Rath’s Deception (Janus Group #1) ★★★☆☆

rathsdeception (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: Rath’s Deception
Series: Janus Group #1
Author: Piers Platt
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 350
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Rath grows up with very options. His older brother is in a gang but wants Rath to graduate so he can join the cops and move up to middle society. Unfortunately, said brother is caught working for the cops and his gang kills him. Rath’s parents are druggies and end up killing themselves and burning their dwelling down. Rath moves out on his own and finishes school.

He is approached by a recruiter and goes through some trials and becomes part of the Janus Group. Their motto is “50 for 50”. Make fifty successful kills and half the bounty is yours and live the high life for the rest of your life. With virtually no organized crime, the Janus Group is the only game in town if you need something impossible and illegal pulled off.

Rath becomes Operator 621. Considered a Tier 4, odds are he won’t make his 50. On one particular mission he is sent after a rogue Operator, Operator 339 and gets 2 kills from killing her. Rath goes on to slowly climb up the ladder one harrowing mission after another. He finally makes his 50th kill.

However, when he goes back to the base camp, he’s met by a welcoming committee of merc’s hired by the Janus Group who specialize in taking out Janus Operatives. See, the Janus Group makes a LOT more money if they never have to pay out. Thankfully, Rath’s encounter with Operative 339 prepared him for just this eventuality (she revealed the truth to him when he was hunting her down) and now he’s a free agent, ready to go after the Janus Group with help from Operative 339.

 

My Thoughts:

This was much better than the Falken Chronicles books by the same author. Much more action oriented.

But first, the bad and mediocre and downward trending stuff. Platt seems to be all in favor of legalized prostitution if one of the page long soliquy’s a side character goes on is anything to judge by. Prostitution is evil, period. You don’t make it better by making the conditions better or safer or anything. You make it better by stamping it out. You call it the evil it is and do your damnedest to destroy it. And you start with people calling for the legalization of it. They are the real danger.

Secondly, Platt does his “reformed” prisoner thing but goes a step further. Rath meets the boss gang member years later and he claims to be born again, “but not in a religious way”, oh no. He had his memory wiped and now he’s just a perfect Mother Teresa giving sanctuary to an old grandmother and her 2 little grand kids. I’m not sure where to even start with such stupidity. Humans are fundamentally broken, that is known as the Doctrine of Total Depravity. It states that human nature is thoroughly corrupt and sinful due to the Fall of Adam and Eve. So for a human to fundamentally change, the change must come from outside themselves because any change by themselves will be broken since it comes from a broken source. This idea by Platt also buys into the thought that you are no more than your memories. If you are a mean, selfish, murderous asshole one minute and suddenly wake up with no memories, your body remembers and you’re going to act that way. It has became your “Nature” and that is way more than just your memories.

On to the stuff I actually liked 🙂

This had some really good action scenes. Rath’s completing his training evaluation to see if he even qualified was good. I also liked when he went on missions. I do wish there had been a couple more of those instead of showing Rath being a lonely teenager. The author also did a good job of interjecting the view from the Controllers of the Operatives and this gave us our first clue that all wasn’t as it was purported to be. So when Rath and Operative 339 had their little clash, it was obvious that Rath had been turned.

I enjoyed this and I’m looking forward to the next book. However, if Platt keeps up his “all criminals are really misunderstood cuddle bears” or keeps on promoting evil as good, I’ll have to seriously evaluate if I want to keep on reading this series.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

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Our Mutual Friend ★★★★½

Ourmutualfriend (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: Our Mutual Friend
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 1021
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A rich dust collector dies and in his will he leaves his inheritance to his son (who he drove away years ago) and to his two faithful servants. A stipulation of the will reads that the son, John Harmon, must marry a young woman by the name of Bella Wilfer, or the entire inheritance will fall to the two servants, Mr and Mrs Boffin.

A body is fished from the harbor by a man who does such things and the while disfigured and sea eaten, the clothes and papers match the description of John Harmon. This leaves the entire fortune to the Boffins. This fisherman, a Mr Hexan, is accused by an associate of doing the deed and while no charges are brought, it brings a stain on Mr Hexan’s two children, Lizze and Charlie.

A young man by the name of John Rokesmith approaches Mr Boffin and offers to be his secretary. Having no need of a secretary, Mr Boffin kindly rebuffs his offer but invites him over for lunch. Mr Boffin then gets rich, becomes overwhelmed by everything, is amazed when Rokesmith deals with every in a matter of minutes and hires him on the spot. The Boffins have also taken on Bella Wilfer since they feel bad that she didn’t get any of the money and that her potential husband died. They bring her out to Society with them, where Bella claims she’ll be mercenary and only marry for money.

Members of Society have their own things going on that while not directly affecting the Boffins, do impact them through Bella. Mr Boffin starts to turn miserly and upon learning that John Rokesmith made an offer of marriage to Bella, turns him out of the house. Bella is ashamed at Mr Boffin’s behavior and begins to realize what a loyal man Rokesmith was to the Boffins and to her. She gives up all claim their money and goes back to her family. Rokesmith makes her an offer of marriage again and this time she accepts.

It turns out in the end that John Rokesmith is actually John Harmon and he and Bella inherit everything and are fabulously wealthy. The miserly Mr Boffin reveals it was all an act on his part to prove to Bella that money really isn’t everything. The man who tried to murder Rokesmith/Harmon is found out but gets his just desserts through another agency.

There are approximately 3 other side storylines going on through it all and they tangentially touch on Rokesmith/Harmon. Maybe I’ll go over them in another decade or so. Or perhaps not.

 

My Thoughts:

I had not realized that I hadn’t read this since 2001. I was sure I had read it just before 2010 but nope, didn’t happen. Second, while all the editions on Librarything show this as around the 500-600 page mark, my kindle showed it as just over 1000 pages and when I checked my hardcover copy, it was divided into 2 volumes. So this was a big book.

And that is probably my only complaint and the reason I gave this 4.5 stars instead of 5. There was at least twice that I just said out loud “Come on Dickens, get to the point!”. Anyone who complains about bloat in this book is fully justified and I certainly won’t argue with them. This was a 19 part serial and it shows.

Other than that issue, I enjoyed this tremendously. I have come to realize that I simply like Dickens’ work. I enjoy his plots, I enjoy his characters, I even enjoy (in a limited sense) his meandering and descriptions. It all adds atmosphere and when I’m reading it I can’t accidentally think I’m reading something by somebody elese. Dickens is Dickens. His books are shaped in such a way that they slot right into the space I have.

A lot of this book is about Deception, both justified and not. Dickens preaches at the society of his time unabashedly, especially about the Poor Laws and rips away the mask of what some levels of Society are telling themselves. It’s a good reminder for me to not sit too smugly in my own little chair and cast stones indiscriminately.

There was a side story about a Jew and I was surprised at how graciously Dickens treated him as a character. He was kind and loving and not a Shylock. I think part of it is that Dickens had enough scorn to heap upon his own fellows without searching about for others to castigate.

To end, I really enjoyed this and wish I could write more about it but me and longer reviews just don’t mix.

★★★★½

 

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Currently Reading: Valor (and it’s not looking good)

valor (Custom)Even after my abysmal start with John Gwynne and his arrogant debut with Malice, I was the bigger man and decided to give the rat a second chance. The book hadn’t even started and the (what can I use as a pejorative that isn’t a profanity? I need a word that adequately describes my dislike of the man, the author, the style and in fact, every single thing about him) son of a ghuhn was already rubbing my face in his sickening, overwheening pride. The Cast of Characters was right at the beginning of the book and if you remember (and if you don’t I’m going to remind you), my first big complaint was that Gwynne debuted a first book in a series with over 45 named characters. Well, that rat ghuhn listed 94 (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) (I know, because I counted them) characters in his cast of characters. I stuck my tongue into the corner of my mouth, calmly closed my kindle Oasis and didn’t read another word for over 24hrs.

I had to think. So I turned to the series of books that I consider to be the most dense, the most depressing, the best written and the most awesome of storylines, the Malazan Books of the Fallen. In Reaper’s Gale the Cast of Characters is 153. However, that was Book 7 of a series of 10, where each book was actually a double novel. So I checked out the second book, Deadhouse Gates and it clocks in at around 84 characters.

Honestly, I can’t figure out why I have such problems with Gwynne doing this when I’ve seen it done already. Maybe because I now associate Malazan and Erikson with 1000 page nihilistic existentialism soap box preaching and complete and utter authorial disregard for actually telling a story? And I’m concerned Gwynne is going to go down that road? I already know this is grim stuff, so that strikes against it but I can’t figure it out. That bugs the living daylights out of me. 

Right now, the following is ME and what you can’t see is John Gwynne prostrate at my feet as I decide if I’ll swing the axe or not.

maxresdefault

 

I started reading again last night and I’m still on the fence. If you don’t see a review of this next week you’ll know I stuck to it.

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

ps,

I found the perfect term. Dirty Louse.

Lonely on the Mountain (Sacketts #17) ★★★☆☆

lonelyonthemountain (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: Lonely on the Mountain
Series: Sacketts #17
Author: Louis L’Amour
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 224
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Tell, Orrin and Tyrell Sackett get a note from their cousin Logan that he needs a herd of cattle driven to some place or other and that if the herd isn’t delivered before the snow falls he’ll hang. The Sackett brothers begin.

They gather a herd, realize they have enemies to deal with and have adventures. The herd gets scattered in a stampede, a girl is seeking her brother and no one has heard from Logan again.

The Sackett brothers overcome all, find Logan and rescue a small group of settlers that are being starved out by desperadoes searching for gold.

 

My Thoughts:

Well, this was the final Sacketts book written by L’Amour, chronologically speaking. I enjoyed my time reading this book but it did rather meander, much like a cattle drive and the ending was so quick that I blinked and whammo, I was done the book.

That is ok because it gives me more room to talk about this series as a whole in wrapping things up.

I started reading the Sacketts almost 3 years ago with Sackett’s Land. More of a historical fiction than western, it set the tone for Clan Sackett. Loyalty, responsibility, a high regard for education and the written word, a love of honor and all things Right, a respect for the Law even when you thought it was wrong. The Sackets also did whatever they set their minds to. They didn’t give up or allow their circumstances to dictate their actions. They were what Real Men want to be. Personally, while I would love to emulate men like those portrayed in the series, I’d be ok with a little less gun play and a LOT less fisticuffs. I’m just too pretty 😉

I think L’Amour used this series to showcase how great he thought America was. He didn’t believe it was perfect or had sprung forth full grown, immaculately conceived. The birth of America was a bloody and dirty event and it’s growing up years were just as tumultuous. But it was glorious (!!) and L’Amour wanted to show that glory in the examples of the best of the men and women who forged this country. In many ways this series was a Love Letter to America. It was also a reminder to the up and coming generation that everything they had was built on the backs of men of character and what their forefathers had sweated blood for they, the current generation, better not take for granted. Yes, these stories were romanticized, but what do we all dream of that isn’t? We dream for a reason, because reality is gritty and full of failure and despair. We dream because we know in our very souls that there MUST BE something better.

On a less salubrious note, this series also showcased all of L’Amours strengths AND his weaknesses. He was a franchise writer and he had deadlines and he’d recycle story lines and not worry about keeping things completely straight. If a character was going to get married at the end of one book, L’Amour saw that as no impediment to making said character be single in a later book. There was very little cohesive narrative beyond Names. I might be reading my own meloncholia into things but sometimes it felt like L’Amour was foretelling the fall of America. If men stopped being men of character, then the whole country would suffer.

The other thing I’d like to talk about, for just a sentence or two, is the covers. Since these started out in the 60’s and finished up in the 80’s, with multiple re-releases and the latest installment coming out in ebook in the early ’10’s, they showcase the era in which each was published. It is an education to look at various publications to see what was expected from a western novel throughout the decades.

Overall, while I never rated these above 3.5, I still enjoyed the time I spent reading. Ride the River would probably be my pick of the litter if I had to choose one to elevate above all the others. I just checked though and I gave Lando 4 stars. Mainly for the macho boxing fight at the end. I’d still recommend Ride the River in general, as mano-a-mano isn’t for everyone.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Knight of the Black Rose (Ravenloft #2) ★★★☆☆

knightoftheblackrose (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: Knight of the Black Rose
Series: Ravenloft #2
Author: James Lowder
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 324
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

Lord Soth was the highest in the Order of the White Rose. He was brave, virtuous, courageous and was a paragon. Until he committed adultery with an elf maid, had his first wife killed and then in a paroxysm of jealous rage burned his castle down killing his elven wife and new born son. For hundreds of years Soth wandered the land of Krynn as the Black Knight, a cursed, powerful, undead being in the service of the dark goddess. Soth met a beautiful general and even though she died, Soth plotted to bring her back. His plans went awry when he and his seneschal were sucked into the alternate realm of Ravenloft.

Told of a portal that will let him escape, Soth attacks Count Strahd’s enemy, a vampire duke of another portion of Ravenloft. Surviving all attacks, Soth survives only to find the portal is a fake. It leads nowhere. He heads off into the mists to force his way out. The dark gods of Ravenloft present him with a choice, renounce his pride and return to Krynn once again as a warrior of Light, or hold on to his damnable pride and be the owner of the Red Rose, a new portion of Ravenloft. Soth damns himself and vows vengeance against one and all.

 

My Thoughts:

I had read a Forgotten Realms book by Lowder a while ago, the Ring of Winter and it did not impress me. Therefore I lowered my expectations, already pretty low from the first book, and I made the right choice.

The first book was about a noble sun-elf turned vampire but he was still a good guy fighting against Strahd’s machinations. In this book we have someone even worse than Strahd and I was hoping to see some anti-hero action from Strahd. Vampire versus Undead Power Knight. A clash of Dark Titans, powerful destructive magic unleashed across the land. Nope. Strahd is a manipulator and he doesn’t change. He gets Soth to do some dirty work for him instead of clashing with him.

Soth wasn’t bad for a villain. He’s powerful, motivated by pride, hate and lust and yet has never forgotten his origins as a Knight of the White Rose. Unfortunately, he’s also as flat as a pancake. He had a few instances to shine darkly but his power was wasted. I don’t know if I hope he returns as a nemesis to Strahd or not.

Considering that Ravenloft seems to grow at the whim of the unnamed dark gods’ whims, I have this feeling Ravenloft will soon be full up of ultra-powerful badguys, who do nothing. Somebody powerful needs to die and they need to die spectacularly. Killing off gypsies just doesn’t cut it.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Terrorist Dispatch (The Executioner #448) ★★★☆☆

terroristdispatch (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: Terrorist Dispatch
Series: The Executioner #448
Author: Don Pendleton alias
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Action/Adventure
Pages: 196
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A terrorist group makes an attack at a memorial in Washington, DC and no one is sure if it was Russian terrorists, Ukrainian terrorists or somebody pretending to be the other. Mack Bolan doesn’t care. With information from the Stony Man intelligence farm, he goes after the local russian and ukrainian mobsters and then heads to the Ukraine to do the same to both their bosses.

Hitting both sides equally, Bolan pits them against each other, thus allowing them to wipe each other. Scratch two bad guys form the list of the world’s badguys.

 

My Thoughts:

I read the original 30 some Executioner books by the real Don Pendleton a couple of years ago. Vigilante Men’s Action/Adventure perfectly sums up these books. Mack Bolan was a driven man, capable, rational and unafraid of blood and violence against those who deserved it. Planning, action and guts were the characteristics of his moves.

This book, written by a ghost writer mentioned in the end credits, is produced by Gold Eagle, a division of Harlequin. What bodice ripping romance books are for women, Mack Bolan books are for men. Sadly, the character of Mack Bolan as depicted originally isn’t the same guy portrayed here. Some of the same “words” are used, but the man portrayed in this book uses the word “whatever” a lot. The Executioner doesn’t use the word “whatever”, that implies a lack of caring about planning and intel gathering. Considering he uses it at least three times in this book, it makes Mack Bolan feel very caricature’ish here.

I am glad that I read this but it has put to rest my curiosity about how the franchise has proceeded. Simply put, it has been simplified even more, to the point that I don’t want to read more. Not recommended unless you need a serious brain break for a day or two.

★★★☆☆

 

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Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days (Revelation Space #5) ★★★★☆

diamonddogsturquoisedays (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: Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days
Series: Revelation Space #5
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 296
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

This book consists of the two Revelation Space novellas that make up the title of this book.

Diamond Dogs follows a man driven to explore a mysterious tower on a forsaken planet. The tower is made up of rooms with a puzzle in each room. Answer correctly and the door to the next room opens. Answer incorrectly and the Tower punishes you. This man gathers a group together and they begin the journey. They have a geneticist with them who helps change their bodies and minds to answer the various challenges. Along the way it is revealed that the man is actually a clone of the original man. Each clone is programmed with the memories of all those who came before and convinced that that particular clone CAN beat the tower. Eventually, only 2 other members of the group and the clone survive and the 2 remaining members turn back before they die. The clone continues on. Eventually one of the members can’t resist the lure and the story ends with him sneaking off on a spaceship to return to the Tower.

Turquoise Days follows 2 sisters on a Pattern Juggler world. Pattern Jugglers are ocean wide remnants of a civilization. They take in the mind of anyone who swims in their oceans and sometimes rearrange the swimmer’s mind and gives them a boost. The planet sees a spaceship coming and one night there is unprecedented Pattern Juggler activity. The sisters go swimming illegaly and one becomes one with the ocean and other has nothing happen to her. The spaceship arrives 2 years later with a contingent of scientists who want to study the Pattern Jugglers. Only it turns out they trying to revive a specific memory in the Pattern Jugglers and imprint it on all of their members. Said memory is of a Tyrant. The remaining sister convinces the Pattern Jugglers to resist the invaders and it does, agains all the humans on the planet. The book ends with the remaining sister giving herself to the ocean and the Pattern Jugglers destroying everything.

 

My Thoughts:

Cheery stories, eh? I’d read the first one in the book Beyond the Aquila Rift back in ’16. I couldn’t remember if that was the whole story or not. I enjoyed the story this time around too but my goodness, it was depressing. Not only the clones (all of them) megalomania but then the story ending with the other main character being drawn back by his own lust for knowledge. So good and evocative but I just groaned inside.

The second story was new to me so that made it quite fun to read. The ending wasn’t quite what I was expecting but considering Reynolds’ penchant for extinction events, once I thought about it it didn’t really surprise me. Reynolds is definitely a gloomy gus of a guy so don’t expect human exceptionalism to be part of the story. We don’t get to pull a rabbit out of our collective hat and save the day.

I really liked that Reynolds didn’t have 3 story plots going on that ever so slowly tied together. A good way to start the month out.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)