Dead Letter (Arcane Casebook #0) ★★★☆½

deadletter (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Dead Letter
Series: Arcane Casebook #0
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 96
Words: 31.2K

 

Synopsis:

In 1930 New York, the sorcerers are the powerhouses of magic and the runwrights are the poor cousins. Private detective Alex Lockerby is definitely in the latter category, plying his meager magic skills to help people the regular cops ignore while barely making ends meet.

What Alex needs is a break. Just one good case to get his name out there and start bringing in business. When ambitious beat cop Danny Pak gets stuck trying to solve a John Doe murder, it might just be the break Alex has been looking for.

As Alex and Danny team up they begin to unravel a tale murder, jealousy, and revenge stretching back over 30 years. A tale powerful forces don’t want to come to light. Now the cop and the private detective must work fast and watch each other’s backs if they hope to catch a killer and live to tell about it.

Alex meets Leslie, Danny and his sister Amy and several of the cops we know from the series.

 

My Thoughts:

I didn’t bother with putting up the conclusion to the “mystery” as it was almost more of a side note that was the vehicle to introduce us to all these various characters.

In that regards, this novella was a complete success. Even while Leslie (the secretary) is leaving the series in book 4, it was still nice to see how she and Alex were introduced. Amy was a fun include, even though she has zero presence in the series. Danny, I have to admit, I was hoping for more of a connection between him and Alex. They came across as just 2 people helping each other out rather than friends, but now that I write that, that is how it comes across in later books as well.

Alex is a loner and while he intersects with other people, he doesn’t seem to need a group of friends. I can totally relate to that 😀

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Acts of the Apostles ★★★☆☆

actsoftheapostles (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission 
Title: Acts of the Apostles
Series: ———-
Author: Ellen White
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 570
Words: 155K

 

Synopsis:

A commentary going over the book of Acts and the various Epistles by Peter, Paul and John.

 

My Thoughts:

Well, this is the final book of White’s that I’ll be reading. Not because of any real disagreement on Theology or anything important, but because I simply cannot stand her style of writing. It isn’t even near the level of having your foot cut off, but more of having that pebble in your shoe for the whole day. At some point I realized the irritation was outweighing the good I was getting. There isn’t a hard line of demarcation in the text between her thoughts and the Bible, as she incorporates Bibles verses into her text willy nilly. That doesn’t make studying very easy for me.

I’m including a quote that I felt was the best paragraph out of the whole book:

It is no part of Christ’s mission to compel men to receive Him. It is Satan, and men actuated by his spirit, who seek to compel the conscience. Under a pretense of zeal for righteousness, men who are confederated with evil angels sometimes bring suffering upon their fellow men in order to convert them to their ideas of religion; but Christ is ever showing mercy, ever seeking to win by the revealing of His love. He can admit no rival in the soul, nor accept of partial service; but He desires only voluntary service, the willing surrender of the heart under the constraint of love.

I do want to make clear, so that it can’t be taken out of context, that not being compelled is very different from not being judged. God gives us Choice and He also has told us the outcomes of that choice. When you face God Himself at the Day of Judgment, your eternal fate will hinge on whether you’ve accepted Jesus the Only Begotten Son of God as your savior or not.

On a note that isn’t directly related to a review, I started reading my non-fiction differently. I was inspired by Matt who has what he calls his “weekend exclusive” reads. Since non-fiction is a different beast, I wanted to try a different approach. Instead of reading this straight through, I simply read this on Sabbath. So starting each Friday night until Saturday night, I would read non-fiction. My goal was to read 25% of the book each Sabbath. That had the effect of breaking up the book into managable chunks and made me more aware of keeping Sabbath. It also has the positive side effect of getting me to read more non-fiction (12-13 a year instead of 6 or 7).

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Mind Games (Arcane Casebook #4) ★★★★☆

mindgames (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Mind Games
Series: Arcane Casebook #4
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 410
Words: 133.2K

Synopsis:

Alex Lockerby, the Rune Wright Detective, is hired by a rich couple to track down their missing daughter. He finds her at with a Night Club Owner and turns the case over to the police. They find the girl in a locked room an return her to her parents. The Club Owner claims they are married and hires Alex to find the marriage certificate. Then the parents are killed with poison and the daughter ends up in the hospital barely surviving. The Night Club Owner’s lawyer hires Alex to prove his client is innocent. Turns out it was all a big con by the daughter to inherit her parents fortune AND take over the Night Club and live the good life off the profits from that.

Alex is also hired by a man whose wife shot a man to death and was caught with the gun in her hands. Unfortunately, she kills herself in the jail cell but the husband wants Alex to prove that she didn’t do it so her good name won’t be besmirched. Alex eventually tracks it all down to the wife having her mind manipulated to kill the man, who was an accountant for a rich man running for Mayor of New York.

Alex is also hired by a local priest to find out where all the Forgotten have gone to, as the mission serving them has noticed a dramatic drop in numbers. The Forgotten are the homeless and out of work from the Great Depression. Alex tracks most of them down to a factory where they are somehow being manipulated to write mass produced runes even while not having the ability.

On his own, Alex notices that a lot of the street Rune Wrights have gone to work for Happy Jack, a company that mass produces books of small runes and sells them at a cost that no street Rune Wright can match. He tracks down the man behind Happy Jacks, a man who has figured out how to add a mind control rune to every rune in a Happy Jacks book of runes. This makes people susceptible to key words spoken by key individuals. This owner is in cahoots with the man running for Mayor and they plan to win the election by making everyone who buys a Happy Jack book vote for said rich man. Alex and Iggy put a stop to that with a warding rune and in the confrontation with the Happy Jack’s owner, Alex is forced to shoot him to death.

Alex and Sorsha the Sorceress track down the man who was responsible for it all, the rune wright. He is taken into FBI custody but reveals to Sorsha that Alex and Iggy have the Archimedean Monograph. Sorsha kills him when she realizes that while it may be true, it is just a way for the man’s confederates to get their hands on it.

While all of this has been going on, Iggy has been researching the Life rune and figures out how to give Alex life essence back. This solves the problem Alex created by giving up decades of his life to rescue the city in the first book.

The book ends with Alex’s secretary leaving the business to get married and a new secretary coming aboard, one who is supposedly clairvoyant but seems to be a spy for somebody.

My Thoughts:

Well, this series continues to peak my interest and keep me coming back for more! Lots of things get wrapped up in this book even while bigger and possibly more evil things are revealed.

First the romance. In the previous book I guessed that Alex would fall in love with Jessica’s daughter. Strike out for me. There is a scene where he meets her but she is too much like her mother for him to handle, so the author makes it clear THAT isn’t going to happen. The secretary is getting married, so she’s out. Considering how much Sorsha and Alex interacted in this book, and the hints that other side characters revealed, my bet is going on Sorsha. I thought that was too obvious, but once again, I strike out. Good thing I’m already married to Mrs B or I’d be a hopeless lunk. Come to think of it, things weren’t so hot for me in the romance department before I met Mrs B, so maybe there’s my answer? 🙂

With the title it is pretty obvious that some sort of mind control rune is behind everything, even while that is supposedly impossible. But Rune Knowledge, much like technical knowledge, is increasing at a frenetic rate. The implications of some of the things Alex learns aren’t really sussed out, but all it takes is just 5 minutes of thought and wham! Rune Wrights with eternal life. Rune Wrights controlling peoples’ minds, even sorcerer’s minds. In fact, when Sorsha gets controlled and tries to kill Alex, that whole sequence was really cool. Goes to show that Alex really does have a brain in his skull.

Now that Alex can live a very long time, this series has potentially moved into the Never Ending Category. At the moment I’m ok with that, as each story has been rather standalone and that works just fine for me. What would kill this for me is if the author starts some huge story arc and makes each book just a part of that instead of telling a complete story in each book. I think we’d also better start seeing some of the rules of Rune Wright’ery. As much as I hate comparing authors, I do believe that Brandon Sanderson has moved the bar up several notches for explaining a magic system since he debuted. I don’t need to know every gritty detail, but a bit more substance to the magic system would be nice. I did find myself asking, several times, what is the correlation between shapes, inks, metals, etc, that a rune wright uses?

In the last book Alex had a rune shotgun, which I thought was just awesome. This time he gets a tommygun. You can see it on the cover. That is just wicked cool looking. That is another thing I’m liking about these books, the covers. They’re wicked attractive but not chintzy glitter crap. While I don’t exactly pick out my books based on covers alone, having a good cover can be that feather that tips the balance in a book’s favor.

The author’s afterward gives the name for the next book, so I’m confident I’ll see it in a couple of months. I’ve also got the prequel novella (which the author is giving away for free) to read, so the end of my enjoyment of this series can be staved off for at least another week.

★★★★☆

bookstooge (Custom)

Science Fiction Hall of Fame: The Great Novellas (Science Fiction Hall of Fame #2B) ★★★★☆

sfhalloffame2b (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Great Novellas
Series: Science Fiction Hall of Fame #2B
Editor: Ben Bova
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 743
Words: 202K

 

Synopsis:

Book includes:

The Martian Way – Isaac Asimov
Earthman, Come Home – James Blish
Rogue Moon – Algis Budrys
The Specter General – Theodore R. Cogswell
The Machine Stops – E. M. Forster
The Midas Plague – Frederik Pohl
The Witches of Karres – James H. Schmitz
E for Effort – T. L. Sherred
In Hiding – Wilmar H. Shiras
The Big Front Yard – Clifford D. Simak
The Moon Moth – Jack Vance

 

My Thoughts:

After the complete stinker that was the set of Novellas (Vol. 2A), I went into this read very trepidatiously. Thankfully, the first novella by Asimov set me at my ease, as I’d read the short story it was based on in one of his collections. Familiarity not only can breed contempt but it can also breed contentedness. I’d also read the full novel of Budry’s Rogue Moon and Pohl’s The Midas Plague.

With that, I experienced none of the “can we get this over this, please?!?!?” that I experienced in the previous volume. These novellas I found interesting and engaging and I kept on wanting to read them. I don’t know why I enjoyed ALL of the novellas in this volume and none of the ones in 2A. Honestly, it baffles me.

If you want to experience SF in all its glory and all its stigma, read this series. The first volume of short stories is just sublime, Vol 2A is shamefully boring and this 2B volume brings things back to a more balanced view. I believe there are two more volumes (Volumes 3 and 4) but I think I’m going to pass since I doubt they’re all on the level of Vol 1.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

NPC’s (Spells, Swords and Stealth #1) ★★★☆☆

npcs (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: NPC’s
Series: Spells, Swords and Stealth #1
Author: Drew Hayes
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 289
Words: 93.9K

 

Synopsis:

From Amazon.com & Me

What happens when the haggling is done and the shops are closed? When the quest has been given, the steeds saddled, and the adventurers are off to their next encounter? They keep the world running, the food cooked, and the horses shoed, yet what adventurer has ever spared a thought or concern for the Non-Player Characters?

In the town of Maplebark, four such NPCs settle in for a night of actively ignoring the adventurers drinking in the tavern when things go quickly and fatally awry. Once the dust settles, these four find themselves faced with an impossible choice: pretend to be adventurers undertaking a task of near-certain death or see their town and loved ones destroyed. Armed only with salvaged equipment, second-hand knowledge, and a secret that could get them killed, it will take all manner of miracles if they hope to pull off their charade.

So the next morning, off they go. Thistle, Grumph, Eric and Gabrielle all head to the local goblin village, where Gabrielle knows them quite, as they kidnap her on a regular basis and has developed a friendship with them as she waits for Adventurers to rescue her. This time however, something goes wrong. A bunch of demons appear from crystals and more by luck than anything the group helps the goblins wipe them out. The real issue is that these demons appear to be smart, strategic and willing to die to kill the whole village. Our group moves on, glad to have escaped with their lives.

Next they come to a village which is sponsoring a tournament. There are several groups of Adventurers and the village is milking them for all they are worth. Grumph talks with a couple of other leaders and strikes up a friendship with an elf paladin/warrior/sorcereress. Demons once again appear and only with every group of Adventurer giving their all do they kill the demons and stop a massacre of the village. Something is obviously up. Our group gets a bunch of good armor and weapons as a reward and continue to the main city to present themselves to the king.

The story cuts to the King talking to his advisors and revealing that the current group of Adventurers is the 13th or 14th group attempting to breach the hidden cave and recover the magical artifact inside. The king also makes it plain how he is using the Adventurers for his own ends and shows what a scum bag he is.

Our Gang, and several other groups, all head into the magic cave. Our Gang goes last and Thistle, a former minion, shows them a hidden shortcut that all minions know about, as they have to make the traps, etc and need easy access. They bypass everything and find the magical artifact. However, they also find a Mad Wizard who reveals that their world is somehow tied to our world and that the magical artifact can control our world. Our Gang takes the Mad Wizard down and head out. They encounter the last group of Adventurers, who have been hanging around outside waiting to ambush whoever comes out. The magical artifact helps Our Gang to win and we see that the group of Gamers playing the ambushing Adventurers give up on the game as they roll nothing but 1’s.

The book ends with Our Gang heading to another country and the one Gamer who was decent talking with the Dungeon Master about buying an expansion pack that would land them in the same country as Our Gang.

 

My Thoughts:

The idea of our world and the world of D&D both being real and influencing the other was pretty cool. The story itself was just ok though. I’m not a gamer though and so having tropes turned on their head or whatever isn’t enough to appeal to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike this in any way, it just lacked some appeal for me that I want in my books. Now that I’m reading less I’m also less willing to put up with mediocre books simply for the sake of not having to seek out other alternatives.

If you like fantasy rpg’s turned 90degrees this might be right up your alley. I enjoyed the read but really had no desire to read the rest of the (completed) series. This was a bread and butter series when I wanted gourmet toasted garlic bread with spaghetti.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

The Long Chain (Arcane Casebook #3) ★★★★☆

longchain (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Long Chain
Series: Arcane Casebook #3
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 343
Words: 111K

 

Synopsis:

From Danwillisauthor.com & Me

In a city the size of New York, things go missing all the time. When a Nobel-Prize winning Chemist vanishes without a trace, his granddaughter taps Alex to find him. Locating people is easy for someone with the best finding rune in the city, but when Alex tracks down the missing man, he has no memory of who he is or what happened to him, and his research is gone.

Convinced that something sinister is afoot, Alex sets out to uncover the truth. Before he can learn anything concrete, however, the city is shrouded in a dense fog and that brings New York’s resident sorceress, Sorsha Kincaid, to his door. She needs Alex’s finding rune in order to trace the source of the unnatural fog, and she has no patience for his other cases.

Alex also is hired by Dr Killian, the Alchemist giving him his reinvigorating potion, to find a missing friend of hers. He gladly accepts, as this will give him more reason to be around Dr Killian’s apprentice Jessica.

Turns out the Chemist is secretly working for the Navy creating a magic fog machine. Only problem is, the compounds he uses are unstable and go up in flames eventually. With the fog covering all of Manhattan, the potential is the fire bombing of the entire city. Alex also uncovers that there is a spy in the Navy trying to sell the fog machine to the Chinese. Alex and Sorsha track down the spy, recover the Chemist’s notebook, which allows the Chemist to shut his machine down without firing New York.

Alex finds the missing Alchemist but along the way discovers some disturbing things about Dr Killian, Jessica and a young girl who appears to be an insane murderer. Dr Killian’s daughter has polio and the cure is in Dr Killians’ blood. She gives 2 vials for safekeeping to Alex, as it turns out she has been taking a lethal alchemical mixture over the years that allows her to grow younger for 12hrs. One of these younger versions is Jessica and the overdosed version is the insane killer. Dr Killian uses up her lifeforce to stop the megalomaniac who has kidnapped the Alchemist and her to free Alex so he can get the blood sample to the daughter.

The book ends with Alex meeting up with the man who was introduced as the Shadow Master in the previous book. The Shadow Master reveals that there is another World War coming and that he expects Alex to use the power of the Archimedean Monograph to prevent it. This Shadow Master gave Alex’s mentor the Monograph so that he could stop the first World War but Iggy deemed the book too dangerous to use. Shadow Master warns Alex not to make the same mistake. He also gives Alex another year of life by infusing him with the lifeforce of 50 pigs and tells him to figure out how it was done so he can continue living. The point being that the Shadow Master has been around for a very long time.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed myself immensely with this book. I really suspected that things weren’t going to work out between Alex and Jessica, but I totally didn’t see it being because of the whole Jekyll/Hyde/MurderGirl thing. I found that to be very clever. Considering that Jessica IS Dr Killian and Dr Killian’s daughter is probably a bit younger than Alex, it would not surprise me if she gets cured by the polio potion and becomes Alex’s love interest. I’ll just have to wait and see. Sorsha is too obvious a candidate.

I do have to admit that I was glad at the end of the book that Alex is shown that life extension runes are possible, as it was getting a little old throughout the book of him wondering when he was going to die. If it had been me writing though, I would have had him die soon after Dr Killian, lovers united in death and all that.

I’ve really been enjoying the “standalone” nature of each of these books. Several cases all tying into each other but completely wrapped up by books end. That formula starts to unravel with the ending of this book and the Shadow Master revealing himself and his plans to Alex. It has the potential to be a really good thing for the series but personally, I hope Willis stays to the Standalone side of things.

I have been enjoying this series this month and while I can’t unreservedly recommend it, I do highly recommend it. I think the fact that I chose to break my reading rotation to chow down on these says more than anything I could actually write.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Science Fiction Hall of Fame: The Great Novellas (Science Fiction Hall of Fame #2A) ★★☆☆☆

sfhalloffame2a (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission 
Title:
The Great Novellas
Series: Science Fiction Hall of Fame #2A
Editor : Ben Bova
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 790
Words: 216K

 

Synopsis:

Consists of the following novellas by these authors:

  • Call Me Joe by Poul Anderson
  • Who Goes There? By John Campbell Jr
  • Nerves by Lester Del Rey
  • Universe by Robert Heinlein
  • The Marching Morons by C.M Kornbluth
  • Vintage Season by Kuttner and Moore
  • …And Then There Were None by Eric Russell
  • The Ballad of Lost C’Mell by Cordwainer Smith
  • Baby is Three by Theodore Sturgeon
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  • With Folded Hands by Jack Williamson

 

My Thoughts:

The only reason this volume is getting 2stars instead of 1 is because of the story “Who Goes There?”, which has been turned into the various movies “The Thing” and is the basis for one of the X-Files episodes in Season One.

Part of my disappointment with this book was just how good Volume 1 was, which I read back in ’18. That collection of short stories was everything I expected from the Golden Age of SF. These novellas on the other hand are boring, plain and simple.

Take “Nerves” for instance. It is about a Doctor working at an Atomic Plant because he used to be a brain surgeon but an operation went wrong years ago. It wasn’t his fault and there was nothing he could do about it, but he couldn’t face the fact that he wasn’t perfect, so he ran away from his profession to become a “simple” general practitioner. Only something goes terribly wrong at the Plant and the only way to save the whole world is for him to do brain surgery on a wounded engineer. The lead up was too long and the tension just wasn’t there. Most of these stories I simply found too long. I kept asking myself “when will this story be over already?!?”

On the other hand, you had some horrific ideas. “The Marching Morons” was about a salesman revived hundreds of years later. The world has become populated by morons because all the smart people stopped having kids a long time ago and the remaining thousand or so people with IQ’s above X all live in the North Pole at a secret base. They secretly run the world but are tired of it, as the morons keep on multiplying and nothing the Clever People can do stops them. The Clever People tried to take a hands off approach but the war started by the Morons was too much for them to accept and so they stepped back in and began directing things again. The Salesman tells the Clever People to start a rumor of colonies on Mars or Venus or wherever and to hold a lottery for an entire city to go on rocket ships to this new colony. Then another city would be picked, etc, etc. The salesman puts together the ads and campaign and has the Morons clamoring to go to Venus. Of course, the rockets just go into the Sun and kill all the morons. The Salesman became Dictator of the World (that was what he wanted to give the Clever People his help) and the story ends with all the Morons gone and the Clever People throwing the Salesman into the last rocketship and sending it off. Now, whatever the author was trying to say went over my head, because this was just horrible. The Salesman was horrible, the Morons were horrible and the Clever People were horrible.

There is one more volume, Volume 2B (why they simply didn’t call them Vol. 1, 2 and 3 is beyond me) and I’m going to read it. I am desperately hoping it is better than this. It is another collection of novellas though, so I am keeping my DNF gun handy and my finger on the trigger. I won’t wade through another crapfest like this.

★★☆☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Lightning ★★★★☆

lightning (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Lightning
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 533
Words: 145K

 

Synopsis:

Wikipedia and Me

As Laura Shane is born in January 1955, during a freak lightning storm, a mysterious blond stranger (Stefan) prevents a drunken Dr. Paul Markwell from attending to the difficult and complicated delivery. Her mother dies in childbirth, though Laura is a perfectly healthy, exceptionally beautiful baby, and she is left to be raised by her father Bob Shane. When Laura is eight years old, a junkie attempts to rob her father’s convenience store; however the blond stranger reappears, saving them both and instructing them on what to tell the police. In 1967, Bob Shane dies of a heart attack. At her father’s funeral Laura sees the stranger watching over her yet again and begins to think he is her guardian angel, along with an unnamed man calling for her when she tries to follow him.

Laura is sent to live in the McIlroy orphanage, where she is housed with a set of twins, Thelma and Ruth, who later become her best friends. She also meets Willy Sheener, a frightening child molester who is also the maintenance man and custodian. Willy becomes infatuated with Laura due to her uncommonly good looks, haunting her wherever she goes in the orphanage. However, due to past experience the twins warn Laura that reporting Sheener, also known as “The White Eel” or “Eel” for short, will do more harm than good. Laura is eventually sent to live with a foster family that exploits her, so she purposely behaves badly and they send her back to the orphanage. After several disturbing incidents, her mysterious angel visits Sheener and brutally beats him. This scares him off for some time, until Laura is sent to live with the Dockwielers, with whom she quickly forms a bond. Sheener comes to their home one afternoon; Laura is able to fend him off and eventually kill him, but the shock of discovering the scene causes her new foster mother to suffer a fatal heart attack, sending Laura back to the orphanage. Shortly thereafter, Laura turns 13 and is moved to another orphanage for older children, and receives the devastating news that Ruth was caught in a fire in McIlroy and died.

At college, Laura’s creative writing brings her to the attention of Danny, a naive man who has fallen in love with her from afar. After a botched attempt at being her secret admirer they agree to date and over time, fall in love. After their marriage Laura becomes a celebrated author of several books and gives birth to a boy, Christopher Robert. The birth was difficult, making it so she will not be able to have any children in the future.

Years later, Danny, Laura and Chris are saved from a horrific accident by the blond man’s (revealed to be named Stefan) intervention. The unnamed man shows up moments later. Both Danny and the blond man attack but Danny dies of several gunshot wounds, before Stefan kills the man and tells Laura what to say, like years ago at the grocery store. He promises to return soon and tell more, but due to mistakes, he doesn’t return until a year later, wounded, in an isolated stretch of winter woods. Laura and Chris are able to treat him at a doctor they locate in the phone book, but must battle unknown assassins shortly thereafter.

The group hides out in a small motel. Stefan recovers and finally tells his story. He was born in 1909, making him 35 years old. He is from Nazi Germany in the year 1944, and is part of secret time traveling experiments, sending agents to the future to uncover ways to change the outcome of World War II. Stefan had previously arrived in an alternate version of 1984 and had seen Laura, who was a quadriplegic because of Dr. Markwell’s drunken errors during her delivery. However, despite her disability, she wrote beautiful books of poetry which inspired Stefan to renounce his mission, and travel to difficult parts of her life to change them. However, his superior Kokoschka became suspicious of him and followed him, sending the assassins into the future to learn of their path.

With the help of Thelma, who has become rich as a comedienne and actress since her sister’s death, they gain many supplies they need. Fat Jack, an arms dealer, supplies them with guns and Vexxon nerve gas. With the aid of modern computational technology, Stefan is prepared to go back to his time. He uses the nerve gas to kill the five men on duty at the time and disposes their bodies six billion years in the future. He makes a jump to see Winston Churchill and convinces him that the institute containing the time machine must be bombed; Churchill agrees. Stefan also makes a trip to Adolf Hitler, to convince the dictator of various threads that must be cleared up, in reality sabotaging the German war effort.

While he is gone, Laura and Chris, in an empty patch of rain washed desert, are attacked by more Nazis, as records of a police stop have been discovered. Stefan returns to find Laura and Chris dead. He works around the time limit of the machine by sending Laura a message to save them. Despite this, Chris and Laura still have to battle all four men themselves. The second cylinder of nerve gas proves invaluable. It is Laura who eventually kills all four men pursuing them, as she protects Chris as best she can. In the long months that follow, Laura and Chris are questioned by the police. They soon believe a story of ‘drug dealers’ who wanted revenge. Laura backs up her story by turning over Fat Jack, something she was going to do anyway (he does not blame her, due to his personal beliefs). Stefan, who had been hiding with Thelma, comes to live with the two again. After even more time, Laura finds herself falling in love with him.

The book ends with Stefan realizing that a throw-away comment he made to Winston Churchill had lead to the downfall of the Soviet Union in this world and that this is now the “real world”, the World That Was Meant To Be.

 

My Thoughts:

This book was published in 1988 and the Terminator movie was released in 1984. Considering my thoughts about Koontz and the Terminator franchise in my Hell’s Gate Review I’ve realized that the idea comes from Koontz first, and it is also something he simply cannot “not” write about. Every story he writes usually has some sort of either time traveling or alternate reality traveling.

I think this was my most enjoyable Koontz so far, beyond Odd Thomas of course. This was also one of his longest books yet. Like I said in my Quote post, this felt like Koontz was at the top of his game when he was writing this. With this being slightly longer than his normal book, Koontz doesn’t have to rush the ending, which is one flaw of his that he doesn’t seem to see as a flaw in most of his books. I was thankful for that, as it made finishing the book more enjoyable.

Now, while I enjoyed this a lot, there was some subject matter that needs to be talked about, as it could be a real problem for people. Laura was “fated” to either be crippled or raped as a child. There are two times where she is almost child raped but her protector Stefan steps in and keeps it from happening and while nothing happens, the very idea that it “could” happen was just very disturbing. It definitely was NOT a Lolita style of story plot, but the simple inclusion of it really disturbed me. Thankfully Koontz never gets graphic, but he also doesn’t shy away from his characters stating what they plan to do to Laura. So just be aware of that particular subject matter.

I mentioned the non-rush ending, which is not typical of Koontz and how much I liked that. What I REALLY liked however was how Koontz slips in a “better” future that was “meant to be”, one without a Soviet Union. I never saw that outcome coming and seeing how he wrote it into the storyline was cool. I just smiled at how he uses time travel and the rules he sets up.

I’d recommend this book as long as you handle the tension of child Laura being in real danger.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Ghost of a Chance (Arcane Casebook #2) ★★★★☆

ghostofachance (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Ghost of a Chance
Series: Arcane Casebook #2
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 361
Words: 117K

 

Synopsis:

From Danwillisauthor.com & Me

When a bizarre string of locked-room murders terrorize New York, the police reluctantly turn to their magical consultant, private detective Alex Lockerby, to catch a killer who can walk through walls.  Dubbed the Ghost by the tabloids, Alex will need every rune in his book to solve the case with no suspects, no leads, and no time to spare.

Unfortunately Alex’s magic hasn’t been working very well of late.  He can’t even manage to track down several truckloads of stolen goods, including one belonging to New York’s preeminent sorcerer, Andrew Barton.  To make matters worse, Alex and his clients are being stalked by a shadowy cabal with strange powers that Alex has never seen before.

With the Ghost seemingly able to murder at will and the tabloids, the public, and Alex’s clients demanding results, Alex will need a miracle to keep himself, his clients, and his reputation alive.

Alex also has to deal with the effects of his Escape Rune from the previous book that has shaved an unknown number of years off of his lifespan. Iggy, his mentor, puts him in touch with an alchemist and Alex gets involved with her apprentice.

All of the cases are almost tied together, as the Ghost turns out to be a man killing the group of people who cheated him out of his land years ago, land which could have been sold to raise money to save his wife. Barton’s missing motor is linked to a group that wants to steal a literal boatload of gold in a museum and the presence of Mayan Runes are revealed. The same shadowy Man of Mystery is the one supplying both groups with Mayan runes that allow them to do the extraordinary things they do.

Alex solves everything, gets a lot of money and publicity, thinks Jessica (the assistant alchemist) might be the One and both Alex and Iggy wonder who the Shadow Master is.

 

My Thoughts:

This was fun! I think what I liked the most was that the author makes what Alex does at the end of the first book (using the Escape Rune) really matter here. He’s not just shrugging off a broken leg or something. He’s lost years, possibly decades, of his life and it’s showing. His hair is white, he doesn’t have the energy and strength he used to, his hands shake (which for a rune wright is disastrous) and generally he’s “old”.

Getting introduced to another Sorcerer was interesting and I’m glad we’re not stuck on Sorsha. With him getting interested in Jessica though, we’ll see what happens between him and Sorsha. Jessica seems a bit too absorbed in her work for something to work out long term with Alex. I just hope the author doesn’t go into Triangle Territory. And honestly, deep characterization isn’t his forte.

The multiple mysteries were just as fast and furious as in the first book. I’d prepared myself though, so it didn’t overwhelm me. I still found myself wishing that one or more had been cut and a greater depth given to the remaining ones. That’s not even really a complaint, just more of a “wish”.

I liked this even more than the first book and have the 3rd and 4th books already lined up. I’m really glad that Larry Correia recommended this author to his fans, as it has turned out to be a huge hit with me. It shouldn’t have, as urban fantasy set in an alternate 1930’s isn’t my thing, but I guess just like the Grimnoir Chronicles, if it is done exactly right, it hits me like a ton of bricks. And I love every brick hitting me!

Finally, the covers. The author has some high res covers on his website and while I’m not using them for these reviews, I can already tell they are going to win all the Cover Love awards at the end of the month. I think the real decision will be whether I include them all or try to pick the best of the bunch. I’ve included a link to the high res cover. But come on, a rune infested shotgun, suspenders and a burning rune? And I wish my chin and hair looked like that. High Res Cover.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Academ’s Fury (Codex Alera #2) ★★★★★

academsfury (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Academ’s Fury
Series: Codex Alera #2
Author: Jim Butcher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 720
Words: 183K

 

 

Synopsis:

CodexAlera.fandom.com & Me

Tavi has managed to enter the Academy under the patronage of Gaius Sextus, the First Lord of Alera and is training to be a cursor. Despite facing bullying at the hands of other students due to his lack of furycrafting talent, Tavi has managed to make numerous friends among his classmates, such as Max and Ehren. Tavi is also serving as a page for Gaius Sextus. Isana has also come to the capitol to get her citizenship and join the Dianic league. Back at home in the Calderon valley, Doroga, the leader of the marat, warns Bernard and Amara of a new threat, the Vord. He tells them that one nest has been killed, leaving 200 out of a force of 2000 Marat. Another nest is in the Calderon Valley, and one of the queens seems to be heading towards Alera Imperia. Tavi is sent on a mission as a Cursor in training, to find the mysterious thief “Black Cat”, who has managed to circumvent various fury guards to steal things. Gaius Sextus falls ill, and Max is called to replace him. However, during a fight, Max is arrested and Tavi must break him out of Jail. Isana is also kidnapped. Eventually, Tavi manages to catch the thief, who is revealed to be Kitai, one of his Marat friends who followed him to Alera Imperia. Using her talents, Tavi breaks Max out of jail. Back in the Calderon Valley, Bernard is investigating reports of disappearances and goes to investigate Aricholt, the new Kordholt. However, it is completely abandoned, with the exception of a few children kept in a bunker underneath. The vord attack the holt, possessing many soldiers, and Garrison Legion is forced to hide in a nearby cave. The Canim Ambassador, Varg, shows Tavi the nest of Vord in the Deeps, and Tavi goes to warn the Citadel.

Bernard and Amara, along with Doroga and the remaining holders of Isanaholt, take refuge in a cave and fight off the Vord. Their situation looks hopeless and Amara agrees to marry Bernard since they are going to die the next day. Only they don’t die, they are rescued by mercenary knights led by none other than that scum Aldrix Ex Gladius. The Taken and the Vord Queen are destroyed.

Isana can’t get an audience with the First Lord (because he’s incapacitated) nor can she get a hold of Tavi (who is trying to run things, as he’s one of the few people who knows that Gaius is out of commission) and after a nearly successful attempt on her life, makes an alliance with Lord and Lady Aquitaine. They send the Knights Aeris to rescue Bernard.

Tavi is juggling trying to keep Gaius’s secret safe and figure out how to deal with the Vord AND the Canim. One of the Canim, a blood priest, has made an alliance with the Vord Queen in the city and they plan an assassination attempt on Gaius. Ambassador Varg, as the last non-Taken Canim, reveals the plot to Tavi and it is up to Tavi to thwart it. With help from Fade (who slips back into his role as Araris, legendary swordsman), Kitai and many legionnaires, Tavi stops the attempt on the First Lord’s life.

The Vord Queen, along with the Blood Priest, slip aboard a Canim vessel and head back to their land.

Gaius recovers and reveals that one of Tavi’s friends (Gael) is actually a spy for Lord Kalarus and the book ends with Gaius baiting a hook to draw Kalarus out before he is truly ready. Gaius sends Tavi to an archeological dig in the same area where the bait is being dangled. With Tavi now being a Cursor it’s time for him to begin truly working for the First Lord.

The book ends with Isana revealing to the readers that she is Tavi’s mother, not his aunt.

 

My Thoughts:

I have these Codex Alera books in ebook, paperback and hardcover. I’m currently reading the paperback editions, as I am using these as my “word read”. Very easy to throw one into my book bag and since it’s paper it doesn’t matter if it sits in the sub-freezing cold all day. Can’t do that with my kindle, sadly.

What that means is that I’m reading these books in dribs and drabs and not at a steady pace. However, much like Furies of Caldern, this takes place in just a couple of days. So while there might be a lot going on, there isn’t too much going on simply because of author imposed time constraint. I think everything happens in a couple of weeks here but the majority of everything immediately happens in just a couple of days. I rather like that to be honest, as it fits the 5-15 minutes I have to read when at work.

Considering this is my 3rd read of this book in 10 years and I still enjoyed it, I’m going to call this a good book. I don’t think I’ll read it again for another decade though. For some reason, Tavi the main character seems younger than I remember! (hahahahaa)

I enjoy this series a lot. I’m sure someone else could come along and list all the faults. I simply have no interest in even thinking like that. As long as the series stays this strong, I’ll be a happy and contented camper.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)