A nice collection of three short stories/novellas in the Harry Dresden series. Each was published previously in separate collections but it’s nice toA nice collection of three short stories/novellas in the Harry Dresden series. Each was published previously in separate collections but it’s nice to have them all together here in one group because they form a nice connected trio. In each story, a Sasquatch known as River Shoulders hires Harry to protect his son who is half Sasquatch and living his life in normal human society. The son, Irwin, grows through the three stories from grade schooler through high school and on in to college. I enjoyed reading Harry’s exploits once again in the more carefree, less serious days before the events in Changes. Humor is prevalent throughout as is Harry’s ability to see the bigger picture and help out his fellow man (and non-human friends as well).
Thomas Hawkins is a rake, a scoundrel, and over fond of liquor and low company. But he’s an affable rogue and tends to find himself caught up in scandThomas Hawkins is a rake, a scoundrel, and over fond of liquor and low company. But he’s an affable rogue and tends to find himself caught up in scandalous affairs and forced into dangerous predicaments. But is he a murderer? Virtually the entire town of London in the year 1728 seems to think so for this novel opens with young Thomas Hawkins on route to the gallows at Tyburn to pay for his murderous ways.
This is the follow-on novel to Antonia Hodgson’s well-received debut novel, The Devil in the Marshalsea. I have not read that one but it seemed to make little difference as this novel is full and complete on its own. Some characters are in both of course but there are several new colorful folks to meet in this book, both honorable and/or cringe-worthy. But, believe me, I will definitely go back and get a copy of that first book because this one was a delight to read. In general I love to read historical mysteries, especially those set in London, and when you add a wonderful character like Thomas Hawkins, a flawed but honorable man, the novel tends to be a good read. But the author doesn’t stop there. The mystery plot is absorbing and not exactly traditional so legitimate surprises kept me enthralled. Hawkins finds himself indebted to the Queen and is tasked with determining the real murderer but he is not adept at playing politics and so quickly becomes a tool of various factions.
I liked the way the story was developed adding layers as it went. And I must also add kudos for the setting itself. Some authors get carried away with adding rich detail but I think Ms. Hodgson manages to depict her Georgian era London vibrantly yet without beating the reader over the head with it. It’s like another character in the story. The historical aspects are interesting and I learned quite a bit about the historical Henrietta Howard, Queen Caroline (a book reader after my own heart), and even the Society for the Reformation of Manners.
A very nice read with a satisfying ending that also hints at a third book to come. I certainly hope so! ...more
The second of the Sumuru series by Sax Rohmer (far better known as the author of the Fu Manchu series) is very similar to the first but I feel a shadeThe second of the Sumuru series by Sax Rohmer (far better known as the author of the Fu Manchu series) is very similar to the first but I feel a shade better. I found it interesting that most pulp/adventure/crime series such as this tend to have the same crew of cops or investigators attempting to hunt down the criminal mastermind but this one is different in that a new group gets an attempt to catch Sumuru in each novel.
Sumuru is also an interesting character because her goals are not entirely bad. This is not a James Bond type villain that is out to rule the world (or destroy it) for their own ends. Rather she believes society can be improved by eliminating the negative elements such as mob bosses or other major criminals. Of course this is pulp fiction written just after WWII so the fact that she also desires to eliminate most men from the world’s population (warmongers) and preserve the most beautiful and intelligent women for the betterment of society make this series a delightful comic-book style adventure. The cat and mouse action between the characters make this work and I found myself not minding at all the fact that Sumuru keeps getting away with her evil schemes. ...more
This is a nice little companion book for the main Demon Cycle series. It includes a novella about Arlen’s formative years as a Messenger, recounting aThis is a nice little companion book for the main Demon Cycle series. It includes a novella about Arlen’s formative years as a Messenger, recounting a tale of a trip to collect some rare artifacts on his way to the Great Bazaar of Krasia where he interacts with the merchant Abban. It’s a nice story and allows some more details about clay demons to come out. The book also includes two “cut scenes” from The Warded Man manuscript including the original story that the author wrote for his fantasy writing class back in 1999 where the assignment was to write a first scene of an original fantasy novel. It’s an OK scene and works here as a curiosity but it’s easy to see why it was cut. A second cut scene relates to Leesha and also works as a stand-alone vignette for those that have read the book. If not then I feel sure it would seem incomplete.
Two more tidbits are included: a short glossary/dictionary of just 3-4 pages and a “ward grimoire” where we get to see what some basic wards look like. The value here is less about the artwork of the wards themselves as the accompanying information about the various demons they defend against. ...more
I’m really struggling to come up with the proper rating for this one. Granted, I’m not exactly the target audience but I do know a good book when I seI’m really struggling to come up with the proper rating for this one. Granted, I’m not exactly the target audience but I do know a good book when I see it as well as a well-intentioned one that has fallen short of the mark.
The positives: At the surface, this is a nicely told romantic story of a young woman of royalty who, rather than accept her own idealized future with a husband through an arranged marriage, decides to take control of her own future by taking on the identity of her own servant, Adelaide, and seeking a new life in the New World. We’ve certainly seen that set up for a book or movie before but the author takes the plot in several new directions. Adelaide travels to the New World in order to take part in the “Glittering Court” a sort of year-long finishing school that prepares girls of lesser circumstances to become adept at the finer points of civilized society such as how to dress, eat, and play hostess at fine functions. Gentlemen of the New World will then bid for the girls in hopes of gaining a wife that will enhance his prospects in business or government circles. Adelaide and her two roommates quickly become the best of friends. But Adelaide is not the only one with a secret and so the plot perks along at a nice clip with the main characters dipping into and out of mischief throughout. There is mishap and mayhem, backstabbing rogues, glamorous parties, frontier gold mining adventure, and even pirates. Practically something for everyone. But at its heart, this novel is a romance, pure and simple.
The negatives: The novel never attempts to go any deeper than the surface. I do so enjoy a good young adult novel that does not dumb down the situation and is not afraid to go deeper…but this ain’t it. Why go to the effort to introduce such serious themes as the objectification of women or religious persecution but not deal with it at all other than to imply that it isn’t “fair”. It’s as if the author does not have enough faith in her readership to do any more than gloss over what is happening in the society that she created. We skim along enjoying the romantic adventure and hope that true love will win out in the end but that’s it. There is even an attempted rape scene but the consequences to both villain and victim are absent. Adelaide herself is adamant about the unfairness of an arranged marriage but is perfectly willing to go along with the concept of being trained to be a proper hostess in order to further the business dealings of her future husband. She does take action, finally, to go after the feelings of her heart but that is forced by circumstances much more than by her own thoughts of what she should do. She never connects the dots about the accepted norms of the society and whether or not that is right or wrong. One more example: when her beau reveals himself to her to be a practitioner of a forbidden religion, (he would even be executed if found out) Adelaide worries for his safety but simply thinks him foolish for practicing such a religion in the first place. No thoughts enter her head about why a particular religion is shunned. And both of them together think nothing of committing crimes themselves in order to “get ahead” including art forgery and duping an innocent purchaser in order to pay off their own debt.
One side note: I have no problems with reading a book wherein the protagonist and major characters have dubious morals or are in-your-face criminals or even just naive. That’s not what I am talking about here. The two main characters in this novel are simply inconsistent. Not because of a personality flaw but because of poor writing. One chapter will depict huge self-sacrifice by one or both of them while the next glosses over one shallow action or another.
The biggest negative though is the ending. The two main characters have gotten themselves into so much trouble from so many angles that a previously unknown character has to save the day by coming up with a loophole that allows them off the hook. I’ve rarely seen a better example of a Deus ex Machina ending. Sigh.
This book is billed as the first in a fantasy series but there is no fantasy here. There is no world building per se other than using our own European and New World frontier history and changing the names of the places and religions. It suggests the author is in too much of a hurry to “get another one out there” to please her fan base rather than put effort into creating an original world system.
And a note about the cover: some people like real models for the covers and some people hate that. I am indifferent but at least use a model that resembles the character(s) in the book. This one doesn’t even have the hair color right, assuming it is supposed to be Adelaide and so I am left to wonder who is depicted there.
Sorry to make this review so long but it touched a nerve in me somewhere. But despite all of the negative points I’ve droned on about, this isn’t a terrible book. Most of the plot was decent and I did care about what happened to the major characters (most of the time). The story of Adelaide seems to have been wrapped up in this one volume so I suspect future books in the series will have different POV characters, most likely Adelaide’s two roommates who had closely guarded secrets of their own throughout the novel and still yet to be revealed. ...more
The 11th of the Indiana Jones Prequel novels and third by author Max McCoy is a nicely told romp of an adventure tale. It brings Indy to several interThe 11th of the Indiana Jones Prequel novels and third by author Max McCoy is a nicely told romp of an adventure tale. It brings Indy to several interesting locales, among them Southwest New Mexico where Indy continues to pursue the multi-novel story arc relating to the Crystal Skull as well as to the far north where he and his companions encounter the opening to the Hollow World inside the Earth.
As always, what I like about the Indiana Jones books (besides the fact that they are about…well…Indiana Jones) is that they always weave in some actual historical events and people. This book contains a nice Afterword detailing the many theories of a hollow earth from the 19th and 20th centuries and just how prevalent the idea once was. It also describes Hitler’s rumored interest in the occult as well as the hollow earth theory which he supported by dispatching squads to the deepest mines in Europe and the Himalayas in search of an entrance. The Thule Society which became the German Workers Party and which Hitler then turned into the Nazi party is also a prominent part of Indy’s story in this volume.
Max McCoy does a good job of developing his Indy novels much like you would expect from an Indy movie: full of fun adventure, the pursuit of archeological treasures or knowledge, some humor, a pretty girl or two, and lots of danger. Only two more of these prequel novels left in the series (one by McCoy). It will be sad once I reach the end. ...more
Former Sydney Olympic gold medal decathlete Ethan “Hercules” Holt is now a professor at his alma mater and trying to enjoy life as a single father toFormer Sydney Olympic gold medal decathlete Ethan “Hercules” Holt is now a professor at his alma mater and trying to enjoy life as a single father to his 13 year old daughter, “Skip”. But out of the blue, Skip is kidnapped and a series of strange ransom demands begin to pour in.
Seems like a pretty straight-forward thriller plot similar to a thousand other titles out there. But this one stands apart from much of the competition due to the fascinating interaction between Ethan and the kidnapper. In many respects this is a psychological thriller but there is plenty of action intertwined and the result is a real page turner. Most of the book is told from Ethan’s first person POV but we also get third person POV sequences from Skip, the kidnapper, and others.
I enjoyed the way the clues were unveiled, a complex puzzle revolving around the twelve labors of Hercules. The identity of the kidnapper, the big mystery element of the novel wasn’t really possible to solve on your own, either for the reader or for Ethan. The clues come faster and faster until near the end when Ethan learns the truth at the same time as the reader. It’s one of those novels that when you finally get to that eureka moment, you realize all of the clues that really were there all along but they were so subtle that you had failed to pick up on them.
For a book to really draw me in I need to believe in the characters, believe that they are responding to events in a plausible and realistic manner. At first I questioned how Ethan was responding to the kidnapping in this book because he was constantly “over-reacting” it seemed to me. I can’t imagine how I would react if faced with the same horrible situation but I just can’t see myself arguing with the kidnapper and getting so pissed off during a ransom call that I would tell them to go “F___ himself”. I mean…talk about endangering the life of your only child. Over numerous telephone calls Ethan alternates between threatening the kidnapper and endless whiny pleading to be swapped for her. But as the tale unwound I came to understand Ethan’s nature better, especially his complicated back story and came to realize that his actions were based on his own experiences.
I did have a minor beef with the police and FBI crew. No leadership of the situation at all on their part. They seemed content to let Ethan call the shots and go off and chase down the clues with only one other cop to accompany him all the way through. I wasn’t expecting a police procedural in a thriller novel such as this but it just didn’t seem realistic for me. Perhaps the author simply chose to let their aspect of handling the case occur offstage in order to keep the focus on Ethan and what he was going through.
In summary, this is an excellently paced psychological thriller. It’s a clever novel, written succinctly and with passion. This is not surprising given the author’s award winning career in the arena of hi-viz television journalism but to see it translated into the world of fictional thriller writing is indeed welcome. I expect we will see much more from this author in the future.
(Special thanks to the author, Mr. Kim Powers, for providing a free copy of this novel in exchange for an open and honest review.) ...more
Having read Robert McCammon’s outstanding WWII/adventure/thriller/werewolf/spy novel The Wolf's Hour earlier this month I knew I had to find and readHaving read Robert McCammon’s outstanding WWII/adventure/thriller/werewolf/spy novel The Wolf's Hour earlier this month I knew I had to find and read the “sequel” as soon as possible. The character of Michael Gallatin and his story was just so rich with possibilities that I was thrilled to discover there was another book. And, still, to this day, I have yet to read a disappointing book by Robert McCammon.
This book is not another novel however. It is a collection of 6 stories, all very much connected to one another (as well as with the original novel) but each depicting a different episode in Michael’s intriguing life. Essentially all six stories fill in his background, mostly taking place during the war itself and just prior to the current events of the first novel. The second story here, ‘The Man From London’ is fairly short but serves to illustrate how Michael is recruited by the British Secret Service for his unique talents. Three of the stories are fairly long, novellas really, and were easily my favorites due to the depth that the longer form allows the author to take the plot and the character. In addition, the answer to a burning, unanswered question from the original novel is answered in the last story of this book.
It’s been many years since I read an Agatha Christie novel. I’ve had this one on my shelf for years languishing away and it wasn’t until my wife and IIt’s been many years since I read an Agatha Christie novel. I’ve had this one on my shelf for years languishing away and it wasn’t until my wife and I began watching the excellent television production of the Hercule Poirot series starring David Suchet, that my interest grew once again.
This is absolutely classic Agatha Christie. It has two titles, as many of her books seem to have, allowing for political correctness as that target changes over the decades. I read "Dumb Witness" but the more recent title is "Poirot Loses a Client". It’s a case for the inestimable detective Poirot wherein he must deduce which of 7 characters and family members did the dirty deed even though every single one had motive and opportunity. The client, interestingly enough is already deceased by the time Poirot gets the case, apparently of natural causes, which only adds to the mystery; i.e. has a murder even been committed at all?
The story is told from Hasting's first person POV which works very well because it allows us to view Poirot’s actions and mannerisms from that external eye. Hasting’s takeaways from the clues that are uncovered mirror our own and seem logical until Poirot masterfully dissects the larger picture.
I’m very happy to have read this book. I may well pick up a few more of Dame Christie’s novels in the coming months. They are fairly quick reads but do engage "the little gray cells" for a while in an enjoyable way. In the meantime I still have several more seasons of the TV series to look forward to as well. ...more
This is a nice little novella set in Peter Brett’s Demon Cycle world. It takes place during the events of The Warded Man, and focuses on one of Arlen’This is a nice little novella set in Peter Brett’s Demon Cycle world. It takes place during the events of The Warded Man, and focuses on one of Arlen’s adventures during his time as an apprentice messenger. Arlen journeys to a frozen mountainside to deliver a dangerous cargo of thundersticks (dynamite) to Count Brayan’s gold mine, quite a far distance away for a young apprentice. The story has a couple of nice demon fights in it including one with Arlen’s nemesis in those days, the huge rock demon One Arm as well as a snow demon. There is a romance story of sorts and it also includes one of the major themes of the series, especially for Arlen: cowardice vs fear and how to deal with those that are just too afraid to fight back against the demons.
Recommended as a companion piece for fans of the series although certainly not necessary. I do recommend that "The Warded Man" is read first. ...more
Mark Hodder brings his high-concept, high-octane, historical time-travel series to a conclusion with this sixth and final book.
Sir Richard Francis BuMark Hodder brings his high-concept, high-octane, historical time-travel series to a conclusion with this sixth and final book.
Sir Richard Francis Burton and friends have returned to 1800’s London from the future (an excellent adventure detailed in the last book, The Return of the Discontinued Man) and have now settled into a normal sort of life. Appearances are deceiving of course and it isn’t long before Burton is whisked to some sort of parallel universe where he begins to experience memories from his life there as well. Prime minister Disraeli learns of the future and initiates a program whereby the empire's senior aristocrats (and even the King) have their consciousnesses transferred into mechanical bodies invented by the brilliant Charles Babbage, thereby ensuring eternal rule. In the end the book does bring a conclusion to the series and while I feel it is complete, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed.
My feelings towards this book mirror my feelings toward the entire series. Great concepts and intriguing characters encumbered by uneven writing. There are many moments of brilliant story telling but there are also plenty of mind-boggling head scratchers that can leave the reader lost in what is actually happening. Novels attempting to deal with time travel in any sort of “realistic” fashion are never easy reads because the only way to deal with paradox is to utilize alternate timelines or parallel universes. Make one change in timeline X and you create a parallel universe/timeline Y. So when your hero, over the course of 6 books interacts with all the various timelines and jumps back and forth with other characters and go up against villains from other timelines, you are just asking for a confusing plot. Throwing in really cool steampunk-style robots, transports, fashion, and actual historical personages makes for nice window dressing but then also throw in political and philosophical chicanery and you are asking an awful lot for the reader to keep up with.
All in all a wonderful series and I am very glad I read it. I love the way the author weaves in historical characters such as the young Bram Stoker or Charles Darwin or many lesser known people from British history. I do have some reservations, and some books are better than others but I would give 4 stars to the overall series.
Recommended for those interested in challenging reads and time travel enthusiasts. ...more
Like most of the really good Stephen King books, this one has many layers. Like the proverbial onion, King peels them back one by one until what had bLike most of the really good Stephen King books, this one has many layers. Like the proverbial onion, King peels them back one by one until what had been perking along as a nice story with some minor disturbing elements becomes major horror by the end. I won’t spoil that for you but let’s just say it doesn’t end with happy concepts of rainbows and unicorns.
I almost always enjoy the way King builds up his characters; we really get to know them, warts and all and Jamie Morton is no exception. His life unfolds over five decades depicting his wide-eyed childhood, his first love, his learning to be a rock and roll band guitarist and getting to be a sort of small-time teen idol and his descent/escape into drug use. But as his life unfolds, it is the character of Charles Jacobs (Reverend Jacobs/Pastor Danny, etc) whose life completely derailed after the accidental death of his wife and son. His hobby of studying the science electricity leads to obsession and herein lies the horror that builds through the second half of the novel to the revealing conclusion.
This is not my absolute favorite King novel but it’s up there. The way he builds the emotional aspects of Jamie’s life reminds me a lot of 11/22/63 and that’s a good thing. I was really drawn into the story and found myself annoyed when my own life’s needs pressed upon me (pesky things like work or grocery shopping). ...more
I’ve never read a Hopalong Cassidy novel or seen a movie or TV show featuring this folk hero but I am a Louis L’Amour fan so I wanted to give his fourI’ve never read a Hopalong Cassidy novel or seen a movie or TV show featuring this folk hero but I am a Louis L’Amour fan so I wanted to give his four Hopalong Cassidy books a try. The story here is essentially a cattle rustling story, featuring the bad guys scheming to slowly steal off and rebrand cattle from several surrounding ranches. Hopalong Cassidy and his cohorts find themselves in a heap of trouble as they uncover what is happening, survive several deadly ambushes, and ultimately take the battle to the enemy. It’s not especially original but considering this was one of L’Amour’s very early efforts, it ain’t bad.
Actually, the story of how L’Amour came to write these books is more interesting than the plot of the novel itself. When Doubleday wanted to start marketing some new Hopalong Cassidy novels in the early 1950’s, the original author, Clarence Mulford had already retired and was uninterested in resuming his writing career. Doubleday turned to a young western pulp writer Louis L’Amour instead, gave him the pen name of Tex Burns, and turned him loose. The problem was that L’Amour wanted to write stories using the original version of Hopalong Cassidy, which was a brash, hard drinking, foul-mouthed cowhand instead of the clean-cut epitome of gallantry and fair-play that movie audiences had grown accustomed to. That would have been my preference as well but alas, 66 movies featuring William (Bill) Boyd as the vanilla version of Hoppy had already cemented that persona of the character in people’s minds so that was what had to be written. L’Amour followed orders but denied ever after that he had written them, claiming that Tex Burns was somebody else.
I knew this background before reading this novel so I was prepared for a letdown, thinking L’Amour didn’t like the way the novels turned out. But now, after reading this first one, I have to say it was pretty good. Not as good as what L’Amour would come to write in later years, nowhere near as good as most of his Sacket novels, for example, but still a good ol’ fashioned enjoyable western. I look forward to reading the other three Hoppy novels this year as well. ...more
Man-o-man I really enjoyed this one. It is so nice to see the resurgence in enjoyable (and very readable) epic fantasy over the last 10 years or so. AMan-o-man I really enjoyed this one. It is so nice to see the resurgence in enjoyable (and very readable) epic fantasy over the last 10 years or so. After the first 50 pages of this novel, I was ready to add Peter V. Brett’s name alongside of my favorites like Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson. The rest of the book only cemented that opinion for me.
The story is told from the points of view of three major characters: Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer, each from different villages and with different goals and skills. This first book in the series can perhaps be seen as their origin stories, depicting their youth and younger adult ages. Each story is compelling although filled with strife and sorrow as are all of this world’s population due to the hordes of demons that so dominate the nighttime.
The world Brett has created in this Demon Cycle series is just astounding. It is fully realized with an inventive magic system, political rivalries, and a truly unique threat to the populace. But at the same time it is so well written that I as a reader felt very comfortable seeing it as my own home world. That’s a tough balance for many authors to achieve but Brett has done an amazing job. I am reminded of Brandon Sanderson’s work in a lot of ways but most especially with the magic system. At first it seems fairly straight forward: structures can be protected from the nightly demon attacks with wards and the science of learning and drawing wards is complex. But as the novel moves forward, the nuances of how the wards work and how an imaginative person can adapt them for other uses is much like the way Sanderson peals back the onion of his magic systems. There is always something new just around the next turn of the page and that, combined with vibrantly drawn characters makes this book a real page turner that fully absorbed me in the story. Pealing back that onion leads to growth and change for the main characters as well and makes for a masterful epic.
Sorry you had such a hell of a rough time. Things went into the usual snafu, didn’t they?
My favorite Sam Durell novel so far.
Sam Durell, go-to CIA agSorry you had such a hell of a rough time. Things went into the usual snafu, didn’t they?
My favorite Sam Durell novel so far.
Sam Durell, go-to CIA agent for difficult assignments, is on a mission in Turkey to recover a data tape regarding Soviet launch capabilities when an earthquake disrupts all his plans. He joins six strangers in an attempt to get out of the country but one of them has stolen the tape. Each character seems to have their own hidden agenda and so Durell must figure out who the traitor is as well as recover the missing tape. The final third of the book reminded me a lot of an Agatha Christie mystery more than a Cold War CIA adventure as Durell acts the sleuth to solve the mystery.
I think by this 15th book in the series, the author has stopped trying to be another Ian Fleming and allowed his main character to be less Bond like and more himself. There are still similarities of course; action, pretty girls, etc. but I am enjoying the way Sam Durell is being fleshed out and the plots are becoming less formulaic. This was really a fun read. ...more