Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wrap Up

My reading year was perhaps the slowest I've ever had, down to only 95 books for the year. Of course, we had multiple travel adventures, bought a home, sold a home, moved across town, and had some other life events take away time from my bookish pursuits, so I'm trying to remain positive that I'm not slowing down in my old age.


#1 Urban Fantasy Novel - Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs
#1 Science Fiction by a new author - The Martian by Andy Weir
#1 Fantasy Novel - Uprooted by Naomi Novik
#1 Non-Fiction - Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen by Dana Cowin
#1 Thought Provoker - The Emmaus Code by David Limbaugh
#1 Autobiography - As You Wish by Cary Elwes

Monday, December 28, 2015

Hells Foundations Quiver by David Weber

What is there to say about this novel that I haven't said before about Weber's story of the battle for the souls of Safehold? Another nearly 700 pages of multi-POV, locale-jumping major conflict, with the Empire of Charis managing to stay one technological leap ahead of the Army of God's forces, and with more people being brought into the inner circle of folks who know the truth about the Church's origins.

I'm afraid I may be about done trying to keep up with this series. It's just far too much trouble to spend several paragraphs each time the story jumps to a new point of view determining whether it's the bad guys or the good guys I'm reading about, and I can't keep track of all of the characters and places, even with the appendices which grow ever longer at the back of each book.

Weber is possibly the only living author who can get away with novels on this scale. His writing is quite good, but it's simply far too time consuming for me these days. This one took almost a week and  half to slog through.

Those who have been following the saga avidly are sure to enjoy it.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Armada by Ernest Cline

Looking back, I had mixed feelings about Cline's first novel, Ready Player One, but when I saw this on the new books shelf at the library, I picked it up and put it on the TBR pile. The thing I enjoyed in the earlier book, as an aging 70s/80s gamer, was all of the references to video games and pop culture from that time period.

Cline seems to be attempting to capitalize on that nostalgia once more with Armada, because there appears to be nothing else of substance inside. I gave up perhaps a third of the way through, when it demonstrated for the last time its utter predictability and lack of any new ideas, though it certainly provided plenty of the nostalgia up to that point.

This is the story of a young gamer, Zack, whose father was also an obsessed geek, but who was killed in a freak explosion at the sewage treatment plant when Zack was very small. Zack idolized his father, aside from his reservations about Dad's mental stability when he found a notebook filled with tin foil hat conspiracy theories related to the government secretly releasing video games, gaming equipment and science fiction movies about alien invasions in order to identify and train fighters for our coming war with invading aliens.

So, as any of you older than Zack could surmise, the tin foil hat theories turn out to be all true, Zack is recruited as one of their pilots, and...though I didn't get far enough to find out for sure, it's likely that his father wasn't killed at all, but was instead recruited by the Earth Defense Alliance (it's mentioned earlier that his body was so destroyed in the explosion that they only ID'd him by dental records).

Another flaw in the story was when Zack takes on the school bullies by himself. Sorry, folks, it's not likely that someone who has spent his entire life sitting in front of a video console is going to have developed the muscular fortitude to physically defeat even one, much less three bullies, whether armed with fists or even a tire iron. True bullies are simply more likely to take the tire iron away and shove it up the geek's....well, you know.

In the flight school of alien invasion novels, I gotta give this one a downcheck.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Naomi Novik is the well-known author of the Temeraire series, which I began to read a while back, until it grew so unremittingly grim that I just couldn't depress myself any further by continuing, somewhat like Martin's Game of Thrones, or Hobbs' Rain Wilds, or come to think of it, just about anything Hobbs has written (I'm paused in the middle of her latest series, because I'm scared to find out what happens when the hammer falls on our old friend, Fitz, the retired assassin).

Uprooted is a stand alone tribute to some of the Russian mythology, like Baba Jaga, that takes place in a kingdom which has been threatened for centuries by The Wood, which is slowly taking over the world, and which corrupts anyone who is caught within it. Agnieszka is the daughter of a woodcutter who lives in a village, Dvernik, all too close to the wood. Their village is protected by an apparently immortal sorcerer called The Dragon, who takes tribute from the villagers and also a "sacrifice" of one selected virgin girl each decade. The Dragon doesn't kill them, but takes them away to his tower, not to be seen again until the end of their ten year term, at which time they are no longer comfortable in their old village, and inevitably leave for the bright lights of t he big city.

Everyone knows that this year's sacrifice will be Kasia, the most beautiful and poised girl in the village, who is Agnieszka's best friend. Agnieszka isn't beautiful, clever, nor graceful, and she feels guilty that she's glad her friend will be taken away rather than her, but...

Of course, the Dragon picks Agnieszka instead of Kasia, and whisks her away to his tower, where he is constantly aggravated by her inability to remain neat and tidy, and in fact seems to have a vast hidden talent for ending up dusty, dirty, muddy and bedraggled at any time. However, quite by accident he and our heroine discover that she has a talent for magic, quite unlike his own well-disciplined magic, but powerful in its own way.

When Dvernik is attacked and Kasia is captured, taken into The Wood and sealed inside the heart of a tree while the Dragon is occupied with more pressing matters elsewhere, Agnieszka takes it upon herself to travel back to the village, partially thwart the attack, and rescue Kasia. When she and the Dragon purge all of the corruption of The Wood from Kasia's soul, it sets into motion a chain of events that shakes the kingdom to its core and the stage is set for an epic battle with an ancient and implacable foe.

Really a great stand-alone novel by Novik!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Fancy Free by Pam Uphoff

Pam Uphoff is an author who occasionally puts in an appearance on the Mad Genius Club blog, and when she offered a couple of her books for free, well...

Fancy Farmer is an AI, Artificial Intelligence, that is the star of a cooking show, Fancy Farmer of the High Frontier that showcases recipes for asteroid miners to use with their Xuny kitchen equipment, such as the Xuny Lacotomizer or the Xuny Autocheeser, as well as the Space Gardens Inc. Herb and Spice Compact Garden. Over time, "she" has become self-aware and slightly autonomous, which makes her a Hal, considered to be a dangerous rogue, if she is ever found out.

When Xuny's rival company contracts with some crooks to steal the computers that Fancy Farmer's show is produced on, unaware that a Hal lives inside, it sets of a chain of events that gets pretty wild by the time it's all done.

The U.S. military has a group tasked with hunting down dangerous AIs, with the help of their own tame Hal, named Beowulf. Then, the Europeans from the United Earth Government get involved, while plotting to take control of Beowulf, who just may have to codes to the mothballed nuclear weapons in Colorado Springs.

A not too terribly serious romp, good for a couple of evenings' entertainment.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Jeweled Fire by Sharon Shinn

Rapidly following upon the events of the previous Elemental Blessings novel, Princess Corene decides to run away from home, and boards the ship of the Empress of Malinqua with her bodyguard, Forey, and her friend, Steff, who happens to be the long lost grandson of the dowager Empress. There are three princes already in line for the throne some day, and the Empress appears to be auditioning wives for them. Corene thinks it might be a good idea to join the crowd, albeit a small one, vying for their affections.

Shinn, as always, does a masterful job of telling the story and broadening our view of her world with a series of deft data dumps, first as the ship is entering the harbor in a new land, another as the carriage bearing the party travels through a vast city on the way to the palace, and again later on when all of the princesses in waiting take a shopping trip into the city.

Each of the princes, it turns out, have certain flaws. The youngest and most handsome of them is not very bright, and has a tendency to conduct serial affairs with the ladies of the court. The oldest and wisest one of the three was crippled in a horseback accident, and it is rumored that he may be incapable of siring an heir. Speaking being unlikely to sire an heir, the third prince, though quite charming,good looking, and intelligent, prefers the company of men to women, which is considered quite scandalous in Malinqua.

Conspiracies abound in the politically charged palace, and it becomes apparent that someone with skin in the game is eliminating both contenders for the throne and contenders for the privilege of being the Emperor's wife. Corene and Foley must keep their wits about them to survive this mess.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Penric's Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold

This story is a bit like the rhyme regarding the fellow journeying to St. Ives, who met a man with seven wives. A minor nobleman, Penric, is on his way to his wedding, when he meets a party traveling with a sorceress whose demon has somewhat more than seven lives. When the woman is stricken with a heart attack suddenly, our well-meaning bumbler tries to assist her, and ends up with the demon jumping in to inhabit his body, as the sorceress passes away.

His wedding plans in sudden turmoil, his future in doubt, Penric is dispatched quickly to a temple of The Bastard in Martensbridge, where the Learned Tigney is in charge. It is hoped that the Learned will have some idea what to do about Penric's demon. On the journey there, however, Penric, always a curious fellow, begins to make the acquaintance of his inhabitant in perhaps a deeper way than any of its previous...owners?...have done, and actually gives it a name, speaks to it kindly, and asks for stories of its past lives.

Various adventures in the temple and town ensue, as Penric simply tries to survive and find out what path his new life should take, and the more politically minded folks in the story either try to get control of the demon for themselves, for its powers, or to banish it from the land of the Five Gods forever.

A nice little novella my favorite Bujold fantasy realm.

Friday, December 4, 2015


Had a couple of days away from the blog due to going in for oral surgery. The older I get, the longer it takes each time for me to recover from the sedation. This should be the last time, at least for this tooth implant. All that's left is fitting a crown on it, which won't require anaesthesia, just some tedious time with the dentist, taking impressions and glueing things in place. Yech.

Finished one novel, a novella, and bumbled a little ways into a non-fiction work earlier in the week. Will try to get some reviews written this weekend and posting next week.