adults, as well.
We pick up the story of Nick, a young man who lives with his father and grandfather at a lakeside resort, where he helps out running the family business of a general store. Nick's mother left them when he was quite young, and throughout the story we learn more about his ambivalent feelings towards his mother and how that abandonment has shaped his attitudes. At the beginning of the story, we are given to believe that his father is a control freak and somewhat abusive, while the grandfather is living a slow slide into senility. Through the course of the story, as Nick grows up a bit, we begin to see a little more depth and understand the character of his father more thoroughly.
Sometime during the tourist season, a strange family arrives to stay in a lakeside cabin nearby. One of Nick's favorite pastimes is spying on the amusements of the rich and idle visitors to the resort, so he begins to watch these new people, as well. He rapidly becomes acquainted with one of the girls, Willow, who is about his age, by inviting her to the upcoming Friday night dance.
Nick becomes aware rather quickly that there's something strange about this family. They seem to have the talent to make themselves invisible or pass unnoticed by most people. They also indulge in ritualistic behavior, chanting unintelligibly with their arms raised to the sky, or invoking the spirits of earth and water. He makes the acquaintance of a rather strange white wolf, who turns out to be one of the family as well - a shapeshifter named Evan.
As Nick develops relationships with several of the younger members of the family, he ends up in conflict with the adult members, putting him in danger from time to time. They are engaged in some sort of mission, and are extremely intolerant of what they perceive as his interference in both their quest and their authority over the children.
This story moves along really quickly - all of the action comes to a conclusion in a period of perhaps four or five days. Hoffman perhaps sacrifices some elements of style, characterization and description to achieve this pace, but somehow it works.
One of the things I really like about the novel is that Hoffman never takes the easy out of explaining away these people's strange actions and talents by calling them faerie or sorcerers or any of the worn-out magical terms prevalent in modern fantasy. She even manages to invent some new terms, within the basic concept of magic driven by earth, air, fire and water. Perhaps a scholar of archaic tongues might be familiar with the skilliau, which seem to be some sort of power stones, that the family are trying to acquire and bend to their uses, but it and the other items in their private tongue were all Greek to me.
This one is definitely worth reading, even if you have to pay full retail. And, as an added bonus, it's suitable for younger readers - G to PG rating.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mailbox Monday

The Ghost Brigades

Zoe's Tale

Dancing on the Head of a Pin: A Remy Chandler Novel

Poltergeist (Greywalker, Book 2)

Unknown by Rachel Caine

Unknown (Outcast Season, Book 2)
In the second book of Outcast Season, Cassiel and Luis keep right on from where we left them, trying to thwart the evil former djinn, Pearl, who is kidnapping talented children and training them to be her mindless followers. The end game for Pearl is to force Cassiel to do that for which she was exiled, destroy the human race.

The romantic and sexual tension between Luis and Cassiel continues to build in this novel. I have to give Ms. Caine credit for not having her protagonists give in to their primal urges - that's a rare thing in the world of urban fantasy today.

The pace continues to be fast and frantic, with our duo racing to find the missing children and rescue them. The tough thing is that the children don't really want to be rescued. They've been brainwashed into believing that Luis and Cassiel are the villains, having been shown illusions of their parents being murdered by Cassiel.

Our heroes forge some new alliances, e.g., getting the FBI to help track down Pearl's fortresses in remote areas, and to participate in a raid on one of those compounds. Cassiel also convinces one of the New Djinn, Rashid, to help fight Pearl and her minions.

It's a good thing that Cassiel and Luis are able to channel power back and forth between them, as the number of times they're seriously wounded in a fight, and have to be miraculously healed borders on the absurd.  I'll keep forging ahead to find out how it all turns out, but I'm forced to suspend my critical faculties far too often while reading the series.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Blogger Hop - March 25 to 28

Once again it's time for the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books.

Book Blogger Hop

The question this week:

"If you could physically put yourself into a book or series…which one would it be and why?"
Wow! I don't believe I've ever given it much thought, really. Perhaps when I was very young, reading Baum's enchanting Oz books, I'd have liked to travel about the four countries and visit the Emerald City. Later on, when I was going through a "logic is everything" phase in my life, I'd have relished the opportunity to hang out with Mr. Spock, from the Star Trek universe. During my hormone driven teen years, I'd have given nearly anything to go hang out with Tarl Cabot on the counter-Earth, Gor.

These days, however, much of the fantasy buffet is simply out of the question, without modern medicine and flush toilets. I've spent plenty of time camping out, thank you very much. The worlds of urban fantasy are out of the question, as I can't imagine things would be any better than they are today if the monsters of myth and legend were roaming our streets in addition to the monsters we already have. If I had to choose a SF world, it would be someplace where they'd mastered life extension, FTL travel, and studied war no more. Nothing springs immediately to mind on that score, though I know it's been written.

Out of the Dark by David Weber

Out of the DarkSo, I guess David Weber got bored playing around in the Honorverse, and things were getting a little crowded with all his friends hogging the swingsets and slides there, so he decided to branch out again and try a new world on for size. For all of you over the age of fifteen, would you please raise your hand if you've ever read a science fiction story about technologically advanced aliens from outer space, part of an alliance, or hegemony, or federation, who have decided that it would be a good idea to pretty much wipe out the human race and take over planet Earth. Really? All right, if you've read those stories, you've read this one, too.

I'm very sorry, but there's absolutely nothing new or novel here from Weber. It is Weber, however, and so the writing is good, and the characters somewhat interesting, and all the details are nicely taken care of. It's a pleasant way to spend a few hours...but not much else. The way the "flavor" of this book tasted to me within the first fifty pages or so, I thought Weber had written it on spec for Baen books. Seemed just like all the Ringo/Kratman/Williamson/Drake/Flint potpourri of alien invasion that just all blends together. Thank God I didn't pay hardcover price to read it.

Ok, so there was one really odd twist that came into play about two thirds of the way through, when a slightly different character gets introduced late into the plot line, in a chance meeting under the trees in Romania, which is significant. A local warlord shows up, whose followers look like nothing but peasants but can move silently and quickly through the forests like great silent predators. He doesn't quite swirl his cape and disappear into darkness, but the vibe is definitely there. And if you figure out in about two paragraphs who and what this guy is, like I did, you'll still not be any closer to understanding why Weber chose to rescue Earth in the rather improbable way that he does to wrap things up, than I am. The only thing I can figure is Dave just felt like he wasn't getting a piece of that undead love that permeates the literary landscape these days.

I certainly hope this isn't the beginning of the end for Weber's output.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Shattered Sphere by Roger McBride Allen

Review written April 2000
The Shattered SphereThe Shattered Sphere is the sequel to Ring of Charon, which was written in 1990. I'd been reading everything I could get my hands on written by Allen, who was an up and coming new hard sf author, and as I recall I had really enjoyed RoC. Well, the sequel didn't come out until 1994, and somehow or other I missed it, or had moved on to other things. A few weeks back, I found a copy of Shattered Sphere at the used book store, and the rest is... the stuff of cliche.
This novel is probably one of those few exceptions to the rule for me - where strong characterization was missing, yet I still enjoyed the story. As a matter of fact, I'd have to wrack my brain to come up with the names of any of the characters except Wally (Every hard sf novel needs a Wally), the total geek. Allen also did the POV hopping that I usually hate, but it worked quite well in this novel. Indeed it is the only way the plot could advance, as the situation set up in Ring of Charon had left us with several isolated groups of human beings, the colonists on the moon, the people on the relocated Earth, the crew on the starship, and the anarchists on the space station.
So, what was it that "sold" this novel? First, Allen did a good job of incorporating the "what has gone before" message into the story line, which was a good thing, because I certainly couldn't have told you a thing about Ring of Charon after ten years had gone by. In short, while doing research into gravitics beyond the orbit of Pluto, scientists managed to awaken a "sentinel" of a race of alien cyborgs hidden on the moon. This triggered the kidnapping of earth through a wormhole and the appearance of an attack on the rest of the solar system by the Charonians. The remainder of the solar system beats off the attack and, in Shattered Sphere, are trying to recover from the loss of Earth's resources.
Allen also does a good job of weaving pseudoscience and astronomical theory into descriptions of the alien devices, motivations and actions. It seems that the Charonians have an adversary, which probably lives on the surface of neutron stars, and which "eats" gravitic energy, so is attracted to any area where they have harnessed the power of black holes. The characters in the novel slowly learn more about the aliens and how to deal with them. The mystery aspect of this novel was fun. Try to see if you can figure things out one jump ahead of the people in the book.
Anyway, if you think you'd like to read this, go pick up both novels somewhere and start from the beginning. I think Ring of Charon is out of print by now, so you'll be forced to save money at your local used book store.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chasing Goldman Sachs by Suzanne McGee

Chasing Goldman Sachs: How the Masters of the Universe Melted Wall Street Down . . . And Why They'll Take Us to the Brink AgainI read an interesting article in Rolling Stone magazine online a while back that laid out the role that the investment bank Goldman Sachs played in bringing the U.S. to its knees in financial crisis in 2008. Ms. McGee mentions that article later on in her book, and seems to take a less tinfoil hat view of what came to pass during the meltdown, referring to it at times as "the perfect storm."

One of the points I'd never really considered before was the idea that investment banks like Sachs, Morgan, Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch actually fulfilled the role of being a financial utility, providing businesses with access to capital to operate and expand, among other things, much like AT&T provides communication services, or Edison provides power. People who operate utilities tend to run their businesses in a very stable, risk-averse manner, so as to ensure the availability of their crucial components in our economy, and up until around the 1980s, the investment banks operated in much the same way. The partners in those banks had their own fortunes invested in the business, and would think long and hard before putting too much of it at risk.

As the financial landscape changed over time, so too did the behavior of the investment banks. Because so much of their business has been woven tightly into our entire economic system, they really shouldn't have ever been allowed to escape the bounds of the Glass-Steagal act, which kept commercial and investment banking safely in their respective places.

If you're old enough to remember the dot-com boom of the 90s, you may recall that many of the people stepping up to talk about the New Economy from our government, the Federal Reserve, and investment banks believed that due to the highly technical nature of the internet based businesses, and that intellectual property greatly outweighing the "old" brick and mortar methods of placing value on a business, most of the old rules should no longer apply. In the end, gravity never fails, I'm afraid.

If you weren't involved in buying stocks like Google, Amazon, and making a bundle getting in at the IPO and out within the week, you weren't as smart as Wall Street. Greenspan had a phrase for it, "irrational exuberance". As time went by, the investment banks became heavily involved in raising venture capital for anything related to computing and the internet, and putting together public stock offerings for many of these businesses, even before they had posted a single dollar's worth of profit. Goldman and friends became deal-makers and shakers, rather than stodgy old investment bankers, and the profits they made just lured them on to more and more irrational deals. The dot-com bubble came crashing down around us all a few short years later, and everyone vowed never to get taken in by a "bubble" again. How quickly they forgot.

The "bubble" that caused the financial meltdown, without delving too deeply into the financial and technical aspects of derivatives and CDOs, centered around the housing "bubble". Once again, people threw wisdom out the window and believed that things could only get better indefinitely. The government caused a part of the problem when it lowered restrictions on approving mortgages, creating the "subprime" market, and when it also lowered the amount of cash reserves that banks were required to have on hand to offset their in-house loans. The mortgage companies, brokers, and commercial banks were a huge part of the cause when they realized how much money was to be made by financing, re-financing, and re-packaging loans for people who could never have gotten a home loan in the past.

The poor, sweet, duped, innocent people, aka homebuyers, were also responsible for buying homes they knew in their hearts they couldn't afford, and racking up home equity debt by treating their properties like ATMs. And the investment banks couldn't resist taking advantage of the situation by taking those pesky loans off the hands of the loan makers and packaging them as collateralized debt obligations, which they sold off for huge fees to the people who run your pension plans. Ratings agencies, like Moody's, who tell you whether a bond or other investment is risky or not, jumped on the bandwagon, taking fees for classifying the required amount of these investments as AAA. Of course, just like playing blackjack in Reno, you can buy "insurance" to keep from going bust, and one of the biggest companies in that business, AIG, wrote a ton of policies that they conveniently didn't have the cash to back up.

When somebody finally realized that housing prices couldn't really truly go up and up and up forever (what in the world were you smoking, people?), the tinsel was off the tree, and some of the institutions involved began to take big write offs on their balance sheets. Due to the intertwined nature of all of the players in this game, the entire house of cards could have come tumbling down had not the government in its infinite wisdom consented to bail out - with YOUR money - those businesses deemed "too big to fail".

This is a really well written bit of history from Ms. McGee, and she does a great job of tarring all of the players with a big, wide brush, rather than just picking on one particular villain. Worth the read, especially for the cautionary attitude you should gain about that next "bubble" they claim will never come.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Temple Dogs by Warren Murphy and Molly Cochran

Review written January, 2000
Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir used to write a series which I really enjoyed - The Destroyer Series. I collected them up till about #60 or so, but eventually lost interest when I began to focus on science fiction. The interplay between the two main characters was extremely witty and they had a lot of good martial arts action. I think they may still be writing them, but somewhere along the line Murphy teamed up with Cochran to write some other novels, among them a couple of good Arturian legend novels.
In Temple Dogs, Murphy & Cochran tell a pretty fair yarn about the conflict between a Yakuza family and a Mafia family. The plot revolves around the killing of a newlywed couple by the heir to a Mafia family, who is humiliated by being thrown out of the hotel where the wedding reception is being held. The bride's grandfather decides to avenge their murder, as the police cannot bring the murderer to justice, and is himself beaten to death by thugs. The brother of the bride, Miles Haverford, journeys to Japan to ask the help of the Yakuza chieftain, and old friend of his grandfather.
I won't get into all of the plot and events of the novel, but it did have a couple of flaws. First, Miles is a spoiled rich kid who, in the course of events, must prove himself to the members of the Yakuza before they will help him. He eventually does this through his superior character, and then is trained in the way of the Yakuza. This training goes by awfully quickly, and it's been my experience with the martial arts that proficiency is usually gained over the course of years, rather than weeks, so I was a little disappointed in the reality gap there.
Also, the heir apparent to the Yakuza, Sato, starts out very antagonistic (to say the least) to Miles, and about 2/3 of the way through the book undergoes an amazing change of heart, which carries the whole outcome of the novel. I just couldn't sustain my belief in the sudden turnabout. He was arrogant, cruel, and abusive, and suddenly becomes humble, kind and compassionate.
Despite all this, the novel was fairly entertaining, with some creative violence, good dialogue, and interesting plot twists.

Monday, March 21, 2011

On the Prowl by Patricia Briggs, et al

On the Prowl
These little anthologies some of the urban fantasy publishers are putting out are quite nice in one way - they let you get a sampling of some lesser known authors with the "hook" of a new work by an established writer. I discovered Tom Sniegowski that way just recently, but now that I've found him, I've found it hard to find more of him, so to speak.

This anthology led off with Alpha and Omega, by Briggs, which I'd already read as a stand-alone, so I skipped on to the next story as soon as I realized what was going on. You can read my review of it on the blog by clicking the link above. It was followed by Inhuman, by Eileen Wilks.

Inhuman seemed a little mysterious to me. I don't know if that was what the author intended, or if I've once again walked in on the middle of an ongoing story. One of the common themes in urban fantasy these days is of "racial" discrimination, and Wilks gives us a taste of one such scenario here. Normal folks are just naturally skeptical and suspicious of anyone who has powers they don't understand, and often indulge in either overt or covert race-baiting and persecution.

Kai, and her two friends Jackie and Ginger, seem to have some paranormal talents that would brand them as "The Other", and so does Kai's friend (it becomes immediately obvious that they're not more than that yet, but will be by the end of the story through some not subtle foreshadowing), Nathan, a county mountie who's only partially out of the proverbial paranormal closet. When bodies start turning up in the neighborhood, the witches are an obvious set of suspects, and when a local barfly testifies that he saw Kai leave the night before with the latest victim, well...

This is a quick read, with a wee bit different slant on beasties and boggins. I especially liked what type of creature Nathan turned out to be; there's some potential there. We'll see if something else by Ms. Wilks turns up in the mailbox one of these days.

Buying Trouble, by Karen Chance was the third bit of fun here. You see, there's this girl named Claire, who works in an auction house. The auction house has a reputation for coming up with very interesting artifacts, sometimes authentic, and ocassionally possessing strange powers. Claire's function, besides prettying things up around the place, is that she is a magical null, and while people are close enough to see and bid on the offerings, they are unable to use magic to steal them, or any other bit of mischief. The non-magic trouble is what you hire big bouncers for.

Claire was very nearly sold as a child slave to a visiting band of elves who wanted her for their own nefarious reasons, but she managed to escape their plans. The elves took it quite badly, killing her father over a bad faith deal gone awry, and she's been avoiding the rest of the clan ever since. Her brother shows up at this auction, having tracked her down, and is hoping to finally make good on his father's bargain, getting power and money for himself in the process.

As much as she distrusts elves, given her history, she finds she has no choice but to band together with one to escape the mayhem that ensues when the bidding gets out of hand. They flee to the land of the Fey, where Claire finds out a bit more than she bargained for about her magical nature and her family history. Good action, worth looking Ms. Chance up for a second round some day.

The Final story, Mona Lisa Betwining, by Sunny, very rapidly was revealed to be pretty much a PNR dressed up as UF. Didn't make it more than a couple of pages before the steamy longings reared their ugly thighs, and not more than twenty before the bodices were ripped with all due tradition and ceremony. I'll pass on more of the my readings anyway.

Mailbox Monday

Unclean Spirits: Book One of the Black Sun's Daughter
A new author for me

Not much in the way of acquisitions this week.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Book Blogger Hop - March 18 to 21

It's time for the Book Blogger Hop again, hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books.

Book Blogger Hop

Today's question:
"Do you read only one book at a time, or do you have several going at once?"

I nearly always have multiple books going. I narrowed it down to one for the last couple of weeks, as I was taking some pain killers that made it difficult to focus, but things are looking up again, and I'm currently reading House of Cards by C.E. Murphy and River Marked by Patricia Briggs, plus a short story by Poul Anderson on my Nook.

Farnham's Freehold by Robert A. Heinlein

Farnham's FreeholdI was fact-checking on some names in Farnham's Freehold when I was writing a review of another book, and I thought it would be a good idea to give it the old and review. I don't think anyone who didn't live throught the sixties and seventies can fully appreciate the (totally valid) paranoia we all had about global thermonuclear war, but this novel by Heinlein from 1964 may give you an approximate flavor.

Hugh Farnham and his family are enjoying a nice weekend evening together playing bridge. His daughter, Karen, has brought a friend, Barbara, home from college to visit her dad and mom, Grace. Their son, Duke, is a lawyer who lives on his own, and he's stopped by for the family gathering. Rounding out the cast of characters is Joseph, their negro houseboy, and Doctor Livingston I Presume, their cat.

The Kremlin has been making threatening noises, and Hugh keeps an earbug live to be ready in case an attack is launched. Their home is very close to Colorado Springs, which would become a high value military target if war breaks out. Sure enough, the missiles are launched, and Hugh and the others scramble to get into his bomb shelter, which he has very thoroughly equipped for surviving the fallout and aftermath of a nuclear war.

The bombs fall. First strike, second strike, and then a Grand Slam. After the third strike, things get strangely quiet, and Hugh and the others decide to poke their heads out of the shelter to see what has happened. At this point, we get the twist that separates this from your usual post-apocalyptic novel of the time, in that the entire bomb shelter turns out to have been twisted through some sort of warp in space time caused by being at ground zero in a nuclear explosion, and they are cast about 2000 years into the future, to a time and place where it appears that nature has been unspoiled by humans.

They begin to use their survival skills to eke out a life and a place to live for themselves, when the second big story twist occurs - they are not alone! It appears that after the superpowers wiped out most of the people from the northern hemisphere, the folks in the southern part of the globe, mostly blacks or dark-skinned races, took over the world, and have ruled it ever since. Their shelter actually landed in the middle of a game preserve belonging to the ruler of North America. They are taken captive and forced to live as servants, mostly, although they acquire a special status as curiosities, having come from the long-dead past.

After having read Patterson's Heinlein bio recently, I had a bit more insight into the things Hugh had to say about his wife, Grace's alcoholism. Heinlein was at that point either still dealing with his first wife's addiction, or had recently been divorced from her. Heinlein, as usual, delivers his lectures on leadership, freedom, love, genetics, and other topics fairly smoothly in the course of the story. He's pretty well adopted the ever-present alpha male that permeates most of his stories, and Hugh Farnham is alpha in spades. This is a great, quick read that provides a window into both Heinlein and his era.

For you fellow bibliophiles, as Hugh is contemplating the books he included  for TEOTWAWKI,
"Books had always been his best friends. In a hundred public libraries they had taught him. From a thousand newsstands they had warmed his loneliness. He suddenly felt that if he had not been able to save some books, it would hardly be worthwhile to live."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In Small Measures by Lynn Burke

In Small Measures
I'm sorry that it's taken me this long to get a review (of sorts) out here about Small Measures. Ms. Burke sent me a letter when I first requested it saying that she was awaiting a second batch of review copies, and then it had to come from Australia, and so there was a long delay before I received it. Then, I started reading it and realized that it is completely out of genre for me. It's basically a historical romance about the Vietnam War era, and I just couldn't get very interested in it, though it seemed to be tightly written and might be an interesting story for someone who likes romance/drama types of books. If you're a reader of such things, and write reviews, be the first to let me know in the comments and maybe we can work out a guest review deal for this one.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure
So, I happened to catch about the last 30 minutes of The Princess Bride on TV the other night. This movie ranks right up there as one of my all-time favorites. I happened to have finished up the book I'd been reading that afternoon, so I decided to take a trip up the stairs to my personal library and re-read Goldman's version. This book is an abridgement of the original by S. Morgenstern, and I have the author's word that it contains far less endless political and class satire than the original.

However, it is filled with plenty of satire, just of the sort that modern audiences will probably appreciate more. All of the places where Goldman has removed large sections of the original are "footnoted" with his description of what actually filled the gap before, and most of them would only appeal to the odd European scholar or historian.

The witty dialog that I loved in the movie is there in its entirety, plus a bit more thrown in for good measure. There's also a great deal of additional material about the personal histories of Fezzik and Inigo. One of the bits that puzzled me in the movie, how Fezzik comes up with a Holocaust Cloak, is also explained in one of Goldman's sidebars. The Zoo of Death is described in greater detail, and there's a stunning amount of information on exactly how beautiful Buttercup is.

Loved the movie, love the book. Pick up a copy and enjoy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Worth Dying For by Lee Child

Worth Dying For
When last I saw Jack Reacher, he was in a race against time, rushing up an escape ladder from the bottom of an exploding missile silo. Fortunately for my peace of mind, I had seen that the next novel, Worth Dying For, was already in publication, so I rested easy in the knowledge that Reacher would survive. Phew! The theme for the last couple of books, however, has left me wondering if a heart of malignant evil beats in the center of every rural community, as Reacher finds a nest of venomous in Nowhere Nebraska.

Hitchhiking his way across country, Reacher pauses for the night at the Apollo Inn, with space race themed decor. While enjoying a cup of coffee in the lounge, he gets involved in a doctor's house call which leads him to what would seem a simple case of wife-beating. Since Reacher is well known for sticking his nose in where it doesn't really belong, it's not surprising that he takes the time to track down the errant husband at a local steak house, takes out his bodyguard efficiently in the parking lot, and administers a single blow broken nose to the man.

The man is Seth Duncan, member of a local family that has parlayed a trucking company into dominating and terrifying the whole community. Nobody crosses the Duncans, or they pay for it with beatings, intimidation, or loss of their livelihood - if you can't get your crops hauled to market, there's no point in farming. The Duncan clan figures that Reacher is just your average troublemaker, and so they send a couple of their goons, recruited from Nebraska Cornhusker ex-football players, to make sure he doesn't cause any more trouble. Reacher's past training and experience allow him to put them both in the hospital without breaking a sweat, and the war is on.

The Duncans have something going on, above and beyond their local trucking monopoly, smuggling some sort of high value goods into the country, and they're connected to some criminal enterprises in Las Vegas and beyond. Their associates are concerned about a delay in the shipment, and the Duncans manage to convince them that Reacher is the reason for the delay, so the Vegas bosses also send some killers to Nebraska to deal with the problem.

Just some good, rousing entertainment once again from Lee Child. If you've been wondering how Jack Reacher survived the blast at the missile silo, this question is answered for you, too. Hope he keeps on crusading for many more books.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Paths of the Dead by Steven Brust

Review written 2003
The Paths of the Dead (The Viscount of Adrilankha, Book 1)I've enjoyed most of what Mr. Brust has written over the years, and I'd hoped that this was another novel in the Vlad Taltos series, but it turned out to be set in an earlier period of the Dragaeran Empire. Ah, well. A few years ago, he wrote The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years After. This one could have been called 150 Years After, as it takes place that much past FHYA.

In this novel, we get to learn a lot of things about the characters we came to love in The Phoenix Guards and also some things about characters from the Taltos series. We find out how Morrolan got his name, came to study eastern sorcery, and met the Lady Teldra. We also learn more about the Empress Zerika, and how she came into possession of the Orb (the artifact that holds the empire together).

Sethra Lavode, Sethra the Younger, and the Sorceress in Green figure prominently, as do Tazendra, Aerich, Pel and Khaavren.

It's a bit slow in spots, and Brust writes in the mildly irritating conversation style of Parfi the historian, as he did in his earlier works about these characters. I much prefer the style he used in the Taltos novels, but it was still a good read.

As the story begins, the empire is in ruins after Adron's Disaster, and we follow about a half dozen different plot threads, as people try to put things back in order. Some are trying to put things back together by force, while others use subterfuge.

This book is just part one of the series subtitled The Viscount of Adrilanka, and I eagerly await the sequel(s).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mailbox Monday

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version
Got a very nice free copy for my Nook

The Mermaid's Madness (PRINCESS NOVELS)
I enjoyed Hines Goblin Quest, so...

Red Hood's Revenge (PRINCESS NOVELS)
Another one by Hines

Wraith (Zoe Martinique, Book 1)
Alleged to be as good as the Dresden Files

Contact with Chaos
Looks like the sequel to Freehold