I've long wanted to try a JA Konrath novel, especially one of his Jack Daniel's mysteries and this short story seemed the perfect opportunity to samplI've long wanted to try a JA Konrath novel, especially one of his Jack Daniel's mysteries and this short story seemed the perfect opportunity to sample his style. This is a locked room mystery which I found to be clever and fun and an easy introduction to the characters. I understand from the author's website that his novels and short stories can be read in any order and so readers should not fear diving in anywhere. I will certainly be revisiting Police Lieutenant "Jack" Daniels very soon....more
The third novel in the Wagons’ West spin-off series, “The Empire Trilogy” is also the last book featuring the Holt brothers Clay and Jefferson Holt, fThe third novel in the Wagons’ West spin-off series, “The Empire Trilogy” is also the last book featuring the Holt brothers Clay and Jefferson Holt, first introduced in “The Frontier Trilogy”. If that’s confusing or if you need more information on how these books all fit together, then drop me a line and I’ll try to explain it further. Both trilogies take place about a generation before the original and longer Wagons West series of books about the Oregon Trail and the years after.
Basically, this final novel’s main goal was to wrap up all of the various plots that have been building and occurring simultaneously since the first book in the trilogy, Honor!. There are quite a number of those plots and many of the subplots actually take center stage this time over the primary one involving Clay Holt and his pursuit of ending the threat of a new French Empire in the West. There are certainly casualties along the way but in general, all of the stories wrapped up in fine form. That’s what I expect from these stories and that’s why I enjoy reading one every now and then between more “literary” or serious works.
Dana Fuller Ross is a house name and I’m pretty confident this book, as well as the others in both of these trilogies was written by James Reasoner. They are definitely a cut above many of the Wagon’s West books in quality. This one is a definite page turner and I enjoyed it thoroughly. ...more
I’m still enjoying these novels quite a lot, especially since they tend to be historical mysteries, a genre I am trying to read more of. This novel taI’m still enjoying these novels quite a lot, especially since they tend to be historical mysteries, a genre I am trying to read more of. This novel takes Mary Russell and her husband Sherlock Holmes to San Francisco, the site of Russell’s childhood and death of her family. The title refers to the locked rooms of Russell’s mind and the dreams she is having that seem to be pointing to repressed memories. During the course of the story we are treated not only to the “present day” San Francisco of the 1920’s but also flashbacks to the great fire of 1906. Lots of great historical background weaved into the story including Prohibition, Chinatown, flappers, and of most interest to me, Dashiell Hammett who is a major character in the story.
Most of the books in this series are told purely from first person POV of Mary Russell but this time the book was divided into five parts with Sherlock picking up two sections, using third person POV. This was unusual and tended to make reading this novel a lot like reading two separate shorter novels. However, I was OK with that especially considering how the various parts interacted so well together with each other. ...more
This 17th novel in the Kinsey Milhone series is a nice return to form after a disappointing and frustrating ending to P is for Peril. In fact I wouldThis 17th novel in the Kinsey Milhone series is a nice return to form after a disappointing and frustrating ending to P is for Peril. In fact I would rank this one among the very best that I have read so far in the series. This time around author Sue Grafton was inspired by a real life cold case involving a teenage girl’s murdered body being found, never identified, and of course never solved. Kinsey teams up with a couple of retired detectives, both with significant health problems who alternate hospital stays while Kinsey pounds the pavement.
This is most definitely a police procedural story requiring the hard work and constant digging for clues via looking through old case files and interviewing lots of people even if there is very little hop that they will be able to provide any useful information. Consequently there are a lot of minor characters but I thought, as usual, the author does a great job of making them all unique and even interesting. There is also a bit more progress made on Kinsey’s own personal back story as she continues to learn and become more connected to her family.
I will also note that there are several clever ways that the letter Q is included in the novel. The title itself is a double entendre with “quarry” referring both to the chase for the murderer as well as the physical stone quarry near where the body is found. In addition there are characters with Q names and even the town where most of the plot occurs starts with “Q”.
The author of this novel, William E. Butterworth, is far better known by his nom de plume, “W.E.B. Griffin” the man behind numerous best sellers thatThe author of this novel, William E. Butterworth, is far better known by his nom de plume, “W.E.B. Griffin” the man behind numerous best sellers that I’ve enjoyed, including the “Brotherhood of War” series and “The Corps” series and at least four more series. But don’t expect the same sort of novel in this book for it is humor that rules the day and not his normal tale of spies, military life, or the police force.
I am not normally a reader who enjoys humorous plots so the fact that I enjoyed this one as much as I did is really saying something. The novel begins in 1975 with an attempt by a bunch of hoity-toity wives of prominent citizens of Muddiebay, Mississippi planning a hunting trip to Scotland as a distraction for their real purpose of going shopping in London. But most of the book, fortunately, is really told in several lengthy flashbacks to the 1940’s and early ‘50s and is about the life of Philip “Phil” W. Williams III. Phil enlists in the Army at the age of 16, and his uncanny ability with firearms drives his unbelievable story as he moves quickly through several layers of the espionage service and allowing him to collect outrageous stories of sexual escapades of senior military and civilian personnel. He would later use these stories to become a best-selling author and join the super-rich. So, in the end, this is neither a novel of “Love or War” as it states on the cover but rather a novel more akin to Forest Gump and an incredible capacity to be great at anything you try and be in the right place at the right time.
The author remarks in the preface that this novel is not autobiographical but there are certainly a number of thinly disguised elements to the story to know that it very likely is, just to an exaggerated degree. A quick perusal of Wikipedia will demonstrate a number of parallels here including his early Army career, his first wife being a ballet dancer, his children and their later occupations, etc. Other prominent people also make cameo appearances, albeit with altered names, such as Tom Clancy and Ronald Reagan. The humor is often slapstick even silly but there are a lot of clever incidents, carefully arranged that are quite funny. There are also, strangely, a number of anachronisms sprinkled throughout, not the least of which is an internet search using Google in 1975. This must be by design since there are so many of them but it certainly didn’t add anything to the humor and comes across instead as simply sloppy editing. But by far the most annoying thing was the use of the words “Expletive Deleted” substituted for any actual foul language in the dialog. It is used over and over and over again and sometimes four or five times in a single sentence. It really didn’t work as humor and just became obnoxious.
Bottom line: I would recommend this book to those who enjoy humorous writing a lot but not without reservations. To the author: while it seems likely you had a ball writing this book, I recommend you stick to your more traditional novels. ...more
This is the final novel in the first Black Company trilogy, concluding the battle for power between The White Rose, The Lady, and The Dominator. FolloThis is the final novel in the first Black Company trilogy, concluding the battle for power between The White Rose, The Lady, and The Dominator. Following The Black Company, and Shadows Linger, both books of a very high caliber, I felt this one started out a bit slow and had a little trouble finding its feet. But it soon got rolling and the high stakes of the plot and the peril of the various characters kept the pages turning.
As ever, Glen Cook’s minimalist writing style is front and center to how a reader will feel when reading these books. If you enjoy being dumped into the middle of a military fantasy story with sorcerers and remarkably strange creatures with little to no explanation as to what is going on and then having to deduce the circumstances and motivations of morally ambiguous characters…well then these books are probably for you. As for me, I am fascinated by the style and plan to read all of the other Black Company books…but I wouldn’t want to read several of them in a row for fear I would go insane.
I am also interested to give Glen Cook’s Garrett, P.I. series a try, wherein a hard-boiled, human, freelance Private Investigator in a world of Gnomes seems intriguing.
I think it is safe to say that this final culminating novel of both the “Adversary Cycle” series (6 books) and the Repairman Jack” series (16 books, nI think it is safe to say that this final culminating novel of both the “Adversary Cycle” series (6 books) and the Repairman Jack” series (16 books, not counting prequels, short stories, etc.) fulfilled my expectations. And those were high expectations, given my enjoyment of the rest of the books in both series. I was very impressed with the way Mr. Wilson was able to tie up all of the loose ends, allow pretty much all of the surviving characters to have a role to play in this final volume, as well as develop a plot-driven story. That’s not an easy task considering we are talking about the end-of-the-world here but it most definitely worked.
My final 5-star rating is, to be honest, probably a nod to the entire series (both series) rather than simply for this volume. For “Nightworld”, itself, I would waiver a bit between a 4 and a 5. Let’s settle on 4.5 stars. My only reason for a slight downgrade in this otherwise outstanding and readable novel is an occasional drawn-out-too-long section. There were a couple of times when I felt the plot stalled out a little as if trying to stretch the suspense. There were also times when a couple of the characters’ stubbornness was a little hard to believe. I can’t imagine seeing the horrors of the apocalypse, knowing it was only going to get worse, and still be too stubborn to move out of your house to a safe zone. But these are minor quibbles and really didn’t lessen my overall enjoyment of this capstone to an outstanding set of books.
One note to readers: this book is subtitled “A Repairman Jack Novel” and indeed it is. But since it is also the finale to the Adversary Cycle, those novels really need to be read before this one or else you will lose soooo much of what transpires here. I’m not sure the events would make much sense and most of the major characters would be unfamiliar. In fact, the novel underwent a major rewrite just so that it could reflect the huge popularity of Repairman Jack and expand his role in it rather than simply be one of the group that supports Glaeken in the final struggle.
As for me, it is time to read those prequels, short stories, etc. to complete my experience. And, then it is very very tempting to go back and read it all again just so I can re-experience the earlier books and know what is coming, know what those characters will be faced with, and see how all of the complex plot points come together so well. An awesome accomplishment. These books will be part of me forever. ...more
This Bond title is probably best known for the movie version because it is the only one to star George Lazenby. While the movie is not often listed amThis Bond title is probably best known for the movie version because it is the only one to star George Lazenby. While the movie is not often listed among the best-of-Bond lists, the novel itself is one of the better Bond novels. That’s a little strange, because unlike most Bond movies, this one mirrors the novel quite closely.
After the events of Thunderball, James Bond is questioning his future with the Secret Service and has, in fact, mentally prepared a letter of resignation. His future plans are considerably altered through the characters he meets and the hunt for the villain, Ernst Blofeld, who has embarked on a massive biological warfare scheme. The novel is largely known as the most emotional of the Bond novels for there is true romance and love here as well as a horribly tragic ending which will leave Bond in a state of depression at the beginning of the next book, You Only Live Twice. Bond does succeed in his mission to stop Blofeld’s scheme but one can’t help but feel he has lost far more than he has won this time around.
Only three more books to go in the series (covering 4 stories) and I look forward to each of them. ...more
One need only look at my previous reviews of Brandon Sanderson’s works to know that I consider the man a genius and at the very pinnacle of fantasy auOne need only look at my previous reviews of Brandon Sanderson’s works to know that I consider the man a genius and at the very pinnacle of fantasy authors of the modern era. This second novel in the massive 10 novel (projected) Stormlight Archive series has done nothing to diminish my view but instead has simply added to my perspective of this truth.
I expected a lot going into this 1310 page (paperback) volume. The first novel, The Way of Kings, ranks among my all-time favorites and my faith in Mr. Sanderson is such that I felt this one would also be fantabulous. I even postponed my reading of it and all my expectations until such time as I had sufficient me-time available to absorb it without distraction and allowing a pleasant wallowing in this world rather than a speedy rush to the end approach. Very glad I did, for this is one series of novels that should be thoroughly enjoyed, taking as long as is needed to live it.
As for the book itself, there is not much that I can add to the overwhelmingly positive reviews posted here and elsewhere. Yes, it’s long. But it is as long as it has to be. To risk stating the obvious, there is a lot happening here. Of course the world-building is incredible, the magic systems thoroughly though-out, and the sheer massiveness of the world that Sanderson is creating as impressive as anything I’ve ever read. That’s what I expect from Sanderson. This second novel continues to build this world and these characters in really cool ways. The plot allows us to learn soooo much more about the way this world works, and really moves us toward what is happening in the bigger picture. There are surprises throughout, betrayal, unexpected alliances, romance, and all those things which make for a wonderfully adventurous tale. But once again, it is the characters that really bring this home. The main characters are so wonderfully complex; they really get challenged here and their continued growth as individuals and in how they relate to one another is fascinating to watch.
OK, you get the idea. Another ho-hum Brandon Sanderson brilliant novel. I will stop the fan boy gushing now.
I know some readers dislike starting a series until all books are complete and published. I tend to be that way too, having learned my lesson several times over with other fantasy superstar authors. But as cool as it is to see how this novel fits in with the first and no doubt with subsequent novels, I really don’t mind a break in between these doorstopper books. I felt no loss of continuity from when I read the first books a couple of years ago. So I recommend plunging full speed ahead now. Don’t wait for the TV series. ...more
In 2004, the Hard Case Crime imprint was begun, cofounded by authors Charles Ardai and Max Phillips. While the publishers reprinted many of the hard bIn 2004, the Hard Case Crime imprint was begun, cofounded by authors Charles Ardai and Max Phillips. While the publishers reprinted many of the hard boiled crime novels of the 30’a 40’s and 50’s, they also publish newly minted stories. Max Phillips wrote this second novel and one can easily imagine him pecking away on an old typewriter, trying for every cliché in the proverbial book as he worked to establish the imprint and everything it stands for.
A beautiful femme fatal hires out-of-work Hollywood screen writer Ray Corson (who also happens to be built like a brick wall and is an ex-boxer) to be the muscle in her attempt to extricate herself from a series of unfortunate events. We encounter gunfights, car chases, fist fights, drug parties for wannabee actors, and the Raymond Chandler-like metaphors drip throughout like maple syrup. There are also plenty of twists and lies within lies but somehow, Ray always sees through the play and navigates his way to the end. It’s all great fun and served the imprint well, winning the Shamus Award for best PI paperback original in 2005.
A nice quick read between longer works. My overall rating is a 3.5, rounded up to 4 because of the deep and everlasting life lesson to be learned here: never trust a beautiful woman who wants to hire you. ...more
The third book in the five volume "Chronicles of Prydain" series of classic youthful fantasy tales continues the grand story of Taran, the Assistant PThe third book in the five volume "Chronicles of Prydain" series of classic youthful fantasy tales continues the grand story of Taran, the Assistant Pig Keeper and his companions. This time around Princess Eilonwy must travel to the Isle of Mona to train to be a proper and dignified young maiden because her future as the bride of Prince Rhun is already planned. But of course nothing ever happens in so straight forward a manner and we are treated to another grand adventure. Eilonwy, as it happens, possesses magical powers and she has become hunted by none other than the evil enchantress Queen Achren and is put under a powerful spell from which she requires rescue by Taran and his companions.
These books are just as good today for younger readers as they were back when they were first published in the mid 1960’s. They are filled with delightful magical adventure requiring the characters to use their brains much more so than their brawn to save the day. Along the way, they must address issues of courage and ethics and other similar concepts. But for all that, these books are also a good fun read, which is what has made many a life-long reader from those that have experienced them. ...more
Picking up shortly after the events of Gettysburg depicted in The Killer Angels, this novel takes us all the way through the rest of the Civil War, coPicking up shortly after the events of Gettysburg depicted in The Killer Angels, this novel takes us all the way through the rest of the Civil War, concentrating mostly on the battles in the East, the grand struggle between the newly promoted and positioned US Grant and the steady Robert E. Lee. Indeed, most of the book alters perspectives between the two leaders as well as presenting the viewpoint of Joshua Chamberlain, unlikely hero of Gettysburg and a man who had a Forest Gump-like ability to be in the right place at the right time, culminating in his being the man to whom the South first attempts to surrender at Appomattox at the end of the war.
There is an awful lot of history to cover here and even though this book weighs in at over 600 pages, the author had to choose his scenes carefully to be able to present the larger story. For example, we spend a lot of time in the Battle of the Wilderness because it is relevant to the three main characters, Grant, Lee, and Chamberlain. But we only hear about Sherman and his march across Georgia as well as important battles such as at Chickamauga and Chattanooga. Similarly, we don’t see much at all on the political scene; Lincoln makes a few appearances but only when riding out to meet Grant in the field. Jefferson Davis is only on stage one time. No, this book strives to bring us into the action, and show us the brutality of the battles, the hopes and frustrations of the men. Parts of it were very difficult to work through, particularly those from the South’s perspective in the final third of the book when the outcome of the war becomes all but inevitable and the armies are in desperate straits. At times I felt as drug through the mud, worn out and starving as the soldiers did. We do get a lot of personal musings on the nature of man and war from all three main POV figures and while insightful, I felt the story dragged a little too much in some areas and it is for this reason that I took off one star on my rating. But the final scenes of the surrender between Lee and Grant were so well done that I was on the edge of my seat, despite knowing the outcome. I also enjoyed gaining some insight on several of the lesser known historical leaders on the battlefield and just what a huge impact the sudden loss of one man could be.
This is the concluding volume in an unusually developed Civil War trilogy. The middle book, The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara, was the first book written, won the Pulitzer Prize and is generally regarded as among the finest novels on any aspect of the Civil War ever written. After Michael’s death, his son, Jeff Shaara picked up the mantle and wrote the prequel, Gods and Generals, as well as this sequel, forming a complete trilogy. Many readers can’t seem to get past the fact that although they are father and son, Jeff and Michael are two different authors. Many say that Jeff doesn’t fill his father’s shoes and some seem to go so far as to say “how dare he try to capitalize on his father’s accomplishments!” Well, to each his own I suppose. I will say that 'The Killer Angels' was a great read but I believe that Jeff also writes a damn fine war novel and has gone on to a great career as an historical fiction author. I’ve read most of his books and am never disappointed.
As an armchair historian and one who is especially interested in the Civil War, I highly recommend all three books in this trilogy, no matter the author. ...more
The 4th Walt Longmire novel by Craig Johnson is yet another fine entry in the series. I think my enjoyment of the series is actually getting even moreThe 4th Walt Longmire novel by Craig Johnson is yet another fine entry in the series. I think my enjoyment of the series is actually getting even more pronounced with each book I read because I grow more and more comfortable with the characters and their own individual growth and change. If I had to point to one factor that keeps me coming back for more, it’s just that. The characters and their interactions are just so real that I feel I am right there with them instead of merely observing them in a scene.
The mystery this time is two-fold. A young Vietnamese woman is found next to a Wyoming highway and in her purse, a photograph connects her to Walt’s very first case some 40 years ago when he was a young Marine Corps investigator in Vietnam. As Walt and Henry Standing Bear investigate the current death, we readers are treated to flashback scenes of young Walt solving that previous case. I had mixed feelings about how this was done because sometimes I felt the flashback sequences jerked me out of the current story a little too much. But both cases were intriguing, especially with how the connection played out.
I love it when an author introduces compelling new characters and Craig Johnson is always doing this. Sometimes they stick around and sometimes they don’t but it always serves to build the community of characters in the overall series, resulting in a fully realized setting. The great new character this time is Virgil White Buffalo, a Crow and a huge mountain of a man who definitely makes my list of all-time great side characters.
Craig Johnson has said in interviews that “injustice is the burr under his saddle” that motivates him to write. Far more than “just” great mystery novels, these Walt Longmire books always deal with some kind of injustice in the world. This one deals with the issue of human trafficking and the often resultant prostitution around the world. It’s an issue of major proportions but Johnson handles it with great sensitivity here. Having said that I would never classify these books as any kind of “social issue” books or crusade books and they certainly aren’t “preachy” but I think it does tend to elevate them above a lot of other fiction being published today. That and the fabulous writing, characterization, inventive storytelling, etc.
The 4th book in the lengthy Stagecoach series of western novels published mostly in the 1980’s takes us to Tombstone Arizona, known as “The Town Too TThe 4th book in the lengthy Stagecoach series of western novels published mostly in the 1980’s takes us to Tombstone Arizona, known as “The Town Too Tough to Die”. Any novel that takes place in this local in the year 1881 must, inevitably deal with the famous gunfight at (or more accurately near) the O.K. Corral but I thought the author did a good job at building a realistic plot that involved that event and those characters but concentrated more on a detective story based on other historical events.
Dan Stockard, former Pinkerton detective who has grown to despise some of their techniques, has opened his own private detective office and taken on his first case, that of determining just who was behind a series of armed robberies of Wells Fargo’s treasure coaches from Tombstone mines. For a “western” novel, I thought this book did a great job of presenting the various historical characters accurately. Wyatt Earp and his brothers are depicted as the opportunists that they were, sometimes on the side of the law and sometimes on the other side. The actual gunfight between the Earps/Doc Holliday and the Clantons/McLowerys took only one chapter, as appropriate considering the short time it took for the actual fight. I was glad to see a nicely developed supporting cast for that fateful day including the historical characters of John Ringo, Curly Bill Brocius, Big Nose Kate, the Earp wives, and even lesser known historical characters such as Frank Stillwell, Marshall Williams, and Sheriff Johnny Behan. Also, Nellie Cashman, known as the “Miner’s Angel” and a true female legend of the West plays a major role in the novel. ...more
Published in 1961, this 14th book in the Sam Durell series delves into the pre-Vietnam War days of Burma, connecting subversive elements in China andPublished in 1961, this 14th book in the Sam Durell series delves into the pre-Vietnam War days of Burma, connecting subversive elements in China and Laos in gun trafficking, prostitution, etc. Durell is sent to determine what happened to two Americans who have disappeared, one of which was thought to have been dead for twenty years. The second had been sent to find him but has also disappeared. Enter Sam Durell, CIA special agent, who follows a lead of a former prostitute who now has 300 million dollars.
Another interesting entry in this series which even though dated, I have found to be interesting, mostly due to the exotic locations and interesting characters that are introduced. In this one we, along with Durell, must sort out who is telling the truth and who is a traitor to their country. It certainly kept my attention and while a fairly short read, packed plenty of intrigue. ...more
It’s been a couple of years since I last inhabited Katherine Kerr’s celtic-inspired world of Deverry and the Westlands and I thought it was high-timeIt’s been a couple of years since I last inhabited Katherine Kerr’s celtic-inspired world of Deverry and the Westlands and I thought it was high-time I revisited the series. While this is, technically, the ninth book of the series, it is also the first book in a trilogy called “The Dragon Mage” trilogy.
Just in case you might be swayed by the cover art, I must point out right up front that I have no idea what inspired it. There is no red dragon being attacked by some kind of lance-wielding knight/warrior on horseback in the novel. Nothing even close. No dragons of any kind here. The term “red wyvern’ refers to the battle-standard insignia that is adopted by one faction in the civil war that has been raging for nearly 100 years. I suppose the marketing experts of the day (published 1997) must have thought you had to have a dragon on the cover in order for a fantasy novel to sell.
Regardless, this is yet another fine novel in what I consider to be an under-rated series. These books take place in a world where reincarnation occurs and those that have intense personal relationships (love, hate, family, etc.) with another person are often re-incarnated with a strong link to that same person. They don’t have memories of their prior lives but they are many times drawn to those people. We readers get to see how the plots play out from a God’s eye view and understand these relationships even when the characters do not. It makes for a fascinating structure.
This particular novel takes place in two separate time periods. The bulk of the book takes place during the civil war where the effort to put Maryn on the throne is nearing its completion. This section is bookended by an era that happens nearly 250 years later. I recommend that readers new to this series not start with this one even though it is the first book in a trilogy because there are many characters and plot elements that tie together events from previous books. Consider this simply a subset trilogy within the larger series. ...more
Having read most of Jeffrey Archer’s work, I would rank this novel among his top-tier. That’s pretty good considering he is the author of As the CrowHaving read most of Jeffrey Archer’s work, I would rank this novel among his top-tier. That’s pretty good considering he is the author of As the Crow Flies and Kane and Abel, both among my all-time favorite novels.
As others have said, (and in fact, the author himself), this novel is a loose re-imagining of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, brought forward into modern day England. Novels of false imprisonment and subsequent revenge on the conspirators are always compared to Dumas’ masterpiece but this time, the novel stands fully on its own and is quite an enjoyable read. Much like Dumas’ protagonist, Edmond Dantes, Danny Cartwright is a working class man engaged to be married but arrested for a murder he did not commit. Most of the first third of the novel is devoted to his time in jail as he works towards winning his parole hearing and it is great fun to watch him learn the ropes from his two cell mates who would become instrumental in his eventual escape, revenge, and redemption.
This is a fairly lengthy book and there are a lot of courtroom scenes which in a lesser author’s hands could become dull and repetitive. But the story and the characters have been so well drawn and the complex revenge plot so well constructed that those scenes serve to enhance the tension and drew me to the edge of my seat. It helped that Danny’s escape and revenge scheme was not perfect and was not saved by simple good luck but rather drew on the relationships he was able to build with those around him.
Another nice one from Jeffrey Archer, a controversial figure in his own right, but one who has lived a life much like a character from one of his own books. Perhaps his own legal entanglements, courtroom appearances, and prison time has led to such powerful storytelling. Sometimes he hits and sometimes he misses but he remains one of my go-to authors. ...more
As a fan of the long-running and popular series of graphic novels, "Fables", I felt I had to try the first (and only, so far as I know) prose novel thAs a fan of the long-running and popular series of graphic novels, "Fables", I felt I had to try the first (and only, so far as I know) prose novel that relates to the greater Fables universe. It’s written by the creator and author of Fables, Bill Willingham, a creative genius in my mind and so I felt safe in his hands.
This is a novel about Peter Piper and his older brother Max. It weaves together the stories and nursery rhymes of Peter Piper, Peter and the Wolf, the Pied Piper, and even the short Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater. The novel does tie into the larger Fables storyline by providing some brief interactions with some of the Fabletown characters such as Bigby Wolf, Snow White, Frau Totenkinder, Bo peep, etc. but it is largely a side story about the two brothers’ rivalry, and their musical virtuosity with the powerful magical flutes, “Frost” and “Fire”.
I enjoyed this story a lot. It is told in a style reminiscent of a bedtime story, lengthened to full novel length. It is certainly not necessary to have read any of the Fables graphic novels but I think having a few of the earlier volumes under your belt would serve to enhance the enjoyment of this novel. I also felt fortunate that I chose to listen to this novel via audio book because the reader is none other than Wil Wheaton who does an absolutely marvelous job with the narration, the voices, and his obvious enthusiasm for the project. I would certainly read more novels written in this vein and hope that Mr. Willingham will someday provide another. ...more
The second novel in this series has more of everything that made the first one such a great read. While I certainly enjoyed book 1, The Last Kingdom,The second novel in this series has more of everything that made the first one such a great read. While I certainly enjoyed book 1, The Last Kingdom, this second book cements the series as one of the all-time great historical fiction series. Uhtred, still a young warrior at around 20 years of age, continues to walk a tightrope between his allegiances to the Saxons and King Alfred (later, Alfred the Great) as well as to the invading Danes. A lot happens in this volume and it covers arguably the most critical point in the history of England.
It is hard to believe that the Kingdom of England was once reduced to a few square miles of swamp but that was indeed the case. A strong Danish invasion catches the people of Wessex by surprise but the determination of unlikely allies, Alfred and Uhtred, lead a legendary battle. Cornwall does his usual great job of bringing large historical themes and events down to the personal level of those involved and as George RR Martin says, “Nobody writes battle scenes like Bernard Cornwell”. Truly captivating scenes depicting shield wall tactics, bloody sword fights and inspiring descriptions of the “battle calm” that overtakes an efficient warrior like Uhtred, all combine to make this a page-turning read. Some truly heart breaking scenes near the end brings home the reality of what really happens in battle.
The numerous characters that interact on this stage can be mindboggling, especially for those readers uninitiated to Danish, Welsh and Saxon names. That got to be a little confusing in the first book but here I felt right at home, having grown used to who’s who. I also enjoyed one of the other broad themes of the series, that of Christianity vs. Paganism, especially since the protagonist is not exactly enthralled with King Alfred’s Christian piety. The resulting humor serves as great comic relief.
Greatly looking forward to book number three in this fine series and Uhtred’s quest to retake his homeland. ...more
The fourth book of the 5 book “Lost Years of Merlin” series is the first to really begin to get into the more traditional Arthurian lore. Previous volThe fourth book of the 5 book “Lost Years of Merlin” series is the first to really begin to get into the more traditional Arthurian lore. Previous volumes have confined themselves to more light-hearted adventure, sometimes with serious consequences, but never with a very far-ranging plot structure. This book begins the same way but thanks to the introduction of a mirror/portal, young Merlin is able to meet his wizened older self and learn much about his ultimate destiny. But only some of it. He ends the book with more questions than answers.
The author’s strength lies in his ability to tell a nice tale within colorfully descriptive settings. He invests much of his story in depicting the world itself and a bit less on the characters although they are still fully realized. This is certainly a nice set of novels for younger readers but there is still good fun to be had by us older folk. There are a few too many convenient plot contrivances for my tastes. I also prefer my protagonists to escape from danger using their skills, intelligence, creativity, etc. and not rely quite so much on pure luck.
A note to those who choose cover blurbs. This book carries this cover blurb from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Young sorcery fans…set aside Harry Potter and pick up Merlin.” Really? This novel was first published in 1999, roughly about the time that the third Harry Potter book was published. While the publishers of the Merlin series might not have realized at that time just how huge Harry Potter would get it was still quite a phenomenon even then. I get that you might want to attract those readers who enjoyed Harry Potter but this cover blurb implies readers shouldn’t read both and in fact, that the Merlin series is better. Why must it be either/or? Can’t young sorcery fans read both Harry Potter and The Lost Years of Merlin series (and many others)? If young readers will only be reading one of the series, I sure wouldn’t want to go up against Harry and friends. Sorry…I will climb down off of my soap box now… ...more
This is the third Inspector Maigret novel I’ve read this year and, once again, I am pleased to have read it. My version bears the original title, “InsThis is the third Inspector Maigret novel I’ve read this year and, once again, I am pleased to have read it. My version bears the original title, “Inspector Maigret and the Strangled Stripper” whereas later versions have been changed to the more mundane “Maigret in Montmartre” referring to a district in the northern part of Paris. For the record, I prefer the original and more provocative title.
The book definitely lived up to my expectations, showcasing a darker, seedier side of 1950 Paris, complete with strippers, call girls, and morphine addicts. Inspector Maigret takes a more active role in the interrogation process than the two previous books I have read in the series. Consequently there is a lot more rapid-fire dialogue this time around and that made it move a little faster than the others.
I’m happy to see these Inspector Maigret novels are being re-published once again for a whole new generation of detective fiction fans. ...more