The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories ★★☆☆½

mistletoemurder (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 Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories
Series: ———-
Author: P.D. James
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 176
Format: Hardcover Edition

 

Synopsis:

A collection of 4 stories about murder. None are connected nor did I care enough to outline each story or even bother to list them.

 

My Thoughts:

* Spoilers *

Sordid. That is the one word that I felt best described this small book of short stories by P.D. James. One of the stories is told by the murder/rapist and left me feeling disgusted. Another one was told by the Granddaughter of the murderess and it is justified in their eyes. Homosexuality, blackmail and suicide. Filth.

Two of the stories dealt with James’ detective character Adam Dalgliesh (which I still can’t spell without looking it up) and he might as well have been as invisible as a hat on a hat rack. You could have changed the name to John Smith and it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference. He had zero personality and almost no part to play in either one.

From an entertainment standpoint, this was a complete failure. I was not impressed and I suspect I would not have liked James and her disgusting love of all things perverse.

That being said. She can WRITE. I hate it when this happens. Why does someone who writes like she can have to delve into the filthy underbelly of humanity and seem to ENJOY it so much? Upon finishing this I immediately went to the library and got the first Adam Dalgliesh book. I’m giving that 2 books for James to convince me that she doesn’t actually like murderers and rapists. But if I get that sordid vibe again, James will be off my list.

★★☆☆½

 

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A Path to Coldness of Heart (Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire #3) ★★☆☆☆

pathtocoldnessofheart (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: A Path to Coldness of Heart
Series: Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire #3
Author: Glen Cooke
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 445
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The world has come as close as it ever has to having some peace, so obviously the Star Rider will stir things up. However, due to him having been so visible in the last 50 years, the main characters on the stage all know about him, from The Dread Empire to the King without a Throne to Bragi to Varthlokkur.

Mist, queen of the Dread Empire, secretly assembles a cast of people all presumed to be dead who have had interactions with the Star Rider. They begin a massive plot to take him down, all along parallel tracks not connected so that if one plot fails, another may get through.

This involves a whole new generation of people and we get hints of horrible things the Star Rider has actually been keeping contained for the world’s safety. The plotters succeed and the tale peters out.

 

My Thoughts:

While there is a book of short stories still left in the Dread Empire saga, this was pretty much the wrapup to the overall story. Except it didn’t really wrap anything up, it just “ended” while introducing the vague new threats the world would have to face and vaguely introducing the next set of people to face those threats. Cook seems to revel in showing the heroes growing old and failing in one way or another.

And here’s my biggest caveat about this book. We are introduced to a minor wizard who is, for all intents and purposes, a pedophile. He’s into pre-pubescent girls and while its made clear nothing is done against their will, the whole idea is abhorrent and Cook makes it out to be “just another thing”. I don’t think I’ve seen that before in any of his books and if I do come across it again, that’ll be it. The wizard is a major side character in this novel, so that keeps popping up.

Overall, it is apparent that Steven Erikson, of Malazan fame, stole much more from Cook’s Dread Empire than from his Black Company series. When I finished this book, I just felt “ehhh”. Between the pedo-wizard and the non-closure of an ending, I had to ask myself “What did I get out of this”and the answer is “not much”.

The writing is at the same level as all the previous books, so without pedo-wizard this probably would have been a 3 ½ star book, but that inclusion dropped things pretty hard. I do plan on reading the collection of short stories to truly wrap up the Dread Empire series and then I have to decide what of Cook’s writings I want to read next. I’ve got one or two trilogies/short series and then his much longer Garrett, PI urban fantasy series. I’m thinking of holding off on Garrett just because me and Urban Fantasy don’t get along for the most part. Ahh well, that is months away, plenty of time to make up my mind and change it several times too!

★★☆☆☆

 

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The Air War (Shadows of the Apt #8) ★★★★☆

airwar (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 Air War
Series: Shadows of the Apt #8
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 672
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Empire has begun its expansion once again. Under the guise of defending themselves, they begin taking back the Low Land cities that escaped them the last time.

The war has moved into the air and airplanes and pilots are the new masters. Even the Air War evolves as it progresses, moving from one on one duels to a new way of communication among the wasps to fly kinden and wasp women being in the airforce.

The Empire, with the help of the Iron Glove Cartel, are now using Greatshotters to make walled cities pointless. They move on Collegium and it is only because the Empress has discovered a new source of power that the Imperial Army is pulled back, once again.

Empress Seda tidies up the Empire and allows plotters to gather so she can use her magic to wrap them all up.She continues to search for pockets of old power but all the old secrets have either already been used or decayed. There are less than vague hints about the Seal of the Worm but none of the Inapt slaves are willing to tell Seda about it. This only fuels Seda’s curiosity and she begins to dig.

 

My Thoughts:

When I read this for the first time back in 2014, I gave it 3 Stars. Storywise, I still stand by that. This was depressing, as the colossus that is the Empire just rolls over almost everything in this book. Collegium is the only city that successfully fights back and even that was not a “win” but more of a stay of execution. Almost 700 pages of the good guys staving off complete disaster and calling regular disaster a win. How are you supposed to get excited about that?

This time around, since I knew that was coming, I was able to focus more on the writing itself and I must say, this deserves that 4stars completely. Tchaikovsky is a Wordsmith and even when he was going on about air fighting stuff, which I didn’t care 2 whits for, I was able to focus on the words themselves and what they were trying to convey. It was worth it.

What I don’t understand and I can’t remember if this is EVER addressed in this series, is why the whole “kinden” gifts aren’t considered magic? Why doesn’t Seda try to tap into that as a source? I mean, she’d have the whole worlds population to exploit. Because of the lack of magic in this book and the focus on airplanes and how they change the war, I had to find something magical to think about for goodness sake! If a wasp can make some sort of energy appear and shoot from his hand, if a fly can make “wings” appear from her back and fly through the air, etc, etc, then what is the force behind that? It is presented as something that “just is” and with so much going on, it is easy to sit back and let it slide. But I had to pick at something since I don’t care for WWI style of fighting and this idea was it. If the Darakyon, a whole magical forest, can be put into the Shadow Box, why can’t Seda begin draining the magical force of the kinden gifts into her own container? See, I’d much rather read about something like that than flipping airplanes and coils and springs and crap that has no place in fantasy.

Ok, it’s not completely magicless, as anything to do with Empress Seda revolves around magic, but it is such a SMALL part that I wept for its short stature.

The characters were top notch. We get a lot of small characters from previous books playing bigger roles and some new characters and a very few of the old. Taki is one of the pilots and it is through her that we see the majority of the air war. You can feel how the war changes the one on one aerial duels to mass bombings and how it affects the pilots. It is almost the same change going from warriors like Tisamon, who were exquisite artists of death, to the massed clumps of beetle soldiers armed with snapbows who are able to deal out so much more death than Tisamon ever could. War has gone from a hobby for the rich individual to something of mass death waged by cities. And Taki lets us feel that change every step of the way. She is heroic, she is brave and she is talented and in the end, it’s not enough and she knows it. And we the readers know it as well.

I am also adding the “Favorite” tag because even though I didn’t particularly care for the planes (have I mentioned that enough yet do you think?), this series as a whole is even better this second time around. I can take the time to examine the underpinnings and they are as solid and artful as the building as a whole. I continue to be thoroughly impressed.

★★★★☆

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Toll the Hounds (Malazan Book of the Fallen #8) ★☆☆☆☆

tollthehounds (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: Toll the Hounds
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #8
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 1299
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

I’m really struggling with this.

The Tiste Andii have a big part. Nimander and the young Andii, led by Clip, are on a journey to Black Pearl to pledge allegiance to Anomander Rake. During this journey Clip is possessed by the Fallen god and it is up to Nimander to stop him. Rake himself leaves Black Coral and faces down Hood himself and kills Hood with Dragnipur, thus bringing Hood into the realm of Dragnipur. This allows Hood to bring his armies of the dead against the forces of Chaos within that realm. Rake then faces Traveller, who is revealed as Dassem Ultor, First Sword of the Empire and not only dies in a battle with him, but is killed by Dragnipur as well. This places him in Dragnipur’s realm as well and somehow makes it possible for him to confront Mother Dark and convince her to take her children back.

Karsa Orlong and Samar Dev had been travelling with Traveller and are witnesses.

There is a lot going on in Darujhistan itself. Cutter and others have returned. The remaining Bridge Burners who run a bar, have a contract taken out on them by the Assassins guild. Rallick Nom and Vorcan both recover in the Azath House and get back into the thick of things. Gruntle ends up working for the Trygalle Guild and Mappo takes their services to try to get back to Icarium. Only Mappo and Gruntle get called into the Realm of Dragnipur to help lead the forces of the Dead against Chaos.

The Broken god is also making a play outside of Black Coral to subsume the newly ascended Itkovian, now known as the Redeemer. Using his own corrupted blood, a black addictive druglike sludge, he enslaves the high priestess of the Redeemer and it is up to a former Pannion Domin of all people to defend the Redeemer, who has chosen not to defend himself.

After the battle between Rake and Traveller, and the battle that ensued for control of Dragnipur, Caladan Brood emerged in control of the sword. With the help of the remaining Torrud Cabal, he destroys the sword with Burn’s Hammer, thus releasing all the souls still in existence within the sword.

 

My Thoughts:

Last time I read this, I called this a bloated piece of crap (to summarize). This time around, I have much more to say.

It IS a bloated piece of crap. At 1300 pages, this easily could have been pared down to 800 or 900 pages simply by removing the monologuing by every character about despair, hopelessness, the pointlessness of existence, etc, etc. I found myself skimming pages at a time and not missing any actual plot points. Erikson becomes as bad as Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged with the monologue by John Gault. Erikson gives full vent to his existential beliefs and in all honesty, it is horrible.

Lots of Christian theology and personal philosophy coming up, so be warned.

Sometimes, books can affect us in deep and profound ways. We always hope that it is for the better but sometimes it isn’t. This time around, it wasn’t for the better. Over the last 10 years I have learned that I am particularly susceptible to the weakness of hopelessness and despair. Whether in a sermon or in a book, if the negative is at the forefront, it will bring my spirit down and affect me physically. I can not live without Hope. That is part of why I am a Christian.

Erikson puts forth that Oblivion is the end of everything. Good, bad, right, wrong, all will end in nothingness. You can only witness existence and hope someone else will witness you as well. This directly cuts across the fact that God Himself is our witness. He has always been and He will always be. Oblivion is not the end of God, even though it is the end of humanity who are not saved by Jesus Christ. Our lives are being watched and recorded by God and we are not alone.

Erikson also writes how everything good is essentially pointless since it is tainted in one way or another. God is not tainted. God is Good. Everything good flows from a Perfect God and it IS good because it aligns with His character. Erikson takes everything that is written on our very hearts as good and drags it through a shit hole and stabs it with a rusty butter knife all in an effort to show how it really isn’t good.

Sadly, it wasn’t until I was at the 80% mark that I realized how this was affecting me. My attitude was horrible about pretty much everything and the world seemed grey and blah even while I was objectively having a good time. I could have taken steps to counteract this much earlier if I had realized what was going on. I do plan on reading either Mark of a Man by Elizabeth Elliot or one of C.S. Lewis’s books immediately after this.

In the future, I will never read this book again. I also plan on waiting an extra cycle before attempting the next Malazan Book of the Fallen. I’m giving this book the “Worst Book of the Year” tag as well to help remind my future self to never even look at this thing again.

★☆☆☆☆

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Stands a Shadow (Heart of the World #2) ★★★☆☆

Stands A ShadowThis 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: Stands a Shadow
Series: Heart of the World #2
Author: Col Buchanan
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Flintlock Fantasy
Pages: 481
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Empire of Mann begins it conquest of the Free Isles. The Empress goes along because she is pissed off about her son dying. The real ruler of Mann, an old magician, sends along a Mannian “Diplomat” (code for assassin) named Che to make sure the Empress never runs from battle or acts like a coward. He also sends along 2 other Diplomats to take care of the first Diplomat once his job is done.

The military leader of the Free Isles goes against all expectations and leads an army into the field to confront the Mannian host. Using even more unexpected tactics, his goal is to slay the Empress and stall the army until winter sets in. The Empress is killed by the Diplomat for trying to run from the fight and the Mannian army is divided as the general and a noble vie for control. The leader of the Free Isles succumbs to the pressures he’s been under and has a heart attack.

Che realizes his life is over since he killed the Empress and begins a running fight with the other 2 Diplomats. He survives and hooks up with a girl from the Free Isles and is trying to start over. He accidentally reveals that he is from Mann and the girl turns him into the authorities.

Meanwhile, Ash, the Farlander from the previous book, is trying to assassinate the Empress himself. He finds out that Che is an ex-Roshun and has betrayed the Roshun and that they are destroyed. The book ends with Ash asking the surviving Roshun to fight the Empire of Mann while he goes on a quest to bring his dead apprentice back to life.

 

My Thoughts:

If you divide this book up into 100 parts, not even 1 part would be “magic”. It’s definitely Flintlock fantasy, but the magic is so under utilized that I really hesitated to even call it “Fantasy”. It is also very bleak and borders on the Grimdark.

It was written well and at no point was I jarred out of the story. That being said, I also never wanted to “read more” if I had to stop for bedtime or something else.

However, I won’t be continuing this series for the following reasons. The nobles of Mann regularly partake in orgies of sex and drugs and while nothing is graphic, there are enough objectionable things mentioned that I want nothing to do with it. “Magicless” fantasy doesn’t do it for me. Bleak doesn’t do it for me. In general, the whole world and all the characters just leave me feeling very blasé. Blase doesn’t do it for me either, in case you were wondering. Add in the fact that it took me 3 years to even search out the sequel to Farlander and that tells me something too.

Now I just have to decide what to replace this series with on my kindle. I’ve got the Caverns & Creatures series by Robert Bevan or the Dead Enders trilogy by Mike Resnick. Decisions, decisions.

★★★☆☆

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Thanquol’s Doom (Warhammer: Thanquol & Boneripper #3) ★★★☆½

thanquol's doom (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: Thanquol’s Doom
Series: Warhammer: Thanquol & Boneripper #3
Author: C.L.Werner
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 304
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Due to Skaven politics, Thanquol’s success at staying alive and reporting the death of the conjurer from his previous expedition is now a mark against him. Everyone wishes he had died so as to not remind them of the expedition at all.

Now Thanquol must “lead” an expedition against a Dwarven stronghold. He is allied, this time around, with the skaven scientists/alchemists and they have supplied him with a mechanical Boneripper built from the remains of his original one. Unfortunately for Thanquol, he is saddled with another Grey Seer who has secret instructions of his own. And of course, the Alchemists have their own hidden, true agenda.

Turns out Thanquol is simply a diversion for the dwarves to focus on while the alchemists and the other grey seer do their own thing. The grey seer is going after a powerful magical item, the paw of something or other and the alchemists are building a Doomsphere, meant to destroy the dwarven stronghold totally and completely. The fact that it might destroy the skaven city as well is just incidental.

Thanquol schemes how to make use of both of these agendas. He ends up releasing a chaos demon of almost uncontrollable power, by accident, and the doomsphere destroys itself due to the dwarves machinations.

The book ends with Thanquol still alive and figuring out how to survive this latest debacle.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a decent end to this trilogy. Since this was a spinoff of the Gotrex & Felix series I wonder if Thanquol ends up being killed off in that series? As a skaven, he certainly deserves it!

I’ve been considering why I enjoyed this Warhammer trilogy as much as I did while I haven’t really enjoyed the others I’ve read. Part of it is the humor. Werner does a fantastic job of showing how cowardly, two-faced and constantly backstabbing the Skaven are and it is just really hard to get depressed when reading about their antics. It’s like watching a clown car at the circus. The humor was ironic in nature, with Werner showcasing the worst of the skaven nature through Thanquol but it was so ridiculous that I couldn’t help but laugh. Much like the clown car I mentioned or seeing clowns beat the crap out of each other. Objectively, it is unpleasant, but in the right situation, it is great humor. It mitigated the depressing side of the Warhammer universe. In comparison, Werner wrote some of this book from the dwarves perspective and my goodness, now THAT was depressing. A Book of Grudges, Berserkers who live only to die in battle, a declining population due to birth rates and attrition? Ugh, ugh and ugh.

I was about to give up on the whole Warhammer universe after my run in with Tyrion & Teclis. Thankfully, this turned things around so at least I’ll try another Warhammer trilogy. Bookwraiths has reviewed another Warhammer trilogy by Werner and if my next choice (the Legend of Sigmar trilogy) doesn’t pan out, I might try that. But if I hit 2 stinkers of a series in a row, or they are just too depressing for me, I’ll probably be done with Warhammer.

★★★☆½

 

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An Ill Fate Marshalling (Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire #2) ★★★☆½

anillfatemarshalling (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: An Ill Fate Marshalling
Series: Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire #2
Author: Glen Cook
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 381
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Shadowing the events that take place in Reaping the East Wind, at least for the first half of the book, we see the events that Ethrian set in motion from the side of the likes of Bragi, Varthlokkur, etc. We also see the fallout from Bragi’s decision to force Varthlokkur to deal with Ethrian. Varthlokkur and Nepanthe return to their fortress along with Mist’s children and Varthlokkur swears to Bragi that he won’t help him anymore.

Thus, Bragi must begin ruling Kavelin with brains and soldiers alone. Unfortunately, for him, his wife Inger is plotting against him and he can’t face that. He heads out with an army to take down a rogue Dread Empire general, the one hold out who won’t accept that Mist is now defacto Empress of the Dread Empire. Mist has her uses for this rogue general though and lets him run amok. Mist eventually takes out the general but that is not known to Bragi. He attacks the Imperial troops thinking they belong to the rogue general when in fact they belong to Mist. She was planning on this all along though and wipes out Bragi and his army. All so that the nation of Kavelin, and its neighbors will be fighting amongst themselves.

The book ends with various factions beginning to fight over Kavelin and it turns out that Bragi didn’t die. Now he’s a secret captive of the Dread Empire, a captive who can live in peace and luxury.

 

My Thoughts:

It was interesting to see the events that take place in Reap the East Wind from another viewpoint. That only took up the first half of the book though, so whenI came to the end of the events and the book kept on going, I was pleasantly surprised.

Of course, that is, until I realized that this was a story about the disintegration of the order that Bragi Ragnarson was slowly establishing in Kavelin. I kept hoping, right up until the end, that things would turn out ok. I should have known better.

Varthlokkur, in abandoning Bragi, showed that he was just as miserable a scumbag as that other magician, on the flying horse and the magic cornucopia thing that we read about in previous books. He watches through his magic mirror as Bragi is apparently overwhelmed and killed but because of his pride, does nothing active. It just goes to show that Cook has an excellent grasp on human nature and how someone who has been hurt by someone else will do, nor not do, all sorts of things because of that hurt.

The other storylines, about the succession, the various heirs (Bragi having had multiple children through his now dead wife and his current wife), the Dread Empire dealing with the Matrangan attack, it all was interesting. Then to find out that Bragi is alive, that made me wonder if Cook was saving him up for something or if it was so that at least one character can live out his days as sop to the readers?

This book was published in 1988. Apparently, the sequel, and the final Dread Empire novel, wasn’t published until 2012. Ouch. Glad I already have it on hand. There is also another book, a collection of short stories, that was released in ’08. I’m on the fence if I’ll be reading that or not. Probably depends on how much I like, or dislike the final Dread Empire book.

★★★☆½

 

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